Sex, Lies and the Autobot Leader

(or The Crush)

by Phantom


Chapter 19

“Unbelievable,” First Aid muttered as he worked on his patient. “Just look at this mess!”

Ratchet nodded sadly, methodically cutting away the mangled case that protected the spark within. “It's a miracle she's still alive at all.”

“I just can't figure it, you know?” First Aid shook his head as he prepared the new case. “We've seen such terrible damage inflicted by the war, and now that the horror is finally over, this femme chooses to damage herself. There are so many that have died who deserved the gift of life, and Crystal tried to throw it away! I know that it's not my place to judge, but it seems so unfair. I've seen how fragile and precious life is. It just disgusts me that someone would want to throw away such a marvelous gift.”

Ratchet carefully removed the mangled piece of metal and cupped the spark in his large yet gentle hands, the hands of a skilled surgeon. “Don't judge her too harshly,” he said softly, smiling faintly as the sickly-gray spark brightened slightly, as if it recognized the person holding it and was pleased by its company. “Crystal's been through an awful lot. She's had a rough life, and I'm afraid peacetime has only made it worse for her. She doesn't need our scorn, she needs love and compassion. And I'm hoping that this second chance at life will help make up for the pain that she's experienced.”

First Aid paused and looked at his colleague sharply. “You really care for this femme, don't you?”

Ratchet stiffened, never lifting his gaze from the spark he held as he gently placed it in the new case that First Aid positioned within the femme's newly repaired chest cavity. “I don't know what you're talking about. You should go get some more recharge; your judgment is obviously affected.”

“No, I don't think so,” First Aid chuckled, pleased to finally have a chance to tease his friend and boss. “I've never seen you act like this before. I know that you've had your share of girlfriends, but you've never spoken about any of them with such reverence and compassion. It is my professional analysis that you have a crush on this femme.”

“And it is my professional analysis that you are a fool,” Ratchet said with a grin as he sealed the front of the spark case with a plexiglass-type transparent material. “Like you really would know. Get out a lot, don't you?”

“Touche',” First Aid laughed as he helped position the new torso plate, picking up the arc welder. “I know I'm not quite the party animal that you are, but I do recognize a crush when I see it, and you, my friend, are most definitely attracted to Miss Crystal here.”

“But we're just good friends,” the CMO replied, sounding rather confused in spite of himself, beginning to confront feelings that he never suspected existed. “If I like her so much, why did I turn her down so many times when she asked for a date?”

“Because of her history,” First Aid said, understanding quite well how things developed. “You're too nice a guy to take advantage of her, and you knew that she wasn't ready for a real relationship yet. But perhaps now, once she wakes up, she'll be more ready for a monogamous relationship with someone that cares about her. And, quite frankly, I can't manage anyone better-suited for the task than you.”

“Gee, thanks,” Ratchet said sarcastically, stepping back to supervise First Aid's progress as the younger mech skillfully welded the femme's torso closed. Their patient was patched up, as good as new, and now only required a few cosmetic details.

“She looks so peaceful,” First Aid observed, studying the femme's serene features. “It's hard to believe that she was tormented enough to take her own life.”

Ratchet nodded wordlessly, captivated by her peaceful expression. He had never seen that look before on her, and he had to admit, it was quite endearing. “Come back to us, Crystal,” he whispered, brushing her cheek with his hand. First Aid bit back a grin. Ratchet's affection for this femme was blindingly obvious. He was confident that Crystal would make a full recovery with Ratchet to help patch together her tattered soul.


Chapter 20

Ratchet stepped out into the waiting area, his features inscrutable. He smiled a bit when he caught sight of Alita and Optimus leaning against each other, each in a light form of recharge. At the sound of footsteps, they both straightened up and pinned him under questioning glances.

The medic held up his arms. “Before you ask, Crystal came through the surgery just fine. She's going to be okay, at least physically. I gave her a mild sedative to give her body a chance to gather its strength and recover, so she won't awaken for a few more cycles. After that, I'm not sure what's going to happen.” He shook his head. “I'll speak to Smokescreen and arrange a few therapy sessions, but I don't know if Crystal will agree to it or not. I know that you both want to see her, but I don't think that will be wise until she's fully recovered and willing to accept visitors. Even then, I don't know if she would like to see you two in particular.”

Optimus and Alita hung their heads as one, looking ashamed and guilty. “Hey, cheer up! None of that is allowed in here!” Ratchet exclaimed, trying to lift their spirits. “Crystal is going to be okay, and that's the important thing. She's been given a second chance at life, and how she chooses to spend it is her decision. We can't force her to confront you until she is ready.”

