2018-05-10 A Drink Between Friends

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A Drink Between Friends
Date 2018/05/10
Location Lost Light: Recreation -- Swerve's
Participants Rodimus, Fritz
Summary Fritz joins Rodimus for some friendly drinking.

Often referred to as the heart of the ship (by Swerve), the bar is rarely empty, rarely quiet. Central to the whole is the bar itself: just tall enough for a minibot to serve over the edge and lined with stools capable of accommodating bots of any height. Large, clear vessels stand behind the bar, containing the brews of the day. Behind the bar, an engex distillery assures there's always something new.

Round tables are scattered across the floor. Seats fold up from the floor beneath. Large booths along the sides of the room have room for a half-dozen or more, if they don't mind getting cozy, while monitors here and there find occasional use showing old vids.

A sign outside the door says:

No Guns, No Swords, No Bombs

Underneath is written: I MEAN IT!! LOCK YOUR WEAPON SYSTEMS DOWN AND DUMP EVERYTHING ELSE IN THE BIN BY THE DOOR. It is signed with a little frowning Swerve face.

On the other side of the door is a SHAME LIST. No, really, that's what it says. It has the number of days that various people are banned from Swerve's and counts down at the start of the morning shift.

The laughter is a louder, the voices a little brighter than they strictly need to be. Even accounting for the engex, there's a faintly frenetic edge to the all-in fun that spills out of Swerve's and down the halls as the no longer sober stumble their way home.

Rodimus sits -- not in an island of calm, but at the center of a sort of peace that blunts the jaggedness from the anxiety and turns it -- sometimes -- into anticipation instead. Jackpot and Mainframe are stumbling their way off, leaving his little not-island temporarily abandoned and quiet as he sits in the middle of a pile of empty glasses. Rodimus's gaze is softly fuzzed in overcharge as he studies the others in the bar with fondness in his expression during the lull.

With Max on shift and Fritz buzzing from his last few days of working with Hound, he's decided to pop into Swerve's to celebrate. 'Celebrate'. The end of the world is still approaching and if he can't bury himself in work - Hound rudely won't let him pull a ton of overtime - he's going to drink. The tankard he retrieves from the bar is a quarter as big as he is, and it takes all four arms to hold it as he turns to look out over the room and find himself a seat. There - it's Rodimus, alone. A rare sight, in Fritz's mind, and one he eagerly takes advantage of.

"Ca--Rodimus." Fritz carefully pushes his tankard onto the table, then climbs up to sit beside it. It's easier than trying to peer over the table top. "Been here a while?" He pointedly doesn't look at the empty glasses.

Rodimus, halfway to leaning into his hand, pulls upright. He blinks, resetting his gaze as he looks down at Fritz's tankard. "Wow," he says, an edge of laughter trembling in his voice. "You plan on drinking that, or swimming in it?" Is that really a comment on the size of the drink, though, or the size of Fritz? "Lil bit, lil bit. Been here a lil bit." He waves at the empty glasses to his side and says, "Sharing. I'm in better shape than they are, trust me. How're you, Whirl--wind? Kind of hard to shorten that name, isn't it, because you definitely aren't a Whirl."

Fritz, sitting with legs crossed, lifts his tankard and gulps steadily from it for a moment, thinking he ought to drink quickly if he's going to catch up with Rodimus. "Drinking it," he says shyly, setting his drink back down. "I'll take your word for it. And...shorten my name..? Like a nickname?" Fritz's doorwings flick upward, surprise etched across his boyish features. He's not wearing the facemask, today. "I, um...I don't know. The only one I ever got was Fritz...oh! I, I wanted to thank you. Hound said you recommended me to him."

"Yeah! I don't know if you noticed," Rodimus says, leaning forward and lowering his voice in an unnecessarily conspiratorial way, "but I like nicknames. I could call you W.W., but that's even longer. Maybe call you wow. Or woo. Kind of liking woo. WOO." He fistpumps. "Anyway, you're welcome. Like -- no offense to Ignition, but Hound deserves you more."

Fritz lifts one hand to cover his mouth as he giggles. "Nicknames are nice," he says, cheeks warming and not from the alcohol. "Maybe, um...something like Will? I'm not sure, I'm not very good at nicknames. Woo is kind cute, I'll admit."

