Actions

Work Header

Whumptober Shorts

Chapter Text

Engie looked at the piece of barbed wire he’d kicked loose from the dirt. It was coated in red dust, the barbs eaten by rust until they were delicate crumbles of metal, looking as though they would fall apart at a touch. Until his boot caught on the raised twist of wire, it had been a great day for a battle. Now, not so much. He closed his eyes, trying to shake the memories he’d dug up with the length of wire but unable to. Engie groaned and picked the piece of wire up, flinging it as far away from him and his nest as possible. Walking back to his sentry, he sat in the meager shade provided by a rock and leaned his head back, deliberately slowing his breathing, concentrating on the cool stone against the back of his head.

Closing his eyes, he drifted off, lulled by the warm sun, the familiar scents of dust and gunpowder. He let his mind wander and quickly found himself back in the rundown old barn on his dad’s ranch in Texas. He was young, not even tall enough to see over the stall doors yet, but he could hear the occasional rustle of mice in the stalls as he walked. He climbed up the ladder into the hayloft, hiding from his chores for a moment of uninterrupted play, something that didn’t come often on the busy ranch.

Settling down into the soft layer of hay that covered the loft, he reached into his jeans pocket and pulled out the toy soldiers he’d brought along, lining them up on a spot he’d cleared on the floor. He sneezed, ignoring the dust motes dancing in the golden rays of sunlight that came through cracks in the walls. He turned his head, listening for a moment as his Pa called him in the distance. He could pretend he didn’t hear, he decided. He might get a whipping later for shirking his chores, but it would be worth it. Mind made up, he turned back to his toys.

He’d been playing for about a half hour when he heard the meow. Moving into a crouch, he listened carefully. He could hear them, kittens nearby. Trying to be silent, he began moving toward the sound. He loved the barn cats that lurked on the farm, half feral and skittish as hell, but they would occasionally let him run fingers through their soft fur, purring loudly until their pride overtook them and they darted off, watching him from a distance.

He moved down the ladder, following the soft meows, hoping that he could find the kitten and maybe catch it, tame it down, and make it a friend. He grinned as he caught a glimpse of grey fur moving through the shadows. He darted after the movement, rewarded when the kitten wandered into the open area behind the barn. He crouched beside the door as it batted at a leaf, making him smile with it’s antics. The kitten looked up then and froze, back arching as it saw him.

“Here, kitty, kitty.” He kept his voice soft and low, not wanting to startle it any more than he already had. The kitten moved away from him, fur glowing blue grey under the warm Texas sun. He moved toward it in a crouch, fingers wiggling on the ground by his feet. He continued to make soft noises deep in his throat, imagining how the fur would feel on his fingers.

The kitten looked tempted for a moment, then backed away, edging toward the manure pit behind the barn. He followed, nose wrinkling at the thick odor of decaying manure, but not wanting to give up on the kitten just yet. He edged closer, the kitten slowly retreating. He was almost within reach, nearly able to feel that soft fur on his fingers. The pit loomed behind the kitten, dark and malevolent, edges going nearly straight down. His pa had warned him about the pit, that it was deep and not a place for boys to play, though he couldn’t imagine why anyone would willingly get too close to that big pile of nasty. He understood the need for it, he was a farm kid and knew that manure was the best fertilizer around, not to mention cheap and easy to come by on a ranch, but still, when the wind shifted in the evenings and blew the smell toward the house, even his mama, the most proper woman he’d ever met, would utter a curse word or two.

He watched the kitten edge closer to the pit, then jump up on one of the fence posts that supported the barbed wire that kept unwitting cattle from wandering into the pit. With a grin, he straightened and walked over to it, reaching out for the kitten. His fingers just brushed the soft fur when the ground he was standing on began to crumble. He yelled and staggered back but his shirt sleeve snagged on the barbed wire and he couldn’t get it free as the ground collapsed beneath him.

He screamed as he fell, the scream abruptly cut off as his head was submerged beneath the horrid, partly liquid surface of the pit. He could feel the burning sting of cuts as the barbed wire raked up his arm, a coil of it slipping around his wrist and catching him, preventing him from sinking all the way beneath the dark surface. His head broke the top of the pit, he dragged in great gasps of foul air as he tried to make his way to the bank. He couldn’t move, his arm snagged under the surface of the pit, the cruel stricture of barbed wire sinking deeper into his wrist, pulling him further down and then, something grabbed his leg, holding him tightly.

The boy panicked then, kicking and flailing against whatever was holding him, feeling it tighten around his leg, hard barbs sinking deeper into his flesh, pulling at him. He tired quickly, one hand wrapped in the coils that stretched down from above, one leg held under the surface, his foot balanced precariously on the wood of the fence post as he panted and heaved in his terror, eyes fixed on the edge of the pit.

He whimpered as he tilted his head back, chin just above the viscous surface of the muck filling the pit and coughed, a gout of black fluid coming out of his throat and spewing back to land on his filth covered cheeks. Out of the corner of his eye he caught movement, turning his head a bit he looked at the tarry black surface of the pit. White worms were crawling in the muck, their slight weight not allowing them to sink. He clamped his mouth shut as his brain identified them, maggots, swarming in the mire, growing and eating, flies buzzing above the surface as the maggots transformed, ate more, then laid eggs in the effluvia, an endless circle of death and grotesqueness. He gagged through his clenched lips, swallowing down the bile that rose in his throat.

Above him, the strand of barbed wire ensnaring his wrist twanged at the tension on it and he briefly wondered what would happen if it broke. He’d seen a guitar string break once, leaving a bleeding welt across his uncle’s cheek. He tried to focus on his hand, the fingers turning purple as the wire tightened even more, cutting off the flow of blood to his fingers, leaving them thick purple sausages sticking straight up. He grimaced as flies landed on them, covering them in a moving black glove, hiding the color, if not the distended shape of them.

Moving slightly, he shifted his weight, wincing at the sting in his leg as whatever had hold of him tightened below the surface. To his left, a bubble rose to the surface and popped, the flatulent sound drawing his eyes. He rolled them and watched as more bubbles rose, then something big, moving toward the surface, breaching like a whale and rolling over. He bit back a scream as he stared into empty eye sockets, the cow’s skull seeming to stare at him for a moment, streaks of glistening foulness creating rivulets like black tears as they poured from the empty sockets. The skull settled, watching him as it slowly sank back below the surface. He screamed, knowing what was wrapped around his leg now, it had to be a tentacle.

He’d watched enough Twilight Zone to know about vengeful ghosts and their hatred of the living, read his cousin’s Tales From The Crypt comics, knew what had happened. The cow had died in here, drowning slowly and with no one to help and now the soul was trapped and sucking down anyone wary enough to fall in. He could feel his mind teetering on the edge of sheer panic at the thought, the ghostly barbs of the Death Cow digging deeper into his leg, wanting to watch him go under, wanting to suck his soul out the way he sucked on a juicy slice of watermelon, devouring it hungrily. It was too much. He gave in to the screams.

He wasn’t aware of the barbed wire wrapping ever tighter around his wrist, the trapped blood causing the ends of his fingers to explode, bright red fountaining out and spraying the pit’s dark surface, wasn’t aware of the fence post slipping under his foot as he slid off his precarious perch. He was only aware that he was sinking, the Death Cow tightening it’s grip around his leg, dragging him down into the murky depths where he would lay unfound forever. His screams turned to choking sobs, fetid liquid oozing into his mouth, down his throat. He couldn’t breathe, lungs filling as his head went under.

He didn’t know when the big hand wrapped around his, grasping the blood and muck covered slickness, dragging him back to the surface, and then heaving him to the shore, was unaware that his leg was shredded as the weight of the fencepost tightened the barbed wire wrapping his thigh and dragged it down, slicing as it went. He wasn’t aware of the panic as his Pa and his Uncles carried him up to the house, unconscious, barely breathing, dripping blood and black water with every step. He was aware of nothing until he woke up, two weeks later, in a pristine white bed in a sterile white hospital room, his hand missing, amputated after gangrene set into the damaged and shredded appendage.

After he was out, they told him how the bank had been eaten under where he stood, causing it to collapse, how the barbed wire from the fence post had entangled him, simultaneously damning and saving him. Even after they told him, he couldn’t look at barbed wire without a nameless dread filling his chest, the ghost of the foulness he drowned in filling his lungs, making it impossible to breathe.

Engie’s eyes jerked open and he sprang up with a start, his beer bottle tipping over and pale golden fluid wetting the dry earth. He sighed, righted the bottle with his mechanical hand, gaze lingering on it for a moment.

“Hey man, you alright?” a voice asked from behind him and he turned to look at the Scout standing there, bat over his shoulder, eying the mess askance. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.” He hoped the boy didn’t hear the slight tremble in his voice. “Just thinking about when I was a kid. Why don’t you get out there and do something ‘stead of hanging around here and scaring old men while they nap?” He let the aggressive tone cover the tremble, narrowing his eyes behind the goggles. “Go on, boy, war ain’t gonna win itself.”

“Jeez, man, whatever.” The boy turned and stalked off, and Engie watched him go. When he was out of sight, he glanced down at his metal hand one more time.

“Fuck barbed wire.” he muttered, then turned back to his work.

Chapter Text

“No more talking!”

Scout gasps as the huge hand wraps around her neck, cutting off her air. She grabs it with both of her own, attempting to pry Heavy’s fingers loose.

“No more! Heavy hears you talk to Spy, hears you say you love him!” His face twisted in anger and misery, fingers digging deeper into her flesh. Scout struggles, trying to speak, to explain, knowing that it will do no good. He is crazy with anger.

Heavy is snarling now, face to face with her, his red visage taking up her entire field of vision, ignoring her attempts to speak without air, ignoring the hard thump of her feet against his legs as he dangles her a foot above the ground.

“Do not lie, Heavy will not believe it!” Spittle flecks her cheek as he roars in her face, his rage and jealousy not allowing him to be rational. Why would she tell Spy she loves him, in Russian of all languages? He doesn’t think about that, doesn’t wonder, his fingers simply flex tighter, cutting off her air as he rages.

As darkness begins to bloom in the corners of her vision, she briefly feels sorrow. When Spy tells him that she was learning to say the three words that would get her killed in Russian so that she could tell him in his own language, he will regret killing her. He will be broken. She wishes he would let her talk, just for a moment, but the darkness is creeping closer, red blooming behind her eyelids as blood vessels, starved of oxygen, burst. For a brief moment, she knows despair, not for herself but for the man strangling her, the love of her life, and then the darkness engulfs the world and she surrenders to it, sinking into death.

Chapter Text

She doesn’t remember how long she’s been here anymore. It doesn’t matter. It stopped mattering when she realized that her team wasn’t gonna come for her, that no one would rescue her. She continues to scrub the floor, rubbing the brush in circles, her knees beginning to ache as she moves to the next dirty spot. Sometimes she wishes she could remember, when she can be bothered to think about it at all.

Somehow, the time blurred, got lost as she was beaten and tortured, over and over again. By this point, she doesn’t even remember how many broken bones she’s had, although that might not be a bad thing. Her team’s Medic told her once that the mind is a strange thing, it forgets what it can’t stand to remember. She wonders idly if that’s why she can’t remember.

This life has become a vicious cycle by now, no pun intended. Cheavy beats her, breaks her, takes her to his team’s Medic, they call him Doc, he’s not as handsome as her team’s Medic, or as nice. Cheavy makes the man heal her, only to do it all over again the next day. At some point, she just got tired of the pain and gave up.

No wonder her team won’t come for her, she’s a failure. She let him win. Not that there’s much she can do against six and a half feet of mean as hell mercenary. But that’s not what matters. What matters is that she gave in. Weak, just like he tells her. A woman, just like he says, good for only one thing. Not worth saving. They’ve probably replaced her already. Replaced her with someone who wouldn’t let themselves get captured in the first place, let alone break and give up. She doesn’t even notice the tears dripping on the floor, joining the dirty water she’s scrubbing with. They don’t matter.

Finally, the floor is done, sparkling under the bright fluorescents of the base. She stands slowly, one hand going to the small of her back, massaging the ache that seems permanently lodged there. Straightening the ragged dress that Cheavy gave her, she bends over and picks up the bucket of dirty water, gathers up the brush and the polishing rags and puts everything away. Tomorrow, she gets to do everybody’s laundry. She sighs, closing her eyes briefly. Once upon a time, she was a paid mercenary, Scout class, fighting the good fight and only doing what she wanted to do. If not for Cheavy, she’d still be living that life. She pushes long dark hair out of her eyes and looks around furtively, afraid for a second that he can even hear her traitorous thoughts.

“Stop thinking.” she mutters under her breath. “You know what he says about thinking. Just don’t do it, and it won’t hurt anymore.” She tells herself the lies, knowing that whether she rebels or not, she’s still going to get hurt at some point today. The man’s a sadist of the first order. He needs to hurt her. Her shoulders sag, knowing that, no matter how perfect she is, he’s still gonna find something wrong and punish her. Hell, just being alive is punishment enough in her opinion.

Just as she puts the rags and bucket into the closet, a giant hand falls on her shoulder, staggering her. She turns, eyes fearful as she gazes up at her captor.

“Well, look at you.” His voice is deep, rough, like he’s swallowed gravel. “Cleaning floors like a good girl.” He smiles, but the smile doesn’t reach his eyes. “Who’s my good girl?”

She tries not to preen when he says it, but her body betrays her, reacting to the praise, slim though it is. “I am, Sir.”

“That’s right, bitch.” He bends closer, sticking his face right into hers. Light gleams off his unnaturally sharp teeth, making her shiver. She knows how those teeth feel, he likes to bite. “You’re mine.” He straightens back up, grin stretching wider at her capitulation. “Go back to my room and take a shower, then wait on the bed for me.” His eyes gleam at the way she cringes, even without meaning to. He sniffs the air, scenting her fear, to a man like him, it’s the finest aphrodisiac in the world. He spins her around, smacks one broad hand across her ass, the blow staggering her forward two steps.. “Well, go on, be a good girl for Daddy. You know what happens if I have to wait.”

She nods. “Yes Sir.” She heads off down the corridor, toward the showers, hating the way that her body responds to him, the way his insults hurt, the way her chest swells when he says “Good Girl.”

There’s a reason no one will rescue her.

Chapter Text

“Do you trust me?” Spy asks, holding the door open and beckoning Pyro to follow him out of the base. Pyro makes a querulous noise under the mask, unintelligible. “Come on, Pyro. The kitten won’t be there forever and I know you’ll love it.” He smiles, his thin lips curving under the balaclava as he closes the door quietly behind Pyro's bumbling form. He can’t understand how this thing, galumphing along beside him, can be so damned graceful on the field. Maybe war is its element and, like a fish, it’s currently out of water. He shakes his head, then startles a bit when a thickly gloved hand clasps his, swinging it back and forth, a happy hum emanating from the creature beside him.

Spy allows his hand to be held, happy songs to be sung as they go further from the base. The Pyro stops, looks at him, makes a questioning sound, a confused tilt of the head conveying its meaning. “Not much further, I promise. Right around that corner.” He points ahead to a bend in the trail, a large rock blocking the view around the corner. “I left the kitty there.” He marvels at how simple the abomination is when not fighting, even as he hurries around the corner after it.

Spy chuckles as his team members step from the shadows hiding them, Heavy grabbing the Pyro, Scout slipping the bag over its head. Flicking open his cigarette case, he drops his disguise, his clothing morphing from red to blue. Walking up to where the blinded Pyro struggles in Heavy’s arms, he cannot resist the urge to taunt him. “I never really was on your side.”

Chapter Text

Woah, my love, my darling
I've hungered for your touch
A long, lonely time
And time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much
Are you still mine?

Pyro leans his head back against the wall of his room, one burn scarred hand lifting to wipe the tears that are trickling down his face. “I need your love, I need your love, God speed your love to meeee….” His voice trails off, the lyrics ending in a choking sob as he tries to block Engie’s face from his mind. This pain in his heart, like nothing he’s ever felt before, deep and aching, spreading through his entire body, it’s too much. He looks down at the lighter held in his hand, the flame licking around the metal top and releases the button, letting the flame go out. With a muffled sigh, he presses the heated metal to the soft flesh of his inner thigh. The pain is blinding, brilliant, white. For the briefest of moments, he forgets about Engie, forgets the fight. And then, it all comes back. He triggers the little flame, reheating the metal top, the inside of his thigh a soft aching reminder of who he is.
Lonely rivers flow
To the sea, to the sea
To the open arms of the sea, yeah
Lonely rivers sigh
"Wait for me, wait for me"
I'll be coming home, wait for me

The radio had been playing in Engie’s workshop, this song had been playing softly in the background. Engie was nodding his head, humming along in time to the soft strains of the guitar. Pyro had been sitting behind him, on a flat bottomed chair, cleaning his flamethrower, watching the object of his affection from the corner of his eye the entire time. He’d been feeling the quiet ache of unrequited love for the past few months and suddenly he recalled Demo’s words at dinner the night before. The big man had thrown his head back with a belly laugh, telling a story about blowing up a safe, and all the money inside catching fire. Scout had asked him why and Demo had just grinned, that crazy drunken grin he got sometimes. “Lifes too short to play it safe. If you don’t take risks, you’ll just die wondering about what could have been.” Everyone at the table had nodded sagely, then the talk had turned to other things but Pyro was left staring into his plate and wondering. Now he saw his chance. Pulling his mask up and holding it in one hand, he walked over to Engie, standing behind him for a moment, watching him hum, lost in his task. Pyro tapped his shoulder and, when Engie turned, he pressed his lips to Engie’s, a soft moan coming from his throat as he was lost in the softness, the comforting scents of motor oil and bourbon. One blissful moment, his eyes closed tightly. And then pain, blinding, exploding across his face as Engie’s fist met his nose in an explosion of blood. Pyro staggered back, eyes tearing up. He’d looked at the blurred form of Engie, hopping off his stool and advancing on him. “The Fuck!” the man shouted. “Get the fuck out before I kill you!” he’d screamed, pointing toward the door. Pyro ran, blood pouring from his nose, half blind from the tears that were pouring down his face. “Stupid!” he’d screamed to himself. “Stupid, stupid! Why would he care about you?” And then, slamming the door of his room, hiding with his lighters and his candles. The memory was gone again, the blinding pain of the lighter bringing a moment of peace.

Woah, my love, my darling
I've hungered, hungered for your touch
A long, lonely time
And time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much
Are you still mine?

“I need your love, I need your love, God speed your love to me.” Pyro crooned under his breath, ignoring the pain from the neat rows of blisters that lined his flesh, the pain nothing compared to the pain in his heart. He leaned his head back, flicking the lighter yet another time, allowing the metal to heat yet again. He wasn’t sure what he would do when he ran out of unburned flesh, how he would handle the agony without the purity of the flames. His flames, the only thing he could count on now, the soft kiss of the fire, the only kiss he would ever know now. He allowed the tears to flow freely as he laid the hot metal on his skin over and over, enjoying the heated kisses of the lighter as he slowly released his love for the man.
I need your love
I need your love
God speed your love to me

Chapter Text

“He who lives by the sword, shall die by the sword.” Tavish murmured the verse under his breath, one good eye firmly on his sword. “That’s what they say, right?” The sword did not deign to answer. Tavish grimaced. “The only time the damned thing talks is when it’s wailing for blood, like some banshee from an old wives tale.” His voice was a low murmur, accent thick and rolling. He stroked a finger down the glittering edge, leaving a trail of red where his thumb was laid open by the cursed thing. “There ya go, today I’ve fed ya.” He leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes, waiting for the dreams that always seemed to lurk when he ran out of alcohol. And sure enough, like old friends, the dreams soon came.

