Chapter 1: In Which There is Drunkenness
It was their first major victory over the Decepticons under the leadership of Optimus Prime and there were pockets of celebration growing all over the main Autobot base. Moral was at an all-time high and the officers were turning mostly blind optics to the revelry that was ensuing as a result – so long, of course, that the running of the base did not actually suffer and the 'bots due at their posts showed up on time and in working condition. Regardless, the high grade was flowing and Jazz knew of several 'bots who would likely be suffering from aching processors the following cycle. He conceded, somewhat ruefully, that he would likely be no exception to that. But it was hard to resist the camaraderie and spirit of his fellow Autobots. And besides, cycles like this – where nearly everyone could relax a little and perhaps forget the horrific toll the war had taken for just a little while – didn't happen very often. Jazz fully intended to take advantage of it while he could. Just within the last joor he had dropped in on no less than six parties, ranging in size from small gatherings to full-scale romps. He had mingled and danced and consumed high grade like the best of them, swapping stories that had varying degrees of truthfulness to them and generally ensuring that everyone he met remained in high spirits.
Eventually, however, the parties began to wind down to something quieter as mechs and femmes began to wander off in twos and threes for more private celebrations. Jazz had received no small amount of invitations himself but he waved them all off with an easy smile as he abandoned them to find the mech at least partially responsible for the celebration. And that was why he was currently sprawled over the berth of the one mech in all of Iacon who had an off-duty cycle and was spending it working in his quarters instead of celebrating.
Some things never change.
"You do have your own berth," Prowl said pointedly after some time, "in your own quarters."
Prowl's quarters were a haven of quiet; the thick walls kept the loudest of the celebration to a dull murmur and the bits of equipment that had inevitably migrated to his living quarters hummed softly but not unpleasantly. Jazz stretched out on the low berth sinuously, enjoying the pleasant buzz granted him by the high-grade he had consumed earlier. He regarded Prowl through his dimmed visor, giving his comment careful consideration. "Yeah, but then I couldn't watch you work yourself in to an early grave," he finally replied with a cheeky smile. "'Sides, I like your berth; it's comfy."
Prowl turned from his desk, regarding his companion with steady optics. Jazz smiled guilelessly back. "The high-grade has impaired your motor functions, rendering you incapable of standing under your own power; much less able to remove yourself from my quarters. Hasn't it?"
Jazz smirked. "Maaaaaaaybe. Gonna kick me out anyways?"
Prowl turned back to his work. "Should you feel the need to regurgitate, kindly do so in the wastebasket and not all over my berth, if you please."
"Aww Prowler, I knew you cared."
Chapter 2: In Which There is Sleepiness
Jazz is so very tired, but his berth is cold and empty and not at all conductive to recharging.
It was supposed to be a routine recon mission. However, it had been anything but routine. Jazz made his way to his quarters with slow steps, glad to be back at last. The mission had lasted six orns; not a long amount of time normally, but the amount of action that had happened within those six orns could have spanned much, much longer. He'd barely had time catch any recharge within that span; spending nearly the entirety of the mission dancing on a vibroblade's edge.
And now, even deep within the safety of the Autobot base, Jazz still couldn't relax. He was still too charged; it seemed that there was still something waiting just around the corner if he dropped his guard. Normally, Jazz would find a warm body from Ops to recharge with: guarding each others' backs, so to speak. But all were either off base or spoken for, and he couldn't bring himself to intrude on those bonds still newly-forming among his teammates. It was bound to be a long cycle before he could properly shut down.
But he was so fragging tired.
Given the late joor, Jazz wasn't really expecting anyone to be loitering around the barracks. So it was with some surprise that he regarded Prowl waiting quietly in the hall. Gathering up his remaining strength, Jazz gave him his best smile. "Heya. What's a mech like you doing in a place like this?"
Prowl regarded him calmly. "Waiting," he said. Jazz attempted to put together something somewhat lecherous and altogether Jazz-like but Prowl cut him off with a polite "would you join me?" Then he opened his door, beckoning the surprised mech inside. Jazz stumbled within, unresisting as Prowl took his hand and led him to his berth, the door closing with a soft snick behind them.
Prowl left him there and Jazz stood in front of the berth dumbly, his processor scrambling to make sense of Prowl's actions. Behind him, he heard the faint rumbling of the dispenser and then Prowl was standing solicitously at his elbow with a glowing pink cube of energon.
"Here," he offered quietly, pressing the cube into Jazz's unresisting hands, "drink this."
