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(1)

"Bread, cheese, oh yes and milk ...... Why the hell is there only skimmed milk left? Olivier Flament, a in-combat rescuer who had been on the front line of the war, is now shouting to the shelves, as if it is not a milk shortage, but another epidemic outbreak. "Putain, what's with all the British supermarkets!"

"The fat in the milk isn't good for you, Flament." Gustave Kateb says calmly, taking two bottles of whole skimmed milk and putting them in the trolley. Olivier had laughed more than once at his rich man's tastes, but would still take an extra bottle of milk every time for him. "They only make your skin oil up more, and don't forget that you need to control your weight now.”

"Whatever you say ...... Hey, there's another bottle there!" Olivier deadpans at the small bottle deep in the shelf but wouldn't move to get it, as if he’s trying to use his mind to make the milk jump into the trolley on its own. Gustave gives the young man an eye-rolling, ignores his childish behaviour and reaches for the last (and almost expired) bottle of whole milk on the shelf.

"You know you don't get the chance to drink milk now, right?" Gustave askes.

Perhaps the feeling of being an ordinary people rather than a soldier gives Olivier a good mood, he is humming along to the awful pop music in the mall and continuing to hum as they walk out of the marker. He didn’t reply to Doc, he just silently follows him while Gustave is carrying two heavy bags towards the base. No one continues to talk, no one wants to pick the bloody truth up in the middle of a weekend afternoon. But that fact is dripping the blood, spreading down the sides of their feet, and someone had to do something to stop the scene.

 

It is always such a rainy autumn day in England, and the air was full of the damp smell of rain, mingling with the cold air of the English autumn that beat in Gustave's lungs. "I know, Doc. We all know that, don't we?" Olivier says gently, after a long silence. "You buy a bottle of milk you won't even touch and wait for someone who doesn't exist to drink it; four days later you'll pour it down the drain and then you'll buy another bottle."

"You just want to pretend I'm alive, that's all."

 

(2)

Where am I?

Gustave looked around in confusion, with only a bunch of heavy shadows and irregular bright lights in front of him. He rubbed his eyes, trying to chase away these shadows. Now he could see clearly ---- this was his office. There were unfinished reports on the desk, and the coffee in the mug had turned cold to a brown slush. How long had he been asleep?

"Gustave? Doc?"

Someone was calling out to him. He didn't respond. The soreness coming from the back of his neck stimulating his nerves keeping him from caring about whoever calls him.
He has already past the age where he could just stay up late and collapse on his desk to sleep, and still being energetic the next day. He really needed a pillow and a bed right now.

But why was he sleeping at his own desk?

"Gustave, are you all right?" A slender hand rested gently on Doc’s shoulder. Gustave looked over to the owner of the hand and steadily met Emma's green eyes. Behind her was Lera with bruise on her face. Even after some treatments on her bruise and cuts, it was clear that the injury was serious.

"I'm fine." He stoop up and was about to examine Lera's wounds when he saw Gilles and Julien standing in the doorway. They were unusually quiet, Julien with his head down, biting his lips tightly; Gilles, on the other hand, was staring in Gustave’s direction with the look he saw before. Gustave knew what that looks means, he saw it on the front line in West Africa when someone told him about the deaths of his colleagues. Stop, Gustave screamed in his mind, stop, no, don't show that look. Olivier----

"Where's Flament?" Gustave made his voice as calmly as he could, yet the slight tremble of his lips betrayed him. His throat was dry, he needed water, he needed news from Olivier.

Emma took back her hand, her green eyes were instantly flooded with tears. The silence, that damned silence again, flooded the whole office and made everyone drowned in it without a single struggle. Why hadn't he turned up with Lera? Perhaps he was badly injured and still in resuscitation, but how could that be? He was Olivier, his Lion, and they had been talking and laughing and planning Christmas just a few hours before. The blood rushed through his eardrums, booming, what the hell was this -----

"Kateb," Gilles said, coming through the door at some point. He was as stoic as his code name in normal times, now even Lera could see his hesitation, "...... follow me."

