Chapter 1: Pronouns and Midwives
Three words. It had taken but three slagging words to turn Ratchet's life as a medic upside down.
"I'm pregnant," Carly had said, practically beaming with joy.
Not all of the Autobots present in the rec room had understood immediately, being not overly familiar with human reproduction. However, those who were better informed had taken it upon themselves to enlighten the more ignorant ones, and within astroseconds, the young mother-to-be and her husband were surrounded by a bunch of excitedly chattering mechs - including Optimus Prime himself, who was the first to shake the couple's hands.
"That's wonderful news, Carly," he said warmly. "My congratulations to both of you."
Ratchet had been as happy for them as everybody else, no doubt about that. He had smiled and congratulated them and - by popular request - had given a crash course concerning the basics of the human gestation period. After a night of sufficiently convivial drinking - courtesy of Jazz and Sideswipe - he had started to familiarize himself with the medical aspects of Carly's condition. Since Carly was an honorary Autobot and she and Spike spent a good three quarters of their time at the base anyway, it was no question that Ratchet would attend to her during her carrying just as much as her human doctor would.
This in mind, he had sat down and absorbed even the tiniest bit of information on human pregnancy and childbirth he could get his hands on, had consulted with a number of human physicians and had had some long talks with Carly herself to gain an insight into her thoughts on the matter. He had equipped his med bay with human medical emergency tools, just in case, had learned to handle them properly and had even persuaded Spike to act as a guinea pig while he and Wheeljack tested the devices for their functionality. And even though it was the first time for him to oversee a human carrying, and even though he was somewhat nervous and excited, he was still confident that he was suitably prepared for any eventualities that might decide to pop up during the next nine months.
This blissfully ignorant belief had lasted a whole two Earth weeks.
Bluestreak came rushing into the med bay in alt mode at something approaching light speed and hit his breaks hard, grinding to a halt with screeching tires. Ratchet managed to dodge him just in time, or the result would have been a painful collision. "Is there a reason why you're trying to knock me over, Bluestreak?" he snapped irritably, but to no avail. The young gunner was already in full rant mode.
"Ratchet, Ratchet, you have to do something, it's Carly and the sparkling, it's really bad, please -"
"What about Carly?" Ratchet interrupted, his medical programming jumping to life instantly at his charge's name.
Bluestreak's passenger door popped open, and a very pale-looking Carly got out, wobbling slightly on her feet. Ratchet knelt down instinctively and offered the young woman his hand so she could support herself on it. "What happened? Are you injured?"
Carly shook her head and leaned into his palm. "It's nothing, really," she murmured. "Just the usual thing..."
Bluestreak transformed back into his bipedal form. "I found her outside, Ratchet, and she was purging her tanks really hard, and I'm not sure, but I think it has something to do with the sparkling, and you must help her, Ratchet, please, can you help her?"
Ratchet had stopped listening at 'purging her tanks', as this told him enough. He picked Carly up carefully and gently cradled her to his chest plates as he carried her over to one of the examination berths. A quick scan confirmed his assumptions: Her β-hCG levels were considerably elevated, as was to be expected in this stage of the carrying. Her heart beat was a little too fast, and her blood pressure a little too low, but these were normal side effects of the purging. He handed her a clean cloth to wipe her face.
"Lie down for a moment, Carly," he told her, and then turned to Bluestreak who was nervously shifting his weight from foot to foot. "Stop fidgeting, you glitch, and get me some water, will you?"
The young gunner stared at him for a moment, then threw a quick glance at Carly. "Water. Yes. Of course, Ratchet. Don't go anywhere, I'll be right back, okay? And don't panic!" And with that he hastened out of the room as if Megatron himself was after him.
Ratchet refused to give this odd behavior a second thought and instead turned his attention back to his patient. Carly had wiped the cold sweat from her forehead, and her cheeks were gaining a little color again. Ratchet picked up one of his scanners and slowly passed it over the young woman's lower belly.
"Well," he said, smiling, "judging from this data, I'd say the reason for your discomfort is fine and dandy."
Carly propped herself up on her elbows, and he turned the scanner so that she could see the three-dimensional picture of the sparkling on the screen. Carly stared in fascination.
"He's growing so fast," she observed. "It's incredible. Last time he wasn't even half as big."
That wasn't quite correct, Ratchet thought, but she was right, the little glitchmouse was indeed growing at an amazing speed. It still bore more resemblance to an odd mix between a fish and a tadpole than to a human being, but it already sported a pair of big optics, four little stumps with tiny appendages that would once be fingers and toes, and most of the vital organs, including a beating heart. It was fascinating.
"He's still looking like a little alien, isn't he?" Carly said amusedly, as if she'd read his processor. She tilted her head to one side and narrowed her eyes to slits. "But I think he already has Spike's nose."
Ratchet frowned. He. Ever since the very first day of her carrying, she – and Spike also - insisted on referring to her offspring as male, and that confused him. It was much too early to specify the sparkling's sex; the sexual organs hadn't even developed yet. But then again, Carly was physically connected to the little one. Could she sense details about her sparkling that Ratchet's scanners couldn't pick up, similar to a Cybertronian carrier?
"How do you know your sparkling is male, Carly?" he asked her.
She gave him a questioning look as she sat up. "Sorry?"
"You keep referring to the embryo as 'he'," Ratchet explained. "How do you know it's male? Can you... feel that?"
A surprised smile flashed across Carly's face at the question. "No," she said, shaking her head. "No, I can't feel that, it's just... it's just the pronoun of choice, I guess." And when he blinked his optics in lack of understanding, she added: "It's what most people do, actually. You don't know if it's 'he' or 'she', but you don't want to say 'it', 'cause it's so impersonal, so you go for 'he'."
"That's illogical," Ratchet said bluntly. Carly laughed. "Yeah. Force of habit, I guess." She placed a hand onto her belly and regarded it thoughtfully. "Spike says he wants a little girl. A girl with my eyes."
Ratchet tried to imagine the little tadpole as a miniature version of Carly. "And you?" he asked. "Would you prefer a daughter, too?"
She looked up at him with the same thoughtful gaze she had given her belly. "I don't know," she answered slowly. "I haven't thought about it much. I mean, boy or girl... it's not that important as long as my baby is healthy, don't you think?"
Ratchet couldn't help but smile touchedly. Obviously the differences between Cybertronian and human creators were not so big after all. "You will both be alright, Carly," he assured her. "I'll see to it."
She smiled again, somewhat shyly this time. "I'm glad you're getting so... involved in this, Ratchet," she said softly. "Not that I don't trust my gynecologist, but this whole baby thing is so new to me and... well, it's just good to know that there's a friend keeping an eye on me... or an optic sensor," she corrected with a grin.
Ratchet would have very much liked to answer this, and be it only because of the deep surge of affectionate gratitude he felt for her at this moment. However, he didn't get the chance.
The doors to the med bay swished open with a hydraulic hiss and Bluestreak came stumbling in, carrying a stack of polishing cloths and a large bowl that gave off thin clouds of white steam. "Here's the water, Ratchet," he panted, placing both bowl and cloths onto the examination berth. "And I got these, too." He pointed to the pile of fabric proudly.
Ratchet threw a glance at the door out of pure habit, half expecting to see Sideswipe and Sunstreaker standing there and laughing their afts off at their newest prank, but there was no sign of the two Scourges of Primus. He turned back to the gunner. "Bluestreak," he said slowly and pointed to the objects on the berth. "What is this?"
"Hot water," Bluestreak answered in an 'isn't it obvious'-tone. "And some clean cloths."
Ratchet felt something in his processor grind together uncomfortably. He was beginning to get a fairly good idea where this would lead them. "And what the Pit do you intend me to do with it?"
A look of bewilderment started to creep over Bluestreak's faceplates. "I... I don't know," he said uncertainly. "But that's what they always call for in the movies when a human femme is having a sparkling. Hot water and clean cloths."
There was a moment of silence. Carly looked back and forth between the two mechs, and then she started giggling so hard she nearly fell off the berth. Ratchet pressed two fingers against his forehead, a gesture he had adopted from Sparkplug and found very useful at times like these.
"The sparkling's not coming yet, you moron," he ground out, carefully maintaining control of his voice. "All I wanted was some clean, cold water for Carly to refill her fluid reserves!"
"Oh." Bluestreak's expression changed to a mix of embarrassment and disappointment. "Oh. Okay. I can get that for you, Ratchet, just a moment, okay?" He turned to hurry out of the room, but paused again at the door. "Are you sure the sparkling's not coming yet?" he asked Carly.
"Quite sure, Bluestreak," she answered, thoroughly amused, and the young gunner trotted away with the air of someone who had just been well and truly disillusioned.
"You know," Ratchet said dryly as he watched the doors close behind Bluestreak's back, "there was a reason why I picked this job. I just can't remember it right now."
"Aw, come on, Ratchet," Carly said with a mischievous grin. "Look at the bright side! I think we've just found the perfect midwife."
To be continued...
Chapter 2: Colors and Nursing
Disclaimer: I do not own The Transformers, and I do not make any money with this.
Ratchet knew that, deep inside his spark, there was a small part of him that was a sadistic little glitch of a teaser.
And by Primus, he loved that part.
“Guess what I know,” he told Spike and Carly who had come to med bay for one of Carly’s regular check-ups.
“A couple dozen galaxies we’re probably never gonna see?” Spike suggested. Ratchet grinned. “True. But I was thinking more about your sparkling.”
“Is there a problem?” Carly asked cautiously.
Ratchet made a big show of rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “Well, I’m not sure yet. It might be a problem... for Spike.”
The couple exchanged a bewildered glance. “What’d I do?” Spike asked.
“Nothing, really, But Carly told me you’ve been hoping for a daughter with her eyes.”
“Yes..?” the young man confirmed uncertainly.
Ratchet fought hard not to smirk and took a seat in front of them, putting on his most regretful expression. “I’m very sorry, Spike,” he said mournfully, “but I’m afraid that this is a futile wish.”
Carly was an astrosecond quicker than her husband to catch the meaning of his words. She grabbed Spike’s hand tightly in excitement, but her eyes remained fixed on the Autobot.
“It’s a boy?” she asked breathlessly.
“It’s a boy!” Ratchet confirmed cheerfully and showed them the screen of his scanner. The fetus was about fifteen Earth weeks old, and the necessary organs had by now developed enough to determine its sex. Ratchet hadn’t been specifically trying to do so, but the discovery was one that under no circumstances could be kept a secret.
The couple stared at the scanner like hypnotized. “A boy,” Carly repeated softly. “Spike, we’re gonna have a son.”
“I’m really sorry, buddy,” Ratchet said smugly. He simply couldn’t resist.
Spike blinked a few times as if he was just waking up from a dream. He glanced first at his wife, then at Ratchet, looking by all means like someone who had been clubbed on the head with something very heavy. He took a deep breath.
“Well,” he said finally, giving the medic a challenging glare. “He can still have Carly’s eyes, can’t he?”
Ratchet lifted both hands with a smile, wordlessly admitting defeat, and Carly laughed happily and threw her arms around her husband, and he enveloped her in a fierce hug.
Ratchet had been a medic long enough to know when it was time to leave his patients alone. The moment when Spike started kissing his wife and murmured something that sounded suspiciously like ‘I love you’ was definitely such a time. He politely averted his optics as Carly returned the kiss and got up to join Wheeljack in the back of the med bay. The inventor had borrowed some of his tools and was now busy putting them back into their proper places, his audio receptors undoubtedly set to the highest possible level. But they were colleagues, and Spike and Carly considered all of the Autobots trustworthy friends, so Ratchet had felt no need to send him out for the examination.
Wheeljack’s vocal indicators flashed cheekily as Ratchet approached him. “You’re a bad person, Ratch,” he told him.
“Why that?” He pretended to be hurt. “I told them, didn’t I?”
“And you’re arguing semantics,” Wheeljack teased.
“Oh, shut your vocalizer,” Ratchet grumbled good-naturedly.
They spent a few kliks in silence, putting away the last of the tools. Ratchet glanced at the young couple fondly as they bent over the scanner he’d left on the berth, arms still around each other, pointing and talking and laughing happily.
“I’d say a celebration is in order,” Wheeljack commented joyfully. Ratchet grinned. “Fine with me.”
“I’ll talk to Prime,” Wheeljack offered. “And to Sideswipe. Surely he can provide us with something... fitting the occasion.”
There was no doubt about that, Ratchet thought wryly as he nodded his agreement. “Alright, but ‘Jack - let’s not go over the top with this, okay? Carly should not be put under too much stress.”
“Says the mech who just teased the hell out of her,” Wheeljack said, his optics twinkling with mirth.
Ratchet lifted his free hand in an attempt to smack him on the head, but Wheeljack dodged him with a laugh and made his way over to the door. “See you at the party!” was the last Ratchet heard from him, and he simply couldn’t hide his grin as the doors slid shut behind his friend.
“What happened to the energon?” Optimus asked, suspiciously eyeing the blue liquid in his cube.
Ratchet snorted. “It seems that the two banes of my existence,” he indicated the twins with a nod, “have come up with a way to change its color - to ‘fit the occasion’, as Wheeljack called it.”
The energon wasn’t the only thing blue in the rec room. The walls and ceiling sported blue garlands and banners, and the tables were decorated with small bouquets of blue Earth flowers, courtesy of Hound and Beachcomber.
Optimus smiled. “I have yet to understand the sudden significance of this color,” he said.
“Well, as far as I know,” Ratchet answered, “Spike told Bumblebee that blue was the traditional color to represent a human male sparkling. And it appears ‘Bee insisted that we stick to the tradition.”
“That confuses me,” Optimus admitted. “I was under the impression that blue was one of the traditional colors of the bonding ceremony.”
He was right, Ratchet thought. Carly had worn a blue ribbon in her hair on the day of her bonding, and had said that it was a lucky charm. “I’m not sure,” he said thoughtfully. “It seems to be a multifunctional color.”
Prime nodded. “An interesting notion, though,” he said, “that gender should be represented by a special hue. What is the color for a female sparkling?”
“Pink, I believe,” Ratchet said.
Prime’s optics flashed fondly at this, and Ratchet was pretty sure that he knew what - or, more precisely, of whom - his commander was thinking. He lifted his cube with a smile.
“To colors!” he announced dramatically. “Whatever their meaning may be.”
It turned out to be a relatively peaceful gathering. The amounts of energon consumed - blue or otherwise - were kept to a reasonable level by the watchful optics of Prowl, and Ratchet had to give Jazz and Blaster some credit, too. They had chosen a collection of background music which, though lively, didn’t heat up the vibe too much. Spike and Carly, he noticed, were the constant focus of attention, and they clearly enjoyed it. In fact, Carly looked so relaxed and content that Ratchet deemed it save to let his charge out of his optics for a while and engage into some friendly shoptalk with Wheeljack over a fresh cube of energon.
In hindsight, this was probably where the dilemma had had its seeds in.
Spike and Carly were just having a lively conversation with Hound. The music had stopped for a moment, Blaster and Jazz arguing over which song to play next, and so it happened that Hound’s question was clearly audible to the majority of those present:
“Are you going to nurse the baby, Carly?” he asked.
The young woman nodded. “I want to try, at least. Would be nice if it worked.”
It was then that they noticed how quiet the room had become. Ratchet glanced around warily. Twenty pairs of curious optics were fixed on the scout and the future mother.
“What does nursing mean?” Bumblebee asked.
Carly blushed faintly. Spike murmured a quiet “Oi” with an only half-suppressed grin, and Hound looked at Ratchet, clearly seeking help.
It was one of Ratchet’s maxims that, if ‘Bots were capable of getting into a mess without assistance, they should be able to get out of it on their own, too. “Well, Hound,” he said with malicious joy, shamelessly engaging his sadistic streak. “What does nursing mean?”
One had to admit that Hound managed to retain a certain degree of composure. “Well...” he said hesitantly, addressing the waiting crowd. “Well, humans are mammals, you see, and... and when a female mammal is having young, then her body will produce a special liquid, called milk, which serves as nourishment for her offspring. The young can suck it from special... places on her body...”
The staring continued.
“Nursing,” Hound said in a last desperate attempt, “really just means that Carly’s gonna feed the sparkling milk from her breasts...”
Silence. Not bad, Ratchet thought.
“From her what?” Gears inquired.
Ratchet felt the sudden and quite strong urge to bang his head against the nearest wall. Gears belonged to the small group of Autobots who came in contact with humans only if there was absolutely no chance to avoid it, and it just tended to show from time to time.
Poor Hound’s optics were by now practically pleading with the medic to come to his aid. Snickers became loud across the room; some ‘Bots were clearly better informed than they let show, but obviously enjoyed the green scout’s dilemma too much to intervene. Even Mirage kept a low profile.
It was Carly herself who finally redeemed Hound. “Uhm... these guys here,” she explained, pointing to her chest while her blush deepened a little.
“That’s disgusting”, Gears stated.
Obviously Hound felt obliged to defend his saver. “Ah, actually that’s the purpose of human breasts, Gears,” he said. “It’s meant to be that way.”
“That doesn’t make it any less disgusting,“ the minibot groused.
“Hey, wait a minute.” Bumblebee regarded his chest plates thoughtfully, than lifted his gaze to stare at Carly with a kind of rapt fascination. “You mean your baby can actually get his... milk... out of your chest?”
“Yeah,” she said with a faint smile. “That’s the way it works.”
Bumblebee’s optics shone with a genuine thirst for knowledge. “Can I see this?”
“Whoa, knock it off, ‘Bee!” Spike jumped in indignantly, wrapping a protective arm around Carly’s shoulders. “Nobody but me’s gonna see my wife’s... you know what.”
“But you just said that this is the way it’s supposed to be,” Sunstreaker countered in his condescending manner. “If it’s so normal, then why can’t he see it?”
Ratchet was beginning to seriously long for an impromptu Decepticon attack. Why the Pit hadn’t he just answered ‘Bee’s initial question himself and kept Hound, Spike and Carly out of it? He really needed to do something about his sadism, he decided.
He was about to activate his vocalizer to resolutely put an end to this folly, but he didn’t get a chance to utter the words.
“That’s enough now, all of you.” Optimus’ quiet yet strong voice easily drowned out the rising hubbub. He stepped into the middle of the room to stand next to the two humans. “Anyone who wishes for further information on this topic has my authorization to consult Teletraan-1’s databanks. There’s no need to further harass our guests.”
The subject was dropped only reluctantly, it seemed, but eventually Jazz and Blaster put on some new music (they had agreed on something, it seemed), and just a few kliks later, the party was back on track, so to speak.
Optimus turned to the young parents-to-be.
“I apologize for this incident,” he said. “I’m convinced neither Hound nor Bumblebee,” he threw the two shamefaced-looking mechs a glance, “intended to embarrass you.”
Carly shook her head, already laughing again. “It’s okay,” she said with a smile. “Come to think of it, it is kind of a weird concept.”
“And Hound’s explanation was pretty good, actually,” Spike added, grinning. He winked at the green scout, who suddenly looked very pleased with himself.
Ratchet cycled his vents in a deep sigh as he turned his attention back to Wheeljack. “You may call me a teaser, ‘Jack,” he said darkly. “But I tell you here and now that I am harmless compared to two over-curious scouts.”
The inventor flashed his vocal indicators at him in his version of a grin. “Wanna bet?”
All of a sudden Ratchet had a feeling that it probably would be alright to keep his sadistic streak.
Just a little longer.
To be continued...
Chapter 3: Names and Decepticons
Special thanks go to my fellow author Ironhide4ever. She explicitely asked for Ironhide's opinion on Carly's pregnancy, and this chapter is my attempt of an answer.
Disclaimer: I do not own The Transformers, and I do not make any money with this.
He honestly had no idea how he'd ended up in this situation.
One moment, he'd been on his way back to the Ark together with Spike, Carly and Ironhide, idly chatting with them over his comm, and the next thing he knew was that he was crouching on hot desert sand firing at a Decepticon patrol consisting of Wildrider and Drag Strip. There was, Ratchet thought, no logical motive to attack them; it seemed more like for some reason, the two Stunticons had their circuits in a twist today and were out for picking a quarrel with someone, no matter who.
"At least it's a fair fight for a change," Ironhide commented dryly. "Two against two."
Ratchet dodged a blast from Drag Strip's weapon and half-turned to the three humans seeking cover behind them - the unborn sparkling, he decided, counted as one.
"Spike, Carly, get to a safe distance. We can handle those two once you're out of danger."
They didn't argue. Spike, face grim, just grabbed his wife's arm, and together they started running.
Ratchet kept his sensors on them while Ironhide held their attackers at bay until they were sure that their charges were far enough.
"A’right," Ironhide growled. "Let's get them."
They dashed forward as one, meeting their enemies in a frontal attack. Ironhide's expression was one of the fiercest Ratchet had ever seen on him.
"C'mere, you little punks!" he bellowed at the baffled Stunticons. "I'll teach ya to shoot at a carryin' femme!"
It was short, quick, and dirty, and Ratchet didn't have much to do in it really, except from providing cover for his enraged comrade. Five Earth minutes later, Wildrider and Drag Strip had transformed back into their vehicle modes and were desperately trying to bring some distance between themselves and the Autobots with screeching tires. Ironhide seemed ready to go after them, but Ratchet held him back.
“Don’t,” he said. “Let them go; it’s not worth the trouble.”
With the Stunticons retreating, he turned most of his attention back to Carly and Spike, who, seeing the attackers flee, had come a bit closer again to rejoin their friends. Ratchet subspaced his weapon and made to approach them to check if they were okay.
At this moment, several things happened simultaneously.
Wildrider slammed on his brakes, did a sharp U-turn and jumped back into bipedal mode, gun already leveled. “I’m not through with you Autofools yet!” he screeched, and then he started firing.
There was the ugly, shrieking sound of metal colliding with metal as Ironhide flung himself against Ratchet’s body, throwing both of them to the ground for cover. Most of Wildrider’s shots went wide astray, but some of them hit the desert floor and catapulted sand and dirt high into the air.
And then, as quickly as it had started, it was over, and the sounds of two high-performance engines quickly died away in the distance.
Ironhide dragged himself to his feet with a soft grunt. “Treacherous little glitches,” he snarled as he offered Ratchet a hand. “You’re okay?”
Ratchet’s optics were flickering slightly from the sudden impact; he had to reset them to regain a clear view, but apart from that, his auto-repair system registered only some scratches on his outer armor. “Yeah,” he said. “I’m fine.”
Both their heads snapped around at the sound of Spike’s voice.
The human couple was crouched on the floor. Spike had his arms around his wife, looking worried and frightened. Carly’s face was pale, and her forehead sported a gash that trickled blood down her cheek. Both her hands were curled around her by now visibly rounded belly.
Everything seemed to slow down, and yet Ratchet was sure that he had never in his life moved so fast as he dropped to his knees beside them, panting slightly through his intakes. “What happened? Were you hit?”
Spike shook his head. “The shock wave threw us off our feet,” he said. “And Carly...”
“I fell on my belly,” Carly said in a restrained voice.
Ratchet had the strange impression that a part of his CPU had left his chassis and was now watching the scene from afar, while the other part was almost painfully clear and composed. He knew how he had to react, knew it from countless vorns of medical experience, and his body moved obediently, but his spark felt completely numb.
"Okay, Carly." Had his voice always sounded so strangely cool? "Try and keep breathing steadily; we'll have you patched up in no time." He unsubspaced his med kit and opened it. "Spike, lay her down, will you? I need to check on the sparkling. Ironhide -" He took out one of the cloths he normally used to clean his hands and tossed it to his comrade. "Start with her head. The blood flow must be stopped."
Ironhide's face was grim, his lips but a thin line. He caught the fabric single-handedly and, when Spike cautiously lowered his wife into his lap, started to wordlessly dab the red fluid off her face. His hands were steady, and very, very gentle.
Ratchet started by giving Carly a full body scan to make sure that she had not sustained any inner injuries - which, luckily, wasn't the case. And yet he felt a vague sense of dread as he picked up one of his more fine-tuned scanners and focused his attention on her lower belly. Carly's hands gripped a bit more tightly.
"It hurts, Ratchet," she said softly.
"You're doing fine, Carly," he assured her. "Just keep breathing and try to relax, I'll do the rest."
A strained silence settled upon their small group, only disturbed by the soft, electronic sounds of the scanner, and it seemed to take what was undoubtedly an eternity until Ratchet finally got results.
The sparkling was obviously stressed. His heart beat was too fast and his adrenaline levels too high for Ratchet's liking. But to his tremendous relief, he could not detect any injuries on the little glitchmouse.
What he did detect, however, were the slight, irregular muscle contractions in Carly's lower body.
"Well?" Ironhide asked sharply, breaking the silence. Ratchet only threw him a quick glance before turning to the humans.
"Your sparkling's unharmed," he told them. "A little agitated, but he'll be fine." He hesitated a moment before adding softly: "But it seems the impact has caused spasms in your uterine muscles, Carly."
"She's in labor?" Spike's voice carried a distinct edge of panic.
"No," Ratchet answered firmly. He wasn't quite sure how 'labor' was defined, but he stubbornly refused to think about that now. "This is merely a slight anomaly triggered by the fall. I don't think it's a danger to the sparkling, but I have to take care of it before we can move you, Carly."
"Then stop babblin' and start workin'," Ironhide snapped at him.
Ratchet took a moment to shoot him the darkest glare he could manage. Truth was he didn't know if the sparkling might be in danger or not. Carly wasn’t bleeding, which was definitely a good sign, but he had no idea what he could do to stop the cramps. A human doctor, he knew, would probably inject magnesium or another anticonvulsant substance, but Ratchet had neither the equipment nor the appropriate substances at his disposal.
He desperately racked his processor for another option. With a Cybertronian, he would most likely apply low current frequencies to prevent the sparkling from separating from its parent spark too early, but this was not really an alternative here...
But why the Pit not? he thought suddenly. The human body functioned on electricity nearly as much as a Cybertronian one. If he could just find the correct counter-frequency that would make Carly’s muscles relax...
Ratchet plunged both hands into his med kit and impatiently fished around in it for a moment before he found what he was looking for: a small taser whose normal mode of operation was to electrify Cybertronian wires to test their proper reactions.
“What’re you gonna do?” Spike asked.
“I’m gonna stop these cramps,” Ratchet said with determination, explaining his plan in taut words. Spike looked downright alarmed, Ironhide worried and dubious. But Carly, with her hands still wrapped protectively around her belly, was staring straight up at him. Her eyes were wide and a little over-bright in her pale face, but her gaze was steady and trusting. She gave him a small nod, and that was all the encouragement Ratchet needed.
He set the taser to its lowest possible level and carefully attached it to Carly’s lower body. “You’ll feel warmth, and perhaps a slight tingle,” he explained. “And if you feel that something’s not right, no matter what, I want you to tell me right away, you hear me?”
Carly nodded. “Okay,” she said softly.
Ratchet hooked the taser up to his scanner and initiated the first pulse. Carly jumped a bit at the sensation, and Spike flinched in sympathy, but Ratchet barely registered it. All his attention was on the data his scanner displayed.
‘Could he live?’
He winced a bit at the unexpected comm transmission. Ironhide was still busy tending to Carly’s wound and did not look at him.
‘The sparkling. If he was delivered now, could he survive?’
Ratchet felt all his hydraulics tense up at the question. ‘No’, he answered curtly. ‘A human sparkling delivered that premature is not capable of surviving. And it would be a great danger for Carly, too.’
Ironhide’s head jerked up, his optics squaring off with the medic’s. ‘Then do somethin’, you lazy glitch!’
A warning message popped up in Ratchet’s HUD, informing him that his spark pulse frequencies were much too erratic to be healthy. ‘I’m doing everything I can, you slagger!’
Again an almost unbearable silence settled upon them. Spike was holding his wife close, his face almost as pale as hers. Their hands had met and clasped over her belly.
“Tell me,” Ironhide said suddenly, “did ya choose a designation already?”
Both Spike and Carly looked up at him in bewilderment, and so did Ratchet.
“You mean a name?” Spike asked eventually, frowning. “Well... no, not really. We’ve made a list, but we haven’t decided on one yet. Though I think ‘Donald’ is among the top five...”
“No, it’s not,” Carly said.
“But I’m pretty sure I put it down...”
“You did. I crossed it off again,” she informed him. Spike looked confused. “But why?”
“’Cause there’s no way in hell my son’s gonna be called ‘Donald’,” Carly said with finality. “We're not having a duck, Spike.”
Ratchet wondered briefly what a water bird might have to with this.
“So what would your choice be, Carly?” Ironhide inquired.
Her eyes wandered down to her belly. “I don’t know,” she said softly. “I always liked the simple, everyday names, like John, or Thomas, or Daniel...”
“It should be somethin’ to represent strength and courage,” Ironhide mused aloud. “Did ya think ‘bout a Cybertronian name?”
Spike laughed. “Hey, that’s a great idea. We could call him Ironhide II. Or Ratchet Junior.”
“The Pit you will,” Ratchet grumbled, keeping his optics firmly fixed on his scanner. This, he decided, was not the right moment for his circuits to be suffused in such a strange warmth. Spike was grinning, and Carly giggled lightly, but then her face turned suddenly somber. “Hey.”
Ratchet’s head snapped up immediately. “What is it?”
Carly’s hands felt over her belly warily. “It doesn’t hurt anymore,” she said, blinking as if in surprise.
Ratchet checked his scanner, adjusted its sensitivity, checked again.
The data came up clear. No detectable contractions.
“It seems we did it.” And why the Pit was his voice still that smooth and emotionless? “How are you feeling, Carly?”
“Okay.” She eyed her belly suspiciously. “It still feels a bit tense, but... I think I’m fine.”
It sounded a bit like a sob when Spike exhaled deeply. Ratchet's CPU took note of the audio input, but the information got stuck somewhere in his data banks, not reaching his spark. He knew that he should be relieved, should be happy, perhaps even proud, but all he felt was a cool, clinical efficiency. “Alright,” he stated in what his fellow Autobots had dubbed his ‘doctor’s voice’ and disconnected the taser. “Let’s get moving and get her to a hospital; I’m not taking any risks here.” Without waiting for an answer he subspaced his med kit and transformed into vehicle mode, popping open his back doors. “Come on, get her in.” He opted to ignore the dark glance his friend threw him.
“Take this, Spike,” Ironhide said, handing the young man the cloth to cover Carly’s wound before he carefully helped them both to their feet, supporting them as they climbed into Ratchet’s interior. When they had settled down safely, he slammed the doors shut, with more force than was necessary, in Ratchet's opinion. “Okay, Doc. We're set.”
Ratchet didn’t wait for his companion to transform. He fired up his engine and pulled off, not looking back and without a word.
He would think afterwards that it had been a strangely normal drive. Every sensor he could spare was set firmly on the two humans inside of him, providing him with a thermal detector image of both their bodies and their basic vital signs. Both their heartbeats were a bit fast, but otherwise they seemed alright. He could hear them talking over his internal speakers.
“You know, my uncle’s name was Donald,” Spike said.
“For the last time, Spike Witwicky,” Carly retorted half laughing, half exasperated. “It may be the President’s name for all I care, but you’re not gonna call our son 'Donald'!”
Once they reached the city, Ratchet turned on his sirens. He rarely used them, but he figured that in this special case it would not hurt to draw some attention to themselves. Besides, the power and control the - admittedly - piercing sound represented felt oddly good to him today, reassuring in a way it normally never was.
Ironhide had tapped into the local emergency radio communication to let the hospital know they were bringing in a patient, so when they arrived at the emergency entrance, two female paramedics were already waiting to take Carly into their care. Ratchet jumped back into bipedal mode and gave them a brief summary of the situation and his impromptu treatment. One of the femmes helped Carly onto a gurney while the other was already busy applying a compression bandage. "Don't worry," she said. "We'll take over from here."
Spike, still holding his wife's hand, glanced up to them. "You guys gonna wait here?"
"You bet," Ironhide said darkly. Spike gave him a quick nod, and a moment later, all four of them had vanished inside the building. Ratchet suddenly found himself standing in the empty backyard of a human hospital, alone except for his fellow Autobot, and with no sound to catch his audio receptors but the steady hum of the city traffic, muffled by the massive building separating them from the main street.
"What d'ya think," Ironhide asked after some moments. "How long's it gonna take them to patch her up?"
Ratchet carefully leaned against the wall of a storage building behind him. "I don't know," he said honestly. "We'll... just have to wait, I guess."
And wait they did. Ironhide joined him at the wall silently, but Ratchet didn't pay him attention anymore. Every now and then, employees of the hospital would cross the yard, staring curiously at the two Autobots, but he didn't take notice of them, either. His optics remained firmly fixed onto the entrance through which his charges had disappeared. And suddenly it felt like the weight of today's events was finally bearing down on him, drowning him in a weariness that was too intense to be purely physical. His body sagged against the wall heavily, and a strange sensation in his arms caught his interest. When he lifted his hands to his optics, he found that they were shaking.
Ratchet stared at his fingers as if he'd never seen them before. What was this? He'd been a medic and a warrior for the better part of his existence, had been in situations like today more often than he cared to remember. He'd been elbow-deep in other 'Bots' spark chambers with a gunfight raging on around him, for Primus' sake, but he could not remember the last time his hands had trembled like this.
As he kept staring, fingers the same dark color as his own suddenly wrapped around both his hands, giving them a short but firm squeeze.
"Get a grip now, kid," Ironhide told him in his gruff, but not unkind manner. "You did a fine job back there; they're gonna be okay."
Ratchet found that he could not muster the strength to answer, or even to object to the endearment. He just let his arms sink back to his sides and returned his gaze to the hospital's entrance.
He had just decided to have Wheeljack thoroughly check his internal chronometer - for it was simply impossible that time should be able to pass that slowly - when the doors opened again and Spike came out, still a bit pale and looking quite tired, but with a broad smile on his face.
"All right, guys," he said. "The doctors want her to stay for two or three days, just in case, but otherwise they're both just fine and dandy."
For a moment Ratchet regretted having left his wall to approach the human. Considering the surge of relief that seemed to turn all his hydraulics into rubber, a little extra support would have been nice.
A faint smile was curling the edges of Ironhide's mouth. "Good to hear," he said, and Spike returned the grin. "Thanks for your help, guys," he told them. "You've been really great. Especially you, Ratchet."
He should say something nice and sensible, he thought, something like 'You're welcome' or 'Don't mention it' or 'I'm glad everything turned out well'. What finally came out of his vocalizer was a gruff "Just doing my job."
