Prowl slowly onlined and flexed his joints.
He turned onto his back and contemplated his ceiling.
Optimus Prime had yesterday basically ordered him to use one of his stock-pile of rostered days off.
Prowl had reluctantly agreed, but that didn't mean there weren't things to be done, thought the tactitian, reviewing his tasks for the day.
He'd finished the last of the strategic security grid placements yesterday.
All his duty logs were up-to-date.
He'd perfected four new battle plan strategies the night before (and had the slim hope they wouldn't need to be utilized)
He'd even gotten around to having the chipped areas on his door-panels touched up.
A damning realization hit him.
In essence, Prowl had nothing to do.
At least, nothing duty-bound or work related
Now any other time in a similar situation, the tactitian would have gone looking;
lending a hand in one of the labs, volunteering in the medbay, inventory as a last resort, but he knew Prime would be disappointed on finding the tactitian ignoring a more or less direct order.
And Prowl had too much respect for the Autobot commander to do that.
He slid off his recharge bed and noted the silence from next door; Jazz must've already been out and about.
Prowl wandered out of his quarters into the hall.
It was fairly early and the Ark was still quiet.
Prowl wondered what he could do that wouldn't be considered "work"
He could track down some other off-duty Autobots for a game or ten of Holo-TechChess, but the tactitian was unbeatable, even when he wasn't trying to be, and there were very few Autobots still willing to take him on.
He considered the possibility of contacting the local elementary school and offering to drop in for a road safety talk, but he was hesitant to do so without having Bumblebee with him.
The little humans' erratic behaviour confused him, but the Mini-Bot seemed to have the knack of communicating with them on their level; he was on duty however.
And as fascinating as he found Earth history and science, the thought of furthering his reading on those subjects did not appeal to him today.
He headed to the common room to pick up an Energon breakfast, hoping inspiration might hit.
Prowl greeted Sideswipe and Smokescreen on his way out.
They were just coming off the graveyard patrol shift, and were after their own quick Energon fix before going horizontal and offlining.
The tactitian found himself almost envying the tired mechs; they had something to occupy them for the next several hours.
He wandered out of the Ark into a shining spring morning, entranced by the myriad of birdsong from the nearby pine thicket.
"Hey morning man!"
Prowl glanced around.
"Good morning Jazz...what are you doing up there?"
The Porsche grinned down from his perch on one of the spaceship's defunct thrusters.
"Just enjoying the sun."
He dangled from the edge of the spacecraft for an astrotick, then let go and landed neatly in front of the Datsun.
"Isn't today Prowl No Work Day?"
"Yes," the tactitian agreed without enthusiasm.
"Why didn't you just sleep in then buddy?"
The saboteur looked at him and shook his head.
"Prowl, I'm going to get you a dictionary,"
"Why?" Prowl asked again, puzzled.
"So you can look up the definition of the word "relax", and maybe put it into effect,"
"Jazz, I have no idea what to do with myself," the tactitian admitted.
"It's a beautiful day man; just enjoy the sun."
The Datsun looked at him.
"Can you please elaborate Jazz? What am I to do while "enjoying the sun" ?"
The saboteur looked heavenward for a split astrotick.
He laid his hands on Prowl's shoulders.
Jazz repeated firmly.
He checked his chrono.
"Man I gotta go," he realized, "I'm on Wide Patrol today. Enjoy yourself."
Jazz grinned, transformed and headed off, leaving a bemused Prowl in his wake.
The tactitian wandered to the edge of the pines and spent several minutes (five in all) identifying varying birdsong, and pinpointing each avian's location.
That completed, Prowl felt at a complete loss.
He made his way back inside and to the control room.
Prowl tried without success to convince Trailbreaker to let him cover his monitoring shift, but the easy-going mech wouldn't have any of it.
"You've been talking to Optimus, haven't you," Prowl didn't question.
"Yep," the big Autobot agreed with a big grin, noting the black and white door-panels draw back in annoyance.
Prowl stalked off into the bowels of the Ark, thinking how close he was to instigating the full-scale, A-Level emergency evacuation he'd perfected.
Prime would have his aft.
And the thought of tired Autobots being rudely awoken for no reason, went completely against his grain.
Well, a tactitian could dream.
Prowl deliberately took the long way to the living quarters, just to kill time.
In spite of the fact that Prowl kept it spotless, he decided to clean his room.
