The team sat around the battered wire spool that served as their dining table. Engineer, intent on fixing something during cease fire, unwound a length of the copper by walking in an irregular circle as the others leaned back and lifted their glasses to allow the wire to pass. The Texan had long since given up trying to shoo them all out while he obtained his supplies. Besides, that day they got their new shipment and his coworkers were enjoying a little gift that a 'friend' of Spy's had snuck in.
"I believe I 'ave been 'ere for too long," the Frenchman sighed.
"What'd'ya mean?" Engineer asked as he passed.
Spy lifted his bottle in the air, studying the contents with a critical eye. At least he shrugged and took another sip. "Zis cherry cola tastes like champagne."
"If you're gonna work in this here country," Soldier bellowed as he leapt to his feet, "then you've got to learn the language!"
Spy raised an eyebrow at him. Of course it was impossible to tell, due to the mask and dim lighting. Still, Soldier seemed to get the message.
"It's pop. Cherry pop, not cola." The words were accentuated by a fist pounding the table.
Satisfied with the size of his coil, Engineer cut the length free. "Whereabouts I come from we call it coke."
"Vell, it is not unusual to call zhe Coca-Cola by 'coke'." Seeing that Engineer was done doing laps around the room, Medic tilted his chair back and put his feet up on the makeshift table.
"Naw, all of 'em." He put his hands on his hips and did a poor impression of someone, "'Hey, you want a DP?' 'Yeah, I'd love a coke.'"
The other unusual item to come in that day's shipment was sitting with shoulders hunched and elbows drawn tightly in. He was trying very hard to hide his nervousness from the rest of the team and he was failing miserably. Aside from rolling their eyes the rest of the men were gracious enough to let their new scout think he was succeeding.
"The hell's DP?" the boy asked, his own cherry cola—pop—clutched tight in his hands.
"The hell's Doc Pepper?"
"Ten, two, and four, boy!" Soldier shouted enthusiastically. The boy jumped. "Keeps your mind sharp, that's what it does! Why, as Sun Tzu said-"
Scout stood abruptly. He didn't want to get caught listening to another Son Zoo rant that day. "Oh hey, I probably should sleep, right? Ya'know, since tomorrow's my first gig and all?"
Engineer clapped the boy on the shoulder and nearly knocked him over. "Good idea, Scout. Yer gonna need your strength tomorrow."
To Scout's credit, he managed to suppress his nervous gulp. Suddenly a cold, unopened bottle of the cherry something or other was thrust against his chest.
"Take zhat to Pyro on your vay up, vill you?"
The boy almost refused on the basis that he was no one's errand boy, but then he remembered how... enthusiastic Medic had been when he watched the battle from the supply truck, so he took the bottle without complaint. Pyro's room was right next to his, anyway, so it wasn't out of his way.
When he reached the door he could hear someone moving around inside. He raised his hand to knock but hesitated—what if this Pyro guy was the 'never bother me or I'll set you on fire' type? Scout thought his recruiter was kidding when he said that most of the force was loony, but after meeting Soldier he was convinced that the man was playing it down. What if Pyro was one of the violent loonies? Why couldn't he just go home?
Scout shook his head angrily. He wasn't homesick, he told himself, he wasn't scared. It's just that he only left home a week before so the new experience was kind of unsettling. That was it. Given a couple days he'd be back to his normal self.
Resolved in the fact that he wasn't going to be scared of some guy in a charred up suit, Scout raised his hand again to knock on the door. However, when he looked up he came face to face—well, face to gasmask—with Pyro.
He yelped and backed away, realized what he must look like, and then tried in vain to look tough. Even though he couldn't see Pyro's face he could imagine the man grinning at him insultingly. Too tired to fight it anymore, he thrust out the bottle in defeat.
"Here, man," he mumbled. "Here's your cherry pop. Or coke or cola or whatever. Spy says it tastes like some fruity French drink or something."
Pyro studied the boy in the hallway (at least, Scout assumed that's what he was doing) and then took the offered drink. His body language didn't seem all that insulting, and he definitely wasn't attacking. The boy breathed a sigh of relief.
"So I, uh, guess I'm next door, right? I'm Ray, wha-" realizing his mistake, Scout physically kicked himself. "Shit! I ain't supposed to tell nobody that! Can't remember nothin' for no-"
There was a hand on his shoulder. Scout was pretty sure that it was meant to be comforting.
"Yrrr ghnni brrre ohkks."
It took the boy a few moments to translate. When he did he offered up a shaky grin. "Yeah, thanks."
He turned to go but Pyro stopped him. After some thought the gasmasked man spoke again.
"Mhy nmm isk Rorrla."
"Ya name is... Larry?"