For a klick, Jazz simply stared at the offering in his hands, considering. The idea of Prowl trying to take advantage of him in his current state seemed laughable; it was Prowl for Primus' sake. He was used to being suspicious of motives – he worked in Ops, after all – but Jazz honestly couldn't see that kind of intention coming from Prowl's personality component. He brought the cube up to his lip components and drank; the brew was a mild high-grade with a slightly bitter taste. Absently, Jazz recognized it as a medical restorative used for overworked mechs. When he had finished, Prowl took the empty receptacle in one hand and used the other to gently push Jazz down towards the berth. "You should get some recharge."
Prowl smiled faintly. "I am not so unaware of the pressures of working in Ops. And I would hope that in the time we've worked together you might consider me as someone trustworthy."
"Well, yeah," Jazz managed as he tried to process Prowl's meaning. "We're friends, right?"
Prowl's fingers rested briefly on his shoulder guards. "Rest. I will guard your recharge." The significance of that simple statement finally clicked and Jazz smiled back, feeling the tension within him slacken as his processor reached the point of safesecurehome. He then slipped directly in to recharge and stayed there until Prowl woke him for the next shift.
Chapter 3: In Which There is Messiness
Jazz would like to recharge. Preferably in a proper berth. A partner would be nice, but that might be pushing it.
“I like a good prank as much as the next bot,” Jazz muttered to himself, “but this one really…”
“Jazz? Is there a reason you are…” Prowl paused and then folded his arms. “I see.”
“Yeah, someone got a little out of hand.” Jazz offered and motioned to his room. “I mean, I heard the organic look is in this vorn, but…”
“Jazz, this is more than an ‘organic look’. This is someone dumping an ecosystem into your quarters.”
Jazz glanced back inside. Soil was heaped up over his berth, spilling brown and earthy onto the ground around it. Some sort of organic growth was piled on top of that, making his berth into something of a nest. Jazz was half expecting to hear little avian chirps coming from the center of the pile, but luckily the room was silent, even if it smelled like…well, like a pile of dirt.
“The science bots said I needed to stay out while they decontaminate it,” Jazz explained. “Something about something in the soil being bad for the joints.”
“It seems logical,” Prowl replied evenly. “I do wonder about the perpetrator.”
Jazz shrugged. “Dunno who, yet, but I’m sure they didn’t mean anything real bad by it. Probably thought it would be funny.”
“Yes,” Prowl said, “it is quite amusing to think of a comrade being confined to the medical bay because of organisms within the soil damaging his components.” The clipped tone had Jazz giving him a quick, startled sideways look before sliding back into something amused.
“Yeah, well,” Jazz said, slapping him on the shoulder, “not all of us are such long-range thinkers like you are. Anyways, I’d better find someone to shack up with so I can get some recharge. It’s been a long shift.”
“You are welcome to use my berth,” Prowl offered. Jazz gaped at him; just a brief flash of surprise before he recovered with a lecherous grin.
“Why, Prowler,” he said cheerfully, “if you wanted a cuddle, I’m—”
“I won’t be requiring it for some time,” Prowl continued, as if he hadn’t even heard him. “I am needed for an extra shift in the Hub.”
Jazz frowned at him. “You work too much,” he complained. “You’re gonna burn yourself out. Didn’t you just pull a triple earlier this orn?”
“I thank you for your concern, but I am well aware of my limits.”
“Yeah,” Jazz said, unconvinced, “right up until the point where you lock up mid-sentence and need to be carted off to the medbots’ loving arms.”
“That only happened once,” Prowl retorted, but Jazz could see his discomfort.
“Uh huh.” Jazz debated on pushing the issue, but decided to drop it. For now. “Anyways, I think you just like the thought of me in your berth.”
“Of course,” Prowl said, the discomfort melting away to his usual stoic self. “It clearly has nothing to do with the fact that you have developed a tendency of requiring my berth for one reason or another.”
“Hey, I’m the invitee this time,” Jazz shot back. “It was your offer. I could go recharge elsewhere.” Then he smiled, slow and easy, and leaned back against the wall. “It’s cool though. You can be shy.”
“Shy?” Prowl asked, one optic ridge arching up. “I think you are mistaking…”
“Yeah, yeah,” Jazz said, waving him off. “But really, I get it. I’m a popular bot.”
“Indeed,” Prowl said blandly. “Regardless, the offer still stands. Should you require it, you are welcome to use my berth – without myself in it – while I am working. I’m sure you can access my quarters without my help.”
“And just what are you implying? That I’m some sorta…”
“Have a pleasant recharge, Jazz.”
