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SECRET SANTA BAG 2011 - FICS (36)

1 .

This is where the fics for the Secret Santa will go. Please refrain from commenting until I've actually started posting fics for organization's sake. There will be a mixture of clean fic and porn fic, so I apologize to the folks trying to avoid one or the other. It's just easier to keep them all in one place. I will begin posting fics after 12 hours of this posting.

As a reminder, the expression "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth" applies to the fics posted here. That means that this is the one instance that critique is discouraged on the chan, and unless there was a huge error, like it's not your prompt, gifts should be accepted graciously. Remember that someone worked hard to bring you something they hope you would enjoy and are likely very anxious about it, so refrain from making someone feel bad for something they did from the heart and keep in the spirit of the season.

Thank you all for your cooperation.

2 .

-Fire Talk-

The flames of my nightly campfire flicker beautifully in front of me, and I scoot closer to the welcoming flames, my knees almost sticking into the fire. I close my eyes behind the black lenses of my mask and lose myself in the glow and warmth of the fire. It's something I do most nights to rid myself of the stress of this war. The other teammembers sit inside the base and talk, or listen to an old radio, but I don't feel welcome amongst them. Nobody ever understands me, and when someone doesn't understand you, their willingness to make contact dwindles like sun in an oven.

Listening to a story someone is telling to you can be fun, even if they don't understand your replies. It's nice to feel wanted, to have your opinion appreciated. It's nice to walk away from a story, and have someone follow you because they want to finish telling you the story. I like being paid attention to, like every human, but the only moment someone decides to focus his attention on me is when I'm setting them on fire..... Nobody even notices when I walk away. I'm deemed unimportant during ceasefire, like a weapon without will, not worth paying any thought to when nobody is trying to kill you.

I tried being more close with my team, telling them stories during breakfast and making small talk with them, but they didn't understand a word I was saying. Demo was asleep 99% of the time, Heavy just threw me out, Soldier tried to make me do push-ups, Spy was nowhere to be found, Medic tried to stick a syringe into my neck, Scout cut me off and talked about his awesomeness and Engie and Sniper tolerated it. I kept my chattering up for about three months, following them around endlessly and telling them everything I ever heard or experienced.

I thought it was going pretty well. I thought Sniper and Engie both liked me a great lot, and that I was their friend. That is, until our Sniper finally had enough and ever so nicely told me to “piss off” and stop annoying him and Engie or he would give me a luke-warm golden shower and “cut me up like a dingo” before throwing me in front of one of Engie's malfunctioning mini-sentries.

I took it as a joke and laughed at it. Until he actually got out a jar of jarate and hurled it at me before drawing his kukri and stalking close to me. I took the hint, and the scar that came with it, and finally left them alone. I don't stay in the mess hall anymore and I only talk during combat. And during ceasefire I just take to sitting outside by a comforting fire, trying to imagine that I am someplace else, warmth and comfort penetrating throughout my skin and burning out all the un-pure feelings and memories....I should have overcome my fear of walking bare-faced. I should have stepped out of my charade. I should have talked, should have should have shouldshouldshould.........

.......I don't want to think about this anymore. I want to enjoy the night with a friend who does not leave me in the cold or threaten to cut me up. I stare into the fire again, and banish all thoughts, seeing them slowly burn in the flames and leaving my head. Fire is cleansing, growth, purity, and beauty. You know, I hope that hell really is filled with flames like all those books and movies claim. Burning forever in roaring fires-

“Hye Lad ! How're ye doin out here on yer own?”

I jump out of my skin at the drunken slur coming from right beside me, and in a flurry of battlefield instinct I throw my fist in the direction of the voice, missing our Demo's face by a hair. He dodges the punch and stumbles backwards with a startled expression on his face. “Wot in the bloody heaven is wrong with ye lad! I ain't no BLU!” I frown at his angry words. Why is he out here? Demo never showed interest in me before!.... Then again, he is never conscious during ceasefire. Wait a second. Demo never spoke to me before, he never went out of the base after ceasefire, and Demo never ever left his scrumpy bottle behind! So this Demo must be a-! “SPHH!!!”

I knew I should have brought my flamethrower with me instead of leaving it it my room. Spies don't pay attention to ceasefires, I should have known ! I grab a piece of burning wood from the fire in a wild impulse, and pull my arm back in preparation of a sharp stab. With a bit of luck that BLU Frenchman will catch on fire and become some additional firewood. Yes, that will work just fine to make up for his rude interruption of my fire-time!

“A what? What 're ye sayin' la-?! GET THAT AWAY FROM MEH!!!” The fake Demo tries to escape the viscous stab of my flaming stick by jumping backwards at the last moment, but I am faster, and I stab the burning stick right into the Spy's shoulder. I raise my makeshift weapon for a second stab, waiting for the tell-tale BLU suit to catch on fire and show me the color of betrayal beneath the thin disguise.

You can imagine my shame and surprise when it didn't.

For a second I stare blankly at the fire burning away at Demo's clothes and the dark skin showing underneath, the gears in my mind taking their sweet time to start turning. When they do I'm about ready to smack myself in the face with Soldiers shovel. This really IS Demo, trying to hit out the fire on his jacket! “FIRE!! PUT IT OUT YE CRAZY LOON!!” I drop the burning stick immediately, scrambling to retrieve the bucket of water standing beside the firepit, and I dump it over Demo, the small flames extinguishing with a sizzling sound. I feel my neck and ears turning red in shame as I struggle to find an apology, but before I can any further than “mmff” , my feet are swept out from beneath me by a rough kick, and I fall right onto my back with a wheezed muffle. “ARE YE DAFT LAD?! I'M YER BLEEDIN' TEAMMATE!”

Alright, I sort of deserved that. The red paint of shame and anger creeps further up on my face as a soaking wet Demo throws his burned jacket to the ground and wrings the water out of his hat. I mumble incomprehensibly at the ground and stand up slowly. “Ye better be sorry! Settin' me on fire fer no apparent reason...'s a good thing me jacket can handle a bit 'a fire or ye might have burnt me flesh right off the bone! Why'd ye do somethin' like that eh?!”

I wave my hands for a bit, and point at him, hoping he will understand my speech this one time. “Mf thfmft mff Sphh!” Demo raises an eyebrow in confusion, and I sigh, bringing an invisible cigarette to my mask and making a stab-like motion in the air to show him who I am talking about. I can practically see the lights flick on in Demo's eye.

“Spy? Ye though I were a sneakin' Spy?” I nod, and mumble in agreement. For a moment, Demo looks like he's about to get even angrier, but a moment later the annoyed expression on his face makes place for a slight smile. “Heh, well, next time ye Spy check, could ya just use your team-friendly flamethrower instead of a burnin' stick? I myself don't fancy 3rd degree burns an' all.” Demo plops down next to the fire, and starts squeezing more water out of his clothes.

“Mffu ffhm crrk?”

Demo sends me a confused look. “What ye say now?” I repeat my question, hoping I don't have to find a translator to get my message across. “I didn't understand a word there, so I'm taking a guess. Ye want ta know where my bottle is right?” I shake my head and try to handsign him my question, but he interrupts me with another guess. “Ye want ta now how I lost me eye?” I shake my head again in slight annoyance and mumble loudly, pointing at him and then at the ground. “Ye.... ye want me ta lie down?” I groan and shake my head again, repeating the motion, drawing a question mark in the air as well. “Ah! So it's a question eh ?.... Erm... That doesn't help an awful lot there....” I sigh behind my mask and grab a stick to poke the fire with. Trying to get Demo to understand me is clearly a waste of time.

“Ah wait! I think I got it! Ye want ta know what I'm doin' out here on my own eh? Am I right?” I pull my gaze away from the fire in surprise and nod quietly. “HAH! I knew I'd figure it out! I ain't as dull as ye all make me out ta be!” Demo laughs and also grabs a stick to poke into the fire. I spot a smirk on his face, and I can't help but suspect that he knew what I was asking from the beginning. I lean back, awaiting my well-deserved answer, but Demo only leans in closer to the fire to warm his hands. After a moment, Demo looks back with a look just as confused. “Why are ye starin' at me like that lad?” I can't believe it! He forgot answering the question!

“Mfhhr hhfrr frhm!”

“What are ye say- OH! Answerin' the question, of course! Sorry, sorry....I must've hit the Scrumpy harder than I thought!” I roll my eyes behind my mask, but an amused smile tugs at the corners of my lips. At least I didn't have to hand-sign him the question again. I half expect Demo to slur some stupid excuse for being outside, like ' I needed to feed the flyin' turles lad !' or ' Nessie's aint gonna like it if I ferget our revenge-date!', but the answer he gives me is surpisingly.... sober.

“Well, lately ye just seem... lonely. And yea, I do have times where I'm not drunk. I asked some of the others ta come along and invite ye over to the mess hall for a chance, but they didn't seem all too keen on it. So I figured I'll hold ye company for a change! I'll do my best ta understand ye, but don't hold it against me when I fail, aye lad?” He gives me a broad smile, but I have no words to respond with.

Demo actually noticing his teammates and trying to be nice, Demo not drinking or yammering about Nessie? If I hadn't seen him catch on fire without showing a BLU suit just a moment ago, I would be a 100% sure he was a Spy! “H-hurrm.....Whmf frrh?” He probably can't tie words to the baffled muffle that my mask emits, but the question in my tone is obvious, and Demo catches it.

“What? Are ye sayin' it's unlike me to be so sociable an' considerate?! I'm sociable all the time!” I roll my eyes behind my mask and shake my head, a mocking chuckle coming out before I can stop it. “Yer joshin' me lad! I'm the friendliest of all yer sorry mess here!” I don't even bother answering that, and I give him my most mocking glare. Demo gives me a not-at-all-serious glare and crosses his arms in denial. For a moment, I'm a bit afraid that he was serious, but then Demo speaks up again, his voice jokingly exaggerated and dramatic.

“All right then! All right! If that's the way ye want it..... I'm a no good unsociable drunkard! See what ye made me say there lad!? Oh poor me! Yer destroyin' all me self-confidence here! And I already had so little!” I can't explain why I find it so funny, but I do, and I chuckle quietly at his little act. Demo speaks up again, the serious note back into his voice. “I aint a liar though, I really did come out here because I thought ye might feel lonely.” I don't answer him.

“Now... Ye might wanna ask: why didn't I come over fer a talk ever before?” Yea, Demo. Why? You didn't seem to be so bothered with me sitting alone and being ignored before. Why the change of heart? The question hangs thickly in the air. “The answer is simple lad; it's because I didn't know what it really felt like ta be really alone before....”

A piece of wood in the fire crackles loudly, and for a second a dazzling dance of small flames and embers burst forth. Is he lying? No. I can tell when people act, I can tell when they lie, and unless Demo's acting skills surpass BLU Spies', he is not acting. Another question burns at my lips, but before I have a chance to ask, Demo answers it.

“Ye know what was goin' on between Jane 'n me didn't ye lad?.... Well....when Jane an' I terminated our friendship, I became aware of the immense loneliness that came with 'is absence. I just lost myself the best friend I ever had, and I had no one ta go to for distraction, comfort, advice or fun. I lost me 'flow' too for a good few months, as ye might've noticed. Got inta respawn due ta liver failure as well for a few times. But I'm getting' over it, and things 're looking up fer me. But when I looked out the base and spotted lonely you and yer fireplace jus' now.... I realized you are probably more in need of some friendly company than I ever was! So here I am.”

Demo looks at me with a somewhat sober and serious expression, clearly expecting either acceptation or rejection. I have to say something, I have to answer. Now or never. If I leave my mask on now, it'll be lost. If I don't give something, ANYTHING in return, he will turn around and leave me alone with my fire. I flex my hand and bring it up to my masked face, unable to prevent myself from shaking slightly. My gloved fingers run over the edge of my mask, and my thumb hooks beneath the mask.

From besides me, Demo stares at me with visible surprise and confusion. “Lad, what are ye-?” I barely hear the word over the blood rushing through my ears. I clench my eyes closed and prepare myself to lift the mask over my nose so I can speak, my hands trembling. My breath becomes shallow, and I can feel myself balancing on the edge of a tiny panic attack. It's not so bad. Only so far that my mouth I visible... Oh god. I make a distressed noise, and tighten the grip on the edge of my mask, preparing to pull it away with a quick jerk, when Demo suddenly grabs my hands and pulls them away from the mask.

“Ye don't need to do that.” I stare at him through my mask, trying to keep myself from hyperventilating. “I aint here on some terms, or on a contract. I'm here because I want ta be, aye? An'....If you don't like me here, all ye have to do is mumble, and I'll be gone, aye?” I nod, slightly dazed, and my palms sweaty inside my gloves.

The silence stretches while we stare at each other awkwardly. “Err.....Alright then! Unless ye say somethin' right now, I'll be stayin' here at the fire pit. Three.... two..... one.....”

I keep silent, and a moment of silence later, big grin splits Demo's face. “Haha! I knew ye'd say yes! Never had a doubt!” The tension is gone as quickly as it came, and I smile beneath my mask, giving him a thumbs up to clarify my mood about all this. Demo winks at me, or at least, I think he does. It's hard to tell when a person only has one eye.

“Well, thanks fer sharin' yer fire with me, Pyro, I'm sure we'll get along! Hell, maybe we can even figure out a new way ta fight the BLU's! What d'ye think lad?” I nod my head and mumble quietly in agreement, giving him an additional thumbs up to make sure he couldn't misunderstand. There's nothing I'd want more than work together with my team to create new weapons! Besides having someone to talk to that is. And now, Demo offers me both.

“Well I got the perfect idea laddie! 'S been in the back of my head ever since ye got angry and set the fridge on fire that one time, and I just know ye'll love it! Listen ta this:.... an explosive molotov launcher!” I let it sink in, think about it for a small moment, snort beneath my mask and laugh out loud. That is such a ridiculous idea that it might even work! “Alright, maybe that's not exactly the best idea, but what about this! Stickies filled with napalm! Aye ? I was thinkin' you could come up with some mix 'a flammable stuff that explodes inta flames when-!!”

Even though I can't really respond without Demo misunderstanding me, being talked to is different than hearing someone talk. And Demo sure is talking to me. He even leaves moments open for me to mumble! ….. One of these days, I'll take off this mask, and give a proper response to a question. On a normal day. I'll just pull of my mask, place it on the table, and ask; “Did I ever tell you about that time I set a forest on fire?” And they will listen.

But Demo will be the first one to see me, and understand me. Of that I am sure.

“- and then KAZOW!! Ye'll see lad, it'll-....it'll....a-ATCHOO!!” I jump at the loud sneeze, and shoot a concerned look towards Demo.

“Egh.... I don't think it is such a brilliant idea ta stay outside to talk about this while being all soaked like this... I'm gettin' back inside before I catch a cold! I understand yer need to stay with the fire, so I'll join ye tomorrow night, aye?” After I nod and mumble my good night wishes, Demo stands up and starts to walk away. I return my gaze to the fire, but after a minute of staring at the fire without enthusiasm, I start throwing sand onto the smoldering wood. It may be fun to stare at fire, but it's one burning hell of a lot more fun to have company.

“Mfhh !Hfrmm ffrhm!” I jog after Demo to walk with him towards the base, leaving a still smoldering pile of wood behind.

3 .

"My Hat!"
----

There are a lot of reasons why Sniper sleep in his camper, privatise, comfort, and the most important. No one bothered him or his things, but of course he knew someone, someday would try something and when it happen bad things were going to go down. But what would anyone want in this cramped camper? Yes it meant the world to him and everything in it had some kind of value to him but if any of it went missing at some point he might not even notice. But it seems that someone this bight and not so lovely morning wanted to go after something he would always, ALWAYS notice..... His hat.

Sniper groaned as he rolled over and blinked at the small clock on his bed and frowned at it as he saw what time it was, just great 11:28 in the morning. He had sleep half the day away, not that it bothered him to much it was Saturday after all, but still he had a few things he wanted to get done but now he might not get to much done at all.

"Bloody hell." he grumbled as he pushed himself up and rubbed his face. "Last time I do THAT much drinking." he said as he got up and started to move about to get dressed. Once he was done he moved to gab the one thing he was never without, but as his reached to get his hat he stopped and stared at the counter and blinked before removing his glasses. This couldn't be right, he may have been hammered last night, but he knew that he placed his beloved hat right there before going to bed.

He soon started to look about the camper and after about an hour and a lot of cussing later he came to the only conclusion. "Someone has been in my damned truck!" he yelled as he slammed the door open and started to storm towards base. Who ever thought this was funny was wrong, and he was going to show them how bad this idea of theirs was.

As he made his way to the base he started to think of who would be stupid enough to come into his place while he was sleeping and steal his hat. Medic was out first because the crazy fool had nothing to gain by getting the hat other then to get Sniper down there so he could do who knew what to him. Engie was out since the two had a good understanding of each other, ya don't touch his Sentries he won't bother your things either. Heavy was out well because that man no matter how hard he tried made to much noise walking, plus he had rocked the camper hard the few time he had come in. Solly was out as well since the man just couldn't help but yell where ever he went and plus he thought the Aussie was hiding dangerous animals in there. Demo wouldn't come in there would he..... No he was just as hammered as Snipes was last night and was still sleeping most likely. He knew for a fact Scout wouldn't come near his camper since he threaten to lock him in there and do things to him and would break stronger men then that little runt, and not of them would involve your normal kind of torture either. Pyro was just to friendly to steal someones things, he, she... it was also to nervous sometimes to want to get anyone mad at 'em. That left one person one Sniper's list of robbers, Spy.

It just had to be him since the last time those two had interacted together besides their normal rant of how bad the other was, was the up in Snipe's nest a few days before where Spy had decided to be lazy and sat just out of sight of anyone outside and keep playing with the rim of the shooter's hat.

"Why do you have to wear such a worn out looking thing? It's horrible." he said as Sniper tried to wave him off for the fifth time since he got up there.

"I've had this hat for a long time mate. Since I has younger." he grumbled as he lined a shot up and took out the enemy Heavy. He could hear the frenchman behind him chuckling and glanced over his shoulder at him as he arched a brow. "What so bleedin funny Spook?" he asked as Spy moved with a quickness all his own and snatched the hat off his head and started to inspect it as the other started to complain.

"I just did not know this dusty piece of.... what ever meant so much to you." he said as he slid his fingers along the rim and looked at it in a way that was to Sniper nearly indecent.

"Yea well it does." he replied as he snatched it back and put it back on. "Now if ya don't mind Spy unlike you it seems I have work to do." he said as he looked back out the window to get back to work. He heard Spy chuckle again as he got up and leaned over his shoulder and whispered into his ear.

"Don't be angry with me petite. You just share so little with me is all." he said as he kissed the taller man's cheek and turned to head out. "I will see you later tonight Oui?" he asked before he started the climb down not ever waiting for an answer since he already knew it.

That had been two days before and Sniper had barely seen the other since then because Spy had decided to bury himself into work and only tease him from the ground during battle.

"Where would that bloody Spook hide if he knows he is in a lot of trouble?" he said to himself as he started to look around base for his rival slash part time lover.

It didn't take the Aussie to long to search the base and when he could find no sign of either his hat or Spy he was starting to wonder if the frenchman had just fled the base all together. "That would be my luck wouldn't it." he grumbled as he climbed the ladder that lead to the attic and as he pulled himself up he frowned as he looked around and saw nothing at first. "Damn it!" he said as he ran a hand threw his hair and placed his other hand on his hip. "I'm gonna tear into the bloody mongrel." he said as he growled as well.

It was then as if by some odd chance he happen to look at one of the old desk that was stored up here and blinked as he looked at what was sitting on it, his hat. It wasn't there a moment go... was it? Walking over to the desk he reached out to pick up the way ward item but was stopped by an invisible force and frowned again as he heard a all to familiar chuckle.

"It was wondering when you would finally get up here bushman." Spy said as he slowly appeared before Sniper, leaning against the desk as he tilted his head to the side and studied the other a brief moment. "I take it you were in search of your hat? If so it was not missing." he said as Sniper growled at him and moved to pull his hand out of the others grasp, but found it held tight. "You know. I was going to leave a note in its place telling you I was going to burn it, but I decided against it. Instead I decided to let you look a bit while I thought of something to trade for it."

"Yea like what?" Sniper asked as he watched the other push himself forward as he let of of his arm and wrapped his arms around his neck and pressed close against him.

"Maybe some time just the two of us together?" he asked as the other just rolled his
eyes.

"We do that all the time mate." he replied as Spy reached up and plucked his glasses from his face and meet his steel eyes head on.

"Non, we sleep together some nights and then your gone before I am the next
morning. I was thinking maybe we spend some time together... during the day light hours." he said as he pressed even closer to the taller male. "I'm not even interested in the sex this time, I just want to be... near you." he said as he brushed his lips against Sniper's.

The other returned the kiss just as lightly as well and chuckled himself this
time. "Well if that was all ya wanted luv all ya had to do was ask. Not steal me poor hat." he said as he wrapped his arms around Spy's waist and hugged him against him.

"I was worried you wouldn't listen to me. After all you can be very stubborn at times." he said as Sniper just shook his head some and leaned down and kissed him again a he reached behind him and picked his hat up and placed it back on his head and took one of the others hand and started towards the exit.

"Whatever ya say luv. Come on and we can go find us some place to get comfortable and spend a bit of time together. But I'm not gonna promise I'm not going to punish ya for this little stun." he said as Spy almost giggled.

"Oh really bushman? Are you going to tie me up to get this done this time?" he asked as Sniper laughed low and shrugged.

"I might, but we'll just have to see how well ya behave on our way down huh?"

4 .

This post has been deleted.

5 .

Creative Conditioning

“And then I was all ‘THWACK!’ TAKE THAT, YA ASS-GRABBER!” Scout laughed as he told his tale to what few teammates remained at the dinner table. “That’s whatcha get for bein’ all queer and shit in my neighborhood! Nobody, I mean NOBODY crosses me! Am I right, fellas?” He grinned at them, expecting to see a similar expression reflected in their faces.

Medic and Heavy just looked at each other, silently communicating restraint.

Sniper stared down at his coffee. The fingers on his ‘#1 Sniper’ mug looked about ready to snap off the handle.

Engie just frowned. “Now, Ah think maybe ya skipped a part. Why exactly did you and yer buddies feel compelled to this, again, son?”

“Cause!” Scout replied, like it was obvious, “He was a fucking homo!”

“And?”

“AND?!” The junior balked. “And….he was a homo! A queer! A fag! Somethin’ wrong with your ears, Tex?” He laughed, thinking the old man must be slow and not understand JUST HOW homosexual the other man had been.

Engie still sat there, arms crossed; cool as a cucumber outwardly, but about ready to spit brimstone inside. “He ever lay a hand on you or your pals, son?”

“Well….no, but he was a still a freakin fag, man!” Scout was on the defense now. “I don’t know how it is in Buttfuck, Texas, but where I’m from, ya can’t just let those kinds of people get away with….with bein’ that way!”

“Those kinds of people are still people, Scout.” The Texan reasoned, “An’ they deserve to be treated like you an’ me, and NOT have their skulls smashed over a sidewalk, y’hear?”

“Fuck that, man!” Scout scoffed. “He was a fag. He had it comin’.”

Medic stood up, and looked about ready to do something heroic and violent, but Heavy quickly led him away, muttering diffusing phrases in his native tongue. Engie watched them go, and just shook his head.

“Y’know, Scout, not everyone here thinks the way you do, ‘bout…
those kinds of people.” He explained, treading lightly on the words, “And if you keep talkin’ that way ‘bout ‘em, might find yourself in the same spot that you and your buddies put that scared young boy.” He stood, taking his empty plate over to the sink. “Jus’ think on that for a while.”

“Pffft. Yeah, whatevah, man.” Scout stood and left his plate where it was on the table. “Just watch your back, hardhat. Never know when one of dem queers’ll sneak up on you.” He laughed, walking out of the mess hall and down to his bunk.

Engie washed his plate in silence, and came back over to get Scout’s. He saw Sniper’s tense hand on the long-since-empty coffee mug, and laid a soapy hand over his. “Y’alright there, Slim?”

Sniper just grumbled something that sounded vaguely like ‘Yes’, along with some other choice words for the departed Scout.

The Texan smiled, gently, and took the empty cup over to the sink. “He’s young. He’ll learn.”

“What if he doesn’t, Truckie?” Sniper half-turned in his seat, to look at the other man. “What if he just gets worse, and worse, and…”

“Ya really think he did what he said, Sniper?” Engie laughed in mid-scrub. “Boy like him, wouldn’t be surprised if he did nothin’ but stand ‘round and watch while th’others did all the work, if he was even really there at all.”

“Point’s not if he really did it. Point’s that he thinks it’s right t’do that sorta thing.” The Aussie frowned at the floor, as if it had been the one committing the offense. “Been ‘round too many people who think that way, Truckie. Seen too many blokes beaten…even killed, just for bein’ wot they are.”

The Engineer frowned, and dried his hands before he placed one on Sniper’s shoulder. “Hey, ‘s long as you got a feller like Heavy on your side, don’t think you got anythin’ to worry ‘bout with Scout.” He chuckled, “That big ol' bear could snap that scrawny lil’ city boy like a dry twig. If Medic hadn’t been here tonight, Ah’m pretty sure he would’ve.”

They both laughed at that, and Sniper stood, towering over the much-shorter Texan. “Thanks, Truckie.” He nodded, taking back the damp mug from him. “ ‘m glad I got a bloke like you on m’side, too.” The Aussie smiled, and raised his mug briefly in thanks, before making his way to his own bunk.

Engie smiled and went back to the sink. He scrubbed at a stubborn piece of macaroni that someone (probably that fussy Spy) had left on their plate, while he thought of what to do about Scout. His attitude certainly was a problem, and an Engineer’s job was to fix things, after all…

And who said he couldn’t have a little fun while doing it?


The week went on as usual – they fought the BLU’s, sometimes they won, sometimes they lost, but either way they all came back to the dining hall where the Soldier would regale them with his stories of how he punched Hitler in the face, shoved mustard gas up his NAZI butt, and swept Eva Braun off her feet. Because she was kind of hot, that’s why. You kids today don’t know what real beauty is. What was that? Get back here you little-

Engie just sat there, eating his dinner, and watching amusedly as Scout ate his dinner. He sat in the same spot every night– they all did – so Engie knew just where to install the device. Now all he had to do was flip the switch. The Bostonian shoved a big helping of potatoes into his mouth, and tried to talk shit through it at Solly. Three…two…one…

“MFFRFKKKERRR!” Scout screamed, spitting his potatoes out, and jumped up from his seat, clutching tightly to his left ass cheek. “What the fuck was that!?” He shrieked, rubbing the sore area.

“Vhat happened?” Medic asked, flatly, annoyed, as he wiped the potatoes off of his glasses.

“Somethin’ fuckin’ shocked me or somethin’. Jesus.” He poked at the area of the bench, but found nothing.

“Let me take a look, son.” Engie bent down, and stealthily pocketed the small device under Scout’s seat. “Nope, ain’t nothin’ there.” He shrugged. “Must’ve just been static or somethin’.” With that, he went back to his dinner. Scout did, too, but only after poking at the metal seat for a bit, until he was satisfied that the threat was gone.

Engie smirked into his beans. The trials were the best part. They really were.

---

Scout went to bed that evening to find his bunk tied up in a series of cords. Someone must have taken Ph.D. level courses in short-sheeting– that much was clear. He shouted out in the hallway that his team was a bunch of assholes, and slammed the door before he got to work, trying to undo the ties. Several he was able to just pull apart with his bare hands. Some he had to gnaw at with his crooked teeth to get them to come off. Eventually, he had to go ask Engie for help. The Texan played dumb to the whole thing, citing Spy as a possible culprit, as he cut the remaining cords from the boy’s bed, noting the thickness Scout couldn’t break through on his own.

He bid Scout good night, and took the cords he’d cut back to his workshop, leaving Scout to clean up the rest.

---

It bothered Engie that he’d had to seek Spy’s help in the matter, but the Frenchman was more than glad to install a secret camera in the ceiling above Scout’s bunk. No doubt he had his own monitor somewhere, and was watching, like Engie, as the boy bucked and writhed against his own hand, biting his fist to keep quiet. The Texan wasn’t watching it as a voyeur, but as a student. From this and the other sessions he’d recorded, he was able to find out just how Scout liked to please and tease himself- how fast he liked it, how hard, how long he lasted…
And Engie couldn’t wait to use that against him.

A full week went by, from the first ass-shocking incident, all the way to the last late-night showing of Scout’s sexual exploits with his own palm. Engie studied and studied the data he’d obtained, and finally, he was ready.

Scout was already asleep in his room when Spy picked the lock, and granted the Texan access with a sadistic grin. The runner cried out in protest when the rag was shoved over his face, but soon fell back into a chloroform-induced sleep. Engie swung the boy over his shoulder and made his way down the hall.

Heavy was coming out of the kitchen with his usual midnight sandwich, and for a moment, Engie thought he was done-for. Called a traitor, fired for treason, maybe even arrested…but no. Heavy just smiled, and let the Texan pass without a word.

Engie smiled. So far, so good.

---

“Mmm….whfff…hhhnn…” Scout mumbled as he started to come around. He tried to wipe the sleep from his eyes, but he couldn’t. He tried to sit up in his bed, but he couldn’t do that either. In fact, he was already sitting up…kind of. As he slowly regained consciousness, he soon became aware of his surroundings. This wasn’t his room at all. It looked like the Engineer’s workshop. And he wasn’t in bed– there was no doubt about that. The surface under him wasn’t even bed-like. It was just a series of cords, netted together in a sort of a seat. Cords were wrapped around his legs, and torso, too, and several kept his arms held aloft. “What the hell?” He mumbled.

“Well, well, well.” A voice chuckled darkly from somewhere in the room. “Finally woke up, Sleepin’ Beauty?”

“What the fuck? Hardhat? What the hell is this?! Get me down!” Scout thrashed in his restraints, but found himself tightly bound. He wasn’t going anywhere any time soon.

“Now, don’t go tiring yourself out, son.” The Texan finally came into view, holding something behind his back. “Gonna wanna save your energy.”

“What the fuck is this, you goddamn psycho!? Lemme go!” Still he thrashed about, eventually realizing that these cords were the exact same type that he’d found wrapped around his bed. “What the…? HEY! You’re the one who fucked with my bed!”

Engie chuckled. “That ain’t all Ah did.” From behind his back, he brought out a remote, and clicked one of the buttons. The television monitor on Scout’s left came to life, with images of the young Bostonian stroking his hard cock and fondling his sack with his other hand.

“…WHAT THE FUCK?!” Scout shrieked, eyes wide as dinner plates.
Another chuckle. On screen, Scout began to tweak and tug at one of his nipples. “Hooo-eee. Kinky lil’ feller, ain’t cha?”

Scout blushed, and found he couldn’t tear his gaze away from the screen. He really, REALLY didn’t want to look at the Engineer right now. His insides were bubbling with a mixture of rage, shame, and terror, and he felt like he was going to be sick.

“Wonder if’n you like it as much if someone else’s doin’ it.” Engie grinned, and Scout was broken out of his trance by a calloused thumb circling around his nipple.

“H-HEY! GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME!” Scout thrashed again, and it was now that he realized he was completely naked. COMPLETELY. His eyes went wide again, and he looked up at the Texan in terror. “Wh-wh-why-“

“-you bare-ass nekkid?” Engie finished for him, and went to the work bench. “Figgered it’d be a lot easier t’strip you ‘fore Ah tied you up. Save me cuttin’ up your clothes, too.” He came back over with two sort of gator-clamp-looking things, attached to something that looked vaguely like a small car battery.

“WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?!” Scout tried to lean away from it. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”

“Now jist hold still, y’squirmy lil’ eel.” Engie chuckled, and clamped the first clip onto Scout’s nipple. The junior cried out in pain and surprise, and, before he could trash away from the other, Engie clipped it on as well.

“WHATTHEFUCKISWRONGWITHYOUGET’EMOFFGET’EMOFF!!!” Scout shouted, twisting his body to and fro in a fruitless attempt to shake the clamps away.

“Settle down, now. Settle down!” Engie laughed, readying the battery device. “Now, this might sting a lil…” He grinned, and flipped the switch. Of course, it wasn’t anywhere near as powerful as a car battery. Hell, it hadn’t even been as powerful as that little shock to Scout’s rear in the mess hall. Still, the charge was noticeable, if the way Scout’s body went rigid was any indication. After a few seconds, Engie let him have a reprieve. “There. Not so bad now, was it?”

“….f-f-fuck….y-you…” Scout’s teeth chattered and he exhaled shuddering breaths as he tried desperately not to cry.

“Watch your mouth, mister.” Engie turned up the juice again- a little higher this time- and counted, “…three Mississippi….four Mississippi….” He counted, and shut it off at five. Scout was sobbing now, though the tears hadn’t quite yet started to flow. In all likelihood, the kid was probably just scared. Engie had tried the charge out on himself before, at double this, and it still didn’t hurt near as bad as Scout was making it out to be.

“L-lemme go, man…please…” Scout trembled, and looked, pleadingly, into the Texan’s goggled eyes.

Engie just smiled, and mussed the boy’s hair. “Now you jist relax.” He soothed, and readied his hand on the battery device.
“No…no, PLEASE, no…” He shook his head, protesting. Engie turned the dial anyway. This time it was much lower, and not really painful at all. It was almost…pleasurable, really. Scout hummed low in his throat, out of pure instinctual reaction, but quickly inhaled through his nostrils, and glared at the Engineer. He was still grinning that same goddamn grin, like he knew how good it felt. It made Scout worried, and he wondered what else the other man knew.

“That’s enough fer now, then.” Engie shut the battery off, and Scout almost seemed to sigh in relief. The Texan smirked at this as he clipped the device to a nearby cord, leaving it attached to Scout’s nipples. He pulled up a chair, and another remote.

“You an’ me are gonna have a little talk.”

“ ‘bout what? How you fucking kidnapped me and tied me up like some goddamn crazy fagg-“

The button was pushed, and Scout expected something like more voyeuristic videos. A loud THWACK and a stinging sensation lingering on his ass cheek certainly surprised him.

“OW! WHAT THE FUCK WAS THA-“

Another thwack, and another cry of pain. Scout looked back this time, to see the device moving back to the ‘start’ position. A large wooden paddle, on some sort of spring-loaded mechanism was behind him, positioned on a metal tripod, much like a sentry. A spanking sentry. Not all that effective on the battlefield, but here it had its uses.

“What the hell is that thing?” Scout looked back at the Engineer, fuming, his face as red as his asscheeks.

Another spank, and Scout growled at Engie, furious.

“Ah said, you an’ me are gonna have a little talk.” Engie continued. “Can’t do that with you runnin’ your mouth, now can we?”

“FUCK YOU, ASSHO-“

A series of spanks, one right after the other, until Scout’s ass was a blushing crimson, matching his face.

“Now if’n ya speak outta turn again, that’s what’s gonna happen.” He explained. “Ya got me?”

Sniffling a little, Scout nodded, still glaring hatefully at the other man.

“Good.” Engie sat back in the chair, relaxed. He had all the time in the world. “Now Ah reckon you recall tellin’ us ‘bout that lil’ story o’ yours. One where you beat up some poor kid, jus’ fer bein’-“

“Bein’ a fag. Yeah, I remem-“

THWACK.

“MOTHERFUCKER!”

THWACK again.

“Now what did Ah say ‘bout speakin’ outta turn, boy?” The Texan couldn’t help but smirk a little.

“Awright awright! Jesus!”

Another TWHACK, and Scout finally shut up, his lips pressed together in a childish pout.

“Now ‘bout that lil’ story o’ yours…” Engie paused, readying his hand over the remote for when Scout inevitably spoke out again. But he didn’t just yet. For now he behaved.

“Know a few people out there that don’t take kindly t’hearing someone’s bein’ treated like that.”

“Yeah, homos and queers!” Scout spat, and grunted when he felt the paddle against his tanned hide once again. He was learning, though. This time he stayed silent, and didn’t warrant a second paddling. Engie hit the button anyway.

“OW! WHAT THE FUCK MAN! I DIDN’T EVEN SAY NOTH-“ Another spank, and the junior fell silent again, seething.

“Sorry ‘bout that.” The Engineer smirked. “Mah finger slipped. Now where was Ah?” He scratched at the fuzzy blonde whiskers on his chin, in thought, for far longer than he really needed to. “That’s right. I was sayin’ how wrong it is t’treat someone that way.”

“Oh, like you’re treating me?! You goddamn fucking gay-as-hell rapist fag-licking…“ He fell silent as soon as he saw the Engineer’s thumb hover over the button, threateningly.

“Whadya know?” Engie snorted. “The boy can be taught.” Another chuckle. “That’s good, then, because you’re here to learn a lil’ lesson.”

Scout opened his mouth to speak, but shut up when the Engineer’s thumb threatened to spank him again.

“Ah want ya t’learn, Scout, that it ain’t right to be cruel t’others, just ‘cause they’re different.”

“But he was a fucking ho-“

THWACK, and Scout fell silent again, grumbling angrily.

“Don’t matter what he was, Scout.” Engie replied, in that professorial tone of his that made everything sound like a university lecture. “Whether he was gay, or a Negro, or a Jew, or just different from ya, he was still a person, an’ deserves t’be treated like one.” His thumb sat poised over the button, ready for the outpouring of protest that was sure to come. “Y’git me?”

“Yeah, yeah, I getcha, now lemme go!” He struggled in his restraints again, but stopped when the paddle slapped his already over-sensitive ass. “What the fuck, man! I said I understand, now stop spanking my fucking ass, you fucking queer-as-shit-“

Another series of paddles left Scout silent and panting for breath.

“Ya see, Ah don’t think ya really understand,” The older man continued. “If’n ya did, ya wouldn’t run ‘round, spouting words like ‘queer’ and ‘fag’. Wouldn’t like it if Ah started calling ya a Mick, wouldja?”

Scout frowned, and looked away.

The Engineer furrowed his eyebrows, and spanked him. “Now wouldja?”

“….no.” He mumbled, and got spanked for it again.

“Didn’t quite catch that, boy.” Engie smirked.

“I SAID NO. NO I WOULDN’T FUCKIN’ LIKE IT. YOU HAPPY NOW?! YOU FUCKING-“

THWACK, and Scout exhaled a shaky breath that made him sound like he was near tears.

“Y’ever been called that before, son?” The Texan asked, a little more gently than before.

“…yeah.” He sniffled, wishing he could rub at his sore ass right now.

“Don’t feel good bein’ called somethin’, jus’ because you’re different, now does it?”

“It’s not the same!” Scout protested. “I was fucking born Irish, they weren’t born-“

Another spank, and the runner fell silent once more.

“Now how d’ya figure they weren’t born that way, Scout?” Engie questioned, his thumb threatening another blow any second now.

“Because they…they just weren’t! They just fucking decided to be-“

The Texan hit the button again, before Scout’s words could dissolve into nothing but more gay slurs.

“You decide to be straight, then, son?”

Scout sputtered. “But…I…well, no…but…”

“So you were born heterosexual, then?”

“….I guess.” He shrugged as best he could in the position he was in.

The Engineer nodded, seeming content with the answer. “Then don’t it stand t’reason that they were born homosexual?”

Again, the runner sputtered, finally spitting out a vehement “NO!” to the end result of another spanking barrage, leaving his ass and his face redder than ever.

“Don’t it?” Engie repeated, to the same reply and result. This went on for several minutes, until Scout was trembling, and his chest heaving with sobs.

“Don’t it?” Engie tried again, a little gentler.
Scout paused, thinking about it, and then whimpered out an unsure “M-maybe…”

A small smile. Now they were getting somewhere.

“Ah think that’ll do fer now.” He set the button device down on the workbench, and went back to receive something else.

“That’s it? You’re gonna let me go?” Scout seemed relieved, but without cause. Smiling evilly, Engie came back to the runner with two rubber gloves in one hand, and in the other he held a small bottle that looked like it probably came from the med bay.

“The fuck are those for?” Scout raised his eyebrow.

SNAP went the rubber glove, first on one hand, then on the other.

“Hardhat? Hardhat, what the fuck are you doing?!”

The bottle was squeezed, and a generous amount of the medical lubricant – for Scout could read the label on the bottle now – landed in a large dollop on the Engineer’s hand.

“HARDHAT. WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU-“ Scout was cut off when the other man cupped his genitals in a slick hand.
The runner swore, and tried to thrash away as the Texan calmly and thoroughly lubricated the flaccid member. “Now jus’ hold still,” He shook his head, and chuckled. “Ain’t gonna hurt ya.”

“LEMMEGOLEMMEGOYOUFUCKINGFRUITASSPERVERTOHGODLETGO” Scout screamed and sobbed, wishing with every fibre of his being that he could kick the Engineer in the head right now, or that a bolt of lightning would come and strike down his captor. He didn’t even notice that the Engineer had stopped rubbing at him, and had turned on the battery device– still hooked up to his nipples– until the shock ran through his body again. It wasn’t a painful one, but like an electrically-charged finger tickling his spine.

Scout froze, silent and panting from the shock. It rushed through him again, and he gasped as it was combined with Engie stroking his cock with both gloved hands. Every five seconds that delectable charge ran through his body, while the stout Texan massaged his member into an erection.

“Fucking…wh-why the fuck….” Scout groaned out, trying to resist the feelings of arousal, but the Engineer worked as if he knew every curve; every vein; every little sweet spot on his cock and on his balls, and he seemed determined to exploit this.
Slick latex slid up and down the hardening young shaft, rolling back the foreskin to rub a calloused thumb around the head – Christ, even through the gloves you could feel how rough his hands were. More electric shocks went through his nipples, then his spine, then his entire body, all the way down to his cock.

“Stop…fucking…let go…” Scout gasped, his member hard and twitching against the Texan’s ministrations. “Fucking…pervert….faggot…rapist…asshole…”

Engie smirked. “Tell me somethin’, Scout.” His hand left the hardened flesh, and reached for the remote again. “Who’s ‘Davey’?”

The junior froze. How did he…?

Images flashed up on the screen of Scout stroking himself again. This time, the tape played with audio. Scout was moaning a steady stream of, “Oh god, yes, right there, Davey, right there, Davey, Davey, fuck!” before he released into a clammy palm.
He looked back at the Texan, shocked, unsure of what to say. The older man just smirked, and turned off the TV. “Now, you could sit there and tell me some lies, about how Davey’s a nickname for some girl you know, but we both know that ain’t true, don’t we.”

Scout just blushed, and turned his head away, thoroughly embarrassed at this point. His member threatened to soften from the shame, but the tiny little jolts of electricity kept him aroused and erect. “I never fucking…” Scout protested, “I….Davey’s just some kid I knew at summer camp! I don’t know why I was…” He chewed on his lower lip, shutting himself up before he said any more.

Something else was taken off the workbench, and the Engineer sauntered back, casually, with it behind his back. “Oh, Ah’m thinkin’ it’s more than what you’re lettin’ on, son.” He paced in front of the boy, slowly, menacingly. “In fact, Ah got a little theory. Ah’m thinkin’ the reason you’re so bent on hating homosexuals is ‘cause…you’re one of ‘em.”

One could practically hear the gears screech to a halt in Scout’s brain. “Wh-wh-wh…” He stammered, “WHAT THE FUCK?!” The runner thrashed again, angrily. “I AIN’T NO FUCKING HOMO YOU GODDAMN PIECE OF SHIT FAGGOT ASS-LICKING-“

Deftly, the Engineer grabbed the boy’s cock, silencing him with his own hiss. Quickly, he wrapped an extension cord around the still-hard member, tying it tightly at the base.

“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!” He shrieked, looking down at the cord with such a tight grip on his cock. Too tight, really. Felt almost painful. “GET THIS FUCKING THING OFF ME!”

Engie didn’t bother to respond, though. He just traipsed over to his workbench, picked up another item, and came back with it.

This was getting to be almost routine. Engie grinned, as he set the device down on another stand, like the sentry’s tripod, in front of Scout.

“IS THAT A FUCKING CHAINSAW?!” Scout’s voice cracked at the end, in terror.

“Used to be.” He nodded, attaching it, and plugging it in. The power source was the first thing he’d changed. Electricity was easier for him to control than gasoline, and a lot quieter, too. “Ah played ‘round with the speeds, and took off the parts used fer cuttin’, and put these lil’ babies on in their place.” He stroked a pliable little piece of rubber along the chain of the saw. There were several of them along it, in fact. Each one was small, and red, and…dear god they were fake tongues.

Engie uncapped the bottle of lube again, and began slicking each one up with the slippery substance, before slicking some more over Scout’s neglected manhood as well.

“Wh-what are you gonna…do with that?” The junior gulped, and tried to reel away from the device – again, to no avail.

The Texan smirked, and pulled the cord on the saw, revving it up. It moved quickly, like a regular chainsaw, but he fiddled with the controls, and soon the tongues moved very slowly indeed. Engie moved the stand and the saw closer to Scout, despite his protests, and watched with a grin as the dozen-odd rubber appendages began to lap at his cock and balls. You could tell from the look on the Engineer’s face that he was quite, quite proud of his inventions, and rightly so.

Scout gasped and groaned, his cock twitching under the soft, slippery, teasing tongues. He began to lose himself in the moment, forgetting the Engineer was there, almost entirely, until the Texan bent forward and cranked up the speed on the machine a bit. The runner moaned loudly, and bit his lip to stifle himself again. Grinning, Engie stood, and turned the voltage up on the device attached to Scout’s nipples – just a fraction, but enough to send him bucking and gasping in the restraints for a brief moment. He turned it down again, to let the boy catch his breath, before he sent him into another electrically-induced fit of ecstasy.

He repeated this several times, until he could tell Scout was about ready to come. Then he shut down the electricity, and slowed the tongues on his package until they were completely stopped.

“Tell me the truth, Scout.” Engie crossed his arms, ever the stern parent figure, even in situations like this. “Are you gay?”

“FUCK NO! I’M NOT A FAGGOT! I’M NOT!” he protested. “LEMME GO! LEMME OUT OF THIS THING!” His cock was throbbing and hard now, and in desperate need of relief.

The Texan seemed unaffected by the reaction, and just went back to his work bench. He didn’t want to have to use this, but desperate times and all that.

When he came back, he held in his hand a power drill with a rubber phallus attached to the end. He revved it a few times, delighted with the drop of Scout’s jaw, and the subtle, terrified, shaking of his head. Engie set the device down, for now, and set to work re-adjusting the cords that held the boy in place. When he was finished, Scout was still sitting up, as before – trembling, now, though – but his legs were spread wide, granting the older man full access to his hindquarters.

“Please, man…I’m fuckin’ beggin’ ya…don’t.” He choked out, eyes growing watery. Engie merely snapped his glove again, and lubed up his right hand. Scout pleaded and begged even more, and by the time the older man’s finger was gently pressing into his entrance, tears were starting to stream down his cheeks. The Engineer paid them no mind, though, and set to work prepping the Scout for his ‘drill-do’. He chuckled just thinking about the name.

Thick fingers – first one, then two, and then a third – slipped in and out of Scout, loosening his hole with every stroke. There was some pain associated with the stretching, but there was pleasure, too – especially when the Texan rubbed against a sensitive little bundle of nerves inside of him. All too quickly, though, those fingers were replaced by something much larger, and made of slick, lubed rubber.

Scout tried to swear. He tried to beg for mercy. A deeper, darker part inside of him wanted to beg for more, and this desire – voiced in absence of all other sound – came out as a soft moan. Engie looked up, smirked, and then began moving the phallus in and out of Scout, slowly, and carefully, with his own hand. He may have been trying to break the boy, but he didn’t want to hurt him.

The runner panted, and bit his lip yet again in an attempt to keep quiet. When the Texan hit a button on the drill, thrusting the false cock into him once, and hard, he cried out. Loudly, and not in pain, but a much more pleasured “OH GOD!” Blushing, he looked up at the Engineer, as if to say ‘Um, I can explain.’

Engie just smirked.

“Ya like that, did ya?” Without waiting for a response, he thrust it again, to the tune of another pleasured cry. “Ah guess ya do.” Another push of the button, and this time he held it down a bit, letting the device thrust, slowly, into Scout a few times, his swollen and bitten lips spilling forth loud moans with each one. “Reckon you’d even be willin’ t’let me fuck you proper, just to get off, wouldn’t ya?” Scout opened his mouth to protest, but was cut off by another of his own moans. Scout’s body began to twist and contort in his restraints, hips bucking forward unconsciously in an attempt to get some stimulation for his weeping cock.

Engie chuckled. “ Nah, ain’t gonna take you like that.” He continued, turning the dial on the drill, letting it thrust a little faster. “Y’ain’t been good enough for that, anyhow.” Though his feet were bound, Scout’s toes began to curl, trying to seek purchase on the wires that held him. The Texan grinned, and pulled out the remote for the spanking sentry. “Ya been a bad boy, i’nt that right, Scout?”

THWACK. Scout gasped, and shut his eyes as tight as they would go, blocking everything out.

“Innit?” Engie asked again, giving the boy another loud THWACK. The runner groaned, softly, and shook his head. The other man frowned, and began a rhythm with the drill and the spanker. THWACK. THRUST. THWACK. THRUST. On and on it went, until Scout was crying out loudly with every hit, his body soaked with sweat.

“Say it, Scout.” He slowed his thrusting, and stopped the spanker for now. “Say, ‘Ah been a bad boy’.”

“FUCK YOU!” Scout screamed, before the drill moved faster, fucking his tight hole with mechanical vigor, as the spanker slapped his ass over and over again. It stopped, and the drill slowed again, giving him a chance to catch his breath.

“Say, ‘Ah been a bad boy’.” Engie repeated.

Scout opened his mouth to speak, but no words came, as if he had forgotten how to speak all of a sudden. Another THWACK, and he managed to utter a soft, “…I….I….” but stopped there, and was spanked for it again.

“Ah been a bad boy.” The Texan repeated for him. Scout mumbled something incoherent, and again the Engineer hit the button, and repeated the phrase.

“…I…I been a bad…a bad boy.” Scout finally said quietly.

Another spank. “Louder.” He ordered.

“I been a bad boy!” Scout shouted at him, and this time was rewarded for his compliance with a jolt of electricity run through his nipples, and a twist of the phallus within him, placing the device right against his prostate. “OH!” He exclaimed in surprise.

“See? Don’t it feel nice when you do what I say?” Engie smirked, letting the phallus spin, oh-so-slowly inside of the runner, grazing his prostate with the head again.

