Original prompt: The war started when several mechs that are considered 'old' are not as old and so key figures for both factions are either too young to be officers or are still not of age to officially join the war. The drama and trials of not quite adult and clearly still too young mechs and femmes being crammed together in the Ark/Nemesis. Bonus points if the unlikeliest of mechs for either faction are the 'adults' who feel like they're surrogate caretakers more than soldiers half the time. (from no_pen_writer at the tf_bunny_farm)

:: denotes comm speak
breem = 8.3 minutes
klick = 1.2 minutes
nano-klick = 1 second

1. Recharge is an important part of any youngling's cycle.

"Don't wanna," Prowl said, his lower lip plate jutting out stubbornly. If he wasn't so exasperated at this point, Tracks would have found it absolutely adorable. As it was, he had been on his knees in front of the youngling for the better part of two breems attempting to convince him to take his nap. Young Cybertronians required more recharge than usual due to their high energy consumption, and Prowl was currently the youngest bot on base.

He was also the most stubborn. If something didn't match what his logic chips told him he was unmovable. He would grow out of it as he grew older. At least, his caretakers hoped he would.

"Prowl, it's time for recharge. All good little bots need to recharge now, you know that."

"I'm not tired, so I won't recharge. Doesn't make sense to recharge when you're not tired."

"I'll take him, Tracks." The flighted mech looked up at the youngling gratefully.

"Jazz," he greeted. "Are you sure it isn't a bother?"

"Nah," Jazz said cheerfully. "Prowler an' me get along great. Don't we, buddy?"

Prowl looked up at Jazz suspiciously. His sensor panels twitched briefly before settling. "It's Prowl," the younger mech said firmly, "and I don't wanna recharge now."

"Don't you want to hear th' next part of th' story?"

Prowl paused and considered this, his optics narrowed thoughtfully. "The one with the cyber-ninjas?" He demanded. Jazz nodded solemnly. "Okay," Prowl said finally. "I'll come listen to the story. But I won't recharge unless I'm tired!"

"That sounds fair," Jazz agreed cheerfully and offered his hand. Prowl placed his own small hand on top and Jazz's fingers curled protectively around it. "See ya, Tracks."

"Thanks again, Jazz. Have a good recharge, Prowl."

Prowl gave the adult mech his best cold stare. In all honesty, Tracks had seen scarier cyber-kittens. "'Bye, Tracks." He finally said, and followed after Jazz.

2. Entertain active younglings with fun and safe activities.

"Arcee, you take them. You're better suited to taking care of younglings anyways, aren't you?" Arcee narrowed her optics at the red mech in response.

"If you say it's because I'm a femme, I'll shove this gun so far up your aft it'll be coming out your intakes," she hissed.

"Language, Arcee," Hot Rod said mildly. "There are younglings about." He paused. "Actually, I was going to say it was because of your sparkling personality, but…" Arcee lunged at him before he had a chance to finish. The ensuing scuffle was brief with a clear winner immerging within klicks.

Ironhide stared openmouthed at the pink femme proudly astride the prone mech. "Wow," he said finally. "Can you teach me how t' do that?"

"Me first!" Chromia demanded.

"Great," Hot Rod said from the floor, "you're going to turn them in to hooligans, I just know it."

"You're the one who said I was suited for youngling-duty."

"I take it back," he swore, "you are so completely unsuited that I'm going to file a report that says you're not allowed anywhere near the bitlets if you'll just let me up."

"Hmm…" Arcee gave the two younglings a quick grin. They returned it with wide-opticked eagerness. "I think I have a better idea. Come here, you two. Aunt Arcee's going to show you how take down a mech twice your size in nano-klicks."

Chromia and Ironhide's cheers easily drowned out Hot Rod's groan.

3. When the primary caregiver is away, keep the younglings feeling safe. If all else fails, bribe them.

"I want 'Ferno." Firestar pouted.

Cliffjumper sighed and tried very, very hard to keep the annoyance out of his voice. "I know sweetspark, but Inferno's too busy to play right now."

"Where is he?" Red Alert demanded. "He's not s'pposed to be on duty at this time."

"Sometimes we have to switch the duty shifts around. And I already told you this, Red."

Red Alert frowned up at the mini-bot. "I bet he's not on duty at all. You hid him, didn't you?"

"C'mon scraplet, you're not gonna start that again, are you?"

"'Ferno told us he was gonna be on duty, Red." Firestar chimed in. "Even if he is takin' f'rever."

"What if the 'Cons broke in and attacked him?" Red Alert said. "He could be hurt and alone and…"

"And we'd know straight-away if the 'Cons somehow managed to break in to the security office and took out Inferno." Cliffjumper cut in. "And that's after them getting past all our defenses and the mechs both on and off duty all around the base."

"It could happen," Red Alert said. Firestar giggled.

