Summary: There are bad times for things to happen, and then there are the times only Jazz could manage to pick.

Pairing/Characters: Prowl/Jazz, Sideswipe, Sunstreaker, Bluestreak, Ratchet, Hound/Mirage

Rating: T

Disclaimer: Not mine.

Author's Note: This fic, and my other updates tonight, have all been up on my writing LJ for awhile, but I finally decided to update them here. Story title has nothing to do with the song. Kinda. Not really. Maybe?

- Stairway to Heaven : Chapter One -

"Welcome back, Prowl." was the first thing that greeted Prowl on his return to consciousness, and he groaned. Like the other residents of the Ark, Prowl had learned to be wary of Ratchet greeting him with a 'welcome back'. It was never a good sign, because it usually meant he'd 'fragged himself good and proper' and Ratchet had just spent the last day putting his 'sorry chassis' back together.

"How bad?" Prowl asked, then answered his own question when he attempted to boot up his optics and got back an error message.

"That bad." Ratchet said, obviously knowing what Prowl had just tried. "The explosion damaged the receivers in your optics badly."

"Oh." Prowl said.

"Yes, 'oh' is right. I can't replace your optics without replacing your visual center, which is a tricky procedure. Fortunately, your optics should repair themselves within a week or two." Ratchet said. "Only if they're not used, however. And since I have yet to have a patient with this type of injury that's actually not used their optics, even knowing that irreversible damage to their optics and replacement of their visual center is at stake, I've opted to forgo telling you to be good and not use your optics for the next two weeks."

"And just deactivated them?" Prowl asked with some amusement.

"No. Tempting, but no. You'd find a way to override it, anyways." Ratchet said, sounding just as amused. "I've rerouted your sensors into your optical center. If you boot them up, your imaging software should create a rough image of the room around you, probably in infrared." Prowl did so and was unsurprised to find that Ratchet was right.

"Interesting." he said as he looked around the isolation room with infrared vision, able for the first time since the Ark was being built to see where the pipes and electrical lines were behind the walls.

"Yes, well, it's not perfect. Any electromagnetic interference or sensor blocking device will render you blind, and the only way you'll be able to read is via direct link with a data pad or terminal." Ratchet said.

"So stay away from the labs and keep my office locked when doing paperwork." Prowl guessed, and watched with fascination as the infrared-Ratchet nodded.

"Exactly. And, needless to say, you're off battle-duty and confined to the Ark." Ratchet said. "I've informed Prime, as well as Wheeljack and First Aid, of your condition, but I thought it best not to let the rest of the Ark know. The last thing I want to deal with is the twins when they find out you can't see normally."

"Indeed. I think we would all dread that." Prowl said with dry amusement.

"Hmph. Yes." Ratchet said. "I want to do a few tests to make sure there's no undue stress on your visual center, and then if you're up to it, you can go."

"Alright." Prowl said.

"Get up, then." Ratchet said, stepping back. Prowl spent the next hour going through various tests of his visual perception before Ratchet was satisfied. "You may experience some stress in the visual center - if that happens, just reboot your sensors. The time they take to reboot should be enough to allow the visual center to calm down. Hopefully, however, regular recharge should prevent that from happening." the pointed comment was not lost on Prowl.

"I will endeavor to keep regular office hours." Prowl promised, and Ratchet nodded.

"Good. Now get out." Ratchet said, pointing to the door.

"Thank you for your excellent services, Ratchet." Prowl said agreeably, then left as instructed, heading out through the empty med bay to the 'waiting room' beyond. He was disconcerted to find that, though he could see a mech sitting there, and suspected from past experience that it was Jazz, he couldn't actually confirm it. His crippled 'vision' wasn't detailed enough for him to make out more than a general shape and size, and there were quite a few mechs of the same general shape and size as Jazz around the Ark. Fortunately, he didn't have to wonder who it was for long, as the mech jumped up when he exited the med bay.

