Author's Note: Drabble done for blinkinghell in gratitude for her gift of bitty ships. Credit also goes to Alanahikarichan for providing inspiration and some of Bulkhead's dialogue.
Where Art Is Helpful
After their initial misgivings, Bulkhead's comrades had actively encouraged Bulkhead's artistic leanings (besides Ratchet, but Ratchet wasn't a fan of most things). Prowl said it taught him delicacy and grace, Optimus considered it a healthy exercise in human culture relations, and Bumblebee and Sari would always be courteous enough to stop and laugh when he inevitably covered himself in acrylics. Every time he came up with something new, accidental or not, they told him that they thought his art was great.
Which would have been worlds easier to believe if they actually came to his exhibitions.
Even the humans were starting to lose interest. His manager attributed it to the loss of novelty—alien robot art was interesting at first, but now people were used to the idea and had moved on. He needed something original, something to support his work on its own, something with deeper meaning and a message to deliver. Bulkhead thought 'it's art' seemed like a good message, but apparently it needed to sound more complex.
He was practicing a few stock phrases about fluidity of motion and the fleeting nature of organic life on a thin, pinched-face human with thick optical covers when a familiar voice came winding its way through the gallery.
"Interesting use of color, very abstract. It seems to capture the basic energy of the subject," the voice said thoughtfully. Another voice, high-pitched and gleeful, chimed in with "A very energetic subject! Needs more color."
Bulkhead was afraid to turn around. Maybe if he just kept looking straight ahead he could pretend it was some human Germans who'd come over to enjoy his work in a nonviolent human Germanese fashion. Germans talked like that too.
But Germans probably didn't have such loud metallic footsteps or make that unique 'shink' noise whenever they changed their voices.
"And such chaos here, and decay. Not traditional in Autobot art, but it melds easily with the cast-off refuse. I could see it being a reference to personal experience, but as a standalone piece it works well enough."
The obviously-not-Germs was probably right over Bulkhead's shoulder by now. Bulkhead finally convinced himself to turn around, looking into the pale blue face and red optics of the Decepticon Blitzwing. "Um…thanks?" he said, his mind racing desperately to find some way of keeping Blitzwing pacified until he could get him outside and away from anything who might get easily damaged.
There was a momentary flash of guilt as he realized he'd thought about the safety of his art before he'd thought about the safety of the humans.
"So, um, Blitzwing! Hi! What brings you here?" he asked, trying to maintain the same calm tone he used on Grimlock without dipping into being patronizing. Everything he'd seen about Blitzwing indicated the triplechanger was on a hair trigger, ready to snap and set the world on fire at a moment's notice. Calling Optimus as soon as Blitzwing looked the other way was probably the best option, but that might also make him angry.
"I am viewing an art exhibition, what does it look like?" Blitzwing took two precise steps to the left and leaned over to peer at another one of Bulkhead's scrap art experiments. "You seem so cautious in your paintings, but this is scrap art and melted metal. Why such a shift between mediums?"
The question was so uncharacteristic of Blitzwing that Bulkhead answered it almost automatically. "Well, when I'm painting, I can cover up mistakes with more paint. With sculpture, it's easier to make the mistakes part of the piece, as long as they don't damage the structural integrity." He kinda liked it, too, letting beauty into his sculpture through its irregularities and flaws. "Perfect's sorta boring to look at, too."
Blitzwing shifted to his black, perpetually-grinning face and Bulkhead braced himself for a chaotic disaster. A happy Blitzwing could be just as destructive as an angry one.
"Oh, definitely! Weird is so much more fun!" Blitzwing giggled merrily. He toyed with one of the fingers on "Stuff, Mark 2" (a humanoid statue with both arms bent in a shrug, made out of a mess of scrap metal and thick plastic that he'd found out behind the base), then stepped away and folded his hands respectfully behind his back. Bulkhead relaxed, crisis averted for now.
"But there is so much more focus on order in Autobot art, usually. The great Autobot machine and that sort of idiocy. Yours is different," Blizwing commented. His strict, calculating tone reminded Bulkhead of something the early art reviewers, who'd come in and written reports on his artwork with enough long words that Bulkhead had to read the news posts with an online dictionary open in another window. "Not quite the focus on destruction or corruption one generally finds in Decepticon art or the crudity of tank work, but an elegant melding of Decepticon and Autobot concepts, with concepts drawn from human styles as well. I like it."
Bulkhead tapped his pincers together, staring at Blitzwing's feet nervously. "I, um, I don't know much about art on Cybertron," he muttered. "I barely saw any before I came to Earth." Why did he feel such a need for Blitzwing's approval? He didn't know Decepticons even did art.
"Really, starting from a blank sheet? That explains the novelty, you're not setting out to copy or subvert any particular style. Although I hear your Autobots don't care for art in general anymore, too focused on their collectivity to bother with individuality or controversy. Artistic freedom is not the right of all sentient beings, it seems." There was a brief flicker of a red face before switching back to the blue one. Blitzwing almost seemed to be trying to restrain himself, for Bulkhead's sake or the sake of the art.
