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No. 75
Every repost is a repost repost. Originally by Charshy.

-Change Your Mind, Part I-

Scout couldn't sleep.

It was his first week that he'd been out in the middle of nowhere – "Dustbowl", it was affectionately dubbed by his new team-mates – and he had woken up that night in a nightmare-induced sweat. Yesterday had been his first time in the field, and it had impacted upon his psyche. He had dreamed of blood, of dying, of fire and bullets and helplessness.

As soon as he had bolted upright from his sleep, he realised he was in no danger; more than anything he was annoyed at himself. Always happened to the rookies, this kind of psychological shit, from what he'd heard. He was just pissed he happened to end up being one of them.

He wasn't about to get back to sleep, not when he could still hear screams inside his head. He decided to head outside to cool off a bit, calm his mind down and relax, before heading back to bed.

The corridors of the base were silent, until he reached the last set of security doors that separated him from outside. A muffled voice, and a tune.

He stepped out into the night air, and saw a small fire, by which the team Engineer was sitting, playing a guitar. And singing. Now there was a talent he hadn't expected of someone who spent his time around machines more than people. Some sort of country folk song that Scout didn't know or really care about, but he had to admit the man played and sung it well.

Engineer had reached the end of his verse, and now was just strumming a tune idly. Scout took the opportunity to make his presence known. "Hey."

Engineer looked up from where he was sitting. "Hey," he answered, whilst still playing the same few chords of his guitar, not seeming self-conscious at all. "Didn't figure you to be a night-owl."

"Couldn't sleep," Scout lied, with a shrug. "Mind if I sit?"

"Not at all," Engineer answered, stopping to tune his guitar. "It's a nice night."

Scout looked up. It was cloudless and it was warm, especially with the fire in front of them, crackling as it at up the tumbleweed dispersed amongst the wood. The smoke dispersed into a starry sky.

"I guess so," Scout said, staring upward, a little awed. Everything was quiet apart from the fire and the chirp of crickets and Engineer plucking at his guitar. It was strangely soothing, and suddenly he could see the appeal of it. "... Never saw this many stars back home."

"Well, enjoy it," Engineer said, smiling, and patting his guitar, "yer don't get many quiet ones around here. Just watch the stars, and sing a little." He pulled a string, and satisfied with the sound, adjusted it on his knee to play. "Feel free to join in, kid."

"I don't sing." Scout replied at once, with a slight scowl, objecting to being called "kid".

Engineer ignored him, and strummed gently, getting the feel for the rhythm, experimenting. "You need to relax," Engineer said, as patient as ever. "Here, kid." He picked up a beer from the little crate sitting beside him, and offered the bottle up.

Scout took it, surprised, but grateful. "Hey, thanks."

Engineer grinned, and took a swig of the one sitting on the log beside him. "Now, try a song with me."

Scout felt uncomfortable as Engineer broke into a swaying, gentle song about the harvest or some other country bumpkin theme. It was definitely not his style. His crowd back home would've never let him live it down, singing shit like that.

He listened though, and drank, and it was simple and companionable. Scout had missed home straightaway when he'd been sent out here, and found it difficult to get along with his... unusual team, but he felt for the first time that he might just fit in.

Engineer was looking at him encouragingly, and nudged him as he repeated a chorus, and he found himself joining it, although he was pretty self-conscious.

"Nice," Engineer said, as the last note died away. "Not so bad, is it."

"Heh," Scout said noncommittally, scratching the back of his neck, feeling his cheeks burn. Fucking sucked, having fair skin that showed blushing, but at least there was a fire distorting the colours. "...Just don't tell the others, okay?"

"Fine by me," Engineer said, putting down his guitar. "But you know, there's no need to get uptight about it. World's not perfect. Ain't anybody you need to impress out here, save for on the battlefield."

Scout wasn't convinced, but wasn't about to say so. "Yesterday, when we fought... did I do alright?"

"Absolutely fine," Engineer answered, noticing Scout had an empty by his feet and tossed him another beer, and his opener. "Gotta admit, when we heard about you joining us we were sceptical, but you run like yer on hot coals."

"Huh." Scout flipped the top off of his beer and the lid could be heard to ricochet off a rock nearby. "Is that why everyone's been cold-shouldering me?"

"No. No one's been cold-shouldering you, kid. You just keep mouthing off and it's pretty tiresome." Engineer said this matter-of-factly, but with a light, warning note to it, and Scout frowned, suddenly irritated.

"What, because they keep acting like assholes? You think I'm just gonna put up with being called "maggot" or "kid" or "baby" instead of being given some respect?"

"Respect is earned, kid."

Scout bristled. "Hey look. You assholes put a request in for a runner like me; you can shut up with that kind of philosophical crap."

"Now look here, kid," Engineer said sternly all of a sudden, leaning forward towards him. "You need to get things straight. Round here, no matter what our quirks are, we're family." Scout could feel the other man's glare from behind his trademark goggles. "So you accept ‘em, the sooner the better, and they'll accept you. Keep up an attitude, and you'll have a hard time."

"I don't have a fucking attitude - !"

"... just like that," Engineer remarked. "Now. We can continue this evening like adults, or you can shout at me to yer heart's content. I don't really mind, but personally, I'd rather have a new ally than an in-fight."

One of Scout's hands clenched into a fist, but a gentle breeze cooled the heat of his anger, and the other man simply looked him calmly as though he had all the patience in the world for whatever he yelled and Scout found he couldn't be properly pissed off at someone who had given him beer and put up with him being irritable.

Scout sighed, conceding. "I'll try."

"Attaboy." Engineer clapped his hand on his shoulder. "Now, don't take it personally, I didn't enjoy that much either. Let's just admire the night."

"...Alright."

"I'm going to play a song my Ma used to sing to me as a kid. This place reminds me of near where I grew up..."

Engineer played a much slower song than before, and Scout felt relaxed, listening to it. It was a peaceful tune, like a lullaby or a serenade, and Engineer was singing it to the night air – and him - without a care in the world. Christ, if only he could do something, he thought, and not give a crap...

When Engineer finished, he turned around to his companion, but Scout was slumped asleep across the log. He couldn't help but smile at the kid half-curled into a ball. It was getting pretty late at this time. In a few hours it would be dawn. He couldn't really blame him.

He felt bad he hadn't noticed Scout was dropping off to sleep, and didn't have the heart to wake him up. Fortunately, all those years mending and fixing had left him pretty strong, and Scout was pretty skinny. He lifted the kid up in his arms and carried him inside.

He was actually kind of cute asleep, he thought. He looked more vulnerable, less like a city-hardened little punk. Engineer was reserving judgement on their newcomer. He didn't think they'd send someone who looked so young... he was pretty sure when he was that age, he had just entered University, and war hadn't been the first thing on his mind...

He felt like he should watch over him, if only just to see how he turned out.
Marked for deletion (old)
>> No. 76
-Change Your Mind, Part II-

When Scout awoke, the sun was right on his eyelids through a crack in the blinds of the cell-like window. He got up, and remembered dozing off by the fire. When did he get back to his room?

He dressed, and decided to go find Engineer again, mulling over his thoughts on the way.

It didn’t take long to find him, as the sound of metal-on-metal filled the hallway to the workroom, where he was known to lock himself in for hours at a time. Scout had heard that much already.

He peered around the door, and saw Engineer with his sleeves rolled up, oil stains over his hands and knees, doing something with some spindly tripod.

"Hey, man."

Engineer looked up. "Mornin’, Scout."

"Did you get me back to my room? I mean... sorry about that."

"Heh, you was sleeping like a babe. Didn’t seem right to wake you." Engineer said, with a smile.

Scout stepped inside the room, kicking the door shut behind him. "I was thinking," he began, looking away momentarily, leaning back against the door.

"What’s on your mind?" Engineer asked, picking up a bolt from the ground that he’d been missing.

"Thought about what you said," Scout answered, scuffling his foot against the floor, finding this talk distasteful, but a necessity. "...I’m gonna do my best."

