Wrote this back in 2010 =)
"Do you know what the term 'frozen wings' means?"
Prowl felt like a part of him had been brutally torn apart. For a moment, he was alone; no alarms sounded, no shouts and orders coming from the mechs around him, no explosions sounding in the distance. All he heard were the screams of innocent bots as they were massacred, their screams of fear and prayers to be saved, the shattering of the crystals in the Helix Gardens, their beauty forever lost.
He watched, as his city was destroyed, its habitants slaughtered, and all he felt was pain, pain, pain! So much that he left the room, unable to bear the sight of his hometown being burned to the ground and being unable to do anything about it. And that's what he did. Slowly, he turned and left the command center as silent as a breeze passing by.
Amidst the chaos, no one noticed him. None but one, his visor locked on the back of the tactician, sorrow for the other's pain almost crushing his spark.
"Doorwings are an important part of our culture, of our very being. They are indispensable for accompanying a number of our actions, even the most basic to show our intentions; moving, talking, dancing, singing, acting, courting, interfacing, bonding… mourning."
"Prowl, open the door!"
The doorwinger was sitting in his office chair, arms limp on his lap, head thrown back and optics offlined as he tried to stop the ghost screams from consuming him. The room was dark, the only light coming from a small pot with four crystals growing in it. Their natural light which was always so relaxing, and a reminder of his beautiful city was now unbearable to look at. It seemed like an insult to what had once been, and at the same time was the only legacy of the great gardens.
"Prowl! Don't make me use rank on you!"
Prowl sighed. For a second. Just for a second he wished he were left alone. For a second he wished he were treated like any other mech and left alone to mourn. His doorwings were low, and for an orn would not be brought up to their usual height; the Praxian symbol for mourning. They twitched against the soft plush of his special chair, small tremors of grief running through them.
"Frag it Prowl I warned you!"
He would not be allowed to mourn it seemed. Rising, his doorwings stretching a bit, he raised them to an appropriate height, so as to not draw attention without being disrespectful.
The door hissed open just as he was about to raise his servo to the code panel.
"Ratchet." He acknowledged, faceplates blank.
"Prowl you fragger you disappeared in the middle of a crisis!" The medic yelled.
"I apologize I… needed time to think." Ratchet's faceplates turned from their livid scowl to a more softened and sympathetic expression. He knew that this was as close as he would ever get to hearing that the stubborn tactician was in any emotional pain.
"I'm sorry Prowl." He said, his voice low with a hint of despair. It may not have been his city, but the medic was in charge of saving the survivors that the search parties brought back. He had always loved being a medic, saving lives and seeing his patient's loved ones' happy faceplates when he told them that everything was going to be okay. Since the war started, he had wondered many times if he should quit, even if it was the time he was most needed. The deaths and pain he saw were not normal, most of the times there were no loved ones to stay with his patient, because they were all dead.
"I know this must be hard for you, but Optimus needs you right now. As a medic I have advised him to leave you out of the search parties. It is up to you."
"No. I will join them," Prowl said quickly. Without another word, he turned and headed at a calm yet determined pace down the hallways. He would do his duty, mourning could wait for now.
Ratchet, looking at him with a mix of annoyed yet empathetic optics, did not notice the change in his doorwings. But one mech did. From the shadows of an adjoining hall opposite from where Prowl had gone, the visored mech was witness to the only change visible on the stoic tactician.
"There is a saying: 'The optics are a window to the soul', correct? Well, for us Praxians, the optics are replaced by our doorwings. One need but look at them to know how that bot is feeling, the enforcers even use this when interrogating. I once saw a whole play with no words, only dancing and the movement of the actors' doorwings. It was breathtaking."
"We need to send out more search parties! There are too many sectors we haven't looked, too many buildings that may hold trapped mechs or femmes, frag it we haven't even checked all the youth sectors!" Cliffjumper yelled at his commander.
