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Stray Puppy

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Hereford Base was a highly secured military area and as the elders thought, it was untouchable. Every recruit often heard the story of how they protected the Base; with fifteen foot fences, mile long barbed wires on top of them, surrounded by dark forests and rigid fields. Rookies were usually sent out to survive in the middle of the night as training, but without the help of Kapkan, nobody was able to find their way back - or find the lost newbies.

The base was hard to find, but not hidden, the people living in the towns nearby knew about the military training going on here, but since nobody wanted to deal with law, nobody wanted to come closer. On the roads, leading to the base were big signs telling the intruders about the rules of this restricted area. There were warnings for weapons such as guns and experimental rockets or bombs, different kind of traps, field trainings across the forests and meadows and every kind of military activity. The civilians living in the towns knew about them, and nobody wanted to come and spy on the base.

Sometimes there were interesting cases, of course, like drunk teens or lost tourists, but these accidents were always handled with care and no civilian ever set foot in the base. Every member of Team Rainbow was living in the illusion, that nobody could get inside without their knowledge, but in the end they happened to be wrong.

One night, when only the German and Russian teams were left on base, the emergency spotlights switched on and with the blaring horns and shouted swearwords, everybody jumped to their feet to look after the intruders. For hours no one found anything, but as the sun was slowly rising, Kapkan got back with the prey.

To everybody’s honest surprise, the stranger who triggered the emergency system wasn’t a drunk teen nor a lost tourist, not even some White Mask idiot, who got bored of their life; but a child.

The kid was about 8-9 years old, his brown hair messy from sweat and dirt, big blue eyes filled with tears and awe. His clothes were torn, bloody, like he fell over and they were way too thin for the weather of mid October. He was shaking from the cold and probably fear, all in all, the boy looked like he went through hell.

“What. The actual. Fuck?” was Fuze’s only comment as they were watching the kid from the other side of the interrogation room. “How did a brat like that get in?”

Next to him Kapkan - who was also muddy and dirty - shrugged. “This is too suspicious…”

The door opened and the German team stepped inside with Glaz and Tachanka. Blitz walked closer to the two-sided mirror, looking at the kid then turned to face the other. “Do you really think, that dragging a child into the interrogation room is the best idea?! He looks like he is in shock, how… Why? Maxim!”

“What? He set off the security system! Boy can be a spy!” Kapkan shrugged, earning four lifted eyebrows and three short nods.

Tachanka looked at the German leader. “Wouldn’t be new. Nobody can know nowadays, Mossad even trains them to be soldiers. Maxim, did you find any weapons on him?”

Kapkan shook his head. “No weapon. Just this?” he took out a professional walkie-talkie.

Blitz looked at them with terror. “You can’t be serious, guys. This is a kid! A kid scared to death! Monika get him some dry clothes, I don’t care whose, Marius, go to Doc’s office, get a medkit, this kid is bleeding!” nodding, Jäger and IQ left.

Kapkan shook his head. “The security protocol-!”

“I don’t care about the damn protocol, this is a child!” Blitz was ready to fight all the four Russians. As the argument between Kapkan, Blitz and Tachanka started to get out of hand Bandit stepped closer to the mirror, looking at the kid. The boy was shaking, from cold or fear, he could only guess. He was sitting in the corner of the room, on the ground, legs pulled up. He tried to look as small as possible, tear stained face buried into his bloody knees. As the German looked closer, he could see the glimpse of the boy’s eyes; he was staring at the mirror. Bandit shook his head, turning towards the shouting teammates.

“Shut the fuck up already, all of you!” he looked at them. “How about we just ask him how he got here, before we cause a lifelong trauma, eh?”

Kapkan rolled his eyes. “You shouldn’t be so soft!”

Bandit smiled at him. “True, I would never hunt down an eight years old kid in the forest, tie his arms behind his back and push him in a room with no windows!”

“I tied his hands, because he was kicking and clawing. He even tried to bite! I needed to bring him back, that was my task! I only used my scarf, I didn’t even tie that tight.”

“His wrist is bloody! He wanted to defend himself, you piece of shit! You teach your niece to do the same, if somebody attacks her!” Bandit rolled his eyes.

Kapkan fell silent suddenly feeling remorse, next to him Glaz nodded. “Dom is right. There is even blood on the walls from previous cases, if we don’t treat him kinder, we could hurt him seriously.”

With a sigh Tachanka nodded, looking at Blitz. “Okay. But never leave him alone, understand? I will contact Thatcher!” heading towards the door, he waved to his comrades to follow him.

With a sigh of relief Blitz turned to face Bandit. “Thank you!”

Bandit shook his head, handing the keys to the other room to Blitz. “Just get him out, okay? I will call Ela and Zofia for some assistance with cracking the kiddo,” with this, he left.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

Kapkan couldn’t find the boy in the forest and couldn’t drag him to the base for hours now, they couldn’t get him out of the interrogation room. Who would have thought that a little kid has stronger will than bunch of grown up elite soldiers? By the end of the day most of them tried, but failed to get the child out of the room. During dinner, they sat around one of the biggest tables.

“How is this even possible?” Tachanka was looking at Fuze. He asked the younger to approach the kid. He came back with a bite mark on his eyebrow.

“I tried, as you told me to… At first I just asked him, but he didn’t answer so I tried to grab him. He almost headbutted me and bit my eyebrow, it hurts like a bitch!” said Fuze, rubbing on the teeth indents in an attempt to sooth them.

Across from the table, Jäger and Bandit almost burst out laughing.

“At least he is a smart little guy! They teach this in self defence classes if you have a bigger opponent against you. The skin under your eyebrow is full of nerves,” IQ smiled at Fuze.

“I don’t care if he is smart! I will let Maxim tie him up again to get him out of there!” Tachanka shook his head.

Bandit lifted an eyebrow. “I don’t know, did you try to… I dunno really, ask him to get out instead of hurting him?”

Tachanka looked at Fuze, who nodded. “I tried! But if you think you are that smart, you get him out!”

Every other member stared at Fuze, then Bandit for this, since the German seemed the least compatible with a kid. Blitz expected a smart comment and a shrug, but Bandit nodded to everybody’s surprise. “What do I get, if I get him out there?”

Tachanka rolled his eyes. “You can skip a week of training, you lazy fucker!”

Bandit nodded again. “Deal.”

Jäger sat up instantly. “Oh, I wanna see this!”

 

Bandit smiled and stood up. He stepped into the kitchen and poured some of IQ’s delicious soup into a big, white dotted orange mug. Mira loved to eat her cereal out of this, since it was much bigger than a normal cup. With the soup, he was heading downstairs to the interrogation room, with seven very interested super-soldier on his track. They entered the other room, Bandit looking after them. “But all of you are shutting up!”

They nodded and closed the door.

“If he gets the kid out of the room, I will be so pissed!” Fuze shook his head.

“Timur and Dom are the only ones who didn’t try before, he might be lucky” Kapkan stepped closer to the two-sided mirror. He bit into his bottom lip as he looked at the curled up boy, earning a soft pat on the back from Glaz.

Bandit sighed and shook his head in front of the door before slowly knocking on it. The kid looked up, as he opened the door, but immediately hid back. Bandit stepped in without closing the door. “Hey, kid!”

They boy didn’t move.

Bandit sighed, scratching his beard. “What have I gotten myself into?!” he walked around the table, closer to the corner. The boy was watching his every move like a wild animal. Bandit sat down slowly, placing the mug of soup on the ground between him and the kid.

As the boy smelt the food, he started to fidget, but didn’t budge. Bandit could hear as the kid’s stomach growled with hunger.

“When was the last time when you ate anything?” Bandit tilted his head, looking at him, but still, no answer. He nodded and leant against the wall behind him. He took out a cigarette and put it in his mouth, the kid watching him carefully. Before he lit it, he looked up at him. “Do you mind?”

The boy blinked a few, looking a bit confused but didn’t answer, so Bandit lit the cigarette and blew out some smoke, looking around the room. “I don’t even understand why did you come here in the first place. I would shit my pants in fear if I were in your shoes, but you take it pretty good!”

Bandit could hear a new growl of hunger, the kid placed a hand on his stomach looking troubled.

“You can eat that! I swear to God it’s delicious. But please don’t tell this to the pretty, blonde lady, okay? She would use it against me!”

On the other side of the wall IQ snorted sarcastically. “Oh what a fortune-teller!”

The boy looked at Bandit, then down the food, but didn’t move.

Bandit crossed his legs a little, getting comfortable on the floor. As his cigarette got shorter, he blew circles of smoke into thin air.

“H-how are you doing that?” finally, the boy looked up. His voice was nothing more than a weak whisper. Bandit shrugged.

“I dunno either. I just push my tongue somewhere and it happens!”

The boy nodded. “Will you hurt me too?”

Bandit shook his head. “I won’t even get close until you let me.”

“Promise?” the kid narrowed his eyes.

“Pinkie promise!” Bandit took the cigarette in his mouth, lifting the pinky of his right hand, allowing it to the boy. He gave the chance to reject the offer.

The boy watched him, without movement, as Bandit held his finger out to him.

“W-will you protect me from that m-mud monster, too?”

Bandit tilted his head. “What, kid?”

“It attacked me and took my walkie-talkie too!”

Bandit needed to bit into the inside of his mouth to prevent a hysterical laughter. He swallowed and cleared his throat. “Sure, buddy.”

“Promise?”

“Pinkie promise, kiddo! I will protect you from every monster. The biggest one you can meet here is me anyway, and I’m on your side,” Bandit winked at him. The boy finally gave him a small smile, he lifted his muddy hand and hooked his pinkie finger into Bandit’s making the man smile too. “My name is Ba-Dominic. But you can call me Dom, okay?”

The boy nodded, finally unfolding himself from a ball of fear.

“What’s your name, hm?”

“Noah.”

“Eat that soup before it gets completely cold, okay?”

Noah reached for the bowl. “Will you leave me here?”

Bandit shrugged. “Don’t get me wrong, buddy, but I don’t want to sleep here!” he saw as the kid lifted his head, eyes filling with fear again. “But you can come upstairs with me if you wanna,” the boy sighed with relief. He tasted the soup and took big, greedy gulps of it. “We will get you a bath, some clean clothes and a bed. Oh and food. Do you like the soup?”

Noah nodded again after he finished the whole bowl. “It’s very good.”

Bandit grinned. “I bet you can ask Monika for some more after we clean you!” he got to his feet, watching as the boy bit into his bottom lip. “Is there a problem?” he tilted his head.

“No monsters upstairs, right?”

Bandit grinned. “The mud monster is locked up!”

“Are you sure?”

“100% sure, Noah! I promised, no monsters.”

Noah got up his feet, bowl in his hands and stepped next to the man. As they were leaving the room, behind the kid’s back, Bandit showed his middle finger to the two-sided mirror.

Chapter Text

“C-can I a-ask for some m-more soup, Monika?”

IQ turned to the boy with a small smile on her lips. “Sure thing! Come, we will see what we find!”

Noah looked back at Bandit, and after the man gave him a short nod, he followed IQ to the kitchen. It was easier to trust the man’s judgement.

“How. The actual. Fuck?” Fuzed looked at Bandit. “How did you do it!? How?”

All of them were back to the canteen after three hours, now with an eight years old - almost nine, as Noah insisted - boy by their side. The kid was clean, his wounds - thankfully just ugly scratches - were patched up. He had a little bit big, but clean and warm clothes on, looking ten times better than before. He was still afraid, but he talked and didn’t shake anymore.

Bandit introduced him to everybody, first his team, then the Russians. Noah seemed to like Glaz immediately, was okay with IQ, Blitz, Jäger and Fuze and was totally afraid of Kapkan and Tachanka. Nobody could blame him for the latter two.

After fifty minutes of persuasion he still wouldn’t talk or even look at the two Russians - much to Tachanka’s dislike. He happened to love kids if it turned out that they are not spies.

To Fuze’s question, Bandit just shrugged. “Dunno. But I don’t really care, I got him out, he is not my problem anymore!”

Blitz elbowed him. “He likes you. I want you to take care of him!”

Bandit turned to face him. “No-no. The deal was to get him out of the room, not to be his babysitter. You can shove it Elias, I didn’t become a soldier to look after brats.”

“That sucks, because he doesn’t like anyone else!”

“He likes Timur-”

“-who sleeps in the bed of the mud monster!” Fuze stated, getting a nod from Glaz. Kapkan tried to not listen, but concentrate on his food instead. He didn’t like his new title at all.

Bandit sighed. “Fuck all of you. I’m not doing this, I have better things to do!” he stood up.

“Being a piece of shit is not a thing to do, Dom!” commented Jäger, getting the others to laugh. Bandit rolled his eyes and without further speaking, he simply left the canteen.

As IQ and Noah came back, the boy wriggled his eyebrows. He looked around, turning on his heels, then glanced up at Blitz with worry. “Where is Dominic?”

“He left!” Jäger shrugged.

“Why?” with confused blinking, Noah climbed up between IQ and Glaz. The woman was his newest best friend since she controlled the food.

“He is a strange guy. Doesn’t really like to be in a team. He is a lone wolf!” Fuze offered smiling.

The kid looked in the direction of the door. “Would he be mad if I went after him?”

The others looked troubled for a second, then Glaz placed a hand on top of the boy’s head, messing up his hair. “You better let him be. He is like a kid, he hates when others push him against his own will!”

Noah grimaced, then nodded. “Okay. But he will be okay, right?”

“He will, Noah, don’t worry!” smiled IQ, handing a napkin to him. “After dinner we will search for a good place for you to sleep, alright?”

 

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“I can’t fall asleep without a bedtime story” came the soft, shy whisper from the boy. Blitz looked at him with a troubled expression on his face.

“We don’t really have books with fairy tales here, sorry Noah!” the German sat next to Jackal’s bed. Since the Spaniard were the owner of the fourth bed in the German room, Blitz thought that it would be the best idea to let the kid sleep in that. Like this he could watch out for him, and Noah wouldn’t be too far from Bandit who he become really fond of.

It was almost midnight, most of them finally ready to bed. Blitz was in the middle of wrapping the kid into blankets, while Jäger cleaned up a bit. Bandit was nowhere to be seen since dinner, but the other three Germans and Glaz was happy to be the kid’s company. As it turned out, Noah was a good kid, and when he understood that nobody wanted to actually hurt him, he loosened up fast. He was very independent, didn’t need adult help with bath time or dressing up, moreover he insisted on doing these alone; he said he is grown up already so Blitz just shrugged and nodded. He was interested, but not annoying, after some time he slowly but steadily relaxed next to them. He still held his distance towards Kapkan and Tachanka, but was looking at them, watching their every step.

Biting his bottom lip, the boy tilted his head “Are you sure?”

“Tomorrow I will take a look at the other rooms with Marius, okay?” Blitz offered with a smile.

Noah considered this for a while, playing with the hem of his borrowed and way too big T-shirt but smiled at him. “Okay! When will Dom be back?”

Looking troubled, Blitz turned to Jäger. “I don’t know, buddy, sometimes he does this! He likes to wander around the base at night.”

“This is strange. Why?” Noah lied down in the middle of his bed, yawning.

“He has trouble with sleeping sometimes!” Jäger shrugged, climbing into his own bed. “He doesn’t like to talk about it much.”

“Are you cold?” Blitz asked, Noah shook his head. “If you need anything, you can wake us anytime!” the man petted his soft hair, getting to his feet.

“Okay!”

Blitz got into his bed, fidgeting a little. He looked at the kid. “Good night, Noah!”

“Good night!” yawning, the boy hugged Jackal’s big pillow to himself, shutting his eyes. Blitz turned off the last lamp and got to sleep. As darkness took over the room Noah got closer to the wall next to the bed. He couldn’t fall asleep, so he soon curled up against the headboard and the wall, hugging his knees to himself. Soft snoring filled the room coming from the two elder, but Noah started to shake again. He wasn’t afraid of the Jäger or Blitz anymore, but the dark base was a whole different question. Strange smells, foreign sounds and scary shadows made him nervous. He didn’t know if there would be any monsters under his bed, or in the closet or on the hallway. Nobody checked it for him.

