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Remaining Rogue

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Red shifts to green, then to yellow, and then back to red again. Over and over again. An elderly man watches the timed pattern of the traffic lights as he hoses down the sidewalk in front of his shop. The street is quiet; too far away from downtown to warrant much foot traffic, plus the vast majority of folks use public transportation, so it's not unusual for the roads to be free from personal vehicles. The freak explosion he’d heard in the distance probably drew a lot of attention as well. It definitely became a summons for every nearby emergency vehicle. If there’d been any more signs of trouble he’d have tuned into the local station but things seem to have quieted down. From his convenience store, the neon ‘open’ light glows brightly amid an assortment of liquor and electronic cigarette ads.

A sudden cacophonous crash and the screeching of feral felines startle him. A handful of stray cats race out of a nearby alleyway. He glances over, expecting to see a dog in pursuit.

The flaming dumpster that rolls out behind the fleeing cats is only slightly less alarming than the scraggly looking man that rides atop his blazing chariot cackling wildly.

“Fire in the hole!”

 

Out of reflex, he aims his hose at the trash heap actively being consumed by fire, in a panicked frenzy to douse the flames.

 

“Oi! What ya doing, mate? That’s mine!” the goblin-like man screeches.

 

The store owner notes the glowing embers at the top of the maniac’s hair and instinctively trains his hose at him in alarm.

 

The flaming creature before him hisses like one of the stray cats he was just terrorizing. It lifts a clunky weapon in threat and leaps back. The old man’s wrist twitches to raise the hose again but a weighty hand drops down to his shoulder. He cranes his neck to peer up at the gargantuan individual looming over him. The monster has to be over two meters tall and its growling breaths are distorted and sound more like a dragon. A black leather mask with a pig motif shakes slowly in warning. He drops his offending “weapon”, and his pants are wet. It isn’t from the hose.

 

The behemoth trudges past him and leans down to face the scraggly demon who had just been threatening him. He watches, frozen in terror, as the skinny man gestures animatedly and argues with the monster before him. The man with the pig mask remains stoic and still until the filthy and twitchy individual throws his arms up in defeat and stomps off, the towering golem lumbering behind.

 

The elderly shop owner decides the sidewalk is clean enough, and it would be safer to close up now. He makes a hasty retreat inside.

 

Junkrat kicks an empty soda can along the street as he grouses. “Where does that suit get off, thinkin’ he can disrespect us like that? We were fine upstanding blokes in that meeting. Washed me shorts and everything!” he huffs.

Roadhog remains silent as he trudges beside Junkrat. It is better to let him vent now and blow off some steam wandering the streets. Regulating Junkrat’s behavior or insisting they go into hiding are always the last alternatives. And if they’re in a forced confinement while Junkrat is so upset then it’s just like bottling combustibles under pressure. Mako would rather avoid earning a matching prosthesis from the guaranteed explosion that would be. It’s boring sitting around anyway - he’d rather join Rat in a messy rampage than be cooped up in some abandoned warehouse.

“Why ya think he double-crossed us? Couldn’t have been because of me - I did all the talking while you just sat on yer fat arse. The very same bum that stole my kill when ya squashed that bot! Proly broke his fancy chair sipping yer cuppa like some dainty, civie sheila. He probably thought we were poofs who couldn’t handle the job!”

 

That one almost stings and he is impressed Junkrat can’t feel the heat of his glower boring into the backside of his patchy-haired head. Being intimately involved with an unstable hothead contains its drawbacks, but hearing slurs from his own partner is sometimes more than he has the patience for. The twerp always lobs lies and insults at the nearest target when he is upset. Thick skin makes it easy to withstand, and having spent enough time with Junkrat allows Roadhog to recognize it as a defense mechanism. Weakness can get you killed in the Outback, and Junkrat refuses to be seen as an easy target. Ever. Shit, his supposed treasure could be an igneous lie that ensures no one will kill him outright. There will always be a reason for bandits to keep him alive in the hopes of getting him to spill his secrets. Roadhog wonders if Junkrat thought of the ramifications and expected to be hunted for a false “life insurance” or if his genius has no time for such details. Junkrat’s mind tends to move in a linear fashion, not pausing for bothersome escape plans or contingencies.