It took Engineer a moment to work out what he was referring to, and then he smiled. "Glad to hear it."

Scout smiled back, awkwardly. He couldn’t quite work out what was going on behind the other man’s goggles. "Um. That’s all." He looked at the tripod that had gotten Engineer into such an oily mess, and his curiosity got the better of him. "... What the hell is that, anyway?"

Engineer was delighted at the question. "This, my boy, is gonna have BLU scattering when it’s finished. This is just the prototype." He got up, and went to the nearby workbench, and beckoned Scout over, showing him a small box in the palm of his hand. Scout looked confused, and Engineer grinned. "Now, this is how it’s gonna work. I carry out this box ta the battlefield. I press a button or two, and..."

He flicked a small switch in the side of the box and with a click, the box sprung open onto itself, becoming a tripod similar to the one in the middle of the room.

"... instant weaponry."

Scout blinked. "You can do that?"

"That’s what I’m working on right now, son."

"That’s awesome!"

Engineer laughed. "It’s what I’m here for."

"That’s seriously freaking sweet," Scout said, amazed. "We just chuck one or two boxes out and they run for cover!"

"Heh, I wish. Stubborn, they are." Engineer shrugged. "But hey, the upper hand works." He watched as Scout looked over his prototype with wide, eager eyes.

"But it’s incredible," Scout said, picking it up, and turning it over. "I wish I was good at something other than running, you know."

Engineer made a small noise of disagreement. "Yer here because of it, you know. Shouldn’t knock yer talents so much."

"Well, yeah, but this is friggin’ genius."

"So?" Engineer actually gave Scout a concerned glance. "You could’ve run the Olympics. Coulda had a couple o’ shiny medals for runnin’ and jumping." He wondered where this attitude had come from all of a sudden. From what he’d seen of Scout, he’d not been one to belittle himself.

Scout scowled suddenly. "What the fuck would I want with hunks of metal round my friggin’ neck? They’d be in the pawn shop the day after."

"Fame and glory instead of anonymity don’t appeal?"

"It wouldn’t feed my Mom and brothers."

Scout shrugged, but Engineer sensed the boy felt he’d said too much.

"So, we’re the same," Engineer said slowly. "We coulda done anything with our lives. But we’re here workin’ for RED. Me? I like being paid to build things, not having to pay Universities for the equipment. Yer here as part of the best-of-the-best, and that’s all that matters."

"Yeah." Scout quickly changed the subject to cover his earlier slip. "So, how do you control this thing?"

Engineer smiled. "Well, it’s gonna be automatic. Respond to BLU colours."

Scout was amazed. Engineer didn’t seem to be at all aware how spectacular these things were, if he could actually make them.

"... How long does it take?"

"Well, I have to make a prototype first. Ain’t no good to anyone if it doesn’t go through a test run. I’ll probably be done by midnight if I work straight through." Engineer chuckled. "Never knew you were so curious, boy!"

"Hey man," Scout grinned back at him. "Weren’t you just saying we were all equally good at stuff and that?"

"Right."

"Then quit calling me kid’s names, would ya?" Scout was smiling though.

"Fair enough, when you put it like that. I’ll treat yer like an adult so long as you act it," Engineer answered steadily, returning to his half-completed invention, dragging his toolbox closer. "So, what are you up to today?" Engineer asked, making easy small talk.

"Thought I’d write home and let Mom know I’m surviving my first week of work," Scout answered. "She doesn’t know I’m fighting a war here, though. Just gave out the cover story."

"Yer real close to yer family," Engineer commented.

"Not so much," Scout half-lied. "I mean... it’s weird not seeing ‘em all, but it’s nice to not have to be last for everything. Being the youngest sucks, you know? And I have a bigger room here, too."

Engineer nodded, piecing together a rough idea of Scout’s situation from the little tidbits he was given. He didn’t want to pry, but he’d seen the recruitment file. Scout hadn’t had a nice, easy life like he had.

"Anyway, I’ll catch you later at dinner?" Scout asked, heading for the door.

"Afraid not. I’ll be in here," Engineer answered. "I’ll warm up whatever’s leftover when I’m done, don’t worry about me."

He and Scout argued this for a few minutes, before Scout was given a friendly shoo. So when dinner rolled around, he made a second plate up for Engineer, feeling a little bad he’d miss out on it whilst it was hot. Medic wasn’t half a bad cook, though not as good as back home.

"Oi, taking more than your fair share, ain’t ya?" Sniper snapped, noting Scout helping himself to a second plate.

"Fuck off, man," Scout said irritably, not in a good mood, having been ignored by everyone for half-an-hour over the table. "It’s for Engy."

"Yeah, right." Sniper snorted.

"Leave the brat alone, Sniper," Spy said in a bored voice.

"And you," Scout wheeled around, easily riled up, and fed up of being given shit, "can shut the hell up as well, frog."

"Arr, would ye all stop calling each other blasted names! Yer giving me a headache!" Demoman roared, but pointing his bottled hand accusatorily at Scout more than anyone, glaring at him out of his one good eye.

"Oh, fuck you all," Scout announced in disgust, sweeping out of the room with a plate and fork, slamming the door behind him with a bang.

The tips of his ears were still flushed slightly red by the time he’d marched down to Engineer’s workroom. Whirring sounds and sparks greeted his eyes as he came in, as Engineer was welding something. The spindly little tripod looked much tougher now.

"Hey, pardner," Engineer greeted, turning off the flame.

Scout held out the plate. "I, uh, brought you dinner."

Engineer looked surprised. "Hey... thanks," he said gratefully, taking it, not minding that he left an oily thumbprint on the edge of it. "You didn’t have to."

"It was nothing." Scout rubbed the back of his neck. "To be honest, I wanted any excuse to get the hell out of there." He explained what had happened.

Engineer groaned. "Scout. I told you – "

"They fucking started on me! What was I supposed to do, roll over?"

"Don’t matter," Engineer answered flatly. "This ain’t playschool. Out here, we’re all distrustful oddities with our own unique vocations, and they sure as hell ain’t gonna make an effort for you if you don’t try and fit in."

It took Scout a moment to wrap his head around some of the words in that. "But..." He sighed, raising his hands in surrender. "Since I got here, you’re the only one who’s actually said anything nice to me."

"So I’m a soft touch," Engineer confessed through a mouthful, shrugging slightly. "I’m not sayin’ they’re not a pain in the proverbial at times. Just you gotta relax, you know? Earn some points. S’not enough to just do that on the battlefield."

Scout sighed. "I guess."

There was a silence, as Engineer ate his dinner, looking at Scout in a kindly manner, and Scout grateful for the simple company. "I mean... you don’t hate me, right?" he asked, after a while.

"Of course not."

"... That’s cool, then."
>> No. 77
-Change Your Mind, Part III-

The day after, there was no talking, except in tense mutterings, for it seemed the dust was stirring around BLU. It was an attack – earlier than expected, but not entirely unanticipated; Spy had done a good reconnaissance job as to their current activities in weeks previous: deliveries and movements in their base.

It seemed like only minutes after Soldier had shouted himself nearly hoarse in a torrent of "inspiring" insults at the team they were suddenly facing down the opposite side, who had the same technology, the same expertise, the same deadliness.

But they, of course, held deadly secrets from RED, and no mercy was shown; Scout learned that quickly during his first battle. In the second, he was better prepared for the battle-high, theory now practice. His team mates let him run ahead, weaving around the main fray, in order to gain ground into their territory, just as planned...

He grinned as he noticed Engineer hurriedly setting up his new experimental gun nearby, somewhere below the higher ground he was running along. And he was about to be backed by Sniper.

... Sniper? But he was set up in the toolshed by the –

Shit!

Scout jumped down without a moment's hesitation, skidding in the dirt down the near-vertical chasm, running in with his trusty baseball bat, letting it smack round the enemy Spy's face with a resounding crack.

"Ha!"

Engineer looked momentarily bewildered, but saw the disguise flicker and fade, and burst into a huge grin. "Thanks, pardner."

