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[Stock: Apple of the World]


Clones - not Clones

Blu Soldier(Jane Doe) Red Soldier (Jack O'Neill)

Blu Demo (Joseph Bloggs) Red Demo (Tavish McGroot)

Red Medic(Otto Mustermann) Blu Medic (Klaus Grimmer/Lunge?)

Blu Heavy(Vasya Pupkin) Red Heavy (Misha Mikael Ivanov)

Red Scout(Johnny Smith) Blu Scout (Bobby Caney)

Red Sniper (Fred Nurk) Blu Sniper (Edgar Mundy)

Blu Spy (Jean Dupont) Red Spy (???)

Red Pyro(Martinez) Blu Pyro (Martinez)

Red Engie (John Blow) Blu Engie (Dell Conagher)

Summary: What to do when the whole operation comes crashing down? Shoot the spares, of course.

Ceasefires aren't uncommon.

Every few weeks or so, there will be no one hour battle warning announcement at nine o' clock sharp. One of the team will take up residence in the board room and eventually the Announcer, whoever she is, will patch through to the room's phone, letting them know there will be no battle for such and such amount of time. Generally, Miss Pauling shows up a few days later, looking hot (occasionally cold, depending on the base) and very exasperated, hands full of new orders and transportation money. It's assumed BLU's employers do something similar, because they're always at the new base at exactly the same time RED is.

Never before has there just simply been no battle. No morning announcement. No countdown. No phone call. No Miss Pauling. Nothing.

“It's the darndest thing,” the Engineer expresses, having given up waiting near the phone in the early evening. “I don't think she's never not called at least.”

It makes Heavy immediately uneasy. He is a man who has lived but gut feelings for two decades, shuffling his family from empty waste to empty waste based on a feeling alone and it has never failed him, thus far. But the mercenaries are not his family, and they don't need protecting, so he writes the feeling off as old paranoia.

Except, there is no warning the next day either. No phone call. No exasperated young woman in a purple dress.

“Doktor,” he says as the second day makes way to night. He lounges in an overstuffed chair the Medic had specifically placed in his office for him and the Medic sits at his desk, shuffling through papers and scribbling notes, grinning to himself, The Heavy's book lies open on his chest, only a page farther in than he'd been an hour ago. “Doktor, I think something is... I think perhaps we should call team meeting. Think of options.”

The Medic spares him an quick glance. “What are you talking about, mein Heffy? Options for what?”

“You are not stupid man, Doktor. Why have we not gotten news? Why is everything so quiet? I do not like it.”

“We've had cease-fire before,” the Medic says with a shrug. “I like them. Gives me time to experiment.” A wicked grin decorates the Medic's face as he stands from his desk and crosses the room. Running his long fingers across the Heavy's jaw, he crawls into his lap, leaning up to press kisses to the larger man's pulse.

Heavy lets out what can only be classified as a small giggle. “As much as I like experiment of these kind, I am still worried. You cannot distract me with wicked lips.”

“Oh, fine,” Medic sighs. “Tomorrow, we have your meeting.” The Medic nips a line from the Heavy's ear to the collar of his shirt. “Are you happy then?”

The Heavy smiles, reaching up and sliding the doctor's coat up with his large hands. “Very happy. I think we do have time for experiment.”

The team assembles in the board room after lunch (a slightly charred batch of mac n' cheese, courtesy of Pyro).

“Yo, Doc, why'd ya call us all here, man?” The Scout nonchalantly picks his nose, much to the disgust of the Spy next to him.

“Actually, tiny scout, I call everyone here. But we wait for Sniper. Is not here yet.”

The people around the table shift uncomfortably.

“You are LATE,” Soldier barks at Sniper as he rolls in five minutes later than the rest, mopping his brow and looking rather ill. “Not that I expect anything less from hippies, but this is SERIOUS, so at least pretend to care.”

“I don't see how it's serious, mate,” Sniper snips, extending his long legs to set them on the empty chair beside him. “What's two days off, eh? We've been at it for three weeks straight. Even professionals need a break.” Sniper wipes his brow again, one hand resting on his abdomen. He looks rather queasy.

“Soldier is right, I think,” Heavy chimes in. The Heavy rises, his bulk intimidating but his posture almost unsure. “Wanted to discuss. Normally, we follow directions, we get paid, end of story, da? But there are no directions, and so no point to sitting like ducks. Too many things happen when men sit still and wait. Bad things. I do not like it, and I have feeling- is not good.”

