Tanked

by Cyberwulf

Summary: Prime needs help. Only Sparkplug can give it.

Rating: T for drunkenness and mild innuendo.

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"Thanks for the ride, Optimus!" Spike called as he jumped down from the cab.

"You're welcome," Prime replied. He struggled not to slur his words. "Could you tell your father I'd like a word with him, please?"

"Sure," Spike answered. He jogged into the house. Prime killed his engine and checked his parking brake for the fifth time. He hoped fervently that Sparkplug would be able to help him. The alternatives open to him were not pleasant.

"Hey, Prime." Sparkplug approached the Autobot leader and stood at the driver's side door. "What's up?"

Optimus carefully opened his cab door and waited until Sparkplug had climbed aboard. He could see Spike standing in the doorway of the house, watching them.

"Sparkplug, I have a favour to ask."

Sparkplug nodded. "Shoot."

"Have you ever driven a truck before?"

Sparkplug frowned. "Well, I drove tankers for the oil company," he answered.

"A truck like me," Prime clarified.

Sparkplug ran his hand over Prime's steering wheel. "Been a few years since I've driven a rig," he admitted, "but I think I remember how. Why?"

Prime was silent for a few minutes.

"This is embarrassing," he said in a low voice. Sparkplug pulled the door shut and rolled the window up. "My energy levels were dropping, so Spike had me pull over at a gas station," Prime continued. "He put some diesel in my fuel tank. In fact… he filled it all the way."

"That's a bad thing?" Sparkplug asked.

"Yes," Prime answered. "Excess fuel has a negative effect on our subsystems – coordination, higher functions –"

"Wait, Optimus…" Sparkplug couldn't keep a grin off his face. "…are you trying to tell me that you're drunk?"

"I, I believe that's the analogous human condition," Prime replied. "I made it the last few kilometres here, but my driving ability is deteriorating. If I head back to base I'll go off the road…maybe take someone with me." The smile disappeared from Sparkplug's face and he nodded. "Please, Sparkplug… could you drive me?"

"Sure thing, Optimus," Sparkplug replied, patting the truck's dashboard. "Just give me a minute." He rolled down the window and called to Spike.

"What is it, Dad?"

"I gotta go back to Autobot Headquarters for a while," Sparkplug explained. "Got a couple of last minute jobs to take care of." He ruffled Spike's hair. "You think you can feed yourself without burning the house down?"

"Sure, Dad," Spike replied with a grin. "I'll see you later!"

Sparkplug waited until Spike was back inside, then sat back into the cab.

"I've taken my driving computer offline," Prime told him. "You have full control."

Sparkplug nodded, then frowned. "Optimus, how do I…?"

Prime opened his glove compartment. Something silver flashed in the sun's orange rays and Sparkplug leaned over. His fingers closed around a key.

"Optimus…"

"I trust you," the Autobot leader replied.

Sparkplug looked at the key in his hand for a few moments, then slid it into Prime's ignition.

"You're a pal, Sparkplug," Prime said. Sparkplug grinned slightly – he could hear the diesel's effects in Prime's voice. He started the engine and flinched as the radio came on much too loud.

"Whoa!" Sparkplug leaned across and lowered the volume. "Kids, huh?" He reached for the 'off' button.

"Wait, I like that song," Prime slurred.

"Yeah?" Sparkplug replied. He checked the mirrors as he moved off. "I thought you didn't like Earth music."

"I like some," Prime said indignantly. "I like the Eagles too. As long as someone's not blasting them right in my audio receptors."

Sparkplug chuckled. "I hear ya."

"I really like 'Born to be Wild'," Prime continued. "But that's between you and me."

Sparkplug grinned. Apparently lack of inhibitions was another symptom of excess fuel intake. He never thought he'd hear Optimus Prime admit he liked Earth music. He drove carefully through the city, thankful that – in his case at least – driving an artic. was like riding a bike. The significance of Prime giving him the key to his ignition was not lost on him. Sparkplug intended to live up to that trust.

He turned onto the highway, pointing Prime in the direction of the setting sun. Sparkplug squinted and flipped down the sunshade. There was a picture of a pink robot tucked inside the pocket.

