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Betrayal

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"So, what- you just found him like this?" 

 

"Yeah, we didn't do- well, anything. Bumblebee tried to get closer to him, tried to help him not bleed out, but he- well, he screamed like something that I'm fairly sure is literally out of someone's nightmare. Not like anything I've heard, ever," Raf contributes, eyes very wide indeed behind his glasses as he watches the panting mech. "What did you say he sounded like, Bee?" 

/Sparkeater. Clearly isn't one, but he doesn't want me near him. And I'm not about to argue with a mech who screeches like that, especially since he's still-/ pausing, Bumblebee gestures to the tentacles writhing across the sand like serpents, still crackling bits of energy despite their owner's weakness. /-that. I'm not gettin' near him. In fact, I'm going to take Raf and go over there. You work your medic field voodoo and get him calmed down./

 

"Yeah, good plan. Go on- stop scarin' him, get outta the way," Ratchet orders, then slowly approaches the spymaster, servos raised and voice as soft as he can manage. He engages his "field voodoo" as well, a soft, steady pulse of medic/reassurance/calm meant to soothe his patient. Or at least get the mech to stop electrocuting the sand. "Soundwave, look at me. Hey- optics on me, they're leavin', you need to be lookin' at me. I am not going to hurt you, understand? I can see that you're hurting, and I know you don't want me near you, but you are going to bleed out if I don't come over there and help you. So- I am coming over there for a scan and a visual exam, and then-" 

He's about to threaten to handcuff Soundwave to get him holding still, but changes his mind when he sees the look in the spymaster's optics. Not defiance, not rebellion- open, desperate, despairing terror. Soundwave's optics are open as wide as they go, his fangs are parted and bared in something between panting and a shaky attempt at bravado, and he keens in pain every time he has to move. More than that, his thighs are clawed up, and energon is pooling in the sand beneath his hips as he tries to get away- practically sprawled on his front, supporting Laserbeak with one arm and himself with the other, trying to edge backwards and accomplishing absolutely nothing.

He looks like a wounded bird, and Ratchet's attitude drops out of "dealing with injured enemy" into "dealing with terrified victim" in a sparkbeat. Armor lowering almost submissively, rumbling a deep, near-subsonic engine purr, still pulsing his field softly but layering in reassurance/shh-shh/I-am-here that goes beyond merely protocols. Dammit- he's never had any real ire for Soundwave, not worse than the rest, and this is- this is bad. He actually feels sorry for the crumpled heap of spymaster, and it probably shows in his attitude as he raises both servos. "Easy, Soundwave... I am not going to hurt you. Let me scan you- we'll just start with that, shall we?" 

 

Soundwave skreels a noise that's more painful than threatening at Ratchet, curling into himself as much as he can to help him shield Laserbeak's frame, but doesn't try to bring his datacables towards the medic. He isn't about to risk Ratchet's ire by doing that, not in this state- he's not going to kid himself, he couldn't win. He could shock Ratchet a few times, but there's another Autobot just out of sight, and he doesn't have the energy to put anyone out of commission for even a moment. Not that he could escape even if he managed it. So he doesn't fight, but he doesn't obey, either, he just stares at Ratchet and tries not to look as vulnerable as he feels. Which is... incredibly so, especially as he feels the crackle of the scan run over his frame. 

 

Ratchet runs a slow, detailed scan, then pops open the panel on his arm that hides his scanner display, clearly showing it as he moves closer to Soundwave. "You wanna see? Keep those cables away from me, and I'll get over there where you can see the results. Deal, mech?" he asks, then edges closer until he's sitting just in front of the spymaster. And has to fight not to at least help him up. "There- this is why you need to settle those cables down and let me help you. You've got enough internal damage that it's not gonna read clearly until you uncurl, you probably aren't going to be able to walk again unless someone puts that leg back the way it's supposed to be, and we both know something is badly wrong with any avian symbiote that isn't moving. Now- I am going to come over there and check if your optics are tracking right. You don't need to like it, and you can snarl at me all you want, but you need to hold still, follow whatever I hold up with your optics, and not bite my fingers off. Clear?" 

Soundwave doesn't acknowledge him by much, but the spymaster does pointedly look away from him, a gesture of submission among most. That works, so Ratchet closes the final distance, kneeling in front of his patient, and ever-so-gently supports Soundwave's helm with one servo. Lifting the other servo, he moves one finger back and forth to be sure both optics track right, noting that Soundwave does cooperate here- though possibly out of instinct. His optics (understandably) aren't perfectly focused, but they track in line, and the slit pupils adjust evenly when Ratchet casts a shadow with his servo. "Good- everythin' as good as I can expect, given the situation. Now -and I am not going to reach further until you answer- may I touch your stomach? I need to get a look at those gashes." 

And I ain't about to reach towards your stomach, your hips, and your symbiote in one motion unless you let me.

 

No. Ratchet may not.

Soundwave hisses at Ratchet, drawing away as much as possible, and makes one final, shuddering attempt to get to his pedes. It works, to everyone's shock including his own, but no amount of willpower can get him walking. One leg is badly twisted, just about every joint dislocated, and the other is clawed up. He might have been able to stay standing on a more firm surface, but there's no way he can walk, and the sand has him collapsing for lack of support- curling in on himself in an effort to shield Laserbeak from impact.

Except there's no impact, because he doesn't hit the ground. He hits Ratchet, who is suddenly standing, both arms around his frame and keeping him upright. Taken aback, Soundwave freezes up, then repeats the recording of a Sparkeater's cry that sent Bumblebee leaping back. It tends to pull at instincts and can almost force someone to retreat if used right, but it doesn't work here, and neither does dragging the claws on his unoccupied servo down Ratchet's arm. Not that he can do any damage beyond the cosmetic, but it's satisfying, frag the medic holding him. Or... maybe not so much frag Ratchet, it's... fairly nice to not be driving sand into his wounds. Even if there is a servo on his aft- at least that's by necessity. Optics dimming, Soundwave whines and focuses on holding Laserbeak close, trying to pretend he isn't shaking at being held so close to someone. 

 

 

Ratchet sighs, shaking his helm, and glances back over his shoulder at where he knows Bumblebee is waiting. "Bumblebee, take Rafael and leave. Go and tell Optimus what's happening, tell him to get a groundbridge ready but not send it- now. No arguments, get going," he orders, carefully lowering himself to the ground, and keeps Soundwave in his lap to keep him out of the sand. "Easy, Soundwave- hold still. Listen to me, alright? I know you hurt, but you listen to me. You need help, or you are going to bleed out and die. I am not going to allow you to die, alright? So- you can either keep fighting me until you pass out, and then I'll try and repair you, or you can give me information before you pass out and I'll use it to properly repair you. So- are you gonna help me?" 

It takes a moment for Soundwave to respond, but Ratchet earns a tiny nod from the spymaster crumpled into his lap, even as those narrow claws dig further into his forearm. Humming softly, he brings one servo up against Soundwave's upper back, trying to hold him still and keep him from moving too much and hurting himself. "Good. Now- those claw marks in your stomach tell me who did this, and my questions are based on that. First, were you exposed to dark energon, or contaminated vein-energon?" 

A tiny helm-shake- good. "Next question, and this one's important- is that energon under you comin' from somewhere more personal than your inner thighs?" 

Soundwave tenses up and squirms at the question, but only for a moment, then slumps limp again and shuts his optics- answer enough. 

"All right... I understand. Last question, Soundwave, stay with me. I am going to need to repair whatever's damaged, and I need to clean your wounds out, since I don't have enough data on what fluids can transmit dark energon. And I need to do that as soon as possible, which means you are likely going to be unconscious, so- do I have your permission to touch your valve, for medical purposes only, while you're unconscious?" 

 

No no no no no- 

A jolt of adrenaline runs through him, and Soundwave claws at Ratchet's frame for just an instant as he tries to get away from the very suggestion, then his injuries catch up with him and he goes still again- this time tense, anticipating a punishment for trying to escape, or at the very least some sort of further restraint. 

But neither of those things come. Instead, Ratchet sighs, pulses reassurance/understanding/calm against his own staggering waves of panic/desperation/terror, and starts- well, starts petting him. Stroking the spines along his back from base to tip in slow, even, predictable motions, firm enough to be felt but not roughly enough to push them around. At the same time, the medic's engine purrs a bit louder, a deep, steady rumble against his frame... almost comforting. 

Ratchet is trying to comfort him. 

Soundwave blinks a couple of times, coughing energon out of his vents, then shuts his optics and whimpers. He doesn't want Ratchet to touch him anywhere, let alone there, but the fact remains that he hurts. His whole frame hurts, but especially his hips, and- and he's scared. He doesn't want to find out the hard way that Ratchet is right about the potential for dark energon contamination, doesn't want to feel himself unravel like that- and never mind him, what would that do to Laserbeak? 

Laserbeak, who is currently limp and still and silent against his chassis after a desperate attempt to protect him. 

He needs to get help for her, and he needs to get help for himself. Which means he needs to let Ratchet touch him. Including his valve. 

So, whimpering again, he shifts just enough to look up at Ratchet and nod. Okay. Yes. 

 

Ratchet holds Soundwave without commenting, waiting for him to decide despite the urgency of the situation. He isn't about to touch a near-stranger's interface equipment without permission, especially not given the violence clear on his patient's frame, so he strokes Soundwave's back spines and waits until he gets a response. At that point, he lets approval/reassurance/comfort purr through his field and very carefully stands up with the spymaster in his arms. "Good, Soundwave, thank you. Now- catch." 

He pings his COMM information to Soundwave, waiting for the spymaster to acknowledge, then opens up a base-wide COMM that also includes the spymaster panting in his arms. .:This is a base-wide alert, everyone shut up and listen. I am bringing Soundwave in, and all of you are going to leave him alone unless you get his explicit permission to approach. Since most of you won't get permission, stay away from him. Wheeljack, I don't care if he nearly killed you. If you want to start punching everyone who's nearly killed you, best start with yourself. Bulkhead, please try to keep Miko away. Remind her that energon is toxic, and that mechs not used to humans may not react well to being woken by someone they can't immediately see. Optimus, send that groundbridge now:.

After a chorus of affirmatives of varying sullenness, Ratchet cuts the link off, turning his attention to Soundwave- who is moving again, panting louder, seeming rather alarmed once again. "What- you thought I was gonna materialize an entire medbay out of the sand? I'm good, but not that good. Look- I get that you don't wanna get near them, all right? That's why nobody's gonna get near you without your permission, and I am going to enforce that. C'mon, spook, let's go- ow." 

Apparently he's moved wrong and jostled something, as Soundwave shrieks in pain and bites down on his shoulder plating with remarkable strength, dentae sinking in further than Ratchet would have thought to expect. Apparently that abnormally large number of fangs comes with some extra muscle. 

"...well. Alright then. You know what? If that helps, you just bite me." 

 

Soundwave tenses in expectation of being dropped for his impulsive action, and stays tense even as Ratchet largely ignores him. Not just for the bite- there's a groundbridge whirring to life in front of them, and it's going to take him to the Autobot base, an unfamiliar area populated by enemies. Or- mostly enemies? Ratchet, at least, may not prove to be a threat. 

Actually- something to consider. Looking for a distraction from the pain and fear, Soundwave turns himself inward, focusing on what he might have to contend with. Not Ratchet, apparently. Arcee doesn't like Decepticons, or him, but has never seemed especially vicious to people who haven't personally wronged her or a friend. Hopefully him trying to kill them doesn't count too much. Bumblebee is- oh, no, definitely not a threat, no spark for cruelty. Optimus hopefully has higher standards than to come after him, at least right now. But the Wreckers... the Wreckers are a concern. Bulkhead, yes, but Wheeljack- dear Primus, don't let Wheeljack get near him. He doesn't fancy being dismembered. Or blown up. Or- 

Agh. 

Soundwave gasps sharply in pain as the energy of a groundbridge washes over fresh wounds, then ducks his helm and lifts his arm in the best shield he can manage for his face, his helm, and his dear Laserbeak. Too late for concerns, the groundbridge is spiraling out of existence behind him, and he has nowhere to run- even if he could manage to walk, let alone run. 

He'll just have to hope that no one intends to just... give him to the Wreckers for interrogation as soon as he's not about to die. 

Or... don't plan to...

He can't think. Has Ratchet drugged him somehow, or-

No, no, it's just...

He's just bleeding out. That's all. 

Oh, and someone is behind him.

Propping himself up a fraction, he twists around as much as possible, staring over his shoulder- 

And just manages to get a look at a very startled Optimus Prime before he passes out. 

 

 

Soundwave's last coherent thought before the darkness claims him is a desperate hope that Optimus doesn't have any interest in mechs of his frametype. He can't handle that again, he- he can't. Not a mech Optimus' size. Not so soon after- 

The spymaster's mangled voicebox glitches out a noise remarkably similar to a sob, and the image that follows him into the darkness is of Megatron standing over him, one servo buried in his abdomen and the other raking down his legs in order to pry them apart. 

And he's not aware of it, but, as he's set down on a berth, the spymaster's servos grasp desperately at anything near him- and one set of shaking claws wraps around Ratchet's fingers. 

 

Ratchet pauses, looking down at the slender servo on his own, then sighs softly and raises his voice in order to call to Optimus. "Get over here and get him on his back- he's out cold and I have to get these energon lines patched up before his processor starts shutting down from lack of energon. Laserbeak's not in good shape, but she's better off, she's not a concern right now- do not take her away, just move her to the side so I can reach him better and keep him from dying. Frag Megatron to the Pit for doing this- why would he even- slaggit, must be he's finally snapped. Now get over here and hold this mech still so I can keep him from dying- and start figurin' out where you put those psych texts, probably best to read over them. He's gonna need a lot of help to survive this, even if he doesn't bleed out from the fact that someone ripped a considerable chunk out of his abdomen and tore his leg into scrap, now how the SLAG is Megatron unstable enough to do this to-" 

 

Optimus doesn't respond to Ratchet's angry tirade- best to just let him rant, it seems to help him focus.  Instead, he quietly obeys Ratchet, moving Soundwave onto his back and positioning his limp frame so that Ratchet can easily reach the gaping wounds in Soundwave's side. His servos are too large for this sort of work, so pending any sort of orders from Ratchet, Optimus watches for a moment before carefully setting his own servo on top of the narrow claws formerly grasping at Ratchet's. Soundwave probably can't feel anything, mechs shut down from energon loss tend to be deep in unconsciousness, but there's no harm in trying to offer some comfort. 

Because Optimus has seen a lot during this war. He knows the signs of some of the worst things that one mech can do to another, and... gaping claw-wounds to someone's inner thighs are never a good sign. Given how thoroughly Megatron has just betrayed Soundwave, the poor spymaster is going to need all the comfort that anyone can give him. 

Chapter Text

When Soundwave wakes up, everything hurts considerably less. 

It's comforting.

Almost.

At least until he recognizes the processor cloudiness that comes from sedatives.

Sparkbeat accelerating, Soundwave opens his optics, automatically grasping for Laserbeak, and doesn't find her. Considerably alarmed, he almost sits up despite the pain, frantically looking for her- 

And finds her, still unconscious, dangling by her delicate wings from Wheeljack's servos. Wheeljack, who hates them both, who could effortlessly rip Laserbeak's wings from her body and maim her beyond repair- 

 

Wheeljack probably shouldn't be holding Laserbeak, and his helm jerks up at the sudden motion, but his only response is a cocky grin. "Hey, noodles, what- augh-" 

 

Ratchet nearly drops everything in his servos at a furious scream and the sound of Wheeljack yelping in shock- a yelp which is suddenly cut off in a sharp gasp. "Slaggit- Wheeljack, I told you not to- Primus- 

He has to set everything down, so Optimus gets there first, pulling Soundwave off of Wheeljack- and, thankfully, bringing Laserbeak with him. Leaving the Prime to handle his bundle of infuriated spymaster, Ratchet rudely grabs Wheeljack's helm and pulls it to the side to examine the bite wound- which is very impressive, especially off such a slender mech. Soundwave's mouth opens far wider than it looks like it should, and, like the bite mark on Ratchet's arm, there's additional puncture marks slightly behind the initial curves of each fang set. Extra fangs- very interesting, and sharp enough to leave deep, bleeding puncture wounds in Wheeljack's throat. "Fragging moron- if he'd been any stronger, you'd be bleedin' out on the floor right now, and I can't say I'd blame him! I told you not to get near these two- what were you thinking, picking up a symbiote? Get in the medbay- grab a pad of bandages and apply pressure to that, I'll have to take care of it after I finish fixing whatever he's just pulled loose." 

 

Murmuring "easy, easy", Optimus carefully cradles the lanky mech in both arms, supporting him as much as possible. "My sincerest apologies, Soundwave, my intent was not to upset you. I merely wished to prevent you from maiming Wheeljack. I entirely understand your actions, he should not have been near you or Laserbeak, and I am not angry with you. You are not in trouble, and I will put you down now. If you will release my arm," he rumbles, his voice as soft as he can manage, and places Soundwave on the berth once the spymaster's claws un-clench from his plating. "There you are. Please refrain from biting myself or my team in future. I shall leave you alone now." 

And, trusting Ratchet to handle the situation, he does. Probably best not to crowd Soundwave. 

 

Muttering something about "always heard he was part Sparkeater", Wheeljack does as he's told (for once), leaving to find something to stem the flow of energon from his throat. It's not dangerous, not yet, but still a bad place to be bleeding from. Bad enough to be worth dealing with now. 

 

Soundwave bares his fangs at Ratchet, skrilling as loudly as he can manage, but it doesn't turn out very threatening. More like a desperate, frightened warning. He's curled into himself, clutching Laserbeak to his chassis with both servos, trying to protect her from- well, from everything. She's- she's delicate, and she has no way to hide or fly or do anything to escape, and he can't let anyone hurt her- not now, especially not now, he won't survive without her- 

He can't help flinching as Ratchet reaches towards him, but he tries to be still, tries his best not to upset Ratchet. He shouldn't do that. Calm Prime or not, Ratchet is his only ally here, or at least the closest thing to it. He can't afford to upset Ratchet, not now- because he needs safety, because he needs to not have a medic angry at him, and because he-

Primus save him, he needs help. He should have been able to rip Wheeljack's throat clean out of the rest of him, with the bite he managed to get- that was a good, solid bite, sinking almost all of his fangs in, but Optimus had pried him off like a recalcitrant turbo-fox pup. He's weak, helpless- can't stand up, let alone walk. He just has to play along, whatever they want from him, whatever Ratchet wants from him, until he can get Laserbeak and himself to safety. If he can even find safety, with Megatron- agh. 

 

"Easy, spook- you heard Optimus, nobody blames you for protectin' Laserbeak. Look up at me, yeah?" Ratchet coaxes, trying to make sure the spymaster is still aware of him, and sighs quietly when Soundwave's response is accompanied by a pained sound. "Easy- adrenaline's overriding those painkillers. You just settle down, they should kick in again. Now... I am not hurting you, alright? You need to relax, and I am going to see if I can help you with that." 

Telegraphing his movements and pulsing confidence/reassurance/medic-presence, Ratchet slowly reaches out and places one servo on Soundwave's back, stroking the same spines he was touching earlier. Slow, firm strokes, base to tip, three per spine before moving to the next. It should be a safe place to touch, and Soundwave doesn't object in voice or frame, aside from tensing just a fraction at the first touch. After a klik or two, he feels Soundwave begin to relax under his servo, then a bit further- presumably as the painkillers kick back in. 

"There. Now- I am sorry about what happened with Laserbeak. I had to take her away for some fine-detail repairs, and I set her back next to you, but apparently Wheeljack had other plans. He's an idiot who likes to mess with slag." 

Eventually, Soundwave goes entirely limp, aside from where he's still holding Laserbeak to his chassis. A moment or two later, he starts to look around again, though without lifting his helm or uncurling. Good sign, and it gives Ratchet an opportunity to get a proper look at his face. Deep orange optics with gold-rimmed, slit pupils, set in angular, light purple-grey faceplates, with a black line running down from the outer corner of each optic. A scattering of scars, nothing major, thin slices and a couple of what look like very old burn marks. Thin, dark purple lips that Ratchet has only ever seen parted so far, showing needle-sharp silver fangs, set in jaws that he's watched open far wider than it seems like they should. Soundwave's face matches the rest of him- odd, predatory, scarred, but almost beautiful. At least, beautiful if he could relax. 

...not the most appropriate thought to have about his patient, even if it is nothing but an aesthetic attraction. 

 

Soundwave shuts his optics briefly as he waits for the painkillers to settle back in, and makes no effort to pull away from Ratchet's servo. It's partly because he doesn't want to upset Ratchet, and partly because he really doesn't mind. In fact, it's better than "doesn't mind", the petting actually feels... rather nice. It's predictable, it's a heavily armored area with no unpleasant memories attached, and it's warm. So he stays still and as relaxed as he can manage under Ratchet's servo, looking up and around at the room. 

