The Road Less Travelled By

This is a plot that won't leave my head. May or may not be ongoing.

Disclaimer: I don't own Transformers; I'm just prostituting it for my amusement.

Summary: For all Cliffjumper's doubts of Mirage's loyalties, he would never guess the truth. Mirage was once a Decepticon. Jazz was an assassin for the Prime, and Prowl was just an Enforcer.

Warning: war, M/M robots

Pairings: Jazz/ Prowl (friends with benefits), Mirage/ Cliffjumper (friendship/preslash/who-the-frick-knows)

Klik: One minute, 1.2 kliks

Breem: 8.3 minutes, 9-ish kliks

Joor: One Hour, not giving it a specific length, suffice it to say that Cybertron does not share the same orbit or rotation as Earth, an hour, a day would be different lengths from ours

Mega-cycle: One Day, 93 hours/ joors

Orn: One Week, 13 mega-cycles

Quartex: One Month, 4 orns

Stellar Cycle: One Year, 7.5 quartexes

Vorn: Length of Sparklinghood and Younglinghood: 83 stellar cycles.

Earth, 1984

"Have you never made a mistake?" Mirage demanded, coolant tears pooling in his optics as grief, shame, and rage overwhelmed him, triggered by yet another conflict raged between he and Cliffjumper. "Have you never made a mistake that you will never stop paying for?"

Cliffjumper did not have time to be stunned by Mirage's demand. Disappeared and as he reappeared he punched Cliffjumper hard in the side of his helm. It was next to impossible for Cliffjumper to land a counter attack as Mirage continued the pattern of appearing and disappearing, landing punches and kicks as he seemed to dance around Cliffjumper. The mini bot growled, and tried to listen, just for a second. He heard Mirage's vocalizer hitch, and guessing Mirage's location, Cliffjumper ducked low to avoid any potential oncoming blows, and swung his leg out, catching Mirage's legs and pulling them out from under him. Mirage fell hard on his back, and reappeared. They stared at each other, tears stained Mirage's faceplates, and his intakes were whining with the force of each inhale, his optics were large and bright, almost glimmering behind the tears.

Cliffjumper could only look down at him confusion twisting his own faceplates. Suddenly, and without another word, Mirage transformed, disappeared and raced back out of the Ark and into the night. A cloud of sand was the only thing that signalled his path. For a moment, Cliffjumper debated calling Prowl, or Jazz, even Ratchet. Instead, he transformed himself and chasing after Mirage. There was no question, Cliffjumper was going to find out what the Pit just happened. Slag it all, he did not like having his aft handed to him by a Towers mech.

Cybertron, 9,000,000 B.C.E

Jazz made his way down the dreary street. His movements were fluid, and he seemed at ease. Truthfully every step was made with murderous intent. He had tracked his quarry to this run down neighbourhood bordering Praxus' red light district. All he wanted to do was slip into that hotel and terminate the mech in question, but Jazz had made a promise, and he intended to keep it. This neighbourhood was within Prowl's patrol and Jazz had long ago promised that if the Prime's orders ever brought Jazz within the scope of Prowl's patrol, he would warn the Enforcer first.

This promise had come in handy. On more than one occasion Jazz had been able to call Prowl in as reinforcement, of sorts, when an assignment got out of hand. Prowl never assisted in the assassinations but if there was danger of collateral damage, Prowl could be trusted to protect the innocent. And to cover Jazz's back if his target had too many "friends" with him/her and the fight managed to pour into the streets. Having a friend amongst the Praxian Enforcers came in handy, though not terribly often. Praxus claimed neutrality in the civil war that threatened Sentinel Prime's reign. Technically, his assassins should never be permitted to take a single step into the city-state. But technically, Sentinel Prime was the ruler of all of Cybertron, even if some of the city-states chose to forget this fact.

They met at a small cafe, where Prowl often refueled during his patrols. Jazz almost flounced in. There was nothing he enjoyed more than coercing an optic ridge raise from his Enforcer friend. Prowl was already sitting at the corner booth, farthest from the door. It offered him line of sight, he could see all who entered and exited the establishment. And it offered them privacy. Jazz loved to see Prowl with his doorwings fully extended to the sides, filling his side of the booth. There was nothing quite so erotic as doorwings. Even if Jazz wasn't actually allowed to touch them.

