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Warmer Than Snow

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Carnival used: German carnival

Prompt: Dynamite

Day: 5th February 2015 ProwlxJazz challenge

 

 

Warmer than snow

  

Who in der right processors would decide to hold their season of fun and costumes during the coldest deca-cycle of the entire vorn? No parties in the streets, no real dancing, no anything but drinking a lot of high grade just to get the engine warm enough to stay on this thrice cursed roof long enough for the parade to walk past. And the parade was... well.

"Did they really have to make every single cart political?" he asked out loud.

For one long absurd moment he really expected an answer. Certainly, all of his previous partners would have answered. Yet as he glanced aside to the black and white Praxian Enforcer, who didn't even seem to notice the frozen acid crystals swirling around him, he dashed that hope. No chance that logical, I-know-everything-Prowl would answer a needless question.

Annoyed, he kicked the faintly green snow that had collected on his pedes aside. Thank Primus their assignment would be over in less than two decaorns and then he could go back home without that Praxian stuck-up attached to his hip.

He looked back towards the parade that trudged on through this snow. It probably would be a lot funnier, if he understood at least half of the innuendos the carts had. That figure there clearly depicted Helix's senator interfacing with... a petrobunny? Had there been a bestiality scandal he missed? Oh, and that cart just coming around the corner, was that really – oh, yes, it really was. The big, colorful cart with ribbons fluttering in the wind was proudly carrying a giant polished figure of Sentinel Prime himself kneeling in front of Praxus' treasurer with open hands like a beggar.

"Hope Prime doesn't see that," he muttered. That arrogant mech would be seriously displeased at his subject's humor.

"Helix has invited Sentinel Prime to its festivities many times," came the dry answer from his side. "He has chosen to decline the offer every time since his second vorn in office."

Jazz gave his partner a surprised glance. 'It speaks!' he thought amused. Not one to let an opportunity of distraction go to waste, he said: "Can't say I blame him. Ain't easy to watch and smile, while people ridicule ya."

The Praxian shook his doorwings to free them of the snow. "And yet it seems to be a point of honor for every Helix politician to show up at the speeches."

"Maybe they're masochistic, or something," answered Jazz distracted as he observed a mech, who pushed others in the audience aside. Thief? Terrorist? ... Or maybe simply a concerned creator running afterwards their youngling. He relaxed again. "Disturbance in Quadrant Seven, classification as Harmless."

"Assessment: Confirmed," said Prowl. "It seems to give politicians popularity among the voters when they show up."

"So ya saying they're only power-hungry?"

Prowl gave him a glance. "I suppose."

A new purple cart came around the corner. On its side were the glyphs for 'Decepticons', while on top it carried two big identical crazy, starved looking frames holding a heated blaster. In place of the Decepticon sign the first had the glyph cliché, the second sculpture the glyph truth.

"Taking a guess, I woulda say we've just found out why our favorite 'Cons suddenly care about this carnival," he commented on the art work. "Gotta admit, they have bold sparks."

Prowl said nothing. It seemed his word-quota for the breem had been used up. And here that Praxian had even been nearly passable for a klick.

But it didn't stop there. Obviously it had been a whole group that had taken on the Decepticons, because the cart that followed had Megatron in a pink energon blood pool playing with body parts. At his back was the word "Megabath".

"Nice play on bloodbath."

No answer. Of course not.

As the cart rolled past, he wondered if Megatron would really be willing to kill dozens over such a trivial thing. Well, if that cart hadn't done it, the next three certainly would tick off enough Decepticons to do it. Soundwave eating the information network until he was fat and unconscious with 'information overload', Starscream looking out of Megatron's aft while waving Decepticon flags and Shockwave sitting on the rusted, empty armor symbolizing Tarn, while screaming 'Attack!'.

"They gotta know they're now targets..."

"It is always brave to say what everyone thinks," said Prowl quietly, with something that Jazz would have classified as admiration in most other mechs.

It made him blink in surprise. "Sounds like a quote?"

"It is. A Crystal City author who died 49 vorns ago. The quote seemed to fit this situation."

"Fits a bit too well for the peace of my spark, if ya get my drift." Jazz concentrated on the crowd below. "I think that was the last cart; the parade is over. Not a moment too early. Seriously, this city is far too cold." He shivered. "Hopefully we're called back fast."

The Praxian Enforcer's doorwings moved, and his usually blank face showed a tiny frown. "You are cold?"

"Pit yes, Captain Obvious." Jazz cursed. "Acid rain isn't supposed to freeze to this stuff."

The frown deepened and was joined by a hint confusion. It suddenly made the Enforcer look a lot younger. "But didn't you get the high grade?"

"Sure I got it. Two cubes even. Has helped me not to freeze to an icicle." Jazz snorted. "I'm Polyhexian, worst we got is rain a bit cooler than my average core temperate and not this slag here." He curled his arms around himself, but it did help exactly as much as the previous attempts before – not at all. Suddenly there was a pink cube in front of him, held by a white hand.

"Drink," ordered the Praxian sternly.

Baffled Jazz took the energon cube. The smell alone told him that it was wonderful high grade. His systems rumbled in sudden desire. "Prowl... not that I'm not thankful, but that's ya ration, right?"

Prowl stared at him, but his left doorwing swung up and down with a short, sharp movement. Jazz took it as a 'yes'.