Spike laughed softly. "Lucky for us you are," he commented. "I'll be staying here overnight with Carly, but I need to get home to collect some things, you know, clothes and stuff. Can one of you guys give me a lift?"
"No problem." Without hesitation, Ironhide returned to vehicle mode, and Spike went over to open the driver's door.
"Well," Ratchet heard himself say, "I guess you won't need me here anymore. I'll go and report back to base, if you don't mind." He had no idea why, but he suddenly longed for the quiet solitude of his private quarters.
"Sure thing, Ratchet." Spike gave him a short wave as he slipped into Ironhide's driver's seat. "And thanks again." The door closed, and Ratchet's optics followed them until his companion's taillights vanished around the corner before he remembered to transform and pull off himself.
He floored his gas pedal as soon as he had left the city traffic behind. Holy Primus, he needed a stiff drink. Or a nice, long visit to the washracks. Or an opportunity to throw a wrench at someone; he didn't really care. Anything was okay that would make that damn shaking stop.
For the next three days, life on the Ark was adapted to what Prowl had christened the 'hospital duty roster'. The crew put remarkable efforts into making sure that at least one Autobot was available at the hospital twenty-four hours a day, running errands, driving Spike back and forth between his wife, his home and his job, and just being there for moral support. Ratchet inwardly marveled at the deep sympathy and eagerness to help that his fellow Autobots were displaying. Nobody wanted to be left out, it seemed, even 'Bots like Sunstreaker and Cliffjumper, who were not particularly famous for their compassion or closeness to the humans. On the afternoon Ratchet saw Gears and Optimus Prime depart into the direction of the city, together with Spike and a box of chocolate, he decided that he had now seen everything and could die in peace when his time came.
On the fourth day, Carly was finally released from the hospital.
Ratchet was in his office, going over some medical files, when she came to see him, accompanied by Spike and Ironhide. With relief he noticed that, apart from the thick layer of adhesive tape on her forehead, she looked as healthy and happy as ever, her hair tied into a loose ponytail and her eyes brightened by her smile. She beckoned him to lift her up, and when he had done so and had set her down onto his desk carefully, she enveloped as much of his hands as she could reach in a warm hug.
“Thanks, Ratchet,” she said. “Thank you for everything; you were so great.”
“Are you fully functional, Carly?” he asked her. “Both of you?”
She smiled. “Yeah, we’re just fine. But my gynecologist strongly advised me not to get into any more fights with Decepticons,” she added dryly.
Ratchet snorted through his intakes. “I can agree to that.” For some reason, his optics flickered over to Ironhide as he spoke, and were just quick enough to catch the grim shadow that passed over the other’s faceplates.
“By the way,” Spike jumped in, “you guys might like to know that we’ve decided on a name.”
“Oh, let me guess," Ratchet joked good-naturedly. "It's 'Donald', right?"
“I was able to prevent the poor child from suffering unnecessarily,” Carly said wryly and pointedly ignored Spike’s pouting as she placed both hands onto her belly. “No, it will be ‘Daniel’.”
Daniel. Ratchet took some moments to let his vocalizer get used to the sound of this. “A good name,” he said eventually. “What do you think, Ironhide?”
Spike grinned up at the ‘Bot at his side. “Sorry, pal,” he teased. “No warrior’s name, and no Cybertronian name, either.”
The tiniest of smiles tugged at Ironhide’s lips at this. “Uhh, it will do,” he muttered.
Ratchet leaned back in his chair comfortably. Daniel. So from now on, he would no longer be attending medic to Carly and her sparkling, but to Carly and Daniel.
The thought made him smile.
Two days after this, Ratchet was called to med bay in the middle of the night.
He found a very serious-looking Optimus Prime there, and a very battered-looking Ironhide who was leaking energon all over his med bay floor from several deep wounds. Optimus took him aside and emphatically instructed him to not only treat this incident strictly confidential, but to also keep it out of Ironhide’s personal medical files.
What he forgot to mention was what the Pit had happened.
Ironhide wasn’t much help either, keeping his vocalizer firmly shut while Ratchet tended to his injuries, but the look he gave the medic in answer to his questions was enough to send a cold shiver down Ratchet’s backstruts.
He was suddenly quite sure that he knew what Ironhide had been up to tonight.
Of course, it might have been pure coincidence that in all their run-ins with the Decepticons during the next few Earth weeks, Wildrider and Drag Strip were never present.
To be continued...
Chapter 4: Cradles and Milk Shakes
Disclaimer: I do not own The Transformers, and I do not make any money with this. The same goes for McDonald's and their milk shakes.
"You're nuts," Carly declared bluntly.
Ratchet shot her a dark glare. "Listen, young lady," he growled, "I am a certified professional medic and have been so long before your species even learned to walk upright. So if I give you advice concerning your safety, it would be nice of you to at least consider it."
"But my safety isn't 'concerned'," Carly shot back, obviously just as irritated as he was. "I've been in and out of this ship on a daily basis for the last... oh, I don't know how many years. And I'm still alive, in case you haven't noticed. I won't be kicked out suddenly just because I'm pregnant."
Ratchet cycled his vents in an exasperated sigh. This definitely wasn't going as planned... After their little run-in with Wildrider and Drag Strip, he had come to think that it might be better for Carly to spend not quite so much time around the Autobots. This was a military base, after all, and thus certainly not the right place for a carrying femme. Carly should be in her own home, should prepare for the sparkling's arrival in peace, and he could just come by and visit her for her regular check-ups...
Obviously, she wasn't too keen on the idea.
“We’re still fighting a war here, Carly,” he reminded her. “I cannot guarantee that you won’t get hurt again. The Decepticons might attack this base at any time, and you know it. They’ve done so before.”
“And have never managed to cause more than a few scratches,” she countered. “I trust Red Alert to make sure it stays that way. And what else could possibly happen to me here? It’s not like one of you guys is gonna step on me or something.”
“Don’t tempt me,” Ratchet said darkly.
“Look, Ratchet,” she answered, frowning a bit. “I get that you’re worried about me, and that’s really sweet of you, but I don’t want to leave. I feel comfortable here, and I like having all you guys around me. Spike’s had to work so much lately...” She looked a bit glum as she said this, but didn’t give him a chance to answer. “And besides, the whole crew is so great about this baby thing... Last night, I woke up at 03:00 a.m. dying for a chocolate milk shake. And when I wandered the halls I met Sunny and ‘Sides in the rec room, and they drove all the way to the nearest McDonald’s and got me two milk shakes plus a burger, fries and a Caesar salad ‘cause they worried that Danny wouldn’t grow properly if I didn’t eat enough.”
Ratchet snorted. “Fast food... yeah, that fits the two morons,” he muttered.
“My point is,” she continued, “they all get involved so much... and I want them to be involved. You guys are like my family by now. Danny's going to grow up surrounded by Autobots, so the sooner he gets used to giant alien robots from outer space the better, don’t you think?”
She had a point, he couldn’t deny it. But still, he was responsible for her safety, and thus couldn’t just let the matter rest.
“I understand you, Carly,” he said. “But I’m your medic, and my principal duty is to see to your well-being. I'm just not sure if the Ark is the right place for you at the moment."
For some reason, Carly seemed to be brought up short by that. She ran a hand through her hair, obviously contemplating the situation. Then she turned to him with a soft sigh.
“I don’t want to fight with you, Ratchet,” she said. “If it’s that important to you, I’ll... I’ll give it some thought, okay?”
Ratchet blinked his optics at her reflexively, surprised by this sudden change of mind. He’d expected the argument to go on for at least another breem. “Okay,” he said eventually, still a bit taken aback. “Okay. Thank you.”
Carly smiled. “Walk me back to our room?” she asked.
She looked a bit sad, Ratchet noticed, and he couldn’t deny the slight pang of conscience he felt at the thought. “Of course,” he answered quickly. "No problem."
The old storage room that served as accommodation for their human friends was of course still Cybertronian-sized, but there was no doubt that Wheeljack had worked miracles to adjust it to Spike's and Carly's needs. Lowering the door button Carly was activating now to their size had been the easiest task. The room featured a human-sized berth, a window that could be opened, a kitchenette and even a tiny backroom with sanitary facilities, though Ratchet didn’t know – and didn’t want to know – how his friend had managed that. And of course, bit by bit the young couple had brought in dozens of human odds and ends to make themselves comfortable: carpets, curtains, pictures, a TV set, a microwave, books and an impressive collection of sound and image carriers, much to the delight of Blaster and Jazz.
In the course of time, Ratchet had been in this room so often that he’d come to know it just as well as his own, and this was probably the reason why the new piece of furniture immediately caught his optic when the doors swished open. And not only his, it seemed.
"Oh," Carly said in astonishment, pausing in the doorway. "What's this?"
The object in question had been placed into the far corner of the room. Carly stepped inside and looked around as if expecting to see a visitor, and Ratchet instinctively ran a quick scan, but there was nobody there but the two of them.
Curiosity getting the better of him, he followed his charge inside for a closer look.
The mysterious object turned out to be a human sparkling berth.
The tiny bunk was completely made of wood. The material had been smoothed out and polished with so much care that the sunlight streaming in through the small window made it gleam softly. The feet had been carved into a semi-circular form so the whole construction could be rocked gently from side to side. The bars that formed the recharge basket were finely lathed, and the headboard and the foot of the berth were decorated with a number of Cybertronian glyphs. There was even a light blue canopy draped over a rod sticking out from the headboard.
Carly stood speechless for some long moments before she ran a gentle finger across the polished wood, very careful, as if afraid to break it. “That’s... that’s beautiful,” she finally said softly, turning to Ratchet. “Did you...?”
“No.” He shook his head, still staring at the tiny berth. Something about the lathed pattern looked familiar...
Right at this moment, the door behind them opened with a soft hiss and a slightly disappointed-sounding voice said: “Oh, you’re here already...”
“Grapple!” Carly said astounded. “Hoist! Did you build this?”
Hoist nodded in response. “We just added the finishing touches,” he said with a smile in his voice, “and only went to put our tools away. You turned up faster than we thought.”
“Do you like it?” Grapple asked anxiously. “I was worried that it might be too small...”
Carly smiled at him with slightly overbright eyes. “It’s perfect, Grapple,” she said. “Just beautiful.”
It was a rare thing, Ratchet mused, to see Grapple so absolutely elated. The architect was prone to depressive moods, especially when it came to his work, and was therefore a regular visitor in Ratchet’s med bay. But right now Grapple’s optics were glowing with joy at Carly’s words, and his whole posture spoke of artistic pride. “See?” he told Hoist happily. “I told you this was my greatest idea ever!”
“And what exactly brought this idea on?” Ratchet asked amusedly.
It was Hoist who answered. “We were talking to Spike some time ago,” he said. “And he told us about the sparkling berth he’d purchased for his and Carly’s quarters in the city. Well, and that led us to their quarters here, and that the sparkling would need a proper place to recharge in when they’re staying here as well. So Grapple suggested that we try and construct a berth for Daniel.”
“Spike brought us pictures and descriptions I used to draw up a blueprint,” Grapple took over. “I’ve hardly ever worked with wood before, let alone such small pieces, but once I got the hang of it, it was really fun.” He sounded by all means like a youngling eager for his creator’s praise, and Hoist had a certain, pleased-looking twinkle in his optics. Ratchet suddenly remembered what Carly had said about the crew getting involved.
Said human had meanwhile approached the two architects with the brightest of smiles, and both of them had to kneel so she could hug them - or rather the part of their hands she was able to clasp. “Thank you, guys,” she said. “Thank you so much, that’s so sweet of you.”
Grapple and Hoist looked like they’d just been appointed rulers of the universe. And rightly so, Ratchet had to admit. The berth was beautiful.
“What do the glyphs mean?” Carly asked, pointing to the Cybertronian signs engraved into the wood. Hoist’s backstruts straightened at the question, and Ratchet realized with dread that they were now in for a lesson in Cybertronian calligraphy.
“Well,” his colleague began, indicating the glyphs at the foot of the berth. “These here stand for Daniel’s name - as far as human names can be translated into Cybertronian. And these,” he pointed to the signs on the headboard, “represent a number of things your sparkling should experience when recharging in this berth.”
“You’d probably call them lucky charms,” Ratchet volunteered.
“Correct,” Hoist agreed. “These ones mean ‘Peace’ and ‘Safety’,” he pointed to the upper left and right of the glyphs, “and this one means ‘Sweet Dreams’.” He indicated the lower symbol.
If possible, Carly’s touched smile grew even wider. “And this one?” she asked.
Ratchet actually had to adjust the fine tuning of his optics to see the tiny, tiny inscription on the foot of the berth - and had serious difficulties to suppress a laugh. Hoist threw his mate a glance, and Grapple suddenly looked a bit embarrassed. “Uhh, nothing,” he said quickly. “Just a bit of... doodling, that’s all.”
“Now, now, Grapple,” Ratchet said with malicious joy. “Why so modest? That’s his designation,” he told Carly with a grin.
Carly looked at Grapple with surprised amusement. “You signed Danny’s cradle?”
“Well, why not?” Grapple retorted defensively. “I designed it, and it’s custom that the artist signs his work!”
“Of course, Grapple,” Hoist said soothingly, laying a gentle hand on his mate’s shoulder. Carly laughed heartily.
“You two are so great,” she said. “Thank you.”
Hoist shrugged dismissively. “Ah, don’t mention it. That’s what friends do, isn’t it?”
“And I have a bunch of other ideas, you know,” Grapple chattered away happily. “For example, I could...”
It took Hoist a considerable amount of gentle yet persistent prodding to convince his excited mate that they should perhaps not overstay their welcome. Grapple looked a bit disappointed, but finally complied. “I’ll bring around some blueprints in a few days, Carly,” he announced merrily as the door opened for him.
“Can we still do anything for you before we leave, Carly?” Hoist asked politely, but the young woman shook her head.
“No, thanks, guys,” she answered warmly. “I think I’ll just make myself a tea and admire that present of yours.”
“It’s truly beautiful, isn’t it?” she asked when the doors had closed behind the two architects.
“It is,” Ratchet agreed readily, but in truth he wasn’t really listening. His CPU was busy processing far more important things.
He hadn’t been aware of just how much Carly - and her sparkling - were regarded as a permanent fixture of the base by his fellow Autobots, how much the two of them were integrated into the crew’s daily life. And she had looked so happy and comfortable with Grapple and Hoist... She felt at home here, no doubt about it. Should he, as a medic, not support anything that aided his patient’s well-being? Wouldn’t it be much better for Carly’s health to be here were she was relaxed and at ease than to sit at home, feeling alone and unwanted?
And all medical responsibility aside, he and Carly had been friends long before she and Spike had even got bonded. Shouldn’t a friend respect his friends’ wishes? Wasn’t it a friend’s duty to offer support and understanding?
And what was most important: Didn’t he know exactly that, after three days without Carly at the latest, he would suffer severe processor damage out of sheer worry and bad conscience?
Carly’s voice interrupted his musing. “Ratchet? You’re okay?”
Pit, what a scrap. With a soft growl he set an internal reminder that he’d need to talk to Red Alert concerning that Decepticon early warning system their Security Director had mentioned not too long ago...
“Yeah,” he answered. “I was just... thinking of something. I’ll leave you alone now.”
He headed towards the door, but before activating door button, he gave her a stern look over his shoulder. “By the way,” he said in his patented ‘doctor’s voice’, “if you could spare me some time tomorrow, I want to talk to you about your check-up schedule. I’d like to see you more often from now on, let’s say... twice a week.”
Carly stared at him. “Twice a week? I’m not fatally ill, Ratchet!”
“Well, it shouldn’t be too hard for you to comply with that,” he answered dryly. “Since you spend most of your time here anyway.”
For a moment she just looked at him, but then a tiny smile parted her lips. “No, it shouldn’t,” she said softly. “Thanks, Ratchet.”
“Don’t thank me yet,” he said in a peeved tone. “You might regret it.”
Had he said this, in this voice, to any of his fellow Autobots, he’d received looks that frequently ranged from wary over intimidated to downright panicked.
Carly grinned at him.
Ratchet laid down arms, so to speak. The only thing left for him to do was to huff gently in a mixture of irritation and amusement as he shook his head and pressed the door button. The doors swished open.
He stopped and turned again with a questioning look.
“Would you do me a favor?”
He shrugged. “Sure,” he said. And why not?
Strangely enough, the young woman looked the tiniest bit shamefaced. “I know you’re pretty busy but... could you perhaps... get me a milk shake?”
Now it was his turn to stare. “A milk shake? But you just said you wanted tea.”
Carly’s face immediately contorted into the very epitome of disgust. “Yeah,” she answered. “I don’t know why I said that. Tea’s probably the most abhorrent thing ever invented by mankind. I want a chocolate milk shake. No, I need one. Please, Ratchet.”
There were a lot of things he could have answered. For example that the combination of animal fat and glucose she referred to as ‘milk shake’ was neither good for her nor for her offspring. Or that his shift started in less than two breems and he therefore simply didn’t have time to go to town for her. He could even simply refuse her request.
But then something in his CPU did a soft ‘click’. He smiled at her. “Of course,” he said. “No problem.”
The smile stayed firmly glued to his faceplates when he left the room and made his way back to the med bay, where, as soon as the doors closed behind him, it turned into a downright malicious grin. He activated an internal comm link.
‘Sunstreaker, Sideswipe, this is Ratchet. I’ve got a job for you...’
To be continued...
Chapter 5: Kicks and Babysitters
Disclaimer: I do not own The Transformers, and I do not make any money with this.
“This is my report,” Ratchet said, handing Prowl a data pad. “And this is my inventory list.”
“Very concise,” the Second-in-command remarked as he skimmed over the file. “I wish the rest of the crew was as sparing with our resources.”
Ratchet threw a glance at the other side of the command bridge, where, despite the early hour, the Dinobots were assembled in front of one of Teletraan-1's vid screens watching an Earth movie. The sight made him smile. "We've been lucky this past stellar cycle," he answered. "Hardly any 'Con activity, and thus hardly any activity for me."
"Let's hope it stays that way," Prowl commented. He signed the list and then handed the data pad to the mech working on one of the consoles next to him. "Jazz, can you see about Ratchet getting these materials?"
Jazz took the data pad from Prowl's outstretched hand and gave them his trademark grin. "No problem, boss!" He subspaced the pad and returned to his work when the doors behind them swished open. Ratchet turned halfway around to give the newcomer a fleeting nod, but stopped in mid-motion at the sight that greeted him.
Carly was still in her pajamas. Her hair was disheveled; she looked bleary-eyed and wore an expression which made it abundantly clear that the first person coming too close to her was bound to die a slow and painful death.
"Good morning, Carly," Prowl said politely.
Her eyes instantly narrowed to blazing slits. "I don't know what's supposed to be 'good' about this hell of a morning," she spat. "I've hardly slept, my back hurts, my feet are swollen, and my dear husband obviously didn't deem it necessary to let me know he was leaving!"
Ratchet ducked his head involuntarily. Carly wasn't very prone to mood swings, at least not to the extent his research in human carrier behavior had led him to expect. But every now and then it would happen, and he usually preferred to steer clear of her in that case. She would either snap at anybody within reach for no apparent reason, or she would sob her heart out for equally unclear motives. While the snapping part was endurable - as Ratchet was quite good at that himself - her crying was something he just couldn't handle.
"Maybe Spike didn't want to disturb you," Jazz offered helpfully - and unwisely.
"Oh, I should've known you're on his side," Carly groused. "You guys are always in cahoots with each other. Where is that husband of mine so I can rip his head off?"
By now, Jazz had assumed the ducked-head-position, too. Only Prowl remained as stoic and cool as ever. "I am afraid he left for work with Bumblebee about a breem ago," he answered calmly.
"Well, that's great," Carly replied darkly. "He'd rather spend time with an alien, talking car than with me. I like that."
With Carly's ire safely focused elsewhere, Ratchet couldn't help but to find the situation amusing, and a quick glance confirmed that Jazz had equal trouble to keep his faceplates neutral. It was just too comical: The infuriated human with her rounded belly and her light grey sleeping clothes taking on the heavily-armored, three-times-her-size tactician whose door wings had started to twitch ever so slightly.
But of course Prowl wouldn't have been Prowl if he'd let himself get worked up. "Maybe there is something we can help you with, Carly?" he offered courteously.
"Oh, don't trouble yourself just because I'm carrying a new life," she said acidly. "I apologize for disturbing your little macho gathering. I'll just go back to bed and suffer in silence. Farewell, gentlemen!" She did a mock curtsey and spun on her heel to head for the exit.
She did not reach the door. She suddenly gave a visible jerk and halted abruptly, pressing one hand against her belly. "Oi," she said.
"What is it?" Ratchet asked.
Carly's sullen expression lit up in a smile as she turned back to them, her hand still on her belly. "Nothing," she said. "I'm fine, it's just... he kicked me."
Ratchet grinned back at her. This particular activity of Daniel’s had only recently become perceptible for Carly, but they had already spent quite some time watching him on one of Ratchet's scanners as he turned his head from side to side and happily waved his tiny limbs around.
"He kicked you?" Jazz repeated. He had turned in his seat and stared at Carly in absolute wonder. "You mean, the little glitchmouse moves around in there?"
To his credit, Ratchet had to admit that it was an understandable reaction. The concept of an unborn sparkling exercising like this was alien to Cybertronians. Carly threw him a conspiratorial glance.
"Yeah," she said with a grin. "He likes kicking. Wanna feel?"
Jazz' visor shone with curious fascination as he got up from his console and approached her. Carly beckoned him to kneel. "Gimme your hand," she said, and when he did she took his forefinger and gently pressed it against her baby bump. "Say hello to Jazz, Danny," she told her belly.
Silence. Except for the soft background noise of the Dinobots' movie, there was not the slightest sound to be heard. Jazz kept staring at his hand, and Prowl and Ratchet kept staring at Jazz.
Suddenly the black and white saboteur jerked so hard he nearly lost his balance. His visor flashed brightly, and his engine gave a startled rev, but he did not withdraw his hand. "Whoa," he commented with a small, incredulous laugh. "Man, that's a strong glitchmouse!"
Carly laughed, and so did Ratchet, and even Prowl's lips curved slightly in amusement. Jazz' faceplates were enthrallment personified. "That's awesome. Does he often jump around like that?"
"Mainly when I’m trying to sleep,“ Carly said dryly.
There was a tiny twinkle in Prowl's optics as he turned to Ratchet. "Is it normal for a human sparkling to be so active in the womb?"
Ratchet nodded. "Danny needs to train his muscles and his reflexes so he'll be ready to use them once he's born," he explained. "And his sensory organs should by now be developed enough to let him react to certain outward stimuli. Different shades of light, for example, or sounds."
"Sounds?" Jazz pricked his audio receptors. "You mean like music?"
"No, you won't, Jazz," Prowl said sternly, making his friend pout. "Spoilsport," Jazz muttered, and then jumped again as the sparkling obviously kicked once more. Carly laughed.
"I think he agrees with you, Prowl," she joked. "D'you want to feel, too?"
The stiffening of Prowl’s posture was barely noticeable, but it was there. “Uh... no, thank you, Carly,” he answered tentatively. “I’ll just take your word for it.” He gave her a brief smile and quickly turned away to resume his work, but Ratchet clearly saw the look of pain that crossed his superior officer’s faceplates.
For a moment he wondered if he should say or do something, but then he decided against it - not entirely out of respect, as he had to admit. His attention was drawn away from their SIC when he suddenly realized that they had a spectator.
Swoop had wandered away from the other Dinobots and was now watching Jazz and Carly with undisguised curiosity.
“Something the matter, Swoop?” Ratchet addressed him kindly.
Swoop flinched a bit as the attention of those present settled upon him, but when he saw Ratchet smiling, he took a step closer. “Me Swoop wonder what him Jazz doing,” he said.
Jazz grinned. “Oh, I just said hello to Danny,” he replied good-humoredly.
Swoop blinked his optics in surprise. “Him Daniel speak?”
“In a way, yes,” Carly said giggling. “Come here, I’ll show you.”
Swoop looked quite skeptical, as if he suspected them to pull a prank on him, but then curiosity got the better of him. Jazz stood up to make room for him, and when Swoop knelt down, Carly showed him how to place his finger against her belly.
It was perhaps the most comical thing Ratchet had ever witnessed when the giant Dinobot suddenly gave a croaking cry of surprise and literally jumped away from Carly, bringing at least three steps of distance between them. His cooling fans hectically whirred away in his chassis, and he stared at the young woman completely flabbergasted. “Him Daniel move! He push my hand!”
Fortunately, Ratchet was not the only one who couldn’t hold back his laughter any longer. Jazz giggled like mad, and so did Carly, and even Prowl had turned back to them with a look of restrained amusement.
“Yes,” Carly confirmed, wiping tears of laughter from her eyes. “That’s his way to say hello.”
Swoop’s optics flitted back and forth between his hand and the human. Ratchet could almost hear his creation’s processor working as he considered her words. “Me Swoop say hello to Daniel, too?” he then asked cautiously.
Carly smiled. “Of course.”
It was a thoroughly endearing sight, Ratchet thought, when Swoop knelt before the young woman once more and she allowed him to very, very gently stroke her rounded belly. The little scene triggered fond memory files in his CPU, of the first time Carly had let him feel the sparkling’s movements... From the corner of his optic, he could see Jazz’ fingers interlace discreetly with Prowl’s, and the short squeeze Prowl gave his friend’s hand in response.
“What him Swoop doing there?”
Everybody turned their heads at the thundering voice. The Dinobots had obviously realized Swoop’s absence, and had abandoned their movie to find out what had distracted their comrade’s attention.
“Why him Swoop walk away from other Dinobots?” Grimlock demanded. “And why he cry out like frightened sparkling?”
Slag, Sludge and Snarl snorted at that. Swoop looked rather offended. “Me Swoop not cry like sparkling,” he defended himself. “Me Swoop say hello to Daniel.” He indicated Carly’s belly.
The Dinobots exchanged glances. “Him Swoop lying!” Slag accused. “Daniel not speak from inside Carly!”
“Yes, he do,” Swoop insisted. “He kick my hand. And then me Swoop stroke him.”
Ratchet was suddenly overcome by a vague sense of dread. If he knew his creations - and Primus, he did - then he had a pretty good idea where this would lead them. He activated his vocalizer.
“Can me Snarl stroke Daniel, too?” Snarl asked, visibly intrigued with the thought. Ratchet groaned inwardly. Too late.
“Me Sludge want, too”, Sludge piped up.
That was too much, Ratchet decided. Carly was a sparkling carrier, not an entertainer. “Now, now, guys,” he jumped in, using his ‘doctor’s voice’. “Remember what I told you about Carly and the sparkling needing peace and quiet?” That was a pretty good argument, he thought, as the Dinobots cared about Carly’s well-being.
He was brutally stabbed in the back by said human only a klik later.
“It’s okay, Ratchet,” Carly said gently. “Involvement, remember?”
So much for Ratchet's good arguments.
“You can stick your involvement in places I won’t mention,” he growled, feeling seriously betrayed. “And there’s a difference between being involved and being molested, mind you.”
“Dinobots not motes... mosel... doing bad thing to Carly!” Sludge protested vehemently, and even Jazz seemed to have turned against him. “Yeah, let them have a go, Doc,” he said. “It’s quite an experience.”
Ratchet held up both hands. “Alright, alright,” he huffed. “Suit yourselves. But be careful, do you hear me?”
“Dinobots hear what him Ratchet say,” Grimlock instructed his flock. “No hurt Carly or sparkling!”
It was strange, but Ratchet had the distinct impression that Daniel knew what was expected from him, and that he thoroughly enjoyed all the attention he was getting. He readily kept kicking against Slag's, Sludge's and Snarl's fingers, and eventually even Grimlock knelt in front of Carly, eyeing both her belly and his hand with critical optics for a long while, until finally a pleased look settled upon his faceplates.
"Him Daniel good sparkling," he assessed as he got back to his feet. "Very strong."
In the meantime, Swoop seemed to have made some plans for the future. "Dinobots and Daniel friends now," he mused. "When he born, me Swoop can do flying stuff with him."
"No fair!" Snarl complained. "Me Snarl want to do things with Daniel, too!" He was backed up by a "Me, too!" in two voices from Slag and Sludge.
"Me Grimlock strongest Dinobot,“ Grimlock reminded them. "Me show Daniel how to be good fighter."
The disturbing picture of Swoop balancing a newborn human sparkling on his wings about 1,500 feet above ground settled deeply into Ratchet's processor and finally did it for him. He cycled a long, slow intake of air through his vents and did the best thing he could think of: He called a retreat. "Well, I guess I'll be off now," he said, feeling torn between irritation and a kind of desperate amusement. "High time I got down to work."
"I'll bring by those materials as soon as I get around to it, Doc," Jazz said, flashing him a knowing smile.
"I think I'll come with you, Ratchet," Carly said unexpectedly. "I haven't had breakfast yet - and my feet are beginning to feel like watermelons."
Ratchet muttered an agreement and watched as she waved the Dinobots goodbye. "See you around, guys,“ she called, and Swoop waved back happily.
As they made their way through the various corridors, Ratchet had to admit that, if nothing else, this whole episode had at least served to brighten Carly's mood. His charge looked as good-humored as ever.
"Seems I just found myself some babysitters, huh?" she said with a grin. Ratchet snorted.
“They’re my creations and I love them,” he said dryly. “But should any of them ever want to follow through with this idea, grab that little one of yours and run like the Pit. That’s the best advice I can give you.”
“Who knows,” Carly said pensively. “They might make great playmates once Danny is a little bit older. And don’t tell me that they weren’t absolutely cute back there,” she added teasingly.
Well, Ratchet thought with a small smile, in any case this little adventure had provided him with quite a story to tell Wheeljack later that day...
To be continued...
Chapter 6: Fires and Favors
Special thanks to flamingmarsh, who made some plot suggestions that helped me develop this chapter, and to RaniPuma, who contributed the 'ice cream with mustard' idea. This chapter is dedicated to her. She knows why.
Disclaimer: I do not own The Transformers, and I do not make any money with this.
“Emergency! Emergency! Fire in Sector D-4! I repeat, fire in Sector D-4! All available forces to Sector D‑4 immediately!”
As on every ship, fire was one of the greatest dangers on the Ark, and one of the most likely sources of injuries, except for the Decepticons. So, when Red Alert’s rough voice echoed through the ship-wide communication lines, accompanied by the blaring sounds of the alarm system, Ratchet dropped his data pad where he was standing, grabbed his emergency tool kit and headed for the exit without thinking twice.
“Stay here,” he said over his shoulder as First Aid made to follow him. “Prep for emergency surgery, I’ll stay in contact.”
“Yes, Doc.” The Protectobot turned to obey, and Ratchet hastened out of the room.
He jumped into vehicle mode and floored his gas pedal as soon as his tires hit the ground. Sector D-4 was practically on the other side of the ship. Of course, emergencies liked to happen at the farthest possible point away from him.
He swerved to the right side of the corridor to make room for Inferno who’d just turned around a corner behind him with blaring sirens, closely followed by Tracks and Sideswipe. Why had a fire broken out in Sector D, anyway? That was an unused storage area, normally deserted; there was no reason for anyone to -
And then realization hit him, so hard he actually fishtailed for a moment before he regained control of his hydraulics. “Hey, watch your tires, Doc!” Sideswipe called, but Ratchet ignored him.
Sector D-4 was where Spike’s and Carly’s quarters were situated. And he hadn’t seen the human femme around since this morning; chances were good that she had retired to her room...
Oh holy Primus, please no...
He revved his engine hard, forcing his way past Inferno and nearly skidding out of the next turn as pure, fear-driven instinct took over. The Ark’s corridors were not made for such maneuvers, and he scraped his paint off on several corners, but he paid no attention, neither to the bruises nor to Inferno’s half bewildered, half angry voice as the fire truck called after him. How could he, anyway? Carly was in danger, Carly and her sparkling, they needed him, he had to be faster, why didn’t that stupid engine of his have more power...
He slammed on his breaks hard when the door to the humans’ quarters came into sight, grinding to a halt with such force that the resulting frictional heat singed the rubber of his tires, but he barely registered the pain. In less than an astrosecond, his sensors confirmed that there were two interconnected human life signs inside, and that the air in the room was polluted by a considerable amount of smoke - but he did not register any excess heat from the flames. Strange... but none of his business. He reached for the door panel and hectically started to punch in his emergency access code.
“What the Pit do you think you’re doing?!”
His companions had caught up with him, Inferno in the lead. The fire truck didn’t bother to slow down, he simply transformed in mid-motion, twisting like an Earth cat to land on his feet. Without waiting for an answer, he grabbed Ratchet’s shoulder and roughly pulled him away from the door. “Stand aside, Doc, you’re not going in there before I got things under control!”
There was no time to argue, as much as Ratchet would have liked to. The doors swished open, and all four of them had to dodge a cloud of dark smoke pouring out. There were still no flames detectable, though, and this, albeit weird, served to their advantage. Ratchet bolted into the room right on Inferno’s heels.
His optics zeroed in on Carly almost immediately. His charge was standing at the open window, coughing and waving her hands frantically to fan the smoke out. Three quick steps brought him right to her side; he swept her up in one hand - ignoring her startled squeak - cradled her against his chest plates to shield her from the smoke and hastened out of the room at the same speed he’d come in. He heard the hiss and splash of Inferno employing his foam extinguisher, and from the corner of his optic saw the white, creamy mass cover a small metallic device on the kitchen counters - along with the rest of the kitchenette. Then he was out, leaned against the nearest wall with Carly still in his palm and cycled a series of heavy intakes through his vents in a vain attempt to slow the frantic pulsing of his spark.
Carly was still coughing and tried to wipe her disheveled hair out of her eyes. “Whoa, Ratchet,” she panted. “No need to get rough here.”
He didn’t waste time rummaging around in his subspace pocket for his medical scanners, but simply used his internal ones, the results being displayed directly on his HUD. Carly’s respiratory tract was a bit irritated from the smoke, but the oxygen concentration in her blood seemed sufficient. Thankfully, she hadn’t sustained any outward damage, and, given the situation, her slightly elevated heart and pulse rate were nothing to worry about. He nearly sagged with relief when he found that Daniel, too, was unharmed - and obviously fast asleep.
“I’m fine, Ratchet,” Carly said indignantly, turning away from him and waving her hands around as if to block his scanner beams. “Will you put me down?”