Scout leans forward, obnoxiously blowing a big pink gum bubble. “Aw, the big guy has a feeling! C'mon, man, it's only been a couple a days. I just wanna know if we're on vacation or not here. 'Cause I got some local girls I can call, ya know? Tight babes.”

“Yes, we all know how very heterosexual you are, herr Scout, but we have more important things to discuss than your libido, bitte.” Medic sneers at the Scout, laying a soft hand on the crook of Heavy's arm.

Demo laughs uproariously. “The lad's, what, nineteen now? Of course he's thinking with his wee pecker, Doc, it's all they do.”

“Hey, hey, HEY, I'm twenty two, and goddamnit, it's not 'wee'. Stop talking about my junk, man!”

“Yes, PLEASE, this is a topic of conversation I think we can avoid forever,” Spy groans, taking a long drag of his cigarette.

“Can't we all just get along?” Pyro asks dreamily, muffled as they are in several scarves, barely an inch of dark skin and hair emerging here and there beneath the folds.

The men around the table stiffen, as the Pyro loves asking that question shortly before setting the nearest people on fire, not always remembering to blow out their fellow RED's. Engineer clears his throat. “Let's try this again. We've not had contact from the Announcer or Miss Pauling in going on three days. So what are we going to do?”

“I say we use this time to get the DROP on those BLU sons a bitches. Wipe 'em out ONCE AND FOR ALL.”

“Yeah, except respawn is off, chucklenuts! I like hurting people as much as tha rest of you, but I ain't no murderer- Ma raised me better than that. Unlike you sad, old bastards.”

A few people cough into their hands. Pyro reads a comic book they've pulled from between two of their many layers.

“I think we can cross that off the table. As you seem to have forgotten, Soldat, we also die, permanently, if they get the drop on us. None of us have a death wish, non?” A few mercenaries nod in assent. Spy crosses his legs. “Personally I think, at best, we are all overreacting.”

“And if not?” Heavy asks, arms crossed. “If something has happened?”

Medic pats Heavy on the arm. “We will think of something, schatz.”

“Alright, well, fun as this runaround has been, I'm off,” the Sniper interjects, standing quickly. He mops his face again, looking a bit unsteady on his feet. “Call me if something actually happens, yeah?”

“Herr Sniper! You are ill. Come by the medbay later.”

“Oi, I'm fine, Doc. See ya.” Tipping his hat, the Sniper exits the room.

“Yeah, I'm out too. Gonna go for a run so I don't die of boring old dude syndrome. Later!” The Scout zips out of the room, and several more follow in time, sparing more courteous goodbyes, until only the Heavy and Medic are left, and the Pyro, still reading their comic book.

Heavy sighs. “Men do not listen. Nothing good comes out of not listening.”

“I listen,” the Pyro mumbles, not looking up from their book. “I think you're right.” They don't elaborate.

“Ah, thank you, herr Pyro,” Medic says, taking the Heavy's arm with a small sense of discomfort. “We shall see you later! Come, kuschelbär, we best go back to the lab.” The Medic and Heavy walk off, arm in arm, sparing awave behind them that goes unnoticed. For amoment they walk in silence. The Medic absently runs his bare fingers over and over the hair on Heavy's arm. “Do you truly feel that trouble is coming?”

“Da. Is like- feeling before they took us to gulag. Predchuvstviye- foreboding is the word, I think.”

They reach the lab and the Medic turns, stepping on his toes to press a deep kiss to the other man's lips. “Then, whatever may come, I am with you.”

The waiting turns into a week, almost two, before anyone will again approach the idea that something is wrong.

“It has been some time now, and Announcer makes no squawking. We must think of how we wish to go forward. Do we keep waiting, like little lambs?”

-

“Sit down, boy,” the Spy says firmly. The Scout sneers but stays put for the moment. “The fat man may have a point. Even I have received nozing for several days now.”

“Yeah, yeah we know you think ya special, spook.”

“Be more respectful, kid,” the Engineer chimes in. “If something really has gone wrong, then the Heavy has a point that we should have our bases covered. Nothing wrong with being a bit prepared, I think. What do you have in mind?”

The Heavy pauses for a moment, eyes locking with the Soldier's. “First, we contact BLU team, see if situation is same.”

“FRATERNIZING, with the ENEMY. I think you mean!”

The Heavy sighs. “ I know tiny man would whine like baby. Listen, we need information. They might have information. Might try to blow us up, but then we know is no use. But information is important. Uninformed man may aswell be baby.” The Medic beams at him, and the Soldier grumbles and glares, but leans back into his seat.

The demoman leans forward, rollinghis cup of tea between his hands. “I dannow if it'sagreat idea, but I could... I could always try to go talk to Janey at least. He might listen ta me.”