Doorwings giving another flick, Fritz ducks his helm to hide the broad, pleased smile that stretches his features. "Ignition is better at handling her own paperwork. I didn't know Hound had so much backlog, I would have tried to help him weeks ago if I'd known...and once you get used to the smell of dirt and organics, his office is very homey."

"Woo, then." Rodimus grins at Fritz. Will is right out. He tips one of the empty glasses near his hand on its edge, trying to get it to balance on its corner. "Hound takes on a lot of stuff. I mean -- not that Minimus and Soundwave don't, but it's always harder being the right hand, especially with Ignition being--." He pauses. He diplomatically leaves it at that. "Anyway, Hound's great, even if he's ten billion years old. Did you know that?"

"Woo it is." Two hands fidget giddily in his lap before Fritz stills them by reaching for his drink again. He drains another good amount of it, and when he sets the tankard down it's nearly half empty. One wonders where he puts all that liquid. "Ignition is...very self-sufficient," he supplies diplomatically, then presses on. "Ten billion years old? I don't think that's true...Chimera is around that age, isn't she? I thought Hound was only around 5 million. He was in the Primal Vanguard, wasn't he?"

"Chimera's not old, she's eternal," Rodimus says, waving his hand in an impatient gesture. "That's totally different. No, Hound's like -- eleven billion, with a b, maybe. He joined the Primal Vanguard as part of his retirement. This is all just one long extended retirement cruise for him."

"Are you saying Chimera's immortal?" Fritz tilts his helm, smile relaxed and easy. He scoots a little closer on the surface of the table so that he's now seated in the center of it, Rodimus' empty glasses forming a sad little army in front of him. "That's a long retirement period. Why'd you keep promoting him, then? From the sounds of it he should be confined to quarters, too elderly for his mobility to be trusted."

"Immortal's too small. I like eternal better," Rodimus says, shaking his head. That army was a multi-mech effort, and as Fritz scoots, he gets a whiff of a wide variety of drinks. There are relatively few of Rodimus's preferred drink: cheap, strong, terrible. He actually seems to be nursing a spritzer as last seen in Minimus's hand. "No, he's fine. They built them solid back then. No one's manufacturing his parts, but that just means Ratchet rebuilds his bits custom. Even better fit than you get out of a pile, you know? Hound will outlive us all. I'll be gone and he'll be at that desk surrounded by paperwork."

<FS3> Fritz rolls Drinking: Good Success. (6 5 5 3 5 7 6 3 5 3 3 7 7)

Fritz muses over it, and eventually nods. "So do I."

The lingering smells of those sad glass soldiers reminds Fritz of his own drink. Gotta catch up; he takes the tankard and downs the rest of it, spilling some onto his chassis. When he sets the empty tankard down, he hiccups, and pulls out a cloth to wipe himself off. "I think the only reason Hound will outlive you is because he's more careful," he says at last, and when his optics fall on Rodimus they're sharper than usual. Almost reprimanding. "Besides, I thought the old man Autobot role was filled by that...Kip? Is that his name?"

"Kup. And he's old, like Ratchet's old, but not old. Hound's totally different. Hound's not old, he's just twelve billion years old," Rodimus explains with an earnest expression. He makes a face at Fritz, rolling his eyes and looking away. "Don't give me that slag about being careful. I've fragging well ossified, I'm so responsible."

Fritz's doorwings flick in time with his next bout of giggles, and he says, "That doesn't make any sense. I think Hound is...there's an organic word. Brother? He's like a brother. An older brother. He's experienced, and he's mature, and he's caring, so he seems older than he is because of how responsible he is and..." He stops, cheeks turning pink. Oh no. He'd been gushing. "O-Ossified? You, you can't be, you're not made of bones. Did you learn that from Minimus?"

When Fritz begins to blush, Rodimus's gaze turns on him with an edge of teasing that he considers, and then sets to the side. "I mean, there's a reason I just kept promoting the guy until I couldn't anymore." He flicks a crumb from the table toward Fritz: he doesn't answer his last question, but his tight smile suggests he's not happy about it. "So how're you and Max doing? He's always kind of goofy when he talks about you. Good goofy."