At least he'd be doing something.
He noted not quite an Earth hour had passed since he'd risen, and conceded it was going to be a long day.
Passing by his office, Prowl caught a glimpse of Optimus Prime seated at his desk, studying duty logs and rosters, and backtracked.
"Need a hand Prime?" he asked hopefully, with a light tap on the open door.
"No thank you Prowl," the Autobot commander said off-hand.
"Are you sure? Look at all the duty logs that need reading," Prowl said covetously, stepping into the office and gesturing to the stack of datapadds.
"Those are done Prowl,"
Optimus Prime studied his over intellectually-enthusiastic tactitian, and wondered what it would take to get him to take a break.
"Prowl. I'll give you two options."
"Yes?" the tactitian said, trying not sound as eager as he felt.
"Either go back to bed, or go out into the sun."
Prowl looked at him, lost for words.
"That's an order, Prowl," Prime said calmly.
Prowl exited smartly, before Optimus changed his mind and ordered him to watch TV or something equally painfully boring.
Well, he wasn't about to go back to bed, so he made his way unexcitedly back outside.
Prowl sighed and looked around.
This was going to take some practice.
He wandered around the base of the mountain, a little way from the entrance, and chose a sunny patch of grass to settle on.
After an eternity of about twenty seconds of doing absolutely nothing, Prowl began counting the blades of grass in front of him.
"Jazz to Prowl,"
Prowl activated his personal commlink.
"What are you doing buddy?"
Prowl heard the saboteur sigh.
"All right, I'm numerating the blades of grass...and you've made me lose count."
There was a pause.
"You're not serious man?"
"Yes, I am. I don't have anything else to do Jazz,"
"Prowl...just enjoy the sun, ok? Listen to the saboteur just this once. Please?"
Jazz said plaintively.
Prowl ignored the plea.
"Give me your location Jazz, and I'll join you on patrol,"
"No way man! Prime's not going to have my casing on a platter because you can't relax!"
"Look, I'll get you started. Lean back, offline your optics, and just feel the sun,"
"Jazz out, man."
Prowl briefly laid his head in his hands, then glanced around.
He moved back until he was against the base of the volcano.
Prowl couldn't understand what the appeal was, but he trusted Jazz.
He leaned gingerly against the lukewarm rock wall and folded his arms.
"Oh, yeah," he mumbled to himself, remembering to offline his optics.
Prowl ran through tomorrow's duty roster, noting with satisfaction that he had a full schedule.
Even inventory is preferableto this boredom,he thought, absently straightening his legs.
I'd welcome those Decepticon jets if they showed up right now.
He wondered what life was like for the enemy in their undersea headquarters; Prowl assumed it would be very dull when not on duty.
We were lucky to end up here, the tactitian thought, bringing his optics back online, and really noticing for the first time how aesthetically pleasing their 'backyard' was.
Especially mentally compared to dark, dank underwater living.
Prowl doubted the sun's rays penetrated that deep.
The sunshine was pleasantly warm, particularly on his door-panels.
The sound level within the Ark walls had risen slightly; it was no longer early morning.
At least, not what Prowl considered early.
He thought off-hand about the myriad of moods that could be found among the Autobots upon rising.
There were the "early birds," the disoriented and groggy, the cheery "morning 'Bots," the "I-can't-even-remember-my-name-without-my-hot-Energon," those who slept in until the last possible astrosecond, and the touchy, cranky, "Don't even think about speaking to me yet," Autobots who wanted to paralyze the "Morning 'Bots."
Prowl wondered if there were similarities among humans.
He shook his head, surprised at the path his thoughts had taken; this train of thought served no purpose and definitely wasn't important.
An Earth-shattering realization hit him.
He was relaxing.
Prowl was considering this present state of mind when some disgruntled footsteps caught his attention, and one of those touchy, cranky, definitely not Morning 'Bots came into his line of sight.
"Good morning Tracks," Prowl said, raising his voice slightly and straightening up.
"What's good about it," the Corvette grumbled from the Ark's entrance.
"You're off today too Prowl? What got you out of a warm and comfortable bed?"
"For me, Hound and Beachcomber, out at the crack of dawn. Must they have their chatter about sparkling spider webs and sunset - sunrise- and...and who knows what, precisely outside my quarters on their return?"
Tracks grizzled, slothing over and sulkily seating himself on a boulder.