Scout nodded, but gunfire made him look up: he'd lost the ground he'd gained with his speed by getting down there. He cursed, and ran, dodging bullets as he tried to find the least deadly way towards the base, but he had been spotted now, and the enemy rapidly filled the weak spot in their defences.

The rest of the battle did not go well, and Scout had to bear the brunt of his team's anger when they were gathered back at base, having to retreat against the intense firepower of BLU. He knew he was in for it before it happened, as the only person who would stand anywhere near him was Engineer, and he seemed to walk beside him somewhat protectively, which he deliberately kept a few paces ahead of. He could handle /himself/ against whatever they had to say.

Or yell.

"INSUBORDINATION!" Soldier roared, inches from his face. "YOU ABANDONED THE MISSION THAT WAS ENTRUSTED TO YOU, THAT YOUR FELLOWS RISKED THEIR LIVES –"

"Soldier," Engineer said, trying to interject for the thousandth time, but not succeeding, Scout noticed. Everyone was hopped up on anger and ignoring his calm and quiet voice. He was not doing much help defending, and besides, Scout was /not/ going to be intimidated. He'd faced down bigger and uglier thugs back home.

"Aye laddie, and ah nearly lost mah one good eye fer yoo!" Demoman slurred in past Soldier, already working on his personal post-battle drunken stupor.

"- YOU MAGGOT – "

"Wanker."

"And I had cleared the path ahead, too," Spy scoffed, but Scout had a feeling the man wouldn't be impressed even if he'd taken out the entire team single-handedly. He was, however, fed up of phasing out the shouting in his face, bubbling with anger under the surface, and he finally exploded.

"I stopped to save your frickin' Engineer's ass," Scout finally yelled at the top of his lungs – and he had a lot of air in them to run as he did. "Alright? How many times do I have to fucking repeat myself!?"

"DO YOU THINK THE WAR WAS WON BECAUSE WE STOPPED TO MOP UP THE TRENCHES?!" Soldier yelled, with renewed volume. "YOU SORRY EXCUSE FOR A SOLDIER, THE PENALTY FOR DISOBEYING YOUR COMMANDING OFFICER – "

"Shut the fuck up already, you ain't my commanding officer, dumbass!"

But Scout realised a moment too late he'd said the wrong thing. You did not tell a mentally unstable war nut he actually had no control over his team. He could even see the others back away.

Soldier shook with rage. "YOU ARE SCUM! YOU ARE THE LOWEST AND SMALLEST MAGGOT I'VE EVER SET –"

"Fuck you!" Scout finally yelled, fed up, and stormed from the room, running back to his own. Door could be heard slamming in his wake.

"- AND YOU DO NOT RUN WHEN I AM IN THE MIDDLE OF REPRIMANDING –"

"Soldier," Engineer said, wearily, for the umpteenth time, and was relieved when he actually paused mid-rant, looking at him like he had just entered the room. "He /did/ save my life, you know. Anyone mind me asking why this is a bad thing?"

"You are looking too short-term," Spy answered first, snippily. "The safety of the world depends on our success. It took me weeks to acquire all the information we needed to strike back. Today, all the conditions were favourable. Had Scout kept running – as he was hired to do – we would be heroes tomorrow."

"Except me," Engineer countered, very pointedly, "unless we're countin' posthumously, which I'm not a fan of."

"Look," Sniper said out of exasperation, "it's not like we wanted you dead, mate, but one of us would've got ‘im for ya."

"HE IS A LIABILITY!" Soldier finally shouted, although it seemed he only wanted to just to use the impressively long word in a sentence. "... AND A /MAGGOT/."

Engineer finally stood up, setting his jaw. He was not the kind to get angry; he was too placid, but he did not tolerate unfairness. "You might at least give him a chance-" Engineer began.

"Engineer," Medic said wearily from the corner, where he was pressing surgical spirit onto Heavy's arm as he winced, "you are awfully defensive of the boy. Soldier is right; he went exactly against the plan. Whether or not this saved you or not, we cannot /allow/ these kinds of mistakes." He patted Heavy's hand, smiling at him reassuringly before picking up a bandage.

"Well," Engineer drawled. "It might help if ya'll quit giving conflicting orders, then. First you say he ain't part of the team. Well, he put himself out to save me, I'd say that's part of a team right there. And then it's about following the plan?" he shook his head. "Some of you, I've never seen ya'll follow a plan to the letter."

"Congratulations on finding a saviour," Spy said unconcernedly, drawing out a cigarette, but getting such a glare from Medic, he began to leave the room. "Go say goodbye to the brat. He'll be gone soon enough."

"That'd better not be a threat, Spah-"

"As if I would waste my valuable resources on a non-BLU," Spy snorted, turning his head behind him. "He'll be sent home when the superiors read the first personnel report, is what I mean."

Engineer gritted his teeth in frustration. Did no one else want to at least give him a chance? "I never thought, considerin' we're from all over the place, any of yer'd be such xenophobes. Suggest ya'll think about the fact I'm still breathing. Thanks for carin' about that."

Engineer slouched off, thoroughly disgusted with his team mates' behaviour, leaving them silent.

"I AM NOT A TWINKLY MUSICAL INSTRUMENT!" he heard Soldier finally shout behind him.
>> No. 78
-Change Your Mind, Part IV-

Engineer rapped on the door to Scout's room.

"Fuck off," was the snappy reply from inside, though the voice sounded subdued.

"It's me, Scout..." Engineer spoke into the tiny crack in the wood where it met the doorframe, hoping he could hear. "I ain't here ta yell at ya."

Silence.

Then, "what do you want?"

Engineer sighed. "Actually... I wanted to say thanks," he said, more quietly. "For savin' mah life... and that."

Scout appeared at the door, opening it cautiously, checking it was just Engineer, clearly not wanting to see anyone else there. "You're welcome." He looked him over, and continued suddenly, "I like you. You don't treat me like dirt."

Engineer sighed. "Trust me, I'm going to be havin' words with them." He looked at Scout, honest behind his goggles. "Can I come in?"

The boy nodded, and let the other man in, shutting the door behind him. "It's kinda a mess right now, but I'm workin' on it. Haven't got unpacked fully yet..."

It seemed to Engineer that Scout had unpacked entirely, but had forgotten to finish the job. His room was a tempest of shirts and shorts, socks and comics and smaller boxes. He wisely chose to keep his mouth closed on the subject for now. But it did remind him, looking over it all, just how young he was...

The hardhat politely stood as Scout casually hopped over a pile on the floor and sat on his bed.

"But hey, it's alright man," he said brightly all of a sudden, once sat cross-legged on his mattress, "I don't need therapy or nothin'."

Engineer felt a twang of pity. He was looking at all those teeth as the boy grinned up at him, but he was sure in his gut that it was just a front. Did the boy really not feel he could be honest with him? Or did he always smother his weaknesses, and pretend they weren't there?

... Or was he just reading things too deeply because he had a bit of a soft spot for their newest team mate?

"Well," Engineer began, a little bit flummoxed. "If you get a problem, you can come see me. I'll try and sort it for ya."

"Heh, then it's true what they say, Engy," Scout said, with a bit of a grin. "You just like fixin' everything."

Engineer felt a little bit of a flush rise at his neck, and he couldn't explain or rationalise it at all, rubbing at his nape with one hand. "Yeah, perhaps I do," was his only answer.

Scout just rocked idly back and forth on the bed, lips slightly pursed, obviously uncomfortable by the sudden quiet and not knowing what to say.

"Hey, you know," Engineer said after a moment with a bit of a smile, "I was one o' the first on the team, ‘long with Heavy. And he gave Medic a real hard time at first, too."

"Really?" Scout's legs folded under themselves on the bed again, leaning forward to compensate. "But they're like, best buddies."

Engineer chuckled a little, at Scout's sudden piqued interest, as well as how little he knew... he'd find out, sooner or later, but he wouldn't be the one to tell. "Yep, there was a bit of history stickin' between those two. You know." He paused. "Or maybe ya don't, you were probably just a twinkle -"

"Yeah, I kinda got the idea." Scout said, rolling his eyes. He'd skipped most of his classes in school, sure, but damn he wasn't so insular to not have realised there had been a world war about twenty years ago.

