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Five Times the Hatchet

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Chapter 1: Megatron

He might be a sarcastic, slightly belligerent pain in the processor, but if there was one thing Ratchet wasn’t ever going to be, it was a Decepticon.

Now, he just needed to convince Megatron of that fact.

Cybertron had been teetering precariously on the brink of war for longer than Ratchet cared to remember, though he never thought it would hit so close to home. Shaking his head, Ratchet mentally kicked himself for literally walking into such a thinly veiled trap. He really should have seen it coming, for it was such a simple plan, it was almost ludicrous. Megatron wanted to raise an army, and an army meant causalities. Causalities meant he would need medics, and that was a service Ratchet was qualified to perform.

As he lay sprawled on the dirty floor, bored out of his processor, Ratchet mused that Megatron’s methods of persuasion left a lot to be desired. Up until this particular moment, he’d done his damndest to stay neutral. Part of the reluctant pacifism that lurked in his processor always screamed at him to be careful to never pick sides, that joining the impending war was a first-class ticket straight to the pit itself. He was always willing to help either faction, but after this, Ratchet swore he was going to march straight into Autobot headquarters and sign up. That little promise to himself was of course contingent upon the ability to make it out with his paint still attached to his chassis, however.

He didn’t understand why so many educated and sentient mechs fawned over Megatron and his pointless dithering. Having met the Decepticon leader face to face, Ratchet decided the hype surrounding the working class’ leader was overstated to a level that could practically be considered criminal.

Simply put, Megatron was an idiot.

Ratchet cycled his vents in weary agitation as he heard the heavy footsteps of the gargantuan mech approaching the interview room. The door swung open and two service drones ambled their way inside. They grabbed Ratchet by his arms from either side and hauled him roughly to his feet.

Megatron entered, sitting calmly on a crushed piece of rock that was supposed to double as a chair. The red glow from his optics stood out against the dark of the room. “Have you come to your senses yet, insect? I will have troops that are going to need your…expertise.”

Ratchet was defiant, doing his best to look and sound bored. “I trained as a medic as a fallback from my career in diplomacy, and thanks to you, mechs like me aren’t needed any more. If we could get what we want by force, don’t you think some other moron would have come along and done it already?’

Megatron said nothing, instead picking at one large claw. The tightening of his jaw told Ratchet he’d struck a nerve. A low growl emitted from the vocalizer of the larger mech. “You are a brave one. Brave, but foolish.” Smiling in a sick, feral manner, Megatron added, “It is of no consequence to me what you choose. The end result is the same.”

This time, Ratchet couldn’t stop himself from physically rolling his optics. “If my choice didn’t matter to you, you wouldn’t be on your fifth attempt to ‘convince’ me to join your cause. You. Care.” The former ambassador turned medic punctuated his words with one yellow finger jabbing the air in Megatron’s direction.

“I could force you.”

“You could try,” Ratchet fired right back. “I don’t waste my talents on those with rocks in their processors. It’s not worth my time, or my effort.”

With a roar, Megatron leapt forward, sending both service drones flying across the room, and wrapped his claws around Ratchet’s neck. Using the full advantage of his superior bulk, the Decepticon leader was simply able to overpower the smaller mech. He leaned in so their noseplates were nearly touching before saying in a soft, deadly voice, “You have two choices now, medic: you can join my cause, or you can die. And when I say it’s of no consequence, I really do mean it this time.”

Ratchet looked up into the smug smile and the blood red optics. Reaching one hand around to the base of Megatron’s helm, his fingers danced across the plating until he found the seam he wanted. “And the advantage of being a medic and having a working processor that’s not overrun by corrupt data is that I remember a thing or two about anatomy. Things that are useful for incapacitating another mech.”

With one twist of his fingers, Ratchet flicked a couple of sensors along Megatron’s protoform. The sensors the medic deactivated, the Decepticon leader belatedly realized, where the ones that controlled the motor function in his limbs. Able to move his head but nothing else, Megatron could only curse as Ratchet lithely slid out from underneath.

Standing above the prone Decepticon leader, Ratchet growled, “I could offline you right now, and there’s nothing you could do about it.”

