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Ratchet never thought it would be like this. He never thought the war would drag on for so long that he no longer flinched at the sound of blasterfire, or that he wouldn't cower when a Seeker streaked by overhead. He never thought he'd get used to the overhanging cloud of radiation and ash, or the stench of fried circuits and spilt energon.

But he was.

It was no longer startling to hear Prowl shouting commands on one of his comm lines, or for his medical subordinates to demand orders over the other. Sticking close to Optimus because he had a penchant for getting himself damaged became necessity. And taking a life because there was no other option was an unfortunate reality.

The first time Ratchet killed to save himself and protect a patient, he'd thought it was the worst thing he could have ever done. He didn't know it would end up being like this, where he was filled with as much armament as he was spare parts and medical supplies and everything that mattered to him was attached to his frame.

A boom rattled the air around him. Ratchet listened and measured, recognizing that it wasn't traditional artillery. A quick scan of the sky gave him all the answers he needed – Megatron's Command Trine of Seekers, one by the name of Thundercracker, known for his penchant for sonic weaponry.

The boom hit the battlefield with all the subtlety of a nuclear strike, flattening those who hadn't braced themselves, and shattering those who still hadn't upgraded to battle armor. Chaos screamed across the airwaves, their comm channels glitching with static. Ratchet grimaced and glanced over at Optimus, but he was stone-faced, his optics narrowed.

This was the end Megatron had wrought.

Prowl's vocals cut through the confusion. “Sentry Station Delta is down, I repeat, Sentry Station Delta is down. Casualties reported, all medics sound off.”

Ratchet swung his gaze to the left, staring in horror at the ruins of Delta, where a trio of snipers had been stationed. Smokescreen's brother was one of the snipers, if Ratchet recalled correctly.

He started running before he entirely knew what he was doing. “CMO Ratchet here, I'm on my way.”

“Frag that!” Ironhide snarled from right behind him, the pounding of his pedesteps indicating that he gave chase. “Yer stayin' right here, Ratch. With Optimus.”

“I'm closest!” Ratchet retorted. Besides, Optimus had more than enough protection and Ratchet was tired of staying where it was safe when Autobots were dying left and right.

He wasn't going to lose any more sparks.

“Then I'm comin' with ya,” Ironhide insisted.

“Do whatever you want.” Ratchet dropped into alt-mode and contacted Prowl. “CMO Ratchet responding to render aid.”

“Acknowledged,” Prowl replied and the connection fell silent. Ratchet didn't take his abruptness to spark.

Prowl was focusing on dozens of thought threads at the moment. He didn't have time for politeness and pleasantries. In fact, Ratchet wouldn't be surprised if he'd only initiated a subroutine to contact the medical staff.

Either way, Ratchet had work to do.

He rumbled across the battlefield, swerving to avoid artillery craters and the gray frames of those already fallen, some Autobots, some Seekers who crash-landed. Bluestreak's outpost had been harrying the Decepticon flyers. No wonder Thundercracker had aimed for it.

The battle, at least, was moving on. The heaviest clashes were over the far ridge. Ratchet could see the sky lighting up with ordinance. The ground rumbled, though less strongly than before.

The scavengers would be coming soon, Neutral Cybertronians who swept across battlefields for supplies when the Autobots and Decepticons were too busy licking their wounds. They never left soldiers behind if they could help it. But sometimes it was too dangerous to retrieve their dead.

Ratchet regretted that, too.

“You tryin' ta get yerself killed, Ratch?” Ironhide asked as they put distance between themselves and the command outpost, until it vanished behind a cut in the landscape.

“Just trying to do my job,” Ratchet retorted. His spark throbbed with relief as the remnants of Sentry Station Delta came into view, the shredded, jagged walls a testament to the blow it had taken.

He was getting a signal, however weak. Someone had survived. Ratchet was determined to see that they make it back to base and would never admit aloud that he prayed that spark was Smokescreen's brother.

Smokescreen had lost enough already.

Ratchet skidded to a halt and transformed mid-screech, his scanners on full max. One frame had been tumbled free of the debris, grey limbs asprawl. A single glance told Ratchet it was not Bluestreak.

He stepped gingerly through the remains of the sentry station, yet still almost tripped on the extended leg of a second gray frame. Ratchet crouched to examine it and blanched. No, not an extended leg, but an amputated one. Where its owner was, he did not know. Probably buried beneath the rubble.

The signal came back to him weakly, fifteen degrees to his right. There, in the ash and twisted metal remnants, he caught sight of a Praxian sensory panel, still flush with color beneath the grit and grime.

“I found the survivor!” Ratchet shouted as he vaulted over a mangled something that might have been a table once.

“Then let's get him back ta base,” Ironhide said.

Ratchet shook his helm. One piece of jagged metal had pierced the sharpshooter's chest and nicked his spark chamber. Ratchet could see the distressed flicker of spark light. Another jagged bit punctured his right thigh, pinning him to the ground. He had a dislocated sensory panel and a menagerie of dents and slices and nicked lines.

If Ratchet moved him too quickly, he risked rupturing containment on Bluestreak's spark. He could suffer a burnout and offline within seconds.

“I need time,” Ratchet said as he steadied his ventilations and carefully removed debris from around the unconscious sniper. “I need to stabilize him first.”

Ironhide's shadow fell over him, blaster in hand. “Then do it quickly. We're targets out here.”

Well aware of the danger, Ratchet nevertheless did not hurry any faster than was necessary. He intended to save Bluestreak, not cause him further harm.

“Just hold on, Blue,” Ratchet murmured as he sealed lines and stabilized the mech's internal system. “I'll get you back to your brother.”

The battle continued without them. Regular updates streamed in at the back of Ratchet's cortex, but he paid them little attention. He tangentially noticed that the sound of battle was distant and that a restless Ironhide had taken to pacing in a narrow circle.

He managed to get the shrapnel out of Bluestreak's chest and away from his spark chamber. The hefty application of stasis gel, static bandages, and prayers, would keep Bluestreak stable. Hopefully, enough that Ratchet could get him loaded into the back of his alt-mode and back to base where he'd have to go into surgery.

But he would live. That was the important part.

Pain-dimmed blue optics onlined, taking a moment to focus on Ratchet before Bluestreak managed a lopsided smile.

“Easy, Blue. It's going to be okay,” Ratchet said, taking and squeezing his energon stained fingers. “I've got you.”

Bluestreak returned the squeeze which was a relief. Ratchet had been worried about the state of his motor nexus. It was painfully close to more shrapnel.

Ratchet lifted his helm and scanned for Ironhide. He'd need help to get Bluestreak into his transport bay.

The sharp crack of a blaster split the air. Ratchet stared in horror as it came from behind and struck Ironhide in the shoulder, sending him spinning.

Ironhide, battle veteran, turned his momentum to his advantage, and whirled toward the direction of the shot, but another shot came at him from the side, sending him crashing back down. These were no amateurs; their weapons had to be advanced military grade to even scratch Ironhide.

Ratchet's blaster leapt into his free hand.

Ironhide groaned and the scent of spilled energon and scorched metal grew sharp and fresh. Ratchet's internals clenched.

There was a low laugh and he spun to see two Decepticons approaching, one of them a rotary, the other a tank. Ratchet's HUD couldn't identify them, not until a third appeared over their shoulders. He was a large shuttle, obviously displacing quite a bit of mass, and this one, Ratchet knew.

Blast Off.

Which made the others Brawl and Vortex.

“Well, well, well,” Vortex said as he hefted up his gun and balanced the barrel of it against his shoulder. “What have we here?”

Ratchet crouched over Bluestreak and triggered his comm, only to get dead air. Somehow, they were blocking his comm system. Damn it.

Ironhide shoved himself up, getting off two shots, one of which clipped Brawl's right shoulder. But Blast Off moved much faster than a mech of his size ought to be capable. He shot across the distance, kicked the blaster out of Ironhide's fingers and kicked him to the ground. The crunch of metal on metal made Ratchet wince.

“Ironhide!”

“Cease your whining,” Blast Off intoned as he loomed over Ironhide, one massive pede planted on the bodyguard's chest. “He lives.”

“And how long he does depends on you,” Vortex said with a little laugh as he and Brawl flanked Ratchet and Bluestreak.

Ratchet stood over the sharpshooter, one hand on his pistol. “What do you want?”

“We should just kill them,” Brawl said, shifting his weight from pede to pede.

“No. They could be of use,” Blast Off said.

“For many, many things.” Vortex clicked his glossa and crouched down next to Bluestreak. “Oh, he doesn't look so good,” he commented as he tilted his helm and looked at Bluestreak. “Shouldn't ya be fixing him, medic?”

Ratchet tightened his grip on his blaster, keeping one hand on Bluestreak's side, over the torn line. “I don't work well with an audience.”

Vortex chuckled and leaned closer. “Maybe you should try. Go ahead. I won't stop you. Live Autobots are better than dead ones, I'm told.”

Ratchet's optics narrowed. He glanced past Vortex, at Ironhide on his back, leaking energon and pinned beneath a massive, shuttleformer pede. He tried his comm again, still got nothing but static. He was well aware of Brawl behind him, his blaster leveled at both Ratchet and Bluestreak.

“Ratchet?”

