"Like crying wolf, if you keep looking for sympathy as a justification for your actions, you will someday be left standing alone when you really need help." — Criss Jami

Disclaimer: I don't own KND. There are many reasons I can give for that, but one of the big ones is because I remembering trouble coming up with my own acronyms back in Literature… so naturally I wouldn't be able to come up with all those fancy 2x4 acronym names. (Bah, I'm just joking)

Merry Christmas! Here's something different from what I normally do. Enjoy!

"We have a winner! Numbuh 1 of Sector—"

"Aw, shhhuuuut up!"

The television that was airing a repeat telecast of the events of the previous day was forcibly cut off as mustard fired from a mustard gun splattered all over the output screen. The wielder then proceeded to angrily fling the weapon itself in the direction of the smothered yellow mess, cracking the screen beyond repair after it made impact.

"Stupid, stupid Kids Next Door Global News!" Harvey grumbled as he picked up the fallen mustard gun from the floor. "Why do they have to keep talking about that lousy scavenger hunt?! Can't they talk about anything else?" He clutched his head, shaking it vigorously to get the reporter's repeated praise for Nigel Uno out of his mind.

Gahh! He almost screamed as the repressed memory of what the reporters were saying hit him full force. That was supposed to be him they were praising. Him!

And it had started off so well too. Just yesterday, he had the honor of being present at what was basically a change-of-command ceremony. He had followed his sister down to meet with Nigel Uno and his team, Sector V. Even then, he was laughing within, knowing that all of their fame would soon be within his grasp. He was shaking with anticipation for the tongue lashing he knew was to come.

"Look, I think it's time to take you guys off the case." The blonde girl turned to face a dumbfounded team of five. "Since taking over Sector W, Numbuh 363 has the highest mission success rate in the Kids Next Door. So…" she put her finger to her chin in contemplation, "I'm putting him in charge of all future cake-retrieval missions."

He had silently laughed at all of their expressions. Their faces ranged from shock to disbelief to anger. Their eyes pleaded for a second chance, but too bad for them, he knew beforehand that they've already used up all of the chances they had.

He'd done his research on Sector V by looking up famous missions that they've been involved in on the KND mainframe. To his glee, he discovered that the famous sector had a pretty infamous Achilles Heel — the cake retrieval operations. The well-respected KND team somehow always failed in retrieving the Delightful Children's cake in one piece. In fact, their last attempt had ended with a switcheroo that caused them to unintentionally hand the cake over to the Delightful Children themselves… which was really kind of sad.

With his smoking gun in hand, all he needed to do was simply bring up his "valid concerns" about it to his big sister, Rachel. With this much evidence of Sector V's incompetence when it came to confectionery, it was a cinch to convince her to pass the baton, thus handing over the responsibility of stealing the creamy dessert to him and Sector W.

With Rachel backing him up, Harvey had assumed that they would all cower before him. After all, his big sister had the extra-super-duper-ultra-hyper-important KND command post of Supreme Commander. No kid in their right mind would dare to cross her!

Well, at least that was what he had thought. Harvey never anticipated that Nigel Uno would dare retaliate. Only he—and Sector V too, but he didn't mind them almost quite as much compared to Numbuh 1—would have the guts to go against authority, fighting tooth and nail to retain their command of the mission.

It was frankly amusing to see them attempt to retain their position of control. Peh! Why did they even bother resisting their fate? Couldn't those old-timers accept that they had lost their groove? Now that their time had passed, it was time for a bunch of young'uns like him to get their spot in the limelight.

In the end, Rachel had put her foot down and handed him command of the C.A.K.E.D. missions. He had given the biggest smirk ever to Sector V, with only one thought on his mind — this was his chance to make it big.

And true enough, everything had gone well for most of the mission. Even though Numbuh 74.239 had butted in and turn the whole thing into a scavenger hunt, it didn't take long for them to simply shrug and play along. With the trio working as a seasoned team, the items in the list were easy to snag. Their sector had racked up points and took the lead quickly.

