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Echoes of the Past

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Anodyne walked him back to his quarters without a word, though his field was full of sorrow and worry.  Only when they were back within the confines of the small room did Ratchet slump to the berth and say, "I don't even know what to do with myself."

He wouldn't have admitted that to anyone else, but Anodyne was different.

Anodyne crouched, and met his gaze. "Ratch, you'll be back at work fairly soon. They can't spare you forever. There's currently a lull in the fighting, though, so they can give you some time to recover."

"Anodyne ..." Ratchet stopped, not even sure about what he wanted to say.

"Shh, Ratchet. You don't need to apologize. I can already feel that you are sorry for what you did and said earlier."

He looked sharply away, no longer able to meet that kind gaze. However, he realized that he had been thinking about an apology.

"Ratchet, I am going to be around for you. I'm not going anywhere. You're stuck with me. But .... I won't be here as often as I'd like. They are using me quite a bit to scan mechs for slave coding. My carrier and Blaster and I are taking shifts." Anodyne frowned. "And Jazz needs an attendant at all times, so sometimes they assign me that duty, when they require someone with my level of security clearance."

He would be all alone ... he didn't think he could bear the silence.

Anodyne's chest plates shifted open; he deployed Skitter with a quick clatter of gears. Skitter transformed in mid-air, landed on her feet, and promptly leaped up into Ratchet's arms.

He caught her in mid-air out of sheer reflex, and she snuggled into his arms. He held her stiffly, unsure what he was supposed to do with an armful of cybercat.

"Skit will stay with you when I'm not here." Anodyne smiled at his symbiont, who nodded firmly.

"I don't need a babysitter!"

Anodyne just looked at him. "You can insult me, but don't insult Skitter. She likes you, and she's not nearly as tough as I am."

True to his word, when Ratchet woke the next morning he found a message in his queue from Anodyne. 'Dyne had been called off to 'path some incoming soldiers.

Skitter was sprawled on the bedside table, head on her paws.

"So ..." he wasn't sure what to say to her. Despite his friendship with Anodyne, he just hadn't had much to do with Skitter. 'Dyne and the cybercat were bondmates, but she'd often only returned to Anodyne to recharge. When she was around, she frequently had her nose in a book in some out of the way corner of the room. For lack of anything else to say to her he said, "How are your repairs holding up?"

She blinked at him, and for a moment he thought she was going to pull a Ravage and pretend to be mute. "I'm fine," she said, after a moment, "and Anodyne reminds you that you are not to be doing medical stuff until cleared by the base psychologist."

"I was just asking," he grumped at her, and then just to be contrary, scanned her. He scowled, "You have a few unhealed microfractures of your struts."

One good blow and her pelvic girdle would shatter. He recalled she'd had a wall fall on her when Iacon had been leveled.

"Which is why I'm on medical leave still," she replied, calmly. She shared Anodyne's unflappable disposition. "I am not considered critical to the war effort, so we cannot spare the resources to repair damage that will correct itself with time."

True enough. The repairs would be easy to make, however -- he could do it in his quarters. He had a nanowelder in his subspace, and a couple vials of local anesthetic ...

"Ratchet," she said, sitting up, "No. I don't have to be 'Dyne to know what you're thinking.”

Petulantly, he said, "You wouldn't even trust me to fix you?"

"It's not about trust, it's about rules." She stretched, moving with fluid grace that showed she was not in any actual pain. "I'm on restricted activity too, which means I can't go for a run. Why don't we go for a drive?"

He didn't want to, not least of all because people would see him away from the medical center and wonder why he wasn't doing his primary duty. None of the other medics were able to take any free time for themselves, so if they saw him going for a pleasure drive they would -- he told himself -- know he was on a psych leave.

Shame filled his spark. He should be stronger.

"No," he said, shortly.

She frowned at him. "Okay, then, let's go to the commissary, at least. I'm craving energon goodies."

"No!" That would be worse. To be seen goofing off, buying frivolous things, when he should be working?

She sat down on her haunches and regarded him with a scowl. Her field was very hard to read, even allowing for how tiny she was. Then she sighed. "Anodyne says you're probably worried about what people will think of you."

"No!" He denied that a bit desperately. "I don't give a damn."

"Bullshit." The human profanity came easily from her vocalizer. "Don't you care what Anodyne and I think? Because I think you're being a weenie, and Anodyne is angry that you're not willing to go places with me. He's trusting you to take care of me and expecting me to sit in your quarters all day is not nice."

He bristled. He was not a coward. And he wasn't being deliberately mean to her!

"Anodyne says our opinions should matter more than other people's," she added.

He wanted to snap that she wasn't his friend, but that wasn't fair to Anodyne -- or to her. He huffed a sigh, reminded himself that he was old and cranky and didn't give a damn what most people thought. In his entire life, he'd only really respected a few mecha -- Optimus, foremost among them -- and only their opinions should matter.

He missed his bondmate so badly. Grief suddenly welled up, so sharp that he very nearly cried aloud. His spark hurt.

His sparkling, who had been very quiet, suddenly flared into his awareness with a fierce spike of anxiety.

"Ratchet?" Skitter said, and then suddenly jumped into his arms. He caught her reflexively, and her field was full of comfort and sorrow, and he couldn't help but hold her close. She was small, and warm, and relatively innocent in her youth, and he found himself wanting to cling to that.

He wanted ... he wanted to make her happy. He didn't want to see her upset, or bored, or lonely. She was, he realized, probably chafing at her own medical restrictions.

"C'mon, kid," he said, finally, heading for the door. "What do you like to do for fun?"