Summary: When Ratchet is sick, Ironhide is there to take care of him.

Authors Note: This was originally meant to be in my collection of oneshots under Unchained Melody, but I eventually have to break away from submitting all my stories under that one title, so here's this one. 3 As always, reviews are greatly, greatly appreciated.

Ironhide did not remember clearly who had started it, but he did remember how quickly it had happened. One pit-spawned sick mech had suddenly led to half the Autobot force laid up in the medical bay under Ratchet's care, and the other half (including the Weapons Specialist) summoned to have anti-viral vaccines administered to their systems so they would not catch it as well.

A rampant system virus, highly contagious, attacks the central cognitive systems and sometimes the fuel tanks… lasting for about a week, the CMO had said. He disclosed this all while administering anti-viral vaccines for said virus to Sunstreaker (who yelped his fragging head off the whole time like some newborn sparkling) without so much as batting an optic.

Ironhide, startled, asked Ratchet, "What about you? Aren't you worried about catching it if it's so contagious? I didn't see you vaccinate yourself."

Ratchet looked at him and said simply, "I already have it."

"Come again?"

"I've already contracted the virus, I said."

"…Then what the frag are you doing still on duty, up and around?"

Ratchet gave his bondmate an exasperated look. "It takes a while for the symptoms to set in, even after the system has detected the virus. I've already done a system diagnostic and confirmed that I have caught it, now the only thing to do is wait until symptoms begin to appear. In the meantime I am doing what I can to keep it from spreading to any more mechs," he said, withdrawing the needle from the golden Lambo's energon line and throwing it in a nearby bio receptacle. Sunstreaker nearly fainted.

Ironhide's mouth opened and closed like a fish struggling for air briefly before Ratchet took the liberty of popping it closed for him as he made toward the next mech in need of immunization.

"Don't look so shocked, 'Hide. What would you have me do? Nobody else is qualified to administer the vaccine except First Aid and possibly Wheeljack (though that's a stretch). And clearly neither are in any condition to do…" Ratchet trailed off when three berths down, as if on que, Wheeljack retched violently. The CMO snatched something off the nearest counter top and dashed to him with lightning speed, just in time for the Lancia to upchurn his tanks into the proffered bucket. Ratchet patted his friend's shoulder comfortingly. "Best to get it all out, 'Jack. No cure for this particular virus available, you just have to tough it out."

Ironhide grimaced, thankful that he would not be the next victim of the outbreak.

It wasn't until much later, when the sun had set, Ironhide had been sent back to quarters to recharge and all of the infected mechs in the medbay were sleeping peacefully that Ratchet stumbled to their quarters in exhaustion. Ironhide looked up as the door slid open to reveal the utterly beaten-looking CMO.

"You alright, Ratch?" He asked carefully as the chartreuse mech crumpled onto the couch with an exhausted sigh.

Ratchet merely looked at him through bleary optics, which only increased Ironhide's anxiety for his bondmate. He was making to get up and go to Ratchet when the CMO stood suddenly, wobbling dangerously on his feet before regaining his equilibrium.

"I need to wash off," he sighed in explanation, weaving a bit as he walked toward his personal wash rack. Ironhide followed him in concern, intending to stand watch over the chartreuse mech as the symptoms of the virus overtook him. It was a well known fact around base that the Chief Medical Officer was a slagging miracle worker when taking care of others, but very lacking in taking care of himself. He watched as Ratchet fumbled momentarily with the water controls, before successfully turning on the hot spray.

The CMO eyed the Weapons Specialist carefully as he stepped underneath the water. "Shouldn't you be recharging, Ironhide?"

"No. What I should be doing is what I'm doing now."

"And just what is that?" Ratchet asked tiredly, allowing the hot water to soothe his aching frame.

"Keeping an optic on one stubborn slaghead of a sick CMO," Ironhide retorted, but there was a tenderness in his voice reserved only for his bondmate.

Ratchet reached out in a motion that suggested he was going to cuff the larger mech upside the helm, but he staggered suddenly, reaching out for purchase and finding none. Thick black arms caught him gently.