“Oh, I’m deeply sorry”, he snapped back, and it felt strangely good to release all the tension in his frame via a good tongue-lashing. “I didn’t realize you had medical qualifications as well. Or is it the latest fashion that the patient makes the diagnosis instead of the medic?”
“Yeah, Carly”, Sideswipe commented with a grin as he stepped out into the corridor, followed by Inferno and Tracks. “You can be fine when Ratch tells you that you’re fine.”
“What happened here, anyway?” Tracks asked.
“Seems one of your kitchen devices malfunctioned, Carly,” Inferno said. Sideswipe expelled a puff of air through his vents. “A kitchen device? We’re making all this fuss over some stupid human gadget?”
“Why did you not ask one of us to repair it, Carly?” Tracks inquired, frowning.
Carly suddenly looked quite sheepish. “Sorry, guys,“ she murmured. “I didn’t mean to cause such an uproar. I was trying to grill some cheese on the toaster, but... well, it didn’t work out as planned.”
Ratchet stared at her. “Let me sum this up”, he said slowly. “We’re having a ship-wide Code Yellow because you were trying to cook?”
“Oh, leave me alone, you old grumbler,“ Carly said sulkily. “You don’t know a thing about cooking. How was I to know it would produce that much smoke? And would you please put me down now?”
Ratchet knelt obediently and let her slide off his palm, completely dumbfounded. Not only had he been scared to death for nothing, he’d also just been bitched out by a carrying human femme about a fourth his size right in front of his fellow Autobots. This couldn’t be happening!
While Inferno contacted the bridge to give a sit rep and to placate an agitated Red Alert, Carly walked carefully back into the room. Most of the smoke had cleared away by now, and Tracks plucked the blameworthy toaster out of the dripping foam extinguisher, holding it at arm's length. "Well," he commented with all signs of disgust on his faceplates, "so much for this." He unceremoniously dropped the culprit into a surprised Sideswipe's hand.
"You think it can be repaired?" Carly asked hopefully.
Sideswipe gave the sticky device a closer look. "Dunno. I'll take it to Wheeljack; surely he can figure something out." He put the toaster into his subspace pocket and looked quite proud when Carly beamed at him.
Meanwhile Tracks had examined the dining table a few paces away from them. "Looks like you had a party all by yourself, Carly," he remarked, and Ratchet turned to see what his companion was referring to.
The table was cluttered with pots and dishes containing the leftovers of different types of human food in a wide variety of combinations. Ratchet marveled at the sheer amount of it. Had Carly actually eaten all this stuff?
"Yeah, I felt like having a little snack, you know," Carly said.
"A little snack?" Inferno repeated laughingly. "Looks more like you refueled a whole brigade in here."
"And with interesting recipes,“ Tracks added. "Are cucumbers with whipped cream an acceptable combination for humans?"
Carly huffed, crossing her arms over her chest defensively. "Well, Danny likes it," she murmured.
Sideswipe was eyeing one of the dishes with special interest. "You mean, Danny likes ice-cream with mustard, too?" he asked, flashing her a cheeky grin.
Ratchet ignored their bickering. He had found his medical scanner in his subspace pocket and knelt down at Carly’s side to start a more thorough examination.
Or at least he tried to. Carly, when she noticed his intentions, took a purposeful step away from him. “Could you stop scanning me every ten minutes?” she snapped. “That’s annoying, you know.”
He looked up, a bit taken aback at the violent reaction.
“I need further data, Carly,” he explained. “If something is wrong with your metabolic functions -“
“My ‘metabolic functions’, as you call them, are fine,” she spat. Ratchet blinked in bewilderment. Why was she being so feisty? He was only trying to help, for Pit’s sake!
“But there is absolutely no reason for you to consume such large amounts of foods”, he countered. “You do not have any deficiency symptoms, your weight gain is within the normal ranges for this state of the carrying, slightly above even, and your -“
He broke off when his optics met her eyes. Carly was staring at him as if she intended to commit murder by gaze. Tracks, Inferno and Sideswipe seemed to notice the sudden change in attitude, for they suddenly became very quiet and watched the scene with a mixture of curiosity and apprehension.
“Did you,“ Carly said, her voice dangerously low, “just call me fat?”
Ratchet frowned in honest surprise. “No,” he answered. “I said that your weight gain is slightly -“
“Slightly above the normal ranges,” she interrupted. “I got that. And to me that sounds pretty much like ‘You’re fat’.”
Ratchet became aware of his companions' optics resting on him, and, looking up, found something akin to a vague reproach on their faceplates. All of a sudden, he had the distinct impression that he was on trial here for a crime he couldn't remember committing, and suddenly the sheer surrealism of the situation made something inside him snap. Not a breem ago, he'd been ready to take any risk to make sure she and her offspring were alright, and now she was bawling him out for an imaginary insult?
"Holy Pit, Carly!" he spat, standing up. "I did not call you anything! All I'm trying to do here is my slagging job! I'm your medic, I care a frag what you look like!"
He hadn't meant to say that last part; it just slipped out along with the rest. Carly stared at him, wide-eyed and disbelieving. An awkward silence settled upon the room.
It was Tracks who broke it with a dismissive snort. "And even if he did care, Carly," he said in his usual, arrogant tone, "there is no need to get worked up about it. Ratchet may be a brilliant medic, but he has not the slightest notion when it comes to style or good looks."
Carly suddenly looked very tired. She dropped onto a nearby chair, her shoulders slumping visibly. "Oh, I don't know," she muttered crestfallen. "Perhaps he's right. I mean, look at me." She indicated her belly. "I'm the fattest, ugliest cow the world has ever seen."
Ratchet couldn't help but flinch at her words. He wasn't used to seeing the usually cheerful human so down, and a quick glance at his companions revealed that they were obviously having similar thoughts. Sideswipe looked downright horrified.
"No, you're not, Carly!" he protested vehemently. "You're just a bit... a bit more... rounded, that's all."
"Yeah," Inferno jumped in helpfully. "And Spike says that's exactly what a human carrier should be like: round and soft, for the sparkling to snuggle up to."
A tiny smile tugged at Carly's lips. "Thanks, guys."
"And besides,“ Tracks said with a shrug, "it's hard to look good when I'm in the room, anyway."
"Good thing Sunny isn't here,“ Sideswipe murmured.
Ratchet watched the unfolding events with increasing disbelief. When exactly had the situation been taken out of his hands? "Carly..." he started, determined to re-take control of things, but was interrupted by Tracks suddenly snapping his fingers.
"Sideswipe, you just gave me a brilliant idea. Where exactly is that brother of yours?"
"Monitor duty," Sideswipe replied. "Why?"
Tracks smiled an uncharacteristically evil smile. "Perfect. He will want to get out of there. And you, since you are obviously not busy at the moment, can cover for him."
Sideswipe stared at him with an all but flabbergasted expression, but Tracks ignored him. Instead he knelt and offered Carly his palm to sit on. "Come with me, little lady," he said. "I know just the thing to cheer you up." And with that he swept out of the room, together with the young mother-to-be and a somewhat put-out Sideswipe hot on his heels.
There was no doubt about it anymore. Ratchet must have accidentally come out of recharge on the wrong planet this morning. Here he stood, rooted to the spot and his scanner with its half-collected data still in hand, while his charge was on her way to take part in some ominous project of a snobbish Corvette and an even more snobbish Lamborghini. And she hadn’t even once turned to look back.
“Wow, Doc,” Inferno commented as the door closed behind the three conspirers, “you really screwed this one up, you did.”
Ratchet threw the scanner at him.
He had returned to med bay in probably the most evil mood he’d ever been in. He’d snapped a short sit rep at First Aid, who looked at him like they’d never met before, and then locked himself up in his office with his latest report to sulk in peace.
Not that it helped.
Ratchet was used to playing the bad guy with his patients. That was part of the daily routine; it was expected and perfectly alright.
What he was not used to was to actually be the bad guy, especially not where Carly was concerned. If she didn’t want his help anymore, then why didn’t she simply tell him? After all, it was not that he was dependent on her or anything. He’d just go back to being the Autobots’ CMO, which, compared to Carly’s carrying, was a peaceful and well-ordered life. And he’d have absolutely no problem with this. Not in the slightest.
Then why the Pit did he feel so... rejected?
It was already fairly late when his brooding was interrupted by the ping of an incoming comm transmission.
‘Ratchet? This is Spike. Are you there?’
For a moment he was seriously tempted to pretend that he wasn’t and to just ignore the query. But then his sense of duty kicked in, and he opened a comm line with a sigh.
‘What is it, Spike?’
‘Hey, buddy. Sorry to disturb you, but could you come to the rec room for a moment? Carly’d like to show you something.’
Ratchet snorted at the mention of his charge's name. ‘If this is about her weight gain,’ he said pointedly, ‘tell that mate of yours that I’m not interested in any further discussions.’ After all, he could be a sorehead, too.
‘Uh... no,’ Spike replied, sounding slightly awkward. ‘We just want you to see something. Can you come?’
He honestly didn’t want to. But then again, this might be a chance to find out about that mysterious project Tracks and Carly had been off to pursue... Not that he was curious.
‘All right, I’m on my way.’
‘See ya’, Spike said happily, and then a soft electronic crackle indicated that the connection had been cut.
Ratchet switched off his data pad and heaved himself out of his chair to head for the rec room.
Despite the late hour, he found a small crowd gathered in the room when he arrived, including Tracks, the twins and the two humans. They were all standing with their backs to him and were staring at the orange wall in front of them for reasons he didn’t know.
“Hey, Ratchet!” Sideswipe turned at his entry and grinned at him. “Come to see Sunny’s latest work?”
Ratchet blinked in surprise. Come to see what? “Sorry?” he inquired, but Spike had already jumped into action.
“C’mon, guys,” he said, knocking on Tracks’ ankle to get him to move, “make some room here.” Tracks frowned a bit at the unbidden touch, but all three of them complied without protest, stepping aside to give Ratchet a view of what they had been looking at.
A picture was hanging on the wall.
Not an image capture or a holograph, but a real picture, painted on canvass. Ratchet found himself marveling at the amazingly lifelike features of his human charge.
Picture-Carly was looking up at a starry night sky, turned half away from the viewer, but still positioned so that her rounded belly was clearly visible. She stood leaning against a stylish Corvette – no problem to guess who that might be. As a background, the artist had chosen a Cybertronian skyline, kept in bluish and silver-metallic colors, and in the lower left corner, the glyphs of Sunstreaker’s designation shone in an aggressive red.
“It’s of course barely more than a sketch,“ the yellow twin commented in that irritatingly condescending tone of his. “But I simply can’t deny a carrying femme a favor.”
Carly smiled. “It’s beautiful, Sunny,” she said. “Really. Thank you.”
And she was right, Ratchet had to admit, especially considering that Sunstreaker had only had a few hours to create this picture. He must have painted like mad.
“It’s really not that bad,” Tracks agreed. “But of course we all know that this is simply due to the models.”
Ratchet was wise enough to retreat to a safe distance when – predictably - this remark triggered a fierce argument between the Ark’s two masters of snobbism, Sunstreaker receiving vehement backup from his brother. Spike took it upon himself to stand in the middle, laughingly trying to placate his friends, but it was obvious that his efforts were not crowned with much success.
Ratchet ignored the four of them as much as possible and instead turned his attention back to the image of his patient. Picture-Carly looked easeful and relaxed, he noticed, almost more so than her flesh counterpart...
“You like it?”
He jerked a bit at the sudden voice. Carly – the real Carly – had backed away from the verbal battle field and had come to stand by his side, and apparently he had been so absorbed in his thoughts he hadn’t even registered the signals from his proximity sensors.
“Yeah,” he said, and it was true. “Sunny really captured you well... and Tracks.”
Carly smiled tentatively. “He made a big show of it, telling us about how he had better things to do and so on, you know. But he really put a lot of effort in it.”
“I can see that,” he replied.
There was a short, awkward silence, and Ratchet was beginning to wonder if perhaps he should say something...
“Listen, Ratchet,” Carly said, softly but resolutely, “I want to apologize. I didn’t mean to be so nasty, it’s just that you guys gave me a pretty good scare when you came bursting in all of a sudden.”
Over the meta-cycles, Ratchet had seen Carly in so many dangerous and strange situations that he was simply not used to regarding her as being easily startled. Now, for the first time, he tried to imagine today’s events from her point of view. No doubt she had already been stressed and worried by the alarms and all the smoke, and then suddenly her door was broken open, half of her home had been drenched in foam extinguisher, and a giant alien robot four times her size had stormed in, grabbed her and had literally swept her off her feet before she even had time to think. No matter how long they’d known each other, that must have been a startling experience. He groaned inwardly. Inferno had been right, he thought. He had screwed up.
“I understand you, Carly,” he replied, carefully pondering his words while he lowered himself on one knee to be closer to her. “But you must be aware that my main function is to see to others’ well-being. If there is evidence that one of my patients is in danger, I have to act upon my primary programming, you understand?”
It wasn’t the whole truth. The sheer panic he had been feeling during those few klicks had definitely not originated from his medical program, but there was no way in the Pit he was going to tell Carly that. There was, however, something else he could say.
“And I don’t think you’re fat, by the way,” he added and couldn’t prevent a slight briskness from entering his voice. “I have studied the physical characteristics of human carriers, and considering the progress of your gestation, I think your proportions are perfectly fine.” Compliments had never been his strong point, but if he remembered correctly, praising their frame was something that appealed to femmes of all races. Carly laughed.
“Thanks, Don Juan.”
Across the room, Tracks’ and Sunstreaker’s argument had meanwhile died down, but Spike was still standing between them, engaging all three mechs in lively small talk. Purely by chance, Ratchet caught the short glimpse the young man threw into their direction, and suddenly he was pretty sure that Spike purposefully kept the three idiots busy to give his wife the chance to talk to her medic. And lo and behold, Carly promptly confirmed his suspicions when she spoke again.
“You’re a great doctor, Ratchet,” she said, not looking at him. “You really are. All this had nothing to do with you. I guess I’m just getting a bit nervous.”
He frowned. “What do you mean?”
She shrugged. “It’s just... I have been thinking these past few days that it won’t be so long now until...” She glanced down at her belly. “...until Danny will be here.”
“About nine weeks,” he said automatically. Carly nodded.
“Yeah. That’s not so long, really. And I just can’t help but wondering about... things, you know. What will it feel like to give birth to a baby? What will it be like to be a mommy? And will I be a good mother for my child?”
Ratchet felt a deep, unexpected surge of sympathy for her at these words. Not for the first time in the past seven months he thought that the differences between Cybertronian carriers and human mothers were definitely not as big as he’d initially believed.
“You will, Carly,” he told her firmly. “I know you; you’re a strong one. You’ll do great.”
She finally looked up at him, and her eyes suddenly had a faint twinkle in them. “I’d like to ask you a favor, Ratchet,” she said.
Carly stared up into his optics unrelenting. “I’d like”, she said, “to have you with me when Danny is born.”
He took a moment to reset his audio receptors to make sure he'd heard that right. "You mean," he said slowly, emphasizing each word, "you want me to attend the birth?"
Carly nodded. "Yes. I mean, I know you can't be in the delivery room with me, but perhaps you can just accompany me to the hospital and wait outside... you know, for moral support. I think that'd really help me."
Ratchet stood dumbfounded. He'd been having his own thoughts about 'the event', as he privately called it, and had tried to come to terms with the knowledge that he most likely would not play a part in Carly's delivery. His research concerning this subject had shown that human femmes tended to give birth to their sparklings in a medical facility, supported by medics and specially trained healthcare professionals. And as Carly had correctly observed, it would hardly be possible for him to be present in such an environment. It was a disturbing thought, to let go of the responsibility, to leave the care of his charge in this most critical moment to people who didn't even know her, but it seemed that this was the way humans handled these things. And as much as he disapproved of it, he had still prepared himself to respect the human customs in this matter, however hard it might be.
And now Carly was suddenly suggesting otherwise?
He realized that she was still staring up at him, a bit worried now, obviously taking his silence for denial. "Well," he said quickly, "I'd have to talk to Optimus first, but... I think it can be arranged."
A clearly relieved smile flashed across her face. "Thanks," she said softly. "Thanks, Ratchet." And then, placing both hands onto her belly, she added: "From both of us."
He wasn't quite sure afterwards when exactly Spike and Carly had left. At some point he had sat down on one of the tables and was now reclining in his chair, accessing his cache again and again to replay the little scene and the smile on Carly's face when she'd said 'Thanks, Ratchet', while his processor was already busy drawing up scheme after scheme to make sure that, when her time came, he would be as long and as close to her side as possible...
His musing was interrupted by someone touching him. "Ratchet?"
He looked up into the worried faceplates of Tracks and the twins. Sideswipe had leaned down to him and placed a hand onto his shoulder. "You're okay, Doc? You've been staring off into space for at least a breem now."
Ratchet cycled a deep intake of air through his vents and stood up. He slipped one arm around Sideswipe's shoulders to his left, the other around Tracks' to his right, and looked each of them firmly into the optic before he spoke.
"Guys," he said. "Guys, I'm going to deliver a sparkling."
To be continued...
Chapter 7: Presents and Plans
Special thanks to CelticLadyLynn236, who explained to me how a baby shower works, since this kind of party is not very common here in Germany. I hope I described it correctly ;-)
Disclaimer: I do not own The Transformers, and I do not make any money with this.
“Tell me again why we are wearing these?” Mirage inquired, pointing to the round badges with the picture of a laughing human sparkling on them that were magnetically attached to his chest plates.
“It’s a game, ‘Raj,” Hound explained patiently. “Once Spike and Carly get here, none of us will be allowed to use the word ‘sparkling’ anymore until the party ends. If you do, you’ll have to give one of your badges to the mech who caught you saying the word. The one who gathers the most badges is the winner.”
“And what exactly is the purpose of this activity?” Perceptor asked with a frown. Jazz, who was busy setting up the sound system for the evening, laughed at him.
“It’s a game, Percy,” he repeated. “There’s no sense in it; it’s supposed to be fun, that’s all.”
Ratchet listened fondly to the small conversations going on around him while he helped Wheeljack to lay out a number of energon cubes on a long table. The baby shower, as this kind of festivity was obviously called, had been Bumblebee’s idea, and he had received solid and wordy backup from Jazz and Hound. Not that it was necessary. Prime himself had been delighted by the idea, and it hadn’t taken much persuasion to get his okay on this new project. Hence the party.
“I still don’t understand why we are giving Daniel presents before he’s born, though,” Mirage mused. “Would it not make more sense to present him with our gifts after his birth?”
He had a point, Ratchet thought. Despite his spending at least three breems listening to Spike’s attempted explanations, he was still not sure if he understood the concept. It felt weird giving presents to someone who wasn’t really there yet. Although, granted, with his present, it would be difficult to wait until after the sparkling’s birth...
“I’ve been telling them this ever since they came up with this crazy idea,” Huffer said in near-desperation. “You mark my words; this will bring bad luck to all of us.”
“Oh, shut up, you gloom-monger,” Brawn growled at him. “I plan to have some energon tonight, and I can’t do that if I’m fed up with you already.”
“Now, don’t fight, guys,” Wheeljack jumped in placatingly. “This is supposed to be fun, remember?”
“Exactly,” Ratchet confirmed, putting the last cube onto the table and turning to them. “So if you want to do something useful, get your lazy afts moving and tell the others this party is about to begin. I think we’re quite done here...”
The room had become fairly crowded. Except for some brave sparks who had agreed to stay on duty during the afternoon, the complete crew had come together in the rec room to take part in the celebration. Hound and Bumblebee had also organized human food for their guests; so, while the Autobots were enjoying some high-grade energon, Spike and Carly had taken a seat on one of the couches and were happily sharing ham sandwiches and orange juice between them.
“This is already the second party you guys are throwing for us,” Spike commented. “We really need to think of something to make it up to you.”
“Aw, stop keeping count, Spike,” Bumblebee said with a grin, nudging him fondly. “You know we love parties.”
“Yeah, man,” Jazz backed him up. “Better start opening those presents already; I’m bursting with curiosity here.”
“Alright.” Carly brushed some crumbs from her hands and sat up to look over the various packages in front of her. “Now which shall we start with?”
“This one!” Fireflight practically jumped into Carly’s lap as he lunched forward, eagerly thrusting a neatly wrapped package in her face. “Careful!” Ratchet chided from his vantage point behind the couch, but Carly laughed.
“Okay.” She let the package be handed to her and took a moment to inspect the small card that was attached. “To Spike, Carly and Daniel,” she read with an amused smile. “From Silverbolt, Fireflight, Slingshot, Air Raid and Skydive. Now what might this be?”
She started to unwrap the package under the eager gazes of the five jets, and Ratchet couldn’t help but grin at the sight as he leaned slightly forward. What might those crazy combiners have come up with?
The wrapping came undone under Carly’s fingers - and Spike started to laugh. So hard Bumblebee had to support him so he wouldn’t fall off the couch. The young man was panting for air.
“Great idea, guys,” he told the Aerialbots. “Just great!”
The wrapping, Ratchet saw, had concealed five smaller plastic packages, and each contained a toy model of a different Earth-style jet, vaguely resembling the Aerialbots’ alt modes. Spike wasn’t the only one laughing.
“Those were the best likenesses we could find,” Silverbolt explained almost apologetically.
“Yeah,” Slingshot added. “And we thought that Danny can play with these ‘til he’s grown enough to take to the sky with the real us.”
“You like them?” Fireflight asked eagerly.
“Hell, yes,” Spike said, picking up one of the packages to read the description on the back. “Hey, look at this: Batteries included!”
Carly’s dry remark of “I think I know who’s gonna play with these” was accompanied by a chorus of good-humored laughter.
Ratchet had a thoroughly enjoyable evening. It was not only funny, but also pleasantly surprising to see how much effort his fellow Autobots had put into finding suitable gifts for the young creators and their offspring. There was a lot of laughter, but also touching moments, like when Carly opened Ironhide’s present. The packaging revealed a small, rectangular something with a metallic screw cap, consisting of soft, blue fabric with the image of what the humans called a teddy bear on it.
“That’s a hot-water bag,” Hound explained to the puzzled audience. “There’s a rubber bag under the fabric. You can fill it with hot water and then put the bag into the baby’s berth to keep it warm for the night.”
Everybody agreed that this was a rather antique method to produce warmth, but Carly’s obvious delight totally made up for this shortcoming. “Thanks, ‘Hide”, she said with her warmest smile. “That’s so sweet; thank you,” and Ironhide looked very pleased at her reaction.
“I don’t know too much ‘bout that whole ‘baby care’ stuff, or whatever it’s called,” he said dismissively. “But I know one thing, and that’s that the little fraggers must be kept warm properly. So I want you to make good use of this thing, you hear me?”
“I will, ‘Hide,” Carly said, still beaming. “I promise.” The tiny smile that curled Ironhide’s lips was perhaps the most spark-warming thing Ratchet had seen in a long time.
“How about that big one next?” Spike suggested, pointing to a rather boxy gift in a simple, green wrapping. “Mirage and Cliffjumper”, Carly read on the attached card and grinned at the two ‘Bots while she and Spike unwrapped the package together.
The surfacing gift turned out to be a cardboard box with the image of a peacefully recharging newborn and the word ‘Diapers’ on it.
Spike stared in disbelief, and Carly, after a moment of speechlessness, snorted in a vain attempt to stifle her laughter. “Jesus Christ, guys,” she said, “who told you about those?!”
Mirage frowned in his somewhat aloof way. “I must admit that I am still not sure if I understand the purpose of these wrappings correctly -“
“I do,” Cliffjumper growled. “And it’s disgusting.”
“- but the young lady at the shop assured us that human sparklings need lots and lots of these,” Mirage continued unimpressed. “So we figured you might make good use of them.”
“And I shall make good use of this,” Jazz commented smugly, snatching one of the magnetic badges from Mirage’s chest plates with a grin. Mirage gave him a puzzled look. “Hey, what are you doing?”
Jazz tossed the badge into the air and caught it again single-handedly before pinning it to his chassis. “Sorry, Mirage, baby,” he replied laughingly. “But you said the magic word!”
Mirage glared at him, then turned to Hound as if expecting backup, but the scout shrugged with an apologetic smile. “Those are the rules, ‘Raj.”
“Now that’s how I like it,” Mirage huffed. “My division commander and my best friend are stabbing me in the back simultaneously. Remind me to hand in a relocation request.”
The game with the badges kept causing good-humored arguments throughout the whole evening, and Ratchet was wise enough to keep his vocalizer shut and instead concentrate on Spike and Carly as they continued to open present after present. Cosmos, Perceptor and Skyfire had outdone themselves, he thought. During his patrols in space, Cosmos had collected a number of different space rocks, and the two scientists had converted them into what Carly called a mobile; a miniature, electrically illuminated version of the Milky Way. Spike was completely fascinated, and Perceptor was as scientific as ever.
“This is basic knowledge,” he told the young couple with a dead serious expression. “You cannot start to teach him these things early enough.”
Finally there was only one more present left. “This is from Optimus and me,” Bumblebee said proudly and handed Carly the tiny package.
It was roughly the size of a human pocket book, though much flatter. Carly cast a quick, surprised glance at the Autobot leader, but when Optimus gave her a friendly nod, she proceeded to carefully undo the wrapping. Everyone, including Ratchet, leaned forward for a clearer view.
What emerged from the packaging was a human-sized data pad. Carly looked at it a bit perplexed.
“Turn it on,” Bumblebee urged. She complied, and the audience craned their necks a bit more. Ratchet had to support his weight on the couch’s backrest.
Carly flipped through the first few pages in silence, and while she did so, her eyes became wider and wider until they completely dominated her face. “That’s... that’s a fairytale book,” she said finally, looking up at the gift-givers in open wonder. Bumblebee nodded eagerly.
“Yeah. We collected some of the old stories and myths from Cybertron, or at least those we thought were suitable for Danny. You can read them to him at recharge time. We even found some pictures, too.”
“Actually,” Optimus amended with a smile in his voice, “the choosing of the stories and pictures was Bumblebee’s part. I only did the translation and the editing.”
“Wow,” Carly commented, still skimming over the pages. “That must have been a real load of work. Thank you.”
Bumblebee looked mighty proud and happy, but Optimus shook his head. “I have to admit my motives were rather selfish,” he said. “This way, even if we should never be able to return to our home planet, a small part of our culture will live on in your spark-... baby.” He nimbly dodged Sideswipe’s advance at his chest plates.
Spike and Carly looked both touched and serious at once. “You don’t worry, Prime,” Spike said, slipping an arm around Carly’s shoulders. “We’ll make sure of that.”
“You, uh... wouldn’t perhaps let me make a copy of this, Carly?” Mirage asked shyly.
“Or two?” Skyfire added.
“Make that three,” Ratchet chimed in.
For some reason, his joining the conversation seemed to catch Bumblebee’s attention. The little scout regarded him thoughtfully for a moment, and then he asked: “What about your present, Ratchet? Don’t you have anything for Carly?”
Of course, Ratchet immediately found himself to be the center of common attention.
“Yeah, Doc,” Jazz said. “You’ve been mighty buttoned up about the topic.”
Ratchet squared his shoulder struts. He had long since decided that the gift he was going to give to Carly was not intended for public optics. He had to talk to her in private; she needed time and space to give ample thought to his suggestion...
“When and where I’m going to give my present to Carly is none of your slagging business,” he replied in his sharpest tone.
“Two energon cubes that he forgot to get her a present,” Sunstreaker taunted. Unsurprisingly, several ‘Bots laughingly got in on the bet at once. Ratchet glared at them coldly. “I’ll remember this when you come to me tomorrow whining about being over-energized,” he informed them.
“Leave him be, guys,” Spike said suddenly, giving Ratchet an almost shameful look. “Ratchet doesn’t need to give us anything; he’s done enough for us already.”
“More than that,” Carly confirmed.
A surprised and somewhat sheepish silence settled upon the group for a moment. From the corner of his optic, Ratchet saw Optimus Prime give Spike a small nod.
“Yeah,” Hound said finally with a tentative smile. “I guess you’re right.” He threw Ratchet a quick glance. “Sorry, Doc. No offense.”
“None taken”, Ratchet said dryly.
It didn’t take too long for the conversations to return to the usual, friendly party chatter, but Carly seemed concerned about the short interlude. When she was sure nobody was watching them anymore, she twisted around on the couch to look at Ratchet. “Don’t mind them, Ratchet,” she said softly. “It’s okay. I don’t need any gifts from you.”
Ratchet couldn’t help but smile. “Actually I do have a present for you, Carly. It’s just not meant for their audio receptors.” He nodded at the laughing, gossiping crowd. “Come to my quarters when we’re done here. I need to talk to you in private.”
There was a short, good-natured tussle among the party guests about who would be allowed to help Spike and Carly carry all the gifts back to their room. Nobody wanted to be left out, it seemed, so in the end, Optimus Prime had to laughingly appoint three official “gift carriers” for this task, much to the young couple’s amusement.
Ratchet made sure to be conveniently out of harm’s way at this point. He slipped out of the room discretely and made his way to his quarters to wait for his charge to see him. He had everything ready; the data pads, the holo projector to show her the plans he had prepared, and the little speech that actually made up the integral part of his gift.
And yet, while he waited for Carly to show up, an odd sense of nervousness began to take hold of him. How would she react to his suggestion? Would she even be willing to consider the idea? Sure, she'd said that she wanted him present at Daniel’s birth, but he couldn’t be certain that she’d meant it quite so literally... After all, he just wasn’t familiar with -
A soft, scratching sound at his door interrupted his thoughts, making him flinch slightly. Of course, the door chime button was well beyond Carly’s reach, he should have thought of that... He jumped out of his seat and went over to trigger the doors open.
She was alone, he realized in mild surprise; Spike was nowhere to be seen. But then he remembered that he‘d told her they needed to talk in private, and obviously she'd taken him at his word.
“You really got me curious now, Ratchet,” Carly said, grinning as she stepped inside. “What kind of present might that be that you can’t give me in public? It’s nothing inappropriate, isn’t it?” she added with mock concern. Ratchet laughed as he took up the game.
"Why, of course," he purred in the sultriest tone he could manage. "Bonded human females are my big kink, you know." Carly laughed at him.
"Alright, Doc," she commanded as he offered her a hand to help her climbing onto the recharge berth. She took some time to settle down properly; the sparkling inside her was quite big by now. "Spill it. What's that gift of yours?"
Strangely enough, he was almost grateful that retrieving the data pads from his desk necessitated turning his back to her for some kliks. That provided him with some time to skim over several files he’d stored in his cache, once more reviewing the basic key points of his plan and some notes on how he intended to present them. He cycled a deep draught of air through his vents, and then turned resolutely back to her.
“Well,” he began, settling onto the floor in front of the berth to be on eye-level with her. “Remember when you told me you wanted to have me with you when Danny’s born?”
Carly nodded. “Sure.”
“It kept me busy, that idea,” he admitted. “As you stated correctly, I cannot very well accompany you to a human delivery room, and the thought has bugged me ever since.”
Carly frowned. “It’s not your fault our hospitals are too small for you, Ratchet.” He smiled at the hint of reproach in her voice.
“I know. But you’re my patient, and I...” He hesitated, searching for the right way to say this. How to explain this feeling that was only partly due to his medical programming, this sense of protection and responsibility, this overwhelming urge to care...
“It is wrong,” he finally said, “for a medic to not be available when their patients need them most. That’s not how our programming works. And it's definitely not the way I treat my charges - or my friends.”
She gave him a long, thoughtful look. “I understand,” she replied softly. “But, Ratchet -“
“I’ve been turning this over and over in that stubborn CPU of mine the last few days,“ he proceeded quickly, before she had a chance to make him loose his nerve. “And somewhere down the road I thought: Well, if I can’t be with her, then perhaps she can be with me instead.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve been wondering,” he said slowly but firmly, “if you would be willing to give birth to your sparkling here on the base.”
Silence. Carly stared at him with an expression he couldn’t read.
Ratchet deemed this the right moment to switch on his holo projector. A three-dimensional picture of the med bay flashed up between them - or rather, a picture of the med bay how he intended it to look like for Danny’s arrival; with a human-sized medical berth for Carly to lie on, matched tables and a large number of special medical utensils that, according to pertinent literature, was needed to assist in a human sparkling’s delivery, including emergency equipment.
“Wheeljack helped me with this,” he explained. “I could prepare and arrange everything so that you and Daniel would be in the best care possible. I’m sure the local hospitals can provide me with everything we’d need, and I did as much self-education on the topic as I was able to. You could bring your human doctor, too, if you like; I don’t mind sharing my med bay.” That was a blatant lie, but for this special occasion, he would agree to make an exception.
Carly kept staring at the hologram in front of her. She lifted a hand as if to touch the non-existing picture, then let it drop back into her lap before looking up at him.
“You’re serious,” she said. “You really mean it.”
“You bet,” he growled, pointing at the hologram. “This is my gift to you, Carly. I’m willing to see this through with you - if you want me to.”
She regarded the translucent projection again with a deeply thoughtful expression. For some time, neither of them spoke.
Then, suddenly, Carly started giggling. “Wow,” she said. “I mean... wow... I’m trying to imagine this.” She stroked one hand over her belly. “I mean, Danny would be the first human baby ever to be born on this ship, right?”
Ratchet smiled. “Definitely.”
“Wow,” she repeated flatly. She looked so dumbfounded that he felt the urge to somewhat relieve the situation.
“You don’t have to decide this right away,” he said quickly in an attempt to soothe her just as much as himself. “It’s a suggestion, nothing more. Take your time to think about it; talk it over with Spike. He’ll want to have a say in this, too, I suppose.”
"I guess so." She eyed him questioningly. "And... Optimus is okay with this?"
"Of course." Well, he would be after a breem in the tender company of Ratchet and, if necessary, a finely-tuned laser scalpel...
Carly's gaze and hand wandered back to her mid-section, where little Daniel was curled up in his cozy nest.
"I never thought of that possibility, really," she murmured. "But... it would basically be some kind of home birth, wouldn't it?"
Ratchet had the distinct impression that she was talking more to herself than to him, so he kept his vocalizer shut to not disturb her thoughts.
"My mom had me in a home birth, you know," she continued in that same, dreamy half-voice. "And she always said it was the best decision she's ever made."
