Title: A study in contrasts

By: mmouse15

Rating: T

Pairing/Characters: ProwlxJazz, Ratchet, Wheeljack, Optimus Prime

Warnings: slash, mech kissy-face

Author's Notes: Prowl is OOC, but I have a good explanation, aka the story, for my actions! I do put him back to normal when I'm done with him, honestly I do.

This particular story is the result of getting bitten by a bunny over on the ProwlxJazz comm. It was written in March 2009 and is a one-shot.


Ratchet leaned over Prowl's prone form, finishing the task he was focused upon. Finally done, he pulled his hands out of Prowl's chest and began closing plates, smoothing the armour back over the more delicate constructs of Prowl's inner form. Finished, he reached behind Prowl and touched the port at his shoulder which allowed the tactician to come out of stasis. The deeper whirr of engines joined the soft murmur of pumps, and Prowl's optics opened.

"Vdaoa zj F?"

Ratchet just looked at him. Prowl tried again. "Ozqbdaq?"

"Prowl?"

"Xap! Ozqbdaq, vdx zj F fk qda jarezx?"

Ratchet commed Wheeljack, telling him ::We have a problem, get your aft in here ASAP!:: while he was bending over Prowl. "Easy, Prowl, there's a problem. Let me run a diagnostic, alright?"

"Ptoa, Ozqbdaq."

"Good. You just relax." Ratchet stepped over and pulled a diagnostic machine over to Prowl's berth, hooking the leads into various ports and starting the program. Wheeljack slid into the medbay and sidled through the various full berths to Ratchet's side.

"Hey, Prowl," the engineer greeted him.

"Daiil, Vdaaigzbh. Dlv zoa xlt?"

Wheeljack shook his head, then tapped his audio. "Again?"

Prowl obliged, ""Daiil, Vdaaigzbh. Dlv zoa xlt?"

"I'm fine, Prowl. What happened to your language module?"

"F rlk'q hklv."

"Hm, let me take a look."

Ratchet burst out, "You understand him?"

"Sure, Ratch. It's just code."

Wheeljack bent over Prowl on the opposite side of the berth, tinkering with something in Prowl's shoulder. A snap of electricity arced into Wheeljack's fingers, causing him to pull the hand back and shake it.

"Ploox, Vdaaigzbh." Prowl murmured.

"Not your fault, " Wheeljack assured him. "I shouldn't have poked at that pump. Other than the language module, what else is bad, Ratchet?"

"His battle computer seems to have taken a hit. Some of the relays are fried." Ratchet pressed a button the diagnostic center. "Hm. Nevertheless, your CPU is fine Prowl."

"Qdzq'p cllr."

"The bad relays explain the problem, though. You're not getting a clear signal from your CPU to your language module, since it's routed through the battle computer."

Wheeljack went over to one of the medbay consoles and pulled up a schematic of Prowl's internals. "Damn. Ratchet, we're going to have to remove the battle computer and put Prowl on medical leave. The relays are built in rather than being separate."

"Defrag me," growled Ratchet. "I'd forgotten that. Right. " ::Prime?::

::Ratchet::

::I need to put Prowl on medical leave::

Optimus' comm reflected his startlement ::Why?::

::His battle computer needs to be removed so I can fix it. He should only be out for 20 breems or so.::

::Of course. I'll be down to see Prowl shortly::

::Give us some time, we still have to yank the thing. Ratchet out::

Ratchet turned his attention back to his patient. "Well, Prowl, I'm going to have to take you off-line for two breems. You'll be on medical leave, and it should be about this same time tomorrow that 'Jack and I will reinstall your battle computer. Do you understand?"

"Xap, Ozqbdaq. Qdzkh xlt." Prowl answered. Ratchet looked over at Wheeljack, who responded, "You're welcome, Prowl." The CMO accessed the medical port on Prowl's shoulder and put him into forced stasis.

"Let's get to work, 'Jack."

Soon, Optimus Prime and Jazz poked their heads into the medbay. Wheeljack waved them in as Ratchet finished the last bit of wiring within Prowl's helm. Ratchet closed the helm's plates and tapped something in a shoulder port, then smoothed the port closed. Finally, he looked up at his commander.

"Prowl got shot with something that wrecked havoc on his internal wiring. His battle computer got some important relays fried so I've removed it, rendering Prowl unfit for duty as a tactician. However, I do not see any problem with him working on paperwork in his office, so I'm putting him on light duty until I can reinstall."