“But she's going to make a full recovery?” Optimus asked, breathless with hope.

“That she is, given some time,” Ratchet confirmed.

“Then there's nothing to keep us here,” Alita sighed tiredly. “We know she's okay, and she won't be up for quite some time. Let's go get some rest ourselves. I have a feeling we're going to need all our strength when we see her.”

“I'll let you know when she's agreed to speak with you,” Ratchet nodded.

“Then I'm going,” Alita said tiredly. “I can't stay up another moment. I'll meet you at your quarters, Optimus.” She smiled a bit at how they were already falling into their old routine. Optimus smiled and watched her go, then turned back to the chief medical officer.

Ratchet informed his leader, “I'm taking the first observational shift. I'm going to stay up with her and monitor her vital signs to make sure there were no complications.”

Optimus looked at his best friend sharply, noticing that something was off about Ratchet's attitude. “You've been on duty all night. Are you sure that's wise?”

“I am the chief medical officer. I'm the most qualified.”

“Don't give me that,” Optimus chided. “Any young orderly would be capable of monitoring her life signs. What reason do you have to stay?”

Ratchet looked down and shuffled his feet uncomfortably. “Well, we're good friends and we go back a long way. I'm sure she'd feel more comfortable with me than with anyone else. Besides,” he said nervously, “I like spending time with her. It makes me feel good to know that I'm doing something to help her.”

Optimus couldn't help but grin under his mask. “I never thought I'd see the day when you would lose your emotion chip to a femme,” he chuckled.

“Why does everyone keep saying that?” Ratchet asked in consternation. “Is it so hard to believe that I have a professional interest in Crystal?”

“Yes,” Optimus said baldly, feeling glee rise in him, displacing the dark shadows of guilt. “This goes beyond professional concern. I think you like her! And I can't think of anyone that would be better for Crystal than you.”

“Get lost!” Ratchet said gruffly, unable to conceal a note of pleasure. “You need some recharge. I'll let you know when she's awake.”

“Thank you, Ratchet. For everything,” Optimus said softly, squeezing his friend's hand in gratitude. “I know Crystal is going to be just fine in your hands.”


Chapter 21

Consciousness came to her slowly, like waves gently lapping at the shore. A faint smile tinged her weary face. Existing in this dreamlike state was rather pleasant. She wanted to stay and enjoy it, but something drove her onward and upward, to a small pinprick of light that seemed to get larger as she approached it. As she grew nearer, sensations began to prick at her, slightly at first, then more forcefully. It felt like her whole body had fallen numb from disuse and was finally coming awake. A part of her struggled to cry out, to fight this awakening. She had the dim sense that if she went into that bright light, if she allowed the numbness to dissipate, a terrible ache would overcome her. She wanted to drift in this eternal nothingness, wrapped in the cozy blackness, like a warm fuzzy blanket keeping her safe. Try as she might, though, she couldn't stop her forward motion as the speck of light became a dot, then an ever-expanding circle. She felt a gentle touch on her hand, and that sensation drew her out of her protective cocoon. That touch was comforting, and she was sure that whoever it was that was standing by her would never cause her harm. With that thought to bolster her spirits, her mind breached the gap between the unconscious and conscious worlds.

Crystal cried out softly and hastily dimmed her optics, nearly blinded by the soft yet powerful light that seemed to shine directly into her optics like a beacon. 'Where *am* I?' she wondered hazily. The dim recollection of her effort to take her life came back to her, but the impression remained distant, like a hazy dream. 'Am I dead? Could this be the Matrix?' A shape moved in her peripheral vision, and she struggled with her overburdened systems to make it out. "Primus?" she whispered, a sense of awe overtaking her.

A dry yet kind chuckle told her instantly that her reunion with her ancestors was still a ways off. "Well, I've been called a lot of things in my time, but that has to be a first!" Finally her stubborn optics gave her a relatively clear picture, though still fuzzy around the edges. Although the figure was an angel of mercy and dedicated his life to helping others, he couldn't quite fill the shoes of the Transformers' legendary deity. Ratchet, the Autobots' chief medical officer, smiled down upon her kindly. His bedside manner was a tad rough around the edges, but even he knew that this case required a subtle touch. "Sorry to disappoint you, but it's just little old me. How are you feeling?"

