It takes a village...(bottle-neck roads) They say it takes a village to raise a child...well what about a detachment of Autobots? It was a good morning, in Ratchet’s opinion anyway. The skies were clear of the storm clouds that had rolled by the previous day, threatening with rain. There were a few showers, but nothing too troublesome. Ratchet worked quietly cleaning a dismantled generator used to keep Mech’s systems running while their dead power cores were recharged or replaced. A valuable tool during times of war and one Ratchet intended to keep running at maximum efficiency; which ultimately meant disassembling it once in a while to clean it. It was tedious and frustrating work, but nothing Ratchet couldn’t handle. A few curses escaped him as he jammed a pipe cleaner through a narrow tube to clear out any blockages that may have formed over the cycles from use. The Med bay was clear of all its patients, it last one having been discharged that morning, and no sign of any more injuries or troubles. It was a good morning… “THAT’S IT!” Except that. ‘Well,’ Ratchet sighed to himself. ‘It started off as a good morning.’ Placing down his instruments with a sigh, the senior Autobot physician turned his upper half to look at the automatic doors to the infirmary where he was certain trouble, or something very bothersome, was about to enter. And he was right. A disgruntled looking Sunstreaker entered through the doors holding at arms length, a human child. “I can’t take this anymore!” The yellow clad warrior exclaimed, sounding uncharacteristically defeated. Sunstreaker deposited the boy down onto the work table and stepped away. Ratchet didn’t meat Sunstreaker’s optics. Instead he stared slightly horrified at the Daniel Witwicky, the three year old son of the Autobot’s close human friend and newly appointed Earth ambassador to Cybertron, Spike Witwicky. The toddler was covered, absolutely covered, in brightly covered paint. Millions of questions, scenarios, and reasons filtered through his processors as the situation became clear to him. “Dear Primus Sunstreaker,” Ratchet said flicking his optics from the boy to the Yellow bot. “What did you do to him?” “Me?!” Sunstreaker scoffed. “Me? I didn’t do a thing! I turn away for a second (for a literal second) and suddenly he’s covered in paint!” “Where did the paint come from,” Ratchet asked as he turned back to Danny. The little boy seemed unaware, or unaffected, buy the distress coming from his appointed babysitter. “He dragged them out of that box Carly left with me,” Sunstreaker said, absent mindedly whipping drops of paint from his palms. “If I’d known the little imp would cover my quarters in neon paint I would never have agreed to watch him!” “It’s just finger paint. It should wash right off,” Ratchet mused to himself before turning looking at Sunstreaker. “Wait…why were you watching him? Where’s Bumblebee? Hound…Slag, anyone!” “They’re all on duty or at Autobot city,” Sunstreaker replied. “We’re supposed to get three new recruits from Cybertron today. Spike had to go and I owed him for…um…something…so I said I’d watch the squirt. Carly dropped him off with a box of things to keep him occupied so I thought it was…” “Ok to take your eyes off a toddler…” Ratchet finished the sentence. “Honestly, don’t any of Hound lectures ever get through your cerebral wall? There’s a very good reason why this stage of human development is called the ‘terrible twos’. *sigh* There’s nothing we can do about it now. You go clean up your quarters while I get shortie here cleaned up before Carly comes back and puts a dent in both our chassis.” “She wouldn’t,” Sunstreaker added as Ratchet picked up Danny. Ratchet lifted up his elbow and displayed a small, yet very noticeable dent in his forearm. “See this?” Ratchet said. Sunstreaker nodded. “This is what happens when you curse in front of a human child. Now Daniel’s vocabulary ranges from ‘Mom and Dad’, ‘Red and orange’ to ‘slag, damn it, and Scrap’.” “I was wondering why you stopped cursing so much lately,” Sunstreaker commented. “What’d she do?” “Threw a wrench at me,” Ratchet chuckled. “She has a good arm, but bad aim. She was aiming for my head.” Feeling a bit uneasy, Sunstreaker left the med bay to clean up Daniel’s mess. Ratchet watched as the Yellow warrior left the med bay and then turned to Danny, lifting the boy up close his face to get a better look at the damage. “Well, well, well,” Ratchet said to the wiggling child in his hands. “Won’t this be fun?” Instead of replying in words, Daniel simply giggled and placed a small blue hand print onto Ratchet’s cheek. “…and messy.” He added. ************************************ Bumblebee waited patiently beside Spike as the duo stood side by side against a wall. The ship from Cybertron was due to dock at Autobot city any time. For the first time in a while, Spike and Bumblebee had a quiet time to themselves. Over the last