Ratchet stared at the one name left on his chart of the Ark's compulsory monthly medicals.
The mech the name belonged to was the bane of his medical existence, and frustrated him more than the rest of the Autobots combined.
He could also wallpaper the Ark -inside and out- with his incredible stubbornness.
"Prowl," the medic growled to himself, "Prowl."
Every monthly invariably found him chasing down the strategist.
It happened every time.
For the life of him, Ratchet couldn't work out why.
The exam was short, routine, painless, and even embarrassment-free.
And once Ratchet actually did manage to wrestle a few readings out of him, Prowl, like just about everyone else, was perfectly healthy.
What irked the medic more than anything else, was that no one believed him when he complained about the hard time the tactician gave him.
"It's going to be different this time Prowl," Ratchet declared, "No more excuses. Enough is enough."
"Prowl man, for Primus' sake, will you get lost? Wasn't a double shift enough for you?"
"Get," the Porsche commanded, lightly pushing the Datsun away from the control room console enough for him to take Prowl's place.
"Listen, there are several anomalous-"
"I'll take care of it man! Go and get some rest or read or whatever. Honestly Sarge, you're like a leech when it comes to work,"
A couple of other Autobots within hearing range snickered at that.
Jazz ignored the tactician and picked up where Prowl had left off on the monitor.
The second in command lingered at the saboteur's shoulder, silently analysing the continuous readings.
It wasn't that he thought Jazz or anyone else couldn't manage, far from it.
Prowl wanted to know the ins and outs of everything he encountered, and he was curious to see what was causing these odd readings.
Even if it was something as trivial as intereference from Earth short-wave television broadcasts.
"You still here?" Jazz half-groaned, glancing over his shoulder.
He shook his head.
"Prowl man, I wasn't going to tell you til later, but it's probably the only thing that'll demagnetize you. I got you a brand-new bookfile on Ancient Greece or something. It's in my locker if you want it now,"
Prowl listened in thrilled delight as Jazz described how Chip had recommended the text, knowing how deeply Earth history fascinated the second in command.
"-So I converted it to bookfile form last night, and-"
Prowl caught a glimpse of someone large and white stalk into the control room, and it wasn't Skyfire.
"Uh, I appreciate that very much Jazz, I'll have to think of a special thank you," Prowl interrupted hurriedly, gave the saboteur a quick pat on the shoulder.
"I don't want a thank you buddy, I just want you to go-" Jazz began, turning his seat, but the Datsun had vanished.
"Away," the saboteur finished up.
"Hehe, it worked," Jazz chuckled to himself.
He flung his seat into a three-sixty, stopping himself dead centre in front of the console.
"Do that nine or ten times Jazz, and I'll be treating you for spacesickness," Ratchet dryly commented from behind him.
Jazz laughed and tilted his head back to look at the medic.
"Whoa," Jazz mumbled.
Even upside down, Ratchet was plainly ticked off.
"What's up Doc?"
The medic glowered.
"He was here an astrotick ago Ratchet man," Jazz told him, still in his alternate position, "Why?"
The medic brandished his datapadd of completed medicals, bar one, in answer.
"Prowl's locked in "Avoid Ratchet" mode, as per usual around medicals time Jazz," Ratchet sniped and exited, on the, er, prowl for Prowl.
The medic caught the tactician just leaving his quarters.
"Ratchet," Prowl greeted him genially, "Anything wrong?"
Yeah, you, Ratchet mentally growled.
"You're the only Autobot who hasn't had this quartek's medical, again," Ratchet informed him, getting straight to the point, "And I don't want you to leave it for too long,"
He looked at the silent Datsun meaningfully.
"I'm sorry Ratchet, I'd come right now-"
"Sure you would," the medic mumbled.
"-But I need to see Optimus, it's urgent,"
Prowl said, pulling out a datapadd in explanation.
"Oh, all right then," Ratchet grumbled and stepped aside.
The Datsun gave him a slight smile, and headed down the hall.
Ratchet openly followed him, not trusting the Datsun's word in this case.
However the tactician did make his way to Optimus Prime's office, and Ratchet watched him tap on the commander's door.
"Prime, it's Prowl; can I speak to you for an astrotick?"
The medic huffed to himself as Prowl quietly entered Optimus' office, and headed to the labs, hoping to find Wheeljack or Skyfire to whine at.
"Are you busy Optimus?"
"Never too busy for my second in command. What can I do for you?" Optimus Prime said warmly, gesturing to a seat.
"I was just wondering if you'd like a game of TechChess?" Prowl asked, sitting his datapadd on the commander's desk and activating the holographic display.
Ratchet tapped lightly on the tactician's closed door later that night.
When he got no answer, the medic realized the Datsun must already be in recharge.
Ratchet knew Prowl's responsibilities outweighed everyone's but Optimus Prime's, and softened a little.
"You're lucky I'm a nice guy, or I'd just examine you while you're offlined Prowl," Ratchet muttered, grudgingly deciding one more day wouldn't matter.
And failing to notice the flash of a black and white door-panel, as its owner appeared around the corner and immediately ducked back out of sight.
"Sleep tight, Your Logicalness," Ratchet snorted, and wandered back down the hall.
Prowl listened to him go, and slipped into his quarters.
It was general knowledge that the tactician usually only closed his door when he entered his quarters to recharge, but this time he'd kept the room sealed because his space was a little on the untidy side at the moment.
Or what Prowl considered untidy, anyway.
Either way, it worked to my advantage, he thought, unable to keep back a slight chuckle.
He put the TechChess datapadd away.
The tactician was honestly surprised at how quickly time had seemed to pass while he and Prime were playing.
They'd become absorbed in the logic of the game, and night had fallen before either realized how long they'd been at it.
"Time flies when you're having fun," Prowl recalled the Human expression, and as illogical as it was, had to agree.
Prowl snickered as he recalled his meeting with the Ark's resident medic.
If Ratchet had caught him just reading, he'd have rushed him then and there.
So as tantalizing as that bookfile waiting in Jazz's locker was, Prowl had decided against it.
Now he really was tired, and more than ready to get close to his bunk.
Ratchet sipped his hot late-night Energon, idly scrolling through previous months' medbay records.
Last time the medicals had been due, he'd been on an extended scientific assignment with Skyfire and Wheeljack, and Hoist had handled them.
He didn't say anything about Prowl's carrying on, Ratchet suddenly realized, and wondered if the tactician had somehow dodged it altogether.
The medic found the Datsun's records and skimmed them.
He'd been among the first group of Autobots to report for his medical.
No wonder no one believes me, Ratchet seethed, He acts the saint for everybody else!
"Slagging stubborn mech," the medic grouched under his vocalizer as he found the next day's duty roster.
"I thought you were off tomorrow, Your Logicalness," Ratchet muttered, the roster confirming it.
"My day off too Prowl, so watch out. I don't care if the sky falls down, tomorrow you get your medical."
Jazz stood and had a good stretch at his shift's end.
He caught Tracks' optic, cracking the pair of them up yet again.
They'd spent most of the shift picking on Sunstreaker.
The yellow Lamborghini was suffering a mild throat complaint, and it had effectively nulled his vocalizer.
It wasn't painful, and Ratchet had assured him it would be brief.
And what better time to hassle someobody, than when they couldn't verbally defend themselves?
"'Night Sunshine," Jazz grinned.
The warrior was in a foul humour by now, and gave the saboteur an extremely rude gesture in response to the despised nickname.
The Porsche snickered, and turned back to the Lamborghini like he'd just remembered something.
"Oh Sunny man? You might want to get that awful, awful scuff looked at," Jazz said seriously.
Sunstreaker looked down at himself with an expression of horror, then from the saboteur to Tracks.
WHERE! his look plainly bawled.
"Oh wait, that's just your face," Tracks sniffed, and exchanged a handshake with Jazz, now in hysterics.
Sunstreaker furiously pitched a datapadd at the saboteur, who dodged and exited.
"Good luck Tracks man!" Jazz called as the yellow Lamborghini advanced on his fellow warrior.
Jazz was slightly surprised to find the new bookfile untouched in his locker, and decided to drop it in.
It wasn't unheard of for Prowl to online and spend the rest of his supposed recharge cycle reading.
