Transformers © Hasbro. Not mine.
An: Holy crap, how did this turn into humor?! It was supposed to be serious, I tell you! Then Ratchet took over! Ah, well, it's still serious in some parts, I guess. This is what I get for writing a one –shot when I'm on a sugar high!
Outrun the Dawn
It was only Optimus Prime, Red Alert, Prowl, and Ratchet at the base. For once, Prowl found himself thankful for the small force as he headed down to the brig. Under normal circumstances, Ironhide or Sunstreaker would interrogate prisoners, but with half their force in Iacon and the other half preparing the Ark for evacuation, only the four of them were left, and Prowl was the only one qualified to do interrogations aside from Prime. So, with a sigh, he agreed.
Red Alert met him at the entrance to the brig. "Be careful, Prowl." he warned, his voice dark. "He's a slippery one, that. Almost got away from me and Optimus twice when we were bringing him down here."
Prowl nodded, only paying half-attention. Every Decepticon was a slippery 'con to Red Alert. As much as Prowl enjoyed the other mech's friendship, even he had to admit the hard truth – Red was a paranoid little glitch and he was proud of it. "Where was he when you caught him?"
"Sneaking onto base." Red Alert growled. "He was heading to the computer rooms – I'll bet he's a saboteur."
That got Prowl's attention. There was only one saboteur on the Decepticon force that he knew of, and he prayed to Primus that it wasn't him. That was the last complication Prowl needed. Then again, what were the chances of that happening? Slim to none, he was sure. So he brushed the thought aside. "I'll deal with him, Red. You know I will."
"I just don't want him dealing with you." Red muttered. "I kind of like you, Prowl."
"Gee, thanks." Prowl teased lightly. "I appreciate that." He smiled at Red Alert's grin and entered the brig. He really wanted to just get this done and over with, to be honest. A warm cube of energon and a good recharge were calling his name. He was happy to respond, for once. Not having too many mechs around meant that his workload had decreased considerably.
He walked farther in and stopped. Very suddenly.
Only one cell was occupied. A lone mech lounged on the recharge berth, arms crossed under his head and music playing just loud enough for Prowl to hear. Dimly, he realized he still recognized the music even after all this time. Opening his mouth, he meant to say something productive, something that would let the prisoner know just who he was on the Autobot team.
What came out was something a bit different.
"How in the pit did you let yourself get captured?!"
The other mech jerked in shock, music shutting off automatically. He sat up on the berth, staring in openmouthed surprise at Prowl. It took a few minutes for him to collect himself, and suddenly the shock vanished to be replaced by warm affection. "Hey, Prowler! Been a while, hasn't it?"
"I'll say." Prowl took a step forward, shock and amusement morphing into concern. "Jazz, what are you doing here? You of all people should know –"
Jazz, the Decepticon saboteur and second in command, simply waved him away. "I know, I know. Red Alert got lucky. Pit, Prowl, you got one paranoid security officer. I wasn't even halfway to the computer banks before alarm after alarm started sounding. Ya know, I would have thought more than two mechs woulda come after me."
Prowl resisted the urge to roll his optics. "When one of those mechs is Prime, you really don't have a chance." he muttered.
Jazz froze for a second. "Slag. In that case, tell Prime I'm sorry about what I said about his creator."
"What? What did you want me to say, 'slap em on me'?" Jazz demanded, holding out his wrists in emphasis. Prowl couldn't help but laugh. Some things just really didn't change. Jazz grew abruptly serious. "I take it Prime don't know, otherwise you wouldn't be down here."
"No." Prowl admitted. "I never told him."
"Well, can't say I blame ya." Jazz said, laying back down. "I never told Megatron either. But Prowl – he may not understand."
"Understand or not, I have to tell him now." Prowl pointed out dryly, turning to leave. "I've gone this far without hurting you. I won't be the one to interrogate you."
Jazz had been right, Prowl thought darkly. Prime didn't understand. "I can't do this, Optimus. I'm sorry, but I can't."
Prime pinched his nose plates, like he was warding off a processor ache. "Let me get this straight." he growled. "You have a connection to the Decepticon second in command that you never told me about. Never mind that he's on the other side now. You still won't do something as simple as interrogate him?!" He would have kept going, but Prowl overrode him.