Because it is a room, not the main part of the base that he got a glimpse of earlier. Small room, one door, with his current berth pressed into one corner and a few crates stacked along the opposite wall. Probably a storage room, but clean, and the door is shut. That's... that's good. There's no one in here but Ratchet, who doesn't seem to want to hurt him, and he's... hurting a lot less now. Also... also good. 

Adrenaline ebbing entirely, Soundwave curls up a bit tighter, tracing his fingertips softly around a new patch on Laserbeak's wing as he turns his attention to her. She's still not awake, but the sensation of her over their bond is steady, if a bit weak. She's alive, and that isn't about to change soon. That's- that's the important thing here. 

 

Ratchet eventually removes his servo, sitting back slightly, to make sure the spymaster is looking at him. He is, and very intently- which makes this probably the best time to discuss some unpleasant subjects, before his patient tries to retreat or starts to tense up again. "Soundwave- I assume you would like to know what repairs I did? The good news is, there's no permanent physical damage to you or Laserbeak. Some scars to your leg, possibly, but nothing worse."

A pause to be sure Soundwave is listening, then he continues, keeping his voice and field as reassuring as he can. "Laserbeak had some impact damage, as I'm sure you know. Nothing too serious, but her systems seem to be resetting from the impact, and it's likely she'll be out for some time yet. I repaired her innards and her wings, and she should be able to fly when she wakes up, though she needs to take it easy at first. Now... you ended up worse off than her, I'm afraid. Crush damage and claw lacerations to your abdomen, which wil take some time to heal, and I had to put your T-cog back in place. That's a relatively common internal dislocation, but it needs to be left alone while it heals, though the damage to the rest of your frame means you won't be able to transform for some time anyway. It's mostly your leg that will prevent that, I had to put every joint in your leg back in place. Your hips were both forced loose along transformation seams, so I had to put those back as well, and you had some torn energon lines in your thighs. Hey- you still with me?"

Yep, still listening, though curling into himself a bit more. May as well get this over with. "And... I had to repair your valve, the injuries were beyond what self-repair could handle. Good news there is I couldn't find any sign of dark energon contamination, but- I had to repair a number of tears in your valve rim and lining. I've coated your valve walls with something to seal all the wounds and encourage self-repair, and there's a strong sedative in it as well, so that should help to handle your pain. There's a thin, temporary seal over your valve to keep the sealant in place, and you need to leave that in place, all right? I'll -hey, optics on me- get you into the showers soon, and you can scrub the rest of yourself all you want, but you need to leave your valve alone. I've already cleaned it, anyway- there's nothing to get rid of. Okay, Soundwave?" 

 

Okay. It's... that's good to know. 

Soundwave listens, nodding tiny motions now and then to make it clear that he's interested, and does not curl up and hide from thinking about his interface equipment. That information is as important as the rest about him, after all. Even if it hurts to think about. 

No, wait, that's... that's actual pain. Which, well- he did just attack a Wrecker, he's probably pulled something loose. In, ow, most of his frame. Wincing, he in-vents deeply a couple of times, then taps the berth twice before gesturing just slightly to his side in an effort to get Ratchet to understand. Whatever that is doesn't feel right, and he needs to be able to move properly. 

He does his best to behave for Ratchet. Even shifts onto his side to make it easier, though watching Ratchet's servos the entire time. The first touch isn't too bad, high on his side- Ratchet's servos are warm and gentle. He could almost, almost relax, and then Ratchet's servo drops lower, onto his stomach, and- 

A flash of claws digging into his stomach, wrapping around muscle cables and wrenching them away and then slicing in again and holding him in an excruciatingly painful grip, keeping him helpless as another servo smothers a scream of pain- 

No no no no- 

Next thing he knows, he's crammed into the corner, pedes braced against the berth to keep him pinned to the wall, shrieking a terrified high note at thin air. 

 

 

"All right, all right-" 

Ratchet backs up and raises both servos, pulsing reassurance/comfort/submission against Soundwave's roiling shock/panic/confusion, and waits for the spymaster's optics to fix properly on him. "Okay, then, no touching your stomach. Easy... watch me, alright? Remember, Soundwave, it's only me. I am not going to hurt you, I just need you to move your legs out of the way so I can scan you. Optics on me, stay here- stay with me, spook," he croons, as softly as his voice will go, and sits on the edge of the berth until Soundwave uncurls a bit. Slowly raising one servo, he waits for a moment to be sure Soundwave is fully aware of him, then slowly scans the lanky mech's chassis and abdomen. When the scan is done, he flips open the display panel, as before, and moves to give Soundwave a good look. "There. Those bright spots are areas of high nanite activity, I had to practically soak a few of your organs in repair solution. And this... right here, this looks like what you're feeling. There's a muscle cable that was damaged earlier and has slid out of place from strain, but I can probably put it back. Easy... optics on me. Just going to put my servo on your side for a moment." 

 

Soundwave's vocalizer crackles and gives out, and he reboots it as he slumps back against the berth, still crammed into the corner but not really trying to get away. Fangs bared, he snarls quietly at the situation in general, but nods once to Ratchet to indicate his lack of refusal. Actually- more than lack of refusal. It's permission. He doesn't want to be touched, but he wants the cable back in place, and- 

Oh.

And Ratchet's broad servo is warm against his chilled side. Optics dimmed but focused on Ratchet's servo, he watches as the medic rubs slowly at his side with the heel of his palm, applying careful pressure against the cable until it snaps back into place with a painful twitch. He jolts in response, but the shimmer of relief afterwards has him relaxing. And, much to his own surprise, actually starting to lean into the warmth of the touch. Frowning slightly, he focuses his optics on the red-and-white servo even as Ratchet pulls away, his sedative-laden processor trying to clarify his own responses. Hm- odd. Must be a response to the warmth, it's not surprising given his current state. His low vein pressure means his frame is conserving energon for his innards and restricting its flow to his extremities, so he's cold. Warmth is good, and- 

And that's when Ratchet gently drops a bundle of already-heated electric blanket in his lap. 

Ohh, Primus. 

Impulsively, he gathers up the blanket and shoves his face into it, reveling in the heat and softness of it. When he realizes what he's doing, he sets it back into his lap, glancing away from Ratchet slightly and plucking at the blanket in an effort to act casual and get the warm surface spread out over himself. He doesn't like being cold, especially not now, and he doesn't want to have any more of his frame exposed than is absolutely necessary. 

 

Holding back a fraction of a smile, Ratchet waits for Soundwave to relax again, then gestures towards his formerly twisted leg. "I need to check that leg over, Soundwave, from the knee down. Need to check the positioning of your armor and leg structures and manually inspect the welds. Shouldn't hurt, and I promise I'll be quick. Can snarl at me all you want, too, I don't care. After that, I won't need to touch you again for some time, and I'll give you these extra blankets for insulation. I can either do it right now, or I can give you a klik or two to settle and then do it. It's up to you, alright? I'm not gonna push- you got choices." 

Soundwave stares at him for a moment, then nods once, and Ratchet carefully settles both servos on the spymaster's leg. "Here we go. Now, Soundwave- if you need me to stop, you tell me, I don't want you flippin' out like that again. Bad for your frame, for your mental health- Pit, bad for my frame if you lash out. Wouldn't blame you, but I'd rather avoid that. So, if you need a break, you pull away and let me know. Nothin' shameful about needing some time to settle." 

Another nod, but Soundwave doesn't pull away, just stares at him and hisses quietly at every new touch. Acting fierce, but only acting- Ratchet can feel the tremble in his frame, can feel him fighting to stay still. In the interest of helping Soundwave stay calm, Ratchet starts at the spymaster's knee and works his way down, getting the probably-most-unnerving parts over with first. Careful presses to the armor, seeing if it shifts properly, then firm strokes down the muscle cables to check for lingering damage, then a fingertip run over each weld to ensure the texture is as it ought to be with no signs of infection or damage yet. Soundwave twitches a few times under his touches, probably out of reflex at having cables pressed, but makes no effort to pull away- though the snarling does get a bit louder now and then, presumably on the uncomfortable spots. Hey- whatever works. Seems like a viable substitute for cursing, given the circumstances, and it does seem to be helping. 

 

Soundwave would much rather take option 3, "frag off and don't touch me", but his leg is damaged enough that he accepts the inspection in the interest of healing properly. Besides... he'd rather not frag off the medic so soon, not when he can't escape. So he offers his leg for inspection, as uneasy as it makes him, and he intently watches Ratchet's work until he's allowed to pull away and can curl up again. This time, not just under the electric blanket, because- 

Oh. Odd. Ratchet spreads the two additional blankets out, then drapes them over his frame, covering him in heavy warmth and pleasantly soft material. Soundwave blinks a few times, slowly processing, then huddles down under the blankets and eyes Ratchet- waiting for the medic to leave. He wants to be alone now, please. Wanted to be alone ever since he woke up, without anyone else around. Laserbeak, pressed limp against his chassis, doesn't count- wouldn't if she was awake. She may as well be part of him. Ratchet, though? Not part of him, and... not leaving." 

 

"There you go, get comfortable. Now- ideally, I'd prefer to look the rest of those marks over. Right now, though, the stress from that would be far worse for you than not checking. Wasn't anything too bad, either. I had to replace some of the plating over your secondary processor, and there's some gashes in your back that needed closing, but nothing too bad. Assuming none of them start bleeding, heat up, or hurt more than they should, I can leave them alone. Same goes for everything else, all right, Soundwave? You're a smart mech, you know it's important to head off infections before they can get going. In particular..." 

Knowing Soundwave won't want to hear this, Ratchet ducks his helm and meets the spymaster's optics, his voice as soft as he can manage. "...I need to know if your valve starts to feel infected. I know you don't want me touching you there, and I'd be able to work with you as far as where and how an exam happened and if you were sedated for it, but infections that deep in your frame could-" 

 

No. 

Soundwave shrieks at Ratchet and slams his back against the wall, shaking his helm and baring his fangs in the same motion. No, no, that is not happening. Ratchet has been shockingly gentle with him so far, but that doesn't mean that Soundwave is going to let the medic anywhere near his valve. Not now, not later, not ever, and especially not now. No. He will not let himself be- no. Optics wide, showing his fangs in the most threatening gesture he can manage, he bushes up his plating and waits for Ratchet to get the extremely unsubtle hint and frag off. Which Ratchet does not do. In fact, the medic holds out a servo towards him, and Soundwave responds by skreeling again and slamming his claws into the berth mat near the medic's fingers. Not close enough to hit or be a real threat, but it is a very clear indicator that he will not be touched. 

 

Ratchet locks his arm in place to prevent himself from jerking away, slowly withdrawing his servo instead as an indicator of peace. "-okay, okay, hey, I get it. Wasn't trying to touch you, Soundwave. But you need to listen. You are not in any shape to fight an infection off, we both know that. If an infection takes hold in your valve lining, you will be in agony, and it will spread. Into your hip joints, up into your primary and symbiote gestation tanks, and keep going. I'm talking about permanent damage to the deep structures of your hip joints, possible removal of both gestation tanks, and enough pain to make you think you'd died and gone to the Pit. And I don't mean the real one, I know you already got through that, I mean the fictional place where dead people supposedly go if they've been very bad. Now, you most likely won't have to deal with that, but I need to know if it happens. If your equipment starts feeling hot, if that seal melts through in the next week, or if the pain gets worse, I need to know. Hey-" 

Lowering his armor in a deliberate indicator of submission, Ratchet slowly holds out his servo again, palm-up. "-can you do that, Soundwave? You have my word I will be as careful as I can, if the situation comes up. I will not cause you pain, I will not humiliate you, I will not behave unprofessionally- I will not do anything to you that is not medically necessary. Whatever you think of me, I am a good medic and a decent person, which means I do not molest my patients! I will remove your pain and risk factors as much as I can, using any method that you are comfortable with, and I will do everything that I can to help you relax. I will not expect you to relax, I will not expect you to be calm, but I will do my best to help you. Because that is my job, and" armor slumping a bit more in a silent sigh, "because I do not hate you."

A pause, and Ratchet almost smiles as he continues, though it's more of a wry smirk. "Pit- I don't even not like you. I don't like a lot of what you've done, but, Pit, I don't like a lot of what I've done. We've been in the middle of a war, you've probably noticed. But I know what cruelty looks like, and I have never seen anything like it from you. I have- mostly neutral feelings about you, really. If anything other than neutral, you are... impressive in battle. But, even if I loathed you, I would not take advantage of you. I am not that person. So, Soundwave... do you think you can be honest if you think something is wrong?" 

 

Soundwave keeps his optics on Ratchet's servo, wary, but slowly reaches out at the... extremely non-threatening offer. Optics dimming, he listens to the warning, much as he doesn't want to, and... well, mostly attempts optic contact. Ends up more or less looking at Ratchet's forehelm chevron, but that works. It's something like polite, at least.

Bit of an... interesting speech, also. Ratchet sounds firm enough that Soundwave believes him, both about the dangers and about the precautions the medic intends to take. That fits with what Soundwave has seen in the past about how Ratchet acts, he's never seen even the barest hint of improper behavior. The problem here isn't that he expects Ratchet to be cruel (though the reassurance helps), the problem is that he does not want anyone near his interface equipment. Pit, he doesn't want himself near his interface equipment. If he could take his equipment off, put it in a box, and shove it in the back of a closet, he would be quite satisfied at the moment. But... better a pelvic exam than his entire pelvic assembly rotting out, and Soundwave nods absent-mindedly when he's pretty sure the speech is about over, trying to signal "yes, fine, now leave". 

The speech doesn't end, though, and it goes... somewhere interesting. Focusing his optics on Ratchet, Soundwave tilts his helm and listens with every bit of his attention instead of just most of it, genuinely interested in what Ratchet has to say. This isn't basic reassurance, this is- hm. Well. This is Ratchet expressing actual emotions at him. Which has Soundwave thinking about his own side of their emotional tangle, and... Ratchet's assessment of him is actually rather similar to Soundwave's own feelings towards the medic. Nothing... too negative, at least before this whole incident. Ratchet is a good medic with an honor code, impressive for having survived so long, and known to repair Decepticons even as they scream threats at him. The only negative point (aside from faction, which Soundwave almost entirely disregards as a measure of a person at this point) is his treatment of Laserbeak, which... though it appalls Soundwave, is understandable. Logical. Practical. Especially with pressure from a Wrecker. Them, he doesn't like. 

Ratchet? Well, at the moment, he would like Ratchet to leave, but that seems to account for most of his negative feelings at the moment. 

Looking down at their servos, Soundwave moves to carefully rub the bases of his fingers against Ratchet's fingertips, almost a stroking motion. Truthfully, he isn't quite certain what he's up to, but it feels about right at the moment. A quiet sigh, then Soundwave meets Ratchet's optics, actually meets them, and nods once in understanding. Okay. He gets it. Much as the idea disturbs him, he will alert Ratchet to developing infections. It's that or suffer permanent damage, agonizing pain, and potential death, after all.

And there's a tiny flutter of satisfaction at feeling Ratchet's servo tighten against his in response. Something about having garnered a response with such a tiny motion, one that's put his fingertips nicely against Ratchet's wrist and against the pulse point, is satisfying. Optics still on Ratchet's face, he repeats the motion again, watching for the reaction- and catches it this time, a fraction of a nanoklik's worth of something. Exactly what that expression is, he's not certain, but it's definite- and it's accompanied by the tiniest press of Ratchet's servo into his. Is this pleasant for Ratchet? Medic's servos are incredibly sensitive, after all, but... if anything, Ratchet ought to be concerned. Soundwave could rip his wrist, palm, and fingers open in one swift motion from this position, send Ratchet reeling in agony, and risk permanent damage. Ratchet evidently doesn't think he's... going to do that. Trust?

He should think this over. He's not going to, though, because he still wants Ratchet to leave. 

Thank you for the assistance and the kindness, but you need to leave, now, you need to go, just go away-

 

Ratchet watches the narrow claws for a moment longer, then squeezes Soundwave's servo before slowly withdrawing, reaching into subspace for something. He's not certain what that gesture meant, but it rather looks like Soundwave doesn't know either. Soundwave's optics are incredibly expressive, no wonder he wears the mask. Right now, the spymaster looks confused, though not frightened- and, Pit, increasingly like he's about to either start crying or start screaming. There's only so long anyone can be quiet and calm about this sort of thing, and, as Soundwave curls back into himself, Ratchet decides to wrap things up as quickly as possible and let him alone. 

"Good. Thank you, Soundwave. Aside from that- I do eventually need to do a brief pelvic exam to check that everything is healing, but that won't be for quite some time, and its non-emergent nature will mean we can take plenty of time to get you comfortable. You don't think about that right now, Spook, you just vent. And take this- here," he says, offering Soundwave a small box with three buttons on top. "That'll ping my private COMM line. First button there means you want me to come in fairly soon, second button means you need me to come in as soon as possible, third means you need me to drop everything and come now. That last one is for if you tear an energon line or, however unlikely this is, if someone is threatening you. And you might not have noticed this yet, but there's a small device clipped to the underside of your chassis armor there. That just monitors your pulse and sparkrate, nothing else, and will send me an alert if either of those goes anywhere risky. Please leave that on. If you must take it off, call me in first so I don't think you've flatlined, alright?" 

He can't quite catch Soundwave's optics, not any more, the spymaster is deliberately looking away from him, but Ratchet tries as he continues talking. "That door over there locks from the inside. Optimus and I have medical overrides that can unlock it, but neither of us will use those unless there's a true emergency. No one else has the codes, and neither one of us will come in without your permission unless you're in serious danger. Those two buttons there are your door control and your lock. That door does not lock from the outside, are we clear? You are not trapped. Hey-" 

It takes some creative positioning, but he manages to get near optic contact with the spymaster, trying to get that increasingly unfocused gaze at least near him. "You are not a prisoner, Soundwave. We are not going to hurt you or keep you captive. I will say, if you try to leave right now, I am going to put you back in here- but only so you don't bleed out. As soon as you get to the point where you aren't in imminent danger of dying, you're free to leave, but... I would really suggest that you not do that. As long as you are here, Soundwave, you are under my protection, and I will not allow anyone to try to capture you- nor does Optimus want anyone to. You will receive energon, medical assistance, and protection, with no strings attached, as long as you don't try to literally kill anyone. Again, you are not a prisoner, we are not keeping you captive... but we are your best option here. Okay?" 

No response. Not surprising. Ratchet sits back, abandoning his attempts at optic contact- which immediately has Soundwave glancing towards him. Interesting. "Not okay, then? That's fine, this is not anywhere near an okay situation. Be not-okay all you want, just don't take it out on my plating. You can figuratively chew me out all you want, though, I don't care. Now, this cabinet," pausing to stand up and open the door, "is stocked with mid-grade that has a dose of minerals added in to boost your self-repair. You need to drink at least half of this cube, and you can finish it off if you need to. Don't drink the rest of that, though, you'll overload your systems. No one is going to take it away, that's for you to drink." 

Soundwave accepts the cube, taking a rather grudging-seeming sip of the energon, and meets Ratchet's optics just a bit better as he continues. "No one is going to bother you in here. I've told everyone to leave you alone. Bumblebee may come by later to check on you, he's worried. You can tell him to frag off if you want, but give him a klik before you tell him t' leave, don't just hiss as soon as the door opens. Not sure if you remember, but he's the reason you're here instead of dead, he found you. Well, him and Rafael, one of the humans. Another of the humans, Miko -you've traded photos with her, I hear- is probably going to come peeking in here at some point. You can hiss at her all you want, but please don't actually threaten the humans- they're fragile. Don't bleed on 'em, either. If you start bleeding, call me- all right? I need to keep you from dying. Now... I'm gonna leave you alone. Call me if you need something, Soundwave. Unless you decide to pester me every five kliks, I won't be angry at you for calling. I will be much angrier if you need medical assistance and don't call me, clear?" 

Ratchet presses a cube firmly into Soundwave's servo, then steps away, opening the door to leave. "Again, Soundwave- you are safe here. And I know you don't feel like it, won't for a long time, but you are going to be okay. Won't try and convince you of that, but.. you'll be okay." 

With that, the door slides shut behind him, and Soundwave is left alone.

 

Thank Primus.

Soundwave slumps back against the wall, curling around Laserbeak (and the energon), and drags the blankets back with himself. Fumbling with the heat blanket, he cranks the heat up as high as it can go, then pulls the rest of the blankets up over himself for insulation. He can feel himself starting to shake, the urge to hide in some dark corner getting vastly stronger, as he sets the energon by his side in favor of tucking Laserbeak up close. It's not surprising, not really, he's burned through his last shreds of control just to keep himself from breaking down in front of Ratchet.

Now, without anyone watching him, Soundwave has no reason to keep himself controlled. Vents hitching a few times, he whimpers softly under his breath, shoulders heaving, and sobs into the blankets he's gathered up against his face. No one is around to see, Laserbeak isn't awake to comfort him, and he hurts. Megatron betrayed him. His literal worst nightmare, brought crashing into agonizing reality, leaving him stranded, bleeding, and alone. 

Soundwave doesn't have anything left in him at this point. No control, barely enough energon to live, and no idea what to do next. Just pain, hopelessness, and the clinging feeling of utter betrayal. 

