Team Fortress 2 – The Secret Santa
It was December 24th, 1968 at Coldfront. Not a single Christmas decoration could be seen at the RED Base.
A weeklong ceasefire was called in honor of the holidays. It was an opportunity for the mercenaries to spend Christmas at their homes. A massive snowstorm, however, kept the RED team from leaving (the BLUs had taken a small window of opportunity to leave between the end of the last match and the start of the storm). Each member of RED either wasn't phased by not being able to leave or did a good job of hiding their disappointment.
Despite the enemy being gone, Soldier still remained on his guard. He would spend the day patrolling the base, keeping an eye out for anything suspicious. As soon as five o'clock hit, he would end his patrols and hang out with the rest of the team at dinner and drink with them until it was time to go to bed.
As he ended his rounds for the day, he approached his bedroom. He froze when he saw an oddly-shaped, newspaper-wrapped package in front of his door. He looked around to see if he could find anyone. He pulled out his shovel and swung it around, hoping to hit the BLU Spy. He sighed in relief when there was no Spy to be found. He poked the suspicious package with the tip of his shovel, causing it to turn onto a side. He blinked when he saw a note attached to the package.
"What's this?" he asked aloud. He squatted down to read the note. He pulled it off of the package and held it a little closer to read it aloud. "'To: Soldier. From: Secret Santa.' What the hell?" Curiosity getting the better of him, he carefully unwrapped the package. His eyes widened when he unveiled a new helmet. A black headband was wrapped around it, attaching an Ace of Spades and a pack of his favorite cigarettes. "Well I'll be damned…I think I'll call you 'Soldier's Stash'! Wait…did anyone else get a gift? I'd better hide this just in case someone else didn't get anything."
After putting away his new hat in his room, he made his way into the kitchen, where most of the team was standing around chatting. Demoman, after taking a swig of his drink, noticed Soldier coming in.
"Oi, Soldier!" he called out. "Did you get a hat from that Secret Santa, too?"
"Yeah," replied Soldier. "Did you all get one?" Everyone nodded. "So if everyone got one, then who's this Secret Santa person?"
"Really, Soldier," started Spy, "Eef we knew, eet wouldn't be a secret, now would eet?"
"At least I know you didn't give me my gift, Spy."
"And why eez that?"
"Your handwriting is illegible chicken scratch. This almost looked like the handwriting of a child."
"My handwriting eez not chicken scratch! Eet's cursive! "
"I still can't read it!" Engineer chose that time to step in-between the two before a fight broke out.
"Fellas, calm down!" he ordered. "C'mon, it's almost Christmas! Can't you two be nice to each other for just one day!" Soldier and Spy calmed down. "Now, let's see if we can figure out who this person is." Sniper looked around.
"Where's Scout?" he asked.
"Probably in his room," answered Engineer. "I don't know what he's been up to in there. I know he's been pretty bummed out since finding out he couldn't go home."
"I was wondering why it's been so quiet the past few days."
"Sniper, be nice," scolded Medic. "We are all distraught for not being able to go home." A moment later, Scout walked into the kitchen going straight for the refrigerator. He pulled out the second half of a sandwich he had made earlier and closed the door. Soldier studied the boy carefully and noted the dark circles under his tired eyes. He rubbed his chin in thought.
"Hey, Scout?" he spoke up. Scout looked at his team's leader.
"What's up?" he asked.
"Did you get anything from this 'Secret Santa' person?" Scout paused.
"Uh, yeah. Why?"
"We're trying to figure out who this mystery person is."
"Were you goin' to thank him or somethin'?"
"Well, yeah." Scout nodded slightly.
"I'd help you guys out, but I'm going to bed after I eat this sandwich. I'm exhausted." Medic walked up to the boy and checked his forehead.
"Hmm…no fever, but zhose dark circles under your eyes don't look good," stated the doctor. "Have you been sleeping vell, Herr Scout?" Scout looked at the rest of his teammates briefly before looking back at Medic, giving him a small smile.
"No, but I think I will tonight. Give this guy my thanks if you find him, okay?" Medic and Soldier nodded.
"Good-night, Scout." Scout nodded quietly and exited the kitchen. Soldier crossed his arms.
"So it was Scout," he muttered to himself. He could tell the dark circles under the boy's eyes were from pulling all-nighters to craft the hats he made for his teammates.