“…yes.” Scout growled, quietly. One more spank, and cried out, “YES!” much louder, practically screaming the word over and over again when the Texan rewarded him with more thrusts and spins against that wonderful little place inside him.

“Ah been a bad boy.” Engie repeated.

“I BEEN A BAD BOY!” Scout shouted, immediately. He screamed in pleasure when the rubber phallus fucked him harder, and faster, and his nipples were shocked again.

The Engineer slowed the phallus again, and stopped the charge.

“What have ya been?” He asked.

“I BEEN A BAD BOY!” The runner screamed again, and was again rewarded for his obedience. “Please! Please! Jesus fuck…” he swore, panting. “Lemme cum, please…wanna cum…”

“What do ya want?” Engie smirked.

“I wanna cum! Please, Jesus fuck, Hardhat, lemme cum!” His hips thrust wildly, trying to buck the extension cord-cock ring off.
The tongue-saw was brought forward again, and revved up, the tripod raised a bit higher to lap at the boy’s wet cockhead. Scout groaned, long and loud, desperate and pleading for release. After a minute of agonizing pleasure, Engie slowed his thrusts, and moved the tongues back, away from the runner’s cock.

“Tell you what, boy,” he began, “I’ll let you get off, if’n you do one thing…”

“What?” He choked out, soaked in sweat and panting like he’d run a marathon with an elephant on his back.

A wandering, still-gloved digit traced its way up the turgid flesh, running along the sensitive vein that ran from the swollen base, to the tip, dripping with precum. “Admit that you’re gay.” He replied, like it was the simplest thing in the world.

Scout spat, “I AIN’T A FUCKIN’ FAG!” The gentle digit on his cock quickly went back to the remote and spanked him for his insolence. Quickly, Scout corrected himself, “I mean…I ain’t gay, alright? Can’t ya just lemme…?” He gestured down to his needy cock as best he could, given the restraints.
The Texan smiled, and gently stroked the boy’s member. The runner swore, and again pleaded for release in his euphoric state, hopeful that this time the other man would finish him off. No such luck. Again, the Engineer pulled away, and said,

“Admit that you’re gay, son, and I’ll finish the job.”

The runner groaned. “I ain’t gay, I just wanna cum! Pleeeease!” He whined.

“Well, then,” Engie crossed his arms and stood. “Guess you’ll just hafta sit there, ‘til you’re ‘bout ready t’admit it.” He grinned, and made for the door.

“WAITWAIT!” Scout cried out for him. “I…you can’t just leave me here like this, hardhat! Come on! Have a heart.”

The Texan just chuckled, and shook his head. He came back over to the boy, and brought out a third tripod base. To this he attached the drill-do, and inserted it back in Scout’s body. The tongues were brought closer, and the clamps on his nipples came to life with electricity again. The saw revved to life, and the drill began thrusting, hard, against his prostate. Scout cried out, louder than Engie had ever heard him, but he paid no mind. Again, he headed for the door.

“Y’all let me know when you’re ready t’admit it.” He grinned, and left the Scout to writhe in his painful ecstasy.

For about ten minutes, Engie ignored Scout’s screams, pleas, and cries of profanity. Sobs began to spill past the door between them, and the Engineer could just make out something that sounded vaguely like an ‘alright, I’ll do it’. With a cocky smile, he strode back in, shutting the door behind him. “Well, then. Got somethin’ t’say, Scout?”

The young man tied up in front of him looked even worse than before. He was shivering, panting, and tears ran down his cheeks, intermingled with the sweat already there. “J-just…fucking…stop ‘em…” he choked out, “Can’t fuckin’….take it no more…”

Engie wasn’t heartless. He turned down the charge running through the clamps into Scout’s nipples, and knelt to turn down the tongues and the drill as well. They didn’t stop entirely, though – they kept running to keep the boy teetering on the brink of orgasm.

“Now, then,” The Texan stood in front of the younger man with his arms crossed, “Ya had somethin’ t’say, did ya?”

“I….I…” THWACK. Scout cried out sharply. He hadn’t even seen the stout man reach for the remote. “I’m… ‘m not…I just…” Another THWACK, and the Bostonian exhaled a shuddering breath, his scabbed lower lip quivering.

“Come on, son. Ain’t got all day.” Another push of the button, and Scout cried out in anger.

“WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT?!” He shrieked. “I TOLD YOU! I’M NOT A FUCKING FAGGOT!”

A barrage of spanks left the boy’s ass cherry-red, and his eyes, dripping with tears, matched it. “I….” He whimpered. “Okay….I’ll…I’ll fucking say it if you stop!” He pleaded.

“Fair ‘nough.” Engie nodded. This was easier than he thought it’d be. He hadn’t even brought out the REALLY big guns, yet. Oh well. He could always disassemble that for parts, later.

“I’m…I’m not a fag, but-“ Another thwack, and he corrected himself, “I mean, I’m not…gay, but…but this…it don’t…feel too bad, y’know?” Engie wasn’t satisfied, so he spanked him again.

“Ain’t lettin’ up ‘til y’admit it proper, boy.” He explained, arms still crossed over his chest, sternly.

“But I’m not-“ THWACK. Scout was silent for a while, clearly wrestling with his own will. Engie spanked him a few more times to push him along. “…fine.” Scout said quietly, nodding. “Okay, fine, I’m…I might be a…a little bit…” THWACK. “ALRIGHT! ALRIGHT! I’M A FUCKING HOMO! IS THAT WHAT YOU FUCKING WANT?!” He shrieked, and prepared himself for the onslaught of spanks. But there weren’t any. Confused, the runner looked up at the Engineer, and was met with a seemingly satisfied grin.

“Now was that so dang hard?” He chuckled, coming forward to undo the extension cord around the boy’s swollen cock.

“Ohhh Jesus fuck…” The runner sighed, grateful to have that menace gone. “Please…fuck…Engie…need to…”

“Ah know, boy, Ah know.” He chuckled, re-lubricating his gloved hand. “Ah’m a man o’ mah word, don’t you worry.” Scout gasped when he grabbed his hard cock and began to stroke it, slowly. The tongues were turned back on, and lapped as his tip, while the drill was set in motion again, fucking him hard and slow.
The younger man gasped and groaned as the Texan pleasured him.

Finally, FINALLY he would get some relief! Suddenly, the Texan grabbed the base of his cock, hard, preventing him from tipping over the edge.

“Say it again, boy.” He smirked, not letting up on the squeezing pressure. The fake phallus inside still mercilessly pounded against his prostate, and the tongues continued to lap, teasingly, at his tip. Strings of thick, creamy, precum were pulled away as they licked him.

“Fffuck…” Scout groaned in pain, “Fine! I’m a fuckin’ homo, okay?” Another squeeze, another groan. “For the love of-JUST MAKE ME CUM ALREADY, JESUS!”

Engie chuckled. “Ya want me t’make ya cum, ‘s that it?”

“YES! FUCKING MAKE ME CUM, YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE.” He sobbed, hips thrusting forward wildly.

“Ya realize Ah’m a man, don’tcha, Scout?” A shit-eating grin was flashed up at the boy.

“Yes…” he growled, impatient.

“So ya want another man t’make you cum, is that right?” Well, now he was just rubbing it in.

“YES!” The runner shouted, bucking in his restraints like a mule. He was so close that it hurt.

“So what does that make ya, then?”

“A FUCKING HOMO, OKAY?!?” He shrieked. “I’M GAY! I’M A FAG! I’M YOUR BITCH, I’M A BAD BOY, I’M WHATEVER THE FUCK YOU WANT ME TO BE, JUST LET ME CUM, PLEEEEASE!” Sobs wracked his lithe frame.

Engie smirked. “Alrighty, then.” The rubber-clad fist began to pump him again. “Brace yourself, boy. Reckon it’ll be a big one.” A hearty chuckle harmonized with the junior’s moans and gasps.

“Fuck…faster…” He groaned. The Texan obliged, and Scout’s pants increased in speed, faster and faster, until…

He screamed with pleasure. His body contorted, spasming and bucking erratically into the Texan’s hands. Thick globs of semen spurted forth, and just kept coming. The orgasm felt like it went on for hours, and it was easily the most intense one that Scout had ever had.

Engie smirked, triumphantly, and turned off the machines once Scout had finished and passed out.

---

He didn’t remember being cleaned up. He didn’t remember being untied. He didn’t even remember being redressed and brought back to his room. But he did remember the way he had been treated. The things he’d been forced to say. And he wouldn’t soon forget them.

And he remembered who he was, and what he wasn’t. He was the Scout.

You didn’t ever cross the Scout and get away with it.

A week later, Engie ran into Sniper in the mess hall. “Hey there, Slim. How are ya?” He smiled as he poured himself a cup of coffee and joined the other man at the table.

The sharpshooter paused, and reached into his vest. A small envelope was pulled out, and he handed it to the confused Texan.

“Why’re ya givin’ these back, Sniper?” He asked, glancing into the envelope, to make sure it was the pictures he thought it was.

“Don’t feel right.” Sniper shook his head. “Can’t look at ‘im like that. Can’t…can’t look at ‘im at all, now, without….seein’ ‘im like that.” He pointed to one of the snapshots Engie held. The image was one he’d taken of Scout – tied up, unconscious, and practically drenched in his own seed.

“But…Sniper…” Engie didn’t understand. “Didn’t hurt him or nothin’. Didn’t change ‘im. You saw him on the battlefield today- he’s madder’n tougher than Ah’ve ever seen him.” He was right. The boy had been bashing in heads left and right. The poor RED team was practically afraid to come out of their barn, lest they face the wrath of Scout’s bat.

The Aussie shook his head again, and stood, taking his mug over to the sink. “Still weren’t right, what ya did.”

“What Ah did?” Engie balked. “Ah didn’t do nothin’ but help that boy see what he really was.”

“What if he wasn’t, then, mate?” Sniper turned. “What if ‘e’s just as straight as you or the next bloke?”

“He told me he was gay, Sniper.” The Texan crossed his arms, defiantly.

“If you had an extension cord tied ‘round my donger, and were paddlin’ my ass for hours, mate, I’d tell you I was the bloody Queen of England if it’d get me let go.” The taller of the two matched the Engineer’s stance, glaring down at him sternly.

Engie pouted. “Ah didn’t do nothin’ wrong. You’ll see. That boy’ll probably come back t’me, beggin’ fer more.” He chuckled, and picked up his mug to take it back to his room. “Ah’ll be sure to send him your way.”

Sniper watched him go, and just shook his head. His gaze went back to the pictures, still on the table. Quickly he cleaned them up. The boy had been through enough. He didn’t need to have the entire base see these, too.

One photo slipped out of the stack, and threatened to flitter to the ground. Sniper caught it, quickly, and rubbed his weather-beaten thumb affectionately over the image there. At first, the pictures were arousing, but now…now he just felt dirty from holding them. Ashamed. He felt like he should apologize to Scout, but the mere fact that he knew what happened would probably only hurt the runner more.

With a sigh, Sniper tucked the pictures back into their envelope, and back into his vest. He’d make a campfire later tonight and burn them. It was the right thing to do.

Engie was a little fuzzy on the details. He remembered talking with Sniper, and walking down the hallway. Vaguely he remembered a metal clang, but the impact was forgotten, save for the splitting headache that now remained.

The ceiling of his workshop was the first thing he saw. Then came the cords. He hadn’t bothered to take them down, yet, and was beginning to regret this now, when he realized he was tied up in them rather tightly. The chill in the air made it all too clear to him that he was naked, too.

“Hey, there, Sleepin’ Ugly. How ya doin’?” Scout sat there, on his workbench, grinning cockily.

“What in the…?” The Texan’s vision was still swimming a little, but he could see well enough to see who his captor was. “Scout?” A long pause, as the runner just nodded, grinning like a sadistic Cheshire. “…how in the hell did ya…”He struggled with the cords, trying to undo the amateurish, yet effective knots.

“Tie you up?” he finished. “Wasn’t easy. You weigh a ton, y’know that? Need to lose some weight, tubby.” He snorted, and picked up a remote. “Think I got a way for ya t’shed a few, though.”
A buzzing from somewhere behind the Scout was heard, and Engie looked over in the corner. Oh god. His eyes widened in terror.

“Yeah, forgot ‘bout that lil’ beauty huh?” The junior snickered, and pushed the large device over, in front of the Texan. It was a sort of a modified sentry, but it lacked the turrets, and had a very large rubber phallus on the end. Said phallus was currently vibrating steadily, as Scout tinkered with the remote.

“Now…let’s see. Which button did that- Ah! There it is.” He grinned, triumphantly, as the phallus started to fuck the air roughly. “Ooh, boy…That’s gonna hurt, ain’t it?” Still smiling, he adjusted the tripod so it angled down, positioned in front of Engie’s tight, unprepared hole.

“Now hold on just’ a second, Scout!” The older man cried out in protest.

“Hey, like I told ya, hardhat.” Scout grinned, darkly. “Gotta watch your back. Never know when one of dem queers’ll sneak up on you.”

The Engineer’s jaw dropped in horror as the machine inched closer.

“You been a bad boy, hardhat.” His thumb poised over the button. “A REAL bad boy.”

The button was pushed, and Engie screamed in pain.

You never crossed the Scout. Ever.

THE END.

6 .

"Small Traditions Yeild Big Packages"

By: Valiax_Gryphon

A cold wind blew over a snow-covered hill, yielding a bitter biting wind on any unfortunate soul that stood at the right moment in its wake. Unfortunately, that soul was RED Medic.

The German's harden face winces slightly to the freezing wind and stray flurries but managed to keep his composure as he stood around listening for footsteps crunching the frozen landscape. His eyes shifted slowly, hot steamy breath exiting his nostrils in dragon-esque fashion. With his bonesaw in hand, the only sounds he heard was the flapping of his coat skirt, his breath, and the wind.

Without warning, he was greeting to a all familiar sound from behind and reacted out on gut instinct to swing around. His saw swung before clanking against the edge of a knife. He struggles a bit starring down into those cold eyes of BLU Spy with a sinister grin on his frozen lips. The two shoved each other away, holding their weapons out as if to duel.

"You're getting better, docteur! A moment to late and it 'ould of been Respawn for you." The Spy chuckled. The Medic said nothing, only to keep his distance from the rogue. "Too cold to say anything? Come now, just lay down your weapons and walk away!" He taunts, chuckling before taking a drag of his cigarette.

The Medic suddenly charged forward, a look of determination on his face as weapons clanked back and forth. A swing here, a thrust there. The Spy managed a swipe, cutting the other on the chin. Medic cried out before backing up and rubs the wound with a gloved hand. Shaking a few drops off to the snow, the healer returns to the attack as if unfazed. All the BLU Spy did was laugh.

"You could never hope to win, monsieur! I have you beat by the edge of a¬-" The enemy taunted, only to stop mid-sentence as the light behind him suddenly turned to shadow. Oh, he knew deep down what that meant, every one knew a Medic usually was never truly left alone. The man lets out a squeak as his neck as snatched by the hand of who else; Heavy.

"Tiny baby Spy has some nerve! Always picking on Medic! I am going to enjoy killing you... and killing you and killing you!" The Russian grins, squeezing the man's windpipe as he struggled.

"NEIN!" Both gazed up, starring at Medic. "Heavy... let go. He's mine. I have a bone to pick und dissect vith him."

Slowly, Heavy complies allowing the Spy to tumble to the ground on his knees. He coughs a few times before managing to let loose a chuckle. "You always needed 'elp, docteur. Tell me can you fight without your walking meatsheild!?" He laughs only to see the jagged rusted blade of the bonesaw, his image reflecting off the side.

The Spy never has time to look up before Medic chops away at his neck, squirting blood over the snow. "I don't need help to finish YOU off!" He shouts as he cleaves away at the now dead spy, hacking away till his coat and boots were slain with the man's blood.

"RED MEDIC HAS GAINED REVENGE OVER BLU SPY!" The Announcer's voice boomed over the speakers, snapping Medic out of his small rage. He gets up, sighs some and adjusts his glasses as if never having the anger moment.

"Ja, right.. Now. Off to capture?" He asked Heavy, clipping his bonesaw to his belt and pulls out the medigun.

Things certainly were heating up at Viaduct. Despite a small Winter snowfall, the mercenary teams continued on their way to capture the lone control point. Everyone was out for blood and for good reason after a flyer was left on each team's Respawn rooms respectfully. The winning team would be allowed to 'celebrate' the holidays with a small party of sorts while the losing team had to scrub toilets and other nasty things at the training facility warehouse not too far from the territory.

RED Team continued to fight against their enemy, keeping the battle at a close standstill. If they didn't recapture the control point soon the result would be regrettable, especially for Medic who would have to endure Soldier's almost nonstop spouting of how it was somehow his fault the team lost or how he "wasn't doing his job", etc. Most of the time the man ignored it and went along but there were days he didn't want to hear it and today was one of them.

"Sentry up thar!" Scout scouts to the duo as Heavy and Medic lingered back to collect an ubercharge. Fueled up on Bonk, the runner darts ahead providing a distraction for the sentry long enough for their Spy to run up with a sapper. A bit too slow unfortunately. No sooner had the espionage placed the sapper down, he was blown to tiny giblets by the BLU Soldier, their Engineer quickly smacking away the Spy's device till it laid crumpled on the ground useless.

Course distracted by killing the Spy, the BLU would find the blunt impact of a sandman smack him in the jaw. Blood and a tooth flew off, as Scout continued to beat the living pulp. All in a day's work. "Hey look at me! Look at me!" He boasts only to be blown away by rockets.

"Arugh." Medic groans as he follows behind Heavy, annoyed at Scout's stupidity to incoming danger from behind. "Alvayz ze same zhing. I svear my skill is being vasted on zhis team!" He complains.

"Da, is not Doktor's fault team is stupid sometimes. Holidays will be better, I promise you!" Heavy's assuring voice replied as he grins.

The German huffed at that notion. So everyone gets to go home for the holiday, but he would be stuck at the base, a mountain of paperworks and stuff in need to be reported to HQ, feed and clean the birdcages... the list went on in his mind. Smissmas wasn't a time of pleasure and delight, it was downright miserable.

"Vell I'm sure of it. Come, let's capture ze last point and finish for ze day." Medic pushed onwards, Heavy following alongside him.

The BLUs didn't give up easily, fighting as mad dogs for the final control point before the round ended. Just as the first wave appeared they were met with the fury of Heavy's minigun blowing holes through the bodies like Swiss cheese. The big man laughed at the carnage while still cutting through. Medic eyed his ubercharge meter and just as the other stronger REDs came on the scene as aid he shouts to Heavy, "I AM FULLY CHARGED!"

"Charge now Doktor!" Heavy's battle cry roared through the buzzing of machines and screams.

The Medic laughed maniacally, blasting the pair in a heat of red uber. Now they were invincible, taking on the other Heavy/Medic pair. They didn't stand a chance when BLU's Medic was using a Quick-Fix.

"VICTORY! RED TEAM WINS!" The Announcer's voice boomed over the battlefield forcing the surviving BLUs to retreat.

Heavy laughed as the charge ended, hands on his hips and chest out. "We crush baby team!"
Medic smiled, silently observing as the other REDs all came together to celebrate. Soon they'll be off for the holidays and poor Medic will be stuck here still with paperworks and such to do. So as the Soldier proudly saluted everyone and barked at how he was the best of the best on the team, the Medic quietly turned away to head back inside.

"Doktor? Where are you...?" Heavy started only to be stopped by Medic's hand.

"Mein office," he stated, giving a small shrug. ".. you and ze ozhers have a great Smissmas holiday off. I have to fill out papervorks and vhatnots. Business before pleasure I suppose." He adds before turning off to go back inside.

Now here stood Heavy, boots in the snow and his massive hand cupping his chin deep in thought. Most people always assumed the bulky Soviet was a bit of a simpleton, but quite the contrary. Deep in thought, he ponders on how to make Medic's Smissmas more enjoyable despite being stuck at Coldfront for a while.

"Hm.. Dis will require much, much, more thinking. Aha!" Heavy's mind was struck by a small lightening bolt of wisdom, coming up with a great plan!

----------

Sniper was sipping coffee while reading a magazine. He sat on a fold out lawn chair up against his camper van, enjoying the peace and quiet before taking off for the holiday out to hunt up something or explore new areas. Glancing up, he noticed something unusual approaching him. "Hey mate... wat's a big fellow like you doin' on this side of the base?"

Heavy chuckled, grinning almost ear to ear. "Sniper! I have request for you! Is for Medic for Smissmas!"

The bushman raised an eyebrow and carefully placed his magazine on a crate. Well this was something new, Heavy never asked anything of him to do so requesting something on Medic's behalf certainly perked his interest. "Alright, what's this request yer wantin' to ask?"

The bigger man grinned before looking around to ensure no one else was listening. Motioning the huntsman to lean in with one of those giant fingers, Heavy leans in to whisper in his teammate's ear. At first Sniper hums and nods to the secret request only to blink and move back.

"Yer bloody crazy mate! I can't do something like that in a short amount of time!" He complains before moving back, crossing his arms.

Heavy stares Sniper down, those eyes looked either of those with the lights off upstairs or the stare of certain death brought down to those who do not take the request to heart. Whatever the case, Sniper glanced off for a second then returned his gaze. Giving a surrendering sigh and nod, he tips his hat.

"I'll see wat I can do. No promises." Sniper concludes before going into that crate of his and pulled out several balls of red yarn. "You owe me one of dem sandviches on our next battle." He states, and leans back into his chair starting to knit. "Bloody 'ell the things I do fer a small health pack. Damn pikers ignoring me like I'm a freakin' living sentry in the background." He mutters, busy with the knitting needles.

"Thank you!" Heavy thanks, waving the Aussie off as he leaves to pester the rest of his team mates one by one for 'favors'.

"You want my candy cane for WHAT now?" Scout questioned before being told by the Weapons Guy that it would be aided to help cheer up Medic on Smissmas. He reluctantly hands the holiday bat over in exchange for a sandvich and boy it was a damn good sandvich!
When visiting the Engineer, he was busy with Soldier and the two older Americans happily obliged in loaning off their Christmas hats to serve as some decor. "That there festive tree and industrial festivizer ought to do the job Heavy though I don't exactly understand how all this is gonna cheer up ole' Doc." The Engineer said while wrenching a dispenser with Soldier parked on top of it.

"Ain't it obvious, private!? Commie here is trying to get our Kraut to lighten up for once on the most important AMERICANIZE holiday! Maybe get Doc out of being such a grouch after the holiday!" Soldier puffed his chest out and proudly exclaimed. He took his holiday breaks very seriously. The Engineer merely chuckled, placing the wrench away and goes to strum a few tunes off his guitar confident in Heavy's plan. No one was to tell Medic this secret.

---------

Medic drops a large pile of papers at his desk with a loud thud. It was Smissmas Eve, and everyone had left. The base was silent, his only audio was the howling of the winter winds and the occasional coo of one of his many doves perched about the office. Pulling up a chair, he sits down, starring off into nothing for a moment then adjusts his glasses. The man pulls off the first couple sheets of paper, about to read and review the text to a fine detail when suddenly...

"DOKTOR!"

That shout nearly made Medic jump from his seat and drop his ink pin thus leaving a nasty ink blob on his papers. He adjusts his glasses, standing up to clear his throat before turning around to face the door. There stood Heavy, hands knitted together with a grin on his face that, according to Medic, looked like he was up to no good.

"I zhought you vere going off for ze holiday?" The German asked as he crossed his arms in front of his chest while eyeing his comrade up and down slowly.

"Da, but wanted to stay. Come! I have big surprise! This, you will like!" Heavy stated, waving the medic to follow. Medic glanced back at his paperwork. The longer he put it off, the more annoying it would be for him. Hopefully whatever Heavy had in mind, it would be short enough so he can return to work before having to pull an all-nighter.

"Ja, Ja. Don't keep me avay too long Heavy. I still have all zhis papervork to finish!"
The big Russian takes Medic to the lounge room, only to pause and turn around. "Doktor, close eyes. Is part of surprise." Medic blinks questionably at Heavy before shrugging his shoulders and closed his eyes as asked. Carefully, his hands were met with Heavy's as the pair slowly walk into the room.

"Can I open zhem?"

"Nyet! Not yet." Heavy quickly answers as he leaves Medic's side to set up everything. Medic groans out while waiting though his curiousity pikes up the moment he hears what sounds like the roar of a fire. "Now Doktor!" The doctor slowly opened his eyes and gasps slightly at what was in front of him.

The lounge room was decorated in various Smissmas crates and festive lights everywhere. A roaring fire burned in the fireplace that hadn't been used in a while thanks to the heating system. For a tree, Heavy had piled up med-kits and ammo crates using Soldier's Festive Tree hat as the topper. For ornaments, various weapons were wrapped in more lights that blinked and shimmered. Even Medic's doves got in the act, perched on top of the crates, adding to the wintry, holiday scene before the German. Then, right at his feet was a gift wrapped in red paper.

Heavy, still wearing that grin approaches the stunned Medic and picks up the gift. "If for you Doktor."

Medic gazed down at the gift in Heavy's hands. Quietly, he reaches out, taking it into his own hands. What could Heavy of gotten him? A sandvich possibly? Maybe something to aid in his research? A fresh heart always was a nice touch! Removing the ribbon and lid, he pauses, seeing something red inside. At once he pulls out the object and was amazed what he saw.

It was a long coat, hand-knitted in red dyed wool with real white rabbit skin trimming. The touch was soft, warm and inviting. The Santa-like coat was long enough to be considered a cape with sleeves, complete with small gold covered crocodile teeth buttons. A perfect fitting winter outfit for the good doctor.

"Oh... Heavy. It's... wonderbar." Medic quietly said, holding the coat out before placing it on.

"Da, made by Sniper! Took three days and nights to finish!" Heavy explained, seeing Medic wrapped up in the coat and snuggling himself.

"Oh Liebling, it's just vhat I need to stay extra varm and it matches ze color of blood so I von't vorry about stains showing!"

This made Heavy very happy, laughing in triumph. "Wait, there is more!" He said.

"More?" Medic asked and followed the man over towards a fridge. Heavy opens it, mumbling something before pulling out a regular brown box. He places it on the table, smirking. He removes the box, revealing it to be none other than the BLU Spy's head from the previous BLU team. Forced to wear a little Santa hat, he stares down Medic with a displeased look on his face.

"Sing." Heavy states as he looks down at the head.

"Non. Kill me."

"NYET! SING!"

Spy gazes up, seeing Heavy with a fist just about his masked head and a serious look on his face that spelled utter doom and pain for the severed head of a Spy. He gulps, shifting his cigarette to the corner of his mouth and sighed.

"...Deck.. the halls wit boughs of... Holly. Fa la la la la... la la.. la.. la." The Spy starts off, monotonic as he went obviously not enjoying this treatment one bit. "Tis ze season... to be ...jolly... fa la la la la... la la.. la...kill me!"

Heavy glares down at the head, and raises his first. "Is not part of song! Sing it again or I will squash you like bug!" The Spy's head finched, ready to be slammed down till bruised.

"Heavy. Nein, stop." Medic holds his hand up, stopping the weapons guy from beating up his favorite little head in the fridge resident. "Not right now."

The Russian stopped in placed, blinking in confusion. Was Medic not happy? He thought that if everything he planned went well, Medic would be happy. Where did he go wrong? "Does Doktor not like Smissmas I've made for you?"

"Nein.." Medic states as he approached Heavy. At once a frown formed on the big man's face before he slowly turns his head away from the sudden rejection. That was when a face reaches for his face cradling his left cheek. His eyes returned down to Medic who smiled back up at him. "I love it, mein liebling."

At once Heavy's face lit up. Wrapping his arms around Medic, he drew him closer into a hug. Medic smile turned into a grin before he noticed something. His head tilts completely upwards starring at the ceiling. "Archimedes! Is zhat Mistleto-!" He states before Heavy leans in, taking his doctor into a warm inviting kiss. Archimedes flutters to a pipe, still holding the holiday staple in his beak.

The kiss was warm, deep, enticing. Heavy didn't want to part away, instead encourages the man to deepen the connection. Medic was more than happy to oblige as he parts his lips just a tad to tease his partner. The other took the invitation and proceeded to poke and probe that mouth by touch before granted entrance, filing that cavity with his tongue. It was met with Medic's own muscle, wrapping and dueling for space while tasting the passion of each other. Eventually the two parted for breath, looking flustered in the face.

"Oh please, dis is getting awkward."

The pair turned to a less than pleased Spy's Head, sneering at the sight. It didn't take long for him to end up back in the fridge. "Oh, merde."
Medic smirks before gazing back to Heavy. "Zhere, no distractions. But I jest, Herr, for I do not have anyzhing to give you in return seeing I vas so eat up vith papervorks." He apologized and turned to gaze at the roaring fire instead.

Heavy shook his head, taking his index finger curled in to lift under Medic's chin so the German could stare back at him. "Nyet, you have Doktor. I have you for Smissmas! No $400,000 dollar gun or sweetest sandvich can replace best Doktor!" Medic blinked before a smile moved across his lips. Then, that smile turned into a wicked grin.

"Danke mein Liebling. Maybe I do have somezhing to give you after all." He said, smirking again. "Couch or in front of ze fire on ze bearskin?"

The bigger man only grins, chuckling before leading his lover to the skin. Gently, he helps lower Medic onto his back, the new coat splade out like a fan beneath him. He smiles up at Heavy, feeling the warmth of the fur and wool, the fireplace, and of course being with his closest comrade in this sweet moment. "Gentle ja? I still have papervork to do later." Medic asked, laying on his back while starring up at the other.

"Da. Will do. Make it last as long as possible." Heavy replied, his hands reaching down to those gold tooth buttons, removing them one by one and peeled away the coat to unbutton Medic's lab coat. Once that was undone, his fingers fumbled with the vest buttons. "Is like unwrapping big crate." He makes a observation, smiling when Medic's hands reached up to his own.

"Zhen let me help you vith zhat."

Medic's hands reached up, touching Heavy's slowly before pushing him away so he could undo the buttons. Heat started to rise out of both of them, Heavy more so than Medic. He shifts in place slightly while trying to pull as much patience as he can. Finally, the Medic exposed his chest and torso taking deep, longing breaths. Heavy smirks, running a hand down from the collar bone down to the belt line slowly. Medic 's hands reaches for Heavy's, stopping him just short of past the navel.

"Allow me." Medic whispers, pulling that hand up to his lips, kissing the palm softly. "Strong, but full of spirit." He compliments and returns to kissing that hand until he reaches the tip of Heavy's index finger. The man's tongue rolls out like a fancy red carpet and proceeds to lick that finger within an inch of its life.

The big Russian shudders lightly, enjoying that warm muscle curve around his finger, playing and teasing. "Doktor, you are such tease!" He tries to chuckle, feeling his body react favorably to the attention.

"I know.. Zhat's vhat makes me irresistible" Medic pauses to say then without warning takes that finger to his mouth, sucking on it while his tongue still flicks over the texture. He continues, letting out a small moan then allows his teeth to rake that flesh slightly.

"Oh Doktor..." Heavy huffed, pulling that finger out slowly to encourage more. And more Medic did. He licks over that palm, making circles with the tip of his tongue. Flustered, Heavy removes his hand away and drags it down Medic's chest. The warm sensation of saliva caused the German to shudder.

"Perhaps... ve should put zhat wet finger to good use?" He asked, letting out hot puffs of breath.

Heavy chuckles. "Good idea!" With a little ease, Medic undoes his pants, pushing them down to his knees. One hand pulls his erection free. Grasping it, he distracts himself with a few massages all the while Heavy moves his finger in. He teases Medic, getting a moan out of him while that finger wiggles at his entrance.

With some encouragement, does Heavy ease a digit in. The German yelps out only to let out a deep moan as he shifts about to give Heavy more room. "Oh... mein Gott. Vhen vas ze last time?" He mutters, biting his lip.

"Was last Summer, during week break." The other replies, grinning as he pushes that slick finger in. It certainly had been a while for both but that didn't deter away the enjoyment any less. Medic squeezes his member a little tighter, whimpering a small amount as the second digit enters.

"Gott... m-more Heavy." Medic begs, skin starting to break out in sweat and pants in feeble attempts to cool down. His thumb barely rubs over the head of his member, sending delightful chills down his spine.

The Russian finally pushes through, adding the last digit into that tight and warm space. Medic hisses in a gasp, biting down on his lower lip again. "You delight me as ever, Herr." Medic says with a coy smirk. Without warning he squeezes his hips together and keeping Heavy's finger inside. "I need a reminder vhy I've choose you."

Heavy grins, nodding ever so slightly. "Da, with pleasure Doktor." Curling that finger upwards, Heavy pulls back, making Medic tense up and clutch the bearskin in his fists. Once his attention was gained, then Heavy goes to work, using that massive appendage. Slowly he pushes deeper then retreats, rocking Medic slightly who responds by pushing back, rocking his hips to the pace.

It seemed like minutes ticked up, Medic's head starting to spin some. Everything was becoming a blur of Smissmas colors and smelled of holiday passion with Heavy on top of him. His hand to his cock tightened, thrusting in pace with Heavy. Body tensing now, he was starting to reach his peak, but not now. No, the man would play a good doctor and wait a little more. "Heavy.." He whispers, seeing the man's apparent bulge as well. "Got a rubber?" He asked, smiling as warm as the reflection of the fire on his glasses.

Nodding, Heavy reaches into a back pocket to pull out a packet, never know when you need one and this moment was certainly none the less. Removing the finger from Medic, he wipes it clean on a pants legging then discards them completely. He placed the cover on himself before positioning himself above Medic. "It is good day to be GIANT man!"

Medic's back arched up as he was entered, clinging to the bearskin like a lifeline. Sparks shot through his body, but oh it was glorious. Easing the pants off completely, he wraps them around Heavy's waist giving the man more room. "Oh Gott I miss zhese moments." He huffs out just as the other starts to thrust. Medic reaches up, digging his free hand around Heavy's shoulder, fingers digging into skin to hang on.

With one hand massaging his member, Medic paced with Heavy, rocking back and forth creating heat all around. The roof could be ripped away and Coldfront's biting snow and cold could wisp in only to melt from the heat of this kindled passion. Medic could feel his cock tremble, eager to reach a climax. Not yet, he thought to himself. Just a little bit more.

"Is... Doktor happy?" Heavy asked as he pushes in and out.

Words barely flowed into the German's brain and he mutters a drooled out, "Ah huh" to his comrade. "F-faster."

Obeying his doctor's word, Heavy pushes farther, harder. He could almost feel the very core of his Medic. The world was their oyster, and Medic was Heavy's pearl. Nothing else felt more willing or precious than this bonding moment under a Winter's night. No greater gift could be given to Heavy than to share this passionate night with the one he cares for the most.

"He-Heavy! I.. I feel.. close!" Medic warns, thrusting his hand harder, squeezing almost a vice grip at this point. The Russian nods, seeing the moment was to finish soon and pulls Medic up into his lap. The man now rocks his hips forward and up, bouncing Medic while the other still clings onto him single handed. "Bi-Bitte..." He whispers in the Soviet's ear, hot breath steaming his glasses.

The other groans out, pushing in a few more times. "Doktor!" He shouts, arching his back and releases with a hard grunt. Medic's own body twists back, crying down as he finally releases his own seed, spilling on his stomach and Heavy's.

The two held each other for a good minute of so, only the sound of their panting filled the air. Once the foggy high starts to come down, Medic leans back to gaze kindheartedly into his lover's eyes.

"Merry Smissmas Heavy."

"Merry Smissmas Doktor." Heavy whispers back, leaning in as the two kiss passionately in front of the warm fire. Neither one could ask for a better Smissmas season than together for the holidays.


Meanwhile, Spy's head grumbles in the fridge. "Well, zhis is certainly annoying." He states, starring at a mincemeat pie. Suddenly the pie's filling rises before exploding to reveal Archimedes covered in pie goo and some sort of gibbets to make a morbid nest in. It coos at the Spy's head. "Oh no..." He grumbles, stuck in a fridge with the mad doctor's bird... what could go any worse than this?

"Next year we use Spyhead for bedroom fun?"

"Vhat a capital idea Heavy! I'll be sure to vrite it down on mein Smissmas list for next year."

"There's always New Years Eve! Muhah hah hah hah!"

-Fin-

7 .

[Mod Note: Many tanks to Maelgwyn for picking up an additional prompt. It's much appreciated!]

Geeks by Maelgwyn

For my Secret Santa. Apologies. Went sort of this way... sort of that way... ended with this. I promise that if there needs to be parts fixed, by all means, please fire away.

~~

The Medic cursed at his medigun. The large device, critical at keeping his team alive had once again malfunctioned. His brow furrowed as he removed another small component from the backpack, the small copper cog lay neatly next to the other intricate components that he had extracted from the machine. He sighed, pushing his glasses onto his forehead, rubbing his eyes.

“Why do you do this,” he stated to the machine as he lowered his glasses back down. He resumed his fault finding, tracing intricate patterns of cogs and springs.

“Hey, uh Doc,” a voice called from behind him.

“Go away,” the Doctor said, still irritated for the interruption.

“Um…” the voice faltered a little, “I’ve got something for you.”

The Doctor sighed, spinning around on the chair, “What is it, Herr Engineer?” His frustration at the short Texan dissipated as he looked at what he held. “Ahh! Danke shon Engineer! You brought me dinner?” the Medic looked pleased that someone remembered to bring him some dinner. As he tucked into the steak and mash, he talked to the Engineer.

“Herr Engineer,” he said, chewing the white mash, tiny flecks spitting onto the polished components. He swatted them off nonchalantly.

“Yeah, partner?” the Engineer said, laughing at his discomfort.

“What do you know about mediguns?”

“Well, shucks, if they run like the Respawn,” the Engineer leaned back in his chair, rubbing the glove over his stubble, “we could fix this.”

The Medic chewed on his steak thoughtfully. Soldier cooked the thing; he could tell by how well it was cooked. It would have been softer to chew on boot leather. The Engineer chuckled.

“Yeah,” he sighed, “Solly cooked it. Bit too overcooked for my liking.”

“Ya,” the Medic cringed, throwing another piece of steak in his mouth. Chewing loudly, he mused aloud, “do you have any idea of what could be wrong.”

The Engineer grabbed out his wrench, hitting the top of the backpack trepidly twice. The Medic, if able to fire lasers from the glare he shot, would have vaporised the Engineer.

“Dummkopf!” the Medic hit the Engineer’s arm with a handy set of forceps. “If you break the casing, how will I fix it?”

“Err,” the Engineer stammered, shaking his arm from the hit. “Well, I do own a good MIG welder. That will fix it.”

“Engineer, this is a delicate machine!” the medic’s tone becoming more chastising, placing the barely palatable food away from his work area, “It is not one of your Sentry guns! If it fails, the whole team could die”

The Engineer grated his teeth at the Medic, “Sir, I respectfully wish to tell you that my Dispenser might be considered a little ‘mission critical’.” He emphasised the words with a set of finger quotes. The Medic scoffed at the Engineer.

“And I will wait till you can ‘übercharge’ with your dispenser,” he snapped back as he grabbed a magnifying glass to see if his timing spring in this section was turning correctly.

“Fine! Fine,” the Engineer threw his hands up in the air, standing and hovering behind the Medic, “but what are you looking at?”

“This is timing spring for this set of cogs,” his hand waved with the tweezers

“These connected back to the cold exchange here?” the Engineer tapped a small silver box with his gloved hand.

“No, that’s this here,” the Medic indicated with the tweezers to a small set of wires that intersected the area.

“So is this to do with that coolant flow there?” the Engineer pointed at a tube that snaked across the floor.

“Ya, Engineer!” the Medic was excited that someone could understand the inner workings of his machine, “But I need to remove this so to get to the internal medicine flow. I think there is some… Herr Engineer?” The Medic stopped mid conversation as a set of elbows landed on his shoulders. The Texan then peered from over the top of the Medic through the magnifying glass.

“Sorry partner just couldn’t see too well there. Do go on.”

The Medic cleared his throat. It wasn’t uncomfortable at all. He was only leaning on him. But it sent little electric bolts down the Medic’s spine. This was of concern. He closed his eyes, quickly capturing the smell of grease and sweat that lingered around the man. It was, how does the Engineer say it, damn it, he mused. The Engineer was a man of science; this is true. And he did hit all the right buttons for the Medic. He was short. And as he leaned closer to see something further in, he could feel the slight paunch of his stomach rest on the chair.

Plus, the Medic laughed to himself as he glanced up to the peering Engineer, he does have a damn fine jaw.

“Oh, look at that though Medic, the little cog there is not spinning right. If we can just, ow!” the Engineer yelped as the tiny cogs spun, catching the tip of his finger. A tiny speck of blood pooled on his finger. He raised the hand to suck on it.

“Do that, and I will cut it off! Your finger is filthy. I will fix it,” the Medic barked, standing quickly. The Texan yelped again as he was lifted up. The Medic strode over to the cabinet and grabbed a swab and some bandaids. “Now, Herr Engineer, show me this finger!”

“Doc, pal, its OK, look!” the Engineer pushed his finger into the Medic’s face, the tiny flow of blood barely rolling past the fingerprint ridges. The Medic tutted, looping his hand onto the Engineer’s wrist and pulling it down.

“Uh, no,” he said succinctly, “There still can be an infection. We don’t want the Engineer back in the sick bay do we?” He ripped open the swab from its little green packet, the yellow iodine colour vivid, without letting the Engineer go. He sat back down and moved his hand with him. He turned it so the palm was facing up. “Do not ball it in a fist, Engineer, I cannot treat it then.” The Engineer’s face went red. The Medic clicked his tongue in dismay, “Engineer, do you want to visit me again?”

The room was silent as he thought his options.

“Please, Engineer, you are a man of Science, yes?” the Medic reasoned with the stubborn Texan, “If this gets infected, then you cant wield your wrench.” The Engineer looked blankly at the Medic. “If you cannot swing your wrench, how can you make your little Sentries?”

“That there is a good point,” he mused, releasing the vice like grip that he had.

“Aww, poor baby,” the Medic taunted as he slicked the still cold swab around to pick up the remnants of grease on his hand. Secretly, he was enjoying the shape of his hands and how the valleys and ridges were arranged. He marvelled at how his fingers seemed so strong, but so dexterous. He could see the Engineer’s boot tap nervously on the ground. “Hmm?” the Medic asked as he continued to focus on the job.

“Umm,” the Engineer cleared his throat, “I have to ask you something Doc.”

“What is it, Engineer?” the Medic took the bandaid and was placing it on the cut with the precision that sutures would take.

“Mind if I talk man to man?” the Engineer sounded nervous. The Medic looked puzzled at the beet red Engineer.

“What is it?” the Medic sounded angrier. He tightened his grip around the Engineer’s wrist. The Engineer leaned down and gave the Medic a kiss on the cheek. Shocked, the Medic made a sound that reminded the Engineer of a car starting with a flat battery. Guessing that he had misinterpreted the Medic, he tried to flee, dragging a still shocked Medic to his feet.

Medics are surprisingly stronger than what you would think. Engineer was proud that his small frame could move things like dispensers and sentries. But at that point, he could not break away from the Medic.

“Look, I’m sorry Doc!” the Engineer sounded frantic as he tried to twist away from the Medic, “please don’t dissect me!” The Medic looked confused, then grinned. It was an evil grin. The Engineer’s blood ran cold as he was yanked back into the Medic, the taller man showing off his upper body strength.

“Vivisection, eh?” he sneered, the sudden terror in Engineers face merely making the man more interested. He lent in to the slightly trembling figure, his grin wide. “Maybe after, Herr Engineer.”

“After wha…” the Engineer trailed off as the Medic nipped at his ear. The Engineer spluttered as the Medic trailed across the outer rim of his ear.

“Well,” the Medic stated quietly, “it’s not my fault.” He moved down to his neck, giving it light pecks, “but you’re really good lookin”

“Shucks,” the Engineer stammered as the Medic came to his adams apple. He breathed sharply as the Medic kissed his chin. The Medic pulled away, releasing the Engineer’s wrists.

“Well... what is the diagnosis Engineer?” the Medic grinned at the flushed Texan. He congratulated himself for keeping his cool for as long as he did. The Engineer stammered, his hand idly tracing the Medic’s kiss route. He grinned. The Medic’s grin faded quickly to a look of shock. The Engineer pounced, moving as if struck by the Disciplinary Action. His gloved hand snaked deftly around the Medic as he pressed himself into the Medic. He grinned as he kissed the Medic, hard. The Medic closed his arms, softening into his arm, feeling the small man stroke his hair with his glove.

“Engineer...” the Medic whispered as he swallowed, the Engineer drawing away from him, glasses skew on his face. His face burned. The Engineer drew his hand away, smiling shyly at the Medic.

“Uh, I best be off…” he stammered, his bravado back behind his awkward mask, “and your problem is the med flow is blocked behind this cog. You just need to move that one and err… I’ll be off…”

“Ya. Engineer, I think you need your physical later. How about tomorrow?” the Medic sank into his seat.

8 .

Author's Note: I'm so sorry for what I did with your prompt. I hope you like it anyway.


You're the One I Follow

Bored and frustrated with all these goons I work with. Almost nobody likes me. Fucking can't believe my luck. Not even Ma likes me. She loves me but that ain't the same. My brothers are the same way. They say they can't stand me, but they put up with me because they ain't got no choice. At least they didn't back when we were all livin' in the same house.

When I went to school, it was better. I figured out how to be admired. All it takes is dedication and picking hobbies that make a guy look cool. So I chose baseball. It helped I was good at it. Then I was liked but nobody loved me. Not even those girls I dated in high school. Oh, they said it. We all said it. Then they'd dump me as soon as some hot, cool, football player came along. My friends liked me but none of them really gave a shit about me. They liked me because I was on their team, I was good, and I was fun to hang around. Kind of like the fellas here.

Yeah, bored and frustrated in a job where I'm forced to live with another set of eight assholes, who don't even love me, and who definitely won't give me the time of day when I really need it. So I started sneakin' across to RED after cease fire, when I figured nobody sane would be awake, and me bein' me I'd outrun any sentry that ever existed.

Then came the vandalism. It was funny for awhile but only because the RED's Scout responded to some of my shit talk. I'd spray-paint it all over their stupid base and he did the same to mine. His made me laugh. Best one had to be that poem.

“Roses are RED,
Violets ain't BLU,
Shit stinks,
And so do you!”

I have to admire somethin' that clever, even if it is insultin'. I did this kind of thing all over Boston and I bet he did too. Made me mad as hell when I realized none of those other assholes on RED and nobody on my own damn team appreciated what I was doing. There I am puttin' out quality insults, art, and even some pranks when the vandalism wasn't enough and they got the nerve to get mad at me for it. My team made me clean it off! I bet Solly blabbed about me bein' the one who started it, so they figured I should be the one to get rid of it. As if it mattered! Might as well leave it up.

What's Blutarch gonna do? He's old and Engie said that he probably don't get out much. Oh, I'm so sorry. Did I make some old fart blow a gasket over graffiti and he kicked the bucket? I don't care if he's payin' me or not. That would've been hilarious and I wish I could get more of a reaction like that! Then I'd know someone wasn't just ignorin' me or tellin' me to shut up or sayin' I'm too young for them to care what happens to me.

I joined the army after graduatin' high school, spent four years of my life doin' that, before comin' here. Been eight years since I first enlisted, four years active and four years reserve. That should count for somethin', but I can't say shit to these guys just 'cause they're ALL older than me, 'cept maybe Demo, and they been doin' the mercenary thing for longer. I know I got lucky. I wasn't old enough for the Korean war, and I got out of active duty and on reserve before they started sendin' people to Vietnam. Now my reserve is up, and it's kind of a shame I didn't get to show anybody what's what, but I know I dodged a bullet after what I been through here. When I try talkin' about it, Soldier don't care 'cause his war involved
everybody in the whole damn world and I wasn't actually in the thick of anything. All he wants to hear about are his own war stories which sound like bullshit. Lousy... and he's my pal! Or one of the closest to bein' my pal. I'd call 'im out for bein' a liar, but I ain't got the heart, and I never did see any real fightin', outside o' gangs and here, so maybe it's truth.

Friends like this, I figured my enemies couldn't be much worse. So I went and did it, even though it's against my contract: I talked to the RED's Scout. Maybe at least he'd be sympathetic? He wasn't.

He did accidentally tell me about their indoor pool. I can't imagine why the hell they'd have a pool up here in the mountains and all. Especially a place called Thunder Mountain. I had bad luck getting inside for a long time. Surprised me; I didn't think they had decent security. Good thing I'm so smart. Take off my shirt and I look a lot like their Scout. Heh heh. Only time lookin' a lot like someone else helped me out instead of getting' me in more trouble. Oh man was it great once I finally found that pool. Skinny dippin' at midnight is hard to beat!

Splashin' up a storm, I didn't even hear the RED Sniper show up. I tried to act cool after the shock wore off. Not easy, bein' naked and unarmed. He didn't have his guns on him. He was starin' at me like I was a wild animal or somethin'. So I tread water long enough to flip him off and told him to take a picture since it'd last longer. Aww, man, I slay me. Only thing that keeps me goin' sometimes. I swam closer and saw him chewin' on what looked like a PB and J. I could have stayed away, just in case he wanted to get stabby-stabby on me, but I might as
well die like I mean it. No sense in pullin' this kind of crap, and then not takin' the outcome like a man. Besides, I'm only reckless when bein' cautious ain't got better benefits. Reckless is usually better.

He had such a weird look on his face, like he didn't know what to think. I climbed out right next to him, all drippin' and wet. His eyes went straight to my naked dick and he snickered. It was cold! I told him that, and he rolled his eyes at me. So I asked him why he wasn't killin' me. He just shrugged at me, said it was cease fire, and said he was off the clock as far as he was concerned. So he pretty much admitted to bein' as lazy as our Sniper. Heh. I couldn't blame him. Not like we got a lot to do once the battle is over for the day.

We didn't say anything else. Got all quiet and awkward. He said I better go if I didn't want to be dead tired, dead and tired, durin' the next day's battle. That's what got my attention. I said I'd never make a fight that easy on 'im, I dried off with a towel I'd found lyin' around their locker room, and put on enough clothes to leave. He didn't stop me or even look at me after that. He wandered off, I don't know where, and I made myself disappear. It was the start of somethin' beautiful.

