[TiA] Mouth on Fire

Restock. Check inventory. Mop floor. Wipe down tables. Consult schedule. Plan specials. Fix paint. Notice scratches.

Reevaluate his life.

Check. Check. Check. Check.

“Check.”

Blurr fumbled his data pad and nearly leapt out of his plating. “I thought you were busy,” he accused, wondering how to get his spark rate back to a normal rhythm. Fragging Spec Ops mechs!

Behind him, Jazz melted from the shadows, a grin on his lips. “Still am.” He circled Blurr with an incisive scan that probably cut through all the buffing layers to the scratches that had been there. “Have a good time I take it?”

Blurr scowled. “Get to the point.”

“Starscream’s dangerous.”

Blurr rolled his optics and consulted his datapad. “Tell me something I don’t know.”

“He came to me first.”

Blurr stiffened, pausing his opening checklist. “What do you mean?” First choice in Autobot? Or first choice period? Where did Metalhawk fit in it?

Jazz folded his arms and tilted his helm. “Is that jealousy I hear?”

“Curiosity.”

“Sure it is.” Jazz smirked. “Starscream wanted an ally. We have a history. He thought I was on his side because I stayed. It wasn’t a stretch. But unlike you, I turned him down flat.”

“Why?”

Jazz rolled his shoulders in a shrug. “For reasons. And because he’s Starscream.”

Blurr frowned and clamped his datapad to his forearm. He had to open soon and there were still a few things he needed to do. “A history?”

“None of your business. But it’s got nothing to do with the war.” Jazz lowered his arms and started moving stools around, back into place since Blurr had swept. “You gonna tell me why you’re even considering his offer?”

Blurr’s engine rumbled. “None of your business,” he replied, and he tossed Jazz the grin he’d given countless newsbots when they bombarded him after a race. “Are you going to help me finish setting up or not?”

“I’m here, aren’t I?” Jazz hopped behind the counter, searching the hidden shelves for the various paraphernalia they’d need. “And I’m just looking out for ya Blurr. It’s a habit.”

“I know.” The smile this time was more genuine. Jazz, for all that he’d exclaimed abandoning his brand, would always be one of their leaders.

Even if Blurr did suspect Jazz had ulterior motives. Many of them. One could never be sure with Jazz when it came to intentions.

In fact, he and Starscream were a lot alike in retrospect. Both of them constantly schemed and manipulated mechs for their own purposes, whether personal or grander schemes.

Which wasn’t to say that he didn’t like Jazz, because he did. Blurr trusted Jazz, too. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t also fully aware of his friend’s capabilities.

Trust but verify.

They worked in silence, Jazz thinking Jazzy things and Blurr ruminating on Starscream’s offer. To take or not to take. All he wanted was peace and to run his bar in relative anonymity, but even Blurr knew that was a pipe dream. Not with their political climate so unstable and everyone in the city looking for a leader to trust.

Blurr didn’t trust Bumblebee. Not that he trusted Starscream either, but with Prowl also stirring the pot and threats lingering on the horizon, trying to hide didn’t seem much of an option. Even if they were out in the wilds, they weren’t out of the picture.

Blurr figured he was going to be dragged back into the thick of things, whether he liked it or not. Maybe this time he should choose the manner of his involvement, rather than be swayed by whatever sob story wandered his direction.

And if he had even the slimmest chance in the Pit of getting Starscream to listen to him, to somehow convince the Seeker of the better course, than it was worth it.

“I’m going to accept Starscream’s offer,” Blurr said into the silence, a few moments before he was due to open the doors.

Jazz didn’t act the least bit surprised. “All of his offer?”

Should he be shocked that Jazz knew there was more than a few layers to it?

Blurr planted his hands on his hips and gave his bar a long look. “We’ll see,” he allowed, and manually unlocked the doors. These days, electronic locks were no more reliable than manual ones.

The first couple customers trickled in as though they’d been waiting outside, and they probably had. Blurr greeted them and hopped behind the counter.

It was time to get to work. He would worry about contacting Starscream later.

