2017-05-15 The Conflicted Fortress

From Transformers: Lost and Found

2017-05-15 The Conflicted Fortress
Date 2017/05/15
Location Lost Light: Recreation -- Swerve's
Participants Deluge, Fortress Maximus
Summary Del helps Max get some much-needed perspective.

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.

Deluge has no idea what's in store for him. The last he heard of Max, the mech was in good spirits with a new partner and things were good. Little does he know what's happened since then. Fort Max's invitation for a drink at Swerve's is a welcome one, treating it as business as usual.

Once his shift on duty is up he's making his way to Swerve's, their typical watering hole. Sidearm is stored at the door and he's striding in, tall stature allowing him a view over most of the crowd to hopefully spot out Max. ..Not that he's that hard to pick out anyway.

My, how things have changed indeed. Fortress Maximus is easy to spot in any crowd, because he's...freaking enormous, tall and wide-shouldered, the whole thing. Plus the horned helmet and tread 'wings.' It's also no surprise he's picked a rather secluded booth for larger mechs near the corner, as Max has been known to have his frequent antisocial bouts even when he's in good spirits. And right now...

Well, he's not. At all. He's staring down at the table, at a drink he hasn't started yet, helm bowed. Ever since the incident on Earth he's been trying to avoid just about everyone, but there's only so many times one can tell oneself 'oh my god I'm an asshole' before one has to talk about it with...someone. Someone trustworthy.

Oh.. Yeah, that's not what Deluge expected to find. Max has his moments, yes, but he thought his friend was getting better, slow and steady as it was. The lack of touching the drink makes this even more disturbing. It means he's thinking heavy on something, not drinking himself into a stupor.

After waving to a server to bring the usual drink, he makes his way to Fort Max's booth and slips in opposite him. "Hey there, Max.." He offers in a cautious, yet friendly way to get a bead on his mood. "Got your invite. What's up, bud?"

In a way Max is dreading facing Deluge, because this is one of those conversations that's not going to be easygoing and fun no matter what. He looks up to Deluge a lot and hates to be, well, a disappointment. But it's like his mind is cooking. He can't just keep it locked up forever.

The face that looks up at Deluge is a bit more haggard than usual, though Max lacking for recharge isn't an uncommon sight. He manages a weak smile. "Del. Hey, have a seat. I'll cover the drinks tonight." He speaks in plural, but he's still just kind of running his finger around the rim of that one. "I...I really hate to dump this on you like this. But I don't feel ready to talk to Rung about it yet." Rung would think even worse of him, surely. "I sort of...I messed up. Badly."

If Max ever sid he looked up to Del.. Well, he wouldn't know what to say. Probably give him a funny look. Him? Of all mechs? Still.. Deluge's scale of worry goes from a little to mild when Max looks up at him and he sees the effects of sleep loss on his face. At least he smiles, which earns a small one from Deluge in return, its edges concerned. "Well hey, before we go gettin' sloshed, why don't you tell me what's up. You look exhausted, mech.."

Dump on him? Talk to him before Rung? Er.. Deluge opens his mouth to say something, but the words are caught when Max says he messed up. At this Deluge stills, blanking. ..Shit, what does that mean? Max is a great mech, truly, but that doesn't mean he can do no wrong. There's a knot in his tank that's really praying he doesn't have to help clean up a Decepticon's body or something. "Max.." He begins slowly, a hand on the table and a brief glance given to the room before he leans in a little, voice low. "..Max, what did you do?"

Max sees how Deluge is blanking and quickly holds his hands up in front of him. "It's nothing that bad! I mean it's bad, but it's bad as it could be. With me." This is probably not the time to mention all the times he's only kept from violently reacting to something through breathing exercises. "I'm just being vague. I'll stop. Just better be out with it."

He sighs, slumping back in that booth as much as his treads will allow. "It's, um, with Whirlwind. I messed up with him. He confided in me something he'd been keeping a secret. It's...not my place to say what it was. But I reacted so badly, got caught up in the moment and in old wartime ideas, and...I don't know." He buries his face in his big hand. "I said stupid things because I couldn't get it, couldn't wrap my mind around it, and I shouted at him and he was terrified. Of me. And we haven't...spoken since."

