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The Festival of Renewal (Or Meet the Family)

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Prowl started curiously at the invitation in his hand. It was pressed into a sheet of silver--expensive and impractical, but traditional--and written in neat calligraphy. The whole thing was quite elegant--the sort of thing his creators would send out for a gallery showing--but completely unexpected.

Prowl of Praxus,

You are cordially invited to attend the Festival of Renewal in the City of Yuss from 41.02.33Z until 01.03.33Z. As an invited guest, you will receive accommodations for no fewer than ten solar cycles at the Fusion Estate with all fuel and amenities included. Should you request, transport will be arranged for you from Iacon Military Base and Training Academy to the City of Yuss at no cost to yourself.

Please respond to this invitation by contacting Lieutenant Jazz, Special Operations Division, Elite Guard of Iacon

Rather than stew in his confusion, Prowl decided it was best to simply do as requested and contact Jazz. Surely his betrothed could shed some light on the subject.

-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-

Jazz's smile was brilliant as Prowl stepped into the private lounge that the Special Operations officers had been given. The visored mech was the only occupant of the room currently, which was a relief. Neither of them would have to endure the good-natured teasing of Jazz's team--or worse, one of their brothers.

"Hey, cybertiger." THe shorter mech stood up from his table and crossed the room to pull the Praxian into a hug.

Prowl responded by hugging Jazz back, then leaning down to press a kiss to the other mech's lips. "Hello yourself."

"What brings you out of Tactical and down here to the gritty part of town?" The operations agent moved his hands down to take the tactician's, then pulled the other mech toward his vacated table. "You miss me?"

"Of course I did, but that wasn't the only reason." The taller mech sat down next to his lover, then reached into his subspace and pulled out the invitation. He set it on the table in front of the saboteur. "What do you know about this?"

Jazz took a moment to read the text and then hung his head. "Frag me, he actually did it."

"Who did what, Jazz?"

"Ricochet. He's been threatening to invite you home for me, since I haven't introduced you to the family yet."

Prowl quirked a brow ridge at the other black and white mech. "And what, precisely, is his justification for such an action?"

"He thinks I'm being stupid." The smaller mech shrugged one shoulder. "You know how brothers are."

"Are you being stupid?" The Praxian gave the other mech a soft smile to show that he was teasing.

"I don't... Maybe?" Jazz frowned. "I just... You're so classy and cultured and in Yuss, we're really not. I didn't want you to get there and then think less of me."

"Jazz, do you judge me based on Streetstar's actions?"

"No way! You're you and he's a punk!"

"And Ricochet is a short-tempered aft, but I have yet to judge you based on his actions." Prowl wrapped an arm around his betrothed's shoulders. "I fell in love with you, and I will be bonding to you, not your family and certainly not to the rest of Yuss. Whatever flaws that you perceive them to have will not change that."

"So you're going to come to the festival, then?" Jazz's tone was resigned.

"If I don't, your twin will never leave you alone."

"Thanks for taking one for the team." The visored mech looked up and gave his lover a weak smile.

-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-

The shuttle they were taking to Yuss was larger and much more well-appointed than Prowl had been expecting. He had thought they were taking a standard military transport the way he always did when he was returning to Praxus, but instead he had climbed into a luxury liner on par with something from the Towers.

"I know it's a little overboard, sorry." Jazz sounded truly embarrassed as Prowl settled tentatively into a plushly padded seat. "My creators are convinced we don't have anything nice here at the base and so they overcompensate."

"It's fine, Jazz." Prowl smiled at his partner as he relaxed into the surprisingly comfortable seat. "Though it seems extravagant to hire a shuttle like this when we could have taken the base transport at no cost."

"Oh they didn't rent it. This belongs to my carrier." The saboteur looked like he wanted to sink into the floor. "And the pilot is one of the farm hands during the working season."

"Oh." The tactician blinked, trying to recall any information that Jazz or Ricochet had given him that would indicate this level of wealth. "I thought your family were energon farmers?"

"They are. They're the most successful energon farmers on the planet."

"They're..." The pieces clicked together in Prowl's processor and he stared at his betrothed. "Why didn't you tell me you were part of the Smolder lineage?"

"Because a lot of people hear that and then they only see our money. I wanted you to see me. I'm not," Jazz flopped down next to Prowl and waved his hand at the interior of the shuttle, "This."

"Indeed, you are not." The Praxian reached out and took the Yussite's hand. "You are Jazz and anyone who would define you only by your family's wealth is a fool."

"You two are disgustingly cute." Ricochet stepped into the passenger compartment and sat down as far from his twin as he could in the small space. "Remind me why I intervened on Jazz's behalf for this?"

"Because you're an aft," Jazz replied seriously.

Prowl smirked and settled in for the flight, long used to the way the twins bickered and able to tune it out easily.

-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-

Ricochet was the first off the shuttle, claiming he couldn't stand to see Prowl and Jazz continue to be cute with each other for any longer. When Prowl started to follow right away, Jazz put a restraining hand in the center of the other mech's chest and stopped him.

"Give him a minute," the saboteur said. "He doesn't like anyone seeing our carrier fussing over him."

"Fussing?" Prowl gave his partner a quizzical look.

"Fussing," The smaller mech repeated with a nod. "You'll see what I mean."

"Surely it's not as bad as Ricochet pretends."

Jazz stared at him for a moment, before bursting into laughter. "Oh, lover, sometimes she's worse. It's proportionate to the amount of time we've been gone."

"And how long has it been since your last visit?" For the first time since receiving Ricochet's invitation, Prowl felt the first trickle of nervousness creep into his processor.

"For me, not so long. Rico hasn't been back since last vorn sometime. She'll be giving him a really hard time today."

"But not you?"

"Oh no, she'll definitely be fussing over me--and you. She'll be over the moons when she sees I've finally brought you home."

"You realize that delaying our meeting has likely made her 'fussing' more intense than it otherwise would have been?" The tactician kept his tone even, hoping that Jazz was too worried about being embarrassed by his carrier to pick up that he was nervous.

"Hey, I haven't met your parents, either!" The saboteur crossed his arms and frowned.

"A situation I will be rectifying sooner rather than later." Prowl stood and held a hand out to Jazz. "Come. Ricochet may not want us there, but I doubt you want your carrier coming in here after us."

"Pit no. That would be worse!" The smaller mech took the taller mech's hand and stood. "Did you mean that about meeting your family?"

"I did. We will discuss it further later." The Praxian smiled and then led his partner toward the door.

"Hey, cybertiger?"

"Yes, Jazz?"

"You don't have to be nervous, you know. They're going to love you."

"I certainly hope so."

