“Vacations,” Ratchet growled, “are supposed to help you relax.”
Jazz grimaced as Ratchet removed another piece of shrapnel from his aft, dropping the twisted metal into a collection bin with a loud ping. “Tell that to the Femme Luck because she sure as slag has it out for me.”
“Oh? Did you finally meet someone you can't sway with your immeasurable charm?” Ratchet asked, both teasing and amused.
Turning his gaze over his shoulder, Jazz gave Ratchet a most unfriendly look. “Not funny, mech.”
“Actually, I find it hilarious,” said Prowl from where he perched on the other medberth, presently unoccupied. “Please, Jazz. Tell us again how you found yourself in your current predicament.”
Prowl was... grinning. A distinctly alarming sight in unto itself. Jazz's plating gave a little shiver of wariness.
“Yes, please do,” Ratchet replied with another vicious yank to a twist of metal embedded in Jazz's very sore aft. Thank Primus Ratchet wasn't feeling sadistic today and had turned off Jazz's pain sensors.
Jazz buried his faceplate in his arms. “I'll just submit my report. Ya can read that later.”
“You? Turn in a report? Perish the thought.” A distinctly evil note invaded Prowl's tone. “Oh, no. I want to hear it now.”
Jazz groaned. He wasn't a mech who embarrassed easily but honestly, this was a story he didn't want to repeat. Like ever.
“You can start with how you got these,” Ratchet said, tugging out one of the last pieces of shrapnel pointedly. Also of interest were the chunks of pine tree already in the bucket.
Jazz gnawed on his bottom lipplate and muttered something into his arms.
Prowl leaned forward eagerly, berth creaking beneath him. “What was that? I didn't catch it.”
Ratchet laughed, and it was an evil laugh. “He forgot he was holding it.”
“No! His grenade.”
Jazz refused to look at either of them.
A truly terrifying sound started to bubble through the room. Prowl was laughing. Prowl. Was. Laughing. This day couldn't possibly get any worse.
“Wait,” Prowl said. “How did you forget you were holding your grenade? A grenade, I might add, that looks to be in distinct violation of our policies regarding items allowed to be carried without proper safer precautions.”
“I think his rule-breaking is hardly the problem here, Prowl,” Ratchet said dryly, pulling out the last piece of shrapnel with a defining ping. “Though I bet from now on, he'll agree to the rules.”
“Why would you need a grenade anyway?” Prowl added, sounding like he was taking a personal glee out of Jazz's humiliation. “You were on vacation.”
Jazz refused to look at either one of them, not even when Ratchet mechhandled him onto his side to start examining the dents in his plating. “Saw the Decepticons. Figured they had to be up ta something.”
“Wait,” Ratchet said, optics cycling in to peer at Jazz's plating. “Start at the beginning. We want to hear everything.”
Embarrassment burned in Jazz's circuitry. He could play possum, fall into recharge, ignore both of his so-called friends. But he was currently in the presence of two of the Ark's most stubborn officers. They'd make him talk. Might as well get his humiliation over with now.
“I went on vacation,” Jazz said, and cracked open an optic, noticing that both Prowl and Ratchet were giving him their undivided attention. Wide-opticked Prowl actually better resembled Bluestreak. “Prime made me. Said I deserved it. Who was I ta argue?”
“Don't give me that look,” Jazz retorted, flicking a finger at the tactician. “You're next.”
“Don't move,” Ratchet said, tapping the back of Jazz's helm. “And continue.”
Jazz huffed. “So I left the Ark. It was a dark and stormy night.”
Prowl rolled his optics. “It was eight in the morning.”
“It was still storming!”
“It was drizzling.”
“It. Was. Wet.”
“Children,” Ratchet said warningly, though his tone buzzed with amusement. “Save your squabbles for another time. Jazz, tell your story.”
He glared at Prowl. “As I said,” Jazz began again, loudly. “It was a dark and stormy morning. Rain coming down in sheets. Perfect start to my vacation. But I tried not to let that get me down. I was going to have fun. Had a whole string of awesome concerts planned. And then I blew out a tire.”
Ratchet chuckled. “I told you that letting your maintenance slide was a bad idea.”
“Yeah, thanks, Ratch. Just what I needed. An I told you so.” Jazz huffed again. “Anyway, I had to walk from that point on. Let me tell ya, ridin' on a flat tire is not cool. So I had to walk ten miles, in the snow, uphill.”
Prowl made a noise that Jazz couldn't be sure was a laugh or a snort. “It's the middle of June. There was no snow.”
Jazz propped himself up on his elbows, glaring at his so-called best friend. “Are ya telling the story or am I?”
“Tell it right, Jazz! Stop embellishing!”
“Oh, Primus. We're going to be here all night,” Ratchet muttered, and patted Jazz on the hip. “Turn over.”
Jazz shifted onto his back, stretching out his legs to get comfortably. His right knee was killing him. Who knew how much gunk was in his joints. Slogging through the mud had not been fun.