few years many things had put off their friendship ranging from the war to Daniel’s birth to the building of Autobot City. And then there was Spike’s big promotion to Ambassador. Out of the blue, Spike let out a soft chuckle. His voice had grown noticeably deeper since his teen years. “What?” Bumblebee asked looking down at the young man. “Do you remember the first April fools day you guys had here?” Spike asked looking up at the sky. Bumblebee groaned at the recollection. “Who could forget?” He replied. “I think everyone still blames you for teaching the Twin’s how to play pranks. You should have told them that they’re only OK on the 1rst of April.” Spike laughed, adjusted his stance, and looked up into Bumblebee’s face. “It’s been a long time,” Spike remarked. “Since we talked like this hasn’t it Bee?” “Too long.” “So much has happened,” Spike continued. “Being a father’s nothing like I thought it’d be.” Bumblebee laughed. “Is it really that hard?” Bumblebee asked. “Danny’s never given me too much trouble.” It was Spike’s turn to laugh. “That’s because he likes you,” Spike replied. “I don’t even think he knows I’m his Dad. I spend so much time away from home nowadays. I missed his first word, his first steps, even the first time he ate by himself. But you guys were there for all of it. I wonder how other parents manage to raise a kid without a platoon of alien robots to help out.” Bumblebee smiled. “You’re not a bad Father, Spike,” Bumblebee said reassuringly placing a hand on Spike’s shoulder. “You just don’t give yourself any lenience.” Spike sighed. “Still,” Spike said. “This new job is exactly what I’d hope it would be for us. The opportunities Daniel will have are immeasurable. He’ll get scholarships to every college. He won’t have to struggle with money like Dad and I did all those years either. I just wish there was some way I could bring my family along. I don’t want Danny to grow up thinking his father was too busy for him.” “Don’t sweat it Spike” Bumblebee replied. “I’ll make sure Danny knows his Dad loves him. Besides, he’s only three. You have plenty of time to make it up to him.” Before Spike could respond a curious sound reach their ears: the sound of an approaching space shuttle readying to land. Together the two old friends made their way down to the runway to meet the new Autobots stationed to Earth. The shuttle landed with relative eases and slowed to a stop. A long platform descended from the hatch and several figure descended, the most recognizable one being the Autobot Commander, Optimus Prime. Five others followed. One was a very large blue and white Autobot that was slightly taller then Optimus. Behind him was an old dusty looking Autobot of a pale army green colored armor. And finally the three new recruits: A lofty red Autobot with flame highlights, a bright green Autobot with a stern looking face, and a pink fembot with a sweetness about her. As they approached Bumblebee stepped up to his commanding officer and saluted before the two shook hands warmly. “Welcome back Prime,” Bumblebee said. Optimus nodded. “Welcome to Earth,” Spike said to the new Autobots. “How was the journey?” “Thank you Spike,” Optimus nodded to the human. “It faired well enough as could be expected. Some slight delays before take off but nothing that we couldn’t handle.” “Yeah,” The old green Autobot sneered and pointed at the red flames Autobot accusingly. “This one doesn’t seem to have the ability to read his internal clock properly.” The young red Autobot shifted his weight uncomfortably. “At ease Kup,” Optimus said with a hint of amusement. “Everyone, this is Spike Witwicky, the Earth ambassador and a very close friend. He and his father aided us throughout the duration of the time we were stranded here on earth. Without their help we could have very well perished.” “Not true,” Spike added. “You guys would have done fine.” “Now that we’re done giving each other a slap on the back,” Bumblebee injected. “Why don’t we press on?” “Of course,” Optimus Prime said and then turned and introduced the new Autobots. “Spike, this Ultra Magnus, my second in command. He’s been leading the Autobots on Cybertron in my stead.” “Greetings Ambassador Witwicky,” Ultra Magnus replied diplomatically. “Please,” Spike asked. “Call me Spike. This job’s new to me and I still haven’t gotten use to being a figure of authority just yet. Plus it makes me feel old.” “This is Kup,” Optimus continued. “He was Ironhide’s mentor when he attended the academy.” Spike suppressed a laugh. “I had the impression as such,” Spike replied. “You two share distinct similarities.” “He means you’re both stubborn,” Bumblebee added. The red and green Autobots snorted and the Pink femme slapped the red one across the back of his head. “I consider it a compliment,” Kup replied. “Ironhide’s a good soldier and did everything I asked of him. Unlike these slackers…” Kup pointed at the new recruits