By Epona Harper

Another day, another battle, Bumblebee thought grimly as he stepped into the repair bay. A series of consecutive Decepticon raids on local power stations as well as some research facilities halfway across the continent had pushed their forces to the absolute limit. But they'd held the line - thank Primus, they'd held it. The 'Cons had finally given up and retreated to lick their wounds a little over a day ago.

But that only meant the chaos was over for the fighters. For the medics, however…

He looked around the repair bay's recovery section and made a mental tally of those offline in recovery versus those who still awaited repair. No fatalities, even though it had been a near thing for Sunstreaker and Fireflight. Word was that the Aerialbot's laser-core had been within a micron of failing before First Aid had reached him in the field. Several other Autobots were still in serious condition, but it seemed that the worst cases had been stabilized.

But that wasn't why he was here. Bumblebee made his way across the bay. First Aid was checking vitals on Ironhide and looked up as he approached.

"He's still at it?" he asked. The Protectobot sighed and looked over his shoulder at the flurry of activity on the main repair table.

"Yes, in spite of all attempts to get him to rest," he whispered. "Sometimes I wonder if he has any survival instinct at all."

The spy laughed quietly. "I'm sure you wonder that about all of us, 'Aid. Well, if you've got it ready, I'll take care of him."

Another glance to make sure they were not observed and First Aid slipped a small object to Bumblebee. "There you go. Good luck."

Bumblebee grinned and nodded, then proceeded into the maelstrom that was the main operating theater. Ratchet and Wheeljack held center-stage (Perceptor was out with one of the still-deployed teams), the object of their attentions being an unconscious and extremely-battered Air Raid. The Aerialbot had taken heavy fire protecting his fallen brother until help arrived today. Keeping a wary optic out, the spy quietly switched a small, plastic bottle on a nearby table with the one the Protectobot had given him, then leaned back against the wall to wait.

After a few seconds, Ratchet scowled at a reading on his monitor.

"I'm starting to get fluctuations in his energy levels, Spike."

The third member of the team was currently buried in Air Raid's guts…literally. The human had crawled halfway inside the Autobot, a technique Sparkplug had called "tunnel ratting". Small size and relatively pliant bodies allowed humans to reach damaged areas in places where it would take something just short of a disassembly for even one of the smaller Autobots to reach.

"Okay…there! Got the shunt in," Spike's partially muffled voice called out. "Go ahead and start transfer."

"Roger that," Wheeljack said as he began to redirect energy around the damage through the shunt. "You can back on out now, Spike."

"Like hell," Spike said. "I'll come out when we're sure it's holding. It was hard enough to get in here in the first place."

Ratchet rolled his optics in exasperation, eliciting a muffled chuckle from his mini-bot audience. Bumblebee caught his attention with a discrete wave.

I take it drastic measures are called for? he asked on a private frequency.

Primus, yes! Ratchet sent back. Kid's had about three hours of sleep in the last 72, but he's so hyped on caffeine and adrenaline he can't shut down. I'm this close to saying 'to the Pit with it' and knocking him over the head.

Don't you have enough to do without adding a concussion to the trauma list?

The medic grinned mirthlessly. That is the only thing restraining me, Bumblebee.

He looked back at his monitor and said aloud, "Okay, it's holding. Get your sorry aft out of my patient."

"You're welcome," the human snickered as he inched his way back. When he finally extricated himself and stood up, Bumblebee found himself agreeing with medic wholeheartedly. Spike had shed his shirt (probably due to the heat of both the bay and working in the closed, hot quarters of an Autobot's body). His bare skin was coated in a fine sheen of sweat but had gone decidedly pale. Dark circles lay under his eyes and there was a faint, barely perceptible tremor in his hands as they hung slack at his sides. But he shook himself and looked up expectantly. "So…what next?"

Ratchet growled. "What's next is you getting the frag out of my repair bay and getting some slagging sleep! If Sparkplug were here, he'd say the same thing, you glitching idiot!"

"Though he'd probably say it with a lot less cussing," Wheeljack remarked dryly.

He doesn't need to. He's got more leverage,Bumblebee thought. Even though Spike was an adult by human standards, parental authority still carried a lot of weight. And, if Carly were here…well, Spike's fiancée had her own ways of getting him to relax. Unfortunately, both humans had gone out with other Autobot teams and weren't due back for hours at least.

The human in question dug in with a stubbornness that was clearly a match for Ratchet's. "Awww, come on…"

Time to step in.

