A Sunburst for Atomizer.
Two shots of the smoothest and most concentrated engex for Breakaway.
A rather large Toxic Temptation, complete with two swirly straws, for Tailgate and Rewind to share while Chromedome looked on in indulgent affection.
And another round of cheap ale from that planet they passed two months ago for the boisterous crowd at the corner table, who were slobbering their congratulations on the shoulders of a very confused Swingblade.
Bluestreak grinned and tucked his tray under his arm. Several more orders were shouted at him, and he kept a mental list as he slid through the throng back to the main bar. Karaoke Night was always busier than most, as the more overcharged the crew became, the louder and more off-key their singing. And the more deserving of mockery, also, which was a point of entertainment for just about everyone.
Instituting Karaoke Night was one of the best ideas Swerve ever had, and mech, there had been a bunch of terrible ones in there, too. Spin the Bottle night, apparently, was a disaster from the start. Who knew that encouraging random mechs to kiss each other would lead to brawls every single time? The property damage alone made those nights a loss, no matter how well-attended.
Still, Swerve was a fountain of new ideas, and here lately, many of them gleaned from the human entertainment Bluestreak had brought onboard with him.
“Orders delivered!” Bluestreak sang cheerfully as he slipped behind the bar and dropped the empty tray onto a small stack of other empties. “What next, boss?”
Swerve, busily filling four mugs with different flavors of bubbling engex at once, tossed Bluestreak a big grin. “Whoever shouts your name first. Help me clear out this crowd, then we’ll get the others, yeah?”
Bluestreak spun around and true to word, mechs started hollering his name. Those who remembered it anyway. A couple preferred “Not-Prowl” and “Not-Smokescreen-Either”.
Three Toxic Turnovers and a Smelter’s Pit later, Bluestreak wiped off his hands and the counter where he’d spilled some iron syrup. The mad press of mechs at the front of the bar trickled down to one or two already overcharged mechs, who stared blearily at the empty cube in front of them, convinced it was full.
Bluestreak chuckled and reviewed the orders which had been tossed to him earlier. He’d need Swerve to make the Hedonia Paradise. He wasn’t sure he remembered the recipe. Though it was almost a pity. Karaoke had given way to a DJ, and the music pumping from the speakers made his circuits sing and the echoes of his sensory panels twitch.
He didn’t spend much time on the other side of the counter. Mostly because he couldn’t trust himself not to get lost in it. Vices were called vices for a reason.
It took him a minute to find his boss, as Swerve had gone into the back for some supplies. He toddled out, the door sliding shut and locking behind him, the box in his arms large enough to block his sight.
Bluestreak was quick to rescue him.
“Thanks, Blue.” Swerve beamed. “You know, you’re a good kid. I don’t care what anyone else says about you.”
Bluestreak blinked. “Thanks. I think.” Did he want to know what the others were saying? Or was it more of the same? Either way, he supposed it didn’t matter. “Hey, I need a Hedonia Paradise.”
“Someday, they’re gonna figure out it’s made from the cheapest stuff here and won’t let me charge so much for it,” Swerve replied with a laugh, and fluttered his visor in a wink. “Coming right up!”
He moved past Bluestreak, gaze sweeping across his bar as it always did. Bluestreak had been trying to learn that habit, too. He figured Swerve would trust him enough to give him a night on his own at some point.
It would be nice to be trusted again.
“Oh, Primus. Not again,” Swerve groaned.
Bluestreak turned to look, figuring that maybe Whirl was overcharged and waving his guns around again, or Skids and Nautica were grinding on the dance floor in a rather lewd manner, or that “bachelor” party in the corner had tripped over the line from having fun to needing to hash out old grievances with their fists.
But, no. It was none of these things.
It was Rodimus, not Prime, co-captain of their quest, climbing onto the largest, central table, a cube of something bright and violent in one hand and a slag-eating grin on his pretty lips. He wobbled as he stood there, hips and aft swaying, fingers crooked as though inviting someone to join him. His optics were bright, the kind of bright that meant a mech was seriously overcharged.
“Does that happen often?” Bluestreak asked.
“Often enough that it seriously frags me off,” Swerve grumbled and slammed an empty mug onto the countertop, his visor narrowed in Rodimus’ direction. “Damn it. The last thing I wanted tonight was to have summon Ultra Magnus in here. He’s ten tons of buzzkill. Guess the party’s over.”