I found out from a reliable source that the RED Sniper had his van parked on the mountain somewhere, and that he liked to go campin' in what passed for woods out there. I took advantage of it. I had somebody new to bother, and it was the best feelin' in the world! Stupid to think he'd keep talkin' to me, but I wouldn't know until I tried it. I wasn't expected, so he stared at me like I was a kangaroo or some other shit, totally out of place. I walked up to him with the biggest grin, more confident than I was, and told 'im I liked nature hikes. It wasn't a lie either. I tended to stick to our side of the invisible border whenever I went off to dick around on the little trails scattered everywhere. Joggin', relaxin', avoidin' idiots. All that. Only reason I didn't find him on my own a lot sooner.

I came back again and again. His fault for lettin' me stay that first time. He tried ignorin' me, but then I asked him what some bird was, when it landed on a branch nearby, and he started tellin' me about it. Then I asked about the coyotes, if they bothered him, and he told me the same thing Engie did; they're usually chicken when it comes to people, especially when they know about guns, and they got plenty of other things to eat around here: lots of other wild animals and sometimes our garbage when they think nobody is lookin'. I thought he was bein' all balls of steel about sleepin' in a flimsy tent, when a building with walls would be better at keepin' 'em out, but I guess it doesn't make any difference if they're tryin' to stay away from us. They don't respawn, so it makes sense, but I never expected coyotes to be that smart. Instinct or something.

So I left feelin' pretty good about it and he didn't try to chase me off after that. A lot of the time we didn't even say anything. Just kind of nice. Like campin' with the family, before my dad went to jail. He even shared his coffee sometimes. Then I tried askin' him some deep questions and he laughed in my face. Normally I would've been pissed off, but I didn't have to live with him so I let it slide. Who was he goin' to tell about what I'd said anyway? That's when I realized I could probably say things to him I couldn't even say to the guys back at base. Questions too. If he didn't answer, he didn't answer. Worst he could do was maybe get me fired for scarin' him with the fact I got emotions and thoughts and sometimes I'm a faggot. That last part, first time it came up, he gave me this weird look over his aviators. Like he was checkin' to see if I was serious, because it mattered to him. I had to ask him why anybody would fuckin' lie about that, other than tryin' to insult somebody else. It ain't the kind of shit you joke about unless your best friend from forever is the guy you're tellin' it to, or you're bein' an ass. He got uncomfortable and wouldn't answer me. I told him to forget about it. He's smart for a weirdo and he's funny when he tries. For awhile I didn't think I'd care if he kicked me out.

It was rainin' and cold that afternoon, it rains a lot more in Thunder Mountain than most places I been stationed at, but I was less worried about runnin' through the rain than keepin' him as a friend now that I'd tempted it. He told me he couldn't forget it, but we were quiet long enough. Then it wasn't comfortable anymore. The weather lightened up a little so I said bye and ran past all the silver bullets of water coming down on me. Even I'm not faster than the rain, though I missed some of what rolled off the pine needles. I could outrun my own stupidity if I tried hard enough. Maybe if I gave it some time he'd forget after all.

It was a week or two, couldn't have been three because I'm not as patient as that, before he ran into me on a cluster of rocks behind the BLU base. I was walkin' around, listenin' to some of the birds and watchin' some crows finishin' off a rottin' dead rabbit from a distance. Ain't nothin' too morbid once you've been murdered a bunch of times. I was wonderin' what would kill it and leave even that much on the bones, out in the open. I didn't hear any footsteps before he made me jump like five feet into the air by sneakin' up behind me and pokin' me with the butt of his rifle. I yelped, but played it cool anyway, askin' what he wanted because couldn't he see that I was busy here?

He gave me one of those deep, spine-tinglin' chuckles, enjoyin' my reaction, while peerin' at my base with the scope all quick. I told him to sit and he shook his head. He nudged me again to get up, sayin' it'd be better if I could run up to head anybody off at the pass if they came lookin' for me. I laughed at that. Don't nobody come lookin' for me unless I got to cook or clean or do laundry and I forgot, either because it's my turn or I got stuck on the wrong end of a bet. I told him that and he shrugged, sayin' there was still a chance then. So I
told him to get to what he came for if he's so worried he'll get
caught.

I don't fear getting caught anymore. It ain't just the dyin'. I might even be done in permanently if I piss off the wrong person and I know it. Life can't offer me nothin' I haven't had, aside from what I'll never get. I've got nothin' to lose. If I die my mom's got so many kids and grandkids that she probably wouldn't notice. It might even be a relief. I don't know, she has a lot to worry about. Even if she's sad, because she loves me, she's got everybody else to cheer her up. Same for my friends. Same for my brothers. I'm probably the best choice to die. I got a taste for blood now, a real taste, and I might know all the consequences even better than my brothers do, but it'll be so hard to give up when I leave. I might be doin' the Boston legal system a service. They don't have to deal with me or my fuckups or my temper, or how I'm so easily led around by stupid ideas that sound great at the time. I might not have a choice in the matter either. Mercenary work is a risky business, from what my team mates tell me. I could leave here fine, pick up another hit job with somebody besides BLU, and end up unlucky because my mark killed me instead. Either they got a tip off, I screwed up, or it was a set-up the whole time. Shit happens.

I stood up anyway and I waited. I watched the crows. He told me that he had a thing for men. I looked at him. I was tryin' not to be too eager or excited or confused or amazed or happy, but all I did was look stupid because I felt stupid. It made me feel stupid hearin' him admit it. I'm not a virgin. Not with men or women. That wasn't my first time kissin' a guy or gropin' someone's ass or coppin' a feel elsewhere. I wasn't even horny, at first, when he confessed . Neither was he from the look of it. I honestly wasn't horny when I first told him about my gay thoughts. I only did it to begin with because I didn't think it'd hurt anything, and it was kind of drivin' me crazy that there wasn't anybody for me to tell. I'm horrible at keepin' secrets to myself. Plus he's hot. Those long lanky legs and that dumb grin. I'm kind of a sucker for the tall, thin guys, even if they look like they could use a cheeseburger. So I looked stupid and he looked stupid back at me while we were both tryin' to play it cool out in the middle of butt-fuck nowhere.

I guess he was expecting me to say somethin'. I couldn't find any words. None that made any sense. He cleared his throat, said that was all he had to say, and started walkin' off. I caught up to him easy and almost tackled him to the ground, tryin' to keep him there.

“Don't go!” I said.

That's what I got out of me eventually: Don't go. Like a pathetic loser, I was beggin' him not to leave me. Stupid. He was offended that I practically thew him into the rocks before he regained his balance. It would've taken me with him. Maybe burst my head open for bein' dim. I glared at him and said I wasn't used to talking about it like he obviously was. We snarled a bit, and then he said we should go back to his tent if we were going to have it out. I agreed, like that was what I'd been waitin' for, and we kept a good distance between us and any of the buildings on the way over. We mellowed out during the walk, and I asked if he wanted to go further because now I was up for it. I'd had time to consider the possibilities. I warned him that I wasn't goin' to be the one takin' it in the ass if that's what he was after. I can, I have, but I didn't like it so much. I wanted to be fuckin' somebody, like I'm in charge, like I'm doin' it for them and me. I wanted it to be mostly up to me, to show I got what it takes and to come through. I wanted to give somebody somethin' and take somethin' from 'em. I wanted to knock 'em down and drag 'em in and torment 'em with happiness until they're burstin'. I always wanted to give a hundred percent and if I don't feel that way then I don't do
it. Simple as that.

I more or less explained it to him. That didn't dissuade him any, though he had the gall to say I could talk the talk but he bet I couldn't walk the walk. I told him I'd show him if he had anything to slick his ass up with. I was getting into it with talking and looking at each other, gauging what was there. I enjoyed the view, damn it. Got better the more he flirted and joked and obviously felt the same.

I showed him when we got to the tent and settled in a bit. I showed him exactly what I meant, how I meant it, and the way I meant it. He had his legs curled around me and it was kind of slow and explorin' at first. I'm a sucker for missionary. Call me vain, but I want 'em to see me; to know exactly who's making 'em feel this way. I want to see them lose their shit because I'm unbelievable. I almost got him to scream at the end when he was holdin' back a little before tippin' into the land of no return. By the end of it I was fuckin' him into his sleepin' bag, squeezin' those scrawny hips tight, and we were breathin' into each other's ears so hard I thought I was hearin' a train. Damn it was good! Didn't want to leave after that. Stayed for awhile until I got hungry and I had to. We didn't say much. I kissed his chin, said adios, and ran off while he was still getting dressed to return to the RED base for dinner. Food never tasted as good as it did after that. I don't remember who cooked. I mostly remember steaming canned corn. I buttered that up good and Heavy tried to scold me for using too much when his plate was swimming in it, all melted and runny.

It became a regular thing for me to go out to see him. I wasn't afraid of any Spy following me. At the beginning of it all, I figured I'd beat them up until they feared me instead. Then I figured out there would never be anybody uncovering our cover-up because it'd probably end before that happened. Usually being reckless pays off. Some days it ruins my life. I'd shot myself in the foot again. I ran into something and never stopped to check what it was. I started getting cozy with him, and him looking uncomfortable meant there was something to be said. It took awhile. Neither of us wanted to destroy whatever was there. I should have noticed sooner. It was the same song and dance routine that I was used to, and I was an idiot for running in blind and putting myself out farther than I should have.

It's amazing the way he talks about something. He ain't humble exactly. He's just honest. I'm not used to honesty. Most definitely not when it hurts. I'm used to the lies piling up like snow on the ground, during a winter storm, and only clearing them away when reality gets buried in so deep it has to be dug out before everybody else starves on empty promises. So when he told me that I was handsome and wonderful I believed him. I believed him even more when he said he'd never fall in love with me. I laughed at the time and tried to blow it off, sayin' I wasn't some little girl who was going to cry herself
to sleep because all I had was mind-blowing sex to comfort me at
night. He looked thoughtful at that and I hated him for it, even as I admired him for that exact same thing. He saw through me before I knew how much of a lie I was telling. I was used to that kind of stuff. I thought it wouldn't matter much. I was disappointed even then but I didn't want to tell him that. He was the first person to tell me the truth and I didn't want him to feel bad for doing it. So I lied. I didn't know how deep I was in.

It went on for weeks. Weeks turned into months that are close to a year now. He was honest with me but that didn't keep him from lying to Redmond, the Administrator, and his own team. He was smart. When he started thinking the RED Spy was onto us, he was the one who figured out one of the places we could meet that no one would suspect. Someone else suggested it; someone on his team. I never asked who. I don't think he'd tell me. I don't want to wonder who else was sneaking around, trying not to get caught. It makes me feel unique to think we're the only ones who'd ever do that. I also don't want to consider maybe he
has somebody else on the side. Not like we made it exclusive but I got grabby hands when it comes to anybody worth my time.

The Watchtower, it isn't that far from the bases on Thunder Mountain. It's a tower in the middle of a hole in a rock. A mostly empty valley. Demo and Solly figured out it's shaped like a circle from above. I didn't believe 'em. They helped me onto the roof to take a look. Fucking weird. No one stays there. They didn't think it was important enough to construct a real base inside the mountain. Just the essential rooms and a way in through a cave. Everyone camps outside and around it, or they walk or drive from another base that isn't far off. There are cameras and microphones but Sniper learned the trick for tweakin' the story that they tell without it being too obvious they been tampered with. No one monitors it real close. There
are way more important bases to keep track of.

If I was bein' careful I'd never have agreed to it but fucking in the top of the tower itself, as long as it wasn't rainin' (stupid hole in the roof), was the best way to rebel. Fuck RED and fuck BLU. Why not? That tower isn't worth anything. I can barely see out of the damn valley from the roof. What the hell is it watching for? What the hell would anyone even see?

I think I want to get caught, if I'm being honest for once. Been skirting bad luck for weeks by having sex there a bunch of times. Not too careless. I always let Snipes get there first. He takes care of the cameras and the mics. He can reach 'em better anyway.

He had a surprise. He told me a week ago, a little before our vacation officially started, and I was thinkin' of bull-fighting the whole time. It got mentioned once, kind of random, long before then. We must have been talkin' about cowboys, cows, and then rodeos to lead to that. It turned nice and sultry. Ended up a whole conversation with some kisses and hugs thrown in. He thought I should be the bull-fighter, dressed all festive in black and red. He said it was easier to fuck a fake bull in the ass when they aren't wearin' any pants, meanin' he wanted to be the bull. I said pants aren't hard to pull down and it's hot when the person under me is fully clothed or close to. Besides, I like the idea of stampin' my feet and chargin' at him. Even more if he's the one with a sword. Besides, I love me some fucking stupid hats. Detachable horns or horns on a band, I
don't care. Fucking stupid awesome. Then I get to barrel him over and pin him down and slam into him like I'm a crazy sexy beast. I'm such a jerk. I take pride in knowin' he'll remember me the next day, even if it's because I'm a pain in the ass. Literally. He hasn't complained yet!

Vacation meant there was even less chance of someone following either of us. Everyone else on my team was definitely leaving. Maybe not going home but they were going somewhere out of obligation or for fun. Made it easier than ever to get there without anyone noticing. Careful around those obnoxious cameras they've got everywhere, all over every base ever, and I was golden.

When I made it to the top, there he was. He had this black piece of...leather? It had chains attached to it. Chains and what looked like stirrups. I asked him if it was a saddle. He said it was like a sling or a swing for fucking in. I kind of laughed but he was serious. Swings were the shit when I was a kid. Couldn't hurt for sex, right? I asked him where he got it and he said it was his. He's got some other kinky stuff. Like those beads, that was fun. He isn't the cleanest guy I know. The unease must have been showin' on my face because he sniffed once before saying that he always sanitized this stuff, and besides it was only sweat. Then he went over to a corner of the room and stood up on some of the furniture. He looped the chains over some notches, like nuts and bolts or something, sticking
out of the walls. Nothing I'd even noticed before. I guess he'd put them up before when no one would notice. That kind of put a damper on it, even though he looked pretty smug. What if I wasn't the first one he'd brought here for that exact thing? It shouldn't matter, but it gnawed at me anyway.

Still does.

Plenty of stupid flirting before that, long before he ever climbed in it. On it. I felt up his legs for awhile and I pulled his boots off myself. I gave him a foot massage for kicks while I asked him how much he'd been waiting for this and how much he wanted me. I like making him beg, but sometimes I'm nice about it. He gets all husky when he's a dirty old bastard, like he could rip my spine out but he won't because he's so into me. I twirled him around on the seat, or whatever it's called, once he was in it. It held up to rough horseplay but I guess it should with what it was made for.

I loved it; he was practically weightless. It felt like I was flyin' or he was. We took turns jerking him off while I filled him up and tried not to smack his head into the wall. Then, for awhile, I was a pirate captain and he was the wheel of the ship for shits and giggles. Hotter than I expected. Even better when a storm hit and I was fightin' to keep the boat afloat. I never been on a boat but he didn't correct anything I did, so neither has he or he didn't care. I vote for not carin' because it was out of this world and in the breech. I plundered the shore and I guess he was my first mate at some point. Some ship term. I was in the army, not the navy. Either way my heart was hammerin' a mile a minute when I came back from the brink and then we finished him off. Cannons from the mast! We soaked the mermaid on the prow! Bow? Something! I licked some of it off his chest and looked up at him the whole time. He growled, while bein'
totally relaxed in my arms and lookin' at me with droopin' eyelids. Cute.

Now I can't sleep. He's beside me. His watch is set so we won't be caught off guard if some teams gets assigned here. So we can hit up some place for breakfast. It's late enough. I should be asleep. I can't stop staring at the ceiling and the walls. Staring at the darkness. Staring at the emptiness. He's so close and snorin' kind of soft. It's comfy but I get a crick in my neck if I'm leaning against anybody for too long. Same thing happens even when I'm lying down instead of sitting up.

He likes me but he'll never love me. We've said everything that needed sayin' months before. I can't help it. I want to give him so much, but I can't give him the one thing I really want to because he doesn't want it. He can't do anything with it. He doesn't want it because he can't give any of it back. He likes me enough that he wants to help but he can't give me the one thing I need. He would if he could. I don't think he's fast-talking me. There's the same hurt hidden in him when I bring it up except it's the opposite of mine.

Sometimes...I want to get caught. Sometimes it'd be easier if I suddenly hated him, like Solly and the RED Demo. Sometimes I wonder what weapons they'd give us, our consolation prizes, and sometimes I think I should. Then I'd have something to show for it. Except I don't want him to get caught. I'd turn myself in, fuck up intentionally, if I could do it without putting him on the chopping block. Maybe going through the punishment for the crime would shape me up, spit me back out, and reveal a new me that could handle it and move on. Some days I figure this has to be punishment itself. So then maybe, instead of that, they'd put me out of my misery.

There's no one in the whole world I can tell, even if it wasn't the unmanliest fucking thing to do about something this perverted. It's not possible, not without ruining everything even more than it already is. Telling him is pointless unless I intend to do something about it. Only thing to do would be to turn my back on this, whatever it is, and I'm too chicken shit to do that. This isn't what I want but it's good for as long as it lasts. I can lie to myself most days. I can pretend it's what I want it to be.

Truth is, no matter what happens, now I know how I'm going to die. The silence is going to kill me, one way or another. The emptiness already got me. Ain't nothing else it can do. The darkness had me along time ago. All that's left is the silence.

9 .

It was supposed to be a secret, and for the most part, it was. After all, cross faction friendship was expressly forbidden. But there was something about interacting with someone who was…well, you with a different color shirt on that was undeniably fascinating. During times of ceasefire, the two Scouts would sit together outside one of their bases and commiserate; about the war, about times back home, about young men troubles.

This evening, the topic of conversation was masturbation. Or, for one of the Scouts, the lack-there-of.
The BLU Scout shook his head wildly, hardly believing what the RED Scout had just said moments before.

“What’s master…ation?” The RED Scout asked, scratching his head in confusion.

The BLU Scout threw his hands up in exasperation.“Wait a minute, pally…are ya tellin’ me that you’s never…beat it, before?”

The other Scout shifted uncomfortably. “I’ve beat up plenty a’ guys, but I don’t see what that’s gotta do wit’ this.”

“Not exactly what I meant, ya RED,” The BLU said, still not believing this. As a regular twice-a-day-keeps-the-Medic-away kind of guy, the very thought of having done it…well, never, threw him for a loop.

“I’m talkin’ about…ya know, yankin’ the crank, greasin’ the shaft, rockin’ the stick…stuff like that.”

The RED simply stared. “I dunno what you’s talkin’ about man, that seems like a problem you should talk to Engineer about or somethin’.”

The BLU had to fight to reach for his baseball bat and start beating this guy’s skull in. How could anyone be so…dense?

“Listen, ya RED, I’m talkin’ about playin’ wit’ your dick.”

“Oh. That.” The RED shifted uncomfortably. “Well, what’s it to ya if I haven’t?”

“No wonder you’re such a tight-ass! Haha!” The BLU said, doubling over in laughter. The RED’s face slowly turned as red as his shirt.

“It’s not funny, man. My Ma was real strict about stuff like that, not lettin’ me and my brothers date and shit. Plus she was always goin’ on and on about Jesus and chastity. So I figured why bother? I had more important things ta worry about, ya know?”

The BLU stared pointedly at the RED, still hardly believing. How could someone go twenty-one years without getting off? Hell, the thought of going a week without jacking it sounded painful to the BLU.

“Ain’t ya ever been curious? Ya never stopped and played with it?”

The RED froze, his shoulders stiffening. “…No. That stuff’s not pure an’ shit.”

The BLU snorted, dropping down beside the RED on an old tattered couch, dumped outside of the RED base at Teufort. “You’re gonna sit there and tell me that you’s never yanked it?”

The RED remained silent, his face flushed, staring at the ground.

“I don’t believe this. This is a real freakin’ embarrassment, ya know that? It’s un-American. It’s like…it’s like tellin’ me ya never had bacon before. Un-freakin’-believable.”

“What’s it to ya, pal?!” The RED said, not ready to keep taking any more verbal abuse. “I gots my morals, and I’m stickin’ to ‘em. But that won’t stop me from kickin’ your ass!”

“Oh yeah? I’d like to see you try.” The BLU Scout stared pointedly at the RED, daring him to make a move.

Before the RED knew what’d hit him (and it certainly wasn’t a baseball bat), the BLU had leaned against him, pressing his lips against him.

“Mmph!” The RED squealed, positively squealed, at the BLU’s invading mouth. He banged at the BLU’s shoulders, and with a pop! the BLU pulled his lips away.

“What the fuck’s your problem, ya BLU?!” The RED said, pushing at the BLU to get off of him, but the BLU Scout remained firmly settled next to the RED, one of his arms wrapped around the unwilling RED.

“I’m teachin’ you’s a lesson. You’ll thank me later.”

“Now what makes you think I’m gonna go alo-“ The RED was suddenly interrupted by the BLU’s lips once again, which met his in a sloppy, jaw-against-jaw kiss.

He’d kissed before, yeah. But his Ma didn’t like him dating, told him that girls were trouble that he didn’t want to get involved in.

But the BLU Scout was no girl. Hell, he might as well be kissing himself.

And, when he got past the wriggling voices in the back of his head telling him he was a faggot…well, it felt undeniably good.

The RED Scout felt the tension being divested from his body as he gave in to the BLU’s lips, the feeling of hands trailing across his working at his hips to undo his belt buckle. Of fingers trailing across him outside of his pants, fingers that rubbed against him. It never took much to get him hard.

“Ya never felt this, huh?” The BLU said, his breath tickling the other’s lips.

With a groan, the RED Scout leaned back, slumping against the back of the sofa.

“You’s got…no idea…” The RED muttered, his fingers digging into the fabric of the sofa. He couldn’t help but spread his legs wider, and he heard the BLU Scout chuckle at the action.

“So eager already, aren’t ya…?” The BLU slid himself off of the couch, slumping to his knees and nestling himself between the other Scout’s thighs.

“W-wait…what are you doing?” The RED said, not trusting the look on the BLU’s face. This was going all too fast for him.

The BLU Scout glanced upwards, his eyes glinting with mischief.

“Ya want me to keep goin’?” He asked, trailing his hands up the other’s legs, and resting them on the tops of his thighs.

“N-no,” The RED said, shaking his head wildly.

“Somethin’,” the BLU skated the palm of his hand against the RED’s obvious erection, which strained his pants. “tells me otherwise.” He reached for the RED Scout’s belt buckle, slowly undoing it, his eyes trained on the RED’s face.

“Worse than a fuckin’ teenager…” The BLU muttered as he unzipped the other Scout’s pants, freeing him. He couldn’t stop marveling at how such small motions were getting such a big reaction out of the RED.

He leaned forward, and let out a hot breath. The RED Scout’s cock trembled, and the BLU knew it wouldn’t take much. Wouldn’t take long, not at all. This kid was ready to burst.

“Touch it,” The BLU said, glancing up at the RED, who had his head thrown back against the couch.

“N-no…no, I can’t…”

“C’mon faggot, I wanna see you touch yourself.”

“I…don’t know how.” The RED was redder than a fucking tomato, and breathing like he’d just run fifteen miles.

“Gimmee your hand, I’ll teach ya.” The BLU Scout reached for the RED’s hand, but he just pulled it back and shook his head again.

“I can’t do that. I can’t, man, I jus’ cant.”

The BLU considered his counterpart for a moment, before his gaze returned to the RED’s cock. It was dripping like a motherfucker, he felt almost cruel. Poor guy didn’t know what he was missing.

“Fine then, man, I guess I’m just gonna hafta do it for ya,” the BLU said, and the RED shuddered.

He reached forward and grabbed ahold of the RED’s straining dick, and starting pumping, slowly. Murderously slowly.

The RED’s eyes were wide as dinner plates, staring ahead at nothing, his mouth open, lips parted, muttering sharp and short profanities with each stroke.

“Holy fuck, BLU, BLU, BLU…fuck, what the fucking fuck is this…”

The BLU laughed lightly to himself, leaning forward and brushing his lips against the RED’s lips.

“Ya like that, huh?”

“F-fuck,” the RED muttered, taking a deep breath through his teeth.

“Answer me, faggot…do ya like that?”

“Y-yes!”

“Yeah…?”

“Yes, fuck, BLU, yes…!”

“Then orgasm for me.”

Orgasm.

There have been few moments in the RED Scout’s life where he’s felt completely helpless; one, the first time he experienced death. It was a few months ago, a few days after joining this war. Taking a bullet to the temple was like having all the breath sucked out of you by a sudden and forceful vacuum. And coming back through Respawn for the first time…well, that was like breathing for the first time.

This feeling was different. He wanted to compare it to the feeling of free falling; you know, those times when he got too close to the edge of a cliff at Hightower and careened off. Those few seconds of weightlessness.

But it wasn’t quite like that. It was like a million little electric shocks. Head thrown back, eyes wide, pupils dilated, toes curling, hands clutching at the couch…

Breathing in, deep breaths, blinking fast.

And then a whole bunch of fuckin’ white noise.

“W-What…was that?” The RED muttered, and the BLU laughed to himself. His calculations had been correct; a few well-placed strokes and the kids had exploded. To be honest, for the BLU it had been pretty underwhelming. But, for the RED, he was sure it must’ve really been something.

He lifted up his hand, rubbing most of the RED’s mess off his pants. What was left over, however, he lapped up with his tongue , amused at the RED’s horrified and disgusted expression.

“Mmm…that…” He smiled lightly, his tongue idly lazing across his lower lip, licking up a stray strand of come.

“That was somethin’ that’d been buildin’ in ya for years,”

The RED collapsed back on the couch, breathing heavy, hardly believing that what he’d just felt could be real. He was both at once completely relaxed and terrified.

The BLU, still all-too-amused at the virgin RED, leaned over and
pressed a breathy kiss to the RED’s earlobe, whispering as he did so,

“Just wait until next time, when I use my mouth.”

10 .

Enjoy this Scout/engie/solly fluff.

Dreams of building things were cut short at the sound of shouting. The Engineer groaned and turned on his side, determined to ignore the yelling. It didn’t work as the two voices raised and lowered in pitch. Well, one was yelling, the other just seemed to be talking. It was irregular and distracting.

He lifted his head, rubbed his face and turned blearily to the side of his workplace. The Scout and Soldier were there, in their underwear. The Soldier’s shot gun was taken apart, along with the Scout’s pistol and force-of-nature and there were cleaning supplies spread around them. Cotton swabs and strips of cloth as well as some CLP.

Solder was cleaning his weapon, he seemed to be trying to give the Scout a lesson in cleaning fire arms. The scout could have cared less what the older man was shouting at him. Engie remembered the Scout complaining about his weapon jamming on him during the last few missions. Well the ones where he’d lasted for more than a few minutes. Apparently the Scout had never been taught how to maintain his weapon.

“Now you use the barrel snake, and turn it through your pistol barrel. Gets that black shit from inside. Lets the bullet just slide through.” The soldier demonstrated on the boy’s pistol.

The Scout was staring semi-intently at what soldier was doing. “I fuckin’ know that.” but he still watched.

Engie couldn’t help but smile at the two. They always woke up early, no matter what they had done the night before. The pair seemed to not have noticed him quite yet, and he would rather keep it that way. His body was still sore, and bruised. The Soldier was surprisingly creative when it came to bed sports, often making good use of the Scout’s nimble and flexible body.

There were still bite marks along the Scout’s side, all angry and red, even this long after. He felt a little guilty at the wince the Scout let out when he went to scratch his side and hit one of the marks. Some of those were from him. Perhaps they had been a bit rough with the boy...

“No! Not like THAT. You have to be firm! Show your weapon who its boss is. It .Is. YOU.” The soldier yelled, compact chest heaving and he started to put his gun back together, and doing the standard function checks.

They were almost done it looked like, or the Soldier was at least. He had turned his attentions towards the Scout’s handgun. The Scout stopped tyring to put his FAN back together (how did he take it apart so thoroughly?) and tried to stop the Solder from getting his hands on his other weapon. “Hey, Fuckin keep your hands off. I can do this!”

He tried to drag the weapon in closer and used his other hand to attempt to push the older man away.

“We haven't got all day for you to dilly-dally son!” He growled, knocking the boy’s hand away to get at the weapons. This, of course, caused the Scout to retaliate, shoving at the Soldier and covering his dismantled weapon as much as he could. This was going to turn into a wrestling match soon. As nice as that was, there were still cleaning supplies and gun parts littered all over the place.

“Good mornin’ fellas”, He had sitting up and stretching, wincing only slightly at the snap and pop issuing form his shoulders. He was getting too old for this. He wiggled his toes and tossed off the blankets. huh. Where did my boxers go? He scanned around he room and found them, hanging from a broken teleporter. How..? Wait, Scout had thrown it there. His attempt to make him run around with nothing on underneath, ‘For easy access’.

“Morning Engie! Bout time you woke up! Gave the squirt here some maintenance lessons since he can’t take care of his own damn weapon.” The Soldier grinned, seeming to forget the fight that almost happened as he pushed the kid away.

Scout sputtered, and wasn’t that just cute, but seemed to give up the fighting as well, though he seemed to be more distracted by the Engineer. “Yo, you ready for round three, old timer?” The Scout unabashedly looked over the Engineers body, who just grinned in return.

Engie chuckled, how he wished he was young again. Though he did feel a stirring in his groin at the thought. “Not right now. You two gotta get showered. We gotta be off base by noon, remember?” He snagged a pair of shorts that were on the ground with his toes. The Scout grumbled as he quickly put his pistol back together. The Solder had already left, presumably to the showers. “If you hurry up, we could make it to a third round. If you can get Solly riled up.”

The Scout grinned toothily. “That won’t be hard.” He was gone within a few seconds, weapons in hand and racing out the door.

He stretched again, after finally shooing the two out of his room. If he didn’t get them out, he would never leave, which wasn’t a bad thing, but it did get tiring sometimes. He glared up at his underwear dangling out of reach and huffed. He would have to get a step ladder or a pole.

11 .

“Oh shit, I can’t believe it,” Engineer smiled, walking into the living room with a big cooler. “What better Christmas present from RED than a few big ol’ cases of beer?”

“Guns?” Soldier asked.

“Hey, hush, ye idiot.” Demo was quick to the beer’s defence, reaching for the cooler in anticipation.

“Ah, ah, ah!” Engineer held the case back and Demo glared. “You still-!”

“I haven’t drank in a month! Doc told them to stop sending scrumpy in to get me to stop drinking. And it’s been a whole month.” Demo looked at his cup of tea, then to the cooler, and when Engineer didn’t reach into it and hand him one he tried a different approach. “Come on, lad! Please. He don’t have to know anyways! Just a one time thing. I promise, just tonight?”

“Sorry, son, but I already talked to him and I bet you can guess what he said,” Engineer shook his head.

“So yer both just gonna drink in front of me?” Demo asked.

“Yes sir.”

“Only so you can try your chances at convincing me to give you some while I’m drunk.” Engineer chuckled, leaning over the couch and Demoman to hand Soldier two packs of beer.

Soldier took the offered boxes and ripped a bottle out as Engineer sat the cooler on the ground next to the table separating his and Demo’s chairs. Taking a bottle opener out of his pocket the Texan opened the night’s first bottle then threw the tool to Soldier, though the it ended up landing in Demo’s lap. “To Demo not drinking anymore,” Engineer laughed, raising his cup.

Soldier grinned, throwing an arm around his clearly unamused friend, leaning over the couch, “Open it for m-”

“I am not openin’ yer damn beer for you!” Demo yelled, trying to grab the bottle but sadly having it yanked away from his reach. Turning around to glare at Soldier only to be laughed at more he settled with only pushing him away.

“Oh, c’mon,” Soldier taunted, shaking the bottle next to the man’s ear.

“Get that damn thing away from me!” Angrily, Demo tried to chug down his tea only to burn his tongue and end up spitting half the cup out onto himself and the floor.

Everyone except the angered Scot laughed, and, continuing with the teasing Soldier waved the alcohol in his face. Before he could yell more Engineer spoke up, “Okay, okay, Solly. Leave the poor guy alone.” Demo set the cup down on table, staring at the cooler for a second before huffing and crossing his arms. “Oh don’t start being like that.” Engineer took a swig, only earning him a nastier glare.