Pyro's shoulders slumped in exasperation. He lifted his hand and slowly traced letters on the wall. Scout read them aloud.
"L...O...L...A... oh, it's Lola!" Scout blinked. "Wait, you're a chick?"
The strange noises filtering through the gasmask sounded like they were at least related to laughing.
"Dhhnt trrr nnybhhdy."
Scout recovered and gave him—her—a thumbs up. "Hey, no prob! You're secret's safe with me, lady!"
Pyro probably-laughed again and went back into her room.
Scout did well on his first day, meaning that he didn't die. So far as the usual scout duties were concerned he didn't do too well; his main contribution for the battle was being a distraction. As soon as the bell sounded he was off like a shot before any of his teammates could talk to him. He found a corner on the roof that Sniper couldn't see, turned off his headset, and stewed.
"Still the kid brother," he mumbled, crossing his arms over his legs and glaring at the desert. "Still just get in the damn way, can't do nothin' good, can't even do my job..."
The sun was just touching the horizon when he heard footsteps behind him. A growled and looked back, ready to yell at whoever dared get near him, but the insults died in his throat when he saw Pyro standing there with her mask off. He already knew that Pyro didn't take her mask off for anything, but there she was on the roof like it was no big deal.
She was black, her skin a few shades lighter than Demo's, with hazel eyes and dark auburn hair. It was tied up in a flat sort of messy bun, and as the shocked Bostonian watched she undid the ties and shook her hair out. It was long, almost reaching her waist. The matted, sweaty stuff fell over one of her eyes and she didn't bother brushing it away. Her features were kind of squarish but Scout decided that it really worked for her. Even the sweaty hair and smears of soot she was getting all over her face worked for her. Really, really well.
An obnoxious temperamental boy he might be, but even he could see the significance of Pyro showing him her face. All demands that she leave died on his lips and so they sat there in awkward silence. At least, it was awkward for Scout. Pyro seemed to be doing okay, looking out at the sunset like this was something that happened every day.
"Um." he said intelligently.
"I have a good feeling about you, Ray," she replied. Her voice was surprisingly deep, but not unpleasantly so. Scout didn't quite know how to respond to the compliment, or the use of his name.
"Thanks, Lola," he answered at last. They lapsed back into silence as they both watched the colors of the sunset fade into night. When the last wisps of purple were left in the sky Pyro turned to Scout and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"You did good today, and that's not me trying to make you feel better." Something in her eyes made Scout believe her. "I didn't even set anything on fire my first day."
"So um... I didn't screw up?"
Pyro chuckled. "No, you didn't screw up."
A prickling heat was creeping up his cheeks and he didn't know what to do about it. He turned away and hoped it was dark enough that Pyro couldn't see.
"I guess we should go eat then, huh?"
Pyro withdrew the hand so she could put her hair back up and slip her mask back on.
"Yrrs. Rrts groo."
Over the next few weeks Scout fell into his role with ease. It was only his fifth day when he managed to swipe the enemy intelligence and then navigate the field between the bases while successfully dodging enemy fire. Moments after the bell rang Pyro swept the Bostonian into a hug that nearly broke his spine. She also pressed the end of her gasmask against the boy's cheek, which Scout figured was an accident but he couldn't help but wonder if it was supposed to be a kiss and then he'd end up blushing an embarrassing shade of red.
This Pyro-Lola confused him in many ways. They went up to the roof a few times so she could talk without her gasmask and her language was kind of rough. Nothing like the filth that escaped Scout's lips, but he thought she kind of talked like a man. After some contemplation he figured she had a lot of brothers like he did, or maybe was raised by just her dad, or generally had a lot of male influence on her early life. Or she just picked it up from the rough kind of guy she worked with. He decided that the combination of guy's language and the heavy way she rolled her hips, well, it worked. Besides, a lady who sets people on fire wouldn't be all the way girly, would she?
Scout had been there almost two months when Pyro called him into her room.
"Hrrrld ohn..." she muttered, her nervousness filtering through the filter. She made sure the door was locked very securely before taking off her mask.
"Yo, Lola, what's up?" Scout asked, confused. She was jumpy and on edge and it really wasn't like her.
"Um... you'll see," was the only answer he got. Wringing her gloved hands she moved a box of brushes and hair pins off a chair and offered the seat to Scout. The boy was starting to get worried about his friend. "Just give me a minute," she continued. "I just want to change out of this suit."
There was already a thick blanket strung up across a corner of the little room, so Pyro could change without being indecent. Scout still blushed up a storm and tried very hard not to think about her getting naked, and of course failed miserably. He ended up staring at a patch of broken drywall while he failed at not thinking about it and was focusing on the patch with such intensity that he didn't hear her announce that she was done. He started when she touched his arm and softly whispered his name.
