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No. 7217
A rusty door swung open, flooding the dim, windowless cellar with a warm, yet somehow malicious, red glow. A Spy sporting the same color of dress strolled in, flanked by two other RED associates – an Engineer and a Heavy. The shorter man was carrying around a box of supplies, and began laying them out neatly in a specific order on a stainless steel table in the midst of the room. While he was busy, Heavy paused and closed the dank cellar from the outside world by shutting and latching the heavy bolts.

Spy flipped open a cigarette case, lit one up, and took a deep draw. He exhaled slowly, directing his cool, icy eyes at the shackled figure on the ground as his two associates bustled about.

The shackled form glared back boldly. “Well. If it ain’t the fat bald bastard, the skinny bald bastard, and the short bald bastard.”
“Bonjour.”
“Fuck off, ya shape-shiftin’ rat.”

“Pardon me, but I don’t t’ink you are quite in zee position to make demands, boy,” the man drawled in his light French accent, twirling his cigarette around between his fingers. “You’ve been, eh… ‘escorted’ to a secret facility of ours, over 800 kilometers away from zee nearest BLU base, and I’m zee only object standing between you, and a long, painful death.” the man casually pulled out a beautifully engraved revolver from the inside of his vest. “So I recommend you ‘ave an intelligent thought for once in your pathetic life, and cooperate.”

The boy shackled on the ground just snorted. He was around 19, and had short cropped hair that was looking pretty messy, with parts of it matted together as if he hadn’t been to a shower in a while. His wiry body was garbed only in a loose undershirt and a pair of blue camo-boxers. The bronze tan he sported was starting to fade slowly but surely from the lack of sunlight. However, he was covered with a layer of grime so thick, one could barely tell. The Scout’s entire body was covered with harsh bruises, and his wrists and ankles were rubbed raw due to the tight shackles, but his blue eyes still burned with that cocky, resolute flare. Pity. It would have easier on the both of them if he’d just given up after the first beating.

“Yeah right, dumbass. I heard about you fuckin’ around with my mom. You really think she’ll let you anywhere near her if you had anything to do with my death?” the boy snickered in his quick, fast-talking Bronx accent.

“Heh…” The man took another long draw on his cigarette. “Just like a child. ‘iding behind your mozzer’s skirt until zee very end.”
A deep flush. “Y-Yeah right. I’m not hidin’ behind nobody – I’m just tellin’ you like it is.”
The man smirked nastily. “Do you really t’ink zis is zee first time I’ve disposed of a relative of someone I’m physically involved with? Please. I’ll get rid of you quickly and quietly, and when your body finally shows up, I’ll be there to comfort ‘er, telling ‘er zat I did everyt’ing I could to save you.” Spy knew from experience that it usually wasn’t difficult to convince people that he was the good person they thought he was. Especially if they already wanted to believe him.

“Yeah, right. My mom would never believe ya, ya fuckin’ coward.”
“We’ll see. Now…” The RED Spy flicked away his half-used cigarette and pulled a fresh one from his case, lighting it up. The orange glow highlighted his gaunt, predatory face from below, casting many odd shadows over his face. “Enough stalling, boy. Tell me everyzhing you know about zee whereabouts of zee RED intelligence.”

Another infuriating smirk. “Uh, buddy? I don’t know if you noticed, but… I’m just a Scout. What makes you think I know where they took that suitcase fulla junk? I’m pretty low down on the pecking order, ya know what I’m saying?”

His mischievous eyes sparkled, as if saying, “Yeah, I know something, but I ain’t telling you what it is.” It pissed Spy off to no end, but he couldn’t be seen losing his head. This was a job that called for cool, calculated ruthlessness.

“Well.” Spy calmly placed the revolver down on the table. “I suppose there’s no ‘ope of reaching compromise civilly.” He snapped his fingers crisply to call his two assistants to attention. “Unchain him, restrain him, and bind ‘is face.”

“Wh…What are you doing?!” the BLU Scout cried, growling as Heavy unlocked his chains and roughly seized him by his thin arms. He tried to fight back, but his arms were too weak from being weighed down from the heavy shackles, as well as the lack of movement for days on end. He found that he could barely move them. “Hey! Hey, let me go!” He tried to twist away and even tried to bite the two as a black cloth was tied around his face, making him unable to see, and barely able to breathe or talk.

“Hold ‘im.” The Spy’s measured footsteps drew ever-closer as his two assistants forcibly pressed Scout to the cold stone floor, pinning him by his neck and limbs.

Suddenly, a rush of ice cold water flooded his senses. Scout screamed and tried his best to wrench away, but Heavy forced him still by brutally twisting his arm in on itself. More water poured down, sending his body practically into convulsions.

Scout had never been afraid of water before – hell, swimming was one his favorite hobbies after running and playing ball. But this… This was something straight out of a nightmare. It was starkly reminiscent of the swimming accident he’d suffered when he was eight or nine. It felt like he was drowning.

There was nothing that he wanted to do more than to suffer the abuse silently and laugh in that masked freak’s face and boast how there was nothing that creep could do to make him spill the beans, but… Holy hell. He was already shaking like a leaf during a violent storm, and, God, he knew it was just starting.

He wanted to cry. A beating, he could take. This was… something completely different. But still, he had to keep quiet. Whatever this fucker could do to him was nothing compared to what his own team would do to him if he gave away the location to that stupid suitcase full of crap.