 

“That’s it - the suit saw some old geezer (you) and assumed I was your mail-order bride and you’d been buying me these fancy prostheses like some gross sugar daddy,” he growls. “Made matters worse by being all delicate - thought we wouldn’t be able to damage shit! S’all yer fault!”

They turn down a somewhat busier street that leads to a park. There are a few couples walking out, some with dogs on leashes leading the way. A pink and white ice cream van is closing its window shutters as a small group of children scamper off.

 

Under his breath, Roadhog mutters out, “Or he thought your big plans were a madman’s pipe dreams…” He grunts as he bumps into Junkrat who stops to stand upright and sneer at him.

“What’d you just say?” Junkrat hisses and jabs a grubby finger up at him - a finger Roadhog wants to break, and yet his goal is to get the asshole to calm down.

 

Roadhog doesn’t make it a habit to back down from scraps with Rat, but right now he needs the little shit to chill out. Speaking of chilling out...he focuses on the ice cream van ahead of them.

“I said, I thought we could maybe go for a bit of ice cream.” A boulder-sized hand reaches past Junkrat’s shoulder to point out the vendor.

 

“Oh! Right! A good explosion always leaves me parched, let's get us an icy pole!” And with that, he’s hobbling off.

 

Heavily armored shoulders sag in relief before Roadhog follows after Junkrat who is now yelling at the ice cream man.

 

“What do you mean yer closed? Our money not good ‘nough for ya!? Look at me mate, he’s famished - practically wasting away!” Junkrat says, his arms waving about in Roadhog’s direction. There’s a brief pause. “Bloke says you could stand to skip a few lollies,” Junkrat calls back over his shoulder - malice is heavy in his tone.

Roadhog watches Junkrat pull his grenade launcher out again. There is a screech of tires and the familiar acrid, heady smell of burning rubber as the ice cream man guns it away from what he assumes is a raving lunatic. He’s not wrong in his assumptions.

 

To be fair, Junkrat immediately lets loose a wild cackle and unleashes a torrent of grenades from his launcher pointed in the general direction of the retreating vehicle. Not even the acid rains back home could compare to the deadly downpour Junkrat issues forth. Only one finds its mark, but one is all that is needed. The deceptively cheery, bright yellow orb detonates on the back right tire. When the tire explodes, it’s loud. The violent burst scatters scrap and rubber fragments wildly. Rapid combustion shoves the brightly colored van forward and it careens into a traffic light pole, jettisoning into an unbalanced tilt before ultimately collapsing on its side.

 

The chain from Roadhog’s hook rattles as he jogs down the side street after Junkrat who makes a beeline straight for the wreckage with a proud whoop of success. By the time Roadhog makes it to the wreckage, Junkrat is perched on the side of the vehicle peering in. His frame overshadows that of his partner as he looks inside at the shaken salesman.

 

“I think you owe my mate an apology,” Junkrat barks.

 

The poor fool nods his head vigorously and stutters through a forced apology. “I-I-I...I’m sorry, mister-”

 

“Roadhog!” Junkrat yells.

 

“I’m sorry, Mr. Roadhog!” the man wails. Roadhog snorts with amusement. City folks are so quick to show their bellies in terror-induced supplication.

 

Momentarily appeased, Junkrat hops down and looks up at his intimidating partner. “All these folks think they’re so posh and better than us, and still have to be told to be polite and apologize when rude. Well, tell the man what flavor ya want, Hoggy. My treat!” He beams at him, full of pride as the rattled ice cream man clambers out of the vehicle and makes a hasty escape.

Roadhog nods with a chuckle. Ice cream is proving to be a good distraction so far. “Might have to nab ‘em ourselves; coward took off,” he grunts and moves to the back of the van. The wicked end of his hook slams into the rear doors and wrenches the metal obstacles outward. Junkrat’s wiry frame proves indispensable as he wriggles his malnourished body through the mangled opening and tosses out frozen treats. “Grab whatever you want, mate!”