It's a long time before he stops crying. 

 

Chapter Text

He hurts. 

His frame is dulled, laden with painkillers, but the ache is still there. 

His spark hurts. 

His very soul hurts. 

Frame, spark, soul, every fiber of his being hurts. 

Megatron promised. He made a pledge, millennia ago, that he would never hurt Soundwave. He swore to protect Soundwave, to keep him safe from anyone who tried to- 

Soundwave's vents hitch in a soft, broken sob and he tugs the blankets up closer, pressing his face into them again in search of any comfort he can get. 

Megatron promised. He took Soundwave's trembling servos in his, met Soundwave's optics, and swore on everything he held dear to never let anyone hurt Soundwave like that again, swore that he would never take anything Soundwave wasn't willing to give. And then-

 

 

Soundwve's vents hitch again and he lifts a servo to stroke along a mark on his face, half-healed but still sore at the touch. A rough gouge,  not healed properly despite being almost a week old. 

Megatron had been in one of his moods. So blindly furious that he was breaking everything his servos touched, completely unlike his former self, terrifying the Vehicons enough that they would almost have dared to flee the bridge entirely if not for Starscream. Soundwave had tried to stay out of the way, off to the side until the rage died down. It always did. Except this time. This time it wouldn't die down, and Soundwave was contemplating trying to sneak off- 

Until Megatron started to tear into the computers. One of the crew consoles first, which was unfortunate but workable, and then- 

Then he'd started in on Soundwave's consoles, smashing the screen out of one. 

Megatron knew what those were to him. They were a gateway into a world where Soundwave was in control, was safe, was able to do anything he wanted with little more than a thought. It was a world where he could slip through every data-stream in the solar system, slink into every database, and find out everything there was to know. Yes, Soundwave had a backup computer in his room, but it had nowhere near the processing power of this one, it was probably the last working computer of its kind in the galaxy, and Soundwave needed it. 

He'd just tried to divert Megatron. That was all. 

Megatron's response was to backhand him across the face. 

No warning, no "get out of my way", not even a shove to somewhere else. No care for what he might inadvertently do to the comparatively delicate mech in front of him. He just struck. 

Soundwave had staggered to the side, completely stunned by the power and the shock of the blow, and had just stood there as the shards of his shattered visor rained to the floor. He'd stood there, energon dripping sluggishly from the cuts in his face and striking against the broken shards in a bloody rain of betrayal, trying to regain himself and process what had happened. 

When he finally dragged himself back, he fled. Away from Megatron (who was busy ranting at thin air), away from the many visors that were mostly trained on Megatron anyway, away from everything but his quarters and safety. 

 

Afraid for himself and for Laserbeak, he'd stayed in hiding for two days, hoping Megatron would settle down and forget Soundwave's perceived wrongdoing. 

When he did come out, he couldn't focus. He couldn't manage not to stare at Megatron every time the warlord was nearby, couldn't help flinching away if there were any sudden movements or stabs of ill-tempered behavior. The only thing he could focus on was trying to understand, to grasp what had set Megatron off so badly. Megatron had never hit Soundwave, not since back in the PIts where it was fight or die, and had never so much as threatened to do so. Well- aside from one incident where he'd gestured too widely and Soundwave had been in the path of his servo, but that had been entirely accidental and Megatron had been terribly apologetic. He'd never, never willingly hurt Soundwave, even as the dark energon started to take hold, and then he'd- 

He'd struck Soundwave, hard, shattering his mask, and acted like it was nothing. 

Then, a few days later, in response to Soundwave's caution that Megatron himself had caused, Megatron had- 

 

Soundwave's servos clench on the blanket, claws pricking through it, and his entire frame tenses as his processor abruptly swamps him in a returning memory. 

 

"Soundwave... you have been useless lately," Megatron growls, glaring down at the spymaster standing nervously in front of him. "You are distracted, you refuse to use your pet for anything, you haven't yet finished the repairs to the computers, and you keep-" he snarls, gesturing sharply in Soundwave's direction, "keep cringing. Not only do you hide from the crew, you stare at me any time I come near you, cringing like a wirerat and trying to hide from me. It is pathetic. You are pathetic, you are weak, you are useless to me, and I do not need a useless mech on my crew. As my servant, you are a failure.

 

Soundwave can't even attempt to formulate a reply. He can ignore others who try to mock him, but coming from Megatron, even if it isn't true, this hurts. He has been useless lately, hasn't he? He can't do anything with Megatron in the room, with mechs staring at him, having to try to figure out how to hide his face and continue his work. 

He wants to hide. Unicron below, he wants to hide. He wants his visor back, he wants to turn away, to hide from the burning purple optics glaring down at him, but he's starting to think that Megatron will hurt him if he looks away. So he meets Megatron's optics, as much as he can, plating clamped and struts tense, optics locked as close to Megatron's as he can. He's drowning in Megatron's field, in the angry, unnaturally tinted assault of stabbing fury that wraps around him, in the intent to hurt him- Megatron's field is starting to hurt more than the words, Soundwave is starting to have trouble venting, and then Megatron slams a servo against his chassis and pins him to the wall. 

Skreeking a painful noise of shock and dismay, Soundwave instinctively tries to claw at Megatron's arm, to get the crushing force away, and freezes at a warning growl and another suffocating pulse of that thick field. 

He needs to run. He needs to get away, now, consequences be damned, he needs to get away from Megatron and get off the ship and run- 

But the door is locked. Megatron locked the door when he came in, and Soundwave had been too concerned at the time to pay it much thought, but he's starting to realize that he should have left as soon as that happened, because there is a glint in Megatron's optics that Soundwave has only ever seen aimed at Starscream. He can't be reading that right, can he?

He is, and Megatron's grin confirms it, and Soundwave's spark drops in his chassis in the same instant that he starts clawing at Megatron's arm in search of an important line that he can cut to get away. 

But Megatron's other servo locks around his throat, squeezing enough to cut off the energon flow until he goes limp, then the servo comes off his chassis and there's an instant of relief- 

Then Laserbeak launches herself free of his chassis, right at Megatron's face, and is immediately swatted aside, before the servo that struck her buries its claws in Soundwave's abdomen. Half-extended datacables curl and spasm, their sensory net overridden with the pain signals of Megatron's claws curling to grip a servoful of muscle cables, and Soundwave's shriek of pain is cut off by the servo still around his throat as Megatron lifts him. 

 

The warlord regards Soundwave for a moment, then takes one large step and pins the spymaster to his berth, unaffected by the feeble attempts at scratching him or sliding claws into seams. As if he's doing nothing out of the ordinary, he watches Soundwave struggle against him for another few moments, bloody servo tightening whenever his datacables start to coordinate again, and speaks almost casually to his weakly keening prisoner. "You've become almost as useless as Starscream. At least I still have one use for him... let's see if you can fill that role instead." 

The servo around Soundwave's throat releases, instead clamping around his thigh, the pop-snap of a dislocating hip joint almost drowning out the spymaster's despairing cry as his legs are wrenched apart- 

 

"Primus damn it- Soundwave, wake up-" 

 

 

Soundwave snaps out of the memory purge with a shriek of terror, claws striking out at thin air and solid metal for as long as he can, then his arms are trapped under something and he whines in distress as his entire frame tenses up. Vents heaving, mouth open to pant for cool air, Soundwave claws weakly at what little armor he can reach-

Until it starts to register that the armor is something different. He can't see, but he can feel, and the armor under his servos is... smooth. Solid, but not rough or sharp-edged. Smooth. 

And there's warmth against his back, something soft and gently heated and nice, and he still can't see but the mech in front of him smells of antiseptic rather than insanity. The field around him is thick and heavy, but soft, gentle, reassuring, like a blanket. 

Oh. Blankets. The warmth against his back, the substance pinning his arms down, even- 

Not bothering to lift his trapped servos, Soundwave shakes his helm a couple of times, trying to dislodge the substance blinding him, and blinks as a careful servo untangles the cloth from around his audial fins and leaves him face-to-face with Ratchet. 

Right. Ratchet. Autobots. 

Ow. 

Still panting, Soundwave slumps against Ratchet's frame, fully expecting to be pushed away. 

What he doesn't expect is for Ratchet to start caressing his audial fins. 

 

Ignoring the many, many scratches to his back and arms, Ratchet croons gently to Soundwave, humming reassurance through his voice and through his field. Close up like this, he can feel Soundwave's agitated field, held back with remarkable control but still making itself felt. He's terrified, of course, but there's a confused-warmth undercurrent that's definitely tending towards something positive. So he stays still, ignores the stinging of his scratched plating, and keeps petting Soundwave. One servo on his back, between the spines, one servo petting his audial fins.

"Hello, Soundwave. Back with me? Good, there we go. You're all right, spook... it's just me. Laserbeak, too. You flipped 'er upside down, but she isn't hurt. Or awake, not yet. She'll be fine, though, just resting. C'mon, focus those optics- you look at me. Then do me a favor an' look down, those cables are getting a bit tight," he mutters, glancing down to where Soundwave's data-cables are wrapped painfully tight around his abdomen. "Don't mind too much, those can stay there, just gotta loosen 'em and stop crushing me." 

The cables loosen, with an apologetic chirping noise to boot, and the spymaster slumps, seeming bewildered, into his arms. Progress. Now to explain why he has Soundwave in his lap, because, uh. This is odd. "Ah- there ya go. Sorry about this whole tangle- needed a way to wake you up, looked like you had a nasty memory purge going on. And before you start starin' at me, this is a valid technique for calming a patient. Gentle, firm contact with a nonthreatening mech, especially a medic, can lower anxiety levels considerably and ease stress. It's up to you, though. You want to back off, you can. You want to stay here, I don't mind. The cables are fine, too, as long as you keep them relaxed. So- you just think about that for a klik or two, no pressure. At the very least, I'm staying in here until your vitals settle, I can't leave you alone with a sparkrate like that." 

 

Baffled as he is, Soundwave can't muster the energy or the motivation to move away from Ratchet. This is a strange level of care, even from a medic. Ratchet is speaking quietly to him, petting him, holding him close, letting him settle in and wind his datacables around a solid, warm frame. It's... almost comfortable. Or it would be if he felt better. His spark is still racing, his frame pumped full of adrenaline and trying to make him run away from something, but he can't even consider getting up right now because Ratchet is warm and the blankets are soft and-

Ratchet's fingertips find a particularly nice spot behind his audial fin, and Soundwave's claws curl tighter on the medic's plating in response. Oh, that feels good, and he's still confused but it feels amazing. 

But why is Ratchet doing this? Is- 

Primus he hopes this isn't a proposition. Warbling a pained noise, the spymaster starts to arch himself away from Ratchet, alarmed, but slumps back with a distressed little gasp as his injured leg refuses to move. 

 

"Oh, hey, hey- you stop doin' that. Soundwave, if you want me to stop, all you have to do is ask," Ratchet sighs, raising both servos until Soundwave settles back into his lap, and keeps his servos away from the lanky mech as he speaks. "You looked like you might be enjoying what I was doing, that's the only reason I kept petting you. If you aren't, I can stop and- ah, Pit, might have to contradict myself. One of yer optics isn't tracking right. I'm bettin' you know that can be a sign of serious processor trauma, so I do need to-" 

Soundwave interrupts him by raising one servo, but doesn't try to strike him, only signs something out. Unfortunately, it's something in a sign dialect Ratchet isn't familiar with, on a servo not exactly structured for clear sign, so Soundwave has to repeat himself a couple of times before it clicks. 

"Mech, you got one Pit of an accent there- what, 'not here'? I don't know if you just can't feel that or what, Soundwave, but that optic isn't working right. Just... let me see, all right?" Ratchet says, slowly holding out one servo, and hums a reassuring noise in the back of his throat when Soundwave goes still- with a jerky gesture towards the side of his own helm. Frowning slightly, Ratchet leans in to get a better look, overworked optics adjusting rather loudly, and spots what Soundwave is indicating. A long, thin scar all down the side of Soundwave's face, hidden right up against where his visor anchors to the right side of his face. It's a precise, even cut, perfectly made, clearly a medic's work. But what would be the point of cutting along... 

Oh, Primus. An old image from a particularly nasty text flickers through Ratchet's mind, and he winces slightly at the idea. That's the first cut of an older empurata technique. Soundwave still has his face, still has his servos, so they must have been interrupted, but... Primus. 

"...ah, yeah, Pit. Hold still, need a scan-" he mutters, running a careful, close-up scan along that side of Soundwave's face, and shows the readout to his tense patient. "-there. About what I'd expect. Scar tissue coming inward from all along that line, see here? Must have been a few nerves severed, and facial nerves are difficult to repair properly. Hey- you make a face at me real quick, need to check the mobility," Ratchet orders, and is treated to a close-up view of the concerning optic twitch as Soundwave very deliberately rolls both optics. His right optic tracks a bit oddly, twitching for part of its rotation, probably a result of a nerve not healing quite right. The exaggerated snarl-smirk that Soundwave offers him is a bit lopsided as well, the right side of his mouth lagging a fraction, but the motion is smooth and the end result is even. 

"Good. Looks okay to me. I could theoretically go in and try to fix those nerves, but I doubt you want any more surgery done around your face, and it doesn't look like much of an issue for you," Ratchet sighs, then shakes his helm and lightly pats Soundwave's arm, not bothering to hide the trace of an impressed pulse through his standard medic-grade-reassurance field. "Frag, I'm surprised you ain't more upset about me touchin' you. Look, I don't- I don't do empurata. Never have. It's a twisted, disgusting, barbaric technique, and anyone who practices it never should have taken their medic's oath in the first place. All right? You are welcome to not like me touching you, given the circumstances I'd be shocked if you didn't have some complaints, but I don't want fear of me to be part of that. I'm not going to hurt you, I'm not going to molest you, I'm not going to do anything except help you. And right now, you are acting like your frame has been starved for contact for a very long time, so I am offering contact with no strings attached. If you want it. Part of my job." 

 

Does he want that? 

He's certainly... very close to Ratchet right now. More or less in his lap still, with one of the medic's servos on his arm, both his datacables wound around Ratchet's midsection and not even beginning to unwrap. He's still cold, and Ratchet is warm. Warm and solid and alive. And his EM field is out, engulfing Soundwave in what's intended to be an entirely professional tone of reassurance/comfort/confidence. Which, honestly, would be nice in and of itself- it may be contrived, meant as a professional facade, but it's open and surprisingly warm. And there's an undercurrent, something almost-gruff and rather tired, with real, genuine concern in it. Soundwave has had considerable practice in reading EM fields without the other noticing, and he does so now, monitoring Ratchet's field closely as he slowly moves back into Ratchet's lap. A firm, deliberately pushed pulse of approval wraps around him, with that professional tone attached, and the undercurrent flutters. Hm. 

Ratchet is clearly projecting some of this on purpose, but it's not intentionally misleading. It's a medic trait, automatically brought up to calm and reassure a patient who might be alarmed by the lack of an EM field. That undercurrent, though, is not intentionally projected. That's genuine. In his mind, Soundwave winds the little wisps of it around his fingers, inspecting it as thoroughly as possible to see what it might be. Like he's caught a wisp of ribbon floating in the wind. 

This particular wisp of ribbon has "Ratchet is genuinely happy for your acceptance of contact" written on it in large, bold letters. 

That's... nice. It's not surprising, not really, Ratchet is a medic and a good one, but... it's nice. Even if it isn't because of him, specifically. 

It's a bit beyond what any medic can reasonably be expected to do with a prisoner, though. Soundwave isn't going to die if he isn't cuddled. He doesn't need this. It's appreciated, but not needed. 

He doesn't need this. 

He doesn't... need...

Soundwave's vents hitch, once, twice, and he bites back the whimper that tries to escape. No. He doesn't- he- he doesn't- 

That's a lie.

He needs this.

Primus, he needs this.

Soundwave pushes his helm into Ratchet's chassis plating, hiding as much as possible, claws tightening on the medic's armor.

Ratchet is holding him. 

It's been what feels like eons since someone has held him like this. Laserbeak snuggles him, but she's little, she can't lend him this much warmth. Soundwave hasn't been held without intent to harm since the beginning of the war, since quiet nights with Megatron, then Megatronus, curled up together in a nook somewhere to share body heat and remember that they have at least one other being on their side. And then the war roared to full life with them at the helm of it, and... that was it. Too busy for affection, too on-edge, both, or just not in the mood, and they both seemed to stop trying for it somewhere along the way. Soundwave slept in a heap of blankets and symbiotes to rest properly, but the group got smaller and smaller as the war went on, the plating they'd brought thinned away with them, and Megatron- 

Megatronus ebbed, flickered, and vanished. In his place was a warlord

Warlords didn't give affection. 

Soundwave was left nearly alone, with only Laserbeak for company.

And now? 

Laserbeak is unconscious, deep in her own mind to heal, and he can't feel her. 

In this moment, he is alone. 

Except for Ratchet. Who, still, is giving him a... strange amount of attention. 

Is this just how Ratchet treats his patients now? Medics in general haven't been coping well with the massive death toll; Soundwave's seen more than one of them turn excessively clingy, with a couple on record as locking several patients in their medbay and attempting to keep said patients inside and away from the war. Usually in the middle of a mental breakdown. Ratchet doesn't seem to be having a breakdown of any sort, but he doesn't exactly seem the type to calmly put up with- 

Well, with being held tight by an enemy spymaster in his lap.

This is strange. This is a strange situation by all standards. 

Strange enough that it takes Soundwave a good few kliks to locate the right phrase to ask about it. Breakdown, asking "so... is this just what we're all doing now?" in a suitably befuddled tone. Granted, he was asking about a situation involving a large number of drunk Vehicons and way too much insulation foam, but there's nothing in the recording to indicate that. 

 

Ratchet pauses his stroking of Soundwave's back spines, then shrugs obviously enough for the spymaster to feel it, aiming for a casual air. "Wasn't what I planned on, but you're clingin' onto me tight enough that, yes, this is what we're doing. Don't bother denyin' it, you need contact. It's a basic need of all social species, sapient or not, almost as important for mental and physical health as proper recharge. If you aren't comfortable with me doing this, I can go get someone else, but... I'm not sure I'd get any volunteers, and that would probably be uncomfortable for all involved. War and all. Unless you want me to go kidnap a Vehicon?" 

He's joking, of course, he's not about to go kidnap a Vehicon.

He's not really expecting Soundwave to giggle in response, a muffled but definite noise against his chassis, narrow shoulders shaking for just an instant.

He's definitely not expecting Soundwave to start shaking again and not stop. 

 

It's the image. The mental image of Ratchet with a blanket-wrapped Vehicon over one shoulder, trying to explain to his Prime what he is doing with said Vehicon. It's funny, and Soundwave isn't prepared for funny. He's caught off guard by the humor. 

More caught off guard by the shuddering that sweeps through his frame at the realization that Ratchet, Ratchet, the only known living Autobot medic, cares more for him than Megatron. Maybe it's just because Soundwave is his patient, but he cares, genuinely so, he actually cares. And Megatron- 

Megatron attacked him. 

Megatron struck him for doing nothing more than trying to protect his computers, then, in response to his -understandable!- reaction of concern and avoidance, decided to punish him. By raping him. Him

He'd almost understood Megatron's treatment of Starscream. It wasn't exactly good, far from it, but Starscream had always been incredibly antagonistic and became much more so once Megatron's behavior became more erratic. It made some degree of sense for Megatron's violent behavior towards Starscream to escalate in response. 

But Soundwave hadn't done anything! He'd always, always, always done as Megatron asked, he'd given his life to- to the Cause, but to Megatron even more so. His mind, his frame, his loyalty- everything. Megatron had only to ask for something and Soundwave would give it. Primus... even like this. If Megatron had asked, in a more stable mental state, to interface with him... 

Soundwave would have been willing. It's a sudden realization, but, yes, he would have been willing before. Because Megatron wouldn't hurt him. 

Because Megatron would not hurt him. 

And yet he had. 

Why? 

He needs to know. Soundwave's claws tighten onto white plating, and he delves into his sound files as quickly as he can, trying to pull up something to ask with. Unfortunately, the recording he plays is the first that comes up for the keyword 'explain'. It's also tagged with 'intimidating'. 

Megatron's voice, dark, hissing, and ominous, snarling "explain"  in a tone that makes most people clamp their plating and oblige. And then he's laughing again, quietly, or at least something similar to laughing, because he startled himself. With his own recording. 

Ratchet, too, except Ratchet's impulsive response isn't to jump or cringe. It's to wrap both arms around him, flare up, and curl in on him. 

Protectively. 

...shouldn't he be out of optical lubricant by now? 

 

Ratchet holds Soundwave close for a few moments, deliberately relaxing his plating in a nonverbal "it's safe" reassurance, then loosens his grip to reach into subspace. "Hey, spook. I found something for you, if you want to read it. Old data on dark energon- someone's studies into the mental effects. Written by a mech running experiments, trying to find a cure. Says it was on condemned criminals, but... Functionalist Autobot experiments. We both know 'condemned criminals' is code for 'easy low-caste targets'. Morals of the tests aside, it is good data, if you want it. This is a copy, you can keep it, and it's unmodified from the original. About the best explanation I got for Megatron's- everything lately.

