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Earth Now:

The screens flickered, dimly lighting the security room of the Nemesis. Soundwave was silent, watching the feeds, secretly hoping that despite the late hour he’d catch a glimpse of what he wanted to see more than anything else.

The entrance to the Ark was always monitored, but due to Red Alert’s overzealous use of cameras around the perimeter, the one Soundwave positioned was almost a mile away, high up on a ridge that faced their volcanic entombed base. The image was grainy at best, especially at night, but his optics continued to shift to that particular monitor whenever any movement was detected.

He knew the chances of a sighting were slim, but then he saw a white-ish vehicle come into view on screen and stop. He turned his head minutely, focusing on the dark, barely visible moving image. The driver’s door opened, and something flew out. It transformed into his Autobot equivalent, Blaster. Soundwave frowned behind his mask, knowing Blaster had chosen to become a symbiote carrier, whereas he’d simply woken up this way after his near death. The white vehicle transformed and his spark lurched and pulsed faster.

“Jazz,” he whispered reverently. He watched the two head inside the base, hands on one another in a more than friendly manner that caused a pang of pain to ripple through his spark.

On Cybertron this was easier to endure. More mechs and femmes there combined with less access meant he could distract himself from memories of a life lost to war. But here on Earth, with limited ways to distract himself, no archives of texts to read, no freedom to roam the debris fields looking for small trinkets, he was finding this harder and harder to hide not only from those around him, but from himself.

He missed Jazz.

 

Cybertron eons ago, right before the war:

“I’m so glad you came!” Trailblazer gave Soundwave’s arm a hard slap as he walked into his friend’s apartment. “I know parties aren’t exactly your thing, but this is low key, promise.”

Soundwave shyly smiled and nodded. “I appreciate your hospitality. This was well timed. My mentor is undergoing treatments until tomorrow. I would be home alone if not for your invite.”

Trailblazer sadly smiled in return, then gently guided him into the main living area where the other guests were milling around, snacking on energon treats and drinking. “How is he doing? Any better?”

“If this set of treatments fail, then… “Soundwave pressed his lips together tightly, not wanting to say it out loud.

“Here, you need a drink. Sit right here, and I’ll get one over to you right now,” Trailblazer replied.

Soundwave was directed to one of the semi-circular, plush couches where he sat down. His friend was a reporter for the news broadcasts in Iacon. Despite his semi-famous status, he’d always been a good friend to Soundwave. But that wasn’t surprising to him. They’d known one another since they were very young, growing up in the dingy streets of Rodion and hoping to one day move to Iacon and live in one of the glittering high rises they could see in the distance. His friend had most certainly attained the dream life they’d both wished for.

A small mech plopped down next to Soundwave, drink in hand. “I was told to give you this.”

Soundwave cordially smiled and reached to take the glass, but the smaller mech took a sip first. Surprised by the rude behavior, he stared at him in bewilderment.

“Yum. Never tried the sparkling brand of Greysky energon before.” The smaller mech flashed a bright smile, then pushed the glass into Soundwave’s frozen mid-air hand. “I’m Jazz. What’s your name?”

Soundwave glanced at the glass, then back at Jazz. “Why did you just take a sip of my drink?”

“Looked good. Wanted to try it.” Jazz pulled a leg up onto the couch and sort of curled up, half leaned against the cushion back with his other leg dangling off the edge. The casual nature of this mech was both offensive and… sort of fascinating. Didn’t he know where he was? In the Towers of Iacon? It wasn’t the tower with the noble families, but still. This was a place where the elite of Iacon lived and this mech was acting like he was at a common club downtown.

Jazz canted his head, his little horns adding to the quizzical look on his face, exaggerating his head being cocked to one side. “You gonna tell me your name? I did just bring you a yummy drink.”

“Yummy?” Soundwave repeated. That was hardly a proper description for a vintage sparkling energon. “You are quite odd.”

Jazz burst out laughing.

“You do know where you are, right?” Soundwave asked, now worried this mech might be mentally unstable. That’s when he felt a flicker of mischevious intentions in Jazz’s field.

Leaning in closer to Soundwave, Jazz grinned. His optics were a mesmerizing deep aqua blue that Soundwave couldn’t look away from. “I’m in the reporter, Trailblazer’s, apartment in the heart of Iacon. Now, look. I’ve answered your questions, so why not answer my one question to you? What is your name?”

“Soundwave,” he replied, feeling both uncomfortable and intrigued. Afterall, Jazz was quite fetching looking. His gaze wandered down from aqua blue optics, taking in his body shape. Curves, but no sensor panels. “Are you from Polyhex?”

“You give me a long, lustful look then ask where I’m from? Worst pickup line, ever.” Jazz chuckled. “Good thing you’re cute.”

Soundwave’s optics brightened at that, and he stared into Jazz’s face again, while feeling his own faceplates heat with embarrassment.

“I see you met my new friend, Jazz,” Trailblazer said as he wandered over. “Remember when I did that story on the club scene and mechs boosting in back rooms? Jazz here showed me and my head writer the ins and outs of the clubbing world.”

Soundwave had been right. Jazz was a clubber. Not his type. Well, not that he had a type he was aware of, but he certainly wasn’t going to let himself be flirted with by this odd little mech.

“Me and Sounders here are gettin’ along great,”Jazz replied, scooting closer and hooking his arm around Soundwave’s as he snuggled up against his side.

Instantly stiffening, Soundwave stared at Jazz. What in Primus’ name was wrong with his mech?

“That’s great to hear! I think you two might really hit if off, actually. You have some mutual interests,” Trailblazer replied, all smiles. Another guest tapped his shoulder, and he excused himself to talk to someone else.

Soundwave glanced at Jazz still cozied up against his side. “Do you mind?”

“Mind?” Jazz asked. “You really hate this, huh?”

“You drank from my glass in front of me and are currently touching me without my consent. Tell me, would you appreciate this sort of behavior from someone you don’t know?” Soundwave asked.

“I totally had you right up until he mentioned I work in the clubs. I watched your interest in me drop like a stone. Judgemental much? You don’t even know what I do exactly,” Jazz countered, seeming to enjoy riling Soundwave up.

With a sigh, Soundwave shook his head slightly. “What do you do?”

“I’m a Music Mixer,” Jazz replied.

Music? Soundwave glanced at him, and his walls once again lowered slightly. “I collect music from all over the universe.”

Smugly smiling, Jazz grabbed Soundwave’s hand holding the drink, and took another sip. This time making a show of it as he licked his lips slowly afterward. “I’ll say it again: yum.”

“What music do you mix?” Soundwave asked, feeling a stir in his array for the first time in what felt like forever. This mech was completely rude, had no boundaries, and no shame whatsoever. He was also handsome, sensual and flirty. He was finding the combination of opposing traits rather alluring.

“I like bass beats mostly. But when I’m mixing, I take music from all sorts of genres and layer them over the various beats. I’m pretty popular in the club scene, playing pretty much all the clubs, but every sixth day of the week, I mix at the Blue Cube,” Jazz replied with a proud smile.

“Do you… do the things that Trailblazer showed in his report?” Soundwave asked, hoping that his question wasn’t too offensive to ask.

“No way! Lost one of my good friends to boosting. Fried out his cortex. That’s why I helped Trailblazer. I wanted him to expose what’s really going on. It’s messed up.” Jazz’s bright smile faded to a worried frown. Strangely, the sudden seriousness of his reply and show of emotion only made him even more attractive to Soundwave.

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Soundwave then gently touched the glass to Jazz’s free hand. “Here. Have the drink.”

Jazz took it, then half-smiled. “How about we make a deal? Promise not to bolt out the door, and I’ll grab you another glass of this stuff and we can keep chatting. Sound good, Sounders?”

“I promise not to leave. But, why are you calling me ‘Sounders’?” he asked.

Jazz chuckled. “It’s the nickname I picked for you. Okay. Don’t move, be right back.”

Soundwave watched as Jazz got up and practically danced across the room the table with the energon drinks. Considering how lonely he’d been lately, he had to admit it was nice to talk to Jazz, despite his strange ideas regarding social interactions.

 

Earth Now:

Jazz woke up with a start, optics flaring behind his visor. He wasn’t in his own berth. He stilled himself, trying to remember who he’d gone back to the barracks with. From where he was curled up against the other mech’s side he could only see red plating. That could mean Blaster? He did go see a movie at the drive in with him earlier. But then they’d gone to the lounge after to watch television and chill with their friends while they all had shots of high grade. The twins were there, so maybe Sideswipe? No, probably not. He’d only ‘faced him one other time and that had included him and his brother tag teaming him. There was definitely only one mech in this berth. Smokescreen maybe?

“Jazz, scoot over,” Smokescreen said, rolling to his side, sensor panel whacking him in his helm.

Smokescreen… of course. “Hey!” Jazz replied, shoving at the wayward panel.

“Did we even finish?” Smokescreen asked. “I think I passed out.”

“Yeah, we finished. Well, I did. I think you did, too.” Jazz shifted to try and get comfortable, but curling up in a regulation-sized berth with a Praxian was never an easy feat. “Um, you won’t be offended if I head back to my own berth, right?”

“No. Especially since you’re hogging mine,” Smokescreen replied.

“Great. See you in the morning,” Jazz sat up, only to regret the sudden movement. Pain seared through his processor from the high grade still permeating his circuits. Wincing, he waited a moment until the pain went from a stabbing sensation to a dull throb. Then he slid off the berth, nearly falling onto the floor as he found his footing.

Smokescreen laughed. “Drunk Jazz. Just as fun, and twice as funny.”

“Frag you,” Jazz replied as he poked Smokescreen in the side. “Smokes, willing to do anything when he’d drunk enough,” he teased back.

“Wait, did you make me suck your-”

“Gotta go,” Jazz quickly said, crossing to the door.

“I hate sucking spike!” Smokescreen said, picking up one of his lucky Earth shells off the berthside table and throwing it at Jazz.

Jazz laughed as he slipped out of the room, door closing before the large conch shell reached him, clattering against the door. “Escaped,” he said to himself as he turned and walked crookedly down the straight hallway toward his own quarters.

Swift steps behind him in perfect rhythm caught up to his staggering gait.

“Drunk?” Prowl asked in as casual a manner as someone wanting to borrow a drying cloth.

“Yeah, how could you tell?” Jazz replied with a cheeky smile.

“Would you like assistance to your quarters?” Prowl asked.

Jazz flopped an arm around Prowl’s shoulders and clung to him. “Sure.”

“Primus, Jazz. You are the TIC. This is unseemly behavior,” Prowl replied, grasping him around the waist and helping him walk more steadily down the hallway.

“When your spark is a black hole, fill it with high-grade and watch it glow,” Jazz replied.

“That doesn’t even make sense,” Prowl replied.

“Nothing in this world makes sense, Prowler. Nothing at all.” Jazz lost all hope long ago. He interfaced for fun, drank high-grade to get drunk when he was off shift rotation for a few days, and pretty much did anything he felt like so long as it wasn’t going to hurt anyone else.

Pressed against Prowl, Jazz could feel flickers of his best friend’s poorly hidden attraction in his field. Jazz loved Prowl to pieces, but he wasn’t in love with him, which at moments like this made him feel bad. Afterall, he didn’t want to hurt anyone while he was hurting himself, and he knew Prowl cared deeply about him. He knew on some level he was taking advantage of his best friend by not being upfront about his lack of mutual feelings. Still, some days the only reason he kept going was knowing at least Prowl truly cared about him.

Reaching Jazz’s quarters, Prowl tapped in an override code, breaking protocol as he essentially broke into his room.

“Prowler, breaking the laws. What kinda copbot are you? Just bypassing my security code like that. Second in command or not, you shouldn’t just break into another mech’s room, you know? Better not let Red know you did that,” Jazz rambled as Prowl led him inside.

Jazz flopped awkwardly on the berth with sigh, legs hanging off the side.

“Jazz, do you even have the focus to enter your own code right now?” Prowl asked, gently helping lift his legs up onto the berth.

“No, probably not,” Jazz replied with a grin. “This is why you’re my best friend. You always look after me, even though I don’t deserve it.”

“That’s not true,” Prowl replied.

“What the frag are you doing up at--” He checked his internal clock now set to Earth hours in their time zone. “Four in the morning anyway?”

“I was finishing this week’s shift schedule when I got distracted by some reports from Mirage’s mission with Skyfire in the arctic. I was going over some of the finer details and lost track of time,” Prowl replied.

“In the time you were doing that, you know what I did?” Jazz asked, then answered without waiting for a reply. “Went to a movie, watched some human television programming with everyone in the lounge and got what the humans call ‘hammered’, then flirted my way into Smokescreen’s room and then he su-”

Prowl held a hand up. “I do not need the details on your physical encounters, thank you. Rest, and enjoy your day off tomorrow.” He lingered a moment and softly sighed. “I wish you didn’t do this to yourself…” he said in a quieter voice.

“I’m fine, Prowl. Thanks for the assist, though. You’re the best,” Jazz said, rolling over and curling up into a ball.

Prowl lightly pet one of Jazz’s horns for a moment, then stepped back. “Talk to you tomorrow.”

“Night,” Jazz replied.

Sweeping out of his room, Prowl cast a last glance at Jazz, then the door closed.

He was an aft for using Prowl as his emotional support beam. He really should be ashamed of himself, but he knew the guilt was only worse than usual at the moment because he was drunk. Sober he was able to be a lighter, happier-appearing mech to everyone around him, hiding the numbness away in the dark of his spark.

He reached over, and picked up the wireless headphones off his night stand, snapping them in place on his helm. He then grabbed the remote and put on the music he listened to every night to help him fall into recharge. Strong bass beats from the distant past, mixed and layered with tracks of music from all over the universe. The best mix he’d ever made for the only mech that he’d ever loved with all of his spark. It hurt to listen to, but it also reminded him of who he’d once been. Life felt full of hope back then.

His visor darkened as his optics flickered and dimmed. Maybe tonight he’d gotten drunk enough to dream of him

Cybertron in the past:

The music thumped and the crowd danced in an undulating sea of bodies painted in glow in the paint. From the stage Jazz felt like a god, moving the club goers with the music he mixed for them. He loved his job.

To the side, just off the edge of the stage he spotted a tall, dark and handsome mech. He smiled at Soundwave. Waving hello back, Soundwave seemed to enjoy the show. He wasn't dancing in the crowd, but he was swaying in time with the music as he slowly sipped his glowing drink.

They'd been dating for a few weeks now. The chemistry between them was undeniable. Jazz felt completely addicted to spending time with Soundwave. His interest in the affairs of the spark were usually short-lived, but this felt very different. Like he'd been swept up in the torrential storm that was Soundwave and he hoped it would never end. They had exchanged music files, talked late into the night over video chat and Soundwave stayed at his place at least once a week where they'd interface until neither one could move.

A finger tap to his shoulder told him it was his break. He spoke over the mic, announcing the fill in MM for the next half cycle, then turned over the reins to his fellow music mixer.

Making his way off stage, he grabbed Soundwave’s hand and pulled him toward the back where the dressing areas were. He pushed open the door to the one with his name scribbled messily on the door. Safely inside, he closed and locked them in, then practically leapt at Soundwave.

Large arms wrapped around him, lifting him just off the floor, and their mouths met in a deep kiss. He clung to broad shoulders, glossae twinning with Soundwave’s between their linked mouths. He was addicted to this mech.

Their kiss broke, and Soundwave warmly smiled. “They adore you.”

“Yeah. But do you?” Jazz asked as Soundwave set him back on his feet.

“Very much,” Soundwave replied.

“Half a cycle isn't too long, but I'm sure we can do a few naughty things before I have to be back up on stage,” Jazz said, hands gliding down Soundwave’s front.

“I wish I could stay the whole evening, and go back to your home.” Soundwave gently twirled his fingers around one of Jazz’s helm horns.

“It's okay. I know you gotta take care of the ol’ mech. Just means I'll have to take advantage of you right now.” Soundwave’s mentor, who had been essentially a parent to him was now in the final stages of spark failure. Jazz would take whatever he could get of Soundwave’s limited time, and he tried to distract him with as much pleasure as he could to help him cope with the stress of his home life. “I think maybe I need a taste first, though.” He rubbed at Soundwave’s closed panel. “Open up, handsome.”

Soundwave cupped his face, leaning in to reverently kiss him. Pulling back he smiled. “As you wish.”

The panel snapped back, and Jazz glanced down between their bodies. A beautiful, thick, dark blue spike jutted upward. His own valve clenched just at the sight of it, but that would be after he got Soundwave warmed up. He squatted down and licked up the shaft slowly. The taste permeated his glossae, and he swirled it around the head slowly, optics looking upward to watch his watcher.

With a soft moan, Soundwave began to pet Jazz’s helm, and fingered his helm horns. The sensitive adornments on his helm tingled from the touches, and he paused momentarily to enjoy it. Then he opened his mouth wide and took in as much as he could of the massive spike. Soundwave groaned. A sound as melodic to his audios as anything he mixed on stage. He relaxed his intake as much as he could managing to swallow almost the entire length.

“Primus,” Soundwave breathed, optics fixated on Jazz.

Pulling back slowly, Jazz couldn't help but smile with his lips still wrapped around the head before he pushed toward again. He repeated the slow deep-intake of Soundwave’s spike several times. He only gagged a little, which considering the mass he was swallowing was impressive in his opinion. He was about push forward again when Soundwave’s moan cut off and he grasped both of Jazz’s horns to stop him.

“This is...very nice, but with time short…” Soundwave said, voice thin and airy with want.

Pulling off, Jazz flashed a grin. “Rather have my valve wrapped around this beautiful appendage?” He kissed the head, while squeezing the shaft with both bands.

“Yes…” Soundwave replied, lust now rippling through his field.

Jazz hopped his feet, opened his array and bent over the back of the small couch in his dressing area, wriggling his aft invitingly. “Stick that thing in here.”

Soundwave actually chuckled a little. He'd already started to “get” Jazz’s specific brand of humor, which only endeared Soundwave more to him.

Walking over, Soundwave rubbed his spike over his valve entrance, making sure to stimulate the rows of platelets that lined the upper ridge. It was Jazz’s turn to moan… He clutched at the bottom cushion as the sensation caused the inner lining of his valve to flood with lubricant while clenching with need to be filled. “Turnin’ me into a molten pile is great but I wanted to be liquified metal when you're done.”

“Of course.” Soundwave then impaled him, pushing that thick, huge spike almost to the hilt.

Jazz threw his head back, body arching up from the couch back as he cried out In response. Soundwave pressed a hand to the middle of his back, forcing him down again. Jazz panted, his valve rippling around what had just split him open. It hurt and felt good at the same time.

Soundwave stayed buried there for a long moment, spike throbbing inside him. “Ready?”

“Frag yes!” Jazz replied, widening his legs stance.

Soundwave withdrew partway, then sank back in. Jazz wanted to arch up again but the hand against his back held him firmly bent in half. Soon Soundwave’s shallow strokes got longer and deeper as Jazz’s valve stretched to accommodate him. Whimpering and moaning, Jazz clutched at the cushion hard enough it began to give way under his fingers. He'd been with a lot of mechs, interfaced with all shapes and sizes but no one else was able to turn him into such a clattering, wanton mess.

Together the sounds of their shared pleasure echoed in the small room. Soft moans and grunts of effort from Soundwave combined with Jazz’s whimpers and moans created a beautiful symphony. The crescendo came when Jazz overloaded first, valve grasping greedily at the lovely spike, followed by Soundwave overloading as he sank to the hilt and filled him full of fluid.

The hand to his back lifted, but Jazz was too limp to move now. He pressed his face into the cushion, panting hard and savoring the moment.

Soundwave withdrew, and the spill dribbled down his inner thighs, but he didn't care. Jazz smiled into the cushion, feeling truly happy. He adored Soundwave, and couldn't get enough of him.

Fingers pressed to the sensitive platelets of his valve, and he jerked slightly. “What cha doin’?”

“Cleaning up,” Soundwave replied. “Can't return to the stage in such a debauched manner.” Jazz felt him probe the platelets, and his valve spasmed and squeezed in response. A soft cloth moved over his thighs first, his exposed messy valve next. His spark wobbled in his chest at the gentleness of Soundwave’s touch. He could be the semi-rough lover Jazz craved, but he was also incredibly caring with him afterward.

Pushing with his arms, Jazz lifted his upper body, and glanced over his shoulder at Soundwave. “Sexy, handsome, and so sweet to me. How did I get so lucky?”

Soundwave simply smiled as he finished cleaning Jazz up. Once done, he helped Jazz upright himself and hugged him tightly in his arms. “I'm sorry our time is limited this evening.”

“I'll take whatever you've got. I know things are complicated at home and all,” Jazz replied, happily melting into the embrace.

“Perhaps on a free evening, you could… Come meet my mentor? Before...well, you know,” Soundwave asked.

