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Echoes of the Past

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The battle was won.

The war, too, though that would take awhile to sink in.

Fingers shaking from exhaustion, and body so weary it felt as if his struts were bending under the weight of his own frame, Ratchet rose from examination of the dead, grey, corpse lying in the mud. One of many, this terrible day, but this one more politically important than any other.

Into his comm, he pronounced, :Prowl, Megatron's dead. Put the time of death down as 23:25.:

Optimus didn't celebrate.

The others did, but Optimus was somber and serious. He hadn't cracked so much as a smile in several days.

Ratchet had the code to Optimus's quarters, and not just because he was the Autobot's Chief Medical Officer. He used it now.

The door slid open, revealing that Optimus was seated on his berth, back to the wall, and half a cube of Sideswipe's strongest in one hand. Optimus had the cube halfway to his mouth, and he froze in surprise as the door opened. "... Ratchet. You generally knock first."

"Would you have answered?"

Optimus stared into his high grade. "Likely not," he admitted, then downed the entire cube in one long swallow.

Ratchet stepped into the room, and then, after the door had closed behind him, crossed to the berth and took the empty cube fom Optimus's hand. "Starscream called. He wants to talk peace."

"That is expected."

Ratchet put the cube down onto the berthside table, next to three similarly empty cubes. That amount wasn't enough to incapacitate a mech of Optimus's size, but he certainly was working his way towards drunken melancholy. Ratchet, who was well acquainted with that particular mood himself, sat down on the berth beside him and rested a hand on Optimus's shoulder. "It's over, Optimus. You won."

"I didn't win." Optimus sighed. "This is no victory. Our world, destroyed. Our people, decimated to near extinction.  Our future is uncertain, and we are desperately vulnerable to outside aggressors. This isn't a victory. It's a tragedy."

Ratchet couldn't argue with that assessment. Instead, he slid closer to Optimus, and leaned his own back against the wall. "You tried to prevent this. You tried so very hard."

"Perhaps if I hadn't tried at all, it would have been better." Optimus's voice was very small. "If Megatron had taken power in the beginning, he would have led a brutal regime, certainly, but it would not have physically destroyed our world, nor would there have been so very many deaths."

"Mmm. As soon as he had control over Cybertron, he would have turned his aggression outwards. The Galactic Counsel would not have stood for Cybetronian expansionism, and the end result would have been the same. The galactics would have destroyed our world, and our people. That is why you didn't surrender to Megatron when it was clear that we couldn't win a clear victory -- I sat in on that meeting, if you recall."

That was the simple truth, too. They'd seriously discussed surrender, when it became clear that the only other option was a horrible war of attrition. However, one of Jazz's moles had sent them Megatron's post-war plans. Megatron intended to invade several innocent neighboring worlds, and was already putting the resources in place to do so. Ratchet had a sneaking suspicion that the mole in question was one of Megatron's upper level commanders, too, but he wasn't certain which one.

Optimus merely sighed at this reminder, however.

Ratchet regarded the dim optics and slumped shoulders of the mech who was his leader, best friend, and closest confidant for a long moment. Then, slowly, he did something only did when they were absolutely sure of their privacy. He leaned over sideways, resting against Optimus. He was so strong.

The bigger mech wrapped his arm around Ratchet's shoulders, and rubbed a gentle circle with one thumb on Ratchet's pauldron.

They weren't lovers. They'd never been lovers. But Ratchet thought they might have been, if it weren't for ... everything.