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a kind of leaving

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GUIL:  Unless we're off course. 

ROS (small pause): Of course. 

- Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

 

 

Here’s how Friday nights at the Lost Light usually go:

Rodimus walks in ten minutes late, checks the floor chart even though he’s always in the same section (the best section) with the same person (Drift), steals the biggest party in the restaurant and starts making obscene amounts of money. (Drift’s the best to share a section with, like, completely the best. The other half of the dream team. Rodimus likes to think he’s the dream part, and Drift’s the team part.) Cyclonus snaps at Whirl for not stocking bar glasses. Swerve looks nervous because they’re all out of cranberry juice and they’re sorta boned without it since one of the new martinis has some. Probably someone is going to make someone make a run to the grocery store to just like, buy the stuff.

Magnus notices no one is garnishing the sea bass to spec, and calls a pre-shift meeting to admonish everyone again, for like, the tenth time about how the mint sprig that garnishes the brownie should be sticking straight up.  Megatron emerges from the office, and glares at Whirl until she (begrudgingly) fixes her uniform. Rodimus doesn’t think that Megatron cares in the same way Magnus does about whether or not Whirl’s shirt is wrinkled, it’s just that the state of her uniform is the Whirl-problem with the easiest solution. So Whirl has to go and iron her shirt in the employee bathroom because an iron is a thing they have in the employee bathroom.

It gets busier. Rung chides Chromedome for hovering around the host stand, because Rewind and Chromedome hate spending more than like, ten minutes without talking. Ratchet yells at Rodimus to run food. Ratchet yells at Brainstorm to run food. Ratchet yells “runners!” yells “hot food, hands out!” basically at everyone, until someone runs shit. Nautica spends a little too much time talking to Velocity over the expo line, even though Velocity’s got ten salads to make.

Their section fills up. Drift ends up bussing Rodimus’s tables while he continues to rack in all sorts of tips, because let’s be real, he’s killing it, he’s always killing it, he’s the best. A four top, a six top, another four top, and they’re both turning tables as fast as they can without seeming like they’re trying to turn tables as fast as they can.

The restaurant goes on a forty minute wait, half the servers are in the weeds, and Riptide hasn’t washed enough appetizer plates. He’s muttering to himself while servers stack plates haphazard and wrong in the dish pit. Tailgate spills something and cries in the dry storage closet for three minutes before she pulls it together. Whirl “accidentally” switches the bottles for sour mix and lime juice around so Cyclonus has to remake half the drinks. Skids jumps behind the bar to help out with the guests Cyclonus has at the bar so that she has more time to slam bottles around the well. Normally no bartender -- especially not Cyclonus -- would be cool with some rando just wandering around behind the bar, but Skids knows what he’s doing and even Cyclonus has to like, accept that. She tears Huffer a new one for eating some of the raspberries you use to garnish drinks, which probs makes her feel better.  

Drift sneaks out to the back because they really really need a cigarette and they are like super-bright-cheery but that could change if they get cranky dinner rush or no dinner rush, and Rodimus can totally cover their tables for like five minutes even if their section is full because again, uh, the best.

Atomizer triple seats Nightbeat and Nautica, and Nautica buries her head in her hands. Ratchet’s got First Aid doing ten things at once. Magnus keeps shoving plates at people to run. Tailgate burns herself, and she says it's just a little burn, but Rodimus digs some bandaids out of his pocket for her to at least put over it anyway because Megatron’s too busy trying to deal with the fact that they’re totally out of creme brulee and Rung’s too busy dealing with one of Whirl’s tables complaining for either of them to unlock the office so they can get to the first aid cabinet. The bandages have little stars on them.

Rewind gets drafted into rolling more silverware because they’re running out really quick. Which is such a bad idea because that leaves Atomizer alone at the host stand where he has no business being and like so clearly he quadruple seats Rodimus and Drift what is even up with that guy. They give each other this look like “hoo boy here we go,” and jump into it, and Drift is at their super-bright-cheeriest because of that smoke break and because Rodimus is basically a tactical genius. Megatron stomps around the dining room for a little but Rodimus is too busy being amazing at his job to even be that irritated about his presence or the way he looms over Rodimus’s tables like he expects Rodimus to make a mistake. Rodimus doesn’t make mistakes. Mostly.

It gets less busy, eventually, and then suddenly there’s no more wait, there’s only like maybe fifteen menus open? Rung stands in the middle of the dining room and examines all the dirty tables and looks beleaguered, tells Bluestreak her eight top said she was fantastic, checks to make sure Cyclonus isn’t having a very quiet meltdown and that Whirl’s not dead.

Rodimus and Drift close, because Drift’s sorta responsible in a hazy way or at least knows where everything is supposed to go and Rodimus needs to learn a lesson about Responsibility or something, he wasn’t really paying attention during that part of Magnus’s lecture. Something about him learning what it feels like when people don’t do their sidework and it’s left for the closers to do maybe? Whatever. Everyone keeps badgering him to check their sidework, check their section, and he’s like yeah yeah I see you yeah okay you sorted the silverware yeah good job there I guess.

Tailgate gets cut before ten, but sticks around till Cyclonus closes up the bar. Cyclonus complains about the distraction but talks to her anyway, shows her how to mix different drinks, lets her practice opening bottles of wine (they needed to be opened anyway). Tailgate always says she hangs out after she’s done with her shift cause she needs a ride home so she’s gotta wait for Cyclonus, but Rodimus knows for a fact that Nautica offers every week to drop her off on her way home, and so do Chromedome and Rewind, but nope. Rodimus’s offered before too and obvs Tailgate turned him down, but that could be because she’d been forewarned about getting rides from him. He maybe went kinda fast a teensy bit one time when giving Velocity a ride and now it’s all “oh no Rodimus we can’t accept your extremely generous offer of help because we’re afraid of your super excellent driving skills.”

Anyway. While they’re closing the restaurant, Drift keeps up a running — conversation? argument? Rodimus can never tell —  with Ratchet. They’re cleaning the beverage station and restocking plates and putting all that little crap that Rodimus can never be bothered with away and Ratchet’s banging pots and pans around while cleaning the line. Drift laughs at something he says and Ratchet looks sort of grumpy but Ratchet is always sort of grumpy. They’re probably talking about religion cause it makes Ratchet mad to talk about religion and Drift doesn’t actually like actively antagonizing that many people these days but Ratchet’s definitely on the short list. Ratchet sends Ambulon home before the cleaning’s done, Ambulon’s got a splitting headache.

Rodimus remembers to do his checkout — or, okay. Magnus sternly informs Rodimus that he needs to do his checkout, and Rodimus has to extract all the credit card receipts and currencies of various denominations from all his various pockets, smooth them out on the counter, and tally everything up. Magnus usually owes him cash cause he doesn’t get a lot of people giving cash tips just ones on credit cards. And if that’s the case, more often than not he gets paid mostly in smaller denominations, huge hefty stacks of one and five dollar bills that Magnus is trying to get rid of, instead of the crisp twenties Rodimus can see stacked up in the cash drawer. He has like -- no joke -- three hundred dollar bills at home because eventually it reaches this sort of critical mass where taking them to a bank involves a lot of carefully clipping bills into stacks of twenty or something and it’s a lot of effort.

Rodimus ends up helping more than he initially intended, because he doesn’t like to leave before Drift does. They’re like, a team, you know? They’re a team, so it wouldn’t be cool to just leave, and he gets bored standing around, and stocking stuff isn’t so bad as long as Magnus isn’t telling him to stock stuff. So there’s like ten solid minutes of protracted effort, cleaning wise, and then Magnus’s painstakingly slow check of the line, of the silverware, the dish pit, the dining room. He walks around and shines a light under all the booths to make sure they didn’t miss anything that needed to be cleaned up and it’s like midnight Mags, can we go now??

Yes, Magnus eventually says, yes they can both go. Rodimus waits for Drift to get their jacket even though they say every time that he doesn’t need to wait for them to get their jacket, and they walk out the side door (waving goodbye to Tailgate and Cyclonus, still at the bar, as they go).

If places around here were open as late as Rodimus thinks they should be, if Rodimus were older, if Drift hadn’t sworn off all their vices but one, they’d probably do what Nautica and Brainstorm and Nightbeat and anyone else up for it does after work and head to some bar — head to the same bar as everyone else, even. But it’s late, Magnus keeps confiscating his fake IDs, and Drift’s pared themself down to cigarettes. So instead Rodimus pauses before he gets in his car to shoot finger guns in Drift’s direction, and Drift pauses before they get in their car to smile indulgently and wave. Then they both leave the parking lot and drive very fast in opposite directions. Rodimus gets home at one, steals his roommate’s fancy beer, eats potato chips for dinner, and watches reruns on the couch until four.