 

A familiar flash of pink and green catches Roadhog’s attention - he reaches down and discovers a character-shaped ice cream - it's a Pachimari. A Pachi-Pop, to be specific. Roadhog clutches it to his broad chest, cherishing his favorite mascot: an adorable tentacle-onion with a bright, joyous smile. He glances around to ensure no one has seen his brief moment of softness then delicately tears the wrapper off.

 

What greets him is not the joyous face of a Pachimari. It looks like a malformed creature from the depths of hell. Its bubblegum eyes, placed low and cockeyed, give the impression the Pachimari is melting out of its own self-aware horror. The eyes plead for a merciful death. Hog chokes back a mournful, wet sob and shoves the whole thing in his mouth. Goodnight, sweet prince, he thinks and gulps it down quickly. If they must perish, Pachimari deserve a quick and painless death.

 

By the time Junkrat slithers his way back outside, Roadhog has his arms full of the majority of the ice cream they had liberated. Many of them are more Pachi-Pops. Better safe than sorry, he reasons. The next one could be just as woefully disfigured.

 

Junkrat grasps his own dessert to his chest possessively. “Glad I held onto one of them! Gonna eat all those by yourself, ya pig?”

 

The return of a snarky Junkrat makes Roadhog snort and turn the snout of his mask up. He defensively clutches the plastic and foil encased treats closer. He has every intention of sharing but plans on making the junker wait as punishment for being an asshole. Roadhog could go 50/50 with him on the attitude for now. “Idiot. You’ll just give yourself a brain freeze.”

 

A sour expression returns to the younger man’s face and he tosses the mangled wrapper of his icy pole on the street as they head back to the park. “Hope ya get sick eating all that dairy, you fat bastard. Might as well ruin this as well too.”

 

There is a tense silence as they meander along the park’s pathway, only stopping once they find a bench that faces the wreckage - watching emergency services show up should be entertaining.

 

Without a second thought to the bench’s durability, Roadhog drops all 250 plus kilograms onto the spot beside Junkrat. He sets the pile of sweets between them and chooses an ice block striped yellow and black (lemon and charcoal respectively - it is an acquired taste) and hands Junkrat a waffle cone with vanilla and strawberry wedges and chocolate drizzled along the top. The look of suspicion in Junkrat’s eyes as he accepts it wounds Roadhog despite knowing that the man is in a foul mood.

 

It was early evening when they had struck the facility, but now it is wholly nighttime. Roadhog had been counting on enjoying the night sky and counting the stars since there is no irradiated pollution blocking the sky with its sickly hue like in the Outback. But the light pollution from the highly populated city ruins that dream.

 

He sighs and focuses on the small bugs swarming the light poles that dot the paved pathway through the park. To be driven by a desire so dynamically that you ignore the most basic of instincts, self-preservation; it is commendable. He knows the poor bastards are merely confused; the insects instinctively use light from the moon to orientate themselves in the air and to navigate, so large artificial light alters their travels, drawing them inexplicably closer to their demise. Still, the metaphor “drawn like a moth to a flame” buzzes in his brain. A glance back down at Junkrat makes his chest tighten. The young man is so consumed by a need to succeed and prove his genius to a world that has forgotten him that self-preservation plays second fiddle. By this point in their partnership, he is willing to do whatever it takes to see him reach his true guiding light and save him from any false flames. It just may involve being louder than the other man to get him to listen. It means he needs to do more than grunt at him.

 

“You didn’t do anything wrong,” Roadhog says after considerable length.

 

“Course I didn’t,” Junkrat huffs and pops the rest of the ice cream cone down the hatch.

 

“There was nothing that could have changed his mind in our first meeting. The plan had always involved double-crossing us,” Roadhog insists, pushing past Junkrat’s easy dismissal of his words.