Violence, gore, he had a birds eye view of himself charging the enemy, great crimson gouts of blood flying, bodies falling in his wake like grain before a scythe. His hands trembled in his sleep, fingers clenching and unclenching around a hilt that he did not hold. He grumbled faintly and turned over, dark skin gleaming with sweat as sun shone through his window, laying stark lines of light and shadow across his face. As always, the dream shifted, the enemy team becoming his own, he grew more restless as faces morphed into faces he knew and loved, his teammates, then his childhood friends, a girl he’d once loved, and finally his parents, all falling before his sword.

Tavish sat upright, gasping in air through his nose, mouth opened in a silent scream. He dropped his head into his hands, fingers massaging his temples. After a silent moment, he looked over at the sword and grimaced. “I cannae kill my own mates, ya bloody thing. They are as close to a family as I have.” He stood, pacing nervously. “Ye may have tricked me into killing the others, but this, this I will not do!”

He screamed in frustration, then continued, voice awash with regret. “I wish I’d never picked you up, you cursed thing! I wish you were in the hell I took ye from!” His hand clasped around a bottle’s neck and, reflexively, he tilted it back, rewarded by a single drop of liquid fire on his tongue. Snarling an unintelligible curse, he threw the bottle into the wall, glass shattering in a scintillating explosion across the room. Turning abruptly on his heel, he stomped out the door and down the hall.

Tavish leaned against a wall, put his head back against the cool cinder block, took a deep breath, tried to calm down. He was away from the damned sword but he could hear it now, whispering into his ear. “Blood, Tavish, blood and souls.” Balling up his fist, he punched himself in the ear, hard as he could, trying to make the incessant whine go away. “Blood, Tavish, give us blood.” The voice was still there, under the high pitched ringing. He groaned and staggered further down the hall, then outside.

Tavish tilted his head up and looked at the sky, cerulean blue with white wisps of cloud scudding along on a gentle breeze. It should have been a lovely day. It would have been a lovely day if he only had alcohol. Or battle. But to have neither was too much. He groaned and started walking, determined to put some distance between himself and the sword. Maybe if he wore himself out he would be okay, he thought, as he headed for the large building that housed gym equipment and a boxing ring. Nodding to himself, he opened the doors and walked into the large, air conditioned space. He was alone. With a sigh of relief, he walked over to the heavy bag hanging from a beam and began to take out his frustrations.

An hour passed before he knew it and, dripping sweat and winded, bare knuckles a bloody, raw mess, he left the gym, ready for a shower, some food, and sleep. He felt calmer than he had in days. He was looking forward to lying in his bed until dinner time, then grabbing something to eat, then lying in his bed again.

After his shower, Tavish headed to his room and lay down across his bed, ignoring the sword gleaming in the corner. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to drift.

Thump. Thump.

Tavish cracked open one eye and looked around the room. What the hell was that? He listened intently for a moment, then let his eyes drift closed again.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

With a curse, he sat up and glared accusingly at the sword. It didn’t make a sound.

Thump. Thump.

Tavish turned his head, staring at the wall beside his window. He cursed and stood up, going to the window and peering out. Scout. Cursing louder, he threw up the window sill just as Scout’s baseball hit the wall again, inches from his window. “Damn ye, ye bloody hooligan, can ye no see I’m sleeping here? Go away.” He yelled out the window, starting to close it as Scout yelled back.

“Hey old man, you can’t tell me where to play! Go get drunk!”

Tavish slammed the window and turned away, unprepared for the crash as the ball flew through it, nor for the glass that exploded inward, flying all around him, several shards embedding deeply into his back with bright flares of pain. He could feel his rage building, boiling to a fever pitch with every stinging movement.

Tavish’s world went red. Overwhelming hunger flashed through his stomach, bending him in two. Agony ripped through his gut, bending him double with the force of the hunger pangs attacking him. Grabbing his sword, Tavish placed one hand on the windowsill, hand shredding as slivers of glass tore at him. He jumped through, bare feet landing in the dust with a thump. Scout, eyes wide, started to back away. Suddenly, nerve breaking, he turned and ran.

Tavish drew back the arm holding the sword and flung it with all his might. He grunted with the effort, the fires of rage sweeping along his nerve endings as the sword flew through the air, glittering silver in the sunlight, howling like a banshee as it went. With a wet, meaty thunk, the tip pierced Scout’s back, right between his shoulder blades, it’s momentum carrying through until it was brought up short by the crossguard. Scout went down like a felled tree, dead before he hit the ground as Tavish’s sword sliced his heart in two.

Barefoot and dripping blood from his mutilated hand, Tavish, clad only in his kilt, walked over to the boy’s corpse, staring down for a moment before planting his foot on the boy’s back and drawing the sword back out. He looked at it, eyes blank for a moment, then leaned forward and ran his tongue down it’s length. The bright copper tang of his teammate’s blood exploded across his tastebuds, better than any whiskey he’d ever had. He groaned as the taste filled his mouth, rich copper trickling down his throat, leaving his hunger screaming for more, always more. With a roar that was barely human, Tavish went in search of the rest of his team.

 

Three days later…
Ms. Pauling was standing in RED base, her prim black kitten heels stained with blood as she held a small portable phone to her ear. “Yes, ma’am, all dead.” She listened for a moment as the Administrator spoke. “It would appear that Demoman’s delusions finally became too much and he had a psychotic break, ma’am.” She listened for a moment longer. “It’s a shame that it happened while respawn was down, yes.” She shook her head. “No ma’am, he’s dead also. He impaled himself on his sword.” She shook her head, tapping the toe of one shoe against the blood stained concrete floor. “Yes ma’am. I’ll clean this up and start looking for replacements immediately.” Ending the call, she slipped the phone into the small messenger bag she carried over one shoulder and sighed, the sound echoing oddly in the empty building. She started looking for a janitorial closet. This was gonna take a lot of mopping.
“I told her this would happen. But would she listen? No, of course not.” Ms. Pauling muttered under her breath, the words heard only by the blood spattered walls.

Chapter Text

Pyro woke slowly and opened their eyes to darkness. They grumbled, casting their mind back, trying to remember what happened. It was pretty obvious that things were not good, that they were not in their room, safe and cozy with balloonicorn and the tea party they’d been planning.

Pyro tried to pull their hands down, but the tightness around their wrists seemed to be rope or cuffs or something like that. They could no longer feel their hands but they had to be there, right? Otherwise the ropes would just slip off the stubs of their forearms. They tried moving their fingers, unsure if anything was happening or not. Pyro grunted and shifted, one booted foot to the other. At least they could still hear their feet shuffling on the floor. That was a good thing. Right?

Pyro remembered Spy and the promise of a kitten, walking out of the base, happy to be going to see something new. Blood and violence lost it’s charm and kittens were fluffy. Cute. They had hoped that it would be a friendly kitten, that they could sneak it into their room and have a new friend. They giggled, remembering when Engie had found the snake and run screaming around and around the common room until Sniper had caught it and put it outside.

They had even been excited enough to hold Spy’s hand, only to get outside and realize that Spy wasn’t Spy, he was actually BLU Spy but by that time it had been too late and Pyro had been grabbed and something was thrown over their head and now they were hanging here in the dark and this was REALLY BAD and Engie was gonna be pissed.

Pyro realized that their breathing was huffing in and out in ragged gasps and took a deep breath, then another and s l o w l y another, trying to ward off the panic they could feel rising in their chest. There was no way of getting out of this.

Pyro pulled harder on the ropes, hoping against hope that they would give and they could be free. Suddenly the familiar comfort of their gas mask was restrictive, their breathing no longer the familiar, comforting susurrus of air moving in and out of their lungs, but a harshly strident discord, the frightening sound of midnight gales whipping around buildings and threatening to carry away anyone unwary enough to be outside in them.

Pyro wanted to scream, but all that they could manage was a muffled whoosh of breath, soft and weak as the dying mews of a kitten. Pyro shuddered, hoping that, whatever the BLU team did, it wouldn’t hurt for too long but knowing that hoping for a quick death was hoping for too much.

Chapter Text

“It’s just a cold, right Doc?” Scout eyed Medic, sniffling loudly. He wrapped his long skinny arms around himself and huddled down a bit further on the exam table. He hated the infirmary, but when he started coughing too hard to run, he’d bitten the proverbial bullet and let Medic look at him.

Medic frowned, studying the thermometer he’d just pulled from Scout’s mouth. “Oh my.” He arched an eyebrow, a frown pulling the corners of his mouth down. Scout could feel the panic welling up in his chest with those two words. It wasn’t the words so much as the tone, he decided. He watched nervously as Medic dropped the thermometer into a container of clear liquid that smelled faintly of bleach.

“Sit very still and let me look in your ears.” Medic picked the otoscope up from the instrument tray, one of the few things he used in his work that didn’t have a sharp edge and pulled down on Scout’s ear, peering inside. “That is not good either.” He lay the otoscope down, a worried expression on his face. “Scout, it is…” he paused, seeming to search for the word, “der Shnupfen. I will need to examine you further.”

Scout’s eyes grew round, he started to say something but was stopped by a fit of coughing. Medic watched him calmly, waiting until he was able to catch his breath again. “Doc!” Scout heard his voice break and winced, struggling to maintain his calm. “What the fuck is a shnupfen?” His eyes widened, whatever he had, Medic didn’t even know the English word for it. It had to be bad! “Can you fix it?”

Medic eyed his patient dispassionately. He could see the beginnings of panic in Scout’s white rimmed eyes. carefully schooling his features into an expression of calm, Medic sighed. He didn’t want the boy to pass out on his table, after all. Unconscious patients were fine in some ways, but you didn’t get any subjective feedback from them. “You are overreacting, Junge. This is treatable, but I will need to look at you further before I do so.” He reached overhead and pulled the huge mounted medigun over his table into place. “Lie down and let me do so. I promise, it will only hurt a little bit.”

Scout stared up into Medic’s face, the hint of a manic gleam in the taller man’s eyes. He closed his own, trying to think past the headache that had been with him for the last three days. He hated doctors. He hated being sick. He especially hated putting all his trust in a crazy kraut who didn’t even have a medical license, but what other choice did he have? “Doc, you don’t think I got a brain aneurysm, do ya?”

Medic frowned, caught off guard by the question. “Hardly, Scout.” He pushed the boy back onto the table, laying him flat. “After all, that requires a brain, right?”

Scout started to agree, then narrowed his eyes, realizing what Medic had just said. “Hey, wait a minute! I got a brain! I’m the smartest guy on the team! Next to Engie, that is…” His protests trailed off into another coughing fit as Medic adjusted a few buttons on the medigun.

“There you are.” Medic smiled as his fingers closed around his favorite scalpel. He turned his attention back to Scout. “Just lie back, relax, I need to examine your heart and your lungs. You do not want me to restrain you again, do you?”

Scout frowned and shook his head, still coughing, his eyes watering a bit from the force. “No, Doc.” he choked out, gasping for air as the coughing finally subsided. He remembered the last time all too well, laying on the table, helplessly bound at wrists and ankles as a scalpel wielding maniac cackled above him. “Just do it.”

He groaned and lay back, closing his eyes. Thanks to the medigun, he couldn’t really feel the pain, he didn’t have to worry about the Doc accidentally killing him, but he still didn’t want to watch. There was a brief sensation of pressure on his chest, then a loud crack as his ribs broke. He wished he’d brought his headphones, could just lay back and pretend this wasn’t happening.

As it was, he could feel Medic rooting around in his chest, the strange sliding sensation as his organs were handled and examined. He swallowed against the urge to vomit, knowing that was a horrible idea. Last time, he’d thrown up in his own chest cavity and Medic had been livid. He’d threatened to seal him back up with his own vomit floating around inside him. Scout was pretty sure it hadn’t been an idle threat.

He squeezed his eyes shut harder. Medic was muttering above him, making observations and chuckling gleefully from time to time. When he asked a question like “Does this hurt?” or “What do you feel when I do this?”, Scout answered in as few words as possible to keep from thinking about the sensations coming from inside him. At last, after what felt like forever to the boy, Medic stepped back and allowed the medigun to heal him completely.

Scout groaned and sat up, feeling a bit dizzy. He looked down at his bare chest but there was only a thin red line to indicate what Medic had just done. “Well, Doc, what did you find?” Scout tried to keep the curiosity out of his voice but, damn it, this was his health they were talking about.

Medic looked up from where he was cleaning blood from various tools. “Oh, you are still waiting?” He frowned absently, putting his thoughts in order. “Your lungs are well developed and clear, your heart is not abnormal in any way. Exactly what I would suspect from a runner. Your liver and gallbladder appear fine, as does your kidney.”

 

Scout interrupted. “Wait a second, Doc. My kidney? Don’t most people have two?”
Medic nodded absently. “Yes. Last time I operated on you, I took one and sold it to buy a baboon heart. A very good trade.” He looked up just then, seeing the anger forming on Scout’s face. “Oh, don’t be such a baby about it. You only need one. You are fine.”

Scout sighed, knowing better than to argue at that point. “But what about my shnupfen? You know, the reason I’m here?”

Medic grinned at him. “Oh. That. You are fine, Scout. It’s definitely just a cold.”

Chapter Text

Medic opened his eyes and looked around, trying to figure out where he was and what had just happened. The room was large, dark wood floor to ceiling bookcases lined with ancient tomes bound in a variety of materials. The smell of brimstone hung heavy in the air, competing with the smell of old books.

 

Medic grinned, his expression sharklike in the dim room. He knew exactly where he was. After all, he’d been here before. Standing, he walked through the room to a door set into the far wall and knocked. At the gravelly “Come,” from within, he entered. The hulking form sat behind a desk, peering over an oddly normal pair of spectacles at him.

“Ludwig. So good to see you again. You have been missed.” The voice was harsh, grating. It carried the sounds of screams and avalanches within its depths. Medic grimaced as his ears rang with echoes of aftershocks, horrors attempting to infect his mind.

“Come, sit down.” The devil gestured expansively at the chair on the other side of his desk, a hard straight backed affair of leather and dark wood. “Tell us what happened this time.” He grinned, mouthful of fanged teeth flashing in the light.

Suppressing a shudder, Medic sat in the chair, back straight, hands neatly folded in his lap. “I died.” Saying it out loud seemed to make it more real. “I died at the hands of a woman, a vicious, savage creature in a fire retardant suit.” He shook his head, trying to remember the details. The more he concentrated, the more they came back to him, standing out in his mind. He wriggled a bit, biting down on the shame and humiliation washing over him. He could feel the blood rushing to his face, the anger building there.

“I was killed by a twit of a girl, she tricked me and I fell into her trap.” His normally handsome features twisted in a snarl. “I need to go back there, to exact my revenge on her. What do you want to send me back?”

The devil leaned back in his chair, enjoying the flood of dark emotions coming from the Medic sitting across from him. His smile widened. “You want to walk the earth again, for vengeance?” Idly, he crossed his leg over his knee, steepling his fingers in front of him. “I already own your soul, you have nothing to bargain with.”

Medic grunted in reply. “I have my skills. My ability to cause pain. I have my love of Schadenfreude. I could do your work again.” He could sense the creature’s intrigue. “Think of it, with my science, I have made warriors who are nearly invincible. I have created monsters who think nothing of harming others. I am a genius and you know that everything I do, benefits you.”

A contemplative look crossed the dark being’s face. ‘True. You have never disappointed me in the past.” He leaned forward, sensing a deal about to be struck. “You will give me one week to torture you, to forge you in the fires of Hell. I shall introduce you to pleasures and pain that your mortal mind will be unable to comprehend. I shall take you to depths of despair and heights of agony that you are unable to reach in the world you have just left. I will show you what Schadenfreude truly is.”

Medic was silent for a moment. This was not the deal he’d wanted to make, but to escape this place, he wouldn't get a better offer. With a deep sigh, he nodded. “I accept.” As the words left his lips, he found the walls melting around him, the genial study morphing into a dark pit. The demon before him stood, growing larger and larger, towering over him with a leer. He closed his eyes and prayed.

 

***

Medic crept through the halls of the silently sleeping base, a crazed leer on his face. He’d found himself in this hallway, the walls with hints of red paint streaking them like blood. He’d been fully armed, his bonesaw and syringe gun firmly placed in their holsters. He moved on silent feet, although his mind was alive with noises, screams and insane cackling layering over other sounds, impure sounds that, even fresh from the bowels of Hell, he could not identify.

When he came to the Pyro’s door, he paused for a moment, struggling to regain control of his need to rend and tear. At last, he turned the knob, then slipped inside. He crossed the small room, lit by the light of the full moon shining from the open window, the sweet scent of flowers freshening the air.

He stood, cloaked in shadows, waiting for the girl to waken. As with all things watched while they sleep, she tossed and turned a few times, then her eyes opened. “Medic!” Her voice was a soft hiss, the word slipping from her lips, venomous hatred dripping from it. She sat up, blinking rapidly. “But, you’re dead.”

Medic allowed a chuckle to escape his lips. His eyes roved over her lithe form, lust and hatred blending equally. Slowly, he unsheathed his bonesaw, allowing the moonlight to glint on the blade. His eyes glinted silver in the moonlight, his teeth gleamed.

“I think you will find, meine liebe, that rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

Chapter Text

I hate this room. I’ve come to this conclusion as I lay here, staring at the sterile white ceiling, surrounded by sterile white walls, unbroken by windows because that might provide too much stimulus to my poor sick mind. Not that my mind was the problem when I was brought in here, but it might be the problem by the time I get to leave.

In short, I’m bored. Bored and dying. The doctors come in, dressed in sterile white, I think it’s camouflage of a sort, allowing them to blend into the walls and ceiling, to be one with my illness, and they tell me that I’m not going to die, but I see the truth in their eyes. I’m not a stupid man. I’ve spent my entire life fighting and chain smoking and generally treating my body like shit. I mean, who needs healthy living when you have respawn technology, right?

I don’t think anyone ever thought the Australium would run out, but that’s exactly what happened. One minute we were immortal, gods on an endless battlefield, the next we were just humans again. It’s rather ironic when you think about it.

I lose myself in coughing for a brief moment, then lay curled in a ball, gasping for breath, unable to draw enough air into my lungs, even with the cannula in my nose that provides me with pure oxygen. Two liters per minute, but it’s not enough. The doctors and nurses won’t let it go any higher, COPD they say. If I set it too high, my brain will think that I’m oxygenated even as I stop breathing. It’s a helluva disease.

And this, right now, an exacerbation they call it. But I know what it is. A punishment for my past sins. Karma. Call it what you will, but it’s death. Slow, painful death by suffocation. I lean back against the white pillow, pull up the white sheet and blanket and close my eyes, regaining my strength for the next coughing fit.

I let my mind wander to those past sins, the people I’ve lied to, spied on, sold out. The people I’ve killed for profit. The countries I’ve betrayed by stealing their secrets. It all adds up. And, in the starring role of my mental movie of regrets, is the son I denied for years. The son I abandoned to a struggling single mother, to a life of crime in the streets of Boston, a life that led him to a war, fighting by my side without knowing who I was to him. And to think that I didn’t bother to tell him when I had the chance. He had to find out from my greatest rival, in the worst possible way.