Deluge's shoulders ease up some at Max's assurance that it's not That Bad. Oh, thank Primus. His drink arrives just in time, too, and he grabs it as soon as it's set down so he can take a swig. "Mech, don't scare me like that." He vents a sigh, rubbing his forehelm and looking back to Max, awaiting the truth.

And when he finally says it, Deluge is.. Well, honestly he's not terribly sure what to say. Brows furrow and a frown tugs the corners of his mouth, which is briefly covered when he palms over it. "Ah, Max.. I'm sorry. Fritz didn't seem like the type to have some crazy bad past or somethin'.. Y'sure it's not something you can talk about? I mean, I know you liked him and that's not somethin' that happens often with you."

Max finally relaxes enough to take a long drink, now that he's gotten it off his shoulders. "I'm not the one who needs to hear 'I'm sorry.' I think he does." He looks away. "We really connected, because we understood each other. I mean, I thought we did. So for me to come across some aspect of him I couldn't understand...I don't know. It threw me off."

He vents. "I should find him and apologize, but that just feels like patching over a wound with paint. I'm still having trouble with it. It's not..." He dims his optics.

"I do still like him. I care about him so much. I'm just confused, I guess."

A corner of Deluge's mouth pulls back a little and he shakes his helm. "Max.. You're my friend. Pretty much my best friend. You brought me here for somethin', I know it, but what? Are we havin' breakup drinks or do you want me to convince you to go back to him?" He stares at Max dead on as he says this, his expression calm, yet optics seeking for an answer.

"I can't do that if you don't tell me what's up. Is he an ex-con or something? Con sympathizer? I know it must've been bad if you were that hard pressed to totally cut it off with this mech." He glances down and the side for a second, jaw working. "..I know I'm not good with relationships, and I can barely hold a long distance one together, but lemme at least try to help you save yours."

Best friend? Max tries not to brighten TOO obviously at that. Especially since he's being mopey and glum otherwise. "...You're right," he admits. "But keep this between us? I know you will."

He lowers his voice. "He's a deserter. Autobot deserter. He described his CO doing...awful things, the sorts of things we would lock someone up for in G9. So I get it, I think. But then he left. Do you know what they told us about deserters in early training?" Early training being Max's earliest memories, most likely. "That for every deserter, more of us would die. Needlessly. And so many already died. They were abandoned..."

There's that word again, where Max visibly tenses up and seems to somewhere else for a few seconds before coming back. "But if he stayed, he would have died. I know this. It's like on the one hand I want to say, of course he'd run, but everything about my training and my programming just snaps against it." He takes another drink. "I guess I brought you here to...I just need advice, I guess. I don't want to lose him. And I feel like such an ass for reacting the way I did. But it's like I can't control my own thoughts and emotions. I used to be so GOOD at that..."

A deserter? Well, now he knows why Max acted like he did. Deluge gives a soft vent and rubs over his face. "Mh.. Alright, first, gimme that." He reaches forward to pluck Max's drink from his hand, setting it on his own side of the table. "Y'get it back when we're done. Now listen.." Brows raise, giving Max a look that makes sure he's got his attention. "I may not be a warborn or an MTO, but I know just as well about the thinkin' of nothing but fighting. And while I don't regret it and I stand by my actions, shitty and messed up as a lot of them were.. I don't blame the little guy for runnin'. I agree, he would've died. Hell, I'm surprised he's even alive now."

Two fingers tap the table for emphasis as he leans in a little, expression serious and rigid. "You know some of the mechs we fought with. You said it yourself, sorts of things we'd lock someone up for. But did they get jailed? Hell no. Just the good ol' boys fightin' Cons. Meanwhile your squad mate's pilpherin' optics as trophies and every bullet in a brain turns into a mark on your gun and a fond memory. You really wanna shame him for tryin' to save himself from that? He wasn't a soldier, Max. He knew that, so he had to get out. You can't hand every mech a gun and expect them all the smile and shoot. And besides, if he did stay and he did survive, who would he be now? Probably not someone you'd like, that's for damn sure."

"Wh-hey!" Max only halfheartedly protests when Deluge grabs the drink. Instead he just sits and listens. That's why he brought Deluge here, right? Why he went to Del, who lived through the same battlefield hell he did, who wouldn't talk nicely around the truth. And Deluge...just lays it out there.