"Fine. Jazz, can you handle this?"

"Sure, Prime. " The saboteur stepped forward, and Wheeljack started. "So, we had to rewire his language module directly into his CPU…"

"It wasn't?" exclaimed Jazz.

"No, it was wired to come through the battle computer. All his logic circuits were moved to that secondary computer, language, tactics, higher mathematical functions, all that…" here Wheeljack waved a hand in the air, "…super logic was put into the battle computer, leaving his CPU to deal with emotion, empathy, anything softer."

"So if he had that, why...?" Jazz questioned.

"Why didn't it get used? Well, he had a rather elegant program that routed anything to the secondary computer, and if it wasn't needed for logical calculations, it got dumped."

"So Prowl really doesn't get it."

"No, Jazz, he doesn't. Part of what Ratchet and I want to do is work with Prowl to insert some code that allows anything unneeded by the battle computer to be routed back to the CPU rather than being dumped as bad code."

"So, why do you need me?"

"Would you mind taking Prowl back to his office and just keeping an optic on him? I just…we don't know how he's going to react now, and I thought if you were with him, you could…I don't know…buffer any problems."

"Sure, 'Jack. I'm glad to help."

"Great. Thanks, Jazz." Wheeljack moved to the rear of the medbay, tapping Ratchet on the shoulder as he passed. Ratchet plugging into the medical port and started the activation sequence. Prowl's systems hummed louder, indicating that his systems were starting up.

"Ratchet." Jazz cocked his head, trying to figure out why Prowl's voice sounded different.

"Prowl." Ratchet leaned over. "How are you feeling?"

"Different. " Prowl was quiet as he ran a diagnostic. "Yes, I feel different. How long will you need with my battle computer?"

"A day, perhaps a bit more. Meanwhile, I've cleared you for light duty so you can work on paperwork, but no meetings and no tactical planning. I'll comm you when we're ready to reinstall. Meanwhile, Jazz is going to do what he can to help you."

Prowl turned his head. "I don't need a babysitter, Ratchet. No offense, Jazz."

"None taken." Jazz told him. "But Optimus and Ratchet asked me to do this, and seeing as how my office is next door to yours, I might as well walk with you."

"True. If I'm free to go, then, Ratchet." Prowl sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the berth.

"Go. Don't work too hard, remember to refuel often. You've had a trauma and it would be nice if you weren't running yourself into stasis lock just because you didn't allow for the energy your self-repair systems need."

Prowl sounded shocked. "That would be silly, Ratchet! Of course I'll refuel." He then stood and moved toward Jazz.

Ratchet merely looked at Jazz, who nodded and gave him a thumbs up. It had struck him while Prowl was talking to Ratchet – there was variation in Prowl's intonation. He didn't sound as flat as he usually did. Jazz filed the anomaly away for analysis later.

"Shall we?" Prowl paused by Jazz, motioning toward the door.

"Certainly, Prowl." Jazz swung in beside him.

"So, if I'm not allowed to do tactical, does that mean I can do the analysis on the battle?" Prowl asked.

"I don't think so. But you can do the supply orders, OK the medical leaves, sign any reprimands that come across…there's always plenty of paperwork to keep an army going. You know that, Prowl."

"Indeed."

The officers walked out of the medbay and into the hallway, heading for their offices. Jazz kept glancing over curiously. Prowl was even walking differently, his body moving smoothly, his doorwings relaxed, his head moving around. Jazz was pretty sure Inferno's pumps were going to fail when he greeted them and Prowl smiled at him, returning his greeting with a cheery, "Hello, Inferno! You look well today!" The large warrior stood gazing after them until they turned a corner.

Jazz was grateful to arrive at Prowl's office and go in with him. He took the time to sort through the deeply piled in-box and remove any work that Prowl wouldn't be able to do in his current state. He took the stack of datapads across the hall to his office and dropped them on his desk, returning to Prowl's office to remind him of a few things.

"And then, Ironhide shot him and clipped him on the aft! You should have heard Screamer screaming!"

Rich laughter rolled out from Prowl's office. Jazz recognized the voice, it was Blaster, but the laugh he didn't recognize. He entered to the unbelievable sight of Prowl leaning back in his chair, laughing and looking as if he thoroughly enjoyed himself.

"Hey, Blaster." Jazz greeted him.