Jazz turned his head, looking into Soundwave’s gorgeous golden optics and smiled. “I'd be honored to meet him. I have the day after tomorrow off. How about then?”

Soundwave sharply nodded, then leaned down for a short kiss. Jazz gazed at him, spark pulsing wildly with a budding love he'd never felt for anyone before now. From flirting with a cute mech at a party, to imagining a life together in only a few short weeks… Was this what love at first sight was like? He hoped so.

 

Chapter Text

Earth now:

“This map is of the area in question. The Decepticons seem to be drilling again, like they did when they found Skyfire, but this is a different locale. Northerly, but along the forest line in Canada. It's unclear what they are searching for or possibly building. I recommend we intervene as soon as possible, though.” Prowl glanced at Optimus after he finished presenting his findings to the group.

The other officers in attendance also looked to Optimus to see what he wanted to do.

“I concur.” Optimus replied after thoughtfully gazing at the map on the screen. “Let's assemble a team and go investigate immediately. Everyone has one hour to prep and gather at the entrance. Meeting dismissed.”

Jazz sat quietly and watched as the others got up from their seats and scrambled out of the conference room to get ready. Prowl remained, picking up his stack of datapads and organizing them. Optimus stood up offered to help Prowl carry them back to his office, but Prowl politely turned the offer down.

In Jazz’s experience, it was the little things that gave away some of the biggest deceptions or hidden truths.

Prowl’s light blue optics focused in his direction, and he canted his head after rebuffing Optimus. “Jazz? Don't you need to go get ready?”

“Suppose so,” he replied, flashing a winning smile as he pushed his seat out and stood up. “See you two out front in a bit.”

Strolling out of the conference room he internally sighed. Another day, and soon another battle against an enemy he was honestly getting tired of facing.

Cybertron, past:

“Here,” Jazz handed Soundwave a glass of energon, then sat down next to him on the couch.

Soundwave’s mentor had passed away a few weeks ago and they’d just finished packing up some of his belongings, which were arranged for donation pick up the next day. Jazz had been staying at Soundwave’s place since the death, and to his surprise he’d found that living with someone wasn’t as awful as he thought it might be. In fact, coming home late at night to find Soundwave waiting for him was comforting. He’d not felt like he belonged anywhere like this before, except maybe up on stage.

“Thank you for everything,” Soundwave said, sliding an arm around Jazz, and hugging him to his side.

Jazz snuggled in, and contently sighed. “I didn’t do much, but you’re welcome.”

“You've helped me more than I can put into words. You’re companionship throughout this entire situation has given me hope and comfort.” Soundwave kissed one of Jazz’s helm horns.

Gazing up at him, Jazz grinned, his spark spinning fast in his chest. He’d meant for this to be a fling, nothing more. And yet here he was, months later, just as crazy for this mech as he was at the end of their first official date. “Who knew we’d go from groping and making out in the back of a public transport train to snuggled up on your couch like this? I’m here because you make me happy. Good to know it goes both ways.”

Soundwave swallowed a large sip of energon, then set his glass on the side table. Large arms then tugged Jazz to move. He happily shifted to sit sideways in Soundwave’s lap, trailing his fingers over the lovely broad chest before him.

“I would like to ask you something.” Soundwave paused, looking a little unsure of himself.

“Ask away, sexy,” Jazz replied.

Soundwave smiled a little, amused by comment. “You’ve been here with me for several weeks, and I would like to ask if you’d--” He paused, optics sharpening their focus on Jazz. Beneath his fingers, he felt the vibration of Soundwave’s spark pulsing harder. “What I mean to say is, would you move in with me here? Agree to be exclusive and possibly one day in the future bind your spark with mine?”

Jazz stilled, staring with bright optics at Soundwave. Move in? Sure. Be exclusive? Yeah, he already was anyway. But a spark bond? That had thrown him. His entire life he'd been nomadic, moving from place to place, going from berth to berth, never committing to anything or anyone. He thought his love of music was all he needed, and the rest was just experiencing life. Binding to another mech was as serious a commitment as it got, and he didn’t know if that was what he wanted. “I’d love to move in officially. And you know you’re the only mech I’m seeing right now...”

“But?” Soundwave prompted.

“It’s just, well, I mean, how well do you really know me to want to one day bond to me?” Jazz forced a laugh, trying to cover for the anxiety the mere idea of bonding filled him with.

“I know you. I also know myself. This is what I want with you,” Soundwave replied.

“But, I’m a mess. I don’t stay anywhere for long. Or with anyone for long. Do you know that about me?” Jazz asked.

Un-phased, Soundwave nodded. “You’re past behavior would be classified as non-committal. You smile and joke to cover for the lonely feelings a life without a true home causes you. You have more friends than I do digits on my hands, but not one of them has a deep connection to you, or vice versa.” He gently swept the backs of his fingers down Jazz’s cheek. “I can tell when your smiles are forced, and when they are genuine. I see the pain you try to hide with humor. I am the sole mech you fully relax around. And I want to be the one to treasure your spark for all of time.”

Jazz was literally trembling. Soundwave saw through him, into him, and he wasn’t shying away? “You’re crazy, you know that? No one has ever wanted me. Not my creators, no one. How come you get to be the exception? Because we both like music? That means we should be together forever? Sounds like a load of slag to me.”

“We both enjoy music. We both enjoy physical closeness. We both enjoy overloads that make our heads and sparks spin. We both enjoy talking about the political climate. We both enjoy each other,” Soundwave replied in a calm, confident tone.

“And if I get up and walk outta here right now?” Jazz asked, now purposely trying to hurt this mech looking at him with nothing short of pure adoration.

“I’d let you go if you didn’t want to stay,” Soundwave replied. “But I would still love you, whether you left right this moment, or eons from now.”

Jazz averted his gaze at that, his hands balling up against Soundwave’s chest. He wanted to punch him hard for being so perfect. How dare he say that word? Love? “You’re a fragger,” Jazz quietly replied. “And I…” He looked up into Soundwave’s golden optics. “I love you, too.”

Soundwave leaned in and kissed Jazz’s forehelm. “I love you, my beautiful Jazz.”

Jazz huffed, feigning annoyance. “Okay, fine. I’ll move in. But promise me something?”

“Anything,” Soundwave replied, looking deep into his optics.

“Always love me. Even when I do something really stupid and hurt you, because I know I will. I’m not good at this stuff, and I know I’ll frag it up at some point. Just don’t give up on me, okay?” Jazz felt vulnerable and unsure about all this, but he also didn’t want to leave. For once in his life, he actually wanted something more than what instant gratification had to offer.

“It’s my solemn promise to always love you,” Soundwave replied.

Jazz grabbed Soundwave’s helm by the sides, pulling him down into a searing kiss to seal their confessions and promises. This would either be utterly amazing or a horrible life choice. Either way, he had to try. He needed Soundwave in his life.

Positioned on the two ridges that overlooked the small valley swarming with Decepticons, the Autobots observed and waited for their orders. Jazz counted at least ten Decepticons below visible outside a canopy-covered area in the middle, which had them evenly matched. The main issue at hand would be going up against the Constructicons. If they formed Devastator they'd be at a severe disadvantage. He glanced across the valley to other ridge where he knew Prowl was calculating their odds and how to best leverage their position to win.

“What's the hold up?” Ironhide groused.

“Master Calculator Prowl, is my guess,” Mirage replied.

“We wait much longer and we’ll lose any advantage we’ve got,” Ironhide said with a huff. “One pass from Laserbreath and they'll know we’re here.”

“Prowl knows what he's doin’. Have a little faith, you two,” Jazz replied.

“Defending Prowl as usual?” Mirage smirked at Jazz.

Ignoring the baited question, Jazz stilled when he spotted Soundwave below. No matter how many times he faced him in battles, it always made his spark pulse wildly. He's not your Soundwave anymore...he reminded himself. Your Soundwave died in Vos. This mech is just wearing his armor. The thoughts he tried to use to calm his spark never really worked, though. Good thing he'd honed his skills as an actor. Sometimes by pretending to be fine, he'd actually fool himself into believing it.

::Both teams move in! Split the Constructicons into two groups to prevent them from forming Devestator.:: Optimus ordered.

They all ran from their areas, surrounding the Decepticons. Laser fire pinged everywhere, and Jazz expertly wove his way through the chaos of battle that ensued. He jumped Mixmaster, and with Ironhide’s assistance, they snapped stasis cuffs on him.

::Jazz, they're doing something at the center of camp under the canopy area, move in and report back,:: Prowl ordered.

Jazz was on the move again. He ducked past fighting groups, and into the heart of the secret operation. Buckets filled with a raspberry-colored ore he'd never seen before were everywhere. He picked up a small piece, and it glowed in his hand. “What is this stuff?”

“Blow up the area!” Megatron shouted. “I don't want the Autobots getting ahold of any of this!”

“As you command!” Skywarp shouted back.

Jazz quickly looked around the area, seeing several explosives piled up nearby. The Decepticons had probably been using them for mining this strange ore. Blowing it all up at once would kill him instantly if he didn't high tail it out of here, so he subspaced the piece of ore and ran.

Shots fired.

The explosives detonated.

Jazz felt a heavy weight push him down from behind. The fireball and shockwave of the explosion washed over him and whatever was holding him to the ground. Twisting his head, he stared in disbelief at Soundwave overtop of him, protecting his smaller frame with his own larger, better armored body.

“What the—” Jazz’s question was cut short when the ground rumbled and gave way, sending them both tumbling into an underground cavern below.

Rocks and earth filled in around them, and large rock whacked Jazz in the helm, knocking him offline.

The scene was chaos. Rubble, bodies, and pieces of unidentifiable origin were strewn everywhere. This was Jazz’s first hands-on battle with his assigned battalion. It was far worse than he imagined.

He’d joined the Autobots after losing Soundwave. The reports blamed the Decepticons for the bombing of Vos, which pushed him to his tipping point. They'd killed his one true love, and he planned on making them pay for what they took from him. Soundwave had only just returned to work, supervising the installation of an extensive security system in the main Vosian government building, when the attack leveled the once bustling city state and stole the life they'd planned on living together.

Laser fire pinged, and Jazz ducked behind some large, twisted metal sheeting for cover. To his right, Ironhide worked his way forward, moving from one small area of cover to the next, taking shots at the enemy. They were pushing to take back this area of Iacon that had been recently destroyed by the Decepticons.

Jazz was about to advance when he spotted a familiar silhouette to his far left. Without thinking, he darted across the debris toward the mech he'd spotted. Coming up behind the mysterious mech, Jazz’s spark began to pulse wildly. From behind, he'd swear this was Soundwave. But that was impossible. His name was on the list of dead… “Soundwave?”

The mech turned, face hidden by a mask and visor and a large, boxy yellow modification was attached to his chest. But those strong arms, and cute little forehead crest coupled with the sweeping shapes that went up on each side of this mech’s helm were distinct.

“That is my designation. Decepticon or Autobot?” The mech droned.

Confused by the strange, monotone voice and alterations to his appearance, Jazz frowned. “Is it really you? I thought you were dead. They told me you were dead.”

There was a long pause. “I am not dead.” Jazz could just make out the outlines of optics beneath the visor focusing on him. “Decepticon or Autobot?” the mech repeated.

“What does that matter? Do you remember me? Us? The home you made for me? All the promises we made to each other?” Jazz asked. There was no doubt now in his mind, this was Soundwave.

Soundwave didn't reply. He simply stared at Jazz.

“Answer me! Do you remember me?” Jazz asked, exasperated by the lack of response.

“You have an Autobot symbol on your arm.” Soundwave lifted up his pistol, and pointed it at Jazz’s head.

He doesn't remember. At that moment Jazz broke inside. The painful hole Soundwave’s death left in his spark ripped wide open all over again. Vengeance and revenge meant nothing to Jazz now. His love had been turned into this monotone, blank mech with a pistol aimed to kill. He couldn't fathom seeing this abomination walking around in Soundwave’s frame.

“Pull the trigger. I don't have anything left to live for,” Jazz said, deeply frowning.

Soundwave didn't shoot, but he didn't lower his weapon, either.

“Just do it!” Jazz shouted.

Suddenly Jazz was tackled to the ground. Ironhide shielded him with his bulkier frame, and got off a few shots. Soundwave took to the air and left, never once firing.

“What the frag is wrong with you? You trying to get yourself killed?” Ironhide asked as got off of Jazz.

Yes. Jazz didn't get up. He stayed on the ground, surrounded by debris, wondering how he was supposed to go on now.

“Jazz! Hey! What's with you?” Ironhide shook him, trying to get him to snap out of it.

Jazz dimmed his optics, staring up into the dark sky overhead, having retreated to the back of his mind. He was vaguely aware of being picked up and carried. Soon the sky overhead was traded for dark grey metal and a medic peering down at him.

“I dunno what this kid’s problem is. One second he's clearing the area with me, the next he was yelling at some Con to shoot him,” Ironhide explained.

“Leave him here,” Ratchet said.

“Will he be okay?” Ironhide asked.

“That's up to him. Now shoo. Lemmie do my job and you go do yours,” Ratchet replied.

Ironhide's shuffling footsteps faded and Ratchet half-frowned as he looked down at Jazz. “Saw someone you once knew turned Con, hm? How about a nice long recharge to get your head back together?”

Jazz's arm was lifted up and a syringe full of chemicals injected into his fluid line. Within moments he slipped offline into a much welcome state of unconsciousness.

Earth, now:

Groaning, Jazz pushed some rocks and dirt off himself. Shifting, he uprighted himself and rubbed his dented helm. Looking up, he saw a large section of rock overhead blocking the way back out of the tunnel. Scanning the area, he saw the tunnel continued to his left. He then let his gaze move to Soundwave a few meters away.

The larger mech was pinned by a pile of debris covering his right side from his foot to halfway up his chest. Jazz tentatively crawled in closer, trying to decide if he should leave or not when the familiar light glow of energon caught his optic. Under Soundwave’s free leg a pool of energon dimly glowed as it seeped into the dirt floor of the tunnel.

Without thinking, Jazz pulled out his emergency medical kit, and crouched down next to Soundwave, attempting to locate where the energon was leaking from. Following with his fingers, he found a deep dent on Soundwave’s inner thigh. He grabbed a small prying tool from the kit, and ripped the dented panel off. Sure enough, he found Soundwave’s main energon line that ran down his leg had been ruptured and was pumping energon everywhere. He worked as fast as he could, clamping off the line with some supplies, and cleaning up what he could.

Soundwave didn’t stir the whole time, despite the pain he should be in from taking the brunt of the explosion and his leg injury. “You dumped half a tank of energon on the ground,” Jazz murmured. He reached into his subspace, pulling out one of his energon rations he always carried with him, and found a siphon tube in his med kit. He flipped the cover on Soundwave’s lower side open and attached the tube to his auxilary fuel tank intake. Squeezing the packet of energon, he refilled some of what Soundwave had lost.

As the packet emptied, Soundwave’s visor dimly lit and his fingers twitched. “Jazz?” he droned.

Jazz grew very still, optics focusing on Soundwave’s masked face.

“You are alive,” Soundwave said. “Thank Primus.”

Scowling, Jazz could tell Soundwave was woozy from lack of fuel and his current battered state. “What do you care?” Jazz asked.

“Your protection is paramount,” Soundwave replied.

“My protection?” Jazz scoffed. “How hard did you hit your head?” He joked, but inside his spark was pulsing hard and fast. Did Soundwave remember him afterall?

“Rose in the ranks to better protect you,” Soundwave replied. “I failed early on. For that I am filled with regret.”

“Early on?” Jazz unhooked the siphon tube, and sat back on his heels. “Do you… remember me?”

Soundwave nodded. “I never forgot.”

“What?” Jazz practically shouted, not bothering to mask his anger and confusion at Soundwave’s answer. “You pointed a fragging rifle at my head! You were going to kill me! And all that after I thought you were dead! Now you’re telling me you did remember me? What the frag?

“It was a pistol,” Soundwave corrected. “I only pointed it at you when your fellow Autobot appeared. I never intended to shoot.”

Jazz’s mouth gaped in shock. He couldn’t even begin to wrap his processor around all of this. “It’s been millions of years. Millions! And now you tell me all this? Now you admit you lied? I loved you! How could you have shoved me away like that? Do you have any idea how often I’ve stuck a gun in my mouth and considered just ending my miserable existence?”

Soundwave perked up at that. “I did not intend to hurt you with my actions. From afar you seemed... content.”

Jazz scowled. “I pretend. Sometimes I even fool myself, but deep down I’ve been a broken mess ever since that day.”

Soundwave reached out to touch Jazz’s arm in a gesture of comfort, but he swatted it away. “You’ve got no right whatsoever to touch me.”

Lowering his hand, Soundwave nodded. “I thought you were dead, as well. When the Towers in Iacon fell, you were on the list of deceased. The day I saw you the battlefield I was torn. I wanted to confirm what you asked, but I could not without risking your life.”

“What the frag’s that supposed to mean?” Jazz replied angrily.

“All new converts are monitored at all times. Any familiar connections made to those we encountered in battle were to be targeted.” Soundwave’s visor dimmed. “Had you been taken and refused to become a Decepticon you would have either had your processor wiped and turned into a service drone, or tortured and killed. Either scenario would have been done in my presence to test my dedication to the Decepticons.”

Horrified, Jazz stared at Soundwave for a long moment, digesting everything said. “Why didn’t you just leave the Decepticons?”

“Vos was bombed by the Council of Cybertron to initiate war. They tried to kill Megatron at the time. He was in the building I was installing security systems for, negotiating with the Vosian government to join his rebellion. After the explosions leveled the building, I was severely injured. I awoke in a facility in a secret base weeks later. The Decepticons had saved my life, and equipped me with this.” Soundwave tapped the edge of his symbiote subspace modification. “After the Towers’ destruction, I learned of your death resigned myself to being a Decepticon.”

“We’re alone, right?” Jazz asked, having almost forgot about Soundwave’s little Pit spawns.

“I deployed all symbiotes for the battle, yes,” Soundwave replied.

“So--” Jazz softly sighed. “--You thought I was dead and you were in debt to the Cons?”

“In essence,” Soundwave replied. “I never intended for my actions to hurt you. From a distance, I have deployed all the assets at my disposal to help protect you.”

Hurt, angry, confused, Jazz shook his head slowly as he stared at the visor and mask hiding Soundwave’s face. “I don’t even know how to begin to wrap my head around this.” He then punched Soundwave hard in the arm. “You should’ve told me the truth, though. Protecting me or not, I deserved to know before now.”

Soundwave nodded once. “My apologies.”

“I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll consider accepting the lamest, most overdue apology of all time for the most horrible thing anyone has ever done to me in exchange for you opening up that stupid mask and taking off the visor so I can see the real you.”

Visor brightening, Soundwave hesitated. “I am… scarred.”

“I don’t care. I wanna see.” Jazz folded his arms over his chest, gaze unwavering.

“As you wish.” Soundwave parted the mask down the middle and it slid open, revealing his lower face. He then reached up and unlatched the visor, exposing the upper half, including his golden optics.

There were jagged scar lines running all over Soundwave’s face from where they’d pieced him back together. Jazz unfolded his arms and crawled in closer. He reached up and touched Soundwave’s face, fingers tracing the contours slowly. He worked to process the fact that this was indeed his Soundwave. After a moment, he removed his own visor, and for the first time in eons, they looked at one another, optic to optic.

Lips curving into a small smile, Soundwave gazed longingly at Jazz. “As beautiful as you ever were,” he said, his voice no longer monotone.

Jazz’s optics brightened. “What happened to your altered voice?”

“Initiates with the mask. I modified it myself to help remove any emotion when I speak,” Soundwave replied.

Time had stopped and rewound itself. Jazz could see the scars on Soundwave’s face, and feel the scars inside himself, but the overwhelming urge to kiss this mech he’d loved with all his spark propelled him forward. Leaning in, Jazz gently ghosted his lips against Soundwave’s, then they both pressed in for a long, much overdue kiss. It quickly deepened, and Jazz let himself feel something other than hate or spark-crushing loneliness for the first time since the day he learned of Vos being destroyed. There was hope inside his spark again.

Some dirt fell from above, and startled, the kiss broke as they both gazed upward at whomever had come to their rescue.

“It is Ravage,” Soundwave said after a moment. “I can feel it in the symbiote coding. You should go now.”

They looked into one another’s optics again. “Is there a way outta here if I go into the tunnel system?”

“Yes. Take the tunnel until it splits into two directions. The right tunnel will lead to the surface one half a mile from here,” Soundwave replied.

Jazz stole another brief kiss.

Pulling back, Soundwave reached up and cupped his face. “I love you.”

Jazz sadly frowned. “Well, that’s nice, but I hate you for breaking me.” He scooped up his medkit, shoving it into his subspace, then pushed to stand. Meeting Soundwave’s upset gaze, he half-smiled. “You gotta lot of time and hurt to make up for. But if anyone can do it, it’s you.”

