Gratuitous sparksex in honour of my good friend Litahatchee! …oh wait, that sounds dirty, doesn't it? Um, well, okay, let's try to undirty that statement… In honour of the Winter Solstice coming up, as well as Christmas, I wanted to give Lita something very special, and while I said that I would give her Invisible Puzzle Pieces as a gift (a Nightbeat expansion fic I'm working on), I decided that this one might be a little more fun! It's horribly corny and probably oozing with cheesiness, but I hope my sudden spark of inspiration doesn't dampen anyone's enthusiasm!

Lita, I just want to say that you've been one of the dearest friends I've made on this site. You've been so great, listening to be me ramble on MSN and nattering back and forth about everything little thing possible. I wish I had something better to give this Christmas, but I hope a little Ironhide/Chromia lovin' will put you in the holiday mood. My heart's in the words, my dear, so I hope you feel the love.^^

**Special Note- This fic takes place rather early in the war, perhaps only a couple of vorns in. I'm not sure how obvious it is in the writing, so I'm just placing this here to make it clearer.**

Touch Me
"Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back… At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet."- Plato

Bonded, in terms of the Cybertronian race, meant to be more than just ones self. Your spark was not completely your own. You were a part of another life, and they a part of you.

When a bot took on a sparkmate, they took on the weight of another life, the ghost of another orn being lived by their other half; the happiness they felt, and the sadness. The very essences of two beings tied together in an ephemeral knot that could never be undone.

What was once yours; personal thoughts, shortcoming, prides, pleasures, peeves- it was all laid out for another, shared, and returned with the personal quirks of another. From the moment two sparks merge into one and everything is freely handed over; your spark, your frame, your life, your entire existence. You are cut in half and shared with another. Another half is given in return, smoothly enwrapped around that half left of you to make a new whole that was better than before. Stronger.

Sparkmates were forever. Eternal.

There was no 'till death do us part in the Cybertronian way of thinking, there was only I'll find you again on the other side.

The decision is one that is never taken lightly by any Cybertronian. It is too overwhelming, the idea of spending the rest of one's existence with another. Too vulnerable. Too frightening. Too permanent.

For many, they shied away from such commitment.

For Ironhide and Chromia, they thrived on it.

"Where is he?!"

"Calm down, Chromia. He'll be here," Elita assured gently, watching as her agitated friend cleared a trail for herself along the floor. Anyone with an ounce of sense was staying the heck out of the dusty-blue femme's way.

"The skirmish has been over for joors now!" she snapped back peevishly. "It doesn't take this long to conduct field repairs and clean up!" To be honest, she really didn't mean to snap at her commander while the rose femme was doing everything in her power to help, but when that hot zing of pain flashed through Chromia's spark, all common sense had left her. She wasn't the one in pain; Ironhide was.

"Something must have happened to delay them," Elita reasoned.

"Damn well better be something good!" Chromia snarled. "Megatron better of dropped down from the sky and started blasting holes through their ship, otherwise I'll be liable to be the one putting holes through their afts!"

"I know you're just worried, Chromia-,"

"I'm not worried! I'm agitated!"

"-but carrying on like this is completely unnecessary. You know better than anyone that Ironhide's experience on the battlefield is second to none. He can take care of himself; he doesn't need you flying off the handle every time something pangs you in the spark."

Chromia rounded quickly on the femme, just about knocking young Arcee off her feet as she trailed in her mentor's wake. "You hypocrite! It's not like I haven't spent nights with you in your quarters when Optimus is out in the field!"

Elita bowed her head to the accusation, not denying it. "That was a mutually beneficial arrangement between us; if you haven't forgotten, Ironhide is usually out in the field with Optimus. You stay with me as much for your benefit as it is for mine. That still doesn't excuse you from acting irrationally right now." Of course, there rarely ever was an explanation for Chromia's irrational behaviour other than it suited her.

"I'm not acting irrationally!" Chromia snapped. She went back to pacing, Arcee falling back into step behind her.

"Really?" Elita intoned dryly, watching her friend's progress. "Then what do you call this set of theatrics?"

