"Hey," Blurr said, sliding up to where a lone mech had been sitting for the better part of the evening.
Swindle raised his optics and they flashed brighter. "Well. Fancy running into you here."
"Very funny," he replied, still polishing the glass. "And what's your poison for tonight?"
Swindle hummed, the way he tended to do when he didn't want to answer, or when he was thinking.
Blurr was not really sure when it had started. Swindle was just... there. Most of the time. Scrap it, all the time. Sure, the bartender had a crowd of regulars at Maccadam's… and one of them was currently smiling into his empty glass.
Somehow, astonishingly, it had never occured to Blurr how Swindle used to be quite a prominent Decepticon - until an overcharged client pointed it out rather nastily, at which Blurr was glad to remind him that the maintainer of this non-affiliated bar was a former Wrecker.
Blurr had never been particularly stuck on the badges the way some of his comrades were. Being in the Wreckers didn't do much to change that. If the neutral state of things allowed him to open a bar, he welcomed it. That was how he had planned to spend his days after quitting racing - "retirement", humans would call it. The war had kinda gotten in the way.
Still, Swindle made him laugh - and not at him, which would've been expected. With him. That was appreciated.
That was why he took the glass in front of him and poured engex into it. Maybe Swindle would keep on smiling.
Instead, one of his optics widened slightly. It went a bit higher than the other one was; mech's eyes already being giant purple rectangles, the sight was entrancing in a weird way.
"No, no," Swindle was saying. "We talked about this. You don't ruin your business and I have a bar to keep coming to."
No for the first time, Blurr wondered where Swindle went when Maccadam's closed. He was a bit tempted to keep it open one night and see what the mech would do.
He retraced the conversation to the other's words.
"You've been sitting with no drink for far longer than is appropriate," he explained. "Clients will think I'm a neglectful bartender."
"So you've been looking." Swindle smiled smugly.
"I kept an optic on you," Blurr admitted, trying to keep his voice at the regular-for-normal-mechs speed. "I... value the stuff in this corner too much not to."
Swindle actually barked a laugh at that and Blurr smiled. Smiling came surprisingly easy these days. He never would have guessed; it was natural before because it kinda came with being a celebrity. It was a different natural now.
"You don't have to worry. I, for my part, value this place too much to steal from it. Besides, robbery is so far from my style." Swindle chuckled, but took a small sip from the glass.
There weren't many traces of humour actually left in the mech's voice. Blurr was a bit taken aback.
The one and only time Swindle had talked about his own feelings on this matter was when they all had gotten spectacularly drunk after escaping from the prison.
"This... is new," the ex-arms dealer had said, staring at the high-grade in front of him. "I mean. It all. All of it. Do you know how boring it got? Bribe here, get a deal there, blackmail some other place. Planned to leave it for a long time, but Decepticon cause does not let go so easily. There was always the opportunity to seize control, and… well. And look at me now. You're cool, okay? You're doing a cool thing here."
The next day Swindle came in and calmly settled his tab. It was much, much later that Blurr had come to remember that honesty wasn't really one of Swindle's innate traits.
"Are you polishing this or letting it rust in peace?"
Blurr looked at the glass in his hands. It looked as clean as it was ever going to be, which was not saying much, considering Maccadam's overall state.
Let's just say, Ultra Magnus would not set a foot in here.
On the other hand, The Old Oil House was still the only bar on Cybertron. No one could really afford to be a prude.
Swindle was drumming his fingers on the surface. The sounds seeped slowly into Blurr's audio receptors, gradually replacing Sky-Byte's singing in the background. He was grateful - the shark had a great voice, but it could get a bit repetitive. He'd much rather listen to Swindle listing off the sums, and wow, this was a weird thought.
"Want to check the bills and forms again?" Blurr offered, a tad more quickly than he tended to speak nowadays, and was grateful when Swindle didn't ask him to repeat himself.
"Bring it on."
Once Swindle had realised that the bartender couldn't really be dissuaded from occasionally pouring him a glass "on the house" (and it was no regular energon, too, but a sweet bubbly substance the ex-con had a weakness for, the fact he already regretted admitting), he'd vented a sigh and offered to check up Maccadam's bills from time to time. Blurr had laughed at first. Decent working shanix system? On a recently reborn Cybertron? Decent Swindle? Psh, right. Still, the yellow mech insisted. Swindle's affection with numbers remained a mystery for Blurr, but he was glad for help.
Now, too, Swindle dived helm in into the tables and numbers and lists Blurr had first started himself - very, very reluctantly. The ex-con picked up a stylus and typed something in, then erased it and typed again. His optics were shining steady bright purple. Sometimes his lips would curl up a bit. Blurr turned away from the sight.
But he could see that, strange it was, the process not only kept Swindle busy - it actually entertained the mech.
There were times Blurr was one quickly uttered sentence away from inviting Swindle over after the bar closed. After one particularly sorry evening, in a bout of sudden trust, he offered him to stay in the bar 'till it opened again. Swindle was sitting on the stool at the bar counter, with his helm laid down on the side. Standing in the doors, ready to close the bar, Blurr took the sight in and took pity on the mech. Swindle hummed for a long second, then shook his helm, stood up and went the other way.
It had been strangely upsetting.
"What is this one for?" Swindle, present Swindle asked.
Blurr turned back, saw the smaller mech pointing at the screen and leaned in closer, looking at the datapads. "Where?"
Blurr turned the datapad in question over and honestly tried to make sense of the spreadsheet. The numbers and colours blended into a scrambled mess.
"I... have no idea?"
Swindle looked at him, firmly. "Your business is doomed."
"Oh, you say that all the time," Blurr said with a laugh, waving his hand. The cloth he apparently held in it flew across the room and landed on one of the Tankors. Swindle followed it with his gaze, then turned back, leaning in.
"That's because it's the truth."
"Well, looks like you'll have to pay a bit more attention to the bar's bills."
Swindle ex-vented, rubbing his optics with his hand. "Yeah, yeah," he said, muttering something about distractions.
"Uh." Blurr was suddenly uncertain. "Look, I'm not asking too much, am I? Because it's not like it's your job, ImeanIdontevenpayyouforitnotthatthisenterprisebringsanyprofits--"
Swindle looked at him with an expression he could not get, and it spurred him to continue, "IreallyhopeyoudontthinkIwantyouhereforthebills--"
The ex-con inhaled suddenly, then gathered all the datapads into a neat pile. "I'll take these with me and work on them."
"You're going?" Blurr blurted out, slowing down as if when skidding abruptly on the curve.
"What? No, later. They're a distraction here."
From what, the barkeeper did not ask. Swindle held up his glass in a cheer. Blurr was at loss, but nodded and held up his fist for the lack of a drink in his hand. They lowered their hands simultaneously, and his was close enough to wrap around Swindle's glass. He gazed at it, strangely hesitant to look up.
He did in the end, of course, and the purple light was much closer than he thought, but not close enough.
Close enough for what?
He felt a finger touching his hand, still clenched tightly, and his ventilations hitched.
"Blurr," Swindle whispered, optics bright, unaware that his actions right now would cost some other customers a good chunk of shanix. "You're neglecting your clients."