Jazz leaned back against the wall with studied casualness as Prowl turned and walked off towards the Hub. He watched as the high, proud doorwings disappeared around the corner. Then, when he was certain Prowl was truly gone, he leapt across the hall to Prowl’s quarters and started hacking the lock.
After all, Prowl’s berth really was comfy – even if Prowl himself wasn’t in it.
Chapter 4: In Which There is Sadness
WARNING for mention of nonspecific offscreen character death.
Jazz would like to recharge but he's not sure he really deserves to. Prowl knows better.
Four dead, seventeen wounded.
Five teams had gone in to enemy territory and not one had escaped unscathed. Jazz could feel some bit of relief that his primary team had only injuries and no casualties, but then guilt ate at him for the selfish thought; there were four bots who had not returned tonight.
It had been his plan that had failed so spectacularly. On his information. Every injury, every death was on his conscience. His tanks sloshed as the sick feeling intensified, and he fought to keep from purging the scant energon he’d been able to consume earlier. Was this what being a leader was all about? Worry and guilt and praying desperately for the sparks of those too quickly departed under his care? If so, then Optimus was welcome to the title of Prime. Jazz wanted no part of it. All he wanted now was his cold berth and the chance to break in to his stash of high-grade to make the pain go away for a cycle. Of course, that was provided he could keep it down for at least a little while.
But when Jazz made it to the hall housing the officers’ quarters, Prowl was there waiting for him. Without a word, Prowl palmed open the door to his own quarters and held out his hand in invitation. Jazz stumbled forward to take it and allowed himself to be drawn in to the room. The door hissed shut behind them, and Prowl led him to his berth. Jazz sat down heavily and Prowl joined him, their frames barely brushing. Jazz was quiet for once; no easy-going conversation spilling from his vocalizer, just the harsh cycling of his anxious systems. Prowl was a steady presence at his side, his face a mask of seeming serenity as he waited out the silence.
Finally, Jazz spoke. “Four dead and seventeen wounded.” He looked down at his clenched fists. “And all my fault.”
Prowl’s composure did not break at the abrupt declaration. “Was it your hand that held the blaster to their sparks, that set the explosives that sent them to the Med Bay?”
Jazz snorted softly. “Might as well have been,” he replied. “I was the one who came up with the slagging plan to begin with.”
“If it was your fault for creating the plan, surely I share blame as well.” Prowl said quietly. “Did I not aid in the crafting of the mission, and agree with its implementation? Was mine not the hand that sent those bots out to die?”
“No,” Jazz said sharply, raising his helm to look Prowl in the optics. “If it weren’t for your tweaking, we all woulda died there.” He laughed hollowly, looking away again. “Your changes saved our afts from my stupidity.”
“And if it wasn’t for your quick thinking during the mission, you never would have brought as many home as you did,” Prowl countered. “Were it not you on that mission, all would have likely perished.”
“That don’t change the ones that lost their lives for us.”
“Then live for them,” Prowl replied so fiercely that Jazz was momentarily taken aback. “Do not wallow in their deaths, Jazz,” he said, softer now, and tentatively rested his hand on Jazz’s shoulder. Jazz let out a shuddering sigh and leaned back against him, and Prowl reciprocated with a proper embrace. “Give them the respect and credit their lives deserved. They would not want to see you so defeated by this for long.”
Chapter 5: In Which There is Sickness
When Jazz comes back from a particularly messy mission, he needs to talk, and Prowl is the only one with the clearance to listen.
“What has happened?”
Jazz roused at the quick, clipped voice that seemed to obliterate all other sound within the Med Bay. He tried to call a greeting – hey Prowler, what’s the haps? – but just as he struggled to speak, he felt a restraining hand on his chest plate. Right. Ratch’ disabled my vocalizer. He onlined his visor to see Prowl standing stiffly at his makeshift berth. The hand on his chest plate belonged to Ratchet who sent him a quelling look before turning back to Prowl.
“A virus,” Ratchet explained in disgust. “Something Shockwave cooked up by the coding. It causes bots to let their vocalizer run without stopping to process.”
“To allow for the retrieval of sensitive information from unwilling sources.” Prowl deduced, and Ratchet nodded grimly.
“Luckily, our Jazz got himself out of enemy hands before the virus could become active, but the only way to get rid of it is to let it run its course.” Ratchet said, and Prowl frowned.
“It will not cause any harm to his systems if left unchecked?”