"Gyah!" was his response. Somehow he managed to make a filthy swear out of an unintelligible cry of surprise.
Pyro chuckled, half out of Scout's reaction and half out of a crushing nervousness. She fidgeted, wringing her hands together and then smoothing out her dress and then starting over again.
Dress? Scout took a second look. And then a third, to make sure the second one wasn't wrong.
Pyro was indeed wearing a dress. It was an emerald green party dress with a poofy layered skirt that came down to her knees. She was wearing black pumps with heels just tall enough to equalize their heights, and a black ribbon choker was around her neck. She was all made up, with red lipstick and heavy black eyeliner, and she somehow managed to miss a smudge of soot on her cheek.
Scout focused on that smudge like it was an anchor. He'd never seen Pyro outside of her chem suit, and seeing that soot made it easier to believe that this was the same person. It's not that he didn't think she never wore dresses; he just didn't expect to see her in one.
"Ya look great!" he finally managed to blurt out. It wasn't a lie either; her legs were muscular but Scout didn't expect anything different, and the dress was one of those nice ones that made a woman's curves look even curvier. The boy caught himself staring at her hips and made himself focus on her face.
She was smiling, still nervous, but not as much as before. She whispered a quiet thanks and then they both stood there awkwardly for a few minutes, after which Pyro suddenly moved to the desk and started fiddling with something. It was a record player; after a few clicks dance music filled the room.
Pyro turned back to the boy and held out her hand. "W-would you like to dance?" she quietly asked. The music wasn't even that loud and Scout still had to strain to hear her over it.
He knew he wasn't good at picking up on subtleties but it seemed like she was really worried about something. He could understand if she was a little nervous, since girls who don't usually dress up can be kind of unsure when they do, but this was way past that level. Scout guessed that maybe she was just really shy, after all, she didn't even let the rest of the team see her face. With that puzzle solved he took her hand and they started to dance in the small space of her room.
Scout wasn't the best dancer, but he wasn't the worst either. He kept running into the bed or desk and a couple times Pyro stumbled over her own feet (he figured she hadn't worn her heels in a while), but they got the hang of it pretty quickly. By the time the record was finished playing they really had the knack for dancing in such a small space. They talked and laughed and had a wonderful time in their private dance club.
It wouldn't be until later, when he was back in his own room lying in bed and staring at the ceiling, that he would wonder if shyness was the only reason Pyro was nervous. He thought about the music, about her getting all dolled up, about the fact that he was the only one who knew what she looked like.
Scout blushed, then blushed some more, and then told himself that thinking that she like liked him was going fast, even for him. Of course, once the idea got into his head he couldn't not think about going out with her. The more he thought about it, the more he liked the idea. He fell asleep that night with a grin.
Never let it be said that Scout never looked where he leapt; he had the sense to keep his revelation to himself until he was sure that Pyro felt the same. After all, they had to work together in a very dangerous job and awkwardness wouldn't help either of them live to see tomorrow.
They turned Pyro's room into a dance club every once in a while, and more often they'd have sort of slumber parties where they'd sit around in their PJs and just talk. The more time they spent together the more certain Scout was that being Pyro's boyfriend would be the greatest thing ever. He also became more and more sure that she felt the same way about him, though he kept second guessing himself because he didn't want to mess things up if he was just imagining things.
About four months after he first arrived at the base he discovered that he never had to worry.
They were dancing. She was wearing her green dress and he was wearing his least torn pair of knee-pants and a black shirt he found in a storeroom. He was finally getting good at this whole dancing thing, and was feeling quite proud that they'd gone through a whole record and he hadn't stepped on Pyro's feet once. Scout was so caught up in that accomplishment that he didn't even notice Pyro leaning closer until she spoke.
"Ray..." she whispered. Her hands were trembling and fear colored her voice. Scout's heart was suddenly pounding and his palms were sweating; he'd never ever kissed a woman before. Even though he was overwhelmed with the thrill of knowing she liked him too, the worry of being a bad kiss made him hesitate.
Pyro closed her eyed tight, as though she was expecting a blow. Scout realized how much of herself she was putting on the line. For her sake he pushed past his worries and their lips met.
He was pretty sure his side of the kiss was as clumsy as hell. He was also pretty sure that he didn't care. He did care a little when she pulled away and asked if that was his first, but her surprise at this fact helped sooth his ego. Not that he had much time to think about it since they quickly moved on to his second kiss, and his third, and somewhere in there he lost track because his brain had turned to mush.
Some time later he stumbled the short distance to his door with a silly grin plastered to his face.
