Ratchet plays interspecies Cupid, but finds challenges therein he did not expect.

Warnings: Sentient beings of varied species make love. The word "nigger" is used for purposes of Ratchet's education. My beta, Buckeye Belle, tells me I should also caution you not to drink and read. (This warning brought to you by Mothers and Others Against Snorting Dr. Pepper Out Your Nose.)

Also, Buckeye Belle's input has made this a better fic than it otherwise might have been. Any remaining errors are solely my own.

Some chapters will be much longer than others.

Thanks to Willie the Shake for "bright, particular star."

As ever, I'm mixing my realities here, specifically DOTM and G1. So this is solidly AU.

Not mine, not for profit.

Ratchet, in his office in the medbay, shuttered twice at Optimus Prime. "You what?"

Optimus' energon system deflected more circulation into the cooling fins on either side of his faceplates: he blushed. But it was he who had opened the discussion by saying, "Director Mearing and I would like your help on a personal matter."

Ratchet's response to that had been, first, "What kind of personal matter?" and second, upon definition of said matter, the famous "You what?" compounded of equal parts disdain and disbelief: the two-word Question of Destruction feared by Autobots everywhere. (See: spark-split twins.)

Now, facial fins flaming, Optimus said, "Ratchet, Charlotte Mearing and I ..."

Apparently, he could get no further through the sentence than that. But Ratchet, who was a medic, very much the elder of Optimus Prime, and not at all shy on top of it, said, "You," to his Prime, "and Charlotte Mearing. Who, last time I checked, wasn't Cybertronian."

"She still isn't," said Optimus. Perfectly straight-faceplated.

Ratchet said nothing, and stared at his Prime (who continued to redden) until the possibility of some other action prodded a few processor relays. Then the medic turned to his locked desk drawer, and broke out the high-grade.

Not merely any old high-grade, nor even any old well-aged high-grade, but the stuff that had been distilled at about the same time Mearing's species learned to brew beer.

He filled three cubes, not politely three-quarters up but to the rim, and sealed the tops. Then he drank half the remainder from the neck of the bottle, and passed it to Optimus, saying, "Finish this."

Ratchet wiped his mouthplates, and felt the sweet fire trail all the way down into his spark. He pushed the three sealed cubes across to Optimus as the Prime lowered the now-empty bottle.

Ratchet said, "Take two of these and comm me in the morning. If, when you've sobered up, you still want to investigate this, take the third as hair of the turbofox that bit you, and comm me. We'll talk."

The Prime looked hard at Ratchet, evaluating his expression. Then, because among other things Optimus was a master tactician, he collected the cubes, rose, and departed: went to his quarters, and followed his doctor's orders.

To the letter, as it turned out. The turbofox bit hard.

In the morning, however, it was not Optimus Ratchet saw first, but Charlotte Mearing who walked into his med bay fairly early in his workday, which meant very early in her own.

"Director," he said politely, sorting and organizing bolts as tall as she was. "How may I help you?"

"I'm not sure, Ratchet. May we have a closed-door discussion?"

"Certainly." Courteously, he lowered his hand, and she stepped onto it.

Once the door was closed, he was seated at his desk, and she herself seated on an elevated chair accessible from the desk, Mearing said, "Just before Chicago, I had a cancer scare."

Ratchet's browplates took flight.

Mearing shrugged. "It turned out to be nothing. But I had a very bad three months of constant retests, while I worried that it wasn't 'nothing.' I also knew that if it was bad, there was little I could do about it except seek treatment, and hope. It clarified a great number of things for me."

Ratchet pinched his noseplates between two digits, and vented. "Director," he said, sounding tired, "there are certain key personnel we Autobots work with on whose health I keep constant tabs. You're one of them. I assure you, I would have come to you immediately with that news, and probably with better treatment options than human allopathic or alternative medicine can now provide, if I had seen anything that roused my concern."

"You don't ask permission to scan us?"

Ratchet smiled, being a wily old fish who was swimming in the shark-infested seas of Cybertronian politics while Mearing's ancestors were busy developing alphabets. "For critical personnel, I maintain a watch. My processor is set to compare the latest - call it a glance, it's pretty focused, and not a full scan - with those of three, six, nine, and twelve months previously. If I find something that should be looked at, I ask permission to scan. If the subject doesn't wish me to, I tell them why and how I became concerned, so that they can pursue it or not. It is the right of all sentient beings to be free, and equally their right to be idiots if they must."

Mearing did not laugh, but her expression might have lightened a bit behind the formidable glasses. "I see. I also can't argue with your conclusion, Ratchet."

"Mmm. When did you get the bad news?"

