Ratchet woke some hours later, deliciously sore (he'd straddled Resonance several times, and both his hips and his valve were complaining about it) and very aware of Resonance's presence in his berth. Res was spooned around him, one large arm thrown across him, and one leg over his knees.
Resonance was deeply in recharge, and his spark felt calm and peaceful.
Ratchet stroked the fingers of his large, powerful, hand for a moment, and then let his mind drift back towards recharge. It was the best rest he'd had in over a vorn.
Over morning fuel, they talked.
"... Res, I know you love me, and believe me, I love you ..." At this pronouncement, Resonance's face and spark lit up with delight, and Ratchet couldn't help but grin back. "... crazy as it seems to me. But didn't you ever want to chose someone for yourself? We were bonded before you were ever even created."
Resonance gave Ratchet's question some serious thought. His large hands folded around his cube of heated and spiced energon, and he stared into the shimmering purple depths for a long moment. "I guess I'm lucky."
"Lucky?" He didn't see it as lucky. In Resonance's treads, he'd have been resentful and angry.
"Well, some mecha spend their entire lives searching for a bondmate." Resonance reached out and rested a hand over Ratchet's fingers. "Sometimes, they never find them, and they live and die alone. Or worse, they live a life filled with a string of mecha who break their sparks."
Ratchet turned his hand over and squeezed Resonance's. Resonance's grip was potentially crushingly powerful, but his touch was so gentle. The contrast, to Ratchet, was intoxicating.
Resonance continued, "In my case, I came online already bonded. I didn't have to look for you. You were already there. Even when you were on the other side of the galaxy, I had a sense you were there."
"I was a complete aft to you."
"You were hurting." Resonance squeezed his hand. "And I knew why. And the first time we met, I could see right into your spark and see that you were the right mech for me. Optimus chose well, and on some level, we are the same person. That means you and I are also compatible. It's as if I chose you for myself before I was ever created."
Ratchet sighed, and looked away, no longer able to meet Resonance's gaze. "But you're not the same person. It was easier for me when I stopped seeing you as an imposter Optimus. You have the same spark, and sometimes you feel very much alike, but you are so very different in other ways."
"We're products of our times. He was born into a world of deprivation, that quickly became one of war. I've only known peace, and I've never had to worry about my safety or my future. I've been blessed by so many opportunities in my life. It's inevitable that we are different."
With a strictly mental wail of frustration, Ratchet thought, But the Quintessons ... The Quintessons will steal that peace from him. It's so unfair.
Resonance jerked his head up, looking Ratchet square in the eyes. "Quintessons are coming?"
He gritted his dental plates for a moment, anger rising at the squids, then said, "It's classified, but yes, it's rather likely. Maybe not this year, maybe not for many years, but we think before another full vorn has passed. That's why I ... came out of retirement ... to teach medicine. We're going to need medics."
"Pit." Resonance said. Ratchet could sense fear from him. Hesitantly, Res askd, "Do we have any chance of winning that fight?"
"... I don't know," he said, aloud, even as he thought, Probably not.
Resonance stared far off into the distance for a long moment. Ratchet could a sense him thinking hard. "II'd like to talk to Prowl, and Rodimus."
"You're not Optimus. Not anymore." Ratchet objected. He didn't want Res to lose his innocence. Resonance, so bright and happy, forgiving and gentle, was a creature of this bright new peaceful world they'd created.
"I'm Roddy's heir, and I'm also a shuttle, and I have a processor capable of advanced tactical simulations. I'd like to help them with contingency planning ," Resonance said, decisively."I know I'm young, but I need to help."
"You shouldn't even know about this." His protest was weak. He could feel Res's powerful sense of responsibility coming to the forefront, and it was accompanied by the knowledge that they were perilously close to extinction. Res was running tactical simulations that didn't just include their options for fighting off the Quintessons, but their likelihood of surviving a war at all. Ratchet realized, abruptly, that Resonance's shields were lower than they'd ever been before, and he was seeing actual glimpses of Resonance's thoughts.
