A/N: It would seem that simply one installment was not enough. The plot bunnies were kept at bay for only so long before my mind was besieged by a butt-load of one-shots, one-shots that – despite my best attempts – simply did not want to form themselves into complete, coherent stories. So what does one do with a bunch of half-formed snippits? Make another monstrosity of a multiple-universe medley! Hope it stands up to the first chapter. :D
Prowl couldn't help but release a sigh of relief through his vents as he left his office. While he enjoyed his work – a bit too much, at times – he did have orns where he just couldn't wait to get back to the comfort and safety of his own quarters. This particular orn had been a double shift spent dealing with a pair of rambunctious Lamborghinis, their pranks, and the injuries they inflicted upon the receivers (as well as the injuries inflicted upon the Twins by the receivers, namely one very fragged off Ironhide), so he was rather looking forward to crawling into his berth with his mate.
Reaching the rooms he shared with said mate, he keyed in the entrance code and slipped inside. He was surprised to find the lights on, even more surprised to see, upon further investigation, Jazz recharging on their couch, two full cubes of their stash of good high-grade and the latest holonovel they had been reading on the floor beside him.
Prowl's spark clenched with guilt. Here Jazz had been – sweet, loving, patient Jazz – waiting for him to come home so they could spend a quiet evening together while he was off writing reports about silly string and guerilla water balloon attacks, not even sparing a moment to comm in that he would be late. With a soft sigh of frustration with himself, Prowl stepped around the holonovel and energon and gingerly lifted his mate's still, recharging form from the couch. He carried him into an adjoining rooming, turning out the lights as he went, and laid him out on their berth. As gentle as the tactician was, the movement was enough to rouse Jazz. He stirred, optics beginning to brighten behind his visor.
"Hey," he said thickly.
"I'm sorry," Prowl said softly, leaning over his mate to kiss that favorite spot, that small hollow near his left audio. "I did not mean to disturb you."
"Mmm," Jazz hummed contentedly, stray fingers coming up to stroke his lover's helm absently. "I didn't mean to fall inta recharge. We'll interface and call it even."
Prowl gave a wry snort. He was certain Jazz knew they were both too depleted of energy to do anything of the sort, despite willing CPUs, and suggested such as a joke, but he verbally cajoled his berth-mate nonetheless.
"Not tonight, Jazzy," he murmured, gently removing his visor and placing soft, feathery kisses on both his optics, which were already dimming again from exhaustion. He peppered the saboteur's face with languid caresses, moving slower and slower with each kiss. "Perhaps in the morning, when I don't feel like slitting an energon line with a report pad."
Jazz chuckled softly, lip components lazily seeking out the wandering ones of his mate, optics shuttered in both fatigue and satisfaction. "Hard day?"
"Worse night." Prowl halted his actions, leaning away from Jazz with a heavy sigh. "I am sorry to have kept you waiting."
"Then quit doin' it," was the Porsche's only response before reaching up and pulling Prowl back down by his chevron, thumb stroking hypnotic patterns against the flat edge of it as he kissed him soundly. The tactician gave a cross between a moan and a whimper. His hand went to Jazz's hip, deft fingers wriggling for purchase in a small crevice. Jazz made a soft noise of pleasure into Prowl's mouth, wrapping a leg around the Datsun's waist. Prowl leaned into the embrace willingly.
"I love you," he breathed as soon as they parted.
Jazz was suddenly wide awake and energized. His optics shot open to stare up at his lover with unmasked surprise, hands falling away from their administrations.
"Y' mean that." It wasn't a question, but the slight waver to his voice made his uncertainty clear.
"Of course," Prowl responded, slightly incredulous.
How could he think otherwise? Weren't his daily actions and displays of affection testament to such? While not overtly showy about their relationship in public, Prowl had made their fondness for one another no secret. And he was no stranger to the occasional public broadcasting of that fondness.
