Nine Months

Kicks and Babysitters

“This is my report,” Ratchet said, handing Prowl a data pad. “And this is my inventory list.”

“Very concise,” the Second-in-command remarked as he skimmed over the file. “I wish the rest of the crew was as sparing with our resources.”

Ratchet threw a glance at the other side of the command bridge, where, despite the early hour, the Dinobots were assembled in front of one of Teletraan-1's vid screens watching an Earth movie. The sight made him smile. "We've been lucky this past stellar cycle," he answered. "Hardly any 'Con activity, and thus hardly any activity for me."

"Let's hope it stays that way," Prowl commented. He signed the list and then handed the data pad to the mech working on one of the consoles next to him. "Jazz, can you see about Ratchet getting these materials?"

Jazz took the data pad from Prowl's outstretched hand and gave them his trademark grin. "No problem, boss!" He subspaced the pad and returned to his work when the doors behind them swished open. Ratchet turned halfway around to give the newcomer a fleeting nod, but stopped in mid-motion at the sight that greeted him.

Carly was still in her pajamas. Her hair was disheveled; she looked bleary-eyed and wore an expression which made it abundantly clear that the first person coming too close to her was bound to die a slow and painful death.

"Good morning, Carly," Prowl said politely.

Her eyes instantly narrowed to blazing slits. "I don't know what's supposed to be 'good' about this hell of a morning," she spat. "I've hardly slept, my back hurts, my feet are swollen, and my dear husband obviously didn't deem it necessary to let me know he was leaving!"

Ratchet ducked his head involuntarily. Carly wasn't very prone to mood swings, at least not to the extent his research in human carrier behavior had led him to expect. But every now and then it would happen, and he usually preferred to steer clear of her in that case. She would either snap at anybody within reach for no apparent reason, or she would sob her heart out for equally unclear motives. While the snapping part was endurable - as Ratchet was quite good at that himself - her crying was something he just couldn't handle.

"Maybe Spike didn't want to disturb you," Jazz offered helpfully - and unwisely.

"Oh, I should've known you're on his side," Carly groused. "You guys are always in cahoots with each other. Where is that husband of mine so I can rip his head off?"

By now, Jazz had assumed the ducked-head-position, too. Only Prowl remained as stoic and cool as ever. "I am afraid he left for work with Bumblebee about a breem ago," he answered calmly.

"Well, that's great," Carly replied darkly. "He'd rather spend time with an alien, talking car than with me. I like that."

With Carly's ire safely focused elsewhere, Ratchet couldn't help but to find the situation amusing, and a quick glance confirmed that Jazz had equal trouble to keep his faceplates neutral. It was just too comical: The infuriated human with her rounded belly and her light grey sleeping clothes taking on the heavily-armored, three-times-her-size tactician whose door wings had started to twitch ever so slightly.

But of course Prowl wouldn't have been Prowl if he'd let himself get worked up. "Maybe there is something we can help you with, Carly?" he offered courteously.

"Oh, don't trouble yourself just because I'm carrying a new life," she said acidly. "I apologize for disturbing your little macho gathering. I'll just go back to bed and suffer in silence. Farewell, gentlemen!" She did a mock curtsey and spun on her heel to head for the exit.

She did not reach the door. She suddenly gave a visible jerk and halted abruptly, pressing one hand against her belly. "Oi," she said.

"What is it?" Ratchet asked.

Carly's sullen expression lit up in a smile as she turned back to them, her hand still on her belly. "Nothing," she said. "I'm fine, it's just... he kicked me."

Ratchet grinned back at her. This particular activity of Daniel’s had only recently become perceptible for Carly, but they had already spent quite some time watching him on one of Ratchet's scanners as he turned his head from side to side and happily waved his tiny limbs around.

"He kicked you?" Jazz repeated. He had turned in his seat and stared at Carly in absolute wonder. "You mean, the little glitchmouse moves around in there?"

To his credit, Ratchet had to admit that it was an understandable reaction. The concept of an unborn sparkling exercising like this was alien to Cybertronians. Carly threw him a conspiratorial glance.

"Yeah," she said with a grin. "He likes kicking. Wanna feel?"

