[fic] Digital Devil Saga, "What You Know" Title: What You Know Author:harukami Rating: PG-13 Warnings: Spoilers for Roland backstory Word Count: 1033 Author's Notes: For the springkink prompt: Digital Devil Saga, Adil/Roland: tolerating self-hate - you fell in love with the unluckiest man in the whole damn world
"Hey, Adil," Roland says, and Adil groans inwardly, because Roland has that tentatively hopeful look on his face he gets when he wants good news at the expense of honesty.
Up at the front, Greg is still talking to them; still, it's nothing Adil hasn't heard before, so he tunes him out and focuses his attention on Roland instead. "What?"
"Can I ask you to preread this?" Roland murmurs, and brandishes a small manuscript. "I was going to send it out, I think it might be publishable..."
Adil, who has read Roland's writing before, doesn't say anything to that; he's got a fair guess where this is going. Instead he just holds out his hand and waits. Roland deposits it with a hopeful smile.
Despite his resolution to never read Roland's work in front of him, Adil glances at the first few lines.
She sits, in her rocking chair, and gazes out the window. I hesitate over what I am to say to her. There are teardrops, glistening swollen with the ill-fated nature of her grief, hanging from the tips of her eyelashes. She refuses to shed them and my heart swells with a helpless anguish: why, I think, why can I not say what I wish to, why can I not bespeak my love?
"...it's that bad, huh?" Roland asks, and Adil curses himself for letting his thoughts show on his face.
"Maybe," he suggests, "you should write what you know."
Roland's eyebrows have tilted up in wistful courage. "Right. Um, well. I'll just..." he makes as if to tear up the papers, and doesn't; after a moment he stuffs the manuscript back in his bag. "You know, I'll rewrite."
"It's not bad," Adil says. "Rewriting might help."
"Right. I'll do that."
Adil wants to stop him from walking away; Greg isn't done yet, and he doesn't intend to leave, but Roland shouldn't be left alone. He reaches out, touches Roland's sleeve. "Try writing what you know," he says again, helplessly.
Adil is guarding the exit when it all goes wrong: an explosion upstairs where there shouldn't be. He curses under his breath; Roland and Greg are up there, along with at least half a dozen other men; he can't leave his post because he needs to keep the exit secure. He's about to tell the others to cover him anyway and goes out himself when Roland comes out.
He doesn't look good; one lens is shattered in his glasses and he's covered in dust; there's blood dribbling down his face and tears staining his cheeks.
"Greg?" Adil asks, tense.
Roland just takes his head, wheezing around the force of his tears, can't seem to talk, just keeps shaking it.
There's a cold spot in the centre of Adil's chest that just seems to grow. He switches gun-hands, wraps an arm around Roland, hauls him more properly upright. He wants to swear, and can't quite. "Pull out," he shouts, fumbles for his walky-talky and snarls it into that instead. Greg is dead. He squeezes Roland tighter and makes their escape.
Roland has been drunk for days now; Adil has come in a few times and tried to shake him out of it. "Lokapala's yours now," he'd said harshly, half out of grief and half because he didn't know how else to sound in this case. He couldn't comfort Roland; there was too much there to be able to begin to talk about it. "They need you."
"Christ," Roland had said, exhausted and keeping his words coherent through what was clearly an act of will, "who the hell would be unlucky enough to rely on me?"
Adil thinks, I would, and grits his teeth rather than say it. "You can take your time," he says, slow and angry and clear. "We have to regroup, we have to get over it ourselves. But Greg left us to you, so you'll lead us. Understand, Roland?"
"I can't," Roland says. He tilts his head forward, slides down the desk a little; the bottle tips in his hand and spills on the desk. He's crying again; Adil turns his head aside and refuses to look. "I can't, I can't..."
It's been nearly a week, and Roland still refuses to say what happened in there. Whatever it is shook him up, but Adil can't quite hide a private hurt; he'd thought better of Roland than this.
"We need you to pull together," Adil says, using terms that aren't quite what he means to say. "You might consider it poor damn luck, but you sure as hell shouldn't let anyone else think you're their bad luck. You think Greg died expecting you to act like this?"
Adil spits to the side to clear the bad taste from his mouth; saying such things are unpleasant. And he goes and he gives Roland space.
Roland comes out two days later. He still reeks of alcohol but he's walking almost steadily. He holds out some paper. "Read it," he says.
His handwriting's barely ledgible. Adil looks over it, nevertheless, expecting something other than fiction. Slowly, he sighs.
"It's crap," he says, because it is; overstated and wishy-washy.
"Oh," Roland says. He takes the papers back, looks down at it. "I thought if I knew what grief was, I could write it a bit better."
"You can't gain skills just by surviving," Adil says. "You think people are that lucky?"
"No," Roland says. He smiles, forehead wrinkling as if he were in pain. "No, not really. Where are the men?"
"Out and about."
"Get them together," Roland says. He puts his hand to his face to push his glasses up, ends up burying his mouth in his palm. "I'll -- see what I can do." His hand is shaking.
Unable to quite stop himself, Adil reaches over and touches the back of it. His heart is tight in his chest. "I'll be with you the entire way," he promises; it's the most he can offer, and not half of what he feels.
Roland lifts his hand, pulls it away from Adil's touch, smiles again with as little conviction as before. "Thank you, Adil. I... appreciate that," he says.
Adil has to turn on a heel and leave before he says something else, tries to take it all away; he can't. This is Roland's task, the one Greg gave him. This is all he can do.