"Hey, Optimus, who's the lady?"

"Her name's Elita One," Prime slurred. "She's my girlfriend." He chuckled. "My lover."

Sparkplug grimaced at a sudden, unwanted mental image. "She's pretty," he managed. "For an Autobot."

"Yeah," Prime agreed. "She's brave… strong… confident… crack shot with a laser pistol…" He sighed. "There's no-one else like her."

Sparkplug nodded. They continued down the highway in silence for a few minutes.

"A couple of weeks ago I found out that she's my sister."

Sparkplug glanced down at Prime's digital display in shock.

"Wow," was all he could say.

"It's a little complicated," Prime went on, "but we have the same creator, so technically…"

"Yeah," Sparkplug interrupted. He checked his mirrors several times in an attempt to distract himself from the conversation.

"We were together for five million years," Prime continued. Sparkplug winced; either he wasn't expressing his discomfort clearly, or Prime couldn't concentrate well enough to pick up on it. He braced himself for the whole story. "In all that time, our creator never told us."

"I'm, I'm sure he had his reasons," Sparkplug replied, struggling for something to say.

"He's a jerk."

Sparkplug had to take one hand off the steering wheel to smother a laugh. He never thought he'd hear Optimus Prime say that.

"I'm sorry," Prime slurred. "I'm sorry. You didn't need to hear all that. I, I just needed to get it off my windshield."

"Don't worry about it," Sparkplug assured him.

"I've already dragged you all the way out here…"

"It's okay," Sparkplug replied. "This trip is bringing back some memories. I used to be a truck driver before Spike was born. Long distance, coast to coast." He leaned out the window to wave a car past. "When I found out I was gonna be a dad, I started looking for work closer to home." He smiled. "I couldn't stand being away from my boy."

Prime's radio reception abruptly went out, the music replaced by static. His engine chucked and Sparkplug shifted gears, giving it more throttle.

"Sparkplug, could you pull me over?" Prime asked with a groan. "I don't feel very good."

"Sure, Optimus," Sparkplug replied. "There's a truck stop just up ahead." A horrible thought crossed his mind. "You – you don't need to…" He tried to think of how to phrase it in Autobot terminology. "…purge excess fuel, do you?"

"Negative," Prime replied.

"That's a relief," Sparkplug murmured. He pulled in at the truck stop and shut off Prime's engine. The Autobot leader moaned quietly and Sparkplug patted his dashboard. "Any idea what's wrong?"

"Diagnostic systems are offline," Prime answered.

"Okay," Sparkplug said. "I'm gonna take a look." He jumped down from the cab, then turned to close Prime's door. There was a crack and Sparkplug leapt back as if stung, one hand on his neck.

"Whoa!"

"Sorry," Prime hiccupped. "Static buildup."

"No kidding," Sparkplug replied, eyeing the door warily.

"Are you uninjured?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," Sparkplug answered. He rubbed his neck. "Just lemme know if you're gonna do that again." He walked around to the front of Prime's cab. "You want me to have a look under the hood?"

"Actually, I feel a little better," Prime said.

Sparkplug patted Prime's bumper. "Well, that's good news. You all set to get rolling again?"

"Affirmative," Prime replied.

Sparkplug clambered back into the cab and turned the key in Prime's ignition. The floor under him vibrated as Prime's engine struggled to turn over, then died.

"Oh no," Sparkplug murmured. He tried the ignition again with the same result. "Prime, what's the problem?"

"Hey, buddy!"

Sparkplug looked up and saw that another truck had pulled alongside them. The driver, a woman with short blonde hair and a faded T-shirt, had called out to him.

"Need a hand?" she asked.

"Uh, no, no," Sparkplug replied quickly. "It does this sometimes. Thanks anyway."

The woman nodded and went to gas up her truck.

"She's cute."

Sparkplug glanced down at Prime's digital display and tried the ignition again, to no avail. "She's not really my type."

"I wouldn't mind a jumpstart from her," Prime continued.

