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Prefer You

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Roadhog awoke feeling uneasy. Turning slowly in his bedroll, he blinked behind his mask and tried to identify the source of his unease. The bedroll next to his was empty. So that was it.

Sitting up, he spotted his companion some paces away. They’d made their camp at the base of a tree atop a steep ravine - high ground and cover, the perfect spot. Junkrat now was hunched some paces away, perched along the edge of the bluff, his one remaining leg hanging free while the stump of the other lay cradled in his lap. Even at this distance, Roadhog could see the tremor in his shoulders and hear the soft, hitching breaths and whimpers of pain. He huffed to himself and shook his head. The kid was tough, but this was tougher.

Roadhog snatched a cannister of hogdrogen and pulled himself to his feet, trying to ignore the creaks and protests of his aching bones. Approaching the precipice, he could see the tracks in the dust where Junkrat had dragged himself away. As he reached the edge he noticed Junkrat’s shoulders tighten, the whimpering and pained breaths retreating into his throat. The kid was a wreck, curled asymmetrically around his stumps, his head cocked to the side at an odd angle.

“You’re gonna fall,” Roadhog grunted, heaving himself down next to his partner.

“‘M fine,” Junkrat mumbled, turning his face away. Roadhog sighed and unclasped his mask, wincing as the acrid air filled his lungs. He gently palmed the back of his partner’s neck, pulling the mask across his face as delicately as he could manage. The junker’s neck was so scrawny that this was the only way to fit the mask securely over his face, his neck and skull cradled in Roadhog’s palm as he pulled the mask tight. With his free hand Roadhog clicked the clasp on the cannister, releasing the healing gas into the mask.

“Breathe,” he rumbled, feeling his hand rise and fall as the junker did so. Junkrat exhaled with a shudder, his remaining hand gripping tightly at the stump of his arm.

“Stop that,” Roadhog scolded, perhaps a bit too harshly. He withdrew the mask and replaced it over his face, clasping it into place with a practiced motion. He set the cannister in the dust beside them and turned to look at his partner. Junkrat’s eyes were clenched shut, his mouth twisted into a grimace. He took a deep, shuddering breath as the healing effects of the hogdrogen seeped their way through his veins.

“Hurts,” he whimpered.

“I know,” Roadhog replied, placing a big arm across Junkrat’s shoulders. They sat that way in silence for quite some time, Roadhog tracking his partner’s evening breaths as the sky paled in the distance. After a while, Junkrat seemed to relax a little, his shoulders slumping as he scratched at his stumps absently.

“It’s over, ain’t it, mate?” Junkrat asked softly when the silence had become too much for him.

Roadhog looked at him questioningly. Junkrat continued.

“Can’t walk. Can’t shoot. Can’t build my bombs. It’s over, mate. I’m done for.”

Roadhog didn’t say anything, just absently stroked his partner’s arm with his thumb.

“It was stupid anyways to ever think I’d make it out,” Junkrat kept on, staring emptily at the landscape before them, “Never gonna jack a freighter, never gonna see the world, never gonna steal the crown jewels or any o’ that…” he trailed off miserably, drawing his knee to his chest and burying his face in the crook of his arm. “Hell, I’m never even gonna leave the outback. I’m done for, mate.”

Roadhog rarely had words to spare for a typical conversation. For this… he was at a loss. He continued his ministrations on his partner’s shoulder, hoping to provide at least some silent comfort. Junkrat huffed petulantly, perhaps taking his silence as agreement.

“One thing I can’t figure out, mate…” he continued, raising his bloodshot eyes to the horizon once more, “Is why ya haven’t left me yet. Yer paid, I’m done for. You should leave.”

Roadhog huffed, “Don’t want to.” The words felt dumb and lacking even before he said them.

“Well, ya should, mate!” Junkrat flared, “What’re ya wasting yer time with a drongo like me for? A fuckin’ stupid cripple got ‘imself blown up! You could go, mate, you could leave this fuckin’ place, be faster ‘n quieter anyways without me slowin’ ya down, without havin’ to be my bodyguard ‘n all that. You could rule this fuckin’ world, Hoggy, don’ know why yer still bloody here!”

Roadhog blinked behind his mask. “I want to be.”

“Like hell ya do!” Junkrat shouted, his eyes brimming with tears, “I’ve outlived my usefulness, mate, I’m fuckin’ broken!”

“No, you’re not.” Roadhog seized the junker’s shoulders, trying to shake some sense into him.

“I am! I am. I’m broken, mate…”

Junkrat crumbled into Roadhog’s chest, heaving and sobbing hysterically. Roadhog held him tightly, stroking along his spine as delicately as he could manage. He waited a long moment, letting his partner expel his feelings without judgement or response. When Junkrat’s sobs began to lessen, he had finally found the words to express what he needed to say.

“You’re not broken,” he began gently. He kneaded his palm into Junkrat’s back when he felt the soft sobbing crescendo in response. “You’re beat. You took a hit. You’re not broken.”

Junkrat withdrew from the embrace, snivelling bashfully. “Ain’t gonna recover from this, mate,” he huffed, waving the stump of his arm in the air.

“It’s not gonna break you, either.”

Junkrat squinted, hissing petulantly. “And how do you know?”

“Because.” Roadhog pulled himself to his feet, towering over his partner. He pointed at Junkrat. “I know you, Jamison Fawkes. I’d take you, beaten and blasted to pieces, over every sorry sod in this sorry fucking world.”

And there it was; the fire, which for weeks had been dull and lifeless in Junkrat’s eyes, had sprung to life once more. He stammered, staring raptly up at Roadhog.

“Ya really mean that, mate?” he whispered.

Roadhog grunted and nodded. Junkrat burst into a grin that quickly faded.

“Still can’t fuckin’ walk, though, mate. Missin’ a leg.”

Roadhog shrugged, bending down and lifting Junkrat into his arms (“Oi!”).

“You’re a junker,” he rumbled, starting back to camp, “Build one.”

“Heeeeyyyy…” Junkrat was grinning again, and that was a good sign, “That’s a fine idea, mate. And an arm. An arm that shoots flames and lights fuses.”

“Now you’re thinking.”

“I’m the boss! It’s my job to do the thinking.”

Roadhog heaved his partner down onto the dusty bedroll. Junkrat was still grinning, his eyes unfocused.

“Oooh Hoggy,” he said, “This hogdrogon’s a trip, though, ain’t it, mate? ‘M feelin’ funny.”

“Get some rest,” Roadhog rumbled.

“Good idea, mate.”

Junkrat closed his eyes. Roadhog settled down on his own bedroll and closed his eyes, thinking he might get some extra rest as well.

“Oi, Hoggy?” Junkrat slurred after a moment, “Ya really mean what ya said, ‘bout preferin’ me over the rest o’ the world?”

Roadhog grunted.

“Ya weren’t just… tryin’ ta make me feel better, or nothin’? Ya really meant it?”

Roadhog huffed, “Yeah.”

He heard a soft shuffling, and then felt Junkrat’s bony body squirm up against his own. He wrapped a big arm around his companion, pulling him tightly to his chest. Junkrat mewed and tittered at that.

“Good,” Junkrat smiled, pressing a soft kiss against the snout of Roadhog’s mask before burying his face in his chest. “‘Cause I prefer ya too, mate.”

Roadhog drew his arms around Junkrat. The sun rose over the outback as they passed back into sleep, curled together in the shade of their tree, the two of them against the rest of the world.