He glanced at Bandit’s empty bed, hoping the monsters didn’t take him too and couldn’t get himself to lie back down. He just sat there, who knows how long, waiting for the morning to come. His eyes felt heavy, but he was too afraid to close them. He turned to look at Blitz’s sleeping body, then Jäger’s but before he could open his mouth he heard footsteps.

He hugged his blanket tight to himself, because strange cracking sounds followed the steps. He heard a soft click, saw the doorknob slowly turn and as the door opened, he saw a big, black shadow appearing on the ground. Whimpering, he shut his eyes, taking deep breaths, trying to look small.

“The fuck are you doing up this late, Noah?” came the whispered question from Bandit, thankfully not some monster. He glanced at the man, with eyes full of tears. He kicked the blankets down and jumped out to hug the German’s waist. Confused, Bandit laid a hand on his head. “Are you okay, buddy? Was it a bad dream?”

Noah was nodding against his jacket. Bandit knelt down next him, looking at his tear stained face. Lifting his eyebrow, he wiped the moisture away with his thumbs. Noah was looking him in the eye. “I-i thought that-” he took a shaking breath. “the monsters came again.”

Bandit looked at him puzzled for a second. “I told you. No monsters here, not the mud one or any other kind. Get under the covers now, okay?”

Noah looked at his empty bed, then back to Bandit. “C-can I sleep with you? Please?”

“You are too big for it! Get to sleep already!” he turned to leave the room again, but he heard a broken sob. He looked back at the kid and he saw the forming of new tears so he gave in with a big sigh. “Okay. Fine. But only once, you hear me?” he didn’t plan to sleep anyway, this didn’t make a difference. At least the kid could get some rest.

With a big smile, Noah wiped his face clean and snatched the pillow from Jackal’s bed climbing into Bandit’s. The German watched him, shaking his head.

“Okay, kid, stay here. I will go, get a shower then we sleep. Deal?”

Furiously nodding, Noah pulled the covers on top of himself, making Bandit smile. He gathered his things and left, but was back in five minutes, fresh and clean. He took one more blanket from the other bed and climbed next to the kid.

“But I swear to God, if you drool on me, I will threw you out, understood?” he laid down. Before he could think about it, the kid was curled against his chest, nodding again.

“I’m not drooling, I’m not a baby! Good night Dom!”

Bandit couldn’t hold back a grin, he patted along the back of the kid. “Sleep tight, pal.”

Chapter Text

“Shh, you will wake him up! Fast, Marius, take a picture!” Bandit woke up to the sound of chuckles and whispers. Grimacing, he looked up, watching as Blitz and Jäger stood next to his bed, camera in their hands. Under his arm, Noah was still curled up, but was grinning at the other two. The snap of the camera made Bandit narrow his eyes.

“Stop that or I will crush it!”

“But you look so cute! Who would have thought that you are this cuddly, hm?” Blitz grinned at him. Bandit simply gave him a finger, then glanced up the clock. Blitz followed his eyes. “You slept at least a healthy amount of 8 hours. How do you feel?”

“Good, I guess,” Bandit slowly sat up, blinking away the remainings of sleep. Through his life, he have slept next to bunch of different people; first his brother when they were kids, girlfriends through high school and university, different lovers while he was undercover, drunk colleagues since he was working in Rainbow, but he never shared a bed with a kid.

He was surprised the most, as he looked around, feeling strangely calm and not nearly as nightmare chased as usually. He felt relaxed and warm, not even a bit nauseous, but very confused. Only a handful of people sleeping next to him could chase the nightmares away and an eight year old lost kid just did it. This was quite unexpected.

He glanced down to the mess of brown hair, petting it softly. Jäger took another picture so he growled at him. “Get the fuck out Marius, before I punch you in the face!”

Jäger placed a hand on his own chest, acting hurt, but before he could answer, Noah turned to Bandit. “But, you won’t hurt him, would you?” behind the kid Jäger produced the most shit eating grin in history.

Bandit scratched the back of his head. “Thankfully living with a face like this is hurtful on its own, I could only make it better!”

Jäger rolled his eyes, but the kid laughed. Bandit lifted his palm for him, and Noah gave a loud high-five.

“Okay, kids, let’s get ourselves ready and head for breakfast. Do you need any help Noah?”

Shaking his head, the boy started to gather his borrowed clothes. The smallest clothes they had found was Ying’s, and with adjustments all of them was good. They looked a bit big, but Noah didn’t seem to mind, he even convinced Jäger to give him one of his hoodies, so he wasn’t cold anymore. He might looked like a grim reaper in Adidas hood, but he enjoyed it and nobody complained.

 

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“Thatcher answered to my e-mail about Noah’s case this morning” Tachanka turned to Blitz.

They were sitting around a table eating their breakfasts. With incredible puppy eyes Noah convinced IQ to make pancakes for them, then he sat between Fuze and Glaz in an attempt to teach them how to eat this particular dish like a professional. The two soldier was genuinely interested as they watched the kid stacking the food, pouring maple syrup and cutting perfect cubes of butter.

The German leader looked up from his own pancakes waiting the other to continue.

“He said they will be home in two weeks, the Frenchies in three. Noah stays here until that and we need to investigate as much as possible. We need to find out why is he here, how did he even got here, then inside the base. Thatcher told me this whole case can get us into deep shit, if a boy can get inside this easily, so can the White Masks.”

Nodding Blitz looked at Jäger and IQ. “I want you two to look after Noah, okay? I will go in town to check out the Police departments. Lets see of anybody is looking for the kid or not.”

“I will go with you,” Tachanka placed down his paper. “Maxim, please go back to the area where you found Noah, maybe you will find how he got inside. Do you need any help?”

Kapkan shook his head. “I will manage.”

Bandit snorted. “Just look out for the mud monster!”

The Russian looked him deep in the eye, then stood up and left.

“You should be happy that he didn’t punch you!” smiled IQ.

“Well, fuck him. Because of his stupidity the kid can’t sleep alone. I don’t care about him, only Noah,” answered Bandit.

Blitz couldn’t hold back a smile. “So you do care about Noah! How sweet, Dom!”

Immediately Bandit closed his mouth, then shrugged. “I don’t like seeing kids get fucked up by adult’s shit, okay? You too, can go to hell.”

Blitz rolled his eyes, following the leaving Bandit out of the canteen. Noah immediately looked up, with a questioning expression. He turned to Blitz. “Where did he go?”

“I don’t know, buddy. He is a strange guy.”

“Why?”

“If you want to understand him, I think you should ask him directly. He doesn’t like to talk about himself to us. He has some… issues?”

With a puzzled expression Noah looked after Bandit, but before he could go after him, Fuze messed up his hair with a grin.

“Do you wanna check out the workshop with Marius and me? We are working on some interesting stuff!”

Nodding furiously Noah agreed, stuffing the remainings of his pancake in his mouth. As soon as he cleaned his plate, he thanked IQ and left with Jäger and Fuze.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Noah was after all a pleasant visitor. He was interested in everything, he asked a lot about the projects Fuze and Jäger were working on. He was a lovely disruption, chatting with them, offering chaotic concepts and playful constructions from a child’s imagination, even some usable ideas. Both of the adults enjoyed his company, when they asked he gave them wrenches and stuff they missed, never interrupting, when they needed to concentrate so they could really work on their machines. He even showed real interest in model airplanes much to Jäger’s happiness.

During lunch time, he spent his time sitting next to Glaz, words spilling unstoppably as he wanted to tell everything he did in the workshop with his friends. He couldn’t stop admiring everything they made, explaining how he wants to be a tinkerer like them.

Blitz and Tachanka couldn’t bring useful news back from town, but they brought Rufus, Tachanka’s German Shepherd instead, which lead to Noah being all over the place. The oldest Russian evolved into a very good friend of Noah from a scary enemy, when he let the kid feed Rufus.

During the day, Bandit often found himself venturing back to the boy, but never really interrupting. He told himself that he always needed something from the current babysitter, but he later admitted, that he only wanted to check if the little brat is alright.

Not long before dinner, when the sun was settling down on the horizon, Bandit found Noah sitting in one of the big canteen windows looking outside, Rufus by his side. Nobody was near them, so he stepped closer.

“Hey, kid! Where are the others?”

Noah looked up, a big smile blooming on his face as he noticed his best friend. Bandit couldn’t hold back a grin.

“Monika told me to wait for her here, so I can help with dinner! She is getting something from the storage.”

Bandit nodded. Fair enough. “What are you looking at?” he stepped closer, following the kid’s gaze. Noah was watching Glaz, as he stood close to the main door, waiting for somebody. Soon Bandit saw Kapkan approach, covered in dirt and leafs, in his full uniform. The russian really did look like a freaking mud monster like this, nobody could blame a kid to get scared, but this time, to his biggest surprise Noah didn’t even make a sound.

He looked down at the kid, waiting for some kind of a question, or whining, but he got nothing of these, instead the kid started to giggle as he watched them interact.

Kapkan stepped closer to Glaz, literally falling in the sniper’s arms. The hunter looked tired and a bit shaky, but Glaz just pulled down his hood and placed a soft kiss on his face, not minding the dirt. Noah looked up. “Dominic?”

“Hm?”

“Is that Maxim, in the funny costume?”

Bandit snorted. “Yeah!”

“Are they a pair, with Timur?”

“Yeah! They have been together since… I don’t even remember. They are this sappy and overly sweet, that all the sugarcubes in the cabinet want to be like this when they grow up.”

Noah smiled at that. “Do they love each other?”

“Well, I dunno, but I fucking hope so pal, I wouldn’t bear seeing this all the time if it wasn’t for love or something!” Bandit shrugged. Glaz slowly petted Kapkan’s short hair, whispering to the tired hunter.

“They sleep together too? Will they have kids one day? My best friend has two moms!”

Bandit hummed. “Dunno, you should ask them about this, I think!”

Noah nodded, looking back to the pair again. Glaz was supporting Kapkan as they walked inside.

“So Maxim does like Timur, right?” Noah pouted.

Bandit nodded immediately. “Yeah. They are good for each other. Don’t tell them this, but I’m honestly happy for them!”

Noah slowly nodded, biting his bottom lip.

“What’s the problem?” Bandit sat next to the kid, petting Rufus’s head. The sleepy dog wiggled his tail, yawning.

“Maxim is scary. He looks grumpy, like someone who is eating lemon all the time and nothing else.” Noah crossed his arms, looking puzzled. “I don’t think he likes me!”

Bandit tilted his head, smiling. “I don’t think he dislikes you. Do you want to be his friend?”

The kid nodded slowly. “He is kind to Timur…”

“Then I think you should give him a chance! Trust me he is big, old softie,” Bandit messed up Noah’s hair. “You can go and greet them I think! Maxim’s equipment makes him look really big, and scary, but don’t worry, okay? Go! I will look after Rufus until you get back.”

Smiling, Noah jumped on his feet, running out of the canteen with so much excitement, only a kid can produce. Bandit scratched his stubble, trying to understand, but he assumed the problem with the whole mud monster thing was solved. He was honestly relieved.

“I’ve heard everything!” came a soft voice. Bandit looked up, seeing IQ with a shit eating grin on her face.

Bandit pulled a grimace. “I don’t know what are you talking about!”

“I’m sure you do. At the end it will turn out that you have a heart!? You like him!”

Bandit rolled his eyes, picking out a cigarette as he was heading towards the exit, Rufus behind him. “Bullshit!”

“Who would have guessed that you are this good with kids!” IQ giggled.

“Shut up already,” Bandit scoffed at her, opening the door.

“Why? Seeing you be like this with him reminds me of the days, when we were young and you were still able to trust others. To trust us.”

Bandit froze to his place. He could make out the smile in the woman’s voice.

“It’s good to see that you can still let somebody get close to you, I expected Marius or Elias, I’m just surprised that it’s a kid who turned out to be your best friend! I like to see you actually care about something.”

The older man rolled his eyes, looking back. “I don’t give a shit, really!”

IQ shook her head, smiling. “Yeah, sure, I thought the same, but I wanted to let you know that it’s not a bad thing, if you do. Noah is adorable, and he somehow feels as lost as you. He is attached to you, you can’t lie about this! He likes you, really.”

Sighing, Bandit shook his head. “I know…” he whispered.

“What was that?” IQ narrowed her eyes.

“You are one nosy bitch, aren’t you!” with that, Bandit escaped the kitchen, leaving a very smug IQ behind.

Outside, he lit his cigarette, thinking about the whole conversation. Having a kid here, who was more grown up than half of the team was a refreshing change. Bandit really did enjoy his company as well as the others, and he needed to admit that he liked the little brat. Noah was a good kid. Bandit blew the smoke out, thinking about the last time, he was truly relaxed with others, but he couldn’t recall anything, and this fact surprised him. IQ was right, not like he would ever tell her.

Rufus rested his head on Bandit’s thigh, wiggling his tail lazily. It was a nice night, a bit cold, but otherwise calm. Bandit saw big clouds forming far away, he knew it will rain tomorrow. He got himself thinking how he would find a smaller gun to Noah with blanks. He wanted to show him the shooting range or something. Bandit sighed, soothing his hand on Rufus’s head. “Do you think, I’m that cold too?”

The dog blinked a few, nudging his head firmer under Bandit’s palm.

“You are such a bitch” he smiled, but patted Rufus nonetheless.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When he arrived back to have dinner, he saw Noah, sitting between Fuze and Tachanka, across from Glaz and Kapkan. The latter looked relieved that the kid didn’t hate him anymore. As Noah saw his best friend he put down his fork and waved. Bandit answered with a nod, heading towards the kitchen, to get some food. When he saw the smiling IQ, he just pulled a grimace.

After they were done with dinner, Bandit left again. Nobody knew where he went, but they knew better than to bother him. Like last night, Blitz and Jäger got Noah into bed with the help of Dokkaebi’s tablet and a website full of bedtime stories, so when Bandit got back, the kid was snoring along with the other two. With a soft hum, the German gently adjusted the blanket on the kid, petted his messy hair, then got to bed himself.

Chapter Text

For a few days everything went really well, but they just couldn’t solve the case. For three days, Kapkan searched and searched the forest and the base, but he couldn’t find anything, and Noah remained silent. When IQ asked, how he got inside, and why, he just turned away, saying that he likes it there, and doesn’t want to leave. Blitz tried to push Bandit to get info, but he shook his head every time. His leader scoffed at him, for being this lazy, but Bandit waved him off, and left. He knew better.

One morning came a real thunderstorm, cooling down the base and the leftover operators too. This time, Jäger’s borrowed hoodie wasn’t enough, to keep Noah warm, so he needed to improvise a bit by stealing Bandit’s signature jacket, much to the kid’s happiness. When Bandit got back from showering and couldn’t find his favourite accessory, he was furious, but stepping inside the canteen, seeing Noah in the oversized jacket somehow calmed him down. The kid was standing next to Jäger, being deep in a serious sounding argument about something. Blitz and Fuze were standing next to them, seemingly barely keeping themselves from laughing loudly.

“Getting his jacket doesn’t mean, that you need to act like Dom would!” Jäger looked down at Noah.

“You gave it to me, what did you expect?” the kid crossed his arms. Fuze needed to cover his mouth to stay strong.

“Hey,” Bandit snapped his fingers, to get their attention. “why are you shouting at each other, hm? Just for the record it’s not nice to steal my clothes, it’s fucking cold in here!”

Noah’s face lit up, he rushed to Bandit’s side, hugging his waist. Bandit petted his hair.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Mr.Brunsmeier, but your son wanted to have tattoos, just like you and I think you know why we can’t allow that!”

Bandit lifted an eyebrow, he looked at Jäger like the idiot he was. “Not like, he can get any...? We are in the middle of an endless forest, dude!”

Jäger’s mouth fell open, behind him Fuze was shaking now, hysterical laughing almost escaping.

Noah looked up at Bandit. “I asked Timur, to make me tattoos, like yours! Please Dom! Pretty please! Just one! Please!”

Bandit turned his head downwards so hard, it almost hurt. “What do you mean?”

“He can paint! And he told me, that he would draw something for me, but I need to ask you first, and you were in the shower so I asked Jäger.”

“See?!” Jäger pointed at the kid.

“Exactly what Timur wants to use to make you tattoos, buddy?” Bandit tilted his head slightly.