"Oh, there he is!" Any reply Jazz would have made was prevented by Ricochet's exclamation. The darker colored twin grabbed his arm and hauled Prowl out of the shuttle and into the fading light of the landing station platform. "Carrier, this is Jazz's intended, Prowl."

"Ricochet! You could have let your brother introduce him! He is bonding to Jazz and not you, after all" A slender femme with the same white and black color scheme as Jazz chastised the riflemech. Then she turned to the tactician with a smile. "Aren't you a handsome mech. And Praxian. We don't see many of your frametype around Yuss at all."

"No ma'am, I imagine not. It would be quite a long trip, and expensive on the income most artists receive." Prowl fell back on the manners his own carrier had instilled in him during his youth, unsure of how he should respond to the forwardness of Jazz's carrier's statement.

"Carrier, behave!" Jazz stepped abruptly in front of Prowl, hands on his hips. "You're embarrassing me!"

"Don't be silly. There's nothing wrong with appreciating a fine looking mech, which your Prowl certainly is." The femme's bright smile didn't falter. "Why didn't you tell me you'd made such a catch?"

"Because it wasn't important!" The saboteur sighed. "Prowl, this is my carrier Harvester. Carrier, my betrothed, Commander Prowl of the Elite Guard."

"Oh, an officer!" Harvester stepped around the visored mech and pulled Prowl into a hug. The tactician stiffened and his wings flared in alarm at the unexpected action, but she didn't seem to notice. "Jazz, your sire will be so pleased!"

Jazz and Ricochet both frowned, an action that made Prowl feel slightly better about being manhandled. The saboteur tapped his carrier on the shoulder. "He doesn't like to be touched by strangers."

"Oh, I'm so sorry!" The femme stepped away abruptly. "You must think I'm a complete aft. I'm just so excited to meet you finally."

Prowl lowered his wings slowly, forcing himself to relax for politeness' sake. Jazz looked angry, and he didn't want to start a family squabble by accident. "There was no harm done."

"Jazz, I'm sorry." Harvester turned back to the saboteur. "I don't know if it's the stress of the celebration or if I'm just too excited about everything. You know I'm not usually like this."

"Ha!" Ricochet and Jazz disagreed in unison.

"All right, I'm like this, but I'm not usually so bad. Forgive me?"

"I forgive you," Jazz replied. "I just need you to tone it down, all right? Prowl doesn't get all touchy-feely with bots."

"I'll do my best." The femme gave them a weak smile. "Maybe we should head back to the farm now. I'm sure there's still a lot of setting up to do."

"Sounds good," The saboteur agreed.

"Not that we'll get any setting up done until everyone's met Prowl," Ricochet added.

"Maybe not," Harvester replied, shifting from her posture of embarrassment and perking back up happily. "But your sire needs a break and I'm sure your cousins want one."

Ricochet allowed his carrier to put an arm around his shoulders and lead him away from the landing pad. The gunner's posture indicated that he wasn't as unhappy as he was acting, however, and Prowl shook his head at Jazz's twin. "Are you as glad to be home as he is?"

"I really am." Jazz wrapped an arm around Prowl's waist and snuggled against his side. "And I'm really, really glad you came, even though I still think they're going to embarrass us both the whole trip."

The tactician wrapped an arm around his partner in turn. "I don't believe it will be as terrible as you think. Your carrier is much like you."

"Yeah, that personality is definitely spark coded," the saboteur agreed. "Come on, cybertiger. We better go get caught up with them. Don't want to miss the ground transport and have to walk through town."

"Why not? I was led to believe that Yuss was a very small community."

"It is, but I know everyone."

-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-

Prowl, who regularly attended public events with Zeta Prime and had trained with Guardian Prime before that, stared up at the huge mech that was Jazz's sire and felt like a minibot. The mech was easily four times his own size, before he took into account the farming equipment attached to his frame.

Prowl found himself at a loss for words, and blinked up at the mech like a newspark.

"Sire, this is Commander Prowl, the mech I'm bonding to." The grin in Jazz's voice was clear and would have set Prowl at ease almost any other time. "Prowl, my sire Torrent."

"A pleasure to finally meet you, sir." The tactician was grateful that his manners were practically an automatic response, or he might not have gotten over his shock at the sheer size of Jazz's sire in order to reply.

"So, you think you're good enough to bond to my youngest sparkling." Torrent's voice was a deep rumble that matched his size, and his statement was enough to rattle him out of his stupor.

Prowl frowned at the huge mech. "Whether you or I think I am good enough for Jazz is irrelevant. He believes that I am good enough for him, and his opinion is the only one that matters."

Torrent frowned back for a moment and Jazz tensed at Prowl's side. Then the farmer's face split into a wide smile. "I like a mech who'll tell me off to my face. That takes titanium manifolds! I approve, Jazz. I approve."

The large mech clapped one hand over the top of Jazz's head in an affectionate gesture and laughed. Then he turned to Ricochet and held his arms out wide.

Jazz turned Prowl away with a smile as his twin protested his sire's attention. "That was great, cybertiger. How'd you know how to handle him?"

"I simply... reacted. I was offended when he implied that your opinion on our bonding didn't matter."

"Aw, lover, you don't have to be offended on my account. I've been telling him off since I reached my maturity." Jazz leaned up and kissed his intended. "But it's nice to know that you would do it, if you needed to."

"And this will not cause friction between you and your sire?" In hindsight, Prowl did not want to cause problems with his partner's family.

"No way. Sa meant it when he said he liked having people stand up to him. He gets a lot of fawning and bowing and scraping, since he's so big."

"I imagine." The Praxian allowed himself to relax against his partner. "Before I embarrass myself later, Jazz, what does 'sa' mean?"

"Aw, that." The visored mech laughed. "When I was a newspark, I couldn't say 'sire' to save my life. I always called him 'sa' and it just stuck. Rico does it too, sometimes."

"Your legacy of nicknames began early, then."

"You know it, cybertiger. "

"Jazz, Prowl!" Harvester called. When they looked at the femme--who was dwarfed standing next to her partner--she waved them closer. "Come inside! We're going to have punch and hear some of cousin Lightwave's news!"

"And just like that, you're part of the family." Jazz took Prowl's hand, laced his fingers with the tactician's and led his partner toward the door of the family estate.

-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-

"So, what do you think, lover?" Jazz cuddled up against Prowl's side with a contented purr of his engine.

"What do I think of what?" Prowl wrapped his free hand around his partner's waist and stroked the transformation seam there.

"All of this. The ranch, my family, Yuss."

"I think your sire will rip out my spark and feed it to me if I ever hurt you, the energon ranch is much larger than I was expecting and I haven't seen enough of Yuss to have an opinion beyond 'easily defensible.' I hope that means things are going well."

