Disclaimer: I only own Transformers in my dreams. All characters are the property of their respective owners.

The medbay was blissfully quiet in the middle of the night cycle. First Aid entered the dimly lit room, grateful that it was empty. Ratchet was the on-call medic for the night and he was probably finally recharging in his quarters. If anyone but the medbay staff entered, the medic on duty would get a notification and be there in a klik; Aid was glad that his entrance would not wake Ratchet from his well deserved rest. His mentor had been overworking himself again. With a tired sigh the young mech sat down at a console and turned it on, choosing a random topic from Telatraan's extensive medical library, hoping that some studying would distract him and maybe tire him out enough for his systems to cycle down.

He wouldn't be able to tell how much time passed as he was reading. Immersed in the text he did not hear the door on the CMO's office open, or Ratchet's quiet steps.

"Aid? Is something wrong?"

"Ratch!" First Aid swivelled in his chair to face him.

The wrench-thrower looked at the screen and frowned. "Fuel tank perforation? Is there something I haven't been informed of?"

"No! No, I just... I couldn't recharge so I decided to study a bit."

The frown eased a bit. "Well, you look tired enough now. You can always finish it later."

First Aid lowered his gaze. "My recharge protocols won't initiate." He looked up with hopeful optics. Maybe Ratchet could override them? But his mentor just pulled close a nearby chair and sat down to be on optic level with him.

"Tell me what's bothering you." Trust Ratchet to see right through him.

The Protectobot's shoulders sagged as he hung his helm. "I don't know what's wrong with me. Lately I have been feeling so sad and empty... I don't feel like being alone but I can't stand company, not even my gestalt's. Energon has lost its taste, I can't cycle down and- and I—I just feel so... useless," he whispered.

"Useless?" Ratchet echoed dully.

"Useless as a medic. Useless as a soldier. Useless as an Autobot."

There, he said it.

He could feel Ratchet's cerulean optics studying him intently. "You're depressed," the CMO said after a brief silence.

First Aid searched his memory banks for symptoms and treatment of depression. "That means I will need enriched energon with copper and magnesium additives twice a cycle, right?"

"No," the chevronned medic stood up, compelling First Aid to stand up as well.

"No?" it was Aid's turn to echo last word.

"What you need is a wrench to the helm and for someone to tell you that you are being stupid," the elder medbot muttered, pulling him into a firm embrace despite his words. After a jolt of initial surprise First Aid relaxed and leaned into the hug allowing Ratchet's energy to wrap around him and gently soothe the rugged edges of his own EM field. Cherry red servo rubbed his back plates in calming circles.

"You're certainly not useless, Aid. What brought this on?" the CMO demanded softly. But the Protectobot only clung tighter to him, his engine hitching in a sob. Ratchet let out a series of clicks meant to comfort sparklings, his EM field pulsing with affection and protectiveness. The apprentice medic buried his face in the crook of Ratchet's neck. He wished he would never have to part from those comforting servos. Thankfully his mentor showed no signs of wanting to break the embrace anytime soon.

"Listen to me, Aid. You don't have to answer but listen to me, alright?" He nodded against the white plates. "You are a very talented, capable and competent medic. You have yet to make a mistake..."

That forced First Aid to respond: "But I couldn't save him!" he cried out, vocalizer cracking with static.

Another series of binary clicks and the Protectobot's shoulders relaxed minutely. The older medic instantly knew what Aid was talking about. During their last battle with the Decepticons a nameless green seeker got shot down while flying over the Autobot group. Medical protocols kicking in, First Aid broke the formation to help him, unfortunately all his effort was in vain. Ratchet talked to him after the battle, repeatedly assured him that it was not his fault, but obviously his words fell on malfunctioning audios.

"Youngling, his trinemate deactivated. I'm sorry if I haven't made it clear enough that you did nothing wrong..."

"How can you know?" A burst of static. "You weren't there!"

"I know because: one, I trained you myself; two, I trained you well; three, I listened carefully to the description of your steps and they were all correct; and most importantly, I saw his trinemate deactivate."

Not trusting his vocalizer to initiate, the young Protectobot sent his answer over the comm.

::But trine bonds are not like mate bonds! If a seeker deactivates, his trinemates do not have to follow him!:: Besides, the seeker's injuries were not life-threatening. Aid must have missed something vital...

Ratchet shook his helm. "That's only true of bonded seekers or seekers with sparklings. I'm talking about a reason to keep functioning. Unless they have a strong-willed bondmate or a little one to protect, they won't bear the pain. I saw a perfectly healthy seeker wither away – in a hospital full of medics, right before our optics – breems after his trine leader deactivated. In war, where no mate bonds are formed and no sparklings are born, you couldn't have done anything to save him. And if you think I could have, think again. I'm not almighty. You did well, youngling."

The only indication that Aid heard him was the trembling of his frame. Ratchet was worried for a klik but then he felt First Aid's EM field emanating relief. The younger medic held on tight to the warm chest plates, relishing the scent of his mentor. Ratchet meant everything will be alright, somehow.

"You still with me, Aid?"

He nodded against the CMO's shoulder.

"Do you know how many patients I haven't been able to save? Seven hundred and sixty eight. Does that make me a useless medic?"

