Title: A Handful of Trouble

Warning: Prowl is a jerk.

Rating: PG for drunkenness.

Continuity: IDW

Characters: Prowl, Constructicons, Brainstorm, Optimus Prime

Disclaimer: The theatre doesn't own the script or actors, nor does it make a profit from the play.

Motivation (Prompt): A fix-it fic, because that size change in RiD needed to be explained. Through sillies, apparently.

[* * * * *]

Brainstorm's shrinkray should have never fallen into anyone's hands. Anyone. Including Brainstorm himself.

Giving it to Swerve was sheer lunacy.

That did not change the fact that this was the best day of Prowl's life. Ever. Of all time.

They had been as tall as him a moment ago, and now they were the size of his fingers. A squeaking pile of teensy tiny Constructicons, trying to be indignant and angry as they sorted out whose limbs went where. They'd stand up in a moment. It seemed the shrinkage hadn't harmed them beyond the obvious loss of height.

He didn't care. He swept them into his hands and gave Rodimus' recklessly insane science division a calm nod. "Inform me when the effects can be reversed."

Perceptor grimaced where he stood over the smoking thing that had been a gun until Swerve got done with it. Brainstorm was still off chasing Swerve, threatening to pummel him with that blasted briefcase for breaking his invention. Perceptor had seemed relieved to see them go, but the look he turned on the ruined gun wasn't one to inspire hope. Prowl erased any emotion from his face, although his spark jumped in his chest. Perceptor could solve any problem caused by Brainstorm given enough time, but until then, that left Prowl with a handful of Constructicons that nobody was stopping him from taking. They were all too busy.

He didn't intend to give them time to realize their mistake. "I'll be in my office." With that, he strode from the room with his hands cupped around green and purple. It squeaked at him some more. If he listened carefully, he could detect individual voices amidst the skreel of microsized vocalizers.

He didn't listen carefully. He kept his face blank except for the faintest smirk as he strode through the halls. The squeaking pitched higher every time he moved his thumb to prevent escape from the cage of his hands. He didn't want them squirming out of his grasp.

At least until he arrived in his office, whereupon he opened his hands above the desk. Constructicons tumbled onto the desktop. Panic turned to anger immediately, and the squeaking picked up. Bonecrusher shook a fist up at him.

Prowl smiled down at him, held up a finger, and deliberately used it to shove the tiny mech over and pin him to the desk. Bonecrusher shrilled in alarm, and the other four mechs swarmed over to tug on their downed teammate. Prowl allowed them to pull him loose and held his hand over the desk. His optics glittered, and sudden apprehension stared back at him. He didn't have them outnumbered, but this time, he had size on his side.

He nudged Hook over next. The shrill invectives yelled up at him earned an extra hard squishing. Hook squawked a while longer before shutting up. One of the others piped up, however, and down came the disciplinary finger. Sullen, screeping mumbles protested. Squish squish. Shush. They'd gotten away with their behavior before, but no longer.

Prowl amused himself teaching the Constructicons not to mouth off at him for a while, but eventually he did have to get to work. One did have to give miscreants time for a lesson to sink in, anyway. He scooped them up, put them in a box, and then put that box in the far corner of his office where he didn't have to see them, didn't have to hear them, didn't even have to think about them.

It was wonderful.

He drummed his fingers. Teensy grunts came from the bitty 'bots squashed by the motion. They persisted in attaching to their chosen fingers, and Prowl belatedly realized that they were lifting his hand off themselves. Five tiny Constructicons heaved as one, and his hand rose off the desk.

He drummed his fingers, a little more careful for the micro-mechs on each tip. They squeaked indignantly every time he tapped them on the desk, got their feet under them, and heaved again.

"What are you trying to do?" Obviously, shrinking hadn't condensed their brain power. Bemused, he let them haul his hand across the desk in a relatively massive effort of coordinated lift-and-pulls. He was tempted to drag his hand back to where it'd started, just to see what they'd do.

He didn't, however, and they clambered up on the fortress of office supplies they'd made earlier when he's gotten fed up with the distant whining squeaks from their box. He'd allowed them out under the stipulation that if they interrupted his work, he'd stick them back in the box. They'd beeped cheekily and saluted their understanding. They'd kept to that agreement up until now. Somewhat entertained, he'd watched them rearrange his desk and build their roofless fort for the past two hours.