"Right. So one night, there was a huge fight in the infirmary. Think Heavy broke a lot of Medic's equipment, just broken glass all over place. Never seen the doc so angry."

"Really?" Scout looked inordinately pleased. "What happened?"

"I don't know, I stayed away. You think I'd stand between a brawling Heavy and an angry Medic?" Engineer shook his head. "I let ‘em to it. They eventually worked things out, so, you know, things change."

"Medic's alright, though," Scout admitted grudgingly. "Least, he shouts less. What about Soldier? He's an ass."

"Soldier's always like that," Engineer grinned. "I wouldn't worry about a thing he says."

"Spy," Scout said firmly. The Frenchman had said not one good thing to him since he had arrived on base.

"Spy? Heh, Spy don't consider anyone his friend. He still likes ta pretend he's James Bond and all that. But he likes the team more than he lets on. Don't think he's used to it. Though he and Sniper wind each other up somethin' terrible." Engineer added, thoughtfully. "But I think it livens up their day, or somethin'. Spy always tries ta threaten me with sappin' something, but he soon gives up when I pay him no notice..."

"And how ‘bout you, Engy," Scout said, giving Engineer a look. "You didn't fight with anyone?"

The other man's lips quirked at the nickname, but he answered readily. "Aw, I got a little hassle. But I spend most of my time buildin' stuff, so I never really got bothered with. Guess I was kinda boring."

Scout made a small noise, obviously put-out by Engineer's ready answers. The guy was so smart, he was nice, and he was just a stupid little kid by comparison. "It's not fair," he said, finally, looking away.

Engineer heard something in Scout's voice. A little fault, the barest note of upset, and it was instinct that made him move over and sit beside the boy, clapping a hand onto his shoulder. "Aw, come on now," he said warmly, giving his shoulder a small, firm shake. "You're a long way from home, and it feels like everything's difficult. But trust me, things'll change. I promise."

Scout smiled just a little. It was funny, he had heard a hell of a lot of bullshit in his life thus far from many people, but Engineer was... believably honest. He'd grown up to trust no one, but he felt so reassured by this man's promise. "Thanks, Engy."

"It's been a long day," Engineer said, withdrawing his hand. "Tomorrow, they'll be in a better mood, and you'll feel better after a good night's sleep."

"Man, you sound like, I dunno," Scout searched for words, "like a wise man or something."

Engineer just chuckled. "Naw, just old."

"Not that old, are ya?"

Engineer paused at that. "Old enough."

"Well, for an old guy then, I think you're pretty cool." Scout just grinned, and Engineer felt something flutter inside him at the compliment.

"Uh, thanks."

Scout stretched. "Mm. Ain't I supposed ta see Medic or somethin' after battle? Some routine shit, like last time?"

"I s'pect he'll be too wrapped up in Heavy to want ta deal with it tonight," Engineer answered, "he'll probably haul you down to the infirmary tomorrow, when he's in a better mood."

Scout nodded, and Engineer thought maybe he was overstaying his welcome. It was a bit strange, standing in the younger man's room like this...

"Well, I'm going to go work for a bit before turnin' in. Something relaxing."

The younger man let out a brief snort of laughter, "yeah. Sounds real relaxing," he said, with amused sarcasm. "You gun nut."

The breadth of Scout's grin made Engineer aware it was meant with affection. He found himself returning the smile, though sheepishly. "You be good now," he said, drawing a blank otherwise for an answer (why was that?), before leaving with a casual wave, shutting the door behind him.

And letting out a slow, long breath. What was going on with him, getting all sentimental all of a sudden? He always had a sense of teamwork and mediation, but he just wasn't the type to get so... so...

Perturbed, he frowned as he returned to his room for the night, gazing at the floor as though it might help him as he uneasily sifted through his thoughts, analysing his rationale and actions with a fine-tooth comb. Maybe he just more empathetic than he thought, to side with Scout over the rest of his team. He concluded his feelings had to be paternal, that he wanted to nurture Scout into the team, not exclude him as automatically as the others had.

Nonetheless, he found himself uncomfortable and awake late into the night, even as his body demanded rest for its hard work during the day's battle. Only when he was too tired to let his mind wander did he finally feel able to relax into his sheets, and drift off into long, hard sleep.
>> No. 79
Another blazingly hot day seared over the BLU base at Dustbowl. It was a day for recuperation, though not before the day's duties were met.

"Scout."

The youngest team member looked up with a mouth full of cereal to a tired and slightly irritable Medic, if his clipped tones were anything to go by: "meet me in the infirmary when you're finished."

"Okay, doc," Scout affirmed through his cereal with a nod, steadfastly ignoring whatever looks the others might have had thrown at him for his casual address of Medic.

He had done some thinking of his own after Engineer had let him be for the evening. The hardhat was a good guy, and he felt bad just remembering what he'd said the night he'd been playing his guitar: "you just keep mouthing off and it's pretty tiresome"...

Well. He didn't want to be a nuisance, especially not to Engineer. He wanted to prove he could do this. He didn't want to be sent back in disgrace. He didn't want to imagine how disappointed the other man might look behind those dark glass lenses. That spurred him more than the thought of returning empty-handed to his family.

It wasn't apparent, but Scout had decided what he was going to do.

He was soon sitting in the infirmary, being poked and prodded by the doctor, and this time, he was quiet.

Medic noticed, too. He had examined Scout twice – once when he had entered, and again after the first battle – and he had been thoroughly poorly-behaved, angry and childish. This time, he was able to get through the entire procedure quickly and painlessly, even when he had his less-than-professional hands taking not-strictly-necessary liberties in examining healthy young skin.

"Any health complaints?" Medic asked finally, finding Scout to be a well-oiled running machine.

"Nope, I'm good," Scout replied readily, looking at the other man directly.

Medic leaned over his desk and quickly scribbled something down on paper. Scout kept quiet, resisting the urge to ask if he was finished. He was impatient by nature, but he was doing his best, legs kicking back and forth under the table he was sitting on.

"Scout," Medic said finally, straightening up, and looking at him appraisingly, "you're quiet today." The awkwardness was apparent as he continued, "I – we – well... yesterday..."

"It's alright, doc," Scout interjected with a dismissive wave, saving Medic the pain of explaining. He didn't need an apology; where he came from, you didn't get those. Medic acknowledging the fact - that was enough. "I guess I can understand why you got mad... I was disappointed too, ya know?"

Medic smiled a little, relieved at the understanding. "Ja. We have had too many failures, and then you arrived... I think maybe we believed a new recruit would solve everything."

"... Huh."

That did make Scout see things differently. It explained the sudden request, "take-it-or-leave-it" job offer that had been thrust at him – and that he'd taken with very few questions. For that amount of money? It was worth the risk of being blown to bits. It wasn't like he'd get hired for much else back home.

"They didn't tell you that, I see," Medic said, his smile more wry.

"Naw, I just got dumped out here with a briefing."

Medic chuckled ominously, "sounds about right."

From there, the pair of them talked a little about BLU, and what the war meant. In the process, a few things became apparent. The team was everything out there in the desert, and Scout began to see why he had upset the balance – though he tried to explain his side of the story, too. The conditions of his assignment from his briefing had been played up considerably, and Medic seemed to sympathise as he explained. It gave him hope, that he might be able to sort things out with the others.

"We friends, now, doc?" Scout asked, in his usual brash and straightforward manner.

Medic looked taken aback, but nodded, hesitantly. "I think so," he said, bemusedly. He then chuckled. "You are a funny child."

"Hey, I ain't that young, geez!" Scout complained, rocking on his hands. "Why's everyone say that? Even Engy does it and I told him already...!"

"Ah, Engineer. It is just part of that colourful dialect of his," Medic said with a smile. "I must admit, I was glad to see him talking with you. He's always glued to some project, and I don't think it's healthy..."

"He just likes what he does, right?" Scout shrugged, with a smile. "Like how I like baseball."