So that’s like, pretty much every week.

 


 

Except tonight Tailgate isn't hovering around the service bar when the last table leaves. “Where’s your shadow?” asks Rodimus.

“Getaway gave her a ride,” says Cyclonus and she says it in this super bitter tone but it’s hard to tell if that’s cause she’s especially ticked off cause that’s kind of how she always sounds.

“Oh, uh, that’s nice,” says Rodimus. “Awkward,” mouths Drift over Cyclonus’s shoulder as they hang up wine glasses.

“Nice,” says Cyclonus in a tone that suggests the word is poisonous. “Yes, I suppose.”

What is like, up with those two even? Rodimus doesn’t even know. He like, thought they were a Thing?

“Come on, Rodimus, don’t you ever pay attention to anything?” asks Drift.

No, like, of course not.

“Tailgate’s hanging out with Getaway a lot because Cyclonus keeps giving her the cold shoulder. Dunno if they’ve hooked up or what though.”

“I thought Getaway and Atomizer were whatever, though? Or Getaway and Skids? Wasn’t that like an event that occurred? I remember that.”

Drift takes the polishing rag he’s been fiddling with out of his hands and goes to hang it up. “Maybe all of the above?”

“Nice,” says Rodimus.

  


 

And like of course of fucking course this week, this week where Megatron had been closing instead of Magnus so shit got dragged out for another half an hour while Megatron and Rodimus argued, this is the week Rodimus comes home to find Brainstorm trying to break into his apartment.

“Dude,” he says.

“What?” says Brainstorm. “Your roommate’s home, right?”

He didn’t have to work tonight so honestly probably. “Percy’s business is none of my business, except for when that business crosses over into my business like it is right now, since you’re trying to break into my apartment. Really, dude.”

“There was an extremely compelling important reason, I assure you,” says Brainstorm, even though there totally wasn’t and Brainstorm was probably sneaking in to stand around and watch Percy sleep or something.

Rodimus tells Brainstorm as much. 

“I was going to ask if he wanted to join us at that twenty-four hour place down the road, if you absolutely have to know.”

“You couldn’t have texted him?” 

“He never reads my text messages,” says Brainstorm.

“Don’t you open tomorrow?”  

“I honestly have no clue.”

And Rodimus is like, you know, “really you’re at Denny’s or whatever at two in the morning” and Brainstorm’s like “it’s not even two in the morning” and Rodimus is like “have you seriously been hanging out at Denny’s or whatever since you got off work” and then Brainstorm starts telling Rodimus this like highly unlikely story that starts with Magnus being at any sort of bar or social function or public place ever and degrades rapidly from there. The long and short of it is this is like their third stop tonight. Rodimus takes a second to feel sort of burningly jealous but mostly burning as in his feet are burning as in they hurt. 

But now Brainstorm’s basically invited him to go to Denny’s or whatever, so that’s where he goes. Apparently they dragged Magnus with them? So he’s kinda gotta see that. Like, moral obligation sort of thing.

“Sup,” he says, sliding into the corner booth at Denny’s or whatever. “Haha, oh wow, you weren’t kidding, Magnus is actually here.”

Magnus’s face is like, solidly connected to the table top. Rodimus kinda pokes him. “Wait,” says Rodimus, “is he drunk? I thought Brainstorm was joking.”

“We may have maybe made a few mistakes,” says Nautica.  

“Did you guys knock him out?” Whirl’s there. “Did Whirl knock him out?”

“Hey!” says Tailgate, who in the very few months she’s been around has like? made friends with Whirl? Weird.

“No, no, it’s cool,” says Whirl. “That sounds like the exact sort of shit I would do. But it wasn’t me.”

Nautica sinks lower in her chair. “We may have maybe made a few eensy weensy mistakes. Some extremely small miscalculations.”

“Rewind, please tell me you’ve been recording this entire time." 

“Oh, absolutely,” says Rewind. “At great risk to my own personal safety, but there’s some things worth the risk.” 

“Has anyone asked him if he and Megatron are a thing?” asks Rodimus, because he’s got money riding on this.

“That seems a little. . . rude,” says Skids. Where’s Nightbeat when you really need him, is what Rodimus wants to know.

Tailgate looks nervous. Lmao ok Tailgate always looks nervous but you know. “Do you think we can get fired for this?” she asks. “Him being uh. . . unconscious or whatever?”

“Naw, that’d require Mags to admit he went out and got drunk with a bunch of the servers,” says Rodimus. “Which, knowing him, no way that’ll be a thing he ever mentions ever, and also how did that happen?”

“Mistakes,” says Nautica. “Mistakes.”

 


  

Whenever people ask Rodimus why he’s not in college or something he tells them he’s like, kinda in a weird place in his life right now.

Which is true of pretty much everyone who works at LL. Nautica’s trying to save up for grad school maybe she thinks she isn’t really sure, Perceptor’s definitely saving up for grad school and collectively everyone's a little lost as to why he’s still here, Brainstorm’s recovering from being fired from wherever he was fired from for reasons he refuses to disclose and possibly he’s been blacklisted from like everywhere? Mostly Brainstorm’s a mess. Chromedome’s a mess too, and Rewind’s sort of mess-adjacent (honestly, Rodimus tries not to ask too many questions), Velocity’s flunked out of medical school, Cyclonus is washed up, Ratchet used to be a doctor or something?, no one knows why Whirl’s here, and Drift — Drift is Drift.

Rodimus used to have other friends, he’s pretty sure. Friends he went to high school with or whatever, but then, you know, he became someone who’s never actually available at night or on weekends so it’s not like anyone wants to hang or anything. Or can, like, at one in the afternoon. So mostly now his social life consists of when he goes to super-late-dinner with some of the other servers, or when Brainstorm breaks into his apartment to harass Percy about something, or his weird midnight rides with Drift. Which is, uh, pretty okay actually? Mostly it’s okay.

Eventually everyone just figures okay so like we gotta suck it up and drive Magnus home or whatever, and Rodimus volunteers like the hero that he is. Also he knows where Mags lives and probs no one else does. Okay no Rewind probs does cause he’s sorta a nosy guy.

Rodimus thinks Magnus is pretty alright when he wants to be, but he can’t forget that one night Magnus took a look at all the wine glasses and decided that none of the servers had polished them quite enough. So he and Drift spent another hour and a half holding glasses up to the light and scrubbing at microscopic spots and smudges, Drift sitting cross-legged on top of the bar and almost seeming to enjoy themself in a fucked up kinda way.

Hopefully Mags like, won’t remember Rodimus shoving him awkwardly through his front door, or even that Rodimus knows where Magnus lives. Hopefully Mags doesn’t remember a lot of things, but Rodimus is pretty sure he’s outta luck when it comes to that sort of hope.

He checks his schedule when he gets home. Brainstorm’s opening tomorrow morning, yeah, but so is he. In about like, five hours.

So that’s like, super great.

 


 

There’s this conversation that keeps happening, and it goes like this:

“I feel like we should go on a road trip,” says Rodimus. “Drift, do you ever feel like we were meant to go on a road trip?” 

“A road trip for what?” asks Chromedome.

Drift shakes their head. “You don’t go on a road trip for anything. The point of the road trip is the journey,” they say.

“I dunno I always thought I’d go looking for something. . . something big that we’d lost," says Rodimus.

“Like our dignity,” mutters Nightbeat into his drink. Rodimus totally heard that.

“Like Magnus’s sense of humor,” says Brainstorm. “Though I guess you can’t lose something that never existed in the first place.”

Nautica looks almost wistful. “Like some sort of ancient manuscript or something,” she says. “I’d like that.”

“Like my good pens, where the fuck did those go?” asks Skids.

“Dude, you’re holding one,” says Chromedome.  Skids is pretty much always holding one.

“Oh, right,” says Skids. He tucks the pen back into his pocket.

“Yeah, sure,” says Rodimus. “Yeah, all of the above.”

 


 

Saturday nights are -- good? Good. They’re good. Or else they’re the opposite of that. Not more tiring than Fridays, but they’ve got a certain amount of wrung out weariness to them that Fridays don’t, mostly because everyone’s, you know, tired from work the previous day and then also tired from how they went out drinking the previous night and stayed up until the current morning. Rodimus maybe sometimes comes in the teensy weensiest bit hungover. Whirl comes in drunk, but Whirl is literally always drunk. He’s pretty sure some of the others come into work drunk at least some of the time, but Rodimus hasn’t ever bothered trying, because he’s pretty sure Magnus would know even if he didn’t for anyone else, and also then he couldn’t drive and so what’s even the point.  