“As I was saying. I got my tire fixed. Had to miss the first concert on my tour though. That made me an unhappy camper.”
“The horror,” Prowl said dryly.
Jazz thought about a sharp comeback, but decided it against it. He really didn't want to be here all night. Blaster promised him some good high grade later.
“So I decided to go ahead and skip to the next concert.” Here was where it started to get really embarrassing. No sugar coating it now, he supposed. “I got there early, so I bummed around Vegas for awhile. Settled in for recharge in the parking lot of the Bellagio. Figured I was safe.”
Ratchet gave him a long look and tapped the visible swathes of cheap paint that streaked his usually pristine plating. “I take it that's where this happened.”
Jazz shrugged, giving the medic a wan grin. “Okay, so I only thought it was the Bellagio. Turned out it wasn't. And I might have possibly let my guard down. Maybe.”
“You got tagged,” Prowl said, deadpan.
“I got tagged,” Jazz sighed. And no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't scrub the fragged spray paint off. Somehow, he'd have to bribe Sunstreaker into giving him a good repaint later. “I couldn't go out like this.” He gestured to his ruined paint. “So I decided it was time to go back home.”
Ratchet rolled his optics. “All right, Sunstreaker.”
“Just because I take pride in my appearance,” Jazz muttered, and stared at both of his friend's current paintjobs, which could use some sprucing up. “Both of you could use a touch up, by the way.”
Ratchet rose to his pedes, moving to a cabinet and rummaging about in it. “Keep that up and see what I do, Jazz.”
It was hardly an idle threat. Everyone thought Sideswipe was the one to be wary of. But really, Ratchet was the king of pranks around here. And he never got caught.
A small, nervous laugh escaped Jazz and he gave Ratchet his most innocent, charming smile. “Aww, Ratch. Ya don't mean that.”
Ratchet turned back to the berth, a bottle of paint stripper in one hand and a rag in the other. “Try me and see.”
“Right.” Jazz looked at Prowl, who didn't seem the least inclined to either help or protect Jazz, and decided it was in his best interest to continue his story. “Anyway, I decided it was a better idea to go home. So I clicked my heels and thought of the farm.”
“Sometimes, following your dialogue is about as tedious as disciplining Sideswipe,” Prowl commented with an audible sigh.
Jazz grinned brightly. “I aim ta confuse.” He eyed Ratchet, who was dumping a hefty dose of paint thinner onto the rag, and continued. “I hit the road, tried to stay outta sight, and that's when I saw old Megs and his merry band of glitches. Curiosity being in my nature, I thought I'd just take a little detour and investigate.”
“And of course, it never once occurred to you to radio in for back up or even simply contact Teletraan 1,” Prowl said.
“Megs had Sounders with him.” Jazz shrugged again and cringed as the noxious scent of paint stripper filled the medbay. “Didn't want ta risk being discovered.”
“Which happened anyway,” Ratchet said with a snort.
Jazz spread his hands helplessly. “Yeah, Femme Luck really had it out for me.”
Prowl arched an orbital ridge. “You are the head of special operations. How on Earth did they find you?”
Jazz grinned. “Luck?”
No way in the Pit was he going to tell them he tripped. Jazz blamed it on the fact he was off his groove. It was raining, he was tired, he was annoyed, and his paint job had been ruined by a bunch of punks.
Both Prowl and Ratchet stared at him. In that moment, they kind of looked like twins, what with the matching set of disbelieving frowns they bore.
“So there I was,” Jazz said hurriedly, arms flailing outward in a wide gesture and making Ratchet hiss a curse because he'd moved his leg. “Surrounded by Decepticons. My spark hanging in the balance. The very world in danger. And all I had on me was my wits and my courage and--”
“And a full arsenal of tricks and explosives in your subspace,” Prowl interrupted dryly. “Along with other items I'm probably happier not knowing about.”
“I like to be prepared,” Jazz said with an innocent grin.
Ratchet grunted. “And everyone calls Wheeljack the walking disaster.”
Jazz reared his helm back, indignant. “I've never accidentally blown up anything.”
Prowl's lipplates curled up in a smirk. “Except, apparently, your own grenade most recently.”
Jazz huffed, glaring at his best friend. “I was surrounded by enemies!” he said loudly, overriding both mechs quiet snickers. “I was one mech alone. Certain that I was about to be offlined. Skywarp, in particular, looked ready to do some damage. Mech can hold a grudge, I tell you what.”
“I don't even want to know.” Prowl shook his helm.
“It's a long story,” Jazz reassured, and rapped his fingers on the berth. “I had to think of something fast. I knew I couldn't take 'em all out by myself. I mean, I'm good, but I'm not that good. I needed a distraction.”
“The grenade,” Ratchet guessed.
Jazz nodded. “My grenade. I popped it out of subspace, flicked off the pin, and that's where things start to get a little hazy.”
“Hazy?” Prowl repeated.
