It was raining.
Ratchet drove right through the doorway to his quarters, and only transformed once inside. Dripping water, he rose and in the dark of the room he headed for the energon cubes he had stored in a corner. He was hungry, cold, and tired because they'd had so many casualties that they'd staged them outside the medical center, and then the weather had turned vile.
He realized he wasn't alone when Anodyne opened his optics and the golden glow lit one corner of the room. Anodyne, it turned out, had was huddled into as small a ball as the big mech could manage, with his biolights off and his optics shut.
"'Dyne?" Ratchet said, his own discomforts forgotten. "Are you okay?"
"Fine." Anodyne said, clearly a lie. He stood up.
"Did you hear about your sire?" Ratchet said, assuming this was the issue. 'Dyne was close to his family.
"Soundwave told me."
"You could go visit him if you want," Ratchet suggested. "He's not conscious, but he's stable."
"He's not my sire." Anodyne scrubbed his face with both hands. "They both lied to me my whole life, Ratchet."
Ratchet blinked at Anodyne stupidly for a couple of seconds, then said the first thing that came to mind, which was, "Huh?"
"I'm a reformat."
"... huh? I distinctly remember Soundwave carrying you. You were conceived right at the end of the war. He was gravid before I even left Earth for Cybertron."
"I imagine that was a ruse." Anodyne sat back down on the berth. "They're not my parents."
Ratchet said, with an effort not to roll his eyes at Anodyne's dramatics, "Well, then. You're not the first or the last mechanism to be raised in a vat. So what if you're adopted? Soundwave and Treadwell love you."
"I'm Megatron, reformatted."
Ratchet took a surprised step back, and looked up -- way up -- at his protege. Somehow, deep down, he wasn't actually surprised. The size was right, and the bearing, and that innate confidence. Nothing else said 'Megatron' about Anodyne, however, and anyway, there was another issue. "I was the one who pronounced Megatron dead, kiddo. I saw his corpse. I saw his spark chamber. Empty."
Anodyne shrugged. "It's Soundwave. He's as good a quantum engineer as any. Just because his specialty is quantum comms equipment doesn't mean he doesn't dabble in other fields, and by dabble, I mean he designed my frame from the struts out. And those of my siblings. And all the symbionts. He's slagging good at what he does, and I'm certain he could create a portable spark containment field."
Ratchet opened his mouth, shut it, and then reopened it to say, "Don't tell anyone else."
Anodyne gave Ratchet a bleak look. "My whole life has been a lie."
Ratchet could have responded to that in any number of ways, most of them profane. Anodyne, however, was standing there with his field full of misery. 'Dyne started to turn, likely to head for the door. Ratchet intercepted him with three quick strides and caught his wrist. Anodyne spun about, field hostile and defensive, and Ratchet ignored that and hugged him.
Ratchet was normally a prickly and cranky mech himself, and never touchy-feely, but this was Anodyne. He liked Anodyne a good deal, and he could hear the horror in Anodyne's voice. He didn't know what to say, but he wanted to help, and he could hug. Hugging was easier than finding words of comfort.
His head only came up to Anodyne's elbow, and his arms wrapped around the other mech's waist. For a minute, it was like hugging a particularly angry wall, but then Anodyne's hand came down to rest on his back and Anodyne dropped to one knee and folded Ratchet into his arms. "I thought you'd hate me," Anodyne murmured. "You hated him."
"Megatron was a very complex mechanism." Ratchet said, softly. That was true. He also meant what he said next, which was, "And I know, more than anyone, that a reformatted mechanism is not his predecessor."
Some of the fierce tension left the young mech's rigid frame. Anodyne's arms tightened and he pulled Ratchet closer. "I don't know what I would do without you, Ratchet. I really don't."
Ratchet didn't know what to say to that, so he simply leaned back to look up at Anodyne. Anodyne continued, "I'm an empath. I know when people hate me. You don't. You don't. You ... you don't care who I was."
