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Better Than Misery

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He initially started with Rodimus across his lap, his captain – no, not captain, here he was only Rodimus, sometimes Roddy if Ratchet was feeling affectionate – balanced precariously over his thighs, gold hands clutching at Ratchet’s calves.

The first swat, ringing so loudly in the air, had made Rodimus squirm. The second, third and fourth – all harder than the first – made Rodimus thrash and throw his hands back to protect his aft. Ratchet smacked them away and laid out three more in sharp succession, his hand pressed firmly to Rodimus’ back between his spoiler to keep him pinned.

Rodimus wriggled, arms jerking back, hands trying to save himself.

Ratchet stopped and sighed out of exasperation. “Discipline is not meant to be avoided,” he said. “Give me your hands.”

Rodimus’ spoiler drooped. His field went all wobbly, reeking of guilt and shame, as though disappointing Ratchet was worse than the punishment. But he meekly offered his wrists, and Ratchet wasted no time snapping a pair of magna-cuffs around them. Rodimus could reach over his head with his bound hands if he wanted, but he had no protection for his aft.

Ratchet adjusted Rodimus’ position, pinned him down by the spoiler again, and rested his hand on Rodimus’ aft. He stroked the warming metal gently, well aware he’d promised Rodimus that the night wouldn’t end unless all the crimson paint was gone.

At some point, Ratchet knew he’d have to move on to the paddle. His hands, even with the sensors dulled, could only take so much.

Rodimus trembled on his lap. His field and frame language both offered conflicting stories.

Ratchet cycled a ventilation. “You sure you want me to keep going?”

Rodimus’ head dipped, expression buried between his arms. “Yes.” His field rippled, a dizzying blend of fear and anxiety and yearning.

“You know you don’t have to.”

Rodimus nodded. His hands curled into fists. His engine rumbled.

“I won’t be angry if you want to stop.”

“Just!” Rodimus bit out the word, his vocalizer spilling static, his legs giving a little kick. “Please, Ratchet. Please. I need it.”

Ratchet cycled another ventilation.

“Very well,” he said and stroked Rodimus’ aft, keeping the touch delicate and light. Teasing almost.

Rodimus was tense, very tense, braced for it. So Ratchet waited. He petted, and he stroked, and he waited until the tension eased, until Rodimus started to relax.

Then he struck. The loud noise of metal impacting metal rang in the stark emptiness of Ratchet’s hab-suite. He knew his room was all but sterile, that it held little personality compared to the loud clutter of Rodimus’, but perhaps that was best right now.

Rodimus gasped. His aft wriggled beneath Ratchet’s hand, but not too far out of reach.

Ratchet swatted him again, several times in a row, aiming to the sides, to the bottom, to the top, and against the curve of Rodimus’ aft. He varied the strength of the blows, made sure several criss-crossed, his palm tingling and Rodimus squirming harder and harder.

Little gasps slipped from Rodimus’ vents. His field flared and fluttered. His backstrut arched, his hips squirming in an attempt to avoid Ratchet’s hand.

He gripped Rodimus firmly, the younger mech nearly tipping to the side of Ratchet’s lap as his thrashing increased in earnest. His plating started to warm beneath Ratchet’s palm, tiny nips of charge peeking out from his substructure. His spoiler twitched.

Swat. Swat. Swat!

Rodimus breathed a curse and tried to turn on his side, tilt his aft away from Ratchet’s relentless touch. He made a noise, half pained, like an engine struggling to turn over. He panted, his face flush, his frame radiating heat. Anyone would look at him and think he were undergoing torture.

Ratchet paused, his own vents whirring. He rested his hand on Rodimus’ aft, his other hand aching where he gripped Rodimus to keep him in place.

“This isn’t working,” he said.

“Don’t stop,” Rodimus pleaded, one blue optic pale and desperate as it peered at Ratchet. “I’m not--”

“I didn’t say anything about stopping.” Ratchet shifted Rodimus’ weight and stood up, slinging his captain over his shoulder.

Rodimus squeaked. These brats. They never seemed to understand just how strong Ratchet was.

“I know you wanted my lap, kid, but you’re squirming too much for that to work,” Ratchet said as he looked around his habsuite, immediately dismissing his over-burdened desk and its accompanying chair. The berth would have to do.

