Title: The Spark of it All: Repercussions

'Verse: '07 Bay-verse Alternate Universe - based off my friend kitteh's 'Machine'-verse, with warps and reflections.

Characters / Pairings: Ironhide/Ratchet

Summary: Define "Illness" for the Cybertronians, please.

Rating: R

Stuff you'll read: Implications of medical abuse, and the resulting chemical dependency. Mild profanity. Angst.

AN: (Attempting to shorten these.) See Ch. 4 for the inspiration pic, and a link to a ficbit of kitteh's "Machine." The symptoms described in this chapter are fictional, but are based on research on withdrawal from benzodiazapines.

Truly, I did not die. I just moved… 4.6 thousand miles and 4 timezones away to a beautiful land… with really shoddy internet. So I hope to be able to post more consistently soon, but I can't promise, because that promise would be made to be broken.

Thank you to anyone who read previous chapters, and particularly massive hugs to those that left reviews or critique! It's much appreciated!

Ratchet swiped the tray from the blubbering man in white, secretly glad that even as a humanoid, he could still intimidate the spark out of someone. He slammed it down onto a tabletop just beside the door and stomped to stand just mere centimeters in front of the hapless science tech. The amount of hunching and quailing from human in front of him did little to curb Ratchet's tirade.

"What have you been giving him!" the medic snapped, pointing back at Ironhide curled and panting on the bed. "How often? Dosages? Someone said he had been sedated. Do you realize that he is exhibiting classic symptoms of chemical dependency and withdrawal? Whose authority is he even under?"

The man desperately tried to look anywhere but at the inhumanly glowing blue eyes glaring furiously at him. "We, uh, were given authorization to use sedation when he got unruly."

"Fraggit! If Ironhide were drugged every time he was belligerent he should be dead! My optics function, I scanned his arms. You were damned needle-happy. How many times did you put him under? Was it easier to simply put him in stasis… force him unconscious? Unwilling to get off your collective afts and actually deal with it? Did you even have a medic- a doctor supervising your little games?" Ratchet hollered, ramming a finger into the man's chest. "The idiocy of-"

"Ratch…" Ironhide's gravelly murmur from the bed paused Ratchet's incensed rant. Ratch turned to meet his mate; his eyes were unfocused, tight with pain and blinking against the light. "A-appre-ciate you com-ming to my… defense," he panted, "but yell quieter… or shut… the frag up."

This was all the distraction that the chastised teamer required and he slunk out the door to make his escape. Ratch narrowed his eyes at his bonded and spun back just in time to have the door hiss closed in his face. He made a feral snarl and hissed back. "Pit-spawned, cowardly little scraplet."

"You… tell that- door," the weapons specialist grunted softly.

"Mute it." Ratchet huffed a final time at the door that the tech had retreated through, then grabbed the tray of food and went to sit on the bed. He pulled at some bread and popped the piece in his mouth. "Come on, old mech, your blood sugar is low. Glucose and carbohydrates should help your symptoms."

'Hide was lying on his side with his knees drawn towards his chest. He made a habit of late keeping his face buried in the nest created by his forearms; even with all the filters he could apply to his vision, the lights in the room were positively intolerable. "Eurgh… Ratch…" his hand twitched while he tried to push the offending food away. "I ate… ten hours… fine."

"Boltbucket," the medic snipped, with less bite than the word implied. "You never paid attention to your Lennoxes or Bee's Sam? You are human now, or at least a cyborg, I suppose. Try five to six hours. Maybe ten while sleeping."

"Always… been sp-ecial."

"You've always been an idiot."

Ironhide groaned through another round of shakes. Ratchet adjusted the blanket over the weapons specialist and stroked his back, hating the fact that he was trapped fairly helpless to do anything to ease Ironhide's symptoms. Ripping off another portion of bread, he nudged and held it to his mate, but Ironhide recoiled. Huffing, Ratchet just rapped on 'Hide's cranium and popped the morsel into his own mouth. He chewed pensively, then paused and swallowed.

"Alright, 'Hide." Ratchet shifted and scooted himself under the other man's chest, forcing Ironhide almost upright against his own torso.

"Ratch." The complaint fell short, heat from another body felt good and helped regulate his own temperature, so 'Hide let Ratchet hold him to his chest. His head still hung down and his eyes remained clamped shut, but he was semi-vertical.

Ironhide didn't notice Ratchet grab some bread and a little bit of meat and slip it into his mouth. The medic chewed, then tipped up the other cyborg's chin and kissed him.