A sudden thought struck him cold: perhaps Jazz didn't love him. Maybe his affection for him went no more beyond that – just affection. Looking back, he could not recall a time either had said those three little words to one another. Was it because Jazz didn't feel them? Had Prowl just made a complete fool of himself?
As though he read the confusion and trepidation on Prowl's faceplates, Jazz reached up and stroked a comforting hand across his cheek.
"Don' get me wrong," he said quickly, optics still filled with residual shock, which was now mixed with reassurance. "I love ya, more'n anything, but… I won'ered…"
Here he faltered, optics looking away in embarrassment. "I kin'a won'ered… since you'd never said it, that maybe… maybe I was jus' some passin' fancy."
"Jazz." Prowl's tone was sharp. He jerked the smaller black and white's chin so he was forced to look up at him. "You have never been as little as a 'fancy' to me. It has always and only been love."
Jazz gave a watery smile. If Prowl hadn't been so furious with himself for not admitting his love aloud before now, he would have returned it.
"For Primus' sake!" he went on, "I was the one to ask you to move in with me!"
Jazz's smile grew, amusement colouring it.
"I was wonderin' 'bout that. Did you just loose your CPU when ya asked me, or did you actually…"
"… think you could get away with this?"
Prowl stood to his full height, spinal strut ramrod straight, as it always was. His wings were tilted up at a slight angle. His faceplates were clam and neutral, just like his voice, save for the small hint of a frown in the corner of his mouth.
Jazz could tell he was positively furious.
"Well, that was the basic idea," he said with a cheeky grin. Prowl's left wing twitch minutely. Yup, he was abso-fraggin-lutely livid.
"This is the most outrageous display of insubordination I have ever seen," he said in a low hiss. "Yes, even for you two." This last bit was directed at the Twins, who looked as though they wanted to bring up a few incidents that would suggest otherwise. Fortunately, though, they decided proving him wrong wouldn't be worth it in this instance and wisely kept silent, letting the tactician's mate do all the talking.
"Aw, cummon, Prowler," he whined. "It was jus' a couple-a bumper stickers!
"You knew Secretary Keller was bringing the President today," Prowl countered, voice beginning to rise in volume. "Such a display of lewd, vulgar language is an unacceptable outrage in regular circumstances, but to deliberately place 'just a couple of bumper stickers' on your commanding officers just before an inspection is an outright act of –"
"Okay, okay!" the Solstice cut him off mid rant. "Sorry! Bad timing on my part. I jus' fergot they was comin' today."
Prowl narrowed his optics in a glare. "Had you spent more time listening to me during the meeting yesterday than plotting with your two little accomplices –" he angry stare flicked over to Sunstreaker and Sideswipe, who tried to look as small as possible "— you might have known such! As it is, you will spend the next orn in the brig."
"Aw, cummon baby, I've got a concert to go to with Sam an' Micky on Friday!" Jazz said. Or at least, he started to say. It turned out to be the damning comment, what truly sealed their fates. He got as far as "baby" and Prowl snapped. His doorwings all but flapping in outrage, he grabbed the little saboteur by on of the horns on his helm and began marching him down the corridor. Knowing they were meant to follow, Sunny and Sides quickly stumbled after the enraged Charger, trailing just a few steps behind him and his yelping mate all the way to the brig (earning quite a few stares along the way).
Prowl roughly pushed the third in command into the first open cell, the Solstice once again squealing in pain from the abuse to his horns. He scowled darkly at the Lamborghini twins. Having never seen him quite so openly furious, they scuttled past him and into their own individual cells without so much as a warble or click. The bars slammed down, the electromagnets that locked them into place humming to life. Then, seeming content to sit and watch his prisoners suffer, he plopped himself down behind the guard's desk, a station that had until that day remained vacant.
Whatever it was Prowl expected to see, no doubt he was sorely disappointed. The Twins were not at all themselves. It seemed that Prowl's little fit had scared them into good behavior, for instead of complaining loudly of their besmirched innocence of the unfairness of their punishment, they sat quietly in their separate cells, optics downcast and faceplates set in a look of sheepish repentance.