He gritted his denta and returned his attention to Bluestreak, reluctantly subspacing his blaster. Pain-dulled blue optics looked back at him. Bluestreak's plating had drawn tight, fear thick in the edges of his field.

“It's all right, Blue. I've got you,” Ratchet murmured, though his plating crawled under the weight of Vortex's scrutiny. He'd heard enough stories about the crazed interrogator to be cautious.

Bluestreak's gaze darted to Vortex in disbelief. He pinched his lips shut, said nothing further, and Ratchet couldn't blame him.

For an interrogator, for Vortex, words were weakness and weapons.

Ratchet gritted his denta and he got back to work, well aware of Vortex's gaze on him. But he focused instead on Bluestreak, while a portion of his processor tried to think of a way out of this. He couldn't see Bluestreak's blaster anywhere, and Ironhide was well and truly pinned.

There had to be a way.

That was when Ratchet felt the touch on his back, just below where his windshield folded against his backstrut. He stiffened, and Bluestreak's optics went wide.

“Don't mind me,” Vortex purred as he shifted to his pedes and circled to Ratchet's back, making his plating crawl. “I'm just investigating.”

Brawl made a loud, aggravated noise. “Tex, we don't have time--”

“Of course we do,” Vortex retorted, even louder. “Megatron is playin' with Prime right now, and no one cares what's goin' on over here. Besides, I didn't get to have my fun with the last one and somethin' tells me, I won't get this one either.”

Bluestreak made a low sound in his intake, one that Ratchet wanted to echo. He'd seen what had become of the mechs given to Vortex's care. He'd seen the ruins Jazz had retrieved, and the security footage of what they endured.

“We have time,” Blast Off said, the barrel of his blaster pressing to Ironhide's helm.

“See?” Vortex hummed a laugh and his hands started to roam, sliding over Ratchet's back and shoulders and sides, anything he could reach from behind. “Blast Off has spoken. We got time. So shuddup and enjoy the show.” He dug his fingers into a seam and tugged on a handful of cables. “Medic, get to work.”

Ratchet cycled a ventilation and caught Bluestreak's gaze, comforting with a look as best he could. He obeyed.

Even when he heard the click of an interface panel opening and felt the wet scrape of a spike against his back and aft. Ratchet shuddered and worked as fast as he could.

“Get your filthy hands offa him!” Ironhide snarled, his ventilations stuttered and wheezing, sounding wet. Blast Off had ruptured something internally, cracked several vents by the sound of it.

And then there was a horrible grinding, scraping noise as Blast Off bore down a little, causing Ironhide's shouts to devolve into static.

“Don't kill him yet, Thrusters,” Vortex said conversationally as he rutted against Ratchet's back.

“I won't. But do hurry. As much as I enjoy watching you work, we have better things to do.”

Ratchet chewed on the inside of his cheek plating and swallowed down rising nausea. He forced himself not to track the wet streaks of fluid against his aft and back. Or the way Vortex ventilated hotly down on him, or how Vortex would pluck at his seams and exposed cables.

“I could have so much fun with ya,” Vortex said, something like disappointment in his voice. “Medics got all these protocols, way to turn things off. It's a challenge to get 'em to scream.”

Brawl muttered something, and Ratchet heard the crunch of heavy footsteps, as though the tank wandered away out of boredom.

Vortex, however, only laughed. “You're so boring, Brawlie!” He pulled back and smacked Ratchet's aft, startling Ratchet and nearly causing him to tear a line he'd just patched.

“Ya 'Con scum!” Ironhide snarled.

“It must rankle, doesn't it?” Vortex retorted with amusement thick in his field. It was suffocating to feel it push down on Ratchet, heavy like a blanket. “Can't do anythin', can ya? Some bodyguard ya are.”

Bluestreak's face twisted with anger, but Ratchet shook his helm sharply, cutting off the younger mech before he could say something to provoke Vortex. He wasn't sure what the Cons wanted right now, except to cause humiliation and pain.

If only he could say as much to Ironhide.

“Frag you!”

Ratchet bit his lip. He was getting close to finishing triage on Bluestreak. A few more tied lines and removed shrapnel, and maybe he could actually get Bluestreak on his pedes, enough to get away.

He ignored the wet sounds of Vortex behind him, which he assumed to be the rotary jacking himself as only one of his hands was on Ratchet, currently gripping the back of Ratchet's neck as though in warning.

It was just so… pointless. And Ratchet suspected that was the point of it. Interrogation wasn't all whips and chains and electro-prods. It was also wearing down the strength of your victim and giving them nowhere else to turn.

“Vortex, it is time to go,” Blast Off said. “The fallback has been called. Both sides are retreating.”

Vortex huffed. “Almost. Done,” he bit out and followed it up with a laugh, his fingers pinching Ratchet's neck from behind.

He surged forward, rubbed his front against Ratchet's back, and then Ratchet felt the hot, wet splatter of transfluid against his plating. Vortex marked him everywhere, a low moan leaving his mouth as he overloaded. He followed it up with a laugh and then rubbed the head of his spike all over Ratchet's aft, smearing the transfluid.

“Not as good as a full session, but it's a start,” the rotary breathed.

Ratchet gnawed on his bottom lip to stop the surge of nausea. He refused to look at Bluestreak, couldn't bear to see the younger mech's fear or pity. He just held himself still, tried not to shake, and tried not to listen to the sound of Ironhide raging.

Brawl stomped back, coming into Ratchet's peripheral vision. “Can we go now? My treads're itching.”

“Yes,” Blast Off said. “It is time to leave. Onslaught wants us to bring the medic. He thinks he'll be of use.”

“What about the others?” Vortex asked as Ratchet heard the squeak-click of him rising to his pedes, as casual as you please.

The time to act was now. They were distracted, chatting amongst themselves, certain they had their prisoners cowed.

Ratchet braced himself. If he could take down Vortex, perhaps he could use Vortex against his gestalt-mates. There was a bond, right? Surely they would be desperate to protect one another.

And then Ratchet heard the shrill whine of a powerful blaster cycling into ready mode. “The Prime's Bodyguard is too much trouble,” Blast Off said.

Ratchet's helm snapped up just as Blast Off stepped back and fired. Ratchet's entire body jerked with horror as the Combaticon coldly executed Ironhide, without giving him even a chance to defend himself.

“No!” Ratchet scrambled to his pedes, not thinking, only running on emergency protocols.

“What are you-- why did you--” He lurched forward, scrambling, but Vortex grabbed his arm and yanked him back.

He slapped a pair of stasis cuffs around Ratchet's wrists before Ratchet could blink and shoved him back down to his knees.

“He wasn't as valuable as you are,” Vortex said, all trace of amusement from his vocals. “Simple economics, medic.”

Not as valuable…?

Bluestreak.

Ratchet lurched forward, shoving himself with the tips of his pedes, and he must have startled Vortex because he managed to get free. He wasn't thinking rationally, only that he couldn't lose Bluestreak, too, and he stumbled over a piece of debris. He landed hard on his side, shoulder slamming into something that made his armor dent, but he shoved himself a few more feet until he could put himself over Bluestreak, who was struggling to get up and stressing the new welds.

“Well,” Vortex drawled as he stalked forward. “That was entertaining.”

Blast Off growled. “We don't have time for this.”

“I know that. Sheesh.” Vortex's visor gleamed a baleful crimson before he reached down and hauled Ratchet back up.

Ratchet struggled, trying to use his heavier mass to his advantage, but all Vortex did was casually shove him in Blast Off's direction and here, Ratchet's mass had no effect. The shuttle held him with one hand.

“Besides, I didn't say we were killing the cute Praxian. Not yet anyway.” Vortex bent and hauled Bluestreak up, easily tossing the sharpshooter over his shoulder. “I never underestimate the value of a little leverage.”

There was no relief as Bluestreak cried out from the pain. Ratchet could only stare dully at Ironhide's gray frame, remembering so clearly how they had been teasing each other only a half hour before hand. How Ironhide had insisted on accompanying Ratchet because he never looked after himself.

How this could only be Ratchet's fault.

His spark ached. He kept looking, sending out scans, and they all told him the same truth. That even if he broke free of Blast Off, there was no saving Ironhide. Not from such a wound. Not without a spark to stabilize.

He had done this. Ironhide should have stayed with Prime!

They dragged him off, laughing and chatting amid themselves. Ratchet tried to fight against Blast Off's grip, but it was unrelenting. He couldn't do anything when Blast Off threw him at Brawl momentarily, before they loaded their Autobot prisoners into the shuttle.

Ratchet could only stare in Ironhide's general direction, while Bluestreak tried not to weep, and Ratchet clenched his denta so tightly that the metal shrieked. His optics burned. His spark sat like a leaden lump.

Ironhide was gone.

It happened so quickly. He didn't believe his optics. He didn't want to believe the timestamps on his short term memory.

Ironhide was gone.

~



It was hard not to feel like a prize or a trophy, as Ratchet was dragged through a crowd of staring Decepticons and planted in front of Megatron with pride. Three-fifths of the Combaticons formed a semi-circle behind him though it was Onslaught who had a firm grip on the end of Ratchet's chains.

Megatron smirked as he descended from his makeshift throne, his crimson optics as smug as a Decepticon warlord could be.

“I am impressed, Commander Onslaught,” he said as he came to stand in front of Ratchet, looking down at him while addressing Onslaught. “Autobot prisoners are easy to come by, but you've brought me their Chief Medical Officer and Optimus' close, personal friend.”

