Okay, so, I was reading "A Child Called It", and the plot bunnies just leapt at me out of nowhere. I thought: "Hmm. What if this happened to a Transformers character?" Unfortunately, I chose to pick on Prowl.
Poor, sad, little Prowl, whose original concept had a lisp.
Anyhoo, I don't own anyone whose name has appeared in a Transformers cartoon or movie. Whirlwind, Machete, and Nitroblast are little minor OCs that may or may not reappear in future fics.
Rated for abuse.
Flame on this fic, and you will make Prowl cry. And me. Don't hate the fic.
"Bye, boys, be good while we're gone!" Whirlwind puppetted baby Bluestreak's hand in a little wave as she walked out the door.
"'Bye, Whirlwind!" Barricade called.
"See you soon, beautiful," Machete smiled.
"'Bye!" Prowl grinned, but not widely enough to showcase his missing dental plates.
The moment that Whirlwind was out the door and down the front walk, Machete turned to his stepson.
"All right, you little slag, what the frag did you call that little stunt you pulled last night?!"
Prowl didn't look at him. He hadn't been given permission, and he knew that if he so much as looked at Machete or one of the other younglings while Machete could see him, he'd be hit even harder than he already was going to be.
All he'd done the previous night was accidentally drop one of the dishes he'd been cleaning...but then, Machete had told him not to break anything.
"YOU LOOK AT ME WHEN I TALK TO YOU!" Machete cuffed him 'round the side of the head.
The young mech fell back into the wall. He didn't cry out, fearing that his next blow would be worse.
"Shut it, boy!"
Prowl's vocalizer locked. He didn't want to be hit again.
"That's better. Now, get over here."
The mechling did as he was told. After three stellarcycles of this, he knew what was coming.
"Heya, Prowl! What's up?" Jazz said cheerfully as he and his parents made their way over to where the quiet youngling sat reading with Whirlwind and Bluestreak while Barricade and Machete played catch. The park was always one of Prowl's favorite haunts, but even this place didn't feel safe anymore.
"Whirlwind! You look well!" Chromia greeted the grey and blue femme with a squeal. "Oh, is this little Bluestreak?"
"Yeah. Isn't he precious? Looks just like his sire."
Prowl didn't look up from his manga at the mention of his stepsire, but he knew that everyone's optics flashed to him and back up.
"How's Prowl handling being a big brother?" Ironhide asked.
"Pretty well, actually. Right, sweetie?" Whirlwind rubbed the back of Prowl's head, only to encounter a dent. "What the...Prowl, what happened?"
"Fell down the back stairs," the black and white youngling said immediately, reeling off the story Machete had told him to use.
"Again? You definately inherited my coordination," Whirlwind laughed. "Sweetspark, why don't you and Jazz go play with Flareup? See? She's here with her parents."
Prowl looked, and sure enough, Flareup was laughing brightly as Wheeljack chased after her. "You wanna go, Jazz?"
"Just be careful, boys," both femmes said.
Both younglings ran off toward their friend.
"Hey Flareup!" Jazz called.
"Hi guys!" Flareup jumped down from her perch atop the slide, and was promptly swept up into Wheeljack's arms.
"Hey! Let go!"
Jazz laughed along with the two of them, and Ratchet's low chuckling could be heard from where he was standing. Prowl smiled, because he couldn't help but think how lucky his friends were to have parents that didn't toss them around like so much garbage.
"Hey, Prowl? What's that on your face? Right over your optic?" Flareup asked, pointing to the abrasion with a frown once Wheeljack had set her down.
"I thought that's how ya got this one," Jazz asked, pointing to a slash mark on Prowl's arm.
"I trip a lot, Jazz," Prowl shrugged.
The white youngling picked himself up off the floor, which he knew not to do, but was doing anyway. His stepsire had yet to beat him to textbook incapacitation, and this would not be the thrashing where he would do so.
Before Prowl could react, a blue hand had seized his upper arm while its brother grabbed the back of his head, smashing his face into the wall. "I told you to keep out of sight of the guests, and what did you do?"
"I only went to get a drink..." He didn't mention the fact that obnoxious, yet somehow perfect Barricade had been chatting Megatron and Shockwave's audios off all night.
"YOU DISOBEYED ME, YOU WORTHLESS PIECE OF SCRAP!"
"Ow! I'm sorry! I won't do it again, I promise!" the mechling cried as Machete wrenched his arm into a half-Nelson.
