Chapter 8/15. 1984 words.
Also at Archive of Our Own: http://archiveofourown.org/works/2264529/chapters/5110586
Summary: The new BLU medic, Gunter, begins learning ways to cope with what had seemed an untenable situation, with help from his team. But some trauma, even support from his team cannot erase.
Many thanks to our beta reader ProtoNeoRomantic.
Gunter was still deep asleep when someone banged on the door for him to get up. His eyes and mouth felt dry, but he was rested, and the prospect of battle, while still bad, didn't loom like disaster on the horizon. He hoped he would face it better today.
Everyone seemed in a better mood at breakfast. Liam made Gunter drink a glass of reconstituted orange juice in addition to coffee.
Afterwards, Samson and Gunter went to the infirmary, where the heavy weapons man chided Gunter for not taking care of his equipment. Gunter accepted the rebuke; he'd have to do this in future, if he was staying here. Even if he got out, someone else would be using the Medigun.
"How long has this been going on?" he asked Samson, while cleaning the equipment. (The saw and syringe gun hadn't seen any use yet, but had been blood-spattered.)
Samson thought. "Vlad, Spy, David – " He paused. "…and myself have been here about four years. We did not all come in at the same time. The previous medic was older… Dr. Washburn, that was his name. The war took the life out of him. He trained David as best he could, and then retired." Samson sat lost in thought for a moment, then peered at Gunter. "Who did the uber surgery on you?"
"Red Medic," Gunter said. It wasn't a pleasant memory. "Then I did the others."
Samson nodded. So this Medic could do the job; he'd been overwhelmed by the violence. "I'll teach you," he said solemnly. "Now, where is the candy?"
"Eh?" Gunter couldn't remember – oh. "These?" He produced the belt pouch full of peppermints. "They were your brother's?"
"He used them to hide the smell of blood," Samson explained.
That made a lot of sense. Gunter would try that today. He also remembered the other things in the pouch, the tobacco bundles. He found them on the desk where he'd dumped them. "What are these for?"
Samson examined one, smelled it, but in the end shook his head. "I don't know. David – knew things about plants and medicines. But I don't know what he used these for." He handed it back to Gunter, who shrugged and tossed it back on the desk. He wasn't going to smoke that, certainly.
~ ~ ~
Doc was presentable, and present, in the ready room, listening to Samson's low, steady voice. Doc seemed mostly fine, which was good enough for Vlad. He caught Martin's eye and nodded his thanks for the Spy's work in keeping the Medic going.
Lonnie was quiet, no trouble from him today. Finn and Krieg looked actually eager for the upcoming fight. Finn had brought an ax, which he now freed from its leather blade-sheath to reveal a bright, sharp edge.
"You're still a Sniper, aren't you, Finn?" Vlad asked casually, first in English and then in Russian. The Sniper looked polite and slightly puzzled at both languages.
~ ~ ~
The peppermints helped quite a bit. He couldn't talk clearly while sucking on one, but today he tried to follow Samson's directions, and that gave him something to focus on.
The Reds began the day targeting him again, but the Blues were expecting it, and soon the deliberate targeting stopped, because the Reds had to concentrate on protecting the points.
It was still a grisly morning, and Gunter was shaken by lunchtime, but he was holding together. He was very glad of the break, and the chance to sit quietly and eat and drink. He still hated all the blood and gore, but he was trying to just not look at things. It wasn't easy.
"How's he doing?" Vlad asked quietly.
"He learns quickly. But he isn't like their Medic. He'll heal, but he doesn't want to attack." Samson devoured a sandwich. "Why did he join us?"
Vlad shook his head and popped open another beer. "They tricked him. He had no idea what he was signing up for."
Samson stared at Vlad, then shook his head in disgust.
Martin sat near Gunter at lunch, glad to note the Medic had gotten food and drink for himself, and didn't seem inclined to retreat into his own mind.
"So, why archaeology?" he ventured. Gunter gave him an odd look. Martin responded with a shrug and upturned hands. "I thought you might like a chance to talk, and think, about something other than this." He made a sweeping gesture to indicate their surroundings.
Gunter was glad of something else to occupy his thoughts. He started hesitantly, but warmed to the topic as he spoke, about the mysteries of the past, of teasing evidence from the soil, hunting for meaning behind what he found. He was speaking of how he enjoyed finding the story behind a dig site when Vlad gave the ten-minute warning.
"I went on a bit, didn't I?" Gunter said, smiling albeit a little embarrassed. He'd stopped eating or drinking while he talked, except when Martin reminded him to, and now he tried to finish what he could. "I know it's not everyone's cup of tea, but it's what I've wanted to do since I was still in short pants."
And now he wasn't likely to get to do any, Gunter realized, since he was stuck here for two years as a false doctor, unless he could get out of his contract. That was sobering. Unless there was a likely site around here, and with all the fighting, the odds were against it.