"Did you say somezhing, Herr Soldier?" asked Medic, interrupting him from his thoughts. Soldier turned to Medic. Though Soldier had caught onto Scout's secret, he could tell the boy wanted to remain anonymous.
"No, just thinking that we should probably wear our new hats on Christmas Day as thanks to our mystery gift-giver." His teammates nodded, commenting amongst themselves.
Soldier sat in his room admiring his new helmet. The craftsmanship of it was simply beautiful. He was amazed that Scout, who didn't condone smoking, knew his favorite brand of cigarettes and attached them to the helmet. The kid was more talented and observant than he let on.
His mind wandered to Scout. Even though he rarely showed it, Soldier felt the Bostonian was like a son to him. He remembered how heartbroken the boy looked when he broke the news to the team that they were snowed in at the base. Scout was the youngest of eight boys that, Soldier assumed, spent every Christmas together. That wouldn't be the case this year. He figured Scout saw the team as his family away from his own and wanted to do something for them but was too embarrassed to put his name on his rare, selfless act.
Whenever something bothered Scout, he would usually find someone to whine to until the other person either told him to shut up and suck it up like a man or offered advice of some kind and then told him to shut up. Soldier was the one Scout went to the most without hesitation. As much as he would lecture Scout, he knew that no matter how much the boy complained about it, he listened to every word he said and it showed in his actions. It greatly worried Soldier that Scout didn't come to anybody this time when it was obviously an issue that was greatly upsetting him.
He was driven away from his thoughts by a knock at his door. He figured it was Scout coming to him to finally open up about what was bothering him. Soldier set down the helmet on his bed and stood up, walking to the door. He opened it and was shocked to see a distressed Pyro instead.
"What's going on?" he asked. "I don't usually see you coming to me with problems."
"Mah mahx mihs gmn," cried Pyro, though with his mask on, it was quite muffled. Soldier, however, completely understood what the arsonist said.
"Your axe is gone?" Pyro nodded quickly. "Huh. Do you remember putting it anywhere else?"
"I saw Scout leaving zee base with eet about a half hour ago," interjected Spy, who had been walking down the hall and happened to hear what was going on. Pyro flailed his arms at him, mumbling something incoherent in his moment of panic. Spy backed away from him in fear of getting inadvertently hit. "Calm down! I don't understand what you are saying!" Soldier pulled Pyro back by the collar of his suit, then let go, thinking.
"I think he meant to say, 'why didn't you tell me sooner, you damned crouton?' or something like that. Right?" Soldier looked to Pyro for confirmation. Pyro nodded in response. Spy pulled out a cigarette, looking a bit irritated.
"I think you took some creative liberty with zee last part, Soldier, but I figured Scout had asked to borrow eet and thought nothing of eet. Then again, Scout doesn't usually ask to borrow things…"
"And you said he went outside with it?" Spy nodded. "Has he come back yet?"
"Not yet, and the storm outside's gotten worse. I'm not sure what he wanted to do with zee axe." Soldier darted back into his room and grabbed his scarf, jacket and gloves. He pulled on his boots quickly and rushed back out of his room.
"I've got a damn good idea, and I'm getting worried. I'll be back with that maggot soon! Get Medic on stand-by, just in case something goes wrong!" Spy blinked, confused. Not wanting to question Soldier further, he nodded and made his way to the infirmary.
Soldier ran outside into the blizzard and began calling Scout's name, hoping for some kind of response. He trekked further away from the base toward the central control point, but stayed near where there were trees lining the area. Soldier's voice became panicked as he called Scout's name more, still not getting a response from his missing teammate. He froze when he saw a fallen, sobbing form yards away from him. Soldier recognized the small frame as Scout and rushed to his side, kneeling next to him.
"Scout! Are you okay!" he cried out, helping a shivering Scout sit up. Scout clung to Soldier for warmth and began to calm down his crying. Soldier took this time to quickly survey the scene. He saw Pyro's axe resting in the snow next to Scout, breathing a sigh of relief when he saw no blood on the weapon. He examined Scout from head to toe and stopped when he saw Scout's swollen left ankle. "You're hurt. What happened?"
"I…I didn't see the rock in the snow," explained Scout. "I tripped and fell, and I couldn't get back up…"
"What the hell were you thinking coming out in this storm! And why did you steal Pyro's axe!" Scout shut his eyes tightly, burying his face into Soldier's shoulder. Soldier could feel Scout shaking and could hear some muffled sobs emitting from him. Soldier, knowing that nobody was watching, wrapped his arms around Scout to keep him warm and comfort him, rubbing his back gently. Scout started explaining himself in-between sobs.
