Author's Notes: I'm not dead!


Fragility.

There was something strange going on. Or at least that was what Spike sensed. It started off simple enough, small things that by themselves meant nothing. Soon however, those odd little changes became noticeable. Mostly because there were just so many of them.

It started off with Ironhide of all Mechs. Normally he did not give a gasket if Spike watched him fire endlessly at a holographic target displayed at the far end of the firing range. However, as of late, Ironhide began to recommend Spike spend his time in the lab with his father and Wheeljack, repairing odd ends around base and to stay away from all rapidly discharging blasters. His reasoning was more or less that Spike's presence threw off his concentration. Spike knew a brush off when he heard one and decided Ironhide might have just been in a sour mood and didn't want to have him around when he took his aggression out on the wall. In any case, Spike did not put much though into the occurrence.

That was until Hound refused to allow him to accompany him on one of his many nature walks. Spike was one of the first to recognize Hound's utter fascination with Earth fauna and felt it his obligation as an Earth native to show his world to Hound. Even though Spike knew almost nothing about the native plants or how photosynthesis actually worked. The nature walks had always been a calming venture for the two of them and on many occasions Bumblebee accompanied them. Even Jazz had tagged along a time or two but decided in the end his fascination with Earth was more of a cultural nature and the natural world was just a tune to which he could not dance. So when Hound told Spike one day that he was simply going to make a few laps around the base before heading off on patrol and that there was no need for him to accompany him, it made Spike a little suspicious.

So he began to keep a mental log of such happenings.

There was Prowl who made a point on several occasions to tell Spike that he should cease his habit of 'scaling the computer consoles' as he put it. Stating that it was dangerous and the likelihood of him falling was substantial and he could sustain serious injuries from a fall of a mere six feet. Spike would have retorted but Optimus Prime has been in the room at the time and it didn't feel wise to argue with his Second while he was present. So he just made note of it and climbed down off the counter like a good boy.

Then there was the next day and Wheeljack not offering to watch him activate his newest invention which he always made a point to do. Spike had always thought of it as a way for the scientist to show off without seeming to obvious about it. Science to Wheeljack was what breath was to Humans, it was life. And for Wheeljack it meant showcasing any and all results such breath brought to life. Despite the high probability the resulting life would be cut short by an unforeseen malfunction and consumed by the consequentially impressive display of pyrotechnics. Although he did not let anyone know, Spike did feel a bit hurt by that one…he liked Wheeljack's pyrotechnics.


"But that makes absolutely no sense!"

"Of course it does," Wheeljack replied. "It's a simple matter of physics…"

Spike shook his head. "If a meteor fell out of the sky and landed outside it'd be a million degrees! I'd melt if I touched it!"

Wheeljack did not have much in the way of facial expression, but his vocal enthusiasm and body language more then made up for any handicap. "Ah, therein lays your problem, Spike. You're assuming that the friction caused by entering the atmosphere would create heat greater then the temperature of the object prior to falling. In fact, the temperature of a meteor that falls to earth ranges from minus 240 degrees Celsius to absolute zero and even accounting for the heat from friction, by the time it makes landfall, the meteorite will still be far too cold to be safely touched by human hands. In actuality it would give you frost bite rather then melt you."

Spike sat atop one of the work tables in the one of the spare labs, its surface covered in bolts and nuts and curls of wires, arms crossed and brow furrowed. Across the room sat Bumblebee who had come to Wheeljack to have his blaster recalibrated and as was his want, Spike had tagged along. Bumblebee seemed to be the only Mech of late who was not treating him any differently since his adventures in the mountains.

Upon seeing his human friend's utterly puzzled expression, Bumblebee laughed and turned to Wheeljack. "'Jack I think you really broke him this time."

"Let me put it this way," Wheeljack offered. "It's cold in space. Unimaginably cold. So cold that molecules are almost frozen solid. When molecules are frozen completely and do not move at all, that is what your species refers to as absolute zero, which is calculated as minus 273 degrees Celsius. A meteor entering Earth's atmosphere is really really cold. So cold that even though it heats up several hundred degrees upon entrance, it still would not be enough to make it 'a million degrees'."

