Chapter 1: Guardian
By Leah Wood
The sun glowed a deep yellow orange as it neared the horizon when Ironhide stopped in front of Will Lennox's house. The young Captain pressed eagerly against the passenger door handle upon seeing his long missed home. Being away from his family for so long and facing the incredible battles of the past few days was more than any man could handle.
Ironhide's gravelly voice rumbled through the air vents, "This is where your family unit lives?"
Will paused, cracking the door halfway, "Yeah. Not a bad patch of Earth eh?"
The black Autobot scanned the surrounding area, "It has optimal visual range to spot any potential attack, but I see no outer defenses for your dwelling."
The man smirked, "Yeah, well, a man's castle is not necessarily his fortress."
Ironhide scanned the internet quickly for such an unusual reference.
Lennox waved his hand dismissively at the Autobot's silence "Never mind, I'm just saying I never planned on my home being a target."
Quite abruptly Ironhide shut his door making Lennox frown with confusion, "Hey, what are you doing? Let me out."
"I don't think you comprehend the potential danger you are in Captain Lennox." Ironhide's voice warned seriously.
Lennox got nervous all of a sudden. "Are you threatening me?"
"No." Ironhide assured, "It's just, some of the Decepticons are unaccounted for. Decepticons are well known to take revenge on our allies."
Captain Lennox settled back a moment, trying to let the dire news settle in. "Then I…my family is in danger?"
"The probability is high." Ironhide confirmed with no amount of tact.
The weapon's specialist could feel the man's blood pressure rise and his heart rate increase. He wasn't as well versed on human physiology as Ratchet but he could tell the man was agitated by the news. But, he didn't know what he could do about it. Humans always seemed too high wired anyway.
Carefully he opened the door to let the Captain out.
"Thanks for the ride big guy." Lennox said softly.
The man jumped out with his bags and slowly walked up to his home, his steps measured with worry. Ironhide didn't see it. All the old veteran knew was he had achieved his objective of delivering the Captain as Optimus ordered. Quickly he shut his door and turned around to rendezvous with the other Autobots. He got a couple miles before his communicator beeped.
"Ironhide, report." Optimus's voice suddenly broke through his internal communicator.
"Ironhide, here. I have safely delivered Captain Lennox to his family unit and am making my way east bound toward the meeting coordinates." he confirmed.
"Belay that order old friend." Optimus stated. "I have a new order for you."
Ironhide felt confused but willing, "And that is?"
Optimus's deep voice became introspective, the way it did when he was talking about humans. "You know Bumblebee has chosen to be Sam's guardian and Ratchet has opted to work in the human's healing service."
"Yes. What of it?"
Optimus continued, "And you also know the potential threat the Decepticons still pose to our human comrades?"
Ironhide felt irritated by Optimus's vagueness. He sounded like he was talking to a sparkling instead of a seasoned warrior.
"What is your order Optimus," he growled, not trying to hide his annoyance.
"If he wishes it, I want you to be Captain Lennox's guardian."
The black Autobot suddenly slammed his brakes, skidding to a dusty halt on the road. "What? Me? Optimus I…"
"Captain Lennox and his family will need protection Ironhide." Optimus interrupted. "Besides, it will give you the perfect opportunity to learn about humans first hand."
Ironhide tried to protest, "Yes, but I don't…"
"That's an order." the leader said in a no-nonsense voice. He wasn't going to accept an excuse.
Grudgingly, Ironhide rumbled back, "Confirmed."
Slowly, Ironhide turned himself around and retraced his path back to Lennox's home.
Why him? Why did he get THIS assignment? Bumblebee was the one who actually liked humans, Ratchet was a natural care giver and healer, and Optimus had the spark for diplomacy. What did he have? He was a weapons specialist—in short, a cannon with legs. How could he be a human guardian?
"What am I worried about?" Ironhide berated himself, "All I have to do is stand guard and blow away any threat. How hard could that be?"
By the time he reached Lennox's house again the sun had finished dipping beneath the horizon, enveloping the land in night. Ironhide scanned the dwelling locating the signatures of Lennox, his female, and his offspring. They all appeared to be clustered in the first floor of the building. Ironhide knew he'd have to get Lennox to come out so he could explain the situation. Perhaps Lennox would reject the order? After all, Optimus did say if he Lennox "wished" him to be his guardian then it would be so. But if said no then Ironhide would have to get a new order.
The Topkick directed its high beams directly into the dwelling windows. Immediately, the Lennox female peeked out the window saying, "Will, your driver is back. Did you forget something?"
Will got up from his seated position quite quickly and headed for the door, "Uh, maybe—maybe. I'll go check."
"You need some help?" she offered.
"No! No. I can get it. I'll be right back." Will lied, making his way out the door.
The soldier strode down his sidewalk in quick steps. As he drew closer he rasped through his teeth, "Roll down your window."
"What? Why?" Ironhide inquired.
Will became insistent, "Roll down your window so it looks like I'm talking to a driver.
Muttering, Ironhide rolled down the window and Will leaned in, pretending to talk to a human driver. "What's wrong Ironhide? Why did you come back?"
The black Autobot sighed through his exhaust, "If you wish it I am to be your guardian."
"Yes. Given the threat the Decepticons pose to you and your family, Optimus has ordered that I be your guardian. But only if you wish it." Ironhide explained as quietly as he could.
Lennox got a funny look on his face and then slowly nodded, "Yeah. I would appreciate that Ironhide. You're sure it's not too much trouble for you?"
For an instant Ironhide thought of admitting his feelings on the matter, but reprimanded himself. He could not let Lennox lose faith in him right away by revealing his reluctance. He would fulfill his duty to the man, feelings be slagged.
