Originally written in February 2008 for this prompt: Aerialbots: puppy pile gets mistaken for something more by onlookers - "So, Optimus wants me to explain to you five about firewalls and keeping your virus scans up-to-date."

oOo

The Talk

oOo

Even Red Alert, purported to be the most paranoid mech on the Ark, knew that some things were meant to be kept private. It was the main reason he had never put up much of a fuss about the lack of security cameras in personal quarters, tempted though he was at times to make exceptions for certain members of the crew.

The five mechs currently at the center of his attention weren't in their private quarters. They were in the middle of the main hangar, just back from a late-night training run.

Red Alert watched as one by one the Aerialbots transformed, stretching out tired servos. Audio surveillance in the hangar was tricky; the acoustics of the room tended to wreak havoc with his recording equipment, but he still managed to catch Slingshot's loud boasting, Silverbolt and Skydive's voices an indistinct murmur under it… and Fireflight's loud squawk as Air Raid pounced, knocking him to the ground. With a raucous whoop, Slingshot broke off his monologue to join the pile of flailing limbs.

Red Alert's sharp optics caught the weary slump of Silverbolt's shoulders before he waded into the fray, latching on to the first flailing limb he came across. It happened to belong to Air Raid. The F-15 broke off with surprisingly little protest, allowing Silverbolt to haul him to his feet and stepping obediently away from the pile. What really spun the Security Director for a loop, though, was the hand that slid sneakily to the upper seam of Silverbolt's hip as the mech returned his attention to the continuing wrestling match. Silverbolt jumped, spinning around. Then Air Raid tackled ihim/i and, to Red Alert's increasing surprise, Silverbolt let himself fall to the floor alongside Fireflight and Slingshot.

The Security Director leaned forward and to the side, engrossed enough that it took him a moment to realize what was bothering him; his view was being partially blocked by something on screen. Hadn't he ordered those crates moved? Their placement was quite effectively blocking the left thirty percent of the screen and, naturally, half the Aerialbots' activities. He could see Slingshot and Fireflight only from the waist down, the latter trapped under the former and twisting in a way that didn't really look like a pinned mech trying to free himself.

A shrug from Skydive brought Red Alert's attention back to the last member of the Aerialbots. Skydive flopped to the floor in the middle of the pile, further blocking what little could be seen of Silverbolt and Air Raid behind him. Red Alert thought that perhaps he simply wished to be close to his teammates, but then he reached around the Harrier to touch Fireflight's thigh briefly before slipping his hand up the red rear wings until it too disappeared behind the crates.

Red Alert twitched.

He couldn't look away.

Silverbolt's hand wrapped around the afterburner on Air Raid's back, using it to pull the black mech upward. Fireflight crawled over Skydive and Slingshot-knees and feet catching both of them at least twice-laying back down on the floor next to the Aerialbot Commander. Slingshot followed him over, flopping down on his stomach at an angle across both Fireflight and Air Raid. His head must have been right next to Silverbolt's. His arm was shifting around the area of Fireflight's pelvic armor, though various wings and stabilizers were blocking most the view. Whatever he was doing, it made Fireflight buck, kicking again, before he subsided, this time with his legs twisted around Slingshot's. Skydive's legs pulled up, the jet disappearing from view entirely.

The bickering from before had faded to indistinct murmurs and the occasional suspicious giggle.

Red Alert cycled his optics rapidly, shunting the hangar-bay camera to a corner screen where it could be more easily ignored. He made a mental note to contact Prime first thing in the morning.

o0o

The medbay doors slipped open, the noise that followed the Aerialbots wherever they went washing into the sterile environment. Ratchet switched off the screen-full of information he'd been reviewing before his visitors could see it and turned to face them. Five faces stared back at him.

Silverbolt took the proverbial plunge. "You wanted to see us, Ratchet?"

"Yes. Take a seat." Ratchet leaned against the counter behind him. He waited until they were settled, cutting off a comment from Slingshot with a swift glare, then spoke. "So, Optimus wants me to explain to you five about firewalls and keeping your virus scans up-to-date."

o0o

Some time later, the Aerialbots trooped back out of medbay, a much quieter group than they'd gone in. Fireflight leaned closer to one of his brothers, whispering, "Hey. 'Dive. Do you have any idea what Ratchet was talking about?"

Skydive seemed to think for a moment before he shook his head.

"Oh." Fireflight walked quietly for a few steps more then raised his voice, speaking to all of his brothers. "Can we have another 'tickle fight' tonight, guys? Carly was right; they're fun."

A chorus of enthusiastic agreement went up around him.