Megatron reached down and though Ratchet tried to move away, there was no escaping the harsh grip on his chin, the way Megatron forced Ratchet to look up at him. Disgust rippled across his plating, along with a heavy dose of disdain.

“Is that not right, Ratchet?” Megatron asked, almost a purr if Ratchet dared give that tone a name.

He glared. “You will learn that I am not easily hacked, Megatron,” Ratchet snarled. Fear was not something he was willing to show, no matter what atrocities Vortex had committed on his person.

Fear only fed these monsters.

Megatron chuckled and stroked his chin with the pad of his thumb. “Hack you? Whatever makes you think I would do such a thing? You have much more value than that.”

Ratchet's plating crawled as though a horde of scraplets had set up berth beneath it.

“I thought you didn't harm medics?” Ratchet demanded.

Megatron leaned down, his ventilations cycling as though he were inhaling Ratchet's scent, which was more than a little creepy. “I didn't say I was going to hurt you,” he said, and ex-vented hotly over Ratchet's chevron. “That would be counterproductive.”

“Lord Megatron.”

The warlord paused, looking up from Ratchet, and Ratchet didn't think for a moment to cycle relief. It was only a temporary reprieve as Megatron's hold hadn't loosened.

“What is it?” Megatron demanded, impatient.

There was a scrape of metal on metal, a grating of unmaintenanced gears. “There was another as well. A Praxian sniper. I had Vortex and Brawl take him to the brig.”

“Two Autobot prisoners?” Megatron chuckled and returned his gaze to Ratchet. “Today has been fortuitous indeed.”

He let go of Ratchet's chin and took a step back. “Soundwave, escort our new guest to more fitting accommodations. Make sure that he's comfortable.”

“I want to see Bluestreak,” Ratchet snapped, tugging hard at the cuffs keeping his wrists together. “He's going to die if you don't let me look at him.” Perhaps an overstatement, but if it meant he could attend to Bluestreak, he would lie, lie, lie.

“All in due time,” Megatron said as his third in command stepped forward, mask and visor betraying nothing in Soundwave's expression.

Ratchet heard rumor that he was all but a drone. That he had no emotions and very little will, save an undying loyalty to Megatron. Ratchet didn't know if any of it was true, save that when he looked at Soundwave, a chill slithered down his spinal strut.

Soundwave, however, was nothing but business-like as he took Ratchet in hand and led him out of the command center, away from Megatron's penetrating stare.

He was taken to the brig.

Ratchet had never been captured before; his usual post at Optimus' side meant he didn't often see battle first-hand. They never anticipated the Decepticons would take him prisoner. He didn't have any of the training the others did.

He regretted not taking that opportunity now.

But he had the utmost faith in their Special Ops Division, in Jazz. Ratchet had lost count of the number of times they had slipped in and out of Decepticon bases. Surely now would not be any different. Would Ratchet not be a high priority? And Smokescreen wouldn't rest until he received word of his brother.

Ironhide's death would not be unavenged.

Ratchet's spark squeezed. He forced himself not to think of Ironhide, not to replay that moment over and over in his helm. He didn't want the memory of Ironhide going gray or Ironhide's cold execution. He needed to stay calm and rational if he was going to survive.

So he forced himself to bury it deep. He layered medical protocols on top of the grief, binding it up in rules and regulations and survivor's instincts. He could mourn later. He could castigate himself for his failures when Bluestreak's spark wasn't on the line. He had to life, for Bluestreak's sake if no one else's. Optimus had already lost Ironhide today. Ratchet did not want to make it worse.

They took his weapons and his comm suite . They emptied his subspace, an unrepentant violation, and shoved him into a narrow cell where he had no room to lie down or transform, with only a tiny bench to sit on. The energy bars gleamed a dull, baleful orange at him, and Ratchet didn't need his sensors to tell him they would give off a powerful enough shock to knock him offline for several cycles if he so much as touched them.

Soundwave left him alone without a word.

No, not entirely alone.

Ratchet cycled a ventilation and didn't know whether to be relieved or worried. Bluestreak was down here, too. He was in a cell opposite of Ratchet's, one slightly bigger as it gave him a berth to lay on. He was unconscious at the moment, but Ratchet's hasty field welds seemed to be holding.

That was… a certain definition of good.

Ratchet lowered himself down to the bench he'd been supplied and buried his face in his hands. His backplate itched where Vortex's transfluid had seeped between his seams and dried against his cables. That, too, was a memory he could do without.

He didn't care that there was a camera in the corner, recording his every movement. He needed to get himself together, to figure what he was going to do next. He had to keep himself and Bluestreak alive until the Autobots came.

He couldn't afford to be weak.

~



Ratchet did not recharge. He couldn't bring himself to relax or even indulge in a light doze. Instead, he ran on emergency protocols, shutting down systems he did not need and conserving his energy as much as possible. He didn't know if the Decepticons would leave him here to rot, if they'd bother to supply energon to their prisoners, or if he would be dragged away for interrogation.

He tried to prepare himself for anything, but even Ratchet couldn't help being confused when he heard the distant sound of a door rattling open, and then someone singing. Whoever it was had a pleasant voice, but that they chose to sing a bawdy bar song seemed highly inappropriate.

The mech who came into view was a Seeker, dark purple and black. Ratchet recognized him as one of the Command Trine, Skywarp he believed. Ratchet straightened, eying the Seeker warily as Skywarp all but pranced into view. He peered into Bluestreak's cell first and then whirled toward Ratchet, a huge grin on his lips.

“Good morning!” Skywarp sang, bouncing on his heelstruts. “Ready for your first day of work?”

Ratchet narrowed his optics. “I don't know what you mean.”

Skywarp chuckled. “What? You think we're going to ignore the fact we have the Autobots' best medic in our basement? You're dumber than we thought.” His smirk widened. “We're putting you to work, medic. So come on. Up and at 'em.”

Ratchet stared. “You believe I'm going to willingly repair Decepticons?”

Skywarp tilted his helm, one wing flicking aside and giving Ratchet a direct line of sight to Bluestreak. “I think that if you want your pretty friend over there to survive the night, you will.”

It was to be manipulation then. Ratchet should have seen this coming.

He gritted his denta. “If I do as I'm told, you'll allow me to repair Bluestreak?”

Skywarp pressed a hand over his spark. “Seeker's honor,” he said, and winked.

Seeker's honor, his aft. Ratchet didn't know there was such a thing. But he rose to his pedes and approached the energy bars.

“He needs energon,” Ratchet said. “Fresh static bandages. And I'll need my microwelder back.” They'd taken it from his subspace along with every other piece of medical equipment that wasn't attached to his frame.

“Of course. Of course.” Skywarp waved a hand of dismissal and slammed his palm on the control panel for Ratchet's cell. The energy fizzled out of the bars, leaving only the metal behind. “Hands through the bars, medic.”

Ratchet worked his jaw. To obey or not to obey? Would it matter? Would they really give him what he needed to fix Bluestreak? Would his cooperation earn him anything?

“Or I could just leave ya both down here to rust,” Skywarp said with a shrug. “Don't matter to me. I'll just take this cube of energon and be on my way.”

“Fine,” Ratchet gritted out.

He approached the bars and shoved his hands through them. Skywarp grinned as he smacked a pair of stasis cuffs over Ratchet's wrists, low-powered ones that drained the energy from Ratchet's frame and made him feel weak.

“Good choice.” Skywarp hit the panel again and the door to Ratchet's cell slid open, leaving room for Skywarp to enter. “Not that I think you're a threat or anything. But Star's been telling me to be more careful.”

“Do you ever shut up?” Ratchet demanded.

“Not if I can help it.” Skywarp laughed and moved behind Ratchet.

He braced himself, prepared for the Seeker to reach around him, uncuff his arms and recuff them behind his back. Or perhaps attach some kind of control device.

What he was not prepared for were the hands on his shoulders that then dragged down his backplate and rested on his hips. Skywarp pressed against him from behind, larger and heavier, with hot ex-vents that buffeted his frame.

“What are you doing?” Ratchet snarled as he tried to pull away, but there was nowhere to go, bars in front of him and Skywarp behind.

“You know, you're not that ugly for a grounder,” Skywarp said as his hands wandered, groping over Ratchet's frame in casual exploration. “And no wonder, given what I've heard about you.”

“Talk your slagging hands off of me!” Ratchet tried to twist away, strike back against the Seeker behind him, but Skywarp kicked his legs apart and shoved a knee between them.

Skywarp clucked his glossa. “Tsk, tsk, medic. Behave now.” He reached a hand around Ratchet and cupped his intake, taloned thumb pressing up against the hollow of Ratchet's chin. “You have to carry your weight around here, you know. It's only fair.”

“I was given to understand that by performing my duty, that was work enough,” Ratchet retorted. Disgust coiled in his internals. His tank rolled.

“For some maybe. Not me.” Skywarp pressed harder against him, rolling his hips against Ratchet's aft. “The Constructicons are so stiff and insular, and don't even get me started on Knock Out. Only likes tires, my aft. Have I ever told you how much I like medics?” Metal scraped on metal as he ground against Ratchet's aft, his ventilations quickening.

Ratchet squeezed his optics shut. “Get the frag off me!”

