Big, Dumb and Worthless
Juana la Cliker-Rooster
Did larger size really suggest a lack of intelligence? Did it mean he was less memorable than others because he lacked the high intelligence his teammates held? He had noticed that he was talked down to in a condescending manner, spoken to as though he were a sparkling, or maybe even a CPU damaged bot, which he wasn't. There was nothing wrong with his intelligence—he was merely too sweet and gentle for his own good, and that tended to lead to making some not-so-good decisions. He didn't catch on right away—did that really make him stupid?
Bulkhead was not as happy as his teammates believed he was. He was sad, annoyed, and most importantly, angry with himself for reasons he was unsure of. He wasn't in control of his size, or his clumsiness. But was it still his fault? It separated him from the others, and he liked the idea of being an individual. But it made them look at him with judgmental optics, and he hated feeling like everyone knew something he didn't.
Humans watched him closely whenever he made a movement, fear clearly evident in their eyes, their mouths hung half-open in anticipation of the next big accident. They judged him based solely only what they saw and Bulkhead had observed this with a heavy, hurt spark. Even when he'd been interviewed by that reporter bot to discuss his good points, the scene had shifted, and once again he ended up looking bad. It broke his spark to feel so worthless and hated by everyone around him.
And then, there was the final nail in the coffin: they had encountered the fake StarScream and it had recognized Ratchet as wise, Optimus as noble and Prowl as stealthy. It had completely forgotten Bulkhead's name, and it broke his giant spark into pieces. Why wasn't he important enough to be remembered, even by the enemy? Or was he so useless and dumb that people considered it a waste of their time to attempt recalling him in any way?
He had taken to spending most of his free time alone in his room, and everyone noticed almost instantly. Bumblebee had tried to talk to him, as the big 'bot was his best friend, but Bulkhead waved him off, saying he was feeling a little homesick. Prowl tried too, and he received the same lie. Even Optimus and Sari had tried, and yet no one could get him to open up.
Upset and worried, Sari took it upon herself to beg Ratchet for help, who had thought it best to leave the giant alone. But after three minutes of crying and begging, he sighed and gave in, promising that if she shut the frag up, he would talk to Bulkhead.
There came a knocking at the giant door that opened into his room, and Bulkhead did his best to ignore it. He didn't want to talk, nor did he want anyone to think there was something really wrong. That would just lead to further evidence of his lack of mental stability within himself, giving everyone more to judge. But the knocking grew louder and louder until the knocker on the other side roared,
"OPEN THIS DAMN DOOR OR MAY PRIMUS HAVE MERCY ON YOUR SPARK!" Bulkhead jumped a bit from the sudden threat, then sighed, defeated, and walked slowly over to his door and opened it. Ratchet stood there, arms crossed, face annoyed.
"Can I help you?" Bulkhead asked slowly. Ratchet pushed past the giant and closed the door. He sighed, then uncrossed his arms, turned to face Bulkhead and said in a surprisingly gentle tone,
"What's goin' on, kid? You've been really down lately, and it's time you told me about it. That's an order, not a request, by the way." Bulkhead groaned inwardly, then said,
"Nothing is wrong, Doc-bot. I'm fine."
"No, ya ain't. I can see it, Optimus can see it, everyone can see it. Tell me what's goin' on. Did somethin' happen? Did someone say somethin' hurtful to ya?" Bulkhead, for a moment, considered telling the old 'bot what was the matter, but then answered,
"No." Something tugged at his spark, begging to be released, and it made him tense up a tiny bit. Ratchet eyed the giant suspiciously, then said,
"I can feel your spark twistin' around in there. It wants you to talk. So just say it so I can tell Sari everything is all right." Bulkhead, stunned that the medic could sense what was happening within him, shook his head, then stopped suddenly and asked,
"Sari? What does she have to do with this?" Ratchet looked away, arms crossed again and grumbled,
"She wouldn't stop cryin' or beggin' me to talk to you until I promised her I would. She's worried about you, big guy. She's been frettin' her little head off over you."
"Sari…is worried about me that much?"
