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The Flaw in Every Crystal

Chapter Text

Normally there was nothing but excitement upon getting a new assignment. Ibex... Altihex... Even Tarn ended in fun adventures for the cultural investigator. Somehow, however, upon receiving the news of his newest assignment Jazz couldn't help a subtle feeling of dread washing over him.

That feeling never fully left him even as he arrived at his destination city, but with the sight before him as he stepped out of the transport his dread turned into amazement. He'd heard about how beautiful the city was supposed to be, but hearing about it and seeing it were two vastly different things. Even with all the city-states he had visited before, none of them were as perfectly uniform as everything in Praxus seemed to be. Add to that the crystals used for lighting and the whole city seemed to have an ethereal glow to it.

There was quite a bit of data work to be done for Jazz to be allowed officially into the city and by the time he'd arrived at his hotel it was nearly dawn. 'So much for getting right to business the first day' was his last conscious thought before he slipped off into recharge.

Days two and three went much the same; data work, explaining constantly why he was there, who allowed him there, how long he would be, on and on. Day four, the first day he could feasibly get any work done, was spent mostly in the little bit of tourist side Praxus had, learning nothing new that wasn't public knowledge to those even outside of the city.

It wasn't until day five that the visored mech had any luck, managing to stop a local long enough to get a decent conversation in. Just as he thought his luck was turning around the conversation was cut short by an Enforcer... Yet again more questions of why he was here, who sanctioned his visit, and of course asking to see the data work that detailed his claims.

"I have everything here in..." Jazz started, fishing around for the datapad. "I got it somewhere around here..." The mech he had been talking to made a quick retreat as he searched for the datapad for the Enforcer, who seemed to be getting more agitated the longer Jazz took.

"If you don't have the proper data work, then you don't belong here. It is my duty to remove you from the city," the Enforcer informed him, roughly grabbing Jazz and pulling the cultural investigator along with him.

"No, no, please, I think I forgot to get it back from the last place I stopped. This is just a misunderstandin'."

~~

Prowl had just ended his shift when they entered. A fellow Enforcer dragging along an outsider, the latter trying to plead with the former that he did have the appropriate data work and that he had a job he had to do. Intrigued, Prowl decided to follow after them as the outsider was led further into the station.

He arrived at the Detention Chamber just as the outsider was being pushed into a cell. Prowl could just barely make out his words over the din. "You'll remain in there until someone can be bothered to remove you."

"That won't be necessary," Prowl commented as he entered the room, stalling the other from slamming the cell door.

"You intend to vouch for him?"

A flick of his sensor panels, yes, led to the on-duty Enforcer once more grabbing at Jazz. This time to remove him from the cell before shutting it. None too gently the Enforcer then shoved him in Prowl's direction with a warning. "You'd better be grateful to your Escort."

Jazz watched, wordless, as the other Enforcer left before finally turning to his savior. "Thanks. Dunno why ya did it, but thanks," he stated, offering a grateful smile in the other Enforcer's direction. "Um… I'm Jazz, by the way."

"Prowl," the officer responded in kind. "Come along, we can talk once we're outside." And with that, the Enforcer started to leave trusting that Jazz would follow.

It wasn't until they had left the station and were walking down a roadside pathway that Prowl spoke again. "What are you doing in Praxus without the appropriate data work anyway?"

Jazz followed close behind, not adding any commentary until he was prompted to speak. "I had it all saved on a data pad." Looking down sheepishly, he admitted, "I think I lost it though."

"Hardly clever," Prowl commented but added nothing more on the subject. "That, however, doesn't answer why you're here at all."

"Right, that," Jazz began, idly wondering just where the Enforcer was taking him. "I'm a cultural investigator. I was supposed to spend some time here to finally unravel a bit of the mystery that is Praxus."

"Really now?"

That genuinely caught the native's interest. Outsiders knew very little about the city and nothing of the culture of Praxus. Of course, they never bothered to ask either.

At the same time, they also had reached their first destination. A quaint little local cafe. Prowl opened the door as he explained. "This location mixes some of the finest local Energon, and is my favorite stop in this neighborhood. It also happens to be perfectly situated between my work and home so I can stop in almost every day. If you care to sample Praxian Energon then this would be the place to try."

"Sounds perfect!" the Polyhexian agreed, still following behind as they were seated by the host. "I would be greatly honored if you'd pick for me."

"Alright," Prowl accepted. "I suppose I'll have you try my favorite. It's of a more classic variety but always a good choice."

With Jazz's approval he sent in their order before turning back to said mech. "Before we get much farther along you should understand your current situation. I am currently your Escort. Do you have any idea what that means?"

Jazz looked uneasy for a moment, mulling the thought over in his processor. Before he actually got a chance to respond though their Energon had arrived and, curious as ever, he'd forgone answering in favor of trying this new taste… Only to regret ever putting any in his mouth. "Oww, ick!" he complained, barely managing to swallow what he already had in his mouth. "Is it supposed to hurt?"

Prowl regarded him curiously. "Hurt?" he repeated. "There is a slight bite, but that's what gives the Energon it's flavor."

"Maybe I got a bad cube?" Jazz questioned, taking another tiny sip only to be met by that same painful burning. "Yup, that definitely hurts."

"May I?" Prowl questioned, offering out a servo to take the offending cube. "You could have mine if you'd like. I know this cube has been done correctly."

"Sorry for being a bother." He apologized, handing over his own cube, waiting for the other to slide his own cube closer so he didn't seem rude by just grabbing at it.

Prowl held his cube out even as he took Jazz's in his other servo. He waited until Jazz had taken it before bringing the new cube up to his mouth to try a small amount.

Jazz tried the other's cube, barely keeping himself from reacting horribly as the acidic taste hit him… Nope, this one was just as terrible, but he wouldn't want to be any ruder to his escort than he had already been so instead he downed the cube in pained silence.

"You must come from somewhere distant," Prowl commented after trying what had previously been Jazz's cube and finding it was fine. "It seems like you've never had this sort of Energon before."

"Polyhex," the visored mech explained. "Ours tend to be rather metallic in taste, but I've tasted all sorts… Just none so acidic until now."

"Interesting." Prowl followed his comment with a sip of Energon that ended his cube. Then he changed subjects, back to an old one. "Returning to the matter of me acting as your Escort, you never did answer my question. Do you have any understanding of what that means?"

"Most likely not," Jazz admitted. "I've only had a few days here to learn anything."

"Right then." The Praxian paused before sliding into his explanation.

"As your Escort it becomes my responsibility to watch over and keep you out of trouble. As such, among a few other stipulations, you are not to go anywhere without me. If you are found out in public alone then you will be removed from the city and barred from returning, which I'm rather certain would hamper your research. There are other rules but that is the most important. Do you understand?"

Jazz caught himself nodding as the other explained. It was one of the first things he had learned that didn't seem scripted or purposefully unfinished so he wanted to try to remember as best he could until he could start typing things down. "Of course," he agreed quickly. "Does that mean I'm expected to stay with you during the night, or will you come get me from the hotel when you want to escort me?" It seemed a bit weird, the idea of just suddenly ending up in this mech's home but he'd been through stranger things than that.

"You are legally no longer considered a tourist and so your previous hotel room will be given to another. If you have any belongings still within we can stop there for you to collect them. Anything left will become property of the building first and then the city-state if the hotel has no use for it."

Prowl stood then, but remained beside their table. "If you're done, we can head in that direction should you need to gather the remainder of your belongings?"

"I didn't bring much. I have everything with me." 'Except my data work' he added almost silently. "So the day is up to you I suppose."

"What is it you need to do your job?" Prowl asked. "We have a few joor before I need to return home to rest for work."

"Explore the culture, mostly. I doubt I can get much in today, but if you wouldn't mind me asking a few questions that would be helpful as well."

"I'm willing to answer anything I have an accurate answer to share." As he spoke, Prowl led them outside. "Was there anywhere you wanted to visit today or is a sit-in discussion at my home acceptable?"

"That would be welcome, I've had quite a day already." Jazz followed after the Praxian, trying to ignore the small flutter of apprehension in his spark. But after everything Prowl had gone through to help him out, the small bit of paranoia he felt was squashed by guilt for even considering that the Enforcer had ill intent.

They made the rest of the trip in silence.

Prowl's residence was a nice, little two berthroom place in a more residential neighborhood just a short distance outside the sector of city where he worked. When they arrived, the Enforcer sent the code for the door to open and led them inside. The interior was neat with sparse to no decorations but still enough to feel lived in. The same idea carried through the other rooms, even though the second berthroom had been converted into an office.

"I realize this may be a bit awkward," Prowl commented as he shut the door and it auto locked. "Seeing as I only have one berthroom properly prepared, but the arrangement is possible. I work late night through early morning and typically recharge in the evening in order to wake up before my shift. As long as you are agreeable to recharging while I'm preparing for, and subsequently at, work then we should have no problems. Unless of course you have an alternative suggestion?"

After a quick assessment of the room they had entered Jazz gave a shrug. "I could just take the couch," he offered. "I've slept on worse."

"There is no need for that, and with the times I work you're more likely to be awoken than not if you attempt to recharge out here."

Jazz nodded his reply. "Night shift I take it?"

"Near enough," Prowl answered as he took a seat on said couch. He offered a gesture indicating Jazz should sit as well as he moved on. "You said you had questions about the culture of Praxus. Were you only interested as a tourist or did you want the full experience?"

Jazz sat on the couch, noting how exceptionally plush it was, most likely to accommodate the doorwings. "I want to get as much information as I can during my stay here," he confessed. "I'm up for almost anything."

"So you want to see the city as a Praxian?" Prowl clarified. "That can certainly be arranged."

Something in the way the Enforcer said 'that can be arranged' brought Jazz's paranoia back up and even as he replied with a happy sounding, "sure!" He couldn't shake the unease settling into his spark.

"I'll see to getting the proper data work completed tomorrow then." Prowl offered a faint smile. "You won't even need to worry about losing it this time. Copies will be sent to all law enforcement stations in the city so they can look you up if anything occurs."

"Sounds great!" he replied. "Am I getting a copy too, ya know, just in case?"

"It will take extra time, and the process certainly is not instantaneous, but once everything is complete I can provide you with a copy of your own, yes." Prowl didn't see how Jazz having a copy would matter, but it was an option easily provided and so he could promise it with no effort. "Now, what sort of questions did you have about the city?"

That shifted Jazz back towards his work mode and he launched into the first of many questions. They would only get through some of the city's history that night but there was always time for more the next orn.

Chapter Text

It was three orn later when Prowl woke Jazz, who had this time slept out on the couch after they stayed up later than usual talking. It was both several joor later than Prowl had slept in and a couple earlier than Jazz had the last few orns. The cultural investigator tried to swat away the Enforcer in an attempt to remain in recharge and that was when the latter finally spoke.

"You need to wake up now unless you wish to waste my entire free orn."

There was a bit more tired mumbling as Jazz finally woke up. "M' up." It still took a few moments for him to roll off the couch to stand up, but after a bit of light stretches the Polyhexian seemed as awake as ever. "So what's the plan for today?"

"That's up to you," Prowl answered. "I already told you I was free today to escort you around. I expected you would have sights you wanted to see for your research."

Jazz gave a bit of a sheepish smile, realizing that he should have planned better for the day. "Well I suppose since its a day off for you and all, how about we experience what Praxians do for fun?"

"I'm not certain I follow," Prowl admitted. "The only reason my schedule matters is because we had to wait until I didn't work as it would be the easiest time to show you around. Also, it would be acceptable even if we needed to remain for out the entire orn. What we do should not be my choice when it is for your job."

Seeing as this track of conversation seemed to he getting him nowhere Jazz decided to try another approach. "How about the music scene in Praxus? I wanna go anywhere the music is."

"Music scene?" the officer repeated.

"Yeah, you know... music?"

"Explain."

"Well, what kind of music does Praxus produce? What instruments? You can tell a lot about a culture based on their people's artistic creations," he explained, getting into a bit of a rant as he started talking about his interests.

"Praxus doesn't create music in any conventional sense so it's unlikely you would enjoy ours, if you could even notice it."

"So what kind of arts does Praxus focus on?"

"We have the most skilled, and likely only, Crystal Manipulators. They grow and maintain the Crystal Gardens as well as conducting the performances that occur there. Otherwise Praxus is far more focused on function over form."

Jazz seemed to light up a bit at that idea. "I would love to go see the Gardens... Oh, but they're not open to tourists right now are they?"

"It's a good thing then that you don't qualify as a tourist anymore, now isn't it?" Prowl offered a slight smile along with the reminder. "You are no longer bound by the tourist laws now that you have an Escort."

"Then if it wouldn't be too much trouble, could we go?" he posed the question hopefully. Anyone who knew anything about Praxus had always wanted to know more about the tourist restricted sections of the crystal gardens. It was the opportunity of a lifetime.

"Certainly. We can even leave right now."

Jazz's enthusiastic agreement was tempered only by a comment from Prowl about how he should wash up first. They had enjoyed highgrade together the previous night and it had been Jazz's first experience with anything Vosnian so a portion of his second, and last, cube had ended up on his frame rather than within it. He had wiped himself off when it happened but what he'd missed was now a slightly gooey mess beneath sections of his armor so a trip to the washrack really was in order.

~~

It was about a joor later that saw them arriving at the Gardens and they were allowed in after only a few questions were asked of Prowl; namely if Jazz was truly following him. Once they were inside, however, that was that. There was the occasional other visitor but no one stopped to speak with them. After the third time someone flicked their wings in the duo's direction and Prowl responded in kind, though, Jazz made a mental note to ask about it later. Right now he was too captivated by the beauty to worry overly much about another aspect of his job, and one which he always had access to at that. So far his host, escort, whatever the city called it exactly, had been open to any and all inquiries and nothing he'd said seemed at all dishonest so Jazz could always ask about wingspeak another time.

As they continued along Jazz noticed a sign that definitely caught his interest. "Singing Crystals." Without hesitation, he headed that way. If this place actually produced music there was no way he was going to miss out!

Stepping into the small cavern was an unexpected surprise. At first it seemed to be one massive crystal but as he studied it closer it turned out to be a myriad of small and medium crystals grown together with a single large crystal at the far end. Jazz was too busy with his examination to notice Prowl flare his wings and offline his optics as he joined the cultural investigator in the crystal cavern.

It wasn't for another few kliks after he finished exploring the structure that Jazz turned to Prowl with a casual question. "Are we here at the wrong time or something? They're supposed to be singing, aren't they?"

Returning to his frame mentally, Prowl took a moment to settle his wings before onlining his optics. He only glanced at Jazz a moment before explaining. "I told you that you wouldn't comprehend Praxian music."

Moving slowly, Prowl walked up to a wall and laid a servo on it gently. "Most crystals require coaxing from a Manipulator in order to produce sound but a true master of the craft can harness a crystal's ability to 'sing' in the individual crystals. Put together the right notes and its a beautiful harmony that hums just on the edge of awareness.

"These," and here he flared his wings once more, so Jazz would notice them specifically, "allow us to witness those songs."

"So I can't hear any of it without a pair of wings myself?" Jazz asked, to which Prowl nodded. Jazz gave a soft ex-vent at the missed opportunity but refused to let it get him down. Instead he joked, "makes me kinda wish I did have some."

"The addition of sensor wings to most frame types fares flawlessly in 97.354% of cases."

All Jazz had to say in response to that was 'huh.' It certainly was a thought, and maybe sometime in the future he'd look into it, if only to find out what he was missing out on. For now though, they had the rest of the Crystal Gardens to explore.

~~

With Prowl's days off being so far and few between Jazz rarely got time to explore the city, so when his Escort did have a day off he was very insistent on going out for research.

One such day led them to exploring the downtown sector, to visit the shops and specialty stores the city had to offer. Jazz had gotten quite a bit to work with by midday and suggested that the both of them take a break for some Energon.

The cultural investigator was in high spirits after getting to see so much of Praxus' downtown, chatting away with his Escort happily. The sudden mood 180 was entirely unexpected; the Polyhexian stopping mid step, smile dropping. It was easy to follow his gaze to a pair of Praxians on the sidewalk across the road, one of the Praxians was violently tugging on the other's wing and saying something to him too quiet to overhear.

"Hey!" Jazz attempted a shout at the two, his voice quiet and unsure with his first attempt. He took a moment to compose himself, preparing for a potential conflict, before trying again, crossing the road to get nearer to the two. By the time he reacted, though, the first of the Praxians had started to leave, leaving the second still standing there cowering a bit.

"Are you ok? What happened?" The visored mech asked as he got near the abused Praxian.

The Praxian in question just stared up at him for a moment before shaking his helm and running off after the first.

"Shouldn't we do something?" Jazz questioned when Prowl approached him.

"It's none of our concern. They are a bonded pair and though that shouldn't have occurred in public, it is inappropriate to interfere."

"But, no one should be allowed to treat someone else that way, in public or private," Jazz argued. "What if he really hurts him?"

"No mech would behave in such a way that would leave their mate injured," Prowl retaliated. "That sort of disorderly trouble may happen outside our walls but here in Praxus we are more civilized than that."

It took a while for Jazz to respond. Never? Nowhere is so utopian that domestic violence never occurs. "Never?" he finally asked, disbelieving.

"Of course." The reply was instant, almost automatic. "Praxus is, after all, known for a nearly nonexistent crime rate. What few problems we have here all stem from outsiders in the tourism areas."

Jazz was still hesitant to believe the Enforcer, but arguing wouldn't do him any good. "Sorry I side tracked us, let's keep going?"

Prowl agreed with a singular nod and shuffled them along to their next destination.

~~

It was several orns later, and a couple metacycles into Jazz's assignment, before another such incident occurred. They were touring a more residential district near the city's walls as Prowl explained how Praxus reduced overall energy consumption by using specialty crystals for lighting, thereby giving the city it's uniquely dimmed look. And then it happened.

A small commotion could be heard down the street they were about to arrive at. When they did reach the intersection there was a pair of Enforcers arresting a civilian. The offending mech was primarily light blue with the only vivid patches of color being glyphs on his doorwings. The only other notable trait was that rather than a chevron the mech had features that were distinctly Tarnish.

Even as they watched, the situation was quickly resolved, however that didn't stop Prowl from offering his assistance if required. The other officers bid him thanks for the offer but it was "unnecessary at present" as they were only waiting on a transport now. Prowl accepted easily as that was his assessment of the situation anyway and turned his attention fully back to Jazz.

"Where were we?"

"What was that about?" Jazz couldn't help the small bit of worry in his voice, not worry for himself but worry for the Praxian who'd been arrested. It didn't seem like he had been doing anything wrong, but as far as Jazz could tell everything seemed a bit upside down in Praxus so there was no way to tell exactly what was going on.

"Simply a minor altercation; a necessity to prevent him fleeing as he attempted to do when they tried to detain him for his own good." Prowl made sure to lead Jazz away from the potential danger even as he explained it. "His mate has likely already been made aware of the situation and is to arrive at the local Enforcer station to reclaim him at earliest convenience."

The latter portion came out sounding droll and automated, as if he'd explained as much on other occasions. Not that Jazz would have heard it before now.

Even after the Enforcer explained the situation Jazz still had far too many questions. Why was the other mech originally detained? How did Prowl know he had a mate? What did he mean by 'reclaim'?

None of these questions were voiced however, not for lack of wanting to know, but for a bit of learned fear of Praxus' unknown. Maybe his imagination had run away a bit from how foreign the culture was, but it seemed like this city was hiding a few dark secrets... Secrets he didn't want to learn.

"Sounds like he's not in a lot of trouble at least," Jazz remarked, upon realizing there had been quite a stretch of silence while he was caught up in his own thoughts.

"I don't know his specific transgressions but I can promise you that whatever they may be, he shall be dealt with appropriately." Prowl paused when they had gotten a couple blocks away and turned to Jazz. He seemed startled by the scene still and so the Enforcer added more. "It is nothing exceedingly serious however as he will be returned to his mate. Were his grave crimes, that mech would become property of Praxus."

The furthered explanations did not ease Jazz in the slightest. "Property of Praxus?" he questioned before he could stop himself.

"The highest punishment for the worst of crimes," Prowl answered. "We find putting mecha to death to be a waste of resources and so instead we put those few who do commit atrocities to work. A mech who becomes property of the state loses all right even to his own functioning and will be set to whatever tasks are necessary. And this law covers everyone in the city. For instance, even our current Head of State could become property of the city if he were to deliberately harm a youngling or sparkling.

"It is a harsh punishment, but so is the crime of hurting the innocent, and it is only through fear of such intense repercussions that we can prevent unruly behaviors."

Jazz simply nodded at the explanation. It did seem to make sense, but the implications were impossible to ignore.

"If that's everything then," Prowl asked before starting them moving again. "We still have a few more sights you wanted to see before we return home. If you have any further questions you may continue to ask there."

Jazz nodded his acceptance because really, what else was there to do, and followed along.

Chapter Text

It was becoming nearly impossible to get a full recharge most orns, and after everything he'd seen and heard in his stay in Praxus it only made sense to Jazz that he would have a fitful recharge.

One such early morning he found himself staring up at the ceiling from the berth he was using, contemplating the idea of just finding the next transport available to Iacon and taking it. He had enough information for a worthwhile essay, and his boss couldn't blame him for cutting the trip short if he did so out of consideration for his own sanity, right?

Not much longer into his thoughts Jazz finally made up his processor that it was time to leave and quickly set to the task of making sure he had everything that belonged to him packed away in his subspace.

Jazz was just finishing up when Prowl returned home after work. The first thing the Enforcer noticed upon entering was that things were out of place. Not excessively so, but noticeable in the precise home he usually kept. Closer examination revealed a few items that had come to essentially be part of the decor since Jazz's arrival were missing as well.

"What is the meaning of this?" Prowl questioned.

Jazz made a startled yelp when Prowl began speaking, not expecting the Enforcer to be home so soon.

"Prowl, I..." he started, explanation falling short as he turned to look at the Praxian. "I mean, I got a comm from my boss... Told me to wrap it up early... Needs me ta cover a beat fer a co-worker." He hoped that was enough for the Enforcer, there was no way of him knowing it was a total lie anyway.

Prowl studied him for several long nanokliks before finally responding. "Well that's highly unfortunate."

"Yeah..." Jazz feigned a bit of sadness in his agreement. "Mind seeing me off to the transport? I don't wanna get locked up tryin' ta leave."

"That won't be necessary," Prowl responded easily. "Nothing of the sort is going to happen."

"If yer sure, but I was hoping to get ta say goodbye to you as well," the cultural investigator confessed. "Anyway, thanks fer all your help, and if you're ever in Iacon let me treat ya to some Energon at least, ok?"

Prowl chuckled slightly. "Oh, but you misunderstand me. When I said nothing of the sort would be happening, I meant you wouldn't be returning to Iacon or Polyhex or anywhere. You live in Praxus now."

Jazz couldn't seem to process what Prowl was trying to say long enough to respond, instead all he managed was a confused, "what?"

Prowl immediately pulled out a datapad and offered it to Jazz. "You certainly do have interesting timing. As of today you are an official citizen of Praxus, by rule of the city, and thereby you must conform and adhere to the rules just as any other made-Praxian."

Jazz accepted the datapad, his frame on auto pilot as his processor attempted to get through what he was being told. "I think we had a misunderstanding..." He glanced down at the datapad as he spoke. "I can't be Praxian, I... I gotta get back ta my life... This was just an assignment."

"You did say you wanted to see the city as a Praxian, did you not?" Prowl inquired. "Now that you have the opportunity to do such you intend to simply leave?"

"You can't just expect me ta stay here, my job needs me, I got a place ta pay for, and friends." The conversation still felt so surreal, did Prowl really expect him to stay? He didn't want to be rude about leaving, but this was getting a little too weird for him.

"So thank you, really, ya helped a lot, but I gotta leave now." He didn't even think to hand the datapad back before turning to leave the house, intent on getting out of there before his escort got any other ideas on how to keep him.

"You can try." Prowl's cautionary commentary followed Jazz as he headed out the door. "But I guarantee that you won't succeed."

He ignored Prowl as he left, intending to get out of the city as soon as possible. Obviously his escort was insane, and he didn't want to take any chances with anyone else. Jazz got to the transport station as soon as he could, attempting to breeze by the Enforcers at the check point, not wanting any further confrontations.

Leaving Praxus was a much simpler task than entering, at least for non-Praxians.

Upon attempt to enter, unless one was of Praxian creation, there were a myriad of security scans and searches, some of one's own frame and others on one's background and history. Rigorous testing was done on the permission documentation or travel permits (such were issued in limited quantities throughout each vorn) and then the information was meticulously recorded and re-checked for accuracy before being entered into the central Praxus system. If there was nothing that caused a warning then the mech was given the Code of Conduct data work to read and memorize before attaching their personalized glyph. A few more scans and tests to determine if the glyph matched up with other samples from Cybertron's central recording system and if it passed then the mech was allowed into the city. The process could take as long as a couple orns in some cases.

In contrast, leaving the city required almost nothing. A thorough frame and subspace search and a couple scans of both one's frame and documentation to assure everything matched up. There was also the obligatory check within the Enforcers' system to be certain that a mech need not be detained for any reason. After that, a bot had to sign their glyph to a final document stating their intent to leave and then they were out of the city. In order to re-enter one would have to begin the process anew.

Jazz, however, would not have to worry about any of that. The initial scan of his identifying documentation drew up a warning in the system and the Enforcer working the terminal used a sensor wing gesture to summon another officer over even as he spoke.

"You are unauthorized to access this area. Remain calm and we will redirect you to a suitable location to await being reclaimed. If you fight we will be forced to use whatever means necessary to detain you."

Calm was just about the last emotion Jazz wanted to feel at that point, scared, angry, confused, those felt right, these mechs could take calm and shove it up their tailpipes.

"I'm not tryin' ta access anythin', I jus' wanted ta go back ta Iacon no questions asked. Mmkay?"

There was no way that was going to work, and he knew it, which was why he was slowly backing up even as he spoke, but everything inside him was praying that he would catch a break and be allowed out of this psycho city.

"Be silent and remain where you are." This was stated by the second Enforcer as he neared. "We will escort you to an appropriate location to wait, by force if necessary."

Of course life wouldn't be so kind... "Unless that location is Iacon, I ain't goin'!" Jazz shouted, making a quick 180 to try to run away, only to be met with another Enforcer behind him. "Frag this," the visored mech hissed, literally jumping away from the third Enforcer's reach. His landing however was far from perfect, managing to hit the edge of the curb just right so that he soon found himself flat on his aft and completely out of options.

The Enforcers were quickly upon him, wrestling the Polyhexian to the ground before cuffing him behind his back. They then yanked him back to his pedes and half-led, half-dragged the shouting mech to the Detention Chamber situated in an isolated corner of the security checkpoint and against the inner city wall. They left him with the knowledge that he would remain there until his mate arrived to reclaim him.

