Title: Four Conversations That Ironhide Had With William Lennox... and One That He Didn't (Yet)

Rating: PG-13 for a few curse words, Cybertronian and human.

Disclaimer: Nothing in here is mine. Can't even claim English as my first language, so there.

Warnings: Spoilers for RotF, but not the books or comics, most of which I haven't read and will cheerfully ignore. Two of the conversations are set between the movies, one during RotF, and two after.

Summary: Ironhide tries to get used to his human allies. Lennox learns that you can only balance two loyalties for so long before you have to choose. Slight AU near the end of it.

A/N: The fifth conversation was inspired by Steelfeathers' awesome fic Instability, because her writing and the idea of Sam as an honorary Cybertronian triggered some very insistent bunnies. She's a fantastic author, so go read that fic if you haven't already. It's That Good and this fic will still be here when you're done.

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1.

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It took some time for Ironhide to get used to working closely with humans. They were small and fragile and organic and didn't have a very long lifespan and he did not comprehend Bumblebee's willingness to stay with a human – and one that was barely more than a sparkling, at that.

Thus, when Optimus Prime - much to Ironhide's annoyance - had insisted that they became acquainted with these new allies, Ironhide had responded with a grumbling sound that could, with some generosity, have been interpreted as "Lennox" and that was the end of that. The human in question's agreement was implied as Ironhide's expression had left little room to argue, but he had still been satisfied at the human's obvious glee as he was informed of it.

The human was a soldier with an obvious fondness for destructive weaponry and that spoke well of him. The fact that he had been willing to take on Blackout only cemented this fact, and if Ironhide had to put up with a human, it could at least be a tolerable and useful one, as this one shaped up to be.

For one, Lennox did not seem to think there was such a thing as 'overkill' on the training ground where Ironhide kept his cannons and aim in proper shape (his exact words, Ironhide's memory processors informed him, had been "Holy shit!" followed by "Do that again!"), nor did he waste much time with unnecessary questions. Ironhide was an ally, if a much larger one that happened to be made of metal, and that was the end of it. Lennox' questions revolved mostly around military subjects, as was appropriate for their situation, and Ironhide approved of that.

It didn't hurt that the human could keep a secret and when Ironhide used the body of a recently offlined 'Con for an impromptu lesson in Decepticon anatomy for his new human charge, the only reaction had been a flash of surprise followed by close attention. It was a 'Con, in Ironhide's logic, and its body might as well be useful for once in its worthless existence before it was properly disposed of. He would have been unwilling to share the same knowledge with the rest of their human allies, untested as most of them were, but his particular human had a sense of honour. If this knowledge would one day come to be used against them, it would not be at Lennox's hand.

"We need better weapons," the human finally breathed, and he looked caught somewhere between worry and admiration. Ironhide couldn't fault the man in that. It was the first time he had been given the chance to get a proper look at their new enemy outside of battle, and human weapons were not made for use against Cybertronian enemies.

Hands carefully touched a piece of shoulder plating, careful to avoid anything that might cause a human body harm, then tugged experimentally on the edge of it.

"Better weapons or a lot better aim," Lennox continued. "There are weak spots but it's blind luck if we manage to hit those in a battle. We need a lot better weapons for this."

Ironhide nodded and let the human continue his careful evaluation and for a moment he was reminded of nothing more than a curious sparkling. He huffed at the mental image that produced, and the human looked at him questioningly before he returned to the Decepticon body.

Still avoiding the hazardous results of broken wires and twisted metal, he leaned closer and stretched to step over a puddle of coolant and Energon and oil and whatever else had been torn from the 'Con's body at Ironhide's killing shot. "Definitely weak spots, though," the human mused and Ironhide listened, curious about his conclusions. "Cut some of these wires, and the whole arm would probably go." A pause before he continued. "Shit, with less fragile bodies we might even have been able to take them on. We're a lot smaller, but that body there was mostly intended to defend against something of the same size as itself. There are plenty of places to target it... It's just the problem of getting close enough without dying."

"All species have their weaknesses," Ironhide agreed. He was about to continue when the human spoke again and Ironhide felt actual surprise to hear the human's words echo his own thoughts.

"And we should probably dump this wherever it belongs before Optimus Prime starts to wonder where the hell we are." There was a bit of regret in his voice – you could never know too much about your enemy, after all – but then he shook it off. "Thank you, 'Hide. I appreciate it. Gotta know what we're up against."