Cliffjumper opened his mouth to retort, thought better of it, and rifled around in his subspace for a moment. "I know I put them in…ha!" He pulled out two glowing energon treats triumphantly. "Here," he said, shoving them at the two younglings. "Eat these and be quiet."

Firestar popped hers in to her mouth happily enough, but Red Alert eyed his treat skeptically. "You didn't put a sedative in this, did you?" Firestar grabbed it out of his hands and stuffed it in his mouth before the red and white mechling could react.

"See?" She said cheerfully as Red Alert swallowed the treat with a frown. "It's yummy, ain't it? No sedatives!"

"This time," Red Alert said ominously once his mouth was empty. Cliffjumper rubbed his nasal bridge.

"I'm getting too old for this," he muttered. Firestar patted his leg reassuringly.

"It's okay 'Jumper," she said sweetly. "I still love you."

4. Encourage responsible behavior.

Quietly, stealthily, the bot slipped off his berth. Just a little further, and…

A wrench clattered against the nearly-escaped mech's helm. "Siddown on the table and stay there so 'Aid can fix you!" Ratchet said fiercely, one hand on his hip and the other clutching another wrench. "Not gonna get better unless you stay put!"

Sideswipe rubbed the side of his helm. "I'm not going to get better if you keep throwing wrenches at me, either." Ratchet hefted his wrench warningly and the red front liner hastily put up his hands. "Hey, easy bitlet. I'll be good." Sunstreaker snickered from his own med berth and Ratchet whirled on him, optics flaring.

"Hey, I didn't do anything!" Sunstreaker protested, ducking a flying wrench. "Watch the paintjob!"

"No laughin' at the patients!" Ratchet snarled.

Hound was watching the proceedings with bemused interest. "Why do you let Ratchet get away with throwing things in your medbay?"

"Because I can't get away with it," First Aid replied wryly. "But it's something else if it's a youngling flinging things. And he can't throw it all that hard, so no one really gets damaged."

"Yeah, but what happens when he gets older?"

"I suppose we'd all better pray to Primus," First Aid said. He seemed disturbingly cheerful about the prospect.

5. Keep both optics on the younglings at all times.

::Hey, uh, not to alarm anyone, but has anyone seen Red Alert and Firestar?::

Tracks paused in his search, his spark sinking. ::Them too?::

::What do you mean, too?::

::Jazz was supposed to get Prowl in to recharge. They're, uh, both missing.::

::You trusted Jazz?::

::Prowl needs his recharge! Jazz normally wouldn't take off with him on his 'adventures' in this case!::

::…Chromia and Ironhide are missing too.:: Arcee said reluctantly over the comm.

::They wouldn't be if you hadn't had me against the wall--::

::Hot Rod!::

::…uh, whatever you two want to do on your off time is your business, but…::

::Honestly, what part of youngling-sitting is so hard to understand?::

::It wasn't like that!::

::Okay, okay, so most of the younglings are missing. They're probably together somewhere. We just need to keep calm and--::

::Um,:: First Aid's voice had the slightest edge of panic. ::Ratchet's gone too. I only turned my back for a nano-klick, I swear…!::

There was a collective pause as the bots involved contemplated their situation.

::…we are in so much slag.::

::So…who wants to tell Prime?::

6. Never be afraid to cuddle.

They found Prime in his office, and with him, the missing younglings.

Prime was seated not at his desk but on the floor, datapad in hand as he scrolled through reports. And every youngling currently on base was cuddled around him, deep in recharge. Jazz was tucked against him, his visor dark against Optimus' side. He had very obviously wormed his way under the Prime's arm earlier and now had his arms looped around his waist. They didn't quite reach all the way, but it did allow him to reach Red Alert, too, who was recharging against Prime's other side. Firestar had taken one leg and was sprawled haphazardly over it. Her fingers were just barely touching Ratchet's, who had claimed the other leg and was lying quietly along its' length, his faceplate turned completely against the blue metal so that no hint of his normally mobile features were visible. Ironhide and Chromia were curled around each other like cyber-kittens, for once calm and content as they slumbered. They were completely tangled up in each other but for one red hand that had Prime's pede in a death grip. And Prowl was curled up trustingly in the Prime's lap, his helm cushioned against a grey thigh. His sensor panels were still for once, not even twitching at their sudden gaping audience.

::Leave them,:: Optimus ordered through a private channel. ::Let them have this recharge. We've taken so much from them already.::

::With respect, sir, it's the war that has done this.::

::Yes,:: Optimus agreed quietly, ::but in war there is always more than one party fighting.:: Red Alert shifted restlessly against his frame, and Optimus freed one hand to curl around his shoulders. The young mech sighed and cuddled closer, nuzzling against the warm blue plating. ::So we will give them what comfort we can.::

::Always, sir.::