The Porsche scrawled a note to leave with the bookfile.
Prowl man, was just long range air force radar, J.
Jazz knew Prowl would probably be up and around much earlier than himself, and wouldn't enter the offline saboteur's quarters unless it was a dire emergency.
Not even to collect the coveted, unread bookfile.
Jazz eased into his neighbour's quarters as quietly as he could manage.
Prowl was known to online at the slightest sound or touch, and have you disarmed and defenseless in the same instant.
The saboteur had never seen anyone else recharge the way Prowl did.
Jazz paused and looked at the Datsun for an astrotick.
Curled up on his left side, half on his front, both hands tucked under the headrest, left leg straight, right knee-joint pulled to hip level.
And his door-panels.
The left was flat face-down on the bunk, the right lay forward resting on his shoulder.
It all looked mightily uncomfortable to Jazz.
He grinned, shrugged, and silently laid bookfile and datapadd note on Prowl's desk.
Jazz slipped out and crawled into his own bunk.
In the more conventional on-his-back position.
Ratchet stationed himself outside the tactician's quarters, and waited.
And waited some more.
"I could still be in my warm comfortable bed, but nooo," the medic grumbled to himself, "I have to spend my day off chasing down His Royal Stubbornness,"
Ratchet checked his chrono, slightly surprised that the Datsun was still in bed himself.
Prowl rarely slept in.
Although it was not much past cockcrow, Ratchet conceded grumpily.
Even the magical early morning sunlight meandering down the living quarters hall didn't appease him.
Ratchet caught a shuffling sound that indicated an Autobot getting off their bunk, and got himself ready to corral the tactician when he set foot in the hall.
A door was wrestled open, but not Prowl's.
Instead, the Ark's other black and white mech blearily appeared.
"Oh man," Jazz moaned, catching sight of the sunlight at his feet.
"Morning Jazz," Ratchet said, as the saboteur supported himself leaning against his door-frame.
The Porsche gave him a vague one-handed greeting, rubbing his head with the other.
"Are you ok?"
"Yeah," Jazz mumbled, "I couldn't be bothered getting any Energon last night, and now I'm feeling it,"
He raised his head and focused on the medic.
"What's up man?"
Ratchet shook his head.
"I'm trying to grab Prowl for the lousy fifteen astrominutes I need to examine him and say, 'You're fine, don't run out in front of any Decepticons,' but the stubborn glitch will not cooperate!"
"He's off today Ratchet man,"
"I know," the big mech glowered, "That's why I've been standing here since sunrise waiting for him to make an appearance,"
"Why didn't you see if he was up?" Jazz asked, beginning to perk up from warm sun and conversation.
The medic hesitated.
"I don't like just barging into an Autobot's quarters Jazz," he said, slightly uncomfortably.
Jazz stepped away from his door and to Prowl's, then gave it a couple of taps.
"Prowl man, you up?"
Jazz slid the door open and entered the tactician's room, leaving it open.
"No one's home Ratchet man," Jazz grinned, and the medic joined him.
Prowl's bedpad had been brushed down, the headrest shaken and turned - the Autobot equivalent of making one's bed.
Ratchet laid a hand on the bedpad.
"Stone rusting cold," he growled, "He's been gone for awhile."
Jazz looked at the cranky medic.
"Ratchet...are you serious? Does Prowl really act up on you like you say?"
"Yes Jazz, I'm completely serious! Yes, Mr Virtue himself acts like a complete diehard jackass! And yes, he does it to me every time!"
"Look at that Prowl!" Skyfire exclaimed.
The Datsun leaned over the Valkyrie's open base hatch, the brisk, tangy Pacific Ocean breeze whisking past his door-panels.
"Fascinating," Prowl stated, gazing at the pod of humpback whales as Skyfire slowly circled.
"Skyfire, do you see the infant?"
"Aww," the gentle scientist cooed, verbally expressing Prowl's private sentiments as well.
The Valkyrie was actually supposed to be on the detection for Decepticon activity.
"Thank you for accepting my company today Skyfire, by the way," Prowl commented.
The Datsun had met him in the common room at the crack of dawn, and made the polite request.
The Valkyrie had been more than pleased to accommodate his second in command.
Skyfire and Prowl had a good deal of mutual respect and got along famously, but rarely had a chance to interact.
"Not a problem Prowl, I'm enjoying it."
Prowl smiled to himself, wondering how far Ratchet had looked for him.
"Where the slag is he!" the medic exploded.
"I've searched the Ark inside out. Prime didn't send him anywhere. Chip, Spike, Carly and Sparkplug haven't seen hide or fibre of him. Where could he be Wheeljack! He didn't even mention a word to Jazz!"
The engineer concentrated on equalizing the tricky chemical mixture in front of him, nodding in agreement every now and then.
"He'll turn up Ratch," Wheeljack managed to get in, when Ratchet paused his raving for a split astrotick.
"Any luck Wheeljack?"
Lancia and medic glanced up as Skyfire entered the lab.
"Not yet," the engineer sighed and straightened up.
"I'll help you," Skyfire volunteered, "Just let me get this data to Beachcomber. No Decepticons, but we gathered quite a lot of information on a group of whales,"
"You saw whales?" Wheeljack asked in pleased surprise, "I've-"
The medic asked sharply, interrupting the Lancia.
"Prowl spent the day with me while I was on aerial surveillance,"
Wheeljack burst into laughter, vocal indicators flashing warm orange.
"I told you he wouldn't be far Ratchet!"
Skyfire realized the medic was glowering up a storm, and puffing up like an angry toad fish.
"Where is he now Skyfire?" Ratchet asked sweetly.
"Uh..." Skyfire said brilliantly.
He could see how ticked the medic was, and wanted to avoid a Ratchet Temper Display if at all possible.
"I...I don't know Ratchet, I'm sorry," Skyfire finally blurted.
And it was the truth.
Prowl had disembarked at the Ark entrance with thanks, and that was the last the big mech had seen of him.
"Over-ranked metal penguin," Ratchet mumbled, peeved because Prowl was one of the handful of Autobots who outranked him.
It would be different if the glitch actually was ill or injured.
Then medical authority overrode all command authority.
He'd left Wheeljack and Skyfire playing with their volatile concoction and gone to his office to think.
"You know Bonny, at least if Prowl were a hypochondriac I'd get to examine him," Ratchet grumbled at the tiny Venus Fly Trap on his desk.
Carly had given it to him, so that when Ratchet was talking to himself, as he was prone to do, he was at least addressing a living thing rather than the medbay walls.
Bonny had yet to answer him but seemed to thrive on the complaints.
"Whatever he is now, is nothing short of being the complete opposite of a hypochondriac," Ratchet grizzled, noting three of the plant's traps were closed.
At least she'd had a successful day.
The medic wondered how Prowl kept himself so on the go.
He'd carried out a double shift yesterday and finished fairly late, then been up very early that morning, and had apparently taken an active role in the day's "excursion" with Skyfire.
"Avoiding your doctor must have an energizing effect," he muttered, glancing idly around his office.
The medic had never gone in for ornaments, or hanging stuff on the walls.
But he did have one etching that he displayed with pride.
Apoth Unicum, Cybertron's first ancient healer.
"Just like Hippocrates," Prowl had told Ratchet once.
"The father of Earth medicine," the history buff had explained.
Ratchet studied the Cybertronian healer's gentle optics now, wondering how Apoth would have handled a patient like Prowl.
"Knock knock," a cheeky voice sang from the main medbay then, and Ratchet discovered the Lamborghini brothers awaiting him.
"I see you found your vocalizer Sunstreaker. That's great,"
The gold mech grinned at him.
"And he hasn't shut up since," Sideswipe complained.
Ratchet nodded vaguely, an idea sneaking into his CPU.
He regarded the red and yellow warriors.
"I need your help,"
He explained his current woes with the Datsun.
"I want you to bring him here to me, lock, stock, or barrel. Dragged, carried, pushed, pulled, towed, by door-panel, arm, leg, foot, hand, lights, aft, crest, front bumper, rear bumper, I don't give a slag. Just get him here."
Sunstreaker and Sideswipe eyed him incredulously.
"Uh Ratchet, Prowl could have our skidplates for that," Sideswipe pointed out.
The medic snorted.
