A/N: This is going to be my standard opening for a while. The pain is still too close. I want to apologize for the long wait on some of my stories. I recently lost a good friend of mine and fellow fanfic writer and the loss was much harder than I anticipated. It really stunted whatever creative power I had and left me in a state of much sorrow. It's hard to realize just how much people influence our lives and our passions until they are no longer there. For the next while all my stories are going to be dedicated to her.
AJ. I will miss you. I will miss you and your laughing encouragement more than I can ever say. This one is for you.
Special thanks to Razorgaze as my Beta, and Hummergrey for her constant friendship during this sad time. You both render me speechless with your skills, friendship and dedication. Please check out their fics. The links are in my profile page.
Disclaimer: I own nothing but my OC's. I am not making any money from this. Please do not sue.
One of these days, I was going to learn not to panic when I woke up in the hospital.
At least I told myself that as conscious thought returned, dragging with it the nagging feeling that I shouldn't be flat on my back. The fact that substance beneath my back was soft and yielding, warm to the touch and brimming with that clean and somehow soothing scent of bleach didn't help to ward off the rising panic. That was part and parcel of the not-so-fun side of being a wanted criminal. Waking up in a place you know you shouldn't be usually indicated you'd been caught doing what you shouldn't have been doing in the first place.
Waking up in Ratchet's med bay wasn't an exception to that rule. Not even by a long shot.
I tried to take stock of the situation as quickly as I could. Forewarned was forearmed after all. There wasn't much to see that I hadn't seen before, and somehow that knowledge didn't lend itself to comforting me. I was snuggled into the standard human-sized hospital bed, complete with the standard metal railings, though absent the standard metal handcuffs to indicate I had been arrested. Small blessing, right? Standard medical equipment beeped and buzzed above my head.
"Why am I here?" I asked aloud after clearing my throat. There wasn't a good reason to pretend to be asleep. I could hear the monitors above me changing their beeping pattern, indicating that my heart rate had elevated. Kind of hard to pretend to sleep after that.
"I would think that was obvious," Ratchet replied from somewhere over to my left.
Great. Of all the doctors in the universe, I happened to land the one whose bedside manner rivaled my grasp of civilized conversation. "Cute," I smirked. "But hardly helpful. Seriously, why am I here?"
The ensuing silence let me know that he had stopped whatever it was that he was doing and was probably staring at me. A glance in that direction let me know I was right. He was staring at me, alright, with a thoughtful look in those optics of his. "Where else would you expect to be?"
"The brig, for one," I grunted, rolling over on my side—the one that didn't feel like it had been doused in gasoline and had lit matches gleefully flung at it. "Possibly the morgue for another."
Dr. Bot snorted, which was a little odd considering he didn't have nasal passages to snort with. At least, I assumed he didn't. I assumed I was supposed to appreciate the fact that he had adopted some human mannerisms like that. Maybe he did it to make me feel more at ease? Maybe he did it because he thought it was funny? Who knew with these guys.
Still, I had to admit that it was sorta comforting to see familiar gestures in what was otherwise a total mind-fuck of a situation.
"At least we agree on one point," he quipped, moving from his table o' medical tools and back over in my direction. He pinned me with a rather pointed stare. "The brig is where you belong after a stunt like that, and you know it."
I shrugged my shoulder, looking away. What could I say to that? He was right. "I lost my temper."
"Is that your official excuse or some form of apology I am unfamiliar with?"
"Uh, both?" I replied, lifting my eyebrows in what I hoped was an innocent expression.
Again, he snorted, one blunt-tipped finger about the size of my whole body pushing with surprising gentleness on my uninjured shoulder, indicating that I should lay back. I did as he prompted, staring at the ceiling and trying to tell myself that this was no different than any other doctor appointment I'd had in my life. I should not feel creeped out by the fact an alien was checking my wounds. I should not feel like I should be scared of him accidentally … I don't know… grafting my intestines to my lungs or something like that.
I had to have faith that he knew what he was doing. And that faith was rewarded as the burning sensation that had plagued me since waking was suddenly dulled down to an acceptable level. I let muscles relax that I had no idea I'd been tensing. Okay, maybe I could start to like this guy. Maybe enough to use his real name instead of the kind-of demeaning Dr. Bot.
"Slight infection," Ratchet said aloud, probably for my benefit. "More than likely caused by the bacteria collected on that plate glass window you thought would be fun to dive through. I have administered antibiotics and a topical pain reliever. The swelling should reduce momentarily."
"Thanks, Doc," I said and meant it. The pain was already almost non-existent. "Any idea when I could get out of here?"
He gave me what I considered the universal doctor's look—the one that stated clearly that I was at his tender mercies and should probably shut up and make with the healing instead of wasting his time with useless questions. And then he turned back to his work, pretty much content to ignore me again. I got the impression that he did that a lot – the ignoring the troubling questions bit. It was somehow comforting to know that even a race of alien robots had its fair share of problematic patients.
I sighed, suppressing a sudden yawn. "Let me guess," I deadpanned. "I get out of here when and only when you think I should be out of here and not a moment sooner. So stop wasting your time, right?"
The universal doctor's look turned into a kind of smirk. "And Magnus said you couldn't be taught."
"Magnus says a lot of things," I smirked back. "Doesn't mean he's always right."
"Doesn't mean he's always wrong, either."
"That, my good doctor, is a matter of opinion."
"Considering that I've known him longer than your race has been in existence, I think my opinion matters the most."
Again, I couldn't argue with that. So I didn't. I stifled another yawn instead. "So, if you've known him so long, why is he such a jerk?"