Realisation dawned and Sparkplug groaned: another mental image he'd never erase. He sat back and tapped the steering wheel in irritation. "Optimus, try to focus! We have a situation. Why won't your engine start?"

"Sorry," the Autobot leader replied. "Wait a moment." Sparkplug drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, wondering if he should try to find and repair the problem himself. "It seems that some of the sensors in my engine have overloaded," Prime said, finally. "They're currently offline."

"So…" Sparkplug took his hands off the wheel and shrugged. "…what, we call Wheeljack, tell him to bring Huffer and some tow chains…?"

"No!" Prime composed himself as best he could, and amended, "I mean, that won't be necessary. My auto-repair system just became active." He paused for a minute, sorting through the messages being relayed to his CPU. "We should be underway in elev- fourteen minutes."

Sparkplug nodded. "Okay." He tapped his fingers lightly on Prime's dashboard. "I'm gonna get a cup of coffee. I'll be right back. Just stay here…" He glanced at the truck beside him and winced. "…and enjoy the view."

Prime chuckled. "Will do."

Sparkplug jumped down from the cab, making sure to lock the door after him, and jogged across the forecourt to the store. He fumbled in his pocket for change as he waited to be served, glancing over his shoulder at the red and blue truck parked outside. If they weren't on their way in fourteen minutes, he was calling Wheeljack – Prime's pride and privacy be damned. The sun was going down and a truckstop after dark was no place to get stranded, especially with a drunken Autobot. He paid for the coffee and jogged back out to Optimus Prime, taking care not to drop the cardboard cup.

The blonde woman was washing her truck. Prime made a quiet sound of appreciation. Sparkplug sipped his coffee and wished he'd bought some smokes.

"Say, Optimus…"

"Hm?"

Sparkplug shifted in the driver's seat. "Is there any way to… counteract the effects of excess fuel?"

"Unfortunately, no," the Autobot leader slurred. "I just need to offline for...eighteen hours… let my systems process the fuel and recalibrate…"

He trailed off. The blonde woman was scrubbing her truck with the foam brush. "Oh..."

"Prime, could you knock it off, please?" Sparkplug asked agitatedly. He ran a hand through his thinning hair and mumbled, "It's not even an Autobot, for crying out loud."

"I'm sorry," Prime replied. "It's just – it's been…" He gave a quiet sigh. "…sorry."

Something in Prime's voice made Sparkplug's discomfort subside. He'd never thought that Autobots could get lonely. He reached out and rested his hand on the dashboard.

"No, I'm sorry, Optimus," he replied. "And – I do know how you feel." He glanced up at the picture tucked into the sunshade, reminiscent of the one he kept in his wallet, the colours fading with age. "I miss my lady too."

They sat in silence for a while, until Prime asked, "What happened to her?"

Sparkplug took a deep breath as the pain of that day flooded back. "She got sick," he answered, the explanation almost word for word what he'd told Spike when he'd had to break the news. "And the, the doctors couldn't do anything for her." He tapped his fingers gently on the steering wheel, feeling a sudden tightness in his chest. "She died."

"I'm sorry," Prime murmured. "I, I didn't mean to drag up painful memories."

"It's okay," Sparkplug replied. His eyes stung suddenly and he used the napkins that came with the coffee to give them a quick, surreptitious wipe. He looked down at his lap as he folded the napkins into a square. "We, uh… we had a lot of good times together...and a beautiful son. That's how I remember her – not like…" He paused to get a handle on his emotions, and took a slow breath to calm himself down. "Gotta take the rough with the smooth. That's life, you know?"

"I do," Prime replied quietly.

Sparkplug finished his coffee, silence filling the cab. The blonde woman climbed back into her truck. Prime gave a quiet sigh as the truck drove away. Sparkplug glanced up as he stuffed the napkins into the coffee cup to soak up the dregs. Morbid curiosity almost got the better of him, but he decided he was better off not knowing.

"You ready to go again, Optimus?"

"Hmm? Oh, uh –" Prime roused himself and checked his CPU. " – yes. Auto-repair is complete. Try my ignition now."

