There was an old television set at Teufort. It stood abandoned in a dusty corner when they arrived at base, and no one knew who might have put it there. A rickety wooden cabinet with a tiny inset screen, brown tobacco-spit lacquer melted and re-congealed in sticky patches where Pyro once got too close, it was ancient and beat-up, unworthy of the place of honour Scout had cleared for it in front of the couch.
When Scout had plagued Engineer to fix it so he could watch his games, Engineer had thumped it once with his wrench and declared it a lost cause. Scout, whose family had never owned a TV of their own, set it up anyway. The picture was finicky at best, frizzling so the Red Sox were more often than not playing through an unseasonal snowstorm, and the sound reception was poor, never louder than a staticky murmur like people talking two rooms over. They always kept it muted, making up the onscreen conversations themselves during movie nights until Scout was wiping away tears of laughter from Heavy and Medic’s spirited narration of Wuthering Heights.
At this time of the evening, though, it was all old newscast reruns, so Scout was surprised to find Soldier slumped in the couch. The helmet was pushed low over his eyes, and Scout wondered if Soldier was even paying attention or if he felt compelled to sit there out of a misplaced sense of patriotism, because watching TV was the American thing to do even when there was nothing interesting on. Especially when there was nothing interesting on. The flickering greyscale illumination made him look old, somehow, like a bleached-out photograph from an earlier, better time.
Carefully balancing his can of soda, Scout swung himself over the backrest and thumped down into the patchy old sofa, another abandoned heirloom hastily mended and returned to service.
Soldier didn’t look up at the sound of that hated nickname and Scout didn’t really know what else to say. He and Soldier never talked, only yelled at each other at the top of their voices whenever they were in the same room for more than five minutes, but it didn’t feel right leaving Soldier by himself like this with just the TV for company. He settled for watching the TV half-heartedly too, sipping his Bonk! slowly to cover the awkward silence.
Soldier had turned the channel to a political broadcast, some stock-photo campaign rally with a stiffly smiling man in a two-piece suit and water-combed hair addressing his host of banner-waving supporters. The sound was off, as always, and Scout had never paid much attention to politics, but he thought he could recognise the speaker even so.
Having finished his soda and pitched the empty can into the trash on the second try, Soldier still not paying him any attention, Scout was left feeling increasingly uncomfortable just sitting there bouncing his legs nervously. He decided to try a safe topic and nodded casually at the screen.
“Yeah, so I heard he’ll be runnin’ for the election?”
Apparently, it was the wrong thing to say.
“TRAITOR! THERE IS NO HONOUR IN PEACE!”
“Ma says she’ll vote for him.” Ignoring the apparent non sequitur, Scout stayed undauntedly committed to the conversation subject, forging on for lack of a better course of action. “She says he’s promised to end the draft, and that’s somethin’ at least—fuck, what?!”
He’d caught the small movement out of the corner of his eye, but even without looking he’d have sensed the stare. Soldier wasn’t watching the TV anymore, Soldier was watching him, and Scout got the distinct feeling that Soldier wasn’t very fucking impressed with what he was seeing.
“AND WHY AREN’T YOU DOING YOUR PATRIOTIC DUTY, MAGGOT?!”
Fucking hell, not this again. “What the fuck’re you talkin’ about, Solly?” But he already knew, of course.
Soldier’s hand shot out, closing a fist around his dog tags before Scout could think to move out of the way. He held them up before Scout’s face, rattling them together to underscore his point like Scout was some kind of idiot.
“MANDATORY MILITARY SERVICE, MAGGOT!”
“Fuck that!” Scout scowled at the implied insult. “I ain’t going. Can’t drink, can’t vote, but I’m old enough to die in a fuckin’ jungle somewhere cuz some old guy in a suit that costs more than my ma earns in a month says it’s my duty? Fuck that shit!”
Soldier continued to remain stubbornly unconvinced by the obvious logic of this argument, as he had all the other times before. “IT IS A FEDERAL OFFENSE TO EVADE CONSCRIPTION!”