“I must earn your forgiveness and love?” Soundwave asked.

“Pretty much,” Jazz replied.

Soundwave sharply nodded. “I will work toward redemption.”

“Use all those hacked satellites to find me when I’m on my own, and we can have another chat,” Jazz replied.

More dirt fell, and then the ground began to shake. The Pit spawns were trying to free Soundwave.

“Go,” Soundwave said, waving at Jazz with one hand, while snapping his visor back in place with the other.

Jazz turned and sprinted down the tunnels, using Soundwave’s directions. At the end of the tunnel to the right, he saw daylight and trees. He’d gone into the darkness and come back out into the light. For the first time in so long, he actually felt hopeful again.

 

Chapter Text

Had it all really happened? Talking to Soundwave? Kissing him? Jazz had been in a daze ever since emerging above ground in the forest. He had handed over the strange ore he’d stolen to Prowl just as he was admitted to medbay for his head injury. His recovery only took a day or so, and Ratchet discharged him with a clean record of health. But everything felt unreal now. Like he was walking through the motions, doing what he knew was expected, but inside yearning to feel Soundwave under his fingertips again.

He expected to be angry, and he certainly was upset by the deception that had destroyed so much of his ability to truly be happy. At the same time, he wanted Soundwave back in his life. To feel that intense burning love again. The war, their factions, it all felt incidental now.

“Jazz?”

He glanced up. Six pairs of optics were focused on him. He’d been so lost inside his processor, he’d forgotten he was sitting in an officer’s meeting. “Uh, yeah?” Jazz asked, feigning innocence.

“I asked how much of this ore did you see under the canopy?” Prowl repeated, looking concerned.

“Oh, um, I’d guess about five or so of those human 10-gallon bucket things? The plastic kind. All full to the top,” Jazz replied.

“Why would they be using human trash cans?” Ironhide replied.

“If this ore is as volatile as Perceptor’s first tests indicate, they might be using the plastic drums to minimize the risk for transport,” Prowl replied.

“But not a trace of it was left after the explosion,” Optimus said, rubbing his chin in thought. “The question is: why would Megatron prefer to destroy what he mined rather than let us know what he’d found?”

“There’s prolly a lot more of it other places, or else he’s already got a ton,” Jazz replied with a shrug, forcing himself to participate to appear like his usual self to everyone.

“We should start combing satellite images of the planet, try to locate other gathering points,” Red Alert chimed in.

“But with a canopy in the right color, they can disguise the location,” Prowl replied. “We need to both look at satellite imagery as well as tap into the human networks, look for any reports of anything suspicious.”

“I agree,” Optimus replied.

Of course you do, Jazz thought. His gaze shifted between the two. Prowl was so perceptive about so many things and at the same time absolutely clueless about others.

“Let’s set to work on extensive monitoring, locate other potential locations and investigate. Meanwhile, we will wait for Perceptor’s full analysis of the ore itself and perhaps that will offer up some answers,” Optimus finished.

The meeting was dismissed.

Everyone got up, and Jazz hurried out. He wanted to get to his office and finish his field report so he’d have the rest of the day to himself. Stepping into his small, chaotic office, he sat down at his desk and re-read what he’d written before the meeting. He began to add in more details when Prowl darkened his doorway.

“Getting your report done?” Prowl asked in an amused tone.

“Yeah. I wanna finish up so I can go chill out at the practice range for a while,” Jazz replied in a chipper tone, leaving out the fact he wanted to be alone to think about Soundwave and what he wanted to do.

Prowl stepped into the office and gazed at Jazz for a long moment. “Are you doing alright?”

Jazz paused his typing and met Prowl’s worried gaze. “Yeah. I’m fine. Why?”

“You seemed a little dazed during the meeting. I know you took quite a blow to the helm.” Prowl’s doorwings twitched upward.

Normally caring, attentive Prowl would be just what he wanted, but things had changed on his end of things. Jazz forced a large smile. “Ratch said I was all good. But thanks for lookin’ out for me. Tell you what, when I get back from the range, I’ll grab you and we can share drinks in the rec room. Sound like a plan?”

Prowl smiled a little. “I would like that.”

“See you in a couple hours,” Jazz replied.

Prowl nodded, then swept back out of the office.

Jazz sagged in his seat. He needed to get his head back together to keep up appearances. He stared at his report, then closed the file. He could finish it later.

Back on his feet, Jazz hightailed it out of the Ark, and transformed, driving off.

“You know, Megs said you didn't have to be on duty so soon after gettin’ outta medical,” Frenzy said, hopping up into the seat next to Soundwave.

Soundwave scanned the security bank of screens. “I find this relaxing.”

Rumble snorted and laughed. “Only you'd find the most boring job on the whole ship relaxing. Come on, Frenzy. He's fine.”

“Don't work too hard,” Frenzy said, hopping back down.

“See you later big guy!” Rumble said, play punching him in the uninjured leg.

The two chased one another out of the security room. Soundwave sagged a little in his seat with relief. Being a symbiote carrier meant being linked to mechs through coding. Luckily they only felt one another’s presence, no emotions. Having not asked for this modification, Soundwave valued any quiet moments of solitude that came his way. At the moment both Ravage and Laserbeak were with Megatron, leaving him completely alone.

Replaying every word, every touch, every last second of being with Jazz in the tunnel, his spark would flutter with both love and fear. If Megatron ever found out, both of them would be tortured and killed. He'd been foolish to tell Jazz the truth, but it felt so good to come clean. To have him close again, even if only for a few moments.

On the screen with the camera pointed at the Ark entrance he saw Jazz drive away from the base. He typed into the console, and the camera followed his movements until he disappeared beneath the forest canopy. Fingers frozen and hovering over the keys, his spark pulsed fast. Jazz's chosen path was a road that would go up the mountainside toward where his camera was placed.

Breaking free of his moment of indecision, he typed in override commands, looping the camera to footage from the previous day. Getting to his feet, he softly sighed. Going to see Jazz might put him in terrible danger of retribution, but how could he not? He ached for Jazz.

Swift, silent steps took him out of the security room. Before he knew it, he was on the lift that surfaced above water. “I'm coming,” he quietly murmured. “Wait for me, my love.”

Jazz flew past the turn off for the range and started up the winding road that lead to a vista point on the mountain across from the Ark. Maybe some perspective would do him some good.

The switchback turns were pretty fun to drive, and soon he arrived at the open area with ample space to pull off and take in the view. He transformed and gazed down at the valley below. The canopy of trees and bright blue sky with the orange of the base miles away was quite picturesque. He took a seat on a piece of boulder with a flat section and softly sighed.

He’d never lied to Prowl before, and he wasn’t sure how to cover up what happened in that tunnel. If he told the truth, he’d be put under close watch and not allowed near Soundwave at all. Possibly not allowed to fight in an open battle. But hiding what happened meant risking much, much more, like his freedom and one close friendship.

Had Soundwave truly been dead, Jazz knew he would have let more happen between him and Prowl. Seeing Soundwave still walking around never let that wound of loss close enough to feel ready to accept someone else. Now… now everything has been turned on it’s head.

Trees rustled, and Jazz was on his feet in flash with his pistol out and pointed toward the sound. “Who’s there?”

Stepping out from behind a grove of trees, Soundwave revealed himself. He had a slight limp as he walked forward a few paces before stopping just beyond arm’s length from Jazz. “I do not intend to harm you,” Soundwave said in his monotone voice.

Lowering his pistol, Jazz frowned. “You scared the Pit outta me. I came up here all alone.” He stowed his weapon on his hip clip.

“You said to find you when you were alone. Did I misunderstand?” Soundwave asked.

Jazz chuckled to himself. “Yeah, I said that didn’t I?” He then gave Soundwave a dark look. “Primus, open that mask up at least so I can hear your real voice. I hate that vocal modulation thing.”

Without hesitation, the mask parted. “Better?” Soundwave asked with a hint of a smile.

“Much.” Jazz’s gaze wandered to the leg he’d done the field repair on. He could see messy weld marks, which Ratchet would be highly offended to see on any patient. “Your leg hurts? You were limping a little.”

“It will heal,” Soundwave replied. “Your actions saved my life.”

“I wasn’t gonna let you die like that, especially after saving me from being blown into bits of scrap,” Jazz replied.

“I will always protect you if it’s in my power,” Soundwave said in an assured tone.

“Yeah?” Jazz shook his head. “Hasn’t always been in your power, though, right?”

Soundwave slowly shook his head. “When I learned about the incident surrounding your capture early on in the war, I worked to rise in the ranks so nothing of that nature would happen to you again.”

“You mean the time I let myself get caught so my team could get away and while I was chained to a wall just about a third of the Decepticon army came by to use my valve as a toy?” Jazz asked, blunt and refusing to hide his anger surrounding the capture and violent rape.

Soundwave frowned and cowed his helm. “Yes.”

“Well, lucky for me the power in that place went out and I escaped. And it was a long time ago, so you know, I moved past it. Mostly.” Jazz had been pretty messed up over Soundwave to begin with, but that incident had made him a spike only mech in the berth afterward. He hadn’t let anyone touch his valve since then.

“I shorted the main power,” Soundwave said with a small disappointed frown. “It was too late to save you from what they did, but I knew you would have been killed when they tired of you.”

Jazz’s optics brightened behind his visor. “Wait, what?”

“As I said before, I have always tried to protect you. But sometimes I was too late,” Soundwave replied.

All this time, from afar everything Soundwave did was for him? Jazz closed the space between them and scowled as he punched Soundwave hard in the abdomen.

With an ‘oof’ sound, Soundwave took the hit, one hand covering the spot Jazz punched. He sadly frowned as he gazed into Jazz’s face. “I’m sorry for everything. For hurting you. For letting you down. I deserve all your ire and more. Please know, that I never stopped loving you. Not for a moment.”

“I know what you did wasn’t out of malice. I get that. But you took my choice away. It was my choice to stay with you or not. Who the frag knows, I might’ve happily defected to be a Decepticon if that meant I could be with you. We’ll never know now. And we’ve lost so much time being apart.” Jazz reached up, grasping the sides of Soundwave’s helm and pulling him down into a kiss. Soundwave made a small sound of confusion, but quickly melted into the long kiss. Pulling back a little, Jazz stared into the optics he could see up close through the red visor. “I still love you. I never stopped, either. Even when I thought you didn’t remember me anymore.”

“I want to earn your forgiveness,” Soundwave replied.

“You’re forgiven,” Jazz replied.

Their mouths crashed together in another kiss. Soundwave wrapped both his large arms around Jazz, hugging him tightly as their lips parted and glossae twinned between their open mouths. The stir in Jazz’s array was undeniable. Millions of years later and it still just took a kiss to turn him into a wanton, clattering pile of plating in Soundwave’s arms.

When the kiss broke, they both gasped.

“I want you,” Jazz said in a hushed voice. “Do you… want me?” The question left him feeling vulnerable, despite knowing in his spark what the answer would be.

“Always,” Soundwave replied.

Jazz flashed a mischievous smile. “How’s your back plating feelin’ after the explosion?”

“It’s fine. I was in the regen tank for a day,” Soundwave replied, smiling back. Without need for prompting, Soundwave let go of Jazz and backed up a few steps before sitting down on the dirt and gesturing to Jazz to join him.

He happily dropped down and straddled Soundwave’s lap, their array covers rubbing together as their lips once again met. Addicted was too weak a word for how Jazz felt about this mech beneath his fingertips. Hands slid over one another’s plating, their kisses were deep and passionate, and before long interface covers slid open. Jazz sat back and wrapped both hands over their spikes, squeezing them against each other.

Soundwave trembled and made the most adorable little moaning sound.

“Touch my valve,” Jazz ordered. He hadn’t let anyone near it, but at the moment it was aching for Soundwave’s talented fingers. Happily obeying, Soundwave reached around Jazz from behind and first stroked the sensitive platelets, causing his valve to slick and squeeze. It was Jazz’s turn to moan. “More, please,” Jazz pleaded.

“As you wish,” Soundwave replied in a heady voice, sinking one of his large fingers inside Jazz.

Jazz grasp on their spikes slipped, and he placed his hands on Soundwave’s boxy chest while he arched his back and pushed his hips down against Soundwave’s hand. Soon he was rocking his hips, two then three fingers stretching his never-used valve. “You’re the only one,” Jazz said before nipping at Soundwave’s lower lip.

“Only one?” Soundwave asked.

“Allowed to spike me,” Jazz replied, voice airy. He lifted up off Soundwave’s hand, and shifted Soundwave’s spike to press against his valve. He slowly lowered himself, valve stretching to accommodate the large spike he’d once be such an expert at riding. He couldn’t quite sink to the hilt, but it didn’t matter. It was enough to make them both moan in unison. Pistoning his hips, and grasping Soundwave’s shoulders for leverage, Jazz rode that spike as if no time had passed between.

Soundwave kissed anywhere he could, Jazz’s shoulder, neck, face, helm. Each kiss left a tingling sensation in its wake.

Jazz groaned, greedy for even more. “Lay back?” he asked. “Take over for me? Hold me down like you used to?”

Soundwave nodded, and held onto Jazz as he laid back. Once on his back with Jazz laid over top of him, Soundwave took over. His large arms wrapped loosely around Jazz, and he rocked his hips upward, impaling him over and over, each thrust deeper than the last.

Jazz writhed and pushed against the glassy chest under him, pain and pleasure mixing the way he liked it best. Soundwave’s loose grasp would momentarily tighten, restricting Jazz’s ability to move. Whimpering, Jazz still struggled in the hold, his body now completely at Soundwave’s mercy. Why this was his biggest turn on with Soundwave, he had no idea, but it had always been like this for them. If he stilled, Soundwave’s grasp loosened, and if he moved, he’d be held in place again. His valve ached and squeezed the large, beautiful invading spike, sending tremors of pleasure zinging in his array. He struggled more in the hold the closer he got to overloading.

Soundwave swatted his aft hard enough to make it sting when Jazz twisted in his arms, groaning from the pleasure pulsing through his valve. Jazz yelped, but then he kissed Soundwave’s shoulder. “I trust you. You can be rougher.”

The pace didn’t change, and he could feel up close, the hesitation in Soundwave’s field. He then pushed with his full strength against the arms holding him, rising up partway. Soundwave instantly reacted, one hand pressing his lower back down so his hips remained flush against his own and the other grasping Jazz’s collar fairing and forcing him upward to arch his back sharply. “Is this better?” Soundwave asked, his voice taking on a smoky, aroused tone.

Trembling, Jazz was on the edge of overloading. The discomfort of being bent awkwardly only revved his engine more. “Better view for you?” he asked between pants.

“I do quite like your Earth-styled headlights,” Soundwave replied with a definite rumble in his voice.

“Dirty ol’ mech,” Jazz replied with a laugh.

Soundwave half-smiled, amused. “My beautiful Jazz.”

Those words tipped Jazz over the edge. He cried out, body shuddering as one of the most intense overloads he’d felt in eons careened through him. Soundwave’s grasp shifted and he pulled Jazz flush to his body again, still rocking his spike into Jazz’s spasming valve as he overloaded. A few thrusts later, Soundwave roared as he also overloaded, pushing to the hilt and emptying into Jazz.

Dazed and euphoric, Jazz laid limply over Soundwave in the aftermath. The decompressing spike slid out on its own, and Jazz softly whimpered at the disconnection. Soundwave pet his plating in a soothing manner, while placing kisses all over the top of his helm. It almost felt like no time had passed from their last evening in the apartment together to now. His spark still pulsed hard and fast for this mech.

“We prolly shouldn’t have done that,” Jazz said after a few minutes of silence as the true reality of their situation replaced the high he felt from such a wonderful overload.

“I do not regret it. Do you?” Soundwave asked.

Jazz pushed up onto one arm, gazing down at Soundwave. “Regret? Not in the least. Primus, what you do me is still just as… plate melting.” He leaned down and kissed the tip of Soundwave’s nose. “I meant bigger picture. Like, now that this happened, what do we do?”

Soundwave gently ran his fingers down the side of Jazz’s face. “You let me clean you up, and hold you for a little while longer?”

Jazz smiled. He’d almost forgotten how attentive Soundwave was after their rough interfaces. “That sounds amazing and all, but that’s not quite what I meant.”

“Let me tend to you, and after that we can talk about the implications,” Soundwave replied.

Nodding, Jazz relaxed against Soundwave again. Rolling to one side, Soundwave gently laid Jazz on the ground beside him. He sat up and took a cloth from his subspace before he gently fingered Jazz’s valve entrance, rubbing the platelets again. Repressing the urge to whimper, Jazz felt the fluid seep from him and Soundwave carefully wiped up the mess. He’d not had a lover before or since that treated him with such gentle kindness in the aftermath.

Finished with Jazz, he leaned down and kissed his abdomen, before he went ahead and wiped himself down, too. Jazz closed his array cover and sat up. Soundwave finished, closed his cover, and then pulled Jazz to sit sideways in his lap. Curled up in those arms he’s missed more than he could ever explain with words, Jazz snuggled in close to Soundwave.

“We have put ourselves in danger meeting like this. I cannot protect you from your faction if they find out. And if Megatron learns of my deceit we will both be tortured and killed for his gratification,” Soundwave stated as if reading it off a field report.

Jazz let the possible consequences sink in for a moment. “Why not become an Autobot?”

“Megatron would seek retaliation and we’d both die,” Soundwave replied. “As a Decepticon I can continue to control information and what Megatron knows.”

“So, our only real option right now is to see each other in secret and hope no one catches us?” Jazz asked, frowning.

“For the time being, I believe that is our only viable option,” Soundwave replied.

Pressing closer, Jazz’s spark ached. He didn’t want to be pushed apart by their factions. They had been apart too long already. Still, any time they could have now was better than nothing at all. This was the first time since the day he saw Soundwave on that battlefield that his spark didn’t feel like it had a black hole threatening to consume him whole. Instead, it was bursting with love again.

“If that’s what we gotta do, then I’m all in,” Jazz replied after a long, quiet moment.

Soundwave hugged him in his grasp. “The safest way will be scheduling time and various locations.”

“I know my duty roster for the next two weeks. Do you?” Jazz asked, peering up at Soundwave with a small smile.

“I do.” Soundwave gently kissed Jazz on the lips. “The risk is worth the reward.”

“Frag yeah, it is.” Jazz’s spark fluttered in his chest. Close together, their mutual affection and love radiated in both their fields. He thought he'd lost this part of himself forever. It made him deliriously happy to find his other half again.

Leaving Soundwave hadn't been easy, but with a plan in place to see one another again in a few days, Jazz had finally been able to let go of him. When he started driving back down the mountain trail he realized it had been more than a couple hours since he left, and he redlined his engine to get back to base. He'd promised to meet Prowl and he was over an hour late…

Dirty from rolling around on the ground, valve aching from having been used, Jazz really wanted to hit the wash racks, but he had to see if Prowl was still waiting for him or not. Walking into the rec room, he spotted Prowl at a back table with one full glass of energon and one partially consumed one along with a stack of datapads.

Prowl was so focused on the report he was reading, he didn't even notice Jazz walk up.

“Hey, handsome,” Jazz said, sliding into the opposite seat. “This seat taken? Or has my status as yer best friend been revoked ‘cause I'm so late?”

Prowl glanced up, his impassive look shifting to a worried frown. “You're filthy.”

In more ways than one, Jazz thought. “Yeah. I, ah, sorta went for a long drive. Lost track of time.” His fuel tank pinged at him, and he lightly touched the still full glass. “Is it cool if I have some?”

“Of course. I poured it for you,” Prowl replied.

Jazz took a long sip of the fuel, then set down the glass with a satisfied sigh.

“I thought you were going to the practice range?” Prowl’s doorwings twitched slightly, worry pinching the features of his face. “Is everything alright?”

Frag. Jazz could lie or act his way out of almost any tight corner he got into, but he'd always sucked slag at lying to Prowl. “Just got something on my mind.”

“Oh?” Prowl asked. “A personal matter?”

“Sort of? More like a moral dilemma?” Jazz sighed. Maybe if he just told half of the truth, Prowl would believe him.

“Moral? I'm happy to be a sounding board if you need one,” Prowl replied.

Jazz nodded. “Yeah, okay... See, I was filling out my report from the incident up north and thing is, I dunno how to report what happened. I, well, the thing is, I should be dead.” Jazz frowned. “I was right next to the explosives when Skywarp set them off. But then Soundwave jumped over top of me and took the brunt of the blast.”

“Soundwave?” Prowl looked surprised. “Why would he do that?”

“I dunno.” A lie. “But then we fell through into a section of tunnel. When I came to, I saw he was pinned down and energon was leakin’ from him. Since he saved me and everything, I couldn't let him bleed out and seize up, so I got my field repair kit out, clamped off a cracked line and refilled some of his fuel tank.” That was mostly the truth at least. Jazz fingered his glass of energon. “When he started to come to, I took off down the tunnel.” And back to a partial lie. “So, you know, I helped a ‘Con and everything. But he helped me first? It just, it threw everything about this war into question for me. If we can still show compassion across factions, then why do we keep fighting?”

