Music definitely wasn't at the forefront of the mercs choices for entertainment. On days off, or hours after work, they either watched something on their dinky television (which Engineer certainly had done a good enough number on in upgrading) or dispersed to find other forms of entertainment amongst themselves or alone. For example, it wasn't uncommon to find the Medic and Heavy playing a quiet round of chess together; sometimes they'd go over 3 rounds of the game, gossiping or teasing each other a little bit as they did. There was also a distinct crew in the mercs who played various card games at least twice a week, which consisted of: Demoman, Scout, Engineer, and on occasion, Pyro. And then there was the tv bunch, which always consisted of Pyro, Soldier, and Scout. The Sniper and Spy mostly kept to themselves off base, only really coming in for food and whatever else Spies and Snipers did.
Recently though, a new form of recreation had come in to play, thanks to the teams very own Engineer and Scout. Well, okay, it was mostly thanks to the Engineer, but if you asked the Bostonian, he would say the fact that it was even an idea in the Texan's mind was all thanks to him.
It all started one Saturday afternoon; there was relative quiet and peace on the base, being as it was one of two days off in the work week.
"Go fish?" Engineer asked.
"Nah, too babyish," Scout replied from across the table, chin in his hand and expression apathetic.
"Aye, but we just played that last Wednesday," Demoman pointed out. The younger one scoffed.
"Yeah, so? Even more reason not to play it."
They sat in silence a little longer, all staring at the hopeless deck of cards in the middle of the table.
"Well, this is depressing."
Scout turned and glared at Spy, who had been sitting in the nearby lounge chair, having a smoke while he read some French book.
"Fuck you man, it's not like you're contributing here anyway," Scout snapped back with a scowl, but he found even his moodiness around the man had died down a bit.
The Frenchman smirked. "Indeed you are right, and I plan on continuing to not contribute." He looked back down to continue reading his book, taking a drag of his cigarette as he did.
Scout turned and sighed in defeat, then stood to stretch. "Well guys, I think I'm givin' in. This card party ain't goin' anywhere and you're not gonna catch me just sittin' here for hours doin' nothin'."
"Scout, we just sat down to play about 5 minutes ago." Engineer frowned down at the still untouched pile of cards. Demoman had taken the opportunity to stand and saunter away with a shrug, probably heading towards the booze stash.
Scout held up a finger. "Five minutes too long, my friend."
Spy snorted once again, not missing an opportunity to poke fun at the other. "I can imagine you'll go back to your room and listen to the Beach Boys for hours on end again, non?" The insult wasn't as obvious as always, but Scout knew what he was insinuating. And right before he was about to make some quippy rebuttal, an idea came to mind and his face lit up.
"That's it!" He exclaimed.
"Wait, I was right-"
"Yo hardhat, how long do you think it would take you to make a stereo or somethin'. Oh, and-and like, a cool customizable cassette tape. Like, something I could put my own music onto. That's never been done before, right? You like makin' shit that's never been down before, right?" Scout had his hands firmly gripped on either man's arms, practically in his face and buzzing with excitement as he rattled on.
"Uh, I don't see why I couldn't?" He replied with a forced smile.
"Perfect, let me know as soon as you get that shit done, this base will be silent no more!" He pumped his fist and ran out of the room, hollering as he did.
Spy smirked at the Engineer, bemused at his now slumped shoulders. "You have made a grave mistake, cowboy." Engie shrugged and waved the other off. "Anything I have in my power to keep that boy happy and occupied is something I'm willing to do."
Spy's smirk fell, and he looked away.
“So, remind me again why we’re all standing around this blanket in the lounge room?” Medic looked curiously at the cloaked contraption the Scout had ushered them all in for.
“Well… It’s actually somethin’ new Engie built, but I'm willin’ to take royalties for the initial suggestion.” Scout grinned, hands behind his back and chest proudly puffed out.
“How generous of you,” Spy deadpanned from amongst the crowd of nine. Someone else snickered.
Scout scowled and cleared his throat, continuing on with the announcement. “Anyway, we thought it was about time we made somethin’ else to spend our time with. Something that could be used in any situation, something-"
“Dear god, you made another microwave,” Soldier spoke lowly in shock.