The only thing that grated him was that Sonya had wanted to show some mercy to Sector V when things weren't going their way. He'd snapped at her for even considering it. Didn't she get it? Kick them while they're down! Only after his outburst did she reluctantly leave.

He supposed that should have been a warning, a sign that something was off. In hindsight, he definitely should have paid more attention to her behavior. But, hindsight was 20/20. In the end, he couldn't change the past even if he wanted to. And considering how it ended, he definitely wanted to.

It had all gone downhill when he had decided to go for the grand prize. Worth eleventy kahmillion points, that final scavenger hunt item had been the turning point. Everything went from being in his favor to being against in a mere matter of minutes.

How was he to know? How could he have known that a stupid six-inch cigar pipe would ruin everything?

"…and they'll be all like, I want 363's autograph and not yours, bald weirdo!" As Harvey twirled the pipe between his fingers, he grinned in satisfaction at seeing Numbuh 1 looking absolutely terrified.

Oh, had he been waiting for this. He was finally seeing Nigel Uno's face fall apart.

Throughout the whole scavenger hunt, Numbuh 1 had held his face steadfast, as if he truly believed that he could recover and pull a last minute victory. But too bad! With the pipe owned by Father himself now in his own hands, he had personally extinguished that stubborn pest's last hope.

Harvey smirked. It felt so good to see him completely crushed. In fact, the fool appeared to be so awestruck by his defeat that he couldn't tear his gaze away from his direction.

"Nooo," Harvey could hear him mutter in disbelief. Upon hearing that, he pumped his fist in victory. Ha! Finally, that stubborn punk accepted his loss. That's right! You should kneel before me! He smirked as he decided to rub his victory in that loser's face with one final remark, "Because I'm so totally awesomeeee… wo-woah!" he squeaked, feeling himself thrown off balance as the floor vibrated.

His spiel interrupted, he suddenly took note of something he didn't notice when he had been bragging — something bright orange was glinting off of Numbuh One's black sunglasses. Turning around to the source of the light, his jaw dropped when he saw the inhumane sight before him. What was in front of him was a giant black dragon that looked ready to roast him alive. He could hear the crackling of flames as the transformed Father prepared to blast a fireball.

Every survival instinct within Harvey screamed at him to run, but he couldn't do a thing. He stood rooted to the ground, trembling with sheer horror.

"LOOK OUT!" Nigel yelled in an alarmed tone. Before he could comprehend what was happening, Nigel tackled him in the direction of the ground. He didn't even have the chance to react. The movement was so sudden that he didn't even have the chance to even complain about his hatred of people touching him.

Less than a second later, a sea of flames shot past where his body had originally been standing.

Harvey yelped, feeling contact burns on his hand as the flamethrower flew across his side. The next thing he felt was a sharp pain from the back of his head when he actually hit the ground. He had landed on the floor headfirst, his helmet reverberating with a clang that would have normally been pretty loud, but this time the noise was almost inaudible, completely offset by the wall of flames that Father had simultaneously released.

He felt his vision going black, his mind turning dizzy and unfocused. The whole world was spinning like a high speed roller coaster. His helmet had done little to protect his head from the rough impact. Out of instinct, he hid Father's Pipe within his pants pocket. Turning his head slightly to try to maintain consciousness, Harvey felt his heart rate increase when he caught sight of his teammates, Numbuhs 83 and 84, both peering around the corner.

The two were huddling together, obviously out of fear of Father. He widened his eyes slightly when he saw Sonya mouth the words Numbuh 363 out of fright.

It was only then that he realized his folly. He couldn't move at all, putting him in grave danger, but Lee and Sonya couldn't rescue him either. The two didn't dare risk their lives trying to get him when the hallway he was in was hotter than the planet Mercury.

He was stuck in the blazing inferno, and all the three Sector W operatives could do was look helplessly at one another.

Harvey lifted his head, weakly reaching out for his teammates with all of his strength. Alas, the merciful sleep took him before he even realized it. The last thing that he remembered hearing was Numbuh 1's shout.

"Kids Next Door, battle stations!"

Harvey slowly awoke from the realm of unconsciousness.

