Title: Running Right
Series: Team Fortress 2
Character/pairing: Scout/Miss Pauling
Word count: 2800
Author's note: cottoncandy_bingo: teaching. I blame some cute art by mr-salt at tumblr for giving me the idea.
Title from a song by Courrier.
Her job demanded quite a bit of her, though she had always been up to it. Now it was asking more of her, and all she could do was comply. She woke up before dawn regularly, though this was a new aspect to her routine. She could handle it, just like she could handle everything else the company had thrown at her. Even of the literal variety.
She bent to tighten the shoelaces of her new purple and white running shoes. She did a few cursory stretches to loosen her muscles, and then started out at a slow pace. She soon began to break into a full run, for she'd have to fit in the most amount of exercise in the least amount of time. She got into a steady beat of her feet against the ground.
It didn't take her long until she wasn't alone anymore.
She heard him before she saw him, which was pretty much standard, given Scout. He caught up to her in mere seconds, and then he was running beside her.
"Whoa, whoa whoa—Hello, Miss Pauling.You chasin' after me? 'Cause I'll slow down if you want, baby."
Never mind that she had been running in the opposite direction.
She stopped, mostly because while Scout could run and talk (and talk, and talk, and talk) at the same time, she still had to catch her breath. He stopped as well, leaving a trail in the dust behind him as he did.
She needed a rest, anyways.
"It's work related," she said.
"Work wants you to chase after me now?" Scout said. "They got the right idea."
She narrowed her eyes at him. "I have a work mandated exercise regime. Demands from above," she said.
"Huh, yeah, did you even stretch?" Scout said.
"Some. I have very limited time," she said. She was expected to get through this new exercise regime without infringing on any working hours. There went the last of her free time, and any semblance of a social life.
"Whoa, wait a minute–You skimped on the stretchin'? That is a no can do. Okay, I'm like the grand master of runnin' here. And trust me, I have skipped the stretchin'. And you know what? I hurt my hamstring, and that hurts like a bitch. Me, I just got the Doc to fix me up, but I don't think that works for you," Scout said. "Do you want to be limpin' around? Because I don't want to see you hurt. I mean, I could carry you everywhere if you wanted—"
Was it yet another scheme to get close to her? Probably. Okay, scratch that, being that it was Scout, it was definitely half scheme and half who the hell knew what, but he did know what he was doing, and she could always tell him off if he got fresh.
"All right, show me," she said.
Scout rubbed his hands together and grinned. "Oh, this is gonna be great. Okay, you watchin'? All right, face to the wall. Put your back out, now push yourself off. Then you arch your back, makin' a triangle like shape. Kay, after that one, you got this–"
He gripped his ankle with one hand, and used the other to balance himself against the wall.
"You seein' this?" Scout said. "I'd be happy to give you more eye candy."
She lifted an eyebrow.
"Hmm, how funny. Most of these stretches seem to show off certain areas of my body," Miss Pauling said. She gave him a suspicious glance.
"Hey, I don't make the rules. I do these every day, too. In fact, if it makes you feel better, I'll stretch again and you can watch."
"Fair is fair," she said. She put her hands on her hips and watched said demonstration as Scout pushed himself out from the wall again, his back arched up so his made a half-triangle shape. Usually his pants were too loose, and she wasn't exactly looking, but she had to admit that his physique wasn't too bad. Obviously all that running had left him rather toned in certain areas.
Except, she wasn't exactly going to admit that to him.
"You got it?" Scout said.
She nodded. The first push up—or push out wasn't too hard. Scout, however...
"Yep, you're doin' great, Miss P. Real great."
"Scout, shouldn't you be stretching?" she said.
"I already stretched," Scout said, entirely too proud of himself.
"Then stretch more," she said.
"Did I mention you look great like that? I ain't never seen you with your hair like that, and that's a cute tracksuit," he said.
She'd pulled her hair back into a ponytail, and worn a zip-up purple track fleece and simple black pants, which in retrospect were a bit tight.
"In fact, it just matches mine. You could say we make a good pair." He attempted to give her a seductive look, but only managed to make himself look preposterous and lovestruck in the process.
"If you waggle your eyebrows any more, you're bound to hurt yourself," she said.
"Oh, Miss Pauling, I'm a force-a-nature. These brows can't be kept down, and neither can I."
"I see," she said.