"Things are going very well." Jazz smiled at the Praxian and pressed a kiss to his cheek plate. "The Festival of Renewal starts tomorrow, so I'll take you around town and show you the sights then. Next cycle we'll visit my carrier's sister and her bitlet. After that, it's all a big party and energon and all sorts of treats that'll make the medics flip their cranial cases."

"I see why you never miss this holiday already," Prowl replied dryly.

"Yep!"

"You will, I hope, forgive me if I must make a strategic retreat from time to time."

"You and big crowds don't mix, I know. It's fine." The visored mech kissed his partner again. "You won't be the only bot who has to hide out for a bit. It'll be fine."

"That's good." The tactician smiled and turned to kiss the other mech properly on the lips.

Jazz's smile widened at the action. "Love you, cybertiger."

"I love you, too, Jazz."

"We should power down now, though. The solar cycle starts early out here on the energon farm."

"How early?"

"Rico and I got to recharge late at basic training."

"Nothing I can't handle then." Prowl smiled and kissed his partner again. "Rest well, Jazz."

"G'nite, Prowl."

-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-

Jazz had not been exaggerating when he had said he knew everyone in Yuss. As they toured the town, he greeted every mechanism they met by name, inquired about families or businesses and cooed happily over the newly framed sparklings--while committing their names to his databanks, Prowl was sure--that had not yet been born the last time he was home. The visored mech was clearly enjoying every moment of the interaction, and the tactician was surprised to realize that the enjoyment was infectious.

Like his partner, Prowl found himself filing away names and chatting with strangers about the goings-on in the small town. He let himself be dragged into some of the games the sparklings played--typically a simulated combat game where they threw balls of sticky minerals at each other.

After a few rounds, he and Jazz were covered in a rainbow of colors and mineral adhesive, but they were having as much fun as the sparklings, and Prowl didn't regret a moment.

As the cycle wore on, they met fewer new faces and instead explored the notable sights in the town.

"Yuss has a temple to Unicron?" Prowl blinked at the small, unassuming building in surprise.

"Sure do. It even has a pretty respectable cult to go with it. Yuss never did stop honoring the old traditions, because without death and chaos, the energon doesn't grow."

"I had not considered that. Unicron worship is a very taboo idea in Praxus."

"That probably has more to do with being so close to Polyhex and the fanatics there more than anything else. Originally, I mean." Jazz grinned at his partner. "Ever been inside a Unicron temple before?"

"I have not." Prowl was prepared for Jazz to grab his hand based on the question alone, and he allowed the shorter mech to drag him toward the door.

"Now's the perfect time. You'll like the High Priest. He's logical and tactically minded like you." Jazz opened the door to the temple and stepped inside as if he belonged there. Prowl followed, curiosity overriding the deeply ingrained distrust most Praxians had of Unicron Cultists.

Inside, soft lights shone on some of the most intricate mosaics the tactician had ever seen. Depicted on the walls in opaque tile and sparkling crystal was the history of their people, as understood from mechanisms on the opposite side of the story. "Jazz, this is beautiful!"

"I thought you might like it." The saboteur smiled. "There's more as we go further in. Wait til you see the battle scenes!"

Prowl shifted his grip in Jazz's hand to a more comfortable clasp--affectionate, but much more difficult to use as a handle if the saboteur wanted to drag him off somewhere else before he was done looking--and allowed his partner to lead him further inside. He was struck, again, by the beauty of the mosaics and surprised by how comfortable the temple felt.

According to everything he had been taught, the temple should have felt dark and ominous at best. Instead it was peaceful and soothing, and not unlike the Primus temple his creators attended.

"The priests of this temple belong to the Order of Survival," Jazz told him as they walked through the display. "They believe that things like war and sickness and natural disasters are the key to our growth as a people, because the survivors make us stronger."

Prowl paused before a depiction of the Fall. He studied the image, seeing both sorrow at how the Fallen had been cast out and hope because the exiled mech was walking away under his own power. He nodded thoughtfully. "I can understand that point of view. It is what we teach the recruits, after all: what does not deactivate you will only make you stronger."

"Jazz helped us assemble that mosaic," an unfamiliar voice said. "When he was young, he said it was his favorite story."

Prowl glanced at his partner briefly before turning to the newcomer, a tall purple mech with dramatic horns sweeping up from his helm and wearing a simple priest's robe. "His favorite?"

"Because the Fallen was given a chance to make something new of himself, rather than simply being destroyed by his siblings. Jazz claimed it was a sign of love." The purple mech bowed slightly. "I am Cyclonus, high priest of this temple."

"Commander Prowl, of the Elite Guard." The Praxian returned the bow. "And Jazz's intended."

"So, you've lived long enough to find a partner." Cyclonus turned an amused smile toward Jazz. "It seems that I've lost the betting pool, then."

"The last thing you lot have been betting on was when I'd find a partner," the saboteur replied, smiling back with equal amusement. "How long it would be before I blew myself up, sure, but not on settling down."

"Because you will never 'settle down' even once you've bonded. I would guess that is part of your partner's attraction." The priest's smile stayed fixed, indicating that he was pleased to see Jazz even as he teased. "You have my congratulations, both of you. May there be no obstacle in life you cannot overcome."

"Thanks!" Jazz beamed. "Means a lot to have your blessing, Cyc."

"Please don't call me that." The purple mech's slightly exasperated reply sounded as resigned as Prowl was to his own set of Jazz-given nicknames.

"Cyclonus and the rest of the order used to watch out for me when I was young," the visored mech told his partner. "Rico and I wandered in here one day while Sa was shopping, and then they couldn't get rid of me."

"Jazz was a joy and a learning experience in one. Sparklings, I believe, may be the truest test of our survival ability of all." Cyclonus extended a hand toward the mosaics. "May I show you more of his work? We receive many compliments on Jazz's depiction of the First Prime."

Jazz ducked his head in embarrassment as Prowl nodded. "I would like that. I had no idea he was an artist."

"It's just a hobby," the visored mech protested as Cyclonus led them further into the temple.

-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-

"I heard Jazz took you to see the temples today," Torrent said as the family sat down to their evening fuel. "What'd you think?"

Prowl thanked Jazz's cousin Lightwave as he set a plate of deep blue gelled energon cakes in front of him before replying. "Despite my surprise at seeing a temple to Unicron here, I found the experience quite enjoyable. They both contain art that rivals the professional galleries in Praxus and Iacon, and High Priest Cyclonus was an engaging conversationalist."

"Does he always talk like this? I don't think that was even Cybertronian. " One of Jazz's other cousins, a mech named Combine, asked bluntly.

"This is casual," Ricochet said, blocking an angry reply from Jazz. "You should hear him when his full tactical suite is running."

"Don't be an aft, Combine," Lightwave added. "Prowl talks how he talks same as everyone. Don't make him any different."