“No, what? We didn’t- wait, another one?” Scout cut himself off and stared in confusion at the man. Heavy sighed from amongst the crowd.
“Would leetle man get on with speech? Doktor and I have very important chess match to finish. Was beating him.”
“Nah let the bloke get cut off, that means less time having to hear him ramble on,” Sniper groused from his stance against the wall.
Scout turned beet red and inhaled slowly. “Whatever…” He yanked the cloth off of the stereo, revealing it to the rest of the mercs. Instantly, some of their faces lit up, while others were left looking a bit lost; most of them were probably still used to your typical vinyl player.
Scout looked towards Engineer, who gave him a sympathetic smile and thumbs up. The youngers expression dropped even more and he simply huffed as he walked away from the contraption to replace Engineer in his spot amongst the crowd, the shorter man going up to stand by the thing to explain it. Scout had tuned him out the second he opened his mouth, but he didn't miss the tap on his shoulder. It was Pyro, who he could only assume was trying to cheer him up and be nice.
“Mmph mmphk mmpht mmphks mmphs.” Scouts face softened and he smiled.
“Thanks pal, though you probably don’t even know what it is. No offense.” Pyro replied with something that sounded like ‘none taken’ and waved their hand, turning back to listen to the rest of what Engineer was saying.
Scout slumped again, then noticed Sniper standing over against the wall to his right. He couldn't exactly see him from where he was earlier, but now he could make out the distinctly interested look on his face. The younger had already forgotten the rude comment from before and found himself staring at the Australian. It was safe to say that was the most interested the other had ever seen him in something. That's not to say he wasn't interested in things - he probably was - but Scout just didn't know what any of those things were.
Then, probably sensing someone was getting carried away, Sniper glanced towards Scout, expression stiffening. He quickly averted his eyes, palms becoming sweaty. Scout took this opportunity to shuffle back up to where Engineer was, thankful his little exposit was coming to a close.
“Anyway, yeah, what hardhat said. And uh, the cassette hasn't really been made yet, since I thought it'd be a good idea to let you guys make your own contributions, too. You know, like songs you like and shit, if you freaks do like songs. There's gonna be a paper on the fridge you can right your suggestions on so… yeah. Class dismissed and all that.”
The mercs dispersed almost immediately, some (Spy) leaving before his closing statement was even over. They were all chatting as they left, some about their opinion on the new stereo, others on what kind of songs they would suggest. Scout felt a little better about the whole thing; at least it wasn't a total bust. He was interrupted from his thoughts when Engineer gave him a firm pat on the back.
“Well son, looks like your little idea was quite the success. I expect we’ll be hearing all kinds of tunes by this Monday,” he said, smiling at Scout.
He returned the smile, immediately back on his feet in good spirits. “Yeah I guess you're right. And don't tell nobody, but I plan on stayin’ up ‘til like, 1AM just to see who writes first song. ‘Kinda curious, you know? But it'll probably just end up bein’ Pyro or somethin’, out of pity.”
Engineer shrugged and raised his eyebrows. “I don’t know, looks like we’ll just have to wait and see.” He sauntered off with a wave.
Scout looked towards the clock on the wall and noticed it was still only about 9:30PM. Demoman might be interested in a card game or two. He then wandered out of the room himself, and towards the recreation room.
Like he had promised the Texan earlier, Scout waited until roughly 1AM to quietly slip out of his room and towards the kitchen. Everyone was practically asleep by that time, or doing whatever it was they did in their room at night alone. Actually, scratch that train of thought before it even pulled out the station.
Scout shook his head to clear his mind and continued forward, making sure to walk on the balls of his feet to achieve maximum stealth. Though, he knew if Spy could see him right now, he'd probably just laugh and mock him, all in attempts to wake everyone up to embarrass him even more. Knowing that slimy bastard, he actually would, Scout thought with a scowl.