They crossed the corridor, Julien suppressing a small gasp of air from himself. The ghastly white lamps overhead reflected feebly on Gustave's face. There was only one room at the end of the corridor, and because of it, the whole floor was much colder than the others. He was the doctor of the Rainbow; he certainly knew what the place was for.

"This is it."

Gilles pushed open the door to the autopsy table covered in a white cloth, Lera slowly removed the corner of the cloth and a flash of gold appeared beneath it, followed by the blood that covered half of his face, followed by Olivier's lifeless ice blue eyes, followed by his purple lips.

Julien finally relented and burst into tears behind Emma's back.

"I'm so sorry, Kateb," Gilles' voice drifted in from the distance, someone calling out for Gustave, he couldn't hear who it was. The lights overhead were getting brighter and brighter, so bright that he felt sick. Still someone was shouting at him and he didn't want to care so much. He had to get out of here, he had to escape. The images around him began to spin, the lights were getting brighter and brighter, who was still shouting his name ----

"Gustave!"

 

Gustave woke up from his dream.

It takes him two minutes to confirm that he was in his room, in his quarters on base. The wind outside the window hadn't stopped since the afternoon, blowing the tree branches east and west. The streetlights cast the trees' swaying shadows on the blank wall like shadow play ------ just another usual cold autumn night in England.

Third time this month. He thought as he wipes his face with his hand. It was the third time he had seen Olivier's vacant, icy blue eyes in his dreams. He sat up; his back pressed against the wall.

"You were dreaming about me."

Olivier appeared in the armchair at the end of the bed. Shadows dance across his face, make it impossible to see his expression. The blue in those eyes is warm, and the owner of the blue is looking at the man in the bed with concern. "I'm dead, again, arent’t I.” It wasn't a question at all. They both know what just happened in the dream, there is no need to pretend otherwise.

"……right." Gustave remains leaning against the wall, closing his eyes to calm his breathing. The wind is blowing harder outside the window, and the whistling could be heard through the two panes of glass. He begins to wonder when those trees would be blown off. Tonight, the wind is bound to sweep away a part of one of the trees, he just doesn’t know when it would happen.

"Want to talk to me, about that dream?" Olivier ---- his imagination Olivier ---- steps out of the throbbing shadow and sits down on the edge of his bed. The young man's face shows no trace of death, no dried blood, no purple lips, and his golden hair still has the smell of the white musk. It was the smell of cologne that Alexis had given him as his Christmas present; he uses it when he’s having a good mood.

"Flament ......" Gustave looks at his imaginary lover. The words that he wants to say floated to his lips and he then swallows them. His Lion is dead, he saw his face appeared under a white cloth with his own eyes, what could he say to an illusion he conjures up?

"You're dead."

"I know." Olivier still looks at him with concern, full of life and vigour, and Gustave couldn't say whether he should be angry or grateful for his overpowering memory. It intactly portrayed every little detail of his lover, even to add something new to it. If the real Olivier had looked at him with nothing but pure love in his eyes, the Olivier in front of him looks at him as if they had spent most of their lives together --------- with the pure burning passion of a teenager, the adoration of a lover, even the warmth of a middle-aged man. He indulges himself in greedily drawing on this little bit of false love, but it was like someone who holds a torch for warmth on a winter night, very dangerous, and could easily burn his fingers.

"You died, and I watched your body appear before me. I didn't even have a chance to save you." The doctor muttered roughly to himself. He had hoped to save everyone, even when he was struck again and again by the reality, he still believed he could win against the death. Yet now he only wishes he could save one person, just one, and God was not willing to grant him this humble request.

For a long time, the only sound in the room is the hazy wind. Olivier, not knowing how to reply to Gustave, climbs into bed and sits beside him with his back against the wall, staring out of the window. The branches are still struggling in the wind, Gustave wondered in a trance when on earth they would break off.

His imagination kisses him gently on the forehead, interrupting more jumbled thoughts in Gustave’s mind. "Sleep, Doc, I'll stay with you."

Thick drowsiness eventually took over. He falls into void in his mind palace, the faint scent of white musk still lingering in the tip of his nose. "Click." The tree snapped. Gustave did not hear it fall ------- he fell asleep.