Title: Healing Hands
Author: Tirya King
Summary: G1. Ratchet is hurt by a few careless words and Sideswipe intends to find out why. But can he ever hope to heal the healer?
Disclaimer: Nope, not mine. Too tired to be witty. Sorry. The song that is the inspiration for the title belongs to Marc Cohn. Brilliant song, I highly recommend it. The song in the beginning that Ratchet sings is from 'Suicide is Painless.' It's the theme song to MASH and I love it.
A/N: I had been floating on this one for a while for various reasons. Then I decided, to heck with it, I'll just post it and see what happens. I'm not sure I'm entirely happy with it, but I've gone over it so many times I don't think there's much more I can do with it. This one's for you, Starhorse, you gave me the push I needed! Thank you!
"A brave man once requested me, to answer questions that are key, is it to be or not to be, and I replied 'oh why ask me?'…"
He lifted the mug of high grade energon to his mouth again, downing a good amount. He could hold his energon better than most mechs he knew as he usually drank a bit more often than the others. Thereby, it took a lot more to get him well and truly plastered. But the slight buzz he had so far made the pain go away just a little.
Ratchet leaned back in his favorite chair. The officers' lounge was blissfully empty tonight; even the late-night regulars didn't visit, and anyone awake was on night duty. Good. He wasn't in the mood to entertain anyway. Not after the day he'd had.
A little skirmish this morning over a human oil refinery quickly escalated to a full-blown battle within an hour. A nasty thing that left not only he and First Aid up to their optical sensors in injuries, but Perceptor and Wheeljack too who were both on their way to becoming seasoned medics in their own right. They had certainly had to perform a medic's duties countless times to help the two primary ones.
The CMO crooned out the song softly even as he stretched kinks out of his back and shoulders. He'd been in surgery for 12 hours straight at least. And the few minutes he wasn't digging around in someone's guts, he'd been doing repairs on those less grievously wounded to ease the makeshift medics' burdens.
It had been a long day and now that it was over, nothing made Ratchet happier than being able to head to the lounge and drown it all away in florescent pink liquidy goodness.
Not to say that his joy of getting plastered would affect his job of course. He'd never put his patients in that kind of jeopardy. No, he'd made sure he was 100 free for the rest of the evening and that should an emergency arise, there was someone willing and able to step up. But once that was confirmed, nothing short of the coming of the Unmaker could stop him from drinking his sorrow away.
Many thought the reason the resident CMO occasionally got trashed on his free time was because he always loved a good party. Singing at the top of his vocalizer, a drunk Ratchet was a fun Ratchet.
A few, he suspected, realized the truth. Wheeljack had known for a while now. Ratchet couldn't even count the number of times his old friend had found him a drunken sobbing mess. At least tonight he didn't think it would be that bad.
Primus, what was wrong with him? No one had died. A few had been touch and go for a while, but the danger was passed. Everyone would be alright. It was only a slagging comment made in the throes of pain! He'd heard plenty worse during his time as a medic from bigger, dumber mechs! It was stupid to be dwelling on it!
The shine of two sapphire optics in the doorway alerted him to another mech. The owner of those optics moved with no sound, so the sight of a pair of jewels in mid-air drifting forward was eerie to see. There were very few he knew who could move like that. He waited patiently as the intruder stepped into the lamp's light, revealing scarlet and ebony plating. Ratchet looked at the tabletop rather than the uncharacteristically silent melee warrior.
"Your brother will be fine," he said before Sideswipe could say anything. "If you need anything, First Aid is pulling the night shift."
"I know," the younger mech said quietly, hesitantly, in a tone Ratchet didn't think he'd ever heard from him. "I… I don't need anything."
"Then go back to the med room," the medic insisted, trying his hardest not to rage at the prankster. He was in no mood to deal with him. With either brother. Not after today. To his immense displeasure, what little buzz the energon gave him was rapidly leaving him. "I gave you permission to stay with him for the night. Or go back to your room. We don't need you pulling less weight tomorrow because you didn't recharge."
Sideswipe put his hand to his neck, rubbing it and looking around in the nervous gesture many had picked up from their human friends. The CMO realized that he'd never seen the young one at a loss for words before. And were the circumstances any different, he may have wondered at the reason. But he figured he knew the reason and didn't want to hear it. He wanted the Lamborghini gone and he wanted him gone now. If he had to pull rank to get his way, he would.
"You aren't allowed in here," he said in a low undertone. The buzz disappeared entirely and he was hellishly sober once more. "This is the officers' lounge."
He knew Sideswipe knew that. He also knew the young mech couldn't care any less. And they both knew that wasn't why he wanted him gone.
"Ratchet…" the red warrior finally started, having found the words he wanted to say.
The medic wasn't feeling very cooperative unfortunately having been cheated out of a good overcharge. "Out."
"But, Ratchet, it's about Sunny…"
"I said out," he pointed to the door, hard optics unrelenting. "I know what you're going to say and I don't want to hear it."
"It doesn't matter what he really is. It's fine. Now get your skidplate out of here before I make it a direct order."