Three steps later and he had Rodimus slung over the edge of the berth, his aft and lower half dangling over the side while his upper half rested on the berth. Ratchet tugged him forward until his thighs rested against the side of the berth, which left him standing flat on his feet.

Too comfortable if you asked Ratchet. He’d have to rectify that.

He pulled a crate out from under the berth and rummaged around in it, looking for his spreader bar. It was the perfect thing to keep Rodimus off-balance and unprepared.


“Hush. You know what to say if you want this to end.”

Rodimus fell silent. In his peripheral vision, Ratchet could see Rodimus trembling. His field was still that chaotic mess, enough to make Ratchet dizzy and his medical coding take notice.

Fix. Fix. Fix. Fix. It chanted at him.

Ratchet shouted back. He was trying, damn it.

Fumbling fingers found the bar. Ratchet snapped the crate shut and shoved it back under the berth. He moved to kneel behind Rodimus, twisting the bar to extend it as he did so.

“Spread your legs,” Ratchet instructed, tapping Rodimus at the knees. “Until I tell you to stop.”

Rodimus complied, his engine stuttering as he slid his feet across the floor, inch by inch, until gaping armor plates showed Ratchet how his cables strained and quivered.

“That’s good,” Ratchet said, with another touch to Rodimus’ knees.

He fitted the spreader bar in place, looping straps around Rodimus’ ankles. He still had his feet flat to the floor, but balance would prove to be precarious. He would have to lean forward against the berth if he didn’t want to topple over. Which meant he had nowhere to squirm away from Ratchet.

Ratchet rose to his feet and rested a hand on Rodimus’ lower back, just above his aft. He could feel the younger mech trembling beneath his fingers. Rodimus’ vents whirred, chuffing humid heat into the air. He had his elbows pressed to the berth, his face buried between them.

Ratchet moved close enough that his upper thighs pressed against Rodimus’ left hip. He could both see Rodimus’ face and reach his aft like this. Which was even better than before.

He slid his palm down Rodimus’ aft, sensing a definite heat. His sensors pinged back the low-key activity of repair nanites, drawn to the closest thing Rodimus had to an injury right now. There would be more, by the time the night was through, swarming to repair the damage to his paint nanites, even replace them if needed.

“Ready?” Ratchet asked.

Rodimus shifted, his aft minutely pushing toward Ratchet’s hand. His elbows dug harder into the berth.

“Please,” he said, muffled into the berth.

Ratchet’s spark clenched. There were times when he loathed Rodimus. When he held little respect for the mech who should be his captain.

And there were times he felt nothing but pity for the younger mech, one cast in the shadow of someone considered the greatest, and left to uphold a legacy too large for his shoulders. Especially one who carried the dark, traumatizing weight of his own terrible decision.

“Be still,” Ratchet said, and he struck, without giving Rodimus the chance to brace himself this time.

A muffled yelp rose out of Rodimus’ intake, but it was quickly drowned out by the sound of Ratchet’s palm impacting Rodimus’ aft. Over and over again. A rhythmic beat of metal on metal, until Ratchet’s palm stung, and Rodimus’ lower half wriggled, and his aft blazed to Ratchet’s sensors.

Rodimus’ legs visibly trembled. His upper half sank flat onto the berth, bound arms above his head as he buried his face into the berth cover. His field leaked discomfort, the low buzz of annoying irritation that slowly blossomed into a fire of pain.

Yet, he said nothing, not even the words to end it. Just tiny gasps, and little moans, and maybe a sob that got caught in his vocalizer and echoed in the static. His frame temperature spiked in jagged bursts, his armor clamping and unclamping.

It was like he said, however. His interface panels remained sealed, and Ratchet didn’t detect so much as a hint of arousal from Rodimus. This wasn’t a sexual thing for him.

It never had been.

Ratchet’s hand started to ache, registering minor damage. He’d reached the point he could no longer continue without external aid.

He landed one final slap against Rodimus’ aft and let his hand rest there, tingling as heat emanated from Rodimus armor and a few lines of crimson were stripped from the brat’s aft. Ratchet still intended to have him nearly protoform bare by the end. That was the agreement.

Rodimus whimpered. His face rubbed at the berth before he turned his helm, one optic peering up at Ratchet. His engine revved, vibrating against Ratchet’s other hand, still pressed to Rodimus’ lower back, helping him stay pinned in place.

“Can’t use my hand anymore,” Ratchet said, answering the unasked question. “You still okay with the paddle?”

