a/n: I've taken a lot of liberties with both Ratchet and Red Alert's back story here. Please enjoy.
Title: Damaged Goods
Universe: G1, pre-series
Characters: Ratchet+Red Alert
Description: Ratchet is stubborn, but Red Alert doesn't play fair.
Warnings: Lots of cursing. Drunkenness. Angst/Fluff.
For the tf-rare-pairing prompt Ratchet/Red Alert, "I'm not broken"
His world is a liquid swirl of color and sensation.
The floor is cold against his overheated plating. His audials are too sensitive, though he's dialed them down several times. He can hear every tick of metal, every hum of machinery, every step of mechs passing beyond the door.
It's bright in here, for all that the lights are dimmed to ten percent. The emergency lights in the corner are a lurid scarlet that sear into his optics. The shafts of light from the hall peek under the door and cast odd shadows.
If he moves, he'll purge.
Ratchet's decided it's in his best interest not to move. Except for his right servo, that is. He's still clutching a cube of very expensive, very rare high grade. Like the Pit he's going to let it go to waste. With Polyhex a smoking ruin, Cybertron will never see this vaunted high grade again.
Tipping his helm back, Ratchet lifts the cube and pours half of the contents down his intake. It's terribly sweet, going down so smooth it belies the rumble of overfill his tanks give him. Ratchet ignores the warnings.
His servo drops back to his side, digits wrapped tightly around the cube, the contents sloshing noisily.
What a state he must be in right now. Propped up against the wall in the medbay, legs splayed out in front of him. Fans whirring noisily to try and cool his overheated frame. Lucky there are no patients to witness his pathetic state.
No, they are all still at the celebration. Ratchet had been there, too, for a while. Downing cube after cube, dancing with whatever partner would claim his servo next. Dragging some mech into a dark corner, moaning at the feel of strange servos on his plating.
He never caught the mech's name. Can hardly remember what he looks like, truth be told. Red maybe. Or orange? What does it matter? Ratchet won't see the 'Bot again. Or if he does, the mech'll be on his operating table, or maybe he'll be one of the piles of spare parts dragged in off the battlefield.
Ratchet can't remember his mystery partner's paint color, but he does recall the frame type. Frontliner. They are always the first to get slagged.
Ratchet's the lucky one that gets to try to put them back together. Pulling miracle after miracle out of the smelting pits, dragging sparks back from the arms of Primus. Bah, Primus doesn't deserve to have him anyway.
Yeah, he's lucky all right.
Lucky enough to save them. Lucky enough to watch them run screaming into the next battle, blasters blazing.
Lucky enough to see them the next orn, lying in a smoking ruin, the lines of his neat welds stark on grayed out frames.
They want him to be Chief Medical Officer.
Ratchet hears that Prime asked for him personally. The Prime. Or should he say, the poor mech they shoved into said venerable role, probably without even asking if he wanted it.
He turned them down.
CMO? Of what? Are they serious?
Ratchet hates this war. Of course, no one enjoys war except maybe some of the really fragged up Decepticons. But Ratchet hates it, hates everything about it. What's worse than this war, however, is being a medic in this war.
He doesn't feel like a medic anymore. He feels like a... a... piece of temporary plating put on a leaking pipe. Fluids are still seeping out, dripping down, lost and wasted. But at least the flows stopped a little. Sooner or later, though, that plating's going to fail and the whole system will crash.
Kind of like Ratchet is right now, sprawled on the floor of the medbay, still cupping a half-empty cube of rare high grade.
He can't do it. Be the Chief Medical Officer? Rally the other medics to stand firm, believe in miracles, all that soft-sparked slag? Ratchet doesn't have it in him.
He offlines his optics, tilts his head back against the wall. His tanks give a discomfited lurch. Alerts are blinking in the corner of his HUD. Ratchet dismisses them. He needs to be miserable right now. Earlier, he had partied with the rest of them. Right now, he wants the misery.
