Title: The Diego Diaries: A Love Story
Rating: M (relationships between the mechs)
Warnings: I write slash. Even if it isn't explicit or even shown, my character's relationships are m/m almost always. It is the emotional payoff of writing about the male perspective that makes me a slash writer. However, I seldom write explicitly. I let you make most of the pictures.
Pairings: Ironhide/Ratchet is the main pair. Optimus Prime and Prowl are secondary. Other standard pairings and mechs are in and out of the weave.
Summary: A day in the life of an 'old married couple' and the effect they have when a personal prank and private joke go global. So to speak. I find the humor inherent between Ratchet and Ironhide hilarious. It is actually built into them I think. This will be many parts. This is part one.
Disclaimer: I do not own them or their world. I merely write in it and nothing exchanges hands here but laughs and the pleasure of their company.
The rain was falling from the monsoon overhead, sheets of it for days and Ironhide was bored out of his processor. Out on the vast tarmac, crews still worked, planes still came and went. Nothing else was different. However, if you didn't have to leave your shelter, it was all good. Occasionally, an organic would come out of a hangar or building and run as fast as they could to wherever they were going, some even carrying shelters over them as they did. He considered that word, umbrella, it being an almost unspeakable set of syllables and while he did, he was only dimly aware of something moving behind him.
"There you are."
He would have sighed if he could have. He just stood quietly, trying to be invisible. "Hmpf."
"Don't hmpf me, bad boy," Ratchet said, moving to stand next to his prey.
"Bad boy?" Ironhide asked, glancing at the smirking figure beside him. He accessed the internet, the multiple possibilities presenting themselves. "Bad boy as in 'good boy'? Bad boy as in 'amazing and tremendous'?"
"No, 'bad boy' as in bad boy. I've been looking for you for a while," Ratchet said, folding his arms across his chassis. "You are overdue."
"Maybe you better check yourself. I've been here all along. Could be, Ratchet, you need a long internal diagnostic," Ironhide concluded, the concern in his voice fooling no one.
"I think we did that last night," Ratchet said, smirking at his bond mate. "I didn't hear complaints then."
Ironhide snorted. "No. You were adequate."
Ratchet moved to stand in front of Ironhide, unconcerned that water was now pounding on his back and aft. "Adequate?"
Ironhide, devilment rising in his processor, smirked. "Adequate."
"Ah," Ratchet said, water beginning to run over his helm and down his face and shoulders as he straightened, his body language defensive. "I give you the best vorns of my life and all you can say is 'adequate'?"
"I'm not complaining," Ironhide said, smirking slightly.
"Well, since we're grading performance," Ratchet said, moving slightly closer. "I think you need a few upgrades, Ironhide. I find that there are certain performance levels that could use a bit of enhancement."
"Such as?" Ironhide asked, slight offense ghosting in his remarks.
Ironhide stared at Ratchet, his optics searching his bonded's face for the punchline. There wasn't one. "I squeak."
"You squeak. Get to medbay and don't make me have to come find you again." Ratchet, satisfaction on his faceplates turned and walked inside, leaving a perturbed and quizzical Ironhide behind.
Ironhide stood in the doorway, ruminating on himself. He didn't hear the voice below calling out to him. Will Lennox, a raincoat held over his head stood looking up at the distracted figure looming in the doorway. "Ironhide!"
Startled out of his thoughts, Ironhide looked below. "Will Lennox," he said, his mud-flavored voice acknowledging him at last.
Will shook his raincoat and folded it, turning his gaze upward again. "What's up, Ironhide? You look distracted."
Ironhide looked at him for a moment, considering something. "May I ask you a question?"
"Sure," Will replied, a grin forming on his face. When Ironhide asked a question, it could be and always was just about anything, half the time something hilarious. "Ask away."
He considered Lennox for a moment and then leaned down slightly. "Do I squeak?"
