Alright… so this is a story that came to me in a streak of brilliance. I have no idea where it shall lead me, but I will allow myself to be tugged along on this merry train of thought and see where it gets me! You're all welcome to come along for the ride! I'm sure it'll be an interesting journey.

Disclaimer: I do not own Transformers in any way shape or form. Obviously.

What Time We Have Left

There were very few places left on Cybertron that offered true rest for the weary. But, there were small oasis pocketed away here and there that offered such respite- the trick was, you had to find them first. One such haven, if one looked hard enough for it, could be found in the lower levels of the Autobot's Iacon base.

Nebula One was a small place of sorts; dim, quiet, shielded from the harsh cries of war that raged. At first, the establishment had just been an unused store room that a few mechs would gather in on their off hours to simply get wasted, but with so many soldiers packed into such crammed quarters and the need for a real place to relax growing, it soon became apparent that the arrangement would undoubtedly be unable to last. And so the once unused storeroom was converted into a small hub for gathering and relaxing. From there, the humble beginnings of Nebula One were expanded into several unused storerooms, their dividing walls knocked down and swept aside.

It transformed into the kind of place where any tired mech or femme would find themselves at after a hard shift; the kind of place where they could ease back with friends and comrades, take in some well needed high-grade, and try to forget the war going on outside- at least for a little while.

It was this particular small establishment that Chromia found herself in after a verylong and hard shift, one which had included a highly dangerous raid on Decepticon territory. Thankfully, the operation had been successful; her squad had pulled off their operation with every ounce of hard-trained finesse she'd trained and beaten into each of them. She had expected nothing less from her team.

But, in the aftermath of the job well done, Chromia was looking for a strong cube of high-grade and a good long recharge afterwards- preferably alongside a certain gruff weapons specialist who just happened to be her sparkmate.

Startled from her musings by a chair scrapping out next to her, she turned in time to greet a few of her comrades with a tired but welcome smile on her faceplate.

"Someone's looking a little worse for wear," Firestar chirped teasingly as she sat down. Across the table, Moonracer perched on her seat delicately and Elita One stood behind her chair, leaning against it and gazing at Chromia with a steady look of friendly concern.

"Nothing that a little bit of high-grade can't fix," Chromia replied dryly, toasting her friends with her cube and taking a sip.

"Nothing that a little spark-to-spark with your old bucket of bolts won't fix, you mean," Firestar countered suggestively, her optics sparkling. "A little bit of the old 'Hide action, an' all…" Though the other two femmes groaned, Chromia made no move to deny the accusation, simply offering a shrug and hinting a smile.

Moonracer, the ever conservative femme, sunk a little lower in her seat and covered her optics. "Firestar, everyone can hear you…" she whined quietly. "Just this once, please, just this once can you try to be decent? You're as bad as some of the mechs here." Elita put a comforting hand on the sniper's shoulder.

"It's alright Moonracer, I am sure if I were to ask, Ratchet would be more than capable to put a filter on Firestar's vocal processor," she said calmingly. Finally, she pulled out her chair and sat, shifting a glance at Firestar that told her the threat was empty, humour brightening her optics.

The red-gold femme huffed stubbornly, but resisted the urge say something to her superior. Even if they were off duty, there was still the hierarchy of command that remained un-budging, even within Nebula One. And, worse yet, though the chance was slim and the threat had been in fun, there was no way Firestar was about to risk the ghost of a chance that she might be paid a visit by the wrathful Ratchet. It was best to stay quiet and not risk it.

Chromia laughed and sipped some more of her drink, her tiredness fading in the company of friends. "Inferno might not be so happy," she intoned. "From what I've heard, you can get him pretty hot under the armor with all your talk- make any mech's circuits sizzle." Sure, Chromia might have been a little older than most of the femmes in the Autobot ranks, with the exception of Elita One, but that didn't mean she couldn't be as bawdy as the worst of them. Especially when there was high-grade involved.

