Swindle liked to arrive at Maccadam's a little bit into the evening. There was work, of course. Work occupied him for about a fifth of the cycle. Sometimes there wasn't any to be had; and still, he lingered. The idea of going there first thing in the morning unsettled him; he was already the last to leave, usually. The last to leave, the last to be blinded by the bartender's smile, the last to be bothered by what the other regulars had to say.
When Blurr asked him about what he'd been up too, he just smiled mischievously. So far, it's been working.
He was still reasonably late, he told himself as he stepped into the bar. There was not much point wallowing around anymore.
Were he a little bit aware of his surroundings, he would've noticed that there still were barely any mechs in Maccadam's. As it was, the sight that greeted him sort of wiped everything else off his RAM.
Swindle took a couple steps closer. Nothing changed.
"Excuse me, I might be wrong, but I think a bar was here just a day ago?"
"Oh, hey!" Blurr called out and nearly fell from the bar counter. Swindle caught him by the ankle. Blurr stilled immediately.
He felt solid enough - familiar enough, the buzzy EM-field washing over Swindle in gratitude, - to be real. But Blurr never liked doing any sort of construction work around the bar. It didn't even look like work, for that matter.
"I seriously don't think you're qualified for... for... What are you even doing?"
"Oh, uh, decorating. I think." Blurr tried to take a step back to look at the upper bar, causing Swindle to grab his other leg as well.
"Yeah. Thank Primus you're here." Flashing him a quick smile, Blurr moved slightly to the left, one hand on the bar with the other holding onto a lengthy tangle of wires.
"How did you even come up with this... this thing? What is it?" Swindle asked.
"Oh, I picked it up on Earth!" Blurr replied, carefully putting the next pin in.
"Of course you did."
"Not the lights. That was a favour. But the idea? It’s great. We do have a lot to celebrate, and this could make folks feel more welcome here. Marketing, Swindle! The very thing you're always telling me to keep in mind. And you know, it is the holiday season there," Blurr continued, suspiciously cheerful.
"How do you know it is?"
"How do the customers know it's not?"
"Point," Swindle answered, still holding onto Blurr's ankles, tapping them lightly with his fingers.
"Well, that's interesting," a voice drawled from behind them. "By that I mean, not very much, and can I have a drink or is the bar no longer what its name would suggest?"
"Oh." Figures. Same meaning, different words. "Hello, Slug."
Blurr whipped around, although what for, Swindle could not gather-- he must've recognised Slug's voice as well as he did. The bartender did not fall, thanks to the iron grip the ex-arms dealer had on his ankles (well, he tried - he could not actually wrap his whole hand around that part of Blurr's legs, or any part of Blurr's legs, not that he was meaning to), but a light shudder passed through him as a reaction. Swindle barely supressed a smirk. Maybe Blurr was actually afraid of heights.
A habit of storing useful information that later could be used was not one Swindle could let go of. Or had any reason to.
"Oh! Yeah, sure, let me just--" Blurr replied, turning back to swiftly place the next piece of wire onto a pin he just set in place rather carelessly. It wobbled a bit. “See, I’m perfectly qualified—”
At that the wire fell down very slowly, taking half of the pins with it. The bartender flapped his hands trying to catch the decoration piece and inevitably slipped. Swindle only just managed to soften his fall by grabbing him around the middle and getting out of the way.
Not quickly enough, though.
"Grace itself," Swindle commented quietly, getting up. Blurr moaned in despair and dimmed his optics slightly. Swindle looked up at the short piece of the wire that stayed up, held up by three pins, like a stubborn group of Autobots refusing to back down.
There was a displeased grunt.
"Oh, nobody asked for your invaluable opinion!" Blurr snapped before Swindle could say anything. The ex-con gaped a little. Between the three of them, it was definitely not Blurr who had the shortest temper, or even the second shortest. But then, Blurr had probably been going at it for a long time.
"What? I'm not saying anything. Except, I bet you I could do this easily."
"You know I don't do bets," the ex-racer muttered, evidently refusing to get off the floor.
"How about a glass of your house's finest?"
"What about the word "no" you don't understand?"
"Oh leave him alone, Slug, I'm sure it's harder than you think," came Fat Tankor's voice. Swindle wasn't sure if he had been here when he came in, or miraculously materialised in the meantime.
Slug scowled. "Fine, just let me, then."
Blurr waved his hand. "Yeah, yeah, go on."