=0=A few breems later
He sat on the med berth, jacks and wires poked into him as if he was a switchboard at a telephone station in the 1930's. He sat restlessly, an expression of exasperation on his faceplates as Ratchet ran an indepth exploration of his internal and external fitness. The medic murmured to himself, taking notes on datapads, subspacing and retrieving a number of them as he mused on Ironhide. Glancing up, their eyes meeting, Ratchet smiled. This was his domain, the place from which great kingdoms rose or fell. He could ground even Prime if he felt it was warranted. "Quit fidgeting."
"I'm not fidgeting," Ironhide said, fidgeting. "I think the humans have too many words."
Ratchet snorted. "They have words for their words."
Ironhide nodded. "Perceptive of you."
Ratchet glanced up, smirking. "How perceptive of *you*."
Ironhide, considering the smugness with which Ratchet was conducting himself once more felt the slight of their educational attainment differences. Ratchet was the best medical mechanic ever produced by Cybertron and he was a warrior. Albeit, he was the most feared warrior in the Autobot Army but nonetheless, he a soldier first, last and always. "Indubitably," he said, turning his eyes and staring at the hallway where a couple of mechs were standing, waiting their turn.
"Ah, you have been frolicking in the fields of the internet once again," Ratchet said, a smile forming on his face. "Tilt your helm."
"I do not rollick," he said. Ironhide tilted his head and another jack was inserted, a buzz in his processor tingling all the way to his lips. He touched them and scowled at Ratchet. "That makes my lips tingle."
"I know something else that does," Ratchet said softly, waggling his eyes at his partner.
Ironhide felt himself grinning in spite of himself. "You're feeling frisky."
"I have my moments," he said even more quietly. He glanced at the door and then back at Ironhide. "I would show you if there wasn't a line waiting for me."
"That sounds suggestive," Ironhide said, smirking.
Ratchet thought a moment and then snorted. Glancing back at the doorway, then toward Ironhide, he smiled. "I guess it pays to advertise. Sit up straight."
Ironhide straightened and fell silent as Ratchet took his arm and began to raise, lower and rotate it, watching the socket's performance as he did. "It works."
"That's for me to say," Ratchet said, laying it down and walked to the other side. He took that arm and began to do the same.
"Am I done?" Ironhide asked with exasperation.
"No," Ratchet said, putting down that arm and writing notes on a datapad he had laying on the medbed. He turned and began to pull plugs out of Ironhide's body, closing panels on his neck and arms and in the middle of his chest. "Now you are."
Ironhide grunted and slid to his feet. "About time," he said.
"I don't tell you your job, don't tell me mine. Go, blow something up."
Ironhide grinned at Ratchet and nodded. "Think I will." He walked to the door, pausing. Glancing back at Ratchet, he smirked at the mechs waiting. "Enjoy," he said. Then he turned and walked out the door.
Ratchet watched him go, pleased that he was functioning above 98%. It was in the range he labored long and hard to maintain for Ironhide. Old slagger, Ratchet thought as he turned and called the next victim to come forward.
Ironhide walked to the firing line, setting down his newest configured ammo samples. He had decided to find a way to pierce armor more completely and his incendiary cartridges were a new mix. As he did, a number of organic soldiers watched him, pausing from their own shooting to see what he would do. Ironhide's idea of blowing things up was only just this side of the Apocalypse for the soldiers that shared range space with him.
He was in the zone, his element and so with barely a nod, he concerned himself with what he was doing. Round after round he fired, the explosions becoming more and more fine tuned as he calibrated his weapons for the new mixture. He wasn't particularly paying attention until he heard Ratchet's name mentioned. Without watching them, he dialed in his audios to listen.
"I can't imagine it. It would be like two trains running into each other."
There was laughter at the remark and then he blew something up so they paused and watched. Then they began again.
"Ratchet is such a gruff old guy, one of those "you kids get off my lawn" sorts of personalities. I can't imagine how they got together. And what is that all about? Last time I heard, they were both guys. Mechs means guy doesn't it?"
There was general agreement and they were about to continue speaking when Ironhide 'accidentally' dropped a cartridge their direction. It hit the ground, a huge cylinder filled with death rolling their way causing them to turn and run as fast as they could. He looked at them and when they stopped, staring at him with fear and exasperation, he smiled slightly. "Fire in the hole," was all he said.
