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As the Mind Gives

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When lightning hit the sky, sometimes it seemed as if it shattered the earth. Ludwig stared out as it rained down. He was on the hairy edge of the platform above the canyon. There was no railing. Nothing to keep him there. The sky was broken. Water was tumbling down.

He stared down into the abyss. It was becoming harder, through all the stress and strain, for him to see reality past the confines of the pieces of his own mind. Old wounds, old nightmares were returning after so many years since the war.

His mind was broken. His thoughts tumbled down, and he couldn't pick them up. They were lost to the abyss.

He was becoming a liability to himself and to his team. If he could no longer see reality, why bother staying? He stared down and raised a foot to take the step that would plunge him over the edge. It was after five. RESPAWN was off. This would be permanent.

"Doktor?" a gentle voice interrupted his reverie.

He whirled to see Heavy behind him. Mikhail, a killer like them all, with a soft spot for them all as well. He staggered, pinwheeling his arms as he tried to find his balance.

Heavy's arm shot out and pulled him back.

"Not safe for doktor on the edge. Doktor is soaked: Vill catch cold."

"... A cold is zhe least of mien vorries," he mumbled.

Heavy dragged him back inside.

"Vhat does doktor mean?"

"It does not matter."

"Doktor is sad. That makes Heavy sad and rest of team sad. Does matter."

He sighed.

"Mein freund,... I am losing my mind. My grasp on reality is... slipping avay."

"Place is hard on all. Doktor vill be all right."

"You don't understand! I am going INSANE!!! Literally!"

Heavy shook Medic gently and began speaking in Russian. It was both soothing and comforting, somehow pushing back together a few cracks. The rain seemed a little lighter.

"...Mind is strange place. Pyro, he does not see world as ve do, but is happy."

"I do not vant to live like zhat. Locked in mein own mind. It is... a bad place..."

"Then ve make mind better place."

The German seemed to shrink into himself.

"I do not know how."

"Heavy vill help. Ve find vay to see sunshine."

"Danke, my friend."

"Rain has stopped. Doktor should get dried."

"Ah yes. I... I should."

He hurried back inside, and Heavy went to find Engie.

"Engineer. Heavy has question."

"Shoot, big guy."

"How to fix broken mind?"

"If you're talkin' 'bout Pyro-"

"Not Pyro. Doktor. Heavy just stopped Doktor from jumping."

"Jumping? Like what? Jumping rope?"

The Russian shook his head.

"Off canyon platform."

"Heavy, suicide attempts are usually a sign of depression, not insanity, and it's not easy to fix. Did he say why?"

"Doktor says cannot see reality anymore."

"Huh. Well, I don't know what to say... Doc's the doctor. If anyone would know what to do, it would be him."

"But cannot ask Doktor to fix Doktor."

"Nope. That would just make him feel alone." Engie agreed. "Best not to mention this to anyone else either."

"Da. Heavy vill go check on Doktor. He vas soaked from rain."

Heavy found Ludwig in the showers, warming up under a hot shower. The Doctor yowled like a cat and yanked his towel over his waist. He never showered with the group.

"Heavy is sorry," the large man ducked away, "Vas looking for doktor."

"Vell you found me, dummkopf!"

"Is sorry!" Heavy was still turned away, "Does Doktor feel leetle better?"

"Ja, mein freund, I do."


Heavy turned back when Ludwig had had time to get dressed.

He was in a pair of pants and a green sweater with a red pattern, toweling his hair. They had moved higher into the mountains, and it was winter, so the temperatures were rather cool.

Heavy handed him his comb, hovering slightly.

"Vhy is doktor's mind bad place?"

He sighed, "Many bad zthings happened to me... a long time ago. Now, as my mind breaks... zhey are resurfacing."

"Vhat helps?"

"Nozhing helps anymore. Music used to und Archimedes, but... nozhing helps now."

"Music helps maybe still? Maybe being played to sung to instead of playing?"

He gave a mirthless laugh, "Und vho vould play to me? Engie? Sniper?"

"Engineer is good friend. Vould play if asked. Und Heavy... Heavy can sing."

"You? You can sing? Forgive me, mein freund, if I find zhat hard to believe."

"Da, is true. Perhaps not good. Used to sing for sisters."

"Vell perhaps it is for zhe best if you do not vith me."

"Of course."

There was a twitch of amusement and a twitch of pain in his friend's face.

Ludwig sighed, "I do not mean offense, Mikhail."

"I know. Did not hurt Heavy's feelings. Big heart, thick skull."

"Ja. I vill... go rest now."

"Doktor should rest. Tired alvays. Not good."

He nodded and started up the stairs for the infirmary. Heavy watched him go and then turned away.

"Bah, stupid Mischa. Of course cannot sing." He muttered to himself.

"Having troubles, mon ami?" asked Spy as he melted into sight.

"Not Heavy's troubles."

"The good Doctor, oui?"

"Da. Doktor is sad."

"That is a rather simplified version, my friend."

"Vhat does Spy know?"

"I watch everyone, Heavy. What do I not know? The answer to that is this: I do not know where the good doctor went today. I do not know what he did or why he returned with you instead of alone."

"Heavy found Doktor about to jump off platform."

"That is... unexpected."

"How can Heavy help Doktor?"

"I am not a doctor, Heavy. I do not know everything, but I do know that our Medic should not be left alone while the Respawn is off from now on."

"Heavy vill stay vith him."

"Good, mon ami. Go on now."

Heavy nodded and turned away from Spy, following their doctor up to the infirmary. What should he say? If Doctor thought he was being watched, he might be defensive...

As he got close the low, haunting, sorrowful strains of the violin reached his ears. If Doctor was playing the violin, he couldn't hurt himself. Heavy settled outside to listen and try to get his thoughts straight.

There was emotion in the music, pain, sorrow,... desperation... and resignation. It was as if Ludwig was playing his very being into the notes, pouring it all into the music. It sounded like the last gasps of a dying man, and Heavy wished Ludwig would play something else.

At the same time, he couldn't close his ears or dare interrupt. He listened, his heart breaking for the man who would push away attempts to help. The man who feared his own mind more than he did the embrace of death.

Heavy laid his head in his hands. How was he to help the doctor? He was not a doctor. Not a scientist. He was a poet, a reader, and a man who loved his guns.

The music stuttered then came to a stop. He could not see beyond Medic sinking down against the wall, angry, bitter, and hopeless tears on his face.

The large Russian was not graceful or light on his feet, but he did have a soft step as he walked to Medic's side and pulled him into his arms. He jerked and feebly pushed at the big man with no real strength.

"Shh..." Heavy kept him close, "Vill be all right."

Ludwig collapsed against him, shaking. Archimedes fluttered down to land on his master's hand.

"Leetle bird loves Doktor." Heavy told Ludwig.

He said nothing, just sat there in the Russian's arms, his violin and bow sitting on either side of him.

"Doktor should be resting," Mikhail said and gently lifted him.

Medic did not protest as he was laid in bed and tucked in like a child.

"Vill stay until asleep."

He set his glasses aside and closed his tired, haunted sky-blue eyes. Heavy almost reached out to smooth his spit-curl back where it fell against his forehead but thought better of it and let him sleep.

He kept the infirmary doors and his door, thankful his bedroom was close, open. He woke to a piercing scream.