Blinking tears from his eyes to clear his vision, he observed his surroundings. The transformed Father was nowhere in sight. The fiery aura that accompanied the vile villain had completely vanished as well.

He heaved a sigh of relief. For now, the situation appeared to be all-clear. Harvey tried to regain his footing, but still completely disoriented, he failed to stand up on his two feet.

After groaning in pain thanks to a splitting headache, he managed to catch sight of a reflection of himself along the polished marble floor by turning to his side.

Plain and simple… he looked like a wreck. There were bruises all over from his fall, his brown hair was a disheveled mess, and he had a black eye. To his horror, he could even see that one of his front buckteeth had been chipped.

Hearing the sound of footsteps approaching from the opposite end, Harvey rolled around and was greeted by a frantic cry.

"Numbuh 363! Are you okay?"

His eyelids flickered as he heard Sonya's distressed voice. Looking up, he saw that her eyes were as wide as saucers. Even the normally stoic Lee was biting his lip out of concern.

Was he okay? What a pointless question to ask! The answer to that was so obvious! Now that the only threat to their victory was neutralized, the scavenger hunt was in the bag. As long as he had Father's Pipe in his possession, he felt more than okay.

"I won! I got the pipe!" he managed to wheeze out with a heavy smile on his face. He took out the pipe from his pocket and held it up to the ceiling using his left hand, admiring it as he gazed upwards from his lying position.

Both of his teammates' faces changed after hearing his declaration of victory. For some reason, they went from looking concerned and worried to… well, looking furious.

Why, though? They won the scavenger hunt. The cake was as good as theirs! The mission was a complete success! What reason would they have for being mad?

He got his answer when he felt his limp body lifted off the floor by Sonya.

One look at her face and Harvey knew that he was in trouble. The normally mild-mannered and timid girl was positively seething, glaring at him with anger as she gripped onto his jacket. "Is that all you can think about?" she muttered in exasperation, her eyebrows raised in disbelief and anger. "Sector V just saved your life and all you can say is 'I won'?!" she shrieked less than three inches from his face, each subsequent word louder than the last.

After Sonya finished yelling at him, she stopped briefly to catch her breath. It was at that time where she looked at Harvey pleadingly, trying to get a reply from him so that he could defend himself. She wanted her sector leader to justify his actions.

Unfortunately for them both, he couldn't give a response to the fuming girl. He found himself frozen stiff, unable to even nod his head. Whether it was from the pain of his injuries or the shock of Sonya's sudden confrontation, he wasn't sure.

His silence only succeeded in making her even angrier. Sonya's eye fell down onto his left arm, glaring at the object which he was still haplessly holding onto like a lifeline.

"Give me that!" Having enough of her leader's antics, she snatched away the pipe in question from his grip before he realized what was happening.

No…! Not that!

Before he could utter a word in protest, Sonya released her grip on his shirt and shoved him, allowing gravity to be a harsh mistress as he tumbled back to the floor.

"Here, Numbuh One," she said, holding the pipe out to Sector V. "You deserve this more than us."

Harvey gasped in shock. What was she doing?! Their goal was to retrieve the Delightful Children's scrumptious birthday cake. That was the mission, his mission… their mission! If Numbuh 83 gave the pipe away, then they wouldn't win the scavenger hunt. They would've failed!

He refused to let her just surrender the pipe and throw everything away!

"Noooooooo…" he whined, sitting up and desperately reaching his hand out for the pipe.

His elongated pout was rudely cut short when he felt something hard slam right into his buck teeth. The next thing his tongue tasted was hard plastic. Harvey looked down to see that what had cut his words short was a green yo-yo that had been elegantly shoved into his mouth.

"Cork it, Harvey!" Lee hissed. Even with his trademark ushanka obscuring his eyes, his stiff body language was enough to tell Harvey that he was as furious as Sonya was about this.

No, no, noooooooo… this wasn't supposed to happen! Numbuh 84's agreeing with Numbuh 83?! What in tarnation are they both doing?!

