Stand Off
rating: +11+x

The Insult

The young, black-haired cowboy raced to the radio. A large black-haired man sat squarely in the middle of the couch. His arms laid across its back as he watched as the cowboy anxiously fiddles with the radio’s wooden knobs. In the kitchen, the sun's rays glowed through the curly red hair of an aproned woman who stirred a metal ladle in a steaming pot. A baby in a nearby high chair cooed and laughed. He played with a wooden rattle painted with a picture of a blue jay on a summer day.

The cowboy giggled excitedly as the static soon cleared and the voice of a man with a refined southern accent emanated from the large wooden box.

The good folk of Lone Angel, pray for Dallas from the East. He’s the only man looking out for the good, Christian folk of these here parts.

The boy then backed up to the couch and perched himself beside the man, quivering in excited anticipation for the stories he was about to hear. These tales were of strong, confident men protecting the innocent, things the cowboy desired to be.

The episode had Dallas from the east going after bandits, who had kidnapped his dog. Dallas wasn't able to catch the bandits, as his horse was wounded in the chase. He was forced to rest, hoping his dog would escape the bandits and return to him. But as the darkness came upon him, the dog never came back. The episode ended in a cliffhanger, which resulted in a groan from the cowboy- he'd have to wait a whole week for the next episode.

After an hour of the tale, the woman called the two to the dining table. The boy then ran to the table, laughing and chattering about the story that he and his father had just listened to. The woman settled him down and they began to say grace.

After dinner, the cowboy went to his room. He put on a cowboy hat and took his hobby horse. Both toys had the name "Mikell Bright" inscribed prominently on them, and he excitedly began to act out a fantasy of gunslingers and savages in the wild west.

The Challenge

The 17-year-old cowboy opened the door to his home. The smell of his younger brother's cooking filled his nostrils, and the loud screeching of a toddler rang in his ears. He followed both senses to the kitchen. The brother looked towards the cowboy as he entered. His eyes were darkened by the toils of a role he should not have had to bear at such a young age, and he was grasping his uncombed curly ginger hair, looking as if he was about to cry. Meanwhile, the toddler began to wail.

"I don't want Pasta!" he screamed, stamping his feet. "I want chicken! CHICKEN!!"

"Well, too bad! You asked for pasta earlier, so you're getting pasta!" the brother yelled back. He returned his gaze towards the cowboy. "Mikell! Can you take care of TJ for me, please? I swear he's gonna drive me crazy!"

"I will, just stop yelling! God, you two are gonna wake up the entire fucking world!"

The brother raised his middle finger towards the cowboy, as he took his youngest brother out of the kitchen. The child screeched as his brother pulled him by the back of his shirt. Then the cowboy sat him down in a chair in the living room. The toddler continued to scream until the cowboy spoke.

"Hush up and stay there, you're on time-out, TJ," he told the boy, whose tears streamed down his face as he returned to screaming and yelling. Eventually, he tried to get out of his seat, but the cowboy quickly grabbed him and put him back. The child continued to cry, crossing his arms. The tears soon disappeared from the toddler's cheeks, as the middle brother called the two for dinner.

The youngest brother ran to the kitchen, as the cowboy followed him slowly. The three brothers sat down and said grace. After the prayers, silence filled the room. The middle brother's anger made the youngest scared, while the cowboy was too tired to deal with his brother's irritating temper.

"He's gotta be a man now. He can't just wait for his mommy and daddy to come back and take care of him. They left us. He can't be a pissy bitch about it," the cowboy thought.

After a dinner that was filled with the middle brother's silent fury, the youngest brother left his seat and ran upstairs. The cowboy cleared the table, thanked his brother for the meal, and left the house with a messenger bag. As he left the house, he had a sigh of relief as he didn't have to hear either of his brother's yelling for a little bit.

He walked in the quiet dark plains of the countryside. After 30 minutes of walking, the brightness of a house in the distance encouraged him to turn his walk into a sprint. His heartbeat fluttered like a humming bird's wing from exhaustion as he knocked on the shakey wooden door.

A plump, tired-looking woman in a bathrobe clumsily opened the door, grunted, and returned to wherever she had come from. He entered, closing the door behind him. He made his way to a bedroom upstairs, to find another boy sitting on his bed, reading through a book, and petting a ginger cat. The other boy was skinny and had long blonde hair.

"Hello Harvey, your mom drinking again?" the cowboy asked, taking some books out of his bag, and sitting next to the other boy.

