Two orns later…
"Watchet, Watchet, Watchet!" A squeaky voice yelled as the owner skidded into the living room. "Look at what I did today!"
The red and white medic walked in from the other room with a smile on his faceplates. "And what was that, sparkling?" he asked, bracing himself as the red and navy mech latched onto his left leg. Ratchet placed a left servo on the youngling's shoulder.
"I'm not a sparkling anymore, Watchet," the young mech said with a slight pout. "I big now."
"Oh really?" Ratchet asked as he cocked an optic ridge. "And I asked you a question, youngling."
The mech puffed up with pride. "I drew a picture of you," he said, showing off a data pad to the medic. Ratchet took the pad from Optimus and cracked a grin.
"This is lovely," he praised. "Thank you."
A knock at the door sent Optimus scurrying for the back room to hide. Ratchet opened the door only to find Ironhide and Ultra Magnus. "Hello, slagger," Ironhide said, punching Ratchet in the shoulder. The medic winced.
"Hello yourself," he said as he rubbed the affected spot. He let the two inside and closed the door behind them. "Optimus, it's safe to come out." The small mech emerged from the back room shyly, left servo behind his helm. "I don't think you've met these two yet. This is Ironhide, one of my friends from the Iacon Academy, and his youngling Ultra Magnus." The two younglings looked at each other, sizing each other up. Ultra Magnus stared at Optimus for a few minutes in confusion.
"Ironhide, why does my spark feel funny?" he asked.
"Mine does too," Optimus said as he turned to Ratchet.
"There's something we've been needing to tell you two for a long while," Ironhide said. "You see, Magnus, there's a reason why your spark never felt quite right around me. I am not your real sire. Same as you, Optimus - Ratchet isn't yours either."
"I already knew about that," the young Prime said with a small frown. "It still doesn't explain why I feel like this."
"You two are brothers, spark twins," Ratchet said bluntly. "Your carrier separated you at sparking so that you two would have a fighting chance in this world of slavery and suffering. It is one of her wishes that you two meet someday." Optimus's jaw dropped a tad as he looked at the taller mech in a new light.
"So you're my brother," Ultra Magnus said with a blank face. A smile twinged at the corners of his mouth before he walked to Optimus and wrapped the shorter mech in a tight hug. Optimus could feel his spark grow larger, a warm and fuzzy sensation swirling throughout it as they hugged. He didn't want to let go of his newfound family member.
"I think they took the news rather well," Ironhide said.
"Thank Primus," Ratchet said.
The four spent the rest of the solar cycle together, relaxing, before Ironhide checked his internal chronometer after a slight shock to his systems. "Slag!" he exclaimed. "Ratchet, will you look after Magnus for me? I'm supposed to be at my shift in a click and my tracking device went off!"
"Of course," Ratchet responded, and Ironhide took off at a run towards his job. Most of the workers, including Ironhide, had been outfitted with tracking devices so that the overseers could check in on them. The devices were mis-named. They didn't track locations, just times; if a mech or femme was late to their job, they got a small shock of energy to let them know that they were late. The shocks became progressively worse the later the Cybertronian was. Luckily, Ironhide paid attention to the device constantly. He wouldn't - couldn't - afford to miss his work. Not with Ultra Magnus to protect, anyway. If something happened to Ironhide, he knew that Ratchet could pick up the slack, but Ratchet was just the medic; he couldn't protect the twins for long. His armor wasn't strong enough, and his weapons were hardly of use.
Ironhide vented. He couldn't imagine how hard it must be to be Ratchet. The medic was hardly equipped to protect, and yet Solus had chosen him of all mechs to protect her youngest son. The amount of pressure the medic had to withstand, between his job working in the field and his urge to hide and protect the future Prime, was mind-boggling. It made Ironhide glad he only had to work as a blacksmith, replacing worn tools and creating weapons from practically nothing. It was comforting, in a way. He didn't have to worry about saving lives. It was only him and the metal, working together as one.
"You're late," the overseer said, frowning.
"Only by a fourth of a click," Ironhide said. He immediately regretted it as the whip greeted his left shoulder.
"Just get to work," the overseer said. He practically growled out the sentence. Ironhide wordlessly followed orders, heating up the forge and grabbing a bar of metal off a shelf. "And quit taking so long." He struck Ironhide across the face.
"I'm sorry. But the forge takes so long to heat-" Ironhide couldn't get the rest of the words out as the overseer whipped him again.
"That was a warning. The next time you talk back, I won't be so gentle," the mech said. "Now heat that up and make a new hammer." Ironhide nodded, his dentas gritted together to avoid talking and saying something he would regret. The overseer left him to his musings. I've got to get out of here, Ironhide thought to himself. It wasn't safe for him or anyone else. When will Optimus save us all? He's only a sparkling…they both are. Only sparklings. Barely out of their first frames, too. Air whirled through his systems as the stocky black mech vented harshly. It was times like these when he asked Primus why he of all mechs was chosen to be one of the twins' protectors. He couldn't do anything to save someone; he was too rough, too liable to talk back to people. It wasn't safe for anyone to be near him, much less the future Prime.