"Don't be a glitch," the dusky-blue femme snarled, and then realized how snappish she was being with her commander-slash-friend and attempted some semblance of calm. "Look, I know I'm being the glitch here- I don't mean to." She sighed, scrubbing a pointed hand over her faceplates. "I know this is not a big deal- this was just a routine encounter, and I know I've felt worse before and I shouldn't pay much attention, but this one really got to me! Something felt different. It felt wrong."

"Acting like this is only going to make it worse," the rose-armoured femme reasoned, causing the calm façade of her friend to snap.

"Dammit, Elita, until I see Ironhide with my own fragging optics, I'm not going to give this a rest!"

"But maybe you should sit down," Arcee offered lightly, reaching up to lay a small hand against her mentor's back. "That should help a little bit."

"I can't sit down!" the femme snapped in reply, jerking away from her apprentice's hand.

Arcee tipped her head slightly. "Why not?"

Chromia was forced to inhale great amounts of air through her intakes in order to speak to her apprentice without biting her head off. Arcee was still absurdly young- barely out of the Youth Sectors and already wishing to join the growing war. The magenta femme still had a lot to learn about the world.

"Because… because I just can't. Not with Ironhide out there," the dusky-blue femme sighed lamely.

"I don't understand," Arcee pressed, still following a step behind. To her knowledge, Chromia was one of the strongest warriors the Autobots had to offer; she was second to none among the femmes. She knew her mentor was bonded to Ironhide, but she didn't see how that would affect Chromia's operating capacity.

Elita hummed lightly and took the younger femme by the arm as she passed. "It's alright if you don't understand yet," she soothed as the young femme began to show signs of stress. "Sparkmates are a little… different from what you know right now. Don't worry too much about it."

"I've downloaded information on them," Arcee replied, a little insulted. It was part of every youngling's informational downloading schedule to be given information of the basic structures of relationships within their society.

"Yes, of course, but you will learn that there is something quite different about the connection between sparkmates compared to everyone else."

"I'm not going to learn right now though, am I?"

"No, sadly not," Elita chuckled. "I'm afraid that it is something you really must learn for yourself. Everyone's spark pulses to a different rhythm, after all."

"Of course," Arcee acquiesced, although still not quite understanding. "I guess I'll just go find Moonracer and go through a round of target practice with her, unless my presence is still needed here?" She looked slightly hopeful.

Elita glanced to Chromia, who kept her steady pace of growling. "No, I don't believe Chromia has any pressing need for you at the moment. Go find Moonracer and never mind about the theatrics of bonded bots; there's enough drama in Iacon for you to have your own share without partaking in this."

With a nod, Arcee backed away and wandered out.

Chromia huffed in pure irritation. "I don't know what I was thinking, taking on an apprentice so young. She's got talent and spunk, I'll give her that, but she's still so…" Young? Naïve?

"You don't mean that," Elita admonished. "You're just frustrated. You love Arcee as if she were your own sparkling, and you know it."

Chromia turned away so Elita wouldn't see the truth in her optics. "Whatever." Then she paused as a jolt passed through her frame, emanating from her spark. This time it was not one of pain but of excitement. He was drawing close.

Elita easily picked up the bright flash that crossed her friend's faceplate. "He's near?"


"What a relief," Elita sighed, and clearly she meant it.

Desperate on a level that may have been embarrassing before she was bonded, before she knew how deep one bot could care for another, she reached out to touch the thriving, bold presence of her mate. His image materialized before her optics, conjured in perfect, minute detail. His presence in her spark was exactly as he looked; fierce, dark, bold and unimpeded, uninhibited and strong. Ironhide was warm, sometimes burning. Never cold. He was never cold, never in feeling nor action; whether he was trying to convey his passion for Chromia, or dealing with the scum of the Decepticon ranks, he always did so with a fire that rivalled the stars. When their sparks brushed, their bond stroked to life, he brought with him strength and raw power, protection and possession. Fire and life.

The image she conjured of him smiled, just as his spark reached out and brushed an astral touch against her. Shuttering her optics, Chromia revelled in the sensation, grasping tightly to the relief that fluttered in her. He was out there, alive. Thank Primus. Now she could be more than righteously angry at him for scaring the pit out of her and not feel a speck of guilt for mentally berating him. She grasped hold of him with astral fingers and lashed him hotly with a blaze of relief and fury, letting him know exactly how worried she'd been over him and how fragged off she was right now.

