Title: War Without End

Universe: Post-DotM films, not novelization

Characters: Ratchet, Others (to come later)

Rating: T

Warnings: darkfic, canonical and non-canonical character death, violence, battle gore, some disturbing imagery

Description: In the end, Ratchet isn't sure why this particular horror amongst all the others is the one to make him break. But betrayal is a double-edged sword. And his Prime struck the first blow.

Other Notes: Written for the SciFiBigBang 2012 on livejournal. Special thanks to my brain-twin azardarkstar for the beta-work.


Part One - Ratchet

In the end, Ratchet isn't sure why this particular order amongst numerous others is the one to make him snap. All he knows is that by the time the last glyph travels through the air and to his audials, he's drawn up taut, cycled down his optics, and point-blank defied his Prime.

"No."

"Ratchet," Prime says, his voice on the end of a good approximation of a human's sigh with fingers rubbing his face. He looks tired, radiating fatigue in his energy field. "That wasn't a request."

His plating is shaking, Minute clangs of metal on metal echoing through the somewhat private corner of the gigantic warehouse.

"You can't."

Bad enough that they allowed the humans to shove Jazz down there, something he didn't deserve in the slightest, but now Ironhide, too? And Que? The twins? Jolt?

"No, Prime," Ratchet says again, shaking his helm, grief and anger twisting a slow burn through his spark. "Just... no."

"We can't risk the humans-"

"That's slag, and you know it!" Ratchet snarls, hand cutting through the air, his vocalizer spitting static and expletives at his Prime. "Mearing snaps her fingers, and you scramble to obey."

Prime shifts his weight. He crosses his arms over his chestplate, optics narrowing with warning.

"Ratchet."

He slides out a foot, the scritch of metal over concrete a defining noise, prompting Sideswipe to look their direction. He prudently doesn't comment, however.

"It's disrespectful. Shameful. Wrong." His hands curl into a fists at his side, spark an ache inside him. "They died for this stupid planet, and that's all the honor the humans can give them?"

Rusting. Forgotten. Abandoned too many leagues deep under corrosive salt water, left to rot away at the bottom of this planet's deepest ocean.

No, Ratchet won't stand for it. Not this time. He should have protested harder when they first put Jazz there. He should have made Prime try that piece of the Allspark shard before Megatron's cronies got their hands on it. And now, it's not only grief that's fueling his denial but also guilt.

Prime closes the distance between them, hands rising and landing on Ratchet's shoulders, grounding him with soothing pulses from his energy field. A frazzled, exhausted, and strained energy field that their Prime should have never borne. It's uneven, unequal, imbalanced and the medic's coding within Ratchet trembles in fear. Their Prime is a shattered ruin, and he's the only one who can see it.

He directs his optics away, not that it stops his sensors from scanning. Or screaming their disturbed results at his processor.

"I understand your grief, old friend," Optimus rumbles, ignorant of the true nature of Ratchet's distress and the reasons the medic's plating rattles beneath his hands.

Your.

A part of Ratchet wants to keen loudly, here and now.

Your. Not our.

No indication that the grief and guilt are shared. As though Prime has distanced himself so far from their losses they don't even register anymore. Just more tick marks on an ever-growing casualty list, sacrifices made to ensure Megatron would meet his end.

"But this must be done."

He slumps, for a moment, trapped in a paradox born of despair and disappointment. And then Ratchet jerks out from under his Prime's hands, putting distance between them, and a cold glare in his optics.

"I'll have no part of this," he snarls and feels something shift inside of him, something already tenuous and strained. "Do whatever the humans want from you. I'm not helping."

He turns on a heel, strides away from his Prime, pedes a noisy staccato on the polished concrete floor. Some of the humans wobble in the after-vibrations; Ratchet can't be bothered to care. His programming twitches, telling him to go back, apologize. He's being rude to his Prime. He should know better.

Ratchet ruthlessly shuts off the cries, shunting them to a background noise he doesn't have to acknowledge. His plating has clamped down, fans working overtime to expel the heat of fury. He can feel Prime watching him. He half-expects his leader to call him back, to berate him for the insubordination.

Prime, however, says and does nothing which only serves to make Ratchet all the angrier.

He heads to the small corner of the warehouse that has been designated as his medbay. His medcorner. It's no more private than the marked spaces labeled with their designations that serve as recharge grounds. It's a corner, nothing more. Boxed in with equipment and crates of supplies. There's no privacy. Apparently, they – as in the Cybertronians – don't deserve any.