"Prowler! Ratch' finally let you out, huh?" it was certainly Jazz, and Prowl wasn't sure if it was more disconcerting not having known who it was or not being able to see Jazz's expression.

"Indeed he did." Prowl said as Jazz fell into step beside him as he headed out of the waiting room.

"I suppose he told you that you're off battle-duty for the next two weeks?" Jazz asked, and Prowl nodded.

"He did." Prowl said. "And he informed me that if he found out I did any work today, I would be off duty, period, for the next month."

"Heh, yeah. I got it covered, anyways." Jazz replied. "Might wanna use the spare time t'check on Blue. He's been mopin' around since the battle." Prowl sighed.

"When will he learn that it is not his fault if I end up injured?" the tactician asked somewhat rhetorically.

"Probably about the time he stops caring about you." Jazz said with a chuckle. "Which will probably happen long before you give in and admit you've been adopted as his surrogate creator."

"Mentor, if anything." Prowl replied with fake grumpiness. Bluestreak's opinion of Prowl was a long-standing debate between Prowl and Jazz, which both of them found far too entertaining to spoil by actually going and asking the mech in question to settle it.

"You have an adopted sparkling, whether you want one or not. Give in and accept it!" Jazz said with a laugh, then unexpectedly bumped his shoulder into Prowl's, causing the tactician to stagger slightly. "Whoa!" Jazz said, grabbing Prowl's shoulder to help steady him. "You alright there?"

"Fine, just a little...disoriented still." Prowl said, frowning. It was strangely difficult to predict the other mech's movements, even though he could literally see Jazz's internals working.

"You sure?" Jazz asked.

"Yes. We're almost at my quarters, anyways. I can lay down and recharge, allow my systems time to defrag before tomorrow." Prowl replied reassuringly, and Jazz nodded, though the rest of the walk was spent in silence, during which the saboteur watched Prowl closely, probably looking for any signs that he needed to take Prowl back to Ratchet. Which was another sign of just how slagged he'd gotten himself, if Jazz was this worried about him. Prowl made a mental note to try looking away from the explosion next time, and save himself the worried Ratchet and Jazz experience.

Fortunately, Jazz didn't seem to find anything overly worrying, as he left Prowl in peace once the tactician reached his quarters, and with great relief, Prowl shut the door and began a careful inspection of his quarters. Unexpected things looked different using just his sensors, and he wanted to catalog the differences so that he wouldn't make a mistake later. He ended up glad he did, as he had just settled down to relax for a bit before going to find Bluestreak when the mech himself showed up at Prowl's door...along with the twins.

Bluestreak was, as Jazz had said, overly mopey about the whole ordeal, and Prowl spent the entire time Bluestreak was there trying to convince the gunner that it wasn't his fault. Even with the twins' help, though, Prowl was fairly sure he still didn't get through. In the end, it was partially a need to recharge and partially exasperation with Bluestreak's stubborn refusal to give up his guilt that caused Prowl to shoo them all out of his quarters.

"Y'know, Blue hasn't been the only one acting mopey since the battle." Sunstreaker said on his way out, Bluestreak and Sideswipe already halfway down the hall, still bickering about how Prowl's injuries weren't the gunner's fault.

"Jazz is always depressed when I'm injured. He hates my paperwork." Prowl said dryly.

"I know Jazz's 'I hate paperwork' mope. This wasn't it." Sunstreaker said seriously.

"Sunstreaker -" Prowl said with annoyance.

"Hey, I said I wouldn't say anything to him. I never said I wouldn't try and convince you to do something about it." Sunstreaker said, chuckling slightly, then ducked out the doorway, transforming briefly to catch up with his brother and Bluestreak. Prowl shook his head and palmed the door closed, wondering not for the first time what had possessed him during that battle in the ruins of Polyhex, even if he was certain they were both going to die, to confide anything to Sunstreaker. Granted, Sunstreaker had said some things he wouldn't have normally, too, and they had both agreed not to mention it to anyone...but Prowl's feelings about a certain saboteur were something the golden mech couldn't seem to let lie.

