The word hung in the air after being softly murmured by the medic, each Bot stared at another, their gazes landing on all gathered in the room.
Though not all of the Ark’s residents were in the meeting. Ratchet, Optimus Prime, Prowl, and Ironhide were gathered from the Cybertronian side, joining them were Sam Whitwickty, Michaela Barnes, Captain Will Lennox and Agent Simmons made up the group of humans.
Though there were no discerning Cybertronian from Human with the identical looks of shock and puzzlement on all their faces.
None of them had expected the news, and eventually all eyes finished looking at everyone and everywhere to finally settle on the one mech who was just as affected by the patient Ratchet spoke about.
His optics lowered as he squirmed as best as any nineteen foot tall robot could, merely by shifting leaning weight on one leg displacing it to the other. A subtle movement, but for the stoic, unmovable tactician it spoke volumes at the depth of his emotion.
They could all understand why the earth children, Sam and Michaela’s presence was requested now. They, probably more so then the adults and the mechs could relate better to the situation. Michaela more so than Sam, but where one was the other was always directly behind.
It was common knowledge that Michaela’s Mother suffered from a destructive drug habit, and Michaela, shortly after her Father’s imprisonment, had been removed from her family home and placed with her Grandmother.
Now, Ratchet hoped that perhaps she could shed some light on how to help their friend. Not shying away from the proverbial mantle that was placed firmly around her neck Michaela asked the one question everyone wanted to, but at the same time were afraid to. “Can we see him?”
Ratchet looked to Prowl for permission, the stoic tactician didn’t reply. All he could do was turn and walk away.
Ironhide opened his mouth to say something but the little wave from Michaela caught his eye. Once Prowl had left the room completely, all heads turned to her. She swallowed, wishing she could say something enlightening or significant but those words wouldn’t come; instead, she settled for the only advice that was offered to her, “Give him time.”
It seemed to be the right thing to say as three Autobots and three humans simultaneously relaxed. “So, can we?” Michaela asked again, and this time Ratchet nodded and keyed the door open to the medical bay.
Inside lying on a recharge berth, feet wiggling to music only he could hear, Jazz laid back arms behind his head, looking so relaxed and happy. It was a false façade.
They all gathered around and the chrome coloured mech raised his head, bobbing it to the music, his visor powered up from a dim grey to bright electric blue. He smiled widely at his audience before switching off his internal music system and sitting up cross legged on the berth.
His smile didn’t falter, but they could all see it was strained, it slipped briefly as they realised Jazz had scanned the crowd for one face and hadn’t found it. “I guess he didn’t take th’ news t’ good, huh.” The comment only served to bring the tenseness back into the situation.
“Jazz,” Michaela stepped forward and with the aid of Ratchet was lifted to the berth, where she stood before the mech. His attention was focused on her through the visor he always wore, and his smile remained unchanged, he offered her a quick wave of hello, but they could all see his spark wasn’t in it.
“Jazz,” Michaela started again, “Ratchet’s informed us of your,” she paused to lick her dry lips taking that moment to decide how to word this, throwing subtlety out the window she delved to the crux of the matter, “your addiction.” She’d said it, the one word they had found so utterly frightening and perplexing in the outer room that it couldn’t be spoken above a whisper.
The false smile wavered before disappearing altogether, reminding Michaela of the little white dot on a TV screen as the power is turned off. Jazz looked away momentarily, before returning his gaze though this time his visor locked with the towering bots surrounding him. “I don’t know how it happened?” he shrugged, “I just…needed it.” It was the best explanation he could give, and Michaela understood more than she thought she would.
“Sometimes we all need,” Michaela spoke softly, “we need something to make everything else that’s wrong with our lives go away.” Her eyes were unfocused as she spoke, remembering bitter memories of a mother who hated herself for being dependant on drugs, yet couldn’t function without them.
Jazz smiled a weary smile, “Ya understand?” he asked, and his voice was so sincere, so soft, so heart-breakingly honest and so scared that Michaela promised herself she would help, no matter what.
Sam stared ahead at the wall; he flicked a quick look at his wristwatch before returning his bored gaze to the wall. Three hours, Michaela had been sat in with Jazz for three hours after she had ordered everybody out of the medical bay.
Sam glanced again at his watch and huffed out a sigh, he wasn’t sure how much longer Michaela would be, but he had resolved himself to waiting for her. This was important to her and there was no way he would hassle her just because he was bored.
He’d spotted some of the Autobots wandering around, throwing secretive glances at the closed doors of the medical bay. The only mech he hadn’t seen, and had kind of been hoping would pass by, was Prowl.