As it turned out, later was a matter of opinion. Because no sooner had he opened then Starscream came strolling inside, entourage included, as though they had been sitting at the restaurant waiting for Maccadam’s to open. Apparently, waiting for Blurr’s comm required patience Starscream did not have.

Starscream smiled, he waved, he blithely ignored the hostile looks he received from half of Blurr’s patrons. A fourth ignored him. The rest called out cheerful greetings.

Jazz sidled up to Blurr and spoke out the side of his mouth, even as he mixed a couple spritzers for two patrons on the other side of the bar. “Well, look who’s come to call.”

“Jazz. Shut up.”

He laughed and edged away, to deliver the drinks before returning to the stage. He only jumped behind the counter when Blurr was overwhelmed.

This, of course, left plenty of room for Starscream to walk right up to the counter and surprise Blurr. “Well, hello,” he purred, his very presence scaring three customers out of their chairs, leaving them free for the Seeker to appropriate. “Fancy meeting you here.”

“Yes,” Blurr drawled, sending out the last of the drinks he’d needed to prepare. “Imagine I should be here, in my bar, working.”

“Imagine.” Starscream grinned and tilted his helm, his lackeys choosing not to sit but take up position on either side, preventing anyone else from taking the empty stools. “What would you recommend?”

“Discretion.” Blurr flattened his palms on the counter, shifting his weight. He was more than aware that they were being watched. Scrutinized.

Starscream chuckled. “You say that as though I’m propositioning you in public.”

“Aren’t you?”

“Not for the fun bits.”

Blurr cracked a grin. “Isn’t it all fun?”

Starscream chuckled and his field slid out in a pinpoint caress against Blurr’s. “I take it that means you have good news for me?”

Blurr inclined his helm and fought back a shiver. “With caveats.”

“I’m listening.”

“Good.” He leaned close until they almost shared ventilations. “Then keep listening. Because the moment I think I’m just an ornament is the moment you remember what I used to be.”

“Fast?” Starscream popped an orbital ridge.

“A Wrecker,” Blurr corrected with a growl.

Starscream’s fingers rapped a staccato on the countertop. “Fair enough.” His concession was easy, almost scarily so.

Was Starscream that desperate for an ally?

“Good.” Blurr swallowed down his suspicion so it wouldn’t show in his field or on his face. “When do we start?”

“Tonight.” Starscream’s lips curled. “That is, if you’re accepting my entire offer.”

Down the counter, someone signaled for a refill. Blurr nodded, acknowledging the request. The time for was chatting gone. Not that it had been there in the first place. Trust Starscream to corner him when he was too busy to give adequate time to his thoughts.

“Yeah.” Blurr turned away from Starscream to tend to his customer. “I’ll be there.”

He felt Starscream’s satisfaction like a warmth across the embrace of their fields before Starscream withdrew his. “See you then.”

He did not watch as Starscream left, taking his entourage with him. Though the atmosphere in his bar did improve. Conversation upticked from a low murmur to a dull roar. Well, this would fuel the rumors for weeks to come.

Blurr attended to his customer with a smile, relieved when the mech didn’t ask questions and quietly accepted his drink. This gave Blurr time to catch Jazz’s visor across the length of the bar, but Jazz’s expression betrayed nothing.

We do what we gotta do, Speedy,” Jazz transmitted over Blurr’s comm.

Good.” Blurr smiled at the next customer as his hands worked busily, but most of his focus was on the conversation. “Then find me everything you can on Starscream’s crew, yeah?”

Jazz purred amusement. “You want I should let Bee know he’s got a mech on the inside?”

Not just yet. Not until I know something.”

And not until Blurr was sure he wanted to trust Bumblebee again. Not to mention that the less Prowl knew the better. He didn’t trust what Decepticon nest had taken root in Prowl’s processor.

Whatever you say, boss.” Jazz winked half his visor and then cut the comm, returning full attention to his electro-bass.

Blurr returned to his own work. Tonight would be the real challenge.

He was more than ready for it.

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