Only a Prime

Chapter 11

Warnings for sticky sex and medical procedures.

Three Months Later

The roar of cooling fans spinning at full speed was only just beginning to ease, however neither mech's systems would return to normal for several hours yet. Several emptied cubes that had once held Wrecker-strength High Grade were scattered about the floor, kicked and scuffed aside when the world had started spinning. Heat had built in the room over the last two hours, and their frames continued to give it off. The soft pings of their cooling armour were the only notable sounds, the rest of the base sealed off by the thick (and mercifully soundproof) walls.

Optimus shifted on his back, lifting away an abdominal plate that had gotten hooked on the other's pelvic armour. It had likely been tugging on a transformation seam for several minutes, but it was only now that he'd noticed it. The slight motion vibrated across the solid planes where their bodies were pressed flush. Before his partner could stir, Optimus soothed his thumb along a main ventral line, his other hand tightening its grip.

Their fingers were meshed. In the dark, he could feel the new seam where thumb and forefinger had been replaced after being torn off in Egypt.

He shuttered his optics, although the room was already unlit. Egypt.

After the Fallen's defeat, NEST had taken pains to remove every trace of Cybertronian technology from around and inside the Prime's ancient tomb. The Egyptian government had threatened violence before the ground beneath the other pyramids could be even partially excavated. It had turned out to be a grave miscalculation.

Shockwave's monster had erupted from the ruins of the Prime's pyramid, and onto the screens of hundreds of tourists. The resulting political fallout had been, in Lennox's terms, a 'clusterfuck of a shitstorm', and Optimus was inclined to agree. It had been thirty hours before they've been able to access the site, and five more to confirm that something was missing.

Wheeljack had only been able to detect traces of energon concurrent with non-sentient Cybertronian systems, meaning that the tunnelling machine had taken a relic or some sort of equipment. His scanners could not make a guess at what, and the cavern left behind held no other clues. As expected, thin webs of Cybertronium had coated the churned sand.

Optimus fidgeted again on the berth, though not out of some minor physical discomfort this time. Ironhide grumbled something against his collar faring, and he stroked his thumb between the plates of his shoulders again to settle him.

The older mech had been standing close when he'd struck across the innocuous area of sand where the Matrix had reignited his spark. He'd felt a strange, cold pulse throughout his being, bringing with it the painful minutes bracketing his death to the fore of his mind, and then nothing. Ironhide hadn't asked, hadn't spoken; just touched a hand to his arm. A reminder that, despite everything, he was still here.

They'd been celebrating as much every night since returning to the base. At least, that was how Optimus had chosen to rationalise it. Through the muzzy fog of overcharge, however, he knew that the decision to rekindle their old physical relationship was rooted in something far more base.

Two months ago

When Ratchet had refused to hold his gaze, Optimus had resigned to watching the water crashing down the dam below them as the medic outlined his proposal. They were sat on the ledge of the Hoover base, the roaring tide that powered the generators of their home tuned down in their audios to a background murmur. It was rare for them to spend time together outside like this, and Optimus had suspected that Ratchet's invitation to an unusual locale was indicative of an unusual discussion.

He hadn't been wrong.

"To be clear," he began, looking to the other mech's profile. Ratchet's obvious unease was new, unsettling and contagious. It was doubtful that he would be able to coax out why the older mech was practically squirming in his plates right now, and Optimus was well versed at being firmly resolved when others were uncertain.

Even if parts of his own mesh were practically squirming.

Optimus touched a digit to the thin plates above his mask, pressing away a stray-charge twitch. "Would my current interfacing, equipment, be altered?"

Ratchet straightened, suddenly animated as he shook his head. He seemed to make a deliberate effort to look up from his dangling pedes, hands gripping the concrete ledge either side of his thighs. "No, not at all. All this would be is connecting a conduit from the back of your valve up to the gestation chamber, as femmes are structured. You'll still effuse in the way you did before, except this way some of it will be redirected up into the chamber. Before you were sparked it was a relatively standard, albeit specialised, procedure for cohorts wishing to carry a newspark but lacking the hardware. Mechs, primarily, though there were also femmes who required a replacement for one reason or another."