"I see," Medic said, with a bit of a smile twitching across his lips. "I think there is someone on base you should talk to, then..."

Later that day, a tired Engineer stepped outside his workroom for a well-earned lunchbreak, covered in oil and dust. He was going to earn hell again by whoever was on laundry duty, but at least it came out easier than bloodstains...

He jumped as he heard Heavy roar close by.

"I WILL BEAT YOU, LITTLE BABY RUN SO FAST-"

Engineer dashed over to the main yard, heart leaping at the thought a solitary RED could have caught them unaware somehow, maybe a Spy! He hated those Spies.

He heard laughter a moment later, and he slowed down. Clearly not an emergency, then, but his curiosity was aroused, strolling around the corner, finding a beam to lean against, smiling a little.

Apparently Scout had befriended Heavy, and they seemed to be playing makeshift baseball, though apparently Heavy was fed up of being beaten, chasing Scout round and round as the younger man laughed madly, running rings around him.

Engineer stopped to watch, suppressing laughter himself, but not wanting to draw attention. The boy obviously had taken his advice to heart - if he could get Heavy to act like a gentle giant to anyone other than Medic, then he was settling down into the team nicely.

And that meant everything would go back to normal – he'd be working down in the workshop without disturbance. Scout wouldn't need his help.

His stomach fluttered awkwardly at the thought, though it was halted quickly by the amusing sight of Scout attempting to play-wrestle Heavy into the dust, and being subsequently mauled. He chuckled to himself.

"Hey, Engy!" Scout looked up from being dangled over Heavy's shoulder by his legs, grinning, promptly thumping Heavy in the back, "hey, put me down man!"

Heavy turned around to see who Scout was talking to, swinging the boy accidentally in the opposite direction in doing so. "Engineer!" he greeted, a huge smile on his face. "Little Scout is trouble. Help get shoe off..."

"Oh no you fuckin' don't, Engy, help!" Scout yelled, scrabbling desperately, because as if his dignity wasn't shot to pieces already being dangled upside down, he was also very ticklish.

Engineer just laughed heartily, slapping his knee at the spectacle. This was the funniest thing he'd seen in a while. "Aw, let the kid down now," he said, still sniggering, as Scout flailed against Heavy's back uselessly.

"Da. Is not fair fight anyway," the large Russian said slyly, looking over his shoulder.

"Hey! I could take ya anytime, ya just put me down and say that to my face – ow!"

Heavy laughed as he swung Scout easily to the ground, a little too hard as he landed on his ass. "Oops."

Engineer reached out an arm and hauled the boy to his feet as he rubbed his sore posterior with feigned grumpiness. "Thanks, man. Yo," Scout tapped Heavy in the centre of his chest with one insistent finger, "you owe me a rematch."

The other man laughed, grinning hugely. "Baseball? Or fight? I win both."

"Ha, yeah, right..."

As Heavy and Scout bickered playfully, Engineer felt he was an acting third wheel, and he ought to head off to get something to eat, as he had planned, nodding to the pair before heading to mess, trying not to think too deeply on why he felt... left out.

"HEAVY!"

Scout and Heavy both jumped; Medic could deliver one hell of a shout across the yard.

"Doktor?"

"It is time for your check-up!" Medic yelled, leaning in the doorway, gesturing impatiently with one sweeping red-gloved arm for him to come over.

"But I have check-up yesterday...?" Heavy said, looking confused, before something seemed to occur to him, his frown vanishing. "Ah! Yes." He turned to the younger man next to him, looking puzzled. "I have to see doktor now. We play game tomorrow!"

Heavy ran across the yard, as Scout raised an eyebrow. What was that all about?

He made a point to ask about it at mess that evening, a bit concerned. Heavy and Medic hadn't turned up for dinner, nor had Engineer, apparently still hard-at-work in his workroom. He reminded himself to bring the man along something to eat...

There were a few sniggers across the table as Scout asked, which irked him. "Hey, I'm bein' serious! It's not funny. Is Heavy hurt?"

"Maybe, if the doc's in tha' kind o' mood..." Demoman slurred, which made Spy and Soldier in particular chuckle dirtily.

"Mate, I didn't want to think about that over eatin', thanks," Sniper said sourly.

"I think we are confusing the boy," Spy commented, a sly smirk at the corner of his mouth, noticing Scout's barely-restrained scowl.

"Is this a private joke or somethin'? I was just worried, that's all. It's normal, then?"

"Ask Engineer," Spy replied, a mysterious smile on his lips, eyes darting to his fellow team mates, particularly Sniper, who returned the secretive look. "He will, ah, explain it all better than we could, I am sure..."

Mystified, Scout took this as his answer for now, not wanting to earn anymore team ire for the day. He had hoped Heavy and Medic would be at dinner, at least they might've said something in his defence...

Or Engineer.

He left the table with that thought, deciding he would go down to him and ask, since he was bringing him a plateful of dinner anyway. Spy was a dick, but he was certain that Engineer wouldn't get mad at him for just asking a simple question.

Right?
>> No. 80
~Change Your Mind, Part VI~

"... Ah."

Scout looked expectantly at Engineer, sitting atop a crate casually, looking curious as to why the older man was turning a gradual shade of beetroot.

"Lemme guess who told ya to ask me," Engineer said after a moment, sounding resigned to the matter, taking off his helmet, and abandoning the dinner he had before him. "Spy, am I right?"

"Y-yeah," Scout answered awkwardly, chewing at his lower lip. Oh jeez. It was obviously really offensive, wasn't it – it wasn't fair! He was trying to fit into the team, why'd Spy make him upset the one person who was nice to him? "Man, forget I asked. I was just worried ‘cuz they didn't turn up to dinner and then everyone –"

"Hey, don't worry none," Engineer interrupted gently, waving a dismissive hand. "Actually... I think it's fer the best you asked. Wouldn't want you to find out the hard way." He paused, and pushed his dinner tray aside, getting up to shut the door, pulling up a crate opposite to Scout. The younger man looked distinctly edgy, reminded of school reprimands, when they sat you down for "a serious chat" right before giving you a good hard smack with a ruler.

"Heavy and Medic," Engineer said, calmly and seriously, "are lovers."

There was a long pause.

"But... they're both guys," Scout stated, in some confusion.

"Yes."

Scout frowned, and then something seemed to dawn on him. It was... they were...

"Fuck!" he said, recoiling slightly. "I mean. Whoa. Seriously? Those two...?"

"Yes." Engineer sounded a little amused.

Scout looked gobsmacked, rocking back and forth on the crate awkwardly. "And no one warned us? I mean the doc's done check-ups on me all alone, he could've done anything!"

"Scout," Engineer said, his voice suddenly losing that sympathetic quality, "what do you mean by that?"

"I mean I don't wanna get... you know!"

Engineer's frown was deep, and his eyes were fixed to Scout's in a way that froze him to the spot. He seemed to be trying to discern something, but it was making the younger man deeply uncomfortable.

"Scout," Engineer sighed, after a long and horribly awkward minute, "let me explain a few things t'you. Before I said anything, did you honestly think that?"

"Well - no."

"And now that I have, do you think anything's changed?"

Scout squirmed; he had never been very good with these kinds of things under pressure. "I – I don't know. It's just... weird, man. People don't do that with other guys."

"It ain't common, but it don't mean there's anything wrong about it. There's always someone who don't like the way you look or what you do with your life, but it don't mean that they're right," Engineer said patiently.

"...I'm not good with this kinda stuff, okay?" Scout mumbled, tilting his hat brim a little lower over his eyes as his face seemed to burn.

"Do you want to ask some questions?" Engineer continued, levelly, and Scout began to sense he had obviously said something very offensive in his knee-jerk reaction to finding out about his team mates.

"I don't know what to ask. I s'pose it's none of my business, right?" He kicked at the floor.

"It is, if it made you feel like that about your team. I saw you today; you looked like you was getting along nicely with Heavy. He's not a different person now, y'know."