"Hey, Jazz! I just came in to give Prowl my report." Blaster told him.

"Uh-huh, sure you did. Now that you know he's fine, come on out and let him get some work done. You can give me the report, Blaster."

"Ah, Jazz. I'm just having a bit of fun, here," laughed Blaster. "Besides, Prowl doesn't mind."

"Jazz, he really wasn't doing any harm." Prowl told him, a smile still on his face.

"Yeah, I know. Come on. Later, Prowl." Blaster rose and followed Jazz to his office, where he gave a concise brief of the events of the battle while giving Jazz the full report on a datachip. Jazz copied the longer report to several datapads and routed them to the appropriate mechs, putting Prowl's with the stack still on his desk. After Blaster left, Jazz shuffled through the pads from Prowl and pulled the three that were urgent, shoving the others into a bin he pulled out from a corner. Labeling the bin 'Prowl's', he set them on a side table to return to Prowl in the next couple of days.

Hearing laughter again, that beautiful laugh he'd never known Prowl had, Jazz rose to find out who was bothering his fellow officer now. He was surprised to find the twins sitting across from Prowl, who was going through a reprimand written up by Ironhide.

"How did you get him to stop struggling long enough to tape him to the ceiling?" Prowl was asking.

"Oh, that was easy. The high-grade had a relaxant in it, and he slid right into recharge. It's really easy to do just about anything when they're that relaxed." Sideswipe told him.

"Plus, you know, you do most of the taping while they're on the floor, 'cause it's really hard to get enough tape to be sure they'll stick to the ceiling long enough. They make a pretty loud noise when they fall, and that's not as funny as finding them on the ceiling." Sunstreaker added.

Prowl was laughing harder. Jazz stared at him in horror, turning his gaze to the pranksters who smirked back at him with identical expressions of glee.

"Right. Prowl, no offense, but I'm taking over here. Guys, I appreciate a joke as much as the next mech," Jazz glided into the office and plucked the datapad from Prowl's fingers, "but taping" he glanced rapidly through the pad "Warpath to the ceiling is not only against regs, it's stupid." He took a moment to finish the scan, then looked at the two as he internally commed a couple of mechs. Receiving replies, he continued, "Right, I'm sentencing you both to help Wheeljack and Ratchet. Sides, 'Jack needs his lab inventoried. You're his mech when you're not on patrol for the next week. Sunny, you're with Ratchet, and I'm sure he's got something fun planned for you. Dismissed."

The two warriors stood and exited hastily. Jazz sighed and turned to Prowl.

"Well, Jazz, it was funny."
"Yes, Prowl, but you were supposed to be disciplining them, not laughing with them."

"Discipline didn't seem to be the right answer. Mostly they're bored and just want someone to listen, have a good time with them. It's hard, when you're a frontline warrior to relax and everybody seems to see them as walking killers when they've been shoved into that job and they're doing their best to be good at it but not go crazy. The pranks help them blow off steam, keep them sane."

Jazz could feel his jaw dropping at Prowl's explanation. "Um, yeah. That's…great insight, Prowl, but couldn't they come up with pranks that aren't so hurtful?"

"Hm. Maybe I should speak with them about that. They really don't like their punishment details. If we could only get them to prank the Decepticons…I'll have to follow up on that later."

Jazz couldn't believe he was talking to Prowl. His fellow officer was acting so out of character that Jazz almost felt he needed to reboot his optics to be sure he was actually looking at the normally staid, straight-laced tactician.

"What?" Prowl asked.

Jazz shook his head. "It's nothing. Look, you've had a rough day. You tired yet?"

"Yes, a bit."

"So let's go get some energon." Jazz stepped back and motioned to the door. Prowl rose and walked hesitantly to him.

"Jazz, did I do something wrong?"

"No, Prowl, you didn't." Jazz's answer was instantly given, easing Prowl's worry. His reward was the smile the blossomed across Prowl's face.

"Oh, good. I was worried that I'd done something horrible and messed everything up."

"No, but you're behaving differently than you usually do, and that's confusing."

"Differently?" Prowl thought about that as they walked to the commissary to get energon. "How am I different?"

Jazz sighed as he drew a cube of energon for Prowl and a small cupful for himself. He didn't need to refuel right now, but was keeping in mind Ratchet's orders that Prowl refuel often. He looked around the room where there were plenty of bots as a shift change was occurring. Making a decision, he asked, "How about we head back to my room to talk, Prowl."