"Alright," Optimus replied, purely to show that he understood. He held Ratchet's gaze, which in turn forced Ratchet to hold his. "Would there be any other modifications?"

There was a faint rumble in the distance: a NEST transport truck, their sensors quickly confirmed. Ratchet seemed to compose himself fully in the short time he watched the road, looking back to Optimus with clinical calm. "Wheeljack and I are looking into the possibility of manufacturing a small fabrication plant, to replace the solutions you've been ingesting orally, also akin to a femme. If I were to install it in addition to making the link with the chamber, there would be no obvious structural differences."

Optimus nodded again, optics brightening as he processed the potential implications of these changes. When Ratchet had told him that he'd elected to bring in Wheeljack's expertise, and assured that the pursuit of a Prime sparkling was still held in the strictest confidence, Optimus had been pleased. The Wrecker would be a valuable consult, particularly with regard to his innate divergent and unorthodox thought strings. Doubtless this proposal to bring his valve and a dual overload into the equation had been, at least in part, his idea.

He cycled a ventilation, sorting through his thoughts with the same due care and attention as he had when giving final consent for the gestation chamber to be installed. It did not take long to guess at what was troubling the medic, at the very least from an ethical standpoint.

"And the… delivery of your nanites?"

Ratchet raised his chin a little, though to what effect Optimus couldn't say. His lip plates tightened. The silence drew out long enough for the truck to pass on the road above and behind them, its engine fading into a purring murmur. Finally, the smaller mech replied, "There've been innumerable sparklings produced from artificial insemination"

Optimus frowned openly now, allowing his concern for this uncharacteristic avoidance to bleed into his field. Ratchet's own energies were a low buzz, held tight and close to his plates, which only heightened the Prime's unease. He had already made the connection -it was obvious- but that Ratchet was clearly avoiding saying it made him want to hear it,

"But?" he prompted with a soft note of authority, his optics attentively bright.

The façade cracked with a rattling sigh, Ratchet's frame visible sagging as if under some relentless weight. He brushed a hand over his optics. "Wheeljack… Suspects that that won't work for what we're trying to achieve. For a sparkling of Prime lineage. He thinks that a close-proximity, duel overload with direct transmission through a charged channel would… yield better results."

And be complete mimicry of usual procreation. Optimus gave Ratchet the space of not being watched for a moment, considering that himself now that words were in the air between them.

The 'natural' method was close and hot: transfluid was taken through the valve and supercharged by the carrier's overload as it was carried up, the very act of insemination acting as a catalyst whilst beneath the swollen spark, the chamber flushed hot and ready. Many femmes of every frame type claimed to have been able to feel when a sparklet formed inside them. It was emotionally charged, for all involved.

He was not prudish, and culturally Cybertronians had never been timid, shameful or judgemental about interfacing (aside from the caste divides), but the thought of laying with Ratchet in such a way gave him pause. It would be to veer entirely from the relationship they'd sought to maintain since that first conversation two years ago. They'd been studiously professional to keep duty and emotion separated; catagorised their efforts as purely creating a sparkling of Prime lineage with the initial involvement of as few as was possible, not of creating a sparkling together. Optimus could be honest enough with himself to see that he would find that distinction… challenging to maintain if Ratchet stopped using a needle to deliver transfluid into his chamber.

And he wondered, too, if Ratchet would struggle with that line in the sand. Optimus could remember, in far greater detail than he cared for, the unguarded look on Ratchet's face when he'd held the last, most formed sparkling.

The Prime straightened from where he'd hunched over the ledge, suddenly decided. Wheeljack and Ratchet, together, felt that this would give a sparkling the best chance of success. The best chance of never having to see that look on Ratchet's face again.