Ironhide nodded. "We are allies," he replied as Lennox stepped aside and he took a firm grip on the offlined body. It didn't take much to haul it across the wide expanse of concrete and hide it underneath a sheet of plastic – they would lock the hangar and the body would stay there until it was convenient to dispose of it, away from curious eyes.

Lennox waited by the door and watched as he approached and there was something in his stance that made Ironhide give him an inquiring look. It looked like hesitation and the human's voice confirmed it when he spoke.

"If there's anything I can help you with – anything at all – let me know," he said. "You're right, we're allies, and having the higher-ups bitch isn't going to change a thing. I know you have my back. That's good enough for me."

Ironhide kneeled carefully and held down a hand to the human and it was a credit to his trust in them that he simply stepped into the offered hand and held on to one finger as Ironhide rose again. Humanity might be an ally now, he realised, but it was not the proper term for someone who fought and killed and might one day die at your side.

"Brothers in arms, then," the mech concluded and the human nodded his approval of the term.

****

2.

****

Ironhide suspected that his human charge wasn't consciously aware of it, but his language had increasingly started to mirror the Cybertronian one. It was not a language meant to be spoken by human voice processors, and the Autobots spoke English around their allies out of politeness and respect, but their expressions still echoed the language of their birth. Human curses as a whole made little sense to a species of mechs and so they used English translations of the Cybertronian curses they were used to.

Lennox, who spent as much time with them as any human did, had started to pick up on that. Little things but unmistakeably there. Not much, usually, but sometimes...

"Blow it out your afterburners, scrapheads," the human muttered and sent the papers in his hand a dark glare before he threw them on his desk with a disgusted look. "Slag you, too."

Ironhide, with a sensor trained on Lennox from habit alone, pause in his maintenance routine and tilted his head questioningly. He didn't need to ask. Lennox had developed a keen awareness of his guardian and noticed the gesture immediately and sighed, running a hand through his hair as he crossed the room to the weapons specialist.

"I hate politics. Slagging aftheads don't get what we're doing here. We're in the middle of an alien war, and they play politics and complain about procedures and secrets and the only slagging allies we have in this war."

"Killing them would make their successors more cooperative," Ironhide suggested and it was a testament to the human's frustration that he actually seemed to consider it for a moment before he sighed again.

"It would give us too much paperwork to be worth it. That sort of people never learn. There'll always be new ones to take their place."

Responding to cues only known to the two of them, Ironhide picked up the Ranger and put him gently on the Cybertronian-sized table and Lennox sat down, one leg dangling over the edge. "How's the upgrade doing?"

Ironhide patted one cannon affectionately. "Very well," he responded. "I get first shot at the next 'Con we find. We won't need a second shot."

Lennox grinned, and his fingers danced restlessly against the table to a happy little tune only he could hear. "I do love a well-armed ally."

Ironhide paused at that, the human's curses not forgotten, and then he shrugged slightly. "There are those who would disagree."

"Slagging idiots," Lennox said darkly. "If they had it their way, we would have been overrun by 'Cons by now. Stupidity in powerful positions. They would have handed Megatron the world on a platter."

"Good thing, then, that we have allies with common sense to fight back," Ironhide said carefully and considered his next words. Subtle had never been his strong suit, and in the end he simply asked what had made him wonder rather than skirt around the issue. "Not all approve of our presence here. Some might claim you have grown too close to us to be loyal to your military anymore."

In any other case, Lennox would have bristled at the insinuation, but not now.

"Politics," he sighed. "You're our allies. You've risked your life for us. We've done the same for you. Of course we've grown close." A pause, then frustration. "Sometimes it feels like I spend more time juggling politics than fighting actual 'Cons."

"Prime would agree with you," Ironhide rumbled, but there was a bit of amusement in his voice. "You curse in our language, Major Lennox. You can't speak Cybertronian but you use the English translations of it."

Lennox looked sheepish at that. "It's not on purpose, and Sarah's said she'd have my balls if Annabelle starts to do the same." He shrugged. "We live around your guys. I guess it was bound to rub off."

"As the Internet does to us," Ironhide added dryly.

Lennox snorted. "That, too." He fell silent and Ironhide could almost physically feel the shift in the human's mood as brown eyes met blue optics and lips formed a wry smile. "And when we finally get a lock on Starscream, it would be nice to piss him off in terms he understands. If he wants us dead, we might as well give him a reason."

A nice reminder that this human knew perfectly well what they were facing, even if his politicians did not.

"Sam's their main target, he's always going to be, but..."

