"Peter Piper pp p p…ah frag it!"
Prowl entered the common room just in time to see Ratchet knock back a shot of energon and gesture to Wheeljack with a gruff , "Your turn."
Curious, the tactician walked over to where the two were sitting in a small circle that included Jazz, Bluestreak and the twins. "Excuse me, but what is going on here?" The black and white asked curiously.
"Drinkin' game." Sideswipe answered brightly.
"It's a good 'un too." Jazz added. "Gotta say a tongue twister. Y' mess it up and y' gotta take a drink. Last mech standin' wins, literally."
"Why?" Prowl queried, head tilted slightly to one side.
"We fragged the 'cons this afternoon, we're all off duty and nobody's in Repair," Ratchet said.
"Now, you gonna join in or let us get back to our game?" When Prowl moved to turn away, the medic added a sly, "Or are you worried we'll beat you?"
If there was one thing that Prowl could not resist, it was a challenge. He nodded and took a chair from one of the other tables and joined the circle, Jazz and Bluestreak moving back slightly to give him room. "So, what is it that we need to say?" he asked. Sunstreaker passed him a data pad with 'Peter Piper' written on it. Prowl read it through once and frowned. "It doesn't make sense."
"It's not supposed to." Sideswipe shrugged. "Just play the game. You can go after Wheeljack."
Prowl nodded and turned expectantly towards the engineer. Wheeljack stood up, none too steadily Prowl noted, ear panels flashing. "Peter Piper picked a...peck of... pickled peppers," he managed to say. A mixture of cheers and boos met his success and he tried to bow to the more appreciative players but nearly toppled face first into Ratchet's lap. He was saved by Ratchet's gentle push to the chest which sent him back the way he came and into his chair. He slouched for a moment in his chair before pulling himself into a more comfortable position.
"Okay, Prowl, you're up," Sunstreaker announced when it became obvious that Wheeljack wasn't going to pass the ball.
Prowl stood up exuding confidence. This was such a simple task and he had no doubts he'd win without ever taking drink. All optics were on him and he met them without flinching. "Peter Piper pickled a peck of picked peppers."
His mouth dropped open in shock as Jazz guffawed and nearly fell out of his chair. A moment later the entire group roared with laughter as they processed in their high-grade soaked CPUs what Prowl had just said. This time he did flinch. His doorwings slumped in embarrassment though he didn't let his face reveal his consternation.
Still giggling, Bluestreak leaned forward and patted Prowl on the knee when the tactician sat down. "It's ok, Prowl. Your version makes more sense anyway."
"Hey, it's your turn, Blue," Sideswipe called out. Bluestreak grinned and turned away from Prowl with a thumbs up. Prowl gazed at the shot of Energon that had found it's way into his hand, caught the amused expression Jazz had for him, and tossed back the shot. That was only one. And it would be the only one. He glanced around at the group but no one was paying any attention to him. All optics were on Bluestreak.
The gunner stood with his hands behind his back like a schoolboy ready to recite his lesson. A very drunk schoolboy judging from the way he swayed in the nonexistent breeze. He opened his mouth and then shut it again, squinted his optics in concentration then began.
"Peter Piper p-p-p-picked a peck..." He paused cocking his head thoughtfully. "What on Cybertron is a peck? Don't birds peck? They have beaks, right? I know, chickens peck. They hit the ground with their beaks. And they peck at each other. So what does that have to do with picking pecks?"
"Blue," Sideswipe interrupted him.
Undeterred, Bluestreak plowed on. "Does that mean peppers have beaks and this Peter Piper guy picked pepper beaks? No, no, that doesn't make sense."
"Blue, it doesn't make sense. Just get on with it," Sunstreaker told him, trying to be patient but not succeeding.
"Oh, okay...Where was I?" He said looking vaguely puzzled. "Can I start over?"
"No!" Everybody shouted at him.
He ducked his head in embarrassment. "All right." He paused, obviously thinking hard, then groaned. "Ah, scrap." He swallowed his energon and sat down. He glanced around as the group laughed good-naturedly and shrugged.