 

I wish for another coughing fit, a doctor or nurse coming to perform some painful procedure, anything to take away the memory of those eyes, the hurt in them when he found out. Noone comes. But that’s what I deserve also, isn’t it? To die alone in this sterile white room, to watch myself be leached of color until I blend into my surroundings just like the doctors. When that happens, some poor orderly will have to come in and take away the husk of my remains, the bled out colors that wouldn’t bleach sterile white, to a morgue somewhere for easy disposal. I curse myself for weakness as I feel a tear slide down my cheek.

I don’t want to die. Not like that, slowly bled away into a pale husk, strangled by my own body as I gasp for air, my own lungs betraying me. I don’t want to die that way. I want it to be on my own terms. I’ve done everything else in my life on my own terms, why can’t I die that way? Would it be too much to ask, I wonder?

I look up as the door opens, expecting another sterile white hospital creature. Instead, standing there in vibrant color, smelling of sunshine and grass and red dust, is a man I’ve known for years. A friend, a sometimes lover, and now, when I need him most, an angel of mercy. I smile up from my bed as he comes to stand over me, aviators hiding his eyes as always, his dirty, well worn hat pulled down over his forehead.

I try to speak, my voice is but a whisper. I sigh and reach out, my pale thin hand grasping his, startled by the contrast. His skin is tan, so much darker than mine now. Once we were both sun kissed warriors, now I am a pale shadow of what I was and he, standing there looking down at me, he is eternal.

“Are you sure about this, Spy?” he asks finally, his voice the same husky growl I remember from our past. I look up at him, allow the pleading to show on my face. This time, I don't bother to wipe away the tear that rolls down my pale cheek. I nod.

Sniper sighs and reaches under his vest, pulling out the small pistol he’s smuggled in. He places it in my hand and smiles sadly. “The boy?” I whisper, my voice no longer seductive, an echo of what it once was.

He nods. “The boy is fine. I’ll keep an eye on him, don’t worry.” I nod and, pulling my hand from his, wiggle my fingers in the direction of the door, a dismissal. With a last, sad smile, he turns and leaves, taking the smell of sunshine and cut grass with him.

I lay in the bed for a long time, the gun hidden under my pillow. Propped on the stand before me is a picture, the woman a vision of loveliness in a sapphire dress, the child in her arms reaching happily toward the photographer. I remember the day this picture was taken, my son, my love. I remember leaving the next day, packing my things while she was at work, gone without a trace when she came home, leaving her alone. Leaving my son alone. I glance at the clock, marking the minutes until evening. I don’t have a window, cannot see the world from my bed, but somehow evening feels right.

Finally, I pull the gun from under my pillow, allowing the tears to roll down my cheeks unchecked. Surely, after a lifetime of holding them in, I can let them flow now. Cocking the hammer back, a move that I’ve made so often it's like second nature, I lift the barrel to my head. I listen to the sounds of my sobs for a moment. I sound pathetic. One last glance at the picture. “I’m sorry.” I whisper.

My finger tightens around the trigger.

Chapter Text

Pyro screamed for help, the sound of his voice echoing up the shaft of the well he’d fallen into, bouncing around and around before being released into the night air. He continued to tread water, hoping that someone heard him. He tried not to panic, but it was hard. Pyro hated water. Water was the one thing that would put out the flames he loved so much, water was the antithesis of his Self.

He’d been running from the enemy Heavy when he’d stepped on the loose boards and they’d cracked under his feet. He’d fallen then, shrieking the entire way, sure that he was going to die, only to splash into cold water. There’d been a moment of sheer panic as his head went under, then his feet had sunk into the silt covered bottom and he’d been able to thrust himself back toward the surface.

Pyro had clung to a fallen board then, using it to bolster himself as he kicked and dog paddled, attempting to stay afloat. He could see the sky far above, a small circle of blue with the occasional white cloud scudding across. Pyro wanted to be back up there. He wasn’t made for dark water and small holes. He shouted again, hoping against hope that someone would hear. No one came.

He’d been half floating, half paddling forever when he felt something brush against his leg. Pyro screamed and tried to draw his legs up under himself and immediately began to sink. He whimpered and straightened his legs, paddling frantically. The wood he’d been holding on to wasn’t enough to support his weight without the help. Tentatively, he paddled in a circle, eying the black surface of the water as though his glare would allow him to see below it.

The water’s surface revealed nothing. There were the small lapping wavelets caused by his movements and nothing else. He didn’t understand how something could have gotten into this well with him, when he’d plunged under the surface earlier, he’d seen nothing. Taking a deep breath, he continued to paddle, eventually convincing himself that it was his imagination. He was still in dire straits, but knowing that he’d imagined something under the water made him feel much better about being stuck at the bottom of a well.

Just as he’d relaxed into the feeling of solitude, whatever it was brushed up against him again. This time, there was no mistaking it. It pressed up against his legs, wrapped around his waist, and pulled. Pyro went under, thrashing and screaming. He shot back to the surface like a cork bobbing up, coughing and spluttering, trying to clear the water from his lungs. It had pulled him under, then let go of him. He panicked, swimming to a wall and trying to climb the smooth concrete. He slid under the water's surface repeatedly until, finally, panting and even more exhausted, he slumped into the water. His board floated past and he grabbed onto it.

Pyro hung in the water, feet moving just enough to keep him afloat, hugging up against the wall. The well was growing dimmer, the sun had long since passed its zenith and was setting far above. The water temperature, never warm, had dropped several degrees, into the icy range. Pyro was shivering constantly now, his body trying to maintain his temperature above hypothermia. He had never been so glad for his gear, as at least it was mostly waterproof.

Pyro closed his eyes for a brief moment, wanting to rest them, only to be jerked awake again as he slipped below the surface. Pyro didn’t know how much longer he would be able to stay afloat. His limbs felt heavier with every revolution around the well but he couldn’t imagine sinking below that dark surface and allowing himself to drown. Respawn would catch him, of course, but somehow, he just couldn’t do it. Drowning was the most horrible way he could think of to go, although now he added being held under and forcibly drowned by a monster.

Pyro was circling again, calling out, when the thing in the well with him attacked this time. Something was wrapped around his boots, preventing his feet from treading water and he was yanked below the surface and held there for what felt like forever. Bright bubbles streamed upward from his lips as he was held below, he could feel his lungs burning as the need to breath became unbearable. He opened his eyes and peered through the gloom, just able to make out a dim shape in the water with him.

Pyro groaned in terror, water sweeping into his lungs. It looked like a Spy, only with tentacles instead of legs, dozens of tentacles that were currently floating in the water like ghosts, questing toward him as he struggled to escape. He could feel his mind squeezing toward the edges of unreality, seeking escape. Pyro screamed and screamed.

 

*****

Scout was the one to hear Pyro’s screams and to follow them across the dusky battlefield to the lip of the well. When Pyro didn’t show back up after the battle, they’d gone looking for him, spreading across the swiftly darkening battlefield. As Scout peered over the edge, he could see Pyro thrashing around in the water, still screaming as he seemed to fight against something just below the surface. Scout yelled down at him, letting him know that he’d been found, but Pyro didn’t even acknowledge his yell.

Scout called for the rest of the guys to come, and bring some rope, heartened by their swift response. As he stood there, waiting, Pyro was suddenly yanked below the surface. Scout held his breath, waiting for Pyro to reappear. After what seemed like forever, his head bobbed back up, he coughed and spluttered for a moment, only to be pulled down again.

Heavy and Medic came running up just then. Scout pointed down and told them what he’d seen. Pyro wasn’t alone down there. He saw the doubt in Heavy’s eyes, and something that looked like guilt in Medics. Just then, Pyro bobbed to the surface and Engie ran up with a length of rope.

They dropped the rope into the well but Pyro was too panicked to grab it and pull himself up. Finally, they tied the rope off around a tree and Heavy lowered himself into the well, emerging in a few moments with Pyro clinging to his back like a monkey.

Pyro was gibbering, even less intelligible than usual, and Medic quickly sedated him. Heavy gathered the soaked and nearly drowned Pyro in his arms, carrying him back to the warm and well lit base, the rest of the team trailing behind. Scout noted that Medic lingered at the edge of the well, peering down into the darkness.

Scout stepped up beside him. “There’s something down there, Doc.”

“I know.” Medic looked over at him, frowning. “I do not know how it survived this long.” He sighed. “I thought that it was already dead.”

Scout frowned at him. “You know what it is?” He saw a look of regret pass over Medic’s face as the man nodded.

“I made it.”

“It was playing with him, ya know. It kept pulling him down and holding him there til the last second. Then it would let go of him and he’d pop to the surface, get a breath or two and the thing would drag him down again. I don’t know what you made, Doc, but do the rest of the guys know about it?”

Medic shook his head. “No. I suppose it is time to tell them. And to check on Pyro.” He turned his face to the base, starting to walk, Scout at his side. “And then, tomorrow, we hunt.”

Chapter Text

Spy sat in the small room, tied to a chair, wondering what the hell was going on. There was a television placed on a small table in front of him and it showed an empty room. Occasionally, someone walked through the room, but they never stopped to look up at the camera. He frowned. This was not standard technique. He’d been tortured before, both by enemies and by his trainer, and he was nigh unbreakable.

He perked up as more activity began to occur on the small screen. A chair was brought into the room, followed by a large tool chest, and they were arranged facing the camera. He leaned forward a bit, watching carefully. His curiosity was getting the better of him now, he wondered exactly what they thought they were doing?

Spy jerked to the side as a door opened and his BLU counterpart walked into the room. He tilted his head slightly to the side as the BLU Spy pulled up a chair and sat next to him. “Hello, Aubert.” He didn’t flinch as the BLU Spy said his name.

“Frances.” He nodded genially. “I assume all this activity has some point.” He nodded toward the television as Francis pulled out a cigarette case and, selecting one carefully, lit up. The spicy scent of his Gauloise wafted through the air.

“Would you like one?” Francis waved his cigarette toward Aubert, who thought for a moment, then nodded, fairly certain that the enemy spy would not poison him with a cigarette.

Francis seemed to know what he was thinking, he took the one he’d just lit and placed it between Aubert’s lips, lighting another and continuing to smoke. “I’m familiar with your training, Aubert, and see no point in torturing you. However, my companions are setting up a torture chamber.” He chuckled. “Not for you, I assure you. Instead, we have a bit of a surprise for you.”

He nodded toward the screen just as the door opened again and the BLU Demo and Soldier entered, dragging a too familiar form between them. “Your son.” Francis chuckled. “You thought we didn’t know, didn’t you.” He was watching Aubert carefully, noting the stunned look of horror in his eyes, a brief flash quickly hidden. If he hadn’t known to watch for it, the look would have most likely gone unnoticed.

Francis smiled around his cigarette, the smile cold and inhuman. “You have to understand, we know that you will not break via normal methods. The boy however, does not have the benefit of your training. He will break quickly. Not that he knows anything, but still…”

Aubert looked at him, a growing dread filling his chest. “So you are giving me a choice. Tell you everything and save the boy or tell you nothing and watch as you torture him?”

Francis nodded. “You have always been a quick study. You get to decide how much the boy has to suffer. If you tell us what we want to know, he will die quickly and respawn in his own base, none the wiser. If you do not tell us, we will see how long he can last.” He waved toward the screen. “I feel that, with medi gun use, his body will last much longer than his mind.”

Aubert watched as the boy was forced into the chair, his arms and feet wrapped with duct tape and firmly attached to the chair’s arms and legs. He squirmed a bit in his own chair as the BLU Medic walked into the room and waved jauntily at that camera, then walked to the tool box. He was talking to Scout, Aubert could tell by the way the boy’s facial expression melted from anger to fear.

Opening the box, Medic started to lay out different tools, pliers, a saw, a drill, several syringes full of different colored liquids. He set his medigun on a tripod and, grinning madly at the camera once more, picked up the pliers.

The next few hours passed in a nightmare of blood and pain for the Scout, for Aubert, it was a nightmare of guilt and anger. He was forced to watch as Scout’s fingernails were pulled out, as his ears were cropped close to his head, as the boy was subjected to tortures that resulted in him being reduced to a bloody, weeping mess in the chair.

Aubert could not turn away. He wanted to close his eyes, to block this horror from his mind. He kept finding himself dwelling on the times when Scout was a boy, sitting on his lap, playing with his buttons, happy and innocent. He’d left the boy and his mother to keep this very thing from happening. And now, here they were. He groaned in misery.

He wanted to tell everything he knew, simply let the cards fall where they would, but if his employers found out, it would mean a shallow grave for him, and most likely for Scout as well. His employers were not forgiving when it came to their secrets.

He was staring at the small screen when he first became aware of the noise. It was a muffled whine, almost a whimper. Slowly looking around to see what fresh hell the BLU team was introducing to him now, he realized that the sound was coming from him, that his cheeks were wet with tears and sweat, almost as though he were the one being tortured.

Francis leaned toward him. “You can stop this, you know. All you have to do is talk to me. A conversation, two civilized men, with cups of tea perhaps, having a discussion.”

“There is nothing civilized about this, or about you.” Aubert hurled the words at him. “You are all evil, inhuman creatures, forcing this suffering on someone who is innocent. He knows nothing! I cannot tell! What is the point of this?”

Francis shrugged. “Fun? An escape from boredom? A chance for the good doctor to let off some steam.” He smiled. “Doesn’t he look relaxed, standing down there with a drill in hand?” He chuckled. “I haven’t seen him this happy in ages. He looks like he’s spent a week at a spa. This is very therapeutic for him. For your boy, not so much.” He chuckled. “Just wait until you see what’s going to happen next.”

“What? What do you mean, what’s going to happen next? Haven’t you done enough?” Aubert twisted his hands on the chair arms, no longer caring if his enemy saw him trying to escape. Francis simply watched him, that same sneering grin on his face.

“Try to escape if you wish, but I promise you, I am very good with rope.” He sighed. “But look, Medic is finally giving up.”

Aubert looked back at the small screen. The Medic was wiping down his tools, placing them back into the chest. He’d adjusted the beam on the medigun, Scout was healing before his eyes. Somehow, seeing him sitting there, whole and healed but still covered in his own blood, was worse than what had come before. It served to drive home the point that BLU was not going to let him die until they were ready for him to die.

Medic picked up a bucket of water that was sitting in a corner and splashed it over Scout’s head, letting it run down his body, blood trickling down in dark red rivulets to pool at the boy’s feet. He picked up the discarded remains of Scout’s clothing, sliced off him one piece at a time as the torture commenced and placed them in the now empty bucket, leaving the boy sitting there, a shivering, crying mess.

Aubert watched as Medic left the room, carrying the bucket. Scout sat quietly, his head bowed to his chest. The door opened again and Heavy walked in. He paused for a moment, just staring at the Scout. Then he walked behind him and wrapped a hand in his short hair, jerking his head up. He pointed toward the camera and whispered something into Scout’s ear.

“He’s telling him that you are here. That you have the power to stop this. That you have been here, watching, all along.” Francis grinned. “Look at the anger in the boy’s eyes. He is just now realizing that you could have stopped this at any time, saved him from the suffering he just endured.”

On the camera, Heavy’s free hand wrapped around Scout, fingers caressing his thin chest, moving up to his throat. Heavy looked directly at the camera, a now terrified Scout held in his arms. He licked his lips lasciviously, then winked. Aubert could feel the bile rising in his throat.

“No.” His voice was a whisper. “Not that. Surely you would not do that.” On the camera, Heavy leaned his head closer to Scout’s, his tongue flicking out and licking the side of the boy’s face. Scout’s mouth opened in a silent scream and he began to struggle in his bonds. Heavy held his face still, one big hand wrapped around his jaw, the other still tangled in his hair, and forced him to look at the camera as he spoke. Aubert could not tell what he said but the Scout immediately began bucking and thrashing in his bonds, panic turning him into an unthinking animal, bent only on escape.

Heavy stepped from behind the chair then, looked directly at the camera and let his big hands drift down to his crotch, framing the tent of an erection within his pants. Images of Scout flashed through Aubert’s mind, joking with his friends on base, leaning back in the sun and letting the wind blow his hair, fighting in the hallways with him and he knew what he had to do, shallow grave be damned.

“Stop this.” His voice was a whispered croak. He cleared his throat, spoke louder, almost shouting now. “Stop this and I will tell you everything!” He looked over at Francis. “I am begging you, please stop it now. Anything that you want to know, it is yours! Just, please, no more of this!”

Francis looked at him, satisfaction gleaming in his eyes.

Chapter Text

“Just do it.” Medic lay his head back against the train’s tilted seat and frowned down at his arm, the jagged piece of metal protruding from it like a shark’s fin. “Gott verdammt train wreck.” He cursed, a long fluid string of German, then stared at his team, all staring back at him.

They’d been travelling to a new base, Coldfront, in Alaska somewhere, and the train had gone off the rails, throwing them all around like dolls in a dollhouse. He’d landed on a suitcase, he was fairly certain it was Scout’s, and a large piece of the side had broken off in his arm. Not on or near his arm, but in the damned thing. He closed his eyes, blocking out the sight of blood dripping from his fingertips and puddling onto the floor.

It wasn’t that he was squeamish, not at all, but the growing puddle of red was making him want to vent his frustrations on the men gathered around him. He’d explained to them what needed to be done. Pull the metal out, burn the wound, get it over with. Every moment they waited left him weaker. And this was not a place where one could afford to be weak.

Medic watched as most of them turned away, for hardened mercenaries, they were a weak lot, unable to do what needed doing. He frowned as Engie and Pyro stepped closer, coming to kneel at his side. Pyro leaned in closer, inspecting the wound, then frowned. He said something to Engie but, as usual, Medic could not understand him.

“Please tell me that he doesn’t have a weak stomach.” Medic half smiled at Engie, thinking how ironic it would be if their resident firebug wouldn’t burn a team mate to save his life.

Engie shook his head. “Naw, that aint it. He wants Sniper’s kukri. He thinks that thing has a big enough blade to cover the entire wound.” Pyro’s blank lenses turned toward the doctor, he said something and gestured. Engie interpreted the best he could. “Says that what he needs to do is heat the blade then lay it on the wound when that big ole chunk of metal’s pulled out. That way, he says, the bleeding is kept at a minimum.”

Medic looked at the Pyro with new respect in his eyes. “That… actually makes a good deal of sense.” He nodded, then shouted. “Sniper, we must borrow your blade. Bring it, bitte.”

Sniper looked up from the far corner of the wrecked train car, where he’d been huddled with Demo and Scout, staying as far from the blood soaked, makeshift operating room? Floor? Whatever, as possible. At last he nodded and pulled his kukri from the sheath, approaching slowly, eyes on the floor.

“Dammit Snipes, hurry up. Ain’t you ever seen a man bleed before?” Engie snapped at him. Sniper just shrugged and flipped the knife, pushing the hilt toward Engie who grabbed it and handed it to Pyro.

Engie grunted as the knife dropped into his hand. With a seventeen inch blade length, twenty two inches over all, it weighed a lot. He frowned up at Sniper. “How the hell do you tote this thing around all day? It weighs a ton.”

Sniper shrugged again. “Ain’t no pocket knife, mate, that’s for sure.” He turned and stalked back to the other end of the train car, carefully not looking at what was about to happen. Engie handed the blade to Pyro who practically purred in satisfaction.

Medic grinned, teeth gleaming like a shark’s as he watched Pyro handle the blade easily. “You like that, do you, firebug? Why am I not surprised?”

Pyro shrugged and mimed chopping with his axe, then gave Medic a thumbs up. He lay the blade carefully on the floor, then went to the crate his flamethrower had been packed into when they started this trip. The entire team had felt it was best if Pyro didn’t have weapons on the train, due to a tendency to destroy things when bored. Pyro dug through the wreckage of the crate and pulled out his flamethrower, cooing softly as he fiddled with a valve, then held his lighter to the pilot.