Lennox trailed off and Ironhide finished the sentence for him. "But you humiliated the 'Cons when you shot Blackout and you are the ranking human in the field with us. You will be a target for that."

Lennox shrugged at that. "Yeah. Just means I've done something right, I guess." He snorted. "At least they don't want me as a pet. Poor kid. He still has nightmares about that one."

It was not something Ironhide could identify with on any other level than disgust at Megatron's actions, and so he simply watched as Lennox stretched and gave him a pointed look. "So, you going to show off that upgraded baby eventually, or do we have to kidnap you when you're in recharge to get a look?"

Ironhide recognised a change of topic when he saw it and the dark mech smirked and held out a hand to the human. "I did see some offending rocks when I last ventured outside. We should rectify that."

Lennox grinned and accepted the invitation.

****

3.

****

Ironhide knew Lennox was up to something almost as soon as Lennox himself did. There were advantages to keeping a sensor trained on his human charge, after all.

For a moment Ironhide cursed the lack of a private communication line with the human, then threw in some choice words about the stupidity of the new humans on base that, unfortunately, were also not stupid enough to neglect keeping them all under surveillance, and then he snarled one final time and stomped over to Lennox, because no one was currently stupid enough to try and stop him.

He didn't transform into his alt-mode. He was not going to pack his cannons away for any amount of Energon.

Lennox looked up as he approached, and Ironhide reached down with one hand, inviting the human to step into it.

"We should discuss a proper Cybertronian burial," he growled. The voice was mostly for the benefit of the new humans, and it had the intended effect as several of them took half a step back and raised their weapons slightly.

Ironhide huffed, causing several more nervous looks, and then Lennox waved them aside and stepped into the offered hand. "It's fine. He's not going to do anything." Then, looking up at his guardian as the hand rose, he added, "And yes, we should."

Making sure his human wouldn't fall, Ironhide stomped away again and he could feel the tension in the human's stance fade slightly as they moved out of hearing range of unwanted listeners.

"We got coordinates. Egypt," Lennox said before Ironhide could ask. "From Sam. Through Simmons, so they wouldn't get tracked. He thinks they might have a chance of bringing Optimus back."

Primus.

If they could have brought Jazz back, they would have, but the human sparkling did have the All-Spark in his mind, and maybe...

"It can be done?"

Lennox took a deep breath. "Sam seems to think so. If you agree... We're due back at Diego Garcia, but the pilots are on our side and I outrank them. We could pull it off."

Optimus.

He should talk with Ratchet, but he already suspected what the answer would be. The human carried knowledge none of them knew the limits of. If he thought there was any chance at all to bring their Prime back, however small that chance might be...

"We have to try. If the boy is willing to risk it, we will do nothing less."

Lennox nodded and if he had any reservations about it all, they didn't show. "I'll get things settled with my team, then. With all the slag going on, we can pull it off. Before Galloway realises something's wrong, we'll be in Egypt, and after that, it's up to the kid." He paused. "I'll send a message to General Morshower when we're airborne. The 'Cons will find us there, they're not that stupid. We can try to hide, but we'll need the backup if we're spotted, and he has our back."

Ironhide nodded and was drawing up a mental list of things to be done even before Lennox had finished speaking. They had little time to prepare, but that would work in their favour. They were Autobots. They had everything they needed for this mission with them already.

There was the sound of a faint whistle, and human and mech turned their heads in unison to see Epps waving in the distance.

Reacting to another of those silent cues that they had developed through time and close proximity, William Lennox reached out to steady himself against one large metal finger even as Ironhide began to walk back to the group of humans near the buildings. The NEST team was prepared to back them in this. All his human charge needed now was the Autobots' confirmation that the plan was a go.

"We will be ready," he stated, and gave it.

****

4.

****

His cooling fans were a low hum against the noise of the carrier, working steadily as he lay sprawling in the sunlight. There was little shade to be found that wasn't already crowded and Ironhide was not a small mech.

He wouldn't always have bothered, but now they kept the temperature of his shielding tolerable to humans, and at the moment, that was a serious concern to Ironhide. There was sand and rocks and fragments of who-knew-what stuck in joints and coating wires and starting to clog part of his cannons, and while he could have spent the rest of the day getting rid of all that desert slag on his own, he was not going to refuse when someone offered to help.

Hence the cooling fans and hence one Army Ranger resting against his chest plating as he carefully cleaned out the miniature desert that had settled in Ironhide's shoulder joints. There were, Ironhide had realised, advantages to being that small. Not enough to make up for the squishiness and the lack of shielding and all, but still advantages.