"Now, don't you two start," Harvester interjected. "I won't have rudeness or fighting at this table, especially not during festival. Now, I want to try Lightwave's new festival cake recipe and hear about Prowl's day."

"Don't worry, Prowl," Ricochet added. "They're always like that. Keep talking, I wanna hear how much Cyclonus embarrassed Jazz while you were there."

"I think he was more embarrassed by me seeing his art than by anything the priest said," Prowl told his partner's twin. Judging by the rest of the family's reaction to Combine, continuing on as normal seemed best--though he hoped nothing had happened that would cause trouble with Jazz.

"Jazz has got art in the temple?" Lightwave paused in serving his cakes. "Our Jazz?"

"Several beautiful mosaics." Prowl smiled as Jazz slid down in his seat. "He's very talented."

"I'll be," Torrent grinned. "My little demolition mech is an artist too. Should'a sent you to school in Praxus, after all."

"Wouldn't have met Prowl in Praxus," the saboteur mumbled. "Wouldn't have to kill him in his recharge now, either."

"Don't be silly, Jazz." Harvester beamed at her creation. "All those mosaics are wonderful, and you should be proud of them."

"Indeed, you should." Prowl smiled softly at his partner. "Though perhaps you should not let my creators see them. They would likely want one for their gallery."

"Not helping," Jazz hissed.

"I'm not trying to." The tactician's smile turned into a smirk for a moment. The he picked up one of Lightwave's energon cakes and took a bite. "These are wonderful! What did you put in them?"

"You really like them?" Jazz's cousin beamed as he took his place at the table. "I flavored them with chalcanthite, instead of the traditional pure copper. I'm hoping they're enough to win the festival competition."

Harvester took a bite from one of her cakes and smiled happily. "From where I'm sitting, you have the best chance in town."

-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-

AFter they returned to their room for the night, Jazz sat down next to the window and fell silent.

"Jazz, I apologize if I embarrassed you tonight." Prowl frowned at his lover's back, hoping he could figure out what was wrong. He didn't like seeing his bright, happy partner brought low. "I had only intended to be playful."

"I noticed you changed the subject when it was really getting to me." Jazz shrugged one shoulder. "It's nothing. I'll be fine in the morning."

"It is not 'nothing.' You are clearly upset." The tactician decided to risk Jazz's potential wrath and laid a hand on the other mech's back. Jazz flinched, but didn't reply. "Please, tell me what is wrong. If I've hurt you--"

"Primus, no! It's not that." The visored mech shot up from his slump and turned to stare at his partner. "You didn't do anything that you and Blaster haven't done a million times before, and it didn't hurt any more now than it did then. I just..."

"You just what?"

"I just didn't want them to know about the art. It was like this little secret part of me that Rico didn't get to have."

"And even now that they know, Ricochet still won't have that part of you." Prowl moved close enough to pull the visored mech into a hug. "Your art belongs to you, and your parents could not force Ricochet to share it if he even wanted to."

"Don't say things that make sense when I'm trying to mope."

"Then stop moping when I'm being sensible."

Jazz sighed and leaned his head against Prowl's shoulder. "Thanks, Prowl. I know it was a stupid thing to be upset over, but I couldn't help it. It was that one thing I never had to share, since he never wanted to hang out for story time."

"And now you can share on your own terms. Though I might have given your secret away more delicately if I had know it was a secret."

"I should've mentioned that, yeah." The visored mech nuzzled against his partner's plating, making himself more comfortable. "Are you upset that I didn't tell you before? "

"I can be, if you like." Prowl hugged the shorter mech more tightly. "But no, I am not. I was actually very happy to learn something new about you."

"And the fact that it's something I'll have in common with your parents is just glaze on the energon goody, right?"

"The kind with the iron flakes that Fix-It swears will do nothing but clog my filters."

"That's the best kind." Prowl felt Jazz grin against his plating. "We should see if anyone in town has treats like that in the morning."

-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-

"Hello, Jazz, come in!" The bright yellow femme at the door smiled brilliantly at the visored mech. "I thought you'd be by yesterday for sure, but it looks like maybe you've been a busy mech."

Prowl ducked his head slightly with embarrassment when he realized the femme had transferred her attention to him.

"Aunt Solarray, this is my partner Prowl. I told you about him; we're getting bonded next vorn." Jazz grinned at his aunt and then at Prowl. "Prowl, my aunt Solarray, my carrier's younger sister."

"Two femmes in one family lineage? That is highly improbable." Prowl did his best not to squirm at the femme's unwavering stare. "But certainly remarkable."

"Certainly not as remarkable as you," Solarray replied. "My, but look at those doorwings."

"Aunt Solarray, maybe we could come inside and then you can flirt with my betrothed."

"Oh of course, how rude of me. Please come in." She stepped away from the door and gestured for the mechs to come inside. "I have energon cakes and a nice mid-grade tea blend heating in the kitchen. Do you like energon cakes, Prowl?"

"Yes ma'am," The tactician followed his partner through the door. "Though i think i've already had more energon cakes since the festival started than in the rest of my function."

"Better get used to that!" Solarray laughed. "Energon cakes are the traditional food during the festival."

"Really? Jazz didn't tell me that."

"You didn't ask," Jazz replied cheerfully. "Aunt Solarray, why don't you fill him in on the tradition while I go hunt down this new cousin of mine?"

"That sounds just lovely! You know where the playpen is, Jazz." The femme's smile widened. "You follow me, Prowl and I'll tell you all about the festival traditions."

"Are you sure it's wise to leave Jazz alone with the sparkling?" The Praxian gave his partner a teasing smirk. "He could be a very corrupting influence."

"I'm wounded, cybertiger." The saboteur laid a hand over his spark dramatically. "How could you think I'd try to corrupt my own sweet little cousin?"

Solarray laughed again. "Don't worry, Prowl. He's been corrupting his cousins since he was in his second upgrade. He and Ricochet are the oldest of their generation."

Prowl put on his most serious face. "Then I regret to inform you, ma'am, but your family may be doomed."

Silence fell for a moment before Jazz burst out laughing. "My family's been a good influence! You're never this playful on the base."

"We both know I cannot afford to be."

"Well, you should at least smile more. You're beautiful when you smile."

"Yes he is," Solarray agreed. "Are all Praxians as handsome as you?"

"Prowl's the wrong bot to ask that," Jazz said, moving to take his aunt's arm and steer her toward the kitchen. "He doesn't pay much attention to other bots' looks. Now, I thought you were getting cakes and tea?"

"Yes, yes, I was getting to it. You act like your carrier didn't fuel you this morning."

"Well, maybe we snuck out before she could." The visored mech leaned closer to his aunt's audio receptor and spoke more softly. "Look, it's not just that. I know you don't mean anything by flirting, but Prowl doesn't yet. Promise me that you won't go overboard."

