#1 – Beginnings

#1 – Beginnings

How Bruce Met Rich

Love is love's reward.

--John Dryden

--+--

The BLU team was certainly not a Builder's League United. While the current eight members all had their own strengths and weaknesses, they were missing one crucial piece of the puzzle. It had been unanimously decided to search for a team doctor, someone to keep the eight alive on and off the field of battle. They needed a Medic.

That had been the idea two weeks ago, but so far no one had responded to the call. It seemed that all the good men and women of medicinal practice had too much self-preservation to even attempt to try out for the job, high pay or not. The BLUs were at an impasse.

To add insult to injury, the REDs were attacking. Their leader, a Soldier, was an adamant old bull the BLUs had tussled with multiple times. Now he was dead-set on capturing the BLUs' base once and for all.

Bruce Hollister, the BLU Sniper, winced in pain as the BLU Spy, who everyone knew only as Jack, tied a bandage around his shin too tightly. He had been slashed by the axe of the RED Pyro, and while he was grateful he hadn't lost his leg from the knee down, the wound would make him slower. And it hurt like a bitch.

Jack got up, lit himself a cigarette, and said, "That should do for now. Finish the fight, then you're out of commission."

"I'm the boss of the group," Bruce hissed, "I decide who is and who is not out of commission."

Jack rolled his eyes, typed on his watch, and vanished in thin air. The automatic door opened, closed, and Jack was gone.

Bruce got to his feet and gingerly tested his wounded limb. The bandage was quickly turning red, but the Aussie ignored the pain and hobbled out of the supply room. That Pyro was going down.

He took up position on the sniper's deck of the base and readied his rifle. The RED Pyro had been forced to seek shelter in the sewage drain of the RED base. His flamethrower was drenched, and he tried to relight it while the BLU Scout, Tom Katz, taunted him from the bridge between the two bases.

"What's a matter?" Tom called, "Your little matchstick broken? Yeah, yeah, that's what you get for not watching your back. Bonk!"

Bruce took his shot. The Scout yelped in surprise as the Pyro's head went missing. Spooked, Tom backed up wildly until he hit the rail of the bridge, and went over into the channel below. Bruce saw him resurface, and couldn't help but smirk at the kid's jumpiness.

Suddenly, a voice cried out from within the BLU base.

"Got our intel! Repeat, they got our intel!"

Bruce looked away from the rifle scope just in time to spot the RED Demoman escaping the BLU base, carrying the BLU briefcase full of information of the team's lives, families, relationships, and everything else an enemy would salivate over capturing. Medigun locked onto him, a weary look on his face, was the RED Medic. He was leaving a trail of blood droplets behind him.

Bruce took aim again, and the Demoman fell in one shot. The sudden death of his comrade was just as horrifying to the Medic as it had been to Tom Katz, and he skidded, tripped over the dead man, and landed on his face. He howled in pain as his dropped medigun jabbed his arm, turning his entire sleeve a bright red. The Medic dragged himself by his one good arm towards the briefcase.

The Sniper didn't think. He grabbed a hold of a rain gutter and slid down to the ground, biting back a cry as his wound protested painfully. The rifle slipped into its holster as Bruce's kukri took its place. He limped quickly towards the downed Medic and immobilized him, pinning him to the ground under one of his knees.

The Medic immediately began screaming and cursing in what Bruce recognized as German. The RED operative reached for the briefcase, but when he realized he couldn't reach it, he clawed for Bruce's face instead with all the ferocity of a wild dog.

Bruce was impressed by the Medic's fighting spirit, and was suddenly inspired to doing something incredibly rash, something that could put his entire team in danger for the lives, but something he felt in his heart to be somehow right with the universe.

Tom pulled himself out of the channel, squeezed the excess water out of his cap, suddenly blanched and ran to Bruce's side, words coming a mile a minute. "Boss, the REDs are gearing up for another round and we gotta get the hell out of here right now!" With that, he scooped up the briefcase and took off towards base, as quick and fearless as a starling.