"...I think I sometimes didn't notice things I should," he admits, looking away again. His shoulders slump. "I'm starting to realize that. So maybe I wanted to deny Autobots really could be like the ones he described, people worth abandoning." Why does he keep struggling to say that word? "And I know he's a soldier, I even said..."

He stares back at Deluge, optics going wide as memories dawn on him. "I...I said I knew he wasn't a soldier, so he shouldn't have had to fight. He kept trying to tell me in a roundabout way, and I didn't even realize it. He said sometimes he should have fought anyway, even though he would have died. And I told him I wanted him to live, I told him that and meant it and MEAN it and...Del, I betrayed him. Slag, I abandoned HIM. He never abandoned me! He gave me a care package for my hangover, he sent me messages asking how I was doing throughout the day, he let me pour my heart out to him after that Waspinator incident when we barely even knew each other. And I thought, slag, these people he used to be with treated him awfully, abused him, didn't deserve to be around him. And it was them, of course it was them. He escaped that and I shamed him for it..."

Head once again buried in hands. Both this time.

Deluge is glad to see Max absorbing his words, but he hates to see the mech beat himself up over it. "Max.. Look at me." His voice is kinder this time, Max met with a caring little smile from his friend. "I've known yah since Simanzi. That's a hell of a long time to know a guy and still be alive with him at the end. So I know you, and you're not a bad person. I know you didn't truly mean to say what you did to Fritz. You know who was talking? The war. When someone runs away, just 'cause they're scared and don't wanna die like any sane mech, the war sees they're useless. So it's gotta turn everyone against that person, say they're bad so the soldiers stay in neat little lines. I know it's hard, but don't listen to that."

He reaches across the table and taps Max's helm, "Just listen to this.." Then he taps his chest where his spark is. "And this. Alright?"

Max is starting to think it isn't just the war. That's definitely part of it, a lot of it; but he also wonders how much of everything he does lately is him and how much is coming from those three years. Three years, a concrete room smeared with pink, the sounds of chainsaws and a leering face with red optics. But bringing that up would mean talking about it, which he absolutely cannot do. Not here. Not like this. Not with Deluge.

Maybe someday.

But he looks up at Del, listening to his voice and responding to that tap with a little flustered look. "Yeah...yeah. You uh." He rubs the back of his neck. "Got any make up gift ideas? He really loves strong Enjex." A pause. "Fritz...right, he still introduces himself as that. I wonder why? He said it was a cruel nickname-well, I guess it must have been one his old unit gave him. When he told me his real designation is Whirlwind, I thought it fit. It's a beautiful name. He's beautiful."

And then he realizes he's getting maudlin and sappy around Del. "Uh, I mean...slag. Thanks for giving it to me straight like that. I figured, you went through it too, at least most of it..."

Oh, right, Whirlwind. "Ah, sorry, so used to knowin' him by his nickname on his profile." Which Deluge may have looked at after Max told him about him. Gotta make sure he's on the up and up for his friend. As for gift ideas, Deluge smirks and thoughtfully rubs his chin after sliding Max's drink back to him. "Strong engex? ..I'll find somethin' for yah, don't worry."

But when he's thanked, Deluge can only smile warmly when brushing knuckles against Max's shoulder in a light punch. "Don't worry about it. I know you'd do the same for me. Besides, with the way he makes you smile? I'd hate for that to go away."

"When-...if, if he takes me back, I'll have to introduce you two formally. You'll like him. And he ought to meet my best friend." Max smiles warmly this time, though still feeling like a heel. (Really more of a heel, just a more understanding one.) "You're a good mech. I mean it."

Deluge may have said it before, but hearing Fort Max saying 'best friend' really warms his spark, the mech beaming as he raises his glass. "I'd be happy to meet him." Clinking his glass softly against the other's, he downs a mouthful, grinning soon after. It's good to see Max in higher spirits now that they've talked about it. He can only hope his talk with Fritz goes well.. But if Max wants to fix it as bad as he does, he has a strong feeling it will.

Max feels...well, at least he knows what he has to do. He should probably give Whirlwind a little bit of space rather than risk smothering him. Maybe send a message asking if he's OK? That's something. And talk to Rung about...well, try to talk to Rung about it. But for now, he'll just share some drinks with Deluge.

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