It was never supposed to happen like this.
Ratchet looked down at his servos; they were stained with bright pink energon, a product of the life he had just failed to save. The bot's body was lifeless and grey now, their spark extinguished, but it hadn't been for his lack of trying.
The battlefield had quietened since the start, now. That didn't mean it was silent, not by any means-- explosions were still going off left and right, covering up the sounds of screams of pain and cries of victory from bots of both factions.
And yet, there was shelter here-- as scarcely much as there could be, really, during a war-- with huge slabs of debris forming walls around him and his lost patient.
He hadn't even been able to get their designation. He had been much too busy trying to cauterize the wound that tore their stomach open in a grotesque pink display, telling them to take deep breaths, reassuring them that the EMP would ease their pain and if they would just hold on--
But now he sat here, helpless and on his knees, struck once again in the way that he very rarely was anymore.
It was never supposed to happen like this.
Another death caused by one of those ruthless Decepticons. Who else? He knew Autobots weren't afraid to fight back and get their servos dirty, but he'd never seen such a vicious intent to harm like he did in the eyes of the opposing brutes.
Why? Why had this happened? How many bots had been living their lives on Cybertron for millenia, just waiting for a leader that could take them in a direction of carnage like this?
Why did that leader have to be him?
Ratchet forced himself to his senses, made himself focus on his intakes; in, out, in, out; until the searing pain in his spark had lessened to a sore throb. He didn't have time to think about this right now. There were surely other bots that needed his assistance, other casualties that needed to be seen to.
There was no hope left for this bot. Ratchet stood, his body working against him with every movement in the aftermath of such a high stress event, and turned his optics to the opening he'd carried them in through. This was an excellent hiding place to treat the wounded. It was very lucky the debris had settled like this, totally walled up with one crack that was wide enough to slip in through.
He was sure he'd be bringing others in here soon. The sounds of combat were now rising again-- a new wave must have joined in, no telling from which side.
Well. Time was wasting.
Ratchet did not glance back at the motionless frame behind him as he slipped out of the shelter and set to scanning the sidelines nearby for any other survivors in need of medical assistance.
Or, at least, he tried to. The new wave he had anticipated was in fact Decepticons, and they had grown closer to the shelter than he expected. They were still a fair piece away, and he was probably still safe where he was, but something-- someone-- still caught his optic even at this proximity and Ratchet felt his spark burn cold.
Megatron. The leader of the Decepticons. His hulking frame towered over the Autobots he stood against, sharp and imposing, with what seemed like a crown in silhouette that framed two bright, sharp, gleaming red optics. The massive cannon strapped to his arm made quick work of the soldiers that weren't fast enough to escape it, and Ratchet knew that there was no use in trying to save any of them now.
Ratchet was completely frozen. The threat of the infamous tyrant always loomed over them, but he was rarely spotted by bots that lived to tell about it.
He hadn't seen him in stellar cycles. He… he was so big, now. So powerful.
As the medic watched the looming frame from the distance, he had to fight to keep thoughts of a nearly identical, though much smaller, frame from his processor. So much had changed.
It was never supposed to happen like this.
Megatron, the war machine that he looked every bit the part of, was terrifying to watch. With him at the front and his army emboldened behind him, he swept through the Autobot soldiers like it was nothing. Even the biggest of them didn't come close to his size; there were very few Autobots large enough to stand their own, and most of them were still very young. The war seemed like it had been going on for millenia, but it hadn't even been going long enough for most of Cybertron's new war builds to develop enough for combat training.
Ratchet knew he should be moving closer to the battle, to find the wounded and bring them back to safety and hopefully recovery, but yet, against his will, memories of a sparkling scarcely half his size and sporting bright blue optics had frozen him in place. He couldn't move.
Maybe that's how Megatron spotted him. He had seen Deception optics, and he knew the red glow didn't sport eyelights like Autobot blue often did, which did make it difficult to see where exactly they were looking at times. But he could tell that the leader was looking directly at him, even from this distance.
The massive bot had gone still. His expression was unreadable, and his stance betrayed nothing of what was going on in his processor, but it felt like his optics were burning holes in Ratchet's plating.
Then he started towards him.
Ratchet knew he should run, though there was really nowhere to run to, but he couldn't force himself from where he stood. He could see Megatron shouting something behind him, his soldiers making affirmative motions before returning to their brawl and paying no mind to where their leader was headed. The Autobots he walked through leapt to get out of his way but did not turn back to see his path. The battle resumed as normal.
By the time Megatron had come close enough that his pedsteps rattled the ground, Ratchet had finally managed to unsheathe his magnets in some weak display of courage, but they both knew he wouldn't fight back.