 

Junkrat’s face screws up in anger, refusing to let go of his need for a scapegoat. Roadhog knows that Junkrat wants to rest the blame on him to escape the tendrils of failure and inadequacy that seem to find and coil around him everywhere he travels.

 

“Want to know why that was always the plan?” Roadhog asks and he rests a hefty hand on the wiry man’s hunched shoulders.

 

“Already told ya it’s cause you made a bad impression. I showered- so it weren’t me!” he screeches indignantly, the subject matter making him visibly uncomfortable.

 

“Wouldn’t have mattered even if you’d shown up filthy.”

 

Junkrat grows, “What about you breaking his chair?”

“Glad I broke it, but that’s not the reason.”

 

Junkrat is silent and picks at his jagged nails, his eyes focusing on a currently bleeding hangnail. His aversion to eye contact signals his insecurity and Roadhog hopes it means they are getting somewhere.

“Weren’t ‘cause of my prosthetic limbs?”

 

“No.”

 

“Or ‘cause we’re gay?”

 

That earns an angry snort. He isn’t sure where Junkrat picked up the idea that being with another man was something to be ashamed about. Maybe he gleaned it sometime during their travels? Junkrat would lob it at Roadhog whenever he was in a surly mood and it had gotten old, quick. “No. Being gay isn’t bad.” He had spent enough of his youth battling internalized homophobia - he isn’t about to watch Junkrat do the same, or force him back into shame.

A frustrated growl erupts from Junkrat. “Well, something about us is! Don't lie! We’re freaks and that’s why he didn't wanna work with us!”

“We’re different. Doesn’t make us freaks, Rat,” Roadhog says slowly.

 

Junkrat waves his prosthetic arm about, “I'm missing half me limbs and you-” his arm sweeps before Roadhog’s generous frame. “You look like ya mighta been the one who ate em! I look like I’d be desperate enough to share that meal with ya.” His animated arms come back and clutch his concave stomach. “We got a touch of radiation flowing through our veins and to top it all off, we’re sweet on each other - ‘COURSE WE’RE FREAKS.”

 

The low self-esteem radiating off of his partner is more difficult to witness than he was expecting. A part of him had hoped that maybe some of Junkrat’s cocky and carefree bravado was genuine. That maybe not all of his outlandish pride was a front to hide his insecurities behind. “None of that matters. He’s a suit and we’re junkers.”

 

“That’s no reason to treat someone like they aren’t human,” Junkrat argues, his voice shrill and desperate. “Gotta be a real reason the drongos of this world hate me- us!”

 

Roadhog doesn’t know how to respond to that so he sits there, staring at the incensed man. It hurts to hear the vulnerability in his partner’s voice. The human side of him that hasn’t been successfully buried wants to remove Junkrat from all of this, hide him from the harsh criticisms of the world. Hold him close and reassure him over any doubts he may hold. But that’s not how he keeps Junkrat alive and reaching his goals. That requires a firmer touch. “I think… I think you understand that attitude better than most. You hate the world right back. You lie. I get it, it makes surviving easier, and keeps people at a distance.”

Junkrat squirms uncomfortably and opens his mouth to argue but Roadhog holds up an oversized hand. He isn’t mute, but he doesn’t care to speak much at length. Most conversations don’t require much input from him. But he wants Junkrat to understand this.

 

Bulky fingers unclasp the straps holding his mask in place and yank his hair tie free - he always ends up with a headache at the end of the day due to the tight tension from both. He holds the thick leather in his lap, staring inside. He, of all people, understands the need for keeping others away. “And, that’s what the rest of the world is like. Everyone lies. About nothing and everything. Who they are, what they want, what they do. Trying to be anything but themselves. Most of their lives aren’t even that rough.” Somber eyes glance through strands of white hair and over at his companion. “You forget I grew up and lived in that world. That Suit is a monster. He wears nice things and acts like a fair dinkum gent so he can pretend he’s anything but cruel. People hate being weak. So if they can put other people beneath them, then they don’t feel so powerless.”

