Thanks to DitzyMusicLover, cmdrtekk, FoghornLeghorn83 who reviewed the first chapter and sorry it took so long to update!

Warnings: Use of profanities, slight slash between 'male' characters, angst

Disclaimer: Not mine, I just toy with with them and hand them back in less than pristine condition.

:/Blah\: - internal/private communications

Prowl woke from recharge with a start when he felt someone shift against him, his processor instantly told him that be all accounts he should be alone in his berth. He opened his optic shutters and powered up his optical sensors which quickly settled upon the wall opposite him before they drifted down to the light filtering in from under the door, he attempted to roll upon his back only to hear a groan of protest that wasn't his own. It was only then did he register the weight on his left side, Prowl snapped his gaze round and was more than surprised to see Jazz lying there comfortably with one arm beneath his head whilst the other was draped over the tactician's abdomen. The saboteur was positioned in such a way that he wasn't pressing against any of the wounds the black and white mech had acquired, but it was such a position that would rouse him from recharge should Prowl decide to move.

The military strategist smiled at the somewhat peaceful expression upon the silver mech's lax facial plates, Prowl reached with his left hand and gently touched the saboteur's helm. Jazz made a soft sound in his recharge but continued to sleep which was unusual for the silver mech as the special ops officer was a light sleeper, he knew any sudden movement near Jazz would have the saboteur up on his feet and in a defensive stance before a bot could blink an optic shutter. The tactician allowed his fingers to gently trace the sharp finned edges of a horn only to find it was probably the wrong move to make, Jazz on-lined instantly into defensive mode when he felt the brush against the sensitive appendage. The military strategist found his arm being twisted round in a painful grapple move before being flipped onto his front with an energy blade pressed against a primary fuel line in his neck.

"Jazz." He called softly to the saboteur as he knew that if he attempted to move, the silver mech would most likely perceive him as a threat and terminate him before he had a chance to defend himself. The tactician felt the pressure of the knife lessen before it disappeared completely, however the weight of the other mech did not move and Prowl glanced over his shoulder, shifting his left sensory panel out of the way so he could meet the saboteur's gaze.

"Morning Prowler." Jazz greeted him with a smile.

"It's Prowl not Prowler or any other affiliation you have compiled for me." The tactician groused, he tensed when he felt the silver mech press the palms of his hands against the small of his back, clawed fingers idly tracing a couple of armour seams "and could you possibly move?"

"Nope." Jazz told him. What the special ops mech did next took the black and white completely by surprise, the saboteur pressed himself flat against Prowl's back and tucked his head in the nape of his neck "I'm quite comfy here."

The military strategist tried flexing his sensory panels but found them pinned beneath Jazz's bulk, he tried to comprehend the reasoning behind the saboteur's rather close proximity especially since he had never before invaded Prowl's personal space or got as close as he was now. That was until the words he had spoken to Jazz in his pre-recharge haze appeared in his processor.

'I care for you Jazz more than I'm supposed too and I refuse to allow anything to happen to you.' The tactician resisted the urge to face palm as he had never openly admitted how he felt for someone before he had met Jazz, and now that he had made the first move he wondered what the saboteur's next move would be if there was going to be one at all. His logic centre presented him with the fact that the silver mech must reciprocate his feelings or he wouldn't be pressed intimately close to the black and white mech as he was now. However Prowl knew there would be consequences if he pursued a relationship with Jazz; after all the pair of them were second and third in command of the Autobots, they both had responsibilities that would require their full most attention. Not too mention it was probably not a good idea to form emotional bonds with another mech with the war escalating, however the tactician reasoned despite the slight processor ache it produced, that it would give him one shred of sanity in this cruel, war torn world.

The 2IC was drawn out of his thoughts briefly to the awkward silence that had fallen between the pair of them and Prowl was beginning to feel uncomfortable, not only physically but with the quiet that permeated the room. His audio receptors barely picked up the low hum of Jazz's systems and wondered if the saboteur had drifted off back into recharge, not that the tactician would blame him. After all the past few orns had been tiring both mentally and physically for the Autobots. The 2IC suspected it was going to be like that for the next couple of cycles whilst they dealt with the aftermath and the clean up of Praxus. Prowl didn't want to think about what he had lost when the beautiful city had been destroyed, but knew he would have to come to terms with it eventually and perform the mourning ritual with his only surviving kin; his eldest brother Smokescreen.