Ratchet supposed that was true, though partly because this was so surreal. He just couldn't reconcile the reality of his brilliant young friend and protege, who was one of the kindest mechanisms he'd ever known, with the Slagmaker who had destroyed countless worlds and who had the deaths of billions on his hands. "I don't," he said, honestly. "I only care who you are now, and I like who you are."
Anodyne keened softly and tightened his grip.
Ratchet held him until his sobs stopped, and then rose, and retrieved energon for both of them. It was cold and plain, but both of them were starving, and they consumed it without comment while sitting on the edge of the berth.
"How was work?" Anodyne asked, finally.
"Brutal. I'm glad you were off. We had a lot of casualties. There was a fire bombing on Cybertron, and a scraplet attack, and a lot of mechanisms in pain, and I don't think you could have handled it." Ratchet said, honestly.
Anodyne's ventilations hitched. "Why did he do this to me? My gifts are ... they're artificial, Ratchet. I think that may be why I don't have full control over the receptive end. He said I had latent abilities, but they're enhanced more than my siblings. Do you know what it's like to know what everyone is feeling, all of the time? It's awful! And they hate me for it because I can't always hide my reactions, and then people think I'm reading them deliberately, and reading their thoughts which I don't do, and ..."
Ratchet hugged him again, though this time he did have the words. "I think I understand Soundwave's logic, 'Dyne."
"Yeah? Because I don't."
"Soundwave ... knew Megatron longer than anyone. He knew him when he was young, and innocent, and brilliant. Somebody once said that Megatron was dangerous not because he was the best fighter, but because he was the smartest ... however, Megatron lacked something, and I'm not sure if it was because of his upbringing or because of something in his spark."
"What was that?"
"Compassion." Ratchet tucked a leg up to his chest and wrapped an arm around it. Anodyne still had an arm around Ratchet's shoulders, and tightened his grip in reaction to Ratchet's firm words. "Megatron was many things, but kind and empathetic wasn't one of them."
Anodyne looked up sharply, startled. "But ..."
"By giving you empathy, kiddo, you have literally been aware of the feelings of others since you were a tiny sparkling, and of their reaction to your actions. Megatron was charismatic, but he was never particularly empathatic. If anything, he verged on sociopathy. Soundwave, for better or worse, gave you a true gift with that fancy processor he designed for you."
Anodyne muttered, "I think he overdid it."
"Perhaps." Ratchet leaned his head back against Anodyne's arm, and looked up at him. "But it made you who you are. And now that I think about it, you are much like Megatron in many ways. He was brilliant, and unswerving in his beliefs, and he would not compromise for anything. You're like that."
"I'm not!" Anodyne objected.
Ratchet smirked. "Says the mech who let Music beat him nearly to death when he could have 'pathed him into submission with a touch."
Anodyne fell silent for a moment, then shook his head. "If I'd fought back with telepathy in that moment, I would have destroyed him. I won't do that. I refuse. It's wrong. It's not the right use of my gifts."
"Even if they're trying to kill you."
"Even then. It's not right."
Ratchet was really grinning now. "Ah, 'Dyne. I'm amazed I didn't see it before. And with your size, and the way you fight, and your natural abilities with all weapons -- it's all so obvious, now."
"Soundwave says I need to be a warrior. That I should be fighting for Cybertron because I have the physical ability."
"Is that what you want?"
"Maybe it's what I need to be."
"Kiddo," Ratchet's smile slipped from his face, "Maybe it's not. Look, Soundwave obviously had a vision for you, and knowing Sounders, it was probably based on an idealized version of what he thought Megatron should be like. However, you are your own mechanism, and your future is your own."
Anodyne sighed. "I'm a war frame, with an aptitude for combat. I should be out there. I just ... I just can't. I can't even stand to be in the medical center if there's a lot of casualties. He meant to make me a better mech, but I think he may have just crippled me. And now he's telling me I'm ... I don't know, he thinks I'm a coward and weak for not fighting? But he did this to me."
