Nothing On TV

Bulkhead was the first to notice it, despite his reputation as the most oblivious of the crew. He could argue that perception, cite Optimus Prime's unending optimism as a form of obliviousness, and in that case, Optimus far outranked him on the Oblivious Scale. But he didn't argue it, mostly because he never thought much about the subject, and also because he was pretty sure Bumblebee would win a contest of thick-headedness, if only because the little guy would stubborn his way into first place.

Which was part of the reason Bulkhead wasn't going to interfere with this.

"Bumblebee!" the voice of Ratchet snapped out from the doorway. Bulkhead didn't look up from the television, comfortable enough to remain on his stomach, head propped up in his hands. Bumblebee, however, flailed and promptly fell off his perch on Bulkhead's back. Ratchet was not moved by the yellow bot's pained groaning. If anything, he was further irritated by the probability that the little nuisance had a scuffed-up skidplate now.

"Lose something?" Ratchet intoned flatly, holding out a sheepishly grinning Sari, dangling from two of his fingers by the back of her shirt. She giggled faintly.

"Sari?" Bumblebee questioned, getting to his treads again quickly and holding up both hands, into which the girl was deposited. "Where've you been? You said you'd come visit like, two hours ago!"

Sari glanced somewhat apprehensively at the towering Ratchet behind her from Bumblebee's hands, but he was, as ever, Not Revealing Anything.

"It was nothing, really," she squeaked out with what she was sure was a disarming grin at Bumblebee. "I... kindasortamaaaayyybe..."

"Snuck into my medbay," Ratchet growled with an accusatory pointed finger. "That spark-glitched key of yours keeps messing with the equipment, and if anything malfunctions I'm holding you responsible." His glare had shifted to Bumblebee somewhere in the middle of that sentence, much to Sari's dismay.

"It's not his fault!" she protested. "I snuck in! If anything goes wrong, I'll... I'll... my dad will pay for it, I promise!"

"Yeah, Doc-bot!" Bumblebee interjected cheerfully. "Lighten up!" He was unfazed by Ratchet's dark-clouds-and-thunder gaze, but Sari was not. Especially when Ratchet addressed her directly.

"Ask him yourself. You're a brave girl."

And yet, coming from him, it still sounded faintly like an admonishment. Sari could only look away guiltily and feel embarrassedly warm. Bumblebee looked down at her curiously, head tilted.

"What was that about?" he asked when Ratchet had left and was no longer in hearing distance. "Ask who what now?"

"No, nothing," Sari mumbled. "Nevermind. What are you guys watching?"

And Bumblebee, sufficiently deterred from that line of questioning and ever-eager to carry on like a chatter-bot about whatever he happened to be doing at the time, obliged and carried Sari closer to the television screen like a doll, setting her carefully on the human sized couch he had dragged in himself months ago, all the while making sure she was up to date on the latest plot twists in their favorite shows.

All the Autobots could directly stream any show they wanted from the internet and quite literally go through an entire series in a matter of seconds, of course... but where was the fun in that? Besides, it was beneficial to watch them at human-speed, especially if you required a human to explain things to you throughout the viewing process.

"What was that about?" Bulkhead wondered after a commercial faded into another.

"Lotion," Sari chirped helpfully. "Humans use it to make sure their skin stays soft."

"Why would you want to do that?" Bumblebee asked, looking and sounding like Sari had just suggested something entirely nonsensical.

"It feels nice, that's why!"

"But if you didn't use that stuff, you guys would have tougher skin!" Bumblebee protested. "No wonder humans don't have armor... you keep slathering on armor-eating 'lotion'..."

"Humans are bizarre," Bulkhead agreed. Sari frowned at them from over the back of the couch.

"That's not it!" she asserted, climbing over the furniture and dashing up to Bumblebee, who met her halfway and extended a hand, presumably to hold her. She did step onto his hand, but then proceeded right up his arm and onto his shoulder. Bumblebee held very still (bless Prowl's patience, Bulkhead thought, even if he is stalled in the mud.) knowing that Sari's tiny fragile limbs could easily slip in between his armor plating and get injured if he shifted.

"Sari, the show's coming back on-" he tried to reason. Sari shushed him.

"Here!" she said, thrusting her hand onto the side of Bumblebee's face. "Feel?" Bumblebee hesitated, glancing at Bulkhead for support. Bulkhead wisely went back to watching television and acting oblivious to the situation.

"I... I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be feeling?..." he finally ventured. Sari scowled and placed her other hand next to the first, and then rubbed them up and down his face.

"Now?" she asked. It took Bumblebee's processor a moment to catch up.

"... are you petting me?"

"You're impossible!" Sari exclaimed, snatching her hands back and folding arms against her chest, clearly frustrated and on the verge of sulking. "You can feel, right?"

Bumblebee looked mildly offended, but mostly confused.

"Of course I can! If you'd just tell me what I'm supposed to be feeling instead of just-" He stopped, sniffing.

"What is it?" Sari asked, irritation melting faster than it had formed. Negative emotions were hard to hold on to and slipped from her mind like oil. Bumblebee sniffed again.

"Is that... " he trailed off, looking more and more confused.

"What?" Sari prompted impatiently.

"It smells like grease." he blurted out. Bulkhead glanced at them again, curious despite himself. Sari grinned widely from her perch on Bumblebee's shoulder.

"You like it?" she chattered. "My dad had some stuff laying around and I thought-" her grin abruptly vanished and her voice shut down, only to start up again at a lower volume, and slower. No less rambling, though. "I heard some girls on the TV say that lotion makes hands softer, and they really seemed to like it, so I wanted to try some, but I don't have any and my dad was busy so I couldn't ask him, so I just found some stuff and..." she fidgeted and looked up at Bumblebee's face, shrugging and smiling nervously. "It made my hands softer though, right?"

Bumblebee briefly considered telling her the truth, which was that he really couldn't tell the difference. But he could practically feel her tiny fuel pump stress itself, beating faster. He gave her a small smile.

"Sure," he conceded. Sari grinned brightly up at him.

"And it smells great, huh?"

Bumblebee considered.

"It... doesn't smell that bad, yeah."

Sari kicked her legs happily, thumping against Bumblebee's shoulder plating.

"Alright! I knew it was a good choice! I thought, 'smelling like flowers and stuff might be nice for some people, but I hang out with the Autobots! I bet they'd like this smell more, since they don't have flowers or anything on their planet' and I was right, wasn't I?" She took a breath. "Do you have flowers on Cybertron?"

Bumblebee was slightly overwhelmed. "U-umm... no, no flowers..." He glanced at Bulkhead as if to ask "what are flowers, anyway?" but Bulkhead was just shaking his head.

"So you like it?" Sari questioned one last time, finality in her voice.

"Uh, yeah?"

Whatever reaction he was expecting, it wasn't a loud squeal directly in his audio receptors, nor the feeling of Sari pressing herself against his head and pressing her lips against the metal there, detaching with a distinct "Mmm-wah!" sound, and then sliding down his arm and back onto the ground, skipping back to the couch.

Bumblebee would later ask Bulkhead if he thought he should take Sari to Ratchet for repairs, since she was acting strangely enough that something had to be loose in her processor, but Bulkhead would just shrug it off. Bumblebee, for all his love of human culture, had yet to remember that Sari was a human in more than just physical form, the same way that Sari seemed so easily to forget that Bumblebee wasn't human.

And really, if Bumblebee couldn't figure it out after Sari spent the entire afternoon practically welded to his side, Bulkhead wasn't going to tell him. His face would be hilarious when he figured it out. Bulkhead just hoped he was there when it happened.

Besides... there was nothing on TV anyway.