Chapter 1: Hush Now, Child
The burning sensation in the BLU Scout’s chest wouldn’t stop, no matter how much he gripped the shirt over-top of where the pain was. It made no difference how much he fingered or groped the bloody fabric or the slippery handle of the butterfly knife; he simply couldn’t free himself of the pain or the blade. It was slicked, absolutely coated, with his blood and he had no strength left in his hands to fight with it any longer. The only things his fingers knew were a sick tingling and an unmistakable ice cold feeling. As he gasped for air, something that was becoming more and more difficult with each labored breath, he stared at the roof of the broken down building, a former shell of what it once was as a result of battle. It was almost peaceful, or at least would have been if not for the unbearable pain he was experiencing.
Then, suddenly, there his attacker was, looming over him with a smug look creasing his bastard face. RED Spies always thought they were so clever. The Scout arched his back and dug his heels into the dirt to push himself backwards. However, his effort didn’t get him very far. He only managed to put himself in even more pain, which made it harder for him to breathe, and that resulted in him sputtering blood and spit on his chin as he coughed.
“Now your outfit matches my suit,” the Spy said as he proudly gestured to himself and cocked his hip. “Classy, no?”
“Naw, shitstain, it’s not,” Scout swished the words around his mouth mixing them with nearly a teaspoon’s worth of blood, all of which he spat out in a vain attempt to reach the Spy. The Spy kneeled down over top of the Scout, legs straddling either side of his hips, pressing the kid’s forearms down with his knees, and leaned in close. Too close. Uncomfortably close. He-could-smell-tobacco-and-smoke-on-the-Spy’s-stupid-breath close. How he wished he had held onto his spit a moment longer.
“Too bad your mother didn’t pass ‘er exquisite tastes down to you,” the Spy answered. He thoughtfully chewed on his cigarette for a moment. “Nor, does it seem, that she taught you ‘er manners.”
“Ma isn’t exactly a delicate flo—” Before the Scout could finish his thought the Spy plucked his cigarette from his teeth and proceeded to extinguish it just below the Scout’s right eye. He smiled and savored the screaming, like a decadent treat after dinner. He could almost taste the youth’s agony.
“Chut, l'enfant,” the Spy said, pressing a hand to the Scout’s mouth and nose. “No reason to worry. It’ll all be over soon.”
He could feel the Scout desperately struggle beneath him; every muscle tighten and relax, tug and pull, as he desperately tried, and failed, to free himself. It was pure bliss, the struggle before the kill. This part of the hunt should always be savored. The Scout’s eyes widened, finally beginning to lose their luster and shine. He kicked his legs, occasionally bumping a knee harmlessly into the Spy’s upper back. Small bursts of sound erupted from the Scout’s throat, crackling from the lack of airflow, croaking from the lack of oxygen. To the RED Spy, it was a glorious symphony. To the BLU Scout, it was a despairing swansong.
“What? No wise cracks?” The Spy taunted. The Scout gave one final, weak kick, and then let his legs fall in defeat. The Spy ran his tongue over his teeth, eyes glued into the Scout’s, eagerly waiting for the life to leave them. “I didn’t think so.”
“Neither did I, mate.”
A stranger? The Spy cursed under his breath for letting someone, anyone, sneak up behind him. He roughly ripped his butterfly knife from the Scout’s chest—who gasped in both sweet relief and agony from the sudden rush of air and the agony from the knife leaving his body—at the sound of a stranger’s voice and spun around, but he was too late. He collapsed to the side of the Scout following the sound of a sick twang and thud; an arrow stuck out from the back of his skull. Behind him was a BLU Sniper, lowering his Huntsman.
“What took ya?!” The Scout choked on his own words as he gasped for air.
“Was a bit…preoccupied.” The Sniper kicked the Spy’s body off of the Scout’s much weaker one, and then kicked it again for good measure. He sneered in disgust before kneeling down and pulling the Scout’s arm around his shoulders by his hand. “C’mon, on yer feet, lad.” He hoisted the Scout up. “Can ya walk?”
“Whaddaya think, smart-ass?” Even though he protested a bit, physically demanding with every move to walk on his own (regardless of his very obvious handicaps), he gave the Sniper’s hand a gentle squeeze, just a little one, and hoped it wouldn’t be noticed. His mother used to do that for him if he ever lost a fight. It brought him comfort and a certain sense of love, all of which he needed in that moment.
“Try.” The Sniper began walking, almost dragging the Scout as he made his way back to the base. Against his better judgment, he returned the squeeze. He knew the Scout was young and probably homesick. His mind raced with other fleeting ideas, all of which he dismissed before letting them become actual thoughts. There was nothing else he could do for the kid, except for call over a Medic.
Chapter 2: Someone to Someone
It had only been a few days since the incident, something the Scout would rather soon put from his mind than to have recollection of. He sat quietly in his position on the wooden floor, knees drawn half-way to his chest, his trusty bat held between them by a pair of bandaged hands. It wasn’t like the blue-clad youngster to be so silent, but he found himself brooding despite the fact that he was usually so boisterous and full of energy. But, damn it, he was pissed, and with decent reason! Still, he remained still as he clung to his weapon, staring intently at the surface of the bat, tracing calloused fingers in the various dents forged by the skulls of his enemies.
The Scout may have been oddly unmoving and quiet, but his reddened face spoke no lies. He was definitely somewhere else and thinking hard, a feat that would scare even the toughest of men.
It would not last too long. The soft tap of a mug being placed on the nearby table was enough to stir him from his thoughts, but not nearly enough to get his full attention. However, it was hard to ignore a gruff voice chiming breaking the otherwise silence of the room.
“Settle yourself, mate. You’re about to blow a bloomin’ fuse, an’ give away our position.”
“Feh,” the youth spat as he delivered a glare to the offending Sniper sitting a few feet away from him, giving a slight wince due to the remaining scar tissue healing under his right eye courtesy one red-clad Spy’s cigarette a few days earlier. It didn’t matter, though. The elder man was using the scope of his rifle to survey the land below the tower in which they sought refuge. It wasn’t so much being ignored that bothered the Scout, but more of the fact that he despised being stuck in one place, having to be still and quiet and merely watch as his comrades were off in the distance battling the enemy. He should have been out there, pummeling bodies and creating a beautiful mess of corpses with his Force-a-Nature. No one else could snag enemy intelligence like he could!
But, no, here he was, stuck and being babysat like some kind of goddamned child, given only a baseball bat to occupy his time. As if he could be distracted so easily! The Medic was out of his fucking gourd for telling him to recover for a few days, but the Scout would have nothing of it! He pitched the worst of fits---manly arguments in his eyes---until his unlikely savior, the Sniper, gave in and suggested bringing him along if it would shut his mouth for even an instant. The doctor merely threw his hands to the air in defeat and unwillingly allowed it, walking away to finish the paperwork that went with the now-finished procedure. Or, whatever it was the kook did with his spare time. The Scout neither knew nor cared. He had worse issues to deal with. This wasn’t the first time the elder had come to the boy’s rescue, and it angered him even more to know he owed this man two favors now. Scouts did not become other people’s lap dogs, but his mother had taught him to never carry through the day owing a debt.
Curse him for being such a momma’s boy. He expelled a slight heave of breath in spite of his devotion to his maternal unit. Again, the Sniper annoyingly shushed him with a wave of a hand, his vision never breaking from his scope, though his mouth turned stern suddenly. The Scout tensed up and watched the elder’s finger fixate itself on the gun’s trigger as he prepared to strike. His own hands found themselves clenching his bat in anticipation.
A moment passed, one that seemed like an eternity for the boy who could not see which enemy was about to have his head splattered in the dirt. Right as he was about to prepare to stand up, the Sniper relaxed and shook his head.
“Bloomin’ bird,” he murmured with a slight chuckle of amusement as a crow took flight, exiting the scope’s cross-hairs. He casually leaned back, taking in a generous amount of coffee to wet his throat, but nearly choked from the outburst that quickly followed.
“You gotta be freakin’ kiddin’ me, man!” the Scout hissed, his patience finally wearing thinner than is previously was, if that was remotely possible. He came to his feet suddenly, swinging his bat around until it fell upon his right shoulder. “I can’t take this anymore! I gotta get out there! This sucks!” No sooner had he spun around to leave the room, a gloved hand gripped his other shoulder. It wasn’t forceful, but it demanded his undivided attention.
“Look ‘ere, ya yank. I don’t like this any more ‘en you do, but we all have a job to do.”
“Hey, fuck that, man. My job is out there!” The Scout unceremoniously shrugged the hand from his person in offense. “I don’t have time to sit around. It may fine and dandy for you, brotha, but I got more important things ta do.”
“Like what? Passing out from an injury and dying like a bloody fool? You forget…” the Sniper had paused in his speech to spin the youth around to face him and jab the Scout in the chest with a pointed finger. The youth sucked in what would have been a gasp of surprise and pain, as the elder man managed to make contact with the tender flesh that was slowly closing over the remnants of a stab wound, another disgusting reminder that the Red Spy had almost bested him in a battle of life or death. He was not about to show weakness to anyone, especially not the guy who was responsible for his life continuing beyond that moment in time. Not the man he now owed his existence to. Twice.
“Ah, shaddup, old man,” the Scout managed to spit out in indignation, his feet rolling backwards to distance himself from the finger if only by a few inches. It wasn’t the best of retaliations, but his pride would not allow him to be so easily scolded by anyone that was not his own mother without some sort of response. However, the boy would not have his way this time. A rough shove to his shoulder sent the Scout to the floor, and before he could even let out a gasp as his lungs were hastily emptied by the force, the Sniper’s face was hovering close---dangerously close---to his own as his head was forced to rest on the wood as the Scout attempted to put space between their noses, but to no avail. He could not quite read the man’s eyes through yellow-tinted lenses at such a close range, but any fool would know that he was definitely not happy at the moment. He opened his mouth to protest, but the taller man’s hand clamped over it.
“No, you shut the ‘ell up,” he seethed, his husky voice barely audible above a whisper as it leaked through clenched teeth, “I am not about to let you go out there and get yourself killed. You think I want to see you die? Do you?”
The Scout could not reply even if he wanted to. He could barely breathe with the rough digits clamping into his jaw line, though he realized his own angry scowl had disappeared somewhere during the Sniper’s uncharacteristic movements and had been replaced with a mixture of shock and a very strange feeling of remorse, especially as he saw the elder man’s face soften as quick as he had previously snapped. Though his eyes were concealed, the Scout could tell that those hawk-like eyes were staring into his own with purpose. Despite the edges of his mouth wrinkling with a frown, his demeanor had changed and caused the boy an even further shock as he leaned further in and rested his forehead against the floor next to the Scout’s head, causing his headset to slightly shift from his ear. He could only blink in surprise, but could not speak even though the Sniper’s fingers had released his mouth and rested on the other side of his head. Even the simplest of vocabulary words could not form upon his tongue though they were racing in his mind, fighting for a chance to speak.
But, the smaller male was silent as he tilted his head against the Sniper’s hand in an attempt to look upon the elder man’s face, but all he could see were strands of dark hair and the rim of the hat now haphazardly sitting upon his nose. The boy stiffened and raised an eyebrow. Did he just hear a stifled sob come from the other man? No, no, no, this can’t be right. He was not trapped on the floor beneath an older man who was doing his best to not bawl like a damn baby! Stuff like this doesn’t happen. Not here. Not now. Not ever. Not to him.
The Scout parted his lips with his tongue, moistening them and clearing away the grime left behind by dirty fingers. He hesitated a moment, staring into the darkness of the hat covering his face, completely paralyzed beneath the larger, though equally scrawny man. His face flushed slightly, and he became irritated at the fact that anyone, friend or enemy, could lurk into their hideaway and see this display of utter sissyness. If so, he would gladly take another knife to the heart if that meant not becoming the laughing stock of his comrades and enemies.
The youth cringed at that thought, not daring speak it aloud. Even if he tried, he would have been cut off as the Sniper regained some of his composure. Though never moving from his spot, the elder spoke in sad, raspy murmurs.
“I almost didn’t get to you in time.”
“You nearly died that day, and it would’ve been me bloody fault for not gettin’ there soon enough.” The Scout could feel the hand beside his head clench against the floor, forming a fist. He only assumed the other hand was doing the same opposite the Sniper’s head. “It’s me fuckin’ fault and I should’ve been watchin’ your back, but I let you run into that building by yourself, thinkin’ you could handle it.”
The Scout was now petrified at the elder’s words. Under normal circumstances, he would have spat out that he was perfectly fine by himself, but memories of a red-clad bastard kneeling over his injured body brought him into the realization that he should be dead. And, now, the reason for his survival was slumped over him saying that it was his fault for the boy nearly getting killed in the first place? It just didn’t add up!
“No, man, it’s…it’s alright,” he managed to stutter, trying to regain some manner of sanity in this unreal predicament, “I’m fine.” He managed a pathetic attempt at a light chuckle to clear the tension.
“Brilliant. So, once I release you, you’re going to go blinkin’ endanger yourself again, right? Act like a real tough bloke and go down in a blaze of glory, yeah? You think that’s all you’re bloody worth?”
The Scout began to mumble incoherently; he was unsure of what it was he was supposed to say at this point. Fortunately, words need not be spoken from his tongue, because he would find himself speechless once more as the Sniper finally raised his head and placed his nose before the youth’s once more, somehow fixing his hat to his head properly in the process. Something of a wry smile was painted on his lips, but a reflection of the Scout’s own eyes danced on the lenses of the elder’s sunglasses hid what he merely figured to be red and puffy eyes, but if there were tears before, they no longer fell now. The boy merely tensed up to the point of breaking his own bones with the constricted muscles in his body as he stared into the questionable face of the man lingering above him.
“For all it’s worth, you do mean something to this team. To me. So, can you try to behave and sit here while I do my part to protect you? You’re a right annoyin’ kid, but I’d slice off me own arm if somethin’ happened to you.”
The smaller male raised an eyebrow, but his features and body followed the other man’s in softening to the point of melting into the floor. He didn’t quite understand this situation, but it did not garnish unwanted feelings. It actually felt rather nice for someone to openly admit accepting his existence outside of his own mother’s embrace. Even if it was in the form of being plastered to the floor beneath a man who could easily kill him with a toothpick if he so pleased. The boy found himself unable to sustain a proper argument, nor did he want to. He blinked back an annoying tear that managed to form and attempt to spill over his eyelashes.
“Y-Yeah, sure thing, man. I got it, I got it, alright?” he chuckled nervously again with a shrug of his shoulders.
To the Scout’s surprise, he felt his hat being slid backwards as the elder’s thumb pressed against the rim until it fell onto the floor. Then, the boy felt warm and dry lips on his forehead in a gentle peck before the Sniper raised himself into a squatting position over the teen, holding one hand gingerly to the floor beside their bodies for leverage while thumping the youth’s nose with the other. The Scout tried to hold in his laughter, but his body gave in and he began fighting against the man hovering above him while shaking with his sniggers.
“Alright, alright, get off’a me, pal! This ain’t how you’re s’posed to babysit, ya dumbass! No need getting’ all emotional and shit ova here.”
The elder merely gave a smug expression and stood up, holding his hand out to lift the boy to his feet. The Scout accepted as he scrunched his nose and sneered as only he knew how, collecting his wayward hat as he came to stand in front of the other man. Now that this situation had been properly dealt with, they could return to the task at hand. The Sniper took his seat, and with his rifle in his hand, proceeded to continue scoping out the war zone, which was surprisingly quiet despite the noise they had created only moments before. There were no complaints, however. Everything was as it should be, even if things would forever be different between the two; the Sniper once again reclaimed his position as Number 1 Sniper in his special brand of warfare and the Scout…
Well, as for the Scout…
“Hey, pops, mind if I try that?”
Some things would always stay the same.
Chapter 3: Stop, Drop, and Roll
Several very long days of whining and complaining had passed before the team Medic finally agreed to let the Scout back into the field. It was about damned time, too. The Scout wasn't the only one who wanted to get out of his cooped up bird hole of a prison. Everyone up was put on "Scout duty" breathed a huge sigh of relief. No one wanted to hang back with the restless guy, let alone keep an eye on him when there were heads to collect or people to torch. The Scout came out of the makeshift clinic, skipping and announcing boisterously to anyone who would listen (and anyone who wouldn't) that it was time for him to stretch his legs and warm up his batting arm. The tension at the base was finally lifted: The brat was getting back into the field.
It didn't take long for the Scout to stir up trouble, either. The moment he stepped outside of the base, he was causing problems. It was simply in his nature. He started by pestering his teammates. The Heavy was always an easy target, and not just because his size. The Scout could easily run circles around him and did just that, ducking and weaving under the Heavy's arms and sliding under his legs once or twice. He even prodded his larger friend with his bat every once in a while, all the while spitting out some sick verbal burns, like "doofus" or "thick-brain," to prove his intelligence superiority alongside his physical. Luckily enough, the Heavy wasn't too bothered by it. He had grown accustomed to this ritual, for it happened frequently. Anyone watching might have guessed that the Heavy might have even missed it in the Scout's week or so absence from the field. He just continued marching forward with a half-smile tugging the corners of his lips.
The Scout's playful teasing was cut off earlier than usual as a rain of grenades dropped down into his team. The Scout, having wicked sick reflex skills to match his quick wit, took off. He barely managed to get out of the way, and dirt flew up under his feet with each pounding step. It was invigorating, thrilling, and dearly missed. He looked over his shoulder to make sure everyone was okay. The worst of the damage was taken by the Heavy, who would be just fine in a moment's notice thanks to the very dedicated, and somewhat out of his gob, Medic. The Scout saluted with his free hand and picked up his pace. He ran straight ahead, shouting "See ya later, shitlords!"
As he moved over the ridge, he could see the offending Demoman, with his one stupid eye, firing blindly at his comrades. There was no way that anyone else would be able to get close enough to do anything with the barrage of grenades coming straight at them. Fortunately, the Scout knew that this was an easily solved problem, as were most on the battlefield: hit him harder than he hit you.
"Yo, Cyclops!" The Scout shouted over the sound of his bat cracking into the Demoman's skull. It was quickly followed by an "oh yeah!" It was easily the most satisfying thing he had felt all week, and boy did he have a lot of aggression to work out, especially after his touchy-feely encounter with the Sniper. That man simply ruffled the Scout's feathers in all of the ways he didn't even want to consider thinking about. Scout was fast, agile, and a self-proclaimed genius, plus he had tangled with the biggest, baddest wolves out there. How did a measly Sniper catch him so terribly off-guard and keep him on the floor? It was infuriating.
With a frustrated scream, the Scout hit the Demoman again. And again. And again and again and again. It didn't help as much as he had hoped it to, and there was no way he could stay and beat the tar out of the bomber until it did without his team eventually catching up and seeing the brutality. So, instead, he made a break for the front lines, where he was sure there would be an Engineer or two to fuck with.
He didn't get very far before an intense heat leapt out at him from behind a rocky outcropping. His vision was clouded with smoke and flames, and he was forced to stop on a dime and spin around for the other direction. He wracked his panicked brain for that stupid phrase that's constantly repeated in grade school, the what do of human body fires, but nothing of real use quite came to mind. It sort of rhymed, he thought, but that was all he could recall. There was no way to remember something so old so quickly, though. Besides, there was no time for such silly nonsense. The Scout spun on his heels yet again, but this time he wasn't able to keep his balance and fell in the dirt. Roll! That's right! Stop, drop, and roll! And roll is just what he did as momentum carried him just out of range of the flamethrower.
"Fucking god mother fuck damn!" he shouted as he came to a stop. He coughed and swatted away the dust cloud that he kicked up. How could he do something as careless as let a Pyro, a Pyro, catch him off guard? He slapped the sleeves of his shirt to put out the last of the flames and scanned the area in hopes of spotting his assailant. The dust cloud he managed to kick up was too thick, though, and all it actually did was get the dust in his eyes. It stung, like salt in a wound, and he swatted at the air as he continued to curse. He was not about to let this situation turn into another Red Spy incident.
Suddenly, the dust cloud rushed past him with a blast of air from the Pyro's flamethrower. The Scout wasn't the only one having a hard time seeing, but he was sure the Pyro's eyes didn't burn half as much as his own. Damn headgear. It gave the Pyro an advantage the Scout knew he could not let him seize. With some quick thinking and even quicker reflexes, the Scout threw his baseball bat at the Pyro. It bounced off of the Pyro's hands, forcing him to let go of his weapon, and both the bat and flame thrower toppled to the ground, just out of reasonable reach of them both.
"Not so hot without your fire, are ya?" The Scout taunted, feeling mighty pleased with himself. He even went so far as to let his chest puff out with pride, but his moment of glory was short lived. The Pyro was as hot tempered as the fire he wielded, and he leapt onto the Scout, kicking and punching. "Rough an' tumble? This is my territory, chump!"
This time the Scout's abilities were there to back up his confidence. Growing up in a family of eight brothers—himself included—all with a nasty habit of picking fights in all the wrong places, the Scout learned his way around a good street brawl. He held his own beautifully, with accurately aimed punches and snarky remarks the entire time. Unfortunately, the Pyro was a lot better than he expected or hoped for, and it was painfully way to waste precious energy. Losing simply wasn't an option when he was so far ahead of his teammates, and even less so after that awkward conversation about worth with the Sniper. He needed to give himself the upper hand.
"Alright, chucklehead, time to end this shit," he said as he kicked the Pyro in the stomach. It was just enough time to free himself from his opponent, and he scrambled to his feet. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his bat and the Pyro's flame thrower, and, in a split second decision, he decided to make a break for the more familiar of the two weapons. Sure, it would be deliciously ironic to torch the Pyro, but he wasn't sure how to use the gun, and it wasn't a smart risk to take.
"This isn't quite what I had in mind," the Scout said as he spun around, his bat tightly clenched in his hands. The Pyro made it to his feet and had a pistol drawn. Where he got it from, the Scout wasn't sure, but he knew it wasn't on the regular list of heat Pyro's pack. Usually, it was fire, fire, fire, and more fire. And, of course, the fire axe for humorous sake of it, he always assumed. The fact that this Pyro had a pistol made him uneasy, to say the least. And the worst part was, all he had was his bat. Never bring a baseball bat to a gunfight, his mama always told him. Why couldn't he just take her advice for once and have carried his shotgun over his back? Or his pistol—that's right! The pistol! He reached behind him to fish his pistol out of his belt, and felt nothing but empty space. At least that explained where the Pyro got his strange, but suddenly very charming, gun.
"Can't we just talk about this?" the Scout asked.
The Pyro didn't say anything of coherence. It was just loud, angry, muffled yelling.
"Yeah, I didn't think so."
The Pyro carefully aimed the gun and clenched the trigger. The Scout squeezed his eyes shut and looked away. He wasn't going to be a sissy and cry about it, but he certainly wasn't about to watch the bullet that would kill him either. Then came the gunshot. And then the thudding sound of a body crumpling to the ground. That was it. He was dead. He just knew it. Is this what heaven felt like? Hopefully it was the heaven with the hot chicks in bikinis and all of the ice cream he could eat and not the rotten one with all of the choir singing and paperwork. He opened one of his eyes and looked around. On the ground in front of him was the Pyro, and his pistol had slid over to the Scout's feet. It just didn't make sense. No one was around. He could hear his team whooping and hollering, still over the ridge, which meant he was alone with the Pyro. He cocked his head slightly, unsure of what to make of the situation.
A red laser flickered back and forth across the Pyro's head, and then disappeared. "Fan-fucking-tastic," the Scout said as it caught his eye. Just what he needed. He now owed the Sniper not two, but three favors. He slammed his bat against the nearest rocky out-cropping as if it was the offense that hurt his pride so dearly, screaming something unsavory into the air in hopes that the rotten Sniper could hear it, and then continued at top speed on towards his goal: RED base.
Chapter 4: Rebel with a Cause
Another day came to an end on the compound, the sun setting like molasses on the horizon, creating an eerie red glow on the remnants of the battle that had taken place that day. The setting sun only amplified the red hue that was currently painted upon various buildings, stones, and earth, proof that various people were either dead or seriously injured. Just like most, it was a mediocre day of stalemates. The RED team defended their station and their enemies, the BLU team, did their best to fuck things up. Expensive machines were destroyed and no one knew exactly where the funds and supplies kept coming from, but so long as they had a healthy weapon to ensure their survival, no one asked questions. But, today was not a day of victory for either team.
In honesty, no day was really won when it all had to start over, again and again, day in and day out. People quit asking questions a long time ago; knowing any other basic thought outside of survival instincts only endangered them on the battlefield. It may have seemed unbearable and other times inexcusable the behavior that molded each individual hired to do this questionable job of tactics and honor, but to most, it was just a job; nothing but a mere living.
Once the day was made, all personnel seemed to vanish from the compound. Most went to their respective bases, which were equally equipped for basic living. They had the simplest of locker rooms, bunks, and quaint cafeterias, though no maids were to be seen. All the upkeep and general living conditions were done by the teams themselves. So, of course, if one demanded his personal space to be relatively clean and private, he was on his own beyond the safety of the walls.
And, that is just how the blue-clad Sniper preferred it. He had become the butt of many jokes from his comrades, but there was just a special feeling about having a tangible thing of his own. And he could not have been more proud of his shanty little camper. No one came near it, and he was free to move it as he pleased, provided he had the funds to keep the tank filled with gasoline and the ability to keep out of enemy sights. It provided him with exactly what he needed: a bed to rest upon, a small shower to cleanse himself, and his small kitchen, where he fixed most of his meals from his kills on the land. Of course he found his own food! It would be a shame to allow his skill to be for the sake of killing men exclusively. There was only so much profit to be had doing that line of work, and the lanky man needed to fill his belly, too.
As the sun began to hide away, signaling the approach of night, the Sniper had finally filled his belly with wild game. He merely tossed his dishes in the sink, too tired to deal with them immediately. Hell, he had even been festering in his sweaty, blood-stained work clothing for lack of energy to even remove them save for a few buttons he managed to work loose on his shirt. A shower had definitely been made top priority at this point. He gave a yawn and a stretch, removing his hat as he did so and tossing it to his bed with subtle care. He may have been exhausted, but he knew not to abuse irreplaceable items. The Sniper may have known a thing or two about patching up clothing when needed, but his father would be even more disappointed in him should his heirloom hat be damaged.
Either way, the tall man took a few strides to his shower---which was not really a long distance, provided he lived in such a tiny space, but to him, it was the right amount of living area he felt he needed and deserved. To hell with the others back on the base, having to stand in the same shower room day in and day out if they wanted to freshen up. Not only was it awkward, but he really did not want to come into contact with any germs that might be lurking in those mildew-infested showers. The less reason he had to visit the Medic, the better; the madman would find some reason to tear his chest cavity open even if his diagnosis was merely a foot fungus. He would pass on that.
Besides, the Sniper had lived a life of solitude for so long in his home country prior to joining the team. He was used to not having to speak, or to even hold an emotion. The less people he came in contact with that he wasn't putting a bullet into, the better. However, lately, his interaction with other individuals was becoming more of a frequent occurrence---mainly thanks to one annoying Scout.
He wracked his brain for days questioning the relationship between himself and the spunky little troll he had come to know beyond just being co-workers. One day, there they were, fighting on the same lines, not giving much of a care towards the other as long as they were doing their part and not getting in the way. The next, the Sniper was finding himself sticking his own neck out to save the brat, not knowing the emotional baggage that he would soon pick up and carry well into the weeks following. He could not explain it for the life of him!
Too much thinking on a tired mind only reaped headaches, the man decided, softly turning the creaking faucet on. He left it to run while he disrobed, his hands sliding over sore muscles, giving them a firm rub or squeeze; the day's hardships were evident all the way to his bones. There was nothing different about today than any other, with the exception of the Scout-induced headache threatening to spread along his temples. That bastard was probably sneezing somewhere as much as the Sniper was cursing him under his breath for being so---so…what, exactly? He gave a growl and proceeded to step into the shower, hissing as he had let the water run hot for too long and it was now burning his skin. A quick flip of the cold, and the water was perfect. He pulled the shower curtain closed and just took a moment to indulge in the massaging pressure of the water from the showerhead against his chest. Being nearly too tall for the shower itself, the Sniper had to lean into the stream to wet his hair, and then slick it backwards along his scalp.
His hand reached for the bottle of shampoo, but froze, as did his entire body. His eyes darted to the shower curtain. The Sniper would not be a professional if he could not tell when there was another being in the same room despite the rising steam and sound of water falling against his body. The same hand moved to his side; he gave a mental sigh of relief upon finding the dagger still strapped to his thigh in its leather holster. Never be left vulnerable, he always told himself. That was another issue the boys back at the base would pick at, but he sure as hell was thankful he listened to his instincts and not the jeering of his teammates.
His fingers touched the hilt. He dare not make any sudden movements.
"Who's 'ere?" he demanded, his voice thick with intimidation, "You best speak up now."
The Sniper had no time to even guess who the intruder was, let alone how and why they managed to find his camper and get inside without his knowledge, because the person in-question suddenly ripped the shower curtain open and put the man in instant survival mode. His fingers expertly flicked the dagger into his hand and moved it to the offending person's throat, aiming to kill, but quickly retracted it before he could make a slice.
"Hey, brotha, what's up?"
The taller man blinked stupidly. The Scout? "What in the bloody 'ell are you doing 'ere?"
The boy gave a strained grin as a bead of sweat rolled down his face, "Needin' a change 'a pants, obviously."
