A/N: Self indulgent mixture of fluffy cuteness and body horror/drowning. Enjoy!
Chapter 1: D...R...O...W...N...E...D...
The lakes of the new battlegrounds were fed by a river the wound out of their domains, the larger a little to the east. An area claimed solely by the RED'S during ceasefire, considering it's (relative) proximity to their base.
Well, the BLU Sniper was having none of it, and convinced a few of comrades to join him for a little game of hooky. The fun afternoon was quickly turned into a nightmare when they're ambushed by the enemy team. Scout turns up missing and is feared to have been captured, but the reality is far worse than anything a human could manufacture. . .
Scout didn't like their new base. He'd made it clear from the getgo that he downright hated the lakes and river. He'd made a point to check every inch, every stretch of shore and rock and the swashes of forests around them, until he knew the area like the back of his hand.
He didn't want to end up falling in. He couldn't swim at all, and dreaded the thought of forcibly learning what drowning felt like. Despite the addition of Respawn and impermanence of death in these battles for territory and intelligence, he shuddered at the mere thought.
But as the days rolled into weeks and the summer heat beat down upon the them all, others in his team wanted a day at the beach — or as close as they could get to one.
Roped in by Sniper's taunts and Pyro's encouragement, Scout found himself joining the two at the smaller of the lakes. It was the nearer of the two bodies of water, with the advantage of being right between the two bases; they could easily claim it as neutral territory if need be, should the other team act like a bunch of dicks about it during ceasefire.
Personally, Scout didn't think it was such a big deal that the REDS had claimed the lakes as their own, all things considered. But Snipes had taunted him, mocking his masculinity based on his supposed fear of the water. Hell, he'd stuck a hand in when they arrived just to prove him wrong! Hah! Sure showed him!
Other than some initial teasing and shoving, it turned out to be pretty good fun. Pyro refused to take his suit off, but splashed around in the water nonetheless. Sniper threw off his shoes, shirt and hat and dived in, swimming in the deeper water. Scout did little more than remove his shirt and shoes, cautiously wading in, but never further than above the knees. He had to admit the water felt nice, but he didn't like how slippery the smooth rocks underfoot were.
An hour or so later, they all climbed out, dried off to the best of their abilities, and headed bac to base. This one-time thing turned into a two-time thing, then a three-time, any evening it was hot enough out. The three didn't bother to tell the others what they were up to, preferring the privacy of their newly budding post-battle ritual.
Until the night they were caught in the act. It surprised Scout a little that no one over at the RED base had noticed sooner, in truth.
That night, however, had started off normally enough. Everyone had returned back to base, in higher spirits than usual. The goal of the day had been capturing command points, and they were one point away from achieving victory!
Sniper had slipped away early, Pyro following soon after, and Scout left last of all, having stayed awhile to gloat and bask in the glory of it all.
With his speed, he soon caught up to the others, loud and boisterous as always.
"Hey guys, sorry I'm late, couldn't let the others suspect so I—"
"Shush up! We don't need to here ya showboat any more, ya wanker."
Sniper shouted from the lake waters, having climbed in at the first opportunity.
Pyro waved hello, attempting to skip rocks in the water, making a small pile of ones that seemed especially interesting.
Scout huffed and rolled his eyes, grumbling about them just being jealous, but he didn't let it keep him down for long. Soon, he was splashing around the shallows, ignoring Sniper's invitiation to join him in the deeper water.
"Come'on, mate! The water's just foin. There ain't no croc's or nothin' to bite ya!"
"I said no."
Scout thought that was the end of it, turning his back on Snipes in favor of looking up at the darkening sky. It was right at dusk, and the stars were coming out. Sure were pretty out here. Easier to see, too. Boston was great, had to be the greatest place on Earth according to him, but all the light from street lamps and buildings and cars made it pretty darn hard to see the stars at all.
Hairy arms suddenly wrapped around his rib cage, pulling him off his feet. Screaming in outrage, he kicked and clawed at Snipes, who did nothing more than laugh at his expense, dragging him into the deeper water.
When the Sniper finally released him, Scout flailed around, barely able to touch his toes to the bottom, his head tilted up, the water lapping up over his chin to his lower lip. He was creating small waves and splashing, coughing and gasping for air, having had no chance to hold his breath.
Panic claimed him and he started flailing his arms and half-jumping on his tiptoes in a desperate bid to find the shallower water.
He didn't hear Snipes instructions, and fought against the touches on his shoulders and arms. But he definitely started paying attention when the shooter grabbed him and forced him to hold still, supporting him as he coughed and snorted and struggled to take in deep breaths.
"Calm down, mate."
"Calm down all you like, maggots! The clearest of heads won't save your miserable hides now!"
Snapping their gazes up, Scout felt his heart drop into his stomach.
Standing at the shore was the RED Soldier, accompanied by his teams Heavy and Demoman.
The three REDs charged into the water, firing off their weapons on a dime.
Snipes hissed under his breath, releasing Scout in order to clutch at a bullet wound that had already torn through his shoulder. The BLU runner flailed and slipped beneath the surface for a moment, separated from his comrade.
Arguably, this was the one thing that saved him from the Soldier's missile, which sent him blasting away. Unfortunately, this landed him even deeper in the water, sinking below the surface. He flailed about, struggling to rise, but all his efforts were for naught. He held his breath, what little he had, reaching about desperately for something, anything to grab on to.
Darkness flickered at the edges of his vision, his lungs burned for air, but as strong and tough as he made himself out to be, he simply couldn't fight it anymore.
FIRE! OH GOD THIS HURT SO MUCH WORSE—
He tried to cough, sucking in more and more water in the process. The numbing pain spread from his chest, out to his limbs, and he slowly ceased to struggle, suspended in the darkening water.