Firestar sat up a little straighter, a new grin arranging itself on her faceplate. She waved over a couple of drinks for the rest of the table and leaned toward the older femme, revving with excitement. Ratchet be damned, she had a right to brag. "It's not just the talk that I can get him revving with," she said proudly. Her hand brushed knowingly over the panel in her chest that hid her interface port. "I know quite a few tricks that can get his coolant system working so hard he'd blow a fuse." She leaned back a bit, looking thoughtfully impish. "He did once, actually," she admitted. "It was a pit of a time trying to explain to Ratchet exactly how he had blown it, though."

Chromia laughed again. "I bet he enjoyed the explanation," she said, grinning with the thought of Ratchet being faced with two randy Autobots at some wretched time in the morning while they tried to explain the problem to him.

Undaunted, Firestar nodded. "Of course," she replied, adopting a haughty tone. "He asked for a slagging explanation and I gave him a slagging explanation, extended version." She crowed laughter at the look that came upon poor Moonracer's faceplate, Chromia joining in with indelicate snorts. Elita one rolled her optics, but did spare an entertained smirk.

"You did not…" Moonracer groaned, hiding herself behind her newly arrived drink.

"Oh yes, I did," countered Firestar. "Sufficed to say, he has never once asked again for an explanation whenever we show up in his fragging med bay."

Chromia shook her head, finishing off her first cube of energon and reaching for the second that Firestar had ordered for them. "You and Inferno sure go at it like petro-rabits," she snorted. "It's a wonder that either of you make it to your shifts on time."

"It's a wonder there haven't been any complaints lodged against the two of you," Elita said. "The walls are only so thick and audio receptors can only be turned off for so long."

A devious look came over Firestar's faceplate and she leaned forward conspiratorially. "Oh, there have been complaints, but Inferno is good friends with Red Alert, you know, and they worked out this deal, see-."

"Ah! Stop right there!" Elita ordered quickly. She knew the instant Firestar opened her mouth that she didn't want to know what the femme had to say. "What ever that deal may be, and I believe I can deduce what it may be, I am absolutely sure Moonracer would fritz if she had to hear all the rancid details. I know Red Alert is just as close to Inferno as you are, and I shudder to think that a mech as fine as Inferno is using that relationship for his own ends…" she took a calming drink from her high-grade. "I may have to speak with Prowl about this-."

"Anyone but Prowl, Elita," Chromia cut in with a dismissive wave of her hand. There was a grin on her faceplate that stretched from Audio receptor to audio receptor. "I mean, the mech has a good spark and all, but no sense of fun-."

"He has Jazz for that." Firestar muttered. Moonracer continued to nurse her energon, blatantly ignoring the rest of the table.

"-You might as well write up the report and hand it to Optimus Prime yourself and save him the trip, because Primus knows the instant you inform that mech, that's exactly what he'll be doing." Chromia looked to Elita in hopes of getting through to her. The Femme Commander was looking deadpan unconvinced, so it was time for a new tactic. "Don't you remember what it was like to be young? Wanting to get your hands under everyone's armor, interfacing at every given chance, acting like over-energized petro-rabbits… And with the war going on, I say they should get it where they can, whenever they can." There was a light in Elita's optics that wasn't there before; she was looking a little more convinced. "I know you have Optimus, and I have Ironhide, but the files from before are still there, aren't they?"

Elita was quiet for a while, taking a long drink of her high-grade before her internal systems released a hiss that was the equivalent of a sigh. "Oh, I remember," she replied, and then a barely-there grin ghosted over her faceplate. "I remember late nights out in Tyger Pax, meeting up with some mech, spending orns together-."

Moonracer looked incredulous. "You just "met up" with a mech? You mean you didn't know him?" she asked fretfully. Elita shook her head and Chromia shrugged to show that the act of meeting up with someone back in their day was not such a big deal- no worries of being Decepticon or Autobot back then.

"You got to know him, that was half the fun," Elita laughed, but Moonracer was not to be soothed.

"But- but weren't you afraid of catching some sort of virus or something?"

Elita laughed and shook her head lightly. "Of course not, this was vorns ago, the beginnings of Cybertron's Golden Age, probably before you two were even created," she said, nodding to both Moonracer and Firestar. "Nobody worried about catching viruses back then, it was all very open. Firewalls were an unusual thing to come across, too. And nobody had even heard of a Decepticon before. It was a very different time from what you two know now."

