But Already Shattered

The black mech knew vorns ago when his and Ratchet's "relationship" began. It was a tentative deal, one brought by the pair of them absolutely detesting one another. It evolved into something more like a tenuous friendship and seemed to be developing further. The black mech wasn't planning on fighting it, knowing full well that such tactics never worked when the spark had a say in anything. But for now…for now it wasn't the time.

With a final, soft stroke to the helm now resting on the berth, he sealed the door.

A short, quarter cycle later found Ironhide cleaned and standing before the Prime, Ratchet to the Prime's left. Every other instructor stood awaiting the Prime's words. His visits were rare as was this rather impromptu briefing but even rarer was the grave expression on his countenance.

"A militia sent from Koan has claimed responsibility for Praxus. They've already mobilized towards Altihex and have hit many smaller settlements along the way." Prime said, voice grave as he addressed the Academy instructors, many of which he'd appointed there himself. Ironhide watched the younger mech. There were many things Optimus was leaving out…but the most important, the one that meant the most to the people…

"They cry war. And we must answer."

The crowd was a bustle of activity after that. Mechs and femmes were headed in every direction on taskings set before them. Ironhide moved to Prime's side, quietly offering his support and Prime began speaking to him privately. Ratchet remained standing amongst the fast moving crowd several breems before finally retreating to the inner halls of the Academy.

It was joors later before Ironhide had made himself free from Prime.

Several more solar cycles passed before he'd managed to find Ratchet again.

The medic was in his "domain"…the bay all but cleared. He stood there, optics unfocused and gazing toward the gray, lifeless form residing on the berth. Ironhide recognized it as one of the "Ward 4" mechs brought back from Praxus.

"He was a sparkling." the medic whispered, gaze still locked on the body before him. "A -sparkling-, Ironhide. Not even old enough to see his first real set of upgrades."

Ironhide looked at Ratchet then, seeing something flash across the other mech's optics. It was a look he'd never wanted to acknowledge on the medics face before. Despair.

"Ratchet…" Ironhide started, voice grave and quiet. "Orders have come down."

"You'll go and fight." It wasn't a question. Neither one had any doubts that if these current skirmishes continued, there could be an all out war on their own planet. Already more wounded and dying had been brought to Iacon for treatment.

"Yes." the black mech replied.

"You'll probably die."


"And there's not a pit slagging thing I can do to stop any of it."

Ironhide maintained his distance from the two forms, watching Ratchet's movements closely. The medic was trembling slightly and his optics fritzed. The black mech had learned long ago that approaching a mech in such a state could get you wounded or worse.

"You asked me something once. About my history."

"Yes. You were a politician?" Ironhide asked, recovering quickly from the topic change.

"Yes, I was. A damn good one, I thought. I knew the game, knew the players. But I couldn't stand it. Nothing I did made a difference. No choice I made could be used to benefit the rest of the population. More often than not, it seemed to make things -worse-."

Ratchet paused then, lightly stroking the helm of the sparkling.

"Always made it worse. They called me 'Ratchet the Hatchet' when I left."

"Ratchet-" Ironhide started, optic widening. He'd heard stories about a councilmember they called "Hatchet" but none of those stories even remotely resembled the mech before him in demeanor and personality. He'd certainly not made the connection.

I had the archives deleted. I left the council chambers myself. I erased my existence in such circles."

"Why?" he replied, disbelief coloring his tone.

Ratchet looked at him then, dropping his arms to his sides.

"Because I wasn't making a difference. I wanted no part of that life. So I changed -everything-."

The black mech took a couple cautious steps forward, approaching the medic with a hand extended.

"You asked who I was hiding from. The answer is me." he replied, dropping his optics back down to the young mech on the table.

Ironhide finished his approach, gently grasping a loose hand at the medic's side and tugging him slowly away from the still cooling frame.

"C'mon, doc. Let's get you out of here."

"No, I can't." Ratchet said, protesting slightly. "I need to prep his frame for…for."

"Patchweld will handle it. You're leaving."

"Slag it, 'hide, I'm not a sparkl-…" Ratchet started, stopping on the final word and giving the table another look.

"I know." Ironhide replied, pausing a moment. "Please?"

A shiver ran through the medics frame but he allowed himself to be led, unresistingly, out of the medbay proper.

They entered Ironhide's quarters, only a few corridors away from the bay itself. After setting the medic down to the berth and retrieving a mild mid-grade cube of energon, Ironhide knelt before him.

"I'm sorry." Ironhide said, apologizing for so many things with just a simple phrase. All the hurt, all the anger, the frustration that the medic had endured over the past several cycles…all summed up in those tiny words.

The medics reaction, however, was nothing he'd anticipated. Anger, probably. Indifference, maybe. But this…this was nothing like what he'd even remotely imagined. Ratchet set his cube upon the berth and -looked- at Ironhide, optics gradually taking on a more feral glint. The next thing the black mech knew, he had been shoved back and was currently being straddled by the other mech.

They had interfaced with each other on numerous occasions (and if you believed the students, numerous surfaces, flat or otherwise). Hands were -everywhere-…shoving aside armor platings to reach the pliable metal underneath and making it feel as though it were burning. He tried returning as good as he got but the medic was in a fervor and for every stroke the black mech managed to land equated into three from his partner. It was fast, frantic and so very different from any of their other joinings in the sense that it felt -lost-. The black mech was nearly so far gone in the haze and anticipation of completion that he nearly offlined at the soft glow that suddenly shone from Ratchet's chest.

He wanted to. He really did. He could feel his spark all but -demanding- to allow it to merge with the proffered glow before it.

Ironhide shuttered his optics and gently placed a hand on the partially separated chest plates of the medic.

"Ratch…you're not thinking this through…"

"The frag I'm not."

Primus, the medic was unbridled emotion when he wanted to be. Ironhide wouldn't complain…he'd even join in this bonding initiation…with the exception of one thing.

"There's a -war- coming, Ratchet."

"I -know- that."

"Then why are you doing this?"

"Because for once, just -once-, I'm going to act on an impulse and do something…something…fraggit, 'Hide." Ratchet replied, dropping his head onto the black mech's shoulder.

"This 'something' is permanent, doc."

"Really? Thank you for that astounding revelation." the medic replied, raising his head to level the other mech with a sour look and his own patented brand of snark. "You've never really shown any discursion before when 'facing with me."

"That…what? That was-"

"Was what? Nice, casual romp in the berth?" the medic asked, venom lacing his voice.

"Yeah, it was. I thought we both agreed on that…" Ironhide replied, virtual hackles rising against the bait. His optics widened as soon as the words left his vocalizer but the damage was already done and the words could not be retracted.

"…I guess we did."

Ratchet then stood, chest plates closing with a quiet hum of hydraulics, shying away when a confused Ironhide reached for his arm, look imploring.

"If that truly is the case, Ironhide, then I've had quite enough of 'casual romps'." he said, turning and heading out the door of the black mech's quarters before ever giving the other mech a chance to retaliate.

Ironhide didn't follow him.

The following cycle, his shuttle left. Ratchet had not been in the crowd to bid the departing mechs farewell. Ironhide pretended he hadn't noticed.