"I understand," he uttered, optics bright with resolve and the words underscored with glyphs of consent.

Yet it was not so simple as just making the decision. With the Decepticons under the radar and Shockwave's tunnelling machine still at large, the time for material preparation and recuperation to battle readiness had to be accounted for in addition to the operation itself. "How long would it take to recover from this procedure?"

Ratchet seemed to almost cringe at that, shoulders tightening and dente gritting. He lay a hand "Optimus, please. I've already mutilated you, had you suffer four miscarriages."

There was a warmth in the Prime's chassis, reassuring and ancient, leeching away his anxiety. The Matrix, he assumed, though he wouldn't mention the relic's possible support to reassure the medic. Ratchet did not place much stock in combining mysticism with medicine in the most detached of terms.

Optimus lay his hand atop Ratchet's, squeezing. "I'm at peace with this, old friend. This is far from the first time I have sacrificed my body for some greater purpose, or that we have overcome obstacles and setbacks to achieve our goals.

As expected, Ratchet pulled away with a growl. Optimus didn't resist the withdrawal of his hand, nor flinch when the mech's field suddenly flashed hard and hot. "This isn't volunteering to take the All Spark into your chassis, or losing a limb in battle, or even dying getting run through by Megatron, for frag's sake. This is about, a fully functioning reproductive system where it was never intended, on this primitive, dirty world with make-do equipment."

His hand began an emphasising chopping motion as if he were lecturing a class. "Before the war, there were systems in place for this sort of thing. Institutes dedicated to modifying frames to match spark resonance. Specialist equipment. Counselling-"

"Will there be a better chance of carrying to term?" Optimus cut in, breaking off the tirade before Ratchet could really get going and talk them both out of it.

There was a long pause whilst Ratchet calmed himself, then finally: "Wheeljack believes it would be significantly improved."

"And you?"

Optimus wanted to hear Ratchet say it, and he damn well knew it. He couldn't be agitated at the blatant manipulation, though, and simply rested his hands back in his lap. "Yes. I think it would."

The medically advisable route now taken precedence over the potential minefield of emotional complications, Optimus's mind turned to the other question at hand. Whilst they'd been injecting generative materials directly into the chamber, the intention was to remove the developed sparkling when the time came through the same point of entry through his chassis. If, as Ratchet had posited, the point of entry for the nanites was changed to a modified valve intake…

"Would these modifications affect how the sparkling will finally come into this world? Would I-"

"No," Ratchet cut in, as if he didn't want Optimus to even entertain the thought. "The chamber's too high to even contemplate allowing the conduit to work as an emergence canal. I didn't install it with a natural delivery as an option. No. I'd remove it surgically directly through your chassis, as we'd already planned. It's the safest way."

Silence again, but it was a more peaceful kind than that which had punctuated this meeting thus far. Something resolved on both sides, some tension eased, though not all.

Optimus fidgeted his weight, readjusting his legs over the edge of the dam. The inscribed discs that bracketed his helm twitched in quarter circles. "Ratchet… As my friend, if you're disconcerted by this… If you feel that this is going too far for you…"

Ratchet shook his head before a possible end to that sentence could be sought. He placed a steady hand on the taller mech's shoulder, his grip solid and assured. "I'm in, Optimus. Whatever happens, I'm here. In whatever capacity you need or want me."

The Prime bowed his head with a thin smile. The 'thank you' was both implicit and unnecessary.

It had been a relief the first time Ironhide had overloaded against him, inside him, shouting his pleasure with an expression bordering on pain as his own body had clenched impossibly tighter. The raw emotion of it, as much as the physical pleasure, had triggered Optimus's own, blasting apart a wall he hadn't been aware of.

