Thanks to the luverly readers who fed my addiction with their equally luverly reviews. I would send you all big thank you baskets of love, if I were able.
In this chapter, we get the hint that Prowl may have been employed in a more... unsavory career. Yes, I do have my own idea of what Prowl did before the war, but I'll let you guys speculate. It's more fun that way, no?
In other news... REVENGE OF THE FALLEN COMES OUT TONIGHT, REVENGE OF THE FALLEN COMES OUT TONIGHT, REVENGE OF THE FALLEN COMES OUT TOOOOONIIIIIIGHT, AAAUUGH!!! (Be quiet, all you Europeans who have had it for like, a week already.)
Instantly sober, Jazz scrambled to his pedes, hissing, "Lights on!"
The room flooded with light, revealing – as Jazz had suspected, for who else did he know that used that tone, that tone that was passive and yet scathing at the same time? – Him. Prowl. Prowl was in his room.
Though not in a position he'd ever thought he'd see the stuffy tactician in.
The SIC was sprawled on the floor at the foot of Jazz's berth, one leg pulled up to support one arm at the wrist, the other extended lazily. His sensory panels, usually held high and erect, were drooping dramatically. Faceplates were no longer set in that stern look, but in a grimace, optics shuttering rapidly at the sudden light. He held a cube of energon in one hand, and at least half a dozen empty ones lay scattered about him.
If Jazz didn't know any better, he'd say the mech was over-energized.
"Turn that light off, Jazzy. Hurts m'optics."
Yes, Prowl was most certainly over-energized.
"I will not turn the lights off!" Jazz said loudly. "This is my room, my apartment, in case ya didn't know!"
"Course I know," Prowl said matter-of-factly. "I looked you up in the system, found out where you lived." He suddenly frowned. "Unless I got it wrong. You sure this is your apartment?"
"Yes, I'm sure!" Jazz spluttered.
"Oh. Good." With much difficulty, the tactician maneuvered the cube in his hand to his lip components and took a long swig.
"You – you," Jazz fumed, unable to form a coherent sentence. "You fragger!"
He was absolutely livid. At Prowl, of course, but mostly at himself. How had a mech like Prowl managed to get past his security system – the one he'd created and installed himself so no bot else would know the code. Not only that, it had completely escaped Jazz's notice that the mech was even there – not an arm's length in front of him! – until the tactician had actually spoken up. Where had all his training disappeared to?
"How the slag did you get in here?" Jazz snarled
"Wasn't easy," Prowl said. "Took me twice as long as it should have, really." He added in a conspiratorial whisper, "I'm a little over-energized, you know."
"No kidding," Jazz muttered sullenly. "But how did you do it?"
Prowl waggled a finger at Jazz, chiding, "Now, now. A master never reveals his secrets."
"Oh, so you're a master a breakin' inna people's homes now?" Jazz snarled. "You done this before?"
"Of course," Prowl scoffed. "Good thing I have so much experience, too, even if my skills are a little rusty. You've got one Pit of a security system."
Jazz tried to suppress the little spike of pride that stroke to his ego created.
"Not good enough," he growled, "if'n you were still able to get in. Speaking of which… get out."
Prowl, appearing as though he had not heard the saboteur, finishing off the rest of his cube of high-grade and letting it clatter to the ground to rest among the others. He rooted around the group of empty cubes, looking for a full one. Finding such, he peeled off the seal with clumsy hands and brought it to his lip components.
"You glitched or somethin'?" Jazz snarled. "I told you to get outta my apartment!"
"Not yet," Prowl muttered. "I gotta talk with you first."
With great difficulty, Prowl gathered his limbs together and pushed himself off the ground, spilling only a little of his new cube of high-grade in the act. His sensory panels only seemed to hinder the process, flopping about dramatically. Eventually, he made it to his feet, but his equilibrium chip must have been having a hard time of stabilizing him, for he swayed on the spot. Unfocused optics stared hazily at Jazz. For a moment, he said nothing. Jazz, fuse getting ever shorter, was just about to order him out of his home again when he opened his mouth.
"You put Blue on your team."
Jazz was momentarily confused.
"I put who on what team?" His momentary confusion overruled his desire to see the mech gone.
"Blue," Prowl slurred, "doesn't belong on some recon mission."
"Who the frag are you – you mean Bluestreak?" The fact that Prowl was referring to the young gunner by a nickname threw Jazz for a complete loop.
"The kid's good," Jazz shrugged. "I needed someone to cover us long range, and he's the best, 'cept for Mirage, an' I've already got him doin' somethin'."
"Take him off." The order was crisp and firm. For a moment, one might have forgotten Prowl was completely cratered.
"I will not," Jazz said, upper lip component curling in disgust. "An' I won't have you questioning my decisions, especially in my own home! You may rank me, but I only answer to Prime."
"Prime hasn't approved your crew list yet," Prowl argued. "Take Blue off before you submit it."
The gears in Jazz's processor were slowly turning. Prowl was… just not acting Prowl-like. For one thing, over-energized was the last state he thought he'd ever see Prowl voluntarily put himself into. (And the number of consumed cubes lying at their feet made it seem very voluntary.) For another, he kept referring to Bluestreak by a nickname, as though he knew him personally, a fact that was being emphasized by his determination to convince Jazz to take him off the risky recon mission.
"What's it to you if I don't?" Jazz challenged, folding his arms across his chest. "Why shouldn't I keep 'im on?"
"He's inexperienced. He has never been on a –"
"That's slag," Jazz sneered. "He's been on at least five that are on record. Pro'lly more off."
"But never one of this magnitude," Prowl countered, waving his arms widely, slopping more of his high-grade over the cube's edge. "This one is… is dangerous."
"You thought I could handle it," Jazz contested with a scowl.
"That's different," Prowl scoffed. "I don't care if you get slagged."
Jazz's immediate offence, whilst great, did not cloud his ability to read into that comment. He cared about Bluestreak. Very greatly, it would seem, if he was so upset about the potential danger he was to be put in that he let himself slip into such a state. (Though the idea that Prowl – cool, distant, emotionless Prowl – cared about anyone at all was rather hard to grasp.)
"What's the kid to you?" Jazz repeated, genuinely curious.
He expected silence. A refusal to answer. Hesitation, at the very least. Instead, Prowl, without missing a beat, returned the inquiry with one of his own.
"Do you have any family?"
His CPU instantly zeroed in on the image of Backbeat resting out in his sitting room.
"Not anymore," Jazz murmured.
"Neither do I." Prowl looked into the cube in his hands with – was that sadness? "'Cept for Bluestreak. He's all I have."
The weight of that comment left hung heavily in Jazz's chest. Prowl, whom he had come to see as some arrogant, impassive drone, had no one. No friends. No family save the young gunner. And he clearly loved Bluestreak. Loved him as much as Jazz himself had loved and still loved Backbeat. He loved him enough that he would seek out Jazz – the very bot whose existence he sought so hard to deny – and ask him to take him out of potential harm's way, to protect him.
Such emotion and caring Jazz could understand from anybody else. It was only natural. To have it come from Prowl, though, seemed so foreign, so strange. It made him seem almost… normal. It forced Jazz to accept something.
Prowl, despite his cold mask, was a living, feeling individual, just like he himself.
A regular, normal, feeling bot.
And Pit if that wasn't going to make it harder to hate him.
"Aw, frag," he muttered.