The washrack was filled with the patter of cleanser and rising steam. Blurr’s hands moved professionally over Starscream’s frame, doing his best not to encourage other things. Starscream might have come in and promptly booted out all the other patrons, but their privacy in the washracks wouldn’t last for long.
Not to mention they were both already late for their respective responsibilities. And besides, he had questions.
“Tell me about this meeting,” Blurr said as he scrubbed Starscream’s back.
The Seeker purred his pleasure, kneading the wall of the rack with his fingers like an Earth feline. “What meeting?”
Blurr’s optics narrowed. “The meeting you claimed you were going to be late for earlier.”
“Oh, that meeting.” Starscream rolled his shoulders, one wing flicking and splattering Blurr with cleanser. “It’s not important. Just a little chat between friends.”
“Friends,” Blurr repeated flatly. “You don’t have friends.”
Starscream turned to face him, affecting an expression of disappointment. “Blurr, I’m hurt. What are we if not friends?” He grabbed the scrubber and spun his finger in a circle. “Turn around so I can return the favor.”
Blurr sighed but did as Starscream asked. He was sticky from a night in the berth with an amorous Seeker who apparently turned into a clingy Seeker in his recharge. And Blurr had recharged in the wet spot.
“We’re business partners,” Blurr answered, but he clenched his jaw. Starscream was evasive, and that usually meant Starscream was hiding something. But then, when wasn’t he?
“The two aren’t mutually exclusive,” Starscream retorted.
The soft sweep of the brush against Blurr’s plating was heavenly, but he tried not to give in to the comfort. Because Blurr certainly believed otherwise. One couldn’t be both friends and business partners with Starscream. That was a recipe for disaster.
“Fine,” Blurr said. “The meeting’s not important. But I’m sure whatever Rattrap gave you last night is. So why don’t you tell me about that. And whatever you’ve found out regarding our electrical issues. I’m supposed to be the voice of the people, and I don’t know anything.”
Starscream hummed. “Rattrap gave me nothing save information and useless information at that. I may have to find a better informer if he keeps up this poor performance.”
Blurr tossed a glare over his shoulder, not that Starscream noticed. He pretended a complete focus in scrubbing the back of Blurr’s legs.
“Funny how I don’t believe you,” Blurr said.
“You’re not laughing so I’m rather certain you don’t find it amusing.” Starscream set the scrubber aside and claimed the sprayer instead. “Tell me what this mysterious object you seem to think I possess looks like and perhaps then I’ll be able to tell you what it was.”
Blurr turned and barely kept himself from snatching the sprayer from Starscream’s hand. He didn’t particularly care for Starscream’s tone.
“Stop being evasive,” he snapped. “What the frag is going on, Starscream? You can’t keep me in the dark.”
The sprayer shut off and was left dangling from the ceiling. Starscream folded his arms, his face a mask, betraying nothing. The drip-drip of the leaky faucet seemed all the louder for the sudden silence.
“There are some things,” Starscream began, and it was clear he was choosing his words carefully, which might have been a first for Starscream, “that you do not need to know. Where ignorance is a better protection than knowledge.”
Blurr’s internal temperature ticked upward, matching the low-grade anger settling in his lines. He frowned.
“Protection from what?”
“It doesn’t matter.” Starscream waved a dismissing hand and turned away from Blurr, grabbing one of several folded drying cloths stacked nearby. “What’s important is that you need to be careful. There’s something beneath the surface here that doesn’t bode well for you or me or even Bumblebee out there in the wilderness.”
“And you’re not going to tell me.”
“You don’t need to know.”
Starscream shrugged and headed for the door. Blurr intercepted him easily enough, stepping between the Seeker and the exit. He tilted his helm. Looking up at Starscream had never made him feel inferior, but the ability to loom would have been useful right now. It was an effective intimidation technique.
Blurr cycled a ventilation. “That is not an acceptable answer.”
Starscream arched an orbital ridge, an action which only served to double Blurr’s rising ire. “More’s the pity as it is the answer I’m giving you.”
So. Starscream could stride into his bar, use Blurr for stress relief, distract him with interfacing, and then blow off his concerns? No, that was unacceptable. In fact, it was more than a little offensive.
Blurr stepped to the side, freeing up the door. “Fine,” he bit out. “Leave.” He might not be able to make Starscream talk, but he damn sure didn’t have to stand here and look at Starscream either. He’d just remember this the next time Starscream came by and wanted something.
Starscream’s optics narrowed. “You do realize you sound like a sparkling who didn’t get his way.”
“Maybe I just don’t have time for your secrets.” Blurr jerked his helm toward the door. “Go.” He crossed his arms and made a point to make his field as unwelcome as possible.