Maybe asking for so much consent was ruining this for Rodimus. Maybe it was helping him. Ratchet couldn’t be sure.

But Rodimus jerked his helm in a nod, his faceplate streaked with color and his lips swollen as though he’d been gnawing them.

“Please,” he said, voice crackling. “You said you’d break me.”

“I said I’d try to fix you,” Ratchet corrected even as he reluctantly lifted his hand from Rodimus’ aft and withdrew the paddle from subspace.

Rodimus’ lips curved, though it was far from his cocksure smile. “A wise mech once told me that sometimes there’s no difference between the two.”

“Pah. Using my own words against me.”

“Not like you’d listen to anyone else.”

Ah. The brat had a point.

Ratchet dragged his fingers down Rodimus’ backstrut and up again, a stroke meant to be more soothing than arousing. “That’s sort of the pot and the kettle, isn’t it?”

The glint in Rodimus’ optics faded. “Yeah, it is,” he admitted. He turned his head, face lost to the shadow of his arms, his hands forming fists above it. “Come on, Ratchet. You know what you gotta do.”

Ratchet adjusted his grip on the paddle. It was a heavy thing, and packed a serious punch. Against Rodimus’ lighter, more aerodynamic armor, it wouldn’t take long to make a point. It would hurt like the Pit, too.

But that was what Rodimus had asked for.

“You know what to say,” Ratchet said as he rested the paddle against Rodimus’ aft, the cool metal soothing to Rodimus’ bruised armor. It wouldn’t be soothing for long.

Rodimus’ vents blasted. His field bubbled out in a flurry. “Do it.”

Ratchet worked his jaw, and obeyed.

He started with light taps, little chimes of metal on metal. They weren’t pain, not quite, but for sensors already overstimulated, it had to feel like someone was clawing him. Rodimus sucked air through his denta, his hips twitching.

“More, rust you!” he hissed, vocalizer edged in a growl.

Ratchet didn’t respond. This would go at his pace or not at all.

The taps turned to hits, less force than he’d used with his own hand, but enough for each blow to ring in his audials. For Rodimus’ engine to rev, his cooling fans clicking on with a whirr. He whimpered into the berth, rubbing his face into it.

“Tell me why,” Ratchet said as the next strike was true, a firm blow that vibrated through his fingers, and made Rodimus snarl, his field flaring with pain.

Rodimus lurched forward, against the berth, but it left him nowhere to escape from the paddle. Or the next three strikes, each in succession, blows raining down over the same area to the tune of a growling engine and loud bangs.

Rodimus yelped and squirmed. He rocked backward on his heels, but the spreader bar kept him unbalanced and it was easy enough for Ratchet to push him back down onto the berth. The bar also kept him from trying to scoot to the left or the right.

He was vulnerable. Defenseless.

Rodimus’ engine whined.

Ratchet struck again, lower this time, at the top of Rodimus’ thighs where lifted armor gave peeks at the shiny cables beneath. Rodimus hissed, his field leaking pain, his fingers clenched so tight Ratchet could hear the hydraulics creak.

“Tell me,” Ratchet repeated as another strip of paint vanished, Rodimus’ aft now a patchy mix of crimson and silver, heat radiating from it so brightly it showed up as spots of injury on Ratchet’s sensors.

Fix. Fix. Fix. Fix.

“Why am I doing this, Rodimus?”

Thwock! Thwock!

Rodimus keened, and yes, that was truly a sob this time, a desperate sound caught in Rodimus intake, his head turning back and forth, scrubbing his face against the berth. His elbows dug into the berth, pulling him forward against the edge of it as he rocked on his heels.

“Why are you being punished?”

Ratchet adjusted his grip, refusing to admit that his own hands were trembling now. Rodimus wriggled about on the berth, and Ratchet kept a hand on his back to pin him in place. The speedster’s engine made a terrible sound, a revving growl, and Ratchet’s sensors pinged back the frantic spin and whirl of Rodimus’ spark. But his field still spat that terrible yearning as he trembled on the edge.

He paddled Rodimus again, harder, each percussive sound rattling through his own frame and echoing around his spark.

Rodimus’ field leaked pain now. He had to be in agony. His aft plating was nearly stripped silver, and it emanated heat. His upper thighs were streaked silver as well and he sagged against the berth as though losing energy.