Only after everything had calmed down and he was alone in his cell did the full weight of everything that had happened come crashing down on Jazz. He managed to locate the nearest corner before he sank to the ground, holding himself. Within nanokliks he was shaking from the stress of the situation he had gotten himself into, minute sobs escaping his vocalizer.

~~~

It was a few joors later when Prowl finally showed up at the checkpoint. He was met by an on-duty Enforcer and, after being informed of the situation, was led down to the holding cells. None of Jazz's charges had been considered overly serious and so the cell door was unlocked and the other Enforcer left him to deal with the situation alone.

"I told you that you wouldn't get anywhere. Do you believe me now?"

Jazz looked up at the Praxian, not bothering to move much. "Can I please go home now? I wanna go back to Iacon..." At this point he wasn't above begging.

"That's where we're headed," Prowl promised. "Stand up and follow. I'll make sure you get home."

The Polyhexian nodded before standing, he knew better than to trust this psychotic mech, but if there was a chance he would be able to actually go back to Iacon there was no way he would waste it. "So yer taking me all the way to Iacon?" He questioned, following Prowl as he had been instructed to. "'Cuz, really, as long as I get to the transport I'll be fine."

Prowl moved quickly when Jazz neared, snapping a thick metal band around his neck. Attached to it was a chain link leash, the opposite end being covered in a mesh and firmly held in the Enforcer's grasp. Looping the leash around his servo, he gave a sharp tug to pull Jazz forward quicker than the other was moving. "I told you I would get you home and that is what's going to happen. Now shut up and do as I say. Every sound you make will be another strike when we arrive."

Jazz reacted much like a wild animal upon being forced into the collar, pulling at it with his servos as he strained away from Prowl, before suddenly snapping in another direction to try to get free, almost tripping himself in the process. "Frag you, psycho freak!" he hissed, still straining away from the Enforcer.

Prowl held on, though it was a strain sometimes. There were minute shifts that indicated when and how Jazz was about to shift so he could preemptively compensate. At every opportunity he could, the Enforcer looped more of the chain around his servo to shorten the distance between them. In under a klik he had effectively halved the amount of space Jazz had to work with but he wasn't done yet. As soon as the Polyhexian was close enough, Prowl reached out and pinched the end of a sensor horn. He'd done his research and knew the sensitive points to the other mech's frame.

"Are you going to behave," he demanded, still holding onto the appendage of Jazz's helm. "Or will I have to begin your training here? I guarantee you that you will not enjoy it, just as I will not enjoy leading around an injured Sub'."

Jazz stopped moving the instant the other had his sensor horn in servo, frame jerking just a bit from the sudden twinge. "Stop, stop, stop. You can't do this!" As much as he feared whatever pain the other would bring him now, whatever the future held seemed far more grim so it seemed better to try to free himself while he still had a glimmer of hope.

Prowl squeezed the horn in his grasp tighter. This mech would learn to listen or he would suffer for it. "I can and I am, and you will do as I say. One way or another."

Jazz tried to pull away again, only managing to hurt himself more. When all other options seemed impossible the Polyhexian finally settled on a last ditch attempt by slamming his own helm forward into the other's helm, hurting himself quite a bit as well in the process.

The shock of the unexpected attack hit him nearly as hard as the force and Prowl temporarily lost his grip on Jazz's leash. Fortunately for him, it was still wrapped around his servo and thus was still reachable when he could focus again. The attack had hit him a little higher than dead center between the optics and had caught the very bottom edge of his chevron guard. It was a sensitive point, but not as bad a hit as it could have been. Still, enough was enough.

Sharply yanking the chain once again, Prowl hit Jazz hard enough he should almost fall. Not that he could go down far with the leash. "Are you quite done yet or do I have to carve every word into your plating to get you to understand?"

Jazz yelped at the strike, curling in on himself as much as he could to defend himself from any further attacks. "Frag off," he growled, otherwise not budging.

An angry engine rev was the first response that commentary received. Then Prowl grabbed Jazz's nearer shoulder with his free servo to hold him in place as he yanked the leash and collar in the other direction, winding it up until there was almost no free space and definitely no slack. It would be painful to the throat cabling and detrimental to air intake for cooling systems for as long as the position was held, but it was in no way a damaging method of discipline.

"You would do well to listen to me while I'm still willing to be nice."

Jazz struggled for a few kliks, trying to twist his way out of the other's grasp before finally relenting, his frame going slack. He nodded weakly in understanding.

Prowl kept his position for another klik as he studied Jazz intently, but then he relented. He even freed a few of the chain loops he held so there was a bit of slack to the leash, but Jazz would still need to remain close to avoid being choked again. "Good," the officer stated casually. "You do learn. Let's go then, we have to get home still."

Jazz was torn between trying to fight back again, and just relenting for the moment to avoid further frame damage. He said nothing as the Praxian led them, already having given up hope that anyone in the city would care that he was being kidnapped.

~~

Prowl lead them out of the checkpoint and through the streets, directing Jazz when necessary to take them in the right direction. He kept a firm grasp of the leash the entire time. Given the difficulties he'd already encountered, the Enforcer knew he couldn't trust that the other would behave in the slightest and so remained extra vigilant.

They could have taken a transport but Prowl wanted to make a point to Jazz and that necessitated walking. Thus they arrived back at Prowl's home far later than they could have. It was unfortunate, but a consequence of his own choices so Prowl had to let it go. Still, there was not much time to begin Jazz's training before he needed to recharge. He did still have a shift that night.

Upon arriving, Prowl locked the door after they entered then proceeded to set the secondary security system. Something he had never done before. The security system was designed to only acknowledge the existence of collars such as Jazz wore. It covered the entire structure and if it detected an onlined collar attempting to pass through a signal would be sent to the collar that it would interpret as an order for stasis. It was only the standard design, but he'd never had a reason to look into the upgrades.

After setting the system, Prowl turned back to Jazz. "Into the berthroom with you now."

Jazz made as though he was about to follow the Enforcer's order, but a few steps away from the other he whipped around, pouncing on the Praxian with all the force he could muster to knock the black and white mech down, hoping to use what little time he had to try to free the leash from his grasp so they would at least be on a little more equal fighting ground.

Unfortunately for Jazz, he failed to take comparative skill levels into account and so rather than knocking Prowl down, he found himself flipped easily instead. Using his own attack against him, Prowl knocked Jazz to the floor face first then stepped on the center of his back, just hard enough to put pressure so the Polyhexian stayed in place, and yanked the leash up so it dug into his throat once more. "Perhaps you don't actually learn, do you?"

Jazz whimpered at the strain, becoming still once again as he was chastised by his captor. He had no other choice than to endure whatever suffering Prowl saw fit to bring upon him.

Once Prowl was certain Jazz wasn't going to struggle again, he let him up. When Jazz was on his pedes again, Prowl repeated his order. "Get in the berthroom."

With his options quickly running out the visored mech had no other choice than to follow orders, fear gripping his spark at what Prowl might do next. He went slowly to the berthroom, pausing at the end of the berth to wait for further instructions.

Prowl closed the door and then leveled a steady glare on Jazz. "Do you really think you deserve to use a berth?" Without waiting for a response, Prowl tugged the leash, more gently this time than before but still firmly enough Jazz had to comply or land on the floor.

He pulled Jazz behind where the door stood when open and touched a panel sitting there. After a couple nanokliks an entire section of the wall slid away to reveal a hidden room. Well, almost room. It was barely large enough for more than a couple mechs to occupy the space together.

Prowl tugged Jazz forward so he would enter first.

For a moment fear had given way to confusion as the Polyhexian was forced into this new unknown room, though his emotions rapidly switched back as his processor thought up all the worst possibilities before finally sticking with the idea that this would be the room he was going to offline in.

Prowl waited until Jazz was inside before uncoiling the leash and releasing it. As he did so, he also sent the retract code so that it spun itself up inside the collar. There was no way to release it without the appropriate code. After that, the Enforcer stepped back and shut the door, letting it seal shut. There was no way to open it from within and once shut the room was completely dark and almost entirely silent. A loud voice could carry through, in or out, but it took a deliberate effort. The room was also shielded against any sort of transmissions and automated sync-ups. There would be no sending any messages or attempts to access any local networks. Locked in there, Jazz was utterly alone and would remain that way so long as Prowl felt he deserved to be.

That settled, although he would have preferred to wait on utilizing that room, Prowl set about completing what tasks he needed finished before turning in to recharge for his shift.

~~

Jazz spent some of the night screaming and pounding on the door inside the dark room, panicked, alone, and afraid for his life. After it had become evident that his actions were of no avail he finally gave up on that and set about taking stock of what few things he had to help him survive this ordeal.

Five cubes of Energon, two datapads, a half full credit stick, almost a dozen music chips, and a few Energon goodies. It wasn't much but hopefully it was a good start.

Chapter Text

It took a few orns of trying to come up with ideas of what to do before Jazz finally decided on a plan of action, waiting until he was sure Prowl was at his job before following through with his plan.

Jazz took an Energon cube out of his subspace and poured a small amount onto where he assumed the door lock would be before putting the rest of the cube back. After that came the hard part, striking the armor on his forearms together to create sparks in hopes that he could light the Energon on fire and cause an explosion.

After a few tries he finally succeeded, both in damaging the door and his own frame. The Polyhexian didn't move for a while, allowing time for the pain to dull before starting on trying to get the damaged door open.

~~

The first sign Prowl had that anything was wrong when he got home was the immediate stench of scorched metals. A quick but thorough examination of his residence revealed no source however. Upon coming up empty, Prowl took it upon himself to investigate even more carefully but even the second time he found nothing. It was only as he was considering that perhaps it was something occurring in a neighbor's home that he noticed the stink was most pronounced in the berthroom. Suddenly reminded of the training room he had only just recently used for the first time ever, Prowl crossed over to the panel hidden behind the berthroom door. He input the key-code and it was accepted but the door stuck shut. It took a considerable amount of force and a few well placed impacts before the door sputtered open, revealing the mess inside.

~~

After quite a bit of work put into trying to pry the damaged door open Jazz finally thought he'd succeeded, the door itself barely managing to open at all. Just as he was about to make his escape he noticed the real reason the door had finally behaved for him. "Prowl." He gasped the other's designation in surprise... That couldn't be right, he should have still had a few joor before the Enforcer was done with work.

Finding Jazz right at the door was less of a shock than the mess itself. That he was still online was the most surprising though. Given the condition of the room it was a high improbability that anyone could have survived. Prowl sent out a quick comm for a medic even as he activated his vocalizer. "Exactly what happened here?" he demanded.

"I tried to get out." Jazz replied stubbornly, taking his visor off once he finally noticed it was too covered in ash to see properly and subspacing it to clean later. He tried taking a few steps out of the room but found that to be a near impossible task as he almost collapsed, possibly having damaged a stabilizer.

"Remain still," Prowl ordered even as Jazz tried to fall. "There's a medic on the way so don't wreck yourself further."

Even as he spoke, the Enforcer was scanning the room to catalog the damage and estimate the repair costs. It would be more bothersome to need to let the repair crew in than costly, thankfully, but it was still more trouble overall than not.

"Because I'm obviously choosing to try to fall flat on my aft," the cultural investigator shot back, wavering just enough to manage to fall forward towards the Enforcer.

Prowl side-stepped so that Jazz wouldn't end up colliding with him but did reach out to help and keep him from hitting the floor. Although that was just the first of what he deserved for causing this mess. Still, the nearness gave the officer a perfect opportunity to pull out Jazz's leash once more so he could have a proper handle on the mech. For now, at least, he only worried about making sure the end was bound around his own wrist. Then he focused on helping the other into a better pose than a huddled heap on the floor. By that time Jazz was done fighting everything, allowing Prowl to position him however the other saw fit. Everything still hurt, and any relief was welcomed for the moment.

Prowl had only just managed to get Jazz into a halfway decent seated position when the medic showed up. She swept into the room, Prowl having sent the code to unlock the door so he needn't do so himself, and after a rapid scan, both visually and with an even more advanced sensory system than most Praxians, she set upon Jazz. She wore the traditional medic colors and symbols with the only exception being a matching pair of glyphs painted on either wing in a vibrant jade green, although closer examination would reveal the paint was sunk into etched tracks that spelled out the same name glyph.

She had barely begun working when she asked her first question. "Having troubles training, I see?"

"Nothing too extreme," Prowl answered. "But you know better than most, Triage, that I do love a challenge."

"I'm not some pet you can train ya know." Jazz growled at his captor before turning to the medic working on him. "How can ya just let this happen? He locked me up for joor!"

"I dunno," Triage responded to Prowl, ignoring Jazz for now. "This one seems like a handful even for that processor of yours. He figured out a way to blow himself up after being isolated only a few joor?"

"Hardly," Prowl scoffed. "It has been four, nearly five orn since I set him in there. If anything his survival is the most impressive detail after taking that long to develop such an absurd plan."

"Then let me go home if I'm so unimpressive to you!" the Polyhexian shouted, angry at being ignored.

"This one certainly does run his vocalizer… Are you sure you wouldn't like me to see to a few additional details while I'm in his systems anyway?"

Prowl considered her offer for several nanokliks before responding. "I had planned to wait on anything surgical until the retraining was complete but given the circumstance," he glanced around the ruined room then at Jazz again before looking back to Triage. "If surgery is necessary then I want all indirect methods of communication removed, transformation disabled and, if it's feasible, perhaps a stasis inducer implanted as a fail-safe should he attempt to destroy the collar next."

"Can do." The medic's reply was chipper. "And will do too. There's some wiring in here that can't be fixed outside of a properly sterilized environment."

As the list got longer Jazz's need to escape grew more predominate. They were going to take almost everything from him. His first action was to send a comm out to his closest friend begging 'please help me, trapped in Praxus. This is not a joke.' The next comm was to his boss, stating basically the same thing.

After the preliminary work was done Jazz forced himself to move, all but jumping on the medic, and wrapping his servos around her neck. "I swear I'll offline her if you don't let me go!" he threatened.

Triage gasped in surprise as Jazz lunged for her but made no move to fight him off. Instead she focused on passing along an affirmative/acceptable with her wings to Prowl for when he reached the logical conclusion for the situation. This mech wasn't in a good state but he was certainly stable enough to handle stasis.

Prowl reached the thought of the collar's stasis feature almost immediately but hesitated activating it until he noticed the medic's message. If her assessment said it was safe to do then he would trust her. He sent the code to activate stasis just as Jazz finished his threat.

It was pure will that kept Jazz online for a few more nanoklik as he tightened his grip on the femme enough to start denting some of the metal before finally succumbing to stasis. Eventually his hold loosened and his frame fell away onto the ground.

Prowl's first concern was for Triage, once she soothed her own coding by checking that Jazz was indeed still stable. "Are you alright? There is some damage… "

"I'm fine," she assured him. "It doesn't hurt and will fix itself by morning."

Prowl accepted that with the slightest of nods and a wing flick. "I suppose I'll look into scheduling a meeting with Derby in the morning then to sorta out the appropriate compensation."

"Oh that's hardly necessary. She knows these things are a natural risk in my line of work and this really isn't anything at all. Just a couple decaorn ago I had a delirious mini who was visiting attempt to stab me through the leg. Besides, he did it, not you."

"But it was still a deliberate request of mine that put you in the situation directly leading to your injury."

"Oh come off it, Prowl. That's stretching things even for you. It happened and it wasn't really that bad comparatively so let's just call the matter closed? She does allow me some discretion in these circumstances, and definitely knows better than to go after my patients."

"If you're sure… "

"'Course I am, but if you really wanna make it up to me then help me get him out to the medical transport. It should be here by now."

"Of course," Prowl accepted.

~~

Jazz had no idea how much time had passed since he had been forced into stasis seeing as either he had gone back in time a few hundred vorn or his chronometer was broken. One thing was certain though, he was not going anywhere anytime soon seeing as his frame had been strapped into the med berth quite thoroughly.

The Polyhexian lazily lolled his helm, first to the left then to the right to check out his surroundings, feeling no need to rush any of his actions. There was nothing distinct enough to tell him anything other than he was for sure in a medcenter and for sure still being held captive.

A short while later, Triage appeared beside his berth. Seeing Jazz online was a surprise as she'd been simply doing her rounds and he should have been offline another couple joor at least. Regardless, she set about examining him.

"I see you're aware again. Welcome back to consciousness." Triage offered a smile to him. "I'm going to examine the repairs and modifications I made so tell me if anything feels weird or hurts, ok?"

"Yeah I got a list fer ya." Jazz snapped at the medic. "My chronometer's busted, my comms ain't workin', I have one pit of a processor ache, an' ta top it all off? I'm still prisoner ta some psychotic freak in some upside down creepy fragged up city!"

"Broken chronometer?" the medic repeated, ignoring the rest for a moment as she sought out his medical access port. As she plugged in, she made her next comment. "That must be a coding conflict as it was undamaged and I fixed the frayed wiring already."

As she poked away at bits of code to find the source, Triage finally addressed more of Jazz's concerns. "Your comms aren't functional because the array was removed and the pain is a natural side-effect of attempting to blow yourself up, so completely deserved. Ah, and there we go. That should have your chronometer back online. As for Prowl… "

Triage paused to disconnect and unplug from Jazz. "I've known him basically his entire life and he's extremely.… particular. He likes everything just so and thrives on meeting and beating challenges. One of the most suited to being a Praxian that I've ever met, actually. Not that I expect you to understand that yet, but you will. Anyway, it's in your best interest to learn and conform because he always gets what he wants and as pleasant a mech as you seem capable of being, I'd rather not see you on my mediberth every decaorn or less."

The mech glowered at the medic, "I don't care what he wants, he can't just claim another Cybertronian as property. Ya know what'd be in my best interest? If I got ta go home; ta Iacon."

"Well of course not," she agreed to the end of the first part adamantly. "Legal bonds do require proven consent by all parties and the checking process is incredibly thorough. You probably misunderstood something though. You aren't property, but as an outsider you automatically lose any and all rights upon government acceptance of the bond request until you become a Made-Praxian."

"I'm… we're… WHAT?" His voice shot so high he thought he was about to damage his own audials. "I NEVER fragging agreed ta that! That glitched piece a' malware is tryin' ta pull a fast one. Nuh uh, no way, I ain't gonna be legally bonded ta that pit spawn."

"The Praxian Council would disagree. There is always a careful examination of evidence and they deemed there was enough proof of consent. And once their decision is made and in the system, there is no going back. Now, if you don't mind, would you check your chronometer and confirm it's functioning properly?"

The only answer she got was an angry growl from him. "Well they're wrong, an' ya know what? Even if they have whatever messed up fake proof they took as consent, I'm revoking it right now." He ex-vented loudly after that statement and turned his helm away, trying to convey that he was done talking to her.

"You really don't listen, do you?" the medic commented. "Their ruling is law and nonnegotiable."

When Jazz didn't respond for attempting to ignore her, Triage just exvented noticeably before turning to leave. "Well, I suppose we have enough uses for the additional funds… "

~~

Mid-ish the next morning was the next time Jazz saw another bot. Well, two actually. Both of whom he already knew and at least one of whom he wished he never had to see again. Triage had shown Prowl into Jazz's isolated room when the Enforcer arrived, the pair discussing something as they entered. Jazz made it very apparent that he was determined to ignore the existence of both Praxians, making a point to look anywhere but at the two of them. If insults and anger didn't work then it was time to try another tactic.

"If there's nothing else?" Prowl asked of Triage as they reached Jazz's berth side.

"Nothing I can think of," she replied easily. "The release data work is done up already, as usual. Just ping me when you're leaving and I'll upload it into the system."

Prowl accepted with a simple double flick of his sensor panels and Triage left after that. Her duty was essentially over for this visit. Then the officer turned his attention to the mech upon the berth. "Stand," he ordered the mech, "we are returning home now."

The Polyhexian had a bit of trouble not flinching at the sudden order but he held firm, trying to ignore the flickers of fear forming in his spark.

"Well?" Prowl demanded when Jazz didn't move. "I know you're online and functional."

Jazz focused on a distant object in the room, staring intently on it to keep from looking at Prowl, his spark was already clenching in fear of what the Enforcer might do to him for this act of rebellion.

Prowl's response was to calmly collect the end of the leash, sending the release code as he did so. Once he had it in his grasp, Prowl gave a sharp yank just strong enough to force Jazz to have to move.

"I said," the Enforcer repeated. "We are leaving."

Jazz just allowed himself to be forcefully yanked off the medberth, landing in a heap on the floor, wincing at the pain before going back to staring at anything that wasn't Prowl.

The Enforcer stared down at the other and exvented visibly. Then he tied the end of the leash to a metal bar along the side of the berth. After that, he left the room to arrange for a medical transport to get Jazz home.

As soon as the other mech was gone from the room Jazz righted himself and set about untying his leash from the berth. As soon as that task had been accomplished he forced the medberth against the door, wedging it in such a way to try to keep the door from opening before setting about to find anything and everything useful.

The only notable thing in the room other than the med berth was a small table with one drawer, and upon further investigation he found it held most of the contents of his subspace, mainly his music chips and his two datapads. He reclaimed his items back into his subspace.

Upon returning and finding the door to Jazz's room seemingly stuck, Prowl had immediately alerted a nearby medic. It was entirely too similar to the event that had gotten Jazz into the med-center in the first place and it paid to be overly cautious some times. Security contacted the medic that the door was simply wedged shut with the berth, who relayed the information to Prowl. The mech within the room seemed to be 'acting suspicious' as well so a pair of guards were sent for two-fold reasoning; both to force open the door and to deal with the situation should such be necessary. Prowl, however, decided a faster solution was in order to respond to that issue and he activated the stasis on Jazz's collar once again. When the security duo arrived a couple kliks later, it was only necessary for one of them to open the door and the other to carry the unconscious mech to the transport bay.

~~

With Jazz in stasis the trip home was entirely too simple. Prowl had more than enough time to be thankful the construction team had fixed up his residence in only an orn and a half. It had left him almost another whole orn to make modifications to suit Jazz's problematic streak; specifically his physiological need to make everything difficult.

Once the transport aid brought Jazz inside Prowl sent him away; he could do the rest alone. And he did so immediately. First, it was back to the newly renovated punishment room. Jazz was left lying on the ground but this time the leash was attached to a hook embedded in a wall. Then Prowl cuffed his servos. Each individual cuff had a short chain connecting it to another embedded piece, this time in the floor. The individual cuffs were also capable of being attached together and Prowl did that as well. The chain on a single cuff would prevent Jazz from lifting either servo higher than his own helm while seated, and cuffed together he lost any movements that weren't immediately in front of his frame.

Once done with those, Prowl stepped back to examine and debate. He had other things he could do still, but he wanted to leave some surprises in case Jazz still hadn't learned his first lesson. Decided after a klik, Prowl shut the door to the tiny chamber. He would let Jazz stay in there a few orn again before trying once more to teach him.

~~

Jazz onlined to complete darkness, spending a few moments acquainting himself to his new situation, realizing he was well and truly stuck, chained up in such a way that it was impossible to do much of anything. The captive Polyhexian took the alone time to curl in on himself as well as the chains would allow him before the emotions he tried so hard to keep hidden hit him with full force.

He spent the next few joor screaming himself staticky.

~~

It had been three orn since he'd locked Jazz up when Prowl finally opened the 'secret' room. He knew the Polyhexian couldn't have had any Energon on him so he must be halfway starved by now. As such, he had a cube of Energon, diluted, in his subspace for if Jazz deserved it.

Jazz didn't move much when the door was opened, other than to finally look up at Prowl, not knowing what to expect next. The officer entered slowly, all senses trained on the chained mech. "Have you learned anything yet?"

"I don't wanna fight anymore." He replied softly, moving to sit up so they could talk easier.

Prowl crouched down to be more level with Jazz and caught his still uncovered optics. One digit reached out to touch Jazz's lips before he spoke again. "Open up."

Jazz hesitated just a moment before complying, feeling out the situation nanoklik by nanoklik.

Prowl nodded and shifted his servo so he was cradling Jazz's chin and lower jaw before retrieving the Energon cube. "If you promise to behave, you may drink from this."

The chained mech nodded silently, not taking his optics off Prowl.

A satisfied wing flick met Jazz's nod and the Enforcer brought the cube forward to his lips. "Drink slowly," he cautioned.

Jazz never took his optics off of Prowl's own, even as he took in the offered Energon, enjoying every drop after having gone so long without.

Regulating Jazz's intake speed, Prowl allowed him to have as much as his systems could take. When that turned out to be the entire cube, he let Jazz continue until he'd drained it. Then he subspaced that and shifted his other servo to gently rub the top of Jazz's helm, between the sensor horns. Polyhexian frames were known for the helm appendages and their sensitivity, but in reality that extended to the entire helm and so they often found comfort in such a gesture. "That's better."

Jazz continued his silence, only slightly pulling away as Prowl began to pet him. It was degrading to be fed, then stroked like some house pet, but if he ever wanted out of that closet he realized he would have to bear these indignities.

"Now," Prowl began after a klik. If he noticed Jazz pulling away he didn't acknowledge it. "Are you going to be good and behave?"

"If we can talk about this current... arrangement," Jazz offered. "I'd rather we work somethin' out 'cuz I don't think this is what either of us wants."

"And just what are you hoping to accomplish with such a discussion?" Prowl questioned.

"I want to come to some sort of agreement on everything. All a' this is way too much ta take on suddenly so I was hoping we could just, well, talk about it all."

"Am I to assume you still haven't read through the informational datapad you requested? I know you still have it as it wasn't anywhere else in the room you were in at the med-center."

"I get what it's trying to say, but I don't get why. Why me? What do you want from me?" His emotions were starting to get the best of him once more and Jazz struggled to keep his vocalizer from crackling as he spoke. "I didn't wanna be here forever. I got friends and a life back home... My job... I worked so hard ta get that job. I don't wanna lose everything."

Finally his emotional walls broke and he huddled in on himself, holding himself as best he could despite the chains. "M' never even gonna see my mentor again," he mumbled to himself.

"You are interesting," Prowl answered honestly, "and a closer match mentally than most I know. I enjoyed the time we spent together as well. Did you not?"

Jazz frowned. It seemed like, even for how smart Prowl came of as being, he didn't get it.

"That's not a good enough reason to destroy my entire life. A life I worked so hard to earn!" he argued, sadness giving way to anger again. "Yeah, I liked you. I thought you were some a' the best conversation I'd had by far, but this? This ain't the way ta go about getting my attention. If ya like me, then stop tryin' ta change me."

"I'm not. It's simply how things are done. Had you been willing to listen and accept training then we could have remained in civilized conversation this entire time. Instead you tried to run, refused to listen or behave, and just generally made a nuisance of yourself. That required me to react, matching your actions with punishments of equal intensity."

Jazz vented deeply to calm himself before continuing the discussion. "I still don't get ta be who I am like this. Yer gonna kill off who I am if ya expect me ta live like some house mech. I got goals an' a future an' a lot left ta do. If ya really want me like that than don't try ta destroy me like this."

"There is no reason you cannot continue to pursue certain, safe, goals. At least until we have sparklings to consider." Prowl met Jazz's forced calm with his own. "And should I take a third before then it may not even be you carrying for us.

"I am not destroying anything, simply offering you a nicer life."

Jazz frowned hard at the other's words. "I don't want safe goals, I don't want sparklings, I don't want any of this!" He was livid again, realizing he wasn't ever going to get through to the Praxian so he allowed himself to just react, turning quickly so that he was close enough, and could put a good amount of force behind a kick, aiming to collide with, and hopefully damage, as much of Prowl's frame as he could.

The blow caught him in the side, almost knocking him over where he sat. Prowl did manage to catch himself however, even though he was mentally berating the fact he'd let his guard down. To be lured in so easily was a foolish mistake and he'd now suffered for it. All of this occurred within the nanokliks after the impact and before many more passed he was standing, looming over Jazz.

"This is how you thank me for the kindnesses I've shown you?" he challenged the chained mech. "Then you can rust away in here."

"I'd rather offline in here than ever see you again." Jazz spat back, baring his teeth like a virused turbofox.

Prowl didn't deem to dignify Jazz with a vocalized reply although he did leave making an obscene and blasphemous gesture with his sensor panels. The door slid shut once he exited and Jazz was sealed away once more.

As the darkness settled over him again Jazz thrashed around in his chains, trying desperately to make something give. He flung himself as far as he could in every direction, gnawed at the leash and chains, and anything else he could think of before his frame finally just seemed to give out on him. The mech landed in a heap on the floor, a little bit of Energon escaping from the wounds he had given himself with his wild antics.

Eventually he would just settle into listening to some music, trying to soothe himself as he waited to fade.

Chapter Text

This time it was the end of the sixth orn after locking Jazz away when Prowl visited him again. There was the unmistakable scent of processed Energon in the air, but it was faint so either there wasn't much or it was old. Nothing for him to be overly concerned about now. He entered almost immediately this time but paused to determine Jazz's location and position before proceeding.

Jazz had been halfway to stasis by the time the door opened again. He barely had enough energy to lift his helm to see who was disturbing his darkness and laid it back down upon seeing that it was, as always, Prowl. He made no further movements after that, hoping that maybe the Enforcer had come to finish the job and offline him.

A cursory scan revealed Jazz was in worse condition than he'd expected and Prowl exvented as he opened a comm line. After sending off his message, the Enforcer returned his focus to the mess of a mech on the floor. Cautious of tricks after last time, Prowl was extra wary as he essentially force-fed the Polyhexian. At least a third of the Energon landed on the floor or their frames rather than in his mouth, but the remainder Prowl managed to trickle down Jazz's throat. It was an involved process though, and so Prowl stood after completing it and headed back to the doorway. He would be back soon enough.

Jazz whined a bit as the other left him, his processor just fuzzy enough to focus on survival at that point, and Energon meant survival.

~~

It was only the middle of the next orn when Jazz's prison was opened again. This time Prowl wasn't alone. The medic, Triage, was there as well.

Immediately upon noticing his condition, the femme set to work on Jazz. Some of the bandaging work required the removal of the cuffs and Prowl remained there as assurance in case Jazz was faking his current condition. Highly improbable but not impossible. Her patch-up work was completed within half a joor and the medic moved on to the reason she had been summoned. Inserting the line for an Energon drip; medical grade for system stability but diluted as far as safely possible to maintain a weakened state. The insertion point was in the back of Jazz's neck and the tubing went up to the Energon bag that they hung off the same large hook as the leash. There was no way it could be removed without intense movements, the likes of which Jazz would most certainly not be capable of without a secondary source of Energon.

That done, both Praxians returned to the doorway. Triage, however, refused to consider her job complete until Jazz came back online. They had managed to get another half cube of Energon into him so her estimate was that he would wake before evening and she intended to remain until he had.

~~

The Polyhexian did finally start moving again late into the day, although the most he bothered to move was to shift into a more comfortable position on the floor of that tiny room that had become his own personal pit. He was a bit saddened to have survived so far, but seeing as he was still online, there was plenty of time to figure out how to offline himself in the future.

Triage did make a few attempts to draw Jazz into conversation as she re-examined parts of his frame and checked the integrity of some of her repairs. When she was met with silence, though, the medic eventually just plugged in to get the answers she needed. After she completed that, Triage confronted Prowl about the need to be more careful so he didn't outright offline Jazz. It went about as bad as she would have expected, honestly. Then she was done and free to leave.

~~

Prowl returned to Jazz's cell again that night, stopping in to check on him before heading into recharge. One of Triage's standing rules was to check on all serious injuries every orn. Unwrapping them was stupid but a trained bot could tell if something wasn't quite set or healing right just by touching the appropriate spots. And she had made certain he had enough training to tell. Jazz, unsurprisingly, had more than a couple wounds bad enough to warrant checking, and Prowl intended to do so.

Jazz went through his usual motions of lifting his helm to check who was there before going back to his original position. "Can I have my visor?" was the only thing he bothered to say after Prowl began checking on his wounds.

"If you behave," Prowl answered without a pause, "then I'll consider it. Otherwise no. Now, what hurts the worst?"

"My feelings." The Polyhexian answered curtly. "But since that doesn't matter, my neck cabling is still feelin' really strained an' painful."

"If you hadn't chosen to curl in on yourself on the floor then perhaps you wouldn't have strained them." The reply was calm as Prowl continued his physical examination of Jazz's frame. "Everything else feels about the same?"

"Everything feels just fine," he replied, every word dripping with sarcasm.

"If that's the case, then you must not need any Energon to assist the healing process." Finishing his inspection, Prowl stood.

Jazz was torn between a strong desire for the aforementioned Energon and not wanting to willingly put himself in a situation that would just degrade him further. "I wouldn't mind some Energon," he ventured, hoping it wasn't the wrong decision.

"Are you going to behave?" Prowl asked, pulling another diluted cube of Energon from his subspace.

There were a few nanokliks between when the question was posed and when it was answered, but finally Jazz gave an affirmative, "yes."

"Can you sit up?"

It took a bit longer than normal, but Jazz managed to get into a sitting position well enough.

Kneeling down beside Jazz once more, Prowl held the cube out to him. "Open up."

Once more Jazz hesitated. It took less time for him to comply with the promise of Energon though, gaze once again upon Prowl's optics as he waited for his reward.

Prowl brought the cube up to Jazz's lips so he could drink, letting the Polyhexian take in as much as he could handle per swallow. The Enforcer still kept control over how quickly he could consume it all however. Soon enough though, the cube was empty and Prowl was putting it away. "How do you feel now?" he asked.

"Better," Jazz confessed honestly.

"That's good." Prowl accepted the answer without question. "Would you like a blanket in here? Something soft to rest on when you recharge?"

The Poyhexian nodded enthusiastically, hoping it wasn't a ruse.

"I'll be right back then."

Prowl stood and exited the room. A couple kliks later he was back with a large blanket of good quality and while it might not have been the highest caliber, the material was soft enough to be favored in Praxus. Easily on the higher end of goods sold in the city. "Here you are," Prowl said softly as he held it out for Jazz.

Jazz snatched the offered blanket up as though it were a glitchmouse and he were a starved photovoltaicat before offering a small, "thank you." Hopefully that would help guard against the Praxian changing his mind.

"Of course," said mech responded. He was pleased to see Jazz already beginning to react favorably. Perhaps it was time to offer him a true reward. "Hold your servos out."

Once the blanket was settled where he wanted it, Jazz again complied with the others request, trying to keep his fears down that this one might be the trap he was anticipating.

Prowl stepped closer before reaching for Jazz. Seeming to notice the other's concern, he spoke before doing anything. "You seem in need of relaxing, so I thought this would help." Without giving Jazz time to respond, the officer then grasped the cuffs in one servo while the other slid in between to find and press the catch that would separate them.

Jazz stayed completely still as the the new freedom was the most confusing thing he had ever encountered. When he finally did move, it was just a nod of both thanks and understanding, though he was starting to feel quite sick about having to thank his captor for these tiny freedoms.

Prowl offered an accepting flick of his wings before speaking. "Rest well, I will be back to check on you in the morning." And then he left.

~~

When Prowl awoke the next orn, one of his first tasks was seeing to his mate. Jazz had behaved far better the previous night than ever before, and Prowl had promised after all. So within a few kliks of onlining, he was opening the hidden room that was Jazz's current home.

The captive mech was again curled up to recharge, this time the blanket covering as much of him as he could manage. Once more he followed his usual routine for picking up his helm to check the doorway. This time, though, he sat up as Prowl entered, not daring to say anything.

Prowl made his way over the couple steps it took to reach Jazz, then knelt in front of him again. "And how are you feeling this orn?"

"I still hurt almost everywhere." It was an actual fight to keep from attacking the other, either verbally or physically, but most likely well worth it, seeing as he didn't want his blanket taken away or his wrists bound together again.

"Triage did leave me a few pain blockers for if you decided to behave. I could attach one for you so long as you don't intend to cause problems."

"I would really appreciate that," Jazz replied, a bit of a sad tone to his voice, still expecting to have all of this taken away at any point.

Silently, Prowl reached into subspace and withdrew the offered item. They worked quickest when 'installed' (although attached was a far better word for it) in a sensor rich location and so, Prowl gave a simple command. "Helm down."

Jazz followed his instructions, fear of Prowl's possible actions beginning to subside to the need to trust him for his needs and wants.

The officer carefully clipped the pain blocker to an area near the base of Jazz's helm. It wasn't the perfect place but the collar would be in the way if he set it any lower so he did the best he could with what option he had. It should begin working in a klik or two. Withdrawing from Jazz after, he bid him a warning. "Be careful not to hit it against anything. You won't want to knock that loose or break it."

Jazz nodded carefully, half in understanding and half to check his range of motion in case the pain blocker was in the way to inhibit helm movement.

"Good. Now then, since that's taken care of, would you like some Energon?"

The question was met with another nod.

A cube was pulled from subspace and Prowl held it out, as though in offering. "Can you manage alone?"

"I could manage before this, I don't see how anything's changed." It was a bit snappy of a reply as Jazz took the offered cube and downed it, but the condescension implied in Prowl's words was too aggravating to stop himself.

Prowl's field took a harsher feel as his frame stiffened in response to Jazz's attitude. Apparently he'd been too lenient, that would have to change. Wordlessly, he turned and exited, locking Jazz in once more.

Jazz was left alone in the dark once more, thoughts taking a grim turn as he realized just how stupid he had been by making that last comment.

Chapter Text

Prowl waited three orn before checking on Jazz again. It was a little excessive, yes, but he wanted to be certain the message got through. He had to be sure Jazz understood he was being punished for misbehaving yet again.

When Prowl finally came back to Jazz's closet, the Polyhexian was, as usual, curled up on the floor. He was as cocooned in his blanket as he could be given his restraints. When the door opened he slowly unfolded from his nest to sit up and watch Prowl, wondering what kind of torment the other's visit would bring this time.

Prowl entered the room slowly, analyzing Jazz's every twitch. Even the slightest motion might be a sign of impending bad behavior. "Do you understand yet why you're being punished?"

"Because I'm legally bonded to a glitch, right? Or weren't you looking for the truth?" Jazz growled, too stubborn to swallow his pride.

"I have offered you many luxuries in your punishment that can be taken away at any instant. Think about that before you activate your vocalizer," Prowl warned in a low voice. Returning to his natural tone, he continued. "I was coming to replace your pain blocker before it ceased functioning but I can see that's unnecessary so I'll be going now."

Jazz took quite a while to say anything else, processor running almost too fast for him to keep track of anything until suddenly everything came to a halt, focusing on one thought. To win you must play the game.

"Prowl, please! I'm sorry."

He was about to shut the door when Jazz cried out. That stalled his servo on the control pad. Indulgent, at least for the moment, he replied. "And just what, exactly, are you apologizing for?"

"For misbehaving. I'm really sorry." Pride may be a thing of the past, but at that moment Jazz vowed he would do anything he had to in order to get free, even if it meant indulging Prowl's messed up culture. After all, it would be difficult to get revenge if he were to offline here.

"You are learning then," Prowl assessed. There was true shock in his words. That vanished between one sentence and the next however, as he ended with, "although you do still need to be punished for this transgression. I'll be back tomorrow to check on you."

Jazz gave a small whimper and cast his helm down in shame, doing well to hide the smirk of satisfaction from a job well done.

~~

It wasn't until dark the next orn, almost an orn and a half later, that the cell was opened again. By then Jazz should be hurting for Energon once more. The line would keep him functional but it was only there so he wouldn't offline.

Prowl stood in silence, waiting for Jazz to acknowledge him first.

Jazz performed his already well practiced ritual of looking over at the door when it opened, then shifting himself into a sitting position when Prowl was in the room. He tilted his helm quizzically wondering if this visit would bring him more suffering, or possibly another treat.

"Do you understand yet why you are being punished?" The question was as calm and cold as the first time he'd asked it.

"Yes," Jazz responded simply.

Prowl waited to see if he would add more and when Jazz didn't, he tried to prompt him. "And just what are those reasons?"

"I've been misbehaving." He kept his answers short. It was still difficult not to scream at Prowl in anger, his only saving grace was that he was in too much pain to be properly angry.

Prowl seemed to accept that simplistic answer, moving on to the next question. "Do you intend to continue such detrimental behaviors?"

"No, I realize how foolish I've been." He fed a bit into what he thought Prowl would really want to hear, just in case it helped get him free from that wretched closet sooner.

"Good, then we can begin your training."

Fear flooded his spark once more at those words. This wasn't the training? Jazz forced himself to nod, trying desperately not to show any emotions.

"Let's begin with the basic rules then. Firstly, you are to do as I say, when I say it. Anything and everything I give to you is your privilege to carry and can be revoked at any time. There is nothing that you will ever actually own. Additionally, you shall always address me as 'sir' or 'master' when speaking either to or about me. Do you understand thus far?"

"Yes sir," Jazz replied, wincing just a little at how terrible those words tasted and hoping Prowl would think he was just wincing due to his injuries.

"It is your task and duty to see to all household chores and make certain they are completed while I am at work. Additionally, it is part of your function to collect or prepare Energon for the family every orn. When we create, it will be your task to raise and teach them among your other duties, but that's in the far future for now."

"Yes sir." Even as he spoke it Jazz couldn't help wondering how much more of this he could take. Prowl's expectations of him were pretty obvious by that point, even though he wanted to purge his tanks at the thought, so this seemed more like an exercise in humiliation than anything else.

Prowl gradually took him through the list of rules and expectations, stopping every few to make Jazz respond. It was a slow process, and took them the better part of a joor but they finally reached the end. When Jazz had acknowledged hearing the last rule, Prowl offered him just the slightest smile. More of a smirk than anything else.

"Now, recite it back to me."

Jazz stared, slack jawed for a moment just trying to process that question. "Like, word for word?"

"You're already failing," Prowl warned him.

"Oh, uh, like word for word, sir?" he amended his sentence, somehow managing to keep the sarcasm out.

Prowl didn't answer, simply examining the Polyhexian for almost a klik. "It need not be verbatim, but you must touch on every key point."

"Ok, well, you're the boss and I gotta listen to you, I don't get ta own anything, I can't forget ta call you sir, I gotta clean and stuff, and… um… " he knew he was forgetting something, but the only thing he really remembered was the horrible fact that Prowl expected them to create some vorn. "And I'm in charge of sparkling raising."

"We will be cleaning up that atrocious accent too," Prowl commented as if speaking with himself. Then his focus was completely on Jazz. "You've only mentioned the most basic core values of Praxian life so you need to be punished for such a weak memory. However, since you did identify the most important traits, I will allow you the choice on your punishment."

Jazz gave a blank stare, not knowing what to make of this next task he was supposed to do. "What do I have to chose from?"

Prowl's wings flicked once before he settled them again and spoke. "Your choice is between receiving no Energon today and the cuffs being bound back together. Take your pick."

It took at least a klik for Jazz to make up his mind, finally he held out his servos for the cuffs to be re-clasped, not wanting to go through the pain of empty tanks one more orn.

"Have you come to a decision yet?"

"I want to have my cuffs bound together again, sir." He added the sir as an after thought, realizing Prowl might get huffy about it if he neglected to do so too many times.

Prowl accepted it that time with a flick of his sensor panels before reaching forward to accommodate Jazz's choice. After that, he reached into subspace for the diluted cube he'd brought in and essentially set it directly in Jazz's servos. Then, he brought one of his own servos up to tug on the nearer sensor horn on Jazz's helm. "That is for neglecting to address me appropriately."

With that shared, he stood and left.

Jazz cried out a bit at the sudden abuse but didn't fight it further, opting to sip his Energon in silence as the other left.

~~

Prowl returned the following morning. This time he carried the cube of Energon for Jazz in one servo. And when Jazz looked his way, he offered a simple greeting. "And how are you today?"

"A bit better today, sir." The Praxian's bonded replied respectfully, giving a bit of a smile.

Prowl's wings swept up in pleasant surprise. "Are you still in pain? I can replace the blocker for you."

"I would appreciate it, sir," Jazz said hopefully. The pain was bearable but it's constant presence wasn't making life any easier by a long shot.

Prowl stepped forward to take his typical place kneeling in front of Jazz. "Helm down," he directed so he could switch out the old pain blocker for a new one.

Jazz followed the other's command without a second thought, waiting until Prowl was finished before daring to speak. "Sir, may I ask a question?"

"What is it you wish to ask?"

"About my current... arrangement. When do you think I will be trained enough to be allowed out of this room, sir?" It was a bit bold to ask, but Jazz was careful to make it seem respectful and keep a submissive tone for the Enforcer.

"You have been behaving better," Prowl acknowledged. "If you intend to behave and can assure me of such, perhaps you may even leave soon."

Re-summoning the Energon cube for Jazz from his subspace, Prowl held it out for him.

Jazz accepted the cube gratefully before taking a sip. Then the intensity of the taste made him reel backwards as though he could escape the burn. "It's… what happened to the less intense ones, sir?"

"Those were only half strength," Prowl explained. "You cannot continue like that or your health will deteriorate."

"I… can't do this." It was the most honest he had been in a while. "Please… I'm sorry… I can't do this. The taste burns my glossa, the consistency upsets my tanks. Please, sir, master… please?" He had been staring at the offending plasma before looking up at Prowl, praying his captor would grant him a bit of mercy.

Prowl remained silent at first, considering, before finally announcing his decision. "You may have your next few cubes diluted as well, and if you continue to behave then I will look into having something imported for you."

"Thank you sir, I will try my best not to ever disappoint you." Once again he smiled at Prowl, as though his offer was the kindest thing anyone had done for him. It was almost as sickening as the Praxian Energon he was being forced to take in.

Prowl accepted that and reclaimed the Energon from Jazz's grasp since he clearly wasn't going to consume it anyway. "Would you like to make another attempt at reciting your duties and rules?"

"If that is what you wish me to do, sir." In truth the Polyhexian just wanted to be left alone to his misery for a while, but that wouldn't win him freedom from his closet any sooner.

"If your performance is adequate then you will be rewarded." A pause, and then, "I will allow you some time to consider it and collect yourself."

After that, Prowl turned and left the room. The door was left open, however, as he had indicated he would return. Jazz frowned. It was going to be even more difficult to remember everything after how much time had passed, and how much stress he was under. It was becoming more impossible to keep his emotions from boiling over about being treated like a pet. Was he going to be expected to fetch things after this?!

Prowl returned a few kliks later. In his servo again was a cube of Energon. The color was visibly lighter than the previous one. He held it out to Jazz while simultaneously asking an unrelated question. "Have you made a choice yet?"

"If it's not too much to ask sir, can you please recite the rules again?" He knew if he tried at that moment he would fail, so as long as he bought himself time he could at least hold off potential punishment.

The request came as a pleasant surprise. It was highly improbable Jazz could have remembered more now than on his previous attempt, but him simply making the attempt was worth rewarding. This, however? Asking for the information again showed true desire to learn.

Offering Jazz a nod of acceptance, Prowl launched into a moderately condensed list of the rules.

~~

"I will follow all of your words as law. I own nothing of my own and anything I am gifted is only in my possession so long as you see fit. I will only ever address you as sir or master. I will tend to the household and to the needs of my master. I will bear and raise my master's sparklings… umm." Jazz managed to recite the most eloquent version of Praxian law that he could muster, up until he got caught up in his own words and lost his focus.

"And everything else," he finished lamely, mentally berating himself for messing up. He certainly had no interest in trying to do any of this a third time.

It was a better reiteration than the previous attempt, although still far from perfection, and the effort to please was worthy of a reward. "Stand."

Jazz forced down a whimper, knowing he would just be punished again for not being perfect. Just in the little bit of time he had tried to act his part this endeavor was seeming less and less worthwhile. Maybe it was better simply rusting away in his personal pit. He forced himself to stand however, deciding to let this at least play through before he rebelled again.

Prowl watched and waited as Jazz slowly complied. The level of stress coming from the other had skyrocketed, clearly he was anticipating a punishment for his failure. That would make this reward all the better for him.

"Servos up."

It was difficult for Jazz to keep from shaking as he lifted his servos, waiting for whatever punishment would rain down.

Prowl took one of Jazz's servos in each of his own, holding just below the cuffs. He then separated them from one another before transmitting the code to unlock the cuffs. They came apart with two soft 'click's and he removed them from Jazz's wrists, then let them clatter to the floor. Catching Jazz's optics, the Enforcer bid him another command. "Helm down."

Jazz simply stood there for a moment, offlining onlining and re-offlining his optics in a confused attempt to process what had just happened. Finally he snapped back to reality enough to do as Prowl had asked. Once Jazz tilted his helm, Prowl reached behind him to detach the Energon line. The injector would remain in his neck, however, as that was unsafe for any but a medic to remove. Lastly, Prowl reached up to free the leash from its hook. The code was sent for it to retract and he made certain it didn't snag then stepped back.

"How does that feel?"

"Wonderful." Jazz couldn't help stretching out a bit, his struts and joints aching from disuse. "Thank you sir," he added belatedly, nor wanting to risk the chance that the other would punish him for not being polite enough or some such nonsense.

"Good. Come with me then."

Assuming Jazz would listen, Prowl led them back into the living area. "You should already know where and how I like my home arranged and you are to maintain that order. I do not anticipate that there shall be much cleaning work necessary, however, as I have always kept my home nice and orderly. Thus, to prevent you from boredom and ensure your mind does not wither away, I am granting you access to the literary datafiles in my office."

The Enforcer had brought them across the room to the door for the alternate berthroom/office and now sent the code to unlock the door. "I will leave this door open so you may have access at any time. The wall on the right are previous case files and as such, off limits to you. Anything on the left you may read. If anything requires a passcode you are, naturally, not to attempt to open it. Do you understand and acknowledge all of these rules?"

Jazz could hardly believe his luck, the Enforcer was actually falling for his act. For the first time since coming to this glitch spawn city he felt completely elated. His final goals were still far from reach but at least one thing was going right for him.

"Of course sir," he chimed, allowing a bit of his happiness to show through.

"Good." A pleased flutter of his wings accompanied that. Jazz's progress was coming along nicely. "Come now."

The pair returned to the other room then and Prowl seated himself on the couch.

Jazz followed the other's lead and sat near him, at least for a moment before all but tripping over himself to stand back up. It wouldn't do to mess this up now. "Sorry sir, umm, may I join you?"

Prowl had been about to scold Jazz when he jumped back up. This breech of rules was only a slight, and Jazz had righted himself without prompting, so punishment was unnecessary. This time.

"Request acknowledged and accepted."

Jazz nodded before returning to his spot on the couch. He dared not say anything while he waited to see what Prowl wanted next from him. Prowl, however, seemed content as they were. He did pull out a datapad and stylus from subspace to begin working, but otherwise remained silent.

After some time passed in silence, Jazz gave into the boredom and disrupted the peace to ask, "may I go retrieve a datapad to read, sir?"

Prowl looked up from his own 'pad at him. "Permission granted."

It took the Polyhexian a few kliks to pick out something that looked even vaguely interesting before returning to the couch and beginning his reading.

"Jazz…" Prowl began slowly. "What are you forgetting?"

Jazz wanted to exvent in frustration at how asinine everything here was, but thankfully he had a nagging line of code to remind him that he had more important things to focus on than arguing over petty details. "Sorry sir," he said as he stood. "Can I please join you on the couch?"

"Allowed."

Once Jazz had settled once more on the couch, Prowl reached over to pinch the nearer of his sensor horns. He kept hold for several nanokliks to drive the message home. "Do not forget your rules."

"Sorry sir," he offered, rubbing the abused sensor horn after Prowl had finished his punishment.

"Simply make certain you do not do so again," Prowl advised him before returning to his work.

They remained that way for several joor until Prowl stood up. Flexing his sensor wings, he subspaced the datapad and stylus and then turned towards the berthroom. "Come along," he bid to Jazz as he strode away.

Recharge… it was something Jazz hasn't considered until that point, where was he going to be expected to recharge? In his personal cell again? With Prowl in his berth? They were bonded by law so that might be expected.

Jazz trailed after the Praxian regardless, there wasn't much he could do to change the outcome without destroying all the work he'd already done.

Upon both of them entering the room, Prowl shut the door then turned to Jazz. "You have been doing well today so I believe I shall let you choose. Where would you prefer to recharge?"

The Polyhexian gave quite a bit of thought to the question, weighing the pros and cons of all the choices he might be able to make before answering. "You would allow me to recharge on the berth, sir?" he questioned, opting for that possibility only on the grounds that it might further trick Prowl into his favor.

"You have behaved well so I see no reason why I should not allow it." Prowl was a bit surprised by the question but didn't let it show. "Is that your choice then?"

"If it pleases my master, then yes that is what I want."

Prowl gave a dual nod and wing flick. "So be it then."

That was all he said. Prowl then climbed into the berth and situated himself before looking to see what Jazz was doing. With the other's allowance Jazz found himself a spot on the berth, settling in as far from the Praxian as possible before offlining his optics and trying to force recharge to happen as soon as he could. Following suit, Prowl too allowed recharge to claim him.

~~

The next morning came and Prowl onlined easily. There was a klik where he didn't remember why there was another frame in his berth and his automatic reactions almost caused him to attack. But once he did recall Jazz's existence, Prowl immediately stopped himself. Hurting his own mate would be unnecessarily detrimental.

Jazz slowly onlined from the best recharge he had had in a long while. He didn't move right away however, focusing on the sounds around him to track Prowl's movements first. Only when he knew the Enforcer was online did he move, onlining his optics and sitting up. He also tilted his helm to portray a passive look. "Would you like me to fetch you some Energon, sir?" he asked as his morning greeting.

"That would be an ideal start to the morning," Prowl accepted, condoning the action for then and always. "I shouldn't need to tell you where to look for the Energon. You will find spare cubes in the leftmost cabinet so you may mix half a cube for yourself as well."

"Yes sir," Jazz agreed before seeing to the task at hand. As well as anything else he could get into within a believable time span, getting a feel for whatever he could possibly use in the future.

Soon enough he returned to the berth room with both his own mix and Prowl's Energon, handing the latter over with a respectful nod.

Prowl accepted his Energon with a wing flick. He had spent the time Jazz was gone stretching out his frame and was sitting on the edge of the berth when Jazz returned. "You may sit."

Jazz sat as he was told, turning to focus on taking his own Energon in.

After a few kliks of silence, Prowl addressed Jazz, turning to face him. "Did you recharge well?"

He had just finished his Energon when Prowl posed his question. "The best I've had in a while, sir."

"Continue to perform excellently and you shall receive even more rewards," Prowl promised.

"I wish only to please you, sir," Jazz responded. "Is there anything else I can do?"

"Not this morning, no." Prowl paused to finish off his Energon cube. "I do need to attend work," he explained, rising from the berth and crossing to the hidden room. "You will spend that time in here, but you may bring a few datafiles to help pass the time."

Jazz nodded. Although he didn't much care for the idea of returning to his closet, it was a small price to pay.

Chapter Text

The next few days went about the same for Jazz, the Polyhexian playing up the act of perfect Sub' nearly flawlessly. He was almost glad for the times he was locked up so he could laugh at the Praxian's naïveté.

Prowl, however, was certain that the training of his mate was going smoothly. Jazz had been difficult at first but he'd acclimated extremely well since submitting. His behavior had been wonderful and his performance nearly flawless so it was time to allow Jazz another small freedom.

"Jazz," Prowl commented, to catch his attention as the time drew near for him to leave for work.

"Sir?" he responded, looking up from the datapad he had been reading, checking his chronometer at the same time to realize that it was almost time for Prowl to go to work. "Should I return to the training room now?"

"That will be unnecessary. If you promise to behave then you may retain access to our entire home."

Jazz's spark fluttered at Prowl's words. "I would appreciate that greatly, sir. I promise to behave as if you were still around watching over me."

Wings flicking in approval, Prowl even bid Jazz a small smile. "That's exactly what I wanted to hear. You are doing well, my mate. Continue like this and you will even have this," he touched the collar, "removed as a reward.

"But that's in the future," the officer stated pulling back. "For now I need to leave. Do not forget your duties and I will see you later."

Jazz bid Prowl a farewell as he left, waiting about a joor to be sure Prowl was nowhere near before setting his plans in motion.

The first step was to pour at least ten cubes worth of Energon all over both inside and around the training cell, then repeating the motion with the front door. He took another twenty cubes worth into his subspace as rations for his escape along with some of the more important looking datapads, just in case they could be used as leverage against Prowl or anyone else. After that the Polyhexian set about breaking into any and every space he could to look for credit sticks and med supplies for his escape.

Once everything was collected he trailed the contents of one last cube of Energon along the floor from the front door to the training cell and started upon trying to ignite it with sparks from hitting his armor together. As soon as it lit he relocated himself as far away as he could before the rest of the supply exploded.

Even after the explosion there were parts of the house on fire and his audials were ringing. He couldn't quite escape the blast and shrapnel though, and some of the metal imbedded itself in his back. Superficial wounds, but painful nonetheless. But Jazz didn't bother to care for his injuries, more focused on trying to escape the house as soon as he could; winding around the debris and still burning pieces of house as he made his escape to the outside...

~~

"A call just came in about an explosion in the Silverlight residential district," an indistinct voice shouted across the station. "Do we send anyone?"

"It has to be a prank, that's the nicest neighborhood in this sector of the city," someone else replied loudly.

"Even if it is," a third voice chimed in, "someone still needs to investigate. Pranks calls are not to be taken lightly."

Prowl had already begun to filter it all out to focus once more when his partner stopped before his desk and interrupted that process. "Don't you live around that way? Your shift's almost over anyway so I can cover for you if you want to head over and check it out."

Prowl considered the offer for a moment before accepting it with a single wing flick. He had already determined it was highly improbable the situation was real, but his partner was right and did owe him. Plus, he was curious how Jazz was faring with so much freedom.

~~

Several kliks later, Prowl was arriving to find that his assessment had been utterly wrong. And worse, it was his own residence that was wrecked. He sent a status report back to the station after an immediate comm off to Triage. Jazz would certainly be in terrible shape after this. And then he went exploring, carefully as he neared.

Jazz, looking quite a bit worse for wear, all but stumbled out of the wrecked house that he had been trapped in for so long. He shook his helm as if that would help the constant ringing in his audials. After that had been taken care of he made to start his trek, only to come to a stop almost immediately.

"Prowl." There was no mistaking his captor, standing directly in his path to freedom. "You're home early."

"Jazz," Prowl replied with equal shock. "Remain where you are. There's a medic on the way to assist with your injuries."

Jazz was genuinely confused for a few nanokliks, wondering why Prowl hadn't tried to stasis or re-capture him. When the realization hit, Jazz could only smirk. "I'm actually not that hurt," he replied, moving closer to the Enforcer. "Not as bad as you will be."

Jazz put all of the force he could muster into a pounce, and finally succeeded in knocking the other down, before beginning to savage his wings anywhere and everywhere he could reach. Somewhere along the way Jazz had lost the original plan of 'escape' to the sudden desperation of 'destroy Prowl no matter the cost.'

And that was the scene that two Enforcer teams and a fire rescue squad arrived to find. One of the Enforcers immediately activated a standard shock baton to take down the assailant, knocking him out instantly. Then came the discussion of what to do with the mech while the fire team worked to save the residence. A couple kliks later a medic pair reached the scene, Triage leaving the ambulance almost as soon as he stopped. Her first priority, naturally, was making sure both mechs were still online, but only after she had informed the Enforcers that Jazz was Prowl's mate. They still made her wait to treat him until they verified the information, but she had more important matters to attend to first. Prowl's sensor wings were in bad shape and required immediate attention. His mate could hold in stasis as long as was required.

~~

Prowl wasn't allowed online for two orn as Triage worked diligently on his repairs. She had help for the majority of the process but checking the status of his processor fell to her alone. She was the only medic with any real understanding of all his specialty upgrades as she had been involved in the process his entire life.

Only when she was completely certain that he had been treated to the best of her abilities while still in stasis, did she allow him to online. It was not a pleasant situation but there were tests she could only run with him aware. Plus, he had to rule on what would be done to Jazz. The medic left mention of that until the very end, which she realized belatedly had most likely incurred the gravest future for Jazz. Nonetheless, it was her duty to treat the wounded and so she would, according to his mate's ruling.

Chapter Text

Triage looked around at the place setting, and then the room, and her wings flicked in a happy motion. Everything was just as it should be for when her mate arrived home; perfect. It wasn't often that Derby had any time off, but she was finally back from military dealings, in Iacon this time but she'd been as far as Kaon before, and on a short leave. That meant they got to have at least a decaorn and possibly as long as a metacycle together. The last thing Triage wanted was to allow her mate to return to a messy home and ruin their limited time. She might have other obligations outside their home but that didn't mean she should let the place become a disaster.

There was a certain comfort to finally being home after so long. Even the Towers, as elaborate and exquisite as they were, couldn't compare to her humble home. Maybe it was the familiarity, but mostly it was…

"Triage!" Derby greeted her joyful looking mate with enthusiasm as she entered her home. The Praxian General was quickly beside her bonded, scooping her into a loving embrace.

The medic barely had time to register anyone entering her home before she was caught. Triage quickly completed the turn she'd been in the process of making to hug her mate in return. "Welcome home," she greeted the other and then moved in for a kiss.

Derby kissed her back with no reservations. She had nothing to hide from her Bonded.

They drew apart a short time later only so Triage could pester Derby into sitting down for dinner; a specialty Energon infusion recipe prepared by Triage herself. Although the medic was incredibly skilled, she didn't indulge in the hobby often. Almost never when Derby was gone, other than for practice or to try a rare new recipe, and only for special occasions when she was home. Typically those occasions were work parties for Derby, which Triage got to spend playing server. Her own status combined with her mate's afforded Triage the privilege of interacting above her station at these events.

For Triage to create a specialty meal simply for her return, Derby knew something had to be bothering her mate. She always turned to the delicate hobby of finely crafting Energon when she wanted to hide from stress. Still, it would only sour the mood to ask about it now, and so Derby didn't ask. Instead, she admired the treat, then tried it and was quick to praise her Bonded for another job well done.

The praise became a discussion on the recipe. Derby had always been interested in the art of Energon mixing but a disastrous lack of skill kept her banned from ever trying again after nearly destroying her creators' home while in her second stage youngling frame. From there, the conversation turned to Derby's trip and work. Nothing overly exciting to mention this time, "the Towers are always so droll, after all," but the militant femme did get to relay a rather embarrassing tale of opening a door on the Lord of the House with the sparkmate of another Lord. Right as said Lord and a couple others were exiting a room across the hall.

"Thankfully that was my last morning there," Derby ended the story. They had finished up their Energon by then so she immediately made a suggestion, which her bondmate instantly agreed with. "We should go get comfortable, this mess can wait."

The femme pair ended up together on the couch, the vidscreen on but turned low just to act as background noise. They were curled up, Derby mostly seated but inclined against one arm of the couch with Triage primarily spread out on top of her but also stretched across the rest of the couch. Derby had one arm around her mate and the other resting on the low slung backrest, an unsurprising design preference in both Praxus and Vos, as she gently rubbed the space between Triage's wing joints. It was a common position for the pair, familiar and comforting. Both were necessary conditions when Derby suspected her partner needed reassurance, like now.

"What's got you so troubled, love?"

Triage just burrowed closer in against her mate, trying to hide from reality for a short time longer. Derby allowed her to do so, only giving the reminder that, "you can always tell me anything."

Finally, the medic allowed her wings to settle lower. It was still another few kliks before she was willing to speak, however. "I've got a new patient."

That was nothing too unusual, so Derby knew it had to be something remarkable about the bot to entice this sort of reaction. All she said though was, "that doesn't usually upset you."

"Do you remember Prowl-don?"

"Of course."

How could she forget him?

Legally, non-bonded medics could work on anyone, but once bonded a medic could only tend to patients in either Sub-Praxian class. There were exceptions, of course, and emergencies functioned under a completely different subset of rules, but both were rare. Typically, once a medic agreed to bond they would shuffle off any long-term Praxian clients and begin double- and triple-checking so that they only assisted the Sub' classes. A fair number of medics were already bonded when they graduated, allowing them to focus completely on their patients without that adjustment. Triage had already been a medic for nearly a decavorn when they had met, and Prowl had been a patient of hers, officially, for nearly the entirety of that. Unofficially she had been helping him with a specialty processor upgrade for almost as long as she'd been a medical student.

The duo had essentially grown up together and were exceptionally close friends when Derby met them. It had even been assumed they would eventually bond, once he was of high enough rank to support that Triage had an occupation. There were no feelings between the pair though, and so, thankfully, there had been no resentment when a lowly military sub commander had landed on the medberth of a talented medic, believed to be the Intended of an up and coming Enforcer graduate, and changed all their lives. Prowl had even taken time from work to attend their bonding ceremony a few vorn later. They had moved more quickly than most, but then, Derby had managed to increase her rank a few metacycles after they first met and then again a few vorn later. It was then that they decided to make everything permanent.

Shortly after their announcement, Prowl had asked for a meeting with the pair. Derby had agreed, even though neither she nor Triage had any inkling on his intentions. She had been preparing herself even for the idea of trining, although she was still undecided on whether she was ultimately interested. She and he got along well enough (and would eventually become friends in the best way either of them handled friendship) but that would put too many strong personalities into her house, among other complications. His actual request had been less personal but far more strange. At least Derby thought so before she heard the explanation.

Bonded medics were allowed to work on Praxian patients, with permission from their partner. It was one of many sub-clauses allowing Sub class medics to avoid trouble if operating on their betters. One of the rarely used clauses too, as it was generally easier to find a new medic than to convince the partner of one's previous medic to accept. In this case though, it was in his best interest to convince her due to the specialty arrangement in his processor. Triage had been his medic since he upgraded to his adult frame and had even helped him develop the setup, so she knew his processor well. In fact, she was the only medic properly suited to handle any conditions that might arise. After that explanation, there was no non-malicious reason why she shouldn't allow Triage to continue as his medic. Naturally she had accepted. Then they had presented him a personal invitation to their bonding ceremony.

Why he was coming up now was potentially troubling, but perhaps not all bad.

"Has something happened to him?" The unspoken assumption was a processor malfunction. There was a high risk if something went wrong he would lose the ability to function to his present capability and perhaps even at all. If that happened he would need a family to take care of him. Derby had no problem with including him in her household, but not at the expense of her Triage's job eligibility. In a trine, one was required to remain in the home and as medic ranked lowest between their occupations, including Prowl would force Triage home. It was Derby's one condition when she had offered to take him into her household if he were ever to lose functionality. So her next question was a kind, semihidden, method of asking after any malfunctions.

"Is he reconsidering the idea of trining?"

Triage shook her helm. "No, no. He's fine," she explained. "It's just that... well, he's finally taken a mate."

And then everything clicked for Derby. A 'new patient' plus the mech's temperament meant Prowl had taken an outsider as a mate. Not too surprising a choice on his part as she had considered the idea herself a long time ago. Add in her own mate's distress and the odds were high that this unknown bot had gotten himself injured enough to require her attention at least a couple times. That led Derby directly to her final conclusion.

"He picked a bot just as hardhelmed as himself, didn't he?"

Triage nodded. Derby couldn't help thinking it probably would be a good fit though, if Prowl could tame his outsider. He was the sort to enjoy challenges; just as she herself was. That amusement faded, however, when Triage said more. "Jazz blew up their home in an 'escape attempt' last decaorn."

That shocked Derby into an automated question. "Did they survive?"

"Prowl wasn't actually home when it occurred and Jazz received no major injuries. Most of his surgery was ordered modifications."

Derby nodded. Medical modifications were well within Prowl's rights to request after such a drastic breach of propriety. The way her mate had indicated this 'Jazz's surgery suggested he wasn't the only one to require repairs. Carefully she prodded that line of inquiry. "Were there any others injured?"

"Prowl," Triage muttered.

"What happened? You said he wasn't there."

"He wasn't," Triage defended herself. "He arrived home sooner than he should have though and interrupted Jazz's attempt to escape. Jazz responded by attacking him."

Triage shuddered and Derby attempted to return to comforting her but the medic stiffened as she touched a wing. The logic was unavoidable and Derby shifted her servo to Triage's main wing joint. She didn't speak again until Triage had allowed her wings to settle. "How is Prowl now?"

"Mostly recovered and released. To the best of my knowledge he'll be dealing with home repairs by this point."

"You do amazing work, my love." It was more than just a compliment; it was a fact. Derby didn't deal well in falsities or pointless validation even of good work, but for her mate she put out a little more effort because the other femme really was the best thing in her life.

"Maybe," Triage sniffed, still overly sad about the whole situation. "But I wish my involvement wasn't necessary this time. I've even tried to convince Jazz to behave because he'll at least talk to me but he won't listen. And I still don't understand that either because records indicate he willingly agreed to the bonding."

"You know how complicated Prowl enjoys situations," Derby countered although she didn't understand it any better. "There's certainly levels to this that we'll never know about, nor perhaps even understand if he were to share them. The best we can do is not get involved unless necessary to avoid ruining his goals."

Derby hugged Triage close and the medic nuzzled as near as possible before Derby spoke again. "But I could have a conversation with him about distressing you with so many repairs, if you like?"

"Don't do that!" Triage replied in shock. "He's only asking me to do my job. I can't fail at that."

"Alright, alright," Derby conceded with a soft chuckle at the indignant expression on her partner's face plating. "I'll leave him alone, for now. But you need to indulge me cheering you up in another way then."

Triage offered back a teasing wing flick in response to Derby's playful sensor panel movement. "What did you have in mind, love?"

"You'll have to wait and see," Derby answered with a smile as her touch moved back to Triage's wings. This time her intention was far from just comforting.

Chapter Text

Prowl was quite pleased when he ended work. It had been nearly a metacycle since his home had been destroyed but the damage had been completely restored. He had been able to return a few orn previous but this was his first free orn and the Enforcer had plans to enact. He’d had Triage release Jazz to him, repaired and improved, and his mate was waiting for him.

The training room had been rebuilt just as meticulously as the rest of the building, but he had requested a few updates for it as well. This very nanoklik Jazz was strung up, servos above his helm with his back against the wall, bound so he couldn't move. His legs were held by a spreader and his pedes cuffed to the floor. Additionally, the Energon line had been reinstalled after being damaged in the explosion and was fed to a drip of standard Praxian Energon.

Whenever Jazz awoke, his training would begin in earnest.

~

Onlining to peculiar situations was sort of becoming a norm for Jazz, a rather unnerving one, but a norm nonetheless. That he wasn't surprised to onlining completely strung up said quite a bit.

There was something... off... about this time though. His processor booted slowly, having a bit of work to do after him being in stasis so long along with several new added variables that Jazz couldn't even begin to comprehend yet.

After everything had settled for the most part he onlined his optics, ready to assess just what kind of situation he had gotten himself into, and if there was any hope of getting out of it.

"Finally you online," Prowl commented from the doorway. "I was beginning to worry your injuries had been more severe than we even realized."

Jazz's helm snapped up in the direction the voice was coming from. "Prowl." He uttered the other's designation, voice holding nothing but disdain for the Enforcer.

"You really had us worried, you know," Prowl continued. He moved to stand in front of Jazz as he went on. "Triage and I. She spent so much time on you; your frame was so littered with injuries. Thankfully you're recovered now, but you were still so injured.

"You even required reconstructive surgery for your back." Prowl lifted an arm as he spoke and slid the servo through the space between Jazz's helm and upraised arm. He braced himself that way, putting pressure on sensitive metal as he leaned closer. "Don't worry though, you're all fixed up now."

