Title: These Things Take Backbone
Series: TF2
Character/pairing: Scout/Miss Pauling
Rating: PG-13
Author's note: Finished because of this one response to someone responding to anon hate towards Miss Pauling-saying she was too ugly for Medic. The image had her expression looking like Scout, and thus this was born. FFN's no link policy sucks, yo.

This just in: I have a narrative kink for fluffy fic involving teaching. I'm sure no one guessed this ever, because it certainly isn't obvious or anything like that.

Title comes from "Fighting For Nothing" by Meg and Dia


She was checking stats of one of the lesser generators, her hand poised at the keys of a large computer when she heard the door open. Someone called out her name, and she looked up from her clipboard and notes, just as Scout jogged in the room.

"There you are, I've been lookin' all over for you! Hey, did someone seriously call you ugly?"

"Yes, and how did you get that information?"

"Oh, around," Scout said, waving his hand dismissively. "But, seriously, you just gonna let this stand? You gotta stand up for yourself, Miss P! I've seen you just take it as that Director asshole insulted you, and that other helper guy. That just ain't right."

"Notice anything in common with them?" She said.

"They're all gigantic jackasses?" Scout said.

"None of them are around anymore," she said.

"Good riddance, I say. Anyone who treats you like that don't deserve to be around," Scout replied.

Of course, their absence was because she'd buried them in shallow graves under fast acting quicklime.

"You and Medic, though," Scout began. He had the worst poker face she'd ever seen, given that despite his attempt at being casual, his left eye was twitching, and his right hand slowly curling into a fist, and his attempt at a friendly smile looked more he was going to bash someone's head in.

"—I am not dating Medic or currently interested in doing anything of the kind."

He let out a relieved sigh. "That's good to hear. He's got a wife, you know."

"Yes, I know. I know the details of all the mercenaries and their identities outside of the base, as you should well know, considering we had this conversation yesterday when you attempted to, ah, invite me home," she replied.

She was about to add more, but decided better of it.

"The offer still stands, you know," he said.

"I'm a little busy," she replied.

"S'okay, I'm a patient guy. I can wait," Scout said.

In her experience, he was anything but patient, but she let it slide. He simply talked over her silence, chattering away as usual. He leaned against the computer while she inputted the last code and gave him her full attention. She might as well, anyways, given that he'd interrupt her work again and again until he had it, anyways.

"See, you're lucky I'm here. I'll teach you how to deal with those chuckleheads," Scout said. He thrust his thumb at his chest. He always talked with his hands, gesturing through every anecdote.

"Scout, I can take care of myself," she said sternly.

"I know, I know, you're pretty awesome, but from where I'm lookin', you're letting someone disrespect you. You know what happens when you let people do that? They start ignorin' you, and cuttin' you down, and people start thinkin' that you take that and that's how they can treat you. And you are way too classy a lady for anyone to be callin' ugly or puttin' down," Scout said.

"And what exactly do you suggest?" She said in exasperation. "Since you apparently know all the answers."

As usual, he didn't catch exasperation, and took it at face value.

"And right you are, I have alll the answers, all the guys think of me as a bit of a mentor, and I'd be happy to share some of that smarts with you. See, I know people distrespectin', and the only thing you can do is give them a knuckle sandwich. You gotta beat into them until they know that when you come around, you are the boss here. You take way too much crap from people, Miss P, and you're way too good for that!"

"Yes, I do take far too much crap from people, as you put it," she said, and looked at him pointedly. "Especially with how much certain people like to interrupt my work and chatter away at me in the middle of important meetings, which in turn makes my superiors question me."

To say nothing of all the questioning of herself when she didn't tell him off, when she couldn't bring herself to hurt him too much when rejecting him, when she didn't mind his company as much as her work dictated she should.

Scout pushed himself up from the computer and crossed closer to her.

"Man, it's worse than I thought! That jackass really need to be taught a lesson for messin' with you, and I'm goin' to teach you how! See, you gotta just go right up in their face and be all hell no, you did not just say that about me you little shit. All right, you try."

She pulled on his collar and pulled his face close to hers. "Listen up, you little shit. Bother me again and I'll put you in a shallow grave."

"Pretty good! But you need more swagger to it. Throw your weight around and show that bastard who's boss!"