"I understand Cliffjumper." Optimus said patiently. "We are doing what we can, right now there are eight teams searching the north side of the city. The Protectobots have split up and taken groups of Wreckers into the buildings. We have even called for back up from neighboring cities, neutrals that have volunteered to help in the retrieval. But we are still too few to do what is needed."
All Prowl could think about as he neared the two mechs in one of the portable HUBs just outside the ruins of what was once the city of Praxus, was that Prime need not to explain himself to the likes of the minibot.
"Prime." He called to make his presence known.
"Ah Prowl, I am sorry for calling you out like this, I am sure you would want some time alone." Prowl sometimes hated how much sympathy Prime's optics could show. Yes, he needed time, yes he wanted to be alone to mourn in peace, yes he felt like his word was suddenly shattered…. but he did not need his sympathy.
"It is alright, what is it you wish me to do?" He asked, voice perfectly even and blank.
"Take a small team to the far east side of the city. There are some buildings left unchecked as well as a youth sector. Can you handle it?"
No, he couldn't. He couldn't bear to see one of his kin, sparkling and younglings torn apart, killed without mercy, their frames grey. His doorwings trembled in denial and sorrow, lowering a bit.
Cliffjumper had whipped his head to glare at Prowl as he approached. For a moment he had said nothing, seeing how his commander and second interacted. Catching the stare, the doorwinger shifted his gaze to meet that of the minibot's inquiringly.
Not seeing what he was searching for in the other's faceplates the minibot sneered. "You sparkless fragger! You don't even care about any of this do you!? Your city was razed to the ground and you're awaiting your next orders!? What is wrong with you!? Those jokes about you being a drone were half play but now-"
"Cliffjumper!" Prime yelled, his voice portraying his anger and disappointment. "Do not speak of things you do not know, if we were not so far stretched I would send you to the brig for such comments, especially to your SIC! You complain we are not doing enough yet here you are, wasting time. Go!" He ordered.
Servos clenching into fists, his stare changing from Prowl to Optimus and back again, the minibot turned and left, his angry strides more than enough to let others know he was pissed. Many mechs that had been passing by had stopped to stare at the spectacle. It was very rare for their Prime to snap at his soldiers and they could only conclude that the minibot deserved it.
"I am sorry for his behavior Prowl." Optimus started, soft optics on the tactician. "Do not let him get to you."
"I assure your Optimus, I will not." Giving a small respectful bow of the head, he left to gather his unit.
All the while, no one had noticed his doorwings moving. How they had lifted a bit at Cliffjumper's cruel words before wilting in silent submission. How they had trembled when Prime stepped in to defend him, nor how they had made a small, almost invisible motion of moving outwards with a small arch in gratefulness. All anyone had seen, was a still and unfazed mech, with no expression on his faceplates. All but one. From another HUB, a visored mech looked on with anger at the scene. His servos clenched as his gaze turned from the tactician to track the red minibot already heading out toward the city.
"You know when you have seen me and Smokescreen in the rec room? I know many of you thought we have never talked with each other. But that isn't true. No one cared to look at our doorwings. We've had thousands of conversations without anyone noticing. That's the beauty of it, no words are needed. Just… motion and intent."
"Sunstreaker, Sideswipe, you two are going to be in charge of the heavy lifting. There may be survivors under the beams and I want nothing left unchecked. Take Inferno for assistance. Call me immediately if you find anything. Hound, you and Brawn are to check all the rooms you can get to, if you can't get in try to see if there are any life signs coming from inside, Brawn, you know what to do if there is. "
The minibot nodded grumbling.
"Where are you going?" Sunstreaker asked.
"There is a youth sector next to this building, Smokescreen and I are going to check it out."
All mechs assembled looked troubled at this and shifted uneasily. No one had said anything, no one had shown any discomfort at the thought. But none of them had the courage to go into the youth sectors. The thought of finding offlined sparklings and younglings was too much from even the more hardsparked mechs.
"Good luck." Sideswipe said before they all turned to enter the building.
