Hot Rod was aware of two things as he woke: a throbbing pain radiating through his body, and the overwhelming sensation of being whole again. The pain he understood. That fact that he could feel Springer in his spark confused him. What had happened? He tried to remember, but he couldn't think of anything beyond the cyanide taking effect.

Forcing his optics online, he was met with the obnoxious orange paint that decorated most of the Ark. The irritating beeping noise that had been on the edge of his awareness was coming from the monitor he was hooked up to. A variety of drips and tubes were hooked up to him, but he didn't know what they were for. He was more concerned with the slumbering form slumped in a chair by his berth. Springer looked relaxed, but Hot Rod knew better. Not only was the triplechanger a light sleeper who would come awake at the slightest noise, Roddy could feel the turmoil over their renewed bond. Profound relief rushed through him; Springer was alive. Yes, he was angry – furious, most like – but that didn't matter. Ratchet's entrance interrupted his thoughts. The young mech fought not to cringe when the medic turned a fierce glare on him.

"Why is it that you never stay under for as long as you need to?" Hot Rod attempted his best cheeky grin.

"What…can I…say Ratch? I miss… seeing your face." The racer's voice was hoarse, and it clearly pained him to talk.

"Well, since you are up, I might as well give you these," he handed Hot Rod a small pile of datapads. Turning the first one on, he saw that it was a get well note from Bluestreak. Roddy assumed that the rest of the pads would be similar. "You gave us quite a scare kid." Looking up, Hot Rod was stunned by the soft look on Ratchet's face. "Don't do it again." Hot Rod nodded. Noticing that Springer had come out of recharge and was watching his mate with unreadable optics, the CMO decided he would give the pair some time to themselves. He could run his scans later. Walking out of the room, Ratchet sincerely hoped that things would work out between the pair.

Tension filled the room as Ratchet left. Hot Rod had been right. Springer was furious. But beneath the anger that pervaded the bond was a spark of something softer. He couldn't tell what it was though; Springer was partially blocking him. Neither said anything for a long moment, until finally the Wrecker stood.

"We will talk when you are better." Spark sinking, Hot Rod nodded. Springer left without another word.

Hot Rod stared at the ceiling, bored. Optimus had stopped in to check on the young soldier, and had commended his dedication to the Autobots. But Hot Rod had also been gently reprimanded, and had had to swear to stay within Autobot territory until Ironhide, who he would begin combat lessons with as soon as he had a clean bill of health, had deemed him properly able to defend himself. Hot Rod had eagerly agreed.

Prowl and Jazz had both stopped in to see him too. Jazz had given him a sorrowful look; he had never wanted the kid to need the cyanide. And then with the allergic reaction…the Head of Ops knew that despite being the one to give Roddy the poison he wasn't at fault for the way things had turned out. Still, he couldn't help but feel a little guilty. But, he supposed, at least Hot Rod was alive and not bonded to that brute of a semi. His sources said that Motormaster had lived, but it would be a long while before he came out of stasis. The gestalt would have a lot of recovering to do from the strain of almost losing their leader. The Constructicons were not medics, and Ratchet and his team were; Motormaster and the rest of his team were still laid up in the medbay. They would be an easy kill for one of Jazz's team. Hot Rod had no idea why Jazz felt the slightest bit guilty. Hot Rod had had a choice, and he was grateful for it. The poison had saved his life.

Prowl had come in with Bluestreak after Jazz had returned to work. He didn't stay long, and had conveyed his wishes for a speedy recovery before he too returned to work, leaving the youngsters to chat. Bluestreak had brought The Deathly Hollows with him. It had been fun, reading with his friend. After Blue had gone other mechs had trickled in, keeping him company. But now it was close to the recharge cycle, and he was alone. Ratchet was nearby, of course, but he was busy doing reports in his office, and Hot Rod didn't want to disturb him. Besides, he was beginning to feel sleepy, and it would probably be a good idea to get some recharge. But he couldn't. Every time he turned off his optics he found himself back in the Decepticon base, staring at Motormaster's terrifying leer. Shuddering, Roddy forced his thoughts away from those memories. He didn't want to think about it. He wanted to wake up and find that it had all been a terrible nightmare, and he would be curled up in Springer's warm arms. He'd only seen glimpses of his ex-lover watching him from the entrance to the medbay. He hadn't even come into his room. Hot Rod desperately missed his mate. For a long while he just stared at the ceiling, his thoughts running in circles. Eventually, his still healing systems forced him to succumb to his exhaustion.

Terrified thoughts flashed through his mind; a hulking mech bearing a black spark, a rotary mech with a predatory leer. Phantom pain rippled across his plating and the smell of spilt energon surrounded him. Springer knew these images were not his own. They were radiating across the bond, partially blocked though it was. Something was wrong with Hot Rod. Without conscious thought, he made his way down to the medbay. A burst of agony and fear had the Wrecker breaking into a run. He burst into the medbay and made a beeline for Roddy's room. He found Hot Rod thrashing wildly, trying to fight off Ratchet and First Aid. He was still in recharge, caught in the grips of a vicious nightmare. Some of the younger mech's wounds had opened, spilling energon onto the berth and floor.