Prowl shook his head and dismissed the whole thing as he lay down on his berth - Sunstreaker's word was as good as Optimus', despite what some mechs might think. The golden mech wouldn't say anything to Jazz, so as long as Prowl could handle Sunstreaker's pointed comments and remarks, everything was fine. Except for his vision, Prowl amended with a grimace. His head ached from the unusual input, and after a moment's thought, he got up again and locked his quarters with his command code before getting back in the berth and shutting off his sensors for recharge. It was oddly disconcerting to have them all the way off, but the ache in his head immediately eased, and Prowl drifted off into recharge peacefully a short time later.

"It's aching every day?" Ratchet asked, a frown audible in his voice.

"By midday I can barely think. I've taken to having a short recharge on my lunch break." Prowl confirmed, wincing slightly as speaking caused the ache to increase. It had been several days since Prowl had been released from the med bay, and while having his sensors tied into his visual center was still working, it was hurting far more than Ratchet had implied it would, so Prowl had decided to visit the infirmary.

"Hmm. It isn't supposed to be anywhere near that bad." Ratchet said, picking up several diagnostic tools and running them over Prowl's head.

"Maybe it has something to do with his battle simulator?" Wheeljack offered from the other side of the med bay, where he was apparently building some basic joints for use in repairs.

"I've had my simulator off." Prowl replied. "I suspected it might cause difficulties, and the other tacticians need to stretch their abilities anyways."

"You may have it off, but I'm reading data going into it." Ratchet put in from above Prowl. "Hmm. I'm going to have to pull up your specifications and have a look, Prowl. In the mean time, feel free to dial down your sensors and give your visual center a rest. Wheeljack and I can warn you if anyone comes in."

"Thank you, Ratchet." Prowl said with relief, turning down his sensors to a minimum.

"Someday, I will find whoever designed your cranium, and I will give them a piece of mine." Ratchet said somewhat grumpily, giving Prowl a pat on the shoulder, then stepped away, leaving Prowl alone on the med bay berth. Prowl didn't really mind - he'd always found med bay relaxing in-between battles. Which, really, was exactly what Ratchet wanted - he'd kick out those that came in to annoy or bother him or his patients, but those that just needed some peace and quiet, he'd let stay. It was the obvious soft inside to his grumpy medic exterior.

Prowl had drifted into a light recharge when the doors opened, startling him back to consciousness. He tensed, prepared to dial up his sensors again, but Wheeljack spoke up almost immediately.

"Hi Jazz. What can we do for ya?" the inventor asked casually.

"Hey Wheeljack, Ratchet - Prowl?" Jazz added the last part curiously.

"Just a follow-up on his repairs after the battle." Ratchet interceded neatly. "Optics are tricky parts to repair. Especially when one looks directly into a high-intensity explosion and melts half of them."

"Shall I ask Skywarp to wait for me to turn my head the next time?" Prowl asked with all due politeness.

"Oh mute it." Ratchet said with a snort.

"And Prowl's stealthy humour strikes again." Jazz said with a chuckle.

"It's hardly stealthy." Prowl replied.

"You rarely let it out, so we never see it coming. Therefore, it's stealthy." Jazz countered.

"Was there something you needed, Jazz, or were you just looking for some friendly banter?" Ratchet interjected.

"I'm always lookin' for some friendly banter, Ratch. But no, my shoulder still ain't sitting right." Jazz said.

"I told you wrestling with Skywarp was a bad idea." Ratchet said dryly.

"Hey, if I hadn't jumped him when I did, I'd have to do all of Prowl's paperwork forever. I'd go crazy. I think you'll agree that my sanity is a little more important than a dislocated shoulder." Jazz said, sounding mock-offended.

"If you ask me, you never had any sanity in the first place." Wheeljack said cheerfully.

