It wasn't safe there.
Medic learned that early into his stay with the classic mercs. His skin constantly crawled with the feeling of being watched and the number of times he searched his
cell lab for hidden cameras was frankly embarrassing. His muscles and joints ached from an excruciating mix of overwork, exhaustion and the sting of old injuries. His stomach gurgled and he wondered when his next meal was.
That thought made him frown and look up from the experiment currently fouling the air of his workspace. He missed his friends old team. He wouldn't call them friends anymore. He might've, back at Tuefort. But Medic lost the niavity that came with having friends . Caring for people got you hurt. He shook his head and stood up, searching for hidden cameras again. The hair on his neck tingled with anticipation as heavy steps thundered down the hall. They were far off and his eyes flickered around the room. He had enough time to hide his medigun, he had enough time to put his bulletproof vest on, he was going to get shot.
The footsteps were getting closer and his searching grew more frantic - where was his Übersaw?! - as he threw papers across the room, yanking draws open. He hears it getting closer.
"Oh, Frankenstein~!" The deep voice called. His heart jumped in his chest and he gasped involuntarily. The click of a gun's safety, the thud of a boot on cold, hard concrete - his hip and head still burned from the many many times he'd been thrown onto it - the thick Russian drawl of a man without morals and with painful fists. The rattling of the door. It all echoed painfully in Medic's skull.
A heavy sigh. Resigned. Forlorn. He's given up.
He closes his eyes.
He turns to face the Heavy, the barrel of a gun staring back at him.
The doctor has lost count of how many times he's been in this situation, lying on a cold, hard, dirty floor as he bleeds out slowly and painfully. Never a critical, life ending shot. It was also slow, painful, deliberate. Because he's aware that the Heavy is taking advantage of his and the mediguns skills. It will be the same pattern. Shot, heal, shot, heal, shot...
It's often times like these where he wonders whether maybe this time he should leave the medigun. Keep it hidden and instead just bleed out. But deep inside of him he still holds on to the small string of hope that they'll find him and rescue him. His team. His friends. His family . He still hopes that he'll hear their familiar battlecry and the sound of the classic Mercs being mowed down. He still hopes, perhaps a bit delusionally, that the door will bust open and there will stand his love. His Misha.
His eyes trail to the engagement ring on his finger, and he feels a bit stronger than before, a small smile ghosting across his features. The heavy above him stamps on his jaw, the treads of his boot leaving a print of mud and blood on the german's face. The vision of Misha kicking down the door, Sasha in hand, with his other friends by his side. He could almost picture it; Sniper wouldn't be visible but he would see the evidence of his existence through the red dot glowing between heavy's eyes, demo would have his itchy trigger finger read to launch sticky bombs and blow them all to pieces, he could hear the clank of the metal of Spy's butterfly knife and the whoosh of his invisibility, Scout would swing a bat in one hand and tap his shotgun with the other, Soldier's boots would echo off the concrete in his disciplined march to the front of the group, Engi would have his shotgun pointed at his abuser with a glare shining through his goggles and Pyro would send out a warning spray of flames, so hot Medic would feel the heat from where he stood. Pauling would be there somewhere. Knowing her, probably resting on Mischa's shoulder, her revolver spinning around her finger by the trigger guard, her glasses gleaming menacingly.
His chest burned with more than just the throb of broken ribs. The heart he wasn't even sure he still had ached with loneliness and his eyes gleamed with unshed tears. He wasn't completely sure if they were drawn from the pain of Heavy's boots or the pain of the fact that his friends would never come for him. He doubts they even know he's here. That thought alone would have winded him. But the kick to his broken ribs did the trick too.
The Medic tries to focus on anything but the pain, desperately clinging to any thread of life that he can. He simply focuses on staring at the engagement ring, trying to ground himself by looking at the soft glint of the metal, trying to focus on warm memories - but his vision blurs and he can't see it, even more so when the Heavy takes the chance to stomp as hard as he can on the doctor's hand.
There's a sickening crunch, and Josef nearly tears skin with how hard he bites his lip to hold back a scream of agony. His eyes close in pain, but he takes that chance to simply think. To remember. Anything but the pain.
He went to Russia once. It wasn't long after he and Mischa got engaged. Mikhail took him up the mountains to his home, a cosy and homely little cottage, with three sisters and his mother. It was lit only by candles and lamps. There was a large dining table, spread with plates and food and he could smell something cooking in the kitchen.