“Oh, I plan to get off. I plan to get off a lot.” Skywarp laughed and pressed his mouth to Ratchet's audial, scraping his denta along it. “You could cooperate, make it easier.” He shoved a hand between Ratchet's legs, scraping his claws over Ratchet's modesty panels. “Or I could tear these off the hard way, keep them, and let you wander around the base with your goods on display. Open invitation, yeah?”

Dread dropped so quickly into Ratchet's tanks that he had to resist the urge to purge. He swayed, helm tilting forward against the bars.

He had no doubt that Skywarp was telling the truth.

The edge of a talon notched into the thin seam of Ratchet's panel. “Chrono's ticking, medic,” Skywarp crooned.

Ratchet gritted his denta, pulled his hands into fists, and manually triggered his modesty panels open, baring his valve and recessed spike to the Seeker's molestations. Cold air wafted against his exposed components. His spike retracted all the further, if that was even possible.

“Much better,” Skywarp said as he traced the rim of Ratchet's valve with a finger. He flicked the tip over Ratchet's recessed anterior nub and then slid said finger into Ratchet's valve. “Except a little too dry for my tastes. Do something about that, medic.”

“I am not going to make this easier for you,” Ratchet snarled as he cycled a rapid ventilation.

“So you'd rather it hurt, huh? I can fly with that. A little pain can make anything feel better.” Skywarp licked at his audial again and shoved another finger into Ratchet's valve, thrusting the two of them against the barely lubricated sides.

But then he withdrew them, found Ratchet's nub, and started to flick it, over and over, an almost gentle touch that made Ratchet's hips jerk. He twitched and clamped his mouth shut and disabled his vocalizer so that Skywarp couldn't hear the sounds in his intake.

Skywarp purred and his hand disappeared for a moment. Ratchet heard the wet noises of him licking his fingers before they returned to Ratchet's valve. One damp fingertip circled his node while another finger slid into Ratchet's valve. Despite himself, a light heat wound through Ratchet's groin, and the thinnest drip of lubricant welled up in his valve.

It was better than getting damaged, Ratchet supposed. He doubted that a little damage would dissuade any other Decepticon from taking advantage.

“Mmm. That's better. I mean, it's okay if you want to hurt, but I don't want to. Not yet anyway.”

Skywarp's free hand circled around Ratchet's front, thumb dipping into Ratchet's recessed spike sheath and playing with the head of his spike. He applied firmer pressure to Ratchet's outer node with his free hand until a bit more lubricant flowed freely.

Ratchet tried to distant himself. He tried to focus on anything else but Skywarp shamelessly touching him and rutting against his aft, his already pressurized spike leaving wet streaks over Ratchet's plating. He was ventilating hot and damp, too, as though he got off on fingering unwilling prisoners. And well, of course he did, he was here, wasn't he?

Ratchet worked his intake and tried to go away. Somewhere else. Somewhere Skywarp wasn't giggling to himself and talking to himself and gripping Ratchet's hips and lining up and pushing inside, slow and scraping, and moaning with delight as his spike scraped a path inside of Ratchet's valve.

But as much as Ratchet tried to escape, there was no ignoring the burn and ache that spread through his valve. The way his calipers shivered and clamped down and tried to reject the intruder, but Skywarp barreled his way inside anyway. He pushed himself deep and purred with delight. He wrapped his arms around Ratchet from behind as if they were lovers. His hands caressed Ratchet's chest as he circled his hips, grinding into Ratchet's valve.

“Primus, I love medics,” Skywarp said with a shiver. His denta scraped over Ratchet's audials, over his helm. “Maybe I can convince ya to give me an examination later, yeah?”

Ratchet growled. He wished Skywarp would just shut the frag up and get it over with.

“Mmm. A Seeker can dream.” Skywarp giggled again and drew back, only so he could grip Ratchet's hips and set up a pace, sliding in and out of Ratchet's valve with an almost logical precision.

In the distance, Ratchet heard the squeak and slam of a door being opened. He couldn't see very far down the hall, but he could hear rapid pedesteps. Great. Someone else to witness his humiliation. Thank Primus Bluestreak was still unconscious.

Thundercracker came into view and his optics narrowed when he caught sight of Ratchet and Skywarp behind him. He frowned, wings flicking back with evident irritation.

“Skywarp! I've been looking for you for fifteen minutes! Why aren't you answering your comm?” Thundercracker demanded all without a glance at Ratchet.

Skywarp pushed in deep and held himself there, his spike throbbing eagerly. “I've been a little busy, as you can see. Why don't you join me?”

“He was supposed to be in the medbay already, so no, I'm not going to join you. Hurry up and finish!”

“Okay, okay. Sheesh.” Skywarp pulled back his hips and started to thrust again, his ventilations stuttering as his pace increased until he was slamming into Ratchet. “But way to ruin a mood there, TC.”

Thundercracker rolled his optics and turned away, folding his arms over his cockpit. The only indication that he was disturbed was the flicking of his wings.

Right. Because of all of them, Thundercracker was the one who had the right to be disturbed. Not Ratchet, who had to hold back his purge as Skywarp took his valve as though it was his right.

Endure, he told himself. Because Jazz was certainly looking for them.

“Guess I can't keep holding back then,” Skywarp muttered subvocally, and his thrusts increased in earnest.

He gripped Ratchet hard enough to dent metal and slammed into Ratchet, shoving Ratchet against the bars with each forward shove. His valve lining burned. His ventilations stuttered. He prayed to a god who wasn't listening that Skywarp would just finish.

He almost sobbed with relief when Skywarp finally overloaded, spilling his release deep into Ratchet's valve, the searing heat of it washing over Ratchet's abused lining. Skywarp crowed his delight, his fingers flexing on Ratchet's hips. He held himself deep, circling his hips to drag out his own pleasure.

Skywarp sighed. “I could get used to this,” he said and pulled out, a trail of transfluid seeping free in his wake. He patted Ratchet's aft. “You can close up now.”

Because walking around with a Seeker's transfluid trapped in his valve was Ratchet's idea of a good time.

He swallowed down another rise of purge and obeyed. He was shaking, Ratchet realized, and he tried to hide it. There was something more unsettling about the casual way Skywarp had taken him compared to Vortex's obvious sadistic manipulations. Ratchet couldn't and didn't want to examine the reasons why.

He just wanted Skywarp to stop touching him.

Skywarp pulled back and Ratchet heard the sounds of him wiping himself clean. He heard plating shifting as though Skywarp was stretching and then the Seeker left the cell. He circled around to Ratchet's front, smiling brightly.

“We should do this again sometime,” he said as he leaned in close to Ratchet's face, as though aiming for a kiss.

Ratchet jerked back so fast he caught his wrists on the bars and almost tripped on his own pedes.

“Are you done playing now?” Thundercracker demanded turned back around, giving his trinemate a disgusted look. “Scrapper's been pinging me for the last two minutes.”

Skywarp flopped a hand dismissively. “Yeah, I'm done. And since you care so much, you take him up to medbay,” he said, poking Thundercracker in his cockpit. He tossed the key to Ratchet's cuffs with his other hand. “I need a shower.”

Thundercracker rolled his optics and snatched the key. He came into the cell, unlocked Ratchet, and took him by the arm.

“Come on,” he muttered as though Ratchet were the inconvenience here. “I have better things to do than take care of Megatron's newest project.”

Ratchet said nothing, unwilling to agitate the Seeker further. Cooperation, so far, was in his best interest.

He peeked into Bluestreak's cell as he was dragged past, but the sniper was still unconscious. He looked to be untouched. Ratchet hoped he stayed that way. And as for Skywarp, he was already gone, off to the washracks no doubt, like he was the one tainted.

Thundercracker dragged Ratchet through the halls and two levels up to what was obviously the medbay. There Ratchet was deposited into Scrapper's supervision. The Constructicon Commander gave Ratchet a long, dismissing look.

“And I'm supposed to trust that an Autobot medic will come in here and do things properly?” he demanded.

Thundercracker shrugged. “Do with him whatever you want. He's got to earn his keep somehow.” He left, his duty done.

Ratchet clamped down on the odd feeling that he was a chore no one wanted, but they all refused to free.

Scrapper sighed and scrubbed his face. “I suppose I do have tasks that the others refuse.” He eyed Ratchet. “You'll behave.”

“I'll do what I have to do,” Ratchet retorted. Deep in the Decepticon base and surrounded by enemies? What other choice did he have?

“That will suffice I suppose. Something is better than nothing.”

And so Ratchet worked. He kept his helm down. He did as he was told, even when those orders came from Hook. The other Constructicons were polite, if distant, but Hook took special pleasure in being as demeaning as possible.

Ratchet bit his glossa and obeyed. He reminded himself that his and Bluestreak's survival depended on Ratchet's ability to behave. Help would come eventually.

So he scrubbed the berths and changed filters and did every task that would normally be reserved for interns or punishment. He mopped up spills and changed fluids and hauled out refuse. He endured the aft-slapping and the casual groping. He bit his glossa so often he tasted his own energon.

But it wasn't until he'd been tasked with scrubbing scavenged parts that his plating prickled. Unease made his plating clamp, made his valve ache. Skywarp couldn't be the only Decepticon who expected Ratchet to earn his keep as some kind of pleasurebot.

“Skywarp tells me you requested a microwelder.”

Ratchet stiffened. Hook. Of course it was Hook.