Again a deep silence settled over the room. Carly gazed at the hologram that was still softly sparkling in the air between them. The gentle humming and clicking of his own systems sounded much too loud in Ratchet's audio receptors.
Suddenly Carly’s head jerked up; she looked him straight into the optic, and her eyes were gleaming brightly. “You know what, Ratchet? I’ll do it.”
Had both Devastator and Menasor simultaneously clubbed him on the head with heavy iron rods, Ratchet couldn’t have felt more dazed.
“You will?” he said, and instantly regretted activating his vocalizer when he realized that he sounded profoundly stupid. “Really?”
“Yeah,” Carly said and grinned at him completely elated. “I want my son to be the first baby born on an alien spaceship, even if it’s a crashed one.”
Ratchet laughed. He couldn’t help it; all the tension suddenly bleeding out of his frame just needed an outlet.
Carly eagerly reached for the too-big-for-her data pads; the idea clearly spurred her on. “Oh man, that's so fantastic; I can’t wait to tell Spike! And my gynecologist; you’re right, we’ll need to consult him, there are so many things we’ll have to consider. And I must talk to Elena, of course.”
Ratchet blinked in surprise. “To whom?”
“Elena,” she repeated. “My midwife. Oh, you have to meet her, Ratchet, she’s so great! She’ll be with me at Danny’s birth, too, so the two of you are practically colleagues. I’m sure you’ll love her.”
A strange mixture of emotions made his spark swell in its chamber. Part of him felt insanely jealous and angry at this unknown femme named Elena who dared to interfere with his work and with the medic-patient relationship he had with his charge. Another part of him sagged with relief. Oh, thank Primus, he wouldn’t be completely on his own in this.
They had both gotten well and truly hooked by now, and they spent at least another two breems plotting and discussing all the things they needed to take into account - until finally Spike called on Ratchet via comm link to ask wherever his wife had gotten to.
“Oh, I'm so looking forward to see his face,” Carly chuckled as she slid of the berth, supported by Ratchet’s hand. They walked over to the exit together where she stopped and looked up at him.
“Thanks, Ratchet,” she said. “That’s probably the greatest gift I ever got. Seems that son of mine's gonna be the most special baby Earth has ever seen. Sorry,” she amended with a smile. “I mean: the most special sparkling.”
The word triggered a dormant sub-file in his memory core. “By the way,” he said as he opened the door for her. “I left early, so I didn’t get it to take with me: Whoever won that stupid ‘You’re-not-allowed-to-say-Sparkling’ game in the end?”
Carly’s lips twitched as she fought to suppress a grin. “You won’t believe it, Ratchet,” she replied deadpan. “It was Huffer.”
To be continued...
Chapter 8: Crime and Punishment
Disclaimer: I do not own The Transformers, and I do not make any money with this.
"No, no and no! Over my dead body!"
"That can be arranged, you know," Ratchet said darkly.
Red Alert gave him a look that was equal parts shock, anger and indignation. On Prowl’s faceplates, a disapproving frown became visible, and even Prime’s optics held a gentle reprimand as he looked at his CMO.
Ratchet yielded no ground.
“With all due respect, sir,” he said to Optimus, “I’m not even sure why we’re having this discussion. Carly very clearly expressed her wish to have her sparkling here on board, and personally I think that’s all we need to know.”
“What we need,” Red Alert snapped, over-emphasizing the word, “is some solid information on the risks that come with such an endeavor. We do not need to jump head-first into some crazy medical experiment -“
“Pardon me?” Ratchet interrupted sharply.
As always, Prime’s sonorous voice didn’t need to be loud to demand respect. “That’s enough, you two,” he said calmly. “Let us keep to the facts. I understand both your agitation, but personal insults won’t get us anywhere.”
Red Alert murmured a stiff apology, and Ratchet drew a deep intake of air through his vents. He’d have much preferred to talk to Optimus in private, but upon hearing what the topic was, the Autobot commander had considered it appropriate to bring both his SIC and his Security Director into the discussion. As a result, Ratchet now found himself fighting at three fronts where he had expected only one, and he felt an irrational anger at his leader for putting unfair obstacles in his path.
Forced to change tactics, he concentrated his first attack on what he deemed to be the weakest spot in the enemy’s front line.
“We’re talking about a sparkling, Red,” he addressed the Security Director. “”What kind of security risk can a newborn infant probably be?”
Red Alert crossed his arms over his chest plates. “I know most of you consider me a narrow-minded stickler for the letter of the law,” he replied, “but I’m not so much concerned about my security protocols here. I’m worried about Carly’s safety. Hers and Daniel’s. And you haven’t convinced me yet that you can guarantee this.”
Ratchet blinked in surprise. Well, this was new. Normally, assuring Red Alert that his precious protocols would be adhered to was enough to placate him. Why, of all possible time points in the known universes, did he have to choose now to turn from a paranoid security freak into a sensible mech with a sparkling protection instinct?
“I have no doubt that Carly’s well-being is most important to all of us,” Optimus joined in. “However, I don’t quite understand how this situation came into being in the first place.” He fixed his optics on his CMO. “You’re saying that Carly came to you and asked for your assistance in the sparkling’s delivery?”
Ratchet felt his fists clench at his sides. He couldn’t lie. Not right into his commander’s faceplates.
“She requested that, as her attending medic, I should be present at Daniel’s birth,” he answered, choosing his words carefully. “As this is not possible in a human medical facility for reasons we all know, I proposed an alternative.”
“So now we’re talking.” Red Alert snorted. “This was your idea, not Carly’s.”
With a great effort, Ratchet managed to bite back the sharp answer his processor supplied him with. Squabbling with Red Alert wouldn’t get him anywhere; he had to focus on convincing Prime.
“Sir, a patient came to me requesting my help,” he said as calmly as possible, ignoring his fellow officer. “Please correct me if I’m wrong, but last time I checked, helping patients was part of my job description.”
Optimus shook his head. “You know I value your sense of duty, Ratchet,” he answered, leaning forward in his seat. “And your... enthusiasm when it comes to standing up for your charges. What worries me is that you obviously saw no need to seek anyone’s advice in this, not even from your own medical team, despite the importance of the matter.”
Out of the corner of his optic, Ratchet saw Red Alert nod in agreement. There wasn’t much he could bring forward in his defense, and he knew it. He was losing ground.
“I think that’s exactly the point, Prime.” His optics held his commander’s gaze unflinchingly. “Carly is more than just a patient. She’s a member of the crew. If any other ‘Bot on board wanted to have their sparkling in my med bay, would we then have this discussion? I think not. You yourself made Carly an honorary Autobot. Doesn’t that mean she has the same rights you’d grant Jazz or Bumblebee?”
He picked the names randomly, and yet not completely without a purpose. Both the little scout and the Third-in-command were mechs Optimus had a personal relationship with.
“This scenario is not fit to be compared to the current situation, Ratchet, and you know that very well.”
All three of them turned in surprise to stare at their Second-in-command. Prowl hadn't spoken a word since the doors of Prime's office had closed behind them.
“Carly is not Cybertronian,” he continued now. “She’s human. And while what you say is undeniably true, Ratchet, we cannot simply ignore the difference of species here.”
So much for his trump card. Ratchet’s engine gave an angry rev at the sheer ease with which Prowl brushed off his argument. “Are you telling me -“ he started heatedly, but Prime forestalled him by raising his hand.
“I agree with you, Prowl,” he said to his SIC. “But if I understood Ratchet correctly, he has already made plans to account for this difference, is that right?”
Ratchet’s “Right” came out as a half-growl.
“Let’s hear those plans, then.”
Thanks to the rather extroverted personality he was gifted with, Ratchet had never had difficulties speaking his mind, and yet he felt his spark flutter nervously at Prime’s words. Focus, Ratchet, he ordered himself. You’ve got one chance here, don’t blow it.
He’d brought several datapads containing the sketches, blueprints and bullet point lists he and Wheeljack had come up with, as well as the hologram he had shown to Carly and, later, also to Spike. Optimus looked at all of them carefully before he handed them over to his officers, simultaneously listening to Ratchet’s explanations. Once or twice he interrupted, asking for clarification or demanding a more detailed description, and despite himself, Ratchet suddenly felt profoundly grateful that finally someone was listening to him.
“Carly’s gynecologist agreed to be on call during the birth,” he said. “So I’ll have constant access to a human medic’s advice, if need be. And furthermore, Carly will bring her midwife.”
“A femme specifically trained in matters of human childbirth and sparkling care. So fact is that Carly and I will at no time be completely on our own or devoid of assistance, should we need it.” He looked at all three of them carefully as he spoke. Was that relief he saw on their faceplates?
“I get the impression that Ratchet has carefully deliberated his intentions,” Prowl stated, handing his datapad back to Optimus. His expression was unreadable, his voice neutral.
Prime nodded. “I agree,” he said, and Ratchet felt his spark give a little jump. “What do you think, Red Alert?”
Three pairs of optics focused on the Security Director, whose faceplates were dominated by a faint frown. His gaze flickered from the datapads in his hands first to Prime, then to Ratchet and Prowl, and for a moment grazed the hologram Ratchet had brought before finally settling upon his commander.
“Permission to speak freely, sir,” he said.
A vague sense of dread made Ratchet’s engine stutter slightly, but Optimus was already nodding his agreement. It seemed the battle was about to turn into a duel.
Cautiously, Red Alert placed the datapads back onto the desk. “I think, sir,” he said slowly, “that there is one point in this discussion we have so far been neglecting.”
“Which would be?”
From his position, Ratchet could see that Red Alert was pressing his palms together in his lap, normally a sign that he was feeling emotionally stressed.
“Sir, it’s no secret that Ratchet is very deeply involved into this matter. And not just as a medic, but on a private level. I am worried that his personal feelings might be clouding his professional judgment of the case.”
It took some kliks for Ratchet’s CPU to fully process the meaning of this. When it did, he felt the hydraulics in his jaw and hands begin to tighten.
“Are you suggesting,” he said slowly, and his voice sounded scratchy from the strain he had to put onto his vocalizer, “that I might not have exercised due medical care because Carly and I are friends?”
“I am saying,” Red Alert replied firmly, “that what we have here is a clear case of bias. I don’t doubt your medical skills, Ratchet, but can you honestly say that your behavior in this situation has thus far been driven by logic or reason? I’ve read Inferno’s report on the Code Yellow incident we had a deca-cycle ago, and your actions then seemed anything but professional to me.”
Rage was an emotion Ratchet was familiar with, but up to this very moment, he hadn’t known that it could burn that hot behind one’s chest plates. So, that stuck-up little Lambo wanted to play dirty? Well, bring it on! He feigned a surprised look.
“Why, sorry, Red,” he purred. “I had no idea that you of all mechs have a problem with people dashing into burning facilities to save their friends. Perhaps we should let Inferno know about this?”
Red Alert’s faceplates twitched. “I wasn’t implying -“ he started, but Ratchet cut him off. It felt like some sort of floodgate was opened, and he pounded his fist onto the table as all the tension and fury unleashed in one violent burst, catapulting him out of his chair.
“You weren’t implying what?” he hissed. “That I’m too emotional to do my job properly? If that was true, half of this crew would long since have kicked it, yourself included! How dare you judge my actions? And how dare you decry my personal relationships? You’re so consumed by your fear of commitment, you don’t even know what a real friendship is, you glitching little -“
“That’s enough, Ratchet.”
Prime’s voice cut like ice through the bright-red heat in his chest. In a fraction of an astrosecond, Ratchet became painfully aware again where he was - and what he was doing.
Red Alert had gotten out of his chair as well and had taken a step backwards, staring at him in obvious shock and hurt, and a quick glance at his commander revealed a cold twinkle in those sapphire optics. Only Prowl’s expression remained as stoic as ever, which was almost more scary than Prime’s ire.
An uncomfortable shiver ran down Ratchet’s backstruts and turned his hydraulics into water.
“I’m... sorry,” he choked out and sank back down into his chair, not sure which of them to look at. Not that it mattered, really.
The battle was lost.
His processor knew it, even if his spark couldn’t quite feel it yet, comparable to the first few kliks after taking a heavy hit in a gunfight. He’d had this one chance, and he’d fragged it up. He’d let Carly down because he simply couldn’t control his own emotions.
“You were saying, Red Alert?” Optimus prompted gently.
Ratchet’s head jerked up in shocked incomprehension. He’d been expecting the fatal blow, but Prime was utterly ignoring him. His gaze stayed firmly fixed onto his Security Director.
Red Alert’s fingers were by now constantly intertwining and untangling again, but nevertheless he kept his countenance. “I think I’ve made my point, sir,” he said softly. “Ratchet is a brilliant medic, and obviously a great friend,” - the word came out a bit hoarse with static - “but he is an involved party, and your decision in this should not be based on his advice. And personally, I think that delivering Carly’s sparkling is the job of a human doctor, and not of a Cybertronian one.”
He took his seat again, and Ratchet could see his hands relaxing.
“Alright,” Optimus said, giving him a nod before turning to his Vice Commander. “Prowl?”
Their Second remained as silent as ever, but his door wings were held high, and Ratchet’s sensors registered the soundless crackle and hum of comm. messages being passed back and forth.
For a moment, his anger returned full-force. What was this supposed to mean? If Prowl had anything to say, why didn’t he say it out loud?
But then again, perhaps it was for the better. He already knew what he was in for; no need to hear it once from each of them.
Whatever the two officers had to discuss, they seemed to have finished, because Optimus rose from his seat, and the three of them followed suit, awaiting their commander’s decision.
“Alright,” Prime said again, and there was a certain finality in his voice. “Prowl, Red Alert, I thank you for your input. Would you excuse us now; I’d like to talk to Ratchet in private.”
So he was to receive his death sentence behind closed doors, Ratchet thought wryly as both his fellow officers saluted and then left the room. He should have expected it, really; Optimus was too considerate a mech to destroy one of his subordinates in the presence of others.
The doors slid shut behind Prowl’s back. All of a sudden, silence reigned supreme in the small room, and Ratchet felt his tanks churn slightly, while at the same time he was severely tempted to laugh at himself. Only half a joor ago, he’d been enraged that he couldn’t talk to his commander privately, and now that he was supposed to do so, he wanted to be anywhere but here.
“Ratchet,” Optimus said.
He turned so Prime wouldn’t believe him afraid to look at him. He’d accept the final cut with his optics online.
Optimus beckoned him over to stand at one of the small round windows his office featured. The porthole looked straight into the volcano’s crater; the orange-red glow of the magma below mingled with the bluish daylight that streamed in from above, creating an eerie half-light that for some reason took away the last of Ratchet’s fighting spirit. He’d never been a warrior, so where was the sense in pretending to be one?
And perhaps Red Alert was right. Perhaps he wasn’t fit to take over a task like a human birth, perhaps he was simply too involved and emotionally unstable to be a real help. He had seen video clips of the events taking place in a human delivery room, and tried to exchange the faces of those unknown femmes with an image of Carly. Given that he had just totally lost it simply because a colleague held a different opinion, what would he do when things actually reached that critical stage? What would he do when Carly walked into his med bay and said: Ratchet, it’s happening. The baby’s coming. He’d probably suffer severe spark failure and just drop dead.
Well done, you old fool, he thought grimly. How was he going to explain this to his human friend? But perhaps he could at least convince Optimus to let him accompany her to the hospital, as she had originally suggested. This way, he wouldn’t be completely useless...
“I haven’t seen Carly in a few days,” Optimus said. “How is she doing?”
Ratchet stared at him in confusion for a moment, but then pulled himself together. Of course. Some small talk first, to defuse the situation.
“She’s fine,” he answered. “A bit grumpy, perhaps. Says she’s tired of feeling like a walking barrel, but apart from that, she’s doing great.”
Optimus’ hidden smile showed in his optics. “Glad to hear it,” he said.
They remained silent for a while, staring out into the orange-red-blue light behind the window. Then Optimus turned to fully face Ratchet, and the smile had vanished from his optics.
“We need to talk, my friend,” he said.
About two joors later, Ratchet left his commander’s office wondering when he had last felt so drained and exhausted just from talking to another mech.
It was late afternoon by now, and only a few of the crew members were out on the corridors, greeting him in passing. Most faceplates shifted from smiling to slightly worried as soon as their owners came close enough, but Ratchet paid them no heed on his way through the ship. There were more important things to be done.
He found Wheeljack at his workbench when he entered his friend’s lab. The inventor looked up at the sound of the door, and his vocal indicators flashed fondly when he recognized his visitor.
“Hey, Ratch! Come in, what can I - Pit, are you alright?”
He dropped the gadget he was working on and jumped to his feet. “No offense, Ratch, but you look like you’ve just been run through a junk press. Here, have a seat, I’ll get you a drink.”
Ratchet didn’t protest as he was pushed into a chair next to the workbench, and didn’t object the energon cube Wheeljack offered him, either.
“Thank you,” he murmured, watching his friend settling down on the edge of the bench.
“So, uh,” he began carefully when Ratchet had taken a few sips of energon. “I guess you talked to Prime, huh?”
Ratchet nodded. The energon had an immediate effect; the slight haze he’d felt ever since leaving his leader’s office began to dissipate.
“I talked to Prime,” he affirmed. “And to Prowl. And to Red Alert.”
Wheeljack’s optics widened. “Oi,” he breathed. “That doesn’t sound too good.”
Ratchet let his head fall back, ignoring the strain in his hydraulics. “Well, let’s see,” he said to the ceiling. “I pissed off a fellow officer and both my superiors and thus got myself a formal reprimand.”
“Ouch,” Wheeljack said.
“I am to apologize to Red Alert, both verbally and in writing, the latter to be filed in both our records.”
“Huh,” Wheeljack said.
“And last but not least,” Ratchet continued dryly, “I have been suspended from office, immediately effective, for the remaining time of Carly’s carrying. Except for emergencies, of course.”
Wheeljack stared at him. “You’re kidding.”
“Do I look amused to you?”
“But... medical staff don’t get suspended. They just don’t.”
Ratchet laughed softly as he lifted his head again. “Well, Optimus seemed to be of the opinion that I’ve already spent so much time taking care of Carly, both private and working time, that it shouldn’t be too hard for me to - how did he put that? - ‘adjust my schedule’. Besides, I’m gonna need every astrosecond I can get to put all those plans we made into action.”
There was a moment of silence as Wheeljack let the words sink in.
“You mean,” he said finally, “he gave consent?”
“He did.” The words still felt weird, surreal, and he had yet to figure out if they meant a privilege or a punishment. But above all else, they produced a warm, tender pulsing in his spark.
“He gave me quite a grilling, I can tell you. He wants regular updates and reports and a say in all future decisions regarding this matter, meaning I’ll spend half of my time either in his office or doing paperwork, but he gave permission. I’m going to deliver Carly’s sparkling.”
Wheeljack’s vocal indicators glowed like Iacon in a dark night when he hopped off the workbench. “Ratchet, that’s great! That’s fantastic!” He dove in to give his friend a firm hug, and Ratchet accepted and returned it with all his spark.
“Wow, that’s terrific. But we’ve got to hurry, then; there’s barely one stellar cycle left, right? Okay, let me see... now where have these blueprints gone again...”
Ratchet leaned back in his chair, sipped his energon and watched contentedly as his friend started digging through his various stacks of datapads. I’m going to help Carly have her sparkling, he thought to himself, turning the words over and over in his processor to admire them from every possible angle, and the warm feeling inside of him spread and lasted long after Wheeljack had switched to full inventor mode.
They’d been bent over their various sketches for some time when a soft scratch could be heard at the door. “Come in,” Wheeljack called happily and pressed the remote control button under the bench.
“Hey, Wheeljack. Have you seen - ah, there you are, Ratchet.”
Carly wore a simple white T-Shirt and blue jeans overalls, but in this advanced stage of the carrying, there wasn’t any type of clothing anymore that could conceal her baby bump. Her face was discontentment personified.
“Where have you been all day? I’ve been looking for you all over the ship, and I’m not exactly light on my feet these days, you know.”
“I’m sorry, Carly.” He had no idea what he was apologizing for, but over the past stellar cycles he had learned that asking no questions and accepting the blames she laid on him, no matter how weird they seemed, was the best way to avoid arguments, and that in turn made both their lives much easier. “How can I help you?”
She looked mollified at once. “Oh, don’t bother. Just wanted to tell you that I saw Elena today, and she’d like to come by on Friday to meet with you and to have a look at all those preparations you two have been making. That okay for you?”
Ratchet felt the dire need to club himself on the head, preferably with something very heavy. Yes, of course, the midwife thing... He’d agreed to her suggestion to bring that femme to the base to meet him, had even talked to Optimus about her only some joors ago, but he hadn’t really thought about this meeting. There’d been so many other things to think about, for Primus sake…
“Sure,” he said. “Friday. That’s fine; I’m looking forward to it.”
She smiled. “Great. Should I tell Prime?”
“No, no,” he said quickly, remembering his new arrangement with his commander. “I can do that.”
“Okay.” Her face contorted into a grimace as she pressed both her hands against the small of her back. “I think I’ll better be off to my couch again, guys. My back, you know...”
“Have a good rest, Carly,” Wheeljack called after her as the doors swished shut behind the back that bothered her so much.
Ratchet accessed the human calendar he’d downloaded onto his HUD, selecting the present day. The word ‘Monday’ glared back at him with a malicious joy he’d never seen before in any combination of letters. He took a moment to reset his optics, then turned to his friend.
“Okay, ‘Jack,” he said. “We have to turn a Cybertronian med bay into a human delivery room, and we have exactly three Earth days to do so.”
To be continued...
Chapter 9: Elena and Spike
Special thanks to my fellow author Taipan Kiryu. She knows why ;-)
Disclaimer: I do not own The Transformers, and I do not make any money with this.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
For the first time in three Earth days, Ratchet was having a truly peaceful morning.
He had completed a full recharge cycle without interruption, had - as he was officially banned from any duties - wandered unhurriedly into the rec room to consume his morning ration, and was now sitting next to the large panorama window, idly chatting with Jazz and Smokescreen.
“So today’s the big day, huh?” their Third-in-command asked with a grin. “That midwife femme’s coming to check if we’re ready for the sparkling, right?”
Ratchet smiled into his energon cube. In the small, rather isolated world of a military base such as the Ark, news tended to travel fast, and this one had certainly done so. Seldom had his med bay - or rather First Aid’s med bay for now, he reminded himself - been as highly frequented as in the last three days as mechs kept popping in with the most ridiculous explanations as to why they just had to be there at exactly this very moment. So far, ‘Sorry, guys, but I think one of my fuel lines got bitten through by a marten’ had been his personal favorite.
He nodded in response. “Bumblebee’s on his way to pick her up, together with Spike and Carly,“ he said. “They should be here in a breem or two.”
“You nervous?” Smokescreen asked.
Ratchet blinked his optics at him. “No,” he said. “Why would I be?”
Granted, he had felt somewhat agitated those last few days, but that had been mainly due to the time pressure he and Wheeljack had had to work under to reformat the med bay according to their blueprints. His feelings concerning the upcoming meeting with Elena were perhaps best described as a kind of suspicious curiosity. She might be good at her job, but so was he, and that had been the case long before humanity had even known the word ‘midwife’. Besides, both Spike and Carly had been anything but mean with positive feedback when they had inspected the impromptu delivery room yesterday. That Elena-femme would find nothing to criticize about him, his work, or the Autobots in general. And the fact that he was going to have to let her work in his sanctum – well, he’d survive it.
Jazz stretched his arms above his head and leaned back in his seat. “Just hope you’re not going to frag this one up, Doc,” he said. “Can’t have our Danny-boy being born anywhere else, can we?”
Ratchet snorted. “Why, thanks, Jazz. That really made me feel better.”
“Aw, you know what I mean.” Jazz grinned at him and took a sip from his cube, but then sat it down abruptly when his gaze wandered towards the door.
“Excuse me, gentlemechs,” he said, rising from his chair. “But here comes the ‘Bot I’ve been waiting for.” Ratchet watched in amusement as his superior officer skipped through the room, waving at the new-arrival: “Hey, Blaster, me man! How’s it hangin’?”
He never found out how things were ‘hanging’ with Blaster, though, because Smokescreen turned back to him with a quiet laugh and shook his head. “He’s right, you know,” he commented. And when Ratchet raised an optic ridge in question, he added: “About Daniel. We’re all quite excited.”
Ratchet snorted again, but without venom. “Yeah, I’ve noticed you guys hanging around in the med bay more often than usual these days. And I can’t even blame you.”
The young frontliner returned his gaze with a strangely knowing smile as he cocked his head slightly to one side. “I think you don’t realize just how much the crew is with you in this, Doc,” he stated.
“We’re all very fond of Spike and Carly, Ratchet, just as you are, and the same goes for that offspring of theirs. Whenever the subject comes up, it’s always ‘our Danny’ or ‘our little one’.”
That was true, Ratchet thought in astonishment. He had heard it several times, but had never really paid attention to it.
“When word got out that you were planning to help Carly have her sparkling here on the ship, everybody was completely stoked,” Smokescreen continued. “We even had bets going if you’d manage to persuade Prime to give his Okay.” His smile widened into a grin. “Thanks for winning me two cans of Carnauba wax polish, by the way.”
Ratchet stared at him. Given what that battle had cost him - and he still considered it a battle - he wasn’t sure if he should laugh about this, or be offended.
“Glad to be of service,“ he replied in his driest tone. Smokescreen chuckled.
“Seriously, Doc, the crew’s quite impressed by the job you do here, and we’re ready to help wherever we can. That even goes for Red Alert, in that own strange way of his. You have more allies than you notice, Ratchet. I thought you should know that.”
One of the reasons why Ratchet didn’t normally socialize with Smokescreen that much was because the young warrior always knew a bit more about everything and everyone than was good for the medic’s peace of mind. He would not ask how Smokescreen had learned about his falling out with the Security Director, but his thoughts must have been visible on his faceplates, because his companion didn’t press the matter further.
“Well, anyway,” he said with a relenting gesture, rising and subspacing his energon cube. “I need to be off. Got some things to take care of before shift starts. See you later, Doc.”
Ratchet murmured a quiet goodbye and stared at his retreating back as Smokescreen left the room. “Allies,” he grunted softly, shaking his head. He was a military surgeon. You had no allies when you were the only thing standing between a bot and certain deactivation. His battles were his own to fight.
And yet, unbidden, his CPU started to replay Smokescreen’s words and to interweave them with what Carly had said about the crew wanting to be involved, and how much she cherished that...
His gaze wandered thoughtfully across the room and the few attendees as his processor pulled up more memory files of ‘involved’ scenes and mechs and began to analyze, to connect and shift the different data to appropriate folders.
He leaned back in his chair and sipped his energon slowly, letting his CPU continue with its sorting. He hadn’t cleared his cache in weeks; the data there was compressed and disorganized, and the disarray was beginning to make itself felt. He grinned to himself when his processor automatically created a new parent folder in his memory bank and labeled it ‘Allies’. Perhaps that wasn’t such a bad idea after all...
‘Prime to Ratchet.’
He jumped a bit at the sudden interruption. ‘Ratchet here.’
‘I have just received word from Bumblebee that his ETA is about ten Earth minutes. I take it that you would like to join us to welcome our guest.’
He nodded reflexively, then remembered that Optimus couldn’t see that. ‘Of course. I’m on my way.’
He stood and subspaced his half-empty cube. All right. Let the games begin.
According to standard protocol, a small welcoming committee had assembled outside the Ark. Prime was there, of course, and acknowledged his CMO’s arrival with a friendly nod. Beside him was Prowl, with his hands folded behind his back and faceplates that seemed to have been carved from stone. A little to the side, Ratchet spotted Ironhide, who greeted him with a noncommittal grunt. It was probably just coincidence, but he still wondered if Optimus - or Prowl - had kept Red Alert out of this on purpose...
They didn’t have to wait long. Dust clouds in the distance announced Bumblebee’s arrival, and only a short time later, the little yellow scout came to a halt in front of them, greeting them in his cheery way and popping his doors open.
Carly laughed when her transport tilted his passenger seat slightly to help her get out. “Thanks, ‘Bee,” she said, and then laughed again when he flicked his windshield wipers in response.
“Seems that apart from our own chauffeur, we get our own welcoming committee, too,” Spike observed with a grin. “Good morning, guys.”
They greeted him with the usual small talk, but Ratchet had no interest in Bumblebee’s antics or in human courtesy phrases. His optics were fixed on the third person who was just emerging from Bumblebee’s backseat.
She was about forty Earth years old, he estimated, and clearly of Mexican heritage. Her hair was short and curly; her clothing practical, yet elegant. She had distinct, stern features, but her deep, black eyes spoke of kindness and care.
“Guys”, Carly said with a proud smile, “I’d like you to meet my midwife, Elena Quintana. Elena, these are our friends, the Autobots.”
“It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Miss Quintana”, Optimus said kindly, lowering himself to one knee as he spoke. “I am Optimus Prime. I trust you had a pleasant trip?”
Elena’s eyebrows rose a bit. “Well, I came here in a car who gave me a lively description of the alien planet he originates from,“ she answered. “So I daresay the trip could be called unconventional.”
“I was just trying to give her the general picture,” Bumblebee defended himself. Optimus’ optics shone with quiet amusement.
“I’m glad to hear that my soldier performed his duty well”, he said as he straightened again. “Please allow me to introduce my officers. This is my Second-in-command, Prowl.”
Prowl took a small step forward. “Welcome to the Ark, Miss Quintana.”
“This is one of my Security Officers, Ironhide.”
“I told you about ‘Hide, Elena,” Carly jumped in. “Remember?”
“I do.” Was there a hint of respect in her voice?
“And this,” Optimus concluded, and Ratchet could have sworn that there was laughter in his voice, “is my Chief Medical Officer, Ratchet, whom, I think, is the primary reason for your visit.”
At the sound of his designation, Ratchet had unconsciously taken a step towards Elena, so he was now standing pretty close to her. What would have intimidated most humans not used to being around Transformers didn’t seem to bother her in the least. She looked up at him fearlessly, sizing him up with those dark optics of hers.
“So,” she said. “You’re the doctor.”
Ratchet felt his lips quirk slightly. “Yeah,” he answered in the same tone. “I’m the ‘doctor’.” He placed a little emphasis on the title that wasn’t really his. If she noticed it, she chose to ignore it.
“I’ll be honest with you,” she said. “I’m not really happy with this whole idea. I mean, you’re a machine, right? What can you probably know about pregnancy and childbirth?”
Ratchet wasn’t quite sure what he had expected, but he almost felt a little disappointed at this stale argument. “I can assure you that I had ample opportunity to familiarize myself with the topic,” he answered calmly.
“Ratch has become quite the specialist,” Spike commented with a grin. “Sometimes I think he knows more about our baby than we do.”
For some reason, this made Elena smile for the first time. “I must admit that I’m curious,” she said, turning to Ratchet again. “I have delivered babies in the most unusual places, but never on an alien spacecraft. And Miss Carly tells me you already put a lot of effort into the preparations.”
He nodded an affirmative.
“Well, then.” She made a gesture as if she intended to usher them all inside. “Let’s take a look.”
It was an interesting phenomenon, Ratchet mused, that a crew of battle-hardened warriors and experienced officers could exhibit such sparkling-like curiosity. Had his fellow Autobots formed an honor guard in front of the med bay, it wouldn’t have surprised him in the least. He was almost grateful for Prowl’s well-practiced, stern glances that easily shooed the crew off to their duties again.
“This way,” he said as he palmed open the doors to his sanctum to lead the small group inside. “This is our med bay,” he explained to Elena. “You’d probably call it a hospital ward. Our Chief Engineer and I did what we could to ensure that Carly and Daniel will be safe and comfortable.”
Elena’s dark eyes swept through the room critically. “There’s no windows,” she stated.
Wordlessly, he reached over to the control panel next to the door and increased the light’s intensity by ten percent.
“Ah.” She favored him with a smile. “Thank you. That’s better. Now, where are we going to work?”
They had decided quite early on to build the delivery room in one of the small alcoves that could be separated from the rest of the med bay by a silicone curtain, and Ratchet got the impression that Elena very much approved of this. He was also grateful that Optimus and Ironhide took a back seat for most of the time. Once in a while, Prime would offer some background information about the ship and its technology, and Ironhide explained the usual security measures to Elena. But apart from that, they left the driving to him, and the more time passed, the more Ratchet began to actually enjoy himself. Carly and Bumblebee enthusiastically took part in all his explanations, and the young woman even insisted on climbing onto the human-sized medical berth Wheeljack had installed to demonstrate to her midwife how it could be adjusted to almost any position she might want to take for the birth. It was such a pity Wheeljack couldn’t be here right now, Ratchet thought fleetingly.
It was only then that he realized that Prowl wasn’t with them anymore.
He gave Elena a review of the working materials and instruments he had fitted the place with, let her have a look at his emergency equipment. She took a special interest in the human painkillers he had obtained from the nearest hospital, and wanted to be briefed on their means of communication, in case they needed external assistance or even an ambulance. Ratchet had the time of his life when he informed her that he was the ambulance.
“Well, that all looks quite decent,” she judged. “Of course I’ll need to bring a few items; some towels and a bath tub and a pair of scales –“
“Oh, but Ratchet can do the weighing and all that stuff, Elena,” Carly interrupted. “Can’t you?” She glanced at her medic.
“Of course.” He knew that these were some of the first things humans did to their newborns, weighing and sizing them, but given the fact that he would be present, he’d never thought that she’d come up with the idea of bringing extra-tools. He felt a bit offended.
Elena looked first at Carly, then at Ratchet. “Tell me my height and weight,” she challenged him.
Ratchet instinctively ran a self-diagnosis on his audio receptors. “Pardon me?”
“Tell me my height and weight,” she repeated.
She had to be joking. He was a medic, for Pit’s sake, not some stupid pocket calculator! Behind him, he could clearly hear Ironhide snigger.
“You know, the last time I commented on a human femme’s body weight, it got me into a lot of trouble,” he replied pointedly, giving his charge a hard stare. Carly returned his gaze half embarrassed, half pleading.
“I’m a tough one,” Elena said, clearly amused. “Try me.”
There was no need to give her an extra scan. Just like human sensory organs, his scanners automatically and constantly took in basic data sets of everything and everyone around him. All he had to do was to consciously access this information. He pulled a deep draught of air into his vents.
