Title: Flashback

'Verse: Movie-verse human AU (aka coffeehouse 'verse. Kitteh created the premise and I dabble in it sometimes writing the soldier half.)

Characters: Jonathon (Ironhide)/Richard (Ratchet) – their archetypes, as humans that have always been human.

Summary: A 'what if' of exploring who the mechs might be as regular people. Ironhide is Jonathon, an old career army grunt; Ratchet is Richard, a workaholic neurosurgeon.

Jon and Rich are old friends/something more/something else. Jon has a tendency to find Rich and crash at his place between tours when he is stateside. Each time Jon ships out, Rich tells him to get his butt home again in one piece. This takes place a while after Jon gets his walking papers and just shows up at Rich's work, and when Richard offers the usual place to crash, it becomes much more permanent.

Rating: PG-13

Stuff you'll read: Profanity. War; including wounds, physical therapy, mental trauma and offscreen death. Male/male established relationship.

AN: So this - this image would not let me go. Some of the style weirdness is nightmareish, some is that I was with family and holiday craziness when writing it.

A bright flash, followed shortly by a deafening boom.

In those few brief seconds all of the worst months of Jon's life flashed in front of his eyes.

Afghanistan – out on patrol and snipping back and forth at the younger recruits with him in the armored Humvee. Mostly the old career soldier was grumping that yeah, he still had it in him. He thumped the weapon at his chest and snapped back over his shoulder at the driver to 'stop laughing and watch the damn road.' It was too easy to get complacent… but the next thing that Jon knew was only heat and smoke and the air being forced from his lungs and vertigo.

Someone wailed, there was the crack and pop of fire, pings of metal, the crinkle of glass. Jon could not quite turn his head, tumbled against the ceiling, roof – the Humvee had flipped, he realized. They must have been hit - a mortar, a roadside bomb… Jon tried to focus, count the other soldiers in the Hummer, but most of his side of the vehicle was gone. His head was ringing. The rest of him, just hurt. But it was that familiar, numb sort of pain that he was determined some higher power thought was hilarious. Hurt in the way that said his body could not even begin to get the signals in order, but once it did, it was going to get a helluva lot worse.

There was a hiss, and Jon cried out when something cold flashed across his chest. Fire extinguishers, and voices, there were more voices. Radio crackles circled around him and someone started barking commands. William, the Captain from the following vehicle ordered the men taken from the wreck. Jon heard groans and assertions and a few saying they were ok. The shout came that the driver had no pulse and two started counting back and forth in CPR. Slowly the counting faded from his consciousness…

"Sergeant," someone said, and Jon wondered why he was still upside down. He shivered, unsure how the desert chill could come on while still daylight. Everything seemed a little confusing, muddled, muted… then hands were on him and pulling in unison and he screamed. The world tunneled down to a black spot of agony, only coming back slowly when he was stilled.

Jonathon panted, lightheaded and someone unclipped and removed his mangled helmet from his head. The weight lifted seemed monumental and he could finally move his head and peer down his body. What he saw, it was not him. His right side from his ribs down to his knee was a mess of blood and metal and flayed flesh and torn cloth. Hearing something about an incoming medevac, he tried to fight that feeling of his last meal trying to make a reappearance. There was a puddle of blood spreading out in the sand, one of those in charge of triage dropped to Jon's side and pressed a cloth to his hip. He groaned and dug his good foot into the ground, trying to sit up and move away, but he could barely push at the other man's hand.

There was more talking, more and more of it going over his head. Jon could only stare at the sky, the clouds that looked like… he heard the words 'bleeding out,' and the pain started feeling really distant. He realized dimly that he was not doing well, but sleep seemed both like a really comforting and very scary idea. In spite of the prods from the man beside him, he only moaned unhappily when he was transferred to a stretcher. As Jon drifted off, the worry that he was going to die should not have been such an idle thought.

Surfacing from the hurt and all the painkillers involved a slow climb back to consciousness and Jon blinked. He was inside. Improvement. He was stripped down and the medics were trying to sew his hip up… mild improvement. His leg was numb and ashen… that wasn't right… but the IV had something amazing in it, and he went back to sleep.