Sideswipe stood up without prompting and gave the group a crooked grin. He appeared to be completely sober but Prowl could tell by the color of his optics and the slight tilt of his head that he was very, very drunk. Prowl wondered just exactly how long this game had been going on and how long they'd been drinking before they even started the game.
Sideswipe returned Prowl's gaze, optics narrowing and grinning ferally at the tactician. Prowl realized that the game was on. Sideswipe was going to do anything he could to win.
Never taking his optics from Prowl, Sideswipe hitched a shoulder slightly, pulling himself straighter and said clearly, quickly and without a slurred word, "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?" His grinned widened and, with challenge in his optics, he swallowed the shot of energon in his hand despite having succeeded. Prowl met the red Lamborghini's gaze coolly, nodding slowly, accepting the challenge.
Sideswipe sat down and Sunstreaker slapped him on the back. "Good one, Swipe," he chuckled.
"Thanks," Sideswipe replied, still staring at Prowl.
Sunstreaker chuckled again at some private joke and then stood up. Sideswipe turned his gaze to his brother and handed him a shot of energon. Sunstreaker glared at him. "I haven't even started," he said, the words slurring ever so slightly.
"No sense avoiding the inevitable, eh, Sunny?"
"Shut yer hole," Sunstreaker growled and tried to knock the drink from Sideswipe's hand. Sideswipe deftly avoided the blow, and Sunstreaker nearly lost his balance. He caught himself before he could land in Sideswipe's lap. He straightened, dismissing Sideswipe with a barely hidden sneer, and flawlessly recited the tongue twister. The smile he bestowed upon his brother was angelic and infuriating at the same time. He took the energon from Sideswipe and paused holding it thoughtfully. Prowl wondered if it was going to be dumped on Sideswipe's head or if Sunstreaker was going to drink it. Either way the results would be interesting.
With a swift flick of the wrist, Sunstreaker swallowed the drink and tossed the empty container back at Sideswipe, who caught it in one hand and crushed it before letting it drop to the floor where it rolled unnoticed under the red Lamborghini's chair. Unnoticed because the brothers were glaring at each other. Then Sideswipe grinned and slapped his brother on the head.
"Good one, bro'," he smirked.
"Slag off," Sunstreaker responded letting his glare soften a bit before turning his attention to the next participant.
Jazz smirked. "Can't ya just feel the love?" he drawled which earned him identical glares. He chuckled and pulled himself unsteadily to his feet. Prowl knew the black and white saboteur could hold his high grade and wondered how much the unsteady posture was an act to throw off the competition.
His answer came quickly as Jazz recited cleanly, bowed gracefully and sat down with a flourish that let the others know in no uncertain terms that the game was on and the competition was tough.
"All yers, Ratch'," Jazz said, smiling broadly at the medic.
Ratchet snorted unhappily as he staggered to his feet. He glared at each member of the circle. "I don' wan' to see any of you in the mornin' beggin' for somethin' for yer hangover," he stated as firmly as his overcharged state would allow.
"Because you'll be keepin' it all fer yerself?" Jazz asked innocently.
"Slaggin' yes, I'm keepin' it for myself," he growled nailing everyone with a look so venomous Bluestreak actually cringed. Jazz howled with laughter. Ratchet snatched up one of the many energon containers littering the floor around his chair and beaned Jazz in the head with it. The black and white didn't even try to avoid the projectile since he was doubled over with mirth.
Prowl studied the medic wondering, judging from his previous attempt, if he could recite cleanly. The tactician didn't think so.
Ratchet tried to stand straight but found himself listing badly to the side. He steadied himself on Wheeljack's shoulder. The engineer raised his head slowly, confused by the sudden weight on his shoulder and blearily regarded his friend. Ratchet ignored him and opened his mouth.
Then closed it again. He frowned, looking puzzled. "How does it go again?" he asked after a moment. Everyone exchanged looks apparently not sure that was allowed.
Jazz made the decision. Shrugging, he showed Ratchet the pad the tongue twister was written on. Ratchet peered owlishly at it without taking his hand from Wheeljack's supporting shoulder, apparently unable to stand up on his own anymore.
