How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
The first time Jazz and Prowl say those three little words to each other. Everyone's written at least one version. I have simply smooshed a few of mine together into one giant, fluff-freakin-tastic stream of parallel universes!
I hope tis not too confusing to read. Just remember: events are non-sequential, non-same-universe-y. (Real word? Is now.) Warnings for occasional gropage (as my smut fairy has left me high and dry, damn her). Enjoy!
Prowl didn't look up from his data pad as he heard his door chime, simply ordered, "Enter."
He did look up, however, upon hearing the familiar footsteps of his berth partner rather than the expected ones of Wheeljack.
"Jazz," he said evenly, spark clenching in his chest. "I'm expecting someone, can this wait?"
Jazz looked furious, optics narrowing and guard ridges furrowing. "No, this can't wait, cuz I'm leavin' fer th' moon base tomorrow morning!"
Prowl shuttered his optics tightly, unable to withhold the pain the statement brought him. "I am still fully aware of your itinerary. Now, just what is the purpose of your visit?"
"My visit?! I wanna know why you've been avoidin' me!"
"I haven't been avoiding you! I've been … helping you to avoid me."
"Why would I wanna do that?"
"Because… you don't… want us to be together anymore…?"
The light dawned. Sweet Primus, he was so insecure. "Is that what you been thinking?" He came around the desk. "Prowl, we had an argument. Bots have 'em all the time! Lookit Chromia 'n Hide -- they love each other an' they fight all the fraggin' time!"
"Are you saying that you love me?"
"Don't change the subject."
"I'm not changing the subject!" His voice betrayed more emotion than was usual. Jazz sighed through his vents and crouched next to his chair, his hands on his lover's knees.
"Don't ya know how I feel?" he said softly, looking up into his worried face. "Ain't it obvious?"
"I … I don't know. I don't really trust my observational skills in this matter."
He smiled, understanding. "I'm sorry, Prowl. It's just… it's like you've always known me better 'n I knew myself." Black hand interlaced with white. "I c'n be pretty thick-plated about these li'l things. I just thought ya un'erstood how much I love ya."
His lips curled into a small, sweet smile -- a true rarity. "You do."
Jazz smirked. "Yes, I do. An' I wanna spend my last night on the station with you, y' hear?"
"I have no objections to that."
"Mmm, you might. I'll see you …"
"… in the last holdin' cell on th' right. The panel is half welded shut, but it'll be there. Be careful," Jazz whispered in parting to his two companions, once again cursing his broken comm. "I'm gonna go disable the energy field."
"You sure the codes are still accurate?"
Jazz smirked. "You ever known Prowl to deviate?"
Bluestreak snorted. "You're his berth-mate, you tell me!"
Jazz gave the cheeky little gunner a good whack upside the head for his snark. Still, it was with affection in his voice that he said, "Get movin', ingrates!"
They swiftly began moving down the row of empty cells, swaying slightly with the rocking movements explosions caused throughout the Ark. Jazz moved in the opposite direction, back towards the control panel, with a small smile on his faceplates. As big of a stick-in-the-slag Prowl could be, he was glad his mate had opted to keep that torn-away panel in the back cell at least partially unrepared, which had been the work of a certain little saboteur not pleased at being confined to the brig by Prime just for interfacing too loudly. (If he wanted a good orn's recharge, he could change the sleeping arrangements! He was Prime, for frag's sake!)
Hearing two short clangs from within the brig, Jazz deactivated the energy fields leading into the cell – the codes to which worked perfectly, to no bot's surprise – long enough to let Bluestreak and Bumblebee slip inside before slamming them down again. Then, knowing the alert the blip on the energy scans would cause, beat a hasty retreat before any 'Cons showed.
He ducked and weaved through the Ark corridors in a feat of grace that truly showed his skills as a saboteur. He made it to the cargo bay without spotting a single spark, 'Bot or 'Con.
Someone spotted him, though.
He slipped silently into the bay and was just about to reclose and lock the heavy door behind him when a hand suddenly grabbed him roughly by the shoulder. He almost cried out but the hand clamped over his mouth.
"Shh! It's only me."
