Title: A Yellow Card is a Warning

'Verse: Post '07 or '09 movie

Characters: Ironhide/Ratchet, Optimus, Jazz, Bumblebee, mentioned Shockwave

Summary: When Ironhide dives into a battle that might be more than he can handle without backup, Ratchet has to fight even harder to keep him online.

Rating/Warnings: PG-13, ouchy and fixy

AN: What started as a music meme drabble, but... I just couldn't leave it there. Also took a moment to sorta flip my usual assumptions and plots on their head.

Inspiration: "How I Go" by Yellowcard


Sometimes it was hard being the oldest remaining. He should have been able to see so many come into being. Instead, the images of all those he had failed to protect marched through his processors. Final stories told to flickering optics of the once-glories of Iacon, the theater and art in Kaon before it degraded to the bastardization drama of life and death in the gladiatorial arena, the wide metallic plains where radiation from the nearby star was converted to energon while turbofoxes hunted petrorabbits throughout the landscape.

He'd told the stories again and again to the living and the dying. Words uttered despite falling on what seemed like deaf audios, because every story he told was part of him, their history. If he was gone, there was no one that truly remembered. But every story told was now a part of them.

He screamed. Energon pouring out of a mangled chassis and onto the alien landscape. He could have seen this planet's sun coalesce, watched the gathered elements cool from a molten ball of fire to an earthen sphere nearly covered by water. Systems crashed, starved for their own life-giving liquid. The fuel pump buried in his chassis kicked and fluttered, unknowing that there was nothing left to let flow through his energon lines. Shockwave's charred frame smoldered nearby, he felt a small consolation that he'd sent the fragger to the Matrix ahead of himself.

No. This isn't it. Can't be how it ends. He was letting them down. For each that he had held in his arms as their spark slipped away he'd renewed a promise – to see the end of this war. For each of them. There was a promise to see their home rebuilt, and life returned. He moaned, crying out for his comrades.

Sorry. I'm leaving you and there is so much more to do…

The last he heard was a cracking vocalizer screaming, "Ironhide-!"

ooooooo ooooooo ooooooo ooooooo ooooooo

Hummer and Peterbilt barreled across the terrain. Flying with a purpose that made them seem like they were running with Unicron himself at their heels.

"Why the frag did he engage on his own?"

"He was on patrol, Ratchet, and was the nearest when he made planetfall."

"He's a slag-sucking idiot. Shockwave is one of Megatron's strongest warriors."

"You are speaking as if I were unaware, my friend." Optimus' words held grim resignation even over the comms. Ironhide should have waited until he had backup, but getting between the old soldier and a battle he knew needed to be fought was much like getting between their CMO and a patient.

Speaking of which, over the rough desert gullies and tracks, said Hummer was succeeding in making better time than his commander.

They pulled up to the coordinates and the medic's energon ran cold. The land was scorched, dug up by weaponsfire and the massive tangling of a pair of titanic machines. The cyclopsian mech that served as one of the Decepticon leader's right-hand advisors lay in an eerie wreck of molten purple metal, but that is not what drew Ratchet's attention.

"Ironhide-!"

The black frame splayed on his side in the dirt. One arm was wrenched out of position and hanging behind his back, the cannon still visible as he'd evidently been unable to transform it back into his forearm. Fingertips of his other hand were dug deeply into the sediment where he must have been clawing at the earth. His chassis obviously had taken the brunt of a serious battle. Plating was folded inwards, unnatural angles and crumples marred what should have been clean lines and smooth seams.

The Hummer shuddered and seemed to explode as Ratchet transformed mid-motion, slipping into a pounding run without missing a step.

The medic dropped beside the still form of his friend. Black helm lay on his upper arm, brow against the dust, scraped and dented, a fin over his audio ripped completely off. Still, the three glyphs above his forehead remained; protection, honor and loyalty, though now barely legible.

"Oh frag, Ironhide," he snapped, running hands over plating. "You misclocked idiot, what in Primus' name have you done to yourself?" the Hummer looked into blue optics gone dark in stasis-lock and scanned over the prone mech. "You moronic oversized boltbucket," he growled, insults coming easier than action as for a moment, a brief and agonizing moment, the medic was completely overwhelmed.

The results of the scan did not improve Ratchet's outlook. Ironhide's fuel pump alternated between rabbiting uselessly and stalling, his intakes were completely offline, coolant systems working in fits and starts, but it didn't matter because the warrior's systems were already well below the safe operating range… and his spark... The sparkchamber lay exposed where plating had been ripped and torn aside. Even then, the smooth protective case of the very essence of the old soldier had buckled, letting a dimly flickering blue light sneak out. It looked for all the world like a candle on the brink of guttering out in a storm. Ratchet froze his own intakes, dread and the illogical fear that the air from his vents alone would be enough to extinguish it.

Optimus came alongside, transforming slowly. "Ratchet…"

Blue optics snapped up, and the medic snarled. "Don't even! He isn't, he won't. Now go away and make yourself useful!"