The Sniper was stunned for words. He had so many questions rolling around in his brain to pick just one. Why was the younger male here? How did he get here? Why, of all places, did he choose to sneak-attack him while in the shower? Why was---crap. The elder man forced back a blush as he grabbed the curtain and pulled it against his lower half, having been caught in a laughable position, making him all the more red in the face with embarrassment and anger. He regained his composure with a clearing of his throat and gave the Scout a mean glare.
"Alright, alright, I'll be in the otha' room," the boy chuckled as he lifted his hands in front of him in mock-defense.
The Sniper rolled his eyes as the door to the bathroom closed. So much for that shower. He flicked the water off and grabbed a towel from the hook on the wall nearby and wrapped it around his scrawny waist. As an added aggravation, the Scout's interruption caused water to splash beyond the shower onto the floor, adding more things to clean before he could call it a day. But, he could not worry about that when there was still the mystery of why the hell the boy was in his camper and how he found it entirely.
He padded out of the bathroom, leaving a trail of watery footprints behind. Before the Sniper could even address the situation, he had to yank his Huntsman from the boy's grubby hands.
"Leave that alone, you blinkin' idiot," he snapped, giving his weapon a quick once-over before hanging back in its position and poking a pointed finger in the youth's direction, "Now, explain yourself."
"Yeah, sure thing, pal," the Scout shrugged, taking a casual seat on the elder man's bed, which only irritated him further, but he withheld any comments for the sake of an explanation. The boy positioned himself where his feet were a couple of inches from the floor, allowing him to swing them back and forth childishly. His shoulders slumped and his eyes darted about the small living space, trying to figure out how to begin.
"Well, ya see, I've been thinkin' 'bout stuff," he began, "Y'know, about what's been happenin', y'know, between us."
The Sniper scoffed and crossed his arms, "An' what would that be?"
"Geez," the Scout rolled his eyes, "Don't be playin' dumb on me here, pops. You were the one goin' all emotional and shit on me the other day. I just thought that…I da know, maybe you were getting' the hots for me."
There was a deathly silence falling onto the camper. The youth continued kicking his legs as he sneered toward the elder man, relishing in the fact that he could physically see every hair on his body standing on-edge right that moment, just waiting for the first coherent thought to return to his brain. If there ever was a time to get an embarrassing photograph of the Sniper, this was a good time, as his face was flushed and he was very noticeably frazzled.
"'Ave you lost your ever-lovin' mind?" was all the elder could muster up as the rest of his energy was being used to not throttle the snarky Scout for even thinking such a preposterous thing. Again, the younger male's hands rose up in defense.
"I'm just messin' with ya, old man," he chuckled. "Relax."
The Sniper uncrossed his arms and pointed to the door of the camper, "Out."
"No, no, no, I'm bein' serious now! Honest! I did come here with a reason." There was another pause as the towel-clad man stared down the youth with scrutiny and the Scout suddenly found himself flushing and finding the wet floor fascinating, which only angered him further.
"Out with it already, or you'll be goin' home with me boot in your ass."
"Fine, geez, ya grump," the smaller male huffed, "I came to repay a favor. For, y'know, saving my ass…a few times…" He stood up suddenly, as if to defend himself, "But, only 'cause I don't go around owin' nobody nothin'!"
The features on the elder softened somewhat. That's all the kid wanted? He merely wished to pay a debt? Well, if it would make him leave and put them on equal terms again instead of all this weird back-and-forthing…
A sigh escaped through the Sniper's nose. He really was getting too soft with this youngster around. "Sure, go ahead. What do you 'ave in mind then?"
His compliance triggered a grin that spread across the Scout's face. He motioned to the bed beside him.
"Sit," the Scout repeated himself, patting the mattress with enthusiasm. As if there were no other choice, the elder shrugged and took his seat sternly, his back stiff and rigid with uncertainty as he sat on the very edge, his long legs jutting out in front of him and bending at the knee so as to tuck his feet right below him. He eyed the boy cautiously as he gave a slight laugh and crawled onto the bed himself, moving behind the elder. Before the Sniper could utter a word of question, the smaller man's hands clamped onto his shoulders with great force and his fingers began massaging into the muscle there.
His body stiffened even harder, to the point of breaking beneath the pressure. He was not used to this foreign touch, especially in such a personal manner. Actually, he could not remember the last time anyone had ever touched him that didn't directly involve a knife. Though thoroughly misplaced, the Sniper could not resist letting a small moan of pleasure rattle in his throat. It still felt strange, but if letting the younger male massage him just this once would help clear the tension between them, well then, he was all for it. Especially since the slender fingers were working such magic in his ragged flesh. How could a bat-wielding brat be so experienced with his hands?
"You like that?" the Scout whispered, getting unnaturally close to his elder's ear, the heat of his breath dancing against cold, wet flesh. Without even giving it a second thought, he hummed affirmatively as his body relaxed and was actually leaning into the wonderful hands now working the muscles around his shoulder blades. His arms dotted with goose bumps and hair stood on-end, his body becoming aware that it was still wet and getting cooler despite the warm touch behind him. The Sniper had to move his hands behind him, using his arms as support so as to not fall backwards onto the boy altogether. His head slumped forward lazily. The ministrations mixed in with his overall exhaustion were causing his mind to go hazy with pleasant vibes and his body all but caved in on itself.
Catching the elder off-guard, the Scout leaned in and left a soft kiss on the spot between the Sniper's shoulder and his neck, never failing to cease in his massaging. His eyes opened; his mind only half-absorbed what had just happened. It wasn't that big of a deal, he thought to himself, as he had only done the same to the boy some days earlier. Just returning the favor, it seemed, but he could not deny the warm sensation he felt under the display of affection. Another hum escaped easily, and he heard a slight 'heh' behind him.
Without putting much thought into his actions, the Sniper slowly turned his torso so that he was half-facing the boy behind him, giving a slight moment of hesitation before leaning in and giving the youth a peck on the lips. He rose back slowly, pondering if that was the appropriate thing to do and braced himself to be pushed away. An agonizing second passed, and no actions were taken. The Sniper threw down any semblance of a wall he had for people and leaned in once more, taking the boy's lips for his own as his hand moved to rest at the back of the other's head, fingers ruffling into shaven hair. Surprisingly, the Scout returned the kiss, tilting his head slightly for easier access, which his elder was more than happy to take advantage of. His heart pounded as he dare snake his tongue into the willing mouth, relishing in the decadent flavor that he offered. Finally, after a heated moment, both males withdrew and leaned back, each puffing sharply to catch their breath. The Scout blushed at the elder man and motioned him back to his original position. Again, his fingers worked into the taller man's back, going lower along the spine and causing him to melt once again though his chest heaved with each breath he took.
"I guess it's true then," the boy chuckled, "You do got the hots for me. This is perfect. Just perfect."
One of his hands snaked around while the other continued to massage. The Sniper did not notice until after the fact, but his dagger was no longer in its holster. He suddenly realized it as the sharp blade ripped into his upper back. His eyes went wide in shock.
"Just as I thought," a new, very-familiar voice shattered the all-too-perfect atmosphere as the Sniper felt a sudden pain in his side as he was kicked to the floor. He looked up in surprise and anger as the Scout vanished in a blur and the shape-shifting rat of a RED Spy was looming over him, his dagger in one hand while the other mockingly wiped at the corner of his mouth. He delicately licked his gloved finger as he lowered himself into a squatting position beside the injured man. The blade was at his throat.
"You fuckin' deadringin' son-of-a-bitch," he spat as he winced in pain, "I suppose you'll just kill me now, you sick bastard."
"Oh, no, mon ami," the Spy sneered, his face moving even closer to the Sniper's, "Ze killing would be so---how do you say---boring. Non, there are better ways to make you suffer worse than simply keeling you. I now know your weakness."
The red-clad man pulled a cigarette from his pack, gingerly placing it into his mouth and lighting it, giving the Sniper a moment to let that thought sink in, all the while taunting with the knife at his throat. And, it did not take long for him to realize just what the scum meant, and his eyes went wide to the point of bulging from their sockets. Before the Sniper could even react, the Spy was on his feet and gave him another swift kick to the ribs. He saw stars and gave a howl of anger and pain, but by the time he had regained himself, even in that split-second, he was all alone and his camper door gave a long, drawn-out squeak as it swayed on its hinges.
The Sniper lay in the floor and angrily pounded a fist into the nearby wall. This was the exact reason why he put up his emotional walls to begin with, cared about no one and no thing unless it benefited his own survival.
"Shit!" he growled as he rolled over and climbed slowly to his feet. The blood oozing from the wound on his back mixed with the water on the floor, spreading fast onto the linoleum. That made yet another thing that needed cleaning, but there were more important things on his agenda. Without any more waste of time and breath, the Sniper trudged through his camper, slamming the door and making way to the driver's seat. He started the engine and forcibly pressed his foot to the pedal, causing the entire vehicle to squeal in the dirt as it rushed towards the base. First things first, he needed the Medic.
Secondly, he needed to collect dental records. When he got his hands on the Spy, said records would be the only way they would ever identify the body.
Chapter 5: Your Move
It wasn't the sound of the Demoman blowing himself up in the showers again that disturbed the Medic's rest this time, or the rumbling of Sasha going off in the Heavy's bed because he accidentally rolled onto her in his sleep. This time, it was a more unfamiliar, but not completely foreign, sound and rumbling, one the Medic hadn't felt since his first and only car accident almost seven years before he went into the mad doctor business. It startled him enough to warrant him getting out of bed and investigating. At first, it didn't make sense. How could there have been a car wreck all the way out here? No one was ever out here. The land and premises almost seemed to be reserved for them. However, once he got outside, everything came together and many of his questions were answered.
He had forgotten about the Sniper's private, mobile quarters. It was never anywhere in sight, and the Sniper rarely ever spoke about it. Strange that it was here, now, crashed into the far side of the barracks. Smoke curled up from the bent and broken hood that covered the engine, and one of the tires had made its escape right after impact. It had rolled over to where the Medic was approaching and sat flat on its side. He was careful not to trip over it. Just as he was about to make his way towards the RV and inspect it, the passenger door burst open. It swung on the only hinge that was capable of holding it to the motor vehicle, and the Sniper spilled out of the RV and onto the dusty ground with an uncomfortable thud. A quick once over told the Medic that the Sniper's condition wasn't something to be immediately alarmed over. The Sniper's forehead had a huge gash on it, undoubtedly from the windshield, and bruises were already forming along his entire body. Some were from the crash, others took on the curious shape of a shoe print. There was also a vicious looking stab wound immediately above his right shoulder blade. It looked like it was enough to hurt like hell, but not enough to endanger his life. At least not immediately. Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the Sniper's condition, however, was that he was clothed in nothing more than a towel…which was dropping frightening low and falling off.
"You're all in danger!" the Sniper shouted upon spotting the Medic.
"I'll say," he answered casually and pushed his glasses higher on the bridge of his nose. "Please, adjust your towel."
"No, that's not wha—" He started, but the severe pain that shot through his body when the Medic helped him up silenced him.
"Hush hush now, herr Sniper," the Medic said. "Do not expend any more energy zhen you already haff. I vill never be able to carry you inzide vithout your assistance."
Reluctantly, the Sniper followed the Medic's instructions, too woozy from blood loss and pain to argue, and together they hobbled inside. It was unusually quiet inside. No one was wandering the halls like Sniper always imagined. There weren't screams of agony (or fun, but really, it was the same thing with this lot of mercenaries), and no loud snoring. He couldn't imagine what they were all up to, but whatever it was, it couldn't have been normal. These people weren't the types to be quiet. Ever.
The walk into the bowels of the barracks was long and agonizing, with nothing but the sound of their footsteps to occupy his thoughts. The Medic wasn't one for conversation, unless it was about himself. That was something the Sniper would rather be spared, even at the risk of his mind wandering. If he had to hear how the Medic lost his medical license one more time, he would completely lose it. Fortunately, there was as much conversation as the Medic had compassion, and the Sniper didn't have to worry about keeping his temper in check.
That left only one logical train of thought: the Scout. The silence in the barracks suddenly became chilling. The RED Spy couldn't possibly move faster than the squealing tires of the Sniper's trusty barracks. There was absolutely no way he beat the Sniper here, but even still, the Sniper knew he was wasting precious time. It wasn't a far drive from his hide out to the barracks, and who knew how much longer he had until the RED Spy infiltrated the base. A knot formed in the Sniper's stomach the more he thought about it. If the Scout had any semblance of the feelings that the Sniper had, then he was in a lot of trouble.
"Please," the Medic interrupted the Sniper's thoughts. "Take a zeat on zhe table." Suddenly, he had to support himself as the Medic left his side to set up his Medigun on a makeshift stand he made from god knows what. His knees trembled under his weight, but held up enough for him to stumble to the table. It was ice cold, and something he didn't want to plop his bare thighs onto. He waited for as long as he could, but the longer he stood there, the more the Medic shouted. It forced him to sit down. Every single hair on his legs stood up on end from the chill that it sent through him. He regretted that he hadn't taken the time to at least put on pants.
Then, the Medigun was flicked on. The healing effects of the strange device were immediately felt. Colorful blotches burst in his peripherals. They undulated, morphing into one another and into strange shapes that had never been seen and had no name. He was washed with a feeling of complete peace, and simply melted onto the metal bed, completely forgetting how cold it was. Time and space were nothing more than mere specks in the Sniper's mind. He basked in the glow, warmth, and the relief the Medigun suddenly brought. It was sheer bliss and happiness, both of which he hadn't felt since his little Scout donated that most wonderful massage…that's right. The Scout. There were much more important things to think about.
When the Sniper opened his eyes, the Medic was sitting over him, a scalpel prodding the flesh on the Sniper's chest. He aggressively pushed the Medic off and jumped off the table. That's when he realized his towel was missing, and his face lit up in a variety of bright reds and pinks. Whether it was out of rage or out of embarrassment, neither the Medic nor Sniper were sure.
"Alright, mate, where are me pants?
"You didn't come vith any," the Medic smugly assured him and shrugged. Sniper, determined to wipe the Medic clean of any further sarcastic notions, grabbed him by his lab coat and slammed him back-first against the table. The Medic winced as the corner of the table came into contact with his lower spine, and he immediately threw his arms up in surrender. "Relax, relax."
"You really don't understand how pressed for time I am, do ya?" the Sniper hissed between clenched teeth. "Pants. Now."
"Check zhe bottom drawer in the dresser to your left," the Medic cooperated. The Sniper roughly pushed him into the table one more time before letting go and storming to the dresser where he did, indeed, find several pairs of pants that all suited his needs. He grabbed the first pair and happily covered his naked lower half. He also stole one of the Medic's belts for good measure, and then ran out the door.
The Sniper blindly darted down the hallways like a little lost puppy, unsure of where to go. He made every turn he saw on the whim of a moment, finding himself more and more lost as he traveled the maze of hallways and stairwells in the build. He never stayed in any sort of public accommodations, and Helen didn't pick the simplest of quarters to house his teammates. Every minute that passed was another minute that the filthy RED Spy had to beat the Sniper to the BLU Scout. It was another minute wasted, and he only had himself to blame for never bothering to familiarize himself with his own territory. This had to be punishment for being a recluse, enjoying his privacy, and not wanting to live in a filthy habitat with even filthier people. Or, even worse, perhaps it was punishment for letting himself feeling fluffy over a man who could have easily been ten years his minor.
He stopped dead in his tracks when he came across a strangely informative wall. It seemed like the Sniper wasn't the only person who got lost in this place. Written on it was "BEDZ HERE" in the Soldier's unmistakable handwriting with an arrow pointing down the corridor to the left. He happily took it, and quickly found himself standing between two rooms. He opened the doors simultaneously and found that each had four beds respectively, all in bunk style. One room had its beds filled with sleeping bodies that all were oblivious to what occurred in the room next door. The other room was missing occupants, well, except for the shadowy body of the unfortunate Soldier and heaps of blood from an apparent struggle. The Sniper, horrified at what he might find, swallowed the lump that was balling itself up in his throat and ventured further into the room. One of the windows was broken, the other wide open. A breeze blew into the dark room, sending a chill down the Sniper's back.
He reached for the light switch next to him and turned it on. The moment the light flooded the room, he regretted ever flicking it. The dead Soldier had his own pickaxe sticking out of his face where his eyes used to be, and it became painfully obvious from the scorch marks around the broken window that the Pyro had almost undoubtedly been pushed through it. The Sniper had no interest in actually confirming that probable theory and refused to get near the window. Pillows and blankets were strewn across the room, some completely saturated in blood. Perhaps, however, the worst part of the entire scene was what he saw next. The Sniper's body trembled and he balled his hands into fists so tightly that his fingernails cut into the skin of his palms. Tears welled up in his eyes and, in an attempt to release his rage in a different way than crying, he slammed one of his fists into the wall. With the Scout nowhere to be found, he couldn't tear his eyes away from it, the writing on the wall in blood next to an image of the Scout's mom: Your move, Bushman.
The Scout gave a slight groan as he winced against the pain in the back of his head. It gave a slight throbbing sensation, not necessarily a headache, but a sore feeling that he may have received a tough blow where it was most tender. And, judging by the amount of pain shooting on his left temple as well as the sticky feeling of what could be blood oozing down the side of his face, he assumed that was the place of striking. He would not be surprised if he had a concussion. It was very possible that he was bonked in his sleep, perhaps by a drunken Demoman’s bottle of scotch. But, even that did not seem right. Intoxicated or not, the crazy Scotsman would not be so careless with his precious alcohol. And, if he last recalled, the Soldier had already been snoring loud enough to wake the dead before the youth attempted to lie down for the night.
He attempted to move to touch his wound, but soon found that his hands were not responding. In fact, neither were his arms, and in that moment, the Scout realized his limbs were tingling with lack of blood-flow. And, also, that they were hoisted above his head. Especially that they were hoisted above his head. An aggravated growl registered in his throat as he shifted his torso in a vain attempt to get some blood flowing to his appendages. A rattling of metal above the boy revealed that something was keeping his hands in place.
The throbbing pain in his cranium was not helping as he tried to regain his senses and figure out just what in the hell was going on. It was dark aside from the swirling patterns in the back of his mind as his head lolled from side to side. He winced against the pain and the darkness, but could make nothing out. The Scout could only heave a sigh, not sure whether or not he should even consider being on high alert, as this area he was confined to was nothing familiar. On a good note, at least his captor or captors had him on the floor in a sitting position rather than dangling by his nearly-numb arms.
Captive. That word danced in the boy’s mind. Okay, so someone unknown had taken him hostage for some reason or another. They did not want him dead, as he would be pushing daisies by now, so the Scout could at least relax at that thought. There was no sense in getting worked up over trivial things; at least, not until his captor was revealed and he had the energy to throttle them with his mouth. And, he certainly had no secret information that anyone would want from the lowest rank on the team if they had planned to torture it out of him.
The boy gulped at that thought, wincing as his tongue tasted blood. There was only a slight sting in his cheek, something that would heal on its own. He would prefer to have fewer injuries from this ordeal in order to escape the treatment of his team’s Medic, who would surely have a delightful time in “examining” the boy’s scrawny body. And, speaking of his team, the Scout began to wonder if they were on a reconnaissance mission right this moment to track him down, if they even realized he was no longer safe in his bed.
Another thought soon filled his fuzzy mind, causing the boy to let out another groan. The Sniper would be part of that group, if not leading the caravan himself to save him. After being told of his importance to the taller man, the Scout did not doubt he would be his savior once again, thus adding his tally of favors to four. Shit.
He shook his head furiously. He did not have time to think of such corny things right now! Whether he had a search party or not, the youth was not about to sit around like a princess and wait to be rescued! Yeah, that was the spirit!
“Hey, this has been real sweet and everything,” the Scout yelled to anyone who might be listening, “But, ya think ya could, I da know, quit fuckin’ around already? I have betta things ta do here.”
He peered into the darkness, leaning his right ear upwards so as to hear a reply. He received nothing.
“I ain’t playin’ around! C’mon!”
An echo of a light laughter could be heard, though it was muffled, as if blocked somehow. A door. Yes, someone beyond a door heard him. At least that much was easily deduced. In spite of the situation, the Scout could make for one pretty damn awesome Sherlock Holmes, if he could say so himself. But, he did not have time to fully congratulate himself on such integrity. The door had begun to open, spilling ungodly amounts of light into the room. He squinted against the intruder to his dilated eyes and the sudden relapse of pain in his skull.
There was a silhouette standing there, though he could not fully make it out through his blurred vision. But, the boy was able to give a glance his surroundings, if only briefly. He was not so sure, but suspected he was in an office of some sort---a doctor’s office, maybe? There was a metal table to the corner and what appeared to be various medical instruments haphazardly laid about, some still covered in dried, old blood. Or, so he thought, though it would have made him feel better if it was rust from abandonment instead. Before the youth could make sense of anything else, the door had shut and he was in the darkness once more. Something was creeping up his spine, and the Scout was unsure if it was a feeling of dread or aggravation.
Whatever the feeling, he was not about to show weakness to this intruder. As best as he possibly could muster, the Scout sat himself up straight, puffing out his chest and staring into the darkness. He knew the bastard was there, just waiting like a hawk observing its wounded prey. What the stranger did not realize is that the injured were twice as likely to stand their ground for survival.
“Alright, shitlord, game’s over. I ain’t havin’ this any more.”
Another husky laugh danced through the black void, antagonizing the Scout and causing him to growl in retaliation, “Yeah, you laugh now, chucklehead. You wouldn’t be laughin’ if I wasn’t stuck here.” His arms screamed in protest as he found himself fighting against his restraints. Even numb fingers clenched into the metal binding his wrists. It was a futile attempt, but he was too irritated to care. It took a special breed of asshole to taunt a shackled man, and the Scout felt it needed to be brought to attention.
To his surprise, the laughing quelled and the sound of rustling was heard. A quick click was made. Then, much to the boy’s horror, a lighter flickered on long enough to light the cigarette now resting in the mouth of the last person he ever thought he would have the bad luck to see again. The Scout blinked, dumbfounded. That wasn’t who he thought it was. It couldn’t be. He saw the arrow go into his skull and his dead body fall over. There was no way in hell the Spy clad in blood colors was standing in the same room as him, face eerily illuminated by the glow of the cigarette he slowly puffed on.
The Scout’s eyes began to betray him once more as the smoke from the cigarette caused them to burn and tear up. There was no mistaking that smell and that psychotic grin on the rat-bastard’s face. He squinted, trying to glare through the tears, but he looked as dangerous as a newborn puppy to the Spy. The elder merely chuckled again, taking a long drag and holding it long enough to move closer, lean over and blow smoke in the boy’s face, eerily delighted at the sputtering and coughing that came from his captive.
“You’re s’posed to be dead!” the boy spat angrily as he struggled to regain his breath.
“Maybe,” the Spy hummed as he tapped his chin in mock-thought, “Maybe. But, non, I would not be very professional if I could not fake my own death, yes?”
His statement could not have been made any clearer. Though the Scout had never seen it himself, at least, up until now, he had heard that there was such a technique called the Deadringer, mastered by even the most inexperienced of spies. It was a cowardly technique in his eyes, faking one’s death on the field of battle in order to escape an actual killing, catching enemies off-guard like a hog-nosed rattlesnake and striking them in the back. Calling the Spy a snake was a perfect description, but then, that was an insult to reptiles everywhere. Even comparing the bastard to the parasite on a snake was nowhere near as accurate a portrayal.
“Fine, whatever,” the boy sputtered, still adjusting to the constant clouds of smoke in his face and lungs, “You gonna suffocate me to death or somethin’? Real original, pal.”
As if on cue, the Spy tossed his cigarette to the floor and snubbed the last bit of light beneath his foot. The Scout suddenly felt anxious with a murderer merely inches from his person. Sure, he could take whatever hit was coming, but the darkness made the wait all the more unbearable. He tensed for a beating that never came.
“Non, mon ami,” the elder male hissed, “Zat would be too easy and so very dull.” He gave a slight laugh in spite of himself, moving his hand expertly in the darkness to ruffle the boy’s hair, “Well, I do recall a similar conversation with someone else recently. You could say it was a very---how do you say---intimate meeting.”
The Scout tried to move from the offending hand at his head, giving a snarl, “What the hell do you mean?”
“Ah, I have said too much already,” came an icy retort, “We haven’t even begun to have ze fun with you yet.”
We? The Scout had a sinking feeling suddenly as he listened to the Spy walk away. With a quick flick, the entire room was illuminated under a blinking fluorescent light in the center of the room. The boy winced once more, though it was more out of shock than the brightness as the light was very dull. Suddenly, another person was at his side. He nearly jumped in surprise. How long had he been there?
“Glückwünsche,” a thick, German accent bellowed in an unnaturally happy manner. The owner gave a polite bow and rose up to adjust his glasses with a finger and thumb on the rim of the lens.
The boy gulped as he stared with wide eyes. It was one thing to have a crazy Medic healing you, but it was another story altogether with the enemy’s doctor now looming over him. He might as well have died on the spot with dread. Panic burned at the back of his still-throbbing head, and he began to thrash against his shackles.
“Oh, no, no, no, no! You keep your damn hands offa me!” the Scout nearly shrieked.
“Oh, poor boy,” the red-clad Medic cooed, his hands clamping together in a sympathetic manner, “He ist sick vith fright. Und look at his face…”
The doctor trailed off, taking a gloved hand to the youth’s chin, raising it for better inspection. He scrutinized the tiny scar below his eye. The Scout narrowed his eyes, taking them off the crazed man in his face to glare at the one responsible for the old wound he wore.
“Ve should fix him up.”
“Zat is a good idea, doctor,” the Spy nodded nonchalantly.
“Wunderbar!” came an overly enthusiastic response from the Medic, his hand withdrawing from the boy’s face in such haste, his head wobbled. He yanked at the opening of the glove he wore, releasing it with a sickening slap sound. “Prepare for das examination!”
The Scout tensed up once more and he retracted against the hands of the Spy as he attempted to take hold of the writhing body. It was yet another futile motion, as the elder man lifted his smaller body with little effort, sliding the boy’s restrained hands from the hook he had been trapped against. The boy grunted as he was perched over the Spy’s shoulder, his stomach being pressed against the bone there as his weight sunk in. He had no time to make any movements, as he was unceremoniously flung onto the table with a clunk of his spine meeting metal. Again, his arms were yanked above his head, and a large, black leather belt held them there. His legs kicked furiously, as he was adamant about not being defeated so easily, but two stronger men versus one boy would prove to be no challenge. The Medic effortlessly buckled the strap at his ankles, and any further movement was restricted. Well, from his body, at least. His mouth was another story.
“Fuck you, you bastards!” he spat as he struggled frantically.
“Tsk, tsk, he is inconsolable,” the doctor said as he shook his head. He reached into the tray beside the boy’s head and grasped a rather large syringe, “Perhaps we should subdue him?”
“Oui, good doctor. Just make sure he still has his wits about him.”
“Ja, just a little medicine to ease those tense muscles.”
The Scout let loose a string of insults, his voice going hoarse from the yelling, but it would not prove to be the slightest bit useful. The needle jabbed into his arm, and the skin began to burn as the liquid entered into his vein. Slowly, his body reacted against his will and rested into the coolness of the metal table. He attempted to curse once more, but even his words were sluggish and incoherent as his tongue felt as if it were swelling in his mouth. The boy could only lay his head back and helplessly be at the mercy of his captors, though his mind was very well clear and aware of what was going on. His head no longer hurt, but that was the least of his concerns.
The boy could only close his eyes and grit his teeth as he felt a scalpel tracing down his chest, tearing open the shirt he had wore to bed earlier. He winced against the few cuts made along the path and even gasped as the Medic stopped in his procedure to inspect the scar at the boy’s chest, poking and prodding it with intense curiosity.
“Your doings?” he chuckled, looking over to the Spy whom had proceeded to drag up a stool opposite side of the doctor at the table.
“Not my best,” the other male retorted as he loomed over the unwilling patient, “He is still alive, after all.”
The Scout blew a lazy raspberry in response, as if he had to get his word in regardless of whether he could physically do it or not. In his mind, he had already cursed both men twelve ways until next Thursday. It did not matter; the two men appeared to have no intention of stopping with their “procedure”. His mental string of insults only amplified as he felt the scalpel move lower, easily slicing through the hem of his shorts. The boy cursed his body for not reacting as it should. Instead of fighting until the very last moment, it lay there, sluggish and useless, allowing the Medic to do as he pleased as if he was consenting to the whole ordeal. The younger male rolled his head sluggishly and tried to focus on the cracked paint on the wall nearby, trying his best to not let his reddening face give way to his humiliation as his last shred of clothing and pride was swiftly cut away and left to lie beneath him.
There was a very uncomfortable silence as he felt eyes traveling up and down his near-naked body. The Spy let out a slight ‘hmph’.
“I see why ze Sniper is so interested in you, boy,” he hummed, “You are a sight to behold, magnifique specimen.”
Fuck you! The Scout mentally cursed, visions of his hands clamped around the rat’s neck flooding behind his eyeballs. He dare take a moment to glare at the masked man, who in turn was giving him an unsettling grin, which only caused his bruised face to redden to a deeper shade. His blood was boiling. What did he mean by the Sniper being interested in him? There was nothing going on between them, at least, nothing that would raise question. And, if it was, how did the Spy know? Was he watching them that day? If so, what else has he seen? Another thought stabbed at his brain. What if he wasn’t the only captive? No, no, the Sniper was definitely way too smart to fall victim so easily. But, if that was not the case, then…
Was anyone coming to rescue him?
The Scout tried go move once more, but that action was out of the question. He pondered how long that effect would remain and if he would simply allow the two enemies to kill him against his will. Not getting in the last word was killing him inside; being feeble and unresponsive to anything going on killed his pride. They might as well have slit his throat right then and there; it would have been a better death to endure than this torture and humiliation.
