Author's Notes: First and foremost, huge thanks go out to Okamichan for beta-ing this for me. Secondly, I offer you all my greatest apologies for the unexpected hiatus. Hopefully that won't happen again.
EDIT: Huge thanks to Tiamat1972 for pointing out to me that had eaten up all my formatting. I'm so sorry for the previous mistake, hopefully this is easier to read now!
Prompt: 060. Drink
Stylus tapping rhythmically against his desk, Prowl shut down the data pad in front of him. He reached for the next one to be checked over. Sideswipe's crooked scrawl covered the screen, blotted by black smears and smudges caused by Primus knew what. Prowl suppressed a grumble and brought the screen closer to his face. His optics whirred quietly, adjusting his focus and magnification settings. It was no use, he could read the odd sentence fragment here and there, but too much of it was obscured by messy splotches to make it even partially understandable.
Sighing, Prowl fiddled with the pad's controls, and tried to make the warrior's scribblings more legible by adjusting the contrast and brightness setting. When this failed, and his attempts to reboot the pad did nothing but reverse all if his previous efforts, Prowl tossed the pad aside. He'd have to call Sideswipe in and tell him to work on his handwriting or type his reports; Prowl had a hard enough time deciphering Wheeljacks' reports, he didn't need to waste more time trying to read the warrior's, as well.
Prowl plucked his stylus up from the desk's surface and pulled the next pad towards himself. A sigh of relief left his vents when he saw Mirage's neat signature at the bottom. Stylus hovering over the screen, he nearly jumped out of his seat when the battle alarm sounded, much louder than he remembered it ever being before and echoing inside his office like one of the unholy, off-key, "alternative" music concerts Blaster enjoyed. Doorwings shooting upwards, he slammed his hands down on the desk in surprise. His stylus clattered against the datapad before sliding across the glossy screen and flying towards the opposite end of the room to hit the wall and fall to the ground in a splintered mess. Prowl stood abruptly to stalk across his office and hit the door control, bracing himself for whatever chaos was bound to be going on outside.
For a short moment, Prowl just stared. The ceiling-mounted sirens, which normally blinked a rhythmic pulse of white light, were all flashing at varying rates and creating a dizzying lightshow that was oddly reminiscent of the kind Jazz specialized in. Mechs ran in all directions, colliding with each other, the walls, and, in the case of one particularly uncoordinated mech, their second in command. The mech, a vibrant orange transport of some kind, ran straight into Prowl's protruding bumper and sent the tactician flying into the door-frame of his own office. He crashed into it with an echoing clang, and would have fallen backwards onto his aft had he not staggered back a step and put a hand against the inner wall of his office to catch his balance. By the time Prowl had gotten himself together, the offending mech was long gone, and the crowd outside of his office had, apparently, begun to thin out.
After a cautious glance in both directions, Prowl stepped out into the hall only to come face-to-face with a squad of minibots careening around the corner. Despite their short stature, they nearly managed to nearly trample him in their hurry to get past him. One of them skidded to a half-stop to salute and garble out an apology before rushing to catch up with his clamoring team-mates. Prowl watched them disappear around the corner as the rest of them hollered out their own apologies in an incomprehensible cacophony of sound, leaving him quite suddenly alone in the corridor. Slowly, one optic twitching in its housing, Prowl turned to hit the door control for his office, and watched the panel slowly slide shut.
Stepping away from the wall carefully, Prowl headed down the opposite corridor, wincing whenever he ended up directly underneath one of the wailing sirens. He swiftly lowered the input sensitivity of his audios, and, that done, attempted to hail Prime over the comm lines. His efforts were rewarded with static, as were all attempts to hail any officer on base. He still hadn't managed to open a communications link when he slunk into the command center, and nearly walked right back out at the sight of the mayhem inside.
