Leaking, pools the earth, and he is covered in it. Screams create a chorus of their own together, like music, but music which pierces his fragile ears. The sun is hot, too hot, burning his skin, and he sweats, breathes, and blinks. Standing, he stares and watches, hopes that the poor girl will find her feet, look at him, and shoot.
Yet she can't even raise her head.
Roy lifts his hand, swallows, and then clicks his fingers. A spark escapes, and explodes into an inferno. Unlike the thousands he has killed, this one does not scream. She has been expecting his arrival; she has been expecting the agony––
Roy jolts awake. Sweat floods the mattress, and his hair sticks to his forehead. All he hears is the sound of him breathing, heavy and frantic. For a moment, Roy is frozen, very still, and terrified. Then he hears a bird outside, as if wishing him good morning, but it is no good morning for Roy. It never will be.
Shoving the quilt aside, Roy struggles to escape the bed and almost slips onto the floor. Frantically he hurries to the window, gasps, and opens the curtains. Light, at first, blinds him, but he soon adapts. He opens the window, and inhales the sweet, fresh air. It's good. The sweat and heat begins to vanish, and he remains, eyes closed, naked, allowing the cool winds to calm his nerves.
Roy lowers his head, and sighs.
Only a dream, Colonel. Only a dream.
There is no need for tears anymore.
Finally he has the courage to glance at the bed again, the cage, and notices the imprint of his sweating body across the mattress. His flesh still glistens, and all he can do is frown, and feel ashamed of himself. The amount of times he has had to clean the sheets is embarrassing. Roy hopes the neighbour won't start asking questions.
Yes, it always comes back to how he feels. Not how the ghosts feel, how they loathe and torment his soul. Roy wishes they would earn their just revenge, and be done with it. The torture he suffers day and night is too much.
A cold shower eases his mind, and he skips breakfast that morning. Work begs for his arrival. The uniform is heavier than usual. Roy inspects himself in the mirror, and wonders if he has lost weight, or merely lacks energy. There's something wrong with his uniform. It doesn't feel right, almost stings his body.
The mug slips from his hand, and he jumps in fright. A crash, china shatters across the ground, and he curses to himself. Red in the face, Roy is about to get on his knees to clear the mess, but his companion presses a hand to his shoulder. She stops him, and he can feel her squeeze, as if desperate to keep him in her control.
Several customers turn their heads and watch the scene for a moment before returning back to what they are doing. A waitress soon appears, smiling somewhat awkwardly. Roy, flustered, leans over: 'I'm so sorry.'
'Don't worry, Sir. We'll get you another mug.'
Roy runs a hand through his hair, and tries to smile at her, but she's not looking at him.
'Yes?' He swiftly looks at his companion. 'What were you saying?'
No response for a moment. Blue eyes focus on him, and they're not distracted. They're still, yet a sea of mystery, a hurricane of wonder, and for years he has attempted to discover what lies behind those irises. Looking at them now, they're ghostly, like that of the past.
'I said you were sick,' her voice is a whisper, possibly in shock about what she's just observed, or not wanting anyone to know of his obvious diagnosis.
Roy swallows, and inhales deeply. 'Mm.' The waiter arrives with a clean mug for him, and he thanks her. When he takes the coffee pot, she notices how his hand trembles violently, and he struggles to pour the drink.
'I–– I can do this!' Roy exclaims, accidentally missing the mug and pouring coffee across the table. 'Damn it.'
'Mustang!' She snatches the pot from him, and now her eyes are thunder, a furious sea of waves, crashing down on him. 'Stop doing this to yourself.' Silence. Roy eyes the pot, watches her pour coffee into his mug. Not a drop is spilt.
But Roy has been upset for a while.
'I was never that great with coffee pots anyway. Always used to scold my hand. They're hot.'
'That's why there's a handle, genius.'
Then he smiles, and it is a sincere smile. 'Thank you for coming down.'
'Well,' she sighs. 'I am here on business, Mustang, so don't flatter yourself. We just happened to bump into each other.'
Roy nods, but knows better. 'How is the North?'
'Too perilous to describe for your fragile head.'
'I'm sure I've suffered worse.'
Their eyes meet. The waves have calmed, and they are very still. Olivier pretends he hasn't spoken, and continues, her eyes flicking to the table: 'I spoke to Hawkeye. Apparently, you've been sleeping during your shifts.'