"Damn right you won't. From now on, you're to stay in your room unless I or your mother call you, understand?!" The mech threw the younger down, and a clank sounded as Prowl's face met the floor.
"Yes, sir..." Prowl whimpered, willing the tears of pain not to fall. He wasn't about to let Machete see him break. If it hurt him this bad, it meant he was weak. It meant that Machete was right. That he was indeed a "worthless piece of scrap".
Wheeljack sighed as he finished up a supply list. He was worried about one of his daughter's friends.
His mate's voice broke into his reverie, shattering his concentration on just what he thought was going on with the young mech. "What's wrong, 'Jack?"
The scientist looked over his shoulder. "I'm starting to question what goes on in Prowl's family. There is no way he's so clumsy that he falls all the time."
Ratchet tapped his upper lip component. "You think Whirlwind's hitting him?"
"Not her. I've known her for as long as you've known Optimus. She wouldn't hurt anyone, she couldn't. But Machete...he's part of the defense forces, and I hear there've been some problems with his temper..."
"You do realize how serious these accusations are?" Ratchet arched his optic ridges. "If you're wrong..."
"Which is why I'm not saying anything until I'm sure."
The medic sighed. "I'm worried too, 'Jack. But, you know there's nothing we can do unless we're postive."
"I think maybe Nitroblast should talk to him. Just casually, ask him if something's going on. She can tell us if she suspects anything screwy going on."
"Yep. If she thinks Prowl's hurting himself, or someone's hurting him, she has to report it to someone who can help the youngling more than she can."
"I just hope you know what you're doing..."
Prowl sat down where the femme asked him to, and kept his optics locked on the floor. His family was out in the waiting area, and he knew that if anything slipped, and Machete found out, he'd get the thrashing of his sentient function.
"Am I in trouble?" he asked the red femme as she sat down across from him.
"Of course not. I just want to talk. My name's Nitroblast. What's yours?"
"That's a cool name. So, Prowl, can you tell me about your family? Your parents, your siblings, you know, stuff like that?"
Prowl thought for a klik before answering. "I thought you talked to Barricade. Didn't you ask him?"
"I spoke to Barricade, yes. Is Bluestreak your full brother?"
"Bluestreak has the same sire as Barricade, and the same mother as me."
"So, he's your half-brother?"
Nitroblast wrote something down on her notepad. "Interesting. I was the only girl in a family of six brothers. Three older, three younger. I guess it's quiet around your house, right?"
The red femme nodded. "How did you hurt yourself?"
Prowl arched an optic ridge. "Excuse me, Ma'am?"
"Your optic, there's a dent..."
"I ran into a door. I'm a klutz."
Nitroblast thought for a nanoklik. "Prowl, have you ever thought of running away?"
"Do you get along with your family?"
"No problems with your stepsire?"
The youngling shook his head.
"Does he hit you?"
The lie slipped out of his vocalizer smoothly, just as so many others had. Yet...this one was different. He actually felt angry with himself for telling this lie. Here was a chance, possibly the only chance he'd ever have, to tell someone what Machete was doing. And he'd blown it.
"Are you sure? He never...punishes you for something you don't remember doing?"
Prowl shook his head, and Nitroblast sighed. "Okay. We're done here."
Whirlwind looked up as she heard footsteps approaching. Prowl ran straight to her, avoiding Machete's gaze.
Nitroblast smiled as Whirlwind picked Prowl up. "Hi, I'm Nitroblast," she greeted the mature couple, nodding to Whirlwind and shaking Machete's hand. "I need to ask you two some questions. The younglings can hang out here."
"Why? Is there something wrong?"
"No, not at all, it's just standard policy."
Whirlwind set Prowl down, and she and Machete followed Nitroblast back into the office.
"I've noticed that Prowl's a bit...different. I mean, being so young, I'd've thought he'd've picked up some of Barricade's mannerisms and imitated them, but Barricade was eager, willing to talk, and Prowl...well, he wouldn't look at me, and I got the impression he was only saying what I wanted to hear."
"What're you saying?" Whirlwind asked, her silver optics glittering with confusion.
"Nothing, really, but...is Prowl at all anti-social? Withdrawn?"
"He's quiet, and he doesn't really like to play with other younglings, prefers to read. I wouldn't call him withdrawn, just shy, stoic, maybe. He's got a couple close friends. Ironhide and Chromia's son, Jazz and Wheeljack and Ratchet's daughter, Flareup," Whirlwind said.