His reply was far stronger than what she would have imagined. He wasn't blustering like he usually would, bolstering some defence against her anger, piecing together some excuse. No, he was a blazing, strong, swelling astral presence that poured into her with a strong sense of apology. He was sorry for worrying her. For once.

"Damn him!" Chromia suddenly cried, unable to keep up her barrage. She couldn't bare him ill will even if she tried, not when all he was giving her was an overwhelming sense of guilt and hope for forgiveness. There was hurt underlying it all. He was in pain, but attempting to hide it from her. An unbidden thrill of coldness pulsed through her being, and Ironhide responded accordingly with his own wave of assurances. "Damn him to the pit! He's hurt!"

"It can't be that bad- it was only a skirmish," Elita reminded.

"Only a skirmish? Ha! He probably turned it into a massacre for his own amusement!" Once again, the femme began pacing, viciously tracing a line out in the hangar floor. "Oh! If he's gotten a limb torn off again, I swear, it won't just be Ratchet breathing fire down his servos!"

"You're too wound up, Chromia. You need to calm down before you hurt yourself and Ironhide." Elita's hands reached out, halting her friend.

"Don't even think about it, Elita-!" But it was too late. The commander took her friend into a tight embrace, forcing the other femme to accept the love being forced upon her. "Let me go! Dammit it all! I don't want a hug!"

"I think you need one. When you calm down, I'll think about letting go." Elita's arms were unrelenting, refusing to relinquish their hold until Chromia calmed fractionally. They were still for a little while, not caring that they were in a public place where others could bare witness to their shows of affection. Eventually, Elita's arms dropped and she stepped back to look into her friend's faceplate. "There, how do you feel now?"

"Like I'm about to shoot someone," Chromia replied flatly.

Elita smiled warmly. "So, back to normal, then?"

"If only marginally so," she pouted darkly. Ironhide nudged her gently once more, offering her a bit of comfort that her pride nearly forced her to throw back in his faceplate. Instead, she huffed and accepted, wallowing in it like it was a punishment and sending Ironhide a steady stream of emotions that let him know she was swearing at him in her head.

Around them, the hangar quickly blossomed to bustling life as drones and bots raced around preparing for the arrival of another ship. Docking arms extended from the walls and guidance lights flashed in every conceivable direction. The din was almost enough to drown out the automated warning of the incoming ship. A good-meaning mech ambled by and requested for Elita and Chromia to back up a bit to give the others room, which they did readily.

Just behind them, the wide doors to the entrance of the hangar hissed open and admitted a streak of silver. In a blurr no bigger than a microbot, the creature shot into the hargar, upturning several mechs in their haste to avoid tripping over the little thing. Sreeching to a wild halt, the blur came to rest at Elita's side.

"Tungsten," Elita greeted needlessly to the mindless drone. Tungsten emitted a whistle in recognition of its designation, but other than that it simply stared.

Chromia looked over her shoulder in the general direction Tungsten was staring, watching as Wheeljack skipped merrily into the hangar with Ratchet close at hand. As could be expected, Wheeljack looked jovial and Ratchet looked like someone lubricated in his energon (again).

"What are you two doing here?" Chromia asked the moment the pair was close enough.

"What else would a medic and engineer be doing in a docking bay with a damaged ship coming in?" Ratchet asked, frowning. "The report wasn't clear, but some of the damages need to be looked at immediately. Any word from Ironhide?"

Chromia crossed her arms tightly over her chassis. "He's hurt, but hiding the extent of it. He's also apologizing for something, which is freaking me out."

"Perhaps he received a blow to the head?" Ratchet offered. "It's the only explanation I'd believe if Ironhide is apologizing for something."

An excited swell rolled through Chromia's spark from Ironhide. She swung around in time to watch the incoming Autobot ship drop down from its high-altitude position. It was pockmarked, and one of the thrusters was smoking. The closer it came, the more detailed the battle-scarred face of the ship became. And within it, Ironhide was both relieved and anxious to reach out to Chromia, which she felt sharply in the throbbing of her spark.