“Our Prime is compassionate, I think it's a good sign that a Decepticon can exhibit similar behavior.” Prowl looked pensive for a moment. “It's very strange Soundwave would do that, though. I wonder what his reason was.”

“No clue,” Jazz lied again before gulping down more fuel.

Prowl reached across the table, and took hold of Jazz’s hand. “His reasons aside, I'm glad he did act to protect you.”

Jazz gazed at their linked hands, and half-smiled. “Still alive and kickin’.” Guilt swirled around inside him. He adored and trusted Prowl, which didn't come easy for him. Despite his friendly outward appearance, he trusted a rare few. Had Soundwave actually died, he knew he might’ve let himself fall hard for Prowl.

“I don't mean to interrupt,” Optimus said approaching the table.

They both looked up at Optimus. For being a large mech, he could be stealthy sometimes.

“Not at all,” Prowl replied. “What do you need?”

“Perceptor has finished his analysis of the ore you brought to us,” Optimus said, looking at Jazz. “I’m on my way to see him. Would you both like to come and hear the results?”

“I gotta hit the washrack. I’m a mess,” Jazz replied with a regretful smile. “We gonna have a meeting tomorrow morning ‘bout it?”

“Of course,” Optimus replied.

“I would be very interested in coming along, if you don’t mind,” Prowl said, gathering up his datapads.

Optimus scooped up the pile of datapads, and held them for Prowl.

“You don’t need to carry them,” Prowl said, sensor panels lowering in a submissive pose.

“I don’t mind,” Optimus replied, optics curving from his hidden smile. He then looked at Jazz. “See you in the morning.”

“See you then,” Jazz replied, grinning as he watched Prowl stand up.

“If you need to talk more, comm me. But I do expect that report on my desk by morning,” Prowl said to Jazz.

Chuckling, Jazz nodded. “You got it.”

Prowl and Optimus walked out of the rec area together, and Jazz slowly finished his energon as he watched them leave. How was Prowl so blind? If Jazz could pick the perfect match for Prowl it would be Optimus. He was kind, warm, and the type to always put Prowl first. That was what his best friend truly needed. Not someone who used him for emotional support and had nothing to offer in return.

Jazz sadly sighed as he thought about the mess he’d gotten himself into. How could he not see Soundwave, though? Now that he knew the truth? He was risking everything stable in his life, and if they were caught, the consequences could possibly end both their lives. He’d been in so much pain for so long, even if he only had a few more times alone with Soundwave he’d already made up his mind that it would be worth it.  

Chapter Text

“This ore is extraordinary. The properties it exhibits are far beyond anything I've seen on Earth. I believe it's from some other region of space entirely,” Perceptor babbled as he put up data charts on his monitor to show Optimus and Prowl. “I'd speculate it came from a similar techno-organic origin to our own, especially in light of the way in which it reacts to us.”

“What way is that?” Optimus asked, gently trying to guide his scientist to the point. He saw Prowl’s sensor panels vaguely twitch with irritation at the long-winded explanation.

“Direct contact with our plating causes the ore to light up.” Perceptor demonstrated, pressing a fingertip to the ore on the lab tray. “What's it's actually doing is drawing on our EM fields to charge its own molecules. I took a small sample of this and distilled it. I then took that compound and put one drop of it in a small sample of energon, like so.” Perceptor poured one drop into another small container with some energon at the bottom. The drop of compound immediately dispersed into the energon which glowed the same raspberry color as the compound itself. “This is now supercharged energon. Even this small amount of altered energon shows levels off the charts. I am unsure of how it would react inside our bodies, having not tested it yet, but according to all the data I do have, I would speculate it would increase our speed, accuracy, and strength.”

“Jazz saw several containers at the site. It's no wonder Megatron wouldn't want us knowing what he'd found.” Prowl looked at Optimus, worry written across his normally neutral face.

“We’ll need to locate any ore the Decepticons might have and stop Megatron from finding more.” Optimus sighed. He was tired of fighting. It got them nowhere. They'd neutralized one threat, and another would rise up in its place time after time.

Prowl stared at the glowing liquid. “I'll research what the best plan of action would be and have it ready to present at the officer’s meeting tomorrow morning.”

“I'd prefer my SIC rest.” Optimus then looked at Perceptor. “You as well. I need my brightest minds sharp tomorrow.”

Perceptor shyly smiled. “I must first to properly contain the compounds, then I'll retire for the evening.”

Prowl frowned at Optimus. “Whether I recharge or not, my mind will not lose its edge.”

Optimus hadn't meant to offend Prowl. “I'm sorry. My suggestion wasn't intended as anything other than concern.”

Prowl fluffed and then lowered his sensor panels on his back, obviously still miffed despite the apology. “I'll see you both in the morning.” Turning on his heel, Prowl swept back out of the lab.

“Well, if it's any consolation, I appreciated the implied compliment,” Perceptor said, sheepishly smiling at Optimus.

Placing a hand on his scientist’s shoulder, Optimus gently squeezed. “Thank you for saying so.”

Optimus let go and quietly left the lab. Walking toward the barracks he sadly frowned behind his mask. He adored Prowl. Over time his affection had only grown stronger. If he hadn't been saddled with the matrix and mantle of leadership, he might have told Prowl long ago his true feelings. Even if he was somehow freed of his obligations now, it was too late to capture Prowl’s spark. His SIC’s affection was directed elsewhere.

Palming his electronic lock to his quarters, Optimus entered and retracted his mask. Walking up to that table this evening and seeing Prowl and Jazz holding hands had made his spark ache. Touching his chest over where the matrix sat inside him, Optimus dimmed his optics. “I lost Elita to you, and now must endure all this alone because of you. I would trade all the combined knowledge and power inside you for a moment of happiness with him.” Shaking his head at his own weakness, Optimus scraped his fingers harshly over the center of his best in frustration. “Was it this hard for other Primes, I wonder? Or am I simply weak?”

“Prowl?”

Jerking in his seat, Prowl sat up, optics flaring on and fighting to focus. After a moment, he registered that he was in his office and that Jazz had let himself in.

“Recharging at your desk again?” Jazz asked, half-smiling. “We got a meetin’ in a couple minutes. You comin’?”

Prowl rubbed his face with both hands, trying to wake up. “Yes, of course.” He stared down at his datapad with the updated plan of action, annoyed with himself that he'd fallen into recharge and glad it had been Jazz that found him, not Optimus. Letting his leader see him as anything other than a picture of perfection was not an option.

“Got a new plan worked out?” Jazz asked, offering a hand to Prowl to help him stand up.

Prowl stared at the hand a moment, then grasped it tightly as he pushed to his feet. “I hope so.” Touching Jazz, he felt something different in his field. A contentedness he'd not felt from his friend before. Looking into Jazz’s face, he noticed his smile wasn't forced, but warm and genuine.

“I got something hangin’ off my face or something?” Jazz asked, noticing Prowl’s lingering stare.

Prowl shook his head. “You have a very lovely smile on today.”

Jazz snorted and laughed. “You flirtin’ with me, handsome? That's my job, you know. To be the big flirt.”

“Deflect all you want, I can see when you're genuinely happy versus pretending to be,” Prowl replied, picking up his datapad and hugging it to his chest.

This time Jazz paused to stare at Prowl for a long moment. The rare happiness Prowl had felt in Jazz’s field quickly faded. “Let's get going. Don't wanna be late, right?” Jazz said, turning toward the door.

“Of course not,” Prowl replied, confused by the sudden shift in mood. Something was definitely  going on with his friend, but what?

They both entered the conference room just down the corridor, and sat down. Prowl pulled up his revised plan, while Perceptor put his findings up on the monitor.

“Where's the big guy?” Ironhide asked, looking around.

Everyone but Optimus had arrived.

A flare of concern filled Prowl, and he started to push his seat back, intending to go locate their leader when Optimus walked in.

Optimus nodded a cursory hello to everyone and sat down, motioning to Perceptor to speak.

As Perceptor babbled, Prowl kept a sharp optic on Optimus. Their leader was trying to avoid looking in Prowl’s direction. This wasn't the first time this had happened. In fact, these sort of subtle instances had increased since they awoke on Earth. Prowl found himself at odds with Optimus more often these days. The urgency of the current situation seemed to be lost on their leader, and Prowl’s outburst the previous evening had simply been his frustration bubbling over. Still, he should apologize in private after the meeting.

Perceptor outlined his findings, causing everyone in the room to tense except Optimus.

“This is bad. We're evenly matched now, if they get hopped up on this stuff we’re gonna be in huge trouble,” Ironhide said with a deep frown.

“I have updated the plan of action. There must be a method of discovery the Decepticons are employing to find these caches of ore,” Prowl interjected. “After carefully studying the satellite imagery from the area up north they had been mining, I noticed that particular region was rich in other rare minerals. I have identified three other locations with similar a mineral makeup to dispatch teams to investigate.”

Optimus finally looked at Prowl and nodded. “Excellent work, as always. Please choose the teams and organize the missions. In the meantime, Perceptor I'd like you to work on a way to possibly neutralize the effects this ore causes.”

“Of course,” Perceptor replied.

Prowl glanced at Jazz who was being uncharacteristically quiet. He seemed a million light years away inside his head as he stared at the monitor with Perceptor’s analysis.

“Red Alert, I would like you to report any anomaly you find through your various methods of surveillance to both myself and Prowl,” Optimus ordered.

“Yes, sir,” Red Alert replied, fidgeting in his seat.

“Let's all get to our tasks, and do our best to stop the situation from getting out of hand. Meeting dismissed,” Optimus said, getting to his feet.

Prowl pushed to stand, and frowned when he saw Optimus walk out first, followed closely by Ironhide and Red Alert.

“You two have a tiff or somethin’” Jazz asked.

Glancing at his friend, Prowl’s frown deepened. “Certainly not.”

Jazz shook his head. “Yeah, okay then.”

“You did react rather negatively to what Optimus meant as a compliment last evening in my lab,” Perceptor added as he scooped up his datapads.

“Oooh, so you did do something?” Jazz shifted in his seat to face Prowl and pin him with a knowing look.

“Optimus simply suggested Prowl and I rest so our minds would be clear today,” Perceptor explained.

“Lemmie guess, Prowl took that as a insult and stormed out?” Jazz asked.

“Essentially.” Perceptor visibly cowed when Prowl shot him a sharp glare.

Prowl huffed, giving them both a disapproving frown. “Does it not bother either of you that Optimus seems to be taking such a serious threat so lightly?”

Jazz stood up, put a hand on Prowl’s shoulder and looked him square in the face. “You're wound so tight, it's a wonder you haven't exploded from the pressure.”

“Your point?” Prowl asked.

“Interesting you don't deny it.” Jazz half smiled. “Optimus worries about us like we’re his own creations. Just wants to be sure you don't actually have a breakdown,” Jazz explained, squeezing his shoulder. Letting go, he took hold of the datapad in Prowl’s grasp. “Now, go talk to him and I'll get these missions set up.”

Prowl lowered his sensor panels, and sighed as he let go of the datapad. Behind Jazz, he spotted the small smile on Perceptor’s lips. “You are quite obnoxious.”

“Yep. Now go,” Jazz said, waving Prowl out of the room.

“It's a good thing we’re good friends.” Prowl straightened his posture, and flicked his sensor panels before sweeping out of the room toward Optimus’ office.

…   

“You do realize how ridiculous it is that you won't just say something to him?” Ironhide said frowning at Optimus.

“It's not appropriate, and he's obviously interested in someone else,” Optimus replied to his old friend, sitting down at his desk.

“The appropriateness doesn't matter and you know it. And Jazz would be awful for him. The truth is, after Elita, you've closed yourself off. Take it from someone older than you, livin’ alone is bad for the spark.” Ironhide slowly shook his head. “When I see it, you gotta know others see it, too.”

He doesn't see it,” Optimus replied.

“You're impossible,” Ironhide said with resignation in his voice.

A knock at the door drew both their attentions.

“Am I interrupting?” Prowl asked.

“Not at all. Just tellin’ him he's as stubborn as they come. He's all yours,” Ironhide grumbled before glancing at Optimus and giving him withering look.

Prowl walked in.

Ironhide left, making sure to hit the controls to close the office door on his way out.

Optimus kept his composure, though he frowned deeply behind his mask. Ironhide meant well, but it was already hard enough for him to deal with his exceedingly lonely life. “Did you need something, Prowl?”

“I, well, I wanted to apologize for last evening. I shouldn't have been so short with you. I just, lately it feels as if you care less and less about the dire situations we face. Not that it excuses my behavior, but I find myself frustrated sometimes,” Prowl explained.

Gazing at Prowl, Optimus’ frown traded for a small smile behind his mask. “I'm sorry if you read my trust in you as apathy.”

“Trust?” Prowl asked, sensor panels lifting slightly.

“No matter how dire a situation we face, I trust in you to help guide us through.” Optimus leaned back in his seat, resting his arm on his desk. “But I will admit, I'm growing tired of the fighting. Of war. I carry the weight of leadership but sometimes…” He looked down at his desk, covered in field reports. “I wish I could have a break.” Looking back up at Prowl, he dimmed his optics a little. “That's not a luxury I can afford, but I want you and everyone here to have a little downtime when it can be had.”

Prowl was good at concealing his emotions, but Optimus noticed the small twitch in his sensor panels.

“No one would fault you for taking time for yourself,” Prowl replied.

Pressing a hand to his chest, Optimus softly sighed. “The matrix prevents that. I accepted my fate when I agreed to be the bearer.”

Prowl’s frown deepened as he slowly nodded. “I'm sorry for how I behaved.”

Sitting forward in his chair he shook his head. “No need to be sorry.”

Prowl lowered his sensor panels, looking unsure of what to say. “Well, I should probably go help with setting up the missions. Jazz said he'd handle it, but I'd like to be sure he clearly understands my parameters,” Prowl said.

“Of course,” Optimus replied.

Nodding, Prowl turned and left.

Optimus sagged in his seat, the weight of more than leadership pressing down on his spark. Some days he wondered if his loneliness might consume him whole.

...

“Dirge and Thrust, plus Frenzy and Rumble,” Bluestreak said, crouched down in the brush and plants.

“And Soundwave.” Jazz was on his belly next to Bluestreak, gazing down at the small valley below from between two shrubs. The Decepticons were obviously mining more of that ore. “Prowl was right about this location.”

“He's always right,” Bluestreak replied. “Kinda annoying sometimes.” He chuckled.

Jazz laughed. “Yeah, he's rarely wrong.” Opening his general comm line, Jazz reported in that there was mining going on. Red Alert responded, calling Optimus’ team to assist them.

“And now we wait,” Bluestreak said with a bored sigh.

No sooner had the words left Bluestreak’s lips when the telltale sound of Laserbeak overhead sounded the alarm.

“Fraggit!” Jazz rolled onto his back and took aim, shooting at the flying target.

“No way we can fight them all,” Bluestreak said, also taking a shot that winged the small airborne spy, sending him careening down into the small valley below.

Jazz sat up, grabbed Bluestreak’s arm and pulled him close. “Transform and go.”

“I can't leave you here,” Bluestreak replied, fear bleeding into his voice.

“I'll be fine. Promise. You gotta get outta here. That's an order.” Jazz shoved Bluestreak and got to his feet. “Transform! Now! Go!”

“They're up here!” Thrust yelled, the hum of jet heels getting louder.

“But you'll be captured!” Bluestreak shook his head as he got to his feet.

“I'm your superior. Go!” Jazz barked, trying to muster as much of an authoritative tone as he could.

Bluestreak finally backed up a couple paces and nodded. “I'll be back for you.”

“Don't you worry ‘bout me. Go!” Jazz replied.

Bluestreak transformed and took off down the nearby mountain trail. Moments later Jazz came face to face with Thrust’s ugly mug.

“I got him!” Thrust suckered punched Jazz, sending him staggering back.

“Fragger!” Jazz hissed, holding his nose.

Dirge grabbed him from behind and then flew with him down to Soundwave. “The other one got away. What do we do with him?”

Standing near their mine shaft entrance, Soundwave held the injured symbiote in his arms. “Cuff his hands behind him and secure him to a tree,” Soundwave droned.

Jazz was roughly cuffed, thrown toward a tree, and then the two wrapped an energon rope around him and the tree several times. No way he could wriggle loose. He knew Soundwave would be sure no harm came to him, but he could tell by the way he was turned away and coddling Laserbeak that he was none too happy with Jazz.

“The Autobots will be here soon,” Soundwave said. “Pack up the transport.”

Ravage suddenly leapt out of nowhere at Jazz, growling.

“Yikes! Back off kitty cat!” Jazz said, struggling in his bindings.

“Ravage, return with Laserbeak in the transport,” Soundwave ordered as he walked toward the small shuttle.

Dirge and Thrust quickly filled the hold of the shuttle and Soundwave ducked on board with Ravage on his heels and Laserbeak in his arms.

Jazz sighed, wishing he could better see how much was inside the shuttle hold. He also wondered if Soundwave cared about those symbiotes he was connected to more than he'd let on.

“You two clunk heads let one get away. Are you glitched or what?” Rumble groused as he hopped up and out of the mine shaft with Frenzy just behind him.

“The bigger they are, the stupider they get!” Frenzy cackled.

“Shut up! You two would be squashed already if it wasn't for your bot-sitter!” Dirge said with an ugly sneer.

“Oh yeah?” Rumble challenged. “You wanna put your turbine where your mouth is?”

“We could take you both out and not even burn a milliliter of fuel!” Frenzy chimed in.

“You little ingrates!” Thrust lunged toward them, trying to look menacing, but he just looked like an idiot.

“Silence!” Soundwave ordered. The bickering stopped and all four looked his direction. “Rumble, Frenzy, pilot the shuttle. Thrust, Dirge, fly in formation to guard cargo. Upon arrival, take Laserbeak to medical.”

“You got it, big guy!” Rumble replied.

Dirge and Thrust grumbled their agreement.

“Go now. Autobots will arrive any moment,” Soundwave said in a stern monotone.

Jazz found the whole dynamic intriguing. Soundwave had been almost painfully shy when they met. To see him bossing around a bunch of other mechs was kinda strange now that he knew this was his Soundwave.

Rumble and Frenzy boarded, the doors shut, and the engines roared on. They took off with Dirge and Thrust flanking each side.

Once they were a good distance away, Soundwave finally turned to face Jazz.  “You are a fool.”

“What?” He replied, trying to imply he was innocent. “For all you know gettin’ tied up was exactly what I was shooting for. Could be a lotta fun,” Jazz teased.

“Harming Laserbeak was not necessary,” Soundwave replied.

“I didn't shoot him. Shot ‘round him to scare him off but Blue is a sharpshooter. He can't help being accurate,” Jazz replied. “You really care about them, huh?”

Soundwave regarded him for a long moment, then stepped forward and squatted down in front of Jazz. “You are reckless.”

Interesting. Soundwave deflected his question. “I can see some stuff has definitely changed for you.” Jazz hadn't expected the edge of anger he was detecting from Soundwave.

“You have changed, too. But no amount of change will alter my spark’s choice.” Soundwave reached up, gently running the backs of his fingers down Jazz’s cheek. “I worry that you constantly put yourself in harm's way.”

“I'm tougher than I used to be. I can take care of myself, and I’ll never hesitate to trade myself in order to save a comrade.” Jazz sadly smiled. “Speakin’ of which, my friends’ll be here any second. You should get outta here. We’ll have a proper conversation later.” Jazz pressed his face into the light touch.

Soundwave opened his mask, pressed his forefinger to his lips, and then pressed that same finger to Jazz’s lips.

Smiling at the gesture, Jazz kissed the fingertip. “Get outta here.”

Standing back up, Soundwave’s mask snapped shut and he lifted up into the air before taking off after the other Decepticons.
Jazz sagged where he sat as Soundwave disappeared. He loved him so much, the barest touch caused his spark to pulse wildly and plating heat. He didn't know how long they'd be able to keep up appearances, but he honestly didn't care if they were caught. Just a little bit of time would be enough to sate his ailing spark.

Chapter Text

Prowl came to a stop, staring at the back of Soundwave’s head and a fingertip pressed to Jazz’s lips.

Out of the three locations identified, two were being mined. This locale had been a much smaller operation, so Optimus’ team had been diverted to the other location with Megatron and Starscream in charge. Prowl gathered a few available warriors and met Bluestreak on the mountain road. The minute he had the exact location from Bluestreak, Prowl raced here just ahead of the others, fearing for Jazz’s safety only to come upon the unfathomable scene before him.

Soundwave suddenly stood, then took off into the sky. Completely dumbfounded by what just unfolded before him, Prowl stood frozen in place. What in the name of Primus was going on?

Bluestreak rushed past Prowl. “Jazz! You okay?”