God, what had he gotten himself into?

~~~~~~~~~

Reposting. AGAIN.

So, hey, I'm doing a little bit of tweaking of Spy's accent AGAIN with the help of Izzy, the almost-fluent-native-speaker of Canadian French... stuff. Close enough. It was a little too heavy last time, and I didn't like it. I want it to be consistent, but not distracting, you know?

Just like before, you guys, if you have an irresistible urge to shower me with praise and monies comment, feel free to do so! I love comments, like, burning. Also, if you want to drop me an email, that's fine and dandy, too! That's what it's there for!

Enjoy, you crazy bastids!
84 posts omitted. Last 50 shown.
>> No. 12608
anon u cray
>> No. 12772
Good lord you must continue. You've captivated me!
>> No. 12800
I started reading this some hours ago. Is 4:30 now and I've just read the last part you wrote and I really cannot put on how nice this fic is. I really like the characterization you give and also the overall situations, they're wrote in a way I feel quite empathetic,like in that last part made me felt really sad for the Engie, damn man. Also I'm not cryign because I'm emotional ok I'm jsut a bit drunk alright. You, tworefined, are amazing, thank for this. Gonn be following this closely.
>> No. 12865
>>92
You are too sweet. I hate to get everyone's hopes up, but... with the blessings of the good lord of Fanfiction, I should have the next installment up in... a few days...? Maybe...??? Very, very, VERY timid time frame there, but I feel like if I make a public announcement of my timeframe, the fear of letting you guys down will spur me into action. So let's say... By next Friday. Yeah, sounds good. (Serious tho, don't get your hopes up, but if you want to pretend that you are to put on more pressure, uh, that's fine, too, I guess?????)

>>93
Wow omg. Drunk anon is best anon. Thank for commenting.
>> No. 12880
Okay, guys, I hate to bump my own thread, but this is kind of important.

My story has been almost directly plagiarized by someone on DA, and I want your help to get it the fuck off. Here's the link:

http://desertpunked-canada.devian*******tart.com/gallery/38357070#/d598tjw

Please report it with a link here and leave a helpful comment reading (All caps necessary) "STOP RIGHT THERE, CRIMINAL SCUM! YOU HAVE VIOLATED THE LAW".

Your help is appreciated.
>> No. 12881
Better link: http://desertpunked-canada.devian tart.com/gallery/38357070#/d598tjw
>> No. 12882
Reported! The part 5 is now gone ^^
>> No. 12884
Was it like, word for word plagiarism? The little idiot is spewing 'Oh, but I was just inspiiiiiired by it'. Sounds like bullshit to me. Keeping my eye on this bitch.
>> No. 12886
She deleted all the parts now. Sounded sincere when she told she was sorry
>> No. 12888
Thanks, guys - your help was appreciated! No more need to bully the poor girl anymore - she did everything we asked (even though it was a blatant lie that she was just "inspired" by my work - having the same locations, plot points, character roles, and eerily similar responses is just too much). Best to just leave it alone, now.

On the bright side, seeing my hard work mangled like that has given me a big hankerin' for the written word again! And, since I'm feeling better sickness-wise, and I just got done with a huge, terrifying test today (cross your fingers - I hope I did well!), I'm sure I'll be free to at least get in another chapter by THIS WEEKEND! (gasp)

For now, though, a nap is sorely needed. Goodbye, all.
>> No. 12889
She won't even admit to outright stealing it. Her apology is nothing but an attempt to get people to leave her alone, so she doesn't get in trouble.

She used Nova Scotia in her story. Red flag right there. When's the last time you ever saw anyone use anything in Atlantic Canada in a Tf2 fanfic?
>> No. 12892
Oh my god.
I started reading this at 2:00 AM (when I get up to get ready for school). Now I'm just sitting here like "IT... OKAY. DON'T... BE CRY."
I need the next part of this. My heart simply cannot handle the suspense. My poor babbus ;A;

I am so sure that there is a special place being made in hell for Spy.
>> No. 12900
I'm Anon 92 from earlier. And I am super excited that you are going to be continuing this soon! (Hopefully?! I know how writer's block is!)

Fun fact: I actually live in Nova Scotia so I lol'd at that part.
>> No. 12945
WHERE IS THE UPDATE
WHERE IS IT

Just kidding, take whatever time you want. I'll refer to my headcannon'd ending for solace.
This makes me have so many questions about ethics. Like, is the person who witnesses injustice and ignores it as bad as the perpetrator? If others witness the same, is the responsibility to help divided or multiplied? How much are you obligated to risk, or sacrifice for someone else?
These things I've actually been wondering for a while, since I recently was in a real analogous situation to Engi's, and I still wonder if I did enough.
>> No. 12964
I'm really sorry for the lack of an update. This weekend was a lot crazier than expected, and my computer keeps trying to kill itself by randomly shutting off and not wanting to reboot afterwards. It's sad to say, but after $150 spent trying to repair this damn thing, I think it's finally time for it to KICK THE BUCKET. I'm sick of trying to wrestle this stupid machine to do what I want and basically having my face farted in for my efforts.

Of course, my mom is the one who's bringin in the ~*c@$h m0ney$*~ so that's unlikely until she signs off on it. In the meanwhile, keep your eyes open and just know that I'M TRYING MY BEST, boohoo.

Also, I have to wake up in about 4 hours, so I really should sleep. Internet, let me sleep, please. please.
>> No. 14783
I'm sorry, that was mean. I'll take my ban gracefully now.
>> No. 14784
WHY. WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT. I READ THIS FANFICTION EVERY DAY. EVERY. DAY. OMFG. WHY. UGH. *runs to cry in a corner
>> No. 14785
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!

If that April fools was supposed to be funny, it was NOT!
>> No. 14788
Two Ref, why
>> No. 14789
Ahah, well you got me.
but still
fallsoverdead.gif
>> No. 14795
Aw, and here I was, getting ready to laugh at some poor hapless anon.
Oh well, good show and all that.
>> No. 14798
No! Nonononononononono!! Why would you torment us this way!? My heart jumped in happiness just to sink to the bottom of my stomach... But at least we know you're still alive! Unlike anon 110.
>> No. 15407
this is the most beautiful thing my eyeballs have seen! you probably wont update anymore but if you could it would be greatly appreciated I actually stayed up until 3 in the morning before I had to stop myself from reading! best tf2 fanfiction I've read! ALL THE GOLD STARS!
>> No. 15408
Wh.. Why would you bump this? Why would you break my heart so?!

Put sage in the email field next time to save getting our hopes up
>> No. 15409
Fuck you, anon. Just fuck you.
>> No. 15410
WHY WOULD YOU BUMP THIS, JUST USE FUCKING SAGE NEXT TIME
>> No. 15411
My heart is bleeding. I hope you're happy, #113
>> No. 15413
what have you done, 113.
im legitimately upset there are no updates for this.
>> No. 15414
#113 sage next time, you fuck
>> No. 15496
God fucking damit.
I thought there was an update, you got me exited!
>> No. 15534
So like, jaysus.. I can't no more..I haven't a response for this, Icantenglishanymore.
Leave An.#113 alone ò ^ ó
Pick on moi instead for not saging pls.org

I'd always thought bumping was a gut thing... BUDDA-BUMP

(USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST)
>> No. 15535
I hate you! I hate you so much! You didn't need to bump the damn thread AGAIN! Do you have any idea how frustrating that is to people who have been waiting for an update for over a year? Are you trying to be some kind of hero here defending an anon who bumped this over one month ago? I have seen you've been bumping threads before and just fucking stop it. Type "sage" into that fucking e-mail box before posting comments that don't even say anything people need to read or know.
>> No. 15536
Are you fucking kidding me? I've gotta say that I'm totally behind #122. It's so goddamn annoying when people bump your favorite threads for nothing and push the other updates down. Not like there's been any for a while but still. And what the hell for?

"Leave An.#113 alone ò ^ ó"

Go back to DeviantArt, kid. This is a place for adults. I've been waiting for this story to update for over a year just so some fucking kid can come here and play a goddamn saint. Don't. Bump. unless you're the author or have something I-M-P-O-R-T-A-N-T to say. I wonder if I can report her post. She's clearly not over 18 years old.
>> No. 15553
hello it is I #113 sorry about bumping the post I know I would have flipped if a fic that hadn't updated in a year suddenly did a thing. Again sorry I don't really go on 4chan so I didn't know it would do that
>> No. 16111
bump.
>> No. 16112
>>125...over a year after the last post...I have a feeling you're attempting to make a point about what happened with 113, but I'm a little too angry at you to care. DO NOT NECROBUMP PAST A YEAR LATER. Probably not even after a few months, but definitely not after more than a year later. This is infuriating to those of us actually patiently waiting for an update. Please, no bumping.
>> No. 16337
I know it's been like 4 years since you've seen anything from me. It might take even longer (a year max) for me to finally start updating this again, but I swear by the power invested in me, this fanfic WILL be finished!

If you care about my life's story, mosey on over to http://tf2chan.net/offtopic/res/13798.html#13798 to learn more. But tl;dr, I've been gone so long because of anxiety, depression, tumblr, and Homestuck. Also I enrolled in Job Corps.

I'm getting my life back on track now, though, and that's what's most important. Eventually, all the effort to better myself will lead to more of this story, and when that happens, this site will be the first to see it.

Until then, I humbly ask you to extend your patience just a tad longer. I promise that it'll be worth it.
>> No. 16338
This post has been deleted.
>> No. 16339
This post has been deleted.
>> No. 16340
Hurp-a-durr, I reposted like twice because of a weird error message I got. Holy hell, I'm out of practice.
>> No. 16343
http://tf2chan.net/afanfic/res/2244.html (Mark 1)
http://tf2chan.net/afanfic/res/4594.html (Mark 2)
>> No. 16398
Minutes dragged by like days, days dragged by like years.

Engineer hardly went outside of his room following that fateful day, preferring to hole himself up in his room and drinking himself into a stupor. Scout doubted that he ever journeyed outside, even for food or water -- only to restock his dwindling supply of alcoholic drinks. When he depleted the base’s supply of Red Oak, he quickly moved on to more potent stuff.

Scout, for his part, tried to stay quiet and out of the way. Engineer barely spoke to him anymore -- barely came into the modified workshop at all. Scout had to make do with surviving on the modest stache of snack foods and soda pop Engie had snuck him during better times. It hardly felt fair to ask for anything better. After all… what right did he have to complain? At least he was safe, right?

Truth be told, it was all he could do to stay sane. The experience in the cellar with Spy was… Well, in a word, horrific. Something he’d probably relive for the rest of his life. But at the very least it didn’t feel like it was something he deserved in a twisted way. Trying to protect Scout had ruined Engineer’s life. He’d sacrificed everything for someone who, by the sounds of it, was slated to be executed in a matter of months, if he was lucky.

For Scout, the fuckup. The idiotic teenager who had landed himself in this mess in the first place due to his big mouth and bigger ego. The last in a long, proud line of eight idiotic blowhards that seemed to accomplish nothing in life more than just giving their mom reasons to worry.

He could hear Engineer crying sometimes when he was especially out of it and saying someone’s name. Maybe his wife or his daughter’s -- Scout couldn’t tell for sure. He knew it was someone Engie wouldn’t be getting back. All to protect someone who he owed nothing to. If it meant Scout would have to go a while without good food or good conversation, well, he supposed it was a worthy toll. He just hoped that the poor guy would be alright.

Wishful thinking. After another exhausting day of sleeping until three in the afternoon, Engineer was roused awake, thanks in part to a skull-splitting headache. He groaned softly, trying to shield the light from his eyes, and scratching at his ratty, unkempt beard, wishing he could stay asleep a little longer. Preferably forever. But his hangover didn’t seem to be going away, and he found himself stumbling around to locate some aspirin and a shot of liquor to knock it back with before he started puking.