Bluestreak frowned. Rodimus was currently drunkenly swaying to the music, only to stop and suck down the entirety of his drink, after which he dropped the empty to the tabletop. The crowd of mechs around him cheered and someone offered him another something, different than whatever he had before.
Rodimus accepted it with a wink and spun into a dance move, only to wobble dangerously to the left, nearly tumbling off the table, were it not for wayward hands putting him back upright. A grin stretched his lips, and his optics sparked with overcharge, but there was something in his expression, something in the way he greedily reached for the groping hands with armor clamped uninvitingly…
“Maybe I can get him down,” Bluestreak said, before he could think twice about it.
Swerve stared at him. “I’ve tried just asking him. It doesn’t work. He thinks it’s cute.” He glowered. “Mech don’t listen to anyone, and it takes someone big enough to pick him up and haul him down and away.”
“Drinks on me!” Rodimus suddenly hollered loud enough to be heard over the music as he threw his arms into the air, sloshing engex everywhere from his cube.
The crowd surrounding him roared their cheers. Free booze? Of course they’d be delighted!
“And then there’re the promises he can’t keep,” Swerve grumbled and threw up his hands in surrender. “Calling Magnus it is.”
A decision made too quickly, Bluestreak noticed, because no sooner had Rodimus made his bold and expensive declaration, then did he trip on what appeared to be nothing and tumble right off the table. No one tried to catch him, or if they did, they were too late about it, and he clattered to the floor.
The crowd cheered. Whether because they were so intoxicated that they found this hysterical, or because their much maligned captain was making a fool of himself yet again, Bluestreak didn’t know.
Smokescreen had been right at least. The Lost Light’s crew was certainly one of misfits, outcasts, the confused, and the abandoned. He’d told Bluestreak that he’d fit right in. Until now, Bluestreak didn’t think he would.
“You don’t have to call Ultra Magnus,” Bluestreak said firmly. “I’ll get him out of here before he makes more of a ruckus. I’m not sure I trust any of those drunk idiots out there to do it properly.”
Drunk and handsy, he noticed, as a couple mechs helped Rodimus to his feet, but not without lingering touches. They were returned, of course, because Bluestreak had heard more than a few rumors about how freely Rodimus shared himself with his crew. But if there was genuine attraction and interest in Rodimus’ blatant flirtations, Bluestreak would eat his entire stock of gun polish.
“You sure? It doesn’t look like he needs much help to get home,” Swerve said, though with a frown rather than a laugh. He, at least, didn’t seem to find this funny. Maybe because he was starting to see in Rodimus, some of the troubles in himself, the same troubles which had led to the Swearth incident.
Barely a drop in the bucket of weird that seemed to congregate around the Lost Light and it’s crew, apparently.
And yes, Swerve had a point. People did seem to be eager to get their hands all over Rodimus, but more seemed interested in shoving drinks into his hand than stopping him from consuming them or maybe even getting him sent to the medbay for a check up. That had been a pretty harsh fall.
“He needs more help than he knows,” Bluestreak muttered, but shook himself and tight-beamed Swerve the list of drinks needed for mechs out in the morass. The serving drone could always deliver them. “If you don’t mind, I mean. Better than calling Magnus and killing the atmosphere, right?”
Because the only other option was to call Megatron and absolutely no one wanted to do that.
Bluestreak didn’t know Rodimus that well, but he couldn’t, for the spark of him, think of a mech who Rodimus was particularly close to. A friend, even, who could pull him out of the mess he’d made of himself. Bluestreak hadn’t been on the Lost Light long, but he’d already noticed who was close with who, who belonged to which clique, et cetera.
Rodimus, however, was a blank slate in the social chart he’d drawn. Rodimus was a mech alone.
Even Megatron had Ravage.
There were rumors, of course, that Rodimus’ closest friend was probably Drift, but as that former Decepticon had been ousted from the ship, it meant Rodimus was friend-less. Though the same rumors insisted Drift had been exiled under false pretenses orchestrated by Rodimus himself.
Perhaps being Rodimus’ friend was not something to aspire to. Which explained his current dearth of them.
Though if calling Ultra Magnus to haul Rodimus off and no doubt lecture him was the only option Swerve ever had, well, that was more than a little sad.
“Sure. Fine.” Swerve flicked a hand at him. “Just get him out of here before he causes some kind of riot.”
Bluestreak beamed. “Thanks, boss!” Had he his sensory panels still, he’d have wriggled them. People told him such behavior was cute, and it had worked in his favor more often than not.
Still, a blinding smile set in an innocent face was often all it took anyway.
