Boston, Massachusetts – Hawthorne residence, 1962.
The dark, night skies hung over the city Boston, submerging the usually lively city in a wide cast of visionless shadow. The only folks of the fair city that were planning on getting out of their beds that night were either dastardly criminals, those going out to their nightshifts, the classy ladies and gents with booked tickets to extraordinary shows, or, in Nathan Hawthorne's case, to completely disappear from the face of the earth.
The thirteen-year-old baseball fan lay awake in the bunk bed amidst his snoring brothers, waiting for his opportunity to arise. He had been planning this out for a long time. Years. The idea had occurred to him when he was nine, but he ultimately chickened out on it and went back home shortly after. Again when he was twelve, but his third oldest and his absolute favourite brother, Ritchie, had stopped him, and assured Nathan that he loved him and he didn't want him to leave. Now that he was fifteen, things were different. Very different. He was gonna try for the final time, and he was gonna succeed. Ritchie's feelings were no longer part of the equation. Ritchie wasn't with them anymore.
Call him a fool all you like, but Nathan had vanished from his home for a full week after Ritchie's death, and no one had noticed. Just to add to ironical side of it, the street had been a kinder place to him than his own house. His family hated him, and he hated them back. He had long stopped trying to win over their affections, and now as the clock struck midnight, he knew what had to be done.
He noiselessly slid his skinny frame out of his shared bed and onto the wooden floor with stealth to rival that of a cat's, and went towards to closet to get his brother Reese's rucksack. The boy changed into a pair of hunting pants, a black, long sleeved shirt, a dark windbreaker and Ritchie's baseball cap. He also grabbed some of his spare clothes, some blankets, his toothbrush, a couple baseball cards and his lucky baseball bat, along with an old photograph of him and Ritchie at the harbor, and stuffed it all into the big rucksack. He then crept out of the room and into the kitchen.
He wandered through the small, smooth tiled room and careful looted the fridge and cupboards for food that would last for a long while, along with the money from the, 'Spare-Change-Jar' they had on top of the fridge. All the change added up to $86.54. It wouldn't last very long, but it would have to do. His plan was to sneak onto a train and go to Chicago, and hopefully find some work. He was really fast and he was pretty tough for someone his age, after all. …Yeah, he knew he'd probably die, but at least he'd die free. And if he did die, he could see Ritchie again... Win-win situation.
He took his brother Vince's hunting knife and left his farewell note on the maple wood table for his family to see. With all this done, he approached the door, and took one last look at the interior of the house.
The creaky wooden floors, the ancient furniture, the dusty photographs… The place he had called home for thirteen years. The cold, miserable, icy, unforgiving place he had called home for thirteen years. He had a feeling he wouldn't be seeing this place again for a long time.
"See ya," he uttered dejectedly as he emotionlessly closed the door behind him. Clark and Blair Hawthorne now only had six sons to worry about. The youngest son, the little pup of the family, had left the nest without any regrets. He departed the way he arrived: Unexpected and unpleasant.
As he callously walked through the dark streets of Boston with dark skies looming overhead and the train station getting closer with every step, he came to an abrupt stop. He looked over his shoulder to the street from which he had just came, and suddenly, he realized something. He was feeling… Happy. Happy he wouldn't have to see his family again, to come back after a hellish day at school to the same unkind faces, to hide away in the cellar with only his imaginary friends for support for his problems. It wouldn't be easy from here on out, but it was the way he was starting his adventure. A fresh start in the mysterious world. A short sentence popped into his head, and a heartless smile formed on his face. Two words. Three syllables. A straightforward meaning. He couldn't help but smile even wider as the simple, cruel statement rolled off his tongue:
New Mexico – 1968
Scout's bright blue eyes fluttered open with surprise at the recollection of his escaping of Boston. He lay on his white bed and store up at the cream coloured ceiling for a bit, contemplating as to why he had gotten that memory as a dream last night. He pushed himself up to a sitting position on his bed and yawned slightly. It wasn't often he thought back to that night. Usually, it was Ritchie's limp body being buried in the ground that haunted his nightmares, or worse, ones about his teammates dying horrible deaths and leaving him all alone again. Those were the ones that terrified him the most, leaving him hyperventilating and lying awake in bed for hours on end. The fact that the somewhat dark, yet adventurous memory of leaving his old house, of all his memories, had popped into his head that night confused him. He diligently thought it over, very, very carefully, desperately seeking the explanation with all his might. …But, being Scout, he got bored of it after about twelve seconds. The runner hopped out of his bed and did his typical morning routine to get ready and face the new day.
