Merry Xmas everyone! Thank you for your reviews this year. I'm still writing, I just don't have as much time as I used to, as well as a seemingly incurable case of writer's block. Cheers!
"Not an ideal situation for Christmas is it Prowl?"
Optimus Prime remarked to his second in command with a sigh.
Uncontrollable circumstances had the Autobots scattered across both Earth and Cybertron, leaving friends continents and in some cases planets apart.
"No Prime," the Datsun replied heavily, glancing around at the downcast skeleton control room crew.
It was Christmas Eve only by the calendar.
The "home guard" hadn't had the heart to acknowledge the occasion with so many Autobots away, some on dangerous missions.
The Autobot commander took the Datsun's shoulder, and Prowl looked up from the station he was monitoring.
"At least you're here Prowl," Optimus said, and the tactician managed a half-hearted smile.
They turned as Trailbreaker drove in and transformed.
"That's another shipment Prime," the big mech commented, "Only about five to go,"
The Autobot females had recently seized control of the spacebridge, and the faction had taken every advantage of the situation.
Optimus Prime had sent a small contingent of troops to assist Elita-One guard the vital technology, and help her Autobots set up a base within the compound.
The Ark had had stockpiles of Energon cubes just waiting for such an opportunity, and Trailbreaker had been working practically solo around the clock to ship them via the spacebridge.
"Excellent work Trailbreaker," the commander rumbled.
"Yes, you're doing the work of three mechs. I'm going to help you with the next lot,"
Prowl said firmly, and went to stand up.
Trailbreaker took his shoulders and after a bit of a struggle sat the Datsun back down.
"Stay here Prowl, I'm fine," the big mech asserted, "These monitors need you more than I do, all right? Now I'm going to finish these last few trips. Then at least those of us that are here can try to enjoy Christmas Eve together,"
With that, Trailbreaker transformed and headed to the secondary storage bay.
Prowl looked at the commander in exasperation, and Prime couldn't help laughing.
"You're not the only stubborn Autobot Prowl,"
Prowl sighed and rubbed an optic.
Prime noted the wilting door-panels and ordered the Datsun off on a break.
"No buts Prowl. Now."
Prowl reluctantly gave up his station to the commander, but he couldn't help lingering at the opposite bank of monitors.
"Everything all right Ratchet?"
"I'm a medic, not a night watchman," Ratchet muttered, his gaze bouncing from one monitor to the next.
"I'll take over," Prowl told the big mech, "Just give me an astrotick,"
The Datsun exited the control room, conscious of Optimus Prime's don't-make-me-tell-you-again look.
He entered the corridor just in time to see Trailbreaker's back end leaving the Ark, laden with glowing Energon cubes.
Prowl walked to the medbay, listening to his own footsteps through the despondent silence of the near-empty Ark.
As if things aren't miserable enough, poor Mirage is stuck in the medbay on Christmas Eve, the tactician sighed to himself as he entered the warm medical facility.
The Ligier had picked up some kind of viral infection, and had been a very sick mech for several days.
And with all present staff on monitoring or guard duties, finding an astrominute or two to spend with the unwell spy had been near-impossible.
"Are you feeling any better Mirage?" Prowl asked softly.
The slender mech was obviously still weak, and his baby-blue optics were still pale and dulled.
"Prowl," Mirage managed a smile for his visitor, "Yes, a little better. I think I can go back on duty-"
As he spoke, the Ligier slid slowly off his medbunk.
And kept going.
His legs weren't yet willing to hold him up.
Prowl caught Mirage around the midsection and lifted him back onto the bunk, then folded his arms.
Mirage looked at his lap.
"I won't tell Ratchet what you just tried to do," Prowl said dryly, "Because I know how painful he can be on the audios once he starts,"
"But we're short-handed. I want to help,"
"I appreciate that Mirage," Prowl said, taking the Ligier's forearm, "But we just want you to recover. I hate to see any Autobot sick, especially at Christmas...and especially this Christmas,"
"It's not a good one is it," Mirage mumbled, then coughed.
"Prowl...are any of the teams home?"
Mirage asked, trying to sound off-hand, but the Datsun caught the underlying hope in the Ligier's tone.