Swerve waved him off again and turned to make the drink list Bluestreak had sent him.
Bluestreak cycled a ventilation, braced himself, and dove into the crowd. It wasn’t hard to find Rodimus, but getting through the mechs surrounding him took more than a little shoving and a couple snarled curses. Fortunately, overcharged mechs tended to be easy to push around.
That and the threat of never serving them engex again. No one wanted to lose their intoxication privileges.
He found Rodimus chugging the drink he’d been given earlier, one finger lifted as though telling someone to wait, while he staggered, back into the arms of a mech who didn’t seem all that opposed to having his captain against him. Bluestreak wracked his processor for a name and came away with Broadside, who he was almost certain joined up at the same time Bluestreak did.
For a moment, he wondered if other mechs did this, too. If they categorized the people around them, memorized their faces and kept a database, if they tagged friend groups and cliques and alliances and grudges. He wondered if they did it because they had no choice, or because they needed some form of control, like Bluestreak did.
He wondered it, and then he let the thought slide away. He had more important matters at hand.
Rodimus finished his drink, crushed the cube, and threw his hands up in the air. “And another one bites the dust!” he crowed, and threw the cube down, where it promptly shattered and made a mess. One Bluestreak would normally be tasked with sweeping up.
Bluestreak sighed internally.
And then he hitched up his britches, so to speak, and got to work.
“All right, mechs, enough’s enough,” he said loudly, trying to use his ‘bartender’ voice. It wasn’t as good as Swerve’s yet, but he was getting there. He jostled his way to Rodimus and took the co-captain by the elbow. “Sorry, sir. But you’re cut off. Time to head out.”
“I’ve barely drank anything,” Rodimus protested with audible static in his vocalizer, and a stumble against Bluestreak’s side, even though he’d hardly tugged on the other mech.
“Yeah, and he’s having fun with us!” One of the peanut gallery offered up. Bluestreak didn’t bother to match face to name.
Bluestreak shook his head and pulled Rodimus more firmly against his side. “I could call Ultra Magnus, if you’d rather.”
Poor Magnus. Bluestreak wondered if the mech even knew how much his designation was used as a threat around here. Or if it bothered him.
It was as if someone had dropped an ice water bomb on the revelers. Grins turned to frowns, and the muttering started, even as they backed away.
“Fine. Take him,” Drunk Number Three said with a scowl. “He’s trouble anyhow.”
It wasn’t like Bluestreak needed their permission, but it was a lot easier with their acquiescence.
“Aww, since when did you become such a killjoy?” Rodimus whined in his audial as a wandering hand tracked across Bluestreak’s abdomen. “Or maybe you just wanna keep me for yourself, eh?”
Bluestreak grabbed Rodimus’ wrist and removed it from his person. “Just doing my duty, sir. Come on. I think you need your berth.”
“Only if you join me on it.” Rodimus leered and leaned in close, probably trying to aim a sloppy kiss on Bluestreak’s cheek.
He deftly shifted his weight, directing a wobbly Rodimus toward kissing the open air, and started half-dragging, half-carrying his captain toward the exit. Frankly, he was glad the crowd parted for them, because this was embarrassing enough as it was. Well, for Rodimus anyhow. Bluestreak wasn’t the one who was sloppy drunk, making promises he couldn’t keep, all while willing to go home with whatever hand groped him last.
“No, thank you,” Bluestreak said politely, though he’d be impressed if Rodimus actually heard him, given that the karaoke had started again and someone was caterwauling a very terrible version of “I Will Always Love You.”
He managed to drag Rodimus into the hallway and to the lift before Rodimus’ hand started wandering again. Bluestreak patiently gripped the offending hand around the wrist and gave it a warning squeeze.
“I’m not interested,” he said as metal creaked and delicate cables pinched alarmingly, enough to sting but not enough to damage.
Not that Rodimus seemed to notice the pain.
“Really? That’d be a first,” Rodimus burbled and leaned heavily against him, venting a warm sigh. “You smell good, you know that?”
Probably because he didn’t stink of overcharge and overconsumption?
“Who’s on duty tonight?” Bluestreak asked, just to change the subject. And people called him chatty. Clearly, they’d never been around a drunk Rodimus.
Beside him, Rodimus tangibly stiffened before it melted away into the languidness of overcharge once again. “Megatron, I think. Or Hound. Someone not me, and I’m pretty sure not Ultra Magnus either.”