"Hey Prowl, I gotta ask ya somethin'." Jazz said pulling the tactician out of his thoughts.

"What is it Jazz? And could you possibly shift your skid plate?" Prowl asked as he successfully managed to get his arms beneath him, all it would take was a good push upwards and he would be free of the saboteur's smaller frame draped across his back. Not that he minded, a small part of him was enjoying the close contact with the silver mech.

"Not until I get an answer outta ya." Jazz told him.

The black and white mech sighed through his intakes before allowing his mind to wonder what the question would be. After too many possibilities were presented to him, Prowl decided to allow the saboteur to ask the question "Fire away."

"Did ya … did ya really mean what ya said last night … about carin' fer me more than ya supposed to? Or was it impendin' recharge talkin'?" Jazz inquired as he pushed himself upwards so both clawed hands were resting upon the small of Prowl's back. He began to contemplate that maybe he had interpreted all the signs incorrectly, and that maybe he had asked the wrong question which might be causing the tactician's logic circuits to lock up right this instant. Had it been the grief the 2IC was feeling that had made the black and white mech say such words? If so, the saboteur knew it would be better to cut his loses and leave now before things became more awkward between him and Prowl. Of course when the tactician didn't respond straight away, all hope began to fade away that there wasn't really anything between them at all and Jazz had made a complete fool out of himself.

"Jazz I . . ." The tactician began drawing the special ops mech out of his thoughts. The saboteur knew this would be the moment of truth, unless of course the 2IC's logic circuits decided to crash on him leaving Jazz wondering what he would have said "Jazz I meant what I said." Prowl told the silver mech "I … I care for you more than a friend should …."

"Wait! Are ya tellin' me that ya have feelin's for me?" Jazz asked blatantly as he shifted his leg nearest to the edge of the berth and let it drop over the side. It was all the tactician needed to reverse their positions, he pushed upwards abruptly usurping the saboteur from where he had been sitting and sent him sprawling backwards on to the berth. Prowl straddled the small mech at the hips and grasped both flailing wrists and pinned them down on the berth. The silver mech shook off the surprise of being tackled and glanced up at the tactician, he saw one advantage to his new submissive position he had been forced into, and that was he could now see Prowl's face fully. And from the look upon the tactician's facial plates told Jazz that it was true; the 2IC did have feelings for him. The saboteur realised now that the attraction he had towards the taller mech was being returned, it was amazing really how something tragic an event or a loss could reveal another side to a bot. Jazz suddenly felt his spark flutter in its casing and his core temperature raise ever so slightly when it finally registered in his processor, the position they were currently in.

"I do." Prowl replied distracting him away from his line of thoughts.

The saboteur felt his fuel pump skip a beat and his spark continued its frantic fluttering at those two small words that left the tactician's vocaliser and rolled off those perfect lips of his "Funny story that because I . . . ." The silver mech never got to finish his sentence as his lip components were captured in a deep passionate kiss. Jazz felt his entire frame go lax as he melted into the kiss that Prowl had surprisingly initiated. The special ops mech decided to throw all caution to the wind and enjoy this moment, they could talk about the pros and cons of pursuing a relationship later. The pair broke the kiss slowly but surely before touching their foreheads to the others "wow I didn't expect that."

A rare but beautiful smile graced the tactician's lip components, one the saboteur hoped to see more of in the future. However it disappeared as quickly as it appeared "Jazz I have to know . . . . . ."

The silver mech silenced him with a single clawed finger pressed against the 2IC's slightly parted lip components "No ya don't coz ya already know th' answer I was gonna give ya."

"And that answer would be exactly?" Prowl inquired although he already knew what the answer was deep down in his spark. After all Jazz wouldn't still be here if he didn't feel the same way, however the tactician wanted to hear the confirmation vocally from the special ops mech..