“I dunno, probably Sharpie?”

Bandit couldn’t hold back a smile. “That wouldn’t be too good, for your skin, I think!”

Jäger nodded along. “Thank you, Dom!”

Seeing Noah’s sad expression, Bandit scratched his beard. “Although, I bet, if you ask Monika, she would lend you some make up. With that, you can have a temporary tattoo, and we could wash it down later, so Marius, here won’t get a heart attack, hm? Is it okay, to you too, dude?”

Since he couldn't find anything bad in it, Jäger nodded with a smile cause Noah to boom in excitement.

Soon, Bandit were sitting next to Noah, with his right arm uncovered from the protection of his boring grey hoodie. He didn't have the heart to get his jacket back since Noah was so happy to have it. The kid almost couldn’t hold still, as Glaz was making his art, copying one of Bandit’s originals on his tiny arm.

“Where is Maxim?” he asked after a while.

“He is out there, still searching.”

Noah looked out of the window to the raging storm. “Out there? He will get cold!”

Glaz shared a glance with Bandit, both knowing really well how Kapkan was a superhuman who wasn’t ill once in his whole life, then slowly he looked back at Noah. “I’m afraid of that too. I would be really grateful of you would help us!”

Noah shut his mouth, looking away. “I dunno. I was on the road, with my bike, and I fell. It was dark, I just wanted to find my bike, but I couldn't, then the mud monster jumped on me, and I was in that ugly, cold room!”

Bandit soothed his hand on the kid’s head. “It’s okay buddy. Do you think you would recognise it if you would see the place again?”

Noah nodded. “I think! I will try. But we aren’t going out like this, are we?”

“Ugh, I’m not crazy!” Bandit petted his head once more.

At the end Glaz made an excellent work, and the kid was so happy, he jumped in his arms, hugging the soul out of him. Then, he took on his borrowed jacket and looked at Glaz.

“I only need some beard, and I will look just like Dom!” he clapped his hands.

Glaz messed his hair. “Yeah! But you need to wait couple of years until you can grow a beard like that. But you should take more care of it, than Dom does. He looks like a hobo- now let's get some food.”

“It’s okay! I will remember!” Noah left the room, leaving the two adults.

Glaz turned to Bandit. “I like mini-you. He is smart kid, he brings out everybody’s playful side!”

Bandit nodded. “I like him too, honestly.”

The Russian flashed him a brilliant smile. “He brings out your soft side too! It’s a very interesting change!” with that, he followed Noah. Bandit stood there in silence, biting his lips, thinking for a few minutes about this, then he left too.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Since it was too cold, to do anything constructive, they spent the day in the common room, watching the tv, reading and tinkering. Noah politely handed back the stolen jacket to its rightful owner, but only because IQ got him a big blanket with sleeves.

They spent their time chilling, but as the sun settled, the storm only got angrier, lightning and wind trying to rip the base apart. At about eight, with a very big flash came the loudest thunder Hereford ever seen. It came with a blink of an eye, but when it left, it took the electricity with it, leaving the group in total darkness.

As the rumbling settled down, Bandit heard soft whimpering coming from the couch.

“It’s okay, don’t worry, buddy. It was just a thunder” he spoke softly, he didn’t want to scare the kid even more. “Marius and Shuhrat will fix it tomorrow, until then we will settle with some flashlights, okay?”

As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he looked around. Blitz sighed. “Okay, Dom, you go with Marius, bring the flashlights from the storage, Shuhrat, go get Alexandr, I think he is in Doc’s office with Rufus. Grab those glovy stick things what Doc confiscated from the Recruits last time. Monika you and I stay here with Noah.”

“I will check if Maxim got back in one piece!” Glaz got his feet too, rushing out a little bit worried.

As everybody scattered, Blitz sat next to Noah. The little boy immediately shimmied under his arm. “I’m scared,” he whispered. “I don’t like to be in the dark. I wanna go after Dom and help with the flashlights, Elias!”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, buddy, you would get lost. This base is very big, and in this darkness I would get confused too!”

A thunder stroke really close to base again, causing Noah to start fidgeting. Blitz hugged him. “It’s okay, it really is just a storm, Noah, don’t worry. I think we will camp here today, what do you think?”

Noah nodded against his arm slowly. “Okay.”

IQ sighed. “I can’t believe that we are the world’s most organized elite counter-terrorist team, yet our base can’t keep electricity in storm. I’m so sorry Noah.”

“It’s okay, I-i’m a tough guy, I s-swear!”

Blitz smiled into the darkness and petted Noah’s hair softly. “It’s okay to be afraid sometimes, you know? I’m a bit scared at the moment too, to be honest! I hate to be in dark places, reminds me of a mission that went wrong,” whispered Blitz. Noah relaxed against him a bit. “But you, and Monika being here gives me some confidence!”

Noah nodded. “It’s okay. You are a tough guy too!”

“Thanks buddy.” laughing, Blitz hugged him closer. “Being stuck in a storm is not the best feeling, but until there are others, who you can count on, it’s okay.”

The kid nodded again, trying to remain really calm, but as the minutes passed and thunders came more often by minute, he started to shake and whimper. Nothing Blitz or IQ said calmed him.

“W-when will Dom be back…?” even his voice started to shake.

“I dunno, it must be hard to find the lights in the big boxes of mess!” IQ said. “But, oh, I think they are coming!” she gently turned Noah to face the door, leading towards the corridor. Some light, probably from a flashlight was dancing on the walls, and Noah jumped to his feet immediately.

“I-i will help them!” he threw his blanket down and made his way towards the door before Blitz or IQ could stop him, but there were no need to anyways, since the lights got closer and they could see the faint silhouettes of the furniture like this.

Noah burst into the corridor, turning to face the heroes who brought the lights, but froze to his place instantly, his eyes rounding. To his biggest horror, he saw nothing, but a large figure, towering over him. It was covered in thick layers of mud and dirt, the lights coming down from the creature’s hand casting large, sharp shadows on its head. Noah saw angry eyes flashing in the light and a big hand reaching to get him.

An earth-shattering scream shook the whole base, as the panic reached the kid’s senses, getting everybody to wince in surprise. Noah turned on his heels and run from the monster, to hide in the darkness. He heard the voice of Kapkan and Glaz calling after him, but was too scared to turned around, so he just ran and disappeared.

Chapter Text

Blitz and IQ jumped to their feet, running out to meet Kapkan - covered in thick dirt, and water, shaking slightly from the deadly shrieking what Noah made and the freezing cold - and Glaz. IQ turned around. “What was that?! Where is Noah? Where is Dom?”

Kapkan looked at Glaz, who’s eyes rounded as well. “Fuck, he saw Maxim and… Oh shit!”

“You scared him!” IQ wanted to draw blood as she turned to Kapkan. “For fuck’s sake, we won’t find him till tomorrow morning!”

“It wasn’t intentional, stop shouting at him!” Glaz stepped in front of Kapkan. “Why did you let Noah out in the damn dark corridor!?”

“He thought it was Dom and Marius with the flashlights!” Blitz explained.

“Oh my God, he must be scared to death!” IQ planted her face in her palms. “I swear to God if he gets injured…!”

They heard footsteps and more lights approach, turning, they met with the group’s other half. IQ immediately counting them, Bandit with his hands in his pockets, Jäger with his arms full of flashlights, Tachanka with a confused Rufus, and Fuze looking at Kapkan with an eyebrow raised. “What happened to you, Maxim?”

“What was that sound?” Jäger tilted his head. “You fell again, aren’t you, Elias?” he even dared to smile, not noticing the tension.

“Where is Noah?” Bandit stepped closer, looking at Kapkan, who was on the literal verge of tears by the look. The German turned to a more serious tone. “Maxim, where is Noah?”

“They scared him, so he run away,” IQ crossed her arms in front of her chest.

“I-i didn’t mean it, I swear! I’m so, so sorry… Who thought?” Kapkan shook his head in stress. He was so pale and scared like Bandit has never seen him before.

“How did you found it a good idea to come here dressed up as his biggest fear on base!? How?” IQ was unappeasable.

“I’m s-sorry!” Kapkan stuttered.

“It’s a bit late for that! What will we do now!?”

“I-” but before Kapkan could finish, Bandit stepped in between.

“Okay. Calm down now, would you?” he looked at IQ. Everybody seemed confused a bit, they didn’t understand why would Bandit defend Kapkan after the Russian’s first interaction with Noah. “The only working bathroom is the literal next door, I’m sure they were heading there, so don’t blame this on them okay? I know that you are scared, but the top priority is to find Noah, at the moment, after that you can kill each other as much as you like, but only when the kid is here with us, understood?”

Mouth gaping slightly, IQ nodded. Bandit took a flashlight from Jäger and turned to Kapkan. “You should go and get cleaned as soon as possible. It might only be cold water at the moment, so get ready. The others should start the searching. Timur, you stay here. If Noah will come back here you might be the only one who could calm him down. He would trust you. I’m searching the West wing,” he pointed where IQ said the kid went. “if we can’t find him in two hours, we meet here. If I hear any arguments before we get Noah back I will fuck you up, understood?” without further command, he left with the flashlight.

The others stood there in complete silence, until Blitz broke the silence. “You heard the man. Let’s get Noah!” he got two flashlights, and offered one to IQ. As he turned away to check the South wing, he couldn’t hold back a proud smile.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

After two and a half hours of searching in the full darkness, Fuze found Noah in the East wig, hiding in the storage room often used by the Recruits. Since the kid refused to come out when the Russian asked, Fuze called Bandit and the whole group.

“Where is he?” Bandit asked, as he arrived.

“To the left in the back.” Fuze crossed his arms. The German nodded, heading towards the door. When he passed Kapkan, he stopped turning to face him. The Russian looked like he went to Hell and back at least twice. He was pale and worried. Bandit placed a hand on his shoulder.

“I will explain what happened to him, okay?” he got a short nod, so he squeezed Kapkan’s shoulder softly and stepped inside the door. “Noah?”

He only got sobbing and whimpering as an answer. He sighed; Noah was in there, what was good, but was crying, that wasn’t promising.

He scratched his beard. They were in full darkness, so he slowly stepped closer. “Noah, it’s me, Dom, do you hear me? Are you okay? Are you hurt?”

He heard a soft cry, then a, “D-dom…?” Thank God.

“Yeah, it’s me. I know you can’t see much, in this shithole, but I’m here. I have a flashlight, I can turn it on, so you will see me, okay?”

“O-okay…”

Bandit reached for his flashlight, and turned it on, covering it with his hand so it wasn’t as blinding. He then slowly lifted his fingers, one by one, not to scare Noah with the sudden light or shadows. He placed the flashlight down, and narrowing his eyes, he looked around. When he finally saw the little kid’s messy hair, he felt a ton-weight stone rolling off of his chest.

Noah’s face was stained from tears, his eyes red from crying. He looked pale, like Maxim, and cold, but he looked alright. Bandit offered a small smile to him. “I will get to you, okay? I bet you are frozen there, geez.” he slowly started to fight his way across the mess that the Recruits left in the room. He continued talking, “What happened, bud? You scared me!”

“Y-you said, t-that there were no m-monsters u-up, and… I-i saw it, and i-it wanted to get me!” whispered the kid.

“Noah, I swear, that it wasn’t a monster! I will show you tomorrow, okay?” as he finally reached the kid, he slowly leant down. “I’m here, and I promise, there are no monsters out there buddy! I know you are scared, trust me, I was worried sick too, but there are no monsters. Just the team! Timur is here, and Alexandr as well, and Monika with Marius and Elias, Maxim and Shuhrat, they even have Rufus. They were worried too!” he offered a hand to the kid.

Noah glanced up at him, then looked at the door still shaking. Bandit waited patiently, until the kid slowly reached for his hand and climbed in his arms. Bandit hugged him close, letting out a relieved sigh. He wasn’t lying, it was a miracle that he himself wasn’t shaking.

“You are fucking ice cold! God lord” he took off his jacket and wrapped the kid in it. He spooned Noah into his arms, letting the boy bury his face in his shoulder, then walked outside.

When the others saw them together, everybody let out a big sigh of relief. Bandit stepped outside, soothing his hand in Noah’s hair to calm the whimpering boy. Kapkan stepped closer to say something, but Bandit spoke before the Russian could even open his mouth.

“Lets head back to the common room, okay? All of us need some rest, especially Noah and Maxim.”

Noah slowly lifted his head, looking around, then hid back in Bandit’s neck. “C-can I sleep with you?”

Bandit nodded without a second thought. “Sure.” he felt Noah’s smile against his shoulder so he continued the journey back to the common room. Behind him Glaz was whispering something to Kapkan to ease the tension, and Jäger started to chat with Fuze and Blitz thankfully. The worst was behind them.

When they got back, Bandit sat down in front of the couch with Noah in his arms. IQ and the others left to gather every blanket and pillow they could find for their camping experience. When they were left alone, Bandit leant against the kid in his arms. He closed his eyes.

“A-are you okay?” came the soft whisper from his shoulder.

Bandit smiled weakly. “Sure, why do you ask?”

“Dunno. I got the feeling, that I should ask.”

“It’s nothing, really. I was just afraid that you might get injured, Noah. That’s all. I know that if somebody is scared,” he opened his eyes and looked out of the window, at the slowly calming storm. “sometimes they can hurt themselves,” he looked at the kid in his arms. “or others,” he added.

Noah fell silent. “Sorry for running.”

“No, it’s okay. It wasn’t your fault, nor is it anybody’s. I’m glad that you are alright.”

Noah hugged Bandit with shaking hands. “Were you ever this scared in your life?”

Smiling, the German nodded. “Once. The night when I lost my brother. I’m not sure if I have ever been not scared since that night.”

“How did you lose him?” Noah asked.

“It was an accident,” Bandit took a deep breath. “we were young, and got into a fight during a protest, and…” he stopped, shaking his head. “I will tell you, when you are older, okay?”

Without a new question, the boy nodded. “Okay. My dad would be happy to know that I found good friends, who are looking after me! I will tell him everything when he gets back.”

Bandit smiled. “Where is he?”

“He lives in America. His job is there. I miss him. He bought me the walkie-talkie so he can reach me whenever he is,” Noah yawned.”in the country.”

Bandit hummed along, but before he could ask anything, the others got back with blankets and pillows enough for three pillow forts. Everybody left to change, and soon got back. Bandit helped the kid, then changed himself. He even let the boy borrow his jacket for the night. When they got back, everybody had their own bed and soft snoring already filled the room, coming from Tachanka and Blitz. To Noah’s happiness Bandit lied next to him from one side and Rufus cuddled him from the other, thankfully like this he was asleep in no time. Bandit pooped himself up on one elbow, waiting for a while, just listening as everybody dozed off. He gently soothed his hand on Noah’s arm, caressing the boy. It was more to his own peace than the kid’s. Soon he heard a voice.

“Dom…?”

“Yes, Maxim?”

“Noah is good, right?”

Bandit couldn’t hold back a small smile. “He is good, yeah, but I think he might want to sleep next to me every night from now on.”

“Like you mind, hm?” chuckled the Russian.

“Shut up, and go to sleep,or I’ll make you!” said Bandit, but laughed as well.

For a few minutes everything were silent, but Kapkan spoke once more. “Thanks.”

“For what?”

“Defending me. It was nice of you.”

“No problem. It really wasn’t your fault. I was a piece of shit with you before. I wanted to make up for it.”

“Well, you were right. No hard feelings.”

“Same.”

“But for the record, you are always a piece of shit!” Kapkan snorted. “Good night.”

Smiling, Bandit lied back on his pillow and put an arm around Noah just to be sure, the kid knows that he is here when he wakes up. “G’night.”

Chapter Text

The next morning, Bandit woke up to Noah’s cold place next to him. He immediately sat up, looking around to find the kid. The room was mostly empty, only Rufus was snoring next to him slowly. The German gently patted to dog, waking him up too. “Let’s find them, shall we?” with a sleepy yawn, Rufus got up, stretching his limbs as Bandit dressed up. Together they roamed around the base, Bandit lighting a cigarette as they searched.

He didn’t quite understand how he was the last to wake up, usually he barely could sleep. Bandit felt relaxed and even happy, since his night was nightmare free. He guessed it was because he was very tired after losing Noah or, it was because the kid sleeping next to him was a comfort he didn’t know he needed.