Bluestreak barely stopped himself from frowning. As the captain, shouldn’t Rodimus be more aware of the command schedule? Or was his processor swimming in too much engex?
It couldn’t be the latter. There was too much inconsistency in Rodimus’ behavior, flashes of something that didn’t read as mere intoxication.
The lift deposited them on the command deck, the aft end where command quarters were kept. Megatron kept a berth in the crew quarters as Rodimus had adamantly refused to surrender his captain’s quarters. That he’d locked himself in there for almost a month after the Lost Light left Cybertron ensured Megatron would not be usurping the habsuite.
Bluestreak passed Ultra Magnus’ claimed hab, and the one that used to belong to Drift. Megatron could have taken that hab, but he hadn’t. If it was because Rodimus hadn’t allowed him to do so, or Megatron hadn’t wanted to, Bluestreak didn’t know. Maybe a bit of both? For now, that hab continued to be unoccupied. For all he knew, Drift’s belongings still cluttered the space.
“Wait. Are you actually taking me back to my habsuite?” Rodimus asked as he straightened a little, optics cycling. He looked around them pointedly.
“Yes, sir.” Bluestreak swung them to a stop in front of the captain’s quarters, which had been decorated quite garishly with Rodimus’ trademark flames. There was no mistaking this habsuite as belonging to anyone else. “Could you put in your code?”
Rodimus stared at him as if he’d spontaneously sprouted another head, but he did at least wobble forward and input his code. Without a single mistake at that. Mechs as intoxicated as he appeared to be normally needed more than a few tries.
Curiouser and curiouser.
The door opened and suddenly, Rodimus couldn’t seem to walk, forcing Bluestreak to take more of his weight. The lights flickered to brightness as soon as they walked inside, illuminating a habsuite that was unexpectedly tidy. True there were stacks of random things on the desk and end tables, but it wasn’t the garbage pit Bluestreak half-expected.
It also didn’t look like Rodimus spent a lot of time here. Probably too busy occupying whatever berth would have him.
Was that an uncharitable thought? Perhaps.
“Hey look, there’s my berth!” Rodimus said brightly, and there he went again, suddenly capable of getting his feet beneath him. He hopped up on the berth and half-lounged in a pose that was probably meant to be enticing.
“You should join me on it,” he purred with an arch of his back and a lazy slide of his glossa over his lips.
The door slid shut behind Bluestreak. He frowned and gave his captain a cold look. “When are you going to drop the act?” he demanded, and belatedly added, “Sir.”
Rodimus’ optics cycled. “Act?” he echoed and chuckled. “Can’t a mech invite someone to his berth without it being taken as a joke?”
Bluestreak resisted the urge to roll his optics. He leaned in close, and was not at all surprised when Rodimus reared back. “You don’t even smell of engex, sir.”
“More’s the pity.” Rodimus dragged himself further onto the berth, away from Bluestreak, and more seated than lounging. “Maybe I just have a high tolerance.”
“And maybe you’ve engaged your FIM chip so that the high grade doesn’t actually affect you.”
Rodimus rolled his head, the very picture of nonchalance. “I’m hardly the first person who went out for a drink, but not because they wanted to get drunk.”
And there it was. Not a trace of inebriation to be found on Rodimus all of the sudden. The jovial giddiness vanished, and his optics went from bright to flat and annoyed.
“Besides, it’s none of your business,” Rodimus added with enough chill in his tone to make an icicle shiver.
Unfortunately for him, it took a lot more than that to make Bluestreak so much as blink. He’d faced down a terrified, incoherent Jazz before. A pouting Rodimus was nothing in comparison.
“It is when you start climbing on tabletops in my boss’s bar,” Bluestreak replied, and tipped his head. “Sir.”
“Somehow, when you say it like that, it doesn’t feel like a gesture of respect.” Rodimus flopped back onto his berth with an aggrieved sigh. He folded one hand beneath his head and flicked the other at Bluestreak. “You did your duty. Dismissed.”
It would have been easy to spin on a heel and excuse himself. He had, after all, done what he came here to do, and it truly was none of his business why Rodimus wanted to pretend to be overcharged, so he could drag someone back to his berth for some cheap, meaningless ‘facing. Mechs did it all the time. Such behavior was hardly new.
Once upon a time, Bluestreak was guilty of the same, though he never faked his inebriation. He didn’t have to. He might have used his cheerful innocence as a clever lure perhaps. Mechs never could resist a giggle and the quiet belief they were cuddling something cute that needed them.
