Earth, present:

Scrape… scrape… scrape…

Barricade rocked on his wheels, scratching his bumper on the tree trunk. Everything itched.

Nothing like this ever happened on Cybertron. Even in the very worst nights of the war, it hadn't been like this. Despite the constant threat of battle, all the injuries, the fear that sank in and never let go… it hadn't been like this. He'd been… happy.

He wanted to go home. Cybertron was a sparking wreck of dead wasteland, but he just wanted to go back. He wanted to drive back into base camp after a long mission and find Blackout waiting up for him, to feel Frenzy curled inside, deep in recharge. He wanted to see the approval and pride in Megatron's optics after a job well done.

Home no longer existed. Optimus Prime decided that sparing the humans chunk of mud a little pain was more important then Barricade's entire world… He destroyed the Allspark, destroyed the one thing that Megatron could have used to restore life and hope and peace to Cybertron. He killed Megatron and Frenzy and Blackout, everyone who meant anything-

The sun was rising. He had work to do.

x-x-x

The cops were waiting for Sam when he pulled up to Mikaela's place. They swarmed around him as soon as he stepped out of the driver's seat, shoving him roughly against Bee's side.

Sam felt Bee tense under him. "No, Bee!" Sam hissed.

"You're under arrest for arson, kidnapping, and the attempted murder of Judy and Ronald Witwicky," the detective growled, pulling Sam's hands roughly behind his back and cuffing him.

"My parents?! You found my parents?! Mom and Dad are alive!"

"And you better hope they stay that way – California believes in the death penalty."

"Wait, I didn't do it! I-"

"Save it, boy. We found the bloodstains in your parents car, and your fingerprint on the duct tape."

"What?! I didn't do anything! Maybe if the duct tape came from our house, I might have touched it – but I'd never hurt anyone!"

Bee shifted again, angry and helpless. Unable to do anything for Sam, he opened a channel to Optimus Prime.

"Ask my parents," Sam insisted.

"We'll be asking them a whole lot of questions, boy, soon as they wake up. You have the right to remain silent…"

x-x-x

Barricade hid under the low-overhanging branches of a nearby tree, watching the Autobots gear up and transform. He'd become quite adept at hiding his energy form; it was one of the first things Frenzy had taught him.

Frenzy…

And hiding this close to the Autobot base, they'd never think to scan…

Prime and the gunner were leaving with the human soldier, the female and child being escorted by the medic. They thought they were being careful.

"Anyone who gives aid or comfort – or friendship – to the enemy is the enemy." Blackout loomed behind him, familiar metal just brushing his back. "Hit them hard and without regret. Strike that one weak spot, and the whole wall shatters."

Barricade followed the medic and his charges as they split off from the other two, Sarah's car following close behind ratchet. The interceptor waited for Prime and Ironhide to get well down the road before speeding after his target, quickly catching up to the medic.

He didn't even slow as he reached them, plowing full speed into the back of Sarah's car. Ratchet spotted him at the last second, attempting to evade the coming collision, but Sarah's car hit him in the back end, crushing her car between the two mechs.

Ratchet transformed, stumbling to his feet and turning, only to catch Barricade's gyro-flail in the face. The razor-sharp blades tore apart his faceplate, shattering his optics. He staggered back, blinded.

Barricade was on him instantly, claws ripping into his neck and chest. Ratchet lashed out blindly, but his blows fell on heavy armor, causing little damage.

Desperately, he radioed for help, knowing that Barricade was easily a match for him normally, despite his smaller size – and with Ratchet unable to see, this fight was going to be very short…

x-x-x

"SARAH!" Lennox bailed out before Ironhide stopped moving. His wife's car was a pile of barely-recognizable twisted metal. Sarah herself was slumped over the steering wheel, a line of blood running down her face. Steam rose from the remains of the engine. "Sarah-" Will touched her shoulder, eliciting a pained moan from her. "Oh, God… Annabelle…"

Annabelle was crying, still locked in her car seat.

Ironhide snarled, scanning the area for danger. "Slagging son of a glitched smelter… I'm going to kill him!"

Optimus didn't answer, kneeling next to the crumpled medic. "Ratchet? Can you hear me?"

"Ironhide!" Will yelled over at his friend, cradling the still-screaming baby. "Help me! Sarah's hurt, and I can't get the door open-"

Ironhide started, jolted out of a vengeful fantasy. He carefully slid two fingers through the shattered window and down the driver side door, then yanked the door free with a sharp tug. He cut the restraints holding Sarah in the seat, helping Will pull her out.