"Prowler! Primus, y' scared me." He turned and pushed his mate into the shadows. They kissed each other hungrily for a few moments. It was all they usually got. "I thought you was dealin' with the Seekers."
"That was nearly a joor ago, Jazz," the tactician murmured into his audials, fingering a favorite seam.
"Really?" Jazz breathed, trying to sound nonchalant but failing as the searching fingers of his mate found the sensory node they were looking for. "Time sure flies when ya got a broken comm. Though it sure has been a re – ah! Quit playin' dirty, or I'm goin' fer th' doorwings! – sure's been a relief not to have ta listen to all yer battle-gab. You really chat a mech's audials off, y'know?"
"Mm." He stroked the seam one last time, touch butterfly-light, before holding his mate out at arm's length and giving him a once over. "How are you?"
Jazz huffed, rolling his optics behind his visor. "Not much of a laugher, are ya?"
"Why should I be when you do it so frequently for me?" came the dry response. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine," Jazz sighed. "I'm just so tired."
"You just need a good recharge," Prowl comforted, running soothing fingertips over the saboteur's face. "A good recharge, after this is all over and I interface the slag out of you."
"I'm already slagged out, Prowl," Jazz said humorlessly, not even able to give a wane smile at his dear mate's half-serious joke. "I'm tired of this, all of this. Tired of the 'Cons, tired of the fighting, tired of failed missions, tired of all the near-misses, tired of seeing you for half a breem once a deca-orn, tired of this whole fraggin' war!"
Prowl didn't respond at first, just held the smaller mech all the closer to his chassis.
"We'll get through it, Jazz," he said at last, voice strong, certain, almost threatening. "We'll get through it… no matter how much interfacing it takes."
At this Jazz couldn't help but let out a snort of laughter. "Nice how ya got yer priorities straight: feel me up first, then check my well-bein'." He craned his neck up to kiss those sweet lip plates again. "Just another reminder of why I love ya."
Prowl suddenly sighed and leaned against the wall, as if struck weary. Jazz's spark squeezed in brief panic.
"Prowl, what is it?"
"Nothing." Softly, almost a gasp. "It's just… you've never said that before."
Jazz's optic guards knitted together. "I must have."
"No. Trust me, you haven't."
Jazz looked stricken. "Prowler, I'm sorry! Primus, if I had known that you …"
"… were unconscious for three full orns, you slagger," Ratchet growled down at him, voice harsh but face betraying the absolute sense of panic all had been feeling.
"Sorry," Jazz said with an unrepentant grin. "I was gonna get up an orn ago, but I needed the recharge."
That was untrue, of course. In the few brief times he had floated out of stasis, he could not have pulled himself completely out if he wanted to. He could only hover on the brink of coming on-line, able to hear or see nothing but garbled voices and foggy shapes. What he felt was even worse, enough to send him straight back into his comatose state. That had been quite a hit he'd sustained in their most recent battle against the Decepticons.
"Jazz, this is no laughing matter."
The saboteur turned at the somber tone of his voice, an uneasy feeling growing in his tanks at the total absence of the now serious CMO's gruff demeanor.
"Come on, Ratch," he said with false lightness. He could not shake that apprehensive churning within him. "I've had worse injuries 'n whatever I got this time. An' Prowl got hit with the same blast as me, but I'm sure he's already up an' at 'em."
"Jazz…" Ratchet's vocalizor broke off with static. He was unable to finish his sentence, but he didn't have to.
A cold sensation swept through Jazz's chassis, leaving him numb and hollow. He leapt from his med berth and wove through the rows of fellow injured and recovering mechs to the back of the med bay, barely even hearing Ratchet calling after him and telling him to lie back down, barely even feeling the pain as his partially-healed wounds reopened. But he couldn't stop – he didn't even know how he got going. His movements were not his own. It was as if he were floating somewhere above, watching someone else control his body.
He reached the solitary berth against the back wall. A thin, silvery thermal blanket concealed its occupant. Before Ratchet could reach him and prevent him from doing so, Jazz reached out with one shaking hand, grasped the sheet in his fingers, and pulled it away.