"Are you ready for this?"
Prowl turned to stare at Smokescreen. His comrade's faceplates were not as blank as his, showing a bit of discomfort and grief at their situation. His doorwings were another matter. They were shaking uncontrollably. The motion was very small though, and they looked almost to be vibrating if anyone cared to look closely.
"Pfft, am I ready to see the dead frames of our youngest kin? Oh yeah, can't wait." He said sarcastically, doorwings shrugging together with his shoulders.
Nodding, both Praxians made their way to the ruins of the youth centers, their sparks not ready for what they would find.
As they expected, the scene was too horrible. The femmes had been killed while running, sparklings in their arms, the shots having gone through them both. Groups of younglings and their caretakers had been lined against a wall and shot, dozens of wounds on their frames, dried energon coated the wall and floor, tear marks on all the small ones' faceplates, all of them having offlined with expressions of fear and horror.
They only did one sweep and left, unable to bear the sight any longer.
Once they got back to camp, many asked them if they had found anything, but they said nothing. When they were alone, resting on some crates they looked at each other, just sitting there. They didn't even show any expression on their faceplates. Bots who saw them as they passed thought they were having a staring contest. But they never noticed that their optics were not locked on each other, but on the other's doowrings. And none noticed how they moved, silently communicating with each other, sharing their pain and sorrow. The visored mech that had followed their every movement since they came back noticed them though.
"They are a wonderful and mysterious thing, doorwings. With them, we are able to pick up a number of data, and build an image of what we cannot see. I can tell without looking who is behind me. I do not need my sight to know where every single object in my room is. We receive so much information that it can be unbearable at times. There is a thin line that separates pleasure with pain. It's why there aren't many Praxians that are lovers or bond with anyone outside their own frame type. The softest touch for an Iaconian can feel like a whip on our panels. Those who do not know about the sensitivity of our doorwings could unintentionally hurt us, and the pain is too great to risk it."
"What's more, our sensors are so sensitive that they can easily replace all our senses. Even if we were to lose our sight, touch, hearing or speech, our doorwings will step in for and even enhance them. But to lose our doorwings... is a torture worse than death. I have known of mechs and femmes to go crazy without them. It is not something I would wish on my worst enemy."
A few hundred had survived the attack. But no matter how many mechs and femmes they found it didn't seem enough. Not even the small sparkling found at a youth sector managed to make them smile for longer than a breem. Prowl knew that with their number, his frame type was near extinction.
It seemed surreal, like a nightmare he couldn't wake up from. He stood silent, just outside the door into the temporarily med bay. Time seemed to freeze around him, but inside, mayhem and chaos reigned like an infernal storm.
Screams of pain and grief could be heard above the running pedes of the medics rushing back and forth between berths, their orders and screams seemed muffled under all the pain, the noise of their tools seeming foreboding. There was no privacy, chest plates open, medics with his servos deep inside, armor removed to expose protoform.
The floor was like a swamp of fluids. The smell of burnt circuitry and energon filling the air like mist. To the right a mech was screaming in pure agony even if he was on strong pain killers. But Prowl knew why even if the medics did not understand. His doorwings were missing.
Prowl's own twitched in sympathy, and tucked themselves closer to his body, hugging him, as if to make sure they were still there with him.
The tactician managed to step out of the way before a small convoy rushed through. One of the volunteers, a Praxian medic that had been attending a conference in Iacon before the war broke loose rushed in, half turning to direct the ones behind him what to do. The two mechs behind him were carrying a gurney with a limp femme, her armor melted, vents struggling to cycle as ash and smoke clogged them.
He stood there, faceplates blank and posture betraying nothing. Only his doorwings moved. Only they showed what he was really feeling; shaking and twitching with nausea at the sight. Yet none saw, none understood. Not even the visored one, the only one that noticed them.
"So much emotion can be put into one single twitch. Each move means something, one single lifting of the wings can express so much anger or intimidation. One slide downwards the greatest of grief. One move... can destroy another."