"Speakin' of things that can't be kept down—"
Miss Pauling came out of the stretch and leaned against the wall. "Maybe we should move on to the next part. Otherwise I won't get to run anymore at all, as I have to return in..." She checked her watch. "Thirty minutes."
Not counting the amount it'd take to shower and get dressed, but mentioning a shower to Scout would just end up with another flurry of come-ons.
"Can do. See, a normal guy couldn't do it in thirty minutes, but me? I can totally do this in fifteen–no, make that Iten minutes./I Five minutes if I'm really into it."
"Just what every woman wants to hear," Miss Pauling said under her breath. Scout didn't hear her, but kept on talking.
"First lesson," Scout said. "Shoulders back, and relax, relaaaax. You'll wear yourself out, runnin' like you're a bundle of nerves."
She pushed her shoulders back.
"Even your breathin' and relax a moment."
She didn't close her eyes, but focused on a sliver of blue sky through the metal buildings of the base. She took a deep breath, and then let it out, then another, and another. She couldn't say she was entirely calm–with this job, she never was–yet a sense of determination had settled on her
She nodded. After one last stretch of her back, she started at a slow pace.
"Doin'—and lookin'–good, Miss Pauling!" he called. He ran backwards, which was actually kind of distracting, come to think of it, but her job was to withstand whatever came her way—Scout included.
The breeze was in her hair, and she had to admit, through the tightness in her chest, how each breath had begun to burn, there was something thrilling about the feeling of her blood rushing and her feet making a steady sound on the ground. She felt like laughing, though she couldn't say why, only that there was a certain joy to going fast. Maybe this was how Scout felt.
He gave her a thumb's up sign before turning around and running ahead for a short while, leaving her in his dust. She rounded another set of buildings, as Scout leapt gracefully over some debris one of the men must've knocked over. She avoided it, continuing to run as the pain started to overwhelm the sense of joy. No more than ten minutes in, the burning and tightness overwhelmed the thrill, and she began to slow.
"Oh, come on, Miss P. Keep strong!" he called. "You can do it!"
She'd seen him time and time again insult his teammates and foes alike, mocking them, but he had only kind words for her. Kind words or not, she only lasted about two more minutes before she was bent over, panting and flushed faced.
Scout jogged over to see her. "You okay down there?"
"What... no... insults?"
"Ain't nothin' about you to insult," Scout said.
She looked up to him. "Then maybe you need to get your eyes checked, because I'm a workaholic and uncompromising control freak who can be quiet cold and ruthless given the means."
"You say that like it's a bad thing, though," Scout said. "All I hear is hot, hot, hot librarian, hot."
She raised her eyebrow.
"Okay, okay, you got...real high standards. So high, that if I didn't exist, you'd probably die alone with twenty cats, because no man could ever live up to them. But luckily for you, I do exist!"
"Are a personal gift from the guy upstairs to women everywhere, patron saint of speed and handsomeness, but I'm willin' to express send all my lovin' to you," Scout said with a stupid grin.
"Ah," she said. "Of course you are."
She leaned back and tried to catch her breath. There was a cooler in the shade of a building. It wasn't even nine yet and she already was sweating.
"C'mon, drink. You need to be hydrated."
She took the bottle and took a sip. The water was so cold it made her teeth hurt, and she coughed.
Her chest ached with every breath, and her feet still throbbed and hurt. She'd never been sporty in school, far preferring to go into the library with several books, but she hadn't thought it would be that bad.
She laid back on the ground, uncaring how dirty she got. She'd have to clean up before she got ready for work, anyways. She could see snippets of brilliant blue sky between the long clouds that passed through.
"You didn't see that," she said weakly.
"You ain't too bad. When I first started runnin' I gave myself so many blisters I couldn't get to school the next day. And man, did my shins hurt. It takes time, y'know? After a bit of practice, you'll be joggin' like a pro."
"I doubt I'd be running as fast as you. My legs aren't nearly as long as yours," she said.
He bent down and grinned at her.
"You've been noticin' my legs, huh? Yeah, they're pretty great. I don't blame you for lookin'."
She didn't reply.
"I see I left you speechless. Anyways, more water," he said. He nudged her with the bottle and she pushed herself up enough to drink.
She took another drink.
