A/N- Last chapter! Bit dark, this one.
Ironhide stood next to Optimus, watching Jazz and Barricade on the monitors. Jazz was standing inside the cell, speaking soothingly to an agitated Barricade.
"Do you think he's actually getting through?" Ironhide asked quietly.
Optimus sighed. "I don't know, Ironhide. I can only hope. If anyone can bring Prowl back, it would be Jazz." He hesitated. "But…"
"But we can't be sure there's anything left to be brought back," Ironhide finished for him.
Optimus turned back to the screen. "No, we can't," he said heavily.
"They don't blame you for what happened, Prowl," Jazz told him quietly.
The interceptor shot him a look.
"And you shouldn't blame yourself, either. What happened to Bluestreak was not your fault."
"And everything I've done since then?" He faced Jazz. "Do you have any concept of how many I've killed? Do you have the slightest idea of the things I've done?" Barricade ground out. "Take your misplaced optimism elsewhere, Autobot."
"The very fact you feel remorse over their deaths is what keeps me here, Prowl. If you were the monster you say, you wouldn't have been torturing yourself all these years," Jazz continued, implacable.
"You're an idiot." Barricade resumed pacing.
"You're a stubborn jackass," Jazz shot back. "We've forgiven you already. You just have to forgive your-"
Barricade whirled on him, snarling. "You just don't get it! I don't want your forgiveness, and I don't need your help!" Jazz took a step back, startled by the vehemence in Barricade's voice. "This isn't some romantic story of redemption, Jazz! You can't just fix this," Barricade growled, stalking forward. "You can't make it go away. Nothing can. Just give it up."
Jazz looked directly into Barricade's optics. "I can't fix everything, but I can make it better. It's not your fault-"
"Would you stop saying that?"
"No. I'm going to keep saying it until you listen, Prowl."
"My name isBarricade."
"Your name is Prowl," Jazz said calmly. "And you're my oldest and closest friend."
Barricade glared, fists clenching. "You just don't get it," he said tiredly.
"Then tell me."
"I've killed a lot of people, Jazz. No mercy, no remorse. I hunted them down and murdered them. And I enjoyed it. I'm a monster. I should be locked away in a hole much deeper and darker than this one, for the sake of everyone."
Jazz stepped close, laying his hand on Barricades chest. "No. Everyone deserves a second chance, even you. Especially you."
"Dear, faithful Jazz," Barricade murmured, touching Jazz's face with the back of a claw. "You never give up, do you? You were right, you know, about why I ran. At least at first. But now, I find I kinda like the way it feels," Barricade continued, his voice going dreamy. "The feel of hot energon, and a fuel pump stuttering to a stop… it's the greatest rush."
"You-" Jazz broke off with a pained noise as Barricade's claws sank into his side.
Barricade smiled as armor plating buckled under his claws, lubricant and energon mixing and spilling over his hand. Jazz's optics were wide and shocked behind his visor.
"You just won't listen, will you? I told you, Jazz, I'm a monster." His claws clenched, cutting through delicate wiring and drawing a pained mewl from Jazz. "I see you and wonder how you would look broken on the floor."
"Scream for me, Jazz," Barricade hissed.
Belatedly, Jazz tried to fight back. But Barricade had his hand twisted deep into Jazz's side, sending shockwaves of pain through his processor. Desperately, he tried to shove Barricade back, to no avail. Barricade shoved his hand in deeper, and Jazz's vision flickered.
Ironhide tore Barricade away from Jazz, flinging him into the far wall. He and Optimus had rushed to the detention area as soon as they realized what was happening. Optimus caught his lieutenant as he staggered back.
Lunging to his feet, Barricade slashed at Ironhide, claws scoring the weapon specialist's armored forearms. Ironhide's fist caught Barricade in the face, sending him reeling back. A second punch knocked Barricade to the floor, and a third made sure the interceptor was staying down.
"There wasn't anything you could do," Optimus told Jazz later. "Maybe if we'd been able to get to him earlier, there would have something left to save."
Jazz didn't reply for a long moment, watching Ratchet work on the unconscious Barricade, a pained expression on the medic's face. On the next table, a stasis box was waiting.
Optimus Prime had judged Barricade too dangerous for even the limited freedom of a holding cell. His personality component and memory would be removed and placed in stasis. Ratchet was hopeful that with more study they might someday find a way to reverse the damage of Shockwave's virus, but until then, Barricade would be locked away where he couldn't hurt anyone.
"Maybe it's better this way," Jazz said finally. "I think there was just enough left of Prowl for him to hate what he had become. At least this way he doesn't have to live with it." He sighed. "Small comfort."
Optimus laid a hand on Jazz's shoulder. "Never give up hope, Jazz. We'll find a way to beat this. Someday."
"Yeah," Jazz whispered. "Someday."