HI. It's been forever. This update is short and I'm falling asleep. But I read it through and decided it was as ready to post as it was ever going to be, so Merry New Happy Christmas Year's Eve or some shit.

And for the record, I ripped a Muse song and made it into a Cybertronian one, woopedooooooo. It's 'soldier's poem'. Herpaderp. Seemed to fit at the time.

Also I've been neglecting this fic waiting for my nephew to be old enough to inspire it. Since he's half forming sentences, he's kind of there, and he's 2 next month. The older he gets, hopefully the more material i'll have to inspire this. yey.

For now, read on at your leisure.

Prowl was inconsolably upset.

He didn't cry, and he didn't fuss. He just shut down.

And that was what worried Skywarp and Thundercracker into fretting the most.

Not that they would ever admit to do anything like fretting over a Sparkling that was behaving itself relatively well.

But Prowl would not take energon, and he would not respond to their attempts to get him to either recharge, play one of his favourite puzzles, or even just go for a walk.

They knew there was only one thing the sparkling wanted, and he would not be consoled until he got it.

Unfortunately though, Starscream was in the intensive care section of the medbay in full stasis.

A training accident had seen two full trine's laser fire pointed at a section of the sky through which he was taking another unit on manuoevres.

Only he and one other Seeker had survived the accident, and both were in a critical condition.

Given Starscream was the current base commander, Thundercracker and Skywarp were next in charge, and had to chew out the cadets who had done the firing.

Skywarp had secretly enjoyed his blue wingmate's rare show of rage and use of harmonics to threaten and intimidate. It was certain no flier on base henceforth would question the lead trine's status, that was for sure.

But that still left them with the problem of Prowl.

The mechling had seen Starscream on the stretcher, covered in energon and full of holes.

While the Air commander's wing mates had seen him in worse condition, Prowl had been horrified to see his guardian/carer like that, and hadn't uncurled from a shaking whimpering ball for several cycles.

Once he finally did start responding to stimulus, he had refused anything offered or suggested and merely made it clear he just wanted to be with Starscream.

Thundercracker rubbed between his optics, hoping to ease the ache in his processor as he carried the black and white bundle of quivering metal down the halls to the Medbay.

He didn't even need to glare at any bots he passed. After his display of anger in the main hanger at the recruits who had messed up, no one so much as looked at him the wrong way.

He had to admit, he LIKED having that kind of effect on bots. Unfortunately, it also meant jets went a bit stupid around him from fear. But fear him they should.

It wasn't until he yelled and let his sonics loose that others remembered he could shatter their circuits with a single blow and not even have to touch them.

It WAS curious that Prowl had not shied from him after his display, having witnessed it fully from Skywarps arms.

In fact, the mechling burrowed into the apparent safety of Thundercracker's chest plates all the way there.

The medics protested faintly at his demand to enter the private ward where Starscream was, but a glare soon got him inside, and he did make an effort to remain out of the way as they went about fixing his trine leader.

Energon lines and power cables snaked out from several open ports on the red and white Seeker's plating. He was offline, spark monitor showing a regular, if slow, spark pulse.

Prowl emerged from Thundercracker's arm to stare in wide optic'd alarm at the body of his carer.

The blue seeker stood by Starscream's less damaged side, unmoving and not particularly disturbed by the sight (except for the tiniest wince at the amount of holes in his leader's wings). He only lowered Prowl when he squirmed in indication he wanted to be closer.

He placed the mechling by Starscream's side, the small black and white clutching red chest plates gingerly.

He stared into Starscream's faceplate for a long few moments, digits slowly and gently mapping the armour beneath them, flinchingly tracing a laser puncture wound of the outer armour.

Prowl slid down and curled up in the space between Starscream's arm and chest plate, and Thundercracker, as hardened a warrior and unsentimental a mech as he tried to often kid himself that he was, didn't have the spark to move the mechling.

He did not even take him away when he fell into recharge beside the offline wing leader.

With a resigned frown and an ex-vented sigh, he gave instructions to the nearest medic to feed and look after the sparkling (On pain of death. Either by him or Starscream once the air commander was in a fit state). They were to inform he or Skywarp the moment Starscream or Prowl was awake or wanted them.

What bothered Thundercracker the most, as he left the ward and headed back for his trine's quarters, was how much he cared about the sparkling's wellbeing.

He liked Prowl happy.

He liked to see those ridiculously tiny winglets wiggling, those too-big gold optics looking around in quiet curiosity, the little chirring sounds he made as he discovered new things about his surroundings.

He was… a companionable little thing, despite the mischief he got into more and more often as he found ways to sneak around them.

It was like a game to the sparkling, to outwit his carers. But that was all he ever did. He never ran off, he just got out of sight, out of a room, out of their sensor range. And then he'd wait for them and reveal himself in the most innocuous way possible, as if he'd never gone missing and it was all just in their minds, and he was exactly where he was supposed to be.