"It's not too badly damaged," Wheeljack mused. "Grapple and Hoist will be able to bang the dents out no problem."

Ratchet harrumphed. "If only my job were as simple. I tend to have to get a little closer to my patients in order to assess them." He watched as the minor ship docked, frowning at it with his perpetually down-turned faceplate.

"They're disembarking," Elita announced needlessly.

The first mechs to appear in the hatch were in alt mode, too damaged to walk off the ship so they decided to roll instead. Some of them sparked with exposed wiring, and others sported plates of armor blasted clean off. Not the worst condition any mech has ever returned in, but certainly enough to darken Ratchet's mood.

"All of you, over here!" he called, summoning the downtrodden group. One of the smallest microbots of the group wobbled on his wheels, so Wheeljack sent Tunsten to help him along. Ratchet scrutinized the half-dozen bots with narrowed optics. "Is this all of you?"

"Ironhide's still on board, sir," a minibot announced.

Chromia's optics had not left the hatch since it opened, her optics narrowing as a familiar shadow loomed large in the entrance. She felt him, hot and alive, reach out for her and grip her tight, even as he eased a step forward, revealing a new limp to his gait. A small splash of energon carried down his leg-plating from his buckled hip joint.

"Fraggit, Ironhide- wait for someone to assist you down! You'll make that injury worse by walking on it!" Ratchet barked.

"I don't need help," the weapons specialist growled.

His sparkmate thought otherwise, and had no qualms about being vocal about the damage.

"What the pit happened to you?!" Suddenly, Chromia was at his side, snarling and furious, though her ire belied the true concern welling inside her. Her frame, though tall for her model type, was nowhere near the height required to help support her mate. She trotted along at his side regardless, eyeing his hip wound with abject concentration. "Pierced right through the tri-tanium outer-skeleton and the lead-cobalt inner lining! How could you have possibly let this happen to you?" Her voice bordered on a feral snarl as Ironhide tried to manoeuvre away from her inspection, only to have Chromia's hand delve into the wound and grab him hard by the inner plating to stop him. "You are not turning away from me! You wanted me so badly, you got me- fagged off and all."

Ironhide's deep set optics regarded her carefully for an astrosecond, and then a brief smile passed his faceplate. "Exactly the way I like you."

Ignoring him, Chromia withdrew her hand and flicked away the excess energon. "Answer me no, Ironhide; what could have possibly happened to cause this much damage?"

"Ambush," he grunted, deciding that he didn't like the thought of being shot by his sparkmate if he didn't answer. "'Cons were trying out new tech."

"New tech?" Chromia's optics narrowed dangerously. "You let them use you as target practise?"

"It's not like I had much of a choice," he growled back, affronted. "The targeting systems were damn near impossible to avoid."

Ratchet glanced up from where he was taking tally, impatient as always. "If you insist on walking, then you're going walk to the med bay. I don't have time to wait for you."

"Fine by me," Ironhide snorted.

The medic rolled his optics, ushering his newest patients to his med bay. Wheeljack let Tungsten follow the medic out, but then decided to stay to see to the ship himself.

Elita watched them leave, then glanced back to Ironhide's slow progress and Chromia stalking next to him. "I think I'm going to go ahead with Ratchet. It looks like a few of those mechs could use a hand getting to the med bay. I have a feeling you two could use a moment."

"Go on. We'll be right behind you," Chromia replied, although her patience was thinly veiled. Elita slipped out with a nod, leaving Ironhide to the mercies of his mate, who he couldn't even outrun at the moment if he tried.

As trapped as he was at Chromia's side, Ironhide tried to say something, even though he knew he was only going to be cut off. "Chromia, I-."

"Save your energy, Ironhide. I don't want to hear it right now. Let's just get you to the med bay."

"Let me explain."

"You don't have to."

They passed into the hallway, but only managed to make a few steps before Ironhide growled in irritation and swung a hard right into an unlocked storeroom where they wouldn't be impeding the heavy traffic of the hall. He needed to speak with her, and dammit he was going to speak with her. Treating his wound came second.

"What are you doing? You need your hip treated before you bleed out," Chromia hissed as she was jostled into the empty room.

