Author's notes - Well, I'm hopping onto the Ironhide/Annabelle bandwagon it seems. This is just a bunch of fluff that it not to be taken seriously.

Iron, Bees, and Manly Things

Over the last few years Ironhide had gotten accustom to spending long periods of time in his vehicle mode, parked idly under the large oak tree growing in the front yard of the Lennox's family ranch. He spent a lot of time under said tree, especially during the long hot summer afternoons, resting quietly on his tires.

Peace.

It felt strange to him. At first it had been worrisome. He feared that this lasting peacefulness would soften him and when the time came to fight once more he would be useless, a liability. But he knew that a few years of peace was not nearly enough to chisel down the hardness that had accumulated around him during the time of seemingly never ending war; the skillful optics and skills he had honed. Even now he kept his guard up. Whenever the situation allowed he would travel to a secluded woodland area on the Lennox property, change into his bipedal form, and make sure he was not getting rusty. His aim had not faltered and his cannons were still as powerful as they ever were though in the process of learning this, he also learned about the combustibility of organic vegetation. Of course said fires were duly extinguished before they became big enough to attract any human attention. Though his people's existence and ever perpetual presence was not entirely a secret, their presence was still somewhat of a cause for apprehension among most of the humans that populated the small blue planet. Ironhide learned it to be human nature for them to fear things they did not understand; and they tended to become violent against things they feared. It was a long and tiring process but common society seemed to have come to accept it as more of a 'perhaps if we ignore them they won't bother us' sort of situation. The younger generation seemed to open up to the alien Mechs whole heartedly and some Mechs who had made their home in large cities became local celebrities.

Ironhide preferred the company of his comrades' rather then young idolizers. Lennox was a good man and a good soldier. Having been a young captain at the time of the Autobot's arrival, Lennox and Ironhide had struck up an odd friendship; their only real common trait being their occupation though through the years that seemed to have changed. After the battle of Mission city and the Cube's destruction, Ironhide had offered to escort the young man to his home base. Though at first it had been out of simple curiosity of the human soldiers and how they differed from Cybertronian, beyond the obvious, he had decided to linger on the Lennox ranch after meeting his mate, Sarah and their youngling. Sarah would have made a formidable solider herself had she taken up rank in the military, Ironhide discovered. Initially she had been utterly terrified of him, a natural distrust stemming from her maternal instincts of protecting her child, but after a few days she began to warm up to him.

The trip was originally planed to be only a few hours, but then days went by and days turned to weeks and weeks into months and months into years. He enjoyed observing the small human tribe – family Ironhide corrected himself.

Their youngling, Annabelle, was particularly curious. Unlike Protoforms, the human child could not verbally communicate to its creators in a spoken language. As such, her wailing and constant crying was her main skill in attracting the attention of the adults no matter what the child required. She was a small bundle of noise and energy, requiring nearly constant attention from her care providers, whether she needed nourishment, cleaning, or simple entertainment. Ironhide found Lennox's behavior around his youngling quiet strange and amusing to watch.

Lennox was a soldier, a warrior, and a damn good one too. To see him act so cautiously and protectively around the small child revealed much about human nature. They were indeed capable of immense violence, but also capable of immense care.

As she became older and more independent (AKA mobile) Annabelle, as Ironhide discovered much to his chagrin, was curious about everything; particularly him. She spoke in broken sentences, usually consisting of a singular noun and sometimes a verb; all of it garbled in her infant accent.

He recalled his first real contact with the child. Despite having been around for more then a year, he had never made close contact; Lennox or Sarah always having been around.

One afternoon a few weeks shy of Annabelle's third birthday, Sarah was sitting on the porch with Annabelle, showing the child the different flowers she was growing in her garden. Ironhide had transformed and was quietly sitting against the large oak, arms crossed, watching the small botanical lesson unfolding before him with no shortage of amusement.

Sarah held one arm around the child as she sat on her lap.

