The pain was excruciating.
Everything hurt. Quite literally, everything hurt. The Engineer had been through some nasty respawns before, but never had the pain carried over like this. His head pounded, his limbs were stiff and achy, and he feared the moment he opened his eyes, the sick feeling in his stomach would only get worse. And the smell. Jesus Christ, what was that smell? The respawn room did not smell like… like whatever the hell that was…
So… So that meant he wasn't in the respawn room. He was somewhere else. He tried to remember, the cogs in his brain sticking as he tried moving, only to instantly regret it when a wave of fresh agony swept through him. But the slight movement of his legs and hands confirmed that he was not on a cot. He was on the floor. How the hell did he get on the floor?
He finally decided it was time to open his eyes, as much as he desperately did not want to. But he wasn't going to get any answers lying flat on his back on the floor…
The first peek was just as unbearable as he thought it would be, sunlight piercing his retinas and leaving splotches of white and purple in his vision. But millimeter by millimeter, he opened his eyes, adjusting to the lightly slowly. As his vision began to focus and his eyes began to dilate to accommodate the light, he saw… very little. He saw a concrete ceiling with nothing on it, and thin, open windows to the left and right of him. Once his vision had finally returned to him, his other senses started to wake up.
His mouth was as dry as the desert outside, and he was pretty sure his breath could gag a maggot. Then there was that smell, that he was slowly starting to realize was not a beer soaked skunk, but himself. He lulled his head to the side to see the pile of Blu Streak bottles scattered on the floor to his right. That explained the beer smell… but the skunk…
Finally, it was as if someone had turned on a television, forgetting that the volume was on full blast. His hearing returned with a vengeance and his head filled with the sound of rancorous snoring from somewhere above him. He tilted his head back, straining his eyes as he looked upside down at the Sniper, who was sitting up against the corner of the room, his hat placed over his face, his arms folded over his chest and his legs tucked up against his arms. Sniper, whom he had shared beers with the night before, because Sniper had offered to share, because Engineer had looked depressed, because…
The Engineer let out a pained groan as he rolled onto his stomach and crawled onto his hands and knees. He grabbed the nearest window sill and hauled his heavy body up, leaning against the cold concrete wall as another wave of sick roiled through him and he had to swallow back the threatening breech of his esophagus. Once he felt steady, that he wasn't going to evacuate his stomach and that the room wasn't going to spin out from under him, he chanced a look over his shoulder.
Was this really happening?
Did he really just wake up on the floor, surrounded by beer bottles and pot roaches and smelling like he'd just spent the night with… well… with Sniper?
Had he really felt so goddamn sorry for himself that he let himself fall down that hard and that low? That he would just disregard the respect he had for his family and for himself? He remembered now, telling himself last night that he deserved it.
He let out another groan, covering his face with his hands. The groan transformed into a whimper.
Had he really been that selfish?
He needed to fix this. Now.
As desperately as Engineer wanted a shower, a change of clothes, and a cup of coffee, they would all have to wait. What he needed was to get Teddy Roosebelt out of the respawn room, call his daughter, and convince himself that was not as self-centered as his wife. He had left the Sniper up in the nest, thinking that he would thank the Australian later for the lovely evening, and then punch the bastard in the teeth for letting the Engineer lose control like that. His eyes were practically burning with angered tears as he tore through the staircases and hallways toward the respawn room, boots tromping on the concrete, fists clenched at his sides, ready to utterly destroy any Scout or Soldier that got in his way.
The doors to the respawn room were right in front of him, and the Engineer was ready to needlessly and dramatically kick them open to release some pent up frustration. Just as he was about to raise his boot, the doors swung open on their own, causing the Texan stumble over his boots and stupidly bump right into the Medic.
The Medic caught the Engineer, quickly grabbing the shorter mans shoulders and holding him upright, pausing a moment to make sure they were both steady. "Herr Engineer!" the Medic greeted, before he was suddenly assaulted with the sickening smell of stale alcohol and recreational drugs… a terribly familiar scent. As the Engineer looked dumbly up at the Medic as he tried to regain his bearings, the German didn't even try to hide his grimace. "Did you spend zee evening with Sniper?" he asked brusquely.
Engineer felt his cheeks flush and he took a step back from the Medics hands. He let out a nervous laugh, rubbing the back of his thick neck. "Is it that obvious?" he asked, already ashamed by his actions, now even more so that someone else knew about them.
Medic wiped his hands off on his slacks, as if the smell had transferred directly onto his skin and he could clean it off. Engineer noticed the German was not wearing his gloves, nor his coat. "I am afraid so, mein Fruend," Medic answered, taking a moment to consider is team mate before adding, "You look like shit, too."
The Engineer balked, looking stunned for a moment before he pressed his brows together, glaring up at the much taller Medic as he balled his fists. "Well, thank you for that observation, partner," he grunted, pushing past the Medic in the direction toward the lockers.
Medic sighed and reached out, grabbing Engineer by the shoulder and stopping him. "Wait," he interjected, and Engineer turned around to face him, glower still etched on his face. "I am sorry. It vhas not my place, nor my business." The Engineer still looked skeptical and irritated. Medic sighed again and pulled his hands back, holding them up defensively. "It is just in my nature to be concerned. Zhat kind of impulsive behavior is not typical of you, Engineer. Zhat is all."