"What is that supposed to mean!?" Fixer demanded, doorwings hung as high as they could without breaking the height mourning demanded of them. Standing still, Prowl's own wilted in apology, but the medic, who had spent too many vorns apart from the Praxian community and their traditions, and too livid to care did not notice.
"I am sorry Fixer." Prowl started, "We do not have enough resources to go out looking for anymore bots. Our teams have been out there for two joors now, they are exhausted both mentally and physically. I will not order them to go back into the city. As for the tools you asked it is impossible to get them. There are many procedures we must go through. When the war started the Council made sure that they had a large stock of medicine, medical tools and machines, as well as energon stored up. But they are greedy and will not give them if we are not careful."
"Frag the council! Bots are dying, Prime ranks even the council, he is close to Primus I'm sure he can go and just take what we need!"
Prowl's doorwings bristled a bit, and this time Fixer did notice. "There is nothing I can do. Prime has already left to seek an audience with the Council. But even he can not break tradition."
"Frag you Prowl!" Fixer yelled. "Is tradition all you care about?! Well here's one for you, you frozen doorwinger!"
Prowl tensed at his words, his doorwings hitching before they started to tremble in shock and something akin to anguish. And then, they fell completely as Fixer turned his back to him, the medic's doorwings fanning out in an intimidating gesture, before they flickered up and down seeming to fan outwards roughly a few times, the Praxian expression for rejection.
"Frozen doorwings…It is the greatest insult to receive." Prowl said softly, his forehead leaning softly on the back of his servo where a cube of high-grade was being carefully held by his fingers.
"It is very similar to calling one a sparkless drone. Since our doorwings' every movement show all our emotions, our desires and even our fear, 'frozen' then, implies not having anything at all. It means, not being alive."
Jazz had seen the small confrontation. And for once, it wasn't only Prowl's doorwings that showed any reaction to the other mech's words. His faceplates betrayed his shock and denial. His vent's hitched and he seemed lost for a moment. The tactician seemed to want to say something, but Fixer ignored him, like he didn't exist.
Defeated, the tactician turned and left, doorwings so low some who took the time to look actually noticed, even if for just a second.
Prowl lifted his head only so he could turn the cube hanging from his fingers to his mouth and took a large gulp.
"It is also a curse. Those gestures Fixer made with his doorwings meant he was rejecting me as a Praxian. Rejecting me as his kin. I am frozen, therefore I am not alive to any of them. It is not something lightly used. Had there been more Praxian witnesses around and war did not exist, the news would have spread like wildfire, I would have been marked and everywhere I go they would know and act just like Fixer; like I don't exist. In other words…" He took another gulp of his cube.
"It means exile."
Jazz had found Prowl in his quarters, gulping down his second cube of high-grade. Somehow, Jazz ended on the berth, sitting next to his friend with his own cube of high-grade.
It wasn't often that they shared a personal moment like this, Prowl too stubborn to 'talk about it' no matter how many times Jazz had offered to listen. This time though, he didn't need to say a word before Prowl had started his tale. It left him shaken up that such a tradition existed.
"That… Ah… don't understand. Why would he exile ya?" Was all Jazz could come up with, processor still straining to understand Prowl's words.
"In his optics I have denied my own people a chance for survival, even if it was not up to me in the first place. In Praxus, kin comes before anything, even duty. This is the reason Praxus stayed neutral. The nobles were all thinking about the future of Praxus. They did not what a future where sparklings and younglings would suffer the loss of a creator, nor did they want creators to experience the loss of their creation, of a family member, nor the agony of a broken bond. They turned neutral to protect everyone in Praxus. And they were destroyed for it."
"I have committed a great sin by leaving Praxus and joining the Autobots. I was very close to being cursed right then and there but, they understood that it was my choice to make, and that in a way I was helping my kin. Now though, Fixer sees me as one that has betrayed our people, and my lack of assistance for the survivors has made me the worst.