"Wow…" Moonracer sighed, her optics wide.

"You two are ancient," Firestar snorted. "I wasn't even a code in my Creator's CPU back then. Nowadays, nobody interfaces without a diagnostic first and everybody has up firewalls on their systems and on their back-up systems. And don't even get me started on the Decepticons; practically from the moment you were sparked you were hearing about them."

"Not anymore though," Chromia said, looking down. "Not with the Youth Sectors destroyed and the Allspark gone…" There were no more sparklings to be created, and all the younglings had died in the attacks on the Youth Sectors, with the exception of a particular yellow minibot.

Suddenly the strain she had been trying to escape from returned, weighing down on her more heavily than before. Times sure had changed. The fresh beginning of the Golden Age had long passed, along with it her first encounter at a shooting range with a young but gruff mech with a love for his plasma cannons. It was as distant as the stars now, and in its place was a war-ravaged world where every moment spent with a friend or loved one could mean the last. It made her realize how very little time she had spent with Ironhide as of late, and how very precious every moment was from now on.

Moonracer reached across the table and placed a comforting hand over Chromia's. "You know we're going to find it someday," she said softly. "There is just no way that Optimus and the others would leave the Allspark to drift out there in space for the Decepticons to find-."

"Yeah, c'mon- I bet it's just sitting out there somewhere, on some backwater rock of a planet in a corner of the galaxy that not even the Decepti-frags would crawl to," Firestar piped in. "It's what we're all fighting for, isn't it? If you lose spark now, then the Decepticons have already won."

Chromia finished off her second drink quickly, hoping to feel the effects of the high-grade in her systems soon. "I know that." She barked a harsh laugh and cursed, running a hand over her strained optics. "Of course I know that!" She dropped her head into her hands and just sat there rubbing her optics tiredly. "But there are times when you just wish you could walk up to that slagging pit-reject Frag-atron and blow his pointy head off, just so we can be done with this all! We've infiltrated Decepticon territory enough times for energon, why not for an attack? We'd rip those glitching fraggers apart!"

"You're too much like Ironhide for your own good," Elita said with a shake of her head. "Thank Primus it is Optimus and I who are in charge and not you two, or we'd all be running headlong into battle, cannons blazing."

"Not a bad tactic, though," Firestar admitted with a shrug. "I wouldn't mind some aft kicking action."

Moonracer shuddered and shook her head. She may have been a sharpshooter alongside Arcee, but battle was not her idea of fun. "I certainly wouldn't mind being left b- Bumblebee!"

The other femmes jumped, swinging around to face the young scout who had easily snuck up on them. Though his vocal processor had been damaged beyond repair by Megatron a while ago, he gave them a jaunty whistle of greeting and held out a data pad for Elita. He was so very young to be fighting a war like this, barely anything more than a youngling himself, and still he managed to be so cheerful.

Elita accepted the data pad from the young minibot and nodded to him. "Thank you, Bumblebee. It was very kind of you to deliver this yourself." Seeing that it was from Optimus, she immediately began to download the information.

Bumblebee bounced a little on his feet and clicked a few times, turning to Chromia. For her, he pulled out another data pad and held it out for her. Surprised momentarily, she paused before taking it- who would be sending her any messages? She hadn't been around for a few orns, or even sent in her report on the infiltration operation yet, so hardly anyone should even know she was back.

After refusing a cheeky offer from Firestar to share a few sips of high-grade with her, Bumblebee quickly ambled off, clicking and waving jovially to a few mechs as he passed.

"Primus…" Elita froze in her download as she assessed the information that was being given to her. Every ounce of coolant in her system felt like it instantly turned to ice. "Optimus, no…"

The other femmes leaned closer to the femme commander, curious as to what could be the matter.

"Did something happen?" Moonracer inquired anxiously.

Her own data pad forgotten, Chromia left her chair and circled around to get to Elita's side. "Did something happen to Optimus?"

