Fracture Mechanics One

"Ratchet!" Prowl squeezed through the medbay doors, slipping through as soon as there was space. Distantly, Jazz felt the whisper-touch of the Ark's bulkhead skirt across his helm. He couldn't react, hanging limp in Prowl's arms.

"Ratchet!" Prowl hollered again. "Now!"

Ratchet cursed and ran. He clipped the medical cart at the end of Mirage's medberth. Tools crashed to the deck and skittered along the floor.

Mirage struggled up from his medberth, trying to catch a glimpse of his team leader. His optics flickered, underpowered, and his joints shook from the effort. Mirage collapsed back to the berth, grunting.

"Get him down on the medberth!" Ratchet snapped, reaching for Jazz's body.

Prowl set Jazz down as gently as he could. Still, large swaths of fluorescent energon streaked across his armor.

Jazz's arm, half crushed, flopped uselessly over the side of the berth. Terminal alarms on the medberth wailed above him. His helm rolled on the berth, flopping onto his cold dermal cheek, and energon dripped from his cracked lips.

"Frag," Ratchet growled. His hand gripped at the terminal housing, nearly cracking the frame.

The seizure gripped Jazz's body suddenly, tearing through his body. Jazz grunted, trying to force his processor to still. He was careening out of reality; sounds and sensations whirled by, the noises of the repair bay, the wailing of the alarm, Ratchet's curses and the echoes of the tools as he grabbed them from his storage cart. His frame was bursting, bursting with light and sound, and there was just too much within his processor. He could feel his body seizing, shaking apart, and electrical currents were building in never-ending swells. He was being pulled under. Jazz's back arched as he lost control of his vocalizer, grunting static amidst shouts.

"Hold him!" Ratchet shouted. Prowl grasped Jazz's legs, trying to hold him to the medberth. Ratchet leaned down into Jazz's face, dropping close to his helm. "Jazz, just hang on! You're back on the Ark!"

Seizing, vibrating metal buzzed through the medbay. Ratchet grabbed blindly behind him for his kill switch. Jazz's seizures weren't stopping, and the alarms were wailing away, screeching higher as systems dropped offline one by one. His body was destroying itself from within, pressure and darkness consuming his internals.

Prowl's fingers laced through Jazz's, refusing to let go.

Jerking, Jazz tried to move away. The pressure within him was enormous, immense. It was suffocating, entirely, and he couldn't escape. Hands, touch, and pressure were on him, crawling over him, pressing down on his plating and from within. White-hot heat spread, pooling in processor before shooting straight to his spark.

Jazz screamed, shrieking gutturally as he clamped down on the hand that was holding his own.




As quickly as the pressures came, they vanished. Jazz was left floating, free-falling, drowning in a fading feeling of nothingness. Echoes rang through his helm, bouncing around cavernous spaces of the all-encompassing silence he suddenly found himself in. Jazz gasped, inhaling.

The hand that had held his own squeezed down hard, too hard. Jazz coughed, trying to breathe.

"Jazz…" He heard his name whispered, though it was distant, far off and foggy. The hand in his squeezed again, and it took every ounce of effort Jazz held within him to squeeze back. He inhaled, forcing air through his choking gears and dragging in a ragged rush of air. Even that took a Primusly-forbidden amount of effort, but the cloying darkness seemed to fade as he continued to breathe, and with each drag in of air, the dis-reality seemed to fade.

That hand, that ever-present hand, squeezed again, warm and strong against his palm. Jazz squeezed back.

Slowly, Jazz rolled his helm, fighting against the darkness. He rolled toward the hand that held his own and the gentle thumb stroking along his palm. He couldn't remember anything, not what had happened to him, not what had brought him to this state, or even what had come before this darkness. If he onlined his optics, though, maybe the Ark would have answers for him. Prowl would be there. Prowl was always there. Prowl would know what he had gotten himself into this time. He'd be there with his stern, stoic face and a gentle squeeze of Jazz's hand, two opposing reactions to Jazz's daring and dangerous stunts and missions.