'I didn't know you were now my nurse.'
'She also informs me you have been arriving to work three hours earlier than usual. Sometimes when your shift starts at 0800 hours, you're there by 0500 hours. Mustang, sleep is vital, and you're not paying anyone favours for sleeping on the job. I'm surprised you haven't been dismissed.'
Roy scrunches his nose. This isn't what he wants to discuss with her. 'The Führer isn't like you, Olivier.'
'I know. That's why the majority of Central pups are useless.'
He sips at his coffee, hand shaking. 'Yeah,' his voice is infected with poison. 'Useless to you.'
'You weren't once.'
Roy raises a brow, and smiles, a little sarcastically. 'Really? That's odd. You've always called me "useless", even when we were kids.' A time he desperately wishes to return to.
'You were a child for longer than I was.'
'I became an adult much quicker than you did. The change was swift, and violent.'
'It was also chosen.'
The man is twitching, trying to keep himself calm. Of all people, he should not be angry with his closest friend. The girl he has known for many years. Yet, she is no longer that girl. She is a woman now, a different person altogether. She may look the same, may speak the same, but she is not the same.
And neither is he to her.
'I–– I did not know.'
Olivier's lips remain sealed. She realises her tea pot is empty, so asks for another. Roy hates her silence.
'You weren't there,' it's a mumble; he's afraid.
'Yet I declined the order.'
'You weren't there...'
'I knew the consequences; I warned you too––'
'You weren't there!' Roy screams, jumping to his feet. It takes him a moment to realise he has tipped the table to the side, spraying the cutlery everywhere. Now the entire area has their attention on them, but neither of the two notice, or care for that matter.
Roy is more shaken than she is about his behaviour.
'Mustang,' Olivier says, standing, and taking his arm. 'You need to sleep.'
'I can't,' he chokes. 'Every time I sleep I see them,' his voice cracks, and tears sting his eyes. Roy has not cried about the war, until now. Until she finally came to see him, to listen. Until his best friend decided to return. He needs her. 'I wake up, sweating, shaking, and cold. I'm terrified, Olivier.' His voice is so quiet she can barely hear.
Olivier expresses no sign of pity or concern. Instead, she faces the three waiters picking up the broken pottery. 'I'll pay for that.' They know who she is; her appearance is recognisable. Roy wants to protest, but his voice refuses to make a sound.
She'll pay for that then. She'll pay for my mistakes again.
'Mustang, I need to go. I'm required elsewhere. I understand your shift starts again soon.'
'That's right,' Roy says, 'When do you head back up North?'
She spots the worry in his tone. He doesn't want her to leave. Yet Olivier pretends to not notice. Again. 'Soon, I hope.'
The shift comes to an end, Hawkeye makes sure her Colonel leaves headquarters safely, and then obeys her commander's orders to go home and rest. Roy intends to do the same, but when he drives his car, he finds himself heading for the pub. The one place he has wanted to avoid for months.
A whiskey, with ice. He drinks four glasses by the time Olivier discovers where he is.
Neither are happy to see the other.
'This is where you spend your nights?' Her voice is cold, uncaring. It upsets him.
'Yes.' Blunt. Also uncaring.
A pause. He expects a scolding, a slap.
'I'll have what he's having.'
Roy cocks a brow, places his arms on the bar and hides his face. He's tired, a little drunk, but confused. 'Why are you here?'
'Because you're bugging me.'
'That's sweet,' Roy says, raising his head to look at her. Be it the alcohol, or the comfort of the pub, but his confidence has increased. He smiles at her, warmly. 'I've always liked your face. Nice to look at, but a little scary too–– when you're working, I mean. It didn't always used to be scary.'
'You're the only one I hear complaining about my appearance, Mustang,' Olivier says, taking a swig of her drink. 'You come here often?'
Olivier surveys the area. 'I know better places.'
'I'm after the alcohol. Not the view.'
'Usually a good view makes the liquor taste better.'
'You don't drink.'
Olivier throws him a look. 'I didn't drink when you chucked a bottle of beer at me when we were fourteen.'
'You don't drink, Olivier.'