Shaking her head, the femme dropped the data pad and slid it away from her. "No… not yet, at least." She stared down at the data pad as if entranced. "That was just an overview of an upcoming mission that Optimus is about to announce; a deep space search and rescue mission… for the Allspark." Her entire frame now sagged against the table, even though Firestar and Moonracer visibly perked up. "He's already placed himself as commander of the mission- and issued an order for me to stay behind to remain commander of the femme contingents and work along side Ultra Magnus for the rest of the Autobot forces…"

There was a terrible silence that hung in the air after Elita's words, even if Nebula One was still full of friendly din the atmosphere around their table plunged drastically. Although the younger two of the four femmes knew to a lesser degree the severe reality of the data pad, it was Chromia who unfortunately knew the full weight.

A deep space mission, one that could last for vorns- forever possibly- where one sparkmate was left behind while the other one traveled out into the vast regions of uncharted space; slow torture. Words could never possibly accurately describe the pain.

When two bots sparkbond with each other, that was it. There was no other in the universe for them for as long as their sparks still pulsed. It was a connection that went infinitely deeper than words could describe. It took on the near-spiritual as sparks met and infused with each other, imprinting upon the other a permanent mark of their chosen sparkmate, their bonded, to be there for the rest of eternity. Everything changed from that moment on, right down to the basic lines of code that made up one's basic processes, now to include that of the bonded.

Separation was brutal.

Don't even try to equate death of a bonded into the picture.

Chromia crumbled next to Elita, arms around the in-shock femme's shoulders. This was the worse she'd ever seen her friend without someone landing a physical blow on her. Elita One was the brave one, the smart one, the wise one; she was capable of staring down the barrel of a plasma cannon twice her size without flinching. And yet, here she was- reduced to a stupor by the contents of a devastatingly innocent looking data pad.

There was the sudden urge to charge her energy rifle and blast the slagging little pad just to make it explode and burn for all the trouble it held.

"He never even discussed this with me…" she said sullenly. "Never mentioned his plans…"

Nebula One was suddenly too crowded. There were too many mechs have too good a time here for Chromia's liking at the moment; once she was done with the data pad, she'd turn her rifle on the rest of them. Show them to be grinning at a time like this. Some were beginning to look over curiously, until captured by Chromia's fierce glare, to which they promptly turned around.

Her night was just getting worse and worse. Come here for a high-grade buzz and end up in the brig for discharging her weapon into the faceplates of too curious, too stupid, Autobots.

Searching for words that would equate to some sort of impossible comfort for the devastated femme, Chromia dared to utter the most insignificant and useless words to be used in situations like these. "Come on now, it's going to be ok-."

Elita's dead blue optics silenced her before she even finished the sentence. "That's not all of it," she said, her voice low and flat. "Someone has already volunteered and been accepted to go with Optimus…"

There was a dangerously cold, sinking feeling going down in Chromia's spark. Yes, this night was going to the pit whether she liked it or not.

"Ironhide," she sighed quietly. She already knew it him. There was no way it wasn't going to be him. He was Optimus Prime's closest friend and weapons specialist after all; he was privy to all the secret workings of Prime's inner circle, knew everything before anyone else in the ranks. Probably volunteered himself the moment Optimus suggested the mission. He was too good of friends with Prime, too loyal and duty bound, to let the commander go without him.

And with a single nod of confirmation from Elita, all the cold in Chromia's spark was gone, replaced by a very hot burning in her circuits, the sinking turned into righteous soaring high-grade fuelled rage.

All that precious time she thought she had left with her bonded suddenly became very small and very frightening.

Abruptly, she stood from Elita's side and glared down at the other femmes. "Take her back to her quarters," she ordered. "Stay with her." Spinning furiously on her heel, she made for the exit of Nebula One, heedless of the stares she was receiving from the denizens of the room as she stormed.

"And where are you going?" Firestar yelled after her.

Pausing in the doorway, Chromia snarled and punched the frame, leaving a nice sized dent in the polished silver metal. "To find my slagging sparkmate," she hissed, reaching over her left shoulder and extracting her beloved, but powerful, double-barrel energy rifle, "and have a nice long talk with him."