In theory, Bluestreak could leave and no one would fault him for it. Something compelled him to linger however. Maybe because Rodimus’ armor had drawn tight, and his field withdrew so completely Bluestreak could not catch a flicker of it. Or because Bluestreak remembered that of all the social webs he’d drawn, Rodimus stood apart from them. Maybe it was pity.
Bluestreak frowned. “Why the act?”
“Oh, are you still here?” Rodimus gave him a bored look and flopped over onto his side, spoiler flicked down and at an odd angle.
Bluestreak twisted his jaw. “As soon as I leave, you’re going to go right back to the bar, aren’t you? Just to see who you can connive into your berth.”
“Excuse me, I don’t need to connive anyone.” Rodimus shot upright, whipping around to glare at Bluestreak. “All I have to do is make an offer.”
“You’re that irresistible then?” Bluestreak cocked a hip and an orbital ridge. He folded his arms under his bumper, giving Rodimus a look that had often knocked the confidence right out of Jazz. “You know it’s not going to fix anything.”
“I didn’t say it would.” Rodimus hissed as he swung his legs over the side of the berth, his armor drawn taut over his frame, his spoiler vibrating with tension.
He reminded Bluestreak of Jazz in that moment. Fright in his optics, but not fear, arrogance a drape over the pain beneath. The smile he had in the bar was as false as the confidence.
“And there’s nothing that needs fixing anyway,” Rodimus snapped and pointed to the door. “I thought you were seeing yourself out.”
Bluestreak cycled a vent. Rodimus’ energy field was making him dizzy, so noxious and frenzied it was. Fatigue clawed at the edges of it, and buried beneath was self-loathing and a toxic despair. Bluestreak honestly didn’t want to get too close, because he feared if he touched it, that nauseating field would cling to his own like some kind of tar.
He should leave.
“Fine,” Bluestreak said on the end of a sigh. He spun around. “Get some sleep, sir. Hope you enjoy your misery.”
The last probably was unnecessary, but damn it, Rodimus wasn’t the only one missing someone around here. He wasn’t the only one suffering. Or the only one who’d left something or someone behind.
Bluestreak paused before he made it to the door. He subconsciously tilted a sensory panel down before he remembered he didn’t have them anymore, which meant he could easily look over his shoulder.
Rodimus had dropped his hand, his shoulders slumping and his optics dim. “I’m… I’m sorry, okay?”
He sounded genuine. If anything, the remorse in Rodimus’ field spoke more volumes. Maybe Bluestreak had actually gotten through to him.
Bluestreak turned back around, though he didn’t immediately wander from the door. “Apology accepted. Though you might want to make sure you know what it is you’re apologizing for.”
Rodimus cycled his optics. “Huh?”
A chuckle spilled free before Bluestreak could hold it back. Rodimus was more charming like this than the over-confidence he usually sported.
“If you’re upset and need a friend, say so. You don’t have to hide that need behind anger and sarcasm.”
Rodimus frowned and pulled himself onto the berth, spoiler clanging as it hit the wall and he dragged his knees up in front of him, like a barrier. “I’m the cap–” He winced and corrected himself. “Co-captain. I can’t really do that.”
“Sure you can.” Bluestreak grinned and spilled as much comfort into his field as he could spare, both to genuinely console and to combat that nauseating field. “You just say ‘hey there sexy bartender, how about keeping me company tonight since I’m missing my partner something fierce’ and you know, you catch more flies with honey that way.”
Rodimus’ optics cycled. Some of his closed-off posture relaxed as his orbital ridge drew down. “I didn’t– I never said–”
“You didn’t have to,” Bluestreak said, to cut off Rodimus’ stuttering attempt at denial. He crossed the floor to the berth, hopping up to perch on the edge of it, half-twisting to fold one leg over the surface. “I’m pretty good at reading these things out of people, and I know what that feeling looks like.”
Rodimus unfolded a bit more, his legs straightening out and his arms drifting to his sides. “You’re staying?” His face crinkled with confusion, which was far cuter on him than the false flirting he’d had earlier.
“Wouldn’t have climbed onto the berth if I wasn’t.” Bluestreak patted the surface. “Seems like you need the company. And to recharge.” He lifted his orbital ridges, giving Rodimus a pointed look.
Miraculously, his captain obeyed, though with hesitation, as he lowered himself down to the berth, on his belly, his spoiler laying flat on his back. Bluestreak felt a twinge of envy. He missed his sensory panels sometimes, but recharging with them had always been an aggravation.