Engineer searched the Medic's face a moment, finding little more that concern, and maybe even compassion. He let out a sigh, dropping his head and releasing his fists as he shook his head. "You're right," the Texan said quietly, before looking back up to the German and shrugging his shoulders, nodding. "You're right." It was all he could say. It sure as hell wasn't 'typical behavior' for him to be so selfish, to get shitfaced and let himself welter in his own self-pity. It wasn't 'typical behavior' to lose his composure and self respect and let himself get to that point. But he couldn't tell that to the Medic. He couldn't tell that to anyone.
The Medic looked over the shorter man once again, before offering what could only be a small, genuine, sympathetic smile; a rare occurrence. "If you need anything, Herr Engineer," he started delicately. "Anything at all, please, do not hesitate to stop by zee medical bay. I'm sure I can do something for zhat pain I'm quite positive you must be in."
The Engineer found it to be a vague, slightly ambiguous offer, but then was suddenly reminded of the splitting headache and sore back he'd momentarily forgotten he had. He winced slightly, rubbing his neck once again, before nodding his head once in acknowledgement. "Much obliged. Uhm. Thank you."
The Medic shook his head and his hands. "Nein. It is my job, after all. Just take care-"
Both men turned to look at the doorway, where Heavy stood, holding two mugs, one of black coffee, the other pale brown with a tea tag hanging off of the side. The Heavy looked startled to see the Engineer, seeming to shrink back a bit, before looking to the Medic expectantly.
The Medic paused, face blank for a moment before he forced a trite smile, looking back to the Texan. "Good day, Herr Engineer," he said, bowing his head before walking to the Heavy, taking the mug of tea from his large hand and heading out of the respawn room. Heavy nodded to the Engineer in both greeting and farewell, before turning to follow the Medic out. Engineer briefly saw the Medic slip his fingers into the Heavy's empty hand before the supply room doors swung shut.
The Engineer stood there a moment, contemplating what had just happened, the conversation he'd just had. He let out a long sigh through his nose, pressing his fingers against his eyes, before finally returning his attention to his locker, to the whole reason any of this had even happened; the whole reason why he was here, why he felt so terrible, and why he'd been so selfish.
He swallowed down that sick feeling again, before closing the distance between himself and the locker, and reaching up onto the stop shelf. There was only a few seconds of groping around before his fingers closed around the rim of his hardhat. He closed his eyes tightly, holding his breath as he pulled the hat out of the cubby, lowered it down and held it in both of his hands. He let out the steadying breath, peeked open one eye, and nearly had a heart attack.
He had been preparing himself to face the awful truth, to see the damage in real light, without his goggles to obstruct his view. He'd been ready for shredded remains and carnage; to feel sick and guilty.
The hard hat fell to the floor with a clatter as he held the very solid, very real Teddy Roosebelt in his shaking hands.
There was a brief instant when the Engineer was positive he had finally lost his mind. His memories whirled around, to the explosion, the respawn, the panic and the self loathing. This teddy bear had been a decimated pile of rags 15 hours ago. But the toy that he held was undeniably Teddy Roosebelt. He felt his legs turn to jelly, and he stumbled back a few steps, shins hitting the edge of a cot before he heavily sat down, staring at the toy, completely unbelieving.
It was then that he noticed the stitches.
His pounding heart began to calm down as he ran his fingers over the long, minuscule seams that ran across the face and body of the toy. He couldn't stop touching, tugging at the legs and arms, noticing subtle, very small differences. He turned the bear over to look at its back. The tail was missing. His fingers lifted to the ears, one being slightly smaller than the other now. He turned it back over, looking at the face, tracing his fingers over the button eyes, now a lighter shade of brown, slightly larger than before.
His sick feeling was gone. The pain in his head and in his heart was gone. He held the bear tight to his chest, taking long, slow breaths as he stared down at the floor, is mind filled with so many questions, and yet he wasn't about to try and go find an answer for any of them. Not right now. Not yet. After several minutes of sitting, and holding, and wondering, he stood, tucking the bear under his arm as he headed toward the doors, his hat forgotten. The shower, change of clothes, coffee, the Medic; all forgotten, as he weaved through the hallways on the main floor.
He stepped into the phone booth, only taking a moment to look over his shoulder before taking a seat and grabbing the handset with his Gunslinger. He dialed the number, with all of the confidence he had been lacking the day before, placed the receiver to his ear and waited, counting each ring, until.
Dell paused, closing his eyes and letting out a sigh as he clutched Teddy Roosebelt with his real hand.
"Hey, baby doll."
A/N: I finally finished it.
I've never finished a fan fiction in my life. And a lot of things happened that made me think I would never be able to. But I finally did. And it feels so, so good.
I hope you aren't too disappointed with the ending. I might write an epilogue, if you really want to know how things go with Dell and his wife. But really, I like it right where it is.
I'm going to start a new fan fiction now, concentrating on Heavy and Medic, how I think they got together, and their relationship, based off of Stitches. It won't really be a sequel to Stitches. More like a companion piece. So keep a look out for that.
I want to thank all of my reviewers, especially Medic and hawktakesflight. Reviews really helped fuel this thing, and made me feel so much better when I was going through difficult times. Thank you all so much for sticking with this thing. I'll see you soon enough.