Snarling, Megatron answered, “Then do it! Do it!”

Ratchet leaned down and placed his hands on Megatron’s chest, cracking the chassis open to reveal the silver mech’s spark chamber. The medic brushed his fingertips across it and balled his fist up, raising it high above his helm. Chuckling, Ratchet pulled his hand down to his side right as Megatron thought he was ready to strike.

“I’m no Decepticon. I’m no murderer. I just wanted you to know that I’m better than you, in every way you can imagine.” Standing, Ratchet stepped over Megatron, pushed the service drones out of the way, and walked smoothly out the door.

Chapter 2: Ironhide

Spirals of smoke wafted into the air, the smell of drying energon permeating his sensitive olfactory sensors. Mechanical whines and moans from failing parts and weaker processors rang loudly in his audios. Ratchet picked his way through the carnage with trepidation, careful to avoid stepping on any downed mechs.

Categorize. Prioritize. Find someone you can help,’ the medic mentally encouraged himself. The phrase ran though his processor on an endless loop as he scanned and calculated the chances for survival of each Cybertronian he passed by. Stooping, Ratchet began to work on the first mech he thought could be saved quickly and efficiently, patching up wounds and stemming the flow of energon from the nearly ubiquitous leaks.

The mech lying on the ground struggled to online his optics. When he did, a shocked set of red met a hard, almost irritated set of blue. Ratchet gave a reassuring grunt, though the passive indifference on his face told a different story.

From directly behind the pair, Ratchet heard the charge and whine of a high-powered cannon being readied just inches from his head. In a low growl, Ironhide commanded, “Get the frag away from him.”

Ratchet’s hands stilled momentarily but resumed just as quickly. Without turning, he spoke equally as low, but without the vehemence in his comrade’s voice. “No. If I stop now, he’ll offline.”

“Then let him! He’s a ‘Con, and ‘Con’s don’t deserve the right to medics. Don’t see them sparing any carnage here,” Ironhide spat as he waved one hand around the smoking remains of what used to be the Cybertronian High Council’s chambers. “Now back off and let me finish the job. Prime needs you back at the rally point.”

“As soon as I stabilize him, I’ll meet up with Optimus,” Ratchet said, his tone leaving no room for argument.

Ironhide blanched briefly, the large weapons specialist unaccustomed to the open hostility the medic showed toward him. Ironhide was used to having his orders obeyed, and obeyed instantly, without question. Putting one large hand on Ratchet’s shoulder, Ironhide dropped his voice and octave and commanded, “Move. Now.

The medic’s attention, though it was being drawn in different directions, never once waned from the medical tasks he was performing. He knew he was fighting a losing battle - the young Decepticon on the ground before him had more leaks in him than Ratchet cared to count, and for every one Ratchet fixed, two more would crop up to take its place. The mech’s optics flickered once, brightened, and then went dark, his spark soon following.

From above his left shoulder, Ratchet heard Ironhide’s vents exhale a satisfied grunt. “Serves him right. Fragging piece of trash ‘Con.”

When he felt Ironhide’s cannon nudge him none-too-gently in the shoulder, it snapped the last of his fraying nerves. Ratchet sprang to his feet and practically tackled Ironhide to the pavement. Normally, the weapons specialist could dispatch a mech like Ratchet without any weapons, standing on one foot and with one arm tied behind his back, but the medic had truly grabbed the element of surprise.

“Let’s get one thing straight: I am a medic, you overgrown piece of projectile firing tin! It doesn’t matter what side they’re on once the battle is done. If you think that I’m going to sit back and do nothing when I can help, you are no better than them,” Ratchet said as he motioned violently in the direction of the offlined Decepticons. His optics blazed nearly white as he stared down at Ironhide, the medic willing his newly installed buzzsaws to stay at idle.

Ironhide shouted, “Look around you! Look what they did! The ‘Cons have destroyed this planet, and they’re taking our race with it!”

Equally as vehemently, Ratchet responded, “Did you ever think that maybe that young mech didn’t want to fight, that he wasn’t ready or willing to die for Megatron? What if this wasn’t his choice?”