'Not excessively. The odd sip isn't so bad.' She swirls the whiskey, watches the ice cubes bump into each other. 'Helps me feel... older.'
'Keeps the nightmares away.'
'So why do you do it?'
Roy swallows the last of his whiskey, before asking for another. 'It's a good distraction.'
'Have you considered something else? Exercise? Reading? Sex?'
'I've tried all of those.' Roy shakes his head. 'I just felt more disgusting.'
'Maybe you haven't been doing them correctly.'
'I've been running, reading pleasant novels, and having sex with women I like and who have consented. I have been doing these things correctly.'
'I want to go home.'
Olivier narrows her brows, 'Okay, let's go.'
'No, Olive. Not my home.'
'What did you call me?' Her voice is a gasp, shock. She's finally expressing emotion to him.
The last time he called her "Olive" was the day he said he would be fighting in the War. That was the day she slapped his face, the day she walked away and refused to see him for years. That was the last time they were anything close to friends. Roy had sacrificed so much, for nothing.
How much he wanted to be an officer of the military. How much he dreamed.
'I miss you.'
She clenches a fist. 'We're not talking about us.'
'Whatever, Olivier. You know, sometimes I think I'm the one running away from the past.' Roy grabs his drink of whiskey and gulps down half of it in one go. 'I guess I was wrong.'
'You're not running from it, you fool. You're trying to relive it.'
'That was when things were better,' he mutters.
'Don't you dare,' Roy says quietly, but his voice is threatening. It freezes the Ice Queen in place. 'Don't you dare say that. I know the truth. You're filled with this ugly pride; you're too scared to admit you miss what life used to be. How things were before the Ishval War started. Sometimes I wish we never joined the academy. Sometimes I wish we could be children again, fighting with wooden swords. Being stupid.'
'You're being stupid. Stop this. We both wanted to be a part of the military, and so we followed those paths. We grew up, Mustang. Or, I did. And I think it's about time you did as well.'
Roy finishes his glass and turns to look at her. Suddenly they realise he is a lot taller than her, he can hurt her, hit her, but they both know he won't want to. He has no reason to hurt someone he cares about. 'I know you understand.' He lowers his gaze. 'I've never told anyone this, because I believed my feelings were purely selfish, but I wish I was dead.'
The clink of glasses, the laughs and conversations.
Neither speak for a moment.
Then: 'I dream about being a child again, with you, because it's the only memory I have which keeps me alive.'
Everything has become so dark for the two. It wasn't long ago when the sun meant joy and beauty. Olivier struggles to see an ounce of life in his eyes, and then she struggles to not feel angry at him. She is not angry because she thinks him selfish. She is angry because she doesn't want him to die.
The very idea that Roy, her best friend, wishes death to be thrust upon him at any second breaks her heart.
She forgets she is also a fragile, pathetic human being.
I wish I never knew you.
Laughter, scowls, poison, blood, death, darkness, a plague...
... Roy can only weep for mercy.
The mattress is soaked in his sweat again. It is the man's day off, and he desperately needs a rest. However, he awoke at 0300 hours, and refuses to doze. He is too afraid, for it is too risky. He is frightened that he will, always, have to wake up.
Dressed in a shirt and trousers, Roy secludes himself to indoors. He grabs a novel, reads the title, blurb, then throws it aside. Then he collapses onto the sofa, stares up at the ceiling, thinks, wonders.
She crosses his mind. He smiles, chuckles.
'That's not how you waltz, you plonk.'
The boy grins, and raises his arms up in defence. 'You teach me, then. For someone who enjoys swinging a sword everywhere, you seem to know a lot on how to dance with a man.'
'Don't get cocky. I don't dance with men.'
'Shut up, Mustang.'
An hour passes.
A flower is in his hand, and he can only scowl at it. This is pathetic. He thinks many men have approached the girl of his dreams and offered bouquets. A flower? What good was that? Ah well. Best get it over and done with.
Straightening his tie, Roy approaches the brunette. Her friends giggle beside her, and she just stares at the flower, before looking at him, confused. Roy thought his gesture is obvious.
'Will you go out with me, Emma?'
A laugh. All three of them laugh.
'No way,' is her response, and the smile from his face vanishes.
Throughout the day boys and girls mock him. The gossip has spread about his pathetic attempt to ask a girl on a date. Then, later that evening, he hears that Emma now has a broken nose. "Some blonde bitch punched her in the face when she was going on about Roy."