Dino's arm is waiting for him on top of a table Ratchet had to weld for himself. The limb is in need of some reconstruction, several days' worth of work. Something to keep Ratchet occupied, to keep his processor from focusing on the swirl of emotions cascading through his spark. He takes it all, Prime and the recent events and his own despair and locks it away, segments it behind a strong partition until he can take the time to deal with it.

It takes several minutes of glaring at Dino's arm, trying to remember where he'd left off when Prime summoned him, for Ratchet to realize he's not alone.

"Colonel Lennox," the medic grunts in some semblance of a polite greeting. "Can I help you with something?"

At present, Lennox is leaning against a stack of crated supplies that brackets the narrow "entrance" to Ratchet's corner of the warehouse. His face is almost pleasant, but there's a shrewdness to how he tilts his head.

"What was that about?"

This is a topic Ratchet has no interest in discussing. Especially with a member of the species which has caused part of his irritation. Lennox wouldn't be able to understand, and if on the off chance he could conceive some measure of why Ratchet is so distressed, it'd then put him in an awkward situation. Trapped between his loyalty to his government, his own kind, and whatever friendships he has cultivated amongst the surviving Autobots.

Surviving.

Ratchet's spark does another squeeze of pain, and he forcefully bends his will. He returns his attention to Dino's arm, fingers of one hand shifting to smaller instruments as he starts to strip out ruined cabling for replacement. Parts gleaned from fallen warriors on the battlefield.

Decepticon or not, Ratchet will always think of the fallen as warriors. As kin. He can't ignore his coding so easily, no matter how long they've been at war.

Lennox exhales audibly, refusing to take Ratchet's silence as a reason to make himself scarce.

"Come on, Ratchet," he cajoles and dares to step further into the corner. "I thought we'd gotten past this."

Ratchet's shoulders hunch, and he focuses on pulling out a shredded energon line, tossing it into the discard box. There's no saving it for refurbishment at this point.

"William, you cannot even begin to comprehend all that's wrong right now. Save your energy for an issue that could better use your attention."

Directing the rescue and rebuilding efforts in Chicago, for instance. There are numerous government agencies crawling over the destroyed city, trying to restore it to some semblance of order. It's a herculean task.

"Try me." Lennox proves that he's as stubborn as his guardian. Had been, rather. Stubborn as his guardian had been.

Ratchet locks down his vocalizer before the expression of grief can seep free. There's no time to mourn. This is, or was perhaps, war. Losses are to be expected. He should be numb to them by now as many as he had been forced to acknowledge over the vorn. As many times as he's had to carry the broken body of a comrade, a friend, a member of his kin. As often as he's had to watch a spark gutter because there's nothing more he can do.

"I do not wish to talk about it."

"Really? Because I think you need to." Persistent, Lennox invites himself within, climbing large crates and stacks of materials as if he were a primate. "Otherwise, you wouldn't have tried to bite off Prime's head."

They had spoken in Cybertronian. Lennox wouldn't have understood their discussion. It seems though that despite the disparity in language, the tone of the conversation had been unmistakable.

Ratchet lets the silence build between them. Lennox stands firm. He won't leave without an answer, and Ratchet suspects he'll see through a lie in a matter of moments, no matter how carefully fabricated.

A tangible pall has been hanging over Lennox since the battle in Chicago, come to think of it. At first, Ratchet had contributed the lingering sadness to Ironhide's loss, but perhaps there is something deeper. Perhaps Lennox doesn't seek to comfort Ratchet but obtain some comfort for himself. A pity since Ratchet has no comfort to offer.

He exvents slowly, collapsing the fine tools so that he has his hand once again.

"Two weeks," Ratchet finally says, surprising himself with the static in his vocalizer and rebooting it to clear the interference. "They say the war is over. Earth is safe. People are celebrating."

Humans, anyway. Ratchet hasn't seen a single smile from any of his fellow Cybertronians. Then again, none of them have smiled in vorns.

"We, however, can only mourn."

Lennox nods, his eyes downcast. "Jazz," he guesses. "Jolt. The twins. Que." A lengthy pause, one thick with emotion. "Ironhide."

Ratchet braces his hands on the edge of the desk. "Yes. Their loss is keenly felt as with all of our kin that have fallen in this war. But they are not all we mourn."

"Cybertron." Never let it be said that Lennox is slow on the uptake. "Your planet." He too pauses, and his throat bobs with a thick swallow. "Your home."

"And whomever we left behind there."

