I discovered liquorice flavoured herb tea yesterday. omg. It's amazinggg. The idea for this slapped me in the face at 10:30 pm and I had to write it, I simply couldn't not. This story led me, and I noted what happened.
I tried to incorporate TheMeasured's style of fic, her works are great. Kudos, Mes!
(Next chapter of You Found This Book will be up soon.)
Scout groaned and slumped onto the desk, mussing up the disordered paperwork she was supposed to be doing even more. How could she fill in form upon form of ammo and supplies she needed if it was eleven at night and Engineer had confiscated her Bonk, telling her it was too late for the stuff? Another groan and slouch had the chair skidding backwards half a metre, the sounds emanating from the next room all too enticing. The baseball commentary held her attention in a vice grip, but Medic had, rather firmly, told her that "if she vus to vutch beseball she hud to fill out zhe pehperverk" -first, he had clarified, ushering the younger back outside once found to have snuck in. They were doing it on purpose, she thought. Taunting her.
Scout huffed a strand of hair out of her eyes and picked up the almost empty pen, scrawling "moer Bork and buttets" in fading ink, intentionally crossing the two "L"s and not caring what the Administrator thought. Or whoever the heck went through these anyway.
"Scout, that is horrific," a gentle voice chided in a not-very-gentle manner.
Scout perked up instantly and swung around on the chair to grin stupidly at Miss Pauling. "Why hell-o there, Miss P," she drawled, one eyebrow up and the other scrunching her eye shut in what was probably supposed to equate to a dashing and seductive grin. "When'd you get here?"
Miss Pauling frowned, barely hearing the standard opening, and had a good look at the papers. Nearly every required field was blank, the only filled parts being none too polite demands for more Bonk, Crit-a-Cola and 'buttets'. Miss Pauling drew her lips into a grim line, the corners ever-so-slightly threatening to tug upwards. "You do realize that I have to go through these, right?"
She had never seen Scout move faster, not even in the mad dashes to beat Soldier to leftover pork ribs. One millisecond Scout was staring her up and down, the next there was a fair paper storm and those forms were being filled out like lightning and, thankfully, legibly.
Miss Pauling had to close her throat to stop the bubble of laughter rising through her chest. Scout, Scout, Scout, she thought, what to do.
Scout's fervor was undercut with a slight tic; every few seconds her head would bob forward slightly and she would jerk it back up to continue writing how many rounds were in a scattergun clip or the rest of the team's primary weapons.
Miss Pauling had a careful look at Scout's face from a blind spot so as to not attract attention. Scout had rings under her eyes, she was blinking frequently and her hands occasionally trembled. She was practically asleep on her feet.
"And there he goes again, Cy Young's hit it right outta the park! He passes first, second - look out, they're getting the ball back-!"
The television and Soldier's roars of sporting spirit cut through Scout's forced concentration like Spy's meticulously sharpened balisong through melted butter. She abruptly stopped writing, the pen trembling with her hands, rapt attention now on the narration.
Miss Pauling reacted quickly. "Scout," she said, "you have to do this. Here, I'll shut the door-"
"No," Scout whimpered. "Leave it open."
Miss Pauling reached to shut it anyway. "It'll help you concentrate if there's-"
"Leave. It. Open. Please, Miss P, My ma would turn on the baseball when we couldn't sleep or had something to do and it kept us all nice-like, honest," Scout pleaded.
Miss Pauling took a moment to count to ten, and sighed. She shut the door halfway, the thin material barely having any effect on the noise level. "Here, Scout..." Miss Pauling began.
Scout whipped her head around so fast something cricked. Her eyes were half lidded but she stared intently. "Yeah?"
Miss Pauling thought carefully about how she was to word this without getting a massive reaction. "Would you like something to drink?"
Scout took it the wrong way. "Yeah, oh yeah!" she cackled, the mere thought of Bonk getting her fired up.
Miss Pauling stepped out of the room with a sigh. Scout grinned stupidly as she wrote more, handwriting becoming noticeably loopier.
Miss Pauling had no intention of getting Bonk. She headed straight for the kettle, flicking it on and standing on tiptoes to reach a small box full of assorted herbal tea bags at the back of a cupboard. By the time she managed to select one, the kettle had boiled its two inches deep water reservoir and Miss Pauling selected a stout mug decorated with pale brown leaves, dropping the tea bag in and pouring the water over the top. Oh, that's very nice, she thought, as the smell of the tea wafted upwards.
Scout was writing away, intent on making this good, when she realized how long Miss Pauling was taking. Grab a can and come back? Maybe her perception of time was off. But she'd been gone for ages... No, she thought, it was going to be something extra special! Bonk with a sandwich on the side! Scout ran her tongue over her teeth, grinning like an idiot. Ha! She gets a freaking sandwich! All the other mercs could go -
A slight creak of the door signalled Miss Pauling's return. "Hey, Miss P, you took ages! Thanks for the-" her eyes froze at the sight of a small steaming mug and not a cold can of radioactive goodness and a plate of filling bread-based deliciousness. "I made you herb tea," Miss Pauling explained.
Scout's face melted into a shocked and disheartened frown. "What? No Bonk?" she complained.
With nary an acknowledgment to Scout's whinging, Miss Pauling set the mug down next to Scout's hand. "It's a good brew, at least try it," she coaxed.
Scout huffed, but tentatively raised the mug to her lips and took a tiny sip. The hot drink was practically flavourless. "What's the freaking point of this?" she wanted to say, the whole thing anticlimactic and stupid. There's nothing that... "Hey, Miss P, did you put sugar in this?" she asked instead, tasting something faintly sweet.
"No, I didn't," Miss Pauling said, the tea certainly something Scout could like. "Have a larger sip."
Scout eyed the cup suspiciously and sniffed it. "I smell liquorice."
Miss Pauling quirked an eyebrow. "Indeed you do, it's aniseed tea."
Scout's face lit up some. Liquorice! She took a larger sip as asked. After a moment of swilling, she swallowed. "Ya know, I can't taste anythWHOA what is that?!" she exclaimed, a sweet afterburn firing up in the back of her throat. She stared at the cup of tea, blinking, and took another sip, beginning to smile as the pleasant and dry flavour kicked in again. Aniseed really was very sweet. "This ain't so bad, ya know?" Scout said, slowly draining the cup.
"I'm glad you like it," Miss Pauling said, turning to leave. "Make sure you finish the- urk!" Scout had set the cup down and leapt to pull the other into a crushing hug, accidentally bringing her arm across Miss Pauling's throat, cutting off her airflow. Miss Pauling scrabbled at the offending arm, Scout taking the hint and rapidly moving it to lie across Miss Pauling's collarbones instead. "You're the best, y'know dat?" Scout mumbled into her hair.
Miss Pauling was silent for a moment, the unexpected proximity and smell of sweat and blood and Bonk and aniseed tea a little overwhelming. "Thanks, Scout," she managed, disentangling herself and looking up at the taller girl with a small smile. Scout still looked dead on her feet, but with a new spark in her eyes. "I ain't evah skimpin' on this again 'cause I know you do it now, okay?" she said.
Miss Pauling nodded and walked back to the door, pausing at the doorframe to look back at Scout, who was filling in the forms and drinking the tea with little slurping noises.
The next morning, Miss Pauling found the forms legibly - not neatly, but legibly - filled out on the floor under her office door. And at a rapid pace throughout the next week, the aniseed tea bags began disappearing from the tea box.