When the blue flame shot up, he giggled, then carried the flamethrower carefully back to where Medic sat. Kneeling, he ignored the look on Medic’s face, the man wasn’t certain if he could be trusted not to simply light him up just to watch him burn.

Lifting the kukri, he examined the blade carefully, then held it in the flame, slowly moving it back and forth, heating the entire length. He adjusted the valve controlling the flame with one hand, finally giving a satisfied grunt and watching the metal heat. The smell of scorching iron filled the compartment, mingling with the smell of Medic’s blood. With a dull curse, Solly cracked open a window, sticking his nose down to the flow of pine scented icy air.

The blade was glowing a dull red finally and Pyro turned his head from the dancing flame to Medic. He murmured something and looked at Engie. Engie sighed. “He wants to know if you’re sure about this, Doc.”

Medic nodded.

Pyro pointed at Engie, said something else and Engie nodded. “I’m gonna hold you down for a bit, Doc, just to keep us from messing this up, okay?”

Medic nodded again, wishing they would simply get it over with. The anticipation was worse than the actual deed, in his opinion. Engie sighed and looked at Pyro one more time. “You got this, buddy?” This time, it was Pyro’s turn to nod.

Engie covered Medic’s body with his own, and for a brief moment, Medic appreciated the other man’s body heat in the now chilly train compartment. Then, Pyro grasped the length of metal with one gloved hand, the other braced on Medic’s forearm, holding him in place. Pyro pulled, his movements slow and steady. Medic bit back a scream as the metal slowly slid from his arm, his face turning paler as he watched the blood stained metal that was being birthed from his wound. Pyro grunted as the length of metal finally cleared his wound, then dropped the blood slicked shard to the floor with a loud clatter.

He wrapped his hand around the kukri’s handle, lifting the heated blade and pressing it hard against the wound. Even though Medic had sworn he wouldn’t scream, the noise was ripped from his throat, raw and jagged as his wound, as the smell of his own flesh scorching reached his nostrils. He bucked against the floor, Engie barely able to hold him, as the metal continued to press into his arm. He turned his head to the side, barely glimpsing his own blood bubbling around the edges of the blade as it boiled from the heat. The world seemed to darken around him and Medic passed out.

When he woke, Pyro was sitting beside him, churring softly, what could almost be a song. He turned his head and stared down at the gleaming white bandage on his arm, the few spots of red dotting it where his blood had splashed onto it. The entire train compartment smelled of roasting pork. He groaned and slowly, very slowly, moved his arm. The pain was immediate, flaring brightly along his nerve endings like a supernova. He started to say something and Pyro held up a tube of burn ointment. Medic chuckled weakly when he recognized it as the same stuff he’d given Pyro so many times before.

He stared back down at the bandage, then looked up as Engie touched him lightly on the good shoulder. “Pyro fixed it up real good, Doc. Did the dressing and everything.” He smiled at his firebug friend. “Said he watched them dress his burns enough that he knew what to do so we let him.” He shook his head, then chuckled. “I know it was necessary, Doc, but damn, that’s gonna leave a mark.”

Chapter Text

“Hey Crush!” Soldier looked up as Scout, otherwise known as Speedy, called his nickname across the battlefield. “What do you want now, maggot?” he muttered under his breath, exhausted by the boy’s exuberant demeanor. Like most of the mercs here, he was older, he could remember having the boy’s zest but it had been a long time ago.

“What do you need, Speedy?” He used the boy’s nickname because it made him happy, and Soldier did like to see happy team mates. It was good for morale. He turned his head, trying to pinpoint where exactly the boy was in the maze of streets and buildings they were currently fighting in. He thought maybe off to the left?

“Hey, can you come over here and do something about this nest?” Yeah, definitely off to the left, the kid must have run into some kind of trouble over there with the enemy Engineer. Crush sighed. He wasn’t sure when he’d started thinking of himself as Crush, not Soldier or, God forbid, his real name. He toggled his headset one more time. “Boots on the ground, boy.” to let Speedy know he was coming. “Hey!” He grinned at the indignant squawk in his ear. “I’m a man!” Crush chuckled and started toward the left corner of the map.

He met up with Scout in an alley strategically located near the Engie nest. He peered around the corner, just far enough away that the sentry couldn’t detect him, just able to see where the enemy had dug in. a low ledge of sandstone formed a natural depression in the canyon wall at the end of the street, just deep enough to shelter a tele and a dispenser, the level three sentry was set up on the street itself, guarding the area. Crush muttered under his breath, a low curse as he took it all in.

“The hard part’s gonna be knocking out the sentry.” He looked over at Scout. “That engie’s dug in tight.”

“I know, right?” Speedy shook his head. “Problem is, the point’s right through those buildings there. Guys teleport in and they’re on it. But if we blow this nest, they’ll have to walk halfway across the map before their Engie can get set up again.” He grinned, his trademark cocky smile, buck teeth and all. “Then we can get a leg up on ‘em.” He chuckled. “Maybe our Engie can set up in that hole. It’s a great spot and it would save walking.” He shrugged. “Not that I mind walking but for you old guys…” He trailed off as Crush swatted at him, giggling.

Serious again, Crush eyed the Engie’s defenses then looked back to the Scout. “You ready?” Speedy nodded solemnly and Crush lifted his rocket launcher, took aim, and fired directly above the sentry, into the rock lip the Engie was sheltered under. There was a deafening explosion, red dust flying everywhere and obscuring their view. Crush was already moving, pounding toward the sentry, his rocket launcher up and shooting at it. He could feel the bullets zipping past him as he ran, weaving to the left and right to make himself a more difficult target.

He heard the resounding boom as the sentry took a direct hit, followed by the tinkle of shrapnel falling back to earth. Crush grinned and slowed a bit, giving the dust time to dissipate. As a light breeze blew down the street, taking dust and smoke with it, he began to see the damage he’d wrought.

The nest was pretty much non-existent, the rock ledge having collapsed on it. He halfway hoped that Speedy wasn’t set on an Engie nest going in there, because there was no there anymore. He chuckled at the convoluted thought, it sounded like something Demo would say when he was drunk, like really drunk, not his usual workday drunk. He slowed to a stop, boots just touching the mound of rubble he’d created.

Speedy drew up beside him, a look of awe on his face. “Holy shit, Crush. Ya think you could blow it up any more?” Crush shrugged, not letting the kid see that he was just as impressed by the amount of damage he’d done. He was starting to turn away when he heard a low groan in the rubble.

“Oh my God, somebody’s alive in there.” Speedy sounded even more impressed that the Engie had somehow survived the rock fall. Crush could feel his chest puffing out a bit more. He glanced over at the boy, then started to carefully thread his way through mounds of rock, following the groans as they grew louder.

He peered around the side of a particularly large boulder, Speedy coming up beside him, then quickly turning away. The enemy Engineer was laying half under a pile of rubble, his upper body in a clear spot at the back of the rockfall. He turned his head when Crush gasped in surprise.

He was in a hell of a shape. He was buried from the waist down under a boulder that had to weigh a half ton at least. His body looked cartoonish, swelling from pancake flat to it’s normal proportions. The boulder had obviously crushed his lower half and, from the looks of him, he wouldn’t survive more than twenty minutes like he was. There was a growing pool of red mud surrounding the point where the boulder sat on his lower body. The smell of punctured intestines hung in the air, mingling with the smell of blood in a miasma that had Crush fighting not to gag. His upper half looked untouched, other than the streaks and splatters of blood that had splashed up on him when his lower half, from the looks of it, exploded under a ton of rock.

As Crush watched, the wounded man put his hands on the boulder and pushed, the gesture futile. He rolled his eyes over to where the two stood. “Shoulda known better... than to build... under... a rock wall.” His voice was breathy, a hiss of air as he tried to talk against the pressure of his guts pushing up against his diaphragm. “You wanna shoot me and get this over with?” He rolled his eyes back down to where his body disappeared under the rock. “You beat me” He drew in a gasping breath, blew out a fine spray of blood. “You win.”

Crush looked over at Speedy, both of them covered in fine rock dust, turning their RED uniforms orange. He shrugged. “You can waste a bullet if you want, but the longer he stays under there, the longer it takes him to go through respawn.”

Speedy frowned, clearly torn between shooting the man and letting him suffer. Finally he shrugged. “I don’t know, man. He’s pretty torn up. How long you think he’ll last?”

Crush shook his head. “Maybe twenty minutes? It’ll be a hell of a rough twenty minutes though. Lesson learned in no other way.” They exchanged glances.

“Please, guys, just shoot me…” The Engineer frowned at them both, seeing his chance of a quick death slipping away.

“Nah, I don’t think so…” Crush let the sentence trail away, the sound of the enemy’s frustrated scream ringing in his ears as he and Speedy picked their way through the rubble and back to the street.

Chapter Text

He was allergic to bees. Nobody knew that he was allergic to bees, Pyro had just assumed that it was part of his medical chart. Having never seen his medical chart, he had no way of knowing that the information had somehow accidentally been redacted along with the ¾ of his chart that had purposefully been redacted.

So, when the bee got into his suit through a tear made by the enemy Spy’s knife, and he was stung repeatedly in the leg, he didn’t think to tell Medic that he was allergic to bees. It didn’t help that, even if he had told Medic, the mask muffled him so badly that, most of the time, he was unintelligible on the battlefield. How does one pantomime “Allergic to Bees?” For that matter, how does one pantomime “There’s a bee in my asbestos suit and it’s stinging the fuck out of me?”

Truth be told, at first he thought that Spy was somehow stabbing him or that someone had shot him with a syringe gun. He had jumped, screamed, and started frantically slapping at his leg. That’s when he felt it crawling on him, moving higher, stinging as it went. Pyro clapped his hand above where he felt it crawling and held on, shouting curses as it found a wrinkle and advanced further, unstoppable as the Americans on D Day.

He grunted and, still holding his leg with one hand, shouted for Medic. He could feel it crawling toward his inner thigh and he cursed louder. Suddenly, he regretted his decision to go to the movies with Scout on Saturday instead of doing laundry. That poor life choice led to him only having boxers to wear under his suit today. He started to jump up and down in a frenzied dance, trying to shake the spawn of Satan back down his leg but it clung stubbornly and continued it’s advance.

The enemy Sniper, in his nest, watched the Pyro through his scope, trying to figure out what the hell was happening as the thing seemed to be doing some type of ritual dance over there. He wasn’t paying attention to anything else, caught up in the Pyro’s strange actions, allowing the RED Sniper to hone in on him.

“Boom, Headshot!” RED shouted as the BLU Sniper’s brain painted the back of his nest.

Meanwhile, the RED Pyro could feel the bee following the curve of his leg further around, the damned thing was like a ball seeking missile let loose in his underwear. He screamed louder, his cries of “MEDIC!” drowning out almost everything else on the field.

Scout tapped his headset, wondering what the hell was wrong with Pyro. He took a tentative step forward, fingers almost touching the intel when the BLU Spy uncloaked behind him. He couldn’t hear the loud ring of the cloaking device turning off over the screams in his ear, so when the knife sank into his back, he was utterly surprised right before he was utterly dead.

Pyro moved his hands finally, the bee was crawling across his pubic hair now. He could feel the little feet advancing, tickly and itchy as it headed for the motherload. He screamed louder and grabbed the zipper of his suit. Unfortunately, he was still wearing his gloves and his fingers simply slid off. Cursing in three different languages, all learned courtesy of his time around hardened mercenaries, he peeled his gloves off and grabbed the zipper again, frantically tugging at it.

BLU Soldier loved rocket jumping. Nothing beat soaring through the air, screaming, shovel in hand, looking for a head to plant his shovel in. He was at the apex of his flight when he saw the RED Pyro, behind a rock, undressing. He frowned, unsure that he’d seen what he thought he’d seen and twisted his body in mid air, able to control his flight just enough to let him glimpse another second of Pyro’s peepshow. Unfortunately, it also brought him directly in range of RED’s sentry. Bullets riddled his body for a brief moment, then he was falling, uncontrolled, respawn picking his body up before he hit the ground.

All that was left was an odd rain of blood that fell directly onto RED Heavy, getting into his eyes, the stinging salt sensation blinding him just as BLU Heavy stepped around a corner, minigun fully revved. ‘Nuff said.

Pyro, meanwhile, had managed to get his suit bunched around his waist, but in his panic, his bandoleer was still in place, contorting his body and causing him to nearly choke himself before he realized what was happening. Still screaming, he grabbed the bandoleer and managed to pull it over his head, flinging it. It flew over the rock, striking it and knocking a grenade pin loose. The bandoleer, trajectory changed now, landed at Engie’s feet as he was bent over his dispenser, inspecting it.

Engie screamed when the bandoleer landed at his feet, jumping backwards a good three feet, looking as much as a chubby, bald man in overalls could look like a frightened cat. He turned to run, tripping over his own teleporter, dirt and gravel filling his open mouth. The pinless grenade blew, more dirt and gravel raining down on his head. He had time to mouth “Oh shit.” as he looked up. Just then, the other grenades on the belt blew, destroying his dispenser, a good sized piece of shrapnel hitting his forehead at high speed and passing straight through, taking most of his 11 PhD’s with it.

That was when Pyro, suit and boxers caught around his ankles, boots not letting him take it any further down, came stumbling around the rock, stark naked from boots up to neck. Unlike some Pyros, he had no qualms about letting his team see his face, but this, this was a bit much.

The BLU Medic, locked in a vicious crossing of bonesaws with the RED Medic, saw him first. “Mein Gott!” he gasped, completely forgetting that he was trying to kill his enemy. Even when the RED Medic sank a bonesaw into his forearm, he couldn’t tear his eyes from the sight of the nearly naked Pyro, waddling like a penguin, heading straight for them both, hands slapping frenziedly at his groin.

“Was in Gottes Namen ist mit ihm los?” he managed to choke out in his shock, ignoring the pain of his new wound, the blood dripping down his arm. RED Medic, thrown by the BLU’s reaction, turned to see what had so distracted his enemy. He frowned.

“That is my Pyro.” His eyes squinted as though that would help him figure out what was happening. “But what is he doing?” He looked at his rival, concern for his team mate taking his mind away from his battle. “Truce? Perhaps we should see to him?”

The BLU Medic nodded, thoroughly intrigued by this new development. “Truce. I am terribly curious now. I would know what is wrong with him before respawn reclaims one of us.” As the truce was agreed upon by the two Medics, Pyro suddenly let out a deafening scream and dropped to his knees, hands wrapping tightly over his groin.

RED Demo saw both Medics running to his team mate, who had fallen over, curled in a fetal position, naked, and knew that this was too good to pass up. Taking a huge swig from his bottle, he ran over to where they were both kneeling by Pyro, trying to pry his hands off his junk. Demo leaned over and grabbed Pyro's hands, then winked at the Medics. “Don’t worry, lads, I’ll be gentle.”

He pulled Pyro's hands, bare he noted now, off his groin and gasped in surprise. Pyro was swelling. Not a good swelling, this was an ugly, inflamed looking swelling, flesh filling with fluid as immune responses tried to fight off something.

Red Medic leaned in closer, face nearly in Pyro’s groin, trying to figure out what the hell was going on as Pyro writhed and cried, trying to free his hands and clamp them over his groin again.

Just then, BLU Scout walked around a building and saw three figures, two RED and one his own Medic, bent over a naked, screaming Pyro. He couldn’t see the uniform color, but from the number of people there, he assumed it had to be his Pyro. Why was the enemy Demo restraining him? Why was the enemy Medic bent over his groin? Why the HELL was his own Medic there?

Scout quickly put two and two together, came up with five and decided that, anxious as he was to lose his V card, that was not how he wanted to do it. Vowing to give his Medic a wide berth from now on, he turned and ran back the way he’d come.

Meanwhile, RED Medic leaned forward and picked the offending, now thoroughly squashed, insect from Pyro’s short and curlies. “Hmmmm.” He held it toward his counterpart, who examined it closely.

“Your Pyro is allergic to bees?”

RED Medic shrugged. “There was nothing in his chart about it, but it would seem so.” He glanced up at his counterpart. “We should administer antihistamines, take him to the clinic and monitor the results.”

BLU Medic nodded. “It would be interesting to see how much the swelling increases before the skin ruptures, unable to stand the pressure any longer.”

RED Medic grinned, an odd glint that spelled mischief, not the good sort, lighting up his eyes. “It would be a shame to lose this opportunity for scientific advancement.” He looked at the screaming Pyro and punched him in the jaw suddenly, knocking him out. “You grab his arms, I’ll grab his legs, we’ll have him restrained in no time. Then we can practice medicine!”

With a nod, BLU agreed, the color of their uniforms forgotten as they both revelled in this opportunity. Easily lifting the Pyro between them, they started toward RED base, leaving Demo alone.

He frowned and looked down at his bottle, then at the backs of the retreating Medics and their patient? Victim? Swinging between them. He shook his head. Looking up at the sky, he spoke finally. “The real question is, how the hell did he get a bee in a fireproof asbestos suit in the middle of a battle in the first place, Lord?”

Shrugging it off as some sort of administrative tomfuckery, he started walking toward the sound of explosions on the far side of the field.

Chapter Text

Pyro lays stretched out on the sunbaked rock beside Scout, looking out over the dusty track they’d just run. He grins, content to let the heat soak into his bones. He and Scout are wearing their running gear, shorts, no shirts, their skin sweaty and glowing in the hot desert sun.

“Hey, man, where’d you get all the scars?” Scout’s voice disturbs Pyro’s thoughts but he doesn’t mind. He never thought he would have a friend, but here they sit, comfortable in each other’s company. He shrugs and sits up, looking down over his scarred body, not ashamed to let Scout see how disfigured he is, how almost every square inch of him is covered. He lays his finger on his knee.

“This one came from a brush fire in California. It was a pretty good fire, burned nearly two thousand acres, but I got caught in the blowback when the wind shifted.” He touches another, strokes his finger over the rough skin of his upper thigh. “This one, a building in Detroit. “I didn’t realize that it had empty spray paint cans in it, they exploded and the shrapnel lodged right here.” He briefly caressed a divot in his leg, letting Scout see it.

In his mind, he is reliving the glory and terror of that fire, the abandoned building going up like an Old Testament pillar of flame. His lips curve up at the memory. “That was a great fire.” He moves on to the next one, this one on his hip, spreading across his belly like a reaching hand. “This one is from the first fire I ever set. I used gasoline, accidentally splashed some on me and, when I struck the match…” He glances at Scout, the rapt look on his friend’s face. “WHOOSH!” Scout jumps, not expecting the loudness and Pyro loses himself in giggles.

“It was my school. There was this kid that just wouldn’t shut up about me. Teased me all the time.” His features shift to a frown. “He didn’t tease me any more after that. I told him one of our teachers wanted to see him after class, locked him in a room and lit it up.”

Scout’s eyes meet his own and he shakes his head. “Jeez, man, you couldn’t just beat the shit out of him or something?”

“Tried that. He had older brothers. They beat me pretty bad.” Pyro’s voice is solemn, reliving the pain of that beating. He’d come out of it with broken ribs, then his old man had beaten him worse for losing a fight when he told him what happened.

He touched another one, this one higher up, on his arm, a melted nightmare of flesh that thankfully only spanned the area from wrist to elbow. “This one is from my dad.” His voice stays solemn. “He was an asshole. Beat me a lot, but he taught me how to fight so I guess that was a good thing?” His voice goes up at the end, unsure.