But if the mechling had a tank upset, or was disturbed by one of their arguments, or was reprimanded more harshly than was strictly necessary, the winglets drooped, the optics paled, and he balled up quietly somewhere.

Thundercracker didn't know if it was his imagination or not, but the sparkling seemed to take punishments much more seriously than a mech of his age ordinarily would.

Certainly, if he were an actual seekerling, it would be expected that he'd keep doing the same thing he was told not to any chance he got simply BECAUSE he was told not to.

Prowl, however, was a thinker.

And about the only time the mechling disturbed the blue Seeker, was when he sat doing nothing BUT thinking.

At which point, the blue flier would subtly prompt Skywarp into distracting him.

Despite Starscream's revelation that he had personal motivations first and foremost for the sparkling's adoption, they were still raising him among Decepticon ranks.

And Thundercracker knew full well that thinking too much when you weren't the boss was a dangerous thing.

Prowl was falling. Falling through the air, still in his pod, and he didn't know why. Falling, falling, and then he saw them.

Three shapes, streaking across the sky, lit by the light of fire below against a dark sky.

He wanted to BE them. He didn't want to fall. Where were they going? Where was his carrier? His Sparker? Maybe they forgot he was there. They often forgot.

Where were Lightstep and Quickwit? Were they falling with him?

He wanted to be with those flying bots.

Then his pod hit the ground.

Prowl jerked out of recharge with a small sound of surprise.

He was not in his pod. But then his memory cores rebooted and his current state returned to his meta.

He gave another small jerk as something rubbed his back-plates.

Uncurling, he clutched the side of a familiar red chassis.

"What are you doing here, Prowl?"

The voice was quiet and calm, and Starscream didn't sound any different than he usually did after rousing from a good recharge cycle.

But Prowl's meta told him something was very not right with his carer, and he moved around to look into the red optics, trying to detect another lie like the voice.

He could still see holes all over the big red and white bot's frame, and it irked him that they seemed not to effect Starscream at all.

"And what is that look for?"

The seeker, who's helm was only slightly raised, had a mildly amused look on his faceplates.

Prowl frowned.

"You got hurt. I was scared."

Starscream tilted his head at the mechling, brushing his digits over the small backplates, watching the stress tensed winglets relax bit by bit.

"Was that all? You really needn't worry so much Prowl. I'm much harder to offline than any common seeker or groundling. It is part of the reason I am Megatron's second in command."

Prowl looked chastised, despite the fact his carer had not spoken in anything but a calm, mater-of-fact tone.

"There was lots of energon." He said in a very meek voice, winglets drooping.

Starscream considered the sparkling for a moment before sighing softly through his vents.

"Prowl, you aren't in trouble for being worried about me. But there are some important things you need to know. We are at war, and I am going to be injured regularly. I am a Decepticon, which means I am strong, even when I am weak. Pain is not the worst this world has to offer. I may act the coward at times, but it is not from real fear. I pretend, because it isn't about what others think of you, it is about survival. Do you understand?"

The small black and white's wings quivered and his optics dimmed as he processed hard, trying to make sense of it all.

Light blue digits stroked his back and Starscream gave a quiet, slightly raspy laugh. "Do not worry, scraplet. You will understand eventually. For now, I must tell you that it is important that even if you are afraid of something, you must try not to let others know. Decepticons are a great race because they know how to exploit weakness. If Decepticons see weakness in you, they will use it to hurt you. So you just don't let them see it. You are allowed to be afraid for me, and show your fear to me. But try not to show others as you get older. You understand?"

Prowl nodded, honestly grasping the simpler aspects of the concept.

It was pretending. Like when he appeared out of hiding and pretended he was never hiding.

What he did not say was how he didn't understand the point of hurting someone for being worried.

Why did Decepticons do that? Why did it make them better?

Deciding it was something his processors needed upgrades to understand, he curled back into Starscream's side and let the soothing digits calm his processor.

"Now, how DID you get in here little spark? Did you find a way in by yourself?" Starscream asked quietly, clearly curious.

Prowl's little sensors panels flicked once. "TeeCee brought me."

"Did he now? …Hmmm, did you happen to hear what he said to the squad who shot me out of the sky?"

Prowl was once again confused. Starscream sounded almost happy, amused again.

More and more he learnt to just accept Starscream's odd emotional responses to things rather than let them confuse him.

"He yelled and made loud booms. Everyone is scared of him now. 'Warp thinks it's funny."

The red and white seeker chuckled softly again.

"Good. About time he let off some steam and reminded those winglets who he is." The air commander suddenly gave his charge a curious, calculating glare.

"You DID let Thundercracker or Skywarp feed you, didn't you?"

It was as much the subtle warning of a reprimand as it was a question, and the droop of the sparklings sensory appendages answered before Prowl had even said anything, negating the need to.

Starscream sighed and let his helm rest back against the berth. His other servo however, despite being hooked up with several medical lines in various ports and joints, managed to slip into his sub-space and draw out a cube of low grade and a feeding tube.