His voice was low, gravelly, like the rumble of an engine deep in his chassis. Ratchet's spark twinged at how different it sounded than it had before. How much it had changed from the curious tone that had seemed to follow behind him at all hours.
"M--" Ratchet gritted his denta and forced down a shudder. The word stuck in his intake.
Megatronus. Megatronus. Megatronus.
Megatronus, could you hand me that wrench?
Hey, Megs, what do you want to refuel with tonight? We have leftovers, or…
Wheeljack said he thought you could make use of this, Megatronus, he got a newer version and didn't need it anymore.
He remembered when he picked that designation for the sparkling in his arms.
The warlord's face shifted into something tinged with a mix of distaste and disgust.
"Still cowering on the sidelines, are we? It would seem you Autobots never do change."
Ratchet swallowed and fought to keep his servos from trembling, though not from fear.
"At least we know where we stand with each other. It's incredible how many Decepticons I've treated with wounds inflicted by their own."
Megatron scoffed. His optics narrowed.
"You treat Decepticons? Funny, I thought your faction was supposed to put them offline."
Ratchet frowned, not shying from his piercing gaze.
"No bot deserves to die. Autobot or Decepticon."
There was silence from Megatron for a few moments. Then, he scowled and clenched his servos into fists.
"You still believe that, doctor? How long are you going to live in your little world where violence is never the answer and change can always happen with enough time and persuasion? Face it, Ratchet."
It sent a shock of pain through his chassis and he knew he couldn't keep his face from showing it. He had so rarely spoken his designation with such malice.
"I am doing what has to be done. Nobody else was willing to step up to the plate and fight for change-- isn't that what you always said? To fight for what you believed in?"
"Not like this," his voice was weak, strained, "I never meant like this. You know I never meant it like this, not…" Ratchet swallowed again. He felt sick to his stomach. "Not war. I've lost more patients to your 'cause' than I ever did in all my millennia before all this. Do you even know how many bots you've put offline?"
He paused before finally averting his gaze.
"Do you even care?"
"Of course I care!" he snapped, sending a jolt through Ratchet's frame in surprise.
"I do this because I care, because I have seen what our system does to bots that cannot defend themselves and I want to fix it! How can you not see that? How can you think that what I have done has been for nothing? Don't you see what we are fighting for?"
Anger was painted across Megatron's face and Ratchet could see his servo-sharpened denta as he snarled. But the medic was not scared. He couldn't be scared of him.
Even as he yelled at him, all Ratchet could see was Megatronus shouting up at him about a seemingly unfair grounding or a prohibited experiment. Issues, then, that seemed so trivial now as he watched that same face speaking about matters of life or death.
"What I see are hundreds, thousands of offline shells, broken and empty with sparks you and your army have extinguished with your own servos. What are you trying to prove to me? What point are you trying to make, son?"
"Do not call me that!"
Megatron's voice boomed in the open field and Ratchet's optics widened a fraction as the cannon attached to the Decepticon's arm was lifted and aimed directly at him. Still, he was not scared. The cannon was not charged. He knew he would not fire.
"You cannot call me that anymore, you useless hunk of scrap metal! You lost your chance to call me that stellar cycles ago."
Ratchet did not respond. He watched Megatron's fierce expression as he held his weapon staunchly towards him, his own magnets still held limply down at his sides where they had been the whole time.
He would like to think he had been a good creator, at least in the sense that he would never raise a weapon to his son. Even when the bitlet had been throwing a tantrum or getting on his last nerve, Ratchet could never bear to brandish arms against him, even just as a threat. Never did he want his own sparkling to be afraid of him.
And he supposed the reverse had applied as well. For now, he stood staring down the barrel of the cannon wielded by the leader of the Decepticons, and yet the only thing he could feel was a crushing sense of disappointment, both in himself and the sparkling that he had seemingly failed to raise.
Ratchet still did not reply to Megatron's threat. He stared forlornly up at the tyrant, unable to fight back in the way he obviously wanted him to. If Ratchet fought back, then maybe he could work up the nerve to put him offline, once and for all.
But of course, in the way it always had, Megatron's temper eased. Explosions sounded behind him; there was a sound of something sailing through the air, and Ratchet dimly wondered if backups had arrived for the cornered troop of Autobots. The cannon wielded at him lowered slightly.
"You could still change your mind, Ratchet. You could still join us. I know you would be unstoppable-- you always were, even then. We could use someone like you on our side."
Megatron hesitated, and if Ratchet didn't know any better, he would say that the expression on the warlord's face was… pleading, even if only faintly in the way that his optic ridge angled in just slightly.
"You know I would accept you in a sparkbeat. Even if you only wanted to stay in the safety of a base and treat scuffed plating, you know I would let you."