The bottle of pain pills had been easy -- he kept them close at hand for mornings like these, but apparently he’d gone through his easily accessible stash of tequila the night before. He sighed with barely repressed rage as he popped the pills dry and clomped into his workshop, giving no mind the clinks of glass of discarded beer and tequila bottles carelessly tossed to the floor. Hopefully this would be quick.

Scout had been rereading an old issue of Bonk Boy when Engineer made his surprising entrance into the workshop for the first time in days. Oddly it looked like he was wearing the same clothes, but there was no need to dwell on that. Scout tried to sit up and give his friendliest grin. “Hey, how’s it goin’ Hardhat?”

Engineer ignored him, not even throwing an errant glance his way. Instead, he made a beeline to his desk, and started digging out one of the supply crates hastily shoved under it. After rubbing his temples to stave off the growing pain, he quickly popped the bottle open and took a hearty swig of the liquor in the desperate hopes that it would quickly dispel his intensifying headache.

Scout winced, and looked down at his lap as Engineer took his seat facing away from the boy, apparently too exhausted to even make his way back to his room. He could tell that Engie didn’t want to talk much, so he tried to make it quick. “Hey, uh… You wouldn’t happen to have more food or something, would ya?” he asked. “I’ve been trying to make this one bag of chips last three days, and… Well…”

He trailed off as Engineer rummaged through his shirt pocket to find a cigarette and lit it up. He didn’t seem to be listening, preferring instead to stare blankly at the wall as he puffed away. Or maybe he was actually listening and he didn’t care. Scout just frowned and anxiously buried his nose inside his comic again. He didn’t want to risk agitating Engineer any more, after all.

Engie just glowered at the wall as he tapped the ash from his cigarette and took another subdued drink of his booze. That damn kid… What had he been thinking, trying to save him? Thinking there was any way to rescue him and come away from this whole thing unscathed?

Damn him… He should have left him completely in the hands of Spy, to hell with whatever happened to him. Nevermind that he'd tried that. Nevermind that sometimes it kept him up for two days straight just imagining what that poor kid was being put through. This had to be Scout's fault somehow…

As if to dispel the stormy thoughts clouding his mind, Engie tilted the bottle of tequila back for yet another long draught, prompting a startled glance from Scout. It seemed like he was nearly half way through the bottle already, and he’d likely just woken up…

There was a long hesitation before he spoke up again. “Hey, man… You might wanna ease up on that stuff, okay?”
Engineer gritted his teeth, clutching the bottle tightly in his hand. “Thanks for the input. Got any more sage knowledge ya feel like sharin’?” he asked wryly with a puff on his cigarette again. At least his headache seemed to be going away due to the influx of fresh alcohol. Seemed his stomach wasn’t as easy to please, though… He gave a wet burp and quickly descended into a coughing fit, wiping his mouth free of the taste of the threatening vomit.

Scout furrowed his brow a little. “Hardhat, I’m serious,” he pleaded. “You look like shit, man. You’re gonna run yourself into the ground like that!”
"Son, if i wanted your goddamn input about my drinkin’ habits, I woulda asked ya!” Engineer snapped, clutching his bottle possessively. “But I didn't, so shut your goddamn mouth before I shut it for ya."
“Look… Engie. I just wanna help you, alright?” Scout sighed.

Engineer slammed his glass on the table with so much force, Scout was amazed it didn’t shatter instantly. Engineer jumped to his feet and whirled around to face the kid, fire in his eyes. “HELP?!” he barked with an incredulous laugh. “How in the hell d’ya think you can HELP when YOU’RE the reason I’m in this goddamn mess in the FIRST place?!”

Scout was silent for a while after that, practically withering under the man’s furious gaze. "You… You really blame me for what happened, Hardhat?" he asked softly, feeling as though a knife had been stabbed between his ribs.

Engineer just scoffed. "I don't got my little girl anymore, Scout. Instead, all I've got is you. I betcha can figure out which one I'd rather have right now." He sucked on his cigarette irritably, then threw it to the ground. Not enough nicotine… Not nearly enough. He told himself he’d quit when April was born. No real use in that now… His head was swimming again… Needed another drink. He swayed unsteadily, holding onto the bars for balance.

The harsh words dug into Scout’s chest with a searing hot intensity. So he DID resent Scout for all this. Blamed him… Probably wished he had never existed. That he’d never met him. And yet… Even though his words echoed the feelings Scout often entertained while he was alone… He couldn’t help but get pissed off to hear it spoken out loud like that. Especially since Scout was just worried about his own damn safety!

“Well, jeez, it’s not like I went and made you have an affair on your fuckin’ wife!” he snapped, slamming his fist on the pillow before it even registered what he had said. Then, there was a startled gasp as he pressed his hands against his lips with terror. Why the hell had he said THAT of all things?!

There was a long pause from Engineer as he seemingly froze in place. The hand clinging to the bar for balance slowly curled into a tight fist. After a while, he went and unlocked the cell door letting it swing open with a terrifying deliberate squeak. “Y’all wanna run that by me again?” he asked softly.

Scout watched him warily, then glanced back at the bed with a gulp. “I…” He paused again. “I didn’t cause this, Engie. You made a mistake, but it’s alright. We all do. You’re hurtin’, but it’s not because of me.”
“THE ONLY GODDAMN MISTAKE I MADE WAS TAKING YOU IN!”

The volume was so sudden and so loud, it made Scout jump near out of his skin with fright and cover his ears. But Engineer wasn’t done. He stomped over to Scout cowering on the bed, looming over him like a huge, ferocious giant.

“You’re nothin’ but a goddamn snake. Like he is,” he seethed. “You’re enjoying this, ain’t cha? Watchin’ a good man lose all he has to live for? I bet you think this is all reeeal funny. Well I’m fixin’ to wipe that smug smirk off your goddamn face, boy.”

Scout was flung into a full fledged panic, trying desperately to get away from him. “Engie, NO!” Too little, too late. Engineer seized him by the shirt collar, dragging him over to the edge of the bed with terrifying strength. His eyes seemed cold and unfocused, almost as if he didn’t really see Scout for who he was.

Scout squirmed, trying to fruitlessly to pry Engineer’s fingers off, nearly hyperventilating now. “Let me go -- I didn’t do anything! Don’t hurt me -- PLEASE!”

He couldn’t break out of the man’s grasp. He was too strong. That scent on his breath -- tobacco and alcohol. Cigarettes and brandy. Engineer and Spy…

Scout broke down into a mess of tears, sobbing and telling the enraged Texan, “Sorry,” over and over again. Engineer barely heard him past the blood rushing in his ears. He was going to teach this kid a lesson. Going to make him really sorry…

Engineer’s weight shifted as he pulled back his fist, prompting another frightened shriek from Scout and an attempt to shield his face with his hands. Engineer might have followed through with the punch as well, if not for one thing.

He needed to puke. He needed to puke RIGHT NOW.

As quickly as Scout was grabbed, he was released again. Engineer collapsed to his knees, thankfully having the forethought to grab the trashcan stowed next to Scout’s bed as his body purged itself of all the hard liquor from this afternoon and the late night before.

Scout rubbed the sore spot on his chest, still trying to calm his breathing after that stressful episode. He had no idea if Engie might still try to pummel him the second he was feeling better, but it still pained him to see his friend going through something so awful. He was even more broken up than Scout had realized.

Finally, it seemed Engineer’s body was empty. Silence fell over the room as he panted into the open end of the waste basket, too exhausted to even lift his head. Scout paused a moment, and then tentatively tried stroking the man’s back. “... Feeling better, man?” he asked softly.
Engineer flinched away from the boy’s touch, instead turning to face the bars of the cage. “Don’t touch me,” came the weak grumble.

Scout frowned a bit, shaking his head with a sigh. “Hardhat, look… I’m sorry about what I said, alright?”
Engineer shook his head. “Don’t do any good to go apologizin’ for bein’ right, son…” he muttered. “I’ve been a right ass to ya, when really… The only reason I won’t get to see my little girl again is because I… I…”

Scout frowned, watching helplessly as Engineer began sobbing into the waste bucket, his entire body wracked with despair. “I don’t know…” the Texan confessed softly, shaking his head. “I don’t know where the hell to go from here… I don’t even know how to keep goin’...”

Scout paused for a moment, staring down at his once-shattered leg. It hadn’t been so long ago that he didn’t know exactly how Engineer was probably feeling right now… But Engineer had given everything he had to help Scout through it all.

It was time to repay that favor.

Scout took a deep breath as he swung his legs over the edge of the little cot that had been his home for the past month or so. Using the bed frame for support, he painfully struggled to his feet, keeping most of the weight off of the one Spy had shot. It was difficult to stay upright, but he managed somehow.

Engineer gasped as he saw Scout limp into view. “What in the Sam Hill do you think you’re doin’, kid?” he asked incredulously.
Scout gripped the bars on his cage for support with one hand, offering the other for Engineer to take. “C’mon. We’re gonna go get your mouth washed out, and then you’re gonna tell me everything that’s bugging you. No holding back. Got it?”

Engineer hesitated for a moment. Then there was a determined nod as he took the boy’s hand. With a combined effort from both of them, he rose to his feet. Using each other for support, they slowly made their way out of the workshop.
>> No. 16399
(( Just a quick note to say that the definitive version of all chapters, especially new ones, will be uploaded to AO3. Here's the link: https://archiveofourown.org/works/744566 . I've made some attempts to improve things from feedback I got on this site, and while I'm not 100% satisfied with the final product even now, it means a lot to me that people on here and elsewhere have supported me so much through the years. You guys are why I still have my drive. ))

Engineer was solemnly quiet as they made their way to the bathroom, the haze of his latest binge still following him like a fog. Still, it wasn’t enough to let the way Scout shifted his weight and give a short hop whenever any pressure at all was placed on his bad leg. He felt bad for putting the kid through pain just for his own sake. “How’s that knee treating ya, son?” he asked softly.

Scout gritted his teeth a bit, giving another short hop before answering. “If we’re bein’ honest, it hurts like hell,” he mumbled. Still, it felt good to be standing on his own feet again. Walking instead of being uselessly caged all day. In a way, this was his first small taste of freedom in a long while.

Inside the bedroom, Scout was met with the sight of the landfill of empty beer and tequila bottles. He shot a look of concern at his friend, as Engineer tried his best to ignore it. How embarrassing, having how fast and far he’d fallen practically tattooed across his face like this… He really ought to tidy up before anyone else happened to see.

But finally, they reached the bathroom. Engineer muttered something about his stomach still “hurtin’ somethin’ fierce”, so Scout left him to rest a while in front of the toilet before limping over to rest at the edge of the bathtub. There was another awkward pause as Scout caught his breath and Engineer dreaded the ensuing conversation.

“So, what happened, man?” Scout asked at last.
Engineer rubbed his temples, already finding his annoyance starting to build. “What kinda question is that, boy? You know well enough what happened.”
“I wanna hear it from you,” Scout pressed. “The whole situation, start to finish, yeah?”
“It’s pointless,” Engineer muttered gruffly, shaking his head. “Ain’t gonna make me feel any goddamn better to sit here and talk about how I destroyed my own damn life.”