He gave the sparkling morning and the world in general a sour glance.
Tracks looked blearily at Prowl and it slowly registered that the tactitian wasn't working.
"What're you doing Prowl?" he muttered, trying to keep his optics online, then a thought hit him.
"You're coming up with some gruelling new training regime aren't you," the Corvette moaned.
"No Tracks. I'm just...just enjoying the sun," Prowl said with a smile, realizing he was speaking the truth.
"It's going to be early mornings and long cruel hikes, isn't it," Tracks groaned, ignoring the tactitian.
"I knew I should have just ignored the Nature Squad and stayed in bed."
Prowl, amused, watched the big warrior stumble back inside the Ark, probably back into his recharge bed.
Prowl began mentally placing other Autobots into the Morning Mood categories, and was thoroughly enjoying himself when he heard more footsteps.
These ones were faster, lighter, and far more agitated than the last.
The Autobot Chief Of Security stomped out, glanced around, and zeroed in on the tactitian.
"Yes, Red?" Prowl asked pleasantly as he marched up, double-time.
"Tracks came in moaning about your new training schedule, but I don't believe a word of it!"
The red and white Lamborghini folded his arms and glowered at the tactitian.
"That's good Red Alert, because it's-"
"You're not fooling me Prowl," Red Alert forcefully interrupted.
"Something's going on isn't it! You know something, but you're not sharing it, I'm right aren't I!"
"Nothing at all is going on, Red. I'm just enjoying the sun." Prowl said with a smile.
"You're lying! I've never seen you so relaxed. It's far too suspicious. You know something, and I'm going to find out what it is."
Red Alert flounced away, and Prowl couldn't help a slight chuckle.
"Now there's a mech that should be forced into relaxing, not me," Prowl said to himself, conveniently forgetting that he had twice the work schedule of everyone else but Prime, voluntarily.
He noticed his lower half was in shadow by now, and grudgingly pulled himself up to move to a new sunny patch.
Prowl wandered further from the Ark entrance, and chose the spot where several large rocks had once dislodged and tumbled into a vague pyramid.
Egyptology was another facet of Earth history he found utterly fascinating, and reviewed what he'd read so far as he sat in front of the pseudo-pyramid with his back to the mid-morning sun.
This caused a soft shadow on the mountain wall, and he regarded it with interest.
His door-panels may be acceptable on his physical self, but they certainly gave him an odd appearance in shadow form.
He was busy staring at this shadow when another appeared beside it; there was no mistaking that tall slender form.
"Morning Mirage," Prowl said warmly, rearranging himself so he was facing the sun.
The Ligier sat in the grass in front of him.
The spy didn't smile.
"Red Alert's inside, combing through your tacticals. He told me you were out here alone, plotting some misdeed that he wanted to get to the bottom of. Naturally I didn't take any notice of that, but it worried me a little."
The Datsun looked at him curiously.
"Why is that?"
"I'd hate to think something is upsetting one of my friends," Mirage said carefully.
The tactitian kept silent, waiting to see where this was going.
"You're not working, and you're out here...away from everyone,"
"Prowl, do you want to talk about anything?" Mirage asked gently, "You know I'm always willing to listen...I'll do whatever I can to help...and I won't tell anyone."
The tactitian leaned forward, touched and amused.
"Mirage, I'm fine, but thank you very much for the offer."
Mirage looked at him doubtfully.
"Are you sure? I know you're not the type to announce it to the world...but keeping it inside won't do you any good."
"Mirage, aren't you on duty in a couple of astrominutes?" Prowl asked, trying not sound like he was diverting.
The Ligier waved his hand dismissively.
"I'll ask Cliffjumper to take it over; I don't want to leave you alone," he said, watching Prowl in concern.
"I'm fine Mirage, really," Prowl tried to convince him.
"Prowl, I know how hard you can be on yourself, when...when one of your strategies doesn't go to plan, especially in battle."
Prowl paused, momentarily surprised at how empathetic the quiet Ligier obviously was; the tactitian did not openly emote.
"That's true Mirage, but not in this case. I'm just enjoying the sun," he said with a smile.
The spy still wasn't convinced.
"Then it must be personal. Are you sure I can't do something for you?" he said in concern.
Prowl was saved from thinking of an answer when Mirage's commlink chirped; Windcharger,(his offsider for the shift) wanting to know where he was.