"No. No, I'm sorry Mirage," Prowl said quietly, and lay a hand on the slender mech's cheek (his optics still had the slight glaze that meant fever)
"Don't get me wrong Prowl. I'm glad you and Prime, Ratchet and Trailbreaker and everyone are here with me, but..."
The Ligier trailed off, not sure how to finish his sentence without causing offence.
"I know what you mean," Prowl said gently, noting down Mirage's temperature and the time for the medic to review.
"I hate to leave you Mirage, but-"
"I know, it's ok," Mirage smiled thinly, "Thank you for the visit Prowl,"
The Datsun gave him a handshake and headed back to the control room, hoping Mirage would recover soon.
"How is Mirage?" Optimus Prime asked as soon as Prowl entered, and the Datsun faltered.
"How did you know I went to see Mirage Optimus?"
"I know you too well Prowl," Prime said dryly.
"Uh...ok. Well, Mirage is still sick," Prowl sighed and took over Ratchet's station.
"Still feverish Prowl?" the medic asked, pausing in the doorway, and the tactician nodded.
"I'll see what I can do," Ratchet muttered to himself and disappeared.
"Prime! The spacebridge is active," Smokescreen reported tensely as one of the screens he was monitoring suddenly gave an early-warning signal.
Prowl hit a few controls and managed a visual from a nearby Sky Spy as Optimus Prime strode over to Smokescreen's station.
"Optimus! It's the Cybertron team," Prowl swung around to report.
"Yes! At least some of us are coming home for Christmas!" Trailbreaker exclaimed through his open commlink.
"What on Cybetron? Did you lot find some vintage Energon or something?" Ratchet wandered back in just in time to catch the black mech's happy yelp.
"That was fast," Prime commented.
"Mirage is offline, I didn't want to disturb him," the medic explained, "It's the best thing for him at the moment. Now what's going on?"
"Look who's on their way home," Prowl smiled and put the Sky Spy visual on Teletran's main screen.
Wheeljack, Sunstreaker, Windcharger, Red Alert and Beachcomber, travelling in a pack and making a direct line for the Ark.
"But I thought...!" the medic exclaimed.
Optimus Prime set Teletran to full temporary automatic scanning, and the four of them rushed out to meet the returning team.
Wheeljack and the others rounded the last curve as one and transformed for a warm welcome home.
Handshakes, back-slaps and the occasional hug...and then the questions.
"We thought the Decepticons had sabotaged the Cybetronian spacebridge! How in the Universe-" Ratchet demanded, "You said it would take at least a week to straighten out Wheeljack!"
The Lancia chuckled as the happy group headed back inside out of the chilly afternoon wind.
"I had a little help Ratch. One of the female engineers - what a genius! She had the thing up and running in under an astrohour. Elita must have transferred her from somewhere else,"
"What's her name?" Prowl asked.
"You know, she never said," Sunstreaker spoke up, "But I'll know her when I see her, she was this incredible shade of red,"
"Well I'm glad to see you all," Optimus Prime commented, "The Ark won't seem so empty now,"
"You mean no one else has returned?" Windcharger asked, and Prowl shook his head.
"We better get moving and help pick up the slack then," Wheeljack chuckled.
Prowl sent Beachcomber to give Trailbreaker a hand, and took up an incoming transmission.
"Skyfire to Optimus Prime,"
"This is Prowl Skyfire, go ahead,"
"Prowl, you'll never guess where my team is,"
"You were assigned to Sydney, Australia, to assist the firefighters and State Emergency Service with all those bushfires,"
"Could you step outside the Ark for an astrotick Prowl?"
"All right," Prowl answered, puzzled.
He transformed and went back out into the fading light.
Just as Skyfire was taxiing to a stop as close to the Ark as he could manage.
Prowl transformed in amazement.
The last news report they'd had from Australia had been that the bushfires were almost out of control, and that every available hand was desperately needed.
Skyfire's passengers disembarked, ash-stained, tired, with a few minor burns...and with shining optics.
Bluestreak made a direct dash for the unprepared second in command and threw his arms around the older mech.
Prowl returned the sentiment as Ironhide, Inferno, Tracks and Powerglide gathered.