behind him. Spike laughed. “Do these slackers have names?” “You heard the Ambassador,” Kup said roughly to the three. “Introduce yourselves.” “Hotrod,” answered the red flamed Autobot. “Springer,” The bright green Autobot said. “Arcee,” Said the pink femme. Spike nodded approvingly. “Welcome to earth,” He said. “I look forward to working with you all.” Spike looked at his watched. “And now I think we should return to the Ark. We’ll get you all established and introduce you around. And besides, I’m getting the distinct feeling Sunstreaker’s done something stupid.” Optimus, who was having a quiet word with Ultra Magnus, turned to the human curiously. “Why is that Spike?” “I convinced Sunstreaker to watch Daniel today,” Spike replied as he walked off. Bumblebee and Optimus groaned, much to the amusement and confusion of the others who followed suit. “Who’s Daniel?” Arcee asked, turning to her two male companions, both of whom shrugged indifferently. ************************************* “They’re back,” Sunstreaker said as he leaned up against the threshold of the med bay entrance. “Go out to meet them,” Ratchet replied without meeting Sunstreaker’s gaze as he removed Daniel from the small child’s plastic pool he was using as a make shift bathtub. The little boy squealed in protest at having been removed, but Ratchet ignored him and sat the boy lightly on the table. Ratchet sighed to himself noting that the paint wasn’t removed from the boy’s hair. Thick blotches of dried red, orange, and blue paint color coated the boy’s head in an almost comedic manner. Ratchet dreaded Spike’s reaction when he saw his son. “I’ll be there in a little while, Sunstreaker. I’m going to try to get Daniel dressed.” “Good luck,” Sunstreaker replied as he left. The corridors were strangely and eerily quiet with the absence of the Autobots. He felt severely indebted to Ratchet at having taken over Daniel’s care. That child, Sunstreaker thought curtly to himself, will be the end of me…or my finish…or both! Sunstreaker entered the command center to find Optimus Prime and the others standing around conversing. He smiled when he saw Ultra Magnus. Memories of when Sideswipe and he had served under him after they were created flooded him memory circuits in momentary recollection of nostalgia. Seeing Kup brought back memories of harsh words and disciplinary exercises. The three new Autobots were new faces to him and he scanned each one curiously. Then his optics fell on her: A femme, an Autobot femme, a pink Autobot femme! Recovering from his initial shock, Sunstreaker lifted his head and straightened himself as he approached. Spike was conversing with the pink armored fembot and Spike caught his optic. “Hey Sunstreaker,” Spike said with a smile that faded into a concerned frown. “Where’s Daniel?” Sunstreaker, recalling that he was the one assigned to Daniel’s care and that day’s earlier events, stopped dead in mid strut as if he’d been caught red handed. Spike’s ‘announcement’ of Sunstreaker’s entry alerted the other and then all turned to observe. “Um…well….you see…” He stammered. Optimus and the other Autobots turned to listen in with curiosity. “A…funny thing happened…” Spike pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. “Just tell me you didn’t loose him,” Spike pleaded. Sunstreaker put his hands on his hips, put off. “No!” Sunstreaker replied. “He’s with Ratchet. It’s just that…” As if on cue there was a loud child-like laugh and moments later, Daniel came running into the command room wearing nothing but a pair of shorts, squealing joyously, followed by Ratchet. “Catch that kid!” Ratchet hollered after the boy, sounding out of breath as he leaned over, one hand on his thigh and the other against the wall supporting him. “He’s a bit more colorful then when you left him…” Sunstreaker finished. The small Daniel ran around the group of Autobots as they followed him with their optics. Springer lifted his foot as Daniel came running by, loosing his balance. He fell over knocking Hotrod and Kup like a pair of dominos. Bumblebee burst out laughing while Ultra Magnus covered his mouth as his shoulder shook in silent laughter. Kup pushed the two younger mechs off him with a sharp curse. As Daniel ran by, Spike stepped in front of him and scooping the child up in his arms. “Daddy!” Daniel laughed. “Daniel!” Spike laughed at the state of his son. “What did you do to him Sunstreaker?” “Nothing!” Sunstreaker replied. “He did that to himself.” “I tried to get as much of the paint off as I could, Spike,” Ratchet said as he joined the group, breathless with laughter. “But that paint’s pretty thick in his hair and I don’t thick I could have gotten it out without hurting him some.” “That’s fine,” Spike said examining his boy. “Carly’s been begging me to get his hair cut for a month now. We’ll just take him to the barber later for a buzz and Carly will never know.” “Wow ‘Streaks,” Bumblebee