Suddenly, a voice came through into his thoughts, breaking them for the moment, “Doctor, you may leave now.”
“But, I have not fully examined him,” the Medic noted, giving a slight stab to the boy’s hip, receiving an incoherent grunt for his efforts.
The eldest man sighed and retracted his now-bloody scalpel, placing it gingerly on the tray beside him. He tossed his hands into the air nonchalantly. “I tried. Maybe I vill be back later to patch you up, mein kleiner patient.” He gave the bound male something of a sinister smile and patted him roughly on the shoulder. As he began to exit the room, he threw a glance and a pointed finger towards his ally, “Be sure not to puncture any vital organs. I vill be needing them.”
And then, it was just the Scout and the Spy. The younger male could only lay on the table helplessly as he pretended not to notice the bastard still looming from his stool, carefully fixing himself another cigarette and flashing a deadly smile as the real fun was about to begin. He wished beyond all wishes he had the ability to move his mouth properly, as that dumb face looking down on him deserved to be plastered in his saliva and phlegm if he could take the effort to conjure any in his throat.
“Now, I should tell you in advance that zis is not normally my style,” the Spy spoke as he puffed clouds of smoke, actually taking care to not exhale in the boy’s breathing space this time. He needed his attention, and the coughing and sputtering was beginning to be something of an immense pain to listen to.
“Non, you would be dead to me if I didn’t need you, but sometimes, you must have a little cheese to bring in ze mouse. However,” the elder man paused, casually flicking his cigarette into a tray by his side, “No one said I could not make ze fun out of zhis situation.”
The Scout’s eyes widened in surprise as they followed the gloved hand as it began to trail along his thigh. Again, his mind screamed at his paralyzed state. He could only mumble and stutter in defense as the wretched fingers tickled skin, trailing dangerously close to his groin, all the while tracing circles into flesh. To him, those covered fingers may have well been daggers as their touch left heated trails in their wake.
“Tell me,” the Spy spoke in repulsive bits of acid, “Have you ever been pleasured by another man before?”
The poor boy could only guess as to what he meant in a mere second, as he found himself moaning angrily as the gloved hand grasped at his member, giving a slight squeeze. The bastard was not doing what he thought he was doing! No, he would not give him the pleasure of commandeering him so easily. At least, not in his mind. The Scout’s body was betraying him without effort, falling into the waves of pleasure that erupted throughout his being at the unfamiliar touch. He could only clamp his eyes shut and pretend he was elsewhere, not being jerked off by the one guy he wished to beat into oblivion. But, even still, the Spy had a very strange talent for stroking the boy in all the right ways. His fingers expertly gripped and slid up and down his shaft, forcing the member to stiffen to the point of pain. Another moan, something mixed with enjoyment and mortification. The Scout quickly grew aware that he had the ability to clench his teeth, and he did so to the point of nearly shattering them completely.
His bittersweet torture would not last very long. Hissing through his teeth, the boy felt his body jerk against the influence of the medicine in his veins, and he gave out an incoherent groan. He looked to the ceiling beyond the flickering light above, trying to take the thought from his mind; that he was laying there, spilling his seed on himself and an offending hand of his enemy and panting with exhaustion. The Scout’s mind was reeling to the point of not feeling the leather strap release his ankles, the cigarette being put out against his thigh, or the shifting weight of the other man climbing upon the table. Maybe the bastard was just that good at moving unnoticed.
However, his icy words were hard to not notice.
The boy was only given a moment of clarity before he felt his backside being invaded by a slick, wet finger. Before he could utter a word of protest, the Spy’s lips were over his own, the sickening taste of tobacco and smoke plastered on the tongue that forced its way into his mouth. He would have retched if he had the stomach contents but only a muffled cry garbled in his throat. Even his mind was against him at this point, frantically trying to shut itself off against the pain and the humiliation. The tears fell on their own whim, unbeknown to the owner who cried them and he struggled to breathe against the face melting into his own.
However, none of this would dare compare to the ripping pain he felt as the Spy entered him in one swift, jerking motion, quickly grabbing one of his legs and throwing it over a shoulder. The mouth at his own prevented the howl from escaping; rather, it echoed between teeth. His body may have been limp as a ragdoll, but the pain was very real. And, his tormenter would give the boy no time to adapt to the intrusion, quickly going into the motion of thrusting into the boy’s body, causing the table to pop and creek under the pressure.
“Oui, this is a nice look for you, mon ami,” the bastard cooed as he released the Scout’s mouth, leaning back to take in the entirety of the face wracked with sobs and tears. The youth had given up on glaring, instead, staring beyond the man atop him into nothingness. He merely frowned as a tongue trailed his cheek, lapping up the salty trail forming there. He faintly registered the hot breath in his ear as teeth teased his lobe. The Spy’s breath hastened, and he gave a few more thrusts before releasing a groan of his own, filling up the boy’s insides with hot seed. And, with a simple gesture, he left a soft kiss on his victim’s cheek before retracting from the table and adjusting his pants.
“I hate you,” was all the Scout could muster between silent sobs and hiccups.
“Awww, it was not so bad, was it?” the Spy cooed mockingly, affectionately wiping his fingers against the new tears forming on the boy’s face, “You have done well, ma plus petite. Now, to see if your Sniper will play his part. But, first…”
He whipped his butterfly knife from what seemed to be out of thin air. Once again leaning over the boy, he began to carve into the tender flesh of his lower belly. The Scout winced and growled, hurling insults as the blade cut into his skin. And, with that, the elder male left the room, pausing to flick the light switch, the door coming to a deafening slam and the Scout stuck alone to cry angrily as streams of blood pooled into his stomach, navigating away from the word now carved in him.
Chapter 7: A True Huntsman
It didn't take long for the rest of the barracks to wake up and investigate the murder scene in the next room. Not because there was a murder, but because the Sniper was screaming and cursing and throwing anything with which he came into contact. The murder scene was just a bonus shock to their still sleepy and groggy selves. The first person to gather any semblance of his thoughts was the BLU Heavy, who arguably never had much with which to begin.
"What happened?" he said after sleepily smacking his lips together. "Iz big mess." His question fell on the Sniper's deaf ears, who had gone from shocked to horrified to enraged in seconds, and wasn't about to entertain stupid questions while entertaining his own stupid emotions. This was exactly why he didn't let anyone in and why he didn't care about anyone else. This, right here, was the prime example of why the Sniper never spoke to anyone about anything of remote importance besides his parents. The BLU Spy, however, was feeling far more generous this evening, perhaps from being woken up, and answered the Heavy.
"Not sure, mon ami," he said as he lit up a cigarette, of which he pulled from his suit. He didn't have pajamas, just more suits. It was important to always be well dressed for work, and the mess in front of him was a prime example of why. "But whatever it is, I guarantee it wasn't pleasant for our friends."
"What did happen?" The BLU Engineer chimed in. He cautiously approached the Sniper and touched a hand to his shoulder. The Sniper jumped, spinning around to face the Engineer with fists swinging, but he managed to stop himself. His face was red and his lips were pinched tightly shut, presumably between his teeth. He didn't answer; he just swatted the hand off of his shoulder. The Engineer sighed, but wasn't about to give up. "Come on, pardner, talk to us."
The last thing the Sniper wanted to do was talk. He had a good idea of what happened, and as much as his teammates deserved to know, he didn't want to talk to any of them. There were far more important things to concentrate on, such as finding the Scout before any more harm could befall him. Wherever he was, he had to be frightened and confused, if even conscious or coherent. Who knew a snake like the RED Spy would do in order to get back at the Sniper and it fueled the sick, little knot in the pit of his stomach. He wanted to throw up, but couldn't. His system wasn't cooperating, and it wasn't like he had the time to throw up, anyway.
"There was a RED Spy in the base," the Sniper finally growled through clenched teeth before pushing his way between his teammates and down the hall.
"RED Spy?" the Heavy mused, looking up at the ceiling as if he was deep in thought. "But iz night time!"
The Heavy's voice echoed down the hallways, quickly vanishing into nothing more than a simple thought as the Sniper retraced his steps through the dorms. He found getting out much easier than getting in, and once outside had absolutely no trouble rediscovering the location of his crashed RV. Although disoriented upon crawling out of it, he would never forget where he last parked his beloved vehicle and home.
The door had fallen off of its last hinge long ago, giving the Sniper easy access, and the smoke was no longer curling from the engine, allowing him to feel comfortable crawling inside. It wouldn't have hindered him either way. All of his weapons were stashed away in there, as well as a pair of pants that actually fit him. When he got in, he wasn't surprised to see the entire place a wreck. Dishes had fallen out of the cupboards, chairs and various furniture had been flipped over, and everything else in general chaos. There was no way he could climb back to his bedroom, which was in shambles. Besides, with the pair of pants he was wearing earlier that day on the floor just outside of the bathroom, there was no way he was going to waste time looking for clean clothes. His boots were also safe by the front door, which he would grab on his way out. His shirt, however, was another story. It was soaked in blood, coffee, and now, from falling further into the bathroom from the sink, also toilet water. He wasn't going to go anywhere near it, let alone be caught dead putting it on his body. He could only stare, feeling somewhat sorry that he hadn't cared to place his clothes in a hamper before his shower. Mourning the loss of the most dedicated shirt in the world would have to wait for another time. He quickly changed his pants, gathered up his Kukri, Huntsman, Razorback, boots, favorite hat, and, of course, his yellow tinted sunglasses, and was ready to track down where the filthy mongrel known as the RED Spy took the Scout.
Before tracking prey, one had to know where to start, and fortunately for the Sniper, the Spy left a big clue in the room: the open window. He must have exited through there. Lesson one of hunting in the Outback: always be on high alert for even the smallest of tracks. The first thing he saw when he arrived wasn't tracks, though. It was the lack of a body, as he was expecting to see a dead Pyro splattered on the ground. It was somewhat bewildering to not see guts everywhere, but it did make it easier to spot actual tracks, and his keen eyes soon noticed a blood trail coupled with a series of prints that disturbed the dirt, most in the shape of classy dress shoes. The Spy spent no time trying to cover up his tracks. In fact, the tracks were grossly over-exaggerated. They were easy to follow, and the Sniper swiftly chased after them with caution nipping his heels.
The tracks never trailed off or disappeared. They were consistent the entire way. In fact, if anything, they grew disturbingly bolder and more intense. Any idiot could have followed these tracks, and the Sniper came to the conclusion that he was being led straight into a trap. That bastard Spy actually wanted to be found. The absolute worst situations flooded into his head as he mulled over his last conversation with the Spy, and it didn't take long for the Sniper to put two and two together: He was going to torture the Scout until the moment the Sniper arrived, and then was going to be made to watch as the Spy killed the boy. The thought alone gave the Sniper an extra burst of adrenaline, and before he knew it, he was standing in front of the RED Base.
The front door of the RED Base was left wide open, undoubtedly another method of leading the Sniper to the Scout. He didn't want to enter there. It would be giving the Spy exactly what he wanted, but how could he waste the precious little time he had left? There was no other option immediately available, so he ran down the hallway. The sound of the heels of his boots clacking on the hard tile floor echoed off the walls all around him like the sound of a metronome. The Spy knew he was coming, so there was no point in a stealthy approach.
The RED base was just as confusing as the BLU barracks. The deeper in he got, the more lost he became, until he was completely turned around with no idea of where to go next. The RED Spy stopped leaving obvious directions at the front door.
Then, sobbing. At first, it was quiet, almost inaudible. Whether that was because of distance or volume, the Sniper was unable to tell, but ultimately made the perfect trail for the Sniper to pick up. Another lesson in the Outback: even the most unlikely of noises can make for a good trail to track. The sobbing led him right to a single, closed door, and as he got closer to the source, the sobbing grew into wails, and then screams and the owner voice became painfully clear. It shook the Sniper to his very core, and involuntary tears welled up in his eyes. He was too late. The torture had already started, and from the sounds of it, the Sniper was going to walk right into the middle of the session.
The Sniper hesitated as he laid his hand on the doorknob. He didn't want to open the door, in fear that it would end the Scout's life, but if it meant a chance at ending the lad's suffering and actually helping him, it was a risk worth taking. He threw open the door and laced his Huntsman with an arrow in one swift motion. No one on the RED Team was in the room, though. The only person in the room was the BLU Scout, indeed alive, but the situation was far worse than the Sniper could have possibly imagined.
He lowered his bow, giving the string slack as he stared at the scene in front of him. His heart felt like it stopped as his throat closed up, restricting his airways, and blood rushed to his face. The image of Scout, stark naked and tied to an operating table, with blood and semen smeared on his body and with a single word carved into his belly, sobbing and hardly moving otherwise was far more than the Sniper could process or handle. For a single moment, he completely shut down. The Huntsman slipped from his fingers, clacking to the floor with the arrow it was holding, and he stared before urgently racing to the Scout's bedside in a complete stupor.
He recollected himself as soon as he got there, whispering to him in an attempt to bring about a moment of comfort, but the Scout didn't look over as the Sniper expected. Instead, the boy stared at the ceiling, his eyes glazed over and void of any coherence. His wailing and crying was detached from him, involuntary actions performed by a body set on autopilot. He didn't seem like he even knew the Sniper was there until a rough hand, callused from years in the harsh wilderness, touched his cheek. The boy tensed up, every muscle on fire and screaming for him to get away, but he was still unable to move enough to struggle. The most he could do was slightly arch his back in protest. Panic filled his lungs in the form of shallow, heavy breaths, and his eyes rolled about wildly as he desperately avoided regaining awareness of his situation by looking at the man touching him.
"I'm so sorry, mate," the Sniper uttered, a tsunami of guilt washing over him. He immediately went to work to release the Scout from his bondage. The first to get untied were his wrists. They to be difficult to undo, having been tied with both straps from the bed as well as with cuffs, but the Sniper managed to undo all of them, including the long and tedious task of picking the lock to the cuffs. The boy's arms were effortless pushed away from each other with the natural flow of his body, and hung from the sides of the table. There was no more fight in the kid. The Sniper traced his fingers across those of the Scout's, hoping, in vain, for some sort of reaction before fumbling with the buckle on the waist-strap. It was stubborn from being so tight, and clearly dug into the Scout's flesh. The only way to get it off was to first tighten it, which would undoubtedly cause the kid more discomfort, but he didn't get a chance to even try when he felt a sharp pain at the base of his back that followed straight through his torso and out his front. Air hissed passed his teeth as he sharply sucked in.
"Ah, ah, ah, herr Sniper," a dark voice whispered behind him. "Ve are not done vith das kind. Zhere are zo many answers I haff yet to receive about der human body!" He sighed longingly at the thought and pulled his Übersaw out of the Sniper's torso.
The Sniper crumbled to one knee and his hands instinctively clasped the open wound. He hadn't heard the Medic sneak in over the sound of his own despair and cursed himself for such a simple mistake. Again, instances like this were exactly why he put up such high emotional walls. Emotions were a weakness he had never allowed himself to have until now, and they quickly betrayed him.
"Here I thought your entrance would be more... dramatic," another voice hissed in the room. There was absolutely no mistaking who it belonged to, and the Sniper received complete confirmation when he looked over his shoulder. The RED Spy had a smug smile snaking all the way up to his ears. He was basking in the pain, both physical and emotional, that wracked the Sniper's face, and soaking in the satisfaction from every contortion it made. "You look disappointed, vieil ami."
The Sniper grabbed the edge of the table, smearing blood onto it as he tried to get a good grip. He pulled himself to his feet.
"Oh please, just stay down," the Spy said, almost laughing around his words. He locked eyes with the Sniper, staring past the yellow lenses of the glasses, and unconsciously took a step back. There was a rage behind the Sniper's eyes, a rage he had never encountered before. It burned hotter than the fires of hell, and bore right into the Spy's very being. He had to shake the feeling off of himself and adjust the collar of his suit before further addressing the situation, refusing to make eye contact again. "And exactly what do you plan to do next, bushman? Bleed on me?" He chortled. "I do admit that it would be a waste of a very fine suit."
"I am gonna to tear yer testicles off and shove 'em so far down yer lungs that you will drown in yer own semen, you filthy mongrel."
The Spy's smile was quickly replaced with a scowl, no matter how much he wanted to keep up his cocky demeanor. "I'd like to see you try."
Before he could say anything more, the Sniper hurled himself on top of the Spy. Both men fell screaming to the floor, thrashing and trying to get an advantage over the other. In a desperate attempt to get the upper hand, the Spy fished his butterfly knife out of his pocket and slashed at the Sniper. It made contact with his face, clawing over the skin around his right eye, and spilling blood everywhere. The Sniper let out a roar of pain and squinted his eye shut. He grabbed the knife by the blade and wrenched it from the Spy's hand, tossing it to the side before another cut could be made.
The Medic did nothing to help. Instead, he watched with enthusiasm, making noises every time someone landed a punch. The moment things began to look bleak, though, is when he made his escape, quietly sneaking out of the room to find safety. It really didn't take very long for the Sniper's physical superiority to overpower the Spy, and without a moment's hesitation, he snapped the Spy's neck between his large hands. The Sniper's eyes, clouded over with rage, frantically leapt about the room.
"I knew you ain't dead, ya filthy, deadringin' spook!" He screamed, standing over the simulated body. Show yerself!" No one answered, though. Only silence followed the ringing of the Sniper's voice, and that silence filled every void in the Sniper's body as his thoughts returned to the Scout still on the table, still quietly whimpering, still naked and more alone than he had ever been in his entire life.
Chapter 8: Cries in the Dark
The room was eerily quiet despite the confrontation that had just occurred. Blood of the Sniper now laced several places and objects, painting the room in an effort to record the fight he had just won---or, came very damn close to it, had the sneaky bastard of a RED spy actually died when he was supposed to. Technically, he should have been dead days ago when the hunter first put an arrow through his skull. But, that was definitely not the case, and disbelief would be a waste of time. Here he was, bleeding profusely from the gut, his eye clamped shut beneath the flow of blood on his cheek, and the Scout…
Oh, the Scout.
The elder man kicked at the simulated body he had just murdered, giving it one last appeal to be the real person, but to no avail. He heaved, nearly stumbling over as he returned to the side of the table, one hand clutching at his stomach and the other adding even more blood to the metal the boy laid upon. Another heave; this time, it brought a stinging cough of which he painted the younger male with speckles of red. The Sniper struggled to stay upright, shaky hands leaving their positions as he reached for the smaller, nearly lifeless body. He fought unconsciousness with nothing more than pure adrenaline. He could not black out now. This was not the place or time for weakness, especially since his life was not the only one hanging in the balance.
He struggled against every wave of blackness that attempted to flash behind his eyes, instead, focusing on the body before him, hands carefully scooping beneath the Scout’s head and back. More heaving and coughing, but the Sniper refused to let his own dying body keep him from rescuing the boy. He clung, bringing the other male to his chest, who only hung limply from his grip. In a swift motion, the hunter’s legs buckled and both bodies sunk to the floor with a thud.
“I’m sorry, mate,” he gasped as he fell over onto his back, eyes daring to roll backwards. However, his grip on the Scout had not loosened, but tightened with every scrap of energy and life force that remained. The younger man was unresponsive. His cries subsided, and his eyes had closed, as if his mind had endured too much and was forced into a mental shut-down. Or, even worse, death.
This was it. This is how everything ends. Had his walls remained, this may have never come to be. But, he could not regret it. The kid may have been annoying, but he was a rare light in the darkness of the lone Sniper’s life, even for a small time. And, as if some small token of optimism, he would not have to suffer the fate of dying alone. That made things worthwhile, even if it meant the tragedy of a life not long lived. With the last token of his energy, the Sniper left a kiss atop the boy’s head, then fell back and allowed bittersweet unconsciousness to overtake him.
* * *
There was a hazy wave of calm that filled the back of the man’s mind despite the sudden revelation of being very cold and very uncomfortable. Eyes squinted open, fighting against the dull light hanging overhead. The man blinked, looking up to see the alarming image of the enemy Medic hovering over him. His mind only took a moment to register. The Sniper was not dead. He jerked himself into an upright position despite the scream from his spine, which had been flattened against the cold, concrete floor for who knows how long. Before the man had built up the sheer survival instinct and leaped to attack, the doctor raised his free hand, as the other had been holding onto his Medigun, which was curiously pointed in his direction.
“Nein, nein,” he spoke shakily, “I am healing you, dummkopf. Not that I vant to, mind you, but ve can’t always have our way.”
The Sniper’s eyes widened in surprise. He raised an eyebrow questionably, hands instinctively reaching for the wound in his stomach that was no longer bleeding, let alone open. Of course, there was a very disfiguring scar now on his abs and lower back, but at least his organs felt intact. His right eye was still swollen from the earlier impact, but the blood had ceased to spill onto his face. Well, it seemed he was alive still. But, why?
“Why are you botherin’ to fix me up?” he growled, “You could ‘ave easily just killed us both.”
Without opening his mouth, the Medic motioned behind him with a nod of his head, irritated expression plastering his face. The Sniper could not believe his eyes. There, with a homemade flame thrower to the doctor’s back was his own BLU Pyro, the questionable character’s head tilted to the side and his gloved hand waving in salutation. He muffled something unintelligible as he prodded the doctor with his weapon.
“I don’t bloody well believe this,” he muttered before his senses returned to him and he found himself turning to the smaller body beside him. As if on cue, the Scout stirred, slowly giving a mumble that signified his mind returning him to consciousness. It did not take him long to become aware of where he was still, and the memories flooded with the pressure of a gale force wind. His chest began to heave as his eyes frantically searched around, first coming into contact with the Medic. The boy sucked in a rush of breath and began muttering incoherently, his body tensing up now that the drug had seemed to wear off. Before he could release the distraught scream, the Sniper scooped him up once more, hiding his face in his chest. The elder mumbled something akin to soothing noises in the boy’s ear, trying his best to hush him before a panic attack could rise. With a glare, the hunter pointed at the doctor.
“Get rid of him.”
Without any further instruction, the Pyro complied and pushed the surprised Medic to the side with enough force to send him to his knees and turned the flamethrower to his body, torching the elder man before a howl could pass through his charred throat. With the odd fascination that came with being one with fire, the Pyro lowered himself to his haunches, curiously inspecting the roasted corpse with gloved fingers, the muffled sounds of what could have eerily been humming a tune flowing through his mask.
The Sniper cleared his throat, finding it still littered with old blood, snapping the other figure from his task as he came to his feet and approached the other males. With the unnatural strength, he pulled the hunter to his feet with only one hand at his arm, who in turn, held the other male by the waist. It wasn’t too difficult keeping the Scout upright, as his fingers now clung into the shoulders of the taller man, though his legs were still buckling beneath him shakily. The Pyro began waving frantically, pointing to both the youngest male and then to the doorway, his voice mumbled and incoherent, but the Sniper knew even without his signals, that it was time to get the hell out of there. He scanned the room hastily, resting upon the burnt corpse. Maybe he should have taken the man’s clothing before killing him. But, no, in the corner lay a storage container hidden by a dusty tarp, and that would have to suffice under these emergency circumstances. The Pyro collected it upon request, and the Sniper carefully draped it around the Scout before taking him into his arms, all but shaking with weakness, but he had no time to worry with such fickle matters. He allowed the arsonist to lead the way, even allowing the mysterious man to collect his hat and beloved Huntsman, cautiously keeping a few steps between them as he rounded the corners and corridors of the base, the Pyro leading the retreat with his flamethrower armed and ready. The yellow-tinted sunglasses were lost to the room, perhaps having been broken during the scuffle. It didn’t matter; glasses were replaceable and the Sniper did not need them to see in the darkness.
It was strange, though, as no one appeared to be trying to trap them, let alone stop them from escaping. Whoever had been in the base at the time was not interested in enemies running through their hallways. Or, perhaps, the rest were oblivious to the late-night doings of the now-dead Medic and the missing Spy. And, surprisingly enough, there would be no trace of the RED bastard beyond the deliberate footprints he left in the dirt outside prior to returning to his base. Perhaps he had made his point and disappeared, which only angered the Sniper further. He clenched his teeth in anger at the cowardly actions and struggled against the weight in his arms and the soreness still at his gut. But, come hell or high water, he refused to let go of the boy now gripping him as if his very life depended on it. The Scout had become silent during their leaving, which the Sniper was thankful for, though he found one of the elder male’s shoulders to be the center of his attention as his eyes bore into the skin there. The hunter could not blame him, though the guilt ate at his already-aching belly.
First things first, they had to get to safety. Apologies could be made once the boy was well enough to accept them. If he would. The Sniper gave a heave of breath as they ran. This was entirely his fault. Had he not gotten so close to the boy, had he kept his walls up and remained the stoic man he should have been, had he ensured the Spy was dead when he first “killed” him, all this would have never happened. It didn’t matter if he would be forgiven right now. All he could think about was the boy’s well-being, not whether or not they could let things slide and go running off into the sunset, picking daisies and other sentimental shit of that nature.
Too many thoughts and mindless following had caused the lanky male to cease his thinking and look around. He did not recognize the path they had taken. In fact, he was unsure if they were even headed in the right direction! But, before he could utter a word of protest, the Pyro stopped in front of a set of bushes, holding a hand out behind him as to stop the Sniper. He looked around, then held a finger to the area where his mouth was behind the mask and then weaved into the shrubbery. He appeared again; or rather, just his mask and a hand that motioned the other male to follow. What the Sniper found was rather surprising and he quickly understood how the Pyro had come to their rescue in just the nick of time and where he had to have been when he himself disappeared from the bunks earlier during the initial attack.
“You drove that?” he asked the veiled male as he was once again motioned to follow him to the scraggly little vehicle before him. The Pyro mumbled something, but it was lost, as no one really understood what he had to say on most days, as even his actions were confusing at times. He could have been reciting the words of Plato for all he knew. But, regardless, there sat some sort of handmade buggy---maybe a Baja buggy---held together by a vast amount of metal that had been crudely welded together. It was definitely not one of the Engineer’s works, so the Sniper merely assumed the man responsible was now motioning him to hop inside it. It was large enough to accommodate the two larger males, and the Scout could easily just lay on them. The Sniper was momentarily wary of allowing the fire-crazed man to drive, but at this point, he would not have been able to safely remove the boy from his death-grip on his shoulders without breaking his fingers, so he would have to trust their safety to him. The Pyro only gave a thumbs-up as he took to the driver’s seat, which gave the hunter a feeling of dread. But, time was against them and they had to get back to their respective base.
Carefully, the Sniper lowered himself into the buggy, which would have been a chore in its own right with his long, scrawny legs having to tuck inside the vehicle, but trying to squeeze his tall frame in while carrying the Scout proved to be a bigger challenge, especially when every muscle in his body protested the events of the early evening and night. Fortunately, the boy clung to him like a baby koala to its mother, so his risk for dropping his smaller body was lessened, and he was able to wedge himself into his seat. By now, the Pyro had already plopped down beside him, gripping the wheel excitedly and cranking the engine, which burst to life but not before sputtering an array of sparks. For some unknown reason, at least to the Sniper, the masked man applied a pair of driving goggles to his covered face, giving a muffled sound of satisfaction. The hunter had no time to rethink this horrible decision, as the buggy took off with a sputter, followed by a high buzz, and then dust was everywhere as the wheels peeled out and carried them home.
It took no less than a few minutes before the sound of the buggy was heard back at the base. Thanks to the break-in, all the remaining men were on high alert, pacing around near the main doorway, each wearing an expression of worry and anger. Though the situation was very unclear to them, the death of one of their fellow teammates was enough to put them into a defensive position. The Engineer was busy working on a few sentries, having two in the doorway alone. There would be no telling how many were now sprinkled within their barracks. Supply never ran dry here, and he was taking advantage of that. As for the rest of the team, they held their positions, guns and other weapons in-hand, and each turned sharply at the approaching cart, with the exception of the resident Demoman, who was chugging a bottle of alcohol as he perched behind the safety of a sentry. If things got crazy enough, he would be prepared to fight like the angry Scotsman he was, but for now, he was content to just rest. Having been awakened from a deep sleep, he was already in a bad mood, and to be filled with worry as well just sent him into a drunken stupor.
The buggy approached and came to a quick stop in front of the men, nearly giving both passenger and driver whip-lash. The Sniper gave a quick sigh of relief that they made it back alive, not only by the luck of escaping the enemy base, but also by the fact that the Pyro’s driving was the most hazardous thing of all. The BLU group came to the passenger side of the buggy, each wearing a face of concern and question. The Heavy made an attempt to take the Scout off of the Sniper’s hands, but one quick hand flew up to him.
“Don’t touch him,” he said sharply as he began to peel himself from the vehicle, the boy still held tightly in his arms, “Get the doctor.” The Russian complied and rushed off as fast as his large body could carry him, the Sniper not too far behind, though even the Pyro had to follow to help the other man, who was beginning to lose his focus and grip on the Scout, but still refused the assistance. With the onslaught of people crowding them merely moment’s ago, the boy had become slightly more panicked, his fingers digging into the Sniper’s skin. It was hard to not notice the rapidly-beating heart in the smaller male; it was especially difficult to pretend the nails in his shoulders were not there.
He froze in his tracks as the soft whisper, the Pyro nearly falling into him at the sudden stop. The Sniper looked down to the boy, “It’s okay, mate. We’re gonna fix you right up as rain.”
“No,” the boy whimpered, his body beginning to shiver within the tarp. His eyes clamped, spilling fresh tears down his battered face. “He’s… He’s all over me.”