Swindle sighed and offered him a hand. It took Blurr's sensors a moment to detect it. Or he just didn't want to get up.
Slug picked up the wire and studied it thoughtfully.
"...Hm." He looked up. The wire dangled innocently in place.
"Oh no, what a pity," Swindle drawled, "can't you reach it without climbing onto the bar counter? What is Blurr gonna get if you can't do it, hm?"
"We didn't bet!" Slug snapped.
"Oh, come on--" Blurr started.
"Well, good for you, because you're not winning this one," the ex-con continued, giving the barkeeper a grin.
"I don't see you offering to help!"
Swindle shrugged. "I don't mix well with heights."
"Oh," Slug smirked, "then I bet you that you can't possibly do it."
"I would love to," Swindle smiled graciously back, "but there's no way I could reach it, even if I got onto the bar counter.”
“If you really wanted to, you’d find a way.”
“Yeah, like what?”
“You could get onto my shoulders,” the Dinobot suggested.
"What," Blurr said, flatly.
“Have you lost your gears?” Swindle asked earnestly. “You do know that you kinda have something on your back?”
“Oh, you can fit in front of the head. If you want to win.”
“There are spikes. On your shoulders.”
“You’re just looking for an excuse.”
“Seriously, it’s fine, I’ll hang it—” Blurr tried again.
"It's not like I want you to do it!" Slug exclaimed.
"Pffft. You will sabotage me, of course."
"Of course not! I'm an Autobot, after all. Was. Still counts."
Swindle squinted at him. He could not claim great knowledge of Dinobot psychology, but Slug was hardly the exemplary Autobot.
It was the stupidest idea. It really, really was. He was not playing combiners with a Dinobot.
"What do you say to free drinks the whole lunar cycle? On me."
Free drinks. Free drinks meant not sitting there without a glass, without an excuse, because going to a bar every day was surprisingly pricey. Free drinks meant no Blurr pouring him endless glasses "on the house", which he had grown to hate for no apparent reason. They were also free, weren't they?
"Okay, get me up."
"Are you off your gears-- seriously--" the bartender said, sounding a bit strangled. Swindle ignored it for a nano-klik and climbed onto Slug’s shoulders. The taller bot did actually take Swindle’s legs in a tight grip.
"Now give me the wire," he commanded, and Slug wordlessly passed it on. "You see, here you need to push them a bit more in, then tangle the wire around them a little--"
The bar got rather silent. It was a bit unsettling.
He glanced back. Blurr was staring rather murderously at them. He'd have to lie if he said he'd never seen him like this, but it wasn't usually in Maccadam's.
"What is it?" he called over. Slug's grip on his legs tightened.
"If you could do the very least and hold the frag on,” he growled.
Swindle snorted, but turned back to the task at hand. "Right, now a bit to the right..."
"Oh dear Caminus.”
Everyone whipped around to look at the door at the same time.
Which, of course, resulted in Slug very briefly loosening his grip, which was just enough for Swindle to slip down from his shoulders, nearly miss the triceratops’ head and almost fall into Blurr’s arms. It would be an uneventful fall, if the wire he was still holding didn’t tangle around Slug’s spikes and, eventually, his helm, bring him down as well.
Windblade roared with laughter.
"Could you light it up?" she asked, much later.
"Let's hope it slagging works, at least," Slug muttered.
"Oh, maybe not yet--" Blurr started, but Swindle already pushed the switch on. The lights sprang to life.
It did look nice, Swindle had to admit.
"Purple, Blurr?" Slug asked, sounding way too pleased. "Really? Very Decepticon-ish of you."
"I happen to like the colour," the bartender retorted.
Slug smirked. "Of course you do."
"And what's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing, absolutely nothing. Tankor will be glad to know."
Blurr snorted. "Anyway, even if it is con-like of me, I don't have any problems with that. And anyone who does is welcome to take their opinion outside."
"Sure, sure," the Dinobot waved him off. "So... who's buying the drinks?"
Swindle pondered that. In the end, it wasn't any of them who was able to get the decoration piece up, and Windblade didn't bet on anything before easily reaching up and setting the wire in place.
But she was smirking now, only slightly. "Well, if you buy me a drink, I won't be sending a picture of you lying in a heap on the floor to Scoop."
"What," Slug growled.
"Hey, that's my thing!" Swindle protested.
The lights above shone steady purple.