“Bloody unfair,” Demo grumbled.

~~~


“An’ thehh,” Engineer took another swig, continuing an incoherent story. Demo groaned as both Soldier and Engineer burst out laughing. “We should,” Engineer looked into the air like there was something amazing in front of him then, suddenly back into reality, he started laughing again and ran over to Demo. Engineer leaned both hands on Demo’s lap and sloppily tried to kiss whatever was in the general direction of the Scot’s mouth, somehow landing on his jaw.

“Aye! What are you doing?” He let out a chuckle, pushing Engineer away.“You trying to bite me?”

Trying to get passed Demo’s arm Engineer stopped and thought about the question before answering, “No. I wanna kiss you,” He said mockingly, like that was the most obvious thing ever.

“Oh?” Demo looked at Soldier, laughing, “Lad’s tryin’ ta kis-!” Soldier dropped his beer onto the floor, something clicking in his mind that told him he should kiss Demo too. Grabbing Demo’s head and forcing an oddly passionate kiss, “Mmm!” Demo yelled through Soldier, pulling away. He automatically turned to Engineer to explain needlessly, “He- He’s drunk.” Demoman managed the two words before being pulled back.

“Damn right I’m drunk, now get your Scottish ass...” Soldier grabbed his collar with both hands, pulling him back into that kiss.

Demo grunted, savoring the taste of beer on Soldier’s tongue before making himself pull away again. Glaring at Soldier he whispered, “Stop. Yer drunk. Don’t start doin’ this in front a’ Engineer, now, you’ll regret it in the morning.” Ignoring Demo’s advice Soldier pulled the man as close as he could get him with the damn couch in between the two of them.

Using the logic, ‘well I tried,’ Demo let himself sink deeper into the moment. “Yer... a bleedin’ idiot,” he groaned, a small smile tugging it’s way to the corners of his lips.

12 .

The first cue Medic should have noticed was the visits.

Most of the team would avidly avoid him off the battlefield because of his rather odd character, but not Heavy. Every day, almost like clock-work, he'd visit to chat about anything and everything. Medic was mildly surprised to discover Heavy's immensely intelligent mind and permitted him to become a constant companion.

In late January, when the snow would pile down in West Berlin, Heavy began to introduce his German companion to his vast collection of classical music. Dmitri Shostakovich was a personal favortie of his, but he did own several Italian operas and even a full recording of Camina Burana. Medic, in turn, offered hiss skills in chess. He was promptly whooped over and over by his new friend, then taught several new ways to play.

Everyone on base could tell Medic was changing. His normally pale complexion was redder with each day. A smile was constantly on his face, even when he wasn't at the top of his game or when he had to heal his teammates over and over again. He seemed happier and easier to get along with. It was plain to anyone who looked that something good was turning Medic into a more agreeable man.

Something changed, however, when the green of Spring returned to the world. After a rather difficult battle, Heavy had wrapped one of his massive arms around his Medic to comfort him after being dominated by the BLU Sniper. The polite, friendly touch sent happy chills all over the man and a flush of red onto his cheekbones. Heavy had pulled away, wondering if the doctor was ill. It was worse than that. Medic found himself craving a touch, a kind word, anything, from his Heavy. Through careful experimentation, he discovered what touch he could wring from Heavy at certain times.

If a battle went awry, he could receive a half-hug from the Russian, pressing his nose into his chest and inhaling the soft scent of mint and musk. When a battle went well, he'd throw the German into the air and quite literally squeeze him into his neck. His arm sore? Medic would rub it into submission. Cooking? He'd teach Heavy to make shnitzel with noodles or solyanka.

A new change came about Medic. He'd blush at the mention of Heavy's name, attempt to cook anything Russian, murmur songs in German that sounded suspiciously sweet. There were days he'd forget anyone was in the medbay and would belt out any song he could think of. It was plain to most of the others on base that Medic was experiencing something wonderful. The heat of summer brought Medic back to reality. He analyzed his relationship with Heavy, realizing he was addicted to him. It was bad. Anyttime just a mention of him would spur on thoughts of the future, in Germany, teaching other young doctors alongside his dear friend. The thoughts panicked the man. He did the one thing he could think of. Medic locked himself in his infirmary.

----

"What's the matter with doc?" Scout questioned late one morning. The infirmary was locked up tight, and Scout had left his favorite bat in there. Sniper glanced up from his spot on the couch with the newspaper and looked above his glasses.

"Not sure, mate. Been in there since last night. You want answers? Ask his buddy." Heavy walked in a few seconds later, face contorted with confussion.

"What is matter?" he asked when the Boston boy charged him.

"What is Medic's issue?! He's been locked up in his med bay since last night! Did you two have a fightor what, Rooski?!" The mention made him arch an eyebrow.

Medic was upset? That called for an emergency visit.

----

"Doktor?" Heavy's voice echoed in Medic's head. It spun frantically and frightened him. An urge to rip the door from its hinges and hold the man tight flashed over him. He shoved the pulse
down into his stomach and answered, "Y-yes?"

"Is ok?"

"Ja! Ja, I am fine! Go away!"

The Russian paused, obviously not believing him. "Can I come in?"

"Nein!" The answer came out fast. Too fast.

"Is doktor alright? Team worried..."

"Ja, ja, I am fine, please go!" Heavy's hand pressed against the door, face down in concern and worry.

"Doktor, please let Heavy help." A lingering answer came.

"Ja, come in." The door clicked unlock and squeeked open, revealing a disheveled Medic.--- This was a bad idea. The minute the Heavy stepped into his room, he began to feel a familiar ache in his chest. He took in Heavy's appearance and feared he'd jump him just to hold
the man. His hands shivered in anxious anticipation, wondering what his friend--was
he just a friend? Did Medic want only that?--would do.

"Medic... is alright? Need food?" "

Nein, nein," he replied and glanced away, only to have his eyes return to Heavy's via a huge hand.

"Heavy is concerned. Why Medic hide from team? Let help."

The man looked down to his boots, unable to continue to watch those blue eyes. "There is nothing you can help me with, Herr Heavy. I am too lost."

"Nyet. Nothing is set in stone. Let Heavy help, please." Medic paused again, only to look up at him with panic on his face. "I am an addict! I need help. Please do not bother me. I...
am trying to stop my urges." Unfortunately, it didn't work.

"Then let Heavy help. Can bring food and supplies. Please, doktor."

He didn't get it! Why couldn't he understand?! "I cannot let you help me."

"Why not?"

Somewhere, in the Middle East, a straw broke on a camel's back. "Because you are my addiction! You are my problem! I need to be around you constantly! I do not understand why! Herr Heavy, I want you all the time!"

A pause held the room hostage. Heavy's hands moved to Medic's upper arms, rubbing softly against skin. Medic glanced away, unable to look his friend--his more-than-friend--in the eye. A short eternity later, Heavy yanked him into his embrace, one hand pressing his face into his neck and wrapped his free arm around his waist. Medic gasped in shock before he calmed and nuzzled deeper into his arms. It was comfortable, warm, friendly. What took him so long to enjoy this? Why did he wait?

"Doktor is addicted to me. Heavy is too. Have idea. Why not Doktor stay with Heavy often? Keep him safe, loved, happy. In turn, be comrade on battlefield. Deal?"

The Medic smiled into his more-than-friend's ambrace and cooed, "Mein kuschelbär, I agree." The kiss on his forehead sealed the deal.---- Everyone knew Medic was feeling better. His cheeks grew happy and rosey, a smile on his face.

He stood taller, became easier to speak with, always ready for a battle or a conversation. He was happy. The most telling sign, however, was the constant companionship of the Russian man and how bright his eyes would shine in his presence.

13 .

A blast of flame went across the Texan as Pyro rounded the corner for the dozenth time that day. He seemed particularly on edge for some reason and it was nothing that Engineer could really place his finger on. Nothing out of the ordinary had happened that morning and nothing really had happened the day before -of course some points in time Engineer couldn’t account for, especially when Medic and Pyro made pushes for the enemy capture points and left Engie there- so the poor Texan was left wondering what had gotten his friend so riled up.

Pyro stomped away from Engineer and further into the base, towards the silo housing a huge rocket. He stared at it for a moment, almost listlessly, imagining the way the fire would look as the rocket took off. Inside the heavy rubber-asbestos suit, he grit his teeth and waited. He should have been here by now! The battle was in high swing, pushes being made by both the teams but still no appearance of the man he waited for.

He’d begun to leave the silo, when Engineer’s cry of “Spy’s sappin’ my sentry!” made him spin around and rush back the way he’d come in. He must have missed what happened by just a second, because Engineer’s body was still there. Pyro gripped his flamethrower a little tighter and burst a cursory dance of flame around the body. Nothing.

Slowly, nervously, he backed up against the wall and scanned the area. With any luck, the Spy’s cigarette smoke trail would give him away. There was a crunch of gravel under a shoe and Pyro span around with another wild burst of flame. The heat licked the stone walls and left a slight blackened mark- no worse than anything else the mercs had inflicted on their bases- but didn’t touch the man Pyro knew was there. Was he toying with him?

Something slid against the thick material of his suit and Pyro froze up when it came to rest against the back of his neck. The pressure was only just enough for him to feel it, in fact he was probably using the blunt side of the blade because he hadn’t heard a rubber rip…that or he was using that gun. It was engraved with a woman, one of the Spy’s previous lays. Pyro hated it.

“I caught you,” he said, removing the object from against Pyro’s neck and tapped it against his head once. “You know what that means.”

Inside the suit, Pyro smirked. He put the flamethrower away and waddled off in the direction that he knew Spy was walking too. Just to keep up appearances, he kept the fire axe out and strode with a purpose but no team mates intercepted him. Engineer must have respawned by now, he thought, and would return to the ruined remains of his Sentry gun but no Pyro.

Deeper inside the base, close to where Sniper liked to lurk when the other team had pushed them back far enough, were a pair of brewing vats and behind the vats was a door to a large cupboard. It was more than big enough for two people, even with the addition of awkward crates and boxes and the odd broom. The door opened before Pyro got there and swung shut just as he reached out for the handle. He closed his gloved hand around it, pushed the door open again and was met with total darkness.

It moved around the room as Spy walked, bobbing slightly and sometimes grew in intensity. Pyro would sometimes wish he could smell the tobacco smoke that filled the air but he didn’t miss the senses that he’d lost in the fire all the time. Taste and smell weren’t that important anyway.

The red dot closed in and extinguished itself on Pyro’s suit and then quick fingers tugged at the zip of
it and Pyro let them long enough to pull his gloves off and drop them to the floor. The boots were about to come off but Spy must have realised and stopped Pyro from going any further by placing a foot over his own. He didn’t push down, just left it there long enough for Pyro to realise what he wanted. When he stopped trying to pull his foot out of the boot, Spy let up and pushed him against the closest wall. The two were still encased in a blanket of darkness but the hand that slipped between Pyro’s thighs wasn’t unexpected.

He ground down against the hand that rubbed his suit, the squeaking of skin on rubber slowly lessening as Spy spread something between his legs. Pyro recognised that sensation. Then it wasn’t just Spy’s hand between his legs but his cock- Pyro knew that feeling- and it felt good sliding between his thighs. He flexed his muscles experimentally and Spy gasped and muttered a curse.

Pyro rested his hands on Spy’s hips as the string-bean of a man began to thrust. He felt wiry, almost delicate, in Pyro’s great hands but he knew it was like bottled lightning. He didn’t look dangerous at all, but he was. The BLU was spun around and pressed against the wall and Spy’s thrusting began to get erratic and desperate. His harsh breathing was muffled by the thick plastic of Pyro’s mask but it was
unmistakeable, especially when he began to tip closer and his noises became louder.

Spy sealed his lips against the Pyro’s shoulder, stifling his own noises, and wrapped his arms around the heat that was Pyro’s suited body. Pyro braced his hands against the cold stone of the wall and just relaxed and let Spy have his way with his body. Something French was purred in his ear, almost as an afterthought, and the frantic thrusting calmed before stilling entirely.

Their quiet moment of reprieve never came however, because something exploded outside and the warmth at Pyro’s back was suddenly gone. He didn’t let that get him down though, because Spy at least had the courtesy to turn the light on to let him see the state that his legs were in. They were covered in Vaseline and cum and ash. He dragged his fingers through the weird mishmash of gunk, rubbed them together and decided to have a little fun of his own.

A little later Engineer watched his friend run towards him from the vague direction of respawn, wipe his hands on a rag and then toss it away.

“Where you been Py?” He asked, dumping the toolbox he’d just lugged from the other end of the base and giving it a swift kick.

Pyro just answered with some unintelligible noise, a string of mumbles, and hefted his flamethrower a little higher. The sentry unfurled at Engineer’s feet as Pyro charged off to the battlefield, screaming something behind his mask.

“Now that boy ain’t right.”

14 .

Respawn
Maelgwyn
Engineer / Heavy

Dear Secret Santa Recipient

Throwing in my notes here. This started awkward, unsure on how this would work. Then this tumbled out. So, I hope I did your story justice. This has used the greatest amount of character voices I have ever heard in one story. As such, I really hope you enjoy. It feels a little clipped, but the point where it finishes is far more emotive and well, beautiful for me, rather than where it was planned.

Engie gets zapped/respawned/whatever into a kid. Cue him pulling
kid-related shenanigans on the rest of the team, acting like a cutie in
general until (if) it gets fixed, and Heavy having to play Papa Bear for
the duration. If this gets written, extra love if he doesn't immediately
recognize and/or is at first intimidated by his teammates after the
incident.

Maelgwyn

~~

The respawn room would remind most people of a B grade movie set. The large tanks full of some kind of fluid or gas, no one was actually sure. The blue colour swirled from a deep ocean to the lightest of turquoise as each tank pumped the mystery fluid into one another. They were suspended above a small patch of concrete by a maze of bronze pipes and rubber tubes that split from dull grey boxes. Occasionally there was a spurt of steam or god knows what that would come from the all but seized valves.

All the team knew is that when they had their fill of superfluous holes, or decided that Soldier could barbeque we ended up here. The Demo always resounded that it reminds him of a walk in freezer. Most of the team thought so too. The room was perpetually cold; steam rose from the floor as soon as the door opened. The Engineer, on the other hand, treated it more reverently. He had the unfortunate task of trying to maintain the behemoth that kept his team out of deaths embrace.

The machine, to the Engineer at least, felt alive. Each clunk and hiss sounded as if it was talking to him. It always told him something new as he probed and prodded with his tools. The Engineer mused that it always felt as if he could empathise with the Medic as he did the intricate adjustments. He hummed as his tools clanged against an aging fluid/heat exchange, today’s planned maintenance. The resonance of the hits indicated that the unit was full. He placed his hand against the fins, testing to see if the heat was drawing out. Satisfied that the unit was cooling properly, the Engineer removed the inlet and outlet hoses, checking the clamps and hoses for splits.

“Poor baby, you feeling sick?” he mumbled to the machine as a long hiss came from a steam release valve much further in. “I’ll take that as a no?”

“Herr Engineer, you will get sent to my clinic if you keep talking to your machines”

The Engineer clambered out of the tangle of pipes that he had made, poking his head out to see the Medic standing tensely at the door. He wiped his greasy forehead with a rag, smiling warmly at the other man. The Medic scowled a little more.

“Aww shucks Doc, didn’t know you cared!” the Engineer heckled the Medic, “but what brings you to my neck of the woods?”

“Our employer would like us to retain the area that we currently are occupying,” the Medic pushed his glasses back up his nose, “and you know that I can’t keep you all alive without that contraption.” He waved at the respawn disinterestedly. The Engineer tipped his hard hat.

“They want me to get her back running about yesterday?” his southern drawl catching each syllable. He pointed to the mass of rubber tubes that currently did not join to their corresponding coupling. “I just need an hour to just put all of the hoses into these here sockets, then we can go back to shooting at each other, all right partner?”

The Medic clicked his heels together, “Well, that will have to be acceptable, yes?”

“Run along then!” the Engineer waved as his head sank back into the mess of pipes.

“Dummkopf,” the Medic mumbled as he walked out of the room, the automated door closing almost silently.

“Yeah, this room has good acoustics doesn’t it?” the Engineer smiled at the exchanger, “Well, we shouldn’t need to replace you this time around, isn’t that wonderful?” he patted the fins with his gloved hand as his other hand plugged back in the cacophony of tubes. The machine shuddered as the Engineer turned back on the fluid flow. He jumped down to the floor. He felt cat like as he landed in a crouch. This was probably the only time that he felt lithe and alive. Young even. He groaned as he stood however, his knees reminding him that he was not quite that young or flexible. The machine gurgled and hissed.

“Some days, m’dear, I wish I were just a tyke again. Would be nice,” the Engineer said lovingly as he turned the respawner back on. Lights mounted on the control panel slowly flickered back to life, indicating that all the subsystems were working correctly. He flipped a couple of switches then muttered in appreciation. “But we know that is a pipe dream,” he chuckled as he walked out of the room, finding his pun rather clever.

~~

The battle raged outside the control point. The Engineer grimaced as he heard the slams of heavy gunfire hitting the smaller outbuildings. He checked his sentry, as he always did while waiting for the action to hit his small area of contestable territory. He mused as he picked up more metal from his dispenser, ready to shape it into munitions. The sounds of action slowly came closer, errant bullets pinged harmlessly though the corrugated iron that surrounded the shack. He reloaded the level three sentry as he saw the flash of red shirts through the open doorway.

“Dangit! We’ve nearly got this though” he spoke to the sentry as it fired a few rounds into a Scout, “just hold up baby!”

“10 seconds!” the Announcer’s voice boomed across the entire territory. The Engineer wiped his brow.

“Woo ee, we got through it partner!” he tapped the top of his sentry appreciatively. He then started to pack up his post unhurriedly.

“Labourer,” a most unwelcome voice sounded as he heard the distinctive crackle of a sapper, “you are quite insane; you know that? Back to the base!”

“Spy in!” the Engineer’s warning was cut short as the butterfly knife plunged into his back. As he crumpled into a heap, the Red Spy laughed. He closed his eyes as the familiar hum of the respawn filled his head.

~~

It felt like a herd of bees had taken residence in the Engineer’s head as the respawn put him back together, molecule by molecule. His consciousness was streamed from his corpse to take residence in his new body. The Engineer marveled that every bruise, every cut, every ache was wiped away by the magic of the monstrous machine. The Engineer grinned as the final spots were filled in. He flexed his back and legs, letting the newly created muscles unfurl. He cracked his neck, feeling the blood rush into his ears.

He felt like a million bucks. He let loose a whoop and clicked his heels together. As he wandered over to the door, he thought it looked a little strange. He shrugged it off. The door opened softly, as it always did. He then stopped. Unfamiliar voices echoed through the corridors, gaining volume with each heartbeat. The Engineer did what any other person would do. He rushed into the nearest door, head first into a janitorial closet, closing it quickly behind him. He crouched down, looking though the vent at the bottom of the door. Two blue legs walked past, deep in conversation

“Herr Soldier, where do you think the Engineer went?”

“Beats me Doc, did he respawn?” the taller man said. The Engineer shirked away from his booming voice, cowering into the corner of the cupboard. The clatter as mops and other cleaning paraphernalia fell to the ground alerted the two passing by. Engineer could see the boots of one of the men reach the door. He tried to hide behind the mop bucket under a shelf. The door burst open.

“Who is in here?” the Soldier demanded, his eyes scanning the small space. The Engineer cowered further into the corner, hoping that the large man would not see him. The Soldier stood quietly for a moment, waiting for a response. When he didn’t receive one, he started to exhume the contents of the cupboard. As he pulled the buckets out, he stopped mid throw.

“Civilian, what are you doing here?” he boomed as he caught the familiar blue colours in the corner of his eye. He lowered his back further and glared at the youth. “You’re a little young to be here, aren’t cha?” The Engineer looked at the brute, tears in his eyes.

“Herr Soldier, what do you have there?” the Medic grabbed the Soldier’s shoulder and pulled the mercenary back into the hall. The Soldier muttered at the intrusion into his interrogation. “Oh, who are you?” the Medic tried to sound comforting as he pushed his glasses back onto his nose, smiling warmly. Instead, to the young engineer, he looked scarier. With blood smeared the collar of his jacket, and sleeves, he looked more like the mad professor. The Medic put out his hand, also stained with blood, “Come on, wee one, let’s get out of there.” The Engineer started to cry as he tried to shy away from the approaching hand. The Soldier clamped his hands to his ears. The Medic, suddenly unsure of his actions, stood back and straightened up, taking several steps backwards. He put his hand to his chin, musing to what his next action would be.

“Doctor! What is loud sound? It sounds like baby!” the Heavy said as he rounded the corner, eating the last of his sandwich.

“There is a child in the cupboard,” the Medic responded, upper lip twitching in irritation of the sound.

“A child?” the Heavy knitted his eyebrows together, “why would there be a child here?”

“I do not know, Heavy,” the Medic had burrowed his face into his hand, “but you try and find out who it is.”

“Da Doctor, I will try, yes?” the Heavy walked in front of the door and crouched down. He put on his best happy face. “Hello little one!”

The warmth of his tone started to soothe the small child down. The Engineer had fleeting memories of that voice, and how nice that person was. His sobs started to subside. He looked at the Heavy, the remnants of tears and snot smeared across his face. The Engineer wiped his nose with the corner of his sleeve.

“That is good, little one. You want to come with Heavy, we will get sandwich, da?” the Heavy’s smile beamed across his face. The Engineer bit his bottom lip. “Come! Come! We have lots of good things in the kitchen!” the Heavy put out his big hand, “I will not bite! We will have some food then we will find out who you are, da?”

The Engineer tentatively put out his hand as he shuffled out of the corner he had tucked himself into. The Heavy’s large hand engulfed the Engineer’s hand, as well as most of his small forearm. The Engineer let out a small yelp as the Heavy picked him up and slung him into the crook of his arm. The Engineer smiled brightly from his new vantage point as the Heavy swung around to walk back to the kitchen. The Heavy burst into a Russian folk song, with him taking a step on each downbeat. The Engineer giggled, his previous fears forgotten, his small arms wrapped around the Heavy’s neck.

“Herr Soldier,” the Medic said as they rounded the corner, “I think we have found our Engineer.”

~~

The Scout was enjoying the quiet of the kitchen. He had his favourite soft drink out and was putting the final touches on a peanut butter sandwich. He whistled in appreciation at his magnificent feast that he had made. He changed the tone of his whistle to make it into a little popular ditty as he wandered over to the large table that dominated the middle of the room. He clicked the plate to the table. The Heavy, hauling his precious cargo, barged open the door, song in full swing. The Engineer clapped in rhythm to the slow up and down lilt it had.

“Ahh! Scout! You made sandwich for my new friend!’ the Heavy stated as he scooped up the plate. The Scout made a sound, high pitched and construed as protest, his hands frozen in mid air. The Heavy ignored the boy’s plight and plopped the Engineer down on the chair, sliding the plate down in front of his small form. The Engineer smiled brightly as he picked up half.

“Wait…” the Scout caught up, realising the pint sized intruder was indeed the Engineer. The Heavy glared as he passed back behind the Scout, placing a warning hand on his shoulder. The Scout shuddered, “I was going to say nothing there, big guy!”

“Da, keep it that way,” the Heavy’s voice was low and menacing, “we do not want to scare our new friend, do we?” The Scout gulped. He knew he had the advantage of speed and agility, but if the Heavy was angry…

“No way man, he’s cool! I didn’t want that anyway,” the Scout kept his tone rather level, the pace of speech increasing as he tried to twist himself out of the mess he had gotten into, “but hey buddy, you want some milk or something? Think we have got some milk here.” The Scout jumped up, shrugging out of the Heavy’s grasp and toppled the chair that he was sitting on. He raced to the communal fridge.

“Thank you,” the Engineer said meekly as the Scout handed him a glass of cold milk.

“Hey, little man, no problems!” the Scout sounded overeager to please the large, angry Russian, and his much smaller compatriot. “Hey, you wanna go running or something? Got a bat and ball, you good at hitting?” the Scout ran off about a few things that they could do. The Heavy nodded in appreciation for the help.

“Scout, I will make you sandwich,” he rumbled happily, “you do good.” The Scout smiled – no one made food like the Heavy.

~~

“Amnesia from a respawn incident?” the Spy relaxed back into the high backed chairs in the war room.

“Ya,” the Medic directing the conversation, “it is not as uncommon as you think. He has partial memory loss, which is why he did not recognize us.” The Medic gazed over the table. The Spy, Heavy, Soldier, Sniper and himself were in the large room, a smattering of papers on the desk. The Pyro was absent, he was too busy doing whatever the Pyro does. The Demoman was drunk and currently passed out on a small cot in his room. The Scout was with the Engineer, doing something that was hopefully constructive and not destructive. “As you can see,” he paused as he found the right piece of paper, “the body is a strange place. It looks as if there are some problems with the genetics after the last respawn.”

“But, Monsieur Medic,” the Spy interjected, “why has he become a child? I’ve never seen that before.”

The Sniper quipped in his two cents, “It’s cute how the respawn made his uniform itty bitty too.”

“I know, Herr Spy, it has me at a loss,” the Medic sighed as he sat on the nearest chair, ignoring the Australian, “I need to run some tests though.”

“Nyet. No tests,” the Heavy spoke with authority, “he is too weak for testing.”

“Nonsense!” the Soldier stood quickly, “he is American, and as such can take a bit…” The Heavy cut him off with a low growl. “Or maybe not, private,” the Soldier sat back down.

“Heavy… you are being overprotective!” the Medic chided the angry Russian, doing nothing to calm his anger, “I only want some bloods to test. Nothing too intrusive”

The Heavy mused it over for a bit, “Da, fine. Blood tests all right, but I be there. Will not let you do anything to hurt little man.” The Heavy poked a finger towards the Medic to emphasise the point. The Sniper kicked his heels onto the table, resting his Akubra over his face.

“You don’t trust me?” the Medic put his hands up in mock surrender. The Heavy just growled, glaring at the German.

~~

The Scout was enjoying having a younger ‘brother’. Some of the things that his brothers used to do now made sense. Like being highly overprotective of the younger sibling, and teaching the poor soul how to cause a ton of mischief. They had set up their base of operations in the recreation room. A fort, made of chairs and cushions stood precariously in one corner, the Engineer’s hard hat sitting on the top.

“Now, pal,” the Scout whispered, ushering the Engineer closer. The Engineer leaned in, enthralled with the Scout, “what we need to do is get a bucket. Right?” the Scout continued as the Engineer nodded, “and we fill the bucket up with water.”

“Then what Scout?” the Engineer spoke quietly; his little southern drawl was adorable to Scout. Scout tousled the Engineer’s hair. The Scout regretted that he never had any reason to talk to the Texan before the incident. He vowed that he would spend some time with the overly reclusive Engineer after this.

“When they open the door, bang!” the Scout yelled the bang, clapping his hands together, scaring the Engineer a little, “they get wet!” The Scout laughed. The Engineer giggled.

“Okay, partner!” the Engineer grinned.

~~

“MMMMFMFMFMFMFFF!” the Pyro shouted as he entered the war room, dragging Scout by the ear and a sobbing Engineer by the hand. He dripped water all over the floor.

“Ow, you psycho fire bug!” the Scout complained, letting each quip fly faster than the last, “let me go! We didn’t hurt anything! God you’re a pain in the ass.”

The Pyro mumbled some possible profanities as he threw the two across to the table, the Scout collecting the corner of the table with his forehead. The Scout cried out an obscenity.

“Scout, little one does not need to listen to naughty language!” the Heavy glared at the younger man as he nursed the growing bump on his forehead. The Engineer rushed to the Russians side and clawed at his shirt, trying to hide from the loud people. He nuzzled into the larger man as the Heavy’s protective hand encased the boy.

The Spy, not one normally for team harmony, cleared his throat, “What is this interruption for Pyro?” The Spy seemed to be transfixed on the man as he mumbled the incident. Through the hand motions alone, he was able to ascertain their little prank, “You know, Pyro, you can not fault them. They are young and as such,” the Spy lit a cigarette, “they will have the propensity to entertain themselves.” The Spy blew out a smoke ring.

“But,” the Soldier interjected, “you need discipline! If Genghis Khan did not have discipline, he wouldn’t have been able to invade Indonesia!” The Soldier continued to spout some historical nonsense. The others around the table seemed to ignore the Soldier. It was only until he suggested punishing the pair, did someone respond.

“You simpleton!” the Spy feigned shock, “they are just children! And no one was hurt, were they Pyro?”

The Pyro mumbled, the fury slowly leaking from his unintelligible speech. He rummaged in his pocket and pulled out a rather wet Zippo. He opened it and tried to light it, the flint not sparking from being wet.

“Poor baby!” the Sniper said as he pushed his hat back onto his head, “You can’t light any fires for a bit. Grow a set – it’ll dry out and then you can ignite all the things you want.”

“Herr Heavy, shall I get what I need to do my testing?” the Medic asked quietly, not allowing the circus of Pyro’s misfortune to derail the original purpose of their meeting

“Doctor, tomorrow!” the Heavy was disgusted that he would ask.

“Fine, tomorrow morning!”

~~

The door cracked open. The Heavy sighed as he looked at the alarm clock next to his bed. Midnight. He groaned as he turned. His sleep addled head not comprehending the significance; nor did it register the tiny patter of feet. It was only until there was a tug at the sheets did the Heavy really open his eyes. The Engineer stood at the side of the bed, holding his little teddy engineer in hand.

“Ah, little one,” the Heavy said groggily as he wiped his eyes, “it is very late. What are you doing up?”

“Uhh,” the Engineer stuttered, “I had a bad dream. There were monsters and big scary people. There was the man in the helmet and the man with the glasses...” The Engineer bit his bottom lip in fear, remembering the images that had assaulted him earlier.

“Oh,” the Heavy yawned, “come then.” The Heavy lifted the covers and waved to the Engineer, “We sleep now, da?”

The Engineer quickly climbed into the relative safety of the Heavy’s bed, knowing the monsters would stay away from the huge Russian. He nuzzled into the Heavy’s unintentional embrace. The Heavy sighed as the Engineer made himself comfortable, squirming and tossing. As he settled, the Heavy cleared his throat.

“You know, little Engineer, I had little son. His name was Alec. Many moons ago he was born in autumn. The big trees dropped brown and red leaves. He was my little man. We loved him, Sasha and I. Sasha is name of my wife, not just my gun.” The Engineer murmured as he slowly drifted back to sleep. The Heavy absentmindedly played with the hair on the Engineer’s head, his eyes becoming unfocused as he replayed the memories.

“He was a brave boy. Yes, very brave. He could fight the world and he would win. Made his mama and papa very proud. He liked to run like Scout. Ran fast as wind, won awards. But, poor Alec, he could not fight all the time. He became sick one winter. Very cold winter it was too. Crops could not grow through snow. Sasha and I, we tried to help. We saw doctor. Little Alec, he was so cold,” tears welled in the Heavy’s eyes as he reminisced on the day.

“Eventually, he became one with God again. We buried him under big tree. Sasha and I became sad. Sasha, she died in spring. Very pretty spring; the flowers were in bloom. Small birds had come home for summer. She died of broken heart. Even big man like me could not fill the gap. It made me sad. She sleeps next to my little man. But I have to be strong, for my Alec and Sasha. That is why my gun named Sasha, to remind me of who I always love.”

The Engineer started to snore as his tiny frame tried to escape from the horrors in his head. The Heavy lent down and gave him a kiss on the top of his head, smoothing the cowlicks with his hand. “You be brave man Engineer, even as little boy. You will always be brave. You may not think so. Little machines help team…” The Heavy’s eyes grew heavy, his breathing slowed. His eyes closed as they both dreamt of better places, of better times and of the things they had lost.

15 .

It weren’t the friendliest meetin’, what with the two of us arguin’ about the proper ingredients fer a propelled grenade (‘nails an’ pellets’ he says), and I leave him a right good glare as I’m stomping me way from the booth. Only so much hard headed nonsense I can take, but damn me if the helmeted special case didn’t have a spark to him.

Expo was a bloody sham anyway. Waste a’ money.

So that night I visit meself a pub on the waterfront. Packed as all hell on those bleedin’ Friday nights. I squeeze onto a stool at the bar and find meself rubbin’ shoulders with the same crazy numpty I was clashin’ words with earlier. The fella’s damn near elbow deep in those ribs a’ his, and lemme tell ya does he love ribs.

The sod’s got about the grumpiest pout I ever seen. The pretty dark-haired lass workin’ the counter ain’t got herself much appreciation for it. She sneers at him when she walks by, and the helmet boyo is outta ribs and down to lickin’ the sauce off his fingers. He looks like he’s itchin’ to leap the bar counter and get her face real acquainted with a pair of his knuckles, so I give him a nudge and decide to show him how it’s done.

“You!? I do not need any help from a dress wearing menace!” he shouts. A few folks turn their heads, but I keep me yammer shut long enough for ‘em to just go back to their drinks and finger food.

“Lad, ya best not be talkin’ about me finest kilt.” I like to wear me kilt when I go drinkin’. The crowds in bars don’t tend to give me any funny looks. “Now, jus’ keep that greasy trap a’ yers’ shut an’ I’ll show you how to be at least a wee bit of a gentleman.” I decide to give him a wink. Scottish charm can be pretty darn contagious.

I wave the bar lass down and order a couple glasses of adelphi malt, and refill the lad’s dripping basket a’ ribs. I tell the boyo ya can’t be in a Scot’s company without honorin’ the goodness of his homeland least a bit, specially after you insult his own fancy dress wear.

The lass takes me menu with a wide smile. The eye patch and accent always do ‘em in.

The boy grumbles a bit to himself and folds his arms like a school boy, and I give meself a soft chuckle. It’s almost cute in a weird kinna way.

Then it ain’t long before the food and drink arrive and he’s guzzling everything down like a goddamn disposal, with the sternest sauce-spattered smile I’ve ever seen. That face has spent years cookin’ on the battlefield. A bloody shame that helmet covers his eyes.

“You’re alright cyclops!” he admits, slammin’ an empty glass on the counter. “Y’know, for a skirt-wearer.”

“Oi! It ain’t a bleedin’ skirt, ya windbag.” I wag my finger at him, tryin’ to be intimidating. The alcohol might’ve already seen to that, though. “Ye don’t wanna make me cross, lad.”

Then the helmet boyo leans in real close with that smile no where ta’ be seen. “And why is that, skirt-twirler?”

An’ before me swimmin’ head could think of what to say, I was feeling the side of his face hitting a set of me knuckles. Actually, might be the other way around now that I think of it...

“Oohhh is that how it’s gonna be, skirt-trash? You just tempered the wrong falcon, sally!”

The lad reels his arm back, and not a blurry moment later, I’m leaning against the counter, nursing a bruising cheek with me palm. I stand back up to face the wise ass. People are starin’ and startin’ to crowd around. Let ‘em watch, I say.

And oh me sweet mother, do they watch. It’s all a flurry of punches and kicks and grabs and headlocks, with me head ringing like a church bell, an’ me gut sorer than a call girl’s fanny, an’ by all that’s holy, this lad hits like a mule’s hooves.

I manage to get meself a fist full of shirt and aim my knee for his face, but somewhere ‘tween all the drinking and all the hitting, that’s become easier said than done. I end up kneeing him in the neck. The helmet lad stumbles back and cradles his throat.

“Ow! You savage Scot bastard!”

The bastard thrusts his head forward, and damn do I expect ten poor spots of me face will be swollen up tomorrow mornin’ thanks to that helmet of his.

“Done yet, you bleeding son of a bitch!?”

“Yer... yer bleedin’ too...” Huh. Seems like speakin’ coherently is getting right tough too...

The helmet lad wipes the back of his across his mouth, and I swear he’s wipin’ off more barbecue sauce than blood. Everyone in the crowd is still actin’ real frosty, ‘cept for that uniformed man wavin’ his stick about-

“Do not interrupt MY fight! Get some manners, momma’s boy!”

An’ just like that, the helmet lad laid that poor boaby across the floor, having him whinin’ about a broken nose.

The helmet case shakes an’ flexes his hand after the strike. “Any other naysayers wanna get in on MY battlefield?”

An’ then there’s a couple of flashing blue and red lights through the windows of the pub. Goddamn that’s obnoxious, why in the bleedin’ hell would-

...oh.

“Oi, lad, Ah think we uh...” I scoop the bottle of whiskey from the counter and dump the deluge down me throat. The burn helps a bit. “Ah think we got ourselves in a pint size a’ trouble.”

“HAH! These baton-swinging sissies haven’t even MET trou- GAH stop beating with that baton!”

The bloody polis were all over the poor helmet case, clingin’ those sticks against him like they were tryin’ to put down some infested leper. I throw myself at the sods, and I can barely keep track of who or what I’m hitting. Suddenly I’m being pelted with so many hunks a’ metal I feel like I’m being used to test hammers.

I drift in and out on consciousness, barely comprehending the beatings, then the cuffs on me wrists, then the jail cell door slamming shut. By the time I’m voluntarily wrenching my eyes open, it feel like weeks have passed, and the ceiling light is way too fuckin’ bright. Like I need anymore of a solid headache. Feels like a building is collapsing behind me eyeballs. I squeeze my eyes closed. Thank all that’s holy that I got my head such a good cushion...

“You’re damn lucky I like you, cyclops,” the helmet case said. There might’ve been a wee bit a’ venom in the words, but he didn’t move. He does have one helluva a spark to him, don’t he?

Ah keep me head resting against his shoulder, an’ scooch across the bench jus’ a bit closer to him.

“Ah love you too, lad.”

16 .

Empty Space

Heavy met Medic's birds before the man himself. Getting off the train for the first time in Teufort, he'd exchanged hand shakes and friendly words with his new comrades. They may have been a little strange or noisy but they seemed eager to get to fighting and that was enough for Heavy. But he had only met seven men and there were nine piles of luggage.

The strangest pile was the one top by a neat stack of wire-and-wood boxes, which on closer inspection turned out to be cages, each containing one or two white doves. They seemed quite out of place here, especially when a lot of his team mate's things were covered in bright-red warning stickers and reams of densely printed information that made Heavy's head spin. But Heavy liked their gentle cooing and rustling. When he put his hand closer, a few birds chose to investigate, one even giving him an experimental peck.

"Excuse me, Herr."

He had to be the final member of the team, a greying man with a piercing blue gaze. He was quite tall and looking taller with the way he held himself so straight. Another cage was in his arms and the bird it contained was as white and as spotless as his coat.

"Oh, hello," Heavy offered him his broadest grin, "These are your birds?"

"They are," the man-in-white drew himself up defiantly, still far off Heavy's height but the furrow in his brow more than made up for it, "And I would thank you not to bother them after such a long trip."

If this man had been one of his birds, Heavy was sure that his feathers would be all puffed up. Thinking back on it, a long while later, the Russian would think it was in this moment that he fell in love with his Doktor, just a little bit.

"Do not want to bother them. I like your birds," one of them pecked again at Heavy, "This one, I think, likes me."

"Ah, that is Plato," the older man relaxed a little and put the cage he held with the rest, "My apologies, but he does that with everyone. He is quite an affectionate bird."

"Is not problem."

"Plato is not the worse of them. This one," he pointed at another bird - seemingly no different from the rest, "This one is the one that you have to watch. Archimedes rides with me in the car because I simply cannot trust him with the rest of my baggage."

Heavy exchanged a glance with the untrustworthy bird,

"Nyet?"

"No. I leave my work out in my laboratory one night and when I return he had somehow gotten into the inner workings of my Medigun. Days spent repairing the damage," he shook his head, "He is troublesome but at least his mischief appears to be motivated by scientific inquiry," he smiled at Heavy. Looking back, Heavy would think that yes, this was another moment when he fell a little further in love with this man.

"I am Heavy Weapons Guy," he extended his hand, "Am looking forward to working together."

"Oh, yes. Likewise," Heavy's hand completely enveloped the smaller man's hands, "I am the Medic."

***

Heavy and Medic fought well together and BLU team learnt to run when the Doktor began to shout Raus! over the crackle of the Übercharge. They fought in Teufort, Steel, Yukon, a dozen other bases. It was in Dustbowl where Heavy finally kissed Medic under the beam of the Medigun and a dozen pairs of beady, black eyes.

In Doublecross there would soon be quite a bit more than kissing going on. The base was relatively peaceful for once, Medic was warm and willing in Heavy's arms and the weekend was about to start in the best possible fashion.

What the Russian did not expect was for Medic's lips to leave his and for the German to suddenly burst out laughing.

"Doktor?"

"No - ach! - no it's not you, Schatz. It's-" Medic dove under the covers and re-surfaced with a bird held tightly in his hands, "He was tickling me. Archimedes! What have I told you before?"

Archimedes wriggled out of Medic's hands to flutter onto the headboard, showing little sign of remorse. His feathers were still stained a light pink, a souvenir of the last time he'd been somewhere forbidden.

"Should not bother Doktor too much, little bird."

"It is fine. They will be wanting to be let out now," he sat up, smoothing down his bed head a little, "I will not long."

"Nyet," Heavy pulled him down back down into bed, "I will go instead. Doktor will wait for me, yes? Keep thinking nice thoughts," he kissed him firmly on the forehead.

"If that's what you wish," said Medic with a lavish smile, "They shouldn't need food or the like. Just open the window."

"Da," with another kiss, this one to the Doktor's lips, Heavy began lumbering to the bedroom door, Archimedes fluttering to his shoulder.

"Don't keep me waiting, Herr," purred Medic.

Heavy picked up the pace.

The infirmary was given over to the birds at night with the bedroom acting as Medic and Heavy's private space, at least in theory. Archimedes always seemed to get in but he did have a talent for being where he wasn't supposed to be.

The others had stayed though, even the wild doves that fell in with Medic's flock every so often but were rarely tamed. With them up in the rafters was Aristotle, still shy around everyone but the Doktor. Plato had fluttered onto Heavy's other shoulder as soon as he was spotted and Socrates was waddling over too, just in case there was a chance of sandwich crumbs. Hippocrates was quietly dozing on the cradle of the Medigun. And by the window was Zeno - or was it Xeno? - with Xeno - or was it Zeno? - up on the shelf. All present and correct.

Heavy opened the window, shooing birds out into the atypical sunshine. For a little while at least, he could have Doktor all to himself.

***

The clay pigeon launcher had begun as an idle technical exercise. A brief attempt had been made to explore the practical applications of a such a device on the battlefield - mostly at the behest of Scout and Soldier, who explained their ideas with plenty of explosion noises. That idea had fallen through once Engineer had demonstrated the lack of aim involved. But the prototype remained and the missiles themselves weren't hard to make - just the kind of monotonous task Engineer like to occupy his hands with while thinking.

So that Saturday, the Engineer, the Scout and the Sniper were out enjoying the rare fine weather, a case of Red Streak and raining bits of clay down onto Doublecross.

"Dead Eye's got you beat, Scout," Engie glanced over at the chalk tally marks they'd been making on the wall. Sniper hadn't missed one yet.

"Well that's just 'cause I ain't locking myself up in my room every day jerkin' it with a rifle all day," that particular comment got a bottle thrown at Scout's head. Luckily it turned out to be Sniper's first miss and hopefully it had been that way on purpose, "Hey, watch it! C'mon, Hardhat. Load 'em up!"

Engie yanked on the lever, taking a long drag from his bottle. Turns out taking his eye off the proceedings was a bad idea, something he only found out when Scout yelped in surprise. White feathers were drifting slowly to the floor and Sniper was strolling out, his gaze sweeping the floor carefully.

"That's gotta be worth more points! I mean, Sniper ain't managed to hit anything other than the targets an' hitting somethin' that's still kicking is a hundred times harder."

"The aim of the game was to hit the targets though," Engie got to his feet with a grunt, "What in God's name did you hit anyway?"

Scout shrugged. Sniper was heading back, long strides eating up the ground, something swinging from his hand,

"Yo, Snipes. What I get?"

It was a white dove, considerably less white than it had been in life. There were three neat holes in it's chest.

"....Aw, fuck."

"Language," said Engie, more by reflex than anything else.

"No, Hardhat. You don't get it. That's one of Doc's birds. He's gonna kill me. He's gonna do... science shit to me!"

"Are you sure?"

"Got the ring on it's leg," said Sniper, pointing out the little red band. Scout moaned, looking rather ill.

"It was an accident, kid. I'm sure Doc will understand."

"He sewed a bird into me!"

"By accident."

"That's what he said."

Sniper shrugged,

"He could just set Heavy on you, mate."

The thought of facing both an angry giant and a maniacal doctor was too much for Scout and before Engineer could grab him, the younger man had darted into the base to hide.

"That's not helping, partner," said the Texan, lifting his googles to give Sniper a full taste of his disapproving stare.

"The little bugger shouldn't had said anything about me rifle."

***

Heavy strolled into the infirmary, expecting to be greeted with a record playing and Doktor happily engrossed with one of his experiments. Instead the infirmary was quiet, with only the hum of the Medigun in its cradle to break the silence. The red beam was focused on nothing and Heavy switched it off. It was not like Medic to be wasteful like this.

"Doktor?"

"I am here," came the response after a long pause.

Doktor was sat on their bed, a cardboard box on his lap. His birds were cooing for attention, Aristotle and Hippocrates perched on either shoulder but Medic appeared to be ignoring them. His shoulders were slumped, a far cry from his usual straight-backed posture.

"Something is wrong."

"Ja," Medic looked down at the box again, "...Archimedes is dead."

"What?" Heavy padded into the room, closing the door behind, "How did this happen?"

"He... From what I have been told, he flew into gunfire by mistake. Our own team's fire."

"What me to have... word?"

"Nein, I sent them away," Medic slumped a little further, "...Poor kleine Taube."

Heavy shooed away the remaining birds and sat next to Medic, one massive arm around him. There was an empty space between them but the German did not move to fill it.

"I never thought it would be Archimedes. He was the youngest when I took up this contract and he adapted so well. I thought that if any of them would be safe it would be him but I... I cannot keep even a bird safe."

"Do not think like that, Doktor," Heavy's hand slid up and down Medic's back. The empty space between them felt very wide indeed.

"Yes. Yes, I see your point. It is silly to be like this over an animal," before Heavy could say that he had not meant it like that, the German continued, "I am a silly old man with silly birds."

"I like your birds," Medic finally looked up at him and Heavy touched his cheek gently, "I love you."

"And I you," he slid nearer, the gap between them gone and Heavy held his lover close, where, if he had his say, even death would not touch him.

***

They buried Archimedes the next day. Hand-in-hand, Heavy and Medic walked into the pine forest that surrounded Doublecross. It had rained in the night and the scent of pine was in the air. Despite their grim errand Heavy thought that the area was pleasent. Perhaps in happier times he could walk with Medic here.

This was the second grave that Heavy had ever dug for a bird. The first had been as deep as his hands could claw out of the frozen Siberian earth. Archimedes got a proper grave, dug with a borrowed shovel and under a nice tree. Medic had been there to lower the cardboard coffin into the ground and to say his goodbyes and to walk back with Heavy, hand enveloped again in the Russian's.

"You know that prisoners would sometimes tame birds for company?" said Medic as they passed through the chain-link fence and into the base proper, "Or sometimes they would be given them by the officers?"

"Da?"

"Yes," a bird cooed nearby, perhaps one of Medics, "I always wondered if the reasons behind my own flock were the same. But I am glad that I have them all. For however long they stay."

Heavy kissed him on the forehead,

"Am glad that I have Doktor. Even if Doktor was hard to tame."

"How rude, Herr!"

But Medic was smiling as he said it.

***

Some weeks later, Heavy entered the infirmary to hear Mozart coming from the record player and Medic humming along quite happily. There was a dove on a little set of scales and Medic was scribbling in the little book that Heavy called the Dove Book.

"Hello, Doktor," he crossed room, stooping to kiss Medic on the top of the head, "Hello, little bird."

"Hallo," the German abandoned his work for a brief moment to return the kiss, "You have come to see the patient?"

"Seems much better," the bird was still a little thin and still had a few small bald patches but he was looking far better than when the Russian had scooped him out of the gutter.

"He is much healthier. And far tamer than I would have thought," he scooped up the bird in both hands and deposited him on Heavy's shoulder. Only a little coo came from the bird and it settled down with no fuss.

"Think this one will stay?"

"Perhaps. I am inclined to think that he will. I have yet to introduce him to the others though."

"Other birds will play nice or Doktor will be angry with them," Heavy chuckled. The slight quake of his shoulders startled the dove and gave a reproachful coo, "Sorry, little bird," he gently stroked the soft, new feathers as an apology.

A thoughtful expression crossed Medic's face,

"I will have to name him. But he does not look like a Pythagoras or an Epicurus."

Heavy took a long look at the dove, wondering how Medic decided these things. Although to be fair, neither of those names came to mind when he looked at the new bird,

"Could be an Archimedes?"

"No, no. Far too well-behaved," Medic turned and regarded the dove leaning into Heavy's touch, "He seems to like you."

"Is good bird."

"He has good taste at least," a thoughtful expression crossed Medic's face, "Perhaps I have enough philosophers and inventors in my flock. A change is in order."

"Have another name in mind?"

The German stepped in close, and Heavy put an arm around him,

"...He looks like a Tolstoy. At least to me."

"I like it," he leant in - the newly named Tolstoy cooing in protest - and covered Medic's mouth with his own, "Thank you, Doktor," said Heavy as they parted.

"It is really Tolstoy that should be thanking me, ja?" he smiled, "But I understand."

They kissed again and the empty space closed between them.

17 .

This certainly wasn't the first time a knife had come out between himself and Pyro, and he was sure it wouldn't be the last. They were enemies, after all, Pyro with RED and Spy with BLU. Before they're started fucking, they had had the same kind of relationship as most enemy Spies and Pyros had: to put it lightly, they didn't exactly care for one another.

Really, though, things weren't much different between them now, only with the addition of certain violent sexual energy. Most of the time when they encountered each other on the field, it would be either a quick backstab or a slow incineration, and one of them would come out the victor. Business as usual. But sometimes, when Pyro (never Spy. He likes to think he's got more self control than the mumbling lunatic.) is more pent-up and sexually-frustrated than usual, things will go differently. Sometimes Pyro won't even bother to drag them to a secluded spot before starting the process of stripping the Frenchman's suit from him. Times like today.

Unlike all those other times, though, he didn't just strip off Spy's suit impatiently and with many grumbled huffs. He yanked hard and eventually tore, earning a loud yelp from the rogue and a smack upside the head. When the firestarter was undeterred, only pouncing on the Spy and ripping at his clothes with increased spirit, Spy shoved him away, demanding to know what on earth he was doing.

When Pyro came at him again he sidestepped the advance on twinkle-toes. He faked left and Pyro lunged at him. Off to the right he sprinted, fiddling with his cloaking device as he went. The damn thing was charging. He needed to keep away from the mumbling psycho just long enough to cloak and make a sneaky getaway.

Pyro followed how on his tail as he rounded a corner. He tried to duck behind a large rock obstruction, but within a heartbeat Pyro was after him. The firebug caught him by the back of his collar, and he had to fashion a hasty escape by slipping out of his jacket and taking off in the direction he'd come from first.

He ran into his own Scout, who made some crack about him being a prancing faggot as he passed. He knew a scuffle with Scout wouldn't last long enough to subdue the Pyro for more than a few seconds, and he cursed the boy for being so useless as his death cry rang out. Not even good at dying. Pathetic.

Before he turned his next corner, he took a glance down at his cloaking device and noted, with as much relief as the situation allowed, that it was nearly charged. He felt smug and clever as he turned the corner and got ready to deploy his newly-charged escape... until the shovel the connected with the side of his head put a stop to it.

The RED stood over him with his trademark war snarl. His shovel was raised over his head for another, possibly fatal, blow. Suddenly, there was a series of explosions and the Soldier was thoroughly distracted. There was no better competitor than the enemy Demoman, after all. Spy knew what was coming next and he slunk away and hit the dirt. Still, the rocket jump the Soldier used to propel himself up to his enemy shook the very earth and sent the Spy flying. A few feet away he lay dazed on the ground, seeing metaphorical stars.

When he regained his wits and got to his feet he remembered his situation and glanced at his cloak. He nearly laughed out loud in victory when he saw that it was fully charged. He engaged it just as he was yanked off his balance and dragged off backwards to a semi-secluded gap behind a rock formation.

His cloak failed and the air was knocked out of him as he was tossed into the wall. Rough rock bit into his back. With a fizzle his cloak fell and there Pyro was standing, shorter than him but still managing to look terribly intimidating.

Spy tried to stammer out a warning, a threat, something to let Pyro know that what he was doing was not playful and sexy in the least. Pyro interrupted him by punching him in the face. While he was recovering, the firebug skillfully divested Spy of his balisong, tucked in an inside pocket of his vest. He flicked it open in a steely display of dexterity that Spy wouldn't have thought him capable of.

Now unarmed, Spy's struggles increased tenfold. He might have had his pride, but he was not stupid. If wrestling the Pyro off himself like nothing more than an animal (or a filthy bushman) would save him from whatever plot the Pyro had in his sick little head, then so be it. Cunning strategy and gentlemanliness be damned, Pyro was kinky.

Though he struggled with all his might, his wiry frame was no match for Pyro's muscles, honed from lugging around all his tanks and weapons every day. Without much trouble, Pyro hooked the blade of Spy's vest and began sawing.

The sound of the first cut had Spy shouting obscenities in a mix if at least five different languages. He flailed and thrashed with all of his strength, but it only took Pyro three long cuts before the vest was falling from him in strips.

Partway through sliding off Spy's white dress shirt, Pyro nicked him along the side, which brought a yelp of pain and a halt to his struggling. He'd only get cut more if he struggled and knocked the knife around. Not such a good idea.

Once Spy was still, it wasn't long before his clothes lay in heaps of shredded fabric at his feet. He had nothing left but his gloves, mask, tie, garters, socks, and shoes.

Remembering their past experiences together, though, Spy had a feeling that Pyro wouldn't do anything to him that didn't ultimately feel good. This thought calmed him a little, and he had to fight down his erection. It was one thing to be not-shitting-himself-terrified and another to be aroused and eager. He couldn't be too easy.

In fact, he didn't make a single noise until Pyro undid his zipper to the crotch and shoved him to his knees. With a strangling grip of his tie and his own knife to his throat, Spy made a noise of protest to the cock presented to him. Pyro just pressed the blade more firmly against his flesh. Blood lazily oozed from the shallow cut and stopped as it soaked into his tie. Scarlet stained the navy silk. Of course, Spy only rolled his eyes and opened his mouth in response. He'd be damned if he didn't get some revenge teeth-scraping in, though. Pyro would pay for having the upper hand. People always did with Spy.