That same fear that he had gotten to know so well lit up in his spark once more. It was more frightening that Prowl seemed to be being nice to him than if he were to lash out instantaneously. If it was just anger then he would just be reacting. Whatever was about to happen to him had been thought out and planned, and that was more frightening than anger could ever be.

Jazz's optics widened at the sudden pain that assaulted his processor from a previously unknown source. With all the information piling up he finally came to a conclusion.

"Sensor panels? Why?" He verbalized his confusion while simultaneously trying to figure out control of them in a vain attempt of getting them out of Prowl's reach.

"They are nice, aren't they?" the Enforcer asked rhetorically. "I made certain they were of the highest quality. Heightened sensitivity and as many sensor nodes as true Praxians have. Nothing but the best for my mate after all."

He withdrew his servo from Jazz's wing, but only to trail it along the edge beneath Jazz's arm. "Pleasurable, isn't it?"

His spark felt like it was being constricted by fear, squeezed until there was nothing else left. A whimper slipped from his vocalizer, one of both fear and unwanted pleasure. Even after that display of weakness though, Jazz tried to hide behind a false bravery.

"It might be if it wasn't you touching me."

"You know better than to talk to your mate like that." Still running his one servo along Jazz's wing, Prowl brought his other up to squeeze one of Jazz's sensor horns. "That is not appropriate behavior."

"Like pit you're my mate." Jazz growled back, forcing himself not to react to the pain. Prowl didn't deserve the pleasure of watching that.

"I'm afraid you are mistaken there. We are bonded, according to the law of the beautiful city of Praxus, and nothing can be done to change that."

Prowl did release Jazz's horn, but only to focus his attention to stroking both wings. His touch was gentle, soft against the delicate new metal. They would still require a bit of time with Jazz online to fully integrate with his system, but soon enough Prowl would be able to teach his mate all their greatest sensitivities.

Jazz tried to squirm a bit to get away from the Praxian's touch, only managing to scrape his back, and new wings, on the wall. At the first sign of pain he ceased all movement.

"Praxus can fall into a smelter for all I care." He was starting to fall for his own act of bravery, hoping that maybe things might not turn out as bad as he imagined.

"Don't be unreasonable, my mate." Prowl removed himself entirely from the other's frame and even stepped back. "Such a thing could never feasibly happen."

Jazz snapped his denta at the other as he retreated. "No, that'd be too good for this city. It deserves a much worse fate."

"It's unfortunate you feel that way. As punishment for disagreeing with fact, let's see how you like being left alone in here for the next orn." And then Prowl was gone and the door slid shut.

By that point the Polyhexian was over fear and back to anger. How dare that glitch modify his frame? It seemed to him that much of his alone time should be dedicated to imagining the worst most painful ways to offline that slagger... Seeing as he wouldn't be moving much anytime soon.

~

Prowl returned to the training room just a couple joor later. He only barely allowed the door to slide open before entering, speaking a question as he did. "Are you going to behave any better this orn?"

Jazz tilted his helm in question. "I'm pretty sure we're in the same orn as when you last visited, but, who knows? You did disconnect my chronometer," he deadpanned.

"I assure you, you are mistaken. Do you intend to behave this time?"

"I don't know what you're trying to pull, but it isn't going to work."

"I simply wish to know your answer to my question," Prowl replied, allowing a note of anger into his tone and field both. He didn't exactly feel angry, but perhaps that would help Jazz behave. "I suppose I already have my answer from your refusal to give one however, now don't I?"

"Yes you do!" he snapped. "Maybe you should come back when you've learned ta tell time better, ya glitch."

"Further misbehaving will only result in worse punishments," the Enforcer promised. "For this transgression, you will go another orn without Energon."

"I don't want that nasty slag." Jazz wasn't particularly interested in pretending anything at the moment, so his words were as vicious as ever.

Prowl refused to dignify Jazz with a response and simply left again. This time it was four joor before he returned. "I don't suppose you've decided to behave this orn?"

"Of course I'll behave. You've changed my processor completely." The Polyhexian replied with venomous sarcasm, adding a roll of his optics for good measure. He could go back to playing good little sub in a few orns to try his escape again, currently he was too focused on berating Prowl.

Prowl stepped into the room, in front of Jazz. "Is that so?" he questioned almost genuinely. Or at least it sounded that way. Bringing his servos up, the officer began tracing light patterns along what surface he could reach of Jazz's wings.

"Don't touch me!" Jazz had to stop himself from trying to move away from the other's touch again and settled for just yelling at him.

"Is there something wrong, my mate?" The question came out in the most unexpected tone ever. Innocent.

"Do you want me to list off everything that's wrong? I think I've already told you enough times, but you don't seem to get it!" Jazz was livid at that point. "I hate you. I hate this city. I hate what you've done to my frame. I want to go back to Iacon!"

"Temper, temper," Prowl chided. "Is that one more thing we need to work on before you can be let out of this room?"

Jazz just frowned. "Or you could just let me go."

"You want me to go?" Prowl pretended to repeat. "If that's really what you want then I shall see you in the morning."

Jazz didn't bother to say anything else, not caring much if the Praxian stayed or left.

At Jazz's silence, Prowl left. Two joor later, he was back again. This time he carried a diluted cube of Energon. Perhaps that would encourage better behavior.

By the time Prowl returned Jazz had calmed down a little, having had time to reevaluate his actions, and realize that anger wasn't getting him any closer to freedom. He didn't say anything when the Enforcer entered though, waiting to see if Prowl was going to continue with the same actions he had been.

"And how are you this orn?" Prowl asked easily as he stepped before Jazz. He held the cube just below chest level between them.

"Just great," Jazz responded with a hint of sarcasm. He wasn't going to be overly hostile, but an abrupt change had no possibility of being believed a second time.

"And your energy levels? Surely you could use some Energon by now? I even weakened it for you."

Whatever Prowl was playing at, it didn't seem detrimental to play along for a while. "My levels are a bit low," he agreed. "I wouldn't mind having some Energon."

"You have to open up then," Prowl commented as he lifted the cube. "You won't be able to fuel yourself like this."

Of course, this game again. It was beginning to feel as though nothing really changed. Jazz obeyed Prowl's request, still a bit leery as to what he may be getting himself into.

Nothing happened as he let Jazz drink, allowing the entire cube in a slow but steady pace. And only once the cube was empty did Prowl make it vanish into his subspace. "How was that?" he asked.

"Not bad," Jazz replied honestly, glad that it seemed Prowl was buying his act a bit without having to add in all the 'sirs's and 'thank you's all the time.

"You know," Prowl began slowly after that. "I've been thinking…"

Jazz tilted his helm in questioning but otherwise said nothing as he waited for Prowl to continue.

"About the other day," Prowl started to explain. "The day you attacked me."

He let that sink in for a nanoklik as he paused, but he began again promptly so Jazz wouldn't interrupt. "I've come to the realization that you must not know just how painful of an attack that was. That you must not understand how sensitive sensor wings are. So I intend to teach you."

With that nothing of a warning, Prowl pulled a blade from his subspace and sliced down one of Jazz's sensor panels. He only applied enough pressure to cut in, not through. He only wanted to injure for now, he would come back to do actual damage.

Jazz screamed until his vocalizer cut out in static. It was as much the surprise as it was the pain that caused him to react, and when the initial pain hit it caused him to jerk away. Which only served to hurt him more as he scraped his sensor panels on the wall.

"It's alright," Prowl assured him. "That's only one tiny injury. It doesn't hurt you nearly as much as it did me." Another cut, this one fast and short but directly above a sensor node. "Yet."

Prowl followed that up with another long, slow slice, to the other wing this time.

Jazz's screams turned to whimpers and he tried to curl in on himself to protect himself, not that any of that would help. He still cried out at each new cut until his cries shifted to pleading. "Stop, stop, please," he begged. "I'm sorry! Please!"

Prowl continued slowly carving into Jazz's wings until they were little more than a shredded mess. Structurally they were still fine, and could even be rebuilt with only moderate difficulty, but even the slightest of movements would be agony for Jazz.

"What do you think," the Enforcer asked when he did finally stop. "Do you understand now the severity of your actions?"

By the time Prowl was finished Jazz was a whimpering, shivering mess, still desperately trying to huddle closer to himself for comfort and protection. He didn't want to say anything for fear of bringing more punishment on himself.

"What was that?" Prowl asked. "Speak up, I can't hear you."

"I do." He finally responded when prompted. "I'm sorry."

"Apologies fix nothing. You will learn or you will suffer. Do you understand?"

"Yes." He responded quickly this time, still worried about the chance of further punishment.

"Aren't you forgetting something?" the officer chastised.

Even though the pain and Energon loss something snapped in Jazz at that comment. "Frag you," he said in a low tone. "You don't deserve that sort of respect from me."

Immediately Prowl had the blade's edge pressed against one of his sensor horns. He made sure to let the blade flash in front of Jazz's optics so the other mech knew just what the danger was. "Do you want to try answering that question again? Preferably with a better answer, for your own sake."

"Sorry sir." He didn't even hesitate to cave to Prowl's whim. For Jazz wings were one thing, but something as important to him as his sensor horns wasn't worth possible damage just for such a small rebellion.

"Good." The blade vanished into Prowl's subspace again. "You should rest now, to conserve your strength."

Jazz stayed quiet, only giving a faint nod.

Prowl accepted the silence and took his leave, sealing Jazz in yet again.

Chapter Text

When the Enforcer returned to Jazz's cell this time he was not alone. He had sent Triage a request to show up as soon as he'd left his mate and when she'd arrived they went immediately to check Jazz's condition. The medic even ran an initial scan through the door as she waited for it to slide open. And once she could enter the room she set to work without delay.

Jazz barely had enough energy left to lift his helm when the door opened again, not bothering to greet either of the Praxians with any signs of life. He still twitched and hissed when Triage's treatments caused him more pain, but for the most part the Polyhexian was completely still and silent.

"I am impressed," Triage stated when she finally settled back to rest. Prowl acknowledged her statement with a wing twitch that she felt rather than saw, allowing her to continue. "These injuries are extensive, but not nearly as bad as I anticipated."

"He did see reason rapidly enough. There was no need to be excessive to instill the lesson."

The medic accepted that with a wing flick of her own before focusing fully on the injured again. Her next task was to reach up and exchange the Energon line with a fresh bag as she'd increased the intake and emptied the previous one. She left it increased for now, she would need to question Jazz about his wounds and he wouldn't be capable if all his energy went to healing. At the first sign of awareness she spoke to him. "Are you with us?"

"Unfortunately." Somehow it still seemed easier to talk to her than to the only other Praxian in his life... Maybe because she didn't make it a life goal to torture him for simply existing.

"I can't say I approve of his methods but you did need to be warned just how sensitive wings are." Triage did offer Jazz a sad expression however, although her frame language otherwise said scolding. "Are you injured anywhere besides your wings?"

"Not yet," he responded, knowing full well that this wasn't going to be the last time he'd see her like this. "I suppose I couldn't bribe you with anything to help me get out of this city? He'll offline me... We both know it, so please, if there's anything I... I have to get out of here." It was a hushed last attempt to escape his future of misery, something he knew would fail but had to try anyway.

"Even if I were inclined to believe he'd allow you to offline, there's still nothing I could do." Triage unraveled a data cable and tapped the cover to one of Jazz's ports. "Open up and drop your firewalls, unless you'd prefer I override them. I need to make sure your code still looks good."

"Why? So you can just take more things away from me? No way." He was done being polite to her, she was as much the enemy as Prowl himself and deserved no better from him.

The medic exvented, deciding to try a slightly different tactic. Prowl had left her to finish working without distraction so maybe she could talk some sense into her idiot patient.

"Look, even if I wanted to help there is nothing I can do. My legal standing is not much higher than yours. Do you see these marks?" Here she flared her sensor wings so the dual glyphs on them were visible to Jazz. "They name my mate, the bot another would have to answer to if they do anything to me that she disapproves of."

Jazz frowned, realizing that she may very well be as trapped as he was, but in a different way. "We could escape together." He tried, hopeful that she wasn't too processor wiped to want the taste of freedom again. To play along he finally relented and allowed her in, hoping maybe they could talk more candidly through the connection.

Triage didn't respond to his verbal commentary as she plugged in. He might only be offering her a small opportunity so she had to focus on it. Keeping her mental defenses ready just in case, the medic's next comment was directed through their hookup. [How is everything in your mind? Does anything feel wrong or out of place?]

[As you can see, everything's just fine. Are you ignoring me on purpose?] Once again it seemed that all hope was gone. [I'm an idiot for trying to trust you, ain't I?]

[Trying to trust me?] Triage repeated. [I'm afraid all I've seen from you is a drive to make everything more difficult for yourself.] With only a nanoklik's pause, she forced herself to be absolutely non-confrontational. Arguing with Jazz clearly got a bot nowhere. It was good both the medic training and her natural default state were both too peaceful to enjoy conflict. [Now, what is it you believe I ignored you saying?]

[More difficult? This is about as bad as it gets, I'm just trying to survive with my sanity intact thank you.] As much as the femme wanted to avoid confrontation, Jazz seemed to want to pursue it. Angry at her, himself, and the rest of the world, it seemed like this would be his only outlet. [ What part of 'I don't want this' does nobody in this city understand? Did you willingly sign up for being your mate's slave or did you have to go through retraining too? Can't you see how messed up all of this is?]

It was a good thing Prowl had left because that commentary cause Triage to physically bristle. [Don't you dare dishonor Derby like that.] She couldn't help her own reaction, nor even the fervor it was delivered with, but she did attempt to calm herself before continuing. [She is the most wonderful bot I have ever known and would never consider me a slave nor treat me as such.]

Jazz was genuinely shocked at the medic's sudden outburst. [I'm sure she's just fantastic, but that doesn't change the fact that you are /owned/ by her. Does it? And I am not going to be anyone's property like that.]

[She doesn't own me] Triage argued as she carefully poked around at some of Jazz's recently modified code. [She protects me. Even as a medic I wouldn't have enough social standing on my own but together we work perfectly. She's military, you see, and needs someone to care for her home when not around but also self-contained enough to handle her long absences. We decided long ago this was our best option and tried for a couple vorn before ever bonding to be sure.] A smile, wing flutter and flash of warmth/happiness through the hookup escaped the medic. [It was only the natural progression from our close friendship.]

Jazz growled audibly, but continued their conversation as calmly as he could. [That's all well an' good fer you two, but I ain't gettin' a choice here, get it? I don't wanna be part a' yer culture!]

[From what I understand of the situation, you did agree to this] Triage responded. Her calm mask was wavering under the emotional assault Jazz presented though. That deep in his mind fragments of memories and thoughts were nigh unavoidable and she wasn't enjoying those this conversation was summoning. [Even if you want differently now there is nothing that can be done. The law considers you his mate and Praxian law is adhered to even more strongly than an oath to the Prime himself. He decides your fate now, though I don't suppose it will do any more good telling you again this time to do as he says than it did last time, will it?]

[I ain't bein' no ones pet!] It was the last thing he bothered to say to her before attempting to force her out of his processor by any and all means. "I ain't lettin' anyone else control me, ever again."

Triage allowed herself to be pushed out. She could have fought off his attempt but she had completed what she needed to check and perhaps having a little bit of control would calm him slightly. Prowl would certainly be back once she was done and leaving Jazz in a temper was setting him up to be injured.

"There is a difference in being a pet and being a mate. As his mate, it is his duty to protect you from as much danger as possible. That's only possible if you follow his orders without question. If outsiders like yourself didn't find that such an impossible concept to grasp this process would be far gentler."

"I don't want his protection! I don't want any of this! How is it such an impossible concept that I don't wanna be part a' any a' this!" Jazz knew he was being loud, risking that Prowl might overhear him but none of that mattered, he had no hope left so all that remained was resilience and rebellion.

"Be that as it may," Triage attempted again. It might be a futile effort but she was still going to try to convince Jazz to avoid injury. "You are here and the laws of the city will not allow you to leave without his expressed permission. Continued rebellion will only prolong your pain, and yes that is a part of the law too."

"What do you suggest? I just live the rest a' my life as his little house pet? You might be happy with this mockery of a life but I ain't." He wasn't going to give in without fighting to the bitter end, no matter how much pain he had to endure, and one little medic wasn't about to change his processor.

"You would do well to heed her warning."

Prowl had returned finally, preventing Triage from responding. To her, he asked, "would you like anything in return for your distress?"

"No sir," the medic replied as she backed away from Jazz. "Whatever cause would have you suggest that?"

"Your current state," the officer answered. "I realize he's difficult but I failed to factor your vulnerability and that was my error."

"I'll be fine." The medic even managed a faint smile as she continued. "I've seen to more difficult patients before and survived well, this time will be no different."

A wing flick of acknowledgement was sent her way as he turned towards Jazz. "You may leave then, unless there's anything else."

"Of course."

When Triage had left the room, Prowl spoke again. "I don't know what she may have said to you, but it's likely in your best interest to listen. As for what you said to her that left her in such a condition, whatever it was, you deserve punishment for distressing a medic."

Jazz glared at the Enforcer, unwilling to back down. Nothing he could say would have changed what the other was about to do anyway, so why bother?

"Just being around you seems like punishment enough, don't ya think?"

"I think I finally figured it out," Prowl stated as though he hadn't heard Jazz. "I understand now what the problem here is. Are you curious?"

"No." Jazz responded flatly, not interested in feeding into the other's ego.

"That's right, your vocalizer. I do hope you enjoyed that word," Prowl taunted as he sent the code to activate a specialty component, newly installed while Jazz was in the medcenter to prevent him from speaking. "Because it's the last one you get to say until you earn that privilege back."

The Polyhexian tried to yell at Prowl about what he was about to do, but by then it was too late.. His optics widened in fear temporarily before narrowing back to a piercing glare, trying to convey 'I hate you' as best he could.

"That's better." Prowl reached out to touch one of Jazz's wings, lightly brushing across the surface. "Triage does amazing work, doesn't she? And I suppose you have yet to thank her even for fixing you so nicely."

Jazz just continued to glare, having quite a bit to say, but now no way to say it.

"As soon as these are back in working order," his servo continued to run along Jazz's wing, "then we will begin your training in sensor wing language. Until then, enjoy the silence."

Prowl then withdrew his servo and left the room. He still needed to check if Triage had any specialty instructions left to share.

The door closed, once again leaving him in darkness, this time without even his own cries and whimpers as company. It was enough to get Jazz wondering if rebellion was actually worth it.

Chapter Text

Prowl left Jazz alone to recover for the night cycle as he recharged but made certain to return to his pattern anew the next morning. He visited Jazz again every few joor with the same questions in a myriad of formats. 'How are feeling this orn?' 'Are you going to behave yet?' 'How are your wings recovering?' Naturally, no response however. On his fourth visit, Prowl brought a new bag of Energon for the the medical line and arranged it as Triage had shown him, adjusting it to release only enough to keep Jazz online again. Three visits later, and nearly the full orn passed, Prowl entered Jazz's room with a cube of Energon.

"Would you like some Energon?" At Jazz's stare, he continued speaking, including the appropriate wing gesture. "Your sensor panels should move like this for an affirmative answer."

Most of Jazz knew that the cube would be a terrible tasting Praxian brew and not worth it to give in to what the Enforcer wanted him to do. Unfortunately, the logical reasoning side of Jazz that told him this wasn't as loud as the primal part, which had surfaced to keep him functioning orn to orn in this pit, and that part of him could only focus on ‘Energon=life’.

Jazz copied the Praxian's sensor wing movements as exactly as he could. He hadn't had much practice with ever moving the wings before though so anything he attempted was only an approximation of what he thought was right.

It was a pitiful attempt, but Jazz had made the attempt and that was more than he had been willing to do otherwise. It warranted allowing him the cube. And so Prowl held it up for Jazz to allow him to drink, but only after the customary, 'open.'

Jazz, of course, obeyed in order to get what he wanted, taking in as much Energon as he was allowed to at a time and finishing off the cube very quickly. After that was done however he went right back to glaring at Prowl.

"Now that you're done with that," the Enforcer commented as he subspaced the empty cube, "and as I see your wings are well enough to move, let's begin instructing you on how to use them properly. This," he gave a slow downwards flick of his own wings, "as you've already seen, is an affirmative. While this," the motion he did this time was a downwards twitch, also slow to exaggerate the movement for Jazz to see, "is the corresponding negative. Now, show me."

Jazz just continued to glare for a few moments before finally twitching his wings, not to follow orders as much as at least be able to reply 'no' to his orders.

"And now the affirmative," Prowl ordered, presently ignorant of Jazz's intended meaning.

Once again his wings followed the same 'no' gesture he had been taught, the Polyhexian looking a bit smug as he did so.

"Yes, you know the negative. That's not what I'm asking for however. Show me the affirmative."

Once again the only thing Prowl got was the negative response, Jazz's look going from that sort of smugness back to a glare to try to indicate he was doing such actions on purpose.

"Right then," Prowl said with an irritated wing twitch, unlike the one Jazz had been using. "If that's all you're capable of learning, I'll take my leave."

At that point Jazz finally switched it up, giving a 'yes' wing flick, trying to convey a yes, you can leave now.

"As I suspected," Prowl retaliated. It was all he said though before leaving the room.

Jazz really wished he knew some inappropriate wing gestures just to tell Prowl where he could stick his suspicions.

~

A few joor later, Prowl opened the door to visit Jazz again. "And how are you this orn, my mate? Doing well?"

Once again Jazz replied with a 'no' wing twitch. How could he be doing well, trapped like this?

"That's unfortunate." Prowl couldn't help mocking Jazz's attempts to be difficult. "Whatever could be the cause? Are the accommodations not to your liking?"

Prowl got a 'yes' flick for his efforts, not that answering him would serve to change the so called accommodations any.

"And just what about them bothers you?" This question was nothing but rubbing it in Jazz's faceplates over how little he had. "Do speak up."

Jazz made to growl at the Praxian, before remembering that he couldn't make sounds, so he opted for a 'no' wing twitch instead.

"Not saying anything? Alright then, I suppose that settles things." Prowl gave the barest of a smirk. "Seeing as you think everything's fine as it is, I won't change any of your accommodations."

There was another 'no' twitch from Jazz, who wanted nothing more than to liberate the Praxian's helm from the rest of his frame at that point... Maybe take pieces of his sensor wings off first, in strips, and feed them to him.

"Now that we have that questioning out of the way, shall we continue teaching you how to use your sensor panels?"

There was yet another 'no' from Jazz, who reasoned to himself that if Prowl wasn't going to make concessions on anything neither should he.

"Alright," Prowl continued. As he spoke, he made sure to cant his wings in the proper angle Jazz would need to know. "This is the default position you should carry your wings in. It will put the least stress on them and offer you the easiest base point from which to perform other motions. Then this one is how you ask any questions, or indicate an otherwise unclear verbal comment is meant as a question."

Jazz watched the motions, vaguely copying them with his own wings to learn. The more he learned, the more he could use to berate Prowl with.

Prowl made Jazz repeat the movements until they were mostly right before moving onto others. He also made Jazz repeat those until almost decent. Then he ran the Polyhexian through a test on each of them to see if he was actually bothering to learn.

As upset as he felt over the asinine lesson, Jazz followed along near perfectly, already starting to get used to controlling the odd appendages added to his back.

Prowl continued the lesson until Jazz seemed to have a grasp on all the basic movements and could manage a simple communication with them. And then he left. There would be time to be certain he perfected the use of his sensor wings later.

~

They continued on in this new way for a few days, although as far as Jazz knew it was a decaorn or better. When Prowl finally seemed satisfied he offered an easy question vocally. "Your progress has been steady. Do you think you deserve use of your vocalizer again?"

Jazz flicked his wings in an affirmative. Of course he deserved to use his vocalizer, it should have never been disabled in the first place!

Accepting that, Prowl transmitted the deactivation code for the device preventing Jazz from speaking. In a way, this was a test. One he would not be surprised in the slightest if his mate failed, given his past disposition.

He waited for an indication that he was allowed to speak again, but once it seemed apparent that there was going to be none the Polyhexian went ahead and attempted to speak anyway.

"I hate you." He started simply, just to test if he actually had use of his vocalizer back. "When I get out of here I'm going to tear ya apart piece by piece and feed you to virused turbo foxes. But yer spark? I'll save that fer myself. I'll deep freeze it an' chew on it like an energon goody. I bet evil tastes good."

Oh yes, Jazz most certainly failed this test. Prowl knew that from just the first few words. Yet, the rant was creative enough that he was willing to allow it to run its course and only sent the activation code once it seemed Jazz had finished a thought.

"You do find it so very hard to learn, don't you?" the officer asked calmly. "And you were even doing so well with sensory language too…"

Jazz was back to glaring at his captor, this time his wings pulled back as well as he could manage in an assumed approximation of what might convey anger, from what he had learned of sensory language so far.

"Well, if you refuse to speak with me then I'll just leave you for the night. How does that sound?"

In almost any other context Jazz would have genuinely enjoyed the amount of sass that made up a large portion of Prowl's personality. The only problem was that sass was being used against him while he was being held captive therefore, very much not appreciated.

Jazz gave a few more angry wing twitches as a goodbye to Prowl.

Chapter Text

Prowl made a few more visits along his usual pattern, always asking simple questions that didn't actually need any answers. Jazz wasn't likely to be honest anyway. He should, however, start needing Energon soon and that would be another test. Had he actually retained any understanding of wing language or was it only short term knowledge for him? Either way, it would be entirely up to Jazz to earn anything.

~

"Are you less inclined to bouts of temper this orn?"

'No' Jazz indicated with a wing twitch, not bothering to lie. Prowl just being around was enough to rise his temper so anything the Enforcer did was bound to agitate him more.

"You have been quite disobedient lately," Prowl commented lightly. "Willfully answering me incorrectly, refusing to refuel... Perhaps a punishment is in order to remind you just who is in control here."

Almost reflexively Jazz's wings dropped down into a more defensive state, the Polyhexian moving them in little 'no' twitches.

Stepping forward, Prowl pressed a servo flat against one of Jazz's wings. "Are you going to behave or do I have to remove all methods of communication from you?"

A few kliks passed with Jazz simply studying Prowl before finally trying to give the right answer. 'Yes' he indicated, hoping that would save him from further damage.

Prowl remained as he was for a few nanokliks after Jazz answered before pulling back. "Let's see if you can't manage to keep this promise."

And then he left.

~

It was nearly a true orn before Prowl visited Jazz again. He had recharged over the night cycle and then worked a full 18 joor shift. Of course, as far as Jazz would know he might have been gone half or more of a decaorn. The Enforcer did make certain to have a couple cubes of Energon in his subspace before he opened the door too. One was Praxian Standard and the other Jazz's typical diluted mix. Which one, if any, his mate got to consume would depend on his behavior.

Jazz had long since lost any sense of time he'd once had. It felt like it had been a while since he had seen Prowl so in some strange way it was a bit of relief when his captor opened the door once more.

Jazz flicked his wings in a general positive notion to indicate that he was aware of the other's presence.

"How are you feeling?" Prowl asked. As he spoke, the officer sent a short transmission Jazz's way. "I should apologize for work keeping me from you for so long but it was an important case."

The Polyhexian gave a negative wing twitch when asked how he was feeling, otherwise staying still as the Enforcer spoke. He was just waiting for him to get to the point of why he was back to torment him again.

"Not feeling well?" Prowl attempted to clarify. "Is there anything you need?"

"I need to get out of-"

Jazz stopped, having accidentally said some of what was going through his processor out loud without realizing he was allowed to speak again. "...this room," he finished lamely, still questioning why he was even being allowed to talk.

"I'm afraid I can't allow that while you're still a risk." The officer did seem genuinely bothered speaking that statement. "The last time you were allowed that much freedom you did decide to destroy our home."

"Doesn't mean I gotta be strung up like this," Jazz muttered back.

"And if I were to let you down you wouldn't try to offline me as immediately as possible with the first suitable object?" Prowl deadpanned. "Or would you simply bide your time to convince me to trust you before enacting some grand master plan?"

"What else should I do? Give in and let you turn me into yer perfect little pet? I'm not gonna let you destroy who I am," he argued back, sensor panels flaring as best they could.

"I am not looking for a pet of any sort," Prowl replied with a bite of anger. "You should be pleased that you get to earn the right of being considered Praxian. But no, outsiders can never understand how much of an honor that is."

"Maybe if I wasn't forced into it, ever think a' that?" Jazz couldn't help a bit of sadness at remembering everything he lost; home, friends, even his modest collection of instruments... gone.

"Because that would have worked so well…" Prowl's wings now flared too. "You showed such opposition to the idea of remaining that it's impossible to believe you would have cared to be grateful."

"We don't even know each other! I didn't wanna stay with ya an' lose my job an' apartment. Maybe if we woulda' got along well I coulda' came back or you coulda' moved to Iacon, but right now? This? We're nothing! I don't even know you an' you don't even care ta know me!" He was getting louder as they argued, his words soaked in repressed anger.

"I am not putting up with this. You aren't listening and I will not stand for my culture being treated this way."

Turning, Prowl stormed off. The door slid shut behind him with a sharp click in the sudden silence.

"Must be nice ta just leave like that! Too bad yer culture doesn't give me the same chance!" Jazz shouted into the darkness, doubtful Prowl could or would even attempt to hear him anyway.

~

Prowl did come back again, just before he was going to head into recharge. He hadn't intended to do so initially, but later decided he would allow Jazz another chance. If he started saying anything too disrespectful then his mate would lose all privilege to speak again immediately.

"So the only choice you intend to make is to starve yourself?"

"I don't have control over much else." The Polyhexian replied solemnly, not even bothering to glance up at the Praxian.

"And so you choose to suffer needlessly," Prowl assessed. "That seems unnecessarily detrimental. This is why you need someone watching over you."

"I've taken care of myself almost my entire life," Jazz growled. "I don't need you, and I especially don't want you in my life." He seemed to be getting quite riled for a moment before a sudden switch in emotions. "But maybe you're right... I really do want some Energon..."

Ignoring the first portion of what Jazz had said, Prowl pulled out a cube of Energon from his subspace. He had brought it along on the minuscule chance that his mate might behave. "Are you capable of asking in an acceptable manner?"

"Can I have some Energon, sir?" Jazz even went so far as to add the accompanying wing movements with his request.

The request was posed in a far better way than Prowl ever expected, leaving him stunned for a klik. When he did finally react, his first action was to re-subspace the Energon cube. Then he reached up to disconnect the cuffs holding Jazz's arms above his helm and sent the release code so he could remove them altogether as he guided Jazz's servos down. It wasn't much; his mate was still bound to the ground and the leash hung from a high hook in the wall, so Jazz still couldn't move far. It was, however, more than he had been allowed in a long time. Finally, he re-summoned the Energon cube and held it out in offering.

Jazz watched him do all of this, then looked down at the cube held out for him, then back to Prowl before finally taking the offered cube. "I bet ya think yer bein' nice ta me," he said quietly, staring down into the cube for a moment. Less than a nanoklik later the entire contents of the cube were splashed on the Praxian, and then the cube itself was thrown at him.

"I don't want yer fraggin' charity! I want my freedom!"

And that resulted in the stasis function of Jazz's collar being activated. When he onlined again he would find himself re-chained with his vocalizer deactivated once more.

~

Prowl left him there for two more orn before deciding to try again. He entered the room this time in silence with a cube of clearly diluted Energon in one servo. Jazz didn't bother to look up at Prowl as he entered, knowing nothing good would come of them interacting, not that it seemed he could interact much anyway.

"Apologize for your ridiculous and unnecessary actions if you ever want Energon again." Prowl's tone was eerily calm. "You're going to be needing soon. Your energy levels are surely in the red by now."

Jazz finally looked up at the Praxian, only to glare, knowing full well his vocalizer had been deactivated once again.

"I will allow you to speak if you promise not to abuse the privilege."

Jazz just nodded, wings also flicking in an affirmative.

Prowl accepted that with a wing flick of his own and sent the appropriate code.

When he was allowed to speak again, Jazz took that opportunity to inform the Enforcer, "I'd rather offline than accept Energon from the likes a' you."

"That's unfortunate you feel that way," Prowl informed him, still strangely calm. "I did prepare this cube specifically for you after all and it does need to go somewhere…"

And then he tipped the cube, dumping its contents onto the floor at Jazz's pedes.

"That was mature," was the only thing the captive mech bothered to say in retaliation.

"About as mature as if I would have thrown it at you?" Prowl shot back. "And just as wasteful. Perhaps tomorrow you'll be desperate enough to behave."

"About as likely as me becoming the new Prime."

"The current lineage of Primes did begin here in Praxus."

And that was the last the Praxian said before leaving.

~

Prowl let three orn pass before visiting Jazz again. His current plan wasn't working so it was time to develop a new one. Something would work to make his mate behave properly eventually. He just had to figure out what that something was.

~

It was becoming work just to hold his helm up to watch Prowl enter, his meager amount of allotted Energon not serving for more than just to keep him online. The Polyhexian was becoming a bit desperate for Energon but his own stubbornness was one of few things keeping him sane.

"I don't suppose you're going to be at all intelligent and behave today, now are you?"

"Why should I? 'm not gonna let you win." His speech was a bit slower even from the lack of energy, but even if he offlined here that would just mean they had both lost as far as he was concerned.

"You couldn't even handle a cube right now if you wanted to, could you?" There was the barest hint of concern but most of the Enforcer's tone was challenging.

"I already told ya, I ain't takin' it if it's from you." He wasn't about to back down, or let Prowl think he could trick him.

"Alright," Prowl accepted. "Starve yourself longer. We'll see if you still have that attitude in a couple orn."

"I hope you get shot on the job," Jazz gave as his parting remark.

As Prowl left he sent the code to steal Jazz's voice again. He did not deserve to speak if he had that sort of attitude.

~

It was a couple orn later when Prowl finally returned. He held a cube of diluted Energon for Jazz again, out in his servo in case he should behave finally.

Jazz didn't bother to look up at the Enforcer this time, not having enough energy to do so. Even his wings were drooping almost painfully low. Prowl stepped forward and used his free servo to lift Jazz's helm so their optics could meet. Allowing his mate speech again, Prowl spoke towards him. "Will you accept Energon now?"

"Fine," the Polyhexian agreed curtly, not having the energy to do much else.

Shifting his grip to better manipulate Jazz's intake, Prowl brought the cube up to his lip plating. If he had to completely control his mate's swallowing then he would but if Jazz could manage he would allow him to do so.

Alone Jazz would have gotten about as much on him as in him, all of his functions having slowed down quite a bit. so the other's assistance helped quite a bit. Not that he would ever admit it.

When Jazz had emptied the cube, Prowl subspaced it and moved his servo from Jazz's mouth to the back of his helm. Moving slowly, Prowl gently began petting his helm. Jazz was just out of it enough to allow himself to enjoy the contact, his engine positively purring in contentment.

"This isn't so bad, now is it?" Prowl asked softly after a couple kliks. "It could be this nice all the time too."

The soft purring turned into an agitated rev. "Stop touching me!" he demanded, trying to pull away as far as his constraints would let him.

"Do you always have to be so difficult?" Prowl did withdraw though. It wouldn't do to rile his mate up too much and have him waste what little energy he had just gotten back.

"Do you always have to be such an aft?" His wings were flared in anger again, making it obvious he was unwilling to back down no matter the concessions Prowl would be willing to make to appease him.

Grabbing one of Jazz's wings firmly, the Praxian tugged it sharply downwards. "You have no right to act angry when it is your own fault for your present situation. If you would simply behave then none of this would need to occur."

Jazz hissed at the unexpected pain, glaring at Prowl. "It's not my fault yer a psycho who locks bots in yer closet for fun! I ain't ever listenin' to you."

"Your ignorance of the very culture you wished to learn is almost impressive." Another tug, pulling the wing even farther down. "If only for how vast it's proving to be. It really is a shame though, that you only seem capable of learning through punishment. I had tried to keep this nice but I can see now that's not going to assist anything."

"Your culture can get fragged an' offline fer all I care." He didn't care how much pain was going to be forced on him at that point, it was a clash of wills and he was determined to win.

"You should know you are a part of that culture now as well. You're simply wishing for your own demise."

"Maybe I am," Jazz retorted coldly. "At least if I was offline I wouldn't have ta put up with you."

A wicked smile touched the Enforcer's features. "Then the most fitting punishment for you is survival, now isn't it?"

Turning to leave, he sent the code to steal Jazz's voice again because the conversation was over.

Jazz burned inside with the hatred he had for Prowl. If he would be forced to survive as long as Prowl was alive, the only answer would be to offline Prowl first.

Chapter Text

Prowl came back late the next orn, shortly before he would head to recharge. He had Energon in one servo but no expectation that Jazz would earn it. "How much trouble do you intend to be this time?"

In his usual display Jazz looked up at the Praxian entering his closet. He tilted his helm slightly, knowing he wasn't able to talk yet. Prowl was getting predictable in his games of dominance.

Ignoring the outsider styled questioning, Prowl stepped forward. "If you aren't even going to answer me then I'll be forced to punish you. And I know you do know enough to respond to me."

Jazz relented for the time being, making a questioning motion with his wings as if to say 'how do you expect me to say anything?'

"Exactly," Prowl mockingly commended him. "Can you be trusted to speak politely?"

'Yes' Jazz responded with his wings, mentally adding 'if you deserved it.'

Surprised, Prowl decided to trust the answer. Should Jazz prove untrustworthy yet again he would simply have to punish him until he learned. "And just how long will it be until you abuse the ability to speak?"

"Why do you do that?" Jazz questioned simply, just a touch of sadness to his tone.

"Do what?" The question held just a bit of actual confusion.

"Taunt me like that, it's like you enjoy fraggin' me off just ta punish me."

"You wouldn't require punishing if you could behave properly." Prowl fell back into his normal tone as he explained. "It's not my fault you seem to have a temper shorter than any minibot."

"See? That!" Jazz growled. "Ya think you can just treat me like that an' I'm not gonna get angry?"

"I fail to see how it is at all my fault that you take such offense at words." An irritated wing flick accompanied the comment.

"And you don't?" he questioned sarcastically.

"Not nearly as often as it seems to afflict you."

"At least I don't gotta lock someone up in some desperate attempt ta make them into my mate. Maybe you should just get out more."

"I'm hardly desperate," Prowl retaliated. "There have been several offers for my attention over the decavorn but I've never had any interest in anyone before you. It's well documented, however, that outsiders don't take to our culture well by casual introduction, so rapid immersion is necessary."

"Casual introduction woulda been a lot easier fer me than bein' locked in a closet. Besides, what if I ain't into you? Takes two ta have a relationship, Prowler, an' right now I ain't too fond of ya." The entire conversation had gone quite differently than Jazz had expected, although he had also expected his vocalizer to be re-disabled by now.

"And what else was I supposed to do? You refused to remain even long enough for me to explain anything and then drew government attention by handing yourself over to the Enforcers while also trying to run."

"So what was I supposed to do? You were basically tellin' me I was never gonna be able ta leave! That's kinda some scary slag ta hear."

"I warned you that trying to leave as you were at the time wasn't going to work out. It's not my fault that you overreacted. You could have waited and listened instead of trying to run away."

"And what now? Ya certainly got my attention."

"Now?" the officer repeated. "Now you've proven consistently that you shouldn't be trusted with anything even so moderate as keeping yourself fueled. If that doesn't scream the need to be cared for then what would?"

And there went his anger again, but Jazz fought to stay calm a bit longer. "I was doing just fine before we met," he pointed out.

"And yet now you don't." Prowl hadn't really any other response to make. "So what does that say?"

"It says you're a terrible pet keeper if your pet would rather offline than deal with you." Jazz had gone straight to hostile once again, the Praxian clearly not getting his point.

"How many times must I say that I don't consider you a pet‽" Prowl's wings flared up and back in anger. "That sort of thing has never been a factor in this!"

"Calm down Prowler, I just calls it as I sees it," Jazz taunted, happy to be the one to do the riling for once.

"Well you see incorrectly," the Praxian replied, his sensor panels flicking numerous times as he forced himself calm again. He set the Energon cube in his servo aside before continuing. "This situation is not, has not been, and never will be related to any sort of pet. I would never demean you in such a way."

For just a moment Jazz was blindsided by the audacity Prowl had to even say those words to him.

"No, you're right," he started with an eerie calm. "Even pets get more dignity than what you afford me!" He even added a snap of his denta at the other in warning. "Yer just some deluded psychotic glitch, ain't ya? Well I'm not playin' into yer fantasies anymore."

"And there you go acting utterly unreasonable again! Why is it so difficult for you to ever see sense‽"

"Me? I am the one with sense here, yer the one who's got another bot strung up in his closet like some fragged up trophy!"

"You are no trophy in your current state," Prowl corrected him. "It's no wonder your job is to be shipped away to other cities constantly; no one there wants to be forced to interact with you for any extended period."

Jazz couldn't even find words to express himself and just opted for growling lowly at the Enforcer. "Yeah, take a cheap shot at the mech yer holding captive. It's not like ya got anything better in yer life than berating me obviously."

The next thing Jazz knew was pain as Prowl hit him. Once, and then again, and again. And again. The assault only lasted a klik or two before the officer regained enough control of himself to leave the room, but countless blows landed across Jazz's frame in that short period. By the time Prowl left Jazz's frame was shaking. Pain, energy loss, emotional torment, all of it taking a toll on him until he finally just fell into recharge, frame slumping uncomfortably.

Chapter Text

Prowl returned the next morning. His entry was quiet and he brought a couple cubes of diluted Energon in his subspace. It was the best he could offer without medical grade (which he set a mental reminder to ask Triage about getting, in order to have some around in the future.)

Jazz was still floating in and out of recharge by the time Prowl showed up so it took a bit more effort to acknowledge his presence. Still, he forced himself to look up at the other, vaguely wondering what sort of pain the day had in store for him.

Summoning out one of the Energon cubes, the Praxian stepped forward to stand in front of the other. "Will you accept the Energon I brought you?"

Jazz gave the barest wing flick of affirmation, his sensor panels too sore to do much else.

Prowl held the cube up to Jazz's mouth, but when he struggled to take any in at all the officer moved to further assist him. Together they managed to slowly get nearly the entire cube down the Polyhexian's intakes, rather than on him or Prowl or the floor, or wherever else it may have landed. The officer hesitated then, unsure if he should bring out the second cube yet or not.

After he had finished the cube the Polyhexian forced himself to focus on the other, using a questioning wing flick to wonder what Prowl was about to do next.

"How are you doing?" Prowl asked after almost a klik of silence following Jazz's questioning. "Where are your energy levels? I have more Energon for you if you can handle it."

"I can't remember the last time I was out of the red," the captive mech answered honestly. "I think I can manage more if I take it slow."

Prowl accepted the first comment with both a wing flick and slight nod. "Do you think you're capable of fueling yourself while I prepare a couple more cubes or do you need the assistance?"

Jazz replied with a simple wing flick. "Although I'm gonna have ta be able to move." He moved his servos as much as he could to point out his bindings.

"Of course."

The Enforcer reached up to unhook the cuffs. As he helped Jazz lower his arms, Prowl decided to also separate the cuffs. Jazz still couldn't go anywhere but he had slightly more range of motion for a while. The second diluted Energon cube was then pulled from his subspace and held out. "I trust you won't waste this."

The Polyhexian accepted the cube silently, not bothering to wait for any sign of allowance before slowly downing the contents of the cube. As soon as Jazz took the cube, Prowl turned and left. The door remained open behind him as he went to mix a couple more cubes of diluted Energon. He was soon back, holding both in his servos and offered one again to Jazz.

Jazz had long since finished his second cube by the time Prowl showed up again and eagerly exchanged the empty cube with the full one. Only after that third cube did he pause long enough to offer a 'thank you' to Prowl.

Prowl replied with a simple wing flick of acknowledgement. "How are you feeling now?"

"I'm out of the red finally," he admitted. "I think I even have enough energy to be aware of my surroundings." There was a light chuckle accompanying that attempt at a joke.

"You do seem in far better condition than previously," Prowl agreed. He held out the other cube. "This is likely the last you can have before your frame revolts against taking in too much. Take it slowly, just in case."

Jazz just nodded before exchanging the cubes, taking this one in quite a bit slower to make sure he even had room in his tanks. This was the most Energon he had consumed at a time, and far more than his frame had become accustomed to, but there was no way of knowing when he would next be allowed so much, so he wanted to indulge himself while he was allowed to do so. Prowl waited calmly and silently as Jazz drank. It would be counterproductive to rush him after the order he'd just given and especially so as Jazz seemed to be listening. So he merely stood there until Jazz was finished, carefully watching.

As soon as he finished he offered up the empty cube for Prowl to take. Jazz made no other big move, just tiny shifts in his frame to try to get a bit comfortable while he could.

The officer took the cube and subspaced it. "Energy level?" he questioned sedately. "Are you experiencing any error messages?"

"Everything's clear," he replied after a brief self scan. "I'm at a solid 60%." It wasn't ideal energy levels, but better than he had been in a while.

A wing flick was given to acknowledge the comment as the Praxian seemed deep in thought for an astrosecond. He came back to focus with the barest ruffle of his sensor wings nanokliks later. "You will get another cube in the morning. Two if your system will accept that much. After that, you will have to behave for your Energon again. This changes nothing unless you change because of it."

"Can I at least sit down?" Jazz decided to push his luck. If Prowl was going to pretend to be nice, why not get everything he could out of him when the opportunity presented itself?

Prowl considered that. Then he spoke. "Servos out and helm down."

Jazz did as he was told, hoping he would get what he had asked for, but knowing none of his actions would change the outcome anyway so it was better to just listen.

Prowl first connected the cuffs back together. Giving Jazz the direction to drop his arms, he then reached behind his helm and temporarily detached the Energon line again. After that, Prowl found the end of the leash and unhooked it from its place up the wall. He sent the code for that to retract into the collar and moved down to the bar holding Jazz's legs apart. Then he stepped back. The cuffs at Jazz's pedes would offer a minor amount of movement, enough to sit and possibly even lay if he maneuvered it right. He'd still not be able to reach the door standing however.

"I hope you are willing to behave when I return."

Jazz didn't move until Prowl had left, only then did he bother to stretch out as much as his restraints would allow, before curling up in a more comfortable position to rest. Maybe later he could even talk the officer into taking him for a walk or something before his joints completely ceased functioning.

~~

The next morning came and Prowl returned as he'd promised he would. The first Energon cube was held in one servo while the second was held in his subspace. Again they were diluted, his way of apologizing for losing control two orn previous. This time when he opened the door he didn't immediately enter though, unsure of exactly where and how his mate may have curled up.

Jazz uncurled from his resting position when the door opened, sitting up to watch Prowl. His wings had taken on near constant movement now that they weren't pressed against the wall.

The Praxian entered slowly, senses trained on Jazz as he neared, just in case the leniency he'd shown was going to be thrown in his face. Deciding it worth the risk, he knelt beside the Polyhexian and held out the cube to him in offering. Jazz accepted the offered cube silently, only his wings offering a 'thank you' to Prowl before taking in the contents of the cube.

Prowl responded with a 'welcomed' wing movement and they stayed in silence as Jazz consumed it all. Only when Jazz returned the empty container to him did Prowl finally speak. "How are you feeling?"

"Like I've been locked in a closet forever," he replied. "I think my joints are starting to seize together."

"It has not been that long," Prowl responded lightly but continued on immediately. "You do look like quite a mess, however. So if you are not going to misbehave, you may use the washrack to clean up."

Jazz just nodded, prioritizing a trip to the washrack far above rebelling for the moment. "I won't try anything," he promised.

A rapid mental debate and Prowl decided to release the cuffs around Jazz's legs but not pull out the leash. The security system was always set so he couldn't get far even if he tried. The cuffs on his wrists would stay though; they were mobile after all.

Prowl stood after that, expecting Jazz to follow. "You may have the second Energon cube when you are done and we return here. Your systems should be settled enough to handle it all by then."

After being near immobile for so long the Polyhexian’s entire frame protested his movements with pain. Standing was a chore, and walking hurt. The only reply the Enforcer got was a low whine.

Though he didn't comment on Jazz's strained sounds, Prowl led them slowly through the berthroom and out to the washrack. He made sure to adjust the pace for what Jazz seemed capable of handling and though it took an exceptionally long time, they made it with no incident. Once inside, Prowl set a moderate temperature then had Jazz raise his servos so he could separate the cuffs. Washing up would be exceedingly difficult otherwise.

Jazz was convinced nothing short of being back in Iacon could feel as good as the water did. He opted for simply standing there under the water, letting it cascade down his frame just to enjoy the sensation.

"If you intend to run it hotter, gradually work your way to that point," Prowl cautioned. "You're going to be more sensitive to the temperature change and burns hurt like the Pit."

As much as Jazz wanted to point out that he had, in fact, washed himself before, he knew nothing good would come of that and opted for a hopefully less confrontational way of expressing himself.

"I would feel better if you weren't in the room with me while I wash up."

That commentary might have been worth punishing usually but the Enforcer let it go this time. The circumstance was a bit extraordinary after all. He left the room with no further acknowledgement than, "let me know when you need help with your wings." Jazz hadn't even thought of the challenge his new sensor panels would provide until that moment.

He spent a long time just reacquainting his frame to movements, stretching everything he could as far as he could. When it seemed like all of his parts were as close to normal as he could get them, only then did he bother to actually scrub his frame down, contorting himself as much as he could to try to void Prowl's offer.

After an unknown amount of time Jazz finally relented and called for the Enforcer. Prowl returned quickly. He'd remained in the next room the entire time so he didn't have to move far. His entry was quiet, possibly even masked under the running water, so he spoke to alert Jazz. "I'm here now."

The Polyhexian had relaxed quite a bit under the newly allotted freedoms as well as the warm, inviting water so despite having called out for Prowl, he was still startled when the other suddenly spoke, wings flaring in alarm as he quickly turned around to assess the situation.

"Oh, right, yeah… " he began. "What do ya want me to do?"

"You're ready for help washing your wings then?" Prowl assessed, breezing past Jazz's temporary awkwardness. "Simply leave your back to me and stay still. Do you have a preferred cleanser?" As he asked, he indicated the shelf where a few different quality cleaners sat.

Jazz turned as he had been directed to, idly glancing at the cleansers at his disposal before picking one, not about to allow Prowl all the decisions regarding his life if he had a chance.

Prowl accepted it without question, having already collected an extra soft cleaning cloth from a cabinet near the door to pour some onto. "This may feel strange, but that's usual because you aren't accustomed to the stimuli yet. Tell me if it hurts however, that's not typical."

Jazz just nodded, biting back sarcastic reply about pain being the only typical in his life anymore.

Accepting that method of response, Prowl lifted the cloth to Jazz's back and began. He worked gently, rubbing in steady circles rather than scrubbing and letting the cloth glide along the almost smooth surfaces. Jazz's wings had healed up nicely at least, with only the faintest of lines still marking where the worst cuts had been. Over those places Prowl moved even more gently to avoid aggravating the not-quite scars. The edges of Jazz's sensor panels he treated last, with a slow slide of the cloth from tip to base. Then he stepped away.

"You can rinse now."

His wings wouldn't stop twitching at all of the sudden stimulation. He waited until the twitching had calmed down before going under the shower of water again, more acutely aware of every little sensation his wings were picking up than ever.

After setting aside the cloth, Prowl stepped back to wait for Jazz to finish up. There were towels for drying in the cabinet he stood beside and he left them lay there for the time being. It was a nice treat to see his mate had adjusted so easily to the addition of wings, unknowingly giving away his pleasure at such a simple situation. Some bots didn't adjust so well and with the trauma inflicted so soon after the initial surgery there had always been an annoyingly high risk of rejection.

Jazz rinsed himself off slowly, trying to keep from having to go back to the closet as long as he could get away with it. Finally though, he turned the water off, shaking himself as dry as he could get before looking to Prowl for a towel. Prowl directed Jazz to join him and held out a towel for him to take before picking up one from another pile. Both were high quality and thus incredibly soft, but the second pile was specifically more delicate for the use on sensor panels or injuries. "Turn around and I'll help you," he told Jazz.

Again he cooperated with what the other requested, focused more on drying himself off than anything else at present. He wanted to try to keep focus away from the sensor panels since any sort of contact still felt very weird to him.

Prowl moved more quickly this time, the fibers of the towel collecting water with barely a touch. It hardly took any time using smooth, long strokes, which was the most efficient way. He stepped away from Jazz barely a klik after beginning with an almost unrelated question.

"How are you feeling now?"

"Better," Jazz admitted. All of this had felt like a true luxury compared to what he was used to. It was sickening to think of it that way, but this was his reality now and adapt or languish were the only two options.

"And your energy levels?" He left off that he still had another cube for Jazz as it felt redundant to add.

"I think I can handle some more Energon." Or rather, he just wanted more time away from the closet and this seemed like a good excuse.

"Will you continue to listen if allowed to remain out so we may take our Energon together, like we did before?" It was a risky gamble, but this orn the rules were out of sorts and Jazz had behaved well thus far. What could it hurt to try?

Jazz gave a yes wing flick as well as a nod, more than happy to comply for the moment if it meant more time out of his cage. Prowl offered a pleased wing flick of his own in return before indicating Jazz should follow him again. He lead them then to the small dining table in the kitchen area where they had shared meals on more than a few occasions before Jazz had tried to leave. Out of habit more than anything else, Prowl continued to a cabinet to collect an Energon cube for himself before returning to the table.

True to his word, Jazz behaved, following behind Prowl before sitting at the table to wait for Prowl to get his own Energon, and of course give Jazz his cube as well. When Prowl sat, he set his cube down and withdrew the Energon for Jazz, which he then held out in silence. There wasn't much to say so he opted not to say anything at all. The Polyhexian accepted the cube with a quiet, "thank you," waiting for Prowl to start on his own Energon before sipping at his cube.

They were both nearly done before Prowl spoke. "If you'd like, we can visit the Crystal Gardens again," he offered. "Perhaps even sometime soon. You were interested in hearing the crystals sing still, weren't you?"

Jazz just stared for a moment, trying to figure out if he had heard the other correctly. "Like, leave the house for a while?"

"In a while, yes." Prowl was careful with his wording. "When you're able to move around in public without inciting anyone's ire."

Jazz's wings drooped momentarily. "So never," he pointed out curtly, figuring that was a better reply than to explain in angry detail how he would never manage that because he didn't want anything to do with Praxian society.

"Not never, no," Prowl attempted to correct him, but utterly missing the cause of that statement. "It will only require that you put in the effort to learn. You've already proven yourself quite capable of learning quickly."

"When I care to learn the subject, yeah," he agreed, hoping to guide Prowl to his main point.

"Then why not apply yourself to this? It would save us a lot of hardships brought on by your refusal to even try."

"I think the hardship is being brought on because you won't even try understanding that I am completely uninterested in any of this. I ain't putting effort into this life 'cuz I ain't gonna be stuck here forever." He watched their strange stalemate crumble with every word, knowing the only place to go from here was to an argument that would lead him to be locked up again. Wash, rinse, repeat.

"You were more than interested in learning everything when you first arrived," Prowl countered. It was mildly infuriating how difficult Jazz always had to make any situation. And just as they seemed to be making progress too. "Why go back on that interest now? Just because it's not the same as Iacon? Weren't you sent here in order to learn those differences?"

"My job is over, I'm done. I don't care anymore!" He was becoming frustrated with everything, but tried to keep his cool. "I was just doin' my job, an' then I was gonna go home. I never wanted any of this!"

"This topic is over."

Prowl could even see the strain Jazz was under, trying to keep from being a problem and so he decided to remedy the situation. It was a valiant effort compared to their past interactions, and while not worth rewarding him because he was looking to fight, Prowl didn't have to let him continue until it caused one.

"I have case files to study now," he stated on a complete topic switch as he stood. "Can you behave or do you need to be locked up again?"

"You really don't get it do you?" There was actual amazement in his voice at how good Prowl was at ignoring Jazz every time he pointed out his side of the conflict.

Prowl exvented. This was unlikely to end well. "Exactly what is it that I supposedly don't understand?"

"Every time I point out that I don't belong here, that I don't wanna be here, that I don't wanna be your mate or slave or pet or whatever you consider me, you just ignore it." Jazz stood up as well, as though making a show of his unwillingness to back down.

"I don't acknowledge it because you continue to ignore the fact that you are now legally bound here. To this city-state, to my home, even to me." The Enforcer simply met the other's glare with a cold one of his own. "That is the law and there is nothing you or I or anyone could do to change it."

"Just because its a law doesn't mean it's right! Just take me back to Iacon, we can go our separate ways an' I'll never come back to Praxus." He had a begging tone to his voice, as if he actually believed Prowl might consider it, even if he knew better logically.

"It might not fit your narrow definition of 'right', but our laws have been in place, unchanged, since Praxus's conception and we are the only city-state where crime is nearly non-existent. Change one law and others follow and soon we would fall into the same chaos that governs the rest of the planet."

"I would rather live in that chaos than this pit. No matter how much ya pretty it up, rust is still rust!" he snarled, both sensor panels and temper flaring.

Seeming to disregard Jazz's sudden flare of temper, Prowl calmly walked around the table towards him. He had tried the intellectual route to make his mate see reason, but as that had failed he would have to resort to less reasonable methods.

Jazz leapt away from the approaching mech, not wanting to allow the officer too close for fear of what he might do.

"Don't touch me!" he hissed, backing away from the other like a frightened animal.

"Then return to the training room," Prowl offered as he continued moving closer. Jazz was unlikely to comply, but he could try.

"Frag you!" Jazz had managed to corner himself, but that didn't stop him from giving a warning engine rev to say that he would attack if Prowl got any closer.

Prowl paused. "I gave you your alternatives," he continued, still eerily calm. "You chose not to behave so now you need to return to your punishment. This is your last chance to return on your own before you force me into action."

Jazz dropped his wings down in a submissive gesture, slowly moving around Prowl as if he was going to go back to his closet. When he got close enough, he pounced again, this time sinking his teeth into the Praxian as he attacked.

Even anticipating a potential attack, the attempted bite startled the Enforcer long enough that Jazz actually did manage to draw Energon. As soon as Prowl focused enough to assess the situation, however, he sent the stasis code to Jazz's collar and down he went. Prowl then left Jazz on the floor as he went to check on the damage. It was bad enough that he sent a comm to Triage before returning to deal with Jazz. Enough was enough. He'd tried kind methods with no lasting results, now it was time to get serious.

~

An indeterminable time later, Jazz would awaken strung up in every way again. Wrists cuffed together and chained to the wall above his helm, Energon line reinstalled, leash tightened and hooked on the same hook, legs spread and pedes cuffed to the floor. This time though, Prowl wouldn't be back to check on him until several more orn had passed.

Chapter Text

Jazz wasn't surprised at the situation he onlined to. He still went through the motions of finding out just how little room he had to work with, though, before giving up and trying to force himself back into recharge. There was nothing he could so until Prowl came back to dole out punishment.

When Prowl did finally return, it was with a brilliant flare of light filling the room to the point of blinding any optics trying to see. With his own switched off, Prowl used the data from his sensor wings to navigate his way in front of Jazz.

Jazz made a pained noise as he was half blinded. To say it was unexpected was the understatement of the vorn. He shuttered his own optics soon after, giving a hiss of dissatisfaction.

"So you're online," Prowl stated coldly. "Good. It's long past time you learn your place and your lessons begin now."

"Think yer just gonna beat me till I give up?" Jazz accused more than asked. "You will lose."

There was a crackle of energy as something activated and then Prowl struck, catching the top of one of Jazz's legs with the end of an electro-whip. "Rule one; you do not speak unless spoken to or otherwise given permission."

The Polyhexian cried out, onlining his optics to find out what was going on, only to be met with more pain from the blinding light. His next instinct was to curl in on himself to try and protect himself, but his restraints kept him from moving nearly at all.

"Rule two," Prowl continued. "You are always to minimize your presence, in every situation, unless otherwise stated."

Jazz found enough in him to growl at his captor, unable to defend himself the only other thing he could think to do was lash out. "Frag yer rules!"

Another strike, this one across the abdomen. "Above all, you will always listen to your mate. And right now you are to shut up and listen."

Jazz cried out again as he was struck. It felt as though his frame had been set on fire, warnings popping up one after another. "We are… not… mates!" he struggled to get out, vocalizer hitching in pain.

A third strike, across the abdomen again, and then another. Each blow hit a new section of plating, spreading the pain further. "I did not say you could speak."

Jazz's cries turned to piercing screams at every hit his frame had to endure. Eventually, though, he stopped making any noises, frame becoming very still. When the Polyhexian finally passed out was when Prowl left. There had been no progress so he kept the light on as he shut the door. Let Jazz try and get accustomed to that as he likely had the dark.

~

By the time Jazz onlined again he wished he hadn't been able to. His frame was still in searing pain where the electro-whip had bit into him, and he still couldn't risk onlining his optics due to the harsh light. The Pit seemed like it would have been a nicer place than this cage of torment.

The door opened again a short time later, not that Jazz could see it. There was no missing the voice that addressed him, however. "Are you ready for another lesson? Or shall we see how much you remember of the previous one first?"

Jazz winced at the voice, which only served to hurt himself further. He didn't say anything, hoping that somehow Prowl would just go away and leave him to his misery.

This time the punishment was being poked with a shock baton. For now it was set low enough to only hurt, not injure. And Prowl made sure to touch it to an uninjured section of plating.

"I asked you a question, now answer."

Jazz gave a fearful whine before finally speaking. "Please, please don't do this," he begged, not ready for another round of pain.

"That's not an acceptable answer." Another jab with the baton, in the same place. "Answer my question or you will suffer."

"Please don't!" Jazz begged again in between whimpers. "I... I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

Prowl increased the voltage slightly and pressed the end of the baton to some of the plating bearing marks from the electro-whip. Jazz would either give an acceptable answer or suffer.

The Polyhexian cried out at the pain once more, processor scrambling to come up with some kind of answer that would appease his torturer. "Lesson," he tried, that being the only thing he could remember of what Prowl had said.

"Please, please, stop. Please…" he went into a nearly silent mantra of 'please' just to try to appease the Enforcer.

"Unacceptable," Prowl commented after this had gone on for a few kliks. Moving the baton, he touched it to one of Jazz's wings next.

Jazz screamed until his vocalizer staticked out and only nanokliks later his frame stilled again, the pain getting to be too much for his processor. Prowl left then, turning the light off this time. Let Jazz make of that whatever he would. It was nearing the time he had to recharge for work, so Prowl set about to that.

~

A few days later, Prowl returned. He allowed the light to remain off for the time being but carried the baton again. "I know you're online."

The only sign of life Jazz gave was a small whimper at the other's voice.

"Are you going to listen and behave this orn or will I have to continue teaching you why you should?"

"Please don't. Please, please, please..." He was back to that mantra, as though somehow it would convince Prowl to be lenient with his punishment this time.

"I asked you a question," Prowl stated, hitting Jazz's plating once with the baton turned off. "Answer the question or suffer."

Jazz barely recognized the other's words beyond his own pleading. "I'll behave! I'll behave!" he promised before going back to pleading with the Enforcer not to hurt him further.

"If that's the case," Prowl accepted for the time being, "then remain silent."

He cut himself off in the middle of a word, trying his best to avoid further torture from the Praxian.

"That's better. Now," Prowl pulled the baton back from Jazz's frame but kept it ready still. "Recite what you know of Praxus law."

The Polyhexian let out a strangled sob, processor whirling far too fast for him to remember even a word of Praxian laws. "Please, please, please," he did the only thing he could think of and went back to begging Prowl not to hurt him, frame shaking in pain and fear.

"You have one more chance to try," the Enforcer warned. "If you fail to provide an acceptable answer you will be punished." The last was punctuated by the baton crackling to life.

At the sound of electrical current Jazz switched up his mantra from 'please...' to 'I don't know! I don't know!' trying to excuse himself without the need for punishment.

"So you know nothing?" Prowl asked.

At that point Jazz didn't know what he was supposed to say to keep from being hurt again. His confusion, fear and pain welled up into another sob as he again tried to curl in on himself, wanting to just disappear or wake up for this nightmare, or anything else than have to ever look at Prowl again.

"Answer me!" Prowl ordered, although he held off on hitting Jazz again quite yet.

"I don't know! I don't know!" His spark felt like it was being suffocated in fear even as he desperately searched for whatever answer he could give to appease the officer.

"Please, I can't... I can't take it. Hurts too much… I'll do anything, just please stop!"

"Be silent and listen carefully. You do not want to make me need to repeat myself."

Jazz gave one last whimper before going as silent as possible. Prowl then began listing the Praxian laws in the order of importance as Jazz would need to know. The process took nearly a joor and when he was finished, the Praxian demanded Jazz repeat the laws back to him.

In a shaky voice Jazz attempted to repeat everything Prowl had just said, praying that he would do a good enough job to appease his captor. The rendition was far from perfect, but Jazz managed to hit most of the most important laws and rules. It was worth a slight reward.

"Open up," Prowl ordered as he pulled an Energon cube of unusual color from his subspace. It was medical grade, part of a stash procured from Triage with almost no questions asked.

Jazz responded immediately to Prowl's orders, taking in the Energon as quickly as he was allowed, grateful for this reprieve from torture. When Jazz finished, Prowl left without another word.

~

Two orn later, Prowl was back. He entered silently, waiting to see how long it would take Jazz to notice him. It didn't take long for Jazz to notice the Praxian's presence. He tried to minimize himself as best he could, though, as if it would direct Prowl's attention away from him.

"Forgetting the rules already?" Prowl questioned, stalking forward. "You are to always acknowledge your mate, as such." He made the appropriate gesture with his sensor wings, knowing Jazz would be able to track it even if he wasn't looking. Jazz quickly followed suit, desperate to do anything to keep from being harmed again.

"Good. Now shall we go through the law again? Your previous attempt was imperfect and that's unacceptable for an Enforcer's mate."

Some small part of Jazz's processor protested that he never wanted to be Prowl's mate in the first place, but the threat of more pain kept that quiet as he made one more attempt to recite the laws as well as he could remember. This attempt wasn't much better than the last, but Jazz was clearly desperate to do his best and that determination was worth more now than an impeccable memory. He could and would learn the law by spark, of that Prowl would make sure, but the drive to please wasn't a teachable skill.

When Jazz finished, Prowl moved them along. "Now that you understand the basics, here is how social situations work…"

~

Jazz adapted quickly enough to save himself from unnecessary torment and, after at least a few decaorn had passed since Prowl began his more volatile teaching methods, he had actually learned and could recite all of the rules, laws, and regulations his captor sought to teach him. He still cringed in fear every time the Praxian opened the door though.

Chapter Text

"Triage! What happened?"

It was rare that Derby was home when her mate wasn't, but she was on a short leave after a recent Kaon trip. Those delegations were always trying so the bots sent received time to readjust and come down from the perpetual combat mode mentality. Derby had already settled this time, but had been enjoying the remainder of her paid vacation time with her mate when the medic femme came home in muted distress.

At her mate's questioning, Triage quickly burrowed herself in Derby's arms. Her mate and protector had always been the best comfort, regardless of the situation. This situation might be more than she wanted to share though. Only hesitantly did the medic eventually answer.

"I filled a request for a supply of medical-grade today."

"You've done that before," Derby replied, confused. "Why is this time any different?"

"Because normally the patient is the one bringing in the request."

Well that made more sense. Once she thought about it anyway. Legally one could make requests for anyone considered 'under their care' and in this case there were only two applicable instances. A creator looking for their youngling's treatment was out; medical grade was prescribed for sustained periods of low health, sick creations would simply receive the appropriate cure. Therefore, it had to be someone looking into care of their mate, and Triage only dealt with one mech who fit that description.

"Prowl." It was a statement, rather than a question, but Triage gave the affirmative wing gesture as she hid her helm again. "You're worried what he has planned for his mech, aren't you? Jazz was it?"

Triage's sensor panels moved in the affirmative once more even though there was no need. Her mate was clever and always reached the right conclusion on her own.

There was silence for a couple kliks as Derby decided how to proceed. Eventually though, she made her choice. "Are you so sure you should continue dealing with them, or must I speak with him about distressing you?"

Triage's wing panels flicked back in shock momentarily before she regained her composure. "It's not that bad, really." The medic's tone wasn't pleading, but it might have been close. "He… I just… He says it's time to start proper training."

Derby ran a servo down along her mate's quivering wings until they calmed. Triage surprised her by speaking first though. "It's not fair. Jazz won't survive that because he won't listen and I already like him."

"You never know," Derby started in response, "maybe he'll surprise us all."

Triage cuddled closer to her mate as she immediately replied. "I hope so."

~-MEANWHILE, IN IACON-~

"Whadda ya mean 'there's no record a' him'? I know this is the place 'e works for."

"It's as I said, sir." The tone of the mech behind the glass was less than kind on that last word. They had spent 20 kliks talking already and he needed to move this mech along. "There is no record of any 'Jazz' in our database. Neither from Polyhex nor Iacon. If this mech claimed to work here, then he must have lied."

"Jazz didn't lie!" The red and yellow mech was having a hard time keeping his voice down as he argued with the other. "Look, I got a really distressin' com from him an' I need ta know what's goin' on, so can ya help me, please?"

"I'm sorry, but unless you can provide any sort of verification datawork, which I am most certain you can not as it does not exist," the secretary mech's tone was blatant condescending now, "then I can't release any information to you. Even if he did work here as you claim he does, I would still need the appropriate proof you are even a contact.

"Now, are you going to leave peacefully or do I need to summon security to remove you?"

The visitor seemed ready to argue further before suddenly dropping back, albeit reluctantly. "Fine. Ah can tell when I ain't gonna learn anything. Ya don't gotta call nobody. I'm leavin'."

"You do that." The receptionist gave a curt nod and indicated in the direction of the exit. His optics never left the other mech until the door had closed behind him, ready to page security anyway just in case he should try something. His last thought on the matter was a resounding 'good riddance.'

~~

Blaster didn't stop until he'd rounded the end of the block. Only then did he pause to locate the nearest alley before making his way to it as discreetly as possible. Once sheltered from prying optics, he stopped and opened his chest compartment.

Almost immediately a dark shape shot out several feet before it shifted and transformed into a dark blue micro-bot with some yellow highlights along his chestplating. "What'cha need, boss?"

"Ya heard all'a that?" Blaster asked of his symbiote.

A nod was his response.

"Good. There's somethin' suspicious goin' on 'bout that place and we gotta find out what."

"D'ya want me to focus on finding Jazz, or jus' what's weird?"

Blaster hesitated. Jazz was his dearest friend, nearly family, but just looking for him might make them miss something important. In the end there was only one choice to make. "Get me what ya can ta help me find 'im or why 'e don' exist in their system, but don't risk yerself any more lookin'. I don' want'cha gettin' hurt needlessly."

There was a pang of sadness through the bond, echoed by the host mech but Eject's answer was casual cheerful. "Read ya loud an' clear."

Blaster nodded, giving an accompanying pulse of love and support to his symbiote. Eject scrambled off after returning it to begin his search. The host mech watched until a klik after his youngling had vanished, and then headed back to the street himself. It was time to get back to the other kids. Eject could handle this alone.

At least that's what he kept repeating to try and reassure himself.

Chapter Text

Several metacycles had passed since Jazz's initial arrival in Praxus when Prowl finally decided he had learned well enough to be given another chance with some freedoms. He entered the training room with his usual silence, but there was an expectant air about him this time.

After his initial cringe, Jazz moved on to greet Prowl with the usual wing gesture, not daring to say anything until he was told to do so. Something felt very off, and it was worrying him to no end. Was there going to be more punishment? Had he messed something up?

"How do you feel your training has been going?" Prowl asked once he had confirmation his mate was listening.

"I've learned a lot… master." He almost choked on the last word, not wanting to give Prowl that satisfaction, but also not wanting to bring more pain upon himself.

"You have been doing well," the Praxian agreed, giving a simple flick of his wings to indicate he was speaking honestly. "So I was thinking of offering you a treat. But first... How would you like the chance to get out of this room?"

The question went unanswered for a few moments while Jazz gauged the possible threat level of his answer before finally responding. "Yes sir." Even if it was just long enough to crumple into a pile in a corner and offline, anything seemed better than his current predicament.

A wing flick of 'acknowledgement/acceptance' and then Prowl stepped forward. Reaching up, he sent the code to free Jazz's servos from the cuffs for the first time since the room had been rebuilt. Next the leash was unhooked and allowed to spool back into the collar. Prowl then guided Jazz's helm to tilt forward so he could free the Energon line before moving down to release the last of the restraints. Once that was completed, he stepped back to examine Jazz before turning and exiting with a 'follow' wing twitch.

With everything that Jazz had been through his first few steps were wobbly and uncertain. He wasn't even surprised that after barely making it out of the training room he collapsed. His processor was still swimming and his frame still ached, but all he could focus on was trying to stand again so he wouldn't have to be punished for this transgression.