“You’d be surprised,” Scout shot back. “Look, Hardhat, I think I know you better than ya think. For the last few weeks or whatever, you’re basically the only person I’ve been stuck with. And trust me, dude, I know how much you hate talking.” He made a fidgeting motion with his hands. “You like… Tinkering with shit, yanno? Messing with your doodads and playing guitar and that’s about it. It’s like human emotion is a fuckin' foreign language with you.”

Engineer gave Scout an unimpressed look. “Yeah? You gotta point to this or what, kid?”
Scout huffed. “The point is that, like it or not Hardhat, you ain’t been able to replace the hunk of meat in your skull with wiring and circuits just yet. You’re still human, like me. If you keep bottling this shit up, you’re only gonna feel worse and worse.”
It was hard to meet the boy’s eyes after being caught dead to rites like that, so Engineer instead turned his eyes to the placid bowl of water in front of him. “... Yeah? What do you know…” he grumbled softly. “You’re just a kid…”

Scout sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. “I know from experience, okay?” he replied softly. “Look… Growing up, I was always getting into trouble. Always scrapping with my brothers, always getting into brawls on the street, always getting into shit with the adults. I had anger issues a mile long. My ma ain’t know what to do with me.”

He twiddled his thumbs awkwardly. “It was like that for years until she set me up with a shrink. And at first, I was pissed! I was like, ‘What the fuck, Ma! You think I’m a fuckin’ screwball or somethin’? I ain’t fuckin’ crazy!’ But she promised she’d let me take her car and go to the movies every day after I went, so I was like… Sweet. I just gotta go to this dumbass doctah thing and then I have the whole day to myself! I basically treated it like a joke at first.”

“Yeah?” Engineer offered, nodding to let Scout know he was listening. “And what changed?”

Scout took a deep breath. “Well… It started making sense, is what. See, I always grew up mad as fuck at the world because, well… My dad wasn’t around anymore. Ma and him separated basically since before I could remember. If it wasn’t for that one picture Ma had of him holding me after I was born, I might not have even known what he even looked like.”

He waved his hand. “It’d be one thing if he, like… Died in a horrible fire saving a litter of kittens or some shit, but… He left. More than that, he left after I was born. You meanin’ to tell me he stayed for seven kids, and then left at the eighth for no reason? ‘Nah, fuck this, sweetheart. Seven was just right, but eight is too much. I’m done.’ Yeah, I don’t think so!”

He paused a moment, seeming to relive those dark emotions before continuing. “I didn’t realize it at first, but… I felt like he left because of me. And it hurt too much to admit that to myself, so I went off on everybody else. But discovering that made me feel like I lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. And you wanna know what the crazy part is? The shrink never told me any of that stuff. He just asked me a few questions and let me talk and figure it out on my own.”

He shrugged. “That don’t mean it made everything better… I got counselling for years, and I still had problems with my temper and… Yeah. Part of me still wonders if I ain’t the reason my dad left. But I’m still better than I was before, and I wouldn’t have gotten there if I didn’t ever open up.”

Engineer was staring into the toilet again, like it held a piece of his soul inside. It still felt dubious to him. After all, it wasn’t like there was any doubt as to why his life had fallen apart. “... So what do I even talk about?” he asked flatly, still not entirely seeing the point.
Scout paused for a moment, considering his question. “Tell me about your daughter,” he replied softly.

Engineer clutched at the toilet bowl rim so hard his knuckles turned white, fighting back tears. “Her name… was April,” he started, keeping his voice as level as he could manage. “She turned eight this year, and… She was the first person I think I ever loved. I knew it from the moment I first held her that I’d do anything for this little creature… Anything.”

Scout nodded sadly, rubbing his back as he sobbed into the toilet. He waited, having a sneaking feeling that there was more to say on the subject. Engineer just shook his head, not wanting to face him just yet. This felt like hell on Earth, having to relive this pain.

“She had these bright brown eyes that sparkled with excitement every time she learned somethin’ new… The spittin’ image of me, some would say -- and I’m assumin’ they meant it as a compliment, too.” A snort of derisive laughter cut through the tear filled admission at his own joke. “She looked a lot like me and took to learnin’ quick as a whip, but… She was always more like my wife in terms of her personality. Bubbly and outgoing. Real friendly-like.”

He rubbed at his eyes, then. “Jen… Gods bless her, she was her mother. She deserved way better than me. Always did. Felt like us gettin’ together weren’t much of a choice, really. Her daddy knew my daddy, and, well, it went from there.”

Engineer sighed, shaking his head. “You said it right, boy. When it comes to emotions, I’m like a fish outta water. But I knew myself well enough that I had my lil’ secret figured out by my teen years. I couldn’t do nothin’ but hope and pray that nothin’ gave me away. It was useful to hide under the guise of just bein’ too into mechanics and computers and all that hogwash to understand women -- for a while. But all it really did was buy me time.”

He gave an annoyed huff. “Once you get into your 30s, boy, suddenly it’s everybody’s goddamn business why you ain’t gotten yerself hitched yet. It was all I could fuckin’ do -- ‘scuse my language -- to keep batting away every offer, every ‘helpful’ attempt to set me up with some neighbor of theirs or coworker or whatever. I just wanted to be left alone, but that weren't never enough for anybody. I started to panic -- what if they found me out? The longer I put it off, the more likely it felt. So finally… I went back to Jen. At least we knew each other. At least we were friends once.”

He rubbed his temples. “She’d been through all kinds of hell in her personal life before I ever got involved. I guess she was yearnin’ for something safe and familiar, too. So… We got married. A bunch of tears and flowers and hubbub for something that was a sham to begin with.”

“What, she didn’t love you, neither?” Scout finally asked, breaking his long silence.
“Nah, that ain’t what I meant…” Engineer sighed. “I think she did love me… And, honest to God, I wanted to love her back. I wanted to. But… I just couldn’t. At least she can be together with someone she deserves now…”
“Yeah…” Scout nodded, then paused for a moment, wondering if Engineer had anything to add. When it seemed clear that he’d gone quiet, he couldn’t help but clear his throat in preparation for his next line of questioning.

“Sooo… You, Heavy, and Demo, huh…”

Engineer’s face flushed a deep red that couldn’t be blamed on the alcohol in his system. “Ah, hell…” he muttered, rubbing the back of his neck. “Shoulda seen that coming…”
“I-It’s okay if you don’t wanna talk about it!” Scout insisted in a hurry. “Um… I just thought maybe it’d be helpful for you to talk about that, too, I guess… Yanno?”
Engie shot him a small -- very small -- amused smirk. “More like yer just bein’ nosy. Don’t try to hide it, now.” At Scout’s look of embarrassment, he gave a soft chuckle. “Well, alright, but only because you think it’d be ‘helpful’, hehehe…”

It seemed like Engineer's earlier concern about vomiting was proving to be a false alarm, so he got in a more comfortable position, sitting on the faded tile of the bathroom with his back against the wall as he reminisced. “I think it was somewhere ‘round five years ago… I’m actually the third newest on the base, behind Pyro and our Scout. I’d only been working with RED for about a year, but kept bouncing from base to base until I got stuck here as a promising R&D technician. Seems I’m one of the few that can keep up with the cowpoke BLU’s got up their sleeve. I was new to the base, and not all too keen on making any pals.”

He smiled fondly, as his eyes clouded over with nostalgia as fond memories washed over him. “Ala--Demo. He was the one who first showed me around. He’s also the one who introduced me to Heavy. And… After a while, we got to talkin’... And…”

He held back a snicker as Scout leaned forward a bit, clearly expecting juicy details. “Honestly, boy, there ain’t no intrigue to what happened between us. It was simple as anything. One fateful night, a few too many drinks lead to a few too many other things. I’m pretty sure you don’t want me goin’ into much more detail than that, Stringbean.”
“Haha… No, that’s alright, I’m good on that,” Scout confirmed with an embarrassed smile.

“...” Engineer sniffed again, trying to wipe his eyes free of tears. “It’s hard to tell, really, who I’ll miss more… My little girl, or those two…”
“Hey… Maybe it doesn’t have to be the end, huh?” Scout asked hopefully. “Maybe you just gotta talk things out like we did today?”

Engineer tried to regain his composure, shaking his head. “Nah… Nah. They deserved better than me anyhow. I must’ve ended it with ‘em ‘bout twenty different times by now. There’s too much drama with me. Too much baggage… I’ve been with ‘em for years now and never once mentioned anything ‘bout a family. That’s basically lyin’, Scout. Relationships based on lies always fall apart.” He stared at his hands dejectedly, wishing there was someone to hold it. “They deserve someone better, too. Someone… stable.”

“Can’t say I agree with that all too much, Hardhat, but it’s your life…” Scout sighed with a shrug. “... I’m sorry, though… About uh… When we first met… Yanno. That.”
“Pardon?” Engineer asked, looking up with a hint of surprise. “That, what?”
Scout fumbled with his words. “Ya… Yanno… That word that…” Engineer was still looking at him with confusion, so he just sighed. “The F-word.”

That prompted an unexpected laugh from Engineer, making the boy’s cheeks flush slightly with embarrassment. “Oh, hush. You’d been through hell, and I knew you had no way of really knowin’. Water under the bridge.” He waved his hand dismissively.
“Well… Still,” Scout insisted. “I’ll try not to use it anymore, alright man?”

Engineer smiled warmly at him and nodded. “Deal.” He followed that up with a fond pat on the boy’s good leg. “You’re a good kid, Scout…”
“Yeah… Same to you, Engie…” The boy softly patted the thick, calloused hand on top of his leg with a hopeful smile. “You feelin’ any better yet?” he asked hopefully.

Engineer paused and offered a soft, sad smile. “Maybe just a little… But it’s still hard to think about…”
“That’s normal, man. Really, you did awesome today,” Scout replied, patting the hand again. “If you need someone else to talk, you know where to find me, alright? It’s not like I’m going anywhere.” A soft snort of laughter.

Engie gave a chuckle of his own with a nod. “I’ll try to keep that in mind, kid…”
>> No. 16400
Though the state of his life was still just as dire as when the two of them entered the small bathroom, Engineer had to admit to himself that he did feel a great deal better after “talking it out”, as Scout put it. The kid had a way of putting complicated emotions into words far better than someone twice his age. That wasn’t nothing. The kid was pretty gifted, whether he realized it or not.

The rest of the afternoon played out simply enough. Engineer sobered up enough to wash his face and brush his teeth like they’d planned, and he helped Scout back into his bed in the tiny caged room. The poor kid still needed something to eat, so he dug through an old ration box Soldier had distributed to everyone “in case of emergency”. Scout was given a bottle of water, a candy bar, and some crackers with chicken liver pâté that he could spread on them. Scout eagerly took to the crackers and spread, proving once and for all that the boy’s attention span was too short to carefully read a food label, because Engineer was certain he’d protest if he knew exactly what it was that he was eating.

Engineer left him to it and went back to his own bed, keeping a trashcan handy in case his stomach started raising hell again. At some point, he must have drifted off, because when he opened his eyes again, it had long gone dark outside. The pounding headache brought on by his strengthened hangover made him quickly down some aspirin again with a healthy gulp from his mug of water. Ugh… It was difficult not to try to take a sip of some tequila again to soothe the pain, but Scout made him promise not to…