Resolved, Jazz worked to online his optics. Images of Prowl stroking his thumb over Jazz's palm firmed within his processor. Prowl would certainly rib him, but if he was online enough to feel his gentle hand-hold, then he had to be doing alright. His visor flickered as he worked to online his visual systems. Static erupted across his output, streaking in harsh and jagged white lines before flaring. Finally, after a lengthy pause, his optics and visor onlined, equalizing sluggishly. Too slowly.

Soundwave's blood-crimson optics, shielded by his visor, stared intently into his own.

Jazz jerked backwards. The hand holding his own clenched down, holding him in place. He stared down. Soundwave's large blue hand gently caressed his palm, his overlarge thumb rubbing up and down his plating. Jazz's visor surged, and he struggled against Soundwave's hold.

"Jazz!" That voice, that deep, rumbling and deathly monotone voice resounded through the small room, echoing through Jazz's processor.

"No!" he tried to scream, though his voice came out feeble and weak. He sputtered, his air intakes choking. "Get away from me!"

Finally, he jerked away from Soundwave's grasp, though his freedom had more to do with Soundwave letting go of him. Jazz rolled sideways in a tumble of arms and legs, his weak and under-energized body protesting every movement. He caught the pulse of wounded shock streak across Soundwave's face before Soundwave smoothed his expression back to his terminal stoicism.

Jazz tumbled off the edge of what he realized was the berth he had been laying on. It was a wide berth, a large berth, a berth big enough for two mechs, and with room to spare. He crashed to the floor, grunting, his weak vents thrown off cycle, and try as he might, he couldn't get his legs underneath him. He growled, gritting through clenched denta as he tried again to escape, to crawl away, to coordinate the right placement of hands and arms and legs to just get up.

Soundwave's foot falls drew closer, halting footsteps moving around the berth and back to Jazz's side. "What have you done to me?" Jazz hissed, breathless. He dragged himself away from Soundwave, forcing his body to move. "Where have you taken me?"

It was only when Soundwave stooped to Jazz's side and gently gathered him into his arms without so much as by your leave to Jazz's bitter protests that Jazz finally Soundwave's blast mask was retracted and his face was freely exposed. Jazz jerked, trying to free himself from Soundwave's arms.

Soundwave slowly lowered Jazz back down to the berth, helping him into a seated position. Jazz fought his every move, twisting and lashing out. He was going to fight, fight Soundwave with everything he had, even if all he did want to do was to lie back down. His body was screaming, his processor was racing, and the room around him was spinning out of focus. His equilibrium plummeted, and Jazz finally lost his balance. He tumbled, nearly off the berth, but Soundwave's hands caught his shoulders and steadied him, holding Jazz upright.

Soundwave knelt down, peering into Jazz's optics. "Jazz: recovering?" His voice was pitched low, too low, and it rumbled through Jazz's body in a visceral, primal way. Jazz's processor fixed on his voice, and his visor replayed the images of Soundwave's lips moving around the words. Against the berth surface, Jazz's hand started to tremble.

Soundwave exhaled, his optics dimming.

Jazz grunted, trying to shake Soundwave off as Soundwave's hands guided him to lie back down on the berth. Jazz tried to squirm, tried to fight it, tried to do anything he could to escape from the blue hands that were grazing over his plating, adjusting him just so so that he was perfectly comfortable. As if Soundwave knew how he were perfectly comfortable.

"Where am I?" Jazz hissed again, spitting at Soundwave with the last of his fading strength. All he could focus on was Soundwave's face, his blood red optics, and the tight line of his lips. The rest of the world faded away, spinning away to nothingness, and it was all Jazz could do to hold onto the berth.

Silence stretched long before Soundwave finally responded. "Home," he whispered. Soundwave inhaled deep, holding Jazz's gaze. "Jazz's location: home." The way Soundwave said Jazz's name seemed to hold all of the sadness of the world.

