Author's Note – For "tf_speedwriting" on LiveJournal. The prompt was "win".
Disclaimer – "Transformers" and all related characters, events, and concepts belong to Hasbro, Takara, and any other related owners/distributors/producers. I get no monetary benefit from this. My benefit is the enjoyment of dealing with beloved characters.
"Okay, Okay! You Win…"
"Hey, Ratch, ya gotta minute?"
Ratchet turned in his chair, putting down the datapad on his desk as his optics found his best friend's head peeking into the med-bay. "Depends. Is this an 'I've misaligned the servos in my fingers' minute, or an 'I need a limb reattached, but don't worry, nothing was too badly munched' minute?"
Wheeljack's optics dimmed a bit in mild annoyance, his tone wry. "Try a 'the slaggin' barrier between the chlorine gas chamber an' the silver azide musta had a nano-fracture' minute. Thing decided ta blow up on me behind my back. Literally."
Ratchet had only been joking. While Wheeljack's experimental work sometimes resulted in accidents that got the engineer injured, they were in reality few enough despite everyone's teasing that the medic hadn't actually expected such a response. He frowned and waved Wheeljack in, standing to head for the nearest repair berth.
"I got as much of it as I could." Wheeljack gingerly laid face down on the berth. "But there's some I just can't reach."
Ratchet shook his head. Wheeljack wasn't a proper doctor, not like Ratchet was, but the engineer had what amounted to paramedic-level training in combat medicine, having doubled as Ratchet's assistant for almost longer than either of them could remember. Between that, the frequency of smaller incidents and accidents in his work, and an impressively high pain threshold, Wheeljack often did his own repairs, involving his best friend only when he had no other choice. Ratchet could see the evidence of the engineer having removed shrapnel from the back of his head, the back of one arm, most of the lengths of both wing panels, and his waist and hips, likely with a set of mirrors and a lot of patience. It looked like he'd even worked the worst of a bend out of one of his wing panels – that had to have hurt, the medic marveled. But there were still pieces embedded in the engineer's armor at the bases of his ailerons and the middle of his back between his shoulders. "You did a pretty good job, 'Jack, but let me do the surgeries from now on, will you?" he teased with a fond grin on his face.
"Didn't wanna bother ya." The comment was muffled into the backs of the engineer's folded arms, vocal flanges flickering softly.
Ratchet glanced at the back of his friend's head, then returned his attention to the delicate work of getting a particularly well-entrenched piece of Primus-only-knew-what out from under the base of the engineer's right aileron. He knew that tone of voice. "What's on your mind, Wheeljack?"
The engineer was quiet for a long moment, long enough that Ratchet started to ask again, but then he expelled a harsh cycle of air. "It's only a matter of time, ya know." Wheeljack's voice was thick with tension and worry . . . and threatening despair.
Ratchet studied him. "Until what?"
"Till Megatron hits on some scheme or other that's effective enough ta actually work, an' we're just not able ta stop him in time. There's only so many of us, Ratch. I know there's only so many'a them too, but . . . they're more powerful than we are. Always have been. The humans can only do so much ta help us, which really still only leaves just the few of us ta try ta protect them and stop Megatron an' his goons. An' I got nothin' against the humans an' their materials an' their level of technology – it is what it is – but . . . it's not . . . it's just not enough. Not strong enough, not big enough, not enough of it, not-" His voice crackled with static from stress, and he fell silent.
Ratchet too was silent for the next few minutes as he finished removing the few scraps that Wheeljack's efforts had left behind, then patched everything and coaxed the engineer to sit up. He had a hunch what was really bothering his friend. "Wheeljack, look at me." The engineer dragged dim optics up to meet his gaze. "It's not up to you alone to do this, you know." Wheeljack just stared at him dully, and he continued. "I know you feel like it's up to you to come up with the one trick that'll finally win this whole war, but-"
"But nothin', Ratchet," Wheeljack interrupted, frustration and buried fear coloring his tone. "I know Prime's countin' on me ta come up with somethin' ta give us an edge once an' for all. Everyone is! We have ta stop the Decepticons! We can't let what happened ta Cybertron happen here too. Our war isn't theirs, Ratch. The humans an' all the other life forms on this planet. We can't let our war with the Decepticons destroy them. We've got to stop them, a-an' I . . . I don't know how. Everythin' we've done so far throughout the mega-vorns hasn't worked, which means we gotta come up with somethin' new, an' who's job is that, Ratchet? I don't have my workshop anymore. I don't have the supplies an' materials I used to. An' what's available here is just . . . it's too brittle! An' I don't have the means ta refine it properly. We didn't think ta build a factory on the Ark!" The engineer's voice had steadily risen, but he seemed to suddenly realize as much and cut himself off with a huff. "S-sorry. I'm just . . . frustrated."
"Mh-hm. When's the last time you fueled? Or recharged, for that matter." Ratchet knew his best friend too well.
"Um . . . "
"That's what I thought. C'mon."
"Ratch, I've got work ta do. I'll fuel later."
The medic fixed him with a look that brooked no argument. "Wheeljack, what do you do when I've been working for ten joors or longer?" The answer was 'dragged him out of the med-bay to make sure he took care of himself as well as he did everyone else,' and they both knew it.
Wheeljack's shoulders sagged. "All right, all right, you win."
Ratchet smirked. "Of course I do. The doctor's always right, remember?"
Wheeljack canted his head to look up at his friend, some of his usual humor glinting in his optics again. "That so?"
"Yep." Ratchet could see this was about to lead to trouble. Wheeljack wasn't one to stay down for long after all.
The engineer came off the berth suddenly, tackling the larger mech and trying to wrestle him into submission. It was a game they played often, one that honestly no one else could get away with on the medic. Ratchet was hardly a touchy mech, but Wheeljack was highly tactile, and Ratchet made allowances for his best friend.
The two rolled back and forth trying to get the upper hand amid growls and mock-threats, until Ratchet managed to get the smaller mech flipped onto his front, sitting on his legs with one arm pulled back at an awkward angle. Wheeljack howled, laughing. "Owowow! Okay, okay, I give! You win! L-leggo!"
Snickering, Ratchet released the other's wrist and shifted off his legs, crouching to help the other sit up. "So . . . as I was saying . . . "
"You fight dirty," Wheeljack protested, trying to sound annoyed and utterly failing, to which Ratchet just smirked and shrugged. The engineer rubbed at his shoulder, optics dropping for a moment. When his gaze came back up, he was more sober again, though without the heavy feeling of before. "Thanks, Ratch." He'd needed that.
Ratchet's smirk softened to a fond grin. "What're friends for, right?" He stood, then helped pull the engineer to his feet.
Wheeljack let him easily, then slipped his arms around him for a quick hug. "I'm really glad you're here, Ratch. Don't think I could do this without ya."
"I'm glad you're here too, Jack." And he meant that. With all his spark. Ratchet gave his friend's shoulder a squeeze, then pulled back and steered him for the door. "Fuel. Now."
The engineer chuckled and gave a bit of a jaunty salute. "A'right, a'right, you win." His head tilted a little, a mischievous grin in his tone. "This time."