Note: This will be the last installment in this series, I believe. Will still continue posting stories, but less likely under this title, more likely on their own. However, I will be posting an alternate ending to this one soon as a 16th chapter. Storyline will be the same, ending will not. If you're interested, there is another version of this song (equally beautiful) done by Leona Lewis. As always, I encourage listening to the song that inspired each story.

Here is the Snow Patrol version: www .youtube. com/watch?v=ZQbgihHWNGo&feature=related

Here is the Leona Lewis version: www .youtube. com/watch?v=YqHgPUgj9c8

Musical Meme

Chapter XV

Song:

'Run' – Snow Patrol

Lyrical inspiration:

I'll sing it one last time for you
Then we really have to go
You've been the only thing that's right
In all I've done

And I can barely look at you
But every single time I do
I know we'll make it anywhere
Away from here

Light up, light up
As if you have a choice
Even if you cannot hear my voice
I'll be right beside you dear

Louder louder
And we'll run for our lives
I can hardly speak I understand
Why you can't raise your voice to say

To think I might not see those eyes
Makes it so hard not to cry
And as we say our long goodbye
I nearly do

Slower slower
We don't have time for that
All I want is to find an easier way
To get out of our little heads

Have heart my dear
We're bound to be afraid
Even if it's just for a few days
Making up for all this mess.

It wasn't the first time he had been truly afraid, and it wouldn't be the last before the end of the war, but Ratchet remembered that night with a cruel, somewhat harsh clarity. He would never forget what was said or the impact that such simple words had on him.

Ironhide had been selected, along with Prowl, Jazz, Sunstreaker and Sideswipe and a number of other mechs to undertake a particular mission given by Optimus. The object of the mission? No one knew. No one, of course, but those sent to carry it out. They were not permitted to say what it involved but it was, as Ratchet quickly inferred, particularly dangerous. He deduced this the night before the group was supposed to ship out when he and Ironhide were laying together quietly on the berth. He had just started to drift off into recharge when the larger mech startled him out of his stupor.

"Ratchet."

"Mmm?"

"I have to tell you somethin'."

Ratchet huffed impatiently; frustrated that he'd been pulled back from the brink of a quiet recharge that was so rare in coming these days, "Well, out with it."

"Out of everything that I've accomplished since even before the war started, out of every relationship, every partnership, everything… You are the best thing that has happened to me," Ironhide continued, stroking Ratchet's back plating in gentle circles. "I will always be beside you, Ratchet."

"I know this, 'Hide."

"Ratch, listen," Ironhide breathed insistently, his hands resting gently on his bondmate's shoulders as he looked him in the optics. "The first thing I noticed about you when I first met you was that you burn as brightly as a solar flare. Your charisma lit up the entire room, and I was… drawn to you immediately, drawn to your brilliance. I've never shared that or admitted that to anyone. What I'm saying is; I want you to stay that way, even long after I'm gone. I want you to survive to see the end of this war with your own optics. You deserve it, more than any of us."

"Why are you saying this?" Ratchet demanded, bells and whistles suddenly going off with a force in his processor, knowing in the back of his mind that it must have been a very dangerous mission to inspire Ironhide to say such things that were so unlike him. Normally when one of them went off on a mission without the other it was a quick goodbye on the tarmac… but that was when they knew the other was coming back. He knew somewhere in the depths of his thoughts that Ironhide was attempting to prepare him for the worst, but he refused to acknowledge it openly.

"Because I know you. I just want you to be ready if anythin' happens, Ratch. I don't want you to lose yourself, even if you lose me. Do not allow the bond to take you," Ironhide said softly, looking into his bonded's bright optics and reading the hint of fear there. "Understand?"

Ratchet stayed silent, pressing himself further against Ironhide's chassis, forcing himself to listen to the calming, rhythmic pulse of his bonded's spark behind all that black metal.

"I won't lose you."

The next morning found the two of them standing outside on base in front of several large carrier jets, waiting for them to be loaded. Ratchet allowed himself to be held in his bonded's arms and he gripped Ironhide tightly as though afraid he might be carried away by the slightest breeze. Although public displays of affection were not normally his forte, today felt different; this goodbye was… different.

"Ratchet," Ironhide said softly, without pulling away. "Remember what I told you."

It was not a question.

"Just come back," Ratchet breathed, somewhat angry, burying his face into Ironhide's chassis. He felt the unfamiliar emotions of fear and sadness welling within him as he clung to the Weapons Specialist like a vice. When the last of the loading was done and the order to report to the carriers was given, Ironhide touched his forehead gently to Ratchet's, optics shuttering briefly before forcing himself to pull away.

"I love you, Ratch."

"I love you too, you glitch," Ratchet said, trying his damnedest to keep his emotions at bay. "I'll see you when you come back."

Ratchet attempted halfheartedly to shake off the sense of heaviness that settled on his spark as he watched the carrier door close, blocking his view of Ironhide. He straightened his form so he stood tall and schooled his features into a neutral expression. This is what the rest of the bots on the tarmac saw as Ratchet passed by them on his way inside. What they did not see as the CMO walked back to the hangar were his violently trembling hands.

A few days later, Ratchet received word that the battle was through, the mission was won and the remaining mechs were on their way home. Knowing that the knowledge was of the utmost importance to the CMO, the messenger also took care to inform him of Ironhide. Now, as Ratchet stood on the tarmac, waiting for the carriers to unload the mechs and cargo, he stiffened slightly when Sunstreaker and Sideswipe emerged, carrying the now-gray body of his bonded gently between them. The CMO lowered his head slightly as they passed, noticing the concerned stares he received from the brothers. He didn't have the spark to snap at them, and merely followed them sullenly back to the previously-empty hangar where the fallen were kept until arrangements could be made.

They laid him gently upon an Autobot sized berth and, turning to leave, Sideswipe gripped Ratchet's shoulder tightly in a rare gesture of comfort. Ratchet let his optics to lock with Sideswipes, allowing the red warrior a brief glimpse of his pain before bowing his head again.

"If you need anything, Ratch…" Sideswipe said softly, "We're here. I know you think we're stupid aftheads that can't keep our acts together most of the time, but we're here."

Ratchet nodded his gratitude. It was all he could do. As soon as he was left alone, he approached the berth that held the body of his bondmate. Leaning down slowly, the medic pressed his forehead gently against Ironhide's as they had done on the day of the black mech's departure and palmed his hand to the Weapons Specialist's now-empty spark chamber. Clenching his optics tightly shut, Ratchet let out a single, shuddering cry at the overwhelming loss. He stayed this way for a few moments, mind blank and yet absolutely buzzing with memories, questions and regret at the things he had never said. Straightening slowly, he steeled himself and swallowed his roiling emotions and as he walked to the door of the hangar, he glanced back one last time.

"Like a solar flare," he whispered and turned to walk back out into the light of the base with his helm held high.