"Sure, that sounds good." Prowl let him lead the way. Once they arrived at Jazz's room, he handed the cube to Prowl so he could type in his pass code.

"C'mon in." Jazz offered. The lights came up automatically, and Jazz waved Prowl over to the small living area he had. A huge stereo system covered one wall, with a couch and a couple of chairs facing the stereo. Prowl would have normally gone for the most upright chair, but this time, he sank into the couch and leaned back against the corner with a smile. Jazz perched on the edge of the comfortable chair, uncertain as to how he should begin.

"I'm too nice." Jazz jerked his head up to look at him. Prowl had a small smile on his lips and he nodded when Jazz looked at him. "Yes, that's it."

"I..well, um, it's just…I think…" Jazz fumbled and stuttered, his normally smooth speech deserting him.

"It's OK, Jazz. I know that I'm behaving abnormally, but I hadn't realized how much so until you came in when Sunstreaker and Sideswipe were with me and you had a look of horror on your face."

"I'm not horrified, Prowl, just…"

Prowl raised a hand and Jazz stopped. Prowl took another drink of his energon and then leaned forward to place it on the small table in the center of Jazz's seating arrangement.

"You are horrified. I'm causing a problem with the discipline of the army, and you were right to step in. I'm just…I looked up to see them standing there, and they looked so grim and I knew that part of it was that they hated coming to see me, and I hated that they hated it. I just…I wanted to be liked, just for once." Prowl's voice got softer and softer, trailing off near the end of his speech. Jazz put his cup on the table and slid forward to kneel before Prowl, taking his hands in his own.

"You are liked and respected, Prowl."

Prowl disagreed, "No, I'm not liked. Respected, yes. I know that I have that respect because I'm very good at what I do, but I'm not liked. Not like you or Blaster. You're both officers, and yet when you mingle with the other 'bots to have a good time, you don't shut the party down. I walk in, and everyone's suddenly on their best behavior. It's like the rich aunt nobody likes shows up, and she's tolerated because she's got the power but nobody really likes her. I feel like that aunt, Jazz, and I hate it!" Prowl tried to pull back but Jazz wouldn't let go of his hands.

"Shh, Prowl, it's OK."

"No, it's not! When I go back to Ratchet, I'll be who I was and everyone will still hate me and I'll hate it inside and nobody will know how much it hurts me to be the bad guy all the time!" Prowl broke down, leaning against Jazz's shoulder and sobbing. Jazz felt a pang to his spark. All this time, he'd never thought about how Prowl felt, being the one in charge of disciplining everyone, always making plans to send the Autobots out into battle and knowing that someone was going to get hurt or off-lined. Prowl carried a heavy burden, and Jazz felt a sense of shame at not thinking about how Prowl might have felt. He'd noticed the same thing that Prowl had – when the black-and-white police car entered, the commissary got quiet and reserved until he left, but the noise increased dramatically when he was out the door. Jazz was suddenly sure that they hadn't waited long enough and Prowl had heard the party restart every time.

"I'm so sorry, Prowl. That was thoughtless and unkind of me. Shhh." Jazz continued to try and sooth the distraught mech, stroking a hand up and down his back and muttering words of comfort and apology. They stayed that way for a long time, until the storm of weeping had passed and shudders were the only thing shaking the frame wrapped in his arms. He continued to smooth his hand up and down his back, his fingers gently rubbing the hinges of the door wings before him and finding other spots of tension, rubbing and soothing the tangles away. He smoothed his hand down, rubbing his thumb over the joint on his way down but not expecting the sudden intake of air and the shudder that passed through Prowl's frame.

"I'm sorry, what did I do wrong?" Jazz tried to sooth him back, but Prowl pulled away. His face was flushed with energon, and Jazz was horrified to think that he's somehow embarrassed Prowl.

"Nothing…my door wings are just really sensitive right there. I…it felt strange."

"Sorry, Prowl. I'm also very sorry I've been so thoughtless. Do you think you'll be able to forgive me?"

Prowl shrugged, picking at a spot on the arm of the couch. "It's okay, Jazz. You're good at what you do, and I'm good at what I do, and never the twain shall meet, I guess."

Jazz rocked back on his heels. Something else was bothering Prowl, and now that he knew there was a problem he couldn't help but worry at it. That was why Jazz was the unofficial moral officer of the army, after all.