Jazz' visor shone with curious fascination as he got up from his console and approached her. Carly beckoned him to kneel. "Gimme your hand," she said, and when he did she took his forefinger and gently pressed it against her baby bump. "Say hello to Jazz, Danny," she told her belly.

Silence. Except for the soft background noise of the Dinobots' movie, there was not the slightest sound to be heard. Jazz kept staring at his hand, and Prowl and Ratchet kept staring at Jazz.

Suddenly the black and white saboteur jerked so hard he nearly lost his balance. His visor flashed brightly, and his engine gave a startled rev, but he did not withdraw his hand. "Whoa," he commented with a small, incredulous laugh. "Man, that's a strong glitchmouse!"

Carly laughed, and so did Ratchet, and even Prowl's lips curved slightly in amusement. Jazz' faceplates were enthrallment personified. "That's awesome. Does he often jump around like that?"

"Mainly when I’m trying to sleep,“ Carly said dryly.

There was a tiny twinkle in Prowl's optics as he turned to Ratchet. "Is it normal for a human sparkling to be so active in the womb?"

Ratchet nodded. "Danny needs to train his muscles and his reflexes so he'll be ready to use them once he's born," he explained. "And his sensory organs should by now be developed enough to let him react to certain outward stimuli. Different shades of light, for example, or sounds."

"Sounds?" Jazz pricked his audio receptors. "You mean like music?"

"No, you won't, Jazz," Prowl said sternly, making his friend pout. "Spoilsport," Jazz muttered, and then jumped again as the sparkling obviously kicked once more. Carly laughed.

"I think he agrees with you, Prowl," she joked. "You want to feel, too?"

The stiffening of Prowl’s posture was barely noticeable, but it was there. “Uh... no, thank you, Carly,” he answered tentatively. “I’ll just take your word for it.” He gave her a brief smile and quickly turned away to resume his work, but Ratchet clearly saw the look of pain that crossed his superior officer’s faceplates.

For a moment he wondered if he should say or do something, but then he decided against it - not entirely out of respect, as he had to admit. His attention was drawn away from their SIC when he suddenly realized that they had a spectator.

Swoop had wandered away from the other Dinobots and was now watching Jazz and Carly with undisguised curiosity.

“Something the matter, Swoop?” Ratchet addressed him kindly.

Swoop flinched a bit as the attention of those present settled upon him, but when he saw Ratchet smiling, he took a step closer. “Me Swoop wonder what him Jazz doing,” he said.

Jazz grinned. “Oh, I just said hello to Danny,” he replied good-humoredly.

Swoop blinked his optics in surprise. “Him Daniel speak?”

“In a way,” Carly said giggling. “Come here, I’ll show you.”

Swoop looked quite skeptical, as if he suspected them to pull a prank on him, but then curiosity got the better of him. Jazz stood up to make room for him, and when Swoop knelt down, Carly showed him how to place his finger against her belly.

It was perhaps the most comical thing Ratchet had ever witnessed when the giant Dinobot suddenly gave a croaking cry of surprise and literally jumped away from Carly, bringing at least three steps of distance between them. His cooling fans hectically whirred away in his chassis, and he stared at the young woman completely flabbergasted. “Him Daniel move! He push my hand!”

Fortunately, Ratchet was not the only one who couldn’t hold back his laughter any longer. Jazz giggled like mad, and so did Carly, and even Prowl had turned back to them with a look of restrained amusement.

“Yes,” Carly confirmed, wiping tears of laughter from her eyes. “That’s his way to say hello.”

Swoop’s optics flitted back and forth between his hand and the human. Ratchet could almost hear his creation’s processor working as he considered her words. “Me Swoop say hello to Daniel, too?” he then asked cautiously.

Carly smiled. “Of course.”

It was a thoroughly endearing sight, Ratchet thought, when Swoop knelt before the young woman once more and she allowed him to very, very gently stroke her rounded belly. The little scene triggered fond memory files in his CPU of the first time Carly had let him feel the sparkling’s movements... From the corner of his optic, he noticed Jazz giving Prowl’s shoulder a discreet squeeze.

“What him Swoop doing there?”

Everybody turned their heads at the thundering voice. The Dinobots had obviously realized Swoop’s absence, and had abandoned their movie to find out what had distracted their comrade’s attention.

“Why him Swoop walk away from other Dinobots?” Grimlock demanded. “And why he cry out like frightened sparkling?”