snorted as he examined Daniel’s colorful new hair-do. “You’re really bad at this babysitting thing aren’t you?” “Hey,” Sunstreaker retorted with a sly smirk. “It’s not as bad as the time you gave him caffeine.” Bumblebee didn’t reply but simply shifted uneasily from foot to foot at the recollection. Arcee, who had been watching the scene with an amused smile, looked down at Daniel with a deep curiosity. Daniel met her gaze and shyly ducked his head into his father’s shoulder. Arcee laughed. “Hello little one,” Arcee said, bending to one knee to get a better look. “So this is Daniel.” Spike turned around, looking at his son smiling. “What’s wrong Danny?” He chuckled. “Don’t tell me you’re shy.” Daniel poked an eye over at Arcee and quickly hid again, issuing chuckles from the observing Autobots. “This is Arcee,” Spike explained. “She’s Bumblebee’s friend.” Daniel poked his head up from his father’s shirt and smiled up into Arcee’s face. “Awsee,” Daniel repeated as best he could. “Arcee,” Arcee repeated. “Awsee,” Daniel repeated. “That’s as good as he’ll be able to speak,” Spike explained. “Most kids his age can’t say their ‘R’s’ or ‘L’s’ very well. And his vocabulary is pretty limited as it is.” “He can’t speak?” Arcee asked with a slight hint of alarm in her voice. “He’s only three,” Spike explained. “He’ll slowly begin to talk and when he starts school a Teacher will teach him grammar and vocabulary.” “Human’s aren’t created with this knowledge?” Springer asked as he took up a spot next to Arcee. “Nope,” Bumblebee said. “They’re completely blank slates. Their parents have to teach them everything pretty much.” “What a pain,” Hotrod added. “How long does it take to teach a human basic functions?” Spike laughed. “Years,” Spike stated. “Then again, there’s a lot to teach; Walking, talking, etiquette, simple right and wrong, laws, and the like. He’s legally recognized as an adult when he’s 18. And even then he’s still being taught. You’re never too old to learn something new. Heck I’m twenty-seven and I still have to learn new things everyday for this job.” “Fiwur” Daniel said pointing to Hotrod’s flame accented chest. The red Autobot looked down at his torso. “What did he say?” Hotrod asked. “He said ‘Fire’,” Bumblebee explained. The Yellow Minibot was hunch over looking at Daniel, letting the toddler play with his finger. “Danny, this is Hotrod.” “Hotwod!” Daniel laughed and then turned to Springer. “Gween!” “Springer,” Spike explained. “This is Springer. Arcee, Hotrod, and Springer are new here Danny. You’re gonna have to help them get settles here OK?” “Ok,” the boy replied. Daniel began to fuss in his father’s arms and Spike sat him down. Without a word Daniel walked away out of the command room leaving everyone slightly confused. “I guess he got bored,” Spike commented. But a few minutes later Daniel came back hauling several large toys with him: A green remote controlled helicopter, a pink Barbie corvette, and a red sports car. Everyone watched with silent laughter as Daniel placed a toy in front of Hotrod, Arcee, and Springer. The toddler picked up the pink corvette and offered it to Arcee who took it smiling at the little human’s gesture. Daniel repeated the action by offering the toy sports car to Hotrod who looked rather embarrassed to be where he was, but took the small toy nonetheless. Finally, Daniel took up the controls to the helicopter and made it spin around Springer’s head playfully. “Hewicopter!” Daniel laughed. Springer chuckled as he watched the small toy fly about his head. “Friendly little guy isn’t he?” Springer mused. “He’s always been like that around Autobots,” Spike said watching his son with a small bit of pride about him. “We’ve got a pretty big family here. In fact, Optimus and Bumblebee are Daniel’s godfathers.” “What does that mean?” Ultra Magnus asked, stepping into the conversation. “Prime and I are kind of like back up,” Bumblebee explained. “In terms of raising Danny.” “Yes,” Optimus replied. “At birth, Spike and Carly named Bumblebee and I legal guardians of Daniel incase anything should ever happen to them.” “Otherwise he would probably be lost in the system,” Spike explained. “And if, god forbid, something should ever happen to me and my wife, Danny will be taken care of by those who know him and us.” Spike looked at him watch and gasped. “Is that the time?” He asked himself. “Well gentlemen, it seems I have wasted my time here. I’m due at a meeting with some senate representatives this afternoon and I must leave now or I’ll be late. Politicians are not the most patient of men either. So I’ll bid you a due and let you all get on with the tour and such. Bumblebee?” “Hm?” The yellow bug asked. “If Carly gets back before I have a chance to take Daniel to the barber, take him over to my Dads,” Spike explained. “I fear she may have an aneurism if she saw his hair like that.” “Sure thing,” Bumblebee laughed.