"Hey, Prowler, you can't fool me. There's something else wrong."

"Why do you do that?" Prowl asked.

"Do what?"

"Make up ridiculous nicknames for everyone."

"I don't, it's just the mechs I like."

Prowl stilled, and Jazz found himself leaning forward, his attention completely focused on Prowl.

"You…like me?" He questioned.

"Yes, I like you."

Prowl raised an arm and touched Jazz's face gently. "I like you, too."

Jazz forced himself to remember that Prowl was in a unique situation right now, was vulnerable and not himself. He gently pulled back from Prowl, but the other mech tightened his grip and Jazz paused.

"Jazz?"

"Yes, Prowl?"

Prowl seemed nervous and Jazz automatically started rubbing his arm attempting to sooth him. Prowl looked at his black fingers rubbing over the white of his arm. "We're complete opposites, aren't we?"

"Most of the time, yes we are."

Prowl continued to look at their contrasting colors. "I wish…sometimes, I wish we had more in common."

"Why, Prowl?"

"Because then maybe we'd spend more time together and I could have a friend."

Jazz could feel his spark breaking at the honest wish. "Prowl…couldn't we be friends now?"

Prowl shook his head. "I don't think so. You'd be doing it out of pity now, 'cause you know how I feel, and I'd be doing it and wishing for more." He stopped talking abruptly, his flush returning deeper than before.

Jazz carefully leaned in and asked in a very quiet voice, "More than friendship?" His spark was fluttering wildly in his chest, and his pumps felt like they couldn't move the energon through his systems. He could almost feel time slowing around him.

"Yes…" Prowl gently touched his face, tracing his lips, his attention focused on the movement of his hands. "…yes. Why do you kiss?"

"Because it feels good," was the quiet response. "and it's a custom I particularly like."

"What does it feel like?"

Jazz leaned forward, moving slowly enough that Prowl could stop him if he wished, and continued until he was a whisper away from Prowl's lips. "It works better if you remove your fingers, first, lover."

"I'm not your lover." Prowl told him, moving his fingers away.

"No, you're not." And Jazz kissed him. Prowl didn't respond to the press of lips, and Jazz pulled back and whispered, "Open your mouth, Prowler." Prowl did so, and Jazz pressed forward, his glossa probing Prowl's lips. He teased Prowl's mouth, kissing him gently, deepening the kiss gradually, then retreating and lightening the pressure. Prowl moved forward finally, following Jazz's mouth and allowing his glossa to flick at Jazz's lips. Jazz met glossa with glossa, twining his around Prowl's and stroking along the underside. Prowl moaned and Jazz surged forward, pressing his torso to the other mech and pushing Prowl back into the couch. The exploration of mouths continued and Jazz found himself wondering how he'd ever missed this intense passion of Prowl's. His internal comm beeped, and Jazz pulled away from this kiss with a groan, dropping his head onto Prowl's chest.

"Hang on, got a comm." Jazz gasped, his internal fans unable to keep him cool, so he gulped cool air to help the process.

::Yeah, it's the Jazzman. What's up, Ratchet?::

::Is Prowl alright?::

Jazz looked down at the mech under him. Somehow, they'd both ended up on the couch, Jazz sprawled over Prowl, their legs entwined. Prowl's face was flushed and his lips were full. He slowly unshuttered his optics, gazing up at Jazz with a dazed look.
::Yeah, Ratch, he's fine. Why?::

::Because you're not in your offices and no one knows where you are.::

::We're in my quarters, talking. Prowl's having a hard time adjusting.::

::Fine. Remember he needs to refuel often.::

::I promise you, Ratch, I did remember. He's had most of a cube and I'll make sure he drinks the rest and heads off for recharge shortly.::

::Fine.::

Jazz leaned down and gave Prowl a quick kiss, resisting when Prowl tried to pull him down.

"We're going to be good and not do anything you'd regret. You're going to finish your energon, and then you're off to recharge."

"But, Jazz, I like this better."

Jazz had to kiss him again for that. "I know, but Prowl…if you were yourself, we wouldn't be here. You're going to beat yourself up over this. Please, please for the sake of the friendship you want, stop tempting me."

Slowly, Prowl let Jazz go. Jazz pulled away and went to sit in his chair, burying his face in his hands and working on regaining his control. When he finally looked up, Prowl was sitting up on the couch, his legs pulled close to his body and his arms wrapped around his legs, giving him a place to bury his face in his knees.