“Your body height, Miss Quintana, is 5.4 feet, and your body weight is 132.29 pounds, which adds up to a body mass index of approximately 22.139 kilograms per square meter. Your body temperature is 98.2 degrees Fahrenheit, your breathing frequency is 15 breaths per minute, and your pulse rate is 72 beats per minute. You had cereals with milk and black tea for breakfast, and according to your hormone levels, you are somewhere between the tenth and twelfth day of your menstrual cycle. I can give you status reports on all your internal organs as well, if you’re interested.”
Silence. Optimus looked a bit aghast. Spike and Bumblebee valiantly tried to hide their amusement, but were equally unsuccessful. Carly looked back and forth between her medic and her midwife, her expression tense.
Very slowly, Elena’s face lit up with a broad grin. “You know,” she said, “I think you and I will make a great team.”
“Thank you very much for your support, Miss Quintana,” Optimus said eventually. “Your help in this is greatly appreciated.”
She nodded. “You’re welcome. And I have to say that I’m positively surprised.”
“I told you you’d love Ratchet, Elena.” Carly was smiling, but with a pang of worry Ratchet noticed that her smile looked forced, and that her hands were balled into fists.
Elena’s lips twitched faintly. “Indeed. Mr. Prime, would it be possible for me to have a private word with Dr. Ratchet?”
Both Optimus and Ironhide took the opportunity to bid goodbye to their visitor and to be off to their various duties. Bumblebee left together with Spike and Carly, saying that he’d keep them company until Elena needed him for the drive back to town. The last thing Ratchet saw from the young woman was the strange, pleading expression in her eyes.
The doors closed behind Bumblebee’s back with their usual swishing sound, and Ratchet turned his attention to his guest, intending to offer her a hand to help her up onto one of the med berths as he was used to doing with his human friends, but Elena was having none of it. Without further ado, she took a seat on the berth meant for Carly and gave him a prompting look.
“You did a fine job here,” she said. “I didn’t expect that.”
Ratchet knelt down to be closer to her and wondered how to respond to this. Given that he would need to work with this femme, a non-challenging approach would perhaps be best.
“I’m aware that your experience in this area beats mine,” he answered. “But I did learn a few things in the last nine stellar cycles. I gave Carly my word that I would see her through this, and I keep my promises.”
She cocked her head slightly. “You’re very concerned about her.”
Ratchet frowned. “Of course,” he replied curtly. “She’s my patient. And my friend.”
“Hm.” She seemed to think for a moment, then looked up at him again. “Tell me, have you been a doctor for long?”
A small smirk parted his lips. He had expected questions about his qualifications much earlier, and thus was prepared to answer.
“I received what you would call my approbation about 2,400 vorns before the civil war broke out on my world. According to your reckoning, that would be approximately eleven million years ago. So yeah, I’ve been a medic for quite some time now.” He let the information sink in, then asked: “What about you? What kind of training do you have?”
Elena was obviously neither stupid nor spineless. The dry smile she gave him clearly showed that she knew he’d seen through her game, but she stubbornly refused to be impressed. She even made herself a bit more comfortable before she answered.
“I’m a Certified Professional Midwife, meaning I’ve been especially trained in overseeing births in non-medical environments. I started working in this profession when I was eighteen years old, which gives me about twenty years of practical experience.”
Ratchet tried to imagine what that had to be like, to spend one’s professional life helping carriers to give birth to their sparklings. “Must be a very gratifying job,” he commented without thinking.
A deep, warm gentleness suddenly lit up Elena’s dark eyes. “Yes,” she replied, and her voice was softer now, almost soothing. “It is.” And then, after a short pause, she added: “I want to be honest with you, Ratchet. The reason why I objected to Miss Carly having her baby here was not because I doubted your medical knowledge. Knowledge can be obtained, and for a robot, that should be even less of a problem. But experience tells me that what a woman truly needs during birth is emotional support. And I had my doubts that you could provide that.”
Ratchet felt his jaws clench tightly. And why the frag would you think that?! Ever since their very first day on Earth, it had irked him that many humans obviously considered his species incapable of care or friendship, mainly because he didn’t understand what gave them this idea. Even the Decepticons stood up for each other in their own, twisted ways.
“I already told you,” he answered coolly, “that Carly and I are good friends, and have been so for several of your Earth years now. Personally, I think that’s all you need to know.”
She didn’t answer immediately. The smile had vanished from her face. Ratchet noticed suddenly how quiet the room had become.
“You’re right,” Elena said finally. “Basically, that was the only question I really wanted to ask you. And now that I’ve seen you two together, I’m glad to know that Miss Carly will be in good hands with you.”
He took a moment to process her words. Was the fight over already? “Well, thank you,” he said as neutrally as he could manage.
“I’m sorry if I gave you a wrong impression, but this topic was of importance to me. Especially since Miss Carly’s husband won’t be with her during her delivery.”
The last sentence grabbed his attention. Spike wouldn’t be there when his sparkling was born? Granted, the topic had never really come up, but somehow he’d always just assumed that Carly’s bonded would join them in the delivery room.
“I suppose it isn’t customary for a human male to be present when his mate gives birth?” he asked cautiously. Elena shrugged.
“Well, personally, I always welcome it when a woman’s partner is with her during delivery. But that’s something every couple has to decide for themselves. Of course,” she added, and her smile suddenly turned into a mischievous grin, “it can be an advantage when there are no men around at a birth. I had many a young father pass out cold in my delivery rooms. And then there was this one time when I delivered a woman of beautiful twin girls while her husband lay on the couch with sympathy pains, whining his heart out. I probably shouldn’t say this, but it was a pitiable sight.”
Something about the tone of her voice sounded vaguely familiar, Ratchet mused. “Yeah,” he answered with a dry smirk, “I can also tell you a thing or two about whiny patients.”
Elena laughed heartily, and Ratchet couldn’t help but grin. Pit, he was starting to like this femme.
“Oh, I’m definitely looking forward to working with you.” She stretched out her hand, and without hesitating, Ratchet offered her his index finger, which she shook with surprising strength. “Here's to successful cooperation, Doctor. And now that I’m done pestering you with questions, perhaps there’s something you would like to ask me?”
He knew he should ask about the birth, about medical details or about aspects of their collaboration.
“What,” he said. “What, pray tell, are sympathy pains?”
It was late afternoon when Elena eventually took her leave. Ratchet stood in the Ark’s entrance with Spike and Carly and watched Bumblebee’s small, yellow form disappear behind the dust clouds while the two humans waved after him.
“You two have been talking for quite some time,” Carly remarked, turning to face him. “What do you think?”
“Uh, before you answer that, Ratchet,” Spike jumped in with a sly grin, “you might want to know that Miss Quintana has left your fellow Autobots with a lasting impression. Even Prime couldn’t deny it. And Ironhide said it was a pity she wasn’t Cybertronian. If she was, he’d consider her the perfect match for you.”
“I’ll have to have a word with the old coot, I guess,” Ratchet grumbled good-naturedly.
“So, what did you think?” Carly pressed with an exasperated glance at her bonded. She appeared a bit stressed, Ratchet thought again.
“She has profound knowledge of her profession,” he answered truthfully. “And she seems to truly care about you. I think we’ll be a great team.”
“Really?” Carly visibly relaxed at this. “Oh, thank God. She didn’t like our plan very much, you see. I was hoping that, if you two got along well, it would make her change her mind...” All of a sudden, her eyes filled with tears. “I so much want to have my baby here...” Ratchet watched in horror when she started to sob.
“And you will, Carly,” he said hastily. “Everything’s fine, we’ll take care of you...” He glanced at Spike, silently pleading for help. The young man wrapped his wife in a tight embrace, rocking her and whispering soothingly into her ear. Carly wiped her cheeks clumsily.
“Sorry,” she murmured. “I’m sorry, I’m being stupid, I just... I think I’m just tired.”
“No wonder,” Spike said. “You two missed your afternoon nap today.” He stroked one hand over her belly lovingly, and Carly smiled through her tears.
That decided it for Ratchet. He had to know.
“Carly, would you mind terribly if I borrowed your bonded for a klik?” he asked. “There’s this odd, ticking sound in my engine, and I hoped Spike could have a look...”
They both looked at him a bit perplexed. “Uh... yeah, sure,” Spike said finally. “Sure I can do that.” He glanced at his wife. “That alright?”
Carly’s answer was a mixture between a nod, a shrug and a tentative smile. “Yeah, okay. I’ll go in and put my feet up a bit. You guys can take your time.” She kissed her husband on the mouth briefly and gave Ratchet a short wave. “See you later.”
Ratchet waited until she was well out of sight before he turned to Spike. The young man smiled up at him. “Okay, Doc. Where does it hurt?”
“Nowhere, actually.” He transformed into vehicle mode and opened his driver’s door. ”Let’s take a little ride, shall we?”
Spike looked puzzled, but he climbed in nonetheless and fastened the seat belt. Ratchet closed the door and pulled off at an unhurried pace.
It was only a short while before Spike broke the silence.
“Is... is something wrong, Ratchet?” he asked softly. “With Carly? Or... with the baby?”
“No, no,” Ratchet answered quickly, realizing his mistake. “No, they’re fine. I’d just like to ask you something, if that’s alright with you.”
Spike noticeably relaxed in his seat. “Oh. Yeah, sure. Fire away.”
Ratchet had no idea how to phrase such a question politely, so he decided to be blunt. “I just learned you won’t be with Carly when your sparkling is born.”
Even through his upholstery, he could feel the tension in Spike’s muscles return. “Yeah,” he murmured. “Yeah, we... decided it would be best this way.”
“It confused me,” Ratchet admitted. “You’ve been so attentive to Carly all this time that I just supposed you would stay with her during the birth, too. And I... wondered if there’s a problem I can help you with.”
To be honest, he was beginning to worry about his human friend. Spike had sagged against the seat back, running his hand across his face distractedly. His adrenaline levels were too high, and his pulse beat too fast. “I can’t do this, Ratchet,” he said hoarsely.
“You can’t do what?”
“I’ve seen pictures,” Spike said, staring out of the side window like hypnotized. “Video clips. I nearly threw up, Ratchet, I just couldn’t handle it. All the blood and the pain and I... I couldn’t bear to see Carly like this, Ratchet, and to know that I can’t help her. I mean, I know I should be there with her, I’m her husband, and I’m the reason she’s in this state in the first place, but I just can’t, Ratchet, and I feel so bad about it, I feel like a complete quitter...”
Ratchet had unconsciously slowed down, a bit overwhelmed by the avalanche he had obviously triggered. “Spike, you needn’t justify -“
“I thought this would be easy, Ratchet.” Spike’s hands were clutching his steering wheel now, so hard it almost hurt. “I mean, that’s what all the books and movies tell you, right? You get married, and then your wife has a baby, and then you’re a happy little family. But what about all the things the books don’t tell you? How do you react when you have to get up at 05:30 a.m. to go to work and your wife just wakes you up for the fourth time because she wants a back rub or a milk shake? What do you do when you enter the sitting room and your wife is in there sobbing her heart out for no reason? And I just can’t stop worrying, Ratchet. I worry if the baby will be healthy, or if something’s gonna happen to Carly during the birth. I worry if I earn enough money to make sure Danny gets everything he needs. I worry about all the mistakes I could make, and if my son will even like me, can you imagine that? And then there’s sex, Ratchet!”
Oh no. He didn’t mean... He wasn’t going to -
“Carly’s become very... active these past few weeks, you know what I mean? And it’s not that I don’t want to sleep with her, but I’m always so frightened that I hurt her, or that I hurt Danny... there’s not that much room left in there, right? But every time I say no, she’ll throw a tantrum, or she’ll start crying and claiming that I don’t love her anymore. But that’s not true, Ratchet, I do love her, I love them both so much it hurts... what are you doing?”
Ratchet had stopped and killed his engine right in the middle of the desert. He did so for two reasons. First, there was absolutely no need for him to know any details about Spike’s and Carly’s interfacing life. And second, he was getting the distinct impression that he had been seriously neglecting one of his charges these past nine stellar cycles. He had concentrated on Carly and Daniel, since it was the obvious thing to do, but it had never crossed his processor that Spike, who seemed to cope so well, might need his attention, too.
Memo to Ratchet, he thought sourly. Remind myself that I’m a stupid slagger.
He opened a comm. link. “I’m contacting Carly,” he answered to Spike’s question.
“No!” The young man lunged forward and frantically hit the buttons on Ratchet’s dashboard. “No, don’t tell her I talked about this, she’ll kill me...”
Ratchet easily overrode the manual interruption. “I’m contacting Carly,” he repeated calmly, “to let her know you’ll be out for a little longer. Spike, my friend, I think we need to talk.”
It was fairly late when Ratchet finally set foot into the med bay.
The only other bot present at this hour was First Aid, who was busying himself with some data pads and briefly flashed his visor at him in an equivalent of a smile. Ratchet returned the greeting with a short nod, then he sank down into the chair behind his desk and let his head fall back, offlining his optics.
“Long day?” First Aid asked gently.
A noncommittal sound came out of Ratchet’s vocalizer. “You bet. I just barely escaped from the rec room after being cornered by a pile of mechs eager for details about the midwife’s visit.”
“Did you tell them?”
“Oh yeah. I told them a bit about medical confidentiality.”
First Aid laughed softly, but didn’t say any more, and the ensuing quiet felt surprisingly good to Ratchet. He leaned back again and turned his attention to his HUD, where a warning message was blinking, coming straight from his main processor.
He stifled a groan. Yes, yes, he knew that his cache’s memory capacity was nearing its end, and that he really should let his CPU set about sorting and properly filing all that stuff. But since he’d needed all this information frequently during the last few Earth weeks, he’d kept postponing the procedure, and now he’d reached a point where his systems would need some time to cope with the task. Time during which he would be more or less incapacitated, and therefore time he couldn’t afford.
“Can I do something for you, Ratchet?” First Aid inquired.
He flinched a bit and stared at his young colleague. “Sorry?”
“Well, I guess you came here for a reason. And since you’re officially not working...”
Actually, he couldn’t tell what had brought him here. Probably mere force of habit, he guessed.
“No, thanks, Aid,” he said. “I’m fine.”
First Aid was not a mech of many words. He just nodded and turned back to his data pads. Ratchet regarded him thoughtfully. And suddenly he remembered what Smokescreen had said this morning, about him having more allies than he was aware of. First Aid was an excellent medic, dependable and trustworthy. And Carly and Spike were safely back in their quarters and probably would not need him for a while.
He rubbed his forehead with the back of his hand as another warning appeared in his field of vision. Did he dare to hand over the reins, just for a little while? Could he afford that? Could he?
“You... wouldn’t happen to have a CCP, would you?” he asked tentatively.
First Aid looked up from his reading. Ratchet braced himself for a comment, a question, perhaps even a gentle reprimand.
“Of course.” The younger medic got up from his seat and went over to one of the storage cabinets lining the wall. Ratchet blinked in astonishment.
First Aid found what he sought and positioned himself next to one of the medical berths, looking at him expectantly.
It took Ratchet a klik to realize what his colleague was waiting for. “You’re kidding,” he said incredulously.
First Aid’s visor flashed again when he smiled beneath his mask. “If you want me to treat you, we’ll do this right.”
Slowly, Ratchet rose from his seat and took a hesitant step towards the berth. “You’re taking advantage of my desperation,” he accused.
“I learned from the best.” The Protectobot’s optic band shone with mirth.
“That’s what you get for all your trouble,” Ratchet grumbled when he got up onto the berth and carefully laid back. “You take them in, you teach them, you care for them - and the first chance they get, they stab you in the backplates.”
He received no reply, but First Aid’s touch was gentle when he opened a panel in Ratchet’s forearm and picked up the small microchip he had retrieved from the cabinet. It contained a basic program that was meant to be used as a supportive treatment after minor surgery to a bot’s short-term memory, but often found use as a kind of emergency treatment as well, for mechs who tended to overtax their data processing capabilities. Ratchet remembered using it on Prime, Red Alert and Prowl on occasion, but he didn’t recall the last time he himself had needed one.
First Aid clicked the small device into place. “You best shut down all secondary functions,” he advised.
“I know how this works,” Ratchet growled irritably, but nevertheless did as he was told, offlining his optics as well. A soft, electronic sound was all that indicated to him that First Aid started the program.
A small, electric shock made his body jump when the device activated, but he got no chance to protest. The program set to work immediately, overriding all security codes he’d set around his cache and starting to analyze, index and file all the piled-up stuff in there to transfer it to his long-term storage. It was a strange, foreign sensation, but not an uncomfortable one. He felt First Aid’s hand on his shoulder strut.
“Just let me know if anything’s amiss. I’ll be right there.”
“Hmm,” Ratchet answered. His audio receptors picked up the soft sound of his colleague’s retreating steps, and then everything was quiet. He concentrated on that, on this wonderful, blissful silence, while the program worked and the unpleasant sensation of over-fullness in his processor slowly subsided. And suddenly he became aware that this was the first time in over an Earth week that he had absolutely nothing to do.
He had done everything he could. Everything was ready and prepared, arranged and defined. He could do nothing more. The only thing that was now left to do was waiting.
Yes, he thought languidly as his musing reached this point. Perhaps he could really afford to rest a bit for now. Rest so he would be ready when little Daniel decided that he finally wanted to see the world...
When First Aid gently tiptoed over to the berth about half a joor later, he found his superior officer in deep and peaceful recharge.
To be continued...
I'm normally not very fond of OCs, and try to keep them out of my stories if possible. In this case, Elena made it into the story for two reasons. First, I felt that I needed a "buffer" between Ratchet and Carly, someone to act as the voice of reason, and to tone the situation down a bit. Leaving the two of them completely to their own devices would have worked in a drama or a parody, but not in the way I wanted this story to work.
Also, I must admit that Elena is the result of a cultural bias on my part. Here in Germany, you are legally required to have a midwife present when you give birth (which is interesting, since a doctor is not considered necessary). It's what I'm used to, and it never occurred to me to question this scenario. By the time I learned that US law does not know such requirements, Elena had already become a fixed part of the story, and I didn't have the heart to kick her out ;-)
Speaking of culture, there is no reason for Elena to be Mexican, except that she already was when she walked into my head. I simply think it fits her, and that's that.
I believe that giving birth is probably the most extreme situation a woman can be in, and I hold a high respect for every man who decides to support his partner during this event. Since I'm not sure if I would be up to such a task, I do, on the other hand, not blame anybody who considers himself unfit for the job.
My reasons for leaving Spike out of the birthing scene were purely artistic. I wanted to concentrate on Ratchet and Carly, on the relationship between them and, most importantly, on Ratchet's point of view on the events. As Carly's husband, Spike would clearly have outstripped Ratchet if he had been present, and I wanted to prevent that, nothing more.
Chapter 10: Heaven and Hell
Warning: This chapter contains explicit descriptions of labor, childbirth and human female sexual organs.
Ever since Cybertronians had started to visit other planets, it had been a tradition among commanders to adapt daily life on their stations to the time reckoning of the world they currently resided on. When it became clear that their stay on Earth would be a long-term one, Optimus Prime had decided to stick to the tradition, and within a short time, the Ark’s crew had adjusted their circadian rhythms to the terran day and night cycle.
Had Ratchet known back then that he would one day have to deal with a carrying human femme, he would have spared himself the trouble.
“This young one is having the time of his life,” he remarked pointedly as he stood in the med bay at about 02:00 a.m. “I swear to you, I can hear him laugh.”
“Oh, stifle it,” an exhausted and somewhat pale-looking Carly muttered. “You think I’m enjoying this?”
Ratchet snorted. For the fifth time in half a stellar cycle, Daniel had pulled off what he’d mentally dubbed a test run (he would not grace the little pranks of an unborn organic infant with a medical term like ‘Braxton Hicks contractions’, or ‘prodromal labor’, or whatever this nonsense was called), and the constant see-saw between tense anticipation and frustrated relaxation was beginning to seriously grate on his neural circuits. And not only his, it seemed.
“I’m sick and tired of this crap,” Carly declared, staring gloomily at her belly. “I wish he’d just come out and be done with it.”
Spike, with dark bags under his eyes, wrapped a tired arm around his bonded’s shoulders. “Just a few more days, Carly,” he tried to placate her, but she pushed him away.
“Oh, get off me,” she snapped. “It’s your fault I’m in this state in the first place, so don’t tell me what I have to do.”
A mixture of anger and hurt flashed across Spike’s face as his arm dropped, and Ratchet quickly stepped into the breach before the situation reached a point where hard feelings lasted beyond the moment.
“Well, since you’re here already, let me just do a quick check-up, Carly,” he said. “Then we can all get back to berth and get some recharge, okay?”
“Yeah, whatever,” Carly muttered listlessly.
Ratchet took the usual scans, and in the meantime tried to engage the couple in some small talk to ease the tension between them. It was a fruitless effort. Carly stubbornly refused to answer to anything he said, and Spike’s much too lively replies didn’t make it any better, either.
“All right,” he said eventually. “No problems whatsoever.”
“Great,” Spike said with a cheerfulness that was so obviously faked it hurt. Ratchet subspaced the scanner and offered them his hand to help them down from the examination berth. “Why don’t you try and get some rest, you two?” he suggested.
“Completely pointless,” Carly groused. “I’ll be wide awake once more after ten minutes because he starts kicking again or some random part of my body starts hurting like hell. Be assured, Spike Witwicky, that this was the first and last time I let you knock me up.”
She swept out of the room without looking back, and it might have been a comical sight, had Ratchet not caught Spike’s gaze as the young man made to follow his bonded. Spike’s expression wavered between exhaustion, exasperation and a sad helplessness, and Ratchet racked his processor for a comforting word, but found nothing that classified as adequate. All he could offer was an equally helpless shrug.
Spike tried to smile, but it came out more as a bitter frown. He gave a soundless sigh and then left without another word. The doors swished shut behind him.
Ratchet fell into a chair next to the examination berth and covered his optics with his hand, venting a tired sigh. Holy Primus, what had he gotten himself into?
He retrieved the scanner and stared pensively at the data displayed. The sparkling was full term now, and in the best of health. Daniel had also assumed the correct position a while ago, meaning that he was now upside down, his little head fitting snugly in between Carly’s pelvic bones. Everything was ready to go, the only thing the little brat had so far been neglecting was to actually being born, for Pit’s sake...
He nearly dropped the scanner as he whirled around. The doors had opened again without him noticing, and Wheeljack was leaning around the doorframe, looking at him with half worried, half curious optics.
“Pit, ‘Jack,” he growled. “You know what the door chime is there for, do you?”
“Sorry,” Wheeljack said. “I was just walking by and saw light in here. You okay?”
A faint, hissing sound echoed through the room as Ratchet’s hydraulics slowly depressurized again. “Yeah, yeah. Spike and Carly were here.”
His friend’s vocal indicators flashed brightly at the mentioning of Carly’s designation, and he suddenly stood very straight. “The sparkling?”
“No,” Ratchet murmured sullenly. “False alarm. Again.”
Wheeljack relaxed against the doorframe. “Wow,” he commented. “They sure are keeping the suspense up, aren’t they?”
“You don’t say!” Ratchet snapped. He turned the scanner off and pushed it away, then got up and walked over to the main control panel to switch off the lights. If he didn’t keep himself occupied, he knew, he would go and vent his frustration on his innocent friend.
Wheeljack took a step back to make room for him when Ratchet sealed the med bay doors shut behind them. The corridor was only dimly illuminated by an emergency light, and for a moment, Ratchet simply stood in the half-darkness and wondered what to do next. He was tired, exhausted even, but at the same time he felt hyperactive, full of pent-up, frustrated energy that made him literally twitchy. He cursed inwardly, balling his hands into fists and feeling them shake slightly.
Wheeljack watched him silently, with an intense look that was equal parts sympathy and determination.
“Wanna head back to the lab with me?” he asked without preamble. “There’s this new project I’m working on; could use some help there.”
He spoke casually, but Ratchet was neither blind nor stupid. He turned to his friend, and a warm thankfulness suddenly washed over his spark when their optics met.
“Yeah,” he said softly, relaxing a bit. “Yeah, why not?”
Wheeljack took his arm when they made their way down the corridor, and Ratchet allowed it, finding the physical contact strangely soothing. He had no idea what ‘Jack was working on, or if he was working on anything at all, but he didn’t really care. If nothing else, his friend’s company would keep him from frying his processor with too much brooding and worrying...
For the next two days, nothing happened. Ratchet wasn’t quite sure if this was a good thing or a bad, but at least he managed to catch up with some desk work he’d been neglecting (Optimus hadn’t banned him from that, after all), and spent most of his free time with Wheeljack. He had practically moved in with his friend by now, since the inventor’s company kept him from thinking too much, and Wheeljack didn’t mind sharing his quarters.
On the third day, Carly was restless. She kept haunting the rooms and hallways, and not a single ‘Bot was safe from her obvious thirst for action. When she ordered Warpath and Inferno to the ammo storage room and supervised them cleaning up in there, Ratchet didn’t make anything of it. That room could do with a little tidying up. More interesting were the afternoon hours, when he found his charge in the rec room explaining to Seaspray and Bluestreak how to decorate the large panorama window with little pieces of fabric she called drapes. She insisted that the room needed to become more homely, and since Ratchet knew that arguing with her was futile, he kept his vocalizer shut. The curtains did look nice, after all.
He was beginning to worry a bit, though, when in the late evening he received a distress call from Red Alert. Upon arriving in his fellow Autobot’s office together with Spike, they found the Security Director standing protectively in front of a cabinet containing copies of his security footage while Carly tried to volubly convince him that he needed to step aside and let her resort all the stuff in there. Why she considered that necessary, Ratchet didn’t get. There wasn’t a place tidier or more sorted out on the entire Ark than Red Alert’s office.
Very gently, Spike eventually managed to dissuade his bonded from her intentions and to coax her back to their quarters to have dinner together. When the doors closed behind them, Red Alert looked as if someone had just told him that the war with the Decepticons was over.
After this strange experience, Ratchet decided to call it a day. He muttered an apology to the Security Director and returned to Wheeljack’s quarters where his friend and his evening ration were already waiting for him. Wheeljack nearly burst with laughter when Ratchet told him about Carly’s latest endeavor.
“Oh, she’s great,” he commented, still laughing. “Incredible.”
“Let’s just hope this new-found sense for order isn’t permanent,” Ratchet said. “I doubt poor Red would be able to handle that for long. And I already have enough things to worry about.”
“Aw, just a few more days, Ratch,” Wheeljack cooed, and had the audacity to give Ratchet’s cheek a gentle, mocking pat.
Smacking him on the head for his teasing was really just a reflex. When Ratchet powered down his systems a short while later, he took his friend’s soft chuckling with him into peaceful recharge.
He was roused by the insistent beeping of his comm. system and a voice calling his designation.
‘Ratchet! Are you there? C’mon, Ratchet, answer me!’
He groaned softly as he fought his way back to wakefulness. His chronometer showed 00:13 a.m.
His processor completed its boot-up, and he recognized the voice and activated the comm. link. “What is it, Spike?”
The answer he got was an incoherent flurry of random words and half-sentences he couldn’t make any sense of, except for the word ‘Carly’. He sat up on the berth, frowning.
“Spike, will you calm down; I don’t understand a word. Is something wrong with Carly?”
There was some quiet movement, and then another voice: ‘Ratchet, this is Carly. Sorry to wake you, but... I think my water just broke.’
He knew what that meant. Suddenly Ratchet was very much awake. His engine and processor jumped into high gear, his spark pulse quickened - but only for a moment. An astrosecond later, his medical programming kicked in and took the lead, pushing his logic and efficiency subroutines to the forefront.
“Okay, Carly,” he said. “Looks like that sparkling of yours is finally ready to join us. Now take a deep breath and try to stay calm. We’ll just go ahead with this as we discussed, okay?”
“Good. Now can you tell me at what intervals your contractions are coming?”
‘I’m not quite sure,’ she said. ‘About every fifteen minutes, I’d say. Perhaps a bit more.’
“Can you still walk?”
“Good,” he said again, glancing at his side where Wheeljack had begun to stir. “Then tell that bonded of yours to get a grip and to take you to med bay. I’ll contact Bumblebee and send him to get Elena, and then I’ll meet you there.”
He actually had to smile a bit. “Don’t worry, Carly; we’ll see this through together. All will be well.”
‘I know,’ she answered softly. ‘Thanks, Ratchet.’ And with that the transmission was cut.
Ratchet swung his legs over the edge of the berth and got up. Meanwhile, Wheeljack had completed his boot-up sequence and was now propping himself up on both elbows, watching him with flashing optics.
“Is this it? The sparkling’s coming?”
“Yes,” Ratchet said, checking his subspace for his med kit and his scanner. “’Jack, can you do me a favor?”
Ratchet stuffed a half-empty energon cube, the remains of his evening ration, into his subspace. “Contact Prime. Tell him that things are getting started. I have a feeling he’s gonna rip my head off if he doesn’t get informed properly.”
They parted at the door. Wheeljack set out for the captain’s quarters, while Ratchet headed off into the direction of the med bay and Bumblebee’s room. He considered for a moment to just transform and floor his gas pedal, but fought the urge down quickly. No sense in waking up half of the crew.
He reached Bumblebee’s door, pressing the door chime button and knocking simultaneously. “Bumblebee?”
Ratchet had no time to be considerate here. He sent an alert message on Bumblebee’s frequency to trigger a subroutine in the little scout’s processor that would initiate an emergency boot-up sequence while continuing to pound on the door. “’Bee, get your sorry aft out of that berth, for Pit’s sake!”
There were some metallic, clanking sounds inside, and then Bumblebee’s somewhat staticky voice: “Yeah, yeah, I’m coming…”
The door swished open. Bumblebee’s optics flickered slightly in response to the sudden change of illumination, then focused on Ratchet. “What’s up, doc?”
“Carly’s up,” he replied curtly. “The sparkling’s coming.”
Bumblebee’s jaw dropped, his engine giving a short, excited rev. “Really?”
“Really. I need you to go to town and to bring Elena, as we discussed.”
The little scout’s optics flashed bright with excitement. “Yeah, sure, Ratchet, right away! Wow, I can’t believe it; we’re going to have a sparkling!”
“Keep it down, will you?” Ratchet hissed, glancing at the second berth in the room where Gears obviously recharged with his audio receptors offline. “Try if you can contact her on that mobile phone number she gave us. Tell her that Carly’s water has broken, and her contractions are coming about every fifteen minutes. You got me?”
“Carly’s water has broken, and she has contractions every fifteen minutes,” Bumblebee repeated diligently. “Gotcha, doc. I’ll be right back, and don’t start without us! Holy slag, we’re having a sparkling!”
Ratchet cursed in exasperation as Bumblebee pushed past him and transformed in mid-motion, speeding down the corridor with his engine whining. He could just hope the little fool would not attract more attention to himself than was necessary. The last thing he needed was a bunch of excitedly chattering idiots beleaguering his med bay.
As if on cue, when he turned around the corner to his sanctum he found Wheeljack and Optimus Prime waiting for him - together with Spike and Carly. The young man had wrapped an arm around his bonded’s shoulders while the fingers of his free hand had interlinked with hers, squeezing tightly. Carly wore a light blue dressing gown, her hair was tied in a loose pony tail, and a small overnight bag was sitting at her feet. She smiled at him as he approached.
“And here comes the doc bot,” Wheeljack remarked with an exaggerated cheerfulness that clearly belied his anxiety. But Ratchet didn’t pay much attention to his fellow officers. He just greeted his commander with a quick nod, which was calmly returned, and then knelt before the human couple, taking a quick, basic scan of his three charges.
“Hey,” he greeted them with a small smile. “How are you feeling, Carly?”
She squeezed her husband’s hand briefly. “A bit shaky,” she said. “But quite alright.”
“How about you, Spike?”
The young man looked a bit abashed. “’M okay,” he mumbled, barely audible, and then he added quickly: “I’m sorry I lost it so back then, Ratchet, I just... I didn’t really know what to do...”
Carly leaned her head onto his shoulder with a gentle smile. “It’s our first baby,” she said. “You still have a right to lose it when I tell you I’m in labor.”
Spike snorted, but Ratchet noticed that he squeezed her shoulders tighter in response.
He got up, opened the doors to the med bay and reached inside to turn on the lights. “Bumblebee’s on his way to bring Elena,” he said. “I’d like to do a basic examination while we wait, Carly, if that’s alright with you.”
She nodded. “Yeah, okay.” With a careful smile, she turned to her husband.
“Well,” she said softly. “I guess this is it.”
Spike’s face looked pale and grim at once. He refused to let go of her. “You want me to come?” he asked hoarsely.
Carly took both his hands into hers. “It’s okay, love,” she replied gently. “We’ve talked about this. I’ll just go in there, and when I come out again, I’ll introduce you to your son, yes?”
Spike swallowed roughly. “You’re the greatest, Carly,” he whispered. “I love you.”
Ratchet noticed that Wheeljack and Optimus, too, politely averted their optics as the couple shared a deep kiss.
Eventually Carly extricated herself from her husband’s arms gently, picked up her bag and took some purposeful steps towards Ratchet. Her eyes met his optics. “Let’s do this,” she said.
“Break a leg, Carly!” Wheeljack called from behind them, giving her the thumbs up. Prime’s optics shone an intense azure blue.
“You’re in the best of hands, Carly,” he assured her in that soothing tone of his. “I’m looking forward to welcome your son into our crew.”
Carly smiled a bit. “Thanks, guys,” she said. “Well, then... see you later.” And with that she turned and slowly walked into the room.
Ratchet followed her with his optics, then glanced back at Spike, who looked pale and frightened, and he felt obliged to say something. “Don’t worry, Spike,” he told him. “She’ll be alright; I’ll see to it.”
He got a quick nod in response, and after exchanging a swift glance with his fellow officers, he turned to follow his charge, letting the doors swish shut behind him.
The moment he entered he found that Carly had made it only halfway into the room. She was standing next to one of the med berths, supporting herself on its leg. She was bent over slightly at the waist, holding her belly with her free hand, and her breath was coming fast and ragged and in a strange rhythm he’d never heard before.
He rushed over, dropping to his knees at her side, but she didn’t pay him the slightest bit of attention. A quick scan told him that her heart beat and blood pressure were considerably elevated, and that her uterine muscles were cramped tightly.
Ratchet stared at his charge, half fascinated and half at a loss for what to do. He wanted to help somehow, but she seemed so focused, so intent on herself that he didn’t dare interrupt the strange process taking place before his optics.