After brushing his teeth, shooting some targets and getting changed, he checked the calendar and saw that today was a Payload battle. Scout groaned. Payload battles weren't terrible, but they had a bad habit of being long, boring sessions of pushing the damn, oversized cart for two hours. He wished it could've been a 'Capture the Flag battle.' Those were his favourite. The rush of stealing the enemy's briefcases were so much fun, and the bits of stealth that went into robbing the briefcases just added to the fun. Stealth was not his greatest strength, that was speed, but when Scout wanted to be stealthy, he was almost as good as Spy. Though, Spy's stealth-speed was quicker, and Spy was a bit quieter. And the fact Spy had watches that could turn him invisible just added to the Frenchman's superiority.
Scout hopped away over to the kitchen, humming a happy tune. It was Friday, he was gonna smash in some heads, shoot some guns, run around, and… And…
Scout stopped dead in his tracks and held his stomach, feeling odd. A bad feeling was brewing, and it wasn't his hunger. He had a strange suspicion something bad had happened. And when Scout felt those types of things, they were very rarely wrong. Grimacing, he hoped that this feeling would mean nothing in the end.
Backing away from foreboding thoughts, Scout opened the door to the kitchen with a big smile.
Pyro, Heavy, Medic, Sniper, Engineer and Demoman were already at the long, rectangular, oak wood table, eating a fine breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon. The kitchen itself was a fairly small, white room with common things you'd find in other ordinary kitchen. Spatulas, pots, pans, a microwave, an oven, a giant fridge, maces, various hidden guns placed in the drawers and knives. You know, ordinary things.
"Howdy, Scout!" smiled Engineer in typical friendly fashion, all the while whilst multitasking at eating toast and tinkering with what looked like an chain-gun upgrade for The Gunslinger.
"Mmmpho!" greeted Pyro with childish energy, waving its arms excitedly at the arrival of its best friend.
"Hey, guys!" grinned Scout, taking his seat at the table next to Pyro and Sniper, "What's goin' on wit' you guys?"
"Not much," coolly answered Sniper, munching on some bacon, "There's a Payload battle ta'day. You're gonna be pushing 'at cart around all ov'ah."
"Oh great, I was havin' a good day..." frowned Scout. Sniper merely chuckled and pushed a plate of eggs over to him. Scout smiled and began eating... But then frowned. Something was off. Scout looked up from eating the eggs on his plate, and noticed two empty chairs. Neither Soldier or Spy were there at the table. "Where's Sol'ja an' Spy?" he asked, confused.
"Soldat iz off getting ze mail," stated Medic, taking a sip of coffee, "Und Spy? God knows."
Scout gave a simple nod and continued eating his breakfast as Demoman continued telling a grand, heroic tale about a demon-catcher and his exploits to the present team members. Scout normally would've been as enthralled with the Scot's story alongside his teammates, as Demo was a terrific storyteller, but he tuned it out and focused on eating instead. He wasn't in the mood.
"So, the lad curiously peeked into th'ah burrow, lookin' aboot for River, Pokeo close behind. However, instead of seeing the nine-year-old lass… All tha' wuas there was ONE OF THA GHOSTS!"
"MMMMMMMPH!" Pyro shrieked, cowering under the table in fear.
"What…" frowned Heavy, "Leetle River was ghost whole time?"
"Nein, Heavy, za girl vas turned into a ghost by za hollows," explained Medic, "Zere vas no vay she was one of the ghosts za whole time. It iz not possible."
"Ah," smiled Heavy, "I see-"
Before Demo could get back to his story, however, the door suddenly slammed open and the war-crazy American, known by his fellows as The Soldier, marched in, carrying a handful of envelopes addressed to his teammates.
"YOUR MAIL'S HERE, MAGGOTS!" he shouted loudly. Most of the team looked up, expectantly. Only around half the team got letters from time to time, mainly Sniper, Engie, and occasionally, Demo and Heavy, and the rest usually got no letters from the lack of relatives. But, as opposed to what you may think, they watched the others read their letters with happiness. It was nice to see their friend's faces light up from receiving news from loved ones about usually lighthearted events from their old homes. Sort of a pleasant reminder of the ones they didn't have.
"Let's see, got a letter for Sniper… A couple for Engie… Five for Heavy… And…?" Soldier's somewhat happy expression dropped upon looking at the final envelope. There was no way… Was he reading it wrong? "One for… Scout…?"
Scout nearly choked on his eggs. "MAIL?!" he cried/coughed in disbelief, "?! 'OU SENT IT?! WHER'AHS IT FRUM?! WHY TA ME?!... –S-S-Sol! D-Dere's gotta be a mix-up! There's no way! I-I-I nev'ah get mail-"
"It's addressed to a RED Scout, by the name of Nathan Hawthorne," said Soldier evenly, "Doesn't say where it's from."
Scout looked at him and the envelope, stammering in disbelief. After around ten seconds of an uncomfortable, blanketing silence, Scout finally composed himself. "L-Lemme see it," he muttered at last, trying to keep his cool.