Sparkplug crossed his fingers and turned the key. Prime's engine struggled to start. Sparkplug carefully pushed down on the accelerator and prayed. After a few anxious seconds, Prime's engine finally roared into life. Sparkplug mouthed a "thank you" and steered Prime back onto the highway.

They drove a few miles with just the radio for company. The sun was dipping below the horizon, turning the sky pink and orange. Sparkplug flipped the sunshade back up.

"Look at that sunset," he remarked.

"Mmh."

Sparkplug shifted slightly in the driver's seat, suddenly nervous. "You okay, Optimus?"

"I'm, I'm fine," Prime answered. "Just feel very high."

"Hang in there, big guy," Sparkplug murmured soothingly. "I'll get you home safe."

"Yes," Prime replied. "Trust you…"

Sparkplug shot a worried glance at Prime's digital display. The Autobot leader sounded drowsy. He wondered if he would still be able to drive Prime if he fell asleep. He was about to ask when the music from Prime's radio was cut off by an incoming transmission.

"Yo, this is Blaster from base calling Optimus Prime! Where you at, big guy?"

Prime didn't respond.

"Hey, Blaster, this is Sparkplug," Sparkplug replied quickly. "We're almost home." He scanned what little scenery the highway had to offer, trying to get a fix on where they were. "ETA about, uh… twenty minutes." A thought suddenly struck him. "Is there anything we should worry about?"

"No sweat, Sparkplug," Blaster answered. "The Deceps are completely off the radar."

"Good to hear," Sparkplug replied. "Keep us posted."

"Sure thing, man. Check you guys later. Blaster out."

Prime's radio returned to normal as Blaster terminated the transmission.

"Blaster…" Prime mumbled. "And Jazz. You know, half the time I don't understand a word they say."

Sparkplug laughed. "That's what humans call a generation gap, Optimus."

"I'm not that –" Prime began indignantly, then broke off and reconsidered. "Oh, wait. Yes I am."

Anyone ever tell you you're a real maudlin drunk? Sparkplug kept the remark to himself and searched for something to try and lighten the mood. "Just do what I do," he said. "Tell people you're a vintage model. Appreciating in value all the time."

Prime chuckled. "I'll have to remember that one." He sighed and Sparkplug did the same under his breath. "The… 'generation gap' doesn't bother me," Prime continued. "It's that I don't have enough time to give everyone the one on one attention they need. That's, that's why I don't understand their slang."

"And you wonder what else is going on with them that you don't know about," Sparkplug finished. "You worry about what you're missing."

"Yes," Prime answered. "How did you –"

Sparkplug smiled. "My son's a teenager."

They were coming up on their exit. Sparkplug checked the road behind them, started to brake, and prepared to move over. "Not much further," he murmured, steering Prime onto the dirt road that led to Autobot headquarters. "Just a couple more times over the horizon…"

Prime made a quiet sound that could have been a moan.

"You holding up okay?" Sparkplug asked.

"Sand on my tyres," Prime mumbled. "Still feels so different."

"You don't have sand on Cybertron?" Sparkplug asked.

"No."

"No beaches, then," Sparkplug remarked.

"Not like the ones here," Prime replied. He was silent for a while, then said, "I've never been driven before. It's nice."

Oh boy.

"Never would've made it this far… without you," Prime mumbled.

Sparkplug nervously tightened his grip on the steering wheel.

"Stay with me, Optimus," he murmured. "We're almost there."

Prime didn't answer him. Sparkplug pushed his anxiety down and concentrated on driving. A few minutes later the volcano loomed into view against the darkening sky. Sparkplug resisted the temptation to speed up. After coming this far, he couldn't afford to blow it over the last couple of miles.

At last, they reached the foot of the volcano. Sparkplug pulled into one of the side entrances to the base. Once they were safely inside, he shut off Prime's engine and sighed softly in relief.

"Prime." No answer. Sparkplug tapped his fingers on the dashboard. "Hey, Optimus!"

"What? I'm, I'm awake," the Autobot leader protested groggily.

"We're home," Sparkplug explained. "You want me to drive you further inside?"