"Yes, she was hurt badly when dad abandoned us for that lady at the general store. What do you want from her?"

The cowboy shrugged, unable to come up with a response. He then changed the subject, "So what are we gonna study tonight?"

"Physics. You need to pass the midterms,"

"Fine," the cowboy replied, taking out a spiral-bound notebook and pen. He flipped to a fresh page and began doing as his friend instructed. Terms and equations relating to velocity, friction, air resistance, and other concepts filled the lines of the boy's paper, things the cowboy was starting to understand with his friend's help.

They finished studying an hour later. The other boy backed up away from the cowboy, heading to the corner of the room. The cowboy watched as his friend moved away from him to put his book back to its place on the shelf. "Do you wanna talk for a bit before you leave, Mikell?"

The cowboy nodded. As his friend sat down and looked at his hair, he asked, "About what?"

"Are you going to do something with that long mane of yours?" The friend asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Are you gonna try out different styles?"

"Like, tying it back?"

"Yeah, let me try something, Mickey," The friend walked behind the cowboy, grabbing something from the desk as he passed by. He put his hand near the cowboy's thick, black, curly hair, lying upon his shoulders, he asked, "May I?"

The cowboy nodded and his friend's brush started to cut through the knots, creating popping sounds he felt as the tension between the strands broke apart. His friend then put the brush down and scooped the hair up, creating a ponytail, and wrapping it in a black bow. The cowboy looked into the glass of a window and admired his friend's craftsmanship. He stroked the top of his head and moved it down to the soft fabric of the ribbon. He then turned around and smiled at his tutor.

"Thank you."

The Meeting of The Seconds

"Agent Mikell Bright?"

The now fully matured, athletic cowboy walked into his superior's office, carrying a folder containing paperwork about his most recent assignment. Inside the office sat a man with dark skin inside a grey leather chair. The man in the chair motioned for the cowboy to sit down. Doing as he was told, he gently tossed the tan folder onto the center of the desk. The man took the folder and read through its contents.

"Agent Bright, I must say that you have provided excellent performances on previous assignments," the man said, "but I am disappointed by your actions during this one. Your instructions were to capture the anomaly, and what did you do?"

The cowboy removed his brown hat and looked his superior sternly in the eyes. "I neutralized the target," he replied.

"And why did you disobey orders, Agent Bright?" The man's tone carried an annoyance in it.

"Because Agent Harvey Pillar would have been killed by the anomaly if I didn't kill it first," the cowboy's voice stayed calm, no trace of fear existed in that strong Texan accent. "I saved someone's life today and I believe there is no punishment for having the safety of my men as one of my priorities,"

The man paused, then mumbled under his breath. "Very well, you may go. But I expect to receive better results on your next assignment, Agent Bright, or there will be harsh consequences,". The cowboy nodded and left the room. He gave a polite "Good evening," as he left.

"Cheers Mickey!" the friend said, clinking his shot glass with the cowboy's. "Thanks for saving my ass back there!"

The two men then took their shots. The friend coughed after he swallowed the copper-colored liquid. The cowboy chuckled at his friend and noticed past his coworkers stare, was a curvy, raven-haired woman looking back at him from the corner of the bar. He took out some money and left it in front of his friend. He then stood up.

"Again? Seriously Mickey? You have a new doll every month or two. Maybe take some time to just drink with me?" his friend suggested

The cowboy shook his head. "Sorry Harv, but I reckon that she's different. Why she's as pretty as a peach," He replied, making his way to the woman. His friend sighed with annoyance as he ordered another drink.

"Why, hello there. I must say, you look sweeter than a slice of cherry pie," the cowboy said, winking as he sat upon the stool next to the woman

They laid in the bed, the cowboy's breath laced with the stench of whiskey. He listened to the raven-haired woman's slow breathing. Once he was sure that she was sleeping, he quietly got out of the bed and put on his clothing. He took a black suitcase from the closet, then left a letter on the woman's nightstand.

He sat in his car and stared at his body. His hands shook with an anxiety that was complemented by the rapid beating in his chest. This always happened. He had been involved with her for 6 months, which was a record for him. He couldn't bring himself to stay when he heard the news. "I'm not ready," he thought as the anxiety died out from his deep breaths. He then drove to Site-19.