"I know. I don't know," Scout said miserably, folding his arms against his knees and resting his head in them, as if trying to physically defend himself from the issue at hand.

Engineer sighed, dropping the tension in his shoulders. "Ah, I'm goin' on at you now. Look," he tried to smile a little, "I'm here if you wanta talk ‘bout this some more... once you've had a chance to think about it. Alright?"

Scout didn't know what on earth Engineer meant, but he didn't know what anything meant right then. But he nodded. He could trust Engineer. Right now, he was thinking weird. It was weird. It was easier to say it was just weird and leave it at that. He didn't want to think about it too hard.

He walked from the workroom in a daze, looking pale, needing a place to try and find his sanity. Preferably somewhere as quiet as possible.

He wasn't seen for the rest of the day, trying to grapple with this information, and how it made him feel, all jumbled up inside and he couldn't explain why. It had always been an abstract source of derision, insults and scornful rumours. Not real.

Spy was such a dick, he decided vehemently, by the time he felt secure enough to return to the main base, hoping his absence hadn't been added to the long list of things he needed to make reparations for...

"Ah, there you are."

Scout turned around, and Medic was cradling his bonesaw, a slight smile of greeting on his face. "Heavy was looking for you earlier. He was looking forward to a baseball match, he said."

"O-oh." Scout was a little stuck for words, before finally managing, "yeah. Shit, I forgot. I was... busy."

"Ah. You should find him later. I'm glad you can indulge his enthusiasm for American culture; it has never been my interest."

"Right."

"Are you alright, Scout?" Medic asked, looking vaguely troubled. "You look uncomfortable."

"It's nothin', doc. I just gotta... sort some stuff out." Scout nodded, and took off on his limber legs.

He was burning with humiliation. The worst part was, he realised, it wasn't the doctor or Heavy that was the problem. They were good guys. So the problem was -

He needed someone to talk to.

"Good lord, boy," Engineer said, looking up, surprised at the young man scrambling inside his workshop door. "Y'nearly gave me a heart attack, burstin' in like that."

"Engineer," Scout said, sitting down on a crate, a little too off-kilter to even realise he hadn't knocked. "Ya – ya got a minute?"

The other man put down his tools silently with a nod, moving to sit down opposite him.

Scout fidgeted, but Engineer remained quiet, looking as patient as ever. He finally managed to get himself together. He was made of tougher stuff. It was just words, when it came down to it, not broken bones.

"About earlier," he blurted out, and then with more conviction, "I wanna ask some stuff."

Engineer nodded, arranging himself comfortably. "Shoot."

It was difficult at first, but Scout tried to empty his head of the questions he couldn't answer, and Engineer addressed each one in turn. He stopped when he finally ran out of things to say, talking himself into an embarrassed silence.

"D'ya feel better, now?" Engineer asked, after a moment.

Scout thought for a moment. "Well. Yeah. Yeah, I guess I do." He did, too. It seemed that knowing and understanding it all better made it... well... less strange. Less scary.

Engineer smiled a little bit, for the first time since Scout had arrived. "So you gonna be able to get along just fine with the fellas, now?" He asked sincerely.

"I think so." Scout nodded.

"Good."

"... Engy, you're really smart."

The other man looked bemused. "No, not really."

"Seriously. Um. Thanks for lookin' out for me and that." Scout said awkwardly. Engineer didn't seem talkative today, and he felt guilty. He didn't like it, and he wanted it fixed. "... We're cool, right?"

The other man pulled off his work goggles, letting them sit at his neck, smiling with honest blue eyes gazing with intent seriousness into Scout's. "Sure we are." His smile twitched; a fleeting nervousness. "It's not easy for me ta talk like this, you know."

"I guess so." Scout smiled, brightening. Maybe he and Engineer were more alike than he thought. "I guess you've just gotten used to it, huh."

Engineer sighed, and Scout sensed he had missed something, and had not been on the same page as the older man for sometime, and this was confirmed as Engineer looked somewhere beyond him, speaking slowly,

"I'm... also like that."

Scout's eyes widened, and Engineer's attention seemed to be entirely on the wall behind him.

"You – are – um. Wow." Scout looked away for a moment, taking this in on top of everything else he had processed today. After a moment with an intense frown, he looked back up. "Okay. I think I understand."

"Hm?" Engineer's eyes finally fell back onto him.

"You're a cool guy," Scout said with a nod, as explanation, whilst the other man looked slightly confused. He added in frustration, "like sayin' that doesn't change any of what I said about you. So... yeah. We're cool. I think I get it."

Engineer looked relieved. The smile on his face was genuine, and then Scout knew for certain he was right. It made him feel better to see the other man smile. If Engineer had been happy to tell him, after everything today, then...

"That means a lot ta me, boy."
>> No. 81
~Change Your Mind, Part VII~

The next day, Engineer was whistling happily in his workroom. He felt a renewed sense of motivation, improving and tinkering with his current idea. Nothing ventured, nothing gained in the world of engineering.

He had worried a lot, yesterday, and had done so little work. That bothered him. He shouldn't have let Scout's opinion get him down so much. He felt a hundred times better that he had helped him change his mind.

It was a little embarrassing, but... well, he had grown fond of him. He wasn't used to people hanging around in his workroom, paying attention to him and what he did. Certainly, his genius earned him a lot of attention in various arenas, but that was all they had been interested in: what he could do. Scout had just wanted his friendship and acceptance.

Which was the point, he told himself firmly, accidentally over-tightening a bolt. A friend. Good lord, he was old enough to be the boy's father, wasn't he? He had thought his feelings were paternal, and it worried him they were more than that. It was becoming clearer and clearer in his mind, no matter how he tried to shut down the unbidden trains of thought.

It would pass, he reasoned. He was old enough to know better, and Scout was young enough to make him feel very uncomfortable about this whole situation. He wasn't that young, and he knew it, though he still felt like some sort of pervert.

Life would be back to normal, now that Scout was settling in, anyway. He wouldn't keep visiting him if he was out playing baseball with Heavy. There was plenty of time to let it die away. The thought made his insides twist, but it was better that way, wasn't it?

Overall, however, he was feeling content, and it was conducive to bringing his blueprints to life. He had concluded that rather than modifying their current weaponry, what they needed what something high-powered suited to defence. Immobile, but it would pack a punch...

He had a skeletal prototype by the afternoon, interrupted from soldering wires by a rap at the door. "Come in."

"Hey, hardhat."

His heart soared. He couldn't help being happy, and he could at least allow himself that. "Hey, boy," he said fondly, looking up. "What brings ya here."
"Nothin' much - hey, what's that?" Scout's voice became excited, hurrying up beside Engineer to look at what he was building. "What is it? What's it do?"

"N-nothing much at the moment," Engineer said, surprised and a little taken aback by Scout's eagerness: his eyes glowed with awe, and the hardhat was deeply flattered by the interest. He was a little wary having a young man as energetic as Scout so near his precious prototype, however, gently pushing him back with one large hand, but indulging him with an explanation. "This is just the body... it's hopefully gonna support a gun turret in the centre, there. She'll run automatically - I'm workin' on a targeting system..."

"Wow." Scout couldn't help but interrupt, looking so impressed that Engineer couldn't help but feel a swell of pride and a swoop in his stomach. "Oh, hey, these your plans?"

Scout scrambled to his knees, looking over the blueprints, squinting at Engineer's tiny and efficient scrawl.

"Yep, that'd be ‘em," Engineer said, watching Scout pore over them. He probably didn't understand half of it, but he found it endearing that he tried. After a minute of Scout rummaging through the papers across the floor, he felt his tools might be at risk of being knocked over. "Uh, did ya come here to ask something, boy...?"

"Huh? Oh yeah!" Scout looked up with a grin. "The supply truck arrived this morning. Medic's makin' us all sandwiches for lunch. Thought you might wanna join in before Heavy eats your share."

That sounded good to a man who'd been hard at work all morning. "Sure thing," he drawled, getting to his feet and stretching. "Let me just lock up here..." He didn't want the BLU Spy finding out what he was working on, after all.