The Sniper’s heart sank and he nearly fell to his knees in distraught, but he could not show weakness. Not to the Scout. Not now. He gave the smaller body a soft squeeze and nodded his head, “Right, let’s clean you up.” He wished he had learned the map of the base, as he had no clue where to find the showers, but the Scout’s sudden slumping ended that thought. Fingers and nails released his aching neck, leaving red crescents visible in the flesh there. The boy slowly stretched a leg to the floor, and the Sniper allowed him to stand on his own, wobbly at first, but there could be nothing more than Boston pride compelling him to make his way to a hot shower on his own two feet.
At least it was a start.
“We’ll be back,” he motioned to the Pyro, who nodded in reply. He muffled words of encouragement as he watched the Scout shuffle slowly down the hallway, the Sniper right as his back with his hands resting on the smaller shoulders protectively. As the Medic appeared beside him, Heavy in tow, the Pyro merely waved them off, telling them in a mixture of gestures to remain on stand-by.
Fortunately, the showers were not too far off, as the living quarters were very closely spaced. The Scout tried with all effort to continue walking, his bare feet hitting the concrete floor sluggishly as he struggled to stay upright as he gripped the tarp to his chest, dragging an edge carelessly behind him. The only thing registering is his mind was standing under a stream of fire-hot water, allowing his flesh to be purified against the vile touch. Just the thought of the Spy atop him gave him reason to stop in his steps and allow his body to convulse again; if not for the reassuring hands on his shoulders, the youth would have just allowed himself to seize as there was no fight left in him. But, oddly enough, the elder male’s words of encouragement urged him on, even if he did not register them as words but as a muffled stream of hums against his good ear. The dried blood in his injured ear began to crack and itch as did his face, and, as if he needed the reminder, the three-letter word carved into his stomach was stinging as it slowly began to scab over.
They entered the tiled room, and the Sniper went straight to work adjusting the temperature to one of the showers, quickly finding the right amount of heat and returning to the boy who merely stared, lost in thought. The Scout snapped back to reality impassively as the taller man leaned down towards his face.
“You need me to help?”
“No,” the boy shook his head, “I got it. I just… I just need a minute.”
Not wanting to go against his wishes, the Sniper nodded his head in reply and gave him a soft pat on the back. “You tell me if you need anything. Anything at all.”
He would not receive a reply, so he took his leave, giving the youth his privacy, but remaining within a safe range right beyond the door of the shower room leaning against the wall beside it. His ears listened intently as the Scout dropped the dirty tarp to the floor and padded into the stream of the shower. Then, the hunter found himself sliding down the wall to rest upon the ground, a hand clutching at his bare chest at the sound that now rang in his ears and shook his entire being.
No amount of water pouring from the shower head would be enough to drown out the wave of sobs now echoing into the hallway and the Sniper could do nothing but tuck his head to his knees and endure the guilt that wreaked havoc within his heart.
Chapter 9: Soundless Sorrow
It felt like an eternity before the sobbing and running water stopped. They stopped almost simultaneously, resulting in the Sniper lifting his head from his lap. The knees of his pants were damp from tears and snot, and he wished with all of his might that he had found his glasses before leaving the RED base. He listened carefully, hoping to hear the Scout call for him. Instead, he heard the tarp ruffling, a couple of wet footsteps, and then another silence that also felt like it lasted an eternity. At least it gave the Sniper enough time to compose himself. He hadn’t been crying hard, but he didn’t want the boy to see any sort of tears.
“You okay in there, lad?” The Sniper’s voice cracked as he spoke.
He was answered with momentary silence, then, as if on cue, the door was pushed open and the Scout stumbled out. He hadn’t bothered to dry himself off at all, regardless of the stockpile of towels in the showers, nor had he bothered to cover himself up with any cleaner coverings. Something about the tarp gave the boy a sense of comfort that he wasn’t about to abandon.
The Sniper stood up, holding open his arms for the Scout, but was denied any sort of embrace. The only interaction made was when the Scout reached out to balance himself on one of the Sniper’s strong arms. His entire body shook with the stress of moving, but he refused any more of the sharpshooter’s help. So the Sniper was forced to follow as a silent escort to the infirmary where the Medic waited. Too bad the Sniper didn’t know where he was going, and trusting the Scout to lead him there was asking a little too much.
The Scout, instead, led the Sniper up to the bedrooms, where he found a clean change of clothes waiting for him. He immediately dropped the tarp and dressed himself in a full outfit, something to completely cover himself in, without caring who was watching. The shirt he chose was bigger than his usual shirt, one his brothers’ hand-me-downs, and pulled it down, way down, so that his scars didn’t stand a chance of emerging for prying eyes to see. His fingers traced over the shirt where the knife had made indents in his skin and he bit his lip hard enough to draw blood. Then, without a sound, he fell over in his bed and buried himself beneath a mountain of sheets.
The Sniper sighed and shook his head, and has he did his body trembled. The little body underneath the blankets shivered in unison with stifled sobs that rose up in his throat. Watching the boy was too much, but at least the room had been cleaned up since he was last there. It made for a slightly better environment, if that was even possible. The Sniper slowly approached the bed; his boots tapped the floor and betrayed his movement and change of location.
“Please,” the Sniper uttered, “please don’t…you know.” He got no answer. “Cry. I’m right here, mate. For anything, no, everything you need.” His voice was uncharacteristically soft. When the Scout still failed to reply, he kneeled down at the side of the bed and weaved his fingers into the blanket. “I need you to listen to me.”
The Scout took in a deep breath, which he presumably held. Every few moments, he would release it in a loud huff and suck it back in.
“I hate m’self for what happened to you. I shoulda done somethin’ ta stop it, but I couldn’t. It was…” He paused and squeezed the blanket so hard that he was sure the Scout could feel it move. “All my fault.” The Sniper pulled the blanket harder this time, right up to his face so he could bury himself in it. He allowed himself to fall into the childish mentality that if he couldn’t see anyone, then they surely couldn’t see him. It put him at ease when the tears started to fall. A shred of comfort was better than none. The next four words fell from his mouth like a broken thunderstorm, shattered by his own weeping: “I’m so sorry, lad.”
The Sniper’s weight got the best of him, and gravity pulled him down onto his right hip. His arms folded on the bed and he squeezed the small section of blanket he commandeered harder than anything he ever had in his entire life. With the natural swing and fold of his body, his legs slowly swooped out in front of him and under the bed until he was eventually sitting on his rump. His face slumped down to the side of the bed where he could more effectively snuggle it into the blanket and sheets.
“I couldn’t stop it from happenin’ and what I wouldn’t give to take it all back. What I wouldn’t give to have gotten there just a few minutes sooner, or even switch places with ya.” He hiccupped as his weeping escalated into bawling, and his broken words turned into run-on howls that no longer made any sense. His fingers balled into fists and gently beat the mattress, and he shook with rage, regret, and such utter sadness that it shattered the core of his very being.
Just when he was about to give up and let himself completely crumble to the floor, his angry fist was consumed in gentle, wet warmth. The Scout’s tear-soaked hands had snaked out from under the blankets and seized his elder’s with a small squeeze before pulling it under the blankets to cradle under his chin. Sound came from his parted lips in the form of words, but the Sniper couldn’t quite hear them. He wasn’t sure if it’s because they were too quiet or his own head was too noisy, but the muted words coupled with consistent tugging were enough to coax the Sniper upright until he was in the bed with the boy.
He sat there, one leg folded under him, the other hanging off the bed, with his hand, still under the blankets, growing wetter with the Scout’s tears as every moment passed. He stroked what he thought was the underside of the Scout’s chin with his thumb, huffing out shushes between his own heaving, and did his best to put aside his grief. The Scout, however, let go of all inhibitions when the thumb willingly touched his skin. Huge, heavy sobs burst from under the blankets as he hurled his body into the lap of the Sniper. As he wrapped his arms around the man’s waist with a grip tighter than death, he buried his face in into the Sniper’s pelvis and shook his head violently. If he could, he would have crawled right inside the Sniper, and with every ounce of his energy he pressed himself deeper into his lap in a vain attempt to do just that. His sobs broke into screaming that echoed throughout the quiet hallways of the base in repeated four words that burned themselves into the Sniper’s mind. Those words made him attempt to assist the boy in his pointless attempts to crawl inside him in order to hide him from the world. Those words made him curl himself around the Scout when he failed to do just that. Those words vibrated against his skin and caressed the new scar tissue on his stomach. Those words cut deeper than any ubersaw could have. Those words.
“Please don’t leave me!”
Chapter 10: Recovery
The sun approached just as slowly and pain-stakingly as it had left the night before, silently creeping against the horizon. It illuminated the grounds before the base, casting a brilliant light against the tired and weary bodies that were stiff with lack of movement. The BLU team, save for the Sniper, the Scout, and the recently-deceased Soldier had been at their guarding positions throughout the night, not daring to even blink as even a mili-second of wasted time was valuable time for the enemy that never showed. It did not matter if the RED team appeared or not; they were determined to stay away from the barracks, to give space to the two bodies now lying sluggishly in one bed. It's not that they did not care that two of their own had come bearing into the base in the night, injured from an attack. They just did not know how to deal with the situation. The Soldier would have been the only one who truly understood the mental breakdown of men in war and sympathize, but his bloodied body had been carried away mysteriously in the night. That was how it worked around here. People came and went and were easily replaced, which made it difficult to really trust and familiarize oneself with anyone in this line of work.
Regardless, the men outside the barracks squinted against the dawn, some standing to stretch cramped muscles or scratch an itch thanks to the onslaught of mosquitoes that plagued their veins during the watch. One in particular remained in movement. Whether he was working with his sentries or casually strumming his guitar, the Engineer was the most alert, having refused to let exhaustion come over him. Though his fingers were raw from strumming the strings, he continued until early morning, feeling a bit of relief in thinking his acoustic melodies had helped quell the echoing yells and screams of the youngest teammate.
And, in some sense, he would be right, as sometime in the infancy of the morning, the Scout had finally fallen asleep, his body wracked with much distress that his brain just simply shut down. The Sniper, equally exhausted, had slumped in his sitting position sometime later, also a victim of his own unconsciousness forcing him to rest. He fought with all he had to stay awake, to keep his eyes fixed on the sleeping form gripping at his lower half, but there was only so much he could endure. And, he would be the first to wake up, slowly at first, as if everything he experienced was nothing more than a distant nightmare he conjured himself. But, the hands gripping around a sore and fresh scar on his gut only brought reality back like a brick wall.
The Sniper rubbed at his eyes, giving a wince as he suddenly recalled the swollen scar thanks to a rough hand brushing against it. He gave an exasperated but silent sigh. He dare not even begin to wonder what it must look like. It was just another bit of evidence to the entire night of horror, but he doubt one simple slash would ever compare to the trail of wounds the smaller male wore. The hunter bit his lip hesitantly and carefully reached down and moved the boy to lie on his pillow, using equal caution to untangle the mass of blankets twisted around both bodies. He paused a moment then mustered the courage to peel the cover away from the Scout's torso, and then gave another instinctive pause. Sensing no movement from the boy, he took the bottom of his shirt between finger and thumb and attempted to lift to inspect the wounds on his belly. Only, without proper treatment, the lettered wounds had formed scabs which clung to the fabric. From what he could see, the Sniper knew there was an infection forming as even the shirt was speckled with dried blood that managed to seep through. He mentally punched himself for not being more adamant about seeking medical help. And, a soft touch of skin revealed it was burning with fever, which only made him hate his compliance to the boy's wishes even more.
The elder male attempted to move from the bed, to find the Medic, but then stopped in his tracks. He dare not leave the boy alone for a moment, and the thought of the Scout waking to find himself alone would send him into another panic attack. Shit. He had to wake him up.
A calloused hand gently touched the boy's arm and gave it a slight shake as he murmured softly, "Hey, lad, wake up."
The Sniper received something of a light groan in reply. He gave another shake. The Scout winced before opening his eyes sluggishly, trailing around the room as if he had been having the same nightmare and needed a moment of clarity. But, the empty feeling in his soul and the itching sensation of wounds scabbing over brought reality back rather quickly. His throat also felt raw and cracked from yelling; not that the boy felt like talking anyway.
He looked up to the Sniper leaning over him, something of sadness and despair floating in his eyes. The elder regretted his decision to bring the Scout back to reality, but he could find no excuse to let him lie in bed sickly when wounds needed attending. He gave something of a weak smile, "We'd best get you patched up." The youth gave an anxious expression, which nearly ripped the Sniper's heart into pieces. But, he needed to stay calm and collected for the boy's sake. Besides, after the night, the elder had been all cried out and tears would not spill even if he willed them to. His hand on the smaller shoulder gave a slight squeeze. "I'll be there with you."
Reluctantly, the Scout complied and allowed the hunter to help him out of bed. Again, with the weakness that came with a night of intense emotions, the youth was weak and shaky, but patience was a virtue in the case of the Sniper as he held the smaller male at the arm and waist, giving him time to collect himself and stand on his own feet. He wobbled slightly, but gave a nod to his help who released him and padded beyond the room to the washroom. Both males relieved themselves, and the Sniper was thankful that he finally had time to splash a bit of water to his face allowing speckles of dried blood to flake away. His body ached for a shower, but the Scout was his top priority. The simple face-washing would have to suffice for now, but even that was a small blessing in its own right.
Both males were secretly thankful the hallways were cleared. After causing such a commotion earlier, they definitely had no intention of being interrogated and have old wounds reopened. At least, not yet. The Sniper gave a knock on the Medic's door, pausing and hearing no reply. He cleared his throat, then turned the knob and slowly pushed the door open. Over in the corner of the office was the figure of a slumped doctor, sitting at his desk with his head lying heavily on his forearms. Again, the Sniper felt guilty, having realized the Medic had apparently waited on the boy all night, finally falling asleep over paperwork. It was odd to see the elder man in such a position. The Sniper found himself intrigued with the soft features on the otherwise insane man's face, but quickly shook that thought from his head. He faked a cough into his hand, and the Medic sat straight up in sudden surprise.
"Ja, ja!" the doctor yelled to no one in particular as he instinctively went to straighten the papers he had been resting upon, giving a slight scowl at the pool of drool smudging the ink in one spot. Upon seeing the head of the Sniper in the slightly-opened door, he adjusted his glasses and motioned him in, the Scout in tow, though he was far from eager to enter the examination room. He stood up, giving his neck a crack with a soft hum and approached the two. "I have been vaiting for you. Come, come," the Medic stated as if he had not just been caught asleep and was not currently wiping away a patch of dried saliva from the corner of his mouth.
The Sniper obliged, turning to the boy who merely acted as his shadow, trying his best to melt into the back of the elder man. He could only give a faint smile of encouragement to the boy as he led them both towards the center of the room. The Scout tensed against the hunter's back, and with reasonable explanation. Before him lay an eerily similar metal table; almost-identical straps hung lifelessly from it.
"No, it's alright, mate," the taller man whispered, instinctively placing a hand at the back of the boy's head, "Just patchin' you up. I'll be here the whole time. Nothin' bad's gonna happen to you."
The Medic was oblivious to the conversation, merely happy to have yet another specimen to examine. He impatiently patted at the table. The Scout gave a soft sigh, hesitant to move but he had no real options as he could tell the Sniper was dead-set on having him healed, even if the elder male had to baby him through the whole process. He had to give something of a quick smirk in spite of himself, having just thought himself as an infant. Whatever. The boy really was not up for analyzing things. He just wanted to forget everything and go from the world in the comfort of his blankets.
With another comforting hand to his shoulder, the Scout slowly took a seat on the table, sitting close enough to the edge to allow his legs to dangle though they merely hung without effort. Surprisingly, it was not cold like the one from his memory. The Medic here, crazed as he may be, had the decency to put a hygienic strip of paper down the table beforehand. At least he had that comfort. The boy could only tense as he knew what was to come next.
"So, vat seems to be the problem?" the doctor spoke casually as he pressed his stethoscope to the boy's back. The Scout suck in deeply, surprised at the chill of the instrument on his flesh. He looked to the Sniper with an expression of nervousness.
The other male took the cue, "Well, you see…" he trailed off, lost for words and unsure how to approach the delicate situation. The hunter gave a sigh and looked at the youth sympathetically, "Maybe you should have a look for yourself, doctor. Go on, lad."
The Scout slumped his shoulders and his face began glowing a bright shade of red as he began tugging at the bottom of his sagging shirt, giving a wince and a slight hiss of pain as he realized the wounds on his belly were scabbed into the fabric. He took in a heavy amount of oxygen and held it, closing his eyes and ripping the shirt from his stomach in one quick sweep. The boy's eyes nearly bulged open as he released the breath in a husky, pained groan. Had he the energy, he surely would have punched the nearest person in anger, but he could only sit there making a contorted face.
The Medic merely hummed thoughtfully, being kind enough to not poke and prod the reddened skin. "Mmm, ja, definitely infected. No matter..." He moved to grab his Medigun, flicking the switch and aiming it at the Scout's stomach. The boy nearly fell backwards as a rush of warmth overcame his entire being, but the Sniper was quick to catch him and lower him onto the table. Within seconds, the infected, dark-red skin softened as the scabs faded into a shade of pink, which was slightly raised against his normal flesh. Scars. The hunter grimaced, knowing that immediate medical care would have lessened the possibility of remnants of the attack, but he would not say anything to upset the boy, especially now that his body had pooled into a blob of relaxation.
Besides, the examination was not over.
The Medic had moved to the opposite side of the table, placing his healing weapon to the boy's bruised ear, and within moments, purple skin had lightened to an olive green and yellow. If there had been any damage to his hearing, it was all healthy now.
"Vell, now, we are done here," the eldest male beamed, proud of his job and the fact that there was not a dead body lying on the table for his efforts.
The Sniper bit his lip, looking down to the Scout. Did he dare? If he had asked the doctor to suddenly point his Medigun there, questions would arise; questions that he was not at liberty to answer. It was not up to him, but the boy. And, at the moment, the youth appeared to have a strange sense of comfort written across his face. He shook his head.
"No, that should do it for now," he finally huffed under his breath, "Thanks, mate."
"Exzellent!" The Medic clapped his hands together, making the boy snap out of his trance. He blinked a moment, dumbfounded, but then gave a snort as the elder placed an item in his hand. He rose to accept it, casually unwrapping the sucker and sticking it in his mouth, which was turned in a disturbed manner.
"Gee, thanks, doc," he hoarsely replied, though he could not deny the gratitude of the cherry flavoring coating his dry throat. One could chalk it up to the stress he endured, but the Sniper finally found himself cracking under the pressure and managed to release a husky laugh in spite of everything, receiving a glare from the Scout. He could only hold his sore sides as his body shook and he gasped apologies in his laughter, one of his hands reaching down to grip at the table to hold his body steady. The youth stared for a moment, bewildered; then a smile cracked at his lips and he found his hoarse laughter hard to control as well.
The Medic could only raise an eyebrow in response. If he only knew how important this moment would be for the two now wiping away tears as they heaved, bodies completely spent.
At least it was a start. The Sniper was positive there would be more challenges to face, but he would be there with the boy to see them through.
Chapter 11: Scars
Immediately after the visit with the Medic, both men returned to the Scout's sleeping quarters and before they knew it half the morning had passed while they snuggled in the sheets and blankets on the floor (of which they tore from the bed in protest of the mattress's tiny size). Both men refused to talk about it, their pride and personal shyness concerning the matter overpowering any urge to address the situation further. The Sniper lay on his back, arms stretched out, with the Scout lying on his belly, chin resting on one of the Sniper's arms. Every once in a while he'd grow tired of his position and throw his limbs around, occasionally crossing one of his legs with one of the older man's, but never to the point where their body's smushed together. That would be gay, and the Scout was not about to consider any sort of relationship beyond the "victim and savior" trend they had going on.
The peaceful time was not to last though, as it was growing painfully obvious that the Sniper was uncomfortable in his own, filthy skin. As much as he wanted to stay with the Scout and continue to bring him comfort and security, his eyes kept wandering to the window as if his van was in perfect health and the functioning shower inside was calling his name. His restlessness was getting to the Scout. Perhaps it was more of a blessing than a curse, because it coaxed the younger male into talking, even if only a little, like he was back to his old self. He'd mutter something under his breath about the Sniper following him around or about the non-existent man-smell stinking up his room. It even got to the point where he'd push away the Sniper's little comfort-bringing-affections in that manly way he always did when someone got too mushy. It was far from what anyone could consider "normal," but was still enough of a start to let the Sniper know that the Scout was coping. Hopefully he would be just fine relatively soon.
"Listen, mate, I..." the Sniper started, but was immediately interrupted by a loud grunt.
"Are too sensitive? Smell bad? Turning into a sissy? Yeah, I noticed all of it," the Scout mumbling into the Sniper's armpit, showing no sign of moving his face. His voice was hoarse and crackly. He pretended it wasn't.
The Sniper sighed. "I need ta bathe somethin' awful. And my trailer is wrecked outside—""
"What's your problem? You don't need my permission. I'm not your mother."
"I don't want to leave ya if you're not okay is my problem."
"Are you deaf or somethin'?"
"I just wanted to—"
"Go! Just go!" He withdrew his arm from the Sniper's chest and tucked it under him.
"I'll be right back," the Sniper assured the younger one as he got up. He hesitated in the doorway a moment before disappearing from eyesight of the Scout altogether. As he walked down the maze-like halls, he considered his options. For one, he could bathe in the barrack stalls, but he saw their condition and the thought alone was enough to send him into complete repulsion. His other option was to go outside and see if the condition of his van was good enough to shower in. He needed to fix it up anyway and would have preferred to take part in the privacy of his own thoughts in his own time, so there was no harm in stopping outside first. The worst that could happen was that he had to take the time to fix his van before showering.
Getting outside was, again, easier than getting in thanks to the alluring sound of the Engineer's guitar and drunken singing of what could only be the team's Demoman. When he stepped outside, he groaned and closed his eyes, trying to look through the smallest slits he could make. The sun was too bright for him. It agitated his already sensitive, yellow-brown eyes, and it was almost impossible for him to immediately adjust to the light in order to see just who was outside, but there was no doubt in his mind that it was at least those two. No one could play an instrument quite like the Engineer, and the Demoman...was not easily mistaken for someone else.
"What're you pikers doin' out here? Don't we have work to do or somethin'?" the Sniper asked, squinting and shielding his eyes with one of his large hands.
"Well, we didn't wanna get caught sleeping while the darn enemy could very well be making a move, so we decided to do something nice with which to occupy our time." Yep, that was definitely the Engineer. The Sniper could never misplace that thick, Texan drawl.
"What're you talkin' about?" The Sniper squinted harder, hoping that would allow him to see.
"You blind, son? We fixed up your little, mobile campground, that's what we did."
"I can't see a damn thing with the sun shinin' in my eyes."
"At least ye 'ave two of 'em, laddie!" The Demoman hiccupped and, presumably, rolled against whatever wall he had to have been leaning against.
"Ehhhh," the Sniper groaned and swatted a hand in the direction of the voice. He worked his way to the nearest shady spot he could find and took advantage of the position to look around. Unbelievably, the Engineer wasn't kidding, for the Sniper realized he was standing in the shadows of his camper van, which looked brand new. With his lips loosely hanging apart in awe, he said, "This's incredible, mate!"
"Yeah, it was a right mess," the Engineer said as he proudly polished his wrench on his leather apron. "You certainly know how to mess things up bad when you're up close and personal with 'em, don'tcha? You should stick ta running five miles away before engaging in conflict." He slapped the Sniper heartily on the back, causing him to wince. "But don't you worry your pretty little head, she's right as rain and completely functioning. Better than before'n every way."
The Sniper raised his eyebrow warily at the comment. "Whaddya mean 'better,' egghead?"
"Well, for starters, t'was a death trap. How ya ever lived in a plastic box is beyond me, so I lined the entire thing with sheet metal. The tires are actual tires instead of rubber air pockets made in 1769, and I replaced the door you managed to completely wreck." The Engineer proudly patted the side of the vehicle with his gloved hand. "She has a new plumbing system, I completely rewired her, tweaked the engine to give you addition speed'n'horse power, and, of course, installed one of my little beauties on top. Nothin' special, but enough to protect ya if more harm comes you're way."
"You did what?!" The Sniper's eyes narrowed on the Engineer, and his face grew increasingly red.
"Woah there, pardner!" The Engineer threw his hands up in defense. "That's not even the best part!"
"What," the Sniper growled, rubbing his eyes with his thumb and forefinger, "pray tell, is the best bloody part?"
"This." The Engineer pushed a button the rather new looking watch on his wrist and the entire camper van went invisible. The Sniper's jaw would have dangled at his sides the way his arms did if he was capable. Despite the sun in his eyes, he stared at the now missing van. Even the shade that he was standing in was gone. If it weren't for the Engineer leaning against the invisible van, the Sniper would have been convinced that it was completely gone.
"What did you do to Sheila?!"
"You named her?"
"That doesn't answer me question!" The Sniper knew his face was smeared with what he was thinking like a book was with words, and wished he could read the Engineer's eyes just as easily, but the tinted goggles make it impossible to know what the Engineer was thinking or feeling outside of sheer pride for his work.
"I tweaked the Spy's cloaking technology and adapted it t'work on your van." He puffed out his chest. "Impressive, huh? God knows ya need it after last night."
The Sniper could only sputter single syllables and half words as he tried to find the right phrase to sum up how perverse the Engineer was for altering his baby in such a way. "How do you turn that....that...blasted cloak off!" the Sniper eventually yelled.
"Well, all ya gotta do is push this button. I made it real simple for ya so that ya don't have ta spend allyer time fiddlin' with it." He demonstrated and the van uncloaked. Then he unstrapped the watch from his wrist, only to have to bitterly snatched up by the Sniper who promptly stormed inside the living quarters of the vehicle. "Yeah, you're welcome!" the Engineer shouted after him before turning to see the Demoman asleep, slumped against the doorframe to the base.
The Sniper dropped the watch carelessly on the hand-fixed table that the Engineer managed to salvage, and then he threw himself onto his couch. It stank of urine, and the Sniper grew suddenly aware that his Jarate jars were missing. The only logical conclusion was that they broke nearby and spilled on the couch; not something the Sniper wanted to think about. He wretched from the smell and peeled himself from the upholstery in need of a shower now more than ever.
He stripped out of his clothes on his walk to the bathroom, dropping them wherever they landed, and made a mental note to burn them later. He didn't need any more reminders of the previous night than he already had. As he sluggishly passed through the kitchen area, he snagged a knife from the drawer. Better to be safe than sorry, and while in that state of mind, he clicked the lock on the bathroom door as he closed it. No one was going to sneak up on him this time.
The Sniper shuffled about the bathroom, eager to burn of all of his failures and memories (and presumable urine) in boiling water. The new plumbing was nice, as the water pressure was stronger, but it took forever for the water to actually heat up. That's when he took notice of his face in the cracked bathroom mirror. His cheek was mildly swollen and very black and blue from where the RED Spy's fist caught him, and his bottom lip was split, but more disturbing was the scar over his left eye. The Sniper never did give the Medic the opportunity to heal his wounds before his untimely demise, and the skin was puffy, a little infected, and scabbed over because of it. The blade had cut pretty deep into the skin, and there was evidence of it scratching over the sclera, which explained the constant stinging and somewhat distorted vision. It didn't seem threatening, but was still vexing to look at. In fact, it was the first time he got a good look at any of his injuries. If he didn't have a good reason to wear his sunglasses already, he sure had one now.
His fingers traced over the sensitive skin, carefully exploring the depth of the wound, and a frown creased his already dispassionate face. His dirt grimed fingers followed down past the base of the scar, over his jaw line, down past his collar bone and to the even uglier exit scar on the front of his lower abdomen. This one felt more like a crater than a cut, with divots, dents, and gnarly bumps throughout the entire thing. The flesh was even tenderer from being raw and exposed all night. The Sniper closed his eyes and sucked in a deep breath of air, unable to bring himself to look at the disfiguring mark (or touch the entrance on his back). When he opened his eyes, steam was steaming up the mirror and reminding him that a hot bath finally awaited him.
Chapter 12: Carry On, My Wayward Son
The Scout flopped onto his back as he lay in the make-shift bedding on the floor of the barracks. He released a sigh of frustration, casually flinging his arms away from his body in a bored manner. He refused to acknowledge the restlessness of missing the warm body that had been beside him, despite it reeking of day-old sweat and grime. No, that would be a ridiculous thought, indeed! The boy did not need his savior-Sniper babysitting him to the point of holding his hand when he took a piss. Not one bit! But, still, he could not deny the coolness against what little flesh he had visible and the sudden loneliness he now felt. To be alone made the youth think too carelessly about the night before as he had been left in the dark to suffer, alone, hurting, and afraid. Yes, just last night…
He looked towards the doorway, finding no one there. So, he slowly tugged at his shirt-tail, raising it along his belly so as to survey the damage there. A scowl grew on his face and his eyebrows knitted together as a finger delicately traced the lettering scarred into his gut. Like some sort of pig before a roast. The Scout's nose scrunched in disgust. At least the Medic did his best in taking care of the infection, but that word would forever be with him. A constant reminder that he had been weak. Pulling the shirt upwards, he found the broken trail from the enemy doctor's scalpel as it dotted from his navel to his collarbone in a zigzagged manner, with no care put into it but to cause pain.
And, of course, the stab wound still healing on his left pectoral muscle. It was so close---so dangerously close---to his heart that the boy had questioned his survival, even at the rescuing hands of the Sniper. If there were any such things as angels, one had surely been there to see his life through that night. However, it was nothing but a cruel joke as death would have been easier to cope with than the scarring now wracking his mind and body.