"How?" Prowl managed amid the excitement.
"I don't know Prime. This sudden storm swept in off the Pacific, and the rain came down in cubic buckets," Tracks explained, "It poured! Everything was soaked in a couple of astrominutes, including all those rusting fires. A man in a red firefighter's outfit told us -firefighters and Autobots both- we could all go home for Christmas,"
"Don't Australian firefighters wear yellow?" Prowl questioned.
"Yeah, that's what they were all wearin'," Ironhide drawled, "We figured the guy in red was in charge Prowl buddy. Why?"
"Just curious Ironhide," Prowl smiled, and the elder mech slung an arm over his shoulders.
"Anyone else home Prowl?" Skyfire asked hopefully.
"Yes, actually, the team from Cybertron," Prowl smiled at the surprised looks.
"They had a bit of luck too,"
Prowl noticed Tracks detach himself from the group.
He knew the warrior was on his way to see Mirage, and fell into step with him as the other Autobots set about surprising the control room.
Prowl wanted to see Mirage's face when the Ligier saw Tracks.
"Is Mirage feeling better?" the big mech asked, "I felt awful leaving him Prowl,"
"Duty called Tracks," the Datsun said levelly, "But Mirage is going to be very happy to see you, believe me," he added with a smile.
As they neared the medbay, Ratchet appeared in the doorway and laid his hands either side of him on the frame.
"Welcome home Tracks, I heard all the racket," he smiled.
"Thanks Ratchet - please, can I see Mirage?" the Corvette pleaded politely.
"Sorry, I can't let you in,"
Prowl eyed the medic.
Ratchet grinned and stepped aside.
Enough to let a smiling, bright-optic'd Ligier into the corridor.
Tracks threw his arms around the slender mech and immediately began filling Mirage in about the fires he'd helped fight.
"Ratchet, what on Cybertron did you do to him?" Prowl asked incredulously as the two friends wandered down the hall.
"Nothing Prowl," the medic said dryly, "Let's just call it a minor Christmas miracle,"
"When you came back to the control room, I went to check on Mirage and he was offline, still with a raised temperature, still a pretty sick mech.
He was mumbling something about a red medic. I thought maybe he was dreaming about an old family doctor, or someone he knew before the war,"
Ratchet looked at the Datsun.
"Then Mirage onlined, and I asked what he'd been dreaming about. All he could remember was a red mech, but it was no one he knew. Then he said he felt much better, so I checked him over. The fever's gone Prowl. And you saw him just now - he's fine. I wish all my patients would recover so suddenly!"
"Incredible," Prowl said slowly.
He left Ratchet puzzling over Mirage's last lot of readings and headed back to the control room, smiling to himself at the increased sound level with the Ark's walls.
But there's still a lot of Autobots not home, Prowl reminded himself with a sigh.
And walked into a noisy, overfilled control room.
"I don't believe it," the Datsun murmured to himself, gazing around at the newest arrivals that should not have, by rights, been there that night.
"Everyone's coming home for Christmas Prowl!" Bluestreak called gleefully, "Did you have any trouble with the decorations?"
"Uh...we didn't put them up Bluestreak,"
"No tree? No decorations?" Bluestreak asked incredulously, "Why?"
"Because those of us at home didn't think it right to celebrate with so many Autobots away...and there are still several Autobots missing,"
Prowl pointed out gently, "I don't think we can expect everybody home tonight,"
"You never know Prowl," Bluestreak said earnestly, "Who would have thought we'd be home tonight?"
Prowl smiled at him.
"Just give us an astrohour and you won't know the place Prowl!" the young mech exclaimed, taking off to round up some "volunteers".
Prowl shook his head with a smile, glad to see so many friends home, but acutely aware of those still absent.
A slight sound caught his audios.
Prowl moved slightly out of range of the welcome-home pandemonium, and concentrated on the distant low throb.
"What's wrong Prowl buddy?" Ironhide drawled.
The rest of the Autobots quietened and looked to their second in command.
Prowl gestured outside, and most of the gathered followed him.
The distant throb grew stronger, and slight vibrations began to be sensed underfoot.
"I have a transmission," Optimus Prime rumbled, raising his forearm as the audio-only link came through.