Soldier wordlessly handed Scout the letter as his teammates watched with unnameable interest. Scout held the crisp envelope with uncertainty. He read over the firm print of the address many times, and despite its familiarity, it gave him a bad vibe. He knew that handwriting, but he couldn't but his finger on where he had seen it before. Butterflies zipped around at light-speed in his belly as he slowly tore open the envelope and read the note inside. As he read through the tight printing, Scout's eyes gradually went from being normal sized to the proportion of dinner plates.
"Oh, fuck…" he whispered with alarm.
It's been nearly five years since I last knew exactly where the hell you were. Now, I guess you can say I finally found your trail of breadcrumbs, or rather, Matthew did after receiving a job at Mann. Co and finding your name under the profile for a Scout in Reliable Excavation and Demolition. Nathan, I'm not even going to bother on lecturing you on the fact that running away and becoming a mercenary was the easily the lowest route you could've taken, so I'll cut straight to the chase:
Your mother is dying from a fast-acting lung cancer. She only has a few weeks left, and she wants all of us to be there in her final hours. It's a complete tragedy and it kills me to acknowledge this, but it's true. Her life is close to being over, and she wants you, and all your brothers, to be there before Death takes her by the hand. Your brothers are all coming, and I strongly urge you to do the same. Please come back home, just this once. For your mother's sake.
Sincerely, Clark Hawthorne. Your father.
They weren't supposed to know where… Where he was... That… That was part of his contract… How did they find out?
His mom was dying? The woman who did nothing but watch soap operas while he was miserable and alone? It was bound to happen at some point, but… Why couldn't he bring himself to care…?
W-Why now? …WHY NOW?! Now, when he was with these guys that honestly cared about him, and him in return?! Those bastards back home wanted him to just up and LEAVE the only people he ever cared about behind, for THEM?! He didn't want to see his family! He didn't want to take a single step into Boston AGAIN! WHY WAS HE SUPPOSED TO ATTEND?! IT'S NOT LIKE THEY ACTUALLY CARED ABOUT HIM! THEY DIDN'T WHEN HE WAS YOUNGER, SO WHY WOULD THEY NOW?! WHY SHOULD HE CARE?! HOW. COME. THEY-
"Scout?" asked Medic, slightly nervous by Scout's sudden mood swings from happiness, to shock, to complete rage in under two minutes. "Are you… OK?"
Scout looked up from the horrible letter and at his now nervous comrades with the same reaction one would get after waking up from a startling dream. All of them were sharing the same look of confusion and fear, wondering what just happened.
Scout considered telling them. Telling them that he had just received a letter from the heartless bastards that suddenly, after nineteen years, considered him family. Telling them that his irresponsible mother was dying and that she, in a sick way, deserved it and all the pain that came with it. Telling them that his family now knew where he was and that after this… Might force him to leave the team permanently. Part of him didn't want to tell, but…
He trusted these people… He could tell them. Maybe they could help fix the problem. Maybe, he wouldn't have to go back to Boston at all. He would tell them.
"…I got a lett'ah…" muttered Scout at last, "…Frum my old man."
Everyone's eyebrows raised up towards the ceiling.
"'E said, that my Ma' was sick an' dyin' frum canc'ah… And that he wants me ta go back to Boston to be wit' 'er in 'er final hours..."
"An' now... Apparently I gotta leave..."
"So… Why not goo?" asked Demo at last, "She'd be yer moth'ar… Shouldn't ya goo to 'er in 'er time 'o nee-?"
Scout slammed his fists against the table, "NO!" he shouted angrily, "I SHOULDN'T, CAUSE SHE WAS NEV'AH DERE F'AH ME! WHY SHOULD I?! DAT'S DA FUCKIN' PROBLEM, I HATE THAT BITCH! HELL, I HATE MY WHOLE FUCKIN' FAMILY! DAT'S WHY I RAN AWAY IN DA FIRST PLACE!"
Everyone looked at Scout like he had just grown a second head. A lot of questions they may have had about the baseball fanatic had just been answered, but a million more just took the earlier questions' places. No one spoke for what felt like hours.
Surprisingly, Heavy was the first one to respond the nineteen-year-old.
"Leetle Scout… Run away from family?"
Scout was about to open his mouth to make a smartass remark, but then realized he now had so much to say. He frowned and slunk back into his plastic chair. There was no way around it anymore… He'd have to tell them EVERYTHING now. He closed his blue eyes, let out a sigh, and slid off his baseball cap. The boy proceeded to run a bandaged hand through his short, brown hair as he composed himself once again.
"Do ya really wanna hear the goddamn story?" asked Scout. His teammates slowly nodded in response. Scout flopped his hat back on his head and leaned back on his chair with a frown.
"Ok, you bast'ahds asked for it," he said emotionlessly, "Now you getta hear the story of da Scout."