“So, uh… whaddya think of the new bot?” Bumblebee asked as he and Prime walked into the warehouse.
“I’m… not sure, to be completely honest. She genuinely doesn’t seem to be a troublemaker, but the same could be said for all of the Allspark bots we’ve met.”
“Eh, Allspark or not, a lotta the bots we’ve met are strange. I mean, there’s Blitzwing.”
“I… suppose I see what you mean.”
A gentle clunk from the outside of the base alerted the bots inside to two arrivals- though one was partly hidden behind the other.
“She hasn’t got anywhere else to go, so…” Bulkhead began to justify, but Optimus raised a servo to wave him off.
“I trust your judgement, Bulkhead. She can stay, at least until she finds somewhere to, uh… stay.”
Spraypaint couldn't help but shrink back a little as Optimus approached, but after seeing he wasn’t planning to dispense any fatherly disappointment in her, she quickly recovered. In fact, his demeanor this time seemed more… awkward and stilted. Even at her young age, Spraypaint got the impression he rarely met new bots.
“Hello, miss, er… Spraypaint. My name is Optimus Prime. You’ve met Bulkhead, these are Bumblebee, Prowl, and Ratchet,” he gestured to each of the robots in turn. Bumblebee gave a friendly wave, but neither Prowl nor Ratchet acknowledged her.
Bulkhead gave her a pat on the back, which wound up bumping her a bit further forward than he was probably intending to.
“Don’t worry about ‘em, they’ll warm up to ya. Here, I’ll show you around!”
Bulkhead patiently but enthusiastically showed her around. Prowl and Ratchet had already headed back to their rooms, as Spraypaint caught a glimpse of the gold-and-black autobot hanging from a low branch of a massive tree growing through a break in the wall, and the medic had made himself scarce.
Eventually they stopped at one of the largest rooms in the building. The walls were lined with massive boards, with splashes and streaks of bright color across each one. Spraypaint couldn’t help but gasp; she’d never seen such variety, and in such lovely compositions!
“Woah…” she awed, taking in her surroundings. “These are all so pretty!”
Spraypaint began walking further into the room as she admired the pieces lining the walls. The canvases were almost all as big, if not bigger, than her. Every one she passed was a new experience. Compared to the one she saw back in the alleyway, these were breathtaking !
“Do you like them?” Bulkhead finally spoke up, albeit softly. Spraypaint perked her head up and turned back to see him twiddling his digits shyly.
She flashed him a giddy but genuine smile. “They’re...wonderful! Are you kidding me? I love them!” Spraypaint practically sprinted back towards Bulkhead, jumping up and down. “I wanna try! Can you show me? Pleeeeeaase?” she pleaded.
“I dunno, it’s pretty late. Maybe we should wait til tomorrow.”
“Ohhh, but I’m not tired! Plus, you were the one who cut my fun short in the first place!” She puffed out her breastplate and poked a digit at his chassis. “You owe me.”
Bulkhead let out a sigh and raised his servos in defeat. “Fine, you win. But it’s only cuz you’re cut--I mean, cuz you said please.”
“Ugh! This isn’t working!” Spraypaint threw her brush down in defeat as she spoke. After over an hour of trying (and failing) to figure out a method she enjoyed, she became frustrated. “You make it look so easy…”
“H-hey, it’s okay! We just have to find a medium you like,” Bulkhead said, patting her gently. “Is there anything you can think of that you wanna try?”
Spraypaint looked up at him and thought for a moment. Sure, there wasn’t much she could go off of, but if she thought hard enough, maybe she could find something . As she sat there in thought, she began unconsciously tapping her leg to a slight beat. Wait. A beat? That seems familiar…
“That’s it!” Spraypaint exclaimed, jumping up from the ground. She looked back at Bulkhead, who was now also standing. “You got any cans of me lying around here?”
Spraypaint dragged Bulkhead outside and had him lead her to a vacant wall. If he let her graffiti the walls of the warehouse itself, he knew the other ‘bots probably wouldn’t appreciate it as much as he did. Luckily, since the side entrance went mostly unused, he decided to lead her there. Still, he was hesitant, to say the least.
They had managed to scavenge some half-empty cans of spray paint from a construction site, with the internal promise of returning them later. It took a little bit for her to adjust to the small size of the can, but she soon managed to get a solid grip on it by pinching them between her thumb and middle finger, with her index ready to push down on the nozzle.
With a confident smile, she tested the can, trying to recall the motions executed by the people she’d seen.
She picked out a spot on the wall, narrowed her eyes, and then pressed down.
The paint promptly shot out sideways, catching her other arm.
“I think you need the little white dot to be facing the wall,” Bulkhead helpfully suggested. Spraypaint took a moment to examine the bright green splotch she now had on her arm before readjusting her grip on the can and trying again.
The first thing she drew was a wide arc, stretching in a half-moon shape over her head and arcing down to the right. She didn’t have any particular goal in mind, choosing instead to practice simple and smooth motions to get used to the medium. Unlike the paintbrush, with which she was supremely clumsy, this little can felt more like an extension of her arm than an artistic medium. As she backed up, the spread of the paint became thinner and fainter, and as she stepped closer, it became more solid and defined.
When she had sufficiently tested out the paint, she looked up at Bulkhead with a big smile.
“Think you’ve found the one?” Bulkhead asked excitedly.
Spraypaint nodded enthusiastically. “It’s… perfect!” she exclaimed, throwing her servos up dramatically. As she did, however, her grip on the nozzle tightened, and she accidentally sprayed Bulkhead’s chestplate with a matching streak of neon green akin to the one on her arm. They mirrored each other’s head motions, looking at the stain, and then at the other’s face.