=0=Later that day
Will Lennox and Robert Epps finished their last briefings and turned, walking together across the wet tarmac toward the Autobot complex. Underground chambers had been cleared and remodeled to accommodate the living and working space of Autobots ranging in size from sixteen to nearly thirty feet. It was diplomatic space, no humans allowed to enter unless invited. It was their private sanctuary although some organics, Lennox and Epps for instance, were given carte blanche to come and go.
Entering the main above ground hangar, crossing the expanse toward their Ops Center, they spotted Ironhide. He was walking toward the Ops Center himself and when they called him, he turned and waited. Reaching him, they waited as he reached down and opened his hand. Both of them climbed on board and he arose, turning and walking once more for the Ops Center.
"You're quiet," Lennox said, looking up at Ironhide.
"You're not," Ironhide said, noncommittally.
They rode in silence and he put them down, moving to peer at the long range sensor screens that monitored movements in the solar system beyond Earth. Nothing much was happening but for the small comet that had finally wend its way here after a hundred years of being elsewhere.
"Nothing going on today, Ironhide," Sideswipe said.
Ironhide grunted. "Sounds acceptable. Boring but acceptable."
Will and Robert snorted. "You off?"
Ironhide looked at him, puzzling the question and then assumed they meant was he free, not was he crazy. "Yes."
"We'd like to talk to you. Privately," Lennox added.
Ironhide looked at them and then paused, glancing around. Holding out his hand, they climbed in and he turned, walking past Prowl who was bending over a station in deep conversation with Smokescreen. They wandered out and down the corridor to the open hangar and out toward the doorway. He put them down and hunkered down, bringing himself closer to eye level. "Is this adequate?"
"Yeah," Will replied, suddenly nervous. "Uh, Ironhide, I have some questions I want to ask you, to clear up something in my head."
"Your processor is bothering you," Ironhide replied, his optics direct and intense as he watched both of them 'fidget'. *That* is fidgeting, Ratchet, he thought. "What is it?"
Will gulped and looked at Robert, who was looking at a fascinating crack in the concrete floor. Will swallowed and raised his hands placatingly. "I don't want to pry and I know that if you think I was, you would tell me that I didn't need to know what I'm asking and I know you know how much I respect all of you, especially you, Ironhide."
"You sound like Bluestreak. What is it?"
For a moment, Will just stood there staring at him earnestly. Then he asked. "What is the thing between you and Ratchet?"
The Diego Diaries: "Deal, schlemiel."
"Thing? What thing, William Lennox?" Ironhide asked, more than just a little aware of what the soldier was trying to ask.
Will shrugged. "I was wondering … I heard a few of the men talking about you and Ratchet and I was wondering … that is, I was wanting to know …" He glanced at Epps, who blinked at him before looking away. He frowned slightly. "That is, *Epps* was wondering. Ask him, Bobby."
Epps glanced up at Lennox, his eyes round with surprise and fear. "You're the leader. *Lead*."
Lennox put his hands on his hips and glared. "You brought the question to me."
Ironhide glanced from one to the other as they argued, mildly amused at the fuss but concerned. No one among the organics knew much about the personal relationships among the Autobots and they kept it that way. Most of them, like his own with Ratchet were not exactly welcomed in their society, especially the military. "Is there a question?"
They paused, looking up at Ironhide, parsing his face, searching for anything that would indicate amusement or at the very least, a lack of irritation. Lennox sighed, defeated. "I would like to know if you are willing to tell me about the relationship you have with Ratchet. What I am wanting to know … not for prurient reasons you understand … I know when something is not my business. I am just wanting to know for myself … that is so that I can be … efficient. Yes, efficient in my leadership. Of men. The men." He stumbled to the end and stood exhausted, sighing deeply.
"My relationship with Ratchet," Ironhide said, considering the millennia of time that encompassed. "What part of my relationship do you wish to know? He is our chief medic, our comrade-at-arms. There are many sides to our relationship."