Brawn and Sunstreaker jogged up to Prowl.

“Something up?” Sunstreaker asked, confused by Prowl standing several meters away from who they'd come to rescue.

Brawn didn't wait for answer, continuing into the small valley clearing and helping Bluestreak untie Jazz.

“Nothing,” Prowl replied. “Go help them.”

Sunstreaker looked unconvinced, but did as he was ordered.

Prowl made his way over and once Jazz was freed, turned to the others. “Bluestreak, Brawn and Sunstreaker, please assess the mine. I need to know how large an area they excavated and if any ore was left behind.”

“On it,” Brawn replied, jumping down the shaft.

Bluestreak went down next, followed by Sunstreaker who made sure to give Prowl a death glare before he disappeared under ground into the dirt filled pit.

“Are you alright?” Prowl asked Jazz, still trying to wrap his processor around what he'd seen.

“Yeah. Didn't rough me up too much,” Jazz replied. “I didn't see how much ore was in the transport but they made four trips with those plastic buckets out of the shaft.”

Nodding, Prowl crossed his arms over his chest and stiffened his sensor panels. “And what exactly was Soundwave doing touching your lips with his finger?”

Jazz’s mouth hung open for a moment. “You saw that?”

“I did,” Prowl replied. “Explain.”

“It's not what it looked like. Well, it was sorta.” Jazz rubbed the back of his helm nervously. “Seems that whole saving me from the explosion thing was more than a one-time deal. He, um, has a thing for me.”

Optics bright, Prowl’s gaze sharpened on Jazz. “Is it one-sided? I ask because you didn't pull back from him or make any other visible gestures of rejection.”

“I was playing along. That's all,” Jazz replied.

Prowl regarded Jazz for a long moment. One of Jazz’s best assets in the field was his ability to lie and make it sound truthful. But that sort of skill cut both ways. Prowl couldn't be completely sure what he was being told was the entire truth. He decided to take Jazz at his word, though. After all, his best friend wouldn't lie to him, or so he hoped.

Prowl slowly nodded. “We will need to be careful about your placement in the field moving forward. I'd hate for him to decide to take you hostage for his personal pleasure next time he's alone with you.”

Jazz laughed, shaking his head. “That would be an epic disaster, huh?”

The others emerged from the mine shaft, bringing up one plastic container filled about halfway.

“They left this behind,” Brawn said, helping Bluestreak set it down.

Sunstreaker crawled out and stood to the side, brushing his hands at the layer of dirt coating now on his frame while grumbling.

Prowl peered into the container. “Let's get this back to the base.”

Suddenly a general emergency signal engaged across all their comm links.

//The ore was captured from Megatron’s site but Optimus was grievously injured in the battle with the Decepticons. Everyone return to base as soon as possible,// Red Alert announced over the line.

Prowl exchanged worried looks with Jazz, before ordering them to all head back. Powerglide could come pick up the partial container later. Returning to base was more important right now.

The front entrance to the base was in total chaos. Plastic containers filled with volatile ore had been offloaded just inside the entryway. Ironhide was doing his best to direct mechs where they needed to go, and frowned when Prowl pulled up on scene.

“This ore can't stay here. It's highly dangerous in raw form,” Prowl stated as he strode over to Ironhide.

Jazz knew that tone of voice. When Prowl was upset about something else, he'd become controlling over other smaller issues. “Hey, how ‘bout you let me and Hide sort out this mess and you go check on the big guy?”

Prowl flicked his sensor panels as he scowled at Jazz. “Move all this ore to the off site practice range. Hide it inside the covered stall area and set up round the clock guard duties.”

“You got it,” Jazz replied, putting on his brightest smile. “Now go.”

Reluctantly, Prowl turned and strode into the base toward medbay.

Reaching the open doors of medbay, Prowl slowed. Energon dripping from injuries splattered the hallway and floor. He walked into another, more somber scene of controlled chaos. Ratchet was nowhere in sight, leaving Wheeljack to bark orders and First Aid and Perceptor racing around to tend the wounded mechs from the fight. Sideswipe’s leg was mangled, Bumblebee’s arm sat on the medberth having been ripped clean off, Hound hissed as First Aid worked to patch a large gash in his abdomen. They all had sustained massive damages.

As Perceptor rushed past, Prowl grabbed his wrist to halt him. “Where's Optimus?”

“In the back. Ratchet is working to save his life now.” Perceptor pulled free of Prowl’s grasp and moved to where Smokescreen lay unconscious, prepping an energon feed line for him.

Proceeding to the back, Prowl paused at the doorway. Optimus was offline. Wires and lines poured out of his open chest, plugged into various medical equipment. Ratchet had energon coating him from the elbows down. His nimble fingers worked quickly, clamping off lines and making what repairs he could inside a large wound to Optimus’ lower side.

“If you're gonna stand there, then make yourself useful. Hand me the clamps I need when I ask,” Ratchet said in a gruff voice without looking up from what he was doing.

“Of course.” Prowl moved to stand next to the medic, picking up a clamp in preparation of the medic's need.

“He should make it,” Ratchet stated after a moment, as he took a cloth to wipe at the mess inside the wound in order to locate any other severed lines.

“The Decepticons were using the ore in its distilled form, I gather,” Prowl commented.

“Seen the big guy take cannon shots from Megatron before, and it's never done this kind of damage,” Ratchet replied. “They were hopped up on something… Clamp.”

Prowl handed Ratchet the clamp. His gaze drifted toward their leader’s face, seeing his battle mask had been dislodged. Unsure why, the sight of Optimus so hurt made his spark wobble inside his chest. Their minor disagreements lately seemed so trivial now.

“That's all I can do right now.” Ratchet wiped his hands on another clean cloth. “All the ruptured lines are clamped off until he stabilizes enough for me to work on repairing the damage.”

“You can't repair him now?” Prowl asked, sensor panels lifting unconsciously with worry.

“His entire electrical system was overloaded from the blast, and the only thing keeping him this side of the Well is that machine regulating the damaged system. Until his autorepair gets it going again, all we can do is wait.” Ratchet heaved a heavy sigh then pushed to stand.

“May I stay with him?” Prowl asked.

Ratchet looked at Prowl and nodded. “Sure.”

“Thank you.” Prowl pulled the seat Ratchet abandoned closer to the head of the berth, and carefully sat down. He reached up, gently lifting away the damaged mask.

“I'll fix that later. You can leave it on the table,” Ratchet said, eyeing Prowl before sweeping out of the room.

Prowl set the mask aside, and sadly sighed as he gazed at Optimus’s face. He sometimes forgot Optimus wasn't as old as Ironhide, but actually closer to Prowl’s age. Without his mask, he was reminded of their leader’s relatively young age. Gently touching Optimus’ cheek with the backs of his fingers, Prowl quietly spoke. “Don't you leave us yet. We still need you. I still need you.”

Spark still wobbling with worry, Prowl decided he would not leave Optimus’ side until he woke.

Prowl hadn't remembered falling into recharge, but a slight nudge to his upper arm roused him. He lit his optics, jerking to sit upright. He'd apparently leaned on the berth and part of Optimus’ arm while catching a short, unexpected nap. He quickly tried to compose himself, settling his plating.

“Ratchet said you should refuel.” First Aid held out a container of energon to Prowl.

Graciously accepting the fuel, Prowl nodded. “Thank you.”

First Aid quickly left, leaving Prowl alone with Optimus to consume his fuel. The energon tasted especially good, and he realized it was probably due to his fuel reserves being low.

Optimus’ fingers curled.

Prowl set his fuel aside, and took hold of his hand, leaning in close to him. “Optimus?”

Blue optics lit, and Optimus weakly smiled. Affection, attraction, and more flared in his EM field directed at Prowl.

Prowl was so shocked by what he felt, his optics grew bright. “Optimus…” He said, his surprise filling his voice.

Suddenly realizing how much he'd revealed, Optimus’ EM field quickly pulled in tight. “Sorry…” He murmured, voice staticky.

Prowl stilled, unsure what to think or how to react.

“I didn't mean-” Optimus’ voice sputtered and cut out.

“Don't speak. Let me go get Ratchet.” Prowl stood, squeezing Optimus’ hand in a reassuring gesture before leaving the room.

He quickly located Ratchet and informed him of Optimus’ condition. They both returned to the room, and Ratchet assessed the readings. Prowl remained in the doorway, trying his best to conceal the sudden emotional turmoil he found himself in.

Ratchet put Optimus back into recharge after a full analysis. “He's stable. I need to set to work on some of his repairs.”

Prowl knew a dismissal when he heard one. “Please inform me when he wakes again.”

“I will,” Ratchet replied.

….

Swiftly walking through the base, Prowl tried to locate Jazz. At the entrance he found Ironhide with Bluestreak, returning from presumably moving the ore away from the base.

“Who's on guard at the range?” Prowl demanded as he stalked up to them.

“Jazz has first watch. I'm heading to the command deck to let Red go get some rest,” Ironhide replied with a perturbed frown.

“How's Optimus?” Bluestreak asked, sensor panels lifting with his apparent worry.

Prowl fought to maintain control of his own sensor panels, knowing his fellow Praxian would be able to read his distress if he let them quiver. “He's stable enough for Ratchet to resume repairs.”

“That sounds… Good? Sorta?” Bluestreak replied. “I can't believe how bad everyone got hurt. Good thing Soundwave’s team wasn't hopped up on that stuff, too. Jazz would've been hurt just as bad or worse. He got lucky!”

The image of tenderness between Soundwave and Jazz flickered in Prowl’s mind. Jazz's being left unharmed had nothing to do with luck.

“I need to speak with Jazz, if you'll excuse me.” Prowl promptly turned away from the pair and stepped out of the entrance, transforming and gunning his engine before taking off toward the shooting range about half a mile away.

Jazz sat perched on top of the range’s stall area roof. Beneath him were fifteen plastic containers of ore under tarps. He glanced out over the landscape, knowing a lone guard on duty would be no match against the ‘Cons if they were to show up. Unless it was Soundwave--”Frag,” he murmured to himself, remembering Prowl had seen the not-quite kiss.

Lying to Prowl made him feel awful. His best friend deserved so much more from him. Curling in on himself, he sighed. Why did his spark have to love Soundwave with so much intensity? Eons of pain he tried to frag and drink away had done a 180 plunging him back into a deep fiery passion reignited inside his spark. The love he felt for Soundwave was as intoxicating and addictive now as it had been before the war ripped them apart.

Dust kicked up on the horizon, alerting Jazz to someone driving in. Being dusk, it was hard to tell in the waning light who it was, though. As the vehicle drew closer, he recognized the black and white markings as Prowl.

“I can't get a break, huh, Primus? You punishin’ me for what I'm doing or what?” Jazz muttered as he scooted the edge of the roof, and then dropped down just as Prowl transformed and walked over.

“What are you doin’ out here?” Jazz asked.

“I could ask the same of you,” Prowl replied. “Sending Ironhide to take over the command deck? This is a guard duty someone like Bluestreak should be handling.”

“Hide was in that battle, and Smokes is currently laid up in medbay for throwing himself in harm’s way to protect ‘im. Figured he'd like to be in the loop back on base.” He now suspected something had rattled Prowl because he could have easily chewed out Jazz over comms if he was truly angry about his taking the guard shift. “How's Optimus?”

Prowl’s sensor panels twitched when Jazz said ‘Optimus’. “Stable now. Ratchet is currently making what repairs he can.”

Intrigued by his best friend’s involuntary reaction, Jazz pressed him. “He wake up at all?”

Prowl's optics dimmed as he looked away. “Yes.”

Jazz stepped closer to his best friend. “What's wrong?”

Looking directly back at Jazz, Prowl slowly shook his head. “Over half our troops are in medbay or walking around with injuries.”

“No, it's somethin’ else. I know you, Prowl. Is Optimus not gonna make it or something?” Jazz asked, his own worry for their beloved leader rising.

“No, nothing of that magnitude.” Prowl wrapped one of his arms around his middle. “I was with him when he regained consciousness. Something, I don't know…”

A different kind of worry overtook the first, and Jazz stepped even closer, gently petting Prowl’s upper arm. “What is it?”

“When he woke, his mask was off. He smiled at me and I felt in his EM field all these intense emotions directed at me.” Prowl was actually so shaken his optics were flickering slightly.

Jazz repressed a grin trying to blossom across his lips. “Emotions? Like what exactly?”

“Love…” Prowl replied in a hushed tone. “Not camaraderie love, either. Attraction.”

Unable to hold it back, Jazz grinned and chuckled. “So now you finally know, too.”

“What does that mean?” Prowl asked, looking disturbed by Jazz’s happy reaction.

“Big Guy’s been making optics at you for-like-ever. Now you know how he feels ‘bout you.” Jazz playfully pat Prowl’s arm.

“You knew he had these sorts of feelings for me?” Prowl asked.

“Hard to miss.” Jazz canted his head. “You mad I didn't tell you?”

“No, I'm just now wondering how I could be so clueless,” Prowl replied.

But they both knew the answer to that. A one sided crush that Jazz had taken advantage of for so long had blinded his best friend.

“So, do you know how you feel ‘bout him?” Jazz asked, curious and hopeful.

Prowl’s sensor panels lowered. “He's a Prime.”

Jazz half-frowned. “What does that matter? He's also a mech. A lonely one, I bet.”

“I'm not worthy of a Prime,” Prowl quietly replied.

“Frag yeah, you are. He adores you, Prowl. You two would be so good together,” Jazz replied, smile returning.

Prowl looked deeply into Jazz’s optics, as if his visor wasn't even there. “And if I had feelings for someone else?”

Jazz’s spark contracted painfully at the indirect but clear intentioned question. “You're the most amazing mech I've ever known. I adore you to bits and I think you deserve someone that'll treat you like a prince. That someone is Optimus.”

A long uncomfortable silence fell between them as the sun finally ducked down below the horizon. Their optics lit faces along with the quickly waning ambient light.

Prowl slowly shook his head. “You could've pointed out his feelings toward me before now. Why didn't you?”

“Because I'm a selfish aft, undeserving of someone as caring and wonderful as you. I've not been good to you, and I think you know that deep down. To have you look after me like you have has helped me hang on when all I wanted to do was eat my pistol. But I shouldn't cling to you like that, especially since I can't give back what you want from me. Optimus, he can give you what I can't.” Jazz's spark twisted with his confession, knowing he was letting go of a tether that had kept him grounded for so long. Prowl deserved happiness, though.

“Who's to say I even feel the slightest romantic attraction to Optimus?” Prowl replied, hurt flickering in his field.

“You never show him your weakness, you two bicker like an old bonded couple, and talk stuff out like a pair of mechs that respect one another. Not sayin’ that's love, but maybe there's somethin’ there?” Jazz shrugged a shoulder.

Silence reigned again, the hurt in Prowl’s field accompanied by loss and confusion. Jazz tried to respond, pressing his own field against Prowl’s offering his deepest apology and unworthiness.

Prowl finally lowered his gaze to the ground. “I want you to stay away from me for the next Earth week while I sort this all out for myself.”

Jazz felt tears gloss over his optics. He'd never in a million years wanted to hurt Prowl like this. “Okay. If that's what you want.”

“It's what I need.” Prowl then turned on his heel, and walked a few paces before transforming and leaving Jazz in the darkness alone.

Chapter Text

Optimus slowly came online, dimly lighting his optics just in time to watch Ratchet unhook the last of the wires that had been inside his chest.

“Still alive, but not for Megatron’s lack of trying,” Ratchet grumbled, closing up Optimus’ chest.

Glancing down at his side, Optimus fingered the thick plating temporarily welded over his open wound. “How long will I be sporting this particular look?”

“A while. That wound needs a lot more internal healing before I weld something more permanent in place over it,” Ratchet replied. “That said, I think your SIC might get his face smashed in if someone doesn’t intervene. So I’m discharging you with a nice sturdy cane to get around.” Ratchet held up the large cane and smiled.

“How long have I been-” Optimus paused, accessing his chronometer. “A week?” he answered himself with a deep frown. He re-engaged his mask and sat up in the berth. “Prowl..he…” Suddenly Optimus remembered waking up with Prowl here next to his medberth and how he’d exposed his feelings by accident. His faceplates heated with embarrassment.

“Prowl’s been a royal pain in everyone’s afts, and I tried to get Jazz to go talk to him but that mech is being as much of a glitch and refuses! We need you to get Prowl to calm down. He’s got injured mechs on guard duty and won’t let anyone off base for any reason. Which of course leads to certain troublemakers either sneaking out or wreaking havoc on base.” Ratchet vented and exasperated sigh. “I’m running low on glue solvent because Sunstreaker has been trying to cheer up Sideswipe since he’s still limping around by gluing minibots to the ceiling of the rec room.”

Optimus had to repress a chuckle at the image, and solemnly nodded. “I will be sure to handle things.”

Thank you,” Ratchet replied, sounding genuinely relieved.

Sneaking off base had been easy for Jazz. He was a spy afterall. Prowl could try to put everyone under house arrest for their protection, but it was only making things more tense for the crew. Avoiding Prowl for a week while only leaving for guard shifts had also been rough, but Jazz had respected his best friend’s wishes with the slim hope things between them would get better again.

He drove down the desolate road into a hilly section of desert toward the coordinates Soundwave gave him the last time they’d met. He pulled off the hot asphalt onto a dirt trail and followed it to what looked like an abandoned human farm. He transformed and walked past the small house to the large barn, pushing the doors open and ducking inside.

“Sorry I'm late. Took a bit of wrangling to get off base,” Jazz said, grinning at Soundwave already inside waiting.

Arms open, Soundwave beckoned him closer, while his mask slid open to reveal a warm smile. Jazz happily pressed into the offered hug. “I am happy to see you regardless of the time it took to arrive,” Soundwave commented

Jazz melted into the embrace, his spark still aching over what he did to Prowl. “Missed you.”

“There is pain in your field.” Soundwave gently kissed a helm horn.

“Yeah. Been a bad week.” Jazz dimmed his optics behind his visor and pressed his face into Soundwave’s chest.

“Is this related to the battles a week ago?” Soundwave quietly asked.

“Sorta.” Jazz then leaned back, gazing up into his love’s optics. “I wanna set a ground rule for our little meet ups.”

“What sort of rule?” Soundwave asked.

“No talkin’ about faction stuff. I've been thinkin’ and thing is, meeting up should be about us,” Jazz replied.

Soundwave regarded Jazz for a moment, then nodded. “I agree to that term. I would, however, like to know if what has upset you is related to my actions.”

“Nah. It's all me. I'm an aft.” Jazz huffed and then smooshed his face into Soundwave’s chest again.

Soundwave pet his plating and quietly held him, undemanding as ever. Jazz craved such devoted acceptance in light of his long week of being self-shunned, but getting what he wanted only added to his guilt.

“Before we make out and then you make me overload so hard I see stars, think maybe I could just, um, unload some slag I've got on my mind?” Jazz asked. “I'm a jerk for askin’ but I got no one to talk to ‘bout this stuff.”

“Of course,” Soundwave replied.

They sat down on the dusty floor together. Jazz settled in Soundwave’s lap, back leaned against his love’s front, large arms gently holding him.

“I love you, Sounders. Even when I thought you didn't know me anymore. It was hard, and I'd drink and pretty much jump in anyone’s berth other than mine-” Jazz winced. “Too much info?”

“I am aware you sought comfort in others,” Soundwave replied. “In light of the situation, I understand your choices.”

“Well if it means anything, I haven't done any of that since the tunnel.” Jazz lifted Soundwave’s hand to his lips and kissed the palm. “Thing is, that stuff didn't really ‘comfort’ me. More like numbed me. The comfort came from my best friend. And because I'm a slag-eating aft, I used the fact he had a crush on me to fill the hole you left inside me sometimes. And I don't mean we messed around or anything like that. He'd do things for me, like carry my drunk aft back to my room when I couldn't walk straight, or sit holdin’ me after bad missions...”

Soundwave gently hugged Jazz, kissing the top of his helm. “You recently clarified your lack of romantic feelings toward him, then?”

“All this time and you still know me so well, it's a little scary.” Jazz sadly smiled and nodded. “Yeah. I hurt him bad. Thing is, I do love him. Not how I love you, but just as strong in a different way. He told me to leave him alone for a week, and I've miserable without him around.” Jazz sighed.

“Time will heal the wounds,” Soundwave quietly replied.

“I hope so.” Jazz played with Soundwave’s fingers in his own lap. “Why do you love me? I'm a jerk. I'm selfish. Always been like that, even back when we met.”

“I don't see you that way.” Soundwave nuzzled his head. “You've fought to survive, as have I against a world that stacked against us. Sometimes that means taking what we need from others without having the ability to repay them.”

Jazz turned his head to look up at Soundwave. “Speaking of those we rely on to fill the emptiness, Laserbeak okay?”

Soundwave half-smiled. “He's already flying again.”

“They mean something more to you, don't they?” Jazz asked.