He had not experienced his body like this for two years. His overloads has been proscribed, his interfacing components bent solely towards sparking. He'd forgotten what it was like to feel this for mutual pleasure, for the few moments of utter and shared abandonment, uncluttered by hope or grief. Ironhide knew nothing of the endeavor, was here solely for companionship and mutual pleasure. And now, with the tearing malformation in his valve repaired, Optimus was experiencing interfacing in a whole new way. It was intense and exhilarating. Almost overwhelming.

Pressing his jaw against Ironhide's helm, Optimus found that his battle mask had extended to guard his face without his notice. He withdrew it, and lay a kiss against the unconscious specialist's crest in apology.

Not so unconscious, though. The small touch of his mouth, amidst all the shifts and twitches of his body, was enough to rouse the other mech.

As normal, Ironhide remained still and dark for the ten seconds it took to check for general alerts from the Base's computer, perform a perimeter scan and a run a check on his own systems. Then, satisfied that it was safe to continue to focus entirely on the mech beneath him, he purred a contented rumble.

As was also normal between them as of late, he picked straight up where they'd left off in their conversation.

"Meant to say earlier." Ironhide paused to flare his plates, stretching out the charge-loose workings underneath. His optics remained dark, his helm tucked into the Prime's collar. "Want'a get you and that battlebridge out on the range sometime tomorrow. Synch might've slowed for all that new programming Wheeljack's stuffed into it."

Optimus continued to play finger and thumb over Ironhide's dorsal vents, humming assent. He doubted that Wheeljack would have deemed the modifications finished if there were a lag, but he appreciated the specialist's meticulousness. Milliseconds counted in battle, particularly when facing Megatron. After centuries of warfare, they knew each other's strikes and feints as well as their own. One misstep in the rhythm, one persisting distraction in the forest…

"It's an ingenious system," he uttered, breaking from that potentially grim reverie. He would not lie here and think about death.

Ironhide grunted a sound close to a scoff. "Memory bank of an officer's sent and saved in the databank when they're offlined - until someone higher up goes and overrides them."

"It's strategy." Optimus rubbed a hand across his forehelm, wishing that this wasn't the topic of idle, post-overload talk. Tension was creeping back where minutes ago he'd been strutless. "It's not-"

"It's sick," Ironhide bit out, cut through with a venomous streak of static. He lifted his bulk off the Prime's chassis to look down at him, optics glaringly bright in the darkened room. "Ranking mecha's worth, their lives, like a requisitions list."

Optimus said nothing, and there was some edge of vulnerability in his gaze that tempered his ire. This was the absolute wrong time to have this conversation, mingling work with private affairs. More than that, it would never be appropriate to butt their professional and military mettle against one another whilst so intimately entwined.

He shook his head, pulsing apology into their still-mingled fields. "Just sayin'." A flicker of grim humour, and Ironhide had to elaborate when Optimus gave a querying frown. "Made me think of… Well, imagine it'd be something Prowl would do."

"Actually, I think it was a 'something' Prowl had written that Wheeljack worked from," Optimus replied dryly.

Ironhide's optics flashed in a proxy eye-roll, diffusing where he could easily rise. "Tactical."

There looked to be a difficult officer's meeting this afternoon. For now, though, and with Ironhide propping himself up on his elbows, Optimus took the opportunity to flex his backstrut in a long, slow wave. The innocent motion put his interface panel into dragging contact with the other mech's. A thick, heady jolt across his sensitised nodes made his fan stutter.

They were both the picture of debauchery: streaked with lubricant and transfluid, paint transfers clashing where their armour had ground and slammed. If it hadn't been for propriety, they'd have given up buffing out the marks days ago.

Ironhide's expression remained calculatingly neutral as he moved his hand, replacing his thigh against Optimus's panel, but his field throbbed with arousal. He palmed the still-pressuring spike as soon as it emerged, smiling when a twist to the base made Optimus arch with a groan.

"Ratchet'll have your mesh if you walk into a table again tomorrow 'cause I aint letting you recharge enough." The solid, pumping grip conveyed no apologies. "Bet he worries you've been agonising over a desk through the night."

