Nine Months

Cradles and Milk Shakes

"You're nuts," Carly declared bluntly.

Ratchet shot her a dark glare. "Listen, young lady," he growled, "I am a certified professional medic and have been so long before your species even learned to walk upright. So if I give you advice concerning your safety, it would be nice of you to at least consider it."

"But my safety isn't 'concerned'," Carly shot back, obviously just as irritated as he was. "I've been in and out of this ship on a daily basis for the last... oh, I don't know how many years. And I'm still alive, in case you haven't noticed. I won't be kicked out suddenly just because I'm pregnant."

Ratchet cycled his vents in an exasperated sigh. This definitely wasn't going as planned... After their little run-in with Wildrider and Drag Strip, he had come to think that it might be better for Carly to spend not quite so much time around the Autobots. This was a military base, after all, and thus certainly not the right place for a carrying femme. Carly should be in her own home, should prepare for the sparkling's arrival in peace, and he could just come by and visit her for her regular check-ups...

Obviously, she wasn't too keen on the idea.

“We’re still fighting a war here, Carly,” he reminded her. “I cannot guarantee that you won’t get hurt again. The Decepticons might attack this base at any time, and you know it. They’ve done so before.”

“And have never managed to cause more than a few scratches,” she countered. “I trust Red Alert to make sure it stays that way. And what else could possibly happen to me here? It’s not like one of you guys is gonna step on me or something.”

“Don’t tempt me,” Ratchet said darkly.

“Look, Ratchet,” she answered, frowning a bit. “I get that you’re worried about me, and that’s really sweet of you, but I don’t want to leave. I feel comfortable here, and I like having all you guys around me. Spike’s had to work so much lately...” She looked a bit glum as she said this, but didn’t give him a chance to answer. “And besides, the whole crew is so great about this baby thing... Last night, I woke up at 03:00 a.m. dying for a chocolate milk shake. And when I wandered the halls I met Sunny and ‘Sides in the rec room, and they drove all the way to the nearest McDonald’s and got me two milk shakes plus a burger, fries and a Caesar salad ‘cause they worried that Danny wouldn’t grow properly if I didn’t eat enough.”

Ratchet snorted. “Fast food... yeah, that fits the two morons,” he muttered.

“My point is,” she continued, “they all get involved so much... and I want them to be involved. You guys are like my family by now. Danny's going to grow up surrounded by Autobots, so the sooner he gets used to giant alien robots from outer space the better, don’t you think?”

She had a point, he couldn’t deny it. But still, he was responsible for her safety, and thus couldn’t just let the matter rest.

“I understand you, Carly,” he said. “But I’m your medic, and my principal duty is to see to your well-being. I'm just not sure if the Ark is the right place for you at the moment."

For some reason, Carly seemed to be brought up short by that. She ran a hand through her hair, obviously contemplating the situation. Then she turned to him with a soft sigh.

“I don’t want to fight with you, Ratchet,” she said. “If it’s that important to you, I’ll... I’ll give it some thought, okay?”

Ratchet blinked his optics at her reflexively, surprised by this sudden change of mind. He’d expected the argument to go on for at least another breem. “Okay,” he said eventually, still a bit taken aback. “Okay. Thank you.”

Carly smiled. “Walk me back to our room?” she asked.

She looked a bit sad, Ratchet noticed, and he couldn’t deny the slight pang of conscience he felt at the thought. “Of course,” he answered quickly. "No problem."

The old storage room that served as accommodation for their human friends was of course still Cybertronian-sized, but there was no doubt that Wheeljack had worked miracles to adjust it to Spike's and Carly's needs. Lowering the door button Carly was activating now to their size had been the easiest task. The room featured a human-sized berth, a window that could be opened, a kitchenette and even a tiny backroom with sanitary facilities, though Ratchet didn’t know – and didn’t want to know – how his friend had managed that. And of course, bit by bit the young couple had brought in dozens of human odds and ends to make themselves comfortable: carpets, curtains, pictures, a TV set, a microwave, books and an impressive collection of sound and image carriers, much to the delight of Blaster and Jazz.

In the course of time, Ratchet had been in this room so often that he’d come to know it just as well as his own, and this was probably the reason why the new piece of furniture immediately caught his optic when the doors swished open. And not only his, it seemed.

"Oh," Carly said in astonishment, pausing in the doorway. "What's this?"

The object in question had been placed into the far corner of the room. Carly stepped inside and looked around as if expecting to see a visitor, and Ratchet instinctively ran a quick scan, but there was nobody there but the two of them.