Warriors bustled back and forth aimlessly like a pack of confused gnats, heading in one direction before being knocked into a console by someone else and heading off in the opposite direction. Though they all seemed to be moving, it was clear that nothing was getting accomplished, and none of them were really getting anywhere. Prowl frowned. Warriors on duty were supposed to report to specific officers at the sound of an alarm, and yet it seemed that a good portion of them were simply milling about the command center. They had, apparently, all come to the same conclusion that if they couldn't reach their squad chief over the comms, they should simply cram themselves into the control room and wait to be pointed in a different direction.
Prowl sighed inwardly at the chaos. Jazz was trying to herd as many of them as he could out of the command center, and was having some difficulty doing so. Most of the warriors towered over him, and it seemed he was able to do little other than grab onto arms and elbows, and push mechs out of the way. Blaster and his cassettes were parked at the main console, doing something or other with the communications network and making a whole lot of noise doing so, while a crowd of communications and maintenance mechs poked and prodded at an exposed and smoking panel of wiring nearby. Optimus Prime was at the center of it all, yelling into Ironhide's audio to make himself heard and gesticulating wildly. The old warrior was nodding at whatever it was his leader was saying, and rushed out of the room not long after Prowl spotted him. He spared a moment to nod at the tactician before shoving a disoriented looking gunner out of the way and tromping out into the hall.
Stretched up on his toes, Prowl struggled to see over the crowd of warriors. He grabbed onto the nearest pair of shoulders to balance himself and raised the volume of his vocalizer to be heard over the racket. "Prime! What's the situation?"
Optimus turned at the sound of his 2IC's voice and waded through the crowd of mechs to reach him. He grabbed hold of Prowl's elbow and pulled him towards the door. The crowd parted willingly to let Optimus through, and Prowl followed along behind him without trouble, walking in the opening he left behind him. Just as they reached the door, something behind them exploded, and the sirens cut off. Optimus glanced back into the room, spotted Blaster already waving smoke away from the communications console, and left him to it. He continued out into the hallway, and dragged Prowl out with him.
Warriors and smoke started spilling out of the door and into the corridor almost as soon as Prime and Prowl made it outside. They dispersed down various hallways, being led by various harried junior officers. Most appeared more excited about whatever action was going on than the explosion that had just gone off in the command center. Optimus pulled Prowl towards the wall, out of the path of the warriors, and, with a hand still on his shoulder, bent forward to speak into his audio.
"From what we can tell, there're some 'cons assembling in the eastern quarter of Hexacon. We're trying to get Ironhide's unit out of here to clear things up, but there's something wrong with communications, and the battle siren, apparently."
Prowl nodded and brought his tactical files on Hexacon up in his HUD, along with the list of personnel in Ironhide's unit, a disconcerting percentage of which were marked as "on medical leave". "What can I do?"
"We've got almost everyone armed and ready to go, but we're still short some heavy-hitters. Ironhide's trying to track down Tracks, Blastout and Strafe. Could you see if you can find Sideswipe and that mech he transferred with, that yellow hell-raiser?"
Prowl cooked his doorwings a little higher and tilted his head to the side. Yellow hell-raiser? "Sunstreaker?"
Optimus nodded. "Yes, that's the one. I'll be at the main entrance with Ironhide if you need me, we're hoping to get them out of here in 8 breems. I'd like you to get in touch with Blaster and monitor things from here once they do."
"I'll do what I can, sir." Optimus nodded and started to head down towards the main entrance, probably to help co-ordinate the mechs down there. He slapped Prowl on the back as he passed, and the tactician staggered forward a step before putting a hand on the wall to regain his balance.
Prowl straightened and shook his doorwings out before heading off in the opposite direction, towards the recreation deck.
He was halfway to the lounge when a veritable mob of mechs came rushing at him from the opposite direction, all trampling towards the command center and with a definite air of mass confusion about them. They stopped dead when they saw Prowl, and immediately began asking him, all at once, what the frag was going on.