"Take our ship." Sonya handed a keychain over to Nigel, "It's got all of our scavenger hunt stuff in it," she explained, pointing at the door. "If you hurry, you can catch up to those delightful dorks and win this thing… for all the Kids Next Door!"

Harvey felt faint. The room started to spin around him as he processed her words and followed it to its logical conclusion.

The crushing feeling of defeat he was currently feeling could only be described as horrible. It was the equivalent of playing a game of Yipper that ended with a surprise turnabout on the final turn when his opponent played their trump card. Experiencing the euphoria and thrill of being so close to winning, only to feel utter shock and despair when he ended up losing was not a fun experience. It definitely wasn't something he'd expected to feel so soon, on such a high-stakes, large-scale mission.

"Thanks, Sonya."

Harvey snarled at Nigel's gratitude. Don't thank her, yo-yo-you cheater! That's not fair! You didn't win this fairly, Nigel Uno! You only won because my own teammates stabbed me in the back!

That stupid, bald-face Uno managed to guilt his teammates into throwing in the towel. They'd… They'd just handed him the winning scavenger hunt item. The item that he'd worked so hard to retrieve was now in the hands of his self-declared nemesis.

They'd humiliated him in front of those old-timers! Those two—


Harvey flinched, recognizing Father's scream of abject rage.

"Looks like Father's coming back." Harvey gulped upon hearing Wally's declaration. He did not want to see that thing ever again. Getting a second wind after hearing the possibility of Father returning, he found the strength to get back on his feet.

Before he could spit out the yo-yo jammed in his mouth, he found it forcefully yanked out by Lee, who had pulled the string back to retract the toy back to his palm.

"Ow! What was that for?!" Harvey hollered, while simultaneously thanking the fact that he finally had the chance to exercise his tongue again.

Lee took a while to answer since he was more focused on the state of his yo-yo. He had to rub it against his shirt to clean off the saliva. When it was finally spotless, he spun his yo-yo and replied, "Spitting my yo-yo on the ground won't be cool."

"Grrrr…" Harvey seethed until he realized he had far bigger priorities. "Wait, don't let Numbuh 1 get away!"

Sonya and Lee both stared at him with deadpan looks.

"Don't look at me like that, Numbuh 83! I didn't authorize that handover, it was treason!" he retorted, jabbing his finger at her. "So we are taking back our scavenger hunt items! We are not letting him get away with our goods!"

His two teammates then shared a knowing glance. The next thing he knew, he found himself tied up by Lee's yo-yo. He could only watch helplessly as Nigel Uno ran out of the mansion with the keys to their C.O.O.L.B.U.S.

"What are you three still doing here? And what is Numbuh 363 doing?" Abby raised her eyebrows when she noticed a screaming Harvey trying to squirm free from his restraints.

"Oh, Numbuh 5!" Sonya mumbled sheepishly, playing with her hair. It was evident from her stuttering that she had completely forgotten that Sector V were still around. "We were just, uh, calming our leader down."

"He doesn't look very calm to me," Hoagie muttered as Harvey rolled his eyes. "Get it? Because he ain't calm at all, that's a good-yow!" He couldn't finish his sentence before getting clocked over the head with a red hat.

"Be quiet, boy! That one was the worst joke I've heard all month!" After scolding Hoagie, Abby turned back, "You guys need to seriously let Numbuh 363 out of here. That boy almost got fried like done dinner just now."

"Oi! Why should we care about that cruddy little brat anyway!"

"Numbuh 4! That's not nice!"

Chuckling as Kuki and Wally got into another argument, she continued, "Numbuh 5 thinks that you should take care of Numbuh 363. We can handle Father! You should get your leader out of here."

Lee and Sonya obliged, holding Harvey above their head like a log and running out of the mansion as fast as they could. Unfortunately, in their haste to get out, they hadn't taken Harvey's position into account.

Being held above their heads, Harvey got motion sickness from the constant shaking caused by the two's unsynchronized running. When they were finally out on the street, the two finally put their leader down. After he shook off his dizziness, he glared at them both for the whole ordeal.