Will rubbed his face with his hands, his normally even complexion paling under the stress of the moment. "I guess, Ironhide, what I'm asking is if you and Ratchet, that is, you and Ratchet … are you in a personal relationship?"
Ironhide looked at them, his expression one of thoughtfulness. "Yes."
For a moment, it was silent and then they both released the breath they were holding. "Well, that's … that's all I guess … thank you, Ironhide."
Ironhide looked at them, finding in their unease both a sense of amusement and irritation. For a moment, he considered walking away and then he changed his mind. They were small and young. It was time that the elders of their profession taught them a lesson. "May I ask why you are interested in this, Will Lennox?"
Will shrugged and brought his hands up, his expression one of embarassed confusion. "Actually, Ironhide, the men are talking about it. They are curious."
Ironhide shook his head, pondered the U.S. military's lack of maturity in the area of certain personal relationships and considered his options. He could school them on the lack of gender hangups the Transformers had acquired over millions of years, multiple non-sexual manners of reproduction and the severe scarcity of femmes making such concerns moot or he could kick their afts. He chose the latter. "Ratchet and I are in a bonded relationship. There is more I could tell you, things that are intensely important, but I don't know that you would be able to keep the secret. That is how important it is."
Will nodded. "I understand."
"We keep a lot of secrets, Ironhide," Bobby Epps said biting the bait, glancing at Will as he spoke. Will's expression turned downward at the exact moment Epps's went up. He turned and smiled at Ironhide. "I don't expect you to tell us anything, Ironhide, but I want you to know that if you ever have to confide in us, your secrets go to the grave with us."
Ironhide pretended to mull this over, turning his head this way and that as if deep in thought. Then he nodded. "That is good to know, Sargent Epps. The burdens are heavy. Perhaps …"
Lennox, bursting at the seams to ask dozens and dozens of his own questions made one more trip to the well of his conscience and took a deep draught. "You aren't under any obligation, Ironhide, to breach a confidence or confide in us."
"I realize that, but I am swayed by Sargent Epps." He stood up and looked around, bending down and putting his hand out. They startled and then moved forward, sitting on the hand as Ironhide rose and walked out of the doorway and across the tarmac to an empty hangar, looking this way and that as if seeking spies. By the time they reached the hangar, the rain was falling again slightly, the hammering of it on the tin roof pleasant. Ironhide put them down and then walked to the door, peering out dramatically this way and that. Then he turned, regarding the two men quietly. Moving toward them, he hunkered down, looking at them with a solemn optic. "You must swear never to breathe a word I tell you to anyone."
They both nodded, Epps and Lennox crossing their hearts, heads bobbing in agreement as they shifted back and forth on their feet in nervous agitation. Their eyes never left Ironhide's face and it was with effort that Ironhide controlled his mirth. "Well, then. I will tell you what you must never transmit to another living soul."
They nodded again, nearly bursting at the seams with nervous energy.
"Ratchet and I are bonded. Have been forever, since Primus was a pup. What most people don't know … what no one really knows …" He paused and looked around, then fixed a steady optic on the two men. "Optimus Prime is our son."
The room was silent and the two men stopped moving, their jaws falling open in surprise. They stood like statues and then Will swallowed. "Your son? You and Ratchet? You have a *son*? *Optimus*?"
Ironhide stood and turned, making effort to control himself as he pretended to look around for spies. Then he turned and hunkered down again. "Yes," he said, considering his joke. "We actually have several younglings."
"You *do*?" Will asked, blinking. "More than *one*?"
"Sure," Ironhide said, pausing to consider how big his courtsmartial charges would be if he included grandchildren. "Ratchet, he's quite the brooder."
Epps gasped and put his hand over his face, covering his eyes. Will swallowed hard, nodding. "Well, thank you, Ironhide. That … we will keep your secret, I promise you."
"I knew you would, William. I am sure that Optimus and Bumblebee would be glad to know that you are keeping the secret."
"Bumblebee?" Epps asked, looking up surprised.
"Grandchildren," Ironhide replied, smiling.