The high grade is all the cure he needs. It's so strong he'll probably lose a good chunk of his short term memories. Come the following orn, he won't even remember the fuzziest shape of his mystery interface. For a little while, at least, the war will be a staticky image on the edge of his awareness.
A bitter laugh spills out of Ratchet's vocalizer. Yet more temporary plating on a leaking pipe, isn't it?
The door to the medbay opens with a hiss of hydraulics.
Ratchet cycles his optics on, staring blearily at the blocky shape outlined in the open doorway. His world is still a blur of colors and images; he can't immediately identify his visitor.
The mech steps inside, door whooshing shut behind him. "Ratchet."
Ah, he knows that voice and that tone.
Ratchet's digits curl around the cube and he pulls it up to his lipplate. "Go away," he says. This is a medbay, medic territory. Not the place for inquisitive security directors.
Red Alert steps closer, emergency lighting painting his armor in odd shades of ocher. "This is becoming a stressing pattern."
Shuttering his optics, Ratchet pours the rest of the high grade down his intake, and crushes the cube because he can. "Yes, I'm aware of that," he mutters, feeling the bits of cube trickle from his fingers, only to fade away to nothingness.
"You're very overcharged."
Ratchet's exvents hitch disdainfully. Trust Red Alert to make a statement of the obvious.
"Shall I summon someone for you?" Red Alert continues, perfectly calm, perfectly at ease. "Ironhide, perhaps."
Ratchet's optics snap back open, pinning the security director with a woozy glare. "No."
"Then allow me to assist you to a berth."
Moving still isn't really an option. Ratchet can feel the angry gurgle in his tanks, overfilled and unhappy about the overcharge. He takes several long, slow ventilations.
He lifts a hand, trying to wave off Red Alert's concern. "You can go back to your monitors, Red. I'm fine." His vocalizer spits static on the last syllables, belying his reassurance. Slaggit all to the Pit.
Red Alert quirks an optical ridge. "I believe there's a phrase most apt for this situation. Medic, mend thyself."
If only it were so easy. Ratchet's gaze slides away, unable to look at the other mech standing so close to him.
If it were so easy, this wouldn't be the fifth time Red Alert's found him like this. Speak nothing of the times Ironhide's dragged his overcharged frame back to a berth. Or Wheeljack. Or Jazz.
And they want him to be the Chief Medical Officer?
"Prime's asking the wrong fragging mech," Ratchet mutters, shoulders slumping.
Red Alert shifts, reaching down and grasping Ratchet's servo, carefully pulling the wobbly medic to his pedes. "They used to say that about me, if you recall."
Ratchet leans heavily on the smaller mech, his pedes refusing to stabilize beneath him. His gyros are all unbalanced. "They don't know slag. You're still the best mech for the job." His tank lurches, disliking the shift into standing upright.
Red Alert carefully turns him toward the tiny berthroom usually reserved for the on-call medic. A wise move as Ratchet's personal quarters are several halls away, too far for his unstable frame to make.
Their pace is little more than a disjointed shuffle.
"And you are as well," Red Alert says into the silence.
Ratchet snarls, lurching as his right pede goes weak. "Slag! I'm lucky," he retorts, bitterness and despair tearing ragged through his energy field. "I'm pointlessly fraggin' lucky."
"Saving the lives of innumerable Autobots is hardly pointless." Red Alert keys the door open for the small berth room, dragging Ratchet inside.
"Saving them? You think that's what it is?" Another laugh spills from Ratchet's vocalizer, but it contains no humor, only mockery. "I fix those bots so they can get slagged all over again. Or worse, I can't help them at all!"
With a graceless tumble, Ratchet drops onto the berth, his tanks giving another discomfited pitch. Everything's spinning, the black mood in his energy field worsening the physical discomforts fivefold.
It's hard to focus when all he can concentrate on is the bleak rattle in his energy field, the way his spark beats a dull, despaired pulse.
Red Alert hasn't left. Which is a good thing, Ratchet supposes, because the words are still tumbling out of his vocalizer and he'd rather there were audials to hear them. Else he'd be speaking to ghosts.