The little saboteur knew what he would find beneath, but his spark still clenched in agony at the sight of Prowl's lifeless chassis. He fixed his optics on those of the tactician's, knowing they would forever more remain dark yet wishing with all his spark they would brighten again and look at him if only to narrow in that familiar look of annoyance. He wanted to hear his voice again, even if it was telling him to frag off – in so many words – as Prowl was wont to do. He wanted just one more breem with his dear friend, one brief moment to tell him what he'd been meaning to say for vorns.
Optic suddenly stinging with coolant, Jazz grasped Prowl's cold, lifeless hand in his own. Even though he knew he went unheard, he whispered through a static-choked vocal processor, "I love you."
The tears of coolant could not be stemmed. Air was being drawn through intakes in great, raking sobs. Jazz fell to his knees, still clutching onto Prowl's hand with what little strength he had, chanting the words over and over again, wishing desperately they were heard.
"I love you, I love you, I …"
"… despise you Pit-spawned little glitches with every alloy of my being!"
Rare were the instances when Prowl lost control of his temper, so his spectacular display of fury stood testament to just how far the Twins had crossed that every-blurry line.
"When I get my hands on you, Ratchet won't even have enough scrap metal to make a toaster!"
Jazz, being on the safe side of the explosion (if there were such a thing), was finding the whole event rather hilarious. He was sprawled out on the floor, laughing his aft off at the sight of his friend chasing the Lamborghinis around the rec room. Prowl was, however, not as interested in demolishing the Twins as he so shouted but instead on the small object they were tossing back and forth to one another in an attempt to keep such from happening.
The melee brothers had walked in on their second and third in command in a rather compromising position – one where the former had the later bent backwards over a table and was running his glossa over his transformation seams – and were able to capture the moment with a little disposable camera that, through some brilliant stroke of luck, Sideswipe had in a subspace pocket. As Prowl and Jazz had been rather distracted, the Twins were able to take three good shots before Jazz spotted them and began making lewd faces at them. This had, of course, alerted Prowl and all Pit broke loose.
"I am going to personally rip off your interface cables and hang them up as decoration!"
Prowl, his newest threat still ringing on the air, took a lunging dive at Sunstreaker, who had just made a spectacular catch of the camera, taken a daring snapshot of the snarling tactician, and shot off toward the door. Jazz cheered him on with his escape between fits of laughter.
"Run, Sunny, run!"
Sideswipe was not far behind his brother, letting out an exuberant laugh of his own as Prowl stumbled over a chair and they were able to slip into the corridor with their interface cables still attached. He even had the ball bearings to stick out his glossa over his shoulder at their fuming SIC as he ran away for all he was worth.
By the time Prowl disengaged himself from the furniture, they were gone. He calculated the odds of catching up to the impish brothers before they had a chance to print and distribute the incriminating photographs -- fortunately, of the many fuses he'd blown his battle computer had not been one of them – and found the odds not worth a foot pursuit. And even if he did manage to catch up with them, he thought with a sour look to his still-chortling friend-turned-lover, he had a niggling suspicion the pictures would still somehow find their way to the light of day.
"Is there any particular reason," Prowl began, voice even but still rather icy and menacing, "that you found the attestation of our insubordination so funny?"
"'Insubordination'?" Jazz repeated, sobering slightly. "Is that what we're callin' you jumpin' me in the middle o' the rec room for Primus an' everyone to see?"
"In case you failed to notice, there is no one else here," Prowl said defensively, then scowled. "Or there was no one here." He collapsed onto a nearby couch, wondering just when it was he'd lost his CPU. Jazz must have been wondering the same thing.
"What made ya do it?"
Prowl sighed. "It would seem my self control has been weakened by attempting to hold it back all these vorns for decorum's sake."
"Hold what back?"
"My attraction to you."
Jazz nearly choked on the bluntness of his statement. His what?
"Well, tha's convenient," he said, rising to walk over to his long-time friend and sit beside him.
"How so?" Prowl turned, a questioning look on his face plates. Jazz shrugged.
"I love you."
Prowl turned away again, staring straight ahead with a blank look. They sat in silence like that for a while, Prowl staring ahead and Jazz staring at Prowl. Then, quite suddenly, the somber tactician stood and began heading for the door.
"Yo, where you goin'?" Jazz cried in disappointment. He'd been hoping to pick up where Sunny and Sides had forced them to leave off.