Now they squeaked among themselves and dragged his hand up to cover the structure. He blinked as they slid down the walls and ran inside.

"Idiots," he said finally, when he realized they weren't coming back out. Satisfied little squeaks were all that answered him. They had what they wanted.

Prowl sighed but kept his hand on the fortress.

It was the little things he enjoyed.

They built their tower. He destroyed it. It was backwards Jenga.

The Constructicons built out of office supplies and things they found laying around on the floor. That wasn't much to begin with. Office supplies, one or two datapads he didn't see them steal away, every spare stylus in the desk drawers. An old picture frame he'd pretended wasn't in the deepest drawer, pushed to the back where he wouldn't have to think about it. The tower rose, and he eyed it as it grew.

At first he merely gave an extra-hard step as he passed by, toppling it. Angry squeaks scolded his carelessness, and he lifted an optic ridge. Careless? He was never careless. That had been entirely on purpose.

They built it stronger after that. He had to really stomp to throw it off balance, and the Constructicons swore hard enough they might have sounded threatening if their vocalizers weren't the size of pinheads right now. They raided a polishing kit and set out to make the tower completely stable.

He knelt by it to inspect their work, gave two tugs at the polishing mesh they'd woven into the structure, and it collapsed.

The squeaking tirade directed up at him earned a twist at the corner of his mouth. He went on with his work.

The Constructicons rebuilt. Prowl wouldn't admit to leaving boxes of miscellaneous repair items open so they could get at the supplies, but bolts, wires, and nuts started shoring up the intricate structure in the middle of his office floor. He watched it idly, refusing to admit that he was interested.

When he stopped this time, they gathered in a miniature swarm to glare at him. He gave them a glimpse of his smirk before turning his attention to the tower. The slight gasp as he slowly dragged a long bolt out of the middle brewed a nasty kind of smugness in his spark. The tower wobbled but didn't fall. He hummed and flicked his finger near the base.

Down it went. Cue the shrieking squeaks of five extremely frustrated builders.

Fun game, if he did say so himself.

Tiny systems ran out of energy quickly, he'd found. Plopping them in an energon cube to refuel didn't work so well. Tiny metal bodies sank just as fast as big metal ones. He'd found that out, too.

He tried a saucer. Tiny Constructicons splashing around in an energon-filled saucer caused a mess, as he'd predicted, but they were able to refuel at will. That was the important part. He put the saucer in their box, put the lid on the box, and forgot about them for a while. He had meetings to attend.

When he returned, he opened the box again to find that they'd dozed off in the total darkness. They'd probably been bored into recharge. He looked down at their inordinately tiny curled forms and wondered what he should feel.

Hesitating, already regretting what he was doing, he reached into the box and scooped one of them out. A groggy peep came from the jostled mech, but Prowl ventured a finger stroking down the tiny back. Gently, gently he soothed the little mech, and Scavenger slipped back into recharge curled in his palm. A puff of air sighed against the metal.

His fingers closed around the Constructicon, and Prowl frowned as he carried the box back to his desk. This was foolishness. He had work to do.

He spent the rest of the shift sitting there, staring into the box while he slowly, softly pet the tiny mech in his hand, and he wasn't entirely sure why.

He wanted to be annoyed at them. He really did, because he didn't need their help and had, in fact, been verbally and physically abusive to them for the day he'd had them under his complete power so far. They should hate him for that.

Decepticons. Right. They probably thought it was normal.

Regardless, they should not be…defending him. Although their defense apparently consisted of lining up at the front of his desk and shaking their fists at anyone who came in to bother him while he worked. The squeaking occasionally got loud enough that he could distinguish words, especially when they synced their swearing. Jazz laughed back at them. He had better quality audios; he probably could turn them up enough to understand what was being shouted at him.

That didn't mean he took the Constructicons seriously. He made the mistake of ignoring them, only to yelp and jump off Prowl's desk when the mini-gestalt team picked up a stylus and charged, giving him a good poke where it'd hurt.