Roadhog squeezes his fists - the impulse to simply destroy the corrupt elite, which has been the catalyst that’s driven him all these years, surges within at the thought of Junkrat doubting himself because of some posh arse. “It's okay to be weird, Rat. Nothing wrong with missing parts. And…becoming partners was the best thing to come out of that hell hole, Junkertown. I hate that shithole a little less ‘cause of it.

“Don't be like them. You’re the Evil Australian Bomber, here to remind the world the outback still exists and it’s meaner than hell after they left us to rot. You’re Junkrat: explosives and inventor extraordinaire. You’re Jamison Fawkes, an exile from Junkertown and Boss of our operations. Why do you want to hide any of that?”

“I’ll remember to tell them that next time we’re on the run and keeping things hush-hush,” Junkrat titters.

This is why it always seems pointless to debate with Junkrat. It works out better when Roadhog either remains quiet or intimidates Junkrat into another course of action. He is trying to be consoling but the little shit is being almost purposefully obstinate.

With an unexpected flurry of ice cream wrappers, Junkrat leaps to his feet before pacing before Roadhog. “No, really, all that sugar go to your head? I’ve never heard ya talk so much. So, of course, ya got a lot to say when it’s time to lecture me, and not when I’m trying to have a bit of friendly chit-chat. Maybe that fall in the warehouse rattled more than just yer arse - your head feel alright?” He reaches for Roadhog’s temple, dodging the swat aimed at him with a giggle.

It aches like taking a deep breath underwater; Junkrat’s suffering is the only pain he can’t overcome with hogdrogen. Watching Junkrat pick at himself or their relationship stings sharper than any of the grazing gunshots from their earlier encounter with the law.

“And you lie all the time, too! Every time you ignore me - can’t handle the truth neither, ya cunt. It’s always, ‘Shut up, Rat’ when I ask ya ‘bout your past. Or you just roll over and gimme the cold shoulder when I ask ya ‘bout staying partners long term! Aren’t saving me feelings mate - know what I am. I’ve seen my reflection - shit’s fucked! You can tell me ya don’t care. Just stop lecturing me for shit you’re guilty of yourself!”

“Just shut up!” Roadhog bellows and drags the scrawny junker closer, kissing him harshly. Junkrat digs his metal fingers into Roadhog’s forearm and attempts to wrench away. There’s a brief moment when Roadhog tries to deepen the forced intimacy but a bitten lip is his reward so he pulls away with a grunt, his frustration far from sated.

“Piss off!” Junkrat screeches. “Don’t need yer damn pity!”

“That piece of shit turned on us because he's a fucking Suit and that’s it! It’s what they do! I’m tired of arguing with you, Rat. And pity wouldn’t have kept me around this long or allowed you in my pants,” he adds with a huff, his shoulders heaving with ragged breaths.

Junkrat squirms in Roadhog’s bruising grip in a vain attempt to escape. “That your way of saying you give a fuck, Roadie?” he asks coyly and batts his eyelashes up at Roadhog mockingly.

A vexed rumble emanates deep from within Roadhog’s throat. Junkrat is a prick and can’t take shit seriously, ever, he laments internally. He releases his ironclad grip on Junkrat with a disenchanted sigh. “My way of saying I love you.”

There is nothing suppressed in the right hook Junkrat sends jettisoning into Roadhog’s unmasked mug. “You fucking mongrel!” he howls. “Not a fucking soft word outta ya this whole time, and now ya just spring it on me like this?”

Before Junkrat can launch another attack, Roadhog has him in a chokehold. “Don’t be such a blokey dipstick, Rat,” he chuckles darkly. “I ain’t taking the piss outta you.” Withstanding a direct hit from Junkrat’s rigid prosthetic fist hurt like a bitch. “Calm down,” Roadhog demands. Because telling this piece of shit to “calm down” has always worked before, he thinks sarcastically.