Another sigh was released. The Scout could lie still no longer. Resting meant thinking, and thinking was not a favorite past-time of the slugger. He needed to be doing, and that was enough motivation to attempt to crawl from his resting position. Once again, checking for anyone who may be nearby and finding no one, the boy changed into a fresh set of clothes. His work clothes. There was no sense in lounging around like a sissy when he could get back on the field and take his frustrations out on his enemies. He pulled his blue shirt over his head, taking quick effort to pull up his black pants and tuck the shirt-tail in, finishing with a click of his belt to hold everything together. He also rolled up his sleeves and tucked his pants legs into socks and tied his shoes. This would have felt like any ordinary day, the Scout preparing for a few hours of war, but the soreness of his new wounds as well as the uncomfortable, yet slowly-healing pains in his backside and a heavy heart reminded the youth that things would not quite be the same. Between him and anyone else. Especially between himself and the Sniper. He cringed, but he refused to deal with any of that shit at the moment as he forced his facial expression to calm into an indifferent emotion. The hunter had seen his helpless side, and that was one living man too many. Well, the Pyro made two, but the boy could only wonder if such a simpleton had understood what had taken place before him. A swipe of his hand removed his cap from the bed frame and placed it firmly atop his head. And, to finish the job, the boy fished his dog tags from his nearby dresser, neatly placing the chain about his neck and fixing his headset over one ear.
Before he left the room, the Scout made sure to peel the photograph of his dear mother from the wall next to his bed, giving it a thoughtful stare before he kissed it and plastered it to the surface once more. If only she had known what her little boy had endured at the hands of the same man whom she also held close to her heart. He shook his head furiously, trying his damndest to remove that thought from his mind. It only fueled his anger and need to snap the RED Spy's neck into pieces all the more.
The act of getting ready too fast and the sudden pick up in his pace down the hallway caused the youth to grow lightheaded. He took a moment to lean against the surface of the wall, thankful for the coolness it had against his cheek. But, hearing voices and not wanting to be worried over, he quickly adjusted himself and continued his walk. First things first, he needed nourishment. It was already mid-day and the boy's stomach was empty since the meal the night before, which was a very impressive feat, as he would have eaten five times his own body weight by now. It took him no time at all to enter the lunch room where he found the Heavy already indulging in his favorite sandvich snack, his steady stream of chewing giving away his position before the Scout had even entered the room.
"What's up, baldy?" the Scout spoke in his usual manner, though his words were cracked from a dry tongue, which still had a cherry flavor dancing on it, surprisingly. He plopped down unceremoniously at the table to accompany the other, taking slight care to not give out a yelp of pain as his backside collided with the chair.
The larger man ceased in his eating to acknowledge the boy, placing his light meal gingerly on the plate before plopping his humungous hand on the Scout's head as he laughed loudly, "Is good to see you, leetle man. You sleep whole day."
"Yeah, yeah," the boy smirked under the weight of the hand as he tried to remove it, "What's a guy gotta do ta get some food around here, huh?"
Another hearty laugh escaped the Russian. He withdrew his hand to slap it on the table, causing his sandvich to bounce. "I get leetle man sandvich. Is good and makes you strong." The Heavy turned his head towards the kitchen, "Hey, need sandvich now!" A muffled reply echoed and the thought of the Pyro with a chef hat and apron looming over a stove was too much for the Scout as he burst into a fit of laughter. The Heavy, not understanding the situation, found some humor in the boy's outburst and roared as well.
His sides shook to the point of cramping, and the youth managed to catch his breath as the mask-wearing male entered the dining room and placed a secondary sandvich and glass of milk in front of the smaller male. His laughing subsided as his imagination had gotten the better of him. The Pyro was merely wearing his rubbery outfit as always. Without taking the effort to taste, the Scout engulfed his meal with haste, guzzling the drink with enough force to registered coughing and gasping for breath. The Heavy merely smiled stupidly, happy that the "leetle man" had gained such an appetite. For all he seen the night before, the boy was a corpse returned from the dead right now. But, before he could even open his mouth to question the youth, the Pyro placed a gloved hand on his shoulder, silencing the large man. The Scout, finding himself refreshed, had hopped up quickly and left the room, but not before pausing in the doorway long enough to give them a proper farewell in the only way he knew how.
"So long, losers."
The masked male merely muffled something to the Heavy as he began removing the empty plates and heading to the kitchen.
"Da, I know," was all he could reply, giving a thoughtful nod of his head, "We give him time. Is good kid."
The Scout suddenly felt better than he had all day with a little food in his belly happily digesting. But, now that he had taken care of that task, he could go about his business as usual, which involved finding his bat and pistol in the locker room. Tucking the smaller weapon into his belt, he made his way to the outside of the base where he found an argument escalating.
"What do you mean 'off-key'? You're the one who sounds like a cat in heat, ya drunk!" the Engineer yelled, shaking his gloved hand as the other held his guitar firmly.
The Demoman shook his head as he pointed to the Texan accusingly, "Ye be the one playin' all the wrong notes, lad! Ye making me head hurt."
"That's called a hang-over, ya damn loon! Iffin' you'd quit yer drinkin' for a split-second, you'd get over it!"
"Guys, guys," the Scout chimed in, equally aggravated at the unnecessary fighting. He pressed his hands against the other men's chests so as to push them apart. "Geez, you both suck, so how about that? Actin' like a buncha girls over here and makin' all this noise. It's an embarrassment."
That motion seemed to settle the two arguing adults down, but not for the reason the Scout had hoped. Instead, both began laughing and patting the boy on the head and back, causing him to stand, completely stupefied.
"Yer finally awake, son," the Engineer spoke as he withdrew his hands before the youth could smack them away, "Bout time we see you up and at 'em."
The Scout gave an aggravated yell, "What is wrong with everybody? Geez, what is this, a sitcom? Leave me alone already!"
"Hey, take it easy now. We were just worried a---"
"I said, leave me alone!" the younger male interrupted, his voice rising a pitch as his anger began to boil. "I ain't a damn baby, alright?"
The Demoman backed away, taking a swig of his alcohol. He was definitely not getting into that situation, at least, not while a headache continuously rattled his brain. Fight alcohol with alcohol and all that. The Engineer also hesitated, his hands raised in defense, but he relaxed as the boy stormed past him.
The Scout did not notice where he was heading or why until he nearly walked face-first into the camper nearby. Without giving much of a second thought as to what he was doing and why he shouldn't be doing it, the boy reached and took hold of the door, swinging it open and entering the Sniper's domain and shutting the world off with a slam.
Chapter 13: Coffee Break
The Sniper lost track of exactly how long he was in the shower. It had to have been at least a half an hour's worth of scrubbing and soaking his body in the boiling water, wishing it could have been hotter than what it already was. Unfortunately, turning the faucet handle any further would have resulted in its breaking, and the Sniper didn't want to break anything else in his poor van or have to face the Engineer's wrath after he had just cleaned Sheila up. By the time he stepped out of the shower, his skin was a bright red and the mirror was so fogged up that it wasn't even worth him trying to look in, let alone attempt to shave. Instead, he half-heartedly patted himself dry, dropped the towel over his soaking wet hair, and casually left the bathroom in his birthday suit.
What he didn't expect was to see the Scout lying on his living room floor with his legs propped up on the Jarate couch. The Sniper's face somehow turned a deeper red than the hot water could have ever managed, and his eyes widened to the point of simply rolling out of his head. He wasn't sure what horrified him most: the fact that there he was, in the buff in front of this uninvited guy in his trailer, or the fact that the very same guy didn't mind the smell of urine seeping into his socks and pants. The Sniper immediately scrambled to cover himself up, cupping a hand over his unmentionables and slapping his other hand over the scar on his face, feeling a little more bashful about that than his dick hanging out.
"How are you—why are—what in the bloody hell are ya doin' in me van, mate!?" the Sniper spat out, finally grabbing his towel and strategically covering his stomach scar and entire pelvis with it, all while still holding his damaged eye.
"I got tired of everyone else," the Scout said, completely unfazed by the Sniper's appearance, mostly because he didn't bother to look. His head was rolled to the side, staring at the opposite wall. His face was creased with lines of heavy thought, folding it right into a scowl.
"You should be resting," the Sniper added. "Not playing games with everyone else."
"I wasn't playing games."
"You should still be resting."
The Sniper let out an exasperated sigh and wormed his way backwards, bumping into counters and walls. "Give me five minutes, no, not even."
"Whatever, man," the Scout mumbled and crossed his arms over his chest. Anything else he might have muttered under his breath was lost to the sound of the Sniper cursing from bumping his back into the doorframe of his bedroom before slipping inside the closing it.
Thoughts ran through the Sniper's head like those fancy new bullet trains that were all the rage in Japan. He dug through his drawers, all thoughtfully rearranged to be the way the Engineer believed it should be, in order to find a pair of pants as quickly as possible. If the Scout was in his van, then something had to have been wrong. Why else would the younger male bother to come in? Well, there was always the RED Spy. The Sniper refused to let himself forget about how last evening started, and he felt a dull ache, like an alarm clock going off, in his shoulder where he had been stabbed. Perhaps this wasn't the Scout at all, but another trap.
The Sniper slipped into a pair of boxers, then pants, then a blue button up top that he neglected to button. He also put on a pair of his sunglasses (which he kept well stocked up on) and slipped back out into the living room. The Scout hadn't moved a muscle, and failed to react to the Sniper clearing his throat as he walked down the hallway. If this was another elaborate trap, then it was a damn good one, because the Sniper couldn't make heads or tails of what direction it could possibly take.
"I'll sit down with you in a minute, mate," the Sniper said. "First, coffee. Would you like a cup?"
"Hrmmph," was all the Scout responded with. He crossed his legs on the couch.
The Sniper went about making his drink in the same way he always did, writing down a mental note to pick up more coffee next time they traveled to new control points. It was like his life's blood, and if he could replace it as such he would have some weeks. It was easier than waiting for it to boil and brew everyday.
Before the coffee was done, he fished another knife out of his kitchen drawer. He thoughtlessly left the first one in the bathroom, and thought it too suspicious to retrieve it. Then, he poured two cups and walked over to the Scout, avoiding the couch all together. Instead, he sat just above the Scout's head with his legs folded, and set a "#1 Sniper" coffee mug by the younger male's head.
"So talk to me, mate," the Sniper said as he took his first sip. "What're ya doin' followin' me out here? I said I was gonna come back to ya as soon as I was cleaned up."
"Yeah I know I don't need no lecture on it," the Scout mumbled, fingering the handle on the mug next to him.
"I didn't mean it like that," the Sniper replied. "I just—"
"Are worried, right? Concerned? Just like everyone else, you worry about the little itty bitty Scout and his fragile well-bein'! Well guess what, pally, I ain't no baby and you ain't no mommy. Do I look like I need worryin'n'faunin' over?"
The Sniper took a bigger sip of his coffee, letting the angry words roll right off his shoulders. After the past few events and all of the time they had to spend together, he had learned how to maintain a certain level patience when he came to the guy.
"What, got nothin' to say?" the Scout continued. He rolled over, sitting up on his knees so he could lean in dangerously close to the Sniper's face and scowl. "You guys treat me like I'm a child! Well I have some news for you: I'm a grown ass man! I'm twenty-freakin'-five for fuck's sake. I don't need your babyin' or pityin' or sympathy!"
"Then why're you here, mate?"
That single phrase stopped the Scout's rage dead in its tracks, and he furrowed his brow. In all honesty, he didn't have an answer for the Sniper. At least, not one he wanted to verbalize and make into a thing. He retracted his accusing finger from the Sniper's nose and stuck out his bottom lip in anger. "Mind yer own business, that's why!"
"Real clever there, lad," the Sniper said and shook his head. "Listen, if ya just need a quiet, safe space to get away from the guys, that's fine. All you gotta do is say somethin' and I'll help you make it happen, but if ya don't talk to me, how can I help you?"
"I don't need your help, pops."
"Clearly, since ya just let yourself right on inta me home, bucko." The Sniper flopped a hand onto the young man's shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. The Scout hesitated before swatting it off with exaggerated motions and protesting noises. He continued to pout and glare, which in turn created a somewhat awkward silence. The Sniper, used to the silence, simply returned to his coffee, but the Scout was a man of action and noise and ruckus! It took no time at all for the silence to seep into his very being and cause a restlessness beyond control. He shifted his weight, picked at the scab on the side of his head, and made small grunts to evoke some sort of reaction, but nothing happened.
Then he reminded himself of the cup of coffee the Sniper thoughtfully brought him. His mother never really let him have coffee (with good reason), so the few times he's had it, it was on his own and usually shrouded in secrecy. He picked up the cup and fingered the lip of it before putting it to his mouth and taking a huge gulp. Mistake number one. The coffee was still hot and burned every square inch of the inside of the Scout's mouth, forcing him to swallow it with a huge pocket of air to stop the burning. Mistake number two: swallowing it fast. The air pocket caused an immediate pain in his chest. He sputtered and coughed while punching his chest with the side of his fist, trying to regain some sense of composure and normalcy. Mistake number three: drinking it at all. When the Scout collected himself, he narrowed his eyes on the Sniper and slammed the cup down.
"What're you tryin' to do, man, kill me?!"
The Sniper raised his eyebrow, which arched over the top of his glasses.
"This shit ain't even caffeinated! It tastes like complete ass!"
"Do ya really want me drinking caffeinated coffee, mate?"
"Well it sure as hell would taste better'n this shit!"
"Think about it," the Sniper pointed to his coffee. The Scout could feel the Sniper's eyes boring right through him. "What would happen if I, a professional sniper, drank caffeine? Me hands would shake, mate, that's what'd happen. And if me hands shook, then I could very well miss me target. Perhaps even hit one of our mates." His tone was dark and serious, and caught the Scout off guard.
"Yeah I s'pose," was all he could muster up for an answer. He flicked a piece of lint on the carpet and then immediately changed the subject. "So why d'ya wear those stupid sunglasses all the time anyway?"
"Me eyes are sensitive."
"What, like, blind or some shit?"
"No, as in the light hurts 'em more." The Scout was beginning to wear thin on the Sniper's patience. The Sniper knew he would need more of it to begin with, but he didn't realize just how much.
"So, sissy eyes!" The Scout reached out to take the sunglasses off. "I don't even know what these sissy eyes of yours look like."
The Sniper swatted the offending hand away. "Don't touch 'em, mate."
"Aw, c'mon!" the Scout whined. "I don't know anything about you at all!"
"That's the point."
"I think the privilege was lost a long time ag—" the younger man stopped mid-sentence, realizing just what he was saying.
The Sniper sucked in a deep breath and let it out through his nose. "Fine, you win. What do ya wanna know?"
The Scout looked up, more cautious than excited. He scooted a little closer to the Sniper, until their knees were touching, then reached out for the sunglasses and took the wire frame in his fingers. Before pulling them off, he asked, "What's your name? Your real name."
The Sniper hesitated. "Mundy. Mr. Mundy. That's all yer gettin'."
"Fine, grumpy ass." The Scout pulled the sunglasses off and gently set them on the floor. He stared into the Sniper's brownish-yellow eyes with his Eton blue ones for a moment. "Yeah, that's a sissy color." Then his eyes wandered to the long scar, still not completely healed, disfiguring the Sniper's face. The Scout frowned. He ran his thumb over the dent in the skin, and the Sniper closed his eyes. The Scout was expecting the older man to say something, anything, or at least move, but he got no other reaction from him.
So instead of continuing to stare at the scar on his elder's face, he looked down, and that's when he noticed the deforming injury on the Sniper's abdomen. It made the Scout cringe. He had no idea that the man had suffered any sort of severe injuries the previous night, having been so consumed with his own pain. He dropped his hand down to the Sniper's stomach and fingered the edge of the wound.
"I'm sorry," he said.
"Don't be," the Sniper answered, opening his eyes in surprise. "It's not your fault."
"Yeah it is." The Scout leaned forward and propped his head against the Sniper's chest. "I know what it's like ta carry somethin' terrible like that.
The Sniper set his hands on the Scout's shoulders and pat them awkwardly, not sure how to react. "It's a little unsavory to look at, sure, but—"
The Scout muttered quietly, but it was enough to interrupt the Sniper. "I still think you look wonderful." He wrapped his arms around the other's waist and gave him a big squeeze and uttered even quieter, "Thank you for everythin'."
Chapter 14: Revelations
The Sniper was unsure how to approach the situation of the younger male attached to his waist, though it wasn’t quite a death-grip, but still with enough force to allow the elder to know it was no farce. Even the RED Spy would be incapable of faking such a tender moment, but he still refused to throw caution to the wind. He found himself subconsciously biting at his lower lip before coming to enough sense to at least reply to the kid.
“It’s nothin’,” he murmured truthfully. The hunter would have done the same for any of his other teammates. At least, that is what he continued to tell himself, but would he really have gone through all the trouble, with the pain and scars to show, for someone here merely had to work with? Teammates came and went; even now, the deceased Soldier would be having a replacement brought in---seemingly out of thin air---and the awkward scene of adapting to the newest recruit all over again was simply a headache. It was one of the many reasons the Sniper kept to himself. New recruits could be as insane as they came so long as they knew which color uniform separated friend from foe. He could have cared less; in the end, it was another day’s work and another day’s pay and the less interaction the lanky man had with anyone, the better chance he had to survive to fight another day.
No, there was something special about the smaller man, something he could not quite make out even if his life depended on it. The kid may have been the youngest on the team, but he had the grit of the toughest-seasoned member, and even now, he managed to pull out of the terrible ordeal he had experienced the night before in his own way. Sure, the Scout carried scars both on and within him, but his spirit was simply not that easy to break. He was…just very hard to figure out sometimes. But, the hunter had to respect the kid for whom he was, even if his mouth got the best of him many a time. Perhaps that was the underlying reason he was so attached to the boy? It would explain some things, like the reason they were now knee-to-knee and embraced. Yes, he respected the Scout; that thought alone made enough sense. However…
It seemed the Sniper had become lost in thought, not reacting or noticing the shift of arms withdrawing from his waist as hands slowly trailed up his bony arms, taking a soft rest at his shoulders. And, as if hesitating there, they paused, and the elder suddenly shifted back to reality as warm hands found his flushing cheeks, and the boy’s mouth was over his own. But, the Sniper did not move; did not flinch in disgust or surprise; certainly did not encourage the act. He was merely stupefied as all his thoughts and theories came crashing down on his mind.
The Scout slowly removed his lips and hands and turned his head away, something of a sullen look about his face which only confused the hunter even more. But, before he had a chance to interrogate the youth, he spoke.
“Sorry,” the boy mumbled as he scratched at the back of his head. His hands fell to his lap and his shoulders shrugged sheepishly. “Just thought you’d like that. I ain’t fuckin’ gay or nothin’, but I ain’t sure about you.”
The Sniper was taken aback by the boy’s assumption. Having been living on his own for so long, the man had all but forgotten anything to do with orientation and never gave it a thought, especially when more important things, like surviving, were on the top of his list of priorities. And, here, the youth had simply labeled him judging by recent actions in the past few weeks. Was he really easier to read despite his walls being presumably unbreakable? He simply had no idea as the only motions of love he had ever known were what he felt for his elderly mother and father. Any other spectacles he found himself in over the years were nothing more than raw human nature---a desire for the flesh---and even then, he built a protective layer about himself so as to not get attached and become vulnerable.
“No, lad, it’s fine,” he whispered, being so brave as to place a reassuring hand on the boy’s slumped shoulder. “I appreciate it; I do. I just don’t want you doin’ anything you don’t want to do.”
The Scout gave a scowl, once again slapping the elder man’s hand away. If only the bastard RED Spy had been so kind.
“It’s too late for that,” he snorted. The youth could feel his anxiety beginning to surface, though his face was stern and he forced the hidden tears to remain behind an angry glare registering at the floor beneath him. The elder man’s own expression went soft.
“That was your first, wasn’t it?” He regretted bringing it up the moment the question escaped his lips, especially when the younger man’s own expression fell and his lip threatened to curl.
The youth’s fist collided with the nearby wall as his face was enveloped in a dark red hue. Obviously, the Sniper had hit the nail right on the head and poor Sheila was to be the victim of his anger.
“I was waitin’!” the Scout found himself yelling, not caring who had heard him at this point. “I could’ve had any girl I wanted, but Ma told me to wait. She said to get married an’ have a family or somethin’! So, I did. I was just gonna work here long enough to save up some cash. Just live a normal life.” His body began to shake and his fist continued to pound at the wall, though his punches were getting softer and with less accuracy at hitting their target. “But, who’s gonna want some butt-fucked reject fag like me now?” One more punch and the boy’s hand remained on the wall, and the Sniper could not make himself move any faster to engulf the quivering body into an embrace. All floodgates were released as the Scout could hold it in no longer, quietly sobbing into the elder man’s shirt.
“That’s not true,” the hunter spoke with as much calm as his body could muster despite the rising urge to kill deep within his core. His voice was surprisingly gentler than he had cared to allow despite his inner rage. “You’re a good lad; there’s someone out there who’d appreciate you.”
“Like who?” the boy spat harshly between sobs and hiccups.
“Well,” he once again bit his lip, “You remember when I said you meant something to me? I wasn’t exactly lying, mate.”
A few more sobs escaped from the smaller man before he gave a long and drawn-out pause, sucking in a deep breath and holding it for what felt like an eternity between the both of them. He composed himself with a soft exhale of breath and looked up at the elder male, eyes filled with something the Sniper could not quite define. Again, he felt the crushing weight of the youth’s lips pressing against his own, though it seemed more forced than before while his fingers awkwardly fumbled with the elder’s open shirt. The hunter grabbed the boy’s shoulders frantically and pushed him away.
“The bloody ‘ell are you doin’?”
“You said---you said I meant somethin’ to ya,” the Scout gave an angered pout through his own confusion as he desperately tried to close the distance between the two. “Show me. Make me forget.”
“I’m not takin’ advantage of you like that,” the elder spat.
“Why the fuck not? I’m not good enough or somethin’?”
“You’re bloody well better than that and you know it,” the Sniper spoke with a calmer, serious tone as he grasped the youth’s face, golden eyes staring into Eton blue with a force enough to show nothing but truth in his statement. The boy could only stare in return, having been stunned by the hunter’s words and actions though tears began building on his lashes once more. “I know you’ve been through hell, but you’ll get through it. I’ll be right here with you, but you’ve gotta keep a straight head on your shoulders, mate. You think that damn Spy’s gonna lay over an’ die by himself?”
The Scout closed his eyes and gave a silent nod, allowing the Sniper to release his face. Something of an ironic smile dotted the corners of his lips.
“When’d you get so damn good at bein’ a decent human being?”
The elder couldn’t help but return the smile, “About the time you came into me life, I’d guess.”
The boy chuckled in spite of himself, “Yeah, I think I like that.” He rose to his feet, dusting himself off as if he had been rolling in dirt, giving his slightly-pink face a rub to compose himself and proceeded to exit the camper, but not before feeling a tug on his shoulder. The Scout turned his head slightly towards the elder male standing behind him.
“You never told me your name,” he spoke.
“Ah, y’see, I can’t go ‘round tellin’ all my secrets. You’ll find out when the time’s right, old man.”
And, with that, the door shut and the Sniper was left to his devices.
Chapter 15: Contemplation
The next day called for work, something the Sniper should have expected. He wasn’t sure exactly why he had convinced himself they were done, but knew it probably had something to do with the end of the other night’s ordeal. The other men were riled up, happy to get back to work. They were a pack of mad dogs excited for the hunt. Being cooped up in a single building with an especially damaged young man and an equally angry older man didn’t do anyone any good, especially not these men. It was too much tension for the simple-minded to know what to do with.
Usually, the Sniper would have gathered with the others around the final meal before the start of a new mission. He was usually up early, and always prepared for anything and everything. The mild socialization always did him some good before he isolated himself during battle, as well. It just didn’t seem necessary this time, and even if it was the Sniper was too exhausted and drained to care. He took his time getting ready after a late start: he made a thermos of coffee instead of worrying about setting up the entire pot in another room, got dressed as a leisurely pace, waited until the last minute to collect his weapons for the day, and didn’t bother to worry about his shortage of Jarate. There was less than a minute to the countdown when he finally joined the rest of his teammates.
Everyone was there, yelling at each other and causing a general ruckus. The Pyro hung close to the Scout, who was antagonizing the Heavy and Medic over the unusual nature of their relationship. It was safe to assume that no one had the same closeness as those two, and it embarrassed the Medic thoroughly. The Heavy didn’t seem to care, though. He just rolled his eyes and occasionally bumped the Scout, only to evoke a much louder and playfully aggressive reaction. The Demoman was finally sober enough to make some sense and did his best to give the mildly annoyed Engineer a pep talk. The Engineer didn’t want to listen, and it looked as if he was trying to tune out the Scotsman while he tinkered with his Wrangler. The Spy lurked in the corner, addressing the minor lint problem on the shoulders of his suit. He muttered to himself, completely ignoring all of the commotion around him. As always, he didn’t care. That left the Sniper virtually unnoticed by the ragtag lot of sociopaths, and he preferred it that way.
The Administrator’s voice rang over the loudspeakers that were hooked up throughout the base. “Mission begins in ten seconds!” The men scrambled to find their places, ready to push their payload into the enemy base. That’s all they needed to do today. No points to capture, no intelligence to steal. Just push a stupid cart with a stupid bomb haphazardly strapped to it to the other side of the quarry and detonate it. Everyone could taste the promise of a several day vacation in the form of a roadtrip to another location if they succeeded today. Everyone needed it.
The gates dropped and the first to charge out was the Demoman. He waited for no man and vanished around the corner, screaming above the sound of gunshots and explosions. The Heavy and Medic followed after with an übercharge erupting from the Medigun. This combined with the Heavy’s bloodlust gave everyone else enough cover to exit the building, and the Sniper crept out and behind the buildings. He took every back road he knew in order to strategically place himself behind enemy lines, and he set up in a small room with one broken window. It was one of the best vantage points he’d ever found: high off the ground, dark so no one could see into the window, close to where the payload needed to wind up, and he could see almost clear to his base. It was perfect in every way.
He carefully placed his precious thermos on the ground and moved an empty crate near the window so he could sit down. He didn’t bring his preferred Huntsman with him this time. He wanted accuracy and raw power, and the Huntsman was for much more offensive tactics. Instead, the Sniper brought along the Machina. He rarely ever used this rifle because he almost never had that chance to set up such a fantastic nest. He unstrapped the gun from his back and propped the barrel on the frame of the window. He carefully adjusted the butt against his shoulder. With a quick adjusting of the scope, he was ready to get to work, and scanned the entire area.
For what felt like hours, he picked off dozens of RED enemies. Through his scope he counted eight of them (all but the RED Spy, who was probably skulking around), repeatedly, including the Medic whom he thought long dead. The Sniper watched his Pyro torch the man. He had listened to his airless croaking from the flames, and had looked into his charred, lifeless face. Yet there he was, running around on the battlefield after his own Heavy Weapon’s Guy. No matter how many people the Sniper shot or how many times he shot them, they simply kept coming back, like an infestation. It made absolutely no sense and something wasn’t right.
The Sniper withdrew his eye from his scope and slipped his fingers under his glasses to rub his eyes. Even though he was aiding his team by keeping the REDs off of the payload, there was no real advantage to be had in this nest. He could feel frustration bubbling up in his gut. With the hopes of easing the feeling, he took a big mouthful of coffee and leaned back into his scope, just catching a RED Soldier between his eyes before he could launch a rocket at the BLU Medic. At the very least, his teammates were pushing the payload at a steady pace. Perhaps they would be done in a reasonable amount of time.
That left the question of “what next?” It was the same old song and dance with every job the BLUs were given, and always against the same REDs. Nothing ever changed except location and teammates. Nothing changed, except for the Scout, which desperately needed addressing, as did the RED Spy. The rollercoaster of disasters and emotions needed to be put to an end. Even though the end of the day was likely to bring a temporary distance from work, it wouldn’t end anything that had started. The RED Spy would just be waiting for the next job, and the Scout (nor anything the Sniper was feeling for the lad) was not simply going to vanish overnight. Even at work his mind wandered to the younger male. Even though he rejected it, he couldn’t stop thinking about their lips pressed together. He remembered the warmth he felt when they embraced, or the convulsion of muscles when the Scout sobbed. There were also so many unanswered questions, like what would happen when the Scout finally began to recover, why the RED Spy was out to hurt them to begin with, or how much longer the Sniper could go on knowing that he was still sharing his air with the filthy rapist.
He lowered his gun, letting the muzzle clank against the wooden floor. His team didn’t need him sniping from the window. They didn’t need him on the field, either. What they needed was a sharpshooter with clear head. He slung his Machina over his shoulder and, abandoning his thermos, set out. It was time to be the hunter and not the hunted.
Chapter 16: The Secret to Immortality
Now was not the right time to be feeling exhausted or even angry enough to cloud judgment, but the Sniper could not help but feel both as he crept down the ladder leading away from the room he had claimed as his vantage point earlier, his Machina properly strapped to his back. He made the dangerous task of climbing down with his Kukri wedged between clenched teeth, ready to attack the first person he discovered in a red outfit. But, none would be so unfortunate to come into contact with his melee weapon. Odd, but he was not in the right frame of mind to think how lucky he was to be darting around between buildings and earthen landmarks unnoticed, eyes set on the payload his fellow team members were in the process of pushing. Slowly and steadily, they marched on, casually dodging enemy fire and returning their own. They did not need the hunter this moment, it seemed.