Air burbled lazily from his mouth, bubbles of air slipping past his mouth and nose, worth more then gold and jewels in this moment, vision shuttering in and out like a T.V. Program that was experiencing a spotty connection, water continuing to fill his lungs as he sank. He took on last look towards the sky above, less at peace than he was . . . In a sense, distanced from the whole event.
RESPAWN was in effect, even during ceasefire, 'cause one never knew what a base full of mercs without any killing to do, would do. Not to mention two of them less than a few miles away from one another.
Giving in to the encompassing water at last, Scout closed his eyes and accepted this, drowning, as his temporary fate. . .
. . .
. . .
. . .
The change was imperceptible at first, but when Scout became aware of what was happening, it consumed him.
Letting out a muffled cry, he looked around in a panic, realizing first and foremost that he was several feet underwater. It was pitch-black, and he couldn't figure out where the surface was, nor how long he may have been under for. Last thing he remembered was. . . Was. . .
A sharp pain ripped through his chest and back, stretching to his legs and creeping over the back of his head in lighter prickles. Gasping, he found that there was no precious air left to even escape his lungs, but he he hacked and coughed anyway, the water burning his lungs, or so he thought. He struggled for the surface, and rammed head-first into the lake bottom, covered solely by rounded stones, stunning him for moments of time.
The pain in his legs and hips suddenly increased, beyond mere prickles. In a daze, Scout looked 'down' at himself, finding the source of the problem; the fabric of his jeans strained painfully tight as his legs tried to fuse together.
The painful prickles had spread to his arms and hands too, which turned out to be a good thing; His fingers webbed and bearing sharp claws, he easily tore the fabric apart in blind desperation, allowing the transformation to creep through the lower half of his body. He was quick to remove his socks, too, clutching them tightly and wincing in pain.
Sucking in a breath, water flooding down his throat and into his lungs, the young man choked and gagged, snapping back to reality; he was drowning and turning into a FISH. All prior instinctive urges were thrown out the metaphorical window as panic took over.
Grasping the bottom, he managed to flip himself upright, trying to kick his legs and paddle with his arms in a desperate bid to reach the surface. Unfortunately, his new tail couldn't follow the demands he was sending it, ending with him smashing it against the bottom painfully.
Letting out a small, screechy noise of frustration —and immediately blanching that he, a MAN, had made such a high-pitched sound— he ceased his actions, drifting back towards the bottom.
Taking in a sharp breath, feeling the water filter through his lungs without any pain, Scout clutched at his throat, bewildered and confused. There was no pain, but it was still difficult, as though he were breathing through cloth, like a scarf or bandana. This only added to his slight head wound, and the pain that continued to ravage his body, the transformation consuming and exhausting.
At long-last, the prickles subsided and altogether vanished. But try as he might, Scout couldn't muster up the energy to . . . Well, to do much of anything. Despite fighting against it desperately, the runner was soon dead-asleep on the lake bottom, his tail curling delicately near his face.
Cursing was immediately apparent from RESPAWN, drawing in a few curious BLU's to the scene. Sniper was, unabashedly, throwing a fit, shrugging off any and all attempts the Pyro made to calm him down.
"Vhat is ze problem, Herr Sniper?"
Medic asked cautiously, as though approaching a hive of hornets.
"Those bloody REDs ambushed us! The lake wasn't even—"
"The Lakes?" Engie butted in, having wandered over to hear what all the fuss was about.
"Iz zhat where you and zhe runner disappear to all zhe time?"
Snipes looked over sharply at Spy, nodding sharply, his lips curling up. He hated being snuck up on.
"So those REDs took ya be surprise, then? Good thing RESPAWN is working just fine, then."
Engineer chuckled, a little relieved on that mark. Until he realized that Scout was nowhere to be seen.
Pyro had noticed their friends absence, as well, having been looking around frantically for the Bostonian.
". . . Where's Scout?"
Snipes blinked, for a moment forgetting his grumbling at the REDs, and looked around the RESPAWN room. He didn't see the little showboating chatterbox anywhere. . . Piss, when had he last seen 'im?!
". . . Sniper, vhere is Scout?"
"I . . . I don't know! I dragged him out into the deeper water, but that's about when the REDs showed up! I lost my grip on the wanker and aroudn then the Soldier's missile blew me to bits!"
". . . You don't think he's. . . He's drowning, do you?"
Engineer asked slowly, grimacing at the very thought, shaking his head a little in sympathy. Technically speaking, RESPAWN would still kick in if that were the case. . . All it required was that the subject was dead, not how they died.
So, theoretically, Scout should show up any moment. . . Right?
The others seemed to think the same, falling silent and turning towards the center of the room, waiting. One minute turned to two, and then three, and nothing. Factoring in their own talking and shouting, any normal person would have long-since run out of air, and their hearts would've stopped beating.
Either RESPAWN was malfunctioning. . . Or the REDs had kidnapped Scout. It wasn't unheard of, for one team to capture another, but it was very rarely during ceasefire, typically done in the midst of battle.
After a few days time, if they hadn't escaped or been let loose by a kinder member of the enemy team (or been freed by a teammate of their own) the temporarily kidnappee would hurry back to their own base, none the worse for wear. If they weren't accidentally (or purposefully) killed and wound up in RESPAWN instead.
That being said, if Scout had been kidnapped, that was a hefty loss for tomorrow's battle, and quite the worrisome thing to try to sleep through . . .
"Kid's tough. If he can't fight his way out, he can slip out later."
Pyro nodded and let out a string of mumbled nonsense, nodding a little. Something in his posture, the tilt of his head, indicated he was still nervous, but for now, there was nothing to be done. . .
All they could do was wait.