2018-05-23 Don't Go It Alone

From Transformers: Lost and Found

Don't Go It Alone
Date 2018/05/22
Location Lost Light - Science and Medical - Wheeljack's Laboratory
Participants Prowl, Bulkhead
Summary Prowl's just trying to help, but Bulkhead remains difficult.

Prowl had begun the careful, arduous task of getting the Lost Light out of Tempo's... bay, wherever it had ended up. Lot of red tape, logistics, finding the right spot, clearing the path. It was slow-going, so Prowl makes his rounds. Emotional rounds. Minimus still weighs heavily on his mind. When he steps into Wheeljack's workshop, it's on nothing more than a hunch that Bulkhead might be around. "Bulkhead? Thought I'd check in."

Bulkhead has just come back from an energon run, one fraught with the danger of someone trying to stop him and ask him how he's doing, how he's holding up, if he needs a shoulder to lean on they'll be there for him--! This time he hadn't run into anyone willing to offer such a thing, thankfully, and returned to thei--his lab alone and unhindered but for the stack of cubes he'd filled at the dispenser. Those are now sitting on one of the few remaining clear spaces amongst the worktables, every other available inch covered in parts and datapads and all sorts of odds and ends.

What Bulkhead had apparently forgotten was to lock the door.

"Prowl." He's leaning over a worktable, focusing on a circuit board he's soldering, though the pen is set down at the intrusion even though he doesn't look up. Bulkhead's frame remains dented, singed and pocked; but the worm gore is gone, at least. "Was there something you needed?"

"No. I..." Prowl hesitates, then nears until he's standing across from Bulkhead's worktable. "I just wanted to say I'm sorry. And... if you needed anything, just let me know." Everything Bulkhead didn't want to hear, surely. Even Prowl suspects this, but he's been extremely out of his element lately. "You seem busy."

Bulkhead stops, reproachment on his tongue; he bites it back. This is Prowl. From anyone else those words would feel forced and worthless, but with Prowl...well. He's trying.

"Thanks," he says instead. Bulk's yet to look up from his circuit board. "I am. New project. And you?"

"...We wouldn't have survived without you and Wheeljack. You know this, right?" Prowl glazes right over Bulkhead's question.

Bulkhead's entire frame goes rigid, shoulders tensing, teeth clenching so hard there's a soft creak in the silence that follows. Eventually, evenly, he says, "Not all of us survived."

"/No one/ would've survived." Prowl can only lock optics on the top of Bulkhead's helm, but they're unwavering. "I just... want you aware. While I bickered and faltered and became irrational and distracted... You and Wheeljack kept everything on track. To the end."

"Don't." Fingers curled on the surface of the worktable, Bulkhead's voice is soft. "Don't put yourself down to make heroes out of us. You did your part, you helped, just because--just because you didn't go off and kill yourself with those four doesn't mean you were useless!" His voice rings off the walls of the lab, and, distantly, he realizes he's yelling again.

A deep invent. In, and then out. And Bulkhead says, "You're right. We did it. We stopped Unicron. There's nothing else to say."

Prowl startles with an upward flick of his doors. Tense seconds pass. "There would be nothing else to say. They didn't... kill themselves. They did what they felt they had to." He's not /entirely/ sure where he's going with this, but Bulkhead's assessment didn't sit right.

The next silence is just as tense, Bulkhead staring at his hands. Eventually, he surrenders one point: "I know they did." A hand rises to scrub down his face, and he takes another shaky invent, optics dimming.

"Do you remember what you told me I should do? With...with him." Bulk changes the subject abruptly, the name sticking in his vocalizer. He works around it. "I did. It was going to be...and now this. What am I supposed to do with this?"

"Bulkhead..." Prowl struggles to finish the thought. He looks at the circuit board between them, chewing is lip. The sharp, raw tragedy of it all makes everything else feel small. Slag. Prowl looks up, slowly, sympathy etched into his usually grim expression. "I don't have an answer for you. I can't fix this, and I don't expect to. But you don't have to go it alone, alright?"

Bulkhead says nothing, retreating back into silence. When he does speak, he finally looks up, briefly meeting Prowl's gaze as a rueful smile curls his lip. "I know you can't, and I don't expect you to. But, no offense...I do. There's nothing you can--nothing anyone can--let me do this on my own. This project will fix things, once it's finished, and everything will be as it should be. You won't have lost him, either, when I'm done." This him is not the same as Bulkhead's him.

Prowl falls completely still, save for a small head tilt. "Uhm. Project." It's good that Bulkhead has a project, for sure! ...But. Bulkhead's smile is anything but wholesome. "What do you mean, I won't have lost him? Lieutenant?"

The smile turns sad, and Bulkhead shakes his helm. "No. Rodimus." A pause, and he murmurs, almost to himself, "And Lieutenant...have to find a way to..." Bowing over the worktable, he grabs for one of the many datapads stacked nearby and starts scribbling on it with a stylus. "If I'm successful," he explains, mid-note taking, "None of them will have died."

Prowl's instinct is to shut this right down. His fingers curl over the edge of the worktable as he leans in, helm still tilted. But maybe Bulkhead needs to focus on something. And it should be harmless enough, right? Bulkhead's not going to crack... time travel any time soon. Because that's what he must be working on, right? "Just don't do anything drastic, Bulkhead." Plop that disclaimer on there. "My office is always open."

"Of course not. I was always the responsible one, remember?" There's a hint of dark humor in Bulkhead's voice, though it's not reflected in his features. He does pause, reach out without looking and rest a hand over one of Prowl's. "I can't say I'll take you up on that offer," he answers, honestly. "But I appreciate it nonetheless. You've come a long way, Prowl."

Prowl readily brings his other hand over Bulkhead's knuckles, clasping with a sturdy shake. The compliment is a little hard to take, here and now. Concern lingers in his stare, but he nods at last, and draws away. "Thanks. I may poke in, here and there. Let me know if you don't want the company. I'm trying to be careful." He salutes and moves for the lab exit, watching over his shoulder.

The return curl of Bulkhead's fingers isn't as strong as it usually is. "I understand. Thanks again, Prowl." And back to work he goes, drawing up a hologram of the plans he has so far, adding new notes to the holographic margins that hover above his worktable. Prowl's given him a lot to think about, a lot to work on. A pity that the opposite was likely Prowl's intention.

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