Chapter 1: Chapter 1

-0-The Diego Diaries

It all begins

=0=Diego Garcia, Indian Ocean, Earth

The rain was falling in torents onto the roof of the hangar from the monsoon overhead, sheets of it for days and Ironhide was bored out of his processor. Out on the vast tarmac crews still worked, planes still came and went. Nothing else was different. However if you didn't have to leave your shelter all was reasonably good. Occasionally an organic would come out of a hangar or building and run as fast as they could to wherever they were going, some even carrying shelters over them as they did. He considered that word, umbrella; it being an almost unspeakable set of syllables and while he did he was only dimly aware of something moving behind him.

"There you are."

He would have sighed if he could have. He stood quietly trying to be invisible. "Humph."

"Don't humph me, bad boy," Ratchet said moving to stand next to his prey.

"Bad boy?" Ironhide asked glancing at the smirking figure beside him. He accessed the internet, the multiple possibilities presenting themselves. "Bad boy as in 'good boy'? Bad boy as in 'amazing and tremendous'?"

"No, 'bad boy' as in bad boy. I've been looking for you for a while," Ratchet said folding his arms across his chassis. "You're overdue."

"Maybe you better check yourself. I've been here all along. Could be, Ratchet, you need a long internal diagnostic," Ironhide said concluding that the 'concern' in his voice fooled no one.

"I think we did that last night," Ratchet said smirking at his bond mate. "I didn't hear complaints then."

Ironhide snorted. "No. You were adequate."

Ratchet moved to stand in front of Ironhide unconcerned that water was now pounding on his back and aft. "Adequate?"

Ironhide with devilment rising in his processor smirked. "Adequate."

"Ah," Ratchet said with water beginning to run over his helm and down his face and shoulders as he straightened, his body language defensive and calculating at the same time. It put Ironhide on alert, this mix of hell and hellisher. "I give you the best vorns of my life and all you can say is 'adequate'?"

"I'm not complaining," Ironhide said smirking slightly.

"Well, since we're grading performance," Ratchet said moving slightly closer. "I think you need a few upgrades, Ironhide. I find that there are certain performance levels that could use a bit of enhancement."

"Such as?" Ironhide asked with slight offense ghosting in his remarks.

"You squeak."

Ironhide stared at Ratchet, his optics searching his bond's face for the punch line. There wasn't one. "I squeak."

"You squeak. Get to med bay and don't make me have to come find you again." Ratchet with satisfaction on his face turned to walk inside leaving a perturbed quizzical Ironhide behind.

Ironhide stood in the doorway ruminating on himself. He didn't hear the voice below calling out to him. Will Lennox, a raincoat held over his head stood below looking up at the distracted figure looming in the doorway. "Ironhide!"

Startled out of his thoughts, Ironhide looked below. "Will Lennox," he said, his mud-flavored voice acknowledging the human at last.

Will shook his raincoat and folded it turning his gaze upward again. "What's up, Ironhide? You look distracted."

Ironhide looked at him for a moment considering something. "May I ask you a question?"

"Sure," Will replied, a grin forming on his face. When Ironhide asked a question it could be and always was just about anything, half the time something hilarious. "Ask away."

He considered Lennox for a moment, then leaned down slightly. "Do I squeak?"

=0=A few breems later

He sat on the med berth, jacks and wires poked into him as if he was a switchboard at a telephone station from the 1930's. He sat restlessly, an expression of exasperation on his face as Ratchet ran an in-depth exploration of his internal and external fitness. The medic murmured to himself taking notes on datapads, subspacing and retrieving a number of them as he mused on Ironhide. Glancing up, their eyes meeting, Ratchet smiled. This was his domain, the place from which great kingdoms rose or fell. He could ground even Prime if he felt it was warranted. "Quit fidgeting."

"I'm not fidgeting," Ironhide said fidgeting. "I think the humans have too many words."

Ratchet snorted. "They have words for their words."