"So, ya should drink it. Ya could freeze." Worried he looked his partner over, but the Enforcer showed no signs of having the same problems.

Prowl crossed his arms. "Your worry is baseless. Praxus has a similar weather to Polyhex and as a result all Praxians have upgrades that conserve heat. Enforcer armor even has its own heating system, while you – as far as I can discern – have nothing of this sort."

Jazz stared. "Are ya saying ya have ya own personal heater?"

"Essentially, yes."

No wonder he looked unaffected. He was! All qualms eliminated, Jazz didn't even hesitate to gulp down the precious energy as fast as he could. It hit his tanks like fire, burning hot for a moment, and then wonderful warmth was spreading through his frame, even melting a few snowflakes on the gaps of his armor.

"Ya have no idea, how great that feels..." He grinned at the Praxian. "Big thanks to ya, partner."

Prowl gave him a tiny nod. "You are welcome."

Jazz shuffled from one pede to another. Sure, he had only met Prowl last orn, so frankly he had no idea how that mech ticked. And yeah, first meeting he had thought 'Hello sexy', but since then had learned that Prowl was capable of redefining aloofness to an art form. An art form he had mastered. This sudden friendliness was confusing.

"So..." he eventually said. “The people are going home. Any idea when we can do the same?"

Prowl's optics followed a few stragglers, but remained silent once more.