"You need a bath," Lennox muttered, mostly to himself, "Gets rid of this slag like you wouldn't believe."

"I don't float," Ironhide stated, because there was nothing wrong with his audio receivers, and humans looked silly when they were talking to themselves.

"Didn't stop Megatron." Another mutter, and a handful of pebbles was dropped into the bucket at Lennox's side to join the other pounds of desert landscape they had collected so far. "If there's any justice in the world, those goddamn 'Cons will spend the rest of their miserable existence digging sand out of their afts."

A very short remaining miserable existence, if Ironhide had anything to say about it. They had lost comrades in the battle. Regained some, too, but lost even more. The Decepticons had much to answer to, and having their Prime back acutely reminded Ironhide of just how much more they could have lost. They had been fortunate, but it had still come at a loss, and Ratchet would be busy for a good while yet with the wounded. Ironhide, tougher than just about anyone, had been patched up to a point where he could function again and then Ratchet had turned to the other wounded and Ironhide had been given strict orders to submit to a full repair once the emergencies were taken care of. Ratchet hadn't liked it, of course, but they had many injured and they both knew that Ironhide, with the major issues fixed, could wait until things calmed down again. Lennox, with no proper shielding as Ironhide saw it, was under orders to rest and take it easy for the remainder of their trip to Diego Garcia. His injuries were normal for humans. Bruises, a sprained ankle, and a mild concussion that the human claimed was already gone again. It could have been worse. Much worse.

"They should dig fast, then," Ironhide stated. "They will not live long."

Lennox stayed silent and continued his patient cleaning of the wide expanse of mech body. He would have used a hose at home, but this was an aircraft carrier and giving the Autobot a soak was a matter of convenience more than necessity. They could give him a better scrub when they got back on dry land.

Shoulder joint finished, he shifted and turned his attention to the chest plates instead, and Ironhide heard the long, slow inhalation of air from the human. His sensors revealed nothing out of the ordinary but Lennox answered his question before he could ask.

"Salt. Fresh air. Metal, oil, Energon..." The voice trailed off and soft hands patted his arm. "Just glad to have you here, 'Hide."

They could have left the planet. Ironhide would have missed the human if they had done so, and knew the feeling would have been mutual. Humans were more obvious about their feelings, even those in the military. Lennox had fought for them. He would not have taken their departure lightly.

"The sentiment is mutual, Will."

They fell silent as the human continued the patient post-battle routine that had almost become a ritual, and Ironhide's sensors followed their own rituals as well, scanned the human repeatedly to reaffirm the presence of an ally in his mind and ensure that his awareness of this small brother in arms was as strong as it could be. It made it easier to pinpoint the human's location in battle and avoid injuring him on accident.

It was not an unpleasant task. It was much like reaching out to a companion or bonding with Autobot comrades at whose side he had fought and bled. William Lennox did not have the same spark as Cybertronians, nor did he possess the same ability to talk through data transmissions, but it was a pleasant connection nonetheless and Ironhide was not averse to it.

"How is Chromia?" Lennox finally asked.

Chromia, who was not high on Ratchet's list of patients, but whose sisters most certainly had been. Chromia, who had a firm place in Ironhide's spark, and the large gunner made a sound that could almost be interpreted as a sigh. "Improving," he said, "Now that her sisters are. It is the nature of close bonds."

Lennox nodded and fell silent again as he dug out a particularly stubborn bit of rock that had jammed under one piece of shielding. Ironhide moved obediently as his human nudged his arm, and a few struggling moments later, the rock came loose with a sharp sound and landed a few feet away.

It, too, ended up in the bucket, and Ironhide relaxed again. That particular one had annoyed him for a while now, and he could feel human fingers brush the plating lightly where it had been.

"Looks good to me," Lennox reported. "Not a scratch. Way to go, alien paint job."

Ironhide huffed, and fell silent as the human continued his work, and finally he said what he had been considering since the battle in Egypt.

"You took a considerable risk to bring us here." A pause. "Thank you."

He felt Lennox go still at his side before those hands started working again. "You're friends. I trust you. You've saved my aft in battle before, and Optimus Prime died to protect one of us. If there was any chance at all that we might bring him back, we had to take it."

"Against orders," Ironhide pointed out, and Lennox shrugged even as Ironhide's sensors confirmed the continued tension in the human's body.

