They're down in Medic's infirmary, hands digging around Heavy’s insides for little more than recreation, when Medic says, so very casually, “I wonder what you would taste like,” and for a moment Heavy thinks he might finally be losing his mind.
The resulting shock shoots through his body, from his wide open chest down to the very tips of his toes, electrifying in its intensity. It's par for the course that Medic will talk when he's got his hands wrapped around Heavy's guts; talk of artificial life extension, invincibility, how, one day, he will elevate them both to godhood and whatever lies beyond. It’s soothing, almost, in its familiarity. But now, with one little sentence, Medic has managed to knock the air out of Heavy’s exposed lungs.
“Reports on the taste of human flesh are terribly inconsistent, did you know that?” Medic goes on, in that far-off tone that carries benefit for his ears alone. “Not to mention scarce! I mean, how hard is it to pick up a pen and take some notes? You’d think these people were illiterate.”
He rambles on – and on, and on, and on. “Know who knows what people taste like?” Heavy eventually cuts him off. “Your bird. When he nests in open chest, he nibbles sometimes. He wonders same thing you do.”
Medic leans over him with a smile. “Wie der Herr, so sein Gescherr, nicht wahr?” he says, gives Heavy's cheek a hearty pat. “But it’s getting late, and I’ve kept you long enough.” He straightens back up to get the Medigun in position. “Let's call it a night.”
It bothers him for days. What would he taste like? He’s never thought about that before, and he actively tries not to until Medic sneaks his way into his dreams that night.
They’re out under the setting desert sun as Heavy watches Medic sink his bare teeth into a corpse in a ripped flak vest, a bandolier caught under its arm, tearing into it like a starving animal. He keeps eating, and Heavy keeps watching, weirdly detached, as Medic drops to his hands and knees, fingers digging into the sand as he coughs and chokes, arms shaking as his body convulses.
He writhes in agony as the skin above his spine audibly breaks, bones cracking as they shift to accommodate whatever's clawing its way through his shoulder blades. The protrusions are slim and pointy, sprouting shaggy feathers as they unravel; deep brown wings fluttering in the mild evening breeze.
The metaphor is so on the nose that Heavy can't help but feel it’s insulting to them both, and he wakes up – a little amused, a lot irritated, and sadly sure he knows what to do next.
Medic is – delighted, is the only word that comes to mind. His face lights up, pupils dilating as he wastes no time getting Heavy's shirt off, gets him on the operating table and jumps to straddle his waist, slices him open with hands trembling in excitement.
Medic lets him pick an organ, and Heavy, uncertainly, settles on his liver. It’s the only one he’s ever tried – there are better parts to a bear, but beggars can’t be choosers in the frozen tundras of Siberia.
Medic, surprisingly, does not care for liver. “But as with so many other things in life, I’m sure it’s a taste that can be acquired, ja?”
He cuts it loose with a few quick slices, gently smooths it with his thumb as he extracts it from Heavy’s guts. He holds it high; their eyes meet; the air grows tense around them, heavy with anticipation.
Medic holds his gaze, brings the liver up to his face, and Heavy curses in every language he knows.
“Just like that?” he asks, dumbfounded. “Really, Doktor? That what you want?”
Medic lifts his brow in obvious disappointment. “I take it you’ve changed your mind?”
“No.” Heavy shakes his head. “No, have not changed mind – but Doktor, do not eat it raw! Is very unhealthy, and tastes bad, too.”
They argue a lot that night, Medic insisting that it’s fine, perfectly safe for consumption, and Heavy trying to get through to him that it's not, and that it will leave him nauseous.
Medic, naturally, brushes off all concerns and ends up eating it raw. He bites off bits and pieces, smearing his face as he chews through it, swallows like it’s a delicacy. It must be making him sick, it must be, Heavy knows, he knows, he’s had to eat raw meat before… but there's an undeniable fascination as he watches Medic feast, watches him devour, and it keeps his mouth shut.