The saboteur was about to open his mouth plates to respond when the chime of the tactician's door sounded, ruining the well built atmosphere. The silver mech grumbled about the bot's lousy timing as the pair of them got up from the berth and made their way across the room, however Prowl stopped Jazz in the open doorway and turned the smaller mech to face him by grabbing his left upper arm. The saboteur was about to ask him if he was alright when he was pressed against the door frame and engaged in a short chaste kiss, Jazz felt his knees go weak and held onto Prowl's upper arms for support. The silver mech was finding it strange how the taller mech was suddenly being affectionate, but knew that all the mech wanted was comfort and reassurance from someone he was close too. Not that Jazz minded, it was nice to see a different side to Prowl, he just wished it hadn't been brought out through grief of losing the majority of his family and the city he had been sparked in. Although the saboteur could tell this whole incident was taking its toll on the black and white mech as Prowl's sensory panels were low upon his back compared to the normal high and flared out positions, and his bright blue optics were also dim.

"You still owe me an answer." The 2IC said.

The saboteur chuckled as he rested one clawed hand against the right side of the tactician's helm "Do I now? coz I thought ..." The special ops mech never got to finish his sentence when they were rudely interrupted.

"Gah! Frag my optics! Now I'm gonna have to defrag my processor." They heard the bot exclaim, Prowl pulled away from Jazz so quickly that he stumbled into the opposite door frame and lost his balance. The saboteur attempted to grab one of the tactician's arms to prevent him from falling backwards, only to lose his own balance in the process and fall with him. The special ops officer heard the black and white mech hiss in pain when the jolt no doubt painfully reminded the 2IC that he still needed to get his injuries seen to by Ratchet.

"What do you want Smokescreen?" Prowl demanded as he took one of Jazz's clawed hands and pulled himself up onto his peds with the saboteur's help.

"Not to be mentally scarred that's for sure." His eldest sibling replied, although the usual playfulness wasn't entirely there, a sure sign that the diversionary strategist was also feeling the loss of their creators and their brother as acutely as his younger brother was. Smokescreen waved one of the few data-pads he had in his hands at his sibling "I wanted to speak to you about the mourning rites an' how you wanna proceed."

"An that's ma cue ta leave." Jazz said as he stepped around the brothers, he flashed the military strategist a small reassuring smile before he disappeared from the room.

The black and white mech could feel his brother scrutinising him the moment the silver mech had disappeared from the room. Prowl raised a single optic ridge at his sibling's stare "What?"

"I would never have thought for an astro-second, you would hook up with Jazz of all mechs." Smokescreen replied.

"Your point being?" The 2IC asked as he made his way across to his dispenser and grabbed a ration of energon.

The red and blue mech moved toward the couches arranged in the middle of the room "Its just that you two are so different from each other, although a few of the bots on base suspected there was somethin' between the pair of you … so which one of you 'confessed first?"

Prowl glared at his older sibling "I thought you came here with a purpose?"

"I did." Smokescreen replied as he laid a few data-pads out in front of him on the small, knee joint high table. The older mech wasn't one for tradition, hell he wasn't usually the organised one, but he knew that to bring closure to the pair of them, tradition stated that the Praxian rites for mourning needed to be carried out "are you ready for this?"

The black and white mech glanced at his brother, Prowl knew that casualties were certain in a war, but he had never expected for it to hit so close to home. The loss of most of his family should have made him shut Jazz out and not let him get close, but right now he needed something or somebot to take comfort in, in fact he regretted not asking the saboteur to stay. However Prowl knew Optimus would have effective immediately declared him emotionally compromised and relieved him from duty until further notice, which meant Jazz was required to step up into his position and take over his duties whilst juggling with his own. Suddenly the guilt he was still feeling at letting his people down (despite the saboteur's reassurance that it wasn't his fault) increased two fold at the thought of the silver special ops mech taking on his responsibilities, especially when he had done so much for him already. The tactician noticed the somewhat impatient look upon his elder brother's facial plates, although he could see a tint of underlying concern and worry there too.

Prowl vented a shaky sigh out of his intakes "I'm ready."


A couple of orns later ….