"You'd better go," Prowl advised, as Mirage deactivated the link and looked at him uncertainly.
"Please promise you'll contact me if you need anything?" Mirage begged.
"I'll do that Mirage," Prowl said.
The Ligier patted his shoulder and unwillingly left him to go on duty.
Prowl shifted so he was once again leaning back on the mountain wall, and smiling, shook his head.
The thought entered his CPU that Mirage would possibly make a good medic; the caring instinct was strong in that one.
Prowl glanced down and noticed a convoy of ants trooping up and across the large rocks.
He adjusted his optical range to get a clearer look, the Ligier slipping from his thoughts.
Unbelievably organized and cooperative, the tactitian thought.
One line headed up the rocks, each ant carrying a food morsel, the other in the opposite direction to where the food source was located.
Prowl's curiosity got the better of him.
He followed the unladen ant march on his hands and knees for a good fifteen metres before pinpointing their discovery; a small lizard, presumably discarded by some manner of carnivorous bird.
Prowl carefully went back to his spot, trying not to disturb the tiny creatures, and decided to track the opposite column as well.
He traced them to a gap between the boulders, and noticed that the entrance to their nest had been placed in such a position that no rain would ever be able to get in.
He leaned on his elbow-joints, up to his door-panels in the confined space, fascinated, for several astrominutes.
"Skyfire to Prowl, are you all right? Please acknowledge,"
Prowl backed out of the mini-cave and realized the white Valkyrie jet was circling low.
"Prowl to Skyfire, I'm fine,"
"You don't look too good, head down, aft up, between those rocks," Skyfire said in concern.
Prowl got to his feet, slightly embarrassed to have been caught in that position.
"Thank you for your concern. I was just studying some insects, and enjoying the sun,"
"Well, I contacted the Ark to report in, and got Mirage. He thinks someone should be keeping an optic on you, but wouldn't say why. I know you're one Autobot who doesn't need minding, whatever the problem is -if there even is one- but when I saw you, I thought maybe you'd done yourself an injury."
"No problems, and no injury. I'm fine Skyfire, but thanks for checking," Prowl said, raising his hand in a salute to reassure the jet.
Skyfire dipped his wings and headed back into the blue.
Prowl watched him go, then let his gaze fall on some thin, fluff-like cirrustratus clouds.
No rain in the near future, the tactitian thought with something like satisfaction, settling back on the ground.
He continued his meteorological observation, until he realized with amazement the clouds were forming recognizable objects.
"Intriguing..." he mumbled, staring at one that plainly resembled the Ark, before it had become one with Mt St Helens.
He gazed around and spotted another that looked like a sea creature.
Prowl gazed at it, trying to recall the animal's name; Seaspray had returned from a recent foray in the South Pacific with a great deal of data on them.
"Of course. Dolphins. Mammalia Cetacea Delphinidae." Prowl said to himself, indulging in a vision of traversing the Pacific Ocean, and visiting each of the warm, sunny islands.
The daydream took a strong hold on him, and he leaned back and dimmed his optics.
He only came back to reality when he realized the sunny, midday warmth had diminished.
He sat up straighter, assuming the clouds had thickened and covered the sun, and instead looked up at a white and red blur.
"Ratchet," Prowl greeted, normalizing his vision.
The medic kneeled to his level.
"Skyfire contacted me. He's worried you're injured."
Prowl, surprised, didn't immediately respond.
The medic eyed the silent Datsun.
"Ok Prowl, tell me what's up," the medic sighed. "I wish you'd just come to the medbay instead of giving me this run-around."
"Ratchet, I've never felt better," Prowl told him. "I'm fine. No wounds, no nothing."
He moved his arms, legs, and neck in turn to prove himself, then transformed to alt mode and back again.
Ratchet eyed him suspiciously; his door-panels were relaxed, he had a faraway look in his optics, there wasn't a scrap of anything even resembling work nearby, and most damning, he was clearly smiling.
"Don't lie to me Prowl," the medic said severely, standing up and gently taking the tactitian's chin in hand to more closely study his optics, "You're obviously not hurt, but you don't feel well, do you? You just won't admit it. Primus forbid you should make my job a little easier,"
Prowl smiled, again, and settled back on the grass when Ratchet released him.
"I'm in perfect health Ratchet; I'm just enjoying the sun."
