"I'm going to close up," Blurr declared.
"Yeah, of course."
Blurr tried to frown after examining the phrase and finding definite traces of sarcasm in it. "I mean it!"
"Like you meant it the last three times."
Blurr didn't really remember those, but he trusted Swindle to tell the truth.
And didn't that say a whole lot about him.
Although, between that and lying on the floor behind the bar counter in the middle of the off-cycle, far past Maccadam's closing hours, the ex-racer guessed there was not much dignity left to preserve.
It went like this: he had shooed everyone out when it was time to close the Old Oil House for the night. Swindle had stayed behind to help clean up. Or was it the bills again? Blurr had difficulty recalling that. Anyway, they had finished doing something and then, somehow, Blurr managed to convince Swindle to try out the new mix he came up with just today.
There wasn't much space behind the bar counter. Blurr had tried to get up and relocate a couple of times, spinning his wheels in an honest attempt, but all it earned him was muffled giggling on his right.
He turned then, to check if it was still the ill-meaning, ex-Decepticon arms dealer beside him, and spilled energon all over himself.
"You are grace itself," Swindle commented with a deadpan face.
Blurr splashed the remaining liquid at him for good measure. Swindle grinned even wider.
"You are-mocking-me?" the ex-racer finally asked, trying to find a position that wouldn't cause his insides to ache. "You should have seen Rack'n'Ruin when they tried-to-maneuver-their way around the dining area. Or Drift when-something-got-in-his-way. Apparently," he took a deep ventilation and tried to stretch the words out, "ah, the swords are the answer to everything."
Swindle was silent for a while. When Blurr has finally decided the mech must have missed everything he said, he muttered, "I wish I had something to tell besides the info I had bought."
"Don't you have some, I dunno, stories from the Decepticon days?"
"You don't want to hear it."
Swindle propped himself on one elbow. It took him three tries.
"Remember Menasor? When the Stuncticons first tried combining, they couldn't decide who was gonna be its head. Also, we ended up with two left arms. Something wrong with the coding."
Blurr gaped. "Are you serious?"
"No," Swindle replied and laughed. It was a strange sound, metallic, almost grating. Harsh, but not threatening the way the holovids made the Decepticons out to be. It just wasn't soft.
"You have stupidly large optics," Blurr told him.
"I have never heard that before in my life," Swindle answered, staring right at him, unfailingly. Blurr tried to figure out if this was intended as sarcastic or truthful.
He never knew with Swindle. He liked that.
He moved a bit more to the right and almost fell right onto his faceplate. His helm was beginning to hurt, too. That, at least, could actually be attributed to the not-really-high-grade he used in the mix.
"I should go home and be drunk there," Blurr moaned, words colliding and spilling into each other, like energon droplets.
Swindle made a non-commital humming sound. "Mmm. Go then."
"Would I what?"
Something told Blurr his meaning was not immediately apparent. He reached his hand out and touched Swindle's right wheel. The mech let out a short burst of static in response. Blurr drew back.
But somehow, there, lying on his side, Blurr sensed a window - an opportunity he couldn't miss, to finally ask, to finally say, and so he spilled every question, every answer, everything. Why was Swindle here? Why did he stay? Where did he go when they closed? Where would he go? What was it that he wanted?
All at once, at his top speed.
Swindle looked at him blandly, but his electrofield was full of confusion. Blurr suddenly realised the ex-arms dealer usually kept his field on a very tight leash.
He also realised his own was straining to reach out. "Would you also go?" he asked again.
With me, his mind supplied. He could not bring himself to say that. He could not bring himself to touch the other mech again. It had been easy before; now, it was as if every action and word carried a heavier weight.
Stupid. This was Swindle. Swindle the liar. Swindle the economist. Swindle who usually was on the other side of the bar counter, too far, way too far to just reach out and drag closer.
Blurr sucked air into his vents. He felt as if he couldn't think straight, but also that he was thinking way too clearly. Clearly-er than before, all those wistful evenings, wishing for Primus knew what. Now, it seemed so simple: Swindle was right here, and Blurr didn't want to go, didn't want him to go, not really. Unless it was with him. He had enough of his senses remaining to grasp how strange that would be, how weird it would be to suggest that. Why in the Pit would the ex-con go with him? He didn't even have high-grade at his place.
But Swindle stayed. Stayed when there was no engex left to drink and no customers left to fool.