"Shaving sucks when you can't look yourself in the eyes." The Major tried for a joke but it fell flat and he sighed, suddenly sounding tired. "What's done is done, 'Hide. I'll manage. It's part of the job."

There was a reason why Ironhide had chosen to stay with this particular human, and now he was reminded of that again. A soldier in a highly unusual situation, but a soldier nonetheless, and sometimes you did things for your brothers in arms that would get the scrap heaped on you to keep your comrades safe. Ironhide had plenty of scars that spoke of taking plasma blasts and laser fire so someone else didn't have to.

What Lennox had done was no different and Ironhide could respect that.

Patient hands began their work again, and the two beings fell silent. What Lennox was thinking, Ironhide could not know, but the mech had his suspicions and his own processors circled around the same.

Ironhide himself could do nothing. But he knew someone who might.

****

5.

****

Optimus Prime was silent when Ironhide found him, watching the night sky from the deck of the carrier with no clouds to block the starlight. He hadn't been hard to find. A soundless conversation had let him know where to find his commander, and Ironhide had suspected where even before initialising contact. The boy was recharging – asleep, a part of Ironhide's mind corrected, but he didn't particularly care – and so were most of the rest of the humans, leaving their Prime free of the various debriefings.

"Ironhide." The voice was the same as always, commanding and concerned and that core of power, and Ironhide tipped his head slightly in respect. He hadn't done that before, but this was different. Their Prime had died and been revived and on some level, Ironhide's processors were still reeling.

Ironhide didn't bother with niceties. The humans would still be up soon, and then they would be busy once more and his questions would have to wait again. "You have talked of making the boy a ward of Cybertron."

Silence as their Prime focused his optics on the heavy gunner and seemed to consider where the statement might lead. "Even more so now," Optimus Prime confirmed. "With all that has happened... For better or for worse, his destiny is tied with ours. I fear we might one day no longer be able to protect him in their hands. To remove him from his home may one day be the lesser of two evils. It will remove any human claim on him, and there are undesirable specimens among them, even as there are among us."

Sector Seven, neither of them said, and didn't have to, and they both knew perfectly well that even with that factor out of the game, there would still be others who would want nothing more than get their hands on the boy who had lived and died and lived again and carried the All-Spark in his mind.

"Eventually," Prime continued, "It may be our only remaining option."

Ironhide nodded and Optimus Prime stayed silent and simply watched his weapon specialist. There was a flicker of something in his optics, a slight shift of armour, and then the mech raised his head slightly, optics narrowed in near-defiance. "I wish for Major Lennox to be included in that agreement," he stated and there was no yield in his voice. "Slag 'eventually'. The boy will have time before people stop running about like headless drones, but Lennox doesn't. Put him in the agreement and make slagging sure you don't have an extradition treaty in the works."

Hesitation, almost too slight to be measured as Optimus Prime accessed second-hand data he still hadn't had time to analyse properly, and he refocused on his gunner. "Explain." Not as much a command as a request, because the data was there, courtesy of his own team, but he strongly suspected this had to do with human military, and there had been a lot to sort out after he had been brought back online, and he didn't wish to overlook something.

"He chose sides. It wasn't the human one."

"We are allies, Ironhide." Optimus Prime's voice was calm but the objection lacked any serious conviction as he watched his weapon specialist. "To choose to assist us in this-"

"-Broke at least half a dozen of their laws," Ironhide finished for him. "Mutiny for conspiring with us. Failure to obey a direct order, conspiring against Galloway, and providing false orders for his men, for a start. Treason, if his superiors take a particularly dim view of what he did. Make no mistake, Prime. The fact that his General sent support changes nothing. He has no future in their military after this."

"We are not the enemy," Prime said quietly, but his expression was troubled.

"Some would disagree. He has made powerful enemies on our behalf to keep this alliance going. Half a dozen laws," Ironhide repeated, "In the very least. He intends to take the full blame for this, his actions have shown me as much. If he does, the NEST team will need a new leader but the extent of their loyalty to us will not be too closely questioned."

"I am surprised to hear you, of all people, suggest using a scapegoat." Prime said, and it wasn't a judgement as much as a simple observation. "You know he did not lie to his men."

"The evidence will say otherwise."

If there was any yield in Ironhide's voice, Optimus didn't find it, and he fell silent as he watched the gunner, processors working fast to catch up with the reasons behind. Ironhide simply waited, unmoving, a black monolith against the grey of the carrier behind him. He understood their Prime's hesitation. To plant evidence against a respected, well-liked ally, even with the permission and blessing he would doubtlessly give if asked...