“Tell me, Rodimus,” Ratchet insisted, his tank and internals twisting into knots, even as his own ventilations stuttered.

Rodimus writhed, his spoiler twitching. His legs trembled and he made nonsensical cries, an endless stream of whimpers. He fought it, however. He was certainly tenacious and obstinate, determined to bear it as long as possible.

Save him from stubborn Primes!

Ratchet growled. “Tell me!” He reared back and struck Rodimus again, with far more force than he’d used all evening.

Rodimus howled and lurched forward, bound hands scrabbling at the berth, the loud thwock echoing around them. He whimpered, his field a dying, broken thing as it warbled at Ratchet.


He leaned closer to Rodimus, his hand sliding up Rodimus’ back to his spoiler hinges, fingers hooking around them. He pressed down, pinning Rodimus to the berth, resting the paddle against Rodimus’ blazing aft, as Rodimus’ engine roared and his armor clattered.

“You know what I want,” Ratchet growled, utilizing a tone of voice that always demanded obedience in the medbay. “What you owe everyone. Say it!”

The paddle rose and fell, smacking against Rodimus’ aft in a ringing blow that made Ratchet’s fingers ache and the paddle vibrate.

“I’m sorry!” Rodimus wailed, and he collapsed to the berth, his engine stuttering and starting. “I’m so sorry.” He sobbed into the cover, optical cleanser leaving wet streaks down his face. “It’s m-my fault and I’m s-s-sorry.”

Ratchet tossed the paddle away and heard it clatter in the distance. “That’s all I wanted to hear,” he murmured, and rested his hand on Rodimus’ backstrut, just above the furious heat of his aft. “Good job, Rodimus. You did very well.”

Rodimus’ armor rattled. His vents came in hitches. His armor trembled, but his field, oh, it was a beautiful thing. His field was settled, compared to the wild frenzy of before. It was warm and affectionate, needy in the way it clung to Ratchet’s own.

It was not a fix. It was not a solution. It was not a cure. It was but a moment of peace, static mesh on a wound, or a temporary weld. Something to keep him together until a permanent solution could be found.

“I forgive you,” Ratchet said quietly, though he doubted Rodimus truly heard him over his clattering armor and quiet whimpers.

He knelt down, joints creaking, and quickly released the spreader bar from Rodimus’ ankles, tossing it back under his berth. He’d clean it up later.

Ratchet stood once more, one hand smoothing down Rodimus’ backstrut as the other reached to release the magna-cuffs, his field rippling out to stroke over Rodimus’ like he might a distressed patient. Rodimus shifted, drawing his knees together, balancing his weight.

Rodimus’ aft was a blaze of silver, with streak marks in his upper thighs where Ratchet had aimed lower. He would be quite tender for several cycles, and there would be no recharging on his back tonight. But then, Ratchet already knew he wouldn’t be.

Ratchet dug a nanite gel out of a thigh compartment and squirted a generous amount on Rodimus’ aft. The younger mech moaned a broken sound as the gel sizzled where it made contact, but he melted into the berth as Ratchet gently smoothed the gel over his bruised plating.


Ratchet paused, shifting his weight so that he could peer at Rodimus’ face, only one optic visible as Rodimus had turned his head.

“Don’t use too much,” Rodimus whispered.

Ratchet narrowed his optics. “I’ll use however much I think you need,” he said, and went back to coating Rodimus’ aft in the quick-dry gel. “I can’t have the captain--”


“Co-captain,” Ratchet amended. Only in times like these would Rodimus admit he shared a captaincy. “I can’t have the co-captain walking around with a limp and looking beat all to the Pit.”

Rodimus’ face turned, buried against the berth again. “Why not? It would probably make some of the crew pretty happy to see.” His spoiler flattened against his back, armor clamping down tight.

Ratchet cycled a ventilation. “You’re not doing this for them,” he said and withdrew his fingers, wiping them clean of the nanite gel. “You’re doing this for you.”

“And you.”

“This is not about me,” Ratchet retorted, just shy of a snap. He had to rein himself back, his engine revving. He turned entirely toward Rodimus, his hand resting on Rodimus’ lower back. “It’s not my forgiveness you need, Rodimus. You need to learn to forgive yourself.”

Rodimus trembled beneath his hand. “Easier said than done.”