Optimus hissed and clutched at Ironhide's collar faring, marvelling at how fast and thoroughly the charge built through his saturated lines. "I could just tell him the truth. He often hounds me for not getting - ahh- enough R and R."

"What'd' those stand for?" Ironhide rumbled, dipping his helm to taste and tease static off a finial. "Rutting and repeating?"

"Riding and roughly, perhaps," Optimus suggested in a near subsonic murmur, hips twitching into Ironhide's hand before he rolled and pressed the mech onto his back.

Straddling the powerful waist, Optimus continued to rock into his partner's ministrations. A snick of shifting metal, and he was grinding his exposed valve into Ironhide's panel.

Ironhide groaned, helpless to the sight, and took the Prime's hips in both hands. He pulled him into the next short thrust, and then the next. The pressure on his covered spike was astounding, and he couldn't have kept it back when Optimus rolled his hips like that if Megatron himself had burst through the door.

The slide in was glorious: slick and hot and entirely uninhibited. They'd done this a dozen times in the last week, but Optimus knew it would still feel this good if it were the thousandth. His helm tipped back, mouth open and vents howling, Between his knees, Ironhide looked much the same.

"Primus, I could do this all day," the specialist growled when the initial euphoria passed, optics bright on the powerful form that rocked in pleasure above him.

In the distant past their coupling had been just as exquisite, but there had been next to no penetration on Optimus's part. That had been fine: fragging was fragging in Ironhide's book, though he had never favoured taking spike. This complete turnaround had been suspicious at first, but having let Optimus initiate and goad him on faster and harder, he'd not questioned it.

Optimus certainly seemed content to drag him along for the ride.

He braced his pedes and drew up his knees, gaining leverage, and began to meet the rolling thrusts halfway. It was deep like this. When a ripple of current tripped across where his spike met the valve's ceiling nodes, Ironhide bucked up hard with a shout.

All too aware of Optimus's discomfort in the past, Ironhide was alert to pained grimaces or awkward hitches. When the tall mech stiffened, one hand dragging down his central seam whilst the other trembled against his knee, he froze, locking his joints against so much as a twitch. "Frag, too hard? Hurt?"

Optimus shot him a look that was almost comical, frustration that Ironhide had stopped clear in every line of his face. "No!" He tipped his head back, trying to regain the moment, and ground his hips down in search of that golden electric connection. "Ah, more. That. Again."

Ironhide grinned with a fresh pulse of charge, thoroughly enjoying the view of the Prime writhing on his hips. He slid his hands up powerful thighs, the constricting pressure around his spike as the charge ramped up ever higher becoming its own kind of delicious torment. "Yes, Sir."

1 month, 3 weeks ago.

Ratchet had recommended that Optimus remain conscious during the modification of his 'reproductive equipment', citing the same risks and benefits as he had back when the gestation chamber had been installed. Optimus suspected that Ratchet was just giving him as many opportunities as possible to back out of the procedure.

With his pedes braced and legs spread on an adapted berth in the Medbay, he was entertaining the idea of doing just that.

It was 2am and the base around them was dark and quiet. Optimus was all too aware of the sounds of Ratchet's equipment as he checked each item once more before setting it back on the tray on the neighbouring berth.

Connecting his valve and gestation chamber was not at all invasive, as he had originally thought. The medic planned to use the same technique used to replace crushed hoses buried deep in a mech's system that they would otherwise require significant excavation. A pilot wire was led through one incision and out of another, navigated through the body with an electromagnet that would hold the cutting point in position across three axis, and then the new hosing was clipped on the end and pulled through. Before the connecting channel could be laid, however, the top of the valve had to be prepared.

And those tools hadn't looked particularly appealing, even if all the neural lines in his pelvis had been dampened. The auger was narrow, at least, its edges bluntly rounded for insertion. Ratchet hadn't told him that scalpel-thin blades would extend once the tool was positioned, but Optimus was familiar enough with the device as used as an instrument of torture by certain Decepticons. Nothing first hand, but the reports had stuck with him.