"Team Desert Storm to the Ark - request permission to land,"
Hound's unmistakable cheerful voice was heard by all present even as a twin-rotor troop carrier thundered over Mt St Helens, shaking the very ground.
"I don't believe it," Prowl mumbled to himself again.
The Autobots shielded their optics as the carrier grounded, blasting sandy dust in every direction.
"Permission granted," Prime said warmly as Hound, Warpath, Bumblebee, Cliffjumper and Sideswipe tumbled from the military aircraft amid cheers.
They'd been assigned to the Middle East, to help the military move some highly powerful experimental liquid fuel the Decepticons were more than a little interested in.
The short task had turned deadly however.
The volatile region had erupted in conflict, stranding the team behind suddenly enemy territory.
Prowl watched Sunstreaker pull his brother into a rough, bruising, love-filled headlock, and chuckled when Sideswipe teasingly kicked the gold mech's feet out from under him, still in Sunstreaker's grip.
He managed to get in a handshake with Hound.
"Your last report said you wouldn't be home until at least the new year,"
"I know Prowl, but we had some luck!" the scout explained and turned to the troop carrier.
He raised his voice as the rotors powered up with that distinct thud-thud-thud, and Prowl eyed the pilot.
The pilot met his gaze, gave the Datsun a smile, and raised a bright red-sleeved arm to salute.
Prowl absently acknowledged the salute, pondering that unfamiliar uniform.
The Datsun had extensive knowledge of Earth's militaries, and was certain he'd never seen that strip before.
Hound transformed and dashed off to meet Trailbreaker and Beachcomber, on their way back from the last transport.
Prowl was quietly overjoyed to see the 'family' together.
But there was still something missing.
He watched Prime lead the Autobots into the Ark, and turned his sight to the first stars.
"I miss you Jazz," Prowl whispered.
The Porsche was on a top-priority solo sabotage mission to one of Cybertron's Decepticon-controlled moonbases.
Prowl not only missed the saboteur, but had been worried ever since Jazz had left.
Contact was out of the question, naturally, until the mission was complete.
Prowl transformed and headed to his favourite star-gazing location.
The fates had been kind to them tonight, Prowl would be the first to agree.
He was glad to see friends reunited, and Autobots home from dangerous tasks with success.
The Datsun settled himself on the distant outcrop and thought about the gift he had waiting for Jazz.
A coyote bayed in the distance, but apart from that the chilly night was peaceful.
Prowl absently drew his fingers through the cool dust, longing to be able to at the very least wish the saboteur a merry christmas.
Prowl gazed into the moonless night, subconsciously admiring the stellar vista.
He realized his sight was fixed on the constellation he'd once determined Cybertron would appear to be in from Earth, if the Autobot's world were a star.
A sound made him glance over his shoulder, and a tall dark-skinned human smiled at him.
"Good evening," the man said easily, "Nice view,"
"Yes. Uh, hello," Prowl said awkwardly, "Are you all right? I rarely see humans this far into the desert,"
The man shrugged.
"I'm fine. My car is over there," he gestured vaguely, "My family are all visiting for Christmas, and I just wanted a few minutes of peace and quiet,"
The human grinned.
Prowl chuckled slightly.
"But when they're gone, I miss the laughter and the noise,"
"I now what you mean," Prowl said feelingly, and the man looked at him.
"Are you missing someone?
"Yes. My best friend,"
"Your friends are important to you,"
Prowl eyed the calm human, then looked at the stars.
"Yes. They are," he said simply.
"And you're not all together tonight?"
"Most of us have been able to come home, and I'm so happy to see them all,"
"But your friend isn't home,"
"My friend is doing his duty, and I'm proud of him,"
"But you wish here was here with you."
"Yes, I do, but I don't think I have any right to feel that way. A few astrohours ago the rest of my friends were all over Earth and my home planet, and I can hardly believe they're all here now,"
The tall man laid a warm gloved hand on the Datsun's foot and chuckled.
"Enjoy it my friend. And no matter what, I'm sure your friend is thinking of you too Prowl,"
How did he know my name? the Datsun wondered briefly, but concluded that with all the news reports concerning Decepticon attacks, the human population was probably getting familiar with the Autobots.