Prowl should not be as amused by that as he was.

He flattened his hand on the desk.

Complaining little noises squawked out from under the palm. The Constructicons dug themselves out, squirming and wriggling until they could crawl free. Then they promptly made themselves at home between his fingers, flopping over the knuckles to fold their arms on the back of his hand and stare at him expectantly. He flexed his fingers, experimenting. They pushed further into the open space between his fingers, clung harder to the knuckles joints, and continued staring.

Moving slow enough that they could keep up, he lifted his hand, closing his fingers as he did so. Little legs kicked as they scrambled with the motion. They climbed along his hand as he moved it. By the time his hand was in front of his face, palm up, they were standing there triumphantly, hand on their hips or folded across their chests in cocky confidence. Not so easy to shake them off, eh?

He tilted his hand. They latched onto the side and held on, squeaking to each other in encouragement.

His hand tilted the other way. They rode the motion, getting up to run to the other side and throw themselves flat to grab that edge.

"What am I going to do with you?" he mused quietly, and they just grinned back at him.

Well, he couldn't just leave them in the office all the time.

He could, technically, but it seemed like a bad idea. It was probably unhealthy or something, although it'd only been two days.

Frowning, Prowl scooped them out of the box and dumped them on his desk, where they flailed out of the pile and made disgruntled little squeaks until they found their feet. They blinked at the bright lights and stared around the office as if they'd never seen it.

"Listen." Their attention snapped to him. "I need to attend a meeting with Optimus Prime," tiny jeers, "Ultra Magnus," the highest-pitched catcall he'd ever heard, "and Starscream." The Constructicons glanced at one another and turned back to him to give a united razzing noise. He carefully kept his face from showing agreement. "Like it or not, he is the elected leader of Cybertron at the moment." More razzing, and Bonecrusher turned about to point empathetically at aft and then head. The miniaturized team certainly knew how to get their point across despite the current issues with their vocalizers.

Prowl agreed, but he wasn't going to let these halfwits know that. "I must attend. While I could leave you here," the Constructicons made a break for the edge of the desk, "I have decided," he waited until they hesitated, glancing back, "not to." Expressions of relief, followed by more hesitating as they gave the box wary looks. It probably wasn't right to keep them trapped in there.

Fragging Autobot morality and its guilt. "Instead, I…" He sighed and held out his hand. "There is a compartment under my altmode's roof that you may stay in, so long as you do not distract me."

He should have known better than to trust their word. His lights went off six times during the meeting as the little monsters fussed around under his back plating.

The problem with giving five tiny mechs a saucer of energon to drink from was that he'd given five dedicated construction mechs the equivalent of a swimming pool full of free energy. Once they realized he'd just refill it if they drank it all, they - well, they drank it all.

They were dead drunk by shift end.

Hook, surprisingly, was the worst. Prowl hadn't expected that. For some reason, he had the surgeon pegged as the responsible one of the gestalt. Maybe Hook felt too out-of-control in this situation and had to drink to deal with the feeling. Maybe he felt that Prowl could take responsibility for a while. Maybe there just hadn't been enough energy for real drinking for so long that the mech was taking advantage of the situation while he could. Or maybe the mech known as the Decepticons' best surgeon was finally off-call. It wasn't like he could be called into surgery at any minute now, right? Give the mech a break.

Ratchet partied off-shift, too. It must be a medic thing.

Prowl fielded four emergency calls for Hook on the first day alone. He'd had no idea that the Decepticons were so deprived of repair mechs that they'd call in a possible traitor in a pinch. It gave him some insight into the remaining Decepticons' state of mind. Interesting. He wondered who was repairing the Decepticons who'd left to follow Soundwave.

"What could you tell me?" he asked softly, idle fingers toying with the drunk mechs lolling about in their box. Teensy giggle-squeaks responded to each poke. They were having fun. Hook was on his back, arms and legs lazily reaching for the giant Prowl-finger from the sky. He squealed when one such finger poked him. "How much information is locked in your minds?"

They were too drunk to understand him. He doubted they'd tell him anything if they were sober.

He didn't know how they got out of the box.