But this time the silence on the roof was a bit more companionable.

~~~

Only three joors later, Jazz found himself in a large hall with several hundred mechs determined to get drunk, while sitting on long tables in silly or down right strange costumes. There were two entrances and one stage with a pedestal on which twelve very happy mechs with red sashes and pointy, gold and red hats sat. They, Jazz had been informed, were the organizing committee of the evening. And all of them possible targets.

He himself was on a balcony at the side, perfect to watch over the entire hall and in an emergency he had enough upgrades and training to jump down. As the door to the balcony opened, he automatically turned towards it, servo at his weapon space. He relaxed as he recognized the mech, and then laughed.

"Guess they got ya after all, Prowl," he said amused and admired the costume of the other. His doorwings and chevron were now a gleaming silver, his helmet had golden beams attached to it and all the rest of the paint had been bleached white. He looked good, beautiful even if one ignored the scowl.

The Praxian gave him a withering look and sat down. "Their arguments proved very logical."

"I bet, especially when they cornered ya. But they could've made ya into worse things than Primus' Messenger." He pointed at his own armor. "Just look at me. I think I'm supposed to be that Rust monster legend. Rawr, hear me roar!" He playfully formed with his left hand a claw and scratched the air.

Prowl's optics wandered over his frame. "You make a good looking Rust monster."

Jazz chuckled, trying to hide his sudden need to blush. "Was that now a compliment? But I think ya costume is missing its hammer."

"Hammer?" asked Prowl.

Jazz raised an optic brow. "Come on. Never heard of the Messenger of Judgment? Hammer of Primus?"

"No." Prowl looked away to the crowd below. "I am not very religious," he said in the tone of a confession. Jazz though took it with a certain amount of satisfaction. This was the first private thing his partner had let slip since they met during orientation three orns ago. He was getting beneath the plating of that Enforcer!

"Oh, mech." The Polyhexian threw theatrically his arms into the air. "Awesomeness has nothing to do with religion. And Axeron is per definition awesome. Tell ya something, for the next assignment with costume I'll get ya a hammer."

Prowl shrugged, and his doorwings jumped up and down. "If you think it would not destroy my disguise, I am not against it."

"It will enhance ya disguise, trust me." Jazz grinned. "Ya just gotta be careful then, some might take ya for the real thing."

"I doubt that very much." But Prowl's optic corners crinkled as if wanting to smile.

There comms crackled to life. ::Central Command to Team Epsilon. Are you in position?::

::Team Epsilon here. Sure we are,:: answered Jazz easily. ::Any new orders?::

::Negative. A suspicions acting mech has been observed at checkpoint South-West. Characteristics are a typical Kaon warframe with a red and black paintjob. No disguise.::

::If he comes here, he'll have a disguise or he would stand out.:: Jazz sighed. ::The joys of working during a carnival.::

::Agent Meister, please stay professional,:: came the rebuke of their commander.

Jazz showed no signs of remorse. ::As ya wish, boss.::

::Enforcer 55, do you have to add anything to Agent Meister's report?::

::Negative, sir,:: said Prowl.

::Acknowledged. Agent Meister, Enforcer 55, your shift begins in five breems. You are to observe the stage and any mech that goes near it. Don't attract attention. Beneath the balcony seats are two sniper rifles, and a standard medium weapon set. Only use force if absolute necessary and only with clearance. Understood?"

::Yep.::

::Affirmative.::

::Good luck, Team Epsilon. Over and out.::

Prowl didn't lose time and knelt down next to their seats to get the black bags. Carefully he put one of the two longish suitcases on the chair and opened it. A gleaming sniper rifle revealed itself.

"So we're both snipers, uh?" said Jazz at his side. "Explains why they put us on that roof. There were probably weapons somewhere on that roof too."

Prowl's doorwings fluttered, besides that he seemed too preoccupied with the weapon to really answer.

It was interesting that the other was a sniper too, mused Jazz. Not that it really meant anything, but there was a certain processor set you needed for that job. After all, snipers more often than not observed a mech for a joor or longer through the telescope, saw every emotion, every movement, everything that made a mech a mech. And then they would pull the trigger when the order came, go home as if nothing had happened, as if they hadn't just killed a mech in the coldest way possible. Yeah, a soldier was a soldier, heat of the battle and all that. Rules of war. Enforcer's killed to protect. Agents when everything went FUBAR and they had to protect Prime and planet.

Snipers, though? They killed because someone somewhere wanted to see that mech dead. They really were just professional assassins.

"Built by H&K," said Prowl, who had taken the weapon out of the suitcase. "Caliber 0.38, excellent for elimination shots."

"Praxian manufacturer," commented Jazz. "They're expensive. Someone really must have cared to give such good stuff for us."

The Praxian slowly took the rifle apart. "It is probably from the Praxian Enforcer's armory."

"That's an Enforcer weapon?" exclaimed Jazz surprised. "Don't ya have the principle of serve and protect like every other Enforcer division?"

The doorwings became distinctly more sharply angled as Prowl looked towards Jazz with narrowed optics. "We do."

"Right, sorry." The doorwings relaxed, that was a good sign right? Someone should've given him a handbook on Praxian doorwing communication or something. He had the distinct feeling that he was missing half the things Prowl was saying. Well, too late, he had to deal now. Better not to offend his new partner again. "Just how does a sniper rifle 'protect and serve'?"

Prowl turned to the examination of the rifle again. "Special Emergency Response Squads, also called SERS teams, use them in raids of with a high risk of escalation. Usually it involves drugs, prostitution or slavery."

"Now that you mention it, we got something similar in Polyhex," he admitted. "Taking a guess, ya're part of such a team?"

"Team leader, in fact."

Jazz whistled. "And here I'm just a simple agent. Ya outclass me, Prowl."

"A simple agent of Prime's Secret Service." Prowl gave him a glance. Jazz was reasonably sure to see humor in it. "I think you are as ordinary as most other agents."

No fooling Prowl here, that mech was sharp. "Probably."

"The weapon is in excellent condition," concluded Prowl after his examination. "You should check your weapons as well."

Jazz nodded, and together they went through their tools and arms as thoroughly as they could. They had barely finished, when the comm came to life again:

::Team Epsilon, your shift starts in one klick.::

::Acknowledged,:: said Prowl.

They had deposited the weapons partly in their weapon space, partly behind the balcony balustrade which gave all the visual cover they could wish for. The rifles were at their pedes.

"Ya know we're supposed to look normal." Jazz waved towards the hall. "Like them."

Prowl observed him, but didn't answer. Again his doorwings moved and Jazz was very sure that this movement was his answer. He just didn't understand the meaning. Had Prowl talked to him the whole time and he just hadn't noticed? Whatever it was, no time for backing down now.

"Yeah, I mean, they are all drunk and cuddling and swaying to the music."

"You wish to imitate them?" Prowl sounded curious.

"At least we should imitate one thing. And I am afraid we both can't risk to get drunk now and while I like music, I would need to be really drunk to sway like that."

Prowl's optics become a bit wider. "I am not sure that cuddling is appropriate on the job."

"We're undercover, my dear partner." With a grin, Jazz moved his seat next to Prowl and leaned against the stoic mech. "See, it's easy."

The other had actually frozen and his vents were working faster. For a moment Jazz wondered if Prowl had bad memories or couldn't stand touch, then he realized the Praxian was simply very nervous. Hey, it was kind of cute, wasn't it? That big stoic Enforcer was shy.

"Relax," he said quietly. "I do not bite."

"I am not sure this is a good idea..."

"If ya got a better one, I'm listening." Jazz smiled. "But really, we're comfortable and doing our job."

A moment of silence. "I suppose it is the most efficient way."

::Team Epsilon, take over observation.::

Jazz looked to the crowd, cataloging every mech in earnest. "It is. I'm trained in this, ya know."

Sniper and undercover spy. It wasn't exactly a combination of talents that had endeared him to many. In fact, most had a tendency to decide that a trained liar and ruthless killer was not someone they wanted to call friend. He was used to it, and half-expected Prowl to make the same connection as well. Just why had he told him his training after all?

"Then I will trust your judgment," was the quiet answer.

That was it? Jazz resisted the urge to turn to Prowl and ask him why the mech trusted him so easily. What the mech really thought behind his blank face, and strange moving doorwings. But their shift had begun and there were so many mechs they had to keep an optic on. Instead of arguing he wriggled a bit to make himself more comfortable, then leant back against Prowl. The mech was indeed warmer than average and he found himself liking that little fact.

Though, after two klicks the Enforcer still sat there playing uninvolved wall for Jazz, so he took Prowl's arm and put it around his own waist. When Prowl tightened it like a lover by his own doing, Jazz was pleasantly surprised. The mech might be one shy, brilliant, plain strange package that had confusing doorwings attached to it, but he was willing to follow Jazz's lead and learned, when the situation called for it.

Maybe his partner wasn't so bad after all.

~~~

"Ya know, I expected a bit more of a carnival than speeches," confessed Jazz a long while after their shift. They were walking through Helix's streets as a Messenger of Primus and the Rust Monster towards their hotel room. Passing them were other mechs with costumes that ranged from a bit of glitter to elaborate art works. "In my city we dance and celebrate and do not listen to ... well this."