That did not seem to what Pyro was after, though. He fucked Spy's throat for only a few minutes, heedless of the not-quite-accidental nicks of the Frenchman's teeth against his skin. Then he pulled out, a thin string on saliva-cum mix creating a bridge between Pyro's tip and Spy's lower lip. It broke as Pyro yanked Spy around by his tie, shoving him forward until he fell to his hands and knees. Once the Spy was on all fours, Pyro kneeled behind him and pressed himself against Spy's rear, still slick.

It was rare for Pyro to completely skip foreplay, but they were in the middle of a battle and they hadn't been alone together in a couple of weeks. Spy could understand that Pyro was probably riddled with pent-up sexual frustration. He'd have his way this time, but next time Spy would be the one holding the knife and Pyro would be the one with his suit getting sliced off and bleeding everywhere.

Spy grit his teeth and breathed hard through them when Pyro entered him and interrupted his thought process. Without a second's pause to allow him to adjust, hands gloved in rubber gripped his hips tightly and pulled him back to meet the body they belonged to thrust for thrust. Spy shut his eyes tight and tried not to make any noise. That would be all too embarrassing, especially with how quiet Pyro was being this particular encounter. If they were somewhere private, Spy would feel more inclined, but the battlefield didn't exactly inspire a mood.

He remained as quiet as possible, until pain shot through his side and he let out a shout - closer to a scream, really. One of his hands shot back to the pain's origin. It met Pyro's gloved hand gripping the handle of his balisong. He had stabbed it into Spy's side, just below his ribcage, and as he continued to thrust, he twisted and jerked it about, sawing and tearing at him.

Spy tried to voice his protest, but he barely managed to get out a syllable before Pyro snatched up the end of his tie and wrenched hard on it. He choked out pleas for Pyro to stop, asking him just what the fuck< he was doing, and begged him for mercy in every language he knew.

Pyro pulled the knife out and Spy thought that perhaps he was granting the mercy he had cried for. Until, that is, the blade began tracing up his spine to rest its tip between his shoulder blades. He gasped as the smallest bit of pressure pushed the blade until it pierced his flesh. A backstab. How fitting.

He felt he could do nothing more than remind Pyro that in order to do it properly, he'd need to move the knife to the left a bit. The clearness of Pyro's breathing made Spy realize that the firebug had rolled the mask up above his mouth. Spy knew that under the mask there was scarred flesh and a few scattered patches of stubble. A crooked nose, blank dark eyes. He might've been handsome once, but now he was just a burned deformed freak.

The last sensation Spy felt before he respawned was pain, blossoming from the wound in his side and coming in erratic jolts from his back end, stabs of a different sort. The last thing he heard was Pyro's voice, low and audibly strained, issuing one last 'fuck you too' before he killed him in a way befitting only him.

"Don't see how it makes any difference, considering you've got no heart to stab anyhow."

18 .

Author's Note:

I credit my beta and my muse Dr.Jagerhunde/Silver for a lot of encouragement, help and nudging.
But I also blame her for distracting me with Sarca’s streams, a mass of RPs, other ideas, video games and shoving ragdolls into positions that would make normal people cry. You big ass puntus.
Kuhzka helped beta also, cudos.
Sarcasmosaur just made goofy ascii art.

[Mod Note: Sorry I edited out a lot of your Author's Note. Tried to keep the important stuff intact, but I believe your writing will speak for itself. -Kilo]
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Medic tapped the suede-bottomed chess piece on the board lain before him, mulling over what move to take. The rhythmic bumps of the train tracks and the quiet rainfall soothed the doctor's frayed nerves. His mind eventually wandered to the events which allowed him such relief from duty and a vacation back to his sorely missed homeland.

Work had been harsh in the bitter cold between the bases, as it always was: being abandoned by ungrateful, rocket-jumping mercenaries smelling of booze and asbestos before receiving a bat to the head by a toothy youth spouting some garbage to swell his already unhealthy ego... Many times previous he'd felt this way. Stress and depression, he knew them almost like friends now, and like friends, he had learnt exactly how to shoo them from his company (usually it involved tea and a gramophone.)

Yet the past few months weren't being soothed by the gentle touch of his Russian behemoth, nor by his own attempts at medical research and resonant areato-- This was partly why he was here.

Blue eyes fluttered back open at the sound of his cabin door being opened and a rolling German accent filling the space. "I hope I'm not intruding, doctor." The last vowel dragged out until it screamed, spoken with all the dramatic subtlety of an elk in a ball gown. His coat fluttered behind him weakly as he entered the cosy cabin.

There he was, standing in the doorway like some sort of persistent ghost come to haunt from a distant and bloody past, but he was most definitely real. Medic sat there stupefied, unsure if he wanted this man of all people penetrating his solitude.

After a long pause the doctor finally made his decision. "...Not at all." He could deal with this. a curious look on his face spread as his old colleague slid the compartment door shut, his bulky leather suitcase clunking against it before sitting on the leather seat, a twin to his own. Medic stooped over the board once more, trying not to catch the man’s eye. An old joke between friends, a game of cat and mouse.

"Excuse me, warm reunions were never my talent.", he chuckled, glancing over the well-kept chessboard. The doctor had quite an impressive set going, himself having been an old aficionado in his golden years, still playing from time to time. The intruder’s eyes wandered to the darker pieces, intensely calculating possible moves.

The doctor watched him in deep thought for a moment, returning with a light bark of laughter "Neither were they mine, Richtofen." He continued to ponder his next move, patiently playing over his past games, when a hand loomed over the board

The scarred general picked up the black rook, fondling it between gloved fingers before placing it down to threaten the already weakened defenses of the white. He looked up and grinned at the Medic, snorting at the obvious hole. He’d have to do better...

“It was my turn you know.” Medic raised an eyebrow to the intrusion on his game.

“Do I look like I care?” He shook him off, flapping his hand to brush away the air of annoyance. The man began to fiddle with his suitcase, pulling out an old kerchief, then tucking it under his seat.

“I suppose you don’t.” Equally devilish grins exchanged between the two old colleagues as an impromptu chess match ensued, the muffled sound of pieces being exchanged becoming compliment to the raindrops tumbling down the metal roof.

“It has indeed been a long time since we did this,” He muttered as he considered his next move, eyes darting around the board like a cat chasing something inane.

“Are you talking to me or them?” Medic spoke, teasing gently at his fellow flesh enthusiast, frowning as he snatched up a wayward bishop.

“Both.” A smirk crawled onto the former Nazi’s thin lips as a dark pawn slipped past his counter’s broadly diminishing ivory army in a show of bold defiance.

“So... what brings you back to Germany? Did you miss me that much, mein lieber Metzger?” The man’s last comment and the childish kissing insults were quickly followed by a slap and a captured pawn, punishment for insolence.

Cackling and a far too satisfied grunt came from the shorter man, rubbing a smacked hollow cheek. “So that is a yes then?”

“No, not in the slightest.” Blatant lies. Straight faced lies, but obvious ones. They both knew that Richtofen was the only person that shared Medic’s intense lust for gore apart from his red twin, who was not to be fraternized with and quite honestly disturbed Medic because of his similarity. Unfortunately this left no outlet, save for the Russian who went compliantly along with his antics like a large lap-dog, and the RED team, who resisted as much as possible. No one to truly share in the pleasures of the flesh like the man across from him did. As conflicted as he felt, he knew this to be true, even as he lied even to himself.

“I am here because work has been...stressful. I am taking a holiday.”

“More than you could handle? My my. Tell me! Let me revel in your pain! Also the idea of you in one of those striped swimsuits amuses me.”

Paying no attention to the bathing costume remark, the worn field medic made his move to better defend the white king before laying back onto his seat, removing his own glasses with a sigh. “It started on Saturday, we had lost the battle the previous few days and admittedly that was my fault, but the rest of the team has this amazingly short memory, so apparently a few mistakes over a frankly stellar career at BLU means the world is lost and I am the devil. Or something.” His sarcasm was emphasized with a biting German accent and a sense of humor often lost on others.

The medic continued, placing thin metal frames back where they belonged. “Not something that I was not able to deal with mind you; I actually found a lot of joy in removing the scout’s precious legs. Still the problem persisted. Most didn’t care for protecting me anymore and I often ended up on the wrong side of a rocket launcher or flamethrower. Trying to do your best while no-one but your appointed human shield and some sort of rubber coated sandcastle is supporting you is extraordinarily stressful.”

“And? Surely that cannot be what sent you all the way back here”

“Nein,” habitual German mumbled past gloved fingers stroking an unshaven chin, “The resident child found out how to write, on paper even, dear thing. Unfortunately the second literary skill he learnt that week was how to forge my handwriting. Don’t ask how he found the patience to learn this skill, I still don’t know myself. I suppose you can guess where this lead.”

“I can’t but I am sure you will tell me.”

“Indeed.” he raised an eyebrow with eyes looking over the man in front of him skeptically. “My Heavy. The Russian; I have a very...close relationship with the man, and the brat decided to exploit this. Wrote ‘letters’ making me look like a strumpet and a murderer.”

“You are a murderer. I was there. I tasted their blood.”

“He must never know.” His were words hushed. He seemed to look over his shoulders for any wandering eyes and ear behind the rattling car door. A long pause hung between the two of them before thin glasses were pushed back up and shoulders straightened. He eventually righted himself, expression twitching.

“He refused to talk to me for a week and withdrew from the passions of battle. It was bitter, and I do not wish to elaborate. Eventually with effort he believed I was innocent of that mess, but the rest of the team continued the hateful mood towards me, that had not changed. The days when I failed my team were only the start of it, and rumors flew around more than my doves. Despite my best attempts, nothing stemmed the flow of lies and nonsense. The team had become comfortable with it, regarding me as some old bastard of a doctor. They had become comfortable in letting me die.

Respawn is unpleasant. It tastes of disinfectant, and on occasion the nausea has gotten the best of me and I vomited. Although inevitable, the engineer still acted surprised when it overloaded from too many frequent deaths and I came back missing my arm and deranged; however, I’m fairly certain the latter wasn’t the fault of any technological folly. So now I have been put on leave...a holiday, if you will. A very... permanent holiday.” He punctuated his words with jarring disdain, jaw set in a pained grimace. His cabin partner chose wisely to hold his tongue as a now shaking hand graced over where the limb used to fall, icy eyes firmly focused on the pieces in front.

The two halted the conversation as a white knight captured an opposing bishop, signaling the revival of an ignored chess game. Pieces clicked against the board and small talk was exchanged as the taller doctor relaxed again in front of his chirpy opponent. It was indeed good to have someone other then the hulking Russian academic, not that he was ungrateful for the time they had together.

The moves between the two continued at a slower pace as Richtofen spoke up again, much more subdued, “You spoke of this... Heavy.”

“Yes.” A pawn pushed forward. “A man I am very close to. He is my only comfort these days. Large Russian-- intelligent, but with a loose grasp on English.”

“Mine is better.”

“What..?”

“Mine shoots beautifully, even being the drunk bastard he is. I do find him amusing, maybe you would like him”, his voice becoming high-pitched and chirpy, the kind of tone that only he could reach without sounding completely ridiculous.

Medic raised his shoulders. Used to this man’s nonsense, he blankly stared at the brown wallpaper for about a half a minute before working out the drivel that had been forced on him. “You say you have a better... Russian? Is it?”

“That’s what I’ve been saying all along.” A smirk was raised at the man’s irritated reply, as if it should have been blindingly obvious to the tired doctor.

Medic snorted, “Funny, for a man who resented them so much before. What was that you used to say? That they...’interrupted your research’, every time they dislodged our encampments further and further from their borders?” Pushing a piece further on the board before adjusting the thin frames atop his nose, chest bobbing in a silent laugh under his heavy coat. “And it is quite unlikely. ‘My’ Russian is a magnificent specimen of a man, he is enormous with an exquisite skeletal form and his organs are equally proportioned to his massive figure. Also quite brilliantly strong.”

“Yes, but does he lay down and let you go fishing around in that anatomy you gush so wildly about? I dare you to recall a Russian that ever let that happen willingly”, his brow furrowed at the predicament the man had put him in, sleepless eyes crumpling close for a second to suppress the thought.

“He did, quite often, in fact. Are you jealous, herr?”

“...Yes.” The pouting grumble came from behind a thinning wall of black pieces, legs being crossed petulantly “I’m tempted to go against Nikolai’s wishes and slice that belly open, find out how his liver is coping with all the drink.” He snickered at the thought.

“So that is his name. Curious.” Medic laid back into the cool leather, looking up at the train ceiling and contemplating exactly what ‘his’ Russian's name may be. Now that he was discharged, he may finally be able to find out. Eyes closed and impatient shuffling was ignored for a time as his mind mulled over what may happen now. When he was forced from BLU, the Heavy promised he would leave for the old doctor, to Germany maybe. But everything was still to be worked out, no promises, but ideals. Perhaps a cottage with an Eulenloch, somewhere cool and green. Or an old city house, near a bustling market and fine museums. He was happy in this fantasy, knowing that it would soon come to be and everything would just be fine, until a loud knock on a wooden chess board dragged him out of his future hopes and back with the petulant looking brunette across from him

“Are you a child?” His smile faded into an unamused grimace “Even children know to ask”

An appropriately puerile snort came from Edward, heels clicking on wooden floor, matching the beat of a carved king tapping smooth wooden board. “Well then, herr, must I ask if I may move my piece there?” A fresh pawn stepped two paces forwards towards the enemy on his sarcasm soaked words

“You may.” Teasing and a smirk aimed at the depraved doctor, leather coated fingers stealing the wooden monarch and placing back where he belonged “But you may not continue making those irritating noises. I have had enough headaches for the time”

“So were you this restrictive with the rest of the team or do you just like me, hm?” The medicine man’s inflection caused his old colleague to roll his eyes and fleetly seize a bishop, clipping the board with his piece probably harder then he should have.

“I had to hold them from doing utterly idiotic things at times, yes. Some more then others.” The doctor was becoming tiring of chatting about his old position, all that mattered now was getting to Germany and working out what exactly he would do with his life, other than the obvious.

“What about this... soldier you mentioned? Tell me about him.” An utterance came from behind the retreating black forest of dark soldiers, not truly paying attention as the man’s mind was more focused on how to outwit his counterpart.

“I suppose, although it scarcely helped matters” Evasive maneuvers from troublesome pawns, “Rude American. Likes to scream about bathtubs and copulate with his shovel. Do not ask how I know this.”

Hoarse, high giggles and a thoughtlessly moved piece were the only reply. Medic huffed, “Do not make me slap you again. I think you enjoyed it too much last time.”

“This man sounds a lot like Dempsey, maybe we should have them meet and watch them have a tea party of stupid.” he chuckles again, “Or destroy each other. Also stop taking my pieces that is very rude of you.” The doctors halted the game before them, mainly for a stumped Richtofen to ponder his moves.

“Speaking of combat, how are you containing that bloodlust of yours?”, came his reply, his eyes darting up at the doctor’s blue ones, a startled tic within them.

“Well enough, I suppose,” He gave a shuddering sigh, the chills of the room coursing through him, feeling an intense pressure as the room seemed to swallow him up.

Richtofen murmured. “Do not lie to me, Schwarz Pferd, I quite well remember it being a bit more...enthusiastic to me, than you have previously described.” He crossed his fingers and leaned over the board, staring into Medic’s face. “Now tell me, how have you really been?”

The doctor cringed back, exhaling in heavy irritation. “Richtofen, I do not wish to discuss the past with you. It is over and done, just as the past is meant to be.” The rain began pounding heavily against the car window, wind screaming past in loud moans, its howls whistling through the cracks in the sealing.

“But surely you recall how much fun you had? You talk as if the battles on your most recent fields were nothing more than mere ‘triumphs’, only for the battles themselves.”

It was unsettling how he managed to tear apart his armor. Ever the competent sociopath, he made a damned good evaluator for his worst handicaps.

“I worked with you because I had to.” His delivery was ragged and snapping, a lone hand shakily running through greying hair. He knew as soon as this man entered he should have told him to get out, to avoid what was inevitable and yet the temptation for some degree of acceptance and sociability in the hard months was irresistible.

“You enjoyed it though. I remember the way you spoke of what we did, the way you indulged in the bones and the sinew. The way you touched it spoke so much more than what you meant”

“If I didn’t I would have gone mad. I coped. I forced solice in what I had to perform for people like you” He loomed over Edward, expression of rage and tension. He gripped the tableside, shaking the armies and knocking over already fallen soldiers. Richtofen snorted and leaned over to gather the pieces.

“Don’t be such a liar, you always loved it. This is why you came to us, for the feeling of the dead skin and the bones between your fingers. You reveled in the blood and the pain and the suffering just as much as I. You are no different.” Scarred lips curling into a wry grin, eyes exploring the horse face of his old ‘companion’ for openings to exploit.

Beaten, Medic exhaled deeply, falling back onto the thick leather with a heavy thump. “I didn’t know what I was getting into. I never wanted to take it that far...”

“Young and ignorant. Surely the perfect candidate for what we had in mind. And oh you were so young, so curious about what laid beneath a mans beating chest, and how best to derive pleasure from it. You filthy dog. Unclean in mind and blood, how disgusting~. But you knew what was good about it, and what we did, and did what we said, so I forgive you. Maybe a little.”

The doctor twitched in his seat, his face turning an unsightly shade of red under light stubble, a vein standing out against the pale, fishbelly white of his neck. He gritted his teeth, letting out a strangled noise of indignation. “I...I!...How dare you!” His leg pounded against the floor in an emphatic thump, spilling over another set of wayward pieces from the table. Richtofen only grinned wider.

“We had you by the collar, and you knew that didn’t you? By the way how is your mother, still a vegetable?”

As the last word slipped from Richtofen’s mouth, the doctor snatched up a formerly hidden pistol from his thigh.The speed of the movement swung his coat up in a brazen arc as he snarled, looming over his counterpart. The luger’s cross-sights glinted menacingly before Richtofen’s pale forehead, glancing off old battle scars. “You know nothing of what I feel!” His voice cracked as he hissed in his native toungue, eyes glistening with dark fury. His body shook from the intense emotion, trigger finger aching with desire as the General raised a brow curiously, taunting almost.

A silence hung over the room only pierced by the hard rain battering the train as the considered his actions only fleetingly, before waiting for a reply, some closure before an end could be had.

“Do you really want to disappoint your Russian? As much as it nauseates me to help you. Dying isn’t on my agenda this week.” An almost bored expression graces over his marred face, fingers drumming on worn pants impatiently.

He hated admitting this man was right, but for the third time this evening he could not be faulted in his logic. The gun was lowered, his mind running over exactly what the good doctor had suggested. His Heavy didn’t deserve this. Medic fell back into his seat, defeated, purposefully taking deep, shivering breaths as a wandering thumb spun the revolver empty. Killing one man would not take back what had been done, nor would removing himself.

“A dark horse is looming my old friend. You can never escape your past.”, He places the knight with a gentle tap, toppling the opaque Monarch, grinning. “Checkmate, my dear doctor.” And with the sweep of his coat, he was gone, the cabin door sealing shut, his presence unmissed as the doctor sat in silent defeat, eyes glued to the board as his mind ran through what had just happened, taking no notice of his surroundings. He lay against the wall for a few hours, unmoving, lost in thought, before curling up in his coat, falling into a fitful sleep.

He sat there along the dirtied Nordsee sands, long legs held to his chest with a single arm and eyes cast out to the sea before him. His mind wandered over the events on the trip, over his life and what it would become. Licking chapped lips in a vain attempt to avert the bitter affects of the cool beach wind. Huddling closer to himself, he wondered what might have happened if he had gone through with his actions for a moment... then promptly pushed that thought out of his mind. Now was not to the time dwell on what may have been.

The weary ex-mercenary ran a naked hand through peppered hair, closing tired eyes for a moment to believe that this was his lover’s touch, fantasy quickly lost as the grey clouds and pebble coated beach came back into his vision. Soon they would be together, it was only a matter of time before they could run away together to a quiet place away from the unpleasantness, he told himself. He wasn’t sure if he believed this anymore, or if he ever truly did. Still, hope drew him in.

He laid back into the sand, looking down at his swimsuit and pondered if it really was as ridiculous as his old colleague has made it out, eventually settling with the idea that it hadn’t really mattered in the first place. Clear white noise of the tide crawling slowly further out to sea lulled the burdened surgeon into daydreams of working again, as a licensed doctor, helping people rather than falling back into indulging his own pleasures of the flesh. His breathing slowed as the sun peeked out behind dull clouds. On thoughts of his Russian academic his body stilled, with face unmoving from the small rain droplets that began to fall from the heavy sky.

He was happy.

19 .

No one had told him just how cold the Russian winter was; his fingers and toes were so cold they burned through his gloves and his boots like hot coals, his green jacket was nowhere near warm enough to keep him warm, and he was quite sure that he could no longer feel the end of his nose. He pushed his glasses up as his unit trudged forward through the snow… the frigid, merciless, damnable snow. They were going to die out here before they saw sign of any Russian troops. He never even wanted to be here, working as a field medic for these men. He’d wanted to be a doctor; not just any doctor, mind you, but a doctor that would push the very limits of medical science. Alas, that simply was not meant to be.

“MEDIC!” a soldier called out.

The medic lifted his head. He was about to call back when he’d noticed just how far behind he’d fallen from the others. He trotted far enough to rejoin the group before he slowed down to his previous pace.

“Was anyone in need of assistance?” he asked the closest soldier to him; a young man named Dieter.

“No,” said Dieter, shaking his head. “You were falling behind again. You’d better keep up the pace. You’re the only field medic we’ve got.”

He nodded. “I know,” he said. “It’s so goddamned cold here, I feel like my blood is going to coagulate in my veins.”

“Going to what, now?” Dieter asked.

“Stop your whining!” Leutant Oppenheimer barked. “We’re all freezing out here, and you’ll keep freezing if you don’t shut up and keep moving!”

Oppenheimer, the medic thought with a sneer. The way he carried himself, chest puffed out like a proud pigeon even as his troop trudged through the snow, head held high, hawkish nose jutting off his face like a spigot that leaked mucus. Medic had noticed the man whipping at that nose with a handkerchief with increasing frequency. More for Medic to worry about later, when he would inevitably succumb to the weather and whine for medical attention, he thought. He hissed through gritted teeth, and shivered.

“Wasn’t there supposed to be an enemy base nearby?” asked some soldier that the Medic had forgotten the name of. What was it again? Fredrich, Fritz, something beginning with an “f,” he was sure…

“I was sure there would be,” said Dieter in a hushed voice. “Didn’t Oppenheimer say there would be?”
The medic just nodded. They were approaching the area where they had heard there would be a group of Russian soldiers defending a nearby town. Instead, they were approaching an empty clearing in the woods, with no sign of life anywhere nearby.

“Suppose it’s a trap?” The medic whispered to Dieter.

Dieter’s bright eyes went wide. “You think so?”

The procession stopped as Oppenheimer raised his hand in a signal, and he looked back and forth.

“Careful, men,” he said. “We may be headed into a trap.”

The medic smirked humorlessly.

“What do we do?” Franz-Fritz-Fredrich-What’s-His-Name asked.

“Keep alert and at arms,” said Oppenheimer, lifting his weapon. “It could be noth-” He was cut off suddenly, his body lurching as a bullet pierced his throat, squirting blood onto the snow. He clasped at the wound, gasping and gurgling, and turned to his comrades with wide, wild eyes.

“SNIPER!” someone shouted. “FIND THE SNIPER!”

With their leader gone the troop was now in panic. One soldier started shooting blindly around him, only to take a sniper bullet between the eyes and fall into the snow with a heavy thump. There was much shouting and confusion, and the medic found himself frozen in place, his feet rooted to the ground. The men around him fell to the ground and spray bright, vivid red onto the white snow, and his mind was struggling to think of something to do. Run? Help them? Grab a weapon and shoot back? He dropped to his knees and crawled to his nearest comrade. It was the man whose name he couldn’t get right… Ferdinand. Yes, that was it. He noticed that Ferdinand had taken a bullet to the stomach, and was bleeding out. The medic placed a gloved hand over the wound to put pressure on it, while shucking off the first aid bag and rifling through it with his other hand.

“RETREAT!” Dieter shouted. “EVERYONE RETREAT!” He grabbed at the medic’s shoulder and shook it.

“He’s a dead man, come on!”

“I can save him!” the medic shouted back. “Help me move him somewhere safe!”

“We’re sitting ducks out here!” said Dieter, his voice high and desperate. “We need you more than anybody! We can’t-” he was cut off by the sound of a rifle, and the Medic felt a warm spray of blood dot his face and his glasses. Through the red-flecked lenses, he could see the only closest thing to a friend in his troop standing with wide, terrified eyes. Dieter’s jaw hung slack, blood pouring out of his mouth as he realized he has been shot through the cheek and could no longer close his mouth. His tongue squirmed in his mouth like a bleeding, dying worm, and Dieter raised his hands and let out a gurgling scream.

The medic blanched at the site, and without any forethought he started to run. His sense of self-preservation had taken over, spurring his otherwise frozen legs to pump through the snow and propel him towards the woods.

As the frigid air raked his lungs and tears stung his eyes, he became aware that he was abandoning his duties. He stopped to catch his breath, and listened as more gunshots cracked through the air. He could not hear the others in his troop. Were all of them dead? Quite a few of them fell to the sniper’s bullets. He hugged himself, rubbing his arms through his sleeves and shivering as he let out a long plume of breath through his parted lips. Anybody left alive back there could very well be executed, or taken prisoner and sent to the gulags that he’d heard of. The Russians were crude, brutish people, after all. Who knows what they would do to him if he went back?

Perhaps, he thought, he could find his way back to the German base, he could be safe. He dug through his pockets until he found his compass. The base was about 10 miles west of where they were now… could he make it on his own, in this cold?

He had no choice but to try.

The medic took a deep breath, and headed west. The snow was deep and was soaking through the legs of his trousers, but the trees at least blocked any wind. As he walked, he tried to shut the scene he’d only just witnessed from out of his mind, but this did little, and in fact only enhanced the deep, dark red of the blood on the snow, and reminded him of the specks of Dieter’s blood on his glasses. He removed them, breathed on them and wiped them off on his coat. Poor Dieter, he thought. The man had been friendly enough, and the medic had been more than willing to listen to him yammer on about his family or his fiancé. His stomach sank as the realization that he was most likely dead set in. There would be no returning home for him, no wedding, no children to be had. Dieter would just be another cold corpse frozen in the snow. A shudder overtook the medic, and he tried to push those thoughts from his head.

He wasn’t sure how long he’d been shambling through the woods, but it had felt like hours. The sun was hanging lower in the sky, and it was starting to get colder. There was no way he’d be able to make it to the German base before the sun set. He would need to find shelter.

His stomach growled, and somehow in the quiet of the forest it sounded much louder. He did have but a few rations, but it would be prudent to make them last. He came across a fallen tree that was bare of any snow, and sat on its trunk. He opened his satchel and dug for his rations, when he heard the sound of crunching snow. His head snapped upright, and he looked around his surroundings like a startled deer.

After hearing nothing more, he shrugged it off as some animal. Again, he rummaged through his satchel, grabbing a hold of the parcel that held his next meal, when he heard the sound of footfalls in the snow again. He clutched his satchel to his chest with one hand and pulled out a pistol with the other, jumping to his feet and pointing his gun in the direction of the noise.

“Who’s there?” he barked, trying not to sound too terrified. “Show yourself!”

The medic’s breath caught in his throat as someone peered back at him from behind a tree. It was a boy, probably about 12 or 13 by the looks of him. He was stocky and his face was round and reddened from the cold. He looked back at the medic with cold, blue eyes, and held a rifle in his shaky hands.
The two simply stared at each other, motionless as the forest itself. The boy’s face was scrunched up into a bulldog-like scowl, and his eyes never left the medic’s, pinning the older man on the spot. The medic lowered his pistol until it pointed to the ground, and called out to the boy. “Do you speak German?” he asked.

The boy said nothing, but he lowered his pistol slightly as he craned his neck to better look the medic over. He said something in Russian, something that the medic could not understand. Oh, if only he’d left Germany sooner, fled for the United States like he’d wanted to… he could not speak any Russian at all, and the only other language he knew anything of was… well…

“Vhat about English?” asked the Medic. “Do you speak English?”

The boy’s brow knitted, and after a second or two his eyes went wide. “Oh,” he said. “You… are English?”
The medic let out a nervous laugh. “Vell, ah… no. No, I’m not… I do not vish to start any trouble I am… I am very lost.”

“Are German,” said the boy. It was not a question.

“I… yes,” the medic admitted.

Straightening his posture, the boy narrowed his eyes and raised his gun back up to aim it at the medic. “You are doktor?”

“How did you-?” the medic remembered his sleeves, and the cross on his armband. “Almost. I am a field medic.”

“Is like doktor?” the boy asked.

“Yes,” said the medic. “Like a doctor.”

The boy nodded. “Good,” he said. “I take you. Come vit me. No running. You run, I kill you. Understand?”

“I understand,” the medic said with a nod.

“Good,” said the boy. “Now, give gun.”

The medic held out his pistol in his palm towards the boy, only for the boy to shake his head in disapproval.

“Put down,” he said, and pointed to the ground. “Then valk backwards. I take gun, you follow.”
“Of course,” said the medic. Slowly, he placed the gun down in the snow in front of him, and backed away, holding up his open palms in surrender. The child waddled forward, keeping his eye on his adult prisoner, and picked up the pistol. He tucked it into his belt, and spread his legs apart, assuming the posture of a cowboy in an American western film. He looked back up at the medic, scrutinizing him one last time.

“Come,” he said, and slung his rifle over his shoulder. “You valk in front.”

The medic walked in front of the boy as commanded, his hands still up. He’d never been taken prisoner before, let alone by a mere child, and he wasn’t sure if there was any kind of standard procedure for this sort of thing. He was at least grateful that he hadn’t been captured by the Russian army, as they would probably not be as merciful as the boy. As he marched in front of his captor, he lamented that he was now headed in the wrong direction. He certainly wouldn’t be making it back to the German base anytime soon.

“Vhere ah you taking me?” the medic asked, trying to turn his head back to look at the boy.

“No talking!” the child barked. “Valk.”

They continued to walk in silence, the only sounds that could be heard being their own footfalls through the snow. They continued through the silent forest for about thirty minutes before they came in view of a cottage on the edge of the woods. It had a crooked stone chimney that bellowed smoke, and little else. The medic had stopped in his footsteps, only to be prodded by the barrel of his captor’s rifle into walking again.

As they approached the front door, the boy walked ahead of the medic, giving him a warning glare as he opened the door. “In,” he commanded, and the medic slipped inside.

The boy shut the door behind him, and the inhabitants of the house, a woman and a teenage girl, turned to gawk at the stranger standing just inside their house wearing an enemy uniform. The boy spoke to them in his native tongue, and the woman (probably the boy’s mother, the medic thought) started yelling at him in panic. The two argued made wild, overblown gestures, and the medic found himself backing up against the wall and wishing he could melt into it. He wondered how hard it would be to escape this cottage… not at all really. He could easily sneak out right now and make a break for it. It was doubtful that anyone in this house could catch up to him and effectively subdue him...

The argument was interrupted by abrupt, rattling cough, and the medic noticed there was another member of this family; a small, sickly looking girl in one of the only two beds in the cottage. Her mother went to the girl in bed, patted her head and felt her forehead, and the boy looked at the medic.

“You help,” the boy said, pointing towards the girl.

The medic crossed his arms. “And vhat if I don’t?”

“Then I kill you,” said the boy.

The medic gulped, his throat feeling dry. The weathered matriarch hovering over the girl cast the German a fearsome glare full of hatred and fire, and the medic shuddered. He stepped up to the girl’s bedside, removed his glove, and lifted the girl’s chin, exposing a swollen neck. He rested the back of his hand on the girl’s head, and nodded.

“She’s been coughing for a vhile now, yes?” the medic asked the boy.

The boy nodded. “Yes. She has.”

“I’ve seen zis before,” said the medic. He opened his satchel, and removed a medicine bottle.
“Diphtheria.”

“Is very bad?” the boy asked.

“Yes, if left untreated,” said the medic. He unscrewed the bottle and tipped it over, pouring out a single white pill. “She’s going to need to swallow this.”

The little girl in the bed gave her brother a worried, pitiful look, to which the boy reassured her in Russian. The girl looked up to the medic with wide and bright blue eyes, and opened her mouth. The medic gave a soft smile and popped it into her mouth, as her mother came to her side with a cup of soup to wash the pill down.

“She should take one of zese twice a day until ze symptoms ah gone,” said the medic, handing the bottle to the boy. “And make sure she gets plenty of rest.” He slung his satchel over his shoulder, and started to walk towards the door, only to be cut off by the boy.

“Vhere are you going?” the boy demanded.

“I vas leaving,” said the medic. “My vork is done. You let me leave in exchange for helping your sister, yes?”

“Nyet!” the boy said. “You are prisoner! You cannot leave!”

“I’ve humored you long enough,” said the medic, crossing his arms. “I need to get back to my base. Now.”

The boy reached for his rifle and aimed it square at the German man. They stood staring at each other for several seconds as the boy’s mother and sister looked on in suspense, until the medic heaved a sigh.

“Vhat more do you vant from me?” the medic asked.

“To turn you in,” said the boy. “You enemy of motherland. Are German.”

“I helped your sister,” the medic protested.

“Are still German,” said the boy.

The medic looked down the rifle barrel, and backed away from the boy. He pulled out a chair from a table nearby, and sat, not breaking eye contact with his captor. Satisfied, the boy put down his rifle, leaning it against the wall. The boy’s mother gave the medic one last suspicious look before ignoring him completely, while the older sister just gawked at this stranger in curiosity. The family kept their distance from the German, as they prepared their dinner. The medic simply sat there, arms crossed, contemplating this situation he’d found himself in. The smell of the mother’s cooking caused the medic’s stomach to growl far too loudly. He hunched over, covering his empty belly and shifted his chair to face the wall.

There was a tap on his shoulder, and he turned to see the boy shoving a bowl of soup into his face. “Eat,” he commanded.

The medic took the bowl and, noticing the lack of any spoon, drank from it. It was hot, and scalded his tongue but it warmed his guts. “It’s good,” he said to the boy. “Thank you.”

The boy seemed surprised at being thanked, but said nothing, and went back to have dinner with his family. They huddled around a fire that provided the only light in this cottage, and the medic listened to them talk among themselves in a language that he could not understand. He finished his soup, and sat in his chair, looking out of a tiny window. Alone.

In a way, it wasn’t so different from being with his own family.
The medic turned his head and noticed the boy was staring at him, and he straightened his posture.
“What now?” He asked.

“Am keeping eye on you,” said the boy.

“Right,” said the medic, hugging himself. “Of course.”

The boy pulled up a chair and sat across from the medic, staring him down. The medic tried to ignore this by turning his attention back to the window, but those blue eyes were boring into him.

“Tell me,” said the medic, “vhat is your name, hmmm?”

“Not telling you,” the boy huffed.

“Of course not,” said the medic. “I suppose you also vill not tell me vhere you learned English, hm?”

“N-nyet,” the boy stuttered. “Is not your...busyness.”

The medic surrendered a small chuckle. “I zink I know vhy you decided to learn it, zhough,” he said. “If it’s at all vhy I decided to learn it.”

The boy said nothing, but his eyes widened in curiosity, and he leaned forward.

“You vant to leave here, don’t you?” asked the medic.

“Leave for vhere?” asked the boy.

“Don’t play dumb,” said the medic. “I learned English because I vanted to leave Germany.”

“You… do not like Germany?” asked the boy. “But vhy fight?”

The medic let out a sigh. “Zings have simply not vorked out vell for me,” he said. “I still love Germany, but I do not like vhat it has become… I don’t like having to hide myself…” his voice trailed off, and he fidgeted in his chair.

“You are communist?” asked the boy.

“No,” said the medic. “Not a communist, no… but still… an undesireable.

“Oh,” said the boy.

“Don’t you vorry about it,” said the medic, waving a dismissive hand. “Eventually, I’ll be free of that place.”

The boy nodded. “Did not know that Germans did not like Hitler…”

“Ve ah not all ze same, you know,” said the medic. “You have heard ve ah savage monsters, and ve have heard ze same of ze Russians… it vould seem ve ah bozh wrong.”

“Germans tought ve are… monsters?” the boy asked.

“I don’t,” said the medic. “You obviously have taken it upon yourself to take care of your family.”

“I had to,” said the boy. “Father, grandfather, older brother… all go off to fight. Have no heard from them since they leave…”

The medic said nothing. From what he had heard, the Russians they were fighting were often felled by the thousands, using their sheer number as their main advantage.

“I am sure zey ah proud of you,” said the medic. “You ah very brave.”

The boy beamed at the compliment. “You think so?”

The medic nodded. “I know so.”

The two of them continued to talk with each other, as the sun sat and the wind outside howled like a lonely animal, and the snow blew across the window. There was no bed for the medic, and all the boy could offer him was a quilt to wrap around him. It was heavy and warm, and the German soon found himself nodding off in his seat as the boy went to his mother’s bed.


“Vake up.”

The medic snorted as he was roused from slumber by a hand shaking his shoulder. It was the boy, dressed in his parka and oversized ushanka and his rifle slung over his shoulder.

“Ve must go,” said the boy. “Put on coat and come.”

The medic did as he was told, and looked one last time at the mother and her two daughters. The youngest, still in bed but looking much better, smiled at him and waved, exposing two missing front teeth, only to have the mother take her hand and lower it. The medic gave the girl a weak wave back, and he and the boy went outside, and headed back into the forest.

They trudged through the freshly fallen snow, the medic walking in front of the boy, just as he had when they had met.

“Vhere ah you taking me?” he asked the boy.

The boy did not answer, but merely gestured for the German to keep walking, his rifle at the ready.
They finally came to a familiar clearing, and medic recognized it as where they had first met. He looked over the fallen log and around the surrounding trees. “Vhat is ze meaning of zis?” he asked. “Vhat ah you-?” He was cut off abruptly by the loud crack of gunfire.

The medic stumbled forward in surprise, and fell into the snow. He flipped himself around, and felt his torso… he was uninjured, He looked at the boy, who was holding the rifle, aiming it up at the grey sky. The boy’s face was red, and he was shaking.

“Ah you crazy?” the medic asked. “Ah you trying to get us killed? Who knows who could have heard zat?”

“I’ve killed you,” said the boy.

The medic just stared for a moment, before the realization dawned on his features. “Oh…” he said. “O-oh! Right! Of course!” He got up off the ground, and brushed the snow off his trousers. “Yes… very clever of you…”

The boy smiled. “Da,” he said, and tapped his temple. “I plan dis. Mama tink you are too dangerous… had to get rid of you.”

“Zank you,” said the medic, “for sparing my life…”

“Nyet,” said the boy, shaking his head. “Tank you. You help my sister. I am on debt to you.”

“In debt,” the medic corrected.
“In debt,” the boy repeated. “Yes.”

They looked at each other for a few moments, before the boy rushed forward and hugged the medic as tight as he dared. The medic hugged the boy back, patting him on the head. They broke their embrace, and the boy beamed him, his face red from the cold and beautiful.

“If ve meet again,” he said, “I vill pay you back. I promise.”

“Zank you, mein freund,” said the medic. “I vill not forget you.”

“I vill not forget you,” said the boy. “You must hurry. I gave you some food in your bag. I must go. If gone too long… my mother vill get vorried…”

“I understand,” said the medic. “Good luck.”

The boy turned and ran, and as the medic watched him go, he realized he had not even gotten the boy’s name, or told him his own… but he was too far gone to flag down. He took a deep breath of the cold air, and trekked back in the direction of the German camp…



Twenty four years later, at 2fort, it was snowing. Snow at 2fort was rare, and when it drifted towards the bare earth it felt out of place. Medic was standing just outside of the base, and the sounds of RED team’s Christmas party could be heard and the warm glow of the lights fell onto the ground. Medic noticed a long ray of light splaying out onto the dirt, and a large shadow blocking it out. He turned his head and saw the Heavy in the doorway.

“Doktor?” Heavy asked, peering outside. “Are you all right?”

“I am fine,” said Medic. He cheeks were a bit flushed from the alcohol. “I was just recalling vhen ve first met, is all...”

Heavy smiled, and stepped outside, standing beside the German. “Is funny,” he said, “never tought ve could meet again. Is small vorld, yes?”

“It vould seem,” said the medic as Heavy wrapped his arms around the doctor. “Did you hear from your sisters?”

“Da,” said Heavy. “They are doing vell. Natasha says hello.”

Medic craned his neck up to Heavy and gave him a quick peck on the nose. “Zat’s good to hear,” he said.

“Do you vant to come back inside?” Heavy asked. “Everyvone else is still enjoying party.”

“I suppose so,” said Medic, letting out a long breath, which turned into a cloud once it hit the cold air.
“Heavy?”

“Da, Doktor?”

“Do you remember vhen you said you vanted to pay me back for saving Natasha?”

Heavy chuckled. “I do.”

“You don’t have to vorry about it,” said Medic. “You already have.”

The Russian smiled. “Tank you, Doktor.”
“No...” said Medic, snuggling closer to Heavy. “Zank you, Heavy. Zank you.”

Medic took Heavy’s hand, and the two of them went back inside together as the snow began to settle upon the ground around 2fort.

20 .

Scout’s chest hammers like he’d just sprinted his way across the battlefield, twice, and it wanted to double-jump out of his chest. His face is hot, his hands are numb, and he is absolutely rooted to the spot and speechless, after a lifetime of being neither.

Shock, really. There are a lot of reasons to be shocked.

Number One: He had never snuck up on the Spy before. Not even for a second, not even during that week at Hydro where he’d decided to really try, not even when he’d asked the Sniper to show him how to stalk something.

Number Two: He had also never seen the Spy in the buff before. No one on the team had. Even the man’s shower schedule was a mystery. Like the Pyro, he just didn’t show up when the whole team had to sluice the gore off together.

Number Three: RED’s Sniper, not ten feet away, even though this outbuilding was clearly in BLU territory. Not being killed by the Spy.

Number Four: As far as the Scout could tell from where he stood, said RED Sniper had a pretty big cock. Not that Scout looked at that kind of thing, but it was a little hard to ignore when a guy was naked and waving it around. He couldn’t make out what the Sniper was saying, he kept his voice too low, but whatever it was, the Spy seemed to think it was pretty amusing.

Number Five: The Spy was getting fucked. In the ass. By a man.

Number Six: They both seemed to really, really like it.

Really, Scout should have gotten out once he realized all that was going down. He only even came out looking for the ball he’d lost, he wasn’t interested in any hairy man ass show.

He stays anyway. He can’t tell himself why, except maybe to get one over on the Spy, guy was always so smug about everything, and he was especially smug that week when they’d been at Hydro and he’d said the Scout would never, ever be able to catch him with his pants down.

He didn’t phrase it that way, and now that his pants are around his ankles, the Scout wishes he had, so he could jump out and rub it in the dumb sneak’s face.

Instead he just watches.

He can’t really pretend either one of them is a girl, not even if he squints. They’re both too tall, too angular. Too covered in hair and scars. He watches anyway. He hasn’t seen a girl since the last rotation— none of them have, they’re out way too far now and no one can get into town. He asked his own team’s Sniper, and found out he couldn’t even drive into civilization over the whole weekend. Not that it’s ever a long time between rotations, but…

He tells himself that’s all it is. A couple of guys who can’t get any from women for a while coming to an arrangement. That’s the only way it makes sense. If you ask one of your teammates for a quick fuck and he’s not as desperate as you are, then he could tell the rest of the team you’re a fruit. Then your balls are as blue as your uniform and nobody trusts you for nothing. If you ask one of your enemies and he doesn’t want to, what’s he gonna do? He could tell everybody you’re the biggest queer who ever lived, but nobody’s gonna believe a RED over their own teammate. There’s so much trash talk going on on the field anyway that it hardly matters. Plus, you can just keep on killing him so he knows it’s nothing personal. Probably, he thinks, they take turns. Nobody could really like what the Spy’s doing—no normal guy, anyway—but he’s probably real good at faking it.

When the Spy starts making too much noise, the Sniper’s hand comes around to cover his mouth. The Sniper whispers something else that Scout can’t hear, and moans wordlessly loud enough that he can, when the Spy starts sucking on his fingers.

Maybe, Scout reasons, the Spy is queer. Maybe he really does like getting fucked—really pounded—and if that’s the case…

If that’s the case, a part of him kind of wishes the Spy had had the decency to offer his own teammates this kind of arrangement. Not, he adamantly reminds himself, that he is at all into guys. He isn’t, not even a tiny bit, but he hasn’t so much as seen a girl in so long he’d be crazy to turn down no-strings-attached sex, and an ass is an ass. All you had to do was close your eyes and pretend it wasn’t part of a hairy stupid Frenchman.

He runs off before they finish, musters up the ability to do so just in time. He’s not afraid to be caught—well, not by the Spy. If the Spy knew he knew, that would be some good blackmail material, and being able to blackmail a Spy was a fun thought. The Sniper was a RED, though, and he’d probably send the Scout straight to respawn, probably hold a grudge.

Besides, if they knew, then they’d be more careful… and if they were more careful, then Scout might not be able to watch them again.

He masturbates furiously, back in his room, comes hard and sees starbursts behind his eyes. The idea of sex, he reminds himself. He doesn’t masturbate to men, and even if he was going to start, he’d pick someone… someone prettier, than either the Spy or the RED Sniper. No, the closest he ever came to masturbating to a man was that time with the bathroom mirror, and your own reflection didn’t count, he was just curious about what it looked like. Anyway, that was just the once—his face looked too weird and it was too much work getting the streaks off the mirror.

He doesn’t catch them again for a while, not until after the move to Viaduct, when he manages to find them, again in one of the little outbuildings on BLU’s side of the point. The one under their own Sniper’s deck, and Scout crouches at the top of the stairs and waits.

He’s surprised they’d bother meeting up, at least meeting up there. Viaduct is a little out of the way, but it’s too cold in the half-open shelter to get naked. He doesn’t think they can fuck. A blowjob, maybe… you wouldn’t have to get naked, and the cold wouldn’t really matter too much once you had someone’s mouth around you. He’s kind of excited at the prospect—not as excited as he would be over watching a girl do it, no, but… if an ass is an ass, a mouth is pretty much a mouth, and if he picks up any knowledge about the mechanics, he can always imagine the scene with a girl later. Or he can just tell Spy he knows the guy’s a cocksucker and if he wants it kept quiet, he knows what he can do about it… And masturbating to petty revenge fantasies is a little weird, but that’s all it is, it’s not really the same as masturbating because you’re thinking about how hot you think a guy is, if you only want him to suck you off so he knows you’re better than him. Scout has had enough practice telling himself this to really believe it, and anyway, even if he did like guys, the Spy isn’t like his first pick or anything, the Spy’s just what’s there. Like the Spy is just what’s there for the RED Sniper.

Except the Spy doesn’t get on his knees. Neither one of them does. They whisper, more things Scout can’t hear, and put their arms around each other. They kiss, and while Scout didn’t expect that, it fits his narrative well enough. It’s when they pull away that everything falls apart.

Arms still around each other, they begin to sway. He can hear the Spy humming, half-singing, something French. The steps, when they start making them, are awkward. The Sniper trips over the Spy’s feet and they both laugh and catch each other, and Scout’s stomach twists with guilt and shame. He runs.

That night, he’s still pacing around the common lounge when the Spy returns to base.

“What are you doing up, petit? Isn’t it past your bedtime?”

“I’m a fucking adult.”

The Spy just chuckles and smirks, and the Scout’s guilt evaporates as he remembers just what a dick the man is.

“Hey, Spy!” He shouts after the retreating man. “I saw you, with your pal out there.”

“What?” The Spy turns, everything about him suddenly sharp, even more than usual. Almost animal. A steel-and-sinew gray fox stretching to fit itself in a man’s skin.

“Aw, yeah, that got your attention. I seen ya fuck, too.”

Suddenly, the Spy is back on Scout’s side of the lounge, useless knife at his throat. “If you say a word of this to anyone else…”

“You’ll what? Friendly fire got turned off, ya moron. You can’t touch me.”

“It can be turned back on.” The Spy’s eyes narrow, cold. “Respawn can be disabled as well, for some.”

“Y-you don’t know how to do all that. Only the Engineers know about that stuff.” Scout puffs his chest out. He doesn’t know if even they really know how to rig all of that, there had been a specialist sent from the company when the friendly fire first got fixed.

“Do not test me.” He studies Scout a moment longer, then laughs. There is no warmth to it, and little humour. “What did you think you would accomplish, by telling me this, hm? Did you think you would shame me? Frighten me? I have more eventualities planned than you can imagine. Even if you went telling your little stories, we would be safe, I am prepared to see to that. Or did you think I would offer you some bargain?”

“Man, you got nothing I want.” Scout turns away, face heating.

“Did you think I would offer you the same?”

“I’m not queer!”

“No, indeed not.” The Spy raises one eyebrow. “Bisexual, perhaps. Or merely desperate to lose your virginity at last—“

“And I’m not a virgin! Cripes, you can be such a dick!”

“If you really did see us tonight, then you know I am not anyone’s… playtoy. Even you might pick up on that.”

“I’m not stupid.” Scout grumbles, pulling away and heading for the door.

“Well?”

He looks back. “Do you… do you really like that guy?”

“Could you be any more juvenile?”

“Fuck you.”

“Oh no. Only he gets to do that.”

“I’m gonna wipe that smirk off your ugly mug one of these days, just watch.”

The Spy’s expression softens. “I do. I care for him, and I enjoy his company. Even when he is not fucking me. And you, you scared, confused little boy… You were never a contender—“

“I didn’t want to be.”

Scout storms off, ignoring the Spy as hard as he can. It hurts… as much as he doesn’t care what the man thinks, it still hurts. He’s not a child, he hasn’t been a child for years, and he’s sick of being treated like one just because most of the team is geezers. If he’s confused, it’s the Spy’s own fault for making sex a thing that actually happens out on the battlefield, Scout’s been in more locker rooms than the Spy’s ever seen and he’s never been ‘confused’ just because of another naked guy.

He catches them one more time, this time the field stretching out between him and them, the capture point between them. He hadn’t gone out looking for them—if he had, he would have gone to the same outbuilding to find them. Instead, he is out in the bracing cold, tossing his ball in the air, catching it, hoping to rout the two from his mind when he sees a flash of red.

They’re down the tunnel, past the big chain-link gate he’d always assumed impenetrable—certainly he’d never seen anyone on the other side during battles. He sees the Spy whisper something, sees the RED Sniper catch sight of him and come up the tunnel with a hand going to his hip, before the Spy stops him.

Scout waves awkwardly, picks up his ball and runs off. He imagines all the things the Spy could have said. Some make him smile—‘Don’t kill him, he outsmarted us fair and square’, but probably the Spy would never admit that much. ‘Don’t kill him, he’s on my team’, then. ‘We need Scout, he’s the fastest’. Probably the Spy hadn’t said that, either.

Probably, Scout reasoned, Spy was using one of the lines that just picturing pissed him off. ‘Don’t bother with him, he’s not worth it’. ‘He’s just jealous, darling’. ‘You needn’t dirty your hands with a silly little boy, he cannot hurt us, hon hon hon’, with that fey gesture with his cigarette, that dismissive sneer.

Alone, in his room, Scout suffers through the thundering and sweaty confusion of embarrassment and envy and a near-anger at his own misplaced lust. He wanted neither of them, only what they had, or something like it. It is with an empty ache of sadness that he realizes he wants the dancing and whispers as much as the hard fucking, and he doesn’t prise back the door on whether his partner need be female, precisely, just pretty, just soft enough in his arms and willing to giggle at corny lines, willing to splay open creamier and smoother thighs. It is a relief, to understand that he doesn’t want the Spy, doesn’t want the RED Sniper, but it is a worse revelation, to know that what he wants, he won’t find here.

Maybe. Maybe if Miss Pauling comes around again to whip the rest of those losers on his team into shape, he could impress her. Or maybe that asswipe hothead on RED will figure, better to ask your enemy than your teammate, and he’ll say sure, if he gets to be on top, and it won’t be dancing and whispering, but it would sure as hell still beat his own hand. Maybe in town he’ll see someone, eighteen and pretty and longing for someone exciting like him. Maybe it’s not so hopeless.

21 .

Home Sick

When Scout’s morning began, he felt strangely off. In fact, even getting out of bed was a bigger effort than usual. He scratched his nose, trying to shake off the weighted feeling that had settled in his bones. He yawned and stretched his arms, swallowing back the ache in his throat.

Despite all this, it didn’t dampen his excitement when he looked out his window and discovered the entire compound had been dusted with a fresh blanket of snow. He threw off his sheets and slid out of bed, ignoring the icy chill of the cold floor on his bare feet.

The rest of the team was brimming with energy when they met for breakfast. There was something about first snow that brought high spirits with it. Already there were talks about snowmen, snow angels and Sniper’s infamous yellow snowball fights. Scout tried to keep up with the revelry, attempting to shout over Soldier’s longwinded story about his stint in the arctic tundra, on a self-initiated manhunt for that ‘parcel-pushing terrorist’, Santa Clause.

Scout’s voice gave out on him, and was reduced to a weak rasp. He abandoned his attempts at conversation and tried to sooth his throat with a few sips of orange juice. He leaned back in his seat, disgruntled that his body was acting up like this. He muffled a few coughs in his fist.

Medic surprised Scout as he leaned past the young man to reach a jug of coffee. “Oh, you are not feeling well, herr Scout?”

“Feel fine.” Croaked Scout as he suppressed an urgent need to hack and splutter.

“I have simply noticed a few preliminary symptoms that would indicate a viral infection.”