No, scratch that. The box wasn't the greater mystery. He didn't know how they lifted the lid, climbed out, climbed off the chair where he'd left them, trekked across the floor, climbed up the recharge berth, and then up onto him. However, it was the reason why that baffled him. After two nights of sleeping in the box, they'd escaped and promptly gone to find him. Why?

That was what he didn't know.

Regardless of what he did or didn't know, a tiny chorus of itsy-bitsy squeaking started by his audio midway through his downtime. In his recharge, deep in his sluggishly defragging mind, the sound irritated him. At the same time, it sounded strangely familiar. A frown creased his face even in recharge, but the sleeping Autobot slung an arm up toward the squeaking.

Which was how he woke up curled on his side, arm around the nest of tiny Constructicons happily humming in recharge, pressed against his face.

Three days after Swerve shot the wrong gun at the wrong people and made Prowl's life infinitely better, Brainstorm contacted the tactician to inform him that the gun had been fixed. That was a shame, but Prowl kept his disappointment to himself and gathered up the box of Constructicons to get them un-zapped. Brainstorm had merely gestured at a table in the middle of the room when he arrived, so he dumped the box out and stood back.

The Constructicons wandered about on the table and stared curiously at the device that was supposed to fix them.

Brainstorm shot them.

"That…did not go as expected," Prowl said, staring down at the tiny swarm. Tinier swarm, now. That was almost scarily small.

Long Haul seemed afraid to move. Prowl would be, too, considering the fact that Brainstorm's 'fixed' gun had just zapped four of the mechs standing with him into waist-high little peepers. They weren't even squeaking anymore. Prowl could barely hear the noises they made.

Brainstorm just harrumphed, fiddling with the gun's settings. He seemed irate, not upset. "You realize that this was originally intended to shrink mechs to the size of nanocons, right? You're asking me to change one of my brilliant inventions into a mundane fix-it device. It's so boring I probably switched the settings on accident."

"You're fixing a problem caused by your idiotic gun in the first place," Prowl said icily.

"This is a wonderful example of micro-weaponry! Swerve should have kept his hands to himself."

"It's dangerous in the wrong hands, and I classify your hands as the - don't point that at me!"

By now, Long Haul had swept his ultra-mini teammates into his arms and begun edging toward Prowl's end of the table. This could not end well.

peep peep peep


peep peep peeeeep peep pip peep


At some point, he was sure this would get old. That time was not now.

Prowl moved his hand again, and the whole pack streamed after the energon goodie he held pinched in his fingers. Long Haul ran, squeaking, and at his heels hustled the even tinier mechs that made up the rest of his team. Distressed peeping and angry squeaks chased the goodie around his desk, and Prowl sat there, chin propped on his fist as he watched.

They knew he was teasing them, but they really, really wanted that goodie. The size they were now, they could all gorge on the thing and have some left for a snack tomorrow. So they stubbornly followed the goodie wherever it went.

Move his hand here.

peep peep peep


Move his hand there.


Peeep pip pip pip peeeeep

Yeah, this wasn't getting old anytime soon.

There were Constructicons on him. Somewhere.

Prowl's optics darted from side to side, but he didn't dare move. A faint peeping drifted up from around his knees somewhere, but there was a lot of armor on his legs. The micro-sized team could be anywhere. This was what happened when he relaxed for half a minute. This!

A squeak came from under his altmode roof, but Prowl couldn't risk reaching back to snag Long Haul. He was fairly sure there was an even tinier mech in his shoulder somewhere, and if he moved, the joint could crush the mech alive. They were just too blasted small.

He'd never thought he'd ever wish for the Constructicons to be back to normal, but here he was, wishing it. "Get out here immediately," he grated, vocalizer strangled by anger and what might be, although he'd never admit it, concern.

Teensy peeps sassed him in reply. A smug squeak came from behind him.

The concern was disappearing quickly.

They were persistent little things, he'd give them that. Annoyingly so.

He understood that they were invested in his well-being, at least as much as Decepticons could be, but the disrespect for his personal boundaries grated on his nerves. As soon as he returned from the meeting with Optimus Prime, the peeping, squeaking concern started. Tiny hands patted his arm where it rested on the desk. Long Haul boosted his now-shorter teammates up to run along his forearm.