Rodimus frowned. “Don’t you have to go back to work?”
“Honestly, given the way Swerve was winking at me, I don’t think anyone expects me to come back,” Bluestreak replied. He didn’t know if that was meant to be a slight on how easy Rodimus was supposed to be, or how naive everyone thought Bluestreak was. Maybe it was both.
Rodimus snickered and it was like a switch flipped, because the tension in his frame switched to something languid and enticing. He reached for Bluestreak with a smile, all smirk and flirtations and nothing sincere.
“We could give truth to the lie,” Rodimus purred.
Bluestreak put a quick stop to that. He smacked Rodimus’ hand like he might an errant sparkling. “Stop it. You don’t actually want me.” He borrowed, for a moment, that tone. The one which always melted Jazz and made him snap to obey.
It did not work on Rodimus sadly. He pouted, and it was an attractive pout, one Bluestreak thought he might have fun melting away, but sloppy drunks were not attractive to him. Not now or ever. Didn’t matter that Rodimus was half-pretending he was overcharged. Intent mattered.
“Now that’s not true.” Rodimus wriggled closer, his field reaching out instead of his hand this time. “You’re a pretty hot piece of aft, Blue.”
He deftly, and gently, swatted Rodimus’ seeking tendrils of a field away as well, folding his own against it and back. “Yeah, I am,” Bluestreak said, because there was no point in being modest about something he knew to be true. “Doesn’t mean you want me or it. Plus, you’re drunk and sloppy, and I don’t do either.”
Rodimus sulked and scooted away, closer to the wall, as though he needed to recharge against it to feel comfortable. “So if I was sober…?”
Bluestreak chuckled despite himself. “Go to sleep, sir.”
A harrumph spilled out of his captain’s vents before Rodimus flopped down with all the grace of a speeding train and buried his face in a pillow, which was then dragged and tucked under his chestplate. Apparently, he could be obedient. It only took the proper incentive.
Bluestreak pulled himself further on the berth and leaned against the wall, stretching out his legs alongside Rodimus’ frame. He wouldn’t slide into full recharge, he didn’t feel comfortable enough for that. But a doze would suit well enough.
Maybe nostalgia was a factor, too. Because he didn’t want to ‘face Rodimus, not like this. But he wanted to touch and Rodimus could probably use the comfort. So Bluestreak’s fingers found the edges of Rodimus’ spoiler – topside, most likely to be the least sensitive, and stroked them gently.
Rodimus made a noise, an unbearably cute one, and snuggled further into his pillow. More of the tension eased out of his frame, and Bluestreak took that as a cue to continue, drawing nonsensical designs on the flat of Rodimus’ spoiler, and carefully stroking the edges.
The vile tangle of Rodimus’ field unknotted itself until it was something easier to withstand. Not perfectly relaxed, nor gentle and welcoming, but neither as toxic as it had been. Bluestreak marked it as improvement.
One spoiler half twitched under Bluestreak’s fingers.
“Thanks,” Rodimus murmured, his vocals sleepy and fritzed with static, on the edge of full shutdown. “I didn’t want to be alone.”
“No one ever does,” Bluestreak replied, equally quiet and far more kindly than Rodimus had earned tonight, but he supposed that was the difference. “And you’re welcome.”
Rodimus’ field rippled with gratitude. He ex-vented again, quieter and softer this time, and the spoiler under Bluestreak’s hand went still. The gentle thrum of Rodimus’ engine was all the noise to break the silence.
Dimming the lights would have to wait, Bluestreak supposed. Oh, well. It wasn’t as though he hadn’t recharged in worse positions. Upright on a berth with his captain cuddled beside him was far better than kneeling on the battlefield, hands around his rifle, in a light doze in case the bombardment started again.
Bluestreak dimmed his optics, keyed his field into Rodimus’ – nights like these were often the prelude to awful purges, as Bluestreak well knew – and settled in to lightly recharge for himself. It was going to be a long night, but hardly the worst, and if poked, Bluestreak would admit he didn’t want to be alone either.
Rodimus wasn’t the only one who’d left his spark behind.
Awareness came gradually, though with the immediate sense he wasn’t alone. This wasn’t unusual. Rodimus often spent his nights in one berth or another, some he barely remembered and meant nothing, others which meant a little more. But Perceptor had been busy, and Rodimus was lonely and he’d… reverted back into bad habits.
Who was it this time, he wondered. Atomizer? Broadside? Smokescreen?
He was getting predictable.