He can remember his lover breaking the news to the family over the dinner table, and how, for a brief moment, he wanted to curl in on himself and cry, ready to be shunned and embarrassed. But the tears turned into those of joy when instead Mischa's mother and sisters congratulated them.
He cried in bed that night. Mischa was by his side.
He remembers the next smissmas; Mikhail's mother's apologies when she found out that he was Jewish, saying that it was horribly inconsiderate of her. He obviously assured her it was fine, that she had done no wrong, but the way she specially kept his sweetcorn butter-free and avoided offering him cheese and asked before she gave him any meat was so considerate of her that the warmth swelling in his chest almost made him cry there and then. His long-abandoned Kippah burned in the back of his mind from where it lays in the bottom of his duffel bag, stuffed in to the bottom of the pocket along with his pocket Torah. He'd forgotten most of it, religion shoved to the back of his mind and ignored, but he felt like he was finally able to crack the spine of a long neglected book he held so dear to his heart.
Hs doesn't tell Misha why he why he spends an hour holding an age-worn piece of cloth and wears it for the first time since the war and cries that night.
As he hears Beatrice thud down the hall Heavy backs off, heading for the door. The Pyro drops off his food and Medic just curls up, bleeding out and remembering how free and accepted he felt when he spoke hebrew, connecting with God for the first time in over a decade. He wonders if He would love him now, accept him now as He did then.
The Heavy kicks the tray of food towards him, simply scoffing as he takes one last look at the pathetic sight before the door slams, locks, and heavy boots stomp away. Medic lays on the floor, covered in his own blood, shivering. He lets out a pathetic whimper as he curls in on himself, hugging himself and finally allowing himself to cry.
He thinks that more than anything right now, he'd give everything just to feel Mischa's arms around him right now. Holding him tightly, before the giant gently moves him onto his lap, whispering silently to him, wiping away his tears. Although he didn't believe it, Mischa was a great comforter. Especially for Medic, but the doctor saw his influence in all the Mercs. Like the time Scout was having a panic attack, and the heavy weapons expert helped ground him with gentle touches and soft words. How he sat quietly with Sniper when the Aussie heard the news of his parents' passings as a silent guardian. How he would smile and listen as Spy showed him photos of Scout's mother, reliving fond memories of home but being happy where he is with Dell and Miloš. How he offered solutions and helped Dell through a problem that the Engineer started to stress too much about. Everyone on the team was a little softer because of him, fuzzy around the edges because that's just the kind of influence he has on the people who surround him.
The medic can't help but sob harder as he thinks about his lover, his fiancé. He hugs himself tighter, throat starting to go hoarse from his cries.
He remembers all that wedding planning he did; careless sketches scribbled onto the back of important reports, lists and half-hazard notes of dates and times and fancy words in german, in his language. If he really wanted something hidden from everyone, he'd write it in Hebrew. It felt like God was helping him with his love, his happiness and bringing them closer together. He remembers the day Mikhail found one of his notes - one about his many outfit choices, his stressing over double-breasted or single-breasted waistcoat, colours and fabrics - and the warmth that seeped into his face when his fiancé told him that he would look stunning in all of them.
He lays, shivering and sobbing into the arm of his ripped lab coat as bittersweet memories drown him in exhaustion and the sting of abandonment, fresh and painful like a raw wound.
He balls his fists and presses them tightly against his eyes, sniffing and gasping for breath. Once he's calmed down enough, he pushes onto his knees, hissing when pain shoots through nearly all of his limbs. He crawls over to where he hid the medigun, holding it and just staring at it. He's not even sure if he wants to heal himself this time. But his mind races. What if the Mercs did come for him? And what they walked in instead was his lifeless, rotted body.
He can hear Mischa's scream of agony, the look of pain on his face as he ran over to the dead doctor's body. He can see Scout, tears streaming down his face, and all he can do is drop to his knees and cry. Sniper would stand by him, hat casting a shadow over his face, but behind his aviators, the tears blurred his vision. Tavish would hide his face in Jane's chest, crying quietly, while Jane just looks at the scene with a blank expression, heart-shattering inside. Dell and Devereux would join Mikhail's side, hands on his shoulders. The Engineer would have to move his goggles as they fog up and get dirty from his tears, and all Spy can do is clutch his butterfly knife in his hand, scowling before he spins on his heels and rushes out, cloaking so the Mercs can't follow him, but Soldier tries once he detached himself from Tavish, having the same idea as the Spy. And Pyro.