It was getting late Jazz mused as he pinched the ridge of his nasal plates before he glanced at the screen upon the data-pad he was currently holding. He hated paperwork with a passion especially more so when he was having to cover not only his own, but Prowl's as well until the tactician was released back onto duty. Normally he wasn't that bothered about having to cover for the 2IC's workload, but this orn it seemed that every department head had found it fit to keep him swamped with the status of their units, inventory lists and their individual reports about the rescue and salvage operation in Praxus. Each of them spoke of the grim details that they had seen, heard or experienced, and the saboteur suddenly found himself with the need to maul something just to vent his anger as he continued reading the personal accounts. However the more reports the silver mech read about civilians being slaughtered mercilessly, the tighter his grip became upon the pad until finally it joined the other ones that had also seen his ire, it greeted the wall and came to rest upon the floor lying in pieces with the others. In fact dark thoughts of how he would like to deactivate the Decepticons responsible was beginning to work its way into his processor, and he couldn't help but relish in the recalled memories of how he had coldly terminated or brutally killed Decepticon officers and soldiers.

However Jazz was drawn out of his thoughts when he heard the chime that signalled that someone was awaiting entry into his office, sounded throughout the small room. The saboteur called out a soft 'come in' as he slumped back in his seat and glanced down at the last few data-pads that were either waiting to be added to the finished pile, or to join the others on the floor. The silver mech didn't even look up when the doors slid open to permit the Autobot who had disturbed his murderous thoughts, that was until he heard the bot's light tread and knew there were only two other mechs who could move quietly like that. Although Mirage was still out of the base gathering Intel. so the only other mech it could be was a certain black and white. Jazz glanced up and a small whisper of a smile appeared upon his lip components when he saw Prowl stood just inside the doors, his gaze focused upon the broken pile of data-pads, before that chevroned helm turned so their gazes met.

The tactician quirked a single optic ridge "That's not how you deal with paperwork Jazz."

"It is now." The saboteur responded as he sat forward stretching at the same time to undo any kinks that had worked themselves into his joints, he pushed himself up out of his chair groaning slightly at the stiffness that had worked its way into his frame before he perched upon the edge on the other side of the desk "what can I do fer ya Prowl?"

The black and white mech vented a deep sigh out of his intakes, his sensory panels drooping upon his back "I want something to do, I do not wish to wallow in self pity or guilt in my quarters."

The silver mech frowned as he folded his arms across his chest plates as he regarded the mech in front of him, taking note of how downcast he appeared "Ya know ya supposed ta be on medical leave until further notice, that means no work right?"

"I know its just that … I feel useless and I'm reluctant to say that I'm bored too." The tactician replied "I've managed to spend much of my morning talking to the survivors, but now I've found myself with nothing to preoccupy my time."

Jazz allowed a small smile to tug at the corners of his lip components, he wasn't sure whether Prowl would actually manage to muster the courage to go down to the repair bay and speak with some of the survivors. But he was glad in some respects that he did; after all they would alleviate any guilt he was feeling about not being able to warn them in time about the possible Decepticon attack.

"Well I suppose I could use a servo with th' inventory lists, I know how you love doin' those." The saboteur said, giving the tactician a small smile.

The black and white mech cocked his helm to the side in an imitation of an organic rolling their eyes "Hardly."

"Well any help would be appreciated, I don't know how ya do it all th' time." Jazz grumbled as he slid off the edge of the desk and turned, he glanced forlornly at the reports still needing his attention. Surprisingly much of his anger from earlier had evaporated with just having Prowl in the same room as him.

The tactician stepped up beside him "Because I organise and prioritise."

The saboteur waved him off as he made his way around his desk "Yea, yea I know organisin' an' prioritisin' allows ya ta be more efficient." The special ops mech glanced at the black and white, only to frown when he saw Prowl's sensory panels droop and a small sad frown make its way onto his facial plates. Jazz stepped out from behind his desk and made his way back over to the tactician again "Prowl?"

"My sire gave me that piece of advice once." The black and white mech replied in a soft tone.