Rodimus breathed a sigh and reached out with his field before he dared online his optics. He met with a wall, a weirdly solid barrier of field energy that prevented him from sensing the other person. Which… okay. The last time he’d felt something like this, he’d tumbled Bumblebee.
Spies had the weirdest energy fields. But the only spy on the Lost Light was Mirage and Rodimus would bet the entirety of the ship said saboteur would never wander his way into Rodimus’ berth, no matter how overcharged he might be.
Rodimus onlined his optics and caught a glimpse of a leg that was not immediately familiar to him. Grey and white and bits of black? Talk about a boring paint job. Rodimus didn’t normally berth mechs with boring paint.
He pushed himself upright as the last fog of recharge started to clear, the events of last night dumping back into his active memory queue all at once. The misery, the suffocating loneliness, the ill-timed decision to go Swerve’s and engage in some questionable behavior. There might have been some table-dancing involved and–
Oh. Right. Bluestreak.
Shame colored Rodimus’ cheeks as he came face to face with Bluestreak, who was apparently as online as he was, judging by blue optics peering back at him.
“Good morning,” Bluestreak said in a cheery tone that was probably a little bit forced. No one could be that cheerful this early.
Rodimus dragged himself fully upright and gave Bluestreak a wary look. “I’ve the feeling I owe you an apology.”
“That depends on what you think you’re guilty of.” Bluestreak shifted, dangling one foot over the edge of the berth. “Though I can promise there’s no way you could have taken advantage of me. I’m better trained than I look.”
No kidding. Bluestreak was supposed to be some chatty, cheerful guy. Not a weirdly intense mech with a saboteur’s training in field restriction.
Rodimus’ back hit the wall with a bit more force than he intended. A low ring of pain echoed through his spoiler, and he hissed. Ow. Damn it. Clumsy as always, Rod.
“For someone who wasn’t actually consuming engex, you’re acting a little hungover,” Bluestreak commented.
“No, that’s just my usual grace,” Rodimus sighed and tilted his head back against the wall. “Anyways, thanks for staying, and I’m sorry for being an aft.” Again, normal state of being. He suspected he’d be apologizing again. And again and again.
Bluestreak tilted his head, draping an arm over one of his legs. “You’re welcome. Though I meant what I said, too. There are better methods than your behavior last night.”
The heat returned with a vengeance. Rodimus couldn’t help but think he’d just been chastised like some kind of child. He ducked his head.
“It’s not what you think.”
“It’s exactly what I think,” Bluestreak countered. He lifted and dropped his shoulders, and there was something in the motion that seemed aborted, like it didn’t complete as Bluestreak thought it should. “Look, sir. It’s none of my business, I just want you to know that if you don’t want to be alone or you want someone to talk to, I’m around. I got an idea about this sort of thing. And I’m a pretty good listener.”
Rodimus drew up his legs, trying to hide behind his knees. “And what sort of thing would that be?”
It was Bluestreak’s turn for his gaze to turn distant, nostalgic maybe. A wisp of his field broke free of its cage, giving Rodimus a taste of… regret? Sorrow?
“The pieces of our spark we left behind,” Bluestreak said.
Rodimus winced. “That may be giving more weight to something that isn’t there. At least, in my case. I can’t speak for you.”
“Uh huh.” Bluestreak slid forward, off the berth, stretching his arms over his head. His backplating shuffled, like he was trying to stretch kibble that wasn’t there. “If it makes you feel better to lie about it, don’t let me stop you.”
Rodimus frowned. “I think you have a misconception about something.”
Bluestreak looked at him over a shoulder, his expression one Rodimus couldn’t read. It was far too guarded, far too carefully posed. “I don’t know anything, so how could I be wrong?”
“It’s not like that,” Rodimus insisted and scraped a hand down his face, hiding behind it and his knees. “We’re not like that. I mean, yeah, we’re together, but we’re not together. There’s no… no expectation of monogamy and what not. Feelings aren’t part of it.”
“Right. Of course. What was I thinking? You were lonely because it’s all about interfacing. My mistake.”
Rodimus couldn’t see Bluestreak’s face, because the other mech had turned around, but he had a feeling Bluestreak was rolling his optics. Maybe it was the condescension dripping from Bluestreak’s tone.
“That’s not what I meant.” Rodimus sighed a ventilation and braced his elbow on his knees, hiding behind the shade of his palm. “I just… don’t want to give weight to something that doesn’t have it. That’ll only make things worse.”