“... Scout?” Engineer called softly, suddenly picking up the faint sound of sobbing from the neighboring room. There was no answer, so he reluctantly rose to his feet and started picking his way through the dimly lit room to investigate what the problem was. After a moment’s hesitation, he picked up a discarded beer bottle as well, just in case he needed to fend off an uninvited guest.

Thankfully, Scout was alone in the small room, tossing and turning in his sleep. Engineer breathed a sigh of relief, placing the bottle aside. “Scout?” he called again trying to wake him.

Scout rolled over, whimpering as he rolled in his sheets, apparently trying to defend himself from an invisible attacker. His mind painted that vivid scene in his head again and again, like a short movie on loop. Engineer making a hasty retreat as Spy seized his prize. Hands on his neck, thumbs on his Adam’s apple. He couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t beg for mercy. Couldn’t do anything to deter his attacker -- nothing but submit.

A terrified scream was ripped out of his chest as a hand gently shook him awake. He recoiled automatically, pressing himself against the wall and panting in terror as his brain tried to register the situation in front of him.

Engineer froze in shock at his reaction. “Lord almighty, Scout,” he mumbled softly, trying to coax him back over. “That was some nightmare you were having.”
Scout blinked, still not quite trusting his mind wasn’t playing tricks on him and he was actually awake and in no danger. “N… Nightmare…” he repeated softly.

Engineer nodded, reaching for him. “Yeah. Need anything from me, or--”
Scout recoiled again from his outstretched hand. “Don’t touch me!”

Engineer huffed, exasperated. “Now what’s all this about, huh? What’s gotten into you? It’s just me,” he replied, trying to get the boy to settle down. “Are you still upset about what happened before? I’m truly sorry for that.”

Scout sighed, shaking his head. Seemed like he was dealing with the real deal, even if that illogical side of his brain screamed the contrary. He tried settling into his bed sheets, avoiding Engineer’s gaze. “It’s not that… Forget it, okay? It’s nothing.”

“Scout, we just had a long chat about talking yer feelings out, and you expect me to just ignore you crying in your sleep about something?”
Scout glared at the wall. “Yes.”

Engineer placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “Not happening.”
Scout slapped it away angrily turning to glare at him. “Look, I’ll talk later, alright?!” he snapped. “I just wanna get some shuteye! Is that so fuckin’ wrong?!”

Engineer paused for a moment, studying his face. Scout quickly averted his eyes with a sigh. “... It was Spy again, alright?” Scout muttered softly. “He came back.”
Oh jeez. No wonder he’d screamed like that when he woke up. “Scout, I’m really sorry about that,” Engineer sighed. “It ain’t gonna happen again -- promise.”

“Don’t be sorry!” Scout snapped, nerves still frayed and making him irritable. “It makes sense, okay?! It STILL makes sense! To the point where I don’t even know why you still bother taking care of me at all!”
Engineer paused, seeming stricken by the boy’s comment. “... What?”

“It means what I said. Practically anyone in your situation would’ve done it, too.” Scout wiped away a few tears that were quickly replaced with fresh ones. “Engie… Look. I think you’re a great guy for what you’re doing, and it means the world to me. I’d rather be anywhere than back with Spy. I’d rather be scooping up my own guts with a fork than be back with him. But nothing you’re doing now makes any fucking sense to me! And that’s fucking terrifying, because it means you might still change your mind, and there ain’t a damn thing I could do about it. It was different when you were just helping me out of the kindness of your heart, but now…”

He gave a few heartbreaking sobs. “I mean… look at me, man. I’m a fucking Scout that can’t run. I can barely even fucking walk. I’m only in this mess in the first place because I was such a cocky, loud-mouthed idiot, I got my own damn self caught. I’m the last in a long line of screw-ups that never accomplished nothin’ more than giving their Ma something new to worry about. And I’m going to be dead in what could be months or could be fucking tomorrow.”

He shook his head, burying his face in his hands. “Who the hell would do that? Who would give up everything -- their wife, their kid, their two buddies -- for someone who they might have to kill? Why? Why the fuck do you care about what happens to the person who ruined your fuckin’ life?!”

Engineer listened to the kid’s tearful confession in a stunned silence, only reaching out to pull him into a tight hug once he was sure he was done. Truth be told, he didn’t know why he had made the decisions he did. But there was no way he could leave the poor kid to an eternity of suffering Spy’s care. Something deep within him knew he’d never back out on his responsibility, even considering the consequences he’d incurred by protecting him. And that was because…

Suddenly, it dawned on him, and his grip on Scout got a bit tighter. “... You’re right,” he murmured in a quiet voice. “It doesn’t make any sense for me to give up everything, only for you to go and die… And that’s why I’m gonna bust you out of here.”
Scout went completely still, brain obviously working overtime trying to comprehend what Engineer had just said. He pulled away so he could stare warily into the older man’s eyes to gauge his seriousness. “... Uh. Come again?”

“I said I’m getting you out of this damn hellhole,” Engineer repeated -- louder this time to show his strengthening resolve on the matter. “You’ve been through too damn much in your short life to lose it in this goddamn pointless war. And after seeing RED’s atrocities for myself, I think it’s safe to say I’ve lost my appetite for it, too. So I’m helping you escape -- and I’m coming with you. And that there’s a genuine Christianson promise.”

Scout ran his fingers through his short, cropped hair, trying to rationalize this to his panicking brain. “Engie, I… Okay, let’s just think about this. Okay?” he pleaded.
“What’s there to think about?” Engineer asked with a smirk. “Thought you’d be jumpin’ at a chance to get the hell out of here.”

“I’m being serious, okay?!” Scout snapped irritably. “Engie, going against the bigwigs in this war is bad news… You’re gonna have Redmond AND that bitch after your head the second they smell that you turned your back on ‘em. You…” He gulped quietly, fighting back tears. “You said it yourself before. There ain’t nowhere we could run where she wouldn’t find us. You could die…”

Engineer paused a moment, touched that Scout considered Engie’s life worth saving over his own. Poor kid had probably picked the wrong career in a group mercenaries with a heart that big. He shook his head. "Look, kid,” he sighed. “Whether I realized it back then or not, I'd already sacrificed everything to give you a better life the second I threw that snake out of my workshop.” He lowered his gaze, somberly reflecting on the fact that he’d never see his little girl again. “... Compared to what I've already given up… My life ain't worth hardly nothin’. Might as well go all-in."

Scout dove forward and wrapped the burly man up in a tearful embrace, sobbing. “Thank you, Engie -- thank you! If you’re serious about this, I… I dunno what else to say. I owe my fuckin’ life to you -- literally…”

Engineer gave an exhausted smile, patting the kid gently on the back. “... It’s Xander, son.”
“Huh?” Scout drew back, wiping at his eyes with the heel of his palm again. “What was that?”

“My name, half-pint,” Engineer responded, ruffling his hair fondly. “It’s Xander. Don’t think I can call myself an Engineer anymore than you can call yourself a Scout, at this point.”
“Oh…” Scout gave a sunny grin, the weight of this moment not at all lost on him. “My name’s Cameron!”

Engineer just shook his head, smiling. “I already knew that, son.”
“You did?” Scout asked, his face scrunching up in confusion. “But… how?”

The smile faded away quickly. Engineer furrowed his brow and scratched at his bald head, feigning bewilderment. But it was no mystery to him. He thought back to that first day in the cellar during Spy’s questioning. How convincing he was at selling his act as a kindly father figure who didn’t “really” want to hurt Scout in the end. How Engineer -- if only for a moment -- almost bought it before Spy reminded him why he was considered the king of backstabs. He suppressed a shudder. He could barely believe it’d been a few weeks since that interrogation. Felt like years.

“Hmmm… Can’t rightly say. You musta let it slip on accident one day,” he replied with a shrug. Before Scout had time to mull over the likeliness of that statement, he stood up and gave the boy’s shoulder a gentle pat. “Point still stands. I’m not letting that sick freak get his hands back on you, and I’m not letting Solly kill ya, neither. You may have just been a BLU Scout to me before, but now you’re a 19 year old kid named Cameron. You deserve a chance at livin’ a full life, and I’m gonna help you.”

Cameron just nodded again, still frankly in disbelief. “Y… Yeah. And you’re more than just some geek that fiddles around with mechanics and shit. You’re Xander… The only guy I can rely on.”

Xander smiled at that. He ruffled the kid’s hair one more time. “Try to get some sleep, yeah?” he chuckled. “I’ll start thinking up an escape plan in the mornin’. And eventually, I’ll figure out what to do ‘bout that leg of yours.”

Oh yeah. Cameron almost forgot how tired he was during all of this excitement. He yawned, stretching a bit as he got comfortable in his bed again. “Yeah, you’re probably right…” he muttered softly. “... G’night, Xander,” he called softly as the man was leaving the room.

Xander paused and poked his head back in. “Sweet dreams, Cameron.”

Cameron grinned at him, and settled back into the safe comfort of his bed, giving a sigh of contentment. Instead of reliving his torment at Spy’s hand, his mind turned to greener pastures.

He dreamed of home.
>> No. 16401
[Three days later…]

“So whaddya think, Doc?” came the gruff, surly voice. “Think ya can fix me up or wot?”

“Hmmm…”

Medic leaned forward, stroking his chin thoughtfully, seeming either unaware or unconcerned with the amount of blood he was smearing on his face as he did so. The battle hardened merc on his operating table couldn’t help but shudder as the German scientist appraised his open body cavity like a butcher appraising meat. “Zhis is really quite fascinating Herr Sniper… And you say you first noticed zhe pain vhen you took your… Vhat did you call zhem, again?”

Sniper squirmed on the table again, still a bit unenthused about literally being vivisected and having the unique pleasure at staring at his quivering insides under the soft glow of the mounted Medigun. “Jarate pills, mate. They make you, er--”

“Urinate quite frequently, ja?” Medic finished, his spectacles glinting ominously from the harsh fluorescent lights above as he grinned at the man.

“Y-Yeah… That’s about roight,” Sniper mumbled, unable to meet his gaze for very long.

Medic chuckled in a way that made the Aussie’s blood run cold. There was an almost tender caress against his swollen, pink organ. “Wunderbar… I’ve seen zhe advertisements, but zhought zhey vere just any ozher diuretic… I had no idea zhey make your kidneys triple in size! I’ll have to procure a sample for myself to see vhat else zhey can be applied to…”

Sniper didn’t like the sound of that. He knew that coming here was a mistake, but when the sharp pains he was having at all hours of the day were coupled with vomiting and blood in his urine, he knew there was no other choice for him. After all that he’d lived through, he’d be damned if he was going to lose his life to a bottle of unregulated steroids. Pushing that thought aside for now, he gulped and cracked a faint smile. “Roight… Well, d’ya think you could help out with the pain, then? The bloody pills they gave me do piss all to help.”

Medic gave a slightly disappointed sigh. Ah yes, here came the boring part. Having to actually heal Sniper. It was a pretty dull diversion from the mystery tickling his brain about the workings of these enlarged, overworked kidneys. But… There was always the possibility he’d be able to both relieve his teammate AND get his hands on those beautiful specimens… He just needed to play his cards right.

He turned to the Sniper with a hopeful smile and wide, puppy-dog eyes, batting his lashes almost comically. “Herr Sniper… Vould you possibly be interested in… parting wizh zhese kidneys of yours? I promise zhat I have satisfactory replacements zhat vill likely be able to meet zhe demands of your quota of urine vhile remaining compact and painless… Vhat do you say?”