"What has brought you to Praxus this time?" Prowl asked. It was not unknown to the government of Praxus that the Prime sent his assigns in from time to time when targets of his wrath took refuge in Praxus. The official order was to ignore the intrusions unless they became an issue for public safety. Enforcers were neither to help nor to hinder the assassins. Prowl took leeway with the second half of the order. Though he never helped Jazz terminate a target, or tidy up the scene, Prowl did offer Jazz assistance when he came under fire. Only, of course, if he happened to be patrolling nearby.

"One of Megatron's ghosts is hidin' out in Praxus," Jazz explained. "Don't know if he's got a target himself but Sentinel Prime's ordered he be terminated."

"And he is hiding in my neighbourhood?" Prowl asked, exasperated to a certain degree.

"Aren't they always?" Jazz asked with some cheek. "Yer patrol's the worst of the city, my mech."

"Too true," Prowl replied. "Do you expect any trouble?"

"He's hiding out in the Recharge 6 motel down the block," Jazz explained. "Ya might want to be nearby if anything slips into the hallways."

"Of course," Prowl murmured. "Do you enjoy your work?"

"Sometimes," Jazz replied, shrugging. "Do you?"

"Sometimes," Prowl echoed. "I'll be near."

"That's my Prowler," Jazz said, he rose from the booth. "Maybe we can catch a cube before I head back to Iacon?"

"We can try," Prowl replied. "You still owe me. And my designation is Prowl, Jazz."

Mirage didn't recharge on the berth. Never mind that it was possibly the most disgusting berth he had ever seen, lubricants and transfluids were dried to its padding; the berth is the first place someone would look, and shoot. Whether it was the Prime's assassin, or his former mentor, too many mechs had their sights set on extinguishing Mirage's spark. He recharged in the corner farthest from the berth. It was not much of a distance, the room was barely more more than a closet. But it was all he could afford. How far he had fallen... No. No. Don't think about it. Never think about it. The young mech curled his legs to his chassis and offlined his optics. No one would see him if they entered his room. His cloaking mod was active, concealing him from anyone's sight.

He was going through energon at a dramatic rate, using his mod so much, but there was no other way for Mirage to recharge, or to even navigate the streets. The stress of his circumstances was stretching Mirage distressingly thin but he was not quite ready yet to give in and to just let himself be deactivated. Perhaps he should just give up, lay down, and deactivate. It had to be less painful than this. But Mirage was afraid, deeply afraid of the hereafter. Surely the only place he would go was to Unicron's grasp. That fear kept Mirage alive, but for how much longer? Mirage sank into a fitful recharge only to be woken less than a joor later as the lock on his motel door disengaged and the door was slowly eased open. Stark terror lit through his systems, he had been found! In desperation, and the vain hope at avoiding capture, or deactivation, Mirage shut down his fans and forced his systems to run silent. It would not take long for him to overheat but maybe they would leave before that happened.

The mech made no sound. His peds were eerily quiet as he walked, to the berth and poked about with his pistol. Mirage watched, with optics gleaming with fear. There was no trace of Mirage, or Spectre as the Decepticons had called him in the room. What few possessions Mirage had were safely tucked away in his subspace. With any luck, the Autobot would give up and leave, thinking Mirage was not in fact in the room.

Jazz was certain the slippery 'Con was in the room. He couldn't hear him, or see him, but Jazz was certain he was here. The last few nights Jazz had been so close to catching the ghost that the 'Con never stopped to recharge. No mech could go that long without recharge, and judging by his last few choices of accommodations, he did not have the credits to spare on a wasted room. Except, if he was in the room, why was he not firing at Jazz's back? It smelled like a trick, some devious little 'Con trick. The lock Jazz had re-engaged click off, drawing Jazz's, and unbeknownst to him, Mirage's attention to the door. Jazz ducked between the far wall and the berth. A large mech filled the doorway, and stepped inside. Red optics glowed in the dark room.