Resisting the urge to ask them what had taken them so long to respond, Prowl stretched his doorwings out and rose up onto his toe-joints to get their attention. "Listen, hold on, quiet, QUIET!" Prowl raised the volume on his vocalizer, dropping back onto his heels with a clank. "Ironhide's unit is heading out to deal with a Decepticon threat, if you're under his command, head towards the main entrance now. If any of you know where Strafe, Tracks and Blastout are, tell them to head down there, too."
The mechs nodded slowly and slowly started to disperse, some continuing towards the main entrance while the rest peeled off in other directions. Among the crowd of reds and blues, a flash of vibrant yellow caught Prowl's optic, about to disappear around the corner.
"Sunstreaker!" Prowl leapt forwards, and, with a few good leaps, managed to catch the warrior's wrist and tug him back. He immediately let go when the warrior turned to glare down at him, and yanked his hand away from Prowl's.
"What?" Standing barely two hands-breadths away from Prowl and leaning forward, Sunstreaker loomed over the shorter mech, expression fierce and optics fiercer.
Prowl took a step back and folded his arms across his chest. "Prime wants you to go with Ironhide's unit. Have you seen Sideswipe?"
Scowl deepening, Sunstreaker shifted his weight and jutted one hip out, casting a shadow over the strip of freshly welded metal on his midsection. "Sideswipe? He was in the rec room last I saw him. I'm not his keeper."
Prowl frowned at the newly repaired injury on Sunstreaker's middle and the blistered paint around it. "Are you fit for duty? I don't want to send you into battle injured."
Sunstreaker shrugged and turned towards the rec room, obviously expecting Prowl to follow. "I'm fine, it's just cosmetic damage." He sped up his pace. "There's no time, anyways. You're obviously short a couple heavy-hitters, and we don't have much time to dawdle in the hallways."
Prowl was forced to agree with him, and jogged quickly to catch up to the warrior. Sunstreaker's long stride had Prowl hop-skipping every couple of steps to keep up with him, doorwings bouncing uncomfortably in their hinges as he trotted hurriedly down the hall.
Sunstreaker didn't slow down, and if he noticed Prowl's uneven, hurried gait, he didn't say anything. He only stopped when they reached the rec room, stepping back to allow Prowl to walk in first, and following after him slowly.
Sideswipe was at the back of the room, sitting on a swiveling chair at the long counter with his back to both Prowl and Sunstreaker. The rec room had long ago been emptied of everyone else but him, and the warrior showed no signs of having even heard the wailing alarm just a few breems ago. Partially sprawled against the counter with his head supported in his palm and a stack of empty cubes next to him, he looked like he'd been there awhile. One long leg dangled loosely off of the edge of the seat, but the other was stretched downwards and braced against the base of the counter, pushing against it idly to swivel the chair back and forth.
Prowl frowned and navigated around an upended sofa, probably knocked over by whoever had been occupying it when the alarm sounded. "Sideswipe, we need you down at the main entrance."
The red warrior didn't respond, so, now only a few paces away from the mech, Prowl sped up his pace to walk around the barstool.
"Heeeey, Pro'l" Sideswipe tilted his head and grinned up crookedly at the officer, sloshing high grade from his partially filled cube onto his fingers.
Prowl, optics wide and doorwings stretched back, gaped at the warrior. "You're overcharged."
Sideswipe giggled. "A'yup." He brought his cube up to his lips and drained it, before tossing it down among the rest of the empty cubes. "Feels good." A hiccup burbled up from his tank, and he pushed himself off the counter to sway unsteadily on his stool.
Prowl's shoulders stiffened and he turned to look up at Sunstreaker with his fists clenched at his sides. "You knew he was drunk," he said flatly.
"I knew he was drinking." Sunstreaker crossed his arms and took a step back, gaze flickering towards Sideswipe for a moment before turning back to Prowl. "I didn't know he was drunk."
"Heey, I'm right here ya'nno." Sideswipe tried to glower at them but the expression quickly melted into a loopy grin as he beamed at the tactician.