"It's fine for now. What I have to say is more important," Ironhide rumbled. When it looked like Chromia was going to object, he grabbed her with both hands and laid her hard against the wall, catching her full attention. "Would you listen to me? What I have to say is important."

She struggled valiantly for a few breems, resisting the urge to kick out at her injured mate. When it dawned on her that he wasn't going to let go until he said his piece, she relaxed, scowling darkly.

"Fine, say what you have to, but make it quick."

He took a deep drag of air through his intakes. "I'm sorry."

She snorted. "I figured that much, but I still haven't figured out for what yet."

Ironhide regarded her carefully, his deep set optics searching Chromia's sharp gaze. When he realized she really didn't have any idea, he leaned down to place his forehead against hers, sighing as the chaste contact resonated in both of them.

"There was a moment out there in the field when I didn't know if I was going to be able to make it back to you or not," he said slowly, shuttering his optics so he wouldn't have to see her expression. He felt it well enough through their bond. He'd never admit this to any other living being, but to Chromia, he'd lay out every secret he had. "It didn't matter where my team went, their targeting sensors had us pinned and they were picking us off. I couldn't even shoot our way out- there were just too many of them."

Chromia felt a heaviness settle around her, a smothering embrace that was more spiritual than physical, Ironhide's spark reaching out to her and enveloping her, holding her tight, making sure she was real and alive.

"You were scared," she whispered, the realization striking her harder than any physical blow could have.

Ironhide nodded gently. "I was scared that I wouldn't be able to come back to you." Even if it had only lasted for a split second, the fear that had captured his spark the moment it struck him that he might never be able to be whole again with the other half of his spark had captured him so viciously that he had hardly felt the armor-shearing bullet when it passed through his hip. "Without you, I'm not complete."

"Ironhide…" They had been bonded for a long time, for so long that most words between them had already been said, but the war they fought in now was new and some of the old words were beginning to sound new again. I love you. Forever. You are my only one. My other half. Sparkmates. It was the fear of something worse than death, losing their other half, that made something deep pulse within them, sacred, and all the words they thought they were tired of saying suddenly laid eager on the tips of their vocal processors. It made Chromia realize how suddenly reluctant she was to let go of Ironhide.

Shifting so there wasn't so much weight on his damaged joint, Ironhide drew air in through his intakes as if he were trying to inhale Chromia's essence. His faceplate slid to her long, narrow neck column, burrowing there as he relished in her closeness, her presence.

"I reached out to you because I didn't want to die without feeling you close."

The vibration of his words passed over her gently, causing something to choke inside her. Her frame relaxed utterly, her arms sliding up to embrace the crested head that took refuge on her shoulder. She had been so angry with him before, and now…

"Ironhide, open your chassis."

He trusted her enough not to question the softly spoken order. The heat of the energon dribbling down his leg was nothing compared to the blaze that erupted under Chromia's touch as her delicate hand delved into his sparkcase. A gentle stroke, and then another. He groaned, leaning into the touch.

"I'm sorry I was so angry with you," she whispered, rubbing her faceplate against his. This wasn't going to be one of their rough-and-tumble joinings; she felt bad enough as it was without hurting him further. This was going to be something different. A validation of sorts of why they were bonded as they were.

"You don't have to be sorry."

"But I am." She watched his spark intently, knowing that glowing pulse of energy better than she knew her own. Every caress she offered, every wave of pooling warmth that answered back, all familiar to her. Comforting. She could even shutter her optics and still know where everything was in Ironhide's chassis. Without looking, she knew exactly where a particular neural wire was that tickled every time she brushed it a certain way, and how he liked to be touched a certain way along the sensitive seam in his sparkcase…

A deep, releasing shudder worked its way through the entirety of Ironhide's frame. He wasn't going to be able to stand for much longer, so he shifted to side, sliding his weight onto some forgotten crates piled to his right. Chromia drew onto his lap like a warm breath of air, careful of her mate's damaged leg as she kneeled up, pressing her lithe frame to his.

The touch was electric. Even though only Ironhide's spark was exposed, the contact sent fire through their energon. She gasped, he growled.