"Spectre," the Decepticon said in a mechanical voice. "Escape: Impossible. Deactivation... Autobot!"

"Slag," Jazz swore, and he ducked low as the 'Con fired at his location. Crawling along the floor just a few metres. He shot at the 'Con from the end of the berth.

"Prowl, I need some help," Jazz called over the comm. "I've got a big old 'Con between me'n the door.

"I'll be right up," Prowl replied. Reliable mech that he was, he had been waiting in the lobby, just in case civilians were endanger.

The voice was unmistakeable. Only one 'Con spoke like that. Jazz cursed and ducked low behind the berth. He was cornered, and he really, truly hated being cornered. Fragging psychic hadn't even seen him; he had felt Jazz's mind. What the frag was Soundwave doing with this ghost? Soundwave zeroed in on Jazz's cover and aimed his blaster, intent on eliminating the meddlesome Autobot. A loud crackle exploded behind Soundwave as the locking mechanism was destroyed, and the door manually pushed open. Prowl fired through the opened door. It was unable to slide shut now. Soundwave faltered as Prowl's blast struck him high on the chassis. Focused on Prowl now, he fired back, barely missing the Enforcer as he dove back into the hallway. Immediately Jazz fired at Soundwave, before the 'Con could go after Prowl again.

Soundwave knew there was no winning this fight, not with yet another Autobot entering the fray. The room was too small for him to maneouver. Taking fire from Jazz, he charged the door just Prowl flew through it. Catching the Enforcer by the arm, Soundwave hurled him into Jazz. Before they could tumble free from each other Soundwave was at the door. He turned away from the door and as he aimed at the downed Autobots, a shot erupted from the corner and struck him in his leg. Infuriated, he raised his blaster and fired directly at the spot where Mirage was crouched. He was immensely pleased by Mirage's cry and the satisfying pain, and horror he heard in Mirage's screaming from processor. Unfortunately, he could not stay to verify his shot was fatal, and he fled, limping down the hall.

Jazz stumbled free from Prowl, and looked over his shoulder to confirm his friend was in one piece. Prowl stretched out his doorwings and gave Jazz a curt nod. Ever an Enforcer, Prowl stepped past Jazz even as the saboteur raised his gun and pointed it at the magician who who came in and out of visibility. He clutched his abdomen as energon poured through his digits. Mirage did not even attempt reach for his fallen gun before Prowl was almost on top of him. Seeing the Praxian Enforcer baring down on him, Mirage let out a very undignified squeak.

"You are going to deactivate if we do not stop the bleeding," Prowl said in a perfectly neutral tone. Fear, pain, and energon loss clouded Mirage's optics.

"I'm rather sure that was the point," Mirage replied in a thin, wavering voice. He looked from Prowl to Jazz, and spoke to Jazz specifically. "Isn't that why you're here?"

"Right on that count," Jazz admitted with some ambivalence. "All the same, ya might as well let Prowler stop the bleeding."

"Prowl, Jazz, Prowl," Prowl grumbled as he reached into Mirage's wound, the moment Mirage moved his hand away. The wounded mech gasped and shook with pain. Prowl had nothing to offer him to ease it. He pushed Mirage onto his back, and hurriedly clamped off the severed lines. By when he sat back on his peds his servos were covered with Mirage's energon and coolant. It appeared he had stopped the bleeding. Mirage did, however need proper medical care, urgently.

"I don't understand," Mirage said when Prowl had finished, optics no more clear than before, but no more dim or clouded.

"My friend Prowl here is just an Enforcer," Jazz explained.

"We have a deal," Prowl added. "I ignored is activities as long as I am not witness to them."

"But you're here now," Mirage said, skeptically.

"I am prepared to save his plating when necessary," Prowl replied. "Praxus remains neutral, and as such so are the Enforcers in this city. I imagine that is why you picked Praxus as your hiding place?"

"That and Towers mechs aren't unknown here," Mirage said. Not that it had mattered, he hadn't even been in Praxus for one night.

"So what did you do to frag Megatron off," Jazz asked, still standing a few steps behind Prowl, debating what to do about Mirage. "Spectre, was it?"