Prowl was quickly into the next room but returned to see what was keeping his mate. Upon finding Jazz struggling to rise, he left the berthroom once more to collect a cube of medical Energon. He didn’t have many left, but if this was Jazz's condition then he needed one for certain.

Jazz was still trying to right himself when he returned, so Prowl stepped forward and helped him until he was perched on the edge of the berth. The Energon had vanished into his subspace and now he retrieved it to offer to his mate.

Jazz allowed himself to be led by the Praxian, accepting the cube without complaint before downing it all in one go. His tanks roiled at the sudden intrusion but he managed to keep it all down, inadvertently curling closer to Prowl, who held him close as he curled up. Gently, Prowl began rubbing Jazz's back between the hinges of his sensor wings, trying to offer what comfort he could. Though he considered saying something, he couldn't determine anything that seemed applicable and so stayed quiet. Hopefully silent comfort was enough for Jazz.

Jazz was fading in and out of reality enough to only focus on the comfort and not who was giving it. He allowed himself to melt into the touch and eventually recharge claimed him, his frame still too battered and weak to hold consciousness for long.

Jazz had been out for a few kliks before Prowl noticed, but when he did the Praxian moved carefully. As delicately as he could, Prowl shifted Jazz to lay completely on the berth, being extra careful to make sure that his wings would be safe unless he tried to roll over. When he finally had his mate situated nicely, Prowl then pulled the opposite end of the blanket over and partially covered Jazz with it. That done, he exited the room, shut the door and moved onto a different task as he waited for Jazz to wake.

~~

Jazz was, once again, unsurprised to wake to a strange situation. He was, however, surprised that the strangeness came from a source of comfort instead of pain.

He sought out to comfort himself more by wrapping himself tightly in the blanket, looking around to make sure he was alone before hiding himself fully. He then cried into the blanket, mourning the loss of his life, freedoms, friends, future and anything else he could think of. He cried in fear of what the future held, and he cried for how much pain he had already dealt with and how much he would still be expected to face. He allowed himself to shatter completely under the false safety of that blanket.

And that was how Prowl found him joors later; wrapped so well in the blanket that neither wire nor fuse could be seen of his frame. If not for the indistinct mass of blanket, there would be no locating Jazz at all.

Stepping beside the portion of blanket closest to an edge of the berth while also hiding his mate, Prowl called out softly. "Jazz?"

It took some time for Jazz to finally crawl out of the blanket enough to poke his helm out, trying to judge whether he was in further danger or not. He struggled to find any sort of affirmation that wouldn't risk upsetting Prowl and finally just settled on a 'hm?' of questioning, trying to mute all of his emotions as best he could.

"I realize how amazing it must feel at this point," Prowl began. "But you need to separate yourself from that blanket. It is time to recharge and you are not going to spend the night as a ball of berth coverings."

Jazz faltered visibly at his tormentor's request. This was the first nice thing he'd had in a very long time, and now it was going to be taken away too. He slowly uncoiled himself from his safety nest, frame beginning to shiver again in fear. His glance went from Prowl to the floor, not having enough will to hold his helm up as he slid off the berth to stand near the Praxian.

"Just where do you think you're going?" Prowl questioned as Jazz left the berth entirely. That he didn't go far was good but still, there had been nothing in his statement telling Jazz to move even that much.

Jazz's wings dropped in fear. He didn't even know what he had done wrong! He was frantic to fix this alleged slight, but had no way of knowing how to do so.

"I don't know," he admitted finally.

One of Prowl's servos came up to Jazz's helm, guiding him to tilt up until their optics met. "Remain properly respectful and you may always question an order if you do not understand how to carry it out." Hopefully it would be enough to combat the recent spike in stress he was noticing from his mate.

Without waiting for a response, Prowl continued. "For tonight, we are going to try and see if you can remain unchained throughout the night cycle. Succeed and you will only ever see the inside of the training room again in punishment."

"Yes sir," Jazz ventured, wanting so bad to be free of his cell, but not wanting to overstep any bounds and be punished again.

"Good then," Prowl said with a wing flick of approval. "Now before we settle in, how are your energy levels? Will you last until morning or should you take some Energon before recharging?"

"I'm fine," he replied, hoping he could spare what little dignity he had left and not have to say 'sir' or 'master' after every sentence he was expected to speak.

Another flick of his sensor panels, an acceptance this time, and Prowl made to climb onto the berth. As he did so, he paused to offer Jazz permission as well. "You may join me," he said simply.

Jazz waited until Prowl had claimed his spot on the berth before joining him, trying to take as little room as possible.

"Recharge well." It was the last thing Prowl intended to say before letting himself fall into recharge for the night cycle.

Jazz, however, spent the entire night nearly overclocking his processor in thoughts and worries. All of the previous comfort the berth and blankets offered had been negated by the presence of his torturer in the same berth as him, now the room felt as cold and unforgiving as his prison.

Chapter Text

The next morning Prowl onlined slowly, making sure to completely analyze his surroundings before moving. One near attempt at wrecking his mate was more than enough, and Jazz certainly wasn't in much of a condition to handle further damage well. Given that, he wanted to make sure he knew exactly where the other was, and how, before making any movements.

Jazz had managed to curl in on himself during the night, having shifted towards the end of the berth. The light recharge he had managed to slip into was interrupted when Prowl shifted, and he uncurled himself to look at the other, waiting expectantly for Prowl to tell him what to do next.

"Good morning, Jazz." The Enforcer offered the greeting with a wing flick of ‘greeting/acknowledgement' as he sat up. "Did you rest well?"

Jazz gave the return gesture, before nodding an answer to his question. It wouldn't do him any good to complain, so a lie would suffice just as well.

Prowl accepted his answer easily. "Would you like some Energon or would you prefer a chance to clean up first?"

"Energon would be fine, sir. Would you like me to go get some for us?" Even his voice held a cautious tone to it as he slowly felt out his boundaries.

Prowl's wings flicked in pleasant surprise. "If you feel capable of accomplishing such a task, then you may. Nothing has changed but there is now some medical grade Energon in the third cabinet if your levels are below 50%."

Jazz gave an affirmative wing flick before heading out for the Energon. He paused for just a moment, staring at the front door. The rebellion he'd held so close for so long crumbled from his spark and he was left with nothing. A vast, empty nothing...

He turned away and began the task of collecting Energon before returning to the berth room. By the time he returned, Prowl was standing and just finishing up stretching. His wings were still flared out but he settled them as he noticed Jazz enter. "That was quicker than I expected," the officer praised as he beckoned his mate closer.

Jazz closed the distance between them to hand Prowl his Energon, waiting for the other's approval before sipping at his own. Everything since he had re-emerged from his prison felt so surreal, as though he had offlined from the torture but wasn't aware of his own fading yet.

"Sit," Prowl directed Jazz as he did so himself, unaware of the other's present mental state. He waited until Jazz had listened before continuing. "If you feel capable, we have a few tasks to complete around the city soon. A couple involve you and a few others I simply want you present for."

It was as though the Praxian was speaking an entirely different language than him. He understood that there were words, and that it ended in a questioning tone, but none of it felt real. Still Jazz flicked his wings in an affirmative response, guessing that was what he was supposed to do. He wasn't even aware that he had sat down, but apparently that was the right move too.

Prowl continued speaking, moving on to explaining what they would need to complete when they did go out. Nothing overly complicated, just a few errands to serve a dual purpose of showing Jazz where the nearest or best stores were located. Before they could worry about that, however, they had to get Jazz cleaned up. His time in the training room had been extensive and even now his frame still bore some crusted on Energon from injuries that had already healed. So, when they finished their meal, Prowl led Jazz to the wash rack to clean up properly.

The Polyhexian followed behind, waiting for the ok before beginning the motions of cleaning his frame. He didn't bother to notice if Prowl stayed in the room or not.

A few kliks into Jazz cleaning himself, Prowl stepped forward with a cloth to assist with his wings. "Is the cleanser you chose last time still your preference or do you want another this time?"

Jazz answered by handing over the previously chosen cleanser once more, no need to attach the scent or feel of any others to any of these memories.

Prowl accepted it readily enough and set to work carefully cleaning the delicate sensor panels. The silence was unusual but not unpleasant and just having his mate allow him so close without a fight was a very nice change. If that was the trade-off then he was certain he could easily adjust.

It took several kliks of cautious effort before he was willing to consider the task complete. When he did though, Prowl stepped back. "Would you like assistance reaching any other areas on your frame?"

Jazz gave a 'no' wing twitch, already mostly finished with cleaning the other parts of his frame.

He finished up and turned the water off, stepping back over to Prowl for the other to assist in drying him. He skipped the usual step of shaking the water from his frame, most of his previous playfulness drained from him alongside his rebellious nature.

Prowl immediately began helping, only retroactively noticing Jazz hadn't performed his unusual act of last time. It wasn't categorized as anything important however, or at least nothing more than another sign of past rebellion now ceased.

When they finished, Prowl had Jazz turn away and flare his wings as he reached into his subspace. Out came a small container of paint, the kind for touch up work or detailing, and a larger brush than would normally be used with it. Prowl gave instructions as he opened it and dipped the brush. "Don't move. This may feel unusual but it is necessary if you are ever to go out in public."

For a moment Jazz contemplated peering behind him just to see what was going on, but soon his own processor reminded him that it really didn't matter what was happening because he was no longer in control of even his own frame. Instead, he tried to focus on something other than the odd tickling on his sensor panels to keep from twitching them.

Prowl was careful but quick in his work, using long strokes where he could and rapid shorter ones where he couldn't. The process took less than a klik and when he finished there was a pair of identical glyphs, one on either wing. Right now they were only a plain black, but that could be fixed in the near future. Each glyph was the fullest version of Prowl's designation, including his current rank in both work and society, as his mate was expected to wear. It was a sign of who one belonged to, and who another would have to compensate should anything be done to the wearer of such marks.

"And done," Prowl stated as he stepped back. "Would you like to see?"

When he was finally allowed to, Jazz gave a few rapid wing twitches, just to try to alleviate the lingering sensations. He turned to stare at his captor for a few nanokliks, deciding how much effort he would be required to put into pretending he cared what the other had done to his frame. Eventually he decided on just giving a nod.

At Jazz's response, Prowl moved them to a yet unvisited corner of the room. A touch to part of the wall and two sections slid away and out, forming into an almost enclosed space with mirrors along the entirety of the inside. For winged frame types, such constructs were the only way to completely view one's own frame, and thus a standard feature in Praxus as well as Vos.

It was almost frightening when Jazz stepped inside. Seeing his own frame after everything that had happened. Seeing the sensor panels for the first time. Seeing the small lines of damage still present on his frame from the abuse he had suffered. Seeing his optics reflecting how dull and blank he felt inside. It was like looking at a data ghost projection of an offlined bot. An empty hologram of what had once been.

The rusted remains of what had once been emotions dusted his spark temporarily in sadness and pain.

"What do you think?" Prowl asked from where he stood in the small gap between the outer two panels. "We will be visiting a detailing shop soon to fix your paint. If there's any particular color you'd like to wear you should say so before we arrive."

His spark dropped a bit further at the realization that soon enough he wouldn't even be able to recognize himself. "I like my current colors," he tried, keeping his voice quiet enough to not seem antagonistic about the subject.

"The black will have to become a dark gray but the white may be able to remain," Prowl compromised. "Too much contrast will make you stick out and that could cause you trouble."

Another nod, it wasn't as though he could do anything to protest whatever Prowl wanted to do to him anyway.

"Were you feeling up to a trip out?" The question was asked casually. The answer didn't matter either way except for determining their plans.

He gave a wing flick of acceptance.

Prowl accepted that with a flick of his own. "Shall we go then?" he offered as he stepped away to close the mirrors off again. "It is nearly mid-orn but we can stop for Energon while we are out."

Jazz simply followed after, gaze downcast slightly. "Yes sir."

Their first stop was the detailing shop Prowl had mentioned. They had to walk, as Jazz still had a disabled t-cog, and along the way, Prowl pointed out relevant shops that they would visit frequently or Jazz might need to know existed. Otherwise the trip was uneventful and they arrived in under an joor. Prowl spent a few kliks discussing the repaint options with the shop's artist before they came to an agreement and then he left Jazz to visit the specialty shop next door.

The Polyhexian didn't say much as he was being repainted. He did however, go through the motions to fake interest when the artist was finished and offering him a glance at the work that had been done. He tilted his helm slightly at the bot in the mirror, who did the same in unison. The changes weren't overt but it still wasn't him anymore. Jazz had offlined in the training room. It was almost a consolation. Prowl would never win because he could never have Jazz, just his frame and a drone-like response system to serve as a personality.

Prowl returned approximately half a joor later to see the results. In the end, he'd been forced to accept a light gray in place of the white as well as replacing the black. It wasn't a situation he liked but there had been no better options. Hopefully the treat he'd left to collect would help console his mate for the loss.

When Jazz was led out to him, the Enforcer had to fight down a wave of disappointment. The new color scheme just didn't suit him as well as his original had. Unfortunately there was nothing to be done about it and none of the blame was on Jazz so he need not know that Prowl disliked his repaint. The only consolation of the new look was how striking and visible his glyph was across Jazz's wings. The artist had suggested red as a strong contrast to the grays, and a match to Prowl's own most vibrant color in his chevron. It had been a good choice, Prowl had to agree now although he'd been reluctant at first.

After his visual examination, Prowl beckoned Jazz to him with both a wing gesture and vocally. "Come here, I have a gift for you."

Without hesitation Jazz moved to stand in front of the Enforcer, everything about him completely expressionless and complacent.

"Offline your optics." The order was spoken lightly, but there was still a note of command in Prowl's tone. Jazz followed the order almost immediately and Prowl reached into his subspace for Jazz's treat. What he pulled out was a clear crystalline visor, which he carefully guided over his mate's optics. "You can online them now."

Jazz was surprised enough to take the visor off to inspect it. It was a very unexpected gesture from Prowl, enough so as to catch him off guard. He replaced the visor before offering a sincere, "thank you."

Prowl responded with a 'welcomed' wing flick. "It comes with a moderate color shift function too. Once it's integrated with your system you'll be able to change the outer edge solid white with just a thought."

Even if it wasn't the same tint he had been used to before, just having the weight of a visor back was a comfort.

"Does this mean I'll never see the blue visor again?" Jazz knew better than to call it his blue visor, but that's how he would always think of it.

"There is no need to draw attention to yourself with such an item," Prowl explained. "Even the white is only to be used to prevent outsiders from viewing your optics."

Jazz knew better than to get his hopes up, so why did it still sting knowing his visor was gone for good? Regardless, he just nodded before waiting for Prowl's next orders.

Those orders turned out to be having Jazz remain there while he paid. After that they headed out, turning down the block in the opposite way they'd come from. Prowl next led them to a small cafe a few blocks away. Their server only addressed Prowl as he showed the pair to a table, leaving them to look over the menu shortly after. Only then did Prowl turn to Jazz again. "Do you know what you want?"

It was a choice between which would be least horrible, and none of the options were looking good. "I would prefer to leave the choice to you," Jazz stated simply. He doubted there was any good choice anyway.

An accepting wing flick and Prowl went to look through the menu. He settled, after a couple kliks, on something more classic Praxian for himself and a Vosnian inspired treat for Jazz. It was described as bearing one of the lighter flavor choices that Seekers prefer, topped with a mostly sweet foam. When their server returned a short while later, Prowl bid him their order and it was only a few kliks later that the Energon arrived. Upon receiving them, Prowl offered Jazz his cube before claiming his own.

"How do you like it?" the Enforcer asked when Jazz took a sip.

Jazz flicked his wings in appreciation. "Tastes good."

It was weird seeing this Prowl again, the one who had been kind and helpful to him before. That was just a trick to lure him in though, right? Prowl had no need to be kind to him now that he was collared and had no way of escaping. Maybe it was just a public persona thing. It wouldn't look good for an Enforcer to beat their mate in public.

Prowl responded with another pleased wing flick. "I'm glad you think so." There was a short pause as he drank some of his Energon and then the officer continued to a new topic. "Would you like to visit the Crystal Gardens again? We have enough time if we catch a transport."

The grey Polyhexian stared at his energon as he contemplated it. "You certainly are going out of your way to treat me today, sir." His tone suggested more that it was a question of 'why' rather than just a statement. "But I don't wanna reject such a generous offer."

"You deserve only the best for doing so well with your training." The answer was simple and not entirely honest, but overly praising one's mate was frowned upon so he had to condense his reasoning. "Such things may become standards in your life even, if you continue to excel as you have been."

As though any of these 'treats' made up for what had been stolen from him. "I will strive to do my best, sir." Yes, his best at doing nothing at all. Just nod and wing flick and keep your helm down at all times. What a life.

It was an acceptable answer and they finished out their meal in silence. When they were done, the pair left and boarded an intracity transport headed in the appropriate direction. The ride was taken in silence but soon enough they had arrived at the Gardens and disembarked. This time security waved them through with barely a glance. It was almost amazing what a pair of wings could do for a bot in the city…

Jazz decided that it would be for the best not to continue with those thoughts and followed after the officer hastily upon noticing he'd gotten lost in his thoughts a bit.

Prowl led them through the crystal sculptures at a sedate pace until they came to a familiar site. "Singing Crystals" the sign proclaimed and the officer stopped before the entrance. There was no one else within and he bid Jazz enter alone. "Your first experience is best done solo."

With a wing twitch of acknowledgement Jazz proceeded into the room. It was just as he remembered from before. Crystals of every color and various sizes, woven masterfully around one another to make the Praxian instrument, as well as various crystals lining the walls to resonate the sound through the whole room. The music was a low hum, soothing and deep with perfectly timed fluctuations. The song itself felt bittersweet, although it could have just been the sacrifices he had to go through to finally get this chance reflecting in the crystals' hum.

 

Hearing and feeling the odd music was one thing, but it gave Jazz an itch to create. To find out what it took to bring a voice to a crystal and weave his own melody.

Prowl, for his part, remained outside the structure. As long as Jazz came out before the park was set to close then he was allowed to enjoy the melody for as long as he chose. The Enforcer was already anticipating their entire visit this time would be here. Music was certainly a core value for Jazz and these exhibits were the best Praxus had to offer.

The visored mech quickly lost track of time, possibly because of his unusable chronometer, but more likely because of his wide-opticed fascination with the melody of the crystals. Eventually though he snapped out of his daze, realizing that Prowl might get angry at him if he took too long. With reluctance, Jazz turned and left the room, returning to his captor like any well trained Sub' would be expected to do.

Prowl was mildly surprised to see Jazz emerge when he did and it showed in a flutter of his sensor panels. "You're done already?" he asked lightly. "There's still a half-joor before we're required to leave."

"I didn't want to waste your time," he explained. "And if I spent too much more time there I might not be able to stop myself from touching one." It was a bit more honesty than he had meant to share so he tried to lighten it by adding, "I wish I could have access to a crystal for a chance to help it sing too."

"Contact is not forbidden," Prowl shared, "so long as you do not attempt to modify the crystals in any way. As for learning the art of crystals…"

Prowl turned then, flicking a 'follow' order, and took them down a path they hadn't seen yet. As they walked he finished speaking. "There is 'hidden' shop here in the Gardens where you can get a beginner's instruction kit. The location is considered hidden so that younglings who find it feel rewarded when they receive their first kit. All Praxians try growing crystals at some point, and some frequently attempt throughout their existence as the skill is a mix of natural talent and practice."

Jazz followed behind, trying to keep his wings from flicking too much. He was becoming invested in all of this, flickers of emotions returning. "You've done a lot for me already today." Another way of subtly questioning why Prowl was going through all of this trouble for him, was he trying to convince him that he actually cared? A bit late for that.

"No more than you deserve," was the easy reply.

Then the path curved into a massive growth of seemingly wild crystals that intertwined where they towered far above their helms. As they continued, the crystals grew denser on both sides but Prowl kept them moving forward. A few turns and split paths later, they came around a turn and found a dead end. Prowl simply walked towards it though, remaining near the right side wall, and slipped through an essentially invisible opening. The only ways to find it without previous knowledge were through touch or high skill in interpreting sensory input. Only the former was possible for younglings, as proper sensor wings aren’t installed until one’s adult frames.

Beyond the hidden opening was a simple little structure, large enough for only a few bots at a time and a clearing capable of holding only a few more. Presently the area seemed empty, save for a few sounds of movement within the building.

Despite trying to look stoic enough to belong there, Jazz's sensor panels easily gave away his amazement at the Gardens, his wings practically bobbing in curiosity. He only hoped Prowl wasn't paying attention to him through his own sensor panels. He didn't want to be caught accidentally doing something that would get him punished again.

Less than a klik after they entered, the door to the small structure opened and they were greeted by a teal and aqua bot, with wings trimmed in an iridescent but indistinct color. "Hello there! Any first time visitors?"

"My mate here," Prowl replied casually. "It is his first time properly visiting the Gardens and second time ever."

"And he's interested in crystal growing already? It's likely he has the talent."

"That he may," Prowl agreed. "Do you still offer the introductory kit to anyone or is it only for younglings now?"

"Anyone willing," the mech replied. "Especially if they show potential."

He then reached into his subspace as Prowl responded to his comment with an acceptable/pleased sensorwing flick. The unnamed mech quickly retrieved a rather plain box, small enough for an adult to carry in one servo, and crossed the short distance to them. Surprisingly, he looked to Jazz when he held the box out. "Do you swear to look after the contents of this case as if they were sparklings and to treat them and your results to the best of your ability?"

It took Jazz just a moment to recover from the shock of being spoken to directly, but once he absorbed what the Praxian was telling him he gave a distinct nod, as well as 'yes' wing flick. It was easy enough to tell that Praxians valued their crystals, but somehow this felt like he was being given a distinct honor, even if he didn't fully understand all the connotations.

"Thank you, sir," he replied, hoping it was acceptable he speak with this Praxian. He accepted the box, holding on to it for fear he would be committing a social atrocity if he dared do too much.

Prowl gently touched his mate's shoulder as the third mech turned away from them. He'd done his job and now could return to his previous task, vanishing into the structure as the officer began speaking. "It would be best to subspace that for now. You may examine it when we return home. Now, however, it is nearly time for the Gardens to close so we need to leave."

Jazz followed instructions, following the other again as they made their way out. "Thank you… for today." It still felt wrong to thank this mech who caused him so much pain, but he was glad for the opportunity to be out and finally doing things again.

"Of course," Prowl replied. "Whatever I can provide to keep you happy I shall strive to achieve."

They were nearing the exit, however, so there wasn't much chance to speak anymore. Then it was another quiet ride on the transporter to Prowl's residence. Only after their return did Jazz break the silence.

"Would you like me to get us some Energon sir?" It was just another part of playing the Sub' game. But it was a bit worrisome how easy he slipped into being what Prowl expected.

"Only if you feel you need it. I'll be fine, however." Prowl then took a seat on the couch after speaking and pulled a datapad from his subspace to settle in.

Jazz's wings lowered just a little, feeling a bit useless. With the days spoils, though, it was hard to stay in one mood for long. The grey mech soon found a spot on the floor to occupy while he claimed the crystal kit from his subspace, setting about to explore every bit of this new hobby.

Prowl allowed him to explore the crystal kit without distraction until it had gotten late. And even then, the Praxian was careful to request Jazz's attention rather than demand it. Crystals were very delicate and took extreme care to grow properly, especially in the beginning stages. A poorly timed distraction now could ruin the base growth, leading to instability in the entire structure. Even he had tried developing crystals as a youngling, with considerable talent when he could devote enough time to the task, so Prowl knew how precise a process it was.

"Jazz? Whenever you're finished, it is time for recharge."

The crystal hobby thing was nice. A calming escape from the uncertainty that had become his life. Jazz finished his current task before finding a safe place to store his new hobby, then following Prowl to the berth room.

"How are you enjoying your attempt at crystal growing so far?" the Enforcer asked as his mate entered the room. He was already seated on his side of the berth and beckoned the other to join him with a simple sensorwing command.

The Polyhexian waited to reply until he had joined the other on the berth. "I find it relaxing," he admitted, not adding any further details of his thoughts about the hobby.

"Is it something you believe you may like to pursue?" Prowl asked as he settled in on the berth, even pulling the blanket up. "If so, I can invest in further supplies for you."

The visored mech thought about the offer for a moment, not so much thinking over whether he wanted the opportunity or not but why? What was the point in his captor-torturer being so accommodating suddenly? This time though, this time at least he knew enough to be wary of all of it. Whatever Prowl had to gain, he would not be lured in so easily.

"If I actually might have a talent for crystals I wouldn't mind trying."

"Then we'll wait and gauge your progress to see if you are skilled. Even if you are not though, if you wish to continue simple say so."

Jazz gave a nod, not having much else to contribute. He was already exhausted enough from the day, so the only other comment he made was "recharge well, sir," before slowly entering recharge himself.

Chapter Text

Morning came and Prowl onlined to an internal alarm. Slowly he sought to feel out the room with his other senses before moving. If Jazz was anywhere he might not expect then getting up to prepare for work could cause problems. The Polyhexian was still deep in recharge by the time Prowl onlined however. Most nights his frame somehow ended up at the end of the berth, however this orn was different in that sometime during recharge Jazz had tangled himself up with Prowl.

Upon finding Jazz curled up against him, Prowl re-evaluated his morning. Usually he arrived at work up to a couple joor early so there was time to indulge his mate. Thus, he set an alarm for later and turned his full focus to Jazz. Shifting his arms slightly gave Prowl a better angle to gently stroke one of his mate's wings, which he did as he let himself slip back to a resting state. The grey mech shuttered a bit at the contact, but didn't online right away. His frame leaned a bit closer as he sought out further comfort, slowly regaining consciousness. He let himself enjoy the partially-online partially-in-recharge state.

Prowl shifted as Jazz did, moving to accommodate his mate's comfort. He kept up his gentle petting still. This was a nice sensation and he hoped that onlining in such a calm way would encourage Jazz to relax around him again. It was likely to take some time, but this gave him faith it would happen.

For as nice as his onlining was, reality hit hard. He onlined his optics and, upon immediate notice of Prowl, reeled away, his sudden actions bending one of his wings in a way it was not meant to go. Within nanokliks he was at the end of the berth again, whimpering softly.

Prowl came out of his shock at Jazz's sudden retreat to the sound of his mate's whimpers. The source of his pain was obvious, with one of his wings angled higher than they were designed to go. Prowl moved carefully, sitting up, then called out softly. "Jazz? What's wrong?"

The Polyhexian attempted to move even further away at the sound of his torturer's voice, only to then fall off the berth. Thankfully he was online enough to react, preventing any more damage from happening, but it still left him a heap on the floor, unwilling to move. The Enforcer was quickly up and rounding the end of the berth to help him. It was an instinct that he didn't even try to resist. At least, until he got there. "Are you alright, Jazz?"

He knew any further retreat would only harm him more, so instead Jazz just looked up at his captor in wide-opticed panic as Prowl neared.

Prowl knelt down slowly beside Jazz, speaking softly still as he did so. "It's alright, I just want to help. Just let me see and the pain can go away soon."

Torn between wanting the pain to be gone and wanting his torturer gone, Jazz simply didn't move. Instead, he continuing to stare, frightened.

"Jazz?" The lack of response was worrisome, a possible indicator of him falling into shock and that could be dangerous. The Praxian cautiously reached out physically as well as verbally. "Please answer me."

The only response given was a half-twitch of Jazz's wings, the injured one grinding against the metal of his back in its unsuccessful attempt to move. He cried out at the pain but still didn't move from his defensive position, curled on the floor.

That made Prowl move a little faster, sliding closer and pulling Jazz carefully against him. "It's alright," he assured his mate. "You'll feel better soon. Just don't try to use your wings, alright?"

"Please don't hurt me," Jazz begged, frame shivering in fear as his processor regressed to the trauma he had experienced from the Praxian.

"I'm not going to hurt you, I promise." Prowl could only hold Jazz close and pet his helm in an attempt at comfort. Nothing else could be done properly until Jazz was calm again.

After some time his frame finally stilled. Realizing that he was only making it worse on himself, Jazz cycled cool air through his system in an attempt to calm himself down. He finally found a point of not-quite feeling anything anymore before speaking. "I'm… better."

Though he could still feel the stress in his mate's frame, Prowl was willing to accept that answer. "Try not to move too much. You seem to have mildly dislocated one of your sensorwings. It should be an easy fix, but it will hurt to perform so you have to be strong for a klik or two."

If he was in a better mindset, and less afraid of possible repercussions, Jazz might have pointed out how hypocritical Prowl sounded. As it was, the visored mech simply brushed that off for more immediate concerns, like the usual pain and promise of more pain.

"You'll have to turn around," Prowl instructed him when Jazz made no refusal. It was quicker to deal with alone than to wait for a medic. "There will be additional pain for a few nanokliks but then it should fade to a dull discomfort. I can find you a pain blocker to help too, once your wing is aligned correctly again, if you'd like?"

Jazz gave a slight nod before turning as directed, no point in fighting any of it and making the situation worse.

The process was quick. The trick was in making sure the angle and force were both precise and perfect. Neither of which being areas the Enforcer lacked ability in. A quick snap popped the panel back into alignment and Prowl reached into his subspace as the heightened pain hit Jazz.

The Polyhexian gave another short yelp as agony shot through his processor. A flicker of hatred followed for the one who constantly brought this suffering down on him before the ember of emotion was doused by the instinct to survive. And then Prowl was attaching a pain blocker to the base of Jazz's helm. Or as close as he could get at least. Then he let go. Sensorwing injuries were nothing but agony with any sort of contact. If Jazz was going to look to him for comfort, he'd have to turn around again first. Prowl did extend his field though, level with just a bit of 'questioning/concerned' to show he cared.

Jazz didn't move much, even after the pain evaporated from his processor into nearly nothing. Now that there wasn't anything else to focus on his processor was waging a war against itself and whether it would be ok, this one time, to seek out that illusion of warm comfort Prowl was trying to suffocate him in.

He gave up, wilting into the promised comfort as he turned, numbing his processor to any critical reasons against doing so. Prowl accepted Jazz as he curled up as close as he could against him. One arm carefully held him close while the other servo went up to pet the top of his mate's helm. The officer then settled in as best he could, ready to wait out as long as Jazz might need him.

All of his thoughts were filtered out into a gentle hum, not unlike the singing crystals. Jazz could have stayed like that forever, no pain, no fear, no crushing weight of imprisonment. In being held, for that moment, he felt the most free.

~

It was almost a joor later before Prowl made any attempt to draw Jazz back to awareness. First it was simply by moving, shifting to flex and stretch his wing joints, then he spoke. "Jazz?" Prowl called out softly. "Are you listening?"

All too soon it was back to reality. Jazz made a noise indicative that he was paying attention to the Enforcer.

"It's almost time I leave for work," the officer informed him. "And you shouldn't remain on the floor. It will only prolong your discomfort, so let's get you back on the berth, alright?"

Jazz's optics dulled as he pulled away just far enough to look at Prowl, once again completely disillusioned. "Yes sir," he replied simply, waiting for the other to guide him to the berth.

Prowl took that as the acceptance it, technically, was and shifted so standing would be easier to accomplish while also potentially assisting Jazz. Ready to help him stand, Prowl began to rise with a softly stated, "come on then."

Jazz allowed himself to be guided to the berth. He worked on hiding his frame in the blanket as soon as he was on the berth. Prowl assisted Jazz where he could with the blanket before he seemed settled, then the Enforcer left the room. He was back a short while later with a cube of Jazz's standard diluted Energon and rounded the berth to be closest to where he'd last seen his mate's helm. "Come on out, Jazz. I have something for you."

A moment later Jazz's helm emerged from the blanket, checking what Prowl was offering, not out of curiosity but obligation. He snatched up the Energon quickly, with a soft, "thank you sir," then proceeded to disappear in the blanket again to consume said Energon.

Taking that as indicator that his mate wanted to be left alone, Prowl proceeded to leave the room once more. He still needed to finish preparing for work. It wasn't a long or complicated task, however, and soon he was heading out. But not without peeking into the berthroom once more and offering Jazz a gentle goodbye. The grey mech didn't say anything, shifting just a bit. A small part of him still entertained the idea of wanting Prowl to stay, but for the most part the freedom of being alone was much more alluring.

~

It was slightly past 15 joor later when Prowl returned home. Although he anticipated no problems, a small part of his processor was still expecting the worst as it was the first time Jazz had been left alone and free since he'd tried to blow up the building. So Prowl was pleasantly surprised when he returned home and found the structure intact. He didn't vent steady though until getting inside and finding the same lack of trouble.

For his part, Jazz hadn't done much. He did eventually move from the berth, taking the blanket with him into the main room to continue tending to his crystals, a blanket monster in the middle of the room with helm and servos barely poking out.

Prowl entered carefully and let the door slide as he took in the scene. Jazz seemed content so he didn't want to disturb him, but it would only be more of a shock the longer it took his mate to notice his presence. Thus, he crossed the room to where the other was, stopping a few steps away, and spoke softly. "Is this how you spent your day?"

In an instant the Polyhexian completely disappeared under the blanket, as though that would protect him from perceived dangers. A few kliks later he re-emerged, if only to make sure his crystals weren't in danger.

"It's alright," Prowl stated calmly when his mate came back out of hiding. "I didn't intend to startle you, I just wanted you to know I'm home."

Jazz gave a small nod, staring up at the Praxian, waiting in case Prowl had wanted more of him.

"So this is how you spent your day then?" the officer tried again.

Jazz gave another weak nod, a bit frightened that the Enforcer was pressing the issue. He had been well behaved today, there was nothing to warrant punishment, right?

Prowl studied Jazz for a klik before turning to examine the beginning garden. It really was just begun, yet somehow the arrangement made the simple materials seem far more complex and beautiful. Certainly nothing a youngling could create, and yet most adult frames didn't even have the same artistic skill.

"It really is coming along quite nicely already," Prowl offered, lacking adequate words to properly compliment his work.

"Thank you sir." Jazz took the compliment as he was expected to, optics moving from the other to his hobby. After a bit more time passed he figured it to be acceptable that he continue to work on the small garden without waiting further for Prowl's approval.

Prowl allowed him to return without comment. It was good to see his mate take an interest in something again. Instead, he switched subjects. "Have you refueled again since this morning?"

"I forgot," Jazz replied simply.

"Then we should remedy that. Are you far enough along to pause and join me?"

For his answer Jazz simply stood, seeking and finding a safe spot for his newly forming crystals before going back to Prowl. Prowl had already moved into the dining area as Jazz relocated his crystals and by the time his mate showed up, he'd also collected Energon for them both. Jazz's cube was held out in offering as the other passed and an accepting gesture given to invite him to sit as Prowl did so as well. The visored mech followed the unspoken instructions after accepting the offered cube, sipping at it carefully after sitting to make sure it's contents wouldn't hurt too much.

After a few kliks of silence, Prowl spoke again. "How are you feeling? Is your sensorwing still sore?"

"It's doing better," Jazz replied, shifting the aforementioned sensor panel under the blanket as if to test the truth of his words. He ignored the first question completely, not daring to tell the truth of how he was feeling at all.

Prowl acknowledged the answer with a slight wing flick. He could easily see the general movement Jazz made, exaggerated in its hidden state beneath the blanket. That Jazz still had it wrapped around himself was potentially troubling, but he could allow it for the orn. "No soreness or stiffness in the joint when you move?"

"Not too bad. I don't think I did too much damage."

"That's good." Another wing flick, pleased this time. "If you're feeling up to it, Triage would like to see you soon. In the medcenter of course, as she has a few things she would like to check on."

"Yes sir," Jazz responded before finishing off his cube of Energon.

"We can go anytime this decaorn," Prowl offered too, "if you don't want to go anywhere tonight."

"Whatever you think is best."

"Alright," Prowl responded, "but it will require that you extract yourself from that blanket."

"The blanket has accepted me as kin, I don't want to lose its trust." It was meant as a light joke, a bit of playfulness that Jazz hadn't shown in a long time, but even then the words felt somehow hollow to him.

Prowl didn't know how to respond to that and so settled on an awkward, "that's unusual…"

Jazz settled on just frowning slightly, before leaving to drop the blanket off back on the berth. He emerged sans blanket a moment later, ready to leave for the medcenter to be abused by someone else for a change.

Chapter Text

"... And you're done," Triage greeted Jazz as he came out of medical stasis. The procedures had been routine and went flawlessly, as expected, so now the only thing was to confirm the system changes. "Well, I will need to run another scan while you're online now but as long as it all comes up clear then you're good to go." Still connected into his frame, the medic initiated said scan while still speaking. "Your mate has already been informed of all requirements for your immediate future and will be seeing to those, but do you have any questions?"

"What did ya do to me this time?" It was inquisitive, not argumentative, just wanting to know what more had been changed on his frame. Hopefully he had the right to know.

"Well, Prowl does want to surprise you with a few of the modifications, but I can tell you some of the others." Triage paused for Jazz's acceptance before explaining. "There were a lot of little repairs to make or check on, in your wings especially given the recent strain. Otherwise, I removed the line for the Energon drip, reinstalled comms, short range only of course, reactivated your chronometer and ran a few full system checks for anything hidden or only just incurred due to your recent environmental change.

"Oh, and do be sure to refuel yourself when you're alone too," she scolded him lightly. "I don't appreciate patients too foolish to care for their own basic needs."

It was nice to hear that none of what had been done to him was detrimental in any way. "Of course," he responded to her chiding. "I can go now?"

"Just about…" The scan she was running on a newly reinitialized set of code ended, clean as expected, and she made to disconnect before stepping back. "And now you're free to go. Your mate is waiting for you in the next room."

He gave a polite "thank you," as expected before leaving the medic to rejoin with Prowl. It was still difficult not to explain that the Praxian in fact wasn't his mate but his warden, but that wouldn't do anyone any good since none of them would ever get it.

When Jazz entered the next room, the Enforcer was seated nearby the door, waiting patiently. He noticed Jazz almost immediately and bid him greeting in wing language, to which Jazz greeted back similarly. Vocally, Prowl added, "has Triage released you then?"

"She says everything looks good," the Polyhexian informed the other.

"I'm glad to hear that," the Praxian responded as he stood. "Are you ready to return home or would you like to know the full extent of your modifications?"

"She told me you had a few surprises," Jazz commented to prompt the other to explain.

"If you feel up to it, there is another stop we can make before we return home. Such can wait for another orn however."

"If that's what you want, sir." It didn't matter to Jazz where they went, his situation never changed.

"Alright, let's go then." With that, Prowl swept past him and led the way out of the medcenter.

~~

They took a transport going in the opposite direction they would need to head home, although the ride was nearly as long. The transport took them deep into the city, much further in than Jazz had been previously. The further in they got the more obvious the culture became, with at least half of the bots walking around with their wings set lower and bearing designation glyphs. Some even bore two sets. Sound didn't carry into the transport but it was still clear those with glyphs conceded to those without. Many even seemed happy about it, but there were some who seemed to just go through the motions. These most often lacked a chevron and many of those wore glyphs with ragged edges, as though the paint was bad or splotchy. There was no trouble though, and though the transport passed many an Enforcer along the drive, each one was merely patrolling.

Eventually the transport came to a stop and Prowl stood, ushering Jazz to follow. They stepped off in front of a large building bearing the label "Reeducation Center" in large lettering above the entrance.

Jazz made a dead stop as soon as he was off the transport, staring at the ominous building. All at once he remembered how to feel, fear, sadness, regret, betrayal. Why was he brought there? Hadn't he proven he could behave as expected? And then there was anger. Was this to crush the last bit of himself he had left? Would he be ushered inside, have the last of his personality stripped away, and then presented back as a perfect drone-toy? He didn't want to fight, didn't want any more pain or darkness, didn't want to misbehave for Prowl but if the Praxian expected him to willingly give himself up for 're-education', misbehavior would be the least he'd have to deal with.

"Come along," Prowl urged Jazz when the officer noticed he'd fallen behind. The cant of his wings suggested it wasn't a direct order yet, but could be if his mate made trouble. "We're just wasting time standing here."

No, no, no, no, no, no. He finally looked to Prowl, begging to not be forced in there. "Why?" He asked simply, though the betrayal he felt shown clearly in his optics.

"Your time in confinement has possibly eroded some necessary skills and I want to test them in a safe environment before taking that risk in public."

He shook his helm, Prowl's lack of care hurting all the more. "I don't want this. I don't want them to delete my personality."

"What are you talking about?" Although at least that finally gave context to the fear rolling off his mate. "The function of this location is merely to learn or re-acquire skills that may be necessary to your new life. Skills which you may either have lost or simply didn't have previously. We are only here to check what ability remains of a skill I know you had and to have you practice until you can perform to your previous skill level."

The last time he trusted the Praxian's words landed him collared, kidnapped, and imprisoned. The last time he didn't trust them, he was beaten, tortured, and mutilated. There were no good options, it was a lie to think there ever were.

Jazz's movements were slow but deliberate. He would follow Prowl, to whatever end his tormentor had in store for him.

With Jazz at last following, Prowl led them inside. They paused for a klik in the entryway as the officer accessed the building's internal system for a map but once he had that they were off again. Not too far into the building Jazz subconsciously sought Prowl out to be closer, the sterile, bland environment creeping him out even more. He clutched to the other's arm, wings down in defense as they went. A few turns and a few more corridors had them at a door that looked no different than the rest but Prowl opened it anyway. Inside was another hallway, this one with only one door on either side and another at the far end. It was there that Prowl brought Jazz and when this one opened it was to an entirely different sight.

A large track stood before them. The outer edge was just a never ending oval while the inner section was full of twists and turns and even a few obstacles. Just a glance showed a myriad of routes one could take to continually cross new sections of the track. The track itself was made of material almost identical to that which comprised the city's roads and kept mostly in good repair, and the areas that weren't had a deliberateness to them as if they were a test of terrain.

It was only when they got to their destination, the Polyhexian finally realized he was holding onto Prowl as though his life depended on it, and let go.

"Come here," Prowl directed Jazz in front of him. When he was positioned as he needed, Prowl reached out and unlatched the collar that had all but become a permanent feature on the Polyhexian. The collar was subspaced immediately.

"Your alt mode coding has been updated to account for your new features but the transformation should be familiar enough. If there are any issues, however, say so immediately. There is an on-site medic to assist with any problems that may arise."

The first thing Jazz did was touch area where the collar had been. There were a few rough spots where metal had rubbed against metal, but otherwise no noticeable differences.

"Join me?" he asked innocently.

"Once I'm certain you can handle basic driving, then I will," Prowl promised, including a movement of his sensor panels of acceptance. "For now, transform first and if that goes well then perform a couple laps."

Jazz grinned for the first time in a long time, making a show of all but dancing around Prowl, the last steps easing into his transformation before he took off. The rush of air around him, the pavement below, and nothing to stop him from just going.

Prowl couldn't resist the faint flutter his wings gave at Jazz's happy motions. It had been too long since his mate had shown such positivity and that made this an even better gift to give him. As such, he casually ignored that Jazz was speeding along the track faster than he should have. His progress was steady otherwise, clearly the ability had not withered due to lack of use. So when Jazz rounded the last corner coming back around towards him a second time, Prowl gestured for him to stop.

With a reluctant exvent the grey mech followed his orders, stopping just before the Enforcer and transforming.

"It seems you can still drive well," the officer bid in compliment. "So, as promised, if you still wish for me to join you then I will."

"Betcha can't catch me then!" And in one smooth motion he was past Prowl again, transformed, and gone at full speed.

"Obey the speed limit," the Enforcer called after him but did fold down into alt mode to give chase. His top speed was likely greater than his mate's, who in turn might have a better maneuverability, but he kept to a more sedate pace. Fast enough to keep up easily, but not yet quick enough to overcome Jazz.

After a short time, Jazz slowed enough to keep himself parallel to Prowl, keeping steady with him for a few kliks before tapping the officer playfully and taking off again as fast as he could safely manage.

:That's dangerous: Prowl cautioned through Jazz's newly reopened comm line. :Do not do that on an actual road.:

The Polyhexian pretended not to have heard his comms, and went about as he wanted to, waiting for Prowl to get closer, then taking off again. He led them through some of the curvier bits of track too, attempting to lose Prowl before the enforcer could catch up to him again, never slowing more than what was absolutely necessary to make a turn. It was a good test of skills, and some tiny part of his processor wanted to test if he could escape Praxian Enforcers.

As Jazz increased the complexity of the chase, Prowl had to keep himself from rising to the challenge. There were things Jazz had no way of knowing yet, and he did not intend to introduce his mate to such without proper forewarning. It was a small blessing that Jazz took the competition onto the inner track sections; with countless intersecting paths, there were numerous ways to head Jazz off and catch him without a chase so long as he could predict to some degree where he would go. And this Enforcer's predictive programs were some of the best available.

Jazz kept to as random a path as he could take, going so far as to stop and reverse though a section of track to keep from crossing paths with Prowl. It felt like a sparkling's game but it was fun, a sort of fun he never thought he'd enjoy again. So he twisted and wove through the track, baiting Prowl as far away from himself as he could until he could get to the open outer track and simply disappear for a moment.

It was a complicated instant when Prowl realized the path he was on would only curve close to the outer track but not actually join it as Jazz had managed to do. Giving a displeased rumble of his engine as he accelerated, Prowl couldn't avoid the flash of pride. His mate might have outmaneuvered him this time, but it only proved just how intelligent the Polyhexian was. Still, he had to remind him who was actually in charge so when he did reach where the inner and outer tracks connected, the Enforcer turned the other way and sped in the opposite direction Jazz was going. It would have them meet sooner than chasing would, and likely prove unpredictable enough to actually surprise his mate.

There was breaking, and squealing, and one very hasty transformation to pitch himself in just the right direction to just barely touch the Enforcer as he sped by in the opposite direction, but Jazz felt accomplished. :Gotcha again: he teased through comms.

That was enough. The spark of competition and challenge flared and Prowl only barely had time to find and cut the threads suddenly in his processor. The distraction caused him to slow but he himself stopped and transformed back to his other mode.

:I'm finished: he sent along to his mate. He didn't owe the other any sort of explanation but he decided to give something of one anyway. :You may continue for a while longer but I have spent enough time on the track.:

The light sparked fun Jazz had been having just moments earlier crashed down around him. Had his actions upset Prowl? He spent as little time as possible getting back to the Praxian, not wanting to incur further wrath if he had upset the other.

"I did say you could remain."

The Enforcer had begun to make his way to the doorway they'd entered through but paused to address his mate when the other approached.

Jazz gave a negative based wing twitch. "It's been a long day," he used as his excuse.

Prowl accepted the answer. It was actually getting late and he did have work the next orn. Still, that was no excuse to ignore his mate's possible exhaustion. To the best of Prowl's knowledge, it had been nearly a vorn since he'd last driven and probably much longer since he'd done more than a few kliks in a city. "Will you be capable of making the drive home?"

Truthfully Jazz didn't want to. It had been quite a day for him, compared to most, but the sooner they got back the sooner he could recharge. "I'm fine," he assured, waiting for Prowl to take the lead before following dutifully.

~~

The trip home was long, and somewhat unusual for Prowl as he hadn't led Jazz anywhere in vehicle mode since he'd first arrived. Undoubtedly it was even stranger for Jazz. Thankfully, nothing of note occurred on the drive and they were soon arriving home. Prowl sent the code to unlock the entrance before they stepped up to it and then they were inside. The door had barely slid closed before the Enforcer was moving away from it. His goal was the washrack, accidentally leaving Jazz to himself with no present instructions. It didn't even occur to Prowl to be concerned over leaving him unattended.

The visored mech tilted his helm slightly at the lack of directions, but eventually settled on collecting Energon for the both of them, his still secretly diluted so he could give himself more time to try to become accustomed to the harsh taste of Praxian. After he had dropped off the cubes in the berthroom he made his way to the washracks to offer assistance if Prowl wanted.

The officer was nearly done washing. He'd not spent much time on the track but any time spent pushing the limits of his frame made cleaning up after into a delight. A way to completely forget everything for a few kliks. He certainly wasn't expecting it when Jazz entered the room but he accepted his presence with a casual wing flick.

The Polyhexian attempted to make himself useful. Since Prowl was nearly done with the wash and rinse he waited until he could assist in drying his frame off, grabbing one of the softer towels and setting about drying the Praxian's sensorwings for him.

"Are you going to wash up as well?" Prowl asked casually as he picked up a towel of his own. "It's the best time now, when you won't have to wait for anything to heat up."

"Yes sir," he responded simply before setting about the task of self cleaning.

"Do you need assistance?" the Praxian offered as he finished drying off.

"That would be nice."

Prowl moved back across the room to do so, after giving a wing flick of acknowledgement. Together they had Jazz's frame cleaned and dried in only a few kliks, and then it was out of that room.

"I left Energon in the berth room for us," the grey mech offered, ready for recharge as soon as he was allowed.

That received a pleased flick from Prowl's sensor panels. "Quite the clever idea, my Jazz. It has, after all, been a long day and recharge sounds exceedingly pleasant right now, don't you agree?"

Jazz replied with a positive wing flick, barely able to wait for Prowl to go first into the berthroom, and immediately crawling onto the berth upon entering the room. Prowl took longer to do the same but didn't begrudge Jazz his actions. It was, after all, a very taxing orn for his mate and the officer would have been more surprised if he hadn't done something similar to what he had. His only concern now was to get his mate to take in his Energon before he collapsed into recharge.

With Prowl monitoring his every move it made recharge impossible. It only took a few nanokliks to assess what the Praxian wanted. Jazz appeased his captor by downing the Energon before curling up as far as he could on his side of the berth to recharge. Once Jazz had taken in his cube, Prowl focused on taking in his own and only kept passive senses on his mate. It wasn't much longer though before he too settled in to recharge.

Chapter Text

The next morning found Jazz in his usual spot at the edge of the berth. It was a small victory worth savoring, knowing the oddity of the other morning's wake up wasn't going to be repeated too often. Prowl woke up slower, but still before his morning alarm. At first he wasn't sure what had woken him but a careful sensory sweep of the room suggested his mate was already online.

Shifting to a better position, the Praxian then spoke low. "Good morning, Jazz."

Jazz sat up soon after Prowl had spoken. Clearly the other knew he was online, no use trying to hide it. "Mornin'" he replied sedately.

Prowl slowly sat up as well. "How are you feeling? You did exert yourself considerably last night. Do you need to rest longer?"

Jazz gave an appreciative wing flick for the other's concern. "I'll be fine. Nothin' I can't handle."

"I'm glad to hear that." Prowl moved off the berth as he spoke. "Overexertion is hardly a pleasant sensation, and especially after a prolonged lack of movement. I would hate for you to suffer."

Before Jazz could make any reply to that, Prowl was already moving the subject along as he headed to the door. "Don't worry about getting up just yet, I'll go collect our Energon."

And this was exactly what Jazz hated. Prowl pretending to care, pretending to be nice. Even when he turned everything else down to almost nothing; emotions, worries, hopes, everything, there was one thing he couldn't silence. Why? Why, why, why, why, WHY‽ This isn't Prowl, so why was he pretending? No, Jazz met the real Prowl when he was in the closet of torture. This supposedly caring Prowl was a farce and made no sense.

Utterly oblivious to Jazz's thoughts, Prowl left to complete the task he had taken on. It was only a couple kliks later that he returned. A cube of Energon was offered out to Jazz first, and Prowl waited until he had accepted it to sit down.

The Polyhexian gave a quiet, "thank you," upon accepting the Energon before he slowly sipped from the cube, staring at the content inside when he brought it down.

"Is there something wrong?" Prowl inquired. He'd prepared a diluted cube for Jazz again so he didn't understand what the problem could be, but that was why he was asking.

There wasn't enough time to ever go through everything that was 'wrong', so Jazz just shook his helm, continuing to sip at the cube slowly.

Setting aside his Energon for the time being, Prowl moved to face Jazz while also getting closer. A servo reached out to touch his faceplate and gently guide his helm up so their optics met again. "You know you can tell me anything."

Jazz kept himself as steady as he could manage, with the other touching him so abruptly. He bit back the original reply he wanted to make, about how he really couldn't because he didn't want to get beat again, shuffling through his processor for a much less antagonistic reply.

"I'm fine," he finally settled on, pulling away from the Enforcer.

Prowl ex-vented audibly but allowed Jazz to withdraw. Clearly he had something he felt the need to work through on his own, although Primus alone knew what it could possibly be. It wasn't a healthy reaction but it was common enough to be acceptable.

The officer stood. "I suppose I'll head to work early then, if there's nothing keeping me here?"

"Goodbye sir." Jazz was already beginning to scrunch up, planning on spending the rest of his orn as a blanket monster again. It was a nice escape from his reality, a distraction from how horrible everything would always be.

An acknowledging wing flick as he picked up his Energon again and then Prowl was gone.

~~

Nearly half the orn had passed before the Enforcer returned. His arrival home was as simple and quiet as ever so he wasn't surprised that his mate didn't greet him upon noticing he wasn't even in the room. A quick search supposedly located him though, if the pile of blanket wrapped up in similar form on the berth was any indicator.

Prowl rounded the berth to where he guessed Jazz's helm would be. Mildly hesitant, he reached out and gently shook part of the mass even as he spoke. "Jazz? Are you online?"

"No," came the muffled reply from within the blanket, the form underneath shifting just slightly away from the Praxian.

"So this is the blanket speaking then?" Prowl immediately asked, but there was an undeniable note of playfulness. "Do I have to worry now that it will attempt to consume me as it has my mate?"

"Blanket requests Energon goodies... Then blanket will give Jazz back." It almost felt good to pretend that everything was ok. Even though he still worried about the consequences of his actions.

"I'm afraid the only treats I have are to Praxian taste, so I doubt the blanket will appreciate them." If he felt ridiculous going along with this act at least it wasn't the strangest such scenario he had ever partaken in. "But I do have a treat for Jazz, if he's allowed free from the blanket overlord. It's a cube of that Vosnian brew he tried and seemed to enjoy when we were out recently."

Finally the grey mech appeared, rolling out of the blanket as gracefully as he could possibly manage. "Yeah, I think blanket and I can part for a while in that case."

Prowl had stepped aside as the mound of fabric on the berth moved but came close again once Jazz emerged. The promised Energon was then pulled from his subspace and held out. "It probably won't taste as nice as when it's freshly prepared, but it hasn't been waiting long."

"I'm sure it'll taste great either way," Jazz responded, giving an appreciative wing flick as he took the offered Energon. He was definitely right about the taste, an amazing change from what he had been taking in regularly. It was difficult not to just down it all in one go, but he managed to savor the cube as long as possible.

Prowl allowed Jazz to consume his Energon almost completely before speaking. "It seems you did lose the blanket's trust," he commented casually, making the situation feel even more absurd. "Was your capture punishment for leaving or were you just being held hostage to get treats?"

Jazz couldn't help smiling a little, surprised that Prowl bothered to remember his odd comment from the previous orn. "We're starting to get along again, but blanket and I still need some time together."

"Can that wait for tomorrow?" Prowl inquired slowly. His mate seemed to be feeling better but he didn't want to push too hard if he was still fragile. The Praxian knew when to back off, but that didn't mean he wanted to spend the time apart. It was best to approach the subject cautiously. "Or have you already tended to your crystals since I left?"

"I did."

His crystals. The only thing that could never be violently ripped from him. The only thing that couldn't be destroyed of his. His crystals, already one of the most treasured pieces of his life. It was the only reason he separated from the berth, dragging the blanket along to check on his budding garden and tend to the slowly growing crystal formations as carefully as he could. It wasn't much yet, but what little he had started was already impressively intricate. He was experimenting with growing a few small crystals through his largest one, each new crystal more thinned out than the last. It was just in the beginning stages, of course, so it didn't look all that great, but if everything took well enough it would be beautiful.

"Alright. I suppose I'll leave you to your negotiations then." It wasn't his ideal plan for the evening, but giving an order would only be detrimental right now. "Perhaps one orn the planet shall know you as the blanket ambassador."

With a quick nod Jazz disappeared again, glad to be left alone for a while.

Once his mate had vanished, Prowl left the room. There were a few case files he still needed to look over and he could pass the time with those. It was always easy to get lost in his work.

~~

It was quite late into the night when Jazz finally left the berth to check on the other, poking around until he found Prowl in his office. "You didn't come to the berth," he explained uncertainly as he stood in the doorway.

It wasn't until Jazz had spoken that Prowl even noticed he was there. He did manage not to twitch in surprise, but it had still startled him.

"I was working," the officer explained, stealing a glance at his chronometer. Definitely much later than he'd thought it was and even later than he'd planned on staying online. It wasn't the worst he'd done, by far, but typically he only expended so much effort on active cases. "I'll be there shortly."

Jazz gave an affirmative wing flick before disappearing, stopping momentarily by his crystals just to check on them before returning to the berthroom.

Prowl stood slowly, stretching some parts and flexing others before exiting the room. Jazz was just turning from his miniature crystal garden and so he followed his mate into their berthroom. He was in the berth almost immediately, but still managed to offer a simple 'goodnight, Jazz' before falling into recharge. Like most nights, Jazz curled up on the edge of the berth and waited for recharge to finally claim him.

Chapter Text

When the morning came, Prowl was first to wake even though he'd recharged far less. Regardless, he rose and went to collect a cube of Energon. Movement did tend to help ignore the exhaustion in his frame. Only after he was up did he remember his mate, so Prowl grabbed a random cube from the variety set he had recently purchased, just for Jazz, and then returned to the berthroom.

Jazz had barely woken up by the time the officer returned. He shuttered his optics a few times, trying to online his processor quicker as he sat up. "Mornin'," he greeted simply.

"Good morning," Prowl responded likewise. He handed over Jazz's Energon while taking a drink from his own cube at the same time. Normally he would wait, but the energy was helping his systems all achieve proper functioning levels and after such a short recharge any assistance was highly beneficial. "Did you recharge well?"

"Well enough," he replied, taking the offered Energon. "I hope you're feeling awake enough." It was an accidental comment, as seen by Jazz flinching slightly after he had said it.

"I will be by the time I arrive at the station."

It was a simple statement of fact. Preferably he would even be entirely awake before he had to make that trip, but it wouldn't be the first time he hadn't and at least he was fully functional already. Not that he intended to tell Jazz any of those details.

Prowl was still just far enough off that he entirely missed Jazz's flinch as he finished off his own Energon cube. His energy levels were barely 63%. At this rate, he'd need to bring another cube along to consume when he arrived at work just to get to his preferred 95% or higher.

"I hope the flavor is to your liking," Prowl commented as he noticed Jazz hadn't tried the Energon yet. "I wasn't certain which styles you prefer so I simply chose a mixed set."

"That was really considerate of you. Thanks." Everything was still confusing, Prowl being nice, all these allowed freedoms. It was beginning to feel… normal. That's what was the most frightening. What was once upside down and wrong in all possible ways was just fading into normalcy, and sometimes it didn't seem so bad.

The officer gave a simple flick of his sensor panels in response. When Jazz said nothing further, he had one more question. "Did you need anything else before I leave?"

Jazz just shook his helm. "Have a good orn at work." It felt strange to willfully be nice to his captor.

"Thank you," Prowl replied before leaning in to capture his mate's lip plating in a quick kiss. And then it was done and he pulled back to leave. "I do hope you feel better."

For a long while the visored mech sat, unmoving. His processor refused to process what had happened. Eventually he came to a decision he would probably later regret, to simply forget the whole matter. He didn't want to think about any of the implications, instead shifting tracks to focus on what he was going to do with his day.

~~

Most of the Polyhexian's days were very similar, tend to his crystals, read a datapad or two, maybe watch something on holovid. Sometimes he got really bored and started on crafts or other pursuits. Today was a 'bored' kind of day, so after the crystal tending was finished Jazz set to work on a new project; crafting a hanging container for his crystals to use some as decorations in the house.

Prowl returned home earlier this orn than the one previous. He could have remained longer after his shift but he was more curious what his mate was up to at home. Plus his exhaustion hadn't gone away for nearly as long as he'd hoped and returning home had sounded like a far nicer idea. After the previous orns of having to seek out Jazz, the Enforcer was pleasantly surprised to find his mate outside of the berthroom for once. Prowl approached slowly as Jazz seemed intently focused on whatever it was he was currently creating. He only spoke when he was beside the table his mate was working at. "That looks interesting… Just what are you working on?"

Jazz wasn't expecting the Praxian back so early, and nearly dropped what he was working on in surprise, wings shooting up at the same time to track what was going on. "I wanted to... l mean... I was just..." He looked around at the mess he had left on the table and pouted, knowing he was in trouble this time.

"I'm sorry... I'll clean everything up." He began doing so, abandoning the nearly finished glass container he had been smoothing after cutting a hole in the side to place the crystals in.

Prowl frowned as Jazz shifted tasks. That neither answered his question nor seemed a logical action because whatever the object was didn't appear finished. "Is there still a considerable amount of work remaining on this project then?"

That got Jazz to at least pause from his frantic clean up.

"Not too much more," he replied, looking from the table to the Enforcer. "I just gotta make sure it's smooth enough to not damage the crystals I'm gonna grow in there… An' then I gotta find a good place ta hang it." There was already wire secured to the outside of the glass to hold it in place on whatever part of the ceiling Jazz deemed fit.

"Just what is it exactly?" the Praxian tried asking again. Hopefully this time he could get a response to this question as he truly was curious about the contraption.

"Just a place to put new forming crystals. I thought maybe I could... umm... Make a few ta decorate the house a bit... Ya know?" He was becoming more and more unsure of himself as he spoke.

Prowl considered the request while studying his mate. The verdict was simple enough to reach. "If you can finish it satisfactorily, then that would be a lovely concept. In the future, however, you are to mention any plans of this nature to me before you begin. Understood?"

The grey mech visibly wilted a bit. Right it wasn't his place to do, well, anything. "Yes sir. Sorry."
He finished cleaning up the table in silence, project all but abandoned. Whatever satisfactory was, he knew he wouldn't achieve it so why bother?

"Did you remember to refuel while I was gone this time?" Prowl found himself wanting to rid Jazz of his sudden sadness but he didn't know how, so the next best option was to change the subject.

"Of course, sir." It was a lie, but he didn't much feel like refueling at that time. "Would you like me to get you some Energon?"

"That's alright," the Praxian answered, his mate's reply accepted without question. "I was planning to rest early tonight. You may finish up your project if you wish, or whatever else you find to do, but please refrain from any loud noises."

Jazz just nodded, hesitantly going back to his project without another word.

"Be sure to come recharge at a reasonable time," Prowl advised. And then he was gone, heading off to the berthroom for his own recharge.

It was only a few joor later when Jazz found himself exhausted enough to recharge. First though, he found a nice spot for his finished project, figuring Prowl would move it if he disliked where it ended up. Then he went to join the other in the berth to recharge.

~~

The biggest issue he had with powering down at an unusual time was that it often left him onlining at even stranger times. Such as now. It was the middle of the night cycle and Prowl had awoken for no other reason than his frame had arbitrarily decided it'd had enough recharge. Or perhaps it was hunger, he amended the thought as his fuel tank flashed a message for him.

Annoyed but more accepting now, the Enforcer removed himself from the berth to gather a cube of Energon. It took only a couple kliks, even with him moving in the dark, and then he was back in the berthroom. His attention was quickly drawn to his mate, still apparently resting peacefully, and a smile graced his lipplates. Even in the new color scheme, which the near darkness hid well, Jazz was beautiful. Especially so since taking on the local appearance. It would be a challenge to keep him safe though, Prowl considered as he returned to his place on the berth, but the Praxian was ready for that.

Jazz was far from recharge by the time Prowl got back to their shared berth. His coding seemed to have self modified to cause him to online at even slight disturbances. He stayed still though, allowing his sensor panels to track the officer's movements for him. Even after Prowl had settled back down however, he couldn't return to recharge, no matter how he shifted in search of comfort. Eventually he settled on forgoing recharge for a while in favor of reading a datapad he had in his subspace. Some story set during the Golden Age about a pair of lovers who, at least to Jazz, just seemed like terrible bots all around.

~~

Prowl managed another joor, maybe two, before his frame was sick of attempting to recharge and he had to get up. He was still deciding on whether to delve into more case files or to pick a recreational datapad when he saw Jazz upon the couch. It was strange he hadn't noticed him missing from the berth but Prowl decided not to question that oddity. Interestingly, his mate was reading as well and he slowly approached, speaking before he got close.

"I see you found something intriguing."

Jazz’s helm shot up at the other's voice… he hadn't expected Prowl to online again so soon. "Just some classic that was on the shelf," he explained, setting the datapad down to pay full attention to the Praxian.

Prowl acknowledged that with both a wing flick and a slight nod. "I was considering picking up one of those myself as well, seeing as I'm online anyway." And then a thought occurred to him. "Have you even been in to recharge yet or did you remain out here reading?"

"I was in recharge for a while, but after onlining I couldn't manage to convince my processor to let me recharge anymore so I came out here to read," Jazz explained. "Having troubles too?"

"Apparently so," Prowl agreed. "Have you been out here long?"

"Maybe two joor." He hasn't actually been paying attention to his chronometer, but from how far he was through the story he had been reading it was a good enough guess.

Another accepting wing flick. "I see."

Without another comment, the Praxian turned and walked into his office. With the Enforcer's abrupt departure, the Polyhexian shrugged and returned to his datapad. Prowl returned only a klik later with a datapad of his own. Crossing to the couch, he took a seat on the opposite side from Jazz before turning on his file to read. Jazz looked up for only a moment before going back to his reading.

The Enforcer's pick was a crime novella by an author renowned for captivating story telling and startling plot twists. He had picked up the title when it was new but hadn't taken the opportunity to dive in before now, and that was a shame because the piece really was good. He hadn't even determined the culprit halfway through as he often could.

It wasn't too long, only a few quiet joor, before the Polyhexian was slipping into recharge near the other, leaning on Prowl slightly as he rested. Prowl had been drawn into the mystery tale on his 'pad so thoroughly that he hadn't even noticed Jazz move closer until his mate was leaning against him. The sudden contact, though, drew his full focus outward again but when he saw the source his wariness dissipated. Saving his place, the Praxian set aside the datapad and gently nudged his mate. "Come on, Jazz. Let's get you back to the berth."

"Carry me," the grey mech replied sleepily, having just enough awareness to put the datapad in his subspace, but not for much else.

Prowl chuckled. "I think you weigh a bit much for that, but I'll support you walking."

"Kay." In a surprising, at least if he were fully awake, display of trust, he let Prowl guide them both to the berth. Within a klik he was in recharge.

Greatly amused, Prowl tucked the blanket around Jazz before heading back into the other room. He only remained long enough to collect the mystery tale he was reading before returning to the berthroom. Taking up his side of the berth, Prowl settled in with his datapad to continue reading until he too fell back into recharge.

Chapter Text

It was another morning with Jazz onlining to an unusual comfort. Warmth beside him and the gentle hum of another's engines. This time however he didn't react as violently. No sense in wrecking himself again, even if it was annoying that his frame sought comfort from his torturer without his permission. He merely tried to untangle himself from Prowl without waking the Enforcer up. Jazz almost succeeded too. Just as he was pulling away though, Prowl stirred and slowly began to cycle online. At the other's movement the Polyhexian stilled, trying to decide if it was better to be caught accidentally cuddling Prowl or pulling away with no indication of why he had been so close in the first place…

Jazz didn't get long to decide before Prowl was aware enough to online his optics. If he noticed their proximity, he made no comment about it, opting instead for something more habitual. "Good morning, Jazz."

"Mornin'," Jazz greeted back, now completely unsure as to what to do…

After carefully rising to sit up, Prowl began a few stretches as he continued their morning conversation. "Did you recharge well?"

Jazz just nodded, using the other's movements as an excuse to distance himself. "And you?"

"Surprisingly so for how broken up my time actually in recharge was." It was too soon to tell if he had completely fixed his resting pattern, but he certainly could hope so. "Since we are both online early, would you like to go out for Energon? Or do you prefer having it here?"

"I kinda miss the outside." The visored mech replied quickly, happy for a chance to see anything other than the same walls and ceiling he had to stare at orn in and orn out.

"Then we'll go out," Prowl stated as he stood. He then flexed the joints of his sensor panels to check for stiffness as he went on. "Is there any particular flavor profile you favor? We can look for a location more suited to your palette."

Jazz followed Prowl's example, getting up and stretching a bit before replying. "Metallic… In Polyhex we even had filings in our cubes to enhance the flavor. Cobalt is my favorite."

"I can't guarantee we'll find anywhere selling that," Prowl commented. Metal filings right in the Energon? That was exceedingly unusual for sure. "But I'm certain we can find something close in the tourist sector. If you feel capable of making the drive there and back?"

"I'll be fine, I promise!"

Prowl had to fight back his amusement at his mate's enthusiasm. "Alright, I believe you. There is one more thing that needs to be done before we can leave, however."

Jazz gave an affirmative wing flick, rounding the berth towards Prowl. When Jazz came close, Prowl reached an arm out to him and tapped a digit lightly on his visor. "This," he explained, "needs to go opaque, remember? To prevent outsiders from ever seeing your optics."

It took Jazz about a klik to figure out exactly how to work his new visor, but it was easy to understand after an initial change. "Guess I'm ready then."

"Then let's go." Prowl spared only a glance to be sure Jazz had succeeded with his visor before leading them out.

~~

The trip wasn't overly long, less than half a joor skirting the inner city paths, and soon they were approaching a subtly walled area. It was more pronounced on the native side than the tourist, but served for locals as a reminder of how close outsiders were. Crossing the boundary was nothing for Praxians, and many in nearby neighborhoods even made frequent trips into the tourist sector. It was only the tourists who were ever stopped. There were several Enforcers stationed along the border, publicly to act as guides, but they also served to turn outsiders away from entering further into the city.

As they neared Prowl shifted forms and once Jazz mimicked him, led the way across the not-so-invisible divider line. The pair of Enforcers presently on duty along that street barely even glanced their way before disregarding the duo as anyone to be concerned over. From there it was a simple hunt to find the refueling block so they could locate an appropriate place to visit.

Jazz still had quite a bit of the tourist sector committed to memory from… before… but he didn't rush ahead of Prowl, letting the other lead the way. It was almost jarring to suddenly see non-Praxians, like anything outside of Praxus was just a myth anymore. Yet there they were, bots without sensor panels scurrying around. He quickly closed what little gap there was between himself and his companion, not wanting to be noticed too much by the chattering masses.

"Your pick," Prowl said, drawing Jazz's attention eventually. They had stopped about a quarter of the way from the end of the block they were on. To their left were two places proclaiming Polyhexian dishes with a third on the right, as well as two more places boasting flavors from that region. "I don't know if you've tried any of these locations but you'll be the better judge of their potential than I would."

After looking a bit closer at the options, Jazz quickly made a pick. There was one that was part of a larger chain that he had gone to in Iacon once. It certainly wasn't authentic Polyhexian, but most of their mixes tasted just fine.

 

"I hope you don't judge all Polyhexian by this," he started as they entered. "It's more of a good imitation than anything, but I used ta go to a similar place in Iacon."

Prowl acknowledged that with an acceptance flick of his sensor panels as he followed Jazz inside. Thankfully it was too early yet for many bots to be out so the location was still relatively quiet. Not nearly as quiet as establishments within Praxus proper, but still at an acceptable volume.

Lacking experience at such places, Prowl had already decided the best course of action would be to allow Jazz to lead the way. It wasn't as though the rules of Praxian culture extended to this sector well so it was unlikely anyone would notice such a breach of propriety. If Jazz noticed this change he didn't mention it, probably because he was too busy babbling about his home city-state. Although he did take the unspoken social cues to go ahead and order for the both of them, trying to pick out something Prowl would like.