"Oooookay," he said. "I think I have it...Peter...Peter...Peter...Primus, what a stupid name," he sputtered and sat down taking the proffered shot of energon from Jazz and swallowing it quickly.
"'Jack?" Ratchet muttered. "Your turn."
Prowl leaned forward slightly. Now that everybody had had a turn he could analyze the data he'd been gathering and determine who was likely to win or to be more precise, who he had to defeat. Wheeljack looked to be finished and posed no threat. Bluestreak had a couple more rounds in him but was definitely not a contender. Ratchet, the same. That left Sideswipe, Sunstreaker and Jazz. Sunstreaker and Sideswipe were jeopardizing their chances by consuming extra energon even when not required but that didn't eliminate them as a threat. In fact, Sideswipe had made it quite clear he was in it to the end. Sunstreaker was just playing along at this point but Prowl didn't think he'd let his brother simply walk away with the win. He was going to be tough
That left Jazz. He didn't try to use logic on Jazz. Jazz simply defied logic. He would have to deal with whatever Jazz did and hope for the best. The saboteur had an early call in the morning and a hangover was the last thing he needed. Prowl decided that Jazz would most likely bail out before things got too out of hand but that was the logical assumption. Prowl sighed and sat up straight. He realized Jazz was watching him, leaning back in his chair, arms crossed over his chest. And when Jazz saw Prowl looking at him, his small grin widened into a wide smile. Prowl sighed again. He hated having Jazz in the mix. He simply added too many variables to the problem. From his expression, Prowl knew exactly what Jazz was thinking: 'It's a game, Prowl. For fun. Enjoy yourself.' Well, this was how he played the game. This was how he made something totally illogical fun.
He held Jazz's gaze a moment longer acknowledging his regard before returning his attention to the game.
Ratchet was still nudging Wheeljack trying to rouse him from his apparent stupor. Wheeljack's head was slumped forward on his chest. One of his wings on his back hung down while the other fought a losing battle to stay up. His ear panels flashed fitfully as he mumbled, "Pe..pep..." He started to slide right off his chair.
Ratchet caught him by a wing but couldn't stop the slide and both ended up in a pile on the floor. The medic pushed himself off of the unresponsive engineer and inspected him with a critical optic. Finally he made a diagnosis.
"Stick a fork in him, he's done," he proclaimed and sat back down, dismissing the unconscious Lancia from his thoughts.
"One down," Sideswipe announced. "Who's next?" He grinned evilly at Bluestreak who had enough wits left to look offended at Sideswipe's insinuation.
"I believe it's my turn," Prowl said quietly. Sideswipe turned his attention from one Datsun to the other.
"I hope you plan on doing better this time," Sideswipe purred.
Prowl stood and went over the words carefully in his mind before speaking. No chance of failure this time, he told himself. "Peter Piper picked a peck of peppers to pickle." Slag... he swore silently barely controlling his frustration. Why couldn't he say a simple sentence? He wasn't even aware of the others' reactions as he analyzed the problem. He drank the shot of energon in his hand and then paused. How did that get there? He glanced around at the circle but nobody had moved, and nobody's expression was giving them away. Everybody was laughing at him. Calmly he sat down and placed the container carefully on the floor next to the other one. He wouldn't be adding another one to that line, he told himself.
He looked over at Bluestreak. The gunner was sprawled in his chair giggling uncontrollably. "Blue, it's your turn," he said carefully, trying to hide his annoyance, wondering why his vocalizer was having trouble forming the words and wondering why he was feeling annoyed. Surely not two drinks.
Bluestreak gave a funny hiccup/cough as he tried to get control of his giggling and stand up. He swayed and sat down again. Finally, he stood and held his position. "Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater..." He stopped and looked confused. There were three spit-takes and a howl of laughter. Even Prowl couldn't hold back a slight smile as Bluestreak said, "What was that?"
"Hell if I know," Sunstreaker offered. "Whatever it was, it wasn't right. Drink up."
Bluestreak did as he was told and, as the high-grade hit his systems, his optics faded slightly. He sat down and settled into a position so relaxed Prowl was convinced he wouldn't be participating in another round.