"Yep." Bulkhead was silent for a moment, thinking hard about his predicament. Either he confessed his humiliating feelings to the gruff doctor, or he held them in and continued to feel awful. But if it was for Sari, then….
"I—I think everyone hates me. I kind of hate myself, actually." Ratchet uncrossed his arms again and let them hang at his sides, disbelief written all over his face. He stared up at the sullen Bulkhead, whose shoulders slumped, his sad optics focused on the floor.
"Bulkhead," Ratchet said carefully as he placed a worn hand on the larger bot's leg, "Why do you think this? We don't—who told you they hate you?"
"No one has to tell me. I just know. Everyone treats me like I'm dumb, or unable to do stuff. Just 'cause I'm big and clumsy doesn't make me stupid …does it?"
Ratchet sighed and answered,
"Bulkhead, you were never stupid. Whatever slag people feed you, just ignore it. We can't change who we are, and frankly, I wouldn't want you to change for anyone, or for any reason. You have a big spark, you're compassionate and there's not a drop of bad oil in your tubes. You know that, don't you?"
Bulkhead made a kind of humming sound in his vocalizer, and it didn't give Ratchet much of an answer except that the giant didn't believe a word of it. The old medic bowed his head in thought, trying to find a way to help Bulkhead see that he wasn't stupid.
"Bulkhead," he started slowly, "you're still a young 'bot. You have a lot to learn about functioning, so at your age, it's normal to make mistakes and doubt yourself. You are you, and that's what's important. I know what you're thinking: 'how can being big and clumsy be all right?' But let me be honest with you. Yes, you are the biggest guy here, and yes, you are clumsy. But you're aware of these things, and you take time and energy to watch yourself around everyone else. If you were stupid, you would be ignorant of us, and Sari would have been squished a long time ago."
"You've acted like a big, sensible brother for her and Bumblebee, thank Primus, another responsible thing added to your list. You even helped bring out the more social side of Prowl, something the rest of us couldn't do. You get through to people; you're a helpful, caring 'bot."
"But then why would everyone treat me like I'm stupid all the time?" Bulkhead asked quietly, just barely audible, Ratchet sighed, then said,
"Sometimes…sometimes, some mechs deem it…necessary to mistreat another mech. Usually, they do it out of jealousy. You make friends fairly easily, and you have people that care about you. Sometimes, that's enough to set others off on a path of hurtful words."
"Please." Bulkhead's tone was sarcastic.
"It's true Bulkhead. It happens all the time."
"So what about the humans? They freak out whenever they see me."
"The humans," Ratchet chuckled, "if you haven't noticed yet, are themselves stupid. They make quick judgments about every little thing. If something doesn't sit well with them, they try to crush it. Go ask Prowl, he'll rant about it for hours. Bulkhead, the point is, you are not stupid, and you never were stupid. Everyone has their flaws, it's normal. Optimus has low self-esteem. Bumblebee is oblivious and hyperactive. Prowl has the social skills of a piece of scrap metal. I'm a jerk. It's all normal. Everyone is different. Imagine if we were all the same: same thoughts, same bodies, same ideas, same level of intelligence. What do you think life would be like?"
"Boring, Bulkhead. It'd be boring. There'd be no mental stimulation, there'd be no room for improvement, and there'd be nothing to talk about. We'd offline ourselves in sheer boredom for the sheer thrill of it."
Bulkhead thought about this quietly, pondering what it would be like to be someone else, and he suddenly realized that he would never want to be hyperactive, anti-social, a jerk or have low self-esteem. It hit him in that moment that he kind of liked himself for being the big sweetheart he was. He voiced this to Ratchet, then added,
"But I still don't like being clumsy. And the humans will never listen to me anyways."
"That's their problem. You know you're a wonderful, and we all know you're a wonderful mech. Don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise. Now, get in there," he pointed towards the living room, "and go see Sari. She misses you, big guy. Oh, and tell Prowl to get the frag out of his room and spend some damn time with us. I swear, one day I'm going to strap him into a chair and force him to spend as much time as possible with us."
Bulkhead giggled, then said,
"Thanks, Ratchet. For listening."
"Thank you for opening up, Bulkhead. Now, go on. Your friends miss you."