"Huh. Well the mech is certainly wrong." The saboteur said shifting a bit so he was sitting with his legs crossed next to the tactician.
Prowl tilted his head towards Jazz, a small flick of his doorwings asking for an explanation.
"Ah can't read doorwing, but Ah have seen how ya move them differently when ever ya talk ta someone. Ah got the basic emotions figured out. Down means exhaustion, sadness, or even submission. Up is angry, and maybe a bit of defiance, Ah think, can't really tell so much, but Ah can get a close reading."
Prowl's doorwings hitched upwards in surprise. He had not know Jazz had bothered to observe their behavior, outsiders not understanding the importance of the signs their doorwings made, merely thinking they were twitches and general unconscious movements.
"I was not aware you were stalking me." He teased lightly, unsure on how to respond. He had absently noticed the visor mech's gaze on him throughout the two joors, but at the time he hadn't thought much about it since they had to work close to each other.
Jazz smirked. "Yer doorwings are anything but frozen. Ah've seen how they move. They're graceful and sometimes even soothing. It's why Ah always fall inta recharge at meetings!"
Prowl let out a small chuckle. "Funny how those movements would seem soothing to you when in fact, I tend to curse a lot during meetings, especially during Red Alert's reports."
Jazz looked surprised at this before he burst out laughing. "Ya were cursing the whole time! Wow, if cursing in doorwing looks like that I'd love to see how they move when ya compliment someone." He smiled.
"Ah've always known those doorwings spoke. Never realized how much more. But now that Ah do, Ah wanna make sure Ah know what every single twitch means."
Prowl's cheekplates heated up. "Um Jazz… speaking about someone's doorwings is a very… intimate subject." He said flustered.
"Really?" Jazz drawled turning to look at him.
They both sat in silence for a few breems. Prowl felt awkward. There had been something starting between the two for some time now. The tactician knew how he felt. He was in love with his best friend but at the same time was afraid to have such an intimate relationship during war. The thought of Jazz dying as his friend almost crushed his spark. The thought of Jazz dying as his lover nearly extinguished it. Either way he'd be in pain. Should he risk it?
"Ya know, Ah've always like ya." He said casually after a moment, bringing a finger to slide down one of the panels.
Prowl tensed for a second. Jazz was not Praxian, he didn't know how sensitive they were, even if Prowl had told him. There was a difference between knowing they were sensitive and knowing how to handle them. He was pleasantly surprised when the soft touch sent a shiver of pleasure down his spine, doorwing shivering.
"H-have you now?" Of course he had. They both knew their love for each other.
"Oh yes, Ah've always wanted ya. But you know that. Please Prowl, Ah wanna love ya, Ah wanna make ya mine especially after today." Jazz's voice wavered. "You were scheduled yer vacation time for next orn. Ah knew ya were going back ta Praxus ta visit. Ya could have been killed if ya had gone any sooner, or the attack had happened next orn. Ah was very close ta losing ya. So please, let's stop this dance we got going." He breathed leaning closer.
Prowl sighed meeting Jazz half way in a simple kiss. His doorwings sank down in bliss, the sensation he had been yearning for too much to keep them upright.
"Let meh love ya." Jazz said again.
The joors events played in Prowl's processor again. There had been so much pain and grief that all he wanted now was to be selfish and trade it all for pleasure and love. He was done with denying his love toward Jazz. His troubles about being exiled left his mind for the moment. If exile meant he could be with Jazz, then it didn't sound so bad.
"Yes." He breathed gasping as Jazz fingers ran over the circuitry in his right doorwing. The panels suddenly lifted, as if they were towering over them both.
"Oh? And what does that mean? Surprise? Shock? …." For a moment Jazz looked worried. "Pain? Am I hurting ya?"
"So which is it?"
Prowl's optics flashed, doorwings fanning out downwards again, before lunging for a shocked Jazz.
Jazz laughed as they both fell back on the berth. Oh no, Prowl did not have frozen doorwings.