The door closed behind her with a resounding hiss that left a shudder running throughout all the room.

Of all the glitch-headed, stupid-aft, pit-slagging stunts that mech has pulled, this was by far the worst of them all! Ratchet was going to have one pit of a time piecing the old warrior back together after she was through with him! First she was going to dismantle him, and then she was going to pound every single inch of his dismantled body into a gigantic pile of scrap metal, and then she was going to put him back together to yell at him until his audio receptors blew- AND, if he even dared say anything, Primus forbid he tell her to be silent, she was going to take his own fragging plasma cannons and shoot them straight up his aft, with his arms still attached!

She wasn't going to forgive him this time! There was just no way!

And as Chromia seethed and stormed down hallways and corridors, her rifle charged and hefted against her shoulder, bots of all sizes quickly scrambled to get out of her way. Those who had been in a tangle with her before saw the danger signs and made haste to get out of her path lest they wished a trip to Ratchet's courtesy of Chromia.

It might have been funny to her any other time to see such strong warriors easily twice her height pressing themselves to the walls as she passed, but anger was just about all she could process at the moment. Though femmes were created notably smaller than mechs, smaller than minibots even, their ferocious anger made them extremely dangerous when incensed. Chromia's particular fury was best known for being easily incurred and most effective when she was wielding some sort of high powered weapon.

Quickly opening a private comlink to Ironhide, she tried to get a hold of him. Her ire only rose more when she realized that his slagging communications had been shut off for some reason or other. So he wouldn't have to put up with me for a few more breems! Chromia thought angrily. With that option out, she sent out wide spread sensors to find him, and hissed with fury when she came up blind. Slag! He was in one of the dead zones within the base, completely shielded from detection by sensor sweeps.

Chromia cursed Red Alert's paranoia. It had been his suggestion to set up blanketing shields on all major operating areas within the base so that even if a Decepticon managed to infiltrate the Autobot base he wouldn't be able to scan any of the vital areas. A good idea at the time; now, it was a very, very, very bad idea.

She would just have to hunt him down the old fashioned way.

The high-grade that was now running through her systems continued to happily scramble her logic center so that she would not pause for even a moment to think over her anger. Had she been processing straight, it would have occurred to her that the data pad Bumblebee had delivered to her could have been from Ironhide; he was one of the few who knew she would be back today. The messaged could have been him informing her of the situation, or at least telling her that he had something to tell her and to meet him somewhere, i.e. his favourite firing range in dead zone. But no, over-energized and angry, pausing to think about logic was the last thing on her processor.

Ironhide, as it turned out, was exactly where Chromia thought he would be; in his favourite holo-firing range in the lower levels of the base. His back was to her when she came storming in, but it was obvious by the new rigidness of his broad shoulders that he knew she was there, call it a sixth sense granted to those who had sparkmates.

Standing in the doorway, unmoving, she watched with wary optics as the black mech pounded a couple of rounds into a holographic Decepticon before it exploded into a shower of pixels. Three more Decepticons materialized around the room, Chromia noting that the projections had been reconfigured with the likenesses of Starscream and two of his Seeker contingent.

Plasma lit up the room as several volleys arched in a wide sweep, catching two of the Cybertronian jets, one in the wing and grazing the underside of the other. Holo-Starscream abruptly dropped from the air and transformed, running straight at Ironhide in a headlong attack. With his right arm already blasting out rounds of roaring plasma at Thundercracker and Skywarp, Ironhide's left cannon quickly turned to intercept the oncoming Decepticon. Using targeting sensors, he locked on and fired. It was a magnificent shot, but far too obvious, and Starscream was able to roll out of the way, transforming and taking to the air again and racing around the gigantic stadium that made up the firing range.

Hitting the ground hard and rolling, the seasoned warrior avoided getting his head sheared off by a crashing Skywarp as he took out the hologram's propulsion systems. Sensors still tracking the wild Starscream racing the room, he lost Thundercracker as the jet shot up vertically, barrel rolled, and raced around the room going the opposite way of Starscream.