Training, practice and the trial-by-fire calm that only medics seemed capable of tapping finally managed to kick in. The CMO flew into motion. There wasn't enough energon in the TopKick's lines to keep more systems from cascade failure. Reaching into his subspace the Hummer pulled out a ration and fuel line. He wrenched off the delicate intralineous tubing, and opted to inject the fuel directly into the fluttering pump. One ration in and working on the next; the medic began hunting fuel line tears, welder flying from spot to spot, clamping off what would require more than a field patch. He chased the energon as it moved through systems and found more escape routes that Shockwave had carved into their weapons specialist.

Then he felt an energy drop. Optics and scanners flicked to the black mech's exposed chamber and the light… the light that faded once, clawed back, and then vanished. Ratchet's very spark screamed.

"OPTIMUS!"

The red and blue mech had moved off to coordinate Jazz and Bumblebee. They had both come skidding onto the scene shortly after Ratchet and himself. While they had been significantly further away when Ironhide's comm had gone out, they made up for it with much faster alts. The CO was instructing the two smaller mechs to glean what information they could from the 'Con shell; his helm whipped around at the call, and he sprinted back to the downed warrior and his medic.

The Prime didn't even waste time asking for instructions, and Ratchet simply ordered his CO into action.

"On his dorsal plating, now!"

Ratchet supported the disjointed arm, and both mechs maneuvered Ironhide's frame onto his back. A snap of chartreuse helm, dismissing the semi while he disengaged plating at his right wrist and produced two electrodes.

The Peterbilt released the hold on his old friend and stepped back. With a muttered oath to Primus, he realized the warrior's spark was failing.

No, no no. Don't you dare, Ironhide. Don't you dare… The medic attached the two wires on either side of the sparkchamber and tapped into the reserved of his own power systems, feeding charge into the chamber. I am not letting the Matrix have you, not yet.

He knew that spark. Had shared with that spark. Off and on since the Academy. Usually in cycles, or right after one had a particularly difficult battle. Confirmation that their ages old friend was online and whole.

And fragged if he was going to let that spark gutter out.

Ironhide's hydraulics and joints seized as foreign charge surged through his systems.

Bumblebee glanced over and cringed. He made to move towards the others, but Jazz placed a hand on his arm with a quick shake of his head. Like Optimus, the saboteur was significantly more familiar with the harsh-seeming measures required in field repairs. "Let the doc-bot work," he said with comfortingly quirked grin, hiding most of his own unease. The young mech suppressed a whine but went back to their attempts to tease intel from Shockwave's memory banks.

Ratchet cycled up the power through the chamber, hands flying over 'Hide's frame, guiding signals in long workarounds, placing temp patches over delicate components left bare and exposed. He felt a raw flit of energy, reached hands into his friend's chest and cradled the damaged sparkcasing. A sign, the medic snarled and imprinted that familiar sparksignature in his mind as he threw the gates wide and poured charge into the breached housing. 'Hide! By Primus, you damned stubborn glitch! Fight! I'm not fragging giving up on you. Fight! You can't do this to me-

A spike and feeble pulse of a weak spark.

Ratchet's flared in response, more relieved than he ever imagined.

Slowly, gently, the CMO weaned off the power he was feeding through Ironhide. The black frame shook, but joints and hydraulics relaxed. A steady, if timid, sparkpulse fell into cadence. The medic sighed, then slipped one hand away to pull more patching material from his subspace. He lowered the charge, and finally cut it, watching intently as the spark that was Ironhide continued a thin, regular beat. Satisfied that the weapons specialist was stable for the moment, he covered over the hole in the chamber with patching, sealing and protecting the still-fragile spark within. With a whuff, the Hummer leaned back on his haunches; he looked over the unconscious mech and placed a hand on Ironhide's brow, stroking plating. 'Hide. If you ever pull a stunt like that, or ever scare me like… I swear, I will kill you.

Optimus was standing nearby, anxious, but relieved that the medic's demeanor indicated that the warrior was out of immediate danger.

"Prime," Ratchet said without removing his gaze from the frontliner. "We need him back in a proper medbay. Now."

ooooooo ooooooo ooooooo ooooooo ooooooo

Darkness. Pure and blanketing all senses.

Clawing desperately against the haze he registered the vague feeling of warmth over plating. Gentle and tender, a touch running over his shoulder. The sensation became clearer and it coalesced into a hand. Close behind that was pain, a flicker that roared to a blazing flame as he focused on it. Maybe he moved, maybe he cried out; couldn't tell. A curtain fell and the nothingness closed back over him.

ooooooo ooooooo ooooooo ooooooo ooooooo

Awareness slowly came back, tentative, like a skittish animal. He couldn't tell how long it had been. It felt like he was underwater. He hated water. Had to surface, had to break through. This time he knew he made a sound, spitting static instead of forming words. His chest felt like it was being crushed and he tried to roll to relieve the pressure, but hands stopped him. Struggling blindly, trying to engage his weapons but just hearing the harsh screech of an error message.