Jazz purposefully looked away from Soundwave. He wouldn't give his captor the pleasure of his bitterness, not any more. If Soundwave wanted to play games, then that was fine with him. Jazz's helm lolled to the side, and he found himself looking straight out the window of a second story room overlooking the wild plains of Cybertron leading toward Iacon. Stretched out before him, in all its magnificent, Golden Age glory, was the planet he had longed for for years, fantasized over in his daydreams, and had missed with such a passion that he didn't know he could feel. Cybertron… vibrant, alive, and there, physically there, not the dead husk of a world light years away from Earth.

He gasped, swallowing, and the faintest breeze filtered through the open window. The tungsten tang of rain, a sweet scent mixed with carbon and iron, tickled his nose. Jazz's vision swam, overwhelmed with the sensations assaulting him. Cybertron wasn't there; it couldn't be. He was on Earth, with the Ark, and so was Megatron and the Decepticons. Their planet had long been destroyed, burnt up, used out, and was floating in the dead vacuum of space. The Golden Age was eons old now…. And yet, there it was, teasing him once more.

A soft sound drew his attention, and despite himself, Jazz glanced over his shoulder. Soundwave was settling down into his chair again, placed right at the edge of the berth. Slowly, holding Jazz's gaze, he reached for Jazz's hand. Jazz watched in slow motion as Soundwave's blue hand drew closer to his black one, and then, as if it were someone else's hand entirely, watched their digits intertwine, linking together in a gentle hold.

"Location: home," Soundwave repeated. There was a deeper sound to his speech, an unknown and unidentifiable emotion crawling over his words. "Jazz: relapse will pass with rest."

Jazz didn't understand a word of what Soundwave had said, but the wind picked up, carrying with it the soft smell of the rain through the open window. Jazz whimpered, assaulted by all the memories he had of his old planet, and how desperately he wished, for just a moment, that he truly was back.

Soundwave spoke once more, whispering. "Jazz: not alone."

Jazz's optics crawled over Soundwave, searching his body, his gaze, and his exhausted, weary face. The thin lines of his mouth, the depth of his vents, and the tired, aching joints of a body that had sat in that chair for too many days and nights.

As Jazz's optics flew over his captor's body, Jazz noticed for the first time that Soundwave had no faction sigil. The purple crest, the emblazoned Decepticon sigil that was so proudly worn by all of the faction, was missing.

Jazz's helm rolled back toward the window, but he craned his helm down, searching his own frame. Before his world blacked out, rushing away in a roar of darkness and noise, he spied his own chest, white and pure and perfectly void of the Autobot sigil.

Soundwave's hand squeezed down on his once more, and then the darkness swallowed him whole.

Jazz woke alone.

He had no idea how much time had passed. The golden hues of the setting sun that burnt out over the planet's landscape had long ago faded, and only the swish of the nighttime breeze floated through the still-open window. The smell outside had changed, turning from the fresh tang of a new rain to the clean and heavy sweetness that followed Cybertronian storms. Burnt energy lingered in the atmosphere, the lightening aftereffects that had charged the energon farms for new crops.

Furtively, not wanting to chance any movement, Jazz searched the darkened room. His optics darted behind his visor, moving left to right in quick, jerking movements as he tried to not move, not vent, not even breathe. He didn't sense any mech near him, and he couldn't see any forms or hulking shadows in the darkness. Slowly, he tested his strength, starting with the simplest of tasks: a finger curl.

Jazz was able to curl his fingers fine and even managed to work his joint all the way up to his shoulders. Then, as he tried to test his legs, his struts protested, weakened and aching, and his knee joints were grinding in a way that suggested long term damage. Jazz grimaced, gritting his denta as he evaluated his options. What had happened to him? Where was he? How was he going to get back to the Autobots? Where in the universe were they?