Ironhide nodded. "Perceptive of you."

Ratchet glanced up smirking. "How perceptive of *you*."

Ironhide considering the smugness with which Ratchet was conducting himself once more felt the slight of their different educational attainments. Ratchet was the best medical mechanic ever produced by Cybertron's university system and he was a warrior who graduated from the military academy, a totally different intellectual route to adulthood, though both were cunning, intellectual and sneaky. One studied a more diverse list of subjects, read different books and had different experiences, such as labs and the like. He himself? He learned a great deal especially about blowing the slag out of things. Albeit, he was the most feared warrior in the Autobot Army but nonetheless he was a soldier first, last and always. "Indubitably," he said turning his eyes to stare at the hallway where a couple of mechs were standing waiting their turn.

"Ah, you've been frolicking in the fields of the internet once again," Ratchet said as a smile formed on his face. "Tilt your helm."

"I do not frolic. I AM IRONHIDE! DESTROYER OF WORLDS, SLAG IT!" he said. Ironhide tilted his head and another jack was inserted, a buzz in his processor tingling all the way to his lips. He touched them and scowled at Ratchet. "That makes my lips tingle."

"I know something else that does," Ratchet said softly waggling his optical ridges at his partner.

Ironhide felt himself grinning in spite of himself. "You're feeling frisky."

"I have my moments," he said even more quietly. He glanced at the door, then back at Ironhide. "I'd show you if there wasn't a line waiting for me."

"That sounds suggestive," Ironhide said smirking.

Ratchet thought a moment, then snorted. Glancing back at the doorway, then toward Ironhide, he smiled. "I guess it pays to advertise. Sit up straight."

Ironhide straightened and fell silent as Ratchet took his arm and began to raise, lower and rotate it, watching the socket's performance as he did. "It works."

"That's for me to say," Ratchet said laying it down to walk to the other side. He took that arm and began to do the same.

"Am I done?" Ironhide asked with exasperation.

"No," Ratchet said putting down that arm to write notes on a datapad he had lying on the med bed. He turned and began to pull plugs out of Ironhide's body closing panels on his neck, arms and in the middle of his chest. "Now you are."

Ironhide grunted and slid to his feet. "About time," he said.

"I don't tell you your job, don't tell me mine. Go, blow something up."

Ironhide grinned at Ratchet and nodded. "Think I will." He walked to the door then paused. Glancing back at Ratchet he smirked at the mechs waiting. "Enjoy," he said. Then he turned and walked out the door.

Ratchet watched him go, pleased that he was functioning above 98%. It was in the range he labored long and hard to maintain for Ironhide. Old slagger, Ratchet thought as he turned and called the next victim to come forward.

-0-Shooting range

Ironhide walked to the firing line, passing sailors and soldiers, marines, air men and women with the odd civilian. This base was top secret and their presence here highly guarded. They were ultimately the greatest show on base. He arrived, then set down his latest configuration of ammo samples as off duty humans congregated around to watch. He had decided to find a way to pierce armor more completely and his incendiary cartridges were a new mix. As he did, a number of organic soldiers watched him pausing from their own shooting to see what he would do. Ironhide's idea of blowing things up was only just this side of the Apocalypse for the soldiers that shared range space with him.

They noted his massive size, the ease of his movements anyway and knew from watching training that his size belied the agility that he brought to combat. He could jump, spin and land on his big old peds with a facility that even younger bots lacked. They knew he was the master of the armed forces and a trainer's trainer. He also was a hilarious mech with a pug nose, huge canons that he lavished love on and a humorous wit that he didn't hide.

He considered a cartridge, then loaded it along with several others. He was in the zone, his element and so with barely a nod he concerned himself with what he was doing. Round after round he fired, the explosions becoming more accurate and finely tuned as he calibrated his weapons for the new mixture. He wasn't particularly paying attention until he heard Ratchet's name mentioned. Without watching them he dialed in his audios to listen.