The contraction seemed to reach a peak; Carly grunted softly, her hand gripping the berth’s leg even tighter. Ratchet felt all his hydraulics tense as if in answer.
Very slowly, judging from her vitals, the pain started to subside. Her muscles began to unclench, and finally she relaxed and straightened carefully, though she continued to hold on to the berth.
“All right?” Ratchet asked softly.
Carly looked at him a bit surprised, as if she’d only just noticed his presence. “Yeah,” she replied then with a shaky smile. “Sorry. I found that it helps when I focus on the feeling, you know?”
He nodded, not sure what to say. Alone with his charge, he was suddenly and unpleasantly reminded of the fact that, despite all his reading and investigating, he didn’t have any experience with all of this. Slag, he was flying blind here!
Now, however, it was too late to cop out, and it was definitely not the time to panic. “Here,” he said gently, “let me help you.”
He picked her up very, very carefully. Carly seemed to be a precious, fragile object in his hands as he cradled her into his palms and carried her over to their impromptu delivery room to cautiously put her down onto the small berth. She smiled at him and set her overnight bag down beside her.
“What’s in there?” he asked as he took his hand-held scanner from subspace and onlined it. Carly unzipped the bag.
“Oh, I just brought some personal things. Elena says it will help me relax when I feel comfortable.”
Under Ratchet’s wondering gaze, she first produced a woolen blanket from the bag and draped it over the berth’s upper half. Next came a bottle of orange juice and a box of cookies, some pieces of clothing, a picture taken at her and Spike’s bonding ceremony, a paperback book, and finally - Ratchet reset his optics to make sure they weren’t glitching.
“He used to be my best friend when I was a little girl,” Carly explained, looking slightly bashful. “I thought it wouldn’t hurt to have him here.” Very gently, she sat the worn teddy bear down onto the berth’s headboard.
Ratchet couldn’t help but smile as he knelt and started to monitor both Carly’s and the sparkling’s vital signs. To his relieve, both sets of data came up perfectly clear, and a scan of Danny’s brain waves revealed that the little glitchmouse was peacefully recharging.
He looked up. Carly met his gaze with solemn optics.
“Are you frightened?” she asked softly.
Ratchet felt his spark pulse heavily behind his chest plates. “Yes,” he answered, just as quietly. “A little.”
Carly nodded. “Me, too,” she whispered. “But I’ve been thinking, you know,” she added then, a bit louder. “That night three days ago, when we’d left you, I lay awake and thought things over. And I recalled suddenly that all this isn’t about me. It’s about him.” She placed both hands onto her belly before looking up at Ratchet again. “Remember when we fought the ‘Cons over that immobilizer Wheeljack had invented? Or when Spike and I traveled to Cybertron to get the Cybertonium for you guys?”
Ratchet snorted at the memory. “Hard to forget that one,” he muttered.
“It wasn’t about me, either, back then,” she continued. “But I still did my best because I wanted you all to be safe and happy. I want to do the same thing for Daniel, Ratchet. When I remembered that he is the important person here, I told him that it was okay for him to take the time he needed, and that when he was ready, I would do my best to help him. I can do this, Ratchet. I can.”
Ratchet stared at her. She was not afraid, he realized in astonishment. Nervous, yes; excited, okay; but there was no fear. She was at peace with the situation, and he felt awed and a bit shamed and at the same time strangely soothed by the quiet strength she exuded. He might have doubted his own skills, but how could he doubt such determination?
“Yes,” he answered softly. “Yes, I know.”
The moment was rudely interrupted by the sound of the door chime, and immediately afterwards the familiar hissing sound of the doors sliding open.
In the doorway stood Optimus Prime with an agitated yellow scout at his side. They weren’t alone, Ratchet realized; the sound of several voices could be heard from the corridor, and when he glanced past his commander, he could make out a bunch of twittering crew members clogging up the hallway.
“I apologize for the interruption,” Optimus said, pleasantly unimpressed with the excitement surrounding him, “but Miss Quintana is here.”
Elena’s voice rose easily above the Autobots’ chattering as she squeezed through the small space between Prime’s and Bumblebee’s feet. “Make some room here, you two, will you? And shut the door!”
Both mechs stepped aside to let her in, and Ratchet didn’t fail to notice how Bumblebee leaned forward eagerly, trying to get a better look at what was going on inside. He felt grateful to his commander when Optimus gently held the little scout back and let the doors close again.
Elena approached them with a warm smile. She was wearing jeans and a simple dark T-Shirt and carried a bag similar to a doctor’s kit.
“Good morning, you two.” She offered Ratchet her hand to shake. “Good thing I went to bed early tonight; just as if I’d known it.” She placed the bag into a corner and then settled down at the foot of the berth, gently patting Carly’s hand. “How are you doing, love? Did you get some rest?”
Carly seemed to relax now that her midwife was here. She nodded. “A bit, yeah. I had dinner, too, before I went to bed, and I brought some provisions.”
“And some moral support, I see,” Elena commented, indicating the teddy bear with a smile. “And you’re feeling alright? No sickness, no dizziness?”
Carly shook her head.
“Good.” Her dark eyes fixed on Ratchet and on the scanner in his hands. “Give me some medical data, then, doctor.”
Ratchet turned the scanner so she could see the screen. “All vitals are within normal parameters,” he informed her. “And it seems that the sparkling is asleep.”
Elena skimmed over the data briefly, then nodded and turned back to Carly. “How long since your water broke, dear? About three quarters of an hour? And you’ve had regular contractions since then?”
“Okay.” Elena stood and motioned to Ratchet to make room for her. “I’d like to have a closer look, if that’s alright with you.”
Carly looked a bit surprised at the question. “Yeah... sure.”
Ratchet was genuinely curious as to what she would do next; however, his attention was drawn off by the sudden noise rising in the corridor, loud enough to penetrate the doors. Elena frowned.
“Your friends are mighty excited out there,” she commented.
“So I noticed.” He fixed a stern gaze on the door, wordlessly challenging it. Someone cursed outside, and four or five other voices protested audibly.
Ratchet rose to his feet. “Excuse me,” he said as he subspaced the scanner and purposefully strode over to the door.
What he found outside was of course exactly what he had tried to avoid. A good third of the crew had assembled in the corridor. The noise level had dropped somewhat, probably due to the intervention of Optimus Prime who was standing in the midst of the crowd, next to Spike.
“What the Pit’s going on here?”
The talking stopped almost immediately. A dozen heads turned towards him.
“Uh... hey, Ratchet,” Bluestreak said with a sheepish smile. “Is it true that Carly’s having the sparkling?”
“She is,” Ratchet answered. “And I understand why that would make Spike loiter in the hallway, but what about the rest of you?”
There was a brief silence, as if they had to think it over.
“Yeah, well,” Trailbreaker said eventually, “Spike could do with some moral support, you see.”
“I couldn’t recharge anyway, knowing what’s going on in there,” Mirage added, and Tracks waved his hand dismissively into Ratchet’s general direction. “Don’t mind us, doc; we’re just going to make ourselves comfortable and wait. Wouldn’t want to miss anything, after all.”
“And Optimus said it’s okay for us to be here,” Bumblebee concluded.
Ratchet drew himself up to his full height. “I would like to remind you,” he said slowly, switching to his ‘doctor’s voice’, “that this is the med bay, not the rec room. So, are any of you badly damaged, seriously malfunctioning or in any other way on the brink of deactivation?”
“Then frag off!” Ratchet bellowed at the top of his vocalizer.
Silence. Fifteen pairs of optics stared back at him unflinchingly. They didn’t budge.
It was Prime who finally broke the hush.
“I think, Ratchet,” he said, “that the crew has a right to express their concern and support for Carly. And I’m sure you will agree with me that they should be given the opportunity to witness this most special occasion.”
It was disturbing, Ratchet mused, that their Prime, if he set his processor to it, could corner a mech with words just as effectively as with a rifle. He cycled a deep, slow draught of air through his vents. Easy, Ratchet, easy...
“Alright. Okay. Listen up, then. If I hear just one more word from you, I will personally see to it that you have all used your vocalizers for the last time. Do I make myself clear?”
“And you.” He thrust an accusing finger at his commander. “If you want that bunch of useless scrap heads here, make sure they behave themselves. This is not the final episode of ‘As the Kitchen Sinks’, for Primus’ sake!”
“I will see to it,” Optimus assured him with maddening gentleness.
Ratchet’s huff of exasperation came out more like a hiss as he spun around to return to his patient. Make themselves comfortable, holy slag...
He stopped, turning again. Spike had taken a step forward; his hands were balled into fists.
“Carly will be alright, won’t she?” he inquired softly, his voice strained.
Ratchet’s hand gripped the doorframe almost unconsciously.
“Of course,” he replied. “What do you think I’m planning to do in there?”
And with that he palmed the doors open and fled into the room, for he was sure that he wouldn’t be up to answering any more worried questions right now.
Carly had untied her dressing gown and had pulled her T-shirt up over her belly when Ratchet returned. She greeted him with an amused look. “Wow,” she commented. “You didn’t kill anyone out there, did you?”
“Not yet,” he muttered. It was rather a reflex than a conscious answer, since he was still struggling with the unpleasant bout of insecurity that had crept over him so suddenly. The feeling dissipated quickly, though, as his attention focused on the two femmes.
Elena was gently palpating Carly’s midsection as if trying to feel out Danny’s little form through her patient’s skin. “That baby’s in the perfect pole position,” she joked. “See? His feet are up here, and his head is right here.” She took Carly’s hand and placed it on the young woman’s lower belly, right beside her own.
Ratchet switched to infrared vision curiously, and found that she was correct. Daniel’s head inside his carrier’s body was positioned exactly beneath the two femmes’ hands. A smile slowly spread over Carly’s face, and he felt his own lips curl slightly in answer.
Elena reached for her bag and produced a pair of medical gloves and a tube of lubricant. “I’d like to do a quick examination,” she told Carly. “Then I’ll leave you in peace.”
It seemed that Carly was familiar with the procedure Elena was referring to, because she nodded consent and then proceeded by dropping her panties.
Being Cybertronian, Ratchet was not encumbered by all the social and ethical rules the humans had established concerning their sexuality and everything that was connected to it. That part of Carly’s body was an organ like any other, with its specific functions like any other. And yet, a fierce relief suddenly flooded his spark that his human friend had insisted on having her midwife present. Never in his existence would he have dared doing to his charge what Elena was doing now.
The midwife coated her gloved fingers with the medical lubricant and reached between Carly’s slightly parted thighs. “Just relax,” she told her, and the next thing Ratchet knew, her fingers had slipped into Carly’s body.
His CPU diligently reminded him that vaginal examinations were a standard procedure during a human delivery. Still, seeing it actually being performed was a rather bizarre experience. Carly’s vitals all stayed within acceptable parameters, but her breath hitched softly as she flinched a bit, and instinctively, Ratchet took a step forward and knelt at her side, offering his hand. His friend’s head turned towards him, looking almost surprised for a moment, but then she smiled and reached for one of his fingers. Her hand was warm, and Ratchet carefully placed his thumb over her tiny digits and offered a reassuring grin.
If Elena noticed the short interaction, she did not pay it any heed. She gingerly felt around inside Carly, a frown of concentration on her face.
“Hmm,” she said thoughtfully, looking up at Ratchet. “Can you give me her dilation?”
Ratchet took a more detailed scan of his charge’s uterus, focusing on the lower regions. “Cervix is 100 percent effaced and 2.74 centimeters dilated,” he reported. Elena clicked her tongue softly.
“You’re one of the fast kind,” she told Carly good-humoredly as she carefully withdrew her hand. “Seems your baby’s eager to meet us.”
“Is that bad?” Carly asked, a hint of anxiety in her voice.
“It’s a bit unusual for a first birth,” Elena replied, taking off the gloves. “But it’s nothing to be worried about. We’ll just watch him a bit more closely to make sure he doesn’t get too eager.”
“I’ll keep a close sensor on you both, Carly,” Ratchet assured her. “Should Daniel need our assistance, we will know right away.”
“Sounds great,” Carly murmured. Her eyes had glazed over strangely, her grip around his finger became markedly stronger, and she sucked a sharp breath in through her nose. “Oi,” she said.
Elena held out her hand, and Carly gripped it with her free one as she leaned forward. “Breathe, love,” the midwife ordered calmly. “Remember what we practiced: In. And out.”
This time, Ratchet was able to watch the unfolding events with genuine curiosity. Carly’s heart and pulse beat frequency increased with the contraction, but she carefully regulated her breathing according to Elena’s instructions. Engaging his infrared again, he could see her uterine muscles contract and shorten, and under his fascinated gaze, the tightening movement caused the cervix to being pulled up over the sparkling’s head a tiny stretch before the muscles began to loosen again and Carly sank back against the berth’s headboard, breathing heavily.
Elena checked her wrist watch. “About fifty seconds,” she stated, then glanced up at Ratchet. “I’d like you to monitor the duration and frequency of the contractions, to see if we’re making proper progress here. Can you do that?”
He nodded and carefully adjusted his sensors to the new task. Chances were good, he suspected, that supervising Carly’s physical reactions would be the easy part of his job.
Truth be told, Ratchet felt a bit put off his stride by the lack of action that followed. Carly made herself as comfortable as possible, took a sip of orange juice and actually nibbled at a cookie while Elena unpacked her kit and prepositioned a number of items and instruments she might need. She tried to engage both of them into some friendly small talk while she did so, and since Carly was visibly grateful for the verbal distraction, Ratchet joined in to the small conversation, still a bit surprised at how normal the situation seemed. They chatted about trivialities, and the mood that established between them was almost jovial, until the next contraction set in.
It was obvious, Ratchet mused while he carefully recorded all of Carly’s and Daniel’s bodily functions, that Elena knew how to do her job. She had retaken her place on the berth, holding Carly’s hands in a sure grip, and guided her through the pain with calm instructions and gentle encouragement. After the incident with Spike, Ratchet had found out that for the better part of human history, childbirth had been a women’s domain from which the males of the species were strictly excluded, and the longer he watched his two companions, the more he was beginning to understand why this had been the case. An almost intimate kind of concentration encompassed the two femmes, and he felt distinctively loath to intrude into their small, private reality. So, in lack of something better to do, he kept his vocalizer shut and instead concentrated on his data gathering.
Still, after they’d spent three or four contractions like this, he couldn’t help but beginning to feel a bit side-lined. Shouldn’t he be supporting Carly in some way? Wasn’t that the reason why he was here? The fact that his medical subroutines had warmed up by now and were urging him to actively take part in the ongoing events wasn’t helping much, either.
“Geez,” Carly panted eventually. “I’m beginning to get an idea why this is called labor.”
Elena smiled. “Try not to think about the discomfort, love. If you want to think, remember that the pain serves to get you closer to holding your baby in your arms.”
“Yeah...” Carly shifted slightly on the berth, suddenly looking uncomfortable. “I’d like to walk a bit. Can I do that?”
“Of course.” Elena moved to make room for her, and Carly pushed herself upright carefully. Her eyes sought Ratchet’s optics.
“Help me?” she asked with a shy smile.
Ratchet’s medical program purred in contentment when he held out his hand without a second thought. His charge wrapped both arms around his fingers and slid off the berth slowly, then hesitated for a moment.
“I need something to lean onto while I walk,” she explained. “You think that’ll work?”
Ratchet couldn’t help the smile that crept onto his faceplates. “We’ll make it work,” he said.
It wasn’t that complicated, really. He just sat down on the floor - cross-legged, to be more comfortable - and Carly held on to his fingers while she slowly walked up and down in front of him, his hand following her movements. Elena had withdrawn a bit, obviously content to let Ratchet take the lead for a while, and was watching them, albeit warily, with a smile curling her lips.
Right now, Ratchet didn’t pay her any more heed than that of his most peripheral sensors. His attention was focused on his human charge who kept walking back and forth steadily and concentrated on her breathing. When a contraction came, she would lean into his palm, wrap her arms around his fingers and press her hot face against the cool metal, stifling her moans in his plating. It was an intimidating and yet strangely empowering and fascinating experience, he found, to feel that small, warm body tremble against his fingers, and to feel how hard it worked to bring the tiny sparkling inside into the world. He also noticed that Carly instinctively tried to crouch down when the contractions became stronger, so he switched to laying his hand flat on the floor so she could kneel and drape her upper body across his fingers while he used his free hand to rub her back gently. It didn’t help much with the pain, of course, but it seemed to relax her a bit.
“You’re doing great, Carly,” he encouraged as his human friend staggered back to her feet with his help, moaning softly. “Your dilation is 4.83 centimeters now.”
Carly stared up at him with a comical expression of mixed disbelief and personal offense. “4.83 centimeters? Not more? We’ve been here for hours!”
That was true, Ratchet noticed with a glance at his chronometer, though not nearly as much time had passed as it probably felt like to her. It was still in the middle of the night.
“Actually, you’re making great progress, dear,” Elena informed her as she walked over to hand Carly the bottle of orange juice. “You’re nearly halfway there already. What’s our status?” she asked Ratchet.
“All vital signs are within acceptable parameters,” he answered, reading the data off his HUD. “Oxygen saturation is fine. Contractions are 3.4 minutes apart and 65.29 seconds in duration.”
“See?” Elena said, stroking Carly’s hair gently. “Your baby’s fine, and everything’s going as it’s supposed to. Just a little longer, okay?”
Carly closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath, then she handed the bottle back to her midwife and gave them a small, but determined smile. “Yeah,” she said softly. “I can do this.”
She abandoned her walking for kneeling on the ground on all fours, rocking back and forth with the increasing contractions. Elena had helped her to take off her dressing gown, so all she was wearing now was her worn T-Shirt. The cloth was stained with sweat, and from time to time, drops of amniotic fluids and bloody mucus were dripping down Carly’s naked thighs.
“Ugh,” she murmured when the liquid dripped onto the blanket Elena had spread for her, crawling forward a bit to get away from the mess. Ratchet took a quick scan of both his charge and the fluids she was leaking, but Carly’s and Daniel’s data came up clear, and the mucus contained only a minimal amount of blood.
“Don’t mind it,” he said soothingly, sending a short data burst to one of the med bay’s cleaning drones. A panel in the wall opened and the mecha emerged without a sound, cleaning the blanket quickly and efficiently and then disappearing again just as silently.
Elena dipped a cloth into a bowl with warm water and cleaned Carly’s legs gently. Up to now, their charge had mostly just panted and moaned, the sounds intermingling with soft whines or grunts when the contractions were strongest. But the longer Carly’s labor took, the more audible her discomfort became. Ratchet found himself marveling at the fact that such deep, guttural sounds could come out of such a small human body.
He was familiar with - and, in most cases, used to - most utterances of severe pain. In fact, they belonged to the main triggers that got his medical program running.
“Carly,” he told her during a break between contractions, “you know I obtained human analgesics to alleviate the pain of your labor. I can administer one of those substances any time you want me to.”
His human friend was currently crouching on the floor with her back pressed against the wall and both her hands supporting her belly. She looked up at him uncertainly. “I don’t know... wouldn’t it be bad for Danny if I took painkillers now?”
Ratchet shook his head. “I did extensive research on this medication. The risks to your sparkling would be minimal.”
It was obvious from Carly’s expression that she didn’t know what to do. She glanced down at her belly, then looked at her midwife as if asking for guidance.
“He’s right,” Elena said calmly. “But it’s your decision, love.”
For a moment, Carly turned her face away from both of them, like she wanted to be alone with her thoughts. Her hands stroked her belly gently, then she turned back to Ratchet, suddenly looking determined.
“No,” she said. “No, thanks, Ratchet, I... I promised Danny that I’d do what I can and... I think I can still handle it.”
Ratchet had never had doubts about that, and he would not treat a patient against their expressed wish - with one or two exceptions, maybe. But as much as he admired her courage, when Carly let out an agonized cry at the peak of her next contraction, he found that, like any other Cybertronian, he couldn’t counteract his very core function just like that.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to give you those meds, Carly?” he tried again when the pain had died down. “I promise you the effects on Daniel are negl-“
“She said no.”
He looked up in surprise. Elena met his gaze with optics as hart and dark as volcanic glass.
Sudden, hot anger suffused his spark at the sight. Who did she think she was, cutting him short like this while he was trying to do his job? “When I’m interested in your opinion, Miss Quintana, be assured that I will ask for it,” he replied, carefully restrained.
Elena frowned deeply, but didn’t answer immediately. She wiped the sweat off Carly’s forehead with a fresh cloth and handed her the bottle of orange juice.
“Here, love,” she said kindly. “Take a sip, I’ll be right back. Dr. Ratchet, can I talk to you for a moment?”
“With pleasure,” he growled, throwing his charge a quick look to make sure she could be left alone for a moment before he followed the incensed midwife into the far corner of the room.
“Stop doing that!” she snapped without preamble the moment she turned around. Ratchet blinked in confusion. He hadn’t done anything yet.
“Stop prodding her to take the painkillers. She gave you a clear instruction, so don’t unsettle her by trying to persuade her.”
Ratchet had to suck a deep draught of air into his vents to not give in to his first impulse of simply snapping back. Why was she meddling with his work? He hadn’t meddled with hers, either, for Pit’s sake!
“I am here to take care of the medical aspects of this event,” he answered stiffly. “And pain management, Miss Quintana, is a medical aspect. It is not necessary for Carly to simply endure the pain.”
Elena huffed impatiently. “This is exactly the reason why so often complications arise at births that should be simplicity itself, because you doctors always have to intervene. Instead of letting a woman labor like she feels is right for her, you try to tell her what you think should feel right. Then the poor dear begins to tense up because she doesn’t know what to do anymore, and then the fat’s in the fire.”
As much as the broad-brush accusation angered him, Ratchet couldn’t help but to glance back at Carly, who was kneeling on the blanket again, eyes closed and panting heavily. The last thing he wanted was to hurt her in any way, but his medical subroutines were running wild, screaming at him to do something, anything, to end this unnecessary suffering. He felt his hands twitch nervously.
Something soft and warm touched his ankle, and when he looked down, he realized in wonder that Elena had stepped closer and had placed her hand against his armor plating. “I know it’s hard,” she said softly. “But I can tell you from experience that most women have a very keen sense of what’s best for themselves and for their baby. Let her do this her way.”
Ratchet groaned inwardly. That sounded completely reasonable, but how could he make it clear to her that she was demanding from him to go against his entire source coding?!
“I’m worried,” he said finally, just to say anything, “that she might be expecting too much of herself.”
Elena smiled. “She trusts you,” she answered. “If she needs anything from you, she’ll let you know.”
“Hey, guys! Sorry to interrupt, but I’m having a baby here!”
They turned simultaneously. Carly was leaning against the wall once more, her expression stuck somewhere between seriously livid and a grimace of pain. Elena chuckled softly.
“Believe it or not,” she murmured, only audible for Ratchet, “but this is the funny part.” She grinned at him before she promptly walked back to her patient.
Ratchet followed a bit more slowly. He didn’t feel too amused right now.
For some kliks, he made do with engaging an emergency program that was designed to keep the impulses of his medical coding in check, but this was a temporary solution at best. He looked down at his charge as she clung to his hand again, panting and groaning her way through another contraction. Frag, but there had to be something he could do!
How exactly did human pain work? It was basically just a chemical reaction that was reported to the brain by electrical impulses via neural pathways...
A memory file suddenly popped up in his cache. Electrical impulses... that had worked quite well before, hadn’t it?
He leaned down to his friend as soon as she was responsive again.
“I’d like to try something, Carly,” he told her, and before she could respond, he placed his index and middle finger gently against her back and sent a low electrical charge through his EM field and into her body.
The energy output was so small he barely felt it, but Carly jerked at the sensation and drew in a sharp breath.
“What?” Elena looked up in alarm. “What are you doing?”
“Pain management,” he said drily. “How are you, Carly?”
She leaned into his palm heavily, one hand supporting her belly, a tiny, warm weight against his plating. “Okay,” she murmured. “Dunno what you did, but… it hurt a bit less… for a moment.”
“Good.” He adjusted his sensors a bit more precisely to the electrical frequencies in her nerves and brain and then sent another pulse, careful as to not startle her again. “Should I continue?”
Carly twisted her neck to meet his optics. “This won’t hurt Danny, will it?”
The concern in her voice touched his spark. “I promise you, Carly, your sparkling will not be harmed,” he answered firmly.
She took a deep breath, and her muscles actually relaxed a bit when she let herself sink back against his hand. “’M glad you’re here,” she murmured.
Ratchet happened to catch Elena’s eyes at this moment. She nodded slowly.
“Holy motherfuckin’ shit!!”
Ratchet instinctively dialed down the sensitivity of his audio receptors when Carly’s scream echoed through the med bay. His charge was kneeling upright on the berth, supporting herself on the raised headboard. Elena, who had been sitting behind her, had abandoned her place for a moment in favor of cleaning the berth’s surface off the little puddle that had formed underneath Carly when she had lost control off her bladder during the last contraction.
Moaning softly, Carly rubbed her sweaty forehead over her crossed arms, then her head snapped up suddenly and she stared at Ratchet with wide, burning eyes.
“More!” she demanded.
He shook his head, sending her another gentle energy pulse. “A higher voltage might slow down your labor, Carly,” he explained patiently.
Her voice carried the distinct undertone of beginning hysteria, so he tried to distract her. “But you’ve made really good progress, Carly; your dilation is -“
“Stop scanning me!” she shrieked and actually gave his hand a surprisingly strong push. “And stop telling me that I’m making progress! You try pushing a watermelon out of your exhaust pipe, you metallic smartass!”
Ratchet had been a medic long enough to develop a keen sense for what his patients needed from him regarding emotional interaction. If Carly required a verbal sparring match to handle her situation better - no problem.
“Oh, please,” he shot back, feigning boredom. “You think I’ve never heard that one before? I thought human femmes in labor were more creative.”
“Fuck you,” Carly panted. He revved his engine, letting the sound emphasize his words.
“Tough talk for such a small human,” he challenged, wondering if he should really enjoy this as much as he did. “C’mon on, you can do better.”
A stream of human curses and swear words came out of Carly’s mouth, some of which would have embarrassed even Ironhide. Ratchet saved a temporary note in his cache that he needed to find out where the friendly young woman had learned such profanities, but then his attention was drawn off by his sensors informing him of a new contraction coming on, only astroseconds before Carly’s voice cracked and morphed into a high-pitched mixture between a groan and a scream. He shifted a bit on his knees to find a more comfortable position as he resumed his task of trying to soothe his charge’s pain as much as possible.
A message alert suddenly popped up in his HUD. He checked it briefly, then accessed the connection.
‘I’m sorry to disturb you, Ratchet,’ Optimus said over the link, ‘but is everything alright? We heard Carly scream.’
‘Everything’s fine, Optimus,’ he answered, not quite managing to keep the sarcasm out of his voice. ‘We’re in the curse-the-medic phase.’
‘I see.’ There was a short pause, then: ‘Are things going well in there, Ratchet? According to my information, there is no set time frame for a human birth, but Spike is getting worried about the amount of time this event is taking.’
Ratchet checked his chronometer. It was 07:23 a.m.
‘We’re alright, Prime,’ he said. ‘Carly’s cervix dilation is 8.26 centimeters; I don’t think it will be much longer now.’
‘I’m glad to hear that.’
He was. Ratchet could hear it in his voice, even over the comm link. ‘And as for Spike,’ he added. ‘You can tell him that his bonded is doing a slagging fine job here. Ratchet out.’
“I can’t do this,” Carly whimpered.
“Yes, you can,” Elena answered gently but firmly. She was kneeling behind her patient, cooling her neck and back with a damp cloth and periodically wiping the sweat off of Carly’s face. “You’ve done beautifully so far, and you’re almost there now. You can do this.”
“No, no, I can’t. I don’t want this anymore; I want it to stop.” Carly’s whole body was trembling and soaked with sweat. Her fingers dug sharply into the soft metal of Ratchet’s hand as she clung to him, eyes wide and frightened and glazed over with pain. “Please, Ratchet, make it stop.”
Shaking his head felt like the cruelest thing he’d ever done. “I can’t,” he said.
“Please!” She was crying now, tears streaming down her contorted face, and as always when she wept, Ratchet got the feeling that his whole body was locking up. His hydraulics tightened, leaving him nearly immobile, and his vocalizer refused to produce sound as he stared down at his friend. His spark pulsed hard against his chest plates in the beginning of genuine panic.
No, no, don’t let this happen; don’t let her down now! But his spark seemed to have completely overridden his processor.
A sudden movement caught his optic. Behind Carly, Elena had straightened her back and stared right at him, her dark eyes ablaze, and her lips soundlessly formed a single word: Move!
And the spell broke. Ratchet’s CPU informed him that this hydraulics were functioning again, and he immediately put them to good use, laying his free hand over his charge’s tiny fingers and squeezing down as much as he dared. “Carly,” he said. “Carly, look at me.”
She did, still sobbing and trembling all over.
“I promised you we would see this through together,” he said, “and we will. Focus on me, okay? Listen to my voice. You can do this, Carly. You’re strong, and brave, and I’m fragging proud of you, do you hear me?”
He had done this before, had talked confidence back into patients who were on the verge of giving up, and once he’d found his rhythm, the words came easy to him. He kept talking while Elena gently rubbed Carly’s back and arms with the cloth. A bit earlier, she had helped the other woman to get rid of her sweat-soaked shirt, and given how hot Carly’s body had become, that was probably a good thing.
It wasn’t possible any more to discern when one contraction ended and the next began; they had started to overlap, and Carly seemed no longer capable of anything but moaning and crying. A sudden drop of her blood pressure alarmed Ratchet, but before he could say something, the current contraction reached its peak, and the next moment, Carly vomited onto the floor.
“Shh,” Elena murmured soothingly, holding her while she retched and wiping Carly’s face with the damp cloth. “It’s okay, love, it’s okay... do you want to lie down? No? Alright, then, just breathe... here, lean on me...” She wrapped one arm around Carly’s waist to support her belly and the other around her shoulders, steadying her, and then she coaxed her into a gentle, swaying movement, all the while whispering softly into her ear.
Carly clasped her midwife’s arm in near desperation, but her free hand did not let go of Ratchet’s fingers, and he wasn’t eager to change that. He could no longer do much to ease her pain; with the heavy muscle activity going on inside her body, he might do more harm than good. So he confined himself to rubbing her hand tenderly with his thumb and to help support her when she leaned forward to rest her forehead on his plating while he took turns with Elena at verbally soothing and encouraging their charge.
Carly had squeezed her eyes shut, and her head sank back against Elena’s shoulder. Her breath came in harsh, ragged pants, and it was hard to tell how much of their talking actually reached her. Not that it was of much importance. All that mattered from now on was the moment. Together they held on from astrosecond to astrosecond while contractions came and went in a seemingly never-ending rhythm. But they’d managed the last one, they could handle one more... they’d dealt with two now, they could cope with a third...
Somewhere along the way, Ratchet dared a glance at his chronometer. It was 08:54 a.m.
The echo of their charge’s latest cry faded away, and she slumped into Elena’s arms, panting heavily. “God,” she sobbed. “God, I can’t take this. I changed my mind; I don’t want a baby.”
“It’s a bit late for that, Carly,” Ratchet said, unsure if he should feel concerned or amused. She groaned.
“How much longer?”
“Not so much, dear,” Elena replied soothingly. “In fact, I think you have just successfully passed through transition.”
The word had a strangely electrifying influence, not only on Carly, who twisted her neck to stare at her midwife, but also on Ratchet. He activated his infrared again and took a thorough scan of his charge.
Carly’s cervix had dilated to 9.94 centimeters. Daniel’s little head was fully engaged in her pelvis now and had begun to tilt back slightly. Ratchet compared the data to those he had previously gathered about human childbirth, and felt his spark give an eager pulse. Was this it? Was that stubborn little sparkling finally ready to show himself?
“She’s right,” he said softly. Elena smiled and stroked Carly’s hand.
“See? The hardest part is over, dear. All that’s left to do now is to push your baby out. Come on, let’s get you seated. Your knees must be sore by now.”
She helped Carly to ease down carefully so their charge could sit upright with her back against the berth’s headboard. She was still breathing heavily. “Thirsty,” she murmured.
Elena reached for the bottle of orange juice and held it to Carly’s lips. She took several deep draughts while the midwife once more wiped the sweat off her face.
“Alright, love.” Elena put the bottle aside. “It’s up to you now. You set the pace. When a contraction comes and you feel that you need to push, I want you to push, okay? I’ll be down here,” she patted the end of the berth, “to lend your baby a hand, and your Autobot friend will be right beside you. I want you to give her as much support as you can,” she added, turning to Ratchet.
He nodded consent, and a strangely pleasant excitement suddenly pulsed through his spark. This was real. It was really happening. In a few more kliks, they would have a sparkling.
He shifted into a more comfortable position while Elena settled down at the end of the berth. “We’ll need some room here, love,” she said, gently urging their charge’s knees apart. Carly twitched and shifted anxiously.
“Ughn,” she said.
“Contraction?” Ratchet asked. There wasn’t much muscle activity in her body yet...
“Dunno,” Carly murmured. “Feels strange... somewhat tingly.” She moved again, wriggling until she was sitting up a bit straighter. “I think... uh... Oi..!”
The contraction came on hard and fast, and Carly’s whole body bore down almost on its own volition with the movements of her muscles. She grunted, her hands grasping at thin air, seeking purchase, and Ratchet quickly offered his fingers again. He actually flinched a bit in surprise when she grabbed them. Pit, but that little femme was strong.
“Remember to breathe, dear,” came Elena’s calm voice from below before she waved her hand into the direction of the waiting cleaning drone. “Hey, you! R2-D2! Get me some hot water!”
Ratchet considered it very inappropriate of his CPU to dump memory files of Bluestreak in his cache right now.
Contractions were coming roughly every 90 seconds now, and judging from all the physical and chemical reactions going on inside his charge’s body, Ratchet was sure that they couldn’t be less painful than before, but somehow, a remarkable change had taken place. Carly would moan and grunt and pant just as much as before, and from time to time, when both the contraction and her pushing reached a peak, she would utter a sharp cry, but it was a different sound now, strangely reminiscent of a battle cry. It was as if now that she could actually work with her body, she had remembered her own strength, and had decided that the pain would not conquer her.
In the short breaks between contractions, Elena dipped a fresh cloth into the hot water and pressed it between Carly’s legs gently, to loosen the tissue there to prevent a rupture of the perineum, as she explained. In the meantime, Ratchet kept a close optic on Daniel, who seemed to handle the process of being born quite well. “Slow down a bit, Carly,” he told his charge. “Your sparkling could do with a little more oxygen.”