He stifled a groan, forcibly offlining his vocalizer as he dragged his weary body to the edge of the berth and forced himself to rights. It took another several deep drags of air to work up the stamina to force himself to his feet. Pain surged through his body, fracturing his sensor net and spiking into his helm as his knees nearly buckled beneath him. Jazz whimpered, the faint sound overriding his vocalizer's command, forcing itself out with his harsh burst of expelled air.

Behind Jazz was a darkened doorway, leading to parts of his captor's building unknown. He hadn't a clue where Soundwave had taken him, and he couldn't even begin to hazard a guess. This fantasy outside the window was stunning, a gorgeous, verdant vista, but it had to be fake. Perhaps the Decepticons had such a soft spot and fondness for the home they had all left they had installed holo-projectors to simulate their environment? But no, Jazz dismissed that idea out of hand. The Decepticons had been the ones responsible for the devastation and destruction. Far be it for them to be maudlin over the society they swept aside in disregard.

Jazz stared into the shadows of the doorway for precious astroseconds too long. His processor was still too slow, still operating nanoseconds below its norm. His thoughts were swirling, refusing to focus on any one task or thought. If he could just think, just reason his way through what was happening, he could form a plan. Plans led to action, and action led to freedom. Freedom led to home, which was where he had to return.

He couldn't risk the doorway. Too many unknowns lay beyond it, from Soundwave to the potential entirety of the Decepticon army. Jazz was in no condition to take on even Ravage in his weakened, wounded state, and he didn't kid himself about the chances he faced on a surprise bid for freedom through the main complex of an unknown Decepticon hideout. He was good, yes. He wasn't Primus, though.

That left the window. The still-open window with the soft and cool breeze still wafting through. How could it have been left open so carelessly? Did Jazz's captors think so little of him? Did they truly think he wouldn't even attempt to escape? Wounded he was, yes, but surely, an open window next to a captive was an error of grand ineptitude. Jazz wondered who had made that folly. Soundwave was the first suspect that popped into his helm, as he had been the only 'Con he had seen, but Soundwave had never struck him as the particularly dim-witted sort. He had butted helms with him before during battles, during incursions, and had traded nasty software with the Decepticon 3IC during hardware attacks. He was intense and purposeful, but not an idiot.

Still, folly was folly, and Jazz wasn't about to chase a blessing down its circuit. He shook his helm, lost in his meandering and circling thoughts again, and idly wondered if he had a cracked processor or microchip up there somewhere. He ruthlessly shut that train of thought down as he prepared himself to stand.

No amount of girding his systems or holding his vents could have prepared him for the sheer agony of forcing himself to his feet. His knees ground on broken and shattered gears as his lines and cables chewed through the damage. He nearly collapsed, groaning in an explosion of breath as be caught himself on the berth edge. He froze, wondering - for an astrosecond - if being a prisoner wasn't all that bad compared to the pain in his knees.

Jazz stared out the window, letting the cool breeze waft over his face. No matter if it was a holo-image, it felt real, and it felt meaningful. He forced his processor down a different path, and imagined Prowl, Prime, and the rest of the Autobots just outside, waiting for him, and then imagined his team was testing him, and they were in a race. He was just working through the final hurdle, and then this would be over. Drawing down, deep down inside himself, Jazz pulled out all the motivation he could find. He inhaled, holding his breath within in his engine, and forced himself to move.

Three agonizing steps brought him to the window's ledge. Finally there, he cursed, squeezing the window ledge as he struggled to stand. He was on the second floor of whatever building he was in. There were no lights illuminating the exterior, as was befitting a hidden enemy base. There weren't any hand holds or footholds, nor flashy architectural details that had been built into the exterior, as had been so popular on Earth. This was a standard, clean, efficient building, classic Golden Age styling.

If only the Decepticons hadn't been so thorough in their reimagining of their architecture, Jazz thought bitterly. He now had a choice, a painful choice. He could jump and risk landing on his badly damaged joints, or he could stay and wait to see what was forthcoming.

