The huddled mess would at times shake and shiver after long periods of time in which the Engineer and Demoman spoke to each other, at length, about what they should do next.
"We can't just leave 'im here," Engineer said, scratching the side of his chin in deep thought. His goggles hid any tell-tale sign of emotion that his eyes might have held, and the rest of his face was as rigid as stone.
"Tha's wha' I'm sayin'," Demoman replied in eager agreement. "But he isn't movin' an' I sure as 'ell ain't gonna try ta carry 'im."
"Yeah, but we can't just sit here starin' like this." The man paused, considerate for a moment. "He prolly doesn't like it."
The Demoman groaned in impatience. "Oh, he don' wan' anyone lookin' at 'im now? How can ye tell? He hasn't moved for a good half hour."
Engineer contemplated this for a while longer before uttering, "I wonder how the others are doing."
"I'll go check on 'em. While I'm gone, ye can think o' somethin' to get 'im to move."
The Scotsman was gone in an instant, and Engineer was certain it was because one could easily sense the rising discomfort in the room. Bundled up in several cleaned bed-sheets and simple underclothes was the person in question, the Medic, sitting on the floor; he seemed smaller without his usual outfit, and his back was toward his comrade. It was uncertain as to whether he was hearing any part of their conversation at all. Sounds did not seem to register anymore; he appeared to be trapped within the brutal memory of the previous night, and everything was playing on an endless loop in his mind.
There was no other choice but to try and talk to him, although choosing the right words proved difficult and time-consuming. The Engineer didn't want to overwhelm the doctor in his crucial time of need nor did he want to alienate him by seeming insensitive, so he settled on a story to start with: it was the only experience of this sort that he had under his belt.
"Back in Texas," he began slowly while advancing toward his friend. "A roomie of mine had a sister, and she was hurt real bad by her ex. He attacked her, an' – an'…she was…well, you know. Like you." The Engineer swallowed hard, for he did not know how people could say the dreaded word so easily, especially in the presence of someone who had it occur to them. He stopped to see if he was being paid attention to, and sure enough, the Medic had turned his head slightly toward him. "Now, this guy was sent to jail for a long time. If you tell me who did it, we can try to get 'im locked away, too. I dunno how you're really feelin', but I jus' wanna let ya know that there are still good people lef' in the world." He bowed his head a bit so that his hard-hat shadowed the goggles completely. Comforting was never something he was particularly good at, but like most obstacles in life it was worth taking a measly, even if a little misguided, shot in the dark.
"I thought he was good." The doctor's voice was very hoarse, and the sound shocked Engineer because he was quite certain that he wouldn't get a response. "It is beyond my knowledge to see vhy people do vhat zey do. I may be able to dissect a brain, but I do not know ze thoughts zat are in zem. Zat is…it is vhy I am scared."
"Don't be, Doc." The Texan attempted a smile. "One unstable guy can't ruin you. Ya gotta have more faith than that."
"No." The Medic did not speak for a long time before he tried to elaborate on his point. "Zis feeling isn't somezing zat goes away. Engineer, you have never really had such a zing happen to you. It is degrading, and above all, so shameful that zere are no words. I vas powerless. I could not stop him…and now all anyone vill feel for me is pity."
"It ain't your fault," the Engineer repeated. He grasped for any kind of metaphor he could use. "I mean, Spy's always sappin' my stuff, but if I let that spook bother me, it wouldn't help the team or nothin' at all."
Surprisingly, the Medic laughed, but it wasn't the kind of laugh that the Engineer wanted him to rasp out: the chuckling was void and bare of any joy. It devolved into something else entirely a few minutes later. He was crying.
It was then that the Demoman chose to walk into the room with an extra person. Sniper was with him, and his brow was creased in either concern or irritation, it was hard to tell.
"What'd ye do now?" Demoman asked him angrily.
"We were jus' talkin'." The Engineer became sheepish, tugging on his sole, yellow glove. "I didn't mean to upset him none."
Sniper interrupted them sharply. "We need to bring him downstairs. Heavy's having a real hard time of it –"
"He deserves to, ya moron!" Demoman snapped. "We found a piece o' his vest in tha Doc's room this mornin'. If that isn't enough, I don' know what is."
"It isn't," the Sniper retaliated. "It's only enough ta make us suspicious of him, and anyone could have put it there. My money's on Spy being behind all of this –"
"Ye always think everythin's Spy's fault, down to who drank the last carton o' milk –"
"Boys, we need to calm down here," the Engineer said. "Let's think of the Medic. I don't believe he wants to see the guy if he's the one that did it."
"But if we can't clear Heavy in time and he's innocent, or if some other bloke's the one that did it, what can we do? What if someone else is next?" Sniper inquired.
None of them knew what else to say. After all, it was impossible to think that any of them could have done something this gruesome. When they signed up for war, they only thought they would have to deal with killing.
Soon, the room grew to be too silent once the Medic stopped sobbing.
"Is there any way ye can tell us who did it, or at leas' go downstairs for a bit? We'll bring ya right back up soon as we can," Demoman said, trying to lower his voice so he did not sound so demanding.
The Engineer saw no other option; he did not want to witness Heavy get crucified by the others for a false offense. At the same time, if it wasn't him, then there was a maniac on the loose. "C'mon, Doc. Ease all of our worries and come with us," he added to Demoman's request.
There was no reply to their pleas, and so Engineer took it upon himself to hoist the Medic up and force him to lean against his shoulder in order to walk.