All of these thoughts kept his mind occupied until suddenly, he found himself in the quaint kitchen of their base. He flicked the light switch on and turned to the fridge, face instantly lighting up in a grin at what looked to be a few lines of writing. He couldn't make it out from that distance though, so he walked closer and quickly skimmed the paper. It read:
-Clair de Lune and Rhapsody in Blue
-tiny dancer by elton john
-The Night (Moody Blues)
-Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin)
The first two were in distinctly different handwriting, while the last two seemed to be written by the same person. Scout frowned as when he realized he'd never actually know who wrote what. He supposed he could just ask, but that’d be stupid and a waste of everyone's time. But if he had to take a guess, he'd say the second one was Pyro’s, based on the handwriting alone. He recognized the artist from back home, having heard his mom talking about him on occasion.
The first, third, and fourth were all mysteries in who wrote them though. The only song he actually knew out of all of them was the last, which made his insides all warm for some reason. It was nice to know someone on the base shared his music interests. Then he pictured someone like Spy writing that, and immediately blanched. Well, actually, that didn't really sound like him, Scout thought.
He finally stood back from the fridge with a huff, and decided to just go back to bed, feeling a mix of emotions; defeat and elation among them.
The next morning, Scout got up around 9AM-ish to the sound of talking outside, and the smell of breakfast. He practically leapt out of bed and raced to the kitchen, grinning at the sight of Engie at the stove. It smelled like they’d be getting eggs, bacon and hashbrowns that morning - who had room to complain about a hearty southern breakfast? He quickly picked up on the conversation he heard muffled from his room earlier.
Demoman, Medic and Heavy were standing by the fridge, debating about who was superior - The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. Demo insisted they were both on their own pedestal and couldn’t be compared, while Medic pointed out that one of them had to be better than the other. It was obvious Heavy had no idea what either of the two were talking about but simply stayed because the Medic was there and he could. Scout thought it as good a time as any to butt in.
“Well, if you’re asking me-”
“We weren’t,” Heavy cut him off with a raised brow. Scout ignored him and continued on.
“-I think The Beatles are miles better than the ‘Stones.”
“Oh yeah? What’s yer back up?” Demoman crossed his arms and gave him an expectant look.
“Well, duh, Beatles came first, everyone knows. And they were way more original, too. You heard how much the ‘Stones copy ‘em!” Scout exclaimed.
“Every artist copies someone else, though,” Medic pointed out.
“Well yeah, but-”
Now it was Spy’s turn to cut the Bostonian off. “I think Scout simply favors music meant for menstruating girls over anything else.” And Christ, Scout could just hear the smugness dripping from his voice. Demoman barked out a laugh and fell to his knees, and the younger thought he could hear Engineer trying very hard to conceal his wheeze from the stove.
“Well, I bet you’re the one who wrote that lame Clair duh whatever on the paper last night!” Scout shot back, feeling his ears and face begin to heat up.
“Actually, that was me. What can I say, Archimedes loves classical,” Medic spoke up fondly.
“Oh.” Scout’s face fell, and before he could say anything else, Engineer announced that breakfast was ready and everyone made haste to grab their portions and find a seat at the dining room table. Scout was yet again left alone with nothing to say, sighing in defeat. He looked towards the fridge and saw that a few other songs were written. One being The Beatles, the other The Rolling Stones. The last one was something he didn’t recognize, but it got him smiling again. He walked over to where the hefty amount of food was laid out and shoveled as much as he could onto his plate before someone yelled at him from the table. He snickered and sat down at an empty spot by Pyro.
Everyone had gotten to eating, some talking as they did. But then Scout noticed something odd and stopped in the middle of his chewing. Sniper was sitting across from him, quietly eating his food. Before he could stop himself, he spoke.
“You’re actually eatin’ here for once, I can’t fuckin’ believe it. This is like, the first time in my whole career here I’ve seen you at this table.” Scout stared wide eyed at the Sniper, who looked up. The lanky man froze as everyone else stopped talking and turned to him as well.
“Ah, Snipes I didn’t see you come in. ‘Hope the food’s to yer liking, I know it can be quite different from country to country,” Engineer welcomed him warmly. He grunted in response. The rest of the mercs slowly turned back to whatever they were doing, Scout continued to stare at the man in question. Pyro was left next to him looking between the two in confusion.
“Something on my face, mate?” Sniper glared at Scout, not enjoying the uncomfortable attention. The younger blinked and shook his head, looking back down at his plate to continue eating.