Jazz grunted, heaving himself into the window ledge. He breathed in, filling his intakes with the deliciously energized air. Finally, after nodding to himself, Jazz jumped. He pushed his body over the edge, rolling himself into a tight ball as he tried to minimize the impact, so sure to be jarring and awful.

He landed on his side, gracelessly sliding and skidding across the surface in a heap of damaged and torn metal, loose wires and streaks of fluorescent energon. His shoulder hit first, driving into the planet's surface and thick crustal plating with a tank-churning screech of metal on metal. His shoulder popped, dislocating with a crack. Wires fritzed and tore. Jazz's helm bounced, hard.

Light burst behind him, streaking out of the house he'd been captured in. Jazz shuddered, forcing himself to move, to crawl, to get away as fast as his broken body could allow. He gasped with the strain, his body burning, grunting at every effort. His one working arm reached forward, trying to haul himself away. If he just kept going, if he just kept moving, he'd be alright. He could do this. He'd been out of tighter jams before.

"Jazz!" A booming voice, frantic, deep and rumbling, bellowed through the night behind him. Jazz froze, powering down in an instant, trying to melt himself into the craggy surface of the planet, trying to make himself disappear amidst the mess of plating, wires, and hulks of metal tumbling over the landscape. Soundwave was there, behind him, calling for him. "Jazz!" Soundwave called again, his voice tinged with an emotion Jazz had not expected to ever hear from his enemy. He twisted, faintly rolling his helm a micron to glance behind.

That movement was his undoing. Soundwave's crimson gaze found him, and in an instant, he was racing for him. Jazz struggled, suddenly bursting with intention, with purpose, with need and desire and fury to escape, and began clawing at the surface. He willed himself to stand, to push forward. Growling, Jazz stumbled, falling forward more than running, only to catch himself with his good hand and start anew.

Soundwave's footsteps closed behind him, drawing closer. Jazz gasped, grunts of exertion grinding out of his vocalizer unheeded.

Soundwave grabbed him from behind, stilling Jazz's feeble attempts at escape with a tightly wrapped embrace. His arms wound around Jazz's waist, so tight Jazz could feel the warmth and thrum of his engine pounding within. He jerked, trying to break free of his captor's hold, struggling against Soundwave's grasp. Soundwave refused to let go, his hands traveling up to grip at Jazz's arms as he bent over double, collapsing around Jazz and bringing them both down to their knees. "Jazz…" Soundwave breathed, softly, that same rumbling depth penetrating the painful fog of Jazz's processor and spark. "Cease all attempts to escape."

"No!" Jazz shouted, still struggling. "What have you done to me? Where have you taken me?"

Soundwave said nothing, only swallowed behind Jazz and pressed his face against Jazz's destroyed shoulder. He sighed, a long exhale drifting over Jazz's plating, hot and moist. It sent shivers through his body, caressing his internals in entirely unforgiveable ways, in unknowable ways, and Jazz had the unwelcome and momentary flash of thought that he hadn't been that close to any mech in a long, long time.

"Jazz: ill," Soundwave finally said, his voice retuning to his normal cadence, even and rumbling in the depth of the baritone register. "Jazz: must return."

"Ill with what?" Jazz spat out. "What have you done to me?"

"Treatment: ongoing. Relapse will pass."

Jazz twisted, still trying to break free. "No! Let me go!"

"Cease attempts to escape. Further damage being created!" Soundwave's voice dropped, falling from his controlled and even cadence to the same tones of worry and faint fear that had stilled Jazz before. "Jazz: must return. Jazz: will be cared for." Soundwave's hands gripped down on Jazz's arms, squeezing him tightly. "Jazz… Trust me."

"Never! I'll never trust you!" Jazz spat, his lubricants mixed with energon bleeding from an internal rupture. He watched the purple spray graze Soundwave's plating.

