Disclaimer: I do not own Transformers. All recognizable characters are the property of HasTak. All unrecognizable ones are the intellectual property of yours truly; their theft is punishable by severe voodoo-induced pain in any and all sensitive organs of the body, followed by eternal damnation.
Because, you know, stealing is wrong.
Summary: G1/Jux compliant. Requiem sequel. Prowl doubted that his desired image of Respected Superior Officer came across very well with a half-scrapped mech clinging to his hand, but he loomed as best as he was able and glared.
Warnings: mentions of mech torture
Author Notes: Just one more chapter after this one… hopefully. They have a worrisome tendency to breed when I hit the three-quarters mark. :S
Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection: the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.
A Grief Observed, C. S. Lewis
:Sawtooth to Prowl. Uh, sir?:
:You… you might want to come down to the rec deck, sir. The sparring rooms.:
:And why is that?:
:It's the new guy, sir. He's… well, you're just… you're going to want to see this, sir.:
:… I'm on my way.:
Ratchet, Prowl thought, is going to blow a gasket.
The crowd of mechs encircling one of the sparring arenas stood still and silent, dozens of blue optics locked intently upon the unpainted, half-armored mech who was dodging and darting and bending and twisting, moving like a flicker of wind around the ungainly form of the sparring drone. The drone's arms lashed through the air repeatedly, grasping for its prey, but each movement was a mere second too late. It was less of a fight and more of an acrobatic exercise, really, but that made it no less impressive, especially when one took into account the unseeing paleness of the mech's optics.
The orange form of Sawtooth stood across the circle from where Prowl stood. He opened a comm channel.
:How long has this been going on?:
:From what I hear, he's been in here since last shift change. This… er, exercise, though… Just a breem or two.:
Prowl stepped forward, pressing through an open space in the crowd. As the mechs noticed his presence, they opened a path for him, the shuffle of their movements disturbing the odd near-silence, and if Prowl had not been watching so closely, he might have missed the faint hitch in Jazz's movements, the helm turning blindly toward him.
The drone struck.
Navigation was manageable. He tracked his energy signature through the ship sensors and kept one hand on the wall. He could go anywhere he liked. Sure, there was always the question of how long it would take him to find the keypad for a door or how much energon would wind up on the floor rather than in his conversion tanks, but those were bearable as far as difficulties went.
But this… vulnerability…
It ate away at him like a rust infection. He was a trained academy mech. He knew battle. He knew how to fight, but he had been trained as a seeing mech, which was fair useless knowledge for one who could no longer see. His original training no longer suited his purposes; he would simply have to retrain.
The confrontation in the hallway had hardened his resolve.
It was not a matter of sight or blindness. It was not a matter of being handicapped. He had lost one tool; he would find others to replace it.
No mech walked silently. Their feet clanged upon metal floor-plates. Servos groaned. Engines growled. Energy hummed. The walls of the ship practically sang with the energy passing through them. Even energon had its own unique keen.
The movement of air was his new ally, betraying movement that he could no longer see. He could smell things now that he had never before noticed: the musk of oil and energon and coolant whenever another mech was nearby, the acrid tang of liquid energon in the recreation room.
He ducked away from the whine of the sparring drone's servos, feeling the ripple of displaced air as something passed over head, then stepped to his left as he heard it advance on ungainly legs. The thrum of mechs' systems came from all around, but he pushed it out of his mind.
Another groan of servos. He dodged and spun back to face his opponent, then dropped into a crouch as the air rippled once more. Side-step. Duck. Turn, step, lean. Movements in a dance, choreographed to music that only he could hear.
His spark surged unexpectedly.
He faltered, the tempo lost. Metal crashed against the side of his helm, sending error messages scrolling through his CPU even as he staggered back and dropped to one knee. Cries came from all around, worrysurpriseconcernfear, but he focused upon the whine of the approaching drone, gathering himself to rise—
"Cancel sparring protocols. Initiate shutdown. Jazz, are you injured?"
Jazz had not even heard the other mech approach, but Prowl was there, close enough that the sensitive metal of his hands and faceplate could pick up the faintest of heat signatures. A hand clasped his arm, pulling him to his feet and supporting him while the deck of the ship did a lazy spin beneath him before steadying.