"It was a humoristic critique of the political establishment," explained Prowl. "And some of the büttenredner are actually quite good."

"Still, no sexy dancing." Jazz looked at him. "And what did ya call them? Buttreds?"

"Büttenredner. I used the break to read up on Helix's culture."

"Instead of recharging," said Jazz drily.

"I deemed the necessity to be prepared higher than recharge." Even though Prowl's face didn't change, something had Jazz betting that his partner was mischievous. Maybe the doorwings again? Or the whole posture?

"Of course ya did, ya workaholic." The words were a lot harsher than the tone, which contained near fondness. Prowl had to be even more exhausted than him. "Found out anything interesting?"

"Helix values its humoristic speakers quite highly. It has several different kinds of speakers. Büttenredner perform only once a year, are not paid and see this as a kind of recreational pursuit."

"Really?" Jazz thought back to the speakers. Even though some had been better than others, most had made him laugh. And that was despite him not knowing Helix's political landscape. "They're quite good for hobbyists," he concluded.

"I agree. The professional ones are called kabbarettisten or comedians."

"Do I even want to know the difference?" asked Jazz tiredly, trying to hide a yawn. The orn had been long and exhausting.

Prowl ignored the rhetorical question. "The first concentrate on politics, the later on life itself."

"Interesting..." Only, not really. Jazz wanted to cuddle up in his berth and to forget the coldness that was again all around them. How mechs could live here permanently was a mystery to him. It was seeping into his protoform and now at night, it was even worse than on the roof. He tried to suppress his shivers.

When high grade cube appeared in front of him thanks to Prowl, he knew he had failed at hiding. Some undercover spy he was. "Thank you," he said earnestly and hurried to drink the highly concentrated energy.

Prowl said nothing, but his doorwings moved. Jazz would bet that whatever else this looped movement might be, that it meant nothing else than 'You're welcome.'

He smiled.

~~~

Their next assignment was in the evening again, another celebration in another big hall. Jazz didn't really care one way or another beyond the knowledge that Prowl would again be walking around as the Hammer of Primus and as such he really needed a hammer. It was only proper.

Thankfully, a quick search on the net gave him more than a handful costumes shops and he hit the nearest one the moment it opened up. Entering it, he looked around in awe. The shop's lights were dimmed, but from floor to ceiling were accessories, costumes, imitations of weapons, and even a few real-size monster costumes in the corner.

"Good morning," greeted the Helix shopkeeper, a tall, thin mech with fins. "How can I help you?"

Jazz gave him a nod. "Hey, I'm just trying to help out my friend, ya know. He had this great Axeron costume, but no weapon. And I thought he just needs a hammer to make it perfect."

"Ah, I see." The shopkeeper smiled. "I can certainly help you out in this case. Would you please follow me?"

"Sure." The walked to the back to the shop, where to Jazz's surprise stairs indicated at least two other floors. The shopkeeper went down.

"If I may ask, how tall is your friend and did he go with silver or white?"

"Uhm, a head taller than me, I guess. And his frame his white, but his doorwings and chevron silver."

"Chevron?" repeated the shopkeeper with mild surprise. "He's a Praxian then?"

"Yeah."

"Praxian doorwings are ideal for an Axeron costumes. I think I have quite the right thing for your friend!" He walked fast through the towering shelves full with things, until he stopped in front of one. "It should be around here..."

This shelf was full with hammers of all sizes. Big and small, some with red, some green, some golden, most had artwork added, while a few were plain. And several of them were silver or white with Axeron's rune on the hilt.

"Ah, here it is!" With triumph the mech pulled out a long hammer from the pile. It had a white hilt, a silvery head and small tiny wings above the handle. All in all the hammer was as big as Jazz was tall. "Doesn't it look impressive? The real thing can only be marginally better!" praised the shopkeeper.

Jazz had to chuckle. "Well, it will certainly make Prowl look really good." He admired the hammer. "That's not a cheap material either, is it?"

"Hardly. Real hardened silver, and see that rune here? Platinum. Of course, it's nothing compared to mythril or something, but it's the best I can do for a costume..."

"It's great!" Jazz hurried to say. "I think Prowl will love it. I'll take it. How much?"

"45 credits an orn," informed him the shopkeeper.

Jazz nearly winced at the price, but paid without another word. Prowl would look great with the hammer and it was not as if he was poor.

"I wish your lover and you much fun in Helix." The shopkeeper said, as Jazz left. "Enjoy the celebration."

Lover? Jazz nearly turned around to enter the shop again. What had the shopkeeper led to that conclusion? But he as looked at the hammer in his hand, and decided not to care. His partner was surely already waiting for him in the hotel to talk about their next assignment. He couldn't wait to see Prowl's reaction to this beauty!

~~~

"So, same speeches again?" Jazz asked, as they entered their assigned balcony.

"I was told that this celebration is famous for its Sparkdancers," said Prowl and leaned his majestic hammer against the wall.

