It wasn’t actually that difficult getting visitation rights to Trypticon, even given the prisoner he was trying to see being at such a high security level. Ratchet had thought there would be at least a little more bureaucracy involved. Paperwork and such to complete, waiting times or “call back in a month,” but no. He put in a request through completely official channels, and a day later he’d gotten a response with the date and time of his appointment, a week from when he’d first asked. Maybe being part of the team of mechs who brought the Decepticons back in the first place did give him a few perks here and there.
Besides just too many mechs trying to cozy up because they thought he’d get them something. Bunch of glitches, they were.
The day of his visit arrived, and he made his way to Kaon. The whole trip was a bit of a haze and before he realized it, there he was. Driving right up to the front door of the most secure prison on Cybertron and being escorted inside.
Really, did they have to make it so menacing looking? He knew there was sort of a theme they were trying to keep up, the whole locale being based in the formerly-Decepticon-run city and all, but the sick sense of foreboding in his tanks the whole thing gave him was completely unnecessary.
...That might not have been the fault of the architecture, though. Rather because of what he knew was coming.
But, really, wouldn’t you be feeling sick too, if you were in his pedes?
The Mini-Con supervisor (aptly named Leader-1) led him through the brightly lit halls. Honestly, he would have almost preferred if they were dim and creepy looking. The bright light didn’t help him feel very secure. They were almost comparable to the glaring lights of the operating room, where another mech’s life rested in his servos and his servos alone, and everyone was counting on him to keep his cool. Which was only making him feel more tense and he kind of was starting to regret coming out here at all, actually.
No. He very firmly shook the doubt from his mind. He needed to be here. It had been weeks since they’d returned to Cybertron, he was ready for this.
Leader-1 led him down a different hallway, with significantly taller cells, one designed for significantly taller prisoners. Completely unbidden, a long-distant memory rose to the forefront of his processor.
“When’d you go and get so big, huh?” He’d jokingly asked as though he hadn’t been keeping a precise record of every time Megatronus’s frame changed, patting his servo on the top of the giggling sparkling’s helm. “Keep growing up and soon enough you’re gonna be taller than me.”
He certainly grew up alright.
“Not like that’s very hard,” Megatronus had said, grinning, standing up on the tips of his pedes to compare his own height to Ratchet’s. Ratchet had waved him away, exaggerating his scowl.
“Are you callin’ me short??”
“I’m not callin’ you tall!”
He shook that from his mind too.
Shockwave barely paid him a glance as he was led past, and Leader-1 stopped him in front of Megatron’s cell.
“One mega-cycle,” the Mini-Con said, and Ratchet mentally translated it to Earth time out of sheer habit. About three hours. Plenty of time for them to either have a conversation or just sit there in silence glaring at each other. Each outcome was equally likely.
Leader-1 turned and rolled away. Before he lost the wherewithal to do so, Ratchet stepped up to the cell and enabled the external audio.
Megatron looked over at him.
He hadn’t been repaired. Not at all surprisingly, that was the first thing Ratchet noticed. Sure, his self-repair had done a little work, he was in better shape than he’d been when they brought him back and he wasn’t on the brink of death. But even through the hazy energy field separating them, Ratchet could see the cracks in his frame. The scuffs on his plating. The part of his shoulder that was still missing.
His emblem was split near perfectly in half.
Ratchet pulled his optics away from the injuries he felt the urge to try and fix, and looked up (and up) to meet Megatron’s gaze.
And… stood there in silence.
Oh, who was he kidding. He wasn’t ready for this at all.
“Megatron,” he said, very carefully keeping any emotion out of his voice.
“Medic,” Megatron said in return, voice crackling from the speakers, just as cold and ten times more bitter. Ratchet tried not to flinch. And miserably failed, by the way Megatron’s optics narrowed.
They fell back into a decidedly uncomfortable silence. Megatron just kept staring at him, and Ratchet very firmly avoided meeting his gaze again.
In the cell next door, Lugnut had started gesturing furiously, and by the way his jaw was working Ratchet assumed he was spitting curses at him and the Autobots in general. Without a word, he reached over to tap at the panel next to the Decepticon’s cell and make the energy field opaque. They didn’t need spectators.
“So,” he started, fully intending to make sure he didn’t waste his time coming out here, “how… have they been treating you?”
Megatron stared at him. For a moment he thought maybe the mech had decided to be bitter and just ignore him, but then he spoke; “They have been fair,” he said. “I’ve not been mistreated by the Mini-Cons. Or by any of my other visitors.”
Other visitors? Nevermind, not relevant. “Good,” Ratchet said. “That’s good.”
“Is it really good?” Megatron leaned forward. Not enough to bring them to optic-level, but enough to make him loom a little less. Ratchet couldn’t quite read the tone in his voice, but he was pretty sure he didn’t like it. “Would you not prefer I had received proper retribution for my crimes? That the warlord earned his due?”
“No,” Ratchet said immediately, completely meaning it. “No, of course not. Never.”
A disbelieving scoff. Ratchet’s vocalizer buzzed as he prepared to defend himself, but Megatron cut him off. “Of course you don’t,” he muttered. “All those years of war have not made you any less soft-sparked.”