“I’m not evadin’, I’m avoidin’! That’s a legally significant distinction!” And he’d got his older brothers to explain that pretty damn carefully too, going over the confusing parts again and again until Scout was certain he knew all the right words and could ape them back correctly at anyone in uniform.
They’d had this argument before, Soldier unrelenting and Scout unrepentant, and it usually ended with Scout flailing in a headlock. Wanting to get the upper hand for once, with no one else present to overhear, Scout flashed Soldier a toothy grin and finally let him in on the secret. “I told the recruiters I was a fag, that got them off my case pretty fuckin’ quick.”
Soldier had been about to add another deafening counter but was abruptly speechless, and the clack of teeth as his jaw snapped shut in shock felt pretty damn gratifying to Scout. His smug satisfaction only lasted a moment, though. Soldier cocked his head slowly, then leaned forward like he was studying a particularly puzzling weapons-assembly manual, looking hard at Scout, through Scout, even though the rim of the helmet was in the way. It made Scout fidget nervously again to have him that close and so quietly, uncharacteristically intense. He looked down, unable to meet where he thought Soldier’s eyes were located under the helmet, and suddenly felt very stupid even though he didn’t know why.
“YOU.” Soldier barked suddenly, making Scout jump. “ARE NOT. A HOMOSEXUAL!” His fingers were still tangled in Scout’s dog tags and one of them jabbed him hard in the chest with each couple of words, fingertip tapping the punctuation against his sternum.
How could he be so sure? Scout bristled, furious and frightened at being caught out by fucking Soldier, tendrils of apprehension curling coldly in his gut at the implicit threat of five years in federal prison. “Fuck you, you don’t know that! I totally could be!” But he could tell Soldier wasn’t buying it, and if he couldn’t fool Soldier, he couldn’t fool anyone.
Soldier was right in his face, close enough that the steel edge of the helmet pressed painfully into the bridge of his nose and Scout could feel hot humid air as Soldier exhaled. He didn’t move, though, refusing to back down from this confrontation, to give up and leave the team with no payment and a one-way ticket to either hell in prison or hell on earth. He knew what was coming, heard Soldier draw in a breath for that last deluded, victorious rant to be delivered right in his face like a manic drill sergeant, and he braced himself and swore he wouldn’t start fucking crying like the fag he was pretty sure he wasn’t.
It was almost as if Soldier hesitated for a second then, holding back his breath like he wasn’t really savouring his success but suddenly realising that winning this argument meant losing Scout, only he wasn’t because he had to be fucking ecstatic to finally get rid of the loud-mouthed waste-of-space pain-in-the-ass he’d spent the past five months yelling at every waking second. Scout clenched his teeth and wished Soldier would just get on with it already.
Jabbing his chest again, hard enough to rock him back, Soldier did. And it was totally not what Scout was expecting him to say.
“PROVE IT, MAGGOT!”
He knew he hadn’t heard that right. “What the fuck?”
Shock made him yield as Soldier suddenly pulled him forward by his dog tags, the ball chain biting painfully into the soft back of his neck until he had no choice but to follow. He ended up landing on top of Soldier, both of them sprawled across the couch in an ungainly tangle of arms and legs, Scout flailing in alarm and Soldier holding on tightly to the tags, almost choking Scout, as his other hand came up under Scout’s shirt.
“What the fuck?!” This couldn’t be fucking happening, had Soldier lost his fucking mind?
And then Soldier let go of the dog tags and lifted his hand away. Scout knew Soldier would beat him in a fight; he’d been roughed up often enough, held down struggling and cursing while Soldier screamed army teachings in his face, made to run laps and do push-ups until his breathing became ragged with exhaustion and Soldier wasn’t even breaking a sweat keeping up with him, and he was unsure if this was another of Soldier’s tricks or if he should escape now that Soldier wasn’t restraining him anymore. And then he saw Soldier’s expression under the helmet as he said again, “PROVE IT,” and Scout knew a fucking dare when he heard one.
“Fuck you,” he spat at Soldier and bucked his hip a little against Soldier’s stomach to show he wasn’t afraid of any fucking dare and that he could totally be a fag if it kept him out of an army uniform. When Soldier’s expression didn’t change in the slightest and Scout got the feeling the joke was on him, he did it again, grinding down harder.
