The Thin Line
by K. Stonham
first released 1st April 2008

There was a thin line, Jazz thought hazily. A thin line between being an Autobot and being a Decepticon. They were almost like the two facets of a plane. Like the two sides of a coin, as the humans would have it.

That thin line, that difference, was composed of the razor-sharp contrast between two philosophies: that all sentient beings had rights, the creed of the Autobots, and that might made right, the creed of the Decepticons.

But hold as close to that philosophy as they could, most of the Autobots--himself included--had moments of staring too long into the void. Jazz could do almost anything, get away with almost anything, and sometimes the knowledge that he shouldn't was an awfully flimsy leash.

He breathed half a bitter laugh and regretted it as soon as he did, drawing attention back to himself like that.

Soft footsteps, nearly silent, the source of the other bot's name, crossed the room back to him. "Have something to say, Jazz?" that other inquired impassively. Unmoved. Mutely, Jazz shook his head. "Good," Prowl replied. The slightest smile, not kind, crossed his mouth. "Because if I recall correctly, the last time you made a noise, you didn't care for what the duct tape did to your finish afterward." Jazz nodded again, still muting his vocalizer. Prowl dipped his fingers into Jazz's open chest panel, drawing a crackle of blue from the spark just above his laser core as Jazz bucked, holding on with everything he was worth just not to scream.

Wordlessly, silently, Prowl drifted away again, leaving Jazz throbbing with pleasure and pain and the need for relief or darkness. Leaving him to control himself. He did so slowly, agonizingly, cursing Prowl as virulently within the confines of his CPU as he dared not do aloud.

He wasn't a toy. He was dangerous. And that, Jazz had concluded, was what made Prowl get off on this. Screw Sideswipe and Sunstreaker, or even the Dinobots; the lot of them you knew were angry and dangerous. You could hear them coming a thousand klicks away. Jazz, though... Jazz was Death incarnate. He could smile and joke with you one minute and slit your energon lines the next. He had in the past, to Decepticons and traitors to the Autobot cause. He would again in a pump-beat. It was the nature of his job. It was the nature of Ops. Nothing personal.

Prowl made it personal. He long had, enjoying being a needle that pierced through Jazz's disregard for things Optimus would consider sacred. Jazz walked that line; Prowl tethered him, barely, to one side. Like a turbo-wolf leashed on a titanium chain.

Prowl, in turn, enjoyed knowing that the power he held in check could turn on him any second. Whether he knew that Jazz knew or not, Jazz didn't particularly care. But Jazz had dug, and he'd looked, and he'd asked, and he knew exactly why the tactician was so cold, why he didn't care about anything. Prowl'd lost everything when his city was razed. The few survivors of his clan had eventually drifted to the Autobots as well. For all his gentleness with Bluestreak and patience with Smokescreen, though, Prowl could barely stand being in the same room with his distant kin. He didn't trust himself not to hurt them.

He let himself hurt Jazz. And Jazz let Prowl hurt him, because he understood what was beneath the empty logic and the cold numbers and facts Prowl surrounded himself with. He had a holovid, obtained at great difficulty and greater expense, from the ruins of Prowl's hometown. It showed a young bot, surrounded by family, laughing, smiling, optics glowing with happiness. It was a Prowl Jazz had never met.

The Prowl he had wouldn't let himself care for anyone or anything, because he knew too well what it was like to lose everything. The only thing he had left to lose was himself, and sometimes Jazz wondered whether or not what he and Prowl did together was Prowl's version of Russian Roulette. Whether or not this time would be the one that Prowl pushed him too far and he snapped over to that other side.

Except Jazz didn't think so. Because the leash that bound him had its origin in Prowl. It was as thin as spider silk, and maybe just as fragile... but also maybe as strong as a titanium chain. He was something Prowl needed, which meant that somewhere deep and buried in the trauma, Prowl still cared.

And that taste of... whatever it was, was what kept Jazz coming back, and walking Prowl's side of that thin line.