The two men stared at him and then they made their excuses, slipping out of the hangar together. Ironhide walked to the door and watched them go, the rain falling harder as they fled. Then he walked back inside and laughed himself half to death.
=0=Medbay, later on
"You said what?"
Ratchet stared at him, his optics wide and his mouth hanging open.
"You heard me."
Ironhide smirked, feeling pretty well pleased with himself. It had been a prank worthy of Sideswipe and Sunstreaker. And the best part of it all was, they were sworn to keep the 'secret'. Of course, being the contrarian that he was and bearing a healthy dosage of propriety, Ratchet was scandalized. "You told him that Optimus was our youngling and that Bumblebee was our … what is the word you said?"
"Grandchild?" Ratchet said, looking at him with astonishment. "We don't even have children."
"We didn't before but we do now. I told them we have several."
Ratchet just stared at him, visions of courtsmartials and summary executions flitting across his processor and then he paused, other images filling his thoughts. "We don't have children, Ironhide. We don't have them or grandchildren and at this rate we never will."
The change in atmosphere almost wrenched Ironhide's helm off. He looked up at Ratchet, putting down the incomprehensible tool lying on a table near his desk and looked at the medic more closely. He was gazing at Ironhide with a strange expression, sadness and something else and then it changed to one more familiar. He turned and faced Ratchet, his optics wary and the urge to flee rising in him. "Ratchet? You have that look."
"What look?" Ratchet asked, a thin humorless smile forming on his lips. "Actually, Ironhide, you fill me with ideas."
"Oh, no you don't," he said, turning and walking to the door. A wench, flying silently through the air clanked on his shoulder and he turned, facing a fully roused bondmate.
"Oh, yes, Ironhide. You brought it up. You have to deal."
With that, he turned and fled.
=0=Late that evening
"You're still up?"
The deep sonorous tenor of Optimus Prime jolted Ironhide out of his thoughts. He turned, schooling his face not to grin and nodded. "Can't recharge."
"That's where I'm heading," Optimus said, pausing to stare at the night sky. "More are coming."
"I know. I'm pleased," Ironhide said. "Feels more like home when they come."
"Would feel more like home with sparklings," Optimus proffered, his gaze fixed on the break in the clouds and the light of a big full moon.
Ironhide glanced at Optimus, startled. "Sparklings? What have you heard about them?"
Optimus looked at Ironhide, a strange look on his face. "Nothing. What have you heard?"
"Nothing," Ironhide said, turning and gazing at the moon. "Nice moon."
Optimus glanced at Ironhide, wondering what was going through that mech's processor. Then he turned, grinning slightly. "Home is where your family is. Our family is coming, Ironhide."
Ironhide smiled and nodded, unaware how true those innocent words of encouragement actually were. Optimus nodded and moved off, walking toward the hangar where home and bed were. "Good night, Optimus."
The night was quiet and the moon was full as Ironhide stood watching the sky. The rain was finally stopping.
The Diego Diaries: "Give me an R, give me an A, give me a C …"
Prowl walked into medbay, a datapad in his servo and a question in his mind. Three new mechs had arrived the night before and an even dozen were on their way. More were sending messages ahead and the excitement in the ranks was increasing. He paused, his door wings fluttering as he considered a number of tasks all at the same time. Ratchet was bent over a computer terminal, researching something that he could only guess. "Ratchet?" he asked, his tenor soft and low.
Ratchet looked up, surprised and then moved quickly, standing between Prowl and the screen. "Prowl. What can I do for you?" A big smile formed on his facial plates.
Prowl considered the odd brief interaction and said nothing. Sometimes the medic was beyond his processor. "I would like to know when you will have the medical reports on our newcomers ready and also, I would like to know what you might need, if anything for the ones on their way?"
Ratchet considered that and smiled. "I think we're up to it unless they come dismantled and shipped by UPS."
A brief moment as Prowl accessed the proper interpretations and then a small smile formed on his handsome face. "Indeed," he said softly. "Thank you, Ratchet." With that, he turned, pausing. "I will expect the reports."