Not that it would have mattered. The Sniper was on a mission of his own. Somewhere, on that battlefield, perhaps hiding in a corner like the rat he was, the Spy was watching and waiting, and every second he was alive merely angering the bushman even further. His blade needed to be in the bastard’s gut and soaked with innards as soon as possible, before he had a chance to attack his team; or, in a worst-case scenario, to come into contact with the Scout. That thought merely made the lanky man’s heart pump rigorously to the point of it giving away his position as he continued tip-toeing beyond enemy lines. He took a moment to catch his breath and still his nerves, knowing it would only get him killed. Besides, he witnessed his Pyro teammate with the Scout before they left their base. If he couldn’t protect the boy personally, the masked man surely would. But, if the youth, being himself, were to have separated from the group to do his own style of attack… Well, his stubbornness just could not be helped. The Sniper could only hope the boy had the brains to stay safe. He would give that kid such a lashing if he wound up getting himself injured the first day back in the field! No pout would save him from the hunter’s rage at being so careless.
He picked up his pace yet again, running dangerously close to the RED base. No one was nearby, which struck a chord with the man as being odd. Were they just charging through the gates like a herd of never-ending ants moments ago? And, why were they suddenly incapable of dying properly no matter how many headshots they endured? Something had to be up, and he would do his best to help his team by finding out. Yes, that quickly-established plan cleared his mind of any badgering thoughts, and the Sniper quickly entered the base.
Surprisingly, the enemies’ base was much like his own, an equally-frustrating labyrinth in its design. However, his knowledge for bases left something to be desired, and standing so vulnerable in the hallway while reading a map would have surely gotten him killed before he had the ability to learn where he was. He let his instincts take over, much like he had done the night of the incident and began whisking through the many corridors. Ears perked and heard nothing, but his nose could not lie; the barracks were close. He recognized the pungent smell of a group of men’s living quarters, one of the many reasons he had not bothered to put himself up with his own team. But, no, finding this room would be pointless, as no one would be there at the time and the hunter had no contraptions on his being for building traps. Besides, if the enemy team were somehow immortal, it would be a waste of time and supplies. So, poisoning their cafeteria food was out of the question as well. No, the Sniper needed something better; something useful.
Something like classified information.
It only made perfect sense. His team had their own secrets safely stored away. The enemy had intelligence not given to the BLU team, something akin to technology keeping them from dying, and it had to be hidden somewhere under lock and key. And, the job for the day did not include stealing valuable information, so it made even more perfect sense to hunt it down while the other team was occupied with trying to stop the payload that crept closer to their base. The Scout was usually the one charging in and stealing said intelligence; no one would ever suspect the slow and lanky Sniper to do it! He smiled in spite of the situation, especially since he heard no announcement from the woman upstairs to reveal his presence in the base to begin with. He never understood how the Administrator worked; sometimes, she aided and sometimes, it seemed she worked against his team. But, whether she knew or not, he was going to cause a stir at the RED base if he could help it.
Another corner was rounded, and the Sniper found himself facing a set of concrete stairs leading below the establishment. He cautiously began to descend into the darker area, which was merely illuminated with a single light bulb. His eyes adjusted quickly as they scanned the new corridor he stood in. There was a camera near the ceiling above his head, and its focus rested on a solitary door many feet ahead. The door itself appeared to be made of a sort of metal, and the hunter could plainly make out the lock and chain on the handle.
The hunter carefully eased himself closer to the security camera, thankful he was tall enough to reach it without effort. He removed his hat and placed it upon the lens. Whoever was watching the live video at that moment surely noticed, and he knew his time was limited. Without a moment’s hesitation, the male darted for the locked door, grinning madly at how simple a padlock the enemy had stupidly used. A child with a toothpick could have opened it in mere seconds! And, as he had hoped, the lock came open in his hands with only a slight bit of persuading. Chains fell to the floor with a clunk and the Sniper paused and looked behind him. No one came, thankfully, even though all of this felt too easy. Whatever. There was something important behind that door and it would be his regardless.
Fearing a booby-trap, the Sniper moved to the side of the door and pushed it open slowly using the hilt of his Kukri. Nothing triggered, though the door made a painstakingly loud creak as if it had not been opened in years. Again, only a simple light lit up the room he now found himself standing in. His eyes traveled to the direction of the beam, and a smile crept along his face. Right before him on a desk in the center of the room lay a briefcase, bright red in color. It just begged to be taken, and the Sniper did just that, though carefully, looking around to ensure no weapons were attached and ready to sound off in a single moment’s notice. A hand gripped the leather of the case as his other hand trailed fingers against the small locks holding it closed. Those would be simple to break, but he dare not attempt it here in the enemy base. For all he knew, it could be a bomb and he could be doing exactly what the RED team wanted him to do; to take the case back to his base and have them all explode upon opening. Game over. Still, it was too enticing to simply set back down, especially since he took all the trouble to find it in the first place. It had to be the information that would answer his questions. It---
The building seemed to shake, and the Sniper’s hand grabbed at the desk to steady his body. It seemed his teammates had completed their task at-hand, and he had mere moments to get the hell out of Dodge before the enemy emerged from the rubble now coating one side of their base. He darted through the hallway, reaching up and snatching his prized hat en route for the quickest way out of the danger zone.
* * *
“So, ye be tellin’ me ye just skipped right into their base, casually found this case, and managed t’ get out without being seen?”
“That’s exactly what I’m sayin’, mate,” the Sniper explained, his hands brought before himself for emphasis. “And, I need ya to open it without blowin’ us all to ‘ell and back.”
He knew it sounded suspicious, but there would be no forgiving himself had the hunter just ignored practically gift-wrapped information, especially after he risked his life and limb in gathering it to begin with. And, now, here the intelligence sat, innocently on a table in between the Sniper and his fellow Demoman, who could only scratch his head in disbelief. Other teammates remained silent as they were equally curious as to the predicament involving the mysterious case. Some had better things to do---like the Scout---than to sit around and stare at a case that, for all they knew, could explode at any given moment. It suited the hunter just fine; he did not need the snide remarks of the lad about putting himself in harm’s way or his general presence to cloud his thoughts.
But, what the hell. The Scotsman shrugged, “Sure, I’ll give it a look, but if the little bugger kills me, I’m hauntin’ yer ass.”
Those few words seemed to have been magical in clearing the room as the other men suddenly valued their lives and fled to safer ground. It was one thing to have a bomb being shut off; it was another to have a Scottish drunkard doing the work. But, the thrill of the day’s work had sobered the man up somewhat and he took right to work in gathering his tools from his belt and sitting himself at the table. The Sniper took a seat across from him, figuring if it were to explode, it would only be proper he get taken out as well. Again, he heard the Bostonian accent cursing him in his mind, but this was too important a discovery to worry with precautions.
With a startling amount of expertise, the Demoman gave a slight chuckle as the two locks popped open beneath his fingers almost instantly. He gave a wary look at the Sniper, who could only nod in reply, and the case was slowly opened. Both winced for a moment, then, casually opened an eye, then the other---at least in the case of the hunter---and peered into the case.
No bomb. No booby-trap. Nothing but a neat stack of papers in a folder marked ‘Top Secret’ stamped crudely in bright red ink. The men exchanged confused glances before the Sniper took hold of the folder, casually flipping through the pages and pages of words, sketches, and diagrams. Then, as the first page fell from the folder and landed on the ground, it revealed an eerie title in bold lettering:
The hunter stared in slight disbelief as he grabbed the sheet and placed it back into its bindings and gave the stack another flip. It was ancient Latin for all he knew as he could make neither heads nor tails of the text and art. But, he knew someone who could decipher this and make use of the technological secret it held.
He needed the Engineer. And, it would take no time at all for the Sniper to exit the room, nearly stumbling over the table in urgency as the Demoman stood in the doorway, yelling Scottish gibberish about thanking people for their troubles before huffing and excusing himself to what could be an evening of drinking. The hunter nearly startled the Texan upon finding him, having been gifted with the mysterious folder as it was shoved in his face. But, before he could utter a word of protest, he fell silent and slowly pulled his goggles from his eyes as he dug through the papers. His toothy grin was all the Sniper needed to reassure himself that he had stumbled upon the RED team’s advantage.
The Engineer gave a hearty laugh as his eyes scanned the first couple of pages, “Well, bless my grandfather’s soul. So, that’s how those varmints are stayin’ alive all this time.”
“You’ve noticed it, too, mate?” The Sniper asked, bewildered and somewhat thankful he was not the only person finding the enemies’ antics strange.
“Sure, I knew somethin’ mighty suspicious was goin’ on, but I didn’t wanna sound like a downright crazy person for bringin’ it up,” the Southern spoke as he shook his head slowly. He removed his safety hat and placed it on the bench beside him. “You done went and found us a treasure, son. Now, if you’ll excuse me…” The Engineer waved his gloved hand at the taller male, shooing him from his workshop without even giving him the benefit of acknowledging him with his own stare as it dug into the paperwork in his excitedly-trembling hand.
“I’ve got a heckuva lotta work to do here.”
It might as well have been an enemy attack with the whooping and hollering that filled the barracks in the wee hours of the following morning. The Engineer, with his eyes reddened and encircled in a dark grey shade that could only have developed through a sleepless night of studying, proceeded to wake every individual his Southern-dripping voice could reach and shocked their groggy eyes with the sudden burst of light. They groaned and demanded explanation, and the Texan was more than pleased to provide.
“I broke the code! I done figured it out!” he beamed as he waved the classified papers in one hand to receive another round of bellyaching from his fellow teammates. The Scout was brave enough to hit the sleep-interrupting man in the face with his pillow before surrounding himself in his bed sheets. But, not to be deterred from his own stunning brilliance, the Engineer ignored the attack as he spit out a feather that managed to wedge itself between his lips and batted the covered body with the file, receiving a grunt for his efforts.
“This ain’t no time to be lazing about. The RED team has been playing us for fools all this time, but we got their little secret right here,” He emphasized with a wave of the folder once more. The mere mention of the enemy was enough to drag the lazy bodies---save for the youngest male---from their bunks as the papers suddenly became very fascinating. The Engineer could only beam proudly as he pulled something from his pocket and held it out to the eyes of his teammates.
“What is tiny piece?” The Heavy inquired as he squinted at the small object in the other male’s hand. He attempted to touch it, but the Engineer withdrew the piece, holding it between his index finger and thumb as he waved it around for everyone to see.
“This here’s our newest weapon. I designed it myself with a little help from this-here top-secret intel.”
“Well, quit beatin’ around th’ bush, laddie. We haven’t got all day,” The Demoman huffed and the other men chimed in agreement.
The Engineer waved his free hand, “Alright, alright, settle down.” He gave his throat a clearing and leaned into the group, a toothy grin played about his face. “Do you believe in immortality?”
“Wait, are you for real?” The Scout’s bed was suddenly devoid of a body as the he bum-rushed the Engineer and yanked the item from his hand. If this item---this small and frail-looking chip---were capable of protecting a man from death, then he would be free to avenge himself against the bastard RED Spy as he saw fit. But, that thought was smacked from his head by a hand as the elder man reclaimed his invention with a mutter under his breath about kids and their impoliteness.
“Settle yourself, son. This is the only one I got right now.” The Engineer placed the chip gingerly into his overalls pocket at his chest and gave it a pat. “If ya’ll want one of these beauties, we’ll need to collect supplies so I can get back to work on makin’ more.”
He never got a chance to explain that the product was untested and that he would be using his own teammates as laboratory mice. Also, the fact that each man would be succumbing themselves to the mercy of the Medic in properly administering the technology to their bodies fell on deaf ears.
The BLU team would find out in time, right?
The Engineer grinned to himself as he exited the room now filled with cheers and battle cries. Let Project: Re-Spawn begin.
Chapter 17: Frigid Night, Hot Morning
Whereas his teammates all plopped back into bed without another thought, the Scout couldn’t do anything but toss and turn. Thoughts of vengeance, sugar-coated with the promise of this “respawning” technology kept dancing through his head. An intense desire to get back at the RED Spy coursed wildly through his veins. It didn’t make for a good lullaby, either. So instead of lying in his bed and wrestling with his sheets, he decided to put on some pants and go for a walk.
His mind might have been wide awake, but his body still hadn’t quite adjusted to the mildly alarming wake up call. His bare feet slapped sleepily on the tiled floor as he aimlessly wandered. He could hear the Engineer’s faint self-directed conversations echoing in the hallways, and in a moment of clarity and good judgment decided to steer clear of the man. That didn’t give him too many options. At this hour, combined with the severe lack of sleep, the Scout knew the Engineer was not likely to stay confined in his workshop. There were only a few safe places left, one of which was the sleeping quarters (which have already been violated once). That left only one option, which he immediately took.
The air outside was still cold, nipping at the Scout’s bare fingers and toes. He shivered as he watched his breath curl out in a small, misty cloud and rubbed his arms. The morning would yield another scorching day, but the nights were always bitter; such was desert life. A little bit of foresight could have saved him the trouble of dealing with the overnight frost. With his arms wrapped around him in a barely warming embrace, the young man ran across the compound, bee-lining for the camper van now parked across the lot. The Scout was sure that the Engineer wouldn’t dare disturb the Sniper in his own quarters this late, and had no qualms doing it himself. It was the perfect hide away until morning.
The doorknob to the camper was somehow colder than the night air, and the Scout hissed in protest as he grabbed it. His hissing grew louder when he realized that it was also locked. He shook it violently for a moment before letting go and circling the van, hoping to find an open window. Unfortunately, there would be no such thing, as was the luck of the Scout. He cursed and shivered, rubbing his arms in a mad attempt to create warming friction. There was no way he was going to go back inside, not with that insane alarm clock known as the Engineer up and about, and not at the risk of reawaking everyone without good reason. He didn’t want to be at the wrong end of that dispute.
That’s when he saw the popped-lock on the passenger side of the pickup truck that towed the camper van. Eagerly, he ripped the door open and climbed inside, ignoring the stink of coffee and raw man that stained the upholstery inside. He slammed the door closed and huddled in a ball across the seats. The only thing the truck did for him was provide him a shield from the gentle breeze.
There were all sorts of garbage and miscellaneous objects scattered around the driver’s seat and on the floor, much to the Scout’s surprise. Usually the Sniper was so clean, or at least that’s what the camper-van area of the vehicle screamed. Not that the Scout was complaining. A blue shirt that was left in the front seat promised extra warmth and he slipped into it faster than a race horse could run. He settled back into the seat and closed his eyes. The shirt smelled just like the Sniper. The fragrance wasn’t subtle, either; it must not have been washed recently. But that very scent was what lulled the young man back to sleep, settling his mind from the warpath it had been set on.
The Sniper had set his alarm to be woken up relatively early. He was excited about hitting the road. It was the one time in this job that he was assured peace and quiet, and solitude was something that the Sniper deeply cherished. He swung his legs over the side of his bed, yawning and stretching. He wasted no time in getting dressed, sliding into the same pants he wore the day before and brushing his teeth. He didn’t care if he still had yet to eat breakfast and have his morning coffee; the rotten taste of morning in his mouth was sickening and needed to be purged. Once he was done rinsing, he fixed his shirt on his shoulders, set his coffee maker to brew, and jumped out the back of the camper.
The sun was already hot in the sky, and the Sniper had to shield his eyes from it regardless of his sunglasses. He made no effort to enjoy the heat and just went inside, where breakfast was waiting. None of the other men were up yet, save for the Engineer who presumably never went to sleep. He sat at a table with a plate of waffles and his paperwork scattered about in front of him. So engrossed in his work, he didn’t even notice the Sniper sneak in and get his own food until he plopped his plate down at the same table.
“Didn’t get any sleep, mate?” The Sniper sat down in his chair and took a hungry bite of his egg sandwich. The Engineer grunted in return as he scribbled something down on one of the papers. “Ya really should. Ya’ve all the time in the world ta put this thing togetha.”
“I want this to be perfect’n’ready to be implemented by the time we get to our next check point,” the Engineer said. “We need an advantage.”
“We have one.” The Sniper’s tone was soft and reassuring. “It’s you, but ya can’t do good work if ya don’t get any sleep.”
“Hn,” was the only response he provoked from the Engineer.
“Well, I’m leavin’ as soon as I’m done here. Could ya tell the other blokes that I left’n I’ll meet them at the next location?”
“Yeah, sure,” the Engineer said, waving his hand in a small “shooing” gesture. The Sniper needed no further encouraging, and he silenced himself with his sandwich. A few minutes passed, and his entire meal was consumed. He promptly excused himself from the table, thoughtlessly leaving his plate behind, and went back to his beloved camper, where he collected his coffee in his favorite thermos and locked up so he could be ready to travel.
The best part of the day was about to come: miles and miles of open back roads and no one to bother him. He fished his keys out of his pocket, unlocked the driver’s side door to his truck, and opened it. He jumped at the startling sight of the Scout unceremoniously sprawled across both of the seats, snoring, and wearing the Sniper’s three-day-old shirt over his own sleepwear. An eyebrow crept over the top of the sunglasses, and the Sniper purposefully cleared his throat.
“And you’re here why?”
The Scout groaned; the older man’s voice was just another disturbing part of his morning. He unconsciously swatted in the direction of the disruptive Australian and tossed himself from his back to his side, face squishing against the seat in an attempt to block out the sun.
“Like piss you’re stayin’ there, lad.” The Sniper set his thermos on his dash and grabbed the kid’s shoulders, hauling him out of the van and onto the dirt ground.
“What the fuck’s your problem, old man?!” the Scout cursed as he was rudely torn from his half-sleep. His body wasn’t as responsive as he would have liked it to be, and mere flopped onto the ground. “I wasn’t hurtin’ nobody! Geez!”
“No one invited you ta—how’d ya get in there anyway?”
“You left the door unlocked, shitstain.” The Scout brushed dirt off of his torso as he sat up on his knees.
The Sniper growled, unhappy with himself for such a careless mistake. “That doesn’t mean you can just barge into someone else’s home!”
“It’s a van, dude.”
“It doesn’t matter what she is!”
Both men glared at each other for a few moments, and then the Scout rose to his feet.
“Why’re you here anyway?” the Sniper finally asked, his voice no longer rose into an angry pitch, but rather a softer, somewhat more compassionate one. “And, why’re you wearin’ me shirt?”
The Scout answered in order, “The assholes inside were loud last night and it was cold out here.”
“Next time, just knock,” the older man muttered, crossing his arms over his chest. “Now if ya don’t mind, I’ve gotta hit the road.”
“You’re leaving now?”
“Of course I’m leavin’ now. I always leave early. Where’ve you been these past thirteen months?”
The Scout furrowed his brow and bit his lower lip. He knew that, but for some reason it came as a surprise to him this time. That, and the next check point was a couple day’s drive away, meaning he would be separated from the older man for such amount of time. It was a somewhat upsetting concept that the young man couldn’t quite work his way around.
“Can I come with you?”
“You heard me, pops,” the Scout snapped. “Those guys are loud and unrelenting and, well, yeah. I’m not gonna repeat myself.”
The Sniper glared through his yellow lenses, chewing on the inside of his cheek as if the thought needed quick digesting. If he let the lad come along, it meant his few days of solitude would be compromised. At the same time the Scout didn’t ever ask for much of anything, and the Sniper did have a soft spot for the kid.
“Only if you’re packed and dressed in five minutes. If not, I’m leavin’ y’behind, got it?” Before he finished his thought, the Scout ran into the base, leaving nothing but a trail of kicked his dust in his wake. The countdown began, and the Sniper plopped himself in the driver’s seat to patiently wait. He knew the Scout wouldn’t be a second late, and he knew he was in for a couple of hectic days. He would never admit it, but he was almost looking forward to it. A smile cracked the corners of his face, and he threw his head back to wash it away with a few large gulps of coffee.
Chapter 18: The Path We Travel
It was relatively easy to rummage through drawers and get prepared for the day as well as pack a few extra pieces of clothing into a duffel bag. The Scout could barely contain his excitement as he tied his shoes and tossed his bag over his shoulder to rest at his back. He was more than prepared to leave this shit-hole of bad memories behind and embark on a new journey to a new setting, and in the newness of everything, it would give him the mental opportunity he needed to endure the days ahead, as the boy was more than ready to try out the Engineer’s newest invention and see the look of surprise on the enemy Spy’s face as he separated his head from his neck. It mattered not that the technology was in its infant stage and untested; knowing the Texan, anything he built was just as perfect as the rain on a hot desert setting.
The youth would just have to occupy himself as he waited, and what better way than to be trapped in a two-seat truck with the Sniper? Yes, they may have had an awkward encounter brought upon them by the Scout himself that caused a rift over the past day, but a long-distance ride with the elder man would be a good opportunity to make things right. Or, it would be a fine way to make things even worse between the two. The boy bit his lip at that thought, half-wishing he had not attempted to throw himself upon the elder previously, but glad the hunter was kind in dealing with him in the manner that he had done, even if it meant spending the night alone in a room full of other males when all he wanted was to share the small bed of the camper with the other man. The Scout could not explain it, not even to himself, that he held a strange attraction for the Sniper. Was it out of feeling gratitude for coming to his rescue and taking care of him? Or, was it something more? The boy did not know, but he could not deny the butterflies that threatened to burst from his gut.
He remembered that he could easily get left behind if he didn’t hurry, so the Scout tossed his dog tags around his neck and proceeded to bolt out the door. A moment passed and he re-entered the room, quickly peeling the photograph of his mother from the wall to tuck it beneath his hat, and then exit once again. The sleeping men he passed by had never realized he had been there at all, and they may have a shock come time to get up as he left not a trace behind save for some messy sheets.
The Scout made haste in the bathroom as he relieved himself, brushed his teeth, and splashed a bit of cold water in his face to fully awaken himself. Then, he rushed from the building, but not before nearly crashing into the Engineer as he made way through the hallway to his shop. A quick apology was issued before the boy could receive a wrench to his temple for his clumsiness. He left the base, breathing in a huge gulp of air as the morning was just beginning, and it was still comfortably cool outside as the sun was making an attempt to peer from the clouds that threatened to hide it.
He could not help but grin stupidly as he approached the front end of the camper and climbed into the passenger seat, stuffing his bag under his legs and making himself comfortable. The Sniper seemed to have been in better spirits now that his stomach was full of coffee, but he still held a frown as he pointed to the boy’s unbuckled seat belt. The Scout sheepishly complied as he bucked himself in, but made a face at the elder as he cracked his window open and began to light a cigarette.
“What? Helps me relax,” the hunter said defensively as the boy was already going into an overdramatic coughing fit in protest. “My van, my rules. Open your bloody window.”
The younger man did as he was instructed and rolled his window down half-way right as the camper began its journey from the base. He removed his hat--taking care of the photo that fell into his lap--and let the wind blow through his unkempt hair. It felt so nice this early in the morning, and he took advantage of it, as this would be the most comfortable part of the entire ride before the sun took to the sky. The Scout noted that there were no knobs or dials for air on the dashboard, but at least the windows functioned. Also, the radio looked to be something out of the prehistoric period; it was more of a scanner than an actual radio, so music would be out of the question. With only the sound of the wind in his face, the boy scrunched his nose as it would be a very long and boring ride, but already, a problem surfaced.
“What is it, mate?”
“Don’t you dare start already or I’ll leave you on the highway.”
The following two hours was met with silence, which the Sniper was thankful for. He had already sunk into a comfortable position as he casually drove his camper across a cracked highway, barely surpassing 60 on his speedometer. The road had begun to emit clear waves as the sun was already baking the asphalt beneath the tires. It was actually quite pleasant, especially since the Scout managed to find an unwrapped candy bar packed away in his bag and had engulfed it to soothe his appetite. However, the stimulation of the chocolate had made the boy restless by now, and he was busy reading every road sign and billboard they drove past aloud. The elder would have preferred to not be updated on how many miles were covered and how many more had to be gained, so he decided to stop and allow the youth some time to burn his relentless energy.
The camper slowed to a stop in the gravel beside the road, and even the hunter was thankful to stretch his long legs as the Scout bounced from his seat and proceeded to explore their rest stop. His hat shielded the sun from his eyes as he surveyed the vast desert before him. Cacti, bushes, dirt, rocks, and an occasional lizard was all there was to be seen. But, standing around was not helping his rambunctious nature. With a grin and a glance to the Sniper, the boy took off running, his feet fast and light against the dirt that kicked up in his wake. The elder took advantage of his absence and relieved himself behind the vehicle. He could not help the smile he wore, though, as the boy was acting like his adorable self again.
Wait, did he just call the Scout adorable?
He shook his head. The heat must be getting to him. The elder climbed into the back of the camper and pulled a bottle of water from his mini refrigerator—thankfully plugged into a battery-operated generator until they found a hook-up down the road--and returned outside just as the youth was making his way back. He barely had time to get a gulp of the liquid before the Scout snatched it from his grasp and began chugging it with enough force that it spilled onto his chin and down his shirt.
“Hey, don’t get carried away,” he snapped, grabbing the bottle and capping it, “It’s a long time until we hit the next town.” Before the Sniper gave thought to what he was doing, his thumb was wiping the excess water from the boy’s chin and it wasn’t until he saw the doe-like Eton blue eyes gazing into his own that he realized what had happened. He cleared his throat and withdrew his hand quickly, placing it at the back of his neck as the other rested in his pants pocket.
“We---We best get goin’, lad.” He mumbled as the offending thumb now pointed at the camper and he spun on his heels to make way for the driver’s door.
The Scout’s own fingers lightly traced at the spot on his face where the elder had been, but the sudden sound of a horn snapped him back to reality and he hopped in, having only moments to apply his seatbelt before the vehicle spun out in the small rocks as it took back to the road.
Yes, it would be a long drive after all.
Another few hours later, the road began to have better wear than the highway the van had put behind the two males. It could only mean that they were finally approaching a town, and with good timing. The bottle of water had been completely drunk, and both travelers were stuck to the back of their seats with their own sweat. High noon in the desert was certainly something to behold, if one could withstand the heat; unfortunately for the Sniper and Scout, they were heading from one desert base to the next. A stop for gas and refreshments was definitely top-priority.
The camper pulled off the road onto a concrete parking lot and stopped beside a pump. The Scout immediately rushed into the store to cool off and gather much-needed food and drink while the Sniper, used to desert heat, merely rested against the side of his vehicle as he began to pump gas and fanned himself with his trusty hat. He did not care for comparing prices; his employers would be picking up the tab as it was part of his contract, so he easily chose the best grade of gas available for his Sheila. Once the tank was filled up, the hunter made way towards the store to stop the boy from, as he guessed, buying an armload of junk food and sodas.
The Sniper would be correct in his assumptions. He approached the younger male before he proceeded to carry enough snacks to feed a whole army to the register and gave him a look; the Scout could only grin and turn red in the face as he set a few items back on their respective shelves and plopped the remaining bit in front of the befuddled cashier. Whatever. The boy was paying for his own food. The bushman shook his head and collected his own assortment of goods in the form of water, coffee, a banana, a muffin and, of course, a new pack of cigarettes much to the dismay of his companion. To his annoyance, the Scout was busying himself by chatting up the man behind the counter, bragging about this or that as the poor fellow tried to multi-task polite conversation and tallying up the boy’s items.
“…yeah, and then—ow!” The boy winced against the thump he received at the back of his head, and the cashier looked somewhat thankful and relieved. He grimaced at the elder male as he handed the clerk the amount needed for his purchase, collected his bag of goodies, and proceeded to tear into a bar of chocolate and a can of soda.
Observing the Scout in action, the Sniper sighed and looked to the cashier, one finger held up, “I’ll take a bottle of aspirin, too, please.”
Once the hunter had finished his transaction, the two once again set course for their destination. Only half a day had already been made, but there were many miles ahead of the duo and their dependable camper. The elder could only pray for a relatively silent ride, but his passenger was proceeding to eat everything he bought in one meal. Though, he could not help the wrinkle of his mouth as it formed a slight smile as he peered over to see the Scout’s mouth covered in chocolate. However, the boy made contact with the one gold eye before it darted back to the road. He made a confused frown as he wiped the residue from his face with the wrappings at his hands.
“Alright, what gives? You’ve been actin’ strange since we left.”
“No, I haven’t, lad.” The Sniper wished his voice had sounded a little more confident as it cracked. He was not the best of liars, but his job demanded precision, not manipulation. His fingers gripped the steering wheel as he tried to keep his focus on the highway.
“Don’t pull that bullshit with me, old man. I’ve seen you eyein’ me the whole trip.” He paused to lean over towards the elder and tapped his own chin, “What was that about earlier, huh?”
“Stop tryin’ ta make a mountain out of a mole hill. It’s nothin’. Just—Just eat yer junk and lemme drive, okay?”
The Sniper heard a click of the boy’s seatbelt coming undone, and he did all he could in his power to keep the vehicle from swerving off the road as the Scout persistently moved atop the elder and straddled his legs. The camper came to a sudden halt as he managed to pull it to the side of the road, just barely missing a sign.
“What the bloody ‘ell do you think you’re doing, boy?” he roared in surprise.
The Scout would not be backing down so easily. His hands came to rest together at the back of the elder’s neck, and he stared intently through the yellow-tinted lenses. “I’m settlin’ this matter right here and now.” He leaned into the Sniper’s blushing face. “D’ya like me or not?”
The hunter stuttered and stammered, not sure of what he was supposed to say, but the youth would be the one to speak clearly, “’Cause, I like you. I like you a lot.”
All the Sniper knew then was the taste of chocolate upon his lips as the boy pressed his own against them; both hats fell backwards from their owner’s heads upon being tapped together. He felt this was wrong; the Scout could not have any affection for such an older, ragged man—a man! It was a platonic relationship and nothing more! The kid had been through physical and mental abuse only days before and was not thinking straight. This was his way of venting and expressing his pain and sorrow. The hunter was sure of it; however, he found it so easily satisfying to return the kiss as his own hands unclenched the steering wheel and held the boy’s back, his fingers grabbing the sweaty material. But, just as quickly as he gave in, the Sniper broke the kiss and shook his head.