The workroom locked, the pair headed down to lunch, where Scout was oblivious as Medic shot Engineer a very particular look, and Spy looked disinterested, but with a bit of a smirk on his lips around his cigarette.

Engineer fought the urge to look away, a prickling feeling travelling up his neck. Glaring was equally pointless - he didn't take his goggles off unless strictly necessary. They were just out to mess with his head. It wasn't that obvious.

Was it?

"Hey, Heavy, you up for a game later?" Scout chirped, knocking Engineer from his thoughts, and he watched with quiet interest for reactions from the team: at least a few of them were not hostile, now, when they heard his voice.

Heavy shook his head, with a mouthful of sandwich. "I do training," he explained shortly, after swallowing. "Next time."

"Sure thing, man."

Scout smiled regardless. It wasn't in his nature to get knocked down by small disappointments. He held out hope that he could be accepted by the team yet. The unfriendly glares didn't bother him so much now he had adjusted to the situation: he'd gone through worse, and he considered a few of their number as friends now. Unfortunately, out of those he had yet to earn the respect of, Sniper and Spy seemed to be opting to ignore his presence.

"Hmph. Playing games," Soldier said scornfully, aggressively.

"Well, what am I oughta be doing?" Scout countered, trying to quash his annoyance. He'd watched some of the team play cards some evenings. There was nothing to say that fun was outlawed between battle.

"What Heavy said: training!" Soldier barked back, slamming a fist on the table, making the plates jump. "You think we're going to win with a sloppy, unprepared team? And especially you, maggot, need to shape up like a man!"

Scout didn't quite conceal his smirk, and Engineer could tell from where he sat that he'd been struck with inspiration. "Well, I don't have a trainer out here. S'hard to know if you're gettin' better at something ‘less someone's tracking it."

"EXCUSES! Finish eating that up and I'll put you through your paces!"

"Yessir," Scout replied without looking back up, and Engineer had to fight an amused snort of laughter. He'd played Soldier like a fiddle; anyone who'd accept Soldier bossing them around for an hour or so was his friend for life.

He couldn't help but feel like he was being looked at, and his eyes caught with Spy's sharp ones. The Frenchman had a maddeningly superior expression on his masked face, and Engineer's spirits deflated. It was that obvious, then.

He left the table, deciding to head back to work, but even before he'd picked up his wrench, he could feel a prickle up his spine; a slight sixth sense he wasn't alone in his workroom.

"Engineer," Spy greeted, leaning back against the doorframe at the entrance to his workshop.

"Spy." Engineer acknowledged, curtly. "You know better than to smoke ‘round here. Bad idea."

"I am aware, labourer, which is why I am smoking it outside," Spy smartly replied, and it was technically true - his right hand was out in the open air, smoke drifting away on a slight breeze.

Engineer waited, as Spy was obviously there for a reason other than to irritate him, and wasn't surprised as he continued, "so why the Scout?"

"I ain't talkin' to you about this." Engineer answered flatly. "Especially since you keep givin' him a hard time. Would it kill you to at least try?"

"Funny. I was thinking of asking you the same thing."

Engineer frowned for a moment, but Spy looked impassive, taking another drag. "You forget I can create façades, and so I also can cut through them like butter."

"You mean - you're gonna tell him?" Engineer felt his mouth go dry.

"Non. I mean you won't be able to keep up the lie forever. He'll know you have..." Spy coughed discretely, emphasising, "motives."

"Hey now." Engineer wheeled around properly now, voice sharp. "It weren't ever like that."

"Oh? Really?" Spy seemed amused by his denial.

"Damn it. I'm not tryin' to cosy up to him or whatever sycophantic trick you think I'm trying to pull. I'm not like one of you spies." It was a low blow, but that accusation had stung. Engineer had genuinely set out to befriend Scout, not manipulate him, or whatever it was Spy was suggesting.

"I don't care particularly," Spy added, as though this would alleviate the other man's concerns. "If you want the boy, fine. It becomes problematic for me when I have to untangle my team mate's secrets to prevent espionage, not just the enemy's."

"Spy," Engineer said in a low voice, "maybe this ain't occurred to you, but maybe all I ever wanted was to just give him a chance out here. One a lot of you weren't giving."

"Why else would you have wanted to give that ill-behaved little brat such an enormous ‘benefit of the doubt', as they say?" Spy scoffed.

"You assume you know more about me than you do, Spy."

Engineer's voice was calm and controlled, dark lenses unmoving from Spy's sharp blue eyes. Spy turned silent, cigarette hanging from his mouth. There was no answer to that.

"Now, can I get on with some work?" the other man tilted up his hardhat slightly. "Or you got any more lectures on my personal life?"

"Just acting on past experience, mon ami."

"Well, maybe I learned better. If you want to do me a favour, let me make my own decisions. I'll handle the consequences myself."

Spy shrugged, and left without a word.

Engineer grumbled under his breath before picking up his wrench, hefting it over his shoulder for a swing at the metal of his prototype.

He never made the blow, dropping it with a heavy clunk to the workshop floor, staring over the parts spread around him. All ready to be worked into place, but he had lost the enthusiasm for it.

Damn Spy! Damn him for saying anything.
>> No. 82
~Change Your Mind, Part VIII~

Scout was content.

A few good runs and a lot of yelling later, Soldier had gruffly conceded he would one day "not get them all killed", which coming from the military-fetishist nutjob, Scout understood to be a compliment.

He whistled idly as he wandered down one of the many corridors of the base, now showered and refreshed. In his small successes, his confidence and trademark cockiness returned.

Sometimes, Scout thought, you just had to take the bull by the horns - or, as it had been in his case, the school bully by the scruff of his neck for being stupid enough to pick on one of his older brothers (his other siblings had done most of the damage by the time he got there, but he'd still shown the motherfucker). Yeah, he was reminded of that time. No one fucked with /his/ family. No one fucked with /him/, either.

And so with very little pre-planning and a hell of a lot of bravado, he turned up at Spy's door, knocking loudly, and grinning as one very annoyed Frenchman answered the door, cigarette hanging from his mouth in a slight sneer of disapproval. "And what do you want?" he asked, irritably.

"Nothin' really. Thought I'd come annoy you some." Scout dived through the door before Spy could shut it, finding a chair and making himself comfortable in it.

"Well, you are succeeding," Spy replied flatly, now holding the door wide open for him to exit, "congratulations on meeting your life aspirations. Now go bother somebody else."

"Mmm... no."

Scout knew he was being an asshole, but frankly, Spy had rubbed him the wrong way since the day he had set foot in the base. Everybody else, more or less, had adjusted to his existence; why did Spy reserve the right to act superior? "Really, man, ya got a problem with me, ya can tell me to my face like a man instead of makin' stupid remarks at dinner and hiding behind your fancy cloaking-thingy."

It was then Scout spied the little cigarette case lying on Spy's desk from where he sat, and he snatched it up as Spy stepped forward to retrieve it.

"Put that down, brat, or I will gut you whilst you sleep," Spy threatened, looming over the chair, looking positively murderous.

"You'd haveta catch me first," Scout informed him, still grinning. This was fun; Spy was going to implode with rage if he kept this up.

Spy looked at him with a mixture of anger and disgust, near-trembling. He was visibly slightly red at the edges of his mask. Scout just stared up, unfazed. He could take Spy in a fair fight any day. He almost wanted him to throw a punch, just to prove it.

Sadly, Spy didn't, instead opting to ignore him, sharply turning away. That was no fun, and Scout was disappointed. "Man, you are impossible."

"And you are a brat," Spy retorted, taking a drag on his cigarette. He seemed to catch his composure, though his nostrils still flared. "But I suppose can make use of you."

"Huh?"

"I'll cut a deal with you," Spy said shortly. "I'll suffer your presence at mess with your disgusting table manners, if you do something for me. And you never come to my room again."

"Such as?"

A faint smirk appeared on Spy's lips.

"Those legs are good for something, non? I was about to go on watch duty, until you interrupted me, and I haven't yet called Sniper away from his nest." Spy pointed a gloved finger. "You're the runner. Go dismiss him for me before he fills another jar."