"If you want me to explain you, that's harder, but I have an estimate. I don't have many details about your past, but I know -everyone knows- that you were a gladiator. And that makes for a whole Pit of a mess of tangled coding. When someone's been attacked enough, spent a long period of time in an area where most or all of the other beings there would gladly harm them, it starts to rewrite how they respond to the presence of others. Tends to develop into touch-aversion if not taken care of, and... Megatronus didn't exactly seem like the sort who'd know how to help with that. It's especially bad in more delicate frametypes- which you are. Fraggin' deadly, but if someone gets ahold of you, you got some issues. Mechs like, say, Bulkhead tend ta be less prone to touch-aversion because they're more equipped to get someone offa them. You? You probably got instincts on high-alert ta keep you safe. And then, with all this stress..." 

Engine rumbling quietly, Ratchet strokes Soundwave's back in the same spots he's been touching, the thicker plating around the bases of his spines. Neutral ground. Slightly more personal than an arm or shoulder touch, but nowhere that people tend to be prone to protecting. He keeps his voice carefully neutral as well, professional but not overly so, presenting the facts as they are. "...that touch-starvation I mentioned can start to come to the surface in response. Especially with the contact we already had from me movin' you. My guess here is your subconscious latched onto me as a potential source of unthreatening contact, especially since we haven't spent much time near each other and haven't made any particular effort to murder each other in the past. Honestly? You shouldn't fight that. I know it's strange, it's weird on my end, but the contact is good for you and will help lower your stress. Might help your pain, too, this sort of attention can trigger the release of endorphines.

Leaning back, he makes an effort to meet Soundwave's gaze, albeit a short effort- Soundwave was barely glancing up at him, only a sliver of one optic visible. "You have my word, I will leave you alone if you want me to. However, if you want me to stay, I am willing. I have no complaints, I am not uncomfortable, and I will not manipulate or take advantage of you. Soundwave, I am a medic. heal. That is my job, that is my purpose, and it is one I gladly embrace. Are we clear?"

Soundwave is looking at him now, with one optic at least, still mostly nuzzled into his front, and Ratchet offers- not quite a smile, but a vaguely approving look, as Soundwave nods once. "Good. Now- you alright with stayin' in my lap?" 

 

Yes. 

No. 

He's... not sure. 

The sensation of dependency is... strange. Unpleasant. But he likes the warmth, the quiet sounds of Ratchet's frame working, and the firm weight around him from the blankets and Ratchet's arms. Ratchet gave him blankets, including an electric blanket, has been exceedingly gentle with him, and- no matter what Ratchet says, this is far more than a medic could really be demanded to do with a mech from the opposing faction. Medics are supposed to attend to a captive's physical health, and at least make an effort not to worsen their mental health. This... is a bit more than that. 

It's nice. Confusing, but nice. 

Not something he can easily figure out, nor something he wants to focus on figuring out. He has no objections, and the physical sensations are pleasant. That's enough for right now. 

There's something more important to focus on. 

Except- ah. 

Leaning back slightly, Soundwave pats Ratchet's side, playing a quick mutter of "settle down" by way of reassurance, and winds his data-cables more firmly up Ratchet's frame. Not enough to truly restrain him, but enough to get a firm hold of him, enough that he could lift or throw the medic if he wanted and wasn't so exhausted. There. Control. Ratchet tenses for a moment, but relaxes again shortly, not seeming to mind. Therefore, Soundwave accepts the data-pad and curls up to read it. 

It does appear to be a valid study. Many, many, many test subjects, exquisitely detailed, of sapient and nonsapient varieties. Soundwave is in no mood to read the particulars of so many gruesome deaths, but he skims, long enough to be sure of the amount and surface validity of the data. From there, on to the summary report. 

Grim. 

No major successes. 

"...in short, an established dark energon infection cannot be cured. It is possible to contain and remove the infection if it is caught quickly enough, but removal is impossible without major deficits once the infection reaches the processor, and outright impossible once spark contamination occurs. In cases of direct spark contamination, this is extremely rapid. Subjects which have experienced direct spark contamination are irreversibly infected almost the instant it touches their spark, certainly more rapidly than any curative efforts can be mounted. Even efforts mounted immediately after contamination cannot move fast enough. Curiously, behavioral abnormalities are greatly delayed in these cases. Dark energon infection normally presents behavioral abnormalities long before full spark infection, but direct spark infection results in an almost symbiotic effect, with massively increased physical abilities presenting far before behavioral changes. However, no matter how normally the subject is acting, behavioral decay is inevitable. No method has been found to prevent or even inhibit this without severe and usually fatal spark damage, often from the backlash."  

That's certainly... decisive. Almost a relief, knowing that there's nothing he could have done to help Megatron once- 

But no, he should have prevented this, should have seen Megatron's obsession for what it was and stopped him from plunging that shard into his chassis. He should have seen- 

-is that last section bolded? It is. People don't generally use bold lettering in anything like a scientific paper. Curiosity alone has Soundwave reading further. 

"Let me be clear. 

"There is no hope. Once dark energon infection progresses to the processor, it cannot be stopped save by entirely removing the infection portions of the processor. If it has spread to the spark, nothing can stop it except death. 

"If you are reading this in hopes of assisting a loved one, I am sorry. All I can offer is the assurance that they are in no pain at this point. I cannot offer you a cure, nor can any science I know of. Advanced dark energon infection has no cure, and you need to leave. Regardless of how they have treated you and others up to this point, they will hurt you. They are not the being you formerly knew. Beings twisted by dark energon are monsters. I can find no other way to describe it. Those who survive the initial stages become violent, and with that violence comes a strange form of cunning. The creature left in your loved one's body wants to hurt you, your friends, everyone it can get its figurative or literal claws into. Forgive my dramatic phrasing, but you must understand- 

"You need to run. If you retain anything from this, it is that you need to run. Please. For all the lives lost to this eldritch scourge. 

"Run. Do not look back. 

"~Spinflask, head researcher at-" 

He knows that lab. It went down during the war, torn apart by furious newly-branded Decepticons who remembered seeing its goons drag their friends away. 

"Condemned criminals" his aft. But that's not important right now. He has no energy to spare for outrage, he's been over this and a thousand other outrages like it before. 

Soundwave reads the last few sentences over twice more, letting it all sink in, then shuts off the screen and puts the 'pad aside. Aside from the information about the speed of infection, there's little in here that he didn't already know or at least heavily suspect. 

Megatron is gone.

His frame is still moving, but Megatron is as dead as if someone had ripped his spark out and snuffed it in their claws. It's almost a relief to have the affirmation of that, almost, because if Megatron is gone it means that Megatron didn't hurt him, Megatron didn't betray him, Megatron didn't break a promise, didn't- 

But this also means that it was his fault. If he'd stopped Megatron, if he'd talked to Megatron as best he could or presented all the data he could get or just outright hidden the dark energon, then Megatron wouldn't have faded.

If Soundwave had only had the sense to stop him, to head off the visible and concerning obsession rather than dismissing it as a coping mechanism, this wouldn't have happened. 

It's his fault. He should have seen, should have realized, should have noticed far before now that Megatron wasn't acting normal, wasn't acting like himself, wasn't acting sane, and either he could have stopped it from happening or at least stopped blindly trusting Megatron not to hurt him when it wasn't Megatron any more. 

This is his fault, no one else's, of course Megatron did something stupid, he was a miner, a poet, thrown into a war at the head of the rebel side, that was an immense amount of stress, of course he'd been vulnerable to manipulation by a seemingly-all-powerful spirit of chaos, of course he'd done something impulsive and gotten himself hurt, Megatronus had always been charging helmfirst into situations and Megatron wasn't much better, of course- 

He should have stopped this, and he's sorry. Not only for himself but for his Lord, his companion, his friend, the mech he should have been protecting, who he'd all but abandoned as he tried to bury himself in his research and away from what they'd done to their home. He shouldn't have let this happen, it's no one's fault but his, because Megatron would never have hurt him this way, because that wasn't Megatron, because that was the monster he let overtake his Lord's frame without even trying to stop it-

Soundwave's claws dig into his own plating and he keens, a high, shaky, broken sound, plating clamping down tight against his shuddering frame. Curling into himself and away from the servos trying to pry his claws from his own sides, he whines and shudders and snaps, fangs clamping on thin air in protest at Ratchet touching him. Never mind that his cables are still around Ratchet's frame and keeping him from moving away. 

 

"Soundwave? Hey, hey- c'mon, spook, you quit that, got enough cuts without addin' yer own- c'mon, Soundwave-" Ratchet mutters, prying Soundwave's claws up and away from his own frame, and holds the spymaster's narrow servos in his own so he can prevent any further damage. "Ah, dammit- you stop that! I can feel the guilt from here, and you have nothing to be guilty about. Megatron was an idiot an' that dark energon is his own slaggin' fault. Ain't yer fault he did somethin' moronic. Come on, mech, stop curlin' like that- gonna hurt yerself. Open yer optics. Look at me, spook, hey- dammit, Soundwave-" 

 

Chapter Text

Ratchet wouldn't have any actual hope of restraining Soundwave, not if the spymaster really wanted to escape, but the half-sparked squirming is easy enough to contain. Holding Soundwave's servos firmly in his own, he moves his wrists so that it's the plating of his arms that the narrow claws scratch instead of his servos, then just holds on and lets Soundwave tire himself out. The datacable around his frame squeezes firmly a couple of times, but never tight enough to hurt, and Soundwave never does anything other than try to get his claws back to his own frame. Distress, but not distress at being held.

Once his patient-slash-captive stops fighting, Ratchet settles the claws against his own sides, offering Soundwave something to grip as he slowly strokes trembling purple-grey spines. "Easy, Soundwave. You stop that guilt, now. This isn't your fault. Like I said- Megatron was an idiot. Maybe not all the time, but this whole thing is down to his own stupid choice, you are not at fault for what he did. Are we clear, spook? You get all that guilt outta yer field before I gotta start throwin' it out."  

 

No. 

As nice as that sounds, it's not that simple. Ratchet doesn't know the facts, doesn't know the history, doesn't- 

...wait. How is he intending to throw an emotion? That's not something that people can do. Soundwave cocks his helm, analyzing Ratchet's tone, and comes to the conclusion that the medic isn't joking. Then... how...

Somewhere between angry at himself, confused by the suggestion, and defiant at being told what to do with his own emotions, Soundwave deliberately surges the guilt-undertone against Ratchet, staring him down in a challenge. What are you going to do? 

 

Ratchet isn't kidding. He's a medic, and a thoroughly experienced one, he knows more than one trick to play. He can't do much about the emotions in someone's processor, but sometimes shoving it out of someone's field can help, or at least confuse them enough to get them focused on something else. His frame comes equipped to project his field much further and much stronger than most, a medic's trick to calm patients and dissuade attack, and he puts it to use with Soundwave. A powerful surge of reassurance/assuredness/comfort, strong enough that it physically pushes Soundwave's field back, leaving the spymaster looking a bit like he's had a hurricane blown in his face all at once. 

Smirking, Ratchet rubs firmly around the bases of Soundwave's spines, waiting for him to look a bit less wind-blown. "Told you. I figured you'd know by now, spook, medics don't bluff about their own abilities. You okay there?" 

 

Soundwave makes a quiet, vaguely dazed static-pop noise, blinking hard, then slumps against Ratchet's frame and buzzes static at the medic. Well. Apparently that is what Ratchet intends to do. 

Startlingly effective. He does actually feel like Ratchet has thrown all his emotions out. Not just out of his field, out of his processor. Which... works for him, actually, he didn't want those emotions anyway. Useless, distracting chemical signals. He's not "okay", no, but he's... neutral. Acceptable. Not actively crying or experiencing any significant desire to kill something. 

Most importantly, able to think. Specifically, about Ratchet's insistence that he isn't at fault for this. Which is... inaccurate. Soundwave should have seen what was happening. At the very least, he should have had the sense to leave once Megatron became unstable. Should have left when Megatron struck him. Should have had the sense not to put himself in a room, alone, with Megatron. To claim otherwise would be, quite simply, incorrect. 

But... the fault is not entirely his. Megatron should have known better than to expose himself to dark energon. Soundwave is at fault to some extent for Megatron's degenerating mental state, and thereby for his own attack, and Megatron is also responsible. Exact percentages of faults can be calculated later and may not actually be all that important. As for now, he never answered Ratchet, did he? Soundwave blinks a couple of times, then ex-vents heavily and deliberately lets his field uncurl around Ratchet by way of answering.

Whether or not he's okay depends on one's definition of okay. He's... blank. Tired, sore, and cold. Laserbeak against his chassis, alive, but offering him no presence and no comfort. He's in the Autobot medic's lap, curled up, cables wrapped around the larger mech's frame. And, as he thinks on it, Ratchet pulls the blankets up and around him. Including an electric blanket, which draws a near-silent purr out of him as the warmth settles in. 

Situational assessment mixed. 

Mental state neutral. 

Tired. 

Soundwave curls further into Ratchet's frame, ducking his helm under the blanket, and in doing so notices that one of the claw marks on his thigh has opened up. He's bleeding again, sluggishly but steadily, an even drip-drip-drip of energon onto- it would be onto the berth, except that he's in Ratchet's lap, so he's bleeding onto Ratchet's leg. Not only is that a health risk for him if it doesn't stop soon, he really doubts that Ratchet is enjoying being bled on. 

 

Ratchet is not. Sighing quietly, he leans back and speaks as gently as he can, keeping his field soft and warm in an attempt not to frighten his patient. "I can feel you bleeding, spook. Alright if I take a look, see what reopened? I'm guessing it might be an opened wound on your thigh. All I need to do is get a look, maybe add some sealant over it. Just need you to shift and move these blankets... all right, Soundwave? Let me see you," he coaxes, stroking gently at Soundwave's flank, and sighs when the spymaster doesn't move. It's understandable, the reluctance, but he's going to have to coax it aside. "Here- you hitch those cables up further, 'round my chassis. Check my sparkrate. If I were up to something, my sparkrate would increase... you know that." 

 

Soundwave doesn't want to. He braces himself in place for a moment, tense and still, refusing to move. 

Not for long, though. 

He can't risk upsetting Ratchet. A token resistance is hopefully acceptable, he has to stand up for himself just this fraction, but he can't fight. 

Not only because of his physical condition, either. That would be upsetting enough, but this? Having to comply to ensure his continuing medical treatment, to ensure that he and Laserbeak aren't simply left to fend for themselves, potentially abandoned to the tender mercies of the Wreckers?

Humiliating. 

But he obeys. He shrugs the blankets back, he leans back, and he splays his thighs out around Ratchet's lap, making things as easy as possible in hopes of removing any potential ire at his resistance. 

To his surprise and relief, Ratchet does not immediately touch him.

 

All Ratchet does is look, easily locating the source of the bleeding- a long claw mark, high on Soundwave's inner thigh, freshly reopened and bleeding sluggishly. There's no need to touch, he can see it well enough to assess the situation, and he moves only to pull the blankets back over Soundwave's frame. "There we go. Like I thought, you pulled one of those wounds back open. Not surprising. Now, Soundwave, do I have your permission to deal with that? All I need to do is coat one of my fingertips in sealant and run it over that gash. Should take about a nanoklik, and I can do it without looking. You can stay under those blankets. Is that all right?" 

As Soundwave retreats under the blankets, Ratchet continues to not touch. His optics linger near Soundwave's faceplates, an offer of optic contact, but he doesn't try to push for it. This is a situation where he can't push for anything, not in the slightest, or Soundwave will either retreat further or push back- violently. Neither of those options is likely to resolve the situation in anything resembling a positive manner. 

 

No. It's not "all right". He's still hurting, still tense and nervous, and Ratchet wants to touch one of the last places on his frame where he wants to be touched right now. His arms and back wouldn't be an issue, and he could tolerate having his sides or abdomen touched, maybe even his outer thighs, but he does not want Ratchet's servo that close to his interface equipment. Ratchet has a point, though, that gash needs to be closed before it bleeds any more. 

Besides, Ratchet has already seen, and touched, almost everywhere on Soundwave's frame. At this point, he's had his servos just about everywhere other than Soundwave's spark chamber. Not that Soundwave would have any way of knowing if... if Ratchet had decided to... 

He's not going to dwell on the many things Ratchet could potentially have done to him while he was sedated. 

Instead, he nods once, reaches out, and grips Ratchet's forearm for long enough to tug the medic's servo towards his frame. There. Permission. There's no point in resisting, he's given his token resistance already, may as well cooperate and let Ratchet grope help him.

It... turns out to not be as... anything as expected. Ratchet dips a fingertip into the sealant container, then reaches for him, field pulsing reassurance/calm/confidence in measured waves. He rests his palm on Soundwave's leg, waits a few nanokliks, then spreads the sealant liberally over the opened gash. It stings slightly, but the bleeding stops, and Soundwave is left no worse off than before. Granted, that's because he was already as physically tense as it was possible for him to be, but he's not stressed any further. In fact, the ease with which the whole situation is resolved starts to calm him down- 

Until Ratchet's servo brushes his knee plating and Soundwave's entire frame jolts in response as he tries to kick Ratchet. It's not exactly successful, given that he's in his target's lap, but some part of his lower leg clashes against Ratchet's side with enough force to leave paint transfers. For half an instant, the rest of his frame follows the impulse, armor flaring and claws spreading as panic takes over and tries to launch him at Ratchet's throat- 

His claws click together as Ratchet grabs him, one wrist in each servo, and Soundwave realizes himself far too late. He's just tried to maul Ratchet, if he's being honest with himself. He might not be able to manage much in his current state, but that- that was old instinct, old programming, from when he was young and still asserting himself as someone to never touch without permission. Must have been triggered by contact that could conceivably have led to trying to pry his knees apart, some part of him notes, but the rest of him is too busy panicking to think too hard about it. 

Medics don't like when their patients try to maim them. Soundwave has just undeniably attempted to do serious harm to Ratchet. Reflexively, yes, but he tried, thwarted as he was by his injuries and the awkward positioning. Being curled up in blankets and halfway in someone's lap did not an easy attack make.

Ratchet's initial response, past grabbing him to stop him? Something tingling through his field that feels unpleasantly like pity. 

Not only is he absolutely in serious trouble, not only has he just demonstrated his helplessness, he's demonstrated it thoroughly enough for Ratchet to pity him. 

Ouch. 

Anticipating actual pain, Soundwave hunches into himself, twisting his shoulder and elbow joints painfully as he tries to shield Laserbeak without actually pulling his servos away from Ratchet. He's not going to fight. Whatever's about to happen, he's going to put up with it. It won't be dangerous to him, after all, Ratchet isn't about to repair him and then immediately take him apart again. Whatever Ratchet does to him, he'll endure it. He has to, for Laserbeak's sake. For his own. He can't afford Ratchet being angry at him for long. The best he can do is try to shield his little one and do his best to be still. 

It's far easier than he'll ever admit to just curl into himself and submit. That much is mostly intentional. The oddly apologetic crackle of static from his speakers, on the other servo, is not. It's as sparkfelt as the urge to curl up and hide, but it's real. He doesn't normally attack people who are trying to help him.  

I didn't mean to. 

I'm sorry.

 

 

Ratchet holds onto Soundwave's wrists as tightly as he can without causing damage, and gradually loosens his grip as the spymaster stays curled up. Rumbling his engine as gently as it can possibly run, he pulses reassurance/comfort/sincerity against Soundwave's frame, despite Soundwave's field being pulled in so tightly it might as well not exist. When Soundwave doesn't do anything, Ratchet lets go with one servo, moving to pet his forearm instead in slow, even circles. "Easy, Soundwave. You aren't in trouble. I don't blame you for lashing out, understand? It's a perfectly normal response. You don't want me touching you anywhere near your hips, that's fine! I don't particularly want to touch you there either. Don't wanna have to hold you still at all, either, so... if I let go, you think you can avoid tryin' to claw my optics out?" 

Soundwave nods, and Ratchet lets go, removing his servos entirely from his patient's frame. "Good. You get comfortable again, if you can. And- Soundwave? Even if I was upset with you, I wouldn't hurt you for it. I'd... probably yell at you. Might smack you with a wrench, it makes good emphasis. But I wouldn't damage you, and I wouldn't hurt you. I don't motivate my patients with fear. You hear me?" he sighs, looking down at the spymaster curled against his side, servos clenching as if resisting the urge to touch. Soundwave gives no sign of having heard him. 

After a klik or two, he reaches into subspace and pulls out a stack of data-pads, offering one to his patient. "You want a distraction? These are some old medical texts that need translating. They have some images of serious wounds in them, but they're all either of corpses or sedated people, nobody awake and in pain. You can help me translate, if you want, and I can run a program on there to hide the images if you can't deal with that right now. Fair warning, I can't tell you anything about the content beyond that, I haven't read through all of them yet. For all I know, some of them are mislabeled. You wanna find out?" 

 

...oh. 

