Orion started when the doors whirred open, admitting a frightfully stern-looking mech. He'd unlocked the archives barely a klik ago; patrons rarely visited so early.
He wasn't even supposed to be down here, as his duties kept him busy on the upper levels, but he easily remembered the unique thrill of guiding patrons through the huge collection of data. His work could wait just a bit longer.
"Hello," he said warmly, optics widening as the mech stormed past. "...Hello?"
"Yes, thank you," the mech said absently before turning to dive down a row of shelves.
Curiously Orion followed, peeking around the corner to find the mech rummaging frantically through a set of files. A medic, then; and most likely a student, considering this area was intermediate studies on Cybertronian biology. "Can I help you find something?"
The medic glanced up in surprise, looking him over quickly with a wry grin before returning to his search. "Probably not," he chuckled.
A flicker of hurt threaded through Orion's systems as he knelt beside him. "I am a trained archivist," he said quietly. "I've been working here for nearly a vorn."
The medic's optics snapped up to meet his, glowing with astonishment. "You-? Oh. Goodness, you don't look that... experienced." His brilliant optics narrowed pleasantly when he laughed. "Why haven't I seen you before? I practically live here."
Orion smiled again, relaxed by the show of easy amusement. "I tend to the upper floors," he explained. "But I began my training down here, and I would be happy to assist you."
"I need the records of the colonization of IE-93," the medic replied in an eager rush. "I believe I've isolated the virus encoding from the breakout there to the recent strain affecting the miner caste."
The medic's excitement was infectious; Orion pushed to his feet with a grin and reached down, waiting. The surprise shifted across the mech's face again before he gingerly accepted the help. Once they were both standing, their hands remained intertwined, small licks of energy transferring between them.
"I- I'm Ratchet," the medic stuttered.
"Orion," he replied shyly.
Another explosion rocked the retaining wall, debris raining on Ratchet's head as he cursed and wiggled closer to the ground. He had lost his medkit, his antenna, backup commlink, and the soldier he'd crawled out here to save had been offline before he'd reached him. He could feel hope slipping further away; the probability that this new war wouldn't last was becoming astronomically low. Both sides inflicted heavy casualties and still they kept going, encircling the entire planet in the conflict.
He could hear cries of the wounded over the blast and gunfire, praying for anyone to find them, to save them. Ratchet had rescued more than ten soldiers just this morning, but it wasn't enough. It would never be enough, even when this brutal fighting ended.
The front line had been demolished in an ambush- was still being bombarded, in fact, as he rolled and clawed his way through the rubble. The lead medic had ordered him to retreat with the squad, sparking a heated argument that had ended when Ratchet turned and ran- toward the destruction.
Now he was loudly cursing his own lack of self preservation to bolster his courage, trying to cling to a sliver of humor to push him forward- then yelped when a large frame gripped his shoulders and pulled him behind a cracked building.
Ratchet started, staring up at the mech leaning protectively over him. He knew that voice, those optics, impossibly kind even as they were bright with fear. "Orion?" he gasped, gripping a hefty arm he remembered as much slimmer. "It is really you or am I hallucinating?"
"I am called Orion no longer." Ratchet's frame shivered once when he felt a familiar touch at his waist. "I am Optimus Prime."
Ratchet ex-vented harshly, reaching up to feel the familiar-yet-different face. It was still smooth, as youthful as that fateful day he'd first seen him. "You?! But- But you're an archivist!"
The same gentle smile Ratchet had memorized vorns ago curled the delicate mouth. "Fate rarely calls upon us at a moment of our choosing, my friend."
"Oh Primus," Ratchet groaned, pushing Optimus away and glaring playfully. "If you're going to start spouting heroic diatribes at me, I may as well offline here."
Optimus chuckled, ducking as a rocket hissed overhead. "Ratchet, will you come with me? My squad needs a medic, and... there is no one in this world I trust more."
Ratchet stared at the offered hand, the gesture mirroring another that had led him to such happiness before. He grasped it firmly, renewed hope lighting his sensory net in a burst of static. "There's nowhere else I'd rather be."