They don't know what's going on.
All they can do is reach out for Pauling's hand and squeeze it as the assistant bawls, having lost the only father figure in her life. They slowly pull the mask off their face, clutching it to their chest. The only thing they can manage-
As much as he wants to, as much he just wants to let go and stop, escape from everything; the rampant, overwhelming hunger, buzzing thoughts screaming paranoia in his ears fuelled by his delusions and exhaustion, he can't. He thinks of their faces, the broken noises they make it pains him enough to keep going, to look at the red beam as it gives him warmth he doesn't deem himself deserving of. The healing reminds him of a hug, a warm blanket draped around his shoulders and heavy arms around his waist. He could almost hear the sound of Heavy's favourite classical music playing on the radio.
He gasps when he pulls the muzzle of the medigun away from his face and he sobs, looking at his ring. He tears it off his finger in a blind rage, not knowing what to do, feeling hopelessness overtake him and confuse him. As soon as the platinum hits the floor he snaps back to reality. His momentary burst of anger leaves his body with a rush of exhaustion and the clack of metal on concrete echoes in his skull, deafeningly loud against the stark quiet of the room and he stares at the abandoned ring. What had he just done?
He snatches the jewellery and weeps, crying over the implications of his actions. Clutching the object in his fist against his chest, he curls over and leans his head on the cold floor. His finger feels empty, jarringly light but he feels like putting the ring back on would be insulting to Misha, to what they had created and he would destroy some fragile film over his memories. He felt like putting it on his finger himself would write over the memory of soft hands and soft-spoken words, the leftover smell of a dinner for two, painstakingly created through hours of careful work. It felt like a betrayal and it left Medic's mouth foul-tasting - like ash sitting heavily on his tongue.
He resolved to wait. He would stay alive until Misha could set things right and place the ring where it was meant to be. He ignores the voice in the back of his head that tells him that Heavy would be disappointed and hurt knowing that Medic took it off.
He stays there, curled up and sobbing, ring clutched tightly to him for what feels like hours. He doesn't keep track of the time though, as after a while he retires to laying on his side, no more tears left to cry. He stares at an empty space, eyes stinging, dissociating until after a while sleep beckons him. He's at a better place behind his eyelids, where he isn't focusing on the coldness of the floor and the emptiness of the room. At some point, Archimedes slips in between his arms to cuddle with him.
He wakes with a headache and a stab of hunger slices his stomach, he curls in on himself and cracks his eyes open. The food is still sat where it was kicked towards him and his body is intent on him eating it. He crawls over it with one arm, the other cradling Archimedes, and his mouth is salivating as he gazes upon the stale-almost-moulding bread and stale broth. It's more than he's had in a month and his stomach growls in excitement. He feels fear and nausea wail in his stomach, however, a fear of repetition with the incident where the scout thought it would be funny to put rat poison in there. Over the months he had been confined his stomach had shrunk with lack of nutrition and he knew he had to eat before his cheeks hollowed any more than they already had.
The sting of nostalgia hits him hard as the broth tingled on his tongue as he swallows. He remembers more than a few nights where - too caught up in work - Misha would knock on his door with a soft call of "Josef?" and a steaming plate of whatever had been served that day, specially made for his dietary requirements. (He never really thought to follow those Mitzvot rules strictly, but when he found out that Engineer had bought an entire new kitchen set just so the Jew could adhere to them made his heart swell just enough to not let him mention it.)
He eats as much as he can before his stomach makes a disgusting growling sound and the nausea increases tenfold. He clutches his stomach with his free arm as he doubles over, retching.
Although vomit was nothing new to the doctor, it was rarely ever him doing the vomiting. It was usually a different Merc, and it was usually after some kind of operation or respawn or simply because, well, they were sick. Scout and Tavish were the worst for vomiting regularly. Scout had the worst immune system of the mercenaries, catching illness much easier than the rest. Josef always pitied that about the youngest merc, as Jeremy wasn't necessarily the best with vomit himself. But the doctor knows that the scout is in good hands with Mundy, who would always be there to rub his back as he doubled over a toilet.
