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Pulling Punches

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It was just a normal day, why did it turn out like this? Stealth was just minding his own business, being in his room, totally thinking that he was alone so he set his head gear down, so it could air out a bit. Wouldn't do any good if he got a heat stroke in that weather, when suddenly rider barged in, totally keen on showing him something.
But when he saw him, rider got angry and began to shout at him, who he was and why the octoling was in his base. When he wanted to explain to him that yes, he was indeed stealth, rider punched him, not believing him at all. With his fight or flight instincts, both took one. Rider began to punch and kick him, thinking of him as the enemy, while stealth didn't want to hurt him, so he ran, ran far out of the base and onto the streets, pulling his hoodie over his head to hide his tentacles.
He was crying, and really hurt by rider, and he didn't want the other to see him like this.

He already hated himself for being an octoling, and kinda planned to reveal it to the others over the next few days, as octavio had been stopped and the zapfish had returned again. He thought that at least his team would understand him, but…

With Riders reaction, to him being an octoling and all that, he didn't have any hope anymore. He couldn't even go anywhere, the base was his home, his safe place, and no one would take a stray octoling in, they would rather call the police on him.

Cod this was bad.

Stealth ran down the already dark street, only lit by a few streetlights, and dove into an alley. He was exhausted and cold and everything just hurt…

His feelings, his body, just… His everything.

He sat down at the side of a wall, pulling his knees to his chest, shivering at the cold and just letting the tears flow down his face.
This is how he'd die, like the scum he was he probably deserved it.
Just lying to his team like that for all this time, about something so important too.

He should have never believed that things would be different here.

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After a couple of hours out there in the cold, stealth had fallen asleep. Or more like, cried himself to sleep. He just wanted to die at this point, not caring at all. If he went back to Octo Canyon, he probably would be marked a traitor and if he went somewhere else, he'd be marked a bad octoling who needs to be kicked out.

In the end, he was a nobody, belonging nowhere.

 

Someone kneeled down next to him and a hand softly went over his tear marked face. It was gentle and kind, a warm touch to the almost frostbitten skin.
They turned around to the other person, a soft voice communicating with them.

Then, two arms slung themselves under his frail body, one at his knees and the other under his arms, heaving him up. He was light, way too light for someone his size.
They just shook the thoughts out of their head, they had something more important to do: Bring stealth to a warmer place.
And that they did.

 

After a couple of hours stealth woke up again, comfortably warm this time. He didn't notice that he went somewhere inside a building. The pillow was nice though, he could get used to it.
He pressed his head more into it, pulling a bit on the blanket that was thrown over him.

Then, the memories came back and he was instantly alert to his surroundings, his body pulling itself up as he looked around.
He was lying on the couch at their base, his own blanket and pillow at his side.
What the-

"Oh, so you're awake, Stealth? You gave us a little scare back there."
Came a voice from the side. His face turned into the direction of it and there he saw Bamboo and Blazer, both sitting at a table. Bamboo was on her phone while Blazer was staring right back at him, a neutral expression on her face.
Stealth instantly turned away again but Blazer saw his face anyway.

"I-I-I can explain- Wait, R-Rider, w-where is he…?"

Stealth was looking around again, searching for their leader frantically. He didn't want to be kicked out again-

"We kicked him out for the time being after what happened. He needs to overthink his choices and our choice was to let him do that, if he wants or not."

Stealth couldn't believe his ears. They kicked Rider out? What? Because of him kicking stealth out for being an octoling, he couldn't believe that.

"But you have some explaining to do." Added Bamboo. "You never told us you were an octoling, I mean, I had my hunches, but that you really are one? Couldn't believe it when Rider said that. But Blazer kinda slapped him and kicked his ass when he said that he punched you."

Blazer smiled proudly at that statement and Stealth was baffled.

"Why would you do that? Don't you… Why dont you hate me too?"
Stealth questioned them, really surprised by their reactions.

"I mean, why would we? It was surely a surprise, but it's not like you were ever an asshole to us. To be honest you're actually one of the sweetest inklings and octolings I've ever met. You didn't even fight back when rider attacked you, that's gotta count as something."

Bamboo just nodded at that response, expression never changing from neutral, but a small glint of of a smile was in her eyes.

Stealth couldn't hold himself anymore and just broke out in tears. His emotions just overwhelmed him and he cried into his hands. All his struggles to be accepted as who he was, all the frustration and anger he had felt at others and mostly himself, it all just went out with this.
He loved the feeling of being accepted, and by his own teammates nonetheless, after all of the lies he told them. He was just, so happy.

But there was one last problem to tackle.
He rubbed his eyes and looked up at Bamboo and Blazer.

"I still need to explain everything to you two. Especially to Rider, you do deserve the truth as much as does, even if he was an asshole about it."

He sighed, a bit amused but also strained.

"But we all know that he's an asshole sometimes, and an impulsive one that is."
Bamboo said, sipping her tea.

"I agree, but first, we need to do something about your wounds stealth. I already did patched you up a bit, but there's still some swelling that needs to be cooled."
Blazer got up and went to get something for that while Stealth sat there, thinking about everything and how he should explain these things to them all.

It will work out, hopefully.

 

-to be continued-
(probably)

Chapter Text

Rider was angry.

At whom? He doesn't really know.

He could be angry at Stealth for never telling them as he was apparently an octoling, he could be angry at Blazer and Bamboo for kicking him out after he told them. He could be angry at the world for this to ever happen!

But… He's mostly angry at himself for acting so rashly, angry at his own thought process that no, this can't be Stealth, that gotta be an imposter.