"I'm sorry…I just…I wanted to surprise everyone with a Christmas tree…make being snowed in here away from my ma and brothers bearable, y'know? And make things lighter for you guys, too…I mean, you're all way from your families for Christmas, too, right?" Soldier frowned. "I thought that if I could do this for everyone, along with the gifts, we could, y'know…have a Christmas here…like a family."
"Did you think about how you were going to get the tree back here by yourself! What were you going to decorate it with! Did you stop to think about going out in this weather without telling anyone where you were! Do you have any idea how worried I was!" Scout remained silent for a while, his sobbing slowly subsiding. Soldier suddenly regretted yelling at Scout for attempting to do something nice for the entire team. He looked up at the tree that Scout had fallen near. Scout had picked out a magnificent tree, but could tell he didn't get the chance to chop it down before injuring himself. After what seemed like an eternity of silence, Scout quietly spoke up.
"C…Can we go back…?" Soldier sighed. He let go of Scout and took off his scarf. He moved over to Scout's injured ankle and wrapped his scarf around it as a makeshift bandage. Once he finished tying it off, he scooped Scout up into his arms and began walking back to the base. Scout clung to Soldier once more, finally getting warm again in his arms. He rested his head on Soldier's shoulder and closed his eyes, exhaustion from the lack of sleep the past few days finally catching up with him. Soldier could hear Scout mumble something tiredly that pulled at his heartstrings.
"I'm so sorry…"
Medic waited with the rest of the team by the base's entrance. When Spy had found Medic with Heavy and explained what was going on, Heavy had cried out in surprise loud enough to alert the entire team. Though they wouldn't outwardly show it, the rest of the team was worried for Scout, too, and now Soldier since it was taking him a while to get back. They were about to form a search party for their two teammates when Soldier returned to the base with a sleeping and injured Scout. Medic quickly rushed over to Soldier and took Scout from him, quite worried that the boy wasn't awake. Soldier could read the worry on Medic's face like a book and decided to abate his fears.
"He fell asleep on the way here," explained Soldier. "He'll be fine."
"I vill take care of his ankle immediately," announced Medic. Soldier held his hand up to stop Medic from going to the infirmary. Medic stopped and noted the solemn look on Soldier's face.
"He just needs it properly wrapped. He twisted it, that's all. The snow kept the swelling down. I think he'll be okay on the couch by the TV. Sniper, could you get his blanket out of his room?" Sniper nodded and rushed to Scout's room. The rest of the team followed Medic into the living room, where he placed Scout on the couch carefully so as not to wake him. Soldier picked up a pillow from the arm chair and placed it under Scout's head.
Sniper returned a few minutes later with the blanket from Scout's room and handed it to Soldier. Once Medic finished treating Scout's ankle, he gave Soldier the okay to put the blanket over the boy. Soldier nodded and did just that. After putting the blanket over Scout, he took off Scout's hat and ruffled his hair lightly as a father would to his son. He set the hat down on the coffee table, then walked to the TV, turning it on and changed the channel to one that had Christmas specials playing.
Pyro walked up to Soldier and tapped him on the shoulder. Soldier turned to look at his teammate and could tell he was getting a hopeful look from underneath the arsonist's mask. Soldier blinked, then hissed lightly, smacking himself in the forehead.
"Dammit, your axe! It's still out there!" he hissed. Pyro groaned, lowering his head. Soldier paused for a moment, then got an idea. He put his hands on Pyro's shoulders and gave him a determined look. "Your axe is out toward the center control point in front of a tree. I want you to take Heavy with you, cut that tree down, and bring it in here."
"What's the tree for?" asked Spy, giving him an incredulous look. Soldier looked over his shoulder at the Frenchman.
"It's the Christmas tree Scout picked out for us. That's why he took Pyro's axe and went out in the storm." Everyone's heads turned to stare at Soldier in shock. Soldier turned to face his entire team. "I know he didn't want you to know this, but I'm going to tell you anyway. Scout was the one who crafted those hats for us. He did it so we could have a Christmas here. I think we owe it to him to bring the tree he picked out here." Sniper frowned.
"'e did this…for us?" he carefully asked. Soldier nodded. Medic rubbed his chin.
"Zhat explains vhy he's been so tired zhe past few days," he noted.