Solarray stared at her nephew for a long moment before nodding. "I'll mind my manners, even if he's the prettiest bot I've seen in ten vorns. Go fetch your cousin; your betrothed is in good hands."

"I knew he would be." Jazz's face lit up in a bright smile. "Now, you said the bitlit was in the playpen? I can't believe you'd leave a helpless sparkling all alone like that."

The saboteur dashed out of the room before the swat his aunt aimed at his aft could connect. "He knows good and well that old Stripes is in there keeping an eye on things."

"Stripes?" Prowl asked.

"He's an old recordicon that Torrent found wandering in the fields when Jazz and Ricochet were about a vorn old. No idea what happened to his deployer, but he's been content to stay here since we found him." Solarray smiled softly. "He's very good with the newsparks. I think they remind him of where ever it is he came from."

Prowl nodded. "There is a drill sergeant like that at Iacon base. He refuses to take a promotion, because then he cannot work with the youngest recruits."

"It's good to have bots like that," the femme said. "Now, come on. Let's get those treats while I tell you some of the traditions surrounding the festival."

"All right." The tactician followed the femme into the kitchen.

"Here, you carry the tea tray. Your hands look good and steady." Solarray held out a large tray, covered in an elaborate tea set, until Prowl took it. Then she picked up a second tray, filled with energon cakes in assorted colors. "The parlor is this way. Now, how much has Jazz told you about the festival?"

"Truthfully, not very much." Prowl followed her through a second door and into another section of the house. "I think he forgets, sometimes, that I'm not as culturally exposed as he is."

"Jazz has travelled the world," the femme agreed. She led him to a comfortable sitting room, with a long table for the tea set and cakes situated between a couch and several chairs. He slid the tea set onto the table and then sat carefully on the couch. "Oh, we'll have to get some furniture more suited to those sensory wings of yours. Jazz's are collapsible, so no one ever thought about it."

"I have found that, outside of Praxus it is an uncommon need. The couch is comfortable enough." Prowl gave her a small smile, which Solarray didn't hesitate to return. "Thank you for being concerned."

"Of course. You're going to be family after all." Jazz's aunt picked up the pot of energon tea and poured a serving into a cup and offered it to Prowl. "Now, the festival. The Festival of Renewal is Yuss' oldest tradition, dating back to the founding of the first village when Smoulder planted the first crop of energon crystals. In the early vorns, there was no reliable transport between Yuss and the processing facilities in Kaon. Once, at the end of the harvest season, a transport would arrive with a ration of processed energon and it would take the crystals to Kaon. Not long after, came the acid rain season which cut Yuss off from the rest of Cybertron. The acid content from the rain destabilized the energon when it was left in the shipping cubes, so the residents began trying to find ways to preserve the energon so that it would last through the season. I don't know how many methods were tried, but the settlers discovered that energon cakes lasted the longest during the rainy season."

"And now you eat them in remembrance of the settlers?" Prowl sipped his tea and smiled when he discovered it wasn't overly sweet, unlike the way Jazz preferred it.

"Yes, exactly!" She poured herself a cup of tea and took a drink before continuing. "We don't have to rely on a single stockpile now, but the cakes keep us connected to our progenitors."

"That and they just taste good," Jazz said, stepping into the room with a tiny silver sparkling in his arms. "Though I'm not sure I could eat nothing but cakes for two meta-cycles."

"You could, if the situation warranted it." Prowl turned his smile on Jazz and the sparkling. "Your cousin, I presume."

"Sure is," the saboteur replied. He crossed the room and dropped down onto the couch next to the tactician. The sparkling squeaked at the action. "Aunt Solarray, Stripes says he's going to head out for a bit and that he'll be back before you lock the door for the night."

"Probably going to let the younglings in the city throw those mineral bombs at him again. I think playing with them all keeps him young." Solaray's tone was fond. "And I'm sure we'll be up more than late enough; it's the Festival of Renewal, after all."

"You know it," Jazz agreed. "The parties will be just getting into swing tonight. Now, have you decided what you're calling my cousin yet?"

"Oh, I should have known you'd bring that up." Solarray made a face at her nephew. "You know it's not something I can take lightly, Jazz! They'll be stuck with it until their majority!"

"Well, I can't just call them 'the bitlit' or 'hey you' until then either!"

"Ugh, you're impossible." She crossed her arms and frowned. "Prowl, help me out. Tell him I can't just name the sparkling like a pet."

"I regret that I cannot take either side of this argument." The Praxian reached out and plucked the sparking out of Jazz's arms and held it close to his chestplates for inspection. "In Praxus, sparklings are named at three meta-cycles, once aspects of their personalities have begun to develop. This sparkling is clearly not old enough for that, but judging from Jazz's reaction, that is not the custom here."

"No, here in Yuss sparklings are given a familiar designation and then when they reach majority they can choose their own name if they find one that suits them better." Solarray sighed. "The sparkling is nearly a meta-cycle old and I still don't know what to call them."

"May I make a suggestion, then?" Prowl asked. "Since you haven't made up you mind, it cannot hurt."

"Please!" Jazz and Solarray said in unison.

"I think Patience would be a fitting designation. It suits their circumstances, and whatever spark-type you discover they possess."

"Oh, that's perfect!" Jazz's aunt jumped up from her chair and came around the table. She wrapped Prowl in a hug--tight enough to cause the sparkling to click and whine in protest and it was squished between the two adults--and kissed him on the cheek. "I don't know why i didn't think of it myself. Thank you, Prowl!"

The tactician shifted so that Patience was more comfortable, though Solarray didn't let go of him until Jazz made a disapproving noise, and smiled. "You are welcome."

-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-

"You were awesome today, cybertiger." Jazz wrapped his arms around Prowl's abdomen and snuggled carefully carefully between the tactician's doorwings.

"Was I?" The Praxian asked, looking out the window at the party taking place in the ranch's inner courtyard.

"You were and you know it. Solarray and I would have really gotten into It without you."

"You wouldn't have let things go much farther. This holiday and your family mean too much to you." Prowl laid his hands over Jazz's and laced their fingers together. "But it was humbling to name someone else's sparkling."

"That was pretty great," the visored mech agreed. "You keep staring out the window. You want to head down to the party?"

"No, I am merely observing. Your brother looks like he's having a good time."

"He needs to have more good times." Jazz smiled against his partner's plating.. "If you change your mind, just head down. Everyone's free to come and go as they please."

"I will keep that in mind." The Praxian smiled as well. "If you want to attend, I will not take it amiss."

"Maybe in a while. I'm enjoying this right here."

Prowl tightened his grip on Jazz's hands. "As am I."