Sideswipe seemed to be thinking the same thing as he stood to take his turn, confidence practically oozing from him. Prowl noticed, though, that he stood up a bit slower than last time and that his optics looked a bit more unfocussed. Subtle differences, to be sure, but a sign that the red Lamborghini had perhaps overestimated his tolerance. That extra drink had been a crucial mistake.
"Peter Pooper popped a...a...pickled peeper..." Sideswipe stopped and shook his head disgustedly. "Aw, fraggit," he growled and tossed back his shot. As he sat down, Sunstreaker, laughing unpleasantly, patted him on the shoulder. Sideswipe growled at his brother and knocked his arm away.
Sunstreaker ignored the implied insult and stood to take his turn. He stood silently for a minute, a far away look on his face. "Huh," he finally said wonderingly and sat down. He drank his energon and frowned at the questioning looks from everybody. "What?"
"All righty, then," Jazz drawled and stood up. "Peter Piper needs to get out more," he recited solemnly, bowed and sat down. He drank his energon slowly, savoring it and apparently enjoying the puzzled looks he was receiving.
Not all the stares were puzzled, though. Ratchet eyed him suspiciously as did Prowl, but it was Ratchet's turn and his processing power was so reduced that he was having trouble handling more than one task at a time. He didn't even try to stand up this time since there wasn't anybody to hang onto. Leaning forward slightly, hands braced on his legs, he opened his mouth. The sounds that emerged from his vocalizer were unlike anything any of them had ever heard before. Bluestreak was actually startled out of his state of extreme relaxation and stared around wildly looking for danger.
Ratchet was so surprised by the sounds that he'd produced that he drew out his mediscanner and scanned himself. He stared at the results for a moment, shook his head as if to clear the fog and stared at the scanner again. Without another sound, he put the scanner away, slowly got to his feet and staggered across the lounge and out the door. Prowl, Jazz, Sunstreaker and Sideswipe watched him go then looked at each other. Bluestreak had fascinated optics only for his hand which he was waving in front of his face and didn't notice the CMO's departure.
Jazz grinned and shrugged. "Guess he's out."
"So it would appear," Prowl answered, not surprised at all. "And it's my turn again," he added.
"Think ya got it this time, ol' buddy?" Jazz asked with just a bit of a smirk.
Prowl barely spared him a dry look as he flawlessly rehearsed the line several times in his head.
"Peter Piper's peck of peppers he picked were pickled. Slag it." Prowl's mouth clicked shut quickly on the oath but too late. It was out and everybody had heard it.
Jazz managed to stay in his chair and even was able to give Prowl a frown of mock admonishment before dissolving into hysterics. Prowl's doorwings twitched with frustration as he drank down another of those mysteriously appearing energon shots. He set the empty container down and stared at the neat row of three little cups then he looked up at Sideswipe who was slouched, totally relaxed, in his chair grinning at the tactician. Prowl's optics narrowed suspiciously as he glanced back down at the containers.
Sideswipe followed the glance and then shrugged nonchalantly. "Hey, it's not the energon, Prowl. At least, not yet."
"He's right about that," Jazz managed to say.
Prowl nodded slowly. "Yes, that's true. I seem to be incapable of saying something as illogical as this tongue twister."
Sunstreaker leaned forward curiously. "So you're givin' up?"
"No," Prowl said. "After all, I don't have to say it correctly to win."
"Just hold your high grade better than anybody else," Sideswipe added. "That's the rub, now, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is," he agreed, giving Sideswipe another suspicious look. Sideswipe spread his hands innocently. Prowl turned away from the red warrior but didn't let go of his suspicions. Sideswipe was rarely innocent just proving it was difficult.
"Bluestreak?" Jazz interrupted the uncomfortable silence. "You're up." Bluestreak stared back at Jazz but didn't move to stand or recite. "Blue?" He waved his hand in front of the gunner's face and got no reaction. "Blue? It's your turn."
Prowl peered into Bluestreak's pale blue optics. "He appears to be awake."
"The light's on, but no one's home," Jazz pronounced taking Bluestreak's chin in his hand and turning his head to the right and left without any resistance.