Once the auger had been thoroughly sterilised and coated with a thick nanite gel, Ratchet returned to the stool placed between the Prime's knees. His optics had taken on the orange hue of surgical scanners, the discolouration symptomatic of slaving a patient's sensors for maximum diagnostic detail.

"Alright, Optimus," he said, placing a hand on the inside of his thigh. "You'll feel some hard pressure as I shape the cervical juncture, but if you feel any discomfort, you must tell me immediately."

The angle of the berth, intended to drain spilt fluids out into the waiting receptacle, meant that Optimus could watch if he so chose. He did not, and gave a single nod of understanding before tipping his helm back.

A thumb at his valve, applying pressure, and then the auger was pushed inside. It didn't hurt, exactly, but the helix ridges caught and dragged like a breaching of a spike. He felt it scraping across his mesh, could imagine it snagging and tearing even if his sensory nodes were deadened. Stinging cuts in this most intimate place, all the way to the back of his valve, laid raw in anticipation of a thrusting spike and scalding fluid.

His hands curled into fists at his sides, his gaze focused with grim determination on the too-bright strip lights overhead. A tinny vibration rattled across the armour of his legs before he could suppress it.

Ratchet paused with the auger a scant few inches inside. "Are you alright? Do you want me to stop?"

Optimus blinked and shook his head, exventing slowly. "No, Ratchet, please continue." When Ratchet said nothing, he added, "I'm just not entirely, comfortable, with that part of my anatomy."

The self-depreciating reassurance fell flat, and Ratchet studied the underside of the mech's jaw and face guard. He didn't move the auger, and chose his words with the same calculated lightness. "All spike, huh?"

"It's not that I never tried. It was just..." He bit off the rest of the admission, frowning at himself. He had willingly lain on a berth in a less-equipped medical bay than this one and had several tonnes of his protomass torn out for the sake of installing an artificial organ, and hadn't fet like this. The thought of tools entering and interfering with his valve, however, made his tank churn.

Ratchet's optics were narrowed. He continued fishing with a light hand. "Unsatisfying?"

"It hurt."

The average medic had two reactions to a statement of pain: if they were aware of the cause and satisfied with its banality, it was dismissed; if they didn't know the cause and there was opportunity to seek it out, the full terrifying force of their vocation came to bear.

"Hurt?" Ratchet swiftly withdrew the auger and stood to set it aside. "Psychosomatic, do you think, or was there some pre-existing malformation or trauma?"

Optimus leaned up on his elbows as the medic came to stand next to him, doubtless scrutinising his readings and medical history whilst trying to be reassuring. "I assumed psychosomatic - something related to the Matrix, perhaps. How my body was reformatted. It was intimated that I would be more 'dominant'." An optical ridge twitched upwards, his expression dry. "It's not like there was any literature on the subject of Prime interfacing."

"No, I'd assume not. Since that long ago…" Ratchet drummed his fingers in a wave on the edge of the berth, left and then right. "What's the pain like? Bruising? Crushing? A burn?"

"Like I was being torn."

The medic stiffened as if somehow personally affronted, and purposefully set the instrument tray aside. "Well we definitely can't be having that."

"This is hardly necessary." Optimus sat up, trying to move his pedes only to find they were clamped into the stirrups. He settled for closing his knees, awkward as the posture was. "We don't need to waste time or resources on something I have long become accustomed to. My personal comfort isn't a factor in this endeavour."

"It most certainly is. Perhaps the most important factor," Ratchet huffed, the shielding plates across his shoulders flaring. He could cover a patient's body in an explosion as well as Ironhide could, and it came off more intimidating than protective when it suited.