When Roy asks Olivier if she had done the honour, she just smirks.
Roy opens his eyes, laughing to himself. Then it twists into a sort of frown, and he feels his eyes stinging with tears again. Roy swallows. He has always been a sensitive little boy, missing what came.
The doorbell rings.
At first, Roy ignores it, until he hears it again.
Groaning heavily, Roy stands to his bare feet and approaches the door. A smile reaches his lips when he sees it's the woman he was thinking about. 'What are you doing over here?'
'Have you seen this liquid before?' Olivier raises a bottle of fizz. 'It's called lemonade. Guess what? It's even tastier than that piss you drink every night.'
Roy cranes his neck to the side. 'You can't get much fun out of fizzy drinks, Olivier.'
'Says the alcoholic.'
'That was a little rude.'
'Move over and let me in.'
Olivier enters, inspects the bookshelf from afar, the table, the entrance leading to the kitchen and then the bed at the side. Before Roy notices, she sees the towel across his mattress where he has been lying. Roy instantly snatches it away from sight, but it is too late. She knows why it was there.
As ever, Olivier pretends to not notice his insecurities; what shames him.
'What's even better about lemonade is that it doesn't turn you into a complete freak.'
'Don't you have work to attend to?' Roy queries, throwing the towel into another room. 'You know what you're like.'
'I'm supposed to be heading back to the Fort.'
Roy cocks a brow. 'You came to check on me.'
'Word of advice,' Olivier says, passing him his glass of fizz. 'If you end up burping, don't do it with your mouth closed. Seriously, your nose explodes.'
'I've had lemonade before. It was the only thing you drank as a kid.'
'As a kid? You imply I don't anymore.'
'So: show me these "pleasant" novels you've been reading in an attempt to distract yourself.'
Both of them end up buying another two bottles of lemonade before the night passes. The last is nearly half empty by the time the clock struck 0200 hours. Roy has spent the majority of the time talking, laughing, and drinking fizz, a friend listening to his stories. Sometimes he speaks about normal day-to-day activities, speaks about Riza's dog, Hayate, speaks about Riza, speaks about his Team, speaks about himself.
Then, sometimes, he speaks about the War, how he wakes up at night, sweating, scared. How he finds himself heading to the bar at night instead of home. How a lot of the time he just wishes death will embrace him, and he will be set free.
'I don't deserve to live when I've murdered thousands of men, women and children.'
Olivier has been silent for more than two hours. She is the first person on earth who has just listened to him, without a word.
She is the first to care so much.
She is the first to allow herself to care, to attempt to understand.
Finally, she speaks. 'Who is to say who deserves life? God?'
'I don't know if there is a God or not, Olivier. But if there is–– He shall have to beg for my forgiveness.'
The glass of lemonade in his hand shakes so violently he spills some of the liquid. Olivier shuffles closer and takes the drink away from him. Her hand is steady, he notices. 'I won't deny that what you did was awful, Mustang, but I disagree when you say you deserve to die. By your philosophy, I deserve to die as well, along with many others we know. I don't believe in a God, or a Master who tells the world what should and shouldn't be. I follow my own rules, because only my rules work for me.'
'The freedom you breathe is an illusion.'
'Everything is an illusion, Mustang, but I try and control the illusion as much as I can. That's as much as anyone can do. We even lived an illusion when we were younger.'
'But we weren't aware, and that was what made it so special.'
A pause. Silence. 'I still think this is special.'
The crown which weighs down her head has been removed, the uniform has been stripped away, and when he looks at her, he doesn't see a commanding officer, doesn't see a General of a fierce Wall. He doesn't see a colleague, an officer. He doesn't see the Ice Queen, and what other polluted title she has been given.
He sees Olivier, a girl, his friend.
They are still very much children.
Tears trickle down his cheeks, and he diverts his gaze to the floor. Time keeps ticking forward, and he begs time to stop, to stop, to never keep going. The more the clock ticks, the more she moves away, again and again, they will meet, relive a past, and then run away.
It's the only thing they're good at.
Silly, silly children.
'I want to go home,' he whispers, agony contorted in his expression.
Olivier swallows. 'You are home, Mustang.'