Jazz had been right, the hammer really had made a difference with his costumes. It made him not only look merely regal, but powerful. To Jazz's delight Prowl had the cutest embarrassed face ever, when a few young mechs had asked them for photos, praising the Unicron / Primus theme. A bit off the mark, but Jazz hadn't cared at all. Not that their head of operations had been happy about the costume addition. Inconspicuous they were now certainly not, but thankfully that made them in a strange way blend in more. No one here tried to be a boring, normal looking mech. Both their usual black and white paintjobs would've only worked as 'Attention, official something here' flags.

With a beautiful Praxian on his arm, Jazz had walked to the city hall, for the first time really enjoying himself since arriving in Helix. To his surprise Prowl hadn't protested the touch at all. Maybe he was really melting that ice cube. Slowly.

"Sparkdancers? Sounds lewd." Jazz grinned. "Didn't think Helix's creators would take their creations to such an event."

Doorwings moved and Jazz was – once again – out of the loop. "I am reasonably sure that Helix has a very different kind of sparkdancer in mind."

That had been dry humor, right? Right. Jazz grinned. "Or maybe I am thinking about the right thing and they simply start really early here."

"It would explain the age limit at 160 vorns at the entrance."

Definitely dry humor. And hey, that was a repeat of the gesture before, did it mean 'Careful here comes sarcasm?' "That's what I say, early starters here. Gotta be careful not to flirt with a youngling, wouldn't look good on my CV." He put his last weapon aside and fell into the chair. "Hey, Prowl, can I ask ya something?"

The Praxian looked up from his weapon pile. "Of course."

"So... Not sure how to say this, but your doorwings, they move."

Prowl actually looked at his doorwings, then back to Jazz. "Yes. They are supposed to move."

"Right." He was doing this really the wrong way. Why was he so nervous? "Just wanted to ask if the movement mean something. ’Cause I noticed that sometimes I can kind of read them."

The doorwings froze and their very tips moved towards each other. Prowl's face was blank.

"Yeah, exactly like this!" Jazz hurried to say. "I guess it means ya're surprised?"

Again Prowl looked at his doorwings, then at Jazz. "Yes. I am surprised," he confirmed quietly. "I did not realise that my expressions were so difficult to read."

"Not difficult. Just... not my language." Jazz shrugged sheepishly. "Ya're the first Praxian I've worked together for longer than a joor."

"I see." Prowl put the weapons down. "Then I guess... you did not stop our conversations in the first two joors, because you were annoyed with me?"

Jazz gaped. "What?" Prowl's doorwings trembled. Nervousness? "No! Prowl, I mean, just no. I thought ya weren't answering!"

The tip-movement, followed by an uptake. Surprise and... uh, happiness? Jazz really had no idea, but at least the more relaxed face of Prowl was proof that it wasn't something bad.

"I suppose I should apologize for giving you this impression. This is my first non-military assignment out of Praxus." Some strange doorwing movement, Jazz barely even saw. "I did not think that something that comes this natural to me, would be a language barrier for you."

"Well..." said Jazz sheepishly. “I'm learning. A few more orns and I might understand simple things like yes or no."

"There are several movements for yes and no," answered Prowl amused. He was obviously taking an effort to make his emotions appear on his face, and Jazz appreciated it. "But I would be willing to teach you."

"That would be awesome." Not to mention really educational. Praxus was a bit isolationist, and Prowl might be his only chance to learn more.

::Central Command to Team Epsilon. Do you copy?::

::Team Epsilon here and in position,:: answered Jazz.

::Understood, Agent Meister. Our suspect has been seen around your hall, so please pay extra attention to any Kaonite frame. A second suspect has entered the city with a Tarn passport, but possessed a Vosian flier frame.::

::Seeker?:: asked Prowl.

::Negative, Enforcer 55. Colors are unknown. Our experts have identified his paintjob at the checkpoint as camouflage. Only other identifying characteristic is larger than average turbines and a dark face.::

Not a lot to go on. Jazz wanted to curse something, but he knew full well that everyone was already working at their best. ::Got it,:: he said. ::Anything else?::

::Negative. Your shift starts in one klick. Good luck, Team Epsilon. Central Command over and out.::

Jazz sighed. "Looks like things will get interesting soon."

Prowl didn't answer, but his doorwings...

"That was a yes, right?"

Prowl looked towards him, then nodded slowly. "An 'I agree with you'."

"See, I'm getting it."

Same movement again. Jazz grinned and moved closer to cuddle up with Prowl again. It shouldn't feel so comfortable, but the warmth made him like this position very much. That Prowl put his arm around his waist this time by his own free will, didn't hurt either. If only they weren't here for work...

Then the gong sounded and their shift started and Jazz banished all distracting thoughts.

There were political speeches this time again, and with the information about Helix's politicians from the first evening he now even understood... every tenth joke or so. Aside from that, this show also included fairly regular music bands. Not world-class bands or famous singers, oh no, he would bet they were all local mechs who liked playing music.

"I think they had some real talent with them," he said after one performance. "Not that I want to become a fan, you know. But they were good."

"If the schedule is correct, the next performance is by the city’s Sparkdancers," said Prowl and moved a bit to make them both more comfortable. Jazz cuddled nearer against his armor. Suddenly, Prowl straightened. "Quadrant three, at the end of the table. Kaonite frame?"

Jazz searched the area. It was at the corner of the stage and once Prowl pointed it out, he had no trouble seeing a big mech sitting down between some others.

"Confirmed," he said quietly. "I see some red paint beneath his... is that a Tabroan-kitty costume?"