“I never said it was easy.” Ratchet lightly tapped his sore aft, making Rodimus jerk. “Come now. Up on the berth.”

A thin whimper rose from Rodimus’ intake, but he obeyed, climbing onto the berth and resting on hands and knees, still hanging his head. He couldn’t seem to meet Ratchet’s gaze, and wouldn’t for some time yet.

Ratchet hoisted himself onto the berth and stretched out on his back to make himself comfortable, already braced for the – and there it was. The clambering weight of a speedster straddling his hips and covering his frame like a flame-painted blanket. His hands clutched at Ratchet’s side as he buried his face against Ratchet’s windshield, still trembling. His knees clamped around Ratchet’s hips, his field back to that yearning.

“Can I…?” Rodimus’ words were muffled against the glass.

Ratchet rested his hands on Rodimus’ back, beneath the sensitive spoiler. “Yeah, you can.” He triggered his array to open, and manually extended his spike. Any medic worth his degree could do that.

Rodimus made an inarticulate noise, and Ratchet heard the snap of an interface cover sliding aside before his spike was engulfed in moist heat, Rodimus taking him as deep as he was capable given their position. A soft sigh whooshed out of Rodimus’ vents, one of relief. The clatter in his field calmed, his grip on Ratchet’s sides less a clutch and more of a cuddle.

His face was still streaked with optical fluid. Ratchet supposed he would worry about cleaning that in the morning. He rubbed his face against Ratchet’s windshield, like a youngling hiding from their nightmares, his ex-vents whooshing out in a soft rhythm.

Rodimus squirmed a little, his heated armor sliding against Ratchet’s in a way that was not unpleasant. His spike twitched in the confines of Rodimus’ valve, but that was all he allowed himself.

“Hurting?” Ratchet asked.

Trickles of pain leaked out of Rodimus’ field, a complementary color to the relief and peace that flattened it. “Not as much as I wanted,” Rodimus replied.

“Yeah, well, that’s where I draw the line, kid.”

“I know.” Rodimus breathed a sigh and finally went still, his head pillowed on Ratchet’s chestplate, his ex-vents fogging the transteel.

His valve fluttered around Ratchet’s spike, though the intensity of it eased. It was as much an embrace as his arms around Ratchet’s chassis, his fingers hooked in a seam.

Ratchet continued to stroke down Rodimus’ backstrut, long and lengthy sweeps of his hands. A speedster engine purred beneath his fingertips. Rodimus’ field buzzed up against his in a sweet kiss, almost coy, as it withdrew again.

“Thank you,” Rodimus murmured sleepily. Adorably. Unfairly.

Ratchet cycled a ventilation as Rodimus slipped into recharge atop him, defenseless and trusting, his field warm and his frame warmer still. Ratchet continued to pet him, because Rodimus whimpered if he stopped, and the sound broke his spark.

Ratchet gnawed on the inside of his cheek.

He was getting too old for this.


Ratchet caught a stasis nap in little bursts, his sensors too attuned to Rodimus’ well-being for him to slip into full recharge. So when Rodimus stirred, Ratchet onlined fully, his built-in scanners automatically skimming over Rodimus’ frame to search for injury.

There was none of concern, to be expected. Rodimus’ aft was still ablaze, and no doubt he ached. He’d be moving tenderly for the rest of the day. Perhaps the paddle had been too much.

“Mmm.” Rodimus rubbed his face against Ratchet’s windshield as he stirred. He pushed his hands into the berth, shifting himself upright, and peered down at Ratchet. “Good morning.” He twitched his hips, his calipers fluttering around Ratchet’s half-pressurized spike.

“You hurting?” Ratchet asked, one hand sliding down to rest on Rodimus’ hip, just above the worst of the silver-streaked metal.

Rodimus’ smile was soft and sultry, even as he shifted his weight backward, settling more firmly on Ratchet’s spike. “Nothing a little love won’t fix.”

Ratchet barely kept himself from rolling his optics. “You are impossible,” he said.

Rodimus chuckled. “Irresistible is, I think, the word you’re looking for here.” He rolled his hips, stirring Ratchet’s spike in his valve, welling lubricant making for a soft and slick glide.

“Not nearly as much as you think you are.” Ratchet’s free hand rested on Rodimus’ thigh, sliding inward toward his groin. He drew up his knees, just shy of touching Rodimus’ back and aft.