“Stop that,” Megatron chastised. “Don’t get defensive. It’s just the kind of mech you are.”
“Yeah, but you make it sound like it’s a bad thing when you say it.”
Megatron sighed. He clambered off the seat in his cell, instead moving to sit on the ground directly across from Ratchet. Even sitting, he had to hunch over slightly for them to actually be even close to the same height. “For my soldiers, it was a bad thing.” He squinted at Ratchet. “And for many of yours, it was too. But a medic, especially a medic like you, must know when to have mercy.”
Regretfully, Ratchet lowered himself to sit on the floor as well. It kind of defeated the purpose of Megatron sitting to put them on equal footing, but his struts were starting to ache. “What do you mean, ‘a medic like me?’’
“I mean a medic who values his ethics over the emblem on his frame,” he said with a jerk of his head at the Autobot badge emblazoned on Ratchet’s chassis. “One who will treat any mech that needs it, rather than reserving his help to only those whose ideals he agrees with. The sort of medic who does not let his pride get in the way of his work. The sort of medic who has not let his values be destroyed by the war I wrought.”
“If you’re trying to use this as an excuse to goad me by reminding me of all the things you’ve done wrong, quit it. I remember plenty clearly and don’t need you trying to distract me.” He huffed. “And quit putting me on a pedestal. I haven’t done a thing that any good medic wouldn’t do.”
Megatron smirked, and Ratchet got the distinct feeling he’d walked into a trap. “Shame on me for trying to out-wit you,” he said, “but that is precisely my point. How many ‘good medics’ have you seen who’ve had their skills waylaid by their own ego? Or by their inability to look past faction lines causing them to leave an injured party because they didn’t like the color of the badge they were wearing?”
His vocalizer buzzed again as he readied another protest, but Megatron didn’t need to interrupt him this time. His mouth just snapped shut.
“Perhaps this war has made you jaded and pessimistic. But it has not yet forced you to let go of your own ideals.” Megatron leaned forward. Ratchet didn’t flinch this time. “And that makes you very unique indeed.”
“What do you want, Megatron?”
“I’m not the one you should be asking,” he said. “After all, I am very much trapped in this cell, at the whims of the mechs beyond it. You came to visit me.” He was smiling again, but it wasn’t quite the cruel smirk it had been earlier. Rather something far more sardonic. “So why don’t you ask yourself what you want instead?”
That was a good question, actually. What did Ratchet want?
Well, he wanted his son back, for one.
But he wouldn’t even bother putting a voice to such a thought. The time for that had long since passed. Besides, it wasn’t as though the Megatronus he’d known had been snatched up and replaced by some maniacal imposter. No, the warlord that sat before him was as much his son as the sparkling he’d called his own all those millennia ago. Similarities in frame aside (though, with the Earth alt-mode they were few and far between), Ratchet could see it in his gaze. Behind that cruel glare was the same determined fury that had been so inspiring when it had been in Megatronus’s optics. The passion that Ratchet had always known would change the world some day.
This, for the record, was not what he meant.
“I want to know why,” he said, voice soft, though clear as day in the otherwise silent prison hall. “Things were bad. I knew that as much as anyone else. But why did you…” He gestured vaguely at the split Decepticon symbol on Megatron’s chest. “...Did it have to be this way? Did you have to bring our people to war?”
“Ratchet, don’t kid yourself,” Megatron said, expression grim. “The world was never going to change with pretty words and grand ideas alone. Something needed to be done.”
“But this something? Really??” He shoved himself to his pedes, ignoring the twinge of pain in his back struts at the suddenness of the gesture, and stomped forward. “We were nearly wiped out! Nearly ten million years of war, and for what? You didn’t win. You got kicked out. And things were worse than when you’d started.” He slammed a fist against the energy barrier. It hummed slightly under his servo. “Countless mechs were offlined. Half the planet was destroyed. You nearly died.”
Megatron didn’t seem very phased by his anger. “No concern for how it affected you and your wellbeing, I see,” he said, tilting his head. “Has the Autobot rhetoric of the unimportance of the individual really blinded you so? I had thought you stronger than that. You always seemed it, in my optics, at least.”
“Oh, don’t start with that,” Ratchet said, scoffing. “What I may or may not have suffered was nothing compared to a lot of other mechs I know. Does the name Arcee ring a bell, by any chance?”
“So the lack of care for yourself is not a result of propaganda, rather just your self-sacrificing attitude.” He shifted forward, closer to the barrier, so he could lean forward and be at optic-level proper with Ratchet. “It’s always been a fault of yours, and I’ve never liked it. You really must learn that sometimes you are just as important as your comrades.”
“Not hardly. I’m halfway in the scrapheap already, and there’ll always be other medics.”
“But there is only one you.” Megatron stared at him. “Ratchet, do you blame yourself for what has become of me?”
“What?” He stepped back on instinct. “Of course not,” he said, because of course he didn’t. He’d tried to stop Megatron. He had. He’d raised Megatronus right, and tried to lead him on the right path. He’d declined to help him in his uprising. He’d condemned his actions. By the time the era of the Decepticons rolled around, Megatronus was long since old enough to make his own decisions. There was nothing Ratchet could have done to stop him.