“Nah, just- nah,” he replied, not bothering to elaborate with food in his mouth. He felt Sniper give him one last odd look, then he was back to eating. They all continued to eat until someone spoke up again.
“So, when will this… ‘Cassette’ be done?” Heavy asked from the head of the table, not specifically directing the question to Scout or Engineer.
“And will this musical device contain nothing but American music. If it does not, I will have to break it, and your new toy along with it,” Soldier added on, pointing a fork full of hashbrowns threateningly at everyone.
“Well, I was hoping to get it done by tomorrow, so if anyone has any other songs to add to the list, I would get ‘em up there before evening,” Engineer explained.
“Why even waste your time with other people’s music anyway?” Scout took this opportunity to shoot the Frenchman who had spoken up a dirty look.
“It’s called courtesy, dickhead. Not like you’d know much about what that is, though,” he snapped in return. Spy looked unphased. “Oh I assure you, I know more about that than you do.” He got up and set his dishes in the sink, walking out of the room before it went any further. Scout huffed and turned back to his plate of food, which was 90% gone for the most part. He didn’t miss the look Sniper was giving him though. Scout felt bold and kind of cranky, and shot out a snappy “What?”
“Do you two always argue this early in the morning?” There was nothing malicious in his question, mostly just genuine curiosity. It made Scout soften a little. He shrugged.
“Basically. He always starts it, though.” Sniper let out a puff of laughter and mumbled something that sounded like “Of course he does…” and got up to put his dishes in the sink as well, then leave. Scout frowned and stayed seated for a little while longer before he did the same.
It was the next evening, about an hour after fighting had stopped for the day, making it roughly 6PM. Scout was fidgeting with excitement as he held the cassette tape in his hands. Everyone stood around expectantly, waiting for him to put it in. Frankly, most of them didn’t care, but it was either this or have Scout whine at them until they did come and watch. After a few more seconds of everyone just standing around in silence, he finally put it in and pressed play. There was about a second of fuzzy noise, then The Archies Sugar, Sugar started to play. Engineer had absolutely refused his pleas for a sneak peek, so this was also the Scout’s first time hearing it in action, and wow the audio quality was really great.
He turned and immediately hugged Engineer, who coughed in surprised and quickly returned the affection. “Thanks so much, hardhat,” he mumbled then pulled back as quickly as he had hugged him. So elated, Scout rushed over to Pyro and grabbed their hands, swaying them around and dancing with them as they laughed. It went unspoken, but everyone save for Spy stayed and just kind of danced and chatted; about the music, about the day, about anything. There was a new happiness in the room, all cause of some dinky stereo.
The music continued to play until it got to a Beach Boys song, to which some people groaned at. Scout didn’t care though, he was happy. He shuffled around the room, never coming to a stop, checking in with everyone. It seemed like everyone else’s spirits were lifted as well. Then he got to Sniper, who was leaning against the wall again. Scout joined him, mirroring his stance. Then he noticed the Australian’s foot tapping along to the beat of the song and the slight smile on his face. Scout’s cheeks dusted red as he realized in that moment how nice he looked.
“I didn’t know you liked this type of music,” Scout spoke up.
Sniper raised a brow at him. “I like any music mate, as long as it’s good.”
“Fair enough.” They fell into a somewhat awkward-somewhat comfortable silence, until Scout spoke up again.
“So, did you write any of the songs on the list?” Sniper opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again and smirked. “Why don’t you try to guess?” Scout pouted.
“Aw, come on dude, that ain’t fun, their are like, 40 songs on that tape. At least half of them came from that list.” Sniper shrugged, not letting his smug smile fall. “At least a hint?”
Sniper looked up in thought, then held up two fingers. “I only wrote 2 on the list.” Scout groaned loudly, causing the other to let a small laugh slip. Scout felt his heart skip a beat. He cleared his throat and pushed up from the wall. “Well… How’s about this: If I guess both of those songs - and I mean for real, no random guessin’ - you have to… Do whatever I say!”
“Now hold on a second, that’s an awful long stretch from the bet to the reward. And what do I get if you don’t guess ‘em?” Sniper wanted to sound agitated, but he only looked curiously amused.