Jazz, on the other hand, looked to be having quite a decent time. He was stretched out on the hard, narrow berth in his cell, one leg crossed over the other, hands laced behind his head, and faceplates set in a small, contented smile. He was even humming a few odd snatches of songs to himself, one foot bouncing in time to the beat.
Prowl, who was not nearly as good at reading his mate as his mate was him, was unaware that Jazz was sulking.
And he was sulking big time. Normally all he had to do was put on a cute little pout and he could twist the tactician any way he pleased. (For all that logic, he really was a helpless push-over.) But here he was, wasting the next two weeks in the brig. He was going to miss the U2 concert!
He was bemoaning this last thought – internally, of course, lest he show Prowl his punishment was getting to him – when he noticed his mate staring at him. His optics were slightly unfocused, and he was biting at the inside of his lower lip component.
"Credit fer yer thoughts?" Jazz tried tentatively.
Prowl's gaze sharpened, and he shook his head minutely as though to clear his CPU.
"I'm just trying to figure out why I love you so much," he responded.
Jazz blinked. Had the comment not been spoken with such irritation, it might have been sweet. As it was, Jazz was a bit put out to have his lover say those long-desired words. They just didn't have the same meaning when spoken through prison bars.
"But still no chance of ya lettin' me out early, is there?" Jazz said hopefully, raising an optic ridge. Prowl's gaze narrowed.
"Whether I love you or not, what you did was still an inexcusable act of inconsiderate, defiant –"
"Yeah, yeah, I get the picture," Jazz muttered. He rolled over, looking up at the ceiling again, though this time the contented smile was a little more genuine. It was about that time he noticed the whisperings coming from the cells next to his.
"… seen a more disgraceful display," Sideswipe was saying to his twin. "I mean, have some fraggin' decorum – we're right here!"
"Embarrassing, I know," Sunstreaker agreed. "It's a good thing Prowl's such a stick-in-the-slag, else he'd let him out and we'd have to watch 'em kiss and make up."
Jazz grinned broadly, turning his head to look at his mate… who was suddenly not there. Wings twitching in mortification, he was quickly heading for the…
… table at the rear of the rec room. "Oh, frag it!" Hound exclaimed.
"Wha's wrong?" Jazz said, smiling around a mouthful of an energon goodie.
"Ugh, I just spilled energon all over my slaggin' report." He pushed the offending cube away. "Teach me to try and work and have lunch at the same time." He watched as Jazz craned his neck towards the door leading to the corridor for the tenth time. "I saw him talking with Wheeljack a few minutes ago," he said with a knowing smile. Jazz jumped a little guiltily.
"Come on, Jazz. I remember when Mirage and I first got together; I couldn't wait to see him every day. I'd arrive half an hour early for every date and sit around bouncing my knees until he got there. Fun, isn't it?" he said with a merry grin.
"Yer in a good mood."
"What's wrong with that? Everyone's in a good mood these days. I've finally convinced my mate after fourteen years of being bonded to go on a camping trip with me, Ratchet's having a medical field day with Chromia sparking, Ironhide's going around singing little bolts-and-energon songs, Sam's still a galactic hero, and you and Prowl are walking around with stars in your eyes."
"Stars?" Prowl said, coming up to the table. Jazz smiled up at him.
"Yer late," the Solstice said as Prowl bent and planted a quick kiss on his upturned lip components, what Hound thought of as a "hi-honey" kiss. He sat down.
"Sorry, I was detained." He was carrying a small package which he set on the table.
"Wha's that?" Jazz asked curiously, pointing his half-eaten energon goodie at it.
"Oh, nothing…" his mate responded with an intentionally phony air of nonchalance, lacing his hands together on the table and casting his optics about the room like he hadn't a care in the world. The scout chuckled.