-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-

Prowl watched with a faint smile as Jazz danced with several of the youngest adults at the party. His partner didn't know the steps, which was actually a surprise, and the young adults were teaching him with great enthusiasm. They were all laughing when the saboteur missed a step, and laughing more when one of them stumbled because of it.

He liked that Jazz was having such a good time and that he was able to witness it.

"Four days of this sort of vulgar display. I don't know how you can stand it."

The tactician turned to the blue and gold mech who had stepped up beside him. "I'm sorry?"

"That." The mech gestured. "If Jazz were my intended, I can assure you that the last thing he would be doing is dancing with mechanisms a quarter of his age."

"Then it is a good thing Jazz is not your intended." Prowl frowned. "I find it far more important that Jazz have a good time than he conform to my own standard of comfort."

"Even when having a good time results in slander that destroys your life? Because that is what will happen." The blue mech crossed his arms and frowned. "One day, he'll go have the wrong good time with the wrong mech, and it will be your good name and reputation tarnished beyond repair."

The Praxian narrowed his optics and took a step away from the stranger--taking a closer look at him and finding himself unable to remember the blue and gold frame from the day that Jazz had introduced him to the townsfolk. "I do not know what happened in your past, but I can assure you that Jazz and I associate with a different class of mechs than you."

"Not in this town, you don't. You'll see what I mean, soon enough." The mech turned away and stepped into the crowd. Prowl watched him go, frowning deeply.

"What did Equinox want?" Lightwave asked a few moments later, holding out a container of coolant and a small energon cake to the Praxian.

Prowl took the coolant with a grateful nod. "He was attempting to ...warn me about your cousin, I suppose."

"Warn you?" The pale colored mech frowned. "He would. That mech's got no respect for Jazz and hasn't for a long time."

"Why? What happened between them?"

"Well, it's not really my story to tell." Lightwave took a bite from the energon cake. "I can tell you that they were a couple for a while right after they reached their majority and there was a really big fuss when some of Equinox's friends decided Jazz was cheating on him."

Prowl's frown deepened. "I see."

"You know he wouldn't do that," Lightwave said. "He didn't then, and he wouldn't do it now."

"I know," The tactician replied. "But there is more to the story, I am certain."

"There always is. But I wouldn't worry about it. You just go have a good time with your partner and forget about Equinox trying to ruin your night."

-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-

"Hello, lover."

Jazz whirled around from the drink table so quickly energon sloshed out of the cubes he was holding and coated his hands. "Don't ever call me that. You gave up the right to call me anything but my name vorns ago."

Equinox smiled innocently. "Is that any way to talk to someone who's going to give you a second chance?"

"A second chance? What the frag are you talking about?" The saboteur turned away from the blue and gold mech. "No, nevermind. I don't want to know. I don't want to talk to you. I don't want to talk to your friends. I am not having anything to do with you anymore."

"You sound like that little Praxian of yours." The sneer was evident in Equinox's voice, and Jazz had to force himself to start walking away rather than turning around and punching the other mech in the face. His parents would tolerate a lot from him, but not a fistfight. "You can, by the way, do so much better than that."

"You wouldn't know a better mech if that was his name. Now leave me and Prowl alone. You had your chance, and you fragged it all up."

Equinox fell silent as the saboteur ducked into the crowd, but Jazz knew he was still watching. He was also sure that he hadn't seen the last of his ex-partner.

-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-

"Lightwave said you left the party pretty abruptly," Jazz said softly, stepping into their room. "What happened?"

"I met Equinox." Prowl's reply was flat, the kind of response he gave when he was trying his best to keep his emotions in check.

"I ain't gonna jump to conclusions about what he said, but he's probably just trying to make you crazy." The visored mech crossed the room and sat down next to his partner. "When I broke things off with him, it was pretty ugly and he spent a couple of vorns doing his best to hurt me and the people i care about before his family finally moved out of Yuss. Never been happier to see the backside of a mech before or since. Didn't have the slightest clue that he'd be turning up tonight."

"What happened between the two of you? Lightwave wouldn't tell me."

"Equinox was... Well, I should start before our bad breakup scene, which was like something out of a bad holo-story." Jazz looked down at his hands and sighed. "Equinox and I started dating about a meta-cycle after I reached my majority. He's about a vorn older, but not enough that he had all that much experience, for all that he pretended that it made him next to Primus himself. I should've known that was the first problem, but I was young and he is a pretty good looking mech. We spent all our time together for the first few metas, and i didn't think that was all that weird. Couples are supposed to spend time together, right?"

"They are." Prowl's voice softened, giving Jazz the opportunity to relax slightly.

He knew his betrothed wouldn't judge him without facts, but it was good to know that the other mech was really listening. "One night, after we'd been together for about six meta-cycles, I wanted to go to this party I'd heard about. Friends of mine from school had rented out an old farm down south and outfitted the fields with timed lights and speakers and it was going to be one pit of an event. I asked Equinox to come with me, and he told me the only way I was going to another party was over his offline corpse. That's actually how he said it."

The Praxian reached over and took the Yussite's hand at Jazz's bitter laugh.

"You know me. That went over about as well as iron in a smelting pool. I told him I was going to the party with or without him. Equinox was furious, of course, and he decided the best way to get his point across was to hit me."

Prowl's grip tightened on his hand and Jazz squeezed back. "If he lays another hand on you, I promise that I will remove it as painfully as possible."

"I know you will, cybertiger. Assuming I leave anything for you to remove it from, anyway." The visored mech leaned heavily against his partner. "I went to the party with the dent still in my face. I meant it when I told him I was going, and I sure as frag wasn't going to let him control me like that. Some of his friends tipped him off that i was there, though, and he came around to my little apartment the next day to beat some more sense into me. I moved back into the family house after the medic--Fixit, you remember meeting him?--patched me up. The rumors had started by the time I was home, and suddenly every mech was talking about how I was cheating on Equinox with anyone who'd even look at me. Things got a whole lot worse when I filed a report with the Enforcers and he was taken to the detention facility."

"For being so young, you were incredibly brave." Prowl rested his head on Jazz's "I knew there had to be more than what Equinox had said, but what little Lightwave told me was vague enough to leave me unsettled more than anything else."

"LIghtwave was too little to remember things very well back then, so he probably didn't even know what to really tell you." The saboteur sighed again. "The judge gave him three meta-cycles in detention because it was a first offence. After he was released, it didn't seem particularly brave. Equinox is vicious when he's angry. He started to get the hint, though, when Cyclonus organized a shunning among the cultists. The Order of Survival doesn't condone deliberate violence, especially against a partner."

"Cyclonus seems to have a soft spot where you are concerned."

"He would have done the same for any acolyte." Jazz stiffened against the other mech's arm. "Um, wow. Guess it's confession night all the way around."

