Author's Notes – For TF-Speedwriting. Prompt – Being a friend. The theme for the day was "Awww" (aka – "Write something for the prompts that make the reader go "Awww". Be it because it's cute, or just a sweet and fluffy situation, interaction or whatever, or make it nostalgic or melancholic and sad. Or write whatever you think will make the reader 'd'awww'! :D At what scene or conversation you'd make that sound? [wink]")

This was written on the heels of "Perceptions". They're separate prompt fills but kind of meant to follow one another as fics, though this one also stands on its own well enough, I think. Plus if you really scrutinize both of them, some of the details might keep them from lining up perfectly as following one another – for this one, I wrote whatever I felt worked for the scene, regardless of the details of the set-up in "Perceptions".

Disclaimer – "Transformers" and all related characters, events, and concepts belong to Hasbro, Takara, and any other related owners/distributors/producers. I get no monetary benefit from this. My benefit is the enjoyment of dealing with beloved characters.

"Morale"

by DragonDancer5150

Ironhide knocked on Bumblebee's door, letting himself in without waiting for an answer. He wasn't sure if he'd have gotten one if he had waited. He'd seen the look in the little mech's optics earlier in the mess hall, despite the grin Bumblebee had put on for everyone. He'd asked Cliffjumper, the scout's closest friend, what was wrong. Cliffjumper hadn't talked to Bumblebee himself yet to know for sure, but he'd thought he could guess well enough . . . and Ironhide had gotten an audio-full.

He'd had no idea he had been so hard on the scout. Well . . . he had to be somewhat hard, at least. It was his job to make sure everyone did their jobs and followed protocols to protect themselves as much as anyone else. And fraggit, the barely-more-than-a-sparkling had scared them. But . . . maybe he'd made his point a little too well during the debriefing earlier.

Bumblebee sat on his berth toying with Primus-only-knew-what in his hands, but he looked up to see who had just come into his room unannounced. His optics flared in something between surprise and alarm and he dropped the whatever-it-was onto the berth as he stood quickly, straightening before a ranking officer. The poor mech visibly braced as though he was expecting another lecture.

Ironhide vented a sigh and waved a hand, drawling, "At ease, kid. Ah'm not here ta bust yer aft'r anythin'." Again, he added mentally. "Ah jus' . . . wanted ta check how you're doin'."

Bumblebee gave him a quizzical look. "I'm okay. Ratchet got me fixed up after the debriefing. It was nothing, really. I'm fine."

The deep worry from earlier flared again suddenly before Ironhide could catch it. "Don't you stand there an' tell me 'nothin',' Bumblebee! We slaggin' near lost ya today!"

"I've already told you, I had it handled!" Bumblebee huffed in frustration, conceding the point. "But again, I'll be more careful next time, I promise."

"Fraggit, Bee, there might not be a next time! Not if ya keep pullin' stupid stunts like-"

Ironhide had said too much. He could see it in the way the little Minibot's shoulders straightened, optics darkening with anger and hurt.

"Like what, Ironhide?"

Like jumping to take that shot meant for Sunstreaker, that might well have offlined the already injured and dazed front-liner because it would have taken him completely off-guard.

Ironhide ran a hand down his face, making himself take a mental step back as he ex-vented another heavy sigh. "Look, Bumblebee, Ah'm sorry, okay? Ah've already said my piece once today. Ah stand by it . . . but that's not what Ah came here for."

"Then what did you come here for?"

The wary and weary tone in the scout's voice sat poorly with Ironhide. Bumblebee wasn't supposed to sound like that. He was supposed to the cheerful, upbeat, gung-ho one. If Jazz was the company's unofficial morale officer, then Bumblebee was . . . like . . . their morale mascot.

That gung-ho front is nothing but a façade sometimes, do you know that? He tries so hard to please and impress you guys. Do you even notice?

Cliffjumper's biting words came back with a vengeance. Bumblebee tried to live up to everyone else. He felt he had to be twice the mech he thought everyone took him to be, just to be taken seriously. Ironhide had never really thought about how hard things must be for the little scout sometimes. An' it don't help our youn'ins havin' ta mature' as fast as they gotta ta begin with jus' ta survive this Pit-cursed war.

"Listen, Bee. It's not like we think you're incapable'r somethin'. It's just that . . . we worry about ya. You're important ta us – ya know that, right? We don't wanna lose ya." He huffed in frustration as the thought of an astro-second ago continued in his processor. "It's just hard sometimes, havin' ta watch young mechs like you deal with the slag we started. Ya've never known any different an' that ain't right. Old glitches like me-"

Bumblebee rolled his optics, interrupting. "Ironhide, if you're about to go off into something that sounds even remotely like 'you'll understand more when you're older', I'll-" He caught himself as he seemed to realize what he'd been about to say.

Ironhide snickered. "If you were about ta say somethin' like 'Ah'll hit you,' Ah'll say ya been hangin' out with Brawn an' CJ again too much."

The two looked at each other for a long moment . . . and then snickered . . . and then started to laugh – the kind of laugh that clears the air with healing energy.

"Yeah," Bumblebee finally replied, the grin still on his faceplates – and still genuine, like it should be. "I guess I've been hanging out with CJ and Brawn a lot lately."

"Trust me, it's showin', kid." Ironhide wrestled down the rest of his mirth, quieting. He studied Bumblebee for a few astro-seconds, then knelt down, catching the little mech by the shoulders with both hands. "Listen . . . ya do a great job. You're good at what ya do an' ya got more guts to ya than a lotta mechs Ah've known. Just . . . be careful, okay? Ah didn't come here as one'a yer officers, Bee. Ah came as your friend. Ah want'cha ta know that."

Bumblebee seemed to search him for an astro-second, then nodded. "Thanks, Ironhide. That means a lot to me."

They fell still again, staring at each other for another instant. Then Ironhide shook himself. "Aw, slag, kid. C'mere." He pulled the little mech into an embrace, grinning when Bumblebee leaned into him easily, hugging back. They stayed like that for a long moment before Ironhide finally shifted the other back again to meet his optics. He shook a finger under the scout's nasal ridge. "Ah mean it about not scarin' us again like that, though. Pull somethin' like that again, an' Ah will take it out on yer aft!"

Bumblebee chuckled, tossing up a jaunty salute. "Yes, sir! Understood."

"A'right. Ah got work ta do, an' Doc says you're off-duty until at least mornin' shift tomorrow. You rest up, an' I'll come check on ya again later, okay?"

"Okay."

Ironhide nodded and stood, turning to go, but paused and looked back over his shoulder as the scout spoke up again.

"And, Ironhide? Thanks."

"Hey, what're friends for?"