"Merry Christmas," the human grinned, and Prowl noticed the warm sparkle in his dark eyes.
"Thank you. Uh, merry Christmas to you too,"
The human wandered away, humming to himself, and Prowl recognized the first few bars of Jazz's favourite Christmas carol with a faint smile.
He sighed and got up.
I wonder how Bluestreak's going with the decorating, Prowl thought, and just the thought of the bubbly young mech cheered him up a little.
A pale sound came to his audios, just as the Datsun was about to transform.
Someone else was playing Jazz's favourite carol.
Prowl recalled the words without difficulty; Jazz had been blasting it day and night in his quarters, over the Ark PA system, and on his own sound system.
See the blazing yule before us, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la
Strike the harp and join the chorus, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la
Follow me in merry measure, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la
While I tell of yuletide treasure, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la
Prowl turned away, then back as he realized the strains were increasing in volume.
And had a very familiar added bass sound.
It can't be, Prowl told himself, refusing to get his hopes up, and scanning the darkened horizon in spite of himself.
And spotted a set of headlights moving in at a fast clip, with accompanying Christmas carol.
"Jazz," Prowl murmured with a smile.
He calculated the Porsche's path, then transformed, adjusted his frequency to the Porsche's, and sat silent and dark.
Just as Jazz entered the ravine below, Prowl flicked on his police lights and matched the carol playback.
The Porsche hit the brakes and slid 180 degrees.
"Welcome home Jazz," Prowl called down, and would never be able to deny making a haphazard scramble down the cliff walls to get to his friend.
Jazz tackled him in a hug that made Bluestreak's look like a pat on the shoulder.
"You wouldn't believe it man! I picked up this distress signal from a Monacusian freighter. He was low on fuel, so I guided him down to the moonbase. Oh, and Sarge, there wasn't a Decepticreep in the place! I could have totalled the entire base and no one would have known,"
Prowl listened to the Porsche contentedly, happier than he would have ever admitted to have Jazz nearby again.
"Anyway, this shipper offered to bring me back to Earth in return for the fuel. I had to stay in Alt mode but I didn't care man!"
"Jazz, what was he wearing?"
The Porsche looked at him just a bit askance but answered.
"A space flight suit Sarge, why?"
"What colour was it?"
"It was red Prowl man,"
Jazz verbally dashed on as Prowl listened, but his thoughts were momentarily elsewhere.
"Prowl man, I left your present in my locker but I didn't get a chance to tell you where it was! If I'd known I was going to be stuck up on that boring rock I'd have given it to you before-"
"Jazz," Prowl cut in, "Forget the present. I already got my wish. I will have Christmas with my friends...and my closest friend,"
Jazz gave the Datsun his trademark grin and tugged him close.
"Me too. Merry Christmas Sarge. S'who else is home man?"
Prowl smiled but didn't say anything.
Jazz gave him a high-five.
"Aw right! Wheeljack? Surely his team isn't here!"
"He is Jazz. And so is everyone else,"
"Are you kidding me man?"
"Yours was the last name we needed to mark off Jazz," Prowl told him softly, optics shining.
"Primus Sarge! Are you telling me everyone came home tonight?" Jazz yelped excitedly, "I don't believe you!"
"I gotta see this! Come on man!"
Jazz leapt to transform, and the two friends headed home.
"Aw look at that!"
Jazz exclaimed as Mount St Helens came into view.
Bluestreak and his 'recruits' had performed a minor miracle.
The entire volcano had been wrapped in sensor netting and reverse-polarised, the lattice effect shining even brighter than the stars above.
Porsche and Datsun transformed and paused on a crest to admire the sight.
"We had no decorations up at all Jazz," Prowl told the saboteur, "It was too lonely with almost everyone gone,"
"Well you gotta believe in miracles now Prowl man," Jazz grinned with a nudge.
Prowl flashed through all the 'angels' in red that had seen his family together that night, and quietly accepted they'd all been one and the same person.
"Come on Jazz. Let's go home," Prowl transformed and waited for his friend.
They'd spend Christmas Eve with the warmth of friendship, everyone safe, healthy and together.
Just the way Christmas is meant to be.