"You know he rarely exercises his authority. I forget half the time that he's actually second in charge,"
"Well, ok," Sunstreaker said hesitantly.
As much as he mouthed off and threw his weight around, the yellow warrior did have much genuine respect for both Prime and Prowl.
But Ratchet had helped get his vocalizer back.
The warriors tracked the second in command to the Ark washrack
"Why is he washing in the middle of the afternoon?"
Sunstreaker elbowed his brother.
"You can wash any time of the cycle, rust brain! Just cause you like crawling into bed wearing an astroinch of filth,"
They stationed themselves either side of the doorway as the active drying unit ceased, and ambushed Prowl as he exited.
"Sunstreaker, Sideswipe. What can I do for you?" Prowl asked politely.
"Ratchet wants to see you," Sideswipe said,
"And we're not taking no for an answer," Sunstreaker finished with a grin.
"All right then," Prowl said with an agreeable shrug, and fell into step between them.
The brothers exchanged a look behind his shining door-panels, a look that said, What's Ratchet's problem with him?
They wandered past the control room and turned down the living quarters hall.
Prowl kept his gaze on the floor as Sunstreaker and Sideswipe verbally sparred.
Sideswipe realized Prowl was lagging slightly.
He paused, and Sunstreaker followed suit.
"Hey, are you ok?" Sideswipe asked, as the Datsun leaned his back to the wall.
"Uh, pain in my door-panel junctions," Prowl explained tightly, and started to slump to the floor.
Each warrior caught an arm and held him up.
The Datsun had suffered with that before, as had Bluestreak and Smokescreen - an affliction peculiar to their race.
The pain came and went without warning, but was quite debilitating while there.
And the Lamborghini brothers were both silently grateful they didn't have similar appendages, majestic as they are but, Sunstreaker grudgingly thought.
"Maybe you should rest awhile," the gold Lamborghini suggested, "Lucky we're near your quarters,"
"We'll tell Ratchet for you," Sideswipe assured as they guided him into his room, "He can come check on you here,"
"Thanks. I'll be fine," Prowl mumbled, wobbling his way to his desk chair.
The Datsun folded his arms on his desk and buried his face in them, door-panels limp against his shoulders.
The red and gold warriors left quickly to alert the medic, closing the door behind them, and Prowl sat up straight.
And let a diabolical grin, one he would never wear in public, slowly slide across his face.
Prowl snapped up a bookfile and two tacticals, slipped into the hallway -making sure to close his door- and smartly exited the Ark via a rarely used back entrance.
"He said he was in pain, and where do you take him! Don't bring him to the medbay, nooo, that would make sense! I'm busting my valves trying to get him here, and you let him go to his quarters? Your brainpower combined wouldn't illuminate a twenty-watt lightbulb!"
Sideswipe broke up, pointing at his glaring brother.
"He meant you too, Numb Nuts!"
The brothers had reported Prowl's ailment to the medic, and instead of rushing to his aid, as was his normal reaction to any needy Autobot, Ratchet had figuratively exploded.
"I'd bet my crosses there's nothing wrong with him!"
"Ratchet, why would Prowl fake something like that? He'd never lie about anything,"
"My skidplate he wouldn't!" Ratchet raged and marched out.
Ratchet stormed to Prowl's quarters, ignoring the random Autobots he encountered on his way.
Once there however, he paused.
The medic wasn't in the habit of entering his friends' rooms unannounced, unless it was a medical emergency, and hesitated.
Ratchet sharply rapped on the door.
"Prowl? It's Ratchet. Are you all right?" he questioned, in a tone of there's-not-a-rusting-thing-wrong-with-you-is-there.
He was met with silence, and tapped again.
The medic began to feel just the slightest bit concerned.
Ratchet knew the tactician would never ignore anyone that way, even for his own amusent.
What if the scrapheap actually was unwell, and unable to answer?
Ratchet, along with Prime -and Prowl- had the authority to override every quarter's key codes, Ratchet's for medical safety reasons.
Even though few Autobots ever actually locked their doors.
Ratchet tried this door, and sure enough it slid open at his touch.
"Prowl, I'm not going to yell at you, but you've got me-" the medic began gently as he quietly entered the room.
The empty room, devoid of all cybernetic life except his own.
"Worried," Ratchet finished bitterly, gazing around Prowl's spotless quarters.
It was amazing how much a room could say about its occupant.
His megalithic collection of bookfiles took up an entire wall storage unit, and the overflow was stacked neatly on his desk.
Jazz had directed the placement of Prowl's tv, being the self-appointed home entertainment authority.
Once he'd mastered the Earth mechanics behind it, Wheeljack had taken it upon himself to provide every Autobot's quarters with a television set.
Ratchet wondered why the engineer had bothered with these particular quarters.
For sure the only time Prowl watched anything on the television was when Jazz succeeded in talking him into it.
A stack of completed tacticals and duty logs sat on the desk, all colour-coded and numbered.
Ratchet looked at the large plex-glassed holo-image above the tactician's bunk.
An image of Prowl's home sector before the war, taken from orbit.
Prowl clearly missed their home planet much more than he ever let on.
And the poster Chip had once given him, postcard-sized to the Autobots, was precision-placed above his desk.
Ratchet leaned in for a closer look.
It had tickled the second in command, but the medic had never actually seen it.
Murphy's Law. Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, one of the many helpful lines said.
"You can say that again. I'm going to get him and drag him to the medbay by the door-panels myself, stubborn scrap heap!" Ratchet exclaimed.
"Hey man, you saw some whales today? What made you go with Skyfire anyway?"
Jazz asked as he joined the tactician in the common room.
Prowl slid a receptacle of hot Energon across the table to the saboteur.
"Well, I didn't have much of anything to do Jazz," he explained, "And yes, we did see a pod of whales. Including an infant,"
The Ark medic wandered into the lively common room then, and didn't have much trouble spotting the tactician.
And his perfectly healthy door-panels.
"I can't picture how cool that must've been man," Jazz mused.
Most of the Autobots had a fascination for the myriad of creatures on this living planet.
And the ones from the ocean were doubly interesting, there being very little water on Cybertron.
"Wait, I gotta visualize this," Jazz grinned, covering his visor with both hands, "Describe it Prowl man,"
The Porsce leaned forward slightly to listen to the tactician.
Prowl laid a hand on Jazz's shoulder.
"Jazz, Skyfire got a lot of eye-witness data. Wouldn't that be better than my description?"
Ratchet began stalking to their table, ready to kick Prowl's aft to kingdom come.
Then he saw the Datsun touch Jazz's shoulder, and realized the saboteur had face in hands.
The medic knew how rare it was for Jazz to appear upset, and in spite of himself, was loathe to interrupt.
Ratchet quietly walked away, and joined Ironhide on the other side of the room.
"Yeah, I guess," Jazz decided, straightening up.
"You doing anything important after this Prowl man?"
"No. Why Jazz?"
The saboteur grinned and pulled his tv remote out of a subspace pocket, flipped it off the back of his hand and caught it in the other.
Wheeljack had fiddled and tweaked the tiny controllers into a more manageable size for Autobot hands, making the tv fans in the ranks eternally grateful.
The saboteur had started dragging the Datsun to his quarters in their off hours, trying his hardest to introduce Prowl to the magic of television.
It had been somewhat of an uphill battle to the Porsche, so he'd been more than tickled the day Prowl had admitted to enjoying the older movies Jazz had shown him.
Now it was a regular thing, and Jazz, who loved just about everything on the box, from game shows to documentaries, was thrilled to have his friend's company on "movie nights."
"Ah, movie night," Prowl realized with a smile, "What's on tonight?"
"A classic from the nineteen-thirties man...you coming?" Jazz asked hopefully.
"Of course Jazz."
"Cool! Let's move."
Prowl blearily onlined, realizing he'd fallen into recharge, still upright, still leaning on the foot of Jazz's bunk.
The saboteur had conked out too.
Never one to be shy about making himself comfortable, Jazz had stretched out and comandeered the Datsun's lap as a foot rest.
Prowl wasn't sure if that had been before or after the Porsche had nodded off.
He carefully tried to remove himself without disturbing Jazz.
Tonight they'd discovered that certain "classic" films were in fact very boring.