Prowl listened well enough while also perusing the menu in an attempt to understand the strange taste Polyhex had. Perhaps it was only imitation, but Jazz had called it a good imitation and with the rest of the information his mate had offered before he might be able to figure out what went into Polyhexian Energon. It would be helpful to know so he knew what to look for when he wanted to really treat Jazz. Once their order was placed, then he turned his full attention to his mate. Much of what he was trying to explain was either uninformative in general or seemed disjointed, however, so Prowl mostly just nodded along as Jazz spoke until their meal arrived.

"Dare I ask just what it is I'm about to try?"

Jazz gave a small smile at the question. "A mix of Enegon and Engex with sprinklings of Bismuth." He explained, "it's got a bit of a bite to it so I figured ya might like it."

"I see…" While still hesitant, the Praxian did life the cube up to take a sip. It certainly wasn't the worst he had ever tried, but there really wasn't much there. Curious, he tried another sip, slightly more this time, but still nothing. "Is it supposed to be so bland?" he asked.

Jazz's smile faded, apparently he had been wrong about Prowl's likes. "It… it's not going to be as good as it would be if it was prepared in Polyhex, ya know? Hope it's good enough though."

"It must be a regional difference," Prowl decided. That he could accept, even if it didn't give the Energon any real flavor. And that was the end of that matter as far as he was concerned. "How is yours?"

"Good." Jazz had gone quiet again, his excitement waning to nothing. Instead he just sipped at his own cube, the contents suddenly tasting a bit more bitter.

"Are you alright?" It hadn't escaped Prowl's notice that his mate's sensorwings had suddenly sagged and his posture slacked. Clear signs of not feeling well at all. The only question was whether there was anything he could do to help Jazz out.

"I'm fine." He had gone back to short answers, keeping everything simple so he didn't betray his emotions too much.

 

He finished off his cube before looking to the Praxian for further instruction. Prowl too had finished his Energon so when Jazz looked to him, there were only a couple options. "Shall we go? Or would you like to order anything else?"

Jazz shook his helm at the second question. "I'm ready to leave if you are."

"Alright," Prowl accepted. "We could also order more to take with us, in case you'd like any at home?"

Even with his mood shift Jazz wouldn't let an opportunity like that pass. "I would really appreciate that," he confessed. "If I could just take a few of the cobalt mixes home."

Prowl gave an accepting wing flick before speaking in a soft tone. "Order as much as you'd like, within reason. I will not stand for wasting Energon if a mix goes bad before you get to drink it."

Then the day got a bit worse… everything with Prowl was a double edged sword. Maybe it wasn't worth it to get any more? He didn't want to accidentally give Prowl a reason to be angry with him.

"Nevermind, I… I just want to go."

"Alright," Prowl accepted after a long few nanokliks. "You may go wait outside while I pay."

Jazz made his escape in a dignified manner, keeping up appearances until he could at least tuck himself in the nearby alley to let himself break down. Today was becoming far too stressful for him already.

It was only a few kliks before Prowl was outside the restaurant. His immediate first concern was his mate's location, especially because he didn't see him. Opening a comm line as the quickest option, he attempted to reach the other. :Jazz?:

It took all his willpower to force himself to return to Prowl. "Sorry, I just needed a klik." He was at least back to functional, but still melancholy.

"That's fine. I'm just glad to see that you were still nearby." They were in the tourist sector so it was unlikely that anything would have happened to Jazz, part of why he had allowed him outside alone at all, but Prowl still worried over his mate. "If you'd like, perhaps we can try the other locations as well in the future?"

"As you wish sir."

His obscured optics were focused on the officer, but his sensor panels were tuned in on everything around him. None of these bots had any clue about how close any one of them could be to never leaving the city again. He envied the outsiders, being able to pass through the city gates and leave on a whim. Maybe if he screamed for help, got the attention of everyone around. Maybe if he begged enough someone would help him leave the city. But no, he knew none of that would work. He already wore the wings of Praxian oppression, there was no escape.

"Let's return home then?" Prowl cut unknowingly into Jazz's mental ramblings. He had moved to angle towards the direction they'd come from but hadn't begun walking yet. The Polyhexian didn't say anything more, just turning to follow the other. The entire drive back held the same silence, with Jazz lost deep in his own processor.

When they arrived home, Prowl saw to it that Jazz was as settled as he would be before dropping off a few special cubes of Energon in their storage cabinets, unseen. Then he had to prepare for work, collecting the few bits of gear he didn't always keep subspaced. Once done with that, he sought out Jazz once more for a goodbye.

Jazz, who had settled onto the couch for reading by the time Prowl found him again, rose from where he had sat to give the enforcer a proper goodbye. He didn't want to think about his actions too much as he allowed himself close to the other mech for a quick embrace. He was seeking comfort from the other more and more, and as frightening as that seemed, feeling completely alone was more frightening.

Though surprised by his mate's actions, Prowl made no move to prevent it. He even managed to return the hug just before Jazz pulled away again. The words rolled out of his vocalizer before the officer really knew he wanted to say them as he promised, "I'll be back immediately after my shift. Goodbye for now."

After Prowl left the house seemed to fill with an uneasy silence, the sort of silence he used to always chase away with music… music that he didn't have anymore. Only a few joor later the silence was threatening to drive Jazz mad. The grey mech was soon looking through the entire house for the music chips that Prowl had taken from him, ignoring the warnings the other had given him about anything off limits in the house…

It took longer than he would have liked but he finally located the music chips, all of them thankfully still functional. A bit of tinkering and ingenuity later and he had music playing again, making use of his own systems as speakers for lack of any proper music playing systems. Then it was back to reading, like nothing had happened…

~~

True to his word, Prowl did leave the station when his shift ended. He arrived home shortly after as it wasn't a long drive and entered with no other thought than getting back to his mate. Jazz had acted unusual this orn and he was concerned.

Jazz hadn't moved much, still on the couch, still listening to music, and still reading a datapad Or he would have been if he hasn't slipped into recharge while he had been reading, and instead ending up curled around the datapad, resting quietly.

The first thing Prowl noticed upon entering was the music. Not because it was overly loud, simply because it was there. His home had always been peaceful and quiet and the noise was a sudden intrusion on that. Next, his optics moved to his mate even as he was working to determine the source of the sound. He moved closer to the recharging mech, so the door could slide shut behind him, and that was when he realized his mate was the source of the music.

Giving an irritated exvent as he lowered the sensitivity in his sensor wings, the Enforcer removed the distance between himself and Jazz. He tried a gentle shake first, to see if his mate would wake at all, then speaking his designation softly. "Jazz? It's time to online."

The Polyhexian made a noise of protest as he slowly onlined. After a klik he was aware enough to turn off his music, uncurling from where he lay on the couch then subspacing the datapad.

"Welcome home," he offered with a tired smile.

The greeting garnered a wing flick in response as Prowl focused the conversation on more important matters. "Why were you recharging on the couch? If you were so exhausted you should have returned to the berth. It would have been more comfortable."

"I guess I didn't realize how tired I was. Got too busy reading," he explained with a helm tilt. Prowl really did have a bit of a hang up about recharging on the couch.

"I see," the officer replied slowly. There was one more point to address still. "And the music?"

Jazz averted his gaze, realizing he was in trouble for his actions. "I haven't been able to listen to music for a long time… I missed it a lot."

"And just where did you get the music from?"

Jazz visibly shrank at the question. "In a drawer in your office… "

Well, that was safer than a trip outside unchaperoned at least. "In the future it would be easier for both of us if you would just ask," Prowl told him. "Also, you are to keep it at a moderate volume unless there is someone else around, we go out, or we are attempting to recharge. Then it will be turned off."

By then Jazz's sensor panels were quite a bit lower than when the conversation had started. "Please don't take my music away," he said, voice little more than a whisper as he let his emotions take hold. It was going to be either sadness or anger, and sadness won out this time.
"I get it ok? I promise I won't have a personality, or any interests so long as you or anyone else is around to see."

The subtle shifts in Jazz's mood were harder to track with his sensors at half strength but his mate's words helped him follow along. "I'm not going to take anything from you as long as you can follow instructions. You are even allowed to played your music while I am home if you keep it to a reasonable volume, but during the night cycle it will only serve as a distraction while we try to recharge. Do you understand?"

The visored mech just nodded. "I'm not stupid. You don't have to point out everything like I'm some first frame youngling." He was becoming a bit more antagonistic than he had meant to be.

"I do when I feel you are misinterpreting my instructions." Although he hadn't picked up on Jazz's mood from his tone, it still influenced his own commentary subtly. "Perhaps if you acted more your age you would be treated as such."

Jazz just growled. Of course Prowl was always right, the game was rigged and Jazz would never win no matter what he did or said. None of his points were ever valid to the Praxian, so why bother? "I hate you," he hissed in a moment of unrepressed emotion before walking away, determined to ignore Prowl for the rest of the night.

"Get back here," Prowl ordered as Jazz stormed off. That was unacceptable behavior no matter how lenient he might be otherwise.

"I'm done talking to you!" he shouted back, going to the berthroom to hide himself under the blanket again.

That forced Prowl to follow after Jazz, entering the berthroom just as the other was wrapping himself up again. The Praxian went immediately to his mate's side of the berth. "It is in your own best interest to remove yourself from there and face your punishment, now. If I have to remove you it will only make your situation worse."

"Leave me alone," the blanket mumbled, sadness returning to fill the void left by his shrinking anger.

"No."

The single word was determined and upon speaking it, Prowl gripped the blanket and pulled to remove it. He had other methods he could use too, but he would start simple in this situation. By that time Jazz had just given up, frame landing on the berth with a small whump as the blanket was pulled from him. "I'm sorry," he murmured, every bit of fight gone from him at that moment.

Prowl simply stared when he uncovered Jazz, allowing the blanket to fall to the floor. He almost couldn't believe this was the same mech who had just been arguing with him just a klik ago. After taking almost another klik to debate the options and odds of this being a ruse of any sort, he decided on a new course of action. "Stand up."

It was a bit of a struggle to force his frame to do what his processor did not want to do, but soon enough Jazz followed his instructions, trying to keep himself still, even though his sensor wings quivered ever so slightly.

"Over there," Prowl directed in the same tone. He also gestured in the direction of the training room's hidden door. Jazz didn't hide his whimper but complied with the officer's order, his gaze never leaving the floor.

Prowl crossed the room after Jazz. Only after making him turn so his back was towards the wall did he explain anything. "You are to stand here, no leaning, sitting, kneeling or any other action unrelated to standing, in silence, until I feel you have learned your lesson. Any time spent in any other position will result in double the time being added to make up for it. Do you understand?"

"Yes sir." He gave a small reply, looking up for only a moment before settling his gaze back to the floor. There was nothing else to do but stay and wait for this punishment to be over.

"I want your music chips too." It was added as an afterthought when another consideration crossed his processor. "You may have them back after your punishment but I intend to be certain you aren't listening internally while you are in trouble."

It took a bit more time for the grey mech to comply, not wanting to part with them after only just getting them back, but the risk of greater punishment just wasn't worth it so soon enough he was handing them over as directed. Prowl did a quick check to be sure he'd gotten all of the music chips before placing them in his subspace. It was the most secure place to leave them. After that he turned and made his way over to the berth. Taking up his usual place, the Enforcer then pulled out a datapad and stylus to deal with some work as he kept watch on Jazz.

As ridiculous as he felt just standing there, it was better than quite a few other potential punishments, and as he'd already learned thoroughly, he wasn't in control of his own fate anymore so all things considered it wasn't all that bad. Still, Jazz regretted ever feeling even the slightest bit of kinship or closeness to Prowl. This exercise just serving to remind him of why he abhorred the other mech so much.

~~

It was early into evening before Prowl came out of his work. His optics were immediately drawn to Jazz, still where and how he had been left. Returning the 'pad and stylus to his subspace, the officer stood and then crossed the room.

"Have you learned your lesson yet?"

"Yes sir." He responded much the same way as he had before, not wanting to risk saying too much.

Prowl studied him for a klik before giving a wing flick. His next action was to reach into his subspace for Jazz's music chips, which he then held out for the other to take. "We'll consider this punishment complete then. Now you should go check on your crystals, as I'm certain you haven't tended to them yet."

Jazz gave an affirmative wing flick, accepting the music chips back before leaving to tend to his crystals, glad to be away from the Enforcer for a while.

~~

Jazz took longer than necessary to tend to his growing crystals, only eventually returning when he thought Prowl might already be in recharge.

Jazz's assumption proved true. The Enforcer had returned to his work, in a different datapad this time, and when that one was completed he had been exhausted enough to simply shut off the light and curl up under the blanket. Despite how little he wanted to even be in the same room as Prowl, Jazz took his usual spot at the edge of the berth, and as far away from the black and white mech as he could get, before attempting to recharge as well.

Chapter Text

Prowl was the first awake again. He glanced over at Jazz, but that was all he spared his mate this morning before heading out of the room to prepare for work before leaving.

Jazz recharged long into the orn, onlining sometime mid-orn to finally start his day. He wasn't surprised that Prowl was gone after checking his chronometer. He got up from the berth a klik later, just to collect some Energon and check up on everything before crawling back into the berth to continue his lazy day.

It wasn't more than a few joor later when Prowl arrived home. He spent several kliks in the rest of the house before finally making his way into the berthroom. His entry was marked by a simple question. "Hello Jazz. Have you been online long?"

Jazz didn't bother looking up from his datapad, just flicking a hello with his wings. "A few joor."

A return greeting was given in like fashion as Prowl also continued the vocal conversation. "Have you refueled or did you get distracted by whatever it is you are reading now?"

"I've taken care of my needs today." Finally Jazz looked up at the Enforcer. "Is there anything I can get you?"

"No, I'm fine." That subject wasn't going far so he decided to try an alternate route. "I take it that includes tending to your crystals as well?"

Jazz nodded, before deciding there wasn't going to be much conversation had and going back to his datapad.

Prowl exvented softly. "What has gotten into you?" he questioned cautiously. "You never seem to get this quiet unless something is wrong."

"I'm fine." It was laughable that Prowl thought he knew him. No, when he was quiet he was trying to avoid something going wrong.

"Jazz…" Slowly Prowl walked around the berth to the other's side. "I do want to help so you can tell me you know."

Jazz gave a convincing smile, looking back up at Prowl. "Really, I'm fine. Why would anything be wrong?"

Another exvent, nearly silent this time. "Alright, I'll believe you." Even if he didn't actually think that was true. "Are you interested in going out again? You do seem to enjoy our trips."

"I wanna stay home." The Polyhexian answered honestly, wanting to have one day at least where there were little expectations of him.

"Alright, we can do that as well." A few nanokliks of silence passed and then, "were you going to remain in here then?"

"I was planning on it… if you don't mind."

An acknowledging/accepting wing flick was the only answer to that. "I have case files to work on so I'll be in my office if you need me."

Jazz responded with a wing flick of his own before going back to reading.

~~

A couple joor later, Prowl emerged from his office. His first stop was to collect the Energon he had skipped immediately after work, then he would seek out Jazz.

After reading all day Jazz had finally set to a new task, trying to get games on one of the datapads… which was harder than it first seemed. He didn't even notice Prowl when the other finally returned, still wanting to find a way to make his days less dull.

"What are you working on now?"

The question was spoken in greeting as Prowl entered the berthroom, upon again not finding Jazz anywhere else. He carried a cube of Energon in one servo, tinted the standard dark pink of Praxian origin.

"Seeing if there's any games on this thing," Jazz replied simply, looking up from his task to the Praxian.

"There won't be if it's a text-file," Prowl replied. "You need either a game dedicated one or all purpose. I have none strictly for gaming and case files on my few all purpose datapads but I can get you one tomorrow."

"Really?" The visored mech seemed actually genuinely interested in Prowl's offer. "I mean… if you wouldn't mind… "

"Of course." The reply also garnered a wing movement. "Would you prefer strictly gaming or the multi-purpose version?"

Jazz's wings flicked of their own accord at the latter but he tried not to seem as interested as he actually was. "I think I'd get more use out of the second one."

A flick of his sensor panels to agree with that answer and the officer was ready to wrap up that part of the conversation. "Alright, so that's settled then. Now, how was your orn? Do you have any new projects to show off?"

Jazz's wings drooped just a bit. "No, I was rather lazy today." Hopefully laziness was tolerated by the Praxian.

"You haven't been straining yourself, have you?" It may have sounded muted, but there was genuine concern in his tone. "We have been doing far more than your frame is accustomed to anymore."

What else was Prowl expecting? Jazz had been locked in a tiny closet for who knows how long. "Maybe I've done too much recently," he agreed.

The Praxian's sensor panels raised in concern. "You should have said something when you noticed so we didn't make you overexert yourself."

"I'm not that bad off." He'd just wanted a day to himself, with no expectations.

"That's good," Prowl responded with a relieved wing motion. "I don't want to see you suffering."

'You just don't want to see me suffering if it's not by your servo,' he would have said if he wanted to be locked away in the torture closet again… Instead Jazz stayed quiet, simply nodding again.

"If you're done for the night cycle," Prowl began, switching topics again. "I intend to recharge soon myself so we can settle in now. If not, do keep the volume to a minimum in whatever task you decide to pursue."

"Been tired all day, sounds good," Jazz replied, turning the datapad off before shimmying down into a comfortable laying position on the berth.

Prowl sent the signal for the lights to shut off as he finished his Energon cube before then settling down in the berth himself. Laying in his customary position of facing towards his mate, the officer reached out once more verbally. "Recharge well, Jazz."

"You too Prowl." It wasn't long until he was deep in recharge.

~~

Morning came soon enough and Prowl woke at his usual time. Sensing out the room, he found Jazz in approximately the same position he'd offlined in so he must have also rested well. The Praxian then stood and left the room to collect Energon for them both. He might have to wake Jazz up to consume it, but at least he could be sure his mate did have some.

Prowl returned shortly carrying two Energon cubes. One was standard Praxian while the other was of the same brew Jazz had recently enjoyed at the Polyhexian-themed restaurant. He set both down on the berthside table before reaching out to lightly touch, then shake Jazz's shoulder. "Jazz, it's time to wake up."

Jazz had onlined at the other's movements, using his sensor wings to track the Praxian while pretending he was still in recharge, and now took a moment to move. Reluctantly he sat up, giving Prowl a 'thank you' wing flick before accepting the Energon.

"How are you feeling?" Prowl asked as he returned the appropriate 'welcomed' wing movement.

"I'm less tired today," Jazz replied simply before taking in some of the Energon, belatedly realizing it was some of the Energon from the cafe they had stopped at. The excited wing twitch was impossible to miss as he downed the cube happily.

For once, Prowl didn't comment on Jazz's reactions, content to simply watch his excitement. Instead he merely responded to the spoken part. "I'm glad to hear you're feeling better."

The Polyhexian nodded. "Did you have any plans for us today?"

"Not specifically, no," Prowl answered easily. "I will be leaving soon for work so you are free to do as you wish. Even if that choice is returning to recharge." There was the slightest upturn of his lipplating as he commented on his mate's recent habit born of exhaustion. After a few nanokliks he also added, "I just wanted to be certain you had some Energon before I left."

"Thanks." Jazz returned the smile with his own. "It was delicious."

"I'm glad you enjoyed." There was only the slightest of a wing flutter after Jazz smiled back. "There are a few more cubes of the same in your cabinet as well."

Prowl's attempts at generosity were even more off putting than his punishments and Jazz remained genuinely confused as to why the Praxian was even trying to be nice to him. His confusion was kept bottled up securely however, the visored mech acting grateful to his captor, seeing as the Enforcer seemed to expect it from him.

Prowl accepted the gratitude without question. There was no reason he shouldn't be able to trust his mate at this point after all. It was less than a klik later when he spoke again. "I'll be leaving then, unless you had any requests before I go?"

Jazz gave a 'no' wing flick. "Stay safe," he offered as a goodbye.

Prowl offered an acknowledging flick in return before heading off. He had no doubt that Jazz could determine how to spend the day on his own.

~

Jazz's day passed slowly. It was already getting difficult to find entertainment while stuck indoors. There was reading, Crystal tending, crafts if he wanted to be creative with Prowl's belongings, but mostly the quiet house held nothing but boredom.

It was quite a while before that situation changed. Several joors had passed, enough to be late but not too far past the time Prowl would usually arrive home, when there was a ping indicating someone at the front door.

The Polyhexian was immediately on guard the moment he had been pinged. Everything about the situation was off. Prowl never had visitors, but if it was him he would have just entered. Did the Enforcer have anyone he was on friendly terms with? Along with the worry and confusion, Jazz couldn't help but notice that he felt a little lost without Prowl's direction, not knowing how to act on this new situation. After a small amount of time wasted on thinking over every possibility he could come up with, the visored mech finally went to investigate the situation. Going to the front door, he opened it just wide enough to peek out at whoever was on the other side.

"Hello?"

"Who are you?"

The speaker was another Praxian Enforcer. Visually he was almost identical to Prowl, save for a few details. This new mech lacked a chevron most noticeably, but his color scheme also sported more black in bot mode than the officer Jazz knew. Additionally, the sweep of his sensor wings was sharper and his overall frame design was built in harsh angles. Even the tone of his voice was colder as he moved into another question. "What are you doing here?"

Jazz took his time in replying, mostly out of confusion. "Shouldn't I be asking you?" he responded, backing away from the door slightly. "Prowl ain't home right now."

"That still doesn't explain who you are," the Enforcer pressed. He moved closer as Jazz backed away, speaking another question as a demand. "So why are you here?"

It was quickly decided that this Enforcer was beyond creepy and therefore a potential threat. The Polyhexian quickly slammed the door, locking it right after before all but running to the berthroom, closing that door as well.

Jazz got a few kliks of feeling relatively safe before the berthroom door opened. Whatever he may have been expecting, it was the new Enforcer who entered. "You're not doing yourself any favors by making this more difficult than it had to be."

By that time Jazz had figuratively, and literally, backed himself into a corner. "You don't belong here... Please leave."

"That's where you're wrong." The officer only stalked closer. "Who do you think you are claiming who belongs in my partner's home?"

"Partner?" Jazz questioned. "But I'm supposed to be his mate." At that point his processor was swimming in emotions; fear, confusion, and even a bit of betrayal that Prowl actually had someone and was only using him as a live-in toy.

That at least caused the other mech to pause. Then there was a thorough visual examination as the Enforcer sized up whether to believe him or not. Finally, he scoffed. "You're not a very good one if you don't even know how to properly act."

The visored mech huffed, casting his glance away from the Enforcer. "I think I'm doing fine, not letting strangers into the house."

"You don't get to speak to your betters like that," the mech retaliated. In an astrosecond he moved beside Jazz and took hold of one of his wings, his grip not at all friendly, and pulled at a painful angle. "Since you don't seem to know that lesson yet, I guess I'll just have to teach you myself."

Jazz yelped despite himself, frame stilling instantly. "Sorry... Sorry... Please..."

"What is going on here?"

This time the question came from the open doorway. The new bot was none other than Prowl himself, and he was very clearly angry; wings all but quivering high on his back as he took in the scene.

"Prowl." Jazz struggled to try to free himself of the other's grasp, ignoring the pain as well as he could. "I locked the door... He... He just came in... Please..." There was an unspoken 'help me' at the end of his sentence.

"Let him go, Barricade."

"Oh come on," the other Enforcer complained. "You can't actually believe this piece a' shareware."

"You and I both know this isn't the first time you've used that access code to enter my home uninvited," Prowl countered. "And that "shareware" is, in fact, my mate you are injuring, so I could claim compensation. Putting both facts together means it is in your own best interest to release him now."

They exchanged glares before Barricade released Jazz. He had more interesting things to poke at now. "So you really did finally take a mate?"

As soon as Jazz was released he was by Prowl's side, standing a bit behind the Praxian for safety. He glared at the other officer for just a moment, knowing he could at least get away with that.

Prowl focused his attention on Jazz just long enough to be assured he wasn't obviously injured before returning his full attention to addressing his partner. "Not that it's any of your concern, but yes. He requires more training yet before he's ready to be socialized however."

"More than you know," Barricade agreed with a smirk directed Jazz's way. "He doesn't even know how to properly answer the door yet. Is that a lapse in training now, or his own failing?"

Jazz desperately wanted to lash out at this unwanted visitor and tell him just where he could stick his opinion, but for as little as he knew the culture he at least understood that that was a very bad choice of action. Instead he decided to re-focus his thoughts, quietly offering "should I go get some Energon, sir?"

"We haven't quite reached that point yet," Prowl confessed. Jazz received an 'acceptable' wing movement for his question at the same time. "It wasn't ranked as exceedingly necessary seeing as I so rarely have guests. As you know well.

"That does raise the question of why you're here at all." He left it at that, trusting that the question would be answered.

Barricade, however, had other ideas. "Aren't you being too lax on discipline?"

Prowl stiffened at the accusation before responding with his orn question. "Simply because I refuse to play into your cruelty by punishing him in front of you?"

"He still dishonored you by disrespecting me."

"For shame. He failed to show respect to a mech who entered his home illegally. What a heinous crime."

"Hey, I didn't do anything illegal."

"There was no immediate need for your presence within my residence so your use of that access code is not constituted as legal. Especially when I have expressly stated you do not have open permission when it comes to my property."

"Skip the threats unless you're gonna follow through," Barricade challenged. They both knew Prowl wouldn't, in the same way both knew he wouldn't push too far and force Prowl to make good on his threats.

"Cause damage to any of my property and I will have your rank in compensation."

"Yeah yeah…"

Prowl gave a level look. "You still haven't explained why you're here."

"I wanted to be sure you heard the news."

"What could possibly be so important that you needed to inform me this desperately? We aren't even working a case right now."

"The chief's announced he's retiring," Barricade replied smugly, knowing this fit his partner's narrow criteria of importance. "Won't name his successor until tomorrow though. But you know what that means."

"That this was an unnecessary trip for you as a comm would have sufficed for this lack of information," Prowl offered in bland response. "This is a bit sooner than I expected, but there was a 98.524% likelihood that he would leave within the vorn so I am still unsurprised."

"Sure, whatever you just said," Barricade breezed past. "But the important part is the celebration before the ceremony. It's a good sign of how suited the new chief is to serve."

Prowl's sensor panels twitched ever so slightly when the other Enforcer added his last comment. "Even you can't skip this one."

When Jazz returned with two cubes of Energon, one for Prowl and one for Barricade, the latter Enforcer was still talking. The only thing he managed to catch was that there was a celebration that Prowl was obligated to attend. For the briefest moment he was excited by the idea. A party? Maybe he could even go with and things could finally go right for once. Or at least he could lose himself in the festivities and forget, if only for a little while.

Of course it soon dawned on him that the parties he was used to were Polyhexian parties, and most likely the complete opposite of what Praxus would have in store. The realization was followed by a drooping of his sensor panels. He was back to his most common emotion since being trapped in Praxus; fear.

Prowl offered an acknowledging sensor wing gesture towards Jazz as he returned but otherwise remained focused on his partner. "I had no intention of doing so," he shot back. "I would remind you of the same but you've never skipped one, have you? You do know it's in bad taste to sample without sharing, don't you?"

The response was a highly vulgar wing movement that Prowl ignored, prompting the low vocal response. "If I could get one durable enough to survive the training, maybe I would."

"Maybe you shouldn't be so vicious in your training methods and one could survive."

"Just because you're too lenient with yours," Barricade accused.

"How many have you lost now?" Prowl retaliated. "15? 20? 50? Or have you failed even more than that?"

Barricade gave a low engine rev in warning as he stalked closer to the other Enforcer. "Be careful how far you press," he taunted. "Your mate doesn't know how to avoid trouble and you can't shelter him in public."

With that as a parting comment, he whipped around and stormed off. Prowl remained on guard until they heard the front door slide shut and only then did his wings lower.

“Didn’t… Survive… Training?” Some time had passed since Barricade had left before he first spoke, but Jazz still managed to scare himself with the sound of his own voice breaking the unsettling silence that the visitor had left them with. “He’s offlined bots for…. For what? His own amusement? That’s allowed?” the grey mech’s sensor panels shot up in panic as he realized just how much danger he had put himself into while dealing with that other Enforcer. “Am I gonna offline?”

"Not if I have any say in it." The response was immediate and harsh, but not aimed towards the Polyhexian. Prowl's wings flicked and the motion almost seemed to carry through his entire frame for an astrosecond. He then turned to face Jazz. "So long as you are mine, and you behave, I have the ability to keep you safe from the likes of him."

In that moment it felt as everything, and yet nothing changed simultaneously. He was still at the mercy of Prowl's protection, but now had a first hand view of just what he was being protected against. Helm down, keep quiet, behave.

"It will be alright," Prowl offered as he sensed Jazz's distress, his wings canting in an offering 'come here' position. "He's gone now and you're safe. Besides, I have a gift for you. It's why I was late arriving home at all."

Jazz responded to the other's invitation appropriately. "Gift?" he questioned, wondering what he was in for next. Hadn't the day been eventful enough already?

Reaching into his subspace, Prowl withdrew a datapad and offered it out to Jazz. It was slightly thicker than standard and shaded a dark blue. Before he could ask, Prowl answered the most likely question. "It's the multi-purpose pad you were looking for. They're not sold everywhere so I had to find an appropriate shop."

Jazz knew he should feign thankfulness and gratitude as Prowl handed him the gift, but acting the part just wasn't in him at that moment. Nothing seemed to matter after coming face to face with more of the tortures Praxus had to offer. It was a none too gentle reminder of his slow death sentence, being carried out by his warden-mate. "Thanks," he still forced himself to say eventually.

Prowl accepted the slow gratitude with a wing gesture but vocally was onto the next point. "I have a few case files to go over. You're welcome to join me on the couch as you learn how that works. Otherwise, you may remain here instead."

The Polyhexian followed after wordlessly, engrossing himself in the datapad as soon as he had turned it on.

The rest of the night passed uneventfully and soon enough Prowl was leading Jazz back to their berthroom. They settled into their usual positions silently before Prowl bid Jazz a soft 'recharge well.'

Chapter Text

The next morning came around and Prowl woke at his usual time, even without an alarm. Carefully extracting himself from the berth, he left the room to collect a couple cubes of Energon and a datafile before returning. Utilizing just as much care as he had leaving so he wouldn't wake his mate, the officer resumed his place on the berth. After settling in, a cube of Energon waiting on either table beside the berth, he onlined the datapad and began reading.

Jazz awoke soon after Prowl's return. He stayed completely silent as he stretched and then reached for his morning Energon. The day's plans were flashing in his mind, a warning to prepare for the worst. There was probably no way to truly prepare for whatever a Praxian party entailed, but the Polyhexian hoped his by-law mate would try to be helpful.

"Good morning," Prowl offered after a few kliks. Setting aside his datafile, he turned both his helm and full focus to Jazz. "Did you recharge well?"

Jazz gave a sort of soft whine in response. It had slipped out on accident… but there was no going back now. "Please don't make me go… I don't know what's going to happen but I know I'm not gonna like it one bit."

"What are you talking about?" Prowl replied in question. He genuinely didn't know what the sudden source of concern was, but he would certainly find out.

Jazz stared back. Had… he really forgotten already? "That… mech… The party…"

"Oh."

It was such an obvious response that for an astrosecond Prowl didn't know how to react. That he didn't appreciate attending parties himself only made recovering in this situation harder. "Opinions do not matter. This event is a necessity and attendance is mandatory."

There wasn't going to be an easy resolution, Prowl was making that very clear. "Than I'll take my punishment now… because I'm not going. I refuse. I won't be anywhere near him or any other Praxians. I won't let them hurt me."

"No one will hurt you so long as you behave, and even then it's my place to punish you appropriately." Prowl bid his mate a stern stare. "I don't see why that's so difficult for you to understand."

"I said I'm not going." Jazz was resolute on the matter. If there were more mechs like the one from yesterday, he was having none of it.

"Jazz…" The Enforcer's voice took on a warning tone. "This is an official event and you do not want to test my patience."

The Polyhexian's spark shrunk in fear. The threat of punishment alone was almost enough to get him to back down, but fear of the unknown won out... He was fairly confident he knew Prowl's limits, but this 'party' was an entirely new, and frightening, game.

"I. Am. Not. Going."

Immediately, Prowl had Jazz's nearer wing in his grasp. His grip was firm and painful in a just barely noticeable way for now, but if either of them pulled away that would quickly change. "You will do as I say."

"No!" He began to pull away on instinct, but paused as soon as he felt the tension on his wings. "No, you can't make me."

Any levity there might have been to the situation was firmly dispelled by now. "I will drag you there by your wings if you continue on like this."

"You won't," Jazz snapped. "How would that look on you?"

That did make Prowl pause for an astrosecond as he considered the various outcomes. It certainly wasn't the best option, but there were ways to make good on his threat without compromising his status too much.

"Returning you to your collar would alleviate all but the most pervasive of inquiries," the Praxian declared. "Would you prefer that?"

Jazz gave a low growl. "You want me to go back to that?" he challenged. "Fine! But you look away for one astrosecond an' I'll blow the whole place into tha' sky."

"And here I thought you wanted to stay out of the training room," Prowl fired back. "Thank you for correcting me on that false assumption."

That was all it took for him to snap. He ignored the painful pull at his wing as he lunged at the Praxian, teeth instantly sinking into whatever soft spot he could find. To his processor this had become a matter of survival, and he was not going to just lie down and offline.

Jazz had the element of surprise but Prowl had all remaining advantages. His job was in handling conflicts and thus he was able to quickly maneuver himself out from under Jazz, though it meant tearing away from where the other had bit him. He regained his stance beside the berth, ignoring the dripping Energon from a torn line, and prepared for Jazz to make another attempt.

The visored mech collected himself quickly, going on the defensive in case the other made a move. "Is this what you wanted?"

"Of course it is," Prowl snapped back. "I always wanted to be coating my own berthroom floor in Energon because my mate attacked me over something we are obligated to attend. Do you honestly think I'm actually interested in wasting my time at such a frivolous affair?"

"At least it's just your time you have to worry about." His frame was slowly beginning to relax, the feeling of immediate threat dissolving. "He would offline me for his own amusement and you know it… and I don't even know if that's the worst this party has to offer. I… I won't go out that way. Not after everything else."

"No one is going to offline anyone." That was the one thing he could be adamant about. These functions, at least within his profession, were not a killing ground. "You will be fine as long as you behave and give no one any reason to notice you."

Noticing Jazz's lowered wings, Prowl reached out cautiously to lay a servo on his shoulder. "It can't be too bad. Even intentional injuries are discouraged."

The Polyhexian flinched at the initial contact, but eventually allowed himself to relax further until he was all but laying on the berth he had once been crouched on. "I… don't know what they'll do to me and I can't say no to any of it. I don't want to be completely defenseless."

"Your best defense is to blend in. Attracting another's optic is the top reason crimes occur, but if you don't stand out there is no reason to worry." An idea crept into his processor and the Praxian decided, against his usual instincts, to share it. "I suppose I could have you remain with me the entire time but that would draw more attention than not and the next event we attend you would be remembered."

"No collar?" He really didn't want to have to feel that thing around his neck again.

"As long as you remember how to behave in public." There was a note of real concern in his tone that came and went almost immediately. "If you fail, I will have to punish you or someone else might."

"I… still don't wanna go." His tone was defeated… He wasn't fighting it anymore, simply complaining. However, Jazz moved back far enough for Prowl to rejoin him on the berth if he so chose, secretly hoping the other mech would get closer to him.

"You are not alone," Prowl replied simply as he watched Jazz re-position. As tempting as climbing back into the berth might be however, he had another task to attend to first. With the barest trace of an exvent, Prowl said, "I'll be back."

Jazz gave the slightest noise of disappointment but flicked his sensor panels in acknowledgement, instead turning his attention to getting comfortable in the berth again.

It only took a few kliks for Prowl to collect the medical supplies he kept and check over the wound he'd received. Surprisingly, it was not nearly as bad as it had seemed; apparently Jazz had either extreme luck or skill in finding the non vital lines that made one bleed Energon as though offlining. Self repair had already begun and could quite possibly handle it, but Prowl still applied a bit of work of his own to make sure as well as speed the process. Then it was back to the berthroom and Jazz.

Jazz, who had already been consumed by the blanket by the time Prowl returned, peeked out at the Praxian. It was easy to tell why he had left and some part of the Polyhexian was waiting to be punished for the damage he had inflicted.

Prowl, meanwhile, had his attention immediately drawn to the floor where his lost life force had pooled beside the berth. His annoyance this time remained internalized as he carefully stepped around it. He had already cleaned his frame and did not need more mess now.

Only once he was seated once more did Prowl turn his focus to his mate. Or at least approximately where the mech was. "Jazz, why have you made the blanket consume you again?"

"Cuz' I'm hiding." He answered, shuffling around so that he was mere inches from Prowl, so they could talk.

"Hiding from what?" the Praxian continued to inquire, curious.

"I don't want to get in trouble." He was still slowly getting closer, until he bumped his helm into Prowl playfully.

"Don't go looking for it then," Prowl replied, still staring at Jazz after his unusual action. "You will have to clean the mess your actions caused this time, but if you do anything similar in the future your consequences will be much worse."

The grey mech backed off a bit, his playfulness dying off at the other's words. Sure he was thankful that he wasn't in trouble, but there was a deeper need for Prowl to just try to understand for once. He just wanted the other mech to be less… cold. He wanted, well, comfort.

It was a constant source of anything and everything between confusion and frustration that he couldn't understand Jazz's motivation for just about anything. This time it was leaning towards the latter and thus prompted Prowl to speaking. "What are you doing?"

Jazz stopped all movement at the other's question. "I thought maybe… never mind." He retreated further into the blanket.

"That is not an answer, Jazz." And now they were back to his mate simply being difficult. In all truth, Prowl wasn't sure if that was better or worse than outright rebellion. At least that gave tangible reason to punish him, but this wasn't an entirely unenjoyable situation.

"Maybe if you tried to understand..." Jazz mumbled from under the blankets.

"I can't understand anything if you refuse to explain it."

At that moment he wasn't willing to sacrifice his integrity for comfort so he simply concluded with a "yes, sorry sir."

Unaware that he might be missing anything, Prowl allowed the conversation to end at that. There were a few other considerations to be had, but he could work on those even with a distraction.

"We have a few joor before we need to prepare. Did you want to go out anywhere?"

"No," came the simple answer. Unless Jazz was suddenly being allowed to go back to Iacon, no where else would suffice.

"Alright then," Prowl replied with an accepting wing flick. He then reached for the datapad he had set down when Jazz woke and activated it again.

After a stretch of a few kliks Jazz slowly neared the Praxian again, settling close enough so Prowl could reach him easily if the Enforcer was so inclined… He didn't want to ask for affection, but he still wanted it.

While the casual movements of his sensor panels was hardly a subtle tracking method, Prowl didn't look up from his 'pad. When Jazz didn't move again, nearer or further, he decided to try something and reached out to touch his mate. His servo found Jazz's helm and he kept it there, waiting to see how Jazz would react.

If the grey mech had been any less guarded he might have allowed himself to sparkling-chirp in contentment at the touch he so craved. As it was, he did brush his helm alongside Prowl's servo to encourage more touch.

Prowl was confused by the reaction for several nanokliks, enough so he paused in his reading although he didn't look away. It did finally make sense however, and he began gently rubbing his servo back and forth along the top of Jazz's helm. Jazz approved and so they remained that way, moving only incrementally to settle into more comfortable positions.

~

Eventually though, Prowl received a message from his job and had to shatter their tranquility. Breaking contact with Jazz, he used his now free servo to shut off his datapad before leaning forward to stretch and move. "It's time to get ready, Jazz."

"Nothin's gonna change yer mind about this?" the Poyhexian ventured sleepily. He had been halfway back to recharge by the time Prowl spoke.

"It's not my choice that we're attending at all," the Praxian reminded his mate. "Now up. We need to make certain we look our best."

A small whine came from the grey mech and, reluctantly, he followed. "Sure… but you'd have ta change my paint job first," he grumbled.

"There's hardly time for that," Prowl replied, "and what would you have me change it to? Something absolutely hideous? Perhaps bright orange and teal?"

He lead Jazz into the washracks and had him wait as he pulled polish and the appropriate tools from a cabinet. "You have a perfectly acceptable paint scheme right now. Or would you rather draw attention to yourself?"

"You should know what I want by now." His words carried a tone of animosity, even as the Polyhexian continued the motions of preparing for a wash, turning the water on then stepping under the warm cascade. It wasn't socially acceptable for him to assume he was going to be washed first; it was a minor act against his forced mate, but unless Prowl wanted another fight on his servos the Praxian would just have to accept it.

Mildly surprised when the torrent of liquid changed tone, Prowl looked over. At the sight, he exvented softly under the sound of the moving water. While not a direct rule, Jazz was trying to cause trouble and he had to allow it for now. Any form of punishment that actually worked on the mech would leave a visible sign and he didn't need that at the party tonight.

All he could do now was join his mate, stepping into the mech's bubble and way in order to help him wash up. Jazz's wings lowered sharply at the unwelcome intrusion, but he wordlessly allowed the other to work.

After he had been cleaned to Prowl's standards he snatched up the solvent and set to perfecting the Enforcer's shine. It was one thing to ignore a few social cues, but another altogether to mess with his mate's finish. Prowl however, allowed it this time. His processor was on other issues and such behavior was expected of a properly trained mate. Jazz was still far from that, but it didn't hurt to encourage good habits.

The grey mech happily took his time on the task, washing, drying, and polishing the Praxian. Regardless, it still felt as though he was done too early. His anxiety over the party quickly rose, with no tasks to busy himself with. Still he waited for Prowl's instructions. There was nothing else he could do to delay the inevitable.

After his own finish was perfected, Prowl set about to fixing Jazz's. It did take some time as a delicate balance existed between too much shine and too little. Either could be equally bad; too much drawing unwanted attention or too little suggesting he didn't properly treat his mate.

Finally though, Prowl was done and stepped back to look. His mate hadn't looked quite this nice since the repaint. "I'll remind you once more," he started although it felt odd to speak after so long in silence. "It is more important than ever for you to be on your best behavior tonight. It could get you in a lot of trouble if you aren't and I might not be the one to reprimand you."

Jazz's processor instantly recalled the Praxian from before… The one who had murdered his own mates. Would Prowl allow that mech to harm him? Would he even have any say against it?

"If something happens to me out there, I will make you pay for it as well," he threatened lowly. This was all Prowl's fault to begin with, why shouldn't he be the one to pay?

"Nothing should happen as long as you behave. Your punishment hinges on you," Prowl responded in kind. "Act as you should and there will be no problems."

"How dare you! Don't pretend I have any control over my fate." Jazz was angry again, and rightly so, not wanting to be any part of this but continually being forced into these terrible conditions.

"Your reactions are always yours, and thus are cause for concern." As he spoke, Prowl's wings slowly moved higher on his back in a subconscious maneuver. "They can and will get you in trouble if you do not react appropriately."

Jazz matched the other's movements as well as his own wings would allow. "My reactions wouldn't be a problem if I was allowed even a small bit of respect. Ya can't back me into a corner an' expect everythin' ta be just fine!"

"You will be regarded with the appropriate respect for your position once you start behaving to deserve it. There is no respect for troublemaking miscreants."

"Maybe if you left some room for fragging individuality you'd have less problems! I will not just be another drone."

"The only problems are where you've decided to make them," Prowl countered. "We need to leave now. Can you be trusted to follow me or do we need to take a transport?"

"I think we should walk," Jazz snapped back, just to be more difficult.

"Fine," Prowl answered. "We can be late and draw more attention to you, since that's your desire."

Instead of a proper answer Jazz just gave a hiss of dissatisfaction. "Fine whatever."

"Let's go then."

With that Prowl led them out of the room, then the building. He transformed at the road and waited for Jazz to follow suit before beginning their drive. The trip was no longer than any other he had taken Jazz on yet, but this time they remained entirely in residential sectors. Their final destination was a moderately large home; boasting numerous rooms and even a second story.

There was a young mech waiting to meet them when they changed forms again, and he directed his conversation to Prowl alone. "You here for my sire's promotion too?"

"That would be reasonable logic, now wouldn't it?"

"Well, you don't have to be rude."

"I may when your behavior is unacceptable, youngling."

"Is not," the youth argued. "Only my carrier says that and I don't have to listen to him."

"Do you see your sire behaving as you are?" Prowl's question got a 'no' in wing movements. "Do you think he ever would?" Another 'no.' "Then why would you show such poor manners?"

A response came not from the one Prowl asked, but instead his sire who had appeared at the door. "It's good to see you know how to handle younglings, since you'll have some of your own some orn." The mech gave a welcoming wing gesture as he threw a cursory glance over Jazz. "Perhaps sooner rather than later? You haven't spent nearly as much time at the station as usual this past vorn."

"Not so soon," Prowl replied, returning the gesture before stepping forward. "The majority of that time was dedicated to training. Even now, there are things left untaught."

The other black and white laughed. "Sounds like you found a fighter. Means a good strong spark. Perfect for numerous creations."

"That is the desire," Prowl answered, not entirely honestly.

"Well come in," the hosting mech said, moving aside to allow them entrance. "There are a few more who need to arrive but the festivities have already begun."

Jazz was a myriad of emotions as he followed after Prowl. A bit of fear, a lot more anger, a small amount of curiosity, and of course resentment for having to deal with everything. Somehow he managed to keep quiet, and even more impressively, keep his wings at a respectful angle. He simply followed closely behind his black and white mech, waiting for instructions.

Prowl was silent as well as they followed their host, who took great delight in filling that silence. "I intend to make several changes now. That promotion you missed out on a vorn ago? You're looking great for it now."

"Thank you, sir." Prowl gave the appropriate tilt of thanks with his sensor wings as well but his real focus was Jazz. So far the mech was behaving well but this would be quite the test.

"Right through there is where everything's happening," the new chief explained with an accompanying gesture. "I'm going to wait for the rest. In case we don't speak again, may you have many creations to see you through many promotions."

"And you as well, sir."

And then the mech was gone and they were alone for an astrosecond. Not that they could remain that way, however, so Prowl opened the door and led them into the next room. It was, unsurprisingly, full of mechs and a few femmes. The majority were painted in various styles of black and white and mingling in small groups around the room. Along the far wall stood a line of other bots, lacking any real colors and completely silent.

Almost every set of Enforcer wings started moving in surprise once he was recognized, or so Prowl assumed as he made a cursory glance around the room. While there were a few he didn't recognize, Prowl knew nearly every designation there. Jazz, however, would not know a single bot in attendance.

"I see you finally made it, partner."

Except that one. Prowl managed to keep in all signs of his irritation, but it was close.

"And you've got a mate now," Barricade continued over Prowl's silence, his gaze lingering on Jazz. "Pretty little thing, isn't he?"

Everything about the party had Jazz on edge. He was already mentally vowing that if he heard one more thing about creations he would make Prowl's life the pit for a week in compensation. It was when he finally noticed the other lesser mates like himself off to the side, these bots bland, emotionless, and personality-less, that he finally decided to speak... Although the chance never came as his currently least favorite Praxian made his presence known.

The Polyhexian's sensor wings dipped defensively as Barricade neared them. It was a test of will to keep silent, a test Jazz would fail if the offending mech got much closer.

"He is not yours to touch," Prowl replied coolly. In a conscious act, he flared his sensor panels to shield his mate from the other Enforcer. "You've already seen that his social skills need work."

"Sounds like the fault of a bad instructor," Barricade taunted. He would get what he wanted, and if drawing the crowd's focus did it then so be it. "You should let a proper mech have a go at him."

"If you have any bots to suggest, I might consider them." Prowl, too, knew the crowd could be paying close attention and this had to be done carefully. "It was merely an unfortunate oversight. No one anticipated the previous chief retiring so soon and there's been no other reasons to allow him out among others. It will be remedied soon enough."

Jazz was sticking close to Prowl. If odds weren't in his favor in his own home, they wouldn't be any better here. Still, he wanted to get the standoff over as quickly as possible. So in his most respectful sounding tone he addressed his mate, just loud enough for others to hear.

"Sir, don't you have some important people to talk to?" He was more than happy to imply that Barricade wasn't important enough to them.... while, of course, simply trying to be a helpful mate.

"I'll show you 'important,'" said mech Jazz was trying to irritate replied as he reached for the Polyhexian. The next thing he knew, he was face first into the floor.

"I told you," Prowl all but growled from where he was crouched between the other's wings. "You are not to touch him. Do you understand now?"

The reply came in muffled words and partial wing movements. Prowl waited a bit longer then finally released Barricade and stood. Fortunately, or not, there was nothing hurt but his pride. And the entire exchange had taken less than a klik.

Turning back to Jazz, Prowl chastised him too. "You are not to speak unless spoken to."

Jazz gave an apologetic wing flick, looking to the ground as he was chastised. But only to make sure no one noticed his smirk. He had successfully caught the attention of everyone in the room, just the same as any other party he had gone to in the past.

Prowl kept them in place until his partner had risen and walked off. He had made his point and there was nothing to be won by instigating more trouble. Then he led them over to a now lone femme who had signaled an offer his way. She'd been speaking with a pair of mechs when they entered but the duo had apparently moved on. She was one he didn't have a designation for, but an individual was less potential problems than a group.

"Tracker or security?" Prowl asked as he reached the femme, all official greetings covered non verbally as they walked. "I have seen you around the station but I've never heard your designation."

"Given designation's Searchlight, but I've gone by several," she answered with a smirk. "I'm actually investigations technically, but undercover is more accurate. I work outside the wall frequently."

As Prowl took an astrosecond to look her over, now that she said it he could see how her lighter build made that a very strong possibility, she switched topics. "Quite the spitfire you have, isn't he? Not that I blame you for wanting your partner to be told off but to let your mate do it? And in public? Very risky."

"That is true," Prowl agreed. "But a solitary event it should hopefully be and he is an unusual case for now. I would not have brought him at all were I not obligated to attend as well."

"Would have been a shame." Searchlight chuckled with the words. "That sure was a sight.

"How did you train him anyway? Polyhexian, right? I got one too," she gestured vaguely towards the wall where several mechs stood, waiting. It was only her glyph that made him locatable. "I found temporary sensory deprivation followed by a bit of pampering worked wonders. Took several metacycles though. How about you?"

"Interesting concept," Prowl began, "and unconventional."

"My sister trained a Tarnish mech with the same method in a few decaorn, after nearly a vorn and a half of failure with other methods."

"Interesting..."

As they spoke, a lone Enforcer left the group he'd been speaking with and made his way towards the wall of grey bots. Picking one seemingly at random, he pushed the non protesting mech against the wall and must have said something because the colorless mech's wings were suddenly flicking rapidly against the wall.

"Hmm," Searchlight muttered when the sound drew their attention. "Seems like someone got into the high grade quickly."

Jazz was intently listening in on the conversation... until the disturbance in the corner caught his attention. Curiosity quickly turned to concern as the smaller mech of the two seemed to panic a bit. The Enforcer holding him didn't seem willing to relent his unwanted advances and eventually Jazz had seen enough.

The visored mech grabbed onto his mate's arm to get his attention before near-begging, "make him stop. He’s hurting him."

Searchlight had been in the middle of explaining something when Jazz spoke and Prowl was rightfully embarrassed. Dipping his wings in apology and the same in his tone, he picked up where she had paused. "Please forgive me."

"Don't worry about it," she responded. "You can definitely tell it's his first party. Mine was withdrawn for orns after his."

Prowl gave an acknowledging wing flick before turning his focus to his mate, who had yet to let go of his arm. "Jazz. This is not how you behave."

"How I behave?" His voice had risen some, but thankfully not enough to catch attention again. "You're supposed to be an Enforcer. Someone's getting hurt, it should be your job to help them." He paused for just a moment, weighing the risk before finishing, "or I will."

"It is none of your concern how others interact," Prowl told him. A discrete scan of the room revealed no one was paying them any attention yet. Even Searchlight was now busy speaking with a mech who seemed almost identical to her. Where he had come from and why he was suddenly there didn't matter nearly as much as they happened to be blocking most of the room from view. There was nothing he could do to change that though, so Prowl had to not worry himself over it.

"If anyone were in pain we would hear it," he stated before cautioning his mate in a low tone. "If you attempt to interfere then mine will not be the only punishment."

"If I can help someone then punishment is worth it," he shot back, pulling away from Prowl to go intervene. Maybe it wasn't too late to help.

Prowl grabbed after him before Jazz had moved too far, catching a wing. The motion likely hurt, and would only hurt more as he tugged to bring his mate back beside him. "You do not want to do this."

"Why? Because I'll be next? And you don't see anything wrong with this?" The Polyhexian stilled, to keep from causing himself more pain.

"Perhaps..." Prowl answered. "It is not my place to determine your initial punishment should you interfere in another's business. Only after would you face punishment from me for misbehaving."

Jazz just growled, ripping his wing from the Enforcer's grasp. His growl turned into a hiss of pain but otherwise he didn't react. "You don't deserve your colors."

"You know nothing," Prowl countered lowly. "You would risk your very life for a bot who isn't asking for help."

"I would. I'm not looking for a thank you, I wanna do what's right." It was an unwinnable argument, and Jazz knew that, but he didn't want to accept his own powerlessness. Didn't want to accept that he could be the next one pinned to the wall and violated in such a way. If he could help someone else, maybe he could help himself when the time came.

"What is right for you to do is nothing."

As their debate continued, the other Enforcer had finished up and moved away. The mech left behind was quick to resume his previous place and stance, although his wings now quivered no matter how hard he tried to remain still.

"Well excuse me while I go do nothing." With that the grey mech left, going to at least try to comfort the other.

“Like I said,” Searchlight commented casually. “He’s quite the spitfire. You’re just going to let him wander off like that?”

Prowl turned back to face her, wings tilted in shock and a bit of embarrassment. He was still trying to find words to answer her when the femme spoke again. “Pain’s not going to work as a long term solution, you know. Sure, it’s quick and easy for teaching a lesson but that doesn't mean the lesson will stick.”

“I don't follow,” Prowl tried as a neutral response but Searchlight wasn't having that.

“Oh I think you know what I mean. You’re already finding he listens less, aren't you?” She gave a knowing stare. “Seems like you have to repeat lessons every so often now that he’s not under constant threat of pain, doesn't it?”

Prowl’s sensorwings flicked his irritation. “I know what I’m doing.”

“Forgive me for not taking your word when both your actions speak otherwise…” The mech stiffened and Searchlight let her wings sink a little from professional to a more personal cant. “Different methods work better for different builds. His kind are best handled on a reward system. If you treat him to something he wants when he behaves then you’ll have the longest lasting results. Usually, though not always, permanent results.”

“And how does that help when he misbehaves?” Prowl couldn't help that he was curious about the advice, although not quite as curious as he was about why it was being given.

“Well you have to make sure he knows there is an alternative if he listens,” Searchlight explained. “It certainly won't be easy in the beginning. You’ll have to learn what he likes and wants and he might not be any help. In fact, given his current personality I’d be willing to wager that he would actively hinder your attempts to figure him out.”

The femme have a short laugh at something she saw in Prowl’s reaction. “He already does then. I should probably be more surprised than I am.

“Look,” Searchlight commented, back to her most serious tone. “Start by trying to be affectionate. His kind are very emotional and like physical contact. Keep him nearby and learn to respond to the cues he’s giving. Have you ever noticed him slowly gravitating closer to you?” An affirmative wing flick from the mech had he smile back. “Good. He’s probably looking for comfort or support so give it.

“If you learn his tells, you can use them to help him adjust quicker. Positive affirmation and all.”

“May I ask why?”

Her response was a ‘acceptance/question’ wing movement, prompting Prowl to clarify his inquiry. “Why are you telling me all of this?”

Searchlight gave an overly dramatic exvent. “And here I’d always heard you were so clever…”

To his indignant expression, the femme offered a new comment in a more serious tone. “Look, I can tell you like him. Not because he’ll be the perfect mate or even just the idea of having a mate. You like him. But he’s not gonna survive long, not the way you’re going.

“You’re trying to operate on some middle ground between cruelty and kindness but there is none. If he acts out of place then someone will punish him and you only have two options to make him behave. You’ve either gotta break him so he won't even think of it, or convince him so he knows better.”

“You make it sound so simple.”

“Well it really is, once you’ve made your choice. And I do hope you make the right one.”

Silence fell between them as Prowl considered how to respond to that. He was just onlining his vocalizer when Searchlight cut him off. “It can wait. Right now you might wanna go save your mate…”

Chapter Text

Jazz’s certainty and resolve faltered a bit as he approached the wall of other grey painted bots. Eventually he reached the mech he’d come to check on, offering a "hey," as his beginning line. "I'm Jazz. You gonna be ok?"

The mech stared at him, his own wings taking a confused tilt within their quivering but he remained silent.

The Polyhexian tried again, hoping to get the other grey mech to say something. "D'ya want me to get ya anything? Energon maybe?"

The other mech twitched his wings in a frantic 'no' as his whole frame started shaking now.

From beside him, a femme muttered a soft, "stop that," towards Jazz.

"I'm just tryin' ta help,” the visored mech defended. "Since no one here seems to give a scrap."

"You're going to draw more unwanted attention our way," she snapped back though her volume never increased. "You might somehow be immune tonight but he isn't."

"So this.... is a usual thing?" Jazz half questioned, pieces falling into place as he asked.

The look he received couldn't have been more condescending if it were from a creator to troublesome youngling. There was no questioning in her tone as she spoke. "And this is your first party. Do you even know anything?"

"I know that no one should be subjected ta this,” he argued back. "I know there's a room full 'a bots who should be protectin' people, but they ain't. I know there's a lot wrong with everything goin' on here."

"Take your trouble somewhere else," was all the reply the femme gave him. "You are just going to cause my bond-brother more problems."

As much as Jazz wanted to say about the issue, he knew when to leave it alone. There was no need to accidently make more enemies, which seemed like the only thing he was good at doing in the city. With an apologetic flick he left the pair, deciding to take the long way back to Prowl and get some Energon first. The last thing he wanted to hear was some approximation of 'I told you so' or worse.

Before he could collect any however, a black servo caught his. A carefully applied amount of force was then used so Jazz would have to spin around to face yet another mech he didn't know or else risk an injured arm.

"What do you think you're doing?"

It took everything in his power for Jazz to not make a fearful noise as he was roughly turned. "Going to retrieve some Energon for my mate, sir." The grey mech answered in as neutral a tone as he could, focusing on keeping his frame still, no matter how much he wanted to lean away.

"A likely story," the Enforcer sneered. "Who sent you over here and why haven't I seen you before?"

The Polyhexian flared his sensor panels to help the Enforcer read the glyphs marked on them. "My mate," he started, with an accompanying wing flick to draw attention to the glyphs he wore, "asked for Energon. I'm going to get some Energon."

"There you are," a familiar voice cut in before the Enforcer could respond. Prowl quickly came into view, speaking as he neared. "What is taking you so long?"

Jazz finally pulled away from the other Enforcer's grasp, closing the distance between himself and Prowl. "Sorry. I was trying to get that Energon you requested, but I was unexpectedly held up." He gave a glance in the other Enforcer's direction before turning back to Prowl. "Please forgive me, sir."

"It doesn't appear to be your fault, so there's no need," Prowl commented, reaching up to pet Jazz's helm gently. "Perhaps others should mind to their own affairs," he added with a pointed look towards the other mech.

The other Enforcer opened his mouth as if to speak but seemed to think better of it and closed it again. Snatching a cube, he turned and stalked off muttering about 'the new generation' and the trouble they cause.

Jazz was leery of a possible change in demeanor by Prowl, and possible repercussions for misbehaving, but after a moment or two he allowed himself to lean into the other's touch, a need for comfort and reassurance hitting him suddenly.

Prowl waited until he was fairly certain they weren't being too closely watched before speaking. He kept it soft, pitching his voice to not carry far. "What were you actually doing? I know you still can't handle the Energon here."

Jazz gave a slight frown. "I really was going for Energon, that I was actually going to bring to you. Sorry for trying to be nice."

"Oh." Surprised, Prowl paused in his gentle touch before he hesitantly continued speaking. "That was considerate of you. Thank you. Will you need any after this? We can stop somewhere on the way home."

The grey mech's sensor panels made a flick of happiness. "Is the tourist district too far out of our way?"

"It doesn't have to be," Prowl replied. "As long as you're capable of making the trip."

"I'm fine." The Polyhexian assured. "Did you still want some Energon or should we wait until we leave? ...when can we leave?" He already hated it here, and every moment seemed to inch closer to something bad potentially happening.

"Once everyone arrives our gracious host will give a speech. When the official formalities are over, then it is time for proper socializing and it is in bad taste to leave before at least a joor has gone by there." Prowl looked towards the table then and exvented softly. "Normally I would wait as most of the fare is varying high grades, but we do have an image to uphold now that I sent you for some."

Stepping closer to the table, the Enforcer studied a few cubes for a moment before picking one that was very slightly darker than the others around it. "This should do."

"So what corner do I hide in until everything's over?" Jazz joked, though his tone did have a bit of worry to it.

"We've made a very clear point that you are unsuited to do anything other than remain by me so that is what you'll do the entire time."

It seemed like a good thing to stay next to Prowl to stay safe. Why, then, did it seem like an insult when Prowl said it? "And what about them? Why don't they get to be protected too?" He gestured to the other colorless bots as he asked.

"Because they know how to behave and not draw attention to themselves," Prowl replied. "The sort of thing you're distinctly not doing right this moment."

"Because that really worked for him," Jazz replied pointedly. "And in case you hadn't noticed, drawing attention is what I'm good at."

"Then perhaps you should work on that. I won't always be able to save you if you keep doing these things," Prowl warned him.

"I'm not going to let this place change everything I am." Jazz quickly changed the topic after that. "Can I try some? How painful is it?"

Prowl decided to let the previous topic go for now. Jazz would learn one way or another, and hopefully not with too much suffering.

"It's no stronger than any standard Praxian," he explained. An astrosecond's consideration and he offered the cube to his mate. "You may have a sip since we were too busy earlier."

The Polyhexian accepted the cube, staring at it for a few moments before taking a cautious sip. It was as bad as he was expecting, but other than some wing twitching he managed to get it down.

"Still awful." He was quick to hand the cube back to Prowl.

"You'll adjust," was the response he got as Prowl accepted the cube back and took his own sip. These events were heavily based upon making a show of one's self and as a rare attendant, he, and therefore Jazz as well, was in central focus. Subtle as it may be. Unfortunately that meant further socialization.

"Come along," he directed Jazz before leading them back into the core of the room. As much as Jazz didn't want to go back into the fray, he forced himself to follow along as commanded.

~

The rest of the event went surprisingly uneventful. There was only only one other incident, when a late comer decided to try demanding Jazz return to his proper place with the others but Prowl was quick to step in and resolve that situation. Otherwise, the night was rather dull as Prowl spent it in countless conversations with bots he barely knew and Jazz spent it waiting in silence as he tried to ignore what was going on around them. Eventually it did reach a socially acceptable time to leave and although Prowl waited so they weren't the first to go, there was still a few joor before they would typically head into recharge. The party itself could last until morning if the host decided, but that's why all the important matters were handled at the start.

Prowl did make good on his promise to take Jazz out for Energon he could handle, bringing them to the tourist sector instead of immediately home. He even allowed him to pick out a few cubes in different flavors for later. Then they were on their way back to the safety and relative comfort of Prowl's home.

Jazz was still tense from the party, even after he and Prowl reached the safety of the Enforcer's home. He excused himself to the berth as soon as he could to seek comfort under the Praxian's blanket. It had been a far too eventful night for his liking and he just wanted to forget about everything for the night.

Prowl followed, too tense in his own way after the entire affair. He had expected some difficulties but the reality was more complicated than he could have ever anticipated. Right now it would be nice to forget about everything for a while. Searchlight had suggested that his mate might also need comfort after the event though, so that was the primary concern.

Lingering in the doorway, his tone was light and as open as he could manage. "Do you need anything before recharge?"

The question shouldn't have been difficult, but Jazz still struggled to find an adequate answer. Did he need anything? Not really, but he wanted comfort, he wanted someone to tell him everything was alright he wanted...

"Pet me again?"

"Like earlier?" Prowl asked. His confusion was clear in both tone and field as he moved forward, while his surprise was only in the latter.

"Please?" Jazz offered as an affirmative, curling closer to the Praxian.

Though the request was odd he had no reason to refuse it and so Prowl climbed onto the berth to get close. When Jazz had resettled, he brought a servo up to his mate's helm and began stroking him gently.

Jazz relaxed into the other's touch. Soon after the grey mech was in recharge, his frame pressed lightly against the other.

Prowl was mildly surprised Jazz fell offline as quickly as he did but decided the stress of the orn must have hit him hard too. Therefore, he moved extra carefully when he shifted to a better position to join his mate in recharge.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Prowl was up early though he had a late shift. At first he wasn't sure what woke him, until his mate shifted against his frame again. His field registered as distressed and for a few astroseconds Prowl was at a loss on how to respond. He settled on petting the other's helm as he had the previous night. That seemed to help him recharge then so perhaps it would help again now.

Jazz's recharge cycle had been fitful at best, the worries of the previous day filtering through his processor. The morning was a lot better to wake up to, though, with warmth and comfort nearby, and the nice sensation of his helm being gently stroked. Even when he was online enough to register what was going, on the Polyhexian barely stirred.

After a few moments he finally spoke, a sleepy, "mornin' Prowler," to the other, still tired enough to forget that being playfull like that could get him in trouble.

"Good morning, Jazz," Prowl replied. So far the other was reacting positively to his presence so he felt no immediate need to correct him. He even continued petting Jazz's helm. "How are you feeling this morning?"

"Tired still." The visored mech frowned as he replied. "How're you?" he questioned back, not wanting to elaborate on his night.

"Not as rested as I would like and I do need to prepare for my shift in a few joor, but there's nothing that needs attending to before then so we needn't get up just yet."

"Well I'm in no hurry to leave the berth," Jazz replied, shifting slightly closer to the Enforcer.

Prowl obliged him, moving so Jazz could fit more snugly against his frame. They remained that way for a few kliks before the Enforcer broke their calm. "Are you alright? Is there any lingering damage from last night?"

"I'm fine." It was a snapped reply. Jazz didn't want to talk about anything from the night before, and it showed.

"You don't sound fine." Prowl pressed carefully. "If you're injured then I need to know so we can get you treated if necessary."

"I'm fine,” Jazz repeated even more harshly, backing away from Prowl in protest of the other's continued questioning. "I'm going for Energon." If Prowl couldn't drop the subject, then, he decided, he would leave.

Jazz was already at the door before Prowl started to move. It was unlikely Jazz intended to return once he got his Energon so Prowl followed. He waited in the doorway of the other room though, just watching. If his mate was hurt then he'd probably be able to see it as he moved.

The grey mech knew he should have just let it go, but the Enforcer's actions did not go unnoticed, and he wanted him to know. "What?" he demanded, turning around to face the other.

"You know what I want to know," Prowl answered calmly. "If you refuse to tell me then I'll figure it out in other ways."

"Just leave me alone. I told you I'm fine so I'm fragging fine." Jazz’s wings raised in anger, trying to express how much he didn't want Prowl to push the matter further.

Surprisingly, Prowl relented. "I know you aren't, but fine. You can be 'fine' for now."

He didn't move as he calmly switched topics. "Did you want to have your Energon here then?"

The Polyhexian's frame settled, sensor panels moving downwards slowly until they returned to a neutral position. Jazz was glad to avoid a fight. In truth he did hurt a little; just some joint aches, but it wasn't something he had to deal with right away so he latched onto the next topic Prowl brought up. "That sounds nice, should I get ya some too?"

"That would be appreciated," Prowl said casually, though his wings flicked a very positive yes. As Jazz turned around again, he finally entered the room properly and made his way over to the seating area. On habit he took the seat closer to the doorway, settling in as he waited for his mate.

Everything went well, until Jazz tried to actually hold the Energon to bring to Prowl. There was a crash as both cubes hit the floor and the grey mech quickly grabbed his injured arm, cradling the appendage closer to himself to minimize pain.

Apparently there had been more damage done than he had initially thought...

Prowl was up instantly and moving towards his mate. "What happened?" His tone was a bit harsher than intended and he belatedly noticed Jazz holding his arm close. His second try was better, real concern seeping into the words as he spoke.

"Are you alright?"

Jazz averted his gaze to the floor at the other's words, feelings of shame building in his processor. "Sorry I... I just dropped them. I'm sorry."

He tried to ignore the pain as he knelt to to floor to pick up the cubes. A few moments into scrambling around to clean up the mess and Jazz just seemed to break mentally, curling closer to himself. "I'm not alright. I'll never be alright, I'll never be safe. I don't want that. I don't want that. I don't want that..." Soon enough his frame was trembling, the visored mech mumbling 'I don't want that' to himself in a sort of manic mantra.

Prowl quickly joined him on the floor, pulling Jazz close to him. It was an awkward position for both of them, but he still tried to offer some comfort.

Cultural instinct had the Enforcer reaching to stroke his mate's wings near the hinges even as a solitary processor thread pulled up memories of the other seeking to be pet. He terminated that line of thought to prevent directive conflicts, hoping he picked correctly. That choice could always be undone if necessary.

"It will be alright," Prowl stated. "No one will hurt you here and I will protect you to the best of my capacity whenever we do go out."

It took some time for Jazz to come back to reality, his field calming and condensing closer to his frame. “Sorry." He mumbled to the Enforcer, not daring to pull away just yet. "Sorry. I just... I won't ever really be safe here, and we both know it."

Prowl was silent at first, considering his words but this wasn't the sort of thing he was any good at doing. "My glyphs will keep you safe from most," he promised. "And not drawing attention to yourself will help, should you ever need to go anywhere alone."

As much as Jazz didn't want to hear those empty promises, and veiled threats to 'behave' and not 'draw attention', he didn't want to argue even more, so the Polyhexian just stayed quiet, letting the other stroke his wings.

Eventually Prowl spoke, not yet stopping any of his other actions. "Would you like to get up now or are we going to spend all orn on the floor?" The latter half was intending as a joke, although his tone might not have managed to convey it correctly.

"You don't have to stay here with me,” the visored mech argued quietly, mistaking the other's question for an insult.

"You intend to remain on the floor then?" Prowl asked. He intended this question as general inquiry, curious about his mate's tone.

"And what if I do?" For a second time in the day the grey mech found himself pulling away from the Praxian.

"Calm down," Prowl replied. "I am simply curious. There are more comfortable locations after all."

"I think I should see a medic soon," Jazz finally admitted, lacking worthwhile commentary to respond to the other’s statement. "You were right." It wasn't helping anything to be on the floor, and maybe Prowl would leave him alone if he was honest.

"I'll arrange a visit with Triage."

Before he started the comm call though, he paused to ask another question. "Can you make it to the medcenter or should I have her come by after her shift?"

"Yes, I'll be fine." Jazz was careful in his attempt to stand, so he wouldn't harm himself further. "Are we going now?"

Prowl was silent for several nanokliks before responding. "Yes. She knows we're on our way. Are you still able to transform safely? We can take a transport."

"Let's just go." He was already heading for the front door by the time he answered, looking back for only a moment to make sure Prowl was following.

Which he was. Once they got outside, Prowl made sure Jazz was never too far behind him as they traveled. There was no need to risk further damage because someone decided his mate might be causing trouble. Thankfully, their trip was uneventful and Triage was free to see to Jazz almost immediately after they arrived.

"What seems to be the problem?" she asked only after the door had closed. Her question was directed more towards Jazz as she also studied him in general.

The med center was already far too familiar a sight for the Polyhexian and Jazz just ex-vented as he saw Triage. "Someone got too grabby, now my arm ain't working like it should."

"Language," Prowl commented in a low voice but otherwise he remained silent.

Ignoring the other Praxian in a way she wouldn't be allowed were they in public view, Triage kept her focus on Jazz. "I'll just need to examine you," she explained, stepping closer. "Which arm?"

Jazz pointed to his damaged arm in a slightly over-exaggerated motion, as though Triage should have noticed just by looking at him. "It's not that bad, honest. Prowl just doesn't know how to let something go." He was giving the black and white mech a sharp look while he spoke. "Bet ya won't even find damage."

Triage gave a noncommittal hum as she ran a dual scan, both visual and with medical grade sensors.

"Well it's not entirely nothing," she told him about a klik later. "There's a cog out of place that's probably causing a lot of grinding as you try to utilize the joint. Painful and I could operate but it's better to leave something so small to self-repair. It is, however, dangerously close to a few important wires which could cost you mobility in the entire lower appendage if sheared.

"You are not to transform." Her tone shifted into one that suggested she would even order Prowl around if she had to for her patient. "That's likely what caused that cog to slip so far out of place to begin with. In fact, I'm going to require you to avoid using your arm altogether."