"You lay here like a dying duck in a thunderstorm, and you expect me to believe that?" Ratchet snorted, laying a hand on a door-panel to check his body temperature.
"Prowl, walk around for me please, so I can check your equilibrium,"
Prowl sighed to himself, and did something he could not recall ever having done before; he disobeyed a direct request.
"No," he said calmly; the sun was making him feel lazy, something he'd rarely experienced before.
The medic stared at him, flabbergasted.
"What did you say?" he questioned, just to make sure.
"I said 'No'," Prowl informed him.
"Primus, now I know something's wrong," Ratchet asserted, once again checking the Datsun's temperature, positive he'd misread his own experienced touch the first time.
"In all the time I've known you Prowl, you have never once refused an order. You're confused and lethargic. I think you'd better come to the medbay and get checked out properly."
Prowl groaned inwardly and made no attempt to move.
"Ratchet, as I said, I'm just enjoying the sun. I'm perfectly fine. And," he added, slightly coyly, "If I wasn't, wouldn't you recommend rest, in a warm place?"
Ratchet glared at him.
"No Prowl. I wouldn't. I'd recommend a full examination by a qualified medic, me, in a sterile environment, the medbay. Now."
"Ratchet. I'm not sick. Far from it." Prowl said civilly, and proceeded to tune out the inevitable tirade about stubborn tactitians who were too slagging stubborn for their own slagging good.
Prowl smiled to himself and watched the clouds.
"I thought you'd still be here,"
Prowl glanced up at Wheeljack from his sun-warmed patch of Oregon.
He'd simply kept up his polite refusals to go to the medbay, and there was little the medic could do, short of throwing him over his shoulder and carrying him there.
"Hello Wheeljack," Prowl greeted.
"Ratchet is convinced you're on your way to getting sick, but you look pretty healthy to me."
Wheeljack laughed, vocal indicators flashing.
"I would love to have seen your passive resistance; Ratchet's inside just about having conniptions. He says the only way you'd not be doing some sort of work is if you were at death's door."
Prowl paused, envisioning the medic's mini-tantrum at the thought of his conviction that an unwell Autobot was going untreated.
"So you got an audio full too, Wheeljack," Prowl said dryly, sitting up straight.
"I did, but then Inferno stumbled into the medbay with a cracked optic, and I made good my escape,"
"Is he all right?" Prowl asked in concern.
"Yeah, he'll be fine, but now he's forced to listen to Ratchet," Wheeljack chuckled.
He leaned against a boulder and studied the tactitian.
"I have to admit it is unusual to find you 'at ease' though. I think I know what's wrong Prowl,"
"You're homesick aren't you," the engineer said gently.
"Well, no Wheeljack, not to any great extent," Prowl said truthfully.
"We're here now, and we need to stay here for as long as necessary."
"Uh-huh," Wheeljack grunted, not believing a word of it.
"I bet Mirage wishes he could keep his homesickness as quiet as you do."
He looked at the quiet tactitian for an astrotick.
"Don't be embarrassed about it Prowl, I bet all of us get homesick at some point,"
Prowl looked up at him and smiled.
"I know Wheeljack, but right now I'm feeling happy to be here...just enjoying the sun,"
"Well, ok. I need to go and keep an optic on a new chemical compound...Do you want to help? That'll get your mind off home," Wheeljack offered.
"Thanks Wheeljack, but I think I'll stay here. Good luck with it," Prowl said sincerely, and the Lancia disappeared.
Prowl mentally braced for the iminent explosion, and chided himself.
Not all of Wheeljack's experimental blends and inventions ended in disaster.
Prowl wondered briefly what concoction he was tinkering with this time, but curious as he was, he didn't want to leave the sun.
He stretched a little and let his thoughts wander to his home town on Cybertron.
He did miss it when he was thinking about it, but not to the point Wheeljack had him pegged.
He thought fondly of what had been his favourite place before the war; Cybertron's biggest library, and it had been less than an astromile from his residence.
The thoughts did not upset or depress him, because he believed they would all be able to return to their home one day in the future
But there was no sun on Cybertron.
Prowl began humming some classic rock tune Jazz had been blasting in his quarters the previous evening, practically shaking the walls.
He detected voices partway around the Ark from where he was; two Autobots were making their way to the shooting range.
Prowl absently analysed the mathematical diapasonics in the melodies as Swoop and Sludge trotted up in robot form.