"I had a suspicion after our afternoon at the temple." Prowl kissed the top of his partner's helm. "You know that I don't follow any of the religious orders, despite being raised in Praxus. It doesn't bother me that you do."

"Oh, good." The saboteur relaxed. "Here in Yuss, it's not a big deal, but you know it's not something we talk about in Iacon. I never knew how to tell you."

"It doesn't matter now." The praxian kissed his partner again. "Thank you for telling me what happened with Equinox. I am certain you can imagine how my processor was running away with worst case scenarios."

"You always do worry too much. Thanks for understanding. That was a rough part of my life." The shorter mech cuddled closer to Prowl. "You know he claimed he's come back to give me another chance with him?"

"I will kill him and display his spark casing as a warning to others," Prowl promised solemnly. Jazz didn't look up to see if his partner was joking or not; he found the declaration strangely comforting.

-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-

"Rico, what happened to your face?" Jazz asked as Harvester began serving their morning energon cakes.

"Your crazy ex happened to my face," Ricochet replied with a growl. "After he started bad mouthing Prowl."

"Don't worry," Torrent rumbled as Jazz sat up sharply. "Ricochet's temper may have gotten the better of him, but he didn't start the fight. And we threw Equinox off the property."

"Should have thrown him out of town," Jazz replied.

"As much as I hate to dispense punishment without due process, I have to agree." Prowl frowned. "Equinox seems determined to do nothing but cause problems in our relationship."

“I just hope he backs off soon.” Lightwave sat down timidly in his spot at the table. “Last night, before the fight, he was really bothering me.”

"What do you mean, bothering you?" The whole family fell silent as Harvester turned to look at her nephew.

"He was asking questions. Kept touching my back or my shoulders. Kept talking about how Jazz really loved him and didn't know it yet." The young mech shivered. "It was really creepy."

"Damn." Jazz flopped backward in his chair. "I thought maybe he'd gotten the hint, but I guess not."

“Don’t worry, Jazz. We won’t let him hurt you again.” Torrent’s assertion was firm.

“S’not me I’m worried about, Sa. Mech doesn’t know what i do for a living.”

-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-

They were playing with several of the sparklings in the street, throwing colored mineral balls at each other’s teams from quickly constructed ‘forts’ and following a set of rules that seemed to change every thirty kliks, when Equinox approached them again.

The sparklings greeted him the same way they had greeted every adult that crossed into their game--with a rapid-fire pelting of mineral balls. Equinox stared at them in disgust as the colored powder fell to the ground.

“I would have thought officers in the Elite Guard were above this sort of display.”

“Ain’t nobot in the Guard that’s above having some fun.” Jazz stepped out from behind his team’s fortification. “I thought I was clear at the party about not wanting to see you.”

“You were clearly overcharged during that vulgar display last night.”

“Well, the only thing I’ve had this morning was my carrier’s energon cakes and some coolant, so you can’t hide behind that excuse.” The saboteur’s posture stayed relaxed, but Prowl knew his combat style well enough to know that Jazz was prepared to strike if Equinox provoked him. “So, I’ll repeat myself. I don’t want to see you. I don’t want anything to do with you. And my family doesn’t want anything to do with you, either. Leave me alone, Equinox.”

“Oh, Jazz. Don’t be foolish. You know you still want to be with me.” Equinox took a step closer to Jazz.

“I’d rather have cosmic rust than be with you.” The visored mech snapped into a much more aggressive stance. “Come any close to me and I’ll finish what Ricochet started last night.”

“Such violence. Really, I have no idea why they all say your family is so noble.” The blue and gold mech turned away. “I’ll see you later tonight, Jazz. I do hope you look your best for me.”

The saboteur held his ready stance until the other mech vanished into a shop. Once Equinox was out of sight, he relaxed with a shuddering sigh. Prowl stepped out from behind his team’s fortification then, and walked to his partner's side.

“Are you okay?” One of the sparklings asked.

“I will be, bitlit.” Jazz gave the small bot a smile and leaned into the hug Prowl offered him. “Why don’t we take a break and you all go get more mineral balls. Me and Prowl’ll go get some treats and coolant.”

The sparklings all cheered and dashed off toward their respective homes.

“Are you really all right?” Prowl asked.

“Close enough,” the visored mech replied. “I’ll be fine by the time they get back. But we gotta do something about him. I am not going to let him do this to me.”

“What do you have in mind?” The tactician turned Jazz back toward the ranch. They had promised the sparklings treats, and they could plot while they walked.

-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-

The expression on Equinox’s face when he stepped into his tiny hotel room was worth all the trouble they had gone to to sneak in, though the mech covered his shock up quickly enough.

“Jazz. I knew you couldn’t stay away.” The mech smiled and Prowl felt his plating crawl. “Finally decided that you do know your place, after all.”

“Yeah, I know my place, and it ain’t anywhere near you, mech. I thought you’d’ve figured that out the first two times I stood up to you but I was giving you credit for being smart.” Jazz stood up from his relaxed sprawl in the room’s only chair and Prowl slid the door closed behind Equinox. the Blue and gold mech jumped when he heard the sound and his optics went wide when Prowl stepped out of the shadows and into his line of sight. “Now, I tried to do this the nice way, but you forced my hand. Now we either do it my or Prowl’s way.”

“Your way or Prowl’s way?” Equinox repeated.

“Yep.” The saboteur pulled an energon blade out of his subspace and twirled it between his fingers. “My way hurts less, and Prowl’s way means they never, ever find your body.”

“And both ways mean that you leave Jazz alone for the rest of his life.” Prowl gave the blue and gold mech a feral smile.

“If you do anything to me, I’ll go to the Enforcers!”

“And who are they going to believe, Equinox?” The smile didn’t leave the tactician’s face. “You or your previous victim and his Enforcer-turned-Guardsmech betrothed?”

Jazz took a step toward his former partner. Equinox took a step backward. The saboteur flicked the power switch on his dagger.

“You really should have looked into who I’ve become,” Jazz said. “Because I’m less afraid of you now than I was back then.”

“I’ll leave you alone!” The blue and gold mech screamed. “I’ll leave you alone! Just don’t hurt me!”

“Good mech. Now, I’ll let you finish the holiday. Enjoy the parties. Visit the temple. Stay for the bonfire. And then, you’ll be on the first shuttle out of town and I never, ever want to see your face again.” The saboteur raised the blade toward the other mech’s face. “Am I clear?”

“As crystal.” Equinox was visibly trembling.

“Good.” Prowl stepped up next to Jazz. “Because if we do, you will wish for the fires of the Pit before I’m finished with you.”

Jazz’s ex-partner nodded his head rapidly. The visored mech deactivated his energon blade.