With a softly vented sigh, Soundwave nodded. “I despise my modification but generally find comfort in their companionship.”

“Guess that’s another reason you won't leave the ‘Cons then, hm?” Jazz asked.

After a moment, Soundwave nodded. “I protect them from harm. They've helped ease my loneliness.”

Jazz twisted in Soundwave's lap, straddling his hips and pulling one of hands to rest over the center of his chest. “Feel my spark?”

Flexing his fingers against this curved chest beneath them, Soundwave nodded. “Yes.”

“It belongs to you. Has since the day I promised it to you, but I won't lie. It's hurtin’ right now ‘cause part of it is attached to Prowl. I know I gotta wait it out, but the wait is makin’ me crazy.” Jazz lifted the larger hand up, and swirled his glossa over the forefinger. “Distract me from the hurt?”

Soundwave vented air slowly, his plating radiating heat from the mere tease of Jazz’s glossa over his fingertip. “Anything in particular you'd like me to do?”

“Make my body yours. Bend me, take me,” Jazz replied, body quivering slightly with anticipation and need.

Soundwave's thumb swept over his lips. “Nothing more specific?”

Jazz nipped at his thumb. “Punish me for bein’ a jerk to ‘im.”

There was a long pause, and Jazz wondered why Soundwave hesitated. He could feel the desire lacing his EM field. He often sought rough interfacing, which Soundwave never shied away from, but maybe this request for punishment was too far over the line?

“You trust me as you did back on Cybertron?” Soundwave asked.

“Yeah, completely,” Jazz affirmed.

Soundwave moved his hand, wrapping around Jazz’s throat and squeezing slightly. “I love you,” Soundwave said, reverence in his voice.

Jazz relaxed his body, giving himself over completely to Soundwave. “I love you more than anything.”

Next thing he knew, the hand around his neck lifted him up, and then forced him down to the dirty floor of the barn on his back. Soundwave held him firmly in place around his throat as his other hand moved slowly down the shape of his frame. He groped between his legs, fingers rubbing his heated interface cover.

“Open,” Soundwave demanded.

The cover snapped back, and Soundwave plunged not one but three of his fingers into Jazz’s valve, spreading him open.

Jazz whimpered, pleasure and pain mingling in his array. No one understood or accepted all of Jazz the way Soundwave did. Large fingers began to pump in and partway out at a fast pace, causing a lovely build up in his array. It felt amazing, and Jazz arched his body as the edge of an overload flickered through his valve.

Suddenly those fingers pulled out, causing him to whine with want. The hand wrapped around his throat tightened.

“Please,” Jazz begged.

“Not yet,” Soundwave replied, sounding amused. He pressed his slick fingers to Jazz’s lips. Without missing a beat, he suckled them clean one by one. “So beautiful,” Soundwave murmured.

“Only you see me,” Jazz replied, hands pushing up either side of the arm pinning him down by the neck.

“We fill one another’s voids,” Soundwave said, using his free hand to ghost over Jazz’s body teasingly.

Bucking his hips, Jazz whined. “There's a big one right between my legs at the moment.”

Soundwave smiled, clearly amused. “Always so impatient.”

“Just revved,” Jazz replied, his desperate desire permeating his field.

The sound of Soundwave's interface cover clicking open caused a shudder through Jazz’s array. But Soundwave had other ideas. Jazz was pulled to sit up by his throat, coming face to face with the only spike he would ever allow inside him. Soundwave released his grip on Jazz, and placed both hands on the sides of his helm, guiding him forward. Mouth parting, Jazz let the large spike push in without resisting.

The first time Jazz saw Soundwave’s spike he'd been in awe. It was very beautiful, dark blue and thick. Tasting it now against his glossa, he was reminded of the past. He'd had his mouth all over this particular spike more times than he could possibly count, worshipping it with his glossa and fingers. No later lover would ever believe he'd willingly suck on a spike, and be shocked to see him right now.

Humming, Jazz worked his mouth around the girth filling it, fingers stroking the base that wasn't in his mouth. Soundwave made a delightful groan of approval, hands holding Jazz’s helm firmly where it was.

“More,” Soundwave demanded. Hips pushing forward, the last micrometers of the shaft pushed completely into Jazz’s mouth, causing him to gag slightly as the head went down his intake. After a moment, he pulled back then rolled his hips forward again, repeating the motion and using Jazz’s mouth like a valve. Jazz gagged slightly, but made no protest, accepting the pain of it, and quivering with desire each time he felt how hard Soundwave’s spike was inside his mouth.

Soundwave grunted and his field grew thick with want.

As quickly as it started, Soundwave stopped the oral pleasure and pulled Jazz off his spike. He gripped him in a choking hold, and forced him once again to lie his back.

The next thing Jazz knew that spike was spreading him open. He keened, hands grasping at Soundwave’s lower arm that held him pinned down. “I'm all yours,” he rasped.

Soundwave didn't hesitate, he pounded him hard and fast while lightly choking him at the same time. Jazz had no control over any aspect of what Soundwave did to him, but that was the point. He trusted him implicitly, despite everything. Despite the lie that had kept them apart for eons. He realized as pleasure sang through his body that he did truly forgive Soundwave. All he wanted now was for them to have as many moments of oneness as they could have before they were caught. And he knew at some point sooner or later, they would be caught.

Jazz cried out, voice strained as his valve tightened around Soundwave’s spike with an intense, processor blowing overload. The sensation radiated from outward from between his legs, and his entire body shuddered hard. Once it began to ebb, Soundwave resumed his bruising pace until his larger body stiffened, and Jazz felt the hot flood filling him. Soundwave groaned, the vibration low enough to send a shiver through Jazz in response. Soundwave was such a gorgeous mech.  

Hand leaving Jazz’s throat, Soundwave collapsed his larger body overtop of him, panting while his cooling fans whirred loudly. Jazz was also left panting in addition to his his cooling systems fighting to bring his core temperature down. They didn't move for a long time, both taking a moment to revel in being close and recover from such intense overloads.

Eventually, Soundwave pushed off Jazz, lying on his side next to him, and lazily trailing his fingers over the curves and angles of his smaller body.

“I needed that,” Jazz finally murmured.

“We need each other,” Soundwave replied.

“No one’s ever got me the way you do,” Jazz replied.

“Likewise,” Soundwave replied. He leaned forward and they kissed sweetly.

“Hold me for a bit?” Jazz asked.

Strong arms scooped Jazz up and hugged him to his larger body. Jazz curled up in the encompassing embrace, feeling accepted and loved. As satisfying as it felt, a part of his spark still ached for Prowl to forgive him, too.

Hobbling through the corridors, Optimus was met with relieved smiles and happy greetings. Many who had been injured were still healing. The boosting power of that ore concerned him greatly, but he felt confident they could overcome this obstacle. After all, they'd won the battle without being supercharged.

Reaching his office, he tapped in the code, opening the door.

Startled, Prowl hopped up out of his chair. “Sir! You're up and about? Should you really be out of medbay so soon?”

“Ratchet booted me out with this stately cane to get around,” Optimus replied, slowly stepping into the office while leaning on the cane.

Prowl’s face creased with worry. “I've been trying to keep everything in order as best as I can in your absence.”

Optimus stiffly made his way to one of the visitor chairs and sat down. “I heard you've been keeping everyone on base.”

Prowl came around the desk, and sat perched on the edge of the other visitor chair. “Yes. With the Decepticons at such a strong advantage I didn't want to risk further injuries.”

“Despite the damages we endured in the battle, we still drove them off. We won, Prowl. I know I dislocated Megatron’s arm, which is why he blasted me,” Optimus explained. “Even with the boosted power levels, they are not the best at managing a battle scene with their lack of teamwork.”

“I'm aware. I read the reports filed by those not as grievously injured. I just… I wanted to err on the side of caution,” Prowl replied.

Optimus smiled behind his mask. “I understand. But we need to loosen the grip a little on the crew, and search for a solution to stop the Decepticons’ further use of this ore.”

“I've had Perceptor working on distilling some for us to use, but I'm not entirely sure that's the right move. He's also been very busy assisting in medbay, so his progress has been slow,” Prowl replied.

Nodding, Optimus rubbed his chin in thought. “Perhaps an officer meeting is in order to talk out possible options.”

Prowl visibly tensed, but nodded.

“Is something wrong?” Optimus asked, concerned by the unexpected reaction.

“Jazz and I are not speaking at the moment,” Prowl admitted, sensor panels lowering.

That was a curious development. “I need my officers on speaking terms,” Optimus gently replied. “Can I do anything to help?”

“To be perfectly honest, you're part of the reason why.” Prowl folded his hands in his lap and stared down at them.

Optimus sighed. “Is this related to what I accidentally revealed to you medbay?”

Prowl nodded, sensor panels drooping further.

“I'm sorry I exposed my feelings to you that way. It was a moment of weakness for me, and I was…” He paused, optics shining with all his adoration. “Overjoyed that yours was the face I saw when I came to. I never meant to damage anything between you and Jazz. I could apologize directly to him, if that would be helpful?”

A confused expression flickered over Prowl's face as he looked back up at Optimus. “Apologize?”

“Yes, for any perception that I was trying to come between you,” Optimus replied, equally confused by Prowl’s reaction.

“Jazz and I are not involved,” Prowl replied. “No matter how much I may have once wished otherwise.”

They weren't together, nor did it appear they ever would be. That bit of news made him smile for a moment behind his mask, but it faded quickly as he recognized it for the envy it truly was. What a terrible example of a Prime he could be sometimes.

“Truth is, I asked him stay away from me so I could sort out my feelings. I've made enough progress that I will speak with him today,” Prowl added.

“If there is anything I can do or not do to help you with the situation please let me know. I never meant for my hidden emotions to be exposed the way they were. I also hope this won't affect our friendship,” Optimus said, now worried about holding his command staff together. Personal loneliness simply couldn't be a factor. He'd deal with his issues as best he could on his own as he always had.

Prowl regarded Optimus for a long moment. “My emotions surrounding you are less clear. I assure you that our friendship will not be affected, but as far as the other part of what I felt from you, I'm not sure how I feel in response yet.”

“That's fine,” he replied with a gracious nod. “You take all the time you need, and please don't feel obligated to me in anyway,” Optimus added, trying his best to mask the disappointment of what he assumed would soon become a rejection. Either there was attraction there or not. If Prowl was unsure it didn't bode well.

“Personal issues aside, perhaps I should get you up to speed on everything?” Prowl asked.

“I’d appreciate that,” Optimus replied.

Prowl was always good at separating his personal and professional lives, and for that trait Optimus envied him. He knew he should strive to achieve the same strong separation, and vowed to not let any of this affect their work.

Washing away the evidence of Soundwave all over and inside him, Jazz sighed. Parting had once again been a painful series of kisses and hugs, ending with Soundwave taking to the air and Jazz left standing there alone.

He drove back and made a beeline to the wash rack, taking his time to thoroughly clean and think about things. Today he reflected on more than Soundwave, though. Prowl crowded his thoughts, too. He missed his friend’s presence in his life.

“Jazz?”

Nearly jumping out of plating, Jazz whirled around. He then smiled a little, happy to see Prowl for the first time in days. “Hey. I'm, uh, sudsy.”

Prowl nodded, expression neutral. “I see that. I'm sorry to interrupt but I wanted to talk to you.”

“Sure. What's up? We still on rocky ground?” Jazz asked, quickly rinsing the cleanser from his plating and making sure his interface array was properly closed up.

“Rocky… Oh. An Earthism?” Prowl asked confusion flickering over his face.

“Yeah, means we aren't okay still.” Jazz turned off the water and took a step closer to the edge of stall where Prowl stood.

“We are still friends... If you want to be.” Prowl lowered his sensor panels. “I just needed time to think and face the truth of the situation. I was never angry with you, just…disappointed you didn't want more with me.”

“If I thought for a second that I'd even come close to being good enough, things might be different. But I know better,” Jazz replied.

“I'm not sure I deserve the pedestal you have me on,” Prowl said, sadly smiling. “And you judge yourself too harshly.”

Jazz softly sighed. “I do love you, Prowl. Just not the way you want me to. I'm sorry.”

“I know and you don't need to be sorry for how you feel. We can remain close friends, though, I hope?” Prowl gazed at Jazz, fear of another rejection all over his usually neutral face.

“Always.” Jazz grinned at Prowl. “I'd jump on a bomb to save you any day.”

The tension left Prowl and he chuckled at that. “Let's hope that won't be the case.”

“What about the Big Guy?” Jazz asked, intensely curious.

Prowl looked away, sensor panels twitching. “I don't know.”

Leaning against the stall entrance wall, Jazz frowned a little. “Not your type?”

“I don't even know if I have a type.” Prowl shrugged his sensor panels. “There's something I can't quite pinpoint. Logically, he has all the desirable traits any mech could ask for.”

“You still hung up on the Prime part?” Jazz gently asked.

“Perhaps.” Prowl dimmed his optics as he looked back at Jazz. “May I ask a personal question?”

Canting his head slightly, Jazz nodded. “Sure.”

“Have you ever been in love? I mean, the kind of love that leads to bonding of sparks?” Prowl asked.

Thrown by the question and not wanting to lie to the one mech aside from Soundwave he trusted, Jazz stood himself up more properly in the stall entrance and prepared to answer as truthfully as he could. “Yeah. I, uh, promised my spark to someone. Lived with him. Loved him. We never got to bond, though. The war happened and we were ripped apart by things outta our control.”

Prowl gazed at him and slowly nodded. “Did he die?”

“No, um… He became a Decepticon. But, not because he wanted to. Megatron used to botnap mechs early on. Do stuff to ‘em to make them stay,” Jazz replied, exposing the truth without exposing current circumstances at the same time.

“That's very sad.” Prowl deeply frowned. “This war hurts all of in such terrible ways.”

“It does. All the more reason to cling to the good things, right?” Jazz replied.

Prowl looked away again, and nodded. “You really think Optimus and I would be good for each other?”

“He's the only mech even remotely good enough for you,” Jazz replied assuredly.

Prowl laughed a little, glancing back at Jazz. “Only a Prime is good enough for me, hm?”

“Pretty much.” Jazz loved when he could get Prowl to smile or laugh. He stepped out of the stall, still dripping water, and grabbed Prowl, pulling him into a tight hug. “I'll always look out for my best friend. I promise.”

Hugging Jazz back, Prowl’s field was filled with adoration for him. “Best friends can love one another, right?” Prowl quietly asked.

“I love you, so yeah,” Jazz replied, giving Prowl a squeeze in his grasp.

“I love you, Jazz,” Prowl said in a softened voice before extricating himself from the embrace. “But you're dripping wet, and now I am, too.”

Jazz laughed, playfully throwing his arms around Prowl’s shoulders to hug him again and transfer more water.

Prowl pushed on him, though with no real effort. “You're incorrigible!”

“I know. It's part of my charm,” Jazz said, letting go and grinning brightly at Prowl.

Feigning annoyance, Prowl huffed then smiled a little. “Let's dry off, hm?”

“Dry off, then go have a couple cubes in the rec room?” Jazz asked, with a hopeful smile.

“Sounds like a viable plan,” Prowl replied.

Over the moon that they were once again best friends, he grabbed the drying cloth off the peg and handed it to Prowl to use first. Watching Prowl pat himself dry, Jazz had different emotions churning all at once inside him. Relief and elation that they were still friends, guilt for not admitting what was going on with Soundwave, and worry that his choices would eventually blow up in his face and possibly kill him. Primus help him...what was he going to do?

...

Cybertron past (just before the war):

Annoyed at the lack of progress, Prowl stared at the datapad’s screen trying to will the information to yield a suspect. He walked slowly down the corridor back toward his office after yet another interview that hadn't helped his current murder case.

Lost in his thoughts, he entered his office with his gaze still pinned on the screen in his hands when suddenly he found himself tackled in an affectionate embrace.

“Detective Handsome! Just who I needed to see!” Reverb said, grinning as he hugged himself to Prowl.

Instantly his foul mood lifted, and he smiled. “Don't you have patrol soon?”

“I do, but I need my daily dose of kisses from my lovely soon-to-be bonded before I head out,” Reverb replied. He leaned down, and their mouths met in a heated kiss.

When the kiss finally broke, Prowl was left dazed. “Only a few weeks before the ceremony. Glad to see you haven't had second thoughts.”

Reverb gently touched Prowl’s cheek as he gazed deep into his optics. “You're my one and only. I'd do it right this second if our families wouldn't kill us for skipping the ceremony part.”

He took hold of Reverb’s hand. “I never thought I'd be this happy.” Prowl kissed the palm. “But overly affectionate display aside, please don't be late for your shift.”

Reverb grinned. “One day I'll work my way up to detective and we can investigate cases together.”

“You have it all planned out, hm?” Prowl teased.

“I plan on loving you for as long as my spark pulses,” Reverb replied.

Prowl tipped his head up and kissed Reverb sweetly. “I love you with every spark pulse, too.”

Audibly whimpering, Prowl woke. He was alone in his quarters, the replayed memory fresh in his processor. Curling in on himself, his spark ached deeply in response. He'd carefully hidden those memories away, not wanting to feel this sharp pain of loss inside him again. Memories so painful they made it hard to function.

Lying there in the middle of the night in the darkness of his room, Prowl wondered what had triggered the memory. The honest discussion with Jazz earlier, perhaps… In some ways Jazz did remind him of Reverb. But in many others they were nothing alike.

Reverb had been impulsive and loved to have fun, but for all his confidence in day to day things, he’d been shy and nervous when it came to asking Prowl out. It took weeks of awkward dating before they finally relaxed and became more comfortable with one another. Prowl might’ve never stuck it out past the first stages of their courtship if not for the intensity he felt when they’d kiss one another before parting after an outing.

Prowl’s processor then jumped subjects entirely, and he finally made a firm decision regarding Optimus. Tomorrow he’d speak with him.

Rolling over to his other side, he curled up into a ball on his berth. “No more memories, tonight,” he told his processor as he let his optics flicker off again.

 

Chapter Text

Rubbing his chest, Prowl quickly walked through the base. It as early in the morning but Optimus would likely be in his office already. The memory from the night before continued to linger, and he hoped the effect it was having on him would soon fade.

Reaching his leader’s office, he found it empty and frowned.

Suddenly, his comm link buzzed and Red Alert called all senior officers to the command deck. Turning on his heel, Prowl swiftly walked back down the hall and made a sharp turn, stepping onto the command deck.

Optimus was already there, leaning heavily on his cane to stand. Ironhide at his side, grumbling about what Red Alert had up on screen.

Glancing at the screen, Prowl was shocked to see Starscream and several Decepticons mining the third location he'd identified. “All reports were that Starscream had a huge slash through one of his wings courtesy of Sideswipe. How in the world is he already fully repaired and seemingly unaffected?”

Jazz entered at the tail end of Prowl’s question, and scowled at the screen.

“That's a very good question and one I have no answer for,” Optimus replied. “Megatron is nowhere in sight, either.”

“That's a really good thing or a really bad thing,” Ironhide replied. “Either way, too many of us are injured to go fight ‘em.”

“Maybe that ore does more than give a boost? Like maybe they healed him up faster with it somehow?” Jazz postulated.

“That's a possibility. We should speak with Perceptor,” Prowl replied.

“Jazz, I'd like you to see Perceptor, see if he can confirm your hunch and find out what progress he's made on his research,” Optimus ordered, wavering slightly on his feet.

Prowl moved instinctively, hand at his leader’s back to steady him. “You should sit, sir.”

“In a moment,” Optimus replied. “Ironhide, please stay here with Red Alert and keep the command officer comm link channel updated at regular intervals.”

“You got it.” Ironhide then frowned at Optimus. “Friend to friend, how ‘bout you let Prowl take you back to your office and get off your feet for a bit.”

Optimus nodded. “Sound advice.”

Everyone dispersed. Prowl walked slowly beside his leader as he hobbled along with the cane off the command deck. He didn't miss the knowing smile on Jazz’s lips as he nodded to them before slipping out the door just ahead of them.

Partway down the hall Optimus paused, leaning on the cane.

“Sir? Should I call Ratchet to check you over?” Prowl asked, genuinely worried.

“No, I'm fine.” Optimus continued on, trying to better hide his pain as he walked.

Arriving inside the office, Prowl pulled a visitor seat to him. “Please sit.”

“Thank you,” Optimus replied, heavily sitting down in the chair and ex-venting air as he did. “This wound exhausts me more than I'd like.”

“Well, you do have a gaping hole in your side covered by a piece of sheet metal. No one expects you to be spry right now,” Prowl replied, gracefully sitting in the opposing visitor seat.

“I suppose so,” Optimus replied, optics curving from his hidden smile.

“I actually came here early hoping we could talk about some personal matters,” Prowl said after a moment.

Optimus nodded. “Let's shut the door?”

Prowl was on his feet in an instant and hit the door control panel, closing it and locking it so they could have an uninterrupted moment to speak. Sitting back down, he rallied his courage as best he could.