"…have to fight me too-"

Ironhide stopped at that voice, energy draining from him like a sieve. He panted heavily, his engine making a stressed grind while he collapsed back against the berth. It took a double reboot of his optics before he managed to clear his vision and blink up at the speaker. The swath of neon focused into the CMO and 'Hide made a questioning grunt.

The Hummer snorted explosively. "Any other mech stays the frag in stasis with your level of damage." Ratchet twitched, debating between keeping his hands on the TopKick's chassis and crossing his arms. Eventually the expression of annoyance won out. "I had to sedate you four times in the last two orns. What in the Pit is your problem?"

"Chassis…" Ironhide rasped, cut with the screech of stressed metal. The pressure of his own plating over his sparkchamber was too much, cutting off signals to his frame. His engine hitched as the frontliner winced and rolled awkwardly onto his side. He shivered, intakes worked easier and more deeply with the weight gone. The sparkchamber was thin, but his plating should hold away from it. Dimly he registered how badly that meant he'd been damaged. The black mech got his systems back into a bearable range, staring hard at the CMO's hips he found level with his optics.

Ratchet ground his jaw and reached for the weapons specialist's elbow, without a word he shifted plating and exposed a fuel line. Removing a syringe from his subspace, the Hummer injected a neural relay inhibitor and 'Hide relaxed minutely. The medic grumbled that the TopKick needed a complete processor overhaul if he couldn't simply state that something hurt.

Ironhide was about the growl a retort, but the medic's hand trembled against plating. "Ratch… I've been that bad before…" the weapons specialist murmured, bluster ebbing from his frame.

For a long time the CMO remained silent. A quiet Ratchet was never a good sign, and the frontliner almost thought he'd gone unheard. Then the rescue vehicle tightened his grip, glaring down at the warrior with a furiously unhappy scowl.

"On. Cybertron," the Hummer snapped. "On. The. Ark. Not on some backwater, technologically-stunted planet out on the long arm of their galaxy, where all I have are my own systems and the kits in my subspace."

"-Ratchet."

"I had nothing, 'Hide. None of the recourses I should normally have-"

Unsure how else to stem the tirade, the black mech reached for a neon hip and pulled the Hummer onto the berth. Ratchet's very frame was vibrating. Words of comfort didn't come, so 'Hide rested his cheekplate on the medic's thigh.

"Fraggit, idiot," the chartreuse mech continued, slightly mollified. "You need to be careful. I'd… if your spark- You nearly guttered..." Fingers tightened against black, locking onto plating. "I'm not your bondmate. I couldn't anchor you."

And the sentiments in those last words, frustration, regret and more than a hint of longing, wound straight to the old mech's spark and clenched. "I'm a frontliner, Ratch," came the unsteady croak from a still too cold vocalizer. "Could happen in any battle. Wouldn't… wouldn't want to take you with me…"

"Scrap heap. Frag you for making that decision for me! You honestly thought I'm misclocked enough to not know the risks of bonding? Did you? I assure you, 'Hide, no stupidity could possibly be on par with yours. Idiot!"

Ironhide twisted his helm to look up at the medic. He still had sedatives washing through his systems, but his dumbfounded look had nothing to do with that. "You would…?"

"Yes!" Ratchet's lips tilted at the edges, amusement over blindsiding the warrior slowly chipping away at his annoyance and the residual fear of nearly losing 'Hide's spark.

The TopKick gingerly moved his arm, gears rasping complaints, and looped Ratchet's waist. He nuzzled his helm further into the medic's lap and chartreuse fingers gently pet over replaced plating and fresh solder. "I'm sorry, Ratch. Was a glitch, for all that time-"

"Moron," came the snipped reply, "you've always been an aft-headed boltbucket. And will be for a long time."

"And… you'd bond with me anyway?"

'Yeah, when the process would knock you offline because it's good," the Hummer snickered. "Not because you fell into stasis."

One deep blue optic flashed up at the medic. "That's a promise?"

With Ironhide's systems starting to settle, Ratchet's energy field calmed to a much more relaxed state. He brushed soothing charge over a black shoulder. "Mech, you haven't experienced anything, yet. But now. Recharge. Your self-repair has so much left to do."

The Hummer slid partially from the berth and nudged 'Hide's shoulders, coaxing him to his back again. A pained noise from the pickup stops him; the old warrior blinked rapidly and ground his jaw. Ratchet just snorted, sneaking behind the soldier and holding him up against his chassis. Slowly the pressure eased and Ironhide's intakes settle; he moved to lean his helm against the CMO's neck. Rubbing slow, easy circles over ebony shoulders and abdominal plating, Ratch tipped down and murmurs "Big sparkling," affectionately in an audio.

Ironhide didn't have it in him to do more than grunt, systems slipping into recharge.

ooooooo ooooooo ooooooo ooooooo ooooooo

Much later, Optimus goes to get a report on the state of his weapons specialist and finds them still on the repair berth. Both are recharging with peaceful expressions and soft engine purrs, their energy fields woven together. It's the most relaxed he's seen them in vorns.

With a light chuckle, he slips from the medbay and locks the door.