There was a tense moment when he felt Starscream would stay just to be contrary, but then Starscream tossed down the towel. He harrumphed and swept from the room as though it had been his choice all along and he was only humoring Blurr’s request. He took with him his storm of a field, which Blurr only belatedly realized had been like razorwire against his own the whole time.
He heard the distinctive sound of a door opening and shutting with a slam that somehow sounded offended. Starscream certainly had a flair for the dramatic.
In his absence, Blurr ventilated a slow sigh of relief and unfolded his arms. Still dripping, he sought his own cloth and wiped himself down before picking up Starscream’s discarded towel as well. Trust Starscream to leave a mess behind.
His comm pinged and Blurr sighed, accepting the call.
“So,” Jazz said, his vocals coming through clearly, “wanna tell me why Starscream just stormed past me in a huff?”
Blurr rolled his optics. “Maybe because he thinks he can manipulate me all he wants and I won’t call him out on it.”
Jazz laughed. “I see. Well, you can’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“Right. Because ‘I told you so’ is exactly what I want to hear right now.” Blurr dumped the damp towels into the bin and departed as well. “Want to tell me what the frag is going on?” he demanded as he stepped into a bright, Cybertronian morning.
“You’ll have to be more specific.”
Blurr startled, whirling to the right where Jazz leaned on the outside of the building, propped against the sign. “Did you come looking for me?”
“Might have been a little worried.” Jazz shrugged and straightened, stretching his arms over his helm. “Ya slipped out the back so ya didn’t see what was left for ya in the front.”
“Left for me?”
Jazz pulled out a datapad and wiggled it, the tiny device little more than a messenger system as opposed to a multi-purpose pad. “Popped through the mail slot and everything. Had just enough of a tint of threat to it that I was concerned.”
Blurr’s optics narrowed, but he took the messenger from Jazz and flicked it on. There was a message on it, short and to the point, not that the words made much sense. Something about death coming to those who wanted to lead Cybertron back to ruin. The glyphs were disjointed and some of them illegible. It was like trying to translate Cybertronian into English and then back again. Meaning was lost in between.
“What’s this about?” Blurr asked.
“I dunno. If I had ta guess, I’d say Starscream was to blame.”
“Isn’t he always?” Blurr muttered, and he read the message again.
Something icy slithered into his spark. This symbol at the bottom. He peered at it, the multiple parallel lines with capped loops. There was something familiar about it but he couldn’t seem to come up with a match in his databanks.
“Starscream didn’t do this, though. It’s not his style,” Blurr added.
Jazz waved a hand of dismissal. “Oh, I know that. But ya can be damn sure ya got it because ya made the fool choice to align yourself with him.”
“Who sent it?”
“That I don’t know.” Jazz let loose a frustrated huff. “Whoever they are, they’re good. Dunno if they’re Autobot or Decepticon or NAIL. Just know that they don’t like Starscream.”
“Hah. Like that narrows it down.”
Jazz tapped the messenger. “Exactly, and because of that, they don’t like you. I don’t have a name, but I do know they’re responsible for the blackout.”
Well, frag it all. “I can take care of myself,” Blurr declared. “Something I think both you and Starscream seem to be forgetting.”
Jazz rolled his shoulders. “I ain’t sayin’ ya can’t. I’m just sayin’ be careful. Watch yer back. Maybe remember how it feels to go armed again. That’s all.”
Politically, that was a bad move. Only mechs looking for trouble or Starscream’s hand-picked Enforcer patrol went visibly armed. It was one of the declarations Starscream had made in the wake of Megatron’s return and the battle that followed, along with the casting out of those who retained their factional allegiance.
But Jazz had a point. Blurr couldn’t rely only on his speed to protect him.
Ugh. This was getting ugly.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Blurr said and tucked away the messenger. “For now, I’ve got a bar to run and you’ve got to figure out what the frag Starscream’s up to.”
Jazz smirked. “Isn’t that your job?”
“I’ll do my part, you do yours.” Blurr’s hackles were still up about Starscream. He had to figure out a plan of attack before the sneaky Seeker got to thinking he’d won.
“Sure, sure. Whatever ya say, boss.” Jazz’s visor half-darkened in a wink and he turned away, whistling.
Blurr thought about the messenger in his subspace.
“Jazz?” He waited for the former third in command to pause and look back at him. “Thanks for worrying about me.”
Jazz broke into a full grin. “All in the job, boss. All in the job.”
He went on his way and bracing himself, Blurr did as well. And if he peered around a bit more than usual and startled at unexpected sounds, well, that was only to be expected.