Hydraulics hissed and squeaked as Bluestreak must have turned. “Because then you’d have to admit how lonely you are. And what you actually feel.”
“Life is complicated,” Rodimus replied quietly. His spark ached, like someone was squeezing it in a grip tight enough to bend duryllium. “Being together, it’s not something either of us can do. Or even want to do. Long distance is better, but I miss him when I’m not with him. And when we’re together, all I can think about is this quest I have to finish and that I can’t stay. He’s never asked me to either.”
Sometimes, he wondered if that was part of it. He wondered if he was strong enough to decline if Starscream ever genuinely asked him to stay. He’d considered it. Letting Megatron take over the Lost Light. Leaving his crew to the quest. Surely they’d be better off without him. The almost fifty percent of mechs on this ship who’d rather he step down and leave someone better in charge would agree.
Rodimus fantasized what that would be like. To go back to Cybertron, work with Starscream, lead the planet together, maybe actually make a difference. Not suffer this emptiness inside, this loneliness. To work with someone who knew what it felt like to be considered second-best, who couldn’t win for losing.
It was the coward’s way out, he knew, but by Primus, sometimes all Rodimus wanted to do was be that coward.
“Do you want him to?”
Right for the intake, eh, Bluestreak? Rodimus supposed it went hand in hand with the sniper’s weirdly spy-like behavior and his sudden ability to read right into a mech’s psyche. Seriously. Rodimus didn’t know his new crew at all.
Rodimus tilted his head back against the wall, keeping his optics shuttered. “I can’t answer that.”
“I think that’s the most honest I’ve heard you ever be,” Bluestreak actually sounded sympathetic and not the least bit judgmental.
“Well, ask anyone. Honesty’s not my strong suit.” Rodimus onlined his optics and barked a self-deprecating laugh. “Thanks for listening though.”
Bluestreak’s lips quirked at the corner, almost a smile. “People tell me I’m good at it.” He cycled a ventilation and there his shoulders went, twitching again in an aborted motion. “Look. If you don’t mind my saying, sir, you could use a friend. Not a nameless ‘face.”
Shame colored Rodimus’ face. He gnawed on his bottom lip. “You offering?”
“Wouldn’t still be here if I wasn’t.”
“That’s good to know.” He rubbed the back of his head and offered Bluestreak what he hoped was a sincere smile. “Thanks. For last night and this morning, I mean. I didn’t know how much I needed something like that.”
“That was the impression I got, too.” Bluestreak grinned and gestured with a thumb over his shoulder. “Anyway, I gotta go. I left early so boss says I have the good luck to mop the floors after last night. Yay, me.”
Rodimus chuckled. “I guess that’s partly my fault.” A twinge of guilt rippled through his system. “Do you, uh, need a hand?”
“Nah, I like cleaning. It’s actually kind of soothing.” Bluestreak waved off the offer. “But I’m serious, sir. If you ever need to talk, you know where to find me.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
Bluestreak dipped his head and with a smile, departed Rodimus’ quarters. The room instantly felt larger and emptier without him.
He’d forgotten what it felt like to have a friend, someone he could just talk to. He got on with some mechs reasonably well. There were others who tolerated him. But a friend?
Rodimus couldn’t remember the last time he’d had one of those. There was Drift, but he’d utterly failed that relationship in every way. He couldn’t even bring himself to go after Drift with an apology Drift rightly deserved. The fear was too heavy. It swallowed him whole. He knew he’d say the wrong words, wouldn’t explain himself, and even his apology would be thin and unconvincing.
Drift deserved better than that. Wherever he was, Rodimus hoped Drift was happy, as only he could be, far, far from the realm of Rodimus’ influence.
He sighed and flopped back on the berth, arms behind his head. He had mid-shift command today, perhaps the easiest command block on the schedule. Surprise, surprise that it had been given to him, the incompetent co-captain. Still, it was enough time for a nap.
And maybe afterward, if it wasn’t too late, he could walk right past Swerve’s and go down a deck to the crew’s quarters. He could knock on a door, shift nervously from foot to foot, and when it opened say,
“Hey there, sexy bartender, how about keeping me company tonight since I’m missing my partner something fierce?”
He’d smile, genuine and not feigned, maybe laugh a little even. And Bluestreak would smile back, laugh too, and gesture him inside.
“Sure,” he’d say. “Come on in.” Like friends do.
And Rodimus would go inside and talk and share until the urge to drink the night away faded.
Yeah. That sounded good to him.
Rodimus’ smiled and shuttered his optics.