At last, he found the whole team in the kitchen, Jäger elbow deep in a big box of cables and stuff only mechanics understood. Fuze assisted him, he also had a smaller and more organized box with switches and little lights. Bandit stepped in, nodding to them. “‘morning, guys.”

Noah was sitting next to Glaz, with a bunch of papers, but when he heard Bandit’s voice he dropped everything and came running to greet the German. He jumped in his arms and Bandit couldn’t find a reason to not hug him back so he did, with a faint smile. IQ watched them with a proud expression, but this time remained silent.

“Marius and Shuhrat found the fuze box, but they said it’s all melted, so they need to fix it. We didn’t have breakfast because there is no electricity and the guys said there wouldn’t even be at least until the afternoon. Alexandr and Elias went out to gather firewood because we will have a barbeque!” he chirped. Bandit let out a small laugh, petting his hair.

“Okay. Will you help me and Maxim after dinner, like you told me yesterday?”

Noah nodded. “Sure! But… you told me you will say something about the m-mud monster too,” he turned away.

Bandit hummed, waved at one of the tables. “Yeah. But we need Maxim and Timur for that too. Let’s go.”

As the four of them left the room, they heard IQ as she told Fuze and Jäger to stop for a while and help her with the preparations for the barbeque since Maestro and Thermite - her two biggest allies in the kitchen - were still one week away from getting home.

Bandit looked at Kapkan. “Where is your gear? Is it still dirty?”

 

“Most of it. I didn’t feel like cleaning it yet. It’s in my cage.”

“Okay. So, Noah, that thing you saw yesterday night wasn’t a real monster, but Maxim, in his uniform.”

Noah, with confused blinking, turned to Kapkan, than back to Bandit. “Really? Are you sure? Why would Maxim want to hurt me?”

“He wasn’t about to hurt you, he just wanted to catch you because he was afraid you would slip on the wet floor,” Glaz offered gently.

“Do you remember? A couple of days back you asked me about Maxim’s funny costume?” when he got a nod, Bandit continued. “Well, that’s not really a costume, but his gear and uniform. One of Maxim’s speciality is hiding, he is a hunter,” Bandit opened a door and walked outside of the main building, heading towards the smaller one, where they kept most of the gear, weapons and supplies. “he needs to be able to blend in, to disappear so the animals won’t see him.”

“Yeah?” Noah glanced up at Kapkan, who nodded slowly.

Bandit got to Kapkan’s own cage and opening the door he walked in. There were most of the Russian’s uniform, still dirty and muddy. Bandit leant down to pick up the Viper Hood, showing it to Noah. The kid tilted his head, grimacing.

“B-but… Are you sure?”

Kapkan slowly gathered his thick jacket, scarf and vest. All of it were heavy from the dirt. The boy crossed his arms, looking up at Glaz for explanation, but got nothing, so he looked at Bandit instead, who let go of the hood. “This gear is not only useful in the hiding process, but it’s pretty damn thick and warm. This is the only reason why Maxim wasn’t really cold out there, because he had all of these layers on. Also, this stuff makes him look big and intimidating, but look at him, he is a big softie.”

Noah looked at them with eyes narrowed. “Are you sure?”

“Do you want me to show you?” Kapkan offered. The kid nodded, so the Russian put on the jacket, scarf and the hood, not bothering with the boots, heavy pants and his vest this time. When he was ready, he simply stood up, crossing his arms.

The boy looked at him, biting his lips. He let out a soft whimper and instead of asking anything, he climbed in Bandit’s arms. The German petted along his back gently. “I told you. There are no monsters here, only bad timing. Maxim was heading towards the bathroom, he didn’t want to hurt you, really. Do you believe me?” Bandit looked the boy in the eye.

Noah nodded slowly, covering a small sob. “Yes.”

“Good!” the German sighed. “What’s the problem?”

“I understand that he didn’t want to hurt me yesterday, but, then the m-mud monster, who caught me in the forest was Maxim too? The one who took away my walkie-talkie, and put me into that scary room?”

Bandit looked up at Kapkan, than back to Noah. “Sadly, yeah. But he didn’t mean that either, you know? We are a military service, we need to follow rules and go by the protocol. Maxim did what he needed to, but he wanted to apologize for it since you got out of that room.”

Noah looked up at the Russian. “You did?”

Kapkan knelt down and pulled the hood from his head, revealing his already messy hair. “I’m so sorry for scaring you this much twice, pal. I didn’t mean any of them, I promise. I would understand if you wouldn’t want to spend time with me anymore. I’m truly sorry! I would never want to hurt you.”

Noah looked at him for a few long moments, then he turned to Bandit, then Glaz, but faced Kapkan again, with a bit of insecurity in his eyes. He pulled a face, thinking it through, then, fidgeting with the zipper of Bandit’s jacket, he asked, “can I get my walkie-talkie back?”

Kapkan offered a weak smile. “Sure, buddy, I will get it for you.”

“Okay!”

“Will you forgive me?” Kapkan asked, remorse coloring his voice.

Noah bit his bottom lip, looked at Bandit one more time, then slowly nodded. Glaz let out a big sigh of relief, placing his palm on his own chest for support. Kapkan smiled at the kid, but Noah opened his mouth again. “But, can I try your jacket on with this hoodie thing? It looks so silly.”

Laughing Kapkan nodded. “Of course. I will teach you how to defend yourself against any other monsters if you want to!”

Noah’s eyes rounded. “Can you do that? Really? Please-please! Teach me, Maxim, please!”

With a grin, Bandit shook his head. He leant back, looking at Glaz who was watching Kapkan with a loving expression. He was really proud of the other Russian for handling this so well.

After half an hour, Noah’s every concern disappeared as Kapkan explained his gear to him. He even told the kid that he would teach him how to make traps if he wishes, what Noah happily accepted. When they got back to the others, the delicious smell of food already filled the air, so they got a late breakfast, then headed out to search the whole base.

Later that day, they finally understood how Noah got inside the base.

“He was where!?” IQ whispered, fear colouring her voice. All of them were shocked.

“In the restricted area, yeah!” Bandit nodded.

They were sitting outside, enjoying the remaining of October’s sun on their skin. It wasn’t that warm, but it was way better than the raging storm from yesterday. They were sitting around the campfire, electricity long fixed. Noah was out of reach with Kapkan, as the Russian taught him basic self-defense moves against bigger components - monsters in this case. He wanted Noah to have other options than to bite everybody on the eyebrow, so he trained with him.

Glaz was watching them, interested in the way Kapkan behaved around the boy. A few years ago he considered adopting a kid for them, but their lives were too dangerous at that time, also they weren’t married yet, but the sight of Kapkan teaching Noah, gently guiding him, laughing with him, made his knees go a little bit weak.

“How on Earth did he get there!?” asked Tachanka. The restricted area was a big field separated from the actual training grounds. In the first few active years they used it to test out new weapons and explosives. If the remaining scrap from the early experiments wasn’t dangerous enough on its own, due to the explosions of mixed C4, rockets and grenades, the structure of the ground became life hazard. They needed to surround the biggest part after a Recruit broke both of his legs. He fell into a hole, created by Ash’s gadget, but was covered with branches and leafs.

“He was biking on the road, but heard a strange sound, so he got scared and fell off. He found a hole in the fence, and since he was injured and scared he hoped that he could find people. He ventured in the restricted area, and eventually if somebody is not a grown up, but a skinny kid, they could even run without tripping. He climbed over the gate, because he expected to find somebody, but got lost in the woods. That’s when dear Maxim found him.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me” IQ sighed.

“Nope. Today we found the pieces missing from his jeans, one dirty bag, and a bike close to a really tiny hole in the fence. He is a strong little guy.” finished Bandit. “We found some more clothes in his backpack and cookies wrapped, but nothing else. Now we know how he got in, but still we don’t have any idea why he got here.”

Everybody fell silent, then Tachanka hummed. “In a few days the others will be back. We should look through that backpack, there is no possibility that he got away and nobody is looking for him.”

All of them nodded, then they turned their heads to look at Noah and Kapkan. IQ let out a sigh. “I know that we can’t keep him around, but- I kind of wish that we don’tfind his mother, so he can hang around here a bit more.”

Blitz patted her shoulder softly. “It’s okay. I don’t think that he will forget us. We might be able to meet him sometimes. Or at least I hope so.”

“Somebody should date his mom,” offered Jäger smiling, making Fuze snort.

Blitz clicked his tongue. “Go for it then!”

Jäger grinned, but waved him off. “I can’t! Our friend here, Dominic is the step-dad of this kid Elias, nobody else!”

Bandit rolled his eyes, but this time, didn’t say he wasn’t. He started to get really attached to this kid, he knew that when he needs to let him go, it will be painful. “I need a smoke!” he got up, and walked away from them. Nobody stopped him. They somehow understood why he left this time.

Chapter Text

Bandit was right, Noah wanted to sleep with him every night, and since the kid chased away the nightmares and bad thoughts, he never said no. Otherwise everybody spent time with Noah, switching as babysitters, but after a couple of days the boy has known the base better than them. He avoided the basement, of course, but he knew where to find who he was looking for everytime. When Bandit was missing from lunch or dinner, Noah was always visibly sad, but never tried to bother the German. He started to understand how Bandit worked.

When they looked through the kid’s dirty backpack, they finally found something. One tiny shirt had the letters N.T. sewed in it. They suspected that the ‘N’ was for Noah, so they needed to search through school databases, for any Noah Ts, but it was way more easy with Dokkaebi by their side, so they decided to wait a bit. It wasn’t that big of a sacrifice.

About a week later, when they were in the middle of breakfast, the other teams arrived back. All new faces and voices filled the canteen, really big and grumpy looking, hungry operators, some seemingly a little bit rougher than normal. Noah was sitting between Jäger and Fuze by that time, but as he saw new people flow in, he escaped the canteen to find Bandit. He didn’t need too much time for it, ten minutes later, he dropped down next to the smoking German around the shooting range.

“Hey, what’s the problem buddy? You look scared.”

“I’m alright. It’s just- there are so many people in the canteen. They are loud and scary! Even the ladies.”

Smiling, Bandit nodded. “Yeah, I know. The ladies sometimes can be much more scary than the men around here,”

“Not just around here!” Noah giggled. He leant against Bandit’s shoulder. “Can I stay here with you?”

“Sure, bud. I was practicing, do you want to try out shooting?”

Noah blinked up at him. “Yes please! But you will help me, won’t you?”

“Listen, I know that you are a strong little guy, but these guns can kick like a horse, so of course I will help.” Bandit messed up Noah’s hair, grinning at him. “I can’t believe I’m the one saying this, but we can’t hide out here all day, we need to get back to the team, at least for lunch.”

“I know. Can I sit next to you during lunch?”

“Sure, you don’t need to ask this,” Bandit got up, flicking the stub into the nearest trash bin. They spent the rest of their time before lunch in the shooting range. Bandit explained everything, made sure that Noah knows the safety steps before he could even touch a real gun. As it turned out, Noah was very okay with just watching Bandit practice, giving away mocking criticism when he didn’t hit the middle of the target.

When it was time to have lunch, together they approached the canteen. Thankfully they were early, so the canteen was mostly empty. Only Maestro, Thermite and IQ worked inside the kitchen to prepare something normal to eat. Before Maestro’s arrival they only cooked for their teams, but the Italian demanded that everybody eats healthy food and not cup noodles and fried chicken nuggets with Nutella.

IQ greeted them with a big smile. “Hey guys! Where have you been?”

“We were shooting!” Noah smiled at her.

“I was shooting. He was mocking me,” Bandit declared.

Noah waved him off. “Dom is a very good at this, but he sometimes sweared like a pirate. He seriously needs a swear jar!”

Thermite snorted. “Then we would be rich by the end of this week, kiddo.”

Laughing, IQ turned Noah to Thermite and Maestro. “Noah, these two gentleman are Jordan and Adriano. Guys this is Noah. He is the one I have been talking about!”

Thermite stepped closer with a friendly smile, offering his hand. When Noah accepted, the American shook it, like he would do with any other adult, making the kid giggle. Maestro was a bit more straightforward. He scooped the kid in his arms, and almost crushed him with a big, warm hug. Noah let out a squeaking sound, but hugged the big man back. IQ bit into her bottom lip to cover the laughter what was about to escape .

As Maestro let go, Noah stood there, a little confusion on his face but otherwise he was smiling. “You almost crushed me! Monika? Adriano is a giant, right?”

With a full belly laugh, Maestro patted his back and went back to cooking. IQ grinned. “He is a big, hairy behemoth, but he is still not the strongest and biggest here, you know? We have two bigger guys, you will meet one during lunch! Would you like to help us prepare the food?”

Nodding, Noah washed his hands. He got an apron from IQ and helped with everything the other three asked him. He wasn’t the fastest on this field, but he did very good. Bandit just watched them, sitting on a counter. He somehow felt proud of the kid, how he opened up for the new ones too. Later, with the first approaching operators, Noah helped bringing out all the tableware.

As he was heading back for some knives to the kitchen, he saw the SAS members arrive, Sledge walking in as the last. The bald man looked around, greeting Maestro with a smile. Blinking, Noah stepped next to IQ, Bandit and Thermite, pointing at Sledge who began to chat with the Italian. “He is the giant you were telling me about?”

IQ nodded. “Yeah. He has this big steel hammer, about 22 lbs, nobody could use it like he does. He can break walls to pieces with it!”

Mouth falling open, the kid looked up at Sledge, who seemed really nice actually. He was listening to Maestro’s story, smiling and nodding along. “I bet he eats lots of spinach,” giggled Noah, making Bandit and Thermite snort and IQ laugh.

“Maybe the spinach caused his baldness too,” Bandit said, smiling. Thermite snorted again.

When she stopped laughing, IQ poked in the direction of the giant with her head. “Do you want to introduce yourself?”

Noah nodded, looked back at Bandit. “Can I?”

“Sure, go for it! Tell him about the spinach too, okay?”

Grinning Noah nodded.

“Come, then!” IQ held out her hand to the kid, who happily accepted it.

Thermite glanced at Bandit, when they were gone. “You really do function like his step-dad!”

“If so many of you say this then it must be true,” Bandit crossed his arm in front of his chest, watching as Noah politely introduced himself to Sledge. He let out a small sigh. He couldn’t lie to himself anymore. “I like him. He is a cool kid, he is smart and funny. I know that we need to take him home, but a tiny part of me just want to keep this kid here.”

Grinning, Thermite elbowed him. “Like adoption?” he joked, obviously, but Bandit would lie if he would say he didn’t thought about this.

“Of course not, you fucker.” Bandit cleared his throat. “Get back to cooking, Chef Ramsay, you need to feed the whole base.”

Laughing, Thermite left him by his thoughts. Bandit watched as IQ left Noah alone with Maestro and Sledge. The kid was so small compared to them, but especially for the Scottish. Bandit glanced at the slowly filling tables, watched as Kapkan sat next to Glaz, leaning against him softly, as Jäger chatted along with Fuze, Echo and Twitch, how Tachanka argued with Blitz and let out a small sigh. This kid changed how others saw him, how he saw others, but most importantly: how he saw himself.

Noah got along with the other operators pretty well. He understood who didn’t want him to be around them, so instead of making friends with everybody, he hung out with who he knew. After a few short hours Maestro got into the golden circle next to Glaz and Bandit, being friendly and kind, telling amazing stories about his childhood and family to Noah. The kid wanted to visit Italy, like nobody else. Bandit trusted Maestro in this, so he left Noah to his care, when he needed to leave, and the Italian gladly helped out with the boy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A bit before dinner, Bandit was roaming around the base, wanting to clear his mind, but being stuck with the same thoughts, until he saw Blitz and Thatcher talk with Dokkaebi. He pulled a grimace, immediately understanding what was going on. The young woman had a folder in her hand, a picture of a little boy pinned on top of it. He knew that getting Noah home was for the best, he wasn’t stupid, but seeing the folder, after a few hours the others got back was heartbreaking for him. The hacker did a fast and thorough job, he was sure about that.

Without thinking, Bandit walked closer, poking his hands in his pockets. Blitz glanced at him, offering a smile. Bandit looked down at the folder, knowing the answer before even asking his question. “What is that, Elias?”