He handed them to Prowl, who poked the feeding line into the cube himself with an air of apology.

Starscream gave him a slightly stern look, but it was tinged with a sort of exasperated satisfaction. Yet another one of his carer's mixed expressions that Prowl chose to merely accept for now rather than attempt to understand.

"You really must learn to accept energon from them when I am not around or available Prowl. While I approve that you prefer to refuel with me, it will not do well for you to disrupt your systems, and you will get an upset tank."

Prowl nodded, winglets flickering up slightly once he realised he wasn't really in trouble. He settled comfortably into the red and white seeker's side and sucked slowly on his low-grade, feeling his whole systems relax with the assurance of Starscream's wellbeing and the introduction of fresh fuel.

Starscream watched him for a little while, stroking his sparkling's backplates now and then, pleased with his progress.

Thank Primus he'd managed to come across such an intelligent bitlet.

"Don't want toooo!"

Prowl squirmed and Thundercracker sighed heavily. Keeping the sparkling pinned easily against the bench top with one servo while his other, rather more expertly than he liked, opened Prowl's waste hatch and attached the extraction tube.

The waste filter immediately began emptying the mechlet's waste tank, and the black and white little sensor panels flared and twitched in aggitation.

Prowl let out a few quiet noises of discontent, and Thundercracker couldn't help but pet the tiny backplates softly in apology.

"You can't run around with a full waste tank, your systems will seize up Prowl."

The sparklings response was to kick the bench top against which he was still pinned in a feeble protest.

"I know, I know. Give it a vorn and you won't need it anymore."

He really did sympathise. He didn't remember a whole lot from his youngling vorns, but he knew he had absolutely loathed having to endure things like waste tank drainage and turbine clean outs.

Once old enough to handle such maintenance himself, they had become meaningless routine tasks of hygiene. But to a sparkling, they were tantamount to cruel and unusual punishment when no crime had been committed.

Having learnt from observation both Starscream and Skywarps tricks to getting Prowl in a complacent mood, Thundercracker had managed to develop a few of his own.

Low enough so that anyone outside the room couldn't hear, the blue seeker began to hum a soft tune. It was a vossian triumph march… he'd always found the idea of vossians marching when they were fliers rather stupid, but he liked the song anyway… and it seemed Prowl did too, because he would stop kicking and flare his panels wide, relaxing.

Thundercracker's tone was deep and smooth, rough around the edges, but it leant itself to the march, and eventually he didn't have to pin Prowl anymore, because it always seemed to lull him into a stupor of some kind.
He gently petted the tiny back-plates, detaching the waste extractor when it was done and closing the hatch on the outlet.
The mechlet lay there quietly and waved his winglets back and forth.

"Better now hmm?"
"What's that?" the sparkling chirped as he picked him up, big golden optics looking at him curiously.
"What?" Thundercracker gave Prowl a confused look.
"The thing. What you just did?" Prowl replied, cocking his helm to the side as he leant forward against the amber cockpit.
"Hmm? With the waste- OH, you mean the music? Singing?"

Thundercracker chuckled, patting the little mechlet's back.
"Mu-sic. Music is a series of sounds that go together. A series of sounds that go together is a song. When you make the song, you are sing-ing." He explained slowly, moving into the common area away from the lab space.

"Singggginggg. Singing? I like you singing! I like muuusic!"
Prowl mirred happily, pressing himself against the seekers chassis and the thrum of the spark beneath that he could feel. They all felt different, but he liked it. Thundercracker's hum was the deepest.

"Well… I guess I could sing you another one… but don't tell the others I do this, or I'll never hear the end of it, OK?"
Prowl nodded vigorously, eagerly accepting the cube Thundercracker had poured him of his usual low-grade.
The blue mech sat in his usual chair, settling Prowl on his lap and letting the sparkling get comfortable before he tried to think of a suitable piece to hum.
With a wry smile, he recited the soldiers poem.
Not like the kid would remember the words, let alone know what they were.

"… And do yoooou, think you deserve your freeedooom, noooo, I don't think that you doooo-"
"Prowl, what are you doing?"

The mechlet looked up at his carer proudly. "I'm singing!"
Starscream tilted his helm with a calculating, slightly amused look.
"Oh? And who taught you that one?"

"T- Um, I don't know." He said with a blank expression, optics just a little too wide.
Starscream smirked. "Oh really? Clever thing you are to learn that. You're quite good at it." He praised indulgently, hoping to encourage the mechling to sing more of what he'd learnt so he could confirm his supicions.

Really though, it was silly of Thundercracker to expect a bitlet to keep his secrets when Prowl probably couldn't even pronounce that word properly yet.
The question was, did his trine mate sing when he thought no-one of consequence was listening, or did he teach Prowl deliberately.
The fact he hid it was the most interesting part.
Starscream had expected to learn some interesting things about Sparklings from raising one. He certainly hadn't expected it to teach him things about other mechs.