“Hmm. I think this begs to differ.” Rodimus licked his lips as he wriggled, his calipers fluttering around Ratchet’s spike, threatening to draw out a moan.

He fully pressurized, not entirely by choice, cursing his own weakness when it came to pretty mechs with personalities that were no good for him. Rodimus was the epitome of danger and sparkbreak for an old clunker like Ratchet.

Yet he couldn’t stop himself from touching, fingers sliding over sleek plating, dipping into broad gaps, caressing cables beneath. All while Rodimus shivered and moved atop him, a slow and steady dance of his hips, a rise and fall that caressed and squeezed Ratchet’s spike. It was building him to a lazy, throbbing heat, sending tingles all throughout his sensornet.

Ratchet groaned. His hand clenched on Rodimus’ thigh, thumb within inches of stroking Rodimus’ array cover. Rodimus had yet to pressurize his spike, and probably wouldn’t. Lubricant was slick and messy between them, and the scent of Rodimus’ arousal was intoxicating.

Enjoy your reward, medic, a dark and deceitful part of Ratchet purred. He drank in the sight, Rodimus’ flushed face, his lips parted for oral ventilations, his fluttering spoiler, his rolling hips. The glint of the lights over his armor, the flutter and flash of his biolights. That smile, half-smirk, half-lazy authenticity. Steel over satin and confidence hiding the uncertainty.

“You’re thinking too hard again,” Rodimus said as he shifted back, his weight settling on Ratchet’s hips and freeing his hands.

“You could stand to think a little more,” Ratchet retorted.

Rodimus barked a laugh. “Now where have I heard that before?” he asked even as one hand slid down his side, his fingers curling around Ratchet’s hand and tugging it loose.

Ratchet allowed it, watching him curiously, his fingers tingling where Rodimus touched them. He watched as Rodimus pulled his hand up, achingly slow, until he could ex-vent damp heat over the tips of Ratchet’s fingers.

He shivered, hips bucking, driving his spike deep into Rodimus.

“Brat,” Ratchet growled.

Rodimus winked at him and drew two of Ratchet’s fingertips into his mouth, lips and glossa flicking softly over them. Ratchet groaned, his backstrut arching, and his hand clamping tighter on Rodimus’ thigh. Even more so when Rodimus sucked his fingers deeper, denta scraping gently along the length of Ratchet’s fingers.

His mouth was so hot, his glossa so wicked. Ratchet sucked in a ventilation, his hips rolling up, pushing deep into Rodimus, who ground down to meet his thrusts. Rodimus panted around his fingers, his field rising and falling against Ratchet with heat and desire.

Rodimus held his gaze, everything about him confidence and sin, his hips dancing to a rhythm Ratchet’s creaky old frame couldn’t meet. He could only groan and shudder, holding on as Rodimus suckled his fingers and rode him to overload, pleasure spilling through his frame like liquid fire.

Ratchet’s backstrut arched. His spark throbbed. He spilled deep into Rodimus, his transfluid washing over sparking nodes as Rodimus clamped down on him. His calipers were tight, gripping, as though he sought to keep both Ratchet and his transfluid inside.

Rodimus moaned around Ratchet’s fingers, his optics brightening with pleasure. It was better than the sickly nature of his field the night previous. The sticky guilt and the clinging despair. There were times Ratchet’s darker side was glad for it. He told himself that Rodimus deserved it. That he’d made mistakes and gotten people killed and he was an arrogant aft.

Logic won out eventually. Logic and compassion and Ratchet fell all too quickly back into Rodimus’ sway, his spark going out to this young mech who took too much on his shoulders in a desperate bid to be something great.

Someday, Ratchet would figure out a way to tell him that he already was.

His fingers slipped from Rodimus’ lips as the younger mech moaned, leaning forward, his vents roaring. He slammed himself down, metal impacting metal, and visibly shivered, overload making blue fire dance over his armor.

He was beautiful like this, stunning in his surrender, and Ratchet’s spark throbbed even harder.

Careful now, he told himself. Mechs like Rodimus, they weren’t meant to be kept. Especially not by cranky old medics with anger problems.

“Mmm, now that’s what I call a good morning,” Rodimus murmured as the last tremors of overload rattled his frame. He tipped forward, catching himself at the last moment, as he stretched out atop Ratchet’s frame, nuzzling into Ratchet’s intake.