The Decepticon moved to "Technological Misfortune", an abstract painting in pink and grey representing an encounter between Captain Fanzone and a malfunctioning crossing guard drone. "Not an accurate representation of reality, perspective is subjective."
"Well, it was kinda a confusing moment, I tried to put that in the painting. With the brushstrokes and stuff." Bulkhead knew what it was he was doing, it was just hard to put it into words. Sari probably had the same problem when she explained Earth processes, but she didn't look as stupid when she tried to explain it. "I didn't know you liked art."
"Do I like it? Does Lugnut like Megatron?" He delivered what appeared to be a flirty wink and patted the statue appreciatively. "I'm more than just a pretty face, you know! Or even three pretty faces!"
People were staring at them, probably because a scant few remembered the tank/jet guy from the news and were wondering if he was one of the bad guy robots. Bulkhead gave them all a comforting wave, and Blitzwing mimicked the gesture with an even wider grin. It didn't seem to calm them.
"Not that I do very much of my own work," the triplechanger continued. "A bit of carved stone statuary sometimes. I did a very nice one of Megatron until Lugnut blew it up. That idiot has no taste, he wrecks everything that doesn't please the great and glorious Megatron!"
The burst of anger was so very not good, and Bulkhead stammered, "W-well, I'm sure it was a very nice statue, even if he didn't appreciate it." Compliments were good, compliments made people happy and nonviolent.
"Of course it was!" Blitzwing raged, one fist punching an imaginary Lugnut. "I worked for six decacycles on it, and he completely disregards it. He doesn't appreciate my dedication at all!" Humans were starting to back into the corners, a few even fled the gallery. Blitzwing finished his rant and lowered his arms, clamping them firmly behind his back again as his heels clicked together. "I'm surprised your little patriotic Prime leader lets you get away with it. I meet him quite rarely, but he seems to enjoy clinging to the Autobot cause."
"He, uh, likes that I have something to do. Even if he doesn't really get the art."
"Keeps you off the streets and so on?" A mild chuckle. "He does seem to be strange as Autobots go--and cute, too! I love his little wheels!" Blitzwing leaned forward and gently touched "Technological Misfortune" with one finger, analyzing the texture and seemingly finding the bumpiness to be very intriguing. Bulkhead tended to use thick paints rather than watercolors, and he hadn't quite figured out a way to keep it from clumping at the end of a brushstroke.
"And from causing trouble with Bumblebee." He had never really thought about the bossbot's cuteness or his wheels, and the idea that one of the 'Cons thought he was cute was disconcerting. "Yeah, Optimus is a little weird. He actually really believes all that 'everyone is part of the machine' stuff-- and not in the 'so you'd better be a good little cog' kinda way. In the 'so we can all work together despite our differences' way. It's... it's nice."
"Ah, an idealist. Those are so funny! We should all get together and have a party. Perhaps a barbecue!" A tiny gout of flame came from the tips of Blitzwing's wiggling cannons. "Or...perhaps not. I have a feeling I would not be welcome in your base."
"Probably not. You are kinda a Decepticon." Bulkhead almost felt bad about saying it. Blitzwing wasn't so bad when he wasn't trying to kill anyone he knew.
"And Lugnut would not be happy if I defected for the afternoon. He tends to get a bit neurotic about those sorts of things, and Starscream's hardly helped." Blitzwing paused, considering his situation for what was probably the first time that afternoon. "I suppose I'm defecting right now, really," he admitted. "Or at least defecting to neutral, in order to fraternize. "
Uh oh. Bulkhead hoped Blitzwing wasn't about to rethink his position and get an attack of Decepticonliness. "I, um, I guess you could call it a truce, right?" he said quickly. "For the sake of art. An art truce."
"Heehee! See, that's why I like you, you're not like all those other boring Autobots." Blitzwing gave him a wide, jack o'lantern grin and put an arm around as much of the Autobot's broad shoulders as he could reach. "We need to hang out more."
"Thanks, I guess." People saying they liked him did make Bulkhead feel better, though hearing it from Blitzwing was weird.
It being weird didn't stop him from smiling back, though, just a little bit. "I wouldn't mind. Hanging out, I mean. As long as you didn't, like, change your mind and try to kill me or something." That probably hadn't been a smart thing to say, actually, even though he meant it.
"Now when have I ever been known for changing my mind?" Blitzwing asked, pressing one hand to his chest and acting offended. He could only maintain the mock pout for a moment before bursting out into his default grin again, and Bulkhead couldn't help returning it.
"You know, I've got some of my old stuff down at the other end of the gallery," he suggested. "It's kinda random cause it's when I was starting out, but a lot of people seemed to like 'Averted Meltdown' cause it's real life art and stuff and um…"
The arm halfway around his shoulders gave him a hard, comradely squeeze. Blitzwing's hand swept out to encompass the rest of the gallery. "Then lead on, trucemaker!"