Ironhide settled the shuttle into Earth's orbit and looked down at his adopted home with trepidation. It was beautiful; shimmering green and blue like a human's holiday ornament as it spun lazily below. He only hoped that she saw it the same way. Over the years he had stayed in contact with Chromia as best as the war had allowed, and he told her all about Earth. He had fallen in love with the human's planet and he wanted to share all of it with her. But for the twenty Earth years that he had called this planet home, she had never been able to take any sort of leave before now. Ironically, now that the Autobots had all but lost Cybertron, now that Elita-1 and her troops had pulled back to the moonbases, now was the time when Chromia had finally been able to take leave. And that was only after Elita had both ordered and threatened her. He hadn't taken it hard though. As much as he wanted – needed – to see her, he knew that she was in the same position as he was; he couldn't fault her for taking her job just as seriously as he did. In fact, it had been Optimus Prime who had ordered him to go to the moonbase to pick up Chromia. Not that he hadn't wanted to go, but he also hadn't wanted to abandon his post at Prime's side.
As he contemplated everything a green shape shot up from the surface and buzzed his starboard side.
"Hey, Ironhide!" Cosmos called out. "You're back sooner than I expected."
"We ran into good weather through the Kuiper Belt," Ironhide joked.
"Well they'll be surprised to see you, but I'm sure you'll get a warm welcome," Cosmos said with a chuckle, as if he was laughing at a private joke. Considering Cosmos' personality, it was quite possible that he was.
"Well you take care now, ya hear?" Ironhide drawled. "And I'll see you when ya get back."
"Yes. And pass my greetings on to Chromia!" Cosmos said. Then, without waiting for a reply, he executed a barrel roll, buzzed the shuttle's port side, and shot out in the direction of Alpha Centauri.
"He's a good mech but he's a downright strange little bot sometimes," Ironhide muttered to himself.
He stood, still shaking his head at Cosmos' antics and moved to the back of the shuttle. He pressed the release for the door leading to the recharge chamber and looked into the darkened space beyond. It only took a moment for his optics to adjust to the low light, and he could see Chromia's supine form, lying where he had left her after their last interface while they were in orbit around Io.
"Chromia?" he called softly, knowing that she'd want to see the planet from orbit, but at the same time he was loathe to wake her.
There was no immediate response and, for a moment, he was tempted to just leave off and wake her once they'd landed. But he knew full well that she'd kill him if he did. So he entered the small space and approached her.
"Chromia?" he said softly as he laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. "We're here, darlin' and you ain't gonna want t' miss this."
He watched as her brilliant blue optics activated, lighting her face and the darkness of the room faintly. She smiled up at him and felt his fuel pump skip as she reached up and took his hand gently in hers, encouraging him toward the berth. For a moment he found himself responding – his field spiked at her touch and his engine revved appreciatively at her amorous gaze. He quickly remembered why he had come back here and he pulled away. She frowned slightly until he tightened his hand over hers, encouraging her to sit up.
"Come on," he said softly. "I have something you need t' see."
Chromia's frown turned to a playful pout as she stood and entered his embrace.
"I can think of a thing or two I want to see in here," she said as she teased her fingers down his sides.
Ironhide could only smile before leaning in to press a chaste kiss to her lips. Without a word he took her by the hands and led her to the cockpit.
As soon as she stepped through the door and caught site of the viewscreen she stopped, her ventilators catching in a gasp of awe.
"Oh 'Hide!" she breathed. "It's beautiful. The holos you sent me didn't even begin to ..."
"C'mon and take a seat," Ironhide said as he took the pilot's chair. "If you think this is something, just wait till I take 'er in!"
Chromia sat in the navigator's chair, her optics never leaving the viewscreen.
"I've never seen so much water!" she said. "And it's so much bigger than Cybertron. I'm amazed that a world like that produced such small beings!"
"Yeah, but don't let that effect yer judgement of them. I really think that yer gonna like them. Especially Carly," Ironhide said with a smile.
"She's Spike's mate right? His ... wife?" she said after fishing her memory for the word.
"Yup. An' she's quite th' firecracker," Ironhide replied. "She's always reminded me a lot of you."