Jazz put down his treat and eyed the Charger, a smile flirting about his lip plating. "Is that fer me?"
The tactician cast a brief glance at Hound, then shrugged and slid the box towards his mate with a smile. He grinned as he opened it and drew out a small pendant intricately carved out of beautiful crystalline stone, marbled red and purple. Jazz fingered it silently, but Hound recognized that I'm-melting-into-my-shoes look on his faceplates. It was a look he'd been wearing a lot these past two months.
"Oh, Prowl," he breathed. "It's beautiful." He examined the stone more closely. "But...this stone..." He didn't finish the sentence, just looked up at his friend and mate, amazed. "I can't believe ya did this," he said. He stared at the Charger in wonder for a moment, then noticed Hound's puzzled expression.
"A few weeks ago we took a day trip to some island out in the Pacific," he explained. "It's one-a the most breathtaking spots on this planet, no exaggeration. We took a walk on th' beach and I noticed these strange stones all over the sand. I thought they were so beautiful...and now I find out that this mech – who ev'rybot thought had not a single romantic circuit in his body – picked up one-a th' stones without my noticin' and had it made into a statuette for me," Jazz said, his optics locked with those of his mate's.
"Wow," the scout said, impressed. "I've gotta say, Prowl, that's… really romantic." He might as well not have spoken for all they noticed.
"It was nothing at all," Prowl said softly, "for how much I love you."
The way Jazz leaned back, faceplates pulling into a look of absolute surprise and wonderment, made Hound think that was the first time he'd said The Words. He stared uneasily into his half full cube of energon, suddenly feeling like the worst kind of interloper.
"I love you, too," Jazz said with a soft smile. Then the moment was over as he carefully replaced the pendant in its bed of glass wool and closed up the box.
"I feel like a Peeping Tom," Hound said, embarrassed.
"A what?" Prowl asked, tilting his head to the side in confusion.
"Never mind," the scout said. "I just wish I hadn't…"
… shouted as the bridge gave out with a sickening wet crunch. His hands clutched desperately at disintegrating boards and the rock walls as he fell, then he managed to snag something small, something that went taut and stopped his fall. His other hand came up and grabbed at it. Looking up, he could see Jazz's panicked face a good twenty meters above him. It was his grappling hook he was holding onto.
"Hold on!" he called down to the tactician. His faceplates contorted with effort as he began to pull the line back up. Prowl tried to help, bracing his feet against the rocks so Jazz wouldn't bear all his weight, but the cliff wall was sheer and slick with damp algae. He could not get an adequate foothold.
"Jazz!" called a faint voice. Bluestreak.
"Here!" he called over his shoulder. After a moment, the gunner showed up beside him.
"Can you pull him back up?" he asked.
"I'm tryin'," Jazz grunted, the line pulsing and rippling with the effort. He vented a cry of frustration. "I can't! I'm too far stretched out!"
At that moment, Jazz – who had been lying on his stomach, leaning over the edge of the cliff to catch Prowl – lost his grip on the rocks and began to slip over the precipice. Prowl felt a sudden jolt of panic, one that was not entirely quelled even when Bluestreak threw his weight upon the saboteur to keep him from falling over as well.
"Bluestreak, help pull him back up!" Jazz barked.
"I can't!" the gunner wailed. "If we let go of you, you're both gonna fall!"
Prowl gritted his dental plates, concentrating on holding onto the line. It was difficult, the thin cord slipping in his hands, wanting to slide from beneath his fingers. It was no use; he couldn't hold on, and they had not the strength to pull him back up. A sudden peace stole over him as this realization struck home. The Matrix was calling him. He welcomed the thought, save for one regret: he didn't want to leave Jazz, not so soon.
If Primus only gave us a few weeks here, he told himself, he will give us an eternity later.
"Prowl! Hold on!" Jazz shouted down, panic now clear in his voice as he felt his love slipping away. Prowl turned his face upwards and met his optics.