"Ok…" Spike still did not look convinced. "I get it a little…I think…"

"Simply put," said Ratchet as he entered the room, arms laden with a replacement lubricant pump, hydraulic joint fasteners, and some sort of dampener. He made his way over to an empty work table and unloaded his arms resulting in a cacophonous explosion of noise as metal crashed into metal. "Don't touch any space debris. That way all your bases will be covered and we won't have to rush you to St. Vincent's for the umpteenth time. I'm sure Dr. Parr would appreciate that."

Spike furrowed his brow as he processed what Ratchet has just said. "How do you know my Doctor's name?"

"We've met." Said Ratchet simply.

"What?" Spiked asked, bewildered at the assertion. "Really? When?"

The medic turned to lean against the work table and crossed his arms. "Considering the number of times we've ungraciously dumped your bruised and broken skid plate into his lap at three in the morning I thought it more than fair practice to give the man an honest explanation."

"Isn't that like…breech of policy or something? Aren't you guys like…I dunno. Classified?"

Ratchet snorted. "Hardly, not with our little tiffs with the Seekers making the six o'clock news every night."

Spike's head spun. "Really? Wow, how'd I miss that...?"

From his seat across the way, Bumblebee snickered and added in his own chips. "Tracks was on the cover of a tabloid last week and all he's been talking about since is how primitive Human photo technology failed to capture his 'truly gracious visage'."

"Humanity wouldn't be able to create a camera large enough for all of Track's ego," wagered in Wheeljack, earning himself a genuine grin from Ratchet. "Besides, everyone knows he has several hundred copies stashed under his berth. He loves the attention."

Spike could not help but grin himself as he recalled a very distinctive incident earlier in the week that had Tracks snarling at Prowl for some odd reason. Spike had not stayed around to find out, but he had a good idea of what it was about. And he found it more then amusing. "It's no wonder he's the only one who can fly without a jet pack, he's so full of hot air."

The three Autobots laughed, enjoying their little Tracks bashing circle. It was a nice moment to have everyone (even Ratchet) smiling and laughing for once.

With the feeling in his legs beginning to ebb from his non-mobility, Spike decided to rise and stretch his feet to get the blood flowing again. However, as he stood his foot became entangled in a spool of wires and as he tried to free himself, he lost his balance and fell to the side. He winced, expecting an unpleasant meeting of shoulder and table top that never came. Instead, his chest lurched with dread when he realized the table was not under him, but above him. The room spun and his heart leaped into his throat, confusion and terror blinding him to everything except the loud thought of 'Oh shit!'

Then the whirl of fear and confusion lurched and swung, leaving him with a dizzying upside down view of the lab.

Sound was the first thing to return, filled with startled cries of the three present Autobots; Bumblebee calling his name, Wheeljack asking if he was alright, and Ratchet…who was yelling something that Spike couldn't quite catch. It was after a moment that he realized that he was hanging upside down and the pressure on his left leg told him he'd been saved by the very wire that had caused his fall to begin with. He was too winded to really think straight and his first cognitive thought was 'How do I get down?'

An answer came in the form of a pair of hands pressed to his back which lifted him up. The wire still tight on his leg dangled over the side of Wheeljack's hands, weighed down by a metal plate on the table.

"Whoa," Spike said in a daze. "That was wild…"

"No," Ratchet snarled. "That was careless. You could've cracked your skull wide open!"

"Are you alright?" Bumblebee asked from beside Wheeljack as he carefully lowered Spike back onto the table.

Dizzy from adrenaline, Spike nodded. His head was still spinning. "Nothing broken."

"It could have very easily bee the opposite," Ratchet added heavily. "Are we going to have to require you to wear protective gear at all times? Or should we just by pass all that and tape you up in bubble wrap?"

"Oh, lay off him Ratchet, it was an accident," Wheeljack replied as he fetched a pair of clippers from the work bench. Carefully he snipped the cable from the metal plate which allowed spike to untie the knot around his leg.

"Exactly. He needs to be more aware of his surroundings. Stupidity has a high mortality rate."

"Sideswipe's still alive," Bumblebee offered in an attempt at lightening the mood.

"Only because Primus cursed me with fantastical medical programming and common sense. Which, by the way, far too many of you lot seem to be lacking. Case in point, Suicidal Spike over here."

Perhaps it was the adrenaline or Spike was just feeling particularly snarky, but he had decided that he'd had enough. "Would you stop it already? I get it! Stupid fragile human can't walk three steps without falling off of something! Could you just shut up about it already?"

If there was one thing Ratchet could do as well as he could fix things, it was argue.