“Your unnatural relationship (??)with the enemy is a blight upon this team, private!”

“Ah, stuff it up yer arse.”

“Okay, okay, alright, let's just say all you knuckleheads, ain't full of shit. Let's say we've been left out here or something dumb like that. We gonna wander inta the desert? We gonna, turn dis place into a farm with the BLUS? Raise armadillos? Burn it all down? Do we actually have aplan here or are we all just spouting shit?”

“I like the last one,” the pyro pipes in, muffled beneath particularly ugly thick, beige coat, only their hair visible. They've been playing with action figures the entire time the meeting has been going on.

“Yeah, acourse you do, cause youand yourweird fire thing.”

“We should gather information first, like Heavy suggests,” the Medic cuts in. “Tavish, you contact the Blu Soldier, try to reason with him. Spy can tail, cloaked, just in case it's a trap or goes wrong. Does that make you feel better Soldier?” The soldier grumbles angrily in response. “Gut. Engineer can continue to try to contact headquarters. Heffy and I will search the files we haf gathered in our time at this base and Scout you haf the special job of going down to the basement to scour for anything in the archives.”

“Aw, man!”

“What should I do, Doc?” the pyro mumbles, barely looking up from their game.

“Just... continue what you are doing, kinder (GERMAN EQIVALENT OF KIDDO OR STH LIKE THAT look that up).” Pyro shrugs and does so. “Soldier, you and Sniper will watch the desert for the supply trains or approaching vehicles or ANYTHING out of the-”

The Medic starts, interrupted by a sudden thwump. The Sniper lies face down of the table, shaking a bit and drooling on the table. “Aw gross, he's sleeping weird.” The Scout sneers. “Yo, man, wake up, didja miss the sleep train or something? (this is a bad sentence and it should feel bad)” The Sniper doesn't stir.

Medic rises, quickly crossing the room and laying a hand against the tall man's forehead. “Oh, no, that's not good.” He opens the unconscious man's eyes, feels his pulse. “Schiesse! He's- Heavy, pick him up, carry him to my office, now! Engineer, I may need steady hands, come with me.”

“I'm no doctor, Doc, but if you need me...” The Engineer stands rapidly, the remaining mercenaries looking worried and confused as they stay seated. “What's wrong with him?” SMACKS FACE AGAINST KEYBOARD

The Heavy lifts the Sniper without much effort, tearing off down the hallway with a greater speed than usual- Sniper is much, much lighter than Sascha. Medic races along with him, keeping to fingers on Sniper's wrist for his pulse, while Engineer brings up the rear.

“His- I can only tell so much from what I've gathered, but with his medical history-I think he is experiencing kidney failure. If it's soon enough, we can help him.”

Some of the team begins to catch up, having come over their shock.

“Holy- Holy shit, Doc. Is Snipes gonna die?” The Scout outstrips them all, opening doors before them.

“Not if we hurry and you stay out of my way, dumkopf!”

Sniper dies the next day, mid morning, without ever opening his eyes again, clammy and in the throes of not just advanced kidney failure, but respiratory system failure, heart failure- all sudden, all inexplicable. Medic, for all his years practicing medicine, legal and otherwise, can't find a single damn reason. No one can even find the words to speak. Respawn remains defiantly off.

On the third day, Medic calls a meeting. His face is drawn, eyes purple from unrest. Not many look better. The board room table looks emptier than ever before. “We must proceed with the plan,” the Medic finally says, fingers steepled.

Scout listlessly rocks in his chair. “Doc... Give it a rest.”

Rage swells up in the Medic's tired face, lining it and aging him in the dim light. “Do you want to die as well?! Do you want to die in your sleep, unknowing?” The Scout balks.

“All due respect, Doc, but Sniper's had bad kidneys for some time. You said so yourself.” Engineer absently wipes his hands of blood no longer there. They had tried a kidney transplant. It had not worked.

“Something more is going on here. Organ failure of that magnitude takes months. He would have shown signs!”

“He was sick last week, yeah?” Scout says slowly.

“Takes longer than that.” Heavy answers for his doctor, placing a placating hand over the Medic's smaller one. “You're asking the wrong questions, little Scout. We follow plan. We prepare.”

Spy inhales loudly, fiddling with his cloaking watch. “Then let's get zis over with.”

The BLU base is nearly as quiet as their own, Tavish thinks as he slowly crosses the bridge diving them. He clutches a makeshift white flag in hand, though there's still pink polka dots and a bit of charring on what used to be Pyro's bed sheet. The Spy is barely a shimmer beside him. “Ach, you're freaking me out. You look like a buggering ghost like that, lad, all indistinct and such.”