Crystal looked a bit curiously at the hand that still grasped hers lightly, and the doctor let go, looking a bit flustered. "Not so good," she groaned, error messages scrolling through her CPU.

"I wouldn't be surprised," Ratchet replied. "We weren't sure if you'd make it for a while there. First Aid and I were able to fix most of the structural damage, but a good deal of minor contusions remain. Only time and rest will cure that."

Crystal looked down, a sudden wave of shame flooding her. Although Ratchet had not alluded to the details, she gathered that he and First Aid had had their work cut out for them. They had worked so hard to save her, to give her back the gift of life that she had so desperately wanted to dispose of. She didn't deserve such kindness.

"Hey, what's wrong?" Ratchet said softly, taking her hand instinctively.

"I--I don't know what to say," she choked. "I'm sorry to have caused so much trouble. I'm just not worth it."

"Don't say that!" Crystal winced at the sudden harsh tone in his voice, the doctor's hand tightening around hers to the point of crushing. "You *are* worth it! I'm sorry that you don't see that. I just wish there was some way to prove it to you." He looked away, realizing that he was losing his grip on his emotions. He coughed a bit and continued. "Get some rest now. You've been through an awful lot, and you need time to recover. In a few days, when you feel up to it, we'll schedule an appointment with Smokescreen. He should be able to help you a bit with your depression. Until then, you need to get some recharge. Doctor's orders." He turned to go, shaking his head, wishing there were something more that he could do to help.

"Wait!" The sudden cry froze him in his tracks, its plaintive tone sending a chill through his exostructure. He turned, locking optics with the forlorn-looking femme on the medberth.

Crystal bit her lip, hating to sound so desperate, but a part of her could not bear to let him leave. "Please... don't go. I'm afraid to be alone."

Ratchet hesitated. He had his duties to attend to, but First Aid could easily cover for him. Naturally, his workload had fallen considerably after the war, and while he had devoted a lot of his spare time towards experiments and research, such projects could wait. Right now his patient needed him, and he was not about to say no. Truth be told, he rather enjoyed being by her side. Even while she lay in stasis, the equivalent of a coma, he still liked keeping her company, holding her hand, giving her a tactile lifeline to the real world. He had just assumed that it was professional pride, the spark of pleasure that had led him to study medicine, his genuine delight in nursing others back to health, much as his gruff exterior belied it. But now, the sudden burst of pleasurable pain in his abdomen gave him pause. He felt a moment of panic, knowing he was treading in unknown territory. He could not remember feeling this way about any of his patients before, not even the ones that he had saved from certain death by pulling the proverbial rabbit out of a hat. No, this was different, and while First Aid only felt a weary disgust and sorrow towards Crystal for wanting to throw away her life, Ratchet felt somehow drawn to her. Watching her in the eerie stillness of stasis had given him an odd pain that he knew no diagnostic could identify. He knew, deep inside, that if he went to her and took her hand, it would not be as a doctor, but as something more profound. And he knew that he could not refuse her.

Smiling slightly, he came to her bedside and gently took her hand in his own. "Don't worry," he said softly. "I'm here. You will never be alone again."

"Thank you," Crystal whispered, already drifting off into recharge mode, the stress of her earlier mental anguish and extensive surgeries catching up to her. "You've always been... a good friend... to me," she murmured, her words trailing off as her systems cycled down.

"It's my pleasure," Ratchet replied, knowing that she could no longer hear him but feeling a burning need to voice it. He studied her small red hand, encased in his large gray one. She seemed so fragile, and a sudden fierce need to protect her rose in him. He marveled at its strength, finally admitting to himself that perhaps there was something more that drew him to this femme. Maybe, just maybe, Optimus and First Aid were on to something after all.

Ratchet groaned to himself, all the while taking care not to disturb his slumbering patient. This was all wrong, he tried to tell himself. 'But why does it feel so right?' he asked himself, and for that he had no reply. Looking at things rationally, he could see that it would not work out. She was a recovering suicide victim with unimaginable phantoms loose in her head, and he was a brusque chief medical officer with caustic wit and an odd penchant for parties. Both of them had had their share of flings, and both had been burned. Of course, in comparison, Ratchet had escaped comparatively unscathed, but that didn't mean that it hadn't hurt at the time. This was precisely the wrong time to get involved, and yet... and yet... could he really say no to that wan face that looked at him so trustingly? Could he tell her, bluntly, "I can't treat you anymore because I'm falling in love with you."? And if he did, would she be disgusted, or laugh, or cry? No, it was just too dangerous to get involved. It was not just his feelings on the line; it was her very life. If things didn't work out, only Primus knew how she would take it.