The next time that he came to, he was trussed up like a turkey. Now he was in an infirmary, and this time he understood that. There were doctors that came in, said things like that they had done all they could. What was left of his hip had been set back in the joint. He heard someone say that the nerves and the blood vessels were reconnected to the best of modern ability. Jonathon listened to words like 'shattered,' 'possible amputation,' 'wait and see.' Days became less of a haze, but ran into weeks of pain and drugs and lying on his back and grinding motion in the joint. The soldier finally began to slowly comprehend the specifics of 'metal plate' and 'pins'… and gradually flesh took back color, bones knit and feeling returned.

Shipped back stateside, they said he might be able to walk, eventually. In the meantime, Jon learned about rehabilitation and therapy, and the slow stretches that would leave him pale and trembling on the bed. Slowly the stitches closed and the skin began to heal. He had to relearn range of motion with a hip almost more metal than man, reteach his own once-shredded muscles to flex. Moving his own leg could make him pant and break a sweat. While it was nothing personal, Jon came to hate the therapist that worked his hip. Sometimes a simple stretch or lift left tears standing in the corners of eyes that did not bat at heavy artillery and a long run fully weighted with gear. In the tiniest of steps, using handlebars and support and those first few shuffling steps that left him feeling like he had conquered the world, Jon learned to walk for the second time in his life.

At least he was able to walk to the man presenting him with his second medal of a heart and purple ribbon. This time, since the doctors said he would not be able to run or walk quite like he used to he also got paperwork cutting him from the military. Full honors, a sizeable pension… but… if he was not a soldier anymore… Jon felt useless and lost, cut adrift from his former life.

He had thought he was going to die. He had thought he would lose his leg. He had thought he would never walk again. He thought, about Richard… the one bit of stability he had ever been lucky enough to have in his life.

Deep blue eyes snapped open as the roll of thunder faded into the distance. Then Jon realized that Rich was there. The man was right beside him, tangled in an intimate web of sheets and limbs and pillows.

His hip felt like it was throbbing and he tipped his head back, swallowing the groan as he fisted his hands in the bedsheets. The ex-soldier was soaked in a cold sweat, and clenching his teeth so hard they were making an audible grind. Trying to force himself to calm down, Jon reminded himself it was just another flashback, another surge of memories. He would never admit how much the dreams, how even thinking about that time rattled him. The ragged panting and rabbiting heartrate said else wise, but he was a soldier, he should be in control of his own reactions. But that last tour, the injuries that came far too close to killing him made him jumpy, and the flashbacks left him trembling.

Jon jumped when the other man in the bed moved. He cursed softly, Rich had always been a light sleeper, and he was sure he had been thrashing around in his sleep enough to wake the dead. He did not want to bother the neurosurgeon, Richard needed to be up well before the crack of dawn on most days. Rich moved over his body and Jon tried to nudge him off and back to sleep.

Richard did not say anything, he simply reached for one of the washcloths they kept on the bedside table. He pushed Jon flat onto his back, and gently wiped sweat from his face and neck. Jon could only lay there and continue shivering, still shellshocked and fear pumping through his veins. But Jon marveled that Rich seemed to know without words, and worked his way down his tan, scarred body. The ex-soldier sighed in spite of himself. He watched the shadow of his lover, outlined by the now-faint flickers of lightning flashes, wipe down his broad chest and down his thighs, and then as the doctor tossed the cloth aside. Jon stilled when dexterous hands massaged over his marred hip, easing the muscles into relaxation and he let Richard help to move it slowly until the pain eased.

Jon huffed, feeling exhausted and drained and utterly fragile. Richard just nuzzled soothingly at his throat then rolled to his back, pulling Jon with him. The former soldier went willingly, laying half over Richard's chest and clutching at his flanks. At least the neurosurgeon gave no indication that he minded. Lean, sure fingers just stroked carefully at the back of Jon's neck and down his back, and Jonathon, despite clinging like a frightened child, was thankful.