"Prime, we grew up together." he said sharply. "We were sparklings together. We went to the Academy together. Sunstreaker and Sideswipe will tell you – we weren't just friends, Prime. We were slagging near inseparable. When we chose sides, the war hadn't even started yet. So no, I didn't think it was worth mentioning." He shook his head. "I can't do this. I just can't."
Prime considered this for a second. "You do realize that if word about this gets out, the others may doubt your loyalty."
Prowl couldn't help but snort. "Not anyone who matters, Prime." he said.
"What about Ironhide? You know the younger ones listen to him."
"Stupid not to listen to the mech who can turn you into scrap metal." Prowl said with a laugh. "But Ironhide won't say anything. He has no room to talk."
Optimus sighed, but before he could say anything else, Red Alert ran into the office.
"The prisoner has escaped!" he shrieked, smoke starting to drift from his helm. "I can't find him anywhere! He could be causing all sorts of trouble as we speak!"
"Red, don't glitch on us." Prowl warned. "Ratchet is not going to like having to fix you again. I'll go find J- the prisoner." He caught himself just in time. "You don't worry about a thing." He exited Prime's office with a grimace.
This really didn't surprise him. Jazz had always been good at getting out of tight spots. His teachers had to stop putting him in the detention room at the Academy because he could always break out. Prowl could have told Red Alert as he left that nothing short of slagging wielding the door shut was going to keep Jazz in.
In truth, though, he was glad Jazz had escaped.
He went to his office with the intent of grabbing a few things. It was intentional. He could have shot off immediately to drag Jazz's aft back to the brig, but Prowl wanted to give him as much of a headstart as possible. He keyed the passcode and walked in, only to stop short for the second time that day. This time he could feel his own processor beginning to ache.
"Prowl, don't lock up on me." Jazz warned. He was sitting in Prowl's chair, behind Prowl's desk. Still in the base, when he should have been halfway back to Megatron by then. "I really don't want to get caught by dragging you back to Ratchet. That's embarrassing."
"And this isn't?" Prowl demanded. "Are you begging to get caught or something? There are easier ways of defecting, you know."
Jazz stiffened. "We've had that conversation before." he snapped. "I like where I am." He sighed, all the fight leaving him. "I just wanted to make sure you were okay. The brig wasn't the best place to have that kind of conversation."
Prowl relaxed at that. "You are such a slagging idiot." he said affectionately. "Don't you think you would know if I wasn't okay?"
Jazz gave him a look. "I see you in battle." he said dryly. "No one looks 'okay' in battle."
"Point." Prowl smiled as he sat on the edge of his desk. "Well, if you can get the Seekers to stop targeting the Twins, it'll make my life easier. And Ratchet's."
Jazz laughed a little at that. "But it's so much fun to drive the medic up the wall." he teased. "We did it often enough at the Academy."
"Yeah, but now you don't have to deal with him every day."
"Hey, he's your brother." Jazz pointed out with a grin. "You were slagged from the beginning." He ducked as Prowl reached over to slap him on the back of the head. "Hey! Not nice, Prowler, not nice!"
"And you are?"
"Compared to what I could be doing, yes."
That brought them both back to reality. Prowl glanced back at his door, as if by sheer force of will he could prevent what he knew was coming. Sooner or later, Optimus was going to come through the door and drag Jazz away. He knew it. "Jazz, you need to go."
Jazz sighed, shuttering his optics for a second before focusing on Prowl again. "All right. But only because you say so." he muttered. "When ya going to see the Twins again?"
"Hopefully within a few months."
"Tell them I said hey." Jazz stood and waltzed out of the door, leaving Prowl sitting on his desk with a parting comment. "Maybe next time I'll stay longer."
Prowl couldn't help but grin. Maybe he was finally starting to get through to the slagger, after all.
A few weeks passed. Despite Optimus pressing Prowl for more information, Prowl refused to speak any more about Jazz. There was nothing Optimus wanted to hear that Prowl could say. It was simply too difficult to think of Jazz as a Decepticon. They were Autobot and Decepticon second, and friends first. That was how it had always been.
