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2017-07-21 Scuttle Cuddles

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2017-07-21 Scuttle Cuddles
Date 2017/07/21
Location Habsuites - Wheeljack and Bulkhead's Habsuite
Participants Wheeljack, Bulkhead
Plot Topsy Turvy
Summary Bulkhead isn't having a great time after that run-in with !Hound.

With an end to this whole body swapping disaster in sight, Wheeljack has found that he's even more motivated to try to work through the struggles of being stuck in a new frame, in order to help out with the final steps of switching everyone back over. Being scanned is useful enough, but he might as well get a chance to actually throw his hands in here, right? And so Wheeljack has spent much of his day in both his recently reclaimed lab and the general labs, both practicing and working. He's feeling good about what he's accomplished, too, so he's actually smiling as he punches in the code to his and Bulkhead's have suite.

"Bulkhead?" He calls out as he enters, then pauses on the threshold of the room, when his roommate isn't immediately visible.

Bulkhead hadn't known about the efforts toward fixing this body swap, as he's not part of the department that's taking care of it - if he were in a better state, he'd maybe take this opportunity to start the process to become part of it. However, instead, he'd been rather out of it since returning from that mission with Permafrost. Taking to running away from his issues, metaphorically, he'd thrown himself into his combat drills for once. Nautilator's body wasn't made for it, but he figured punching things in the practice rooms for a few days would make it better, right?

Yeah, no. His exhaustion (he hasn't slept. How could Bulkhead sleep with those images in his processor?) has finally caught up with him, so he'd retired to his habsuite, thinking he could work on building another datapad. Partway through that his trembling hands had made it impossible, and so he'd given up on blowing through it.

There comes no answer to his name when Wheeljack calls it, beyond a soft, metallic scritching. It's coming from beneath the berth, where the shadows there conceal Nautilator's lobster form. In an eerie mockery of !Hound, if one were to look beneath all they would see would be a pair of sad crimson optics.

"Bulkhead?" Wheeljack calls again, casting around the room. Sure, in Nautilator's form Bulkhead is smaller than he usually is, but he's not small enough to miss completely.

It's the faint sounds of scratching that eventually clue Wheeljack in. He carefully rests a hand on the berth and maneuvers his frame into kneeling, leaning forward so that he can peer under the berth with his own red optics, casting around until he can make out the faint outline of Bulkhead's form "...what are you doing under there?" He asks, baffled.

Bulkhead doesn't move, keeping himself hidden beneath the berth. If he's silent long enough, Wheeljack will take care of whatever business brought him back to the room and then leave for the lab again, probably assuming Bulkhead is elsewhere. He thinks the soft sounds of his movement are too quiet for Wheeljack to hear, as he presses himself more tightly against the wall their berth is pressed up to - until Wheeljack leans down and looks right at him.

So much for hiding. "....Nothing," Bulk answers eventually. His mind is too drained to supply a good lie, but here's a bad one, that should work right?

"Well I can tell you're not making circuit boards," Wheeljack says, shifting on his knee and continuing to peer into the dim, cramped space. It can't be particularly comfortable down there, either. It's certainly not comfortable for him to linger here bent over like this. "So why under the berth?" He asks. He doesn't spend much time around Nautilator, after all. Maybe it's something about his frame.

Bulkhead doesn't even crack a weak smile at the joke, which he would've tried, were he in root. Instead he clicks his lobster claws a bit, look Jackie he's fine he's amused really... Bulkhead shifts some at the question. He can't move much, as Wheeljack is correct - the space is rather cramped, even in a frame smaller than he's used to. "It...feels too big, out there," is his answer, as to why he's shoved himself in here like this. Too much space, too many blind spots. Too much, for someone who is feeling quite skittish right now.

"Okay then," Wheeljack says with an understanding nod. "I'd join you, but I think that would make the space a little too small." His optics brighten as he smiles a little bit. Then he does what is probably the last thing Bulkhead wants him to do at the moment. With a huff, he repositions himself, settling with his legs stretched out in front of him on the floor, instead of kneeling. It's a much more comfortable position, one that it's much easier to spend a while in, and it's clear that Wheeljack intends to stay.

Bulkhead stills when Wheeljack says that and settles down on the floor beside the berth. Yes, he had been hoping Wheeljack would be on his way, but by now he'd realized, as soon as Wheeljack found him, that that wasn't going to happen. It's nice, though, that Wheeljack simply sits, and doesn't try to drag Bulkhead out.