After they both gave him an apologetic look, Sonya gave Lee a signal. He put his finger to his lip, contemplating whether to follow through before eventually tugging on the yo-yo string, releasing Harvey.

The moment he was freed from the yo-yo's death grip, Harvey took off, not sparing a second glance back. He was in no mood to see anyone right now. Since Numbuh 83 had surrendered all of their earnings, there was no point in heading back to the amusement park.

All he just wanted to do now was go home.

When he entered the front door to his house, he saw an extremely worried Rachel waiting for him.

"Harvey!" She ran up to him, almost leaning in for a hug before he shot her a warning look. Being family didn't excuse his paranoia with physical contact. He tried to control his germaphobia, he really did, but even now it was hard to control.

"What were you thinking, Harvey?!" she admonished, "I rushed over as soon as I heard the news. Going after Father's pipe was incredibly reckless!"

Great, now even his sister was comparing him to Nigel Uno. Why didn't anyone else remember that Sector V also went for the pipe too? He moaned, covering his ears with both hands. "Not in the mood," he said bluntly, heading up to his room.

What?! It was the truth!

As he recalled yesterday's chaos, Harvey angrily smacked his fist hard against the table, only to instantly regret it. "Owww!" He hopped about, holding his hand in pain. He had used so much strength in the blow that his hand was throbbing.

He was still upset over everything that had happened. They could have kept all of the items that they had managed to acquire fair and square. They could have won. His sector could have won.

They should have won.

As the ultimate insult, he had been robbed from his rightful victory right before the finish line. If, at the very end, Sonya had decided not to hand Sector V the keys to their ship, all of the scavenged items they had collected would still belong to them, and Nigel Uno wouldn't have been able to claim all the credit and lap up the winning prize.

And to make matters worse, the ones who had done him in weren't just random nobodies, they were his own subordinates!

Yeah, the betrayal had stung him hard.

He hadn't run into either Lee or Sonya when he entered the treehouse this morning. He knew that sooner or later they would have to meet, but he wasn't in the mood for that and really wanted to drag this out for as long as possible. If he saw either of the two right now he would definitely be in an even worse mood.

Those two were definitely at fault for the mission failure. And while he was at it, Numbuh 85 was somewhat guilty too. If Paddy hadn't fallen ill and been out of commission during the scavenger hunt, then perhaps he might have knocked some sense into Sonya and Lee. Perhaps then they would've just cut their losses and ran for it, instead of having them turn on him.

But perhaps foremost, it was Nigel Uno's fault. If he didn't act like such a self-righteous goody-two-shoes, then his teammates wouldn't have been guilted into letting him win! He'd taken everything from him! Everything pointed right back to that stupid Sector V leader.

Harvey gave a haunting laugh, sneering at his ironic situation. In the end, his ill-considered hasty takeover of the C.A.K.E.D mission from Sector V was what led to his own downfall.

But could he blame himself? Of course not! He was tired of being unnoticed. Try as he might, but as a seven-year-old, no older veteran would take you seriously. He had seen the annoyed looks the senior operatives gave him at times to the point where he had to resist getting angry. He kept telling himself, "One day that will be you up there. One day they'll respect me!"

That was why when the chance came for him to earn his keeps and prove himself, he had snapped it up. But now, it had all gone to waste. All the glory and fame that he had wanted was now just a dream, shattered after that horrific finale at Father's Mansion.

And to make things worse, the stupid coward had the nerve… the gall to disappear on him! How was he supposed to prove that he was the better of the two if the lad straight up went and vanished on him?

He launched into a string of curses. "Stupid Sector V. Stupid Nigel Uno! Stupid everyone!"

"Uh… are you okay, Numbuh 363?"

He froze. He knew that voice. Turning to the doorway, he saw an uncomfortable looking Sonya, together with Paddy and Lee.

It didn't take long for Harvey to yell. "What are you all doing here? My room is out of bounds! Especially you two," he spat, glaring daggers at Sonya and Lee. "You two don't have the right to be in my room!"

