playswithworms: (Default)
In lieu of vacuuming, or cleaning my bedroom, or other householdly duties yesterday, I wrote a thing! This takes place before Barricade "captures" First Aid, during his first winter with the hatchlings.

“Ok, ok, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”

The cow flattened her ears against her head and made a loud bellowing sound, glaring at Barricade with an expression he had never seen before, but he assumed indicated extreme displeasure.

“Cows don’t like being carried. Gotcha.” Barricade grimaced as he limped a few steps away to reconsider his options. Attempting to lift a fairly solid bovine organic over a fence hadn’t done his battered frame any favors, although at least he’d chosen one of the smaller ones, a youngster from the summer who was at least slightly smaller than her parent. Mom cow was also giving him the stink eye, he noticed, standing close to her offspring.

“Look, I’m sorry,” he told them again. At least they weren’t running away. “It’s just…I really need your help, ok?” The wind swirled gusts of snow against his knee components, making them ache. Temperatures were almost endurable today, compared to the bitter deep freeze they’d been for nearly a week, probably why the cows were out at all as opposed to whatever shelter they went to on the other side of the field. But it was still far too cold for him to leave the hatchlings, and things were getting critical.

“I’ve got to go find fuel, but I can’t take the hatchlings with me, and I can’t leave them alone either, not in this weather.” Not after what had happened the last time he’d left them to get fuel - he could shut down systems and enter sleep mode to conserve energy, but it seemed that hatchlings did not have the same ability. They’d shut down all right, but then they’d kept shutting down, to the point of near-deactivation. He’d gotten them warmed up again, but they’d been alarmingly listless and reluctant to refuel for days - it was only in the last day or so that they’d recovered some energy and started acting hungry again, but he’d burned through his hard-won fuel supplies just keeping his systems running hot enough to keep them all warm. He had barely enough energon in his lines to keep himself upright, let alone handle another round of feeding.

“I was hoping you’d help keep them warm, while I was gone.” One furry ear flicked his way, listening. He knew the cows had limited processing power and wouldn’t understand the words in English, let alone Cybertronian, but he’d gotten into the habit of talking to them, and at times it felt like they understood his intent, if not the actual words. At least he wasn’t being bellowed at anymore, which was reassuring. This particular cow he’d watched grow up with breakneck speed from a wide-eyed youngster drinking from her mother’s fuel supply (an arrangement he’d envied, feeling his scarred fuel lines twinge from the most recent hatchling feeding) to this fine example of young cowhood, processing organic vegetation into energy and waste products with single-minded efficiency. She’d followed him and the hatchlings around with fearless curiosity, and the adults had followed suit. He just hoped he hadn’t ruined their trust in him forever. “I know, that was rude of me to just go picking you up like that. I should have explained better. I don’t know. I’m going about this all wrong. Just…wait here a moment, ok? Don’t go anywhere, I’ll be right back.”

She made a snuffing snorting sound, breath steaming in the cold air, and Barricade took that for acknowledgment as he stepped back over the fence and went back to the barn, where he was met by the plaintive beeps of fourteen hungry hatchlings. Their plating had cooled, even in the short time he’d been gone, despite being burrowed close together in their nest of straw, and he felt despair and panic rush through him again. Maybe he should try keeping them all in his alt mode while he foraged? Did the need for fuel outweigh the risk of discovery? It wouldn’t work, he’d never be able to move swiftly or stealthily enough…

Barricade pulled himself back from that line of thought with an effort and quickly snagged up the two strongest hatchlings and held them close to his chest, sheltered as best he could from the wind as he headed back out to the field. The other twelve made worried, protesting squawks and cheeps as he shut the door securely again - hopefully they’d burrow back in and not chill themselves further trying to follow him. The two on his chest clung silently, and he revved his engine hard, burning through the last fumes of his energy reserves as he did his best to warm them while he dismantled a section of the wooden fencing. The cows watched curiously.

“Here, here you go,” he said, holding out one of the hatchlings. “No more grabbing, I promise. It’s one of your friends. Come and say hi.” The hatchling in his hand let out an excited beep at the sight of the cows, and the cows responded, coming close enough to snuffle with their olfactory openings, first the hatchlings, and then Barricade. He carefully rested his hand on the youngest one’s back and then stroked gently, and she lipped along his hip armor, leaving a cold, slimy trail.

“I’m glad we’re still friends,” he murmured, and she flicked an ear back in response. “Please. Please, will you come with me?” He backed slowly, and the cows followed, first through the fence, and then through the door of the barn, as peaceful and orderly as if they did it every day. The hatchlings, distracted from their hunger, greeted them with excited beeps and squeaking, and the cows snuffed them and nosed about through the straw, seeming disappointed that there was nothing tastier. One of them lowered herself to the straw with a contented groan, and the hatchlings burrowed in next to her. Barricade added the two from his chestplates.

“No claws, Pit Spawns,” he warned them. “No climbing. Cows don’t have armor.” Several pairs of red optics blinked up at him, but they were too low on energy to get into too much trouble. He hoped. The air in the barn already felt warmer, moist with steam from melting snow and bovine exhalations. Barricade swayed a little on his feet, wanting nothing more than to lay down in the straw with the cows and recharge forever, but time was short, and he didn’t like the dimness to the hatchlings’ optics, especially the one that always seemed a little weaker than the others.

“Thank you,” he said. The youngest cow licked his hand when he held it to her, and leaned in when he rubbed along her chin, by which indication he presumed he was forgiven. “I’ll try to find some…cow food. Some hay or something, while I’m out.” There had been bales of it, he remembered, in one of the other fields, not so long ago. It hadn’t been there the last time he’d driven by, but maybe it was stored somewhere nearby.

“Thank you,” Barricade said again, to them all, feeling his spark waver between hope and despair. He was so tired. He couldn’t keep this up any longer. He went to the door anyway, and braced himself for the cold again.

“I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
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