Sniper just gave a suspicious frown at the man. “Wot animal’s it from, then?” he demanded, having fallen for this exact same trick at least twice before.

Medic rolled his eyes up to the ceiling, feigning innocence. “Vell…”

A knock sounded on the door, startling them both. Medic’s seemingly innocent expression snapped to one of unmitigated fury. “LATER! I AM BUSY!”

Xander gulped, but opened the door to the lab anyway. “Uh… Doc? Mighty sorry to interrupt -- I’ll be in an’ out in a jiffy, I promise.”

“Engineer?” Medic’s eyebrows rose. “... Very well. Come inside and shut zhe door behind you, bitte schön. I can spare a moment -- just for you, mein Kumpel.”

This was definitely a welcome surprise. Engineer was one of the mercenaries he saw the least. Perhaps other than Soldier and, more recently, Spy. As one of the few men on the base with any sort of higher education, Medic tended to welcome any conversation with him, despite the fact that he clearly made the man nervous. Medic tended to make everyone nervous. Not that he had any idea why -- it was just a part of his reality that he’d come to accept over the years.

As Xander slowly and cautiously made his way towards the gruesome scene, Medic busied himself with carefully cutting Sniper’s massive kidneys free of their fleshy prison. “So… To vhat honor do I owe zhis rare visit, Engineer?”

“Well…” Xander tried to choose his words carefully, while making sure not to stare too long at how the German scientist was wrist deep inside of Sniper’s abdomen. “Nothin’ much, Doc. Like I said, I wanna let y’all get back to… whatever it is you’re doin’ -- I was just wonderin’ if I could borrow a few more books of yours.”

“My library is quite extensive, as I’m sure you know. You’re going to have to be more specific,” Medic replied, casually tossing Sniper’s displaced intestines back into his body. Seemed his kidneys had gotten entangled as they rapidly grew in size. It was amazing he’d lasted as long as he did.

Xander rubbed the back of his head, wracking his brain for an explanation. “Well, I was hopin’ you might have some books on physical therapy an’ whatnot? Y’see, I’m not as young as I used to be, and my trick knee’s been acting up, so I was thinkin’--”

Medic’s head jerked up as suddenly and unnaturally as if he was a puppet attached to strings. Wild eyes turned to appraise the stocky Texan like a ravenous dog eyeing a dropped steak. Xander cursed under his breath and backed away slowly with his hands raised in surrender. Medic slowly rose to his feet, spectacles glinting with an unholy light as he approached. Sniper mouthed the word, “RUN,” and God, he wished he could have. But unfortunately, Medic was probably the only person who could help him. Again.

“Oh, no. No, no. N-Now Doc,” he said slowly. “Let’s not get any funny ideas, yeah? I’m. Fine.”

“You are sure?” Medic asked, mouth practically watering, eyes eagerly scoping for any sign of weakness. His fingers twitched with anticipation. “If zhat knee is bozhering you, I could easily just--”

“NO,” Xander asserted firmly. “No surgery, Doc. I don’t need it -- my knee’s perfectly fine -- I’m just gettin’ old is all.”

“But Engineer…” Medic’s voice was basically nothing more than a throaty growl of a whisper as he eagerly pressed forward. “I could easily -- EASILY -- turn back zhe very hands of time! I could make you… reborn.” His voice steadily increased in volume and tempo as he grew more animated. “You could very well never have to feel zhe morning sting of a stiff neck or an ache in your back again! Your knees and arms moving as if zhey vere parts of a vell oiled machine! Aches! Pains! Stiffness! Popping and clicking! GONE! I could gift you zhe FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH!”

“No thanks,” Xander replied as calmly as he could with his back pressed up against the far wall and a crazy German screaming in his face about rebirth or whatever the fuck. “I just want the books, if ya please.”

Medic gave a long, terrifying pause, not moving to blink or even breathe. Xander wondered if he’d broken the man, with Sniper watching, bug eyed, from his operating table. Eventually Medic sighed and shook his head.

“Zhird shelf on zhe bottom right,” he grumbled, defeated, as he went to return to Sniper.

Xander let out a breath he didn’t quite realize he was holding. “Thanks, Doc,” he mumbled, hurrying over to the shelf in question.

“Ja, ja, vhatever,” Medic sighed, sticking his freshly harvested kidneys in the refrigerator as he dug around for a replacement.

Engineer made sure to grab what he needed as quickly as he could, and after a cursory glance through the pages to ensure they were in English, he sped out of the lab in a flash. Medic sat next to Sniper with his tray of ill-gotten animal body parts, and adjusted his glasses with another terrifying grin.

“Tell me, Herr Sniper… How do you feel about miniature horses?”

--

The past few days were admittedly pretty difficult for the unlikely duo. Xander needed a bit of time to detox and Cameron helped him clean up the mess of alcohol bottles littered around the room. Xander even returned the crate of tequila bottles back in the kitchen when the kid begged him to -- though Cameron secretly suspected he’d stashed a few away. But at least he wouldn’t have as much temptation to overindulge when he was feeling upset. Cameron was thankful Xander trusted him enough to listen to his advice at least.

Now there was nothing to do but wait for Xander to get back with Medic’s books. Thankfully, now that he was feeling a bit more stable, he was able to cook real food for Cameron again. And boy, was the kid glad for it. He didn’t seem to think of himself as much of a cook, but Cameron thought that was bullshit. He was busy chowing down on some chalupas Engie made for lunch right before leaving with not much more than a crockpot, some beans, and a hunk of pork he’d let simmer overnight. To the kid, it might as well have been magic.

He was just finishing up when the stocky Texan returned with his haul of books. Cameron shouldn't have been surprised by the show of effortless strength after seeing his BLU counterpart packing up and moving out with a full level three sentry in tow. But still, he swore he felt the room shake when Engie dropped the stack of heavy-looking books on his work desk.

"Uh… Wow." Cameron blinked. "All that's supposed to just be about physical therapy and shit?"

"Yeah, mostly," Xander replied, patting one of the spines. "Gonna have to try my best to take all the notes I can before Doc wants 'em back. Shouldn't be too hard, for me, though. I'm technically a 'doctor', m’self," he remarked with a chuckle. Not THAT kind of doctor, really, but still. If all those years in college taught him one thing, it was how to speed read and take notes.

Cameron bounced a bit in his bed, obviously excited for the future. "And THEN I'll get to run again, right? You'll help with that?" He could barely believe that his freedom was only a few dusty old books away.

Xander shot him a sympathetic look and sighed, rubbing the back of his head. "Look, uh… Cameron. I want you to understand what's in store for ya here. Learnin' how to walk again… It's not gonna be quick. It's not gonna be easy. And… It's going to hurt. A lot. But you gotta trust that I know what I'm doin', alright?" A sigh. "And even after all the work we put into it, it'll prob'ly never be perfect. You might need a cane or a helper for the rest of your life, and there ain't really nothin' I can do about that. The chance you'll be able to run again, well… Well, it’s lookin’ mighty slim."

Cameron's smile faded a bit, and he gave a look of muted disappointment. "Oh…" He tried cracking a faint smile. "Well… If it’s the best I’ve got, I’ll take it. I'll be sure to work hard, even if it gets tough, alright? After all…" He grinned brightly, puffing his thin chest out with pride. "It'll all be worth it to come home and see my ma and brothers again!"

Xander's frown just deepened a bit. "Er… That's the other thing, Cameron. There ain't no way you can go back home to see your family again. Ever."

Cameron's jaw dropped with shock. "S… Say WHAT?! Why the fuck not?!"

Xander shook his head. "Just think about it, kid. That snake already knows all about your mama, and I'd bet anything that She knows about her, too," he replied, pointing ominously towards the ceiling. "If we were to up and disappear, Boston’s the first place they'd look. Same with my hometown, too. We can't ever go back. Sorry, kid… It's just the honest to God truth."

Cameron exhaled carefully as he dragged his hand down his face in disbelief. He couldn’t help but recall the last time he saw her. She'd hugged him tight and told him to come back safe. He hadn't known then that it would be the last time he ever saw her… In fact, it still didn't feel quite real. When he was back in that cellar rotting in the dark, sometimes the only thing that kept him going was imagining her holding him tight again and saying things would be okay…

He tried to discreetly wipe at his eyes as he averted his gaze. "Alright, fine. I get it. But still…" He looked up at Xander again, eyes slightly bloodshot. "If we can't go back to my home and we can't go back to yours… Then where CAN we go?"

"Mexico, son," Engie sighed, pulling up a seat. “I gotta friend in Guadalajara that owes me a favor or a dozen. That’s where we’ll go.”

Scout's jaw dropped. "N… No way! You're tellin' me I'm gonna have to learn how to speak Mexican?!"

"Spanish, son," Xander replied tersely. "The language is called Spanish. And yes, you will." He cracked a faint smile. "What, you didn't think all the books were just for me, didja? You gotta do some homework of your own, boy."

"Aw, jeez…" Cameron sighed. "Guess it's a bad time to mention I suck at school, then? I barely was able to pass English for fuck's sake…"

"Don't worry, kid," Xander chuckled. "You only gotta learn a few phrases, and I'll help you with your pronunciation. But I want you to be able to have a fighting chance in case we… ever get separated. I gotta plan for all possibilities, y’see. And even that might not be enough." He rubbed the back of his neck with discomfort. “... And even that might not be enough when all’s said and done… Lordy, I hope that it is.”

“Hey…” Cameron sat up a little, hoping to catch the world weary mechanic’s eyes. “Xander, seriously. You’re one of the smartest guys I’ve ever met. If anyone can get us out of this mess, it’s you. I’d bet anything on that.”

“Aw, shucks…” Xander chuckled. “I hope you’re right, kid.” He stood up, handing Cameron a worn English to Spanish dictionary, a pencil, and a workbook he’d found in the library. “Try gettin’ through the first five pages if ya can, and then you can kick back and read all the bonk boy ya want. I’ve got some studying up to do,” he remarked, tousling the kid’s short, honey blond hair.

Cameron swatted him away, laughing. “Yeah, yeah. Beat it, old man.” He settled down, nibbling idly on the wood of the pencil as he buckled down to finish his task. Xander carried the rest of the stack of books back to his room, and sighed, fishing out an old pen and composition book from his desk. Time to get to work.
>> No. 16405
WAIT DO WE HAVE ACTUAL UPDATES HERE?! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA?!?!?
>> No. 16406
Hello, the overexcited Anon here! Having actually READ these last three posts through, I am absolutely in love with every scene where Medic appears. Having him on the "screen" is just pure joy to read, just like it was back then when Engie first visited him in your story.

Another thing, I do hope we haven't seen the last of our wonderful asshole Spy. I hope we'll be seeing him in the "near" future again (whenever THAT will be, ahahah!), my money (and hopes) is on him catching Engineer with the books and figuring out their plan.

So yeah, that's about that. Thank you for the update, too bad this place is so friggin' dead you aren't getting the praises your work deserves. Please keep it up!
>> No. 16407
Hello, anon!!! I can't believe the timing of your comment. I legit just finished the next installment today after nearly another year of nothing. I just got possessed to finish this chapter yesterday out of nowhere. Funny how things go, huh? :p

I won't say too much about what's in store for the future, but I will confirm that this is NOT the last time we'll hear from Spy. That's all. ;P

---------------------------

"Try it again, Cam. Practice rolling your R’s a bit more. El perro de san Roque no tiene rabo, porque Ramón Ramirez se lo ha robado.”