Prowl turned his arm on the desk to dump them off. "I'm fine. Stop that." He wasn't fine. His Prime and friend had said some - painfully accurate observations about his words and actions lately, and Prowl was having some difficulty rebuilding his confidence. He hadn't shown it, of course, but…he would recover. He was in the right. He knew he was.

It still stung, however. Not that he needed comforting. "I'm fine," he snapped, losing his temper at the continued badgering. "I'm attempting to think, and your incessant noisemaking isn't helping!"

The Constructicons insistently kept cheeping at him, and he gritted his teeth.

Getting up, he swept his hand over the desktop and knocked them over the edge into their box. Then he put a stack of datapads on top of the box lid and set it in the far corner of his office.

Strangely, he didn't feel any better.

He didn't realize how much they'd changed his office. Five days of living in a box on his desk, and they'd turned the desk itself into a landscape to fit their needs. They'd created a fortress of office supplies and a ramp to jump off of in altmode. Constructicon vehicle stunt jumps were something he'd never thought he'd see, but it'd happened. They'd lined his styluses up by age and cycled them out as he used them, evening the wear and tear on the contact nubs. They'd started color-coding his personnel files by how frequently he reached for them.

They'd cut out little handholds so they could climb down to the floor and work on their tower. They were still doing that, despite how he persisted in knocking it down. At least, they had been doing that, up until he locked them in their box and tried to forget about them.

Half a day later, and the latest tower still stood. He spent a lot of time looking at it, and he couldn't explain, even to himself, why.

They could sing. He hadn't known that.

It had been a day since he'd isolated them in their time-out box, and he'd been guiltily aware that he'd be in trouble for that if anyone found out. He'd tried not to let that awareness affect him, but he'd ended up evading Brainstorm and not meeting Optimus Prime's optics. While he wasn't one to apologize, he did briefly upset the rabble at Blurr's bar by stopping in to pick up a to-go packet of engex strong enough that Blurr put him through a mild inquisition about whether or not he'd be driving after consuming it. Insisting he wouldn't be the one drinking it would open up his personal life to gossip, so he chose to assure the racer he was hardly one for getting fendered on the road.

No, but he was one for making gestures instead of saying the words. Chromedome could attest to the fact that he couldn't manage an apology in words. It never came out right and always made things worse.

Prowl sighed and snipped the end off the packet as he entered his office, ready to pour it into the Constructicons' saucer in lieu of an apology. He didn't process what he was hearing until he was midway across the office. The high-pitched hum wavered above a lower sound, almost a drone, and the box shuddered in time with percussive thumping.

They were singing. The Constructicons were singing. He'd locked them a box, and they'd started singing. He didn't move until they finished the song.

When he lifted the top off the box, he didn't say a word. He just filled the saucer to the brim.

Little drunken Constructicons rolled around the palm of his hand. Prowl sipped the remains of the to-go packet and tipped his hand from side to side, helping them flop when they got stuck halfway. Bonecrusher and Scavenger were clinging together, laughing high and happy as they tumbled. Hook occasionally tried to climb to his feet and walk, only to get his knees taken out from underneath him by Mixmaster. The rolling would start anew.

Long Haul leaned in the small cradle formed at the heel of Prowl's hand. The rest of his team rolled about safely in the cup of the palm, and he supervised in utterly blitzed contentment. Every once and a while he gave an imperious wave and squeaked a demand. Prowl obliged him by holding the engex packet down within reach, and Long Haul helped himself to whatever drops had leaked from the tear.

Prowl idly wondered if Blurr did delivery.

Drinking was hardly the answer, but it substituted well in the Decepticon Academy of Thought. Thank Primus that Blurr delivered.

Chittering peeps came from above his optics, and his chevron's sensor-packed metal pinged exact locations to him. There seemed to be Constructicons climbing on his helm. Prowl ran the numbers and determined that he could still sip from the packet in his hand as long as he didn't move his head too much. Unfortunately, there seemed to be a Constructicon on his hand as well. Hmm. A quandrary.