Tbh Rodimus can’t wait until he can actually purchase actual alcoholic beverages on his own, instead of having someone he knows charge him like way extra for passing off a bottle of whatever to him. He just wants fancy drinks, the kinds with little umbrellas in them and shit. He bought his own little umbrellas but it just doesn’t feel the same.  Again: what is even the point.

But anyway, whatever, Megatron’s doing a line up now that everyone’s like actually here for Saturday night and Rodimus just preemptively rolls his eyes because when Megatron does a line up it’s always a little much. Sometimes there are speeches. Hashtag ugh.

“Blah blah I’m Megatron,” says Megatron, or probably he doesn’t say that but Rodimus isn’t paying that much attention. “We’re out of like seventy things and also we have another meeting next Saturday morning, because I’m totally out to personally ruin Rodimus’s life. The meeting’s gonna be way too long and Ratchet’ll make Rodimus take off his sunglasses cause he can’t wear them inside or something. Also guests get mad sometimes because they can see into the kitchen and they don’t like how you act like people who don’t actually care about their opinions or needs and stuff that much once you’re not on the floor you gotta remember there’s no fourth wall and people are always watching you and basically this is an extended piece of performance art, which reminds me of some other super boring thing I should definitely talk about right now while keeping you all from checking on your tables.”

“Holy shit is he segwaying into a poetry reading?” asks Rodimus. Magnus shushes him. Typical.

Rodimus dismisses himself early from the line up. He’s gotta see if his table’s ready to order but also mostly you know. Megatron. Ugh.

 


 

“But we couldn’t go on a road trip,” says Perceptor. “I’m certainly not interested in letting Rodimus drive me anywhere, and besides, we’d need a much larger vehicle. A bus, maybe.”

“Yeah!” says Rodimus. “A bus. Like one of those fancy ones with couches and shit inside instead of just rows of seats, those exist, right?” He nudges Drift. “Drift, you totally know where we could get a bus, right?”

“I’m not buying you a bus, Rodimus,” says Drift, but they’re smiling so maybe they’d buy him a bus after all. Just a little one, that’s all he’s asking.

“One with a disco ball hanging from the ceiling. It doesn’t have to be a big disco ball, ‘s just gotta exist.”

“Would you paint flames on the outside of this car too?” asks Nautica.

“Please, Nautica, of course I wouldn’t,” says Rodimus. “I’d have someone else do it.”

 


  

After everyone’s cut and standing around in the back polishing silverware or glasses or stuff like that, that’s pretty much gossip hour. Okay every hour is gossip hour but especially this hour because otherwise the tedium of wine glass polishing would kinda drive everyone collectively up the wall or something. Saturday nights are the best for gossip cause the most people are there for the longest time, everyone’s gotta roll like sixty five sticks tonight it’s gonna be a while.

“Listen, there’s no fucking way that Megatron and Magnus are an item,” says Brainstorm as Nautica walks in.

“Ok, so that’s what we’re talking about now,” she says, setting down a full bin of silverware down with a heavy thwonk. There’s like no counter space left because there’s never any counter space left so her stuff lands sort of on top of Drift’s. “Drift, scoot over some.”

Rodimus shuffles a little to give Drift some more room to move into but doesn’t bother too much, having any sort of concept of “personal space” was, back in the kitchen, kinda a lost cause. Not that it was any more of a found cause on the floor itself. Also he has way more important things to concentrate on for example: his obvious total correctness. “No, you listen,” says Rodimus, because he is super right about this. “I know what I saw, man, and like, the sentences, they --”

“Finish each other’s sentences,” says Drift.

“Yes, thank you, that thing,” says Rodimus. “Like, all the time! I think ‘managerial meetings’ might be code for ‘staring dreamily at each other while talking about poetry’ or some shit.”

“No way, Mags hates Megatron,” says Chromedome.  

“Not exactly a unique thing,” says Rodimus. Point to Rodimus.

Tailgate’s like, still struggling with her second wineglass, which means she’s gonna be here for a while because they’ve all gotta polish like twenty tonight. “Why does everyone hate Megatron so much?” she asks.

“Don’t look at me,” says Nautica. “I wasn’t around for the whole thing, I don’t really get it.”

“Ooh, someone get Rewind,” says Rodimus. “He’s the best at explaining shit.”

Rewind’s been putting together a to-go order, it turns out, so he sticks his head in when he hears his name and is like “oh what shit are we explaining” and Brainstorm’s like “why there’s no way Mags and Megs could overcome the mutual enmity or whatever between them long enough to have a whirlwind romance” and Chromedome’s like “why are we talking about this again” and Rewind’s like “oh yeah that’s right Tailgate’s not heard about all that yet” and Rewind like cannot resist the opportunity to dish on some of this stuff.

So Rewind goes into his abridged version of the story, gets through it in the time it takes Rodimus to polish 11.3 glasses: covers the uprising, the exodus, the remote age, the cataclysm, and the surge -- the five dark epochs that pushed everyone to the brink of total unhireability.

“Five dark epochs?” asks Tailgate. “Isn’t that a little much? It’s a restaurant, not a collapsing civilization or something.”

“You really haven’t worked in the service industry very long, have you?” says Brainstorm.

Rewind covers Megatron’s rise to prominence, Optimus’s transition from assistant manager to manager to general manager to -- once Zeta’s betrayal becomes clear (“Weren’t you around for that one?” asks Chromedome. “Oh yeah totally, like, super around,” says Rodimus) -- owner of all of the restaurants under his control.

“Is that how taking over a franchise even works?” asks Nautica.

“I -- listen, it’s Optimus,” says Rodimus, cause like, it’s Optimus.  That shit just happens.

“Who’s this Optimus guy you’re all always talking about?” asks Tailgate.

“Optimus is basically Rodimus’s dad,” says Brainstorm.

“He’s not actually my dad,” says Rodimus.

“But on a metaphorical level,” says Nautica.

“Weirdly attached,” mumbles Nightbeat. Contemplatively kinda. Like he’s doing the thingy, where he thinks about someone’s personal stuff and then makes a face like I know all your personal stuff.

“Didn’t you have a picture of him in your wallet at one point?” asks Drift, the traitor, as Whirl immediately attempts to pry said object away from him. Percy mutters something that sounds like “framed photo next to his bed” due to the fact that he’s a double traitor.

“I’ve never had a picture of anyone in my wallet ever in my whole life,” says Rodimus.

Which is a lie. Whenever he’s feeling down, he sticks one of himself giving the thumbs up in there as inspiration.

“Anyway. Me and Drift quit that place afterwards, and went here instead,” says Rodimus.

“And then everyone else kind of migrated this way,” says Rewind. “Some people on purpose, some just. . . accidentally ended up in the same place as everyone else?”

“Weird,” says Tailgate.

“It’s a small world,” says Rewind. “Happens a lot. Anyway, I gotta get back to the front before I get yelled at.”

Chromedome kisses his cheek before he leaves and everyone mega rolls their eyes and groans and Rewind flips them all off before hurrying out to the host stand.

“Are we talking about how Megatron’s the worst thing to ever happen to this place since that one time everyone got a coupon for a free appetizer on the same day?” asks Getaway as he tries to shove some stuff out of the way to get a few inches of counter space.

“I’m literally never talking about anything else,” says Rodimus.

“Scootch over a little, Tailgate,” says Getaway, putting his silver bin down next to her. “You shoulda been there.”

“For the Megatron stuff, or the coupon stuff?” asks Tailgate. “I’m kinda glad I wasn’t, either way.”

“You could’ve totally kicked Megatron’s ass, I bet,” says Getaway.

Rodimus like, highly doubts that. He’s about to say so when Drift elbows him and shakes their head. Fine. Whatever. Drift changes the subject, pats Rodimus on the back as he struggles through the last five glasses.  

 


  

Drift’s great, but they sorta flake out sometimes? They forget when they’re scheduled and show up even later than Rodimus which is a feat few have accomplished. They’ll forget to greet tables entirely and Rodimus’ll have to rush over there like five minutes later and there’s at least one occasion that he and Drift worked real quick to cover up where one table was sitting there for so long waiting to be greeted that they just got up and left.

Rodimus isn’t sure why Magnus keeps sticking them together, since they’re a combo that must read to Mags as “absolute disaster.”