The prospect of forced servitude stilled the angry retort Ironhide had forming on the tips of his lip plates, the snarky reply fizzling out in his vocalizer. Relaxing his facial plates, he said softly, “I--No. I never did consider that.”

“Next time you should. Not all of us were sparked for war,” Ratchet added cryptically.

Ironhide held up his hands in gentle surrender. “All right. I hear it. I don’t like it, but I’ll respect your choice. There’s no need to go trying to hack me into little, tiny pieces.”

Ratchet said nothing, but nodded in understanding and accepted the unspoken apology. After a beat, the medic backed off and offered a hand to his brother in arms.

“Nice to see those hand to hand courses are finally paying off, Ratchet,” Ironhide said with a smirk as he pulled himself to his feet and dusted off his paint.

Ratchet swore under his breath and stomped toward Prime and the rally point. “Frag you, Ironhide.”

Chapter 3: Jazz

Being in orbit with Jazz was normally not a painful experience. Jazz was the pleasant one of the bunch, his laid back attitude a welcome relief from many of the personalities of the other mechs. But when the saboteur’s love of anything with a steady beat met Earth’s rather prevalent attachment to the vast and different types of music, it was enough to give the CMO a processor ache the size of Cybertron.

Ratchet winced as Jazz spun up yet another track pulled from a random channel he managed to hack. :Jazz, I have enough damage to my audio receptors from He Who Loves His Cannons, and I don’t need you helping my hearing damage along.:

:Oh, come on ‘Ratch. You might even like some of this stuff. Well, I might have to find something more your speed, but humans have a wide assortment of music. It’s a cultural thing for them, but even though the style ain’t the same, everyone gets down to it.: Jazz spoke over the comm, the smile evident even thought his face wasn’t visible.

:I don’t particularly think dance hall reggae is quite Ratchet’s style, Jazz.: Prime’s rich baritone interrupted, filling the comm system.

:Dance hall reggae? I’m impressed, Boss Bot.: Jazz replied, awe evident in his vocalizer.

:I do my best.: Prime answered, a hint of smugness in his tone. :But back to my original statement, Jazz.:

:Oh, I ain’t sayin’ he’s gotta listen to Sean Paul, though I dig this beat, man. I’m just saying that there’s a lot of music on Earth, and that maybe he should try listening to it before he decides it’s bunk.: Pausing, Jazz added, :But I’d pay good credits to see The Hatchet get down to ‘Get Busy.’:

:Fair enough.: Addressing the medic, Prime said, :Will you at least give it a shot, Ratchet? Think of it as a way to research the human species. Music is a big part of their culture, and it’s something you should make yourself aware.:

The medic grumbled something low and deadly, likely a threat in some manner. :What the frag? We’re just up here waiting for Bumblebee’s signal anyway, and I’m bored.:

:That’s the spirit! I got just the thing for you!: Jazz exclaimed as an emphatic, “Bust it!” flowed through the Autobot comm channel.

Ratchet growled in disgust as the first verse rolled past. :Rap? Jazz, you have to be kidding me. Of all humanity’s ridiculous inventions, this…garbage has to be at the top of the list. I can barely understand what he’s saying, and when I can, I wonder what, exactly, is the point of this song?:

Jazz quickly hushed the medic. :You wound me, ‘Ratch. He ain’t that hard to understand. Just listen to the words, Killjoy. You might enjoy it. This song is classic.:

Ratchet huffed, but settled back into his travel pod and let the song play out. :’Looking for love in all the wrong places, no fine girls just ugly faces.’: he repeated, snorting loudly. :Sounds like a space trip with you lot.:

Ironhide chose that moment to chime in. :Couldn’t you have taken a different medic to Earth, Prime? You know, maybe one that I’m not tempted to shoot?:

:Frag off, Ironhide. I get do services when we land.:

:Knock it off, you two: Prime scolded.

:And Jazz, would you turn that infernal noise? I don’t care about this slag. It’s human music. Great. I don’t need to know about it. You’re the saboteur, so you’re the one that needs to blend in. I just fix dumb mechs that can’t keep their carburetors unclogged.: Ratchet barked into the comm.