Long Haul squeaked when Prowl inched his wrist across the desk, trying to resolve the need to drink more engex with the somehow equal need not to unseat the Constructicons sitting on his chevron. Unfortunately, he angled his head just a little too much, and a drunken teensy mech slid right off his helm and plopped into the open packet.

Prowl and the rest of the team still perched on his helm peered in. Sloshing accompanied indignant peeps. Hook did not appreciate how much of a good thing he'd been doused in.

Prowl stuck his finger in and fished around. He was getting pretty good at this party game.

Hangovers were hangovers, no matter the size. Prowl onlined to a chorus of agonized, miserable 'eeeeeee' noises. It probably would have been sad - or at least pathetic - if he wasn't making a similar noise at a much lower register. He wasn't one for sympathy, anyway.

"Shut up," he whispered hoarsely, and the high-pitched complaints near his audio yelled right back at him. Shut up shut up shut up. He was bigger and louder. Suffer in silence, fragger.

Groaning, he rolled the other direction and used his arm to block out the lights, because he couldn't quite figure out how to offline his optics or get up to turn off the lights manually. Everything in a hangover world seemed slightly wobbly around the edges.

The tiny sounds of micro-sized hangovers tapered off, and he dozed again.

Two hours later, the cheeping picked up in a panic, and Prowl woke to Constructicons banging their fists on his face. Only four Constructicons, however.

Scavenger had gone missing.

"How am I supposed to know where he went?" Prowl strode through the building with his hand held in front of himself and a scowl on his face. Shrill, peeping squeaks scolded him from his hand, where four tiny Constructicon clung to his fingers against the rough gait of his quick walking. "I do not exist to keep tabs on you. He is your teammate, not mine."

Oh, that didn't go over well at all. Four peeved faces glared up at him. He kept looking straight ahead, ignoring their ire. It was a lot easier when they were small. He briefly wished that all the troublesome individuals in his life would shrink this way.

In the back of his mind, the memory Bumblebee folded his arms and gave him a look.

…not to say that minibots were any less capable or anything. Just. Size. Size mattered. Very, very small meant that he could pretend he didn't - no, that came out all wrong from the beginning.

The Constructicons railed at him from the palm of his hand. Bumblebee's memory stared him down.

Prowl snarled his engine. "Fine! I'll help you look." Why the frag had Scavenger wandered off, anyway?

And why was he worried about him?

They found him in the communication hub, sitting under the broadcast console. Prowl would have missed seeing him, but that bothersome fragging reporter mech was kneeling beside the console attempting to interview the little troublemaker.

Prowl stalked up behind them and reset his vocalizer. "Excuse me," he bit out when the report jumped up, startled, "that seems to be mine."

A canny look swept over the mech's visor, and Prowl backpedaled as a microphone was shoved in his face. "They're yours? So the rumors are true that you'd keeping them as pets, then? Is it true that Brainstorm has delayed repairs on his device at your request? How are you using your new team? Is it forced labor or a prison sentence? The Decepticons left in Iacon want to know where one of their most prominent combiner teams has disappeared to, and it seems now we know!"

Scavenger scrambled out of the console to go climb Prowl's leg, and the tactician was so occupied navigating the reporter's verbal traps that he never remembered to ask what the tiny Constructicon had been doing.

Turned out Prowl hadn't retreated fast enough. The fragging reporter got his soundbites. Neutral as they'd been at the time, some fast remixing got him the scandal he'd been looking for. Plus, it did the Autobots no good to have Prowl filling people's screens looking the way he had during the ambush interview.

"You seemed slightly angry," Optimus Prime said tactfully.

Prowl felt his doors go up, but he couldn't manage to relax them. "I was merely irritated that I had to rescue someone from being cornered by that farce of a newscaster. He has no concern for factual information, only ratings. Starscream is using him as a pawn, as you are very well aware - "

"I am also aware that we are using him for our own ends," the Prime interrupted him gently. "That is the way of politics. With the trial coming up, we need what popularity we can get."

Cast in that light, Prowl couldn't evade responsibility for doing what he'd known he shouldn't have. The reporter had engaged him, and even knowing better, he'd let himself get suckered into responding to the accusations. "The Constructicons' situation is nothing like how that mech made it sound." The way he talked about the reporter sounded like a curse on its own.