Ratchet almost dropped the tool in his hands, turning a withering look in my direction. "I would hardly call him that. Ultra Magnus is an honored and valued member of our faction. He is a great warrior and you should be honored to learn from him."
"Ratchet, I don't know what you know about me, but one of my many talents is to smell bullshit a mile away. That's not what I asked and you know it," I replied, shifting slightly so I could see him better. "Now that you've towed the party line and given me the official statement about Magnus, I want to know the truth. If you're bound by some kind of friendship confidentiality, that's fine. I won't pry. But if you could tell me something about him – something that would help me figure out how to get through to him without the use of physical violence – that would be a huge help."
Ratchet put his tool down again, giving me his undivided attention. Something akin to curiosity replaced the hostile doctor look in his optics. "What do you want to know?"
"Let's start with why he hates me."
Ratchet almost rolled his optics at my question, and then stopped when he realized I was being serious. "Let me answer your question with a question: why do you go out of your way to anger him?"
"I'm not!" I protested rather vehemently, wincing only slightly as my side started to ache again. "I'm simply reacting to the way he's treating me."
The medic merely lifted his optic guards slightly. "Really? And you don't think he is doing the same?"
"Not in the slightest. When I have I given him reason to treat me like a slave?"
"When have you given him reason to let you have your freedom?"
"I wasn't aware I needed to give him a reason to grant me what is mine by right."
The snort he gave had a rather disgusted sound to it. "If you are going to continue to be this thick-headed, then our conversation is over. I am not here to take your side on things, or confirm that you are correct to sooth your troubled conscience. You know very well what you did was wrong. So I will give you this little piece of advice. Until you acknowledge your own faults, you are never going to be seen as more than a troublemaker. By him, and by the rest of us."
For being one of the most open and helpful of the Autobots on Diego Garcia, Ratchet sure had a strong way to shut someone down. I'd almost call it an art form, honestly. He'd been constantly ignoring me since our not-too-productive conversation that morning, responding to any of my demands with either applying the appropriate medicines or walking in the other direction to work on something else.
That left me a lot of time to do absolutely nothing. And that left me all the time in the world to ponder what he'd said.
I didn't want to believe that Ratchet was right, that all this was somehow my fault. Well, not all of it. I mean, Magnus could have been a little nicer to me from the get-go. Then again, I could have been nicer to him, too. Calling him names and then throwing a grenade in his face wasn't my best attempt to befriend him. And the more I thought about our little private romp through the obstacle course, the more I began to agree with Ratchet.
This was mostly my fault.
My brain kept going back to that moment on the fire escape. I saw him staring at me, watching with what I had assumed was annoyance as I rode the thing like an iron horse down and across to the nearest building. Looking back, I think I misinterpreted that look as anger when it was really concern. There I was, giving him the one-figured salute and smirking like I was the queen of the world, with a huge shard of glass embedded into my ribs. His powerful optics had not only detected the shard, but his processors had probably estimated the amount of time I had before that shard punctured a lung… or worse.
He hadn't been trying to catch me to complete our game. He had been trying to save me.
I ran all manner of possible outcomes to that situation around in my head just to be certain. I didn't want to give him more credit that he deserved, at least my pride wouldn't let me do that. And yet each time I circled around to that moment on the fire escape, the only logical conclusion my brain would allow was that Magnus had, indeed, been fighting to save my life.
I was such an idiot. And that thought chased round and around in my brain until the medicines sent me back off to sleep. Needless to say, the combination of heavy thinking and heavier drugs made for seriously uncomfortable dreams. I kept seeing our fight played out in the landscape of my subconscious, watching as I rode the fire escape in slow motion. I had all the time in the world to watch Magnus stare at me, watching the play of emotions crossing his metallic face.
In some of the dreams, he watched me fall to my death. In others, he laughed. And yet in most of them, he threw himself down beneath the fire escape, landing on a field of glass shards that somehow cut him to shreds. I watched him bleed out and die by the time the fire escape and I landed on his chest plate, the light in his blue optics winking out for the final time.
There was no Optimus to help me, no Ratchet to put him back together. And in those dreams, I cried.
I cried because he had tried to save me. Tried to save me! And lost his own life in the process. No one had ever given a shit about me, and never to this level.
So imagine my surprise when I opened my eyes again and found Ultra Magnus staring down at me. All sense of pride fled me, and I about threw myself from the bed and in his direction. I felt my wounds reopen with the sudden action, but really couldn't bring myself to care too much.
"You're alive!" I all but screamed at him.
His huge hands wrapped around me like I was some precious, fragile tea cup and he an unbalanced oaf. "Ratchet!" he bellowed, staring at me with wide optics. "Ratchet, the human is leaking fluids again, this time from her side and her eyes."
Leaking fluid from my eyes? I swiped at them with my hands, terrified that I'd find blood or worse on my fingers. There was only the clear saltiness of my tears. I was crying. Crying for the mech that hours ago I never wanted to see again.
"No," I managed to laugh out. "No, Magnus, I'm fine. Listen, I want to apol—"
My attempt at reassuring my robotic babysitter only served to enflame his worry. "Ratchet! Come quickly, something is amiss with her processors, too! She is using my name and smiling. This femme is hurt worse than we thought!"
Okay, I deserved that one. "Magnus, will you calm down? Yeah, I'm bleeding but I'm going to be fine. Will you just set me down and listen?"
He set me down, alright, rather rapidly. Into Ratchet's open palms. From the look that the two were exchanging, I knew I wasn't going to get in a word edgewise until they were both satisfied that was fine. I had a feeling it was going to be a long wait.