"Don't you know any better than to argue with our Cranky Medical Officer?" Bumblebee broke in, earning himself a glare from Ratchet. Hey, he needed the leverage of the jibe.

Spike spun around, startled. "Hey, 'Bee! When did you get here?"

"Just in time to catch the show," he answered, sauntering over and putting a companionable hand on the human's shoulder. "Look, at least sit down for a bit. They're not going to need a tunnel rat for a while." He looked up at the two 'Bots for confirmation. "Right?"

"Yeah, yeah," Ratchet said irritably as he bent over Air Raid. "Technically, we didn't need that shunt either…"

"Did you really want to let the triage line pile up while you took apart his secondary power cell?" Spike shot back.

"Spike, please," Bumblebee persisted, steering the human toward the table that held the innocuous-looking bottle. "Sit down and get yourself re-hydrated at least. Last thing you need is to pass out inside somebody from heat exhaustion."

"Oh, wouldn't that be fun," Wheeljack quipped. His partner growled again.

"Just what I need - trying to disassemble some poor mech to retrieve the idiot organic stranded inside."

Spike favored Ratchet with one last glare, but let himself be steered. He hoisted himself up onto the table and grabbed the bottle, twisting off the cap and chugging nearly half of it before coming up for air. "There, happy now?" he said, saluting the CMO with the remainder.

"Overjoyed," Ratchet rumbled, not even looking up. Bumblebee just shook his head as he slid up on the table to sit next to his friend.

"Can I ask how's it goin', or will that get me an arc-welder thrown at my head?" he asked, keeping a casual eye on the human.

Wheeljack chuckled and reached in to replace a fried circuit board. "Not bad now," he said. "We're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel…"

"And praying it ain't a train," Ratchet broke in, earning himself a gentle slap on the back of the head from Wheeljack.

"After 'Raid, we've only got the walking wounded," the engineer continued. "The three of us…"

"Four." Spike was blinking a little more now, but still looking up stubbornly at the medical team as they worked. He took another drink.

Wheeljack merely glanced at him and sighed. "Anyway, we should be able to get them taken care of in another few hours."

"Good thing the 'Cons took as bad a beating," Bumblebee remarked. "Or we'd be…" The feel of a tiny hand on his arm interrupted him. Spike was actually swaying a bit and had reached out to steady himself against the nearest solid object. "Hey…you okay?" he asked.

Spike shook his head several times and looked up blearily. "I…just all of a sudden…" He put the water bottle down to free up a hand to rub his eyes.

First Aid came into the room, glanced at the wavering human and then nodded to Ratchet. "Come on, Spike. Even though you humans can override your recharge cycle doesn't mean you should."

The human was now holding on to consciousness by sheer force of will. "Yeah," he said, reaching for the bottle again. "I guess you're…"

Bumblebee wasn't sure what happened then. Maybe there was a slight difference in the bottle. Maybe Spike caught a glimpse of the smug look that Ratchet now had. But suddenly he put two and two together and came up with "dirty trick". The bottle went THUNK and poured the remainder of its contents across the floor. "You fraggin' son of a BITCH!" he yelled, surprise and anger pushing back augmented fatigue. He started to jump down from the table, but motor control and equilibrium were going fast. Only a quick grab by Bumblebee kept him from smashing into the deck plating below.

"Good night, sweet prince,'" Ratchet quipped, satisfaction (and just a hint of relief) in his tone. "You should know by now, kiddo, that none of my staff get to run themselves to death on my watch."

Spike, for his part, was succumbing to the inevitable. Slumped against Bumblebee's chest, he gave the lot of them one, last, baleful look. "High-handed, scragging…son of a grease gun..." With that, his eyes rolled back in his skull and Spike went limp in his friend's arms. Bumblebee looked up at First Aid ruefully. The medic shrugged.

"Somehow, I don't think this is what Sparkplug had in mind when he had me order human medicines," he commented.

The mini-bot sighed and gathered up his unconscious friend. "He's gonna kill us when he wakes up," he said gloomily. Ratchet only laughed.

"Hey, someone had to save the kid from himself. Besides it's better than him pulling a Hawkeye and tryin' to ship one of our recycling units to the Decepticons."

That brought muted chuckles from Wheeljack and First Aid while Bumblebee looked up in confusion. "What the slag are you talking about?"

"You need to watch more episodes of MASH with us. Check back once your little brother's tucked in, and 'Aid will show you what I mean." Ratchet pointed at the door with laser scalpel. "Now get lost. Wouldn't put it past him to fight the damn drug off if he keeps on hearing us talking."