“I do.” He scrubbed harder at the dirty tools. “I was told that I could earn one with good behavior.”

Hook snorted. “Maybe by Skywarp's terms. I'm not convinced you deserve one.”

The ambient noise in the medbay had quieted. Ratchet's plating prickled further. He knew that he and Hook were attracting the attention of everyone in the medbay. The tension between them had been thick all day, and now it reached a breaking point.

Ratchet rested his forearms against the side of the sink and glanced over his shoulder. “Then what you have me do, sir?” he asked, the show of respect tasting like slag on his glossa. Hook deserved nothing of respect from him.

“That depends on how much you want it,” Hook replied. “And how much your dignity is worth to you, Chief Medical Officer.”

Damn mechs and their jealousies.

Ratchet ground his denta together and pulled his arms from the sink, dropping the scrubbing mesh back into the solvent. He dried himself and then slowly turned, reading implication and intent in Hook's smarmy visor.

“You're pathetic,” he said, subvocal, even as he knew exactly what Hook was asking for. It was petty and pointless, and Ratchet wished he could be more surprised.

But apparently even medical academy grudges could carry all the way through a planet-wide civil war.

“Humiliating me is not going to make you a better medic,” Ratchet said even as he sank to his knees. Given their height difference, it put him at optic-level with the Constructicon's modesty panel.

Hook folded his arms and stared down at Ratchet. “I already am the better medic,” he retorted. “This just puts you in your place. So do as you're told.”

Ratchet grimaced.

He lifted his hands, intending on resting them on Hook's hips, but they were smacked away just as quickly.

“Don't touch me with those filthy things,” the Constructicon snapped. “Primus only knows where they've been.”

Ratchet gritted his denta so hard he heard a skreel of metal. He ducked his helm, refusing to look up at Hook, yet Hook take his anger for defiance and demand something worse. Ratchet said nothing and leaned forward, pressing his mouth to Hook's modesty panel.

Hook was going to make him work for it apparently. Of course he would.

The fragging bastard.

Ratchet traced Hook's panel with the tip of his glossa, mapping the seams. He distanced himself, focus going inward, letting his body work on auto. He refused to pretend that Hook was someone else, that he was doing this willingly. Instead, he let resentment and anger build, let himself shake with it, let it fill his field until Hook had to feel it, too.

Or maybe that was the wrong move to make, because Hook seemed to delight in it. He made a low sound of satisfaction and his panels snapped open. His anterior node was already flickering with eagerness. His spike surged into view, a thickly banded length that would be beyond the edge of comfort for Ratchet's mouth.

“Treat me with care, Ratchet,” Hook purred. “And perhaps you might earn more than a microwelder.”

Ratchet shuddered but obediently parted his lips, sucking the head of Hook's spike into his mouth. At least the Constructicon was clean, tasting of nothing but hot metal and the first pearls of pre-fluid. His spike throbbed, as though anticipation had brought him halfway to overload.

Ratchet shuttered his optics and took Hook deeper into his mouth, resisting the urge to bite down and cause harm. He didn't dare test the consequences of misbehavior. They might choose instead to visit those upon Bluestreak, who was in no condition to endure anything at the moment.

Above him, Hook made a pleased sound and his frame shivered. He rocked his hips forward, pushing into Ratchet's mouth, the thickening base of his spike stretching Ratchet's mouth wide. He cringed and stroked Hook's spike with his glossa, hoping to get the Constructicon off as quickly as possible so this could be over.

“That is a good look for you,” Hook mused aloud as he rolled his hips, pushing deep, until the head of his spike bumped the back of Ratchet's intake. “On your knees with my spike in your mouth. I feel it is where you belong.”

Ratchet's hands clenched on his knees. He tried to ignore the sound of Hook's voice, concentrate instead on everything else. But that only made him more aware of the fact they had an audience, that patients and medics alike were staring, watching Hook get serviced by their Autobot prisoner.

“It shouldn't be a trial, after all,” Hook continued.

Great, Ratchet inwardly groaned. Another Decepticon in love with the sound of his voice. Did all Decepticons chatter as much during interfacing as Hook and Skywarp did?

“I hear you spent much of your medical residency like this. I heard you'd bend over for anyone who smiled at you.” Hook's thrusts increased in earnest, until Ratchet stilled himself, letting Hook use his mouth as he pleased. “I hear that your berth held an open invitation. And yet, I never received one.”

Jealousy and old grudges. Wonderful.

Hook's hand landed on Ratchet's helm, holding him in place. He thrust harder, knocking against the back of Ratchet's intake with every thrust. Ratchet gagged, his intake rejecting the intrusion, but Hook's grip was firm.

“You accepted everyone's advances but mine,” Hook panted, his vocals taking on a whine. “You won every reward that should have been mine.” A small whine built in his engine.

Ratchet gripped his thighs harder, so that he wouldn't grab Hook's hips to make him back off. He redirected his ventilations. He ignored the oral lubricant dribbling from the corners of his mouth. His jaw ached.

Hook shoved into his mouth, his spike swelling and throbbing, his panel radiating heat.

“And all the while, I knew this was where you belonged.” Hook gasped, his ventilations spinning faster and faster. Ratchet could hear them clicking, like he needed maintenance.

More pre-fluid dribbled down Ratchet's intake. Hook had to be close. He was wheezing hot vents. He held Ratchet's helm in place. His spike scraped over Ratchet's glossa, the ridges catching on Ratchet's denta despite his best effort.

“Ah,” Hook moaned and his thrusts stuttered into sharper jabs. His spike pulsed out of rhythm to his thrusts.

The first splash of transfluid hit the back of Ratchet's glossa before Hook curled his fingers around the back of Ratchet's helm and shoved him forward, his nose pressed to Hook's groin paneling.

Pain throbbed through his intake as Hook ground his spikehead against the back of the delicate lining. Pulse after pulse of transfluid shot from Hook's spike, forcing Ratchet to swallow every drop. His intake convulsed, trying to expel the intruder, but Hook's grip was relentless.

Ratchet shook. Autonomics took over, trying to pull him back. Alerts crossed over his HUD, and Ratchet's optics abruptly onlined, giving him a close up view of Hook's purple panel. His arms lifted, responding to the urgency, intending to shove Hook away.

Hook beat him to it, abruptly releasing Ratchet's helm and pulling back. A final spurt landed on Ratchet's face as he dropped forward, intake rippling. Ratchet coughed, his tanks roiling, purge threatening to rise up and spill out. He braced himself on his hands, processor spinning, dizziness setting in.

The floor was rolling beneath him. He gasped in several ventilations, the taste of Hook inside his mouth and on his lips and glossa and down his intake. He swore it sat in his tank like a heavy weight, tainting him inside and out.

It dripped from his face down to the floor. It joined the few drips of oral lubricant from Ratchet's mouth.

Ratchet's fingers scraped on the floor. Sound rushed through his audials. His tank continued to convulse as his face flushed with heat.

Something clattered to the floor in front of him. Bleary vision clarified until Ratchet could identify that it was a microwelder.

“I think your performance earned that much,” Hook said, his pedes the only thing Ratchet could see.

Pedes that turned away and left Ratchet on the floor, struggling not to purge, with the taste of Hook in his mouth.

“And don't forget to clean up your mess,” Hook added, as a parting shot.

Ratchet left a scrape of red from his fingertips in the floor.

One cycle down.

He had to endure. For his own sake. For Bluestreak's. Until Jazz's team came or a trade went through.

He could do this.

It was only pain.

~



Three cycles passed in a haze of exhaustion and humiliation.

He worked his aft off in the medbay, repairing and maintenancing Decepticons who had no problems touching him, groping him, and mechhandling him. Ratchet could only bite his gloss and endure because if he protested, they withheld energon. They withheld supplies.

He had only to think of Bluestreak down in the brig, still in pain and hurting. It was incentive enough to behave.

Besides, he kept telling himself, the Autobots were coming.

Until three cycles passed and Ratchet remembered something Jazz had told him once. That if he and his team hadn't extracted an Autobot within the first three cycles, hope for actually retrieving the captured soldiers became next to nil. That oftentimes, beyond those three cycles, there was nothing Jazz and his team could do.

Three cycles had come and gone without so much as a sign that the Autobots were trying.

Ratchet couldn't bring himself to tell Bluestreak. He kept his mouth shut, tried to reassure the sharpshooter as much as possible, and told himself not to give up hope. Even when two more cycles passed and exhaustion tugged at every strut and Ratchet onlined every cycle with an unrelenting dread and a question on his lips.

Who would it be today?

On the sixth cycle, as it turned out, the answer to that question was Megatron.

Ratchet went unmolested throughout the entirety of his shift, which was odd in itself. Usually Hook, at least, got in a snide comment, or a rude touch. Or one of Ratchet's assigned patients would make lewd remarks, or grab his aft or grope his panels. But no one touched him, almost as if they were afraid to do so.

It was Soundwave who retrieved Ratchet from the medbay, rather than some other Decepticon grunt. It was Soundwave who shoved Ratchet into a private washrack and told him to clean himself.

Ratchet hadn't protested. He had five cycles worth of transfluid in his seams and on his armor and in his valve. He still had the grit and grime of the battle clinging to his frame. He stank and he was filthy and he knew it.