"Favorite music: fusion wave. Birthplace: Tarn. Accent: Tarnian, though you moved to Iacon at an early age. Crackled energon: preferred to liquid." Soundwave spoke quickly, his words rushed, flowing in a too-fast beat for his even tone. "Jazz: close to creators and parents. Musical talents: supported."

Jazz shouted, forcing a burst of noise out from his vocalizer to drown out Soundwave's recitation of himself. "How do you know this?" he shouted, struggling anew.

"Soundwave: not the enemy!" Soundwave finally shouted in return, his voice briefly rising above his standard volume.

Jazz was stunned silent, again. Soundwave was different, odd, anything but normal, anything but the known enemy combatant Jazz had faced for years. This was surreal, unknown Nothing was right, nothing was normal. Jazz once again felt off kilter, thrown entirely off balance.

Soundwave spoke again. "Information: from Jazz himself."

"I never told you that-"

Soundwave cut him off mid-sentence. "First meeting: thirteen vorns ago. Twelve vorns ago: first date. Ten vorns ago: engagement." Soundwave paused, his speech stopping abruptly.

Jazz froze in his arms, his trembles and bids for freedom instantly stilled. Soundwave's words tore through his processor, repeating. He couldn't think, couldn't process beyond the moment Soundwave had uttered those words. He and Soundwave… together? Impossible.

As suddenly as he had been clutched, he was released. Jazz fell forward, pitching to the surface inelegantly and landing in a sprawl. Hands reached for him, gently rolling Jazz over and scooping him up in a tender embrace. Soundwave's helm dipped low, and his face inches from his own. Again, Soundwave's blast mask was retracted, and Jazz could see the openness of his mouth, the parting of his lips, and could feel the tiny gasps of ventilations against his dermal plating.

"Six vorns ago: Jazz's… accident." Soundwave uncharacteristically stumbled on the word. "Jazz: must return home. Must rest."

Slowly, Jazz shook his helm, back and forth, not accepting and completely denying Soundwave's words, even as the proof of his statements were in his actions. Soundwave gently lifted his broken body, cradling him close to his chest, and after tucking his helm up underneath his chin, headed back to their home. Jazz's optics flickered, his vision shorting. His processor was screaming, refusing to accept, refusing to acknowledge. Inside, he was still spitting out violence and vitriol against the mech who literally held his life within his arms.

Soundwave paused at the building's entrance, shifting Jazz in order to palm open the doorpad. Jazz's gaze fell on a tall crystalline spire, a slender and tapered growth coaxed from a tiny planter. Small ornaments and bits of metal, nano-cloth, and wires were tied and hung at various intervals around the curved spire. Glyphs were pained onto the bits of metals, appeals to Primus, brief calls for healing, peace, and protection. It was a home talisman, a ward from evil to protect the house and all the mechs within. Jazz's gaze fixated on the spire. Was this truly home? Jazz refused to think the thought.

Soundwave carried Jazz within with gentle consideration. He maneuvered Jazz through the doorway, careful to not let him scrape against the doorframe.

Jazz didn't move, couldn't move. He was frozen in the arms of his enemy, cradled close and tenderly held. Jazz's optics drifted over the inside of the house, idly taking in their surroundings. Light globes were placed around the open lower level, and though only one was lit, together they could fill the room with a warm and welcoming glow. The one light globe was at the foot of the stairs, palmed on by Soundwave in a rush as he ran by, chasing after Jazz and his escape. A large table with two side benches was prominent in the room, and Jazz saw data pads, a few old energon cubes, and scattered styluses left on the table's surface. Life was present here; mechs lived in this house. But not him, not in this nightmare. He couldn't live here. He couldn't.

Soundwave lowered Jazz and set him on one of the benches, then moved away into the dim light. Jazz could hear him near the far wall, pulling at cabinets and containers. He was looking for something, and as Jazz listened to Soundwave putter and move things around, his anxiety skyrocketed again. This couldn't be happening. This wasn't real. This was some trick, and when Soundwave came back, Jazz was going to still be fighting.