That night’s Sunday night. Sunday nights, most streets are empty. So that’s always when he races Drift, doing improbable speeds down neighborhood streets until they turn right sharply, park in front of some twenty-four hour fast food place, and burst out of the car laughing. They say racing is good for them. They say it's good for him too, that they think it quiets something. They say he should buy them a milkshake, so he does.

It’s on one of those Sundays that they have the talk that Rodimus, internally, calls That One Time Drift Was Really Intense. Drift’s really intense just in general, like okay Drift’s a big hippie or whatever but in this kinda intense focused way like they practice being a hippy in front of a mirror for three hours every day or something. But okay anyway now when they lean in and grip his arm and tells him that one day everything will depend on him, he kinda wonders if they’re high or something. “You okay, Drift?” he says.

“Yes, it’s — never mind,” they say, letting go of his arm. Their eyes are a little too wide. “You wouldn’t get it.”

“Probably not,” he says.

They finish their milkshake. “It’s just this weird feeling I have.”

“What sort of weird feeling?” he asks.

Drift shakes their head. “Like I need to stick nearby you. Like you’re. . .” They reach for his arm again, and then seem to think better of it. “Important.”

“Listen, that I totally get,” he says.

Drift laughs, covering their mouth with their hand. Rodimus socks them in the shoulder. “C’mon, I wanna see if I can beat my record getting from here to that gas station on that street, you know the one.”

He can, of course, and he does.

 


 

But like, okay, yeah, Rodimus gets bored. A lot of his night every night is an endless litany of the same basic speech, hello, welcome to whatever, how are you all doing this evening, my name’s et cetera, our specials are this, and what can I get for you ma’am? Just over and over.  

Whenever people think about working as a server they imagine that the guests are the memorable part of the whole affair? Maybe they are for some people with this job, but a table’s a table’s a table. He only remembers the really really weird ones, mostly he remembers generalities, strange orders, particularly embarrassing screwups. Individual people blur together after a while.  LIke okay, is he gonna go home and go “ugh, fuck, my last table tipped me ten percent, I like thought we had something too” at one in the morning while he’s trying to pretend he doesn’t need to go to sleep? Yeah totally. By two will he care? Naw, probably not.

He tries not to think too hard about the repetition. It’s one of the reasons he prefers disaster shifts? Ones where everything goes absolutely wrong. Ones where they run out of eight ounce filets and all of the seasonal beers and two of the desserts, where some of the servers just don’t show up so Rodimus has to take like three extra tables, where Thunderclash’s shoulder is acting up again so someone else has to run all the food to his tables, because -- cause he gets to do his thing. He gets to take those extra tables and totally do Thunderclash a solid (though Thunderclash never stops getting less annoying like uh we get it dude you’re the best at everything you’re like super noble) and he gets to smooth things over for other people. Maybe that says something unflattering about him but maybe it says that he’s great. You know, one of the two.

Also literally anything else he could think of that he could be doing with his time would be so much more boring than this. Just like, unimaginably so, and it’d probably require him to wake up at a time that wasn’t one in the afternoon. So he’ll just stick with this, you know?

 


 

Mondays are like, just, objectively speaking, the absolute pits. The absolute pittiest pits. Rodimus gets “two tables, Percy, two damn tables. You know how many tables that isn’t?”

Perceptor sighs. “Enough?”

“Enough tables.” It’d taken pretty much every single scrap of self-control (and a not inconsiderable amount of glaring from Ratchet) to keep him from just like, lying down on the counter in bored despair for two hours. “I haven’t even made twenty dollars but more importantly I’m bored.”

“I am so over this terrible shithole of a place,” says Huffer like ten minutes later storming into the kitchen where you’re pretty much like all just hanging out now because really there is not that much to do like at all.

“It doesn’t seem that bad?” says Tailgate. “I could be wrong?”

“Holy shit, Huffer, can you just chill?” says Brainstorm.

“It’s not that bad,” says Drift. “Really.”

“You should see the side work I had to do last place I worked,” says Bluestreak. “Fucking incredible, we won’t even talk about how understaffed it was. This isn’t too bad.”

“It’s bad enough,” says Huffer. “Come on, Rodimus, you agree with me right?”

Rodimus like, fundamentally disagrees with that, mostly because Huffer said it.

“Ugh, shut up, whatever,” says Rodimus, finally failing to resist the urge to lay down on the countertop. “I don’t know, I’m not here.”

“That’s a shame, because there’s a fifteen top going down in your section right now,” says Rewind. “For you and Huffer.”

Huffer groans and drags his feet. Rodimus is like listen Huffer I can just do it by myself just don’t tell Mags, Huffer’s like blah blah money blah, blah blah too much work blah, but Rodimus wears him down pretty quick. Magnus emerges to protest, but Huffer’s just bein a real big old piece of shit and once again Mags has gotta bow to Rodimus’s superior awesome ideas.

 


 

Nautica holds a wine glass up so she can look at it through the light.  Perceptor’s closing and he always sends people back to redo their shit if he sees like anything on there. “How’d your night go?” she asks.

“Oh, okay,” says Rodimus, which is sort of underselling it, it was one of those nights that like turned on you suddenly, where you’re like bored bored bored ten percent tip no tables bored then wham, shit turns around. “I got like, three numbers, but I’d rather get tipped better, you know?”

“Mmm,” says Nautica. “How much did you make off that fifteen top?”

Rodimus shrugs. “Oh, a hundred or somethin’.”

“Right,” says Nautica. “It’s gotta be hard, being you.”

“It’s lonely at the top,” says Rodimus.  

“The terrible thing is that you’re not joking,” mutters Nautica.

“Hmm?” he asks even tho he could totally hear her.  

“Nothing,” says Nautica. “You actually gonna do anything with those phone numbers?”

“Nah,” he says. He like, never does. Yeahhhh totally I wanna go out with you, Person I Served Food To #3530 that’s like, super romantic or whatever, the way we met. “What, do you ever do anything with the numbers you get?”

“I don’t know how to answer that question without inflating your ego,” says Nautica. “So I won’t.”

“Nice,” says Rodimus. “Hey, you think this wine glass looks good enough?” he asks, holding it up to the light.

Nautica squints at it. “Still a few smudges. You know Perceptor’s going to check each one, so probably not.”

“No mercy from Percy,” says Rodimus.

Nautica nods. “No mercy from Percy.”

 


  

Basically the issue with Tuesdays is that Tuesdays are like also boring. No one comes to the Lost Light on Tuesdays. The whole dining room’s empty by nine.  You gotta make your own entertainment.  

“What are you doing,” says Cyclonus, less a question than an ominous statement.

Tailgate’s perched on Whirl’s shoulders, tray of glasses balanced on one hand, the other holding onto Whirl for dear life. Rodimus gives her the thumbs up from his perch on a bar stool, and she looks terrified, which, haha okay so would Rodimus if Cyclonus was looking at him like that.

“Sorry, Cyclonus!” says Tailgate. “I’m trying —“

“Aw, relax, she’s doin’ fine,” says Whirl.

“Those glasses are expensive,” says Cyclonus.

“Sink or swim, Cyclonus. Only one way to get good at carrying shit, and that's to carry shit,” says Whirl.  

“I haven’t broken anything yet?” says Tailgate.

“I bet I could do that,” says Rodimus, cause he could.

No,” says Cyclonus.

“Yeah, you don’t get to ride around on my shoulders,” says Whirl.

One of the wine glasses wobbles. Cyclonus just sort of reaches up and takes the tray out of Tailgate’s hands, shoves it into Rodimus’s (which like lol what?), tugs Tailgate off of Whirl’s shoulders.

“Aw, come on, you’re no fun,” says Whirl.

“I am going to murder you someday,” says Cyclonus, and she sounds kinda like Serious about it.

“You say the sweetest things,” says Whirl. Rodimus does not Get those two.

 


  

Rodimus gives Tailgate a Rodimus Star on Wednesday. Because she earns it, no one gets pity Rodimus Stars, but also because he’s a little concerned about her? Tailgate does not drop a single plate or glass or anything all day, so he writes that on there, “Went Entire Shift Without Dropping Anything,” and hands it to her. That’s gotta help -- everyone loves the stars. Well, okay, everyone says “Rodimus, why do you keep bringing stickers to work,” “Rodimus, ugh, this is so irritating,” “Rodimus, who do you even think you are,” but he knows Brainstorm’s is plastered inside his server book and Ratchet stuck one of his above the expo line and Megatron and Magnus’s are on the wall in the office, so clearly people totally love them.