"Mhmn. How does he behave at home?"
Whirlwind looked to Machete. "I'm usually with Bluestreak. He's of ill health, so he spends a lot of time recharging or at the doctor. And Barricade plays a lot of sports, so I usually run him to practice."
"Prowl's a klutz," Machete added. "Runs into doors, falls down stairs, drops things..."
"But he really can't help it, he's got this glitch, you see. His systems lock up, and he loses control of his behavior. The episodes aren't frequent, though, so it's not a huge problem."
Nitroblast nodded. "I see. And when he misbehaves...how do you handle that?"
"Natural consequences," Whirlwind said. "At least, that's how we'd handle it if he ever actually misbehaved on his own free will. He doesn't act out at all. He plays a little roughly with his friends, but it's just playing. It's normal."
"Is Prowl a target for bullies at all? Do Barricade's friends ever pick on him...?"
A soft sigh from the red femme. "I noticed a few injuries that I severely doubt resulted from being 'a klutz'. I'm not accusing either of you of anything serious, you both seem very kind, but I think there's something going on with him."
Machete stood up suddenly. "We're done here."
Prowl yelped as Machete yanked him over to the stove.
"What did you say to that headcase psychiatrist?!"
"What did she ask you?!"
"I-If you ever hit me..."
"And you said?!"
"I...I said you didn't..."
Machete slammed the youngling's head into the front of the stove, breaking a few more dental plates. "You little liar!"
"I'm not lying...!"
That only earned Prowl another hit on the stovetop. His vision blurred, and all he tasted was Energon.
Machete let his stepson slide to the floor, limp, and left him there. He returned two kliks later with Barricade.
The blue mech picked up the black and white youngling. "Get out of the house and call your stepmother."
"And tell her what?"
A wicked smile from Machete. "That there was a fire in the kitchen." He set the unconscious mechling down on the stove top, and turned it on, bolting out the back door and racing around to the front, where Barricade was calling Whirlwind.
Whirlwind transformed, plucking Bluestreak out of her passenger's seat while doing so.
She sprinted up the front walk to where her mate was talking to a firefighter. Barricade was hanging back by the playset, watching indifferently.
"Machete, where's Prowl?" the femme panicked.
Her mate's optics shuttered. "I...I don't know...I couldn't find him anywhere..."
"I need a medic in here! I got a body!" a white and green mech yelled. "Youngling mech charred all to the Pit and back!"
Whirlwind handed Bluestreak to his father and sprinted back with the EMT. She watched as he converged on the small mech.
"I got minimal life signs here!" the EMT said. "We need to get him to a clinic STAT."
"Oh, Primus," Whirlwind panicked. She fought to get closer, only to be pushed back.
"Ma'am, you'll have to back up so we can get the kid to a clinic," the mech who'd yelled for the medic said.
"That's my son!"
"Then you can follow us, but you gotta get back so we can help the kid, okay?" One of the mechs picked up Prowl and set him gingerly in the back of the medic's waiting vehicle mode.
Whirlwind transformed and followed the medic as he sped off.
"His intakes are working."
"Yeah, he's drifting in and out."
Prowl's vision was blurry as he drifted back into consciousness. He was in someone's arms, being carried down a brightly lit, white hallway.
"Get him to whoever's free."
The mechling recognized Ratchet's voice. He was sure that Ratchet would check more than the recent injuries, and feared that if the CMO found out what Machete had done, his stepsire would kill him.
The mech carrying him made a sudden left turn and set him down on a medical berth.
"Kitchen fire. They found him right in front of the stove. Kid's name's Prowl."
"Yeah, I know him. He's a friend of my daughter's. Could he have accidentally--"
"No. He's too small to reach the 'on' switch. There's a serious dent here, he fell off of something right before he burned. Or as he did."
"You think he was on top of the stove?"
"I think he was put there. He's got a few dents here, and he's missing a few dental plates."
Prowl felt nothing but pain as Ratchet ran a hand over the dents on his scorched forehead. It was all he could do not to yell out.
"Can't get a response, Prowl, can you hear me?"
"That's a yes. I'll stabilize him, then we'll get him to the pediatric unit."
The response slurred into senseless mush as Prowl drifted unconscious again.
"Sweetie, are you online?"
The mechling's optics came back on, and he saw his mother standing over him. His stepsire and brothers, as well Jazz and his family, were present. Prowl tired to sit up, but found that he was in too much pain. "What...happened...?"