“And I may be all that keeps you from getting a rocket to the face, so keep your voice down,” the voice from his left answers.

The Demoman pouts a bit, though closes hismouth, fidgeting as they make it to the other side.

“Stop where you are and I won't put one between your damn eyeballs!” A blue dot appears on Tavish's forehead. The BLU Sniper watches him suspiciously from hatch on one of the upper stories of his base. In the bright sunlight, he could be indistinguishable from their own, recently deceased Sniper. He never really noticed, in the heat of battle, he'd always just trained to shoot when he say the colour of their shirt, but the longer he focuses the creepier it is. He's always wondered why RED and BLU would go out of their way to hire such similar people. (this is an unwieldy paragraph fix this)

“It seems you need more eyeballs, 'mate', coz I only got tha one!” The Spy elbows him in the ribs. “Ach, nevermind. I'm not here to blow anything up you daft man, can't you see the flag?!”

“Honestly! How could I tell they weren't just some women's knickers?” The BLU Sniper laughs. “Alright, so you look unarmed, but what do you want?”

Tavish's voice catches in his throat and sounds far weaker than he likes. “ I need to talk tae Jane.”

“Wot's that? Can't hear ya.”

“Your Soldier, I want to talk to the BLU Soldier!”

The Sniper's gun shifts, his long face pulling into a frown behind his sunglasses. “That' all ya want? Your funeral, mate. I'll call him out, but no funny business, hear?”

The gunman disappears from the windowpane.

“Hopefully, you have more manners with your blue friend,” the Spy sighs, uncloaking so that Demoman can see his exasperation. “Please, do try not to get us both killed.” He disappears again.

Demo rolls his eye, crossing his arms and tapping his foot as they wait for any more movement from the BLU base. A minute passes. Two. Five.

Tavish is considering packing up and going home when the base's front gate slowly slides up, revealing Jane, standing alone with his rocket launcher balanced on his shoulder. A moment passes. “Give me one good reason I shouldn't blow you to smithereens.”

“Yo, Doc!” the Scout announces, rushing into the board room. The Medic and Heavy are sorting through the files, looking for anything useful, though all the papers are either complete garbage or written in code.

“Did you find anything? Anything at all?” the Medic asked hurriedly.

“A fuckton of spiders. So many spiders.” The Scout shivers. “But yeah, I found some old, like, tiny elevator behind a stack of crates. I think it leads down to some super-basement or something!”

“So why are you not down there now? Schnell! Get going.”

The Scout bounces from foot to foot, looking uncomfortable. “Spiders, man!”

Heavy pushes Scout out of the room. “We promise, if little man does not return in day, we go down and look for him. Kill spiders in revenge. Go.” The Scout takes off, deciding that the spiders are less scary than the look on Heavy's face. After a moment, the large man turns to his doctor, sighing. “These papers are useless. We are wasting time. I do not think RED has hidden anything here, not where we can find it.”

Medic slowly sets the paper he's been poring over down, head hanging low. “Then we can only hope Demo is having more luck than us.”

“One damn reason,” Jane says, spittle flying from his lips. He advances slowly, rocket at the ready, and Tavish's eyes flicker to where Spy had been, though he sees nothing.

“I just want to walk, lad.”

“And WHY should I talk with the ENEMY?”

“Cause,” Tavish pauses, before slowly lowering his hands. “We were friends, man!”

Jane DOES SOMETHIGN

Miss Pauling can't be older than her late twenties, but now she has a single streak of silver swooping from the center of her hairline. She looks disheveled, tired, and just a bit dusty.

“Miss Pauling, please,” the Red Engineer pleads softly. “You know more than any of us. I don't think you're nearly as good a gal as you've led us to believe, but, ma'am, I think you're not as bad as all that either.”

Miss Pauling hesitates. She knows how to kill a man ten different ways in ten consecutive seconds. Her hands might as well be stained with the blood of these men a hundred times over. And a month ago? She would have put on a well-practiced smile, brushed a loose lock of hair behind her ear, and lied her teeth out. But times have changed. Her world has changed. She's been bred and raised to follow orders, but she's got no orders now- she can make her own choices, but what choice should she make?

“You should sit down, all of you. It's a long story, and I only know what I've been permitted to know, but.. I'll tell you what I do.”

“Janey.” The Soldier glances up sleepily from his pillow, pleased when he sees Tavish's warm face looking down at him. “Hey, Jane. How are you feeling, lad?”