She held to his shirt so hard that the red fabric bunched in her hand, and part of his abdomen was bared. She tried to mimic his best smirk, the one she'd seen many times as she broke up fights between him and his team members, or the other side, or about anyone else.

"You're trying my patience, and if you don't stop, you little shit, I'm going to personally ensure you die an extremely painful death and end up buried under gravel!"

"Whoa, that's pretty badass," Scout said.

He was closer than she meant him to be, and now he was looking at her lips. The closeness surprised her and made her feel a little woozy all at once. She'd meant to pull off a menacing expression, but all she was thinking was that all he would have to do was move a little bit to touch her lips, and at this point, she wasn't even sure she'd mind. And those thoughts were going nowhere good. She pushed him and stepped away, and he sprawled on the floor in front of her. She had pushed on his chest a little harder than she meant to, but at least the moment was broken. She stepped back a little to catch her breath and let the strange feeling pass.

She didn't have long before any thoughts or worries were broken by him talking again.

He rubbed at his back. "Jeez, you push hard."

"I told you I can take care of myself," she said.

He looked at her a little dazed and smiled at her. "Never doubted it, I'm just lookin' out for you. Hey, wait a minute—You could say I ifell hard for you/I."

"Scout, we're not having this conversation," she said. She turned, and pulled at her collar, her face feeling a bit hot. Was it just her, or had the room grown a little stuffy?

Scout pushed himself up. "Yeah, yeah, I gotcha...So, another round. What are you goin' to do to this chucklehead who dares disrespect you? Pop quiz here, Miss P. I bet you'll ace it."

"I am going to find out who they are, give you their number and watch you beat them into a pulp while I watch you in all your violent and manly glory," Miss Pauling said dryly.

"Oh yeah, that works!" Scout said. He grinned smugly at this. She was pretty sure she just saw his ego grow several sizes right before her eyes. She should've known not to use sarcasm with him; he never caught it, anyways.

"I told you I'd bash anybody's head in you wanted, and the offer still stands. It can be a birthday gift, or like, an any day of the week gift. You want some skulls smashed in, then you come to me. I'm your man, yep. I––'m your man."

She cleared her throat. He'd put a whole lot of focus on the last part. This was more worrying than him trying to use banal pick up lines on her. Not that she had time to even consider the implications of this, or what those implications might mean to her. "While the offer is, ah, tempting, I was joking. I'll tell them off and ensure they don't disrespect me again."

Then bury them in a shallow grave with a layer of quicklime after she was done executing them.

"There you go, Miss P! That's great but don't forget, I'm always here if you need me! Call me any time. Annyy time. Seriously, even if it's night and we're all in bed, just give me a call and I'll jump up and do whatever you want. Anythin', really!"

He was looking at her like that again. Simple pick up lines had given away to flirting and starry-eyed glances. The room was too hot; it was hard to think—or was it her? The room had seemed perfectly cool a few minutes ago. She stepped back again, putting some more distance between them.

"Yes, quite. That being said, I've tarried too long, and I have many things to do. I really have to get going," she said.

"Yeah, go kick your paperwork's ass and crap," Scout said. He was trying to put a brave front, but he actually looked quite disappointed to see her go. It was rather cute, actually. Miss Pauling brushed dirt off her skirts and started to walk out, when he called after her.

"Yo, Miss Pauling! Listen, anyone callin' you ugly has gotta either be blind or really jealous. You're the exact opposite of ugly. In fact, you're really pretty and crap!"

Pretty and crap. She was sure Scout's career as a poet would happen any day now. Still, it was somewhat endearing. When he wasn't trying to put on horrible lines to her, he could actually be charming in a very clueless way.

"Thank you, Scout," she said. And she meant every word. No tight lipped smiles while she walked out at whatever supervisor was questioning her abilities this time. A real, heartfelt thanks.

She walked out, humming to herself. She'd actually enjoyed herself and this little lesson quite a bit. Through the day, she found herself remembering the compliment, his sincerity and feeling the same warmth. Pretty and crap. Now she'd really heard it all.

It brought a smile to her lips, shaking her head with a faint fondness. Somehow, it'd been the bright point of her day, and had lightened her mood through some more stressful work. Somehow every other thought invariably went to that room, how close their faces had been, learning to give insults while he cheered her on.

And somehow, she thought, for all the trouble he gave her, she might like him a little more than she should.