Medic eats nearly half before he gets Heavy fixed back up, who watches in disbelief as Medic wraps the remaining half in tinfoil and puts it in the fridge.
“Very romantic,” Heavy comments, grimacing.
It earns him a smile, a pinch of his cheek, and a cheerful, “I try!”
Heavy dreams again that night – of Medic ripping into his lifeless body with less intensity, savoring every bite. He still keels over as his spine bends, the wet scraping of bone on flesh ringing in Heavy’s ears. But the wings grow out smooth, feathers a bright white, tips shimmering golden in the rising morning sun.
Still a heavy-handed metaphor, but it’s an improvement. And, as Heavy now knows, more accurate, too. He wakes feeling content in a way he can’t quite put into words, and just a little horny.
Medic does as Heavy asked the second time around, brings a camping cooker he borrowed from the Engineer. Who, apparently, was very eager not to know what they needed it for once he learned surgery was involved.
“You think Engineer knows?” Heavy wonders aloud as his sternum cracks once more.
“Possibly.” Medic shrugs. “Then again, I could just be using it to boil my instruments. Would it bother you?”
Heavy hums in thought. “No,” he decides, relaxing into the table, “not at all.”
Medic takes his liver again that night, uncharacteristically predictable. “It’s easiest to prepare, I guess,” he says as he fries it, serves it seasoned with just a bit of salt and pepper – and Heavy has to admit he was right.
It’s a slow process, the situational thrill long gone by the time it’s done, and the pungent smell makes his stomach churn. It looks like any other slab of meat they might find wrapped in plastic in their weekly provisions, something soulless, mass-produced and sold cheaply at a store.
There’s nothing interesting about this, and Heavy voices his displeasure as he watches Medic eat his meal with much less enthusiasm than before.
They ditch the camping cooker.
Medic's enthusiasm returns full force; he takes Heavy’s kidneys, his liver once more, his left lung – the shortness of breath that comes with the last one is a powerful reminder of the fragility of the body, and Heavy decides his lungs are off limits.
Now, tonight, there is but one more organ left to try. The most significant, the most poetic.
“My heart,” Heavy says when Medic settles atop him as he always does, asks the same question he always asks. “Take my heart, Doktor. Want you to have it.”
Medic rolls up his sleeves with a smile. “Well, isn't that sweet,” he says, and falls silent again. Like he doesn’t believe it. Like he doesn’t want it.
Heavy grabs a gentle hold of his wrist. “I mean it,” he insists. “Want you to take it out. Want to see it become part of you.”
Medic shakes his hand loose, places both at the edge of the table beside Heavy’s head as he leans over him. “It will kill you,” he says, watching him intently. “As soon as I turn off the Medigun, you will die. I have no spares to fix you with, and I certainly won't be able to put it back this time.”
“I will be back,” Heavy says, even if the thought gives him pause. There’s always a bit of uncertainty in dying, a lingering doubt about the respawn system’s supposedly flawless functionality. But he pushes those thoughts aside. “Is just for tonight. Tomorrow I will be stronger remembering the sight of you.”
Medic watches him a moment longer before his smile returns, spreads into a grin. Their kiss is short and sweet, and Medic’s hands are brimming with excitement as he goes for the scalpel.
Heavy’s chest breaks apart as it ever has, as it will again after tonight, and Medic takes a good long moment to marvel at his insides. Heavy never got the fascination, but his heart rate picks up nonetheless, and his skin starts prickling knowing Medic can see each hammering beat and nervous flutter.
“Beautiful,” Medic remarks, and then his hands wriggle inside.
It’s not the first time he’s taken it out: Heavy knows the necessary cuts, knows the names of all the veins and arteries by now, what purpose each one serves. How will it taste? Not great, probably. But this is a symbolic act, a gift for Medic, and he seems more than eager to receive it.
There’s the familiar hollowness that comes with organ removal, the overwhelming imperfection of something so vital being torn from its rightful place. Medic sets his scalpel aside to cup Heavy’s heart in his hands: it’s still beating, pumping leftover blood as the Medigun keeps it alive, and he wastes no time tearing into it like a starving animal after all, biting off bits and pieces of the sinewy, chewy flesh.