"Prowl." Jazz said quietly.

"I just…why did I do that? You're not going to just like me. Why am I behaving this way?"

Jazz laughed brokenly, "At a guess, because you have the emotional maturity of a sparkling. That's when you got your battle computer installed, right?"

"Yes, it is."

"So your emotional circuits haven't been used in vorns and you don't know what to do. It's okay, Prowl. I know this now, and we'll go slow. Become friends, see what happens."

Prowl nodded slowly. "Okay. I'm sorry Jazz."

"Sorry? For what?"

Prowl shrugged and Jazz was suddenly reminded of young mechs around their first crush. They had been clumsy and overly eager, trying to catch the eye and the attention of the femme or mech. Jazz wanted to protect Prowl, to make him feel better, to offer patience and gentleness.

"Hey. It's alright, Prowl. We'll figure it out." He coaxed Prowl out of his ball and into drinking the rest of the energon in the cube, then got him to his quarters and recharging. He slapped a privacy lock on the door and exited, eager to get back to his own quarters. He needed to think about what had just happened.

Once in his quarters, Jazz started pacing. Normally such wasted motion would not have been something he did, but he felt the need to move and he found himself unwilling to go very far from Prowl, just in case something else happened. Where had that bot been hiding himself all these vorns? Prowl was a beautiful mech, Jazz had noticed that when he'd first met Prowl, and his voice was also beautiful until you listened to what he was saying – the mech could put a room to sleep with his specific and detailed analyses of any situation. But if you ignored his words, Prowl had a gorgeous voice. He moved beautifully, too, all lean limbs and grace and those doorwings…until Jazz had figured out that Prowl just wasn't interested, Jazz had vivid dreams of Prowl's doorwings. Now to find out that Prowl wanted friends but had no idea how to make them…the very idea made Jazz's head spin. If that was true, was there more? Did Prowl harbour feelings for Jazz, or was it just that he was experimenting for the first time? Jazz groaned, uncertain as to his next course of action. He clenched his hands into fists, fighting the urge to go to Prowl right now and ravish the mech until he couldn't walk. The only thing stopping him was the knowledge that when Prowl was back in his right mind, he would hold any and all actions on Jazz's part against him, and for the first time in his life, Jazz wanted to stay on someone's good side, to have the chance to become friends with Prowl, to see what could develop between them. Primus, this was difficult!

When Prowl opened his door he was surprised to see Jazz slouched against the wall, obviously waiting for him.

"Jazz?"

Jazz shook himself and stood straight. "Hey Prowler, did you recharge well?"

"Yes, thank you, I did. But my tanks are very empty!"

Jazz chuckled and pulled a cube out of subspace to give him. "Figured. Ratchet commed and asked for you to show up in the medbay. You can drink that on the way."

"Thank you Jazz. That was very thoughtful of you."

"No problem, Prowl." They fell into step and headed toward the medbay.

"Do you think they'll have me fixed up properly?" Prowl questioned Jazz.

Jazz stopped and looked at him seriously. "Make no mistake, Prowl, there is nothing wrong with you right now. Will they put you back the way you were? Probably, but I was rather enjoying getting to know this side of you, and I hope it doesn't completely disappear." Jazz held his gaze for a moment, then nodded and continued to the medbay. Prowl fell into step with him.

"Hey, Ratch, gotcher mech right here!" Jazz sang out as they entered the medbay. Ratchet and Wheeljack looked up from the table they were both over and motioned them to come closer.

"Prowl, good. We're almost ready to start. Thank you Jazz." The last was an obvious dismissal, and Jazz turned toward the door. He stopped when his hand was grabbed, surprised. Prowl sent him a look of terror.

"Hey, whoa, Prowl, it's alright." Jazz turned his hand to clasp Prowl's.

"Don't leave me." Prowl whispered.

"I won't. I'll stay." Jazz assured him. They turned back to Ratchet and Wheeljack, who were looking at them in astonishment.

"I'm staying."

Wheeljack recovered first. "Alright. Sure. OK. Prowl, we've fixed the relays on your battle computer, it's ready for reinstallation, but we wanted to talk to you about how you've been dealing with emotions. The battle computer's been dumping them, and that's not a good way to handle it. We've worked up a patch that we'd like to install at the same time we reinstall the tactical computer."

