Knock Out slowed to a crawl as he rolled up beside Bulkhead. The former Wrecker was in vehicle mode. In recharge, maybe? Though Bulkhead usually slept in robot mode . . .
"Hey Knock," Bulkhead whispered.
"Hey," Knock Out murmured back. Why were they whispering, he wondered. "Sorry if I spooked your human. Miko."
"Well. Miko's tough, she got over it pretty fast," Bulkhead said, still in an undertone. "Actually, she got kinda excited after you, um, drove off. Said Jack and Raf would be jealous."
"That she got an arch-enemy and they didn't. Just . . . don't pick her up anymore. Okay?"
"No . . . I won't. Where is she? I'd like to apologize." Surprisingly, this was not entirely untrue.
"Do it in the morning." Bulkhead tilted his side view mirror meaningfully. Oh—so there was the reason for the lowered voices, curled up on the backseat. She looked more comfortable in sweats than she had in that smelly containment suit. Still, Knock Out wondered how Bulkhead could stand having an organic drooling all over his interior.
"Hey," Bulkhead said. "Uh, me and Jackie were gonna play lob-ball tomorrow. If you wanna join in . . . ?"
It was a peace offering. But . . . two Wreckers. Plus the risk to his finish. "No. No thanks."
"Or we could go out patrolling or something?"
"I have a lot of work to catch up on," Knock Out evaded. Adjusting his right-hand mirror, he looked across the clearing to where Ratchet was settling back into recharge. Maybe he shouldn't have listened to the older mech; this was so terribly awkward. Relationships had been much easier in the Decepticon army, where you just feigned camaraderie until you had a chance to scrap your opponent. Or scrapped them outright, if you were strong enough.
In the pause that followed he could feel Bulkhead wanting to say something about Breakdown; Knock Out quickly diverted him with a question of his own. "What's this arch-enemy business with Miko?"
"Oh, that. Well, her first idea was that she'd put on the Apex armor and you two could duke it out—"
"—but I convinced her that was a no-go, so then she thought she'd challenge you to a paintball match—"
"—but I had a hunch you wouldn't go in for that either, so the new plan is a video game throwdown with a creature-feature afterwards. You know—a movie?" he said when he was greeted with confused silence.
"Ah." Knock Out processed this. "You can get Earth broadcasts on Cybertron?"
"Uh, no, we'd be on Earth. Space bridge, remember?"
"Ah," he said again. "They cut off my access to the space bridge after that one little . . . incident." He'd just been trying to teach that rude street racer some manners. It wasn't like anyone had died.
"So? Just say you have to talk to Ratchet about . . . sciency stuff."
Ratchet. That's right, Ratchet would be at the Earth base. He checked his right-hand mirror again. He'd told the Autobot medic too much, dug too deep; he blamed the high-grade. He didn't want to go through that ever again. Did he?
"Sooo . . ." Bulkhead coughed. "Are you in?"
"I'll think about it." The moonlight slid over Knock Out's frame as he began to cruise away.
"Hey, Knock." Bulkhead's voice was quiet, for Miko's sake, but worried. "You and me—we okay?"
Knock Out's engine quieted to an idle, his headlights just catching the raised edge of the rough, treaded ruts compressing the soil.
"Certainly," he said at last. "As much as we ever were."