He stopped mid-swing of the hammer when he heard something heavy fall next to the shop a couple of breem later. Curious, he set his hammer aside and walked outside the shop.
"'lp," a feminine voice said. Ironhide froze; he knew that voice. True, he had not heard it for several orns, but he recognized it as if he would his own spark. "'Elp me…" Ironhide proceeded to pluck the delicate femme from the ground. The femme let out a small vent of air, puffing warmly onto the blacksmith's chest. "Ironhide," she said softly, placing a small servo on his chest. "Please, take me to Ratchet."
"I will," Ironhide said as he started off in the direction of Ratchet's home. Her pleading voice broke his spark. "What happened to you, anyway?"
Solus barked out a laugh. "Sentinel," she replied. "Who else?" Ironhide gritted his dentas for the second time that solar cycle. "Sparklings?"
"They're fine," Ironhide replied, ducking into a back alley as an overseer walked past them. "They just met each other earlier this solar cycle and seem to be taking to each other just fine. Ratchet and I are glad for that."
"Of course they are," Solus said with a laugh. "Twins."
Ironhide nodded sheepishly and ducked back into another alley, continuing towards the house. He ignored the leaking wounds Solus sported as they dripped energon all over the ground. Luckily, not many enforcers came this way. Otherwise the two, Ironhide especially for interacting with the female Prime, would be in a tight spot. He eventually reached Ratchet's house and pounded on the back door in the secret code the two mechs had developed.
"Hold your fire," Ratchet exclaimed from inside. "I'm coming." His voice became closer as he walked towards the door. His mouth dropped when he saw the two visitors. "Ironhide, what in Primus's name happened?" He paused. "No, wait, get inside first." The medic moved aside to allow the blacksmith and his cargo to enter the room. Ironhide closed and locked the door behind him. "Lay her on the couch."
Ironhide did as he was told. "I was on shift when I heard her," the blacksmith explained. "I dropped everything and came as quickly as I could."
"Sentinel," Ironhide said. Ratchet's face quickly grew stormy as he walked towards his newest patient. Ironhide moved out of the medic's way, understanding the expression.
"She was talking earlier, but…"
Ratchet vented a large sigh. "Her energon has been leaking for far too long. I'm not sure how long she can make it." He turned to his long-time friend. "Please, make sure the sparklings are all right. I left them alone in the back room and who knows what they're thinking at the moment. For all they know, Unicron could have been out here."
"Unicron's been out here for a long time, Ratch," Ironhide said with a wan smile, but started to leave the room anyway. Primus, for the little ones' sakes, let Solus be all right…
He no longer needed to leave the room, however, as two small bodies appeared from the hallway. "What's going on, Ironhide?" Optimus asked. Ironhide bit back a smile; for one so small, Optimus had sure taken up the role of a leader, no-nonsense and all. "My spark started to feel all funny again."
Ratchet looked up, horrified, from his spot beside the couch at the sound of the small voice. "Get them out of here, Ironhide!"
"You heard what Ratchet said," Ironhide said, sticking his arms out on either side of the brothers and shooing them into the hall. "We need to go to the back room again. He's trying to save someone in there and needs all of the concentration he can get."
"It isn't someone we know, is it?" Magnus asked, startled. "My spark feels funny too - it hurts!"
Ironhide vented. "Look, younglings," he said, holding a servo in either of his as they walked towards the back room. "It's a long story. You'll understand what is going on once you become our age." Ironhide looked back at Ratchet only to see the medic lifting Solus and taking her into another room, hiding her away for safekeeping. The blacksmith returned his glance towards Optimus. "Come, now. I'll see if I have something that will make you feel better."
The three hid in the back room and Ultra Magnus locked the door behind him, as was procedure in both households. Ironhide sat on the mattress laying on the floor, leaning against the left wall, and Ultra Magnus snuggled up next to his left side. Optimus snuggled up on the blacksmith's right side, curling into a tight ball. Ironhide wrapped both of his arms around the two sparklings and vented a sigh of content. "Listen, you two," he said softly. "There will be times when our sparks hurt. There will be times when people hurt others we care about, and it will hurt immensely. But know this: no matter what happens, Ratchet and I will always be there for you in some way or another. We will take care of you, even after we offline." Ironhide looked contentedly at the two small lives curled against his chest. "We will take care of you until all become one."
"Until all are one?" Optimus asked sleepily.
Ironhide smiled. "Yes, youngling," he said. "Until all are one."