“YOU ARE PATHETIC, PRIVATE!” Soldier informed him, but there was an odd twinge in his voice, and then his hands were back on Scout, under his clothes, sliding smoothly against his skin. The calloused fingertips explored the dips and valleys across his toned stomach and tickled the strands of curly dark hair, and Scout felt like he couldn’t breathe, even though Soldier wasn’t constricting the dog tag chain around his throat anymore, when the fingers dipped lower, brushing the inside of his waistband and then brushing his cock.
This was a pretty fucking weird dare, but Scout wasn’t about to back down and let Soldier send him off to the real army, and Soldier’s hand around his cock wasn’t as bad as he’d have imagined, squeezing just right to make it feel kind of really good. He heard the sound of a zipper and felt cool air on his skin where Soldier tugged down his pants a little, and then Soldier shifted his hips and there was another tiny zipper-sound, and Scout looked away so he wouldn’t have to see that it wasn’t just Soldier’s fingers sliding against his cock anymore.
“I fuckin’ told you I could be,” he ground out at Soldier instead.
Soldier didn’t reply; one of his hands was curled around their cocks, pumping, already slick with sweat and precum, the other had slipped out of sight, pushing down his fatigue pants from behind. Scout closed his eyes and really didn’t want to think about the implications of that while he was bucking into Soldier’s firm grip. He didn’t think Soldier had intended for this to happen when he’d started their argument or even when he’d made his dare, had actually wanted Scout to get this close and see him vulnerable like this—or maybe he had wanted it, in a secret, shameful way he’d never let on. Scout suddenly realised with a rush of relief that while Soldier knew his damning secret, he knew Soldier’s too now, and the threat of mutually assured destruction would prevent Soldier from making good on his promise to ship Scout off to a warzone where people died for real.
Soldier seemed like he was pretty fucking into this too. He still wore his helmet, so it was hard for Scout to tell, but each exhalation he made ended in a small throaty sound that probably wasn’t from pain. Scout was just beginning to feel that he could be okay with this too, lying across Soldier and having his cock cradled in that warm palm, bucking against Soldier’s slick length, when Soldier twisted his body without warning, rolling onto his side in a way that caused Scout to slide halfway down behind him, squeezed between Soldier’s back and the backrest of the couch.
He groaned at the loss of Soldier’s hand around his cock, and it wasn’t a very comfortable position on his side behind Soldier, closed in by his massive body. “Hey—!”
Soldier’s fatigue pants were halfway down his thighs, and bending his knee to hook one heavy boot heel around Scout’s legs caused Scout’s cock to rub across the bared skin of his ass in a way that was about as subtly suggestive as a bat to the head. Scout tried to shift away, comprehension dawning; pretending to be queer to dodge the draft was one thing, but he was pretty sure he hadn’t signed up for this.
Ignoring his weak sounds of protest, Soldier reached back to grab his shoulder, and as Scout was dragged forward their bodies met just right, the firm pressure against the tip of Scout’s cock giving way to a warm tight slickness all around that made Scout’s mouth fall open and his eyes flutter shut. He pushed his hips up, continuing the motion by himself, until he was all the way in and Soldier’s hand was no longer guiding him but bunching up Scout’s shirt in a fist and Soldier’s breath was coming in short hard gasps like he couldn’t breathe properly with Scout’s weight pressed so tightly against his body.
“Oh fuck—” Scout didn’t know what to do next. He really wished he could see the expression on Soldier’s face, but it was turned away from him and covered by a large hand holding on to the helmet, jamming it down hard across Soldier’s eyes. He was at a loss, wishing he could ask if he was doing this right, if he was doing something wrong, but all that came out was a choked whine.
“Prove it,” Soldier said again, and this time it didn’t sound like his voice at all, just a low scratchy groan, less like an order and more like please.
Scout moved because he had to do something, pulling out and then sliding back in because he couldn’t help himself, and both of them moaned at the sensation, Scout drawing out a breathless oh fuuuuuck and Soldier biting down on a sound Scout had never heard someone else make before, had never in his craziest fantasies imagined Soldier capable of making. So he did it again, and it was just as wonderful the second time, and by the third thrust they were finding a rhythm, Scout gripping Soldier’s uniform webbing to pull himself into the other man again and again.