"This is Bitterroot, Annie," Sarah told the child in her lap as she twirled the purple flower between her fingers in front of her daughter. Small hands reached up to grab the flower from her mother's delicate fingers and bright blue eyes absorbed the image of the plant. "Can you say that? Bitterroot?"

"Beewoot," Annabelle repeated with a smile as she examined the flower in her hands with considerably less gentleness then the previous handler. "Beewoot!"

Ironhide tilted his head and smiled at the child.

"Bitterroot," Sarah repeated again. "Bi-ter-root. Repeat after me, Annie; Bih…"

"Bih…" Annie repeated as her mother coached her syllables.

"-Ter…"

"-Tur…"

"-Root."

"-Woot."

"Bitterroot."

"Beewoot."

Sarah sighed, smiling, and shaking her head. Looking up she met eyes with Ironhide she laughed as she adjusted the toddler in her lap.

"Sometimes I don't even think she tries."

Ironhide shrugged. "It is only to be expected. She will learn in due time."

"I guess Transformers are born with the ability to talk, Hm?" Sarah asked.

Ironhide nodded. "Yes, but it wasn't considered rare for a Protoform to have difficulty communicating. Cybertronian is rather complicated to speak, even if you're programmed to speak it. Knowledge and experience are two different things."

Sarah sent him a puzzled look. "Was?"

Ironhide sighed and nodded. "The Allspark is gone, and as such, no more Protoforms will be created."

"Will said something like that a little while ago," The human female's head tilted ever so slightly. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to…upset you."

"You don't need to apologize," Ironhide told her.

Sarah stroked the top of her little girl's head, her finger running through the blond strands.

"I couldn't imagine what it'd be like if I couldn't have Annie," Sarah said. "Having a child is difficult, tiring, strenuous, and messy…expensive! – there's a point in here somewhere, I promise."

She looked over at Ironhide and smiled. "But I wouldn't give her up for the world."

Annabelle giggled as she began plucking the tiny petals off the flower and tossed them one by one into the wind and watched them fly away.

"Frower!" Annabelle declared happily throwing another petal to the wind.

"At least she hasn't picked up on any swear words," Sarah replied before adding, with just a hint of a warning tone, "Yet."

Before Ironhide could reply, a faint ringing caught their attention. Sarah's head snapped around to look into the open door way. Pulling her daughter off her lap and carefully lowering her to ground level, Sarah stood and walked a few feet to the door and paused. Looking at Ironhide and pointing into the house, she said, "Would you mind keeping an eye on Annie for me while I answer this?"

"Not at all," Ironhide replied. With a smile, Sarah disappeared into the house. Turning his attention to the now mobile toddler, Ironhide was vaguely aware of the sound of Sarah answering the telephone. Wisps of conversation filtered to his audios, but he pushed them away from his attention, focusing it instead on his charge.

Annabelle, still holding onto the Bitterroot flower (what was left of it), wandered around the garden and looking at the flowers in bloom, smelling a few, and picking a couple of the ones that happen to catch her eye. Bundling her small collection in one hand, the little girl, dressed in a white sun dress decorated with small embroidered daisies, made her way over to where Ironhide sat, his optics following her carefully. As she neared his proximity, he shifted his legs from her path.

Her blond head looked up and blue eyes and blue optics met. Annabelle smiled and held up the flowers.

"Fo' you," She smiled. Ironhide raised an eye ridge at the child, hoping she didn't seriously expect him to want, let alone accept the 'present'. Expectant eyes beamed at him and he found himself sighing into submission. Uncrossing his arms he reached down carefully and allowed the little girl to place the small bouquet in his open palm.

"Uh…Thank you, Annabelle," Ironhide replied sheepishly, pulling back his flower filled hand.

The little girl seemed to glow with pride and she giggled. "Yur welcome."

Ironhide looked at the small collection of vegetation in his palm for a moment when a startled squeak caught his attention. Snapping his head to look back down at the child, he caught sight of her just as she ran over and clung to his leg, whimpering.

