A short epilogue to round off the story! If university doesn't have me taken out round the back of the barn old yella style these will be the characters that feature in any future stories – probably one shots of various scenarios. Any clever people with any ideas should drop me a line. Thank you to my reviewers; you make me feel all sorts of hippy-ish things!
A few days later eight of the nine mercenaries were lounging around in the rec room and pretending that they weren't all eavesdropping on the conversation happening at the payphone outside the unusually open window. Over the top of the turning of book pages and Scout's baseball lazily changing hands, a one-sided show down could be heard.
"Look, I already told ya, it weren't that bad!" A voice with a thick Australian accent pleaded down the phone.
The fact that Sniper's father was thousands of miles away on another continent didn't dampen the volume of his voice. If the people inside strained a little they could hear odd snatches of ranting, most notably the words 'my son', 'not only a crazed gunman' 'brawling' and 'ruined a perfectly good suit'.
To say Sniper was looking tense was an understatement. The man usually chose to go the payphone at the gas station in his many attempts to hash things out with his parents but the Administrator had told them all to stay close to the base for an announcement sometime during the day. Those who had witnessed these conversations before knew it went through phases. It would start off pleasant, as Sniper's mum usually answered, then it would descend into Sniper cajoling, getting annoyed with, then finally snapping at his father which was where the real fireworks started. Usually it ended with Sniper slamming the phone down then wandering off to murder any innocent wildlife around the base that looked at him funny.
He'd snuck out to the phone while the rest of the team had been eating breakfast but glaring in through the window he realised he should've known they'd have come for a listen. Sighing he tipped his hat back to cover his neck from the burning sun. The rage coming off his father was worse than it had been in a while. It was all the stupid Teufort Times' fault. He'd forgotten that his mother had taken out an overseas subscription so that she could keep an eye on what was going on around him. It was a sweet gesture that his father had scoffed at and now he wished she'd just listened to the man. Half tuning out the outraged rumblings spewing out of the phone he idly cast his mind back to the much better reaction the team had had on seeing the rag.
That's all the Teufort Times was: a rag. As nothing of any interest beyond the occasional localised explosion coming from the RED and BLU encampments the paper ran with whatever they had. Therefore they knew practically every dirty secret of the few people living in the area and had practically a full biography on everyone who passed through looking for gas or directions. On a normal week, it was only weekly; the paper sometimes managed to scrape up to perhaps eleven pages, and that was only the times when one of the teams had sauntered into town for supplies. So, naturally, when faced with the ridiculous story of the massive punch-up at what they'd discovered was a fancy retreat for the rich and famous, the paper had gone hog-wild.
Evidently one of the waiters at the place was something of a photography aficionado with a very modern camera and an instinct for earning money. In glorious detail, spread out over at least twenty pages, was the team engaged in the serious business of beating up the room full of investors. Engineer had picked up the copy first; it'd been his turn to run into town for perishable supplies and the giggling till girl had practically shoved it into his hands. Getting back to the truck he'd realised it was a bit thicker than usual and once he'd loaded everything up, he sat in the cab and flicked through it. After that he'd sped back to the base at full speed, breaking into the rec room without even unpacking the supplies and spread it on the table.
The headline said it all: 'Rowdy REDs on the Rampage!' The BLU team were also bound to have a witty and alliterative title on the cover of the Teufort Chronicle which covered their exploits in similar detail. The first two pages were taken up with setting the scene. A shot of the hotel was followed by a few group pictures of the various guests, usually the most important. Medic was rather pleased to learn that the stupid man he'd had to deal with had turned out to be a petty government official. It turned out Scout's little fling had been the mayor's daughter. Heavy had backhanded the chief of the town's police almost into hospital. Sniper's molester was head of the women's institute. All in all between them they'd faced down the administration of the whole town. After the introductory shots, the fun started.