It took Ratchet everything to not accept. It had been easier, back then, to say no, when the first skirmishes and uprisings had begun and Megatronus had told him so confidently and with such pride that he was the cause, the leader, and that he was going to make Cybertron a better place no matter how many bots he had to offline to do it.
He had never asked Ratchet if he wanted to join. He had only asked him how he was planning to contribute. Not for a second had he considered the possibility that his creator wouldn't be on his side, wouldn't approve of this new faction and what it stood for.
The crushing disappointment on his son's face had hurt more than any cannon blast could've, and it was the last he saw of him until he was broadcasted on the community alerts a decacyle later, 'wanted for treason'.
And now… now, Ratchet was tired. He had seen so much death, so much slaughter and suffering, and it was so hard to not just give into Megatron's offer and spend the rest of his days lounging in some Decepticon base, watching from the sidelines as the Autobots were torn down one by one.
But his reasons then were the same now. The system was corrupt and broken, he would be one of the first to admit that-- but this was not the way to fix it. War would not solve their problems. All it would do was spill the energon of innocent bots who scarcely knew what they were really fighting for.
"I know." There was defeat in his voice. "And you know that I never will."
For a split second, Megatron's expression was just as it'd been before, the picture of deep disappointment, and then it was gone, replaced with frustration.
"You always were too stubborn for your own good," he growled, and Ratchet could tell his voice had softened.
"Does your broken faction mean more to you than your family even still, medibot? You Autobots talk so much about your loyalty and your morals, and yet you sit idly here while the bot you raised is hunted like a glitched turbofox on every planet in the solar system. Is that what you consider loyalty? What you consider love?"
Ratchet's optics burned. Even after everything, it hurt to hear his words-- partially because of who was saying them, and partially because he knew he had a point. Ratchet would choose family over faction any day with little hesitation, but… not at the cost of thousands of lives. He couldn't stand behind genocide with the defense of supporting his son.
So Ratchet took a deep intake and offlined his optics for a few moments before raising his magnets and glaring up defiantly at the bot he had raised from a newspark.
"You are not my family," he forced out through gritted derma, "and I can never stand behind what you're doing."
Megatron's optics widened a fraction and the red glow seemed brighter through Ratchet's fizzling optics.
"If you were my family-- if you were Megatronus-- then you'd love me enough to put me offline ."
There was an unmistakable hurt in Megatron's face. For just a moment, Ratchet wondered if he'd finally gotten through to him, and if maybe he would see the error in his ways and stop trying to fight this fruitless war.
And in the next moment, Megatron's cannon was slammed against the side of his helm and the world went black.
Ratchet's chronometer told him that it hadn't been half a megacycle by the time he came to, vision spinning as his orientation systems tried to recalibrate after the blow. Megatron was gone. Instead, there was an Autobot ship nearby, and soldiers were being led or carried up the ramp into it while further back Ratchet could see a Decepticon vessel taking to the air, fleeing.
The Autobots had won this skirmish, against seemingly impossible odds. Megatron had ordered for a sudden and unexplained retreat.
As Ratchet felt the side of his helm for dents to see what he would need to have repaired, knowing that he was the cause of this victory and knowing also that he could say nothing of it, he wondered how it had come to this. How had the tiny bitlet he had nurtured from day one become the huge, hulking warrior that had stood before him? Where had he gone wrong?
Or had he gone wrong at all?
Megatronus had always been stubborn, a trait he had certainly inherited from his medic creator, but it had happened in a way that he always stood up for what he believed was right no matter the cost. It had led to plenty of arguments and many more frustrations, but Ratchet could never say that he hadn't been proud of his son's firm stance on what he believed in.
And, as much as it pained him to admit, he knew that was still the case. He was still so painfully, achingly proud of Megatron, even now, even if he didn't think that what he was doing was just. He always had been. From standing up to academy bullies to waging war against the elites, Ratchet knew that nobody would stay truer to their beliefs than Megatron. In that sense, really, he had never changed.
So knowing this, knowing that he had raised Megatronus with all of the love in his spark and all of the teachings of staying true to oneself, but also knowing that he was using those teachings to end lives for a cause he believed in, could Ratchet say that he had brought him up in any way wrongly?
He supposed he would never truly be able to decide one way or the other. For now, Ratchet wiped his optics of any cleaning fluid that had seeped past and pushed himself slowly to his peds.
Scanning the battlefield far ahead of him, he could see countless grey and pink frames littering the ground, Autobot and Decepticon alike, though it was hard to tell the difference from here.
Funny how factions didn't matter when you were offline, wasn't it?
Ratchet returned to the shelter to heft the lifeless bot over his shoulders and started the walk to the ship, where he knew they would be set in one of many chambers of offline to be sorted and accounted for.
It was never supposed to happen like this.
Ratchet took a deep intake and kept moving forward. The war would wait for no one, after all.
Not even family.