"'m fine," he replied, shaking his head as though it would help his processor clear out the error reports.
"Do you need to see Ratchet?"
"Huh? Primus, no. I'm fine." He explored the side of his helm with his fingers. "Not even a dent. I had it on th' lowest settin', after all."
"If you're sure…" Prowl's voice had never wavered from its usual flat tone, but to Jazz, he sounded faintly uncertain.
Is he… worried?
"I'm alright," he insisted. A change of subject seemed to be in order. "What're you doin' down here anyway? You never come t' th' rec rooms."
"I do occasionally use the firing range."
"… there's a firing range?"
That seemed to be the cue for the gathered mechs to disperse. Jazz flinched at the sudden racket of groans and hisses and rumbles and the clanging of metal feet on metal floor, and he toned down the sensitivity of his aural receptors, remembering Ratchet's earlier warning.
"Nevermind," he muttered. "Dumb question."
"Hardly. Yes, there is a firing range."
An inquiring ping tapped at his communication sensors, and after a moment's hesitation, he opened an uplink channel. A three-dimensional map of the ship spread out before him, and the other presence in the uplink nudged his attention to one of the levels, placing a red marker in one of the rooms.
:We are here.:
Another marker appeared, a single room removed from the other.
:The firing range.:
And with that, the uplink cut off, leaving Jazz to close out the file on his own.
"Er, thanks," he said at last.
"Come with me."
Perhaps the other mech had not been aware of it, but they were anything but alone. Even though the mechs from earlier had moved away, many still loitered nearby, seemingly entranced by the sight of Prowl conversing with the blind mech. As someone who handled sensitive information as a matter of course, the lack of privacy grated on him.
He led the way back to the hallway and toward the lifts. Logically, the only private areas to be had were either his office or the living quarters. The latter was closer.
He was peripherally aware of the silence of the mech following him. It was not a normal silence. It seemed to grow heavier as time passed, thick enough to clog his intakes during the ride in the lift. Jazz's posture had lost the loose, easy movement he had witnessed in the training room; he seemed smaller now, as though he had drawn all of himself inward.
… which was illogical, barring some revolutionary new use of subspace technology, but he would have heard about something like that, surely, and why would it be put to such a strange use in any case…?
The train of thought distracted him, so it took a second for it to register that Jazz had stopped walking.
Prowl stopped as well, turning back with a querying expression even though it would be lost on the other anyway.
"Ya never answered me. What're you doin' down here?" Jazz asked brusquely. Then he drew back, chin tucked, as though regretting speaking.
"One of your watchers called me," replied Prowl. The sensor map of the ship indicated no other mechs within listening range – acceptable. "Though I will admit I was looking for you anyway."
Prowl wondered at the sudden use of the honorific. "Ratchet and Wheeljack have a prototype optical replacement. I don't remember the technical jargon, but they are trying to reroute optical signals through alternate sensory nodes. They're in the final testing stages. It should be ready within an orn."
The other mech's systems revved quietly. "Okay. Is that all?"
"No." Prowl peered at the half-repaired mech, examining his body language, his expression. "We send sitrep updates to the Hub on a regular basis. It's a bundle transmission: supply requests, mission updates, sensor-net queries, personal communications from the crew… In any case, I sent a request to an acquaintance of mine. He found a copy of Metronome's works, including Requiem for the Lost."
Jazz's posture was abruptly a muddle of conflicting signals: head up and turned toward Prowl in interest and surprise, mouth tensely shut, engine revving with some unknown emotion, shoulders hunched… Prowl could not read it with any degree of accuracy.
He retrieved the datachip from subspace. Walking back to the other mech and reaching out, he grasped Jazz's hand and turned it palm-up, placing the chip into it and curling unresisting fingers back around it.
"There's a dataport in any computer console that will accept that," he said.
"… thank you."
"You are welcome." He was tempted to say something more (Is there anything else you need? or You know how to contact me.), but he nodded once, released Jazz's hand, and turned back the way they had come. The errand was finished, and reports were waiting.
