A glance down at the food only my plate. A glance around the table, loud and rowdy rather than quiet, or semi-quiet, like back home.

The pang of homesickness doesn't even register in my head. A very different kind of sickish feeling is far more overpowering, quelling the words before they can reach his lips.

Just a few days prior, he'd been going on about a perfect homerun one of his brothers had pulled a few years back, jabbering on and talking over the others in his excitement.

The happy glow of his excitement and warm nostalgia had been snuffed out easily by Sniper, "OI! I don't blood care! Just shut your trap already. I'm goin' deaf from all yer jabbering."

"O-okay then. . ."

Scout had fallen silent and started to eat his practically untouched meal, and other chatter had arisen around him, but he'd taken no notice.

And now, a week later, he was still silent. Conscious, more like it, of how much he chattered on, fearful of being shut down again.

/You're a bother to them./ the thought intruded upon his mind, making him grimace and shake his head slightly in denial.

He knew Sniper had just been tired and grouchy from the days mission. He knew that. He knew that his teammate hadn't meant to hut his feelings like that. That normally, he liked hearing about Scout's whacky family stories.

/He's only tolerating it. He's only being polite. He doesn't care none for you. NONE of them do./

Biting his lip, Scout carefully and slowly chewed and swallowed the bite of food in his mouth. The taste of his dinner had abruptly become intolerable, his stomach and throat rebelling against the very notion of taking another bite.

His throat tightened, and his lungs felt like a weight had been dropped on them, making breathing a conscious effort, a slight struggle.

Standing up quietly, he cleared his dishes and headed to his room, fighting back against the tears that pricked his eyes.

He was fine. He was fine. There was literally no reason for him to be feeling this way, thinking this way. So why was he. . .?

/You're replaceable./ the little voice in his head hissed, causing him to jolt. /If something happened to you, a new Scout would be hired. You're not so special. You'd be forgotten in less than a week./

"Shut your face. . ." He growled under his breath, pressing his hands to his face, shoulders shaking with suppressed sobs. Pushing off of the wall he'd found himself leaning against, he scurried off to his room, haunted by fabricated fears, and desperately questioning every thing the other Merc's had ever said to him.

Desperate to rationalize what was happening in his head, desperate to find something in his memories that indicated they truly appreciated him and liked him, wanted to keep him around . . . Fearful, suddenly, of being a burden or gaining their ire, and felt that old choking feeling overtake him.

Inhaling deeply, suddenly, as though arising to the surface after being submerged in water, Scout sat down hard. Tucking his knees up to his chest, he hid his face behind his arms, and crowded his back against the nearest wall, taking misucle comfort, but comfort nonetheless for the solid surface. Grounding him, in however small a way, to reality.

But it did little to anchor him as his thoughts dissolved into complete and utter turmoil, leaving him battling against thoughts that should never have been his own, struggling, and failing, to figure out what could make the mercs hate him, and finding those reasons anyway, painted over him like the ugly lies they were.

But reality was no more beautiful.