The narrow, shadowy hallway with its pale walls and oppressive silence did nothing to improve his vaguely nervous mood. Their footsteps seemed to echo into infinity, startlingly loud in the silence. Glancing back over his shoulder, Roy was slightly relieved to see that Vera was still right behind him, slightly to his left, walking with a steady military precision. Her long brown hair was neatly tucked into a ponytail, a distant expression in her blue eyes, and he noticed that she was fidgeting with the bottom of her jacket as though it was not already perfectly neat. They had both come a long way since they had first met, gradually returning to a more stable frame of mind.

"It will be all right," Roy said soothingly, making her jump slightly, her quiet gasp clearly audible in the stillness. He knew she was just as nervous about this new test as he was, perhaps more so. After all, she was not entirely sure about what fears she would be put through, though there were a couple of big ones that were blatantly obvious. He at least knew what he would be facing. Not that knowing made it any better. People had died while taking the test, having a heart attack, or had failed by going completely insane or having to be woken for fear of the person dying. Still, Vera trusted him, and so smiled faintly and nodded, accepting his words. He could only hope they would prove to be true.

They reached a door at the end of the hall; a dim bulb illuminated a sign that read Psychological Department. "Nice place," Roy commented, pushing the door open and striding into the room, blinking at the bright neon lights that bathed him. Turning to the receptionist who had looked up interestedly, Roy said, "Brigadier General Roy Mustang and Major Vera Curador reporting for testing." The woman smiled brightly, motioning for them to follow her.

"We are a little short staffed," she commented, shooting him a simpering look that he ignored. "But seeing as Major Curador is a healer we figured it would be all right if she supervised your testing, instead of the pair of you having to wait." Roy glanced at Vera who nodded in agreement, a determined look entering her eyes. Well, at least that will give her something to do, he mused. "Then you will be going first. I am sure you will do find. The way I hear it you are very courageous."

"I am sure the Brigadier General has better things to think about," Vera chided softly, and though he was not looking at her Roy knew she had a vaguely irritated expression. "As do I." For a moment Roy again considered the fears he would probably be put through. No doubt there would be something about the war in Ishval, and he was certain he would be forced to relive Riza's death, the woman who had been his assistant for many years before Vera had been. That was the one he looked forward to the least. After all, it was the cause of countless months of pain, not to mention the panic attacks that had plagued him, ones that still had not faded completely.

"Through here," the secretary said, leading them into a room that was far smaller than Roy had been expecting. It was barren except for a table with leather straps lying across it and a heart rate monitor. "Lie down on the table," the woman instructed. "Major Curador, here is the injection you will have to give him once you are set up, it will start the test. There are video cameras in the corners to tape the test." With that she swept out of the room, leaving Roy and Vera standing just inside the doorway staring at each other.

"Okay," Roy murmured, taking off his jacket and handing it to Vera who hung it up on a peg sticking out of the wall, placing hers beside it. Vera swiftly strapped him down, moving with a medical efficiency that had come from years of training. She was unable to perform the Alchemy that came from their country of Amestris, just as most regular people were. However, when Alkahestry had come about she had discovered a hidden talent for it, becoming one of the first military officers able to perform it.

Roy glanced at his jacket, almost wanting to ask Vera if she would retrieve his Flame Alchemy gloves from it, simply for his peace of mind. While he could do traditional Alchemy, Roy had specialized in Flame Alchemy, and his gloves were the key to it. Using Alchemy he could separate the water and hydrogen molecules in the air, and then ignite it with the gloves, which were made of a special fiber that created sparks when rubbed against itself. Still, where he was going they would not help.

"Do not get nervous now," Vera said quietly as she bent over his arm, inserting an I.V. needle. A loose strand of brown hair fell from behind her ear, tickling his cheek as she fastened a band of leather around his forehead, strapping his head to the table. Roy smiled slightly and exhaled from the side of his mouth, blowing the strand back into her face and causing her to blink in surprise and then smile. Tucking the offending hair behind her ear again Vera disappeared from his vision, returning with the needle the secretary had given her. "Inserting serum now," she announced in a clear voice, obviously speaking for the cameras. As she leaned over, injecting the strange liquid into his arm, she whispered, "You come back to me."

"Of course," he whispered back, vision already fading as the drug put him to sleep.

~x~

There were voices, quiet ones, but they were nearby, and he could not place them. Well, perhaps opening my eyes would help, Roy thought, doing so and looking around in confusion. He was sitting in a rather uncomfortable wooden chair against the wall of someone's office waiting room, completely alone. The walls were barren, painted a dull shade of brown, and the only things of note were the secretary's desk, a potted plant in the corner, and a mirror on the far wall that caught his reflection as he glanced at it. His short black hair was in disarray and there was a vaguely nervous look in his black eyes, though he did not know why. A nagging feeling went through him and Roy frowned slightly, sensing that he was forgetting something, and something very important at that. But then the voices in the other room swelled to a level where he could hear them and his blood ran cold.