“No, this isn’t right,” he whispered.
The Scout’s fingers knotted behind the elder’s head; his eyebrows knitted together and the color in his face turned a deep shade of red. “Then, how do I make it right?” he yelled as he buried his face in the hunter’s shoulder. “How do I make you love me?”
An arrow might as well have struck the Sniper in the heart as he sat there, dumbfounded, with a shaking, smaller body in his lap. He wanted so badly to let the younger male know how he felt, but it would only cause him pain in the end. He was still so very young and impressionable; he still had a whole life ahead of him. And, what did the bushman have to offer? A life of blood and solitude? The last time he showed any affection to the boy, the Scout was gravely made to suffer, and there would be no way in hell he would ever put the young man in any kind of danger for his sake.
“I can’t, lad. I just can’t let you get hurt.”
The Scout’s head rose up suddenly, his eyes filled with tears that barely clung to his eyelashes. “You’re the reason I ain’t fuckin’ killed myself over this shit! You think I wanted to live after that? You! You are the one who pulled me back up! Don’t you dare think for a minute that I blame you for what happened!”
His eyes lowered, the tears beginning to spill, and his hands relaxed and slid to the muscles between the Sniper’s neck and shoulders and his words became soft, “No one else woulda done that for me.”
The elder blinked, shocked to the very core. He had not realized just how important he was to the boy. But, still, could he risk opening up to the Scout whom he cared for so deeply? His hands still rubbed into the smaller male’s back as his eyes scanned their surroundings. It was a lonely and open highway, broken and cracked from years of sun and lack of care. No one would be in sight. His eyes slowly closed and he took a sigh. Maybe, just this one time, he would let his walls fall. No one would have to know but the two of them, and maybe—just maybe—indulging the boy would let him see how worthless the hunter was as a partner and go about his own way. The Sniper could deal with the depression of being alone; the Scout could not.
Another sigh was released. Here goes nothing.
The elder’s hands came to the back of the boy’s head and lifted his tear-stained face to gaze at him as he gave a slight nod. “Okay. I will love you.” The Sniper’s voice was barely audible, but it spoke volumes.
His thumbs rested beneath the reddened eyes and gave a slight wipe as he removed the tears that fell; his face became soft at the warm smile the boy he held now gave and both lips moved together in unison to connect the heartstrings now dancing between their bodies. They twisted, unseen, as if they were bringing the two males together and tying them to the spot with a delicate bow. The Sniper gently caressed the youth’s face, his fingers trailing through his short and spiky hair soaked with sweat from the lack of air blowing through the windows. Their kiss became urgent with hunger as their tongues danced together between mouths and the Scout tilted his head to allow better access; his fingers found the rim of the hunter’s sunglasses and slid them past his forehead and removed them completely to lie in the nearby seat.
Both gave a sudden moan of surprise as the boy’s hips involuntarily rubbed closer to the elder’s and caused a spark of friction. Their kiss ended as the Sniper lowered his mouth to taste at the salty flesh of the younger man’s neck, reveling in the groans the smaller male made in his throat. His hips bucked again as he gripped the elder’s shirt to the point of ripping the top button loose completely before fiddling with the remaining ones, somehow succeeding in opening it entirely. Dull fingernails raked the elder’s chest lightly through his undershirt as he began to explore the other man with his touch.
The bushman began tugging at the Scout’s shirt, pulling it from his pants until he held the shirt-tail at the back. In a swift motion, he pulled it upwards to the boy’s neck, and he happily complied and lifted his arms, allowing the elder man to remove it entirely though his own hands came to rest at his stomach in an act to hide the ugly scars now in plain view. The Sniper gently took the smaller hands in his own and moved them back to his chest and gave the boy a reassuring kiss. Though the Scout’s torso was dotted with jagged pink lines, it was still the most beautiful sight he ever had the honor to behold. He was as skinny as the elder man was, but his muscles were more toned and developed with years of exercise and his skin was still a fresh shade of peach unlike his own ragged and sun-kissed skin covered with dark hair and scars from years of living off the land.
The hunter would have loved nothing more than to continue to indulge in the Scout’s wishes and have him right here, but he respected the boy far too much. He pulled his lips from the other and whispered into his ear. “Let’s take it inside.”
The younger male complied and moved to the passenger seat, careful not to sit on the sunglasses he placed there. He gave the Sniper a shy smile before exiting the vehicle and moving to the camper part where he was made to lie in the small bed. It wasn’t the most romantic of places, but it was as private as a person could hope for and the hunter picked up where he started, minus his vest and shirts. He crawled onto the bed beside the boy and pulled him into a warm embrace as they kissed once more. The hunter tried his hardest to keep things going at a slow and relaxing pace, but the Scout was already breathing heavily as his hips rocked against the elder’s, his moans pleading for more touch. It was so difficult to refrain from being washed over with feelings, but when it came to patience, the Sniper was the best man on the team.
However, he allowed the boy to fumble with the fastenings of his pants as he continued to assault the tender neck and massage at muscles with his fingers. The Scout released a cry and shivered into the tongue trailing at his throat. Though his mind forbade him to compare this to his raping, he could not help but be happy that the Sniper was actually pleasuring him unlike the bastard RED Spy. Everything felt just as it should and he was enjoying every second despite his body craving more. To him, this was his first time as it was happening with him being in control of his own actions. A victorious laugh echoed in the boy’s throat as the Sniper’s pants had finally come undone, though he was hesitant in pulling them past the elder’s hips as his hands instinctively withdrew.
The hunter could sense the slight fear in the smaller male and he began stroking the Scout’s back in a reassuring manner. “Only if you want to,” he murmured.
“I do.” The youth gave a nod to emphasize his statement and the Sniper pulled himself into a sitting position and removed his boots and socks; the Scout mimicked him and did the same as they both rose to their feet.
“Alright then.” The elder allowed his pants and underwear to drop to his feet and the younger male studied the taller body with wide eyes, causing the bushman to chuckle. “You gonna join me, mate?”
The Scout heaved a generous amount of breath before releasing it and yanking his own clothing off in one quick motion, suddenly turning quite red in the face as his eyes darted to the floor. The elder planted a soft kiss on the sweaty forehead and gently pressed the boy into sitting on the edge of the mattress and kneeled on the floor between his legs, giving him a smile and a nod. Then, the hunter took the boy’s partially-aroused member in one hand and licked at the tip, receiving a gasp for his efforts. The smaller body shook and went rigid, his upper half falling backwards into the sheets as his hands gripped at the cloth he lay upon. The Sniper could have melted upon the sight of the boy as waves of pleasure wracked his body, but he insisted on staying solid. He took the growing erection into his mouth and felt it instantly swell between his lips as the Scout howled at the new sensation it produced. He would have easily bucked himself silly in the elder’s mouth, but a pair of strong hands kept his hips still as he proceeded to lick and suck against the tender flesh and bob up and down the length.
Despite the protest in the form of a whine, the hunter released the boy’s erection and began wetting his fingers with his own saliva. “This may hurt a bit. Just try an’ relax, okay?” Receiving consent in the form of a small nod, the Sniper pressed his index and middle finger into the boy’s backside as he continued to comfort the tensed body by massaging the hip he held with his other hand and whispering comforting words. The boy would return to a moaning mass of pleasure as he took his member into his mouth once more.
The bushman grasped the Scout’s thigh and placed it over his shoulder, causing the boy to spread his legs and gaining easier access. Another finger entered and began stretching against the tissue as the youth squirmed in ecstasy and discomfort. However, somewhere in his panting, the younger male raised his head, and their eyes locked. He nodded, and the Sniper withdrew his mouth and fingers and hovered over the smaller body.
“I’m ready.” The boy’s arms rose as he begged for an embrace, and the hunter leaned into it as he placed himself at the boy’s opening. His mouth pressed against the other as he slowly pressed himself into the Scout’s backside. His hands scooped at the boy’s back and brought him closer and held him tight as he cried against the pain.
It was nothing like before and everything the smaller male wanted. He forced his body to relax against the welcome intrusion and let the arms around his own comfort him. A moment passed in silence save for the breath of both men, then the Scout made the effort of lifting his lower half and pushing it against the elder in encouragement that he was fully prepared. The thrusts were soft and slow at first, but the Sniper’s hand at the youth’s member gave the Scout the incentive to make him move faster. His entire system of nerves was tingling with the wave of pleasure rushing through his being. He grunted against the rocking hips and his hands met the elder’s back, fingernails digging into the flesh.
The Sniper hissed beneath his breath as nails came into contact with the stab wound on his shoulder blade, but he allowed it to continue as the boy began writhing beneath him, and he needed the pain to keep himself from falling too deeply into his own emotions and ravishing the boy carelessly. It was difficult, however, as the Scout was begging and pleading for a faster pace. He complied with the best of his ability, treating the smaller body as if it were porcelain while at the same time pleasuring the boy as he began to move with haste. The heat of the camper was taking its course as both bodies stuck together with sweat, but no other atmosphere would have been half as perfect as it was now. If it could have lasted forever, the Sniper would have given up his very soul, but the tensing of the smaller male and the short breaths gave signal that he was quickly going over the edge. The Scout gave a piercing cry as his back arched and he released his seed onto the elder’s hand and stomach.
Despite the pain at his back, the hunter could not shake the wonderful feeling of the youth tightening around his own arousal. His walls fell and he gave way to the intense pleasure as his body shook with his own orgasm exploding within the boy as he let out a hiss through clenched teeth and rocked until he feared his knees would buckle beneath him. He pulled out of the Scout’s body and collapsed beside him on the bed, his face red and sweaty with excursion.
Once his breath had been eased back to normal, the younger male rolled to face the Sniper, a tired smile plastered on his face. He cupped the elder’s cheek before running his fingers through his coarse hair.
“I told ya I’d tell ya my name when the time was right,” the Scout whispered with tired panting as he drug his upper body to lay atop the hunter, “My name’s Matt.”
The Sniper smiled and closed his eyes. “I like it. It suits you.”
The camper finally approached the new base; its entire body save for the windshield was covered with dirt and grime from the two-day journey. It pulled into the fenced-in area and came to a stop as the remaining members of the BLU team all were gathered before the base, some with arms crossed and feet tapping, and some just glad to be off the road altogether. The Sniper and Scout exited the camper as it was finally shut down to rest and the group assembled before them.
“You took your precious time,” the Spy spoke as he took a puff of his ever-present cigarette.
“Yeah, what gives? You left well before we did,” echoed the Engineer. Thankfully, the Texan looked better rested than he had been a couple of days ago. Before the traveling duo had a chance to glance at one another, the hard-hat-bearing male shook his hands in the air, “Ah, hell, none of that matters. Ya’ll made it here safely. And, just in time, too…”
“You finished?” The Sniper’s eyebrow rose with interest.
“Yep!” The Engineer paused and pulled a small case from his utility belt and opened it up. Lying in a protective styrofoam shell were nine little chips, each glistening in the rays of the setting sun. “If ya’ll had gotten here any later, ya might’ve missed out.”
“So,” the Scout began as he inspected the little pieces of technology cautiously, “How are these things supposed to make us immortal?”
“Ah, that’s where the fun part comes in,” the Texan gave a hefty laugh and pointed towards the front of the base with a thumb, “The doc’s all geared up and ready to go. Shall we get started, gentlemen?”
Chapter 19: Upgrade
In hindsight, the Sniper should have realized that the only way to insert and activate the “respawn chip” was medically, and he regretted ever agreeing to the procedure. The benefits of not dying did not outweigh the curse of letting the Medic examine him in any way. Yet there he was, lying on his stomach on the cold, unforgiving medical table with an even more unforgiving man looming over him. He folded his arms under his chin as to rest more comfortably, and let a nervous sigh hiss passed his teeth.
“Just try to relax,” the Medic hummed as his gloved fingers touched down on the flesh just as the base on the Sniper’s neck. The huntsman groaned. He wanted the procedure to be as quick and painless as possible, but his body simply refused to relax around the doctor. “I promise it vill all be over before you can blink!”
“I’m blinkin’ and we ain’t done yet,” the Sniper said sarcastically, squeezing his eyes open and shut to prove his point.
“Tssk, nonsense!” The doctor flicked on the medigun that was fixed on a post just above the head of the table and made an incision in the spot he had touched on the Sniper. He was rewarded with a wince and muscles knotting under his fingers. It was one of the biggest reasons why he had his patients stay awake during operations of any sort. With a sinister grin, he made the incision a little larger than was required and gasped as blood seeped from the new wound.
“Damnit, doc!” the Sniper shouted when a pair of tweezers and the chip was inserted into his now tender flesh, finding their way to the even more tender flesh between two spinal columns. It was morbidly uncomfortable, and all the Sniper wanted to do was get up and run away, but he was warned to not move a muscle during this part of the operation. He complied with the exception of his fists clenching and his face burying itself into his arms. “Can ya be a little more gentle?!”
“Don’t be such a baby.”
“How about I cut you open? It wouldn’t be so amusin' then!”
“Oh hush, I am almost finished.” He quickly stitched up the incision, bored with the Sniper’s hostile responses. He then patted the man on the shoulder, receiving another wince for his efforts. What for, he wasn’t sure until closer inspection, where he clearly saw the mildly-infected wound he had treated about a week ago. It wasn’t healing properly, and it made the Medic a little irritated. His good work wasted on a wild man. He frowned. “And vhat’s zhis?”
“Mind your own business,” the Sniper snapped as he sat up.
“Medicine and injuries are my business,” the Medic asserted and put a firm hand against the Australian’s chest. “Now, tell me vhy you haffn’t seen me about zhat matter on your shoulder, hmm?”
“You mean other than the fact that you’re a complete psychopath?”
“Ja, besides zhat.” The German was completely unfazed by the comment.
“Because I didn’t think it was all that important,” the Sniper admitted. “There were other things, more pressin’ things, ta worry about than a little scratch.”
“It vasn’t a scratch last veek, and it’s not a scratch now,” the Medic snapped. “Now, don’t make zhis into a thing. Turn around.”
Reluctantly, the Sniper did as he was told; spinning around on the table so his back was to the Medic. He sat with his legs folded and hunched over them with his elbows on his knees so that his chin could rest in his hands. It wasn’t the easiest position for the Medic to take care of the festering would, but it was a good enough compromise. He wasn’t going to get anything better from his stubborn patience, that was for certain.
Immediately, the doctor went to work rinsing and cleaning the damaged tissue. It stung and burned, causing the Sniper to stiffen every once in a while, but the pain was completely unavoidable at this point. Uncharacteristically sensitive to the Sniper’s embarrassment, the Medic worked as quickly and efficiently as he possibly could. Cleaning such a mess was slow going, though, and in order to pass the time, he tried to make small talk. Admittedly, people were a lot more interesting to hold a conversation with than doves.
“So tell me, herr Sniper. How vas your trip? As I recall, you vere a lot later to arrive here zhan usual.”
The Sniper grunted in response. He didn’t want to discuss the details of his trip with the other men. As far as he was concerned, it was simply between him and the Scout.
“Sounds thrilling.” The Medic’s voice was dripping with sarcasm. “Tell me more.”
“It was alright,” the Sniper said. “Long, hot, but alright.”
“And ze Scout?”
“I hope he vas vell behaved. He’s a rambunctious vone, zhat’s for sure.” The Medic gave a brief pause as he inspected the injury more closely, taking a moment to jab it so that the Sniper would gasp. “He vas vell behaved, ja?”
The huntsman let out an irritated sigh. “He. Was. Fine.”
“Gut,” the Medic said as he covered the wound with antibiotics and a generously sized piece of gauze. “You’re free to go. Please send in ze next patient on your vay out und haff a gut day!” He stepped to the side, allowing the Sniper to get off the table and storm out in a huff.
The Sniper slammed the door closed on his way out, shouting at whoever the next, unfortunate person in line was. He didn’t bother to stop and talk. All of his personal boundaries had been violated in a single ten-minute session and all he wanted was to be left alone. He raced outside to where his camper van waited, knocking into anyone who was bold enough to stop him for any reason, and locked himself inside. He then turned on the cloak he hated so much as an extra measure to gain some privacy.
The Sniper jumped, every hair standing up on the back of his neck. There, sitting on his bed, was the Scout, completely uninvited and half-naked from the scorching and still rising heat. Without turning around, the Sniper rolled his eyes and curled back his lips.
“Wot, lad?” As hard as he tried to be polite and gentle, rage seethed from his tone.
The Scout leaned forward on the bed, and the Sniper could hear every old spring creak and pop under his weight. “You alright, pops?”
“Fine.” That seemed to be the only word he knew today.
“You sound like sumthin’ crawled right up your ass and died!”
The Sniper’s irritation couldn’t have come in a more obvious form than a loud, disgruntled sigh and his shoulders slouching forward. He turned around and approached the boy, trying to soften his features to be more playful. “Yeah, and it’s sittin’ on me bed right now.”
None of the Sniper’s attempts were working. The Scout looked horrified by the twisted and very false playful expressions dancing across his face. “Oh geez, man!” he shouted and jumped backwards on the bed. He looked like a frog, or perhaps a surprised cat. The Sniper couldn’t figure out which one was more fitting as he slammed his hands down on the mattress and leaned as close to the Scout as his body would allow in that position.
“Your face!” the Scout burst out into laughter. “It’s hideous!”
“Thanks, mate.” As if the Sniper didn’t have enough reservations about his personal appearance and the things he couldn’t change.
“Do you even know how to smile?”
“Do you even know how ta shut up?”
“Then me neither.”
“Aw, c’mon, Munds. Like this!” The Scout reached out and hooked his fingers into the Australian’s open mouth, pulling his cheeks upward. It somehow made his already silly and uncharacteristic expression even worse as mild irritation blossomed into sheer animosity.
“Leggo!” he pulled his arms out from under him to swat at the boy without thinking. It resulted in him getting a mouthful of blankets. The Scout continued to laugh as he sprang from the bed and out of the Sniper’s reach. The camper van was small, but the Scout was agile and flexible. He clearly had the advantage.
“Can’t catch me!”
The Sniper stood up and glared. “I don’t want to catch you—” The hunter was stopped mid-sentence as the high-energy man jumped on his back (wrapping his legs around his elder’s waist) and pulled his slouch had over his eyes. It knocked off the Sniper’s sunglasses, and caused him to roar. “Wouldja just stop, ya squirmy little gremlin?!” The Sniper couldn’t hold back anymore. He grabbed the grabby little arms over his shoulders tightly and spun around. He let gravity do all of the hard work, falling and landing back first on to the bed. It crushed the smaller boy, who let out a pained and panicked squeak.
“Get offa me ya fatty fat hairy old fat man!” he protested and squirmed.
“I don’t think I can, mate,” the Sniper answered, seizing the opportunity to torture his lover. His entire body went limp, much to the Scout’s dismay. “Gravity’s just too heavy taday!”
“You’re! Crushin’! Me!” The runner continued to fruitlessly push against the Sniper’s weight. It was times like these when he wished he put a little more effort into his muscle building instead of his cardio.
“That’s too bad, now isn’t i—YOWCH!” the Sniper rolled right off the boy, holding onto his freshly bitten ear. The Scout wasn’t joking around. He really wanted the Sniper off of him. “Wot was that for?!”
“You were hurtin' me, old man!”
“Ah, bullshit I was!” He rolled onto his side with both hands cupped over his ear. He refused to see if it was bleeding. He didn’t want to know. “Geez, lad. That really hurt.”
“Like hell we are!” the Sniper growled. “Ya come into me van uninvited an’ try ta bite me ear off! That’s hardly what I’d call even!”
“I thought I was welcome any time I wanted!” the Scout argued. It was a good point. If they were going to be an item of any sort, the Sniper should share this space with the kid, and he did offer Sheila as a sanctuary in the past.
“That doesn’t account for you bitin’ off me ear,” the Sniper mumbled.
“Stop bein' a baby,” the Scout snapped and crawled over, prying the Australian’s hands away from his head. “It’s still there. C’mon, there ain’t even a mark! Quit whinin’, wussy.”
“Me van, me rules. I’ll whine if I want.”
“Oh, bullshit! You can’t use that an as excuse to—” He was cut off by the Sniper’s large hands grabbing and tugging him into a playful bear hug.
“Now, why aren’tcha waitin’ in line ta get yer ‘free pass from death’ chip installed, eh?” the Sniper changed the subject as he held on tightly to the boy. Even though the hug wasn’t reciprocated, it brought him some comfort from the stressful morning.
“I don’t like the Medic,” the Scout admitted, squirming in the Sniper’s arms. “He’s creepy an’ makes me uncomfortable. Got a problem wid that?”
“Not at all,” the Sniper answered. “I think he’s creepy too, but ya should really get this chip.”
“Yeah, fine, whatever.” He managed to wiggle his arms free and wrapped them around his other, resting his cheek against his chest and listening to the beat of the Sniper’s heart.
Chapter 20: To Bear the Wounds
The Scout would have loved nothing more than to remain in the embrace of the elder male, but the Sniper was right; he had to get his chip installed whether he was mentally prepared or not. Hesitantly, the boy pried himself away from the bushman, but not before swatting at the man’s face as he leaned in to leave a peck of a kiss at his forehead. The younger male smirked and playfully pushed the other away as he pulled his shirt on and exited the camper. Upon shutting the door, he did a double-take, as Sheila was no longer in view, but a finger inspected the seemingly harmless area and met with the surface of the camper.
“That’s really messed up,” he mumbled to no one as he scratched the back of his head. With nothing else to divert him from his duties, the Scout shuffled towards the base and found a seat near the Medic’s office. He frowned upon realizing he would be the last one for the surgery and it sounded as if the doctor was with his latest patient now, from the sounds of grunts and groans beyond the door.
He had no real time to calm down as the door burst open and a very aggravated Demoman exited, his hand at the back of his neck as the stitches left a burning sensation there. His mouth was spewing a stream of Scottish insults that fell on deaf ears. The Medic wasted no energy in showing his enthusiasm as he discovered his final patient slumped in the waiting area. His gloved fingers motioned the Scout into his office, and the boy drug himself to his feet and ambled behind the elder man as the door came to an abrupt close.
“Lucky for you,” the doctor spoke with a disturbingly cheery hum, “You are ze last for ze procedure. I zink I have gotten ze hang of zis!” His hand patted the operating table and he began tinkering with his Medigun before returning to face the uncooperative Scout who remained at the door. “Today, mein junge.” The Medic adjusted his glasses and gave the boy a look that gave him no choice but to obey.
The youth sauntered to the table as if it were about to eat him whole if he got too close—he half-wished it would--but finally plopped down unceremoniously on the surface. As he was about to lie down, the elder shook a finger.
“Ah-ah, remove ze shirt.”
The Medic received a stare as if he had suddenly grown three heads, but being accustomed to being treated as a lunatic was part of his normal, everyday schedule, and he made no attempt to correct the boy in his rudeness. Rather, he pointed to the Scout’s shirt and made a flicking notion with his fingers. He gave something of a pleased smile as the boy finally obeyed and threw the offending cloth to the floor angrily and lifted his knees to block the view of his scars.
The Scout suddenly wished the Sniper was here with him. He felt too vulnerable in this state, and being with a crazed practitioner of medicine did not help the situation, especially since it a voluntary procedure. But, he was not a damn baby, and would find some way to endure this on his own for the sake of getting back at the RED Spy for all the harm he had caused him. Immortality was but a slice away.
“Lie down on your stomach,” the Medic ordered once more, “Ve shall get zis done nice und quickly.”
“Gee, thanks, doc,” the youth spat as he twisted around and allowed the metal to cool his pinkish, scarred flesh, hiding the embarrassing marks from the world. He winced as fingers began prodding at the back of his neck and he clenched his teeth as a scalpel traced the skin there.
It really did not help that the doctor was humming some unknown tune while he worked, but at least he moved with a decent speed and placed the microchip into the boy’s body and set about stitching the open wound. The Medigun was soon turned off, and the warm and pleasant vibes died almost instantly, especially as the doctor took to cleaning up the wayward blood from the stitches.
“Zat was not so bad, ja?” The Medic laughed as he ruffled his hand in the Scout’s hair obnoxiously. “Now, let us look at zees boo-boos. Flip over, bitte.”
“Nah, doc, it’s not really ne—“ The Scout was cut off as the elder took it upon himself to move the boy in a quicker pace than he would do on his own. His face flushed upon landing on his back, and the poor kid could do nothing but stare disdainfully at the man now examining the atrocious patterns on his chest and stomach. His teeth bit into his lip to the point of nearly bleeding, but the Medic was strangely delicate with his fingers as he inspected the scars.
The elder man released the boy with a shake of his head, “I am afraid I cannot do anyzing more for zees, mein kleiner patient.”
“It’s—It’s alright, doc. Really,” the Scout muttered as he removed himself from the table with a hop and bent over to collect his shirt. Upon grabbing it, he straightened back up and looked at the Medic, and a scowl came about the boy’s face. Suddenly, memories of that hellish night came flooding back to him as those three words echoed in his mind, and he gave a shudder. “Don’t ever call me that again.”
The elder man made a confused expression, but shrugged it off as if that demand was merely water upon a duck’s back as he started to put his medical instruments away save for the ones that would need cleaning and disinfecting. “Vatever you say. Ve are done here.”
The youth scoffed as he paced towards the door, one of his arms fidgeting with pulling his shirt over his head as the other reached for the doorknob. Before the Scout had a chance to fully cover himself, he yanked open the door, and a very surprised Soldier stood with his fist held in mid-air; he was mere moments from knocking on the Medic’s door before entering, but now, he faced a very flushed youth who was staring back at him with large, fearful eyes as his torso was displayed long enough to make out the word ‘red’ carved into his lower belly before the Scout yanked his shirt down in embarrassment.
“Th’ hell happened to you, son?” The helmet-wearing man yelled in surprise, as he had no clue as to what went down prior to being enlisted with the BLU team only days ago after his predecessor’s death. His answer came in the form of a bandaged hand shoving at his chest as the boy darted by his side and down the hallway. The Soldier could only look in confusion before shaking his head and entering the medical bay.
Tears stung at the boy’s eyes as he ran for the only place he felt safe—in the arms of the Sniper. However, upon exiting the building, he realized the camper was still cloaked, and as far as his eye could see, it was no longer in the compound. Frustration set in as the Scout took to darting about in the grounds with his hands held out before him as he tried to feel his way to the vehicle. Upon no such luck, his panicked mind allowed for the boy to start yelling at the top of his lungs.
“Mundy!” his voice strained with force as his legs gave out from under his body, and he fell to the dirt, still calling for the one person who he wished more than anything would come to his rescue once more, pride be damned. He cared not if he was causing a scene at the moment as his cries and screams echoed against distant mountains. The Scout’s legs curled up against his chest as his watery eyes scanned the lot once more, his voice still cracking as he called his Sniper’s name.
“Mundy! Help me!”
Chapter 21: Heavy Hearts
No matter how loud the Scout shouted, there was no answer. His shouts quickly cracked under the stress of helplessness and gave way sobs. The dirt below his face began to stick to his wet cheeks, covering up the flustered red that painted them. In a desperate act for comfort, he tugged the bottom of his shirt down as far as it would go, threatening to rip it as he tried to completely cover and hide himself. There was emptiness in his chest akin to how abandonment felt when he realized his lover hadn’t heard his calls. Clutching his chest, he gave up yelling, and his voice melted into murmurs and whispers.
The Sniper showed no signs of running to his aid, but instead the Heavy was the one who answered the Scout’s cries. His weighted footsteps could barely be heard between the sobs and blood rushing in the youngest teammate’s ears. His arrival gave the boy a start, causing him to jump when monstrously big hands rested on his shoulder to comfort him. He then buried his face into the caverns that his arms were creating around his head and chest.
“What’z wrong, leetle man?” the Heavy questioned. His voice was softer than the Scout had ever heard before, but it didn’t bring him any comfort. The Heavy wasn’t the Sniper, so the Scout weakly swatted the large hands in an attempt to make them go away before retreating back into the safety of his shadows.
The Heavy hummed sadly at the reaction. He hated to see his friend in such a bad place. They didn’t know each other outside of work, but in the short amount of time they were acquainted, they grew close. The Heavy fancied the runner as a pesky little brother and always treated him as such, with as much tolerance and love that any brother could offer. This time was no different, and he slid his hands under the Scout, slowly lifting him off the ground and drawing him against his chest. “Iz okay. I’ll help you.”
There was a surprising amount of compassion and care in how the Heavy moved and touched the younger male, and even though he yelled and tried to push the larger man away, it brought him a mild sense of comfort. In the back of his mind, the Scout knew that the Heavy was someone he could trust, but at the same time there was a knot in his stomach that tightened at the thought of explaining himself to anyone. He didn’t want to look at the Russian, let alone talk to him, and he hoped that neither would be necessary as he gave up fighting and buried his puffy and red face in the large man’s chest.
The Heavy looked around the compound, trying to find an immediate refuge for them both. Fortunately, the compound was a disaster of broken down vehicles, empty storage crates, large boxes, and even larger outcrops. It didn’t take too long for him to find a somewhat secluded space between a rusted pick-up truck and a crooked wall of boxes where he could sit down and properly comfort the Scout to the best of his ability. He wasn’t a man of many words, and he didn’t always understand people, which always made it hard for him to think of the right thing to say. So, instead, he settled rubbing his hand against the top of the Scout’s head, not caring that he messed up the position of the hat or knocked off the headset.