It seemed ridiculous that their suspect, a Kaonite frame to boot, would chose to walk around in a kitty costume. A cute one, too, with little fuzzy ears that moved on top of his helmet and an elegant black tail. But here their suspect was.

"I think so," said Prowl quietly. ::Team Epsilon to Command Center. Kaonite suspect sighted.::

::Command Center here. Good work. What is he doing?::

Prowl looked down to the Kaonite. ::He seems to drink high grade, and just started swaying to the music with the rest. Sir, he is wearing a black Tabroan-kitty costume.::

There was an incredulous silence on the other side of the line as the Command Center tried to picture their suspect like that. Obviously they failed, because the next sentence was: ::Enforcer 55, please send a picture to confirm.::

Prowl wasted no time and did so and the silence on the other side of the comm only grew louder.

::Team Epsilon, good work. If our Kaonite suspect does anything besides celebrating, please apprehend him. Over and out.::

The Enforcer and the Agent both looked down at the suspect, who was now doing exactly the same thing as everyone else here, while getting drunk. He seemed to be in a very good mood and when the Helix mech at his right side leant over and kissed him, he returned the favor with vigor.

"I have a feeling, that this mech will not make trouble tonight." Jazz leant back against Prowl. "What are the chances he acted suspiciously, because he has a Helix lover that he wanted to tell no one about?"

"Quite high," said Prowl quietly. "Of course the chance that he is a terrorist is still there."

"We will not hesitate in that case."

"Of course not," agreed Prowl and Jazz wished he could see the doorwings from his position. He would bet that the steely undertone was accompanied by an expression just as strong. "Jazz, the sparkdancers have started."

Even though he was on the job and shouldn't, he trusted his partner enough to risk a glance. "What are they doing?" he asked baffled. "I thought they were dancers."

It was a whole troupe, all of them young and good looking. All of them lithe and painted in bright, red and golden colors that clearly imitated military uniforms of past centuries. But their dancing was... well, they jumped around in formations, up and down, perfectly synchronized. And up the legs and pedes went, exactly so far that it wasn't indecent by a single cable width.

"Sexy enough?" muttered Prowl. Jazz could feel the amusement of his partner in the air.

"I guess..." He watched them. "It's less dance and more acrobatics, than I expected. I mean that pyramid there? Quite impressive. In Altihex I've seen mechs called cheerleaders do something similar." Of course, the difference was that these sparkdancers weren't cheering on, they were clearly a main attraction. The show master sounded very proud, talking about winning some competition and champions, while the dancers showed off more and more complicated figures and acrobatics.

"I haven't visited Altihex yet, but I would like to in the future. Quadrant two, blue and green mech. Drunken or dangerous?"

Jazz looked there. "Drunken and living dangerous. That waiter looks like he'll tear him apart in – ouch. Yes, that mech deserved that."

"Security is already coming," Prowl pointed out.

"Mmh. Good response time." The security mechs did escort the drunken mech out professionally as well. Good to know they could do their job. "So, if you haven't seen Altihex, what about Polyhex? We're neighbors after all."

"I have to disappoint you there as well. Though I would like to."

It would be nice to show Prowl Polyhex and not to be always stuck with him in Helix's snow. Jazz simply knew that Prowl would love Polyhex architecture that took anything less than spectacular as an insult. Maybe he could also introduce him to the famous Polydishes or the newly opened Organic Zoo. "If ya find the time, I would love to show ya around," he said. "I have a small house there, guest room, everything. What do ya say?"

Silence. And this time Jazz had again no idea, what Prowl was thinking. He tried to resist the urge to turn around and look back, because that was simply not acceptable on an assignment. But as the silence stretched he became more and more convinced that he had made a mistake. Maybe Praxians didn't visit friends or – or Prowl didn't think them friends. Well, and really, they weren't right?

"Do you invite all of your work colleagues?" asked Prowl after nearly a breem had passed and Jazz had become convinced that Prowl hated him now. Not that this question helped.

Jazz wished very strongly, that he had never said anything to the Praxian. "Uhm, no."

How many had he invited in fact? There had been Mirage, vorns ago. But they had known each other for over 50 vorns already and went through the Agent training together. And then there had been Blaster, of course, a DJ. But he had known Blaster for a while too.

"I see," said Prowl slowly. Again silence.

"You do not have to come," said Jazz meekly. "I'm sorry if I thought something or... I didn't mean to anger you."

"I am not angry," The Praxian said. "I would be happy to come."

Jazz blinked. "Really?"

"Really." Prowl's voice sounded warm and he pulled Jazz closer. "Just tell me when."

"I will," Jazz said without a second thought, feeling so much lighter.

Light enough to fly even, as if only Prowl's warm arm across his waist bound him to Cybertron – and oh, it was so comfortable. He thought he might never want to leave again.