"Dammit, Ratchet, would you just slagging listen to me?" Sideswipe finally strode all the way over, slamming his large hand on the table, and making the mug of partially finished energon jump. "It's not fine, you're upset. I can see it."
"I'm always upset, I'm Ratchet. It's my primary function to be upset," the medic growled out. He did not like to be lectured or read like some fragging open book. Both of which the young imp was doing freely. "What Sunstreaker said… everything's alright. I'm not angry about it."
"That's why you're fucking overcharging yourself on energon again! Cause everything's alright?" His angry expression softened slightly as he contemplated the seated Ratchet who was as miserable as he'd ever seen him. "I have never lied to you or anyone else. You never lied to me before either. Don't start now."
The medic was silent for a moment, contemplating the energon cradled in his hands. Then he looked back up at the warrior standing before him. The shadows cast by the lamp made sharp contrasts of the angles of his body, throwing his color scheme into disarray. It was easy to see in this light why the twins were looked upon by the enemies with such dread and respect. He knew he couldn't lie to the young mech who could read body language with the ease of the perceptive Prowl himself.
"He was right," came the soft answer.
Sideswipe was surprised. He hadn't expected the CMO to respond at all. "What did he say today? What happened?"
"Ah, yes, you weren't there, were you?" Ratchet smiled a humorless smile. "You were with Perceptor."
"Yeah." There was silence again. Finally he could take it no longer. "Ratchet, Sunny's in a real funk. Kept asking about you by not asking… whatever it was, he's real upset about it, and we both know he doesn't get upset about much. What did he say?"
"He… I was operating on him. He was torn up pretty bad. For a while, I wasn't sure what direction it would go in."
Sideswipe nodded, shivering slightly. His brother had been a real mess when they brought him in. He was used to the sight of Sunstreaker mangled in some sort of way, but that didn't stop the revulsion he felt at having to witness it. No one wanted their twin in pain hurt no matter how accustomed to it they were.
"I finally got him stabilized to the point where he could wait before everything was patched up. And you know your brother…" he snorted derisively. "Bitching about every little dent and scratch on his slagging body. If he wasn't hurt so bad I think I'd have strangled him."
Sideswipe smiled a little, knowing that he probably would have tried to do just that. But he remained silent, waiting for the rest. Ratchet's gaze became hard as he stared at the table rather than the unusually patient warrior. "Then Tracks came up looking even worse than Sunstreaker. Since no one else was available to take him I went to do it. You can imagine your brother wasn't too happy about that. He wanted me to keep working on him, saying he was still hurt too badly. I told him to slag off. And then… then he said that if he died, it would be my fault."
Cursing his brother silently, Sideswipe took in just how despondent Ratchet really was. It was a stupid, careless comment. Sunstreaker always did that; spouting out things before his processor ever caught up. "He's an insensitive ass, you know that," he assured his CMO. "He didn't mean it like that. If you could hear half the shit he calls me…" he sighed, deflating somewhat. He certainly wasn't helping any.
"But he was right, Sideswipe," the medic looked up with exhausted and pained optics. "If any of you die…"
"If anyone dies it's their own slagging fault! If I get shot to hell tomorrow on the field, it's 'cause I was too stupid to watch my back. You can't stop us from getting hurt and you can't stop us from dying."
"Sideswipe, let me tell you something, and don't take this the wrong way." He laced his hands together in front of him on the table, looking for all the world like he was giving a medical lecture rather than an explanation for his misery. His voice was soft and calm, not at all like his 'daytime' tone which had been known to make even Optimus cower and obey. "But sometimes I hate you. I hate all of you."
Of all the things the young warrior expected to hear, this was certainly not it. He took a startled step back, optics wide and a hurt expression on his handsome face. "Ratchet?"
"Why won't you all just slagging die and be done with it?" Ratchet wondered aloud. "Every damn time I fix you, you just go right back out and get hurt again. I know everyone's bodies better than their own Creators by now. Especially you two," he looked back up at Sideswipe. "I'll give your Creator credit; he knew what he was doing when he made you and your brother."
"He built weapons," Sideswipe grumbled, not liking to be reminded of the old engineer. "That's all we were."
"That's why he's a slagging moron. He made damn fine weapons, but he also made damn fine bots and didn't even know it." He didn't give the young warrior time to ponder on that for he plowed on. "Look, I'm not angry at you boys for going out there every day. You do your job and I do mine. I'm responsible for what happens in my med bay and it's my job to keep everyone alive. And every damn time I lose someone, it just gets harder to go back to that repair berth and do it all over again."
Sideswipe struggled to keep up with his rambling superior. He wanted to make him feel better, but wasn't quite sure how. How did one cheer up someone who decidedly did not want to be cheered? He'd never heard the CMO talk like this, like he was just some normal mech who got tired and sad and who just wanted to go home. Sideswipe was no good at this. He was a mech of action, not words. Slaggit, where was Smokescreen when you needed him? So he stuck with the blunt truth as he knew no better way. "Well yeah, but think of how many more would bite it because you weren't there?"
Ratchet glared at him, entirely unamused. "You assume I can just fix whatever's wrong all the time? You're not stupid, Sideswipe, don't pretend to be."