The saboteur gently gripped one of his elbow joints "Well if ya ask me he gave a pretty good piece of advice since its made ya good at your job." The 2IC gave him a small sad smile and the silver mech gave him a reassuring one in return "come on th' quicker they'll get done, th' sooner I can get out of here. I'm startin' ta feel like I've been …." Jazz was cut off when the base alarm sounded "what the frag?"

"Come on." Prowl uttered as he gently touched the saboteur's left elbow before quickly proceeding out of the room.

The 3IC scrambled after him, clearly aware that the tactician was heading in one direction only; the control room rather than back to his quarters "Wait Prowl, ya off duty remember."

The black and white glanced over his shoulder "I'm well aware of that Jazz, but I have a duty to the Autobots regardless of whether I have been removed from duty or not."

Jazz vented a sigh, he knew there was no point in arguing with Prowl, and short of jabbing the tactician in the neck to knock him unconscious via a pressure node, there was no way he would be able to get him back to quarters. The pair of them passed numerous Autobots rushing to their stations as they made their way to the command deck. Jazz glanced at Prowl with a concerned look upon his facial plates, he knew there was every chance that his lover was going to be assigned to a combat group to push back the Decepticon forces, and they needed their military strategist to have a clear processor. The second and third in command entered the control room to find it a whirl with activity as their comrades tried to isolate exactly where the enemy were planning to attack, whilst Optimus Prime, Ultra Magnus and Ironhide were stood around the centre holographic display.

"There's nothing there of real importance." They heard Ultra Magnus state as they made their approach.

"Then I say let's go and slag the fraggers." Ironhide retorted.

"That would not be such a prudent course of action." Prowl responded as he stood beside the weapons specialist.

"Prowl I thought Ratchet declared you off duty until further notice?" Optimus inquired as he quirked a single optic ridge at the tactician.

"He did, however I felt my skills were needed here and although I trust in Trailbreaker's abilities, I'd rather oversee the battle plans myself." The black and white mech explained, his posture stiff and formal and his gaze unwavering.

"I've already tried to convince him otherwise Sir, but ya know how slaggin' stubborn he can be." Jazz told the Autobot leader as he glanced from the military strategist stood beside him to the large red and blue mech.

The Prime vented a sigh out of his intakes as he he regarded his 2IC, he knew Prowl hated sitting idly by whilst his comrades risked their lives. And if the destruction of Praxus told him anything, was that the tactician wasn't going to make the same mistake again by not acting quick enough.

"Very well but if at any point I feel that you've become compromised in anyway, then I will have no choice but to remove you from the field, is that understood?" Optimus told him sternly, although he knew it would take a lot to break Prowl's resolve. But that didn't stop him from worrying about the tactician's well-being.

The black and white mech dipped his head in acknowledgement "Yes sir."

:/Optimus this isn't a good idea, you should confine the kid to his quarters until we've sent the 'con's back to the pit they crawled out of.\: Ironhide transmitted over a private comm. frequency as he watched Prowl quickly review the available data they had before pulling up topographical maps of the area the Decepticons planned to attack.

:/Normally I would have, but right now we require Prowl's skills as chief tactical officer and at this moment he is needed here.\: The Prime responded as he listened to the plan his 2IC was currently outlining to the other assembled unit commanders :/I trust Prowl to know where his limits are.\:

:/I hope you're right about that, the youngling's got a stubborn streak the size of Unicron.\: The weapons specialist uttered as he folded his arms across his armoured chest plates and turned his full attention to the strategy being prepared. The large red and blue mech sighed out of his intakes as he too turned his attention to Prowl. He just hoped he was making the right decision about letting the tactician join them in the field, however he suspected that Jazz (particularly if the new rumours were true about the pair of them finally becoming a couple after the vorns of dancing around one another) would remind Prowl of where his limits were and ensure that the black and white mech didn't become compromised in anyway whilst they were out there.

Optimus watched as his 2IC handed out orders to each of the unit leaders before they departed the room to gather their teams, the Prime noticed that each of them cast the tactician a concerned look as they took the relevant data-pads from the black and white mech. However the Prime noticed that Prowl simply gave them the same cold calculating gaze that had many suspecting that he was a sparkless drone, the Autobot leader also knew that the tactician didn't want the looks of pity he was getting from his comrades, nor did he wear his emotions so openly like the others did which made it that little bit harder for the other Autobots to interpret them, let alone get to know him.