The three didn't budge an inch. After an awkward silence, Sonya moved forward and spoke up. "We heard you shouting," she explained, "So we just wanted to see if you were fine…"

"You think I'm fine? You turned on me in front of another sector, Sector V no less!" he ranted, eyes jittery. Whether his eyes were shaking from anger or bitterness, he wasn't sure himself. "Why I-I…" He fought back tears of anger as he faced her down, "I oughta charge you for insubordination, Numbuh 83!"

She flinched at that, biting her lip. It looked like she was weighing the merits about pushing the topic and letting it drop. In the end, her protective instincts won out. "The scavenger hunt wasn't a game, Harvey! We were worried about you!"

First name basis. Brilliant, Sonya wasn't going to let this go. Operatives called each other by their Numbuhs in the KND, only using first names if they were outside of the organization, best of friends… or to emphasize the severity of a situation.

"I-I would've been fine." He almost facepalmed at that shoddy comeback. No sane person would buy that shallow lie.

"That's not true," Paddy sighed, calling him out. "You really bit off more than you could chew, ya know?"

"And just what is that supposed to mean?" Harvey shot back, ticked off by his bluntness.

"Look, Numbuh 83 told me everything that happened when I was gone, so I'm not gonna beat about the bush." There was a short pause as he inhaled a deep breath. "Just what were you thinking?! That was really reckless!" he shouted.

"Not cool," Lee added, folding his arms.

Harvey casted a despondent look, not willing to be cornered by his sector teammates three-on-one. "It wasn't my fault!" he blurted out before he could stop himself. "It wasn't!" he shook his head desperately in denial.

"Harvey…" Sonya tentatively stepped forward, only to hurriedly back away as Harvey flailed his arms about to keep her back.

"I'm better than him! I'm better than all of them!" he shrieked. Whether that was meant to convince his sector or some part of himself, Harvey didn't know.

He wasn't making excuses for himself! It really wasn't his fault! It wasn't his fault that he was always seen as inferior. In the KND, he was a mere junior agent, a pipsqueak. He thought it would change after he'd struggled through Arctic Base training and received a recommendation written by his sister for a sector leader posting.

Subsequently posted to Sector W, he'd thought he would be happy with his position, but the fact was that he was mere peanuts compared to more established sector leaders. Even in a family, he'd always be compared to his more successful older sister. It wasn't fair! How could you compare a Supreme Leader to a mere sector leader? Of course he'd be seen as second-rate!

Lee eventually made eye contact with him after he calmed down from his rant. "Harvey…" he began, which made the distraught Harvey take notice of him. It was rare for Numbuh 84 to speak up at all, especially if it didn't involve the word "cool". "Do you remember what you said that made Sonya so furious at you?"

What was it? He racked his brains to try and recall. "It was… after I said that I won the scavenger hunt," he answered with a shaky voice.

"That was why. It was always about you, Harvey. That's why she snapped after Father almost vaporized you. Throughout that whole scavenger hunt, the only thing on your mind was winning."

"Of course it was! We're Sector W, the sector with the most bestest mission success rate in the whole entire Kids Next Door!" Harvey paced around the room, waving his hands about to emphasize the fact. "Do you have any clue what this f-f-fai—" he had to struggle to spit out the word, "—failure would do to us?!"

"First of all…" Paddy raised his hand, "we only have the best mission success rate because ya can count the number of missions that we've taken on two hands."

"Hey! We've been to nine missions!"

"…and succeeded in all of them. That's why we had a perfect record, Numbuh 363. We haven't taken as many missions as the other sectors," Paddy pointed out the obvious, "Look at the chances! Our good 'ol Irish luck was bound to end sooner or later."

"You're wrong! I could have maintained this perfect record until I was thirteen! But now it's all over! My perfect mission success record is finished, besmirched thanks to the both of you handing our loot over!"

Sonya winced at his accusation, but Lee stood firm. "Think about it, Harvey. What would have happened had we just left Sector V back there and taken Father's Pipe with us?" he countered.

"Nothing!" he stomped his feet. "Except that we'd have won!"

"But would that be the right thing to do?" Sonya asked, her eyes pleading.

"Who cares?!" he snorted, glaring at her. There she went again. Being the only girl in the sector, she always was the sentimental one of the four.