Perhaps Megatron wanted to pretty him up so that he would look good on the camera. Perhaps Megatron was taunting Optimus and wanted to put on a show, to parade his captive in front of the monitor while Optimus and his command staff watched on helplessly. That sort of sadistic behavior was typical for Megatron.

Once he was clean, Soundwave took him by the elbow again and off they went. Ratchet expected to be led to the command center, but instead he was taken down a residential hallway and given the titles on the doors, he didn't need two guesses as to where he was going.

Anxiety tightened into a knot in his tank. Ratchet's ventilations quickened, though he was careful to keep his expression clear and his field pulled as tight to his frame as he could manage. No doubt Soundwave could still read him.

They arrived at a large door that could only belong to Megatron, and Soundwave proved he had his master's loyalty as he knew the code that would grant him access. Soundwave pulled Ratchet inside, shoved him toward Megatron, bowed his helm in respect and then abandoned Ratchet to Megatron's attention.

The massive warlord was lounging in a comfortable chair, one hand gripping a decanter of what had to be high grade. His helm was tilted as he looked at Ratchet, lips curled with amusement.

“Welcome,” Megatron purred as his gaze leisurely raked Ratchet from helm to pede. “I trust you are enjoying Decepticon hospitality.”

Ratchet held his helm up. “I've had worse.”

Megatron chuckled and drained his high grade in one quick gulp. He crushed the decanter with one hand before climbing to his pedes.

Ratchet's spark thumped faster. He swallowed thickly, trying not to feel like a slide under a microscope as Megatron circled him.

“How long has it been since my Combaticons brought you to me, hm?” Megatron asked as he continued the slow, measured pace. “Five, six cycles? And yet, we've heard nothing from the Autobots. Haven't you wondered why?”

Ratchet's hands closed into fists. “I've been a bit busy,” he gritted out, “earning my keep.”

“Yes, I've heard.” Megatron hummed and paused behind Ratchet. He stepped close, close enough that Ratchet could feel the heat of his ex-vents. “And doing a good job of it, I hear. You're everyone's favorite entertainment.”

Ratchet gritted his denta so hard his jaw ached. “What do you want, Megatron?”

Hands rested on on his shoulders and slid down the length of his arms. It was a slow slide, near a caress, as Megatron dragged his hands back up again.

“I hear rumors,” the warlord murmured as he pressed against Ratchet's back, his powerful engine rumbling. “I know that you and Prime were friends before the war. You and Orion Pax were… close.” He hissed a ventilation and it was like he was sniffing Ratchet. “Close enough, perhaps, to share a berth?”

Ratchet's plating clamped down. He tried to pull into himself, but Megatron's hands on his shoulders were as heavy as weights. “I don't see where that's any of your business.”

Megatron chuckled. “That's because you have no imagination.” One hand slid down, curling around Ratchet's waist from behind. Megatron palmed his modesty panel, the heat of his hand searing. He tapped Ratchet's panel in command. “Open.”

So it was to be another rape then.

Ratchet almost laughed at Megatron's lack of imagination, except that a tremble had started in his stabilizers, and he couldn't seem to make it stop. He told himself he could do this. That Megatron was no different than Vortex or Skywarp or Hook or any of the others.

Ratchet triggered both panels open and held himself still as Megatron didn't immediately go for his valve, but teased at his spike sheath and tried to coax it free. He slipped his finger in, teased the head of it, and was gentle enough that Ratchet's frame was fooled into thinking he was having a good time. His spike started to emerge.

“Haven't you wondered how much the Autobots offered in exchange for you?” Megatron asked conversationally as one hand roamed over Ratchet's frame and the other continued to play with Ratchet's spike, coaxing it to full pressurization.

Ratchet offlined his optics and stood there passively. He could fight, and it would gain him pain. He could struggle, and it would earn him nothing. At least, if he didn't resist, Megatron would get this over with quickly.

“Whatever it was, I'm sure it wasn't enough for you,” Ratchet muttered.

Megatron chuckled into his audial. “Quite the opposite in fact. I'm sure they would have offered much, if I'd bothered to inform them that you were in my possession.”

Ratchet stiffened. “What?”

“As far as the Autobots are concerned, I have no idea where you are. Optimus has contacted me twice, he's quite worried about you, but I've told him that you are not here.”

Ratchet's optics widened. Surely Optimus didn't believe such a lie? Or was it arrogant for Ratchet to think he was that much of value to the Autobots? They were in a war, a battle for control of Cybertron. Why would the Autobots worry about one or two missing soldiers, even if one was their Chief Medical Officer?

Optimus would have to weigh the value of one soldier, even if said soldier was one of his oldest friends, over the good of the Autobots.

“So you see,” Megatron continued as he curled his hand around Ratchet's spike and started to lazily stroke him, each pull of his fist ending in a teasing rub of his thumb over the sensitive crown of it. “There is no one coming for you.”

“And that's supposed to, what, make me angry enough to defect?” Ratchet demanded. His hands hurt and he realized it was because he was clenching his fists.

Megatron said nothing at first. He only pushed harder against Ratchet's back and continued to stroke him, teasing him with the barest vestiges of pleasure. It was enough for automatic reactions to take over, to lubricate Ratchet's sore valve and set his spike into a steady throb. His ventilations quickened.

“It is only a truth,” Megatron finally said as pressed his helm to the back of Ratchet's, a parody of a lover's hold.

Ratchet cringed. “Do you not have anyone else willing to share your berth that you resort to your own prisoners?”

Megatron chuckled and bent down, ex-venting hotly into Ratchet's audial. “If you think you are shaming me, you are mistaken. After all, is this not part of the bargain that was struck?”

“You mean, that I was forced into?” Ratchet snarled as a violent tremor shook his entire frame. While his interface systems responded, his spark rebelled. Loathing grew within him, stronger and stronger.

“Then will you fight me?”

Megatron squeezed Ratchet's spike and stroked the tip of it, sending a frisson of heat up Ratchet's spinal strut. His knees wobbled at the unexpected burst of pleasure.

No one else had bothered to try and offer him any. Ratchet was starting to realize how much of a mercy that was.

“Will you resist?”

Megatron dragged his mouth down the side of Ratchet's neck, glossa tickling into the sensitive seams of it, his lips hot and wet.

It would have been seductive, pleasurable, if it weren't for the fact Ratchet would rather shoot Megatron in the spark then walk willingly to the mech's berth.

“Will I have to chain you to my berth?”

Ratchet forced himself to be still, to ignore the throb of his spike and the slow, restless clicking of his valve. Lubricant was gathering along the walls, stinging where it struck places that had been scraped raw from previous assaults.

“It sounds like that's what you want,” Ratchet muttered as he clenched his optics shut. “Do you want me to struggle, Megatron? Do you me want to fight you?”

Do you want me to pretend that I'm Optimus? Are you after some kind of sloppy seconds?

Gross.

Like the Pit Ratchet was going to admit that yes, he had been a frequent visitor to Optimus' berth. As far as he was concerned, that was a secret Ratchet would take to his death. It didn't matter what Megatron already suspected.

“I want you to give me whatever I ask,” Megatron replied with a thumb to the tip of Ratchet's spike. “And right now, that means I want you on the berth.”

Ratchet shuddered. “You could have said that from the start,” he grumbled and he eased himself free of Megatron's hold. His plating crawled as though scraplets had taken up residence beneath, but he forced himself to do as Megatron demanded.

It was, Ratchet realized as he pulled himself onto the berth, the first time someone had taken him on a berth. Anxiety wound through his spark as his processor conjured up all manner of terrible ways Megatron could break him. He was the Slagmaker, Unicron's Disciple. He was the stuff of nightmares.

And Ratchet had climbed into his berth as though he trusted Megatron not to hurt him.

The Decepticon warlord followed him, nudging himself between Ratchet's thighs, his hands skating up Ratchet's frame. He started at the medic's knees, then up his thighs, across his hips, over his abdominal armor, and across his chestplate. His hands slid to the side, resting on the berth to either side of Ratchet.

He smirked as he perched over Ratchet and then bent down and did the oddest thing. He kissed Ratchet, who parted his lips obediently, but otherwise did not respond to the kiss. Such an oddly gentle thing, a sweep of Megatron's gloss against his lips as Megatron's knee nudged against Ratchet's exposed components.

This was… not what Ratchet expected. And he didn't like it.

Megatron ended the kiss, and scooted back down, his hands cupping Ratchet's hips. His thumbs swept inward, caressing the paneling around Ratchet's pressurized spike and the swollen folds of his valve.

“Savoring the moment?” Ratchet demanded as he gripped the berth, inwardly begging for Megatron to hurry up and finish so he could return to his cell.

Megatron's glossa flicked over his lips. “Something to that effect,” he murmured and slid further down, until his mouth hovered over Ratchet's spike.

He looked up the length of Ratchet's optics, his crimson optics baleful and predatory. And then he licked Ratchet's spike, the last thing Ratchet expected him to do, sending a jolt of pleasure up Ratchet's spinal strut. He startled and had to resist the urge to slam his legs shut.

“What the frag are you doing?” he demanded and was alarmed at the huskiness in his own vocals.

Megatron chuckled and licked the length of Ratchet's spike. “You are a medic. Surely you can recognize this.” His mouth traveled lower and then the tip of his glossa flicked Ratchet's anterior node.

