We’ll Always Have Paris

Title: We’ll Always Have Paris
Premise, or Lack Thereof: Adding complications to the relationship drama
Reason for Banishment: Ran out of steam


My first mistake was trying to turn our fake marriage into a real one.

Not that I didn’t have feelings for her. She was quite fetching, not to mention passionate and witty. Pretending to be her husband for the sake of convenience was a breeze: we complemented each other well, and our hours meant that nobody ever suspected we were anything but a typical working couple. The occasional not-a-good-idea-but-we-did-it-anyway sex was, as far as I was concerned, icing on the cake. And when I became a father as a result of those million-to-one odds that always tended to happen to those least prepared for it, I didn’t mind the prospect of raising a family, figuring at least that way I could give someone the childhood that I never got. I even bought us rings, genuine platinum ones, even if we never did get around to having a certificate signed and stamped by the proper authorities.

So when she fell head over heels in love with someone else—my supposed best friend, no less—I spent months wandering the desert so the irrational yet persistent sense of betrayal wouldn’t cause me to do something stupid (such as, say, bludgeoning both her and that backstabbing son of a bitch to death with a golf trophy). Still, I wasn’t the type to hold a grudge, and she looked so happy and beautiful on her wedding that when it came my turn to give the toast I was at least able to wish her the best and be honest about it. Then I moved on with my life, throwing myself into work wherever I could find it.

I managed to convince myself that she was all but forgotten, that she hadn’t left a gaping wound in my heart, that I could maybe pursue relationships again without being reminded of my epic failure. Then she called me up, out of the blue, and turned my life upside down with four little words.

“I need your help.”

My second mistake was not hanging up that very minute. Instead, I arranged for us to meet in a little cafe down the street from where I lived, a cafe much like the one where she and I met all those years ago.

“So what’s the occasion?” Before she could reach for her matches, I offered her my lighter, another useless souvenir of our time together. I didn’t smoke as to avoid the shakes or the dead giveaway of a glowing cigarette.

They had gotten it into their heads to infiltrate two rival military-industrial complexes and take them down from the inside, and the cover story they were planning to use for their respective employers was that their relationship had gone sour to the point of wanting to murder each other, and not just in the figurative sense. My part in this little soap opera turned out to be nothing more than playing babysitter for their youngest, who in his youthful enthusiasm would no doubt try to follow in Mummy and Daddy’s footsteps and get his reckless self killed faster than he could say “bonk” regardless of how they attempted to shield him from the horrors of war. (My son, meanwhile, had been told of his true parentage as soon as he was old enough, and we kept in touch ever since. In his last letter he was quite proud to inform me that he was now one of the top snipers for the United States Marines. Having been born British myself, I called him up to tease him that I, as a subject of the Queen, now had a definite conflict of interest.)

I didn’t remember agreeing to anything at all, but somehow I found myself driving my camper into the desert anyway and picking up a loudmouthed wisp of a kid whose features were an unmistakable echo of both his parents.

The kid looked me up and down as he climbed into the front seat, throwing his bag into the back and adjusting the bandages wrapped around his wrists. “So you’re gonna be our Sniper, I take it.”

I nodded back, trying to avert my gaze from the all too familiar looking dog tags. “It’s a good enough job.”

I didn’t bother trying to find out where his parents ended up or whether they succeeded in their schemes. I had my hands full trying to keep myself and the rookie Scout alive. Most of the time he took care of himself alright, using the skills he learned growing up on the “mean streets of Boston” (his words, not mine) to good use. Other times, when overtaken by the recklessness of youth, he believed himself to be invincible.

“What’s your problem?” he snapped at me once when I fussed over another injury that he could have avoided if he would just stop rushing headlong into danger. “You’re not my dad!”

I, for my part, kept my focus on dressing the wound. “What, a bloke can only care about someone if they’re related to them?”

“Are you saying—” he jumped up as if I was on fire. “Ew, that’s gross, man! I only like girls!”

Before I had a chance to explain myself he zipped off, leveling nonstop complaints about perverted Australians. He made sure to avoid me after that, sometimes even running away rather than accept any kind of help.

His opinion of me didn’t improve even when I found him lying passed out in the sewers of Two-Fort, his body covered with agonizing burns, and carried him—fireman style, not bridal style in case he regained consciousness and made a fuss about it—back to the resupply area. At that point I had let the Medic take over, as the Scout’s injuries were far beyond my meager skills. It didn’t seem to matter to him that he would have died if I hadn’t done so; as far as he was concerned, I was some kind of creepy pedophile—never mind that I had yet to show any indication I was interested in him in that way, or that he was well past the age to attract those sort of men.

***

Except during those moments where I left the safety of the nest to check on the Scout, I was very seldom in the line of fire. At the time, the RED Sniper had yet to find where I was shooting from; for my part, I had some idea of where he’d holed up, but since I was the better shot I preferred to focus my attention on supporting the rest of the team. I did have to dodge the occasional explosive aimed in my general direction, but I wasn’t considered a priority target. And when I first arrived, the RED team did not yet have a Spy among their ranks.

Then, one afternoon, I was covering the Scout (again, sigh) as the kid darted all over the place when I heard the sound of the floorboards creak behind me. I whirled around and brought my rifle up just in time to block a vicious stab, and found myself staring at the new RED Spy.

Even with the mask, I recognized him at once. “You!”

He smirked back. “What are the odds?”