"We have no choice! He failed the test, so he must be removed from the military. That was the rule we came up with. Going back on it now will only make us look bad. Now, Major Curador, you will have to find a new assignment, one of the new hospitals would be best." Though Roy could not identify the voice he knew the man who had spoken had decided his fate. Doubtless his friends had gone to the highest power they could, trying to change the rules, but they had failed, just as he apparently had. Which was odd, considering he could not even remember taking the test. Had he refused to do so, or had it simply been so horrible his mind had blocked it out?

Roy rested his head in his hands, running his fingers through his hair, trying to recall any portion of the test or the place it had been held, even what he had for breakfast that day. Nothing came to him, and that more than anything else was what frightened him. Perhaps they had altered his mind and now he could not remember what had happened. If so, there was a good chance that he had been set up, that someone wanted it to look as though he had failed. Either way, he had no way of proving it.

The door on the far side of the room opened and Vera stepped out, a haggard look on her face. Roy stood instantly, reaching out to her, but she shied away from his touch as she had when they first met, giving him a cold and indifferent look before sweeping past him out of the room. What did I do to deserve that, he wondered, following her at a distance, trying to give her space. Logically he could only assume she was angry about having to be reassigned, for he knew how much she hated working in hospitals.

Upon reaching their office building Roy went straight to his office, only to open the door and find it stripped bare. Frozen in the doorway Roy looked around in shock, wondering what they had done with his belongings and how everything had been removed so rapidly.

"How could you?" a harsh voice behind him said, and Roy spun around to see Vera standing there, glaring at him though her eyes were welling with tears. "I trusted you. You said that everything would be okay, that you would pass, and now they are kicking you out and I have to go work in some hospital that I have never heard of. Everyone is getting moved! Anyone who ever worked for you, who you ever gave a job or favor to, they are all paying the price for this." For a moment Roy could do nothing but stare at her, shock freezing his throat and stilling his tongue.

"No," he choked out finally. "This cannot be happening! I do not even remember taking the test, so how is this possible?" His heart started pounding and he put a hand to his chest as though that would stop it, as though that could calm his rapid breathing. "Vera what happened?"

"It is Major to you now," she replied stiffly, turning and walking away, leaving him alone in his desolation. Everyone he had ever known... they were all going to be punished because he had failed. Which meant that he had failed them all. That was unforgivable, in his mind at least, and Roy was not certain how to deal with it. They had trusted him, looked up to and relied upon him, and now that was going to be their downfall.

"What have I done?" he breathed, back hitting the wall as his knees gave out, causing him to slide down it until he ended up sitting on the floor. "How is this even possible?" Perhaps it would be better if I could remember what had happened, he thought, though he doubted that would console him at all. After all, what good would memories do when they could not change anything? There was no excuse for this, none at all.

Roy's shoulders started to ache and he recognized the symptoms of one of his panic attacks, an occurrence that he had not had for over a month, and he knew that he should get up and move somewhere more private, but before he could move the pain hit him and he could not breathe, the agony driving him the rest of the way to the ground as he cried out. In fact he was fairly certain that he screamed, but minutes passed and no one came. Vera had always shown up within seconds of him calling out, but this time he got no response. He was, yet again, completely alone. And so he wallowed in misery and pain until it became too much and he passed out, letting the darkness take him with relief.

Floating in a haze of darkness and faint pain Roy heard a familiar voice, but her words made no sense. "Heart-rate slightly elevated, breathing and blood pressure matching. Normal stress reaction," Vera announced, and he tried to open his eyes, wondering who she was talking to, but found himself unable to, falling back into a deep sleep.

~x~

Awareness flooded him, and Roy became aware of a discomfort in his lower back and shoulders that was probably due to the fact that he was laying on a table, strapped down, his chest bare, cold air causing goose bumps to rise on his arms. Opening his eyes Roy found himself looking up into a bright light, causing him to wince and try to turn his head, promptly finding himself unable to. "I was afraid of that," a muffled voice said. "We will have to anesthetize him again because we waited too long." Roy instinctively strained against the leather holding him down, muscles standing out in sharp relief as his back arched. A door opened somewhere in the room and Roy went still, his breathing starting to pick up as worry filled him. "Good morning Mr. Mustang," a man said, approaching him but staying out of his view. "Sorry to startle you in this manner but we need to do a little operation before we can let you go."

Roy licked his lips, finding them to be suddenly dry, trying to calm down before he spoke. "What kind of operation?" he asked gruffly, again attempting to turn his head but failing.

"Well you see, it is in your health records that you had an operation to repair your vision after an incident that caused you to become blind. Due to the new rules, since you failed the test you are no longer eligible to have had that surgery," the man explained, sending a bolt of panic through Roy.