“Hey! I ain’t got no infection, alright. I feel fantastic.” Scout poured himself a large cup of cocoa, simply so he’d have something to warm his hands against.

“Ja, it certainly would be unfortunate if you did. To think! You would have to miss out on so much fun. Our battles in the snow are always so exciting.” Medic pushed his glasses up his nose and stared wistfully into nowhere.

Scout was used to the Doctor’s eccentricities, and was determined to ignore his professional advice. “Yeah, well, I ain’t missing out on nothin’. You can count me in for the fight today.”

Medic tutted and helped himself to another plate of breakfast bratwurst. “The cold weather will only exacerbate your condition. Do not say I did not warn you.”

“Okay, thanks Ma, I’ll try to remember that.” Scout’s attitude might have had more impact if an explosive sneeze didn’t stun the table into silence. He hastily wiped his dripping nose on his sleeve, avoiding the stares of his teammates.

“Gesundheit,” said Medic, buttering his bagel with a smile.

*

The chill of the wind stung his cheeks, and his head felt like it was full of sawdust. The hubbub of the battlefield was muted through the fuzzy feeling in his brain, and the tickle in his throat had now become a heated coil of barbed wire. Scout groaned as he trudged though the snow, barely aware of the commotion around him.

Cold sweats began to radiate from his core. His slow pace ground to a halt, until he could only stand stock-still, ankle deep in snow, shivering in the middle of the battlefield.

“Get a move on, private!” Screamed Soldier as he raced past Scout. “Thinking never won a war!”

Scout wrapped his arms around his thin body. His skin was on fire, but he’d never felt as cold in his life. The woolly scarf around his neck did little to keep out the bitterness of winter.
¬
A rubber hand gripped his shoulder, and a few muffled words roused him from his haze. He turned his head to see a shiny black gasmask staring back at him in concern.

“H-hey Mumbles...” Murmured Scout as he tried to keep his teeth from chattering out of his head.

“Mmph mmm?”

“Nah man. I just… I just gotta rest for a minute. I’ll be fine.” Scout turned to face Pyro. A gentle dusting of snow was resting on his rubber-encased shoulders. Scout looked down to see that the heat of Pyro’s flamethrower muzzle had melted a small patch on the ground.

“Hey, you think you could fire that thing up?” He waved he hands close to his body. “Somewhere around here would be great.”

Pyro tilted his head in confusion.

“Y’know. Spy check.”

“Oooh. Hudda haa!”

One burst of flame later, Scout sighed in relief at the intense heat washed over him. He held his hands up to the fire, instructing Pyro to keep it going (you could never be too careful when a Spy was around). He was just getting comfortable when an ear-splitting explosion threw him to the ground.

He opened his eyes to see a smoking crater. Gibs of the former Pyro rained around him in a shower of flesh and shredded rubber.

Right on cue, a blustery gale stripped away any warmth Scout had gleaned from Pyro. “Fuuuck!” He cursed, pushing himself into an upright position. Twenty more aches and pains had hitched a ride on his body.

“Guts and glory!” Bellowed the opposing Demoman, raising his stickybomb launcher over his head in conquest. He ran off, leaving a trail of boot prints behind in the snow.

Scout sat in the frost, bemoaning this unfortunate turn of events. Soft snowflakes drifted down, already beginning to cover the smoking crater. He coughed, and shakily stood on his feet. As he squinted through the snow, trying to distinguish the blurs of activity around him, he rubbed his chilled hands together, puffing into them in an attempt to salvage some warmth. His breath left white fog in the air. He finally mustered enough motivation to begin a slow jog, searching for the closest dispenser to huddle against.

It was going to be a long day.

*

The battle was over and the team had reigned victorious. The locker room was a frenzy of backslapping and congratulatory man-hugs. Scout sat away from the commotion, slumped on the bench, with ice melting in his hair. He felt like death.

Engineer was the first to notice. He pushed his goggles up and looked down at Scout with a raised eyebrow. “Son, you look greener than a tree snake.”

“Mm fine…” Said Scout through laboured breaths. In the humidity of the locker room, he still felt like he was sitting in liquid nitrogen. His throat had become so inflamed it hurt to swallow. Even talking to Engineer was an effort.

Engineer looked unconvinced, but didn’t push the issue any further. “Well, if you say so…” He wandered away, leaving Scout alone to stew in his malaise.

Scout’s eyes fluttered shut. All he wanted was a warm bed and a moment’s peace…

“Laddy!” Demoman pulled a friendly arm around Scout’s neck and yanked him close, unconcerned with Scout’s delicate condition. “I’ll be whippin’ up a batch ah me famous eggnog scrumpy! Ye’ll be a new man when ah’m done with ye.” He gave Scout a hearty shake, rattling his head from side to side like a ragdoll.

“Egh,” whimpered Scout.

Solider joined in, prodding Scout in the side with the end of his shovel. “You should be ashamed of yourself, private! That was the laziest performance I’ve ever seen on a battlefield, and I’ve been to France.”

“Uhg,” Scout’s head was splitting apart.

The voices of the men were all morphing into one incessant buzz. It was drilling a hole in Scout’s skull. It was only a slight distraction from the spinning room and the hot flushes. He brought his legs up and rested his head on his knees, trying to escape from the cacophony.

He focused on deep breathing, and after what felt like an eternity, he was finally alone in the room. With waning strength, he stood up, leaning against the wall for support.

He couldn’t stop shivering. He took delicate steps to the doorway, trying to get some control over his tunnelling vision. He clutched at the doorframe, unable to make his legs move any further. He stared down the empty hall. It stretched out for miles ahead of him. What was a trivial distance in health had now become an impassable chasm. He slumped to the ground in defeat, laying his feverish head against the cool tiles.

He curled into a ball, powerless to stop old memories flooding his mind. He thought about his mother, who, even with seven other children, still had the time to tuck him into bed and comfort him when he was sick. He remembered his petulance, and insistence that he was old enough to look after himself. Her slender hands would check his temperature, and the flowery smell of her perfume secretly comforted him. Occasionally her manicured fingers would pinch him on the cheek when he gave her sass.

He had never felt such a desperate longing to be back home.

Scout shut his eyes to the light of the hall and let a fretful sleep take a hold of him.

*

Scout was distantly aware of being lifted. Strong arms were gently tucked around his waist and legs. He kept his eyes closed, allowing this stranger to do what they wished. He was too weak to protest. A low, confident voice spoke soothing words that he didn’t understand, and he leaned his head against the warm body, drifting in and out of an unconscious haze.

The rest of the journey escaped Scout’s memory. When he opened his eyes again he found himself lying in a soft bed, with a thick blanket draped over his fragile body. He shivered and coughed, remembering just how wretched he felt. He attempted to push himself into a sitting position, before a firm hand pushed him back down.

“Lie back down, you silly boy! With the temperature you have, I am surprised you have not combusted.”

Scout obeyed. He lay his head back down on the pillow and let a cool cloth be placed upon his burning forehead. He turned his head to side, not recognising the dim room he was in. A flickering candle on a nearby desk was the only illumination the room offered. Perched on a chair, wringing out another cloth in a silver basin, sat Medic.

“Doc?” Scout croaked, taking a few painful swallows with his parched throat.

“Ja. It is lucky I found you. Really, lying in the middle of the hall? What were you thinking? If I hadn’t moved you the cleaners would have had to vacuum around you.”

Despite his chastising, Medic seemed cheerful. He was no longer wearing his lab coat or gloves, and had rolled his sleeves back in a casual manner. Scout couldn’t help but notice how at ease the Doctor looked without his medipack weighing him down. Medic finished wringing out the cloth and put the basin to the side.

“C’mon. Ya didn’t have to help me.”

Medic sighed, turning to Scout and leaning closer to give him a proper examination. “Stubborn as always. Despite what the Medical Board says, I don’t always want to harm people.” He retrieved a long glass thermometer and waved it at Scout. “Now, if you are willing to cooperate, I would like to take your temperature once more.”

Scout conceded that it was probably for the best, so he opened his mouth for the doctor.

“Oh no,” Medic waggled a finger. “This is a rectal thermometer.”

The look of sheer panic on Scout’s face sent Medic into hysterics. After a few hearty chuckles he was able to calm himself. He pushed up his glasses to wipe tears from his eyes. “Oh, that one never gets old.”

Scout let out a groan of aggravation. He was not in the mood for jokes. “Jeeze, Doc. Can you give a guy a break?”

“Ach, I am sorry. Sometimes I just can’t resist.” When Medic had won back some of Scout’s trust, he placed the thermometer on Scout’s tongue, assuring the young man it was the proper orifice, and then rifled through a draw to pull out a long silver stethoscope.

Scout moved the thermometer around his mouth and sank back into the blankets with a sigh. The cloth on his head was a godsend to his broiling head, but he still had to wrap his arms around his chest, fighting off conflicting shivers of cold rippling down his skin. He was at that point he noticed he wasn’t wearing a shirt. He ran a hand down his bare chest just to confirm. Save for his boxer shorts, Scout was naked.

“Seriously man; you stripped me?!”

Medic leaned over Scout, stethoscope in hand. Its metallic surfaced glinted in the dim candlelight. “Well you didn’t expect me to put you to bed in those clothes? You were soaked.”

“Yeah, but… you could’ve…” Scout had run out of any more enthusiasm, or valid points to argue. He slumped his head against the pillow in frustration. “Whatever.”

“What? No contradictions? Ach! You must be sicker than I thought. Please pull down your blanket so I can check your breathing.”

Scout begrudgingly complied, sucking in a breath as cold air wafted against his over-sensitised skin. He fought the urge to throw the blankets back over himself as he allowed Medic to press the bell of the instrument against his sternum.

“Breathe in slowly,” instructed Medic.

Scout did as Medic said, and took a long rattling breath inwards. He flinched as Medic traced a hand across his chest, holding the stethoscope steady. Scout used the moment to take a surreptitious glance at the doctor. The low light of the room drew dark shadows across his face, bringing out the definition in his cheekbones. Streaks of grey peppered his temples, merging into well-combed hair. Scout would never describe another man as ‘handsome’, but Medic did possess a certain dignity that he couldn’t deny.

“And breathe out.”

Scout exhaled, and was suddenly struck with an uncharacteristic bout of self-consciousness. Worried that his staring was getting a little too obvious, he turned his attention to the rest of the room, trying to figure out where exactly he was.

He moved the thermometer around his mouth, finding his voice. “Where the hell am I?”

“My bed. Your own room was my first choice, but, judging by the state of it, it may have something to do with the condition you’re in now.”

Scout ruffled with indignity, but couldn’t summon the motivation to defend himself. It occurred to him just how strangely intimate it was to be tucked into another man’s bed. The distinctive smell of menthol was imbued in the sheets. He looked past the side table and saw a row a jars lines up along a shelf. He quickly realised they were specimen samples. Unidentifiable body parts floated in ether, reinforcing the fact that this could only be Medic’s room.

“Well,” began Medic as he put away his stethoscope, “it isn’t pneumonia. Somehow I think you will live another day.” He plucked the thermometer from Scout’s lips and looked at it with a furrowed brow. “But your temperature is still high. This is concerning. You should rest tonight and I will check again in the morning.”

Scout let Medic pull the blankets back up, but was taken aback when Medic reached out and stroked his cheek. It was unexpected, but in Scout’s delirium, oddly comforting.

They looked at each other for a lingering moment before Medic withdrew his hand, breaking the spell. “You are dehydrated. I will prepare something.”

Scout coughed and rolled to his side, bundling the blankets around his head, trying to shake off that strange feeling jolting through him. He watched from his cocoon as Medic poured a fizzing orange concoction into a tall glass. He approached the bed again, and to Scout’s ire commanded he sit up to drink it.

“Do not let the colour fool you. The taste is actually repulsive. However, it will hasten your recovery, so I suggest you drink it all.”

With great effort, Scout sat up, his head spinning with the movement. He accepted the glass, but before he could even bring it to his lips the overpowering stench of it sent him reeling. “Jesus, Doc! Whose gym socks did you squeeze this from?”

“It is a combination of ginger, camomile and pseudoephedrine. Drink it before it goes flat. The bubbles are the best part!”

Scout paused between gags as he managed to swallow the vile liquid. He slammed the empty glass back on the side table and threw Medic a heated glare. “Pass me some water will ya? I gotta get this taste outta my mouth. Yech!”

Despite it’s astringent flavour, Scout did detect a noticeable change in his body. A sense of warmth washed over him, calming his feverish shivers. He lay back in his bed as he adjusted to this pleasant change. “Actually,” he slurred, letting the medicine take effect “that ain’t half bad.”

Medic smiled. “I thought it might help. It is a family recipe passed down by my Grandmother’s pharmaceutical company.”

After that, Scout didn’t have much more to say. Medic replaced the cloth on his head and then set about tiding up while Scout rested. He curled back up as he watched Medic go about his business. He was able to observe the peculiar mannerisms about the Doctor that, in the commotion of his life, he had never stopped to notice before. Medic was actually quite endearing when he wasn’t dissecting people on the battlefield. He hummed a wistful tune, placing medical instruments back in draws before settling down in a chair to flick through a well-worn paperback. A violin was propped up against his seat, alluding to a deeper story behind his past.

Scout drew his attention to the rest of the bedroom. If you overlooked the medical paraphernalia and the specimen jars, it almost had a homely charm. Medic certainly had good taste in furniture. A dark mahogany desk sat as the grand centrepiece of the small room, complimented by a tall tailor-made bookshelf with tomes of medical encyclopaedias. The faded floral wallpaper reminded him of his mother’s house back in Boston. Her taste in fashion extended to her choices in interior design and he was slightly regretful of his loud-mouthed criticism of it. A pang of homesickness hit him again, and he pulled blankets tighter around his body. Scout’s attention returned to Medic. He was grateful to have some company.

Scout didn’t know how much time had passed. He was simply content to watch Medic from the safety of his bed covers. Soon his eyes drooped shut and he fell into a shallow sleep. The click of a door latch was enough to rouse him, and he blinked a bleary eye open to see what was happening.

Medic has his hand on the door handle, preparing to leave.

“Hey,” Scout reached an arm out from under his blankets to beckon Medic. “Where you goin’?”

Medic turned around, clearly surprised that Scout was still awake. “It is late. I’ll spend the night in my office. It is comfortable enough.”

“Nah, don’t go yet. It can’t be that late. Stay a little longer... We can talk about stuff.”

Medic sighed, glancing down at his watch to keep an eye on the time. “You really must sleep if you want to recover quickly.”

Scout knew that Medic was right, but the sudden onset of this illness had crumbled his defences, exposing vulnerability he always tried so hard to never show. A childish melancholy came over him at the thought of being alone.

“Don’t. Don’t go…”

Medic hovered at the door, not giving and answer to Scout’s pleas.

Scout was struck with embarrassment at how pathetic he must have sounded. He rolled over, facing the wall. He buried his face in the pillow. “I getcha, man. I gotta rest. I guess I’ll see you in the morning or something.”

The medicine was wearing off, and Scout could feel the shivers creeping back. He knew he had a long night ahead of him. He wrapped his hands around his bare chest, wallowing in self-pity.

The bed suddenly dipped and creaked, interrupting his pity-party. He looked over in confusion.

Medic sat on the end on the bed, taking off his boots and socks. “If you insist I stay, then I suggest you move over. There is enough room for both of us.”

Scout blinked, not entirely understanding what was happening. “You… you’re gonna sleep with me?!”

Medic casually unbuttoned his shirt. “Yes. Unless you have a better idea.”

Scout’s mouth opened and closed, gaping like a fish. “But… what?! You’ll get sick.”

“Believe me, I have had worse.”

Before Scout could raise objection, Medic pulled up the covers and slipped in beside him. He was shirtless, but thankfully kept his slacks on for modesty.

Scout inched over to make some room for the Doctor, his fever adding to the surreal nature of the situation. He blinked in a haze, watching as the Medic made himself comfortable. “This is weird,” Scout admitted.

Medic carefully folded his glasses and placed them on the night table before he rolled over to face Scout. He was no more than a breath’s distance away from the young man. “If it really make you that uncomfortable, I can leave.”

Scout gave that a moment’s consideration. “Nah. I guess it’s okay…”

“This is good.” Medic smiled. “At least now I can monitor your condition. I won’t be far if you need me.”

Scout couldn’t help but let the corner of his mouth turn up in a small smile of his own. “Thanks, Doc.” As an afterthought he added: “but no touching, alright! I don’t want this shit getting creepy.”

Medic raised his hands in defence. “I am a consummate professional.”

Scout wasn’t sure what ‘consummate’ meant, but nonetheless he felt a little more assured. He relaxed, secretly pleased to have the company.

It wasn’t long before they were both settled and content. They made idle talk, before they both grew too tired to continue. Medic snuffed out the candle and they settled in to sleep. The room was quiet, only broken by the sound of the winter wind rustling past the window.

True to his word, Medic didn’t make any unwarranted attempts to close the distance between them. However, as Scout tried to fall into unconsciousness, his shivers grew increasingly severe. He tugged the blankets closer around him, unconcerned if he was stealing them away from Medic.

“Scout, you are cold?”

Scout didn’t reply, but his chattering teeth was answer enough.

He jumped when he felt the touch of warm skin against his back. A strong arm wrapped around his waist, drawing him closer. Medic spoke softly. “I know I am breaking the rules, but this may bring you some relief.”

Scout was not in a condition to argue. He accepted the contact, allowing Medic’s body heat to surround him. After a few minutes his shivers were little more than slight trembles. His initial apprehension was calmed by the rhythm of Medic’s breathing. Eventually he couldn’t even cling to the most stubborn of reservations. He melted into Medic’s embrace, placing his own hand on the Doctor’s and pulling it closer, using him like a human blanket.

“Don’t tell anyone about this.” He mumbled.

Scout heard a quiet chuckle behind him. “I won’t say a word.” Medic squeezed Scout’s hand for reassurance.

After that, sleep came quickly.

*

Fever crept into Scout’s dreams. It wrapped around his thoughts like sinister tendrils, distorting his thoughts. Nightmarish visions raced through his head, plunging him into an endless abyss. Reality was a distant memory - a tiny pinprick in an ocean of madness. Scout thrashed, trying to pull himself out of the chaos. He cried out, terrified that he would be trapped forever.

“Scout!”

Scout’s eyes flew open. He sharply inhaled in shock.

Medic loomed over him. He held Scout by the shoulders, doing his best to control Scout’s frantic movements. “You have been dreaming. Calm yourself.”

Scout was overcome with disorientation. Sweat beaded on his forehead. “Who? Where?”

“You are in my room. You are sick. Now please calm down. Injuring yourself would be highly inconvenient.”

Scout slumped back in the bed, overwhelmed with relief. His foggy mind pieced together enough of the clues to remember that he was currently in bed with Medic and that he was safe. Despite all this, his heart continued to race. The horrifying visions of his dream were still fresh in his memory.

Medic pressed a hand against his heated forehead. “Ach! You are burning up. I will fetch you some water.”

He moved to leave, but Scout was quick to grab him by the wrist, holding him in place. “You’re a good guy, Doc.” He said, staring up at the older man with half-lidded eyes.

“That is very flattering. Now if you don’t mind, I would like to get up.”

Scout didn’t budge. Instead, he moved his legs so they were on either side of Medic’s waist. It was a weak attempt to maintain contact, but somehow Medic was allowing it. “I mean it, man. No one else would do this for me…” Scout’s mind was still cloudy with the fading memory of his dreams. The presence of another warm body pressed against his was too comforting to let go of just yet.

Medic was patient, but clearly unsure what to do about Scout’s odd behaviour. “Scout, you are unwell.”

Scout wasn’t listening. The body above him was mesmerising. In his feverish state of mind he though nothing of reaching out to wrap his arms around that broad chest just to get closer. He pulled them both into an embrace, breathing Medic in. He wanted to be enveloped by him.

After some hesitation, Medic let his own arms slide around Scout’s small body, accepting the affection. “Dummkopf,” he sighed, stroking Scout’s hair.

Scout pressed his head against Medic’s shoulder, basking in that blissful moment. Before Medic could stop him, Scout was pressing his lips against his jaw, kissing a path to the Doctor’s mouth.

Medic cupped Scout’s face, gently trying to ease him away from these unsolicited advances. “You are not coherent...”

Scout stubbornly continued. He closed his eyes, smelled Medic’s skin and leaned forward to brush their lips together.

It was brief, but Medic didn’t pull away. When it was over, he tilted Scout’s chin up to look at him thoughtfully. He ran a thumb across the young man’s flushed cheek in a small display of tenderness. Scout looked back at him, entranced. “Lie down. I will fetch you some water.”

Scout acquiesced. He fell back into the mattress, pulling the blankets around him. The springs creaked as Medic got up, and suddenly the bed was a whole lot emptier. Scout’s head swam with confusion, not entirely certain about what had just happened.

Before long, Medic had retuned with another fizzing glass of liquid. Scout was quick to drink it down, hardly bothered by its bitter flavour. Medic must have put something else in it, because Scout was immediately overcome with lethargy. He let unconsciousness wipe his mind as he fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

*

Scout cracked his eyes open, and was greeted by the morning sun streaming through the window. He slowly sat up, trying to gain bearing in these unfamiliar surroundings. He quickly discovered that he was alone in the room. Scout couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed by that. He stretched his arms and moved to sit on the edge of the bed.

He felt lighter. The flu still lingered, but was only a vestige of its intensity the night before. He smacked his lips together, desperate for a drink. He looked around, noticing how the room wasn’t quite so mysterious when it was exposed to the light of day.

He was surprised when the door clicked open. Medic stood in the doorway, carrying a silver tray of food in one hand. He seemed equally surprised to see Scout up and about so soon.

“Why are you up? Lie back down immediately!”

Scout didn’t make any motions to obey the Doctor. He yawned and ran a hand through his messy hair. “Seriously Doc. I ain’t dying.”

Medic walked over to Scout, placing the tray of breakfast to the side. He huffed at Scout’s obstinacy. “How do you expect to get better if you are running around everywhere?”

Scout thought Medic was overreacting a little. He rubbed his eyes, trying to remember what exactly happened last night. All he could really recall was the severity of the fever and the vague memory of Medic sharing the bed with him. He tensed as Medic pressed a hand against his forehead, moving closer to check his temperature.

An uncertain flutter ran through Scout. He looked down, not quite prepared to face Medic.

“Doc,” He mumbled, not meeting Medic’s eyes. “I didn’t do anything embarassin’ last night, did I?”

Medic continued to check his temperature, unmoved by the question. “You were sick. That is all there is to say.”

“Oh.”

Medic pressed his fingers against Scout’s throat, checking his lymph nodes before pulled away. He folded his arms in thought. “You certainly do seem better this morning. And so quickly too! I suppose that is the privilege of youth.”

Scout wiggled his legs still feeling inexplicitly awkward in Medic’s presence. “You know,” he started, flicking his eyes up to glance at the Doctor. “I ain’t completely better. I might even have to stay here another night.” He coughed for dramatic effect.

Medic raised an eyebrow, but the sly smile on the corner of his lips said enough. “Yes. I think this would be for the best. Doctor’s orders.”

22 .

Author's Note: Constructive criticism is loved and always appreciated as well. I haven’t written anything outside of my novel and original short stories for my creative writing courses for a long time.

Special thanks goes to my roommate Beth, for watching winter survival videos with me, and Ultimate Evil Person, for getting me into this fandom, and being my beta even though she’s been sick in the hospital for the past month. Love you, girls. Meanwhile, special thanks does NOT go to Skyrim, which I got from my dad on the last day of Hanukah. Seriously Skyrim, fuck you. Stop being so goddamn distracting. It’s your fault that I’m sending this to Kilo at seven fifteen on Christmas morning when I should have been sleeping.

To the original giftee: I tried really hard to make this Medic/Soldier. I really did. It came out feeling forced no matter how many times I wrote it, so I settled with this final version of the story and left it at that. I’ve never actually sat down and seriously tried to write Soldier before either, so forgive me if he comes across… wrong. I’ll probably go back and rewrite this story later to focus on the pairing aspect, so I can give you the link to the updated fic if you don’t totally hate this and want it.

[Mod Note: Again, I edited the Author's Note to hopefully what's the most important]

“Fall Behind” by Lady Shockbox
---
Into the nothing, faded and weary

I won't leave and let you fall behind

Live for the dying, heaven hear me

I know we can make it out alive

Into The Nothing – Breaking Benjamin

i

From the moment he saw the moose appear in the headlights of the ambulance, Soldier knew they were in deep trouble.

The most tragic part about the whole thing was that they were less than five miles out from the RED headquarters in Coldfront. Maybe if they had stopped at that café ten minutes earlier gotten something to eat like Medic suggested, they might have avoided the dumb cow altogether. They could have gotten to the base without a hitch: without having to endure what was arguably going to be one of the worst nights of their lives. The incoming blizzard that the radio stations were warning about certainly wouldn’t help. Neither would the fact that they were traveling up the side of a mountain, next to a rickety old guardrail fence, leading down a steep cliff into pure darkness.

The last they heard from anyone, BLU had already arrived at their base via the train straight from Double Cross. That was four hours ago. Since RED actually had access to three separate vehicles, they left at different times depending on when it was most convenient for the driver. Sniper left first, early on in the morning, with Spy, Demoman, and Heavy. He mentioned something about wanting to get there in the afternoon rather than at night. The sun would be setting earlier and the Australian didn’t want to be stuck on the mountain roads in a camper in the dark, much less than a camper carrying his three particular passengers. Heavy was pleasant enough, he said, but Spy was a horrible backseat driver and Demoman was… well, Demoman. Engineer left less than two hours later with Scout, Pyro, and Guard Dog loaded in his Chevy.

Soldier would have gone with them if the Texan hadn’t convinced him to stay with Medic. Just barely.

“You aren’t gonna make ‘im go all by himself, are ya?” Engineer asked, looking up from packing a set of blueprints. That had been at seven twenty-three in the morning. It was still dark outside the window in his bare workshop, and the single, lonely street lamp beyond illuminated a flurry of falling rogue snowflakes. Engineer’s truck was already outside just a little ways further. Scout was already nestled in the front of the truck fast asleep. Guard Dog was in the driver’s seat, looking distinctly smug and drooling over the wheel, and Pyro was in the back spraying the air with hot blasts of his flamethrower for only God knew what reason. Engineer interrupted Soldier’s train of thought as he turned away from his naked workbench with his last suitcase hefted under his arm. “Shoot, Sniper’s already gone and I can’t keep you in the back of my pickup for eight some odd hours going through Canada and Alaska. Besides, you and the doc oughta… I dunno, get to know each other better. Lord knows the two of you need to have a little heart-to-heart. You two butt heads harder than two boiling angry bulls painted red.”

Soldier wasn’t really sure under what circumstances anyone would paint a bull red, but as long as there was an ounce of hot American blood running through his veins, Soldier knew that his and Medic’s ever getting along was never going to happen. Still, being in possession for a strong sense of self-preservation, he kept his urge to argue to himself check and simply went on his way packing the rest of his things. He didn’t bother to see Engineer or the rest of his teammates off. As much as he disliked being forced to do something or listen to Engineer’s voice of reason, he would rather prefer die on the battlefield than potentially become a mercenary popsicle in the back of some rickety old pickup. If he was going to die, it was going to be in a blaze of glory while he was fighting. Nevertheless, that didn’t necessarily mean he had to like being paired with the team’s resident doctor. He had plenty of reasons to hold abhorrence to Medic as it was. Nazi’s had a special place on his personal shit list, especially after what he went through during the war.

The German’s ambulance wasn’t necessarily homey, but Soldier refused to sit in the front with him once they left. It was one thirty in the afternoon. Apparently Medic needed to stay on base for a few extra hours in order to make sure his birds safely arrived at the RED barracks in Coldfront. When they finally got around to leaving and Soldier made his way to sit in the back, Medic didn’t complain. It was no secret that the German Medic disliked him, too. Soldier wouldn’t have had it any other way. The majority of the drive went on in silence, with the exception of Medic asking him maybe once or twice if they should make a pit stop. Sniper even contacted them over the radio at one point to say that they had already arrived on base. The last they heard from anyone, it was when Engineer ended up with a flat and had to pull into some obscure gas station to hitch up the space, which was apparently concerning because Pyro being anywhere near fuel was a potentially dangerous safety hazard. That was three hours ago, and since then, the ride in the ambulance was made in silence. Even as the sun disappeared over the rising swell of the mountains while they crossed the border into Alaska and gained altitude, not a word was said.

The road wasn’t even necessarily dangerous either, which, given the seriousness of the accident with the moose, was horribly ironic. It was definitely narrow and a bit sharp on some of the turns, yes, but as long as they drove slow, Soldier was sure they would be fine. They passed two salt-trucks earlier in the evening going the opposite direction down the mountain, too. For being Alaska in the early winter, the roads couldn’t have been safer. If they had passed anymore salt trucks or cars in general though, Soldier wouldn’t have known. He spent the majority of his time pretending to be asleep in the back corner of the ambulance. He didn’t trust the man as far as he could throw his own team’s Heavy.

It was dark out when the moose appeared in the headlights of the ambulance, but by then, it was already too late.

Moments before the crash, Soldier had stood up in the back to stretch his legs, interrupting his own pseudo sleep in order to keep his muscles from cramping up more than they already were. He had been going steadily stir crazy after being cooped in such a small space for nearly seven hours, and being stuck in such tight quarters with a man he publically disliked was not doing anything for his already frayed nerves. As he glanced toward the front of the ambulance, he caught sight of something outlined in the darkness and quickly approaching. At first Soldier thought it was another car parked on the shoulder, which was odd because the “shoulder” was just a wood railing separating the road from a sheer cliff face. He didn’t need to have a revoked license to know that was a serious hazard, but it wasn’t until Medic pulled further to the left to pass that Soldier realized that it was a moose, licking the salt off the road. The cow’s fur was shaggy black in the darkness, and in spite of being female, she still managed to be larger than any buck Soldier had seen back home in Wisconsin.

The moose spooked without warning. She stumbled on her gangly legs, rearing high, pivoting into a full turn before suddenly leaping into the path into the ambulance without a hint of warning.

Medic didn’t even have time to swear. He didn’t have enough time to do anything, let alone swerve or slam on the brakes. Even years after it happened, Soldier could not find it in himself to blame the medic for what happened. Regardless, the impact was brutal, like driving straight into a wall of solid Australium. Soldier could see a flash of bone from the moose’s shattered forelegs in the glare of the headlights before the huge cow came bouncing onto the hood and straight through the windshield. The ambulance was certainly sturdy, but there was absolutely no stopping the huge body from coming through the glass, sending a spray of glass and gore into the cabin, and crushing Medic against his own seat. Soldier shouted something but couldn’t remember what. He was thrown backward against the back doors of the ambulance, smashing his head against the wall with enough force to audibly crack the back of his helmet. Lucky for him that he had been wearing it, being that that could have been his bare skull instead. He was sent sprawling onto the floor moments later, flat on his face and breaking his nose. His head spun and a thick, black fog clouded the corner of his spinning vision.

And then the ambulance finally did swerve, if only because the front tires popped and sent the vehicle deviating sharply the right. There was a shriek of metal, more shattering glass, and the sound of tearing flesh. Then there was a discomforting feeling rising in the pit of Soldier’s stomach that he recognized right away as the sensation of free fall. The ambulance had run clear through the guardrail and over the cliff.

He didn’t remember feeling the impact. One moment they were falling, and in the next, there was only darkness.

ii

Benjamin Williams woke up with a pounding headache and cold wind biting at his exposed face. For a minute he just laid there, dazed and stunned, blinking stupidly into the blizzard howling in front of his eyes at the mouth of the cave. Beyond at least ten feet, he couldn’t see anything past the whiteout. When another gust of particularly harsh wind bit at his skin, he suddenly found himself back in Poland. Those long, paranoid winter nights hiding in the woods and tracking Nazi scum came back to bludgeon his brain with vengeance, and the American found himself scrambling into a crouched position least he be ambushed again. It took him a moment longer to finally register that he was, in fact, not in Poland. For that matter, he wasn’t in a cave at all. He was looking out of the ajar, mangled back doors of Medic’s ruined ambulance.

He remembered what happened. The drive, the moose, the cliff.

Fate was a stone cold bitch, he decided unceremoniously.

Repressing a groan Soldier strained to sit up and proceeded to skim down his emergency mental checklist. Was anything broken? His nose, definitely. He could feel the twisted mess of cartilage on his face, the flow of blood running down his lips and off his chin, but other than that and feeling sore, everything else felt fine. He’d have a fine assortment of bruises in the morning, though: that was for certain, at least. And if the sparkle of glass covering the floor or overpowering stench of blood and guts was evidence enough, Medic’s ambulance had definitely seen its last drive.

And that was when he finally remembered Medic.

Soldier looked back over his shoulder to the front of the ambulance. Pain momentarily lanced up his neck midway through the motion, and the American veteran had to turn away and sit motionless for a few seconds before the pain subsided and his vision cleared. Trying again, this time slower, he was met with total carnage. Past the entryway separating the back of the wagon from the front, he could see the entire front of the ambulance spattered with dark stains of blood and chunks of already frozen meat rapidly being covered over with snow blowing in. Other than that, there was no sign of the moose they had hit. Finding it was hardly a priority. His eyes immediately sought out Medic. At first he couldn’t find the other man, but then he was finally able to make out the German’s limp hand and slack shoulder around the silhouette of the seat. He was not moving.

Much to his American’s pride’s chagrin, his immediate concern was that the doctor had been killed. His gut told him that he shouldn’t have cared, that the world would be better off with one less rogue Nazi, but that didn’t stop him from slowly migrating to the front of the ambulance anyways. He gingerly rose to his feet, cautious not to move too quickly in case his body decided to betray him, and once he was confident with his own estimate of strength, he attempted maneuvered across the uneven floor to the front. His legs shook, practically consistent with jelly, and Soldier only hardly caught himself with his palm against the wall to keep from bowling over. The ambulance groaned under his weight warningly. Soldier waited another few seconds before trying to continue on. When he finally did manage to maneuver into the space that bridged between the back of the ambulance and the cabin, he steeled himself for the worst.

Medic was breathing. His breath came out in faint bursts of ghostly heat through his slack mouth, his chest rising and falling painfully. In all seriousness, the man was incredibly lucky to even be alive at all. He had seen the moose come smashing right into him. Very few people survived collisions with moose on the road, let alone falling down a cliff afterward. His face was a bloody mess of red – whether or not the blood was his or the moose’s was to still be determined, although Soldier was convinced it was a combination of the two – and a series of deep, ugly purple bruises were blooming across his jaw and up the entire left-hand side of his face. His nose was definitely broken too, that much was for sure. His glasses were gone and his eyes were closed, and his neck was limply thrown back so his head was angled up at the ceiling. The hand that wasn’t dangling inertly at his side was weakly clutching his chest.

And his legs were pinned underneath the crushed dashboard.

Soldier had definitely seen worse conditions on the battlefield, back during his years in Poland and even while working for RED, but it wasn’t by much. The first month he and the team had worked together, while they were stationed at Sawmill, the Scout had been leaping from building to building when the enemy Sniper managed an incredible shot and hit the Bostonian runner straight through the knee. Equilibrium ruined, the boy fell short of his mark flailing in pain and landed awkwardly on the roof of the run-down building closest to it. He went through the roof and had both legs sheared off after landing on a massive whirling saw blade. Soldier had been inside the mill clashing Shovel with BLU Soldier’s mirroring entrenching tool, but even in the heat of the fight, he couldn’t help but gape in horror at the sight until the other soldier managed to drive the spade of his weapon through his neck. When he woke up next in the resupply room, Scout was curled up on the floor with Engineer kneeling over him. They both shared glances and knew the runner wouldn’t be participating in the rest of the battle. No one’s first time through Respawn was necessarily a pleasant one: some of them were more hard hit than others.

But out here, there wasn’t any Respawn at all. They had nothing.

Having his legs crushed might not have been a serious offense working for the Administrator, but out here, there was a very real chance that it was going to kill him. It looked as though his right leg had taken the most damage − from what he could see through the parts of the Medic’s pants that were shredded, his flesh was hideously torn and mangled – and he was definitely trapped. Soldier wasn’t an expert on medicine or a trained professional with a revoked license for removing some poor sap’s skeleton, but he knew enough to stuff fourteen feet of his own intestines back into his stomach when exploding shrapnel gutted him in the war. Just as quickly as they had surfaced, Soldier shoved those nasty memories of Poland aside as he reached out and touched Medic’s shoulder. The sound of his own voice made him inwardly flinch. Even with all his yelling and banshee battle crying on the job working for RED, he sounded pitifully hoarse. “Doc?”

Soldier hadn’t expected an immediate response, but Medic whined almost right away. He had been conscious the entire time, just barely. “S-Soldat?”

Even though it was his own designation spoken in German, a language that Soldier previously decided that he hated with a passion, he was relieved to hear it. “Yeah, it’s me. How long have you been awake, Kraut?”

“I don’t know,” the German answered, sounding decidedly unsure of himself. He sounded even worse than he did. Soldier was convinced now that he had a concussion too, although the level of severity wasn’t something he knew he could accurately judge. “I don’t really… remember what happened. Did ve hit somezhing?”

“A moose,” he answered. His eyes traveled to the front of the ambulance, trying to focus on something other than his injured teammate. His injured teammate who would have been picked up by Respawn by now under normal circumstances. His eyes stopped at the radio, smashed almost entirely beyond recognition. The receiver was the only part that looked even moderately salvageable: the rest of the equipment looked like a mutilated level one sentry reject. A few of the dials were even missing, and it was with a new level of understanding that the gravity of their situation came bearing down onto Soldier’s shoulders with a newfound weight.

They had no way to contact the others. They were alone. Just like Medic’s legs, just like dogs stuck at the bottom of a shaft, they were trapped.

Medic whimpered, interrupting Soldier’s thoughts. “I… cannot feel my leg. Zhe one on the right.”

The one that was crushed. “Are you sure?”

The other man did not answer, and no matter how much Soldier convinced himself that he hated the sound of the German’s voice, his silence was terrifying.

iii

Medic’s ambulance was not an ambulance. Any ambulance with at least a shred of dignity would be a goldmine of medical supplies. Medic’s ambulance had absolutely nothing.

“Don’t be an idiot,” Shovel said with a huff. She had kept her silence for a huge leg of the trip already, and this was the first time she had spoken to him in hours. “The idiot medic doesn’t use this piece of shit unless the team carpools into town, remember? Why should he keep medical supplies in here?”

“Quiet,” Soldier said, struggling around the side of the smashed ambulance.

Soldier only had two suitcases with him in the back of the ambulance. Medic had no luggage, seeing as he sent everything he had along with his birds through a separate shipping company. According to him, there wouldn’t have been enough room for them all and his medical supplies. Soldier’s only two suitcases contained two extra jackets and Shovel, who looked to be a little more useful for venturing outside the ambulance than the additional clothing. The wind was buffeting him back and forth on his still unsteady legs, but he managed to stay standing by using the side of the trashed vehicle for leverage. The damage done from the fall was even more evident outside despite the blinding weather conditions and cover of darkness. The paint was scraped raw, shreds of metal plating were stern around the accumulating snow here and there… and if there was any chance of salvaging something that wasn’t completely destroyed from the accident, it was the tire chains Engineer installed the night before they left Double Cross. When Soldier managed to make it to the front of the ruined ambulance, he gave the set on the shredded tire closest to him a firm tug. They came away with barely a hint of resistance. Soldier set them down in the snow, reevaluated the rate of snowfall, and decided it best to them over his shoulder instead. Better that he not misplace them, lest they could still come in handy. The back doors of the ambulance definitely wouldn’t stay shut if he tried to close them, so he could use the chains to rig them shut instead.

“As if that’s going to save you and the doctor,” Shovel murmured almost condescendingly. “If this storm doesn’t let up soon, short term answers will only get you so far. You’re not completely injured, are you? Leave the medic and get on your way. You and I survived Poland, didn’t we? We can survive here too. Just walk away.”

The thought was tempting. Soldier immediately froze that train of thought almost as soon as it struck him, though. “I am an AMERICAN soldier, sister. We do not simply abandon our teammates.”

“He’s a German,” she said, exasperated. “A Kraut. A Nazi. One of those 6,578 monsters you and I destroyed during the war back in Poland. Why not make that 6,579? We wouldn’t even need to kill him ourselves. The storm can have him. He could just freeze and be done with it. And who knows? The Administrator can just send a replacement. Someone who isn’t a filthy German.”

The entire front of the ambulance was smashed, crushed from the weight of the moose they originally hit. If – WHEN, Soldier had to remind himself − they got out of this mess, Engineer was going to have a field day trying to fix this hunk of junk. Either that, or Pyro and Demoman were going to have a blast destroying the rest of it. Since Medic was still trapped in the front seat, trying to move him was going to be absolutely useless. Between the German being pinned and the smashed window allowing freezing air to pummel his exposed skin, he was either going to freeze to death very quickly succumb to frostbite. Without the comfort of Respawn or the knowledge that they were eventually going to be rescued, Soldier knew he had to delay the onset of hypothermia as long as possible. Trying to tear apart the interior of the ambulance to find insulation proved useless: the damn piece of junk barely had anything other than a few strips of thin foam, which wouldn’t do shit to cover the entirely of the broken windshield. His second idea had been to try tearing off the hood of the ambulance and using it as a shield across the windshield instead. His logic was that it would be so badly damaged that it would come clear off, but what he failed to take into consideration was that the damn thing would be stuck. The weight of the moose and the force of the impact had caused the hood to wedge itself impossibly down. No matter how hard he pried, he couldn’t get it to budge.

“You’re ignoring me,” Shovel said softly, almost accusingly, sounding betrayed, as if she had been personally offended. “You’ve never ignored me before.”

“Because I don’t like what you’re saying, sister,” he growled, giving the hood one more hard tug. Pain rushed up his neck again and his vision fogged. When it came back, he was leaning over the hood, chest heaving. Maybe he had hurt himself more than he originally thought. “He is a member of the RED team, and even IF he is a filthy German scumbag, I am NOT going to let him die out here. WE are going to survive. All of us.”

“You certainly weren’t feeling that way this morning,” Shovel sniffed. Had she been human, she might have been holding her nose in the air. Soldier imagined her to be a cold brunette, wearing a black dress and bright bloody lipstick. A good looking woman for sure, but with a chuck of ice where her heart should have been. She had changed quite a bit since the war. She was meaner nowadays and it was plainly showing… even if she was right. “If Medic so much as tried to use you for one of his medical experiments like he does with the Russian, you would have killed him without a second thought. You probably would have used me to do it, too. Now you do have a chance to get rid of him. You’re just too much of a coward to−”

She suddenly fell into silence in his hand as he gripped her handle particularly hard. “Do. NOT. Call me a coward.”

She said nothing. For the first time in a long time, Soldier found himself genuinely angry with her. If she was a woman, be dammed, he would have smacked her something fierce.

It was only when he turned away to survey the rest of their surroundings that he found the moose. She was barely visible above the snow drift billowing on top of her corpse, tinting the white a pale red. Soldier found himself drawn closer to her against his own accord. As much of a mess the dumb brute had made of the ambulance and Medic, she had definitely gotten the worst of all of them. Her legs were a barely recognizable mess of meat and jagged bone, and entire chunks of flesh had been taken out of her body from the force of the impact and less forgiving course down the mountain. Her head was attached to her twisted neck only by a few wires of muscly tendons. Her eyes were wide and fearful, a mirror of what she had probably felt in death.

Soldier kicked her in the face, slipped, fell, struggled to his feet, and kicked her in the face again. That first time, he imagined he was kicking Shovel. The second, third, fourth, and fifth time, he was kicking himself. Over and over and over.

iv

There was only one option left.

There were risks, obviously. Either Medic was going to bleed to death or he was simply going to die of shock, and even if he did survive − even if they hunkered down through the rest of the storm long enough for any of their teammates to find them − there was a possibility that Respawn wasn’t going to repair the damage. Their data cards for the Respawn machine were updated every time they relocated to a new base, and unless their previous cards hadn’t been destroyed to update the current state of their bodies by some sheer miracle of dumb luck, Medic was going to be a cripple for the rest of his life. Then there was the problem of the method Soldier was going to have to utalize. Medic didn’t even have the luxury of antiseptic, pain killers, or medical tools with the exception of a small surgical flashlight that Soldier found in a small floor cupboard, and that didn’t have any batteries. All he had was Shovel and a flash of Scrumpy Demoman had given him in passing a week ago that he hung onto.

At least Shovel’s blade was sharp enough. It wasn’t ideal, but she was going to have to do.

“At least you’ll enjoy it,” she murmured quietly, barely audible over the howl of the storm outside. The wind that caressed the carcass of the ambulance caused the metal all around them to creak. “Better the Nazi than the Engineer or Scout.”

“Shut up.” It was the first time he recalled ever saying that to her.

After sweeping out as much snow and broken glass as he could, Soldier made sure the doors were secured tight with the snow chains he gathered. He would go back and try to wrestle the rest of them off the mangled tires later if he needed to. For now, the back of the ambulance was at least free of a cold draft. Before going up to the front, he made sure everything was all set. One of his spare jackets was laid flat on the ground for makeshift bedding. The thin insulation foam was torn into strips and ready to be fastened into a tourniquet at a moment’s notice. Shovel was at the ready in one hand and the flask was ready in the other. He was as ready as he was ever going to be.

Heart pounding, he maneuvered to the front of the ambulance. “Medic?”

At first, Soldier thought he wasn’t breathing. Medic was lying very still and even worse looking than he had last gathered the nerve to see him. The wind and snow blowing in from the ruined windshield had taken its toll: the German was pale and looking bluer than what was healthy. The bruises on his skin seemed almost darker now, more like deep ink spots of black than purple brown, and with his heart leaping into his throat, Soldier reached his hand out and shook the German’s shoulder harder than what might have been absolutely necessary. Medic’s head shook back and forth as he was manhandled and he groaned. He was still alive, and for the first time since he was trapped, he opened his eyes. They were glassy in the darkness. Unfocused. “Soldier?”

“We need to cut you out of that seat, Fritz,” he said grimly. He tried to keep his face neutral, but there was no stopping the foul grimace that tugged at the corner of his mouth. “You’ll freeze if we don’t.”

Soldier didn’t want to have to explain, hoping Medic would understand what he meant himself. For a while Medic didn’t answer, and Soldier was momentarily afraid that he was going to have to be more specific, but then the German finally turned his head to look at him. He looked remarkably younger without his glasses, even past all the bruises and blood. His expression was remarkably calm. “You cannot get me out of this seat unless you take off my trapped leg.”

Soldier felt his gut heave painfully. His throat felt constricted. “Do you have a better idea?”

“No,” Medic said, oddly surreal sounding. “I don’t.”

“I have some of Tavish’s Scrumpy,” Soldier offered.

“Weakling,” Shovel suddenly hissed, so softly that Soldier thought he only imagined it. It was only when she vibrated in his hands that he realized that she had spoken, and right then and there, he almost took her and snapped her in two.

Medic was still looking at him with those glassy eyes. Finally, after another long drought of silence, he nodded. “Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Take zhe leg,” Medic said. “So long as RED keeps our old Respawn cards, ve should be fine. I can get my leg back later.”

Medic extended his palm to him. The gloved hand was bloody: whether or not it was his own blood or the moose’s was something Soldier didn’t want to think about just then. Soldier handed him the flask and Medic immediately reached up a shaky hand to unscrew the lid and proceed to drain its contents.

“You sure okay with this, Kraut?” Soldier asked.

“Ve don’t have any other choice,” Medic said, sounding more like he was trying to convince himself. He lowered the flask and leaned his head back against the headrest of his seat, exhaling a shaky breath. His breath billowed in front of his face in the cold air. He was distinctly shivering too, although Soldier guessed that it was more out of terror than actual cold. In fact, it was the first time he had even seen the man visibly shaken. “Just… give me a moment, herr.”

Soldier did. Pain was certainly not new to either of them. Neither was dealing amputations in Soldier’s case, but all the times he did manage to sever someone’s arm or leg, it had been in doing so while attacking the BLUs. Those injuries were never permanent anyways, and even during his time in Poland, Soldier had taken quite a few Nazi heads with Shovel alone. Except he wasn’t fighting for money or for his life right now. Right now he was going to amputate a teammates leg in order to save his life. The psychological impact was a little more personal. He was about to sever a teammates leg using only a MannCo entrenching tool and Scrumpy. For what it was worth, he would give Medic all the time he needed. Even if just to help Soldier prepare himself, too. The German’s breathing was shallow and rasping. It must have been a whole minute before the doctor managed to calm himself down long enough to take another long, last swig from the small flask. He handed it back to Soldier once he was finished. It was empty. “A-alright. Do it.”

Soldier exhaled the long breath he realized he had been holding. Shovel hummed in his hands as he lifted her up and aimed her spade at the junction where Medic’s bloody leg met the collapsed dashboard. The ripped flesh around the crushed area looked frozen and ugly, like a mass of black puss and meaty strips rather than part of a human being’s leg. Shovel shivered in the suspended air with poorly restrained excitement as he struggled to gauge exactly where he needed to strike… before bringing her down with all the strength he had.

All the time he spent sharpening her spade paid off, and in the worst way possible. She struck bone almost right away, tearing through the Medic’s pants leg and swiftly slicing through skin and muscle like a cleaver. There was a harsh squick as the blade tore through flesh and sent new blood furiously welling from the wound. Medic jerked in the seat, tossing his head back, arching, and opening his mouth wide in a silent scream. It wasn’t until Soldier jerked Shovel back up and brought her down again that Medic finally found his voice. Soldier tuned him out as best he could and hefted Shovel up once more, bringing her down a third time. He was a little off the mark this time, but he could feel through Shovel’s quaking handle how he struck bone.

After the fourth and fifth strikes, as soon as Shovel stopped hitting bone and deftly passed through seat cushioning, Soldier tossed her aside – much to her cardigan, as she gave a shout of displeasure – and hooked his arms around Medic and pulled. The German’s other leg wasn’t pinned and he came out of the seat with ease. Blood soaked the seat and spurted across the dashboard in huge spurts of red. He dragged the man into the back of the ambulance, easing him onto the jacket he laid out, and immediately set to work securing the tourniquet around the stump.

He didn’t want to think about the severed leg under the crushed dashboard. He didn’t want to think about what he had just used Shovel to do. He didn’t want to think about the storm or the moose or Poland or anything.

Medic howled. The storm answered him in earnest and swallowed his screams.

v

The tourniquet had served its purpose and stifled the bleeding, but Medic had still lost a great deal of blood.

Soldier had tossed his original jacket and the second space across the man in an attempt to keep him warm, but even though he was out of cabin no longer taking the brunt of the storm, he was still bad off. Soldier’s worries about shock certainly couldn’t have been far off. Worse still was the threat of hypothermia. There was no doubt that it had already started to settle, while he was trapped in the front, but between the blood loss and overall stress, Soldier didn’t doubt that it wouldn’t be setting in faster. He could feel it in his own bones, too. He realized he stopped shivering once he settled down next to Medic after fixing the tourniquet, and for the greater part of the next half hour, the American spent his time trying to force himself to shiver. Shivering meant that his body was making an effort to stay warm. Not shivering meant that his own body was giving up.

Shovel had called him a weakling. He refused to let her words affect him. He was not a weakling.

“Believe what you want to, but that doesn’t change the truth,” she said bitterly. Over the wind, her voice was barely a buzz in the back of his brain. From her place tossed somewhere in the front of the ambulance, Soldier imagined she was laughing at him. “Compassion is for the weak. The weak minded and the weak bodied. You’re pathetic. Kill the Medic and prove me otherwise, Ben.”

“Fuck you,” he snarled suddenly, feeling anger rising up in him, licking at his insides like fire. “Is that ALL you care about? Killing people? You’re not the same Shovel I used to know.”

“You said you hated Medic, and here you are trying to save him,” she said again. No matter how faraway she sounded, her words struck chords in his gut that he didn’t even know were there. “You’re not the same Benjamin I used to know.”

“Too bad,” he said. “Benjamin died a long time ago.”

That was the last time he knew he was ever going to speak to her, and for the first time in nearly a decade, Soldier found himself pressing the heels of his hands to his eyes to suppress the angry moisture trying to spill. For all those years she had been his friend, and for what? He kept her around for so long just to have her turn her back on him? Soldier wasn’t sure who he was more upset with: her or himself.