Resisting the urge to roll his optics, Prowl grabbed Sideswipe's elbow and pulled him upright. Rather than take his own weight, the red mech sagged in Prowl's grip, and the tactician staggered under the unexpected weight. Sideswipe's head dropped onto the tactician's shoulder with a dull clank, and his lips brushed lightly against the transformation seam at his neck. The mech's hot breath tickled Prowl's plating, and stung his olfactory sensors with the sickly sweet stench of high grade.
"Sideswipe, you need to stand up, you're too heavy." Prowl's back and knees strained under the burden of the warrior's weight, and the tactician grunted with the effort of trying to shove him off. Sideswipe remained a dead-weight against him, and chuckled as he looped his arm over Prowl's shoulders, his fingers sliding across the base of Prowl's neck along the way.
The tactician shuddered and pushed against the warrior, scrabbling at the red chestplate with the hand that wasn't pinned against his side. "Sideswipe, get off!" Prowl gave a final shove and sent Sideswipe staggering backwards, the warrior's movements sluggish as he grabbed onto the bar stool for balance.
"I can not believe you would drink enough to lose control like this. This is no behavior for a respectable Autobot to be displaying."
Sideswipe, one arm slung over the back of the stool, grinned and tipped is head down, staring back at Prowl with darkened optics. "No one ev'r said I was respect'ble."
Prowl took a step back, nearly bumping into Sunstreaker, who growled a warning at him. The tactician flattened his doorwings against his back, but kept his attention focused on the red warrior. "What in Primus' name compelled you to drink yourself into such a state?"
"Prowl…" Sunstreaker put a hand on the tactician's shoulder, fingers squeezing the plating and leaving yellow streaks on his paint. "Leave it."
Expression blank now, Sideswipe slumped against the stool only to stagger when it swiveled under his weight. His gaze shifted towards the ground and his engine sputtered in his chest. Apparently, whatever, or whoever, he'd been hoping to forget by drinking himself to oblivion was rushing back into his processor. "I…" His vocalizer cracked and sputtered, and Prowl heard the unmistakable sound of intakes hitching with emotion.
Prowl, spark constricting, stepped forward and put a hand on the warrior's shoulder. "Sideswipe—"
The warrior's knees buckled and he sank further against the stool. It spun under his weight before toppling, and Sideswipe, his arm still looped around it, unwittingly pulled it towards himself. The stool's legs screeched across the floor before they crashed into Sideswipe's own, knocking him off balance and sending him falling towards the counter. He was micrometers away from cracking his head against it when Prowl leapt forwards and caught him under the arms.
Sideswipe gasped and stumbled, nearly tripping on Prowl's pedes. An unpleasant grinding sound emanated from his tanks, and, with one hand still clutching Prowl's shoulder, he doubled over with a groan.
Prowl's sentence was cut off by the sound of Sideswipe heaving. The contents of the warrior's tank came surging upwards, and partially processed high grade splattered against the deck plating at his pedes.
Prowl blinked. He looked down. Hot pink energon was trickling down the plating of his pedes. He shifted his optics towards the mech responsible, and they narrowed at the sight of him.
Energon dribbled from Sideswipe's lips as he coughed and dropped his chin to his chest. The hand that wasn't digging furrows into Prowl's shoulder plating was wrapped around his own mid-section. The warrior hiccuped, and slumped against his superior officer.
Optics burning and doorwings quivering behind him, Prowl gritted his dental plating. He blasted hot air out of his vents and shifted to haul Sideswipe up and shove him towards Sunstreaker. "Sober him up and get him to the main entrance. You've got 5 breems."
Prowl didn't wait to see if Sunstreaker managed to catch Sideswipe before he fell. He turned and stalked stiffly towards the exit, listening to the sound of plating screeching against plating as Sunstreaker presumably struggled to keep Sideswipe off of the ground. This was quickly followed by the sound of Sideswipe moaning and bringing up whatever was still left in his tank, and more energon spilling against the deck plating. Prowl paused at the door, one hand on the wall and the other clenched at his side. His engine thrummed angrily and his hydraulics hissed in their housings as he turned to glance back.