Nice enough that those soft scritching sounds come again as Bulkhead slides closer to Wheeljack, slowly pulling himself from the safety of a wall at his back. He doesn't come out all the way, not yet, but lobster antennae do poke out from under the berth, brushing against Wheeljack's legs. After a moment he asks, in Megatron’s voice which sounds very odd when it's this downtrodden, "...How are you?"

There's something about hearing that voice say things like that, that will make Wheeljack twitch every time. He pushes it aside, though. It's not Megatron, he can ignore the sound of it in favor of what's being said. Wheeljack even lowers a hand when Bulkhead gets close, so that it's near but not quite touching Bulkhead's side. Nautilator's plating may be tough, but it's still better for Bulkhead to decide where and how much contact is safe.

"I'm doing all right," Wheeljack answers easily enough. "Finally getting the hang of not breaking things. Strika was a big help in that regard, even if she's a stern taskmaster. And we're close to figuring this whole thing out! So everyone should be back in their frames, as soon as Brainstorm and I manage to reverse engineer this device... Don't tell Brainstorm I said this but it's good that he's working on it. It's hard to reverse engineer something that's been squished."

There's another long moment where Bulkhead doesn't move, letting his antennae be the only things touching Wheeljack, before he finally presses into the touch of Wheeljack's hand. "Oh? That's good." Bulk sounds distant, but he's trying. "I'm glad you're more comfortable, and that we're close to a solution." There's a light, deep chuckle, and another click of claws. Yes, it is hard to reverse engineer something broken.

Bulkhead falls silent, then, as he allows Jackie to touch his plating. It seems that contact is actually not enough, as, in a surprising surge of motion, Bulkhead emerges completely and crawls into Wheeljack's lap. With how he's seated and how big Strika is, it's easy for Bulkhead to nestle himself here, burrowing in between Wheeljack's crossed legs and resting his lobster head on Wheeljack's thigh. His claws hang over Jackie's leg on either side of his face, and the very end of his tail does the same on the other side.

Wheeljack would be completely happy to ramble more about the current state of things, since Bulkhead seems inclined to let him. "It'll be nice not to be bigger than you," he says, and he's ready to go into more of the details there, when Bulkhead suddenly all but shoves himself into Wheeljack's lap.

This is enough to make Wheeljack pause, as he stares down at the lobster in his lap and realizes that Bulkhead has been unusually quiet ever since he came in. He reconsiders Bulkhead's hidden location under the bed, and when he does, brings a hand closer again, to rest ever so gently along Bulkhead's back. "How about you, Bulk?" He asks. "Something bothering ya?"

Bulkhead didn't want you to stop, Wheeljack. Keep going with what you were talking about, and he'll just snuggle up here and listen. That would be super fine.

Of course, Wheeljack doesn't do that. Bulkhead lets out a sigh, antennae flicking as he lies in Wheeljack's lap. "I don't mind it right now," he says, on the topic of Wheeljack being larger, before answering the questions. "No," is automatic. "I'm fine." A pause, and another sigh. "Yes. I...there was a rescue mission. A distress beacon was found near one of the planets destroyed by our doppelgangers. A security mech named Permafrost and I went out to check it out, and we ran into their Hound. He has holograms like our Hound, just. Different. Worse." He falls quiet again, drained just from giving up that.

Oh, right, the evil doppelgangers. Wheeljack has heard plenty about those, even if he's been lucky enough to avoid a direct encounter with the "evil twins." He rests his hand more securely along the back of Bulkhead's armor carapace. The gesture is probably only light pressure to Bulkhead, nothing substantial, but the gesture is just as important as the contact. "You came back safe," he notes, "which I'm glad for. I've heard about the state Rodimus and the other teams have come back in after encountering those groups.

But it doesn't sound like Bulkhead came back unharmed, either. "You want to talk about it?" Wheeljack asks carefully.

While Wheeljack may think the touch is light, it's actually heavier than it would have been in Bulkhead's own frame. Oddly, Nautilator's plating doesn't seem as thick; but it's a good touch, and a good contact, one that settles Bulk and eases some of the tension in him.

Enough so that he can give a wry little chitter at that, mandibles tapping together. You came back safe. From the doppelgangers, maybe. But from his own fears? "I..." Those antennae flick some more, legs fidgeting, which must feel odd against Wheeljack's . "I. I don't know. What he made me see...I can't stop thinking about it. I went through the war and I was fine - " Relatively, " - but that...I should be over it. It shouldn't matter, I know it wasn't real."

