Disclaimer: Elton John & Tim Rice own 'Friends never say goodbye'; HasTak, etc., own Transformers and keep all the profits: I just write about them.
A/N: Just to explain, I have a penchant for the idea that Prowl is a good deal younger than anyone (other than Jazz) would believe: he was not activated on Cybertron, has never been there, and does not have a lot of the pre-war general knowledge that most others do. Apart from that quirk, this 'verse is pretty much G1-standard.
Chapter 4 - The legend of Sanopi
One moment his lover had been completely composed, scolding him. The next he was on the ground and shrieking, spasming. Jazz grabbed at him and took several nasty blows before he managed to get him pinned down. The waves of pain pulsing through the bond were so strong they almost knocked him offline but he held on. He was not losing Prowl now. Not now that he had found him again.
It made no sense. Ratchet had promised him there would be no pain. He had promised him that. So what was this? Some kind of delayed reaction to the original damage?
"Stay with me." he begged. "Don't you leave me now, not now. I can't bear it."
"Hello, I don't believe we've met?"
The unfamiliar voice distracted him and he looked up to see a grey and orange dockworker looking down at him.
For the very first time he actually took in their surroundings. They were in a Cybertronian city? He had heard of badly damaged mechs creating safe havens in their minds when they suffered extreme trauma, but this was remarkably detailed given that Prowl had never been on Cybertron in his life, let alone seen a functioning peace-time city.
"Who are you?"
"I am Greeter. Welcome to Sanopi."
Jazz had to move his arm to keep Prowl down but kept his optics on this stranger, now aware that there was a small crowd around them.
"Very funny. An' here I thought it was Iacon."
"You do not believe me."
"Slaggin' right, I don't. Sanopi doesn't exist."
"If it doesn't exist, how do you recognise the name?"
"It's a myth. A ghost story from before the war. It isn't real."
Greeter spread his hands, gesturing around them.
"Does this not seem real to you?"
"What's real is that my bondmate is dying and I need to get him home. Now slag off and leave us alone."
"We could help you. He does not have to suffer like this. Just give him to us..."
"I said go!"
Ratchet stopped in the doorway, for once completely speechless.
When Bluestreak had burst into his room and dragged him back here he had already been angry. He had not wanted to be any more involved in this than he had to be. But to arrive and find this was far worse than he could have imagined. Gritting his dental plates, he shoved his way through the crowd silently, not even able to swear and curse yet. He was too angry.
Prowl was twitching spasmodically on the berth, keening softly, mindlessly. Jazz was clinging to his hand, forehead pressed against his arm, unmoving. He may have drugged himself so he would not be aware when it happened, Ratchet considered. It was incredibly dangerous for non-medics to play with clinical drugs and usually he would have been prepared to tell the culprit why in excruciating detail, but at this moment it was probably a blessing.
The entire life support system had been destroyed, so there was nothing he could do with that. Normal circuit blockers would not work in this case - not until he could apply a large number of them, and that would take far too long. The tiny functional part of Prowl's processor was being flooded with data that it could not process, and it was likely looping so that even once the extremities were deactivated he would still 'feel' pain from them.
If Prowl's base function of cycling energon through his system were working, a chemical blocker may have had an effect, but that was not possible right now. Moving him to another room would not help - this had been the only support model that had been modified to work for his particular needs: it would take groons to set up another unit.
There were only two paths away from this. Either he could leave it to run its course, which it would do in the next breem or so, and the mech who had been Prowl would die in agony. Or he could end this now.
In truth, there was only one option.
"There's nowhere for you to go." Greeter told him calmly, following easily.
Jazz staggered a little but kept walking. Prowl's struggles had become little more than flinches and moans. He was so very weak, fading so very fast now. They had to get back, and quickly. If only he knew how to get out of here.
"He made his choice, and you stalled it once. That was impressive, but it was his choice and it stands. This time he stays."