It would seem the tactician was as cold as he seemed. Sam could understand, yeah he’d be ripped up if it was Michaela in that position, but he wouldn’t give up on her, no he'd stick by her offering her tough love or just plain love if she needed it. He would never walk away from her, not without trying his damndest first.
Prowl, the bot had walked away five minutes after being given the news and hadn’t even shown any concern or care for what was happening to the mech he supposedly loved.
Sam thought back to when he’d first met Prowl, he’d been thrown for a real crazy loop when he’d seen the bot crumble at the news that his lover was dead. Sam hadn’t been able to figure that out, as at the time he’d associated all the Autobots with being male and wasn’t aware of any female robots being among the group until Ratchet had explained that Prowl was grieving for Jazz. It had been one big old learning curve for him, but hey, he’d adjusted.
Then Ratchet and the group from Sector Seven ad been able to perform the impossible. Uniting the remaining shard of the Allspark with human technology, they had been able to revive Jazz. Sam had actually shed a few tears at the heart-warming reunion between Prowl and Jazz.
He wasn’t sure where everything had gone wrong, but then none of them knew Jazz had become addicted to something quite simplistic to humans. Jazz had been plugging himself into the power grid, drawing powerful electrical currents through him, something that was now revealed as quite dangerous to the ‘Bots.
Sam hadn’t understood to begin with until Ratchet explained that the properties of Energon and electricity were as different as night and day. One powered their systems, whilst the other slammed a higher voltage of power through their systems.
Ratchet continued to lecture that the higher voltage used the more susceptible a mech came to frying his processor, and causing a loop back to the spark which would initiate a deadly charge of energy directly through the core, essentially short circuiting the mech. Sam had explained they had something similar themselves, they called it electrocution.
Ratchet had paused, tilting his head in that manner that told Sam he was researching the term on the internet, before the medic nodded gravely in agreement.
Sam sprung up as the doors beside him parted and Michaela walked out, her blue eyes now rimmed with red. Sam enveloped her in a hug and she returned it shakily. “Is he okay now?” Sam questioned.
Michaela had to smile at the innocent question, “Sam talking for a few hours isn’t going to make the addiction go away. Jazz was on a high when we began talking, he’s coming down now, and this will be the hardest part for him.” Sam nodded, knowing he didn’t understand all of it. Michaela hugged him again, “It’s going to take a long while before Jazz is free of his addiction, a long while.”
Ratchet had never encountered a mech addicted to anything, well that wasn’t quite true he corrected himself, Megatron was addicted to power and greed, but that was something that no mech could cure.
Michaela had spoken to both he and Jazz at one point, explaining a rather odd phrase called Cold Turkey, she had explained that this would be the hardest part for Jazz. Ratchet had researched the phrase after he’d been kicked out of medical and spoken with Sam. Though now he understood exactly what it would entail and he wasn’t looking forward to handling the sneaky mech by himself.
Prowl had resolutely refused to answer all hails from any mech, even Optimus and they had decided to take Michaela’s advice and give him the time he needed, though they all hoped he would come around to Jazz’s plight.
It was Ironhide who had voiced the doubt whispering inside of them all, “What if he doesn’t?” no one had been able to answer it, not even Michaela. So now Ratchet pressed all thoughts of Prowl’s help away from his processor and concentrated on the shaking mech lying on the berth.
As he watched the mech become more and more uncomfortable in his shaking and shifting, Ratchet wondered for the one hundred and twenty second time if this was his fault. Had something gone wrong when they revived Jazz, were all of his instructions carried out to the letter; did he miss something when connecting the shard up to the human’s technology?
There were so many variables that could have gone wrong to begin with that perhaps he had missed something so blindingly obvious, he admitted freely he was no Wheeljack or Perceptor, and perhaps that was where it had all gone to pot. He had believed he could perform something that perhaps was never meant to be; perhaps this was Primus’ way of punishing Ratchet, by making him watch Jazz suffer so terribly.
Prowl stared out at the looming stretch of desert that eventually faded into the sunset. He couldn’t return, not just yet. He couldn’t bear to see their looks of pity or anger. Some would try to console him while others would most likely openly blame him, and in truth he already blamed himself.
Jazz had been back at the Ark one day before Prowl delved back into his duties. Jazz understood, at least that was what Prowl kept telling himself. Now he realised he had been pushing the cheeky saboteur away for too long and now, he knew he had lost him, permanently this time.
When he’d first arrived, first discovered about his precious Jazz the rehearsed speech he’d saved for millions of vorns was wasted.