Resonance's guard was down. Resonance had cared for him from the very beginning, but he'd also been actively protecting himself. He wasn't doing that anymore. And Resonance could sense his recognition of this, and agreed with it; on a deep level, he was coming to trust that Ratchet wanted him to stay, and be a part of Ratchet's life. Also, while Resonance was emotionally very strong, he had been aware of Ratchet's tendency to lash out, and he'd not wanted Ratchet to see anything in his thoughts -- anger, or a stray snarky thought -- that the older mech could use as ammunition to attack him. Ratchet saw all this as Resonance thought it.
Resonance didn't comment aloud on Ratchet's burst of shame at the way he'd treated his bondmate. That he forgave Ratchet, however, was obvious, and it didn't make Ratchet feel much better. Resonance simply continued the conversation about Quintessons, after a moment, by saying, "We're bonded. I am pretty sure that the general assumption is that bondmates always know their partner's secrets, even classified ones."
"True." And Resonance would be accepted into Rodimus's fold because Rodimus both liked him and saw (justifiably) many of Optimus's strengths in him. Also, Rodimus and his advisors would be training Res as a potential Prime even as they made use of his very real skills.
"And do not try to tell me not to worry about it because I am young." Resonance frowned down at him. "I've spent most of my life being tutored on military history and combat by some of the best mecha the Autobots and the Decepticons could produce."
He saw glimpses of a life he'd been utterly unaware of, as Resonance deliberately pushed those memories to the forefront.
Starscream and Alpha Trion had taught Resonance to fly, and then dogfight. Res, while not a seeker, could put up a credible fight in the air.
Most of the nerds from both sides of the war, both aware and unaware of his history, had taught him science and engineering. Almost as soon as he had been decanted, he'd started toddling around the labs on Titan, and later, on Earth. He'd grown up being tutored by Wheeljack and Perceptor, corresponding with Skyfire, and trying hard to impress Starscream (and sometimes succeeding).
He'd sparred with a wide range of mecha from a very young age, ranging from Starscream to Jazz to Ironhide, and including Soundwave's symbionts and at least two different gestalts.
Prowl still played war games -- tactical simulations -- with Res, and Resonance was incredibly proud that he'd recently beat the tactician in a space-battle simulation.
He had cannons designed by Ironhide and Wheeljack, and Percy and Prowl had taught him to shoot. While he was too tall and his power plant too large, with too much torque, to be an effective sniper, he was a very good shot -- better than Optimus had ever been.
He'd discussed politics not just with Cybertronian leaders but human as well. He'd run for, and won, multiple public offices on Titan, including a position on Titan's senate that he'd held for eight years. Statutory limits written with humans in mind had prevented him from running again, or he might still be a Titan senator. He had been loved by his people -- and he definitely considered Titan his first home, and its citizens his people.
Resonance had risen from the table. He rinsed out his cube in the sink, and Ratchet followed, holding his own dirty dish.
Ruefully, Ratchet realized that Roddy's choice in making Resonance his heir wasn't just nostalgia and sentimental affection. Resonance was a credible Prime-candidate, and if they went to war, he was also likely to end up a high ranking officer. It wasn't something he wanted for Resonance, as he felt Optimus had given enough, but they might not have a choice. They might need him too much.
He was young. But he was no child.
In some ways, Ratchet thought, Res was more mature than he was.
Resonance snickered. "I've thought that a few times. And you wonder why I guard my thoughts from you at times ..."
"I would have deserved to hear that." Ratchet rested his head against Resonace's broad chest. Resonance wrapped his arms around him.
"Perhaps. But it would have helped nothing. I want to see you thrive again, not beat you down." Resonance pressed his helm to Ratchet's chevron. "I love you, Ratchet."
With completely honesty, he said, "I love you too." Then some playfully mischievous impulse caused him to add, "Kid."
Resonance didn't bother to hide his irritation at the diminutive, and that made Ratchet laugh. It felt good to laugh, and after a moment, Res chuckled too.