Prowl had never offlined in front of the tv before.
The tactician glanced at the saboteur's screen and realized the movie still hadn't wrapped up.
Primus, Prowl mentally groaned, How long can a single film run?
He eased the remote out of the saboteur's grip and turned it off.
Prowl quietly slipped back to his own quarters and straight into his bunk.
Prowl leisurely onlined and stretched, reviewing the odd dream he'd experienced.
It had been entirely in white and black, undoubtedly a result of Jazz's movie.
He'd have to remember to ask the saboteur if that ever happened to him.
Prowl had about ninety astrominutes to kill before going on duty, and made his way into the hall.
Just as Ratchet's back disappeared into Jazz's quarters.
"How are you this morning Jazz?" the medic enquired.
"Sweet Ratchet man," the saboteur shrugged, "Why?"
"You looked a little off last night, in the common room..." the big mech trailed off questioningly.
Jazz was puzzled for a split astrotick, then broke into his dazzling grin.
"Hehe, I was just trying to imagine-"
"Prowl's whales," the medic finished dryly, the scenario plain to him now.
Ratchet didn't know how, but the second in command had a wonderful gift for raising his hackles.
"The way you two left the common room, I thought you were sincerely upset about something," Ratchet told Jazz.
"No man," Jazz chuckled, "I wanted Prowl to watch this old movie with me, and we were running a bit late. But then Prowl sacked out not long before I did," Jazz shrugged.
"Amazing how tired avoiding one's doctor can make you," Ratchet said dryly.
"When he onlined he went back to his own pad," Jazz said.
"Couldn't you have kept him in here til this morning?" the medic grumbled.
"I'm not his keeper Ratchet man," Jazz joked, "I doubt anyone could keep Prowl down,"
Ratchet muttered something not very polite as he stepped out of Jazz's quarters, the Porsche behind him.
Jazz transformed and ambled up the hall, treating the daytime-busy thoroughfare to his current favourite rock tune.
Ratchet was becoming exceedingly frustrated.
An Earth phrase he'd learned kept running through his CPU.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.
That was Prowl to a T.
Ratchet moved into the hall.
And spotted the bane of his existence quietly slinking away in the opposite direction, trying to blend in.
That didn't work too well when you were one of only three Autobots with prominent door-panels...and the other two mechs were very different colours to you.
The medic moved like a greased lizard and managed to come face to face with the tactician.
And Prowl got the panicked look of a Labrador when someone says "Bath."
The medic kept his mouth shut, and slowly backed the tactician toward his quarters at spanner-point.
"Uh, Ratchet, people might get the wrong idea about this," Prowl said in an undertone, warily glancing up and down the inconveniently crowded hall.
"Let them think whatever they want Prowl, it's happening right here, right now, whether you like it or not," Ratchet growled unquietly.
Prowl took hold of either side of his door-frame and halted their progress.
"Prowl, do you realize I can do it with you standing up? It's a little more difficult but not impossible. So your barnacle impression won't help you!"
"We can't do it now," the Datsun said desperately.
"And tell me why not?"
"Uh, I...I have a headache!"
"I'll treat it when we're done. Now, on your bed!"
The medic simply used his height and bulk to shift the tactician out of the doorway and further into his quarters.
"For Primus' sake Prowl! Anyone would think it was your first time! It won't hurt!"
A small group of stickybeaks had clustered outside the tactician's quarters by now.
"I have witnesses! They'll confirm you forced me," Prowl floundered, gesturing to them.
"Oh? Are you going to let them watch, are you?"
Ratchet asked, mock-serious, then closed the door.
The medic had him just about edged onto his bed, when a shrill alarm sounded and Optimus Prime's voice addressed the Ark.
"Decepticon raid. All senior staff to battle stations immediately, Prime out."
Prowl and Ratchet stared at each other.
"Well, that settles that," Prowl said calmly, quickly slipping off his bed as dozens of footsteps clattered past in the hall.
"Coming Ratchet?" Prowl asked innocently, and disappeared.
Ratchet coolly regarded the instrument in his hand, as he headed for the medbay to prepare for any incoming casualties.
Once through the door he flung it as hard as he could, and began screaming blue murder.
"SLAGGING COIL-BRAINED DECEPTICONS! OF ALL THE TIMES TO TAKE POT-SHOTS AT THE ARK!"
With any luck Prowl would cop a stray laser blast in the aft and be forced to report to the medbay.
That was Prime's one hard and fast rule: any battle injury, no matter how minor, was to be reported to the medbay as soon as possible.
"The instant I have him in here, I'm going to chain him to the wall!" Ratchet promised himself, wondering where he could get his hands on an unbreakable diamond filament chain.
Ratchet tried to compartment his temper for when he really needed it.
Like the next time he managed to bail Prowl up.
No call sounded for further assistance.
The medic knew then it would be a minor skirmish, common enough when the Decepticons were bored, and would hopefully result in only a few light injuries.
Ratchet kept his medbay in a perpetual state of sterility and ready for any catastrophe, so he had little to do then but wait.
And fantasize a variety of injuries onto the second in command.
Tracks limped into the medbay far too soon, dripping Energon and snapping the medic from murderous thoughts.
"This must've hurt Tracks," Ratchet commented, working a quantity of Energon-stained gravel out of the warrior's bleeding knee-joints with infinite care.
The Corvette never gave him the slightest hassle, for which Ratchet was grateful, especially given his current circumstances.
"It would have hurt rather more Ratchet, if I hadn't been tackled out of the way of Skywarp's lasers. That gravel's just from hitting the ground,"
"Someone was on the ball then. Who deprived that black and purple illusion a clear shot at you?"
"Prowl!" Ratchet exclaimed, jerking a large piece of gravel out with more force than necessary, barely noticing the big warrior's yelp.
"Why aren't I collecting a rock garden out of him right now too, then?"
Tracks gingerly rubbed around his knee.
"I don't think Prowl got any. At least, he didn't say anything when Prime ordered him, Wheeljack and Mirage to keep the Decepticons under surveillance in case they try to cause any dramas,"
Ratchet muttered to himself, highly suspicious, and kept picking at the gravel.
"I think they've gone for the day," Mirage commented, performing a wide-range scan and picking up nothing unfriendly.
The three of them had spent several hours patrolling potential Decepticon "hot spots", the local power plants, refineries etc.
"I wish they'd find something else to do when they're restless," the Ligier added.
"Wheeljack, would you mind having a look at my knees?" Prowl asked.
"No problem. What's up?"
The cheerful Lancia transformed as Prowl sat himself on the sunny grass, a bit stiffly.
"It's just some gravel...but it's a little painful," the Datsun admitted.
"No wonder. There's enough here to choke that mudpatch Sunstreaker's always whining about, near the Ark's front door," Wheeljack commented, kneeling and closely examining the tactician's Energon-smeared knee-joints.
"Hm...this is going to be a bit hard Prowl," the engineer said slowly, "You might be better off waiting til we get home. But it hurts, doesn't it,"
"Wait, this might help," Mirage fished in a subspace pocket and pulled out a field first aid kit.
"Great...what else are you carting around?" Wheeljack asked curiously, removing a pair of electrotweezers.
"I'm not sure," Mirage said.
He began pulling items out and arranging them on a flat rock.
"Some Energon rations...a bookfile...a laser pen...a couple of spare conduits..."
Prowl watched, amused and fascinated, as Mirage added to his array.
Wheeljack picked carefully at the tactician's knee and removed several pieces of gravel.
Prowl counted the bits of rock as the engineer removed them, to keep himself from wincing.
The Lancia soon finished, and turned to the spy.
"You wouldn't happen to have a handcloth on you Mirage?"
The Ligier dipped into a "sleeve" pocket and handed the engineer a spotless handcloth.
"My creator taught me to always carry a clean one, because you never know when you might need it," Mirage explained at the engineer's muffled snicker.
The Lancia gently cleaned the oozing Energon off the Datsun's knees with it, and managed to stop the bleeding.
Prowl thanked him as he got to his feet.
"And, uh, would the two of you do me a favour? Don't mention this to Ratchet, ok?"
Jazz had seen Mirage and Wheeljack return, and he finally tracked Prowl down behind the Ark.
Prowl was observing an uncommon solar phenomenon known as parhelion.