“It’ll cause more to go in there and mess around,” Ratchet growled. “Slagging Shockwave. I have his vocalizer disabled for now, but that won’t work for long. He needs to talk; otherwise the virus will start up with some of that damage. Unfortunately, with his clearance level…”
“Only the Prime or I would be safe to leave him with,” Prowl finished. “It would be dangerous to leave him on his own on the chance that someone might come upon him and learn things they shouldn't. Very well,” Prowl said with a nod, “I will bring him to my quarters. I can limit access to him easily enough, that way.” He looked down at Jazz. “If that would be acceptable to you?”
Jazz knew it wasn’t really a question, but it was nice of Prowl to ask. He managed a grin and fumbled for Prowl’s arm, giving it a quick squeeze. Prowl’s optics softened briefly at him before he straightened up and turned to Ratchet. “If you could render some aid in transporting him to my quarters…”
After Ratchet had enabled Jazz’s vocalizer and hastily retreated from Prowl’s quarters, Jazz sat gingerly on the edge of Prowl’s berth, idly rambling about his last mission’s parameters. He was still sore from his last brush with the enemy, but it was good to be out of the Med Bay. He told Prowl as much and was rewarded with another brief quirk of his lips.
“I’m sure it is a relief to Ratchet as well when you are not within Medical,” he said mildly, and Jazz laughed.
“I dunno what you’re talking ‘bout, mech. I am so very lovable. Bots pine when I’m not around to brighten their cycles.”
“I suppose it must give you some small measure of comfort to continue to believe such a thing,” Prowl said, and from any other bot it would have sounded cutting, but Jazz knew that was Prowl’s teasing voice, and he felt a small bloom of warmth in his spark.
“Primus, I love you,” he said, smiling, because how could he not tell him?
For a nanosecond, Prowl almost seemed to stall, but it vanished quickly and he regarded Jazz with a bland expression that was only belied by the warmth of his optics. “I am somewhat fond of you as well, but that does not mean that I pine.” He said, still using his teasing voice.
“I do,” Jazz insisted, over-earnest. It was important that Prowl understood, and with Prowl’s startled expression, it seemed that he did. “I’m in love with you. You’re just…you’re amazing. You always take care of me – of all of us – an’ you really do brighten my cycle, an’…”
“S’okay,” Jazz told him easily, “you’re not. In love with me, I mean. You don’t have to love me back.”
“Jazz,” Prowl said again, firmly. “You are not in your right processor right now, and I am taking advantage of that.”
“I wish you’d take advantage of me,” Jazz said wistfully, and Prowl pinched the bridge of his olfactory passage.
“I am going to turn off my audio receptors,” Prowl said, “as I should have done to begin with. And you are going to give me your report – in full – of the past 15 missions you have run.”
“But you won’t be able to hear it,” Jazz said, frowning.
“That isn't important. You will continue to talk, I will not hear anything else I should not, and once this virus has cleared your system, you and I will have a discussion.” And then Prowl turned off his audio receptors and Jazz, still frowning, began his report.
When Jazz awoke, bleary and confused, the first thing he registered was the warm bulk of Prowl beside him.
The second thing he registered was the events from the previous cycle. Oh, slag.
Chapter 6: In Which There is Explicitness (not that kind you perverts)
Jazz is very, very good at avoiding people. Prowl, however, is even better at countering.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Jazz had spent the better part of the cycle avoiding Prowl. He’d managed to get out of Prowl’s quarters without waking him earlier, and had reported to Ratchet directly after that so that Ratchet wouldn’t have the excuse to ask Prowl to track him down. Ratchet had given him a clean bill of health, announcing that the virus had completely run its course and that there were no remnants remaining.
“Any side effects that you noticed?” Ratchet had asked.
“Uh,” Jazz had said. I’m in love with you, he remembered. “Nope, just real talkative.”
Ratchet had favored him with a sardonic smile. “I bet Prowl loved that,” he had offered, and Jazz had nearly choked on his intakes, before smoothly (except not really, and he’d have to deal with that later given Ratchet’s speculative look) offering his excuses of a shift starting and getting the pit out of dodge.
He had gone on to start his shift; early, but with the mess from earlier, there was extra work to be done anyways so there was no point on letting it slide (Mirage had come by to report and nearly did a double take when he saw Jazz working on his report already. The only thing that had saved Jazz from questioning was the fact that Mirage’s own polite reserve kept him from asking the questions he clearly wanted to ask).
Once his shift had ended, Jazz had forgone his usual hanging around the rec room activities. Prowl had always, barring major and spark-threatening events, worked precisely 10% overtime after his own shift, and then would make his way to the rec room to consume 1 cube of mid-grade while participating in limited social contact “to ensure the Autobots that I am still within the realm of the functioning,” as he had once told Jazz with one of his rare wry smiles, barely a twist of his lip plates.