Curiosity getting the better of him, he followed his charge inside for a closer look.

The mysterious object turned out to be a human sparkling berth.

The tiny bunk was completely made of wood. The material had been smoothed out and polished with so much care that the sunlight streaming in through the small window made it gleam softly. The feet had been carved into a semi-circular form so the whole construction could be rocked gently from side to side. The bars that formed the recharge basket were finely lathed, and the headboard and the foot of the berth were decorated with a number of Cybertronian glyphs. There was even a light blue canopy draped over a rod sticking out from the headboard.

Carly stood speechless for some long moments before she ran a gentle finger across the polished wood, very careful, as if afraid to break it. “That’s... that’s beautiful,” she finally said softly, turning to Ratchet. “Did you...?”

“No.” He shook his head, still staring at the tiny berth. Something about the lathed pattern looked familiar...

Right at this moment, the door behind them opened with a soft hiss and a slightly disappointed-sounding voice said: “Oh, you’re here already...”

“Grapple!” Carly said astounded. “Hoist! Did you build this?”

Hoist nodded in response. “We just added the finishing touches,” he said with a smile in his voice, “and only went to put our tools away. You turned up faster than we thought.”

“Do you like it?” Grapple asked anxiously. “I was worried that it might be too small...”

Carly smiled at him with slightly overbright eyes. “It’s perfect, Grapple,” she said. “Just beautiful.”

It was a rare thing, Ratchet mused, to see Grapple so absolutely elated. The architect was prone to depressive moods, especially when it came to his work, and was therefore a regular visitor in Ratchet’s med bay. But right now Grapple’s optics were glowing with joy at Carly’s words, and his whole posture spoke of artistic pride. “See?” he told Hoist happily. “I told you this was my greatest idea ever!”

“And what exactly brought this idea on?” Ratchet asked amusedly.

It was Hoist who answered. “We were talking to Spike some time ago,” he said. “And he told us about the sparkling berth he’d purchased for his and Carly’s quarters in the city. Well, and that led us to their quarters here, and that the sparkling would need a proper place to recharge in when they’re staying here as well. So Grapple suggested that we try and construct a berth for Daniel.”

“Spike brought us pictures and descriptions I used to draw up a blueprint,” Grapple took over. “I’ve hardly ever worked with wood before, let alone such small pieces, but once I got the hang of it, it was really fun.” He sounded by all means like a youngling eager for his creator’s praise, and Hoist had a certain, pleased-looking twinkle in his optics. Ratchet suddenly remembered what Carly had said about the crew getting involved.

Said human had meanwhile approached the two architects with the brightest of smiles, and both of them had to kneel so she could hug them - or rather the part of their hands she was able to clasp. “Thank you, guys,” she said. “Thank you so much, that’s so sweet of you.”

Grapple and Hoist looked like they’d just been appointed rulers of the universe. And rightly so, Ratchet had to admit. The berth was beautiful.

“What do the glyphs mean?” Carly asked, pointing to the Cybertronian signs engraved into the wood. Hoist’s backstruts straightened at the question, and Ratchet realized with dread that they were now in for a lesson in Cybertronian calligraphy.

“Well,” his colleague began, indicating the glyphs at the foot of the berth. “These here stand for Daniel’s name - as far as human names can be translated into Cybertronian. And these,” he pointed to the signs on the headboard, “represent a number of things your sparkling should experience when recharging in this berth.”

“You’d probably call them lucky charms,” Ratchet volunteered.

“Correct,” Hoist agreed. “These ones mean ‘Peace’ and ‘Safety’,” he pointed to the upper left and right of the glyphs, “and this one means ‘Sweet Dreams’.” He indicated the lower symbol.

If possible, Carly’s touched smile grew even wider. “And this one?” she asked.

Ratchet actually had to adjust the fine tuning of his optics to see the tiny, tiny inscription on the foot of the berth - and had serious difficulties to suppress a laugh. Hoist threw his mate a glance, and Grapple suddenly looked a bit embarrassed. “Uhh, nothing,” he said quickly. “Just a bit of... doodling, that’s all.”

“Now, now, Grapple,” Ratchet said with malicious joy. “Why so modest? That’s his designation,” he told Carly with a grin.

Carly looked at Grapple with surprised amusement. “You signed Danny’s cradle?”

“Well, why not?” Grapple retorted defensively. “I designed it, and it’s a custom that the artist signs his work!”