Ratchet rolled his optics. “No time for more recharge, brat. We have to get up and get clean, and I need to look at your aft.”

Rodimus chuckled and wriggled said aft. “Oh, you have to inspect the goods, is that it, Ratchet?”

Primus save him. Ratchet hooked an arm around Rodimus’ mid-section and abruptly rolled to the left, keeping Rodimus pinned to his front. Rodimus yelped and clamped onto him, holding on as Ratchet swung his legs over the side of the berth and stood.

“Haven’t you ever heard of cuddling?” Rodimus grumbled as his legs dangled for a few seconds before he grudgingly put his feet on the floor. He pouted up at Ratchet, and it was almost tempting enough for Ratchet to kiss that sulk away.

He didn’t.

“That’s not a word, I’d have heard of it,” Ratchet retorted instead.

“Oh, and now you’re quoting Magnus at me.” Rodimus held up his hands and backed away a step. “Fine. I can take a hint. Let’s go get cleaned up, shall we?” He grinned, and it was almost as though he hadn’t been trembling in Ratchet’s arms last night, swallowed by his own guilt.

“Yes. Let’s.”

Ratchet’s private washrack was neither ostentatious or large. In fact, two frames was a tight squeeze, but the very fact that it was private made it a luxury, so Ratchet did not complain. Much.

Besides, it was hardly a chore to put his hands on Rodimus’ frame, though he was twice as delicate as he ran a soft cloth over Rodimus’ aft. Judging by his hiss and sharp intake, Rodimus was still quite tender. His armor did not blaze heat as it had the night before, but his internal temperature remained higher than it ought.

There was nothing to it. Rodimus’ paint nanites would not fully repopulate by the time he had to leave, and Ratchet could not manually repaint him given the tenderness.

“It’s fine,” Rodimus said with a shrug that was perhaps meant to be dismissive, but didn’t quite reach that level of nonchalance. “People will just think I was in some storage closet, getting fragged into oblivion.”

Ratchet didn’t bother to hold back his sigh this time. “I won’t use the paddle again,” he said, and grabbed the detachable sprayer, giving Rodimus’ back half a long rinse.

Rodimus whipped around, mouth dropped as if betrayed. “I want you to!” he insisted, his spoiler halves twitching.

Ratchet grabbed his chin, though he was gentle about it. “And I said I’m not going to. You think you know what you want, what will help, but you don’t, Rodimus.”

“It is helping,” Rodimus insisted, his engine revving, vents opening and turning the fall of the sprayer to a fine mist.

“It’s static mesh.” Ratchet eased his grip and rested his hand on Rodimus’ shoulder instead. “There’s only so much patching you can do before a plate needs to be replaced.”

Rodimus shook his head and turned out from under Ratchet’s hand. He snagged the sprayer, his back to Ratchet, as he rinsed off his front. Ratchet expected a smart retort, or some kind of sly attempt to redirect the conversation with flirting or charm.

He got neither.

Ratchet sighed and pinched his chevron. “I really wish you would reconsider speaking with Rung.” This was far from healthy and Ratchet shouldn’t be encouraging it either.

Yet, it was growing harder and harder to say no when Rodimus came to him, all drooping shoulders and pale optics and trembling armor.

Rodimus’ shoulders slumped and the solvent turned off with a click. The abrupt cessation of sound was startling, and made the soft drips of the sprayer all the louder.

“I know,” he said, and it was so quiet, Ratchet almost missed it. “And I will. I’m just not ready to be forgiven yet.”

Fair enough.

Ratchet cycled a soft ventilation and moved closer to Rodimus, taking the sprayer from his dangling hand. He returned it to the hook.

“Come on,” he said, patting Rodimus on the shoulder. “Let’s get you dried off. You need more nanite gel before you leave. And that is not up for debate.”

Rodimus nodded. “Yes, Ratchet.” He turned to face Ratchet, his expression one Ratchet knew few had ever seen. It was miles away from confidence, and held echoes of the mech he’d been before he’d briefly carried the matrix.

Ratchet broke.

He gave into temptation, gently taking Rodimus’ chin in hand and leaning down to brush their lips together. Rodimus sighed an ex-vent, the warmth of it ghosting over Ratchet’s lips. He shivered, his spark spinning faster in his chassis, threatening to throb right out of it’s chamber.

Primus save him.

Maybe the one in trouble here wasn’t Rodimus after all.