When she takes it from him she just stares at it, before almost falling back into one of the booths. She sits down with a heavy thwunk. “Isn’t this kinda something that people sort of expect everyone to do all the time?” she asks, giving the star a little wave.

“Uh, yeah, I guess,” he says. “Maybe? But it’s whatever, not everyone can have my flawless sense of balance. And you really didn’t drop anything today, which means you’re getting better.”

Instead of this being a totally reassuring thing that would make anyone feel great Tailgate looks like she’s about to cry. “Getaway said you all think that I’m horrible at this and that you think I shouldn’t be working here, he said that he didn’t think I was incompetent and stupid and embarrassing but Cyclonus did.”

“Uh,” says Rodimus. “Well okay. You’re not the best. But whatever no one is. I mean, except me, I legit am the best, but that’s why I’m the one giving out the stars, you know?”

Tailgate sniffs and looks down at her lap. Rodimus pats her shoulder. “Also so obvs Cyclonus thinks all of us are incompetent and stupid and embarrassing but I think she thinks you’re less incompetent and stupid and embarrassing than like eighty percent of us. Or she’s willing to overlook that or something. I mean, does Cyclonus seem like the kind of girl who if she didn’t want to give you rides or hang out with you at the bar or whatever would just put up with you? No, she would just tell you to leave, and if that didn’t work, she’d physically remove you.”

“She did tell me to get lost at first, though,” says Tailgate.

“Trust me, it’s not like you wore her down, you just won her over,” says Rodimus. He knows this for a Fact because Cyclonus will totally bodily extract him from her presence if she thinks he’s been around too long, and if she’d do that to him, then probs anyone was fair game.

Tailgate is just like super tiny and Rodimus doesn’t know what Getaway’s game is here but he has a few guesses and they’re not great. Maybe he shoulda given Tailgate a star earlier.  She stands up, winces, sighs. “Anyway, I haven’t finished my side work yet, so you’re really giving this star to me a little early. I have plenty of time to break something.”  

Rodimus shakes his head. “Naw, you’re good. Who were you with tonight?”

“Getaway,” mumbles Tailgate. “He had to leave, he asked me to cover everything for him.

Translation: Getaway dumped cleaning shit on Tailgate. Rodimus is familiar with that move, having executed it more than a few times himself. “Awkward,” he thinks to himself. Out loud: “Okay well I think he left already. You had just stocking plates and stuff for side work, right?"

“Yeah,” she says. “I got some of it done, but there’s still some to go.”

“Eh, that’ll take me less time to do than it’d take for you anyway, I don’t know how you’d even reach to get some of that stuff up on shelves. Come on, I’ll walk you to the back so Mags knows you’re not lying about me saying you’re done.”

Cyclonus somehow (lmao, “somehow”) manages to finish her work at the exact same time as Tailgate (Swerve’s the closing bartender tonight) so they leave which is good and Rodimus goes and stares at the fuckton of dishes in the dish pit which is less good but it’s whatever, it’s manageable. He’ll manage.

Drift catches him surveying the scene. “I’m guessing you want me to help with those,” says Drift.

“What?” says Rodimus. He thinks about Getaway. “No, please, I totally got this.”

 


  

“Look, how ‘bout I finance part of the bus purchasing, if you figure out where to get it from.”

“Still a no,” says Drift.

“C’mon!” says Rodimus. “I can’t believe you don’t want to go on a road trip or something! I mean, don’t you feel like something’s -- missing?”

Drift rubs their head. “Well, yes, but I think that might just be a part of being in your twenties. One has to learn to be content with one’s current situation in order to be happy, you know? Positive energy.”

Rodimus doesn’t know. Rodimus has been content like absolutely zero percent never. He can’t sit still long enough for it. “Right. Positive energy.

“Plus,” adds Drift. I’m not sure how a road trip would solve any of that.”  

“I just think it’s a logistical nightmare,” says Nightbeat.

“I once went on a road trip with Prowl,” says Chromedome. “That was the worst two weeks of my life.”

“That might be mostly because of Prowl, though,” says Rewind. “Not because of road trips in general.”

“I’ve never been on a road trip before. It sounds exciting!” says Tailgate.

 


 

Rodimus is kinda super Over Thursdays cause there’s a special on Thursdays where you get a three course meal for like, way less than the usual price, and it’s a good deal and so the whole place fills up lightning fast and no one makes any money.

“I hate Thursdays,” says Velocity from the other side of the line, shoving forward another house salad that’s ready to run. “Do you know how many times I’ve tried to get the day off on Thursdays? I hate Thursdays.”

“Less talking more salads,” says Ratchet. “We’re still dragging an entree house on 703, don’t have time for this.”

Velocity rolls her eyes.

 


 

In a weird way he likes closing? Even though it means that people like, pester him pretty much constantly to look at work they’ve done and he asks them to do another thing and they’re like “um, but I already did all THESE things?” and he’s like “Ok ok fine whatever yeah you can go I’ll sign you.” Which ends up having like Consequences later on in the night but eh, shrug.

He likes the way the restaurant feels after close. Like, he’s not super enthused about going around making sure that the tablecloths are clean but it’s cool that it feels different when everyone’s gone and the lights are up and he can do whatever he wants more than usual. Velocity plays her music pretty loud in the kitchen and he can hear it out in the dining room too.

Rodimus super believes in delegation but when he ends up closing with Tailgate he kinda can’t seem to make himself Delegate everything to her. She’s like two feet tall and sorta a pushover. He’s like, can she even lift the chairs up to put them on top of the table? Not that he hasn’t known people smaller than Tailgate who could do that, or terrifying five foot girls who carried three buckets of ice and balanced huge trays effortlessly and flipped chairs over like they weighed nothing but that doesn’t really seem like who Tailgate like Is. So he tells her to check the tablecloths and he does all the heavy lifting.

She’s kinda quieter than usual, and he feels a little obligated to break up the silence because like, no thanks re: silence.

“Hey, you want a ride?” he asks.

She looks wary, and he’s like God for once can people not tell other people that my driving is the worst ultimate most dangerous ever. “I don’t know.”

“Omg, look, if it’s like that important to you I’ll go the ‘speed limit,’” says Rodimus. “You and Cyclonus are like, fighting or something, right?”

“Or something, yeah,” she says.

“Cool,” he says.

So yeah like he talks her into going with him because like, what else was she going to do? Like he wasn’t gonna MAKE her let him drive her home but it seems like a like way better solution than uh, walking or something? Calling Cyclonus until she gave in?

Blah blah blah you might as well take this opportunity to like, check on her or whatever. Nobody thinks you’re capable of being a guy who can check up on people but you totally can. “Oh Rodimus you don’t have a sensitive bone in your body” they say but you think you have like maybe two or three.

“Everything going okay?” he asks. “Like, uh, well I guess not with Cyclonus, if you’re having a fight but like with everything.”

“I guess,” says Tailgate. It’s not super convincing.

“Right, totally, you sound super sure about that,” says Rodimus.

“You’re not very good at talking to people about their problems, has anyone told you that before?” asks Tailgate.

“Oh yeah totally like a dozen times,” says Rodimus, who has literally never let that stop him from doing anything. “So are you gonna tell me what’s up or what?”

“Cyclonus got mad about me being around Getaway a lot, because she doesn’t like him very much. And I told her that it was none of her business who I hung out with!”  Tailgate looks to Rodimus like she’s looking for confirmation.

“Yeah totally,” he says. “Like, what does she care?”

“Exactly!” says Tailgate. “And Getaway said that well Cyclonus never probably cared that much about me in the first place, and Whirl said that yeah she hates Getaway tons but she hates like everyone and also that it was up to me what I did and then she said she was maybe gonna have to yell at Cyclonus or something so maybe it was a bad idea to tell her about all of that and Getaway said that it was probably stupid of me to live with Cyclonus in the first place but I don’t know I like living with her but I don’t want to stop being friends with Getaway either.”

“Wait okay, you went to Whirl for advice?”

“Whirl’s my friend, and Cyclonus is my friend, and Getaway’s my friend too and why do people have so many opinions on who I’m friends with?”

“No clue tbh,” says Rodimus. He maybe has a couple of clues, like that it’s maybe cause Tailgate’s the kinda person people want to make sure doesn’t fall into a Bad Crowd, but super honestly she’s already done so just by like, being around everyone she works with.  “But you gotta like understand, there’s stuff you don’t know about ‘em. Like, Cyclonus, before everything happened, she was friends with this really shitty guy who ended up doing all kinds of awful stuff, and like, okay, this one’s an important story: way back before Megatron started Megatroning, he and Whirl --”

“I don’t care,” says Tailgate, cutting him off. She crosses her arms like, super emphatically. “I don’t care about any of that crap! I wasn’t there for it and I don't really understand it and sometimes everyone makes a big deal out of stupid crap that happened in the past and I don’t care. I wish I had been there.”