"My quarters," came the simply reply. "And if you have any sense at all, you will follow."
Well, Jazz was no dummy.
"Yessir!" He gave a mock salute, to which Prowl gave a small frown.
"I cannot fathom what Prime will have to say about this," he confided. "It is not a wise move to have two commanding officers attached and therefo—"
He stopped short as they exited the rec room and walked smack dab into what looked like half the base. It didn't take either mech long to notice the small (to their comparison – they must have been rather large to the humans) squares of paper in many of their hands. It took even less time to figure out what must have been upon them.
"Sides works fast," Jazz said over a private comm link to Prowl, who only grunted in response. "That was only what, five breems, tops?"
"Does no one have work to do?" Prowl asked coolly, pushing his way through the lewdly smirking mechs, ignoring the hoots and whistles that followed him. Jazz grinned and followed after his now lover, trotting to keep…
… up with his much more experienced moves. It begged the question as to just how many times he had done this before. Once again, Prowl felt a little stab of inadequacy.
He shifted slightly, trying to get a better hold of his partner. Jazz was having none of it, though, and gripped his upper leg with a force that was almost painful.
"I don' think so," he hissed into his audials. "Yer mine tonight, Prowler."
"You think so?" he gasped, pressing a firm hand into the middle of the chest of the mech looming over him. He swung a leg over the smaller mech, then rolled over sharply, effectively reversing their positions. He latched onto Jazz's wrists, holding them over his head. The little saboteur was quicker, though. He curled his legs up to his chest and straightened them out sharply, kicking the tactician up and over his head. When Prowl's grip loosened in surprise, the smaller mech seized the opportunity and grabbed onto his wrists, holding on tightly and continuing forward in the roll. He landed on top once more, knees on either side of Prowl's waist. Giving no quarter this time, he jerked the larger mech's hands to his sides, pinning one beneath his own back and holding tightly to the other. Now having a free hand, he reached up and poked Prowl right on the noseplates.
"Pinned!" he said jubilantly, grinning in self-satisfaction."
To Prowl's surprise, it was true. No matter how much he wiggled and squirmed, without the use of his arms, he could not push the smaller mech off of his chassis. (It might have had something to do with the fact that Jazz's inner thigh was rubbing suggestively up against the panel behind which his interface cable was stored each time he did wiggle or squirm, but it did not do to think of his good friend in such a way.)
"I concede," he muttered, to which Jazz let go of Prowl's forearm and pumped his fists victoriously in the air. There came a combination of congratulatory cheers and boos and hisses from across the training room.
"Well done, Jazz!"
"Mute your vocalizor, Blue. Prowl, I am shocked and ashamed!"
"No kidding! You oughtta been able to snap that little microchip in half!"
"Guys! Be nice! Prowl just made landfall two orns ago… plus he's not nearly as lithe as Jazz anymore."
"Fantastic," Prowl groaned at this last vote of confidence, pushing Jazz off of him unceremoniously. "I'm old."
"That ain't news," Jazz chuckled, grinning up at the rising tactician. He stuck out a silver hand, which Prowl obligingly took (a pleasant tingle shot up through his arm at the touch). He helped the smaller mech to his feet (why was he so reluctant to release his hold?).
"But y' know, they're right," Jazz said to Prowl, a look of mock pondering on his faceplates. "I really oughtta be fightin' a mech my own age, so's they c'n handle it." He looked around the tactician's torso at the Twins and Bluestreak with a feral grin. "Any takers?"
There was a sudden clamoring of feet, hasty excuses being made of needing some energon or to report for a conveniently-remembered shift, and the Prowl and Jazz were suddenly alone in the training room. The saboteur's hearty laugh bounced off the walls.
"Smart mechs," he chortled, flopping back onto the soft work-out mats. "No way they'd-a been able t' handle the Jazz."
"The Jazz?" Prowl sat down next to his friend, lowing himself to the floor in a much more graceful manner.
"Once ya die and come back t' life, you get the privilage of addin' an article t' yer name."
"Though I don't recommend it. The initiation process hurts like the Pit."
Prowl frowned. He had known Jazz for vorns and as a result of such had picked up on his many nuances. Now, despite their long separation, he instantly picked up on the too-light tone of his vocalizor that implied the feelings beneath were not as casual as he was trying to portray.