Bruce looked up and saw the RED Soldier emerging from their base. The Medic took his distraction to his opportunity, reaching up and tearing a nice scratch in Bruce's face. The Sniper cried out, then drove the handle of the kukri down onto the Medic's head. He was knocked out cold in an instant.

The Sniper lifted the Medic into his arms and ran as well as he could back into base. Niles Gallant, the BLU Demoman, watched Bruce run by in confusion.

"Blow the base!" Bruce cried, "Retreat!"

Niles was paralyzed with shock for a moment, then hurried down to the intelligence room. He opened a panel in the wall, typed in a code on the keypad beneath, closed it up, and ran like hell. The base was set to explode in three minutes.

The Sniper reached the base's garage and Dusty, his RV. He set the RED Medic into the vehicle, hung outside the RV's door, pulled out a whistle hanging around his neck, and blew it. The note it produced penetrated the entire structure of the base.

Within seconds, the entire BLU team responded to the call. Tom and the BLU briefcase, Niles, and Jack arrived first, quickly followed by Henri, the BLU Pyro, Rob Greenbill, the BLU Soldier, and Lenard Carnegie, the BLU Engineer. Nikolai Schmulevitch, the BLU Heavy Weapons Guy, came last, laying down suppressing fire.

RED bullets pinged off the RV as Nikolai ran into the vehicle. "Go, go, go!" the Russian cried as he slammed the door behind him. Dusty started up, and Bruce floored it out of the garage.

Jack checked his watch, calmly held onto the RV's table, and said, "Gentlemen, brace yourselves."

Seconds later, the BLU base exploded spectacularly as packages of dynamite placed strategically around the perimeter detonated. The bottom floor of the base fell first, and the rest collapsed upon it as a fireball rose into the sky like a phoenix reborn. The shockwave pushed the RV along the road and sent nearly everything inside the car that wasn't bolted down flying.

Bruce looked in the rear view mirror and watched in despair as his home became nothing more than burning splinters. Almost everything he owned had been in there. Nothing could have survived. He couldn't be sure he had caught the REDs in his final booby trap…they were a cunning and sneaky bunch who could outlast Armageddon.

"Bruce," Tom Katz said softly, kicking away the assorted fallen debris, "There's a RED in the car."

The Sniper had almost forgotten about the Medic in his anguish. The BLU team stared at the unconscious enemy operative. They all looked uneasy save for Jack, who was looking at Bruce, intrigued.

The Aussie planned his next words carefully. He said, "We need a Medic, and I supplied one. That's that." After a moment of silence, he continued, "We're going to the Badlands."

Tom exchanged looks with the rest of the team, and the general consensus seemed to be that the Medic in their midst was a can of worms just waiting to be opened, but no one complained. Newly homeless, they had nothing to cling to but each other.

--+--

Bruce was waiting when Jack emerged from the interrogation room in the BLU base in the Badlands. The Spy took a drag on his cigarette, blew out smoke, and said, "He's got a bullet in his arm and a sprained ankle, and nothing I said frightened him. I did not resort to physical methods, per your request."

"Thanks, mate," Bruce replied. Jack watched silently as the Sniper entered the interrogation room.

The room was small, dark, and the only furniture was a desk and two chairs. The RED Medic was sitting on one of these chairs, lab coat halfway off and his shirt unbuttoned as he examined his own bullet wound. He flinched when Bruce entered the room.

"That looks like it smarts," the Sniper said.

The Medic snarled at him and rapid fired something in German at him. Bruce was unfazed. "Do you speak English, mate?" The Medic shook his head, fury in his eyes. "No worries, Jack speaks German. I'll fetch him, you hold tight."

Bruce had his hand on the doorknob when a voice shyly spoke up. "I speak English, Schweinhund."