She turned and walked to a storage cabinet, searching for a short while before returning with a magnetic sling. "You will wear this for the next few orn until you come back to see me so I can decide if you're allowed to remove it. Will you keep it on or do I need to immobilize your entire arm?" Only now did she look towards Prowl, giving him the final say if necessary.

Jazz huffed, clearly irked at the situation, as well as at being wrong. "Fine. You don't need to do that, I can be careful." He waited until she had situated his arm into the ridiculous contraption before mumbling a short, "thanks."

"Of course. If I may," the medic began hesitantly. "How did you get injured anyway? Because I do suggest avoiding such in the future."

Jazz sensor panels lowered defensively at the femme's question. "I was forced to attend a party, and yeah, I think I will avoid those in the future."

Her own panels shot up high in surprise. She had to take several nanokliks to work them back down before speaking. "I see. Are there any other injuries or concerns you might have?" Triage asked carefully.

On a private comm, she messaged Prowl at the same time. ::Since when do you attend parties?::

"You mean, did I get used like a cheap pleasure bot? No, and it ain't ever gonna happen." The grey mech was visibly upset by the topic, still shaken from what he'd witnessed.

::It was a necessary work event. The entire station had the night off, I couldn't just not attend.::

Triage didn't respond to the other Praxian, her focus more concerned with her patient. "I'm sure it couldn't have been too horrible," she tried in an effort to soothe Jazz. Whatever the strange term he’d used meant, it was clearly something negative and she hoped to alleviate his concerns even without any understanding. "Your systems do show you're more rested lately and usually bad parties keep your kind out of recharge for at least a decaorn…"

"Well that settles everything now, doesn't it? It wasn't a bad party. I should be thankful that I somehow missed being violated. My KIND just needs to shut up and take it, right?" His voice had risen in volume significantly by the time he was done, glaring at the medic as though she were the source of all his problems.

"I… I was just trying to be helpful," Triage commented weakly. Her sensorwings had tucked down in defense and a mild display of submission.

"That's enough, Jazz." Prowl stepped forward now, ready to interfere should his mate try anything. "This is not Triage's fault and you will not take it out on her."

"Well next time don't try,” the Polyhexian finished, ignoring the other mech for a few astroseconds. Then, "fine, can we go home now?"

His tone was no less barbed when he did finally address Prowl.

The femme remained silent, unmoving, until Prowl addressed her. "Is that all, Triage?"

"Yes sir," she answered automatically. "I'll have the data work ready for discharge by the time you get him to the front desk."

Stepping between the two, Prowl spoke again to the medic. "Are you going to be alright?"

That pulled her back to herself a little bit and her wings moved a little higher on her back. "I… I'll be fine," she told him with a forced smile. "No damage done so everything's alright."

When he gave a reluctant acceptance gesture, she was immediately leaving the room. Prowl exvented softly then turned back to Jazz. "Let's go."

Jazz had nothing else to say as he followed the Enforcer. He focused on trying to calm himself down, feeling at least a little guilty for what he had put Triage through when she was probably just trying to help.

Prowl remained silent as well, taking them back home on a transport. He barely even looked at Jazz the entire time, and only finally spoke to him again once the front door had shut and locked.

"What is wrong with you?" he demanded. "None of that was even remotely acceptable."

"What's wrong with me? In case you have noticed, there's a lot wrong right now." The grey mech retreated away from the other, knowing there was a high possibility of another fight happening. "And it's all your fault. Y'know what's not acceptable? Bein' forced ta take this slag. You can't just expect me to be ok with all this."

"You wouldn't have to deal with as much if you could be bothered to learn how you need to act," the Praxian countered. "Or if you would act as you should. You draw the negative attention to yourself."

"That's a pretty hilarious joke there, because from what I've seen it doesn't matter what I do. Some Praxian is always just gonna assume he owns me and ruin my life, or use me as a cheap way to get off at some fragged up mockery of a party. You're all the same. When are you gonna do that to me, huh Prowl? Is that what you want me for? Powerless little frag toy for your sick coworkers to use?" Jazz had backed himself up against a wall, his frame crouched and ready to attack if Prowl got closer.

"I want nothing of the sort."

What he did want was complicated at best, and he wasn't entirely sure he even completely understood. That was not something he could explain though. It simply wasn't proper for him to not be the stable one and completely in control, even if he didn't actually feel it. So he kept to the default.

"If you would just listen, you could keep yourself so much safer."

"And if you'd just listen you'd understand that won't help." Jazz made a noise of frustration, desperately wanting Prowl to just get what he was trying to say. "One a these days this city's gonna offline me and no amount of me being quiet or wearing yer glyphs is gonna help. But you don't get that." He almost immediately switched topics after saying that.

"I'm going to check on my crystals," he mumbled before leaving to do just that.

"You do that."

Prowl vented deeply once Jazz was gone. One step forward, two steps back. That's all it ever was dealing with the other. Just like a poorly raised sparkling. Searchlight's advice was never going to be any help.

The Praxian decided to spend the rest of his free time in his office. Perhaps he could come up with something useful before his shift began.

Jazz also made a point to ignore Prowl's presence as best he could for the rest of the day, it wouldn't be too long before the other mech would have to leave for work and Jazz had had enough confrontations for the day.

~

Prowl stayed locked up in his office for the joor before he had to leave and when that time came he simply left. The security alarm was engaged and that would alert him if Jazz attempted to leave but otherwise he didn't care. He wasn't at the point of hoping his mate got himself hurt to learn his lesson, but it was probably the quickest solution. He hadn't found any other new methods to try, but at least he had most of the night cycle now to attempt to figure out something to try on Jazz.

Jazz didn't even notice the Praxian leave until he heard the door open and then shut again. As much as he was trying to think 'good riddance' a part of him was saddened. Prowl didn't even bother to say goodbye or wish him a good night or anything of the sort...

It wasn't long after the black and white mech left when Jazz set about the task of finally cleaning up the mess he had made before collecting some Energon for himself. With only one usable arm the tasks were quite a bit more difficult, and the grey mech was more than happy to eventually be able to reward himself by going to the berth for an early recharge.

~

The night cycle was more than halfway over by the time Prowl was able to return home and he had been ready to leave work by the end of the first joor. Between a grouchy partner and the constant chatter that always descended on the station after a party, he had barely gotten any work done. That several other officers had stopped by to try talking with him throughout his shift was only an added annoyance, to both him and his partner.

The rest of his orn had been so bothersome, in fact, that he'd let himself completely forget the earlier situation with his mate. At least, it was forgotten until he walked into the berthroom and saw the other mech curled up in recharge. Waking him now would serve no purpose however, and he didn't even have a plan for dealing with his mate yet anyway. So all Prowl did was crawl into the berth to try chasing recharge himself. After his orn, the temporary oblivion was well welcomed.

Chapter Text

Recharge was no easier than Jazz's last attempt. He was online at various times throughout the night cycle, eventually noticing that Prowl had returned from his shift. In an attempt to calm himself Jazz settled closer to the Praxian, enjoying the warmth of the other's frame. He wasn't tired enough to fall back into recharge, but he was at least comfortable enough to rest until Prowl onlined.

~

Morning came far too quickly and Prowl almost ignored his alarm. Something was different in the room though, prompting him to investigate. The cause wasn't overly difficult to locate and he'd found it before his optics even onlined. Sometime during recharge he and his mate had moved closer, putting them in a shared warmth and comfort. It was pleasant and he didn't particularly want to move so he offlined his optics again and carefully brought an arm up to hold his mate close. Jazz gave a satisfied hum at the action, cuddling closer to him. He didn't dare say anything and risk ruining the moment. For now he was warm, safe and content, something that didn't happen often in Praxus.

It was about half a joor later when Prowl finally couldn't just lay there anymore. He wasn't going to be able to recharge and his frame was still low on energy so he would need to get up for Energon. He slowly pulled away, flexing his wings to ease the joints into working, while he debated collecting a cube for Jazz as well. He most likely needed it too, but it might be better to let him continue resting.

Jazz didn't let him get too far before he sat up and looked over curiously. "You're not upset at me, are you?"

Prowl only gave a surprised wing flutter when he noticed Jazz. "Why would I be?" he questioned, curious himself over what the other thought he'd done wrong.

"You just left and..." The Polyhexian struggled for words for a moment before going silent. "I dunno."

"That was last night and you knew I had work." He didn't really have a better answer for letting the other's mood dictate his actions.

Jazz frowned, but otherwise didn't comment further. "So what's the plans for today?"

"Right now, Energon," Prowl answered. "I'm sure you could use some as well? Even recovering from minor injuries uses extra energy."

"I wouldn't be opposed." The more Prowl wanted to do for them the better, Jazz was already finding limitations on his daily activities because of his arm.

With a single acceptance flick of his sensorwings, Prowl lead them to the other room. He left Jazz by the table to get seated as he collected two Energon cubes for them. Then he was back and took his seat after offering Jazz his cube.

They had each taken a sip when Prowl next spoke. "How are you feeling? I know Triage said it would take a few orn but you have been careful, haven't you? No stressful activities or laying on that arm in recharge?"

Jazz looked to the injured arm in question before replying. "I'm being careful with what I do. I hardly notice any pain."

"That's good," the Praxian replied with a faint smile. "If that changes let me know and I'll see if Triage can offer anything for the pain."

The grey mech nodded, focusing on finishing the rest of his Energon for the time being. He gave the Enforcer time to do the same before talking again, and tried to keep from sounding too smug as he asked. "How's that partner of yours doing anyway?”

Prowl's sensor panels flicked a few times in irritation before he noticed and pulled them back under control. "Bitter and more annoying than ever. It certainly hasn't helped that he can't just bully his way around everyone after that display.

"I still don't condone what you did, but it was nice to be able to finally put him in his place."

"Condone it or not, we both know he deserved at least that," Jazz stated, not entirely able to hide a mischievous grin.

"Perhaps…" Prowl agreed slowly. He would never deny it was overdue, but neither should he outright agree. That didn't prevent the small smirk that developed on his faceplating in response to Jazz's grin though.

"Just don't ever try anything like that again. I was only able to take him down due to training and because he wasn't expecting it."

"If I have any say in it I never want to see him again.” Barricade seemed like all around bad news for him, not something he wanted to take any chances with.

"I'd rather keep you very far away from him as well."

Being the source of the other Praxian's troubles was not a good place for anyone. At least there was nothing he could legally do in response to anything Jazz had done without receiving some form of punishment himself. And Prowl would make good on his promise and strive for the harshest punishment available.

"Did you rest well?" he asked next, changing the subject. "I noticed you were already in recharge when I returned home."

Somehow Prowl's question caught him off guard and it took the Polyhexian a few moments to reply. "Sorta? it's getting easier to recharge again. I was just out of sorts after that party."

"I hear that's a common occurrence," Prowl stated carefully. "You do seem to be handling it fairly well comparatively but all I have are, at best, secondhand stories to judge against."

"So you understand why you're never taking me to something like that again then, good." It a was matter of fact statement that Jazz refused to argue. He knew that next time it would be him being forced to do who knows what against his will, and that just wasn't allowed to happen.

"I wouldn't have brought you to this one if it wasn't an obligation." And back to another repeated argument. Absently, Prowl had to wonder if Jazz ever got as bored of these same fights as he did. "I do not find the event nearly as interesting as others do, thus the only parties I attend are those I can't avoid."

"I get it, I do, I just don't want to even think of having to go to another one 'a them. I don't think I could... I mean I've never even..." Jazz averted his gaze, going silent again.

"You've never what?" Prowl questioned, honest curiosity creeping into his tone and the tilt of his wings.

Jazz's wings twitched in a way that showed just how uncomfortable he was with the current conversation. "I've never done anything like that before,” he tried explaining.

"Anything like what?" Of course his mate couldn't make sense immediately and that only made him even more curious. "I already know this was your first party so you can’t be indicating that."

Jazz was almost squirming with embarrassment, fighting to form the words to explain what he was trying to say. "I've never i...." there was a slight pause. "I mean I was waiting for the right bot, but I was so busy with work that I never... and... you know?"

"I have absolutely no idea what you are attempting to explain." It was perhaps the most open and honest Prowl had ever been with Jazz, and it was only because he had nothing else he could say.

Jazz felt as though he could offline at any astrosecond from how awkward the conversation had become. Was Prowl really that dense? "Interfacing!" he finally shouted

Regretting it the moment the word was said…

"I'm gonna go." He suddenly excused himself, determined to hide from everything under a blanket until Prowl forgot the entire thing.

Prowl let him leave, a little stunned by the whole ordeal. It took almost a klik to process that yes, Jazz had said that, before he could even begin to apply it to the situation.

It was approximately two breems later when Prowl finally stood, cleared their cubes from the table, and then went to find his mate. The Praxian found him in the berthroom. Or at least he had to assume it was his mate filling the mound of blanket on the berth.

His greeting was an attempt to retain levity. "Have the blankets kidnapped you once again, Jazz?"

Of course Prowl couldn't just leave it alone… Jazz gave a small whine when he heard the Enforcer's voice, wanting to just disappear instead of continue the disaster of a conversation.

"Go away." It wasn't a demand so much as a plea.

"I just want to talk," Prowl replied, not moving from beside the berth. "It would be easier to communicate without the blanket in the way but I'm not interested in burrowing my way in to join you, so come out?"

Jazz eventually complied, as much as he didn't want to. "What do you want?" He asked when he finally emerged from the blanket, just enough to glare at Prowl for bothering him.

"We were having a conversation before you ran off," Prowl reminded him. "You do know it's in poor taste to leave in the middle, don't you?"

"I think that conversation is over." Jazz retorted, sinking back into the blankets a little further.

"There are more civil ways to end a conversation."

Prowl watched his mate carefully in case the topic might somehow cause unanticipated violence as some had in the past but all the signs suggested resigned resistance. That certainly was an improvement.

"I don't understand why that even would be the end of a conversation in any case. Is the topic a distressing one for you?"

"What was your first hint?" There was more than a little animosity in the Polyhexian's voice as the other kept pressing the topic. "I don't wanna talk about it anymore. I didn't even want to say that much."

"You certainly are strange," Prowl assessed. "Outsiders are rarely so secretive about interfacing. Is a lack of experience considered negatively?"

It was Jazz's turn to be genuinely confused for a moment, even going so far as to tilt his helm in a questioning sort of way. "Yeah, usually it's a bad thing... but not here?"

"Of course not. Interfacing is simply something that happens and we regard it as such. There are no specific adornments regarding experience or a lack of."

"And what if you don't want it to happen?" There was a sense of defensiveness about the question, the visored mech still seeming unsettled about the whole thing.

"There are necessary reasons," Prowl explained. "I should hope you know that you need to interface in order to create."

"Well I don't want that either." Jazz finally returned fully to his blanket shelter, trying to signify he was completely done with the topic at hand.

"At least that's something we agree on," Prowl commented before noticing Jazz had hidden away again. All he could do then was exvent deeply, wings dropping to a general displeased tilt.

It took a bit of time for Jazz to return to the conversation, but his curiosity was piqued again. Enough, at least, for him to poke his helm out and ask about Prowl's comment. "But at the party you said you wanted sparklings."

"I have never said that," Prowl argued. "I may not have refused when another said it, but I have never been interested in creating. It is simply what's expected and you don't say anything contrary."

"Well I'm glad you get everything you want. Must be nice." There was more sadness than anger in his voice, a resignation to whatever fate had in store for him.

"You won't need to worry about creating or sparklings either." It was an attempt to comfort and perhaps cheer his mate. "Isn't that what you want as well?"

Jazz gave a low growl. "You know what I want, it's the same thing I've ask for since being kidnapped by you. So unless you can give me that leave me alone." And with that he disappeared under the blankets again, this time determined to stay hidden.

"I'll just leave you be then," Prowl commented, finally getting the hint to leave. He had a few of his own tasks to see to anyway. Jazz could always come find him later if he needed anything.

~

Jazz waited until he was sure Prowl was gone before leaving the blankets once again, only long enough to fetch his multi-use datapad. There wasn't much he could do with only one useful arm, but maybe a bit of mindless gaming would put him in a better mood…

~

After a peek into the berthroom had revealed Jazz still hiding when he was ready to leave, Prowl had opted not to mention he was going to work. It made his day feel strange, but they had a sort of peace going and he was reluctant to ruin it.

He began to regret that decision almost immediately upon reaching work. His partner’s mood was at least as bad as the previous orn and he was still a popular topic himself. Starting his day feeling off only made all of it even more irritating. There was a small sliver of good news amidst the rest, however. Hidden in among numerous other meaningless messages waiting when he logged into his terminal was one he had been waiting on a very long time. Finding that mid-shift instantly brightened his orn and buoyed his mood until he was free to leave. For once he honestly preferred being gone to remaining at the station.

He was still pleased by the news even as he arrived home.

~

Jazz had lost track of time until very late into the night cycle, absorbing himself in a newly downloaded game that had quickly demanded all of his attention. It wasn't until about a joor before Prowl was due home that he even checked his chronometer. With a slight frown he saved and quit his game, realizing Prowl would probably be quite angry with him if the Praxian found out how long he had stayed awake. His own systems even seemed upset at him for putting off rest as it didn't take more than a few kliks for the grey mech to fall into recharge.

~

Finding his mate in recharge when he arrived home wasn't overly surprising, and he certainly wasn't disappointed. No, not at all. Prowl simply accepted it and after a breem or so to unwind he joined Jazz in recharge. His next shift was much earlier than the previous ones.

Chapter Text

Prowl was the first to online as usual. His alarm had been set to give him plenty of time so he didn't arrive late and thus he didn't immediately get up. After several kliks though his systems reminded him that he needed Energon. When he checked back, carrying two cubes now, and Jazz was still offline he couldn't help his soft exvent though. Wings angled ever so slightly down, he watched the other for nearly a klik but there was no signs of awareness.

Resigning himself to another annoying orn, Prowl moved to Jazz's side of the berth to leave the second cube. There was no point in waking him when he was recharging well for once. He could always share his news later.

He left shortly after. His shift would begin soon and being late would be a strike against his promotion.

~~

Jazz was a slight bit confused when he first onlined. There was no Prowl next to him. Thus the Polyhexian didn't stay long in the berthroom, instead going to check the rest of the house for the other. He was even more confused to find the entire house empty.

Eventually he decided to just comm the other. Of course, he couldn't make it seem like he was worried or anything, so he settled with something simple. :I want to go see Triage and get this sling off, where are you?: It was a good enough excuse to warrant a comm.

:Jazz?:

Prowl had never expected to receive a comm from the other, and while a pleasant surprise, it also confused him for several nanokliks before he found his thoughts to respond.:I had an early shift this orn. You were in recharge when I returned home or I would have told you and I saw no need to needlessly wake you so early.: Switching topics only slightly, he continued. :Did you have the Energon I left you yet?:

Energon? Jazz questioned mentally, retracing his steps until he was back in the berthroom and the aforementioned Energon was located.

:Of course. Thanks.: He lied, only then downing the cube before sending Prowl another comm. :And about my visiting Triage? This thing is annoying and I really don't think I need it anymore.: As much as he was, somehow, happy to hear Prowl was fine, that visit to Triage was sounding better and better. It would be nice to do something for himself without Prowl having to escort him around like a pet for once.

:Of course: Prowl answered. :As long as you know the way and remember how to act. You are not restricted to our home after all. I will even message her so she knows to expect you.:

Jazz was practically out the door by the time the Enforcer finished his comm. :I'll be fine! I'm just gonna go right there and then come right back, I promise!:

He was already on the sidewalk as he sent his reply.

Prowl couldn't help the hint of a smile that tugged at his lipplating. His mate sounded cheerful and he suddenly didn't mind that he hadn't woken him. It also didn't seem so annoying that his partner was late or that the team across the room kept glancing his way as they seemed to debate coming over to chat.

~~

Jazz took his time in reaching his destination, still not even halfway there in the time it should have taken for him to already be in the med center. The warmth of the day felt good on his sensor wings, and it had felt like forever since he had gotten to go for a long walk alone. As long as he didn't bother anyone else, they had no reason to bother him he reasoned, so why not take a few extra kliks to enjoy the day?

It all went well until he rounded a corner and ran into another mech. Literally. Said mech was, obviously, not pleased, growling out a rough, "watch where you're going."

So much for enjoying the day with this jerk in the way and... "So sorry, sir!" Jazz made none of his thought known as he made his sincerest sounding apology. "Please excuse me."

He didn't stop for more than a beat, hoping to use the temporary confusion to just leave without any confrontation. He wasn't that lucky though. As he tried to dart away, the black and white mech reached out and caught his good arm, pulling him back. "Where do you think you're going?"

The Polyhexian gave an undignified yelp, reluctantly turning to face the stranger. "Just to a med ce-" He stopped mid sentence, realizing how familiar this stranger seemed.

The Enforcer seemed to recognize him at about the same time and his mood shifted quicker than the scowl on his face plating turned into a wicked smirk. "Oh, this is too good."

Jazz tried to pull away from the Praxian, his instincts screaming at him to make a run for it. Whatever Barricade had planned would not turn out well for him.

"You're not going anywhere," the larger mech taunted as his grip tightened. Then he seemed to consider it. "Or maybe we should take this off the street. Less chance of interruptions then…"

Even as he finished speaking, he began to drag Jazz towards the nearby mouth of an alley.

"No, no, no, no, please let go." The grey mech was doing everything he could to keep from being pulled along, but nothing seemed to work. Soon enough run seemed like an impossible action so he opted to try something else. He bit down as hard as he could on the arm that held him while trying to yank himself free to make his escape.

The grip on his arm vanished as they reached the alley, but then he was being knocked loose and flung deeper in as Barricade shook him off. To his credit, Jazz had managed to puncture a minor Energon line, but the slow drip of liquid was small consolation as the Praxian advanced on him.

"Oh, you'll pay for that."

The visored mech hit the ground hard. He took a moment to assess the damage and pain before attempting to get himself standing again, the magnetic sling very quickly becoming a hindrance to his attempts. Within nanokliks he had it off and was on his pedes again, trying desperately to find somewhere to run away. But there was nowhere to go. The far side of the alley ended in a wall, so he wouldn't have gotten away even if he could have gotten there. As it was, he wasn't able to move far before a wing was roughly grabbed and yanked back.

Jazz let out a pained noise, wing joints popping as some of the stress points gave. He stilled for the time being, hoping to minimize the pain. "Stop.... please."

"That's more like it," Barricade practically purred. The rumble of his engine closer to a roar, especially as close as he was holding Jazz. "But I want to hear you scream."

Claws that had been unnoticed before now dug into the sensitive metal of Jazz's other wing as the Enforcer brought his second servo against it.

There was no hesitation before Jazz did just that, curling in on himself as much as he could while he screamed. His wings felt as though they had been set on fire at that point, but the Polyhexian forced himself to focus. He twisted his frame with as much force as he could muster trying to make Barricade drop him, and when that worked, he began to crawl away, hoping that would somehow be enough to escape.

Barricade watched Jazz struggle to move for several nanokliks before catching him again and hauling him back up by a wing. His grip was dangerously close to the open wounds he'd just created.

"You would have been fun," the Enforcer leered. "It's too bad these," and now he rapped his claws against the designation glyph on Jazz's other wing, "mean I only get to play with you once." His cruel grin returned as he dug in and pulled a line down through the metal alongside the glyph. "I guess I'd better enjoy it while it lasts."

The Polyhexian made a high pitched whine, desperately trying not to scream. Trying not to give the Enforcer the satisfaction he was looking for. His wings were already coated in Energon. Every time they twitched he sprayed a fine dusting of Energon droplets everywhere.

"You can't... do this.... please." He tried to reason with his attacker, frame shaking slightly from fear and the pain he had already faced.

"I will do whatever I want." A twist of his claws turned the angle of the line and he yanked hard to the edge of the other's wing. "You do not get to tell me what to do." Now Barricade pushed, maneuvering Jazz until his frame was pressed hard against a wall. "You only get to do what you are told to do. And right now you get to suffer."

Jazz could barely react to the overwhelming pain and warnings flashing. The Enforcer's words went unnoticed, the grey mech focusing on trying to find a way to push back the wall and escape his hold. "Let me go!"

Jazz was pulled away from the wall for just a few nanokliks, just to be roughly shoved up against it once more. "You're not going anywhere."

Jazz felt as though he world was spinning; everything was out of sorts and everything hurt. He gave up fighting for a few moments to try to clear his processor, whining a soft, "sorry, sorry sorry..." as though that would stop his assailant.

"That's better." The words were growled practically in his audial. "Now give me what I want and maybe my partner can have you back in one piece."

"Fine! What do you want‽" Staying alive, and in one piece seemed much more preferable than the alternative. Whatever Barricade wanted, it couldn't possibly be worth his life.

"Now you're learning." The response came the a taunting sneer. "But shut up unless you want me to give you a better use for that mouth."

Jazz had no desire to find out what the Enforcer meant by his comment, so he kept quiet, hoping if he just did as he was told he would escape with no further injuries.

"That's better. Maybe you did get some decent training after all." Said Enforcer loosened his grip slightly, to the point he wasn't actively hurting Jazz anymore. "Now open up so I can see just how good."

As much as Jazz knew he wasn't supposed to speak, confusion outweighed his need to follow orders and he eventually gathered the courage to ask, "open what?" He was desperately hoping Barricade wasn't planning on trying to harm his spark or anything.

"Don't play dumb," the Praxian warned, a clawed servo tracing down his frame. "Open your panel or I will."

The moment the grey mech realized what the other was talking about he was back to trying to escape, using the small bit of room the Enforcer had accidently granted him by relaxing his grip to turn himself around. He had to force himself to ignore his wings scraping against the wall as he did so. Without any time for a plan, his instincts told him to go for the first weak spot he could think of, so his very next action was to find sensitive neck cabling and pull as hard as he could.

The action was unexpected enough to catch Barricade by surprise. He made a pained sound, pulling back and instinctively dropping any grip he might have still had on Jazz. The visored mech was quick to try to dart away as soon as he seen an opportunity, trying desperately to make it out of the alleyway before Barricade had recovered.

He was only able to make it a few steps before the larger mech reached out and caught him carelessly by a wing before dragging him back. The other mech's voice was a hoarse rumble when he spoke. "You are going to pay for that."

It was in that moment, being dragged away from any possible hope of escape that Jazz realized he wouldn't be getting out of the situation intact. He shuttered his optics and waited for the next attack, not wanting to watch what was about to happen to him.

Jazz was again pushed against the wall, this time facing the Enforcer so his wings grated against the rough surface. "You think you can just do anything and get away with it because he's so lenient with you but you're not that important. He doesn't care about you at all," Barricade sneered. "Certainly not enough to bother with proper training. You're just a means to an end. And a pathetic one at that."

Jazz was more focused on choking back pained cries for the moment than engaging in conversation, but eventually the Polyhexian found his voice, even onlining his optics once more. "Obviously you're wrong," he argued, although weakly. "He cares enough to put you in your place. Hope you liked the way the floor tasted last time 'cuz when he finds out what you did to me he's gonna put ya straight back down there."

"My place is his equal or better, unlike some piece of outsider trash like you." Barricade's tone was menacing and he dug a claw slowly into the sensor panel still in his grasp. "You are a disgrace to these wings. It is well with my right to simply remove them, however I see fit."

"Just let me go, you made your point... please." Jazz realized quickly enough that he was doing himself no favors by acting boldly. He only hoped it wasn't too late. He was already in almost too much pain to bear.

"I think not. You're still talking like you have permission." Gradually, the Enforcer began to widen the hole he'd just torn open as he spoke. "You disgrace my partner simply by existing. You need a fitting punishment."

Jazz tried to stay quiet, but he couldn't stop a few whimpers from escaping his vocalizer. Maybe, maybe if he just behaved Barricade would become bored and finally leave him alone...

"Better…" the Enforcer taunted. He wore the same wicked smirk as before. "It seems you can listen. Now open up."

Jazz just shook his helm, there was no way he was going to do that, not for him. He had no hope of escaping, but he would not lose determination to protect himself as best he could.

"Are you sure about that?" Barricade brought his free servo up to flash his claws before moving lower. His other servo shifted to press Jazz's wing firmly against the wall. "This is your last warning."

"No, no, no, please, you can't."

He had nowhere left to go, but Jazz still tried to squirm as far from the other as he could without causing himself further harm.

Skipping further preamble, Barricade reached down and dug his claws into the seam of Jazz's interface panel. Then he pulled, intent to rip it off regardless of the damage it might cause. The smaller mech screamed again, trying to push the other away from him to stop him. He was soon choking back sobs, scared and in agonizing pain.

"Stop stop stop..." he begged uselessly. For once Jazz found himself wishing Prowl was around to protect him.

A digit pressed inside him, probing before being stopped by an unexpected barrier. The Enforcer's surprise quickly shifted to malicious humor however.

"I knew he didn't know what he was doing, but this is too much. Of course you wouldn't behave if he never finished training you."

"Primus, please, no, don't." His frame tensed at the unwanted intrusion, optics shuttering. Jazz would have given anything to escape the current nightmare he was in. "You can't, please. I'm-I'm Prowl's.... you can't..." It was a desperate last bid. Prowl's glyphs were supposed to protect him... Prowl was supposed to protect him.

"Well if he's not going to properly utilize you, then I will."

Barricade's own interface cover snapped open and his spike was almost immediately pressurized. He had no difficulty in bringing himself to Jazz's opening and soon had his tip inside the smaller mech. With a single, rapid thrust, he was fully seated within the other. What little resistance the seal had offered was pitiful in comparison.

All the life seems to drain from the small grey mech, the only indication of him still being online was his frame shivering. He felt sick, and terrified, and hurt all at once. His own frame was betraying him, feeding him foreign feelings he never wanted. He had nothing left. Nothing to escape the horrifying nightmare.

It was over in only a few kliks. A period which felt both eternal and like no time at all comparatively.

Once he'd sated himself, Barricade did a quick clean up of his own frame before closing his panel. It didn't take long for him to cross the distance to the mouth of the alley and then he was gone without ever looking back.

Jazz didn't know when, or how, his frame had reached the ground. He barely even registered that he was somehow suddenly laying on the ground, curled up as protectively as he could manage. He no longer felt the Energon that was still oozing from the wounds on his wings, or the fresh Energon dripping down his legs. Jazz didn't feel any of this because he wasn't there anymore.

Jazz didn't exist anymore.

~~

Time held no meaning for him anymore and so it could have been kliks or orns before another bot happened down the alley. The black and white mech hurried towards him and dropped to the ground, intent on looking him over even as a call was placed for a medical transport.

Dull blue optics stared at the mech who was all too suddenly in his space... Barricade? Was he back? No.... it didn't matter. Jazz only curled up tighter. Maybe he could be left alone again, alone to not feel or think or exist.

"Jazz," the other mech called out. The voice should have been familiar. "It'll be alright. I've got a medic on the way. You'll be alright…"

There was no answer from the Polyhexian. Anything the other mech said seemed to have no effect, as though Jazz hadn't even heard him. Maybe he had, but the words didn't matter, it was just lies anyway.

The Praxian continued speaking until a medical transport arrived. The words could have been meaningless nothings or secrets to life, the universe and everything. It didn't matter though.

Jazz was loaded into the transport after the medic riding along had settled him into stasis. There was a lot of work to do on him and it was best done with him offline, regardless of his mate's opinion. The medic didn't stop to learn that he was speaking with his patient's mate, but Prowl wouldn't have refused even if he had been asked.

Chapter Text

Triage took the comm from Prowl with mild but pleasant surprise. Of course she would examine Jazz and make sure his arm had healed. She had expected to do so in another orn or two anyway. The only surprise was that Prowl was sending him alone, but who was she to complain? If that was how he was treating his mate now then there might be hope for them yet. Thus, she returned to her work wearing a smile. Jazz would be along soon enough and she could get his unbiased opinion on her friend and his methods. Maybe she could even pick up a few ideas and suggestions Jazz would like him to know and pass those along.

~

It was practically a joor later when her comm unit beeped again. Checking it showed that Prowl was on the other end and she picked up quickly. Perhaps he had decided not to send Jazz after all.

She never got the chance to speak though. Prowl’s voice came over the line immediately after the communication connected. :How is he? Why haven't you updated me on Jazz’s condition yet?:

Triage’s wings shot up at that as dread settled around her spark. :What are you talking about? He hasn't even shown up. I thought you were about to tell me he might be late or wouldn't be here at all.:

:No: Prowl replied. :I had no such intentions. He should be there already. Are you telling me he hasn't arrived?:

Triage hesitated in case it got Jazz in trouble but she had to trust her friend. :No…I haven't seen him yet. I thought you were messaging to say you decided not to send him.:

There was a short silence that only served to worry Triage more before a response finally came. :Have a room prepared just in case. This isn’t like him and I am concerned. I’m leaving work to find out exactly what happened.:

:Of course: Triage responded and the commline closed. That left her with much to do but not enough to keep her mind off the dread over what state she would next see the former Polyhexian in.

Even her worst thoughts couldn’t compare to the reality.

~

Several joor later, Derby arrived home to find her mate curled up on their berth, tangled up in the blanket. One of their pillows lay on the floor and the rest were scattered along the head of the berth. She approached slowly, trying not to disturb her mate but Triage didn’t even move until Derby touched the edge of her wing.

Startled, the medic’s wings shot up with her frame as she moved to see who had disturbed her. Seeing it was her mate, Triage practically launched herself at the other femme and linked her arms around her waist as she continued to sob.

“Whoa, calm down there love,” Derby commented absently. She didn’t expect it to have any effect but the words were automatic, as was the desire to comfort her mate. Maneuvering the crying femme so she could sit on the berth was a minor challenge but Derby managed. Once she was perched atop the edge of the mattress, the military build turned her attention to gently stroking her mate’s wings. Though it didn’t seem to be doing much this time, the gesture was often helpful and so she kept it up as she attempted to carefully question Triage.

“What is it, love? Did something happen?”

When she only received tears as an answer, Derby prodded a bit harder. “You don’t seem injured so is this something about a patient?”

The tears became sobbing once more so she had to be on the right track. “So one of your patients went through something terrible,” Derby stated to confirm. “Did someone offline?”

The flare of Triage’s wings could have been shock at her guess but Derby knew her mate well enough to know that it was actually a denial. “Ok, so no one offlined but that means I’m out of guesses. You’ll have to tell me if you want to talk about it.”

It was practically a breem of silence that they sat there in before Triage collected herself enough to mutter a nearly inaudible, “almost…”

Though she hadn’t expected it, Derby didn’t miss the comment. “‘Almost’?” she repeated. “I don’t understand what you mean by that, love.”

Triage sniffled a few times as shifted to sit up. She didn’t meet her mate’s optics though. “I think he did almost offline…”

“Oh…” It had been her own suggestion but Derby hadn’t expected that to be the actual answer. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Triage didn’t speak but neither did she refuse so Derby allowed her mate the space to think and consider the option.

Soon enough she was rewarded with her mate’s tale of how Prowl had found Jazz damaged in an alleyway. It was obvious he had been attacked but the mech hadn’t bothered to leave a message of any sort nor even an attempt at compensation. She hadn’t given that aspect much thought as she worked to fix the recent made-Praxian. His wings were a mess and there had been some minor hemorrhaging in his valve but it had all been repairable. Despite that however, his spark had tried to flicker out three different times. The last time, she nearly hadn’t been able to save him either. Even worse, she couldn’t find a cause for such a dramatic response to the incident. There was no sign of spark contact or a forced hardline or anything at all that could have passed along a virus that would cause Jazz’s reaction. She had a potentially terminal patient -and one she would befriend given the chance- and there was no discernible source so she could not resolve his issues.

Derby did what she could to offer solace to her mate but this was a new situation and neither femme truly knew how to deal with it. Eventually, Derby did think to offer what help she could in tracking down the mech. Her mate already had a response and solution to that situation however.

“Prowl said he was certain he knew who it was and intends to get me a sample of his CNA to test against the evidence,” Triage explained and that was that.

Derby spent another couple kliks trying to verbally comfort her mate before deciding that couldn’t be done this time. Instead, she scooped the other femme up to settle her better on the berth and then climbed in beside her. Once the blanket was drawn around them both, Derby drew Triage close to offer comfort through cuddles. There was some humor to the situation: if any of her subordinates had been there to see, they never would have believed it. They should have though. Her mate was always her top priority, just as it was always intended to be.

Chapter Text

"Before I wake him, there's something I should tell you." Triage's tone was careful, hesitant. "It's best to get this out of the way before he's online because your reaction might trigger a bad one in him as well..."

Prowl accepted that with a flick of his sensor panels but didn't look up. His primary focus was the mech lain out on the mediberth he stood beside. One servo was delicately tracing the weld lines along once beautiful wings. Temporary additional panelling had been applied to protect the internal circuitry while the shredded metal repaired itself. The damage wasn't enough for replacements to be required, but the patches did obscure the faded glyph.

Little else on the grey mech's frame had been broken, just his wings and some internal injury. Prowl's servo made a fist where it had moved against his mate's arm. This was wrong. It never should have happened. And he would make the one who hurt his mate suffer.

"Prowl?" Triage questioned after a klik, worried both for and about him. Finally, he turned to acknowledge her. "I... Well, um... That sample you had me test... It came back as a match."

Anger, contempt, sadness, resentment, pride, hatred. So many emotions swamped the enforcer that he had to push them all aside lest he drown under their force. "Understood."

"That is good, right? It means you know who it was?" Naturally the femme was disturbed by the situation too. Jazz was someone she hoped to consider a friend eventually. To see him once again in her medcenter, wrecked in terrible new ways, twisted up her spark in the worst ways.

"I do," Prowl answered. "Now I just need to decide how to make him pay."

There was such a wicked pride in that last word that Triage almost worried for the other bot. A glance to the berth as Prowl began gently caressing Jazz's arm had her rejecting that concern however. Whoever this mech was deserved whatever Prowl had in mind. It was one thing to use a Made-Praxian, but another altogether to leave one to offline alone in an out of the way alley. If not for her own involvement when Jazz hadn't shown as expected, Prowl wouldn't have gone looking and Jazz might not have survived.

She stepped slowly forward. "I'm going to bring him online now," she reiterated. "Your calm should help him come back to himself quicker but don't be too surprised if he thinks he's still under attack."

At Prowl's wing flick, she plugged into Jazz and began the task of bringing him online. The process would be gradual so she had time to retreat from his system before he was fully online. "Alright, here we go."

Jazz's onlining took longer than even the medic could have guessed. The injured mech fought every step of the way to remain in the comfort and safety of stasis.

Eventually his frame gave a few twitches, signalling that he was coming back. It was a slow reboot at first, everything coming back in small increments. Soon enough though his processor was taking in information from his frame: pain, wrong, danger! The Polyhexian was instantly up after that, retreating as far as he could away from the perceived danger. His engine gave small warning revs to indicate that he would attack if provoked.

::Don't:: Triage warned Prowl through comms before he could move. ::Let him settle first. He might still be processing memories...::

Prowl gave a discontented twitch of his wings but remained where he was. Triage herself was nearly on the verge of tears and someone needed to remain calm. And presently that was all he could allow himself to feel as he watched his mate suffer and waited.

Jazz was starting to settle as he took in all the new information, where he was, how damaged his frame was… Then he spotted those colors, black and white, enforcer colors, and his demeanor switched right back to defensive. His processor couldn't seem to get over enforcer equating to pain, no matter who it might have been wearing those colors.

::You should leave.::

Triage's comm was both unanticipated and unwanted as he watched his mate struggle. ::There has to be something I can do to help...::

::There is:: she answered, tone near pleading. ::You need to leave. His reaction got worse when he saw you.::

Reluctantly, the Enforcer did so, unknowingly taking the brunt of Jazz's current concerns with him.

Jazz forced his frame a little further back as Prowl began to move, watching the enforcer intently until he could no longer see him, then turning back to look at Triage. His frame relaxed just a little more as the supposed threat was diminished but he was by no means calmed down yet.

Triage simply watched him for a klik but as he continued to show no signs of properly calming, she took an unconventional route. Activating her internal speakers, she began broadcasting music softly. Naturally, she had seen the music chips he carried so it seemed like a good idea to try. With her own mate in the military, that meant lots of work in other cities and occasionally she'd even gotten to go along too. As a result, Triage had a taste in music and small collection of her own. It was mostly ballads, soft and sweet, but that fit the mood she wanted to invoke.

"I won't hurt you," she promised in soft tones without ever moving.

Jazz finally began calming down, frame relaxing, and engine quieting. He never took his optics off the medic, but everything about the way he held himself showed that he was becoming more receptive. He went from scared to sad, the implications of his pains weighing heavy on his processor.

Triage allowed him to calm as he would, ready to wait it out for several joor if it was necessary. He was her primary patient today, and unless an emergency required her assistance as well, there was nowhere else she had to be.

"Will you allow me closer?" she did eventually ask.

Jazz didn't say anything. He didn't want to. He did look away from her, finding anything else that might be interesting as if to convey that he didn't care what she did. She wasn't a threat so she didn't matter.

Her approach was slow and careful. Every step the medic expected to need to retreat again until she was beside him. Still, she hesitated here as well. "May I scan your systems to make sure everything is functional?"

He barely tilted his helm her way as she spoke, signifying he heard what she said, but her only answer was a soft ex-vent. He wasn't saying no, he just didn't care.

"Alright..." She huffed a slight ex-vent of her own before trying a different route. "I'm going to plug into your frame and look through a lot of things but I will stop if and when you tell me. It's ok if this takes scan takes a long time. You are more important."

She still hesitated before initiating the connection. At least inside his processor though, he might be thinking in terms and concepts well enough for her to follow and understand.

The Polyhexian stilled for a few moments after the medic had connected. His apprehension was building as she poked around his processor.

He went from 'I don't like this' to self defense in less than a nanoklik, ripping himself away from the connection before going on the attack. He jumped on the smaller bot and knocked her to the floor, pinning her there by a servo around her neck. The grey mech's grip slowly tightened around her cabling, threatening to damage precious wiring.

Triage couldn't help the startled gasp that escaped her vocalizer. It took all of her determination to not start a scared whimpering and for a klik the only sound was the music she was still playing.

Time seemed to go by agonizingly slowly until, finally Jazz let go, backing off from the femme and returning to the med berth. He made it clear that he wasn't about to let her near him by settling his frame back into a defensive pose.

Triage didn't move until Jazz was as far from her as he was going to get. Then she stood carefully, keeping her attention but not her optics on him the entire time. Once standing, she made her way directly to the exit, slowly enough to hopefully not pose a threat but not lingering in the slightest.

Jazz watched silently as she left, not moving for quite some time even after she was gone.

It took quite some time for him to eventually calm down, even without someone to be perceived as a direct threat in the room. Every time he tried to think of anything his processor was there to remind him bits and pieces of what he had endured, why he was in the med center, how his frame had been used and abandoned, worthless.

Eventually the silence was too much to take and the Polyhexian turned on himself, focused on shredding the protective paneling on his wings, because even pain was better to deal with than the memory of his attack.

Triage had been just starting to explain the situation to Prowl when a patient alert sounded. With only one patient this orn, she immediately turned to reenter the room she'd just left, regardless of the personal danger. As the door slid open, she did comm for back-up but then her focus was pulled to Jazz and the wounds he was reopening.

"Stop that!" the medic cried as she crossed the room to try and stop him.

The femme's sudden shouting did pull Jazz away from his self harm, long enough for him to react to her approaching by throwing himself off the berth and trying to get away.

There was already a small pool of energon on the berth, and a trail leading to Jazz, who was trying everything he could to escape...

Internally berating herself for shouting at such a delicate time, Triage stopped where she was when Jazz tried to dart away. Her next steps towards him were slow and cautious.

"It's alright," she murmured. "No one here is going to hurt you."

Jazz didn't seem like he was about to believe her for a moment, backing away with every step she took towards him. His aim was to eventually get to the door to leave, not wanting to be trapped in the room any longer.

~

When Triage had rushed back into the room it had left Prowl confused and concerned. Especially after she'd left it in such a tumultuous emotional state. So it was only natural that he would try to peek inside, coming up to stand in the doorway to witness the events within.

Jazz didn't notice Prowl, until he backed into the other mech, whipping around to face him as soon as his damaged wings hit something unexpected. It was almost instantly the Polyhexian was back on the attack. His processor screaming at him 'not again, not again, not again.'

Jazz lunged at the enforcer, teeth sinking into the other as they landed. No one would touch him this time or ever again.

The attack was too sudden, too unexpected for the Praxian to avoid and though it hurt like the Pit, he didn't react violently. Instead, he grabbed the grey mech by the upper arms and tried to hold the other in place to minimize the damage.

"Jazz," he tried futilely to reach his mate. "Stop this. You're safe now. Please..."

The grey mech struggled against the other's hold, throwing himself in every direction he could to try to get out of the enforcer's grasp, accidently damaging his wings further as he thrashed.

Against better judgement perhaps, Prowl kept his grip tight so Jazz didn't have far to go. It put him in greater risk but the alternative was letting go and giving him free range to attack anyone, anywhere.

"Jazz, please... I don't want to hurt you... Please, calm down..."

As he spoke, Triage gathered her courage to get close and plug in again. This time she immediately went to activate the code that would drop him into stasis.

There was a brief moment where Jazz stopped moving, just before he was put into stasis, a moment where all life seemed to leave his frame and he resigned himself to whatever would happen to him...

Even as he shifted his grip to catch his now offline mate, Prowl's wings dropped on his back. Heedless of his own injury or the Energon they were both leaving on the floor, he carefully picked Jazz up and carried him back to the berth. Triage had disconnected and stepped aside to deal with the security mechs who showed up, but she soon joined him. Just at a glance, Jazz's injuries were more pressing but culture required her to offer assistance to Prowl first. It was an annoying formality that they would have skipped if the security duo hadn't decided to wait around 'just in case.'

After a wasted klik, Triage got to work fixing Jazz's wings again. Unable to feel his own injury past the painful clenching in his spark, Prowl sat and watched the entire time.

Chapter Text

It was a couple orn later before Triage called Prowl in to try waking Jazz again. He'd been on similar shifts as she so it hadn't been possible to do in the intermittent time.

"I've got his motor controls disabled but he'll have nearly full senses and his vocalizer should be functional," the femme explained as she plugged into Jazz’s systems. She ran another check just to be absolutely sure before preparing to wake him. "Hopefully, he'll be willing to speak this time..."

Jazz struggled less with the next onlining. He had no reason to fight anymore, he had no strength to fight anymore.

The last to online were his optics, their glow seeming to be duller than usual. He attempted to move a few times, but simply accepted that he couldn't. He glanced at Triage, then to Prowl, watching silently.

"Jazz?" Triage asked calmly. She had disconnected almost immediately. "I'd like to scan your systems while you're online and make sure everything is functional. You're currently immobilized because the last time I tried you didn't take it well. Is this scan acceptable?"

It took the Polyhexian a moment to find his voice but when he did it seemed to be more of an automatic response. "Yes."

A bit disturbed by the style of answer, Triage didn't let that keep her from her work. Nor the comm she received just before plugging in.

::You said he had most sensors functional. Is physical contact acceptable?::

Triage resisted giving any outward reactions as she sent a reply before reconnecting her cable. ::Casual only, until we know how he responds. And pull back if he reacts badly. I'd prefer not to have more injuries to fix.::

Prowl gave an affirmative wing flick before reaching out and resting one of his servos atop Jazz's nearer one. Though he'd intended to honor Triage's instructions, he couldn't help lightly stroking in an effort to comfort. If there was just something he could do to help...

Jazz's optics flicked down to the touch, before following back up to Prowl. There was a sense of emotion in his processor, for just a moment before his processor supplied him with the only thing he needed to know. Prowl, mate, master, follow orders. It seemed simple enough. Nothing that required emotions or pain.

Prowl managed a very quick smile that was gone almost as soon as it was formed. But he began speaking anyway. "I'm glad to see you online, Jazz. You had us worried."

"Sorry sir." Another automated response. Then the grey mech looked away from the Praxian to a nearby wall.

"Jazz...?"

Prowl's tone held hope and despair in equal parts but the next comment came from Triage as she finished up her scan. "Alright, we're all done there and your systems look clean. I'm going to release the lock on your upper frame now so you can sit up but don't try and stand because you won't be able to use your legs yet."

Jazz took Triage's words as an order to sit up, and did just so the moment it was possible, before looking back to Prowl, since the other had spoken his designation.

"He's probably in shock," Triage commented when Prowl only stared back at Jazz. "It's a method our minds use of disconnecting and distancing us from traumatic events until we're strong enough to handle them."

He gave an accepting wing flick before speaking. "How long will he be like this?"

"I'm sorry, Prowl. I don't know how to predict that." Her wings sagged further at being so useless presently. "It could be vorn or he might be fine when you both wake up tomorrow. It all depends on him. And if you're supportive enough. Coming back isn't enough, he's bound to suffer frequent memory purges until he can properly process what happened.

"You will take care of him, won't you?" It was her turn to plead. Broken or not, she had a special place in her spark for Jazz too.

"Of course I will." Any other time this reply might have been snapped or replaced with something sarcastic. Right now though, Prowl didn't have the energy or will for any of that.

Jazz just gave an empty stare, as if their words meant nothing to him. Nothing was a direct order so there was no reason to act until one was given.

The next few breems were spent with Triage running physical checks of Jazz's limbs and reactions. Jazz focused on Triage long enough to follow through with everything she expected of him, before turning his attention back to Prowl. Everything worked, with the obvious exception of his wings, but there was a noticeable delay. Still, his reaction times were within acceptable range and soon she was ready to prepare the discharge data work.

Prowl didn’t attempt to speak again until she left the room to collect the medical grade Jazz would need to consume until his next visit. "Jazz?" the Praxian called softly before stalling on what to even say. Finally his words became, "how are you feeling?"

After the other mech finished his question there was a long pause before Jazz answered. "Functional."

"That's not what I meant," Prowl replied. If Jazz had been acting like himself he might have considered that to be a joke. Now however, there was no laughing. "I want to know what feelings you have."

There was another long pause before Jazz spoke again. "What would you like me to feel, sir?" he questioned, unable to find any way to answer.

"Eventually happy," Prowl commented softly. "But right now I'd settle for genuine contentment."

Jazz seemed confused. He was unable to articulate contentment, but would attempt to fake it, per his mate’s orders. Prowl was just about to reach out and try touching Jazz to see if that had any effect when Triage returned. She was a tiny bit surprised to find everything as calm as she'd left it, but it was a nice surprise.

After passing off the medical Energon and checking one last time that Prowl knew their care instructions, she allowed them to leave. Jazz wordlessly followed Prowl, looking to him in case he had further instructions to give.

Due to the condition of his wings, Jazz was not allowed to transform so they took a transport home. The ride was made in silence as they always were, but this time it seemed like an oppressive silence even to Prowl. Or perhaps it was the content of his thought streams that caused that. It was so strange though, to see Jazz effortlessly holding himself still without some form of distraction. He hadn't even realized he'd grown accustomed to all the tiny movements his mate used to make, but now that they were absent he noticed clearly.

Eventually they made it home and once the door had shut, Prowl moved to the couch and sat down. He tried to pitch the next words as a suggestion but had already noticed his mate wouldn't perceive them as such. "Come here, Jazz."

Jazz followed the Enforcer's instructions without pause, as was becoming his new usual. Then he stood by the Praxian and waited for his next instructions silently.

Prowl only got those few astroseconds it took Jazz to reach him to reign in his disappointment that he did so without hesitation. By the time his mate was at his side, his field had evened out to a blank calm again. He reached out to pull the other mech down to sit beside him before pulling him close. Knowing the gesture had helped before, he tentatively began stroking the grey mech's helm.

"You are safe now. I won't let anyone else hurt you. Especially not here. It will be alright. You will be alright."

The only reaction Jazz gave was to tense up a bit at the unexpected contact before his frame went slack again, allowing Prowl to do whatever he wanted.

"Yes sir."

The rest of their orn went agonizingly slow until Prowl brought them to the berth room for an early recharge. Jazz didn't resist. There was nothing in him to resist. As quickly as they settled in though, it still took over a joor for Prowl to find and activate his recharge protocols. His processor was too busy muddled in the present and how to handle it.

~~

Morning came as it so rarely did for the Praxian; without an alarm to wake him. For just a few nanokliks as his senses picked up another presence in the berth he felt a pleasant flutter in his spark. It had been strange and wrong the last several orn without his mate. Of course, once his optics cycled online and he registered that the strange patches of color adorning the other's wings were medical patches, then everything came crashing back in a painful clenching of his spark.

When he could process thought again through all the sensation he started to reach out but hesitated. He didn't want to wake the other to a repeat of the previous orn, but he couldn't resist the small tug on his spark that maybe, just maybe, the mech he'd grown to care about would be there now.

Jazz cycled online at the slightest touch, going from recharging to fully aware in nanokliks. He didn't move too much however, no more than it took to turn and look at Prowl, ready and waiting for the Enforcer's orders.

"Jazz?"

The single word was loud in the room even as soft and hesitantly as he said it. There was no more sign of awareness than before but he had to try. He had to hope.

The sound of the Polyhexian's name was met with a quiet, "yes sir?" in return. He might have been answering to that designation, but it was clear that it wasn't Jazz answering.

Prowl's spark crumpled in on itself slightly but he offered no outward reaction. Even his field remained even and calm. "Did you recharge well?"

It felt like a mockery of their normal routine but perhaps the return of old habits would usher in another return.

"Yes sir,” came the same automated response that was quickly becoming his new norm.

"How are your energy levels?" Prowl forced himself to continue. "Will you need Energon?"

"70%" He replied factually, leaving it to his mate to decide whether he deserved Energon or not.

"I see."

He lacked anything else to really say so slowly Prowl sat up. After stretching, more to waste several nanokliks than out of need, he stood. "I'm going to get some Energon for myself. You can join me if you want?"

Jazz followed the other's lead, standing, and waiting for the black and white mech's next actions to follow. He had taken the other's question as an order to follow and intended on doing so unless told otherwise.

Prowl knew better than to trust the action as a conscious choice, but his spark gave that little flutter again anyway. Doing his best to disregard it, he opened a storage unit and retrieved two cubes. One of his own usual, and one of medical grade. The latter was offered to the other mech.

"You should take half of this now," Prowl stated, "and the rest when your levels reach 75% again. If you fall below 60% then take a full cube."

The offered cube was taken with a polite 'thank you' wing flick just before the grey mech sipped the contents to about half. He then held the remainder of the cube, waiting for the next instruction.

Prowl eventually gave Jazz a gentle reminder as to where the Energon could be returned. He watched as Jazz did as instructed before heading out of the room, curious if the other would follow. The pain and disappointment in his spark threatened to overwhelm him again but he was learning how to push them down. It didn't hurt any less, it just didn't distract him as much.

Jazz was left lost and directionless, but he didn't move from the spot he had been. There were no commands to follow and no direct objectives. Any thoughts he might have started were quickly pushed away, lest they accidentally stir up any emotion. So he just waited until the next prompt was given.

When his mate didn't follow after a couple kliks, Prowl did go back to find him. Stationary in the exact place he'd last seen the other. Resisting a resigned ex-vent, Prowl directed Jazz to join him in the other room. Once he had direct orders it was easy for Jazz to follow them. Orders didn't take thought or emotion or anything else terrible that occasionally lingered on the edge of his processor.

They ended up on the couch once more. This time Prowl only had Jazz sit by him, close enough they could touch but not requiring such. He had a datapad of his own out to work on but when Jazz just sat there blankly, he pulled the multipurpose pad he'd recently given the other from his subspace and offered it to the grey mech as a form of entertainment.

Jazz accepted it, as he assumed he was supposed to and... held it. He didn’t turn it on or otherwise interact with it. He just held it until Prowl may have need for it as again.

"That's yours, remember?" Prowl commented after a klik. "To occupy yourself." Reaching over, he hit the power switch and the screen lit up. "I bought it because you asked."

After the datapad was turned on Jazz stared at it not moving nor touching. Nothing seemed to catch his interest, it didn't seem like he had any interests anymore.

"May I?" Prowl asked, holding out a servo for the pad. The question was probably unnecessary, but he wasn't about to give up yet.

Jazz handed the datapad over him instantly, watching silently in case there were more orders given.

After a few clicks, the Enforcer had pulled up a music function and began a playlist comprised of songs he could only assume Jazz had added in the short time he'd had it. Music had to have some effect, right?

However, even with the music saturating the room with its fun happy sounds Jazz didn't react. He kept staring, waiting for the next orders to be given, processor devoid of thoughts or emotion. Prowl just barely contained his sadness. He couldn't afford the risk.

Out of ideas, Prowl just pulled his mate closer, carefully maneuvering him to lean against his own frame. He did leave the music going, just dialing down his own sensitivity so he could focus on his datapad. If he tried hard enough, he could almost believe Jazz had just fallen into recharge beside him. With how little Jazz moved after being pulled against the Praxian's frame, he might as well have been in recharge.

They remained that way for a few joor, in an even more distorted mimicry of the false pretense they had come together under. Then Prowl startled as his forgotten internal alarm went off. Typically a wake up call, this time it served to pull him back from the temporary oblivion he'd sought in a new text-file. He had nearly lost himself in countless thoughts unrelated to the situation with his mate, to the point he'd almost forgotten he had one at all.

It all came rushing back quickly though when he registered another's presence. "Sorry," he muttered without thinking about it.

Jazz pulled away from the other, to look at him as he apologized, but otherwise said nothing.

"Right," Prowl commented dully when he was met with silence. This time he did ex-vent softly. "I have to leave for work soon. Is there anything you need or want before I go?"

"No sir,” Jazz responded, sounding exactly the same as he had before.

"Of course," Prowl replied just as simply. It wasn't easy to ignore the clench as his spark squeezed a little bit tighter on itself, but he didn't let the pain show.

He picked up the multipurpose pad from where it had landed on the floor and set it on the couch beside his mate again. "Take care of yourself while I'm gone and don't forget about Energon if you need it. The higher you keep your energy levels the sooner Triage says your injuries will heal."

Once Jazz gave his almost non-existent reply, Prowl was heading off to work. He wasn't sure he even could have stayed too much longer. Whatever his shift held couldn't possibly be any worse at least.

~~

As it turned out, Prowl couldn't even seem to get a break at work. For possibly the first time since they had begun working together, his partner managed to get to work first.

"Prowl, good to see you could finally make it!" Naturally, Barricade was waiting inside the lobby at the front of the enforcer station to comment. "Thought you were going to be late. Has something got you distracted?"

"I am neither late nor even close," Prowl shot back, wings twitching in an irritated way. It was about the only movement they ever made around his partner, and now it was either that or revealing his anger and he wanted that to be a surprise.

"Unlike some, I care to behave professionally."

Barricade smirked at the smaller mech's clear irritation. "Don't get so worked up, Prowl." His voice was near taunting as he spoke, following the other Praxian. "What's wrong? Life at home not everything you ever dreamed of? I wouldn't see why not. Your mate should have learned his place by now."

Prowl went from his usual brisk pace to a complete stop instantly. The slant of his wings angled higher and he didn't even bother turning to address the other. "You have no place making any comments about him."

The other Enforcer had to quickly stop to avoid running into Prowl. "Did I hit a weak spot? There's no use trying to protect him now; you're no good at it anyway."

The next thing Barricade knew, he was laid out flat on his back, sensor wings squished beneath him. It happened almost too quick for anyone to see. One astrosecond they were standing there 'talking' and the next they were on the floor with Prowl -Prowl of all mechs!- not quite straddling his partner.

"Don't you dare go anywhere near him again," he hissed into the larger Praxian's audial as he pressed down, putting additional force on the other's sensorwings. "I will not let you live to regret it."

And then, Prowl was shoving himself up and off his partner. Silently he stalked the remainder of the way to his desk.

Barricade should have known to let the matter go. He should have known to take the minor defeat along with the much greater victory, but that was the second time Prowl had dared to humiliate him. Almost as soon as he was up, Barricade followed after his partner. His claws instantly sank into the metal of the other's sensor panels as soon as they were close enough to grasp.

"You will apologize,” he growled, grip tightening on the edge of Prowl's wing.

Prowl didn't even flinch. "No."

Gaze locked with the other, he pulled his wings back, willfully tearing open a section of the one. Yet there was only venom in his voice when he spoke. "If that's all you can do then it's no wonder you need to pick such frail things to pretend to train. You could never handle a real bot."

Prowl barely got to finish speaking before Barricade hit him, hard enough to force his frame against the wall, before pinning him there with a servo on one of his wings, claws digging in once again.

"I'm gonna let you try this one more time, before I make you regret ever being created."

There was no pained or even shocked sound from the pinned mech. If anything, he was grateful for the distraction the physical provided from the mental torment.

"Is this really all you know how to do?" Prowl mocked. "Because I already know your last step and I guarantee if you try, you'll be the one suffering. So go ahead, continue. If you dare."

Barricade growled, pulling Prowl closer to himself by his wing before throwing him to the floor. "You'd like that wouldn't you?" he accused. "It's no wonder you can't train a ‘sub, you're too much of one yourself." He punctuated his statement by kicking the other Praxian.

Prowl wasn't still though. He lashed out when kicked, hitting the other's stationary leg to knock him down as well. He didn't pause to see if he succeeded, quickly getting himself upright again in case he hadn't.

Barricade wasn't expecting such quick retaliation, and was downed before he could react.

Before the other enforcer could do anything else a femme made her presence known with a sharp, "what the pit is going on?"

Prowl glanced to the femme, intending not to shift his focus from his partner for too long. When he noticed her decals though, he let his guard slip as he canted his wings as best he could in an appropriate greeting for a superior.

"Nothing, sir. Just settling an argument."

Barricade grumbled something as he stood that Prowl missed but their superior officer certainly caught and her attention targeted on him. "That will not be tolerated. Get to my office. Now. You are suspended pending a behavioral review."

Shifting, she turned her focus back on Prowl. "Don't think you're in the clear either, but first you need to see a medic."

"Understood," Prowl answered, attempting to give the appropriate gesture with his sensor panels as well but one stuck and sent a lance of pain through him. He did hold back any sounds, but his wince was visible.

"Sit," the femme directed. "There's a transport on the way."

"Yes sir."

Chapter Text

It was a long and arduous orn and Prowl was grateful to finally make it home. The living room was not empty when he arrived. As soon as Prowl noticed Jazz, he made his way towards him. "Hello Jazz. How are you feeling? Did you remember to refuel?"

As soon as the Polyhexian saw his mate, he all but leaped at him, knocking him down into a cuddle. "I had the most horrible dream..."

Prowl caught him, confused. "What did you dream about?"

"Ya kidnapped me, and tortured me, and then some scary mech... he... well.. he..." Jazz opted to hide himself in the other's nape instead of going on.

"He what?" Prowl prompted. "If it was only a dream then it can't have been too bad."

Jazz's frame nearly started shaking at being prompted to continue. "He... forced me."

"Oh."

Prowl tightened his grip on his mate and turned their loose hold into a tight, comforting hug. "Oh, love... You are safe now. I would never let that happen to you. I would offline the mech myself first."

"I... I know... 'm sorry for letting it get to me... it was just so real." Jazz subtly tugged at his mate, hinting that he wanted to go to the berth for more cuddles.

Prowl leaned in for a quick kiss before conceding to his mate's desire."No, it is understandable. That does sound unnerving," he commented as he let himself be lead to their berthroom.

Just as they went to leave the room the front door pinged...

Prowl's frown lasted only a moment before he huffed out a short sigh and turned towards the door. "I suppose I should get that."

Jazz let out a minute whine as Prowl left, but understood it was for the best.

"Hey partner," the mech on the other side greeted as soon as the door was opened.

Prowl couldn't help his surprised question. "What are you doing here?"

"No, ‘hey how are you doing?’ How rude."

Meanwhile Jazz was inching closer to get a look at who was at the door, and just as the stranger was about to talk again he let out a scream.

Prowl's wings went up and he had turned to find and protect his mate before he was consciously aware of the action. Already holding the other, he shifted to comforting him when there was no immediate threat. "What is it, love? What happened?"

Jazz was shivering by the time Prowl reached him, trying, but unable to calm himself down. "Only a dream, only a dream, only a dream." He repeated to himself.

The black and white mech on the other side of the door meanwhile had simply lifted an optic ridge in confusion.

Prowl did glance back for a moment. "You may as well come in. He's never done this before and I don't know how long it will take to calm him."

Not giving his partner a chance to respond, Prowl focused back on Jazz. "Love, talk to me. What is it? Please explain, Jazz."

"He did it!" There was a hint of panic in his voice, as he curled around his mate for protection.

The other enforcer simply shrugged before letting himself in and leaning on the near you wall to wait out the Polyhexian's freak out.

Prowl held him tight and began gently stroking Jazz's helm. "'He did it'?" he repeated in questioning. "What did he do?"

"He... he's the one that..." just as Jazz was starting to calm down, he looked over to where the intruder was standing and yelped, tearing away from Prowl to try to find a good place to hide.

"Jazz..."

The word fell heavy in the sudden absence of his mate and his wings even drooped. Prowl only allowed himself a few moments of staring down the hallway the other had vanished into before turning to his partner. His composure was back in place by the time he completed the 180.

"I am sorry you had to see that. I really don't know what got into him this orn but welcome. I didn't think you even knew where I lived but you must have important news if you are here so I won't stall any longer."

The larger mech give a smirk before replying. "Found quite the charmer I see." He commented idly before finally getting to the point. "Chief wanted me to drop off some test results on the case we're working on, apparently the priority got bumped up because there's a chance the victim might still be alive." As he spoke he got the datapad out of his subspace and presented it to Prowl.

"He's just having an unusual orn," Prowl offered offhandedly as he accepted the datapad. "Did you check that the lab sent us all the results we requested?"

"Went through them before getting here. There's some inconclusive results that I'm not happy with, but everything's there." He replied, shifting slightly. "Should I stick around in case you figure something out, or wait for a comm?"

"I might need a couple joor to sort through all the details so I will comm you," Prowl replied. "Unless of course, you prefer to wait around for that time? I don't want to needlessly ruin your evening however, should there be nothing to find."

He gave another shrug before replying. "I wanna go get energon anyway, I don't feel like risking the wrath of that mate of yours." With that began to take his leave. "Good luck." He gave as a final goodbye before shutting the door behind him.

Prowl spent a few moments staring at the door while holding the datapad before he looked to it. A moment later, it was in his subspace and he was leaving the room to find his mate.

The search eventually brought him to their berthroom and Prowl peeked in to find the blanket pulled into a mound sitting atop the berth. He couldn't help the smile that formed even as his worry grew. Jazz was rarely one to hide from anything after all. Prowl crossed the room quickly and spoke once he was beside the berth.

"Jazz? Are you in here?"

Jazz whimpered at the sudden noise, before slowly, cautiously peeking his helm out from under the blanket.

"Oh, there you are," Prowl commented. "May I join you on the berth or is it taken currently?"

The visored mech was still for a moment, before reaching out for his mate to signify his acceptance.

Prowl took his hand and then climbed onto the berth. Getting under the blanket was a minor struggle but he managed well enough to get some of their plating to touch. Then Prowl kissed Jazz again. "Will you tell me why you're hiding?"

As soon as the Praxian had settled Jazz wormed his way closer, needing as much comfort as he could get. "He's the one that---" the rest of the sentence died into a mumble.

"He did something to you?" Prowl asked, catching that part of the sentence. "When was this? I didn't know you two had met before."

"He.... violated me." For the moment Jazz didn't seem to remember to differentiate between reality and his dream.

That had Prowl's wings shooting up again. If they had been beneath the blanket then he would have pulled it completely out of place. "What? When‽ Why didn't you tell me this sooner?"

"It was after my arm got wrecked, when I went to go see Triage." Jazz snuggled closer, trying to chase away the remaining memories of his bad dream.

"When did you wreck your arm?" Prowl asked, now more concerned than ever. "And who is Triage?"

"You don't remember Triage? Do you even remember what happened to me at the party?" Jazz was borderline hysterical again, trying to crawl even closer to Prowl, as if he hoped they would somehow become one.

Prowl pulled his mate close and held him as tight as he could. "Jazz... Love," Prowl began. "Are these events from your dream?"

"No! I... That... We..." He trailed off before becoming quiet. "It felt so real."

Prowl leaned in and kissed him. "I'm sure it did but you are awake now. The dangers of your dream can no longer hurt you."

"Sorry sir." He apologized quickly, and air of sadness about him suddenly.

"'Sir'?" Prowl questioned. "You've never called me that before."

"Of course I have, otherwise you would put me in the clos-oh.... it... was my dream again." He just couldn't seem to shake that nightmare, everything seemed to remind him of it.

"It's probably best if I don't ask what that means, isn't it?" Prowl hugged Jazz extra tight for a moment again.

The Polyhexian just gave a quick nod, allowing himself to be lost in his mate's warmth.

"So... Is there anything I can do that won't make you think this is your dream?"

"This is good, you never really gave me affection in my dream..." He was starting to feel bad about letting one silly dream affect him so much, but there it seemed impossible to shake up the subtle wrongness to everything.

"Alright, so lots of affection," Prowl commented before kissing Jazz again. "Are kisses good too or only cuddling? Should I just pet your helm?"

The other black and white mech giggled at the onslaught of affection, returning his mate's kiss. "Petting was the only thing dream you managed to get right... but I wouldn't complain if real you did it."

Prowl chuckled and brought a hand up to Jazz's helm to give the promised petting. "I bet dream-you made sure he knew how to do that, didn't you?"

"Maybe~" Jazz replied playfully, leaning into the other's servo and offlining his optics.

Prowl's smile went unseen but he pulled Jazz close to his frame again with his free arm. "I love you so much. I hope you know that."

"I love you too Prowl... Even an emotionally stunted you apparently." He gave a soft laugh.

"Oh?" the Praxian asked, wings tilting up with his voice. "I hope you mean your dream version of me, although he sounds more like a nightmare..."

Jazz leaned in to give his mate another kiss before replying. "Yeah, I meant nightmare you, but I think I would fall in love with any kind of you... this one is just my favorite."

"This me is glad to hear that," Prowl commented and gave Jazz another tiny peck of a kiss. "Although you might not like my next suggestion."

Jazz gave a helm tilt. "What'd ya have in mind?"

"I think you should meet my partner," Prowl said. "He recently transferred so that's why you wouldn't know him yet. And this way we can prove to you that he's not the horrible mech you seem to think he is."

"I dunno, he already seems so grumpy..."

"We are working a murder case with no leads," Prowl explained. "He also had to stop by during his free time to deliver case information. Wouldn't you be grumpy as well?"

Jazz frowned. "I'm just leery, but if you think it's ok... it's ok." He agreed reluctantly.

Prowl pressed a kiss to the top of his helm. "I love you and you are so wonderful." Another kiss. "Do you want to visit the station tomorrow during my lunch or should I invite him out for energon after our shift?"

"I don't wanna bug ya since you're working on something big. Energon sounds good though." Jazz squirmed a little closer, reaching to pet the enforcer's wings comfortingly.

Prowl pressed his wings into the touch and resumed his petting of Jazz's helm. "Alright. I will ask him tomorrow then. Do you want to go anywhere in particular?"

"As long as there's some energon I'll like too I don’t mind." Jazz was finally feeling content, his mate providing just the right affection and attention needed to get him over his awful dream.

"So I should find a location that serves strictly Praxian, is that it?" Prowl's question came out in a light tone, teasing his mate in a common way they shared. "I don't know if he'll like that much though."

Just as his field had settled, fear flared up again. "I can't have that again... please."

Prowl instinctively hugged Jazz but his own field was confused. "I know you didn't enjoy it that one time you drank from my cube but you've never reacted so negatively to the idea before. Are you going to be alright, love?"

It took the visored mech a few moments to finally speak. "I'll be fine soon enough."

"Is there anything I can do to help?"

"I think I just need to rest and get that dream out of my processor, will you stay until I'm in recharge?"

"Of course, love," Prowl answered. Then he kissed Jazz's helm. "I will need to make a call after I finish going over some work but otherwise I should be completely yours."

Jazz nodded silently, moving just enough to get comfortable next to his mate's frame before trying to recharge...