"You should care, Harvey! That's why I handed the pipe over to Numbuh 1 in the first place!" She continued on, ignoring Harvey's quiet fury, "It was because you were selfish. Sector V weren't like you! They saved us when they had no reason to after everything that happened! When they did that, it struck me that if the roles were reversed, you would have used the opportunity to leave them behind. Admit it!" She looked down, unable to meet his eyes as she finished, "You would have, wouldn't you…?"

There was silence after she asked her question. It was rhetorical, no one needed to answer it. Even Harvey knew that she hit the bullseye. That was exactly what he would have done.

"B-But! You guys didn't need to go against me for that! I did what I had to do!" He wrung his hands together, "The mission comes first, we had to win!"

"The mission objective was to retrieve the Delightful Children's cake! It didn't matter which sector did it as long as the Kids Next Door was the winner of Numbuh 74.239's scavenger hunt! In other words, it didn't matter if we won as long as they did!"

"You just wanted to win the scavenger hunt for your own sake," Paddy finished, catching on to Sonya's argument. Lee nodded along, showing all three members agreeing to their combined accusation.

Cornered and running out of arguments, Harvey breathed heavily, literally shaking in anger. He refused to eat crow and admit defeat.

"I-It was his fault! Not mine!" he screamed. "It was the home run, we had the whole darn thing in the bag! Father wouldn't have woke up if dumb Nigel Uno didn't touch me! Nobody touches me!" He brushed his shirt, eyes bloodshot as if Numbuh 1's handprint was still creased on his attire.

"Was it really though?" Paddy asked. "I'm pretty darn sure Father would have blew a fuse no matter what."

Harvey groaned, deflating slightly. He hadn't expected his argument to be shot down so quickly.

"Don't worry, we know better than to try to get ya to apologize, Numbuh 363. It's as un-possible as a kid liking broccoli."

He narrowed his eyes. "And just what is that supposed to mean, Numbuh 85?"

"Oh, nothing!" Paddy reassured, before making a complete U-turn with his next statement. "It's just that, ya gotta admit, people in the KND really think you're a stick in the mud," he admitted.

"What! Why?!"

"Ain't it obvious? The reason is because you feel so entitled! Ya expect the entire Moonbase to revolve 'round ya!" He ruffled his hair, trying to think of more points to prove his argument. "Do ya know just how many kids are jealous of your rise to fame and assume that ya only got to where you are now because you're Numbuh 362's little brother?"

"Wh-What! Don't be ridiculous!" He felt sweat trickling down his brow. Did they really suspect the truth? His relation with Rachel had definitely been a key role in his fast promotion to sector leader. "Do you have any proof?"

"Proof?! I'm living proof!"


"You should know what I'm talking about! I'm Numbuh 86's brother," Paddy involuntarily shuddered at mentioning his sister, "and just because of that, everyone expects me to get dah special treatment just because she's Head of Decommissioning, and also Global Tactical Officer to boot!"

Harvey raised an eyebrow. "I don't think she gives any special treatment to you, of all people…"

"Gah!" Paddy pulled his hair at the painful reminder. "You get the point!"

"Oh, come on! What does Numbuh 86 have to do with me?"

"Duh! If people think I hit the lottery because my sister's Global Tactical Officer, you basically got double jackpot! Your sister is Numbuh 362, Supreme Commander of the entire Kids Next Door! Of course the rumors of favoritism would fly like candy!"

"You need to understand, Harvey," Sonya interrupted Paddy. "His point is that we're all worried about you. You need to change."

"Pah! As if!" He smirked, showing off his buckteeth. "I'm fine just the way I am, as Harvey McKenzie, Numbuh 363 of the Kids Next Door! You think this will change me? No way!"

Sonya squeezed her eyes shut, shaking her head imperceptibly. "Never mind…" As she signaled Lee and Paddy to leave, Harvey held his head up high in defiance. Good riddance to them!

She gave one last wistful look back at him before she left. He scoffed in response. Did Sonya really think he would relent because of her puppy-dog eyes? As if! They might work on the other boys, but not him!