Scout nods. “Yeah, I guess so.” He shrugs with one shoulder. “Sometimes I’m glad I didn’t have a dad. I hear all this crap about how kids get treated and I think, ya know, my ma loved me, she never did any of this stuff to me, I was lucky.” He looked into Pyro’s eyes and the two nodded at the same time, understanding each other innately. Then they both chuckled, amused by the synchronicity of their thoughts.

Pyro shakes his head, unable to believe how lucky he is to have someone who understands. It’s a luxury most people take for granted. He shifts slightly and turns to look at the base. “Now we have a lot of dads.” He keeps his voice solemn but nudges Scout in the ribs.

Scout grins. “Yeah we do. Weird ones, but still…” He grows quiet, contemplative.

Pyro’s fingers go up to his face. “I burned my face when I blew up that shopping center in Dallas. Shouldn’t have been looking at the damned thing when I lit it.” He shrugs. “That’s when Mann Co caught up with me. I was so scared. Thought they were the cops.” He grins, remembering running from Ms. Pauling, how she finally cornered him in a back alley behind a bar, talked to him soothingly even as the reek of stale beer and vomit rose around them both. “I’m really glad they caught me, though, to be honest. I’d have probably killed myself at the rate I was going.”

Scout nods, thinking now about his own recruitment, how he was in jail on a murder charge and Ms. Pauling just sort of swooped in and took care of things. “Same.” He looks over at Pyro, not wanting to get lost in his memories of that time. “Do you regret any of your scars?”

Pyro shakes his head. “Not a one. You see, I think I’m really lucky here.”

Scout frowns. “Lucky how? I mean, you’re covered in the things.”

Pyro nods, examining his skin under the harsh sunlight, the dips and whorls of disfigured flesh, the hills and valleys and craters that map out his life. He turns to Scout and smiles knowingly, at peace with himself. “I’m lucky because all my scars are on the outside.”

Scout hums quietly under his breath, thinking about what Pyro just said. The two sit in silence after that, watching the sun until it sets and Engie calls them in for dinner.

Chapter Text

Medic held one hand, palm down, on Heavy’s stomach, the other fumbling in his kit for a bandage, a piece of cloth, anything that he can use to staunch the bleeding. “Please, don’t move.” He pressed down harder, feeling the blood squish between his fingers like hot mud, the charnel reek of the open wound reaching his nose, making it wrinkle and twitch. He grunted, trying to breathe through his mouth. Stomach wounds were nasty business, the rich copper of blood mixing with bile and shit in a hideous miasma above the hideous wound in the man’s stomach.

He grimaced, Heavy’s intestines were writhing under his hand like huge bloated worms, peristalsis continuing even though they were now exposed to air. He could feel fear welling in his chest, icy waves of an emotion he had not felt in a very long time. There wasn’t any respawn to pick up Heavy’s death and return him, whole and unharmed. This was real. For keepsies, as Scout would say.

Medic tried to keep the chuckle from crossing his lips, bit down on his tongue until the taste of blood filled his mouth. He was afraid that if he started laughing, he wouldn’t be able to stop. He finally managed to snag a cloth with his free hand. He pulled it toward the wound, then started in surprise. His hand was trembling, shaking like he was palsied. He looked at the hand buried in Heavy’s wound, it was shaking as well. He could feel it now, the fine tremble in his shoulders, traveling down his arms, to his hands, the hands that he needed if he was going to pull off this miracle.

He knew what shock felt like and was able to say to himself “I think I am going into shock.” even as he watched everything happen from a distance, like some incredibly tense scene in one of Demo’s horror movies. He shook his head to clear it, suddenly aware that he’d been staring at the cloth in his free hand for a while now, unable to tell how long he’d been staring at it.

On the hard ground, Heavy groaned in pain, a fresh trickle of blood mixed with saliva drooling down his chin. Medic didn’t have time to wonder where that blood was coming from. The thin thread of blood was not his primary concern. He was currently more worried about the fact that the wreck had parted layers of fat, abdominal muscle, and allowed Heavy’s guts to pool out.

Medic looked down at the wound, at where his hand was sunk to the wrist in Heavy’s belly, yellow adipose tissue sucking at his wrist, a gaping mouth closing around his hand and devouring it. Medic pushed the thought from his head. He couldn’t get distracted again. Time was of the essence here.

Pulling his hand from Heavy’s gut, he tried to shut out the wet, sucking sound of his fingers coming free from flesh. It was one thing to dig around in someone when respawn was there to catch his mistakes, something else entirely when the man’s life depended on it. He would have no qualms about digging around when he had a medigun and knew that, if he touched the wrong thing, no harm, no foul. But out here, there was no safety net. Just him and Heavy and the skills he’d garnered over a long career as a combat medic. Plus, the realization that had been haunting him, this was his friend.

Medic pulled a needle and thread from his pack, quicking readying it for sutures. He looked down at Heavy, the cloth laid on his stomach already red, blood pooling in the center in a thin, viscous puddle. He grunted once and pulled the cloth away, glancing up at Heavy’s face in time to see him wince in pain. Medic held the needle in his right hand, pinched the edges of Heavy’s abdominal wall together with his left hand. “I am going to suture this closed. I need you to lie still, meine Freunde.”

When Heavy nodded understanding, Medic began to sew. He quickly lost himself in the rhythm of needle and thread, in and out, through and lift and pull the thread tight. He bent closer, absently turning his head and using his shoulder to push his glasses back up his nose, then turning back to his work.

He ignored the pain in his back and shoulders, the tight burn of muscles stretched too far for too long, the cramping that began to shiver through his hand. He ignored the way Heavy’s muscle quivered under his touch, a localized reaction to the trauma of being punctured over and over by his needle. He kept his mind and his eyes on the wound, only the wound, refusing to contemplate the thousand other thoughts that screamed inside his head, begging for attention. Impatiently, he pushed them all to the back of his mind.

Gradually, the wound closed. He tied off a knot, snipped his thread and stretched for a moment, trying to relieve the fire in his back. Then, only partly relieved, he bent over the wound again, this time shoving adipose tissue inside skin and suturing once more. When at last all was complete, he leaned back again with a loud groan, his hand flying to the small of his back, rubbing at the muscles that were cramping and seizing there.

The giant in front of him finally spoke. “When we return to base, Heavy will rub Doktor’s back, make it stop hurting.” He tried a lopsided grin, teeth gleaming through the clotting gore that covered his face.

Medic stared at him as though he’d never seen the man before. He’d just pulled him back from the brink of death, saved him from truly dying, put him through God knows what kind of pain, and the man was offering to rub a few kinks from his back? What the hell? Medic could feel sudden tears welling in the corners of his eyes. He’d nearly lost the man! Didn’t he understand how serious this was?

Medic stood and turned away, fighting the sudden conflicting urges that filled him. He wanted to weep. He wanted to kick the man until the wound popped back open and he cried for mercy. He wanted to scream and yell and have a tantrum right there, on the side of the road. Instead he clenched his fists and waited for calm to come back to him.

Finally, when he felt confident that he could speak without screaming, he turned back to Heavy. “It’s a long way back to the base.” He tilted his head in the direction of his car, currently a pile of wrecked metal wrapped around a telephone pole. “The car is unusable. I suppose I should start walking.” With a half smile over his shoulder, he started walking.

Chapter Text

She’d gone to the Medic, trusting that he would keep her secrets. She had a lot of them, and wasn’t that what doctors were supposed to do? Doctor patient confidentiality and all that good shit, right? He’d assured her that he would never speak of what happened between them. She had trusted him. She had been a fool.

She walked into the clinic and looked warily at the table, then at the doctor, standing beside it and patting it patiently. His fingers drummed a rhythm on the cold steel, a jungle tattoo, a frantic heartbeat that matched her own. He’d smiled then, and the smile had been reassuring. She hadn’t realized what a snake he was, able to camouflage his true intent behind his expressions.

“Come on. Sit up here, bitte.” She’d always thought the rich German accent was sexy, so much sexier than Spy’s rounded French or Demo’s lilting Scottish brogue. Now, she thought that Medic was about as sexy as one of those statues carved from ice, fun to look at but would burn your fingertips with it’s coldness if you dared to touch it. She’d walked to the table and, turning her back to it, keeping her eyes warily on the Medic, she had hopped up on it and sat there, waiting.

He’d stared at her for a moment, then had spoken in a soothing voice, explaining that, in order to examine her, he would need her fire suit removed. Under the mask, she’d frowned, suddenly doubting her decision to come here, but then the grinding ache in her gut had reminded her that she needed his help. Or more precisely, she needed his drugs. Something for the pain would be ideal, she could return to her job with none the wiser. With a sigh, she’d pulled off her gloves.

In hindsight, she should have known this was a bad idea when she saw the way Medic had looked at her hands. The scars covered them, the backs dappled with old wounds, a long litany of fire written in flesh, etched in her bones by her temper. She was used to the stares, it’s why she wore the suit. She knew that she was made ugly by her love, the fire’s caresses changed whatever it touched and her body was no different than a building or a forest that was forever marked by the presence of the flames.

She lay her gloves on the table within easy reach and looked back at the Medic, seeing the greed in his eyes, the need to see more. Slowly, her hands went to the fastenings on her bunker gear, working them hesitantly open. She bared herself to the man’s watching eyes, pristine flesh that had known no other eyes since she’d been hired here. How long had that been? Years and years, it felt like. She kept her eyes on his face, knowing that he could not see her watching behind the tinted lenses of her mask.

He would see her head tilted downward, seeming to watch what her fingers were doing, clever fingers that could open her self in a darkened room without difficulty, while her eyes were locked on a flame. She could surely turn her eyes upward, her head down, watch the Medic while she peeled out this safe shell, like a hermit crab watching a predator as it shed its shell.

She emerged from the heavy jacket, letting it fall onto the table around her, the fabric a stiff exoskeleton for the meat underneath. Thin shoulders drew inward, scarred arms wrapped around her, seeking comfort even as she denied herself the comfort of her gear. She was looking down now, shame invading her as he stared at what remained of her form. She didn’t see the thin pink tongue that whipped quickly across dry lips, wetting them, didn’t hear the sharp intake of breath that he couldn’t control as her ravaged body came into view.

The scars covered every inch of her exposed flesh, a litany of her love affair with the flames, written over time and experience, some accidental, some on purpose. The most recent burns shone with a soft, weeping tenderness on her inner arms, pink and yellow and charred black blotches denoting each harsh kiss. She looked up at him then, but it was too late. He’d schooled his features into an indifferent mask.

When he first touched her, she shivered, his fingers like the touch of a spider, crawling in the darkness, seeking an aperture for it’s eggs, a crevice or cranny that would hatch out hundreds of crawling young to cover and devour. Pushing the thought aside, she allowed him to explore her skin, fingertips roaming over her, breaching her privacy. She groaned in agony at his touch, skin rippling in response to the unwanted stimuli.

When he spoke, it was a command to remove the mask. Reluctantly, her hands pulled it over her head, revealing her features to his questing eyes, features that had not been meant for other humans, only for the conflagrations of her own making. She stared at him, wondering what he was thinking.

She knew how she looked, there was a reason the mirror in her room was covered in black cloth. Bald head with the hair sacrificed years before, dips and whorls of flesh, melted in the heat, lost to the pyre of her God. She smiled, she always smiled, the corners of her lips pulled upward in a grimace by scar tissue, stretching tightly over her teeth, baring them in a skull’s rictus. She saw only wonder and awe in his face.

At that moment, she trusted him, thinking him a kindred spirit who realized what she had done, the convoluted reasoning behind it. That was her first mistake. The second was sitting still as he disappeared into a small back room, returning with a box in his hands, a box that she recognized. He stood in front of her, camera in those big hands and looked directly into her eyes, blue meeting brown, his hunger written plain on his face.

“Smile for the camera.” The words scarcely had time to register before he snapped the photo, the damning square of paper ejecting out the front and into his hand, him catching it and waving it as it developed, her soul caught in his lens. He watched as it developed, admiring. “My colleagues will love this.” He muttered under his breath. She snatched at the photo, but he slapped her hand away, shook his head. “Nein, Brandstifter, this is the price you pay for my help.”

She subsided back onto the table, dropping her bare head, light reflecting brightly onto it. She knew the fire was a jealous lover, this travesty would require atonement. Inside her skull, where he could not see, she wondered how to fix this, how to make certain the flames were not jealous that she’d exposed herself to him like this, allowed him to trap her, defile her with his eyes and his black box.

With a nod at her seeming acquiescence, he placed the photo in his desk, locked the drawer, and then, as if he had not just plundered her soul, continued his exam.

Chapter Text

She shouldn’t have targeted the Sniper today. She could regret that now, but at the time it had been fun. She’d enjoyed the hunt, he was always seeking out the highest places he could find and thinking that he was safe there like a bird in a tree. After his third headshot on her, she’d decided to prove to him that Snipers cannot fly. It had worked well the first few kills, she’d cornered him and watched him burn. Then, he caught on.

She hadn’t realized that he knew how to lay traps until she’d been going up the rickety stairs to his latest nest and suddenly been jerked upside down, one leg suspended neatly above her in a noose, her body hanging over the steps and swinging wildly too and fro. She’d heard the roar of blood rushing to her head and, over that, the sound of boots creaking across wooden boards as he approached her. She’d glared at him, tried to look tough as he approached, hiding how scared she now was behind a mask of bravado.

Sniper had paused at the edge of the steps, then placed a hand on the rope and slowed it’s swing, leaving her hanging in mid air, dizzy and mildly ill from the swinging and upside down position. He grinned, long horsey teeth showing yellow in his mouth. “Well, lookit that.” He crouched down and stared into her face. “Not as sneaky as you thought, eh?” He twisted the rope, letting her body twirl in midair, flashes of wall and empty space interspersed with him staring at her thoughtfully. “Gonna have to teach you a thing or two about sneaking up on a man, ain’t I?”

He’d stilled the rope again, leaving her facing the wall that made up the back of the stairs. She tried to reach behind her, tried to grab onto him and climb up his body but he simply stepped out of reach and chuckled.

“Now, now, firebug, don’t go getting feisty on us, you hear me?” He’d pulled his kukri then, she heard the hissing sound of the big blade leaving the leather sheath and, pulling back, he swung it into the back of her leg. She screamed as it cut through asbestos suit and clothing and flesh and into the tendon, severing it. Her body dropped an inch as something in her leg gave and blinding pain shot through her. She could feel the blood, like a scalding flood, flowing down her leg, over her body. Between the upside down position and the pain, she fell into darkness.

***

When Pyro woke up, she was heaped unceremoniously in a corner, facing a rough wooden wall. She lay on a dusty floor, the air reeking of the combined smells of piss and coffee. There was something tight wrapped around her leg and her hands were bound. She’d groaned at the effort of turning over, then froze when she saw Sniper, sitting on a wooden crate, cup of coffee beside him, leaning over his rifle. He pulled his head back from the scope as she stirred, then grinned at her. “Morning, Glory.”

She frowned, then realized that she was no longer wearing her mask. Eyes widening, she looked at him. “You aren’t supposed to take that off. The boss is gonna be pissed.”

He shrugged, shoulders moving under his loose blue cotton shirt. “That's gonna be the least of your worries, sheila. You should be more concerned about what I’m gonna do to you after this match is over.” He winked then turned back to his rifle, pulling the trigger. “Boom, headshot!” He pumped a fist into the air then grinned at her. “It won’t be much longer, ya know. We’re on the last point now and your Heavy just got dropped.”

Pyro frowned at the sinking feeling in her stomach. “They’ll come for me. Then you’ll pay for this, asshole.” She tried to push herself up the wall, crying out as she got halfway there and her leg collapsed under her, unable to support her weight.

“It’s called hamstringing.” He nodded to her leg. “It means you aren’t going anywhere until you go through respawn. If I decide to kill you.” He grinned. “I might decide to keep you alive if you don't behave yourself. Find a nice, dark place to hide you, maybe let the rest of my team know where you’re at.” The grin grew wider, leering. “I'm sure they’d like a turn with ya, given how many times you’ve burned ‘em to death. ‘Specially the Doc.” He laughed. “That man hates you.” He turned back to the window then, concentrating on the battle below.

Pyro lay on the floor, in the dust for a moment, gathering herself. This was not good. She frowned, trying to figure a way out of the situation. The only thing she could think of was to attack, piss him off enough that he killed her, sent her through respawn. She started to crawl toward him, elbows scraping on the floor, splinters digging into her bound hands, leg dragging behind her. He ignored her as she got closer to him, pulled the trigger again, the loud snap of the rifle booming in the small room. He cursed, missing the shot she guessed.

Sniper looked down at her then, watching her crawl closer. “What the hell are you up to, sheila.” He sat there, eyes on her struggle as she got closer and closer to him. Finally, she collapsed, panting and out of breath, head against the rough crocodile skin of his boot. She glared up at him, trying to catch her breath.

“Well, now. Lookit you. Wanna get closer already?” He grinned down at her, then one hand fisted in her hair, he was pulling her body up by the scalp. She bit back a scream, the flare of agony in her scalp was blinding, bringing tears to her eyes. At last, he maneuvered her up and against him, back turned to his body, grabbed her chin and pointed her head out the window. She looked over the battlefield, just able to see the last point from where he held her. “You lose.” He crowed the words in her ear as the point turned blue.

She turned her head to the side, looking at his arm where it wrapped loosely around her shoulders and, leaning her head down, sank her teeth into it. Sniper cursed, a low savage growl in her ear, tightening his arm around her. Instead of pulling away, he pressed his arm further into her mouth, the soft flesh pressing up around her nose, the heavy bone of his forearm smashing against her lips. She kept her teeth together, grinding them into his flesh, trying to suck in what air she could through her nostrils. She could feel her lungs starting to burn as he rolled his arm up a bit, covering her nose completely. She could feel her lungs screaming for air now, his flesh pressing in her mouth further, filling it, gagging her. She grunted as bile rose up in her throat, tried frantically to swallow it back down, pressed her head further back against his side as the burning filled her mouth and nostrils. Suddenly, he was letting her go, she was falling, sour vomit bursting from her mouth and nose to pool on the floor, adding to the foulness already in the air.

She yelped and fell, face planting in her own pool of vomit as one of those dusty boots caught her in the ribs, landing with a grunt. She tried to roll over, aided unintentionally as he kicked her again, landing her flat on her back, looking up at him. Before she could curl protectively around already bruising ribs, his boot was on her throat, pressing her firmly into the floor.

“You just had to go and bite me, didn’t you?” He pressed harder, causing her breath to whistle through her nose as her throat was constricted. “Well, jokes on you, sheila, I like that shit.” He grinned sardonically, then leaned closer to her. “Guess when I get you home we’ll see how you like it.”

She tried to choke out a reply but he bent over then, one fist driving into her chin. Splotches of red blossomed in front of her eyes, then everything went black.

When she woke up next, she was laying someplace soft, the comfort welcome to her bruised body. She peered around through slitted eyes, the swelling in her face preventing them from opening all the way. She was in some sort of camper van, lying on a mattress, looking directly at a table.

Sniper sat there, cleaning that damned kukri of his. He looked up when he heard her moving, then smiled. “About time you woke up. I was starting to think I might have put you in a coma.” He chuckled. “Not that it would matter too terribly much, but I did promise to find out if you like to be bitten.” He held up his forearm, the bruise there matching the imprint of her teeth. “Call it paybacks if you want.” His smile widened and, for the first time, she noticed how sharp his teeth looked. She closed her eyes. This was going to be a long and miserable night.