"Soon I'm going to run out of miracles," he says, and unfocused optics try to find Red Alert's in the dim of the berthroom. "And when that happens, they're all going to realize how much of a fraud I really am."
Metal scrapes against metal as Red Alert drags an empty trash bin closer to the berth. "You are not a fraud."
Worse that he sounds like he actually believes it. Such blind faith in a mech usually so prone to paranoia, though to be fair, it's not entirely Red Alert's fault.
Ratchet twitches, his backstrut resting against the curve of the wall behind him. A wall, he notices, is blessedly cool. "Your confidence astounds me."
"It is justified," Red Alert insists, and perches on the edge of the berth, his intent stare focused on the medic. "You do realize your refusal is pointless?"
Ratchet turns his helm away, ignoring the question. His overheated plating starts to tick in the uncomfortable silence.
"Who else can do it?" Red Alert continues. "Fixit? Remedy? Hoist?"
Ratchet's frown deepens. Each of the aforementioned mechs have the skillset and the training, but mentality-wise, no. They are all soft-sparks, while Ratchet's certain his own spark is ten sizes too small and made of slag.
Red Alert is only pointing out the inevitable truth that Ratchet already knows, but doesn't want to admit.
"... I hate your practicality, you cold-sparked glitch," Ratchet says, resignation making his tone tangibly heavy.
Red Alert's lipplates curl, just at the distant edge. "If you want to offend me, Ratchet, you'll have to try harder."
Shame wars with all of the other emotions fighting for precedence in Ratchet's energy field. His shoulders slump, fatigue settling deep in his struts.
The berth shifts, Red Alert leaning closer. His servo rests on Ratchet's arm. "If I'm not allowed to be broken then neither are you," he says, vocals soft and chastising.
Red Alert's energy field buzzes with concern and sympathy, pulsing lightly at Ratchet's own with consoling invitation.
Ratchet's gruff indignation falters beneath Red Alert's sincerity. "Throwing my own propaganda at me, are you?"
"You wouldn't let me wallow in my angst. I intend to return the favor."
A soft exvent spills from Ratchet. "I don't want to do this." Fatigue settles in, overcharge making him feel strutless and disconnected.
"I didn't ask to be Red Alert. Sometimes, we don't have a choice." Red Alert pauses, his digit stroking a soft, comforting path down Ratchet's arm. "You are the best choice, Ratchet. There's no one else I would trust more."
Defeated. Ratchet has no defense for Red Alert's reassurance.
He lifts a hand, cupping Red Alert's helm and pulling him closer. Ratchet presses their forehelms together, their energy fields lapping gently together. Pulsing to the same, sympathetic rhythm.
Ratchet wishes now, as he has so many times before, that he had been just a little more skilled, just a little faster. If he had, he could have saved the mech Red Alert used to be.
"Did you recommend me to Prime?"
"He asked my opinion but you were already his first choice." Red Alert pauses, servo reaching for Ratchet's own and tangling their digits together.
Ratchet struggles to find words, his processor tangled by overcharge and emotions running rampant. "I failed you."
"No." Red Alert pulls Ratchet's servo toward his lipplate. "You gave me a second chance. I owe you my sanity."
The last of Ratchet's obstinate refusal crumbles to ash. "You fight dirty," he grumbles, energy field swelling with exasperated affection.
A smile curves Red Alert's lipplate. "It is who I am." He presses Ratchet's fingers to his lipplate then lowers the medic's servo. "Now recharge. And comm Optimus in the morning to tell him you changed your mind."
Ratchet tightens his grip on Red Alert's servo before the other mech can draw away. "Stay?" An overwhelming loneliness surges through his spark, intensifying the fatigue that dims his optics.
"It was never my intention to leave," Red Alert says.
Ratchet's gratitude goes unsaid, but thanks has never been needed between them, and is understood all the same.
a/n: I find this pairing of particular interest now. I might try to write more.
Reviews are most welcome.