So now, heading straight for his quarters confident that Prowl would be just finishing up his overtime in a few more klicks, Jazz was expecting the coast to be clear. He definitely wasn’t expecting to open his own door and find Prowl sitting sedately on his berth, working away at a data pad.
“Uh,” Jazz said.
“Jazz,” Prowl greeted. “I see you’ve been busy today.”
“My door was locked,” Jazz blurted.
“I have the codes to override any lock I choose,” Prowl said serenely. Jazz gaped at him.
“So you just decided to break in?” He groped behind himself and engaged the switch to close and lock the door. No use in giving everyone a free show, after all. The door hissed closed with a finality that did nothing to ease his frazzled circuits.
“I extrapolated based on previous behavior that you would likely attempt to avoid my presence for the next 2.3 orns, after which point we would likely be forced into close quarters due to our ongoing efforts in the war,” Prowl explained. “Relations would likely be awkward and stilted, and any attempt at ‘normalcy’ would have a 76.3% chance of backfiring, with that percentage degrading as time went on.” He looked at Jazz squarely. “I find that situation to be suboptimal; thus, I took steps to ensure we would have that conversation now so as to avoid it.”
“Yeah, that’s uh…likely. Wait, 2.3 orns? Ain’t that a bit long?”
“I took care not to underestimate your avoidance capabilities when you don’t want to do something.”
Heh. He has me there. Jazz rubbed the back of his helm self consciously. “So, I guess we oughta talk so as not t’ put a damper on our work relationship.”
“Jazz,” Prowl said, his tone somewhat exasperated, “while our working relationship is important, it is our friendship I’m more concerned with.”
Well, ‘least there’s that. “Look, I’m sorry you had to hear all that,” Jazz started, but Prowl held up his hand.
“Ratchet informed that the virus you were infected with encouraged truthfulness as well as speech,” Prowl said. “I am aware that I should not have heard such things under such a circumstance, but…”
“It was all true,” Jazz told him heavily. “Look, can’t we just forget last cycle never happened?”
“As I said, I should never have heard such things to begin with. As I was appointed to ensure that none of your secrets were exposed, I took advantage of that.”
“Prowler, you didn’t try to get me to talk about all that stuff,” Jazz protested. “It wasn’t your fault!”
“Nevertheless, I heard things you clearly had no intention of wanting me to know. For that, I am sorry. And if you truly wish it, we can go forward pretending the previous cycle never happened.”
“Yeah,” Jazz said with a sick sort of relief, “yeah, that sounds great, Prowl, I—”
“But I wanted you to know,” Prowl went on inexorably, “that I reciprocate your feelings.”
“—really appreci—wait, what?”
“I reciprocate,” Prowl said calmly. He raised an optic ridge, giving Jazz one of his almost smiles. “Really, Jazz, I had thought it had been obvious and you were simply trying to spare my feelings.”
“Obvious,” Jazz repeated faintly. “That, uh…I wasn’t…I mean, I didn’t…”
“At least half the Ark is aware,” Prowl continued. “And I suppose, in hindsight, half the Ark is likely aware of your reciprocation as well.” He paused. “It does make certain exchanges a little clearer.”
“If Smokey knows, there’s prob’ly a betting pool going on,” Jazz said automatically. Then he thought about that. “Huh. I wonder who won?”
“The pool is likely regarding when we are most likely to couple,” Prowl pointed out. “Which will be a moot point should we decide to forget the prior incident and continue on as we were before.”
“What, no,” Jazz said, as he focused, something warm bubbling up in his spark. “I said that ‘cause I thought you didn’t want me back, and I wanted to still be friends, at least.”
“I do value your friendship, Jazz,” Prowl said earnestly, “but I would not be adverse to something…more.”
“Yeah, I can do ‘more’,” Jazz said, grinning, and he threw himself down on the berth beside Prowl. Prowl bounced a little at the force, but did not object when Jazz threw his arms around his waist, tugging him close. “Though the location is a change,” he noted, his visor flashing with good nature. “You in my berth. It’s normally the other way ‘round.”
“Well,” Prowl said, and the almost-smile turned in to a rare, fully formed one, his optics bright, “I had thought that turn-about was fair play, after all.”
'Explicit' as in 'precisely and clearly expressed'. I am a G (or possibly PG to 13) writer, dear friends. If you want sexytimes, there are lots of writers who can write such things much hotter than I.
Yaaaay it's done! And it only took me 14 months past the original deadline. Ahaha. Ha. Um.
As always, comments and criticism are very welcome!