"You will have them," Ratchet said, continuing smiling as Prowl walked out the door. As soon as he was gone, so was Ratchet's smile and then he turned and began his researching once again.
=0=On a plane back to Diego Garcia
Ironhide awoke from recharge, the turbulence disturbing not only his rest but that of the other Autobots in the plane.
:Bluestreak, are you awake?:
Sunstreaker's voice whispered over the interlink, stirring a number of others who were hanging on the cusp of recharging.
:Sunny?: the gunner whispered. :Everyone is recharging.:
:Everyone was.: Mirage's refined tones reached everyone in the group as the organics sat dozing obliviously.
:You sound aggravated, Mirage.: Sideswipe said. :I figured you would have all the rest you wanted out in space. Don't tell me you're losing your step.:
An elegant snort was all he deigned for response and as they flew, he began to ask questions. :The organics … they fight rather well.:
:I think they do. What do you think, Sunny?: Blue asked, his cheerful voice a balm to everyone's audials.
:I don't care for them. Ask Sideswipe. They get in the way.:
:I like them. Epps is a good warrior. He's got guts.: Sideswipe began.
The conversation continued, Ironhide listening with half an audial. He found himself concentrating on his bond, on the secretive actions and pointed, even heated gazes that Ratchet had been giving him since his little prank. On the firing range and on the field, the soldiers were just as dedicated and respectful to him now. It made that moment seem a lapse. But then, he was aware that they would not be so bold as to challenge him or insult his family to his face. He would have to have another conversation with the soldiers.
He replayed the conversation with Optimus again and again, the expression on his face and his remarks about sparklings were nervous making. Ratchet had also taken up the moment and was gyrating off into some sort of direction he couldn't figure out, probably making emotional quicksand in his lab just for Ironhide. The prank was brilliant but it was sparking off in a lot of directions he didn't count on.
Sparking. Poor choice of words, Ironhide, he said to himself. The odd feeling of sneaky subversion that filtered through their bond, a bond that he had noticed was tamped down at different times of the orbital cycle he might add was making him nervous. Ratchet was up to something and he dreaded what it might mean to their easy-going and unencumbered lifestyle.
The transport continued onward, drawing them closer to Diego Garcia and the comforts and eccentricities of home.
They arrived just as the sun was setting on the horizon, the shimmering sea a wonderful and utterly alien sight to the Transformers. An ocean of water, that was brand new and many of them spent time looking at and wandering around its sparkling edges. Ironhide drove off the plane, the muggy warmth of the night welcomed after the cold and snowy taiga of Russia. He moved slowly forward, transforming at the door of the hangar that led to their personal spaces.
Nodding goodnight to one and all, he trudged sleepily down the broad corridor that led into the underground installation. His quarters, a shared personal space with Ratchet was at the end of the two lane road that once was occupied with delivery trucks bringing supplies to the various great underground rooms and hangars. He found his door and gathered himself, opening their bonding link just a fraction to gauge what was on Ratchet's processor. Recharge reached him and he relaxed, punching in his code and opening the door.
It was dark but he could see Ratchet's form in the darkness, reclining on the berth. Carefully removing his cannons and other pieces and parts of his personal arsenal, he walked over and peered down. Ratchet was offline, his face gentle and youthful in repose. Ironhide smiled, the same flutter rising in his spark as it did the first time he decided they were 'meant for each other'.
===Way the frag long ago
"You've got to be kidding," Ratchet said, deep in the workings of Ironhide's knee assembly.
"Nope," Ironhide said, biting on his lower lip as Ratchet tightened the last nut in place. The medic turned, regarding Ironhide with a level and appraising gaze. He grinned. "I'll tell you what, Ironhide," he began. "If you pass inspection in the sack, then you have a deal."
Ironhide, no newcomer to the ball, blinked from the brazen calculation of the offer and then he grinned. "Sold."
That night had been a barn burner and they had clenched the deal, a deal that would span the lifetime of some stars and would land them here, an alien world with alien hosts fighting the same old slag as ever.