"Good. Then you won't mind giving an interview with them to correct this PR glitch."

Prowl opened his mouth but had absolutely nothing to say to that.

When Optimus Prime said that he should give an interview, Prowl hadn't realized that the Prime meant right now.

There was a reporter and a lot of recording equipment outside his office door. Prowl pasted on a narrow smile just this side of hostility, and meanwhile he was already running probabilities for how this was going to hurt the Autobots. He didn't have a distraction on hand. He couldn't call Jazz for back-up without admitting why he needed it. He couldn't comm. the Prime to put off the interview without the reporter getting suspicious and broadcasting that suspicion across Iacon. He couldn't open the door to his office without that same reporter seeing the box on his desk, lid sealed in place by a stack of datapads.

Yes, he kept the Constructicons imprisoned in a box. Illegally. Nothing had seemed unacceptably wrong about that until he was about to get caught doing it.

Prowl should probably find a life lesson in that, but he was rather busy loathing the Constructicons for getting him in trouble with the Autobots yet again. Things would go so much smoother if mechs would stop messing with his plans!

"Are you going to let us in?" the reporter asked pointedly, polite and viciously certain that the story of the week was in the office.

Prowl hated everyone in the universe just a bit more. "Of course," he said, and opened the door.

It was all damage control from here.

The box had a door. That was how the Constructicons had kept escaping. The blasted tiny pests had cut a concealed door in the side of the box so they could crawl free when he wasn't looking. They opened it and waved.

Bless their devious minds.

Prowl was nearly a melted puddle of relief sitting in his office chair, but he kept the thin smile on his face and didn't acknowledge the way his internals trembled. He also didn't protest when the Constructicons jumped down into his lap and climbed up to perch on his shoulders. The smug little sounds they made would grate on his nerves later, but not now.

For now, they could be as smug as they liked. He owed him, he knew it and they knew it, and they could hang that over his head however they wished.

As long as they turned a united front on the reporter right now, Prowl would tolerate any attitude they cared to take.

"No, they do not have free reign - they are smaller than my fingers, are you being intentionally stupid? Someone would step on them."

"I don't know how Scavenger got out. No, he hasn't told me. Why would he? He's…not my responsibility that way. I went looking for him when I realized what kind of danger he'd be in, of course."

"They haven't had any difficulty communicating with me."

"Turning up the gain on your audios doesn't help much. They are very small."

"Interpreting gestures, mostly."

"There hasn't been any confusion yet. As you can see, they're quite good at mime. That, ah, is not an official Autobot stance on of your intelligence, for the record."

"They stay in the box, mostly. On my desk, or here in the office."

"With me."

"Why is that strange? No matter where I put - that is, no matter where they start the off cycle, they always find me to recharge on."

"Organizing my desk seems to keep them occupied. I didn't ask them to do it."

"No, I didn't order them to work for me."

"Because they're bored, I suppose."

"I - yes, work could be found for them. I just - it didn't occur to me. They seem content here."

"I am neither jealous nor overly possessive. The only one who's offered to take them was Brainstorm. Would you hand them over to him? I didn't think so."

Optimus Prime shook his head as the interview played on the screen. Prowl shifted uncomfortably. Somehow, everything he'd said during the interview was true but seemed rather condemning now that it was broadcast across Cybertron. When the Prime turned to him, he expected a disapproving look.

Instead, he got a sigh. "You're lucky mechs seem to enjoy tiny antics," the Prime said, pointing at the screen. "Approval ratings have gone up."

The Constructicons waved at the camera enthusiastically. Prowl stared at the screen, noticing them for the first time.

They wanted to go out. Optimus Prime wanted him to go out with them. It was about visibility and repairing Autobot relations to the people of Iacon. Prowl knew that. He also knew that he owed the Constructicons for playing to the camera.

So he went out, walking the city with Bonecrusher on his shoulder and the other four cupped in his hand, and the attention enraged him. He couldn't get these idiots to pay attention when the fate of Cybertron lay in the balance, but have five tiny Constructicons in hand, and suddenly everyone had to come over and talk to him.