“No you don’t,” says Rodimus. He takes a sharp turn left.

“Maybe I do,” says Tailgate. “Getaway says he wishes I’d been there.”

So like maybe Getaway is the shittiest friend in this scenario. Tailgate looks like she’s on the verge of tears again and it’s not like Tailgate crying is a unique event, but it’s more sort of panic inducing when it’s directly his fault, and he’s like crap, maybe someone else shoulda tried to have a Heart To Heart with her? Like Drift -- no, Drift wouldn’t be any better at this. Mags? Definitely not. Or --

It occurs to Rodimus he doesn’t know a lot of people who know how to handle this kind of thing at all. Once again he has to totally rise to the occasion like the hero he is.  

“Aw, come on, it’s fine, it’s whatever,” says Rodimus. He pulls up next to her apartment building. “I’m sure Cyclonus is a perfectly nice person if you, er, really get to know her.”

Tailgate rubs her eyes. “I just don’t care, but everyone wants me to care, and everything’s really confusing and Getaway wants me to --” She stops, crosses her arms, uncrosses them again.

“Wants you to what?” he asks.

“It doesn’t matter,” she says. “Thanks for the ride, I guess.”

“Hang in there, kid,” he says.

“I’m older than you,” she says, and slams the door.

 


  

Rodimus asks around, and Brainstorm tells him (because Brainstorm is the best sometimes like once in a very long while) that Chromedome told him that Rewind told him that Swerve told him that they’re pretty sure that Atomizer and Getaway are in cahoots, that the two of them are planning something maybe. Nightbeat does the thing where he just stares at people until he figures out all their secrets or whatever, and he’s like, okay we should talk to Whirl.

Which like, Rodimus is like, am I really the right man for that job? But Whirl comes to him first.

“I just want you to know I’m experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime surge of regret,” she says. punctuating the last word with a jab of a pen to his shoulder. Whirl looks over to the bar, where Cyclonus is hovering, and if Rodimus didn’t know better he’d think Whirl was worried for her not worried of her and the bodily damage she could probably deal. “I’m only telling you this because I can’t see anyone take advantage of dear sweet Tailgate any longer.”

“Whirl and Cyclonus are totally best friends now,” whispers Drift, Drift-like, in your ear. Rodimus used to jump when they did that, and now he’s totally cool about it and only jumps the tiniest bit maybe.

“You stay outta it,” says Whirl, briefly aiming jabby hands at Drift before returning attention to Rodimus. “Getaway’s a piece of shit, and he’s doing this whole thing to get rid of Megatron, which normally I would be really fucking into, but now he’s throwing Tailgate under the bus, and I don’t like it. So fix it. That’s what you do, right?”

“Totally,” says Rodimus, tho he doesn’t have like the greatest track record of all time there. (Please see: that one time Chromedome almost got fired, that one time Drift almost got fired, that one time Rodimus almost got fired and arrested, that one time Rewind totally almost died or like at least almost got minorly injured, that one time Rodimus set himself on fire, et cetera.)

“Absolutely,” says Drift with a certain amount of bravado (please see: some separate list of occasions where Rodimus has done much better than he remembers, known and knowable only to Drift, apparently). “Rodimus has got this.”

“Don’t oversell it, Drift,” says Rodimus.

“I have every confidence in you,” they say, and Whirl’s like rolling her eye and stomping around and shit so Drift directs the Drift Smile towards her. “What is it?”

“Aren’t you gonna yell at me or something? For having top secret potentially evil plans with some fuckers who are awful and blah blah shit like that?”

“Okay, well, you wanted to get rid of Megatron, and that is like, super everyone’s goal,” says Rodimus, even though he can’t really muster as much roiling hate towards Megatron as usual. Mags likes him? At least? He’s not as bad as. . . he used to be? “So that’s understandable.”

“Whatever, the plan was gonna get you fired too,” says Whirl, and then she stomps off.

“Wait -- what?”

 


 

Rodimus thinks about what Drift’s said to him, sometimes, on those weird Sunday nights where they get intense or in the kitchen when no one else’s around or casually, like its nothing: how he could be something better if he tried. Not like, they don’t mean like, you know, better job wise or anything just, better at being Rodimus. Which, please, he’s super great, but okay like he knows what they mean. He could be --

He thinks about Tailgate, and he thinks about Skids, and he thinks about Ultra Magnus and Whirl and Cyclonus and Atomizer and Rewind and he thinks, okay, alright, clearly it’s time for me to show up and solve the problem.

 


 

“We gotta call in Team Rodimus,” he says.

“Team Rodimus? Could use a catchier name,” says Drift. “Like. . . The Rod Squad.”

“Nice,” says Rodimus. “Using it.”

Doesn’t take too long to round them up.

The Rod Squad convenes by the dumpsters. The Rod Squad consists of Skids, Chromedome, Brainstorm, Nautica, and Nightbeat.

“Can I just say that I never agreed to be on anything called the Rod Squad,” says Chromedome.

“Your complaint has been noted and ignored,” says Drift. Because Drift knows What’s Up, which is that the Rod Squad is totally a Thing now. They wouldn’t have all come if they weren’t sort of into it.

“Why are we hiding behind the dumpsters?” asks Skids.

Nightbeat taps his chin thoughtfully. “Hmm. You’re not going to ask for anything like covering a shift or taking a table, you would have just asked us individually. So this requires multiple people. Conspiracy implies something approaching a serious issue, or else you’re planning your next prank on Magnus.”

“Oh shit it’s around that time of the week, isn’t it?” says Rodimus. “I almost forgot. Drift, come on, you’re supposed to remind me when it’s time to prank Mags.”

“I’ve been trying to switch you to a bi-weekly mischief schedule,” they say. “But it’s the former, Nightbeat.”

“Getaway’s acting super creeps towards Tailgate and I don’t like it, mostly,” says Rodimus.

“Wow, you do pay attention to stuff occasionally,” says Rewind.

“When did Rewind get here?” asks Rodimus. “Rewind’s not Team Rod Squad.”

“Rewind does what Rewind wants,” says Rewind, lounging in a chair with three legs someone had dragged out here so it would get trashed. “Please, continue.”

“I’d been worried too, to be honest,” says Nautica. “Getaway seems to be acting nice to her a lot of the time, but some of the things I hear him say to her, or the amount of stuff she does. . . I don’t like it either.”

Nightbeat looks between Rodimus and Drift and Rodimus looks at him like “what??” and Nightbeat looks at him like “I am nonverbally and subtly trying to communicate there’s potentially parallels between how Getaway gets away hashtag hilarious joke with asking Tailgate to do a lot of stuff for him and how Drift ends up carrying you a lot of times” which wow that is quite the nonverbal communication. And you’re like eyebrow waggly “what I am not that bad” and Nightbeat’s all sigh-shrug-”no-but-lbrh-its-not-an-unwarranted-comparison-and-clearly-you-feel-bad-enough-that-you’re-reading-that-comparison-into-this-silent-convo” and Drift’s like, confused question mark-y face “what is this convo going on around me that I’m not a part of?”

Rodimus decides to table the continuation of the train of thought Nightbeat’s suggesting for now. He’s like, trying to be goal oriented.

Skids looks worried. Or maybe disbelieving? “Really? I don’t think Getaway would. . .”

“No, she’s right,” says Rewind. “It’s kinda creepy.”

“Sorry, Skids,” says Nautica, patting him on the shoulder. “I know he’s your friend.”

Nightbeat’s still making a like complex series of faces at Rodimus, but whatever. Skids is Emotionally Conflicted for a little bit more or something, Rodimus spaces out for uh, who knows how long tbh.

“So do you have a plan, actually?” asks Nautica.

Rodimus beams because yeah he totally does and it’s a great one. “You guys are the plan.”

Everyone looks at him like “oh my god what” which isn’t fair because that was a sweet line.

“He means you guys are supposed to come up with ideas about what to do,” says Drift.

Nautica and Nightbeat look at Skids. Skids sighs. “We can either do this fast, I think,” says Skids, “Or we can do it subtle.”

“Have I ever once gone for subtle in my entire life?” asks Rodimus and they’re all like hashtag lol true.