“Ugh, okay…” Cameron let out a slow exhale, trying to keep his shoulder blades flat on the bed as Xander gently pressed his knees to one side, resulting in a lackadaisical supine twist. After practicing rolling his tongue a few times, he gave the tongue twister another shot, trying to be mindful about his stretches and mindful about his pronunciation at the same time.

The little workshop had steadily transformed into something more accessible for Cameron to navigate through. Metal railings had been bolted to all the walls and welded to the bars of Cam's little cell. The door of which was frequently kept open so that he could wander about when he wanted, and get some exercise in, though he usually needed more help than the railing provided.

It also had a few touches to make it feel a bit more like home as well, with posters of famous bands like The Temptations and Creedence Clearwater Revival up on the walls. Xander had even moved his old record player to the room, so that it could provide some nice ambient music for the kid.

Ringo Starr's voice filtered through the record player, singing softly to the tune of a pleasant little ditty. "What do I do when my love is away? (Does it worry you to be alone?) How do I feel by the end of the day? (Are you sad because you're on your own?) No, I get by with a little help from my friends… Mm, get high with a little help from my friends… Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends…~"

"Cam, you gotta loosen up a bit, son," Xander gently reminded, sensing the boy tensing up under him. "Breathe through it; we've still got a lotta ground to cover."

Cameron groaned, covering his eyes with his arm. "I'm tryin', man, I'm tryin'," he whined, trying to keep his back flat.

Xander paused, taking a close look at Cameron's strained expression. His face was as red as a tomato, teeth gritted… "Alrighty, how's about this. Let's take a little break for now, huh? Getcha batteries recharged, so to speak."

"Oh thank Christ," Cameron sighed, going limp as Xander released him and got up to turn the record off. "I can't feel my fuckin toes anymore -- or anything above the neck, for that matter. If I cram any more Spanish I'll forget my fuckin' name at this rate!"

Xander chuckled as he poured them both some southern style sweet tea and then rolled up a set of blueprints into his large hands. "Don't sweat it, Half-Pint. It'll get easier after a while. You're doing great," he commended, handing over the filled glass.

“Yanno, you’re really fuckin’ good at this whole speaking another language bullshit. Where’d you learn how to do that, huh?” he asked, taking a sip of his drink to soothe his raw throat.

Xander shrugged a little, kicking his legs up on his desk as he relaxed with his own glass. “My momma taught me. She spoke it a lot around the house, and I kinda picked it up as a young’un. Her entire side of the family moved up from Mexico, in fact.”

Cameron’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head. “N… No way. I never woulda guessed! You speak English so good, though!”
The man had to pause and rub at his eyes a moment. “... Cam. That’s ‘cause I grew up speakin’ English, too. It ain’t a hard concept.”

“No kiddin’...” Cameron sipped at his drink thoughtfully, relishing how sweet Xander had made it. “... I only knew one person growing up who spoke Spanish, and you could barely understand anything the guy said…” He swirled the ice around in his glass, frowning down into it. “... We used to take the piss outta him all the time and make fun of him and call him an idiot. Wish I knew then what I know now, though… This shit’s fuckin’ HARD.”

Xander nodded sympathetically. “That it is, Cam. But I’m here to help ya. And, ‘sides, I think it’s pretty fair to say that we’ve both come a long way from the people we once were.”
Cameron just nodded silently, looking down at his glass. “I wonder if that’s the sorta shit my granddad had to put up with when he first came here…”
“Oh yeah?” Xander quirked an eyebrow. “And where was he from?”

Cameron puffed out his chest a bit in obvious pride, grinning at Xander. “Italy. He moved to New York sometime after the Great War and had my ma there. Ma moved to Boston some time after she got hitched. Most of my relatives are still up in New York City, though. Spent a lot of summer vacations down there, arguin’ with my dipshit cousins about whether the Red Sox or Yanks were the best. Good times...” A deep sigh as he seemingly deflated, remembering the task set in front of them. “... Sucks that we won’t be having any more days like that, tho…”

Xander just sighed, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. “Well… I know it ain’t much of a consolation, but… I’m sure the two of us’ll make it up in spades, arguin’ about everything else on God's green earth.” He blinked, as if suddenly remembering something. He put his half emptied glass on the table and began rummaging around in his desk for a rolled up blueprint. “Speakin' of, I've been meaning to go over my plans with ya for a while now. So everyone's on the same page when it's go-time."

Cameron gave a small smile and a nod as the Engineer entered his cell once again. "Alright, Egghead. Lay 'er on me. What brilliant scheme do ya got cookin' up for us?” He gave an almost conspiratorial smirk. “Are we gonna fly out of here on a giant mechanized bird or some shit?"

Xander bopped him on the head with the rolled up papers, grinning. "You been reading too many comics, boy. Don't you think a giant bird might invite too much attention?"
Cameron swatted him away. "Hah, that's why you're the brains of this operation and I'm the looks!" He declared, puffing his chest out with pride again.

"Heh…" Xander shook his head with a roll of his eyes. "Sure, let's go with that. Anyways…" He rolled the paper out on the bedspread, his expression turning grim. "Let's get down to business. See this here, Cam? It's my blueprint for our new vehicle. The thing that's hopefully gonna get us out of this place."

Cameron blinked, looking it over. It was an oddly shaped little thing… low riding and pretty small -- about the size of a two seater with a dome-shaped cabin and little rounded enclaves where the wheels sat in. The front windshield just looked like a small, horizontal slot, the back windshield and the windows for the doors were nonexistent, and it didn't even have side mirrors or lights. Honestly, it looked like something out of a sci-fi movie more than a car.

"What's this for, Hardhat?" Cameron asked, puzzled. "Don't you already have a truck or somethin’? The Engie at my base did…"

Xander scoffed. "Yeah, one assigned to me by RED. I’d bet anything that it's bugged, and even if it wasn't, it's too loud and easy to spot to be of any use. If we tried escaping in that thing, the sound of it backfiring would give us away more n' 5 miles off." He shrugged. "Suppose I could fix it up if I really wanted to -- or scrub it from cabin to wheel cap looking for tracking devices. But I think startin' over completely would be the smartest bet. That way I can tailor make it to our needs. It's got four wheel drive, for one. And it’ll be bulletproof… Even if I ain’t figured out a way to make it rocket-proof yet."

Cameron tilted his head to the side, trying to make any head or tail of the odd design. "So… this thing is what we're gonna be getting out with? How's it even work? I don't even see a tailpipe on it."

Xander smirked. "That's because it don't have one, son. It's fully electric. That'll make it as quiet as a whisper when we finally make our escape. Its low profile also helps in case I can't get the main gimmick to work. See this here?"

He pointed at a small scribble on the side. "Few years back, I managed to reverse-engineer an invisibility cloak I took off a dead opponent. But it didn't turn out to be that useful -- the version I made turned out to weigh nearly as much as one of my machines. I'm guessin' I was missing one piece of the snake’s puzzle. But that weight won't mean nothin' to our little buggy, assuming I get it workin' right. As you can see here, I tried covering as much surface area with the technology as possible. Even the wheels needed to be mostly concealed if the illusion is gonna work."

Cameron was sipping his drink quietly, looking down at it all. "... So… If the whole thing is covered up with invisibility-whatsit, how the hell do we see where we're goin'?" He asked, raising an eyebrow. "Are we gonna be able to see through it, too?"

Xander shook his head. "Fraid not. It'll likely be completely dark in that cabin, aside from what light comes through that small opening in the front. That's because you don't really see THROUGH the invisibility cloak -- it just replicates whatever's showing on the other side, like an illusion or somethin'. But not to worry, Half-Pint. I thought of that, too."

He pointed to another drawing further down. "Radar system. It'll even be 3D, so we don't just know when there's a rock in the way, but how big it is and how it's shaped. If anything, this'll be even better for us, because we won't have to worry about lighting our way to be able to see."

“So, wait… I still don’t get it,” Cameron cut in. "How exactly are we gonna make it out of here, anyways? Aren't you guys on lockdown or whatever? How are we supposed to leave without tripping off some alarm or whatever and getting caught?”

Xander sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose as he got up to return to his desk. "… Sorry, kid. I keep getting bogged down in the details and technicalities and specs and whatnot. You know how I feel about these things. Here's what the escape plan is, as of now."

After briefly rummaging through his desk, he came back inside the cell with an old, worn map that was neatly folded into squares. In a mountainous area that seemed to be mostly devoid of any human settlement for miles, a seemingly random circle was drawn.

"See this, kid?" He asked, pointing to the circled area. "This is where the base is. And this…" He drew a bigger, looser circle around it. "Is the RF jammer our base has that prevents any radio signals from carrying. Everything within the range of the RF jammer is RED’s territory."

He nodded at Cameron, tapping the weathered piece of paper. "Security in this place is more concentrated around keepin' intruders out than keepin' us in, to be honest. I still need to figure out a path around all the security cameras without anyone seein' us, but I’d say our best bet for escaping undetected is to do it in the dead of night when no one’s really around to notice anything. Once we're out of range of the jammer, we're basically home free. We'll be gone and across the border before they can keep up."

Cameron nodded enthusiastically. "I getcha, I getcha! So the plan is that we wait for you to get done building the Invisi-Buggy or whatever, then as soon as it's done and I'm able to walk and know enough Spanish, we take off in the dead of the night and escape the Circle of Doom?"
"Well…" Xander laughed at himself. So much for keeping it simple. "In so many words, yeah, I guess it is, Cam." He paused, looking down at the papers spread before them. "... Well. At least, it's ONE of the plans…"
Cameron perked up. "Oh wait, we've got more than the one? Let me hear it, then, Hardhat!"

Xander heaved a great sigh and looked up at the boy with a grave expression. "Cameron, I need you to understand just how serious this is. It's high treason, what we're doin'. I don't expect Her to take it on the chin." A deep sigh. "So… Let's talk about what to do in the off chance that I… That I don't make it out with ya."

“No way,” Cameron snapped immediately, his eyes narrowing. “No fuckin’ way! We’re gonna be in this together, man. There’s no way I’m gonna be able to do this without you!”

“Cam, that’s enough,” Xander responded, just as sharply. “Now look, buddy. I'm an engineer. And engineers build contingency plans. There ain’t no tellin’ what’ll happen between now and when we’re aiming to leave, so it’d be irresponsible for me to not think of what we oughta do in case things get hairy, alright? So just listen.”

He pointed down at the map again. “Remember what I said about that RF jammer? I’ll be installing a portable two-way radio inside the buggy that you can carry on your back if need-be. If you manage to get out of here by yourself, make sure you’re well clear of the RF jammer’s radius, and call BLU for help. Don’t worry about gettin’ to Mexico or any of that nonsense.”

"Go back to BLU?" Cameron gasped. "But… why?"

"It makes no sense runnin' off to a country you don't know with a language you don't speak and pissing off the entirety of BLU and the damn witch off. Go back to BLU and don't mention nothin' about me helping you, ya hear? Say you stole all this stuff and escaped on your own. They'll likely take you in, and you won't have to worry about being on the lam for the rest of your life. At least that way, you’ll get to go back to your family once all of this is all over..."