It was remarkably believable that this was real, he mused, then shook his head hard. No. No it was not real. Thinking that way was how he would get trapped. He had to get back. But how, when he could not figure out how he had gotten here in the first place?
"Think of what we're offering. You can't take him home, he's dying there. Here, he will no longer have to know the sorrows of this terrible war you are suffering through. And when you die he will be waiting here for you. You will never be separated."
Jazz ignored him, still walking but also struggling to think. How had the story gone? It was so very long since he had heard it, and he had never been that interested in that kind of paranoid nonsense the first place.
It was something about dying mechs getting trapped in a city, losing their memories, dying before their sparks even faded. An old superstition about never going into battle without praying to Primus first to ensure they went straight to the Matrix and not to the pit, but also not to Sanopi where they would be trapped forever.
Suddenly he remembered how the story ended. He stopped and turned to face Greeter.
"It's not a story." he stated flatly.
"What's not a story." the mech asked pleasantly.
"You're here, between life and the Matrix, feeding on the fear of the mechs you catch."
Greeter smiled faintly in response.
"Prowl was different though, wasn't he?" Jazz pressed him. "He didn't know about you so he wasn't frightened, he was just confused. It's fear that traps mechs here. That's what the stories say. But Prowl doesn't know to be frightened. You can't keep him here."
"But you know." Greeter told him, his optics flickering madly. "And now you're starting to believe."
Jazz could feel something circling about him, even though he could not see it. All he could see now was Greeter. The city was fading, as was the light. It was just the two of them, and Prowl, and the things in the dark.
"Believe, yeah." Jazz agreed. "But that doesn't mean I'm scared of you. It just means I know what I've gotta do."
"Which is what?" the other mech scoffed.
"Offer myself in his place. I won't let you have him, but you can have me. I surrender myself."
Without waiting for an answer he knelt down and laid Prowl on the ground before him then shuttered his optics, leaving himself completely vulnerable, and began to sing.
Of all the things that could have happened next, Jazz starting to sing was not one that anyone present had expected. They had thought he was offline: he had certainly not responded to any of the chaos around him in the past little while. The fact that he had started to do so without any warning, and just when Ratchet was opening up Prowl's helmet to shut him down permanently, made it even more eerie.
"What is done has been done for the best / though the mist in my eyes might suggest / just a little confusion about what I'd lose / but if I started over, I know I would choose / the same joy, the same sadness, each step of the way / that fought me and taught me..."
"That friends never say goodbye."
The whispered words that finished the phrase seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere. Then Bluestreak gave a cry and launched himself at Prowl, shoving Ratchet out of the way. Jazz raised his head stiffly as though his joints had seized and looked at Bluestreak blankly, then he smiled tremulously past him.
Optimus was the last to hear the news, having shut himself away to mourn in private. It was only when he emerged, having prepared himself to deal with the grief of his crew and to push them onwards for the cause, that he learned of the miracle that had occurred and had gone to the repair bay to see for himself.
By the time he was told, Prowl was offline. He was apparently still in pain - for reasons that Optimus did not truly understand, something to do with his temporary memory circuits - and his small energy reserves had been quickly drained by the way most of the Ark's crew had crowded in to see him and talk to him in the short period he had been online.
Ratchet usually restricted visitors to his patients quite ruthlessly, but none of this fitted any of the normal patterns and Optimus doubted that even the acerbic CMO would have been sparkless enough to send everyone away at such a moment.
The room was a mess, he noted as he arrived. Several pieces of equipment were completely slagged for no apparent reason and everything else had been shoved away to the walls or taken out of the room to make space for the visitors. Everything, that was, except for the one chair where Jazz was still sitting. The saboteur was uncharacteristically still, just intently watching Prowl charge as though it were the most fascinating thing he had ever seen. Under the circumstances, perhaps it was.
Optimus stepped into the room quietly, not wanting to interrupt the peaceful scene but needing to confirm for himself what he had heard.