“Uh, well… How about if I don’t guess it by the end of this month, which is-” Scout trailed off and began counting on his fingers, brows furrowed.
“... 20 days?” Sniper offered.
“Yeah, that! If I don’t guess both right 20 days from now, I guess I have to do whatever you want, too,” he finished with a shrug.
Sniper scoffed. “Ever the simple man.”
“So, shake on it?” Scout held out his hand with a hopeful yet competitive smile, never one to back down from a bet.
“Sure, why not mate.” Sniper returned the smile, and their hands slid together in a firm shake.
God, his hands are really big compared to mine. And warm. And kinda clammy, and I think he has calluses too- focus Scout, Jesus, he thought in a rush. When they finally pulled away, Sniper tipped his hat in what Scout assumed was a silent farewell, and left.
Scout held his own hand for a minute, then walked over to Medic and boldly held it out, asking, “Hey doc, do my hands feel real sweaty to you?”
The rest of the week went by pretty fast, with nothing but boring fighting. At least the music continued to be a success, they listened through the tape in order at least 5 times before Engineer reminded them that he had added a neat little thing called the ‘shuffle’ button. It still played the same songs, just in a random order each time. So there was that.
It wasn’t until that Friday at dinner that Scout remembered he had a bet to win. Sniper had joined them again at the table for the first time since that Sunday at breakfast, though he hadn’t missed much that week. The only meals to really look forward to were Engineer, Heavy, and Spy. Scout looked up from his steak and stared intently at Sniper.
“Is one of them… Paranoid by Black Sabbath?”
Sniper looked up and squinted at him, then realized what he was talking about. “Oh, no.” He went back to eating.
“What about that Brandy song?” By this point a small smile had tugged on the man’s lips and he simply shook his head as he ate, staring down at his plate.
Spy sniffed. “What sort of foolish game are you two getting up to?”
“Oh, I’m trying to guess what songs from the tape are ones Snipes suggested,” Scout replied.
The Frenchman scoffed. “That’s easy; they are-”
Sniper cleared his throat loudly and glared at the masked man. Scout looked between the two and let a laugh slip, regretting it quickly after as he started choking. Pyro rubbed his back as he did.
“You only get 2 chances to guess per day.,” Sniper finally replied to Scout, turning back towards him. “Oh, and that last one was wrong too.”
“What?! That’s no-” He began choking again, to which Pyro started literally hitting his back in rebuttal. Demoman snorted at his struggles from far down the table, and Medic looked up to roll his eyes.
“Fair,” he finished, wiping the tears from his eyes.
“Need I remind you, you said the same thing before you started this bloody bet in the first place.”
Scout sighed. “Whatever. 2 guesses a day, got it. But, shit I’m already down to 16 days.”
“Better hurry up then.”
“So, do you like any romantic songs?” Scout asked from the bed in Sniper’s van. They had started just randomly hanging out over the course of the rest of the month.
“You’re asking for a hint, aren’t you?” Sniper gave him a deadpan look from his dining booth as he paused cleaning his gun.
“What?! Pshh, nooo, no way dude, that you would even insinuate that-” Sniper rose a brow and he caved. “Okay, yeah, I may be askin’ for a hint but… I’m also just a little bit curious? I mean, I’m still surprised you like that Beach Boys song, man. Didn’t take you for the type.” Scout sat up on the bed and shrugged, looking down at the dust littered on the floor.
“Oh, so there’s a type now, I see.” Sarcasm dripped from his voice, and Scout laughed. “Shut up dude, you know what I mean. Like… Certain people listen to certain types of music.” Sniper sighed and Scout heard him put the gun lightly down on the table, making him look up.
“The way I see it, mate, is that if it sounds good, anyone and anything can listen to it and enjoy it. Simple as that.” The Australian was giving him this odd look that made him feel fidgety. He went back to the gun and the two sat in silence.
“... So you like romantic songs then?” Sniper groaned, which then turned into an unabashed laugh as he held his head in his hands. His shoulders shook as he did, and Scout watched the event unfold with a growing smile. Then there was that feeling, and with sudden, dawning realization like every thought he’d had in his life, Scout registered that he had a crush on the man. And most likely had before any of this even started. But that was an emotional package to unbox another day, he thought with rosy cheeks.
