Author: 17xinfinity PM
They kept making the same mistakes, breaking their promises, and losing resolve. But the one thing they hadn't lost was their trust in each other, something distance, curses, and war hadn't destroyed.Rated: Fiction M - English - Angst/Tragedy - Edward E. & Roy M. - Words: 5,961 - Favs: 6 - Published: 06-04-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8183108
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Warning for a bit of language and a few violent descriptions.
Edward disembarked the train and glanced behind, to the left, then the right. The anxious feeling that had accompanied him from town to town on his latest trip could no longer be attributed to a two-year stay in Resembool; he'd been on the road for months. The heightened nerves surprised Ed this time around. He felt as if he were a fugitive again, and seemed ready to block a bullet with an arm that was not as resilient as he habitually assumed.
Still, he was obliged by the final stages of his research to travel. Despite Mustang's insistence that he could work proctoring state alchemy exams and writing textbooks for in-depth education that went beyond the equations, Edward used his stipend in honor of a memory. He could not atone for Nina, but he could use that particular ghost to fuel his drive and prevent another depraved tragedy.
Alchemically deficient as he was, Edward still thought in those terms. He'd proposed with the law of his science. The precocious gift in the science Ed had inherited and then nurtured was part of a very elite group; one of whom was dead, another occupied as a four-star General, his teacher ever more prone to illness, and his brother juggling international relations with Amestris and his upcoming marriage to the Xingese princess.
Therefore, Edward was the only extremely skilled alchemist—transmutations or no—who was relatively free to continue the work he did. The motivation his nightmares provided was all the more reason that the duty was his.
So he reasoned with himself. Alchemy wasn't something he could wholly give up, no matter what he told his brother. He still ached for the power to crackle under his fingertips, and everywhere he went, some part of him was trying to make up for what he'd lost with research, travel, and adventure.
Entering the silence of his hotel room allowed Ed to notice the creak with each step. Right; he should probably get an appointment with Winry soon. As soon as the bulk of work was finished, Edward would do that.
Several destinations and seven months lay ahead of that—and these were just the scheduled places. He had a brilliant mind, and it would be selfish to let it rust when he could use it to counter what damage other geniuses had wrought. He could think of himself and what masterful things his heart could do at home.
All things in balance. He would give, and then could let himself take.
Mustang grimaced when he took a large gulp of the steaming coffee Hawkeye offered. He was still blinking rapidly as he surveyed the Ishval landscape in the harsh morning light, which wasn't helping his sensitive eyesight. He was only beginning to heal after Marcoh's treatment.
That couldn't be helped. He'd set a goal for Ishval's restoration to complete its developing stages and become inhabitable again by the end of the year. It was summer now—the worst part of the year to work in the desert.
Hawkeye offered him a smile and warned him against the coffee's temperature a bit too late. Mustang stared straight ahead and stroked his mustache, pretending to ignore her.
Things had certainly changed since the fall of Bradley's regime. The government was still under control of the military, but the military itself had loosened up a bit. The current border conflicts and wars with surrounding states had been ended, and treaties were being negotiated with Creta and Aerugo (Drachma was remained hostile to the Amestrian government).
State alchemists couldn't be called the dogs of the military anymore. They were still involved in military affairs, but a change in the laws allowed them to opt out of their contracts easily. Alchemists were only used as a last resort in battle now, and then for strictly defensive purposes.
Relations between fellow soldiers changed too when the fraternization laws fell. Fuhrer Grumman deemed them unnecessary and instead mandated that new recruits were the only ones under that restriction until they could prove themselves more mature (his experience with Mustang had taught him as much).
Havoc had found himself a nice girl. She was a friend of Hawkeye's, and the two made sure to ask him about Hawkeye whenever they were around.
Havoc wasn't around now, and Ishval's ruins lay ahead of him. That was all he pretended to see.
"Alphonse, I didn't think it would take you longer than me, but congratulations." Havoc offered his hand and a grin made even more impish by the cigarette between his teeth.
Ed snorted. "That's just because Al had to wait until the beansprout was old enough! Even Xing has boundaries." Alphonse dropped his nervous smile and thwacked his brother on the head with a glare. He watched Winry mediating between Lan Fan and his wife—the latter of whom was teasing Lan Fan about her own recently acquired title of Empress. Winry bemoaned the stigma of automail in Xing that forced Lan Fan to wear long sleeves and gloves perpetually.
Havoc smirked in that direction. "Weddings are in the air this Spring. Thought you'd make it to mine, Ed."
"Nah, I lost the bet about when you'd tie the knot and it would've been one more debt the bastard could tease me about. And some people actually have jobs. With Al getting hitched I couldn't take more time away."
"You're a harsh boss, kid." Havoc waved and walked in the direction he'd last seen Rebecca.
"I'm serious," Ed turned toward Al again. "Everybody else is either love-struck, dead, or old." He shuddered at the thought of his teacher hearing the last insinuation. "And I'm close to a breakthrough."
Al scoffed. "Didn't sound like it when you cracked that desk down the middle last night. Brother, you need refreshment occasionally. Go to Resembool with Winry. Relax."
"I will. I'll need my automail serviced when I'm done with the research." His grin now resembled Havoc's earlier playfulness. "It's completely intact too!" He scoured the room for Mustang—he wanted to pay the General back for his teasing by mentioning Hawkeye—and strode off once he saw the General's cocky leer.