First Aid's visor rebooted in surprise. He lifted his helm to look the infamous Hatchet in the face. "No. Of course not! You are the best medic ever!"

A tired, amused smile. "I am not. But if you truly believe it, trust me when I tell you that you did nothing wrong, okay?"

He nodded.

"Promise?" Ratchet insisted.


"Good," the older medic grunted approvingly and pulled him close once again. First Aid was grateful. He needed it. "Now, what was that about being a useless soldier?"

"I am Defensor's weakness," he mumbled. "How can we fight if my core programming is to do no harm?"

The red and white medic hmmm'd. He predicted it would end like this. He told them having a medic as part of warrior gestalt team was a bad idea. But no, Mr. Super-Advanced Battle Computer believed he knew better, while Prime didn't even bother listening. Yes, the Autobots were in dire need of more medics but still... It was cruel to the poor youngling.

"Aren't you forgetting something? Defensor's primary purpose isn't terminating Devastator or any other Decepticon gestalt. You don't even have to hurt anybody. All you and your brothers have to do is distract the enemy combiners and prevent them from causing harm to our warriors, as well as humans and their property."

::Thank you:: said the Protectobot as his engine hitched in another sob.

Ratchet stroked his helm, like a creator would to his sparkling. "And if you ever say that you are useless as an Autobot again, I'll really throw my wrench at you; don't think I won't," he threatened, brusque words belied by his soft tone. "Haven't you noticed how much they like you? Everybody from those pit-spawn twins through Dinobots, our resident scientists, Minibots, special ops team, Aerialbots, Praxians... Even Red Alert lets you touch him when he's fritzing, and that's saying something. Every single member of the Ark's crew is fond of you. And it's not because you are part of the Defensor gestalt, not even because you are a promising medic. It's because you are a good friend with a gentle spark and compassionate nature." He tightened his arm-servos around his apprentice, trying to convey what was hard to put in words. "You are important to us. I am proud of you, First Aid. I'm proud of the mech you became and I'm honoured to be your codewriter. I love you, youngling. I care for you. You matter to me. And even if you decided to join the Decepticons tomorrow, I would still love you. Remember that."

Aid felt his spark pulse in response to Ratchet's words, suddenly at a loss what to say. His vision was filled with static, vocalizer temporarily offline and there was a ball of emotions threatening to tear his chest apart from the inside...

::I love you too, creator::

Belatedly he realized his slip. Ratchet wasn't his creator, he only gave the Protectobot his core programming. First Aid liked to secretly imagine what it would be like to have Ratchet as his creator but he never meant to call him that. Yet instead of correcting him, Ratchet's EM field responded with happiness.

Having been a medic for a very, very long time, Ratchet could tell the exact moment when First Aid finally gave in to exhaustion, systems shutting down one after another. He waited for a while, simply holding his young apprentice. Creator... The simple word did things to his spark.

Bending down he slipped his servos under the youngling's knees and lifted him up. Not that Aid was a lightweight, far from it. But being an older model, Ratchet received his medical upgrades on Cybertron shortly before the war and it allowed him to pull, push, drag and carry mechs much heavier than him. The door to the CMO's office opened after recognizing his energy signature. He stepped inside and carefully laid the younger medic down on the berth. It was a special berth with memory foam for fliers and doorwingers gifted to him by Jazz when Ratchet saved his sorry aft (or what was left of it) after a mission gone wrong. It took Ratchet eleven earth rotations – eleven days during which he worked tirelessly, barely stopping to refuel – just to stabilize the slagger's spark; only to databurst a set of instructions to Wheeljack and fall into emergency stasis lock when finally succeeding. The crazy saboteur left the berth in his office, knowing that Ratchet spent more time there than in his quarters anyway. When questioned about it he claimed that these berths were so sinfully comfortable they made even workaholics of Prowl's calibre recharge more regularly. Begrudgingly the wrench-thrower had to agree. It did make recharge sound alluring.

Smiling at the memory Ratchet pulled out a cable from the built-in recharge port and plugged First Aid in to help him recharge faster and more effectively. Then he disabled Aid's internal alarm with a medical override and officially put him off duty for the duration of the next shift, assigning himself as the medic in charge. It would be Ratchet's third consecutive shift but he didn't mind, he was used to pulling triple shifts. Not that he would ever allow First Aid, Swoop or Wheeljack to even think about doing it. That done, he looked at the berth again. It was sinfully comfy, the medbay was miraculously empty for once and all the reports were submitted... Sighing in defeat he punched a few buttons and the berth expanded to accommodate a flier with large wings. He climbed on and sent the command to dim the lights. The last thing Ratchet felt before his recharge protocols kicked in was First Aid unconsciously gravitating towards the source of heat and snuggling up to it. He smiled, wrapping a servo around his creation.

When he was sure that Ratchet wasn't returning to the medbay, Sideswipe carefully returned the instruments he was planning to borrow for his latest prank. He locked the medical supplies storage room and left the way he came, feeling strangely humbled by what he involuntarily witnessed. Maybe Ratchet the Hatchet was not as sparkless as he pretended to be...

A/N: Thanks for reading my first TF fanfic. Reviews are loved and appreciated...