This time it was Ratchet who sounded the alarm. Prowl had been walking quietly through the base, trying to avoid Prime's sensors (which wasn't easy to do for Prowl) when he heard Ratchet's shriek of rage and horror echo through the base. Prowl broke out into a run, drawing his gun and not slowing until he came to a screeching halt just outside of Ratchet's temporary med bay. Optimus got there at about the same time Prowl did.
"Ratchet, what – "
Ratchet was throwing things at the corner of his room. Something was hunched down, taking shelter behind a stretcher, and muttering curses under his breath. Ratchet was turning the air blue. Or black. Prowl really couldn't tell.
Optimus just stared at Ratchet. "What are you doing?!"
"I thought I was through with that slagger when he graduated!" Ratchet shouted. "Now I find the glitch- head sneaking around my fragging med bay! My med bay! As if he didn't spend enough time there as it was! Pit-spawned, slagging little prankster! And you wonder where the Twins learned it all! That little walking scrap heap is up to something again, I know it! My sensors are tingling!"
From behind the stretcher, Prowl could faintly hear Jazz's voice. "I love you too, Ratch."
"Mute it, glitch! I will slagging deactivate you!"
Optimus glanced from Ratchet, who was still fuming and searching for something to throw, to Prowl, who was doubled over in fits of laughter. Jazz flashed Prowl a grin.
"His spidey-sense is tingling!"
"Jazz!" Prowl could barely breathe, he was laughing so hard. Prime quietly hid his face plates in his hands, unsure whether to cry or laugh. Even without the Twins on base, things just were never calm, were they?
"Ratchet, do you know this Decepticon?" he asked.
Ratchet growled affirmative. "Treated Jazz's sorry aft more times that I care to count –" Here another wrench went flying – "at the Academy. He and Prowl were partners in crime."
"Hey, there were five of us." Jazz protested lightly.
"I said mute it!"
"Ratchet, stop trying to kill my friend." Prowl ordered calmly. "Jazz, just what are you doing back here yet again? Are you trying to prove me right?"
"Hey!" Jazz slowly stood up now that Ratchet had stopped throwing wrenches. "No I am not. Megatron ordered me to give it a second go, using a new spot Soundwave found. No one slagging told me this was Ratchet's med bay, or I would have told Megatron to shove it up his tailpipe." He grimaced. "Personally, I think he was trying to punish me or something. Slagging Seekers."
Prowl decided he didn't want to know. "You do realize we're going to have to lock you in the brig, right?"
"Hey, if it gets me away from the Seekers and Ratch, I'm all for it!" Jazz said cheerfully, then got successfully whacked across the head by a flying spare axel.
Optimus simply walked off. Apparently, that situation was well taken care of. "Prowl – when you get done there, come see me. Immediately."
Prowl nodded. "Yes, Prime."
Optimus stood just outside of his office, arms crossed over his chassis. Prowl could practically feel the disappointment radiating from his leader. When he first joined the Autobots, Prowl had been impressed with Prime's way with words. He made good speeches. While it was a flimsy reason to join any cause, it had later developed into a deep-seated respect for both Prime and the cause he supported. Prowl had never wanted Optimus disappointed in him. Ever.
Yet, here they were.
"Prowl." Optimus hesitated a moment, gathering his thoughts. "I really don't like feeling like things are out of my control."
"I understand." Prowl said, going with the safest answer. He wasn't sure where this was going yet. He had done so many things in the past week to annoy Prime, he didn't know which one Prime was finally punishing him for.
"Now we have this Decepticon, who my own second won't harm, who my medic seems to be rather fond of." Prowl almost snorted at that, but it was true – Ratchet was always harshest on those who he cared the most about. "None of this would bother me under any other circumstances, but with tensions the way they are now, I don't like it one bit. I don't like not knowing if my own second is going to follow my orders." Prime looked Prowl in the optics. "I don't like second-guessing those I trust."
"You can still trust me." That at least Prowl could respond to.
"How, when you place your trust in a 'con?"
"Jazz is not –" Prowl cut himself off. "I never think of Jazz as a Decepticon. He's not like the rest. When he joined Megatron, he was an ambitious youngling who had no idea of the destruction Megatron was capable of causing. I joined your cause on less than that. Jazz thinks he has no other choice."