"If you're tired of being lectured on the subject perhaps you should consider NOT FALLING OFF OF TABLES!"

Spike met the medic's sizzling glare and rose to his feet as Wheeljack and Bumblebee stood by speechless. "Or you could just get off your high horse and LEAVE ME ALONE!"

And with that, Spike leapt off the table onto a seat and then onto the floor where he tried to storm out of the lab dramatically, but he had landed awkwardly on one foot and ended up limping out.

"You see?" Ratchet crowed. "You're careless and just leap about like you're invincible! Do you have any idea what you could have just done to yourself with that stunt there?"

As he reached the door way, Spike whirled around to meet the medic's optics. "Shove it up your exhaust!"

"Stubborn whelp!"

"Jackass!"

The two combatants turned face and left the room. Ratchet exiting through the back door that connected to the Medbay and Spike through hall entrance with a slight limp.

Both Wheeljack and Bumblebee were left to wonder exactly what they had just witnessed.


He found his Dad in the spare workshop fiddling with the head of their project Spike had so lovingly named Autobot X as it lay motionless atop a medical berth. A work table had been pushed up close to it for easy human access and part storage. The body itself was a mishmash conglomerate of spare parts, junk, and pretty much anything they could find, restore/repair, and install. It had been a long project intended as an anatomical aid through their lessons on Cybertronian repair, but despite its aesthetic discrepancy the pair of them were quite proud of their creation. Sparkplug had even entertained the idea of perhaps one day activating it. However, Wheeljack politely informed them that unless they could get their hands on a working processor component, activation would be nothing but a dream.

However, once Sparkplug latched onto an idea, it rarely remained in his head. And as it was, Sparkplug was hard at work trying to repair severed synapse links in a broken processor component he had salvaged from Wheeljack's junk pile.

When his son entered the room and sat heavily beside him, Sparkplug looked up.

"Something the matter son? You look upset."

Spike growled and shifted where he sat, feeling anxious and in need of something to break. "Nothing. Just Ratchet being an ass."

Sparkplug raised one eyebrow. "Oh? You two get into it, then?"

"A bit. He can be such a Mother Hen at times it's maddening!"

"He's only doing what he's programmed to do."

"Yeah, well I'm sick of it."

Sparkplug spared his son a sympathetic look and placed his hand heavily upon the young man's shoulder. "Can't be help, son. It's just gonna have to keep and you're going to have to learn to deal with it. Life's full of people who will drive you crazy, good intentions be dammed, alien or not."

The adrenaline was beginning to ebb now and Spike felt a calm reassignment fall over him. It was only after a calmer mind had taken over that he realized the degree to which he had overreacted. It wasn't really Ratchet he was mad at. Not entirely anyway. Ever since the incident at the Dam, everyone was treating him differently. They were more careful, more cautious. They acted as though the slighted fall would kill him. He was not a china doll, something to be coddled and hidden away. It was not a secret that Humans were far more susceptible to injury and death then any of them, but it angered him to know that they didn't trust him not to kill himself walking down the hall. They didn't trust him. They didn't respect him. In his mind, it almost felt like they were trying to drive him away. And it made him feel wretched to think that the beings he considered friends and close allies would even consider the notion.

"What are you working on now?" Spike asked deflated, his thoughts having cooled his temper down into a depression of sorts.

His father took back up his tools and delved into Autobot X's cranium. "Connecting the synapses that control thought process and metal impulses. It's not hard. Just very very tedious and very very delicate work. It's amazing these guys have the patience for it."

Settling against Autobot X's arm, Spike allowed the calm room filter through him. But as his mind became clearer, a sense of regret and shame took over. Could it be that the Autobots were really trying to sever their ties with him and his Father? Were they that scared of them getting hurt? There should have been some semblance of comfort in knowing that, if true, the Autobots cared that much for their safety. But all Spike could think of was that after all this time they were still seen as small and fragile. Liabilities.

He wanted so much to be useful to them.

"Spike?" The meandering sands of his mind shifted and Spike eyed the door to see Bumblebee standing in the door way. As though he believed Spike might very well explode on him as he had Ratchet, Bumblebee seemed hesitant to enter without permission.

"Hey Bumblebee," said Spike trying to sound sincere, but came off more forced then intended.