And Tavish? Tavish sometimes simply lost track of how much he had to drink. Although his body was a lot more adjusted than a normal persons would be, it still wasn't immune. It was especially bad after he'd have a stressful day, because sometimes he'd just stow away in his room with a dozen crates and somehow manage to drink through all of it. Josef makes a mental note that they have to work through that with him.
His eyes start to well up with tears again as he gasps for breath, but he has the feeling that it was inevitable, his stomach just feeling worse and worse.
He thinks back to the rat poison, wondering if it's lethal if taken in large doses. He stores that away for a future experiment, maybe he'd do it on Heavy next time the large man is on his table.
He ignores the swelling hope growing in the morbid half of him that yells in excitement as he ponders the lethality of rat poison. It whispers of sleep, rest and escape and he can't deny that it doesn't sound half-tempting.
He leans over the bucket again and his throat constricts, his stomach churning in discomfort. His throat burns and prickles like he's been stabbed by a thousand needles. His back aches with cold, missing the warmth of a massive hand rubbing his sore muscles. He stares at the bucket and idly wonders where the blood came from. That’s generally not good; he shrugs it off, it's nothing the medigun can't fix. The room falls quiet as he finally manages to catch his breath, and as he stares at the bottom of the bucket his thoughts begin to wander.
How are the Mercs doing right now?
Are they frantically trying to search for clues of where he's being held? Comforting one another with desperate reassurances that they'll find him? Or had they given up hope?
He whimpers as he thinks about Mischa, sitting solemnly in his room all alone, just staring at a picture of them together, no one bothering to find him or comfort him. Oh, how Josef yearned to be there right now. He feels tears on his cheeks just thinking of Mischa's state.
He wonders if anyone has mentioned that he could be dead in a ditch somewhere. Spy has probably. He wonders if anyone cut him off, he wonders if that possibility would be too painful to even hear, if their hope had not dwindled enough to think about that.
What if they weren't even back together?
That thought winds him enough that he's left dry heaving over the bucket again. Oh god . He's been hinging on the thought that they'd all gotten back together again. But what if they weren't? He was so foolish. What if Heavy was still in Russia with his family? They probably thought he was back in Germany doing some weird shit. Not locked in a lab being beaten and abused
and wanting to die because he's losing time and hope and he's slowly wasting away anyway . Do they think he's happy? Are they happy? Are they even alive?
He sighs and he knows with the way that his thoughts are going that he isn't going to sleep tonight.
Mischa tenses in the back of the car, staring at a single point ahead of him. They were all used to him being quiet, but not this quiet. Nearly stone still, barely even breathing. It looked as though he just saw a dead body - which, in the long run, could be what happens. But no one wants to think of that.
Pyro looks up at the Russian, sympathy in his eyes visible even through the mask somehow. Pauling glances at him in the rearview mirror and forces a smile.
"Don't worry, Mischa. We'll find Josef. It'll be okay. I promise."
The Heavy frowns and sighs.
"Can not stop thinking. About worst." He looks out of the window and flashes of getting there too late, the stench of old blood and decaying flesh flooding his nose and making him gag. He can faintly hear Scout mumbling an "ohgod" and vomiting. Medic looks up at his with dull, glassy eyes that shine in fear, mouth open and his beautiful face twisted in fear and pained. His chest hurts as he thinks about the suffering he's going through. He wonders if this is even true. What if he wasn't suffering? What if he was living a good life and didn't want to be with them again? What if he threw away the life he lived with them? All the happy memories and he decided the other mercs were better for him?
Heavy feels stupid and he's suddenly self-conscious of his large stature because when his chest heaves he's pretty sure the others can see it. If they do, nobody comments. He curls his right hand over his left and clutches them close to his chest. He'd rather die than see Medic gone. His face falls into a frown and he looks out of the window. He wonders show the others are taking this. Are they as paniced as he is? He wonders that if Sniper was here - a twang of grief goes through him with that thought - he'd be fiddling with the safety switch in his rifle (a nervous habit) and he wonders if he would tap on the window. The clinking of Spy's knife being opened and closed feels oddly like a promise, somehow he's telling the other mercs that they will stop at nothing to get him back.
With a forlorn look, the Russian wonders how many of the people in the car will make it out alive.