~~~~

It was long past mid-orn but not yet nighttime when Prowl sent Jazz a message with some coordinates. When Jazz arrived it turned out, unsurprisingly, to be a nice restaurant. Hesitantly, he entered. He didn't even know if he was the first one there.

A nicely painted mech showed up before the door had even shut behind him and he led Jazz inside. A few steps in and he could already make out a familiar pair of sensorwings. They twitched slightly but not in irritation. As Jazz neared, he could also make out the other mech at the table. That one was familiar too, in so many worse ways. It took all of his willpower to actually make it to the table, each step accompanied with an ex-vent to calm himself, with a small pause just before reaching them to put on a good facade.

"Hey Prowl, nice place ya picked out."

"I do know your favorites," the Praxian replied with a smile and flare of his wings in greeting. He then reached an arm out to invite his mate into the booth beside him. "Join me, love?"

Jazz quickly slid into the booth beside Prowl, getting a bit closer than necessary. He managed to cough out a much more meager "hello" to Prowl's partner once he had settled.

Barricade watched as Jazz sat with them before running his vocalizer to speak. "You know, you aren't what I was expecting when I could convince Prowl to mention his mate. At least now I know why but it brings up a new question." Prowl's stare was practically a glare but he ignored it. "How did he get saddled with such a disgrace that he won't even mention you?"

At that moment everything in Jazz screamed at him to run. That this was just as bad, if not worse than his dream... But if it was, hadn't he already faced the worst this mech could offer.

He hadn't noticed he had been shrinking back into the booth until he finally straightened himself, steeling his nerves before reacting... with a well placed kick under the table.

"How did you manage to escape your cage, seeing as you can't manage a civilized conversation?" he questioned, following up with the thought of 'oh Primus, I'm gonna die...'

"Jazz!" Prowl hissed low but not quite under his breath as he turned to glare at his mate instead. "His question was uncalled for but that does give you permission to behave like a sparkling as well."

The Polyhexian deflated a little at the scolding, before again moving closer to his mate mumbling how the meanie deserved it...

Barricade just laughed. "I guess he does have some fire in him like you said. He's certainly not acting like it though."

"We have been having a strange past few orns," Prowl began explaining.

"Yeah, you mentioned that. Something about how he dreamed that I hurt him?" Barricade scoffed. "As if that would ever happen. Though he is cute so you're lucky to have met him first."

Jazz just growled, half surprising himself with his own noise. "I've got a lot more going for me than just my looks."

"Yeah, that feisty attitude ain't bad either. And now I can believe that he really is good in the berth."

"That's enough," Prowl told his partner with a rumble of his engine that thankfully never became the growl in his throat he wanted to make. "I did not invite him to join us so you could attempt to proposition /my/ mate in any way. At this rate, it would have been better to let him believe you are a danger."

"So now that we've figured out that Barricade has to pay, when do we get to order?" The visored mech gave a cheeky grin to the enforcer across the table, before opening the menu near him to figure out what he wanted.

Barricade turned a glare on him but there was no heat to it. Meanwhile, Prowl reached an arm around Jazz to give him a quick hug before moving up to stroke his helm between the horns. "The sooner we order, the sooner we can eat," he offered in reply as he picked up his own menu with his free hand.

It wasn't long after Jazz had picked out what he wanted that the waiter showed up to take down their orders, the Polyhexian being the first to speak up about what he wanted.

The rest of the meal went far smoother and they managed a couple joors without tempers flaring again. The dinner crowd was just beginning to arrive when the trio exited and parted ways. Barricade lived in the opposite direction and folded down into alt-mode immediately.

In contrast, Prowl suggested they walk a few blocks to stop at a treats shop he knew had some of Jazz's favorites. They spent half a joor in there and eventually made it home at a klik before two joor past parting ways. Prowl stopped in the living room once they entered and settled on the couch. His subtle wing motion and less subtle tap on the cushion beside him were both meant to ask Jazz to join him.

Jazz was almost immediately beside his mate, happy to be close to Prowl after the day. Not too much had happened but it felt overly eventful.

Prowl hugged him tight as soon as Jazz was close and bid his mate a bright smile. "Do you believe me now? He is annoying but harmless. He would never actually hurt you."

"He's... not the same." The black and white mech started, pausing to think about what he was trying to say. "He's a different Barricade from the one I know.... in my dream... I dunno. You're different too."

Prowl sighed a soft sound and hugged Jazz closer. "I don't know how many more ways I can find to tell you it was only a dream, love, but it was."

"So you promise that you'll still be you, when I wake up again?" He knew he wasn't making much sense, but he desperately wanted the affirmation that this was his Prowl, this was his home, and this was and would always be his reality.

"Of course I will, love." Prowl was still holding him tight and kept Jazz pressed against his own frame. "Who else would I even be?"

"I just don't want you to be dream Prowl, because he makes me confused and scared." Jazz eventually settled to tracing small circles on the Praxian's wings as the cuddled, the movements comforting him almost as much as he knew it comforted Prowl.

"I almost wish that he were real so I could make him hurt for causing you so much pain, my precious Jazz." There was heat without anger in the words as he enjoyed his mate's touch. He could give back as good as he got though, and shifted one of his hands to trace the base of a sensor horn.

Jazz gave a small laugh, leaning into the other's touch. "He... meant well. I think. The city just made everyone act crazy."

"It would seem so," Prowl mused in agreement. "You do have quite the imagination, love. Hopefully you do not feel the same fear of our true Praxus?"

"As long as I'm allowed to leave, I'm sure it's a nice place."

"Outsiders have more trouble getting in than getting out," Prowl told him. Now he did pull away to give Jazz a smirk. "Although, we are mates so I could get you in easier than most outsiders, and if we were to bond then you could have free access to the city."

"I don't think Praxus is prepared for that." Jazz joked. "But they better be." He grinned back, finally feeling true contentment for the first time since his dream.

Sensing that, Prowl leaned in and pressed a kiss to his mate's lips. It was soft and sweet with just a hint of pressure and he held the position just long enough to start making promises before he pulled back.

Jazz didn't let him get too far before stealing another kiss, then two, then three. "Ready to go to the berth now? I want all the cuddles I can get."

"And I will give you all the cuddles and whatever else you want, my Jazz... You deserve it." Prowl stood and pulled Jazz to his pedes as well, then began leading him to their berthroom.

Prowl wasn't in the lead for long before Jazz was practically pulling him along to the berthroom, only letting go when he rolled onto the berth.

Prowl couldn't help giving a chuckle. "I haven't seen you so enthusiastic to get me into the berth since the first time we interfaced."

The Polyhexian didn't give a response right away, preferring to pull the Praxian into the berth with him, and tangle their frames together first. "It just feels like... it's been a long time since things have been right and I wanna enjoy it as much as I can."

Prowl finished the shifting process so that they were positioned ideally; frames together with Jazz slightly lower so his helm could rest beneath Prowl's and against his shoulder or chestplate. Whichever he chose to claim that night. "That dream has really skewed your perception of reality, hasn't it?"

Jazz shifted slightly, a visible marker for his mental discomfort. "I know I shouldn't let it get to me but... I can't even remember what our life is actually like, when I think back I just remember my dream past."

Prowl pressed a kiss to his helm and then spoke low to avoid hurting the sensitive horns so close to his face. "Well, we do this often. Kisses and cuddling, whether here or on the couch or in the kitchen. You've always liked the physical contact, even when we aren't interfacing, and it grew on me. Now I could hold you forever and not get enough."

"Well fit together perfectly." He didn't want to admit that he was already getting tired, even as he offlined his optics, resting his helm on the other. "I want to be like this forever too."