Lee flicked his wrist, winding his yoyo up and down. "That wasn't cool, Harvey," he said before walking off. Still the silent enigma of Sector W, he thought. Harvey was at least glad that he hadn't pressed the matter as hard as Sonya or Paddy.

Just as Paddy was about to turn out of sight, he stopped short. "You can't run away from this, y'know? If you keep this up, your stubborn attitude will drag us all down, sir," he muttered. The salutation at the end was spoken in a bitter, sarcastic manner.

"Just scram already, Numbuh 85!" For someone who hadn't even attended the stupid scavenger hunt, he sure had a lot of things to say about it.

"Alright. Take care… Harvey."

Harvey clucked his tongue as the room finally became quiet once more. It was only then that he finally let the mask he had been putting on in front of his teammates go.

He fell to the ground, sobbing quietly.

They had been completely right, of course. He'd known that even as they tried to debate with him about the scavenger hunt. Even as Sonya grilled him in Father's mansion, he had subconsciously accepted that she was telling the truth — that he was being selfish, had been a brat, and that he hadn't deserved to win the scavenger hunt.

But he couldn't accept that. A part of Harvey still refused to admit it. It was his pride which continued to hold on, stubbornly refusing to give in to logic and common sense.

Deep down however, he knew that Paddy was right. He couldn't run away from the truth. He was the one responsible for the scavenger hunt incident, and that he'd screwed up, very big time. He'd known that his germaphobia would be a problem ever since he enlisted as a cadet at the KND Arctic Base, but he hadn't expected it to be a key factor that would compromise a mission.

Despite everything that had happened, he still tried to deny that the whole thing was his fault. But after his own teammates from Sector W had argued with him to this extent, Harvey knew that it was over.

If he couldn't even win a battle of wits in a debate about the scavenger hunt incident with his friends, then he stood no chance defending himself against other KND members.

It was a fact that his arrogance had caused a colossal disaster at the scavenger hunt. The aftermath would most definitely be well known when the reports were filed. The tapes might not have been rolling when his sector was in Father's Mansion, but rumors spread unfantablously fast in the KND. The entire Moonbase probably already had all the juicy details of his failure via word of mouth.

Once word got out, the reputation of Sector W—his sector—would take a nosedive so far down it'll be the equivalent of going down the largest water slide in the world.

All Harvey could do now was attempt to salvage—no, scavenge what was left of his—no, their reputation.

But how?

How could he possibly do something like that? You couldn't just change people's presumptions so easily. It was almost impossible to do!

Most of the KND operatives had hated him from the start. Some because of his behavior, some because of his relation to Rachel which led to cries of biased favoritism, and some because they didn't like his face. There were all looking for the straw that would break the camel's back, and now they finally had it. He'd lose all respect and be the laughing stock of the entire organization for months!

Even his own teammates were wary around him. He could see it in their eyes. They would still be together, yes, but they would always be tension between them as compared to the past. In the future, Harvey was afraid that in the jist of the action, he wouldn't be able to trust them, and vice versa.

What was he really trying to scavenge from the remains of this disaster? Was it his loss of authority over Sonya, Lee and Paddy? And for that matter, the rest of the Kids Next Door?

And would he ever be able to succeed in gaining it back?

Harvey looked down at the floor, letting out one final sigh. He didn't know.

He really didn't know…

Author's Note:

Fandom has the tendency to portray Harvey as a jerk (it's kind of understandable why), so I decided to twist it around, asking myself why I think he acts this way, besides the obvious "he's just a kid" response. I hope it turned it okay overall since I rushed the story a little to make it in time for Christmas. It's definitely a bit less on the Hurt/Comfort genre compared to Angst, but I figured it still sort of counts.

This was just one of those things that popped into my mind. The series finale left what happened to Sonya, Lee and Harvey hanging as a loose end after they cut away from Father's Mansion. It's mentioned that Harvey gets decommissioned a few months after I.N.T.E.R.V.I.E.W.S., but they never really touched on what happened to them or how well they got along till then, so… why not?