"He's out then," Sideswipe said disgustedly. "Bunch of factory freshes can't hold their energon. Don't know why I was expecting better."
Sunstreaker slapped Sideswipe across the top of his head. "Stop flappin' your mouth plates and take your turn."
Sideswipe retaliated with an elbow to Sunstreaker's abdomen which was rewarded with a shove that sent Sideswipe sprawling to the floor with a clatter. Sideswipe leaped to his feet and prepared to charge his brother when Prowl and Jazz quickly stepped between the Lamborghinis. Jazz rested a hand lightly on Sideswipe's chest plate while Prowl did some impressive looming over the still-seated Sunstreaker.
"Ah don't know, boys," Jazz drawled lazily, "but it's lookin' ta me like ya can't finish this. Whadaya think, Prowl, call it a draw?"
Before Prowl could respond, Sideswipe knocked Jazz's hand away and sat down sullenly. He shook his head and grinned innocently at the two black and whites. "Nothing to get excited about, Jazz."
"Yeah, just Siders being his usual stupid self," Sunstreaker added.
"Yeah...What?" He glared at Sunstreaker who shrugged innocently.
"C'mon, guys. Enough displays o' brotherly love. Get on with it," Jazz said.
"All right, all right," Sideswipe responded. He stood up and looked around at the circle, grinning triumphantly at Wheeljack's prone body and Bluestreak's empty gaze. "You guys are toast," he told the conscious participants, took a long swallow of energon, and recited without a mistake.
"Yeah, yeah, we know, you're the best," Sunstreaker muttered and stood up for his turn.
Nobody could quite agree on what happened next. Prowl noticed Sunstreaker's optics fade from a vivid blue to white. Jazz thought he looked a little wobbly after standing up so quickly. Sideswipe just moved his feet so that when Sunstreaker toppled over he didn't land on him. All agreed that he didn't even try to break his fall.
Stunned silence followed the resounding clang of Sunstreaker hitting the floor. More sober heads scattered about the lounge turned and stared.
Sideswipe shook his head disparagingly. "I expected a bit more from him," he sighed.
Jazz started to laugh. Then he couldn't stop. He doubled over, giggling uncontrollably. Every time he started to regain control he'd glance down at the prostrate yellow warrior and start giggling again. Finally, still unable to stop laughing let alone talk, he waved his hands in front of himself admitting defeat. He couldn't go on. He stood up unsteadily and staggered over to Bluestreak, slung the gunner's limp arm over his shoulder and pulled him to his feet. The pair made their wobbly way out of the lounge.
"So," Sideswipe said after the door swished shut, "it's just you and me."
Prowl nodded. "Yes, indeed. My turn."
Jazz entered the command center rubbing his visor and stepping lightly since every footstep made his head ache. Upon waking that morning he'd vowed never to drink so much again but then, he always said that every time he got overcharged.
"Good morning, Jazz."
Jazz dropped his hand and looked at the owner of that too-alert voice. He stifled a giggle which broke through as an embarrassing snort and made his head hurt more.
"Are you well enough to work today?" Prowl asked, mildly alarmed by the strange noises issuing from the saboteur.
"Yeah, sure...um, I have ta ask...who won?"
"Won? Oh, yes, last night. I believe that I did."
"Yes, yes, I'm sure."
"Sideswipe was givin' you his own high-grade energon brew, you know."
"I'm aware of that. And to the others, as well, judging from how quickly they ceased to function properly."
Jazz nodded wisely. "I see. I take it you haven't been back to your quarters yet."
"No, I haven't. I felt I was perfectly functional."
"Uh, huh." Jazz rubbed his head thoughtfully. "So... I know this is none a my business an' all but...looked in a mirror lately?"
Prowl cocked his head curiously at Jazz and then turned to look into the shiny surface of blank monitor screen. He inspected the large black mustache under his nose and the bright orange bow draped over his chevrons. He narrowed his optics and studied himself, turning his head from side to side to get a better look. Calmly, he sat back and looked at Jazz, his expression extremely serious.
"You should see Sideswipe."