"Look at this Jazz. Isn't it amazing what atmospheric changes can produce?" the tactician said from his seat on the grass, fascinated.
"Yeah, wonderful. Show me your knees," Jazz ordered, hands on hip-joints.
"Man, I know how you are when it comes to injuries or not feeling great. I have no clue why you think you have to keep quiet about it, but I saw how you and Tracks hit that gravel today.
Ratchet spent a good half hour picking little stones and cleaning Energon out of Tracks' knees. Now show me yours,"
Prowl studied the suddenly immovable object that was his friend, touched and amused.
"All right Jazz,"
Prowl calmly submitted and let the saboteur look over his knee-joints.
"That hurt?" Jazz kneeled and poked, then glanced up.
Amazing, Prowl thought wryly, Seems Jazz has a medical degree I'm unaware of.
Finding nothing out of the ordinary, Jazz unhanded the tactician and sat beside him.
"Well, Ratchet's got no reason to yell at you this time," he admitted, not noticing Prowl smother a somewhat cheeky smile.
"No, I suppose he hasn't."
"Now what's so fascinating about the sun?"
"It's a parhelion Jazz. See the mock "twins" on either side of the sun..."
"Wheeljack, are you going to sit there, look me in the optics, and tell me Prowl didn't even get a scratch from that gravel today?"
Wheeljack glanced around helplessly.
He was in an awkward position.
He'd made a promise to his second in command -and good friend- but Ratchet was his closest friend.
And the Ark medic, Who should know about all injuries, the engineer tried to concede.
Besides, a Ratchet interrogation was very hard on the audios.
Still he hesitated.
"Ok, fine," Ratchet sighed, and launched into a chilling, in-depth description of what an infected knee-joint servo looked like, how painful it was, how hard it was to treat, the varying shades of greyish-green infected joint lubricant became, what it took to drain it...
"Ok, ok! Stop!" the Lancia cracked, before he was put off his Energon even further.
"I pulled a few bits of gravel out of Prowl's knees...and they were a real rusting mess," Wheeljack added.
"Thank you Wheeljack," Ratchet said sweetly, "Now I need you to do me a favour, cause Prowl won't come just for his knees. Especially if you did as good a job as I imagine you did."
Prowl read the Level Three Medical Priority alert Bumblebee had just delivered.
A Level Three meant a suspected spreading infection, and the tactician couldn't ignore that.
Ratchet knew he Datsun would come readily enough when it was someone else getting poked at.
"Ratch, do you really think this'll work?" Wheeljack couldn't stop himself laughing.
The whole situation was so ridiculous.
"Wheeljack, I'm ready to try anything at this point! Just don't say anything, ok?"
The Lancia buried his face in the headrest, lest he be tempted to laugh more.
Or worse, make optic contact with the tactician.
Wheeljack knew Prowl could read most of the Autobots like a bookfile, and he'd know instantly that there was nothing amiss with the engineer.
"You came," Ratchet said in mock-shock as the Datsun quietly walked into the medbay.
"Of course Ratchet," Prowl said mildly, looking the engineer over.
"How do you feel Wheeljack?" he asked with concern.
"Oh, sick," Ratchet put in, nodding seriously.
The Lancia felt Prowl carefully lay the back of his hand on the visible part of his cheek.
"No fever," Prowl remarked.
"I'm keeping him under observation Prowl, same as you'll need to be for the next few hours,"
"But I feel fine,"
"Uh, well, you spent most of the afternoon with him Prowl. I have to make sure you weren't exposed,"
Ratchet explained, gradually edging the tactician to an exam medbunk.
Prowl sidestepped and gave the medic a slight, but infinitely infuriating smile.
"If Wheeljack was sick and contagious, you would not have allowed me to touch him just now. You would also have summoned Mirage-" the Datsun glanced around the Ligier-less medbay, "And I don't think he has been,"
The medic made a wild dive at the second in command, out of sheer frustration.
Wheeljack couldn't take it any more, and sat up before he split something trying not to laugh.
Prowl neatly dodged and disappeared.
"I swear to Primus I'm going to kill it!"
The medic's enraged promise reverberated through the Ark with all the subtlety of an open-air heavy metal concert.
Ratchet grew more and more agitated over the coming days, as again and again Prowl slipped through his fingers like quicksilver.
The medic was the last one to praise deadlines and departmental reports.
But when it came to the medical side of things, he was pretty insistent about keeping things on track.
The Datsun was even volunteering for double-duty.
The official word was that he was a little bored and just wanted extra work to do.
The medic knew why Prowl was really burning the midnight oil, and resolved to do something about it.
Ratchet skulked the darkened hall, ticking off the astrominutes until the end of the late-late shift.
Prowl's "extra" shift tonight was in the labs, and he'd have to walk past the medbay to go to his quarters.
Ratchet was ready for him this time.
There wasn't a single light in the medbay to give him away.
His "medicals" instrument tray lay prepared.
And Ratchet had told anyone who stood still long enough to listen, that he'd be well and truly in dreamland at the end of the graveyard shifts.
Surely Prowl had overheard him at least once.
And Ratchet was willing to bet that the second in command would come quietly this time.
It wasn't in Prowl's nature to have anyone unnecessarily disturbed, especially through his own doing.
Ratchet picked up distant footsteps making their way toward him.
Someone walking quietly, in deference to the offlined Autobots nearby.
Ratchet noted a brief door-panel silhouette on the opposite wall, and silently congratulated himself.
He lunged with perfect judgement, locked his arms about the mech's midsection from behind, and dragged him into the medbay.
"Gotcha!" Ratchet exclaimed triumphantly, sealing the doors.
"What'd I do!"
A very un-Prowl-like voice cried as the medic snapped on the lights.
"Bluestreak! Slag! Slag it," Ratchet hissed, working hard to keep his volume down.
The gunner watched him, stunned.
"What'd I do?" he repeated, sky-blue optics showing total confusion.
The medic gave a world-weary sigh and tried to smile at the young mech.
"Nothing Bluestreak. Mistaken identity. Sorry about that. I thought -I'd hoped- you were Prowl,"
The gunner stared at him.
"Primus Ratchet, you and Prowl aren't...aren't...are you?" he finished timidly.
"Oh Pit rust, not on your life Bluestreak," the medic groaned, "Although that might be the only way to get him on his back!"
Bluestreak snorted with helpless embarrassed laughter.
Ratchet cleared his vocalizer, and the air.
"Physically, you and he and Smokescreen could pass as triplets,"
"But Prowl's taller than me, and has a different crest, and Smokescreen's door-panels and back are completely to both of us, and-"
"Anyway, I can't believe I have to resort to slagging tackling Autobots in the dark!" Ratchet suddenly exploded quietly, thoroughly ticked off, "Why can't he just come and get that slagging medical over with!"
"Ratchet, did you ever just ask Prowl nicely to come to the medbay?" Bluestreak said.
Out of the mouths of babes, as they say...
Ratchet quietly deposited a hand-written datapadd note under Prowl's door where the Datsun couldn't miss it.
He had no clue whether Prowl was in his quarters, and at that hour of the very early AM, almost offline on his feet, Ratchet decided he didn't really care!
To: Autobot Strategist Prowl
From: Autobot Medic Ratchet
Will you please consider reporting to the medbay at your earliest convenience for your medical.
You certainly understand the importance of ensuring every team member is at peak efficiency, and it is my job to see to that.
You will make your medic and friend very happy to be able to add your name to my list of healthy Autobots. Thankyou,
"DAMN HIM, ALL THE WAY TO HADES!"
Ratchet's neighbours were startled awake at the vengeful, bellowed curse from his quarters the following morning.
To: Autobot Medic Ratchet
From: Autobot Strategist Prowl
Have considered reporting to the medbay for said medical, but invisible evil twin will not allow me.
Am writing this under his instruction, and have been told to inform you I am at peak efficiency and health as we speak.
Any visit to the medbay will incur his wrath, and I do not wish to be sharing quarters with any being in that mental state.
"Optimus, I'm begging you! Order Prowl for his medical before I go mental! More so!"
"Prowl's a big boy Ratchet. He understands the importance of the medicals," the commander said absently, studying the unread duty logs on his desk, "He's probably just busy,"
"How do you explain this Prime!"