"You got caught in a kitchen fire," Ratchet added from his post by the youngling's head.
"They think that Machete set you and the stove on fire...did he?" Whirlwind asked anxiously.
Prowl's optics drifted to his stepsire, and said exactly what he knew would get him out of at least one thrashing. "...N...No..."
"Don't lie to me, Prowl. Did Machete do this to you?"
Tears filled the youngling's optics as Machete's gaze locked on his face. He knew that he could be killed for telling the truth, but he didn't care anymore.
Machete snarled and pushed Whirlwind out of the way. His hands closed around his stepson's throat, and he dug his thumbs into two important neural cables. Prowl choked, unable to cycle intakes as pain overtook his systems. He felt something in his throat snap.
Ratchet and Ironhide pulled Machete off of the mechling and the black mech pinned the blue against the wall.
"Ironhide, get him out of here."
"Will do." The hulking mech dragged the blue out of the room, Barricade on their heels.
The CMO rushed to Prowl's side. "Prowl? Are you still with us?"
The black and white mechling tried to speak, but Machete's assault had ruptured his vocalizer. He clenched his fist and shuttered his optics.
"Okay. Just stay still, Prowl, I gotta talk to your mom, okay?"
Prowl managed a weak smile as Ratchet and Whirlwind left the room.
"You're not taking my son from me!" Whirlwind screamed. "I'm kicking Machete out, he'll never come near my sons again!"
"I'm sorry, Whirlwind. We can't run the risk of Machete finding you and coming back to finish Prowl off. You're not usually home, there're so many opportunities for something to happen."
"No! I won't let you!"
"You'll be allowed visits, I assure you."
The grey and blue femme clutched at the infant in her arms. Bluestreak wasn't crying, but he looked intensely worried. "But what if Machete finds him where you move him?"
"We're moving him into the Autobot base, he'll be under the care of Ironhide, Chromia, Wheeljack, myself, Megatron, Optimus, and Elita One. He'll have younglings his own age around him. Jazz, Flareup, Perceptor's 'pet projects' Jolt and Blaster, and Soundwave's youngling, Rumble."
Whirlwind sighed, knowing she'd not win this battle. "I'll be allowed to see him?"
"As often as possible. And we'll be relocating you and Bluestreak as well, so Machete can't come after you. If I know anything about child abusers, they want everyone who could incrimminate them out of the way. Ironhide has a team gathering your undamaged possessions and moving them to a new place. Great neighborhood. You'll love it. Everything'll be put together by tomorrow, Wheeljack has quite an optic for interior design, and Chromia volunteered their spare room for you and Bluestreak for tonight."
A nod from the femme as she stood and turned to leave. Her optics shuttered, and she exhaled softly. "Okay. All right. Do I have to tell him, or--?"
"No. Chromia's still in with Prowl, she's ready when you re. Go on and get some recharge. Come on back in the morning. I'll tell Prowl what's going on."
"Thanks, Ratchet. I don't think I could bear to see his face when he finds out he's not going home."
"Prowl? Prowl, uh, move your hand if you can hear me, huh?"
Ratchet saw the mechling's small hand clench into a fist. "Okay. I want you to twist your wrist once for yes, and twice for no, okay? Can you do that?"
Prowl's hand turned palm up, then turned back over so it was palm down.
"Okay. Uh...well...after you get better, Prowl, you won't be going home to Whirlwind. You'll be coming to live at the Autobot base. We're moving you so Machete can't ever hurt you again, okay?"
There was a hesitant twitch of the wrist this time, as though he wasn't sure that being moved would keep Machete from finding him.
"We're gonna fix your vocalizer once you go back to sleep so you can tell us what happened to you, okay? That is, if you feel like talking about it."
The hand movement was sluggish, almost lazy this time.
"Okay. I'll be back in to check on you later."
Prowl shuttered his optics and exhaled heavily. He didn't really care. Everything hurt. He could barely move, and it hurt to cycle oxygen. He'd read that burn victims sometimes lost all sense of touch, and their nervous system sensed nothing. He wasn't so lucky.
"I know it hurts. You're gonna be okay, kid."
The wounded youngling cast his optics down. He wanted to believe Ratchet, but there was a small voice in the back of his mind telling him that it was all over. That Machete had won. Had finally killed him.
His processors swirled as he drifted unconscious once more.