Title: Paths
Warnings for:
A pissy, upset Prowl. And hey! At least this one is actually short. At least, short for something that I wrote…
February, 2000

"You are not going to turn her into an assassin, Jazz!" Prowl exclaimed firmly, glaring at Jazz in a more displeased way than he'd glared at Jazz in a long, long time. Jazz was surprised, though not intimidated, by the fact that genuine anger tinged Prowl's expression. Jazz absently reflected that almost a year of exposure to Sunfall had had some…interesting side effects on Prowl, and then he returned his attention to the discussion at hand.

"Nope, I'm not gonna turn her into an assassin," Jazz agreed quietly enough, not at all impressed with Prowl's displeasure but also not wanting to encourage further anger. A truly angry Prowl was a scary Prowl. He folded his arms over his chest, glared back at Prowl, and calmly announced. "I'm going to turn her into an infiltrator."

Prowl clenched his jaw at that, his glare deepening.

"Don't play with words, Jazz," he growled, his voice quiet but his glare steely. He leveled an accusing finger at Jazz and added, "They're often one and the same, and you know it. And…It's too dangerous. She's far too young."

Jazz snorted at that.

"Did you even look at this, Prowl?" he asked, leaning demandingly across Prowl's desk and picking up and then waving the datapad containing a copy of his evaluation of and recommendations regarding Sunfall at the tactician. "She's got the chops, man, even if she is, in a way, less than a year old. More than that, she wants to do this. She's tired of sitting on her aft, and quite frankly her sitting on her aft is a waste of resources and talent. Plus?" he added significantly. "I don't need your permission. At all."

"Then why tell me in the first place?" Prowl demanded, his voice an angry snarl the likes of which Jazz had never heard from him. This, though, didn't deter him, either.

"Courtesy!" he spat back at Prowl, just as ferociously. "Silly me figured that maybe you'd want to hear it straight from me instead of suddenly seeing her name on an assignment roster somewhere! 'Specially because Optimus thinks this," he added, waving the datapad again, "is a dandy idea."

Prowl snorted at that and sat back angrily in his chair, his arms folded over his chest and his door panels flaring in agitation as he glared for long moments at the saboteur. But then, suddenly deflating, he folded his forearms on his desktop and sank forward until his forehead was resting on top of them. Jazz regarded him sympathetically. He was irritated with Prowl, sure…but he also knew exactly what was driving him here, so he had a certain level of understanding.

"I…know you care about her, Prowl," Jazz said without heat. "I guess I just didn't realize quite how much until right now. But I thought…I dunno, I thought maybe you'd be proud of her."

"I am proud of her, Jazz," Prowl insisted, although his voice was muffled due to his slumped position. "It's just…just…"

Jazz regarded Prowl speculatively and almost sympathetically for a moment longer and then quietly said, "She wants to be useful, Prowl, to have a purpose. And quite frankly I need her, and she needs to have a life. She'll go crazy without one. "

"I know that," Prowl answered mournfully. He sat up straight in his chair then and regarded Jazz wearily. "But why did she have to choose your life?" he added plaintively.

Jazz chuckled ruefully at that, but his amusement was short-lived.

"Because she can do it," he answered Prowl in all seriousness. "And not many people can. But Sunfall, she's got it all, man." He paused to consult the datapad still in his hand for a moment, ticking off her qualifications. "Rated as a sharpshooter last month, thanks in no small part to your hard work. Sideswipe says she kicks aft hand to hand in close quarters even against larger and stronger opponents. Her psych profile…Well, I guess it's no surprise, really, but the girl can compartmentalize like nobody's business. And, to top it all off, she's small, fast, and maneuverable. Overall, she's…perfect for the job," he finished with a shrug.

"Because she went ahead and made herself perfect for the job," Prowl asserted wearily.

"Maybe," Jazz answered, nodding contemplatively.