'No. Home is away from here.'
Her eyes are a silent hurricane, curious. Always curious. 'Where is home to you?'
Silence. He watches her, 'I've practised dancing. You remember how much I used to annoy you when it came to the balls at your Manor? I've practised.'
The switch of topic is discomforting, but she says nothing while he stands to his feet, approaches the gramophone, and places a large disc onto the dock. Instantly a sudden tune emits from the speaker, and then slowly a smooth waltz is heard. Olivier rolls her eyes. Roy is hopeless when it comes to impressing others.
Outstretching a hand, his invitation is clear.
'Fine. Let's see if you can match my skill.'
Olivier takes his hand and stands to her feet. Roy smiles shortly, places a hand at her waist.
'Oh. An improvement.'
Roy ignores her comment, and takes control. It is surprisingly easier than he imagined; Olivier can be submissive if the occasion calls for it. He loves how she's inspecting his feet, watching closely where they move, and he expects her to come out with a snarky remark. Yet, when they waltz, she can't help but notice how much Roy has improved.
Even though it bugged her so much as a child, she misses what a fool he used to be. She hates the fact he is catching up. However, she hopes there will never be a day where he falls behind, and can no longer keep up with her.
Nothing makes sense anymore, and Olivier never feels comfortable when things don't make sense.
The music has drained away, she can no longer hear it. The only noise she focusses on is Roy's breathing, his heart beat, his life. The idea of him living; yes, he is still alive and as long as she can keep an eye on him, he always will be. Olivier is not afraid of death. She does not fight for ghosts.
And yet, she knows deep down that if Roy slips between her fingers, it'll be a death she will never be able to let go of.
'Are you home yet?' Olivier asks, as naïve as the colour of her eyes.
Their noses bump together when he kisses her, he tilts his head, leaning in more, desperate for a response. His breath is warm, filling her lungs, and she is flustered by the amount of heat he possesses. Roy's lips slide over hers, and when she places a hand at his chest, she can feel him shivering.
Roy is tense, uncertain, and when he begins to pull away, she fears he will regret his decision, hate himself more, and that–– that is a nightmare she does not want him to suffer. Not anymore. Grabbing his collar, she pulls him to her roughly, hears him inhale sharply, exhale, notice how both hands are instantly wrapped around her waist to steady her, but also to keep her close.
'What are we doing?' He asks when their lips pull apart for a second. His voice is shaky, nervous, his hands are sweaty.
Kissing him shortly, she tries to think of a comforting answer, one which will make him smile and feel happy again. 'I don't know,' is all that she can muster. For once, she doesn't know, she is clueless, her mind is fuzzy, her vision is hazy, and all she wants is him. Just a little closer.
It is of no surprise that he shares the same thoughts and feelings.
Their love making isn't sudden, almost planned. Clothes removed, neither is in shock or awe, almost as if they already knew the other naked, stripped from their armour. There is nothing new to discover. They already know the other inside and out, but Olivier searches for something golden, a joy, and Roy is aware of this.
They kiss and hold each other through the night, careful and gentle, into the morning, repelling the ghosts and fears, clinging onto fragments of a past, running away, constantly running, hand-in-hand, to a place they call "home".
When he wakes early in the afternoon, her locked in his embrace, it is not abrupt. It is silent, and gradual, natural. He does not sweat, does not breathe frantically, isn't scared of the ghosts which linger. He is okay. The cure is not instant, it is not a remedy of miracles. Years and years, if ever, will it take for Roy to heal.
But at least he can wake this one morning, with her, and smile.
author's note: I'm a little self-conscious with this one. This is because PTSD is not something I brush off as nothing, and I really hope it doesn't look that way at the end. Roy is not cured, but he's just a bit more content. I don't know how severe his PTSD is, and I'd rather not go into great detail about it to be honest. The other reason is because Roy/Olivier is such an unusual couple, even though they are my OTP. Instead of Hawkeye always trying to keep Roy sane, I decided to have Olivier in this position, for she is external from the impact of the War.
Some of this is mostly headcanon, especially the relationship between Roy and Olivier. These headcanons will reappear a lot when I write about these two. I don't quite know when this is set, whether it be the 03 series or the manga. But I'm sure you get what's wrong with Roy.
Thank you so much for reading!