I didn't actually intend to write anything after the first chapter. It was meant to be a stand-alone. But then this crapped itself out of my brain and on to the intarwebs. Awsum.
Battles were growing harder.
That was the long and the short of it. Not much else had changed, other than that the tactician's strategies had, since he had learned the news, tended to involve more of his own life being endangered.
Prowl was very aware he was dying. The thought did not bother him as much as it perhaps would most other mechs in his position.
No one knew but Prime and Ratchet. In that respect, he'd hidden it well. It was... certainly a relief, not to have his comrades and subordinates whispering round him as though he would rust to pieces the instant they raised their voices.
So perhaps he was a little more snippish with people than before he knew. Perhaps he was shorter with them, more prone to snap waspishly. Otherwise... no change.
Ratchet had spoken to him, once or twice, but mostly Prowl avoided the medic. He had no wish to see the saddened expression, to hear the lowered voice, to stare into azure optics slightly clouded with whatever misplaced guilt the ambulance felt about his patient's incurable condition.
To be near Ratchet? Unfair on both of them. He was Ratchet's failure. Rubbing that in the doctor's face was hardly called for.
But the battles, more frequent now that the Decepticons' confidence was growing, were becoming much harder on his failing body. Where once he could have dodged nimbly, now he staggered and stumbled; where once his aim was unfaltering, now he struggled to even see his targets if they were any further than a hundred meters away.
He had seen Ratchet, when his sight started to fail. He thought perhaps his optics were glitching, had hoped perhaps it was not to do with whatever degenerative disease lurked in his CNA.
... Ratchet had told him, as straight and as plain as he could manage, that his lagging sight could mean only one thing: that the degeneration had progressed to the optical circuitry in his head.
Prowl no longer raised his voice to give commands in battle. His vocaliser was glitching almost incessantly these days, and it was all he could do to keep it level and unwavering while holding a normal conversation with his fellow sub-commanders. Shouting, or even raising his voice above a certain pitch, was out of the question.
... what a pathetic wreck.
Prowl had made a vow to himself, however, and it was for this vow that he now threw himself into danger so much more frequently than he had done before. He had vowed to himself, he would not fade away slowly, die in shame while trying to flee an inevitable fate.
The Autobot had promised himself he would die with honour, at the hands of a Decepticon. He would fight with his faction until the end, and he would deal as much damage to the enemy as he could until he was cut down.
Destroying the Decepticons was what he would die for. Not for an illness no one could cure.
His audios were filled with the yells of the wounded, his olfactory sensors with the smell of spent weapons and the acrid stench of spilling energon from open injuries. The sounds and smells of skirmish were rife around him.
The Datsun fired off a shot at the jet dogging him, cursing his own lagging limbs as the agile warrior dodged the beam easily. One of the enemy's missiles singed his right wing and he winced in pain.
Knowing he would not stand a chance in a ranged battle, with these failing eyes and this wavering gun-arm, he started forwards, hoping to get too close-range for the seeker to use his inbuilt twin cannons, hoping to engage the flier in hand-to-hand – where the Autobot at least stood something of a chance.
"Prepare to die, Autobot scum!" shrieked the Decepticon, and Prowl recognised the voice, though he could not see the face, as the high-pitched shrill of Starscream.
Managing to launch himself forwards, Prowl was able to grapple with the jet, who had landed to taunt him. Their fists locked; each tried to seek out an opening, to throw a punch...
It lasted perhaps a klik, if that.
Powl's optics widened in surprise as, without warning, his mouth filled with energon and hot oil that pooled chokingly. In instinct, he coughed; the liquid spattered from his mouth to splash over Starscream's cockpit, poured down his throat to leak into his vocaliser. Weak at the knees, his strength suddenly as fleeting as his foe's courage, he collapsed helplessly to the floor.
... Not like this...
Starscream nudged him with one foot, a mixture of surprise and amusement on his dark faceplates – hazy. Prowl could hardly see through the blur, but he was aware enough to see Starscream dip two cobalt fingers into the energon Prowl had coughed onto him, raise those fingers to his mouth, lick the Datsun's lifeblood away and laugh to himself. Again, he nudged his fallen enemy cruelly and stared down at him.
Prowl had no energy left, overtaken by racking coughs that shook his frame and a burning, burning pain assaulting his chest.
... Not like this...
His optics were glitching more than ever. The already-dubious feed was fading in and out of focus, the colours giving way to a darkness that he had once associated with recharge.
... Come on, Starscream... take the shot... take the shot...
... Just one little tap... Just a little love tap, Screamer. Just take the shot...
Starscream was standing back, a step away, sneering. Prowl tried to reach for him, to grab his foot, anything – though he had accepted there was no way he could win this fight any more when his body betrayed him, if he could spook the jet, or provoke him to take a shot, he could die with honour... not waste away like a pathetic starving Empty...
All feeling in his wings had gone, and he could no longer move his fingers. His legs were limp and useless, lifeless as motor cogs began to grind to a halt. Another wave of violent coughing came; a small puddle of energon dripped to the floor from the stricken Autobot's parted lips as he sobbed for ventilation to clear his body of these impurities...
Take the Primus-forsaken shot...
Again, he tried to reach for Starscream. This time, he managed to twitch his fingers. The strain it took caused his optic feed to flicker, another wave of helpless coughs, another sickening splatter of lifeblood spraying from his mouth, his nose, his optics...
The Decepticon simply laughed at his fruitless efforts to reach out.
Prowl shuddered. Not like this, please take the shot...
In high good humour, Starscream said something to Prowl that the Datsun could no longer hear, laughed his efforts into nothing, mocked his fading life...
His interest in the motionless body dissipating, Starscream turned his back and walked away.