"Pot, kettle." Ratchet commented mildly.

"Slag, I was betting on 'takes one to know one'." Wheeljack said with mock disappointment. Ratchet chuckled slightly, and then the banter quieted. There were light murmurs as Wheeljack fixed up Jazz's shoulder, but nothing much was said until the inventor finally announced that Jazz was free to go.

"Thanks Jack!" Jazz said cheerfully, and Prowl was glad that the saboteur had said that while walking towards him, because it gave him warning so he wasn't overly startled when Jazz's hand suddenly landed on his shoulder. "Hey, when you're out of here, head down to the rec room. Got a surprise for ya."

"If I have the time." Prowl said with a nod. Which, when said to Jazz, was tantamount to saying he was going. Jazz knew it, too, and left whistling. Ratchet waited a few seconds after the doors closed to speak up.

"I've figured out what's going on, but unfortunately there's not much I can do about it. The way everything's hooked up in your cranium, your battle simulator is always receiving data from your sensors. I can't change it without deactivating the entire simulator." Ratchet said.

"And my simulator is an integrated part of my CPU." Prowl said.

"Exactly. So I can't turn it off without turning off your CPU." Ratchet said dryly. "And having just put you back together, I'd rather not kill you just yet."

"So there's nothing you can do?" Prowl asked.

"Unfortunately, no. You're going to have to deal with the stress of having your system shunt about two copies of your sensor data. I suggest regular breaks - or dialing them down for periods of time when you shouldn't need them as much, such as when you're doing paperwork." Ratchet said.

"I'll see what works." Prowl replied, unable to keep his disappointment out of his voice.

"On the plus side, your optics are healing nicely." Ratchet said reassuringly. "I'll be able to reactivate them in a week or so."

"I'll be glad when you can." Prowl said, sitting up on the berth and dialing back up his sensors.

"I'm sorry I can't really do anything for you, Prowl." Ratchet said, sounding upset that he couldn't help.

"You've done a lot already, Ratchet. I already owe you my life many times over." Prowl said. Ratchet snorted.

"More like Prime owes you his life many times over, and therefore owes me his life many times over. How many times have you taken a blast for him? And don't try to tell me you didn't see that missile in time to dodge the explosion - I've seen you react with less warning. You just knew Prime was behind you." Ratchet scolded.

"I think that's my cue to leave." Prowl said, jumping off the berth. Ratchet snorted, and Prowl said goodbye to him and Wheeljack before heading out, making his way down to the rec room, glad for the break in the med bay, which allowed the ache in his head to subside to a more reasonable level.

"That was fast." Jazz said from beside Prowl almost the moment he entered the rec room, startling the tactician slightly.

"Yes, Ratchet was just clarifying a few last things with me." Prowl stated.

"So you're fine now?" Jazz asked curiously.

"Yes." Prowl said with a nod.

"Good! Surprise time!" Jazz said brightly, then grabbed Prowl's arm and dragged him to the far side of the rec room, where the various sources of entertainment were set up. In this case, Jazz made a beeline for where the Cybertronian-sized chessboard had been installed. Prowl noticed an audible quieting of the rec room around them as they came to a stop by the chessboard, and could all but feel Jazz's expectant stare on him. Prowl himself was at a loss - to his crippled vision, the chessboard looked...unremarkable. He'd never made detailed scans of it before, so he couldn't discern whatever changes had obviously be made.

"Toldja he wouldn't like it." Gears grumped from somewhere nearby.

"Hey now! Maybe he just doesn't like y'all watchin' him like hawks!" Jazz said, sounding offended.

"You messed with The Chess Board, Jazz. There's gotta be a regulation against that somewhere." Trailbreaker said with a laugh.

"Hardly." Prowl said. "It's just...disconcerting."

"So you don't like it." Jazz said, chuckling, but still sounding disappointed.

"No, I like it. I just need to get used to it." Prowl insisted, hoping he wouldn't regret saying that later.