"Is he...?" he began, but stopped as Jazz spoke at the same moment.
"He doesn't remember any of it."
"I beg your pardon?"
"It ain't important, though. What matters is he's back."
"But how? All those attempts, all those scans, everything failed. How did he return? Why now?"
Jazz looked troubled.
"I dunno. When he first came online I think I knew but... the details are fading. I can't keep hold of'em."
"What do you remember?"
"It doesn't make sense." he was warned. "You'll think I'm crazy."
Jazz gave him a long considering look, then shrugged.
"A city. Somewhere on Cybertron, I think. A dockworker - old model, pre-war. He was following us. I... I was carryin' Prowl but I put him down for some reason and started singin'. An' they came after me and so he got away. Only... they couldn't have me because I wasn't supposed to be there at all. It was only because of the bond, an' if it weren't for that..."
He was frowning in confusion at his own words, then waved his hands in frustration.
"Ah forget it. It doesn't make any sense even t'me. I think I musta been glitching."
"Hardly surprising, given the stresses of all of this. But... He is back? Completely?"
Jazz nodded, reaching out to gently brush a few motes of dust off Prowl's upper arm, fingers lingering a moment as though reconfirming the warmth there.
"Yeah. He's back. An' he's stayin'."
"Something come up?" Ironhide asked, popping his head into Optimus' office.
"Nothing important. Has there been any new information?"
Ironhide shook his head, striding casually inside.
"They're all arguing over the data, but basically they just don't know. Ratchet's declared him functional, anyway, so Jazz's taken him back to their quarters to get some rest - heh, and probably something more if he's got any energy for it, knowing those two - and pretty much everyone else's still celebrating in the rec room or charging. There're a few wondering why you're not doing the same, so I thought I'd drop by."
He glanced at the terminal Optimus was reading from, then did a double-take.
"Is that the legend of Sanopi? I haven't heard that story since... Primus, I don't remember when!"
Optimus leaned back in his chair, steepling his fingers.
"Neither have I, but a couple of the things that happened today put me in mind of it."
"Like what?" Ironhide asked curiously.
"Jazz singing; Prowl suddenly being fully restored after the medics were convinced that there was no hope."
"Don't remember any singing in the story I was told." Ironhide pointed out.
"Agreed, but there are similarities. The story had it that the mech who went to rescue his mate from Sanopi offered himself in sacrifice in return for his lover's freedom. The exchange was granted, but then he also escaped because the ghouls of Sanopi can only take the dying and he was healthy. Jazz says he remembers surrendering himself to a mech in a pre-war city, and it would be very like him to sing to them. He's done it often enough to the Decepticons as a captive."
Ironhide smiled briefly, well aware of how Jazz enjoyed irritating his captors with constant noise, but then his smile faded.
"But in the story, the only reason Idaelti survived long enough to be rescued was that she was barely more than a sparkling and didn't know the danger she was in. And then the only reason they let her go was because they can only take a victim who knows what they are, but everyone knows the story these days. Half the crew still say their prayers when we head out, I've heard them. Never heard Prowl do it, but he's never been all that devout. So how's the story supposed to fit?"
"I don't know." Optimus frowned, then sighed and turned off the terminal. "Well, it's only a story. And what matters is that Prowl is recovering. Come on - lets go join the party. Its about time we had something to celebrate."
There isn't much I haven't shared
With you along the road
And through it all there'd always be
Suddenly that isn't true
There's another avenue
Beckoning, the great divide
Ask no questions, take no side
Who's to say
Who's right or wrong
Whose course is braver run?
Still we are,
Have always been,
Will ever be -
What is done has been done for the best
Though the mist in my eyes might suggest
Just a little confusion about what I'll lose
But if I started over I know I would choose
The same joy, the same sadness
Each step of the way
That fought me, and taught me
That friends never say...
Never say goodbye
Friends never say goodbye.