In the precious seconds I spent gaping at him, he punched the gun out of my hands and knocked me off my feet, stepping on my wrist to stop me from grabbing my knife. “Ah, ah, ah. Let’s not kill each other just yet. After all, a little bird told me that you have promises to keep.” Another swift kick to my solar plexus kept me on the ground coughing for air, and then he was straddling me, knife pressed within a hair’s breadth of stabbing into my lower left eyelid. “But, so you won’t be asked too many questions, I’m afraid I’ll still have to leave quite the mark on you.” He leaned forward, teeth bared, and asked: “You do still shoot with your other eye, right?”

I had the presence of mind to turn my head when I heard a gunshot go off, but the knife still left its mark, cutting a deep gash on my cheek. Meanwhile, my assailant had already dived out the window, and all I could see of him was the trail of blood he left behind.

My rescuer turned out to be my team’s Spy, keeping his gun drawn and pointed in the direction his rival went. “An old friend of yours?”

I scoffed, dabbing at my wound with my sleeve, relieved that I was able to walk away from this encounter with nothing much more than an incidental scar, a few bruises, and a sore ego. “With friends like him, who needs enemies?”

“Say no more.” The Spy picked up the fallen knife from the floor and twirled it back and forth. “In that case, could I recruit you for my backup? I have something of a cunning plan to beat him at his own game, but there are a few variables that I can’t control. An extra set of hands would be quite welcome.”

“What do you need me to do?” I asked despite my wariness even for my own team’s Spy.

“How good are you at playing dead?”

Lying there facedown and pretending to be a corpse wasn’t that different from sitting in my perch waiting for the perfect shot. I did almost break “character” for a moment, though, when the “Scout” scoffed at our Spy’s assessment of the enemy and asked if the Spy was the President of his RED counterpart’s fanclub.

“No.” I heard the Spy pull something out of his jacket and slam it on the desk: “That would be your mother.”

I felt my heart leap into my throat, while the “Scout” stammered with a surprise that I was sure he didn’t fake. How much did they already know?

Meanwhile, the Spy ranted on, flaunting his advantage over his rival. When the Soldier “shot” him, I risked peeking one eye open and saw the faint outline of his cloak step away from the “corpse” and make its way for the door.

For a quarter of a moment, I felt bad about keeping still as the Heavy and Soldier met their demise, but saving them was never part of the plan to begin with, and I didn’t like them much anyway.

Before my friend-turned-enemy could walk away with the intelligence, the allied Spy reappeared and blocked the only way out. “I do not think so,” he purred, gun drawn and ready to fire.

That was my signal. I leaped up and grabbed the enemy Spy as he tried to back away and wrestled the knife out of his hands. “What he said.”

He didn’t fight his disarmament, not at first. “Now, now, let’s not be rash.” Then he threw the intelligence suitcase at his BLU counterpart.

I lunged at him, as much as to keep him from getting away as to get him out of the line of fire. We rolled on the ground, trading punches until the BLU Spy recovered his footing and pressed his gun against the RED Spy’s head while the latter had managed to pin me beneath him. “I should capture you and let our Medic demonstrate his expertise,” he remarked, pulling back the hammer. “But that ‘petite chou-fleur’ of yours would look all the more beautiful when distraught with loss, would she not?”

The other Spy’s face was a mask of calm, but I felt his hands tighten around my shirt. “How uncouth to threaten me, especially when I could easily use your teammate as a shield.”

“Oh, him?” Before I could react the gun was pointed at me, and I let out a noise of surprise and pain when I felt myself being shot in the chest by my own supposed ally. “what makes you think I care about what happens to him?”

It was at this time that the real Scout could be heard running towards the intelligence room, the Pyro trailing after him. “C’mon, Pyro, hurry up! You heard the Administrator, we gotta get that Spy out of our base!”

This split-second distraction was enough for the RED Spy to cloak and vanish from view. The BLU Spy fired into the air where he last saw his rival, but didn’t hit anything, and found himself being shoved out of the way in a tackle that would have made a professional rugby player proud. “Watch out, he’s cloaked and headed your way!” he shouted up the ramp, and the Pyro obliged with a stream of fire. As no burning Spies emerged from the inferno, all that was achieved was scorched walls and a waste of ammunition.

In the meantime, I was lying on the floor with a half-collapsed lung trying to seal the wound so I wouldn’t pass out from the pain. “M-medic—” I managed to wheeze out over the headphones.

“Ah, my apologies.” The BLU Spy stepped out of view, and then came back again with a health kit. Pulling off his gloves, he began the task of patching up the injury he had inflicted. “Our Medic is recovering from a nasty blow to the head, so I’ll be filling in for him.”

Meanwhile, the Scout was replacing the suitcase back on the desk and gaping at the carnage. “Damn…that Spy got Solly and Heavy?”

“As well as the Engineer and the Demoman; he also neutralized the Medic, and, well, you can see what happened here for yourself,” the Spy added, giving my side a squeeze that implied I had better keep my mouth shut. “Consider yourself lucky that you were on the front lines, little one.”

“Aw, I coulda taken—” The Scout stopped in mid-brag when he came upon the pictures. “What the fuck is this?”

“What does it look like?” The Spy clicked his tongue. “Perhaps you should write to your dear mother that she needs to be more careful about the men she lets into her home. But at least now you have an even better reason to hate the RED team.”

“Shut up! Nobody asked for your opinion, fag!” And like that, the Scout tore back out of the intelligence room.

The Spy finished patching me up and helped me to my feet. “Thank you for your cooperation. And I am sorry that I had to shoot you—I couldn’t risk you being made a prisoner of the REDs, could I?”

Not in the mood to answer him, I just staggered off to the resupply to rest and wait for some proper medical care.

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