Quick, sob-filled moments turned into long, silent minutes, and eventually into stillness that dragged on. The Scout’s tear-stained cheek was pressed against the Heavy’s stomach, equally dampening his shirt. The Heavy didn’t seem to mind it much, and the Scout wasn’t about to address it. He simply stared at his own knees and sniffled occasionally.
“Want to talk?” the Heavy offered, looking down at his friend. The answer he received came in the form of a half-hearted grunt, alarming him to just how upset the Scout must have been. He hated seeing his young friend in such a bad place and frowned. The worst part was that there was nothing he could think to do to make things better, especially if the Scout refused to talk. Flopping the palm of his hand on the Scout’s head, he completely consumed it and affectionately rocked it back and forth. “Always here if you want to. I won’t judge.”
There was more silence which completely consumed both men until the Scout found the strength within himself to say, “D’ya know where Mund—the Sniper is?” His voice was mildly hoarse with an out of character shyness that deeply concerned the Heavy. He was usually so cocky and headstrong, but out of respect the Russian didn’t address it.
“Camper van, I thought,” he answered.
“Can’t find the stupid thing.”
“I’ll help.” As the Russian stood up, the Bostonian rolled out of his way and into a sitting position. He had no time to decide if he wanted to go anywhere or not when the other man shoved his large hand in the Scout’s face. He stared at the hand until the fingers wiggled, insisting it be grabbed. He obeyed, and was hauled to his feet; when he tried to let go, he found his hand a willing hostage of the Heavy.
“Let’z go.” The Heavy didn’t wait; he tugged the Scout along behind him as he explored the compound. Everyone was made aware of the camper van’s new abilities. The Engineer loved to boast about his inventions and accomplishments. The stranger and more creative they were, the most the Engineer ran his mouth. This time was certainly no exception, but instead closer to a special circumstance. The new use of the cloaking technology was unique, and the Heavy knew well that he wouldn’t find the van by looking, so he walked with his feet dragging in the dirt. The motion kicked up dirt, creating dust clouds all around them. It was a tedious method, requiring lots of patience and a keen eye, but it was also creative and bound to find success eventually.
“Sniper!” the Heavy shouted, adding another element to his strategy. He thought it was a clear, tactical advantage, even if the Scout cringed at the sound of his booming voice. Being used to his voice, he didn’t understand why the Scout would react in such a way or find it loud, but it was worth the mild discomfort. Before the dirt ever found the van, the Sniper opened the back door and stuck his head out, rubbing his sleepy eyes with the back of his wrist.
“Wot d’ya want?” he snapped, grumpy from being woken up, but his negativity quickly faded when he opened his eyes and actually looked at the pair walking up to him. He carefully studied them as they came to a stop just a few feet away from Sheila, and the Scout’s puffy red eyes and hand tightly holding the Heavy’s told the Sniper everything he needed to know. “Wot ‘appened, lad?”
“Dunno,” the Heavy answered for the Scout. “Found him cryi—”
The Scout tugged his hand from the Russian’s, which resulted in the man to stop talking. After a moment of awkwardly standing there, the Sniper nodded his head towards the van. The Scout needed no more beckoning. He ran inside, faster than he ever had in his life, and disappeared from both of the other’s sights.
“Thank ya,” the Sniper quietly said.
“No worry.” The Heavy held up a friendly hand and offered a smile. “I’m happy so long as leetle man iz okay, yeah?”
“Yeah.” The Sniper returned the smile before retreating into his van. He closed the door with a click, allowing his home to, once again, vanish into thin air. The Heavy shrugged and walked off, happy to leave the two to their affairs. He was confident that the Scout knew he was there for anything and would talk to him when he was ready.
As far as the Scout was concerned, he was not in the talking mood, having used up all his energy into finding the elder man altogether and having a much-needed crying fit thanks to the strangely-nurturing mood of the resident Heavy. By the time the Sniper had shut the camper door and turned to face the boy, he was already curled up in wrinkly sheets of the bed; his face was hidden from view, and all for the better, as it held the most intense expression of betrayal.
He knew the hunter did not intentionally hide himself and refuse to answer the youth’s call, but, having that constantly-aggressive attitude, the Scout was still reduced to huffs and pouts and the odd silent treatment. He was tired, cranky, and wanted nothing more than to vanish in the sheets, yet at the same time, he silently begged for the kind touch of the elder man.
He would be granted the latter in the form of calloused, yet gentle hands grasping his tense shoulders, fingers rubbing and massaging into the muscles with only a low hum that sounded more akin to a growl; regardless, it would be welcomed by the Scout in the form of a hiss followed by a long and drawn-out moan. The Sniper was careful to avoid the tender area covered in stitches, as even his own still had a mild burn to them. At least those scars would fade in time; the Medic would bet his entire life’s researches on such a gamble. There would be no doubt of it.
Such thoughts sparked a thought in the Sniper’s head as to the reasoning behind the Scout’s fowl mood. He leaned over the boy’s body, hesitating momentarily before pressing his lips to the back of his head, allowing his lips to move close enough to his ear to whisper encouraging words.
“Everythin’ will be foine, lad,” he began in a raspy voice. His hands never ceased in massaging relaxing muscle. “We’ll get that piker soon, right?”
The boy’s muscles tightened once more. “And, then what, huh?” the Scout abruptly spat, ending his silence as he withdrew from the elder’s hands by rolling over onto his backside, sitting upright with the most vile of scowls he could muster. “What next? Everything’s gonna suddenly be all rainbows an’ sunshine?”
“I didn’t say that ex—“
“Yeah, well, what did you say exactly? We’re just gonna go back to the way things used ta be? Spoiler alert, Mundy: I can’t go back to that, alright? I can’t take back that night and I sure as fuck can’t make this go away!” The Scout yanked his shirt up with disdain, his free hand pointing to the scar along his torso—as if it needed to be pointed out—and his reddened face only turned a deeper shade with a rage that had yet to be released.
The Sniper could only stare at the boy, purely dumbfounded by his outburst. After the days they had spent together, the elder man was sure he had gotten a better handle on the situation and was more-or-less living for revenge, but the youth had a point—what would happen after the life of the Spy was rendered expired? There would be no returning to a state of normalcy. What was done could not be undone; however, not everything that had happened with the two men could necessarily be a bad thing, right? That day on the side of the deserted highway—was that was still worth something to the boy? The hunter merely fell victim to his own desire, more for the Scout than himself, but he knew that, deep-down, there was more to their love-making than just to ease the growing tension during their road trip. He just did not know how to put it into words or admit that he had fallen for the boy, more so in his moments of need that only seemed to grow the more the days carried on. The duo needed one another in more ways than to just kill an enemy as their jobs suggested.
That much, the Sniper was certain of. Though, what kind of world could the two live and thrive in when a withering, elder man showered a much-younger man with affections, lust, and the like? Was there a life beyond the job of mercenaries? He shook his head; too many thoughts that had no right to flood his brain needed to be cleared out. The present situation was in dire need of attention than silly thoughts of the future.
The silence that followed the Scout’s questions only irritated him further. Sure, the bushman was making an effort to contemplate his inquiries, but, right now, the boy wanted answers—some to give him worth and others to give him motivation. He gave an exaggerated sigh and stood up as if to walk away, but the Sniper, in a panic, followed him, engulfing the boy in his larger arms from behind as his chin rested on the space between the youth’s shoulder and neck. The younger male stiffened in the grip, but soon relaxed into it, going so far as to raise his hands to grip the hunter’s forearms.
“Tha Soldier saw me,” the Scout whispered, finally giving hint to the purpose behind his fowl mood altogether, “Tha whole damn base probably knows now.”
“It’s none of their concern,” the Sniper was quick to retort, “You don’t have ta tell anyone anythin’, ya hear? Anyone gives ya grief, I’ll put me arrows through their skulls. I could use all tha practice for when it counts.”
The younger male snorted in jest at the hunter’s lame joke, but it seemed to do the trick in lessening the heavy cloud that rained on his heart. The Scout turned into the Sniper’s embrace, allowing his forehead to rest on the taller man’s chest. If the hunter said that things would be fine, then fine they would be. It would not fully help the boy ease his weary mind filled with negativity and partial fear, but it was enough to get him through another day.
The youth lifted his head to gaze at the Sniper above him, face written in complete shock. “That’s—That’s tha first time ya ever said my name.”
“Is it a bad thing?”
“Well, ye—no, not really, I guess,” the Scout murmured as he rested his head against the elder man’s chest again.
“Look at me,” the Sniper whispered as his fingers grasped the boy’s chin and lifted his head back once more. He bit his lip and was hesitant to speak, but there would never be a more perfect moment created in all of the chaos surrounding the two men. “I won’t let anythin’ bad ever happen ta ya again, alroight? I’ll put me on life on the loine if it meant saving ya from just a scratch. Not because I owe it ta ya—well, I do, but—but—I love ya an’ I don’t wanna ever see ya hurt again.”
The Scout thought he had been drained of his entire being of tears already, but he had been proven wrong with the elder’s proclamation, and the pipes broke, sending a rush of salty liquid to spill over his eyelashes. His lips wrinkled before releasing a haggard sob and burying his face into the hunter’s shirt, his fingers clenching into the same material he soaked with tears; his hands quickly became fists, and he weakly pounded them into the Sniper’s stomach. In turn, the elder man could only wrap his arms about the quivering mess and hang on for all of dear life as if the boy in his embrace would vanish if he let go.
“I’m sorry, lad, I—“
“No, no, it’s okay,” the boy sniffed, his voice muffled by the elder’s chest. “I’m—I’m happy, I really am. Just didn’t know ya felt tha same way is all. I’m glad…but, don’t go getting yourself killed for my sake, alright? I kinda really like havin’ ya around…”
“I’ve felt this way for a long toime now,” the hunter admitted, though he felt his cheeks flush with embarrassment. He would be glad the boy did not see an old man acting like a high school girl with her first crush; it would have easily shamed them both. “I just didn’t think it was roight. But—But, it’s okay; it’s foine. Not everythin’ ‘as ta be defined by roight an’ wrong.”
The Sniper suddenly felt hands at the back of his head, pulling it down until his lips were engulfed in a kiss. The younger male drew back, something of a wry smile about his face. “Ya talk too much, y’know.”
“I was just mak—“
“I said ya talk too damn much!” The hands at the hunter’s neck gripped his flesh tighter, as the Scout forcibly held him down to his level. “It’s agreed that it’s time for action, yeah?”
The elder man would not have time to answer the question, let alone ponder it, as the boy’s lips were on his once again; however, his own hands automatically slid to rest on the youth’s hips before locking together at his lower back. He dared to tilt his head, allowing better access to the Scout’s mouth, claiming every inch of it as his own, much to the delight of the humming he received for his efforts. It took no effort to entice his mouth into opening, and the hunter’s tongue was free to taste and explore as he wished, and he did so hungrily; so hungry, in fact, the elder man found sudden strength in picking the smaller body up in a bear hug and carrying him back to his bed where the two fell in a mass pile of tangled limbs and heavy breathing.
The boy winced as his neck was rubbed into the sheets upon landing, but the pain of the stitches would only be minuscule worry as he greedily lifted his upper half to meet the Sniper in another kiss; it was met with fervor as the elder man’s hands were quick to dip beneath the Scout’s shirt, tracing, tickling, and massaging all the flesh his fingers could find in such an odd position as the boy was not about to release his grip on the man’s head. One slip, and fingers would be digging into raw stitching, but even now, his fingers’ positions were calculated to avoid such an accident; however, his own wound would not go without pain as he hissed and forced himself to sit upright despite the hunter’s ministrations.
“Damn thing won’t stop hurtin’,” he mumbled in a defeated manner, but the Sniper would stand and pull the boy to his feet, only to spin him around so that his back faced the man. The Scout would have protested, but the warmer body of the taller man was at his back, and his hands were back on his torso beneath his shirt; a tongue would trail down the side of his neck, and all pain was forgotten.
At least, the pain in his neck; the tension in his pants were another story altogether, and the hunter’s hand caressing his groin through the cloth was enough to drive the boy well over the edge of sanity. The Scout moaned and instinctively began thrusting his hips into the touch as his mouth hung agape; he barely registered the sound of his own belt being unbuckled had the Sniper not been so loud and moving in such heated haste to undo it altogether. The hand dipping into his underpants and grasping his arousal squeezed a startled cry from the youth and his body shivered under the pleasing touch. It was too much too soon, but he wanted, demanded more, and the Scout’s begging whines would pay tribute to just that.
And, the Sniper would comply. The stress of the day and the stress of the entire everything and the new-found revelations all formed together to create this one moment of release, and it would not be made in vain. The boy’s bottom half was made bare as his pants clumped about his cleat-clad feet, and he was made to bend his upper half down on the bed to be balanced by elbows and hands. The sound of a zipper would guarantee he would not be forced to wait for needed ecstasy; however, the elder man would ensure absolute comfort despite the human desire to take the boy as quickly as possible. Fingers slick with saliva prodded at the Scout’s backside, but the hand at his now-erect member kept the boy from emitting a pained cry; rather, it would be turned into a drawn-out moan and his body seemed to take a life of its own and work to move on the digits to his rear and the hand at his groin. The youth was now nothing more than a mewling kitten in the sounds he made, which only enticed the bushman to continue to prepare him properly, if not a little more vigorously. Fingers withdrew much to his protesting; however, the Sniper hastily removed his own aroused member from the confines of his pants, and he hesitated long enough to coat it with his own mixture of spit before looming over the smaller male.
The Scout twisted his head to gaze at the hunter, and a nod would be his compliance as his fingers clenched the sheets in preparation. The Sniper then lowered himself onto the boy, his left foot moving to the edge of the mattress as added support, and slowly pressed himself deep within the boy’s body. Their mixed groans was a simple orchestra in its own right—lyrics were unnecessary for such a song—and their clothing clung to their sweaty bodies in a wrinkly fashion.
But, clothes would be the least of their concerns; more pressing issues were now put on top-priority as both bodies instantly took to a well-choreographed tango—the squeaking of the bed would be the only sour note in the entire performance. The Sniper pressed his body close to the smaller man, one hand moving to the bed to hold himself upright as the other held to the Scout by way of wrapping his arm around his chest in a tight embrace. His breath was hot against a sensitive ear, and his own moans merely enticed the boy into a heap of pants and whines. A shaky hand moved from the sheets to grip the elder’s upon the bed, fingers interlacing in a gesture where words were not necessary. It was not just a performance to appease raw human nature; the Sniper and Scout now made love as if the very earth would collapse in on itself at any given moment. For all they cared, it could very well happen and not a single regret be shared between them.
The elder man’s hand moved from the boy’s chest and took hold of the unforgotten arousal beneath him, instantly finding new rhythm to compensate for the maddening pace of the thrusts now at the youth’s backside. The Scout howled in pleasure, his nails pressing into the hunter’s hand and his back arching against the weight of the taller man. Again, his senses would be over-stimulated to the point of going mad, and his knees threatened to buckle beneath the pressure. Teeth ground and groans squeezed between tooth and lip until he could bear it no longer.
In one quick instant, the boy gave a throaty cry, and his body went rigid; eyes saw clouds of white, and he spilled his seed along his stomach and bed as the Sniper worked every single spasm from his being. The tightening of muscle around his own member sent electricity along the hunter’s spine, and his yell was equally as deep and strained as he hastily filled the youth with his own fluid to the point of leaking upon the floor. He had to catch himself before his body gave way completely and crushed the one below him now that the Scout had become deadweight with his own exhaustion and slid onto his knees on the floor. The bushman followed in moving to the floor in a tired heap behind the smaller body, his hands hanging limply at his sides while his knuckles fell upon the floor; the man’s forehead drooped on the boy’s shoulder blade. He, in turn, wrapped his arms about the elder’s and leaned into him, their weights supported by one another. Both were equally spent, equally satisfied, equally in love.
And, at that point, the problems in the world were far from their hazy thoughts. After all, tomorrow would come—sure as the day before and the day before that and every day until the beginning of time--and the Sniper and Scout pair would face it together.
For now, today was about them; no other man could take that away.
Whoops, this is the last chapter written in over two years. But, I plan to finish this story, so bear with me for a little while. The end has already been decided; it's getting there that will take the effort.
Chapter 23: Hell on Earth
The Medic had been very adept in performing multiple surgeries on his fellow mercenaries, as it took merely a few days for everyone’s stitches to dissolve and their necks healed without hint of a scar. For that, the Scout was thankful—it was one less blemish he had to hide. As far as the others’ knowledge, they either forgot about his abduction or simply did not bother to upset the boy with questions they had been dying to ask.
And, he was in no hurry to answer to anyone, mostly keeping himself tucked away in the Sniper’s camper van in its camouflaged state during the hot days and joining the hunter in the evening for training or distractions of the flesh—sometimes the former would lead to the latter. But, the Scout spent most of his free time setting out what was necessary of him: training under the watchful eye of the Sniper or running about the base with the new Soldier barking at his heels—‘Run faster! I do not see sweat pooling from your face!’—thankfully, never being bothered about the day he saw the boy’s scar-ridden torso. It was all back to work, and the Boston lad was more than ready to return to his deranged sense of normality in the life of a mercenary.
The day would finally arrive when the Administrator boomed over the loudspeaker one warm morning, announcing a new job to be done that very day. The BLU base was in a frenzy of excited whoops and yells, the adrenaline overflowing as each mercenary took to his weapon. No one had made attempts on experimenting on the Engineer’s respawn system, but spirits were high that his expertise would not fail them—it never did.
The group gathered in their readying position at the gates, the war cries still echoing throughout the war zone. The Sniper would instantly find his partner and pull him to the side away from the others.
“This is it,” he murmured, giving a tight squeeze on the boy’s shoulder, which was tense though his eyes looked directly into the bushman’s with an air of readiness and certainty.
“I know,” was the Scout’s answer once he sucked in a hefty amount of air and exhaled it in a long sigh, his own grip on his scattergun harsh but steady. “I’ve been waitin’ a long time for this, man.”
The Sniper nodded—of course he had. Everyone had been preparing for this day regardless of the meaning between the Scout and Sniper’s reasons. To them, it was just another mindless day of petty killing for some piece of shit land, but to the pair, it was a day of revenge. There still would be no explanations regarding the RED Spy and his intentions, but at this point, it no longer mattered. He would be meeting his end soon, respawn be damned, though it was odd that the Frenchman made no further attacks nor caused any sort of alarm. If he had been planning something, he took the downtime to plot some elaborate plan, and the hunter kept that in-mind, relating his inner thoughts to the younger male.
He finally released the Scout’s shoulder and hoisted his gun, giving another nod of understanding seen by no one but his lover whether their teammates were too riled up to care or pretended not to see them.
Finally, the Announcer’s voice rose once more as she began a countdown. At the chime of ‘one’, the gates opened and the entire BLU team rushed onto the field under heavy rain of bullets. They needed no explanation as to what their goal would be—right outside the gates stood a large explosive in a shoddy little wagon, its wheels already attached to a predetermined set of rails.
‘Same ol’ shit,’ someone would say if he had not been dodging enemy attacks.
The Scout was first to reach the cart, and he shrank down on his haunches, turning against the bomb so that his shoulder pushed it along as his teammates gathered about to help or back him up, though a usually-docile Heavy became war-hungry and separated with the Medic in-tow to push through enemy lines—though bearing no stealth with his booming voice heard above the other sounds of battle. The Sniper had already disappeared, moving to a high cliff to start killing off RED mercenaries—and to keep an eye on the Bostonian without his knowledge. He knew it would anger the boy to be doted on, but the hunter also knew very well the Scout would leap without thinking and needed the protection more than ever.
And, he would prove true to his nature as he abandoned the cart to rush ahead and intercept enemies through the tunnel. A blast here and there brought a RED Engineer to his knees before sending a bullet through his skull and the Scout had to roll to the side quickly to avoid gunfire from a nearby sentry, though he gave an angry yelp as a bullet brazed off his shoulder, a splash of his own blood painting a nearby rock formation in speckles. The boy ducked behind a smaller rock and scrutinized the wound. There was very little damage, but the flesh and muscle burned regardless. He would not be stopped so easily, and was back on his feet and running, never minding the bloodstain he left behind dissolving into nothingness in a matter of seconds as did any droplets that fell to the ground below. His teammates pressed on without noticing as well, and the cart moved towards a check point, signaled by the Administrator's voice booming across the battlefield—why she let the enemy know their movement was beyond their understanding, but the job had to be done, even if a horde of RED mercenaries came bustling over the rusty tracks almost immediately. Many fell, but they would be back in moments as the BLU team rained hellfire on them without prejudice.
The Scout, in the meantime, rushed ahead, leaping over a hapless RED Soldier and landing in a roll—that led directly into the path of another, better-positioned sentry. It was too late; he felt the stings of the rounds going off and sunk to his knees as his body was blasted into, filling him with holes and taking off chunks of flesh. The boy fell to the side, his eyes wide and his mouth agape. And, despite the cheering of the avenged RED Engineer and the nonstop gunfire, only one voice rang out above all the rest.
The Sniper was yelling with surprise and anger and was already abandoning his spot to take off sprinting across the field. He sent an arrow through an enemy Medic's throat, allowing his team to take down the RED Heavy, but his own Heavy clamped down on his shoulder with a meaty hand, halting the hunter where he stood.
“Sentry. Is dangerous. I am sorry.”
The bushman grit his teeth and slumped his shoulders despite the war going on around them. He slapped at the Russian's hand and scowled. “Sorry ain't gonna cut it this time,” he spoke with acid, but his eyes dared to move to the corpse of his lover—only to find it was no longer where it had laid previously, nor were there any bloodstains. There was only bullets scattered along where the Scout had been.
“It worked...it bloody worked!” the Sniper yelled as he took off running in the opposite direction, back to his base despite the sounds of protest from his comrades. His team made attempts to watch on hesitantly for signs of the Scout's mortality as the BLU Demoman pumped sticky bombs in the direction of the sentry, and everyone whooped as it exploded in a series of sharp fragments and broken parts, followed by the cursing of the enemy Engineer as he retreated to perhaps build again.
Meanwhile, the hunter made a mad dash into the BLU base, nearly breaking his shoulder on the doorway, staggering inside and running to the large room in the back. Then, his eyes were saucers; there before the elder man was his Scout, standing and looking equally confused. Shaky hands reached and grabbed the boy's face, his golden eyes staring into Eton blue, tears threatening to fall. The Scout could only grin in response and give a hearty laugh as he inspected his shoulder, which no longer stung nor held a gaping wound. His shirt was intact as well, somehow.
“Yeah,” the dumbfounded Sniper murmured as he released the boy's face. He would have loved nothing more than to engulf the smaller body in a giant hug, never releasing him to go to war again. Rather, he was cautious still and smacked the Bostonian against the side of his head. “But, don't get a big head. You could have died. I saw you die enough for one lifetime.”
“But, I didn't, and I didn't need savin' this time either,” the Bostonian smirked as he rubbed the spot of infliction, “It only hurts for a moment, but then it all goes away and I'm here again. Dell's a fuckin' genius.”
The Scout moved past the Sniper's side. He turned to follow with his eyes.
“Where are you goin' now? You just died. You need a moment or somethin'? Need a plan or you're gonna just keep getting' blasted t'bits.”
“Nah, I got this. Playtime's ova', Munds. I'm gonna get that damned Spy before the day's done now that I got an upper hand. Ya welcome ta help, but ya ain't gonna stop me no matter what.”
“Just be careful, please.”
The boy turned to face the hunter with a wry smile. “Can't make any promises but I'd rather come back to ya in one piece.” He leaned into the bushman's face and planted a long kiss between lips which was abruptly interrupted by a clearing of a throat. Both heads turned to see the Engineer standing in the doorway.
“Don' mean ta interrupt, but there's a war out there,” he said with a blush to his cheeks, thus signaling that he knew there was more going on than shown though he tried to hide it by tinkering with a miniature sentry gun. His cheeks would redden further at the Scout's words as he ran over and clamped his bandaged hands on the husky man's shoulders.
“Dell, you're tha best. Don't ever let no one tell ya otherwise.”
And, with that, the runner was out the door and back in the game.
The Sniper equally cleared his throat as the two me stood in the deafening silence heightened only by the rain of bullets and bombs in the distance. The Engineer moved to the opposite side of the door and affectionately placed a teleporter entrance on the ground and began working with it. The Australian approached the Texan and rubbed the back of his own head.
“Listen, we were gonna tell everyone, but--”
“I didn't see anythin',” Dell spoke bluntly with a stern smile about his face, his wrench pointing to the active teleporter emitting a blue glow and humming.
“...Thanks, mate,” the taller man nodded as he took his weapon and moved onto the teleporter and suddenly appeared in a small nook near the bomb cart. A dispenser was strategically placed close enough to allow him to grab a few supplies before moving to find a new ledge to perch on.
Further ahead, the team did their best to keep the RED mercenaries at bay while a few chose to stay behind to push their objective along, the Scout doing most of the killing as he stood near the enemy spawn and took pot-shots at those men emerging from behind the automated door. He cursed each time a body hit the ground that was not the Spy. Where the hell was that snake? Finally, the RED Heavy appeared, glowing bright red with a Medic close behind. The runner had to make a quick break for it to avoid a second death, jumping up a set of metal stairs to hide in an overhead building. Through the broken glass, he watched his Russian foe plow over his comrades with a barrage of expensive-to-fire bullets. His breath hitched, but he knew they would be fine, just as he had been. They just would not have a support group in the form of a lover waiting on them back at their spawn. The Scout had to suppress a goofy grin.
The Scout looked beyond the Heavy/Medic pair. The BLU Pyro managed to airblast the duo away long enough to push the cart over a point bathed in red, suddenly changing it to a blue hue. The Announcer boomed over the speakers to congratulate the BLU team and giving them additional time to meet their goal. Same old shit.
He began to take off towards the RED base again, but a familiar scent invaded his nostrils, and the boy froze where he stood, fingers clutching his weapon as eyes darted around. Cigarette smoke. The RED Spy was nearby. He felt his heart leap in his throat and his knees gave a wobble, but he held his ground.
“C'mon out, ya rat bastard! I'm gonna settle the score with ya right here an' now!”
He wished his voice sounded more confident than he felt suddenly and now, he wished the Sniper had stayed close—or any of his teammates for that matter. But, there was a war going on behind him.
“Oh, mon petit, 'ow I 'ave missed you.”
The Scout jerked around towards the Spy's voice, sending a blast of his scattergun to the nearby corner, leaving crude holes in the wood. He grit his teeth, already feeling the day's work and his own fear forming salty liquid against his temples and run down the sides of his face. His eyes scanned the area and he slowly backed himself into the corner to cut off any attempts of a backstab.
There was a chuckle, and the Scout forced back a desperate sob so that he yelled in anger instead. “Asshole! Quit fuckin' around already!”
The laugh persisted, but the boy could not identify the location. It was as if the other man was dancing about the small building, the smell of smoke becoming stronger with no ventilation, which brought tears to his eyes and blurred his vision.
“I was 'oping your dear lover would be here to witness this.”
“Witness what? You've already had your fun and done your worst!” The Scout could not help but give a hoarse laugh himself. “Ya didn't know? We're immortal, too, shitlord.”
The silence gave way of the Spy's hesitance, but the Bostonian's victory with words was short-lived. His next words turned the boy's sweat to ice.
“I know this. Who do you think planted the briefcase where even the most dumb of the lot of you could find it?”
“No,” the Scout whispered, “Mun—our Sniper risked his life to find that!”
“And, the alarms never sounded? Hmmm, I wonder why?”
The boy began to sweat bullets now as his eyes squinted against the smoke. His back brushed up against the mutilated wall. “No, that ain't right. You wouldn't. Why would you give us that kinda information?”
Suddenly, a gloved hand was at his throat and his weapon dropped as he raked bandaged hands over the offending fingers. The Spy came into view, a twisted grin about his face.
“Ah-ah-ah, we can't reveal all our secrets at once,” the RED snake chimed, his fingers enclosing on the smaller male's throat, “Now, be a good boy and call for your Mundy.”
Despite his struggles, the Scout shook his head and strained to speak. “You can't kill us. Go on; I'll just come right back again.”
There was another harsh laugh from the elder male as he exhaled smoke into the other's face. “Did I not tell you I planned for this?” His voice deepened and his smile dropped, “Call your fucking Sniper or you'll wish you 'aden't.”
“Fuck you,” the Scout croaked, wishing he had the ability to spit on the Frenchman's face. He eye-balled his weapon at his feet. Maybe if he could just kick--
Suddenly, there was a knee grinding against the wall between his thighs and he gave a small cry.
“Silly boy. Do I 'ave to fuck you again before you'll listen?” His demeanor was as icy as was Hell after it froze over.
“Shut up!” the Scout roared, though the tears already spilled down reddened cheeks.
“Oh, but you liked it, did you not? I recall someone coming very, very--” he leaned against the boy's body, his lips hot and acidic against a tender ear, “--very hard.”
The youth clenched his eyes shut and could do nothing to hide the sob as his legs bent and he slid to the floor, the Spy releasing his throat and kicking his scattergun across the room. He paused long enough to snub out his cigarette on the wall and then flick it away before kneeling before the boy.
“Well? I do not hear you yelling. Go on, let him hear you, Matt.”
The Scout's eyes opened again and bulged as he dared to look into the serpentine expression of his greatest foe. How did he know? He barely registered the second chime and Announcer's voice as his team pressed on and knew the Sniper would have to be approaching, whether he wanted to be saved again or not. At this point, he wished for death, but still, his voice croaked as he wailed for his lover above the sound of hellfire and brimstone behind him, trying to find somewhere in his mind to collapse into to keep from feeling those harsh, gloved fingers tracing into his scarred flesh beneath his shirt.