Ratchet almost threw the datapadd in front of him.
The commander skimmed the note.
"Ratchet. Prowl didn't write this," Optimus Prime said, unable to hide his amusement.
"I should have known you'd say that!" Ratchet snapped and stormed out of Prime's office, fully aware he was on his own.
Prowl had a bizarre way of amusing himself, but the medic was being agitated to a frazzle.
And the Datsun didn't care.
That was upsetting the medic a great deal too.
"Ironhide, please listen to me for an astrotick,"
Ratchet had gone to the older mech in desperation, knowing what a good rapport Prowl and Ironhide had.
"What's up Ratchet buddy?" the red mech drawled, putting aside the datapadd of armoury inventory, to give the white mech his full attention.
Ratchet explained, keeping it as simple as possible (leaving out faked infections and mistaken identities)
"All I want to do is give Prowl his medical Ironhide, not experiment on him, for Primus' sake!"
"What's the problem?"
Ratchet stared at him.
"What's the problem! I can't slagging well get him to the medbay, or even pin him down for five astrominutes! He's deliberately avoiding me!" the medic ranted.
Ironhide looked Ratchet in the optics, and proceeded to list Prowl's duties with a hint of get off his case.
"He's a busy young mech Ratchet, strategizin' and second in commanding and all," the elder mech added.
"Anyway, anybody can see he's healthy. Why don't you just let it slide this time buddy?"
"You! Mr Disappearing Act! Hold it right there!" Ratchet yelped, pointing at the Ligier wildly.
"Ratchet! What's wrong?" Mirage exclaimed, staring at the crazed medic, and actually backing up a step or two as he advanced on him, glowering like an avenging angel.
"You gave him your invisibility algorithm formats somehow, didn't you! Yes, that would put a smile on his mug! You're here right now aren't you Prowl, determined to send me to an early grave!" the medic raved at full volume, gesturing like a hyper windmill.
Ratchet had had a brain explosion, of sorts, after being palmed off by both Prime and Ironhide.
He'd systematically searched every single room in the entire Ark, (even sticking his head in every living quarters) the pine thicket, the shooting range, and bailed up every Autobot he'd come across in a wild attempt to pinpoint the Datsun.
The other on-duty Autobots stared at him.
The medic practically radiated three hundred degrees of pure fury.
Ratchet commandeered the control room PA system.
"To all Autobots, this is Ratchet, and I'm here to tell you I've had enough!" he ranted, "You can all report for your medicals without dramas, except for one slagging stubborn mech by the name Prowl! That's it! No holds barred! I want you to find him, and bring him to me! And whoever does so will have the honour of holding Prowl down while I rearrange his circuits!"
Ratchet viciously cut his speech, then turned back.
"And yes, I'm completely serious!"
"Wheeljack, I don't give a slag about that stupid soap! Let me curse in peace!"
Ratchet was still ropeable.
Wheeljack had calmed him down somewhat, practically dragged the medic to his quarters, and was now trying to tempt Ratchet with a repeat of As The Kitchen Sinks.
No one had been able to locate Prowl...well, out of those who had bothered to lend Ratchet a hand, that was.
Most of the Autobots simply didn't believe him, and several others had been altogether too amused at the outlandish thought of Prowl actually hiding from anyone.
"I know you Prowl," the medic growled under his vocalizer, "I know you probably better than Prime and even Jazz, because I see through you! They -and everybody else, it seems- think the sun shines out your aft. Ha! Wheeljack, I don't want any Energon!"
Ratchet remembered he was supposed to be on duty.
He left the Lancia fiddling with tv colour controls, and stalked back to his domain, the medbay.
He hadn't been there five astrominutes when a tap came at the door.
The medic muttered and complained to himself all the way there.
He was hardly in the mood to treat any of the myriad of minor ailments that constantly came up among a large and otherwise healthy crew.
Ratchet paused and tried not to look like the evil scientist he was feeling like, lest his potential patient be scared off, and opened the door.
"Why didn't you just come in-" he began.
There wasn't a living soul in sight.
Then his foot brushed a thin datapadd.
Ratchet collected it and glared at the Ark schematics.
Prowl had been in the one rusting place nobody had thought to look.
The medbay exam room.
The scrapheap had even left him a friendly note.
Ratchet - Better luck next time. Prowl.
Ratchet envisioned the tactician skulking in the small room with a self-satisfied smirk, as the medic went ballistic trying to track him down.
What would have tickled the Datsun most was the fact that he knew nobody would look there.
Trust Prowl, Ratchet thought with grudging admiration, No wonder he's such a good strategist. Even his closest friends can't work out what he's thinking half the time.
The medic absently stared at the schematics.
"Maybe I'm going about this all wrong," he mumbled, "Maybe I just need to keep it simple..."
"TechChessing with Prime tonight man?" Jazz asked the tactician.
Prowl lined his acid-pellet rifle to the shooting range target and fired before answering the Porsche.
"Yes Jazz," he said absently, giving the rifle a good shake.
"Percussive maintenance Sarge?" Jazz grinned, gesturing to the handweapon before firing his own.
The acid-pellets were leaving the rifle at an annoying angle.
Ratchet, skulking about, shamelessly eavesdropping, didn't wait to hear any more.
Optimus Prime's and Prowl's weekly TechChess challenges were legendary.
They'd hole up in Prime's office, sometimes til dawn, and strategize until it hurt.
Ratchet calmly went about his business for the rest of the afternoon, even having a friendly chat with Prowl when their paths crossed in one of the labs.
No one dared comment on the medic's suddenly sunny disposition however.
"Good luck Prowl," Ratchet said sincerely, as Prowl prepared to leave the lab at shift's end.
"Thank you Ratchet," the black and white mech said slowly, with a slightly wary look in his optics.
Prowl made a brief stop in his quarters to retrieve a favoured TechChess holo-display, then wandered to Optimus' office.
Ratchet made a mad dash to the medbay and collected a small vial he'd prepared earlier.
Ratchet sneaked to Prime's office, and couldn't believe his lucky stars.
Hound had just returned from surveillance, and he'd obviously holographed something he thought the commander and tactician should see.
The medic openly strolled past the open door, and just as he'd hoped, Optimus called to him.
"Ratchet, opinion. Hound discovered this near the spacebridge," Prime gestured to the hologram, "Weapon? Communications device? What do you think?"
"I think it may be a piece of medical equipment," Prowl said, glancing at the medic.
Ratchet studied the image.
"Well Prime, I hate to agree with His Logicalness, but I think he's right. It just looks like part of an updated medbunk,"
"Megatron probably hopes Starscream will be the first to use it," Hound commented.
"Good work Hound,"
"What about the Insecticons? Any night activity on their part?"
Ratchet quietly, slowly made his way to Optimus' desk, as Prowl and Prime listened to the scout.
There was just one Energon receptacle, and judging by the smallish size, the medic knew with certainty it belonged to Prowl.
Ratchet hastily emptied the tiny vial into the pink liquid.
It wouldn't harm the Datsun, just make his optics go on the fritz a little.
Well, a lot, but Ratchet could counteract the effects immediately.
Surely not even Prowl would ignore that.
Ratchet pocketed the vial and fled into the hall as Hound left Prime's office.
"'Night Ratchet," the Jeep said cheerfully to the loitering medic.
Ratchet gave him a vague wave, concentrating on Prowl's upcoming "ailment"
He clenched his fists in frustration as tactician and commander continued discussing Hound's findings.
For Primus' sake get on with your stupid game! Ratchet silently bellowed.
He listened to them finally settle, then Prime groaned in annoyance.
"I've done it again Prowl. I always forget to collect my Energon before I sit down,"
"Here Optimus, take this," Prowl offered, carefully sliding his untouched Energon across the desk, "It's hot, I not long dispensed it."
Oh slag! Ratchet yelped to himself and shot through the open door.
The medic made a frantic gazelle leap across the desk, half-landing in the tactician's lap, and managed to snatch the receptacle from the Autobot commander.
He struggled to maintain balance, then lost his grip on it.
Optimus Prime leapt up too late, ending up with a lapful of hot liquid Energon.
"Prime! Are you ok?" Prowl exclaimed, pushing Ratchet's knee away from his midsection and scrambling up.