Yes.

Yes, please, he would like a distraction. Soundwave takes the offered 'pad, tucking himself under the blankets to- well, to hide. As much as physically possible, he's hiding, under the blankets and against Ratchet's side. His face is hidden, his field is shut off entirely thanks to exploited emergency measures, and there's no way the medic can see his body language from this angle. Which is good, because it hides how incredibly relieved he is. Primus. Ratchet isn't angry with him.

It... makes a degree of sense, honestly. Medics get lashed out at. Soundwave didn't do any actual damage, and he stopped and apologized as soon as he realized himself. This is past "not being angry", though, this is actively trying to help. Giving him a distraction, and a good one, suited to his skills. Not difficult, it's only basic translation, but basic translation can be somewhat entertaining. The subject, as well, is mildly interesting. If a bit... to the point. This isn't a medical text related to physical repair, this is a psych text, describing the process of trauma recovery. The first chapter deals with trauma in citizens of bombed cities, which is something Soundwave has seen a lot of. Really, though, he's seen a lot of every sort of trauma imaginable at this point. Actually reading the medical description is interesting insight, though. 

 

A servoful of kliks later, Ratchet angles a mostly-translated 'pad towards Soundwave, waggling it lightly to get his attention. "Look at this. Mech got a chunk of his spark chamber bit out by a Sparkeater before someone else hit it with a cannon to get it off. They managed to decapitate the thing, then pried its mouth open, got a good fifth of his spark chamber out, put it back in him. Pit of a mess. Half the snaps in here are of the Sparkeater, though, looks like whoever recorded this was as interested in him as the patient. You wanna see? Real good look at the thing. And at how much you can mess up a mech and still put 'im back together. You ever see a Sparkeater up close?" 

 

Soundwave props himself up out of his hiding place, trying to pretend his servos aren't still shaking, and leans in to look at the snaps. It's a mess. The mech in question is torn open along his entire front, lying on an operating table with a guttering spark clearly visible, and the vital signs recorded below are beyond alarming. Next, a few snaps of the repair process to the spark chamber, then of the cabling and plating restoration, with the vitals improving steadily. It seems the mech was incredibly lucky- the Sparkeater's teeth didn't reach far enough in to get to his actual spark. 

Then, hm, Sparkeater snaps. Detailed, up close, with the frame posed in different ways to show the anatomy. He's seen them before, over security cameras and in person, but never holding still and up close. He has seen one up close, in person, for far longer than anyone has ever wanted to see a Sparkeater up close. And it was... most definitely not holding still. It's not a story he tends to share, but mostly because of the details. Someone thought it would be entertaining to watch the Pit's latest up-and-coming gladiator battle a horrifically deadly monster. It... probably was entertaining, as blood sport went. It was not entertaining for Soundwave, he was too busy trying not to die. 

It was, however, impressive. Shrugging the blankets away slightly, Soundwave touches Ratchet's arm to get his attention, then outright removes a piece of his chassis plating low on his side. It doesn't show off anything particularly interesting, as anatomy goes, but it does reveal the end of a set of rending claw marks. Distinctive, if you know what to look for, and Ratchet absolutely does. With that in mind, Soundwave shows off, deliberately, for several kliks before putting his plating back. 

Ratchet looks impressed. Soundwave smiles, not quite realizing it, and his clamped plating loosens a fraction further. A quick spiraling motion with his fingertips, then he plays back a blaster sound, a noise of crackling electricity, and then an utterly fascinating audial clip. The sound of multiple sparks fritzing and crackling, accompanied by a Sparkeater's furious screeching, fading quickly into the distance before being cut off by an electrical explosion. He'd made use of the power pack in a servo-held blaster, making it as unstable as possible while running from a soul-eating monster, and had plunged it into the thing's belly at the first opportunity. Its claws snagged him, left him with the scars he'd shown Ratchet, but the sparks in its belly destabilized as he escaped and exploded before the thing could pursue him any further. Few things would kill a Sparkeater, but the force of multiple fresh sparks exploding in its innards did the trick. Thoroughly. Hence his inability to examine the remains, there hadn't been much left to examine.

Ooh. Ratchet looks like he's much more impressed than he wants to admit to. Despite himself, despite his lingering apprehension and the continuing throbs of pain, Soundwave bares his fangs in a small, pleased smile. When he catches himself, he huffs dismissively and glances away, shrugging off the very idea of his own enjoyment. 

 

"I'll... take that as a yes," Ratchet mutters, leaning to the side to get a better look. "That would make you one of, what, half a dozen mechs to kill a Sparkeater solo and survive it? Impressive. Those scars are thicker than they need to be, though. Guessing they didn't get proper care at the time. Once you're feeling better, let me know if you want them treated, I may be able to encourage your nanites to work on them further and improve the flexibility. Those aren't going anywhere, but I can reduce them. Don't worry about that right now, we'll discuss it after the rest of you is healed up." 

From there, he leaves the point alone. No need to push. He sits quietly and works, leaving Soundwave to himself, offering no further attention than what seems to be wanted. Keep calm, keep his patient calm, be as productive as possible with what he can do. Simple. 

The COMM he has to answer shortly after? Not simple. 

Soundwave looks up at the surge of exasperation through Ratchet's field and body language, and he sighs, shaking his helm. "Wheeljack's testing some explosive or another and he just stood too close to his test site. I need to go put some of him back on. You stay here, all right? You're in no shape to move, and I doubt you wanna come deal with idiot Wreckers. Get comfortable. There's energon in the nearest cabinet and a basic sealant, and a lot of miscellaneous tools in the rest. Technically this is a storage room. Feel free to mess with whatever you want as long as nobody gets injured. Including you, don't injure yourself. Now, try not to get up, you'll probably hurt something if you do. Once Wheeljack is back in one piece, I'll set you up a brace and see if I can fit a crutch to your frame that'll work with your arm structure." 

Passing the entire stack of data-pads to Soundwave, Ratchet extricates himself from the assorted blankets and spymaster limbs, wincing slightly as he has to straighten his knees. "Pit. All right- here's my COMM. You need something, you call me. If I'm not here, go see Optimus. He's worried about you, woulda been in here already if I hadn't told him to leave you the slag alone. That door locks, you are welcome to lock it. I have an emergency unlock code, but I'm not going to... Soundwave? You listening?" 

 

Soundwave is not listening. Soundwave is staring at the passage he's translated, and the images contained within. Not shockingly for a text on trauma recovery, it has a section on rape. The images? Details on specific aspects of a pelvic exam. Granted, the subject of the images is uninjured and, from what Soundwave can see of their body language, doesn't seem to mind the situation very much. It... it makes sense, it does, one would have to check what physical harm had been done. That initial exam is over with, but there's a series of follow-up exams at specific points, listed as something mandatory.

That's not happening. Soundwave lifts his helm to stare Ratchet down, taps the passage in question, and hisses. It's a thoroughly unnerving sound made entirely of speaker static, and he raises his armor in the most aggressive gesture he can manage to accompany it. No. Ratchet is not going to touch his valve again. Initial repairs, fine, he was bleeding, those were necessary, but he doesn't need to worry about functionality for a part of his frame he's never going to use again. The only way anyone is going to touch his valve again is to surgically remove it.

Which, now that he thinks about it, sounds like a good idea. 

If only he had options other than "vain, gossiping pest" and "cranky Autobot". 

 

Ratchet squints and leans in enough to see what exactly Soundwave is hissing at, then sighs and shakes his helm, halfway to the door. "Yeah, figured you wouldn't like that. Look- I'm not gonna discuss this now, i got a patient and you don't need any more stress. I'll leave it at this- I am not going to strap you down and pry your panels open. If you refuse the follow-up exams, I will respect that. I do not touch patients without consent unles they're in imminent danger. I'm gonna tell you why you should let me do the exam, let you make the choice based on logic, but for now all I'll say is that you really need to let me check for infections and make sure nothing is scarring too badly. Bad enough scars will cause you chronic pain. I want to prevent that. I will not, however, force you into doing anything that is not vital to your survival. This is not. I gotta go deal with a moron, we can discuss this later. Again- the exams are optional. Highly recommended, but optional. I'm leavin'. Lock the door if you want. If a human shows up in the air vents, you can shut the vent to keep 'em out. Probably gonna have Miko prying in at least once. She's nosy. Doesn't mean any harm, but... yeah. Try not ta injure yourself any further before I get back." 

He clearly doesn't want to leave, but, armor flared in clear exasperation, he does, shutting the door behind him and leaving Soundwave alone. 

 

Very, very alone, and uncomfortably aware of it. 

Soundwave watches the door close, and slumps into a heap as soon as it does, exhausted by his own defensive efforts. Curling up, he stares dully at the offending 'pad, optics lingering on the images for several moments longer. That's not a position he wants to imagine himself in, but he can't exactly help thinking about it. Can't put the 'pad down, either, he has to finish translating it. That's a quirk of his, one he's fully aware of. When stressed, his perfectionism flares up to near-obsessive levels. Which is fine, he's fine, he can do this, they're just pictures. Pictures of a standard medical exam, on an uninjured and seemingly calm person. 

It's fine. 

He's fine. 

He's not missing Ratchet already. 

...it's the warmth. He just wants the warmth back. Warmth and an EM field that's actually something near open. Not open all the way, but present, not actively disguised, and positive. And warm. Laserbeak is warm, but she's small. Electric blankets are warm, and this one is- 

He pauses to push his face into the electric blanket, curling up tight with Laserbeak to his chassis, putting his spined back to the door to protect himself and his little one as much as possible. It's warm, it's soft, but he's alone. 

Pitiful. Not two kliks after Ratchet leaves him alone, he wants to drag himself off this berth, against common sense, and follow the medic. He wants to drag Ratchet back and gently hold him captive as a source of warmth and a semi-friendly EM field. He wants, but he can't. If he was still safe on the Nemesis, he might be able to catch a Vehicon to fill that role, it would be easy to convince one to keep quiet. Or, alternately, to get a Vehicon to claim they'd interfaced instead of the Vehicon being used as a cuddle toy. He'd been tempted in the past. Yes, there was a potential for manipulation, but manipulating a Vehicon into holding still and being cuddled was hardly sinister. It wouldn't hurt anyone. Confuse them, sure, but not hurt them. 

Primus, that's a tempting thought. There's no good way for him to round up a Vehicon at this point, though. No way at all. He'll just have to distract himself with this work. It's good work, translating documents that will be useful to the survival of their species. Distract himself, hold Laserbeak close, and hope Ratchet checks in on him soon. 

Ratchet does not. 

Soundwave finishes the document on trauma recovery, then starts on a new one. This one is about the development of sparklings, frame and spark, from conception to birth. A much more positive topic, and a pleasure to work on. This one is laden with pictures, mostly scans, images of tiny, developing frames and sparks. All healthy and normal, aside from one frame growing two arms out of the same shoulder, and even that is healthy. Fluttering glints of light, bundles of near-fluid metal gradually developing form... some aspects of this are familiar. The process is almost identical to symbiote development. That's a bittersweet topic, given how many of his little ones he's lost, but it comes with hope. He could have more. There is absolutely nothing stopping him from having another symbiote. 

Nothing stopping him except for the fact that his Lord just attacked him and he has no idea when he'll be somewhere safe again. If he will. At this point, what can he do? Nothing, that's what. Nothing. All he can do is wait. And, what- plot to take over the Nemesis? 

...not a bad idea, actually. If he could take the Nemesis away from Megatron (it's his ship, after all) then he would be safe. The ship's defenses could fend Megatron off, and potentially keep out of his range forever. Megatron isn't capable of long-range space travel. The Vehicons are almost mindlessly loyal, but could probably be persuaded to turn away from Megatron. Starscream... would be something of an issue, but Soundwave could deal with him. He'd likely be more stable without Megatron's influence, in any case. And, really, Starscream would be welcome to his illusion of power if it kept him out of real trouble. Airachnid? Should probably groundbridge her to somewhere remote, be rid of her entirely. No significant problems to deal with as far as crew... if he could figure out how to get Megatron off the ship. 

That might be a plan. He's in no shape to make significant plans, he isn't exactly mobile, but stealing the Nemesis could work. 

For now, rest. He needs to heal first before he can do anything. 

 

Soundwave tries to nap. His frame needs to heal, and his processor needs time to sort itself out. That's a familiar enough process.

Familiar, but still distressing, and worse than usual. He's never been betrayed like this before, and, still reeling, Soundwave's processor tries to run over the incident again and figure it out. 

Narrow claws rip into the berth padding as Soundwave writhes, speakers crackling off and on, a panicked whine twisting its way out of his throat. 

Claws ripping into his thigh and digging deep, holding tight, wrenching out a servoful of cables in a crippling wound as the other servo clamps around his datacables, heavy weight settling on top of him, something in his abdomen crunching under pressure- 

Powerful servos dragging him into place and fangs sinking into his plating, deep, the stab of pain nothing compared to the tearing in his abdomen as powerful claws tear into him, and then that pain nothing at all compared to the ripping agony in his valve- 

Speakers and vocalizer squeal in unison, and Soundwave outright thrashes, trying to squirm away from an imaginary weight- 

And wakes up as he hits the floor. 

Vents heaving, Soundwave lays still, limp, and as quiet as possible, staring up at the ceiling. He lays still for a few long kliks, stunned, then slowly drags himself back onto the berth in search of comfort from the warmth. Tank roiling, he leans over the edge of the berth and retches a couple of times, but thankfully manages to keep everything in his tank where it is. Purging would probably make him hurt... worse than everything already does. He's agitated every injured part of his frame and some uninjured parts, and it's so, so tempting to just lay still and wait for Ratchet to come back. 

He's bleeding, though. Badly. More than he was before. 

He needs Ratchet. For more reasons than some strange desire for contact. COMMs won't do him any good, Ratchet isn't going to come back before his Autobot patient is repaired, so- so he needs to go and look, see if Ratchet is back or not, convey his exact level of urgency. He- he needs to- 

Ratchet. 

Still panting so hard his shoulders are heaving, Soundwave gathers Laserbeak up, checking her over. Thank Primus, she's all right- he didn't hurt her in his flailing. She needs to come, he's- he's not leaving her alone, he's not. 

He needs to take Laserbeak and go find Ratchet. Passing out from energon loss wouldn't be so bad, he'd get some rest without dreams, but passing out and dying would be... pathetic. He's cold already, energon dripping down his front at a worrying rate, and it doesn't stop when he applies pressure to it. 

Bleeding, exhausted, and frightened, Soundwave limps to the door and out into the hallway, staring up and down its length. One way is dark, one is light. Assuming it to be towards the main room, Soundwave heads towards the light, leaning on the wall with one arm and cradling Laserbeak in the other. Hopefully he can find Ratchet before someone else finds him. 

He... does not. He finds the main room, gets a glimpse of the medical area, and finds Optimus Prime. Optimus Prime does not find him, the Prime is too focused on a computer console, and Ratchet is nowhere to be seen. Must not be here. He'll- he'll just go and lay down, curl up, be warm, wait for Ratchet to- to come back, and- 

Before Soundwave can leave, a servo lands on his shoulder. A large, powerful servo. 

Soundwave cringes, baring his fangs and clamping his armor in a manner that's intended to be intimidating but comes across as terrified, and slowly turns his helm just enough to see who's- 

Bulkhead. That's Bulkhead. 

This is going to hurt. 

 

Optimus turns around at an odd, staticky crackling noise, catches sight of the situation, and sighs quietly. "Bulkhead, I really wouldn't suggest that you... please let go of him. Soundwave really looks quite unhappy with you touching him, and- Soundwave, are you-" 

Concerned, he steps closer, trying to get a good look at Soundwave. Evidently he gets too close, because Soundwave shrieks and launches at his face. 

 

Soundwave hunches into himself and hisses quietly up at the both of them, trying to warn them to back off, he's never liked being touched and he doesn't want to be trapped with a servo on his shoulder, let alone trapped between two mechs, both larger than him, who have no reason not to-

Grey plating and sharp fangs and glowing purple optics flash through his processor, and Soundwave lunges, desperately trying to get away- 

Powerful datacables unfurl, already crackling with electricity, and an instant later Optimus is on the floor with Soundwave on top of him and energy coursing through his frame. Another instant later, and Soundwave is off him, perched instead on the platform in the center of the room. He crouches there for a nanoklik, plating flared, retracting his cables in preparation for new motion- 

Then Bulkhead charges him, clearly angry, and Soundwave bolts for the nearest door. A door which is suddenly filled by Wheeljack, who doesn't have any time to response before Soundwave bounces off his chassis, somehow twisting to turn the collision into a springboard leap across the room. This time, he aims for the door back to the familiar hallway, hoping with the fraction of his processor that's still thinking logically to barricade himself into the room until Ratchet gets back. That would maybe, maybe spare him, Ratchet might be able to stop them from forcing him to do any more repairs to Soundwave's frame, he has a chance- 

Until he tries to leap over Optimus in the same instant as the Prime sits up. Caught off guard, he collides with the larger mech's chassis, speakers crackling a cry of pain, and crumples into a heap in the Prime's lap. Stunned, he pants and claws weakly at whatever plating comes against his servos, trying to escape the powerful servos that come up around him, then shivers and goes completely limp. 

He's going to die. 

The Wreckers are going to be angry with him for this situation in general, for springing off Wheeljack's frame, for- probably for most of the things he's done over the course of the war, and that would be enough of a problem without the fact that he just attacked Optimus Prime. He's just proven that he's dangerous, that he shouldn't be here, shouldn't be loose in their space, isn't even worth the supplies they're using on him- 

He can't get away. He can't. Optimus has a servo on his shoulder, gentle but tight, and he's still practically in the Prime's lap- 

A thousand and one scenarios run through Soundwave's mind, and none of them end well for him. Even if he can get away, he'll rip every single one of his wounds back open and bleed out, die slowly and leave Laserbeak behind to weaken and fade until she dies, of starvation, of grief, she'll- 

They're going to kill him, and she's going to die with him. That's unavoidable. There are no other symbiote hosts alive to take her. The best he can do is make it quick, for her, make sure she doesn't wake up only to learn that he's dead. He's seen symbiotes die after their host goes. They flicker and fade, grieving, miserable, starving without a host to feed them and not even wanting to live without their host. 

He's going to die. She's going to die. The best he can do is make it quick. 

A thousand and one scenarios, and the only one that sticks in his mind is acceptance. Die with whatever shred of dignity he can still manage. Die with- with Laserbeak held close, in hopes that- 

It goes against every single line of host coding in his being, but he brings Laserbeak to his chassis, hugging her close in hopes that the- the backlash of his extinguished spark will take her with him. It'll be quick. She'll go out just like that, with him, never waking up to feel his death or her own. This is the best he can do for her. He's failed to protect her, all he can do is make it quick. There's a selfish fragment to it, though- he needs the comfort to do this. 

He needs the comfort of her form against his chassis to stop trying to run. 

Stop shaking. 

Stop panting. 

And slowly, slowly, kneel in front of the Prime.

It's not a defensive posture, it's not an attempt at escape. It's submission. He keeps his helm down, partially as a gesture of submission, of acceptance, partially because if he looks up he's going to lose his nerve and try to fight and- and probably die pinned to a wall or crushed under a Wrecker's frame. He almost shudders at that thought, almost, but manages to stay still.

He will not look. 

He will not panic. 

He will keep his fear internal, and he will pray that the Prime executes him quickly rather than drawing it out or- or leaving him to be a toy to be torn apart by- 

Soundwave's optics cut sideways to the Wreckers, and he can't keep himself from shuddering this time. 

Please, no. Anything but that. Anything but them.

You are my enemy by circumstance, but I have never done anything malicious to you. I have never wronged you for my own pleasure. 

I respect you. I hope that you respect me. 

If you do, please. 

Make it quick.

 

Optimus is silent for several long moments, then he shifts onto his knees as well, looking around the room. "The rest of you, please leave. I can handle this situation, and I am not injured. If I need assistance, I will alert you, but I do not expect that to happen. Unless someone can find Ratchet, please leave us alone," he orders, his voice soft but firm, and watches until the Wreckers are out of the room. 

When they're alone, he does his best to meet Soundwave's optics, and fails entirely. Field spreading to pulse sympathy/reassurance/comfort to the terrified spymaster, he places two fingertips gently under Soundwave's chin and coaxes him to raise his helm slightly. "Please, Soundwave, look at me." 

 

He doesn't want to. 

He can't. If he looks up and sees what's about to happen, he won't be able to stay like this. 

But... Optimus' voice is so soft, perfectly matching his field, and he doesn't sound angry or threatening. He doesn't sound like an executioner. He sounds...

Soundwave obeys, lifting his helm just enough to meet the Prime's optics, and sees...

Oh. 

Optimus' optics are soft and worried and full of concern, intense but soothing, and once Soundwave looks he can't pull his gaze away. And his voice, Primus... his voice is divine. Low, gentle, almost purring, and genuine. Soundwave has audio files of some of Optimus' speeches, both for historical purposes and, if he's being honest, to enjoy the Prime's voice. Being this close, on the Prime's level... this is an entirely different experience, and his voice is amazing up this close. He can't pull his optics away, can't pull his frame away, and there's no way he's going to stop listening. 