"Is anyone around?" Prime asked.

Sparkplug glanced out the windows and checked the mirrors. "No, the place is deserted."

"Okay." Sparkplug winced at how slurred Prime's speech sounded. "I'm gonna try to transform. You, uh, you better stand clear in case I fall over."

Sparkplug nodded. He took the key out of Prime's ignition and put it safely back in the glove compartment, then jumped down from the cab. He jogged to the doorway connecting the entrance – a wide area hewn out of the rock face – with the base proper and stood in it.

"Are you in position?"

"Yeah," Sparkplug answered. "Go ahead."

For almost a minute, Prime didn't move. Sparkplug was beginning to wonder if something was wrong when Prime suddenly transformed, overbalanced, and fell flat on his back.

Sparkplug ran towards him as Prime managed to sit up. "Optimus, you okay?"

Prime shook his head, rubbing one hand over his face. "I'm…experiencing fluctuations in my power grid," he explained. "I hate to say it, but –"

Sparkplug nodded. "I'll get help," he assured him. "Just –" He stopped himself when he realised he was about to say istay there/i. " – I'll get help." He turned and made for the main part of the base.

"Sparkplug!"

He halted and turned around. In spite of the mask covering most of his face, Prime's expression was strangely pleading.

"Get Prowl or Ironhide."

Sparkplug nodded and jogged into the base. He understood – Prime didn't want just anybody seeing him like that. Now if only he could find Prowl or Ironhide without too much trouble…

Unfortunately it seemed like the base was deserted. Sparkplug rounded yet another corner, slowly starting to panic. He didn't know if Autobots could black out and then choke on their own fuel, but he didn't want to find out. He paused in the middle of the corridor to catch his breath, running his hands through his hair – and then heard footsteps. He darted to an intersection.

"Ironhide!"

The red minivan turned around.

"Hey, Sparkplug!" Ironhide came towards him. "You're running. What's up?"

Sparkplug stopped, resting his hands on his knees, and panted, "Long story. Optimus needs your help."

Ironhide's expression changed to one of concern. "He ain't hurt, is he?"

Sparkplug shook his head. "No." He straightened up and beckoned for Ironhide to follow him. "Come on, I'll explain on the way."

He jogged back the way he came, Ironhide falling into step beside him.

"So what's up?" Ironhide asked.

"Uh…" Sparkplug tried to think of a way to put it delicately. "He…he was bringing the kids home and – they stopped off at a gas station…"

Ironhide began to smirk. "Say no more, Sparkplug," he snickered. "I get it." He lowered his voice. "How bad is he?"

Sparkplug grimaced. "You'll see." They approached the side entrance where Prime and Sparkplug had come in. "He's through here."

Prime was sitting against the wall, his head and arms resting on his knees. He looked up as Sparkplug and Ironhide approached.

"Well, look what the tow truck dragged in," Ironhide chuckled. "I didn't know gas stations had happy hours."

Prime glared up at him. "Don't (hic) laugh at me."

"Aw, I'm just tweaking your timing belt a little, Optimus," Ironhide replied apologetically. Prime extended a hand and Ironhide took it. "Come on, I'll take care of you."

He pulled the larger Autobot to his feet. Prime overbalanced and sagged forward. Ironhide quickly wrapped an arm around his waist to steady him. "Easy, big guy!" He flashed a smirk at Sparkplug. "Not in front of the humans."

Prime groaned and covered his face with one hand.

"Hey, Sparkplug," Ironhide remarked, "some of the guys are watching a movie in the AV room. Why don't you go ahead and join them? I'll drive you home after I put this party animal to bed."

Sparkplug nodded. "Sure, Ironhide." He headed into the base and made for the AV room. He suspected that Ironhide had decided to carry Prime, and in that case the Autobot leader would want as few witnesses as possible.

The AV room was dark, the only light coming from the monitor set into the far wall. Rows of Autobots sat quietly, enthralled by the old black and white movie on the screen. Sparkplug took a seat in the front row.

"Hey, Sparkplug!" Wheeljack leaned forward and tapped him gently on the shoulder. "I thought you went home hours ago."

