The road was bumpy- everything in the truck seemed to bounce and shake just a little whenever a wheel met a pothole. Well- everything except for the watch. It remained hanging at the end of its taut chain, almost seeming to hover. It was a pretty watch, yeah- but it managed to be almost hypnotic when the sunlight played over its engraved silver surface. Jacob had found himself looking at it a lot.
"Thinkin'about him, again?" the other man in the truck said as he turned them down a slightly less bumpy dirt road.
"What do you think, hardhat?" the younger man replied, his tone unusually subdued.
"I think," Raymond started, stealing a quick glance at the former Scout before returning his attention to the road, "a penny for yer thoughts."
Jacob smirked just a little at that- a small, somewhat devious half-smile; it was all he could manage at the moment. "Make it a quarter, and you've got a deal." A faint grumble from the former Engineer prompted further 'bargaining' from the younger man. "C'mon hardhat, don't tell me you can't afford it with that big retirement bonus BLU gave ya."
The Texan returned a small, indulgent chuckle along with a half-smile of his own, before reaching into his pocket. A quarter was soon fished out, and flipped to Jacob, who quickly deposited it in his own pocket. "Alright, let's hear it."
The younger man, despite his earlier apparent eagerness, hesitated a moment before speaking. "Doc was, uh
" he paused- a rare moment where he decided to truly think before he spoke. "Doc was
crazy, wasn't he..?"
"Boy, I believe that would be putting it lightly," Raymond stated.
"No, I know," Jacob said, somewhat flustered as he realized the stupid wording of his own question. "I mean
how the hell does someone like that turn into- into him?" Life wasn't like a comic book, after all, where you could always tell right away who the bad guys were, and they were bad 'just because'.
'Just because' wasn't good enough.
"What do you mean 'someone like that'..?" Raymond questioned, seeming genuinely puzzled. That didn't surprise the former Scout, really- the Texan was just a curious kind of guy, and it was no wonder he was so smart- no wonder he wanted answers. Jacob, however, was a little reluctant to give that answer, and it felt as though they had gone miles down the road before he finally offered the engraved silver pocket watch to his former teammate.
It was a good thing they weren't going very fast, and it was a good thing they were way out in the country with no traffic around, because the Texan hit the brakes and brought the truck to a dead stop in the middle of the road when he opened the cover of the watch. Yeah- the Scout's reaction had been something like that, too.
He would never forget the moment that watch was first placed in his hands- or at least the moment he was pretty sure the watch was placed into his hands. The boy had been a little distracted at the time and rightfully so, he reasoned. Who wouldn't have been distracted with their team getting bulldozed, and a fucking bullet in their guts?
Oh, had it hurt, too. The Scout had been hurt before in battle, and Fleischer had even saved him from dying that one time (probably more than that one time, though that was pretty damn close). He was certain that he was boned that time, though. He was panicked, and terrified, and huddled up in the infirmary bathroom, waiting to get found and killed by RED. He had felt like a baby for hiding, but he had just seen the RED Sniper put a bullet in Yuri's head. Donell had been set on, and as it turns out, scrumpy and gunpowder burn pretty damn well. The man had managed to take a dive into the canal- and hadn't come back up out of the water.
The Scout had always considered himself fast, and tough, and nobody could beat him, right? His confidence had wavered considerably, however, when faced with the entire RED team. He was tough, but he was only one guy, and he was bleeding all over the place.
Jacob imagined it was the blood loss (and, he hated to admit, his own terror) that suddenly had the infirmary feeling so much colder than usual, and the sound of boots thumping on the tile outside of the bathroom really didn't make him feel much better. It also didn't help that he couldn't seem to hold his pistol steady, no matter how hard he tried.
It was Fleischer that opened the door, though. He had an expression on his face that was rare for the man- he looked terrified, too. That quickly changed, though. The moment the man had seen him, his expression had grown serious, and calm, like he knew just what to do and everything was going to be okay.
Jacob had the feeling that look was all for his benefit, though. He had seen the look on the doctor's face- he was scared. He managed to keep his voice low, and calm, and even tried to reassure the runner. The Scout was barely able to make out the words over the sound of his own heart pounding, but they managed to instill just a little comfort.
Then, the German took his Medipack off, and Jacob tried to tell him that he was hurt, too, but the man didn't give him the chance. The pack was just placed in his hands, along with something else, and then the man was out and the door was closed, and he was in the dark, again.
It wasn't long before he realized that he was clutching the Medipack tight, and he wasn't sure whether the warmth of the device was being produced by it, or was retained from being pressed to the doctor's back. Either way, it was helping; the pain in his gut was starting to fade, and the air didn't feel so damned chill against his skin, anymore.
That didn't stop him from getting goosebumps, however, when he heard the infirmary door slam open. He could soon hear shouting in German, and the sound of two sets of boots on the tile floor. The Scout knew that Fleischer didn't carry a pistol, but he heard the sound of one being fired- and then everything became very quiet. Everything, that is, except for the sound of his own racing heart. He was quite sure that whoever was outside- whoever had survived the gunshot- could hear it.