Jane feels the soft touch of fingertips on his palm, hesitant at first, though soon grasping his hand. “I'm FINE. Don't know why the Quack insists I need to stay here anyway, honestly. I couldn't be better.”

Tavish smiles in a humoring way, patting Jane's hand with unsure fingers. “Aye, of course. You're tha toughest man I know, ya know.”

“I am? I mean, of COURSE I am. I'm full blooded American!” Jane scratches absently at his face, trying not to feel how every joint aches and swallowing is taking far more effort than it rightly should. There are words stuck to the back of his throat and deep in his chest. “But, for a non-American, you're pretty tough yourself. You know, even in the dre- kilt.” He coughs into his free hand, feeling the ache rattle around his ribcage.

Tavish gazes at him like there's nothing more in the world, and Jane has never felt more small.

“I have a lot of things ta say,” Tavish says haltingly, squeezing their hands. “You're my best mate, Jane, even with the- with the damn useless war, even though you blew me up more times than I can count. We're both stupid dolts, you know that? It's been four years since we, since I traded our friendship for a damn sword.” Tavish hides his good eye with his free hand, voice sounding uncharacteristically watery for sober. “A goddamn sword, lad.”

“I got a pair of boots.”

Tavish laughs at that. “They've been playin' us for fools this whole damn time.”

Jane feels tired again, but the words are still stuck in his throat, and he feels like they're important. Possibly the most important thing he's ever had to say, and that includes his rousing speeches to the BLU team. “When I get out of this damn bed, the FIRST thing we're going to do is go to another all-American baseball game. We will drink a six pack of all-American beer, and eat some all-American hot dogs and we will ENJOY ourselves. And that's an ORDER, private.”

Tavish leans forward, pressing a small kiss to the corner of Jane's mouth. He blinks, staring openly. “I'll go wherever ya ask, lad.” Jane smiles, his chest feeling lighter. He drifts back into a painless sleep with a smile on his face. Ugh idk if I want to use names or not?? burn everything

The Red Medic feels cold, but he knows he can't rest. Organ failure will not put him down. He has things to do still, experiments to try, whether his life be given to him by artificial means or not. And... he cannot bear the thought of leaving Heavy behind. He knows the other Medic, the “true” Medic feels the same way. Clone or not, they are different people now, and, while the question of how they both came to love the same men aside, there is no interchangeability when it comes to the men they love.

Misha had whispered to him in their bed last night, brushing the hair back from his cold and clammy forehead. All it means is that they are meant to be together in any universe. Medic... he had feigned disgust at the saccharine of it, but he just- could not leave his Heavy.

Beneath the microscope, he sees the cells- his cells- wither and die, their short lifespan spent. He slams a fist on the table. Even if the remaining engineer, madman that Dell is, manages to fix and repurpose Respawn, what will they do? It will extend their lives, yes, but how long until they wither up in this desert? And even if they do not waste away, the clones will have to remain here, respawning every so often to rewrite their genetics- killing themselves every few weeks in order to remain, not even given the option of going out in battle.

The Medic is not a man easily made queasy, but he feels his stomach heave at the prospect of such a life. Or perhaps it's just the organ failure. He laughs, low and mad, beneath his breath.

Dorogoy,” Misha murmurs, emerging from their bedroom that connects to the Medic's lab, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “You need sleep. Please, come sleep. Does no good to wear yourself out.”

Medic hardly looks up. “I will be wearing out anyway, if I do not figure out how to stop the cell degeneration, ja?”

Heavy steps into the Medic's line of sight, face lined with worry even in peripheral view. “Doktor is cruel. I know you will figure it out. Are too smart not to. But if working too hard, you may run yourself to bones before you can.” The Heavy's large hands find the medic's shoulders, not shoving him back from the counter, but somewhat gently removing him. “I cannot lose you, you understand?”

Not for the first time, the Medic marvels that so great and bloodthirsty a man can show such tenderness. “I do. I won't be going anywhere, lieb.” Quietly, like he's telling a secret, he leans up to the Heavy's ear, whispering three small words in his mother tongue. The Heavy returns in kind. Though his tongue is different, Medic feels an ache form in his chest, need, want, determination. The Medic guides the larger man's hand to the collar of his shirt, where they automatically begin delicately playing with the buttons. “Perhaps I can be.. ah, persuaded, to rest, ja?”

With a small smile, the Heavy lifts him into his arms and carries him to their room. Idk love scene idk also HEAVY WRITES MEDIC POETRY IN RUSSIAN IDK WHERE IM PUTTING THAT DETAIL BUT it must happen

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