"Three days before Chicago. I had to put aside my concern for my own well-being, and Optimus and I worked in close contact for very long hours for a very long time to put that battle behind us. I fought for your presence on this planet, thought I'd lost, and then learned that I hadn't lost at all. By the time I found that I'd nothing to be concerned about regarding my own health ..." she shrugged. "Optimus and I were both exhausted. He was healing from grievous battle damage as well. When it hit us ... we were working on the same problem, on the phone with different agencies, happened to look up and catch one another's glance, and there it was. For both of us."

"Well," Ratchet said, and left the single word there, to die a lonely death.

Mearing took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. "Ratchet, Optimus and I ... we'd like to see if our friendship could include physical closeness as well."

Ratchet sighed, and opened That Drawer again. He extruded a pair of tweezers from one finger, and used them to pick up a bottle of Scotch and set it on the table by her chair. Two glasses, one almost the capacity of the full bottle, followed.

"Will you be mother?" he said to Mearing.

For answer, she filled the larger glass, retaining for herself only a stiff double, and pushed it across. Then she poured and knocked back about half her own drink; the Dickens with eight o'clock of a fine, sunny morning. It's five o'clock somewhere.

"That's really good," she said. She turned the bottle, read the label, and said, "My God, it's as old as I am! It's aged better, though."

"That's always puzzled me," Ratchet said, having had a polite liter-and-a-half sip. "You humans have such a revulsion for your elderly, and specifically for your elderly femmes."

"Oh," said Mearing, relaxing a bit, "that's from the sixties. It doesn't really go back any further than that, the ageism, I mean. Unfortunately the sexism is far older and more pervasive."

"Hmm. I'll have to read some more social history."

"Try reading literature. It takes for granted the attitudes of its moment. Try some Dorothy Sayers mysteries. They'll show you the biases rampant, and accepted, throughout the first two-thirds of the last century."

"That's a good idea, Director, I'll look into it. Thank you. It seems though that I have gotten off-track. Let me run through a list of problems you and Optimus would be facing. Scale, for one, and not in ways you might expect. You won't be able to lock optics while you make love, but that's the least of the issues. The range of his pelvic thrust at orgasm probably exceeds your own height."

"So he'd drive his penis, which is of course made of metal, right through my brain."

"His spike, yes. Your body would probably split along the midline to accommodate it before that happens."

"Very well, you've made your point. And?"

Hmmm. That hadn't worked. Ratchet hadn't expected girlish squeals of terror from Mearing, but he did think – he would not say "hope" even to himself – that a graphic description might have put her off.

"Okay. Next up, overcharge, what you would call orgasm, is for us an electrical event."

"Us too," Mearing said with a very small smile.

Ratchet almost returned it. "Director, you wouldn't survive the voltage or wattage it entails. Either one with a minimum of the other would be very uncomfortable for you. And neither are anywhere near minimum, with us."

"So, let's see. Thus far I'd be split, brain-dead, and fried. What's next?"

Mearing was ex-CIA, and Ratchet knew a few among his own people who performed that function: Mirage, for instance, was as amoral, and practical, a Cybertronian as ever ambulated, and Jazz had been too. But this was his first deep conversation with a human of that subspecies.

And, like Mearing, "Bring It" was never far from either Cybertonian's lip plates. If someone Brought It, Mearing knew she could Return It With Postage Due. She probably held the title of world's hardest ass.

Hardest squishy ass, anyway. Optimus', of course, was made of metal. Otherwise it would be a dead heat.

Ratchet thought for a moment. "I can't speak for Optimus in this matter," he said eventually, "so you will have to talk to him about it. But you cannot spark-merge or hardline with him; these are the sources of our greatest emotional satisfaction during sex. What you do together will always be limited to physical gratification. For your species, that seems to be enough, or perhaps the maunderings I read concerning sex are indicative that it generates other events for you as well."

"It does," Mearing said. "Again, I'll refer you to our literature."

Ratchet rather thought that on the whole he'd prefer to talk to Seymour Simmons, but he was too wise, and too kind, to say that out loud. "Ask Optimus to translate some of Carbure of Praxus' poetry for you, or perhaps Farspeed's. They're widely regarded as two of our finest poets. That'll give you some idea of what you're missing, and what he'd be missing as well."

"Very well. Will you e-mail me those names?"

There was an infinitesimal pause. "Done."

"Thank you. Cybertronians have in the past used holographic projections."

"Yes. They're constructed of light. Here's mine. Shake hands with it."

Mearing's hand passed right through Ratchet's, and the projection dissolved.

"Very well," she said. "What about hardlight?"