The soldier tensed, startled by the sudden gesture from his mate. He blinked and realized the ruse when Ratchet coaxed his mouth open with his tongue, and passed him a morsel of food. Ironhide grunted and tried to break the kiss, but Ratchet wouldn't let him. Caught, he swallowed, and only then did Ratchet let him pull away.

Ratch had a delightfully smug expression all across his face.

"Sneaky fragger," Ironhide grumbled and dropped his head back to Ratchet's shoulder.

"Concerned sneaky fragger," Ratchet countered, and nudged his jaw lightly against Ironhide's temple.

"You always use that excuse," Ironhide grumbled petulantly, nudging his brow against the edge of Ratchet's neck, it did not go unnoticed that he normally cradled Ratchet there against his own throat.

Ratchet nudged at Ironhide through their bond. He knew that despite his exhaustion, Ironhide's discomfort and general misery rarely let him sleep. 'Hide was keeping his end of their link muted, probably to protect him from sharing too much in Ironhide's pain. Still, after so long thinking the bond was broken, the lack of communication was a kind of mild torture in itself. "The stop giving me so many damn reasons," Ratch crooned, gently but firmly pushing through Ironhide's paper-thin blocks on their bond.

"Don't-" Ironhide tried, his hand twitching on Ratchet's chest. When he felt the supportive warmth of his mate's presence in his spark, he hummed and went quiet.

Follow my lead, Ratchet whispered through their bond, coaxing Ironhide through the biofeedback steps to help relax his muscles, bring down his heartrate and slow his breathing. When his mate finally slipped off to sleep, Ratchet pulled the blanket up around his shoulders and continued nibbling at their dinner. Only when he was sure that 'Hide was truly resting did he squirm down to lay flat and fall asleep himself.

ooooo ooooo ooooo ooooo ooooo ooooo ooooo

"Ratch…" Ironhide woke later that night and curled reflexively, fighting the shudders wracking through his body.

"Easy, 'Hide. You're fine. And you wouldn't be in this mess if you could have actually behaved," Ratchet grumbled, rough from sleep and being suddenly awakened, but still cradling his bondmate to his chest.

Ratchet snipped something about human idiocy for the umpteenth time and stared pensively at the dark ceiling. He was not used to this. Ironhide's symptoms had continued to develop for the better part of two weeks. The concept of 'illness' was decidedly foreign, alien even, to any Cybertronian.

As a CMO, Ratchet knew the full gamut of Cybertronian health issues and still ran through them in his head when he was stressed. Programming could develop glitches over time, or be infected with viruses; but glitches could be reprogrammed, viruses wiped and coding rewritten. Then, considering that this was Ironhide, Ratchet was most used to dealing with damage inflicted on his mate in battle. Oddly, mechanical injury was sometimes the most straightforward to deal with. The physical destruction of the frame was rarely the issue of most concern. It was usually secondary problems that were the true dangers. Energon loss could lead to processor and systems shutdowns; damage to coolant systems would result in overheating and could corrupt memory; processor disconnects robbed the mech of control over his own systems. Most frightening, was damage to the sparkchamber, associated support circuits or the spark itself; that damage had the capacity to rob a mech of his very essence. But barring that very small subset of parts, all systems could be repaired or replaced. What little the medic was unable to fix, self-repair could manage given energon and time, with what an organic would consider astounding speed.

Organic bodies had been melded with Cybertronian mechanics and technology to create their current selves, that much was patently obvious. As much as Ratchet hated the step backwards from his mechanoid being, back to the wall, the former-Hummer would admit that for a human, reaching their Cyborg state would be an astronomical leap forward. His and Ironhide's senses were multiple times more sensitive than a human's. Their immune and healing systems were also far advanced beyond anything the 'Average Joe' could ever dream to possess.

The sole hurdle that kept Ironhide from the imperviousness that his enhanced body should have been endowed with, was the reckless use of drugs specifically designed to side-step their advanced healing capabilities. The last that any of the thrice accursed teamers wanted was for an angry, belligerent Ironhide-cyborg to wake up while they were still working. It was only drugs and restraints that kept their fragile, wholly human, bodies safe from the significantly more capable being that their scientists had created.

Drug withdrawal or not, the medic reminded himself, Ironhide could not stay sick forever. They lay under the blankets, while Ratchet felt like he was cooking and wished that he still retained his mech coolant systems. Unfortunately, in his current state the former weapons specialist could not regulate his body temperature, so the medic quietly dealt with the discomfort and in turn comforted the more solid-looking soldier. He kissed Ironhide's slightly clammy brow, tucked against his neck in a reversal of their usual positions and ran his hand softly through short dark hair, barely brushing the black fins until Ironhide slipped back into an uneasy sleep.