"What is wrong little one?" Ironhide asked, slightly alarmed at her behavior. With a high pitched whine, the little girl pointed to her left, slightly above her eye level. Ironhide immediately scanned the indicated spot…and found nothing. "I do not see anything-"

Again the child squeaked and clung loser to the metal leg, her whimpering beginning to escalating into tears. "Bee!"

Ironhide stared.

Bee? He thought incredulously.

Looking back, he caught sight of a small dot that flew around in mid air a few feet above the child's head, just to her left. Low buzzing was audible as it flew around the terrified human girl. Ironhide found himself chuckling. Reaching down, he patted the girl reassuringly on the head gently with his index finger.

"It's alright youngling," Ironhide soothed; mimicking the cooing he had seen Sarah use whenever Annabelle was frightened, which wasn't that often. Annie Lennox seemed to take after her father in that respect. However, just as Lennox had a very irrational (and very humorous, Ironhide felt) fear of spiders, Annabelle didn't seem too keen with Bees either. Humans had the strangest fears of insects.

She gave a startled whimper as the Bee suddenly changed trajectory and flew down decidedly too close to her and Annie Lennox screamed. With a sigh, Ironhide cupped his hand around the little one and scooped her up and away from the evil Bee. Holding her to his chest, Ironhide followed the Bee with his optics as once again, it neared Annabelle.

Ironhide dumped the flowers from his other hand onto the ground beside him before reaching back up and waving at the persistently annoying Bee. "Go away, pest."

The offended insect flew up around Ironhide's head before disappearing above into the tree top. His optics lingered upon the tree foliage for a moment before returning to the small trembling form in his hand. Reaching over, he gently stroked the girl's back. Her small blonde head looked up at him, small tears forming at the sides of her eyes.

"It's gone," He told her.

"Gone?" She asked attentively, looking around as if to make sure.

"Gone," He assured her with a smile. Annabelle pushed away from the black metal of her savior's chest and looked around. With one last sniff, she whipped away the tears and looked up at Ironhide. "Stupid Bee…"

Ironhide couldn't help but smile. With the danger having passed, the Autobot weapons specialist lowered his hand and tipped it just so that Annabelle slid off to land safely on the ground. As her bare feet touched grass and she became vertical, she wobbled slightly before falling backwards to land squarely on her behind. Feeling the effects of vertigo she giggled. As the swirling feeling subsided, the little girl tipped her head back to look at the iron giant sitting just behind her.

"Again!" She declared, raising her arms in exclamation. Having lost its main support to gesture, Annabelle's body dipped back before she replanted her hands onto the ground to steady herself, issuing more giggles.

"Having fun?"

Looking up, Ironhide caught sight of Sarah Lennox standing on the porch, leaning against a column and smiling warmly at the scene before her.

"I…uh-that is…" Ironhide stammered for words at having been caught doing something that defiantly did not fit his persona.

Stepping off the porch, Sarah walked across the lawn to claim her child. Supporting the blonde haired girl on one hip she considered Ironhide for a moment.

"What?" He asked after several seconds of the matron's staring.

"Y'know something?" Sarah asked. "Don't think because you show yourself to others, that it's a sign of weakness. If you can be yourself without fear of being ridiculed; that's real strength."

With a smile, the woman turned and walked back towards the house.

Ironhide remained silent, truly unable to think of anything to say.

Just as she was about to enter the house, Sarah Lennox turned back to Ironhide. "Took me forever to get Will to stop being all macho-soldier all the time when we first got married." Sarah looked around as if to make sure there were no prying eyes or ears. "Don't tell anyone I told you this (especially William), but last night I got Will to watch Cold Mountain with me; he cried like a baby!"

Not waiting for a reply, Sarah entered the house with her daughter, leaving a bemused Ironhide who suddenly found himself with a lot to ponder.