"Why Prowl make that sound?" Swoop asked, the Dinobots casting a shadow as they stood in front of the Datsun.
Prowl smiled up at the small Dinobot.
"I'm just enjoying the sun, Swoop."
"Sludge see no sun on Autobot Prowl," the brontosaurus spoke up, confused.
"That's because you're blocking it," Prowl explained mildly.
Swoop glanced behind him and moved Sludge out of the tactitian's sunlight.
"What can I do for you two?" Prowl asked in interest.
"Wheeljack say, no one talk about Cybertron near Prowl, Prowl miss home planet very much-"
"Sludge feel bad for Autobot Prowl," Sludge put in candidly,
"And Swoop do too," the ptaranadon explained.
"We come to see if Prowl ok,"
"I'm fine Swoop," Prowl said gently, impressed by their empathy.
"Then maybe Autobot Prowl feel lonely," suggested Sludge.
"Raawk, yes! Prowl might be lonely," Swoop agreed.
They turned to him questioningly.
"I'm not lonely either, but I appreciate your thoughtfulness,"
."But Prowl all alone," Swoop pointed out. "Swoop get lonely when all alone."
"Sometimes I like to be alone Swoop," Prowl explained.
"Sludge and Swoop keep Autobot Prowl company," the brontosaurus offered.
"Thank you Sludge, Swoop, that's very kind, but I'm fine. Really. I'm just enjoying the sun...and thinking," he added.
Sludge brightened. "Prowl think up strageties?"
The black and white mech didn't correct him.
"Dinobots leave Prowl alone then," Swoop declared.
They headed around behind the Ark, waving as they went.
Prowl smiled and waved back.
It was a great satisfaction to Prowl to see the Dinobots gaining knowledge, both intellectually and from life, and was pleased to have been part of their creation.
Prowl shifted his leg and felt something lightly scratch his heel component.
He delicately picked a thin stick off the grass in front of him and idly identified it as pine.
He was about to set it aside, when his gaze fell on a sandy patch near his foot.
Prowl hesitated, then awkwardly etched his name in the sand, with the stick.
Prime had asserted that they all learn to read and write English, out of courtesy, and to make communications easier.
It is vastly different to the integral algorithmic alphabet used on Cybertron,
Prowl thought, comparing his name written in Cybertronian to it in English.
"Interesting medium," the tactitian said to himself, wiggling the stick through the sand again.
He moved slightly closer to his sandy drawing board and smoothed it over.
He re-wrote his name in both alphabets, more neatly, then also added it in English capital lettering; to the tactitian it seemed odd to have two versions of the same alphabet, but that's the way it was.
Prowl paused and studied his handiwork.
He would never have admitted it to anyone, but that simple act had been surprisingly enjoyable.
Prowl slowly outlined a sunburst in the warm sand.
There were some real artists among their ranks, and Prowl freely acknowledged he wasn't one of them...but this didn't look too bad, he decided.
He wondered how his acid-pellet rifle would appear in two-dimensional form, and began carefully outlining it.
Prowl was patiently attempting yet again to accurately draw the five-pointed star, on his door-panel shields etched in the sand, when a yellow Lamborghini peeled around the base of the Ark and transformed.
"What on Cybertron is wrong with you?" Sunstreaker asked, warily eyeing the tactitian.
"Why would you think anything is wrong?" Prowl asked genially, looking up from his line drawings.
"That dopey Dinobot Sludge nearly wiped me out with his tail near the shooting range.He said he wasn't paying attention because he was thinking about a friend. He told me you were lonely. I've never heard you use that word to yourself."
Prowl smiled slightly, laid down his drawing implemet, and followed Sunstreaker's gaze to the ground in front of him.
"Why are you putting your name in sand?"
Prowl shrugged. "I'm not really sure, Sunstreaker. But I'm not lonely," he pointed out.
Sunstreaker continued staring at his sketches, and Prowl was certain he saw the warrior start slightly.
"You're not going to snap and go beserk on us, are you?" he demanded sharply.
"I've never seen you like this,"
Prowl glanced at his drawings for a split astrotick, and realized his stick figures of a few nondescript humans and Autobots were (unintentionally) on the wrong end of the rifle sketch.
"I can't promise anything Sunstreaker," Prowl said in an unruffled tone, looking the warrior directly in the optics.