“Have a nice festival.” Jazz told him cheerfully. Then he and Prowl stepped around him, opened the door and left the room.

They took the lift down to the first floor and made their way through the lobby and into the street before Jazz started laughing.

“I fail to see the humor,” Prowl told his partner.

“I think it’s just hysterics,” Jazz said around his giggles. “I can’t believe it was that easy!”

“Easy perhaps,” Prowl agreed, “But still not something we want to draw undue attention to. Let’s go home.”

“Let’s don’t. Let’s go to the party at the temple tonight instead. Lots more of your kind of music and dancing.” The visored mech forced himself to stop laughing.

“And I imagine that Equinox won’t dare to show his face there?”

“You got that right. Cyclonus just might remember he used to be a member of the Order of Destruction if he did.”

-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-

“You know, I don’t think i’ve seen Equinox since the fifth day of the festival,” Lightwave said as Prowl and Jazz helped him set up the altars for the final event of the festival.

“Guess he finally took the hint,” Jazz replied with a shrug. “I don’t care, as long as he leaves us all alone.”

Prowl shot his partner a knowing smile and lifted the top of the first alter into place. “I am glad he’s gone. That was trouble our family did not need.”

“Our family?” The visored mech smiled back.

“Our family.” Prowl nodded firmly. “Though I shudder to think what will happen when my creators meet yours.”

“I bet it’ll be great!” Lightwave told him.

“I hope so.” The tactician moved to fasten the altar top down. “Tell me again what these alters are for? I am not sure I followed Harvester’s explanation.”

“We burn an effigy on each of them, one of Primus and one of Unicron,” the young mech told him.

“It’s an offering,” Jazz added. “Sort of. One effigy is to keep the bad stuff away from the crops and one is to encourage fertility and growth.”

“And will we be making those as well?” The Praxian asked.

“The temples make the effigies, and perform the sacrifices.” Lightwave grinned. “This is the first year I’m old enough to participate. I’ll help carry the Primus effigy to the fire!”

“It’s the oldest tradition we have in Yuss,” The saboteur added. “The bots who have just come into their maturity carry the effigies, the Priests perform the ritual sacrifice, the rest of us give up an offering--usually the last of the energon cakes--and then we have one last, massive party before everything’s all over.”

“And will I be required to dance?”

“Required? Not a chance.” Jazz wrapped an arm around his chosen mate and kissed Prowl deeply. “I’d love it if you chose to, though.”

“Then I will dance with you. Since it is the last night of the festival.”

-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-

Almost all of the people of Yuss were packed into the small growing field containing the two altars, cheering and laughing as the procession made their way from the temples. The young adults carried the huge effigies on their shoulders and sang an old song--so old that Prowl couldn’t understand the language the lyrics had been written in. The cheers grew louder the closer the processions came, until Cyclonus and the High Priest of Primus’ Followers of the Word stood in on their ceremonial ledges and lifted their arms for silence.

Each priest was handed a torch by one of the city’s sparklings. In unison they prayed to their individual gods with steady voices that indicated the prayer was ritual rather than spontaneous. Then they each threw a torch onto their alter.

The flames caught the chemicals packed under the structures and leaped into the night, casting an eerie green light over the gathered crowd.

“Great Unicron, bringer of Chaos and Destruction,” Cyclonus called out over the crowed. “We bring thee to the fire, that no harm may come to our crop this season. We bring thee to the fire that no devastation come to our homes this season. We bring thee to the fire, that we might endure this season and that our strength continue to give Cybertron its strength.”

The first procession heaved the Unicron effigy onto the burning altar. For a moment, it seemed like the flames would be smothered out. Then the fabric wrapping the doll caught fire and the light shifted from green to a softer yellow as the effigy burned.

“Lord Primus, giver of life and creation,” the Priest of the Word called out. “We bring thee to the fire that our crops may be bountiful this season. We bring thee to the fire that our offspring will be plentiful and strong this season. We bring thee to the fire that we might bring all of Cybertron nourishment, as you bring us nourishment.”

The second effigy was hurled onto the flames. It caught fire almost immediately and the light shifted again, from yellow to a bright orange.

The crowd cheered again. Then they began moving toward the altars and throwing energon cakes, treats or cubes of high grade into the flames.

Jazz was jarred out of his celebration when Equinox stepped in front of him.

“Don’t get mad,” the blue and gold mech said, pressing a data pad into his hand. “I just want you to have this and then I’m gone.”

The saboteur took the pad with a frown.

“Blessed renewal, Jazz,” Equinox said. “I hope you have a good life.”

Jazz didn’t have time to respond before the other mech vanished back into the crowd.

“What did he want?” Prowl asked, peering over his partner’s shoulder.

“To give me this.” Jazz powered the datapad up with unsteady fingers. Seeing Equinox had been unwelcome and uncomfortable, despite the promise they’d wrung from him. Hesitantly, he opened the single file on the device.

Jazz,

I’ve been obsessed with you for a long time and I always thought that was love. But I watched you with Prowl this festival, and I think maybe I had no idea what love was. This can’t ever change what happened in our past and I know that, but I want you to know that I’m going to try and be a better mech in the future. The crops aren’t the only thing that need the Festival of Renewal.

Prowl is so, so lucky to have you. And I’m an idiot for trying to take you away.

“Do you believe he’s sincere?” The tactician asked.

“I don’t know.” Jazz shrugged and tucked the datapad in his subspace. “What I do know is that we need to leave an offering and then somebot promised me a dance.”

“Yes, I believe he did.” Prowl smiled and took his partner’s hand and they approached the altar of Unicron.

-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-

Ricochet grumbled as he extracted himself from his carrier’s arms and stomped past Prowl and into the shuttle. The rest of the family smiled knowingly at his actions before turning to Prowl and Jazz.

“Jazz, promise me you’ll write more, and comm more once the rainy season is over.” Harvester hugged her youngest offspring tightly.

“I promise, carrier.” Jazz hugged her back. “I’ll fit it in between all those dates you know I take Prowl on.”

The femme laughed and let him go. Then she approached Prowl and spread her arms questioningly.

The tactician stepped forward and hugged Jazz’s carrier. “Thank you for hosting me. I enjoyed meeting everyone finally.”

“We’re all so glad you came,” Harvester told him. “You’ll write too? And visit again soon?”

“My duties keep me busier than Jazz, but I will do my best,” Prowl promised. He released her from the hug and looked at the rest of Jazz’s family. “Praxus will be having the Festival of Crystals soon. I would be honored if all of you would come.”

Jazz looked at him in surprise, but the rest of his family smiled brightly.

“We’d love to,” Torrent told him. “Just send us an invitation.”

“I will.” Prowl returned their smiles. Then he took Jazz’s hand and turned toward the shuttle. “Blessed Renewal.”