It was shortly after the mission for the Allspark had been announced that Jazz had tried to speak with Prowl, he called his office every joor but Prowl was always busy.
When Jazz had finally cornered him the tactician had been half in recharge to pay attention to his bonded. It was when he next awoke in an empty recharge berth that the feeling became more noticeable in his spark.
There was a feeling of distance, Prowl knew Jazz was still on the base but his spark, usually open and thrumming with his emotions was subdued.
It was the beginning of the end and Prowl paid no attention to it. He’d merely told himself Jazz was having a bad shift, and then proceeded to get on with his duties. He wanted to finish a vast amount of reports that he’d agreed to handle for the other section leaders in Iacon, not that they needed the help, but Prowl enjoyed the work.
He cursed himself for every data pad he’d ever handled. For every report he’d spent all orn in his office writing whilst Jazz idled away the hours, alone.
When the orn came for the launch of the Ark, Prowl had been directed to accompany Optimus Prime to the ship, and his awaiting crew. It was only then that Prowl pieced together those words Jazz had spoken to him some time ago, when he was too tired to understand them.
Jazz was part of the mission, and now it would be Jazz who was leaving Prowl to idle away for vorns, alone.
The clincher had been when Prowl had tried to speak with Jazz and the cold reply of, “I’m busy,” had sliced through his spark. The feeling of distance he hadn’t wanted to acknowledge slammed through him, realisation that he had pushed away the mech he had chastely courted, before finally bonding with him, swearing to Primus that his bonded’s needs would always come first. He couldn’t even say that the war interfered with that, purely because Jazz was always away for shorter periods than Prowl spent in his office.
He had failed as a spark-mate, and he would not have the chance for a very long while to correct his mistake.
Prowl huffed to himself, he’d thought that chance lost when he arrived on Earth, only to have Jazz given back to him. He had wrapped the mech in his arms, silently swearing to never let go, and instead of delivering his speech, Jazz had tilted his head up to him, slid up his visor and whispered against Prowl’s lips, “I’m sorry I left ya alone Prowler.”
Jazz had apologised and excused Prowl’s behaviour and that in turn made everything better for Prowl, but not, in the long run, for Jazz.
Again Prowl had delved into his work, and pushed aside the bond. Now though, he couldn’t admit to any of his friends and comrades the real truth. He knew that all of them, those that pitied him, and those that were angry with him, would ask the one question he was too ashamed to answer. How could he not know that Jazz was addicted?
Prowl knew the answer too easily, he couldn’t know because the bond they shared was so weak and thin, he could barely feel Jazz’s presence. The day he had left Jazz recovering in their shared quarters was the day the distance returned. He’d felt Jazz awaken, and he’d had every intention of returning to their quarters, after he finished this last report, then the next one, and the next one, and all the reports that came after.
He’d realised with trepidation that he had spent an entire earth day in his office. When he finally got back to Jazz the mech was recharging peacefully and Prowl didn’t wake him, just climbed on the berth next to his bonded and slipped into a deep recharge.
Looking back it was the last time he had recharged with Jazz. After that he didn’t seem to notice they recharged at different hours, Jazz always on different shifts to himself, and never once did he question it.
The sound of small throat clearing made Prowl turn around and stare down at the little human female. Michaela.
“I thought you might want to talk.” She folded her skirt beneath her and sat down on the ground, looking up at him, “I know this isn’t easy, I remember when I was taken away from my mother. Everyone told me I shouldn’t blame myself,” she shook her head, laughing mirthlessly, “easier said than done, huh.”
Prowl didn’t want to hear these words, he knew it was his fault; he would not lay the blame anywhere else except at his own feet.
“He’s going cold turkey, not easy I can tell ya, I saw it once with my mom, it was,” Prowl gazed down as the young woman stopped talking, her voice becoming strained as she timidly wipe at her eyes,” I thought she was going to die.” Michaela laid her head on her arms, bringing her knees against her chest. “You don’t think that someone can take that much pain and still live through it.”
The words clutched at his spark, and an anger rose in him, anger at himself for being so weak and pathetic. “If your aim is to make me feel as though I am the innocent party, that I am the one who should be hurting the most through this, you are mistaken.”
The sharp, icy tone had Michaela looking up at him, astonishment lining her face. “It’s not your fau—”
Prowl cut her off, “of course it’s my fault. I pushed him away, I left him alone, and I allowed him to make all the concessions, to give up everything. It is my fault, Michaela, I broke his lust for life, I took everything away from him that made him the mech I loved.” Prowl felt exhausted after his words, he humphed at the fact that releasing his pent up feelings did not, in the least, make him feel better.
