“Hey, buddy!” Wheeljack said cheerfully, pointing at the screen as Ratchet sat down beside him on their tiny couch. “Coalburn just lost her sparkling and Topher interfaced with… Ratchet?”
He turned to look at his friend when he felt the couch start to vibrate and saw Ratchet staring forward with a blank expression on his face. Nothing good could come from Ratchet shaking and looking expressionless. Ratchet had a rather large array of expressions, especially if one knew what to look for. And Wheeljack prided himself on knowing each and every one of Ratchet’s.
Blank was a bad one.
Wheeljack hurriedly paused the latest episode of As the Kitchen Sinks and swiveled on the couch, facing his best friend. Muting the video allowed Wheeljack to better hear the horrible rasping sound of Ratchet’s wheezing vents.
Now Wheeljack was really starting to get worried. “Ratch? C’mon, Ratch, I can’t help if I don’t know what I’m helping with.”
Ratchet very slowly shook his head, lower lip trembling. His optics slammed shut and optical fluid trailed down his cheeks.
Wheeljack was honestly a little horrified. Ratchet felt deeply, although a lot of the time he ignored those feelings. Whenever they bubbled up, Ratchet usually ended up a mess, although this silent misery was a bit different.
He scooted closer, gently grasping Ratchet’s arm above the elbow. “Sweetspark, what is it? Can you tell me?”
Ratchet looked at him and shook his head again, the drops of liquid falling faster. His trembling got worse and Wheeljack nodded.
“Ok. That’s fine. Tell me if and when you can, but otherwise I got you. Ok, Ratchet? I got you.”
Wheeljack slid closer, put his arms around Ratchet and pulled him into Wheeljack’s chest. For a few seconds, Ratchet resisted, and then in the next moment, Wheeljack had a lapful of sobbing medic. Wheeljack bundled him close, gently rocking the younger mech in his arms.
“I got you… I got you,” Wheeljack murmured into Ratchet’s closest audial. Not ‘it’ll be ok’. Never that. That could be a lie and Wheeljack and Ratchet didn’t lie to each other, if they could help it. But he was here and he would protect Ratchet to the best of his ability.
Although Wheeljack had a sneaking suspicion that there wasn’t anything physical he could protect Ratchet from. Ratchet shrugged off physical wounds the way most frontliners boasted they could (although never seemed to be able to). It was always his processor which tripped Ratchet up; thinking too hard about the soldiers he didn’t save, fretting if he had made the right decision, feeling depressed by all the death that surrounded them.
He’d never been like this before though. Never so… grief-stricken as if his spark was breaking...
Oh… oh, slag.
“Ratchet… is… is it the twins?” Wheeljack ventured.
Ratchet’s sobbing paused although his fingers clenched into Wheeljack’s plating hard enough to make him wince.
“C-casualty re-report…” Ratchet stuttered. “S-Sides-Sideswipe…”
The one with the crooked smile, Wheeljack recalled. He had looked up their files after Ratchet had told him about them. They were certainly pretty enough, although the glint in the gold one’s optics honestly unnerved him a little. Regardless, Ratchet was hopelessly in love with them both, although he would never admit it out loud. Or to himself, really.
Wheeljack’s spark felt as if someone had doused it in liquid nitrogen. “He died? And his brother?”
Ratchet shook his head, body shivering. “I don’t know! Not listed, but they’re… were… twins. Sunny’d die if Sideswipe did, I just know it,” he said, hiccupping on every other word.
“You know those casualty reports have been wrong before,” Wheeljack offered, going back to rocking Ratchet. He held him tighter despite the temperature in Ratchet’s frame rising from his distress.
“I know… I know, but… it’s been so long… I can’t… I can’t keep…” Ratchet broke off again, a wave of fresh sobs overcoming him.
“Oh, Ratch…” Wheeljack said helplessly. He didn’t know what to say. Ratchet had held onto the hope of seeing the twins, letting it sustain him for quite a while until time wore it down. Wheeljack’s friendship had shored it up, but now…
“… it hurts… ‘Jack, it hurts…” Ratchet cried. Wheeljack hugged him even tighter, red and white plating creaking alarmingly, but Ratchet didn’t seem to care. He just clung to Wheeljack and cried, long into the night.