“I assume this is about your feelings toward me?” Optimus asked, voice softer and less assured now.

“Yes, and, if you don't mind, could you retract your mask while we chat?” Prowl asked.

There was a moment's hesitation, but Optimus acquiesced. The mask slid open revealing his full face. “Better?” He asked.

“Much.” Prowl sat up straight in the chair, steadily holding Optimus’ gaze. “After much thought I've arrived at a decision but I need something from you first.”

“Whatever you need, it's yours,” Optimus replied.

Prowl slowly got up and moved to stand directly in front of Optimus, then reached out, gently cupping his face in his hands. “I'd like to kiss you.”

Not only did excitement ripple in Optimus’ field at the prospect, but his optics brightened then deepened in hue. “I'd be happy to give you that.”

Smiling in response, Prowl bent forward and first ghosted his lips over Optimus’. After the teasing touch, he pressed forward and their mouths molded together in a kiss. Lip-only, but warm and charged with emotions swirling in their mingling fields, Prowl felt a stir deep within his wounded spark. A flutter. A connection.

The kiss broke after a moment and they gazed deeply into one another's optics.

“Did that give you what you needed?” Optimus asked, hope lacing his voice.

“My spark stirred. So yes.” Prowl smiled. “I'm open to more than friendship with you.”

Optimus placed his free hand on Prowl’s waist. “Perhaps I need one more kiss to be sure myself,” he teased.

Prowl chuckled, then happily leaned in again, initiating another kiss. This time their mouths parted, glossa met and twinned between. Optimus let go of his cane in his other hand, and it clattered on the floor as he gently pulled Prowl with both hands closer. Complying, Prowl straddled Optimus’ lap. The kiss ended, but they remained close, Optimus nuzzling and kissing Prowl’s cheek.

The pain of the revived memory faded, replaced with a gentle flutter inside Prowl’s spark. “I wish I'd known how you felt sooner.”

“You know now. That's all that matters to me.” Optimus pulled back just far enough to stare into Prowl’s optics.

“My spark is… Happy, but previously wounded. I hope a slower pace won't be an issue?” Prowl asked, fingering the top edge of Optimus chest plate.

“Wounded sparks abound… And I'm in no rush.” Optimus loosely wrapped both arms around Prowl’s middle.

Relaxing in strong arms, Prowl reveled in this stolen moment of affection. They shared kisses and let their fields mingle. Though, Prowl did feel a deep loneliness just under the joy permeating Optimus’ field, which saddened him. All this time Prowl had only seen him as a sacred Prime, not ever considering he was a mech with the same needs and desires as everyone else.

“Where do we go from here?” Prowl quietly asked.

“I should invite you on an outing, but with things how they are, I'm not sure that's possible,” Optimus replied, nuzzling Prowl’s cheek.

Prowl smiled. “Perhaps an inning instead?”

“Inning?” Optimus repeated, looking confused.

“I bring a board game to your quarters and we stay in? Together?” Prowl drew his fingertips over Optimus’ chest plating, hoping it wasn't too boring a suggestion.

“That sounds like a wonderful idea,” Optimus replied with a warm smile.

They were about to kiss again when the buzzer to the office sounded. Startled, Prowl almost tumbled backward, but Optimus caught him, holding him close.

“Perhaps I should answer that,” Prowl said in a softened voice as they gazed deeply into one another’s optics.

“As long as you agree to have an inning with me this evening, circumstances permitting,” Optimus replied.

Brightly smiling, Prowl nodded. “I promise.”

After stealing a last kiss, Optimus let go and closed his mask again. Prowl slid back off his lap and took a moment to re-settle his plating before proceeding to open the door.

“Since when do you close your door—” Ratchet scowled as he looked up from his datapad at Prowl. He then glanced past him to Optimus. “I need to take a sample of mech fluid from you.”

“Oh?” Optimus asked.

Prowl stepped back, letting Ratchet into the office.

“I tested all the other injured mechs and found their nanite levels were low, making healing slow. Percy’s got some theory brewing about the ore and I'm gathering up all the info for him while he does his thing in the lab.” Ratchet shoved his datapad into Prowl’s hands and pulled out a medical syringe to extract fluid. “Elbow joint is the best place.”

Optimus complied, holding out his arm for Ratchet.

Prowl perused the information on Ratchet’s datapad, frowning at the results of the other mech fluid tests. “Sideswipe is at 3%? Shouldn't a healthy mech have at least 15% of nanites in their body at any given time for proper autorepair sequencing?”

“Yeah. Something about that ore, it's like it robbed the injured mechs of nanites,” Ratchet replied as he slid the sample from Optimus into a small hand-held analyzer. “Frag.”

“What are his levels?” Prowl asked, concerned by the look on Ratchet’s face.

“You have less nanites than when I discharged you. You're down to only .8%. I want you in medbay immediately so I can put you on an infusion line to get your numbers up.” Ratchet stuffed his tools into his subspace, and picked up the fallen cane.

Optimus nodded. “Prowl, if you wouldn't mind coordinating in my absence?”

“Of course,” Prowl replied.

With concerted effort Optimus got to his feet. “And circumstances being what they are, we’ll move our plans to another time?”

Prowl unconsciously let his sensor panels flutter as he smiled and nodded. “When you're feeling better.”

Ratchet glanced between them with a raised optic ridge, then shrugged his shoulders and helped Optimus walk out of his office.

Watching Optimus barely able to keep upright as he was walking down the hall filled Prowl with intense concern. Not only for their leader, but for Optimus as a mech he was now personally and emotionally invested in.

Being late at night Soundwave was alone in the refectory, but he never knew when someone might stop by to fuel up. He filled a glass and took his usual corner table, sitting so he faced the wall. He then retracted his mask and took a long, much needed sip of fuel.

It had been a long day of dealing with Megatron and Starscream bickering. He'd eventually convinced their leader it was best to let Starscream take a smaller crew and finish the ore extraction. By keeping Megatron out of sight, the Autobots would be less likely to feel the need to respond.

His mind didn't stay on the day's events long, though. Inevitably, his thoughts drifted to Jazz. Their previous encounter had been both wonderful and upsetting. Being with his love always filled the void inside him, and for their short time together he was happy like he'd once been. But it made his spark pulse with hot jealousy that Jazz had someone else in his life fulfilling his emotional needs. Finding physical release with others through interfacing didn't bother him at all so long as Soundwave was the only one Jazz loved.

Squeezing the glass in his hands, he grimaced. It was his fault Jazz sought someone else to be close to, so he had no right to be upset. Still, his spark burned at the thought of it. And he wanted to twist Prowl’s frame into a knot for hurting Jazz.

Huffing, he set the glass down and rubbed his face with hands for a moment. He'd caused Jazz more distress and pain than anyone. He had no right to be jealous or angry with a mech that stepped up in his absence. Logically, he should be punishing himself. He didn't deserve Jazz, not now. Not after lying to him for so long… So why had Jazz forgiven him?

“Seat taken?”

Startled, Soundwave froze, looking up at the blue seeker next to him. “Not at the moment,” Soundwave replied in his natural voice.

Thundercracker slid into the opposite seat, setting his fuel on the table.

He and Thundercracker were alike. They'd both been taken by the Decepticons and forced into service. Unlike Soundwave, though, the mech Thundercracker had once loved had died when they were still on Cybertron. The two had bonded from their shared experiences of trying to protect those they loved from afar and once the seeker learned Soundwave's former love was here on Earth, he began to live vicariously through Soundwave’s experiences. Thundercracker was the only mech on the entire crew Soundwave fully trusted.

“You look like you have a lot on your mind,” Thundercracker said, fingering his energon glass.

“Looks like you all have returned,” Soundwave deflected before gulping down the rest of his fuel.

“They're offloading. You have a good breem to tell me the latest installment of star-crossed love encounters,” Thundercracker replied with a half-smile.

Soundwave ducked his helm. “It was wonderful as usual. And too short.”

Thundercracker leaned forward a little, scrutinizing Soundwave’s half exposed face. “But there's something else?”

With a huff, he vaguely nodded. “I worry I might lose him. I wonder if exposing the truth was the wise choice.” He frowned, spark aching.

“Tell me then, was it harder to hide the truth than it is to now have at least a little time with him?” Thundercracker asked.

“Both situations have advantages and disadvantages.” Soundwave sighed. “There is no going back now, though.”

“If I had the chance you have now, I'd steal a ship and escape this wretched planet. Live out our lives far from war,” Thundercracker replied.

Sadly smiling, Soundwave shook his head. “He'd never leave them.”

“Then perhaps you should leave us,” Thundercracker replied in a lower voice just before sipping his fuel.

Meeting the seeker’s gaze, Soundwave deeply frowned. “Aside from the danger that choice would pose, I have a set of symbiotes reliant on my protection.”

“They can take care of themselves,” Thundercracker replied, not bothering to hide his disdain for them. “Not to mention Megatron would never let anything happen to Ravage or Laserbeak.”

“I've spent eons with them,” Soundwave quietly replied.

“Being used to something doesn't mean it's good for you.” Thundercracker shrugged his wings. “I'm used to my trinemates, but I hardly call that a good thing. It's the difference between survival and living.”

Soundwave wished he was courageous enough to walk away. But if he no longer controlled communications or helped influence Megatron, the consequences could outstrip the benefits. “You are far braver than I am.”

“Hardly.” Thundercracker stared off into the distance, clearly thinking about who he’d lost. “I just know that time is limited and if I had it to do over I wouldn't let my fear prevent me from choosing him and fighting with all I had to keep him at my side.” Focusing back on Soundwave, his gaze grew intense. “If you truly love him, don't repeat my mistakes.”

Staring into Thundercracker’s face, he saw all his pain and regret. His own spark now ached for him, too. This war had torn so much of who they once were asunder.

The sounds of loud talking broke the spell of the moment, and Soundwave quickly re-engaged his mask just as Starscream, Skywarp, Astrotrain and two of the Constructicons entered the refectory.

Thundercracker reached up and pressed a fingertip to Soundwave’s mask, lightly drawing a line down the seam in the middle. “Aren't you tired of hiding?” He then pushed to stand, picking up his half-finished drink and sauntered over to join Starscream and Skywarp.

Glancing over his shoulder, Soundwave watched them. Skywarp was being particularly handsy, groping at Thundercracker and making his intentions known. One of the Constructicons piped up, telling them to take it back to their quarters, which only egged Skywarp on. He gyrated up against Thundercracker, and Starscream looked amused by the whole thing. But what Soundwave saw on his friend’s face was not humiliation. It was resignation. Complete apathy toward their lewd behavior in public.

Maybe leaving was worth the risk…

Cybertron past:

When Prowl returned to the station from conducting an interview, two fellow detectives looked confused by his presence.

“Shouldn't you be at the medical center with Reverb?” Foresight asked.

Prowl froze mid-step. “Medical center? What's happened?”

“He didn't comm you? It's all over the station, him and his partner were arresting a boosthead that stabbed Reverb,” Foresight explained.

“Stabbed?” Prowl tossed his datapad on a nearby desk that wasn't his and practically sprinted out of the station.

Three blocks away he burst into the medical center and went up to the desk where three nurses were milling around. “I need to see a patient by the name of Reverb.”

“Reverb,” one nurse repeated as he typed into a nearby computer console. “Oooh. The cute cop. He's on the fifth floor, room 5007.”

Prowl scowled at the descriptor used, but he didn't want to waste time chewing out the nurse for inappropriate behavior. He rounded the desk to the elevators, taking it to the fifth floor. The doors couldn't open fast enough for him, as he squeezed out and began reading room numbers to find the one Reverb was in.

At the door to room 5007 Prowl halted. Inside another nurse was finishing patching up an energon knife slice up Reverb’s arm.

“Should heal up without any scarring, officer,” the nurse said, optics darkening in hue. Was there anyone who didn't flirt with his intended to be bonded? Primus.

Prowl purposely made a coughed sound, and they both looked in his direction.

“Prowl?” Reverb looked confused. “What are you doing here?”

“Is that a serious question?” Prowl asked, stepping into the room, and spreading his field out with his desire for the nurse to leave them alone.

“If you need anything, just let me know. The medic should sign off for your discharge within the hour.” The nurse then quickly slipped out of the room.

Once he was gone, Prowl shut the door and leveled a dark look at Reverb.

“You're fragged off at me? I don't understand... why are you so upset?” Reverb asked, genuinely confused.

“I walk into the station and I'm told by my colleagues that you're in the medical center having been stabbed? Is it so hard to drop me a quick message? Let me know you were injured?” Prowl asked, mad that Reverb didn't think to inform him at all. “For all I knew, you'd been eviscerated!”

Reverb then smiled. “I'm fine. It wasn't a big deal, and I didn't want to worry you.” He slid off the berth, standing up in front of Prowl. “Next time, I'll comm you. Promise.”

Prowl fumed for a moment. “Do you always have to be so charming and perfect? It's infuriating at times.”

Reverb chuckled, then leaned in close to Prowl, pressing their forehelms together. “I'm anything but perfect. I was trying not to make you worry and ended up upsetting you even more.”

“Well, perhaps. But you can be quite charming. Is there a single medical staff member here not making passes at you?” Prowl replied in a grumbled tone.

“Doesn't matter. I only have optics for you,” Reverb replied, ghosting his lips against Prowl’s.

“You think you can just turn that charm on me and I'll instantly forgive you?” Prowl asked, though his flare of anger had already faded away.

“My beautiful to-be-bonded, I sure hope my charms work on you, or it'll be a rocky bonded life ahead,” Reverb teased as he lightly touched their lips in a not-quite kiss.

“Just kiss me already,” Prowl breathed.

Reverb happily complied, their mouths meeting in a heated kiss. Prowl slid both arms around Reverb’s shoulders, and Reverb in turn slid his around Prowl’s waist.

After the long kiss broke, they gazed into one another’s optics.

“I really am sorry I scared you,” Reverb said.

“I know. I was just worried.” Prowl felt silly for being so upset, especially knowing Reverb was trying to be considerate, despite it backfiring. “I love you.”

Reverb practically beamed in response. “I love you, too.”

Prowl woke, groaning. He cycled his optics a few times before they focused properly. Sitting up in Optimus’ desk chair he frowned. It was late, and he'd fallen into recharge reading up on all the information they had about the latest raid for ore.

He rubbed his chest, spark aching from the memory. It was almost unbearable. He softly gasped, holding in a sob.

The last time the ache had been soothed away was when he'd kissed Optimus earlier. Pushing the chair back, he got to his feet and silently left the office, following his desire to both ease his pain and check on Optimus.

Reaching medbay, he entered to find First Aid on duty. “How is Optimus doing?” he asked.

“Better. Recharging right now, though,” First Aid replied. “Um, it's the middle of the night. Maybe you should get some rest, too?”

“I'd like to look in on him for a moment,” Prowl replied. Not waiting for the young medic to okay his request, Prowl walked toward the back area of private medical rooms.

“Yeah, sure,” First Aid replied, watching Prowl head straight for Optimus’s room.

Pausing in the doorway, Prowl rubbed at his chest, trying to will the pain to ease. Optimus was deeply recharging, a line hooked into his arm for infusing him with nanites. Glancing at the monitor, Prowl saw his readings were now almost 10%. A vast improvement from this morning.

As quietly as possible, Prowl entered the room and settled into a chair in the corner. He could feel the edges of Optimus’ field, calm and quiet as he rested. It wasn't the healing kiss Prowl hoped for, but it was enough to take the sharp edge off his pain. He sighed and relaxed in the chair, gaze pinned on Optimus’ face. Only then did it register that his mask was retracted, which made Prowl smile.

“I do wish I hadn't been so blind for so long,” Prowl whispered. “I'll do my best to make up for lost time, though.”

 

Chapter Text

Blearily, Optimus woke. Systems synced and onlined as he lit his optics. For a few seconds he was confused until he remembered he'd been taken back to medbay. He turned his head, gaze falling on the balled up form of his SIC in a corner chair of the room. Prowl was recharging with a vaguely pained look on his face.

Worried, Optimus sat up and started to scoot off the berth, only to find himself tethered by the line delivering nanites to his body through a tube in his arm. He considered ripping it out, but Ratchet appeared in the doorway.

In a whispered ‘tsk’, Ratchet walked over to the berth and motioned for Optimus to lie back down. “You might be feeling better but I still need to check your wound,” he whispered.

Complying, Optimus laid back on the berth as Ratchet fingered and examined around the temporary plating. “The pain is significantly less now,” Optimus whispered back.

“You two can stop whispering,” Prowl said in a rough voice.

Optimus glanced over, seeing flickers of pain in Prowl’s face as he watched Ratchet perform his exam.

“Didn't mean to wake you,” Optimus replied, wishing he could reach his field out to Prowl. He didn't feel comfortable doing that with Ratchet here, though.

“Your wellbeing is more important than my getting rest right now,” Prowl replied.

“The wound is finally closing up on its own. I should be able to weld on something more permanent for your autorepair to integrate by tomorrow,” Ratchet announced as he stood upright again. “The drip did you wonders. I put Sideswipe and Hound on drips and they're both almost fully healed now.”

“Does this mean Optimus can be discharged?” Prowl asked, uncurling his body and smoothing his plating.

“Yup,” Ratchet replied, looking pleased with the results as he carefully unhooked the line from Optimus’ arm.

“Ratchet, I need a moment alone with Prowl. If you're done with examining me,” Optimus said.  

“Yeah, sure.” Ratchet glanced at Prowl. “You do look like a slag heap. Recharging in a berth is the preferred method. You know, instead of a desk.”

“Your humor leaves much to be desired,” Prowl replied in a deadpan voice.

“I'll let you talk. And Optimus, I can drug him and make him stay here for a recharge cycle if you want,” Ratchet said in joking tone, though they all knew he wasn't.

“That's not necessary,” Optimus replied.

After an awkward pause, Ratchet swept back out of the room, closing the door behind him.

Optimus sat up and slid his legs off the berth, while extending his field to brush against Prowl’s. He could feel more pain, deep and dark in Prowl’s field only prompting more concern. “Prowl, has something happened?”

Prowl lowered his sensor panels. “It's nothing.”

“It's something. Please, I want you to feel comfortable confiding in me,” Optimus replied.

Pushing to his feet, Prowl crossed the small space and without hesitation moved to straddle Optimus’s lap and proceed to curl up against him. Folding his arms around him, Optimus kissed the top of his helm. “You're worrying me.”

Lifting his head, Prowl gazed into his optics. “I prefer seeing you without your mask engaged.”

“And now you're avoiding answering,” Optimus said, holding Prowl’s gaze.

“There are things about me no one knows. When I'm ready, I'll tell you. But right now, I just… I'd like a kiss.” Prowl looked almost sheepish asking.

Optimus smiled. “Of course.” He leaned forward and their mouths met.

Prowl’s field rippled with joy as the kiss deepened, their glossae tangling between their locked lips. Optimus hugged him tighter, still in disbelief that after all this time Prowl wanted to be with him. The pain in Prowl’s field faded away, and their shared desire and mutual happiness mingled in the space around them.

When the kiss finally broke, they both gasped. Optimus kissed down Prowl’s jawline then nuzzled his neck. Prowl shivered in his arms, and softly keened. Encouraged, Optimus spread his hand against the middle of Prowl’s back, rubbing the spanse between his sensor panels.

“Opt-Optimus… Please. We're not exactly in a private location,” Prowl breathed.

Stilling, Optimus nodded then loosened his grasp on Prowl and leaned back to look at him. “I apologize. I've waited a long time, I didn't mean to push.”

Prowl then looked sad, but for a different reason than moments before. “I'll make up for time lost between us.”

“No need. I'm just, um, overly excited, I suppose.” Optimus brightly smiled. “So did the base and crew hold together yesterday?”

“From Optimus to Prime in just nanoseconds, hm?” Prowl teased, smiling a little. “If I'm to switch the role of SIC, I should probably not be straddling your lap.”

Chuckling, Optimus shook his head. “I prefer having you in my lap. Perhaps we should conduct all future one-on-one meetings this way.”

“We’d never get anything done,” Prowl replied with an amused smile.

“But it would be fun?” Optimus nuzzled Prowl’s chevron.

“This evening, let's have that inning we’d planned,” Prowl replied, optics dimmed from the affection Optimus couldn't help but bestow on him.

“I'd love that,” Optimus said before pressing a kiss to tip of Prowl’s nose. He'd waited so long to show Prowl how much he adored him, he was finding it hard to restrain himself.

“Something to look forward to at the end of the day.” Prowl stretched up to gently kiss Optimus again.

All Optimus wanted to do was scoop up Prowl and carry him to his quarters right this second so he could shower him with kisses and revel in being able to hold him like this finally. He'd never imagined Prowl would return his feelings, and now he felt like a love-sick youngling. Unfortunately he was no longer a youngling, but an adult mech with the weight of two worlds on his shoulders. A Prime. And he knew this behavior was unseemly for his position as leader.