Jazz abruptly cut the music. :What crawled up your tailpipe and died, Doc?:

On too much of a roll to stop himself, Ratchet snagged the golden opportunity to bitch and ran full steam ahead with it. :You want to know? I’m in the middle of space with you idiots, we’re looking for the cube that may or may not be on Earth while putting our faith in a lowly human and hoping that one of the youngest ‘Bots we have can find him before the ‘Cons do. Is that enough, or do I need more to be irritated about?:

The Lieutenant chose his words carefully. :No, that about sums it up, but you need to relax, man. All that stressin’ ain’t good for you. And, because that’s how I roll, I have a nice song that might help you relax.:

Ratchet never wanted to wrap his hands around something while simultaneously squeezing as hard as his strength would allow more than that very moment. A ridiculous and catchy baseline filled the comm, and the medic could do nothing but let out a strangled cry of frustrated anguish as Jazz happily bounced along with the beat.

:When was the last time I mentioned I hate you all?:

Chapter 4: Judy Witwicky

Ironhide barely tolerated humanity. That much was abundantly clear. It was also equally as clear that Ratchet had yet to discern what exactly ‘Hide’s main complaint was when it came to the human species. Yes, humans were young, their life cycles were irritatingly short, they squished far too easily, and they were too curious for their own good, but there was nothing about humanity Ratchet actively disliked.

Until now.

Judy Witwicky stood before Ratchet, arms crossed, face red, and foot stamping on the ground beside her, positively livid over some grave injustice on behalf of humanity, an injustice committed by the Autobots. Now, if the medic could just figure out what the hell he supposedly had done, he’d be in good shape.

“So, you’re the one that trampled through my garden that night Sector Seven decided to invade my house and kidnap my son!” Judy’s hands were planted on her hips and she stared up at Ratchet, fully undaunted by the Autobot medic’s imposing size and bigger attitude. She waved one agitated finger in the air. “Well let me tell you, mister! I am not happy about it!”

“Apparently,” Ratchet said with a huff.

“Do you have any idea how long it took me to pick out the plants? To plant all those flowers? To mix just the right consistency of fertilizer? To set up that greenhouse? To keep them alive? Well, do you?” Judy screeched, not bothering to pause to take a breath.

Ratchet cycled his vents, a habit he’d subconsciously picked up from Prime after watching his boss deal with Sunstreaker and Sideswipe for so long. It was most embarrassing to be so thoroughly dressed down by a lowly human, and he only prayed she would grow bored and eventually leave him alone. The sooner that happened, the better. With barely restrained sarcasm, Ratchet replied flippantly and without much sincerity, “Mrs. Witwicky. I do apologize for ruining your horticulture display.”

Waving her arms in the air, Judy continued right on ranting. “Oh! He says he sorry! Well, that’s just perfect! Sorry certainly fixes everything! Did you learn that from a ten year old?”

“If I did, it’s also where you learned civility, or lack thereof,” Ratchet quipped, his lack of patience loosening his vocalizer.

Judy gaped, open-mouthed. “You question my maturity? My son saves the world and your race, and you can’t even admit you were wrong in destroying my pride and joy? You are unbelievable!”

“If you would listen, you may have heard that I already said I was sorry,” Ratchet shot back, unable to help the juvenile stance he took. Bent over slightly at the waist with one hand resting lightly on his thigh and the other gesturing wildly about, he looked more like a petulant five year old that a seasoned, trained, armed and talented CMO.

“Then mean it! I have not had a good week, and you, mister, are not helping matters!”

Both human and Autobot stood glaring at one another, neither side willing to conceded defeat. However, any further attempts at trading volleys of insults was saved by the appearance of Optimus Prime and Sam, the latter perched on the Autobot leader’s shoulder. Sam involuntarily winced when he saw the downright pissed off expression plastered all over his mother’s face. For a brief instant, the boy nearly felt sorry for Ratchet.

“Oh boy. Uh, big guy, we need to intervene and like, now. When I told you my mom has a temper, I really did mean it. There’s way too much stuff around here that she could use in a rage, and while I’m pretty sure Ratchet would be fine, I’m not so sure all the humans would feel the same way,” Sam hissed in a low voice to Prime.