“I am the one who should be suffering, not him; I am the one who should be broken, not him. Yet what do I do, I turn away, I hide away because I cannot deal with my inadequacies in our relationship. For I know I cannot admit that I pushed, prodded and shoved Jazz into this!” footsteps thundered in the distance and Prowl realised that not only had he been shouting, he was now lent over the very frightened Michaela. Ironhide was standing near him, his optics darting between Prowl and the female, readying himself to jump between the two.
“You see,” Prowl continued, softening his voice but not lessening his glare, “I cannot be there for Jazz, because I was never there for him to begin with.”
The words rang about his processor, the first time they had been uttered and thought. The real truth about Prowl.
Michaela stood up, her head nearly coming up to Prowl’s where he’d bent so low. “What will you do?” she questioned him.
Prowl shook his head mournfully, he stood to his full height flinging out his arms in a small gesture, “what can I do.” He responded, moving away from the young woman and towards the desert.
“You can fix it,” came the small distant reply, nearly lost in the whistle of the cool desert wind. Prowl stopped, turning slightly to gaze at the girl. She hurriedly ran forward, standing beside his foot, looking up at him.
Prowl locked his optics on those blue eyes, as clear as the optics of his beloved, and just as open. “You have to fix it, Prowl.” Her voice was small and Prowl found himself leaning down once more, hearing the twinge of metal as Ironhide shifted his stance.
“I don’t know how,” he admitted.
“Be there,” Michaela replied with a smile, “just be there Prowl, be there when he needs to talk, when he needs to cry, when he needs pity and when he needs tough love.”
Prowl looked away into the desert once more, he was afraid he would fail again, would feel that distance slam into him once more. Would finally witness the bond break and feel so alone again, so small and insignificant.
“Prowl, he needs you, he’s frightened and believes that you,” Michaela’s voice choked up again prompting Prowl to turn back to her, “he’s afraid that you don’t love him, Prowl, he’s so afraid that he’s driven you away and he can’t see a way out of his misery.”
Prowl shook his head, he couldn’t do this.
Ratchet hated this, he wasn’t sure how much more he could take of this before he did something stupid out of pity for the thrashing mech.
The restraints Ratchet had put on Jazz were weakening at every movement made by the Solstice’s body. Ratchet was now forced into holding the mech down physically.
Every tortured cry that spilled from Jazz’s lips was another splinter in Ratchet’s spark. How long could Jazz hold himself together before his body finally gave out on him? Before his spark sputtered out and Ratchet knew if that did happen, it would be a merciful end for the mech.
The Solstice screamed again, crying out to let him die, to end his suffering, begging for Primus to kill him.
It was the final straw for Ratchet and he knew he couldn’t do this anymore. He was a medic; he wasn’t supposed to allow his patients to suffer, not like this.
Releasing his hold he strode over to his workbench and grabbed some equipment hastily putting small tools together whilst praying the restraints would hold for a little longer.
Filling a small tube with a pale green liquid, Ratchet turned and stared at the mech thrashing on the berth, screaming for an end to the agony.
He approached the berth, waiting for calm in the proverbial storm, it came, Jazz silenced, his vents gusting in and out large drafts of air. Ratchet gently grasped Jazz’s hand, lifting his arm, whispering soothing noises to the mech.
“It’s okay Jazz, I’ll stop the agony, you won’t suffer anymore. I promise.” Ratchet pressed the cylinder against the mech’s arm. “I’m sorry Jazz, I’m sorry I ever brought you back.” Ratchet choked out the words as he pressed his thumb on the plunger, the liquid would flow into his main energon cable and Jazz would simply fall into an endless recharge.
Ratchet closed his eyes, thumb tightening…
The hand shot out from behind him grabbing the cylinder and pulling it from the medic’s weak grasp. Ratchet whirled about, staring into the face of...
“Prowl.” Ratchet fell against the mech for a moment, “I’m sorry,” he muttered, “I couldn’t bare—”
“Ratchet, I will stay with him.”
Ratchet looked at the mech, Prowl was composed, calm, gentle in his words. He’d just caught the Chief Medical Officer about to euthanize his bond-mate and the mech didn’t react. Ratchet couldn’t even say Prowl was cold-sparked, as his words had held great depth and emotion when he spoke.
Ratchet finally nodded, moving away from Prowl and away from the medical bay, out into the Ark and searching for the one mech that could make it all go away for a few joors. Ironhide was quick to grasp the trembling medic and lead him to their quarters, locking their selves away from the world.