"I can't imagine it. It would be like two trains running into each other."

There was laughter at the remark, then he blew something up so they paused to watch. After a round or two, they began again.

"Ratchet is such a gruff old guy, one of those "you kids get off my lawn" sorts of personalities. I can't imagine how they got together. And what is that all about? Last time I heard they were both guys. Mechs means 'guy' doesn't it?"

"It does. But then, I don't see any girls here. Maybe they don't have them."

"I would HATE that, man. No women?! What the hell?."

"I hear ya. Maybe they don't need that. Maybe they're more machine than ... I don't know ... maybe their needs aren't the same."

"Then I'm glad I'm a human."

There was general agreement and they were about to continue speaking when Ironhide 'accidentally' dropped a cartridge their direction. It hit the ground, a huge cylinder filled with death rolling their way causing them to turn and run as fast as they could. He looked at them and when they stopped, turning back to stare at him with fear and exasperation he smiled slightly. "Fire in the hole," was all he said.

-0-Later that day

Will Lennox and Robert Epps finished their last briefings and turned to walk together across the wet tarmac toward the Autobot complex. Underground chambers had been cleared and remodeled to accommodate the living and working space of Autobots ranging in size from sixteen to nearly thirty feet. It was diplomatic space, no humans allowed to enter unless invited. It was their private sanctuary although some organics, Lennox and Epps for instance were given carte blanche to come and go.

Entering the main above ground hangar, crossing the expanse toward their Ops Center they spotted Ironhide. He was walking toward the Ops Center himself and when they called to him he turned to wait. Reaching him, they waited as he leaned down and opened his big servo. Both of them climbed on board and he arose to walk once more for the Ops Center.

"You're quiet," Lennox said looking up at Ironhide.

"You're not," Ironhide said noncommittally.

They rode in silence into the Operational Center where Ironhide put them down on the center table of the center with all the maps and other devices they used to track bad guys. Moving to peer at the long range sensor screens that monitored movements in the solar system beyond Earth he scanned them for action. Nothing much was happening but for the small comet that had finally wend its way here after a hundred years of being elsewhere.

"Nothing going on today, Ironhide," Sideswipe said.

Ironhide grunted. "Sounds acceptable. Boring but acceptable."

Will and Robert snorted. "You off?"

Ironhide looked at him puzzling the question, then assumed they meant was he free, not was he crazy. "Yes."

"We'd like to talk to you. Privately," Lennox added.

Ironhide looked at them, then glanced around. Holding out his hand they climbed in and he walked past Prowl who was bending over a station in deep conversation with Smokescreen. They wandered out, down the corridor to the open hangar and onward toward the doorway. He put them on the ground, then hunkered down bringing himself closer to eye level. "Is this adequate?"

"Yeah," Will replied suddenly nervous. "Uh, Ironhide, I have some questions I want to ask you to clear up something in my head."

"Your processor is bothering you," Ironhide replied, his optics direct and intense as he watched both of them 'fidget'. *That* is fidgeting Ratchet, he thought. "What is it?"

Will gulped then looked at Epps who was looking at a fascinating crack in the concrete floor. Will swallowed and raised his hands placating whomever he could. "I don't want to pry and I know that if you think I was you would tell me that I didn't need to know what I'm asking and I know you know how much I respect all of you, especially you, Ironhide."

"You sound like Bluestreak. What is it?"

For a moment Will just stood there staring at him earnestly. Then he asked. "What is the thing between you and Ratchet?"

=0=TBC October 30, 2010 Edited 12-8-14 re-edited 6-29-16

I AM repairing all of the boo boos caused by posting late night, posting in a car, posting sneakily at work, posting with very poor glasses and no glasses for a while. I am shocked at the errors and such here and will be making it right for the whole story. I am also adding things here and there now that the story is this long so some of this will have a new conversation here, a new bit there. This began in November of 2010. Thanks for the ride. Me, in December 2014.