I don't know where this came from... But here it is.

Thankees, to you know who you are. 8D

And Koo.. My personal spell-check, beta, teddy bear, spider smoosher of cool, muchacha.

Ironhide had never understood how one could be a "deer in the headlights". This may have been because he had never met the hoofed animal, or maybe because fear was a distant echo in his processor. The first time he had heard the phrase was listening to the Major's friend speak to new recruits.

Ironhide stood to the side, half listening to the speech Epps was giving. It was the same as all the other times, even if the wording was different. You would think humans could recite the same speech to ensure everyone got the same, but no..

"You have to be the fastest. You have to be the strongest. You have to be the smartest. You have to be the bravest. If you go out there, and you get caught like a deer in the headlights, you will not survive. Our enemies only need that nanosecond to lock on, and wham. You're toastie, well done, with ashes on the side. They..."

And so Epps droned on. Ironhide paused in thought, and took a moment to Google the phrase. It was way too simple a task to find videos on the matter on the site that so many humans - and the twins- were fond of. Ironhdie watched them on YouTube, and stayed politely for the rest of the speech, but left soon after for the Major's office.

William Lennox looked up from his paperwork as his much larger, much more deadly companion looked into his office. Ironhide's faceplates looked... Confused? This did not bode well.

"What can I do ya for, 'Hide?" He asked casually.

"Will," Ironhide began, using his first given name. Ironhide thought the human's many names and titles were uneeded, and the major thought so as well. It was an understanding between them, and they kept it simple when talking to each other.

"I heard Epps use a phrase. 'Caught like a deer in the headlights'. Looking on your internet, I am confused as to why an animal is so clearly suicidal as death approaches. The light holds no physical bond on them, so why do they remain in harm's way?"

Lennox obviously hadn't been expecting a quesiton like that. He sat there a few minutes to think about his answer carefully.

"Because they do.. It's like.. Fear that holds them there. They see the light coming, they hear the noise, but they lock up. Granted, most do run when they see it, but younger ones, ones that really don't know, don't have the experience, just lock up.. Like when.."

Will struggled to think of an example to give Ironhide.

"Like when you send some recruits into battle for the first time. When bullets are flying and bombs are bursting. They don't know what to do, they've never had something like that happen to them, so they freeze until someone gives them theur orders."

Will wasn't sure at first if the analogy he had given was understood, but soon saw the spark of understanding in Ironhide's optics.

"At the beginning of the war, many mechs, in battle for the first time, would lock up." There was something in that tone he picked out right away, something saddened.

"Fighting wasn't a part of their coding.. Wasn't within their personalities, to be violent, to fight. They became easy pickings.."

Lennox nodded understandably.

"They say fear can't kill you.. its only an emotion. But fear is the number one killer on the battlefield." He said in response.

"We learned fast to condition new recruits to battle through simulation and hardware add-ons. Even still, some were not compatible with the violence asked of them. They never went into battle."

" 'Hide.. This might be personal.. but can I ask you something?"

"If I can, I will answer."

"Were you.. one of those mechs that needed conditioning? I mean.. Now.. None of you guys seem like.. well.. pacifists." Will would have answered his own question with no, but he asked anyways.

"Will, understand that out race was never a violent one. Unlike yours, we never had reasons to be violent. Those who were violent by nature were the first Decepticons."

Lennox nodded for him to continue, accutely aware that there was more to be said.

"I was not inclined to fight at the beginning. I was not inclined to choose any side. I thought the disagreements would just burn themselves out. I was going to stay out of the fight until finally, there was no other choice but to pick a side."

"When.. What finally happened that you chose?"

Ironhide looked at the human, so attentative to his tale, like a sparkling. His optics saddened with his voice, and he continued.

"There was an attack on my city from the Decepticons.. There was no distinguishing between those who were enemies, and those who were innocents. I had managed away unscathed, but so many others hadn't. I was moving through the rubble quickly, trying to find help somewhere.. None had arrived yet. There.. Had been a sparkling. Second frame maybe. Had been out with its Creators for a normal day. I saw it, it was still alive.. I picked it up, was going to take it with me, get it to safety.. Sparklings were so rare those days.."

The following silence betrayed what had happened.

"It died in my servos. And it made me angry. Angrier.. Than I had ever been. I have been angry ever since.. And I won't stop being angry until every one of those slagging traitors of Decepticons are deactivated."

Will saw the rest of Ironhide's emotions get tucked behind that mask of anger and aggresions. He nodded, now understanding just why Ironhide was who he was.

"The anger helped me learn. It kept me alive, and it has made me the soldier I am today, Will. Whenever I see one of thsoe slaggers, I see that dead sparkling, and I see all the other dead. I don't want to see any more dead... I'm angry enough."

The Major nodded.

"I joined our army years ago.. Obviously not as long ago as you, but yanno. There had been attacks in one of our cities.. New York. Terrorists flew planes into our World Trade Center, our twin towers, killing many.. Lots of men signed up for the army in those next months. The face that someone had done that to those innocents.. It was horrible. I used that as my motivation for a few years. Then, when I was alowed home for a bit, something great happened... I had my baby girl, my Annabelle. And that sweet face of hers, and the thought that she and Sarah were waiting for me to get home.. That's what kept me going. It kept me going after the air base was attacked that day. What drove me to survive. What had me fighting in Egypt. Because I want the world to be safer for them.. Because I want to go home to them, I want them to be happy.. And no Fallen, Prime, Decepticon, or Autobot is going to change any of that."

"And that, Will.. Is why we fight together.

"Damn straight it is."

