AN: Well, here's the second part of my Variant series. If you already read 'There's Always a Lighthouse' I probably don't have to tell you much. If you haven't...Well, the two take place at the same time, so you could theoretically read this story first. I recommend reading 'Lighthouse' first though as events in 'Man' will spoil several surprises in 'Lighthouse', but 'Man' will still have plenty of surprises even after you read 'Lighthouse'.

Occasionally I'll post a really short chapter. When I do that I'll post another chapter alongside it so you don't get disappointed by an update that's only like 200 words long.

I do not own Bioshock or Team Fortress 2 in any way, and I am not making any profit from this story.

That should be everything, now let's get this show on the road!

Scout stretched as she came in from the battle. "That was pretty good!"

"We need to do better!" demanded Soldier.

"You always say that," muttered Scout. She glanced at the mailboxes. "Hey, I gotta letter!" She pulled it out and flopped onto the couch.

Demo grinned. "Who's it from?"

Scout looked at the address. "Looks like my Ma's handwriting." She tore open the envelope and pulled out several pages. "Yeesh. Wonder what happened this time." She started reading slowly.

"Dear Julie, I hope you are doing well and have not been badly harmed since you last wrote. Things have not changed much since you were last home. Masha has escaped the asylum and come home again. I worry about her, I really do.

"Sadly, your father's health is declining despite the medications and treatments I give him. I fear that soon he will be gone, and we will only see him again at Rapture."

Scout froze. That word. She read it again to make sure she hadn't misread. Ma'd used that word. The word none of them ever, ever used. There wasn't even a reason to use it like that. So why had she used it?

Something hit her forehead. Scout flailed and went to hit her attacker before she realized the only other person there was standing a few feet away. She blinked. "Engie?"

Engie was giving her a concerned look. "You okay?"

"Huh?" She realized Soldier and Demo were gone. "Oh!" How long had she been sitting there? "Yeah!" She held up the letter. "Letter from home." She lowered it and stared at the word again. "My old man's getting sicker."

Engineer frowned. "Sicker?"

Scout absentmindedly nodded. "He's been sick for years." She nervously toyed with the paper. "I've known for a while that he's never getting better, but still…" She needed Engie to leave. She needed to finish reading the letter as much as she didn't want to.

Engineer gave her a sad smile and clapped a hand on her shoulder. "Maybe you should take some time off to go see him. It sounds like you don't have many opportunities left."

She wanted to. She missed him so much more than she'd thought she would. She missed her sisters. Her Ma. Her family. "Yeah, I probably should." She stared at the letter. Why now? Why couldn't Rapture just die?

When Engineer left, Scout turned her attention back to the letter. Ma didn't outright say what was going on. Just talked about local happenings, how she'd met up with a reporter (That was odd. She avoided the press like the plague.), talked about young girls disappearing.

Wait. Young girls. Rapture.

Oh God.

Scout shot up and ran to the conference room to the phone that she snatched up as soon as she could grab it. "C'mon, c'mon."

"Ms. Pauling speaking."

Stay calm. "Ms. Pauling, I need a few days off. I gotta family emergency."

"Ah. Your dad getting worse?"

Scout wasn't even going to ask how Ms. Pauling knew about that. "Yeah, so do I got the time off?"

"Well, it will take a couple of days."

Not soon enough. "I don't have a couple of days!"

"I'm sorry. I'll try to put it through as quickly as I can, but you'll just have to wait."

"Okay, okay. Thanks. Call back soon." She hung up. Could she wait?

Scout walked to her room and locked the door behind her. She let her head fall against the door. What was she supposed to do?

Well, she needed to destroy the letter. She didn't know if Spy knew about her past or Rapture, but she couldn't risk it. Fortunately, she had enough Incinerate to light up a finger and slowly burn the paper to ashes.

That done, Scout paced back and forth, wondering if she should go or stay. She buried her face in her hands. Why did her life have to be so complicated? She groaned and glanced at her bed.

Scout pulled a trunk out from under her bed and opened it. Inside were little things that she couldn't bring herself to throw away: A baseball, a Big Daddy doll made out of various bits and odds, various dried flowers she picked up from wherever, a preserved rose…

Scout picked up the rose and turned it around between her fingers…It might not seem like much to others, but to her she couldn't think of anything more valuable. She carefully placed it back in its container and grabbed the wad of cash she kept in the corner. She closed the trunk and pushed it under her bed, packed her duffel bag, and walked straight to the garage. She'd spent so long reading her letter that it was already night. Probably why she didn't see anyone on the way there.

Well, maybe Spy was there. It was hard to tell with him. Didn't matter to her.

She grabbed her helmet, got on her motorcycle, and left.