"May I see it?" Prowl asked. Wheeljack pulled a data cord from the side of his helm and offered it to Prowl, who took the end and plugged it into a jack on the side of his helm. Jazz and Ratchet watched the pair of them, their optics flickering in unison.

"Elegant," grunted Wheeljack. "Let me incorporate that into the code."

"Do it like this." Prowl told him.

"Why? Oh, yes, of course. You're good at this." Wheeljack finished and Prowl unplugged him, handing the cord back to its owner.

"Yes, that patch should work nicely."

"You're a good coder, Prowl. Why don't we have you doing more of that?" 'Jack finished stowing his cord and smiled at Prowl.

"Possibly because my other jobs leave me with no free time anyway?" Prowl grinned back.

"Oh, yeah. Pesky jobs. They get in the way of real creativity." Wheeljack laughed. "So, Prowl, up on that table right there," He pointed to one behind Ratchet, "and let's get started."

"I'd like Jazz to stay, if that's alright."

Wheeljack looked at Ratchet, who shrugged a shoulder. "That's fine."

Ratchet finished the last adjustment on the computer and moved over to Prowl. "Ready?"

"Yes."

"Good." Ratchet opened the port and initiated shut-down on Prowl's systems. Jazz found a spot to be comfortable and sat back to watch the medic and the engineer do their work.

It didn't take them long to reinstall the battle computer and reconnect everything. They left the language module running to the main CPU, but other than that, they rewired everything the way it had been. When Ratchet woke Prowl up Jazz tensed, uncertainty gripping him.

"Ratchet?" Oh. Prowl's voice was back to his normal intonation. Jazz slumped, his spirits sinking further.

"Prowl. How are you feeling?" Ratchet had his optics on a display connected to Prowl.

"I feel…fine, thank you. In fact, I feel much better."

"Yeah, we took the opportunity to clean some circuits and redo some connectors to help speed things up."

"It seems to have worked well. Am I free to go now?" Prowl wanted to know.

"Let me disconnect you, and then yes, you are free to go. I want you back here in an orn for a re-check; standard procedures and such."

"Of course, Ratchet." Prowl waited until all the connectors were gone, then swung his feet over the edge and stood. As soon as he saw Jazz, a brief smile crossed his face. Jazz suddenly felt lighter and he stood straighter.

"Jazz. Thank you for staying."

"You're welcome, Prowl."

"Shall we? I have a lot of work to catch up on." Prowl moved toward the doors, back to his usual brisk self.

"I did try to take care of the most important and urgent things, Prowl. You shouldn't be too far behind."

"As I recall, Jazz, you spent most of your time taking care of me, not paperwork."

"Well, yeah, but you were important." Jazz told him.

Prowl shot a look at him. "Thank you, it's nice to know."

"Any time, Prowler."

Companionably, they headed toward their offices. Jazz retrieved the bin with Prowl's datapads, and they both worked on the stack in Prowl's office, Jazz taking care of the less important matters and Prowl giving his attention to the battle reports that had been delayed. Optimus Prime stuck his head in sometime late in the duty cycle, welcomed Prowl back, and gathered the two reports he'd been waiting on. Red Alert sent Inferno over to gather his reports, since the security director was uncomfortable leaving his station long enough to get the reports. After they'd cleared most of the pads, Jazz returned to his office and was surprised when Prowl joined him about a breem later and helped clear his stack of pads before the end of shift. When Jazz plopped the last pad in his outbox, Prowl leaned back and asked, "How'd you like to go get some energon?"

"I'd rather do something else." Jazz told him.

Prowl seemed to fold in on himself. "Oh. Of course. I hope you have fun." With that, he rose and Jazz had to hustle to catch him.

"Ya misunderstood me. I'd like to get the energon, sure, but do you play Castles?"

"Castles? Why, yes, I do."

"Sweet! I have a game board, how'd you like to play a couple of games with me? I'd love to spend the time with you." Jazz knew he looked overly hopeful, but he couldn't help it, he wanted to spend time with Prowl now that he had an idea of what lay behind the serene mask.

"You're asking me to spend time with you, without anyone else around?" Prowl questioned.

"Well, yeah, I am. If you'd rather, we can have someone else in there to chaperone us." Jazz was mostly kidding, but wanted Prowl to feel safe and comfortable around him.

A slow, sweet smile was his response. "No, that won't be necessary, but thank you. I'd like to spend the time with you."

Jazz grinned. "Great. Let's go."


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