“Agreed, Sam. It would be most counterproductive to allow your race to come to harm now.” Optimus turned his head to the side and lifted on optic ridge in Sam’s direction. “What do you suggest?”

Sam shrugged. “I dunno. You’re the military commander, and she’s my mom. I’m leaving this one up to you.”

Optimus squared his shoulder and walked confidently up to the glaring pair. “Ratchet, Mrs. Witwicky.” He knelt down so Sam could hop to the pavement. Turning, he addressed Judy. “As Autobot commander, I need to thank you for Sam. He singlehandedly saved the planet from Megatron. You have my most sincere gratitude as his mother.”

Judy’s expression softened momentarily, but snapped back to the irritated glare just as quickly. “You’re welcome, Optimus, though I can tell you there’s a very long list of things that you did which really pissed me off. So if you think you’re free and clear of my wrath, think again! Giant alien robot boss or not, you still put my only son in harm’s way, fighting a war he had nothing to do with!”

Behind Prime’s left leg, Sam executed a healthy facepalm. “Mom! He’s trying to thank you here! I’m fine! See!” The teen executed a slow circle with both arms out at his sides to emphasis his point. “No bullet holes, no cuts, and no squishing by other, much angrier giant alien robots.”

“Sammie, stay out of this,” Judy admonished, not taking her eyes off Prime’s form.

Sam groaned. “God, mom! Would you stop using that lame nickname?!”

Optimus cleared his vocalizer. “Mrs. Witwicky, I understand you are upset, and for that I am truly sorry. I will not make excuses, for we did cause damage to your property in our haste for the glasses. It’s clear that we need to make that up to you. What would you require?”

“I need someone to replace my flowers, my greenhouse, and to fix Ron’s yard! That’s what!”

“You have a deal. I will send someone over within one Earth week’s time. Could you get me a list of the plants and supplies you require? I can have them shipped to your house, and they’ll be waiting for the mech I assign to this task.”

“Fine. It’s a deal, but I better not see any slacking off, and whoever you choose had better be working by the end of next week!” Judy crossed her arms over her chest and stomped off in the direction of the car.

Ratchet sidled up to his commanding officer, an expression of incredulity on his faceplates. “Prime, is your processor malfunctioning? Why did you just agree to that?”

“She is Samuel’s mother, and we are guests of this planet. It would unwise to incur her wrath any further.”

Ratchet’s strictly non-verbal reply to his commanding officer spoke volumes. Ratchet produced a wrench from a pocket in his thigh, and with pinpoint accuracy, whipped it at Optimus. Sam cringed at the loud ‘clang’ the medic’s wrench made as it whacked Prime squarely in the helm. “Send me, and I’ll let the twins disassemble you piece by piece. Got it?”

Optimus said nothing as Ratchet stomped off in a manor eerily similar to Judy’s exit. Rubbing the sore spot on his helm, he groaned.

Breaking the silence, Sam quipped, “Tempers. What can you do with people who have ‘em?”


Chapter 5: Optimus

Will Lennox’s eyebrows furrowed as his breakfast of oatmeal and brown sugar (okay - more brown sugar than oatmeal) vibrated slowly toward the edge of the table. Shooting one hand out to catch the spoon before it fell, Will raised a contemplative eyebrow. Lennox looked up to see Bobby Epps leaning casually against the doorframe to the major’s office.

“Epps, do you know why the hell the base is shaking?” Lennox asked, though the nonchalance with which the question was posed was startling. Perhaps working for over two years with a sector of sentient fighting robots reduced the shock factor Will thought might never fade.

The sergeant shrugged. “Dunno, man. But, I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that Ratchet is intent on openin’ up a case ‘o whoopass on the Big Guy, buzzsaws fully engaged.”

“Dammit. I knew there was a reason I needed the office with the window!” Will hollered as he sprang to his feet and sprinted out the door, Epps right behind him. Lennox ran through the tech center and around the ops hanger, skidding to a halt when he saw that Ratchet was literally chasing Prime around the tarmac. The two senior ‘Bots transformed in and out of their alt modes on the move, NEST shaking with the heavy thumps of their footfalls.