He jerked again as his nub throbbed. Megatron had already worked him up earlier and now that thin thread of pleasure was returning, as heinous as Ratchet found it. His pedes dug into the berth, heels pushing himself further up.

“Well, stop,” Ratchet hissed, his hand shooting down, unconsciously thinking to push Megatron's helm away. “Stop dragging it out. That's not what I agreed to.”

Megatron let go of his hips and grabbed his ankles, yanking him back down into range of that warm and temping mouth. “You agreed to serve in whatever manner I deemed acceptable,” he said, and laved a long lick up the length of Ratchet's valve, ending with a heavy suck on Ratchet's nub.

His node sang with delight. His valve pulsed happiness. Gentleness and pleasure? His frame was eager to feel it. Not so his spark.

“No!” Ratchet thrashed and tried to kick his ankles free, even as he curled away from Megatron and shoved at him. “I don't want that!”

Assault he could take. This gentle pleasure? This mockery of what it meant to be with another? No. No, he could not submit to that.

“And now you fight?” Megatron said with nothing sort of a smirk. He surged upward, snatching Ratchet's wrists and slamming them to the berth to either side of his helm. “Now you resist.”

“Get off of me!” Ratchet snarled, twisting and turning his frame, but Megatron was too heavy between his thighs and his grip unrelenting on Ratchet's wrists.

Megatron leaned closer, as though intending to kiss him again, and Ratchet turned his helm, though that only bared his audial to Megatron's lips. “You passively endure everything else, but this you reject? Why is that I wonder? Do you want to be punished, medic?”

Ratchet's engine raced. “Just frag me and get it over with, you bastard! Quit playing this sick game so I can go back to my cell.”

Megatron chuckled and loosed his grip, but only so he could snap a pair of magnacuffs around Ratchet's wrists and secure his hands above his helm.

“I will decide how this game is played. Not you,” Megatron said as he sat back on his heels and stroked his hands down Ratchet's sides, to his hips. “And I will do as I please.”

He returned to his previous position, his hands cupping Ratchet's aft, his mouth ex-venting damp heat over Ratchet's valve. His anterior node throbbed with interest, his hips wiggling in Megatron's grasp.

“Stop!” Ratchet groaned as Megatron's mouth closed over his valve and Megatron's tongue lapped at his node.

Pleasure filtered through his circuits. His interface array warmed and tingles spread through his frame. His valve lubricated with genuine desire, and Ratchet hated every moment of it.

He didn't want to enjoy it. He needed it to be a punishment. To remind him that he was a prisoner, that he was risking everything to save Bluestreak, so that he couldn't think about all the Decepticons he was returning to the battlefield.

Megatron ignored him. He slid his glossa into Ratchet's valve, teased at the ring of nodes just within, and then suckled on Ratchet's nub. His thumbs made sweeping patterns around Ratchet's array, occasionally brushing the sensitive folds.

Ratchet's hips took up a rhythm of their own, rocking toward Megatron's mouth. He clenched his denta, biting back cries of pleasure. He felt the overload building inside of him, a rushing wave that he couldn't stop. Ratchet was helpless to the pleasure as it built and crashed down.

He shook, entire frame tensing, as his valve pulsed lubricant and Megatron's tongue worked gentle circles around his node, drawing out the pleasure. Ratchet's engine raced, his ventilations stuttering. He squeezed his optics shut but couldn't completely stop the thin whine that eked from his vocalizer.

Megatron pressed a kiss to Ratchet's external node and then shifted, rising up his knees and working himself between Ratchet's thighs. His hands stroked warm, soothing patterns over Ratchet's armor, even as he positioned his spike at Ratchet's valve, stroking the tip over the messy spill of lubricant.

“Is pleasure such a terrible thing?” the warlord rumbled as he cradled Ratchet's hips and slowly slid into Ratchet's valve. There was no resistance, though Ratchet's calipers fluttered around the invading length, his nodes still primed for pleasure.

Ratchet chewed on the inside of his cheek, hard enough to taste energon. “Don't make this anything more than it is,” he gritted out as he forced his optics online so that he could look down on the most terrible Decepticon of them all.

Crimson optics glowed back at him. “You aren't hurting, are you?” Megatron asked as he fully sheathed himself, his spikehead rolling against Ratchet's ceiling node, causing crackles of pleasure to spike through Ratchet's valve.

Megatron set up a slow rhythm, a gentle rocking that excited every node in Ratchet's valve and set them to singing. One hand kept a grip on Ratchet's hips, while the other began petting his spike and external node all over again.

“Pain is the point!” Ratchet snarled.

Megatron tilted his helm and pushed in deep, rolling his hips so that his spike ground against Ratchet's ceiling node. Sharp bursts of pleasure peppered his array, and he felt himself cycling up toward another overload, having never fully cycled down from the first. His entire frame was eager for it, desperate almost, as if the last several cycles of pain and anxiety made him desperate for a change.

Megatron's thumb rubbed harder on his anterior node, his spike stroking curls of pleasure throughout Ratchet's valve.

“Pain,” Megatron said in a low, even tone, “is not the only punishment.”

Ratchet gritted his denta. The stench of interfacing was so thick in the room, it seeped into his olfactory sensors and his vent filters. He couldn't escape it, or the warmth of Megatron above him and within him.

He tried to resist, to focus solely on all the humiliation he had suffered, calling it again and again to his immediate memory but nothing helped. His frame remained helpless to the pleasure Megatron was inflicting on him. To the steady slide of spike over his primed valve nodes and the gentle sweep of Megatron's thumb on his anterior node.

Ratchet overloaded again, a helpless noise escaping his vocalizer as he clenched down on Megatron's spike, calipers hungrily flexing around the thick length. Lubricant pulsed from his valve, squeezed out around Megatron's spike. His cooling fans roared, loud enough to rattle.

A languor seeped into his frame. Charge danced out from under his armor. He was shaking, minute tremors, as the pleasure rippled through his frame and then lingered. Because Megatron wasn't done. Megatron was still touching him. His thumb had moved from Ratchet's node to his spike, still determinedly pressurized.

Now Megatron was squeezing Ratchet's spike. His fingers were damp from Ratchet's own lubricant. He stroked Ratchet in a perfect rhythm, one designed to evoke pleasure, and Ratchet's systems surged toward it. His frame was eager, if not hungry, for it. His spike throbbed.

Something like a plea for mercy bobbed on his lips, but pride made him swallow it back down. Made him squeeze his expression into a grimace and endure.

“There are worse things,” Megatron murmured, his vocals slithering into Ratchet's audials and permeating every thought. “Then a little pleasure.”

He thrust harder into Ratchet, their armor ringing together. Ratchet could hear Megatron panting, could feel the heat radiating off the warlord. Megatron's spike was pulsing, crackles of charge spilling off his spike nodes. He was approaching overload of his own, yet he continued to stroke and tease Ratchet's spike.

Stop.

The request got no further than Ratchet's internal thoughts.

He was exhausted. He didn't recharge well. He worked long shifts. He was in a constant state of alert and anxiety. Two overloads had already drained his energy, and here Megatron was working toward a third, was determined to provoke a third.

No more.

He wondered how much more he could take, could endure.

Where was Jazz? Where was Special Ops? Why wasn't Optimus more suspicious? Surely he had to know Megatron was lying to him?

A sick noise of despair rattled in his vocalizer, and Ratchet was ashamed to realize he hadn't concealed it.

His hips moved of their own accord, rising up into Megatron's thrusts. His spike throbbed, a disconnect of pleasure in his frame and disgust in his processor. They were separate, partitioned.

Logic dictated that frame pleasure was not the same as willing surrender. But logic had no place here. Only the sounds he made, like a desperate buymech eager to please, and the hungry clutching of his valve and the throbbing of his spike as it seeped a continuous stream of pre-fluid.

What came next was inevitable.

Overload took him again. Ratchet could not stop himself from keening, or his backstrut from arching, as his spike spurted and his valve clenched down hard, clutching eagerly at Megatron's spike. He shook, spark strobing, release stripping him raw.

He barely heard when Megatron followed him over, only felt the hot, wet splatter of Megatron's release within him. That humiliation was secondary to the moan that spilled from Ratchet's lips as Megatron stroked him through his overload. So gentle. So much like a lover.

Ratchet drew in heavy, rattling ventilations as Megatron pulled out and off of him. He felt the sticky wetness between his thighs and craved, in that moment, the washracks. He wanted boiling hot solvent, to stand under the spray and wash out the memories.

Megatron unlocked the cuffs, freeing Ratchet's wrists, and he drew his hands back down toward his torso. His entire frame sang with pleasure. He felt sated, and tense all at once.

And then Megatron cupped his face and Ratchet's optics flickered online out of surprise. The warlord was standing, but he bent over Ratchet and brushed their lips together. He hummed with pleasure, gave Ratchet the tenderest of kisses, and then pulled back.

“Thank you for your service,” Megatron murmured before he released Ratchet and stepped back, pulling a mesh cloth out of his subspace to wipe himself down.

Revulsion rippled through Ratchet's spark. His tank clenched and he snapped his thighs shut, pulling his knees together.

“And what did I earn this time?” Ratchet demanded, though it was with less venom than he would have liked.

