It didn't take long for the news to spread. Even if they could keep a solid front of confidentiality to the outside public, within their ranks, both men and bots were horrible gossips. (And even if Prowl was being his usual stoic self, Jazz had never been what one would consider discreet. And really, it was easy enough to see simply from the sheer smugness he radiated, never mind the random displays of public affection.)

"You'd think he'd taken down an entire Decepticon regiment alone, the way he's been strutting around," Jolt commented.

"Well," Epps said, "it is Prowl that's letting him sprawl all over him right now." And he gestured towards the two bots on the other side of the room. Prowl was seated neatly on the large transformer-sized couch, to all appearances focused entirely on the data pad in his hands. And Jazz was, indeed, sprawled across his lap, his legs kicking off the side of the couch and his chin draped over Prowl's shoulder, content as a cat in the cream. "From my experience, and the way you bots talk, that's about as difficult to manage."

Jolt chuckled in response, and, from across the room, Jazz flicked his hand in their direction, and Prowl slid a brief, possessive hand across Jazz's back struts, his expression of intent concentration over his work never faltering.

The younger members of NEST took to the news fairly predictably.

"About time," Maggie said nonchalantly. Mikaela nodded her agreement. Sam just gaped.

"Jazz?" he asked incredulously.

"What, is that wrong too, Sam?" Mikaela said, grinning at Maggie, who winked back. Sam blinked rapidly, two spots of color appearing high on his cheeks.

"Yeah – I mean, no – I mean…Jazz?"

"Huh. Wonder if I oughta be offended by that." Jazz commented.


"That's m'name, don't wear it out!"

"But they're so different." Sam protested later. Mikaela shot him an unimpressed look, but hooked an arm through his.

"And we're not?"

"Um…well, yeah, you have a point, but…they're total opposites, and…" he paused, groaning, as music filled the room. "Bumblebee! Not cool, really, man!" Sam winced as Paula Abdul's voice blared from Bumblebee's speakers.

"And you know: it ain't fiction, just a natural fact. We come together, 'cause opposites attract!"

"We have got to get you a better music library." Sam sighed. Mikaela snickered.

And, of course, there was the inevitable betting pool.

"So, who won the pot?"

Sideswipe grinned widely. "Pay up, gentlemechs!" He crowed.

Everyone else groaned. "He's going to be absolutely unbearable for weeks." Ratchet groused as Sideswipe cackled merrily. Sunstreaker merely slapped his twin upside the helm before stalking off, muttering something about fools and luck.

Jazz, Prowl had decided, was taking far too much interest as of late in the courtship habits of young humans. Particularly those of the very young, who weren't even aware that they were courting.

"Jazz," Prowl said, half in exasperation, "I don't have 'cooties'."

"Yet." And Jazz leered. "Want some o' mine?"

Sideswipe was unbearable in his glee, but the universe has a way of resettling the natural order of things.

The next time Annabelle visited, her mother was with her. "Go find your father, okay sweetie? Mom has something she needs to do."

"Sure," Annabelle replied easily, slipping free of her mother's grasp and trotting out in the direction of the human quarters.

Sarah Lennox waited until she was out of sight and took a deep breath. "Sideswipe!"

Several corridors away, Sideswipe started and looked around wildly. "I didn't do it!" He insisted, wild-opticked. "Whatever it is, I didn't do it!"

Eventually, she caught him. (It didn't help that everyone in the base was more than willing to give away his position, the traitors.) "Sideswipe," Sarah began in a deadly quiet tone, "perhaps you can tell me why my eight-year-old daughter has been practicing karate moves in school?"

And life, as it inevitably does, went on as normal. (Or, as normal as it gets for this group.)

"Annie," Jazz called, "Prowl's got cooties. Can you cure him?"

They were, of course, in the rec room, and several highly interested sets of eyes and optics turned to regard them. Prowl, standing in the entrance to the room with one pede over the threshold, resisted the urge to retreat back in to the safety of the command center. "That is unnecessary," he stated, but Jazz and Annabelle affected not to hear him.

Annabelle looked over at the 'infected' mech doubtfully. "I think so," she said. "It works on boys, but Prowl's awful big." Someone snickered from off to the left, and Prowl refused to look, heading instead for the Energon dispenser to withdraw his rations. Annabelle, apparently making up her mind, trotted over to him. She tilted her head up, regarding him with determined eyes. "Give me your arm, please," she said. Prowl regarded her steadily before passing his cube to a grinning Jazz. He kneeled down so that he was closer to Annabelle's height and silently offering his arm. Annabelle reached up and hooked one hand on to his wrist guard, her index finger carefully tracing out a simple design on the smooth white plating of his arm. "Circle, circle, dot, dot, now you've got the cootie shot!" Annabelle smiled brilliantly up at Prowl. "All better!"

"Thank you," Prowl said gravely. He swept his gaze over the assembled bots and humans, most of which were grinning openly. "I think it would be best if you inoculated the room, as well," he told Annabelle, "to ensure the infection doesn't spread." The grins slowly faded around the room as his meaning sunk in.

Annabelle bounced on her feet, her blonde pigtails bobbing. "Okay," she said cheerfully, and veered towards Sunstreaker, one smudged finger outstretched. "Sunstreaker first," she announced to the golden mech's dawning horror.

Jazz snickered and reached out to snag Prowl in an embrace, but Prowl neatly sidestepped him. "Not until you have been cured," Prowl told him evenly. "I have no desire to catch the disease again." Jazz gaped at him even as Sunstreaker's voice rose in denial, the newly dubbed half-pint 'cootie-medic' nearly upon him.