Wrong question. Fritz's doorwings droop, but he keeps up a shaky smile of his own and waves down one of the serving drones to get another drink. "He's very good at what he does, even if he's too modest to agree with that. If I can't work with you, there's no one else I'd rather serve."

Resetting his vocalizer, Fritz gives a shy laugh. "We're good. I'm...he's often goofy when he does talk to me. I was surprised to find how silly he was, beneath the reputation. And how are you? I'm sorry I haven't been able to visit."

Rodimus's expression tilts, rueful as Fritz laughs. "It's good to find people you can be goofy with. That you can trust enough to be dumb with. I've seen a little of that in Max, but not as much as you do, I bet. As long as you can be goofy with each other, you'll be okay. I was talking to him about Sunstreaker. Speaking of total opposite of goofy. Sorry to hear they've grown apart. Hope they fix it. Anyway, I'm good: restless, restless. Like all the rest of the ship. If nervous energy was a power source, we could ignite whole new stars."

"I like to think I can be goofy with you, too," Fritz says quietly, looking up from where his second set of hands have returned to fidgeting in his lap. "I, I don't often drink with...others." His new drink is placed on the table beside him, but he ignores it for now, wincing at the mention of Sunstreaker. "It's my fault." His voice is soft, nearly lost in the sounds of the bar. "But, um, I know what you mean. The waiting is excruciating. Have you found a way to take your mind off of it?"

Rodimus reaches over to rub Fritz's head in a tousle. "Keep drinking," he says, and avoids the subject of Sunstreaker entirely. "Uh, not nearly enough. Why, you have any good suggestions?"

<FS3> Fritz rolls Drinking: Good Success. (3 4 8 5 7 1 2 1 3 3 5 1 2)

Fritz's cheeks darken, and he scrabbles for his tankard to hide it. About a fourth of what he tries to drink sloshes onto his person; hiccuping again, the cloth reappears to wipe himself down, and his sheepish smile urges Rodimus to pretend that didn't happen. The mouth of the thing is almost as big as his face, only reason. "Other than working myself into a stupor? No. I was hoping you might have some, though I guess drinking is a good way to go about it. Better than throwing yourself into danger, right?" His laugh is awkward.

"That's a lot of stupors, Woo. You need better coping." Rodimus straightens and taps the table, then points his thumbs to the glasses. "See those? Most of them aren't mine. They're friends, who've passed through, had a drink. People don't come here just to drink themselves into a stupor. I mean -- some do, but that's not the only reason. You could do that in your hab just the same. They come here because the others are here. Because of friends, and friendship. Talk to your friends. Not just Max, the others. Go do something fun. We're on Cybertron. It's wild out there, but fun. We're home. Remember why we're here to defend it, whatever that is for you."

Fritz stiffens, surprise returning to his posture, his face. "I...I, um." He swallows, shoulders curling forward, doorwings falling. "I did come here to drink with you, because you're my friend, or I hope so, and I thought it would be...are you having fun, here? Why do you defend Cybertron?"

He shrinks as soon as he asks it, and adds quickly, "Thank you for the advice."

Rodimus laughs, and he says: "Yeah, I mean, that's why I'm here. Friends. We're friends. I don't just make up nicknames for anyone. I mean, mostly everyone. But not anyone. But the rest of them, too. I'm way not drunk enough to answer that question, though, so just imagine whatever answer you want. All comes down to: I have to." He says it not like a burden, however, but rather an honor. Even a pleasure.

And just like that, Fritz relaxes. He takes a sip of his tankard, rather than a gulp. "I thought so. It's kind of what you do. Who you are." Leaning forward, stretching, he takes Rodimus' closest hand in two of his own, and gives it a squeeze. "But you'll be careful, won't you?"

"I'm not gonna throw myself in front of the biggest gun I can find, Woo. But I'll do what I've gotta do." Rodimus sets down his drink to cover Fritz's hand with his own and give it a pat. "We all will. This is too big to do anything less. Anyway, the thing people never get is that I don't take stupid risks. I take incredibly well-calculated risks. Subconscious calculus."

"You're a liar," Fritz says, fondly. "Or maybe your subconscious calculator needs retuning. But I, I can, I can respect that. We'll all do what we have to do." He pushes fluid down his intake, and scoots closer, keeping Rodimus' hand within the clutch of his own. His remaining set of hands sandwich the hold. "I wish I could fight with you. Protect you like you protect all of us. I, I wish..." His cheeks are burning, freckles standing out stark against a pink background. "Thank you for doing what you have to," he says at last.