"Um, ok, well, just...just stay here in the sun, all right Prowl?" Sunstreaker said, trying hard to sound casual, and beat a hasty retreat.
Prowl folded his arms on his knee-joints, laid his head on his arms, and proceeded to silently crack up laughing.
He tried to compose himself, and decided to do away with his handiwork before they gave anyone else the wrong idea.
Prowl smoothed the sand over as a long, thin late-afternoon shadow moved closer.
"Hey Prowl ol' buddy, is someone giving you a hard time?"
Ironhide asked gently.
The older Autobot squatted to the tactitian's level.
"I ran into Sunstreaker on his way in, literally, and he nearly fell out of his casing. He's jumpier than a refitted technorat, and leakin' grease about you losing your marbles."
Ironhide studied the calm, sensible mech.
"He was hightailin' it to Prime. You sure put the wind up him Prowl."
The tactitian couldn't stop himself smiling at that.
Ironhide plonked onto the ground.
"Now buddy, I been hearing stuff about you all day, and not believing it. But the way Mr Ego was carrying on, I thought I'd come check on you myself," he said straightforwardly.
"Well, as you can see Ironhide, I'm fine," Prowl said with a slight shrug, "I've just been enjoying this warm spring sunshine."
The Datsun noticed the big red Autobot looking over the ground.
"My sand drawings have been erased," Prowl informed him wryly.
Ironhide gave his slow chuckle.
"Well look Prowl, I've been thinking about you being here alone. I think someone's giving you grief, aren't they? You're too polite for your own good, buddy. You go and tell whoever it is to lay off, or they'll have to deal with me."
Prowl looked past Ironhide and calculated the sun would slip behind the volcano, leaving his side of it in shadow, in about seven astrominutes.
He turned his gaze to the older Autobot.
"Thank you Ironhide, I appreciate that, but..."
He looked at the kindly optics; the red mech had an interior of pure gold.
"Thank you," Prowl finished.
"Aw, that's ok. But you let me know, all right?" Ironhide insisted as he pulled himself off the ground.
"I'm too old for this," he mumbled, flexing a couple of creaky joints, and Prowl smiled.
He got himself off the ground when Ironhide had gone, and slowly walked around the base of the mountain, to catch the last rays of the day.
Prowl sat on the grass near the pine thicket, noting the morning's birds had returned.
They weren't bursting with song as they had been just after sunrise; their chirps were comfortably communicative as they returned to their nests for the night.
Prowl heard the away Autobots gradually beginning to come home too, and looked forward to hearing what had gone on in his 'absence'
"There you are,"
Prowl turned at the happily triumphant declaration.
"Bluestreak. I haven't seen you today," Prowl realized.
"I've been helping Skids process all those new bookfiles for the library," the gunner explained.
"It was pretty easy, but I've been hearing about the beautiful sunshine all day,"
He glanced at the sun beginning to set.
"Well, there's always tomorrow," Bluestreak said cheerfully.
He settled beside Prowl.
"Ironhide said you were keeping to yourself because someone's been hassling you, but I don't believe that,"
Bluestreak smiled at the tactitian.
"I'm glad to hear that Bluestreak, because it isn't true," Prowl pointed out.
"I know. I personally think you're just bored Prowl," he said.
He scrabbled around and pulled a bookfile out of a subspace pocket.
"I saved this for you; I know you're happiest working, but I thought this was something you'd like," Bluestreak explained, handing it over.
"It's a new Earth history text. Or geography. Or something like that. Something you'd enjoy anyway."
"Thankyou Bluestreak, that's very thoughtful," Prowl said appreciatively, studying the bookfile.
"This is about Ancient Greek archaeological finds," he explained.
"I will certainly enjoy reading this later Bluestreak,"
The silver Datsun looked at him oddly.
"You're not dying to read a new book straight away?"
Prowl held a hand out to the soft warmth of the slanted rays.
"Just enjoying the sun," he said quietly, with a slight smile.
"Uh, ok. Are you coming in? It'll be dark soon," Bluestreak pointed out, standing up.
Prowl wondered if there was a good reason why he couldn't spend the night watching the stars.
"I'll be in shortly Bluestreak," he confirmed, pocketing the bookfile.
Prowl thought about the night sky that would make its appearance soon, and resolved to spend one night observing from dusk to dawn.
Prowl caught the sound of a familiar alt mode, and a Porsche ambled up, transformed, plonked onto the ground, and flopped on his back.