Chapter Text

Scout lay on the cold concrete platform and shivered. He knew that he should have told the others he couldn’t swim. Hell, who needed to swim in Boston? It wasn’t like his Ma ever had the money to pay for any of her kids to go to the pool. He knew it was a bad idea, keeping that secret, but when Pyro fell down the well, then got attacked, and then the guys had all decided to hunt the thing living down here, he’d wanted in. Pyro was his friend and he’d seen the blubbering mess that was left after that thing toyed with him. What the hell had Medic made, anyway? And how? Scout shrugged, whatever it was, it was obviously hostile. And now he was trapped in its lair.

There was just enough light to see, leaking in from a storm grate overhead, the thin watery illumination revealing the dirty concrete, the dirtier water that lapped at it in slow, dark waves. He sat up finally and cursed, thin arms wrapping around himself and trying to slow the shivers coursing through his body.

The whole base was riddled with drainage pipes of one kind or another, and it seemed like every single one was filled with murky, foul smelling water. He’d been helping the others search when he’d heard a soft splash down a dark side tunnel. He’d gone to check it out, was just getting ready to turn around and let the others know where he was when a slithering tentacle wrapped around his ankle and he was pulled under. He’d screamed then, stygian water filling his lungs, the metallic taste of pollution on his tongue. He had a sensation of moving at high speeds, travelling under the water, banging against the unforgiving sides of pipes and rough walls, then he’d been flung out of the water and onto this platform.

He looked around cautiously, checking out his prison more closely. Bare concrete walls, the storm drain set up high in one, too high to reach, the grating too small to squeeze through. A dark stain crept and fanned out below it, water turned to black mold in the dampness of this sewer. The platform he was on was maybe ten feet by ten feet, rising just a few inches above the water. If it rained now, he shuddered at the thought, not wanting to think about it but unable to block out the image of water quickly rising, swirling white foam sweeping him under its surface, drowning him like a rat in a toilet. He cursed again, the sound of his voice echoing off the bare walls, distorted and low.

.From the way the thin sunlight moved up the wall in a travelling square marked with the shadows of bars, he thought it had been about an hour. An hour of laying on his side, curled up with his arms around his knees, waiting to be drowned or murdered or torn apart while he sobbed uncontrollably. The rough ride through the tunnels had taken all the fight out of him. It wasn’t that he was afraid of water, but he was afraid of drowning. Slowly, he’d gotten himself under control and managed to stop crying, thankful that none of the guys were around to see this shit. They’d never let him live it down.

Scout could just make out a mouldering mattress in one corner, the light reflecting off the water in rippling patterns now, causing a scintillant design to travel over the walls, confusing to the eyes like the light in a bar, where the disco ball’s reflections made everything seem unreal. Curious now, he approached the mattress and the heap of trash beside it.

A broken chair balanced on three legs beside a wooden crate that had a book resting on it. The pages were so swollen by water that the book was fat and bulging outward in places, some sort of orange fungus growing across the cover and spilling over the crate’s top, engulfing it as well. There was a pile of clothes, what looked like suits in the corner behind the crate, dark blue material black in the dim light and the damp. He reached for them and then pulled back, there were silverfish crawling all over them.

His foot bumped a stick, glowing white in the dim lighting. He reached down for it, pulled it free of it’s home under the mattress, then realized with horror that it wasn’t a stick, it was a thick heavy bone, roughly the size of his forearm. He nearly dropped it, his fingers spasming in a rictus of disgust around it. The bone was slimy, the rough surface felt gross. He held it up into the light, peering at it. Tooth marks covered every inch of the surface, little pockmarks like a dog would make, only he knew that whatever had gnawed at this bone was not a dog.

Curiosity winning out over terror, he used the bone to poke at the clothes, moving the dripping, squirming mass to the floor, revealing a trunk under them. It was an old looking thing, like a steamer trunk or something, the lid held in place by a rusty looking lock clasped through a metal ring sticking out of it.

With a feeling of dread in his stomach, he slid the bone into the metal ring and wrenched it outward. There was a loud, splintering noise and the entire thing ripped free of the trunk. Scout punched the bone into the air, a gesture of triumph that seemed out of place down here. Then he knelt by the dark hole that was the trunk’s inside, allowing his eyes to adjust to the gloom.

Scout gasped in surprise. There wasn’t much in the trunk, but what was in there was remarkably well preserved. He reached in and pulled out a blue baby blanket, crocheted from some soft yarn, a small stuffed rabbit that looked vaguely familiar, and a photo. He held the photo up, the sunlight illuminating a woman, lovely, dark hair, wearing a blue, form fitting dress stared out at him, smiling happily, a little boy clasped in her arms, smiling as well as he held a stuffed rabbit toward the camera. He dropped it with a wail of surprise, it seemed to drift to the damp concrete at his feet in slow motion.

Scout squatted and reached for the photo with a tentative finger, tracing the woman’s face, a tear spilling down his cheek. His voice whispered across the platform starting those echoes once more. “Ma.” he whispered just as a cold tentacle draped across his shoulder, curled around his neck.

He recoiled in terror as a garbled, watery voice spoke behind him. “Son.”

Chapter Text

When they were first married, Karl had repeatedly told her how much he loved her hair. He would sit for hours, the bright gold mass spread over his lap, brush in hand, stroking it lovingly like one would pet a cat. He forbade her to cut it, watching with pride as it grew ever longer down her back.

He bought her lovely things, silk ribbons, ornate wood and metal barrettes studded with gems, brushes and combs aplenty. It wasn’t like he couldn’t afford these things. He was a physician, on the cutting edge of science with his experimentations and able to keep people alive when any other physician would have given up and administered a fatal dose of morphine to end their suffering. She had been so proud of him then.

She still remembered those days, when he would come home from work and sit on the sofa, pat his knee as she knelt at his feet and placed her head in his lap, his fingers sinking into the mass of her hair, losing the tensions of the day as his fingers worked through it.

The first time he struck her, she’d been teasing him and spoken of going to the hair salon for a trim. It had been a jest, she hadn’t expected the open handed slap that staggered her backward, bringing immediate tears to her blue eyes. He’d knelt beside her then, pulled her hand from her face, eyed the cheek she’d been protectively cupping.

He frowned then. “Really, Madeline, it’s barely even red. Stop being a baby.” He’d cupped her chin then, forcing her to look into his eyes. “This was your own fault. You do understand that, right? ” Don’t ever speak of trimming your hair again.”

She’d nodded, afraid to argue with him, the cold steel of his eyes boring into her own. After that, she’d tried to be more careful. And then this job with the American company had been offered to him. He’d agreed readily, moving them over the ocean without even consulting her, leaving her for long periods of time in a tiny house in a tiny town where she could barely speak the language, where everyone eyed her like she was an unwanted plague and whispered “Nazi.” behind her back.

Karl, who should have been her refuge, changed as well, growing colder and more intractable as the years passed. The single, open handed slap was no longer the end of it, instead becoming close fisted beatings that left her whimpering in pain as she tried to please him, tried to calm him. He no longer brought her lovely trinkets for her hair. Instead, it was more common for him to wrap his hands in it, force her to her knees and do things to her that would make a devil blush. She sank into herself, growing more quiet, smiling less, but always taking care to make sure that her hair was as thick and lustrous as when they had first met. She still had not cut it, a lesson learned in the beginning.

As her grasp of the language spoken by those around her improved, she became more accepted in the community, fewer slurs behind her back as she walked down the streets, more people smiling at her, and she always smiled in return. It would not do to let them know the hell she lived in, she always wore long sleeves, long pants, no matter how hot the day, to make certain the bruises did not show. Sunglasses became an essential part of her wardrobe. Those around her, her neighbors, chalked it up to “foreign ways' ' and did not ask questions.

Karl began to visit for shorter and shorter periods of time. It was a relief to be alone. And then, one day while she did the shopping, she met a man. He was tall, with dark skin and short curly hair, a patch over one eye and an easy manner about him. He helped her carry groceries to her car, asked about her accent, his own was so thick she could smell the heather. She’d smiled then, a genuine smile, told him about the time when, as a child, she’d visited the town of Inverness, the beauty of the lochs and moors.

He’d invited himself to her home for coffee, one thing led to another and within a few weeks, she found herself, in her bedroom, letting her hair down for this handsome Scot, laying long in the bed and laughing over breakfast with him. The lonely hole in her heart slowly began to fill with sweetness.

She knew that she would have to tell Karl. She’d discussed it with her handsome one eyed demoman as they lay in the bed, glasses of brandy in their hands, both staring into the amber depths as the warmth added to the heat already in their bodies. She’d been so certain that, given Karl’s harshness with her, he would not care. Lachlan had asked to be there, but she’d told him no, knowing that her husband, although sworn to uphold the sanctity of life, was a dangerous man when angered. She did not want to see him harmed. She did not want to see how she was treated. It shamed her to even think of Lachlan knowing.

When the day arrived, she’d fussed around the house nervously, binding up her long hair and tying a kerchief around it. She’d waited by the front door, watching anxiously for Karl to stride up the cracked concrete walkway. She realized suddenly that the twisting knot of nerves in her stomach was not fear, but hope, hope that she would finally be free of him and his bullish ways.

 

When at last he came into their small home, taking off his jacket and tossing it on the couch for her to put away later, she’d simply stood by the door, not gotten on her knees and gone to lay her head in his lap as he expected. He’d sat on the couch for a moment, watching her with a surprised look on his face. At last, he pointed to his lap and made a motion for her to come. She’d frowned.

“Karl, we have to talk.” She’d stayed by the door, watching him warily.

He sighed. “Madeline.” He shifted on the couch, leaned his head back. “If you are still upset about last month, don’t be such a baby. I did not hurt you that badly. You recovered, did you not?” He raised his head and pinned her with his icy blue gaze. “You don’t want to go through that again, do you?”

She shook her head, remembering all too well the slow fading bruises, the ache that had invaded her very bones, lasting for over two weeks before she was able to walk without a limp. “I’ve met someone.” She blurted it out, thrown off guard by the memories. “I want to be with him, not you any longer. I want a divorce.”

Karl’s eyes widened for a moment, the dark lock of hair she’d found so attractive in the beginning flopping over his forehead. Suddenly he began to laugh. “A divorce. Madeline.” He stood then, stalking toward her, his movements slow and graceful as a cat’s. She backed up against the door, hand on the knob. “You have been in America too long. You forget, leibe, I own you.” He’d lunged then, hand wrapping around her slender wrist and squeezing tightly.

She screamed as bones grated against each other, beating on his chest with her free hand. He ignored her attempts to fend him off. “You are mine!” He snarled the words in her face, his eyes savage and cold as he stared into her face, searching it for something. At last, seeming to find what he sought, he grinned, a smile that she’d never seen on his face before. It transformed his features into a demon’s mask, no longer the man she’d been with for so long. He began to drag her behind him then, into the kitchen.

She planted her feet and tried to fight, but he was unstoppable. At last, reaching the kitchen island, he swept it clear with his arm and, grabbing her around the waist, he slammed her onto it so hard that the breath left her body, she was left dizzy, sucking in air, unable to fight.

Her hands were bound quickly, he’d used her own dish towels to do the job. Pulling off his belt, he then bound her feet, bent at the knee, draped over the end of the tall wooden island. He snatched the kerchief from her hair, gasping as it flooded down toward the floor, a golden waterfall. He turned from her then, rummaging in a drawer until he found what he was looking for, a sharp fillet knife that she used for fish.

He held the knife up near his face, an expression of pure evil shining across his features. “I only value you for one thing, Hure, and you will not take that thing with you.” He walked toward her then, gleaming knife in hand and she screamed.

She tried to fight but was unable to get her hands or feet free. He wrapped his left hand in her hair, pulling sharply backward, forcing her head down on the table. With his right hand, he brought the knife closer and closer to her hairline, finally sinking the blade in, forcing it under her skin in a blaze of white hot pain. She could feel the blood beginning to trickle down her face, the skin of her scalp lifting upwards under his careful slices. She tried to fight, tried to toss her head from side to side, anything to escape the blaze of pain that his blade heralded. And still, he worked, as calm and sure in his movements as only a trained surgeon could be. He parted her scalp from her skull, one millimeter at a time, working slowly and carefully to avoid ruining his work.

Gradually, her voice broke and she could hear the things he was murmuring under his breath, the little coos of pleasure that accompanied each stroke of his blade. It was disgusting, causing her stomach to churn and roil. She feared what vomiting would do, could not imagine he would stop long enough to let her turn her head and not choke on her own foulness.

She heard a dim patter, like rain on a window, and, in her pain and confusion, she remembered thinking, “That’s funny. The sky was blue when Karl came in.” She realized later that it was the sound of her blood, pouring from the horrific wound and off the edges of the table to patter on the floor, a never ending sound that would forever after make her cover her ears when it rained. She looked up at Karl as he continued to work. “Why?” She screamed, “Why, Karl?”

He stepped away from the table at last, holding something in his hand. She screamed again when she saw it, the blood matted blonde hair hanging limply in his hand like a Halloween wig. He looked at her and chuckled, laying the bloody knife in the sink. “Divorces are messy, Madeline, with everyone fighting over who gets what. I hate the drama, the courtrooms.” He shuddered delicately at the thought. “You can have the house, meine süßeste Liebe, and the car. I have what I want right here.” He turned then and, grabbing his jacket from the sofa, left the house.

Chapter Text

Medic stood in front of the mirror on RED base, in his old team’s communal bathroom and brushed his teeth with someone else’s toothbrush. He was lost in thought, remembering what he’d just done to the girl he’d come back from Hell to find. He bared his lips in a grin, bloody foam frothing from his mouth, making him look like a rabid dog. He rather liked the look, he decided as he leaned over the sink and spat. He watched the foam go down the drain, taking with it the rich taste of coppery blood, leaving minty freshness behind.

He’d bitten her tongue off. He sighed in pleasure, one hand dropping low to rub at his growing hardness, the memory of her muffled screams enough to make him hard. He’d forced himself into her mouth and bitten down, severing her tongue and swallowing it whole, the thick muscle wriggling in shock as it had slid down his gullet. Then he’d bitten off other parts of her, great lumps of flesh satiating a hunger he hadn’t even realized he had, filling his stomach and reveling in the power that he felt growing in him, power that hadn’t been there before his most recent trip and bargain.

When he’d last been alive, he’d wanted power, control. Now, he wanted blood. And this was the place to get it, he thought. A never ending battle where atrocities were encouraged, where he could literally get away with murder and face no consequences. In fact, where murder was part of the job description. He only hoped that Pauling would listen to reason and give him the Medic’s spot on the enemy team. He wanted to fight that damned girl every day, kill her over and over again, each time more humiliating, bloodier than the last until finally she broke. He couldn’t figure out what it was about her, but he really didn’t waste much time analyzing the situation. That would have been former him. Now him simply reacted.

As he stepped under the shower’s spray, he thought of the many ways he had to make Pauling and the Administrator listen, the fun he could have with them until they gave him what he wanted. He was not aware of the expression on his face, but if anyone had seen him right then, they would have run far away.

He stepped into the shower, turning the water as hot as it would go, allowing billowing clouds of steam to wrap around him. The water turned crimson as he washed himself, taking the evidence of his recent fun down the drain with it. He did not like that, wanted to remain covered in her sweet, sweet blood, but he knew that, in order to do the things that came next, he would have to blend in with the fools around him, the humans who had not seen the glories of Dis.

He sighed and reached for the soap, lathering his skin as he wondered if he could find a hitchhiker on the way to BLU HQ. If not a hitchhiker, then perhaps a family? That thought really got him going, the pools of blood he could create! The pain and torment he could sow on his road trip! He reached between his legs and cupped himself, marveling. He’d never been this hard before. He’d sated himself repeatedly on the girl, would do so again, but here he was ejaculating in the shower like a randy teen. He leaned his head against the wall, watching as that too washed into the sewers to mingle with the blood he’d just gotten rid of. Idly, he wondered if the little bitch had made it through respawn yet. Maybe he could go down there and pick her up for one more round?

Things were definitely going his way.

Chapter Text

When Austin decided that he needed to get married, he found himself in a bit of a bind. Women were a rare commodity at his job and given where his job was located, he didn’t often have the chance to go out and meet nice women. Oh, he met women enough, but mostly of the smoky eyed bar variety that were ready for anything provided you had the cash.

So he did what any good company man would do, he brought his dilemma to the boss. Well, in this case, he brought his dilemma to Ms. Pauling. After all, he was 72, and, thanks to respawn technology, didn’t look a day over 32. It was about time to consider passing his genes on to the next generation of Connaghers.

As he had hoped, Ms. Pauling had a solution. That’s how he found himself, dressed in his best plaid shirt and jeans, attending the Annual Mann Co. Auction. Ms. Pauling met him there and they proceeded to the back room that most of the folks attending didn’t know about. “I mean,” he thought to himself, “arms deals were one thing, human trafficking was quite another.” But as Ms. Pauling had so succinctly put it, something needed to be done with problem employees and at Mann Co. firing them was not an option. He tried to push down the disquiet settling in his bones. This was what he wanted after all, right? No point in getting squeamish about it now.

He settled quietly into the folding chair next to Ms. Pauling and looked over the little pamphlet he’d been handed going through the door. Three mercenaries, a secretary, and seven janitors, all their stats listed plainly to the side in neat rows. The secretary was the one who caught his eye.

She was a pretty little thing, brunette with a snub nose and a sprinkle of freckles across her cheeks. He was willing to bet that a little time on the ranch would turn her hair dirty blonde. Nice form too, slender and well put together, like a racing filly. He grinned, pointed her out to Ms. Pauling, who nodded. He tried to put aside the thought that this was a human being, that she probably didn’t want to be sold to some Texas redneck, no matter how smart he was, just so she could have babies and fetch the evening beer while he watched the game on tv. Nope, wouldn’t do to dwell on that at all.

He watched patiently as the mercs went for pretty high prices, they had some pretty nice skill sets, even if they were Mann Co rejects. The secretary was next on the block, so to speak. She stepped out into the spotlight timidly, dressed nicely in an A line skirt and white blouse, her scared eyes trying to see past the light that Austin knew would blind her and turn the room into a wall of darkness. He raised his hand and placed the first bid. Across the room, someone met his bid and raised it, he was the first participant in a heavy bidding war. He frowned when the price got to be more than he was willing to pay, Seven thousand dollars for a wife was a bit much. He slumped back in his seat and Ms. Pauling placed a consoling hand on his shoulder as the auctioneer announced an end to the bidding. She’d sold for ten thousand. He sighed and massaged his temple, wishing he’d never come to this damned event.

Ms. Pauling tapped her pamphlet then, pointing out the only other female, a janitor. He leaned closer and peered at the picture then frowned. Not quite what he was hoping for. She was a little red headed thing, he could see the orneriness shining in her eyes without having to read the blurb, but he did anyway. Twenty seven years old, 128 pounds, healthy, authority issues. He wasn’t sure what that meant and raised a questioning eyebrow at Ms. Pauling.

She sighed and shook her head. “She was working late one night and slapped the Classic Heavy when he came into the office and grabbed her behind. He took offense to it and when we called her into the office to formally apologize to him, she told the Administrator that she was a washed up prune.” Austin could hear the snicker in her voice, even though she was trying hard to hide it. “We need to make her disappear. For her own safety.” Ms. Pauling’s mouth turned up in a half smile. “She’s smart, relatively pretty, but a bit of a temper.” She looked up at him, meeting his eyes with her own. “I think she would make a good match for you.”