Okay, maybe the mix had not been enough.
He barely heard Swindle speaking. "What?" Blurr asked, surprised at how weak it sounded.
"Would I have any choice?" The ex-con repeated, almost amused.
Blurr had no idea what to answer, he was not even sure what his question had been; it was a lost cause. He didn't even register the fact that he had dimmed his optics until his proximity sensors tingled without any preoccuring visual input.
"Uhhhh," Swindle's voice came, closer. "You still there? Was the mix so bad? I kinda liked it."
Blurr couldn't help chuckling. He was sure it was that he meant to do, anyway, and not the sobbing sound that escaped. "I'm not sure we should try that again. And I don't even know what to call it."
He onlined his optics just as Swindle picked up his miraculously half-full glass and peered at the shiny purple substance. "I know mechs who would pay a good sum for this," he muttered, as if to himself.
"Hey!" Blurr protested. "I'll get a patent for that, you just watch."
"You know me," Swindle smiled easily. "I'd never ruin your business."
"I'd much sooner screw it up myself anyway," the bartender agreed.
"Not what I meant."
There was no smile this time. But he knew the tone, didn't even have to glance. He knew Swindle's rare bouts of desperate honesty, hated and cherished these moments, rare and precious as the quiet evenings at Maccadam's, as watching the first sun rise over the reborn Cybertron, as meeting long-lost war friends - and found them unbearable. In the quiet way they wrapped around his spark and refused to let go.
Except Swindle was not on the other side of the bar counter now. His right hand was holding the glass, and his left was hovering in the air, the elbow his only support. He would fall, right on his face, any klik now. It hurt to look at him, it hurt to turn his back on him. Being this close, being too far, it all collided and weighed on Blurr.
He saw Swindle's hand taking his own before he felt that it did, in fact, happen. It was a weak grasp, as if the other mech did not really intend to do that. It just happened.
He felt as if he was watching himself from aside, moving in and pressing his lips to Swindle's.
Then his sensors informed him that Swindle was not moving at all. Not a drop spilled from his glass. When Blurr leaned away slightly, he saw the ex-con gaping at him.
Right. That was his cue to leave. He backed away with a jerk, hitting his thrusters against the bar counter, trying to look anywhere but at the other mech.
"N-no, don't go," Swindle asked, trying to stand too - the glass finally fell with a soft klink, - but only managed to sit up. Blurr dropped back beside him. The smaller mech moved closer - and then just sat there, taking no initiative. Blurr's vents quivered as he leaned back in. He didn't kiss Swindle again. Their forehelms touched with a soft clack.
There was purple light everywhere in his area of vision. It was the loveliest colour Blurr had ever seen.
Swindle touched his lips then - with his hand, Blurr understood belatedly. The yellow mech's fingers traced his lipplates, and then touched his own, disbelieving. There was so little space for the hand to move.
"Is it the unexpected side-effect? What did you add there?" He tried to grin and failed.
Blurr shook his helm, overwhelmed. It made soft clinks against Swindle's faceplates.
They stayed like that, staring, not moving at all, only a hand dividing them. Blurr found his thoughts, usually whirring, doubly so thanks to the fuel he consumed, come to a sudden halt. Slowly, he moved his helm the tiniest amount and kissed Swindle's fingers. The other mech almost flinched, again, yet different this time. Blurr heard a sharp-drawn ventilation, engines buzzing, metallic clicks, but he couldn't tell which one of them was responsible, and then Swindle moved his fingers out of the way and replaced them with his mouth.
Swindle kissed pathetically, like he didn't know what to do, and it was very, very slow, like stressing the words out was for Blurr, quite unbearable. But he didn't dare kiss back quicker, nor deepen it. He only put his hand lightly on Swindle's helm, and his other hand found Swindle's.
The mouth upon his own was small, and felt as if it was trying to kiss everywhere at once, and with a soft press of his hand, Blurr moved it closer to the middle of his own. Swindle sighed right into his mouth, automatically, and Blurr's engines thrummed. He felt, almost heard hum of the electrofield, so close to his own, and with a soft push let them tangle, like their fingers. Blurr felt even more intoxicated than before, Maccadam's lights seemed too much; he wished they would dim and leave only their optics shining in the dark. Or better still, only Swindle's, except how he would see it then?