"Easy, Ratchet. I've gotcha…" Ironhide soothed, wrapping his arms around the medic's waist and helping him to stand steadily beneath the water. He reached behind him and grabbed a cloth to wash his bondmate's brightly colored armor, running it over his plating in gentle circles. Ratchet finally gave in.

"…Nnh, 'Hide…" Ratchet breathed. "I feel unwell."

"I know," Ironhide said softly, holding him a little tighter. "Looks like that slagging virus gotcha pretty good."

"Frag, my tanks are roiling," the CMO ground out, doubling over slightly and bracing himself against the Weapons Specialist.

"Are you going to purge?" Ironhide asked, his tone laced with concern. A purging Ratchet was not a good thing.

"Don't think so…" Ratchet trailed off, leaning further into the larger mech.

Ironhide held him a little longer, helping him to rinse off before shutting off the water and helping Ratchet back to their berth. Ratchet looked up at him with hazy optics as he clambered in next to him.

"Recharge, Ratchet," Ironhide said, wrapping his arm around the other. "I'm right here if you need anything."

Ratchet smiled slightly despite himself as he began to drift off. "Good night, you old scrap heap."

Ironhide was torn from recharge suddenly late in the night to Ratchet stirring on his side of the berth. His internal systems told him they'd recharged just under three hours. The Weapons Specialist 'oomphed' as the CMO clambered roughly over him.

"Ratch…?" he said groggily. "Y'okay?"

Ratchet said nothing as his feet hit the floor and immediately made for the door at the end of his quarters, throwing it open and disappearing into the main part of the hangar. Ironhide lay quietly for a moment, feeling a wave of discomfort, pain and slight desperation wash over him from the bond before it was clamped shut with force. He was pulling himself rapidly out of the berth to go to Ratchet when the sounds of strangled coughing and distressed clicks and whirrs reached his audios. The black mech hit the floor running, following Ratchet's path out through the larger part of the hangar and outside onto the tarmac where he found the CMO leaning heavily against the wall, emptying his tanks violently of the previous day's energon. He was at his bonded's side in an instant, holding tightly to Ratchet's shoulders as the chartreuse mech heaved.

"Pit, Ratch," Ironhide said quietly, rubbing small circles over the medic's shoulders in a comforting gesture. "What can I do?"

When he was sure there was nothing else coming, Ratchet's intakes shuddered as he drew a deep breath and slumped backward into Ironhide, a quivering hand over his mouth, optics wide with the shock of being ill. After a moment to collect himself, Ratchet rasped, "Nothing can be done but to ride it out, 'Hide."

With a grunt, Ironhide bent down and hooked one massive arm under the back of Ratchet's knee joints. Wrapping the other around the CMO's back, he hoisted him gently up into his arms and turned to make his way back to their quarters. Ratchet protested immediately, pushing against his chest plates.

"Y-…you fragger! What do you think… you're doing?" As weak as his vocalizer was, Ratchet still had enough energy left to produce one hell of a death glare. Ironhide would have chuckled if it weren't for the situation at hand.

"Takin' you back to the berth," he said matter-of-factly. "What's it look like I'm doin'?"

"Being a slaghead," Ratchet ground out in a tone that suggested he could fall into recharge at any moment. "As usual."

"Yeah, well, I'd rather be a slaghead than a stubborn fragger that doesn't know what's good for him," Ironhide shot back without any real malice in his tone. When Ratchet did not answer, Ironhide became slightly concerned. "You alright?"

"I'm not sure I can stay online…" Ratchet informed, sounding breathless. As if to demonstrate, he suddenly became dead weight in Ironhide's arms.

"We're almost to quarters," the black mech advised, turning the last corner in the hangar. He hefted the medic's weight a little further up into his arms. "Ratch?"

As the Weapons Specialist nudged the door to their quarters open with his foot, Ratchet's helm rolled backward against his shoulder and Ironhide saw that he was barely clinging to consciousness. Laying the CMO gently on the berth, he ducked his head down so that he was cheek-to-cheek with his bonded and whispered "Let go, medic. It's time someone took care of you."