But Prowl knew there was no "maybe" about it. If nothing else, one of Sunfall's overriding qualities was that she was persistent and determined when she was motivated to be that way. And she had most certainly been motivated to find a place to belong within the Autobot ranks. Once she decided to sink her teeth into learning something, she didn't quit until she'd perfected whatever it was, be it playing the violin…or learning hand-to-hand combat.

Prowl had surreptitiously watched her in the training room just the other day. She'd been sparring with Sideswipe, who'd been instructing her in hand-to-hand, at Sunfall's request, for a while now. Prowl had never thought that Sideswipe would have the patience to teach anyone anything, but he apparently did have such patience, and Prowl had been utterly amazed at how far Sunfall had come under Sideswipe's tutelage in just a few months. His amazement was matched, in fact, only by his level of dismay.

Because Jazz had been watching her very closely that day, too, and his expression as he'd followed her graceful yet potentially lethal movements had been almost avaricious. Since Mirage was on long-term assignment on Cybertron at Elita-One's request, Jazz was missing a team member here on Earth, possibly for good if both Elita and Mirage had their way. So Jazz was currently missing an infiltrator, specifically, and Prowl wasn't entirely surprised that Jazz wanted Sunfall to fill in that gap now. All that she would need would be some specialized training, which Jazz would be all too happy to provide and which Sunfall would assimilate and perfect all too quickly. This, Prowl knew as well.

And that was what worried him. He'd hoped that Sunfall would remain content to sit out the war, to stay relatively safe, to remain more or less under his protection. He should have known better. She wanted to contribute, had wanted to do so since shortly after her birth, almost a year before. A sense of obligation had driven her at first, and now, as Jazz had pointed out, boredom and frustration with a lack of purpose had made her even more determined to find a place, to have a job to perform, a purpose to fulfill.

And now, she'd found one.

Prowl had indeed read Jazz's evaluation of her, and he knew that Jazz was right about her. He also knew that Sunfall would handle herself capably, even that she would likely excel in the career path she'd chosen. Still, the path she had chosen was fraught with danger, more danger in many different ways than mere front-line combat. Espionage and special operations often meant flying solo. In straight-on combat, there were usually others – sometimes many others – to watch one's back; an infiltrator, on the other hand, almost always worked alone, often behind enemy lines, and therefore had little-to-no margin for error. Jazz himself was supremely capable at his job and even he had been caught from time to time over the years. Captured. Interrogated. He'd been horribly tortured more than a few times, giving him a darker side that only a select few – Prowl included – ever saw, careful as Jazz was to maintain his upbeat and carefree persona around everyone else. The thought of those same things happening to Sunfall sent shivers of deep dread racing through Prowl's frame, and it was fueling his protective anger now.

Still, anger or no anger, Jazz was right, and Prowl knew it. Sunfall needed to have a life, and if this was the path that she had chosen for herself, then who was he to gainsay her? Who was he to dissuade Jazz from recruiting her or to convince Sunfall not to accept Jazz's offer? He had no claim over her and no right whatsoever to dictate to her. He cared for Sunfall very deeply. Indeed he was, he had only recently admitted to himself, in love with her…but at the moment that was as far as it went. He most certainly did not own her. He hadn't even told her that he loved her, even. At least, not in so many words.

Now it crossed his mind that, since things were apparently moving ahead out of his control, perhaps he should tell her, while she was still relatively safe, just in case…

Prowl sat up straighter in his chair then, with a little sigh of defeat. He regarded Jazz steadily, folding his hands on his desktop, his expression deadly serious.

"Teach her well, Jazz," he said quietly but imploringly. "For Primus's sake, teach her well."

Jazz smiled grimly.

"Don't you worry, Prowl," he said. "I intend to."

Figured I should give you a "real" story, too, along with the goofy Mary Sue test. This is all I've got for this for the moment, though, so it'll likely be a while for an update. Unless, of course, Sunfall gets uppity...