Although, maybe if he’d tried a bit harder, he would have--
...Oh, by the Allspark, he did blame himself.
“No,” he said again. “It’s your--” fault, he didn’t (couldn’t) say. His words simply fizzled into static.
Megatron frowned, and for the first time since Ratchet’s arrival, his expression turned to something other than cruel apathy or an acerbic smile. Instead it was something a lot closer to… not pity. Sadness. “You do,” he said. Then he sighed, closing his optics and shaking his head. “Always so critical of yourself.”
“Like you don’t blame me too,” Ratchet muttered, letting his helm fall against the energy field, the excess electricity buzzing across his plating.
“I don’t,” Megatron said. “And I never have. I may have once been angry at your refusal to support me, seen it as a betrayal and had that anger manifest in the form of blame, but I never really thought any negligence on your part was a cause for the path I walked.” He reached forward, resting his servo against the barrier between them.
Ratchet reached up to press his much smaller servo against the same spot on his side of the field.
“Maybe you should have,” Ratchet said. “Blamed me. Might’a been easier on both of us.”
“And it would have been easier if you simply hated me,” he said. The smirk came back, but it was laced with something far closer to dry acceptance than any kind of superiority. “Unfortunately, neither of us are that sort of mech. Maybe I learned a little too much from you.”
“Clearly wasn’t enough.”
“Clearly not,” Megatron agreed. “If only I had listened better.”
“You listened plenty. A little too much sometimes, if you ask me.” He looked up, scowling. “Still not gonna let the eavesdropping thing go.”
Megatron laughed, not the cold resonance mechs had grown to fear, but quiet and rasping and real. “All these years, and you’re still more mad about my spying on you than the fact that I started a war.”
“What did I say about--”
“I’m not attempting to goad you. Your priorities are simply fascinating.” His smile fell, and he leaned forward again, so he was barely a meter away from Ratchet with only the blue overlay of the energy field between them. “The only one to blame for the war was me, Ratchet. It was my ideals, my goals, and my ambition that drove our planet to the brink of extinction. It was my choice. There was nothing you could have done differently that would have changed the road I took.” His tone was soft. Genuine. Something Ratchet had not heard in a very long time. “You were a good caretaker. I’m glad I had the chance to be raised by a mech who cared.”
Ratchet briefly considered just how much trouble he’d be in if he disabled the forcefield and stormed in there to give him a proper hug. Then decided he didn’t feel like accidentally reigniting the war in pursuit of his sentimentalities today.
“Well,” he said, willing his voice not to break. It very politely didn’t listen. “Glad I had the chance to raise a kid who made himself so easy to care about.”
Megatron smiled, no hint of the once-warlord anywhere, and Ratchet once more weighed the pros and cons of maybe getting arrested and/or killed if it meant he got to hold his son again. (As much as he was able to do so, anyway, given the glaringly obvious difference in height between them.)
(Ratchet still remembered when he could carry Megatronus with one arm.)
Any thoughts of possibly breaking the rules were interrupted by the return of Leader-1, trundling along and stopping beside Ratchet. The softness had dropped from Megatron’s face as soon as the Mini-Con had appeared.
“Allotted visitation time reached,” the Mini-Con buzzed in a perfect monotone. “Allow yourself to be escorted out.”
Ratchet looked over at Megatron, back to leaning against the wall and staring at the floor.
“I’ll come visit again soon,” he said, prompting the mech to look up at him. “If… you would be okay with that.” He wouldn’t make Megatron see him. He wouldn’t. If the warlord up and said he never wanted to lay optics Ratchet again, he wouldn’t make him. Even if it broke his spark a little bit. He wasn’t going to be that kind of parent-- he could respect his child’s wishes.
Luckily, he didn’t have to worry, because Megatron gave no such rejection. Just a lopsided smile, barely there but undeniable as what it was.
“I’d like that,” Megatron said.
Ratchet knew that whatever honest image Megatron might have been presenting, there was some part of him that was no doubt still scheming. He hadn’t held power over the Decepticons for as long as he did by being complacent, after all. But at least some part of him was being genuine, and by the Allspark, Ratchet was going to take advantage of that as much as he was able. Probably not the best course of action, but hey. He was old. He’d lived a long time. Cut him some slack for wanting to get a little joy where he could.
He looked up at his son.
“I’m glad to see you’re okay,” he said.
“As much as you may not believe it,” Megatron replied, “the feeling is very much mutual.”
He did believe it. Probably shouldn’t have, considering, you know, the whole Earth and “directly trying to murder me and my coworkers” thing, but he did. “I’ll see you soon,” he said as Leader-1 buzzed another “allow yourself to be escorted out” at him. “I’m comin’, keep your treads on.”
He did as told and allowed himself to be escorted away, back down the hall the way he’d come.
And if he looked back to watch Megatron sitting in his cell until the warlord vanished from sight, well. It wasn’t like Leader-1 was going to gossip.