Optimus didn't speak for a moment, taking in his SIC's words and his slumped posture. "Jazz believes himself to be trapped by his own decision?"
"That about sums it up." Prowl muttered. "One day he's going to have to face the light, but he's running from it for now. I know I can get him to come around."
He watched as Prime thought that one over, praying to Primus above that his leader would finally understand. After a while – too long of a while for Prowl – Prime met his optics again. "Why? After all, Ironhide and Thundercracker were friends in the Academy, but he has not shown Thundercracker half the loyalty you show Jazz."
"You haven't watched him very closely in battle, have you?" Prowl asked tiredly. "We have agreements. I don't mess with Jazz, Jazz does not mess with me on the battlefield. Ironhide and Thundercracker are the same way. It's just harder to spot because of Skywarp and Starscream. Once those two get involved, TC has no choice. And neither does Ironhide." He shrugged. "We all have our quirks, Prime. You and Megatron are the same. You're brothers. We're friends."
Prime's optics shuttered for a second. "Leave, Prowl. We will finish this later."
Prowl didn't hesitate. He knew when he had pushed Prime too far.
Jazz waited patiently in the brig.
Or rather, he paced patiently in the brig. There were some things Jazz could do without moving. Waiting for Prowl to show up and tell him just what Prime had done to him was not one of those things. Prowl was Jazz's friend, and had been for a long time. The last thing he wanted was to get him in trouble with the Autobot leader. Primus knew Megatron would show Jazz no mercy if the roles were reversed.
They almost had been once, but that had gotten blamed on the Seekers. Which might explain why they hated Jazz so much. Oh well.
Finally, the doors slid open. Jazz stopped pacing, staring at the bars of his cell. He had to hand it to Prime – at least he hadn't ordered Jazz chained to the wall. He could faintly hear Red Alert's voice, chock full of warning even if he couldn't understand the words. Then Prowl walked in, the door slid shut, and Red Alert was cut off. Jazz attempted a smile.
"I take it the boss-bot let you off the hook?"
Prowl smiled back, faintly. "Hardly. I just managed to frag him off even worse."
Jazz whistled. "Slag, Prowl, how'd ya do that?"
"Pointed out something I probably shouldn't have." Prowl hesitated a moment, then opened the bars of Jazz's cell. He stepped inside, closing the bars behind him. Jazz tensed. "Jazz, we can't keep doing this." he sighed.
"I'm not asking to get caught!" Jazz protested.
"That's not what I'm talking about and you know it." Prowl snapped. "We can't keep fighting on opposite sides of this war. Sooner or later, we won't have a choice. We'll have to hurt each other. That's just the way it's going to go."
"It won't happen." Jazz said sullenly.
"Won't it?" Prowl pointed out. "Prime ordered me to interrogate you. I should let you know that, despite our ideals, interrogations usually involve some amount of pain. What if I walked in here and demanded information? Would you just freely give it to me?"
Jazz bit back a smart remark at that. Obviously, Prowl was trying to prove a point. Maybe it was time Jazz listened. For once.
"Then, let's say Ironhide was observing us. If you didn't give us what we needed to know, he would want to take over. You don't ever want to be on the wrong side of Ironhide in an interrogation. I would have to hurt you to keep Ironhide from doing it. Do you understand me?" Prowl was practically steaming by now.
Jazz hesitated, absorbing all of this. "You can't join the Decepticons." he said softly.
"I can if I think it will save you."
"Slagging pit-spawn!" Jazz cursed, stepping forward to stand an inch away from Prowl. "You can't and you know it. You're Prime's SIC, just like I'm Megatron's SIC. Even if we were normal warriors, you still couldn't. You don't have it in you to be a Decepticon. The Seekers would tear you apart in a day, if that."
"And you did?" Prowl shot back, not backing down an inch. "Jazz, you were the best of us. You still are. You were the reason I even did half the things I did, you know that?"
"You were the one who talked me into going to the Academy." Jazz said faintly.
"But you were the one who gave me the ambition to make it this far." Prowl started pacing. "You really thought I was going to let you show me up?"
Jazz uttered a laugh at that. "You had the ambition already, Prowl. I just gave you the competition."
