Clearing the board

A resounding male tenor echoed from the speakers, contrasting perfectly with the velvety female soprano singing a mournful counterpoint. The room was pitch black, save for the odd status light from the various pieces of equipment and the optic glow of its sole occupant.

The Jazz everyone knew was a happy, energetic mech, always ready with a bright grin and a cheery 'Howzit?' He never got depressed, never had a guilty conscience or a serious regret. He knew his job and pulled it off with style, never faltering or doubting.

And as he slouched in the darkness of his room, a flask of high grade on the floor beside him, Jazz sorely wished that Autobot actually existed. He carried more hurts than most people realized, all of them neatly tucked away behind his cheerful visage, until something happened and he had to relieve the pressure before it threatened the shreds of his sanity.

The Porsche groaned and let his head fall back and hit the wall, powering down his optics and letting the music fill his mind. He was so zoned out that he never noticed he had a visitor until said visitor crouched and gave him a gentle poke in the side. "Hey, you online?"
Jazz powered up his optics just enough to confirm who it was. "Lemme alone." He grunted, hunching his shoulders and wrapping his arms around his knees.

Ratchet harrumphed and settled into a more comfortable position. "Jazz, you've been in here for two days straight and missed a check up. What's wrong?" He asked patiently.
"Nuthin'." The black and white snapped.
"Jazz." Ratchet's voice had a note of warning to it.
"Fine." Jazz knew it was impossible to lie to the mech, so he figured it'd be healthier to simply tell the truth. "I just about got slagged by someone who used t' be one o' my best buds an' I seriously got my head messed with t' boot. Now I'm wallowin' in misery. Happy?" He asked sarcastically. He reached for the flask and took a gulp from it.
Ratchet frowned and took the flask off him. "That's not gonna make it go away. Trust me, I know."
"Yeah, so?"

The medic's frown deepened. This was not normal behavior for Jazz at all. "Jazz, what's really the matter?"
Jazz remained silent for a long time, then finally let out a long sigh. "You got any regrets?" He asked.
"Piled to the stars and back." Ratchet answered. 'And most of them have a grave marker.'
"Sounds 'bout the same as me." Jazz let out a bitter laugh, fingering a small silver object attached to a fine chain. Ratchet watched him for a moment, then turned his attention to the object. With a start he recognised it as being an item of jewelry that had been quite popular with femmes near the end of the Golden Age. The end of the chain was clipped to the upper arm and wound around the arm and hand in such a way that the charm at the other end rested on the back of the hand.

"What was her name?" Ratchet asked gently, indicating the jewelry.
"Relay, a medic. Sweet lil' lady, never had a harsh word for anybody. She lived in th' dorm next t' mine at th' Academy while I was teachin'. Loved her like a sister. We all did." Jazz replied quietly.
"We?"
"Me an' a few buddies. Gave her this," Jazz held up the circular charm, "just b'fore I got transferred t' active duty. We all had one, this is mine." He fished another charm out of subspace and gave it to the medic. This one was larger and had a magnetic backing, designed to be worn like a lapel pin. Ratchet studied the intricate threads of silver wire knotted into a strange design, running his thumb over the bumps and ridges. "What happened?"
"Chief got her." Jazz growled. "Remember that whole ruckus with Prowl?"
"It's not easy to forget." Ratchet answered.
"Cheif gave it t' me when he dropped in t' visit me in th' cells. He wanted me angry, t' try an' attack him just so that when he finished me off I'd know just how much more powerful he was."

The medic's optics narrowed and he handed back the charm. "He's lucky the twins didn't know that."
"Heh, yeah." Jazz let out a weary sigh and rubbed at his visor, the corners of his mouth twitching in a wince.
"Optics still hurt?" Ratchet asked.
"Only when I'm tired."
"Are you gonna let me fix them this time?"
"Nope."

Ratchet shook his head slightly. "Jazz, how long are you going to keep punishing yourself?" He asked. "Ferric had no right to do that to you."
"Yeah he did."
"No, he didn't. As a medic he's sworn to do no harm to those put in his care. He violated that oath when he did that to you." Ratchet replied. "Now, will you let me fix your optics?"
Jazz shook his head. "Sorry Ratch, not yet. It's a restitution thing. I did bad stuff b'fore, now I gotta pay th' debt."
"What about the business with Deck?"
"Had t' prove him wrong."
"Wrong about what?"

But that was all that Ratchet would get out of the Special Operations Officer this night. Jazz remained mute, lips pressed tightly together.

Ratchet got up with a grunt, feeling his joints crack and pop from sitting for too long. "Take a hint from an old campaigner." He advised. "No matter what you do, you can't save people if they don't want to be saved. Now, you have a check up tomorrow, 0900 hours." The CMO gruffly informed Jazz. "Be there or I'll drag you in by your heels. And I'm keeping this," he shook the flask, "until you come to your senses. Drinking alone is stupid and brooding isn't your style."

Jazz snapped off a mock salute. "Yes sir, noted sir." He replied, a hint of a smile twitching around his mouth.
Ratchet gave him a look. "You and notes don't get along too well either."
"Eh, can't be perfect." Jazz shrugged. "Thanks Ratch."
"Just doing my duty, as a medic and your friend."
"It's 'preciated, trust me on that."
Ratchet's lips quirked in a smile. "I do."

Fin