His hand snaked out, reaching blindly underneath the table. His vents quickened, his optics surging. HIs fingers scrabbled, searching for anything. Finally - a closed container was bolted to the bottom of the table. Jazz's touch ran over its surface, searching. He found a hidden keypad, and slowly, Jazz began tracing the keys.

Soundwave appeared at edge of the circle of light cast off from the pulsing light globe, returning to Jazz. In his hand was a syringe, a one-time use syringe with a thick blue ooze deep within its core. Jazz's panic spiked.

Jazz reacted in an instant. His fingers depressed, and his hand closed around what he hadn't even known he had been looking for. He whirled around, swinging his arm up and holding the found pulse rifle pointed directly at Soundwave's spark. Jazz struggled, gritting his denta and working to hold his arm steady. Slowly, the pulse rifle began to tremble.

Soundwave froze, his visor flashing. "Jazz," he rumbled.

"Don't. Don't come near me," Jazz's voice, unlike his hand, was strong and steady.

Soundwave's gaze was focused on the pulse rifle. "Location of the pulse rifle: known?"

Jazz shook his helm, sneering. "I managed to surprise you, didn't I?"

Soundwave's gaze flicked up to Jazz, not speaking for a long moment. Finally, he said, "Pulse rifle: locked away and hidden. Location and locking code: known only if this is your home."

Admittedly, Jazz wasn't the mech to go to for impeccable logic. Prowl could out-think Teletraan 1 at times, and it was he who could reason, quantify, and rationalize his way through any problem. When that logic was used against Jazz, he was less than impressed. He responded to tight, factual logic in a way that always quirked Prowl's optic ridges sky high.

He responded likewise to Soundwave. "You're lying!" he shouted, emotions spiking high. This wasn't real, it couldn't be. As long as he repeated that thought, everything would be alright. "This isn't my house! This isn't my home! You aren't anything to me except my enemy!"

Jazz watched the visceral impact of his words play across Soundwave's face. His visor flared, streaking white lines scratching across the visual input. It was one of the only outward signs of emotion Soundwave ever revealed. With his blast mask retracted, Jazz could see the intake of breath, the harsh slip of vents that accompanied his harsh, spitting cries.

Soundwave hesitated, glancing away. Finally, he spoke again, much softer. "Location and locking code: known only if this is your home." Soundwave's gaze flicked back to Jazz's in an instant, burning with intensity and quiet, unshed pain. "Jazz: set up hidden weapons locker."

Jazz's hand was shaking, his trembles having long since transferred into full body tremors cascading through his body. The weight of the pulse rifle was tearing at his shoulder, and it was all he could do in the depths of his spark to keep the rifle pointed at Soundwave's spark. His control was slipping, the strength of his cables failing him, and despite his angry grunts and inner demands to stay strong, his damaged body failed him completely. The pulse rifle fell from his grip, clattering to the floor.

Silence filled the lower level as neither Jazz nor Soundwave moved. Jazz growled, gritting his denta and forcing himself to remain standing, despite the swaying, tilting vision in his helm and the flashing warnings of imminent shutdown screaming from his processor. Nothing was making sense, and his processor kept tripping over Soundwave's words. He had set up that hidden rifle locker? Is that how he had known to reach for it? Knew the code, even? But that would mean this was all real, and that just couldn't be true. Could it? No!

Nothing was making sense anymore, and Jazz's thoughts were swirling, crashing and cascading into each other. His processor was overheating, and with a faint gasp, Jazz crashed to the floor, his legs weakening beneath him until he fell. Jazz whimpered, curling in on himself.

