I've said it before, but I have to say it again - Thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed Chameleon. The stats for this fic have reached over 3,500 hits, which to me is completely mind-blowing. Thank you all! PA
There had been several injuries sustained in battle, none serious, thank Primus.
Hoist was attending to them to the best of his skills.
Ratchet felt bad that he wasn't there to treat the wounded Autobots, but nothing short of a life or death matter would have made him leave the quarantined medbay.
Not until he was a hundred and ten percent sure that he, and none of the exposed Autobots, were no longer a risk to anyone.
"Ratchet man...any change?"
Jazz asked softly from his isolated-within-isolation space.
Ratchet knew how badly he must want to be there for his friend.
If nothing else, to just lay a hand on the tactician's shoulder and talk to him.
"Not yet Jazz," he sighed.
Neither he nor Wheeljack, or any of the rescue team, had displayed any symptoms so far.
The second vaccination was clearly working for them.
For three days Prowl's condition remained unchanged.
Optimus Prime sent search-and-destroy parties into the ocean, once they pinpointed the exact location of the Decepticon weapon.
After extensive tests and diagnostics, Ratchet relented and freed the still symptom-free Autobots.
He'd prepared a large-scale batch of antiviral agent in powder form, which had been distributed over what had been the Decepticons' desert base.
Mirage and Hound had quietly filled him in on how much Energon Prowl had left behind in the cell, and the medic was taking no chances with such a virulent strain.
He'd also produced enough of the potent vaccine to inoculate all the Autobots, as well as Elita's troops.
Prime himself had delivered the vaccine to them over the spacebridge.
The commander was full of praise for the Autobot battle/rescue team, as well as the females.
The rest of the Autobots were treating the team as heroes.
And the entire Ark's view of their second in command had gone from rock-bottom to cosmic heights.
They were all just praying they could tell him so in person.
Ratchet glanced up as Jazz slipped back into the medbay.
He'd spent most of his time next to Prowl's medbunk, usually falling into recharge right where he was.
"Still the same Jazz,"
The medic said before the Porsche could ask.
Between Jazz, Prime, Ironhide and Bluestreak, (apart from Ratchet, who had hardly set foot outside of the medbay) Prowl was never alone.
Jazz sat and looked his friend over.
Ratchet hadn't touched any of the dents or scrapes yet, pointing out that the Datsun would be in enough pain as it was, if he regained consciousness.
He'd covered his midsection and door-panels with protective flexseals however.
The last thing he wanted Prowl to have to deal with now was an infection.
His bodypaint was still an awful ash-grey, and his blank optics were almost colourless, like water.
"Prowl man, I've cleaned your quarters. I even managed to get the Energon stain off your bunk," Jazz whispered, lightly laying his hand over the tactician's.
"Don't let all that work go to waste. And Prowl...we all want to tell you how proud we are to have you as our second in command."
Ratchet had turfed Optimus Prime and Jazz out of the medbay, with dire threats that if they didn't go and get some decent rest, he'd sedate them both for a week.
He turned to the tactician, wishing there was something more he could do.
Ratchet rubbed his optics with the heels of his hands, then leaned over slightly to check Prowl's readings, placing his hand on the edge of the medbunk.
And looked down in disbelief at the slight touch.
The black and white mech had tried to take the medic's hand.
"Oh Primus! Prowl! Prowl!"
The medic rambled, beside himself with relief.
"Friends, yes, always! Primus...how do you feel?"
Ratchet asked in concern, medical instincts overriding his own excitement and relief.
"Sore...can't move," Prowl mumbled.
"Prowl, listen -you've been very, very ill, and you need to rest," Ratchet said gently.
The tactician drifted back into unconsciousness as he spoke, but hearing Prowl, conscious, had sent the medic's mood skyrocketing.
And his diagnosis.
Within seconds the entire Ark knew that the second in command had briefly regained awareness.
"About slagging time!" was how Sunstreaker indelicately summed up their relief.
"Prime, this is an excellent sign," the medic said to the commander softly, later that night.
Jazz had taken up his usual spot next to the medbunk, but was also listening to Ratchet.