His fears were only slightly allayed, however, when he heard the voice of another RED outside. Then again, that meant that there was another RED outside, and it was their Scout- that prick- of all people. To make matters worse, the runner's voice was soon joined by that of the enemy Spy.
Their Scout sounded panicked, and their Spy, as always, sounded calm, collected, and cold, and Jacob jumped just a little when he heard the click of the Frenchman's knife being opened.
"What're you gonna do with that?" the RED Scout questioned, his voice drenched with panic and terror. "You're gonna kill him!?"
"He is already dying, imbecile," the Spy stated. "Can't you see 'ow 'e is suffering? A man stabbed in ze 'eart doesn't live for more than a second." There was a long pause, and the Frenchman's voice seemed chillingly neutral as he said, "this will all be over soon, and you'll feel much better."
Jacob knew well enough after what had happened to Weisner that the RED Spy was a silent killer- but he still imagined he could hear the sound of the man's knife sinking into flesh, bringing an abrupt end to a line of loud, ragged breaths. He heard the Frenchman send his team's Scout off- heard the runner's footsteps as he left the infirmary- and then promptly heard another set of footsteps, much more calm and steady, approach his own hiding place.
This was it, then. The Scout had nowhere to run to, and he'd dropped his pistol somewhere in the dark when he'd taken hold of Fleischer's Medipack. He had only just thought to grope around for the weapon when the door was very suddenly kicked open, causing him to jump and flooding the room with light. The Spy, quite to the contrary, already had his own gun drawn, and was pointing the revolver straight at Jacob's head as though he had known exactly where the runner was going to be.
The BLU did still a glance of something behind the Spy, however- Fleischer's unmoving form, lying on the tile in a dark crimson pool. He squeezed his eyes tightly shut, and just prayed that the Spy would just kill him quickly.
There was no 'bang', though- there wasn't a gunshot at all and Jacob finally- warily- opened his eyes to see that not only had the Frenchman holstered his gun, but he was calmly lighting a cigarette. The boy found his eyes wandering back to the infirmary, and to where Fleischer's body was lying, but his attention was quickly snapped back to the RED.
"Can you stand, boy?" the man questioned before taking a drag from his cigarette, as though he was just having a casual conversation. Everything about him spoke confidence, from his posture to the way he almost lazily exhaled the smoke from his little indulgence.
It took a moment for the Scout to even realize what had been said, and then to try and think of an answer. Several moments must have passed since the Medipack had first been handed to him, because the sharp, throbbing pain of his gunshot wound had been reduced to a dull ache. He felt a little light-headed, still, but he did finally give a small, tense nod in reply. His legs felt shaky beneath him, but he did manage to stand- even under the weight of the Frenchman's gaze.
"We 'ave your Engineer," the Spy stated, raising his hand to silence Jacob before he could protest. "Before you ask, oui, 'e is alive, and 'e is not injured. Ze remainder of your team, I'm afraid, could not be reasoned with."
The Scout said nothing in return, only glancing to his team's Medic, lying unmoving on the floor. It was depressing to think that that was the most relaxed he had ever seen the man, and if he could manage to ignore all of the blood he could almost imagine that maybe he was just asleep.
"You think we did the right thing, hardhat?" Jacob finally asked as the Texan handed the watch back to him. The object was carefully closed, and quickly placed back in the young man's pocket.
"Seemed like the only right thing to do," the former Engineer finally replied, putting his foot back on the pedal to continue down the road. "I never did see him get any mail when the supply trains came in," the man continued, "don't reckon there was any family to send a body to."
Jacob almost inquired about the man's son- about the little kid smiling in that picture while his dad led the big black horse he was sitting on by its halter. Hell, Fleischer was even smiling in that photo- looked awake, and alive, and happy. "What the fuck happened?" the former Scout finally asked.
Raymond just shook his head in reply, like he didn't rightly know. "Couldn't tell ya, Jake," he said, "but you better watch that mouth'a yours around my little girl."
The runner sighed in response, perhaps a little more dramatically than necessary, but did give in with a nod. He was grateful, after all- the man's family was taking him in. He wouldn't have known what the hell to do with himself, otherwise, because he sure had nobody to go back to- and apparently neither had the doctor.
No family had claimed the man's body, and there had been nothing resembling a will in the Medic's room, or the infirmary- not that the League necessarily would have honored any special requests. It had still seemed a little irreverent for a body bag buried out in the wilderness behind the League's base complex to serve as the man's final resting place. It was flat, and empty out there, and the only company kept by the stone-covered grave was an unmarked wooden cross that Raymond had fashioned- and Jacob couldn't help but wonder if the man had only done so to put his mind at ease.
"Thanks again, hardhat," the runner finally said, his voice unusually quiet- and unusually serious. That was just because he really meant it, though. He had a lot to thank the man for, in truth; the cross, the company, the reassurance, and taking him in. Hell, it would almost be like having a family- a real family- and Jacob couldn't help but finally give a little smile at that. He knew it would take a little time, yet, but
but, things were going to be alright.