Slag, Sludge and Snarl snorted at that. Swoop looked rather offended. “Me Swoop not cry like sparkling,” he defended himself. “Me Swoop say hello to Daniel.” He indicated Carly’s belly.

The Dinobots exchanged glances. “Him Swoop lying!” Slag accused. “Daniel not speak from inside Carly!”

“Yes, he do,” Swoop insisted. “He kick my hand. And then me Swoop stroke him.”

Ratchet was suddenly overcome by a vague sense of dread. If he knew his creations - and Primus, he did - then he had a pretty good idea where this would lead them. He activated his vocalizer.

“Can me Snarl stroke Daniel, too?” Snarl asked, visibly intrigued with the thought. Ratchet groaned inwardly. Too late.

“Me Sludge want, too”, Sludge piped up.

That was too much, Ratchet decided. Carly was a sparkling carrier, not an entertainer. “Now, now, guys,” he jumped in, using his ‘doctor’s voice’. “Remember what I told you about Carly and the sparkling needing peace and quiet?” That was a pretty good argument, he thought, as the Dinobots cared about Carly’s well-being.

He was brutally stabbed in the back by said human only a klik later.

“It’s okay, Ratchet,” Carly said gently. “Involvement, remember?”

So much for Ratchet's good arguments.

“You can stick your involvement in places I won’t mention,” he growled, feeling seriously betrayed. “And there’s a difference between being involved and being molested, mind you.”

“Dinobots not motes... mosel... doing bad thing to Carly!” Sludge protested vehemently, and even Jazz seemed to have turned against him. “Yeah, let them have a go, Doc,” he said. “It’s quite an experience.”

Ratchet held up both hands. “Alright, alright,” he huffed. “Suit yourselves. But be careful, do you hear me?”

“Dinobots hear what him Ratchet say,” Grimlock instructed his flock. “No hurt Carly or sparkling!”

It was strange, but Ratchet had the distinct impression that Daniel knew what was expected from him, and that he thoroughly enjoyed all the attention he was getting. He readily kept kicking against Slag's, Sludge's and Snarl's fingers, and eventually even Grimlock knelt in front of Carly, eyeing both her belly and his hand with critical optics for a long while, until finally a pleased look settled upon his faceplates.

"Him Daniel good sparkling," he assessed as he got back to his feet. "Very strong."

In the meantime, Swoop seemed to have made some plans for the future. "Dinobots and Daniel friends now," he mused. "When he born, me Swoop can do flying stuff with him."

"No fair!" Snarl complained. "Me Snarl want to do things with Daniel, too!" He was backed up by a "Me, too!" in two voices from Slag and Sludge.

"Me Grimlock strongest Dinobot,“ Grimlock reminded them. "Me show Daniel how to be good fighter."

The disturbing picture of Swoop balancing a newborn human sparkling on his wings about 1,500 feet above ground settled deeply into Ratchet's processor and finally did it for him. He cycled a long, slow intake of air through his vents and did the best thing he could think of: He called a retreat. "Well, I guess I'll be off now," he said, feeling torn between irritation and a kind of desperate amusement. "High time I got down to work."

"I'll bring by those materials as soon as I get around to it, Doc," Jazz said, flashing him a knowing smile.

"I think I'll come with you, Ratchet," Carly said unexpectedly. "I haven't had breakfast yet - and my feet are beginning to feel like watermelons."

Ratchet muttered an agreement and watched as she waved the Dinobots goodbye. "See you around, guys,“ she called, and Swoop waved back happily.

As they made their way through the various corridors, Ratchet had to admit that, if nothing else, this whole episode had at least served to brighten Carly's mood. His charge looked as good-humored as ever.

"Seems I just found myself some babysitters, huh?" she said with a grin. Ratchet snorted.

“They’re my creations and I love them,” he said dryly. “But should any of them ever want to follow through with this idea, grab that little one of yours and run like the Pit. That’s the best advice I can give you.”

“Who knows,” Carly said pensively. “They might make great playmates once Danny is a little bit older. And don’t tell me that they weren’t absolutely cute back there,” she added teasingly.

Well, Ratchet thought with a small smile, in any case this little adventure had provided him with quite a story to tell Wheeljack later that day...
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