"Of course you can," the red warrior looked down at him with full trust in his optics. "And if you can't, it's because no one can. Primus, you weren't picked for this unit cause you were some lousy rookie."
The medic knew this as well as anyone did. He had been a field surgeon before this, known for being among the best. He could work under the worst conditions, performing near miracles with skilled hands. When he was assigned to the Ark's crew, it was because his talents had been noticed by the higher-ups.
But as terrible as the field was, it had something that this assignment lacked. Or rather, this mission had what the field lacked. Faces. He saw bots on the field once, maybe twice tops. But here… here he saw the same people day in and day out. Knew their hobbies, their likes and dislikes. He laughed with them and mourned with them. Knowing everyone's internals as expertly as their Creators certainly eased his job considerably, but more rode on his ability to work his miracles. These weren't just patients to him, they were his friends.
"It was easier when my patients didn't have faces," he murmured aloud, hoping against hope that the mischievous bot would understand for just one moment. The trust that shone so brightly in Sideswipe, in the others, was entirely misplaced. He wasn't some infallible healer. Each time he managed to pull someone back from the brink of death, it was because at least half of it was riding on the good graces of Primus. And seeing them come back online after such an ordeal filled with the same pride and satisfaction he felt when the Dinobots' sparks first activated.
"So you care if we wake up again," the Lamborghini scowled. "Big deal."
"It is a big deal," Ratchet scowled right back.
"I think a medic actually wanting me to recover is better than the alternative."
"For you perhaps!" Ratchet stood up, knowing that he could intimidate the red warrior even if he was shorter. As expected, Sideswipe took a startled step backwards. "Every damn medic who gets too involved loses their fragging mind! I don't care if you were stupid and got your own head blown off your shoulders. Any bot who dies under my care is my responsibility. That's why I'm upset since you're so curious to know! Sunstreaker was right; if any of my bots die, it's my fault."
"We're not some helpless fledglings who can't take care of ourselves. We all know the risks involved."
"Do you think I care about any of that?" the medic snapped, but he did calm a little. "On that operating table, do you think I care that you knew you might get pumped with laser shots and did it anyway?"
"I guess not," Sideswipe looked away for a moment, nearly defeated. There was silence as each mech wondered what they could possibly say now. "Look…" it was the red warrior again who spoke. He glanced back at Ratchet with tired lazuli optics that finally showed some comprehension of the medic's pain.
"I know you're not slagging Primus or anything. I know you lost patients and you'll probably lose some of us someday. But you're the best we got and you always try to take care of us when we need it. And knock some sense into us when we don't." He smiled sheepishly. "So I… we know that if someone dies, it's 'cause you did what you could and it wasn't enough. So don't listen to Sunny, he's an asshole, and he didn't mean it anyway. He usually does, but this time he didn't. We both know you do what you can, and for what it's worth, it means a lot to us. No one's ever done that for us before, not even our own Creator, and I know the others see it like that too."
The last few sentences came out in a rush, as though he were rather embarrassed to say it at all. Sideswipe always believed that actions spoke louder than words which could be false or twisted. Thus heart to hearts never appealed to him, nor long flowery speeches. But some things just needed to be heard for them to be believed. And Ratchet needed to hear this.
During all this, the CMO had stared at young Sideswipe with an unreadable expression. Once he was sure the young warrior was done, his optics lowered to stare down into his half-filled energon mug. "Thank you," he said in a voice so quiet, Sideswipe wasn't even sure he really even heard it.
"Does… that mean you're ok now?" Sideswipe asked, sounding very much like Bluestreak when he thought he'd screwed up something royally.
"Yes, you bucket of bolts," Ratchet chuckled. "It means I'm ok now."
"No more of this self-pity shit?" he grew bolder.
"Go to bed, kid."
Ratchet held up a hand to cut off his protest. "It's fine, Sideswipe. Really."
The wish to obey did visible battle with his reluctance to leave the medic just as he'd found him. He hated to meddle in things that didn't have to do with him, but he hated failing even more. "You sure?"
"Don't make me get up and show you out myself, you little slagger."
Ah, there was Ratchet.
Assured now that the older medic would be alright, Sideswipe did as he was told, returning to his injured brother's side.
Ratchet could hear his recharge berth calling for him as he sat there alone in the dark. It was much too late for him to still be up as he was on duty the next morning. Yet, as he was fully of self-pity before, now he just needed to think. About himself, the others, what Sideswipe had said…
Frag it all, why did he have to be so soft? And in front of the troublemaker as well! What was Sideswipe thinking when he said all that? Ratchet didn't 'take care' of anyone. He did his job, and that was all. Nothing more than that.
No longer feeling the need to overcharge every system in his body, he pushed away the energon, unable to deny the half-smile sneaking its way in.
A/N: So, yeah, I'm finally home from work! And I can say with full honesty that Sunny in 'Grunt's Guide' has nothing to whine about! He had one day. I had 9 weeks. I will try to post all the stuff I wrote while I was away (and it's A LOT). However, I leave on Thursday for China as I will be studying abroad for a year. It will take me a while to get internet access over there so please be patient with me after Thursday, I don't see it taking me more than a week or two to settle myself.