And he was.
He was so fucking angry at himself for being such an idiot, and after this, what felt like hours long walk he took, he realized it.

He just threw his best friend on the street.
Yes, his best friend, the one he always could talk to, the one he understood, the one who understood him the best. They've only known each other for a short time but he actually considered him his best friend.
And said best friend, he threw out on the cold street in the dark, to fend for himself and patch up his wounds- He had beat up his best friend.

He didn't even listen, Stealth tried to explain, he didn't even fight back, he just… ran.
And Rider was such a coward, he just used his strength against the other instead of talking things out just like back then when he was a lone wolf, never in a team.

And he felt awful, cod he felt awful. He didn't want to be like his past self, he didn't want to fight alone and he essentially just ended the only good thing in his life.

He needed to apologize. But first he needed to calm down, he couldn't just barge in there like that without a real plan on how to act.

How would he even apologize? How could Stealth ever forgive him, or Blazer or Bamboo in that matter, he didn't know. But he knew that he needed to do that fast, he shouldn't waste this chance.

So he ran, as fast as he could. He ran like his life depended on it, his life did depend on it.

Because he couldn't imagine a life without his team anymore.

 

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A slow knocking ripped Stealth out of his thoughts.

He looked up and saw Bamboo get the door and sighed. It had been a week since the fiasco with Rider and he was kind of worried about the other.
He didn't answer his texts, or anyone's on that note. No One saw him in that week, not even in turf war or ranked matches.

And Stealth was really, really worried about him.

A gasp and what sounded like a slap was heard, which in turn ripped Stealth out of his newly acquired thoughts. He looked up yet again to come face to face with a very angry and worried looking Bamboo and… a very worked up Rider.

He had a big green spot on the side of his face, as well as a forming bruise from the slap he got from Bamboo, and several wounds around his body, which looked like they had been treated already, but that didn't make his worry go away, it only amplified it.
Stealth got nervous again, watching Rider's every move. He had prepared for this moment all week but for it to come so late? What hade Rider been doing all this time.

"A-are you-"
"I'm so sor-"

They began at the same time as Rider looked at his face, and Stealth actually chuckled at this.

Cod, they were both idiots.
Meanwhile, Rider only looked uncomfortable, rubbing his arm lightly at the side.

"It seems like you also didn't tell us everything, Rider."

Blazer came up from the side with her phone, a news article from the New Squidbeak Splatoon opened. A picture showed Rider and Goggles, as well as the other Agents, fight against the Statue.
Rider looked at it and sighed, of course they gotta be found out like that.

"It was only to protect you all. If anyone found out I was in the Squidbeak, or that it existed for that matter, hell would've broken loose."

Stealth wondered why Rider was so calm all of a sudden, the last time he saw him he almost killed Stealth. What had made that change of behavior-
Wait, Agent-

"Wait, so all this time, you were in some secret organization that battled against the octarians. All the "trips" you made. You never thought to tell us that? You could've died on one of these missions and we would've never found out!"

Well, now it was more about Rider not telling his secret, but with how much Blazer and Bamboo got worked up and how much more uncomfortable Rider looked with every second, Stealth knew he needed to do something about this.
He stood up and whistled loudly with his hands, getting the attention on him, which in a normal situation he would've been way too uncomfortable to have, but this was not one.

"O-ok, everyone calm down. I know that it was wrong o-of Rider to not tell us about this but… He had the same reason as I had with hiding my identity to you all. Only his reason w-was at least not as selfish as mine. S-so, can we just sit down and talk this out, like we planned to do with the thing about me being an o-octoling anyway?"

Stealth ranted, for once in his life speaking up. His face had a soft smile on it as he ended his speech, and a collective sigh of everyone could be heard.
Bamboo, Blazer and Rider looked at each other and back at Stealth, and this time, Rider began to speak up.

"Stealth, I only wanted to say that I'm sorry for everything I've done. It was wrong of me to jump to conclusions like that, and especially to beat you u-up and throw you out and- Cod, I'm awful, I've been so awful to you just because you're an octoling. I don't know if you could ever forgive me."

Rider's whole anxiety that had build itself up over the week, that he had shoved into the back of his mind at first, so he could concentrate on saving the city, bubbled up, his voice beginning to stutter in a manner that nobody had heard the Yellow-green inkling in before.

Stealth and the others were shocked to say the least. But they caught themselves, Bamboo already feeling a bit bad for slapping Rider's face, even if she still thought that he full on deserved it.

"I understand if you wouldn't want me on the team anymore, Rider-"
"I understand if you wouldn't want me on the team anymore, Guys-"

And again, they both spoke at the same time, stopping the moment they noticed it.

Rider put his hand on his face and laughed, a couple of tears rolling down.

"I don't think you should be kicked off of the team for- for being who you are! I was being a mean idiot to you and you still care about my opinion?! Cod, Stealth..."
Rider was just done, Stealth was done- everyone was done!
So Stealth did the one thing he knew would probably either help, or get him killed.

He went up and hugged Rider, his own tears welling up. Stealth was fucking worried and he didn't care about anything but Rider being safe here right now.
Rider flinched at first but soon gave in, putting his own arms around Stealths body. Blazer and Bamboo soon joined in and they… kind of were a sobbing mess at the end, Stealth telling about his life and escape from Octo Valley, while Rider told them about the missions and close calls and his almost death in his time in the Splatoon.

At the end, Stealth didn't want to let go, Rider also kind of didn't but he never showed it because of his pride, well the last bit he still had of it.
Blazer and Bamboo just were there for them all, listening and talking, sometimes all over each other, sometime a silence would just break out.

But they knew that they could go through this together.

 

They were a team, and teams held together, right?