"You're staring. Why?"
Prowl looked up, surprised, then shook his head in amusement and continued with his task of gently washing down his sleepy sparkling's frame.
"We agreed that we should be reciprocally affectionate in public because it would avoid others being concerned at our estrangement at such an important time, but there's no requirement to continue it now everyone has left. I'm not even sure why you haven't gone home yet; you were very clear that you had no interest in raising a sparkling."
Jazz shuffled his pedes uncomfortably.
"I know. I know what I said..."
He broke off as Shadowstep began to demand his next meal rather insistently, and Prowl wrapped the little frame in a linkmesh blanket and carried him through to the apartment's only berthroom to settle him for the night.
Jazz tidied the small, private washrack before following, stopping in that doorway and watching, once again feeling an unfamiliar longing ache in his spark watching his friend fuss over the newling.
He and Prowl had worked together for centuries, supporting Optimus through the war and holding everything together through crisis after crisis. They had been the best in their respective fields, and respected each other for that even when they argued over the details. On Earth, with so much of the Ark uninhabitable, neither had flinched at the suggestion that they share a room. In fact they had been compelled to share a berth, since there were too few functional ones to go around.
In all that time, they had rarely been on that berth at the same time, politely arranging between themselves which of them would have it when, but in the uncommon circumstances that it had been unavoidable they had been mature about it. They were not lovers, just colleagues and friends and now roommates.
Others had thought differently, and that was okay. It helped morale for others to see a 'stable' pair getting on with what was required. He and Prowl had talked about it a few times, had a quiet laugh over how fixated everyone was on matchmaking. It was easier to let everyone believe what they chose than to be 'helped along' with another partner.
So when the conflict had finally ended and the worst of the resettlement was over and Prowl decided he wanted to raise a sparkling, it had seemed simplest to apply together. There was no intimacy required in the deal: the rediscovery of the blueprints for a key to Vector Sigma meant that it was purely an administrative act. Had everyone not already believed they were a couple, Prowl could just as easily have applied on his own. Bluestreak had taken on the formal role of Shadowstep's second mentor with the explanation that they wanted to revive Praxian culture, and a sparkling really only required one mentor anyway.
They had done it together because it was what was expected and because it was easier to continue to pretend and keep everyone else happy until after the activation. If they had done it before, no doubt their friends would have tried to get them back together before allowing them to go ahead with their plans. Doing so after would upset their friends, but at least Prowl would already have the sparkling he wanted and Jazz had no qualms about disappearing for awhile to avoid the worst of the fallout.
So he had attended the various sessions where Prowl organised the frame and programming he wanted, and then they both attended the ceremony at Vector Sigma. Jazz had watched those small blue optics light up, the stubs that would become sensor panels begin to twitch, and heard the first few clicks come from the newling's mouth, and had remained mostly impassive. Sparklings were cute, definitely, and he had no issues with chatting or playing with the one, perfectly ready to be charmed. What he was not ready for was the tenderness with which Prowl handled his new sparkling, and the feelings that that scene had engendered.
It was silly, Jazz had told himself. He knew Prowl wasn't the drone the gossipmongers would have everyone believe him to be. He even knew that Shadowstep wasn't Prowl's first, he had raised two sparklings before the war: one by himself, the other with the aid of his sparkmate. He had left them behind when he went to help Sentinel Prime maintain order, but had stayed in contact with them.
All three had died at Praxus.
No-one else knew that. It had been before Jazz had joined the Autobots and as far as he could make out no-one had thought to worry about their SIC's feelings. Prowl had found Bluestreak and had focused his energy and attention on him.
He knew Prowl was just as emotional as anyone else, and that it was just hidden away so that he could focus on the job he had to do. So why would it surprise him that Prowl was affectionate now? And why was he feeling jealous over it? The answer was not one he had expected.
Prowl finally finished feeding Shadowstep and plugged him into the recharging unit then walked out of the room, leaving Jazz to close the door.
"You're in an odd mood tonight." Prowl observed as he sat on the couch and began tidying away the gifts that friends had brought around in celebration.
"Yeah, I am." Jazz admitted, perching on the arm of the couch. "Prowler, I think I made a mistake."
"Did someone die?"
"Not that kinda mistake."
"Then it's more than likely fixable."
Jazz grimaced and began to explain but Prowl cut him off.
"I'm confused, Jazz. We have both been clear for a very long time that we were only friends, and you have been more than clear that you had no interest in ever mentoring a sparkling, yet now you have changed your mind? So very quickly, and you believe you are sure?"
"I dunno." Jazz replied honestly, moving to sit heavily beside Prowl on the couch.
"Why the change?"
Jazz had no immediate answer to that, but Prowl was clearly prepared to wait and he forced himself to think it through before speaking again.
"I think I just figured out how important you are t'me. When the war was on, I knew I'd see ya every orn. When it was over an' we moved back here t'Iacon an' got our own spaces it felt kinda off but I figured it was just the transition back to civilian life. But now you've got Shadowstep an' you're givin' up your job an' I ain't got a clue when I'll see ya, an' I jus' don't want ya t'go."
Prowl had been folding a blanket and now settled it on his lap, smoothing it absently.
"We're very different, Jazz. We have always known that. And you know I have no interest in short term relationships..."
"Short term?" Jazz laughed. "Prowler, we've been together for centuries!"
"But not as a couple."
Jazz's humour fled. It was not that they had never shared; more that it had always been casual, a stress release, friend helping friend.
"We could start slow, see how it goes." he mused. "I don't mind courtin' ya for a bit, figure things out as we go."
"Won't that seem a little odd?" Prowl asked, shifting the blanket to the table and turning to face him. "As you say, we've been together a long time."
"Who gives a frag what anyone else thinks?" Jazz dismissed the concern. "What matters is us."
"And is there an 'us', beyond friendship?"
"I'm thinkin' there probably should be. Prowl I'm sorry, my timin's lousy, you've had a busy orn an' y'don't need this slag right now but I just... I can't help what I'm feelin'."
"And what exactly are you feeling?"
Jazz hesitated, suddenly afraid to mess this up, then pushed past that. This was Prowl. They knew each other far too well to overreact to each other's foibles.
"I love ya. An' I wanna make it formal. Permanent. I wanna come online in the mornin' wit'ya arms around me, an' argue wit'ya over the colours for our sparklin's berthroom, an' go through the orn knowin' you're gonna be there when I get home. That this is home, an' this is wherever you are."
"That's very romantic." Prowl commented dryly, a sparkle in his optics suggesting he was amused. "So this is not just a belated attempt at a night's passion before it's too late?"
Jazz shook his head firmly.
"Passion's easy, but it's empty. I want more. I want you."
Prowl stared at him for a long moment, then leaned forward until their foreheads were pressed together and kissed him lightly.
"Well it certainly took you long enough. I thought you'd never ask."
Prowl kissed him again and raised one hand to trace the shadow of the now-removed Autobot logo on Jazz's chest.
"I realised I loved you vorns ago, but you weren't ready. The answer's yes, Jazz. Yes, I want to build a life with you. Yes, I love you. And as for taking things slowly, I'm sorry our first time won't be on a berth but I don't want to wake Shadowstep now he's settled and I'm not at all certain I can wait now I have you in my arms at last."
"We can make it work." Jazz grinned, his shock passing.
"Yes, I believe we can."