In an instant, Soundwave was at his side. His blue hands floated over his plating, fluttering over his form, as if afraid to physically touch him. "Jazz…" Soundwave's monotone was no higher than a whisper, breathed out softly. Jazz curled deeper around himself, trying to block out the fantasy masquerading as reality around him. He couldn't fight this, not this imagery of domestication and normalcy. His enemies were physical, real combatants in his war. This was a falsehood, a nightmare, a nothingness that trapped his mental energies. He'd wake up soon, wake up in the repair bay and be back to his reality soon. This nightmare had to end.

Soundwave reached for Jazz's arm, slowly rotating the joint until he exposed the sensitive side seams running along his torso. Just inside was a main energon line, running from his engine to his spark and processor, and then throughout his body. Slowly, Soundwave pulled the syringe up against Jazz's plating, positioning it for injection.

"No…" Jazz whimpered, pushing his forehelm into the ground. His world was fading and everything was spinning wildly out of control, but out of the corner of his visor he could see Soundwave move toward him with that unknown syringe. He didn't know what it was, and he didn't want any part of it. Even if this was a nightmare, a disreality, a fantasy of his own fractured processor, he still wanted to fight. He still wanted to control his own body in their nightmare. "No…"

Soundwave stilled, meeting Jazz's optics. He held up the syringe, pulling it away from Jazz's side seam. "Jazz will rest: no injection. Promise."

Rest sounded fantastic. Slowly, swallowing deeply, Jazz nodded, his helm scrapping against the floor. Soundwave sighed, exhaling as his hydraulic joints eased. He rose, dropping the syringe carelessly onto the table surface above them, then scooped Jazz up into his arms again. Jazz rolled limply in his grasp, rolling until his face was pressed against his broad chest. He inhaled, smelling the intimate and unique scents that were exclusively Soundwave: his paints, his oils, the slight burn rate of his engine, the lubricants within his gears. It was different, so different, from all the smells he knew in the past… and yet… there was something there. Jazz couldn't place it, but his processor futilely tried to stir, tried to place this seemingly familiar scent. That thought, the spinning up of his drives in his already overworked, damaged and overheated processor caused a sharp lash of physical pain, and Jazz whimpered against the reaction.

"Jazz," Soundwave admonished, squeezing his body tighter within his arms. "Rest." Soundwave carried Jazz up the stairs, and Jazz could faintly see that it was an open loft, with the overly large, single berth pushed against the far wall, near the corner suite of windows. What he had thought had been just one open window had in fact been multiple; Jazz had simply been too damaged to see the entirety of the stunning amount of windows overlooking the wilderness and the panoramic view of the entirety of Iacon, set back at a distance. Likewise, the doorway Jazz had sensed was so ominous was in fact the beginning of the stairwell. Soundwave had likely been in the lower level, perhaps at the table itself, when Jazz had made his ill-planned and poorly executed break for escape.

For the second time that evening, Soundwave laid Jazz's body gently out upon the berth's surface, positioning his body in the tiny little ways that seemed to indicate that he knew just how Jazz needed to be to be comfortable. Jazz couldn't help the tiny moues and gasps as his body began to shut down entirely, systems offlining one by one as they reacted to the soft and soothing electrical hum of the berth beneath him and the implicit feeling of safety. How disingenuous, this feeling of safety, as Soundwave's face hovered over his.

"Jazz: rest," Soundwave repeated, his monotone voice softer than a whisper. Soundwave pulled back, sitting once more in his chair at Jazz's side.

Jazz watched his every move. "Are you staying?" his voice was cracking, his vocalizer half shut down as he spoke. Static lay beneath his words.

"Affirmative," Soundwave finally answered. "Staying: always."

Jazz nodded and rolled his helm away from Soundwave. He hadn't the slightest clue whether he should feel elated or horrified, comforted or terrified at that thought. In a blissful instant, he didn't need to think any longer. His damaged processor forced him offline as it started up its self-repair routines to defragment the damaged and corrupted mainframe within.

All the while, throughout the still and silent Cybertronian night, Soundwave sat by Jazz's side. His crimson visor hummed, pulsing as he watched Jazz's slowly repairing body.