There was a grunt of annoyance as Ironhide tracked the two blurs, his sharp targeting sensors trying to locks on to both but their speeds were making it difficult to stay on both. Opting to take out Starscream first, Ironhide dropped sensor lock on Thundercracker and focused on Starscream, calculating sped, trajectory, point of impact, and supposed damaged to be inflicted in less than an astrosecond before firing.

Even angry, Chromia couldn't help the sort of pride she felt when she watched her old trigger-happy sparkmate make such a magnificent shot. Plasma roared and collided with Starscream in an exploding light show that easily took out both his wings. Taking a sharp nosedive, the hologram hit the floor in a loud grating metallic crash and exploded into pixels.

But even as Ironhide spun around to meet the last Decepticon, Thundercracker was upon him. The hologram rammed him hard in the right shoulder joint, transformed, and aimed his plasma cannon right between the optics. The only thing that saved Ironhide's aft was a well placed high-yield shot issued from Chromia's energy rifle into the back of Thundercracker's head, decapitating him and ending the entire simulation.

As the projectors shut off and the lights dimmed, Chromia stood glowering from her place in the door way, her rifle now trained on Ironhide.

"Chromia-," his greeting was cut off as the rifle was brandished threateningly.

"Explain. Now." She demanded harshly.

Ironhide met her optics steadily, not an ounce of fear in the face of her rifle. Slowly, his cannons folded into his arms and he pushed himself up, wincing as gears grinded in his right shoulder where Thundercracker had hit.

"Bumblebee delivered my message?" he asked, watching her with steady blue optics.

"Something to that effect," she replied venomously. "Same time as Elita One received her message from Optimus Prime."

His optics widened fractionally before narrowing calculatingly. "You know, then?" he asked, his deep voice resonating in the cavernous training room.

"Of course I know!" Chromia shrieked. "I found out from fragging Elita, Ironhide, who just found out her own sparkmate was leaving! By Primus, how dare you do this to me! How dare you volunteer for this suicide mission without even discussing it with me first!"

He watched her silently. With sensors operational within the dead zone, he swept her form with a plethora of scans, taking in the dullness of her armor and the tremor with which she held her weapon. He noted the rigidness of her stance and the rapid pulsing of her spark. Her optics were wide and bright as they stared him down. Systems were under strain from lack of recharge, and she was drawing on reserve cells that had already seen a better day. A deeper scan revealed an imbalance to a few of her systems due to high-grade consumption, as well.


Again, she cut him off. "Slag it, Ironhide, you are my bonded! We are fragging sparkmates! You are supposed to tell me when you do stupid things like this!" she shouted.

"I was going to tell you," he said quietly. "Right now, in fact. Elita only beat me to it."

Chromia's trigger finger trembled, Ironhide's sharp optics catching the slight movement easily.

"I had no intention of you finding out in such a way," he said, daring to take a step forward. "I regret it deeply, but regardless of how you found out or your reaction, my decision to participate in mission will remain the same. I'm going with Prime."

Chromia let out a noise that sounded like a hiss. "Why?!" she yelled. "Tell me why, Ironhide!"

"I had to-."

"You volunteered!"

"Do you think that I would allow Optimus to leave on such a dangerous mission without me?" Ironhide asked, his voice now growling.

Chromia froze for an instant. This was Ironhide. He was too loyal, too honorable and duty bound, to allow someone as close to him as Optimus to embark on such a journey alone. She chose to say nothing, continuing to glare angrily, but the arm holding her gun dropped to her side weakly.

Seeing it was now safe to approach the rest of the way, Ironhide quickly closed the gap between the two of them in a few fast strides. His strong arms went around her small frame, which was just over half his height, and she was lifted to be eye level with him. Their chests touched, sparks pulsing in greeting to each other.

"I may be your sparkmate, Chromia, but I am also an Autobot, and I have a duty to this cause- and to Optimus," he said in her audio receptor. He was slowly making his way back to the door, but instead of walking out he reached to the panel with one arm and encrypted it so that no one could enter. No interruptions until he made her understand. He then carried her over to the long, wide benches that sat against the back wall of the firing range and sat down, still holding her.