The Constructicons peeped and squeaked at the curious gawkers. Prowl shoved his personal feelings down. He could use this.

He could use any opportunity.

They got away eventually. Prowl couldn't watch them all the time. He assumed they'd stick close, but they had their own agenda.

Doing what they wanted didn't take long, even at the pace of teeny-tiny legs. Long Haul transformed and carried the slowest of them in altmode for a while to hurry them along. That zoomed them around fairly quick, especially since they could take paths large mechs couldn't. Nobody really noticed them, which helped. They were simply too small to notice, debris shifting as the rubble of Iacon settled.

They did what they'd set out to do and headed back.

That's when they ran into the turbofox, and the plan went to the smelter.

Being so itsy-bitsy meant that they couldn't outrun the thing, and their shouted threats came out as shrill beeps at best. Loud noises could usually scare off urban wildlife, but they just couldn't produce a loud enough sound with their tiny vocalizers. Long Haul tore off in one direction to give the other four time to wriggle through a tight hole, hoping to find sanctuary on the other side. Unfortunately, the hole was too small for him, being larger than the others, and he raced away in search of his own hiding spot.

Fortunately, being small meant that the turbofox kept overshooting the snapping bites meant to eat him up. Long Haul dodged and zipped around the thing's legs, hoping to escape, but the thing whirled around and ran after him again.

Then he skidded around a corner and nearly ran into a tire. When the turbofox rounded the corner after him, mouth open wide, it yelped in surprise. The tiny bite-sized morsels it'd been hunting were clustered in front of it, screeping and cheeping in distress.

Between the front tires of a much, much larger vehicle.

Prowl growled his engine, low and dangerous. The turbofox turned tail and fled.

"It'll work."

Prowl gave Brainstorm an expressionless stare. The Constructicons clinging to the back of his neck made tiny, quiet sounds of doubt.

"Why does everyone doubt my genius?" the scientist muttered as he set up the shot.

This close to his audio, the skeptical squeaks and peeps were almost audible as words instead of just shrill little noises. Or maybe that was Prowl projecting his own words into the sounds. For once, they were of one mind. Brainstorm was a brilliant weaponsmith, but he didn't follow instructions well. There was no guarantee that he wouldn't interpret 'turn them back to normal' as 'give them superpowers and make them invisible!'

The mind shuddered in horror at the very idea.

"Give them here."

Prowl slowly reached up to collect the micro-sized mechs. "Is there a way to test this on a nonliving subject first?"

"It doesn't need testing! Now give them here. The worst that'll happen is they'll be shrunk to the size of nanocons." Brainstorm didn't seem to understand why that caused the Constructicons to cling tighter to Prowl.

The two Autobots did manage to get them off, however, and the tiny swarm milled about on the sample slide. It unsettled Prowl oddly that Brainstorm was putting living beings on a sample slide, but he dismissed the feeling as unimportant.

The gun zapped.

Five full-sized Constructicons balanced on the table. The two smaller mechs standing beside the table looked up in surprise just in time to catch elbows to the faces as the table collapsed under the weight.

That was Brainstorm, alright. Brilliant scientist, but low on common sense.


Four Constructicons stared upward. One of them absently helped Prowl to his feet. Prowl stared, too. They all ignored Brainstorm struggling out from underneath Scavenger in favor of staring upward.

Long Haul looked back down at them. "Um," he repeated. "This ain't right."

"Brainstorm!" The scientist looked at Prowl, who was livid enough to actually look angry. "This is why tests are part of the scientific process! He's still not the right size."

"I'm huge," Long Haul added. He sounded amused by that fact.

"Like you know anything about science," Brainstorm muttered. "He's the same relative size as he was before. My device enlarged them the same percentage."

"But he was larger than the others because you shrank the others more." Prowl glanced to the side and did a double-take as he realized he had to look up at Hook. "They're all larger than before!"

"Picky picky. First you say they're too small, now you say they're too big."

Long Haul looked from one Autobot to the other, delighted. "Can we stay like this?"

[* * * * *]

[ A/N:Yes, all that to fix the fact that Long Haul ended up twice as tall as his teammates, and the Constructicons now tower over Prowl.]