He turned away to the communications console and opened a channel to Autobot city.
"This is Ironhide. Requestin' permission t' land."
"Hey there 'Hide! Yer back sooner than we figured!" came Blaster's voice.
"Yeah, we made good time," Ironhide replied "You got anywhere fer us t' set down?"
"Sure thing! Head fer Pad Three. It's been cleared an' ready t' go."
"Cleared?" Chromia asked.
"Well hey there Lady! Aren't you a voice fer sore audios?"
"Hi Blaster," Chromia said, her smile obvious in her tone. "Now, why did the pad have to be cleared?"
"We had ourselves a freak storm last night. There's about a foot of snow gathered. We'll see you at touchtown!"
"See ya then," Ironhide said as he closed the connection.
"Snow?" Chromia asked.
"Yeah, it's frozen precipitation," Ironhide explained as he began to pilot the shuttle into the Earth's atmosphere. "It makes th' most incredible crystals you've ever seen."
"Precipitation?" Chromia asked, shivering slightly.
"No, darlin'," Ironhide said, noticing her discomfort. "It ain't nothin' like th' acid rain we got back home. Trust me, virgin snow's one of th' most gorgeous thing's this side of th' Engergon Pools."
Chromia didn't seem completely convinced but any doubts were wiped from her mind as she looked to the viewscreen again. Ironhide was taking a roundabout route to Oregon so that he could show off as much of the planet as he could without making it obvious. First there were the lights of Europe; the large cities shining like diamond clusters against the backdrop of night. Next, taking a lazy S-route, he passed over the golden Sahara and the lush plains of Kenya. He crossed the Pacific and the Indian Oceans to shoot up past the mountains of India and Nepal and China. He flew over the Arctic wastes and down to North America, soaring over the Canadian Tundra until he came to the Rockies. These he followed down until they met with the Cascades and finally down to Oregon and Autobot City.
While he flew he watched Chromia observe to planet below. She smiled in recognition over Europe; from space it wasn't that different from Cybertron at night. She seemed both amazed and delighted by Africa, especially when they flew over the enormous herds of grazers that roamed the Kenyan Animal preserve. She seemed shocked when her keen optics picked up the small groups of tiny humans scaling the sides of Everest, a mountain that dwarfed anything on Cybertron. A smile pulled at her lips as she saw the small, isolated communities of the Tundra and the young, sharp peaks of the Rockies and the Cascades.
When Ironhide set the shuttle down on the designated pad he turned to face Chromia and found her smiling at him.
"Oh 'Hide!" she breathed. "It's more incredible than I ever could have imagined. I have to admit, I thought you were exaggerating when you described it."
"Nope," he replied with a grin. "There ain't nothin' here that needs exaggeration."
He stood and held out his hand to lead her from the shuttle. She took his hand and followed him out into a world covered in a blanket of white. The accumulated snow barely came up the side of Chromia's foot, but still, she stepped hesitantly, gingerly, as she made her way out of the shuttle; still unsure of the substance. Ironhide looked at her and smiled before reaching down and picking up a handful of snow, holding it out for her inspection.
"The humans call it snow. It's completely harmless. The only thing you need t' worry about is maybe rust spots if yer paint's chipped."
Chromia took another step forward and looked down at the snow in Ironhide's hand, examining it as finely as her optics would allow. At first all she saw was a field of white powder, then, suddenly, the crystals sprang into sharp focus, each one a perfect little prism reflecting the light and sparkling like a tiny diamond chip. There was an organic beauty to them as well as a mathematical perfection; each crystal different from its neighbour, each a little treasure all to itself.
"It really is beautiful," she whispered, refocusing her optics and looking up at Ironhide.
"I told ya you'd love it, didn't I?" he whispered, a small smile pulling at his lips.
"You did," she replied, raising herself on her toes to rest her forehead against his in a very intimate, wholly Cybertronian act. "It's one of the most gorgeous things I've ever seen."
"Come on," he said, wrapping his arm around her shoulder and guiding her off the pad. "There's more that I want t' show you before we head in."
"We have time you know."
"Yeah, but the snow never stays long, an' I want t' show you just what it does t' the world before it melts."