Optimus pulled back from the kiss and tried to bottle up his emotions for now. “We’ll have a lovely evening. But before that, we have a day of planning counter moves against the Decepticons.”

“We certainly do,” Prowl replied with a vaguely worried look.

 

Cybertron Past:

Soundwave made his way through a tough neighborhood, looking for Jazz’s apartment building. This would be their first official date, and he'd insisted on picking him up.

Finding the address he paused at the double door entrance and tried to read the list of names assigned to buzzers. It was nearly impossible to read through the grime covering the outer clear pane, though.

A mech came out the doors and glanced at Soundwave. He laughed. “Buzzers don't work, and the locks on these doors are busted.”

Soundwave nodded. “I see. Do you happen to know what floor Jazz lives on?”

“Fourth, the blue painted door,” the mech said before ambling off.

Proceeding inside and taking the stairs, Soundwave walked up to the fourth floor. On the landing were two doors, one painted blue the other a dingy metal that matched the rest of the building. Soundwave knocked on the blue door.

Moments later the dingy door opened and a thin, spindly mech peered out at Soundwave. He looked him up and down then smirked. “20 creds and I'll suck you off.”

“No thank you,” Soundwave replied with a frown.

The blue door slid open and Jazz grinned at Soundwave. “Look at you pickin’ me up all gentlemech like.”

“How about 40 creds and I'll let you frag me?” The spindly mech said.

Soundwave scowled, looking from Jazz to the mech.

Jazz made an annoyed sound then leaned out his door, shooting his neighbor a dark look. “How about I frag up your face for free, Bypass?”

“Keh, whatever. He's not even that cute.” The mech apparently named Bypass slammed his door shut.

“He's an idiot. And a junkie. Ignore him. Wanna come in a sec?” Jazz grabbed Soundwave’s hand with both of his, tugging him into the apartment.

Soundwave marveled at how nice the inside of the apartment was. The walls were painted a dark shade of blue, the furniture was mismatched but in a sort of intentional way, all being the same shade of dark grey. It was also much cleaner and comfortable feeling than the outside hallway. “I'd never have guessed a place this nice would be inside a building like this.”

“I figure if I can only afford a slag heap apartment I may as well make it a decent place to live while I'm here,” Jazz replied proudly.

“Mixing music doesn't pay well?” Soundwave asked, genuinely curious.

Jazz shrugged. “I get paid by the gig. So if I have a dry spell it can get tight.”

“I think you're doing quite well for yourself here,” Soundwave replied.

“It's not the Towers or Tower adjacent but it does the trick. So, where you taking me?” Jazz laced his fingers with Soundwave’s.

“It will be a surprise. But the next transport will arrive at the station in one breem and it'll take us about that long to walk over,” Soundwave said, gently giving Jazz’s hand a squeeze.

“Then we better get going!” Jazz pulled Soundwave back out the door and he pressed his hand to the pad using the energy signature lock to secure his apartment.

In no time they’d walked the short distance to the transport station and were soon finding seats on board. Soundwave quietly chuckled at how finicky Jazz was about which seats they took. He finally settled on two that were on the right side near the back that would give them a nice view of Iacon as it zoomed along the elevated railway.

“So, where we headed again?” Jazz asked, leaning into Soundwave’s side.

“I'm not telling. Best to just relax and enjoy yourself,” Soundwave replied.

“Maybe I can guess it,” Jazz said, glancing out the window. “We’re heading down toward the Towers district, which is your neighborhood. So prolly some fancy energon bar where everyone will be giving me snooty looks over their mixed drinks ‘cause I'm clearly not one of ‘em?”

“No.” Soundwave couldn't help but smile. Jazz was like a bouncy, exciting whirlwind in Soundwave’s otherwise glum world. Caring for his mentor in his final days took a toll on him he didn't even realize until he was around someone so full of life.

Jazz continued to try and guess the whole ride, but never came close. Soundwave was sure Jazz would love their destination even though it was a bit upscale.

They strolled through a higher end merchant district, which Jazz was sure to make lots of verbal jabs about until they arrived at a large inviting front entrance to a specialty energon bar.

“Sooo this is an upscale energon bar where I'm gonna get stared at?” Jazz asked, looking unsure.

“No one will be staring at you other than me, and I promise it will be without judgment,” Soundwave replied.

The doors slid open and they were greeted by a host. “Good to see you again, Soundwave. It's been a while. I see you won't be enjoying the entertainment alone. Please follow me.”

Jazz raised a suspicious optic ridge as he looked up at Soundwave. “Okay, now I'm curious.”

Soundwave chuckled a little, and took hold of Jazz’s hand. “I think you'll like this.”

They were led down a small aisle with what looked like pods on each side. Reaching a pod room with an open door, Soundwave gestured for Jazz to step in first. He then followed him. Inside each pod room was a cozy, private booth seat that wrapped around a large table.

Jazz looked around in awe as he scooted into the booth seating. “What exactly is this place?”

“Your first time, I see. Would you like me to explain to your guest, or would like to, Soundwave?” The host asked.

“I'll explain. Thank you,” Soundwave replied.

“Enjoy your evening,” the host said as he bowed his head. He then pulled the sliding door closed, leaving them alone in the pod booth.

“Okay, what the frag is all this?” Jazz asked, optics bright with wonder.

“On the table are two menus. One for ordering beverages, the other for picking music.” Soundwave waved his hand over the inset screen in the table. “I like organic music from the far reaches of the universe, something like this.” He scrolled through the menu and picked a song. The pod shape of the booth helped create perfect acoustics to enjoy music. The soft, melodic voice of an unknown organic being sang, accompanied by a stringed instrument of some kind.

Jazz’s entire face lit up. “This is incredible. I had no idea a place like this existed.”

“I believe it's the only place of its kind. Seeing as we both enjoy melodic tones, I thought this would make for a memorable first outing.” Soundwave then waved his hand over the drink menu, and tapped on what he wanted. “What would you like?”

“To make out with you until my lips are numb?” Jazz replied with a grin.

Soundwave’s faceplates heated. “Perhaps after a couple drinks?”

Jazz leaned forward looking at the menu, then clicked on what he wanted. Soundwave sent their order in with another tap on the screen, then settled back in the booth seat making himself comfortable.

Optics dimmed, Jazz leaned on the table listening to the musical selection. “This isn't usually the kind of thing I listen to but it's really nice.”

“You can pick whatever you prefer to listen to. The selection is always changing here. They acquire music from all over the universe,” Soundwave happily explained.

Jazz turned to face Soundwave, staring intensely at him. “This is the most thoughtful first date I've ever been on. You know, usually it's some bar, drinks, dancin’ and if I'm in the mood I go home with whoever it is to frag the night away. Then I never see ‘em again.”

Soundwave held Jazz’s gaze. “And with me?”

“You're throwing me off my game.” Jazz scooted over, pressing up against Soundwave’s side. “You're too good for me, you know that right?”

“You're wrong. You're exactly what I need in my life,” Soundwave replied, taking hold of Jazz’s hand again.

“A crazy, music-obsessed, mess of a mech?” Jazz asked.

Lifting Jazz’s hand to his lips, Soundwave kissed the palm. “I live with someone who is dying. You make me feel alive.”

“This might sound weird, but that's the most romantic thing anyone’s ever said to me.” Jazz gazed at their linked hands, looking unsure. “I'm not used to being wooed.”

“I'm rusty when it comes to dating. Perhaps I've gone too far?” Soundwave asked.

Jazz pulled his hand out of Soundwave’s and shifted to straddle his lap. Pressing their forehelms together, Jazz softly ex-vented as sadness permeated his expression. “I can't be pinned down. I don't do commitment. I go with the flow of life, let it take me where it wants to go. I've never had anything lasting, other than music. And you–” Jazz frowned at Soundwave. “You see stuff in me that's not there. I'm way more fragged in the head than I might seem.”

“I see a mech as desperate for a connection to feel as alive as I do. The difference being, you fling yourself into everything and I normally sit in the darkness peering out,” Soundwave replied. The intensity of this mech was one of the qualities he found most attractive.

“If I said I wanted to ride you right here in this booth until I overload so hard my vision whites out, would you do it?” Jazz dared.

“Maybe, if that's what you truly wanted,” Soundwave replied. “But I don't think that's what you want. You're only testing me to see how I'll react.”

Jazz sat back, frowning at Soundwave. “Am I?”

“You are. Your approach of provoke and ask questions later is intriguing.” Soundwave smiled.

A knock on the sliding door interrupted the moment.

Soundwave wrapped one arm around his smaller companion and slid him off his lap and back to sitting beside him just as the door opened and a waiter greeted them, setting their ordered drinks down.

“If you need anything else, use the call button on the drink menu,” the waiter said before sliding the door closed.

“Smooth move there,” Jazz said, smirking at Soundwave.

“No point possibly being removed before we've had our drinks and listened to some more music, is there?” Soundwave slid Jazz’s drink in front of him and picked up his own, taking a small sip.

“Fraggit.” Jazz used the swirling stick in his drink to mix the energon with the glycol.

Soundwave set his drink down, and gave Jazz a questioning look.

Meeting his gaze, Jazz shook his head. “I think I met my match. Literally. Careful, ‘cause if I fall for you, it's gonna be a wild ride.”

Soundwave chuckled. “I would expect nothing less.”

“So, maybe I don't wanna ‘face and ruin the night by getting caught in this place but how ‘bout we make out?” Jazz asked, optics bright with hope.

“Make a music selection, and then I'll be happy to oblige your request,” Soundwave replied.

Jazz practically beamed as he sat forward and began to scroll through the musical menu. Soundwave held Jazz’s hand in his lap, spark pulsing happily for the first time in a very long time. Jazz was brazen, difficult, and incredible.

Earth now:

Soundwave woke in the darkness of his quarters. He repressed a whimper at the memory, immediately aware of the weight over his chest. He looked down to see Ravage draped over him, recharging. Glancing around he saw Rumble and Frenzy’s outlined forms curled up together beside him in the oversized berth. Turning his head, he spied Laserbeak settled in on his desk, optics dark while recharging.

He did care about them. How much of his emotional attachment was the symbiote programming that went with his modification and how much was a real connection he felt he wasn't sure.

The idea of leaving them hurt his spark, even if he knew Thundercracker was right and they could fend for themselves. He despised the modification he'd not asked for, he missed being with Jazz to the point his spark felt like it was burning inside his chest, but he couldn't let go of these small mechs that depended on him.

He was trapped.

Tears formed on the surfaces of his optics behind the visor. Megatron had ruined his life. Perhaps the only way out was through the mech that started it all. Stopping Megatron might be the only way to free himself, but how?

…  

The day had been long, but there had been no further activity from the Decepticons. Red Alert was on top of surveillance, their own stash of ore guarded at all times, and everyone remained vigilant. Perceptor enlisted Ratchet for his research and assured Optimus they were close to discovering the true power of the ore. All in all it had been a busy but not exactly fruitful sort of day.

Prowl quietly padded through the barracks after shifts were over, carrying his favorite board game. They'd agreed to have their inning this evening and he was more nervous than he expected. At the door to Optimus’ quarters he paused to compose himself. It was then he realized this was his first date in eons. He'd not been with anyone since– quickly killing where that thought was leading, he strengthened his resolve to fight off his jitters. Tonight was about him moving on. About opening his spark to someone he adored.

Tucking the game under one arm, he pressed the buzzer.

The door opened, and a full-faced Optimus greeted him with a nervous smile. “Come in, please.” He stepped back, gesturing for Prowl to step inside.

Upon entering, Prowl glanced around. He hadn’t been in Optimus’ quarters since they crash landed on Earth. He noticed that it was about seventy-five percent its original size, having given up a large chunk of space to the dormant volcano. “I didn’t know your quarters had been breached by rock.”

Shrugging, Optimus glanced at the rock wall occupying his living space. “My quarters is much larger than I need, already. I don’t mind sharing some of it with the Earth.”

Prowl smiled a little, recognizing the subtle joke for what it was. Optimus didn’t often make jokes or light of anything really. “Well, I see you still have plenty of room for the couch and table. Shall I set up there?”

“That sounds good,” Optimus replied.

Prowl gracefully sat down on the couch, and then placed his board game on the small table in front of it. He removed the lid and flipped it over, setting it into the base part of the box. A screen inset into the underside of the lid lit up brightly and made a small musical sound.

Looking up, Prowl was met with a glass of energon. He graciously took it. “Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome.” Optimus smiled and sat down next to him on the couch, peering curiously at the game. “So what game is this?”

“A basic strategy game. You pick a color--” Prowl pressed white on the screen. “--Then place a tile on the grid.” He pressed the center tile. “Your turn.”

Optimus was intrigued, and pressed blue, then picked a corner tile on the grid which lit up blue. “The premise is to take over the grid?”

“Precisely,” Prowl replied, placing his finger next to the blue tile, turning it white. “If I surround your blue tiles, then it becomes white.”

“I’ve played a similar game before. This is a much nicer board, though.” Optimus tapped the screen placing another blue marker.

They continued to play in silence for a little while, taking turns, and drinking energon. Prowl found it relaxing. He hadn’t had an evening to indulge in this kind of quiet company in eons. Finishing his energon, he started to get up to place his dirtied glass in the sink, but Optimus held up a hand to stop him.

“Let me,” Optimus said, taking the glass.

Watching his leader stand at the sink rinsing the only two glasses he had, Prowl was struck by how normal it all was. Optimus was a Prime, touched by Primus himself through the matrix inside him, but he was still very much a mech like the rest of them.

Returning to the couch to sit, Optimus shyly smiled, then focused on the board to decide his next move. But Prowl’s focus remained on Optimus. He chose a tile, then looked expectantly at Prowl. “Is something wrong?”

“Many things are so wrong, I wonder how they’ll ever be right again,” Prowl replied.

With a worried look, Optimus frowned. “Have I done something to offend you?”

No, not at all. I didn’t mean it like that.” Prowl sighed, regretting speaking his mind as he looked at the board game. “A normal life. We should all have these sorts of moments. Quiet, enjoyable, calm. These are things I feel like we’ve lost to this constant fighting.”

Optimus softly hummed his agreement. “This is nice, isn’t it? Just being around one another without reports to distract, or the constant interruptions of visitors?”

Looking back at Optimus, Prowl nodded. “Or worrying about you passing out because you’ve pushed yourself too hard.”

Chuckling, Optimus shook his head. “That goes both ways, you know. I always worry you work too hard.”

Prowl pressed his lips tightly for a moment. “Well, I have always wanted to impress you. It was easier to hide my pension for overworking when were on Cybertron. Much closer proximity here on Earth makes that more difficult.”

“I never see you blow off steam like the others. You’ve never had a desire for a personal life outside duty?” Optimus asked.

“No point, I suppose. I foolishly spent all my time monitoring a certain third-in-command you appointed.” Prowl shrugged his sensor panels and glanced back at the game board. “I have a lot of regrets, I suppose.”

Large blue fingers gently took hold of Prowl’s smaller white hand. Looking at them linked together, Prowl smiled. “A large part of me feels undeserving of you. Of this.”

All of me feels undeserving of you,” Optimus replied.

Glancing up, confusion flickered on Prowl’s face. “What do you mean?”

“I want to be upfront. You should know now, before we go much further, that I cannot spark bond. That is something I will never be able to offer you. And I completely understand if that puts an end to things between us,” Optimus explained, his field echoing his deep regret. “I know we’ve barely started anything, but I want to be perfectly honest with you.”

“Are you already bonded?” Prowl asked, curious as to why.

“To the matrix, I suppose. So long as it resides inside me, I cannot bond,” Optimus replied.

Prowl scooted closer, and cupped Optimus’ face with his free hand while gazing into his optics. “I accept that is part of the conditions of this relationship.”

Optimus almost looked like he might cry, his field shuddered with deep regret and awe at the same time. “As I said, I’m undeserving.”

“Don’t be silly.” Prowl stretched up, kissing Optimus lovingly.

It started off as a tender kiss, but their fields both reflected a desire for much more. Prowl broke the kiss, then moved to straddle Optimus’ hips. The resumed kissing, this time turning lustful, as their glossae entwined between linked mouths. Large blue hands explored Prowl’s body slowly, as if memorizing each curve and piece of plating. Where ever his hands dared to touch left Prowl’s sensory net buzzing and tingling. It had been so long since he’d been like this with another mech…Not since--

Prowl broke the long kiss with a gasp. No, those memories, they had no place here.

Optimus didn’t seem to notice the small battle Prowl waged with his processor for a moment. He mouthed and kissed his way down the curve of Prowl’s neck. Desire blotted out old memories, and Prowl softly moaned. “Touch my sensor panels?” he asked in an airy, thin voice.

“Certainly,” Optimus rumbled against his shoulder.

Large hands spread over Prowl’s back, massaging each sensor panel in tandem. He keened and grasped tightly at Optimus’ shoulders, shivering at the influx of sensory input. No one had ever touched him like that before, only Optimus’ large hands were capable of being everywhere at once like this. “Primus,” Prowl breathed.

Optimus chuckled, then mouthed Prowl’s neck cables, while his hands still busily turned Prowl into a quivering mass in his lap.

Prowl was beside himself, enjoying how good it felt to be in strong, caring arms. To be touched and adored. He tipped Optimus’ chin back up and kissed him again, his field rippling with desire, while his array came fully online and his cover snapped open.

This time Optimus broke the kiss. He stilled his hands, and softly panted heated air from his systems. “Prowl, do you really want to interface so soon?”

Prowl’s array burned with need, and he knew if he let his processor think too hard about all of this, he’d lose his control over those painful memories. No, he wanted to push on, make new memories to replace the ones still torturing him. “Yes. Please.”

Optimus looked unsure, though. “I don’t want to rush things between us. You don’t have to do this to make for some perceived loss of time between us.”

“It’s not that,” Prowl replied. He ground himself against Optimus, spike pressed between their abdomens. “Do you not want to interface with me?” he asked, his control over his emotions slipping as he felt tears try to surface.

“I most certainly do,” Optimus replied, shivering slightly as he glanced down at Prowl’s spike on point between them. “But I want more than just release. Don’t you?”

“Release...” Prowl repeated as he sat back on his heels. He thought of Jazz ‘facing anyone willing just to ‘get off’ as he called it, and then inevitably he thought of Reverb who’d insisted they wait, too. Letting go of Optimus, Prowl’s hands curled into loose fists against his broad chest.

“Prowl?”

Optics dimmed, Prowl’s processor betrayed his will. And he remembered the last time he saw Reverb alive.

 

Cybertron past:

“Be careful on patrol. There are reports of strange uprisings in some of the less savory districts,” Prowl said, pulling Reverb close to hug him before he left.

“You know me, I’ll be careful. I have something precious to return to.” Reverb kissed Prowl’s nose, then his lips.

Melting at the kiss, Prowl happily sighed as it broke. “I love you.”

“I love you more,” Reverb replied with a playful smile.

“I highly doubt that,” Prowl said, jabbing him in the side.

“So in two days, we’re gonna do it? You aren’t getting cold feet on me or anything?” Reverb asked, partly kidding, but also still in disbelief that Prowl agreed to bond to him.

“Yes. I have no doubts,” Prowl replied. “No go before you’re late, and come back to me.”

“I will.” Reverb stole one last kiss, and then bounded out the door of their apartment.

 

Earth now:

Prowl?

Optimus’ voice called him back to reality. Tears were streaming down his face as he looked up. He was exposed, crying, and making an absolute fool of himself in front of a mech he wanted to be perfect for. Who was he trying to kid? He was flawed to the core of his spark.

“I-I’m sorry,” Prowl stammered. He pushed off Optimus’ lap, standing up and shakily snapping his array cover back in place. “I apologize for… being me.”

“I didn’t mean to upset you. I wanted to be honest. I want more than a physical relationship, and having made mistakes before, letting my desire overrun my rational side only led to spark-break. I want to build something more with you.” Optimus looked mortified as he tried to explain and fix what he thought he broke.

Prowl cupped his face in one hand, and shook his head. “You didn’t do this. I’m far more broken than I even realized. I’m so sorry.”

Optimus reached up for his hand, but Prowl couldn’t stay here a minute longer embarrassing himself. He turned away and swiftly fled Optimus’ quarters, wiping at his tear stained face and hoping no one would cross his path before he reached his own room. Luckily, the corridors had been clear and he made it safely inside his own assigned quarters where he lost control over his churning emotions.

Curled up in his berth his body convulsed with each sob that escaped. He’d never properly mourned Reverb. It all had happened so fast, Praxus falling to the Decepticons, war igniting on their planet… Instead of mourning, he’d shoved that part of his life down deep and pretended it happened to someone else. Optimus… he was a different mech from Reverb, but he’d opened Prowl’s spark up again. Something all the pining after Jazz never would have led to. He felt vulnerable, exposed, and stupid for thinking he could move on.