"Mirage. I disobeyed an order."

"That's it?" Jazz snorted. Already, the 'Con's story sounded dubious.

"And shot the mech would was going through with the order," Mirage added.

"What was the order?" Prowl asked. Jazz's tone, and his posture caused Prowl to suspect that his friend was debating just knocking him offline, just for a few kliks, long enough to "take care" of Mirage. Prowl preferred to avoid the fall out from such a move.

"A mech backed out of an arms deal with Megatron," Mirage explained. He offlined his optics as he recounted the mission. "I was sent with a more... Experienced 'Con. I was used to working alone, or with Soundwave retrieving information. I thought it was strange that this mech was on an assignment with me. I thought I was supposed to retrieve Megatron's credits. When we broke in to the dealer's home, we caught her mate by surprise and my partner shot... shot him. Just like that. He wasn't even the dealer! The dealer came running in and he shot her too, but didn't kill her. He told me to get the sparkling. I didn't even know there was one. I asked why. He was going to kill the sparkling in from of her before he killed her."

"You shot him instead," Jazz sighed. Wasn't this fabulous? A 'Con with a conscience.

"In the faceplates," Mirage recalled, mirthlessly. "I retrieved the credits, and returned to Megatron."

"Are you a slagging glitch?" Jazz exclaimed. "You're lucky Megatron didn't deactivate you on the spot."

"No, I'm not," Mirage replied. Wasn't it funny, he was so numb now that tears didn't come to his optics when he recounted his punishment. "Yes, I'm a glitch-helmed idiot, but I'm not, I wasn't lucky. I gave Megatron the credits. He didn't blow up. He had me restrained. Then he went and got my brother. He deactivated Figment in front of me."

"Pit," Jazz grimaced. He knelt down beside Prowl and rubbed this tip of his olfactory ridge with two digits,

"Figment had no idea what was going on," Mirage continued. "He looked alarmed to see me restrained. And then he was deactivated. Megatron told me that mercy had no place in the Decepticon army, and if I wanted to live, I would never forget that. And I would never disobey an order again. I was supposed to go the brig, but I broke free and used my cloaking mod.

"How the frag old are you?" Jazz asked, taking a good look at the finely built mech laying sprawled out in front of him. He didn't want to believe Mirage but his training in special operations had taught him well how to read a mech.

"Two vorns, and a few stellar cycles," Mirage answered truthfully.

"Fragging Pit," Jazz swore. "Recruiting sparklings..."

Mirage dimmed his optics just slightly at the comment, but in the end he had to agree, and he said: "who else would be stupid enough to fall under his spell?"

It was an open wound, more painful than the hole Soundwave had made in his narrow abdomen. Jazz knew one thing for certain; he could not deactivate Mirage. Not unless he found information that caught Mirage in a lie. Sentinel Prime was not going to be happy. On the other hand, who said Jazz had to tell the Prime anything? Surprising both Prowl and Mirage, and earning a yelp from Mirage, Jazz quickly, but gently picked Mirage up off the floor, cradling him in such a way as to not damage him any further.

"So Prowler ya know any medics that's keep their traps shut?" Jazz asked Prowl with his widest smile.

"You should be thankful I have no desire to advancement," Prowl replied. "An Enforcer who wanted to rise through the ranks wouldn't know any such people."

"Awesome," Jazz cheered. "Who's the mech?"

"My half-brother," Prowl replied. Mirage couldn't wrap is processor around what was happening. Shock was beginning to overwhelm his systems and he slipped mercifully offline.

"Look what the cyber fox dragged in," the brightly painted mech exclaimed when he opened his door and saw Prowl, and saw the energon on his servos. "What sort of trouble have you found yourself in?"

"Not me, Smokescreen," Prowl stepped in door his brother's dwelling as Smokescreen stepped aside. Smokescreen frowned when he saw Jazz, and the offline Mirage. "Him. His designation is Mirage."

"I'll remind you I'm a psychiatrist," Smokescreen complained, and venting, added. "Bring him in. Lay him on the couch."

"Thank you, Smokescreen," Prowl said. "I doubt you've forgotten your surgical rotation."