“Don’t tell me what to do!” she snapped, panting in mid-contraction.
“I won’t,” he promised. “Slow down anyway.”
Carly grunted and shook with the effort of denying her body. “Take a deep breath,” Ratchet ordered. “And again... and one more. Good. You’re doing great.”
“I hate you,” Carly informed him darkly. “I really do.”
“I know,” he answered amusedly. Was it normal that he was feeling so strangely elated all of a sudden?
Suddenly she gave a pained keen that sounded distinctively different than all the sounds she’d made before. “Ow! Oh fuck, that stings!”
“Keep pushing,” Elena instructed, and Carly obeyed, cursing breathlessly. Her midwife looked up at her with a smile.
“I can see a little head down here.”
She reached into her pocket and pulled out a small hand mirror. Ratchet wondered what she wanted with a make-up accessory now, but before he could voice his question, Elena positioned the mirror so that both he and his charge could see the reflection of Carly’s lower body.
It was unlike anything he had ever seen before. The labia had parted over a tiny, slightly curved surface, surrounding it almost like a crown, and the surface itself was covered in a light, dark fuzz.
“Jesus,” Carly breathed, staring in utter fascination. “He’s got hair!”
Elena smiled again, then she took Carly’s hand and gently placed her fingers against Daniel’s head. Carly stroked along the downy surface tenderly, and a sound somewhere between a laugh and a sob escaped her.
It seemed that this first, tentative contact had confirmed the resolution of both carrier and sparkling to finally meet each other face to face, because the next contraction came on so hard Carly was able to push three times in succession. “Support her back,” Elena ordered, and Ratchet obligingly slipped his free hand in between his charge’s body and the berth’s headboard. Carly was trembling with the force of her exertions, and he instinctively rubbed his thumb across her shoulders.
“And push,” came Elena’s calm instruction, and Carly’s body tensed again. Engaging his infrared once more, Ratchet could watch Daniel’s tiny body move oh so slowly through the birth canal, pressed forward by the incredible strength created by his carrier’s muscles. Carly gasped and then shrieked in pain.
“Holy fuckin’ shit, that burns!”
“I know, love. Just keep going.”
Carly huffed and grunted; then, all of a sudden, her body went limp and slumped back against Ratchet’s fingers. Elena looked up at them with a gentle smile.
“His head’s out,” she announced.
Somewhere deep in his processor, Ratchet was aware of the fact that he was staring like a dumb-founded idiot, but he couldn’t help it. Daniel’s head, that tiny sparkling head he’d seen dozens of times on scans and infrared images, was suddenly here, in his med bay, lying nestled between Carly’s trembling thighs. Elena reached for it and took it in both her hands gently to support it while they waited for Danny to maneuver into the right position for the final push.
Ratchet leaned down to his friend. “You almost did it, Carly,” he whispered. “You’ve come so far... just one more push, and your sparkling will be here.”
Carly’s head rolled sideways, looking up at him with pleading optics. “I’m so tired,” she whispered back.
“I know. But it’s just one more push, Carly. We’ll do it together, okay? Just one more.”
“I promise. C’mon, let’s wrap this up.”
Carly took a long, deep breath and renewed her grip on his hand. Elena, with her hands still on Daniel’s had, had watched the short interaction, but had not interrupted. Ratchet paid her no heed any longer.
His sensors told him exactly when a new contraction set in. “Okay, Carly,” he murmured. “Show him what you’ve got.”
She leaned forward as she pushed, every muscle strained to maximum. Elena’s hands pulled and guided gently, trying to find the easiest way for the first of Daniel’s shoulders to pass through the narrow opening. Carly grabbed Ratchet’s finger with frightening strength, voicing a scream so hard her voice cracked on it.
And suddenly, with a wet, slick sound and a gush of amniotic fluids, Daniel’s little body slipped out of his carrier and into Elena’s waiting hands.
All tension abruptly ceased. Carly fell back, completely exhausted. Except for the sound of her labored breathing, the med bay was eerily silent.
Elena bedded the newborn sparkling into the crook of her arm. Daniel’s eyes were closed. He didn’t move so much as a finger, and his skin was a sickly waxen color.
Ratchet’s spark thumped against his chest plates painfully. Why wasn’t Daniel moving? Why wasn’t he crying? Shouldn’t he be doing that now?
“Is he okay?” Carly strained, trying to catch a glimpse of her sparkling. “Is he okay?!”
Wires began to tense, hydraulics to pressurize as Ratchet’s body readied itself to jump into action. His sensors indicated that the sparkling was alive, and he would do what was needed to ensure that it stayed that way. He would make Danny live if he had to; he would rip his spark out of his chest with his bare hands if necessary -
Elena rubbed the tiny body down with a clean towel. A gurgling sound could be heard, a whimper, and suddenly a piercing cry filled the med bay as Daniel protested sharply against the cold, too-bright world he’d been thrust into. Within kliks, his color changed to a healthy pink, his hands balled into tiny fists, and his legs started kicking furiously. Carly sagged with relief, and the laugh she gave was interwoven with deep, heavy sobs.
A gentle smile lit up Elena’s face and eyes. “He’s a beautiful, healthy baby boy.” She wrapped the towel loosely around Daniel’s small form and carefully placed him onto Carly’s chest. “Congratulations, dear.”
Carly’s sobs turned into heavy, shaky breathing as the tiny body touched her skin. Her arms rose as if on their own volition to wrap around her sparkling, carefully cradling him close. Every trace of pain on her face was wiped away by an expression of overwhelmed wonder as she stared down into the tiny, tiny face of her son.
“Oh my god,” she breathed, touching her finger to the sparkling’s cheek with infinite gentleness. “Hey... hey, Daniel. I’m your mommy.”
Daniel had stopped crying as soon as he was placed onto his carrier’s body. Now he scrunched up his little face, snuffling softly, and lazily moved his feet about while his fingers grasped at Carly’s skin with sloppy, uncoordinated movements. Blue newborn optics blinked up at her sleepily.
“Oh, Ratchet,” Carly whispered. “Ratchet, look. Isn’t he beautiful?”
To be honest, ‘beautiful’ was not exactly the word that had come to Ratchet’s processor. His journey through the narrow birth canal had left Daniel’s head slightly deformed, his skin was wrinkled and in some places covered by a greasy white substance (vernix, he remembered), and his thin hair was sticky with mucus and streaks of blood.
What did come to his mind, however, was the word ‘perfect’. Danny was impossibly, incredibly tiny, but he didn’t lack a single cell. He had two arms and two legs, ten fingers and ten toes, possessed a sufficient amount of blood and all the necessary organs, including two round ears and a button nose. Pit, the little glitchmouse even had lashes and eyebrows!
Ratchet searched for something familiar, something that would remind him of Carly or Spike. After all, Daniel had come into being by the merging of his creators’ genetic material; surely there had to be something he would recognize?
But no, the miniature human lying in Carly’s arms was a completely independent individual, not a subtotal of those who had created him.
“He’s perfect, Carly,” he answered softly. “Congratulations.”
She turned her head towards him, and a beautiful smile appeared on her still sweaty face. “Thank you,” she whispered, her voice thick with exhaustion and emotion. “Thank you. Both of you.”
“Any time, dear.” Elena was beaming all over her face. She carefully pressed her cloth between Carly’s legs to catch the few drops of blood that still escaped their charge’s body and then leaned down for a closer inspection.
“Barely a scratch,” she announced, obviously pleased, while she wiped her hands clean and watched the first tentative interactions between mother and child with undisguised pride and happiness. “Well, how about it, dear? Would you like to try and give him the breast?”
Carly nodded eagerly, and Ratchet watched in open curiosity as the midwife walked up to stand next to their charge and showed her how to bring the sparkling into an appropriate position for his first meal. “Newborns can be fussy eaters,” she warned. “It might take him a while to -“
Daniel’s head moved instinctively as soon as Carly’s nipple touched his face. His tiny mouth opened, and he huffed and grunted a bit as he rooted, but then he latched on, and the soft sounds of contented suckling became audible.
“Well,” Elena said, a bit surprised. “Seems he’s a natural.”
For a moment, all three of them watched the nursing baby in silent awe. Ratchet had seen pictures and recordings of suckling human infants before, but reality, he found, was much more fascinating than any image capture.
He made sure to record every single astrosecond of it.
Some drops of yellowish fluid escaped Daniel’s mouth when his sucking became a bit too enthusiastic. He squirmed slightly, and one of his hands came to rest on Carly’s breast as if trying to hold it in place. Carly stroked it gently, and the tiny hand moved again to clasp her index finger. She smiled touchedly, than frowned.
“Geez, that feels really weird,” she murmured. Her oxytocin levels had increased considerably, Ratchet noticed, and his sensors were reporting minor muscle activity in her uterus. Carly wriggled and shifted on the berth, her abdominal muscles tightening as she bore down instinctively, and suddenly a soft, bloody mass of tissue oozed out of her body and dropped onto the berth with a slick sound and a trickle of fluids. Carly grimaced in disgust.
“Ugh”, she said and tried to move away from the mass without jarring the umbilical cord that still connected Daniel to the expelled placenta. Elena patted her shoulder gently.
“Let me take care of this, love. And you,” she looked at Ratchet, “if you want to make yourself useful, you can clamp the cord.”
He was ready to snap at her when his optics met her dark eyes, and he saw that she was grinning.
Daniel had finished his meal and was beginning to drop off. Ratchet watched him yawning around Carly’s nipple while he carefully pulled his hand out from behind his charge’s back and unsubspaced one of the medical clamps he normally used on very thin wires or on the delicate fuel lines of the minibots. It was small in his hand, but compared to the tiny newborn, it appeared intimidatingly large.
Carly moved the towel aside to give him enough room to work. “Careful,” she cautioned, and Ratchet suddenly felt ridiculously nervous. Slag, but the sparkling was just so tiny.
Get a grip, Ratch. You have a job to do here.
He willed his hands to stay steady before he very gently lifted the cord with the tip of one finger, and with a wary glance at Daniel’s face, he let the clamp snap into place.
The little glitchmouse didn’t so much as twitch.
An affectionate smile played about Carly’s lips as she pulled the towel up again and gently rocked her baby in her arms. “He’s so gorgeous,” she whispered. “Can we call in Spike now? I want him to meet his son.”
Elena had finished her examination of the placenta and obviously found that it was intact. Ratchet could have told her so a lot faster, but he didn’t want to interrupt her working routine. “I’ll go and send him in,” he offered. “If that’s alright with Miss Quintana.”
The midwife placed the afterbirth in a container she had prepared and covered it with a towel to dampen the smell until it could be discarded. She nodded at him with a smile. “Go ahead. I’ll just clean our new mommy up a bit in the meantime.”
After being on his knees for so long, the hydraulics in Ratchet’s legs had become a bit stiff and gave a protesting squeak as he rose to his feet. Slag, he really needed to pay more attention to his own maintenance...
He looked down at his two charges, and the view they offered made him feel strangely warm and content and proud in the most frightening, most wonderful way. He wanted to run, to hide somewhere and to never come out again, but at the same time, every fiber of his spark vigorously protested against the prospect of leaving. He found himself spontaneously leaning down again.
“I’ll just go and get your father,” he told the recharging sparkling. “It won’t take long. And don’t you go anywhere while I’m gone, okay?”
Daniel scrunched up his face and sneezed in his sleep. Ratchet decided to take that as a yes.
It felt like entering another world.
When the med bay doors closed behind him, the orange-walled corridor appeared strangely alien to Ratchet, as if he’d never been here before. He blinked his optics, for a moment actually searching his memory bank for information about who he was and what the frag he was doing here.
The feeling passed quickly, however, when his gaze settled upon his fellow Autobots.
They were gathered in several small groups, some sitting, some standing, some even in alt mode. Positioned squarely in the middle were Spike and Bumblebee, the human looking pale and exhausted, the little scout with a comforting arm wrapped around his friend’s shoulders. There were hushed conversations going on here and there, but all voices died down immediately when they noticed him. Overbright, curious optics and visors stared at him, waiting, the tension almost palpable.
And Ratchet stared back and had no idea what to say to them.
It was Wheeljack who finally broke the hush. “Was... was that the sparkling we heard, Ratch?” he asked tentatively.
Something inside him seemed to melt, and he felt his faceplates break into a gentle smile.
“Yes,” he answered softly. His gaze sought Spike, who had taken a step forward. “Congratulations, Spike. You have a healthy son.”
For a moment, the young man stood as if struck by lightning. Then he exhaled so deeply as if he’d held his breath for the last ten joors, and the sound that escaped him was somewhere between a sob and a gasp. Bumblebee threw his arms around his friend a bit too enthusiastically with a happy hoot, but Spike didn’t seem to mind; on the contrary, he actually hugged Bumblebee back, pressing his face against friend’s chassis with a shaky laugh.
Behind them, the crew seemed to come to life. Ratchet saw smiles and embraces and hands that patted shoulders; happy, relieved laughter could be heard, and a choir of congratulations rose, all directed at Spike. Even Sunstreaker’s lips curled slightly as he allowed Sideswipe to cuddle him cheerfully. Optimus Prime stood next to them in silence, but his optics shone a brighter azure blue than Ratchet had ever seen.
“How’s Carly?” Spike demanded after he had extricated himself from Bumblebee’s arms. “Is she alright?”
Ratchet nodded. “She’s fine. Tired, but fine. She’s waiting for you.”
The overjoyed beaming on Spike’s face was contagious. Ratchet stepped aside to let him through as the young man hurried into the med bay, and the eagerness with which their friend rushed past him to join his bonded and newborn offspring warmed his spark through and through.
“What about us, Ratchet?” Bumblebee piped up excitedly, taking a step forward. “Can we see Daniel, too?” His request was immediately backed up by a choir of affirmatives.
Part of Ratchet desperately wanted them to see the sparkling. He wanted to lead them inside and to proudly present to them the tiny new life he had just helped delivering. The other part, however, was firmly connected to his medical programming and reminded him of his responsibilities as a medic.
“For Primus’ sake, guys, he’s barely twenty kliks old, and Carly just worked her way through a night cycle of labor pain. Give them a moment to settle down; they’re not going anywhere.”
“I agree,” Optimus said in his calm tone, the first word he spoke since Ratchet had left the med bay. “We should give Spike and Carly some time to get acquainted with their offspring. I’m sure they will let us know when they are ready to see us.”
There was some grumbling and disappointed faceplates, but it was beyond any doubt that the Witwicky family’s well-being was one of the Ark’s top priorities. Cliffjumper crossed his arms over his chest plates.
“Okay, okay. Fire away, then, Doc.”
The red minibot huffed impatiently. “Give us something to work with, Ratchet! What does Daniel look like?”
“Like a human,” Ratchet said drily. “Two arms, two legs, one head.”
The crew groaned simultaneously. “Details, Ratch!” Inferno demanded. “We need input! Optic color, weight, size... what’s his size?”
“Small,” Ratchet replied with malicious joy.
The distinct click and whirr of a laser gun being onlined forestalled any protest. Ironhide stood in the middle of the crowd, legs apart, faceplates grim and weapon leveled accurately at Ratchet’s head, primed and ready to fire.
“Spill it, Ratchet,” he growled. “Or I’m gonna do some memory extractin’ on your processor - the old-fashioned way.”
Ratchet knew for sure that Ironhide would never shoot at a fellow Autobot. Still, he decided that he really needed to do something about his evil streak.
He chose some memory files and image captures from his cache, combined them into a neat data package and sent them over to his comrades on a general frequency. Optics flashed briefly as one after the other accessed the message.
Apart from the occasional, gentle rev of an engine, the corridor turned utterly quiet. Every ‘Bot present was staring at his HUD like they had been frozen in place, but Ratchet could feel EM fields flare and core temperatures fluctuate in what was undoubtedly a wide variety of emotions.
“Geez,” Huffer said finally, “that’s gross.” - and was instantly rewarded with a heavy slap to the head, courtesy of Sideswipe.
His comment had broken the spell, though. Bluestreak obviously couldn’t find the appropriate hydraulics to close his mouth. “Holy Primus,” he breathed, “he’s so tiny. Look at those fingers - they’re barely there!”
“What’s that white substance on him?” Optimus inquired.
“It’s called vernix,” Ratchet explained. “It acts as a protection of the skin. It will vanish in a few joors.”
“His head looks a bit strange,” Hound remarked, sounding worried.
“A temporary deformation caused by the passage through the birth canal. The head will resume its normal shape in a few days.”
“Is he... nursing?” Bumblebee whispered.
Ratchet couldn’t hold in his laughter any longer. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, he is.”
The little scout kept staring at the pictures on his HUD, utterly transfixed. “Man, I can’t believe he’s here. I mean, of cause he’s been here before, but now he’s really here. That’s incredible.”
Ratchet notices several hands creep forward furtively to pat him on the shoulders in silent agreement.
“I’m still needed in there,” he said to his commander. “I’m sure Carly will want to introduce her sparkling to you as soon as possible; I’ll give you a ping when we’re ready.”
“We’ll be waiting,” Optimus replied with a smile in his voice.
What awaited Ratchet when he returned to the med bay was a picture of comfort and happiness. Carly had put her T-Shirt back on, probably with Elena’s help. Her face had been cleaned and her ponytail renewed, and the midwife was just covering her lower body with the woolen blanket that had accompanied them through the whole delivery. Carly had leaned her head against the berth’s headboard, and an affectionate smile graced her face as she watched her bonded holding his offspring for the first time.
Spike was sitting on the edge of the berth, his son cradled in his arms. His body was a bit tense, Ratchet noticed, and his grip on Daniel a bit awkward, but the little one didn’t seem to mind, given that he recharged on peacefully. Spike had the same overwhelmed expression on his face Ratchet had just seen on his comrades.
“My goodness,” he murmured. “Look at you. All that fuss you’ve caused, and you’re so little.”
Daniel slept on completely unimpressed. Spike drew his finger along the curve of one tiny ear in obvious fascination.
“I can’t believe it,” he said to Carly. “I’m a real dad now. I mean, can you imagine that?”
“Better get used to it,” Carly replied with a gentle laugh. “I’m not gonna put him back in.”
Spike grinned, but didn’t take his eyes off Daniel’s face. “He has my chin,” he remarked with utter conviction. “And he’s pretty heavy.” He bounced the sparkling carefully in his arms as if trying to estimate his weight.
“6.9 pounds,” Ratchet enlightened him. “And 18.2 inches long.”
“And a healthy appetite,” Elena chipped in with a smile.
“That’s my son.” Spike beamed proudly. “God, he’s perfect.” He leaned down to Carly, touching his forehead to hers. “Thank you,” he breathed.
They kissed tenderly, with Daniel cradled between them, and this time, Ratchet felt no need to turn away. It had been worth it, he thought. Nine stellar cycles of cravings and mood swings, all the crying and arguing, all the stress and pain of the birth; they had been worth enduring just for this moment of seeing his charges together as a family for the first time. He glanced at Elena, and remembered suddenly how he’d asked her, during their first meeting, if being a midwife was a gratifying job.
He guessed that he’d just gotten his answer.
Elena was digging through her med kit and eventually produced a pair of medical scissors. “Well,” she announced, “I’d say we’re ready to cut the cord.” She held the scissors out to Ratchet and Spike, moving it back and forth between them. “Who of the gentlemen wants to do the honors?”
Ratchet’s fingers twitched eagerly, but it somehow felt wrong to claim this duty when Spike was sitting here with his sparkling in his arms. So, instead of stepping forward, he smiled at his friend. “Go ahead,” he encouraged.
Spike looked distinctly doubtful and nervous as he eyed the scissors suspiciously. “This won’t hurt him, will it?” he asked.
“No, no,” Elena soothed. “Don’t worry. Here, I’ll show you.”
Very carefully, Spike put his son into his bonded’s arms and then stood to hesitantly take the scissors from Elena. A slight pang of jealousy suddenly crossed Ratchet’s spark. There went his chance at this experience...
Spike actually had to apply a decent amount of strength to severe the cord, but he managed fine. Elena put a plastic clip over the cut surface which Daniel would wear until the remains of the cord dried and fell off, and Carly pecked her bonded on the cheek softly as he wrapped his arm around her, whispering a gentle “Well done.” Spike beamed proudly.
The three of them watched in contented silence as Elena put Daniel down on the small table Wheeljack had attached to the berth and started to clean him off. She worked very gently, and omitted the places where remains of vernix kept clinging to the sparkling’s skin, but still the touches woke Daniel from his recharge, and he made his disagreement with the procedure unmistakably clear.
“Now, now,” Carly tried to soothe him. “It’s not that bad, Danny. She’s not trying to kill you.”
Daniel obviously had different thoughts on the matter, but he quieted down a bit when Elena picked him up and, holding him vertically, let his feet touch the surface of the table gently. Daniel immediately drew his legs up in reaction and then began to place one foot in front of the other as if he intended to walk.
“Stepping reflex,” Ratchet commented. Elena looked up at him with slight surprise.
“Yes,” she said. “How about this one?” She placed Daniel on her lower arm so his head rested in her palm, and then moved her arm downwards suddenly.
Daniel’s legs and head extended instantly, his arms jerked up and his mouth opened wide before he brought both arms together again, clenched his hands into fists and gave a loud, startled cry.
“Moro reflex,” Ratchet said. “It’s meant to help him regain his hold on his carrier in case he loses his balance.”
Was it his imagination, or did he actually see a hint of satisfied pride flashing in her optics?
Daniel also passed the rest of the little tests Elena subjected him to with flying colors. He had even stopped fussing somewhere along the way, until his fledgling trust in the midwife suffered a heavy setback when she pricked the heel of his foot with a small needle to take a blood sample. Daniel literally screamed bloody murder.
“Aw, it’s alright, sweetie, it’s alright,” she soothed while she diapered him. “I’m done pestering you now, you’re fine.” She worked his tiny hands and feet into blue sleepers and wrapped him in a woolen sparkling blanket - all things they had placed ready in the med bay several days prior. “Here you go, lovely, here’s your mommy.”
With a smile, she placed the fussing sparkling into his carrier’s arms, and Spike and Carly instantly leaned over their creation to cuddle and caress him, and made cooing, shushing noises; no doubt some kind of human parental behavior.
“Shh, shh, darling, it’s okay,” Carly murmured, pressing her lips to her sparkling’s forehead and rocking him tenderly. “Mommy’s here, and daddy’s here, and Ratchet’s here, too, see? Everything’s fine.”
Pushing one hand against his chest plates really was a medical necessity, Ratchet found. If he didn’t apply some counter pressure, his spark was sure to bust his chassis the way it surged with pride and emotion.
A query ping interrupted his self-treatment, followed by a message alert on his HUD. He fought down an impatient growl.
‘I apologize again for disturbing,’ Prime said with undisguised amusement, ‘but how is your situation in there? I don’t think I can restrain the crew much longer.’
Ratchet snorted in exasperation. ‘Okay, okay. Just a moment.’
He knelt down beside Carly who was looking up at him questioningly. “Something wrong?”
“I just got a message from Optimus,” he said and indicated the door with his thumb. “There’s a bunch of moronic robots standing outside and nearly crawling up each other’s tailpipes with excitement to see your sparkling. Can they come in?”
Carly didn’t look the least bit tired anymore. She beamed up at him, her face the very epitome of happiness and pride. “Yeah; yeah, sure! Danny has to meet all his future babysitters, hasn’t he?”
Her smile was contagious. Ratchet found himself grinning from one audio receptor to the other as he walked over and opened the door. The chattering outside stopped immediately, and a dozen heads snapped around to stare at him in expectation. He smirked.
“Well, guys,” he said cheerfully, “come on in. Time to meet the sparkling!”
To be continued...
Chapter 11: Epilogue: Baby on Board
Disclaimer: I do not own The Transformers, and I do not make any money with this.
Not even Elena was able to hide her grin as the ‘bunch of moronic robots’ came tiptoeing into the room and gathered around Carly’s berth in a half cycle. They did so without any fuss or disorder, quickly yet quietly, and Ratchet wondered why this surprised him so much. He of all ‘Bots should know best that these mechs were soldiers to the core.
As always, the thought left him gloomy.
His human charge, however, was clearly not troubled by such musings, as she favored the assembled crew with a wide and happy grin.
“Morning, guys,” she greeted them cheerfully. “Don’t tell me you’ve been standing out there all night?”
“Indeed.” Prime’s optics twinkled with undisguised amusement as he stepped forward. “Congratulations, Carly,” he said warmly and knelt down next to the berth to be closer to her. “How are you?”
“Tired,” she admitted.
“I should think so. Ratchet tells me you did an amazing job in here.”
Carly smiled. “I had help,” she said softly.
Optimus looked up at his CMO, and there was such deep approval in his gaze that, for a moment, Ratchet felt like a young cadet who had just received praise from his superior for the first time.
“Indeed,” Optimus repeated quietly before his optics shifted down to the tiny bundle in their human friend’s arms, and his gaze visibly softened. “Will you introduce me to your offspring, Carly?”
“Of course.” She adjusted her grip so she could lift her son up a bit to give Optimus a better view and leaned her head against the baby’s. “Optimus Prime,” she said solemnly, “please meet our son Daniel Witwicky. Daniel, this is our friend Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots. Say hello.” She took one of Daniel’s tiny hands and waved it gently.
Optimus gently inclined his head towards the newborn sparkling. “It is an honor to make your acquaintance, Daniel Witwicky,” he replied, picking up on Carly’s formal tone. Slight fluctuations in his energy field indicated to Ratchet the basic scan he gave the recharging sparkling.
“He seems to be a very fine specimen of your species,” he remarked eventually.
“Fine!” Spike snorted in the tone of someone who has just been mortally offended. “He’s not ‘fine’. He’s perfect! He’s the most perfect specimen this race has ever seen!”
And before he could stop himself, a resolute “I second that,” slipped out of Ratchet’s vocalizer.
Optimus threw both of them an amused glance before he lifted one hand and carefully brought it close to Daniel’s tiny head.
Even the smallest of his fingers appeared gigantic next to the miniature newborn. Elena stiffened and sucked in a sharp breath, but neither Spike nor Carly looked the least bit worried, and Ratchet, too, felt no need to intervene. He knew first-hand how infinitely gentle those massive hands could be, not to mention that Prime would rather extinguish his own spark than to harm an innocent being. He gave the midwife at his side an assuring smile.
Elena still looked extremely doubtful, but did not protest when Optimus cautiously extended one finger towards Daniel’s face. Barely the tip of it stroked down the sparkling’s soft cheek, applying no more pressure than a gentle breeze would have done.
Daniel recharged on completely undisturbed, and a deep, intensive glow lightened Prime’s optics.
“Welcome, little one,” he murmured tenderly.
Judging from the flares in various energy fields Ratchet’s sensors picked up, his spark wasn’t the only one to give a small surge. , feet scraped across the floor, necks were craned, and something small and yellow especially caught his optic. Prime, obviously having noticed it, too, turned around to look at his crew.
Bumblebee had left the frontmost line he’d been standing in and had approached a few steps in an attempt to get a glimpse at whatever might be behind Optimus’ broad shoulder struts. When he noticed his commander’s gaze on him, he stood at attention and saluted.
“Permission to have a look, sir.”
It was impossible to not be amused by this, and consequently, Prime’s exhilaration was almost tangible.
“Permission granted,” he said as he stood up to make room for him.
The eagerness with which the yellow scout took his leader’s place was endearing. He dropped to his knees next to the berth so he was more or less on eye level with the two humans.
“Hey, Carly! Congratulations! Geez, you look great!”
Carly laughed gently. “Thanks, ‘Bee. And thank you for playing chauffeur again.” She touched his hand briefly.
“Aw, ‘s okay. I’m glad I could help.” He glanced down at the sparkling in her arms expectantly. “Can I say hello?”
“Sure.” She turned to her offspring. “Danny, please meet our friend Bumblebee.”
“Better known as ‘Your personal transport ‘til you get your own driver’s license’,” Spike quipped.
Carly nudged her bonded in playful reproach, but Bumblebee clearly didn’t mind his friend’s teasing. He leaned a bit closer to speak directly to Daniel.
“Hey there, little fella. Nice to meet you. Designation’s Bumblebee, but you can call me ‘Bee.”
One of Daniel’s hands, the one Carly had dislodged from the blanket, was lying next to his small face, and obviously encouraged by his Prime’s example, Bumblebee reached out with one finger and gently touched it to the sparkling’s soft palm.
The tiny fingers closed around the dark appendage in a loose grasp.
The little scout’s engine gave a short, surprised rev as he jerked at the unexpected reaction, but he did not pull away. Spike laughed at the expression of utter amazement on his friend’s faceplates. “See?” he said. “He already likes you.”
That was of course an exaggeration, but in view of the smiles surrounding him, Ratchet didn’t have the spark to protest. Bumblebee positively glowed with pride, and perhaps that was what prompted Carly’s next question.
“Would you like to hold him?” she asked.
Ratchet cocked his head in surprise. If anything, he’d have expected one his comrades to request such a thing, not for Carly to offer it so freely. But here she was, regarding the minibot with a fond look as he stared down at her.
“I don’t know if that’s such a good idea, love.” A deep frown dominated Elena’s expression as she took a step closer. “Remember, he’s barely an hour old.”
She was right, Ratchet thought. Their job was to assure Daniel’s health and wellbeing, and he probably shouldn’t be moved around too much so soon after his birth.
“I can assure you that there is absolutely no risk for Daniel involved. Our species possesses appropriate soft- and hardware to handle objects of sizes so small your language does not even have a word for it. A human sparkling should not pose a problem.”
Okay, that definitely hadn’t been the words he’d meant to say. He needed to check the connection between his CPU and his vocalize.
“He’s right, you know,” Spike remarked. “I’ve seen these guys work miracles with circuitry I could barely make out in the first place. ‘Bee won’t hurt my little boy.”
“Of course not!” the minibot confirmed forcefully, looking rather indignant that such a thing was even suspected of him.
“Especially since he knows that he’ll spend the rest of his existence as a human kitchen device if he does,” Ratchet added with the sweetest of smiles.
A soft, sly grin spread over Elena’s face as she looked back and forth between them. “Three against one, it seems,” she asserted. “Alright, then. Go ahead.”
Carly shifted Daniel in her arms carefully, preparing to hand him over. “Hold out your hand,” she instructed, and when Bumblebee did, Spike assisted her in gently placing their recharging offspring down onto the minibot’s dark palm.
The first touch of the tiny weight on his plating caused Bumblebee’s optics to flash brightly in excitement, and Ratchet’s skilled sensors picked up a wide variety of reactions in the scout’s systems, from the quickening of his spark pulse frequency to the carefully controlled change of temperature in the metal of his palm as he adjusted the warmth of his plating to that of the sparkling’s body. Apart from that, however, he sat utterly still and peered down at the small creature in his hand in utter fascination.
“Wow,” he murmured. “Hello, little glitchmouse.”
It was strangely charming to hear him slip into their native tongue in mid-sentence, so that the last part came out as a soft, chirring sound.
Their assembled comrades seemed to take this as some kind of signal, for they carefully began to edge closer one by one to finally get a proper look at their latest crew member. The group had grown, Ratchet noticed; he spotted Silverbolt and Slingshot, Perceptor and Skyfire in the background, and also some of the Protectobots. First Aid was standing near the door, and when their optics met, his young colleague flashed his visor at him and then lifted both hands, giving Ratchet the thumbs-up.
He didn’t have time to react, though, because a gentle hand was placed on his shoulder strut, and when he turned around, he saw that Optimus Prime had quietly stepped closer and was regarding him with undisguised pride and fondness.
“Good work,” he said.
And since there were so many things Ratchet would have liked to reply that it would have taken him a whole human week, he settled for a soft and simple “Thank you.”
The majority of their fellow Autobots had by now tentatively made first contact with the new arrival, some by soft words, others by careful, gentle touches, like Bumblebee had done. Spike and Carly allowed it with proud smiles, and while he watched the scene, Ratchet felt a tender warmth unfold in his spark, tinged with a small shiver he didn’t fully comprehend. But the feeling stayed with him, accompanied him as he patiently answered a number of questions together with Elena, and made it easy to find a smile also for those of his comrades who kept themselves a bit more in the background, like Skyfire and Ironhide, and even for Tracks, who did a very good job looking as bored and aloof as possible.
But eventually, little Daniel was beginning to register all the talking and touching going on around him. He started to squirm and stretch slowly, making soft sounds of discomfort as he scrunched up his tiny face, ready to wail. Carly reached for her son, and Elena helped her to properly wrap him up in his blanket once more.
“I think it’s high time for him to get a good rest now,” she stated. “And for you, too, love.”
At the word ‘rest’, Carly had to fight a yawn.
“Sounds good,” she said with a small smile at Bumblebee as the minibot got back to his feet. “I’d like to go back to our room, really. You guys mind if we stay a bit longer?”
“You blew some logic circuits, Carly?” Sunstreaker grunted from across the room, and for the first time in what had to be eons, Ratchet did not feel the need to give the yellow twin as good as he got.
“You and your family are welcome to stay as long as you wish, Carly,” Optimus told her. “And you know that.”
The soft, scraping sound of metal against metal could be heard as Ironhide pushed off the wall he’d been leaning on. “A’right, mechs,” he commanded, “you heard the boss. Peepshow’s over, so get your afts movin’ and get back to your posts, you lazy slaggers.”
“Put yourself at idle, ‘Hide,” Hound said placatingly, but nobody argued. They left with a chorus of “Recharge well”, and “See you later”, and were seen off with happy waves and “Thank you”’s in two voices. Optimus, Bumblebee, Wheeljack and Ratchet himself were the only ones to stay behind.
Spike held his son while Elena helped Carly putting a thick menstrual pad into her underwear and to shrug her dressing gown back on before she took her sparkling back.
“We’re going home now, Daniel,” she told him. “We have our own little place here, you know, and it’s beautiful. You’ll love it.”
“Don’t forget your little friend,” Ratchet said, pointing to the teddy bear still sitting on the berth’s headboard. Under the amused gazes of their companions, Spike took the stuffed animal from his two-fingered grip with a grin.
Then, with her bonded on one side, his arm wrapped around her shoulders, and her midwife on the other, Carly left the med bay as a young mother for the first time, escorted by four proud-looking Autobots.