"Prowl's still in a bad way. His system was terribly weakened by the virus, and the total Energon transfusion, plus the second virus. It's trying hard to regulate the new Energon and get it cycling properly. It's like trying to pour water through a paper tunnel at the moment though. He still bleeds a little. But I think he's going to pull through,"
"Thanks to you Ratchet," Optimus Prime said warmly.
"It was far from a solo effort Prime."
Commander and medic turned at the saboteur's soft word.
Prowl whispered, stirring slightly.
"We're here man," Jazz assured him, hand on shoulder as Prime gently took his arm.
The tactician's optics had regained just a hint of blue, and the ash-grey of his bodypaint was starting to fade.
Optimus Prime cleared his vocalizer.
"Prowl, I want a word with you. What you did was dangerous, stupid and reckless...and one of the most courageous things I've ever witnessed. I'm so proud of you."
"Sorry Optimus," Prowl mumbled, and they laughed gently.
Jazz couldn't resist any longer.
He leaned over and gave the Datsun a careful hug.
"Some bonds never break man," Jazz whispered in his audio.
Prowl struggled to return the gentle hug, but could only get as far as raising his wrists.
"Prowl, how about some Energon? It'll do you a world of good," Ratchet urged.
"I promise...I won't...spit it at you Jazz," Prowl whispered with an effort.
"Deal man," Jazz grinned.
The saboteur gently spooned in a little of the warm Energon, all Prowl could manage before drifting into unconsciousness again.
Once Prowl regained full consciousness, his recovery progressed fairly quickly.
"Prowl, can you manage some more Energon?" Ratchet asked.
Jazz and Optimus Prime had called in for a quick visit, and the saboteur took the pink liquid sustenance.
"No spoon," the tactician warned, but he was still weak and shaky.
Jazz cupped the Energon and Prowl's hands in his own in transit, and helped him swallow a little of the warm pink stuff.
"It hurts, doesn't it man," Jazz asked gently.
"No wonder, bringing up all that cycled Energon. Once it's in your system it turns alkaline. It's a lot different to just having an upset and vomiting Energon that's not yet converted,"
"Thanks for that visual Ratchet," Jazz groaned.
"How're you feeling Prowl?" Prime asked.
"I still feel...strained. Sore," Prowl said.
"Well, you were a little sick,"
"You chucked up royally, several times," Jazz filled in with a grin.
"I see," Prowl said lightly, embarrassed, "Well, I'm sorry about that-"
"Prowl for Primus' sake, don't worry about it," Ratchet interrupted, slightly exasperated.
"I don't remember," Prowl added quietly.
"'Raj and Hound had something of a struggle with you buddy; you kept ordering them to leave you and get out of there..."
Jazz looked at him.
"Man, did you really think we were just going to leave you in there to bleed to death?" he asked softly.
Prowl looked away.
"You all took a great risk with the virus…especially you Jazz,"
He added in a whisper.
"And you didn't?"
Prowl gazed at his hands.
"I didn't even realize it was Hound and Mirage who retrieved me, until you just said Jazz,"
"The first thing you managed to tell them was about the weapon in the ocean,"
"I owe them my life...I owe all of you my life," Prowl said softly.
"Prowl...we owe you ours, too. If you hadn't unleashed that virus on yourself, we'd none of us be here," Optimus Prime said seriously.
Prowl shifted uncomfortably at that.
He gingerly touched his midsection, cleaned, treated and covered with thick, protective flexseals.
But still sore.
"Prowl man, which of them did this to you?" Jazz asked in a low tone, laying a gentle hand on the flexseals.
Prowl caught the glint in his visor, and knew the names he gave would equal a big neon target to the saboteur, next time they met in battle.
He glanced away.
"They were acting under orders Jazz-"
"Prowl, tell me, right now,"
Jazz said quietly, the restrained anger in his vocalizer plain.
"Ramjet and Astrotrain. Mostly Astrotrain."
"And that slagging cat of Soundwave's," Ratchet added hotly, gently prodding a painful door-panel to be sure there was still no bleeding.
The Datsun's bodypaint was slowly regaining its original colour, as were his optics, but Prowl was still very weak and sore.
He also felt a little odd without his roof light, and windshield.
They all glanced up a tap on the medbay door.