Eventually, Sniper calmed down and he leaned back in the booth, smile wide as he held his side.
“To answer your question, yes, I do like romantic songs.”
Scout blinked when he noticed the other had actually said something to him. “And you’re not embarrassed of that?” He asked, curious and regretfully projecting.
“No. Should I be?” There was that uncomfortable look, again. Like he was challenging everything Scout ever thought about himself or anyone else. He looked away and awkwardly carded a hand through his hair.
“Nah, I guess not. Thanks for the tip though, at least I can narrow it down, now.” Scout tried to renew his confidence from before and smirked. Sniper scoffed and shook his head. “Now hold on a bloody minute, I didn’t say I only listen to romantic songs.” Scout laughed.
Just like that, what Scout thought was a tense mood vanished.
“Is one of them Stairway to Heaven?” The wide eyed look Sniper gave him from his sniping roost gave Scout all he needed to know. “Great! Now I only need to guess one more!” The Bostonian quickly ran off into battle again before Sniper even had room to speak.
“Bloody wanker, giving away my sniping spot…” He groused. If his worry over being heard wasn’t enough reason to move, a bullet hitting a wooden pillar to his left was. He stood up and grabbed his stuff, then booked it.
“Well… It’s the last day of July, Scout. Speak now or forever hold your peace.” Sniper smirked at him from in the recreation room as the music in question played. They were both sat on the sofa, playing a game of Rummy. Scout winced, and laid down a 2 alongside another three.
“I don’t know man. I mean, I’m not one to like, back down from bets but I’m just not thinkin’ of nothin’,” he mumbled with a pout. “Hey, if you win, just don’t make me do nothin’ gross, okay? Have some sympathy for a friend.” The two fell silent once again as they focused on the game.
“We are friends, huh?” Scout snorted.
“What kind of dopey fuckin’ question is that? Of course we’re friends! We been doin’ nothing but hangin’ out like, this whole month. I know you didn’t really talk to no one before, and you were actually ‘kinda cold to me but- whatever! Besides the point.” Sniper played his turn and hummed.
“To be honest, I never thought I’d connect with any of you. Especially not you,” Sniper smirked as Scout’s look of absolute betrayal.
“Low blow, dude…” He sniffled.
“Well of course I don’t bloody mean that now! I like you plenty now that I’ve gotten to know you,” Sniper offered in an attempts to sway the situation.
“Nah, I don’t believe you. What do you like about me? Prove you care,” Scout crossed his arms and refused to look at the man in front of him, still sniffling as his lip quivered for extra effect. Sniper laughed. “Fine, you want me to be embarrassing? I’ll be embarrassing.”
Suddenly, Scout very much regretted his decision to be the cheeky one.
“I think you’re easily the most entertaining bloke on this team. Everyone else is either too much of a hardass, or their humor just doesn’t land. I also think you’re really easy to talk to,” Sniper shrugged as he lost his confidence the more he talked, ironically enough, face beginning to dust red; Scout couldn’t take his eyes off of him. “And…”
The song changed then, and something on Sniper’s face with it. Just an ever so small twitch of his expression, but it was there. “And you like the same music as me?” Sniper finally looked at Scout. The younger blinked, expression unreadable. Then, with one sudden thrust, he leaned forward and kissed Sniper.
Just like everything with the Scout though, it was over before it began, and Sniper found himself wanting more along with it. They shared a look. Then Scout broke the moment and spoke.
“Is this the other song?”
Sniper blinked, and all of a sudden began laughing. Scout scowled, feeling as if he was being made fun of. Before he could get onto the man for it, Sniper pulled him down into a hug, causing both men to let out a grunt. Scout’s face softened, and the two enjoyed the warmth of the embrace for a couple minutes. Scout drank in the song with new meaning. Then Sniper spoke into his shoulder.
“Yeah this is the song… So, what do you want me to do?” Scout took a minute to reply.
“Kiss me again.”
Spy made a noise of disgust from the doorway. “Would you two kindly find another place to make out? Édith Piaf is on.”
The two yelped and fell off of the couch.