The red and blue mech allowed a small smile to tug at his lip components when he saw his second and third in commands gently grasp each other's helms and touch foreheads for the briefest of seconds, then Jazz pulled away and headed out of the control room. Optimus was both glad and relieved to see that the black and white mech had found someone to confide in during this difficult time, and the saboteur had always been a fantastic listener and counsellor, so Prowl had really found the right bot with who he could share his woes with. The Prime also wished the pair of them good luck since he had no objections to his fellow Autobots pursuing a relationship; after all 'freedom was the right of all sentient beings'. Of course except when those relationships interfered with the orn to orn running of the base, but that was an issue that was very far and few in-between.

"Optimus sir?" Were the two words spoken that drew the Prime out of his thoughts, he glanced across to see Prowl gazing at him with a single optic ridge raised and his sensory panels were waving back and forth.

"I'm sorry Prowl I was just thinking." The Autobot leader replied.

"That much was evident sir." The tactician said as he made his way across to him, the pair then made their way out of the command centre and into the inter-connecting hallways that would take them down to the transport hangar "may I ask what is troubling you?"

Optimus resisted the urge to flinch at the almost flat and cold tone the black and white mech was speaking in "I'm concerned that I'm allowing you out onto the battlefield far too soon, Prowl you may have had a few orns to grieve but grief is an unpredictable and length process." The Prime stopped his 2IC in mid-stride and clasped one of his shoulder struts "I don't want you to think that you have to be out there because its your obligation to be, I would rather you use the time that has been given to you for you to grieve for the family you've lost but ..." The Autobot leader sighed out of his intakes "... I know your sense of duty won't allow you to put this aside for a personal matter."

"The unfortunate downside of once being an enforcer." The tactician responded, his sensory panels drooping upon his back.

"So it seems." The large red and blue mech said as he offered his 2IC a small sad smile as they began walking again towards the hangar "just promise me one thing Prowl, that if things become too much ..."

"I will head back to the transport and await further orders." Prowl replied finishing his commander's sentence.

Optimus shook his head in amusement "And another thing Prowl?"

The tactician glanced at his commander curiously "Sir?"

"I want you to attach yourself to the sniper unit, they could use your skills." The Prime told him 'And it'll keep you away from combat.' The large red and blue mech wanted to add but didn't.

The 2IC gave his leader an annoyed if not somewhat irritated look, a part of him wished his comrades would stop coddling him and treating him like fragile glass. However the other part of him appreciated what his fellow Autobots were trying to do "Yes sir." He responded after a few moments.

Optimus nodded as he keyed in the code for the transport hangar, the doors slid open to reveal the rather busy atmosphere within as mechs and femmes mobilised into action and boarded the shuttles. The Prime spotted the shuttle he was to board, he wished Prowl good luck before making his way across the large chamber. The tactician watched his leader stride across the hangar before he turned and headed over to the allocated launch pad the sniper team were boarding their shuttle, several of the mechs saluted him as he ascended the ramp and stepped into the shuttle.

"Status report?" The winged black and white mech barked instantly gaining the attention of the pilot and the mech stood behind him.

The green and burgundy mech stepped away from the pilot and made his way over "All systems are operational sir, I assume you're also joining us?"

Prowl glanced past him as his gaze focused upon the forward view screen " You assume correctly." The tactician glanced back at the sniper and took note of the somewhat surprised look upon the mech's facial plates "gather the team on board, we leave immediately."

"Yes sir." The sniper responded as he threw Prowl a quick salute before stepping around him and heading out of the shuttle. The tactician watched him leave before turning his attention to the flurry of activity outside, his audio receptors detected the distinct voice of the green and burgundy mech order the sniping team aboard the shuttle, followed closely by the several pairs of footsteps as the 2IC's team boarded the transport. Prowl glanced over his shoulder briefly, flicking a sensory panel out of the way as he did so, to acknowledge each member of the team's presences before he settled in for the long journey once the shuttle lifted from the launch pad. Clearly unaware of what awaited him on the battlefield.

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