Okay so like the plan is, as formulated by everyone right there and then, The Plan is, the team’s gonna get Getaway fired before he can get other people fired or get rid of Megatron or whatever. Like Rodimus is not into the whole Megatron thing but the fallout would probably end up getting other people fired and if there was a different GM less like accustomed to Rodimus it could get him super fired and also plans that involve getting Megatron fired by like throwing Tailgate under the bus are no good.

Keeping Megatron around is very “the evil you know is better than the etc.” Maybe if Getaway had picked some other way of getting rid of him besides a plan like this, Rodimus woulda gone with it. Maybe even if it was a plan that involved putting himself into the line of fire. But he’s like, responsible for Tailgate. He’s responsible for everybody. “What that doesn’t even make sense Rodimus, you’re like younger than at least half of the people who work here” “who are you even Rodimus” “blah blah something like what Bee would say about him and responsibility, Rodimus.” But he is.  And he’s like you know, “man, I shoulda been paying attention to things, I shoulda been paying more attention to how I was acting too.”

Ugh, he hates being introspective it’s so like tiring.

But that’s not the point. The point is: not hard to get Getaway fired with Magnus around, really with any manager around. Guaranteed immediate firing happens in a couple of different scenarios, but the easiest one to accomplish for Team Rod Squad (“really, we can’t use a different name?” asks Brainstorm) is to get Getaway caught drinking on the job. More specifically: get Getaway caught drinking on the job using alcohol that belongs to the restaurant.

“I’m bartending on Friday,” says Skids. “It’s perfect.”

Course it’s perfect. Rodimus thought it up. Okay. With maybe slight assistance.

 


 

“Can it have a mini bar in it?” asks Swerve. “The bus?”

“This list of requirements is slowly becoming more and more impossible,” says Drift, who might have been writing all this shit down?

“Come on, what self respecting party bus doesn’t have a mini bar?” asks Swerve. They have a compelling point.

“How long’s the list?” asks Rodimus.

“The list is no longer within your purview,” says Drift. “The list was never in your purview.” They shake their head. “I can’t believe I actually have a list.”

“I’m great with lists, and logistics, and planning in general,” says Rodimus. “Come on.”

“Says the guy who thought it was a good idea to --”

“Hey, all my plans are great and essentially without flaw, okay? Besides, that’s what you’re there for, to you know, help problem solve on the very rare occasions there’s ever been a problem.”

“Drift, you remember when Rodimus tried to carry five drinks in one hand?” asks Swerve.

“Fondly,” says Drift.

 


 

“Hey, 402 requested you,” says Rewind, like Rodimus might get mad about it or something.

“Sweet,” he says. People requesting him means “regulars who like him,” and all his regulars tip good.

His optimism sours when he actually like gets within sight of 402. It’s a one top, for one, which is like pretty meh but also he recognizes the girl sitting there. He gets now why Rewind seemed weird about telling him about 402, there’s no way he didn’t recognize her.

This is like, kinda awkward.

“Bee,” says Rodimus, leaning on the edge of the booth.

“Rod,” says Bumblebee.

He asks the next question even though he’s going to regret it: “Did Optimus send you?”

Bee scrunches her nose. “Can’t I just want to come by here?” asks Bee. “Does everything have to be about him?”

“Whether or not it ought to that’s how it usually goes,” says Rodimus. Which makes sense because Optimus is basically the best, potentially the closest to the best that anyone besides him could ever be. He wishes Optimus liked him as much as Optimus liked Bee.

“You weren’t answering my calls,” she says. “We didn’t get to talk.”

“Maybe I didn’t want to talk,” he says.

Bee sighs, and flips her ponytail over her shoulder. “Okay, well, maybe it doesn’t matter if you want to talk or not. Sometimes you just have to do things because you have to do things not cause you want to or don’t want to.”

“Hey, no, that was always your thing,” says Rodimus. “Anyway, do you like, want something to drink or something or what? You’re taking up a table here.”

“I guess you probably have someone else to do all the tedious crap for you now,” says Bee. “Oh, look, yes, there’s Drift now. Hi, Drift.”

“Bumblebee,” says Drift who, yeah wow is like right the fuck there now.

And Rodimus is like wow okay wait first off, I did plenty of tedious crap, okay, sorry you’re the ‘more responsible one’ or whatever. Second off, he and Bee are or were or whatever nothing like him and Drift, cause Rodimus never thought about Bee that way -- which wait that implies he thinks about Drift that way but you know, come on. Luckily he doesn’t say pretty much any of that out loud.

“Sorry, Bee, I’m afraid we’re not accepting applications right now,” says Drift. “I’m glad you’ve finally realized what a bad idea staying at the Cybertron was but --”

“Please,” says Bee, rolling her eyes. “Don’t even.”

“What’s up?” asks Drift.

“Believe it or not, I’m here because I was concerned -- we were all concerned -- because we hadn’t heard from any of you in a while. Since Megatron --”

“Since Optimus put Megatron in charge, yeah,” says Rodimus, which. Optimus is his total Hero Forever and stuff but, man oh man, what the hell was OP thinking? “Haven’t felt in the mood to hang out with any of you guys.”

“Optimus won’t say it, because he can’t pay attention to anything that’s not intensely related to his own issues for more than three seconds, so I will: you have to come home eventually, Rodimus.”   

“That’s not home,” he says, because it isn’t. Not anymore. That’s not Optimus’s fault, maybe, but it’s not home any more. Once you left you were never gonna come back, not really.

Bee lets out a frustrated sigh, digs around in her purse, throws a few dollars down. “For taking up a table. I’m leaving. You know where to find me. I wish you weren’t like this sometimes, Rod, you sulk so much when you get it in your head you should.”

“I’m not sulking,” says Rodimus.

“I’m leaving,” says Bee. “Nice seeing you again, Drift.”

Drift folds their arms.

Rodimus watches her walk away. “That whole road trip thing starts sounding more and more appealing every day,” he says.

“Hmm?”

“The road trip,” he says again. “Just leaving. This is what I left that place for, because I just didn’t want to deal with all this bullshit anymore, I don’t know, all the melodramatic serious stuff that’s always hanging all over Bee and Prowl and all of them.”

“Yes, no one around here is prone to fits of melodrama.”

“I dunno, sometimes it’s not like, you shouldn’t stand around trying to keep fixing broken shit. Sometimes you just gotta leave, and start over.”

“Yeah,” says Drift, who would know. “If only it were that easy.”

 


 

Rodimus follows Drift out back. Rodimus has like zero reason for doing this besides just sorta wanting to pester Drift in general, honestly. “Pester” in a like, cool and chill way.

“Didn’t you get sat like five minutes ago?” asks Drift. They’re a little irritated, maybe? Whatever.

“Eh, they got their drinks, someone else’ll run the appetizer,” says Rodimus. He leans against the brick wall, tries to ignore the distinctly garbage-y smell. “What’s up?”

They pull a mostly empty pack of cigarettes from one of their apron pockets, their lighter from another pocket.

Rodimus tried taking up smoking purely as a self defense mechanism after he figured out that smoking gave you a half legit reason to step outside for a few minutes. He quit smoking about ten days later purely as a self defense mechanism after Magnus found out about it. Now he just doesn’t bother finding an excuse to loiter outside.

Something about Drift’s irritability, the topics of conversation recently, they like slot into place a little? Or, he guesses, maybe he’s been like. . . more of a jerk lately?

And, fuck, is he Getaway here? Is he the Getaway to Drift’s Tailgate?

He rearranges things. Okay, no. He doesn’t think so, not in a lot of ways that matter. He doesn’t lie to them like Getaway to Tailgate, all his lies more about how much attention he’s paying or how likely it is he’ll pull his share of the load. He doesn’t try and shut them away from other people who care about them. Not that he’d need to, Drift seems to have done a fairly good job there on their own. And he doesn’t think his intentions are the same.

But -- he could be. He could be that guy. Rodimus fucking hates that guy. And not just (or he hopes not just) because that guy almost got him fired.

 


 

“Do you know what time it is?” asks Nautica when she picks up the phone.

He doesn’t. He looks at a clock. “Oh, uh, whoops?”

“It’s cool,” says Nautica. “I was at work late because Magnus wanted me to help him do inventory. So you’re interrupting my very exciting evening of eating Taco Bell and watching How It’s Made.”

“I just wanted to see if we were set to enact the plan tomorrow,” says Rodimus.

“The plan will totally be enacted. Are you sure we wanna do it on a Friday night?”

“Come on, it’s perfect!” says Rodimus, tactical genius, basically best leader of all. “Everyone will be super distracted, and Megs and Mags and uh, what's his face will have to deal with the sitch really quick. No time to talk about it or investigate or anything. Plus Megatron’s always grumpiest on Fridays.”