He smiled and with as much effort to be careful and quiet as a mech his size could muster, Ironhide lay down on his side of the berth. He laid still, waiting on his side for a moment and then as if programmed, Ratchet turned on his side and spooned directly behind him.
"You are putty in my hands," Ironhide thought to himself with a sigh.
Ratchet, awake and aware that Ironhide had come back smiled slightly. "Hey, bad boy. I see you made it."
Ironhide started a moment, then relaxed. "We all did. No injuries."
"I know. I'm still here aren't I," Ratchet murmured, his servos stroking Ironhide's arm. They traced circles in his armor, sliding down the brawny slope of his shoulder and then slid along his waist, resting on his hip.
Ironhide, lying without a movement considered this opening gambit. It seemed that Ratchet was goading him into doing something he was too tired for once to attempt. "You lost something, Ratchet?"
Ratchet's smile dimmed a moment as he considered the odd question. "What?"
"Your servo. I was wondering what you were looking for," Ironhide said, a small smile quirking on his faceplates.
A tight grip on his hip elicited the correct amount of painful yelping from Ironhide as Ratchet pinched the wiring underneath the armor plating on Ironhide's hip. "You sure know how to ruin the mood."
"I don't have a mood, Ratchet. I'm hardly awake. The younglings talked on the plane ride all the way back. It's hard to threaten someone when you're tied down and under a net."
"I don't like those travel arrangements."
"You and me both," Ironhide said, grasping Ratchet's servo and pulling it and his arm more tightly around himself. Ratchet, thwarted, snuggled against him, scheming.
"What?" he asked, simulating fatigue in his voice.
"I was wondering …"
The words hung in the air.
"What?" he answered again, smiling in spite of himself.
"I was thinking about what you said to the soldiers, what we talked about."
It was silent a moment. Ratchet peered up and over Ironhide's broad frame. He could see Ironhide's optics and they were offline. He lay back, wondering if the big black mech was pulling his leg. Then he smiled. What a stupid expression he thought even as he quelled the urge to pull Ironhide's leg off and club him with it. He snuggled closer and closed his optics, redrawing his plans for victory even as recharge claimed him again.
=0=Ops Center, Autobot Barracks
Prowl glanced up as Optimus Prime entered the command deck, smiling back at him with weary optics. The huge mech took a seat and stretched. "Welcome back, sir," Prowl said.
"Thank you, Prowl," he replied. "Anything happening that can't wait until tomorrow?"
"No. We have an ETA for the next ten bots in tomorrow at 1400 hours our time."
"Good," Optimus said, smiling. "What a change. More Autobots in than we can almost use."
Prowl chuckled softly. "True. Such a dilemma."
He grinned, admiring the clean crisp beauty of his sub-commander. "Well, if that is all, I'll go recharge."
"Actually," Prowl began, the small nagging moment with Ratchet creeping back upon him once more. "Ratchet."
Prime nodded. "Acting oddly, giving Ironhide strange looks especially when he isn't looking."
Prowl nodded. "Yes. It's odd. I know you are close to Ironhide and I wondered, unless it's a personal matter, if you thought something was wrong between them."
"I hope not," Prime said, worried. "I am not aware of any difficulties but you know those two. They would never tell each other let alone anyone else."
"Do you think they might need an intervention, someone to go and speak with them that might help them through whatever difficulty they might be facing?"
"Perhaps," Prime considered. "Let me think about it, watch them for a few days. If nothing comes up on radar, we may have some relaxation coming."
"Most overdue, sir. I would suggest that you take advantage of that too. I can handle some of the more mundane meetings and record others," Prowl said, his no nonsense expression falling in place.
Prime smiled and nodded, rising. "Comm me if you need me. I'm going to recharge."
"I will," Prowl said, rising too. "Good night, sir."
"Good night, Prowl," Prime said with a warm smile. He turned, feeling the mech's gaze upon him and when he reached the door, he looked back. Prowl was back to work once more, making the plates spin. You may suggest whatever you wish, Prowler, Optimus thought to himself as he finally tore himself away and walked to his quarters to recharge.
=0=End of parts 1-3