Gradually, Soundwave's body language melts from that tense, shaking, terrified appeasing gesture to true submission. Frame relaxed, plating loosened, leaning into the servo on his jaw, listening to Optimus speak. 

He's confused. Baffled. Optimus should be angry, should be furious. There are singed patterns all over his chassis from Soundwave's desperate attempts at escape, and Soundwave knows that must have hurt, but he doesn't look angry. He looks... worried. 

He's trying to help. 

Optimus Prime is trying to help him, and Soundwave cannot fathom why.

 

"There we are, Soundwave," Optimus hums, field thrumming gentle approval, and pets Soundwave's forearm with one servo. "I am not upset with you. This was my fault, I knew better than to crowd you and I got too close anyway. Your reaction is entirely understandable. I am not upset with you, and I am not injured. My paint nanites have something of a job ahead of them, it seems, but I am not injured. I would not be upset with you even if you had injured me. You were frightened, and you responded accordingly. Now... you are bleeding, and I am concerned. May I try to stop the bleeding by applying pressure? I will be as gentle as I can. May I?" he asks, softly, and holds out his free servo. He doesn't push, doesn't try to touch without permission, just offers. 

 

Still baffled, Soundwave pulls his gaze away from Optimus' face just long enough to look down at his servos, judging the offer. He doesn't want someone stronger than him to touch him, but he does need to stop bleeding, and he doesn't dare refuse an offer of help. Not from a Prime. Optimus seems to be reasonable, but Soundwave can't take any risks here. It would have been a risk to push anything at first, with him serving no purpose other than to use up medical supplies, but this- 

He can't risk it. 

Leaning back slightly, Soundwave lifts his arm and offers his bleeding flank, holding as still as he possibly can. Somehow, it works, even when Optimus touches his stomach. He's never liked that, he should be pulling away, but Optimus' servo is warm. It hurts, applying pressure to his wounds, but it's... mmh. Soundwave, despite himself, despite his common sense, leans into the contact. Almost in a daze, he lifts his servos to grip Optimus' forearm, holding tight, and pulls. 

He wants more. 

More pressure to stop the bleeding, more contact, more warmth

More

 

Optimus looks mildly confused, but goes along with it, holding pressure on Soundwave's stomach. He's not in any pain or danger, and Soundwave clearly wants to continue. This is workable.

Eventually, he loosens the pressure slightly, checking to see if the bleeding resumes. It doesn't. "There we are, that seems to be working. It looks like you may have slightly opened several smaller wounds rather than badly opening a larger one. Ratchet should have a look at you, I'd imagine, but for now the pressure seems to be helping. May I wrap some bandages around your midsection to keep the pressure on? I can't exactly sit here for the rest of the day, applying pressure to you. I do have some tasks I need to accomplish, and it seems you should be lying down and resting." 

Soundwave nods once, so Optimus pulls the bandages from subspace, wrapping them firmly around the spymaster's lanky frame. A few layers of the soft mesh around his stomach, then Optimus tucks the end of the bandage under, making sure it's snug. "There. Now, would you like to go back to your room? You can lock the door and rest, and I'll find Ratchet for you. Come on- let's not stay on the floor here. May I help you up? 

Another nod, and Optimus stands up, taking the spymaster's servos gently in his. "Easy now, I have you. Put a datacable around my waist, perhaps? You seem unsteady, and I am happy to offer you support." 

 

Soundwave lets himself be pulled to his pedes, staggering slightly, and gladly takes the offer of something sturdy to latch onto. Both servos wrapped around Optimus' forearm, he winds a datacable around the Prime's waist, glancing up to check for any signs of alarm. There are none whatsoever. Evidently Optimus isn't concerned about being shocked again. He's right, Soundwave doesn't have the energy to manage that again and would probably die of various forms of Autobot retribution if he did.

Or... possibly not? Optimus Prime himself is helping him back to somewhere relatively safe, and shows no signs of being angry with him. The Wreckers are likely angry, but they aren't in the room, and... hopefully they won't defy a direct order to leave him alone. Dear Primus he hopes that'll be enough. He doesn't have the energy, the strength, or the frame integrity to fight one Wrecker, let alone two. If they come after him, he's helpless to defend himself from whatever they want to do to him. Which could be, agh- he doesn't want to think about it. Soundwave shudders so hard it knocks him off balance, tightening his grip on Optimus' arm to keep himself from falling, and hisses a staticky noise of embarrassment and defiance. He did not just frighten himself into nearly falling. He did not. 

 

"Easy, Soundwave, you're all right," Optimus hums, pausing to let Soundwave get his balance back, and rumbles his engine softly. "You are safe. No one is going to hurt you here, understand? Unless you try to kill someone, I can't make any promises in that situation, but somehow I doubt you intend to try that. I'll also make sure everyone knows not to approach you without your permission. Bulkhead really should have known not to grab you, and I do apologize. You hardly look like you intend to get up to mischief. Please try to relax, Soundwave, you are safe. No one will hurt you- I swear it." 

Projecting reassurance/friendliness/comfort to Soundwave, Optimus starts walking again, careful not to dislodge his passenger. One arm around Soundwave's frame, the other held in front so the spymaster can grip his forearm, taking small steps to compensate for Soundwave's shorter legs and limping, halting pace. "Bulkhead and Wheeljack will probably be upset from a distance, but nobody was harmed, so they should relax eventually. Arcee, as far as I'm aware, has no particular grudge against you. Bumblebee is very concerned about you, he may want to check in soon. And Ratchet, as you've already learned, is genuinely trying to help you. As am I." 

 

Sure. Right. Absolutely. Whatever gets him back to a relatively private space sooner. 

Soundwave clings tightly to Optimus and limps as fast as his injured limbs will take him, speakers crackling distressed static every few steps. Walking hurts, and one of his legs is barely still under him, still trying to integrate the replacement cables Ratchet installed. He's not about to ask the Prime to carry him, though, so he grits his fangs, holds Laserbeak close with the datacable not around Optimus' midsection, and keeps going. Thankfully, the room is close. 

Once inside, Soundwave hisses and squirms away from Optimus, taking the last few steps to the berth on his own. The idea of Optimus taking him to the berth fills him with something akin to horror, and he bristles as much as he can manage in hopes of conveying that he does not want to be approached. Not wanting to look inviting in any way, he backs up to the berth, staring the Prime down, and keeps staring until he's sitting on the berth and draped in blankets. There. This is the least inviting position he can take- optics narrowed, fangs bared, armor bristled, hunched into himself and wrapped in multiple layers of blankets to protect him from stares. 

Thank you for getting me back here. Now leave.

 

"...ah. All right, then. I'll leave you alone," Optimus decides, taking the screamingly loud hint, and backs out of the room. "I'll find Ratchet for you, and I'll make sure everyone else leaves you alone. Please try to get some rest, Soundwave, and" a moment's pause, looking down at where Soundwave's servos are digging into the berth padding, "please do whatever helps you stay calm. You are quite welcome to shred that berth pad if it helps, we use the beat-up ones as padding on the sparring room walls. Go ahead and expedite the process as much as you like." 

I think you need anything you can get that'll help you stay calm.

With that, he leaves, shutting the door behind him. And immediately turning a glare on the two former Wreckers watching from the end of the hallway.

"We need to talk."  

Chapter Text

"Raf. Raf. RAF. Get in here! You're never gonna believe this." Miko hisses, then immediately grabs Raf as soon as he's within reach and pulls him into the vents, practically vibrating all over with excitement. "I figured out what's been going on and it is weird and you need to come help me figure this out." she declares, already moving off along the vent shaft towards what had formerly been a storage room. "Come ON-" 

 

There's no sense in trying to talk to Miko when she's this excited, Raf knows, so he just follows her. Admittedly, he is curious, and climbing in the air vents is hardly a dangerous activity. The most concerning thing in here is the occasional mouse. Until Miko starts shushing him as they get closer to the vent in question, and until he sees the purple glow filtering through the slats of the grate.

Time to ask now. "Miko... what's..." 

 

"SHH." Miko hisses, then very, very slowly eases the grate open a bit further, pointing out and down at what's up against the wall below them.

 

Someone has pushed a berth up against the wall, directly below the vent, and piled a large number of blankets and pillows on it. Wrapped up and buried in the assorted soft items is a lanky mech who, though he's lit only by his own bio-lights and is about half-hidden by cloth, is instantly recognizable. Soundwave, curled up asleep, datacables out and curling convulsively around whatever they happen to touch. Those are the source of the glow, and the light pulses as they move erratically across the floor like agitated serpents, twisting and writhing in a display that would be threatening if not for one thing. 

Soundwave is whimpering. His speakers are crackling static, and every now and then his fangs part and a soft, pained-sounding cry slips between them, barely forcing itself from his throat. He's moving, erratically, clawing at the berth and at thin air, and as the two humans watch he shifts enough to drag the blankets down and expose his stomach and thighs. His bandaged, bloody, clawed-up stomach and thighs. 

 

 

"Hooooly cow" Raf breathes, very slowly retreating a bit further into the vent, then claps a hand over his mouth and just stares at Miko for a moment before lowering it to speak in a whisper. "That's... I-I mean, he's-" 

 

"The Slendermech himself, I know! And without a mask!" Miko hisses, looking thoroughly excited, then realizes herself and sobers up slightly. "...I was gonna get a picture, but... look at him. Somebody messed him the slag up, I'm- I'm not gonna photograph a sleeping person who looks that upset, sheesh, I'm not mass media. I'll wait 'till he wakes up, that way we can see his optics, too." 

A moment's pause, watching the spymaster fight his imaginary battle, then she leans a bit further out. "I was gonna be concerned about him being here, since, y'know, terrifying spymaster-assassin-ninja, but- frag, look at him. I'm pretty sure those're Megatron's claw marks. We could go take a ruler to Optimus to find out, he's gotta have Megadork scars all over him, and I doubt he'd mind being measured. He'd just do that, y'know, 'humans are confusing but this is fine' expression. But, uh... might be a bit harder to get a ruler on Soundwave. He's not gonna let us climb on him. Right? He's kinda asleep-looking right now, so..." 

 

"Miko, I think the main question here isn't 'how do we put a ruler on Soundwave's claw marks', it's 'why the slag is Soundwave in our base with claw marks in very bad places'. Priorities!" Raf hisses, then, despite the urge to run from the mech who could absolutely reach into this air vent and crush them into a bloody mess, inches forward to look down at Soundwave again. Just in time to hear a particularly pitiful whimper from the spymaster. "Oh. That... oh man, he's... listen to him, that's... wow." he whispers, glancing back at a suddenly-much-more-sober Miko. "I... he's... ah, man, I've only ever heard noises like that out of Bumblebee, when... when he's..." he trails off, then backs up a bit, rather uncomfortable with watching Soundwave like this. "Miko, I... I'm not sure we should be here, it really feels like maybe we should give him some privacy. I don't think he'd like us being here. don't like us being here." 

 

"Oh, who cares what he thinks, he's a creepy bundle of tentacles who kills Autobots." Miko grumbles, though she really doesn't sound convinced. Raf has a point, and spying on someone who's clearly having a nightmare is creepy. Those are bad sounds. People, even mysterious spymasters, don't squirm and whimper for fun. Fine. Muttering "eh, just lemme see if I can get a pic of those marks to compare to Optimus'," she scoots forwards and leans further against the grate, reaching for her phone- 

And yelps in alarm when the grate creaks, groans, and gives out. 

 

Raf hisses in concern and tries to grab Miko before she falls, but only succeeds in lunging forward far enough that he follows her out of the vent. 

 

Fortunately, they're directly over a berth piled with blankets, and they both land on a section of blanket that's stretched from the edge of the berth to Soundwave's leg. There are certainly worse landings. 

The trouble with this padded landing is, it puts them right next to an upset, dangerous spymaster, and those coiling datacables are between them and every avenue of escape. Soundwave doesn't wake up, at least, but he does stir and give a short, sharp hiss of static before the squirming resumes. 

 

"Ohhh crap. Oh crap. Oh crap oh crap oh fraggin' crap" Miko hisses, accurately summing up Raf's thoughts, then very, very slowly sits up. "Pit" she declares, as softly as possible, and slowly starts edging away from Soundwave and towards the edge of the berth. Maybe they can take advantage of their comparatively small size and sneak away. She does not want to wake Soundwave up. It'd probably be akin to waking up a sleeping dragon, except this dragon is already in a horrible mood. 

Fortunately, Soundwave doesn't seem likely to wake easily or notice anything.

Unfortunately, Miko, tense and squinting in the near-dark, doesn't notice the raised patch of blanket in front of her. 

Which leads to her stepping very firmly on one of the tiny prongs that make up Laserbeak's wings, earning herself a shriek of startled pain from the formerly-sleeping symbiote.

Which is akin to waking a sleeping mother dragon with the sound of smashing eggshells. 

 

 

 

Soundwave's optics snap open, slit pupils widening and glowing ominously, and he snarls in unbridled fury at the signals of pain and alarm from his little one. Laserbeak is his and she is hurt and scared and he's failed her before, he's failed all of them, she's nearly died at Megatron's servos and the rest are gone, dead, taken from him by the war and by his own failures and he will not fail her again- 

Vocalizer and speakers mingle in a staticky shriek of rage, of fear, of defiance to the universe for threatening his little ones, and he snatches Laserbeak away from the danger, holding her to his chassis. Adrenaline surging from his frame, he bristles up, raising his datacables out of their random spirals and turning to face-

 

Two tiny, stunned, clearly terrified humans, who have just been dumped off the berth by his sudden movement. Two humans who he recognizes, mostly thanks to one's bright colors, and who aren't holding any sort of weapon. Except the snapped-off vent cover that one is attempting to use as a shield.

Oh. 

Soundwave's anger settles a fraction at the lack of an actual threat, especially when he glances up at the uncovered vent and realized what must have happened- 

And then immediately flares up again at the realization that they'd been watching him. Watching him while he was at his most vulnerable, his most pathetic. He doesn't like being watched under any circumstances, and the fact that they dared to do this- 

And they'd hurt Laserbeak. Maybe not on purpose, but she is hurt and frightened and he is angry. 

This is not okay. 

His entire chassis rumbling with a growl that shakes the air around them, Soundwave slowly brings his data-cables closer, ringing the humans in a wide circle of rippling, shifting stripes of light that clearly illuminate them so he can see clearly. Baring his fangs at them, the spymaster slowly raises one servo, still trying to figure out exactly what he's going to do- 

Then stills when he remembers something. Annoying little organics or not, these are younglings. Sapient younglings. Who hadn't been trying to hurt him. 

Pit. He'd have to be some sort of monster to kill them for this. Whatever impression he's tried to cultivate, he is not a monster. He does not harm children. 

Besides, the Autobots will probably -no, definitely- kill him for hurting their strange little companions. 

 

That doesn't mean he isn't going to do something, though. He needs to be sure they won't come back. Humans are stubborn little things, and these two in particular seem to have no common sense as regards interactions with beings much larger than them. He needs to make sure they won't come back, won't hurt Laserbeak again or decide to watch and photograph him. 

He needs to make them think he will kill them if they come back.

Drawing himself up, Soundwave narrows his optics at the annoying beings and static-hisses softly, his data-cables starting to shift faster and buzz with little sparks of electricity. He's deliberately leaving a gap in the rippling waves of energy, though, a gap near the door. They can escape if they scramble over his data-cables in that one particular spot, but pretending he won't let them go seems like a good start. 

The next thing he does is slink about halfway off the berth, cradling Laserbeak against himself with one servo and bracing the other on the floor for support in order to loom threateningly close over the humans, beautifully emphasizing just how large he is compared to them. He could crush them in a sparkbeat, snuff their tiny little lives out with one clawtip if he felt the need, and hopefully that realization will keep them away from him.

The last thing, well... truth be told, it's partly an attempt at intimidation, partly what he feels is a reasonable way to deal with the urge to hurt them for this.

Engine growling, optics narrowed, Soundwave looms over the pests for a moment and cues up every relevant sound track he has. Cranking his speakers up as high as they can go, he crouches lower, almost meeting their terrified eyes, and unleashes the most hellish sound he can manage. A Sparkeater's howl, an Insecticon's war cry, the roar of something primal and thoroughly predatory from deep in Cybertron's lower tunnels, and half a dozen gladiators' battlecries, overlaid with the roar of his own engines and accompanied by a surge of EM fury that's entirely lost on the humans, every ounce of vocal rage he can muster poured into the most terrifying sound his frame can offer, all as painfully loud as he can physically manage. 

It's not quite enough to cause damage, but it hurts, him probably as much as them. His audials ring, his speakers crackle static, and the undernote shriek from his vocalizer breaks and vanishes halfway through. Shaking his helm, he trails the recordings off, clacking his fangs together several times, then abruptly jerks towards the humans. 

It sends them running, of course, still holding their little skulls in pain.

Satisfying. 

Until he realizes that they can't leave him alone because they're far too small to open the door. 

So how the slag does he get them out without looking like he's trying to help them? 

Oh, wait- can't risk them running off and hiding somewhere, little organic creatures of all kinds are excellent at getting into spaces where they shouldn't be. Not wanting the humans to hide under something he'll have to move, Soundwave scoops them both up in one datacable, holding them just firmly enough to not drop them. He doesn't want to actually hurt them, after all, for their sake and his own. Even if one of them is yelling very rude things and ineffectually punching his cables.

Stuffing down the urge to drop the humans again, Soundwave lifts them off the ground and stands up, moving to open the door-

And then the door opens for him.

Because Ratchet is standing on the other side.

Of course Ratchet shows up now. Not when the humans were still in the vents. Not even when they were on the ground and he'd just corralled them. No, Ratchet has to show up right when Soundwave has just bared his fangs at the humans he's currently holding in one datacable. This... this is not a good situation. 

He's going to suffer for this.

At a complete loss for what to do -does he run? Apologize? Hold the humans captive for longer?- Soundwave looks between Ratchet and the humans, fighting the urge to hide under the berth and pretend he's not there. It won't help. Instead of trying to escape, he slowly extends his cable and sets the humans in Ratchet's servos, baring his fangs as threateningly as he can manage in the same motion. Stepping back, he shuts the door behind himself, backing towards the berth and praying that it isn't about to be knocked down by angry Wreckers. 

 

 And, because there isn't much he can do if said Wreckers (or, Primus forbid, Optimus) are going to hurt him, Soundwave gives in to the urge to crawl back into the berth and hide under as many blankets and pillows as he can. It's childish, but he's scared, and he needs to calm down so he can listen carefully and try to sort out all the clips he can possibly use to beg with. There's no way they aren't going to be angry about him treating the humans like that, even if he didn't actually injure the pests, and Bulkhead in particular is- is very protective, and- 

Shuddering at the faint sound of the Wrecker in question yelling something furious, Soundwave curls into a tighter ball and starts splicing recordings, trying to pick out as many as he can that are not terrified Autobots. He'd really rather not beg, even if it isn't in his voice, but he'll swallow the tiny bit of what's left of his pride if it means being slightly less at the mercy of an angry Wrecker. He's fairly sure Bulkhead would like to kill him about now, and he's watched a few Wreckers who like to play first whenever they have the time. He won't get any pity from them, but- Ratchet? Bumblebee? There must be at least one mech in this base whose pity he can take advantage of to prevent any serious injury. That's his plan right now, pitiful as it is- beg for mercy from anyone who'll listen. 

 

 

By the time the yelling subsides and the door opens again, Soundwave has put together a fairly passable "please don't hurt me, I'm sorry" clip, and also run over every possible scenario in his helm and made himself terribly anxious in the process. Uncurling just enough to see out of his bundle of softness, the spymaster nervously eyes Ratchet for a moment, then uncurls a bit more when he realizes there's no one else. And when Ratchet shuts the door without letting anyone else in. 

Well. This... this probably isn't good. Either Ratchet is here to tell him exactly what he did wrong and why he's about to be punished, or...

Dear Primus don't let Ratchet be the one sent to punish him, he'll gladly take a Wrecker over a medic, even an angry Wrecker, because they just smash and shred and tear, it's blunt force injury, it can be repaired, but medics- 

Medics disable, remove, amputate, can take his T-cog or cut out his datacables or rip the symbiote dock from his chassis and the tank from his stomach, medics know where every single sensitive spot is and how to strip nerves raw and how to keep a mech alive, in constant, unbearable agony, not allowed to die, if it suits their needs, and he's completely defenseless because anything he does to fight back will just make this worse- 

He's actually thankful for the state of his vocalizer, because it stops the high, keening whine that wants to escape as Ratchet comes closer, but he can't hide the fear in his optics because hiding his face would mean not seeing-

 

 

Seeming aware that something isn't right here, Ratchet very slowly approaches the bundle of spymaster, running a scan and immediately stopping where he is when the sparkrate readout registers. "-Pit, your sparkrate is not supposed to look anything like that. You look like you're about to purge, Soundwae. Do I need to get you a bucket? You know what- I'm gonna assume you need a bucket. All right if I come over there so I don't have to chuck it at you? Gonna come over there, Soundwave, sit on the end of the berth there- my knees are too old to put me on the floor. Nice, deep vents, Soundwave... I'm not gonna hurt ya," he sighs, servos raised, slowly approaching the berth. Soundwave's sparkrate kicks up another notch, but the spymaster doesn't do anything, so Ratchet sits down as far away from Soundwave as he can and pulls a bucket from subspace to give it to him. "Just... hold the bucket." 