"Well, no time like the present!" Jazz said, instantly perking up. "Siddown, let's have a game!" Oh that so wasn't a good idea.

"I'm afraid I really must get back to work." Prowl said. His processor still ached, and he would love to take a longer break, but no way was he going to suffer his first ever loss at chess in the middle of a crowded rec room, even if it would be to Jazz. And it would be a loss without his battle simulator to help him out. "Perhaps later?" Prowl suggested.

"Aw, c'mon, just one game?" Jazz wheedled. "They never take long against you, anyways."

"Then we will have plenty of time for multiple games later." Prowl said with a small nod, then turned and headed out. Jazz followed.

"I'll switch it back." Jazz said once they were out of audio range of the rec room, sounding dejected. Prowl stopped, turning to look at Jazz, then up and down the hallways carefully, making sure there was no one else around.

"It's not the chessboard, Jazz." he said seriously, already mentally berating himself for what he was about to say. His soft spot for Jazz had gotten far too big lately. "My battle simulator is still offline." There was a long pause. Prowl expected to hear some sort of comment about how he was trying to avoid losing to Jazz, but the saboteur surprised him.

"That explosion really fragged up your head, didn't it?" the saboteur asked finally, seriously.

"Yes, well, apparently taking the explosive force and heat of an oil storage tank to the face is rather damaging." Prowl said with sarcasm, trying to hide his surprise at the unexpectedly serious response.

"Apparently." Jazz said softly. "Prowl -"

"That paperwork is still waiting for me. I'll be happy to thoroughly test the alterations to the chessboard with you once I am fully recovered." Prowl interrupted, not wanting to hear Jazz's pity or sympathy.

"Of course. I look forward to it." Jazz said, his voice returning to his normal volume, and then with a cheerful 'seeya later!' the saboteur was gone. Prowl shook his head and trudged off to his office. He locked the door as soon as he arrived, sitting down and poking through the data pads, for once not in the mood to actually work on any of them, even to get his mind off things. Still, they needed to be done, and so he dialed down his sensors and connected to the first one - a report from Perceptor. Lovely. Prowl put it back and dug until he found a report from Wheeljack. Perhaps the inventor's enthusiasm and amusing, and by now somewhat sheepish, euphemisms for blowing himself or his lab up could keep Prowl focused.

It was much later in the afternoon when Prowl became aware of a tickling at the edge of his sensors, and frowning, he glanced up from the data pad, wincing as he suddenly realized he'd gotten so absorbed in his work he hadn't noticed the massive headache he'd accumulated. Then he heard the sound of his door opening, and he straightened in surprise as a familiar form stepped inside. He opened his mouth to ask Jazz to wait a moment, so he could disconnect from the pad, but the saboteur was already speaking. With the data from the pad streaming through his CPU, though, Prowl could only catch every few words of what Jazz was saying.

Figuring it would be faster than trying to stop Jazz talking about whatever had gotten him excited enough to override the lock on Prowl's door, Prowl opted to just disconnect himself from the pad as quickly as possible. It wasn't fast enough, however, and his limited vision blurred together as he turned his head to track Jazz's movement as the saboteur suddenly came around to his side of the desk.

And then all thought processes, even those involving disconnecting from the pad, ceased altogether, as Prowl felt something he never thought he would. Jazz...kissing him.

Prowl's systems screamed at him, protesting the halted disconnect, the excess sensory information, and his reflexive, repeated attempts to activate his optics. The tactician didn't pay any attention to them, trying to figure out where in Primus' name this development had come from. He barely even noticed when Jazz pulled away, completely missed it if the saboteur said anything. Then Prowl's system's couldn't be ignored, and he snapped out of his shock in time to realize that he was about to suffer a system crash.

"Frag! Ratchet!" The last was all but yelled over the comm system, and then all sensory input ceased. The red warning of a system crash was the last thing Prowl was conscious of before he went offline altogether.

- TBC -