"Oh – uh –" Sparkplug tried to come up with a convincing story. "See, the thing about that –"

An irritated "Shhhh!" from Gears abruptly cut him off. Thanking his lucky stars, Sparkplug shrugged at Wheeljack and put a finger to his lips. The inventor nodded and went back to watching the movie. Sparkplug did likewise, wondering how far along it was. Tear-jerking music was playing over a montage of the hero's dog growing older and older as he waited faithfully for his master to return. Brawn made his engine backfire, causing Sideswipe and Sunstreaker to erupt in sniggering.

"Hey, cut it out, you guys!" Bumblebee protested.

"Yeah!" Cliffjumper agreed, turning and shaking a fist at the hecklers. "Show a little sensitivity, huh?" He indicated his yellow companion. "Bumblebee's trying to cry!"

"I am not!" Bumblebee protested defensively.

"SHHHHHH!" Gears hissed.

"Settle down, everybody," Prowl said from the back row.

Sparkplug settled back and did his best to follow what was left of the movie. He was only partially successful – apparently he'd missed a lot of the backstory. He'd been there for about twenty minutes when the door hissed open suddenly, drawing his attention. Sparkplug watched as Ironhide entered, scanned the assembled crowd, then headed towards the back of the room. Sparkplug leaned back, trying to see around Bumblebee. Ironhide was leaning down, talking quietly to someone. Anxiety filled him as he saw Ratchet get up. The surgeon mechanic walked quickly to the door and left the room. Sparkplug swallowed nervously and turned back to the movie, but what little interest he'd had in it was gone.

"Hey, Sparkplug." Ironhide's voice startled him and he winced. The minivan was crouching right beside him. "Sorry," Ironhide apologised. "You all set to go?"

Sparkplug nodded. "Yeah." The pair walked towards the exit, crossing in front of the other Autobots and provoking annoyed groans and a cry of "Down in front!" from Brawn.

"Ah, cool your carburettors, you ain't missin' anything new!" Ironhide retorted. "Heck, even I've seen this one a hundred times." He transformed as soon as they were outside the AV room and opened the driver's door. Sparkplug climbed inside and snapped on his seatbelt. Ironhide started his engine and made for the exit.

"Sorry I wasn't back for you sooner," Ironhide said as they left the base. It was dark out and he flipped his headlights on. "Oh, it's late. I shoulda told Prowl to take you home."

Sparkplug shifted in the driver's seat. "Is Prime okay?" he asked. "I saw you talking to Ratchet."

"Nothing to worry about," Ironhide reassured him. "Diesel fuel just has a lot of impurities compared to Energon is all. I wanted the doc to check Prime out, make sure his systems could handle it. Just a precaution."

Sparkplug nodded, still a little anxious. "Okay."

"Trust me, he'll be fine," Ironhide insisted. "He just needs to shut his core processors down while his energy levels drop back to normal limits. Fifteen, twenty hours offline and Prime'll be back to his old self."

"Yeah," Sparkplug replied. He began to relax. If Ironhide wasn't worried, there was no reason for him to be.

Ironhide chuckled. "It's been a long time since I've seen the chief too full to stand up."

"Hey, don't give him a hard time about it," Sparkplug warned. "It's not his fault."

"Sparkplug!" Ironhide exclaimed in a wounded tone. "Now what kind of friend would I be if I didn't grind his gears just a little?"

Sparkplug laughed and sat back in his seat, resting his hands on the steering wheel just in case the traffic cops were around. He felt tired – his road trip with Prime had taken more out of him than he realised. His stomach growled suddenly, reminding him he hadn't eaten yet. He wondered if Spike had left him anything for dinner.

The journey home passed in comfortable silence; Sparkplug was content to sit back and watch the scenery. Soon the starry sky began to fade into the dull orange glow of the city. Sparkplug roused himself as Ironhide slowed to a halt outside his house.

"Thanks, Ironhide," he said, unsnapping his seatbelt. He opened the door and was about to get out when Ironhide spoke.

"Prime told me you drove him home," the minivan remarked.