"You know more of politics than you would admit to," Optimus finally said and even if there was no change in his stance or voice, no sign at all that he had reached a decision, Ironhide knew the argument was won. His Prime would still want to hear his reasons, but the argument was won.

"You are right," he continued. "I may not agree with the methods, but... We can not afford to lose the NEST team. We need our allies now more than ever. If Major Lennox takes full responsibility, they will go free."

Another pause and Ironhide suspected he knew what went through their Prime's processors. Concern, worry, guilt – he knew him well enough for that – and following right on their heel, that familiar thoughtfulness as he considered the situation and any other courses of action, of which there were precious few.

"Still, he has a family," Prime finally said. Mate, sparkling, both at home while the human fought at their side, as if Ironhide didn't know.

"So has the boy," Ironhide retorted. "And I doubt you would prevent his parents from visiting him." He hesitated, barely noticeable, before he continued. "Families can be relocated, Prime. He thinks like us. He curses in Cybertronian terms. He knows the weak spots of Decepticon shielding as well as any Autobot does. It's luck that he has never had to choose between two loyalties before. He made his choice when he brought us to Egypt and he knew the price of it. He is ours in all but name."

Silence again.

"He would make a good liaison," Prime said quietly. "Perhaps it was always meant to happen. His superiors were never... enthusiastic about this alliance. There has always been those who believed he was too loyal to us to hold this position. Some will be angry that we interfere in this by claiming him as a citizen of Cybertron, but most, I believe, would prefer to simply see the matter settled. To dig too deep into this may reveal more than anyone would like. A court-martial would provide some closure and serve as a warning to his successor on behalf of his superiors not to make that same mistake."

And a court-martial there would be, Ironhide had no doubt of that. With the target of it conveniently unavailable, too, he also didn't doubt that the sentence would be harsh. Let the humans take out their anger on the few of their kind that actually fought for their future. Fleshling logic at its finest.

Optimus Prime watched him for a long moment, and Ironhide sighed and answered the question their Prime did not need to ask.

"Will he hate us for this?" Ironhide asked. "Yes. For a while. He will do it for his men and agree to the planted evidence, but there will still be a part of him that counted on arguing his case in the court-martial and getting away with a mild sentence. A stain on his career, but worth it. He would still have his name and respect for doing what he did. We will take away his command, his human rank, his citizenship, his reputation. Doing this would be a direct admittance of guilt and more than a few might see it as a coward's way of evading the consequences of his actions. Treason, even, in some cases. Will he accept it in the end? He adapts. He adapted to us, to the 'Cons, to fighting a war that was never theirs. Yes. Given time, he will understand. He has a place and a purpose here. As long as he knows that, he will adapt."

Optimus Prime nodded slowly, and Ironhide suspected he knew what went through those processors. It was a brutal thing to do to a warrior – to an ally, no less – but this one was too valuable to lose to politics. They could work around it, but in the end, it would be easier for all if he was simply not part of the human command chain anymore. He was a veteran of this war in human terms and the 'Cons were still out there. They couldn't afford to lose any allies these days.

Once, Ironhide would have hated himself for what he had put into motion, but that was a long time ago. Lennox would understand eventually. Most would come to see it as a punishment, exile for however long his life would last in their war, but Lennox would adapt and understand. It was war and war demanded sacrifices.

"We do not have much of a choice, then," Prime said, echoing what Ironhide already knew. "You are right, of course." A flicker of hesitation. "I had planned to wait to bring it up again until the situation settled down, but in light of this most recent development... Yes. I will bring it to their attention. I had a suggestion drafted already. Waiting would be wasting time we may not have."

Ironhide nodded, released tension in his body that he hadn't even been aware of, and then Optimus Prime's attention was back on him. "Someone will need to inform Major Lennox. He will need time to... come to terms with it. It is his country and he has served its military loyally in his adult years. He may not accept this easily."

"It's war," Ironhide said, more gruffly than he felt, and left and it's better than the alternatives unsaid between them. "It was my suggestion. I will speak to him."

Optimus Prime nodded, and Ironhide ignored the brief gratitude in his features. Their leader had enough on his shoulders. Lennox would not take it well, Ironhide knew. He would have felt the same in the human's place. It didn't change the fact that there was no other obvious choice, and that whoever confronted him would have a very angry human on their hands, and Optimus Prime was still Optimus Prime and still cared. There was no reason for him to have to handle that part of it. This was military business involving a brother in arms and this...

...This, Ironhide could handle for him.