It was Scout's six month anniversary. Spy talked to his 'friend' again and got another shipment of tastes like champagne and the team spent another evening arguing about what it was called. After a while Demo brought out his moonshine in celebration, like he needed an excuse to drink. Scout stayed at the party even after Demo and Soldier passed out in a heap and most everyone else drifted off to their rooms. He didn't want to stay, but Pyro made him promise not to come back to her room until eleven.
He tried to hide his grin behind a bottle of cherry fizzy stuff. Two months and he was still embarrassingly goofy anytime he thought about her. Lucky for him and his survival it was easy for him to separate Pyro in her room and Pyro on the field, given the chem suit. But once they were out of battle and he could afford to think about it... he just hoped none of the other guys saw him acting all mushy.
Of course, they'd spent enough time in each other's rooms that at least some of the guys knew what was going on. Spy already said as much to Scout, looking all amused like there was some joke the kid wasn't getting. The boy figured that Medic knew as well from some of the looks sent his way. Plus he overheard the German talking to Pyro about the dangers of what she was doing. And the tough Boston boy definitely did not blush crimson when he realized the doc was talking about sex and probably the possibility of her getting pregnant. He figured that yeah, they did need to be careful if they ever—and then his brain short circuited.
The thing is that Pyro was all kinds of nervous when she told him to stay away from her room that night. Even more nervous than she was that first time they had a dance club night together. So he was guessing... not that he'd push it if he was reading things wrong, because damn he really liked this girl, but probably...
The goofy grin was back when the clock hand finally ticked over eleven. He grabbed the remaining cherry whatever and tried to ignore Spy's knowing look and that particular way Medic adjusted his glasses, blushed anyway, and bolted down the hallway with all the speed he was known for. He skidded to a stop in front of her room, took a minute to catch his breath, and knocked.
She opened the door the minimum distance, staying behind the flimsy wood so that no one passing by would see her. Scout slid into the room. The only light came from a few candles placed along the desk. He wouldn't have been surprised if his pounding heart started rattling the bottles in his arms. He carefully set down all but one on her bedside table and then turned and offered it to her.
"Hey, Lola," was all he could come up with.
"Hi, Ray," was all she said before shyly taking the bottle and cracking the top. She was wearing a denim skirt that went down to her ankles with a split almost up to her hip, giving Scout a good view of her muscular legs. Pyro's top was a simple black halter, and her hair was half pulled up in a sort of messy but elegant style.
"You look beautiful," Scout told her.
She hid her face behind the bottle. "... Really?"
"Yeah." He reached out and took her hand in his. "Really."
They talked and they danced for a while, with frequent breaks to gulp down swigs of moonshine. Scout hadn't drunk any alcohol at the party because he wanted to be all there for her, but she seemed to need it and she wasn't as tense after he started drinking too.
Somewhere around midnight they fell onto her protesting cot, fumbling in haste, passion, and inebriation. She hovered over him, pinning him to the thin covers so he couldn't escape. Not that escape was anywhere in his thoughts. He loved the feel of her legs pressed against his sides, her weight, her presence, and that hungry look in her eye when she whispered...
"Little boy, I'm gonna make you a man."
Pyro barely gave him a chance to catch his breath. She was driven by something Scout couldn't quite grasp, hazy as he was from Demo's gasoline, the giddy thought that he was a virgin no longer, and the fact that the woman deflowering him was the most amazing person he'd ever met. All he knew is that he never wanted to stop touching her.
It wasn't until morning, when the sun woke him to his hangover headache, that he understood it all. Her nervousness, Medic's concern, all of it.
She was lying on top of him with her head pillowed on his chest. Scout could tell when she came to because she tensed like she was waiting for execution. After several long minutes she broke the silence.
"So..." Pyro said miserably, "this is the part where you tell me you hate me, right?"
Scout gently touched her cheek in a silent request that she look at him. She did, her eyes full of dread.
"... Naw," he replied, "this is the part where I tell you we need to skip the booze next time. I don't want things to be a blur." The boy—man—toyed with her hair and smiled tenderly. "I wanna remember everything."
Pyro propped herself up on an elbow and stared at him in disbelief. Slowly the tension melted away as a grin bigger and goofier than anything Scout had been embarrassed of spread across her face. With a relieved laugh she flopped back down and started kissing his chest and neck.
"Ray, baby, you're amazing."
"Yeah, I know."
Her grin changed to something very close to that hunger he saw the night before. "Oh really?" She reached over him to grab one of the unopened bottles on her makeshift bedside table. She tilted it as if in a toast and then leaned close to whisper in his ear, "So you're glad this is the only cherry you've got right now?"
He couldn't help but to break out laughing. They tussled for the bottle and ended up getting half of it on the already sticky sheets, making enough noise to guarantee that the teammates on the hall would know exactly what they were up to. Scout didn't care. He knew who he was, he was glad he was a man, and so was his Lola.