Soundwave takes the bucket, rather to Ratchet's surprise, then immediately retreats back under the blankets. Progress. Barely. He still looks somewhere between suspicious and terrified, but he's still looking at Ratchet, and at least that high-speed sparkrate is relatively stable. 

EM field wrapping gentle and warm around Soundwave's frame, Ratchet pulses safety/comfort/medic-code/reassurance/warmth to the scared mech, looking at Soundwave but not trying to look optics with him. "Hey, spook. Easy. You aren't in trouble, all right? You didn't do anything to get you in trouble, Soundwave," Ratchet sighs, and pauses only for a moment before continuing. "Miko told us what happened. I don't quite approve of how you reacted, but I don't think you intended to hurt them. Besides... they were watching you, I'd imagine they startled you, and they certainly upset Laserbeak. I understand why you were upset, as does Optimus. He's asked that you not try to frighten the humans like that again, we're trying not to present you as a threat, but you are not in trouble and you will not be in trouble if you do this again. Your actions were not malicious. Bulkhead and Wheeljack are upset, but they are not allowed to decide what happens to you, nor are they allowed near you until they relax. No one is going to punish you for scaring the humans, they were being idiots anyway. Easy, Soundwave." 

There's a blanket on the floor, so Ratchet leans down, balls it up, and gives it to Soundwave, keeping his field gentle and stable. "Besides, hurting someone for misbehaving is not an appropriate punishment. That is a method used by mechs who try to rule through intimidation and fear. Optimus leads by earning respect. Punishment under him is usually just whatever tedious or boring work we need done. He certainly isn't about to have anyone attack you, nor is he going to let anyone attack you. Neither am I, Soundwave. You have my word as a medic, Soundwave, I will not let anyone hurt you. As long as I am here, you are safe." 

 

Soundwave tries to stay tense and defiant at first, but it's hard to do that with the entirely unthreatening, medic-grade-warmth field wrapped around him, especially not when all he wants is to curl up against someone and be held. Besides that, Ratchet is... not threatening him, in the slightest. Optic shutters fluttering, Soundwave stays upright for a moment longer, then shudders, whines, and slumps utterly limp into the corner. Helm low and optics dim, he curls up and hides Laserbeak in his arms, dragging the blankets up with a cable-tip. There's a limit to what he can do to protect himself, but he tries, and he tries to guard Laserbeak. 

Ratchet is still watching him. Offering to protect him. Offering to keep him *safe*. It makes him want to... he's actually not sure.

He wants to thank Ratchet for it. Pretty sure about that. Partly because... the last time someone offered to keep him safe was...

Megatronus. It was Megatronus. 

That hadn't turned out so well, had it? 

Well. It had at first. It had for... oh, Primus, thousands of years. He was alive, and... there was worse that could have happened to him. Megatron had prevented worse. 

But, dear Primus. That list of things that could be worse was small. 

Dark energon. What was he thinking? 

He can't trust Megatron again, but he... might be able to trust Ratchet. Lifting his helm slightly, he contemplates Ratchet for a few long moments, then unwinds his cables further and snakes them out to- 

He wants to capture Ratchet, but he hesitates instead, both cable-tips lightly touching Ratchet's forearms. When Ratchet does nothing more than raise a brow ridge at him, he carefully snares Ratchet's arms and pulls, hauling-slash-coaxing Ratchet up close. He's cold, Ratchet is warm, and he wants nothing more than to touch. The urge is to take, but he can't, he isn't taking, because Ratchet is going with him, there's no resistance save the tension of a stressed frame. Closer, closer, and then he's in Ratchet's lap, those strong arms are around him and stroking up his spine, and Soundwave's frame melts in the same instant as his mind leaps to solve this new and confusing problem.  

He's sitting in the lap of the Autobot CMO. Willingly, without provocation or encouragement. More than that, he wants to stay in this mech's lap, he wants to keep touching, and he desperately doesn't want the powerful servos on his back to go anywhere. Except a bit higher up. He wants to touch, to be touched, and all he can do about the urge is to set aside a portion of processing power to figure it out. And to push his face into Ratchet's collar assembly, then into his throat, arms wrapping around Ratchet in a desperate search for- 

For safety, that's what his subconscious processes triumphantly announce. He's looking for safety. Trustworthy, strong person, comforting and holding him. A sign of safety. His subconscious is very glad to inform him that it's figured this situation out. The rest of him is mostly just baffled that his definition of safety is, apparently, Ratchet. Even if it makes sense to some degree, that... warmth, and the larger, solid frame. It's what he got from Megatron. And, now, Ratchet means... medical care and pain relief and energon. A barrier between him and the rest of the Autobots. 

Safety. 

And he wants the comfort. He's still sore, he's tired, he wants to be held. Ratchet is petting him, and Primus save him, it feels good. Strong servos running up his spine and massaging everything they touch, Ratchet's field quietly confused but entirely calm. He probably looks ridiculous, and he's aware of that. To some extent. But he finds himself unable to care. 

Ratchet certainly doesn't seem to care. 

Actually, Ratchet seems to be enjoying himself. He can hear the medic's lifesigns, and it's all calm. Ventilations soft and even aside from one fan that sounds mildly askew, the workings of his fuel tank, the thrumming spark powering it all. It's the spark that's most reassuring, because it's a calm, steady beat. A fraction faster than a typical resting beat for someone Ratchet's size, but that's easily chalked up to either uncertainty or a simple frame variation. Far too calm to belong to someone who's plotting something particularly sinister. Tolerating him, at least. Maybe even enjoying. 

He actually rather likes the idea of Ratchet enjoying this. Not too much, he doesn't want this to get anywhere in the vicinity of Ratchet getting ideas, but... Primus' sake, he's in the mech's lap. Ratchet is petting him. It doesn't feel right to sit and take all the attention without giving. One small problem, though; he knows how to pet his symbiotes, but he doesn't know how to pet a mech this size. It can't be too difficult, he thinks, raising his servos to Ratchet's back, and lightly strokes the plating with his fingertips. It's... warm. Not as warm along the storage area, though. This collection of plates, the backpack, is probably detachable then. And, if it's detachable...

Soundwave finds the seams along the edges of the backpack and strokes deeper, gently, massaging at everything he can reach without pressing his fingertips too far. Just in case he goes too far and Ratchet tenses up. That seems like it could be terribly unpleasant, someone tensing while his fingers are buried in their frame. It nearly happens, Ratchet does in fact tense up a fraction at first, and then he starts to relax again. And then... further. Much further. Soundwave gets more confident as Ratchet relaxes more, and before he knows, his fingers are buried halfway up to the first joint and Ratchet is fully relaxed against him. 

Well. He rather likes this. And it gives him the opportunity to explore. His servos are occupied, so he brings his cables up, stroking and tapping in search of the nearest scar. Hm- ah. Here's one. Long, thick, and tucked mostly up under the edge of his backpack plating. Soundwave strokes idly along it, then goes to look for another. That one is... an energy blade, he thinks. Higher up, a slightly odder scar, almost like a splatter mark. Not as visible, but a definite raised texture on careful inspection. Probably a blaster shot from too long of a range to do any serious damage. Up and out, starting to dip under Ratchet's shoulder plating, and- ah. This one feels older than the others. It's much smoother, nearly gone, but the muscle cables still have a raised area with a rather rough sensation. Soundwave massages absentmindedly at it, leaning back to show Ratchet a questioning glyph on his visor. Except, slag, he doesn't have his visor to show glyphs on. Which means he's just aiming an expression at Ratchet. He's not entirely sure what that expression is, either. Hopefully no tears are involved. 

 

"Some fuck nearly cut my arm off," Ratchet explains, shrugging with the shoulder not being probed at by a cable. "Suppose it's only fair, I was in the middle of repairing someone who would probably have stabbed him if they got the chance. Still not my favorite day," he scoffs, fingertips lingering where Soundwave knows a scar is still hidden on his back. Knife. Someone tried to stab him, and did in fact manage it, albeit only slightly. Soundwave lacks any good way to express it, and Ratchet can probably tell more or less what the scar is from. 

Ratchet, unfortunately, does not have data-cables. As such, his reach is limited and he can touch only a small number of places at a time. Nonetheless, he manages to cover a decent portion of Soundwave's back, searching for scars, until he winds up following a thin scar all the way up Soundwave's throat and to his face. "I'll have to remember to tell Wheeljack that you are most definitely not part sparkeater. I told him it's a ridiculous notion in the first place, but he gets stubborn," he mutters, tilting Soundwave's helm slightly to inspect the profile of his jaw. "Hm. I doubt this unhinges." 

 

 

 

(EDITING STOPPED HERE)

 

 

  

 

It's nice. 

"Let's see you...  y' weird li'l spymaster. Wheeljack still thinks yer part sparkeater. Tried ta tell him that ain't physically possible, at least by any means I know of, but... you do look a bit like one of those things. Especially the tentacles. No fangs, though, or at least not anythin' on par with those things. You'd have an unhingin' jaw, too. Which you don't... I don't think. Let me see your face for a klik, spook." he mutters, reaching up towards the spymaster and lightly touching his cheek to be sure he's not about to be bitten. "Don't bite me. Jus' complain if y' don't want me doin' this."

Soundwave doesn't complain, so Ratchet lightly grips his lower jaw and gives it a tiny shake, then presses on his cheeks to feel the mechanisms underneath. "Nope. No dislocatin' jaw." he mutters, not really having expected such a jaw anyway, then tenses slightly when Soundwave responds by biting gently at his fingers. "Woah, okay- spook, I got no complaints here, but, ah... y'oughta  be aware, ah... 'm a medic, you know, so m' servos are very sensitive and you should probably not do that unless you got ideas." Ratchet warns, very gently removing his servo from Soundwave's attempts at nibbling. "Nibble somethin' else." 

 

And that, of course, is when Optimus opens the door. Just in time to see Soundwave absentmindedly biting at Ratchet's servo. "Ah... hello, Soundwave. Ratchet. Er... Ratchet, are you alright?" he asks, not certain what to make of the sight of his CMO with a former Decepticon spymaster wrapped around him. Ratchet doesn't seem concerned, at least. Soundwave seems very concerned, but mostly about Optimus' arrival. Hm. What... what does he do with this situation? It doesn't look like he needs to pry the spymaster away, but... there are a lot of tentacles involved. It's starting to look a little bit like the start of a dirty novel, actually, with those glowing coils creeping over Ratchet's frame. Unlikely, but- that is what it looks like. 

 

"Fine. Soundwave is using me as a heat source. Also tasting whatever parts of me he thinks are interesting. Bein' surprisingly gentle about it, too, jus' nibblin' on me. I don't mind, gives me a chance t' look him over, too." Ratchet shrugs, leaning back slightly to look back at Optimus. "Pretty sure he'd let go if I wanted, too. Very polite about this whole thing. Now... would you like to explain what you're after, so he'll stop tryin' to melt into my shadow?" the medic sighs, reaching back to rub between Soundwave's spines in an attempt to calm the spymaster. He can feel Soundwave's sparkbeat accelerating, and it's... it's sad. This should be a mech defiant enough to take on the entire Autobot base at once and probably defeat at least most of them, but he's trying to melt into the shadows and slink away from one non-aggressive mech.  

 

"I- Soundwave? It's all right." Optimus sighs, stepping inside and shutting the door behind himself, and considers the situation for a moment before kneeling near the berth. He attempts to make optic contact with Soundwave, but, given that the spymaster is hiding behind his own arms and Ratchet at the same time, it's an attempt that entirely fails. "I promise, I am not here to hurt you. In fact, I am here to reassure you that you are not in trouble with me, nor am I going to allow anyone near you without your permission. You are not in danger, and I promise you are not in trouble. The children told me what happened. You were woken up suddenly, in an unfamiliar room, and you responded accordingly to what you took for a threat to your little one. I promise you are not in trouble. After all- you didn't hurt them. You frightened them, but they rather deserved it for spying on you. And, Soundwave... I am not going to hurt you, understand? I am not angry. The only thing that you could do that would make me angry would be to intentionally, maliciously harm someone on this base, and... I don't think you intend to do that. You are not a violent mech, I know that much. But... I will be honest. Bulkhead and Wheeljack are angry. For this, and- just at you in general. I have ordered them to leave you alone. In the event that they decide to ignore that order and get into your personal space, you have my permission to use force to remove them from your personal space. Not seriously injurious or deadly force, please, but you are quite welcome to pick them up and move them. I have informed them of this." 

 

Oh. 

Okay.

Soundwave blinks a couple of times, then sits up further, meeting Optimus' gaze and attempting to look... not terrified. Okay. That... makes sense, actually, Optimus is... not the sort to lead by fear. So... he can probably stop his pitiful attempts at hiding behind Ratchet. Because it is... shameful for him to be doing this. It makes him look weak. Pathetic. Which is about how he feels, but they don't need to know that, now do they? He can just... press down the swirling anxiety and try to- 

Why is Optimus reaching for him? 

 

"Soundwave. I will not hurt you, and I will not allow anyone else to hurt you. Are we clear?" Optimus hums, holding out one servo, palm-up, without actually trying to touch Soundwave. "I will understand if you do not trust me, but... are you willing to take my word for it that I will not let you be hurt?" 

 

Soundwave watches Optimus for a moment, then, slowly, reaches out and places his servo in the Prime's. Yes. He's... not certain about a lot of things, but he's spent a very long time watching Optimus, and Optimus is a very honest mech. The Prime simply does not lie to people. Ever. Especially not with a look that earnest in his optics. So he takes the Prime's servo, gently, and he manages to mostly contain the flinch as Optimus' servo closes around his- 

And his spark does an oddly pleasant little fluttering thing when Optimus smiles at the contact.

That... is a strange feeling. 

Apparently he... likes watching those pretty optics brighten up at him. 

It is an extremely un-intimidating expression. 

 

Chapter Text

Optimus sighs softly and lets go of Soundwave's servo after some time, standing up with his optics fixed on the spymaster as softly as he can manage. "Soundwave, I am... going to have to talk to Agent Fowler about exactly what you are doing here, and it is going to have to be soon. Out of respect for your privacy, I intend to be as... nonspecific as I can. You are also not at all obligated to interact with him in any way, if you do not wish to. He may not be very happy to see you, given that... Laserbeak kidnapped him for interrogation. Now- I assume you do not wish to interact with him?" 

 

No, he does not want to speak to the government agent. Not without his visor and enough new paint to hide the marks on his legs. Soundwave shuts his optics and firmly shakes his helm, a polite but firm refusal, and leans back to pull a blanket up over himself a bit further. He would also like to not think about the possibility of another person finding out about this, but... it is inevitable. He could hide himself quite well, of course, but, given that Fowler is the Autobot's point of contact for supplies, he's... going to find out eventually. Hopefully the human doesn't end up spreading this particular bit of information too much. Soundwave does not like being the subject of interesting pieces of information. 

And, apparently, it shows in his faceplates, because Optimus has a sympathetic look in his optics now, and Soundwave is very much not certain if he wants to hide from that look or... 

Much to his dismay, more than a bit of his processor would like him to chirp softly and curl up against Optimus in lieu of hiding under blankets. Sympathy from the Autobot leader is oddly... enticing. 

No thank you, though, he's just going to lean back a bit and try to look casual as he hides from everything. 

 

"I am sorry, Soundwave. I would give you more time if I could, but... this is a matter which I do not believe it would be wise to conceal, even passively. Fowler will be here soon for a situation update, and I intend to make your presence here part of that update. Which is why I must leave now." Optimus sighs, turning away and opening the door- 

And ducks as something flies over his helm. 

 

Laserbeak, evidently, is awake. Awake, afraid, and flying as fast as she can down the hallway. 

She is in the Autobot base and that is Optimus Prime and this is bad this is very very bad where is Soundwave? 

Optics unfocused, chattering in panic, Laserbeak circles the main room of the Autobot base exactly twice before diving for- 

For a dark, elevated, suitably shaped space that looks like a very appealing place to stuff her entire body. 

Which turns out to be underneath a couch that is currently occupied by the smallest human. Who is now sputtering in confusion and appears to be torn between bolting and looking under the couch to see what exactly is happening. 

Whoops.

Help!

 

Soundwave whines in dismay and leaps up off the berth, pain searing up his spine but failing to stop him from bolting after her. It does, however, stop him from sending any convincing amount of reassurance over their bond without it being accompanied by pain. But that doesn't matter, because she's awake and flying and that means she's going to be okay- 

She's afraid, and so is he, but she'll be okay and that is good- but he has to get to her first, has to make sure no one else gets near her, has to protect her from the world and the Wreckers in particular.

Neglecting to consider anything other than Laserbeak and keeping her safe, Soundwave darts out into the main room and climbs up onto the raised area, balancing on the edge and reaching to pick Laserbeak up... realizing only too late that he has just given the human on the couch a very good view of every weld mark and sealant-coated gash down his front. And most of the ones on his thighs, too, with how he's crouching. 

There's... more than one human, also. 

The government agent he'd been hoping to avoid is standing in front of the couch, weapon out, staring up at him.

And, given how (oddly) similar the humans are in build and organ placement to Cybertronians, they are very unlikely to miss the connotations of exactly where all those claw marks are. 

Soundwave stays perfectly still for several long moments, even shutting down his vents to disguise that he would be panting otherwise, staring down at the humans and unable to disguise the fact that he does not know what to do about this. Nor does he want to act hastily... he'd rather not seem to be threatening them. Also, there is a gun pointed up at his face. Admittedly, it's human-sized, but could still cause serious damage if fired at his optics. He'd rather not have that fired at him, or do anything to risk it being aimed at Laserbeak instead. 

So he stays still, even as his frame starts to protest in earnest. Stays, crouched over the bit of furniture with it raised in one servo and the other servo halfway reaching for Laserbeak. Stays, even as two shocked gazes trail slowly down his front and the urge to hide grows, even as something in his stomach gives way and energon starts to slowly drip onto the platform under him. He's... somewhere between terrifying and pitiful at the moment, really. Crouched over the smaller beings as if attacking them, but with his wounds visible and with an expression of growing pain, desperation, and fear. Fear for himself, and for his little one.

 

Laserbeak, wisely, has gone silent. She has far more optical sensors than are readily apparent, and she sees the human with the weapon. Sees where the human is looking, too, and can feel Soundwave's discomfort growing with every passing nanosecond. She wants to comfort him, of course she does, but she can't move without the risk of startling the jumpy human who is probably mad at her for kidnapping him. It wasn't personal, but... the human is armed and on edge, and it is wise to respect people who are armed and on edge. If only temporarily. 

 

A couple of increasingly painful minutes of staring later, Fowler lowers his gun, stares up at Soundwave's face for a second more, notices the spymaster very clearly trying to avoid his gaze, and turns away to look at Optimus. "I... take it this was the 'unexpected development' you were going to tell me about?" he asks, holstering his gun at the realization that Soundwave is not being threatening.

 

Optimus steps a bit closer, slowly, hoping to not startle the unhappy spymaster, and very carefully brings one servo up when he's certain Soundwave can see him. "Er... yes. This, and... a certain amount of explanation. But first- Laserbeak, hello, please do not attempt to electrocute me." the Prime rumbles, carefully picking the symbiote up, and holds her very gently in one arm as he steps away from the platform. "Soundwave- would you put Raphael down and come off of the platform, please?" he requests, holding out his other servo in a silent offer of support, but doesn't offer Laserbeak- partly because he's trying to support the small frame against his chassis. "Come here... I promise I am not holding Laserbeak hostage." 

 

Optics locked on Laserbeak, Soundwave climbs off of the platform, trying to keep himself upright but limping badly as he approaches Optimus. Walking hurts. But he needs Laserbeak, and then he needs to hide somewhere safe and warm and away from people, and that is going to involve some walking. Whining a soft, constant sound of pain, he limps over to Optimus and just about snatches Laserbeak, holding her close until she docks, then hisses and turns away from the humans staring at him. He's vulnerable, he's afraid, he wants to run and hide and get away- 

 

"Soundwave- come here. Stop trying to walk, you're going to hurt yourself. Come on- the medbay is right there, we can pull a curtain around so no one can see you." Ratchet whispers, firmly putting an arm around Soundwave's frame for support, and carefully steers the spymaster towards the medbay area. Once there, he immediately pulls a thick curtain around the berth, then helps Soundwave to lay down without putting any further strain on his frame. "Easy... you're all right. I'm not going to take Laserbeak- just lay down, be still, and listen. Easy. I have you... promise." he sighs, speaking softly enough that no one else in the room will be able to hear him, and places a servo very gently on Soundwave's arm- careful not to get near Laserbeak, who's hidden under the spymaster's crossed arms. "I'm not about to take her away, Soundwave. That would be extremely counterproductive for all of us, not to mention cruel." 