Will and Bobby both sat back as Ratchet finally managed to snag Prime by the ankle joint. His perfectly executed trip sent the Autobot leader tumbling ungracefully to the pavement. Optimus flipped over from his stomach in time roll to his knees. When Ratchet approached, Prime sat back on his haunches and glared at his medic and longtime friend. “Would you care to tell me exactly what I’ve done to warrant such an extreme reaction, Ratchet?”

“I would think, by this point, it would abundantly clear in that thick processor of yours,” the medic snarked.

“I’m at a loss, really. What has gotten into you? This is not the way a CMO is supposed to behave!” Optimus admonished.

“Oh, and you’re the poster child for formulating a logical plan, informing the troops and carrying it out in manner respectful to your subordinates!” the medic fired back, the sarcasm dripping from his words.

Optimus cycled his vents. Now he knew what had crawled up Ratchet’s tailpipe and died. Quite frankly, he’d expected Ratchet’s frustration to reach a boiling point a good bit sooner than now. Given the time it had taken for the medic to call him out on it, either Ratchet’s temper was improving, or he’d simply been too busy to read Optimus the riot act. “I knew we were going to have to have this conversation eventually. You’re upset with me for how I deceived you, before I went to rescue Sam and Mikaela?”

“What the frag do you think?”

“I’ll take that as a yes, then,” Prime responded, for once not caring about decorum and the chain of command. Normally, the sight of the two senior most Autobots arguing openly was not only bad for morale, but damned unprofessional to boot. In this case, Optimus couldn’t quite bring himself to care. “I’ll grant you what I did was foolish at best, Ratchet. I apologize.”

Ratchet’s voice took on a low, deadly tone. “No, Prime. It wasn’t foolish. It was suicide. You told no one where you were going, what you were doing, or even what was happening! Did you really think you could go in, guns blazing, on nothing but a wing and a prayer and hope that everything was going to work out fine?”

“Clearly, I wasn’t thinking. My only intention was to retrieve Sam and Mikaela and to keep the rest of you from harm,” Prime acknowledged.

“So you knew it was a suicide mission. Prime, what would you have done if Ironhide hadn’t ordered Bumblebee to follow you? What would have happened? What if nothing would have worked out well then?” Ratchet implored, the unasked question of, ‘What would have happened if your death meant nothing?’ hung in the air between the two Autobots.

Ignoring the suddenly uncomfortable silence, Optimus pressed forward. “I was the one who had the best chance of defeating Megatron. I was thinking that no one else needed to be hurt unnecessarily. I didn’t expect him to have backup. And I knew none of you would agree, had I actually told you in the first place.” Prime stayed silent for a beat. “I was just hoping it was going to work out.”

Ratchet rolled his optics. “Let me tell you - it didn’t, you idiot! When you came back, you had a hole in your chest any human could have walked through!” Finally caving, the medic asked, “What are we supposed to do without you, Prime?”

“If you can’t function as a unit without me, then I haven’t done my job as your commander,” Optimus answered, sincerity and concern peppering his words.

Ratchet plopped himself down next to his commander. “That’s not the point, and you know it. You know what I’m talking about. Anyone can give orders and expect that the troops are trained enough to follow. But after you…were flown back here, I’ve never seen this base so down. It can’t happen like that again, Optimus.”

“I know,” came the quiet reply.

Nodding, the medic said, “That’s good, because I swear to Primus if you go Blackwater like that ever again, the least of your worries will be Decepticons. If you offline, I will shoot myself in the spark just to come after you so I can drag you back from the pit to have the pleasure of offlining your dumb aft myself!”

Optimus drew his knees up and rested his elbows casually on them. A smirk forming at the corners of his mouth, he looked over at his irate medic. “Are you done, Ratchet?”

The medic let a wash of air run though his vents. “Yes. It’s good to have you back, Prime.”

“And it’s good to be here. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Chapter 6: Annabelle

Of all the skills Ratchet had acquired during the course of his life cycle, comforting angry, hurt and crying sixteen-year-old human femmes was not one of them. Of course, this wasn’t just any human femme. This was Annabelle Lennox, the daughter of Colonel William Lennox, Commander of NEST operations. She also, as Ratchet mentally reminded himself, was the duty of another ‘Bot. The medic’s frame shook in anger. As soon as he found Ironhide, the coward, he was going to reinstall his pistons upside down and then find the rev limiter of the weapons specialist’s engine.