The saboteur gave a forced, painful smile.
"Everyone keeps tellin' me not t' talk about it." His visor dimmed in sadness. "They keep sayin' not t' bring up the pain agin. Trouble is, the pain's always there… never really goes away, so how c'n I bring it back?"
Prowl frowned again.
"I was just going to say I did not have a hanky, so if you start crying, you're on your own."
Jazz balked in surprise. Then, he grinned – a true grin – and began to laugh. This time, it was not loud and hearty enough the echo around the room, but at least it was candid. It lightened the weight that was pressing upon Prowl's spark to hear.
"Y' don't mind?" He gave the tactician a calculating look.
"I do not think I would be able to offer many words of advice, but for you, Jazz, I wouldn't mind if you talked me into stasis."
"Famous last words."
"I mean them."
The calculating look remained.
It was Prowl's turn to pause in surprise. Why indeed? He immediately told himself because Jazz was his friend, but he knew before the thought was even complete that it was not the truth. After vorns of doing so, he finally decided not to lie to himself… or Jazz.
"I… care for you greatly. I … I love you."
He looked at the mats in shame, unable to look at the little saboteur. Now that it was out, he wished could just melt into the floor. He did not wish he could take it back – he would never take it back as long as he was online – but he did desperately desire to be millions of lightyears away so he did not have to look at the surprise and antipathy on his friend's faceplates. He was forced to do so, however, by a silver hand under his chinplate forcing his optics up.
"I'll do ya one better," Jazz said, grinning broadly. "I loved you the firs' time I laid optics on ya."
Prowl pulled his face from the light hold Jazz had on him, turning away.
"Do not mock me, Jazz," he said quietly, despondently.
"I ain't mockin' you!" he cried in outrage. "I was bein' serious!"
As if to prove his point, he seized Prowl's face in both hands, yanked him forward, and kissed him fiercely.
Prowl didn't know how to respond for a moment. For starters, he'd only been on the planet for a few orns, and while he seen Samuel Witwicky kiss Mikaela Banes on many occasions, he had never bothered to research the technical operation of the act. But it seemed Jazz, on the other hand, had and was taking full control. When in addition he began to run a hand along a particularly sensitive seam, sending out magnetic pulses along the way, Prowl found he didn't really care.
Quite suddenly, Sunstreaker's voice rang out from across the room.
"Oi! We leave you two alone for ten breems, and this is what we come back to find?!"
"This is an absolute outrage! Go back to grinding one another!"
"I concur. All the pansy-aft foreplay is going to make me sick!"
"Guys! Leave them alone!"
Prowl jerked away in surprise. Jazz, scowling at the interruption, simply yanked him closer to close the gap…
…between their shifts was painfully long, boring, and lonely. Jazz was positively miserable. He wandered the corridors of the base, counting the astroseconds until Prowl would return from patrol with the humans. The occasional passing bot would glance his way curiously, not doubt wondering why the normally chipper mech looked so glum. The little saboteur didn't even have the spark to explain.
Quite suddenly, his bond with Prowl opened up. So new it was, he actually jumped, yelping in surprise at the strange – albeit wonderful – sensation.
I do wish you would stop all that moping, Prowl said over the connection.
Can't help it, I miss you, Jazz sent back, sighing through his intakes forlornly even though he was already feeling megabytes better at having contact with his mate. (His bondmate, he corrected himself, marveling at that glorious fact.)
You'll manage, Prowl intoned emotionlessly. Now let me get back to work.
Fine, Jazz conceded with a long-suffering sigh. I love you.
The last did not need to be said, as Prowl could just as well know such from the flood of emotion and affection Jazz sent across the bond. There was a brief pause before Prowl responded.
I love you, too.
Then, Jazz could feel his bonded retreating from his CPU and closing off his end of the link so that he might get back to his patrol. Good mood going with it, the little saboteur went back to counting astroseconds.
Only four million, eight hundred thirty-six thousand, five hundred and two to go.
"I love you."
"Mmm. You already said that."
"Did I? I just wanted to make sure."
Perhaps the plot bunnies will leave me alone for a while now, yes?