"Hot Rod!" Ratchet yelled. "Hot Rod, wake up! Frag it, he'll bleed out at this rate! Aid, call for security. We need help!"

"No need," Springer's voice surprised the medics. The triplechanger scooped his mate into his arms and settled onto the berth, pulling Roddy so that his back rested against the Wrecker's chassis. Gradually, Hot Rod quit fighting, soothed by the presence of his bondmate's spark. Eventually he went still, the pained expression on his faceplates smoothing into a more relaxed one. He didn't wake when Ratchet and Aid quickly patched up his leaking wounds or when they bid Springer a good night.

It was several hours later that Roddy stirred. He came out of recharge slowly; content to bask in the warmth surrounding him. He cuddled back into the strong body pressed against him before his processor booted up fully. His optics snapped on, meeting the blue of Springer's peering down at him. The flame colored mech struggled to push himself up so that he could face his former lover. Springer let him go.

Hot Rod had no idea what to say. He honestly had not expected to survive his time as a Decepticon guest. He had thought he had done what was best for Springer. Springer clearly disagreed. But he had no idea how to explain to the other mech why he had done what he did.

"Why did you do it, Hot Rod?" Springer's voice was mild. Hot Rod knew that meant that Springer was beyond livid.

"I was trying to protect you." Hot Rod winced. That gleam in his mate's optics did not bode well for him, but he wouldn't back down.

"Protect me, huh? So you felt that they best way to do that was to literally rip open my spark, and break every vow that we had made to each other on the night of our bonding?" Again, his tone was mild.

"No! It was because of those vows that I did it. I swear to love and honor you, to be your strength when you falter and protect you from all that would cause you harm. Remember Springer? I hated that I had to hurt you, but you would have been killed otherwise! What would you have had me do?"

"You should never have kept your capture from me! I would have come after you!" Springer's stony mask cracked, letting Hot Rod see how deep his anger went.

"And that's exactly what I didn't want you to do! They were counting on you coming for me! I may be young, but I'm not stupid Springer! I fragging well know why they targeted me in the first place. To get to you! If you had come after me they would have killed you!"

"So you decided to go with the option that left me alive, but broken, and in the same time opened yourself up to whatever they wanted to do to you. Do you have any idea what would have happened if they had succeeded in forcing the bond? Did you not think about that?"

"No," Hot Rod hissed, "I was more concerned with keeping you alive."

"Primus damn it Hot Rod! I am perfectly capable of looking out for myself, and when I can't I have the Wreckers to watch my back. You on the other hand were alone, and fragging vulnerable. Surely I don't have to spell out what would have been done to you had your little trick with the cyanide not succeeded."

"Yes, I know what would have happened. And yes, I never thought that Decepticons could stoop so low as to force a bond. I wasn't thinking that far ahead. All I cared about was knowing that you would live. Frag it Springer, They never meant for me to come out of there alive. And when they killed me I would have taken you down with me too. I couldn't let that happen."

"So you took the choice away from me?" Hot Rod looked stunned. That lasted only for a moment, before true anger replaced it.

"Maybe I did. Primus, Springer, you, above all, should understand why. After all, you do the same to me every time you go on a mission. I get that you want to protect me, so as much as I hate it when you block me out, so I don't complain even though I hate it. I get it. Why the frag can't you see that that's all I was trying to do for you! I wanted to protect you, and I couldn't see another way!" Springer froze. It was true; he did often shut out his mate while he was on missions. He didn't want Roddy to feel backlash through their bond if he was hurt. He did it to protect the younger mech. Looking at it that way, he could see where the younger mech was coming from, could see the reasons behind his actions. He hadn't realized that Hot Rod felt so strongly about being shut out when Springer was away, but he could clearly see the hurt in his lover's optics. That didn't negate the anger and pain that the younger's actions had caused, but it did break through the rage clouding his processor. Sighing, he let his shoulders slump slightly. He didn't want to fight right now, and he could see that Hot Rod was beginning to have trouble focusing. Fire still burned in his optics as he looked at the larger mech with his arms crossed, but Springer could see them start to glaze over. Primus, he was tired.

Reaching out, he wrapped his arms around Hot Rod and pulled the smaller form against him. Roddy flailed, before realizing that he wasn't being attacked. Spinger laid back, the race car wrapped securely in his arms. Confusion turned to tentative hope as Hot Rod snuggled back into the warm embrace.

"This isn't over," Springer warned. "I am still absolutely furious with you, but neither of us is in any shape to fight right now. We will continue this tomorrow." The Wrecker shut off his optics, indicating that the conversation was over. Despite the harsh words, Roddy was hopeful. He knew that Springer was right; that this wasn't over. There was too much anger and hurt between them still to be magically fixed by one night spent in each other's arms. But this was the first time in cycles that he had been so close to his mate. And for Springer to shut down in his presence indicated that he still had some level of trust for Hot Rod. He knew that they had many cycles ahead of them of hard work if they wanted to fix their fractured bond, but at least they had that chance. And Hot Rod was willing to do whatever it took to fix what they had broken. Stretching up slightly, he pressed a soft kiss to his slumbering mate's cheek before curling further into his warmth and drifting off into recharge. The future would come soon enough; tonight he wanted to recharge peacefully with his Wrecker.

The End