As if sensing his turbulent thoughts, Crystal stirred slightly and cried out. A bad dream, no doubt. Ratchet murmured soothing words to her, caressing her cheek gently, his other hand tightening on hers that held on so trustingly. No, he could not bear to hurt her. But something in him would not be denied. And it whispered to him, 'Perhaps there is a chance. Perhaps there may yet be happiness for you both....'


Chapter 22

"Care to talk about it?"

The question caught Crystal by surprise, and her head jerked up, staring at her personal savior. "I--I don't know," she finally whispered. After nearly a week in the intensive care unit, her status had finally been downgraded, and she was about to be released as an outpatient. All this time Ratchet had stuck by her side, always there to comfort her, and never prying, until now.

"That's okay," The Autobots' CMO replied hastily, "I didn't mean to rush you. I just want you to know that I'm here for you whenever you need me."

Crystal smiled, her first genuine one since her hospitalization. "I know that. I don't have a clue why you're being so nice to me, but I do appreciate it."

Ratchet returned the smile easily. "Do I need a reason to be nice to you? I think you're a great person, and I like you a lot!" A sudden embarrassed look crossed his face. He hadn't quite meant to say all that! "Erm, um..." he mumbled. 'Good going, numbnuts!' he berated himself. 'She's still recovering, and already you put this burden on her! Besides, she's been with Optimus and other top Autobots, what makes you think that she's going to be interested in you?!'

Crystal smiled shyly down at her lap. Ratchet's inadvertent slip had pleased her a lot more than the ardent words of passion that had been whispered to her from countless lovers. She was touched by his kindness, and she found his nervousness to be endearing. "I like you too, silly," she smiled, looking at him fondly. She felt, to her surprise, a warmth spreading throughout her body, like a healing balm. "I can't tell you how good you make me feel."

Ratchet looked like he was going to reply, then, through some bizarre, irresistible instinct, he leaned over and gently pressed his lips against hers in a soft kiss. Crystal's optics widened in surprise, then she relaxed into the kiss, enjoying it far more than the most intimate caress. She caressed the back of Ratchet's helmet lovingly, never wanting the most romantic moment in her life to end.

Despite both of their fervent wishes, the kiss was eventually broken. The couple sat back, identical looks of stunned pleasure on both of their faces. "I, uh..." Ratchet began, scratching his helmet, looking helplessly embarrassed yet pleased. "Wow!"

"You can say that again," Crystal giggled.

"Wow!" Ratchet exclaimed, with great feeling.

"You know," Crystal said softly, "you have done me more good than astroyears of counseling could."

"Speaking of which, I've spoken with Smokescreen." Ratchet's happy expression clouded. "He thinks it best that you leave Cybertron for a short vacation, so that you can recover in peace, away from people and places that may still trigger negative feelings."

Crystal nodded thoughtfully. "I think that would be best for me. I don't blame Alita and Optimus for my problems, but I can't deny that they made things a lot worse for me. Perhaps I will be able to come to terms with it and forgive them in time if I were given the chance to sort it all out somewhere far away."

Ratchet asked, "Have you ever been to Risa?"

Crystal smiled. "No, but I've heard a lot about it. It's supposed to be the ideal vacation planet. Thank you for suggesting it, I think I'll give it a try." Her voice turned slightly teasing. "But I don't think I've fully recovered. I may just need a physician by my side."

If it had been possible, Ratchet would have turned a bright red. "Erm, I don't know...."

Crystal laughed merrily at his discomfiture, already feeling more like her old self. "I know that Risa is a pleasure planet, but that's not why I want you to come with me. Believe me, I know that getting intimate too soon is the last thing that I need. I just want you by my side. Now that I've finally found you, I don't want to let you out of my life! Besides, I think you need a vacation too, and I am going to see to it that you get one!"

"Yes, sir!" Ratchet said, saluting sloppily, a huge grin on his face. "I'll ask Optimus for the leave, but I'm sure that he will give me a leave of absence. He's been on my case about taking a vacation anyway. And I know he'd do anything to further your recovery. He knows that he made a serious mistake, and he wants to do anything that he can to make it better."

"Then this is all that I ask of him. With you by my side, I'm sure that everything will be wonderful from now on." And, with a weary feeling of happiness, like that of a drowning man that has finally spotted land, she realized that it was true. She had finally found someone that she could trust with her life, and more importantly, with her heart. And that was what made life worth living.

The End


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