The phrase was soon filed back away from Ironhide's processor. He was absorbed back into the daily routine of NEST. After so many drills, the calls went out.

Enemy was found.

Withing minutes, the restless inhabitants of the base were moving.

In record time, they were on the planes and en route.

"Watch your thermals, and just keep moving!" Will called out, swinging into Ironhide's cab. The mech thought this was common sense, but said nothing. It was time for the new recruits to prove themselves.

"Let's roll out."

The Decepticon was easy enough to find when they reached the town he was taking refuge in. Despite orders to keep it clean, this one was proving quite difficult to pin down. Two houses had collapsed, three more were on fire, and the majority of streets were going to need repairs when this was done. However, they soon had the enemy pinned down.

The Decepticon knew there was no way out, and as such, was fighting with no regard for its own safety. Ironhdie thought the phrase for this particular instance had something to do with animals and cages, but couldn't be bothered to think it up right now. There was work to do.

Blast after blast was sent at the enemy, who just wouldn't stay still, wouldn't go down. A single, perfect blast from him could have ended it quicker, but no, the fragger was determined to drown in sabot rounds, focusing in on a group of the humans on the side of the street that had clumped together during battle to hold a point.

An instinctive move, but not the smartest.

Ironhide went to lock on as a cannon recharged, noting somewhere in the back of his processor that it was the new recruits. It was always the slaggin' newbies. Some of the older soldiers called them the "red shirts" of NEST, but he failed to see what the color of one's clothing had to do with being targets so much.

It took the Decepticon nanoclicks shorter to lock on than it did Ironhide.

Both blasts did find their marks.

Blood spilled.

Energon sprayed.

Rocks flew.

Metal screeched.

The dust settled, and Ironhide was already moving for the deathblow.

One human was still eft of the group. That one Decepticon was left standing, servo pressed to a sparking hole that scattered energon as he moved.

Glassy, human eyes met flickering red optics.

Ironhide watched the scene play out as he moved, trying to make sense of it.

The recruit won his battle to stand, but did no more than that. The Decepticon raised its cannon, pointed, and fireed. The human held still. He watched the blast race for him, intense, brilliant, scorching, intense, and bright.

If he had started moving immediately, he would've made it.

But he held still.

There was no time to get out of the way.

There wasn't a body left to bury.

Seconds later, there was little 'Con left to dump in the ocean.

Ironhide and Will exchanged looks as they left the battlefield, both of their minds on the conversation from a few weeks ago. Both had the same thoughts.

Deer in the headlights.

Finally, it was time for Lennox to return home to spend time with his family. Ironhide found himself almost as eager as the human for the time off.

They arrived in time for a family reunion of Will's mate. Something it was obvious he would rather not attend. Ironhide didn't want to either. However, Sarah was adamant on at least Will coming, so needless to say.. they went.

Will was soon dragged off to be put through a traditional ordeal called the "mother-in-law" And Ironhide was left in his alt form in the parking lot to the park, where said event was being help. Annabelle was off playing with the other sparklings.

He allowed himself to drift into a state of half-recharge as he waited for this event to end. It had to eventually. Not much attention was left to his surroundings.

That was, until he had heard the scream. It was different from the sounds made by playing humans, and Ironhide's systems and sensors snapped to life immediately. No unfamiliar energon signatures detected. No weapons of any kind detected.

The next scans were done before his processor was fully even awake. He could tell Sarah was the one that had screamed, and Will was running from or to something.. Annabelle was...

Annabelle was standing in the road, just watching a vehickle hurtle closer to her. Ironhide couldn't move. He saw that sparkling again, dying, that spark flickering and jumping before it gave out. In the same way, he could see her dying, that frail body giving out to the metal.

There was no time for him to act. He had locked up. The car sped closer. His gears ground. He couldn't change, couldn't help , not here... Sensors remained fixed on her.

And there was a blur of clothing, and a hollow thud.

His processor floundered.

Slowly, the scene replayed in his optics.

Will.. His Will was laying in the streeet, wrapped around his sparkling. There had been a crunch of bone.. He could hear it replaying, and instinctively went to change, before holding back at the last minute, parts minutely shifting.

There were life signs for both of them. All he could do in public was let the humans scurry around, get their mundane emergency services working..

He wasn't happy with that.

But he was even less happy with the fact he had locked up.

The phrase ran through his processor again, unbidden, but as looming and cold as an iceberg.

Like.. Like a deer in the headlights.

Luckily, the car had been slow enough, and had dealt a glancing blow to the Major and his child.

A few broken ribs for Will.

Nothing for Annabelle.

Ironhide cuold only muse on their good fortune. He used the thought to steer him away from others, such as the way he had locked up. He still couldn't explain why.. But he had respect for a certain Earth animal.

Which was why one night, driving along a wooded, winding road, exiting from a potential site of an enemy, he kept his scanners sharp. But not only for Decepticons.

As he had a hunch would happen, the antlered animal made its appearance. Dainty hooves danced onto the tarmac, and wide, dark eyes fixed on the approaching truck as the animal went as still as stone. Ironhide could see each tine, bright in the beam of his headlights. Inside his cab, Will stirred for a moment, then went back to sleep.

The deer stood, proud in what might be its final moments, ears perked.

Ironhide dimmed his lights.

And for all those who might find themselves taken by fear or locked up... Ironhide slowed and yielded.

He yielded to the Earth animal.

He yielded for anyone who would find themselves a deer caught in the headlights. Ironhide may not have understood the animal's lesson before, but he did now.

Sometimes... Sometimes the greater strength lay in not striking.

In letting the deer walk.