He nodded and sat back, watching the bidding carefully. When the girl came onto the carpet, there was a big burly man standing behind her. He pushed her into the spotlight and she whirled on him, fists up. Austin was the only one in the room who chuckled. The girl was a spitfire, all right!

The auctioneer set the first bid at two thousand and no one accepted it. He sat back waiting a full 30 seconds before raising his hand in the air. The bidder accepted, asked for further bids and within a moment, he had bought himself a wife. Austin sat back and glanced at Ms. Pauling. She looked satisfied and suddenly he wondered if he’d been set up. “Nah,” he thought, “that’s just paranoia talking.”

He wrote out a check, handed it to the auctioneer and went home to wait for his delivery. He’d been told that it would take a week to clear the check and process the paperwork. He wasn’t sure how there could be paperwork with an illegal transaction like this, but he shrugged. It would give him time to put the house in order.

A week later, he was waiting on the dirt driveway in front of his little house when a bread truck pulled up. He smiled, crowbar in hand as the driver and his helper hopped out of the truck and went to the back. They rolled up the door, climbed into the back and maneuvered a large wooden crate onto the tailgate. Standing on either side of the crate, they lowered the gate to the ground, slid a dolly under the crate and moved it into his garage. They dropped the crate, none too gently, in his opinion and stepped back.

The driver grinned at him. Austin noted the claw marks on the left side of his face as he gestured to the crate. “Good luck.” He turned and walked to the truck then, climbing back into the driver’s seat. The passenger held out a clipboard for him to sign, then followed his co-worker back to the truck.

Austin looked from the crate to the crowbar, anticipation and anxiety creating a nervous ball of rolling energy in the pit of his belly. He placed the tip of the crowbar under the crates top and pried upwards, the screeching of nails being torn loose loud enough to wake the dead. Tipping the top onto the driveway, he peered inside, his eyes meeting a pair of leaf green eyes glaring up at him, a mop of greasy, oily red hair nearly hiding them. Austin smiled. “Hello, wife.”

He wasn’t prepared for the little fury to spring out of the crate and attack him, but she did. Austin fell to the ground, fending off the blows she was trying to land on him. Briefly, he wondered if he could get his money back.

Chapter Text

Pyro had been hanging from their wrists for what felt like forever now. They’d been visited by several members of the BLU team, not visitors that they wanted, because each of them had come bearing gifts like some unholy Magi visiting the baby Jesus on Christmas morning. Except, instead of bringing gold and frankincense and myrrh, they’d brought pain and suffering and tears.

Pyro gasped back a sniffle, they had cried so much that their nose was full of snot now, mouth open, gasping for breath which was hard coming through the clogged respirator of their mask. They couldn’t see, could barely breathe, and they knew that this was just the beginning. Spy had said so, his voice soft and breathy as he’d used his knife to bring pain on pain without end until finally it had stopped being the sharp stabby kind and become the dull achy kind that wounds make when sharp things aren’t being stuck in them.

Engie had always warned Pyro to be careful around the BLU’s. “They ain’t like us, little bit.” he’d said in that cornpone accent of his that Pyro found so soothing. “They’re mean and nasty and would kick a puppy just ‘cause it’s a Tuesday.” Pyro hadn’t known what that meant, had asked Engie if Tuesday’s were puppy kicking days and Engie had chuckled and chortled so much his beer had come out his nose. They’d both laughed then, while Engie had cleaned beer off his upper lip with a handkerchief. Pyro never did find out what Tuesdays had to do with kicking puppies but he’d always been especially careful around both BLU team and puppies on Tuesdays. Not that they got to see many puppies at their job, but still, Tuesdays felt especially dangerous.

Briefly, Pyro wondered if today was a Tuesday? That might explain why Spy had stolen them. Pyro shivered, thinking that if it was a Tuesday, there was no hope left. That’s when the rope holding their left wrist had given just a little. Pyro froze, eyes widening in the darkness of their mask and pulled down a bit harder. Their wrist moved, slid around slightly inside the rope. It must not be Tuesday, Pyro thought. They pulled down harder, jerking their hand downwards and the rope gave again, then snagged up tight against their hand. Pyro groaned in frustration. They could feel the rope biting into their hand, right below the thumb.

Pyro thought for a moment, then furrowed their brows determinedly. It was time to go for broke. That was Scout’s favorite saying. They braced themself for what was coming and jerked down harder, as hard as they could. The rope bit into the soft flesh of their hand, then suddenly, they could feel the snap of slender bones.

The pain was brilliant, immediate, breathtaking. Pyro screamed, lights blooming across their blinded eyes, leaving them gasping and moaning even as they felt the rope slide over the now compressed joint of their thumb, up their hand, allowing it to flop freely. Their entire arm was numb from having been held upright and tight for so long and after the briefest moment of numbness, pins and needles set in, white hot pricks of agony as the blood returned to the limb.

Pyro whimpered in the darkness behind their mask, slowly flexing fingers made numb by stricture, whining as life returned to them. At last, satisfied that the worst had passed, Pyro lifted the broken hand and, sliding two fingers under their mask, pulled up. Even though they tried to avoid jarring their thumb, it still shot white hot bolts of pain through their hand and arm with every movement. At last, the mask passed the top of Pyro’s head and they squinted their eyes open.

The room was blindingly bright after so much time in darkness. Pyro grunted and gingerly held their mask up, examining it. The lenses were covered with a dark substance, spray paint, thought Pyro. No wonder they’d been blind. Someone had spray painted their lenses, leaving them in darkness. Thankfully that mystery at least was solved, Pyro dropped the mask to the ground and turned their attention to the room they were in.

It was small, looked like a closet or a storeroom of some sort. Bare concrete walls met bare concrete floor and ceiling with nothing to break the monotony. Pyro grimaced. There was no window and the door was thick wood. There was a drainage hole on the ground by their feet, dark stains around it suggesting the room had been used for wet, bloody things before.

Pyro looked up at the rope holding their other arm in place. It was tight, attached to a metal hook in the ceiling. Pyro cursed and slowly lifted their free arm to the tied one. Using one finger to pick at the knot was getting them nowhere, they decided after a few moments. With an angry glare at the hook, Pyro grabbed the rope, wrapping their good fingers around it just above the knot and jerked their body downward as hard as possible. They screamed in pain, tears coming to their eyes as the broken hand was harshly jarred. But the hook had moved!

Whining to themself, Pyro jerked down again and again, ignoring the pain even as bright blooms of color overtook their vision. Pyro decided to give it one more try before stopping to rest and on that try, the last of the curve went out of the hook and the rope slid off. Pyro slammed unceremoniously to the floor, then lay there panting for breath and trying not to pass out.

When they had gotten their breathing back to normal and the colorful blooms had stopped blooming behind their eyes, Pyro staggered up and slowly, cautiously lay their ear against the door. Hearing nothing, Pyro reached down and turned the knob, only to feel that it was locked.

“Of course it’s locked.” Pyro muttered. They tried it again and again, with the same result. It was locked, solid in the frame. Pyro couldn’t help it as despair welled up in their chest. Slumping against the door, Pyro let the tears fall from their eyes, running down their cheeks to mingle with the blood already smearing their suit. Slumping, Pyro closed their eyes. It was definitely a Tuesday.

Chapter Text

Pyro didn’t know how long they leaned against the door, lost in despair but, eventually, the tears stopped and they were able to think again. They leaned their head back and sniffled, then bent over the broken thumb and checked it out for the first time since their escape from the ropes. It had started to swell, the skin black and blue and swollen tight. It throbbed the way that broken bones do, but Pyro had spent enough time on the battlefield that they could push the pain aside and still function.

They were glad it was the left hand, their trigger finger was on the right and a broken thumb made it hard to grip a gun properly. Not that they had a gun, but still, you never know what you might come across in the course of the day. Pyro snorted in amusement. If they didn’t get out of this room, there would be no need for a gun, a trigger finger, or much of anything else.

But, how to get out? They leaned their head back, thinking. The door was locked, there were no windows. There was an air vent but it was too high to reach, not to mention being much smaller than Pyro. Sighing, they reached up with their good hand and rubbed the scarred side of their face, then wiped at their cheeks, trying to get the salt tears that had dried in the scars and were starting to itch. Suddenly, Pyro stopped moving and turned to look at the door. The hinges! They were on the inside. Pyro grinned.

Picking up their mask, Pyro held it in the crook of the left arm and used their fingernails to pry off the respirator. The metal was thin but sturdy. They thought it would make a suitable tool for prying. It was worth a try, at least.

Pyro went to the door and used the metal to pry up on the hinge pins, growing frustrated when it bent and folded down on itself. Shaking their head, they tried using it as a screwdriver and chortled excitedly when that worked. At least something was going in their favor!

When the door at last gave way, they lifted it carefully, not wanting it to scrape on the concrete floor and slipped through the crack they’d made, mask tucked under their armpit. Sitting the door back as near to its previous location as possible, they hoped that no one would notice until too late. They looked up and down the dimly lit hallway they were in, then picked a direction at random and started walking.

The BLU base was not like RED’s. Bland concrete walls gave way to bland concrete walls. There was nothing to use as a landmark. In RED, they had drawn pictures, some hanging by scotch tape cobwebs, some directly onto the walls, but here, there was nothing. Just one wall leading into the next, occasional closed doors marring the pristine lengths.

Pyro was walking along more bravely now, having given up on the idea of people finding them, when suddenly a laugh rang down the corridor. Pyro darted quickly back, trying door handles as they went, until finding one that was unlocked and ducking inside. They leaned against the door, a bare crack of light spilling through, watching the hallway.

Spy and Soldier passed by outside, talking quietly. As they passed the door, Soldier patted a wickedly long knife sheathed at his side and chuckled, saying something in a low tone. Pyro caught the sound of their name, but nothing else. It didn’t matter, the intent was there. They were glad they’d escaped when they had, but time was running out for them.

As soon as the pair passed the corner, Pyro ran out of the room and down the hallway in the opposite direction. They were passing a large loading bay door when the alarms suddenly began blaring, the noise so strident that they stopped mid stride and just stood for a second, hands over ears before running again.

They could hear the sound of booted feet behind them, people shouting, and lungs starting to burn. They rounded a corner and came face to face with a stairwell leading down. Pyro stood, indecisive, then darted down the stairs. They slammed through the door at the bottom, instinctively throwing their arms up to protect their face. They froze.

They were in a large storage area, crates stacked floor to ceiling, in rows as far as the eye could see. Pyro quickly darted down an aisle, then another and another, losing themself among the stacked storage containers. Each crate was large enough to hold a refrigerator, or larger, and they all were covered in black lettering, loading codes that made no sense whatsoever to them.

When at last Pyro was too tired to go on, they began to look for a place to hide. That place soon became apparent, if they could just reach it. Three crates up, one of the wooden slats had fallen from the crate, whether through rough handling or poor construction, Pyro didn’t know. The dark opening was just large enough to crawl into, the interior of the crate would provide a good vantage point to rest in. Taking a deep breath, Pyro began to scale the wall of crates just as the door to the large room rattled and banged in the distance. Pyro climbed faster, even while their mind screamed for them to slow down, that any slip or noise would be fatal at this point.

At last, having reached the hole in the crate, Pyro wriggled through and into the dark interior. The crate was roomy inside, the floor covered in loose straw. There was a box in one corner, the side reading “FRAGILE” in capital letters. Pyro tried to pick it up, gasping at how heavy it was. There was no way to move it noiselessly and at last Pyro gave up and sank down in the thick straw. They could feel something under them, something that was not straw. With a frown, they pulled it free, staring in disbelief. The lump was a stuffed kitten, the soft grey fake fur full of straw and hay, but the button eyes in place, the tiny ears pert and pointed. Small string whiskers adorned it’s face, giving it a mischievous look. Pyro hugged it close with a muffled squeak of happiness. “I’ll call you Tuesday.” Pyro whispered into the toy’s soft ear. Curling into a small ball, Pyro lay still, listening for their enemy.

Pyro heard voices ringing out several times. They sounded like the BLU Demo and Scout but Pyro was afraid to look. They could hear the two men walking down the aisles, looking for any sign of a disturbance, shouting back and forth to each other as they searched the labyrinth of crates. The two were chuckling at some joke as they passed below Pyro’s crate.

Pyro curled up even tighter, afraid to breathe as the sound of scuffling footsteps slowly passed by. Neither of the men sounded as though they were looking very hard, and Pyro was thankful for that. As they listened to them pass further along the rows, the last few days of captivity caught up with them and Pyro lowered their head, resting it on their forearm. They stifled a yawn with their good hand, then allowed their eyes to slowly drift closed, comforted by the smells of straw and wood. As they fell asleep, curled around the stuffed toy, they hoped for pleasant dreams, but feared the worst.

Chapter Text

Medic didn’t often feel out of his league when it came to injuries but tonight could be the exception to the rule. He was used to battlefield injuries, used to the after-battle shenanigans that a group of hardened mercenaries sometimes got up to, but he was not used to the gottverdammter quatsch that Scout and Pyro had just pulled. They didn’t realize that, even with respawn, they were not immortal. What would he do if they managed to kill themselves? He pushed the thought away, not even wanting to entertain that idea.

He groaned and buried his head in his hands, the very thought of their stupidity making him want to end himself. He couldn’t believe that he was on the same team as those idiots, couldn’t believe that he’d gotten attached to them, come to consider them friends. And now they do this? How could Mann Co have done this to him?

He sighed and put his hands flat on his desk, pushing himself up to go check on the Schwachkopfe. He strode into the clinic and walked over to Pyro’s bed, staring down at the boy. At least Pyro had the grace to look ashamed. He sighed once more and, pulling his stethoscope from around his neck, placed it into his ear canals and listened to the steady heartbeat before him, the burbling remainder of river water in the boy’s lungs.

“Hey, Doc, what about me?” Scout shouted from his bed. Medic turned and held up one finger, gesturing for him to wait. He pulled the thin sheet back from Pyro’s chest and examined the glorious bruising there. The boy looked like he'd been through a meat grinder, Medic decided. He refused to smile where they could see him, but inside he was laughing at the mental image, thinking that was pretty much what they’d done. Put themselves through a meat grinder.

Who in their right minds would have gone over a waterfall in a barrel? Easy answer, he crowed to himself! The Arschgeige in front of him. Oh and let’s not forget, the Arschgeige in the other bed, the one who was currently calling for his attention. When they’d been fished out of the water, broken and bleeding, nearly drowned, Engie had asked them what they were thinking and Medic had been appalled when Pyro said “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” Neither of them had any sense of consequence.

He had mentioned to Engie,right then, in front of them, that Respawn needed a recalibration as apparently it had left out crucial brain matter from their scans. He shrugged. Engie had said it was ‘boys being boys’ and walked off chuckling. Engie didn’t have to put the ‘boys’ back together again. Thank God the waterfall had only been 30 feet tall. Thank God they never went to Niagara.

Medic’s frown deepened as he suddenly thought of a childhood friend that he hadn’t considered in ages, a year older than him, though smaller by a hand. They had snuck into an abandoned castle, found a hidden trapdoor, and despite warnings from the old wives in the village of ghosts and heinenkleed, they had gone down into the darkness. When the candles they’d stolen had blown out, they’d wandered, lost in the darkness, for what felt like forever. They emerged two days later to find the entire village looking for them. He still remembered the lectures of the older men, the allusions that had been cast on his and Hans' intelligence, allusions that had followed them nearly to adulthood. He stifled his laughter with a cough.

Medic turned away from them both, allowing the smile to wreath his lips before he carefully schooled his features and prepared to lecture them yet again about the price of stupidity and boyish bravado.

Chapter Text

Solly stood on the edge of the point, swaying back and forth. “I’m fine.” He answered Medic’s query, then swayed a bit more. “I prom…” Solly collapsed, his knees giving way, his body slumping gracefully in an all American faint. His rocket launcher fell from his limp fingers, laying on the ground beside him. Silence fell as the others stared in shock.

The loud ting of the point being captured was the only sound that broke the silence. Medic stepped forward finally, stared down at Solly as he lay still in the red dust and, seeming to realize that this was not a joke, bent over and laid his fingers against Solly’s neck, checking his pulse. “He is still alive.” He turned to look at the others, hands fluttering uselessly for a moment. “Does anyone recall if he’s been acting odd? Complaining about anything?”

Medic sprang into action then, pointing toward the base and helping Heavy pick the still unconscious man up. He frowned, then led the little procession across the battlefield and to his clinic. The BLU team, expecting a humiliation round, stayed hidden, but Medic could feel eyes on them as they passed by.

When they reached the clinic, Medic started an IV and began to examine Solly. He was in the clinic with him for what felt like forever before emerging and looking at his team, sitting in the row of chairs in front of the clinic doors.

“I cannot find anything physically wrong with him.” He rubbed his forehead with one hand. “His vitals are stable, his blood work is fine, everything is in order. But I cannot get him to wake up.” He was frowning heavily now. “I’ll ask again, do any of you know anything?”

The team eyed each other silently. Finally Scout lifted his hand. “Ummm, I don't know if this will help, but he said this morning that he had a fight with his roommate?” The young man’s voice rose at the end, as though questioning the statement. “Don’t he live with that weird wizard guy?”

Demo nodded. “Yeah, Merasmus. Slimy little git. He has a house on the edge of Teufort. Well, a shack really. Full of all sorts of weird shite, it is.”

Medic nodded gravely. He’d had dealings with Solly’s room mate before. “Perhaps it’s time you look into this. Take Heavy with you.”

Demo nodded solemnly. He and Heavy stood and headed for the truck. It was time to talk to Merasmus.

 

The bread truck pulled up in front of a ramshackle castle, Heavy and Demo getting out, weapons in hand. Demo looked over at Heavy. “Are you ready for this?” He shouldered his borrowed shotgun and walked up to the castle door, preparing to knock when the door swung open. “Oooooh, now. That’s not a bit spooky.” He looked over his shoulder, checking that Heavy was still there, and entered the dark hallway.

They’d walked through the hallway and into a huge dining room, the smell of mildew increasing the further they went, when a noise in the far corner caused them to both turn, weapons pointed in that direction.

Merasmus was standing in front of a small wooden door, his lanky form looking out of place in a pair of stained sweatpants and a shirt that had started life as white but was now dingy yellow. He looked up, startled, his stringy black hair flipping into his eyes. “Oh. Merasmus was not expecting company.” He grimaced. “Why are you here? What do you want from Merasmus? I don’t think I owe anyone money.”

Demo and Heavy simultaneously brought their shotguns to bear on the white trash wizard. “We know you have done something to Soldier. We want to know what.” Heavy’s voice was a low growl. “You will tell us, or all magic will leak from the holes Heavy puts in you.”

Merasmus backed into the wall behind him, his hands going up defensively. “Merasmus has done nothing to him. Nothing that he did not deserve anyway.” He straightened, looking offended. “You do not know what he did to me.”

Heavy started toward the skank looking wizard but Demo thrust out a hand and smiled, trying to look benign. “Why don’t ya tell us about it, lad?” He motioned for Heavy to back down and Heavy, taking the hint, stepped back a step and lowered his shotgun.

Merasmus visibly relaxed. “You would listen to Merasmus?” He frowned, then stepped forward. “Perhaps you are not as unreasonable as Soldier has said.” He waved his arm in a grand gesture, toward the table. “Sit down! I will make us some tea.” He scurried from the room, leaving the two mercenaries to warily approach the table. At last, Demo lowered himself into a chair, followed by Heavy, who looked worried as the chair creaked and groaned, but it held his weight.