"Lucky for this one, no," Smokescreen replied. "I imagine the reason you've not brought Mirage to the hospital is because of your friend here."

"Guilty," Jazz said as he arranged Mirage on the couch. "Didn't know Prowler had a brother?"

"I'm the less reputable one," Smokescreen explained. "And you're an Autobot. Are you thinking of enlisting, Prowl?"

"Yes he is, no I am not," Prowl replied. "Jazz is a friend. I find myself frequently cleaning up after his messes."

"I can't imagine your lieutenant knows of this," Smokescreen mused. "This behaviour is far more befitting of me. Remember, Prowl, you don't want to take after the black sheep of the family."

"Which one of us is the bastard, Smokescreen?" Prowl asked, revealing more of himself to Jazz with those words than he had in the entire span of stellar-cycles they had known each other.

"That doesn't make you disreputable. But it is why you're a workaholic," Smokescreen replied as he patched up Mirage as best he could without more equipment. "Every waking moment is spent trying to prove your worth to the Enforcers. That's also why I don't understand how you've gotten yourself tangled up in this sort of mess."

Prowl didn't disagree. Jazz looked from Prowl to Smokescreen. This was the most insight he had ever gotten into the workings of Prowl's processor. It intrigued him that Prowl would let something as out of his control as illegitimacy in anyway direct his course in life. The idea wasn't very logical, and it did not seem at all like Prowl.

"It matters, Jazz," Prowl said, as if sensing Jazz's thoughts. "Our sire is Chief Enforcer of the first district of Praxus. Anything I do must be that much better than my colleagues or it would appear as though the only reason I have my job is because I am his bastard."

"Younglinghood baggage," Smokescreen pronounced. "Alright. I need to replace his damaged plating. Might as well replace the patch as well. It looks like someone cut a chunk of his plating out and slapped a crude patch over it."

"Slag it," Jazz grumbled. Mirage had probably excised his Decepticon insignia instead of just sanding it off. The more Jazz thought of it, the more he hated Megatron. If Mirage wasn't just a foolish mechling, he had done some drastic things to back up his story.

"Can he stay with you?" Prowl asked his brother. "For all intents and purposes, he needs to be... Deactivated. Officially, you understand."

"Who did he frag off?" Smokescreen asked. He wished for a brief moment that he had not opened his door.

"Megatron, and Sentinel Prime," Jazz replied, and he smiled a humourless smile. "Talent mechling."

"Primus help me," Smokescreen prayed. "He has to stay with me now, or go to a clinic anyways. I don't have spare plating laying around. But I can get some. I can't do anything about his energon depletion, his levels will have to resolve on their own."

"Thanks Smokey," Jazz said. "I need to report his demise to Sentinel Prime. I owe you a cube, Prowl."

"You owe me several," Prowl replied, he waved Jazz off with a flick of his wrist. Smokescreen stood and retrieved a warming blanket and placed it over his new house guest before he looked critically at his brother.

"How in the name of all that is holy did you hook up with one of the Prime's assassins?" Smokescreen asked.

"It was a fluke," Prowl replied, it was the truth.

"You aren't 'facing him, are you?" Smokescreen asked, mentally saying another prayer.

"No," Prowl replied. Something in his voice gave him away. No one else would have caught the subtle change of tone except his brother.

"But you have..." Smokescreen accused. "Sweet Primus how did you come to 'face one of them?"

"A fluke," Prowl repeated. "And that is all I will say in the matter."

"Fine," Smokescreen replied, he sat back on his peds, watching his patient. "You might as well use the wash racks. You aren't going anywhere looking like that."

"Thank you for your generous offer," Prowl replied. Sarcasm did not drip from his voice but Smokescreen heard it as clear as a bell. Prowl did, however take his brother up on his offer. There was no returning to his patrol with energon crusted on his servos. Jazz had likely used a cleaning rag to wipe himself clean before he actually left Smokescreen's building. Prowl did not luxuriate in under the shower of hot water and surfactants. In little more than a couple of breems, he was making his way back into Smokescreen's living room, just in time for Mirage to wake up.