"Tired Jazz?" Prowl asked sympathetically.
"Man, I must've seen most of North-West Oregon today. At least the sun was a ruby-dazzler."
"Yes, it was," Prowl agreed with conviction.
Jazz leaned up on his elbows and eyed the Datsun.
"You've been out here all day man?"
"I have. Do you believe me?"
Jazz managed a shrug.
"Why wouldn't I? Ihoped you'd listen to me, and you did...Why?"
Jazz was having hysterics as the tactitian dryly described his assumed woes.
By the time Prowl got to Sunstreaker, Jazz was begging him to stop; he swore he could feel his sides splitting.
Prowl folded his arms and regarded the saboteur as he pulled himself to a sitting position.
"What do you think Jazz?"
The Porsche studied his cool, collected friend.
Prowl was still cool and collected -Jazz never expected that to change, at least not in this lifetime- but there was something different; Jazz realized he was relaxed.
"Let's see man. Sounds to me like you gave yourself a few hours away from a difficult and demanding job, in the midle of a raging war. I just wish you'd done it sooner. And now you've discovered how, I hope you'll do it more often."
"Don't forget rattling several friends on the way," Prowl pointed out wryly, "You should have seen Sunstreaker's face..."
Prowl felt the temperature fall as the sun dipped behind the pines, and decided it was probably time to think about going inside.
He ignored the voice at the back of his CPU, pointing out how ironic it was that he didn't want to go inside, when this morning he hadn't wanted to be outside.
Jazz had taken off for the wash rack, to "flush the dust" as he'd put it.
Prowl got to his feet and saw grass stains from foot to knee-joint.
He glanced at each door-panel; they were coated in a fine layer of dust, and he realized sand was gritting in his elbow junctions.
Prowl hoped it would all wash out; he didn't fancy having to pay a visit to Ratchet.
"All right, who are you and what have you done with my tactitian?"
Prowl stopped examining his various stains and quickly turned.
"At ease Prowl, don't undo all the good you've done yourself today," Optimus Prime said with a twinkle in his optics.
The Autobot commander put a hand on the Datsun's shoulder.
"I know you won't see it yourself Prowl, but I can," he said quietly, and it was true; the tactitian was still alert but not in a negative way, and the tenseness both Prime and Jazz had seen in him had disappeared.
"Well, I did enjoy the sun today Prime," Prowl admitted grudgingly.
"I had several Autobots come to me today about you, too. Ratchet wanted me to give you a direct order to report to the medbay. Mirage thinks you're keeping some awful personal problem under wraps. Red Alert is unshakeably convinced there's a conspiracy against him. Sunstreaker-" Optimus paused.
"Well, I don't think I've ever seen him so panicked. He's positive that you've lost a few dozen microcircuits in the CPU, and just about begged me to confine you to quarters."
Prowl shook his head, highly amused that a few hours of uncharacteristic behaviour on his part could cause such a stir.
He thought Prime must have had something to do with him being left alone, particularly by Red and Ratchet, and was silently grateful
Tactitian stood with commander, and they watched the last rays of sun sink behind the pine trees.
Jazz, now shining clean, settled at a table in the Ark common room, and listened, snickering to himself, to the group of animated Autobots a few tables away.
This was obviously the Something's Badly Wrong With Our Tactitian committee.
Jazz saw Prowl enter and waved him over.
Prowl wandered over, inordinately pleased that all his elbowsand had washed out easily.
The 'committee' didn't even notice him pass, so busy were they loudly debating his mental state, emotional state, health and motives.
Prowl joined the saboteur and they listened to the bable of theories.
"Hehe, they're so concerned, and don't even realize you're here," Jazz giggled.
"I'll just keep it that way too Jazz," Prowl said dryly, "Ratchet would likely get the others to restrain me for an examination, Sunstreaker wants me committed, Mirage would have me laying on a couch recounting my creation, and I hate to even theorise what Red Alert would do."
Prowl watched Jazz laughing into his folded arms on the tabletop.
"But I did decide three things while I was at the wash rack Jazz. One, I don't think anyone could keep a real problem hidden in the Ark. Two, the concern we clearly all have for each other, as...annoying...it can be, is truly touching,"
"And three?" Jazz mumbled, still giggling.
"The next time I'm talked into having a day off, I'm going to lock myself in my quarters with a bookfile!"