"And why he hasn't been very social," added Engineer. "I overheard him calling his mother up and giving her the bad news the other day. The poor guy was nearly in tears. I know that we're all adults, and we've all been away from home at least once for Christmas, but Scout is still a kid, no matter how you look at it. He's not used to being away from his family for so long, let alone for the holidays. I don't think he wanted to be alone, nor did he want us to be alone or feel what he was feeling."
"And I don't think he could handle being told by us to suck it up and deal with it like we usually tell him," stated Soldier. "Not this time."
"So, we surprise Tiny Scout with Christmas Tree?" suggested Heavy. Soldier nodded. Heavy's face brightened up as he clenched his fists in determination. "Come, Tiny Pyro! Let us find Christmas tree!" Pyro nodded quickly as the two exited the living room. Sniper stepped forward.
"What can th'rest of us do?" he asked. Soldier faced him.
"You, Spy and Medic can go around the base and find anything that can be used to decorate the tree," ordered Soldier. "Demo and Engie, do you know how to make eggnog?"
"We don't have the stuff to make it," admitted Engineer. Demoman thought for a moment, then smirked.
"I can make warm rum apple cider, though!" he suggested. Soldier grinned.
"Great idea! Get on it!"
"What are you going to do?" questioned Spy. Soldier glanced at Scout.
"I'll stay with him and distract him just in case he wakes up before everything is ready. When everyone returns, I want everyone to wear the hats Scout made. I think that'll be a nice surprise. Okay, men: move out!"
Sounds of the Christmas show on the television slowly entered Scout's ears, pulling him from his slumber. He slowly opened his eyes and noticed the television was turned on. He suddenly realized that he was lying down on the couch in the living room of the base on his side with his blanket from his bedroom keeping him warm and that he was resting his head on a pillow. Scout recognized the movie on TV as Miracle on 34th Street, which happened to be his favorite Christmas movie of all time.
Confused about why the TV was on, he slowly sat up and placed his feet on the ground. He saw that his ankle had been wrapped in bandages. He tried putting a little bit of weight on his ankle as he stood up. He felt a little bit of pain, but it wasn't bad enough that he couldn't walk. He looked around and saw that he was alone in the room. He looked at the clock on the wall, which read as 12:25 AM. He had been asleep for about five hours. Scout frowned deeply.
"Guess it's Christmas Day now," he sighed. "Everyone's probably asleep already. I guess I should go to bed, too." His stomach suddenly began to growl loudly, commanding him to fill it with food. Scout placed a hand on his stomach gently. "I think I'll get some food first, though."
He limped his way toward the kitchen, but paused when he heard some noises in the dining hall. Curiosity getting the better of him, he made his way into the dark room. He fumbled for the light switch on the wall by the doorway and eventually found it, turning the light on. He gasped in surprise when he saw not only a Christmas tree decorated with a mixture of weapons, hats, and miscellaneous items found around the base hanging from the branches in the middle of the room, but his teammates popping out of hiding places wearing the hats Scout made for them.
"Surprise! Merry Christmas, Scout!" shouted everyone simultaneously with giant grins on their faces. Scout blinked in surprise, his jaw dropping. It took him a few moments to find the words he wanted to say.
"Guys, did you…did you all do this?" he asked curiously. Soldier grinned, crossing his arms.
"Yup!" he said proudly. "We all pitched in, brought the tree you picked out, decorated it, and made some rum apple cider! Consider this our gift to you! Thanks for the new hats!" Scout smiled warmly, his eyes getting a little watery.
"No one's ever done something like this for me before. I…I don't know what to say, guys." Demoman came up from behind him and placed an arm around his shoulder, handing him his drink.
"Daw, you don't have to say nothin'," slurred the already drunk Demoman. "Jus' have a good time with us tonight!" Scout looked at his drink in his hands, then at his teammates, who were all approaching him. Soldier stood right in front of him and ruffled the boy's hair, smiling down at him warmly. Scout could tell the whole thing was Soldier's idea just by looking at his expression. He gave the man a grateful smile.
"Thanks, guys." He raised his glass to toast, prompting the others to do the same. "To spending Christmas with my family away from home!" The entire team tapped their glasses.
"Cheers!" cried out the RED team in glee before taking sips of their drinks. The entire team spent the rest of the night drinking, socializing and enjoying each other's company.
It was December 25th, 1968 at Coldfront. A single Christmas tree decorated with teamwork could be seen inside the RED Base.