Merasmus returned bearing a tray with a chintz patterned teapot and three mismatched cups. He set them all on the table, pulled the sugar bowl from the bulging pocket of his pants and placed it on the table. “I hope no one wants milk, it seems to have gone to the dark side.” He collapsed into a chair and reached for the teapot.

Demo pretended not to notice the way Merasmus’s hand shook as he poured the tea. “Soldier has this thing for raccoons.” Merasmus glanced from face to face. “He collects them, and I swear, they are all rabid or something. But he loves them. Treats them like little soldiers or something.” He stirred sugar into his tea then offered the spoon to Demo and Heavy.

“Anyway, this morning when I woke up, the raccoons had eaten my spell components and turned themselves into zombies. Can you imagine my surprise when I found a herd of rabid zombie raccoons in my library, munching on my irreplaceable books?” One hand flew out in a grandiose gesture, Merasmus seemed to tend toward those, Demo noted silently. “I had to put them all down. Again. It was horrible. You don’t understand. They were all glowing with the magic they’d eaten and those volumes were priceless.” Merasmus leaned against the table, massaging his forehead with his hand.

Demo glanced at Heavy, then back to Merasmus. The wizard began to speak again, obviously not done ranting yet. This time, when he swept his hand through the air, a large tome that had been laying on the table went whizzing through the air. He had the grace to look sheepish as it struck a wall and fluttered to the floor. “He accused me of not likeing them, of killing them on purpose.” Merasmus muttered into the still dining room. “So I made a voodoo doll.” He reached into his pocket and pulled the doll out, laying it next to the teapot. It was a perfect likeness of Solly, right down to the bright red jacket and tiny cardboard rocket launcher slung over one shoulder. It had a little bag over its head, and a helmet placed on the bag. “I knocked him out.” Merasmus grinned and poked the tiny figure with one finger.

Demo looked from the doll to Heavy and back again. Heavy cleared his throat. “I can have little doll?” He reached across the table for it and Merasmus looked at him for a moment, then snatched the doll up and held it to his chest.

“Why do you want it? And what will you give me for it?”

Heavy smiled. “Does not like little Soldat. Will owe you one favor. Muscle only. No killing.” He stared into Merasmus’s eyes for a moment and finally the smaller man relented. “One favor, no killing.” He reached across the table and shook Heavy’s hand, then slid the doll across the table to Heavy. “He’s yours. Tell him that he needs to have his things moved out by this weekend.”

Heavy nodded solemnly. “Will tell him.” He stood and looked over at Demo. “We go now. Have battle to fight.” Demo nodded and stood from the chair, eying both of them for a moment. At last he went out the door behind Heavy.

When they were both in the bread truck, Heavy pulled the doll out of his pocket and looked at it. “Time to wake Soldier up.” His big fingers began to pick at the knot holding the bag over the doll’s head. When at last he had it freed, he carefully began to pull the bag free. Demo, driving the truck, glanced over at him. “Mate, don’t you think you should wait until we get back to base?”

Heavy started to answer when Demo, still staring at the doll, hit a bump in the road. Heavy’s fingers were jarred, popping the doll’s head from it’s shoulders. Demo slammed on the brakes and they both stared down at the stuffed doll head, rolling from side to side on the floorboard of the truck.

Heavy looked over at Demo. “Uh-oh. Doktor will be angry.” He sighed, a deep heartfelt outpouring of breath. His shoulders sagged. He stared back down at the doll head, now coming to rest beside his boot. “Doktor will be very angry.”

Chapter Text

Pyro curled tighter under the blankets and peeked over the edge, wide eyes staring into the darkness of her room. She’d been dreaming, she knew that much, but the dream seemed so real to her. She’d been running through the forest, and at first, it had been a lovely green forest, but that had quickly morphed into a dark forest, trees and brush slowly dimming under the fading night sky. Then, she’d become aware of the footsteps behind her, the heavy thud of something crashing through the brush, chasing her. She hadn’t needed to turn around to know that, whatever it was, it was big and had huge gnashing teeth. What it was didn’t matter. Even if she laid eyes on it, it would be impossible to tell, just a huge blur of teeth and claws and dark fur interspersed with patches of reptilian hide. So, Pyro just ran. Then the cave had appeared and though she knew it was a bad idea to run inside, she hadn’t had a choice in the matter, her feet had simply taken her there without consulting her. She’d run through dark tunnels lit only by ghastly green phosphorescence, bats swirling around her fleeing body, her breath panting and echoing back to her, made harsher and louder by the dream acoustics of the caverns she now fled through.

She’d taken a side path, run panting and sweating until she could run no more, a dark wall of moisture beaded water rising in front of her, blocking her flight. She’d spun around and the thing was right there, all eyes and teeth and pain as it tore her to shreds, shaking it’s head like a cat with a mouse, huge splatters of blood splashing the walls around her until she’d woken up, gasping and screaming, tears running down her cheeks and fear closing her through and making her heart feel like it was going to jump out of her chest.

She’d screamed then, long and loud, the shrill tones echoing off the blank walls of her room, coming back to her and making her throw her hands over her ears at the din. She’d screamed until she couldn’t scream any more, then collapsed, weeping. And now, the dream over, she was trying to avoid going back to sleep, staring around her room for any sign that the beast had followed her from the dream world to this one.

She knew that was nonsensical thinking but it was dark and quiet and no one had come to comfort her when she’d screamed. She couldn’t get out of her bed for fear that it was hiding under there, couldn’t make it to the light switch on the wall, the dim shadows could contain any manner of monster. She groaned and pulled the blankets further over her shoulders, trying to be quiet in case something heard her.

She wished that someone would come but knew it didn’t do any good to wish such things, no one ever came. She shuddered and wrapped her arms around herself, pretending that they belonged to someone else, someone who had come to comfort her. It took a lot of imagination but finally, she began to relax. She curled down under her blankets,whimpering sleepily, her eyes drifting shut once more. Perhaps this time, she hoped, the dreams wouldn’t come. And if they did come, perhaps this time someone would hear her scream and care enough to check on her. She sighed as she drifted off, silence falling over the room once more.

Chapter Text

“You’re still not dead?” Engie plopped down on the couch in the common room, one of his booted feet resting on the RED Scout’s throat. He’d really thought the others would have killed the boy by this point. Engie leaned forward, resting his beer on the floor and examined the Scout closely. He was a wreck, his body covered in a mass of bruises and lacerations, blood leaking all over the concrete floor. Engie shook his head in wonder.

He moved his foot down, toed the boy’s hands aside. Engie sucked in a breath when he saw the mangled remains of the boy’s genitals, letting it out in a low whistle. “Damn, son, you pissed Medic off good, didn’t you?” He didn’t wait for a reply, simply moved his foot, letting the boy cup his hands between his legs once more. “Don’t worry, it’ll grow back.” He laughed at his own joke.

“Ya know, if I thought you’d hold still, I’d use you to hold my beer, but I think you might spill it for spite.” He laughed and leaned back against the soft couch cushions, resting the heels of his boots on the boy's rib cage. He turned on the tv with the remote and settled in to watch Jeopardy. He loved this show, yelling out the questions before the contestants ever could, heckling them when they got the answer wrong. He shouted out a wrong answer and dug his heels into the Scout’s ribs, twisting the edge of his boot heel until he drew out a low groan of pain.

“Awake now, are ya?” he chuckled. “Sorry ‘bout that but Popular Literature never was my forte.” Leaning into the cushions again, he pulled a pack of Marlboros out of his pocket and lit one. He watched the smoke lazily curl toward the ceiling. “I bet you really regret that smart mouth of yours on the field, don’tcha?” He flicked ash on Scout. “I bet you regret even more that you pissed your own team off so much they ain’t even gonna try to get ya back.” He took another deep drag, blowing smoke out his nose while a commercial jingle rang in the background. “Who the hell even eats Oscar Meyer weiners?” Engie asked the tv before once again becoming immersed in his show. At his feet, the Scout bled some more.

When the show finally ended, switching over to Bonanza, Engie leaned forward and ground the stub of his cigarette out on the back of Scout’s knee, drawing an agonized whimper from him. Engie grinned. “Ya know, people forget how soft the skin is back there.” He drew his lighter from his pocket, turning it sideways and flicking the little wheel, allowing the flame to heat the metal top. He leaned forward again, wrenched one of Scout’s arms up and lay the hot metal on his armpit. “That’s another good, soft place, right there.” Engie worked the boy over, the backs of his knees, the soft folds of his armpits and groin, the insides of his elbows. He chuckled out loud at the soft moans and attempts to scream.

“Still going, huh?” He lay the lighter to the side, letting it cool. “Let me give you some advice, son.” He roughly grabbed the boy’s chin, jerked his head up so he could peer into the blue eyes nearly hidden by swollen black flesh. “You ain’t made yourself no friends here. I’d change my ways if I was you. You see, when you die, respawn’ll grab ya and then we get the chance to catch you and do all this again.” He leaned in closer, searching the boy’s face for any signs of comprehension. “I know you’re still in there, listening. You aint that far gone yet.” He grinned, the expression hard and menacing on his normally placid face. “If we get you again, now that we know your team ain’t gonna come back for ya, I’ll have something special planned for you. I know the rest of the boys are thinking real hard about next time too.”

He laughed, a full throated belly laugh. “Especially Medic. I don’t know what you did to that man, but he’s got a full on hatred of you, boy.” He leaned closer. “Last I heard, he wanted to see if there was a way to permanently disable your vocal cords.” He chuckled again. “Not that I think that’s a bad idea, but nobody wants to wake up on his table with duck vocal cords instead of human, right?”

Engie shrugged and reached into his pocket, digging out a small knife. “Just remember all that when you respawn.” He flipped the knife open, light gleaming on the polished blade. “They sent me in here to talk to you before I send you back to your base.” He laid the open blade against the soft skin under Scout’s ear. “You got any last words, boy?”

Scout turned his head slightly, struggling to get his tongue to work. He could feel the congealed blood peel from the roof of his mouth, letting his tongue flop around like a worm in the cavern of his busted up throat. He whispered the words, then waited as the BLU Engineer leaned in closer to hear him. “Fuck you.” He spat the words out with a gob of blood and spittle, mangled lips stretching into a grin as the wad of nasty hit the side of Engie’s cheek and oozed down it.

Engie reached up and wiped the mess off his cheek, cleaning his hand on his overalls. His eyes narrowed in anger. He straightened his knees out and reached for his wrench, laying on the end table. “Boy, you just earned yourself another night of Southern Hospitality.”

Chapter Text

The first time they heard the wailing, the team thought it was a coyote or something. Those who were sleeping rolled over and went back to sleep, those who were awake, shrugged it off and drank another beer. It wasn’t really even worth remarking on, although Engie did comment about the mangy noisemakers when Demo asked why his eyes were so red over breakfast.

The next night, the wailing wasn’t far out in the desert, it was near the base, inside the fence. It started around midnight and continued until the false dawn lit the sky. Demo was first up, sitting at the breakfast table with an unspiked cup of coffee when Engie walked in. He rolled his one good eye over to where Engie was fixing his own cup.

“Banshees wailing around the walls last night.” Demo stirred his coffee, watching Engie carefully. “Not coyotes.”

Engie frowned as he carried his cup to the table. “What the hell are you talking about, Demo. Ain’t no such thing as banshees and you know it.” He sat down, staring forlornly into his cup. “We got a hole in the fence and they smelled the trash or something.” He sighed. “That’s all it was.”

Demo shook his head. “I know a banshee when I hear it. They’ve been following my family for near six hundred years. The last one I heard was the night my Da died. It’s not a sound you forget.” He looked into his cup, seeming to be searching the dark brown liquid for answers. “I think they’ve come for me. Promise you’ll watch over me ma, Engie.”

Engie looked up at him, utter disbelief on his face. “You’re kidding right? You think you’re gonna die and I should take care of your mom?” He laughed, a harsh discordant sound in the early morning stillness. “We get paid to die, repeatedly, every day. Get this nonsense out of your head, Demo. It’s bullshit.” He sipped carefully, watching Demo through the steam that curled up from his cup. “As for your mom, take care of her yourself. You’re near immortal, you know.”

Demo shook his head. “Maybe you’re right. I hope so.” He rubbed his forehead with the tips of his fingers. “It would make me feel better if you said you’d take care of my ma, though.” His dark eyes were pleading.

Engie nodded. “I’ll take care of her. Hell, I’m right fond of the old lady. She’s a spitfire.” Engie’s smile was kind. “Better now?” His smile broadened when Demo nodded. “Good. You want eggs and toast this morning?”

The conversation turned to other things after that, and ended altogether when Medic, always an early riser, wandered in wearing his pajama pants and a pair of scuffed slippers and not much else. They teased Medic for a bit about his state of undress then settled into their usual morning routine.
***
The battle that day was a lost cause from the moment it started. Engie couldn’t get his buildings to go up smoothly, he spent more time banging on them than he did anything else and that put him in a foul mood. He was used to things working the way they were supposed to, and when they didn’t he wanted to fix them. Problem was, he couldn’t tear his equipment down on the field, all he could do was bang on it and hope for the best.

He wasn’t the only one having problems. It seemed like the entire team was plagued with ill luck, from Medic getting headshot every time he neared uber and losing it all, to Scout losing the heel of one of his shoes and trying to run sideways for the rest of the match. Engie tried not to think about Demo’s banshees but the thought continued to plague him.

Every time he thought he’d forgotten about it, he would see a shadow in the periphery of his vision or a cloud of red dust would float by that, at first glance, appeared to be vaguely human shaped. Somehow, a black cat got onto the field and went darting around, hissing and squalling at everyone. It was obviously scared out of it’s wits but when it attacked Medic and shredded his forearms, they all knew something was wrong. Medic made a joke about respawn taking care of rabies and kept on fighting, but he was even more on edge than when the enemy Sniper was after him.

When the day finally drew to a close, everyone was glad. They could lose gracefully, go back to base, drink a few beers and put this whole day behind them. That’s exactly what they did, too. As they were walking back, all of them slump shouldered and exhausted, Demo jogged over to walk beside Engie.

“Could you take a look at my pill launcher?” He held out the offending weapon. “It’s not working right. Feels like the nades keep getting stuck or something. It’s got a delay that wasn’t there before.

Engie nodded. “Shoot one over there.” He pointed to an empty stretch of desert. “Let’s see what it’s doing.”

Demo nodded and pointed the grenade launcher toward the setting sun. He pulled the trigger and nothing came out. Suddenly, he pushed Engie to the side, throwing the launcher on the ground and himself down on top of it. “Incom…” He managed to scream that much of a warning before the thing blew, covering a stunned Engie in bits and pieces of his friend. Engie lay there, his ears ringing, cursing under his breath as he waited for the bits and pieces to sparkle and vanish as respawn picked them up. They did neither.

Engie pushed off the ground with a curse and started running toward respawn, a sinking feeling in his gut. When he got there, he sat on the bench in the corner and waited patiently for Demo to rematerialize. He was still sitting there, waiting anxiously with the rest of the team an hour later.

Finally Medic leaned around Heavy and cast a sympathetic look at Engie. “I don’t think he’s coming back. Perhaps you should go check the respawn logs and try to find out what went wrong while I go call Ms. Pauling?”

Engie looked up from the floor, his eyes hollow. “I’ll go do that.” He stood and walked out of the room, listening for the sound of wailing from outside.

Chapter Text

Engie’s rage was a palpable thing. You could feel it as soon as you walked into the workshop, could see it in the busted up pieces of sentries and dispensers that he’d beaten into their scrap components with his wrench. Medic ducked as a piece of said dispenser whirled past his head, ricocheted off the wall and fell to the floor among a pile of scrap.

Usually, Engie’s workshop was the epitome of neatness, Engie would stand for no less. That’s why the mess was so surprising to Medic. He’d known that the man was taking Demo’s death hard, felt like it was his fault, but this was a disaster zone the likes of which he hadn’t been prepared for.

Engie looked up from where he was currently bent over a teleporter, using a wrench to reduce it to a mangled sculpture of chaos. Medic frowned. “Engie, this was not your fault.” He started the sentence, intent on saying something that would help, but Engie waved the wrench threateningly at him. Medic stopped talking.

“How can you say this isn’t my fault?” Engie was snarling as he returned to beating the tele. “I’m the one who’s responsible for taking care of the equipment. Respawn is equipment. It malfunctioned. My fault.” Every second word was punctuated by another crash as he brought the wrench down on the tele again. “If it isn't my fault, whose fault is it?” He looked around at Medic again. “Is it your fault?” He shook his head. “No. You” crash “aren’t responsible” crash “for the mother” crash “fucking equipment.” crash crash crash

Medic sighed. “It’s not anyone’s fault. It happened.” He took a cautious step closer to Engie. “Would you put down the wrench so that we can talk?” Another cautious step. He was close enough now to see the dark circles under Engie’s eyes, the paleness of his face, the way his arm, slowly lowering, trembled with exhaustion.

“Please.” Medic took yet another step, hoping that he didn’t get his brain knocked out of his head in the process. Mercenaries weren’t easy to deal with in the best of times, and this was certainly not the best of times. He reached out slowly and took Engie’s hand, then brought his other hand around and took the wrench, laying it on the splintered wooden remains of Engie’s workbench.

“This is not anyone’s fault, Engie. Certainly not yours. You have been following proper protocols, right? You have been doing the maintenance checks, have you not?”

Engie nodded and he continued, keeping his voice low and calm, even as he lay his hand on the shorter man’s shoulder. “So, how could you have predicted this? Are you suddenly psychic? Able to tell when a machine will break before it does?” He allowed a small smile to cross his lips. “I thought not. Therefore, you had no way of knowing.”

Engie’s throat moved as he swallowed. “I should have seen this coming, Doc. Should have known something was wrong. I mean, it’s not like that damned banshee was here for the beer.”

Medic shook his head. “There was no banshee. You and I both know that was a myth. Besides, if the banshee was real, then there was nothing that could have been done to stop what happened. Banshees do not come for nothing.”

Engie sighed deeply. “I don’t know what I’m gonna tell his Mom. I promised I’d take care of her, and here I am, afraid to even talk to her.”

Medic touched his cheek, forcing him to look up into the deep blue eyes staring down at him, sympathy and sorrow written on Medic’s features. “I spoke to her. She was proud that he died in the family business. She said that he went out as a demoman is supposed to go, with a bomb in his hand and friends nearby.”

Engie shook his head. “Friends wouldn’t have told him to shoot a weapon that had been acting up. A friend wouldn’t have just sat on a bench waiting for him to come back. I should have moved quicker, Doc. Should have torn the respawn machine down and figured out how to get him back. This is bullshit, Doc!”

Medic nodded as Engie started to get angry all over again. He pulled the man close to him, wrapped his arms around Engie and held him close. Engie tried to pull back but Medic simply tightened his grip on the man. “It’s okay to mourn, my friend.”

Engie tried to push away once again. Medic could feel him beginning to tremble and then the tears came, great heaving sobs of loss and grief that shook through his body like a tsunami. Still, Medic held him, allowing him to sob. When finally the sobs dried up and became gasping whimpers, Medic led him over to the couch and sat him down, noting the red eyes and stuffy nose, the way that Engie’s eyes drooped now that the hard part was over.

Medic sat down beside him and wrapped an arm around his shoulders, unsurprised when the normally undemonstrative engineer curled into his shoulder and promptly fell asleep. Medic sat in the ruined workshop, holding the small man close, wondering what he could have done to keep Demo from dying. After all, he knew it wasn’t Engie’s fault because he blamed himself for the death of their friend and brother.