That Energon had easily been hot enough to do some damage.
"I'm fine Prowl, just sticky," the commander said wryly, as the pink liquid dribbled to his knee-joints.
Then Prime turned to his medic.
"Ratchet, explain," the Autobot commander said sharply.
For probably the first time in his life, the big medic was at a loss for words.
"Um...uh..." Ratchet floundered helplessly beneath Prime's laser glare.
Prowl met the medic's optics for a split astrotick.
"Prime, certain Energon dispensers have been detected harbouring trace levels of...of bacterial carbon," Prowl said smoothly, "Ratchet has clearly just discovered it in this part of the Ark too,"
The medic stared at the black and white mech.
He couldn't believe Prowl had just basically saved his aft.
He must have realized, Ratchet mentally groaned, And Prowl wouldn't have let Prime ingest it either, he was just testing me.
"Ratchet, sort it out," Prime snapped, "And next time, a simple verbal warning will suffice,"
Optimus Prime strode out, presumably heading for the washrack.
Ratchet studiously ignored Prowl's suppressed smile and the sparkle in his sapphire optics, as they silently got up the Energon spatters on desk and floor.
Ratchet then exited with as much dignity as he could muster.
Ratchet lay low for a day or two after the embarrassing Energon incident.
Next month's medicals will be due before I get this month's done, he grizzled to himself at least thirteen times a day.
You're lucky I'm a nice guy Prowl, or I'd just examine you while you're offlined...
The medic recalled his comment.
"That's it, no more Mr Nice Guy," Ratchet declared, a sudden idea popping into his CPU.
An Autobot didn't necessarily have to be alert for a basic exam.
Ratchet got off his bunk and collected his full-spectrum medical scanner.
Ratchet quietly made his way to Prowl's door yet again.
The current roster had the Datsun and most of his nearest neighbours on similar timetables, so most were currently offlined.
The medic saw that the second in command's light was still on however.
Ratchet spent a good forty seconds easing the door open just a crack.
Sure enough, Prowl was in recharge, still nursing a bookfile.
Ratchet carefully, silently, pulled the door open, fished the scanner out of a subspace pocket, and stepped into the room.
His intention was to simply take a full-range reading and analyse it.
It was admittedly unorthodox, but then, he wasn't dealing with your average Autobot.
The medic activated the scanner.
"No! Please don't! No!"
Ratchet startled at the sudden cry, and juggled the instrument before regaining a solid grip on it.
"No! Get away!"
Prowl yelped, tossing rather violently.
"Primus! And I didn't even touch him yet!" Ratchet exclaimed.
He gave the tactician a shake.
"Prowl! Hey, wake up! Prowl!"
The black and white mech scrambled upright, then regained awareness.
"Ratchet," Prowl mumbled, glancing at the medic.
"Are you ok?" the medic asked, eyeing him closely.
Prowl rubbed an optic.
"Odd dream...being operated on without pain suppressants,"
Ratchet picked the bookfile out of his lap.
Medicine In The Middle Ages.
"No wonder Prowl, reading stuff like this just before bed," he said dryly.
The medic discreetly subspaced the scanner.
He didn't have the heart to carry out his plan now.
Prowl shook his head and looked at the big mech curiously.
"Ratchet? Um, why are you in my quarters?"
"Uh, I, uh, was walking past in the hall, and I heard you crying out. So...I wanted to see if you were ok," the medic finished brightly.
"Well, as you can see..." Prowl shrugged, and his spread hands clearly said, I'm fine.
"I appreciate you waking me however...it was an unsettling dream,"
"I can imagine," Ratchet said with a touch of sympathy, "Try not to have any more,"
He laid the bookfile on Prowl's desk and left, gently sliding the door closed behind him.
The tactician got up and collected his bookfile with a positively cheeky smile.
Prowl hadn't been in recharge when the medic had begun easing his door open, and he'd known exactly what Ratchet was up to.
Faking a nightmare wasn't as hard as he'd thought.
Especially with worthy inspiration, Prowl said to himself, settling down again and finding his bookmarked spot in the fascinating medical history text.
"Prowl, I'm fed up chasing you down," Ratchet told the Datsun with weary, straightforward honesty, "Please let me get your medical done. I promise it won't give you nightmares like that book did last night,"
The tactician considered this, laying down his tacticals thoughtfully.
Ratchet watched him.
The tactician looked so serious...more so than normal.
For the first time, Ratchet began to wonder if Prowl wasn't avoiding the medical for reasons other than to send the medic around the bend.
Slag, Prime would have my casing if there is something really wrong with him, and I haven't picked up on it. So would Jazz, the big mech thought.
Prowl folded his arms on the common room table, and looked at the medic.
"It's like this Ratchet," he began softly, "I don't think a medical would give me nightmares...because my bookfile didn't either,"
Ratchet stared at the steady Datsun, then picked up on the slightest gleam in his optics.
"You faked it! Of all the rusting, underhanded, devious, dishonest-" Ratchet sputtered.
He advanced on the Datsun, on the very verge of exploding.
Prowl leapt up, transformed, and shot out of the Ark.
"He dies! Tonight, he dies!" Ratchet howled, startling the rest of the common room occupants speechless.
The medic transformed and took off in hot pursuit, almost collecting a couple of Minibots on his way.
The tactician had taken off like an arrow, heading directly into the desert, ignoring recognized Autobot trails.
The Datsun was faster and a lot more maneuverable than the white ambulance, but sheer temper and frustration had given the medic an incredible burst of speed.
Ratchet condemmed Primus for letting Prowl's creator get away with it.
He cursed his own creator for having him.
He swore at Vector Sigma for triple-dosing the black and white mech with stubbornness.
The medic cursed Optimus Prime for not believing the situation.
He swore at the stinging desert sand, and when rain began to fall, cursed Earth's meteorological patterns.
But most of all, Ratchet cursed the tactician himself.
He cursed his speed and agility.
He berated his annoyingly calm manners and monumental patience.
He cursed every inch of him, from crest to toes.
And when he suddenly lost sight and sensor readings of the black and white Datsun, he invented three brand new curses to describe Prowl.
Ratchet slid to a stop, seemingly in the middle of absolutely nowhere.
Even Mt St Helens had dropped out of visual range.
"PRIMUS WHY MEEEE!"
Wheeljack and Skyfire had both contacted the medic, the Lancia offering to drive out and meet him.
Admittedly with a bit of a giggle in his tone.
Ratchet had dryly declined his friend's offer, having taken most of his temper out on the innocent desert floor, and a handy large cactus.
He began trundling back to the Ark through the cold rain, mentally writing a resignation.
Ratchet double-checked sensors as he approached the Ark, but they were functioning.
The black and white Datsun sat at the entrance in vehicular form.
That was the first word that the medic thought of.
The first polite word, that is.
"Ratchet to Prowl," he literally growled.
"Don't move a slagging astroinch, mister. It ends here and now,"
Ratchet picked up a little speed, but by the time he'd made the last fifty metres to the Ark, Prowl had disappeared.
Ratchet transformed and looked around.
Where the slag had he got to in that handful of astroseconds?
A stone skittered down, bounced of one of the boulders, and landed at his feet.
Ratchet backed up and faced the volcano in disbelief.
The tactician was seated on a narrow ledge, at a fair distance and a sharp angle above the protruding back end of their defunct spaceship.
The one Prime had absolutely forbidden any Autobot from even attempting to reach.
The medic felt a healthy amount of temper rebuilding.
"Slag you Prowl! How dare you run from me like that!"
"I'm not running from you Ratchet. This is where I like to read," Prowl called down calmly, pulling out a bookfile and holding it up.
"You moronic winged zebra crossing! It's windy, it's practically sleeting, and it's the middle of the rusting night!"
The Datsun switched on his headlights.
"Chapter One: "Happy families are all alike-"
"You've lost all your marbles Prowl!" Ratchet bawled.
"Get down from there before you either freeze or fall on your head! And even that wouldn't knock any sense into you!"
The medic was genuinely concerned.
He'd seen and treated some shocking injuries before the war, from construction workers falling from heights less than that.
Let him fall! It's not your fault.
"Primus, where'd that come from?" Ratchet mumbled at the thought that had just entered his CPU.