"She needs medical attention," Will said after a moment, checking her injuries with one hand and balancing his daughter in the other. "I think she's got a concussion."

"Mm… Will?" Sarah moaned, stirring. "Nngh… Will? Annabelle…" She lifted her head. "Annabelle! Where's my baby?!"

"Shh, I've got her, she's right here…"

Ironhide turned at Prime's approach. "I've done all I can for Ratchet here. Get them to a medical facility, I'll take Ratchet back to base."

"Ironhide! Optimus! What's going on?!" Bee's voice came over the radio.

"Bumblebee, stay where you are. We'll take care of them; if you disappear now, it could make things worse for Sam. See if you can figure out what all Barricade altered in the police files."

"Yes, Optimus," Bee answered unhappily.

Moments later, Ironhide was spraying gravel as he tore off down the road. Prime cradled Ratchet and headed back to base.

x-x-x

"Optimus?" Ratchet whispered. Optimus had done what repairs he could, but the rest would be up to Ratchet's self-repair systems and the medic himself.

"I'm right here," Optimus said, laying a hand on his friend's shoulder. Ratchet's mutilated optics were far beyond his skill to repair.

"Sarah… and the child…"

"Ironhide and Will are with them. The child is fine, Sarah is injured but will recover." He sighed. "I'm sorry, I should never have asked you to-"

"Can't…blame yourself… Prime… He would have… found… a way eventually." The pain in Ratchets voice was hard to listen to.

They were both silent except for the hiss of life-support systems hooked to the injured mech.

"It's going to be alright," Optimus said eventually, but got no response. Ratchet had passed out again.

Optimus Prime stood, looking down at his old friend's mangled form.

"I'll make it right… I promise."

x-x-x

His fender felt stiff, his side hurt from where the medic got a few good hits in, and his tires itched.

Barricade drove aimlessly, unsure of what to do now, but unable to sit still any longer.

He wasn't paying much attention to his surroundings - Ironhide was at the hospital, terrified of leaving the Lennoxs alone, Bumblebee was still in impound –

The semi-truck came out of nowhere, broad siding him and throwing him through a tree.

Barricade transformed as he rolled, coming up to his feet. He dodged a blow from Prime, ducking under the larger mech's arm.

A sudden kick caught him in the chest, sending him crashing back through the underbrush. He lay there for a second, stunned. Pain radiated from his half-crushed chest plate and his leg, damage reports scrolling across his vision.

He rolled as Prime's energy-sword sliced down where he'd been laying, scrambling back to his feet.

Laughter. "Don't be foolish. I don't want you to die for me, I want you to live for me." Optics glowed red in the darkness, surprisingly patient. "Retreat is always preferable to destruction – after all, how can you serve me if you're dead? There will, however, come a day when you can't retreat any longer, and on that day, I expect you to stand and fight and die with honor."

Barricade steadied himself. As my lord commands. Prime's strike caught him in the face, sending him back down.

His vision was flickering.

Guard duty in Kaon – Frenzy was bored. "Let's sp-pike Screamer's energon…"

Prime had a hold of him, pinning him against a tree. He sank claws into Prime's arm, sending thin streams of energon down the Autobot's armor.

Burning pain stabbed through his chest… there were so many error messages running across his screens that he couldn't focus on any of them…

"Just don't forget to come g-get-t me." Frenzy rapped a claw against his armor for emphasis. "I d-don't want t-to be-be left here; it stink-ks-ks."

"I'm not going to leave you."

Maybe it wasn't the text, maybe it was just him… He couldn't seem to focus on Prime looming in front of him, either. The Autobot was an indistinct shape with bright blue optics…

Blue optics, so unusual on their side, staring up at him. Silver metal bouncing in excitement. "Barribarricade!"

Softly, "...Frenzy?"

x-x-x

Regret fell over him like a shroud as Prime stared into Barricade's flickering optics. Righteous fury had gotten him this far, but now, hearing the pain and longing in Barricade's whisper, seeing it in the fading optics, he found he couldn't hate the Decepticon.

Optimus slowly withdrew the energy-sword, catching Barricade as he fell and lowering him gently to the ground.

The interceptor shuddered under his hands, then stilled. For a split second, Prime thought he saw something cross his expression – something like… relief? Peace?

Then it was gone, his optics going dark.

Prime sighed, laying one hand on the side of Barricade's still face. "I'm sorry," he said quietly, "I wish it could have been another way."