Sparkplug nodded. "Yeah, I did."

"He also said," Ironhide continued, "to tell you he's sorry he caused you so much trouble."

Sparkplug paused and tapped his fingers on the steering wheel.

"If he's awake when you get back," he replied, "tell him it's okay. Tell him… tell him it was nice to find out we have some things in common."

"I will," Ironhide promised.

Sparkplug got out of the minivan. "I'll see you guys tomorrow." He waved as Ironhide drove off, then turned and went inside.

Spike called to him from the lounge as he entered the house. "Hey, Dad. I left you some chicken in the oven. Come watch TV with me?"

Sparkplug smiled. "Sure, son."

***

Sparkplug paused and dragged his forearm across his forehead, wiping away the gathering sweat.

"Almost done," he murmured. He gave the nut one final twist. "There. One new engine bolt, fully installed."

"Say, Sparkplug," Jazz replied, "while you're under there, you think you could fit some neon lighting around my engine?"

Sparkplug closed the Porsche's hood. "Yeah, that'd make a great light show next time you take a direct hit to the bumper." He stepped away as Jazz started his engine. "How's it feel?"

"Perfect!" Jazz answered. "Man, I thought my engine was gonna fall out completely!" He drove out of the medibay.

"Maybe that'll teach him not to miss his service appointments," Ironhide remarked. He winced as Ratchet added some oil to his elbow joint. "Can't you warm that up first?"

Sparkplug checked the list of scheduled tuneups, wiping his hands with a rag. They were finished for the day, barring any accidents or injuries. He turned and approached Ironhide and Ratchet.

"Say, guys –" he checked around to make sure there were no other Autobots in audio range. " –how's Optimus?"

"Oh, the big guy's a little delicate this morning," Ironhide replied with a smirk. "He's resting in his quarters."

Sparkplug squeezed the rag in his fingers. "Do you think he'd mind if I went up to him?"

"Naw," Ironhide answered. "I reckon he'd like that. You know how to get to the habitation deck?"

"Yeah," Sparkplug replied. He began to pack away his tools. "Take the elevator to 4A…"

…and turn left.

The habitation deck was largely deserted at this time of day. Off-duty Autobots seemed to prefer spending their free time outside. Sparkplug walked down the silent corridor, noting the names next to each room as he passed. Blaster…Cliffjumper…First Aid…Huffer…Jazz…Mirage…Perceptor…

Prime.

Sparkplug rapped smartly on the metal door.

"Yes?"

"Prime, it's me," Sparkplug answered.

"Come in."

Sparkplug stepped back as the door opened. He crossed the threshold quickly, wary of how the doors in the base closed automatically. The room was dark, the only light a dim blue glow from Optimus Prime's optic sensors. The Autobot leader was lying on his recharge plate. He propped himself up on one elbow as Sparkplug approached.

"Just came by to see how you were," Sparkplug explained.

"My core operating system is still recalibrating my sensor arrays," Prime answered. He helped Sparkplug up onto the recharge plate. "My optic sensors are a little light-sensitive."

Sparkplug chuckled. "I've had those days."

"I want to thank you for what you did yesterday," Prime said quietly. "Some of my memory files are unreadable, but I remember you being very patient with an over-energised old Autobot."

"Ah, it was nothing," Sparkplug said with a wave of his hand. "After everything you've done for Earth, it was the least I could do."

"You're a good driver, Sparkplug, and a good friend," Prime continued. "I felt very safe with you at the wheel."

Sparkplug looked away and rubbed a hand over his neck, feeling a little embarrassed. "It, uh, it means a lot that you trust me enough to let me drive you," he replied. He looked back at the Autobot leader. "And it was kinda nice to drive a rig again."

Prime nodded. "Maybe we could do it again sometime," he suggested.

Sparkplug smiled. "I'd like that." He slid down from the recharge plate, and couldn't resist. "I'll bring Hotel California."

Prime groaned and covered his face with one hand. "Sparkplug…what else did I tell you?"

"Hey." Sparkplug paused, one hand on the recharge plate. "What happens on the road, stays on the road."

The End