Blitz too, looked down at the folder, his smile turning to something sadder. “This is Noah’s school report. Grace got them, and we are discussing how we should get in touch with his mom or her husband.”

Bandit nodded slowly, throat getting sore all of a sudden. “I see. When do you want to send him home?”

Thatcher glanced at him with a calm expression. “I will try to contact his mom, after that we will see. I would say, we need a few more days.”

The German nodded again. “Sure. Thanks.” he turned away, heading towards the nearest exit. Blitz stepped after him, but eventually let him disappear.

Thatcher looked at him. “You all knew, that he needed to go,” he patted Blitz on the shoulder. “You can say your goodbyes, but get ready. The kid is finally going home. It’s for the best.”

“I know, Mike!” Blitz was still looking after Bandit. “We all know. But saying is so much easier than doing so! I will talk to Dom later. Let’s head for dinner, shall we?”

The other two agreed and Thatcher put down the folder on his desk, then left with the other two. Bandit missed out dinner and Blitz couldn’t blame him at all. He saw when Noah looked up from his plate, searching for Bandit through all the operators, but when he found nothing, he sighed and nuzzled against Maestro. Pulling a face, he turned down his head.

Chapter Text

That was the first night in a long time, when Bandit had nightmares even with Noah cuddled up against his side. Making it worse, the dreams were scarier than ever. It felt like they were waiting, collecting their darkness, just to wash over Bandit when they finally got him in their claws again. Bandit was chased by dark figures, faces from the past and present, decisions, turns of events and lots of losing.

His eyes popped open in the middle of the night. His whole body was covered in cold sweat, shaking like leaf in the wind. He immediately turned to search after Noah, but before he shook the peacefully sleeping kid awake, he stopped himself. He sat up, taking big gulps of air, trying to calm himself, but the technique he learnt from Doc did close to nothing this time. He was in the middle of a panic-attack and he didn’t know how to escape from it, so he just sat there, silently, in the dark, waiting, trembling.

He looked at Noah, watched as he slept, hugging a little pillow against himself. His hair was messy, face wrinkled from sleep, but he was peaceful. Bandit slowly started to breath, following the kid’s tempo. It took a while, but thankfully this calmed him down. He slowly stood up, adjusting the covers on Noah, tucking him in against the chilly October, then barefoot, he left the room. He was cold, but the fresh night air cleared his head, so he didn’t mind freezing this time. Roaming around the corridors, he considered waking Jäger or Blitz, but he knew that they wouldn’t understand. He needed to talk to somebody, but Doc was still gone, and he couldn’t trust anybody else.

Eventually, his feet lead him to the other part of the base, where the ladies slept. Before he could stop himself, he slipped inside the room of Ash, Twitch, Frost and IQ, gently waking the latter up.

As she got to herself, IQ wanted to snap at whoever dared to wake her, but when she saw Bandit’s face she propped herself up on her elbow. “Dom? What’s wrong? Is Noah okay?”

Bandit turned his head away. “I just need to talk to you. Can we just…?”

IQ scrubbed the sleep out of her eye, yawning but nodding. “Go out, don’t wake the others. I will get my coat.”

Nodding, Bandit left the room, and was genuinely relieved when IQ followed him after a few seconds. Without a word, Bandit started walking, head hanging low. IQ crossed her arms in front of her chest to warm herself.

When Bandit didn’t start talking, IQ gently placed a hand on his shoulder. “What happened? You look like you have gone through hell.”

Bandit nodded slowly. “I-i had a nightmare again. I have been sleeping unnaturally good for a couple of days, and I was- The nightmares came, harder than ever, showing me everything what I regret and I didn’t know where to go, and this is so much bullshit, and I’m sorry for waking you up.”

Seeing the always calm and smug Bandit falling apart in front of her eyes made IQ worry like nothing else. She never saw the man like this before. “It’s no problem, Dom. You can come to me anytime you want. Let’s make a tea or something, okay? You are shaking.”

Nodding, Bandit let IQ lead him towards the kitchen. When they got there, she made two cups of tea, then they entered the common room, sitting on the couch. Bandit was silent, and that made IQ even more aware of the problem.

“You’ve been dealing with nightmares since I known you, how did you stop them in the first place?” she asked softly.

“I didn’t,” came the whispered answer. “Noah did. I don’t fucking know how he made it, since he is nothing more just a lost child, but he did it” he started to massage the bridge of his nose. “His presence was enough to calm my mind down. I feel like it’s been ages, since the nightmares and this just makes it worse.”

IQ nodded slowly, hugging her knees against her chest. “I see. Did something happen during the day? You didn’t come to dinner. Where have you been?”

“Shooting. Smoking. The usual.”

“Dominic, please… I can’t help if you don’t let me.”

Bandit took a deep breath, turning his head away. “Fuck. Being a quick bitch she is, Grace did her magic, and got Noah’s papers somehow. I found Mike, her and Elias talking about how Mike will call Noah’s mom tomorrow, and I-” he shut his eyes.

“You are attached to the kid more than you wanted, so you are afraid you will lose him?” offered IQ gently.

“Which is a piece of shit, since he is not my kid, and I’m a grown up man. I don’t really have the right to get attached. It’s just strange. This might be some temporary brain damage.” Bandit let out a broken little laugh.

“Your humor hasn’t changed, you will be alright in no time.” IQ smiled at him. “Noah changed all of us a bit, but you the most.”

“You don’t say..?” Bandit scoffed.

“Do you want to hear what I think?” IQ tilted her head.

“Maybe.”

Chuckling IQ placed her mug on the coffee-table, leaning against Bandit’s shoulder. “You are right, you are a grown-up man. But a very broken one. You had to deal with lots and lots of shit, like losing your brother, and the whole undercover job, then this stress. You might had a bit more than the most of us. As far as I know, you don’t really let anybody close to you. Why?”

Bandit was silent for long minutes, then sighed. He was sure IQ knew these already. “Because I know, how I will lose everybody the moment I start to loosen up.”

“Yet you let Noah get close to you.”

“Say something that I don’t know,” Bandit barked, looking at IQ.

“He was lost, afraid and lonely. He was just like you.”

Bandit let his head hit the back of the couch. “I hate you.”

“He helped you, like you helped him. He trusts you, like you trust him,” IQ pointed out. “Nobody could be more honest than a kid and you know this. Nobody blames you for getting attached, it would be strange to not get. You needed somebody who you can trust,” she offered a smile to Bandit. IQ have never seen her teammate be this vulnerable before. “and you are afraid, you will lose him too.”

“I hate you, I hate this whole shit!” Bandit planted his face into his palms.

Smiling gently, IQ hugged him against herself. “It’s okay. I won’t tell anybody, I promise.”

“Okay. Tell me what to do! Just tell me.”

“Well, Noah might not be here with you all the time, but you can be sure, that he loves you very much. I’m sure, he wouldn’t forget you. You need to understand that him leaving the Base is not equal to him leaving forever like everybody else you had. You can still meet him.”

“How do you expect me to hang out with an eight year old kid, hm? That would look a bit interesting, I’m not part of his family or anything. What if his mom or dad are bunch of assholes, and they hit the sirens because an adult wants to meet their kid, for a chat?”

IQ let out a sigh. “Honestly? I don’t know Dom. I’m sorry. But you can be sure you are not the only one, who would miss him. We all grown pretty attached to him” her voice was nothing but a whisper this time.

Bandit looked at her and hugged IQ close to himself, taking a deep breath. IQ let out a soft sob, then a laugh. “Are you crying?”

“These are not sad tears, Dom. I’m happy that he will get back to his family. But he made our teams work together, like saving the world couldn’t in such a long time. You don’t believe me? Just look at us.”

Bandit nodded slowly. “I believe you.”

“Are you feeling any better?”

Considering his answer, the older looked her in the eyes, then he nodded again. “Yeah. Thanks.”

IQ slowly patted his shoulder, but before she could say something again, they heard a sleepy voice from the direction of the door.

“Dominic?”

Bandit turned his head there, to see Noah standing in the doorway. His hair was messy, he hugged his little pillow like some sort of a stuffed bear, eyes closing from tiredness, but being forced open. “Hey, buddy! What are you doing here? You should be asleep!”

“I woke up” Noah yawned, climbing between Bandit’s arms, leaning his head on the man’s shoulder. “and you were gone. And Marius told me, that someti-”he nuzzled closer against Bandit. ”mes you can’t sleep well, and I was worried, so I wanted to find you to be awake with you if you really can’t sleep!”

Smiling, Bandit hugged the kid against himself. “Yeah, sure, you look like you could be up all night, hm?”

Noah mumbled something into his chest, hugging his pillow closer. IQ stood up. “How about I make you some hot chocolate, Noah? I’m sure you are cold.”

The boy nodded slowly. “Thank you, Monika.”

Bandit looked at IQ, who just smiled softly. She threw a blanket at them from one of the armchairs. Bandit unfolded it and covered both himself, and Noah with the soft material. With the comfortable warmth of both the kid, and the blanket, Bandit slowly relaxed, and when IQ got back with a mug, he was already lying on his back, snoring softly. One of Noah’s arms were draped over his chest, the little guy clinging to him. Smiling, she put down the mug, and draped another blanket on top of them, just to be sure. She gently patted Bandit’s leg and let them to rest.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Thermite found them like IQ left them. Noah’s head was wrinkled against Bandit’s chest, his lips parted, drooling on the German without regret. One of his arms and legs were hanging down, it was a miracle that he didn’t slip to the ground. One of Bandit’s arms were hugging the kid, his head tilted awkwardly. They looked ridiculously comfortable. Thermite couldn’t hold his laughter, waking Noah up immediately.

Blinking the dreams away, Noah lifted his head, cleaning his mouth with the back of his hand. He checked Bandit, then looked at Thermite with a frown. “Sshh! You will wake him up! Did you know that he is a very bad sleeper? Keep it down!”

Being scolded by an eight year old shut Thermite up. “Sorry, pal.”

Noah wanted to sit up, but found himself slipping to the ground as the arm, holding him in place let him go. He escaped the cage of the blankets, and stood up, messy from sleep.

Thernite smiled at him. “Aren’t you too old to sleep with a grown-up?”

“I like to sleep with my dad too. Sometimes my mom will cuddle me, when she misses me during the day. Her job is very stressful! Your job is stressful too!”

Humming in approval Thermite let go of the topic. “How about we let him rest a bit more, and start the breakfast?”

As any good kid would do, Noah started to buzz with excitement. “I will dress up!” he turned to the door, but stopped before rushing out. He gently adjusted the blankets on Bandit, because the German’s foot were poking out. When he finished, he left. Thermite watched him with a big smile on his face, then collected the mugs. He got out of the common room, closing the door behind him to prevent anybody else from bothering Bandit.

Since Thermite couldn’t say no to such puppy eyes Noah made, he agreed to make some waffles for him to breakfast. Soon they were joined by IQ and Maestro. Together, they prepared breakfast for everybody on base, making stacks of french toast, scrambled eggs, bacon and everything anybody would wish for. They were in the middle of eating, when Bandit, still a bit sleepy, dropped down next to Jäger and Blitz.

“‘morning” he whispered, searching for some coffee with eyes still closed. When Jäger gave him a mug, full of the mighty liquid, he sweared that he could kiss him. To his still sensitive ears, hearing Mira and Twitch giggle like schoolgirls was like a bunch of knifestabs. “Why the fuck are they squeaking this time?”

Blitz smiled at him, patting his back slowly. “I dunno for sure, Monika can you help me?”

“Sure! About half an hour before Adriano helped Noah getting the tableware done. Noah slipped and crashed some mugs, one shard of porcelain cutting his palm.”

Hearing this, Bandit sat up straight. “Is he alright?”

IQ blinked a few. “Yeah, sure, it’s ugly but not that deep.”

“Okay” with that, Bandit laid back on the table, resting his head on his arms.

“So, he almost started to cry, but Adriano scooped him up, cleaned his wound and helped patch it up. He distracted Noah from the pain, by telling him stories. So Emanuelle and Elena were coming in, Seamus following them, but when he saw Adriano comforting Noah he froze to his place with a rather adorable expression. Elena asked him what’s wrong, but he didn’t answer, so she told him, that ‘It’s okay, having a kid around makes every man three times more attractive!’. I think they are still talking about that.”

“That’s fair. Can you make them shut up?”

IQ smiled. “Just drink your coffee, you grump.”

Bandit nodded, slowly lifting himself. He gulped down the delicious blackness, and looked around. Everybody looked calm and jovial. He slowly turned to IQ. “Hey, Monika?”

The woman looked up. “Sup?”

“Thanks. For yesterday.”

IQ flashed him a brilliant smile. “Anytime.”

Blitz and Jäger glanced at each other, than turned to them. “What happened?”

Bandit yawned, covering his mouth with a hand. “That’s none of your business, guys.”

A few minutes later Noah approached them, softly tugging on Bandit’s jacket. The German lifted his head, turning to him. “Hey, pal! You wanna sit here?”

“Sure!”

“Marius, move your ass, or I will kick it.”

Jäger rolled his eyes, moving away, so Noah could drill himself between him and Bandit. “Did you sleep well, Dom?”

“My neck hurts like hell, but otherwise I’m good. How about you?”

Noah lifted his hand, showing his bandages to Bandit. “I cut my hand! It hurts, but I’m a tough guy!”

“I know, buddy.”

“But I dropped a few mugs and they smashed. I didn’t mean it, sorry. Are you mad at me?”

Bandit lifted his eyebrows. “Noah, I’m happy that you only cut your hand and not something worse happened, why would I care about the damn mugs? We have forty-something people here, no mugs live more than a few weeks. Everybody is crazy.”

Noah looked confused for a second, then nodded. “Okay.”

“You don’t need feel remorse for such a shit,” Bandit grinned at him. In return, Noah nuzzled against his arm, hugging the man to himself. IQ cleared her throat softly, and when Bandit looked at her, she poked her head into the direction of Mira and Twitch. The duo were watching Bandit interact with Noah, with adoring expressions.

“I told you,” she whispered.

Bandit shook his head. “Cuz they don’t have better things to do.”

“Because you act adorable,” IQ declared.

Rolling his eyes, Bandit turned to Noah. “You finished your breakfast? You wanna help me, Maxim and James with something?”

Noah nodded immediately. “Sure!”

Blitz glanced at Bandit, then slowly touched Noah’s shoulder. “Before you go with Dom and the guys, can I talk to you, Noah?”

The kid turned to face him. “Yeah!”

Smiling Blitz got up. “Come on then!”

Noah looked at Bandit, biting his lips, than back to Blitz. “Can Dominic come too?”

The German leader nodded. “Sure, come.”

Bandit stood up, following Blitz with Noah. The kid ran forwards to open the doors, but bumped into Caveira in his rush. He immediately apologized, looking up, but when he saw the woman, he froze to his place.

Caveira looked down at him, eyebrows raised. Noah spun around, hiding behind Bandit, clinging to him with shaking hands. Confused, both Germans looked at him, then up to Caveira. She didn’t even looked that intimidating with her hair down, without the skull painting. Caveira looked like a decent human being for once.

“What’s his problem?” she glanced at Bandit, who shrugged.

“I have no idea!”

Caveira hummed, then left to join Ash.

Blitz slowly patted Noah’s back. “Are you okay? What happened?”

“She is scary,” Noah whispered. “really scary. Is she gone?”

“Sure. Let’s go?”

“Yeah!” Noah nodded, walking close to Bandit and Blitz this time.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

To Bandit’s great discomfort, they soon found themselves sitting inside Thatcher’s office. He saw that damn folder lying on the table across from him. Blitz chatted casually with Noah, asking him about his school and friends. The little kid answered happily, claiming them as his friends too.

When Thatcher arrived, Noah looked up. He saw the Brit a few times before, but was neutral about him. Blitz smiled at the kid. “So, this is Mike. We can say that he is the leader of the team. He reports to the, hm, boss of this organization. Mike, this is Noah!”

Thatcher allowed himself a small smile, shaking the kid’s hand gently. He then sat across the table. Noah looked around. “Am I in trouble?”

Blitz lifted his eyebrows. “Why would you be?”