“I’ll drop in from time to time during the next few weeks to help you settle in properly, dear,” Elena said as they slowly walked through the Ark’s corridors. “And you can of course call me twenty-four-seven if something’s wrong or if you need help. For now, I want you to rest as much as possible, and not to move around too much. Give your body time to settle down. Make sure you drink enough, and don’t be worried if there’s a little blood the first few times you pass water. I’ts normal.”
Ratchet listened carefully, making sure to record every single word. He would need any information as he could get to make sure that he was able to provide proper aftercare for Carly. And sure enough, Elena chose that moment to add: “I trust your husband and your friends here to keep an eye on you, too.”
“I’ll tie her down if I have to,” Ratchet said darkly, and couldn’t help but to bristle a bit when Carly gave him one of those grins that said: Nah, you won’t...
Upon Spike’s request, the five of them accompanied the young couple into their quarters, and it was a pity, in Ratchet’s opinion, that Grapple and Hoist weren’t present right now. Hearing Carly murmur “Welcome home, Danny,” and seeing her tenderly place her sparkling into the small berth prepared for him would have done wonders to their architect’s underdeveloped self-esteem.
Elena shook Spike’s hand firmly, and then drew Carly into her arms, giving her a motherly hug and squeezing her hands gently. “I’ll be off to my bed now, too, love,” she said with a smile. “Remember, don’t strain yourself too much yet. And if you feel that something’s amiss, whatever it is, call me and I’ll be there. Otherwise, I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”
“Alright,” Carly agreed.
“I think we could all do with some sleep,” Spike commented while he carefully rocked Daniel’s berth, looking up at the four Autobots. “Even you guys.”
It was without doubt a sensible suggestion, but Ratchet shook his head. “I’ll stay a while longer if you don’t mind,” he said, “to keep a sensor on your bodily functions, just for safety reasons. I won’t disturb you.” He made ready to settle in somewhere out of the way, calibrating his sensors for the new task, when a gentle hand on his arm held him back.
“I think we should allow Spike and Carly some solitude now,” Optimus said friendly but firmly. “And you should also get some recharge, my friend.”
Ratchet stared at him, half put off and half in resentment. He didn’t have time for such nonsense, couldn’t Prime see that?
“My energy levels are within acceptable parameters, thank you,” he said pointedly.
“Ah, actually, your reserves are at 68 percent, Ratch,” Wheeljack disagreed. “You didn’t get too much rest these past few cycles, remember?”
For the first time in a long while, Ratchet felt truly angry with his friend. How did Wheeljack dare to stab him in the back like that?!
“Optimus -” he started, but his commander forestalled him with a shake of his head.
“No, Ratchet. You’ve done a wonderful job, and now I want you to take the rest you deserve. I need my CMO in top form when he returns to his duties.”
It took Ratchet a moment to absorb the meaning of these words. From behind his leader’s shoulder strut, he could see Wheeljack and Bumblebee grinning at him.
“You know, I think he’s right, Ratchet,” Carly said suddenly. “The both of us have done enough hard work for one day, don’t you think?”
A twinge of tender amusement weaved its way into Ratchet’s spark when he turned to her and his optics met her eyes. She had done the hard work...
He cycled his vents slowly. “Okay,” he conceded. “Alright. But if you need something - anything -, I want you to ping me asap, you hear me?”
Carly grinned. “Whom else?”
Despite his good intentions, it still took Ratchet some effort to tear himself away from his charges, and he was the last of their small group to leave the room when he finally did. The doors closed with the usual soft hiss, and for a brief moment, a feeling of deep loss washed over him.
Stop being stupid, you old fool, he chastised himself.
“I must thank you again for your assistance, Miss Quintana,” Optimus said as they walked down the corridor. “It is much appreciated.”
“My pleasure, Mr. Prime,” she replied happily. “I take it my yellow friend here’s gonna drive me home?”
“Sure thing, Mrs Q!” Bumblebee piped up from behind them and Optimus threw his soldier a fond glance.
“I leave you in one of the best pairs of hands this crew has to offer, Miss Quintana,” he said, and though his optics glinted in amusement, his tone left no doubt about his seriousness. “You will kindly excuse me now; my duties are awaiting me.”
He gave their guest a nod, which was graciously returned, then turned to his officers. “Wheeljack, I’d like you to walk Ratchet back to his quarters, will you?”
“If it’s all the same to you, I’ll first see Elena off,” Ratchet said acidly before Wheeljack had a chance to reply. “Before you have me gagged and tied down, I mean.”
Optimus’ polite “Of course,” only served to prove once again that sarcastic jibes bounced off their Prime like laser shots off a strong energy field. He said goodbye to Elena, nodded at his officers and then left them at the next junction of the hallway without taking the slightest notice of his CMO’s scowling faceplates.
Neither Wheeljack nor Bumblebee bothered to hide their grins.
Bright sunlight streamed through the Ark’s entrance when they stepped out into the open with Elena in the lead. She blinked a few times, then stretched her arms above her head and took a deep breath.
“Geez, I’m looking forward to a good meal now. And some coffee, perhaps.” She turned to smile up at them. “Gentlemen, it’s been a pleasure working with you. And especially you, doctor.”
Ratchet lowered himself to one knee to be a bit closer to her. “Pleasure’s all mine,” he said, and to his own amazement, he realized that it was true. Elena grinned.
“You’ll keep an eye on our new mommy, will you?”
“An optic,” he corrected. “And two, even.”
“Good.” For a moment, she regarded him thoughtfully. “You know, you didn’t do too bad in there last night,” she said finally.
“Why, thank you,” he replied drily. Elena’s eyes glinted with mischief.
“You wouldn’t probably be interested in a new job, would you? I could do with a decent apprentice.”
Ratchet couldn’t heöp but smirk at the thought of a Cybertronian medic being the student of a human midwife. “Who, me?” he teased. “The cold, emotionless robot who knows nothing about human childbirth?”
“I like a good challenge,” she shot back promptly, completely unimpressed. He snorted in amusement.
“Glad to be of service. But someone’s got to be here to keep these guys together. Literally.” He pointed his thumb at his companions, who had politely stayed in the background, but were following the conversation with obvious interest. Elena nodded with a smile.
“I know what you mean. But you still got my mobile phone number, right?”
“Yeah,” he confirmed, a bit surprised. Did she want him to delete this information?
“Well, I guess you robot guys aren’t too fond of coffee shops and such, but if you feel like shop-talking a bit from time to time, then call me. We could always go to a gas station or something.”
Ratchet stared down at her in incredulously. Had he just been asked out for a date?
“Yeah, why not?” he said, doing his best to sound as nonchalant as possible. “I could do that.”
“Fine. See you then.” She smiled at him again, then turned to Bumblebee and jerked her head at him in a prompting fashion. “Let’s get going, Mr. B!”
Ratchet began to wonder if he should be worried about these one-letter-nicknames, but then Bumblebee jumped into alt mode - which brought with it the benefit that it wiped the grin off his faceplates - and opened his driver’s door for Elena to get in. She fastened the seat belt, giving them a last smile and wave before the little scout revved his engine and took off into the desert.
Seeing her leave felt weird, a bit like coming out of a recharge cycle full of sensor echoes. However, the fact that he was, indeed, awake became undoubtedly clear to Ratchet when he turned around to find his best friend doubled over with laughter.
“And what exactly do you find so funny, ‘Jack?” As if they didn’t know already...
Wheeljack’s vocal indicators flashed erratically as he shook his head, still laughing. “A gas station,” he chuckled. “Way to go, Ratch!”
“Oh, shut up, dimspark,” he grumbled, crossing his arms over his chest plates. “No need to be jealous just because I can still catch a femme’s optic.”
With an amicable grin, Wheeljack threw an arm around his shoulder struts and squeezed them fondly. “C’mon, ladies’ mech. I’m to put you to recharge, remember?”
Ratchet would later think that they should be given credit for good intentions, at least. As promised, ‘Jack had seen him back to his quarters, and he had meant to properly rest and refuel, since by then he’d been beginning to feel the last days’ energy drain. But the moment the doors closed behind them, something in his core software seemed to click, and his CPU and vocalizer practically jumped into overdrive. There was just so much to tell, so much to share... And Wheeljack hang on his every word, wanted to know everything from medical details to how well his modifications of the equipment had worked for the two humans.
They sat on Ratchet’s berth, handing a cube of energon back and forth between them, and Ratchet would talk and gesticulate and share image captures and memory files, and every now and then, when the relived excitement became too great, he would jump up and hasten up and down the room while he spoke, voice raised to drown out the whirring of his own cooling fans.
“I’m gonna write about this, ‘Jack,” he announced, struck by a sudden epiphany. “I’ll be the first Cybertronian medic to write a scientific paper on human reproduction. I can see it already: Human gestation and delivery. By CMO Ratchet. Part One: Conception and first trimester.”
It wasn’t until an internal reminder informed Wheeljack he was due for his shift that they realized how much time had passed. A quick glance onto his chronometer revealed to Ratchet that it was already 5:23 p.m.
They had effectively chatted the afternoon away.
“Aw, slag,” Wheeljack said, looking sheepish. “Where did the time go? I’ve kept you from recharging.”
Truth be told, Ratchet didn’t feel that tired anymore. The energon had helped quite a bit. But shift was shift, and so he slipped off the berth to see his friend to the door.
“See you tomorrow, then?” Wheeljack asked. “You still have to show me those infrared images.”
“You’ll get a proper slide show,” Ratchet promised. Wheeljack’s optics flashed in pleasant anticipation before his faceplates turned serious again.
“And you see to it that you catch a few ZZZs,” he replied. “You need it, and Prime’s gonna kill me if you don’t.”
Ratchet laughed at the graveness in his voice. “Okay, okay,” he agreed. “Don’t blow a fuse.”
And he really did try. The quietness the room greeted him with after his friend’s departure felt soothing to his audio receptors, and the berth, when he dropped back down on it, was still cosily warm from both their chassis. For a moment, he simply enjoyed the warmth, then he shifted into a more comfortable position and waited for his systems to settle down enough for his CPU to provide him with the option of initiating a recharge cycle.
Only that it didn’t. That damned processor of his had now reached an agreeable cruising speed, so to speak, busily sorting, indexing and analyzing the load of sensory input it had received during the last 24 hours, and it did not give the impression that it intended to stop in its tracks anytime soon. Of course, Ratchet could simply have interrupted the process and forced his systems to shut down, but forced recharge was seldom a pleasure without pain, and apart from that, he simply didn’t feel like recharging. On the contrary, he felt... spurred on somehow, ready to jump into action of any kind – work-happy, the humans would probably call it.
He got up again, starting to idly rub some dust off a shelf with two fingers and to tinker with some items left forgotten on his desk. Maybe he should comm. Carly, just a quick transmission to ask if she felt alright...
No, he told himself firmly. Leave her be. She’ll let you know if she needs something.
He sat down on the berth again, fishing around in his nightstand for a datapad with a novel he’d started reading a while ago. Reading was relaxing, right?
His relaxation lasted exactly 3.69 kliks, then he dropped the datapad with an irritated snort. His processor stubbornly refused to be distracted, and his medical subroutines weren’t of much help, either. He wanted to look in on his patient, damn it!
And if he just went to her quarters, without actually going in? He could take a quick scan from the outside, just to make sure nothing was amiss, and to see if she was still sleeping. She didn’t even have to know. Nobody could reproach him for checking on his patients.
And even if they did, what the frag did he care?
Shift change was long over, and most of the crew members normally spent the evening hours in the rec room or in their own rooms, so, with a bit of luck, chances were good that he wouldn’t even meet anyone on his way. And really, he managed to avoid runnin into any fellow Autobots - until he neared his destination and his sensors picked up the energy field data of another mech right in front of Carly’s and Spike’s door.
For a moment he hesitated, unsure of how to proceed.
Oh, to the Pit with it. A medic checking on his patient didn’t have to explain himself to anyone.
He turned around the corner – and almost tripped over his own feet when he found himself optic to optic with Red Alert.
The Security Director stood with his legs slightly spread and his hands folded behind his back, like a sentry on duty. And though his sensors had surely informed him about Ratchet’s approach, just as Ratchet’s had informed him about his colleague’s presence, his astonishment was evident on his faceplates when he recognized the new-arrival.
For a long moment, nothing happened. There they stood, Ratchet on one side of the hallway, Red Alert on the other, and stared at each other’s faceplates.
Red Alert shifted slightly, drawing himself up a bit.
“Ratchet,” he acknowledged.
His voice was neutral, almost businesslike, and hot, searing anger flared up in Ratchet’s spark. Just who did that mech think he was, talking down to him like that?! But of course he could do it, simply because he had obviously been here all the time while he, Ratchet, the chief medic, had to sneak out of his own quarters just to see his patient!
“What are you doing here?” he asked bluntly.
If Red Alert took offense at his hostility, he did not let it show. “Optimus wanted someone to be at Carly’s disposal so she would not have to disturb you in case she needed something. I was free, so I volunteered.”
“Oh, I’m sure you did.” Not even hesitating to drag their Commander into this little game, huh? “Especially since you weren’t there this morning,” he accused with malicious joy. “In the med bay, with the others. Too busy checking security feeds, I guess?”
The barb struck home, he knew, when Red Alert’s optics flashed briefly before he squared his shoulder struts. “I figured that Carly should not be disturbed too much so soon after giving birth. There will be ample opportunity for me to see her and Daniel in the next few solar cycles.”
Ouch. That hit home. Ratchet stared at him, fumbling for words, looking for a particularly acid remark - and found none. Both of them stood motionless, and an uncomfortable silence settled upon them.
Again, after a klik or so, it was Red Alert who spoke first, and his voice sounded different this time. “Did you... come to see them?”
Ratchet looked at the closed door behind him, then back at his fellow officer, and suddenly felt very much at a loss for what to do. All his anger vanished at the simple question as quickly as it had come, leaving behind the exhaustion he had thought long gone, and a strange sadness he couldn’t explain.
“No,” he answered finally. “No, it’s okay, I... I’ll just...”
He gestured aimlessly into the corridor behind him, searching for anything else to say, but even his CPU felt like paralyzed, and finally he gave up.
“Good night,” he murmured faintly, and turned, defeated, to trudge back to his empty quarters.
The soft, hesitant tone surprised him. Without thinking, he turned back to look at his colleague.
Red Alert’s hands were folded firmly in his lap, but he met Ratchet’s optics resolutely. “I have been wanting to apologize to you,” he said.
Of all the things Ratchet had expected, this had clearly not been on the list. Caught off guard, he could simply stare at his fellow Autobot, but Red Alert obviously did not expect an immediate answer.
“You were right, you know,” he continued. “With what you said about my... fear of commitment.”
The word made Ratchet flinch. “I apologized for that,” he interrupted, a hint of defiance creeping back into his voice.
“You did. But that does not make it completely wrong.”
He cycled his vents slowly. “You see, when Carly first told us she was expecting offspring, I started doing some research on the subject myself. And I quickly found how risky carrying and giving birth can be for human femmes.” He lifted both hands, ticking the possibilities off at his fingers. “Amniotic fluid embolism, pre-eclampsia, puerperal fever, omphalocele, nuchal cord... and have you heard about the HELLP-syndrome, Ratchet?”
He was remarkably calm, Ratchet thought. Even that last question held neither accusation nor any detectable excitement. “Yes,” he replied, a bit overwhelmed by all those medical terms thrown at him by a mech he’d never expected to have any medical knowledge in the first place. “Yes, I have.” Red Alert eyed him carefully.
“I couldn’t get this thought out of my processor anymore,” he said, “of something happening to Carly. I needed to make sure that no harm would come to her or to Daniel, and since humankind has procreated in this fashion for thousands of vorns, I figured that the safest place for them would be a human hospital.”
Somewhere along the way, Ratchet’s hydraulics seemed to have quitted the service. All he could do was to stand and stare, feeling lower than an oil stain.
“But then we talked to Optimus, and he wanted to consent to your plan; I could read it in his faceplates, it was so obvious... So I... resorted to what I believed to be my last option.” A small, bitter smile curved his lips. “I should know better than to let my paranoia impair my actions. We all know what that leads to, don’t we?”
Ratchet was feeling very, very tired by now. Did they really have to discuss this all over again? Couldn’t they just be okay?
“Red... why don’t we just agree that we both over-reacted, and that’s that? I mean, it’s over and done with now, and Carly and the sparkling are fine. No need to cry over spilt energon, right?”
Red Alert looked slightly doubtful, regarding him in clear surprise as if trying to find out if Ratchet wanted to send him up.
But eventually, he started to relax, and this time, the smile that graced his faceplates was a genuine one.
“Okay,” he said softly, “if that’s all right with you.” And his voice carried a tone of the same honest relief that Ratchet himself was suddenly feeling.
“So... you came to check on Carly, I suppose?”
It took him a moment to catch up with the sudden change of subject. “Yes,” he said then. “Yes, but it’s okay, I don’t want to wake her.”
“Oh, she is awake. Has been for a while now.”
Finally, Ratchet got around to doing that scan he had originally come for, and, to his surprise, found that Red Alert was right. Of the three human life signals he registered within the room, the two male ones were fast asleep, while the brain waves of the female one suggested a state of full wakefulness.
He did not have to ask Red Alert to clear the way for him; the Security Director stepped aside unrequested, giving him a prompting, but not unkind nod.
Ratchet didn’t bother with the door chime, lest he woke Spike and Daniel. Instead he used his medical access code to open the door, and when it slid aside, he carefully poked his head in.
“Carly?” he whispered.
She was seated in a rocking chair near the window, in the light of a small reading lamp. Her hair was slightly damp, probably washed, and she had put on a leisure suit and plushy slippers. When the doors opened, she looked up from the magazine in her lap and smiled at him in recognition.
“Ah,” she said softly. “So I did hear right. I thought I’d heard your voice, but it’s hard to tell when you guys start clicking and beeping at each other.”
He grinned at her description of the Cybertronian language as he tiptoed over to kneel in front of her chair. “Just had a little chat with Red Alert,” he explained. “He says you didn’t sleep much. Any problems?”
“No, no.” She shook her head. “I’m fine. I took a shower, and we had a little snack, and then Spike was ready to fall asleep on his feet.” She cast a loving glance at her bonded who lay on their berth facedown, covered by a woolen blanket and deeply in recharge. “Poor guy, I think last night was a greater strain on him than on me. He’s been sleeping like a log for hours. Daniel, too. Kid takes after his dad, it seems. I’ve napped a bit, but... I don’t know, I’m just feeling so awake.” She shrugged. “Must be the hormones, I guess.”
So insomnia after a birth seemed to be a trans-species phenomenon, Ratchet mused. Carly turned back to him with a gentle smile.
“So much for me. How was your day?”
He folded his hands over his bended knee to support his upper body. “Pretty much the same, really. I shot the breeze with Wheeljack nearly all afternoon. He wanted a full report.”
Carly grinned. “I’m pretty sure he won’t be the only one. They were all so sweet this morning... Are you scanning me?”
“Sorry,” he said on learned instinct, aborting the process he’d started out of pure habit, and braced himself for the reprimand he knew was coming.
However, when Carly spoke, there was not the slightest trace of anger in her voice.
“I’m a lucky girl,” she said instead, smiling softly, “to have such a dedicated doctor for a friend.” Then, without apparent reason, a sorrowful look suddenly crept onto her face.
“I didn’t get around to apologizing to you, Ratchet,” she continued, a bit hesitant. “I remember that I said some... pretty nasty things to you while we were in there.”
Ratchet’s initial worry at her sudden distress was instantly replaced with tender emotion that made his spark glow with warmth. “I work with mechs like Sunstreaker and Ironhide, Carly,” he reminded her gently. “Believe me, it takes more to hurt me than calling me a few names. Besides, I know what pain can do to people.”
Carly grimaced at the word. “Yeah... geez, I still can’t believe I really did this.” Her expression turned thoughtful, and her gaze drifted over to the cradle where her son was sleeping. “But Danny’s here, so that means I must have done something right, does it?”
“You were smashing, Carly,” he said softly.
She smiled at his choice of words. “Thank you.”
The rocking chair squeaked a bit when she got up gingerly to quietly creep over to the tiny berth, beckoning him to join her. Ratchet followed on his hands and knees to avoid making unnecessary noise.
Together they peered into the cradle, whose tiny occupant recharged on peacefully, oblivious of the two observers bending over him.
“He’s so beautiful,” Carly whispered, watching her sparkling in rapture. “What a gorgeous baby we’ve made.”
Yes, Daniel was a custom-built model, Ratchet thought in amusement, and no doubt about it. He was still small, but he knew from extensive research how quickly human infants developed. Very soon, this tiny sparkling would start to crawl, he would start to walk and speak, he would visit human educational institutions, and very likely, he would learn about Cybertronian culture and technology, too, simply by growing up surrounded by a crew of Autobots...
The thought stayed with him, started to sprout legs, and his CPU eagerly started to provide him with a number of possible scenarios featuring Daniel at various stages of development. And suddenly, a realization hit him for which he simply hadn’t had the time all these past stellar cycles.
“This is only the beginning, isn’t it?” he said softly. “Having him was the easy part. Now we have to raise him and care for him. That will be the real challenge, right?”
Carly nodded slowly, not taking her eyes off her sparkling. “Yeah. Spike and I talked about that earlier; that we have our work cut out for us for the next twenty years. But we’re looking forward to it.” She lifted her head to look at him, and her eyes shone with pride and honest joy. “We will be the best parents a baby has ever had, Ratchet. And we’re counting on you and ‘Bee and Optimus and all the other guys to be there to back us up. You’re family, after all.”
Ratchet snorted at that last remark. “You won’t have another choice, missy,” he replied drily. “You wanted us to be involved, remember, and now you’re gonna have to deal with it. Unless you want a bunch of pissed-off alien robots on your hands, and I’m telling you now that you don’t.”
“It’s so good to know that we agree with each other,” she teased, and Ratchet saved a note in his cache to find out why he still bothered to try and argue with her.
“I just like the thought of Danny growing up with all you guys around,” she continued, carefully rearranging the sparkling’s blanket, and the smile suddenly vanished from her face. “Not just because you have become a part of our life over the years, but because... I don’t know... I just keep thinking that he may be good for you, too. Y’know, with you guys having been at war for so long... losing friends and family... even your home world...” Her voice cracked on the last words, and she turned away quickly to rub at her eyes.
“Sorry,” she murmured, attempting a shaky smile. “Damn hormones...”
For probably the first time in his not inconsiderable lifespan, Ratchet wished fervently that he was smaller. Had he been at least minibot-sized, he could have hugged her.
“Ah, but the lil’ critter’s already a major morale boost,” he told her gently. “You can’t have missed the look on Prime’s faceplates this morning. Or on Bumblebee’s, when he held him.”
She smiled again, more genuinely this time, and then she seemed to think of something.
“Hey... that reminds me... you haven’t held him yet.”
That was true, he registered, though the information was of no real concern to him. Carly, however, seemed to be bothered by it.
“Oh, bummer... I didn’t even realize it this morning. When you should have been the first by all rights... wait.” She leaned over the cradle.
A wave of scalding hot panic crashed through Ratchet’s spark when he realized what she had in mind. “No, Carly, don’t,” he said quickly. “It’s okay, don’t wake him -“
But it was too late. She had already lifted the sparkling out of his tiny bunk and now stood there, looking at him expectantly.
He was trapped. No way to get out of this, at least not in one piece. He might as well just do it and get it over with.
Fighting back a sigh, he held out his hand as Bumblebee had done - albeit a bit less enthusiastic - and Carly put her son gently down onto his palm.
The universe did not stop, nor did it come tumbling down, which was a good thing for starters. After a few moments of simply staring down at his hand, Ratchet decided that this was actually kind of an interesting feeling. Of course he had touched organic life forms before, including some very small ones, but never one he had witnessed growing inside its carrier and had then personally helped delivering.
It was stunning. It was completely different from anything he knew.
And Pit, he liked it.
He glanced up at Carly, and the quick smile they shared was enough to let him notice the change in the sparkling’s brain wave pattern an astrosecond too late.
Daniel began to stretch slowly, cocking his head and balling his hands into tiny fists. Ratchet froze, but before he could so anything, the pair of hazy blue newborn eyes opened and stared straight into his optics.
He was prepared for the worst. A screaming fit, perhaps, or a major shock - if on his own or on Daniel's part would have to show. But nothing of the kind happened. Daniel simply stared at him with this intense, yet unfocused gaze that seemed to be typical for human newborns, blinking sleepily and making small, jerky movements with his fists and feet.
A memory file unexpectedly popped up in Ratchet's cache, one he had not accessed in thousands of vorns. He saw himself, still so much younger then, standing in the entrance hall of the Medical Mechanics University in Protihex. The femme at the reception desk smiled at him kindly, asking “What can I do for you?”
And his younger self straightened a bit, squaring his shoulder struts, and answered: “I want to be a medic.”
Daniel made a small, huffing sound, then his tiny mouth opened in a huge yawn, his eyes drifting shut again, and the next moment, he had once more fallen asleep, unimpressed by whatever he might have seen in Ratchet’s faceplates.
“He knows you,” Carly whispered in fascination.
Ratchet had no answer to that, just kept staring at the sparkling in his hand. What strange power did this tiny little creature possess that he could have crushed simply by closing his fingers?
Carly reached for her son, but did not put him back into his cradle immediately. Instead she breathed a tender kiss onto Daniel’s head and held him close for a moment before she looked up at her visitor.
“Thanks, Ratchet,” she whispered. “For everything.”
“Any time,” he answered softly.
And he found, to his own amazement, that he meant it.
A few days later found Carly and Spike sitting on one of the tables in the rec room, happily chatting with a small group of mechs while little Daniel eagerly took one of his many, regular meals.
Ratchet watched the scene from a few steps away, leaning against one of the windows, and couldn’t help but smile. Carly had quickly taken to nursing Daniel in public, mainly because otherwise, the poor child would long since have starved. During the last week, the couple had shuttled back and forth between the Ark and their home in the town, and it was hard to keep count of all the people that had come to see their offspring.
Sparkplug and Carly’s parents had been the first. Other family members had followed; Chip Chase had paid a visit, and Spike’s colleagues and some old college friends of Carly’s had even shown up in groups. Much to Ratchet’s displeasure, there had been no medical reason to forbid this, so he’d had no choice but to suffer through this nonsense, hating every single astrosecond of it. What did all those people want with his charges, anyway? Had they been there during Carly’s carrying? Had they been there at Daniel’s birth?
No, Carly and Daniel belonged here, on the Ark, with him. And with Spike, of course. And... with the rest of the Autobots.
He turned his attention back to his friends just in time to see a grinning Jazz join the little group. “Someone’s mighty hungry,” the saboteur remarked cheekily, nodding at the eagerly sucking sparkling. Carly snorted.
“Yeah. Poor kid hasn’t eaten in a whole two hours, imagine that.”
“Awful”, Jazz agreed, still grinning. “Does it hurt you when he feeds?”
She shook her head. “No. Only when he gets too enthusiastic... like now, for example.” She shifted the squirming sparkling to her opposite breast.
“And I never get tired of hearing that,” Spike commented good-humoredly.
Ratchet huffed through his vents. He, too, was sure that Carly had been asked this very question at least thirty times by now (he’d deleted the sub-routines for counting this event only yesterday). Seriously, didn’t these mechs talk to each other?
Admittedly, Jazz had to be given the benefit of the doubt. Except for some quick visits to collect his energon rations, the saboteur had not been to the rec room this past week. Or to the command center, for that matter. Or even his own quarters. Their Third-in-Command had been mysteriously absent from most social events on the Ark since Daniel had been born, and the same was true for their SIC. Prowl was not present now, either, and Ratchet began to wonder what kind of secret agenda these two might have together.
The hissing sound of the doors interrupted his musing, and then Optimus’ sonorous voice spoke: “Well, I think we should be ready.”
The attention of the room’s occupants shifted to focus on him. Carly gently detached Danny’s mouth from her nipple and handed him over to Spike to button her blouse.
“No long speeches, boss bot, okay?” Jazz said. “We wanna get to the partying part here.” His comment was met with approving laughter, and not even Optimus himself could hide his smile behind his mask.
“I shall make this quick, then,” he said with a good-natured twinkle in his optics. “Especially since there isn’t much to say, really. You all know by now that with Daniel Witwicky” he nodded at the young family, “our crew has gained a new member. And since his creators have been honorary Autobots and valuable friends for several Earth years now, it is no question that their offspring shall carry the same title. Today, it is my honor to make that status official.”
He beckoned to Ironhide, who stepped forward and handed him something very small Ratchet couldn’t make out. He watched curiously as both his superior officers stood before the young couple. Optimus had asked him to brief Spike and Carly on the little ceremony, but he had not mentioned any gifts to be handed over.
Under his crew’s excited gazes, Optimus leaned down to their human friends and opened his hand.
A tiny piece of cloth was lying on his palm, made from dark blue tissue, and embroidered into the blue surface was the red Autobot symbol.
“I hope it will fit,” Optimus said, clearly amused by Spike’s and Carly’s stunned faces. “We agreed that a gift was in order, and thought that this would be a bit more fitting for a sparkling than a medal.”
“Definitely,” Spike said. “It’s awesome, guys; where did you get that?”
“Sorry,” Ironhide snarled. “Info’s classified.” And instantaneously, Ratchet’s CPU started to come up with a number of schemes how he might be able to tease that story out of the old warrior...
Carly smiled knowingly at her old friend, and then carefully reached for the offered gift. “May I?”
“I insist,” Optimus said.
Very gently, and with Spike’s help, Carly worked her son’s tiny head and arms into the sparkling sweater, and then straightened it carefully so the red emblem was clearly visible. “There,” she smiled, playfully rubbing her nose against Daniel’s. “Look at you, what a handsome young man you are. You look like Optimus.”
Daniel, still awake from having his meal interrupted, blinked at her and kicked his legs, but his attention was drawn away from his creator when Optimus leaned down to him. Tiny blue optics followed the movement, and a small hand closed around the tip of the proffered finger, entirely unafraid. Optimus shook the tiny hand tenderly.
“Welcome to the team, Daniel.”
There had been a time, Ratchet remembered, when Prime had made it his duty as a commanding officer to spend some personal moments with every newcomer, exchange some words, get to know the mechs who had come to fight for the Autobot cause. Later, when the war had dragged on, this had been... no longer possible. A brief, yet intense emotion he couldn’t quite define grazed his spark then, and he threw a quick glance at Ironhide, but if the security officer was having similar thoughts, he did not let it show.
It was Sideswipe who started to applaud, and the others joined in quickly, even - oh wonder! - Gears and Huffer. The unknown noise frightened Daniel; his eyes widened and he let out a wail that shook the very walls of the Ark. Spike lay his son onto his shoulder and rocked him gently, making soft, shushing noises.
“Oi,” Sludge remarked as the noise level died down again, eyeing the hiccupping sparkling with a mixture of suspicion and interest. “Him Daniel loud.”
Though Ratchet laughed with the others, there was no denying that his creation was damn right. Compared to his miniature size, Daniel possessed an amazing lung volume and remarkably powerful vocal cords.
“Sorry,” Sideswipe muttered sheepishly, but Spike grinned, patting Daniel's back. “No harm done, Sides.”
Carly smiled at her ‘gents’, as she liked to call them, then turned to Prime. “Can I say something, Optimus?”
He gave her an encouraging nod. “Of course.”
Ratchet watched in mild curiosity as she climbed to her feet. Had she prepared a thank you speech?
“Okay,” Carly said, looking around, “I’ve seen that energon cube Blaster’s trying to hide, so I’ll get straight to the point. Before we start the party, I’d like you guys to acknowledge what a great job Ratchet has done these past nine months. He’s a short-tempered, grumpy old pain in the neck, but Spike and I wouldn’t have made it through all of this without him. And we want you all to know that.”
Silence. Ratchet activated his vocalizer to say something - and then turned it off again, as his CPU simply refused to provide him with any meaningful words.
The next thing he knew, an arm was thrown around his shoulder struts, and he found himself in the hearty embrace of something black and white.
“Way to go, Ratch!” Jazz grinned at him, patting his back cordially.
“Yeah, great work, doc!” Bumblebee joined in, and suddenly Ratchet was the center of a choir of commendation. First Aid’s dark blue visor shone with pride, Smokescreen shook his hand with a knowing grin, Grimlock vehemently informed everybody that “him Ratchet greatest doctor in universe”, and amidst it all stood Optimus Prime, giving him - and Carly - a silent nod that held more approval than anything he might have said.
A bit stunned from all the attention, Ratchet threw an indignant glance at his charge, one of those looks that normally never failed to give the recipient the worst conscience known to man- or robotkind.
She grinned at him.
“Party!” Sideswipe declared happily. As if on cue - and chances were good that it was one - Blaster jumped into alt mode to start the music, and it quickly turned out that he had not been the only one who had hidden one or several energon cubes. Ratchet was already calculating the time he’d be spending tomorrow with treating over-energized mechs when the beeping sound of an incoming transmission interrupted the beginning small talk.
“Yes, Prowl?” Optimus acknowledged.
“I’m sorry to interrupt, sir,” Prowl’s smooth voice said over the open line, audible for all present, “but Red Alert and I are receiving a distress call from a power-generating facility in Nevada. It seems the Decepticons are at it again.”
Both the music and the talking died down abruptly at the last sentence. Twenty pairs of optics flitted back and forth between their commander and their human friends, anticipating their reactions.
“Get the proper coordinates,” Prime ordered. “I’ll be with you in a klik.”
He cut the transmission, then turned to Spike and Carly.
“I’m sorry,” he said apologetically, but Spike, who was just handing Daniel back to his mother, shook his head. “You go and do your job, Optimus,” he said simply.
“Okay, guys,” Jazz commanded, not waiting for his Prime to address him, “back to your posts. Those ‘Cons want a good pounding, we’ll give them one!”
Ratchet watched in silence as party guests turned back into soldiers and officers, hastening to man their various stations with the well-ordered excitement that always preceded a new mission. Near the exit, he spotted First Aid standing, looking at him expectantly.
He actually had to fight both a grin and a sigh at the same time. Some things never changed, it seemed.
“That goes for me, too, guys,” he said to his charges. “I better get the med bay ready. Have to take care of the team.”
Carly smiled up at him, and her fingers briefly stroked the Autobot symbol on her son’s new sweater. “’S okay, Ratchet,” she said. “That’s what Autobots do, isn’t it?”