"I am at your command Captain Lennox."
"Wow. Thanks Ironhide. You don't know how much this means for me."
Ironhide was about to explain that he did know the meaning when suddenly Sara called from the front porch. "Is everything ok Will?"
Will stiffened, his eyes tilting left to find a lie, "Uh, yeah! Yeah. Sergeant…um…Sergeant Hide here just wanted some directions."
Sara nodded before retreating back inside, "Ok. Don't jaw too long. Your chicken is ready."
When she left Ironhide shifted on his tires, "Sergeant Hide?"
"I panicked." Lennox admitted.
"I'll have you know I am well above the rank of a Sergeant." the weapons specialist insisted with pomposity.
"You humans are confusing beings." Ironhide stated. "When are you going to tell your female about me?"
"Her name is Sara Not 'my female'…" Lennox corrected, his steely eyes hardening.
The Autobot grumbled in his engine, "Fine. When will you tell Sara about me?"
Will scratched his arm, thinking. "I guess tomorrow. Better sooner than later I guess."
There was a brief pause.
"I suppose for now you could pull around back. Sara will get suspicious if she sees you sitting here all night."
Ironhide was about to comply but Lennox interrupted, "So what do you need if you're going to stay here?"
"What do you mean?" Ironhide asked.
Lennox shrugged, "I dunno. A case of oil? A generator? A garage to sleep in?"
Ironhide became increasingly uncomfortable. It wasn't in his nature to accept anything from anyone. "I require nothing Captain Lennox. I can attend to my needs."
"Aw, come on now Ironhide. Isn't there anything you need? I have a nice garage there you can stay in." Lennox offered.
Ironhide curtly rolled up his window, making the man jump back to avoid getting pinched.
"I don't require anything Captain Lennox.", he growled, spinning his tires and rolling around to the back of the property.
Will sighed, noticing dark clouds beginning to boil over the moon, "Stubborn robot."
It was about three in the morning when the first pattering of rain hit the roof of the Lennox house. In less than ten minutes the rain became a torrent of sheeting water. Lightening flashed and thunder boomed overhead, as if the skies were having a massive bowling tournament. Captain Lennox awakened to the sound of his baby girl Annabelle crying across the room, frightened by the violent weather.
The new father groaned, trudging from his bed to the cradle to shush his baby. Mouth agape in a plaintive wail, Annabelle kicked her legs, cheeks freshly wet with tears.
Gently, Will plucked her up to cuddle her, "Aw. Shh. Shh. It's alright Annie. Daddy's here now. Shh."
The baby cried more, still not used to her new daddy's smell or sound.
Sara groggily murmured, "Want me to take her?"
Will yawned, "No, I'm ok. You just sleep. I'll go downstairs with her."
Not arguing Sara's head hit the pillow again, seeming relieved to finally have some help with Annabelle.
Will made his way downstairs to the living room to sit in his favorite recliner. Annabelle sobbed into his chest. As the man was about to sit down he peered out the window. There in the back sat the black Topkick getting thoroughly drenched by the storm outside. The vehicle seemed to be sagging on its tires in a rather miserable state.
"Poor Ironhide." Lennox muttered.
"Stupid, fraggin' precipitation." Ironhide grumbled, bearing the full brunt of the storm.
When it existed Cybertron never had rain and Ironhide had never experienced the Earth phenomenon. At first he thought the moisture was acid, pouring from the sky, but a quick scan revealed it to be nothing but water. Another search indicated the phenomenon was called rain and it occurred at random intervals on Earth.
Ironhide didn't like it. Even though his slick exoskeleton protected his more delicate parts he knew the moisture could get into everything and probably rust up his parts. The last thing he needed was a bad case of rust.
Even though the drone of rain against his metal was deafening he still managed to pick up sounds from inside the Lennox house. There was a plaintive squalling that sounded like a gear squealing loose. What the slag was that? Eventually the sound subsided leaving only the rain and thunder. Ironhide did his level best to huddle under a tree without much success in keeping him dry.
That's when he heard another sound—this one mechanical in nature. His scanners detected it was coming from Lennox's garage. The door was open.
Ironhide stubbornly held his ground. He was much too proud to accept favors from humans, much less his charge. Lightening flashed again and suddenly the rain transformed into tiny pellets of frozen water. Ironhide cringed as the little pebbles of ice pinged off his plating.
"Oh slag it." he cursed. With great care to keep quiet he slowly drove around into the garage.
The warm dry edifice was welcome relief to the old Autobot. He let out a satisfied hiss and relaxed on his tires. That felt much better. Maybe the electrical disturbance shorted out the door? If that was the case he could sneak out once the storm subsided and Captain Lennox would never know.
All at once the garage door shut behind him and Ironhide saw Will standing in the doorway that separated the garage from the house.
"Feel better?" Will asked.
Ironhide grumbled deep but finally said, "Thanks Captain Lennox."
"Will." the man corrected.
"You don't want to be addressed by your soldier name?"
Will shook his head, "Not at home no. Just call me Will and I'll call you Ironhide. Deal?"
Reaching behind him the man pulled a small pile of towels from a cubby in the hallway. "Let's get you dried off. Water spots show terrible on black."
"That won't be necessary." Ironhide insisted, backing up a bit.
Will gave him an exasperated look, "You stubborn hunk of metal! You're worse than my old man."
Taking it the wrong way Ironhide drove forward, making Lennox back up. His voice was a bit too loud, "Who are YOU callin' old?"
"SHH! Not you! My…Oh forget it." Lennox chucked the towels at Ironhide's windshield and turned, "Just get some sleep, geez."
Huffily, Ironhide swiped the towels off with his windshield wipers and relaxed, "Stubborn human"