Before Spraypaint could even begin to apologize, however, Bulkhead let out a genuine chuckle and pointed to her arm. “Heh, now we match!” he snorted, motioning back and forth between the out-of-place neon green on both of them. It wasn’t long until Spraypaint joined in with his laughter, giggling and pointing and the like. The laughter echoed throughout the cement walls surrounding them. Spraypaint was rolling on the ground, still pointing at the mark on his chest. She had never laughed harder at something since... well, she didn’t have any frame of reference to go off of anyways.
A light suddenly emerged from the entranceway behind them. “Would you two keep it down!? Some of us are trying to get a good stasis nap around here!” Ratchet shouted, pointing his headlights in their direction.
Still caught up in the lightheartedness of their giggle-fit, Bulkhead turned around and waved a servo dismissively at Ratchet. “Lighten up, Ratchet, we’re just havin’ some fun.”
“Need I remind you that little-miss-troublemaker’s definition of fun was an all-hands-on-deck police chase through half of Detroit!”
“Sounds like a funner night than anything I’ve heard you do in solar cycles.”
Spraypaint let out an “oop” and began giggling at Bulkhead’s comeback. Ratchet gave a grumble and backed up before Spraypaint could accidentally catch him with her spraycan next.
“Somehow, I thought Bumblebee was as annoyin’ as a bot could get!”
Something caught Ratchet’s attention and he turned. It was too dark for Spraypaint to make out, but she could hear some very small but gradually approaching footsteps.
“Aw great, now look what you’ve done! You woke ‘er up!” Ratchet grumbled and stooped. Spraypaint peered forward, then immediately recoiled behind Bulkhead as Ratchet stood again, revealing a tiny, tired organic carefully held in his servos.
“Oh, uh, sorry, Sari,” Bulkhead said guiltily, scratching the back of his head with one of his massive servos, “I guess it is getting pretty late. C’mon, Paint, you can stay in my room.”
“But…” Spraypaint said, looking at the can in her hand, “this is fun! I finally found something I’m good at, I wanna keep doing it!”
“You’ll have time for your ‘fun’ in the morning, kiddo,” Ratchet deadpanned with just the barest hint of snark. Sari had sat down in his hands, clearly about to fall back asleep, and evidently Ratchet didn’t want to keep her up.
Spraypaint finally ceded.
“Okay, okay… I’m sorry. I’ll try not to keep you up next time,” she said, giving a small nod. Ratchet didn’t appear happy , but he didn’t say anything against her either.
As Bulkhead made his way inside, Spraypaint followed meekly after, taking note of the silence that had fallen over the building. She tried not to let the guilt build up too much- surely, that Ratchet was just kind of grumpy, and he hadn’t really meant what he’d said about her being annoying…
She wasn’t sure how well she could convince herself of that, so for now she just pushed it to the back of her mind.
When they entered his room, Spraypaint wasn’t entirely sure where exactly was fit for sleeping. There were shelves and racks piled with art supplies up against nearly every part of the walls, an industrial spot light tucked away in the corner, and a pile of wooden pallets stacked up in the middle of the room covered by a blue tarp. The only vacant spot, from what she could conclude, was Bulkhead's sleeping area. She couldn't really call it a bed per se , mostly since there was no raised surface on which to sleep. Rather, it was just an open area that seemed to accommodate Bulkhead's rather large build.
While Spraypaint mulled over her thoughts, Bulkhead had taken this opportunity to fashion the pallets into a bed of sorts, draping the blue tarp over top of them as a blanket. Sure, he took stasis naps in his alt-mode, but he wanted to make sure that Spraypaint at least had some options to choose from. When he was satisfied with his build, he gave her a tap on the shoulder, bringing her out of her thoughts.
"Not too shabby, eh?" he remarked, motioning towards his DIY creation.
Without a word, Spraypaint walked over to inspect it. Sure, it wasn't the most ideal place to sleep, but Spraypaint was grateful for Bulkhead's hospitality nonetheless. She turned around and flashed him another smile. "I'd say so," she responded, stepping onto the boards and tucking herself in.
Bulkhead turned off the lights, but quickly realized that Spraypaint herself was a living nightlight. Her bright-pink stripes seemed to stand out against the darkness of the room, and there was even a faint glow from the Autobrand she donned herself with earlier that night. Luckily, the tarp managed to mostly dim her, but her head still seemed to illuminate the wall opposite her. At this, Bulkhead gave a slight chuckle before heading to his spot and transforming into his alt-mode.
"Night, Bub," she said, turning her head in his direction.
Bulkhead was glad he was in his alt-mode so she couldn't see him blushing at the nickname. "N-night, Paint.”
The noise wasn’t too loud, but it definitely brought Bulkhead out of his stasis nap. Before he fell asleep, he had heard Spraypaint tossing and turning a little, but he did recall that she eventually settled down. She had to still be asleep, right? He felt a presence at his side, albeit a much smaller one than he. Though, when it plopped against his door, he soon realized what, or rather who, it was.
It seemed Spraypaint hadn’t settled down as quickly as he had remembered. It came back to him that she was still tussling with her positioning even after he had drifted off. She must’ve not been comfortable sleeping in her robot mode because there was a bright pink glow coming from the motorcycle now leaned against his side door.
When the realization hit, Bulkhead would’ve froze if he wasn’t already unmoving. Though, in this moment, he wasn’t too terribly opposed to her if this is what helped her get to sleep. Well, it wouldn’t be the only reason, but he would pretend that it was if asked. Rather than think about how he would deal with this in the morning, he simply stayed awake as best he could to enjoy the moment, though he eventually did drift back to sleep.