Scout raised an eyebrow, then smiled knowingly. "I get it. You mean you're late swapping shifts."

"Perhaps."

Scout grinned.

"Well get going," Spy snorted impatiently, pulling his revolver from a drawer, and checking it over, perhaps with the desire to level it at the younger man's temple. "And we'll call it even. Assuming you can even run that fast."

"I'm on it."

Scout bolted from the room without further instructions, tearing down the corridor. Child's play. But a challenge was a challenge, and he'd take it. Spy would owe him one, and hell, it was about time Spy just kept his insults to himself...

He bolted the sets of stairs, along the interconnecting passageway to the building Sniper holed up in, clattered along the corridor, and finally scrambled up the ladder to what the Aussie called home.

"Yo!" Scout called cheerfully, banging on the trapdoor before crashing it wide open to announce his presence. "Spy says ya can come down –"

There was a loud groan, and Scout stopped as a lump from the makeshift bed flipped over, and Sniper sat up in a flash, yelling, "OI! WHAT ON EARTH'S ALL THE YELLING FOR?"

Scout didn't get a chance to reply before Sniper threw the sheets back and brandished his kukri menacingly in his advance. "I WAS ASLEEP, YOU PIKING LITTLE –"

Scout took a hasty retreat back down the ladder, returning to the main base in new record time, face burning.

Fucking bastard Spy! He'd fucking walked right into that complete dick move, making him fucking look bad though he'd actually had good fucking intentions and –

... fuck. Just fuck it all.

Scout stopped midway down a corridor. He had half a mind to go and yell at Spy for his trick, but didn't think he could stomach to see the satisfied smirk that would stretch that mask of his.

This was so fucking unfair.

He wandered outside, and found a crate to sit on to glare across the desert. He felt angry, and something hurt, distantly, in his chest and stomach. Did Spy really hate him that much? Fuck, he'd thought they could all see he was trying hard enough at this teamwork-thing.

"Mmmph?"

Scout looked up, realising he had been slumped in a fairly pathetic position, arms resting over his knees, and quickly straightened himself up as he took in Pyro. "Uh, hi, man."

He also had no fucking idea how to translate the noise that came out from the mask.

Pyro pointed to the crate he was sitting on. "Oh! Shit, sorry."

"Nn-mmph." Pyro waved a hand dismissively, and picked up the empty hulk of wood, and began to wander off.

Scout followed after a moment, curious. "What do you want with it, anyways?"

"Hunna httnn phhrr."

Oh. Right. Of course. Scout had no idea what he said, but carried on following him anyway.

He was surprised when Pyro walked into one of the old barns, and found a large, bonfire-esque wood pile.

"Oh man." Scout grinned a mile wide. "Lemme know when you plan on lighting this thing. I wanna see."

Pyro's response was best described as taken aback, flinching with surprise, and looking between the wood pile and Scout. He hadn't expected an audience. His response sounded pleased though, and he gave a thumbs up, looking very pleased with his pile, prodding bits of it to some sort of aesthetic that Scout could only guess at; to him, it just looked like a giant pile of broken boards and old shipping crates.

Yeah, it would be kinda cool to see that all on fire. Last time he'd seen a bonfire was –

He smiled compulsively. Yeah, with Engineer. He'd probably appreciate this, wouldn't he? It'd been nice just sitting there in front of flames. Maybe he ought to see if he wanted to come along.

He excused himself in a cloud of dust across the courtyard to the workshop, where Engineer was usually holed up. Hadn't really seen the guy properly for a few days now, and seeing as he'd always been a good friend to him out here, it'd be good to catch up.

"Hey hardhat!" Scout didn't bother to knock as he entered the workroom, smiling as he caught sight of a familiar yellow helmet and dirtied overalls, crouched in front of some beeping device.

Engineer looked up. "Hey boy."

It wasn't as warm as Scout had expected. "Hey man, what's up?"

"... Not much," the reply came in a heavy sigh. "Ain't makin' progress on this."

Scout had a feeling that wasn't all there was to it, but he wasn't about to pry. Engy wasn't the type to keep bad secrets. "Wanna come see a bonfire? Pyro's making one."

"When is he not?" Engineer replied, shaking his head. "You can do that. I gotta try'n fix this... or else scrap the whole project," he finished, dejectedly, shoulders drooping.

Scout felt a twang of sympathy. "That sucks. Can I help out?" He offered, on a whim.

Engineer snorted, and his voice turned a little more affectionate. "And what exactly do you know about engineerin' an A.I. inta a portable structure that I don't?"

"Nothin'," Scout shot back at once, "but I can grab ya a beer." He grinned.

Engineer looked surprised, and then smiled warmly. "That sounds real good."

Scout made a mock-salute, before running to get him one, feeling like he had done something right today after all. It felt good to make Engy smile.
>> No. 892
Is this going to continue? Would be a shame if it didn't.
>> No. 893
Seconded; I love this story.
>> No. 900
I'm so glad this was finally added to the new chan. Please continue this soon!
>> No. 901
Please continue, it's such a good story, and I want to see how Engie and Scout's relationship will turn out.
>> No. 936
oh my god, please don't let it finish just yet! this is awesome, I can't wait to read more
>> No. 939
this always makes me smile when I read it
>> No. 940
The fact that this hasn't wrapped up nicely is killing me inside little by little. :/
>> No. 942
I absolutely NEED to read more of this. It was one of my favorites on the old chan, and I'd still love to see this continued.
>> No. 943
does anyone know if this was continued elsewhere? perhaps on a different site? I'd be really sad if there was no more
>> No. 948
Oh God I loved reading this so much.
Pleaseplease continue and don't tell me you fell off the face of the planet. D':
I absolutely love the personalities, especially how Scout tries so friggin' hard but everyone's just a total dick to him.

Dhjsdhsjka I wanna' read the rest so bad. COME BACKKK.
>> No. 1292
Oh, this is lovely.
>> No. 1504
come baaackkk
>> No. 1569
Goodness! I didn't even realize this had been reposted to the 'chan.

I am still working on this, though I took a brief hiatus due to Real Life DramaTM. I have also just moved house, so it's a little slow-going right now, but yeah, I plan to see this baby through o the end. :) Thank you to the person who sent me an LJ PM to inform me this was up!

And of course, thank you to everyone who has left praises and feedback. <3
>> No. 1570
>>21
sorry to hear about you IRL problems :[ I hope everything works out for you
this story is awesome and i'm glad to hear you're gonna continue it :D
>> No. 1773
I just finished reading all of this.

Oh goodness I hope your life turns out to be nothing but sunshine and daises from now on so you can complete it.
>> No. 1812
I think my bowels are rotting from the amount of sweetness in this. Also possibly from the awesome.
>> No. 1971
I hope things work out for you.

I love the story. It is epic indeed.
>> No. 3612
Oh dear god where is the MOAR button when you need it D:

This is fantastic. Everything runs so smoothly. Great job. I can't wait for an update 8D
>> No. 3617
Oh good golly gosh.
My life will not be complete until I see this finished. This is just... So...
GUH! :-]
>> No. 3618
Oh OH!

I want more of this!!
>> No. 3681
want more plz
>> No. 3687
This is a wonderfully sweet fic, and I can't wait to see this updated. You've got the characterisations nailed pretty damn well, I can see the various classes acting as you've described!

Good work so far, Charshy; hope things IRL are a lot calmer now for you.
>> No. 3697
GORRAMIT, I have GOT to get more of this!
This is AWESOME-TASTIC!!
You've got the characters so beautifully well personified, and the whole dynamic is so well crafted it makes me giggle with uncontainable glee!
I do hope you get this updated soon, I want to see what happens next!!
^^
>> No. 4571
How did I miss this? This is good!
>> No. 4579
I love this! More please
>> No. 4625
I'm a bit confused. At the beginning of the story, the Scout's on the RED team. But then in #5 it reads like he's in BLU.

I usually don't bump for such a short comment, but some clarification would be much appreciated.


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