 

Soundwave hisses softly, once more, then shuts his optics and lets his vents start up again. He's been keeping them clamped down, and for good reason- when they start up again, he's panting, a blatant signal of distress that he is not at all proud of. But he obeys- he shuts his optics and stays still, hugging Laserbeak against himself, trying to focus on listening to what's happening outside- that is very relevant to him, he needs to know what's going to happen. What they might do to him. 

At least the Wreckers aren't in the room to be angry with him or mock him for his fear. 

Now... much as he wants to curl into Laserbeak and focus everything on her, he needs to listen. 

 

"Do you recall when I said that I thought Megatron's erratic behavior was worsening, and that I thought it might not be long before he lost himself entirely?" Optimus sighs, approaching the platform to speak directly to Fowler, and pauses- probably looking down at Raf, considering whether this is a conversation to have around a youngling.

Admittedly a clever youngling who has probably already figured things out. 

 

Fowler waits before speaking, probably also eyeing the youngling, but eventually steps forwards to look up at Optimus. "I take it that's what's happened here? Because, if I remember right, those two are supposed to be pretty close. That did not look like close. Or anything even remotely decent, holy Hell." 

 

"That is what the evidence indicates. Which... explains why Soundwave is here. Before you protest- he is no threat to security. Him giving the Decepticons our location would end very poorly for all involved, most likely including him. Therefore-" 

A pause, and what sounds very much like a large mech bracing their pedes apart and crossing their arms, "-he is staying. And, in addition, Ratchet will most likely be requesting supplies for repairs. We will receive those supplies. Soundwave has been a formidable opponent, but he is a good person, and he does not deserve to be in pain." 

 

"Yeah, I figured he'd be staying, by the look of him. I'm not about to argue with you. Not sure how I'm going to explain this to the brass, though. It'll probably be easier to get them on board if you can get him to talk about somethin' we can use, say, last known location or how many of those identical ones are left, but... I'll leave that up to you. Figure he doesn't wanna talk to me. Don't really wanna talk to him, either, or that flying menace that clings onto him. Now- anything to report other than the... unexpected acquisition of a spy?" 

 

Soundwave listens for a bit longer, but they're just discussing supply expenditure and recent expeditions. Useful, before. Nearly worthless to him now. And... far less important than the other information he's just gotten.

It's not what he was expecting. Mostly because he was expecting very bad news, and this... 

Well, he can't call it good because some portion of a government is still going to be hearing about what's happened to him, but... it doesn't sound like he needs to start running. Which is good, because he's quite certain he can't run very far, and he probably can't transform with his leg and stomach still healing. He doesn't have any way to escape, but apparently he won't need to. He's okay. This is not a great situation, but it's a reasonably safe one. He's okay. It's... it's okay. He can stay here for now, there's no imminent danger, he's not dying, Laserbeak is awake...

He's okay. 

He just hurts. 

He hurts a lot, actually, apparently he's pulled on all the wounds and ow. 

Soundwave gives a short, soft little cry of pain, optics still shut tightly, and bares his fangs at the air. Before remembering that the air around him also contains a Ratchet. 

Whoops. 

Cautiously opening his optics, Soundwave blinks up at Ratchet, chirruping very quietly in apology. He was snarling at his own innards, not at Ratchet. Ratchet isn't doing anything wrong, just- 

Oh. 

He's focused too much on listening, and has completely neglected to notice two things.

Number one, Ratchet has a servo on his stomach, applying just enough pressure to stop the dripping of energon from whatever he's pulled loose. Presumably repairs were about to happen before Soundwave interrupted.

Number two, Ratchet has stopped those repairs, and is staring down at him with a rather concerned expression. 

Which is probably due to...

To the tears dripping down his face. 

He's not crying, not really. He's panting a bit, but his vocalizer isn't trying to activate, and he can definitely shut his vents off if he wants to. So... this is a bit odd. 

He was already panting before he got on this cot, but.. the tears are new. Hm. No wonder Ratchet stopped- one single, silent indicator that usually means extreme distress is not a good sign in a patient. Soundwave is fairly certain that Ratchet isn't to blame for this, though, he really doesn't mind the medic's servo on his stomach. Doesn't hurt. Not an especially private place to touch. A bit vulnerable given the lack of plating, and he's certainly quite sore, but... not upsetting enough to warrant tears. So... why is he crying? 

Wrapped up in trying to figure his own emotions out, Soundwave completely forgets to alert Ratchet that nothing is especially wrong, and is pulled from his own confused thoughts by the lightest possible touch to his cheek. 

 

"Hey, spook... you in there? Soundwave, look at me- I need to know what's wrong. Or- what is currently upsetting you the most. If you're in pain, I can fix that. If I'm the problem, I'll stop whatever it is. But you gotta tell me, spook, I don't read minds." Ratchet sighs, lightly tapping the spymaster's cheek in an attempt to keep his attention. Hopefully one that won't lead to being bitten. "And I need those bright optics of yours on me, all right? Gotta be sure you're still with me. So... I'm gonna need some form of acknowledgement. Okay?" 

He gets his acknowledgement. In the form of a narrow servo tapping him on his nasal ridge. Which... would be cute if not for the circumstances. 

"Yeah, that works. Now, Soundwave- is there something you want me to change right now? Anything I can physically do. Name it." 

 

He would, except he can't figure out what the main problem is.

Yes, he hurts, but something else is wrong. Something to do with Ratchet. It's not the servo on his stomach, that's fine. It's not the medic's voice, he likes that. Ratchet doesn't have claws, doesn't have sharp edges or visible weapons... nothing threatening. Smooth edges, sturdy without being overly threatening... standard medic frame. Not intimidating by anyone's standards, especially not by Soundwave's. 

So... what exactly is the problem here? 

Soundwave clutches Laserbeak closer and lets his optics sweep up Ratchet's frame, once more, still confused- 

And it clicks. 

Every bit of plating on Soundwave's frame clamps down, the spymaster hissing softly and trying to melt into the berth, and he makes an unhappy little growling sound up at Ratchet. Because that's the problem- up. Ratchet is standing over him, looking down at him, one servo on his stomach- and that's the problem, because he has never in his life been on his back with someone over him and had it go well. Because that means pain, means he's been defeated and is at someone else's mercy, mercy which is seldom ever granted- 

Optics widening further, Soundwave whines and braces both servos on Ratchet's arm, digging his claws into the medic's paint and trying to push him away. No, stop, get away, don't stand over me like this, hopefully clear enough in the gesture for Ratchet to understand. It's not the touch- it's the height difference. 

 

"Ah- I get it. Easy- I can work with a different angle." Ratchet mutters, removing his servo for long enough to sit down next to the berth, and moves up a bit to sit beside the spymaster's chassis instead of down by his hips- hopefully much less intimidating. "There we go... let's try this." he declares, reaching over to press on the bleeding area again, and glances up to see how Soundwave is doing. Those bright orange optics are fixed on him rather than on the ceiling, but they're still far too wet, and Soundwave is still panting quietly- a sign of distress in circumstances not involving high heat or significant exertion. The panting is starting to ease, though... that's a good sign. 

"There we go, spook. My bad- I shoulda realized you wouldn't want me standin' over you. Now... you have to be in pain. I have a local anesthetic I can give you, as soon as this bleeding stops. I'm not going to go digging for it because it isn't bad enough to need any attention- your systems will handle it if I keep pressure. After that... getting the right painkillers into you would involve a few different injections, around your stomach and hip, and should last a long time without hindering your movement too badly. You do still need to be careful, the lack of pain does not mean you can move all you want, but I imagine you'd like the pain relief. You think you'd be okay wi' a few needles? Either way, as soon as you stop bleeding we should probably wrap your abdomen up, since you keep insisting on being so damn flexible and pulling things loose. Stay there, keep pressure on with this. 

 

Soundwave relaxes considerably as soon as Ratchet is no longer standing over him, the clinging sensation of wrongness easing, and chirps very quietly in appreciation. Yes, thank you, that helps very much. More than he wants to admit, honestly, it's such a small thing. But it has apparently been added to his list of things that he is going to have to pretend don't bother him. It's not a good one to have, either- standing over people is a very common intimidation tactic. And, apparently, it is now one that Soundwave is much more vulnerable to. Which is... not something he needs. Urgh. He needs his visor back, and quickly, or he's going to embarrass himself... even more than he already has. Hopefully not in front of Optimus Prime, he's done enough to make himself seem weak in front of a mech he has a good deal of respect for. But there's not much he can do about that right now, aside from venting deeply and trying to calm himself down. 

 And... he doesn't like needles, not at all, but... they're not that bad, and he'd rather be stuck a few times than continue to be in pain. Plus, he has Laserbeak. She's not speaking up at the moment, she's fluttering softly against his chassis and too busy processing information to offer any sort of input, but she's here and awake. Which is about the most soothing thing he's likely to get any time soon. So he accepts the folded bandage that Ratchet presses into his servo, and he holds pressure on the bleeding spot as the medic awkwardly edges away from him. Which looks odd, and confuses him for an instant, before- oh! That's what's going on. Ratchet is trying not to stand up anywhere near him. Which looks a bit odd, and is probably more care than is necessary, but... much as it angers him that any care is needed at all, the consideration feels... good. 

When Ratchet comes back over, Soundwave lifts the bandage and chirrups quietly, pointing out that the spot he'd apparently pulled loose has stopped bleeding.

 

"All right... you wanna try the painkillers? Yes? I got 'em. Just try to relax, and- if you aren't so good with needles, you should probably look at something else. Or- no?" Ratchet mutters, noticing that the spymaster's optics have locked on him, and shrugs slightly. "Or, if you'd rather see everything I'm doing, I can work with that. Just... try not to kick me, and please don't be ashamed to tell me if you want to pause for a few kliks or just outright stop. This shouldn't hurt too much, but I am gonna have to touch you in a few places I'm guessing you'd rather I not. Just... nice, deep vents, Soundwave, and tell me if you want to stop." 

 

Soundwave is absolutely not going to ask Ratchet to stop. He can handle a few needles. Had plenty of practice, after all- practice with pretending, for medics who would absolutely take advantage of his weakness if they knew, that he is absolutely fine with needles. And... Ratchet is correct that looking away usually helps, but he can't shut his optics now because he's quite certain that looking away from where Ratchet's servos are will just make this much, much worse. Because, if he keeps his optics open, it's Ratchet touching him. If he shuts them, it's Megatron. 

So he watches, unblinking, as Ratchet braces a servo against his outer thigh and slips a needle into a gap in his hip plating. His tank clenches unpleasantly at the sight, at the sting of cold metal piercing delicate protoform below his plating where most things can never reach, but he doesn't pull away and he absolutely does not flinch. Not at the burn that follows, either, as the chemical spreads through his hip section. The burn lingers for seconds, though, and then fades... and takes the pain with it. Not everything, but... enough. Enough to be more than worth the creeping unease and the initial pain. 

He's okay with the next, too, up a bit higher and between two claw marks. The next two are across his stomach, placed evenly apart, and then another over his other hip joint. His claws dig slightly into the berth with each initial sting, but that's the only real indication of any distress- it's really not that bad. 

 

"All right, Soundwave... that should get most of your stomach numbed up. Now- I have two more that would mostly numb up your equipment, but it would involve me getting needles into two veins fairly high up on your inner thighs. You think you'd be okay with that, Soundwave?" Ratchet asks, very softly, reaching up to touch Soundwave's lower arm in an attempt at comfort. "I just need you to hold still for a little bit longer, if you can manage that. Think you'll be okay?" he asks, and he doesn't quite trust the shaky nod he gets in return, but... relaxed muscle cables heal better, so he does need to get as much sedative into Soundwave as he can. 

Humming gently, he coaxes Soundwave to lean slightly to one side, then places a servo on his inner thigh with just a slight gap between his fingertips- searching for the vein. The access point is high up, in what is usually an erogenous zone and is uncomfortably close to Soundwave's pelvic panel, so... not somewhere he wants to be touching right now. But it's not exactly avoidable. 

Surprisingly enough, Soundwave actually stays almost perfectly still. His other pede twitches and his claws dig into the berth much deeper than before, but he doesn't move away, and the tears don't start again. So, despite lingering misgivings, Ratchet braces his servo on Soundwave's other thigh for the final injection- 

And hesitates at the whimper it earns him. 

When he glances up again, Soundwave's optics are shut, and the spymaster is gripping the berth as tightly as he can with both servos. Ratchet doesn't stop, though- he already has the right spot located and the syringe in one servo, so he delivers the injection as quickly as he can, then lets go and edges up to sit right behind Soundwave's chassis instead- stroking his arm in an attempt at offering comfort. "Easy, Soundwave, easy- that's all, I'm done, it's okay. I still want to get your stomach wrapped up, but we're done with sharp things, spook, an' I don't have ta touch anywhere but your stomach for that. An' you can stop tryin' to hold still- you don't have to stay on your back any more, if you don't want to." 

 

Too much. Just... just slightly too much. Soundwave shakes his helm slightly, claws scraping at the berth, and curls onto his side- pressing his thighs together as tightly as he can, holding Laserbeak to his chassis with one arm. No- he doesn't want to stay on his back, not at all, and it is more of a relief than he wants to admit that he can curl up like this. He doesn't pull his arm away from Ratchet, though. The touch is... actually rather appreciated. It's nice enough, unobtrusive, and... definitely not something that belongs in the memories trying to drag him down. Helps. 

He stays like that for a few moments, optics mostly shut, panting very softly in distress, then opens his optics, reaches out, and tugs at Ratchet's arm- trying to coax the medic's servo over to his stomach. He'd like to get everything over with, please, so he can go back to hiding. 

 

Ratchet doesn't move, though. Sits still, rubbing small circles across his arm, and hums softly down at him. "I have you... all right? And I know you probably just wanna get everything over with, and I understand, but... if I keep going, I think it's going to be too much for you. And there is nothing wrong with that, Soundwave, you are allowed to have limits. I am not going to mock you for having a limit to what you can handle, I am not going to take advantage of it... understand? I am just going to... sit here and try to keep from pushing you over that limit. Because... either you crossed it for a moment there, or you were very, very close. So... you stay there, keep venting, and tell me when you think you can handle this rather than just when you want to get it over with. Okay? We have time." 

 

Oh. 

Okay. 

He... he can do that. 

Soundwave curls into himself as much as he can comfortably manage, optics dimming, and... attempts to in-vent deeply. It doesn't quite work, his frame has evidently decided that he ought to be panting, but he tries. Laserbeak is still clutched against his chassis, so, in the interest of relaxing, he focuses everything that he has on her, nudging her until she finally, finally docks and the physical connection snaps into place. A soft, shaking croon meets her, and he reaches out for her through their bond, just in time to meet her coming out of a partial reboot. 

Unsurprisingly, he's slapped in the face by emotions. 

 

Laserbeak has finally woken up enough to process all the input from him, to fully register what happened and who is responsible and where they are, and, after a forced reboot to get everything to slot into place, everything has hit her at once. 

Her initial response is fury. Blazing, white-hot rage at the betrayal, at someone daring to hurt her host. At everything that has ever happened to make him feel like this. 

Then, well. Then it gets complicated. 

A tangled, shaking mess of what's meant to be entirely comfort/reassurance/affection but is still shivering with anger/hatred and more than a little bit of fear, spilling over the link in response to Soundwave's... well.

 

Soundwave just hurts.

He's relieved that she's awake, and that Ratchet is giving him a break, and the painkillers are starting to soak in deeper, but... 

He hurts. He can't even manage to be angry, can't manage anything resembling ire, just... disbelief/betrayal/pain. That's... that's it. He should probably be angry, Laserbeak's fury seems reasonable, but... it's hers, and hers alone. 

He doesn't try to speak, doesn't try to communicate anything in particular, just strokes her back with one servo and chirps sadly. She can figure out the situation herself. She knows what happened, she can definitely hear Optimus Prime and Agent Fowler continuing their discussion (on current supply needs, still not very relevant to him), and, well- 

The most confusing thing currently here is the fact that Ratchet is sitting next to them, watching them both with soft optics. But Soundwave isn't trying to escape, and Ratchet is gently petting his arm, so... not a threat. Apparently. Just... something he should clarify, maybe? 

::He is trying to help. And succeeding. Please do not shoot him.::

 

Laserbeak flickers her wing flaps at Ratchet, then lifts her helm loose of the dock and stares up at the medic, making suspicious noises for him to hear. She is not in the mood to trust anyone. At all. Especially not feared Autobot medics who know where all the important parts are on someone's frame. The petting is strange, though, and- yeah, no, it's difficult to take firm strokes along someone's forearm as anything other than an attempt at reassurance. So, not certain if he can even understand her, she tucks her helm down and mutters //Kill you if you hurt him.// up at the larger mech. 

 

Of course Ratchet understands Laserbeak. Symbiote dialects vary between hosts, but the base structure is usually the same, and Laserbeak isn't one of the ones with the odd speech patterns.

It's not surprising that her first words to him are a threat, either.

"Wouldn't blame you. Don't plan on it, though." Ratchet mutters, then lightly pats Soundwave's arm with one servo, lifting a roll of wide mesh bandages in his other servo. "Looking a bit better, spook. You think you'd be okay wi' this? You don't have to do anything, just... uncurl a bit so I can reach you, and let me lift you slightly so I can get it wrapped under you. After that, we can get some energon into you and you can go back to all the blankets and the not being bothered. Deal?" 

 

Seems doable, so Soundwave nods just slightly and relaxes as much as he can, not resisting as Ratchet lifts him up in order to slip the roll of bandages under him. Ratchet is... almost alarmingly strong, standard for medic's frames, but it's not being used to hurt or unpleasantly manipulate him. Only being used so he doesn't have to put any strain on sore muscle cables. Again, consideration. He... he likes consideration. This, especially, since it is actually needed and "my stomach region has been recently shredded" is a valid reason to not want to move. 

The bandages are... oddly comforting. Something about the pressure feels nice, and the knowledge that it reduces his chance of bleeding is also a good thing. Soundwave kneads his claws on the berth as Ratchet works, watching skilled servos move gently over his frame, and finds it... calming. Any display of competence is rather nice, but this... especially so. Competence being used to assist him is always pleasant. And... it's been a very long time since he's had a medic who doesn't either unnerve him or make him want to smack them. He doesn't want to smack Ratchet, and he's... not unnerved?

Aware that Ratchet could kill him in quite a few different ways, yes, but that goes for most people he's around on a regular basis. Only the deadly people are still alive. Ratchet doesn't have any motivation to kill him, and is putting too much effort into calming him and easing his pain to be intending any sort of torture. Potential for harm doesn't matter as much as incentive to harm, and Ratchet has no incentive. 

...right? 

 

Given that his patient is unusually flexible and will probably be prone to twisting in odd ways, Ratchet wraps Soundwave's entire abdomen in the wide strips of mesh, covering every bit of exposed protoform just to be sure. He has to lean over Soundwave a bit to reach, but that doesn't seem to be a problem- the spymaster is still looking up at him, petting Laserbeak, and is- hm. His optics are still overly damp, and every now and then a blink dislodges a tear, but he's not really crying. Mildly upset, but stable. 

"There we go. You leave that on, understand? You can tell me if you want it off for any reason, but, for now, you need to keep it where it is. It doesn't hold water terribly well, so you can shower with that on if you'd like, but-" 

He's interrupted by a set of claws digging into his arm plating. Ow.

 

Soundwave starts to push himself into a sitting position as soon as Ratchet is done, but stops that effort in favor of grabbing Ratchet's attention (and arm) at the possibility of a shower. Yes. Please. He doesn't let go, either- in fact, he digs his claws in as much as he can casually manage, leaving small puncture marks with his clawtips. And, despite what's left of his pride, he doesn't try to hide the desperation in his optics. He'd forgotten until now how much he wants a shower, but- yes. 

 

"Okay, okay- easy. We'll get you a shower. Sit up nice and slow, now- you probably shouldn't be walking after runnin' in here pullin' on everything, so we are gonna have to figure out a comfortable way for me to carry y-" Ratchet begins, carefully not pulling his arm away, and is cut off again by, well- 

Miko would call it a hug. 

It's more like Soundwave somehow hopping from the berth to Ratchet, data-cables unfurling to wrap tightly around his frame as the spymaster attempts to just cling to him again. Which works well enough when sitting, but... maybe not so much when he has to stand up. 

"So I'm wearin' you again, then? All right. You don't weigh much. Just- lemme have my arm back?" Ratchet mutters, hooking said arm under Soundwave's legs to add a bit more support as soon as it's free, and waits until Soundwave feels relatively settled. Both legs tucked under Ratchet's arm, one arm hooked over Ratchet's shoulder, data-cables around Ratchet's chassis to provide the majority of the support. He has a spymaster draped over his backpack, but it's secure enough, and probably more comfortable for Soundwave than anything else. 

It's just a bit difficult to stand up like this. 

And he's quite certain Laserbeak is cackling at him.