It was horribly disgusting and perverted and perfect in a way Scout had never imagined. He knew he was babbling like a total fucking idiot and he just couldn’t care less. “Oh fuck. Oh fuck, yes. Oh fuckin’ yes.” He was already there, right at the edge, like he was about to die and go to heaven only in reverse order, and he knew he really better hope to die or Soldier would fucking kill him for this. He moaned against Soldier’s back, inhaling the unfamiliar scent of his sweat with each ragged gasp, imagining he could hear Soldier’s quiet sounds of pleasure under the rhythmic squealing of abused sofa springs.
Soldier, perhaps sensing Scout couldn’t last, freed his hand from Scout’s shirt to fist it around his own jutting cock, pumping furiously in double time to Scout’s thrusts. One, two, three final, hard jerks, and he was clenching around Scout, a strangled grunt escaping him that sounded almost like Scout’s name only Soldier didn’t ever call him ‘Scout’ to his face so it couldn’t be.
Scout whined at the feeling, pushed himself deep inside Soldier, and came as well, straining against Soldier’s broad back. He might have been screaming Soldier’s name but he couldn’t tell over the rolling machine-gun roar of his own heartbeat. He did hear the small panting sobs afterwards, as he lay limp and spent against Soldier’s warm body, and felt his face flush burning hot with embarrassment.
It was very suddenly very quiet, the hard staccato rasps of their synchronised breathing the only noise in the room and beyond, and Scout wondered with pangs of rising panic if the whole fucking base had just heard him fucking Soldier.
“Ooooh shit,” he groaned, which seemed to be the only truly adequate response.
Soldier apparently agreed, or maybe he suddenly remembered who he was and who Scout was and that this had been a fucking huge mistake and should never, ever have happened. He pushed Scout off roughly and got up in one swift movement, pulling up his pants before he was even completely out of the couch.
For a moment they were staring wide-eyed at each other, Soldier standing at the door with his drooping fatigues clutched tightly, Scout sprawled across the couch with his cock still hanging out like a total fucking idiot, both of them for once at an utter loss for words.
Scout didn’t know what to do, sensing in Soldier a raw emotional wound suddenly exposed and bleeding. It occurred to him that, while Soldier couldn’t send him off now, he could still resign himself, leaving Teufort and Scout behind, and he really didn’t want that, had never really wanted that. It was a sobering, frightening thought.
He felt the moment stretch between them, knew they were balancing on the edge of something huge and horrible, this brittle breathless second about to burst and plunge them into a yawning chasm of don’t fucking go there. He had to say something clever to save this, something not stupefyingly moronic, not huh or fuck or I didn’t know or even, God forbid, thank you, which was all his brain was throwing him as he grabbled desperately for a lifeline.
Then, just as he thought the whole thing would come crashing down, destroying them, Soldier broke the agonising silence, jabbed a finger at him in warning and almost managed to prevent his hand from shaking, almost succeeded in keeping his voice steady too, which Scout thought was pretty damn impressive given the circumstances.
“I’M STILL ON TO YOU, DESERTER!” he barked sharply, sounding almost just like himself, and then he was gone, door slamming in the wake of his retreat.
Scout stayed sprawled on the couch, heart pounding. He wasn’t sure if he was about to laugh or cry or maybe both all at once. He carefully tucked himself back into his pants, wincing as the ball-chain of his dog tags rolled with each movement against the tender red line around the back of his neck, and tried very hard not to think about anything that had happened in the last twenty minutes.
The TV was still on, casting its silently flickering shadows across the room. His eyes caught the familiar figure on the screen, earnest election promises repeated often enough by his ma to stick, and he groaned, slapping a hand across his face and then the other one too as if that would help. “Fuck youth suffrage, Dick,” he told the man, as if he could hear, through fingers that still smelled of sweat and sex and testosterone, “what I really fuckin’ need is a huge fuckin’ drink!”
On the TV, Presidential Candidate R.M. Nixon smiled and waved to his audience.
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