"Hmm?" Mirage made a confused sound as his optics came online. Immediately, he tried to sit up, and clutched his damaged abdomen as he did.

"Easy does it," Smokescreen soothed, pressing Mirage back down on the couch by his shoulders. "I haven't finished patching you up just yet."

"Who are you?" Mirage asked, suspicion made his optics bright, and focused despite energon depletion.

"This is Smokescreen, Mirage," Prowl explained, walking slowly over to the couch. "He's my brother, and a doctor. He'll be taking care of you."

"I'm not a practising medic," Smokescreen explained to Mirage. His voice was smooth and gentle. "I don't keep a good collection of pain killing programs, or plating. I'm going to get some from a friend at first light. Do you think you can hang in there until then? Maybe have a cube of energon?"

"Okay," Mirage replied, his optics dimmed as his systems reduced their output and focus to conserve energy. He was hurting, badly but he was too confused by his change in predicament to complain.

"Good," Smokescreen said, smiling. "So you've fragged off both Megatron and the Prime? That's okay. You can stay with me until things calm down."

"Jazz is finally notice of your demise," Prowl added. "Megatron will likely get wind of it soon enough. Then you should be safe."

"Safe?" Mirage repeated the word. He couldn't believe it was possible. The thoughts of Figment filled filled his processor with guilt and anguish beyond physical pain and tears once again pooled in his optics.

Smokescreen immediately set about reassuring the young mech as Prowl filled an energon cube from Smokescreen's dispenser. Indeed this was the perfect place to leave Mirage. His brother would tend to both his physical and mental damage. Certainly better than Prowl could hope to do himself. He returned to the couch and handed Smokescreen the cube. Not wanting to interrupt the expert, Prowl quietly left his brother's apartment. There was the little matter of finishing his patrol, and then there was the paperwork in regards to the shoot out with the Decepticons.

Jazz commed Prowl just as he was submitting his paper work to his lieutenant. Blaming the fire fight on a spat between Decepticons seemed to cover all the bases. His lieutenant knew better, but as long as the Lord of Praxus maintained the "see no evil" directive, it was the best move the Enforcers could make.

"Ya want that cube?" Jazz asked.

"Where?" Prowl replied. His arm was stiff from being thrown by Soundwave, A cube was an excellent idea.

"Yer place," Jazz said. "I'll bring the cubes, and something that'll loosen up yer arm."

"I will meet you there," Prowl replied. He almost smiled. The last time Jazz had been at his apartment... Well, the experience had been pleasant enough but Prowl was by no means certain he wished to repeat it. Nonetheless, a cube with a friend was a pleasant prospect.

Earth, 1984

"Cliffjumper, just where are you going this time of night?" Blaster commed Cliffjumper. Wasn't that lucky, Blaster was on security detail tonight.

"Me and Mirage are going for a little drive," Cliffjumper replied. He immediately regretted mention Mirage.

"You and Mirage. He just came back in from patrol," Blaster said. "Oh no, you are not tearin' into each other again. I'm pagin' Prowl."

"Don't," Cliffjumper ordered. "We're just going to let off a little steam."

"Some how I don't believe that," Blaster replied, his voice oozed suspicion.

"I promise, I'm not going to lay a digit on that mech's helm," Cliffjumper insisted. "'Bot's honour."

"Better not," Blaster warned. "Alright, keep out of trouble."

Mirage was well ahead of Cliffjumper. The mini bot couldn't see his dust trail now, luckily it didn't take a tracker to follow race car tracks through the desert. In all their fights, Mirage had never actually thrown a punch in retaliation, let alone thrown the first punch. And Mirage had never cried... Cliffjumper growled to himself. Guilt, he didn't like feeling guilt. Whatever was going on in that slagging Towers mech's processor, Cliffjumper was going to figure it out. Then he could go back to beating on him with a clean conscience.

AN: I've been trying to ignore this plot for several days but my muse is being an ass so here it is. A little fic totally unrelated to my other verses. There is more to this in my head. But I'm not entirely sure I want to continue it. Reviews are helpful in deciding if there is a point in juggling another fic... Just saying ;)