"With that dose?" First Aid said dubiously as he joined the work on Air Raid's wounds.

"Never underestimate the power of human stubbornness."

Dismissed, Bumblebee cleared out of the repair bay, being careful to not jostle Spike too much. Not that it would have made much difference – the combination of three days of sleep deprivation and the drug practically guaranteed he'd sleep through an earthquake – but that didn't matter to the mini-bot. He felt bad enough about tricking Spike in the first place.

He quietly slipped down the corridors to the section of the Ark which had been refitted for humans. Thankfully, he didn't encounter anyone. Having word of this get around the Autobot grapevine would have only added insult to injury. It didn't take him long to settle Spike into one of the beds. The human gave an unintelligible murmur before settling back into stillness. Bumblebee smiled affectionately at his slumbering friend…well, friend wasn't the right word.

His "little brother" Ratchet had called him jokingly. The medic was more right than he realized. "Brother" was the closest translation for the Cybertonian concept of the tie that this unlikely pair had formed. Transformers didn't have the same bonds as human families. There is no particular affection expected between mechs created by the same progenitor. The only born "brothers" were the result of spark-splitting – twins. Gestalt groups became brothers over time – they had little choice in the matter given the intimate manner of their partnership. But, for the general population, brothers were found – if you were very, very lucky. One day, you'd stumble across another mech whose spark just seemed to resonate with yours…and you knew.

And my brother turned out to be another species entirely, he thought as he gently brushed a bit of hair out of Spike's face. Spike stirred slightly in response and Bumblebee quickly withdrew, just in case Ratchet was right about him fighting the drug. How in the Pit did this happen anyway? Are you an Autobot spark who got lost? Or maybe just too impatient for me to wake up and get back to Cybertron? Heh. Wouldn't put it past you to get fed up and come looking for me.

You took care of your brother, even if he gave you hell for it. That's the only reason he'd agreed to Ratchet's plan. Watching the human sleep – stress lines around his eyes slowly fading – he knew he'd made the right choice.

Maybe you just knew I'd need you here.

Bumblebee reached down to pull up a blanket to keep the chill of the room off Spike…and froze as the light from the hallway illuminated a familiar (morbid) feature. It had been four years since the accident - Megatron's "diversion" that had nearly cost Spike his life. He had changed considerably in that time. His last growth spurt had ended with him being slightly taller than his father. The constant exertions of from trying to keep up with his Autobot friends had given him a respectable amount of muscle, but the scars from the accident and the surgery which had just barely pulled him back from the brink were still there. Yes, they had faded somewhat, but they could still be clearly seen as they tracked across his bare chest. They were a vivid reminder of one indisputable fact; one day, his brother was going to die.

Oh, he could try to be philosophical about it and say, quite truthfully, that everything dies. But, with Spike, there was a definite time limit. Organics had such short life-spans…

A hundred years, tops, Bumblebee thought, gloom mingling with affection. Even if they find a way to do mind transfer without driving you bonkers, would you accept it? Being human is so much of who you are. He finished pulling the blanket over his friend. Would you give that up…even for me? Should I even want you to?

Bumblebee gave himself a mental shake and chuckled quietly at himself. Slag, I can never do things the easy way, can I?

Spike's head turned slightly. He was smiling in his sleep…a quirky half-smile as if he was agreeing with the Autobot. Bumblebee ever so gently mussed his hair before getting up and heading out of the room. He paused a before closing the door behind him. He may not have learned a lot of profound truths in his life, but he knew this much. You should never let fear of the future ruin now. If a century is all he had with Spike, than by Primus he was going to make the most of that century.

And, even then, who says it will be the end? he thought cheekily as he glanced back at the still form in the shadows. If I'm right, you were stubborn enough to track me all the way to Earth. And I'll be damned if I'll let you out-stubborn me, bro. We'll find each other again.

He let the door slide shut.

Now I just have to find a way to keep you from tearing my head off when you finally wake up.


Disclaimer: The Management would like to acknowledge that neither did she create, nor does she own the Transformers franchise or any of the characters thereof. The Management believes that Dreamwave is the proud owner of those rights and hopes that they are good guardians for them. The Management would also like to state that no monetary profit is being made from this story and respectfully suggests that any attorneys looking for lawsuit fodder go take a long walk off a short pier.

Author's Note: For those of you who did not get the joke Ratchet made about Hawkeye, go now and find a copy of the MASH episode "Dr. Pierce and Mr. Hyde". Or check out the episode summary on Wikipedia. 