A picture of the nine of them looking a combination of very nervous and very pissed off. A picture of them basking in the Australian glory that is Saxton Hale. A picture of Soldier and Engineer looking confused and aghast respectively at the three sisters of the local doctor. Pyro dancing with the head of the community college ("He weren't so bad!"). Spy not quite masking the look of complete disdain for the high school's football coach. Then a picture of Scout, looking flustered with his tie undone, having obviously just skidded to a halt in the middle of the dance floor. An action shot of Soldier pointing an accusing finger right in the woman's face while Engineer tried to haul him away. Pyro vaulting a table to get at the idiots who'd been bothering her all night. Sniper casting a hunted look over his shoulder at the fat woman. Spy caught half-way through flinging the glass that took out the man with the chair leg.
After that just picture after picture of the team at their violent best. They winced and ooh'd and ahh'd as they flicked through them, the occasional burst of laughter arising on seeing something particularly good. Heavy and Medic had done a sterling job of keeping a space open around them, not many guests were drunk enough to try their luck against the mountain that was Heavy. Sniper, Pyro and Engineer were less lucky as not everyone had seen Pyro knock a man out cold in one hit and saw her as the weak link. The rest smiled on seeing a shot of Soldier and Spy back to back with Demoman swinging a chair round over a ducking Scout. On reaching the end of the paper the last picture was of them leaving the hall, the defeated guests letting them past with various expressions of fear and anger.
"Aye, twas a braw night!" Demoman laughed before shuffling away to pick out another bottle.
"We kicked ass, you all ain't so bad for old folks," Scout's mocking grin didn't fade as he dodged several slaps to the ear from the rest of the team.
Spy merely smirked as they started going through the photos again in more detail. Back in France he'd been to many such balls, usually as a waiter to put himself through the Sorbonne, but this had definitely been the most fun. Even if he had come away with a fractured jaw and no female companionship for the evening.
While the reaction of the team had been fun, the reaction of Sniper's parents wasn't quite as positive. Snapping back to the present Sniper realised that his dad still hadn't run out of nasty things to say about him and the team even though it had been a good seven minutes or so. He covered the mouthpiece and sighed. He just wasn't in the mood for this. The team had been getting along so much better and he was actually looking forward for the cease-fire to end so they could get back to doing their jobs of sticking it to the BLUs. He was quite touched to see Pyro and Engineer lean out of the window on hearing him sigh to check that he was alright. Usually by now he was giving back as good as he got, not just taking the abuse his dad felt like giving out. The rest of the team weren't far behind them and he could see Soldier getting angrier and angrier as he listened to what Mundy Snr had to say.
Finally the mental military man, Sniper realised with horror that the Teufort Times was getting to his thought processes, strode away from the window. The rest of the team were mouthing things to say and giggling to each other when Sniper shot them down. Maybe he should bring them with him every time he spoke to his parents; they certainly made the whole thing more bearable. He almost choked down the phone when Demoman suggested something hugely inappropriate regarding a kangaroo and the team had to move away from the window for a second so Sniper's parents wouldn't hear them laughing. Evidently he hadn't managed to cover it up well enough as his dad started practically shouting down the phone at him for disrespecting him.
Wilting under the renewed assault Sniper didn't hear Soldier appear behind him. The first he knew of it was when the man snatched the phone out of his hand. The team were practically outside they were hanging so far out of the window to listen and Sniper just covered his eyes with his hands.
"Now you listen to me maggot! Your son might not be an American but I am damn proud to have him on my team! He doesn't need you affecting his performance in the field. He will phone you again next week and by then you'd better have changed your attitude son!"
With a final growl down the handset Soldier slammed the phone down to the cheers of the team. Sniper looked totally shell-shocked as he stared at the handset. Bringing him back inside Soldier clapped a hand on his shoulder. The team flocked around them and Spy handed Sniper one of his fancy cigarettes which Pyro lit for him.
Surrounded by his laughing team he could definitely say his parents had them and him all wrong. If his parents were never going to accept him at least he had eight other people that would.