"Not deliberately, I don't think." Ratchet glanced up at Anodyne's face. His expression echoed his field: Both were utterly miserable. "'Dyne, have you ever considered dialing back your empathy? If it's artificial, that means we could alter the hardware for less sensitivity. Rung and I could work together if your carrier won't help us."
Anodyne was very, very quiet, for a long moment. "No."
"Because it will make me a better physician. And that's what I want to be." Anodyne's words were firm and decisive, and sudden resolve filled his field. "Slag him. He did this to me, so he'll just need to be happy with who I am. Or not. It's his problem."
"Okay." Ratchet quietly accepted this; it was Anodyne's decision to make. It would limit Anodyne's usefulness in the trauma center, but outside it, he held considerable promise in other areas. "Anodyne, something else -- you cannot tell anyone about this. There are too many mecha who will not understand. You're not Megatron, but they won't get it."
"No slag. I wasn't even going to tell you, but ... but I had to tell someone." Anodyne sighed deeply. "Will you tell Res? I'm not sure I want him to know."
Ratchet made a face. "Resonance will know, because I am apparently incapable of keeping secrets from him. I'll impress upon him the need for secrecy."
"I don't want anyone else knowing. I would have to work ten times as hard to prove myself, even if someone didn't actually hate me. As it is, they think I'm stealing knowledge from the heads of others, or that I'm psychically influencing my mentors. I'd always be under a cloud of suspicion if they knew I was Megatron. Damnit all."
"I doubt it will make you feel better to know that I think that you're right. However, nobody else needs to know about your history. It's none of their business who you were in a past life."
Anodyne suddenly hugged Ratchet close. "No matter what happens, at least I have you, Ratchet. At least I have you."
Ratchet talked long into the night with Anodyne about things both consequential and minor. He told him war stories, sparing nothing, and then pre-war stories of a young Megatron who had once been a regular visitor in Ratchet's clinic. He talked about things completely unrelated, too: shop talk, gossip, earth culture, Cybertronian culture.
Much later, Ratchet jolted awake with a start, and realized he'd fallen asleep on the berth with Anodyne. 'Dyne was still out cold, on his side. They had gone into recharge facing one another on the berth, and sometime during the night Anodyne had moved so that one of his hands was now resting on Ratchet's hip.
When Ratchet lifted his head he realized that Resonance now stood in the room, and he was sipping a cube of warmed energon. He'd been there awhile: Ratchet could hear the rain thrumming against the thin walls of the human made building, but Resonance had already dried.
~Nothing happened!~ Ratchet said, realizing suddenly how compromising their positions looked.
Resonance replied impatiently, ~I know that. You can't keep secrets from me.~
~How much did you catch of what he had to say?~
~Enough.~ Resonance managed to squeeze onto the berth on the other side of Ratchet. Ratchet, sandwiched between the two, found himself looking into Anodyne's optics -- 'Dyne had woken, and was looking at them with an alarmed gaze.
"It's okay," Ratchet said, calm because Resonance was unruffled. "Resonance knows nothing happened. Just go back to recharge."
There was room on the berth for all three of them, if they didn't mind some close contact. Ratchet honestly didn't; it felt good to have Resonance pressed against his back, and Anodyne surely could feel that Ratchet was only a platonic friend. Mostly. Okay, the young mech was gorgeous and brilliant and exactly the kind of mech that Ratchet was attracted to, but he was exclusive with Resonance and he told himself that he would never pursue the tiny kernal of attraction that he felt. Neither he nor Resonance, he reminded himself, were interested in a triad.
Too many complications. Ratchet knew himself, and he didn't think he could handle the emotional minefields of poly relationships. He was bonded to Resonance, and that was that, Resonance was his partner, and would be for the rest of his functioning. For better or worse.
Anodyne, however, sat up and then slid off the berth. "There's more room on the floor, guys."
Resonance slid an arm around Ratchet's waist and spooned close. "Thanks, 'Dyne," he said, a bit too casually, over Ratchet's shoulder. Ratchet couldn't read what Resonance was thinking at all. Resonance added, "We'll see you in the morning."
It took Ratchet hours to power down after that.