"Exactly." He turned to Jazz again. "I need you, Jazz. Whether I have to join the Decepticons or if you finally join us, I need you. I won't let this go on. I won't risk you." With that he turned and walked away, locking down the cell as he left. As if it would keep Jazz in, but the Decepticon SIC recognized that his friend was running on autopilot. He probably would have forgotten completely if it hadn't been habit.
He sat down on the berth. Well, slag. Now what was he supposed to do?
Optimus was hesitant to approach the prisoner. It seemed Red Alert was the only one to share his trepidation. Ratchet seemed convinced that now that Jazz had been caught, he would most likely break out and return to the Decepticon base. Prowl, on the other hand, hadn't said a word. He was preparing for a last-minute mission, heading out to Iacon to get reports from Ironhide and Bluestreak about the conditions there. It was up to him to carry out the orders he didn't even quite believe were the right thing to do.
Releasing a Decepticon went against everything Prime believed. Now he didn't feel he had a choice.
Prime entered the brig. For once, Jazz wasn't playing his music. He was just sitting there, staring at the floor with his optics on half-power. Prime hesitated, unsure.
"I don't bite, you know."
It was all he could do not to crack a smile. "You do everything else. Why not?"
"Ya'd leave a bad taste in my mouth." Jazz flashed him a half-grin. "You're not my flavor." He tilted his head to the side. "What are you doing down here? Surely interrogations are below the mighty Optimus Prime."
"I have done interrogations." Prime said stiffly. "I'm here to release you."
That got Jazz's complete and undivided attention. "What?"
"You heard me."
"I heard ya." Jazz reset his optics. "Wasn't sure I heard ya right. Did – did Prowl have something to do with that?"
"Prowl isn't any of your concern." Prime snapped.
"Hate to break it to you, Prime, but Prowl is and always will be my concern." Jazz stood and walked to the bars. "Ya gonna let me out or what?"
Prime reached over and raised the cell bars. "Follow me." He guided Jazz to the base entrance, making sure to take the most direct route there. Jazz didn't seem inclined to look around, but Prime didn't want to make the Decepticons' job any easier than it obviously already was. When they got to the entrance gates, Prime stopped him.
"What are you to Prowl?"
Jazz gave him a blank look. "What makes you assume I am anything to him?"
Not for the first time in his long life, Optimus found himself wishing he could just slap something. Maybe even the Decepticon in front of him. He restrained himself. "Prowl already told me a little bit about your shared past. I want to know if it goes beyond that."
It took Jazz all of two seconds to figure out what he meant by that. "Ya know, if ya wanted to know if we were bonded or not, ya should've just asked." he said dryly. "No, we're not. We might have, but as you can tell, things just didn't work in our favor." He pushed past Prime and passed through the gates, but not before hesitating. "Tell Prowl I'm sorry. Things shouldn't have turned out this way."
Optimus watched him leave. Maybe now things would go back to normal.
Ratchet was surprised to see Optimus in his med bay, obviously uninjured. He was even more surprised when the Autobot leader took a seat on one of his stretchers, clearly unsettled by something. He straightened up from his work, turning his attention to Optimus. "Something on your processor?"
"What do you know about Prowl and Jazz?" he asked slowly. "I don't just mean that they're friends."
"You want to know everything." Ratchet sighed and sat down on a stretcher facing Prime. "It's hard to explain those two. They're opposites in every way, and yet they attract from day one. Jazz's family lived a block down from us in Kaon when Prowl was growing up. Jazz came up to our door one day looking for playmates, and our creator kicked Prowl out and made him go play." A smile curved his face plates at the memory. "We never saw one without the other after that. They were pranksters even back then, too."
Optimus couldn't help a smile. "I cannot picture Prowl playing pranks."
"Why do you think the Twins get away with as much as they do?" Ratchet pointed out. "They learned it all from Jazz and Prowl – personally, I think Prowl likes watching them. Makes him wish Jazz was there with him. To be honest, seeing him in my med bay after all this time made me a bit homesick." Ratchet gave Optimus a look. "I don't think that's what you wanted to know."
"It's not." Optimus admitted.
"Then just ask it."