Ratchet's helm tilted to one side, and his optics narrowed. "Where did you learn about that?"

"Ratchet, I was given twenty thousand pages of material to read and absorb when I accepted this position. It was in there somewhere. I no longer remember the source citations."

"Mmm. E-mail them to me, please, when you find them. Well, here's my hardlight projection. Shake hands with this one too."

Mearing did, and got the kind of shock that comes from walking across a large nylon-carpeted room in leather-soled shoes when the air is very dry.

Perhaps that was appropriate, as she had no intention of wading through those 20K pages again. But the thought occurred that it would keep that one among her hapless assistants whom she liked least both busy and away from her for an indefinite period ...

Ratchet said, "If you'd like a further demonstration, I suggest we french-kiss, as that will be roughly comparable to contact with the moister, more private mucous membranes."

A very busy four seconds later, Mearing moved away. "So that's what electricity tastes like," she said thoughtfully. "I can't see that leading to an orgasm."

"Possibly not," said Ratchet. "It didn't do much for me, either." (Reformatting one's own tongue on the fly usually does not.)

"All right, so that's out. Let's talk Earth-style robotics. Is there any way to construct something that one of us could ride in or on, or drive, or whatever the appropriate verb would be?"

"Let me think about that. –Are you willing to put up with some fairly intrusive arrangements?"

"Ratchet, every damn' year I have a Pap smear and a mammogram. Next question."

The medic frowned in thought, his eyes much farther away than the walls of his office. "It would be easiest," he said, "to construct a human-sized simulacrum for Optimus. Uses fewer raw materials. The tradeoff is the size of the fine components: creating those will be fairly fiddly work, but First Aid can do that."

"Yes, and I am afraid that if you constructed a body a human could transfer consciousness to, it would kick over quite a few ethical and religious beehives."

Ratchet researched beehives, kicking them over, the subsequent behavior of the bees involved, and last the effects of bee stings upon human beings before this made sense. "More trouble than it's worth?" he ventured, brow plates wrinkled.

"Much more trouble. So much trouble that I'm afraid of that much trouble. The president would very likely make it an order to cease and desist, and I would have to pass that order on to you."

"Really? Then I had better confine myself to a simulacrum for Optimus, although the possibility of the other fascinates me."

Mearing said only, "So, how would you link the simulacrum to Optimus' nervous system?"


"Handwavium?" Mearing felt no need to read science fiction, the source of this term, since she was living it.

"Yes. Meaning I know how, but I don't want to share."

Mearing gave him a genuine smile. Since it didn't affect security, she would respect Ratchet's secret. "Well," she said, rising, "thank you for your time. I think I'll go talk to Optimus about this. We'd discussed it, but we wanted your input."

"Talk to Smokescreen as well; he has acquired considerable accreditation in human psychology, and his understanding of our own psychology is really quite wide. I'm going to suggest seeing Smokey to Optimus too, next time I see him. When I gave the Prime my input last night," Ratchet said, offering her his hand, "I wasn't terribly encouraging, but you may tell him you changed my mind."

"Really? I'm flattered. Thank you."

"Don't thank me until we get there. And to be frank, Director, I continue to think this is the worst idea I've been presented with in many a long vorn."

"Why is that?" she said, clutching his thumb.

"A mating between a Cybertronian and a human would never happen in nature. Therefore, it's an unnatural act," Ratchet said with finality. "I give you my word that I will do my best to resolve the issues for you, but I find the idea distasteful."

"I see," said Mearing. They had reached the doors to med bay, and she stepped delicately off his palm. She wondered if, when she got done being affronted by that statement, she should send Ratchet to the first available sensitivity training. But she would need to think about it; she knew herself well enough to be aware that she wanted to do so right now only because she was a) really quite angry and b) not tall enough to kick his skidplate.

And she was not going to go talk to a shrink. She wasn't crazy.

Well, wait a minute. She liked, to the point of "considering having sex with," a thirty-foot-tall non-organic being from another galaxy, who was only considered "male" because English didn't have the concepts, let alone the pronouns, to encompass what "he" really was.

Okay, she was crazy. But she still wasn't going to go see no damn' shrink.

"Well, our plans means that Optimus has to spend time being fiddled with. I know how much I enjoy that; I don't imagine he likes it any better."

Ratchet snorted. "Director, you have no idea how much trouble I take to give my Prime good memories when he needs my help. He won't have a problem with it, not with any of it, thanks to euphoric sedatives."

"Ratchet," said a shocked Mearing, "you're a monster."

He bowed to her from the waist. "A monster from outer space, madam Director, at your service."