Megatron turned his back to Ratchet, swiping something off his desk that when he returned, was revealed to be a cube of mid-grade. The dim glow of it reminded Ratchet of his own hunger, and of poor Bluestreak alone in the brig. Alone and afraid and forever worrying that Ratchet wouldn't return, that Bluestreak would be given Ironhide's fate.

“You performed well,” Megatron said as he set the cube down near Ratchet's helm. “This is yours. Drink it now or forfeit your right to it.”

In other words, Ratchet was not allowed to reserve it for Bluestreak.

Ratchet narrowed his optics. “Do you think you're being kind?”

“Kindness is an illusion,” Megatron replied with that damnable smirk. “Drink your energon.”

Ratchet pushed himself into a seated position, grimacing as he felt more fluids seep from his valve. The whole berth was soaked beneath his aft. “Let us go.”

Amusement radiated through Megatron's expression. “No.”

Ratchet chuffed a ventilation. “This is fragging pointless. Just kill me!”

“I won't do that either.” Megatron stalked back to the berth, grabbing the energon with one hand and Ratchet's chin with the other. “After all, trophies are meant to be kept, Chief Medical Officer Ratchet.” His thumb stroked Ratchet's bottom lip with false intimacy. “Now drink your energon. You'll need your strength.”

Megatron let go of Ratchet's chin, grabbed his free hand, and placed the cube into it. His motions remained gentle, not an ounce of violence in them, and somehow… that was worse.

Ratchet worked his intake, his fingers trembling around the cube. His frame was still thrumming, still riding the high of overload, and he hated that, too.

He drank the fragging energon under Megatron's watchful optic.

~



There was something electric in the air. Ratchet couldn't fathom a reason why, but from the moment he onlined, found that the brig was brighter than usual, he knew that something had happened.

He dragged himself to his pedes just as the energy bars fizzled out and someone opened the door to his cell. Ratchet braced himself, knowing it was too early for his medbay shift to start. So who had come to get their taste this time?

It was Soundwave.

Ratchet blinked. Soundwave was not one of his usual tormentors. In fact, the only time Ratchet ever saw the silent docksmech was when Soundwave was taking him from one assault to another, from one assignment to the brig, or… to Megatron.

“Come,” Soundwave said with a firm gesture.

Ratchet dragged himself forward and was surprised when Soundwave attached an inhibitor to Ratchet's back. Ratchet couldn’t work while inhibited. He could barely walk.

“What's going on?” Ratchet asked, his vocalizer understandably slurred. The inhibitor made everything feel slow, for lack of a better word.

Soundwave said nothing, only took him by the elbow and yanked him out of the cell. There were a few Decepticons Ratchet didn't recognize going into the cells up and down the hall, one by one, as though checking them for something.

Had Special Ops finally come?

Ratchet didn't dare hope.

“Ratchet?” Bluestreak had leveraged himself out of the berth, hobbling toward the bars of his cell. His sensory panels dropped behind him, pain so constant in his life now that it barely showed on his face.

He shook his helm. He didn't know. His vision was a blur of color. His audials a smear of sound.

One of the Decepticons came up to Soundwave, a mech Ratchet did not recognize. “These are the only prisoners, sir?”

“Affirmative.”

The crimson light behind the mech's visor shifted to Bluestreak. “And this one?”

“Space limited. Dead weight unncessary,” Soundwave replied, his grip on Ratchet's elbow tightening to the point of pain.

The unnamed Decepticon jerked his helm. “Understood.”

Unnecessary? Wait. What?

Ratchet jerked against Soundwave's hold. “What do you mean? What are you doing?” he demanded.

“Cease. Be still.” The mech droned at him, his grip causing dents in Ratchet's armor.

Ratchet growled, his engine rumbling dully. He tried to jerk himself free, horror dawning within him as the Decepticon opened Bluestreak's cell and entered.

“No!” Ratchet shouted, his engine screaming, his ventilations screeching into despair.

Realization dawned in Bluestreak's optics, a flash of terror and then acceptance.

The Decepticon did not pause, he did not hesitate. He fired and erased Bluestreak's helm from existence. A second shot echoed in the brig as the mech took out his spark, too.

Bluestreak's frame clattered to the ground, smoke rising from the clean shot through his chest. The Decepticon left his cell and his companion moved on to the next set, already jabbering to each other, but given the static in his audials, Ratchet couldn't hear their inane conversation.

He sent out a scan, already knowing what it would tell him. Just like with Ironhide.

A Cybertronian could survive the loss of his helm. Processors could be rebuilt. Helms could be restructured. Memories restored, especially if one had recent backups. But there was nothing anyone could do for an extinguished spark.

Ratchet's knees weakened and went limp. He dropped down, his arm still in Soundwave's grip, though he didn't feel the strain on his shoulder. It felt as if everything in his frame had gone dead and still. The world went silent, except for the echo of the blaster shots. He knew mechs were moving around him, but he didn't register them.

All he could see was Bluestreak's frame, slowly graying, and the pool of energon around him. All he could think of were the weeks of indignities, assaults, compromises, all for the slimmest chance of keeping Bluestreak unharmed so that he might see his brother again.

All he could hear was an echo of silence in his audials and the dimmest sense of pain in his shoulders as Soundwave yanked him back to his pedes. Soundwave dragged him away and Ratchet thought he ought to struggle. He ought to put up some resistance, but to what end.

Bluestreak was dead.

Bluestreak was dead, and Ratchet hadn't saved him. Hadn't accomplished anything but his own humiliation.

His vision blurred. Sound returned, but slow and fuzzy.

A sense of urgency remained. Soundwave moved quickly and with purpose. He dragged Ratchet as though they weren't of a size and mass.

They didn't go to the medbay. They didn't go to Megatron's room. They didn't go anywhere Ratchet was used to going.

They went through the command center. It was empty. The screens were dark. There was no sign that any of the equipment was functioning.

They were going to the shuttle bay. Ratchet remembered arriving here, what felt like so long ago, but his chronometer told him was only several weeks. Here was where all the chaos had gathered, Decepticons loading supplies into various ships. But there was one ship different than all the others, more weaponized, with a giant Decepticon crest.

The flagship perhaps, a suspicion that was confirmed when Ratchet found himself dragged toward the loading bay. Megatron stood outside of it, in conversation with Starscream over a datapad.

He looked up as Soundwave approached and smirked. He reached for Ratchet, sweeping a hand over his helm and around his jaw as one might a lover. But there was nothing but possession and smugness in his optics.

“There you are,” he murmured with a sweep of his thumb over Ratchet's bottom lip.

Ratchet jerked his helm away, a shudder and a cold flush of ice going down his spinal strut. It took every spark of energy he had to glare at the warlord.

“Why?” he demanded, gritting out the demand. His engine snarled. “Why!?” His vocalizer crackled, nearly a sob.

Megatron inclined his helm. “It is a matter of worth. The Praxian had none.” He leaned closer, his vocals purring as their optics locked. “Whereas you are invaluable. Taking you was one of my greatest victories.”

Loathing poured into Ratchet's spark. If he could have drawn his blaster and shot Megatron between the optics, he would have.

“You didn't have to kill him!” Ratchet spat, jerking toward Megatron, but Soundwave's grip on his arm proved relentless and the grip of the inhibitor too strong.

“I had no reason to let him live either. You seem to forget that we are at war, medic. And I have no room for dead weight.”

Megatron's vocals were cold as he straightened and shifted his attention to Soundwave. “Escort our guest to his new accommodations. We leave within the hour.”

“Yes, Lord Megatron,” Soundwave intoned.

He started forward, no doubt intent on dragging Ratchet with him, but Ratchet dug in his heels. He twisted his frame back toward Megatron.

“If this is a victory, why are you fleeing?” he demanded.

Megatron's orbital ridges lifted. He held up a hand, and Soundwave paused. “I am not fleeing,” he said. “I am instituting a tactical retreat. This base no longer has a use for me, so I am taking my resources elsewhere.”

Resources. Ratchet supposed that included himself. He who had been party to repairing damaged Decepticons, he who had bent over and opened his mouth and spread his legs for any Decepticon who offered him a cube of energon or a roll of bandages.

He wanted to purge.

“Where?”

Megatron reached for him, resting a hand on Ratchet's right shoulder. “You'll see when it becomes relevant.” His thumb rubbed over Ratchet's prominent Autobot badge, through scraped it had become. “We'll make sure this goes away as well.”

“I would never defect!” Ratchet hissed. Ironhide and Bluestreak hung over his shoulders, all the weight he needed.

“And I never said you had a choice,” Megatron glanced at Soundwave and then turned away, summarily dismissing them.

Soundwave tightened his grip and jerked Ratchet up the loading ramp. He stumbled along behind the communications officer, dread and horror tangling into a tight knot in his tanks.

His vision blurred and he didn't know whether he should blame that on the inhibitor or his out of control emotions. Grief eclipsed his spark. He wanted to fall and never pick himself back up.

What was it for? What was the point?

Ironhide was dead. Bluestreak was dead. And now, Ratchet was going elsewhere. Who knew if the Autobots would be able to find him? Who knew if they were going to look? Surely someone else had already been promoted, someone like Pharma, getting the position he always wanted.

Ratchet, for all they knew, was dead.

Just like Ironhide. Just like Bluestreak. Just like all the other mechs he failed.

Ratchet swallowed over a lump in his intake. His vision dimmed. His mantra, his determination, was a joke.

Escape?

There was no such thing.

* * *