After getting settled into his cubicle, the cowboy took a sip of his coffee and then began his work. He typed away, filling out paperwork for a researcher to understand what had happened in the field with a newly acquired SCiP or a report on the interrogation of a possible insurgency mole. The content of his work didn't matter, he just needed to distract himself until he could be able to cope in the evening.

"Mickey?" his friend tapped him on the shoulder. The cowboy turned and looked at the clock. His workday had finished 30 minutes ago.

"Are you okay? I didn't see you at lunch,"

"I'm fine. Just… had a breakup," The cowboy replied, not meeting his friend's eyes. His friend's expression turned sour. He turned away from the cowboy then left, not saying another word. The cowboy felt a sting in his chest but ignored it as he prepared to leave the site.

He made his way through the halls and noticed a ginger-haired, slightly chubby doctor in a lab coat and a younger, thin man in a hospital gown and crutches walking towards him from further down the hall. The cowboy stopped and put his brown briefcase next to his foot, taking a cigarette from the package that rested in his pocket.

The younger man's eyes lit up with excitement, "Mikell!" he yelled gleefully as he limped his way towards his brother. The cowboy smiled but avoided the smaller man's gaze. "Heya TJ, how are you?"

"Good! Jack got me a candy bar, and I saw the therapists and doctors again! They were real nice!" the man sounded so happy. It pained the cowboy's chest as he thought about the reasons that his brother had to see those doctors.

"TJ, we need to get going. I'm sorry Mikell, TJ needs to be in his room soon," The doctor said. The cowboy looked at him easily meeting his eyes. The doctor attempted to make his way past the taller man.

"Hey, Jack," the cowboy said, lighting his cigarette. The doctor scowled and stopped. He then looked into his older brother's eyes. The anger in the red-haired man was obvious."TJ, please go on ahead. I must speak to your brother," He told the limping man, who nodded and continued down his path. The doctor then turned back to face his brother.

"Still a little bitch I see," The cowboy thought.

"What do you want, Mikell?"

"Don't you wanna chat with your dear ole brother?"

"I have nothing to say to you,"

"Ohhhhh you think you're a big man huh?"

"and you do?"

"I'm more of one then you will ever be," the cowboy spat after removing his cigarette from his mouth. Just seeing his brother pissed him off. "Why can't he just grow the fuck up? You know what the fuck you did,"

"Is there anything of substance you were planning on saying to me?"

"You're such a little shit you know that? Don't act all high and mighty when you made TJ-"

"Have a good evening, Agent," His brother walked off coldly. The cowboy clenched his teeth, watching the doctor walk away as he followed the man in crutches. He dropped his cigarette and put it out like he was trying to kill a bug. He then picked up his briefcase and exited the site.

The cowboy laid in the darkness of his hotel room. The only light came from the cool glow of the television. People talked from inside the screen, but the cowboy was too busy drinking from a bottle of vodka to care about anything they had to say. Grey stains laid upon his unbuttoned shirt as dark thoughts intruded upon his psyche. He felt overwhelmed by feelings of abandonment, fear, and hatred. He curled up and listened to his sobs as they drowned out the voices from the screen.

The Preparation

Years had passed since that evening. Now in his 50s, the cowboy sat on the steps of his porch. Age had taken it's toll upon his hair as streaks of white now hung upon his thick, long hair, though he still stayed as fit as when he was young. Now he had reached the title of O5-6 within the Foundation around 4 years ago.

He had married 15 years ago. The thoughts he had to hide from by using women and wine no longer disturbed him. His son came through the door, staring at his father like a hunter observes his game. The cowboy pretended not to notice the slender black-haired boy creeping upon him.

The boy quickly put his hands on his father's shoulders and yelled "Boo!" which resulted in the cowboy replying in laughter and picking the child up and hugging him. Once the boy showed resistance to his father's embrace, the cowboy put him back down. "Mommy says it's time for dinner!" the boy explained. His father nodded and took the boy's hand as they walked into the house.

The two sat down at the table, dark-colored hanger steaks rested in front of them. The cowboy's wife walked in, carrying the salad, and placing it in the center of the table as she sat down. All 3 of them joined hands and began their prayers. Afterward, they dug into the steaks, juice dripped from the son's greasy mouth as he devoured his meal.