“Of course, Grapple,” Hoist said soothingly, laying a gentle hand on his mate’s shoulder. Carly laughed.

“You two are so great,” she said. “Thank you.”

Hoist shrugged dismissively. “Ah, don’t mention it. That’s what friends do, isn’t it?”

“And I have a bunch of other ideas, you know,” Grapple chattered away happily. “For example, I could...”

It took Hoist a considerable amount of gentle yet persistent prodding to convince his excited mate that they should perhaps not overstay their welcome. Grapple looked a bit disappointed, but finally complied. “I’ll bring around some blueprints in a few days, Carly,” he announced merrily as the door opened for him.

“Can we still do anything for you before we leave, Carly?” Hoist asked politely, but the young woman shook her head.

“No, thanks, guys,” she answered warmly. “I think I’ll just make myself a tea and admire that present of yours.”

“It’s truly beautiful, isn’t it?” she asked when the doors had closed behind the two architects.

“It is,” Ratchet agreed readily, but in truth he wasn’t really listening. His CPU was busy processing far more important things.

He hadn’t been aware of just how much Carly - and her sparkling - were regarded as a permanent fixture of the base by his fellow Autobots, how much the two of them were integrated into the crew’s daily life. And she had looked so happy and comfortable with Grapple and Hoist... She felt at home here, no doubt about it. Should he, as a medic, not support anything that aided his patient’s well-being? Wouldn’t it be much better for Carly’s health to be here were she was relaxed and at ease than to sit at home, feeling alone and unwanted?

All medical responsibility aside, he and Carly had been friends long before she and Spike had even got bonded. Shouldn’t a friend respect his friends’ wishes? Wasn’t it a friend’s duty to offer support and understanding?

And what was most important: Didn’t he know exactly that, after three days without Carly at the latest, he would suffer severe processor damage out of sheer worry and bad conscience?

Carly’s voice interrupted his musing. “Ratchet? You’re okay?”

Pit, what a scrap. With a soft growl he set an internal reminder that he’d need to talk to Red Alert concerning that Decepticon early warning system their Security Director had mentioned not too long ago...

“Yeah,” he answered. “I was just... thinking of something. I’ll leave you alone now.”

He headed towards the door, but before activating door button, he gave her a stern look over his shoulder. “By the way,” he said in his patented ‘doctor’s voice’, “if you could spare me some time tomorrow, I want to talk to you about your check-up schedule. I’d like to see you more often from now on, let’s say... twice a week.”

Carly stared at him. “Twice a week? I’m not fatally ill, Ratchet!”

“Well, it shouldn’t be too hard for you to comply with that,” he answered dryly. “Since you spend most of your time here anyway.”

For a moment she just looked at him, but then a tiny smile parted her lips. “No, it shouldn’t,” she said softly. “Thanks, Ratchet.”

“Don’t thank me yet,” he said in a peeved tone. “You might regret it.”

Had he said this, in this voice, to any of his fellow Autobots, he’d received looks that frequently ranged from wary over intimidated to downright panicked.

Carly grinned at him.

Ratchet laid down arms, so to speak. The only thing left to do was to huff gently in a mixture of irritation and amusement as he shook his head and pressed the door button. The doors swished open.

“Uhh... Ratchet?”

He stopped and turned again with a questioning look.

“Would you do me a favor?”

He shrugged. “Sure,” he said. And why not?

Strangely enough, the young woman looked the tiniest bit shamefaced. “I know you’re pretty busy but... could you perhaps... get me a milk shake?”

Now it was his turn to stare. “A milk shake? But you just said you wanted tea.”

Carly’s face immediately contorted into the very epitome of disgust. “Yeah,” she answered. “I don’t know why I said that. Tea’s probably the most abhorrent thing ever invented by mankind. I want a chocolate milk shake. No, I need one. Please, Ratchet.”

There were a lot of things he could have answered. For example that the combination of animal fat and glucose she referred to as ‘milk shake’ was neither good for her nor for her offspring. Or that his shift started in less than two breems and he therefore simply didn’t have time to go to town for her. He could even simply refuse her request.

But then something in his CPU did a soft ‘click’. He smiled at her. “Of course,” he said. “No problem.”

The smile stayed firmly glued to his faceplates when he left the room and made his way back to the med bay, where, as soon as the doors closed behind him, it turned into a downright malicious grin. He activated an internal comm link.

‘Sunstreaker, Sideswipe, this is Ratchet. I’ve got a job for you...’
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