The scuffle that breaks out between them sounds more like feral cats having a go at each other rather than two men quarreling. Junkrat is mostly to blame for the screeching and hissing, but Roadhog lets out a few growls himself until he manages to envelop Junkrat tightly within his bulk, forcing him to settle down. How they remained on the bench and not rolling around in the dirt like the rabid dingos they are, is a miracle.

They sit there in what is quite possibly the most awkward and aggressive embrace in existence. It’s quiet, save for the ragged and wheezing gasps as they both avariciously suck in air.

Roadhog cautiously loosens his grip to allow Junkrat freedom from being crushed to his bodyguard’s chest, but Rat makes no effort to unseat himself from Roadhog’s lap.

“Ya serious, mate?” Junkrat asks after a long stretch of time. His voice is wet and choked with emotion but muffled by Roadhog’s yielding pecs.

“Gonna hit me if I say yes?” Roadhog says with a smirk.

“No,” Junkrat grumbles petulantly.

Junkrat is lifted so that he sits atop Roadhog’s rounded gut while the big man pulls Junkrat’s narrow face down close to his. “I give a fuck, you dipstick. Now stop putting yourself down. And I’m sick of your lies, so knock that shit off too.”

“Make up your mind, Roadie. Ya just called me a dipstick.”

“You are a dipstick. And a dill. And a drongo-”

“Oi!”

“But you’re not a freak. And that Suit isn’t better than us... Than you.”

Roadhog feels the tension finally leak out of the wiry muscles of his partner; a long nose jabs his cheek as Junkrat presses his lips against his. “Love you too, ya daft cunt.” Roadhog chuckles into the kiss and wraps his arms around Junkrat, pulling him closer.

 

Once peace is restored between the junkers, it becomes apparent that they are obviously long overdue for the world to interrupt again. There comes a rude clearing of someone’s throat from beside them. “Having a good night there, lads?”

 

“Fuckin’ aye, now sod off,” Junkrat snarls over his shoulder, arms still wrapped around Roadhog’s bull neck.

 

“How’s about you two tell me what you know about all that?” the man says and indicates the wrecked ice cream truck now swarming with emergency vehicles with his baton.

 

Junkrat’s eyes follow the nightstick back up to the man wielding it and take note of the Sillitoe Tartan decorating his cap. “Fak. It’s the filth, Roadie.”

 

The officer simpers and adjusts the belt around his waist, looking quite smug. “That’s right. Quite a scene down there. The bloke who phoned in said a couple of junkers attacked him.”

 

Junkrat slips Roadhog’s mask back on, leaning in to conspire, “Think he’s alone?” The distorted grunt he receives in response says enough. Now that they have unwelcome company, it’s no surprise Roadhog clams back up. “Can’t reach me launcher like this, gonna have to carry me.” Another grunt. “I’ll carry you next time, ya big baby.”

 

“Hands in the air, the both of you!” is the shout from around the bushes. More officers swarm the scene, tasers raised at the two junkers. If they were leveling actual firearms they may have stood a chance of slowing the two down. But a couple thousand volts of electricity can’t stop or even slow Roadhog down. The fools. Junkrat giggles in excitement.

 

“Hi Ho Hoggy, away!” Junkrat hollers as Roadhog lumbers to his feet. The Evil Australian Bomber grabs two explosives from his harness and pitches them into the fray with a delighted cackle. Gargantuan arms wrap tightly around his body, shielding him as the tank of a man barrels through the stunned officers with a gravelly laugh.

 

Junkrat continues to hurl grenades behind their retreating forms. When his trusty steed halts abruptly Junkrat worries his partner might have been hit. “Y’good Hoggy?” he calls down bellow, expecting the colossus to take a break for some hogdrogen. Instead Roadhog makes an abrupt turn, patting his harness pockets and retrieving only an empty ice cream wrapper. He grunts and Junkrat digs his heel and peg leg into Roadhog’s side with a screech of frustration. “What do you mean, ‘What about the ice cream?’ We ain’t going back for your damn squid turnips, ya soft bastard!”

 

Roadhog’s mournful wails are barely drowned out by the sirens of police vehicles in hot pursuit.