He barked at the tactician once more.
"Prowl! Freeze your aft off up there for all I care! Just don't come running to me if you damage a leg coming down, hear me?"
"Ok," came the infuriatingly unconcerned reply, and the medic marched into the warm, dry Ark.
Prowl climbed/slithered down the peak with the utmost care, cold and a bit muddy, but highly amused.
He wondered how much further the medic could be pushed before he completely snapped.
The tactician made a beeline for the washrack, and under cover of hissing water and heavy rain, laughed until his door-panels shook.
"What the slag's got into him?" Ratchet exclaimed.
He had no intention of letting the infuriating Datsun do himself an injury through sheer stupidity, but he needed help.
Optimus Prime had retired earlier with aching transforming relays, and the ultimate warning that he didn't want to be disturbed unless it was a life or death matter.
Ratchet could just imagine Prime's response to the medic's ludicrous Prowl claims.
The medic knew of only one other Autobot Prowl might listen to: Jazz.
The medic tapped on Jazz's door, and got no response.
Ratchet cursed under his vocalizer as he slowly slid the saboteur's door open a little.
"Why slagging me! I hate this barging in business! An Autobot could be doing anything!"
He needn't have worried though, for Jazz wasn't doing much of anything besides being deeply offlined.
I should have told that metallic panda I was going to wake Jazz. That might've got him moving, Ratchet growled silently, annoyed with himself for not thinking of it before.
He woke the Porsche from a sound recharge, and quickly poured out the last hour's events.
"Jazz, if you want to see your friend in one piece again, please go and get some kind of sense into him! I think he's completely lost it!"
Ratchet told the saboteur where the Datsun had positioned himself.
"Are you serious man? Prowl had a fit last time he caught Sunstreaker and Sideswipe discussing climbing up there,"
"Dead serious Jazz! Go see for yourself! He might even read to you!"
Jazz and Ratchet turned at the slurred question.
Tracks, half-awake, leaning on Jazz's door frame, and squinting at them in the bright light.
Ratchet told him.
Tracks listened to the heavy rain, then eyed the medic.
"Ratchet, you need a couple of days off," the big warrior informed him sleepily and crawled back into bed.
"Jazz, please," the medic begged, "Do you know what kind of injury a fall from up there will bring?"
"Ok man," Jazz sighed, "But Ratchet, let me go alone, ok?"
"Fine! Whatever! Just get him down!"
The big mech marched off, rubbing his cerebrocortical areas.
He could feel a giant headache coming on, and it was black and white.
Jazz could hear the rain and wind from where he stood, and wondered if the medic hadn't been dreaming.
"Jazz? What are you doing up?"
The saboteur turned at the quiet question and looked blearily at the black and white Datsun.
He certainly didn't look like a mech who'd just led the resident medic on a whirlwind chase...or climbed Mt St Helens.
"Man, where've you been?" Jazz asked without urgency, "Ratchet called me, completely frazzled,"
Prowl looked at him.
"Reading, and then the wash rack,"
Jazz flicked a few still-warm droplets off his right door-panel, then laid his hands on the Datsun's shoulders.
"Prowl...you'd tell me if there was something wrong, wouldn't you?"
"Yes Jazz. I'm fine...you're talking about the medical, aren't you? I know, it should have been done awhile ago. I've just been busy," the tactician explained with a sigh.
"Well...all right," Jazz said, letting go of him.
Prowl studied the sleepy saboteur.
"Jazz, go back to bed. Ratchet shouldn't have woken you,"
"He was worried about you. Prowl man...you weren't really halfway up the volcano, were you,"
"Of course not Jazz. Good night,"
"I didn't think so...G'night..." Jazz mumbled.
"I was two-thirds of the way up the volcano," Prowl said under his vocalizer as the Porsche stumbled back to his quarters.
He felt a little bad that Jazz had been woken, then recalled the look on the medic's face when he'd spotted the Datsun on the ledge.
Prowl tried not to snicker, realizing no one was believing anything the medic said about himself.
He almost felt sorry for Ratchet.
"Slag him! He wins! I'm not touching him! He can crawl into the medbay, missing both door-panels, Energon running from every junction, and I'll slagging step over him!"
Ratchet had reached the end of his rope, and was currently pouring his heart out -so to speak- to Wheeljack.
"Slag him! Slag him to the Pit! I hope he rusts!"
The medic raved.
"Does he really have so little respect for me Wheeljack? Primus, I'm only trying to do my job! If I didn't care about the health and welfare of every Autobot under this rocky roof -even his- I'd tell you all to slag off, not do my best to see to everyone's well-being! That's it! He clearly doesn't want any contact with me, so that's exactly what he's going to get!"
Prowl, on his way to some Energon, caught this tirade from the medbay.
He wasn't eavesdropping.
The way he was raving, Ratchet wouldn't have heard him if he'd dived headfirst through the double doors.
"Incredible Ratch," Wheeljack tried to tease the medic, "Prowl's the only Autobot who can make you yell by staying out of the medbay!"
Poor Ratchet, Prowl thought with a snicker, having laughed himself out.
One thought was sticking to the tactician though: the fact that the medic believed Prowl didn't respect him.
"And that couldn't be further from the truth," Prowl remarked to the curious coyote that was eyeing him from the top of a nearby outcrop.
The rain had temporarily ceased.
Prowl had taken himself beyond the small pine thicket behind the Ark, and laughed like he never had before.
"Good morning Ratchet," a quiet but friendly voice greeted the medic, and he was met with the sight of the tactician seated on an exam bunk, arms folded.
"Prowl. To what do I owe this honour? Did some killer disease attack you overnight?" Ratchet asked sourly, breaking the vow of silence he'd made.
"No. I just wondered if you could squeeze in my medical this morning?" Prowl asked, innocent as a newborn lamb.
Ratchet resisted the strong impulse to rip off his door-panels, and insert them, sideways.
No, he almost snapped, just out of spite, but realized if he refused him, he'd never get Prowl's medical out of the way.
"Fine. Lay down and shut up," Ratchet growled.
The Datsun complied.
"There," Ratchet said with satisfaction, and in a slightly better humour, around fifteen astrominutes later.
The Datsun had actually cooperated this time, and not used passive resistance during the exam, first time ever.
"You're in complete health Prowl, as usual. I'm still perfecting the surgery that will remove your stubbornness circuits though. I just can't find a needle long enough," the medic snorted.
Prowl left that one alone as he stood up and proceeded to leave.
"Wait an astrotick. Get back over here," Ratchet ordered.
The Datsun obeyed.
Ratchet turned him so the back of his door-panels were in direct light, and leaned in to examine the left.
The inner junction was slightly out of alignment, something no one but a trained medic would spot.
This wouldn't be unbearable, but it must be at least a little sore! Why the slag didn't he say anything?
"Isn't this bothering you when you transform?" Ratchet asked, gently prodding.
"I didn't think it was worth mentioning," Prowl explained honestly, with a slight shrug, and Ratchet could have shaken him, just as honestly.
"For Primus' sake Prowl. That's what I'm here for! I've treated microscopic, hairline scratches that I could barely see without complaining,"
He shook his head in total frustrated despair and fixed the minor ouch.
"Now doesn't that feel better?" Ratchet questioned.
"Yes. Thank you," Prowl said, and got out of there.
"I'm still going to kill it one day," Ratchet muttered to himself, gathering his instruments.
He caught sight of a datapadd on the medbunk.
Prowl had obviously forgotten it.
Or left it behind on purpose.
The medic picked it up with a glower, wondering if it would say he'd just examined Prowl's stunt double or something similar.
The glare faded as Ratchet read the quotes written in the tactician's pathologically neat script.
I will prescribe regimen for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgement and never do harm to anyone.
If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art, respected by all men and in all times.
"Most of us wouldn't be here without your art Ratchet, and we couldn't be without you.
I know everything you do is for our good, and out of a medic's -and a friend's- concern.
With the greatest respect now and always, Prowl."
"PS: From now on, please keep each monthly medicals earliest slot open. I'm claiming them."
The Autobot medic knew exactly what to do with that datapadd.
He picked it up, walked calmly to his office, and placed it next to the Apoth Unicum etching.
Right where he'd always be able to see it.