"I want you to promise me something, Ironhide," Chromia whispered into his audio, gently rubbing at the sensitized wires that ran beneath the slates of armor on his neck column. She was calling to him, softly, lovingly. Her spark beat an interesting rhythm against the beat of his own, distracting him and fully enthralling him.

"Anything. I'll promise you anything." The way this encounter was going, he was liable to promise her both the moons in the sky if she would just keep touching him like that.

Their coolant hummed through their frames, fans whispering across too-heated systems. They weren't so much aroused as they were desperate to claim the other.

"Promise me you'll never let me forget how important you are to me."

He cupped her frame in his hands, drawing her close, wrapping her in his warmth. That was a promise he was more than willing to make and keep. "I promise."

She laughed lightly, laying her head to the black armor that surrounded her. There were very few times when she felt she could relax enough to let her guard down. She didn't like to feel weak or exposed. Times like these were an exception. She let herself be held, and she raised her arms to return the gesture. Ironhide's open chest flooded them both with raw sensation as her chassis sunk into the exposed spark. The electricity that shot through them was alive and shocking.

It reminded them of everything they were, even though it had been a long time since they had said the words. Alive. Together. Whole. In Love.

Leaning back, Chromia made sure to offer a smile to her mate as she allowed the seam in her chest to split open, revealing the singing spark hidden within. Briefly, she thought of her young apprentice and her complete innocence to the depth of the bond sparkmates had. There were no words to describe the depth of it. The timelessness.

Apparently taking too much time, Ironhide rumbled something impatiently and pushed Chromia's spark to his. A rush of ecstasy crossed between them through that ephemeral tie they called a sparkbond.

There was nothing else like placing your spark next to another to validate someone's existence. The tide of contained self released into another body, free energy pounding between the two of them. Arcs of light stretched between them, singing, caressing. They weren't wrestling to the death, groaning as much in pain as they were in pleasure. They hadn't thrown a punch at one another or aimed a gun. It was the simply want of their very essences to be laid out to their other half that drew them close and had them mingling in the spaces between their frames.

Large hands stroked her back, a little roughly, but she liked it. The friction caused sparks to erupt both figuratively and literally. Her spark was thrust into his with every too-strong caress.

Ironhide groaned as Chromia's smart fingers found their way into his wiring again, tangling there. He coolant fans hitched. The pain in his leg only flashed briefly, before he was driven to distraction. Even the memory of the ambush, and the fleeting thought that he would never again be able to reach out and hold Chromia close was held at a distance as the femme situated herself in the forefront of his world. He pressed his spark as close as he could to hers, ignoring the unbending metal of their frames.

She was so close. So real. The touch of her was as undeniable as the pulse of her spark next to his.

It was enough for them to shatter completely. The darkened storeroom lit up in a radiance of light as the building heat in their frames finally released in a cascade. They reached, greedy for each other, clutching close, even as the loop of sensation played through the both. The ribbons of light that arced around them were blinding.

They were completely and utterly whole.

And as they came back down from the high, they were left dazed and lightheaded from the intensity of the bonding. Their frames shook slightly, making it a little hard to disentangle themselves. As Chromia eased her chassis closed, Ironhide doing the same, she noted a new long gouge in her paint down her front, courtesy of Ironhide grinding them together.

"We- we should get you to the med bay," she said, more concerned with Ironhide's damage than her new love-scratches.

He touched his fingers to his hip, finding the energon there had congealed into a dull, sticky mess, but at least it had stoppered his loss of energone. He felt the twisted metal carefully and was reminded of the pain he was supposed to be feeling. Absently, he wondered how many wrenches Ratchet was going to throw when they finally wandered into his med bay, somewhat sated and a little bit too late for the medic's liking.

"Are you coming or what?" Chromia called, waiting by the door. "Don't think that whole bonding thing we just did is going to get you out of going to see Ratchet."

"I know it won't," Ironhide replied, somewhat grumpily. He eased himself up and limped to the door. Just as they prepared to slide back into the hall to join the rest of the bustling ranks of Iacon, he reached out and grasped Chromia's small hand in his.

"What?" she asked, looking back with a raised optic ridge.

"Nothing," he replied, continuing to hold her hand. "Just for strength."

"Alright," she conceded, grasping his strong palm in return.

He smiled. Even a simple touch like that was enough.