"Y'know, runnin' is really amazin' when you get used to it. I remember back when I started as a kid, it felt like flyin', like I was some super hero. Sure, back then I was a little less amazin' than I am now and my brothers would make mincemeat of whatever chuckleheads thought they'd take on our clan, but I could run."
She stretched out her legs, which still ached, especially about the knees. She flinched as her toes touched the side of the shoes.
"Here, lemme see."
"Mmmhmmm," he said.
She didn't tell him no, which he took as a yes as he slipped her left shoe off and began to look her over.
"They're sweaty and gross," she said.
"You have not known smelly until you are in the back of a bus without air conditionin', with Sniper behind you and Heavy beside you and no chance to shower after a match. Seriously, you could fall in the mud and you'd still smell like frickin' roses to me."
"Well, if you don't mind..." she said.
"I never do when it comes to you," he said. "Hey, you paint your nails like ma! She never uses purple, though. Hmmm. You're gonna get one on your little toe."
"Probably... You must get a lot of blisters," she said.
"Yeah. The Doc fixes em up. My feet are pretty much all callouses at this point, though."
He put her foot down for a moment and dug into his duffel bag. After a moment's searching, he returned with a band-aid with little designs on it. A second glance showed them to be some sort of comic hero in red with a yellow lightning bolt on his chest.
"Why am I not surprised?" she said.
"Because you're a smart, classy girl who figures out stuff easily," Scout said.
He lifted up the band-aid. "There's a story behind 'em. See, my brothers and I used to get all beat up, and ma would clean us up and yell at us the whole time. When I was little, she used to spend extra to get me super hero bandages even though we were dirt poor. I keep buyin' 'em because they remind me of then, even though we got regular band-aids here."
He smiled, nostalgic, and she watched him. He was actually rather...cute? Somehow it was never a word she would've applied to any of the mercenaries, but she hadn't seen this side of him. She couldn't help but smile at this sudden enthusiasm for something so small and seemingly inconsequential.
"All right, you're not just bandaged up, you're awesome. Not that you weren't already, mind you," Scout said.
He began to rub her foot, firm, yet gentle. The tension began to ebb away under his fingers as he ran his fingers down the plane of her foot. And for once, he wasn't even trying to sneak a peek at her, but instead was focused intently on her foot. He lifted her foot up to stretch it, holding at the heel.
He set her foot down, and began to pull off her other shoe, presumably to preform the same inspection and care. She curled her toes. The pain hadn't entirely ceased, but it was better. His touch had been surprisingly gentle.
"It seems you have many talents," she said.
"Baby, you don't know half of it," Scout said. "Why are you learnin' to run, anyways? You wanna be like me?"
"It wasn't exactly explained in detail, but I believe it has to do should I ever make a dash for it," she said.
"Oh, in case you gotta haul ass, I gotcha. If that happens, you can just hop on my back and take a ride. It's like ridin' a jetpack, but more handsome." He grinned and waggled his eyebrows at her. For once, she couldn't actually tell if he was making an innuendo or just being his usual egotistical self.
"I'll...take that into account," she said.
Her hair had become messy and undone as she had run, so she pushed herself up and took out the ponytail holder and held it in her mouth as she used her fingers to brush the tangles out. She noticed that Scout hadn't just stopped in his massage, but wonder of wonders, had gone silent. She looked up, and he was gaping at her in a lovestruck manner. She'd never had anyone look at her like that before Scout, like she was some goddess and not just an assistant. Sometimes, she even let herself feel flattered by it before reason came in and she put her mind back to work.
She looked away, her cheeks a little flushed from just how intensely he was looking at her, and back to her watch. She'd have to leave soon, or suffer he wrath of her superiors at being late.
"Thank you for your training and helping me afterwards," she said, a little awkwardly. She cleared her throat.
"You gonna show up tomorrow, too? Oh, man! There's tons more places I can show you, and it gets real nice up here at dawn, and by sunset over the cliffs. I am gonna show you all the things!"
Honestly, he was as enthusiastic as a small puppy. She hadn't expected an almost...endearing side to the base's resident violent and egotistic loudmouth. She could simply shut him out, return to her work, and find some other equipment to keep her from him, but truth be told, she'd enjoyed and company...and him. It could get messy, it could get complicated, but she nodded anyways.
"Yes, I'll be here tomorrow," she said.
She turned back, and he was still watching her. He grinned and waved to her. Usually she would've simply turned back and kept going, but this time she waved back.