At that moment, a sense of urgency mixed with helplessness startled him - coming, he realised, from Swindle’s EM-field. Realising he got lost in his thoughts, the bartender finally pressed himself closer to the frame before him, sliding his hand down to push his fingers into the seams between the wheel and the plating. Swindle shuddered and traced his headfins, mumbling something right into Blurr's open mouth.
He was torn between breaking the kiss to ask Swindle what it was and leaving it, but it had to be something nasty, some joke - otherwise Blurr would not bear it - and so he let it go, and clenching the other's hand, coaxed the mouth plates under his own to open.
Suddenly he felt sweetness he never would have associated with Swindle. Maybe it was the drink. The smaller mech kept venting into his mouth, short and warm. Blurr let his hand trail across Swindle's back, not wanting to push, just stroking the pale metal. To his surprise, the ex-con whimpered and pressed closer, so quickly that their frames hit each other with a resounding clang. They parted for a short moment and he saw Swindle's mouth break into a smile.
Blurr hardly knew what to believe anymore. It was not as if he expected the violent tendencies Decepticons were famous for, among the 'bots. Nothing he learned about Swindle in the last few months suggested being prone to violence - mischief, yes, lying, yes, sarcasm, abso-fragging-lutely. The ex-racer found he didn't mind all of these. He didn't mind lots of things - that came with being the keeper of Maccadam's. It didn't explain the way Swindle was clinging to him, pliant, heated plating brushing against Blurr's frame, nor the way the ache inside had turned to something else.
There was nothing special about this, except that whenever Swindle sighed into his mouth, Blurr's felt his own hand tighten inconceivably around the smaller fingers.
He ended up lying on the floor, on his back, with Swindle on top of him. There was more space that way. Why didn't he think of that before?
"Because by the time you fell under the table, you were about two drinks past thinking clearly," Swindle told him, chin propped up, elbows resting on Blurr's hood.
Blurr kissed his optics and the ex-con prompty shut up.
"What are you doing?" Swindle asked, voice hinting at the vocaliser just rebooted.
"What are you doing? Here?" Blurr asked back. It felt-- exhilarating, suddenly frightening, to finally ask this of Swindle.
The mech laughed. "I'm looking out for your bar. We have a deal, remember? Imagine everyone just coming back tomorrow and finding the place like this, and you on the floor? You'll be glad I was here."
"I am," Blurr said simply.
Swindle kissed him, hands tightening on Blurr's helm. Every time the ex-con did it first, Blurr took a nano-klik to react. He should be worried about detecting a pattern already. How long has it been? He hardly cared.
"Don't you sometimes wish you left?" Blurr asked, spinning one of Swindle's wheels. Every now and then, his electrofield made a soft splash at this.
"With Rodimus and others. You know. See the galaxy. Mingle. Speculate on illegally acquired information."
Swindle made a disgusted face. "Uh, no. Rodimus is easy, but Ultra Magnus? No love lost there. He'd arrest me every day just for existing there. Would have to catch me first, but, eh. That would be, as if they even allowed me onboard."
Blurr was struck with an image of Swindle running down the corridors with Magnus on his tailpipe, breaking all the records for racing onboard an interstellar ship. It was strange how his thoughts went to racing-like chase, instead of the obvious.
He suddenly remembered he hadn't seen Swindle use his altmode since... since everything almost ended.
"Besides, I doubt the bar is as good," Swindle was saying. "I've been there. Meh. It lacks a certain something."
"How do you mean?"
"Well, you're here, for one thing."
Everything became purple once again.
Blurr always liked having a sharp perception on things. He could be a racer, he could be a Wrecker, he could be a bartender, but he was in control. He still was, but time and surroundings got just a bit hazy. Hazy, and hard to comprehend, but also right, so desperately, horrifyingly right.
There was a strange sound. It took Blurr a while to realise it was Swindle, and he was humming.
Blurr dimmed his optics, but he couldn't make himself dampen the audio input. He tried to realise what it could mean, he knew this, he knew he used to know this, but the requests he sent went unanswered, and his memory circuits were malfunctioning. Malfunctioning already. Oh no.
"Remind me," he said, urgently.
"What?" Swindle jerked.
"Tomorrow. If I forget. I may forget. Remind me of this. Will you?"
Swindle hummed. It sounded as if he agreed.
But with Swindle, he never knew.