After dinner, the cowboy cleaned up the table as his son ran outside. The cowboy followed him after finishing his chore to find his wife resting on the steps of the porch, watching the child playing with his father's old hobby horse. His wife's black hair blew in the southern wind. The son played in shadows of the dark bark of the tree in the middle of a golden field, hiding from behind the tree before the wind picked up. It was if he could sense the wind coming before it blew, and to his father, it was adorable. The cowboy's heart melted seeing his son have the time of his life, smiling and laughing as he played and hid from the wind. His wife held his arm as they watched their son play until the sun went down.

The Shots

"You fucking did this," The cowboy's wife yelled. "You fucking cut his goddamn eyes out. Now he's gone!"

"Darlin, I-" the cowboy started to say until his wife grabbed him by the collar.

"What could be so fucking terrible that you decided to cut your own son's eyes out, Mickey?!"

"I didn't want him to end up like my brother!" The cowboy shouted back, clenching his fists.

"Your brother's in one of those homes. if David had a condition it would be something that you couldn't just fix or prevent. Especially by cutting out his fucking eyes! You would still accept him and love him as a father should!"

"Shut up, you fucking whore!" The cowboy snapped. "You couldn't possibly understand what I was afraid of. You have no clue what's going on. You think I wanted this? He was the best thing that happened to me, and now he's fucking gone!" the pain of loss struck the man's heart.

"If he mattered so much to you, then you should have thought about that before you laid a hand on my son," His wife turned and left, grabbing her suitcase, she exited the house. The cowboy was now alone, in silence, as the orange rays of sunset glowed through the house windows.

The older cowboy woke up in a familiar hotel room, where an unfamiliar woman lied upon his breast. He nudged her off of his body and checked the clock. It was 6:23 AM, so since he was coming from the city he was most likely going to be late by an hour. He moaned in annoyance as he quickly put on his clothing and ran out of the room to get into his car.

He parked his car in the Site-19 parking lot at 8:45 AM. Before he left his car he took a swig from his silver canteen and made his way into the building. He sluggishly completed any task that was assigned to him by the administrator or one of the others on the O5 council. Once it was his lunch hour, he made his way to the site cafeteria. He took his meal and sat down, he had only taken a few bites before his friend appeared.

"You were late again," His friend said, sitting down and staring intensely at the cowboy. The cowboy did not meet his friend's gaze.

"Yeah, so?" he asked, continuing his meal. "We've barely talked in years, why does this matter to you?"

"Because you're going back to old destructive habits,"

"Why the fuck do you care, Harvey?" the cowboy's tone became more aggravated, "You stopped talking to me when we were both still field agents. But you seem to forget that I'm your superior now. So I'd watch my tongue if I were you,"

"And you seem to forget that you have a private room where you can eat in. Yet here you are eating in the cafeteria like you aren't an O5. Which is an odd choice, if you didn't want to see me," The friend replied, no fear was visible upon his features.

"I can eat wherever I damn well please. Why don't you run off before I fire you,"

"I know you won't. You are so lonely that in your cold dark heart, you're desperate for any type of interaction. You're yearning to have that feeling of having a family that you lost when you were a child. You fuck any attractive woman that's willing to take you as a lover and you leave her when you knock her up. You are a coward, Mikell Bright," Anger bubbled in his tone as his stare burned with disappointment.

"You know nothing. You have no clue what I've been through!" the cowboy yelled, his accent breaking. "I'm tired of people thinking that they know everything about my goddamned life. You don't know what I've done to be better, you don't know what I've lost. I have no love left, I have nothing because they all left me. You, my parents, my wife, and my son. You all left me because you're all fucking selfish. Life has been unfair to me and I need to fucking cope. So if I decide to fuck and leave some broad, what does it matter to you? You've cut me off. You hurt me, you left me alone in misery!" the cowboy's yelling had gotten the attention of the other people in the cafeteria. He noticed the curly red hair of the doctor in the crowd and realized he was judging the cowboy from afar. He clenched his teeth as his friend began to speak.

"You're so egotistical. Just because you've been hurt in the past doesn't mean you get to act out like a child. You are in your late fucking 50s, early 60s. Start acting like a goddamn adult, and move o-" the friend was interrupted by the cowboy standing up and leaving the cafeteria. The only sound left in the room was the buzzing of the cafeteria's fan.

The cowboy stormed into his office, rage burning throughout his body. He sat down attempting to try and distract himself, yet that rage found it's way into a decision of assignment, which soon grew into a plot for something unforgivable. His anger, hurt, and hatred were quickly able to convince him to go through with this plan. He then picked up the phone on his desk.

"Please assign Dr. Bright to the research team of SCP-963,"

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