The Letter of the Law
by Shadowshock

I stomped into the small gathering room, muttering under my breath about the activities of a certain Datsun.

"Going around the Ark for a pleasure stroll, indeed," I snorted, glaring around the small room. As if Prowl would ever do anything purely for pleasure. He had undoubtedly sensed that the Ark was simply too quiet.

During said stroll, Prowl had caught us halfway through setting up a prank in the hallway which Ironhide, Huffer and Gears would be using the next morning. Of course, I had just happened to be handling all the equipment when Prowl rounded the corner, while Sideswipe was on the opposite end of the corridor.

I had frozen in surprise, but Sideswipe hadn't missed a beat. He had explained to Prowl that he'd been urging me to alter my plans. Which, technically, was correct; he had been trying to get me to use hot pink paint instead of red. But he left out most such self-incriminating details.

I don't think Prowl really bought the sweet talk, but I'd earned twenty-four traffic tickets that week as opposed to Sideswipe's none, so the red devil had been permitted to flee the scene of the crime.

I, on the other hand, had been sentenced to cleaning Gathering Room 3C...

...with a toothbrush.

Now the 'C' rooms aren't that big; only one-third the size of the 'A' rooms. I could have had it sparkling clean with time left over to repaint as well, if I'd been allowed to use the proper tools. But Prowl had said a toothbrush, and since we Transformers have no use for the things, I had been reduced to borrowing one from the resident humans.

Consequently, as I crouched there, I was spending more time trying not to crush the thing between my fingers than I was on cleaning the dirty floor, and my knees were rapidly collecting more dirt than the toothbrush had any hope of removing.

I sighed. It was going to be a long day.

It was some time later when Sideswipe finally came by, sneaking into the room after many glances over his shoulder and closing the door once he was in.

I raised an optic ridge, not quite sure what to make of my brother's behavior. "Took you long enough --"

"Shhh," Sideswipe hissed, alarmed. "Prowl might be around."

I just stared at him.

"Prowl's been monkey-guarding you, and if I'm caught fraternizing with the prankster, I might be put in the slammer too," he explained.

I rolled my optics and tried to get back to work.

"He's also been watching the computer activity like a hawk. I had to ask Bluestreak how you were being punished," he continued. "So --"

"So you decided to visit the criminal and congratulate yourself on your escape?" I interrupted sarcastically. "I'm gonna get you, Sides. Real good."

"Yeah, yeah, whatever." Sideswipe shrugged off the threat and tapped insistently on my shoulder. "So what were Prowl's instructions?"

Knowing he wouldn't leave until he'd had a look, I pulled out the datapad and handed it to my twin with a longsuffering sigh. This bought me several cycles of blessed silence while Sideswipe studied the instructions closely, during which I discovered a slightly better method for maintaining my tenuous grip on the flimsy toothbrush.

"So... he just says a toothbrush, right?"

I didn't bother answering. He was just restating what I already knew.

"And... I can't find where he says that it has to be a human toothbrush."

I paused again, noting with the back of my mind that I had only been able to get a hand-sized patch done within the last half-hour. "Sides, what other toothbrush is there?"

Sideswipe handed the pad back with a grin -- the same grin that he wore on his face whenever he presented me with a new prank idea. "Things are where you find them, bro."

He clapped me on the shoulder, cracked the door open, checked the corridor and slipped out without another word, leaving me confused and a little worried. What could he be up to?

I shook my head and kept scrubbing.

He came sneaking back in two hours later, hauling a large item with him. The shape was vaguely familiar.

"What is that?" I asked, wondering how he had managed to smuggle it past Prowl.

"This, my friend, is an electric toothbrush!" Sideswipe practically beamed as he held it up for inspection. The ungainly contraption had been cobbled together from a length of pipe, some rotating wire bristles, two jumper cables and a rusty auto battery - all scrounged, no doubt, from Wheeljack's workshop. I held my own against it for comparison and raised an optic ridge.

"It's a Transformer-sized toothbrush," Sideswipe explained. "Prowl never said you had to use a human toothbrush, nor did he specify its size." He was rather smug over having detected that loophole before I had.

I thought about it for a moment, then traded toothbrushes. Maybe it wasn't such a bad idea after all. Sideswipe grinned triumphantly and gave the room a calculative once-over. "Meet me in three hours?"

"Make it two."

It was only half an hour after I joined Sideswipe in the rec room that Prowl came strolling by.

"Sunstreaker, I thought you had a job." It wasn't a question.

"But it's finished! I cleaned the room. Sir."

His door panels flicked as he gave me an unreadable look, but he appeared to accept my answer at face value and left the room. We thought that would be the end of that, and went on planning our next prank.

We should have known better. Prowl never gives up that easily.

* * *

"He let us off too lightly. That should have been our first clue."

We were down on our knees scrubbing the floor of Gathering Room 3A, with toothbrushes. This time Prowl had specified the maximum acceptable size for said implements.

For several minutes we worked in resigned but companionable silence. Suddenly, Sideswipe perked up.

"Hey, Prowl didn't put any limit on how many toothbrushes we could use. Did he?"

Disclaimer: All characters copyright Hasbro. Written for Starhorse's Flashfic Contest.