"Au contraire,” Martin said, “I very much enjoyed it. I had not suspected that our professions were so much the same – the finding of bits and pieces, determining what they mean, and putting them together to make a picture of the whole."
Martin blew out a stream of smoke and snubbed out his cigarette. He also enjoyed hearing someone talk about any topic they were so passionate about, though he could hardly say so while maintaining the aloof, half-bored facade that was especially necessary where he might be observed by Reds.
"What do you do on weekends?" Gunter asked. "You don't fight?"
"There is no fighting on the weekends. Every other weekend, there is a shuttle – the van by which you arrived here – to take members of one team into town, should they wish to go. They are responsible, then, for procuring their own accommodations overnight. Each team, therefore, is provided transportation once per month. Otherwise, one must provide one's own transportation, if one wishes to leave the base."
They walked leisurely back toward the ready room.
"One does mostly as one wishes on the weekend. Drinking," Martin acknowledged, "is popular, in the evenings. During the day, one pursues one's own interests. At times, someone sets up a reel to reel projector, and we watch one of the few non-instructional movies we have obtained. Dr. Lamb would drive to the lonely houses, where families try to scratch a living from this land, to give them medical care or food or other necessities.
"Whatever one does on the weekend, one should return in time for supper on Sunday evening. It is not a rule; more of a ritual. We come together as a team to break bread, and prepare ourselves for the week to come."
This was a small, closed community, Gunter thought. Like hippies, except not: they obviously had a job, they were earning money, but they were trapped here and couldn't really get out easily.
On the other hand, there were movies, meals, monthly trips to town… in some ways it wasn't much different from being on a dig. Sunday meals with the family, so to speak, regular trips for supplies and civilization. If not for the recurring deaths and horrible pain and blood everywhere, it could be tolerable.
"You said the team has to have its own transportation, for other times," he said, reflecting on Martin's words. "Lonnie has his truck, I saw it. The Reds must have something, too?" Martin nodded. "But Lonnie's the only one who can drive the truck, you said, and there's no way it could fit the whole team in it." Then he remembered something about how Dr. Lamb, the Scout, and the Sniper had all died – a flash flood. "You had another vehicle."
"That's right," Vlad said, loading his launcher. Everyone was preparing for the afternoon fight. "The Medic van. Both sides get one, I don't know why. I've got a request in for a new one. It'll probably arrive within the month."
Gunter felt vaguely disappointed. If he could have gotten away in the dead of night… of course, he couldn't do that in good faith… but at least he would have had the option. He was still trapped, and good.
"When's the next shuttle to town?" he asked.
"For us? Not for a month." Vlad checked over his team. "Krieg, you got enough to drink?" Pyros' complete body covering could overheat them quickly. "Nobody gets shore leave this weekend. Next weekend's the Reds. Teufort may not look like much, but after a month here, it's like the Big Apple."
"Doctor," Samson reminded. "Begin charging."
"Uh, yes." Gunter began charging the Heavy.
~ ~ ~
More of the same, but the afternoon was more tiring, and hotter. Gunter took advantage of the dispensers when he could, which wasn't often enough, but did his best.
But at last the end of the day was called, and the Blues still lost, but it wasn't as bad as the day before, Vlad said. He seemed to have access to the results.
This was a strange place and no two ways about it, Gunter thought wearily, removing his equipment in the infirmary. At least he had a private shower. Shower, care for equipment, eat, crawl into bed, try to forget loose body parts and chunks of bloody meat and getting killed repeatedly. Every time he closed his eyes he saw those things.
He looked at his equipment and decided he'd better maintain it first, since he was already a sweaty mess. He shrugged out of the coat and hung it up, worked on the equipment, and tried not to think of death.
He'd kept going all day, and he supposed he should be proud of that, but now he felt bone-weary, and shaky, and it was all coming back.
He didn't want to break down again. He could hold it together, get drunk with Martin, sleep the weekend away in a stupor.
Or he could figure out a way out of this madness. He had to think of something. He would. But nothing came to him right now that would let him go unscathed.
He'd fallen off the second story of a building in the afternoon, and broken his back. Put like that, it sounded so simple. In practice it had been horrifying, feeling that, and realizing he couldn't move his legs, couldn't even feel them.
He'd forced himself to elbows, and tried to aim the medigun at his legs, but it was still too long. He couldn't feel them, couldn't walk. He was afraid but not panicky for some reason. No, the panic came when Red Medic found him, moments later, and grinned with sadistic glee at finding Gunter alone and helpless. He'd raised his saw – not the same as Gunter's bonesaw – and rushed at the Blue Medic.
Gunter had woken up in Respawn with fresh memories – could you call them that, when they'd just happened seconds before? – of pain blossoming across his face, and Red Medic's head exploding in blood and brains, and then the Respawn.
He'd hidden there, checking his legs over and over, his face, and losing his lunch again. His throat still hurt. (Or did it? Respawn fixed everything. Was this real, or phantom pain?) Samson had found him, pulled him to his feet, and helped him get back out on the battlefield.
It was good he had some privacy.