It was then that Jazz finally realized, that maybe he had a crush. But leaning against Prowl, he really didn't find it within himself to mind.

~~~

The next orn Jazz looked forward to the assignment, just so he had an excuse to cuddle up against Prowl again. It was a bit pathetic. Here he was, a professional Agent, a feared sniper and accomplished undercover spy, and all he could think about was cuddling up to his crush under the flimsy pretense of blending in.

Every evening he expected Prowl to point out that there were dozens of other methods, that Jazz was not professional enough, that something was not right. The Praxian never did. Instead he always opened his arms, and Jazz cuddled there as if there was no tomorrow.

And when the way back to the hotel was that cold again and Prowl had no high cube left, it was Prowl that pointed out the logical solution of him carrying the much lighter Polyhexian Agent. Jazz would never admit that his spark nearly stopped at the suggestion and then danced within his spark case all the way back to the hotel.

He was in love. Primus, he was hopelessly in love and every orn made it worse. Even his recharge wasn't Prowl free anymore. He dreamed of Prowl smiling, Prowl laughing, Prowl standing in their living room with a sparkling in his arm...

It couldn't get worse.

And yet, every evening he cuddled for hours with the mech, talked about small things, worked with him together at a level of synchronization that he had only ever achieved with long term partners before.

It couldn't get better.

He was so, so doomed and he knew it and he didn't find it in his spark to care.

One evening he called Blaster, his best friend and confessed his feelings. His friend did as expected – and laughed.

"Oh Jazz! Eternal sparkbreaker, and now it's your turn. Primus has some justice after all."

Jazz actually growled. "It's not like that!"

"No?" Blaster leaned back in his huge chair with a grin. His legs weren't visible on the screen, but even so Jazz would guess that he had crossed his feet. "You didn't fall for some random Enforcer?"

"I did." No point in denying it anymore. "But he isn't random."

"Of course he isn't! Your spark jumps when he is near, you love his voice, you lust after his aft." Blaster shrugged. "That's normal for every crush. Only that you got your first one a bit later than the rest of us."

Maybe, his friend was right. Maybe, it was that simple. "But what if it isn't just a crush?" asked Jazz quietly. "I don't... I don't want to interface him. I mean, I want it, yes. But not yet..."

"Yet?" Blaster leant forward, clearly interested.

"I just want him there, you know. In my life." Jazz rubbed his helm. "I know that it's ridiculous, I barely know him."

The DJ sighed. "Jazz, I... let me ask you one question. Have you seen mechs you thought sexy and great and wanted to interface with?"

"Sure. Who hasn't?"

"How does Prowl compare to them?"

Jazz didn't even think for a second. "Like a world champion in circuitsu taking out a youngling who had three lessons."

"Seriously?" Blaster sounded amazed. "No competition?"

"None." Jazz sighed. "It's difficult to explain, but when he is there, everything is better."

"I see. Well, it's not that surprising, really. He seems a bit like your opposite, but whenever you talk about interests or something you say you agreed. So you are similar and even your jobs are similar... don't give me that look, I know it's classified. I'm just taking educated guesses here."

Jazz softened his glare. "Maybe sometimes too educated."

Blaster shrugged. "I never did anything wrong or told anyone. So, back to the important mech here, Prowl. As far as I can see it, my friend, you have now two wonderful options. Number one," he held up one finger, "this is your first real crush and you're totally overreacting."

Jazz nodded. "Okay."

The second finger joined in. "Or number two. He is the One for you."

"The One?" repeated the Agent.

"Sure, your sparkmate, Primus Intended, the one who completes you. The One." Blaster smiled. "I don't know about you, but if there was even a tiny chance that this mech is the One, I would go for it."

Two deca-orns ago, Jazz would have laughed, agreed and taken off run after his crush. But this was stoic Prowl and the thought to misstep, to see Prowl walking away, constricted his spark. He needed time. Time to accept this, to plan and to then slowly move.

Only, he was in the middle of an operation and it was no option to suddenly go all romantic here. Prowl would probably disapprove anyway, the mech liked rules. But the assignment would end in less than five orns and then Prowl would walk away anyway... what then? Hoping that Prowl maybe decided to visit Polyhex and gave him a call?

"Jazz?" asked the DJ quietly. "You alright?"

"Yeah... just thinking." He tried to smile.

Blaster's concern was obvious. "Hey, Jazz, whatever happens, you know that you have friends in Polyhex that are more than willing to provide a shoulder to cry on."

"Forgive me for hoping that I will not need said shoulder."

"Just an offer, Jazzy."

"Don't call me that." But he had to grin. "I call you in a few orns, okay?”

"Sure. And catch that Praxian. I know he can't resist you." Blaster gave him a wink. "Bye!"

The screen went black.

Jazz stood from his own chair and checked his chronometer. He had to go. And his spark fluttered happily in its case. The next assignment with Prowl would start in twelve breems and already he was hoping that he could touch that warm plating again and never let go.

~~~

In the end, the terrorist attack came as swiftly and mercilessly as they were prone to. Jazz and Prowl were watching another show, while cuddling, when the call destroyed all peace:

::Command Center to all teams, unidentified flier above Hall Ten. He's carrying something that might be dynamite. Start Evac plan Delta. Epsilon Team, abandon the balcony and get to the roof!::

Jazz slid down from Prowl directly next to the sniper rifle, took it and threw it towards Prowl. The Praxian caught the suitcase and started running, Jazz only a few meters behind him with the second sniper suitcase. By now they knew the layouts here well and their balcony had been only down a few meters from the door that led to the roof. The Enforcer didn't hesitate to kick that door down and then climbed up the ladder behind it.

::Team Epsilon here,:: Prowl said over the comms. ::ETA: 20 astroseconds. Shoot to kill?::

::Flier has ignored all hails and warning. Team Epsilon: Eliminate the target.::

::Acknowledged,:: send both Enforcer and Agent back.