The Aussie turned to the Medic. His anger had not abated, but he had responded to him. That was a good sign. Bruce thought the Medic had a pleasant yet heavily-accented venom-oozing voice.

"Good to know," Bruce said, sitting in the other chair. He observed the Medic, who was trying at all costs to avoid looking at the Sniper. The Aussie said, "So, what's your name, mate?"

The German said nothing until the last second. "Richter Jaeger. You will know my name when I kill you."

The Sniper chuckled. "Crikey, aren't you a little spitfire? I don't think anyone's going to be killing anyone today, mate. You're kind of in a sticky wicket right now."

"Not for long," Richter hissed, attempting to stand. He gasped as his ankle refused to support his weight, lost his balance, and grabbed the desk to break his fall. Bruce reached to help him, but the Medic threw a punch. The Sniper caught his fist and held on when Richter tried to take it back.

"God above," Bruce exclaimed, grinning, "You're full of surprises! I think the team'll like you."

"I do not associate with frauleins," the Medic snapped, struggling against Bruce.

The Sniper let him go. Richter shot him a dirty look, then sat in the chair and nursed the wound in his arm. Before Bruce's eyes, he dug his fingers into the hole and plucked the bullet out. He was entirely silent while he did this, though he did tense up in pain.

Bruce was impressed. A Medic with a backbone, drive, and a spirit as sharp as stainless steel…this was exactly what he had been looking for, and this was Richter, right here, in his base, and in his debt.

"While you were unconscious," the Aussie said, "I destroyed the BLU base. Everything inside's obliterated. All that's left of our team are the clothes we're wearing, the weapons we carried, and a single briefcase of our intel." He looked at the floor. "I have reason to believe that the entire RED force has been killed."

Richter absorbed this information without a word.

Bruce continued, "I'm giving you an offer, mate. Join the BLUs. We are starting over entirely from scratch. Be a BLU, and we'll take care of you."

"Take care of me?" Richter spat, "You will take care of me the same way the REDs did – making me their babysitter. I had to constantly follow them around without a single word of thanks. Russell, my boss, he even gave me domestic duty! I have never been more humiliated in my entire life!"

"Then join us. I guarantee you won't be treated like a housewife."

"Never. I have been killing BLUs like you for years."

Bruce chuckled. "You've been a war-medic for a month, tops. You're still a little green around the gills."

"How dare you!" Richter cried. He went to stand, but remembered his sprained ankle at the last second and sat back down, steaming with anger.

"Tell you what," the Sniper said, "You're our prisoner, but I'm going to make a deal with you. You're staying here no matter what, but I give you free roam of the base. Think of what I'm offering you – it's a chance to start over. People don't come across blank slates everyday, mate."

"And if I refuse?"

"Jack has ways to make people forget things."

Richter glared at the Aussie and said nothing. Bruce looked right back, undaunted. He had a feeling in his gut that something had been put in motion, and neither of them could stop it. It was out of control now.

The Medic finally said, "Fine. I accept your deal. But for now, I am a civilian, neither BLU or RED."

"Deal." Bruce gave a friendly smile and extended a hand to Richter. "Name's Bruce Hollister, Sniper and leader of BLU Troop 45. It's good to have you on board, Herr Jaeger."

The Medic sniffed, ignoring the handshake. "Just Richter, Schweinhund. I insist."

Bruce took that as progress. "I'll show you to the med bay, get you patched up."

Richter gingerly stood up, testing his ankle. "Who is the Medic here? I'm fine. However, I would like to see what kind of squalor you BLUs call a med bay." With that, he limped to the door and waited there for Bruce.

The Sniper smiled. "It's unlocked, mate."

The former RED stared in disbelief, then tried the door. It opened easily. He looked back at Bruce. "Do you always put such trust in your enemies?"

"Only those that I want to become my friends."

Visibly responding to the answer, Richter left the interrogation room, and somehow, though he had been sliced by an axe and made himself and his team homeless, Bruce felt that today had been a good day after all.