“I have been in the Principal’s Office in school once or twice. This is like that, isn’t it? If I’m not in trouble, then Dominic is in trouble?” Noah turned to Bandit with a worrying expression. Said German couldn’t hold back a small smile.

“I have been in this Office more than I can tell!” he accepted.

Noah shook his head. “Then you should behave!”

Thatcher cleared his throat. “Well, wouldn’t that be a delight?”

Giggling Noah looked at him.

“The reason I called you here Noah is because I called your mom. She was worried sick because of your disappearance, but she was so glad to finally find you! We need to fill some papers, but you can go home by the end of the week.”

Without missing a beat, Noah opened his mouth. “But I don’t want to.”

Thatcher’s eyebrows shoot up, Blitz’s eyes rounded and Bandit… Well he was grinning behind his palm.

“Excuse me?” Thatcher seemed a bit annoyed suddenly.

“I don’t want to go home. I want to stay here.”

“Don’t you miss your friends? Your family and your mom? Her husband sounded a good guy to me!”

Noah bit into his bottom lip, looking a bit troubled. “He is. And I miss Mama, but I still would like to stay here with you!”

“Sadly that’s not possible. You need to go to school-”

“Dominic or Marius or Monika or Elias or the others could bring me there! It’s not too far.” Noah cut in. Thatcher took a deep breath, glancing at Bandit, who had the time of his life.

“Okay, you are out.”

“What!?” Bandit sat up straight, Noah pouting next to him. “I didn’t say shit!”

“Your presence affects Noah, maybe I can talk to him more effectively if you are outside.”

“But-”

Thatcher cut in the middle, standing up. “Brunsmeier. Out, or I make you!”

Bandit stood up, but before he could say anything, he glanced at Noah. The kid looked a bit frightened by the sudden turn of mood. Bandit let out a sigh, punching Thatcher in the face wouldn’t look good. He stepped next to Noah, kneeling beside his chair. “It’s okay, buddy. Mike wouldn’t hurt you, he just old and grumpy. Elias will stay here with you, and I’m outside.”

Noah slowly nodded, turning towards the calming Thatcher. Bandit gently petted the boy’s hair, walking outside. Just to be fair, he showed his middle finger to Thatcher behind Blitz and Noah, then escaped the room.

Noah blinked a few, leaning against the back of his chair, trying to be invisible. He didn’t like how Thatcher talked to Bandit, and he hated that his friend needed to leave.

Thatcher let out a sigh. “Listen Noah. I’m not your enemy. I want to help you get back to your life, your friends and family. Don’t you miss them? Don’t you miss your mom?”

This time, Noah kept silent. He crossed his arms in front of his chest, looking away. He was a child after all, about to have a tantrum.

Thatcher started to massage the bridge of his nose. He didn’t have any idea how to talk to kids, because it wasn’t his job. He couldn’t care any less. “Noah, look: You need to go home, whether you like it, or not. Your mom will come here to get you at saturday morning. You can make this hard, by throwing tantrums and a fuss, or you can make it easy. You can spend the remaining time with the others, you can play as much as you want, then you can say your goodbyes.”

Noah just hugged himself firmer, shutting his lips. Big tears started to form in his eyes, but he didn’t answer.

Thatcher turned to Blitz. “Elias get his stuff ready by Saturday.”

The German glanced at the kid, but nodded slowly. He liked Noah too, but this was for the best.

“Both of you are free to go,” Thatcher sat back next to his table, fidgeting with his papers.

Blitz stood up. “Come on, Noah, let’s go.”

He reached to touch the kid’s shoulder, but Noah dodged his gesture clearly avoiding him too. When he got out, he stomped to Bandit, catching his hand, trying to drag the man with him, away from the Office.

Bandit glanced at Blitz who just let out a sigh, shrugging, so Bandit gently caught Noah, stopping him. The boy almost pulled himself from his hands too. “Hey, buddy, what’s the problem?”

Noah seemingly didn’t want to look at Bandit, neither Blitz. He just stood there, head turned away, sniffing to fight against the crocodile tears forming in his eyes. “Can we go now? I don’t want to stay here. I don’t want to play with Elias at all!”

Bandit gently put his hands on Noah’s shoulders, crouching in front of him. “Why?” he tried look the kid in the eye, but Noah just kept staring at the nearest wall. “Hey, look at me, come on. Why? I can’t help you, if you don’t help me.”

Noah crossed his arms in front of his chest, lips shaking from the crying he held back. “Mike said that I can’t stay here. I don’t want to go home to my mom! And Elias didn’t protect me. If you would be there, you would protect me, but you weren’t! I hate Mike, I want to go to Adriano. I don’t want to stay here!”

Sighing, Bandit remained silent trying to find a good answer, but apparently, he couldn’t gather shit. Without a word, he just gently held Noah in place, giving the kid time to calm down a bit. “Listen, Noah-”

Finally the boy glanced at him, with eyes full of hope. “But you will let me stay here, won’t you?”

Taking a deep breath, Bandit got himself ready for Noah’s and his own heart break. He squeezed his shoulders gently, looking at the boy. “I… I can’t.”

His eyes rounding, Noah stared at him. “What? You can’t?” the boy’s lips started to shake, the sides of his mouth turning downwards. He took a deep breath, but something broke inside him, and the tears started to roll down his face unstoppably. Noah was whimpering, and again, he tried to pull himself free, but Bandit held him firmly in place this time. Giving up, he just turned his head down, letting the sobbing take over. “You don‘t like me anymore…?”

“What? No! No. Nothing like that. Trust me, when I say that I want nothing more than to spend my time with you. These last few days with you by my side was the best I had in really, really long time. You, being here not only changed me, but everybody. When you got here, I wanted nothing to do with you, but now look at me. Look, Noah, I-” Bandit cleared his throat. “I don’t want to lose you. You grew on me, you made me work with the others again, and you helped me in your own way. I don’t want you to go, I would be the happiest if you could stay, but this is not that easy.”

With a broken cry Noah climbed into his arms, hugging his neck and hiding his face into Bandit’s shoulder. The German gently placed his hand on top of Noah’s head, the other rubbing along his back. Even he needed to gather himself for a few moments, to prevent a hysterical outbreak.

“Why?” came the soft whisper.

“Because this place is a military base and it’s not a place for a kid. Most of us might live here, but this is not our home. We live here because this is our job, our life. Hereford is dangerous, we wouldn’t be able to take normal care of you.”

Noah sniffed, grabbing a handful of Bandit’s jacket. “But I could help you!”

With a small smile, Bandit leaned against Noah’s hair with his face. “That would be awesome, trust me, but that’s not your job. Your job as an almost nine year old is to fall asleep in front of the tv, to eat shit ton of chocolate, to go to school and discover the world around you. You need to be in a safe place, where you can play as much as you want, not bothering about anything else.”

Slowly, Noah nodded, but couldn't let got. Not yet. “And what is your job?”

“My job? With Mike, Elias and the others, I’m a soldier, I could call myself a very good one, but the others would mock the heck out of me for sure. I’ve trained my entire life, studied, worked to get here. Maybe I can make the world a bit more secure, so when kids like you grow up, they can live happily, not caring about the bad guys. Our work is really scary, sometimes we can't win, sometimes we get injured and sometimes… we even lose good people. We lose colleagues, friends and even family” Bandit took a shaking breath. “I can’t afford to lose you too, do you understand?”

Sniffing, Noah nodded against his shoulder. “Yeah, but I still don’t want to go, Dominic.”

“I know. But you need to understand one more thing.”

“What?”

“If you leave Hereford Base,” Bandit gently let go of Noah, so he could look at him, with a sad, but honest smile on his lips. “that you leaving doesn’t mean that you are leaving us or you are leaving me. That only means that you are a bit farther than before, but we will still be friends. We could still meet. You will be able to play with Marius and Shuhrat, or paint with Timur. Monika, Adriano and Jordan would be pissed if you wouldn’t cook with them again, and I will still be there to protect you from every monster. We will be able to hang out!”

Noah looked up at him, sniffing slowly. Bandit cleaned his tears with his thumbs, watching him. “Are you sure?”

Laughing the German nodded. “I’m sure.”

“Promise me.”

Bandit held up his pinky finger for Noah. “I promise, that I will be there to protect you every time you need me, and that we will meet again, and you can hang out not just with me, but all the grumps you call your friends.”

Finally Noah’s mouth pulled into a smile, hooking his own pinky into the German’s. “Okay.”

“Thank you, Noah!”

Once again, the kid jumped in his arms, hugging Bandit to himself thightly. He was still shaking, but slowly he calmed down, as well as Bandit.

Chapter Text

“I was honestly amazed by you earlier” Blitz sat down next to Bandit a few hours later. Since the weather was quite bad, and they were done with all the tasks they needed to do, most of the operators were casually chilling inside the canteen. Some of the lonelier faces were missing like Vigil, Echo or Caveira, but there was still a large group. Bandit was cleaning his handgun, sometimes watching Noah be around the others. The kid once sat down to Glaz, asking about his drawing, a second later, he was next to Fuze, Twitch and Jäger, looking at their scattered machine parts, giggling along with them, then he got back to Maestro, as he was chatting away with Sledge, Maverick and Blackbeard. He roamed around, wanting to spend as much time with everybody as possible, he only had a few days left with them.

“Why?”

“I didn’t know you could act like that. It was unnaturally mature coming from you.”

“Well, thank you, now you can go and fuck yourself, Elias!” Bandit lifted an eyebrow at the strange praise.

Smiling Blitz nodded. “I don’t want to mock you, Dom, I just wanted you to know, that I’m proud of you! Really! Also, I came to say thanks, for taking care of Noah during these days.”

Bandit’s hands froze during the scrubbing movements, he glared at the parts of his gun. He let out a sigh, putting everything down. “He is a very good kid. He deserved everything. I think you should thank him, for taking care of me,” he finished, whispering the last sentence. He knew that Blitz heard it anyway. “I can’t imagine him not being here. Crazy.”

Both of them looked up, witnessing the way Noah hugged IQ for getting him a cup of hot chocolate.

“You are not the only one. He reminds me of my nephew. I guess, he reminds you of Cedrick?”

Bandit hummed. “Maybe a little. But he reminds me of myself instead,” he turned back to his cleaning. “And I would do anything to protect him from the stuff I have been through.”

Blitz turned to him, watching Bandit’s face. He knew the other didn’t lie, and he felt even more proud. He nodded to himself. “Same.”

“Move away, guys!” Kapkan dropped down to the other side of Bandit, putting down a big tray of food. Blitz lifted an eyebrow looking at him. Bandit just laughed, he already got used to Kapkan. They were still friends after all.

“Why do you need to sit exactly here, Maxim? There is four other empty tables around here!” Blitz sighed.

Kapkan put a palm on his own chest looking worried. “Oh, am I interrupting some bonding moment? I thought you were after Ryad, Elias. Dom is not even your type! Ewww.”

Blitz rolled his eyes with a big sigh. “Oh geez. Okay, Dom, I will leave you here with Maxim, before I say something impolite about him being a complete dick to compensate his own plaything being too little.” he smiled as he got up, leaving Kapkan gaping and Bandit snorting.

“He is sassier than I remembered!” Kapkan hummed, scooping up a spoonful of his food.

“You got it on yourself. And that shit is smelly, God dammit! Seriously Maxim why do you need to sit right here, when you eat two week old sock-soup!?”

Suddenly Kapkan’s face changed to a serious frown, he even pushed his tray away. “I wanted to talk to you. About Noah.”

Bandit looked at him, then at the kid who was happily sitting next to Thermite and Pulse while they played cards. Noah leant against the American’s side, watching his cards. Lifting an eyebrow, the German turned back to Kapkan. “What’s the problem?”

“I don’t think that we should let him go home.”

“Why?” Bandit sighed.

“I don’t know. He seems so happy to be here. He is relaxing everybody, he is good to us. Also I still have some concerns.”

“Ellaborate, please.”

“I dunno. I feel like we are not seeing something what is in front of us. We still don’t know why on earth he was here in the first place. Maybe it would be good to ask for more investigation time from Thatcher.”

“We can’t do that. Grumpy Grandpa would give me shits for asking such a thing.” Bandit shook his head. “You just want Noah to be around a bit more, aren’t you?”

“Maybe, but-”

“There are no ‘but’s here, Maxim. He needs to be with his family, and we need to make sure that he goes back in one piece.”

“I know, but-”

“Dude. Seriously! We can’t keep him here, only because we’ve grown on him, and you know that too. This is not a place to a kid.” Bandit looked at him, turning sad all of a sudden. “I would be the happiest to have him around for a bit more, but we just can’t do that,” he took a deep breath. “We need to let him go. That’s the best for us, and for him too.”

Kapkan watched him in silence for a few seconds. “And you hate it.”

“There are not enough words in this language to describe how much I hate it. I want him here, just for a few more days, just to make sure he will be alright alone, that he can protect himself when I’m not with him. I don’t even know what am I supposed to do without him, how should I continue, who am I or how can I sleep anymore to prevent the nightmares. This fucking kid changed me in so many ways I don’t even know. I only could hope that his mom is cool enough to let us meet with Noah sometimes, or call him. I hope she does,” he got back to cleaning. “Otherwise I will be so fucking sad… But I still need to let him go. You and everybody else too.”

As he was listening, Kapkan nodded along, then with a small smile he just shrugged. “You know what? I think you would be a good dad, you fucker.”

Bandit’s lips curved upwards. “I’m really far from that, but seeing how Timur watched you with Noah, I think he might want to have a kid.”

Kapkan glanced at Glaz who was doodling in his sketchbook a few tables away. “Maybe. Would you like to be a godfather?”

“To your kid?” the German lifted an eyebrow.

“Yeah, why the fuck not?”

“Heh, you should talk this through with your hubby, dude, then we can make plans! Now I need to get this kid to bed.” he glanced up at the big clock on the wall.

“Go on, Dom! Tell him the story about the strong Russian Soldiers again!”

“The ones who beat the capitalist mud monster?”

Kapkan grinned at him. “That’s my favourite!”

Shaking his head with a small smile on his lips, Bandit put the parts of his gun together, and took the weapon away. When he looked up to find Noah, he found the boy sitting next to Glaz. Both of them were drawing on their papers in unison. The kid seemed happy and calm, but his eyes were already heavy from being sleepy. It was time for bed.

Bandit poked Kapkan, motion towards them, and he could swear that he have never seen such a bright smile on the hunter’s lips. As he headed in the direction of Glaz and Noah, Bandit needed to check the cupboard to make sure the sugarcubes didn’t melt because of the two Russians.

Stepping next to Glaz, the German tilted his head looking at his drawing. The sniper was in the middle of doodling Fuze and Jäger, with their hands in the big box of scrap. He drew them looking like kids, a big rocket ship in front of them. Jäger even had a missing tooth, Fuze a few patches on his elbow. He grinned. “Hah, they are exactly like this!”

Glaz nodded. “They sure are.”

Bandit looked at Noah’s paper too. The boy was drawing a big airplane, he concentrated so much his tongue poked out. Clearing his throat Bandit scratched his beard. “Maxim told me, that he would like me to be the Godfather of the kid you two might adopt.”

Narrowing his eyes, the sniper looked at him, then the other Russian, then back at Bandit again. “What?”

Grinning Bandit said. “Yup. You heard me clear. Crazy, isn’t it?”

Glaz glanced at Noah, who was so deep in drawing he didn’t even notice Bandit or him. He was struggling with the wings of the plane. The kid wanted to draw one of Jäger’s models, but he was failing with the structure. Bandit placed his hand on the boy’s head casually.

Glaz watched him for a few long seconds and shook his head. “No. Not at all. I would be happy to have you as my kid’s Godfather too.”

Blinking Bandit cleared his throat. "Excuse me?"

“You heard me. You are acting like you are the biggest bad guy ever, but I know that you could never abandon a kid," he poked at Noah with his chin. "He is the perfect example" Glaz turned back to his paper then added. "If your best friend's child would be in trouble you would be the first one to help."

You can deny it as much as you want, but we both saw what we saw. If he wouldn’t choose you as our kid’s Godfather you still would be there to help without a single question.”