It was a little while later when he calmed down that Soldier noticed something about Medic’s gloved hand closest to him. The German was lying down next to him, long since unconscious from pain and blood loss, with the arm closest to Soldier poking out from underneath the jackets he was using as blankets. Soldier was about to shove the offensive arm back underneath the covers if not for what he saw. At first Soldier thought it was a bruise running up the length of the medic’s arm, but it wasn’t until he pulled off the glove that he realized it was a tattoo. It was simple enough, a combination of two letters and three numbers in fading blue black ink, but Soldier didn’t dare try to make the exact combination out. He knew a concentration camp tattoo when he saw one.

He left Medic in the back of the ambulance. He struggled up into the front, ensuring to take Shovel with him, and crawled out through windshield. After hurling the entrenching tool as far as he could into the woods, he stood in the snow and screamed.

vi

“I vas never a Nazi,” Medic muttered quietly once he woke up. He was almost completely inaudible over the roar of the storm.

It was the first he had spoken since losing his leg an hour ago. Or maybe it was two. Soldier stopped trying to keep track of time in fear of driving himself insane, or at least more insane than he guessed he already was. After attempting to pile snow around the ambulance with his bare hands as a means of creating an igloo, he retired to the inside to rest. If he broke out into a sweat now, he would just freeze faster. It wasn’t because he was getting tired, or too cold, or feeling too hopeless. Still, Medic’s sudden words surprised him. He jolted back to awareness, momentarily horrified that he had almost fallen asleep, before jerking his head down the direction of the German man. “I know.”

Medic’s eyes were closed, but his face was clenched painfully. Furious moisture had developed in his tear ducts. “Zhey broke into our home. Zhey murdered my lover, dragged me away to Auschwitz−”

“Doc−”

“And that damn pink triangle.” The tears finally came now, spilling down either side of his face. His shoulders shook in a silent sob. He started saying something else, but it was so garbled by blubbering and thick German that Soldier couldn’t hope to translate it.

Medic continued to cry for a long time until he fell unconscious again. Soldier heaved his upper body into his lap and held onto him. “Hang in there, Medic.”

vii

“Doc? Wake up.”

Medic groaned but otherwise said nothing.

The storm had not lessened in intensity as Soldier originally hoped it would. Instead, it had gone from bad to worse. The wind had definitely picked up during the past hour but the soldier hadn’t been able to find his feet to go outside and check for himself. He had to conserve as much heat as possible, now. Going outside in this hell would only hasten how much warmth he was already loosing. He was exhausted. He honestly didn’t feel cold anymore either, and that was more horrifying than having to cut Medic out of the front seat. He wasn’t afraid of dying by any means – for his job at RED, it was practically a requirement not to be afraid of it – but he didn’t want to die out here in the middle of nowhere.

When the Medic did not give him a response, he cranked his head down to look at the German. Even in the darkness, he could see how ghostly Medic was. His lips were blue and dark shadows had developed beneath his eyes. His bruises were black and swelling. He didn’t look very much inclined to still be alive, let alone find time to talk. Frowning deeply, Soldier shook the other man again, harder than last time. “Doc? Medic.”

“Hmm?”

Soldier felt his eyes wandering starting to wander to the tied off stump where the doctor’s leg used to be. He forced himself not to look. “Damn it, do NOT this to me Kraut. We are going to get out of this ALIVE. Do you HEAR ME, Fritz? Dying is NOT allowed.”

“You fell asleep too,” the German murmured, accusing. “A little while ago.”

“No I didn’t.”

“Yes you did.”

And that scared Soldier more than he wanted to admit. He stopped and tried to think back. Had he fallen asleep? “That doesn’t matter. Do you want to live?”

“I don’t know anymore,” Medic said, sounding like he had admitted to some kind of crime. “I’m too tired to care.”

“Stay awake,” he said. “Just a little while longer.”

“Then you have to stay avake, too,” Medic said.

Soldier honestly had to wonder whether or not he could keep his own promise.

viii

When he was a child, before child services removed him from his mother and placed him with his uncle who fought in WWI, Soldier had a dog. A stupid Golden Retriever named Doug. He belonged to his grandmother originally, but once she passed away, the bouncy, dumb mutt somehow found his way into Benjamin’s and his mother’s life. Delilah hated him, but Ben loved the dog more than anything. So when the neighbors got drunk one night while aimlessly shooting a twelve gauge shotgun in the woods and mistook Doug for a coyote, Soldier was heartbroken.

“Did you ever have a dog?” Soldier asked, his voice barely above a whisper. He was lying beside Medic now, sprawled on his side and totally unable to move. He never remembered lying down, but once he realized he was down, he couldn’t will himself to get back up. He was too warm and comfortable to do anything anymore.

Medic didn’t answer for a very long time. “In Stuttgart, Luka and I had a Leonberger puppy. Her name vas Leoni. Zhey killed her after zhey shot Luka.”

“Sorry,” he mumbled.

“Nein. It is fine. I can see zhem soon enough.”

“Don’t say that,” he whispered. It was as loud as he could force his voice to go. “Hang in there, Kraut. A little longer.”

Medic said nothing.

Soldier wasn’t sure exactly what a Leonberger was, but he imagined that it was bigger than Doug. Dog was a wimpy dog for a Golden Retriever. His coat was never quite as luxurious as the other two Golden Retrievers that lived in the same trailer park. He was scrawny too. Still, Soldier’s fondest memory of him had to be whenever he got home from school. First and second grade at Blackwater Elementary were hard, especially when his mother forgot to bring him and Soldier had to walk those five miles to the school. Doug would always follow him and even stay lingering outside the building during school hours. When Soldier got out, Doug would practically escort him home. He gave the best sloppy kisses too.

Doug had been dead for over fifteen years now – or was it sixteen? Either way, delusional from the cold or no, Soldier was coherent enough to know that the dog licking his face now was certainly not Doug. A paw pressed down on his shoulder. The licking stopped and the dog whined.

“Guard Dog?” he wheezed.

The German Shepherd gave a loud bark directly in his ear. The last thing Soldier remembered before blacking out was the sight of bobbing flashlight beams and the shouts of all too familiar teammates.

ix

The next time he woke up, Spy was looming over him in the left-hand corner of his peripheral vision. Opposite of him was Sniper. Both men, although usually indifferent or stoic toward their teammates, appeared uncharacteristically concerned. Spy was dressed down in a vest and button-up shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows and Sniper wore only his red shirt, completely missing his aviators and hat.

Soldier sat up so quickly that both men leapt back in surprise. “YOU TWO are out of uniform and unprepared for today’s BATTLE! You will report to the wash racks and suit up IMMEDIATELY before my American boot kicks your asses STRAIGHT back to−”

Spy made a sour face, suddenly looking much more like his usual self. “Oh please. Lie back down before you do something else stupid to nearly get yourself killed.”

And that was when Soldier’s memory jumpstarted inside his brain again. He froze, taking in his surroundings. He was inside a smallish room, sitting on a bed dressed in his pants and an undershirt. His helmet was on the bedside table closest to Sniper. The only window in the room was frosted with ice.

He was in Coldfront.

He was in Coldfront, and he was alive.

“Where’s Medic?” he snapped instantly, trying futilely to force himself to relax. “Is he alright, too? You will answer me NOW, privates!”

Spy snorted and looked at Sniper, decidedly smug looking. “Qui, ‘e is going to be just fine, mon ami. I do not understand what you were so worried about.”

“No need to yell, mate. We’re bloody sittin’ right in front of you,” Sniper said, completely ignoring Spy. This was much to the Frenchman’s obvious irritation, as he made a particularly sour face while Sniper continued to ignore him. “Yeah, mate. You just about saved Medic’s life out there. Any later and the two of you would’ve frozen for sure.”

“And Respawn would not ‘ave picked you up,” Spy snapped irritably, jutting back into the conversation. “As bad as you are, I do not think I could ‘andle a replacements. The two of you are enough of a hassle as it stands. I am terrified to imagine what your substitutes would have been like.”

Soldier lay back down, feeling suddenly very tired. At least it was better than the kind of tired he felt toward the end of his experience in the ambulance. It was relieving, just a little. “I had to cut off of Medic’s leg.”

“We noticed,” Spy said flatly.

Sniper elbowed him sharply in the ribs. As the Frenchman doubled over and broke into an intense coughing fit from the unexpected blow, the Australian took the opportunity to attempt repairing the morbid conversation. “You saved his life, though. Truckie was tellin’ me about the damage the ambulance took. If it weren’t for you cutting him out of the front like that, he would have frozen to death.”

“Solly? You awake?” Engineer poked his head into the room. The hardhat was gone and the goggles were pulled onto his forehead.

“Yeah,” he answered.

Engineer came in, grinning from ear to ear. “Glad to see you’re alive, partner. You and Medic gave us quite a scare. We honestly thought we were going to lose you boys.”

“How did you find us?”

“We figured something was wrong when you stopped answering the radio,” Engineer said. “We went back out a few hours after we got here and you still hadn’t shown up. The blizzard was so bad that we would have driven straight right past where Medic’s ambulance went through the fence if Guard Dog hadn’t started throwing a fit in my truck. He was practically bounding down the side of the mountain once we stopped and opened the door.”

Soldier nodded. “And Medic?”

No one said anything.

Soldier shot back up into a sitting position. “What about Medic?”

“He lost his leg,” Engineer said.

“I know that. I was the one who took it off, Engie.”

“No, I mean he lost it for good,” Engineer said again. “He died a little while after we got ‘im back to base. The Respawn card updated when he passed through missing a leg. He ain’t ever gettin’ it back.”

Soldier felt his heart sink. “Oh.”

Engineer smiled. It was not necessarily a happy look: there was a definite sadness in there. “Yeah, partner. I’m working on a mechanical one right now, though. Medic is okay, otherwise. You better take it easy for a day or two. Lord knows you boys need the rest after that whole mess.”

Spy, Sniper, and Engineer left after that, leaving Soldier alone. He closed the shade and went to sleep willingly, but it was uneasy. They were alive, and for now, that was all that mattered.

x

It was a week later before Soldier saw Medic again.

The Administrator had canceled battles for a week, postponing the war between RED and BLU. Whether it was because of what happened with him and Medic or some other reason, it was not his problem. He spent most of his time recuperating in his room, although it was more for the sake of his mentality than his physical health. Physically he was fine. His brain still felt definitely muddled, though. Shovel’s absence might have played a part in that. Part of him wanted to go back to the site to look for her but another, much larger part didn’t. He didn’t need her calling him weak. She could go to hell for all he was concerned.

When Scout came by his room and told him that Medic wanted to see him though, he was practically out the door before the runner even finished delivering his message. When the soldier got down to the infirmary, the smell distinct smell of bird feed and antiseptic hit his nose before he was even halfway through the door. Several doves instantly scattered in a flurry of white feathers and flapping wings as they took to the high rafters of the operating theater. He knew already that Medic kept birds, although his original understanding of just how many that meant was overwhelming inaccurate. More than a dozen or so were staring down at him from the teases, cocking their heads curiously and cooing to one another at the intrusion. He imagined that he looked as funny to them as they did to him.

The next thing he noticed was Heavy and Guard Dog. The large Russian was sitting in a chair far too small for him on the opposite end of the room with the German Shepherd nestled comfortably at his feet. The dog lifted his head at Soldier’s approach and gave a single, low woof before promptly laying back down and falling asleep. At this point, Heavy finally noticed him and waved him over.

“Doktor is in other room,” he said. “Is trying to fit on new leg by himself.”

“The prosthetic?”

Heavy nodded. “Da. Engineer was good comrade and made Doktor replacement. For one lost. Wanted to try put on alone without Engineer or my help.”

Soldier, for the first time in a very long time, found he had nothing to say. For a while, both men slipped into an uncomfortable silence: Soldier leaning against the wall, Heavy sitting compressed in that tiny sitting chair. The only sound came from the doves cooing in the support beams above them and Guard Dog’s heavy snoring.

“Thank you,” Heavy said suddenly.

Soldier snorted. “For what?”

“Saving Doktor.” Heavy did not turn his head to him he spoke, but his face contorted into an intense look of concentration. He lifted his huge hands and made an inarticulate gesture. “Cannot find good words in English. Am very grateful. He is good friend.”

“I’m the reason he needed a new leg.”

“Does not matter,” Heavy said. This time he did turn his head to look Soldier in the face, and in the bright sunlight, his eyes held an intense electric shade to them. They were very blue. “You save Doktor’s life, even though you act like you do not like him. For that, you are credit to team.”

That was when the door to the other room opened, and Medic finally stepped out into the light of the infirmary. Guard Dog decided to immediately spring out of his sleep to lift his head and start thumping his tail happily at the new arrival, regardless of the black and grey colored contraption that now served as the doctor’s new prosthetic. Soldier found himself snapping to attention in a similar manner as Guard Dog, jerking up a little in his seat and instantly finding his sight trained on the mechanical leg. It was a lot like Engineer’s Gunslinger, somehow able to automatically pick up on the neurological activity in the medic’s leg to move accordingly, and even having a lot of the same details. A pressure gauge rested close to the junction of his knee and the pistons hissed and popped whenever he moved.

Medic saw him right away but immediately averted his gaze to Heavy. “Vell? Vhat do you think?”

The burly Russian hummed. “Is different. Strange, but will get used to. Not bad.”

“In that case, you can go,” he said. “I vill meet with you later. Soldier did not go through Respawn after the accident and I vould like to look him over, bitte. Ve can play chess later in the lounge.”

Heavy left with a nod, taking Guard Dog with him. When they were gone, Medic absently waved in Soldier’s direction. He continued to avoid making eye contact. “Sit on the table and take off your shirt.”

The mechanical leg clanked noisily as the German strode across the floor to the counter, shooing away several nosy doves with an errant wave of his hand. Soldier found that he could only stare. One of the braver ones took a daring peck at the German and fluttered up simply to land hastily on his shoulder, and when Medic turned around again, Soldier realized that he hadn’t done as the German said yet. Almost without realizing it, he stripped his shirt and sat on the examination table, propping his forearms lazily on his knees. Once upon a time, this process would have been downright painful. In fact, Soldier couldn’t even remember the last time he had willingly gone to the doctor.

Medic shrugged. He was holding a stethoscope and clipboard. “The Engineer vas kind enough to build a prosthetic. Don’t vorry. It vorks fine.”

“I know,” Soldier said. “He told me.”

Medic raised an eyebrow. “You’re being awfully quiet. Are you feeling alright?”

No. No he wasn’t, but he was never going to admit it. Soldier kept his silence as Medic looked him over, feeling along his back with the stethoscope before turning away and jotting something down on the clipboard. “Are you?”

“You have a guilty conscience,” the German said absently, completely dodging the question. No, Medic wasn’t okay either. He could pretend all he wanted to, but in the end, they were both equally messed up. Maybe that wasn’t all that bad, though. Bird of a feather could flock together, right?

“You don’t just chop off a man’s leg without feeling something,” Soldier snapped, suddenly feeling a little more irritable. “That wasn’t exactly how I wanted to spend my night, in case you were wondering.”

“You had to stuff your own intestines back into your stomach during zhe war. Ve kill people on a daily basis.”

Soldier opened his mouth to snap back, but his jaw clenched and closed before he could say anything. Because, in truth, he honestly had nothing to say.

“So you would have felt remorse if I died.”

“I would have.”

“You never would have admitted that a week ago.”

“Well now I have. What else do you want from me, Kraut?”

Medic said nothing and turned back to the nearest counter, picking up a sphygmomanometer before coming back over to the examination table. “Nothzing. I just need to take your blood pressure and zhat vill be all. Hold out your arm, bitte.”

Soldier did as he was asked again, offering a bicep for the doctor to fix the cuff on. He idly took the air bulb and started to pump it, and Soldier watched as the dial jerked to life and gradually turned clockwise inside its housing. As the cuff inflated and its hold became tighter, Soldier abruptly became aware of another source of pressure on his arm. Just beneath grip the cuff, Medic’s gloved hand was squeezing his forearm a little harder than what was probably necessary. The German’s face never gave away anything, but the hand distinctly trembled.

“You never take off your gloves,” he said.

Medic’s voice was deceptively firm. “No, I don’t. And I trust you von’t tell anyone vhat is underneath zhe one on zhe right.”

“I’m sorry.”

Medic finally angled his head to look at him, and for the first time since the incident in the ambulance, their eyes met. He looked older having his glasses back, and the focused look in his stare gave him an even older edge. It was with a start that Soldier came to the realization of how alike they really were. Medic wasn’t nearly as insane, but they had their fair share of internal demons.

“I wish you said something.” Soldier pulled his shirt back on and reached for his jacket. “I… said some pretty nasty things to you, doc. About you being a Nazi.”

Medic sighed. “I don’t want to talk about it. It’s in zhe past now, ja? Ve can forget about it.”

Soldier grinned. “Sure thing, Fritz. Once we get off for the week and the roads are plowed, you and I are going to hit the nearest bar.”

“Urgh. Don’t say zhat. After ve a relocated, I never vant to see snow again.”

Soldier grinned. “Fine. Next time we’re relocated, then. I know a great place in Teufort. Moriarty’s Place. A lot of his stuff is imported, so we could probably find some German brand. That crap isn’t nearly as good as AMERICAN beer, but I don’t hold it against you if you’re too much of a sissy to handle my country’s outstanding liquor.”

Medic grinned. “I vill hold you to that.”

And they were going to be okay, Soldier thought. They were going to be just fine.

fin

23 .

Author’s Nose: I can’t draw smut to save my life, so I hope this will suffice. Awkward story is written awkwardly and has inspiration from the kink meme, but I really hope it’s along the lines of what you wanted. Happy holidays, giftee!

 
//The first thing Heavy noticed was that it was dark. The kind of unsettling dark that gave off the feeling of constantly being watched. Blindly, he trudged forward, only to feel a sloshing sensation against the middle of his thigh. Some sort of liquid? He ran a hand through the warm substance and examined it, only to find that it had left a red tint on his skin. He’d killed enough men in his lifetime to know what it was: blood. Heavy fought down the urge to gag at the realization. Killing men was one thing, but wading through a river of blood was an entirely different matter.

Hesitantly, he continued trudging through the river of bodily fluids. With each step he took, he had to resist the urge to keel over and vomit at the vile, rotten stench. The smell reminded the heavy weapons guy of the time he had purchased a shank of lamb meat and accidentally left it out over night back in Russia. The next morning he’d woken up only to find the meat covered in flies and reeking of rotten flesh. (He’d had to air out his home for two days before the stench went away.)

After what had seemed like hours of endless wading, Heavy finally came across what appeared to be a light in the distance. An exit, maybe? Without haste he began inching towards the light. The closer he got, he began noticing a dark shape. There had been nothing else in sight the whole time, so it immediately caught the Russian’s attention.

The shape grew in clarity, and it appeared to be… a chair? Heavy squinted his eyes and tried to figure out exactly what a chair would be doing in a forlorn place like this.

There was something in the chair that poked out from the top of the back. Obviously, it was a person, but who? By now, Heavy’s curiosity had been thoroughly peaked. Maybe whoever it was would be able to tell him where he was, or where the light had come from.

From behind, the man apparently had dark hair and wide shoulders. Something white clung to his wet skin, and he was wearing… Medic? Relieved to see a familiar face, Heavy fought through his tiredness and waded as fast as he could to greet the doctor. At least he wasn’t alone now.

“Doktor! What is goin-” Heavy pulled on the man’s shoulder, only to find in horror that his normally icy-blue eyes were glazed over, yet more blood pouring from his open mouth.

“D-Doktor?” For once in his life, Heavy was speechless. This man, the man who had been his comrade in countless battles, the man he had cared for by for the past two years, was just laying there, dead.//

"MEDIC!" Heavy shouted, immediately shooting up from his bed. Another dream. Sweat poured from his face as he tried to calm himself down. Slowly, very slowly, his heart rate began to return to normal. Just as it did every time he had that dream. It had been occurring more frequently throughout past month, but never had the visions been this bad. Never to where his Medic had died.

Medic... He was tired of these dreams. The image of Medic's lifeless body covered in blood had been burned into his mind. It was just a dream. It... was just a dream, right? His medic was perfectly fine. And
alive. And not dead. And..
.
"MEDIIIC!" Heavy threw off the covers from his bed and dashed out of his room towards the infirmary, panic evident in his features. He crashed through the door of his destination, only to find his medic looming over a medical table jotting down notes. Safe and sound, right where he should be.

Heavy couldn’t help but smile. “Doktor! You are safe,” he sighed in relief. “I was worried that--”

“What the hell is this crap?!”

Heavy hadn’t even known there was another presence in the room until the sarcastic voice had interrupted him. He averted his gaze to the small figure sitting on the medical table, furiously staring back at him. It was their team’s scout, sitting half-naked save for a pair of white briefs.

With a sigh, Medic sat his clipboard down onto a nearby table. Keep calm. “Herr Heavy, I’m attending to a patient at the moment. Vhatever it is, it vill have to vait until I am finished.” Medic attempted to give the man the sternest business look he could muster, only to be met by Heavy’s own look of dazed confusion.

“Yeah, dumb ass. He’s attending a patient; me, in case you couldn’t tell.” Scout shifted in his seat as a smile crept over his face. “Yeah, you know those energy drinks I drink? Turns out it’ll turn your pee red
if you chug too many’a them. Pretty cool, huh?”

Well that was… pleasant.

Not bothering to wait for a response, Scout carried on with his epic story. “It all started when I went pee the other day. I looked down and saw that my pee was red, and I said to myself, ‘Gee Scout, your pee isn’t supposed to look like Kool-Aid’. I fuckin’ love Kool-Aid by the way. My ma used to make it all the time when me and my brothers were little. Anyway, so I went to the doc here and he told me that- oh, did I say it looked like cherry Kool-Aid? Not like, grape or blue raspberry or shit because that’d be pretty weird. Anyway the doc told me that-- Hey!”

Heavy picked up the runner, not caring that he had just interrupted him mid-sentence. His story was beginning to irritate him- in fact his mere PRESENCE annoyed the Russian. With a final shout of protest from Scout, Heavy tossed him out of the infirmary like a rag doll and slammed the door shut behind him. Something about his mother was shouted before the boy finally gave up and trotted back down the hall of the base.

“Danke, Heavy. I thought zhat zhe little gremlin would never shut up,“ Medic sighed, appreciating the silence. Sure, it was quiet now, but Medic knew full well that Scout would return in the morning, more ticked than ever as he would recount tales of the color of his urine to the doctor. However he had to hand it to his comrade- he certainly didn’t put up with much. As well as dealing with problems in his own unique
ways.

“All day I have been dealing with these people, and over zhe stupidest of things. First Soldier came in to yell at me about missing zhe meeting last night, and zhen Spy came in to ask if I had anything for headaches. Of course I have pills for zhat! And zhen Soldier came in again to yell at me and then punched me in zhe face for who knows why, and zhen-- ach!”

Medic was cut off mid-sentence by a pair of thick arms being wrapped around his waist, pulling him into a tight bear hug. Awkwardly, Medic patted Heavy’s back. Could he tell he couldn’t breath? Medic hoped he
could tell he couldn’t breath.

After what seemed like hours to Medic, Heavy finally pulled away. His grip on his shoulders remained however as he pulled the German in front of him. “Are you okay?”

“I uh… think so?” Medic couldn’t help but notice the look of genuine concern plastered on the man’s face as he seemingly looked him over from head to toe- as if checking for something. Rarely had Medic ever seen the heavy weapons guy this distressed. There were only three things that the heavy weapon ever concerned himself with: Sasha, sandwiches, and his medic. Not seeing the former two anywhere in sight, Medic could only assume that something had happened involving him. He hadn’t done anything wrong recently, had he? “I’ve been in here all day. Save for a splitting headache I’ve been perfectly fine. More importantly, I believe I should be asking YOU if you are okay. You seem… troubled.”

Heavy released Medic and nodded, a distant look in his eyes. “I just make sure you are still here.” He walked over to the table that Scout had been sitting on not moments before and slumped down, causing the piece of equipment to creak under his weight. Mentally, he was debating on whether or not to tell the man about the visions he’d been having for the past month.

“I uh… had bad dream.”

“Really? How fascinating.” Medic had drawn up a chair from his desk and was now sitting directly across from the man. Well this could certainly be interesting. Medic was surprised by the fact that the bear of a man actually dreamed in the first place. “Do tell.”

“I uh, well…” Heavy stumbled for words, trying to find the best way to communicate exactly what had happened and how it made him feel. The man was a doctor, yet Heavy had no idea why he was having such a hard time. “ They started about two weeks ago,” he exhaled a withheld breath through
his nose, “and tonight I had really bad one. I vas in an unknown place, surrounded by darkness. And there vas river of blood. I followed a light to what I thought was an exit, only to find a chair vith…” Heavy paused, regaining the distant look he’d had before. “Vith dead doktor in it.” He ran a large hand over the top of his head. “I cannot describe exactly vhat I saw but… it vas terrible. Made me worry about doktor, so I ran in here and kicked out tiny Scout.”

Medic nodded. He was no psychologist, but he could tell the nightmare had shaken the man up a lot. Needless to say, he was somewhat… flattered that something about him had caused it. The dream itself was kind of creepy in retrospect, however. “It vas just a nightmare, mein Heavy. Zhey happen to the best of us. Researchers say zhat zhey are caused by either deep anxieties or sleep-deprivation. My best guess vould be zhe latter. Zhe best thing for you right now vould be a good night’s rest.”

“No!” Heavy’s hands darted out and grabbed Medic’s smaller, gloved ones in his own. In comparison, his hands almost dwarfed the German’s. “Vhat if I have nightmare again? Or I vake up and doktor is gone? Or dead?”

Medic groaned in frustration. The man was worse than a five-year old. What, would he need a safety blanket and pacifier? For him to check under the bed for tentacled Spy monsters? This was the kind of stuff that made Medic refuse to ever become a pediatrician. “Look, Heavy, I promise I will still be here in zhe morning. Nothing is going to magically kill me in zhe middle of the night. Nothing is going to happen
to me. I’m perfectly real; I’m not some vision in your head. Clear?”

“Prove to me.”

“Vhat?”

“Prove to me that you’re fine, doktor. That you’re real and not just another nightmare waiting to die on me.” Heavy was now cradling Medic’s hand against his chest protectively. He was searching Medic’s face for the slightest hint of falsehood.

Medic laughed, “you’re serious?”

Judging by the stern expression on Heavy’s face, he was totally serious.

“…Ah.” Medic cleared his throat awkwardly. How did one go about proving they were okay? Medic though back to his childhood. Whenever he’d had a nightmare as a young boy back in Stuttgart, he would always crawl into bed with his parents in the middle of the night. They’d pull him up next to them and simply comfort him until he fell asleep. It seemed practical enough; if it could work for a six-year-old him, why couldn’t it work for a middle-aged mercenary who acted like a six-year-old?

It was worth a shot anyway. Medic rose from his seat in the chair and gingerly walked up to the large man sitting on the medical bed. Never once in his life had Medic considered himself a decent lover as the
whole process came uncomfortably to him; he just hoped it wasn’t too obvious. Stepping on top of the small stool beside the bed, Medic hoisted himself up to Heavy’s level and wrapped his lanky arms around
his neck. Medic tilted his head up and nipped at Heavy’s earlobe, gently tugging at the sensitive flesh. He planted a rough kiss below his ear. “I do not plan on leaving anytime soon, meine leibe.”

A shiver passed through the Russian’s body as Medic bit and licked at his neck. “Doktor, you are sure you vant to do this?”

“Mhm,” Medic mumbled as he nuzzled against his neck. It’d been a long time since the two had done anything like this together. Medic supposed he owed it to Heavy anyway. The bear of a man pulled Medic away from his assault at his neck. He tilted his chin to where his blue eyes met his, and kissed the smaller
man.

Medic closed his eyes and leaned into the kiss, surprised at the amount of passion and sincerity put into it. Heavy gently grabbed Medic’s waist and hoisted him on top of the bed and into his lap. “So vhat now, hm?”

Without hesitation, Medic crawled out of Heavy’s lap and laid down on the steel bed, pulling him down on top of him. “I vant you to fuck me!”

“Doktor is… vhat is American word I am looking for?”

Medic gave him a perverse grin,, “aroused? Turned on? Horny?”

“I like last one. It sounds funny to me.” Carefully, Heavy removed the doctor’s white coat and boots and began working at his tie. It was almost cute the way his oversized fingers worked at the delicate strip
of fabric, in Medic’s opinion. After several fumbling minutes Heavy finally managed to get it off, soon followed by his shirt and pants.

Left only in his black boxers, Medic shivered against the cold breeze that met his newly exposed flesh; goosebumps formed all along his arms.

Heavy dropped his attention to the bulge in the German’s pants. That hadn‘t been there before. He chuckled, palming Medic’s half-hard erection through his boxers before running a hand along his thigh.

A moan escaped Medic’s mouth. He was becoming painfully hard, and this wasn’t helping the situation any. “Scheiße, quit teasing and fuck me already!”

So rash. He liked that about his medic. “If you say so.” Taking that as his cue, Heavy quickly stripped from his own clothing and hastily threw them off to the side. The mess could be worried about later. Heavy leaned over Medic’s body and drew him into another long, drawn out kiss. He traced the outline of Medic’s jaw with his index finger, following the contours of the masculine frame. Two large fingers were brought before Medic’s mouth. “Suck.”

More than happy to oblige, Medic took the digits into his mouth and gently sucked, running his tongue along the length of each individual finger.

Heavy couldn’t help but admire the way the medic used his tongue. With his lean body sprawled out across the metal platform, passionately licking at his fingers, Heavy couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the older man was. Although he had never directly asked the man how old he was, the trail of grey that ran along his temple was a good indicator towards the man being at least middle-aged. Despite his age, however, Medic had a fairly toned body from running around with equipment all day in the heat of battle. Extreme amounts of muscle wouldn’t suit him anyway.

After each digit was thoroughly covered with saliva, Heavy withdrew them from Medic’s hot mouth. He sat up and pulled Medic back up into his lap to where he was now straddling his waist. Medic had wrapped his arms back around Heavy’s neck in embrace as he braced himself towards the pain that always followed at first when it came to this kind of lovemaking.

“Relax, doktor,” he murmured against his ear.

Medic hissed as he felt his finger at his entrance, and slowly work his way in and out of him. A second finger was added shortly after, stretching the tight muscle. Medic writhed as both fingers worked at him.

After a few more minutes, Heavy withdrew his fingers from his lover as he’d already begun tightening around them. “Let’s get you something bigger, da?” Medic mumbled something and nodded against his neck. Taking this as a sign, Heavy adjusted Medic’s hips to where his hardened member was positioned at his opening. Gently, Heavy lowered Medic’s hips down onto him, eliciting a gasp from the man. He was so damn tight; it took every ounce of willpower for Heavy to not slam him down and fuck him to
his heart’s content. “Are you okay?”

“J-Ja… I’d forgotten how big you were,” he panted.

Heavy chuckled, “It runs in Russian family. We’re all large people.”

“Even zhe women?”

“Especially the women.”

With that, Heavy began moving Medic up and down upon his length. As he continued to pick up pace, Medic’s moans grew louder. “I-Is good, da?” Heavy panted as he planted a kiss against Medic’s collarbone.

“Of course… you’re my- ahhn-hh!” Medic arched his black in pleasure as his prostate was hit. “F-Fuck, keep doing zhat! Harder…” Moans and obscenities spilled from his mouth as he rode Heavy’s cock, trying to hit that same spot every time and sending him waves of pleasure.

“Are you close?”

“I ah… I think so…”

Heavy slipped one of his hands between the two and wrapped large fingers around Medic’s length, pumping it in sync with his thrusts into the German doctor. Precum had already begun leaking from the tip before he had started working at getting him off. The base tightened up.

“Heavy… I’m… I’m going to… NNH-GH!”

Heavy gave one last thrust before he felt Medic tighten around his length, sending him over the edge. As a last attempt he grabbed the back of Medic’s head with one hand and pulled him into a sloppy kiss as he
moaned his name. An intense wave of pleasure overcame his senses, sending a chill throughout his body as he came inside Medic. He continued riding out his orgasm throughout its entirety, getting every last bit of pleasure he could out of his lover’s body, Exhausted, he collapsed beside Medic on the medical bed. The icy coldness of the steel felt good against his heated flesh.

He pulled the doctor in closer to him. This was his property, and his alone.

Medic snuggled up against contours of his body, grateful for the company. “So… are you convinced I’m not dead in a chair somewhere…?”

“Mhm.”

“Are you convinced zhat I’m real and not going to leave you in zhe morning?”

“I hope so.”

“Good. Now you can sleep normally, I’m sure.”

“…I was just worried about you was all. Besides,: Heavy grinned, “who vould I sex up if you weren’t around?”

“…Spy.”

“Mein Heavy?”

“Hm?”

“Ich liebe dich. Don’t ever forget zhat.”

“Ya lublu tebya, doktor.”
 
And then the Scout walked in on two naked guys the next morning.

24 .

* The bar was usually filled to capacity on Saturday nights. This weekend, however, was a special one, and the application of a truly staggering amount of money had resulted in the bar being almost empty - because four men had decided that they wanted a night out without interference.

RED was understanding about it. The owner of the bar was understanding, due to the aforementioned money. The locals were less than understanding, but they could at least recognize that drinking with a bunch of killers with social problems wasn’t really good for their health. They stayed away. The barman was not so much understanding as terrified, even while being paid a giant bonus, but he was the most athletic among the staff and the general consensus was that he stood the best chance of getting out of danger if the worst happened.

And so it came to pass, that four very unusual men came to drink in the local Teufort watering hole on a cold December night, with no one else in a one mile radius save a rather skittish young man with a talent for mixing drinks.

Engineer sat up at the bar immediately, and set his helmet down with a thump. He waved at the bartender. “Hey fella, gimme whatever whiskey ya got a lot of, and keep it coming,” he said wearily. He shoved his goggles up onto his forehead and rubbed his eyes. “Goddamn, what a couple weeks we’ve had...”

He was nearly knocked off the stool when Heavy slapped him on the back. “Ah, but now we are having break! No more fights until January, da? Is time to celebrate Christmas, like in old country - we get drunk and find women!”

“Ain’t no loose women ‘round these parts, friend,” he replied. “Trust me, I built a machine fer detectin’ them, an’ it got nothin’ within a hundred miles.”

“AS PROUD AMERICAN SOLDIERS, WE DO NOT NEED WOMEN!” Soldier shouted from the pool table, where Demo was swearing and trying to get it to work. “WE SHALL PARTAKE IN GOOD, WHOLESOME ENTERTAINMENT, AND LEAVE THE SKIRT-CHASING TO THE HIPPIES!”

Engineer groaned, and grabbed the bottle as the bartender poured out a measure. “Better leave it, if ya don’t mind,” he said gloomily. “I may need to break it over that guy’s head later.”

Heavy sat up at the bar too, and stared at the rows of beverages on offer with a critical eye. “What is ‘absinthe’?”

“The kinda stuff that’ll rot yer brain. Just get whiskey, can’t go wrong with that.”

“Hmph. Whiskey is drink for babies. Where is vodka?”

He was timidly informed that the bar did not stock any vodka, but they had a selection of wine and liquors that he may be interested in and please don’t tear off my arms. Heavy put his head in his hands and groaned as well. “No women, no vodka... Fine. Give me strongest drink you have. Maybe
I forget I am in stupid American bar.”

A glass was placed in front of him, and an identical bottle of whiskey was produced. He held up the glass, toasted with Engineer, then picked up the bottle and drank it all.

The pool table finally cooperated, and Demo racked up the balls triumphantly. “Right, boyo, ah’ll teach ye how we play back in Scotland!” He took aim with his cue, his one eye glaring malevolently at the white,
and sent it crashing through the other balls with such force that the black bounced off the table and went rolling away towards the door.

“Is that supposed to happen?” Soldier asked, as Engineer slipped off his stool and went to retrieve it. Heavy just laughed at him, and at Demo while he cursed under his breath.

“No, is not suppose to happen,” he said, chuckling. “You are to use leetle white ball to knock other leetle balls into pockets. Must pocket all of one kind before other man does. Simple, da?”

Soldier looked dubious, and he eyed the white ball suspiciously. He picked it up, turned it over in his hand, then tapped one of the striped balls with it and watched it roll away and into a pocket. “What kind of stupid commie game is this?”

“Are ye daft? Ye use the bloody stick, ye fookin’ idiot!” Demo shoved one of the cues into his hand, and showed him how to lean over the table and hit one of the balls with the end. “What rock have ye been hidin’ under that ye don’t know this?”

“I DO NOT NEED TO KNOW HOW TO PLAY SOME GODDAMN SPORT IN ORDER TO KICK THE
BLU’S COLLECTIVE ASS!”

Engineer followed the black ball, and as he reached down to pick it up, a large, dusty boot came down on top of it. He looked up into the face of a mean-looking biker in riding leathers, with studs on his jacket and tattoos on his face. A pair of similarly attired men appeared at the door, and closed it behind them.

“You lose something there, shorty?” he said nastily, as Engineer stood and looked him up and down. He had an air of menace around him that would probably be quite intimidating to someone who didn’t routinely break the laws of physics as part of his job.

“Yeah, I did. You mind gettin’ off it so I can give it back to my friend over there?” he said, pointing his thumb at the pool table.

The biker’s lip curled as he spotted Demo. “Well, well, look what we have here, boys - a midget who’s friendly with a nigger.” He poked Engineer roughly in the chest. “I think he can come get his own balls, ain’t that right?”

Heavy looked over curiously, as Demo stiffened and glared at the trio. The barman trembled, and checked to see if the latch was off the back door. Engineer glanced behind him, then turned back and put his hands up amiably.

“Now, now, fellas, we don’t want no trouble here. Just a nice, quiet drink, and a game of pool is all we’re lookin’ for. No reason for anyone to get into a fight, okay? All the drinks are on the house tonight, courtesy of the people we work for. So give us the ball and let’s kick back a while - whaddya say?”

The biker was about to say something equally unfriendly when Soldier stomped up beside Engineer and cut in. “Will you ladies stop talking about your periods and give us the damn ball?! YOU ARE INTERRUPTING A MILITARY EXERCISE HERE, AND WE DO NOT LIKE BEING INTERRUPTED!”

“Goddamnit, Solly, go siddown and let me handle this!” the Texan snapped. “I swear, every time we leave the base, you get into some fight an’ I end up havin’ to drag your sorry ass back to Medic - an’ I ain’t doin’ it this time, alright?” He shook his finger under Soldier’s nose threateningly. “Get back over there or I’ll-”

“Or you’ll do what, toyman? They are interfering with a legitimate operation and if they do not cease and desist IMMEDIATELY, I WILL KICK THEIR ASSES ALL OVER THIS BAR!”

“Are you - “ the biker started.

“I told you NEVER to call me that again! Can you just rein it in a bit before I gotta pick up yer damn teeth off the floor?!”

Soldier shoved him. “THAT WAS JUST FIVE TEETH AND IT ONLY HAPPENED ONCE! Do
NOT bring that up again!”

“Hey -” the biker said, before Engineer shoved Soldier back and shouted at him.

“It was more than five, ya damn fool, an’ - ah to hell with this, where’s that goddamn bottle? Looks like I’m gonna have to beat sense into yer thick head!”

They started to scuffle before the bikers’ puzzled stares. Heavy leaned on the bar and watched with interest, where he was joined by a rather annoyed Demo. “What’s a man hafta do to get a game in around here?” he grumbled, and took a gulp of Engineer’s abandoned whiskey. “The fook is this, cat’s piss? Oi, ye got anythin’ better?”

The barman had vanished. Demo sighed and leaned over the bar to snatch a bottle of something dark brown with a pheasant on the label. He poured it into the same glass that already held a measure of whiskey, sloshed it around, and knocked it back with relish. “‘Tisn’t scrumpy, but it’ll do. Think they’ll be a while?”

“Do not care. Is no vodka, no women. This is crappy party.”

Demo shrugged, and waved at the three now-confused bikers. “Hey! C’mon over’n have a drink, laddies. ‘Tis an open bar tonight!”

They approached. The apparent leader kept looking back at Soldier and Engineer wrestling on the ground, then back at Demo’s seemingly friendly face. “Who the hell are you people?” he asked. “Where’s the regular crowd?”

Demo handed him the whiskey. “Elsewhere, on account o’ how we’ve rented out the place. Might as well drink up!”

He did so, while Demo looked on approvingly. “Now, there were somethin’ I wanted to mention to ye... what was it now...” He tapped his chin, apparently trying to think, then punched him square in the face and caught the bottle before it fell to the floor along with its holder. “Ah yeah - don’t be callin’ me a nigger, ye leather-wearin’ pansy!”

The other two goons attacked as their leader was rolling on the ground in pain. One missed with a swing and hit Heavy on the shoulder, who responded by grabbing his neck and slamming his forehead on the bar before returning to his drink.

Engineer finally managed to get the better of Soldier by whacking him on the head with his wrench. He stood up, and retrieved the ball. “Now stay down, ya maniac,” he said, and turned to see Demo enthusiastically taking on two of the bikers in a fistfight, while one was already laid out on the floor. He swore under his breath, and quickly ran over to try to break it up.

“STOP, GODDAMNIT!” he yelled, trying to pull one of them off Demo. The Scot’s blood was up, however, and he took advantage of the distraction to kick the biker in the crotch. He went down hard, leaving only the leader to face off against rather worse odds.

“Thanks, mate!” Demo whooped, and smashed the end of the whiskey bottle off the counter. “Right, ye wee shite -”

A warcry erupted behind them. Engineer caught sight of Soldier in the corner of his eye, and had the presence of mind to hit the deck as his teammate jumped from a chair to a table and launched himself at the scrum.
He sailed over the Texan’s head, crashed into the biker, and landed in a groaning heap at the end of the bar.

The room went quiet, broken only by the sounds of the injured. Demo walked over and nudged one of them with his foot, getting only a brief grunt in response. Soldier appeared to be the most lucid of all of them, and managed to get to his feet with the aid of a nearby barstool. “I will... kick your ass... outta this bar...” he said breathlessly, and threw a wobbly punch at Engineer before falling over again.

“Ya know, just once, I’d like to go out somewhere with you lunatics without gettin’ a bill for property damage at the end of the night,” he said, watching Soldier trying to pull himself up again.

“Have not broken anything yet,” Heavy remarked.

Engineer sighed theatrically. “It’s just a matter o’ time, big guy. Dammit, I wish there were some women around - least then y’all’d be too distracted to get into fights.” He tossed the ball to Demo. “C’mon, let’s play some pool before that dumb Yankee wakes up proper.”

As it happened, Soldier had given himself a concussion, and remained somewhat woozy for the rest of the night. Heavy tossed the trio of mostly-unconscious bikers into the ladies restroom to get them out of the way, and proceeded to sample every single alcoholic beverage in a quest to find one that most resembled vodka. Engineer and Demo spent hours playing pool, with Demo getting more and more frustrated at the number of games he lost to a man with a Phd in physics.

They left just before midnight. Soldier could just about walk unaided, but all three of them had to lend a hand to keep Heavy moving in a straight line. Engineer, as the most sober one, was nominated to drive the battered pickup truck back to the base.

He and Demo shoved their two teammates into the back of the truck. Heavy started to sing something in Russian, hitting the side of the cab in some kind of aberrant rhythm with Soldier sprawled across his legs. Engineer tried to ignore him as they piled into the front and he started the sluggish engine. “I swear, I’m gonna go out alone next time,” he muttered.

“Ach, ‘tweren’t such a bad night,” Demo said. “Besides, have a look at the sky there - isn’t that a bonny sight?”

Engineer looked up. The stars were out, and one particularly bright one was shining in the northern firmament. By an odd coincidence, the road back to Teufort lay in that direction. The metaphor was not lost on him.

“Yeah, you can really feel the Christmas spirit,” he said sarcastically. “Let’s get back before Heavy throws up all over Solly.”

The truck roared off into the night, leaving only the faint echoes of drunken Russian bellowing in its wake.*

25 .

Title: Ludus Mundi

Author: Cosmic Tuesdays

Notes: Thanks to Amp and Kara for cheerleading, and Toxo for beta-reading.

Prompt: Red Sniper and Blu Spy meet up for Christmas during ceasefire, not realizing that the Blu Scout followed them. Shenanigans ensue.

It was in the rules and on the books as part of the official policy of conduct and behavior: absolutely no meeting anyone from the opposite team outside of a mission, no matter what the situation. Look away, cross the street, turn around and leave. And thanks to Demo forgetting that, they all had him to thank for the extra bouts of orientation movies and meetings with management.

Of course, thanks to all those lost hours, Sniper knew what he was doing was well within his contract. Technically, they were still on a mission; they’d just put down their arms and agreed not to kill each other for two days so everyone could celebrate the holiday without having to keep dodging bullets. If he wanted to use that time for something besides target practice or poker games, then that was his business.

Well, his and Spy’s. And where they were meeting was still in Gullywash’s respawn area, so they couldn’t even get accused of doing a bunk and deserting.

It was a sharp, clear day, with a few thin clouds in the sky and a low breeze just starting up from the West. Bugger whatever the rest of them had to say about where they’d come from, if he could see his breath in the morning then it was cold. Didn’t matter this was a desert; it was still December in America. Sniper pulled his scarf up over his nose and mouth and kept on walking through the little canyons to the agreed meeting spot. Spy was already there and halfway through a cigarette, on a blanket blue enough to match his suit, and he didn’t even wait for Sniper to sit down or give him a kiss to pour him a cup of something hot from a thermos.

“Cheers.”

“Santé,” Spy smiled, and tapped his cup against Sniper’s before taking a drink.

It was black tea, smoky and bitter exactly the way Spy liked it and Sniper was learning to. He wrapped his hands around it as best he could with his gloves on. “So what’s your team up to tonight?”

Spy finished his tea and topped them both off. “Our Sniper managed to procure a goose – I expect you did as well, they make themselves known – and we’ve made plans to roast it.” He took another sip. “It’s as close to a proper réveillon as we can manage out here, I suppose.”

“About the same f’r us, yeah. Demo kept on how it’s not proper Christmas without the goose.”

They couldn’t steal away every day or every night, and until the war was over, stolen time was all they’d have. On days like this, there wasn’t much to say, or any desire to keep on talking when there were other things to get to. When Sniper put his cup down and turned to look at Spy, he smiled and flicked away his cigarette. It wasn’t too cold for a snog, never was. Sniper opened his lips to let Spy in, his mouth warm and ripe from the tea. Spy’s hands slid around to grab the back of his neck, bring him in closer for –

Spy’s head snapped forward, knocking Sniper on the nose and teeth with a sound that might’ve been something filthy in French that came out as more a yelp of pain and surprise Sniper echoed deeper and angrier, both of them tumbling down with a tangle of limbs every which-way, the thermos knocked over to spill the last of the tea into the sand. The interrupting soccer ball bounced one, two more times before rolling off until the BLU Scout’s right foot put a stop to it.

“There’s a dingah for you! So what’s it I’m lookin’ at here, anything I gotta know about? ’Cause if this ain’t what it looks like it’s gotta be somethin’ real –”

“Fils de pute, Scout! What in the name of Hell are you doing here?” Spy folded up his knife and slid it away while Sniper kept a hand on his kukri.

“Nothin’, really, just makin’ sure someone knows where t’find you later, Soldier sent me out ’cause we gotta make sure everyone’s present for rank an’ file whatever for dinner. So what’s it you’ve got goin’ here?”

Spy stood, slowly, and Sniper followed, keeping his eyes on the Scout. “None of your business, now if you’ll scurry along –”

“Christmas truce and if this is what you’re doin’ with the time we got off man you’re even more borin’ than I’d thought you were.” He kicked the ball lightly, jumped up and brought his left foot down on it to pull it back. “If you were at least fightin’ each other that’d be somethin’ but if you’re just sneakin’ off t’talk t’him that ain’t even worth –”

Sniper relaxed enough to let go of his kukri; whatever the Scout had or hadn’t seen, it could’ve been much worse. But he wouldn’t bloody shut up. “Say, where’d you get that?”

“What’s it to you?”

“Like you said, Christmas truce.” Sniper shrugged. “Just didn’t know we had a soccer ball ’round here.”

“Football,” Spy said.

“Soccer,” Scout and Sniper said at once. They each did a double-take that ended with them staring at each other and hastily looking away. Scout spoke first, “Thought you called it football too.”

“Aussie rules football? Nah, that’s somethin’ completely different. Kickin’ a ball around, two teams, no hands? That’s soccer.”

“Whatever.” He stuck his right foot under the ball and started bouncing it on the top of his foot. “It was in one of the sheds ’round the back, an’ I figured kickin’ it around’d be more interestin’ than just waitin’ around, at least it was ’till Soldier sent me out t’find you.”

“You know how to play?” Spy asked.

Scout shrugged. “Been in a few games here an’ there. It ain’t baseball, but nothin’ else is, so what’cha gonna do.”

“I have to say I wasn’t expecting it from you.”

“Why not? Game’s a game, gotta do somethin’.”

“It’s been some time since I’ve played, myself.” Scout kicked it over to Spy, who began dribbling it between his feet with much more grace than Scout had managed. “But it never goes away, does it?”

“Pass it here.” As soon as he got the ball, Sniper passed it back to Spy, who sent it over again. He kicked it back to Scout. “Can’t say it does. You up for a game?”

“Me, him, or us?” Spy asked.

Sniper shrugged.

“Hey, now, that ain’t fair at all.” Scout crossed his arms over his chest. “You wanna play against us, that ain’t fair, there’s one RED and two BLU’s.”

“Would two adults against one child be more to your liking?”

“What? No way!” Scout laughed at Spy. “You’d need at least one more guy to
take me on.”

“You up for what you’re playin’ at?” Sniper grinned.

“Maybe. What’s it you think I’m tryin’ t’say?”

Spy looked to Sniper, who nodded and grinned back. Spy turned to his teammate. “There isn’t nearly enough room in this tiny canyon for a decent game, even one with just two players. To get anything worth our time, we’d have to head back to the base. And didn’t Soldier ask you to tell him where I was? Could you be kind enough to tell everyone, please?”

It took a moment for Scout to get at what Spy was saying, and Sniper kept smiling when comprehension finally dawned. “Say, now that y’mention it, I never did tell anyone where I’d be today. Can’t say it’s all that polite just to do a bunk like that.”

“Not in the least, dear bushman.”

Nobody else had known about the soccer ball; nobody else had been bored enough to go poking around at what the scientists and civilians left behind when the base had to be evacuated for the latest mission. But after everyone learned about what Scout found, they all decided they’d have to get a little more bored the next time around. Neither of the Scouts understood what the big deal was about a single black-and-white ball, and it was more of a hope that it’d get the Demomen and Medics to stop lecturing that their arguments winning them over that finally got them to agree to play.

While the teams were setting up the goals and deciding on the playing field, the RED Spy had his hands full with his team’s Soldier. “So in order for us to ensure a proper victory then I’ve got to –”

“I’ve explained this to you twice already. The strategy –”

“I’ll rush on ahead and clear the way, and the rest you keep them from tackling me and taking the ball.”

“The games might have the same name but they are not played by the same rules. Remember that hands aren’t allowed?”

“Except for the goalies,” Demo shouted as he walked by.

“The what now?”

“The – you, you’ll have that position.” Spy jumped on the opportunity and began pushing Soldier to RED’s goalposts. “Your position is vital to our team’s success, and requires a great deal of attention and skill. You may, in fact, use your hands.”

“If the rest of you don’t want to play it right then it won’t be my fault if you want to kick the ball around like feather-wearing hippies instead of throwing it, but you can bet your post-colonial discourse I won’t make that mistake.”

“Good to hear.”

After nearly two years everyone knew everyone else’s strategies well enough, but battlefield tactics only translated so far – no flamethrowers, no shotguns, no katanas, although the Snipers kept on crowing about their headshots. It was the Medic that covered their Heavies, the Soldiers that stood guard, the Engineers that dashed about as fast as they could. It was still a war on, even for the armistice; it took nearly an hour for the first goal, another for the second, and by the middle of the third nobody was giving any sign of stopping. Nobody to call on them over loudspeakers, no rockets or grenades or knifes to the back – both Spies insisted on being sporting, if they were allowed their weapons there’d be no stopping the Pyros – just the players and the ball. Nothing else mattered, not capping the points, not the outside world, not the color-coded war. For a while, a very little while, there was nothing but the pure and simple game.

They finally called it quits when it started to get dark and even the Scouts were slowing down. There were geese to roast, dinners to eat, showers to take, beds to sleep in. The cease-fire would last through the
morning of Boxing Day, with just a few more hours to go. Everyone parted with high-fives, slaps on the back, friendly insults and genuine cheer and one awkward handshake that ended with a muttered apology between the Soldier and Demoman with neither making eye contact.

In all the mayhem, it wasn’t hard for two to slip away just long enough to give each other a good-night kiss.

“Happy Christmas,” Spy smiled.

“Joyeux noël,” Sniper whispered.

26 .

Grasshopper

The round had begun nearly an hour ago. Not to say that it had been an hour since they had started fighting. No, the match was past sixty minutes in length, and neither team had been able to breach the other’s base. It was hard to say who was being the most successful. Their Engineer had the intelligence room locked down like Fort Knox, but the enemy tinkerer had stood like a wall of steel as well. Both Heavies had ripped apart the front lines before being lanced in the head by opposing Snipers. Their Demoman was beyond his normal drunkenness today, continually falling off the bridges that spanned across the Double Cross battlefield. However, the enemy Soldier was sloppy and irritable, his rockets splattering all over the place. That was, of course, when he didn’t decide just to go shovel-a-mano. It was a hot, uncoordinated mess.

That was when their Soldier made an impromptu meeting in the intelligence room. “Alright, princesses. Get your tiaras on straight and listen up! We’ve got to come up with a new strategy. State your ideas, and I will tell you why you are wrong.”

“I cannot slip past ze front lines.” The Spy was quick to point out his troubles. “It would be better if some swine could manage to keep his head down while he is clearing the front lines. Perhaps pay attention to ze little dots dancing around his head.”

The Heavy narrowed his eyes. “If little man would use his tools and not blame others, he would not have troubles, I think.”

The Sniper wiped his forehead, trying to cool himself off with his hat. “Not ta knock your meeting, Sarge, but that team’s got me runnin’ hot. Between them and that damned Spy, I can’t keep the front door clear. Shouldn’t be yammerin’ with you all right now.”

“Mmm hmph. Mrrn’t drr mrnrrhrrn,” the Pyro agreed.

The Engineer gave an exasperated sigh, equally fatigued. “I don’t know what y’all want me to do. I’m doin’ my job here.”

“And we’re not?” The Demoman pointed a wobbly finger at the Engineer’s shirt. “I’ll have ya know, I’m doin’ all that I can ta get that point, but it’s not turnin’ colors!”

The Medic placed his face in his palm. “Dummkopf. Where do you zink we are? We’re securing intel, not locations!”

Now the Demoman was red-faced, although it was hard to tell if it was from rage or embarrassment. “Why did none ‘a ya tell me that?”

“This is not coming up with a plan! This is girlish bitching!” The Soldier cracked his new toy in his hand. It was hard to tell where he’d found a riding crop, but he was relishing every opportunity he got to use it. “One of you had better start talking tactics, or I will personally shove you all into that base!”