Before Optimus could find some protest to that, Ratchet placed a hand on his arm and let the concern in his professionally controlled field be felt in the touch. "You're my patient, my Prime and my friend, Optimus. I won't have you suffering needlessly." A wry smile made him look younger. "Besides, when we get down to the bolts of it, you're carrying my sparkling. Keeping you comfortable is a natural part of my role, quite aside from anything else."

Withdrawing his hand, Ratchet's expression sobered. "Saying that, with your permission, I'd like to examine you more thoroughly."

Optimus was silent for almost a minute, though not because of his reluctance. He turned Ratchet's words over in his mind, contemplated the emotionally-weighted 'my sparkling' and 'my role', and wondered if the line in the sand had already been swept away. And if that was an issue.

Finally, he uttered, "If you feel it's necessary."

"You're more anxious about receiving into your valve than you are about carrying a sparkling to term," Ratchet said, sounding borderline bemused. "This is clearly a problem that's gone on far too long."

The examination was far gentle than the auger had been. After bringing his neural lines back online, Ratchet traced and retraced every millimetre of his valve in gradually deepening circles. His gaze was distant and to one side, his focus entirely on the sensitive plates in his fingertips as he searched for abnormalities.

Optimus watched Ratchet not watching, waiting for the sharp lance of heat that felt as if it cut through the entirety of his valve. When it came, he was so focussed upon the sensation that he hissed. "Ah, there."

"I feel it." Ratchet kept his index finger on the spot, and there was a transforming sound as two digits on his other hand shifted into long, slender tools. "It's a micro-fissure over a raised sensor node - it must rupture every time you've tried." He wouldn't have found it if Optimus hadn't reacted, and he didn't want to lose it and have to repeat the process.

The pain became sharper, more focussed, strange and deep. Optimus shifted on the berth, plates tightening. "Ratchet-"

"I know, I'm sorry, but I need to fix this now," Ratchet said with urgent determination, forcing the probe into the underlying node to find what was distending it. The result was reassuringly simple. "Ah, it feels like some idiot put too thick a weld on the relay under your coolant regulator. All I need to do is shave off the excess and it'll stop the node from being distended and tearing from contact. I can do it now."

He sent a short line of a code wreathed in medical overrides into the mech's systems, then held the tools exactly in place whilst they waited for the localised neural suppressor to take effect. When Optimus relaxed fractionally, he slid the second tool alongside the first and began scraping at the ragged weld.

"Primus, Optimus, I've been your medic since the Exodus." A gentle burst of cleanser flushed away the flakes of metal, and Ratchet resumed reshaping the weld. "Why didn't you ever tell me?"

Optimus continued to watch the ceiling. "It was not exactly a priority repair in war," he replied, perfectly serious.

Ratchet made a sound midway between a huff and a scoff; relatively mild on the medic's indicative scale of exasperation. "Perhaps not then, but it becomes one if we're trying for a sparkling." He withdrew the file and cleanser nozzle, then circled his finger over the area. It felt altered enough, but Optimus wouldn't be able to tell him if the repair was complete for a few days, once the soreness settled.

Satisfied for now, Ratchet withdrew his hands. He would have removed the stirrup clamps as well, but the valve modification needed to take place today. "Any kind of discomfort like this in the future, you come to me. Alright? I mean it."

Despite himself, Optimus smiled a little at the protectiveness in the assertion. He sat up on his elbows again, watching Ratchet reshuffle his equipment. "It's reassuring to know you have a vested interest in my interface equipment."

Ratchet definitely snorted this time, and his retort was equally dry. "I have a vested interest in your personal wellbeing." A nod to the reclined mech, who was reaching a hand towards the clamp keeping his right pede in the stirrup. "There's still work to do. Lie back."

"And think of Cybertron," Optimus concluded in a mutter, lacing his hands across his chassis.

I'm sorry that this chapter took so long to appear. I've not abandoned any of my Transformers stories, but my circumstances have changed dramatically from when I began them all. I'll keep plugging away, and all I can say is thank you for sticking with me and reading! It'd be great to hear back from you/ =)