"You do." Rodimus rests his other hand on Fritz's head, tapping his forehead with his thumb. "You do fight, Woo. And the stuff you do? Protects everyone. Don't forget that, or let other people make you feel like it's any less. You got me?"

"That's not..." Fritz cuts himself off, just as he stops himself from how he'd been pressing into Rodimus' touch. "Okay. I won't. But..but you have to promise to come back, okay?" It's the same thing he demanded of Max, even if it's less harsh, less angry. "If I'm going to sit here on this ship and watch all of you save the universe...then you have to come back."

Rodimus shifts his touch to the point of his finger on Fritz's forehead to push his head back so that he can meet his eyes. "Stop thinking of it like you're sitting back and other people are saving the day, for one."

Fritz is caught and held by Rodimus' gaze, and his doorwings are held carefully still. "You didn't promise." He doesn't look away, though he does bite at his lower lip. "That's the truth of it, Rodimus. Thinking otherwise is only an excuse for weakness."

"An excuse for weakness?" Rodimus asks, his tone sharp as his gaze as he studies Fritz. "Who's feeding you that load of scrap?"

Fritz flinches away, withdrawing all of his hands to ball in his lap. "N, No one. No one is." He hunches forward, staring at the closest empty glass. "I, I just--in war, a soldier is indispensible. A soldier puts the effort before his own life. A soldier on the sidelines is as useless as a broken weapon. He can do nothing, he is nothing, and he only hampers his faction." The words are clipped and short, from something memorized long ago.

"Go ask Hound what he thinks of that. Ask Max. Ask Chimera. Ask the people you respect, and maybe they can give you something you'll remember instead of that. You've served under awful commanders, Woo, the kind of people who take something good and smash it trying to fit it into their idea of what they need. And most of the time they are wrong." Rodimus sounds particularly fiery on this, but then again, as Hot Rod, he was a headache and a half for most of his commanders. "I've told you this before, and I'll keep telling you it, until maybe you start to believe me, but you need to hear it from others too. You can't fire a gun if no one made it, no one loaded it, no one got you in place, no one got you the fuel. An army's a whole frame, not the tip of a finger."

Fritz trembles through the tirade, hunching further, hands curling so tightly around each other that his joints crack. He can't raise his head to look at Rodimus. He keeps staring at empty glasses, ignoring his own full tankard. Eventually, he nods, optics dimming. "I'm sorry. I do believe you. Max has told me the same. It's just...hard, to watch you go out to war, to watch you fight, and know that all I can do is work from the sidelines. That I can't protect you in the moment, stop someone from attacking you, shield you from harm. I can work behind the scenes but I can never be up front, saving Max, saving you, in the midst of battle. And that's hard to take." An upward flick of his optics, a flash of a sheepish smile. "You've done so much for me, Rodimus. You've done so much for all of us. You're one of the best friends I've ever had. I only want to protect you like you've protected me."

Watching Fritz tremble, hunch, and shrink, Rodimus sits back with a sort of self-disgusted impatience. Shortly, pushing to his feet, he says, "You do. Every day. Thank you for that. Good luck with Hound, by the way. I'll catch you around, yeah? Guess I better go burn of some of this fuel."

Fritz jerks up, mouth open. He almost says wait. What comes out is, "See you around! I, I liked hanging out like this. Maybe we can do it again?"

Watching Fritz tremble, hunch, and shrink, Rodimus sits back with a sort of self-disgusted impatience. Shortly, pushing to his feet, he says, "You do. Every day. Thank you for that. Good luck with Hound, by the way. I'll catch you around, yeah? Guess I better go burn of some of this fuel."

Fritz jerks up, mouth open. He almost says wait. What comes out is, "See you around! I, I liked hanging out like this. Maybe we can do it again?"

Rodimus taps the table and fingerguns Fritz on his way out the door. "Easy, just find me here. Good luck wrangling that drink, too." It's a pretty big drink. His grin is easy and his steps steady, despite the glasses on the table. He makes his way out at a meander, stopping once or twice before he finally clears his way back out with a lengthening stride that quickens as he goes.

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