 


 

And here’s the other way Fridays can go:

Poorly. They can go fuckin poorly is like mostly how they can go. All the resos can be made for like, between six and six-thirty like all of them and the dining room can get full in five minutes flat and one of the cooks coulda called in sick and one of the hosts coulda done the same, and Rodimus might be the best but like sometimes, like, he can be slightly less the best. 

He’s not in a section with Drift, which throws him off. He’s with Nautica, who’s tops like don’t get him wrong she’s killer but it throws him off anyway, throws him off the rhythm of his Friday nights. And then his first table like straight up doesn’t tip him which is like, uh, thanks? Thanks. Thanks for nothin. He’s not near the bar so he can’t even keep an eye on what’s happening over by the bar.

Megatron’s in a Mood tonight which for practical Plan oriented purposes is great but for not Dying purposes is less great. 

Cyclonus keeps basically like leaning on the button that the bartenders have that makes a doorbell ring in the back so that people in the kitchen know there’s drinks to run even when there’s only like a beer to run. Just fuckin leaning on it all night and it’s giving him a headache and he doesn’t see Drift, where the hell are they?

They appear for a second, just in time to watch him drop a bowl into the soup tureen while he’s trying to get some for a table. the soup splashes everywhere which means: mostly all over Rodimus.

“There’s soup in your hair,” they say, and don’t even like try and help him get it out of his damn hair before they wander off.

Ratchet has never done Rodimus a favor in his entire life. So when he needs an extra side of something or a guest has a weird request or he maybe fucked up an order a little bit he has to go wheedle extra fries or a replacement salad out of Velocity or First Aid, if they’re there.

He’ll say this for Ratchet -- he doesn’t really freak if you fuck up. You just literally go up to him and say “I fucked up, here’s what I need” and he looks at you like “Oh my god, I’m going to kill you,” and then he fixes it and it’s fixed.

Like, okay, so maybe, Rodimus has basically never been in the weeds in his entire life, but maybe hypothetically that sort of happens, and Ratchet’s around making the Ratchet Face and Rodimus is doing the thing where you avoid Megatron even if you love and cherish confronting Megatron cause he’s just like on a fuckin Rampage right now and Rodimus doesn’t need that in his life and he goes up to Ratchet like heyyyy Ratchet I maybe need that entree for 503 on the fly.

“You’re in the weeds,” says Ratchet. “God’s sake, ask someone for help if you’re in the weeds.”

“I’m not in the weeds, it’s fine.”

“Rodimus, you’re fucking weeded, give Nautica one of your tables and get outta my kitchen.” He yells at Ambulon to get that entree ready right away, and then sorta shoos Rodimus out.

This is the worst thing that’s ever happened to Rodimus since like, last week.

He sidles up to Nautica. “Hey Nauts, what’s happening?”

“Do you need me to pick up 502? It just got sat,” she asks.

“Shit, yeah,” he says. “Thanks Nautica, this is why you’re the best person to share a section with.”

“Don’t I know it,” she says. “Skids says he’ll take over 603 if you want, he needs the cash and he’s bored.”

“I love you,” says Rodimus. “You’re the best forever, I gotta go talk to 503, you’re incredible.”

“Yes, I know,” she says.

 


 

So they get Getaway fired basically, and it’s very whatever, it’s basically whatever, and no one sees much of anything, just one moment Getaway’s employed the next he’s not and like Whirl and Cyclonus sorta nod at each other or whatever and then you all move the fuck on with your lives. Except of course everyone on the Rod Squad gets a special commendation star and also Rodimus totally tells everyone he thinks he can tell about it about it, and then makes them all swear blood oaths that they won’t tell Swerve because if Swerve knows literally everyone will.

But that’s all hung over with a sorta like awkward Vibe between Rodimus and Drift? Makes it hard to properly enjoy pulling something off successfully.

And Atomizer finds out about everything anyway.

 


  

Even if Drift’s like “avoiding him” or something for like whatever reason, Rodimus refuses to like, let that get in the way of them leaving at the same time. He feels like if he can save that part of how things usually go he can turn the whole night around, even now, even after close, even if it’s almost technically “tomorrow.”  

He trails after Drift, same (at least sorta) as always, but Getaway’s waiting for them by their cars. Rodimus is pretty sure Getaway has harmful intent towards his car, which he’s super not about.

“Oh, it’s you,” says Rodimus, trying to convey a like “oh I do not even give a shit about you or your opinion” vibe which isn’t that hard.

Getaway’s seething. “I knew from the second that I saw your stupid fucking car that something was WRONG with this place,” says Getaway.

“What’s wrong with my car?” asks Rodimus, because his car is — seriously — the best.

“I can’t believe you’re defending him,” says Getaway, and everyone knows which him he means.

“I can’t believe you’d do that to Tailgate,” says Drift.

“You,” says Getaway, pointing to Drift. “You, I can believe defending him. We all should have known that would happen. Once a --”

Drift punches him like just a little bit, and then sighs like they’re kinda not surprised that they punched him but it sure is inconvenient. Rodimus isn’t really that surprised either. Cause, like, come on.

“I think you should go,” says Rodimus to Getaway. “Like, nowish.”

“The fucking third time I got decked tonight, you sure do take things personally around here,” says Getaway. Atomizer tugs on his shoulder, starts pulling him away.

Getaway gets away (ha ha) in a nowish enough manner, and Drift’s sorta, something? Shakingly mad or maybe not but either way it’s very Best Not To Operate Heavy Machinery in nature so Rodimus is like hey Drift wanna go for a spin in my great super cool car and Drift’s like yeah okay whatever but sort of distantly, and this is totally the scene in movies where it starts to rain and rain beats a dramatic staccato tattoo against the windows and the hood of the car or something like that.

Rodimus doesn’t really drive anywhere, just around the nearby neighborhoods in aimless circles. “I’ve been a little bit of a douchebag, haven’t I?” says Rodimus.

“When? You’re going to have to be a little more specific,” says Drift. They’re looking out the window, watching the rain or maybe something that you can’t quite see yet.

“Just in general,” says Rodimus.

“Are you asking me so that I’ll say yes and you’ll apologize and then you’ll feel better?” asks Drift.

Well only a little bit. “Yeah, kinda,” says Rodimus. “But also because I do feel bad? I’m trying, though.”

“That’s good,” they say. “Because I don’t know if I can keep trying for both of us.”  

That’s like, pretty super fair.

He grabs Drift’s hand. It’s so easy to say things and keep saying them and make promises he doesn’t intend to keep, but it’s way harder to show what he means because he knows if he like, does stuff, stuff like this, it’s easier to tell what he really means.

Which is the point here but still. It’s not embarrassing, exactly, but if he was someone else who was less great at everything it might be a little embarrassing, how he squeezes Drift’s hand and looks into their eyes and tries to say everything without saying anything. Sorry you followed me here. Sorry I took advantage of your friendship sometimes, because I knew you wouldn’t turn me away. Sorry I stole that table from you last week. Sorry I broke your wine key and totally didn’t replace it. Sorry you believed in me.

Drift squeezes his hand back. Which is like a good sign, right?? That’s not a hand squeeze of Utter Total Rejection Forever. “So what I’m hearing is that you’re not going to try and wheedle me into taking your closing shift on Wednesday?”

Rodimus puts titanic effort into suppressing a sigh. Being a better person is hard. “Yeah, I’m not gonna do that.”

“Or your Thursday opening shift.”

“Okay, that one either.”

“And you’re paying for drinks for approximately the next three years.”

“Aw man, I can’t even drink legally for another like, five months!”

“Well, maybe by then I’ll let you buy me a drink,” says Drift.

And Rodimus is like, internally, like, buy you a drink buy you a drink? And it occurs to him that he and Drift are still Holding Hands which is significant or something maybe. And he’s like, in sorta a small voice, “Oh okay.”  

Drift smiles at him then and it’s this like, okay. This sounds silly but it’s this huge beautiful thing, way smaller than their usual smile but infinitely brighter. The smile feels real, the way his hand on theirs feels real, the way driving on a clear evening does and the way so much of his life often doesn’t. He wants to say the moment’s like a beacon or something but that makes him feel sorta like a weirdo.

“Drive me back already,” says Drift. “I’ve got work in the morning.”

 


 

Drift gives Rodimus the thumbs up. Rodimus gets into his car. They get into theirs. They both drive very fast, in opposite directions.

 


 

“Someday I’m actually going to show up with a bus, and then what’re you going to do?” asks Drift.

“Take it for a spin, probably,” says Rodimus.