Some Cybertronians had not been able to escape. Those who had survived the war before it went off-planet had opted to remain behind, no matter how desolate Cybertron had become.

"All of them. Gone."

All that remains of their species, their society, is whatever scattered remnants of both factions still wander the universe and perhaps a colony or two of neutrals that might have escaped Megatron's wrath. Though honestly, there are no such things as neutrals in war, especially not in Megatron's optics. There are Autobots, there are Decepticons, and there are those too weak-willed to admit they are either.

"To save us," Lennox murmurs.

Ratchet inclines his helm, shuttering his optics. "Because that was Prime's decision. Because he values this planet and its inhabitants more than he values his own people."

He hears more than sees Lennox start.

"You can't really believe that."

His fingers curl against the desk, carving grooves into the too-soft metal. Ratchet is tired, too tired for this. Too exhausted and sick of death to spare energy for ultimate compassion.

"I wish that were true, William."

Lennox slides back, dropping down into a makeshift seat on a broken gear. "But Prime-"

"-is only a shadow of the mech he used to be." Ratchet cycles his optics back on, tries to distract himself from the pain in his spark, that of the shameful truth. "We all are. We've become nothing more than what your government is afraid of."

Prime is no longer a peace-preaching, soft-sparked scientist. Ratchet will never be a politician again, nor a medic who saves lives rather than taking them. And Bumblebee never had the chance to be anything more than a youngling in the midst of battles.

"We are war machines," Ratchet continues, staring blankly at Dino's left arm, knowing that repairing the collapsible cannon must be done as well.

A cannon Dino once would not have carried. His caretakers wouldn't have approved.

But his caretakers are dead and probably his brother, too. Dead like the rest of Cybertron, most of their species, and everything they once held dear.

"We don't know how to be anything else."

Lennox frowns, tucking a leg up against his chest and looping his arms around it. "I don't believe that."

"Which doesn't make it any less true." Ratchet tilts his helm, slanting a gaze at Lennox. "Do you know how many of my comrades I've had to leave to rust on the battlefield? How many times I've had to choose one spark over the other? How many sparks I've taken?"

Ratchet won't even speak of the blows his programming has taken, how it's become so corrupted by the choices this war has forced on him he's not sure what the original lines were intended to be anymore. Somewhere, he might have an archived copy, but what good is it now?

"Is that what you were arguing about?"

"Tangentially." Ratchet still doesn't think Lennox would understand, but what's the harm in trying. "Prime has ordered me to assess our fallen comrade's remains before they are taken for disposal."

His tanks roil with disgust at just saying it aloud.

Disposal. That's what it has come down to, yes? Ratchet can't consider dumping them into the ocean as a burial or an internment. There's no ceremony involved, no rite of grief, nothing. Just dropping their remains into the deep, cold blue with judicious use of the human's carriers and a crane. It's undignified, dishonorable.

It's a shame that the 'Cons showed more care in reviving their fallen leader than the Autobots could show for their fallen comrades. A terrible shame.

Lennox tilts his head. "You mean, before we transport them to the Laurentian Abyss for burial?"

Ratchet snarls toward the human. "It is not a burial, no matter what your superiors may think! That is not how we care for our dead!"

And cannibalizing their fallen frames for parts had never been the status quo until this fragging war began!

Lennox holds out his hands, a gesture meant to calm, to lower tension. "Whoa, Ratchet. No one protested the first time. With Jazz. So I thought this was normal. Now you're telling me it isn't?"

"Of course, it isn't!" Ratchet lets out air loudly, plates flaring in aggravation before he draws back a step. "But it's what your government insisted, and Prime, in his infinite wisdom, agreed. For the sake of our political alliance."

For the sake of the humans, his snide processor reminds him. Always for the sake of the humans.

He gets it; Ratchet does. This isn't their planet, their home. It's not the fault of the humans that the Cybertronians brought their war here. A certain measure of distrust is only to be expected. But it's been five of their years, and nothing has changed! There's been no attempt to understand cultures. With the government treating the Autobots more as tools to be used rather than allies. And then, only reluctantly.

They couldn't leave. Prime wouldn't let them because the threat of the 'Cons.

"We'll stay to defend the humans," Prime had said. "They cannot defend this threat on their own."

Protect, yes. Ratchet can agree to that. But bowing down to every demand of the human government without second thought? No.

Ratchet was not sparked a warrior. The coding to obey his commanding officer was added when he chose to abandon his position as political liaison and become a battlefield medic. The coding was implemented as a survival necessity, never meant to completely override other protocols. And yet, after millennia at war, it has. To the point that Ratchet fears he is no longer capable of making a choice without seeking a superior officer's approval.