And, despite his initial hang-ups, Heavy watches. Watches his heart in Medic’s hands, in his mouth, going down his throat, blood running down his chin, until he calms himself after several bites, sits up straighter to take a deep breath. He mumbles something Heavy can’t quite make out, licks the blood off his fingertips.
“Is good?” Heavy asks, because it’s all he can think to say.
Something mildly unhinged passes over Medic's face before his features soften, and his eyes regain focus. “It’s divine,” he sighs. “Would you like to try it?”
Heavy regards his heart in Medic’s hands. It stopped beating a while ago, torn beyond recognition, covered in blunt, desperate teeth marks. It’s poetic still – ripped and squelched, hanging limply in the palm of Medic’s hand. Beautiful in its own right, but not something he feels the urge to put anywhere near his mouth.
“Are you sure?”
A moment of silence passes between them.
“This is not just about taking,” Medic says, leaning closer to his face. “It’s just as much about giving. We’re not doing this for me. We're... exchanging.”
“Actually, Doktor, this is just for you,” Heavy tells him. “Medic asks, I provide. Am not going to eat own heart.” He shakes his head. “Would not make sense anyway, if you are wanting this to be exchange.”
Medic’s face brightens. “Would you like to try mine?”
“Bah, nyet! Would not like to try anything like that.”
Medic reaches for the scalpel again, cuts off a piece of Heavy's heart. He smooths it between his thumb and forefinger, brings it close for him to see. “It’s surprisingly tender,” he comments as Heavy cranes his neck back further.
“That’s good,” Heavy says. “Answer is still no.”
Medic leans in even closer. “Just a nibble?”
Heavy takes a deep breath before he reaches an arm around Medic's back, pulls him close. “No,” he says, calm and controlled, “but can offer you this instead.”
He pulls Medic in by the back of his head, and their lips meet like they've done many a night spent exploring and extracting the deepest parts of Heavy's body. Maybe it will be enough if he licks his own blood off of Medic’s tongue, tastes what Medic tasted by proxy.
One of Medic's hands comes up to scrape across his busted ribcage, fingers digging into the ridges, tracing the sawed-off edges. Heavy's breath hitches, a phantom fluttering where his heart would be if he hadn't just given it away so freely, hadn't offered himself up on a silver platter. Medic's fingers curl tight enough around his ribs to make them crack, and the noise jolts Heavy out of his thoughts.
They part, just a little breathless as Medic rests his elbow next to Heavy’s head, rests his chin in his hand as he grants him an honest smile. And Heavy smiles right back, a chuckle rumbling through his wide open chest as he gently strokes Medic’s back.
Until Medic holds up what remains of Heavy’s heart again. “How about now?”
Heavy rolls his eyes, lifts a hand to gently push him off.
“Ach, fine!” Medic huffs, plopping the piece he cut off before into his own mouth like a party snack. “Be like that, then.”
Heavy tries to bend his ribs back into position as Medic tries to straighten his clothes, climbs down from the operating table to get the Medigun in position once more. “Would you like me to ease the process?” he asks, carefully setting the remnants of Heavy's heart in an unlabeled petri dish.
Heavy considers what his help might entail – an injection, probably, something to cloud his senses and help him slip over peacefully instead of... whatever is to come. He's never died of heart removal before.
“No,” he says after a moment of consideration. “Can take whatever happens. Just turn off Medigun when you are ready.”
Medic nods, wipes his hands on his pants. He leans down again, over Heavy's face. “Thank you,” he says, running a thumb over Heavy's cheekbone. “And you're welcome.”
Heavy huffs. “Was just for you. This is not my fantasy.”
Medic laughs, mockingly, kisses him once more before Heavy can start an argument over this. “Whatever you say,” Medic concedes as he leans over him to flip the switch. “Good night, my dear. I will see you tomorrow.”
One last smile, one last deep breath. “Good night, Doktor.”