The car journey is sickeningly silent. No one can think of anything appropriate to say, they had suffered too much with Medic missing and Sniper dead. Scout wasn't as chipper as usual, wringing his hands around the handle of his baseball bat. Demoman was a lot clingier to Jane than usual, huddling closer, head on the Soldier's shoulder, probably struggling to deal because of the lack of alcohol in his vicinity. Jane pulled his helmet further over his eyes than usual, lips pursed as he just sits quietly. Pyro didn't know what to do but sit quietly, looking out the window. Pauling's eyes looked darker than usual, hair a little messier, grip on the steering wheel tighter. Spy continuously flipped his knife into position and back again, just to distract himself.
How could they have let this happen?
Scout is probably the one who takes Sniper's death the hardest, his lover of almost 3 years torn from him ruthlessly, right in front of his eyes. Heavy remembers a night where Scout came to him bawling, worried himself sick about a decision that could change his entire life. The Bostonian thinks of a little black box sitting in his bedside drawer - hidden by porn mags and lube - and it makes his heart ache.
He hopes the ride isn't too much longer, he needs someone who he can cry with, Medic is that guy. When things got too much and when he didn’t want to overwhelm his lover, knowing that the Aussie wasn't always the best with emotions; he always went to Medic when he wanted someone to just let him cry and listen, Heavy when he wanted the best advice and warm hugs.
He wishes he had the lanky and lean muscled man to cuddle him as he slept in a van that smelled of weed and he wanted his rough voice to tell him it would be okay.
The quiet takes him back to that underwater dome, to where Sniper finally had the chance to meet his real parents just to have them both run away from him within minutes. To when he saw the light in his lover's eyes when the flood doors reopened, believe that his parents came back, and-
Everything seems to go in slow motion as the sniper's aviators fall off his face and he stumbles backwards, Tavish rushing forward to catch him as he chokes and coughs up blood.
Scout's eyes screw closed and he lets out a pained noise. All anyone can manage is a hand on his shoulder as he begins to cry.
The door opens and Medic tenses, looking up. He can see the Heavy holding a limp figure in his hand before throwing it on the floor, a trail of blood being left by the skidding body on the tiles.
His eyes lock onto the body, his eyes tearing up and obscuring his view of the grey skin, red crimson seeping out of the holes in cold flesh a stark contrast that makes bile churn in Medic's stomach.
"Vhat... Vhat do you vant me to do vis him?"
The corpse lays on the ground as he stares at it and he feels like the floor is too dirty to hold Sniper. His body is too nice, too clean, too important for him to lay on the 0floor. He looks at the large man in front of him.
"Autopzy. Ja, ja. Lay him on the table," He forgets who he's talking to - a foolish mistake. He should have learned after months of abuse and beatings - and he half turns away before he gasps and flinches. He freezes still, wide, fearful eyes locked onto his abuser as he waits to be hit, shouted at, punished . He gulps and braces himself.
The Heavy grabs him by the collar of his lab coat, lifting the Medic to meet his eyes.
"You do what I tell you, got it, Frankenstein?" He hisses. Medic nods sheepishly, hesitantly, trying to sink away. "Leave him alone. We shot him for a reason. Maybe having a teammate of yours rotting in here will teach you a lesson on how to behave." He spits before dropping Josef to the floor and stomping out, door slamming and locking. Medic swallows hard, backing into the wall as he stares at the body.
Oh god, how's Scout taking this? Josef covers his mouth with his hands and wretches before letting out a silent sob. Not Sniper. Anyone but Sniper. Anyone but his ex-teammates. But begging to himself doesn't fix the past.
He feels the world growing smaller like everything and everyone turned against and is now closing in on him. He feels tears prick at his eyes and he stares at the greying skin of his now-deceased friend. The coppery smell of blood is the only thing he can focus on and he sobs openly. He crawls over to the man and fists the man's bloody shirt. His chest heaves with the force of his sobs and he isn't getting enough air. His head feels dizzy but he can't find it in him to care. He struggles to his feet and he looks down at the corpse. He growls and calms himself - a failure like everything else he does - with a deep breath.
He almost busts his back as he struggles to throw Sniper onto the autopsy table. He hears Heavy's words ring in his ears and he decides that his life isn't worth Sniper's death. He decides then; as he picks up the sharpest, cleanest scalpel he can find. He decides then; as he makes the first incision. He decides that he'll take any punishment Heavy will throw at him.
He will bring Sniper back.
Damn him, he doesn't matter, Sniper does.
For hours, that was the only thought floating through the German's head.