"What would you have done?" Lennox asks, breaking his silence. "If you were still on Cybertron? What are the real ceremonies?"

Ratchet's spark twists, and his back hunches. "It doesn't matter," he replies with genuine static in his voice, shoving away Dino's arm. At this rate, it'll never be fixed. "Cybertron's dead. We are whatever you make of us."

"Colonel Lennox!"

Lennox's head whips around at the sound of the shout, and he glances toward the opening that serves as a door to Ratchet's corner. One of the NEST soldiers stands there with arms full of paperwork, waiting for his superior's attention. With evident reluctance, Lennox rises to his feet.

"Yes?"

"Director Mearing has called for another meeting, sir."

"Of course, she has," the Colonel mutters and shifts his gaze back to Ratchet. "I guess I don't own my life any more than you do," he says with a bitter curl of his lips.

Ratchet watches him go, surprised at the sympathy cropping up within him. Lennox is right though. He can no more make his own decisions than Ratchet can. Lennox is bound by his loyalty to his country, to the vows he made to his people. And he doesn't even have the restrictive coding to hold him back like Ratchet does.

In many ways, Lennox has far more courage and honor than Ratchet himself. It's a sobering realization.

Anger reduced to a low simmer, Ratchet tries to turn his attention back to something productive. Prime's order sits on the back of his processor. If he doesn't do it, someone else will. Someone who won't treat the fallen with the respect they deserve.

Primus! Prime might even allow the humans to do it, under pretense of furthering trust between their two species.

Ratchet's hand brushes over his chestplate, spark churning in emotional agony beneath his touch. Which is worse, he wonders. Betraying his principles yet again, or allowing the humans to paw over the fallen Autobots frames?

Suddenly, Ratchet has no desire to be anywhere near NEST facilities or his fellow Autobots. He wants to be gone. This corner of the warehouse is too small, too noisy, and a mech can't spare a moment to have a thought for himself.

No one appears to be paying him much attention. Mearing has called a meeting, so all of the higher ranked members of NEST will be occupied. Dino's still in a medically-induced recharge. Prime is nowhere in sight, and there's no one else who could demand anything of Ratchet nearby.

It's a simple matter to shift into his alt-mode and slip out the back, under the pretense of leaving their hanger to once again sift through the detritus in Chicago. To that effect, he leaves a message on his comm net citing that he's unavailable. The only one who'd possibly come looking for him is Prime, but he's too busy trying to placate all the angry humans.

No one tries to stop him at the back gate. Maybe the soldier on duty is asleep on the job. Ratchet doesn't know and doesn't care. He heads off the base and hits the road, the ruined skyline of Chicago a broken reminder of the battle from a fortnight ago.

He tilts his sensors upward, at a blue sky interspersed with fluffy white clouds. He remembers that brief second when he had seen Cybertron reflected in the Space Bridge. When his planet had come within shuttle distance, so close he could feel it.

He also remembers the moment he turned his weapons fire on the control pillar, hoping to destroy it as his leader had commanded. He remembers his spark crying out in agony, coding in direct conflict. Obey your Prime. Protect Cybertron. Prime has ordered it. Some of his kin are still planet-side. The humans will suffer. There's nowhere left to go.

He's only a soldier. He used to be more.

Ratchet's shots had gone wide, a few of them clipping the pillar. In the end, Bee was the one who struck the final blow. Even so, Ratchet remembers. The guilt still claws at him in the middle of snatched moments of recharge.

Home. There is no more home. There is only Earth.

The disaster zone gets closer. Ratchet passes into the outer edges of Chicago where there's the least amount of damage. But instead of turning toward the current sector of the most in-depth recovery, Ratchet skirts around the working humans. He heads instead for a more industrial district, one that the humans have been saving for last.

There's a warehouse here, ironically enough, whose lower levels had survived the Decepticon attack. Support beams and walls from the tops and sides had collapsed, creating a strange open space in the middle where the inner structures were relatively sound, but from the outside, it looked completely demolished. It's a temporary hiding place but the best Ratchet can do until his patients are more ambulatory.

Yes, patients. As in two. Two Cybertronians who'd be unwelcome at NEST headquarters because of their faction. Two Decepticons Ratchet had saved in a moment of insanity and continues to fix because he doesn't know what else to do.

These memories, too, are as stark and clear to him as all others. The curse of being nigh-immortal and having computers for memory centers. Nothing can be forgotten unless intentionally wiped or accidentally degraded.