Bandit froze to his place as he was listening to Glaz. Everything the sniper said was like knife stabs to the German. He slowly turned away, trying to think an excuse to deny the statements, but he imagined a future, where Kapkan and Glaz had a kid, and he was the Godfather. He knew that the two would make excellent parents and he couldn’t lie anymore; if Kapkan and Glaz would be gone, he would never accept that their kid was treated bad. Glaz was right, and he couldn’t deny it.

He wanted to wave the embarrassment off, but he flushed a little. Clearing his throat again, he rubbed the back of his neck and instead of answering, he turned to Noah. He waited for the boy to finish the colouring, then he gently nudged him. “Noah, it’s getting late. Go grab your coat and let’s head to bed, okay?”

Without lifting his pencil, Noah nodded and simply said: “Okay Dad! Just one more minute!” causing Bandit’s chin to hit the ground and Glaz to lift his eyebrows.

“W-what did you…?” but before Bandit could finish the sentence, Noah put down the pencil and shoot out to get his coat. The German looked at Glaz. “What did he…?”

Snorting, the sniper covered his mouth with his hand. “He accidentally called you ‘dad’!”

“No, he didn’t!”

“Oh yeah, he did! I need to tell this to Maxim! He will love it!” Glaz stood up, but Bandit grabbed him.

“Just shut up! This was just a linguistic mistake!

“Yeah, sure! But it is an adorable mistake and I want him to hear this!” with that Glaz stepped away, and literally run to join his husband.

Bandit stood there, biting his lips and thinking about the last five minutes. He turned after the kid, who was saying good night to everybody in the room, wishing them sweet dreams. He didn’t want to read too much into a simple mistake or think about things that weren’t real. It was just a misspelling, a twist of a tongue and nothing more.

When the boy got back, he smiled at Bandit, and left the room next to him. Both of them changed into their pajamas, and soon Noah was snoring cuddled up against is side. The kid was more than used to the Base’s shadows and sounds by that time. Bandit laid there god knows how long, thinking about Noah’s little mistake. He wanted to understand the whole situation, but he couldn’t figure out the one and most important thing; why did such a small thing warm his heart like that.

When he finally dozed off, he had the best dreams he ever had in his entire life.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Around Wednesday the GIGN arrived back to the Base, so the Team Rainbow was finally whole again. Blitz introduced Noah to Doc, Rook and Twitch first. He seemed to like Doc instantly, much to Tachanka’s happiness. When he met Montagne - the other giant -, he just stood there, his chin brushing the ground, with sparkling eyes. The big French smiled at him gently, answering every question Noah got with so much patience nobody else had.

Twitch hugged Jäger to herself happily, Rook gave a small smile to Blitz and IQ and Doc examined Bandit for a minute. “You look good.”

The German blinked a few. “Thanks. I guess?”

“The wonders of healthy sleeping schedule, hm?”

Bandit shrugged, avoiding a real answer, but Doc’s smile widened. To protect himself from new questions he instead turned to the kid, “Come on, Noah, let’s grab some food, after that you can chat with Gilles, okay?”

The boy nodded, thanked Montagne for every answer and came running to Bandit. In the remaining hours of the day Noah was bantering about how he wants to be this tall and strong like Montagne, how he wants to be able to fight like Kapkan and how he wants to be a soldier to protect all of them. Bandit listened, smiling faintly at the amazing plans Noah wanted to make reality. He wished to be part of Team Rainbow, fighting against bad guys, being a hero, side by side with Bandit and everybody. The German never interrupted him, he knew that Noah loved them very much. He just enjoyed listening to the kid, while he could.

The last few days felt like a blink of an eye, making Bandit more and more nervous as Saturday was approaching. He often found himself thinking about Kapkan’s words, then the things Glaz’s said to him, and even Noah’s mistake sometimes. Bandit wanted to find a way to keep the boy there, just for a few more days, few hours or even few minutes. He kept reminding himself that the kid needed to go. It was for the better, to let him be in a place where he was safe, where he was with his family, yet Bandit kept thinking about silly ways to push the parting just a bit further.

At Friday night, he let Noah be up as late as the kid wanted, to chase the next morning a bit farther out. They spent their time in the common room, chatting and watching tv with snacks IQ and Maestro brought. Everybody felt a bit sad, they knew what was about to happen. At last, Noah fell asleep clinging to the side of Kapkan, his fear of the Russian long forgotten. Glaz was watching them with adoring eyes. Around 3 am, IQ sat next to Bandit, leaning against him softly.

“How are you?” she asked.

“I’m okay. I guess,” Bandit started to play with his thumbs.

“A bit nervous?”

“Heh, a bit. Yeah.”

IQ smiled at him. “He won’t forget us, especially not you.”

“And I won’t forget him either. He helped me with some… stuff,” shrugged Bandit. IQ knew what was he talking about, he was sure.

“Yeah? Interesting, hm? How a kid can affect one’s perspective!” IQ patted along his back.

“Mhm. I will miss him, but finally I will get back my whole bed!” Bandit chuckled.

IQ grinned at him. “And your jacket?”

Bandit nodded, smiling. “That too!”

“Looking at Timur, my guess is that we are not too far from having another adopted kid!”

The sniper gently covered Kapkan and Noah with a blanket, giving a kiss to his husband’s forehead during the process.

“Like we mind, hm?”

“Yeah!” yawning, IQ started to chew on her sandwich.

Bandit looked around the calm room. Maestro was dozing off sitting in one of the armchairs. Thermite was snoozing in the other, Rufus napping on his lap. The dog sometimes waved his tail in his sleep, slapping Thermite’s legs along the process. Tachanka was snoring softly, arms crossed in front of his chest, sitting next to the table. Jäger and Fuze were still up, playing cards, and mocking Blitz for falling asleep draped over the table. It was a nice sight. Bandit smiled at them, but turned to IQ. “I could get used to this.”

“Same!”

Soon Doc poked his head into the room, looking around. When he saw Tachanka, he gently stepped closer, nudging the sleeping man awake. “Come on, дорогой, let’s go to bed.”

Tachanka squinted at him, smiling at the Russian phrase. He said goodbye to everybody, hugged Doc’s waist and left with him. Bandit got to his feet yawning and stepped next to Kapkan and Noah. He gently scooped the kid in his arms, petting along his back and looked at Glaz. “I’m taking Noah. Maxim is all yours now, pal.”

The sniper nodded smiling gently and climbed next to Kapkan, waking him with soft kisses and whispers. IQ sent everybody to their beds, and waved goodbye to Bandit too. While he was walking back the German room, with a sleepy Jäger and Blitz, he was thinking about the next day, anxiety slowly creeping up on him. Before the panic stroke, Noah hugged his neck in his sleep, letting out little huffs and a half yawn. Smiling, Bandit lied down with the kid in his arms and pulled the covers on them. Noah just held onto him, not even bothering to open his eyes. “Good night, Dom” he whispered gently.

“To you too, buddy!” the German soothed his hand on Noah’s head, and fell asleep miraculously easy.

Chapter Text

As they got into the main hall of the building, Bandit stopped in his track, his hand shaking on Noah’s shoulder. He looked down at the boy, who was mirroring his sad expression. Noah turned his face against the door, looking at Thatcher who was waiting there patiently. He knew that his mom was out there, and that it was time.

After their sleepy, lazy waking up and delicious breakfast, they spent the whole morning chilling in front of the tv, like grown up kids. Not just Bandit and Noah, but the whole Spetsnaz, the remaining of the GSG9 with Thermite, Maestro and Doc. Everybody wanted to spend as much time as possible with Noah, before he needed to go.

During the whole morning, Bandit asked, prayed, begged. He wished for Noah’s mom, to get lost, to forget his son and to never come and take the boy home, because as much as he tried to convince himself before, that he was ready to say goodbye, he knew that it was a stupid lie. He just needed to glance at Noah bantering with Jäger about something, he immediately knew that he wasn’t ready. How would he be able to let somebody go who did so much for him without even knowing anything?

But soon Thatcher entered the room, telling them that Noah’s mom was here to pick up his son. The boy looked at him, shaking a bit, but nodded, getting his bag with his clothes and his walkie-talkie. He told them he was alright as they were heading out, but now there they were, standing in the hall, wishing for just a few more minutes together. Noah let out a shaky breath, holding into Bandit’s hand with a sniff. Big tears started to form in his eyes, he turned to face the German.

“It’s time right?” he whispered.

Bandit watched him for a few seconds, then nodded slowly and knelt down in front of the kid, placing both of his hands on the kid’s shoulders. “Yeah. It’s time to say goodbye.”

A tear fell to the ground as Noah nodded, lips shaking, hands clutched. With a sad smile, Bandit hugged the boy tightly to himself, never wanting to let him go Noah got his arms around his neck, clinging to him like his life depended on it. “Isn’t there a way? Somehow? Please…” he whispered, but Bandit only gritted his teeth, his hands shaking.

Before he could answer, Thatcher stepped closer. “Come on, Noah. It’s time to go.”

Bandit looked up at the British, with eyes full of hatred, but both of them knew that he wasn’t mad at Thatcher. The older man held his gaze without a wince, waiting patiently. Bandit looked away, slowly nodding, and letting go of Noah. He looked the kid in the eye. “We will meet again, I swear. We will be there, whenever you need us, okay?”

With tears raining to the ground, Noah nodded. “Okay!” he turned to face the others, watching their sad expressions, sniffing.

Thatcher held out his hand. “Come on now.”

Noah stepped next to him, cleaning his face with the back of his hand. The British placed his palm on top of the boy’s head, gently leading him towards the main door.

Bandit stood up, barely holding himself together. He felt a gentle hand on his back, as IQ held onto him, to not start crying. She watched Noah with shaking lips. “It’s for the better,” she whispered. Bandit nodded shortly. He wasn’t sure, if he had the power to say anything at that moment.

When Noah got there, Thatcher opened the door in front of him. Bandit saw a big car outside, with a man standing beside it, smiling at Noah. As the kid got out with Thatcher, one of the car’s doors opened, and a black haired, young woman got out. She looked pale and stressed, nails bitten up to the hilt. As Noah saw her, he froze to his place, not moving towards. Bandit wrinkled his forehead, in concern. He shook IQ’s hand down, stepping closer.

“Come on, Noah. It’s time to go home!” he heard the woman’s voice, but saw as Noah attempted to take a small step back. Thatcher didn’t let him go. The boy looked up at him again, then back at his mom, but didn’t move. Under Thatcher's arm, he glanced back at the group inside, biting his lip. Bandit took one more step forward, not understanding what was going on.

“Darling, we don’t have time for this” the woman spoke again, irritated. Noan shook his head, hiding behind Thatcher. The older operator looked down at him, pushing him forward gently.

“Come on, Noah, you need to go. It’s okay.” he said.

“No!” Bandit heard the boy, and in a blink of an eye, the kid slipped from under Thatcher’s hand, and before the man could catch him, he run back towards the building. Bandit’s eyes rounded, as he was watching the scene. He looked around, but his confusion was mirrored in every face. Noah burst through the door, hugging Bandit’s waist the moment he was in arms reach. The man looked down at him, hugging him softly.

“What are you doing?” he whispered. He glanced up, looking in Thatcher’s eyes. The old man was furious at best, slowly approaching them in an attempt to get Noah out, and end this whole misery. “You can’t stay here, you know it!”

Noah just hid his face into his jacket, whispering something. Confused, Bandit crouched down to look at Noah, but the kid jumped in his arms, hugging his neck tight. “I don’t want to go. Please don’t make me go!”

“Noah, you need to,” Bandit whispered. Thatcher stepped inside, looking ready to kill. Bandit have seen the Brit like this once or twice, but never wanted to be the one to trigger this anger. His panic slowly started to build.

“But you promised me,” Noah looked at him, eyes full of fear.

Blinking, Bandit wrinkled his forehead in concern. “What?”

“T-that you will protect me, f-from the monsters,” the boy whispered. Bandit looked him in the eye, searching after any joke or childish tantrum, but he found nothing of those, only honest fear. He looked at the door, at Noah’s mom who was standing out there, her hands covering her mouth in a panicked motion. Bandit glanced at the man, next to the car, he seemed equally scared to witness a simple behaviour of a kid.

Bandit remembered Kapkan’s words about not knowing why Noah was here in the first place, and how the boy got scared from Caveira, who looked similar to his mom. Something clicked to its place inside Bandit and he stood up straight as Thatcher got in front of him, dragging the boy behind himself.
The older man shook his head in disbelief. His hands were shaking from anger. “What do you think you are doing?”

“This kid stays here.” he looked Thatcher in the eye. The others behind him buzzed with confusion and fear. They didn’t want to see Bandit die from the hands of their leader, but all of them knew that angering Thatcher is sometimes the last thing one does.

“You gotta be kidding me!” Thatcher shouted at him. Bandit stepped back, hiding Noah behind his back a bit more. It wasn’t unusual from him to get into a fight with Thatcher, but this time, it was different. Otherwise he would be down to just shouting and mocking, swearing but never getting his hands dirty, but this time… This time, he was ready to shed blood to protect Noah.

“This is not a joke,” Bandit slowly let go of the kid behind him, pushing him back, towards the others while Thatcher was busy with him, but he wasn’t fast enough. The Brit caught the boy’s arm, making him yell out.

“Stop this nonsense, Dominic! This is ridiculous.” Thatcher shouted again, pulling the fighting Noah with himself.

Time freeze for a moment as Bandit counted the outcomes and possibilities. He knew that Thatcher would never harm a kid, especially not a kid who he liked. He knew that Noah needed to go back to his family, and he was ready to let him go, if he was sure, they are okay, but at the moment he had concerns about said family. He didn’t know what was the thing he saw in Noah’s eyes, but he knew, that he needed to find out. And he needed time to do that. He also knew that Thatcher will most certainly kick him out of the Team for this, but he didn’t have other choice, if he wanted to protect Noah. He was a soldier after all, his job was to get the kid to safety. That was number one priority at that moment.

The first punch came with so much force, he almost knocked Thatcher over. The older man let go of the kid, who run to hide behind the others. He slowly turned to face Bandit, spitting out some blood, grabbing a handful of his jacket. Bandit held onto his arm, looking at Thatcher, and as expected, he got a bone shattering punch too. Meeting the Brit’s knuckle wasn’t the best feeling in the world, after all, the man had an iron grip, but Bandit was oh so ready to fight. He got another brutal punch, but he wasn’t afraid to kick Thatcher over and attack him with all he got. Thankfully, before their bantering could end up with serious injuries, the others finally got to their senses.

It took Tachanka and Blitz to get Thatcher of off Bandit, and Thermite’s and Kapkan’s full strength to hold back their friend from killing their leader. Although they were soon separated, Bandit was ready to escape from his supervisors and attack Thatcher again if it was needed.

Doc stepped forward, way too calm compared to the others. “Alexandr, Maxim, get these two to Mike’s office. Don’t let them near each other, we don’t need more blood. Monika, take Noah to your room. I will talk to his parents, and we will solve this like adults!”

Everybody did as they were told, and soon Bandit was sitting in a chair in Thatcher’s office, head still hanging low from the pain. He needed to admit, that punching Thatcher wasn’t the smartest move, but at least it was satisfying. Thermite and Kapkan stood next to him, protecting both from the other. They watched the Brit with concern. The man was about to explode, as he was massaging his aching chin

Soon Doc arrived, stepping next to Bandit. “What the actual fuck, Dominic? What go into you?”

“He was causing pain to Noah,” Bandit shrugged.

“No, he wasn’t, and you know this.”

Bandit turned his face away. “He didn’t want to go-”

“And you answer was to punch Mike? Aren’t you a bit childish?” Doc lifted an eyebrow. Nobody spoke a word, Thermite pulled a grimace at Bandit’s weak excuse.

“He is just a kid, of-fucking-course he would throw a fuss if you drag him from the playground, you fucking idiot!” Thatcher shouted at him, standing up. “This is nonsense, I’m taking him home!”

Bandit got to his feet. “If you touch that kid one more time, I will kill you.”

Chapter Text

Everybody froze, Thatcher looked at him, eyes round. “What did you-”

“Touch that kid once more, Mike, and I will kill you, I swear to God” Bandit looked at him. Nobody ever saw him act like this. He was shaking with both anger and fear, looking ready to protect Noah with all he’s got. He was dead serious.

