Author's note: This story was inspired by my need to mourn an event that took place in Transfomers 3: Dark Side of the Moon and my obsession with Keelywolfe's brilliant Transofmer's fan fic series Experiments in Human Nature. This story is responsible for my love of the idea the (fully interactive) holographic persona's of Transformers, which I use in this fic. Hope it doesn't confuse any new comers.

Grief is a luxury.

They weren't the first words that Ironhide had spoken to Lennox, but they are the only ones that he can remember at the moment.

The Chicago sky is a swath of dirty blue, streaks of black and gray cut across it like gashes. It was over. The Sentinel was dead, the bridge was destroyed, and Earth was finally safe. The air is thick with smoke, ash and the smell of burnt ozone. It is the smell of death. Not human death, but the death of an Autobot.

Lennox sits on a rooftop, his rifle still warm in his hands, and realizes for the first time that one of his best friends is well and truly dead.

"The war is over, for the time being. While we are triumphant, it is a hollow victory when we take in the scope of loss; both human and Autobot alike. Now is the time to grieve those who no longer stand with us, and to honor their sacrifice..."

Optimus' words bring no comfort. Lennox kneels beside the memorial. A towering stone replica of Ironhide salutes the sky, his face plate fixed in a stoic expression. This isn't the face that Lennox remembers when he thinks of his best friend.

The weight of the memories drags him down, bending his head and casting his eyes at the ground. His boot is inches from the stone foot of Ironhide. His hand reaches out of it's own volition and touches the cold rock. Strange how it doesn't feel the same as metal. Though none of the Autobots feel like metal. They aren't cold or hard. Alive, electric and at times magical. It seems like a childish way to view them, but that is what had initially enchanted him.

The touch sparks a memory of that drunken night after the second victory over the Decepticons. Lennox had stumbled into the warehouse where many of the Autobots chose to recharge. It was empty, with the exception of Ironhide. His lights were out and it seemed that he was in some kind of sleep mode. Lennox's head was spinning a little and he was trying to not think about how many men they'd lost...again.

He pulled open Ironhide's driver's side door and crawled onto the smooth leather seat. It was a habit he'd grown accustomed to while out on missions. Long nights of surveillance, where they sat and scanned for Energon signals. Most nights he would lay out on the seat to rest while Ironhide would keep watch.

That night Lennox needed a moment to catch his breath, to regroup. A few days earlier he'd had to make the rounds to give his condolences to the families of the men that didn't return home. Most went as well as could be expected. The families had time to grieve, they were in survival mode. Stoic wives accepted his words of comfort. Crying sons and daughters accepted his hugs and handshakes, but most were prepared for this eventuality. His team of was made up of longtimers, career men with families that understood what that means. That eventually, one day the news would come.

Patrica Wilson was not prepared. Her husband Cody had been transferred to the unit less than a month before the mission in Shanghai. He was young, but disciplined. A good soldier, motivated and fearless. Lennox could still remember the look of determination on the young soldier's face as he dragged his legless companion toward the safety of a pillion. Wilson never looked up, never saw the pillion tipping over. He kept moving, kept focused until he and five other solders were crushed under tons of cement and steel.

Lennox had tried to keep his composure as Patrica Wilson cried in his arms. She was eight month's pregnant and begged Lennox to tell her how she would explain to her daughter why she would never meet her father. He couldn't answer, couldn't speak. When he left, he was numb and it spread through him for days.

It wasn't until he was in the safe confines of Ironhide's cab that he allowed himself to cry. Great wracking sobs rocked his body. He couldn't stop himself, even when the feel of a warm hand touched his face. Lennox didn't fight the strong hands that pulled him up and into an embrace. He accepted the comfort of Ironhide's holograph. A burly, muscle bound man with ebony skin that matched the shade of the Ironhide's own paint color. His skin shined in the harsh light of the florescent lights that hung from the roof of the warehouse.

As if on cue, the lights dimmed, casting them into a comforting darkness. Lennox relaxed further into Ironhide's embrace, and turned his face to muffle his sobs against the firm muscles of the holograph's broad chest.

"Grief is a luxury. As solders we can rarely afford it, but that does not mean that we cannot allow it."

Ironhide's deep voice vibrated through Lennox, leaving calm and comfort in it's wake.

"Death is an inevitability, but for solders like you and I, it is a surety."

Lennox raised his head to look into the dark, smiling eyes of the human face of his comrade. He wasn't sure what he was looking for, truth, comfort, maybe both. What he found was understanding and compassion. Ironhide tightened his hold, pulling him closer and pressed a gentle kiss upon Lennox's trembling lips. A large hand cradled the side of his face, while Ironhide broke the kiss.

"We should take comfort in what we have, while we have it."

Lennox nodded, and closed his eyes. They stayed in the warm embrace for several hours, until Lennox finally fell into a peaceful sleep. When he woke, he was alone and Ironhide's dashboard display showed he was halfway through an eight hour diagnostic check of his systems. Lennox climbed out into the dim light of the warehouse, and straightened his wrinkled suit. As he passed Ironhide, he patted the hood, taking an extra minute to whisper a thanks before walking toward the exit.

"He will be missed by us all," Optimus says, leaning down to look at Lennox.

"He will," Lennox replies with a nod.

Author's note Part2: Special thanks to Chele681 for doing a quick beta on this insanity.