There are a thousand and one tasks Ratchet should be completing right now. Injuries to monitor, final rites to prepare, plans to make. A moment to allow himself to grieve even.

Instead, he finds himself in the ruins of a once great city named Chicago, scanners tuned to locate flesh and blood through the metal and stone rubble. He's searching for survivors, human survivors. Because his Prime has decreed it so, and after so many millennia at war, Ratchet only knows how to obey his commander.

He does not begrudge the humans their grief. He too feels a pang in his spark for the innocent lives lost, crushed in Megatron and Sentinel's incomprehensible plot. He understands. Earth is their planet. It wasn't their war. The Decepticons dragged Earth and its inhabitants into their conquest.

But in the end, Ratchet's loyalty belongs to his own kind first and foremost, to what remains of the Cybertronians.

In the end, Earth only suffered the loss of one city.

Ratchet mourns for the loss of his entire planet. Millions of his own people. Kilovorns of history and culture. The place he called home. What has always called to his spark.

What little hope he had ever carried of returning home has now become ashes on the air flows, rust in an abandoned factory. There is no Cybertron; there is no home.

There is only the bland warehouses, the human's kindly granted discards, and the growing sense that he'll offline without ever seeing a glimpse of peace. The war is over, Prime claims. To Ratchet, however, that holds no meaning.

Sideswipe is still limping. His knee can be rebuilt again with substandard Earth materials or perhaps parts gleaned from the fallen, but it'll never be the same. Lucky there's no war, Ratchet supposes, as Sideswipe's mobility will never be optimal.

Bumblebee's vocalizer is fried again. With Cybertron gone, so is the hope of him ever being able to speak aloud. Unless, of course, he's willing to accept a transplant from an empty Decepticon frame.

Dino has a shattered arm strut. It can be rebuilt, but that will take time. Time Ratchet's not being given.

No one knows what happened to Brains and Wheelie.

The casualties are high yet again. Too high considering there were so few of them to begin with. And if Prime has even stopped to properly acknowledge the loss of their forces, Ratchet will weld his own self to a berth. But no, there's Prime now. Conferring with the human delegates. Reassuring them. Bowing to them.

And here is Ratchet, the Autobots Chief Medical Officer (whatever that title means anymore), digging through Chicago's debris for signs of human life. It's been three solar cycles. He hasn't caught so much as a weak heartbeat. The Decepticons had been very thorough.

His sensors reluctantly sweep another pile of rubble, certain there's nothing to find. But something pings back. Something of metal with a spark pulse. A Cybertronian?

Too large to be Wheelie or Brains. All of the other Autobots have been accounted for. Which means the spark ping is a 'Con, probably an energy echo from one of the many nameless drones Megatron had thrown at their forces. Like sparklings sent to the slaughter, but far less self-aware.

Ratchet turns away, concrete crushing under his pede. What's the use? Drone or Decepticon, in the end, they were just enemies.

The ping sends out a stronger signal, all but grabbing Ratchet's sensors and making him stop. Too strong to be a mere energy echo. That's a spark.

It pulses again, twice, out of sync. Two mechs then, two sparks, the second ping stronger than the first. Both of them are faint, barely clinging to life. But present nonetheless.

Ratchet shutters his optics. His hands form fists at his side.

How many of his kind are left? In all the teams that are roaming the universe, that haven't been deactivated or lost or destroyed, how many? Thousands? Hundreds?

Dozens?

The war is over. It's done. Gone. Finished.

Is it really? What does that mean?

Til all are one?

A scoff spills out of Ratchet before he can stop himself. The Autobots stopped following their own propaganda a long time ago. Even Ratchet himself has become a killer, betraying his own codes. It may have started out "Til all are one". But since then, it has become "til all 'Cons are dead".

Peace is only a dream for those with the hope to still believe in it. Ratchet isn't one of them, and he hasn't been for a long time.

Battle protocols hum in the back of his processor. His hand shifts into a blaster. Better to extinguish their sparks now, ease their suffering. They are Decepticons after all. They are Enemy.

Once upon a time, they might've been kin. Friend. Partner to someone. Acquaintance. Coworker. Once upon an eon, they must have mattered.

Ratchet hesitates, blaster mechanisms clicking minutely as they tremble between remaining a weapon and shifting back. His processor stutters, coding conflicted.

By Primus, he doesn't want to be a kin-killer anymore.