"Prowl!" Bluestreak gave him an audio-to-audio grin as he rushed in.
"I'm so glad you're ok,"
The silver Datsun leaned over and hugged the tactician gently.
Prowl was able to reciprocate.
"Bluestreak, I'm so sorry for what I said to you that night in my quarters-"
"Forget it! I know you didn't mean it,"
"No, I definitely didn't," Prowl confirmed, "I didn't mean any-"
"We know Prowl," another voice cut in, and the Ark's resident engineer strolled in.
He carried a bulky Something through the medbay.
Wheeljack sat it at the end of the medbunk, a friendly sparkle in his optics.
"One operational energy collector Prowl, thanks to your equations,"
Words failed Prowl then.
The tactician made an effort to raise his arm, and Wheeljack gave him a warm handshake.
"Jazz, no one will let me apologize," Prowl complained with consternation.
The tactician was up and about, still sporting flexseals however, and dragged back into the medbay every day for a check-up.
"Why do you need to apologize man? We all know now what was going on," Jazz grinned as they wandered into the aforementioned medical area.
"I just want to."
The Datsun peeled off his midsection flexseal.
Ratchet's way of doing it -with care and consideration- took up valuable time that the tactician thought he could better spend elsewhere.
Like on the duties he'd "shirked" for so long.
"Do you two have to do everything together?" Ratchet teased with a grin as they entered, gesturing to their twin damaged midsections.
Jazz's, half regenerated, Prowl's beginning to.
The medic was in the middle of a follow-up run through with Elita-One, concerning the inoculations.
"Prowl, how are you?" the female commander asked.
"I'm fine Elita, thank you for your concern,"
"He's not "fine" yet Elita," Jazz corrected.
"Try keeping that one down, he's got the constitution of a slime-devil," Ratchet snorted.
The attractive female laughed gently.
"I think that's a compliment Prowl."
"Elita, I still can't believe he did it," Optimus Prime confided in his quarters, seated in front of his comm console.
"You've got many fine Autobots Optimus," she said quietly, "Ones who are obviously willing to give their lives for you and their comrades,"
"I know it Elita," Prime said softly, "And I hope I never see it happen again."
"Jazz, come in," Prowl invited warmly, and stepped back to let the saboteur enter his quarters.
He'd managed to personally apologize, individually, to every Autobot in the Ark.
Even to those childish mechs who'd covered their audios and hummed, refusing to listen.
Like the Porsche.
Jazz glanced around Prowl's neat, orderly quarters and grinned.
"What are you smiling at Jazz?" the tactician asked.
"Normalcy," the saboteur said, "And happy to have the old Prowl back."
"I'm glad to be back Jazz," Prowl said frankly.
Jazz watched him settle at the foot of his bunk.
His old spot for watching TV with the saboteur.
Jazz bounced up on the bunk next to him, filled with what he identified as pure happiness.
He faced the Datsun, noting the good job Hoist had done replacing his windshield and roof light.
Jazz needed to tell him something.
He'd been hanging onto it since the moment Prowl had arrived in the medbay, pouring Energon.
"Prowl man...I really thought you were gone this time," Jazz told him quietly.
"You were in such a bad way,"
Prowl glanced at him, then looked away.
"Jazz...I was gone. I was gone the moment I activated the virus in the Decepticon base, and I knew it. I...I lost awareness not long after that,"
Jazz listened silently.
"When I briefly regained consciousness, here, in the Ark medbay, I thought I was still in that cell. All I wanted was to speak to one of you again. Anybody. That's why I reached out to Ratchet, even though I knew he couldn't really be there,"
Prowl looked at Jazz.
The tactician's optics still weren't quite back to their normal sapphire shade.
"But we were man," Jazz said softly.
"The last thing I remember clearly is thinking how badly I'd failed the mission," Prowl told him seriously, "And I did."
"Oh man, trust you Prowl!" Jazz exclaimed, "You saved all our afts and you sit there and tell me you "failed the mission"! I'll kick your skidplate if you say it again!"
The Datsun smiled slightly.
"One more thing," Jazz said.
The saboteur reached into a subspace pocket and re-placed the red insignia on the white chest.
"Welcome back Prowl man. We missed you."