"I knew what it would cost us if I signed on for this. It will be difficult, and painful, but there was no choice in the matter. Prime needs me on that mission if he wants any chance to find the Allspark." In an act of rarely shown affection for the gruff mech, he laid his head over hers and tucked her close to his frame. "You understand, don't you? This is more important than anything else we've ever faced. Finding the Allspark is more important than this war, this world; if we were to find, we could end this, bring Cybertron back…"

It was too late by the time she knew what Ironhide was doing. He was soothing her, oh the irony when it was usually the other way around; he was using their proximity to affect her, impose upon her a sense of calm that she had not felt in quite a few orns.

Allowing him to do as he pleased for the time being, she chose to speak instead. "There is no way you're going to change your mind, is there?" she asked, already knowing the answer.

"No. I have to do this."

She knew him too well. This was something he had to do, regardless of danger, despite what it would do to the both of them to be apart. Going on this mission to find the Allspark, and blow some Decepticons to itty bitty bits along the way, was who he was. It always had been, since the moment she had met him.

Gently slipping a hand underneath the hard armor of his right shoulder, she absently soothed the sensitive wires and abused gears that lay beneath. A slight shiver ran through the large mech's frame.

"When do you leave?" she asked softly. There was no anger now, just tiredness and numbness and the warmth coming through her armor from the frame that was surrounding her.

"Whenever the Ark is done being prepared," came the reply. His voice was getting lower, deeper. Her hand was still stroking at the delicate wires underneath his armor. "We have a few orns, at least."

Chromia flinched. That wasn't long at all, not compared to the eternity that they had been together before this. "I'm going to miss you," she whispered.

"And I, you."

Understatements of the millennia.

Chromia wriggled in Ironhide's arms, shifting, turning to face him fully and lifting herself to press her forehead to his. "We haven't spend much time together, as of late," she said softly. "I've missed you then as well."

Ironhide chuckled. It was either the extreme exhaustion or high-grade that had her like this, because normally she was as gruff as he was. But now was not a time for gruff. He pressed his own forehead to hers, shuttering his optics and simply enjoying her closeness, the pull on his spark that always rose in the chest when she was near.

Her hands rose up to hold Ironhide's faceplate on either side, her small but strong hands touching the old, warm metal that made up his faceplate, stroking and holding him close. Her spark was pulsing in her own chest at the proximity; she knew what she wanted, but didn't know if she had enough energy left to last any longer without falling into involuntary recharge.

"Can we have these few orns?" she asked quietly. "Just for us? Before you… before you leave." The last word was whispered, afraid of what that word meant.

He nodded slowly for her, large hands moving over the sleek armor of his sparkmate's frame. Armor sliding back to allow him better access, he used more care than most would think him capable of to gently run his hands over the exposed thinner proto-armor and exposed wires. A desperate shiver ran through Chromia's frame before she became limp and pliable against Ironhide's broad chest.

"I would give you forever, if it was within my power," he replied softly. It was only for her that he would bother with such soft words.

When he received no answer, whether in sound or movement, he un-shuttered his optics and saw that Chromia had finally given into her exhaustion, her hands still holding onto him tightly.

Chuckling to himself, he readjusted the prone form of his sparkmate in his arms for her comfort and lifted her so that she was cradled close to his spark. Moving to the exit, he broke the encryptions he set for their own privacy and opened the door.

Jazz stood on the other side, grinning widely and flanked by Sideswipe and Sunstreaker.

"Soooo… hard training session?" he asked, looking to the off-lined Chromia in Ironhide's arms. Sideswipe was grinning wildly, every lewd comment he could possibly make of the situation going through his processor.

Ironhide glared darkly, glancing down at his bonded. "Very difficult," he growled in reply before shouldering past them roughly.

It took a lot to ignore the mischievous optics that followed him down the corridor, took everything he had to reign in the impulse to whip around and blast a hole through their grinning faceplates, but there were more important things to him at the moment.

Chromia, for instance.

There was only so much time he had left with her, and he wasn't going to waste it.