"You are going to reverse it?" he asked, renewing his efforts to beak the bonds that were holding him. "Who authorized this? This is inhumane!" He could not imagine being blind again, for the short time he had been unable to see had been sheer torture. Being utterly helpless, unable to fight or even walk without assistance... the very thought was a nightmare. The man made no reply, and Roy heard the sound of a door shutting, taking a moment to realize that he had been left alone. "No!" he bellowed, muscles burning from the strain he was putting on them. Completely useless strain in the end, for the bonds held and he eventually collapsed against the table again, spent. "Please no," he whispered, voice horse from screaming denials and anger. "I cannot go back to that, I cannot!" However his pleas went unanswered, and no one came, as though they were determined to leave him there to starve. Finally, exhausted from his efforts and feeling utterly lost, he fell into a fitful sleep.

Again the familiar voice came to him, and Roy tried to reach out, knowing that she could help him, though he could no longer remember what was wrong. "Heart rate rising rapidly, blood pressure skyrocketing... He is stable enough, I will not interfere." Vera, he thought, wishing he could ask her what was wrong. However before he could say anything sleep took him again.

~x~

Wails filled the air, the harsh scent of blood filling Roy's nostrils. Upon opening his eyes Roy found himself in his room and he promptly leaped out of bed, going over to the window. People were lying in the street, signs of a great battle littering the city. Smoke poured out of the windows, signaling fires burning somewhere within, and great beasts roamed the streets, mixes of species created with Alchemy with one intent, to kill. And obviously they had done their job quite well. Roy instantly turned and left the room, swiftly heading down to the street, feeling as though he had entered a newly made ghost town.

Occasionally he saw glimpses of people running around or fighting Chimeras, but by the time he reached the spot they were gone. Or they were still there, but far beyond help. Through it all, he looked for one person, fearing the worst as he had yet to see her. When he finally did spot her his heart sank, for she was lying in the middle of the street, motionless. "Vera!" he cried, realizing belatedly that he had called her by her given name, a sign of affection that he had not meant to show.

Dashing over to her, lifting her from the ground, supporting her head and torso, he pulled off his jacket and pressed it against her chest, hoping to stem the blood that was sluggishly seeping out of the slashes across her chest. "Can you hear me?" he asked, trying to discern if she was even still breathing. Upon receiving no response Roy pressed his index and middle fingers against her neck, relieved to detect a faint pulse there. But it was fading quickly, and he knew she would not last much longer.

And so he remained there with her, motionless, listening as her breathing faded, feeling her body relax against him as she released her last breath. Only then did he break down, tears spilling down his cheeks and harsh sobs tearing from his throat. She had died because he had not been there, and so he had failed her in the worst way possible. All the time they had been together, that she had helped and healed him, and this was how he repaid her. By not being there when she needed him the most. Anxiety and guilt coursed through him, causing his breathing to become even more ragged and his heart to pound as though about to burst from his chest.

A quiet growl jolted him out of his misery, causing him to look up and blink tears out of his eyes. A Chimera stood not far away, front half that of a lion, the back half a horse, tail lashing from side to side as it studied its intended prey. "Come and get me then," Roy hissed, his voice grating against his sore throat. "I no longer fear death." How could he, when she would be waiting for him on the other side? And so he gave the creature a level gaze as it crouched and sprang at him, knocking him over, instantly going for his throat. A quick tear, a brief flash of pain, and it was done, his life ended, the darkness taking him. And for once he was happy about that.

~x~

"Brigadier General Mustang? Can you hear me? The test is over." Roy's eyes fluttered open and he took a deep breath to steady his nerves, surprised to realize that he had asleep, all of it a dream.

"Vera?" he whispered, causing the woman to blink at him in surprise, never having heard him use her name before. Doing so carried far more emotional attachment that he had ever shown before. "Oh, thank goodness. I dreamed you had been killed."

"It was the test..." she trailed off, sounding as though she had wanted to say more, and he briefly wondered if Vera had been tempted to say his name as well. "You scared me sir, I thought you were going to have a heart attack for a couple of minutes there." She quickly unbound him, removing the I.V. and helping him sit up.

"I thought the same," he replied, giving her a look that he hoped conveyed they would talk about it later. A nurse walked in and Vera backed away as she too examined Roy before nodding in approval.

"You seem to be in good health," the woman said as he stood, stretching his arms over his head to pop his back. "Now, Major Curador, if you would take his place?" Vera hesitated, and for an instant Roy feared she would refuse. Then she glanced at him and laid down, allowing the nurse to strap her down and insert the I.V.

Roy went over to the door, glancing up and down the hallway. Finding what he was looking for, a row of chairs, he swiftly approached them, picking one up and carrying it back into the room, sitting down on the other side of the table from the nurse, resting a hand on top of Vera's. She gave him a surprised look that quickly changed to one of relief. "You come back to me," he whispered as the nurse turned away to study the monitor, having already injected Vera. The healer nodded slightly, her eyes already losing their focus, a faint smile flickering across her face as she fell asleep. Roy took a deep breath and released it slowly, settling herself to wait, watching as she fell into her fears.