His blaster collapses. The point may be moot. The two 'Cons may be beyond his abilities to save. But he'll at least have tried, reclaimed a part of himself long corrupted.

It's wrong!

Another part of him cringes and shrieks as he kneels and starts to dig, tossing aside bits of building to reveal a metallic pede.

He's rescuing the enemy! He's betraying the Autobots! His Prime!

Ratchet ruthlessly ignores every warning that flashes across his processor. He shunts them away, far away, and taps into something long thought missing. Survival protocols, perhaps. He has to do this. Because if he doesn't...

No, that thought doesn't bear considering.

The war will never be over for Ratchet. Unless he does this, right here and right now.

More debris shifts aside. The 'Cons weren't as buried as he initially expected. Legs come into view, four of them. Digitigrade limbs.

Seekers.

Ratchet almost abandons his task then and there. He knows they can't be Starscream; he's seen that piece of useless scrap in the line of the fallen. But the fact that they're Seekers is still an important distinction. Starscream is gone. How will they online in the wake of that knowledge? Would they even accept a truce?

Ratchet's plating clamps down, battle protocols rising higher on his cache. He'll never know unless he asks them. And if his initial scans are any indication, they won't be difficult to subdue should the need arise. He has to try. That's all there is to it.

It takes less than ten minutes for him to uncover them both. A more in-depth scan brings up an ID ping, designations popping up in his HUD. Thundercracker and Skywarp. Starscream's trine. Of course. The two Seekers in the entirety of the Decepticon army who would take that glitch's death the hardest.

Still, without those ID pings, Ratchet wouldn't have recognized them. Like Starscream, they had abandoned their defining colors sometime during the course of the war. They also lacked the identifying glyphs scrawled into their plating like Starscream bore. In fact, the two better resembled cannon fodder and not higher-ranked members of the Decepticon machine.

How curious.

Right now, both of them are offline. Thundercracker's frame covers Skywarp, almost as though he were shielding his fellow from either an attack or the fall. Possibly even both. Skywarp seems to have the most damage from what Ratchet can tell from his initial scans. But they're both in sorry shape. Crushed and dented armor, energon leaking all over the fragged place, twisted struts, scorched plating. One of Thundercracker's wings is emitting sparks, which indicates a short in his wiring.

It might be kinder to take a blaster to their sparks.

Ratchet doesn't.

He calmly checks his sensors and then his HUD. Prime is several miles away in a meeting with Mearing and Morshower, the president and his cabinet attending through video-conference. The other Autobots have their own grids of the search area, and the nearest human is several blocks away. There's no one around to witness Ratchet's blatant act of treachery.

Strangely, that realization doesn't offer any comfort.

Sliding a palm briefly down his faceplate, Ratchet kneels to disengage Thundercracker from his protective curl. He'll need to move both of them somewhere out of sight from passing helicopters and NEST scanners. But first, he has to stabilize them both. And if he's lucky, one of them might become conscious enough to assist with the move. He'll definitely need the help. Both Seekers have ten feet on him, but he has the superior hauling power. The benefit of being a grounder.

The moment his hands touch Thundercracker's dorsal plating, however, the Seeker stirs. One optic onlines, flickering dully, the other cracked and useless. The distinct whine of a sonic cannon powering up is startlingly loud in the silence. Ratchet is surprised Thundercracker has the energy to spare for such a thing.

Static spills into the air, Thundercracker's vocalizer trying and failing to function.

"If I were going to extinguish your spark, I'd have done it already," Ratchet says, frame tense as he waits for a reaction. "I don't intend on taking prisoners either."

The Seeker's limbs twitch, aborted attempts to move.

"...bzzkru-uce?"

It takes a second for Ratchet to translate.

"Yes. A truce." He sighs, and it's a distressingly human sound. "For now. I'll figure out the rest later."

Ratchet doesn't know what it is that convinces Thundercracker to believe him. Something in his energy field perhaps. Whatever the reason, the Seeker croons a wordless tone of agreement, and the distant sound of battle systems humming fades away.

With Thundercracker's permission, more or less, Ratchet bends to his task. If he's going to save them, he has to be quick about it. The war is over, frag it. And it strikes Ratchet that in betraying his Prime's order, this is the closest to believing in peace he's come.


a/n: On to the next chapter. :)

Also, sharp-eyed readers will note that Arcee and her sisters are not appearing in this fic. The simple answer as to why is that I forgot about them and only remembered when I'd finished this and plotted out the rest. Also, I consider Dino and Que separate characters from Mirage and Wheeljack.