However, reparations for cowardly acts by large, Decepticon-slaying black mechs would have to wait until Annabelle was calm enough to be left on her own.

The two sat quietly, nothing but the stars to keep them company. It had taken some digging and searching, for Will taught his daughter well. If she didn’t want to be found, that was how it was going to be. It was only because of Ironhide the medic was able to locate the teenager, something he was going to have to address when cooler heads prevailed.

“Why would he do this, Ratchet? He said he loved me! Not only did he not show up, he didn’t call, didn’t do anything! Jesse knew how much this prom meant to me!” Annabelle let out a loud sniffle and chucked her corsage on the ground, stomping on it with the heel of her bare foot.

Ratchet felt his spark constrict. His responsibility or not, the medic still felt a certain protectiveness over the humans he initially met upon his arrival on Earth, the Lennox family in particular. They, along with Sam, Mikaela and a handful of others, had become as close as family over the years. And though he’d never admit it, even under pain of offlining, it hurt him to see Annie as broken up as she was.

Transforming back into his alt mode, Ratchet switched on his holoform. “I don’t know, Bug,” he said, using a nickname he hadn’t called her in almost ten years.

Annabelle laughed. It was watery, but it was genuine. “Wow. I haven’t heard that one in a long time. I think I still thought you were human the last time you called me that.”

“I thought you’d enjoy that,” the ‘human’ Ratchet said. “Now, tell ‘Ol Hatchet what has you so down.”

“Oh, it’s just this prom. I mean, you know what it is, right?”

He nodded. “I have some practice with human customs, you know. I’ve only been here since you were a little, tiny baby,” he replied with his usual sarcasm.

Annabelle sighed. “I know. It’s just---Dammit.” The young girl ducked her head when the tears threatened to fall again.

Ratchet rubbed one gentle hand over the young girl’s back. He bit his lip, trying to figure out the best way to phrase his next statement. “Are you upset because you were stood up, or are you upset that you didn’t see that Jesse was using you before?” Ratchet asked quietly.

Her head snapping up, she looked at the medic’s holoform with wide eyes. “How did you know?”

Ratchet chuckled. “Like I said, I’ve had some practice.”

“I just feel so dumb! How did I know what a--an asshole this guy is, excuse my French,” Annabelle hollered.

“You aren’t supposed to know, Annabelle. That’s part of growing up. But, now you do know, and you’ll know the signs next time. I know it hurts, but just be glad he only stood you up. If he had done anything to hurt you physically--”

Annabelle cut the medic off. “Oh, I know you would be lining up behind Optimus, Bumblebee, both sets of twins, Ironhide, and even Wheelie to kick his ass. But, you’d all be after Dad, so I’m not sure there’d be anything left after he and Mom got through with him.”

Ratchet chuckled. “Well said.”

“So much for a perfect junior prom, huh?” Annabelle asked, looking up sadly at Ratchet. But, her eyes were clearer, and though she was still clearly hurting, she wasn’t as heartbroken as she was when he’d first pulled up.

The medic tapped one thoughtful finger against his jaw. “You know what?”


“I think there’s one prescription I can order that will make you feel better. It won’t fix things, but it just might help,” Ratchet said, standing and brushing some non-existent dirt from his jeans.

Annabelle raised one eyebrow. “And what might that be?”

“Ice cream. Let’s go.”

“Are you buying?” Annabelle asked? “I mean, it would be the gentlemanly thing for you to do.”

“Of course. Who do you think I am? Jesse?” he said, doing his best to look wounded.

Annabelle’s giant smile was all the answer Ratchet needed.

Taking her hand, Ratchet’s holoform opened the passenger door of his alt mode and helped Annabelle inside. Once she was in safely, he closed the door and materialized himself in the driver’s seat. Putting himself in gear, the two drove in pleasant silence to Cold Stone a couple towns away. For the first time in a good while, Ratchet was happy he had the processing power to complete multiple tasks at once with relative ease while keeping his charge safe.

Jesse Sensor was going to get one hell of a visit the next day.