"I love you," he said for the first and last time, just as his fingers lost their grip. Gravity seized him and he plummeted toward the distant floor of the rocky canyon.
"NOOOO!" Jazz let out an anguished scream, futilely reaching down into the chasm's black depths. Bluestreak gasped in horror, but tightened his grip around the saboteur to keep him from hurling himself after his love. Jazz struggled against the…
… soft sounds of a single violin playing a sonata. It had a hint of melancholy to it, as Prowl thought the violin always did when played alone. But it was a soothing sound a familiar comfort, one that quickly eased away all the stress and tension of the day and enveloped him in the tranquil folds of the night.
Along with the welcoming arms of the evening were the waiting ones of his mate, his beloved Jazz. Prowl walked into them willingly, smiling happily to himself as he bent down to bury his faceplates in the wiring and cables of Jazz's neck.
"Ev'ning, love," the smaller mech rumbled. The sound from his vocalizer vibrated gently through Prowl, making his smile widen.
"How did you get in here?" the tactician asked, curious though not at all put out.
"It wasn't easy," Jazz chuckled, sending more small vibrations through his lover's frame. "How come ya keep changin' yer entrance code?"
Prowl snorted. "Because at first I thought you were the Twins or Blaster playing some sort of prank on me."
"Oh, a real good one, too," Jazz replied with a snort of his own. "They come in an' leave energon for ya, or fill up a hot oil bath for ya."
"Or rearrange every knick-knack in my quarters."
"Well, that was just the neat freak in me comin' out. Fer a straight-set, logical control nut, you sure keep cluttered quarters."
"I am sorry that they did not meet your standards."
"No prob. They do now!"
Prowl let loose a rare laugh, pulling his face away from Jazz's neck only to swoop down again and kiss him soundly. The smaller black and white offered no resistance, kissing him back with a soft sigh of approval.
Breaking the kiss – which was far too short for Jazz's liking – Prowl grabbed his beloved in a loose embrace and began twirling him around the room in an impromptu waltz to the music still playing in the background.
"I love that you rearranged everything," Prowl confessed as they danced. "I love it, mostly because it was you that did it. I love coming home every night to find that energon or oil bath. I love that you keep breaking into my rooms to set them up for me, even though I keep changing my pass codes. I love finding you waiting for me on my berth. I love every little thing you do. I love you."
"Put that to a tune and you've got yerself a cheesy country song," Jazz smiled up at him.
"I'm serious, Jazz."
"I know you are." He reached up to place a hand on his cheekplate. "An' I love you too."
"You've made that quite evident." Prowl turned his head into Jazz's hand, placing a kiss on his palm. "I just wanted you to know that it isn't one-sided. I want to be here for you."
A sultry grin worked itself onto Jazz's faceplates. He stopped suddenly, halting their waltz.
"I can think of a way you can do that," he said, tugging on Prowl's arm and leading him into …
… the sanctuary he knew held the body of his lover.
Before he'd even made landfall, before the Autobots had confirmed its truth, somewhere deep down, he knew.
He was aware of the high probability of it – knew it could and most likely would happen – but something other than logic told him it was so.
Even without a bond, even without that connection they had denied themselves for so many vorns, he knew.
The universe just couldn't feel the same without him.
It shouldn't have been a surprise to him. They were at war. His battle computer didn't allow him the luxury of ignorance – he knew the probability of never coming home was high, even higher for Jazz because of his position among the Autobots. He was leaving Cybertron to follow Megatron and – at whatever cost – stop him from obtaining the All-Spark. Not to mention, of course, that Jazz was no stranger to flamboyantly risky actions.
Prowl knew the risks.
So the only thing that surprised him was the tears.
He stood over the form of his lover, forever more at rest, and spoke the words that should have been said vorns ago.
"I love you, Jazz."
I tear cut a path along his cheekplate, falling from his chin onto the body of his intended.