Once again, Prime hesitated. He seemed to be doing that a lot lately. "Are they – "
"Bonded? Primus, no." Ratchet shook his head. "Although those two would be perfect for each other. I think they were planning on it, once they got out of the Academy. Back then the factions didn't mean half as much as they do now. Then before anyone could blink, the Academy was destroyed, and we were at war. Jazz refused to back down from his decision, and so did Prowl." He sighed. "Pity, too. I was looking forward to collecting on that bet."
Prime had to laugh at that. It was just so totally Ratchet. "Would Prowl betray us for Jazz?"
"No." Ratchet said immediately. "Mostly because Jazz would never ask him to. They respect each other."
Before Prime could respond, Red Alert raised him on the comm. link. "Yes?"
"That slagging Decepticon is back!" Red Alert was practically screaming. Prime could almost smell the smoke through the comm. link. "He's standing out here demanding an audience with you!"
Prime sighed. "Take him to my office, Red. I'll deal with him in a minute."
Prowl was happy to be back at the base. Iacon was a fragging mess, and his organized processor had kept trying to glitch out on him every couple of minutes. Things just weren't efficient. He did have Sunstreaker and Sideswipe with him, though. Ironhide had demanded that he take those two back to the base – if they pulled one more prank, Ironhide was going to deactivate them and reformat them into toasters with wheels. The Twins had simply laughed at him as they followed Prowl back to base.
Contrary to popular belief, Prowl enjoyed spending time with the Twins. They were entertaining, and they kept him sane most days.
Prowl had also escorted Bluestreak, Bumblebee, and Wheeljack back to the base as well to give reports on the condition of their new ship, the Ark. He was looking forward to some rest and relaxation, for at least a little while.
They entered the rec room. Optimus was there, with Ratchet and a new mech lounging on the couch. The group came to a halt and transformed back into their mech forms. "Twin Terrors reporting for duty, sir!" the Twins said simultaneously. Ratchet groaned and buried his head in his hands.
"I did not hear that. Please, for the love of Primus and my sanity, tell me I didn't hear that." he muttered. Wheeljack laughed and went to sit next to his bondmate.
"I'm afraid you did." he said cheerfully. His optics turned to the unknown mech. "Who are you? I don't believe I've ever seen you here before."
Optimus cleared his throat and motioned for the new mech to join him. He shrugged and came to stand beside the Autobot leader, blue visor glowing and a fresh coat of white paint gleaming in the dim light. Prowl thought he looked familiar, something about his build, but the visor and paint were throwing him. He didn't know of any Autobots that wore visors.
"Everyone – this is our new transfer. Meet Autobot Jazz."
Jazz offered a cheeky salute. There was a brief moment of silence, before Sideswipe gave an undignified whoop of joy and tackle-hugged the saboteur to the ground. Jazz collapsed backward with a grunt, laughing as Sideswipe starting babbling at a million miles an hour. Sunstreaker rolled his optics, but Jazz could see the amusement and joy in his expression.
"Sides, if you don't mute it, you'll give Blue here a run for his money." he said dryly.
"Nice to see you too, Sunny." Jazz said with a laugh.
"You know them already?" Wheeljack asked. "Wow. Ratchet must already hate you." Ratchet whacked him in the back of the head. Jazz shook his head as he stood back up, Sideswipe practically bouncing on his heels beside him. His visor locked with Prowl's optics.
The Autobot SIC was simply standing there, staring at Jazz as if he didn't quite believe what he was seeing. Jazz smirked. "Don't lock up on me, Prowler." he warned. "That would be embarrassing."
Prowl couldn't help it. He started to laugh. Then he launched himself at Jazz in a tackle-hug of his own. This time Jazz made a show of shrieking in horror as he fell back again. "Hey! You're bigger than me!" he protested, laughing the entire time. "Get off, you lug nut!"
Prowl simply held on, hugging him tighter. "What made you change your mind?" he asked over their private comm. link.
"You can thank Optimus." Jazz said dryly. "I can't outrun the dawn forever, now can I?"
"Nope." Prowl smiled. "I won't let you."
"Aw, Optimus, you didn't tell us Jazz was also Prowl's bondmate." Bluestreak said happily. "Don't they make such a cute couple?"