At the boy's lingering expression of discomfort, Xander's face softened a bit. "Listen… I ain't gonna go without a fight, alright? We've both been through too damn much for me to just give up. But I just wanna make sure you're well taken care of… Just in case the worst happens. Alright?"

The boy sighed and nodded glumly. "Yeah, I get it… But so long as I've got anything to say about it, it's you and me til the end, pal! I'm not gonna let you go without a fight, either! We're go riding off into the sunset like cowboys on our next big adventure, and that's a fuckin' PROMISE!"

"Attaboy!" Xander laughed, clapping him on the back. "We're gonna fight for our freedom if it's the last thing we do. No one left behind. Just like the cowboys!"

He returned to his desk, pulling out his guitar for a quick jam session while he was feeling good. "Now how's about I treat you to another of my favourites, huh?"
Cameron settled in with excitement to listen. "Yeah, go ahead, Engie! Whatever you're in the mood for!"

Engineer grinned back at him and strummed a quick lick on his instrument. Something that kind of reminded Cameron of a music box his mom had back at home. "There is a house in New Orleans," Xander started in that deep, rich baritone of his. "They call the Rising Sun… And it's been the ruin of many a poor boy -- dear God, I know I was one…"
>> No. 16409
I kind of didn't know how to end this chapter, and I think it shows. Something I'm really struggling with atm is, like... The pacing of this thing. I think it always had pacing issues, as some have noted before, but I honestly feel like it might be a bit worse with these current chapters? At least back then, Spy was highly visible scheming in the background, and everyone was wondering what he's going to do. Right now, the principle conflict is coming from the whole plan to escape, but the chapters while they're getting ready for it are kind of just... Scout and Engie hanging out and getting to know each other a little more.

Do people like this? Do *I* like it??? I have no idea. I've been uploading these newer chapters pretty soon after finishing them to AO3, but I might hang on to this one a bit longer and see about uploading more chapters on here so I can determine how much or if I'm going to cut some stuff. I also kind of feel like it's clear I didn't really know how to end this chapter, either... So, basically, there's a lot of doubt involved with these decisions. I guess it's just what you can expect when you try to revive a fanfic that's nearly a decade old.

Trying to capture that lightning in a bottle again is really hard, especially since I didn't have anything really in stone about what I wanted to happen between the last chapter I uploaded back then and all the stuff leading up to when the next Plot Things happen. I just knew I wanted to show the dynamic duo getting closer and working on their escape. I hope I'm doing that justice these days. As soon as the rubber hits the cement again, though, we're in for much smoother sailing, I bet.

One last note. How does everyone feel about inserting more period appropriate music? I'm super into it, but idk if it's a little Much. If you're lurking and have an opinion (even if it's days, weeks, or months later), let me have it. I don't want to upload it to AO3 and then immediately after go "what have I DONE I've SOILED IT" days later.


------------------------------


The walk-in closet quickly became the most challenging arena Cameron had ever faced in his short life. Like the rest of Xander’s living quarters, it had been outfitted with new railing going straight down the middle on both sides. Since both of the handrests were close enough to hang on to and it was a straight shot, that meant it was probably the best suited to being where he could take his first few unassisted steps again.

That being said, it was anything but easy.

“C’mon, Cam,” Xander coached. “Use your core more. Stand up as tall as you can, okay? Don’t hunch over -- you got it.”

Cameron’s face was a red as a boiled tomato as he inched forward bit by bit, feeling his heart race and seat roll down the back of his neck. How the fuck was it THIS hard just to move forward a few feet? Had his muscles really atrophied that much during the time he was captured?

“Remember to breathe, Cam,” Xander reminded. He was focusing so hard on his task, he was unintentionally holding his breath. “Inhale… exhale. That’s it. Keep coming forward.”

Now Cameron was huffing and puffing like a steam engine, wincing as pain shot up from his bad leg. He bit back a yelp, faltering mid-step.

“Easy does it, kid,” came the grave warning. “Remember what I said before. Heel to toe. Roll your foot--”

“I’m TRYING. Fuck, dude,” Cameron growled out, resorting to a little hop to ensure he at least could keep going forward. Unfortunately, he landed wrong, and his grip hadn’t been secure enough to stop him from collapsing onto the ground with a curse of visceral frustration.

Xander scrambled by his side as quickly as he could come, trying to help the boy off the ground. “Holy hell -- what happened?” he asked, pulling on one of the Scout’s arms. “Didja lose your balance, or--”

“LET GO OF ME, DAMN IT!” Cameron screamed with little warning, shoving him away. “Holy SHIT, you’re the most fucking annoying idiot I’ve ever had to share a room with! You think I don’t know how to fuckin’ WALK?! You think I don’t know what to do without your fucking NAGGING?!”

Xander blinked, briefly taken aback. “Cam, I was just--”

“I KNOW WHAT YOU WERE TRYING TO DO, DAMN IT! SHUT UP!” Cameron fruitlessly pounded at the ground in a blind rage. “I fucking HATE this! All this fucking stretching and warmups and bullshit exercises, and I STILL can’t fucking do it! Fuck my GODDAMN LIFE!” He paused and sniffled a bit, rubbing at his eyes. “... It’s fucking hopeless, man… I'm not getting ANYWHERE. I’m gonna be hobbling about on crutches for the rest of my fuckin’ life, if I’m LUCKY. What’s even the fucking point.”

Xander just gave a long, exhausted sigh. He went back to Cameron, rubbing soothingly at the boy’s back once he found he wasn’t going to be shoved away again. “... Look, kid… I’m sorry, okay? I’ve been pushing ya way too hard. It’s not hopeless… You’re just frustrated, is all.”

With a bit of combined effort, he pulled Cameron back to his feet again, paying close attention to the way he winced when even the slightest amount of weight was resting on his bad leg. “We’re done for today. Let me help ya back to your bed and we’ll take some time to relax. Sound good?”

“Whatever…” the boy grumbled, too exhausted to continue his earlier outburst, no matter how he was feeling personally. He just wanted to lay down.

It wasn't long before Cameron was reclining on the mattress with a cold compress pressed against his knee to reduce the swelling in his knee a bit. He was still feeling a bit too sullen to talk, so he just stared at the wall.

Xander rubbed the back of his neck with a sigh. After a pause, he pulled out his guitar again, strumming it softly. The kid really seemed to like music, even if he didn't always feel like being an engaging audience.

He strummed slowly, closing his eyes. Thinking back to the days when little April was still in diapers and as fussy a sleeper as anything. How he’d used to sit beside her crib in his old rocking chair, singing to her until she fell asleep.

“Earth Angel, Earth Angel… Will you be mine? My darling dear, love you all the time. I'm just a fool… A fool in love… with you…”

It was always the same song for her… The one he and Jenny used for their first dance as a married couple. But when he played it these days, he always thought about his little girl, sucking her thumb and staring up at him with those wide, innocent eyes until they slowly drifted shut. He wondered what the two of them were doing these days… If they were both doing alright now that their pretty little life had been turned upside down.

“Earth Angel, Earth Angel… The one I adore… Love you forever, and evermore. I'm just a fool… A fool in love with you…”

Xander continued playing and singing, his mind whisked away to better, or perhaps simpler times. When the song finally reached its natural conclusion and he finally opened his eyes again, Cameron had rolled over again, and was watching him through the bars of his cage. In an odd way, it echoed his memories of little April staring up at her through the bars of her cage, and he felt a twinge of something strange tug on his heart.

Shaking off the strange thought, he smiled gently at Cameron. “Feeling any better, Stringbean?”

Cameron just shrugged and nodded a bit. His eyes were a bit red and puffy, so it came as no surprise when his voice came out in a soft croak. “Ma used to play that a lot growing up… Feels a lot like home.”

“That’s good, son,” Xander chuckled, continuing to strum idly.

Cameron watched him a little longer, eyes focused like a laser on Xander’s deft hands. “You’re really good at that, man… How’d you learn it, anyways?”

Xander hummed quietly. “Taught myself, mostly. Grew up with a love of music for as long as I can remember. Sang in my church’s choir, then picked it up to fill out the band durin’ praise and worship. I’ve loved it ever since. I always used to joke that if engineering didn’t pan out, I could always do the hard work of becomin’ a rock n’ roll star.”

The boy cracked a small smile. “Church, huh? You Catholic?”

Xander chose his words carefully. It usually didn’t take much for this to become a touchy subject for some. “Grew up Protestant, actually. Or, rather, in that sorta household. Can’t say too much about that these days, though…”

At Cameron’s puzzled expression, he continued, “Look, son… Being… ‘differently inclined’ as I am, I won’t lie, it’s led to a lotta doubt on my end. Gettin’ a higher education didn’t help much, neither. Course, I believe in the possibility that there’s a God… I just don’t know for sure, or what He’d be like. Does that make any kinda sense, kid?”

“Yeah, and it’s stupid,” Cameron shot back, eyes narrowing. “Of course there’s a God, dummy.”

“Oh yeah?” Xander asked in a sharp tone, bristling despite himself. “And just how d’ya figure, Small Fry?”

“Because He hates me,” the boy replied bitterly. “It’s obvious as anything. God exists and He hates my guts, and that’s why all this shit is happening. That’s why I don’t even bother prayin’ anymore.”

It made him think back to every missed Communion or all the times he scoffed at the thought of going to a confessional to ask for forgiveness when he was just a good guy who was just trying to have some fun. Of all the violent outbursts, all the vicious beatings he was known around the block for, of all the nights he spent out late making his Mom worry about him while he was up to no good.

Thinking back to his days in that cellar, he honestly wondered if it was all divine retribution. He wondered if God heard him at all back then while he was crying for help. Or maybe He just didn’t want to listen… It was all the same to him. He glared down at his useless leg spitefully.

Xander just sighed quietly. He always hated seeing the kid’s mood take a sudden turn like this… It was unrealistic to expect him to be peppy and upbeat all the time, but it was no less heartbreaking when it happened.

He shook his head. “I’m sure that ain’t true, Cam…” A smirk eventually crossed his lips, ill fitting as the moment might’ve been. “Sides, even if it was true… Well, sufficed to say, the man upstairs chose the wrong kid from Boston to mess with, yeah?”

Cameron snorted with amusement despite the dour mood he was in, and rolled back over to face the wall. Xander took that as a good sign and chuckled, strumming his guitar again.

“Last Saturday night I got married…~ Me and my wife settled down… Now, me and my wife are parted… I'm gonna take another stroll downtown…~ Irene, goodnight. Irene, goodnight…~ Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene, I'll see you in my dreams…~”
>> No. 16410
About the pacing, it's not distracting, at not for me. Not much is happening anyway but Scout learning to walk again and Engineer building their escape vehicle. I would lie if I said I didn't want to see Engie interacting with his teammates again (have Heavy and Demo just abandoned him altogether?) and I am just thrilled to hear Spy is going to show his masked face again at some point.

About adding song lyrics, I don't have an opinion about that. This is YOUR fic. If you enjoy adding certain things to it, do it. With Engineer it's perfectly understandable too since he plays a guitar. If you are into it, then go for it! Those who don't care about reading song lyrics can very easily skip those parts if they want to.
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