Prowl jerked to a halt as though he had run to the end of a tether. He looked back. Jazz's mouth worked silently for a moment, then…
"W-will you… listen to it with me?"
Logic processors sped along various routes of deduction, seeking out whys that simply were not to be found, but Prowl found himself turning back toward the other mech.
"Where are we?"
The ship map showed it as one of the rooms in the residential section, but surely the stoic mech had not led them to—
… well. Even resting his hand against the wall just inside the now-closed door seemed like an invasion of privacy, regardless of the fact that he could see nothing of his surroundings. "Why?"
"It is the logical choice. You are currently assigned quarters with Hound, are you not? This is his scheduled off-time. He is most likely recharging right now."
"You're really big into th' logic thing, huh?"
A short pause. The datachip seemed to burn in his grip, defying his attempt to direct his thoughts elsewhere. The melody still lurked within his processor, an almost constant presence, and the prospect of hearing it out-loud was terrifying for reasons he could not name.
"It is my primary function," said Prowl at last. "It is what I was created to do."
"Gotta' be borin' after awhile though. Seein' all black an' white? 'Course, I ain't one t' talk," he added as an afterthought, thinking of his own paintjob.
"I am black and white," Prowl said, and if he had not known better, Jazz would have thought the other mech sounded wryly amused.
"Huh," was all he could think of as a reply.
"Wha…? Oh. Yeah. Here." It was an effort to unclench his fingers from around the small fleck of metal. He did not even feel Prowl's fingers, just a faint swirl of air and the sudden absence of that tiny weight. "Got good speakers in here?"
"They are adequate."
A whine of servos, footsteps moving away –Prowl was by far the most quiet of any of the mechs he had met so far.— and soft sounds of metal-upon-metal, clicks and scrapes. The buzz of a viewscreen activating. A thrum from silent but active speakers.
And then… music.
Something within his very spark shivered.
It was the original arrangement, instruments and wordless vocals blending in the quiet, simplistic melody that began just as he remembered, and his frame relaxed as the sound wove around him, but then the song within his mind and the song coming from without no longer matched, and the music was not passively surrounding him anymore but pressing down on him, smothering him.
He felt himself begin to shake.
A shudder wracked the injured mech's frame, then another. His systems revved and surged unsteadily, but his expression remained blank as the sweeping trails of music filled the small room. Prowl watched, uncertain, then stiffened as Jazz… laughed.
It was an ugly sound, dark and sharp-edged and unlike anything Prowl had heard before.
The laugh grew louder. The deck plating shuddered as the blind mech dropped to his knees, and then it was not merely a laugh, because the sensors along Prowl's hands and face tingled unpleasantly with the ultrasonic keen of Cybertronian grief. The laugh faded away slowly, until there was only the keening.
Prowl dared to take a step nearer. He tried again. "Jazz?"
The blind mech shook his head, systems chuttering and revving, and those too-pale optics turned toward Prowl, the mouth beneath them twisted in something that was not a smile and not a grimace.
"That's… that's not…" Jazz's vocalizer fritzed, fading to static, and he shook his head again, rubbing at his faceplate with one trembling hand.
Prowl wavered. His logic processors insisted that he call Ratchet, but that other something that had been playing havoc with his thoughts these past few orns stated firmly that something else was needed.
He reached out, placing one hand upon the back of the other's neck, ready to back off at any sign that the touch was unwanted. There was no reaction, unfavorable or otherwise.
I don't understand this.
He lay his other hand atop one trembling shoulder, feeling surprise and something else he had no ready name for when the other pressed into the touch.
"I don't understand what's wrong," he said. "Are you in pain?"
Jazz shook his head wordlessly, slumping further until he was practically leaning against Prowl's legs. The tactician could feel the tremors from the lighter body all the way to the tips of his sensory panels, and he tightened his grip upon the back of the other's neck, one of very few sensitive areas to be found upon a Cybertronian's armored frame. It was a vulnerable place, one not touched in casual contact except between those who trusted each other, such as gestalt mates.
His logic processors were going to burn out at this rate.
It was only a whisper, so quiet that Prowl could barely hear.
"… that's not how I remember it at all…"
End Part Three