“You knuckleheads know there’s a second entry into their base, right?”

Everybody turned to the Scout. He was cracking open another energy drink with his bucked teeth. He took a drink, raising an eyebrow as everybody stared at him. “Oh, come on. There’s a little shaft at the bottom. That old railway? Runs between it? Ya haven’t seen it?”

The Heavy scratched his chin. “Looks weak. Might break.”

“Maybe if you got on it. I think I can handle it.” The Scout tipped his can at the team. “I ran it a couple of times. Coulda gotten the intel too, if it weren’t for that stinkin’ gun-twirlin’ redneck. No offense, Overalls.”

“Alright. It’s worth a shot.” The Soldier pointed at the Spy. “Frenchie! Escort my fellow American into the base using his new route. In the meantime, we’ll keep the enemy distracted with our meaty, burning patriotism! And whatever you two bootlickers have.” The Medic and the Heavy pulled a face, but neither took the time to argue with the Soldier. Fighting his nationalism was taxing and fruitless.

The Sniper hefted his rifle over his shoulder, bolting for the left door. “Right then. Back at it, before they catch—”

The rest of his sentence disappeared as a leather glove snaked around the door and yanked the Sniper outside. A muffled howl was lost to a myriad of other noises. Boots tromping down the stairwell. Gunfire. Exploding electronics. The intel room flooded with bullets and smoke as the other team put their plan into action. Those that hadn’t been struck down instantly by the barrage were quick to draw their arms, blasting the weaker of the attackers clear out of the room. Shrieks and screams rang in the tiny room, their owners lost in the melee.

Normally, the Scout would have stayed put and fought it out with the others. He wasn’t a chicken, and he wasn’t about to let their intelligence slip from his fingers. A strange feeling overcame him, fueled by adrenaline, caffeine, sugar, and whatever the hell else was in that Atomic Punch. He dashed out of the intelligence room, ducking beneath a wayward shot. With what seemed like most of the enemy team duking it out in the intelligence room, that left very few to no people guarding their intelligence. He could get in and disappear with their intel before they could come back. Heck, maybe even pick off a few stragglers.

Despite the unlikeliness that his gamble would pay off, the Scout felt an eerie air of confidence. There was a time to run, and there was a time to fight. It was like that smart old coot had said. He smiled, thinking of the smells of a warm field baked by a hot summer sun. He wanted to get back to that as soon as possible. No bullet or knife was going to take that away from him.

There was no time to second-guess. It was time for the Grasshopper to get out there and do it.
/***/

It sat on the ground, chirping merrily away as it scanned the terrain. The Scout was familiar with these little robots. Sentries. This one was a baby, just a couple of feet off the ground. The sentry gave him a beep, then continued idling away. He cocked his head, trying to figure out what was different about it. It had a larger muzzle than most. Probably bigger ammunition. He didn’t know why it was painted orange and white, like the Demoman’s Sticky Jumper. Was it supposed to be a practice sentry? Why the heck would the Engineer build something like this? Furthermore, why would he leave it in the middle of the base’s courtyard? That was just begging for the enemy Spy to come along and sap it.

“Whaddya think of him?”

The Scout turned his head. The Engineer crouched down to his level, giving the robot a loving pat. “I call him Umbrie. Well, Urmbricht is its full name, but—”

“Umbricht? Like, Jim Umbricht?” The Scout raised an eyebrow. “You’re into baseball?”

The Engineer gave him a big grin. “I was a Forty-Fives fan, son. Then an Astros fan.”

That earned the Texan a scoff. The Scout scratched at his nose. “Not a bad choice, I guess. Dey’re bedda as the Astros, though.”

“Experience usually helps.” Giving Umbrie one last pat, the Engineer stood up. “Wanna try it?”

The Scout leapt to his feet. Try it? “Oh, hell no!”

“It’s not loaded with—aw, hell. Give me a second.” The Engineer scooped the new sentry into his arms. Carrying it around like a proud father, he walked it further away from their home base. He turned the robot to face away from the barracks. With a soft stirring of dust, he placed Umbrie back on the ground. He gave it a few swipes to get rid of debris, then flicked a switch on its back. A light next to the sentry’s muzzle turned from green to red.

The Engineer leaned against his baby. “Got a bat?”

A toothy smile escaped the Scout’s face. “No way! You didn’t—”

Now he knew why the Engineer named this new robot Umbrie. He ran in front of the machine. The little robot beeped at him, then a small laser light flashed from the right side of the machine. It measured a distance a little further back, waiting for the Scout to get on the mark. That Texan really did think of everything. He jogged backwards, standing on the machine’s light. There were three soft beeps from the robot.

Then the muzzle exploded.

A baseball erupted from the mouth of the robot. It hurdled towards the Scout, going straight for his gut. He gave a sharp swing. His bat cracked as the ball flew into the sky, splinters erupting from the impact. It was like batting a grenade away. As soon as that ball had disappeared as nothing more than a twinkle in the horizon, another ball erupted from the machine. Then another. Then another. It was all he could do to keep up with Umbrie. Each hit earned him another clap like thunder. Crack! Crack! Crack! Good God, his arms were going to fall off and—

The Scout made an undignified groan as the next ball caught him in the solar plexus. He crumpled to the ground. Umbrie went silent, knowing that its target had gone down. The Engineer flipped the safety onto the machine, then jogged to the prone Scout. He rolled the boy over, taking a quick look where the ball had struck him. Just knocked the wind out of him. Considering the other injuries the Scout had experienced, a good knock to the stomach wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

“You okay, son?” The Engineer asked.

A weak thumbs up came from the Scout. “Give me a sec.” He brought his knees up, wobbling upright like a drowsy fawn. “Man, that stung.”

The Engineer sighed. “Probably need to slow it down a bit.”

“Hell, no! Dat was awesome! Dat was—ouch!” The Scout gave his stomach a quick poke. It was going to be a nasty shade of purple tomorrow. “Maybe just a little.”

Giving the young man a polite nod, the Engineer set to work. With a few gentle taps, he removed the orange casing around Umbrie. He prodded his mechanical hand through wires and gears, softly pressing them aside. It was endearing and a little disgusting at the same time. The Scout could imagine the Medic doing the same thing, digging around people’s intestines and removing bullets, the same grin shared between the two. Within a few moments, the Engineer finished his repairs, then redressed the pitching machine. “Okay. Let’s try again.”

The next few minutes went by without too much incident. Umbrie’s pitches had slowed somewhat, but they were still decent enough to practice against. The Scout continued his batting practice, almost every toss met with a solid hit. The Engineer sat back and watched him. A strange thought crossed the Scout’s mind. With his dad being such a deadbeat and his mom’s suitors almost always ignoring him, this was probably the closest experience he’d had to playing catch with any kind of father figure in his life. Even then, it was really with a robot. A customized robot built just for this sort of practice—and by extension, the only one that enjoyed playing baseball—but it was almost Rockwellian.

“Say, Engie?” The Scout asked. “Why d’ya build dis thing, anyway?”

The Engineer scratched his chin. “Well, Grasshopper, I can’t rightly say. Just seemed like ya’ve been mighty troubled, lately.”

The Scout lowered his bat. “Grasshopper?” Umbrie hadn’t caught that the Scout was ignoring it, so it beaned the Scout in stomach again. He stumbled away, giving the machine a couple special curses as he passed by.

“Well, ya know. Ya jump around a lot. Ya make a lotta noise.” The Engineer shrugged. “Ya just remind me of a grasshopper.”
The Scout rubbed his face, muttering. “Whateva. Not the worst thing I’ve been called.”

The Engineer patted the ground next to him. “How have ya been doin’, lately?”

Usually, the Scout was too busy running around to think about how he was feeling. His emotions came mostly from whether or not his standard needs were met. Food, sleep, hygiene, sports games. It helped him to ignore other problems around him, like his mother’s promiscuity and whatever the hell was going on in the Medic’s room at three in the morning. The little things. Now that he had slowed down, he started going through how he was doing. He sat down next to the Engineer, taking a moment to reflect. “Ya know—I think I might kinda be down, a little bit.”

“Oh, yeah? What about?” The Engineer asked.

“Well, I can tell ya what’s pissin’ me off right now.” The Scout’s mouth went off at the speed of light, his entire energy coming straight out the top of his body. “So, today we’re out cappin’ points, right? And along my path comes another bastard little Scout. So, I get my shotgun out and try to give him the ol’ knock-out. You know what he does? Jumps on my damn head and beats my ass like a rented mule.”

The Engineer nodded. “That would be embarrassing.”

The Scout pointed at the Texan. “Ya know what happens next match? I’m out, cappin’ again, and what should happen to catch the corner of my eye but the two-ton menace. So, fatty’s got lard goin’ through his guts, right? As long as his precious princess ain’t there with him, I got him dealt with. No problem. So, while I’m playing break the piñata with fatso, guess what happens?” He made a whistling noise, then pointed at his skull. “Damn Sniper catches me in the noodle. Don’t know how he did it, man. I never stood still. Not once.”

“Uh huh.” The Engineer continued encouraging the young man to spill his guts.

“And then, then! Oh, ho ho!” The Scout jumped to his feet, then sashayed and imitated smoking a cigarette. He lowered his voice, trying to imitate the enemy Spy’s lilt. “How nice we meet again, little rabbit man! Pardon me while I stick this carrot through your spine! Off to see your mozza! Hon hon hon!” He broke from his act, pounding one of his fists into the other open hand. “Man, I’d like ta play baseball with their damn heads. Maybe I can get the Soldier to get me a set.”

The Engineer winced. There was no need to encourage that behavior. “So, what yer sayin’ is that ya’ve gotten yer hat handed ta ya repeatedly, and ya wanna pay them back in kind.”

The Scout stopped his tirade. “Ya know what? Yeah. I’d like ta do that. Get some revenge. Give them the ol’ one-two. Spill a little jarate. Shank a bitch.”

The Engineer shook his head, trying to suppress a laugh. He scratched his chin. “Would revenge do ya any good?”

That made no sense to the Scout. He put his hands on his hips. “What, ya want me ta just turn the odda cheek?”

“Now, now. Hear me out.” The Engineer placed a hand on the Scout’s shoulders. “Now, let’s suppose ya wanted ta go pants these fellers next round. Is that gonna get ya the point, or capture the intel?”

The Scout cocked his head to the side. “Might work, if we were in an arena match.”

“What’s yer job, Scout? Is it ta kill people, or is it ta steal their stuff?” The Engineer asked.

That was a strange question. The Scout thought he had an immediate answer. Both were important aspects of his job. Now, when he stopped to think about it, that wasn’t quite right. When his team needed him the most, it wasn’t for killing anybody. It was to go secure a location or spirit information away from the enemy base. He just happened to enjoy the gunplay as well.

The Scout huffed. “Suppose it’s more about stealin’. Still like the killin’, though.”

“There ya go.” The Engineer gave the Scout the same kind of pat he gave Umbrie. “Just do yer job first. There’ a time for runnin’, and there’s a time for fightin’. Just focus more on winnin’ than killin’. Then ya can rub it in their noses.”

That was probably the weirdest advice he’d heard for fighting others. Was the Engineer suggesting pacifism? That was incredibly dumb. Sure, the Texan didn’t have to lift a finger to kill others. His sentries did that for him. Still, he had to wonder. He certainly didn’t have to fight the Heavy that time. The Scout had to go, yeah. He couldn’t have done anything about the Sniper, but he could have been paying more attention to what was going on around him and focused less on batting skulls in. And the Spy—well, he should have beaned him a few times. It was hard to say when killing or not killing would be more beneficial in any situation.

Still, it gave him a new tactic to try. Maybe a dumb one, but it would be interesting to attempt once. “I’ll think about it.”

The Engineer gave him a warm smile. “Git out there ‘n do it, young Grasshopper.”

/***/

He was halfway through the sewer system leading out to the abandoned rail line before anyone caught up with him. Damn bases were so winding and twisted that he’d lost a little time looking for the drainage pipes. The man tailing the Scout was quiet, save for soft splashes where tailored shoes sloshed into the water. The Scout spared only one glance over his shoulder. At first, it looked like only his shadow was following him. Peering into the water, he saw a flicker of colored light as liquid shimmered against an invisible cloak. He smiled, panting while he bolted. It was his Spy.

“Thought ya bit it back dere, Spy.” The Scout peeked around the corner of the drainage exit.

The Spy gave his left arm a little shake, the silver band around his arm shining. “I was a phantom, but only for a moment.”

The Scout smirked. He waved for the Spy to follow him. Neither man made a peep as they slipped below the reinforcements of the bridge. It was awkwardly quiet, the sounds of the night making no greater noise than a small bell’s jingle. The fighting still rang out in their base, but it was little more than bass rumblings. They splashed into the enemy’s sewers, the Bostonian easily outgunning the Frenchman. They wove through the drains, stopping only for a moment next to a winding stairwell. As the Spy caught his breath in tobacco-filled lungs, the Scout poked his nose upstairs. Shoot. Some of the other team had already revived. Lucky for him, they were all moving towards his team’s base again. They hadn’t noticed his snooping.

Then he showed up. Somewhat like his own teammate, but so hostile. The Scout’s Engineer had the graces of Southern Hospitality. He was kind, gentle, careful with his words. This guy? Oh, man. All he gave a damn about was the Second Amendment. This Engineer was going to build a gun, and it was going to be one hell of a gun. When he didn’t instantly blow an opponent away, he would rub their noses in it, often finishing the job with horrific spike-covered wrenches. There were rumors that he would even use his electrical cord, string up really unlucky bastards and use them as calibration tests for his machines. Dirty, mean-spirited, spiteful. He was everything a Yankee could hate about a man from Dixie.

An enemy Demoman crept behind his back. Well, not actually him. Just the Spy. He saw the hungry, frustrated glance in the Scout’s eyes. Where the Scout saw him as a caustic hick, the Spy saw the enemy Engineer as plump poultry ready for carving. He leaned over, whispering in a forced Scottish imitation. “Ya go to the left. Jump the railing. I’ll take the right an’ get the egghead.”

They broke rank, the Scout zipping just below where heavy enemy boots tromped. He hauled himself over a nearby railing, landing with a soft grunt at the base of a staircase. He waited for a few moments, keeping his eye on his back. Nobody was following them so far. There was the familiar sound of dead weight hitting the floor. The Scout jumped up the stairwell, already congratulating the Spy for his work, “Good goin’, Fancy. Didn’t think ya—”

“Didn’t think what, String Bean?”

Chills shot through the Scout’s bones. That was not the Spy. A dark grin crept across the victor’s face, flicking some kind of fleshy matter off of his wrench. The Spy was at his feet, his skull crushed. Yeah, that had to be a horrible way to go, but damn that Spy. That Frenchman had left him alone with that psychopathic Son of the South. Horrible thoughts shot through his head, his eyes glancing down at that yellow cord secured to the enemy’s waist. There was a flash of fury, his limbs burning, every part of him wanting to seek revenge.

And then, a wave of peace.

Yes, that enemy Engineer was awful. Maybe he would have enjoyed popping a few rounds threw that bastard’s gut. As alone as the Scout was, so was the Engineer. No sentries. No teammates. Just him, his weapons, and most importantly, his team’s intelligence. The Scout smirked, then bolted. This wasn’t a good time to fight, but it was fantastic time for running. He snagged the intelligence in his right hand, ducking as the Engineer missed bashing him across the skull. That moron had picked the wrong weapon to deal with him.

The Scout leapt into the sewer system, the porky cartoon struggling to keep up. He bounded through the water, laughing with the splashes. His pursuer fired off several shotgun rounds. The shots landed in the walls, all milliseconds behind where the young man had once been. Nothing to it. He bounded across the old railways, his chuckling echoing through the night. His pursuer couldn’t keep up. He’d be back to the base in no—

Bam!

Searing pain shot through the Scout’s right shoulder. Goddamn Yosemite Sam! The shot wrecked his balance, almost sending him tumbling into the abyss below. Energy drained from him, blood seeping down his shirt. No! No time to stop! He charged forward, hoping that he could just make it back to home plate. No, the intel room. He felt woozy, wondering what horrors would await him there. He might be running into a dragon’s den.

As he rounded the corner up to the first floor, shining lenses caught his eyes. Oh, hell no! That Engineer would not give up. There was no time to waste. He bolted down the corridor, nearly tripping over his own feet. His enemy was fast on him, shots splattering all over the place. One round ricocheted off the back of the briefcase, throwing him to the left. No, no, no! He couldn’t stop now!

The entry to his team’s intelligence room beckoned him inside. He stumbled in, collapsing into a heap in the center of the room. God’s voice—no, the Administrator’s—signaled his victory. “Success! We have secured the enemy intelligence.” He laughed, even as his enemy closed in to finish him off. Screw that bastard. He’d just broken an hour-long deadlock.

Just as the corners of his vision went dark, someone hauled him off the ground. He didn’t scream. He could face his death like a man, now that he’d accomplished his goal. He flinched as a barrage of percussive sounds let loose in the intelligence room. Hot and cold sensations came over him in two waves. He blinked, and both became clear. The warmth on his skin was blood. The cool air surrounding him was gas emanating from a cheerful dispenser. His eyes widened, observing the variety of machinery around him and the cutlets of what was his pursuer at his feet. He hadn’t been alone.

The Scout looked up to find his Engineer tending to the wound in his shoulder. His grin melted the residual shocks of horror away. “Doin’ better, son?”

“Yeah. Yeah. Fine, ya know. No big deal.” The Scout tried to shrug it off, but the pain still stung. His wound sealed shut, a relaxing hiss almost soothing him to sleep.

“Hey, now. No time for that.” The Engineer nudged the Scout. “Gotta git two more pieces ‘a intel.”

The Scout whined. “Ah, man. Come on! I was great. I deserve at least a minute and a half to cool off.”

The Engineer smirked, turning his attention to his machines. He licked his left thumb, scrubbing at an oil stain on his sentry. “Well, now. I reckin’ the longer ya wait, the more time yer gonna give that doppelganger of mine the time he needs ta fix up something nasty.”

“Well, when you put it like dat.” The Scout stood up. He wiped at matter sprayed on his pants. “Gotta pay that bastard back, anyway. Got chunks ‘a him and the Spy on me. This ain’t easy to get out, ya know.”

The smart ass comment earned him another beaming grin from the Engineer. “Well then, Grasshopper. Git out there ‘n—”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah!” The Scout was off once more. “I got it. Geez!”

/***/

27 .

Whoever did mine (#8) is incredible I want more! Thank you so much!!!

28 .

Prompt: Demo/Soldier post-War update—meeting by chance at a bar, getting into a fight, then angsty reconciliation? You can decide whether it gets porny or not.
Rating: Adult.
Author’s note: I hope you’ll enjoy your fic, giftee! Writing it was a challenge; the idea is pretty much cemented into fanon already and several awesome stories have been penned over this theme, so I hope I won’t disappoint you with mine. Also, I apologise for the length. One day I will comprehend the meaning of ‘brevity’, but it wasn’t today...

-----

There was a bar near the base. There was a town too, three dozen decrepit mining shacks huddled around a dirt-paved road, a general store, and the bar. Most of them were empty; the town had been largely abandoned when the nearby gravel pits were turned into battlefields and civilian work dried up.

The bar was still open.

It had once had a name, but the desert wind had stolen it, sandblasted every fleck of paint from the bar’s façade as it came howling in from the New Mexican Badlands to carry off hats, to claw at jackets, shirts, and the pleated tartan of Demo’s kilt. It didn’t matter anyway; there was only the one bar in town, only the one town within a day’s drive of the base.

For two men with a craving for something other than moonshine cider of, well, mostly apples, it had once been a safe place to set up a carefully orchestrated accidental meeting; a haven where, as long as they paid up, nobody cared about the mismatching colours of their shirts—or their skin. Now it had become a place where the liquor was cheap enough and strong enough and served freely enough to almost make a man forget the painful memories still lingering there.

For one man, sick to the heart of his team-mates’ holiday cheer, it’d have to do.

“Och, ‘tis a dreich day!” Demo called out as he managed the bar’s single wide step on the second try and nearly christened—and descaled—the doorframe with his half-empty bottle of scrumpy.

It wasn’t, though. Dry eyes, dry lips, the wet chalk at his core called out for craggy hills and highland mists and the bones of his ancestors under overcast skies. Here, the emerging stars were cold and pale, as distant as Scotland against the darkening sky, and the only one of them guiding was the sad glitter of tinsel over the bar’s open door. It was cheap alu-foil, bent out of shape and with a broken-off spine, and possibly Pyro had once tried to make it briefly, gloriously, shine, if the sooty licks were indication of attempted arson, but it had beaconed wiser men than him. On this holiest of nights, as a lost son looked for succour, the heavenly choir was quiet. Only the wind sang here, saw-edged. Not in joyous exultation—in lamentation, its sand-gritted voice wailing a dirge, a mournful coronach, playing the town’s broken windows like a thousand-bore bagpipe chanter.

It was a sound to break a man’s heart. Again.

Demo swilled and coughed at the burn. Thrice-distilled, in an earthenware jug because pewter corroded too fast, the scrumpy packed a punch like a thermite reaction. He clung to the door handle one-handed, and for a moment of nauseating vertigo it became his newest best friend. His only friend, now, only barely holding him up against that old foe, the bottle. But better old enemies than new, better new friends than the throbbing, twisting heartache Medic assured him was an alcohol-induced ulcer and he knew bloody well wasn’t.

“Damn ye,” he cursed under his breath as he tried to catch it and catch himself from falling over. Damn him, and damn himself, and damn this war, and damn it all. Tempers had flared too hot and burned out, a bright fiery rage leaving him hurting and hollow where once there had been—something. Something he hadn’t had, hadn’t felt, in a long time. Maybe never. Now that it was all over, his hands blood-stained no matter how hard he scrubbed, he felt as haunted as his sword.

So he’d had a drink, to fill up the emptiness inside, and when that hadn’t worked he’d gone in search of more drink, hoping to gulp down forgetfulness straight from a shot glass in this cheerless place where nobody knew his name.

“Ah, pally!” he told the man behind the bar’s counter, a former gravel pit tour guide turned opportunistic enterpriser. “Ye’re a publican after me own pickled heart, open oan a Christmas Eve! Aye, was’ere ever a time fer drinking, it’s noo, and tae hell wi’ the wee bairn Jesus!”

The bartender just shrugged and held up a greasy glass for inspection. “Don’t thank me,” he said, wiping half-heartedly at an offending stain with a dishcloth that only made it worse. “I’d’ve closed up an hour ago if it wasn’t for your buddy.” The glass went under the counter and he cleaned off a spot with a snip of his apron before leaning on it. “Money’s money at Smissmas, but I’d’preciate if you took him off my hands. I never noticed when you were in here together, but he’s not all there upstairs, is he?”

The question caught Demo completely blindsided; he’d thought himself alone in the bar. But there actually was someone else there, a solitary figure slumped in the half-shadows at the end of the counter where even the dust-dimmed lights reflected by the back-bar mirror didn’t reach. Sitting low on a tall barstool, chin on his folded arms on the scuffed mahogany, he’d been staring intently at the small army of empty bottles lines up for inspection in front of him, led by their general, a single stale beer.

Noticing their stares he looked up now, slowly, under the rim of a blue M1 helmet.

Demo’s jaw dropped. “Ye?!”

“You!”

“Woah there, fellas!” The bartender raised his hands at the tone of their voices. “No idea what’s gotten into you, but no RED n’ BLU business in town! It’s on the books!”

“Aye, but this isnae business! It’s pers’nal.” Demo slammed his bottle of scrumpy down on the bar counter and didn’t miss. He’d had plenty of opportunities recently to practise aiming under the influence.

“You have some balls coming here, RED!” Soldier shouted, pushing his chair away from the counter and reaching for the entrenching tool leaned against it at his feet. “I can admire that. Too bad I’m gonna rip them off and hang them up for baubles! And your guts for garlands too! It’ll be so goddamn festive the Medics’ll think Santa burst a brain aneurism and put them on the nice list!”

He held out his weapon menacingly, in a way that would’ve looked ridiculously like a beach turf challenge over somebody’s trampled sandcastle if not for the sharp glint of the shovel’s whetted blade. It seemed BLU had wised up after that last unfortunate incident and banned their employees from bringing weapons off-base, just like RED, but apparently no one had thought to confiscate the small collapsible spade even though it was easily capable of decapitating a man.

“Listen to ye talkin’ like ye’d even hae the strength tae lift a single baws a’ mine!” Demo shouted right back. His bomb suit would turn away a swing of Soldier’s shovel, but he’d been glad to get rid of the heavy weight and ingrained smell of gore and cordite. If he’d known it’d come to this, though, he’d worn it, not least for the blast-resistant groin plate and the sticky-note smiley to go with it. His verbal insults just weren’t the same. “And ye hae a bloody poor taste in Christmas decorations too!”

Soldier stepped closer, an ugly snarl on the part of his face visible under the helmet. “At least I’ve improved my taste in FRIENDS, you backstabbing Quisling!”

Each step he took rang out with the dull sound of metal, and it twisted something painfully hard inside Demo’s chest to see the Gunboats on his feet, worn proudly, pridefully, today like every other day since the war.

“At least I’m not the pansy prancin’ aroond wi’ fancy footwear like some hoorin’ tart ‘cause I wusn’t man enuff tae came doon close an’ fight proper, sword tae sword!” he spat, but the insult didn’t squash that sick feeling in the pit of his stomach every time he laid eye on those boots, a constant reminder of the number of times he’d died at the hands of the man who wore them.

“Nobody deserves these boots more than I do!” Soldier roared, stamping his feet for emphasis. “I EARNED them killing YOU, maggot! And I did a damn better job of it than you did!”

“Oh aye? ‘Cause I recall gettin’ ye more’n ye got me—”

“—because you only saw me coming half the times, cyclops!” The shovel came crashing down on the counter from Demo’s blind side, making him flinch and scoring a cheap point. It embedded its edge into the dry wood as easily as it would wet flesh and bone. “The thing about winners, you one-eyed TRAITOR, the thing about winners is,” Soldier drew a deep breath, “there can be only ONE! AND IT’S ME!”

“Hah, ye haen’t wan yet, BLU, ‘cause I’m still here! But those are fightin’ words alright.” They were fighting words, and they were both of them too proud, too stubborn, stepped too far in blood to go back to what they’d once had. The only way forward was towards the inevitable bitter end, and better let that end come soon so that, either way, he might finally find some peace of mind.

“Well, noo’s yer chance!” Demo taunted, throwing out his empty hands in challenge. “Nae fancy weapons, nae respawn, ye an’ me right here tae there’s jes oan a’ us standin’! Ye wanted tae earn yer boots fer real? See if ye can.

It was the Highlander pride talking, but he didn’t feel at all brave-hearted. In truth, he hoped in his heart of hearts that Soldier wouldn’t respond to the provocation, would show even just a spark of recognition of what they’d once had, the smallest a sign that their past friendship had meant anything at all to him. But Soldier showed no restraint. He swung a fist at Demo’s face before he’d even finished speaking, too fast to avoid, and the electric jolt when it connected was perversely familiar and welcome. This was passion and rage, all they’d had and all they had left, and the pain made it at the same time so real and so terrible.

Demo stood swaying for a moment, dizzy, disoriented. Soldier’s first punch hadn’t been hard, hadn’t had his heart in it, but it’d still slapped something loose inside him, something that rattled brokenly in his breath and stung in the eye that wasn’t there. The footing he was struggling to keep was all emotional and all too precarious.

“I trusted you!” Soldier roared, and maybe that first impact had cracked something in him too, the way his voice sounded. “Was that all our friendship was worth to you, a chunk of old iron?!”

“That’s me national heritage yer talkin’ shite aboot, ye uncultured yank!” Demo yelled back, feeding the rage so he wouldn’t have to feel the cold bite of the words, how they cut him deeper than the sharpened edge of Soldier’s shovel swung at head-height ever had. This was pain, more than any ouroboros cycle of death-respawn-death turning on itself, eating itself up to keep living; those words hurt, because they were true. At the command of some wee bint he’d made an enemy of his best friend. His friend. A blade, its brandished steel smoking with bloody execution, had sealed the devil’s deal, and all it had cost him was a full thirty pieces of silver.

“I had to,” he continued, faltering, failing to convince even himself and ashamed of realising it. “Ye would’a killed me tae hell withoot it! And me mum too; I’d never hae heard the end o’ it! It’s the sword a’ Scottish kings!”

“Hah!” Soldier scoffed, shaking his hand surreptitiously where he’d bruised it on Demo’s face. “With you twirling around in that Catholic schoolgirl uniform, I’d think it was the sword of Scottish QUEENS!”

That did what the fist hadn’t. “It’s a bloody kilt!” Demo screamed, that age-old Scottish battle cry, and tackled Soldier. The element of surprise got him in close where the shovel didn’t have range to swing and slammed Soldier back into the bar counter. His small army of bottles scattered at the collision, rolling off the battlefield to shatter on the floor.

“Cowards!” Soldier yelled after them, then tried to punch Demo teeth out through the back of his skull.

Demo ducked under his arm with practised ease and landed a brutal gut-punch instead, then followed it up with a hard right hook. It was a combination of finely-honed martial techniques that was guaranteed by the highest authority to lay a man right out—only Sniper’s drunken-boxing mail-order course had failed to take into account that the opponent at the time of that last flourish would in real life be bent over from the fist to his solar plexus and habitually wearing a three-pound steel helmet.

It also hadn’t bothered mentioning that the opponent might likewise have sent for a Mann Co. mail-order course and use the distraction caused by cradling a handful of bleeding knuckles to apply that one-letter session in drunken head-butting right where it counted.

Urrrgh—“ Demo wheezed, teary-eyed and curling up. He never even saw the shovel coming for him.

There was an explosion of blinding pain as the flat of it connected, and a fall into darkness that seemed to go on for far too long. Then his face was against the floor, blood in his mouth, and it took him a moment to comprehend what had happened, a moment longer to realise its significance. No dispenser, no respawn, another duel to the death, and he was the one who had lost, again, for the very last time.

The crying wind had gone quiet, for once holding its breath, and in the dead silence Demo heard clearly the metallic rasp of the entrenching tool’s tip dragged over the floorboards, murderous in its intent. The heavy clunk clunk of the Gunboats approaching was a knell, like a dull bell tolling, and he knew well for whom and to where he was summoned.

“Fook ye and yer prissy boots,” he coughed, spitting blood, strangely elated that in this at least he wouldn’t fail his family; he’d die a true Highlander, bleeding, to the blade. “I hope they chafe yer bloody feet!”

As heroic last words went, though, these wouldn’t go down in history.

Soldier stopped. The was a moment of complete quietude, a breathless second before the shovel came down, hard, clattering across the floor where he threw it off to the side. Then a fist closed around the belted plaid across Demo’s chest, pulled him up as another arm wrapped around him, and suddenly Soldier was hugging him close and making sounds like muffled sobs into his shoulder.

“Christ, I’m sorry! I’m sorry, Tavish, I’m sorry, I’m sorry—!“

Demo blinked, dumbfounded at this new development. It took several deep breaths, holding them in like Sniper had taught him, to wrap his head around not being dead. It had seemed such a certainty only moments ago, and he’d never known Soldier to hesitate before a kill. He hadn’t been sure if Soldier was actually capable of traversing the emotional spectrum outside of rage and hunger, but even if the concept of self-control was beyond him, complete psychological breakdown was evidently well within his grasp.

“Shh, lad, shh,” Demo hushed, patting Soldier’s back awkwardly with the hand that wasn’t trapped between them by an embrace like the jaws of life, because even after all they’d been through it still cut his heart like swallowed glass to see his former friend brought so low. “What, did ye take yer Sniper’s mail-order course in drunken apology-makin’ too?” he joked weakly, but it fell entirely flat when he felt Soldier nod once into his shoulder. “Ye did?

“For you!” Soldier howled. “It was all for you! This whole goddamned war! The boots! Calling me a civilian, leaving me—“

“What? Who told ye that?” Demo felt shock settle coldly in his gut at this revelation. No wonder they’d gone from lifelong friends to arch-enemies overnight; it seemed someone had known all along exactly which buttons to press, which bribes, which lies, to make them both dance to some unheard Hamelin tune. He stroked Soldier’s back and nudged him gently with his shoulder. “Come now, ye know I wouldnae do that, on me honour as a Scotsman!”

“You killed me!” Soldier bawled, inconsolable.

“Aye, it’s me job. And ye returned th’ favour, didn’t ye?” The floor was unpleasantly drafty for a bare-legged man; getting to his feet with half a bottle of scrumpy in his bloodstream and Soldier still holding on to him wasn’t easy, and it sure as hell wasn’t graceful, but he managed without knocking them both over.

“I’m sorry,” Soldier said again, quieter, his voice thick. He was leaning against Demo unsteadily. There had been quite a number of empty bottles, now that Demo came to think of it. Even after his scrumpy head start, even after the blow to his face that still had his ears ringing faintly, he was surprised to realise that between the two of them he was for once more sober. Well, less drunk.

An impatient cough got his attention. “So,” the bartender said, watching unimpressed from a safe distance, “are you two gonna leave now?

Demo turned to give him a one-eyed glare; if a look could kill, not even the glue-gun-wielding hordes of hell could’ve put the man back together again. He couldn’t do more than that, though, not with his arms full of Soldier and one shoulder of his red t-shirt under the plaid all wet with tears.

Soldier didn’t look like he could go anywhere on his own right now, but bringing a BLU back to RED base would be a singularly poor idea, as bad as going to BLU base and deliver Soldier himself. Demo looked around the bar, but it completely lacked any furniture on which a man might comfortably rest. “Well, he cannae gae home like this, an’ I sure as hell cannae take him. Ye sold him those beers, nae doubt fer a profit. Dinnae ye hae som’ere he can stay an’ sober up?”

The bartender dared lean out across the safety barrier of the counter to give Demo a look. It conveyed with perfect exactitude and in eloquent detail just how popular that idea wasn’t. “What does this look like to you,” he asked deadpan, “a manger?”

Demo returned his look just as pokerfaced. “What it looks tae me, laddie, is a pub wi’ four fancy walls an’ a bloody roof on top. Such a shame if it were tae gae Guy Fawkes on ye, wouldnae it? Brings a tear tae me eye, the notion a’ losing such a fine establishment.” It was a bluff; RED wouldn’t look too kindly on his blowing up another bar, but the single advantage of having only one eye was that everyone else had twice the urge to blink. He won. “He’ll be oot afore t’morrow, on me word,” he added. “I hae it on good faith he’s never missed his 5 AM wakie call.”

“Well, all right. Since it’s Smissmas and all.” The bartender crossed his arms sourly. “You can put him in the backroom. I’m closing up now, if there’s nothing else you’ll be wanting to break; it’s only been you two in here all day anyway. Just lock up front when you leave. And any booze that’s missing tomorrow goes on your tab!”

“Aye,” Demo said. “Thanks. Yer a good man.”

The bartender shrugged again, apparently the extent of his body-language vocabulary. “Yeah, well, hate to see two friends falling out, and on Smissmas no less,” he said. “Bad for business.”

He threw the dirty apron on the counter and let himself out, and Demo half-steered, half-dragged Soldier to the back of the bar, past the stink of the men’s room, and through a door marked ‘private’.

The backroom was just that, a room at the back. There was no ceiling bulb, but the smoke-coloured curtains over the cubbyhole window were too moth-eaten to keep out a distant glare of sodium streetlights from where the road passed through the town. A green-shaded banker’s lamp, dark and dead, stood on the floor, and scuffmarks revealed where a folding table had once been placed. The small room had the cigar-cloyed atmosphere of a seedy gambling den and all the homely charm of a stripped-down prison cell. The interior decor was completed this evening by a sheetless mattress against a wall where the bartender might turn in for a few on a quiet night; they only just hit it by chance when Soldier tripped over himself and dragged Demo down with him in a flailing mess of arms, legs, and heavy footwear.

“Bloody hell!” Demo rubbed his shin where Soldier had caught him hard with a foot, then grabbed the offending body part with both hands. “These things’re bloody dangerous! I need tae get them off of ye afore ye kill us both wi’ them!”

Soldier stilled, slumping back against the wall. He seemed content to shut up for once and watch Demo pull off his boots. The Gunboats were bulky and too damn heavy, with no buckles or bindings to help loosen them, and after a couple of frustrating minutes Demo cursed and got down on his knees. The folded-back cuff of his kilt hose spared him a chill and a rug-burn abrasion, but the position was awkward and one of Soldier’s feet kept sliding forward between his legs while he worked to free the other.

Finally he found the trick of it, tugging the boot off one foot. His hands came away from it wet, and in the odd yellow light seeping in from outside he couldn’t tell what it was. The knitted sock worn under, a gift from BLU Sniper, was holed and soaked through with the same liquid warmth, and Demo peeled it back carefully to stare at Soldier’s naked foot held in his hands. The Gunboats didn’t chafe after all—they cut deep. There were dozens and dozens of gashes, old and new, where the twin metal reinforcements had gnawed through the skin to make every movement, every step, every rocket-jump kick-off and hard-impact landing pure, unbelievable agony.

And Soldier had worn the Gunboats every day since the war.

“I deserve these boots,” Soldier said again, a quiet echo of himself. “I earned them.”

For killing me, Demo thought, and couldn’t speak for the way his throat tightened on the words. Only one made it through, a low hoarse whisper that nevertheless said it all.

“Jane...”

Soldier smiled. It was tiny and weary and tinged with sadness, entirely unfamiliar on his scarred face, but genuine, and Demo found himself returning it. He didn’t know what to say; it was all still too soon, too raw, they needed more time to sort this out. Soldier evidently thought so too; Demo caught the subtle change in his expression, the smile twisting into something more, just a second before the steel-toed boot between his legs stole up under his kilt.

“Fuckin’ hell! That’s bloody cold, ye bastard!” he howled, jerking back.

“Just checking, private” Soldier said, keeping his voice too casual to sound innocent. His helmet also did nothing to conceal the shit-eating grin on his face.

Demo shook a loose fist at him. “I hae laid oot men bigger’n ye fer suggestin’ I’m nae true Scotsman!” he warned, but there was no real heat in it; it felt good to see the easy grin on Soldier’s face. “I’ll hae ye ken I can pass parade inspection any day.”

“Is that a challenge?” Soldier asked, and this time his voice wasn’t casual at all.

Demo coughed, mouth gone suddenly dry. “Let’s jes git this thing off ye first, alright?” he asked, flushed and embarrassed at himself. He wasn’t sure Soldier should be saying something like that, and he was damn well sure he shouldn’t react to it the way he did, but they were both drunk on alcohol and emotions, and it didn’t feel awkward at all when his hands closed around the remaining boot and lifted it into his lap.

“Yessir,” Soldier breathed, relaxing into his grip, and that too stirred something in him, this unconscious display of trust.

His fingertips found the instep first, just above the rivet-lined toe box. The shined brown leather was slick from buffing and boot-shine, warm after the cold shock of the steel, and silkily smooth. He let one hand trail higher, tracking the bony contours of Soldier’s ankle, slipping the other around to cradle the back of the metal-capped heel. They left fingerprints and faint greasy swirls in their wakes like subtle territorial markings. If Soldier noticed he didn’t complain, and it felt good, right, to mark him, to mar the boots that had come between them, claiming back Soldier in secret, in this dark room, in ways no one would notice but them.

He could feel Soldier’s eyes on him, watching, and it made him ache with a strange, shameful, exhibitionistic thrill, made him long to lift up that foot and let his lips follow the trace of his fingers, taste the bitterness of polish and the iron tang of blood and the tiniest hint of salt from the gob of Soldier’s spit used to bring out the gleam of the leather. It shouldn’t be like this, dangerous, daring, to feel his way up Soldier’s calf and around the collar of the boot, like sneaking a hand under a shirt to tease open a bra or under a skirt just to tease. It didn’t help that Soldier stopped breathing for a second when the first finger crested the rim and touched his bare skin. The rest of them followed, and Soldier’s shaky exhale only stopped short of a gasp because he managed to catch himself. Demo took his time pulling off the boot and the sock, inch by inch, while Soldier’s other foot, now naked, brushed up between his legs again and under the edge of the kilt.

This time Demo didn’t jerk away. The foot came to rest on the inside of his thigh, half an inch short of where Demo very suddenly really didn’t, really did, want it to go.

“We fucked up good, didn’t we,” Soldier murmured, not so much a rhetorical question as a flat-out statement. “I really am sorry, Tavish.”

Demo rubbed his sore foot gently, cleaned away the crusted blood. “Yeah, well, I hurt ye too.”

“Yeah, you did. Got me good a few times,” Soldier chuckled. He unbuckled his webbing and the pouched belt unhurriedly, opened his blue jacket to tap his chest lightly. “That goddamn sword! It even gave me a scar once, all through respawn.”

“It did?” Demo didn’t need to ask where, of all the places the Eyelander had hurt; the dark line across his own palm would always remind him of that first time. He’d never need it, though, the memory too vivid in his mind to fade like the scar eventually would—the ringing vibrations numbing his arms at the first impact, parrying a brutal counter from the entrenching tool more by luck than skill, the deafening clash of metal on metal as ancient Damascus steel met its tempered U.S. equivalent hard enough to carve a notch in the foible of the blade. The Eyelander had jerked in his two-handed grip, fighting for control and winning, and gone for Soldier’s throat. He had reacted without thinking, still too new at enmity, and missed the leather-wrapped ricasso above the crossbar when he tried to stop the motion. The sword had sliced open his hand and Soldier’s sternum both, mixing their blood like brothers as it killed so easily.

It was easier still, now, to reach out, sliding his hands up under Soldier’s shirt to where he knew the scar would be. It was. It was a shock to feel it, ugly and knotted like some demented surgeon’s cicatrice. The blunt tip of the Eyelander had parted the softness at Soldier’s core, deflowered the deep red rosebud of his heart with that first hard thrust, and the raised wound-welt screamed to Demo’s questioning fingertips of violence and violation.

He rubbed the scar, read the lingering whispers of ghost-pain in the Braille-dots of keloid. Soldier didn’t silence himself this time, trailing off into a soft sound just like the hiss of air through punctured lungs, and Demo couldn’t stop touching and touch wasn’t enough. He couldn’t let go, instead grabbed the hem of Soldier’s grubby t-shirt between his teeth and pulled himself up against Soldier’s chest, the shirt with him, until his own hot breath tickled the hairs on the back of his hands and he could satisfy that sudden desperate need to see with his own eye.

A rough-red crescent marked the point of penetration. It looked like a smile, a Chesire-cat’s crooked grin, like the joke had been on both of them and this thin lipstick-smudge from a cold-steeled Judas-kiss its ultimate ironic pun. He covered it with his fingers, and then, before he knew it, with his mouth, brushing his lips across the ragged flesh and tasting salt and desert sand.

“Tavish,” Soldier said, and the way he said it said so much more.

It was like the strange intimacy of the kill, and not, warm and wet with spit, not blood, as he licked the skin and scar with slow strokes of his tongue. It must have tickled too; Soldier’s gasps were half laughs, half moans, like he couldn’t decide whether this was too damn funny or deliciously, maddeningly sensuous and settled for both.

Prompted by Demo’s unrestraint, Soldier’s hands crept up his back. One of them paused on Demo’s plaided shoulder, hesitating briefly at the transition from scratchy dark wool to smooth dark skin before crossing the line. More than one line. They were calloused, rough, a man’s hand, a killer’s, and their unfamiliar gentleness made Demo shiver. Strong fingers buried themselves in the short black curls at the nape of his neck, turning a chokehold into a caress that made him arch his back. He didn’t want to break the contact between his lips and Soldier’s skin, but a soft tug urged him up until they were finally face to face, chest to chest, two warm bodies on a bed. Demo could feel Soldier’s heartbeat through their shirts, uncoloured by the feeble light, grey against grey there in the shadows but still separating them.

Slowly, his hesitation begging permission, Demo reached for the helmet, and Soldier didn’t protest. Demo caressed the sharp edge briefly with the tip of a finger before gripping it firmly, feeling the weight of it. This was his best friend whom he had fought, then fought the police with, then fought a war against, killed and killed and killed until not even the innermost parts of Soldier’s body held any mystery anymore, but slowly lifting that helmet off for the first time still felt like the most intimate moment he had ever shared with another person.

It felt like taking a virginity, like exposing a vulnerability, like baring a throat or a back to a blade, total surrender and complete trust, strange and raw and real, and it left them both breathless and trembling against each other.

He put the helmet down carefully, then looked up into Soldier’s eyes for the first time since before the war. They were bright and blue, just like he remembered, but the deep lines of pain and grief carved around them were new. Demo smoothed them with a broad thumb, wanting nothing more than to erase them, to stop Soldier hurting. It felt right to follow that impulse and wrap himself around his friend, protecting Soldier’s soft spots with his own body.

They were so close, closer even than the brutal intimacy of hand-to-hand combat, and without his bomb suit, with both their shirts and his belted plaid hitched up between them, Demo could feel every breath his friend took. It seemed to him like the most natural thing to lean in until they were sharing that breath too, the string of his eye-patch leaving a red line across Soldier’s forehead, close enough that he’d swear he could feel the ghostly touch of Soldier’s lips on his own.

He could certainly feel another part of Soldier’s anatomy responding to his proximity.

This wasn’t romantic, not in the way he usually thought of the word, and it wasn’t sexy like those back-and-forth flirtatious games he sometimes played with women he’d pick up. This was at the same time less and so much more than that. Their friendship had always had an undeniably physical aspect; they had brawled on the battlefield and off even before the war, shoving, nudging, had once spent a night in Vegas sprawled over each other, too drunk to care, on a floor that felt like it was slowly spinning. Even fighting for real, there had been a certain exhilaration at the sheer physicality of it, a burning adrenalin rush as they went toe to toe, evenly matched, then a heady wash of endorphins after, regardless of who won. This felt like fighting too, not for their lives but for something else, something much more important, and neither of them had ever backed down from a battle.

Soldier kept one hand at the back of Demo’s head, curling his fingers slowly through the thick dark hair, and the other grabbed a handful of red cotton and tartan wool to use as leverage and wordlessly prompt Demo to move. He did, haltingly at first until he found a slow, steady rhythm, rolling their hips together and feeling Soldier’s hands clutch at him when he got it just right.

It wasn’t sex. If it was, it was the most clothed sex Demo had ever had, and it didn’t feel like the mad race for the finish he’d come to associate with the end of a successful night on the town. Women liked him to take control, be in charge. This was all about giving up control, about trust. About feeling the joy of their shared closeness after so long apart. It was an aspect of their friendship they’d never explored, but it felt so natural now that Demo had to wonder at the easiness of it, the complete lack of the awkwardness he always felt with new lovers.

But then Soldier wasn’t his lover, even now. Or maybe they’d been lovers for a long time without realising it.

“Tavish—“ Soldier gasped. He turned his head, dragged the rough rasp of his stubbled cheek down Demo’s jawline to moan softly into his ear, a please in his voice that he’d never utter in words. “Goddamnit, I need—can I just—“

The naked need in his voice made Demo so hard it almost hurt. He raised himself onto his knees so Soldier could get a hand in between them and unzip his fatigue pants, pulling them down just enough and then as an afterthought lifting up Demo’s kilt just enough too.

The new touch of skin on skin was burning hot, temptingly forbidden, and it sure as hell felt like sex this time when Soldier rolled his hips. Demo gripped him tightly, his head lolling forward against Soldier’s cheek when Soldier slid them against each other, using his own cut length to tease back Demo’s foreskin and touch those heads together too.

They rocked against each other, held each other, sharing a visceral pleasure, a tender pledge. This was theirs, this moment, too private for words, their gasps and moans and mutual touches saying everything that needed be said.

Soldier arched his back, thrusting up against Demo, and Demo shifted to accommodate him, affording him the muscular expanse of his stomach under the kilt. The tickle of curly black hair intertwining with wiry brown against the most sensitive part of him was a novel experience, as was the heat and the friction when his own cock slipped lower and found a narrow space between Soldier’s thighs. It was so different from anything he’d tried before to fuck that tight gap, the softness of Soldier’s balls brushing against the base of him, and still so, so good.

Jane,” he groaned, said it again and again, jane, jane, jane, in time with his thrusts, because he wanted Soldier to know that this was all for him, that he felt this too, wanted this too, an apology and a promise and a plea all wrapped up in that one name.

“Tavish,” Soldier ground out in return, a gasp turned a hiss on the last syllable. “Yeah, Tavish, yeah, that’s it, that’s it right there, god, I’m gonna come—“

“Aye, me too,” Demo breathed, and maybe that should’ve been their clue to pull apart but they didn’t, couldn’t.

Demo felt Soldier go tense, hugging him close, and then there was warmth wet against him again, not spit and not blood, and he found he didn’t care at all. He grabbed Soldier’s thighs in his broad hands, squeezed them together under him and bucked into the sweat-slick crack between them, and then he was coming too, Soldier rubbing his back in lazy circles as he cried out through clenched teeth and made a mess of Soldier’s fatigues.

He slumped against Soldier, his head on his shoulder, Soldier’s arms around him, and for a long, long moment neither of them spoke.

“I missed you, Tavish,” Soldier said eventually, when his ragged gasps had evened out to slow, deep breaths. “So damn much.”

And was there really anything else left to say, now? “Missed ye too, Jane.”

Another moment of comfortable silence followed. Then Soldier sighed and shifted, touching a finger gently to the dark bruise in the shape of half a shovel blade across Demo’s cheek. It still hurt like hell, but not so much as it had, dulled in the hazy aftermath of an intense orgasm.

“I don’t want to kill you again.”

“Ye’ll have tae do it, Jane, it’s yer job too,” Demo pointed out, reaching up to curl their fingers together against his cheek and enjoying the scratching of trigger-calloused fingertips through his stubble. “But that’s nae meanin’ we cannae hae this also. We jes’ have tae be stealthy aboot it, ye ken, keep it doon under RED’s an’ BLU’s radar.” He pressed a gentle kiss to Soldier’s neck, just because he could, then smiled rebelliously against the pale skin there. “They may contractually bind us tae takin’ each others’ lives, but they’ll never take oor friendship!”

“Damn right!” Soldier roared, then went quiet again, sending him a sly glance. “So... do you still have your panties in a bunch about me winning the war?”

“I’m nae wearing panties, ye twit,” Demo snorted, and damned if it didn’t make something flip-flop pleasantly in his chest to see Soldier grin again out the corner of his eye. “But nae. I’m feelin’ forgivin’, in the spirit of Christmas an’ all.”

Smissmas,” Soldier corrected, stressing the pronunciation. “The miracle birth of God-given consumerism!” He caught the look of confused disbelief on Demo’s face and drew back, feigning shock. “What, are you a godless communist as well as RED?! Christ, Tavish, it’s in the damn Bible! With this season of senseless shopping we celebrate three wise men from the East Coast inventing GIFTS, the giving of! It’s about all-American family values! Like money! And feuding! And pretending to smile delightedly when unwrapping some stupid kid’s home-made clay ashtray and useless gewgaws from your granny!” He counted them off on his fingers, then punched the mattress for emphasis. “Frankincense! Myrrh! What practical use would that hippie bullshit be to a growing first-century family of three?! I guarantee you that weren’t on anybody’s fragging wish list, but they got it ANYWAY, and THAT’S THE GODDAMNED SPIRIT OF SMISSMAS!”

Demo rolled his eye. “Aye, an’ tae think all these years th’ old C o’ E got it wrong, eh?” he grinned. Soldier’s passion was infectious and he was feeling far too good right now, pressed this close against his friend’s warm body, to start an argument about the American understanding of Christmas. “Well, in that case, Jane, I think I might hae a present for ye too.”

“You do?” Soldier looked down dubiously at Demo’s state of undress, obviously wondering where he’d stash a wrapped box big enough to hold anything of interest, like deep-fried ribs or a hat. “What is it? Was it expensive?”

“Oh, aye,” Demo said slowly. “Almost cost me th’ best thing I ever had.”

“That is acceptable,” Soldier conceded. “Give it here then! That’s an order!” The command was a parade-ground bark, sharp and demanding, but there was that glint in his eyes again, the one he’d had so often before the war. He was insane, no doubt about it, on the battlefield and off, but sometimes Demo had to wonder how much of it was genuine mental pathology and how much was just Soldier having too much damn fun to want to conform to anyone’s expectations, least of all society’s.

And Demo laughed, his spirit uplifted in a way no amount of holiday cheer had ever managed. Soldier was right, damnit! Nobody ever got given what they wanted, did they, even when they toed the line and put themselves on the nice list. All his life he’d tried to do what’d been expected of him, what his proud Scottish heritage demanded, what his parents wished, what his employers ordered, and he’d never felt better for any of it, had never felt truly happy at all—until he met this crazy BLU Soldier. Until now, in this stolen moment, pressed half-naked against his best friend, exposed and unguarded, feeling he could take on the whole world like this and win with him by his side.

And maybe that was the true meaning of Christmas after all, to stop caring about money and family fights and just get his own damn gifts. He caught Soldier’s too-blue eyes with his own single brown, smearing the stickiness between them when he lifted a hand to brush the thumb softly over Soldier’s lips before leaning in.

“Merry Christmas, Jane,” he murmured, close enough to feel Soldier’s smile twist into that challenging grin again, and he held out for as long as he could, heart beating faster than during any Sudden-Death stand-off, until one of them, or both, finally surrendered and closed that last tiny sliver of distance between them.

-----

29 .

>>27

(I don't think Kilo's done but I'll respond now anyway.)

I wrote #8 and I'm glad you liked it. I'm sorry though. I admit I rushed it, since it took me so long to get any ideas going. If you have any suggestions for changes, I'll make them.

30 .

>>2
This is the best.

31 .

>>30

Thank you! I was a bit worried that nobody liked it since nobody said a word about it... (I bet that happened to more people who joined in the Secret santa)

32 .

Okay, so I think I'm gonna comment now.

These were some of the best fics I've ever read. Christmas day was me compulsively checking the computer every half hour waiting for these to be posted. Completely blown away by some of these, the pairings and what people did with them. I didn't participate this year but I swear, next year if it happens I'll be one of the first to sign up.

33 .

What 32 said, minus the whole signing up thing. Brilliant job to everyone who participated.

34 .

Pretty much what >>32 said.

I wish i could refer to each fic with real reviews about what i loved, but it all boils down to "it was sooooooo gooooooood."

I will say though that my favorites were >>8 >>21 and >>22.
The former and latter made me cry, and the middle was just so sweet and i'm sucker for that kinda shit (plus it's one of my favorite pairings).

I regret not signing up this year. Next time for sure.

35 .

To the person who wrote my request, >>16 I have this to say: I love you. It's ten times more than I originally hoped for. Many underage squeals were had when I stumbled across it the day after Christmas.

36 .

Huge thanks to the excellent writer who filled my request! I really love it!

37 .

>>35

I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for giving me an excuse to spend a month working on Heavy/Medic fluff.
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