It felt as though the area between the Medic's room and the basement merely one floor down went on for an eternity, because every step that the doctor took was at a drunken snail's pace. During this time, the Engineer wondered about the perpetrator's reasons for harming their Medic. Furthermore, why this sort of attack?
Voices could be heard in a room down the hall. They sounded angry and heated; soon it became evident that Soldier was the one speaking, but they weren't close enough to make out anything distinct.
The Medic began to mumble in a low voice, completely incoherent and unaware of his surroundings once more. Engineer was afraid he wouldn't be able to tell them anything and decided to go ahead without him for now. He cautiously placed him against a wall, which the man soon fell against in an awkward way, and went in alone. The Scout was beside the door in mock imitation of a bouncer, his arms crossed and his stance firm. He nodded at Engineer once he came inside.
"Now, I don't know WHO the hell you think you are –" the Soldier was yelling before the sound of the door opening cut him off. "Oh, hello Engineer. How's the Doc?"
"Could be better," he admitted gruffly, glancing over at Heavy. The Russian's lip was busted and bleeding, and he had one black eye. He was bound up so tightly in a chair that the rope was beginning to cut into his flesh. However, that was not the worst part of it. Upon his facial features was a genuine look of pure confusion and deep grief, the likes of which the Engineer had never seen before, much less on a man of Heavy's size. In that flash of an instant he knew that this man was innocent. The Soldier, meanwhile, was occupied with retrieving one of his shovels from a supply box nearby. "Pyro! Do a spycheck," the Engineer ordered his friend from across the room.
The Pyro woke up and brandished his flamethrower at these words. He did a successful sweep of the entire room and found no one. At the Engineer's next command, he checked the hallway outside and had nothing to report as well.
"What's the meaning of this?" Soldier questioned, waving his shovel up in the air as though it were some sort of gavel and he was the judge.
"This is just a hunch, but I don't think Heavy did it."
"You crazy? Of course he did. All we need now is for the Medic to confirm it. You brought him, right? Let's end the confusion right now and give him what's comin'."
"You can call me all the names you'd like, but I'm stickin' to it. Heavy ain't our guy."
"Then who is?" Doubtful, the Soldier had an eyebrow raised at him, but at the same time he seemed very curious of any new information.
"I…" The Engineer looked down at the gray, cracked floor and began to play with the straps on his overalls. "I dunno."
"We don't have time for games. Bring in the Medic right now so we can finally take care of this filth."
"Don'tcha think we should let him rest for a while longer? He don't look so good right now." The Engineer knew he was stalling for nonexistent time when instead he should be helping their investigation, but he had a horrible feeling in the pit of his stomach about all of this.
Soldier looked to be about two seconds away from completely snapping. "If someone doesn't say somethin' soon," he growled between gritted teeth. "I think some of our comrades wouldn't be very happy knowing that he's getting off scott-free, and they might do something without my saying, if you know what I mean."
The Engineer could do nothing but nod. He dragged his feet toward the door, noticing that his hands were quivering lightly as he reached for the knob. A simple shake of his head let Demoman and Sniper know what to do. Working together, they pulled the Medic to his feet and walked into the room.
What happened next immobilized the Engineer so completely that while it occurred he became the most useless person in the room. The Medic, seemingly after laying eyes on Heavy, immediately pitched such a huge fit that it was horrifying to watch. He was screaming and struggling against the men that were holding him with so much violence that they were having problems keeping him up and then dragging him back out.
In the midst of all the noise, the Engineer heard Soldier speaking very close to him. "That enough proof for ya?"
The Texan couldn't think of anything to say. Had his eyes deceived him when he thought he saw that flare of guiltlessness? Why would Heavy do such a thing?
No, it didn't matter anymore. It didn't matter because no one was going to ask why he did it, and no one in particular was going to care for the reasons. It also didn't matter because Heavy seemed too frightened to speak. Judging from the looks on his teammates' faces, they were only hungering to administer their own form of cruel, mob justice. The Engineer was quite certain that they were not doing this for concern over their Medic anymore. Lord knew that the others definitely weren't too keen on this sort of crime because of the implications it caused. Lowering his head, he walked outside toward where Sniper was left with the doctor in the hallway.
"The others are going to the basement," Sniper explained flatly, jerking his head toward the direction of the staircase leading into the darkness. "You comin'?"
"No. I think I'll just watch Doc for a bit and then I'm gonna go to my room or somethin'. This is all too much for a guy to handle in one day. I gotta go relax."
"I know what ya mean. I'll probably do the same once this is all over, mate. Least we don't have a match for a few days."
The Engineer absentmindedly watched Sniper join the others as they went downstairs, all of them helping to restrain the Heavy in case he tried to struggle. Resistance did not appear to be an issue, however.
Medic was still shuddering like mad on the floor, his eyes unfocused and on the opposite wall. The man watching over him had a complete loss for any words of comfort.
A/N: Been writing this one for a few days, but wasn't sure if I should upload. Tell me if you hate the subject matter or if this was utter crap or something. I can always take it down, I guess.
Sorry for the lack of updates. I'm busy with college, trying to get better at TF2, and on top of that I've got no self-confidence to post anything recently. Thanks for the people who have story alerted and favorited, though. It really surprised me. I'll try to think of some better stuff to put in this series of stories.
Also, I'm participating in NaNoWriMo this November, so I may not be able to update next month because any spare time would be spent writing my novel thing. But after that, if I get any ideas and decide to write them, then I will probably continue updating this story. Thanks for reading!