His human friend's deflated demeanor was reassurance enough that it was safe to approach so Bumblebee made his way to the table. "I thought I would check up on you. You sounded pretty angry back there and I wanted to make sure everything was alright." A pause. "So, you alright?"

Spike sighed. He really had made an ass of himself in there. "Yeah, I'm alright. I didn't mean to get so angry. I just snapped. I couldn't help it."

The Autobot nodded, casting a glace over the pieces of mechanical paraphernalia. He gave a light chuckle. "Don't worry about it. I know what you mean. Ratchet can get a bit overdramatic sometimes."

Spike slumped, wondering if he should bare his soul to Bumblebee. Out of everyone at the Ark, the smaller Mech had always proven to be the best of confidants. "It's not just Ratchet..."

Sensing the boy's anxiety, Bumblebee could tell he was considering unburdening himself and any seasoned soldier knew it was never in anyone's interest to keep negative thoughts bottled up, especially the more poisoning sorts that could drive one mad. So he prodded.

"Go on," he said, answering the Spike's hesitant glance with a reassuring smile.

"It's just…everyone's been walking on eggs shells lately around me and I can't so much as sneeze without someone reprimanding me for being reckless. I'm not a baby! I can walk around without injuring myself, I don't need 24/7 surveillance to make sure I'm not doing anything that has a danger potential above 5%!"

This time, Bumblebee genuinely laughed. "I understand how that feels!"

With an inquisitive rising of his eyebrow, Spike asked, "You do?"

Bumblebee grabbed the chair situated beside the table and took a seat, sidling up to where Spike sat on the berth. "Sure I do. Here, I'll tell you a story. When the War first broke out, I had undergone my final upgrade more then a Vorn prior, so I was considered an adult. But because of my model type, no one had any confidence I would be able to perform on the battle field. So mostly I helped guard supply lines and things like that."

"But…why? You're a soldier just like them right?"

"Oh sure, it was just that at the time that the War began my model wasn't designed for combat. They just didn't want me to get my head shot off. I didn't see a hint of direct combat for a while. Eventually they put me in what they considered a 'low risk' environment which turned out to be a defense outpost on the skirts of Iacon. The outpost I was stationed at was put under siege during one of Megatron's razzing campaigns. The fort's commander had been killed on the field and that pretty much made our whole defense strategy fall apart and a lot of soldiers abandoned their posts. The 'Cons managed to break through the ramparts because of the disorganization of the defenses. Three others and I managed to escape through a break in the back wall during the chaos of the siege. We rounded the bulkheads to the fortified guns and turned them around onto the Fort. We stopped the siege and the Con's retreated."

"So what happened after that?"

"Well, our superiors were grateful we stopped the Decepticons, but they weren't at all happy with what those guns did to the fort in the process. Strategically, we essentially destroyed a vital defense outpost. Had the Decepticons overtaken it, we could have fought to get it back and it would have, to them, still be a viable defense point. They were about to court marshal us all when they received a command from the Prime that we were to be awarded medals of honor for actions of bravery and an order for all of us to be transferred to his personal unit."

Spike nodded, but felt he was missing the moral of the story. "So…"

Bumblebee leaned in and placed a hand on the human's back, looking him dead in the face. "So everyone's just worried about the possibility you're going to get hurt and they won't be there to save you and by their logic, all they're doing is minimizing the risk."

Feeling as though he finally understood his friend's point as well as a little more insight as for the reasons behind the Autobots' bizarre behavior lately, Spike nodded. He was satisfied with Bumblebee's explanation. For the moment anyway.

Feeling a bit cheeky, Spike grinned and added, "So does that mean I should expect Megatron to come along and wreck the place?"

"It's always a possibility," Bumblebee chuckled. "But my point isn't that you should expect trouble around every corner. What you need to remember is that there is danger out there and if you're going to help us then the best thing you can do is know how to respond to any present danger. Know your strengths and weaknesses, know your limitations."

"So no more diving off of tables," Spike added flatly, earning a hearty chuckle from the Autobot.

"Exactly," said Bumblebee.

It was then that Sparkplug, having overheard the entire conversation and had kept out of it, spoke up. He turned to his son, brandishing a wrench and his sternest Dad look. "What's this I hear about you jumping off of tables now?"


Author's Notes: Thank you for everyone who continues to read this as I take my darn sweet time updating. My life is hectic and busy right now and it's hard to find the energy -let alone time- to write so thank you very much for your continual support.