Prowl hugged Jazz tight even as he was drifting off. "Rest well, my love. We have all of eternity in front of us."

~~~~

Fin

Chapter Text

"Prowl! What happened to you?"

He wasn't sure what he'd been expecting when Triage finally showed up, but it certainly hadn't been for her to forget her place and make such an exclamations before the door had even closed. Of course, the pulsing pain did make focus difficult so he probably hadn't been giving the occasion much thought. His pain rejection protocols had worked fine but running those for an extended period was never good and, truth be told, he wanted the pain. It was a distraction from his present; the many failures he'd managed recently and the loss he'd suffered as a result. Even trying to think of Jazz caused his spark to constrict and his thoughts to go hazy to anything else until he manually cut the processor thread.

"Prowl?" Triage tried again, finally getting his attention. "Are you there? Can you hear me?"

The concern and worry in her tone was what finally cut through the fog, not the words themselves. His response was slow and dull as he fought to focus. "I can hear you just fine. My audials are undamaged."

"Extremely slow reaction time in addition to the obvious wounds..." Triage stated, although he wasn't sure if it was for his benefit or not. "Prowl, what did you do to yourself?" Her tone was sedate concern but became worry as a new consideration occurred to her. "Was there an impact hard enough to jar any components in your helm out of place?"

Was there? No, he didn't think there had been. Not that he could recall the fight well. Everything was harder to make run and memories were nearly impossible to access. Still, he gave the negative wing gesture anyway, finding that his vocalizer didn't want to function immediately. Or at least he tried to. The commands were harder to access.

There was a voice, or at least he thought there was, then a touch near the port in his neck. His mind grew more crowded as something else registered but before he had time to be curious everything was fading to black. Stasis or recharge or deactivation, in that astrosecond he didn't care and happily welcomed the nothingness.

~

Prowl’s next onlining found him on a berth, which wasn't remarkable in and of itself, but as he onlined his optics to dimmed industrial lighting he came to realize he couldn't be at home. Slowly forcing his frame up earned him the ability to look around and he realized he was in a medcenter. He tried to pull up recent events to find out why but the memory search request queued and stayed queued as it hit a medical block. Unusual but alright. There was still other data he could collect.

Feeling out his frame, he found another medical block on data from his sensor wings. Energy readouts suggested they were still attached but drawing more power than usual so he must have taken damage. General soreness suggested close combat but it was muted so either he’d been out for a considerable amount of time or there were additional medical codes running that he hadn't stumbled across yet.

Deciding it didn't matter either way presently, he turned his focus back to his current condition. Now what else could he deduce?

He didn't get long to consider that before the door opened and in stepped Triage. Prowl was not surprised to see her, but she seemed surprised to see him. Wings flicking in mild shock, she quickly stepped forward to address him. “Prowl… I didn't expect you’d be online yet. How are you feeling?”

“My frame is sore and I am missing a large amount of information, but both conditions are manageable with the right assistance,” he answered before asking a question of his own. “What happened?”

Triage hesitated. “You were involved in a fight that had some unusual results. Physically, you are patched up and recovering but I am concerned over mental or processor damage. That’s why I had to block out everything that was too much for your processor to handle all at once so I can properly check your condition.”

Prowl considered that for a few astroseconds. “I suppose that is reasonable. How long will it be until I am able to remember everything?”

“That depends primarily on my initial observations,” Triage replied. “I need to run a few tests, both in your coding and verbally, in order to determine your complete condition. If you think you are ready now, we can begin at once.”

Prowl paused to consider this too but quickly gave consent. His physical weariness was nothing in comparison to the glaring lack of knowledge and he could only fix that by suffering through this.

~

Less than a joor later, the tests were complete. Triage had yet to disconnect from Prowl however, although she had withdrawn from his mind and her own mental shields were up. The last thing she had been checking was the condition of her patient’s processor and now had the results.

“Well,” she began in a tone closer to her usual upbeat one. “At least that’s one worry crossed off. Your processor is operating normally, although it will take a couple orn to reach optimal again.”

“Why do I feel so strange then?” Prowl questioned.

“I did have to temporarily offline a few parts of your upgrades in order to get the preliminary assessments I needed. I can begin turning those on for you now however.” She didn't even need to hear Prowl’s comment to know he would agree. “To avoid any conflicts, I will be turning them on individually.”

Poking back into Prowl's processor at his acceptance, she shuffled through his code for the right access codes. Then it was a simple process to online one, check for errors, let it reintegrate, and check for errors again before focusing on the next. The entire process only took a couple kliks. The medic didn't remove herself from his processor at all this time however. “How does everything feel? Do I need to modify anything?”

Prowl took a moment to adjust to the returned function of all his mental components before pulling up a generic set of data to run through his processor. He kept the same set to test against his previous answers and determine the functionality of every component. He knew Triage could feel it occurring but though she enjoyed the sensation, she couldn't actually understand the calculations. Even as she watched them happen. Absently, he mused that she’d likely grow addicted to cabling with him if they had been a couple. He received a chastising response telling him not to think that way but the attached emotional tone was embarrassed. For just a few astroseconds, it was exactly like they were still testing out the upgrades.

That temporary illusion came shattering down when he got the results back and shared them. Triage’s next statement was then, “alright, if everything checks out for you, then I’ll unlock your memories. I am going to stay plugged in to watch for any conflicts here.”

“Understood,” Prowl replied. He absently felt the coding shifting as his friend and medic dug around to find and remove her block, but once she did he was lost in the maelstrom of bad thoughts and worse emotions.

Everything he had gone through recently came back, starting with the fight with his partner. There was pain and anger and determination all mixed up in hate attached to the memories. The reason for that came back to him soon after. Jazz, and what happened to him. What was done to him. Along with it came more anger and hate and hurt. That was new and went deeper than any physical pain ever had; it was even in his spark. He’d never felt that way before about anything and the sheer intensity of it was overwhelming. He never even noticed curling in on himself…

It took a few kliks and several repetitions of his designation before Triage got through to Prowl. The backlash of emotions had forced her to disconnect, yet caused no discernible conflicts that she could see. Emotional memories often caused other issues though; ones that weren’t visible in the coding. She was too relieved to see him finally look her way that she never noticed her wings were quivering in worry on her back.

“There you are. Are you alright? How are you feeling?” The questions came out in a flurry and for several astroseconds Prowl only stared.

“I feel as though my processor is melting. I can not decide if I want to hide from everything for the rest of eternity or simply destroy everything I see, or perhaps everyone, although there is only one mech I truly want to see suffer.” Here was the only part of his answer where Prowl’s voice was anything other than monotone, which he fell back into as he continued. “And my spark feels as though it has been shredded. I don't understand why I feel like this. Can you explain?”

Triage paused to consider that before giving an answer that blurred the line she tried to keep between their personal and professional interactions. “Do you remember the conversations we once had about how badly emotions would likely mix with your upgrades?” She waited for the accepting wing flick before moving along. “Well, it would seem we guessed correctly. I’m afraid this whole situation with Jazz has unlocked your ability to feel new emotions, which would explain everything. Your spark feels for him, leading to the conflicting desires you have while your processor is ill equipped to handle the emotional intensity and is overheating as it tries to run faster than it should. In short, you’re hurting because you care about him and I’m both so glad you can feel that way and so sad and sorry that you had to find out like this.”

Triage ended her speech by giving the other Praxian a tight hug that went unreturned as Prowl processed the new information. He had to force close a few active threads in his processor to free up the necessary power to do so first. Even then, he had to push away the unnecessary threads that tried to vie for his attention and otherwise distract him. It was only once his arms came up to encircle the femme too that signaled he had finally managed to internalize all the data she’d given him.

“What do I do now?”

Triage held on for a bit longer before finally drawing back and resuming her professional mask. “Physically you will be fine so you may leave at any point. I can have the datawork ready by the time you make it to the lobby.”

“That’s not what I meant.” It was the most distraught Triage had ever seen the mech when she refocused on Prowl as he spoke softly. He even looked to her imploringly. “How do I handle these new feelings? You know I have never been good with those…”

Rather than speaking, Triage simply hugged him again. This time, Prowl held on too. They stayed like that for a full klik, silently holding one another so tightly they just barely shook. Triage had no real answers to offer and Prowl desperately seeking what simply was not there to find.

Eventually, the medic pulled back once more. “I am not sure what to tell you,” she muttered, wings down and looking away. “Everyone handles emotions in their own way. All I do know is that you have a mate at home who needs you to be strong for him. Jazz needs a lot of recovery time so you need to protect him and care for him. Can you do that?”

Prowl’s wings flicked in the affirmative long before his vocalizer crackled to life. It was the low, “I will do my best,” that Triage waited on for confirmation however.

“Good. He needs you to be as strong and supportive as you can.” Prowl gave another accepting wing flick. “Now, the only other thing is the damage to your wings. For that, you need to keep your sensitivity dialed down to as low as you can still balance with but it will heal on its own in a decaorn or so. I do want to check on it in about five orn however, so make sure you stop in. And you should bring Jazz so I can examine his injuries as well.”

“Understood,” Prowl replied. “You said I may leave now?”

“Of course,” Triage answered. “I’ll send the release datawork along right away. And Prowl…” She paused to make sure he was listening. “I really do hope you can be what he needs.”

The femme left soon after that and Prowl didn't linger long himself. He had to return home and see just how his mate was doing alone.

Chapter Text

The trip home was longer than it had any right to be and riddled with such emotional stress that he had never arrived home so quickly. It had been just long enough that he had been able to pinpoint the myriad of ways his entire life had cycled into disaster without once having the chance to seek a single solution, much less find even one. Thus, it was with great trepidation that he opened the front door to his home and entered.

In a surprising amount of lucidity Jazz actually looked at the sound of the door opening. He still hadn't moved from the couch where Prowl left him, however.

As soon as Prowl noticed Jazz, he made his way towards him. "Hello, Jazz. How are you feeling? Did you remember to refuel?"

Jazz stared at him for a long time before finally answering. "No. Sorry, sir."

Prowl's wings sank slightly. "You should go do that," he told the other. "You need the fuel."

"Yes sir." Came the grey mech's reply simply, before setting about to do just that.

Prowl's wings sank marginally as he watched Jazz walk away but he didn't even notice. Rather than follow as he had considered, the Praxian decided to sit on the couch. It was probable Jazz would return and he could try to get through to him once more.

Jazz started out very meticulous in his actions. Get cube, fill cube, stop trembling, stop thinking... No! Don't make noise... Things were easy until they just weren't. He didn't even know when he had dropped the cube, only that suddenly his servos were empty, and he was still trembling and whimpering, and make it stop please!

The next thing to crash to the floor was his frame itself, the winged mech folding in on himself, trying to protect himself from his own thoughts.

Astroseconds later there was a startled Praxian in the doorway with his wings up. After a quick but thorough examination of the room, he crossed to where Jazz was and sank to the floor beside him. He stalled momentarily but eventually tried to pull the Polyhexian close.

"Jazz, what's wrong?" he asked. "What happened?"

The grey mech gave a startled yelp at the touch, stiffening for a moment before deciding to fight back and try to push the invading mech away. "No!"

Surprised, Prowl released his mate without a fight. "What's wrong with you, Jazz? Are you injured?"

Jazz shook his helm to answer 'no', finally focused enough to realize that this enforcer was unlikely to hurt him.

"What happened?" the Praxian questioned once more as he watched his mate.

"My spark hurts," Jazz admitted quietly, pulling in on himself again as though he could protect himself from the pain.

Prowl had no reply for that. "Is there anything that will help?" he tentatively asked.

"I don’t know... I don't know... I just don't want to feel anymore." The visored mech finally looked up at the Praxian, his hurt plainly visible on his face and in his field.

Prowl's wings twitched as he attempted to find a solution but he was out of his depth and it was painfully clear. The only solution he could come up with related to a trivial issue; the mess that Jazz was currently laying in. "Come along. Let's start with getting you cleaned up."

It was almost visible when Jazz faded back to his sub mentality, optics glazing from pain to.... nothing. Soon enough that same simple answer came from him. "Yes sir."

Prowl's wings sank as he rose. He let a mask of his own fall into place by the time he was upright. "Come along," he stated as he turned to walk away.

Jazz followed after, everything about him dim and lifeless. A drone simply following orders.

Prowl slowly led him to their washrack and directed Jazz under the spray once it was set to a temperature he liked. Then he stepped back but didn't leave. Instead, he asked a question. "Will you need help or can you handle this alone?"

"No sir." It was a simple enough task, something that didn't require any thought. Rinse, scrub, rinse again... Easy. The only problem was how good the warm water felt on his armor, how much he didn't want to leave its comfort.

Prowl stepped back until he was over by the cabinet with drying cloths. He would not interrupt Jazz unless he asked for it, but he would be waiting to help him dry off.

Even with Jazz taking as much time as he thought he could feasibly get away with, it didn't seem long enough. He didn't feel comforted enough, so when he approached Prowl to dry off, he practically collapsed into the offered towel, hoping the Praxian would simply hold him, wrapped in the towel... Just for a little bit...

Surprised, Prowl did almost that. There was not much holding of his mate, but Prowl did let him stay within the towel and remained close for a few kliks. Then, with a gentle tone, he told Jazz he would begin drying him before doing just that.

As he finished up, Prowl spoke again. "Alright. Let's get you into the berth now. It's been a stressing orn and you need the rest."

The only response the black and white mech got was a small nod from the grey mech.

Setting the towel aside, Prowl caught one of Jazz's hands to lead him safely to the berthroom. He didn't stop until Jazz was beside the berth. "Go ahead, get in. I will bring you some energon in a moment."

Jazz did as he was told, just about disappearing under the blankets as soon as he was allowed. Prowl left him to that and exited the room to collect said energon. He was back a few kliks later, having delayed to wipe up the mess in the kitchen while it was still an easy task.

"Jazz," he called out softly. "Will you remove yourself from the blanket for a few astroseconds?"

It took a few moments for the grey mech to comply, slowly extracting himself from the safety of the blanket, only to stare blankly at Prowl and wait for the next instruction.

The Praxian held out the energon cube in his hand. "Here you go, Jazz. Drink the whole cube."

Wordlessly, he accepted the cube and gave it a careful taste before finally downing it . He mumble a soft, "thank you, sir," afterwards.

Prowl held out his hand to take the empty cube back. "How do you feel now, Jazz?" he asked. The answer could never be what he wanted to hear though.

The grey mech passed the cube back to the other, replying with a muted, "I'm functional."

Prowl managed to keep his calm exterior. "That's good. Did you have a productive orn?"

That question was answered with a helm tilt that, if Jazz was himself, would seem almost sarcastic. As it was though the action only served to signify that he had no proper answer for the other mech's question.

Restraining a resigned exvent, Prowl tried a different route. "How did you spend your orn?"

"Waiting for your return, sir." The line of questioning was bordering uncomfortable for him. Anything that made him reflect was uncomfortable.

"Is that all?" Prowl replied. "No projects of any sort?"

Jazz just gave a small 'no' wing twitch. "Would you like me to work on something for you, sir?"

"I see," Prowl accepted before flicking a negative with his wings. "I have no tasks that you need to worry about."

He was silent a moment before offering a stray idea. "When was the last time you touched up your polish?"

Jazz gave a few small wing flicks, questioning if that was an order.

"It is simply a question," Prowl told him.

"I..." The grey mech started, pausing to look down as if in shame. "Don't remember."

"I see..." Well, that was more progress than he'd had yet and Prowl decided to follow that avenue for the time being. "Why don't we do that then? Do you wish for my assistance or would you rather do this alone?" he offered.

The question was met with a long stare. That wasn't up to Jazz to decide.... he didn't want to decide... anything.

Prowl almost sighed. He managed to hold it in but his wings did sink slightly. "Alright, let's try a different question. Will you be capable of polishing your frame all by yourself?"

"If that is what you want, sir."

"It is."

The words were a weight on his spark but he couldn't be around Jazz much longer. Not while he was like this. The best thing for both of them was to send him away for a short while so he could compose himself once more.

Jazz gave a 'yes sir' wing flick before leaving the enforcer to his thoughts.

That was an all-too-common issue for Prowl anymore and to avoid the unpleasant thoughts he turned to work. There were a few case files in his subspace still and he pulled out one of those to continue working on. He would worry about Jazz later.

~

The next morning came too soon for Prowl's liking, even though he had recharged for longer than he ever did. After Jazz's shower the night before they had ended up in the berth and both mechs had powered down quickly, ignoring the fact it was still early. Despite the long recharge however, it had hardly been peaceful. Prowl found his thoughts consistently returning to Jazz, no matter how often he attempted to redirect them. Attempting to rise from the berth he felt as if a great weight were settled upon him, dragging everything from his wings to his helm closer to the ground. He was careful to move silently though. He didn't want to wake Jazz as he crossed the room to go get energon.

It used to be nearly impossible to rouse Jazz from recharge, but with the events he had faced his coding seemed to have rewritten itself, perceiving everything as a potential threat therefore forcing him out of recharge if any outside change was detected. The grey mech, though online, didn't bother to move much other than to retreat into the safety of the blankets until his entire form disappearing underneath.

Prowl was back less than two kliks later. It took him a moment as he crossed the room to process the change and he paused after setting down an energon cube. Should he acknowledge Jazz? Could he even handle that currently? It had not been in his plans but should he do so anyway?

Jazz didn't acknowledge the other mech, as though pretending he wasn't there would make him go away faster or something. He was too drained to even go through the motions of 'perfect sub' and just wanted to not exist, at least for a while, forever would have been preferable.

When his mate remained silent, Prowl's choice was made. Without a word he turned and left. He had places to be and the door slid shut behind him.

Eventually Jazz also rose from beneath the blanket, though he did not go far. The day stretched on endlessly for the grey mech. His activities switched from staring at the wall, to staring at his own servos, to staring at the ground. As long as he avoided thinking, he could avoid hurting. It was going well so far. Maybe...

Chapter Text

It was far from the only time Prowl had gone into work while he wasn't scheduled to work nor expected to for several joor, however it was the first time he was expected for a disciplinary meeting. As such, he was hesitating in vehicle mode outside the building. It should not have been this difficult to convince himself to enter but he was just so exhausted. After the fight with his partner. After his medcenter visit. After dealing with Jazz. After what had /been done/ to Jazz. It was just too much to handle - too much to deal with. He wasn't supposed to feel. It made life so much harder. Especially now. The last thing he wanted to do was deal with someone else's ire.

Venting deeply again, Prowl readied himself and stood. The small clearing could never be long enough for him to reach a proper calm but he had more than enough time to put on the right facade. He couldn't stall any longer anyway. His commander would be waiting.

~

Several kliks later, after fielding a few obligatory questions about his presence when his schedule was suddenly blacked out (or inquiries into why that was) from nosy mechs, Prowl was seated in a small office. There was only a desk and two chairs for furniture, however the shelving unit built into the wall behind the desk was full. It mostly held datapads but there were some image captures on display as well. A few showed twins; one mech and one femme but both painted in black and white, with one image clearly a graduation ceremony. In the others, the femme had either a wingless youngling with her or another mech, this one painted grey and smiling only when he looked at her.

Prowl's chance to study the images and the rest of the office was cut short as the door finally slid open. In walked the femme from the images. Designation: Searchlight. Her expression was neutral and she held her wings in the same manner. She greeted him before the door had closed and her tone had no more emotion than the rest of her. "Prowl, it was good of you to show up."

Prowl dipped his wings in respect as he offered her a response. "It would do no good to ignore a summons from a superior."

Searchlight flicked her wings in regard of his words and let the door slide shut. Then she strode the few steps to her chair and sat down. "I do not approve of infighting between my mecha and I know you are usually a rational mech, Prowl. So tell me, what brought this on?"

Prowl hesitated. There were so many things he could say and so many ways he could say them. Some were far too open and many would be taken wrongly so it was a cautious choice. In the end, he settled on a version of the full truth.

"The shortest form, sir, is because he deserved it." Prowl continued on immediately so she would not interrupt. He did not even notice when his own wings began quivering. "He went after my mate utterly unprovoked and then had the gall to mock me for his choice to attack. Both were insults that I could not let go unpunished."

"It is understandable that you wish to preserve your honor and seek retribution for what happened to your mate." Her words were calculated, as though she were scrutinizing the other Praxian's every minute reaction. "There are legal ways to go about it, however. As an enforcer you should know that."

Prowl dipped his wings in acknowledgement of his failure. "I understand that. I did not intend for that confrontation to escalate to a fight. In my own anger, I forgot to factor his tendency towards violence."

"I know you are a private mech, Prowl," Searchlight started. She glanced at her own displays of home life before looking back to him. "That is your choice to make. However, with this act you've brought your home life to the station, and now I need more information so I know it won't happen again." Her wings took on an almost caring tilt. "What happened to your mate?"

"Jazz," Prowl found himself correcting her. "His designation is Jazz and he was frightened by my partner from the first time he met him. It certainly didn't help that Barricade had entered my locked home while Jazz was alone but even after I sent him away Jazz was still scared. Even the possibility of seeing him worried him and Barricade himself seemed overly interested in my mate so I can't fault Jazz for his concern.

"That's part of why I don't bring him many places," Prowl explained, "and why I generally never send him anywhere alone. He had recently injured himself however, and several orn ago his medic wanted to see him while I was going to be at work. I decided there was minimal risk as my partner should also have been at the station where I could keep watch on him and so I allowed Jazz to travel to the medcenter himself. Unfortunately, that was one of the mornings Barricade decided to be late and they crossed paths somehow. I cannot believe that Jazz would have done anything to intentionally spite him given how fearful he was and so the attack must have been unprovoked, regardless of what he may claim." By now, Prowl's wings had risen in anger and there were even traces of it in his tone. "Jazz would never have given him reason to hurt him further."

"I'm not your enemy, Prowl." Searchlight was quick to assure her subordinate, forgetting to mask her surprise at his sudden emotions. "I understand that Jazz means a lot to you. I understand how your failure to protect him hurts." Her tone took on an unusual softness. They seemed so alike in regards to their respective mates it was difficult to remain neutral towards the other Praxian's plight.

"I want to help you, but I also need to know all sides of the situation. Allow me to talk with your mate. Maybe I can make a case of it."

Prowl's sensorwings shifted to angry defensive before she had even finished speaking but he forced them down to an irritated neutral. His tone was easier to regulate and it came out calm, if a bit concerned. "I do not know if that is such a good idea. Jazz has not been very forthcoming with strangers and I can not believe that this is a good time to introduce him to another one."

Searchlight shifted her wings in accordance with his, portraying a sense of calm she hoped he would subtly pick up on. "Only Barricade and Jazz know what truly happened that orn. It doesn't have to be right now but his narrative is crucial in making a case."

"I understand," Prowl said but his wings flicked in disapproval. "I do not see how it could be so important however. Who would actually give his words real consideration?"

"Is the opinion of a superior officer so irrelevant to you?" she questioned simply, allowing a moment for her words to sink in before continuing. "I'm offering my own time for that very same consideration. His words may have no power, but I would hope you do not give my own words the same treatment."

"Sir," Prowl responded, tone a mix of confused and ashamed. "I apologize. I did not intend to question your value. I simply misunderstood your intentions."

The femme gave a small wing gesture of forgiveness. "If a dom is abusing his power that is corruption, and I refuse to allow a corrupt bot to serve this station." She stated simply. "However both yourself and your partner cannot be allowed to continue work until this matter is resolved." She stood abruptly, momentarily towering above Prowl. "You will have one decaorn of paid leave in order to sort this out. Understood?"

"I believe so but I do have a few questions for clarification, if I may?" Prowl asked. He made sure to keep his wings low and respectful.

"You may,” Searchlight agreed curtly. She was curious, if a bit surprised.

"I suppose the most pressing is what you mean by ‘sort this out.’ Are we supposed to make that attempt ourselves or is that something you intend to be involved in?"

"By your reactions alone, I believe that any interaction between yourself and Barricade would only lead to more problems. The only thing I require of you is the allowance to speak with your mate. However, I suggest you do not stay idle for your time off. Even with my help your mate is facing difficult odds, any evidence or testimonial you can find will be invaluable."

"I understand," Prowl replied and offered a flick of his wings as well. "Also, are we both on suspension or will I have to carefully time any visits I might make back to the station should I find said evidence for you?"

"It wouldn't do to punish only one of you when both of you reacted in a way beneath your station."

This time Prowl's wings moved in an embarrassed and then apologetic motion. "Understood. I believe the only other question that has merit currently is will you be speaking with Jazz personally once I give permission or will you be sending another to do so? There is a small chance that he might speak with you but I do not think he would handle less personable mecha well."

"It seems I have no choice but to do so personally, if I have any hope of finding answers,” Searchlight replied, although she never had any intention of delegating the task to any of her subordinates.

Prowl flicked an 'acceptable' in response before finally relenting. "In that case, I do not think his condition will change any time soon so waiting will do us no good. You may question Jazz whenever you choose."

"Then if there are no more questions, you are dismissed. I will comm when I've made time to talk with Jazz."

"Understood. Thank you, sir." Prowl stood but he didn't actually leave until her wings moved in the appropriate gesture.

~

Prowl returned home after that, letting himself back into the far too quiet building, but then, it was always too quiet anymore. He considered energon, discarded the idea, started towards the berthroom, then decided Jazz would probably need some and turned back towards the kitchen. He ended up bringing two cubes into the berthroom and set them down on the table beside the lump in the blanket. It seemed Jazz hadn't moved since he left and Prowl hesitated to wake him. In the end though, he did need to ensure he had refueled.

"Jazz?" he called out softly, wings low. "Are you online?"

The lump shifted slightly, a careful rearrangement before a helm emerged from the folds, carefully questioning, "sir?"

"Hello, Jazz," Prowl said and he forced himself to try smiling. "How are you feeling? You've been in recharge for more than half an orn already."

"I function adequately, sir,” the grey mech responded, watching the other intently.

"I have energon for you," Prowl tried next. He even picked up the cube he had brought in for Jazz; one of his specialty cubes. Prowl wasn't holding onto any hope that it might make Jazz better but he couldn't bring himself to stop trying either.

The visored mech accepted the cube wordlessly. A painful sadness settled into his spark as he watched the Praxian. It was impossible not to notice the pain that he other so often portrayed recently. Even through his own numbing pain a part of Jazz yearned to reach out, before being harshly reminded that none of this would have happened if not for Prowl.

Maybe though... maybe a few words wouldn't hurt. "Why do you do this?"

Prowl's wings perked up just slightly as they moved to a questioning tilt. "Why do I do what exactly?" he asked carefully.

"All this being nice, bringing me energon, asking how I'm feeling." Jazz paused to sigh before continuing. "It's not going to make anything better. It's not going to fix what's broken, and it's definitely not going to absolve you from what you've done, and what you've caused to happen." He shifted deeper into the blankets to hide from the wrath he thought his words would evoke. "You weren't the one in that alley, but it's still your fault. Everything is your fault. You wanted me like this and now that you have it you can't just change your mind."

"Do you really think this is what I wanted?" Prowl demanded back. The questions made him angry, though not at Jazz, and his voice revealed it. "This isn't how I want you to be at all. I just wanted you to listen to me. Why was that so difficult? If you had just bothered to behave then none of this would have happened."

"You only ever wanted me to follow that fragged up rule book and be the perfect sub. Now that I am you mope around like somehow this is affecting you personally. It's not. You don't care. You don't know how to care!" Jazz was getting angrier as they argued, to the point that he didn't try to hide it.

"Yes, you were supposed to follow it but I didn't want you to be like this. I would have still let you be yourself so long as you didn't break any of the rules. You are the one who forced my hand. You ensured that I would have to punish you. I never wanted that. This is why I never wanted to bother with having a mate."

"If you didn't want a mate, why the pit did you kidnap me and ruin my life‽" The grey mech didn't even bother trying to keep his wings in check as they raised and lowered the blanket dramatically, trying to express his emotions.

"Because you were necessary and in trouble already. It should have been easy." Prowl's own wings were up too. "Our district nearly never gets outsiders but there you were at the perfect time and even from the right city. It was like Primus himself had placed you there. Instead, you turn out like a spawn of Unicron when it comes to logic and reason and forced me into something I had been actively avoiding my entire life."

"You're not making any sense. There was no reason you needed me! You could have just let me go! Don't you dare pretend I forced you into anything. You have all the power here. You've always had all the power."

"Not enough to get where I want to go," Prowl countered. "That's why I needed you. Certain outsiders are supposed to be easy to train, your kind included. By rejecting that and fighting as hard as you did, you needed to be punished appropriately."

"So now you have what you want!" Jazz was practically crying as he shouted. "I don't want to fight, I don't want to feel, I don't want any of this but you act like it hurts you when I finally give you what you want." He curled in on himself, sick of shouting. "So just tell me what you want."

"I don't want you like this. I didn't even want /you/ at all but I needed a mate to get out." Prowl's sensorpanels twitched twice and then sank as his posture deflated. "What am I even going to do with you now if I do get to leave?"

"Leave?" His voice had gone quiet, but the visored mech still forced himself to look up at Prowl.

"Yes, leave," Prowl replied with a bit of bite. "Why else would I be doing this if not to further my goals? There are so many more interesting opportunities outside the city."

"You're leaving Praxus? Where will I go?"

"Naturally it is expected that I would bring my mate with me when I move."

"You're leaving. You're leaving the city and taking me with and you never told me?" Jazz’s words were dead at that point as he tried to process everything.

"It is not a fact yet," Prowl corrected him. "I have yet to receive the appropriate promotion to put me into consideration for a position outside the city and due to a disciplinary concern that may now be set back even further."

"You.... never even told me." He echoed his own words one last time before allowing his building rage to take hold.

He sprung from the bed, slamming into the Praxian as he screamed out all of his emotions, his servos wrapping around the enforcer's throat and shaking the other mech violently enough to make his helm slam repeatedly on the ground, all the while screaming incoherently.

It took Prowl a while to react, and then it was only because his frame was sending numerous impending offlining alerts. In a surprisingly calm move, rather than attacking back Prowl simply pulled out his cuffs and clamped them on Jazz's wrists before engaging stasis. Jazz gave a final squeak before going down hard, almost as if relieved that he didn't have to stay online any longer.

It took Prowl a klik to get his frame working well enough to push Jazz's frame off his own. When he found the strength again, the Praxian sat up then stood so he could lift Jazz back onto the berth. After arranging his limbs and removing the cuffs, Prowl pulled the blanket up to lay over him. He had to stop for energon from the cube he'd brought for himself but once he'd downed that, Prowl left the room with the empty cube, leaving the one for Jazz. He needed to think and that wasn't going to happen while watching his mate.

~

Jazz fought his frame as it tried to online. His processor and spark much preferred the bliss of nothingness. It was inevitable that he online however, and the grey mech could only stare at the ceiling and wish his thoughts away. Everything hurt again, the world was too sharp and painful for his spark and all he wanted to do was retreat to the comfort of numbness.

It was several joor later when Prowl finally re-entered the berthroom in order to recharge. He did glance at Jazz's side of the berth but he did not bother to try engaging him before or after climbing into the berth. Jazz, however, was silent for a few moments after Prowl had shown up back in the room, contemplating whether it was worth saying anything or not. Eventually he picked an old favorite. "I hate you."

Prowl didn't bother to hide his deep sigh. "What did I do this time?"

"You never told me anything, and then pretend like we're actually mates or something, or worse, pretending like you care about me." Jazz turned away to stare at the wall as he spoke.

"You are supposed to trust my word whether I explain myself or not," Prowl replied. He didn't know how to respond to the rest so he didn't bother considering it. "I should not be expected to share my thoughts and plans with someone of lesser rank."

"You can't have it both ways. Either you care about me or you think I'm beneath you."

"Why are you certain about that?"

"So, what, you don't care? Fine, if you don't then stop trying to act like it! If I'm giving you everything you want just leave me alone to never have to feel again!"

"I-" Prowl cut off short as he realized he had no idea what to say. "I have only ever been doing as I was told and shown would work. It does for everyone else and no one has ever questioned whether they care about their mates. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive."

Jazz simply frowned, feeling as though he was getting nowhere. "Do you really not get it? You make everything so difficult for me. You've already won. All I want to do is be mindless and numb, like the perfect fragging mate, and instead of just letting me you fret over it and constantly ask how I'm doing and act like you don't want me like that. Please, just let me go. You can't have me, and have the perfect mate." The grey mech tried to ignore the tears that were forming, at least Prowl wouldn't know how close he was to crying.

"I couldn't 'let you go' here even if I decided to do so," Prowl told him. "Not the way you want. If I were to give you up then someone else could claim you and your situation would be no better." Prowl flicked his wings in irritation. "And for the record, I don't want you like this. I never did. I just wanted you to behave and do as I said so I could leave."

"Then maybe you should have just said so!" Jazz’s voice wobbled as he tried to argue, emotion seeping in against his will.

"I shouldn't have to explain myself to you. You are just supposed to accept what I say because I told you it. That's how this is supposed to work."

It should have come out firm and informative but instead his words were tired and defeated. Prowl even sighed. He was far too tired to deal with this anymore, although what 'this' was he couldn't say.

"Why must you make everything so difficult?"

"And when I do accept what you say without question you get sad. I'm not the one making things difficult, you are."

"Because this isn't right." Prowl frowned. "You were supposed to listen before, while you were still interesting. Now you're just..." He sighed again. "I don't know how to explain it properly. You're right here but you don't exist anymore. When was the last time you even looked at your crystals?"

"I would have listened if you gave me a reason to. Something other than 'because you're supposed to'." At that point Jazz gave up recharging and left the berth. "I don't care anymore. About anything. I don't want to care. I'm going to recharge on the couch."

"Maybe you should have mentioned that sooner," Prowl muttered but let him go. He was too tired to deal with this right now. He just wanted to lay down and recharge for a century, or maybe a millennium.

Jazz left in a huff, going off to the couch as he had said he would before curling up and beginning to cry.

Prowl remained in the berth for several kliks but despite his desire to cease functioning for the night, he eventually rose from the berth. It did not take long before he found himself standing near the couch and watching Jazz. He did not seem to have been noticed yet but that was soon to change. After a few astroseconds, Prowl stepped around to the front of the couch and unfurled the blanket he’d brought with him from the berth so he could lay it across Jazz’s frame as he had earlier that orn.

A soft confused noise came from the mech on the couch as he noticed a new presence in the room. He looked up towards Prowl, waiting for an explanation as to why the Praxian was even there.

Prowl stalled when he noticed Jazz was staring at him, then stepped back in silence.

Jazz held the blanket that had been draped around him closer before finally breaking the silence with a “hi.”

Prowl stared for a bit longer. “Hello.”

Silence fell around them once again, stretching for what felt like a joor, but was probably only a few klicks before Jazz spoke again. “Sorry.” The word was so small, but impossibly difficult to say.

Confusion filled Prowl’s field without him trying to withhold it and his wings twitched. “I do not understand what your apology is for.”

“‘For.’” Jazz repeated Prowl's last word, searching for a good explanation. “For how I acted, I guess.” He reached out for just a moment as if he wanted to pull Prowl closer before deciding against that action.

“There have been many unnecessary actions between us,” Prowl agreed absently, as if his mind were deep in the past. “I will not bar you from the berth if you wish to return.”

It wasn't quite what Jazz was looking for, although even he didn't know exactly what he wanted, but he still took the invitation, standing before replying with “lead the way.”

Prowl flicked his wings in acceptance and began to guide Jazz back to the berthroom. Within a few kliks they were settled on it as usual and it was not long after when the orn’s toll finally put them both into recharge.

Chapter Text

The next orn Prowl was roused by a comm. He had nowhere to be and nothing to do so he couldn't be bothered to set an alarm. Triage was on the other end, asking to visit and after a moment to clear his processor and consider it, Prowl accepted. Their conversation ended shortly after that and Prowl forced himself to get up so he could have some energon before she arrived. Once out in the kitchen though, he paused and collected a cube for Jazz as well. Then he returned to the berthroom.

Prowl's movement was what woke Jazz from his own recharge, however, he couldn't find it in himself to move until Prowl returned. Even then he only forced himself to sit up; his mind slowly shifting from the torrent of too much that it had started at this onlining to the blank nothing that was becoming so familiar.

Don't think and it doesn't hurt.

Prowl’s wings twitched in surprise when Jazz sat up. “I did not expect you to be online. Here.” He offered an energon cube to Jazz. “You should refuel.”

“Yes sir.” Automatic response, automatic motion. Take cube, sip from cube. Don't think, don't feel.

Prowl was silent for a while before starting a new topic. “Triage will be visiting later. She said she wants to check up on you and also that she has a gift.”

Jazz only nodded before sipping his energon again, desperately trying to push down the painful pull in his spark.

Don't feel. Just don't feel.

Prowl settled onto the berth and sipped at his own cube in silence. There was no point in attempting if Jazz was back to this state.

Thankfully, it was only about half a joor later when his comm buzzed with a door alert. He stood, then looked to Jazz. “Triage is here now. We need to go meet her.”

Wordlessly Jazz followed Prowl's lead. The only thing in his helm was the same mantra of ‘don't feel, don't feel, don't feel,’ until the words took on their own sort of melody.

Prowl led them to the living room and gestured for Jazz to take a seat on the couch as he went to the door himself. He paused for a moment to exvent deeply and then opened it. “Hello, Triage.”

“Hi, Prowl,” the femme replied as she entered. Her voice was less cheerful than normal, a bit rough even, and she looked quite ragged herself; as though she had worn herself too thin or been through incredible stress. Her wings sat lower than usual and her paint was ever so slightly chipped in a couple places. She was a far cry from the well put together femme Jazz had first met but she approached him regardless. “Hi, Jazz.”

Jazz's sensor wings flicked, indicating that he had in fact heard Triage, but instead of responding he turned towards Prowl, looking for direction as to what to do next.

Triage looked to Prowl. “Has he been this way for long?”

“We were interacting almost normally last night,” Prowl offered in return. His wings flicked in response to the concerned tilt hers were at. “He does this occasionally though. Should I be concerned?”

Triage’s wings shifted in a gesture that was both entirely unbecoming and prohibited for a bot of her rank. In contrast, her tone remained close to calm. “I understand why you would not recognize his distress but he needs care now, Prowl. Have you been treating him well?”

“To the best of my ability.”

“That’s what I was afraid of.” Triage sighed and flicked her wings dismissively before she sat down on the couch. Her tone towards Jazz was sweet and she reached out but did not touch him.

“Hello, Jazz. I have a present for you. Would you like to open it?”

Finally Jazz regarded Triage, his actions slow as he focused on trying not to think. He had no precedent for dealing with anyone other than Prowl. “Why?”

No, that wasn't right. “Sorry.”

That wasn't right either. He felt himself breaking again; thoughts bubbling to the surface as his processor went from nothing to everything, flooding him, drowning him. “I can't.”

Suddenly he was curled in on himself again, praying the world would just disappear.

Triage started to reach out then pulled back as Prowl stepped forward. He dropped onto the couch beside Jazz and pulled him close.

Prowl's touch broke Jazz out of his mental loop; causing him to freeze up for a moment before cuddling closer to the unexpected source of comfort. A constant stream of whispered ‘sorry’s fell from his vocalizer as he tried to fight the panic taking hold of his spark.

Triage watched as Prowl held him and lightly stroked Jazz’s wings. His field radiated calm though it did seem a bit forced. It was, if she were asked to explain, much like how one would be expected to comfort a tearful sparkling or youngling. It was also not something she would have expected Prowl to equate with caring for his mate but he had and she found herself wanting to smile despite the situation. Maybe she had been too harsh in her judgement of her friend.

It took a few more klicks before Jazz was finally silent, his frame no longer shaking as it had been during the worst of his panicking. He didn't pull away from Prowl however, instead opting to remain being held by him, waiting for his instructions.

Prowl waited nearly as long after Jazz’s panic as it lasted before he made any attempt to rouse Jazz. His voice was soft, almost gentle, when he spoke. “You still have a gift waiting. Would you like to see what it is?”

Jazz nodded, taking only a moment to find his voice to give a soft, “ok.”

Prowl aimed a soft smile at Jazz that he could not see then looked to Triage. “You should bring out your gift for him now, if you still want to.”

“O-of course,” Triage agreed. Her wings dipped in an awkward agreement as she reached into her subspace. What she withdrew was a small decorative box with a tidy silver trim. Triage held it out towards Jazz. “Here you are. I really do hope you like it.”

Jazz accepted the box and stared at it for a moment before carefully unwrapping it, not wanting to damage even the wrapping. Slowly he opened the box containing his gift, his field betraying every emotion he tried to hide. A flash of joy, quickly washed away by sorrow, and then guilt.

Inside the box was a small shard of crystal. Colorless without a defined shape, it was bigger than the ones he had been growing already.

As Jazz pulled it from the box, it caught the light and gave off a soft shimmer. The action also caused Prowl's wings to twitch and his field shifted to amazement. "That's-"

Triage cut him off with a flick of her wings. "Concentus Enthymema, yes."

She turned her helm back towards Jazz. "Prowl told me how you enjoy caring for your crystals so I thought I would help make your collection extra special. This is a very rare type to find outside the gardens and I had to use a few connections to get this shaving but it is a sturdy species and will survive as long as you give it some attention. Can I trust you to care well for this?"

“I don't deserve it.”

It was the first thing Jazz spoke directly to Triage, even as he continued to stare at the tiny but beautiful crystal.

“I know you do not think you do so consider it a therapy gift,” she offered. Her wings tipped up in a hopeful slant. “Returning to familiar and beloved activities is a good coping mechanism.”

“Thank you.” It was mostly an automated response, but at least Jazz was accepting the gift.

Triage smiled at him but it was strained at the edges. Prowl took that opportunity to speak up now, drawing the attention from her. “Do you like it, Jazz? Would you like to go plant it with the rest?”

Prowl's questions seemed to stall Jazz for a moment, as he warred with himself over his next actions. “I don't know.”

That wasn't the right reaction, he realized he was probably hurting Triage with his answers and it only served to hurt him as well.

“It’s beautiful,” he finally forced himself to say; desperate to fake normalcy, if just long enough to take the escape that had been given to him. “I'll go now I think.” He excused himself, thankful to be able to be alone in case he broke again.

“Alright,” Triage commented as Jazz left. Her words followed after him absently. “I hope you feel better soon.”

Triage waited until Jazz had been gone for almost a full klik before she finally addressed Prowl once more. "I do have something for you too."

Prowl's sensorpanels moved up in surprise that didn't quite reach his tone. "What could you possibly have for me?"

Triage was silent as she reached into her subspace to pull something out. As she passed it over to Prowl, he saw it was a datapad. Still, the easiest question was a short, "what's this?"

"Turn it on."

Prowl turned his optics down as he did so. The datapad held a single image file and when it loaded Prowl's wings twitched in confusion. He looked up to ask Triage about it but she spoke first. "It is a condolence gift. I thought you deserved to have the last remnant of what you lost. No one can fault you for grieving your lost creation."

On the screen was the image of a tiny orb in mid orbit around a much larger one.

Prowl could only stare in silence for a while. His optics eventually rose to meet Triage's though. "I don't understand. There is no way he could have been carrying. I-" Prowl paused, wings quivering in a concerned but also confused way. "I thought you knew that I hadn't interfaced with him yet. This can't be my creation."

There weren't many other options for how this could be and Prowl didn't want to consider them.

Triage didn't seem deterred however. "Of course it is, Prowl. I didn't tell you when I first noticed because I wanted to confirm the good news before I congratulated you but then the attack happened and well, now this solitary image is all that's left of your first creation."

Though she stressed the last words, Prowl was still clueless to why. "But I have never created. This is a mistake. There is no way that this sparkling would have been mine."

"That's not what Jazz's medical file says."

~

Jazz had dutifully cared to his crystals as he had said he would, making sure to carefully install his new gift in the cluster he had already cultivated. He tried to focus on cleaning out the impurities, but soon enough his curiosity got the better of him. By the time he was done packing away his crystals, the grey mech had devised a plan for spying on the two Praxians and enacted it as quickly and quietly as possible.

"-grieving your lost creation,” were the first words he managed to pick up. Confusion, and even more so, fear swelling inside him as he strained to hear more. Jazz didn't know when he had started shaking, only that he couldn't stop. How had he not noticed that Barricade had-? He raised a servo to tenderly touch his chest, giving a soft whimper.

Just when he thought that monster had nothing left to take from him, he was proven wrong again.

As Jazz continued to listen his processor swam in confusion. Had Prowl messed with his spark without him knowing? Why would he? He didn't want sparklings. Even Prowl was adamant that he hadn't tried to create. But if it happened before Barricade then how-

"Oh." Finally it all clicked and Jazz gave a surprised gasp. Then, he took the idea and ran with it.

"Who cares where the sparkling came from?” he spoke up finally, just as he entered the room. "The only thing that matters is that the sparkling isn't there anymore, and it's all Barricade's fault."

The wings on both bots in the room jumped up in surprise but Triage's gave a pleased flick astroseconds later. "Exactly," she complimented Jazz. "There was a sparkling and now there isn't. I would think you could understand how that changes the situation, right?"

Prowl had turned to look at Jazz upon his return but eventually allowed his focus back to Triage while she spoke. Everything was slowly starting to make sense again. It was rare that she was so devious but this did indeed change several things. He flicked his wings once before settling them into their natural state for the first time in a long while. "And you are certain everything was filed correctly? There will be no suspicious activity if anyone decides to go digging through his records?"

"Of course not," she promised. "There is even a note about a follow up exam and all of the most recent changes were specifically in the page for his latest visit. You know I do my datawork well."

"Of course," Prowl conceded with another flick of his wings. Then he turned towards his mate once more. "How do you feel about this development, Jazz?"

"That certainly explains why I've been so distraught." The visored mech agreed easily, the thought of revenge showing through a momentary vengeful smirk.

"It certainly would," Prowl agreed. He was surprised to find his spark swelling at that vindictive grin but he didn't want to consider it for long. With that expression, Jazz looked more like his old self than he had in ages. "I will have to inform my superior as she has taken over this case but that can wait if you intend to remain."

The last was directed towards the femme in the room and her wings shifted in appreciation. "If I am so allowed," was her reply.

Prowl glanced back to Jazz then. "Do you feel capable of continuing to socialize?"

If Jazz was being honest with himself, the whole day was already starting to wear him out. Thinking about Barricade and dealing with emotions he hadn't felt in a while... He just wanted to turn off and go back into the safety of command mode but maybe it was good to keep trying for a while. "We wouldn't want to be rude after accepting such nice gifts."

"Only if you're sure," Triage said, hesitating. "I don't want to impose and impede your recovery."

"You do not need to remain the entire time," Prowl offered, still looking at Jazz. "If it is too much then you could leave the room."

Jazz gave a nod. "I'm ok." He assured, even though he wasn't quite as confident as he sounded. "Should I come back to the couch?"

"If you wish to join us," Prowl agreed.

There was space available between the two seated mecha still, and though they had shifted, it would put him close enough to touch both. Jazz didn't seem to mind and walked over to join them. As he did, Triage asked a simple question to switch the conversation to something very light. She ended up staying for a couple joor before excusing herself to head home.

After Triage had left and the door was shut behind her, Prowl returned to the living room and Jazz. "You did well with her here," he reassured his mate. "That was not too bad, now was it?"

Jazz had almost entirely exhausted himself from the stress of the day and could only manage a nod before asking a simple question. "Is it time for recharge?"

Prowl's wings sank incrementally as he flicked an acceptance with them. "Not usually but you may rest if you feel it to be necessary. Would you like more energon before that?"

"I'm fine,” he responded, just wanting to curl up on the berth and leave his thoughts behind.

Prowl hesitated an astrosecond before flicking his acceptance again. "All right. You have had an eventful orn. Do you want my company? Otherwise it may be several joor before I join you in there."

Jazz shook his helm. "I'm sure you have better things to do."

"You are free to go then," Prowl finally allowed. His wings gave a partial twitch before he abruptly cut off the motion. "Recharge well."

Jazz wasted no time in getting to, and crawling in the berth, wrapping himself tightly in the blankets. Prowl would just have to find his own blanket.

Which he would from the hall closet when he retired to the berthroom 2.375 joor later. Though tempted, Prowl didn't try to speak with his mate. Jazz had had an eventful enough orn and would again soon. Prowl had messaged Searchlight and mentioned there was a new development in Jazz's case but he preferred to tell her directly. Her comm had been turned off anyway so she would have to hear the news later, but the message was sure to attract her attention sooner than not.

Prowl eventually fell into a fitful recharge as his processor focused on the myriad new avenues Triage's visit had opened up.

Chapter Text

Prowl was already out of the berth and staring into the cabinet as he considered whether he could force down any energon this morning when his commline buzzed. He answered automatically but shifted upright when he heard Searchlight on the other end.

Their conversation was brief. She was free and intended to drop by in a joor, assuming they were home. Prowl assured her they were and that was that. Searchlight concluded her call and Prowl was left in silence. He turned his gaze to the energon again but instead shut the cabinet and reached for a different door. This one he did collect a cube from, one chosen at random from a plentiful pile, and then Prowl turned around to bring it to Jazz.

Jazz was online by the time the Praxian returned, but he barely reacted to the others presence, his mind wandering to everything that happened the night before.

Prowl didn't pay any mind to the berth and the mound of blanket where his mate slept so he failed to notice that he could see a few bits of Jazz's plating. He wouldn't have tried to wake the other even if he had seen though, and instead opted to set the cube he held down on the table. He turned then and hesitated a moment before exventing softly and beginning to leave the room again.

Jazz was torn between reaching out to get Prowl's attention and just wanting to be left alone. Apparently his vocaliser picked a middle option as he subconsciously made a small whining sound.

That caused Prowl to stop in the middle of the room. He stayed facing the doorway but his wings twitched as he focused to see if any other sounds occurred.

The grey mech shifted a little, embarrassed at his accidental noise, but otherwise trying to keep from making more.

Although he doubted the other was even online, Prowl couldn't stop himself from returning to the berthside to check. Naturally, Jazz's helm was covered and possibly even turned away from him based on the sensor horn Prowl could see peeking out. He hesitated again but finally spoke in a voice barely above a whisper. "Jazz? Are you all right?"

Jazz finally poked his head out of the covers, his gaze meeting Prow's, but he still stayed silent. Words just seemed to difficult to manage.

Prowl's wings dropped marginally but remained in the concerned tilt. "You are online then. That's good. I brought you some energon. Will you drink it?"

The visored mech gave a weak nod, forcing himself to sit up.

Prowl reached over and grabbed the cube to hold it out for Jazz. The silence was concerning but he didn't know how to fix it. Hopefully Searchlight would have some idea when she arrived.

Jazz accepted the energon, holding it for a while before finally committing to taking a sip. Everything seemed so difficult, like he had worn himself out, but without doing anything.

Prowl just waited and watched as Jazz slowly drank. There wasn't much else to say or do after all. Eventually though, he did speak up. Jazz needed to know they would have company. "One of my superiors will be arriving soon. She is considering taking up your case but wants to speak with you first. She just messaged me to say she will be here in," Prowl paused for a moment to check his chronometer, "less than half a joor now."

Jazz said nothing, keeping optic contact as he slowly returned the blanket over his head. He didn't want to deal with anyone a second day in a row, and maybe if he hid he wouldn't have to.

Prowl vented a sigh. "I can't stop this even if I wanted to do so," he told Jazz. "She outranks me normally and has taken charge of your case. That puts us at her mercy until everything is done."

"I don't wanna talk no more." The visored mech whined, wanting to just shut off his processor and ignore the day.

"Then don't." Prowl didn't know what caused him to say it but he did. By the end of it, there was a bite in his tone. "She is only trying to ensure he gets punished for what he did after all. I will simply relay the new information to her and try to get rid of her. Would you prefer that?"

He was silent for a while before giving a weak helm shake. "I should do this..."

"Yes, you should." Prowl's quick agreement was sharp but lacked any heat. Whatever it might have seemed like, he meant it as approving of Jazz's choice. "It is unlikely that she will remain for overly long and this is a vital step."

"What if I can't?" Jazz gave a frightened look, his vulnerability clear in his expression.

"Why couldn't you?" Prowl asked and his tone was pure questioning.

The visored mech curled in on himself a bit before answering. "I'm scared to remember what happened."

"That doesn't make sense. Don't you remember it anyway?"

"Not if I try to block it out. If I just turn off my thoughts then I can't think about it."

Prowl stared at him for an astrosecond. "Is that what you've been doing? Turning off your thoughts? That would explain a few things..."

"It helps." He argued weakly. "I can't go through those memories again..."

Prowl vented a sigh and his wings sank. "What am I supposed to do? This must be a vital step if she intends to attend to it herself..."

The grey mech stayed silent, internally berating himself for being so weak. Criticizing how he had once thought he could make a difference when he couldn't even speak for himself now.

They lapsed into a complete silence that was only shattered by the door alert when it sounded nearly half a joor later. Prowl's wings twitched as he absently looked in the general direction of the front door while checking his chronometer. He vented another soft sigh and started for the berthroom door. "That should be her now..." he said to no one in particular.

It took half a klik on average to cross from the berthroom to the front door but to Prowl it seemed to be simultaneously both an arduously long process and instantaneous. He did do an identity check when he reached the door but he did so to waste a few more nanokliks than out of actual concern. Finally though, he could stall no longer and he opened the door to see Searchlight waiting. "Greetings, sir. How are you this orn?"

Searchlight gave the usual greeting wing flick before responding verbally with a, "quite well, thank you. And yourself?" She played gracious guest, even as her wings and optics scanned the other's home investigatively.

“Well enough, thank you,” Prowl replied and dipped his wings in greeting to a superior. “This is a trying time but we are handling it as well as we can.”

"How is your mate holding up?" It was uncustomary that Prowl's mate wasn't near to help wait on their guest, but it was little wonder why.

“He still functions and will even get up from the berth on occasion. A further setback has recently come to light, however.” Prowl paused then and when he spoke again, with wings tipped in apology, it was no longer on that subject. “I am afraid I am out of practice at having guests. Please do come in.”

Searchlight accepted the apology with a wing movement. "Another setback?" She questioned, far more interested in that than Prowl's apology.
She let herself in, expecting Prowl to follow as she found her way to a chair in the kitchen, vaguely gesturing to the other to sit across from her.

Prowl did so. “Nothing new happened although it does help to explain his lack of recovery. I was recently informed by his medic that he was carrying at the time of the attack.”

"My condolences, Prowl." She paused for a moment to let her words have weight before continuing. "Do you have proof of this?"

Prowl reached into his subspace and withdrew a datapad, which he then held out for her. “The medic who has been treating him since he first came to Praxus visited to drop this off. She had him examined when he was in for twisting an arm and was going to do a visual confirmation during his visit on the orn he was instead attacked. She did not want to get us excited without confirmation so she did not mention the test at the time. I wish she had so I could have kept him home.”

Searchlight was quiet for an extended period of time, studying the datapad she had been given. Her normally rigid wings displayed the emotions she wasn't allowed to vocalize, sadness, pity, anger.
"This changes everything." She finally spoke. "I still wish to speak with your mate, but now we will need a testimony from his medic as well. Can you secure that?"

Prowl did not even hesitate. “I will make sure she is available for the trial.” It was highly probable that had been part of Triage’s plan all along. He did not know and would decide later if he cared enough to ask.

Searchlight gave an affirmative wing flick. "I will need to keep a copy of this for evidence as well." She gave a moment's pause before continuing. "Is your mate ready to talk?"

Prowl had no answer to the latter but he accepted the first statement with a wing flick and a question of his own. “Do you have a datapad to make that copy? I am certain I can find a spare one if necessary.”

Searchlight easily produced another datapad. "I'm always prepared." She copied the information quickly before handing the original datapad back to Prowl.

Prowl flicked his wings in acceptance and later in thanks as he reclaimed his datapad. He made a point to return it to his subspace almost immediately for safe keeping.

“So,” he then began, “you wish to speak with my mate now?”

"That is why I'm here." She motioned for him to lead the way, or call his mate down to them.

Prowl accepted the order with another wing flick and then turned to lead the way back to the berthroom. It was where he had left Jazz and there were not many choices if Jazz had decided to leave the room.

Jazz was indeed where he had been expected to be, the grey mech tangled up in his favorite blanket, and apparently finding some section of the wall very interesting to stare at.

Prowl stepped forward enough to allow Searchlight to enter after him and didn’t stop until he was in the middle of the room. “Jazz,” he called out softly, almost gently. “My superior is here to speak with you now.”

Jazz retreated into the blanket completely. He just wasn't ready to face those memories again, and maybe this time if he stayed hidden the world would finally go away.

“Jazz…” Prowl said again. He tried to make it a command but the resulting tone was more pleading.

Unwilling to allow that to continue, Searchlight stepped forward. The tilt of her wings dared Prowl to stop her as she strode across the room but he did not. Nor did he stop her when she circled the berth to Jazz’s side and stopped there. Searchlight did not speak but instead reached out with her field, gentle and tentatively. Her field felt of muted curiosity and intense focus but nothing else. No damaging or complicated emotions which could and would make situations worse.

The visited mech had been prepared for Prowl to attempt something to get him out of the berth. Maybe scolding him, or even taking his blanket. He hadn't been prepared for this new bot.

He was good at resisting an active force, he'd had a lot of practice at it. He wasn't good at ignoring curiosity, and this new bot made him curious.

Finally he emerged, just slightly, to get a look at this intruder.

“Hello,” Searchlight said and her tone was soft. She tipped her wings in greeting and let a bit of welcome into her field. “I hear your designation is Jazz. Is that correct?”

"And you're as fake as the rest of this city, correct?" He hadn't meant to lash out, but the femme's false niceness wasn't something he had the patience for anymore.

He retreated back under the covers almost right after he was done speaking, hoping that she would just go away.

He certainly was not ready to hear her laugh.

“You still have spirit then, that’s good.” Searchlight’s tone was still gentle but there was real personality behind it now. “That will make your recovery easier. It is certainly a good sign to see so soon after a damaging event.”

As much as Jazz didn't want to give her what she wanted he could no longer deny his curiosity. "What's it gonna take to make you go away?" He asked, lifting the blanket just enough to stare out.

“I need to hear your version of events,” Searchlight told him. “If I am going to back your case then I need to know what happened.”

“How many times?”

Searchlight’s wings actually twitched in surprise and confusion. “I don’t understand your question.”

"How many times am I gonna have to relive it? For him, for you, for how many others?" He sunk a bit further down, visor just barely visible under the blanket.

Searchlight turned her attention from Jazz to Prowl. “You have not even explained to him how the trial process works?”

Prowl’s sensorwings twitched now. “He was not responding to me so I saw no point in wasting the effort to explain something if I could not know whether he would understand it.”

The femme flicked her wings in a derogatory gesture and seemed about to reply but stopped and then settled back to calm as she looked to Jazz once more. Searchlight even kept her tone gentle as she addressed him. “Your kind have no place in a courtroom so your case will be presented by an appropriate mech, typically the dominant mate. Thus, Prowl shall present your case and the related evidence to a court and then your attacker will have a chance to defend himself. Rarely do cases of this sort go so far as to reach the court but because of outstanding factors this one will.

“My role in this is as support behind Prowl’s claims,” Searchlight continued to explain. “As such, I put my power and rank behind your case in the hopes of a better result from the jury. It is rare that they will ask me specific questions about your situation, however in case they do, I must know what happened.”

It was almost sudden that everything seemed like too much and Jazz shuffled away, letting the blanket fall fully over him to obscure him from view before mumbling a quiet "go away."

Searchlight’s wings sank for a moment before she stepped closer. “I can not do that, Jazz. I need you to share this information and I would rather you tell me than resort to any more drastic measures.”

"So, what, you're gonna hurt me too if I don't do what you want?" As if he needed further confirmation that everyone in Praxus was horrible. That had at least brought him out of his blanket again, this time to glare accusingly at the femme.

“I don’t want to do that, but you are holding up your own case and I don’t think you want that. The longer it takes to bring this to the courts, the less likely we are to win.”

"I don't care, I don't care, I don't care!" He could feel his emotions spilling over, heavy and wet. It didn't take much for him to lose control anymore, to pain or numbness or sadness. "I don't want this. I don't want any of this."

Searchlight did sigh now. Then, in a fit of daring, she sat on the edge of the berth. “I know you did not. My mate did not want anything that was done to him either but it happened and we had to pick up the pieces.” She smiled softly. “He is quite happy now, that I can promise you.”

The grey mech paused for a moment, watching her before making a distinct show of looking away. "Why do you care anyway?"

“Because you remind me of him,” Searchlight shared. “It is more than the similar physical features; you two share several mannerisms too but you are also distinctly different in how you handle your pain. He was entirely withdrawn but you manage anger. It gives me hope you can recover more quickly.”

"I can guarantee I'm nothing like him. Your pity is misplaced." He was quietly withdrawing again, emotion slowly subsiding. Numbness was easier anyway.

“Used and abused and left to rust away?” Searchlight asked softly. “You are correct about differences though. At least there was no acid rain before you were found.”

"And you force him to stay here to be tormented again. Isn't that more cruel than anything anyone else could do to him?" There was no force behind his words, but Jazz managed to say them just the same.

“Oh no,” Searchlight told him. “My Beatbox wasn’t hurt here in Praxus. I found him just outside the wall as a youngling and brought him in for medical attention. He got his upgrades here and once he was a full citizen, he wanted to stay with me as my mate.”

Her reply brought up too many more questions, along with a dose of disbelief. Instead of trying to articulate any of his confusion the visored mech just skipped over the new information with a soft but defiant "whatever."

"I don't care, just.... what do I have to do to make you go away?"

Searchlight’s sensorpanels twitched a few times and Prowl took a step forward, his own wings high in worry, before she brought them back under control. It was still a moment until she spoke. “I told you, Jazz. I need to know what happened. I am the last bot you should ever have to tell your tale to, I promise.”

Jazz cycled air through his vents before trying to find his vocals again. " It was when I was going to the medic." He started, his arms unconsciously wrapping around his frame as if to protect himself from the memories. "I needed ta... to get my arm looked at since it got hurt a while ago." Even his wings moved closer to his frame in anticipation of the pain his memories would bring up. "I ran into him and he recognised me... he... he...." the grey mech took a moment before continuing. "He pulled me into an alley, an- an I knew I wasn't gettin' outta there if he had any say to it so I tried ta get outta his grasp an..." He slowly slipped into a more Polyhexian style of speech as he told his story, his frame starting to shiver. "An I begged him, even. I told him, ya know? I told him.... an he still-" his words cut off into a whimper.

Searchlight vented a soft sound and reached out. “Come here, sparklet. Lemme hold you until you feel better.”

For just a moment everything felt natural. Jazz let himself fall into her arms and just cry out every emotion he had.

Searchlight pulled him close as soon as Jazz let her and held him tight while he cried. She kept her field calm and did her best to ignore Prowl and the way his wings kept shifting from surprise to worry and back. He would only be a distraction and right now she had to focus on keeping a soothing atmosphere for Jazz. She even began stroking his wings gently. “It’ll be alright. Yer safe here an’ I won’t let anyone hurt ya.”

He let himself be fooled for a few moments longer by the familiar sound of her words. Somehow she almost sounded like home. He eventually forced himself to speak again. "Why do you sound Polyhexian now?"

“I told ya,” Searchlight said with a smile, “you remind me of my mate. Tha’s where he comes from too and we learned that he calmed quicker in the beginning when I could imitate mechs from his creation city. I was horrible at it at the time but I kept up the practice just in case. Bonding also helped.”

The grey mech's field darkened, displaying sadness and betrayal before he pulled away, berating himself mentally for falling for her tricks. "Well I don't wanna hear it. Don't think you can manipulate me like that."

Searchlight sighed and her wings even sagged. “I am merely trying to help you. What can be done to make this easier on you?”

Jazz shook his helm. "You can't give me my life back, so nothing."

“He did not offline you,” Searchlight commented, “so that means there must still be hope.”

"Sometimes I wish he did." He retreated back under his blanket soon after, hoping he would be left alone.

Searchlight sighed again. “You still haven’t told me what he did to you, nor what happened after. I will leave you alone once you do, I promise.”

"He hurt me. He raped me, and he hurt me, and he destroyed everything." It took more willpower than he had left to say, but somehow he forced the words out, hoping that would be enough.

“Exactly what did he destroy?” Searchlight asked. “You were only mildly damaged.”

Jazz was silent for a long time. "Something no Praxian will ever understand."

“If it is something Polyhexian then I could ask my mate to explain it to me.”

"If that's what it takes for you to leave me alone." There was no real emotion to his words anymore, just a resigned exhaustion.

“Please?” Searchlight even lowered her sensorwings to make the request.

Maybe he could have explained, tried to help her understand what everything meant to him. Maybe he could have finally clarified himself to one of their kind. Maybe, in another time he would have tried. Now though, it just seemed like too much work.

Instead he chose to pull out the one thing he knew would affect her. "My sparkling is gone." He wielded the lie just softly enough, just pained enough to make it seem like he never wanted to speak it aloud.

Searchlight’s wings twitched and settled into a much lower position. Even her tone and volume sank. “I just heard. That is terrible and I would never wish that upon anyone.”

"Can I be left to mourn in peace now? Please?" It was an honest request. He had a lot to be sad over, just not the one thing she thought.

Searchlight sighed softly. “I suppose that will have to do.” She looked to Prowl and her tone was professional once more. “I may have follow up questions for you to answer in the future. I trust you will provide their answers promptly.”

Prowl flicked his wings in the affirmative. “Yes sir.”

“Good.” Searchlight stood. “Then I shall take my leave. It was a shame I could not meet your mate under better circumstances, he seems like he could be a very curious mech.”

Prowl was silent, unsure how to respond, and Searchlight spoke again. “Will you see me out?”

Prowl flicked his sensorpanels once more in the affirmative and started leading her out of the berthroom. They had only made it to the living room when Searchlight stopped him.

“What do you think you are doing to your mate?”

“What do you mean?” Prowl asked, confusion in his tone.

Searchlight flicked her wings in irritation and scolding. “It will be immensely more difficult for your mate to recover if you do not show him proper care and affection. Especially after a lost newspark. I can not believe how neglectful you have been.”

Prowl dropped his wings in apology. “I have tried my best. I could find no further data on how to handle a mech’s emotional problems so there is only so much I could do.”

This time Searchlight just sighed, deeply enough to reach the core of the planet and come out again on the other side. “I will get you some appropriate reading material. In the meantime and after, you must do everything in your power to comfort him. If it must be pampering or trips or treats, it doesn’t matter. A lost creation is the worst pain and it is top priority to handle that pain before it can lead to worse. Do you understand?”

“Yes sir.”

“Good. Now, once I leave you need to get in there and comfort him in any way possible. Do you understand?”

“Yes sir.”

Searchlight accepted that with a flick of her wings. “Then go do so. Do not let him or yourself down.”

Prowl moved his wings for acceptance and gratitude and only then did Searchlight walk to the door. They exchanged only the barest minimum of farewell pleasantries and then she was gone. That only left Prowl to return to Jazz and he promptly did so.

Jazz was surprised to see Prowl return so soon, however his surprise went unremarked, instead he opted to peak out from the covers, watching the Praxian with mild curiosity.

Prowl paused in the door to assess the room and then headed towards Jazz’s side of the berth. He stopped once there and stood awkwardly a few inches away for several moments until he finally spoke. “How are you feeling, Jazz?”

"Emotionally exhausted." No use lying around Prowl, he doubted the other even really cared so any response would work the same.

Prowl took a moment before saying, “that must be difficult. Can anything be done to help?”

"You can stop pretending to care, for one." His response lacked any of the bite his words usually carried.

“Then how can I fix this?” Prowl asked him. “You are correct that I do not feel but I do care enough to want you to feel better.”

"You can't. You can't fix what you can't understand. Hopefully you can at least understand that much."

Prowl sighed softly. “I do want to help you. Isn’t there anything that can be done?”

"What would you suggest Prowl?" The visored mech stared into the other's optics. "Just pretend you're me for a moment, and tell me what you would want."

“I don’t know how to do that,” Prowl replied. “It makes sense that you would want comfort. It makes no sense that you do not want me to even try.”

"You don't know because you don't listen, even when I tell you exactly what I need. You pretend you want me to be happy, but how dare my needs inconvenience you, even a little bit. You're such a fragging hypocrite." Of course even this was going to devolve into a fight. He didn't have the energy to fight anymore, but Prowl just wouldn't leave him alone.

“I am asking so that I can try to provide you what might help you feel better. How am I refusing to meet even the ‘slightest inconvenience’?”

"If you can't understand that, then at least understand this, you're. too. late. You can't just glue the pieces back together and expect everything to be fixed." He was quivering again, trying to keep everything in check so none of his emotions would spiral out of control.

Prowl frowned and his wings sank ever so slightly. “And why not? This was never what I wanted. If you had only bothered to behave sooner then we never would have had to be here for this to happen.”

The grey mech cycled through a myriad of emotions before settling to complete neutral, almost like a switch had been flipped inside him. "As you wish, sir."

That gave Prowl pause and he just stared for several long kliks. The only thing he could say was a softly muttered, “I see...”

Jazz said nothing more, his optics dulling slightly as he unfocused from his own frame.

Prowl watched for a moment before his wings sank and he left the room.

~~

Several Orns Later

~~

Prowl had just convinced Jazz to move to the table for energon when the door buzzed for their attention. Prowl’s wings twitched and he walked that way with only a vague comment to Jazz about remaining put. It only took a few astroseconds to reach the door and he opened it.

“Hello?”

“Prowl.” Searchlight greeted in response. “I hope you aren't too busy for company today?”

“Of course not, sir,” Prowl replied quickly. “Would you like to come in?”

She agreed with a wing flick before following Prowl in. “How are you and your mate fairing?”

“We are as well as can be expected.” He led her to the table and gestured to a chair. “Jazz, will you say hello to Searchlight?”

The grey mech almost seemed like he hasn't heard his mate, save for the small wing flick of acknowledgement. “Hello back.” The femme said before turning back to Prowl.

Prowl pulled his wings back up to neutral as Searchlight watched. He managed a level tone as he asked her a question. “Might I inquire as to what brought you here, sir?”

Searchlight took a moment's pause to assess the likelihood that Prowl's sub was even aware enough to understand the conversation they were about to have before deciding to continue. “The trial has concluded.” Another pause. “There were complications.”

Prowl couldn’t help the way his wings dipped for just a few astroseconds. “What manner of complications? What are our next steps?”

“Prowl.” Her own wings dipped in condolences. “The record dates for the sparkling were off. The evidence we had was dismissed. All that was left was hear-say. His lawyer wanted to push for an implication that you were involved in fabricating evidence. The best you can do now is try to settle for reparations out of court. I'm sorry.”

Prowl simply stared at Searchlight for a while as her words sank in. Then his wings sank. “What sort of justice system do we have if a monster like him is not punished?”

Searchlight didn't get time to respond before Jazz spoke. “Welcome to Praxus.” It was a biting remark that carried all the hurt he had been feeling. “Maybe you'll finally get it after all.”

Prowl turned to frown at him but his voice was more sad than firm. “That is unhelpful, Jazz.”

“Fine, then I will be helpful.” Jazz responded cryptically, before deciding to leave to process what he had just learned on his own. Searchlight stood next explaining “I'll excuse myself so you can care for your mate. Don't hesitate to comm me if you need anything.”

“Is there nothing at all we can do?” Prowl asked.

“I am sorry, Prowl. I really am.”

Searchlight left after that, leaving Prowl alone in the dining room. He remained there for a klik before getting up absently to check on Jazz. Knowing his habits well, Prowl walked to the berthroom and opened the door.

“Jazz? Where are you?” The latter statement held more questioning as the room appeared to be empty.

After leaving the conversation Jazz had gone to Prowl's office, the only thing in his processor being his departing words. They echoed venomously as he searched for his target. Finally in a drawer he found it, a blaster Prowl kept for work. Jazz stared at the object in his servos, the weight of the blaster making the weight of his decisions all the more real. He hesitated between putting it in his subspace and putting it back in the drawer until Prowl's voice broke him from his thoughts. He hastily stuck the blaster into his subspace before leaving the office.

“Here.” Jazz answered quietly from behind Prowl.

Prowl turned to him, wings flaring slightly in surprise. “I was certain you would already be in the berth room. I suppose you had not tended to your crystals yet this orn, however…”

Jazz gave an affirmative wing flick before passing by Prowl to enter the berthroom. He said nothing until he was safely curled up in the blanket again. “So does he just… get to go back to his life? Like nothing happened?”

Prowl followed Jazz in silence and did not speak until he had settled on the berth as well. “I can press civil charges against him for unsettled compensation but that would be a mere slap on the wrists compared to the criminal charges he managed to avoid.”

A few klicks passed before Jazz spoke again. “He's gonna go after me again isn't he?” It was the one thing he was sure of, but he still wanted to hear it, wanted justification for what he had decided to do.

“I do not know,” Prowl said somberly. “You only became his target because you were so close to me. He might be content with having harmed my reputation by attacking you but conversely, he might go after you once more in retaliation for this trial because it is easier to get you than me.”

“I won't let him do it again.” There was no fear, not anymore, no sadness, no room for sadness, just resolution. Praxus would not take everything. He would always fight back.

Prowl sighed. “We have been over this. You are not legally allowed to do so, much less physically capable of such. Your best chance of safety would be to stay as far from him as possible.”

The only reply the enforcer got was a curt “recharge well, Prowl” as Jazz turned away to pretend to recharge himself.

Prowl frowned slightly and almost reached out but decided against it. Instead, he stood from the berth and left the room. He returned a short while later with a cube of energon for Jazz as he had not had any yet, and left again after setting it on the table beside Jazz’s side of the berth. He would not return again for a few joor, just in time to turn in for the night.

~~

Jazz awoke early the next morning, carefully slipping from the berth to not wake Prowl. He wasted no time going back to the enforcer’s office to investigate any files that might help him find Barricade. He was working with very limited time, there was no telling when Prowl would find his blaster missing.

The search took longer than Jazz had hoped, but he finally came upon a directory of Praxian citizens, the perfect way to locate his target. The search was almost exhilarating, his wings practically trembling as they scanned for any sign that Prowl would catch him. There was almost no real work to finding the name, and then address, he was looking for. The real trouble was replacing everything perfectly so that Prowl has no reason to question. After everything had been put back in its place Jazz had meant to just sneak back into the berth, at least until he walked by the front door, then another idea came into his processor. It would be so easy to just go now. Just find that address and finish everything. Prowl couldn't be any the wiser if everything was done by the time he onlined.

A door slid open in the back of their home and soft pedesteps followed. Astroseconds later, Prowl appeared and his wings twitched as he noticed his mate. “Jazz? I did not expect you would be online yet. Did something happen?”

Jazz had dropped his guard just long enough to actually be surprised by Prowl. At least that praxian was easy to deal with. He turned from the door to where Prowl's voice was coming from, optics downcast. “Sorry sir.” That would stop any unwanted questions for the rest of the day.

Prowl stopped short as he entered the room and his wings sank to their new normal. “Oh, I see.” He hesitated and then asked, “have you had any energon yet?”

“No sir.” Jazz’s plans would have to wait for later, but at least Prowl would probably not want to interact much for the rest of the day. One problem down.

“Come along then. We should have energon and then we can decide what we will do with this orn.”

Jazz gave an absent wing flick and followed after Prowl. He stayed silent as he would most of the orn. He had plans to figure out so he wouldn’t miss his next chance.

~~

Night couldn't seem to come fast enough for Jazz who, as soon as it seemed late enough to not arouse too much suspicion, decided to grab onto Prowl's wrist and pull him towards the berth. The praxian never seemed suspicious of him anymore, so as long as he waited until Prowl was in recharge to actually leave he could probably get away with almost anything.

Prowl offered no resistance to Jazz’s desires and was easily led to the berthroom. The orns were always taxing anymore, despite his lack of activity, and he welcomed recharge almost as soon as he laid down.

Jazz waited another joor after Prowl seemed asleep before sneaking out of the berth, only pausing once to look back at Prowl before giving an apologetic wing flick. Too much had happened to hesitate now.

It had taken considerably more time than Jazz had expected to eventually find the house he was looking for, maybe checking a map would have been a good idea. The grey mech transformed, checking the address one last time before hesitantly walking to the door. There was no sign of anyone inside, so Barricade was probably recharging. Not for long.

Jazz sighed to himself, trying to calm his spark before loudly knocking on the door, pulling out the gun he had stolen immediately afterwards to make sure that would be the first thing to greet Barricade. It was only then that he decided to take an extra precaution, pressing himself against the wall by the door so he wasn't immediately visible and could, hopefully, take the enforcer by surprise.

It took several kliks before the door eventually slid open and an angry voice grumbled. “Who are you and what do you want?”

When no one responded, out stepped Jazz’s target. Barricade’s engine growled low as he started looking around. “You glitches picked the wrong mech to prank.”

Jazz hesitated for only a moment as fear and anger warred within his spark, he was only barely aware of himself screaming as he aimed the blaster, pulling the trigger once, twice, three times. He stopped only because he was desperate to make sure Barricade knew he was the one to offline him.

One of his shots must have hit as the Praxian gave a shout. When Jazz next looked, Barricade had a blaster pointed in his general direction. “Who the frag are you, thinking you can shoot an enforcer?”

Barricade's hesitance would be his undoing, Jazz would make sure of it. This time he didn't hold back, firing the blaster until the weapon was well out of energy, 30 maybe 40 times. “Still alive now?” He demanded to the following silence before abruptly collapsing, feeling as though his entire frame had been turned to jelly.

Silence was all that responded to Jazz’s question. At least until sirens picked up nearby all around.

Giving Prowl a proper goodbye certainly wasn't the most pressing matter, but it was the only thing Jazz could focus on, even as he groped around the ground for the discarded blaster Barricade had been holding. ::I hope you're not too mad at me for waking you:: There it was. ::I just wanted… I dunno.:: He was running out of time, but it was impossible to find the right words. ::I forgive you, I guess, is what I'm trying to say. I forgive you, and I'm sorry for leaving.::

::Jazz?:: Prowl’s voice was a mumble and sleepy as it came back across the line. ::What are you talking about?::

::I shot Barricade.:: No point hiding anything now. ::That's probably going to get in the way of your plans. I'm sorry.:: Finally he located the blaster, pulling it close to himself. ::I wanted to say goodbye though. You deserve at least that.::

::What are you talking about, Jazz?:: Prowl questioned. ::Did you have a nightmare? Come back to recharge.::

::It's a bit late for that.:: Jazz replied, a bit of dark humor to his tone. ::I do hope everything works out for you though, Prowl. I hope you get out of Praxus, just please promise me you won't kidnap anyone else.::

::What are you talking about?:: There was a short pause before his tone grew worried. ::Jazz, where are you? Why are you not home? Come back. Whatever happened, I can resolve it.::

::Sorry Prowl, I'm out of time.:: When had the enforcers gotten so close? ::Goodbye.::

He closed the comm before bringing the blaster he had been cradling to his helm. There was only one way out now...

Chapter Text

Prowl was already out of the berth and staring into the cabinet as he considered whether he could force down any energon this morning when his commline buzzed. He answered automatically but shifted upright when he heard Searchlight on the other end.

Their conversation was brief. She was free and intended to drop by in a joor, assuming they were home. Prowl assured her they were and that was that. Searchlight concluded her call and Prowl was left in silence. He turned his gaze to the energon again but instead shut the cabinet and reached for a different door. This one he did collect a cube from, one chosen at random from a plentiful pile, and then Prowl turned around to bring it to Jazz.

Jazz was online by the time the Praxian returned, but he barely reacted to the others presence, his mind wandering to everything that happened the night before.

Prowl didn't pay any mind to the berth and the mound of blanket where his mate slept so he failed to notice that he could see a few bits of Jazz's plating. He wouldn't have tried to wake the other even if he had seen though, and instead opted to set the cube he held down on the table. He turned then and hesitated a moment before exventing softly and beginning to leave the room again.

Jazz was torn between reaching out to get Prowl's attention and just wanting to be left alone. Apparently his vocaliser picked a middle option as he subconsciously made a small whining sound.

That caused Prowl to stop in the middle of the room. He stayed facing the doorway but his wings twitched as he focused to see if any other sounds occurred.

The grey mech shifted a little, embarrassed at his accidental noise, but otherwise trying to keep from making more.

Although he doubted the other was even online, Prowl couldn't stop himself from returning to the berthside to check. Naturally, Jazz's helm was covered and possibly even turned away from him based on the sensor horn Prowl could see peeking out. He hesitated again but finally spoke in a voice barely above a whisper. "Jazz? Are you all right?"

Jazz finally poked his head out of the covers, his gaze meeting Prow's, but he still stayed silent. Words just seemed to difficult to manage.

Prowl's wings dropped marginally but remained in the concerned tilt. "You are online then. That's good. I brought you some energon. Will you drink it?"

The visored mech gave a weak nod, forcing himself to sit up.

Prowl reached over and grabbed the cube to hold it out for Jazz. The silence was concerning but he didn't know how to fix it. Hopefully Searchlight would have some idea when she arrived.

Jazz accepted the energon, holding it for a while before finally committing to taking a sip. Everything seemed so difficult, like he had worn himself out, but without doing anything.

Prowl just waited and watched as Jazz slowly drank. There wasn't much else to say or do after all. Eventually though, he did speak up. Jazz needed to know they would have company. "One of my superiors will be arriving soon. She is considering taking up your case but wants to speak with you first. She just messaged me to say she will be here in," Prowl paused for a moment to check his chronometer, "less than half a joor now."

Jazz said nothing, keeping optic contact as he slowly returned the blanket over his head. He didn't want to deal with anyone a second day in a row, and maybe if he hid he wouldn't have to.

Prowl vented a sigh. "I can't stop this even if I wanted to do so," he told Jazz. "She outranks me normally and has taken charge of your case. That puts us at her mercy until everything is done."

"I don't wanna talk no more." The visored mech whined, wanting to just shut off his processor and ignore the day.

"Then don't." Prowl didn't know what caused him to say it but he did. By the end of it, there was a bite in his tone. "She is only trying to ensure he gets punished for what he did after all. I will simply relay the new information to her and try to get rid of her. Would you prefer that?"

He was silent for a while before giving a weak helm shake. "I should do this..."

"Yes, you should." Prowl's quick agreement was sharp but lacked any heat. Whatever it might have seemed like, he meant it as approving of Jazz's choice. "It is unlikely that she will remain for overly long and this is a vital step."

"What if I can't?" Jazz gave a frightened look, his vulnerability clear in his expression.

"Why couldn't you?" Prowl asked and his tone was pure questioning.

The visored mech curled in on himself a bit before answering. "I'm scared to remember what happened."

"That doesn't make sense. Don't you remember it anyway?"

"Not if I try to block it out. If I just turn off my thoughts then I can't think about it."

Prowl stared at him for an astrosecond. "Is that what you've been doing? Turning off your thoughts? That would explain a few things..."

"It helps." He argued weakly. "I can't go through those memories again..."

Prowl vented a sigh and his wings sank. "What am I supposed to do? This must be a vital step if she intends to attend to it herself..."

The grey mech stayed silent, internally berating himself for being so weak. Criticizing how he had once thought he could make a difference when he couldn't even speak for himself now.

They lapsed into a complete silence that was only shattered by the door alert when it sounded nearly half a joor later. Prowl's wings twitched as he absently looked in the general direction of the front door while checking his chronometer. He vented another soft sigh and started for the berthroom door. "That should be her now..." he said to no one in particular.

It took half a klik on average to cross from the berthroom to the front door but to Prowl it seemed to be simultaneously both an arduously long process and instantaneous. He did do an identity check when he reached the door but he did so to waste a few more nanokliks than out of actual concern. Finally though, he could stall no longer and he opened the door to see Searchlight waiting. "Greetings, sir. How are you this orn?"

Searchlight gave the usual greeting wing flick before responding verbally with a, "quite well, thank you. And yourself?" She played gracious guest, even as her wings and optics scanned the other's home investigatively.

“Well enough, thank you,” Prowl replied and dipped his wings in greeting to a superior. “This is a trying time but we are handling it as well as we can.”

"How is your mate holding up?" It was uncustomary that Prowl's mate wasn't near to help wait on their guest, but it was little wonder why.

“He still functions and will even get up from the berth on occasion. A further setback has recently come to light, however.” Prowl paused then and when he spoke again, with wings tipped in apology, it was no longer on that subject. “I am afraid I am out of practice at having guests. Please do come in.”

Searchlight accepted the apology with a wing movement. "Another setback?" She questioned, far more interested in that than Prowl's apology.
She let herself in, expecting Prowl to follow as she found her way to a chair in the kitchen, vaguely gesturing to the other to sit across from her.

Prowl did so. “Nothing new happened although it does help to explain his lack of recovery. I was recently informed by his medic that he was carrying at the time of the attack.”

"My condolences, Prowl." She paused for a moment to let her words have weight before continuing. "Do you have proof of this?"

Prowl reached into his subspace and withdrew a datapad, which he then held out for her. “The medic who has been treating him since he first came to Praxus visited to drop this off. She had him examined when he was in for twisting an arm and was going to do a visual confirmation during his visit on the orn he was instead attacked. She did not want to get us excited without confirmation so she did not mention the test at the time. I wish she had so I could have kept him home.”

Searchlight was quiet for an extended period of time, studying the datapad she had been given. Her normally rigid wings displayed the emotions she wasn't allowed to vocalize, sadness, pity, anger.
"This changes everything." She finally spoke. "I still wish to speak with your mate, but now we will need a testimony from his medic as well. Can you secure that?"

Prowl did not even hesitate. “I will make sure she is available for the trial.” It was highly probable that had been part of Triage’s plan all along. He did not know and would decide later if he cared enough to ask.

Searchlight gave an affirmative wing flick. "I will need to keep a copy of this for evidence as well." She gave a moment's pause before continuing. "Is your mate ready to talk?"

Prowl had no answer to the latter but he accepted the first statement with a wing flick and a question of his own. “Do you have a datapad to make that copy? I am certain I can find a spare one if necessary.”

Searchlight easily produced another datapad. "I'm always prepared." She copied the information quickly before handing the original datapad back to Prowl.

Prowl flicked his wings in acceptance and later in thanks as he reclaimed his datapad. He made a point to return it to his subspace almost immediately for safe keeping.

“So,” he then began, “you wish to speak with my mate now?”

"That is why I'm here." She motioned for him to lead the way, or call his mate down to them.

Prowl accepted the order with another wing flick and then turned to lead the way back to the berthroom. It was where he had left Jazz and there were not many choices if Jazz had decided to leave the room.

Jazz was indeed where he had been expected to be, the grey mech tangled up in his favorite blanket, and apparently finding some section of the wall very interesting to stare at.

Prowl stepped forward enough to allow Searchlight to enter after him and didn’t stop until he was in the middle of the room. “Jazz,” he called out softly, almost gently. “My superior is here to speak with you now.”

Jazz retreated into the blanket completely. He just wasn't ready to face those memories again, and maybe this time if he stayed hidden the world would finally go away.

“Jazz…” Prowl said again. He tried to make it a command but the resulting tone was more pleading.

Unwilling to allow that to continue, Searchlight stepped forward. The tilt of her wings dared Prowl to stop her as she strode across the room but he did not. Nor did he stop her when she circled the berth to Jazz’s side and stopped there. Searchlight did not speak but instead reached out with her field, gentle and tentatively. Her field felt of muted curiosity and intense focus but nothing else. No damaging or complicated emotions which could and would make situations worse.

The visited mech had been prepared for Prowl to attempt something to get him out of the berth. Maybe scolding him, or even taking his blanket. He hadn't been prepared for this new bot.

He was good at resisting an active force, he'd had a lot of practice at it. He wasn't good at ignoring curiosity, and this new bot made him curious.

Finally he emerged, just slightly, to get a look at this intruder.

“Hello,” Searchlight said and her tone was soft. She tipped her wings in greeting and let a bit of welcome into her field. “I hear your designation is Jazz. Is that correct?”

"And you're as fake as the rest of this city, correct?" He hadn't meant to lash out, but the femme's false niceness wasn't something he had the patience for anymore.

He retreated back under the covers almost right after he was done speaking, hoping that she would just go away.

He certainly was not ready to hear her laugh.

“You still have spirit then, that’s good.” Searchlight’s tone was still gentle but there was real personality behind it now. “That will make your recovery easier. It is certainly a good sign to see so soon after a damaging event.”

As much as Jazz didn't want to give her what she wanted he could no longer deny his curiosity. "What's it gonna take to make you go away?" He asked, lifting the blanket just enough to stare out.

“I need to hear your version of events,” Searchlight told him. “If I am going to back your case then I need to know what happened.”

“How many times?”

Searchlight’s wings actually twitched in surprise and confusion. “I don’t understand your question.”

"How many times am I gonna have to relive it? For him, for you, for how many others?" He sunk a bit further down, visor just barely visible under the blanket.

Searchlight turned her attention from Jazz to Prowl. “You have not even explained to him how the trial process works?”

Prowl’s sensorwings twitched now. “He was not responding to me so I saw no point in wasting the effort to explain something if I could not know whether he would understand it.”

The femme flicked her wings in a derogatory gesture and seemed about to reply but stopped and then settled back to calm as she looked to Jazz once more. Searchlight even kept her tone gentle as she addressed him. “Your kind have no place in a courtroom so your case will be presented by an appropriate mech, typically the dominant mate. Thus, Prowl shall present your case and the related evidence to a court and then your attacker will have a chance to defend himself. Rarely do cases of this sort go so far as to reach the court but because of outstanding factors this one will.

“My role in this is as support behind Prowl’s claims,” Searchlight continued to explain. “As such, I put my power and rank behind your case in the hopes of a better result from the jury. It is rare that they will ask me specific questions about your situation, however in case they do, I must know what happened.”

It was almost sudden that everything seemed like too much and Jazz shuffled away, letting the blanket fall fully over him to obscure him from view before mumbling a quiet "go away."

Searchlight’s wings sank for a moment before she stepped closer. “I can not do that, Jazz. I need you to share this information and I would rather you tell me than resort to any more drastic measures.”

"So, what, you're gonna hurt me too if I don't do what you want?" As if he needed further confirmation that everyone in Praxus was horrible. That had at least brought him out of his blanket again, this time to glare accusingly at the femme.

“I don’t want to do that, but you are holding up your own case and I don’t think you want that. The longer it takes to bring this to the courts, the less likely we are to win.”

"I don't care, I don't care, I don't care!" He could feel his emotions spilling over, heavy and wet. It didn't take much for him to lose control anymore, to pain or numbness or sadness. "I don't want this. I don't want any of this."

Searchlight did sigh now. Then, in a fit of daring, she sat on the edge of the berth. “I know you did not. My mate did not want anything that was done to him either but it happened and we had to pick up the pieces.” She smiled softly. “He is quite happy now, that I can promise you.”

The grey mech paused for a moment, watching her before making a distinct show of looking away. "Why do you care anyway?"

“Because you remind me of him,” Searchlight shared. “It is more than the similar physical features; you two share several mannerisms too but you are also distinctly different in how you handle your pain. He was entirely withdrawn but you manage anger. It gives me hope you can recover more quickly.”

"I can guarantee I'm nothing like him. Your pity is misplaced." He was quietly withdrawing again, emotion slowly subsiding. Numbness was easier anyway.

“Used and abused and left to rust away?” Searchlight asked softly. “You are correct about differences though. At least there was no acid rain before you were found.”

"And you force him to stay here to be tormented again. Isn't that more cruel than anything anyone else could do to him?" There was no force behind his words, but Jazz managed to say them just the same.

“Oh no,” Searchlight told him. “My Beatbox wasn’t hurt here in Praxus. I found him just outside the wall as a youngling and brought him in for medical attention. He got his upgrades here and once he was a full citizen, he wanted to stay with me as my mate.”

Her reply brought up too many more questions, along with a dose of disbelief. Instead of trying to articulate any of his confusion the visored mech just skipped over the new information with a soft but defiant "whatever."

"I don't care, just.... what do I have to do to make you go away?"

Searchlight’s sensorpanels twitched a few times and Prowl took a step forward, his own wings high in worry, before she brought them back under control. It was still a moment until she spoke. “I told you, Jazz. I need to know what happened. I am the last bot you should ever have to tell your tale to, I promise.”

Jazz cycled air through his vents before trying to find his vocals again. " It was when I was going to the medic." He started, his arms unconsciously wrapping around his frame as if to protect himself from the memories. "I needed ta... to get my arm looked at since it got hurt a while ago." Even his wings moved closer to his frame in anticipation of the pain his memories would bring up. "I ran into him and he recognised me... he... he...." the grey mech took a moment before continuing. "He pulled me into an alley, an- an I knew I wasn't gettin' outta there if he had any say to it so I tried ta get outta his grasp an..." He slowly slipped into a more Polyhexian style of speech as he told his story, his frame starting to shiver. "An I begged him, even. I told him, ya know? I told him.... an he still-" his words cut off into a whimper.

Searchlight vented a soft sound and reached out. “Come here, sparklet. Lemme hold you until you feel better.”

For just a moment everything felt natural. Jazz let himself fall into her arms and just cry out every emotion he had.

Searchlight pulled him close as soon as Jazz let her and held him tight while he cried. She kept her field calm and did her best to ignore Prowl and the way his wings kept shifting from surprise to worry and back. He would only be a distraction and right now she had to focus on keeping a soothing atmosphere for Jazz. She even began stroking his wings gently. “It’ll be alright. Yer safe here an’ I won’t let anyone hurt ya.”

He let himself be fooled for a few moments longer by the familiar sound of her words. Somehow she almost sounded like home. He eventually forced himself to speak again. "Why do you sound Polyhexian now?"

“I told ya,” Searchlight said with a smile, “you remind me of my mate. Tha’s where he comes from too and we learned that he calmed quicker in the beginning when I could imitate mechs from his creation city. I was horrible at it at the time but I kept up the practice just in case. Bonding also helped.”

The grey mech's field darkened, displaying sadness and betrayal before he pulled away, berating himself mentally for falling for her tricks. "Well I don't wanna hear it. Don't think you can manipulate me like that."

Searchlight sighed and her wings even sagged. “I am merely trying to help you. What can be done to make this easier on you?”

Jazz shook his helm. "You can't give me my life back, so nothing."

“He did not offline you,” Searchlight commented, “so that means there must still be hope.”

"Sometimes I wish he did." He retreated back under his blanket soon after, hoping he would be left alone.

Searchlight sighed again. “You still haven’t told me what he did to you, nor what happened after. I will leave you alone once you do, I promise.”

"He hurt me. He raped me, and he hurt me, and he destroyed everything." It took more willpower than he had left to say, but somehow he forced the words out, hoping that would be enough.

“Exactly what did he destroy?” Searchlight asked. “You were only mildly damaged.”

Jazz was silent for a long time. "Something no Praxian will ever understand."

“If it is something Polyhexian then I could ask my mate to explain it to me.”

"If that's what it takes for you to leave me alone." There was no real emotion to his words anymore, just a resigned exhaustion.

“Please?” Searchlight even lowered her sensorwings to make the request.

Maybe he could have explained, tried to help her understand what everything meant to him.

Maybe he could have finally clarified himself to one of their kind.

Maybe, in another time he would have tried.

Now though, it just seemed like too much work.

Instead he chose to pull out the one thing he knew would affect her. "My sparkling is gone." He wielded the lie just softly enough, just pained enough to make it seem like he never wanted to speak it aloud.

Searchlight’s wings twitched and settled into a much lower position. Even her tone and volume sank. “I just heard. That is terrible and I would never wish that upon anyone.”

"Can I be left to mourn in peace now? Please?" It was an honest request. He had a lot to be sad over, just not the one thing she thought.

Searchlight sighed softly. “I suppose that will have to do.” She looked to Prowl and her tone was professional once more. “I may have follow up questions for you to answer in the future. I trust you will provide their answers promptly.”

Prowl flicked his wings in the affirmative. “Yes sir.”

“Good.” Searchlight stood. “Then I shall take my leave. It was a shame I could not meet your mate under better circumstances, he seems like he could be a very curious mech.”

Prowl was silent, unsure how to respond, and Searchlight spoke again. “Will you see me out?”

Prowl flicked his sensorpanels once more in the affirmative and started leading her out of the berthroom. They had only made it to the living room when Searchlight stopped him.

“What do you think you are doing to your mate?”

“What do you mean?” Prowl asked, confusion in his tone.

Searchlight flicked her wings in irritation and scolding. “It will be immensely more difficult for your mate to recover if you do not show him proper care and affection. Especially after a lost newspark. I can not believe how neglectful you have been.”

Prowl dropped his wings in apology. “I have tried my best. I could find no further data on how to handle a mech’s emotional problems so there is only so much I could do.”

This time Searchlight just sighed, deeply enough to reach the core of the planet and come out again on the other side. “I will get you some appropriate reading material. In the meantime and after, you must do everything in your power to comfort him. If it must be pampering or trips or treats, it doesn’t matter. A lost creation is the worst pain and it is top priority to handle that pain before it can lead to worse. Do you understand?”

“Yes sir.”

“Good. Now, once I leave you need to get in there and comfort him in any way possible. Do you understand?”

“Yes sir.”

Searchlight accepted that with a flick of her wings. “Then go do so. Do not let him or yourself down.”

Prowl moved his wings for acceptance and gratitude and only then did Searchlight walk to the door. They exchanged only the barest minimum of farewell pleasantries and then she was gone. That only left Prowl to return to Jazz and he promptly did so.

Jazz was surprised to see Prowl return so soon, however his surprise went unremarked, instead he opted to peak out from the covers, watching the Praxian with mild curiosity.

Prowl paused in the door to assess the room and then headed towards Jazz’s side of the berth. He stopped once there and stood awkwardly a few inches away for several moments until he finally spoke. “How are you feeling, Jazz?”

"Emotionally exhausted." No use lying around Prowl, he doubted the other even really cared so any response would work the same.

Prowl took a moment before saying, “that must be difficult. Can anything be done to help?”

"You can stop pretending to care, for one." His response lacked any of the bite his words usually carried.

“Then how can I fix this?” Prowl asked him. “You are correct that I do not feel but I do care enough to want you to feel better.”

"You can't. You can't fix what you can't understand. Hopefully you can at least understand that much."

Prowl sighed softly. “I do want to help you. Isn’t there anything that can be done?”

"What would you suggest Prowl?" The visored mech stared into the other's optics. "Just pretend you're me for a moment, and tell me what you would want."

“I don’t know how to do that,” Prowl replied. “It makes sense that you would want comfort. It makes no sense that you do not want me to even try.”

"You don't know because you don't listen, even when I tell you exactly what I need. You pretend you want me to be happy, but how dare my needs inconvenience you, even a little bit. You're such a fragging hypocrite." Of course even this was going to devolve into a fight. He didn't have the energy to fight anymore, but Prowl just wouldn't leave him alone.

“I am asking so that I can try to provide you what might help you feel better. How am I refusing to meet even the ‘slightest inconvenience’?”

"If you can't understand that, then at least understand this, you're. too. late. You can't just glue the pieces back together and expect everything to be fixed." He was quivering again, trying to keep everything in check so none of his emotions would spiral out of control.

Prowl frowned and his wings sank ever so slightly. “And why not? This was never what I wanted. If you had only bothered to behave sooner then we never would have had to be here for this to happen.”

The grey mech cycled through a myriad of emotions before settling to complete neutral, almost like a switch had been flipped inside him. "As you wish, sir."

That gave Prowl pause and he just stared for several long kliks. The only thing he could say was a softly muttered, “I see...”

Jazz said nothing more, his optics dulling slightly as he unfocused from his own frame.

Prowl watched for a moment before his wings sank and he left the room.

~~

The next orn, Prowl woke to a ping at the door. When he roused himself enough to get up and check, he found a courier who delivered a package in exchange for his glyph to prove he received it. Surprised and more than a little confused who would spend extra credits on such a service, he sat on the couch to open the package. Inside was a simple datapad. He picked it up and turned it on.

•Solas’ guide to the care and teaching of your new mate•

The title did nothing to alleviate neither his surprise nor confusion so Prowl began scrolling a few pages. The very next page held a personalized note.

‘Prowl,

You said you lacked the resources to handle Jazz appropriately so I am sending you this to help. If you apply yourself as thoroughly here as you do to your work then it will be highly beneficial to both of you.’

At least that resolved many of his questions, including the need to verify he received her gift. It did raise new questions as well though. Ones the remainder of her note failed to answer.

‘Additionally, my Beatbox is interested in meeting Jazz so I have arranged for a playdate for them. I am free in a couple orns so bring Jazz by when he is feeling up to it. I trust you to determine when that is.

-Searchlight’

The next few pages were an introductory message that seemed to discuss the joy of finding a mate, from what he skimmed, so Prowl set the datapad down and stood up. He ended up in the kitchen and got himself some energon as he contemplated this ‘gift.’ What good would another training manual do? Was that even what this was, despite acting entirely different than the traditional guide?

Prowl eventually sighed and brought his untouched cube back to the couch. It wasn’t as though this manual could ruin things any worse than they currently were. Thus, he sat down and began reading.

Prowl didn't have much time for reading before Jazz made his appearance, having already collected a cube of energon for himself before entering the living room. He was completely silent as he settled on the couch beside the other. The only indication he gave towards knowing he was breaking rules was a curious glance towards Prowl, to see if the black and white mech was going to call him out for not asking if he could sit first.

Prowl flicked his wings slightly but did not say anything at first. However, when Jazz unsurprisingly stayed silent for several kliks, Prowl did greet him. “How was your recharge, Jazz?”

It took a few klicks for the grey mech to respond, only to reply in a single word, "uneventful." He curled closer in on himself before taking a sip of his energon, optics moving from the Praxian to an indeterminate spot on the wall.

Prowl’s field lost what tiny tint of welcome it had previously held. “I see...”

He let a few minutes pass before reaching out and beginning to gently pet Jazz’s helm.

Jazz gave a small surprised noise at the sudden touch, but he couldn't find it in himself to pull away from the contact. For a few moments he stayed frozen, confused and leery of the other's intentions. Eventually it became too hard to fight the pull of wanting to give in to comfort and he allowed himself to ever-so-slightly lean closer, giving Prowl easier access to pet him.

Prowl continued to do so, practically on autopilot as he continued to read. He took occasional pauses to set the pad down so that he could collect his energon but otherwise they remained that way in silence for a while.

“Would you like to go out?” Prowl eventually asked, having reached the next chapter; Handling Injuries and How to Care for Your Mate Afterwards. “We could visit the gardens again or perhaps just tour around the city. Does any of that interest you?”

The only thing that moved for a long time was Jazz's wings, small flutters to encourage Prowl to continue petting him. It almost seemed as though the grey mech hadn't heard the question until he finally responded with a simple "ok." He didn't know what the enforcer was up to, but anything had to be better than staring at a wall, and it was becoming very hard to stay on alert with Prowl touching him like that. Maybe a change in scenery would help sharpen his processor.

“Do you have a preference on where we go or what we do?” Prowl asked.

"That's never mattered to you before."... was what he might have said if it didin't take so much energy, instead all he managed was a passive, "no."

“Are you ready to go now or would you like to wait?” Prowl questioned in a gentle tone.

Jazz responded by slowly uncurling from his spot on the couch and standing, then looking to Prowl to follow his lead.

Prowl sighed softly then flicked his wings and led Jazz out. The orn would be in no way productive but maybe he could coax the real Jazz back out with a trip to the Crystal Gardens.

Chapter Text

Their next couple orns passed in a similar fashion, as if the world were waiting on something with baited breath. Until finally it was the orn Searchlight had planned the ‘play date’ to occur and Prowl was grateful to have a dedicated plan for the first time during his suspension. Perhaps her mate could even make some progress with Jazz where he had failed. It was a horribly weak and unbecoming thought he knew, but as they approached her front door, Prowl could not help hoping it anyway.

He barely had time to ping the door before Searchlight answered. Her field and the tilt of her wings showed she obviously amused about something. "Hello Prowl,” she greeted him, seamlessly switching into a more professional demeanor. "How are the both of you this orn?" She gave a quick indication with her wings that they were invited inside, before stepping aside.

Prowl stared for a moment before responding, wings tipped in apology. “We are as well as can be expected, I suppose. I must apologize though. This is my first time attending one of these events so I do not exactly know how to proceed.”

"No need to apologize," Searchlight assured as she lead Prowl and his mate to the living room, where her own mate was waiting. "You won't be left without direction if necessary, and any questions are welcomed. Please make yourselves comfortable."

As she spoke her mate disappeared into another room for a moment before returning with energon cubes. Rather than set them down, he circled the group to distribute them in what almost looked like a strategic manner as Searchlight spoke again. "First thing however, I would like to introduce you to my mate. This is my Beatbox."

Prowl had been about to sit down but paused. “Should I introduce Jazz as well or is that not expected?”

"Unless he wishes to introduce himself,” Searchlight supplied. "This event is meant to provide safe enrichment for our mates, thus he may speak freely."

Even if Jazz were inclined to speak at any moment, he seemed far less so with Searchlight and her mate looking at him. Instead he moved himself closer to Prowl silently, watching the other sub intently.

:He's looking to you for protection. That’s a good sign: Searchlight said over comms to Prowl. Her own mate had gravitated close to her and she instinctively began petting his helm. "Please, make yourselves comfortable."

“Thank you, sir,” Prowl responded, allowing it to answer both the private and public comments. He let his wings flick once in gratitude as he sat and then guided Jazz down onto the couch as well. His sensorpanels did make several attempts to twitch in worry though. “Are there any particular rules that we should be aware of?” he asked.

“Nothing of any note, no,” Searchlight told him. “However, you and I will not remain here; we have somewhere else to be shortly. I arranged this event specifically for only our mates.”

Prowl’s wings twitched but before he could speak, Searchlight continued. “Do not fret, my Beatbox knows better than to answer the door or take guests outside when I am not home.”

Prowl hesitated but then flicked his wings in acceptance. “Yes, sir,” he replied automatically to buy a few nanokliks of time. “Might I inquire as to your plans for us?”

“I don’t want to talk about it until we leave but it is immensely important.” Her wings flicked once. “Now that I think of it, we might need to stop by your home on the way so we should be off.”

Searchlight turned towards her mate and her tone softened when she called out to him. “We are leaving now. Make sure you take care of Jazz.”

Beatbox simply flicked his wings once in response but that was enough for Searchlight and she turned to guide Prowl out of the room and then the house. It was not until they heard the front door shut when Beatbox attempted to approach Jazz. Instead of speaking though, Jazz received a beep on his short range comms.

Jazz was a bit surprised at the comm, and more than a little worried about Prowl's sudden departure. He settled further back on the couch, curling in on himself protectively before finally opening his comms to the other mech in the room with a short, :hello?:

:Hi: came the timid response. The other mech’s wings were quivering as he stole momentary glances at Jazz. :I’m Beatbox. My mate says you came here from Polyhex. Is that true?:

Jazz gave an audible noise of surprise at hearing the mention of his creation city. :What about Polyhex?: was his only answer.

:She says you’re Polyhexian too so I was kinda hoping you could maybe tell me about it? I was taken away from the city as a youngling and kinda don’t remember anything about it...:

That prompted a short bitter laugh from Jazz. :Don't get caught trying to say that around here. I'm Praxian, you're Praxian. If you've been here that long, you should know.:

Beatbox’s wings sank. :But... just because we’re also Praxian now doesn’t mean we should forget where we were created. My mate gets me everything she can find that comes from Polyhex so I don’t forget. One time she even brought home some goodies!: Beatbox smiled and his wings fluttered in excitement. :They were really sweet and good. Even better than the energon. Are those normal in Polyhex?:

:It doesn't matter. Polyhex doesn't matter. Maybe you didn't get the memo but we're stuck here now. You would do better to forget where you're from, that's what they want. I don't know if you're naive or just stupid but you need to learn how things work around here before you get hurt-:

"And why the frag can't we just talk like normal bots?" Jazz finished aloud. His field radiating his irritation at the stranger he was being forced to interact with.

Beatbox seemed to shrink in on himself and his wings almost seemed to vanish, they sank so low. He still spoke over comms but his voice was small and sad now. :I can’t talk... My vocalizer is broken and can’t be fixed.:

Jazz watched the other deflate, trying to ignore the guilt that pulled at his spark. It wasn't fair that he had to deal with such a naive bot. What was Prowl thinking leaving them alone? He just wanted to be by himself, not deal with delusional idealists. :Lemme guess. You said something your dom didn't like, right?:

That comment seemed to offend Beatbox because his wings immediately shot up high as he launched into a defense of his mate. :No! She would never do something like that! Not to anyone! That happened even before I met her.:

"You don't get it do you?" Jazz was too emotional by that time to comm his reply. "They're all monsters. None of them would even think twice about hurting someone they deem as an outsider. We don't matter to them, or to this city. We're just toys to them!"

:That’s not true!: Beatbox argued. His voice was growing in intensity the more he spoke and his whole frame was shaking now. :Maybe your mate doesn’t understand his emotions yet but my mate isn’t like that. She doesn’t do any of those horrible things you’ve said and she loves me. She says so all the time.:

"I don't have the energy to argue with delusional bots," was the only reply Jazz gave. "If you can't see how fragging horrible this place is then I have nothing to say to you." He really just wanted to go home. Where was Prowl? How long was he going to be stuck there? Why couldn't he just be left alone like he wanted?

Beatbox had nothing to say to that, or at least nothing he bothered to tell Jazz. Rather, he turned and left the room, leaving Jazz all by himself.

Jazz watched the other mech leave, guilt once again squeezing his spark after his outburst. His want to simply go home compounded as he dwelled on his actions. Maybe... Maybe Prowl would be back soon so this could all be over.

Most of a joor had passed before Beatbox returned. He carried a tray bearing a couple cubes of energon and various treats and set it on the table before messaging Jazz again.

:I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have been so pushy when you are suffering so much.:

Again Jazz just watched silently. He had curled closer in on himself while Beatbox was away and didn't bother moving when he came back. :When is Prowl returning?: Jazz ignored the apology but at least made the effort to leave his bitterness out of his tone.

:Our mates will return when their task is complete: Beatbox explained. :I don’t know when that will be but I know my mate will warn me.: There was a soft smile on his face as one servo rose to touch his chest, above his spark. :Do you want some energon or treats while we wait?:

:No, I wanna go home.: Jazz responded, too quickly to remember to remove the venom from his tone. He missed his blanket and the silence of Prowl's home. A lot less questions, and no naive bots to ask said stupid questions.

:Oh.: Beatbox seemed to deflate again but less noticeably than before. His wings were the most visible sign, sinking low once more. :I guess I shouldn’t have made so many different treats in anticipation of your arrival...:

Another twang of guilt pulled at his spark and Jazz finally relented to at least trying one of the Praxian's treats. None of his situation was Beatbox's fault and he knew he was being needlessly cruel to the other sub. It just seemed like something he couldn't stop doing. :Sorry I'm not living up to your expectations.: Even that had an unintendedly cruel intone.

:It’s okay: Beatbox replied meekly. His wings were super low now. :I shouldn’t have gotten so excited. I don’t even know you and I could have scared you or something...:

:I don't think you could scare a ferrous flea: Jazz responded. He picked out just one more treat before retreating into himself again. :Seems like yer dom beat any chance of that outta ya.:

:What are you saying?: Beatbox’s wings went high as his voice rose too. :My mate would never beat me.:

Jazz laughed at the response. "She wouldn't hesitate the moment you misbehave,” he accused, wings slanted in an almost daring cant. "That's what they do to our types. Maybe ya got off easy cuz you've been such an obedient pet, but the moment you cross her yer gonna see the truth."

:That’s not true! My mate loves me and she would never hurt me or anybody else.:

"You can tell yerself that, but I know the truth about what happens here, even yer perfect mate wouldn't hesitate ta torture you into behaving if ya stepped outta line." He didn't know why he was being so confrontational but it was impossible to just let this other bot be so naive about his own situation.

:She would never!: Beatbox protested. Both his wings and field were quivering with stress and something Jazz couldn’t quite place, if he even bothered to try. :She‘s the nicest bot I‘ve ever met an’ she wouldn’ torture anyone! I wouldn’ta asked her to bond if she was so cruel.:

:Asked her?: Jazz had calmed enough to switch back to comms, though his confusion was palpable. That's not how any of the society worked.

Beatbox’s wings twitched in surprise and his field reflected his own confusion in return. :Yes?: The questioning in his tone could be asking Jazz to continue or asking if that was a suitable response to his question. :She was worried I would feel obligated to accept if she asked me.:

:That's not how it works. You're a sub.: Jazz countered, more confused than anything at that point. He'd lost most of his initial anger but now was trying to push aside the feelings of guilt and depression that threatened to take its place.

:Only because I fit the role better than my mate: Beatbox explained. :I couldn’t imagine doing the things she does. I would never be able to have a role like hers.:

Jazz just huffed at the other's strange answer. :That's still not how it works here. I was never asked.:

:Well, you were an outsider. The rules are different than with Praxian couples.:

:You're an outsider!: Jazz couldn't help gesturing at Beatbox's own sensor horns as he replied.

:I should have been but the city doesn’t consider me one.: Beatbox’s wings twitched. :I got my adult upgrades here so I’m considered Praxian.:

:Oh.: Of course he didn't understand, he hadn't lived the same torment as Jazz had. Just like with Triage, they were comfortable in their subjugation. :Consider yourself lucky.:

:I have been very lucky ever since my mate found me. I should have faded during the storm that happened: Beatbox told him softly. His wings had sunk and he looked down. :I only hope I bring as much to her life as she does to mine.:

:How did you end up in Praxus?: Jazz found himself reaching for another treat as he talked with the other. Somewhere along the line he’d decided to allow himself to be a little more comfortable in his situation.

Beatbox was silent for a while but he did eventually sit down. :I don’t remember much. The mech I called sire brought me here when I was young but my mate thinks he wasn’t allowed in the city ‘cause she found me outside the wall. She also says he probably wasn’ my sire because he use’ta hurt me. I remember there was lots of pain a lot an’ she says what he did to me was wrong so she‘s probably right.:

Jazz didn't have the spark to comment on how bad the trafficking in Polyhex was known to be, but he did give a soft :sorry.: as a response.

:It’s okay: Beatbox said. :My life is so much better now. My mate found me and saved me and she never hurts me so I’m really glad to be here in Praxus.:

Jazz bristled at the Praxian's words, but forced himself to stay quiet until he could calm down a bit. :Good fer you.:

Oops, that was still too spiteful.

Beatbox didn’t reply for a bit though his wings lifted up a bit at Jazz’s comment. His own words were hopeful when he did speak. :I hope your situation gets better soon. I just know our mates will do everything they can to fix what happened to you.:

Jazz didn’t respond and this time Beatbox didn’t push. They spent their remaining time primarily in silence and it was joors before they were no longer alone.

~

Searchlight was the first to enter when she arrived home with Prowl, leading him into her home and shutting the door. Beatbox was at her side before she could even call for him and she smiled brightly at her mate. Their wings moved as they shared a private conversation and Prowl hesitantly stepped around them to find his own mate.

“Jazz? Where are you? We have returned.”

It wasn't long before Jazz was beside Prowl. Something in him drove him to want to be close after the afternoon he had endured. "Hi," he greeted casually. Only his demeanor subtly betrayed his want to be close, and maybe even be comforted by Prowl.

“Did you have a pleasant orn?” Prowl asked. There was stress in his field but he forced it away as he waited on Jazz’s reply.

"We can talk about that later. I'm ready to go home,” Jazz replied. His wings sank with his mood at the question.

“Alright.” Prowl’s wings flicked in acceptance. “I do not believe we are not needed any longer so we ought to be able to leave now.”

Jazz accepted that and followed Prowl as he led the way back to the front door. The Praxian shared a short exchange that Jazz did not care to listen to and then they were free to go. Their trip home felt longer than it should have but after what felt like joors they finally got there. Though Jazz did not relax until the door was shut and locked behind them. Even then, Jazz gravitated to the couch silently, trying to ignore his hope that Prowl would follow for conversation. He didn't know if he wanted to be angry at Prowl for putting him in that situation, or angry to Prowl about his own actions regarding the situation.

Surprisingly, Prowl did follow. He hesitated near Jazz but after a few nanokliks of indecision, he sat on the other end of the couch. His voice was soft when he asked, “Will you tell me now about your orn?”

Jazz was silent for a while, letting the quiet settle around him like his favorite blanket as he chose his words carefully. "Am I bad?" It wasn't so much a question to Prowl, as to the universe. Had he allowed Praxus to change him so much? Was he so damaged that he could now only hurt others? Was Jazz, or at least who he thought he was, truly gone? Or, worse yet, is this who he truly is?

Prowl was silent for longer than Jazz had been, carefully contemplating the question. “What occurred for you to be asking such a thing? None of your previous questionable actions led you to this quandary.”

Jazz shuffled uncomfortably, staring down at nothing in particular as he tried to find words that wouldn't come.

"I..."

Why did it feel so bad this time? He had lashed out before, at Prowl, at Triage.

"I hurt Beatbox."

Prowl’s wings went up immediately and he didn’t hide the shock and worry in his field. “How did you hurt him? He didn’t seem injured when we arrived and Searchlight made no mention of such.”

Jazz looked up at the other's sudden emotions. "No I didn't mean... I meant emotionally." As though that was much better.

Now Prowl stared and his wings tipped in confusion. “That is not nearly so bad then. Why are you so concerned?”

Jazz's field had a momentary ripple of anger, "I don't wanna hurt bots,” he started before a switch seemed to flip in him that rendered him melancholic once again. "I feel like... like I'm poison. Like I got poisoned by this place and now all I can do is try to poison everyone else. I don't like who I am anymore." It was more honest than he meant to be, but now that he finally found the words he had been struggling for there was no stopping them.

“This city is not so horrible,” Prowl tried but his argument lacked conviction. “You have enjoyed several aspects of it.”

Jazz's wings dropped at Prowl's response. His emotions seemed to spin wildly for less than a second before finally landing on dejected acceptance. He was the idiot for trying to talk to Prowl of all bots about what he was going through. This was exactly what he deserved. Fine. Whatever.

"Sorry sir." It was probably a cruel move, knowing how much it hurt Prowl for him to retreat into his own helm, but if hurting people was his true personality why not embrace it?

Prowl’s wings instantly sank as well. “I did not say you had to stop sharing,” he offered weakly.

In that moment and those words Jazz suddenly felt more profoundly lonely than he ever had. The usual back and forth arguing of his possible actions and repercussions were completely forgone for the simple action of reaching out to another hurting spark.

"I'm bad,” he said again, after having moved close enough to lay his helm on Prowl's arm.

Surprise flickered in Prowl’s field as he turned his helm to stare. His voice held confusion once more. “What are you doing?”

"Oh." Was the only response given, before Jazz pulled away. Nothing ever changed, why was this time supposed to be different? Why did he expect Prowl to ever be different? Why did he expect Prowl to want comfort?

Regret lanced through Prowl’s field but he did not try to drag Jazz back. He fell into silence for a while before making another weak attempt, on a new topic now. “When was the last time you had energon? I could get you some?”

"I don't want any." Jazz had fully retreated again, curling up on the couch until he was as small as he could be.

Prowl sighed softly and settled back into silence. He did not stay seated long though, soon rising and exiting the room. He was back barely a klik later with the blanket from the berth in his arms. He spent a few astroseconds shifting the material around before he settled it over as much of Jazz’s frame as it would cover.

Jazz didn't hesitate to wrap himself in the blanket that had been set on him, waiting until Prowl sat again before returning to leaning on the Praxian. It was the comfort he needed at that moment and he wanted to find a way to thank Prowl.

“Where did you go with Searchlight?” Jazz offered as conversation. Maybe things would be less difficult if he focused on something other than how he felt for a while...

This time Prowl did not bother to question Jazz’s actions and simply allowed the contact. His question got a pause before any response though. “We had a legal matter to attend to.”

“Legal matter?” Jazz tried to press further.

“The trial occurred earlier and now over the next few orn a jury will deliberate over the given information before presenting their consensus. If the judge agrees then he will deliver punishment. We should know by the end of the decaorn.”

Jazz was glad his wings were obscured by the blanket over his frame so he wouldn't be broadcasting the unmistakable drop of fear his wings had fallen to. “Barricade.” Even just thinking about him seemed to strangle Jazz's spark with fear. “Is it… Do you think he…” It took a few tries for Jazz to get his words right.

“Do you think he’s gonna be punished?”

“Given the fact that his actions caused the loss of a newspark, I do not see how he would not be. Intentional or not, no act that brings harm to a non-adult should go unpunished. Generally, the younger the victim is then the worse the punishment.”

Jazz unconsciously moved closer to Prowl as he spoke, as though being near the enforcer would somehow keep his fear at bay. “Good.” He replied. “I hope he hurts at least as much as me.”

Prowl took a momentary pause to begin petting Jazz’s helm softly. “I hope for that as well.”

Jazz settled against Prowl and they spent their next half joor in companionable silence until they mutually decided to retire. Recharge was upon them both within another half joor.

Chapter Text

Prowl onlined unusually well rested the next morning and decided on a shower before he even went for energon. One joor was longer than he usually spent on self care but he felt indulgent this orn and had the time to waste. He did not have a shift to get to and if Jazz needed him he could easily be found. Despite it being mid-orn, Jazz was still in recharge when he passed back through the berthroom on his way for energon and Prowl decided to collect a cube for him rather than wake him.

Prowl was standing in the kitchen when his comm buzzed. The incoming frequency was one he recognized from the station though he did not have it saved under a designation and he stared at the numbers for a moment as he tried to get his thoughts in order before answering. :Hello, Prowl here. Is there anything you need assistance with?:

:Oh, hello, Prowl. For a moment I thought I had accidently commed a store.: The reply he received was amused before the bot on the other end -the chief of his own station, his processor supplied quite belatedly- got down to business. :I realize your vacation isn't quite over yet but I have a matter to discuss with you, I hope you can make time to stop at the station today?: It was crafted as a question, though very much non-negotiable.

Prowl’s wings twitched in his surprise but he managed to keep his voice level. :Sir, my apologies. I have not been off of work for so long before and it has been an adjustment.: Making a fool of himself to the chief was exactly the last thing Prowl wanted to do but it was only a logical progression from his current follies. :May I question as to the nature of this visit?:

:It is about your current state of employment.: The reply was simple, if foreboding. :I will see you soon.:

Prowl wasn't given time for further questions before the comm cut out, leaving him standing there staring at nothing in particular for most of a klik after the line closed. His wings quivered ever so slightly even as he came back to himself and the cubes of energon remained on the counter when he left the room. His frame brought him to his office and Prowl settled into his seat. Jazz’s crystals sat on a corner of the desk and he gazed absently at them as his thoughts raced.

Was this the end of his professional journey? Was he truly about to lose his job? What would he do then? Could he ever recover enough rank to achieve his desired end goal? How would Jazz handle the news that they might be in Praxus for good?

~

Jazz onlined to a vacant berth, which wasn't really surprising. What was surprising was not finding Prowl in the kitchen or living room either, although a pair of energon cubes had been left behind. "Prowl?" he called out, dread at the possibility of being left alone welling in his spark.

After a moment, Prowl did respond. His voice was blank but steady. “In my office.”

Jazz grabbed the cubes from where they had been left before seeking Prowl out, setting them down at the table in his office for the both of them. "Did something happen?" He was careful with his words, not knowing how to react to Prowl's strange mood, or rather complete lack thereof.

Prowl slowly turned to look at him, expression as blank as his tone and even his wings were low. “I have been called into the station. The chief wishes to speak with me.”

"What does that mean?" Jazz didn't want to admit how much Prowl was scaring him, with his tone and actions, but the small rise in his voice betrayed him.

Prowl opened his mouth but then hesitated. His wings rose slightly as he changed his response. “I do not know. He did not explain. I shall find out when I arrive it would seem.”

Jazz's wings were in opposition, lowering as Prowl raised his. "Is it bad?" It certainly didn't seem good, but there was still so much Jazz didn't, and might never, know.

“As I said,” Prowl repeated, “I will not know until I arrive.” His tone suggested he was attempting to convince himself too.

Jazz responded in a small nod. It was clear Prowl didn't want him to press further, but it gave him far too much to worry about. "Sorry sir." The response came automatic, enough so that it even caught him by surprise.

Prowl’s wings twitched but his field was too pulled in too close to himself for Jazz to catch more than a flicker of the chaotic mess that swept through it. Prowl stood too quickly then and almost bumped the desk in his rush, his words tumbling out in the same time. “I-I should probably be going now. I do not want to leave too late and miss the chief.”

Jazz could only watch Prowl leave, confused at his actions. Only when the enforcer was already gone did he even think to mention: "You forgot your energon..."

~

Prowl’s drive to the station took him most of a joor and this time he entered immediately, despite the dread that had settled in his spark. As like last time, he had to field some questions about his presence during what had come to be considered a mandatory vacation but he barely paid them any mind on his way to the big office in back. There was nothing else to do once he reached it other than knock on the doorframe and poke his helm inside to announce himself.

“Sir? You wished to see me?”

"Prowl, come in." Whether good or bad, chief Chase didn't seem busy when Prowl arrived. "How has your time off been?"

Prowl entered and allowed the door to shut behind him before he responded. “It has been even more difficult than I ever anticipated.” He stopped when he stood before the chief’s desk. “I am not certain what to do with myself when I am not working, and especially not with the shift in my mate after the loss of the newspark he was carrying.”

Chase gave a wing-flick to indicate Prowl could sit as he spoke. "I am sorry for your loss, your strength in the wake of such an unimaginable tragedy is commendable."

Prowl flicked his wings once in acknowledgment. “Thank you, sir.” He sat. “That development has been difficult to adjust to as well. I had no knowledge of our good news before I learned we had lost our creation and the mental whiplash is perplexing.”

"I do hope another change in your life won't be too unwelcome,” Chase began. "As you could surmise, I didn't just call you in here for a casual chat."

Prowl dipped his wings in acknowledgment. “I assumed as much, sir. Might I now inquire as to what you did wish to discuss with me?”

"If you recall, a while ago I mentioned a possible promotion for you in the future." At this mention the elder enforcer slid a datapad across his desk to Prowl. "An opportunity has just opened up. I wanted your input before finalizing anything, to make sure you are still considering a promotion with everything that has happened."

Prowl reached for the datapad but did not even turn it on. “Is this truly occurring? I have been working towards such for a long time but some orns it seemed like it would never happen.”

"You have more than earned it." The reassurance was given before Chase moved along to the important matter. "I just need to know that you are still interested."

Prowl’s wings rose to respond in a delighted affirmative but he stilled them to try preserving his own dignity. “Of course, sir. I am indeed still interested.”

"In that case, please review the work requirements on that datapad and sign. You will have a copy sent to you shortly. And Prowl?" There was a momentary pause for him to look up before the chief finished. "Congratulations."

“Thank you, sir.” Prowl bowed both his helm and his wings to his commander as he turned on the datapad.

It was all fairly standard information and few actually new job requirements. There was only one aspect of note to the contract actually and that was the necessity to move. The role was stationed outside the city. In fact, it was situated firmly within another city.

Prowl tipped his helm up upon finding that fact. “Is this true, sir? This promotion requires me to move to Iacon?”

"Is that a problem?" The chief inquired, "I understand if you and your mate do not want to move currently, however that is one of the requirements."

“It is no problem, sir,” Prowl replied. His sensorwings twitched once. “I merely desired to ensure I had not misread. A change of scenery would perhaps be quite good for my mate after everything that has happened recently.”

The chief moved his sensor panels in an 'acceptance' motion. "I'm glad to hear. I would hate to see you have to turn down something you have worked so tirelessly to achieve."

“Of course, sir.”

Prowl lapsed into silence again as his focus returned to the datapad. He finished it off quickly and signed his glyph without hesitation. He had to force his wings to remain still as he offered the datapad back to Chase but he surprised himself by managing. “Is there anything else I need to sign or get to you?”

"This will be all for now. You will have to clean out your desk of course, but I leave that to your discretion. Likewise, you will be responsible to for your move to Iacon in time to start at your new position, you will have two decaorn in which to do so. Until then, I will be happy to answer any questions you have now or in the future."

“Thank you, sir,” Prowl replied automatically. He had to pause in order to keep from rushing to stand and causing a disturbance but he did not wait too long. “Will I retain access to this station until my move or should I empty my desk before leaving now?”

"You can take your time,” the senior enforcer assured. "You are probably in a hurry to break the news to your mate, I won't keep you any longer." With that he gave a 'dismissed' wing flick.

“Of course. Thank you, sir.”

Once standing, Prowl took a few moments to vent deeply as he crossed the room. By the time he reached the door he had a reasonably believable mask of blank calmness once more.

~

As excited as he was to get home to share the news with his mate, Prowl did not even notice the passage of his journey back. He may as well have simply blinked while in the station and suddenly been home. Of course, once there he had to locate Jazz and he made to hasten that task by calling out for the other as soon as he entered.

“Jazz? Where are you?”

Jazz was quick to appear after Prowl called for him, still holding the energon he had brought to the office for him originally. "Yes sir?" the grey mech questioned. He looked altogether lost, not knowing what to think, what to feel, what to say. Was Prowl bringing bad news? Was his life over? Would this break him more? Was there enough left to break? "You... forgot your energon."

Prowl stalled and his wings sank slightly. “I-... thank you.” Absently, he reached out for the cube. “I have news.”

"Yes, sir?" Jazz repeated his questioning tone as he passed the cube to Prowl. His processor was far too overwhelmed with worry to try for anything more than automatic responses.

Prowl accepted the energon and brought it to his lipplating. He drank without thinking as he considered his course of action. Would it even matter if he told Jazz? He would have no part in the moving process other than to remain out of the way. Prowl would naturally hire professional movers for the task so they would only need to do some minor packing and that was a task he could easily complete alone.

Jazz waited as patiently as he could while Prowl consumed the energon, a growing part of him just wanting to suddenly slap the cube from the enforcer and demand he just talk already. That wouldn't get him anywhere though, and with the way Prowl was stalling it could only be bad news. Their lives were over and Prowl could do nothing but string him along? Making him wait to hear that he would never have a chance at freedom again. "Stop it." He finally spoke, voice quiet for all the storm raging inside him.

Prowl lowered the cube to meet Jazz’s gaze. “Stop what?” he asked. His tone was calm but it was just a front.

"Stringing me along. It's cruel." There was genuine hurt in his tone as he replied, there was no need to hide anything while his world crumbled.

“I was not intending to do such,” Prowl told him. “I simply saw no reason to rush in telling you information you seemed to have no interest in.”

"Why wouldn't I be interested in what's going to happen to me?" Jazz's wings were quivering by that time, possibly in anger, possibly fear, possibly sadness, or one of a hundred other emotions fighting to take control.

“You did not behave as though interested so I had no reason to believe you were,” Prowl repeated himself. “And now you are offering me no chance in which to inform you.”

"Am I behaving interested enough to be allowed to know now, [i]sir[/i]?" He spat the last word like poison.

Prowl’s wings tipped in irritation and he frowned. Instead of answering, he pulled a datapad from his subspace and practically shoved it at Jazz.

Jazz barely touched the datapad shoved at him before letting it drop to the ground. If Prowl wouldn't even bother telling him, he didn't care anymore. It wasn't like knowing his fate was going to change anything.

Jazz didn't hesitate to simply walk away, everything weighing on him. It wasn't long until he was curled up on the couch again, wishing he could just disappear.

Prowl’s frown grew as he watched Jazz. He did not move until the other was on the couch, then he left the room and a door opened down the hall. It closed a few astroseconds later and Prowl was quickly back. It almost wasn’t a surprise when he flung the blanket over Jazz, easily covering the majority of his frame.

Jazz didn't hesitate to wrap himself up tightly in the blanket thrown around him. It was becoming second nature at that point, knowing he only has to wait a few moments before Prowl would join him on the couch. This time however he didn't wait, instead pulling the Praxian down to be by him, deciding to rush their strange ritual a bit. Prowl gave a soft sound of surprise as he was tugged down to plop beside Jazz but then he let the other curl up against him how he wished to get comfortable. He remained silent even after Jazz did settle.

Jazz spent another klick silent, letting his emotions settle before he tried talking again. "Will you tell me what happened?"

Prowl took some time to answer but he did. “The chief wished to see me to discuss my upcoming promotion. He needed my glyph of acceptance before the datawork could be finalized.”

"Promotion?" There was a distinct relief to the question and Jazz's entire frame seemed to relax a little more. "You weren't fired?"

“I am relieved as well,” Prowl told him. “His tone and words gave no indication whether the news was good or bad and I did not want all of my hard work to come crashing down now.”

"I couldn't stop thinking of every bad possibility that might happen to us while you were gone." Jazz confessed.

“I am certain I ran those same statistics several times and I could not come up with any way this could be a good thing after everything that has happened.” Prowl vented a deep sigh. “I almost can not believe this is real.”

"What happens next?" He hoped the question was enough for Prowl to explain what his promotion meant for the both of them...

“We will need to get some of the loose items packed up so the moving company does not miss anything but that should not take too long. We do have a couple decaorn before my new role begins. I also need to look into housing, though I might wait on that until I can visit the buildings personally.”

"Moving?" Jazz repeated the word like he was searching for the meaning, before continuing his question. "Where are we moving to?"

Prowl paused as he seemed to consider that. “I suppose I will need to learn which district houses my new station but I do know the city. I do believe you will be excited to hear.”

Jazz's surprised wing flare was only barely hampered by the blanket around him. "We're moving to a different city?"

Prowl flicked his own panels in automatic response despite Jazz being unable to notice it. “We will be fairly soon. Would you like to try guessing which one? Perhaps starting with those you would least like to hear and moving to your preferences?”

"Oh Primus, we're going to Kaon aren't we?" It was the worst guess he could think, and the only reason he could see that Prowl wasn't outright stating it.

“No, although I thought you said that one was not so bad,” Prowl commented.

"I went there. Didn't mean I liked it." Jazz replied before pressing further. "If it's not Kaon, where is it? I can't think of anywhere else close to as bad as Praxus."

“Why would you think it would be bad when I told you I thought you would like to hear the answer?”

"Just tell me?" There was a hint of a whine in his voice as he asked.

“Iacon,” Prowl said simply.

Jazz was silent, only his field reflected the hurricane of emotions that tore through him at the city name. Iacon... Going to Iacon. They were going to Iacon. They were actually going to Iacon.

He struggled to find any words to say, before finally giving up and allowing himself to just feel everything, going from silent to sobbing. For his part, Prowl sat there in silence once more as he attempted to try comforting Jazz. The blanket was distinctly in the way and he only barely knew how to help anyway so mostly Prowl was letting Jazz lean against him with his arms awkwardly around the blanket and sobbing mass within.

It was almost a joor before Jazz tried to calm himself enough to speak again, giving a soft, "sorry," to Prowl as an indication he was ready to try talking again.

“I understand it seems overwhelming,” Prowl stated calmly. “I am fairly certain I made a fool of myself in front of my chief when he first told me.”

"I should be happy. I am happy. I don't know why I'm doing this." Finally being promised everything he wanted, and all he could do was cry, it was frustrating.

“I do not know what you need but if you tell me and it is within my means then I can get it for you,” Prowl offered. He was at a lack to do anything more.

Jazz was quietly contemplative for a klik before responding. "This is fine for now."

Prowl accepted that easily. “Alright. Should I leave you alone then?”

The way Jazz tightened his grip on the enforcer after he spoke those words was unmistakable, however the visored mech didn't want to seem needy so he only retreated further within his blanket and mumbled, "whatever."

Prowl vented a very soft sigh but did not stand. Instead, he took to a different tactic. “So... just how long would it take for your blanket to accept me as well?”

Jazz gave a look of disbelief, having already expected Prowl to leave him. "I don't think it'll take long. Just gotta try, that's what matters." He released his hold on the blanket, unfolding enough of it so Prowl could try to wrap himself up as well.

Prowl shifted so he could try to do so as well. He ended up facing sideways on the couch with his wings trying to pull the blanket off of him but all that mattered was that he tried. “I do not think it likes me yet,” he muttered softly.

"That's ok. You tried." Jazz responded, shifting until he was practically on Prowl's lap to try to get the blanket to fit better over both of them. "That's all the blanket wants. It'll come around."

“I see,” Prowl murmured softly. His arms came to rest awkwardly around Jazz, remaining stiff against his frame rather than settling. “Is this acceptable by you?”

"Is it fine by you?" the grey mech questioned back, wondering if he had gone too far.

“It is unusual but not unpleasant.”

It was an unusually candid response but Prowl did not let that hinder him from saying it. Or his next statement. “I would not be opposed to doing this again in the future.”

"Maybe I'll help you practice." Jazz joked in response. "Eventually you might not be so stiff."

“That is sure to take an eternity,” Prowl replied. “I doubt you wish to invest so much of your life on a fruitless endeavor.”

Jazz went silent, his shift in mood subtle but unmistakable. Talking just seemed like too much trouble.

Prowl took his own cue to go silent as well and that was how they remained until they eventually separated for energon later in the orn.