The roof was as cold as the first one, and covered with snow. Both snipers hid behind a chimney, opened their suitcases and activated their infrared sensors.

"Two hundred meters above," said Prowl. "Visuals not available."

The clouds hid the flier well. Jazz brought his rifle out, and laid down on the roof. "You, secondary?"

"Confirmed."

Elimination orders were usually given to a team of two snipers. One was the primary, who shot first the spark. The secondary shot an astrosecond later, and a bit higher, trying to hit the vital neuro center above the spark. The intention was to make sure that the mech was really dead in case the first sniper missed or was otherwise incapacitated.

Jazz looked through the telescope and saw the warmth aura of the target. He slowed his own engine, and his spark for the first time in orns calmed. Vorn long training took over as he observed the flight path, predicted the next turns and aimed.

"Shot in three astroseconds."

"Acknowledged," said Prowl

"Three, two, one." He pulled the trigger. The rifle threw him back on the snow. At the same time he heard another shot from his right and then Prowl was lying on top of him. Somewhere above them was a scream, that cut short and then they heard the sharp whistling of something falling.

"Hit," he said with satisfaction.

"Hit," echoed Prowl above him, and as Jazz wriggle out from beneath him, he saw that the same feeling was clear as the sun on the Praxian's face.

Hit. Every sniper knew that sweet triumph.

Jazz smiled and instead of standing up, cuddled against Prowl. "I'm cold," he said half-heartedly.

Against his back, Prowl hummed.

~~~

Standard procedure was to pull a sniper that had killed out of the field. Central Command decided that the best decision was to send Team Epsilon home immediately and didn't even pretend to listen to Jazz's objections. Prowl simply accepted the order, packed up is stuff and walked down to the lobby where a cab would pick him up.

Jazz didn't know what to do. There was so much he wanted to say, so much he needed to say, but in that lobby all words were lost to him. So instead he stood in front of his crush (his Primus' Indented, his sparkmate, his One) and was entirely busy with the simple fact of not doing something crazy like chaining Prowl to the berth.

"I guess, that's it..." Jazz said, feeling awkward. "I enjoyed working with you." Understatement of the millennia.

Prowl nodded politely, and his doorwings also swept down and up an in elegant arc. "You have been one of the best partners I have had the pleasure of working with. I will mention it in our report."

"Yeah..." Jazz tried to smile. "I had the feeling that Central Command expected us to kill each other."

"Our personalities look quite incompatible on paper." The doorwings twitched. "Fortunately, in reality it proved to be a better match."

"Far better," Jazz managed to say, and then his mind was blank. Tell him, his spark screamed. Tell him! But it was not the right time. Not now, not at the end of an assignment after having just killed a mech. And certainly not here, in a lobby where already the concierge and other agents were looking at them with curiosity.

Still struggling with himself, Prowl took his luggage, bid his goodbye and left.

Jazz could only look after him and felt as if with every step of Prowl walking away, his world turned greyer and greyer.

~~~

When he returned to Polyhex the city welcomed him with open arms like always. It hadn't changed, his friends hadn't changed and yet everything was different. Jazz had changed and everyone noticed it. He found no delight in flirting anymore, and declined every one night stand. And when he saw the doorwings of a Praxian he was distracted so much, that he managed to bump into Blaster. Thankfully, his friend had realised what had happened and gave him a sad smile.

"The One, uh?"

Jazz was proud of himself that he had only nodded. After a quarter-vorn he decided that no one could prohibit him from visiting Praxus. And if he ran into a certain Enforcer, well, it was time that fate played on his side, right?

He was clicking himself through the internet to find a good offer for a Praxian hotel, when he got a call.

He answered without looking at the number. ::Jazz here, how can I help ya?::

::Uh... this is Prowl.::

Jazz nearly fell from his chair and suddenly his spark span out of control. ::Prowl!::

::Yes. Is this a bad time to call?::

He sounded so uncertain, that Jazz wanted to hug him.

::No, no, not at all,:: he tried to assure the Praxian, but couldn't keep his hands still. He was too nervous, too giddy. ::Ya can't call at a bad time, really. How are ya?::

::Good, thank you.:: Prowl paused for a second. ::I have wondered if your offer of a visit is still standing?::

Could it be...? ::Yes,:: he said and prayed as hard as never before. ::Ya want to come?::

::Only if it is not an inconvenience to you.::

Jazz could've hugged the world and Unicron and the universe itself. ::Never! I want ya to have here. I can't wait.::

A moment of silence, then Prowl said warmly, ::I really look forward to seeing you as well. Maybe we can get to know each other better, now that we are off-duty.::

::I would love too.:: Jazz smiled happily. ::I couldn't get ya out of my thoughts since then.::

::Yes. I was the same,:: Prowl said quietly. ::My vacation begins in two decaorns, I would like to visit then.::

::Perfect! Maybe we can call each other until then?::

::I would like that very much. Maybe you can tell me a bit more of how you have fared since we separated?::

Jazz grinned and let himself fall on the couch and begin talking. The world was alright again, shining in more colors than ever and he was content.

When he put his hand over the spark that was spinning in lazy happiness, he knew that he had found his One. And that he loved him.

 

END