you stay up that night in a vague state of panic. no one can get you to go to sleep. the next day, you think you have indentations on your cheek where the phone dug into your skin all night. the look hawkeye gives you tells you that you're probably right. it was like listening to a radio play all night, the action happening so far away. gracia was heartbroken, sobbing, and all you could do was calmly write down the date of funeral.
you're numb. you don't think you have a heart anymore.
the train rumbles along toward central, and you hate it. you know what's happened, but the nervousness of seeing it, making it real, flutters in your stomach. so you sit there as still as you possibly can, and stare out into the darkness. time passes so slowly, you can almost see it. he can't be dead. you won't let him.
as you step off the train, you want to hear, hahaha. got you! i can't believe you fell for it! and you want to punch him in the stomach and say, that's not funny, you fuck. you'd walk off together like always, and you would be able to appreciate the sheer mastery of the prank.
but it doesn't happen.
armstrong is there instead, looking so downtrodden you want to vomit. you don't. instead, you just nod and walk off without saying a word, hawkeye and armstrong trailing behind you.
your first instinct upon arriving at central is to go visit him. you'd sit in his kitchen, share a beer and talk about nothing, just appreciating each other's company. you don't this time. it makes your skin crawl to skip over that vital step, but you have to, because it's still not real.
you don't want it to be real.
the phone in your room mocks you. it's the same model as the one in your office, and it carries all the same associations. you grab it in your hand, at one point, feeling the wood underneath your palm. you don't call her, because you know she'll be crying and that would make it real, too.
someone stops you on a sidewalk, you're not sure who, and they give their condolences. you mumble a 'thank you' and walk away. it's possible that you've met them before, but you don't even remember their face.
central has turned a dull gray in your eyes. it might be sunny, but the light just washes the color out more. you remember central being bright and colorful. you remember the flag being green and gold. you remember having a best friend.
he liked to talk, you remember, liked to collect useless facts. so many conversations started with a did you know...? and a grin. you remember days from before before, when you could laugh together without war hanging over your heads. you remember the world being beautiful and full of possibilities. you lost that, even before. he never did. you think might have carried that with him to his last moments. that's just who he was. and maybe you still held onto it just that much, simply because he did.
gracia smiles at you during the funeral, alicia trailing behind looking confused. it's one of those smiles. the 'i'm-strong-don't-worry-about-me' smile. it looks so sad and lonely, you want to vomit again. so you nod to her and don't say anything. alicia just stares at you with big eyes. it does nothing for your nausea.
you don't really see the casket, even as you stare straight ahead. it's amazing what the human mind can block out.
it doesn't block out alicia's cries, unfortunately. her wailing, her pleading, her desperation.
in that moment, it becomes real.
you don't remember the rest of the ceremony, because you're doing your best to hold back the pain. the only thought that can pass through your mind is, it's all gone. and it is.
they all leave. you stand there, in your dress uniform, facing the gravestone. a wind picks up and scatters a few leaves. there are still a few moments when you try to go back into denial, where your brain tells you that this isn't real. you're dreaming, you're hallucinating, it's fake.
words you want to tell him spill out of your mouth, because, if his soul is still floating near earth, he needs to hear them. not everything gets said. you moron, that's said. i hate you for dying and i hope you burn in a thousand fiery hells for doing this to me, that isn't. it's easier when there's someone to blame.
you think that you could have stopped it. if you hadn't been transferred in the first place, if he hadn't tried to call you, if...
if you try to bring him back through alchemy. it would be worth it, mostly. to give your life for his. he didn't deserve this. your brain runs through alchemical theory. equivalent trade. you would do it if there was any sort of guarantee that it would work, that he would actually live again. he deserves so much better than any of this. you're the one who should be buried here, not him.
you cry, and you try to tell yourself that you're not.
they let you retrace his steps, trying to discover clues. who did this to you, hughes? you think. who do i have kill now? the telephone booth is splattered with blood, darkening the already red colors of the paint. you stare at it and wonder.
the conversation with armstrong is revealing, and the pain recedes enough for you to think about the information. as if you didn't hate the military enough already. you had a purpose before, but now it's not just about ishbal, about the good of the people, anymore. it's about revenge, too.
you imagine burning them alive slowly, reveling in their screams. you imagine ripping them apart with your bare hands. you imagine starving them to death, watching them waste away into nothing. you imagine blasting their brains out with scar's alchemy. you imagine them going through every last bit of pain you're going through right now.
and it only slightly lessens the hurt.
the train back to east is worse than the one to central. the gnawing nervousness is replaced by emptiness. you want the nervousness back. it's real, and the death's real, and you think some part of you is dead right now with him.
in ten years, it might not hurt anymore. you might be able to go from day to day without feeling the pain. and even then it might just be a dull ache. you want to fall asleep and wake up then, ten years into the future. there's an end to this tunnel, but you can't see it.
in your room, there's a picture of the two of you together, sitting around a kitchen table. he's telling you a joke, his hands in the air describing something. his eyes glow brightly, and his mouth is open in mid-sentence. you have a bemused expression on your face and are listening intently, almost indulgently. you think you remember that day. he always had something to tell you, whether it be serious or silly. you always listened, too, because he knew you better than you did. the photograph was buried under notes and reports for months on end. you dug it up by accident when you were doing your best to clean the house for the move. you stare at it now and consider having it framed.
you want to forget, but you shouldn't. not really.