"If you feel like you should be over it, you should talk to Run, I'm sure he'll have plenty to say about that," Wheeljack snorts. Which he can do now, instead of just making the sound! Maybe it's nice to have a mouth sometimes. "Same thing with this. From what you said, it sounds like this other Hound was using it against you, and targeting you. I wouldn't be surprised if it's still sticking with you."

Carefully, slowly, Wheeljack starts stroking his hand over Bulkhead's outer shell, a gentle and comforting petting, since he'd prefer to stay cautious about hugging Bulkhead in this body anyway. "Anything I can do to help?"

Bulkhead clicks his claws and wiggles his antennae, unhappy with that suggestion. He doesn't want to talk to Rung! He should be fine without that, he totally was for his whole life. And Rung surely is dealing with his own issues with this whole body swap, he was on the list as having been swapped - and with Vortex, of all mechs. No, Bulkhead wouldn't bother Rung with one of his extremely sporadic visits about this.

But Wheeljack is petting him, now, and Bulkhead can't stay actively upset for long under this attention. He settles, making a soft bubbly sound, almost like a watery purr. He tries not to think about it too much; lobsters are weird. "Don't go near them." It pops out before he can really think about it. "The doppelgangers. Especially not me...him. Please?"

"The doppelgangers?" Wheeljack glances down at Bulkhead in surprise. "I mean, I wasn't exactly planning on it. As fascinating as the concept may be, I'm not particularly enthusiastic about the idea of trying to learn something about them while they try to kill me. I'm a good scientist but I've had enough of working in inclement situations." The petting continues, and Wheeljack can't help a smile at the little sound Bulkhead makes. As for the alternate Bulkhead... "Sure, I can do my best, but he's really not you, y'know."

"I know you weren't." Bulkhead huffs, wiggling a little under Wheeljack's hands, otherwise remaining where he is so that Jackie won't stop petting. "I just want to be sure." Wheeljack isn't the type to run into a battle scenario (like SOME PEOPLE) which is helpful, but considering how Rodimus and Lieutenant got blindsided by !Lost Lighters, there's still a small chance Wheeljack could end up coming across them, and if he does - "If you ever do, don't engage, okay? Run, hide, get as far away as you can until you're able to get back here."

And yes, as for his other self. "I don't want you to get hurt." Bulkhead's voice softens, though while it feels small, it can't quite sound it. "That's...what I saw. He was hurting you. He killed you. And now I can't stop thinking about it."

"Aww, Bulk." As nice as the petting is, Wheeljack kind of wishes they were in their usual frames. He gets the feeling that Bulkhead could really use a nice strong hug at the moment. Maybe he'll just save them all up for afterward. "Well, for one, if I'm going out it'll definitely be with a team, but I'll make sure we're sensible about it if we do run into one of them."

The grin makes a reappearance as Wheeljack continues petting Bulkhead. "Besides, if they want to keep us from leaving, you know me. I'll have plenty of surprises for them." Then the moment of levity is over, and Wheeljack shifts to catch Bulkhead's optics. "But I do mean it. I'll keep myself safe. We have too much to do for the entire universe to let them stop us."

Bulkhead could absolutely use a strong hug, despite how much he's enjoying this type of contact. Maybe once they're back in their own frames he'll curl around Wheeljack for a little bit and not let go. Not too long, of course, with all the science that needs doing. Just a short while.

"Alright." It's the best Wheeljack can promise, really, and Bulkhead has to accept that. He can't do what he had months ago, when he'd magnetized Wheeljack to him. "Alright...thanks, Jackie." He holds Wheeljack's gaze a moment, then, unable to help himself, uses his claws to prop his frame up so that he can gently bomp his lobster snout against Wheeljack's cheek. "And thanks for gettin' me to come out of there."

Strika's faceplates may be intimidating, but that doesn't mean that Wheeljack can't use them for smiling as often as he wants to. Still, a gentle smile can speak miles, especially with the bright look of Wheeljack's optics. "Sure thing, Bulk," Wheeljack says. "Now that you're out of there, though... Do you wanna help me work?"

A smile looks...interesting on Strika, and Bulkhead can't help but wonder what one would look like on Wheeljack himself. It's a curiosity, rather than a desire; he'd never swap those 'grins' Wheeljack uses his fins for with anything. "Okay, yeah." Scuttling out of Wheeljack's lap, Bulkhead transforms, stretching as he stands. Yeah being under that berth like that wasn't great for his joints. "Let's get to work."

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