“Well, it was raining, remember?”
Ratchet gave Jazz an incredulous look. “You never said it was raining.”
“I believe that was an important part of my narrative.” Jazz stared at the mech. “Really, Ratchet, you have to pay attention.”
The medic bristled, optics narrowing and Jazz could see Ratchet working himself into a bristling indignation.
He hurried into the next part of his story. “Right, it was raining. And there was a storm. It was loud. There was lightning. And Skywarp, not exactly the shiniest apple in the bushel, made for a very effective lightning rod.”
Prowl's doorwings twitched. “Lightning, at best, jars our systems. It's not fatal.”
Jazz cringed. “Yeah, I... uh... don't think it hurt Skywarp.” At least that certainly wasn't a cry of pain that came from the Seeker. “I really could have done without the sight of Skywarp overloading in mid-air.”
“What?” Ratchet squawked.
“Primus!” Prowl yelped, and clutched at his helm. “Thank you, Jazz. Now I have images.”
“I'm going to have to scrub my processor clean,” Ratchet grumbled.
Jazz laughed, filled with an evil glee. They hadn't even heard the best part. “Well, Skywarp, in a post-overload bliss, didn't seem to feel like staying in the sky. He sorta dropped. Right onto Megatron's bucket head.”
Jazz had wisely taken both video and image captures of the incident, despite the mental scarring he had acquired for life. There was something both hilarious and disturbing about Megatron and Skywarp flopping about on the ground, the Seeker crackling with overcharge and overload as Megatron roared curses and snarled about incompetency.
Soundwave, amusingly enough, had been of no help to either mech.
And Jazz. Brave, intelligent, crafty mech that he was, completely forgot about the grenade in the wake of his horrified staring. It was like a train wreck. He knew he should tear his optics away, make a break for it, but he couldn't stop watching.
Femme Luck still had it out for him though, and by the time he registered the beeping countdown of the grenade, he didn't have any time to get away.
In fact, he and Soundwave had shared a brief, commiserating moment of what the frag before they turned on their pedes and ran for the hills.
The grenade exploded two seconds later.
Jazz wasn't sure what happened to Megatron, Skywarp, or Soundwave. Frankly, he didn't care. Megatron had the luck of the stupid, and the Unmaker's regard no less, so Jazz was sure he came out just fine.
Jazz, for his part, could only remember slamming helm first into a very unfortunate tree. He had a dent to prove it, too.
When he finished rebooting a few hours later, the storm was gone and so were the Decepticons. Jazz was faceplate-first in a bunch of mud with a crushed tree's branches poking into every nook and cranny. Also, there was a woodpecker none too impressed with Jazz destroying his home.
“I think I might need therapy,” Ratchet grumbled, reminding Jazz that he was sorta in the middle of telling his tale of woe.
Prowl gave the medic a long look. “You've always needed therapy.”
Ratchet bristled; Jazz intervened.
“So that's the story,” Jazz said, loudly overriding their brewing disagreement. “My vacation from the Pit. Thanks, but no thanks, Prime. From now on, I'll stick to the war. It's simpler.” He paused. “Purple griffins aside.”
“Wait a minute.” Prowl held up a hand, faceplate turning thoughtful. “You never said what the Decepticons were doing.”
“I never figured it out.” Jazz was particularly annoyed by that fact. After all the mind-scarring, he still didn't know why Megatron and his cronies were out and about. “But I'm pretty sure my grenade took care of it.”
“And you say that you have bad luck.” Ratchet grinned, though he still tossed Prowl a look that promised retribution. He patted Jazz on the thigh. “You're clean. You're fixed. So now you can get your aft out of my medbay.”
Jazz sat up eagerly, swinging his legs over the side of the berth. Only to gape at himself. He looked... awful! Worse than before!
“Ratchet, I can't go out like this!” he said, staring at the splotches on his plating where the spraypaint had been stripped along with the base coat beneath. Silver protoform gleamed dully. Not cool, mech.
“I think you'll live.” Ratchet chortled, slapping Jazz on the back with enough force to knock him from the berth.
A little hop and skip and he kept his pedes underneath him, neatly avoiding a graceless tumble to the floor.
“You have no spark,” Jazz accused, wounded to his very core. Not really, but that was the pathetic look he gave Ratchet.
“It's part of his charm,” Prowl said.
“Besides, that look doesn't work on me,” Ratchet added, and made a shooing gesture with his hands. “Go enjoy what's left of your vacation.”
Prowl smirked, door wings twitching with his amusement. “Yes, Jazz. Have some dignity.”
Jazz straightened his shoulders, trying to look dignified despite the streaks in his paint and the lingering odor of pine sap. “I have plenty,” he declared and throwing said dignity over his shoulders like it were a cape, he strode from the medbay.
And if he heard his two oldest friends in the whole Ark dissolve into a heap of inelegant giggles in his wake, well, Jazz kept it to himself.
It was all Prime's fault anyway.