Thatcher might have noticed something in his eyes, because his anger turned into concern. “Why would you risk your career for a kid…?”

Bandit took a deep breath. “I promised him, I will protect him from his monsters, and-”

“What are you talking about?!” the Brit stepped closer.

“He is afraid of his own mother! He told me!”

“When!?” Thatcher’s rage was getting on a whole new level.

“When he got back. Listen, we don’t know shit about this woman, I’m not letting him go until I’m sure she is alright!” Bandit grunted.

Thatcher shook his head, picking up Noah’s folder from his table. “His mom is a doctor! She has three diplomas, she is donating to children hospitals every year, she is participating in every damn school shit this kid has ever seen. The teachers are literally worship this woman! Her husband does the same stuff, and he is just a spoiled kid, enjoying that every attention is on him!” finishing his shouting, he threw down the folder. Sighing Doc reached for it, reading through the pages.

“That doesn’t mean shit!” Bandit looked at Thatcher. “She could still be-”

“For fucks sake, Dominic, do you want to get suspended because of a kid!?” the Brit looked at him. “Say one more thing, Dom, just one, and I swear to God, I will kick you out. I’ve been turning a blind eye over your scams and shit from the first years, but this is it! You got attached to kid and you can’t see clear. You are hysterical!”

“But-” Bandit began, but Thatcher held up his palm, stopping him.

Bandit turned his face away, looking at Kapkan for help, but the Russian couldn’t say anything. He was angry and sad as well, hating the whole thing. To Bandit’s biggest surprise, Doc spoke up.

“It’s true, Dom. Everything is written down here. They are model citizens…” he stood up, stepping closer with the folder. He showed the papers to the German, who felt more and more destroyed as he read through it.

Thatcher sighed. “Listen. Your love towards this kid blinded you. I got it. You only wanted to protect him, but you don’t need to, do you understand?”

“B-but-”

“Stop this. Noah is going home!” Thatcher looked him in the eye, turning towards the door. “We will talk about your punishment later.”

Bandit turned his head down, pushing the folder away, but as he was moving something slipped from the papers, falling to the floor. Bandit leant down, to get it. It was a picture of a slim arm, with a nasty injury on it.

“Mike, wait,” Doc looked at the picture, taking it from Bandit, showing it to the other. “What is this?”

“It was in the folder. The kid fell down from somewhere, I don’t know! You are the doctor.”

“Fell?” Doc lifted an eyebrow. He started to shuffle through the pages until he found the medical records. As he was looking through the lines, he slowly tensed up.

Thatcher stepped back with a concerned face. “What is it, Gustave?”

“There is no chance, that a fall could cause such an injury. Noah’s school medical profile is too long, Mike. Dom might be right. Noah stays here. I need to talk to him.”

Bandit looked up at the medic, then back to the papers, but the latin words were totally incomprehensible for him. He looked at Doc again, who was watching him.

“His mom was abusing him…?” Bandit whispered.

“There is a possibility. I need you to come with me, now.” Doc put the folder down, and left.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“Am I in trouble?” Noah whispered to Bandit, as they got to Doc’s office. The German gently smiled down at him.

“No. You are not. We just need to make sure about some things. It will be just like a normal visit to your doctor, I promise.”

Doc offered a small smile to Noah too, opening the door, but the kid got nervous seeing all the medical equipment. “I d-don’t want to.”

“Why?” Bandit knelt next to him, but Noah was looking everywhere, but at the German. “Noah, look at me, please.”

Finally the kid lifted his gaze.

“I want to help you, but you need to help us first. If you don’t want me to be in there, just you two, I will be okay with that too. I will wait for you here, and I will arrange everything. You don’t need to go back to your mom’s. Where do you want to live instead?”

Noah turned his head down. “W-with my dad,” he whispered.

Bandit gently pulled up the kids chin, looking at him, nodding. “Note taken. I will call him, okay? We will take care of everything, but first, we need your help. It won’t take long. I will be waiting out here, and I swear to everything living on this Earth, nobody will hurt you ever again.”

Noah held his gaze for a few moments, then nodded. He let out a sniff. “Okay.”

“Should I wait here?”

Noah nodded again, reaching for Doc’s hand and following his lead. With anxiety crippling on Bandit’s back, he sat down in front of the door, biting his nails. Minutes spent like hours, as he was thinking about the possibilities. He hasn’t been this scared in ages. He considered every option, thinking about ways to help the kid, to save the kid, to get the kid a normal home. He wanted to protect him from any possible harm.

After twenty minutes, the door opened and Noah was immediately climbing into his arm, hugging his neck. Bandit held him close, planting his face in the kid’s shoulder. He glanced at Doc in fear, searching for an answer and finally, Doc slowly nodded. Bandit’s eyes rounded, and he just hugged the kid even closer to himself, his hands shaking.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“How are people capable of hurting a kid like this?” IQ blinked at Doc.

One whole week was gone since they knew the truth. Bandit’s eye was still purple from Thatcher's punch, but it was in the healing state. They were sitting in the canteen, Noah sleeping like a stone in the German’s arms. They were chatting away about the last few days, everybody was listening to Doc, forgetting how it was already 2 in the morning. It was their last day together after all.

Doc let out a slow sigh. “This is a very strange condition you know? His mom needed to deal with lots and lots of stress day by day, to a level where she was literally destroying herself. It probably started with small things, saying rude things, shouting, telling him that he was bad or something similar.” the medic looked at Noah, then back to the listening others. “Then slowly it got more and more bad, to the point of psychical abuse. It was easy for her to let the stress and anger out, but as Noah told me, she was always broken after it. Noah told me how his mom would hug him, crying, promising it would never happen again, but this is not that easy. His whole running away was because of this. Thankfully, it didn’t happen often, but this explains a lot. Why he wanted to bathe alone, why he didn’t argue with you.”

“Why he was so regretful about the damn mugs,” Bandit leant against Noah’s hair with his face. He looked at Kapkan and Blitz. “He only got scared of Taina when he saw her with her hair down, like his mom’s. I’m thinking that he made up the whole mud monster stuff because your shadow reminded him of these stuff too.”

Kapkan sighed, gently patting along the kid’s back.

“Yeah. All that,” Doc nodded. “I’m really glad that she understood everything, and we didn’t need to call the police. She was crying for hours, because she knows she is ill. She doesn’t want to hurt her son ever again, and she immediately accepted everything I told her.”

IQ turned her head down. “What will happen to his mom now?”

“I took care of that.” Thatcher took a sip from his mug. “Full custody is going to Noah’s father. His mother will go under serious psychological treatments in a good hospital, I will monitor it from time to time myself.”

“I feel sorry for her.” IQ sighed.

Doc nodded. “Me too, but she will be able to meet his son after she is done, and both of them will be much more happy and healthy. These kind of things happen, and they are so easy to miss. I’m honestly glad, that she will be able to rest and get better, and Noah as well. He will be happy with his dad.”

“He was so frightened when I called him,” smiling, Blitz looked at Bandit. “But he sounds like a good man to me. He packed everything and moved back to England to be able to raise his son here, he is responsible.”

Bandit pulled a grimace, looking at him. “I will see about that myself…!”

Blitz nodded, then looked up at the clock. “Let’s get this kid to bed. Tomorrow is a big day for him.”

Bandit nodded, letting Blitz take Noah from his arms. When most of the team were gone, he looked at Thatcher. “Mike?”

The Brit side-eyed him. “Yes?”

“Thank you for your help,” Bandit took a deep breath. “And sorry for being disrespectful. And for the punch. And for everything else,” he scratched the back of his neck, nervous.

Laughing Thatcher shook his head. “I should have trusted you,” he answered nodding along. “I should have listened, but I didn’t do it. I’m sorry for that too,” he offered his hand to Bandit. “and for threatening with suspension. I’m not sorry for the punch, it was building up since day one.”

With a grin, Bandit shook his hand. “Tch, fuck you.”

“Also, after everything, if I see that you act less enthusiastic with your work, than how you acted around Noah, I will punch you again.”

The German rolled his eyes. “Come on! You can’t be serious.”

“I won’t stop at one. I will enjoy it.”

“Okay, okay, shut up, you old fucker!” Bandit threw his hands in the air. “Go cuddle up to your stupid canadian, before I change my mind!”

With a smug half smirk Thatcher left him alone. When the older was gone, Bandit just started to shake his head, holding back a big belly laugh. He looked around the empty canteen, and left to bed himself. This time, he was calm about his goodbyes. This time, he knew that Noah will be in good hands, even if he never met or spoke to his dad.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“For God’s sake, Dominic stop this already!” Blitz looked at him with a sigh. “He is a good man, I promise!”

“What? You can’t know that. He can… I dunno he can be a mass murderer for all I know, or he can be one of those dudes who puts back the empty milk carton and not buys a new one!”

Laughing Blitz punched him in his shoulder softly. “Shut up already. He is none of these, right Noah?”

They were heading towards the Heathrow airport. It was only the three of them this time, the agreement was to take Noah with them there, meet his dad and hand over the kid if his dad was normal, and of course if the kid wanted to go. This time, Noah was buzzing from excitement, holding Bandit’s hand, turning his head everywhere to search after his father.

This time, saying goodbye was so easy. The boy hugged everybody, giving away big smooches to his friends, promising that he will be back before a blink of an eye. This was not a sad, teary farewell from the others, but one with love and hope. Being the big, strong, mighty hunter, Kapkan was hugging the kid for long minutes before Noah pushed him away gently, giggling. The Russian just grinned him, and told him to practice what he taught him. Glaz patted the boy’s hair, hugging him gently to himself. Tachanka scooped him into his arms to a bone-shattering hug, dealing with the escape attempts the boy made him laughing loudly.

Noah received a tiny airplane what Fuze and Jäger made for him from leftover machine parts. It looked amazing, and he couldn’t be happier. IQ brushed a tear as Noah got to her, giving the boy two big kisses on his cheeks, promising him that she will look after Bandit even when Noah wouldn’t be with them.

Maestro didn’t just brush a single tear, he was crying like there was no tomorrow, and Noah let out big sniffs too. Both of them were very sad that Maestro wasn’t there from day one. The Italian promised that when they meet again, he will make a big feast to the kid. Thermite gave a big high-five to Noah, winking at him.

Doc was the last one in the row of friends. He knelt before the boy, looking him in the eye. “If anything happens, now you know how and where to find us, but nothing will happen, okay?” as Noah nodded, the medic hugged him tightly, then soon let go. In the end, Noah even shook Thatcher’s hand when the man said his goodbye.

The boy was waving from the car’s backseat, until he couldn’t see the group anymore as they were heading out with Blitz and Bandit, both men calm and silent.

“No, he is none of these!” the kid’s voice ripped Bandit from his memories. “He is the best dad!”

Bandit placed a palm on his chest, gaping. “Well, I will verify that, okay?”

Laughing, Noah hugged his side. “Okay, Dom!”

With a small smile, Bandit patted the boy’s hair, hugging his shoulders. Then he glanced at Blitz again. “What is he doing anyways, hm? What was his job overseas?”

“He is a mechanic! He is fixing up cars and motorbikes and everything” Blitz side-eyed him. Bandit let out an appreciating hum.

“Okay, that’s a very normal job. But-”

“Oh God one more buts and I will punch you too.”

“But on the other eye, please, I wanted to be a panda my whole life!” Bandit grinned at him, wiggling his eyebrows. Blitz snorted, but couldn’t answer, because Noah slipped from their side with a big shout of ‘Dad!’.

Bandit poked his now empty hand in his pocket, turning after Noah with sad eyes, but his expression changed soon. The kid jumped in the open arms of a total stranger, this wasn’t a big deal. The big deal was the stranger’s look, because the kid’s dad turned out to be gorgeous.

He was tall and handsome, all wide shoulders, long limbs and slim waist. Without too much effort, he lifted Noah into his strong arms, the boy was showering him with big kisses to his beard covered face. He looked at the kid with love, adoration and a bit of mischief. It was nearly the same expression Noah made everytime, he was up to something, Bandit finally understood where he got that.

The stranger had short hair, the same dark shade as his son, and big, kind eyes. His lips couldn’t finish smiling. He hugged Noah to himself happily, like he never wanted to let go, and Bandit understood that the kid will be in a really good hands with this man. The man was listening to the boy in his arms, nodding along, and he soon turned where Noah was poking, in the direction of the two Germans. Bandit sweared he even saw a tattoo poking out of the man’s sleeves when he put Noah down, and he felt his throat choke up.

Blitz was side-eyeing him again, with the most shit-eating grin Bandit has ever seen on him. “Have you heard, that having a kid around a handsome man makes him three times more attractive?”

Bandit turned to face him in an attempt to show him his beautiful middle finger, but he felt a flush creep on his cheeks. He needed to clear his throat. “How about you shut the fu-”

“Ahh, you must be Nathan!” Blitz stepped towards the man, shaking his hand with a big smile.

“Nathan Taylor, but call me Nate!” the man nodded, smiling. His voice did things to Bandit he didn’t want to accept.

“I’m Elias, I called you on the phone. This is my colleague, Dominic!”

Bandit stepped there, offering his slightly shaking hand. He wanted to kill Blitz, just to make sure the man suffers.

“Nice to meet you, Dominic. Noah told me how you protected him, from... your boss?” Nate lifted an eyebrow, a small smirk hiding in the corner of his mouth.

Blinking the German nodded, and finally worked up some courage to speak again. “Yeah, we had a bit of a fight?”

Nate gently gestured to his eye. “Yeah, a bit, hm?”

“Yeah, Dom punched Mike in the face!” he heard Noah’s ramble, but couldn’t take his eyes off of Nathan.

Bandit cleared his throat again still struggling to find his words. Next to him Blitz had the time of his life, that motherfucker.

“It’s not a big deal, normally I don’t use my knuckles to solve problems I swear.”

“Yeah, because you use long silences and sarcasm,” Blitz offered with an angelic smile.

Bandit looked at him, wishing for some sort of superpower, so he could kill his betraying friend. To his biggest surprise, he heard a big belly laugh from Nathan, so he turned back to face him. The man even had dimples. Same like Noah had. Bandit was in deep, deep shit.

“Tell me, how to thank you for taking care of Noah.”

“Can Dominic and the others visit us from time to time? Please Dad! You need to meet them, my friend Adriano has a friend who is a literal giant! He can lift a 22 lbs hammer!” the boy started to chirp.

Nate looked down at his son. “Really? Now that’s truly a big hammer,” he nodded. “I’m sure they can come to visit. Or you can go sometimes too, if you want to.”

Noah exploded into pure excitement, looking at Bandit, then looking back at his dad. “Adriano promised a big feast next time! He has this very funny accent, and ticklish beard, but he is a big softie, like all the others too!”

“Woah, this must be a big group then.”

Blitz snorted at this statement, turning away, but finally came to Bandit’s rescue. “Yeah, all of us helped with your son, but Dominic did the most. He did even bear with that punch.”

Bandit covered his eye with a shaking hand, clearing his throat furiously, looking away. “It wasn’t a big deal, I somehow ended up liking Noah very much…”

“I’m very happy to hear that. Can I, maybe thank you this with... a dinner?” Nate offered smiling gently.

Bandit sweared that he didn’t hear well. “What?”

The stranger’s smile just grew wider. “I don’t really remember good restaurants around Hereford, but I’m not that bad of a cook, myself. I bet Noah would love to have you as our guest, once we cleared our new home. If you want.”

Bandit licked his lips, but voice didn’t came out, so he started to nod furiously. With a big, happy yell, Noah jumped in his arms, finally getting him a chance to compose himself. Bandit caught him with a swift motion, what grew to a pavlovian reflex slowly. Noah hugged his neck, and Bandit shut his eyes, burying his face in the kid’s shoulder. This gesture turned to be a very comforting thing to him.

Blitz smiled at Nathan, who was watching closely. Noah lifted his head, looking at Bandit. “Dad makes the best pancakes.”

“Better then Monika?” Bandit gasped, he somehow even shut the distractingly attractive man out, and concentrated to the boy in his arms.

“Better! But don’t tell her this” giggled Noah.

Bandit gave him a cheeky grin, and looked at Nathan. “I’m looking forward to it, then!”