Alphonse wondered briefly just how melancholy Winry was without Ed's automail dysfunction.
"You shouldn't drink so much. You look like you're about to drop off as it is." Ed added a smirk to the end of his statement.
"I could say the same for you, Fullmetal. You know, the military doesn't require you to do this much. Take some leave. Miss Rockbell must be lonely." Roy scrubbed at the bags under his eyes, noticing his young protégé had some to match his own.
Edward scoffed. "You sound like Alphonse."
Roy scowled. "And you sound like Hawkeye."
They took a moment to agree on something—namely, that the people around them more than compensated for the two of them not having mothers—when they heaved sighs together.
Ed shrugged, glancing back at his brother, who was smiling like an idiot at Mei. "I can't just turn it off and stop being an alchemist anymore than I can start being a normal guy again. I'm not that kid you yelled at in Resembool anymore."
Roy stared hard at Ed. "You can be normal and stay in the military. Hughes certainly did. He saw such horrible things, and he still went home every day and smiled for his family."
Ed was facing Roy, but he was staring off into space. "Is that why you haven't told Hawkeye yet?"
Roy stiffened. "I have my reasons. You're no better."
Ed kept pressing. "You can't smile for her like that."
He motioned to the area in which Al was twirling his new bride in an Amestrian dance he'd taught her. Ed smiled wistfully.
"Neither can I. That's why I haven't gone home yet."
"Winry? I, uh, know I said I'd be home soon, but I'm close to a major development in my research."
A sigh was heard on the other end of the line. "You're always close, Ed. I don't mind if you research. Just take a break, okay? I mean—about—about what you said at the train—"
"I will. But they have texts here that Amestris doesn't have, and even Ling can't let me take them out of the country without backlash. Besides, I need Al to test my theories." Ed paused. "You know I can't do it myself." Ed said bitterly.
Another pause. "You should go ahead and set up that clinic in Rush Valley."
"And leave Resembool?" Winry sounded surprised.
"You'd never get anywhere in Resembool either."
"You would think so." She muttered. "Why Rush, though? What about Central? You'll be posted there when you stop traveling, and doesn't it make more sense to set up shop there?"
A longer pause.
"I don't know when I'll stop traveling, Winry."
He swallowed hard and went on. "It's dangerous here. The civil war's still going on, and…and Ling's pushing the opposition back! But I—can't be sure I'll be safe, alright?"
"You're never safe. I accepted that a long time ago. Miss Gracia lived with it."
Ed didn't respond for a few moments. He finally sighed shakily.
"Maybe I don't want you to live with it."
Winry's tone turned angry. "It, or you?"
"I'll come home Winry! Just as soon as I'm done. I always do. And my automail's in great condition! Ask Al!" The cheer had returned to his voice, just a bit more forced than usual.
"I'll be waiting. In Rush Valley, and don't complain! By the time you get back, I'll have a contract with the military."
Ed laughed. "See to it."
"Alright. Since you never call, at least get Al to tell me how you're doing. He doesn't say much. I l—"
"Yeah! Al's pretty busy himself if you know what I mean. Little bastard stays in his room too much. Bye Win!"
Edward dropped the smile he'd been holding onto since he'd picked up the phone and swiped at his eyes.
"Listen to me, Fullmetal. We're not fighting their war in Xing!" Roy sighed. "I'm sorry. We don't have the resources for that right now. We're just rebuilding. Hell, Ishval just rose out of the dust. I can't send you help so you and your brother need to get out of there!"
Ed raised his voice. "I can't get out of here even if I weren't leaving my brother behind! Mei won't leave and Al won't leave her. I have to do something to help Ling. He saved your ass and he helped save all of us! Why won't you pay him back?"
"I can't! And neither can you! You're not a soldier, Edward. You were never trained for combat without alchemy. And sorry if your teacher's skills aren't good enough to fight a thousand men with swords."
A loud crash came faintly over the phone. "I can learn if you'd send us some help!"
Roy turned his back from where he'd been facing Hawkeye so she wouldn't see the pained expression that came over him. He pounded a gloved hand on the window and stared outside toward the cemetery. He'd have to get his office moved, and soon.
"The only thing I'm doing is getting you out of there. Whether you like it or not. You are not going to die under me, you understand?" He slammed the phone back on its receiver.
"Hawkeye?" He turned. "We're going to Xing. Tell the Fuhrer I need leave, and tell him to tell the public I'm negotiating an alliance with the Emperor. I've been his go-between long enough that they'll believe it." Hawkeye complied with a hurried salute.
Roy turned towards the window again. "No one else is dying while I can save them," he whispered, pressing his head against the glass.
The scene was grim. Bodies askew, cut in half, beheaded, and the thousand other bloody horrors a sword could create. Roy never did like that type of combat. Even Hawkeye grimaced and held her gun tighter, thankful it was her chosen weapon.
Mustang kept snapping, creating walls of fire to hold the opposition to Ling's rule back. Ling's many half-sibings had allied, making the battle even more onesided. They had reached the capitol city and had nearly reached the palace.
Until Mustang had arrived. Now the bodies fell on a different side and for a different reason.
"I told you to send reinforcements!" Ed growled at General Mustang.
Roy glared back at Fullmetal. "And I told you to get the hell out of another warzone! Do you like trying to get yourself killed? Maybe get another limb blown off for Winry to replace?"
Ed's swing at Roy was held back by Alphonse. He kept lunging for the General, shouting obscenities. "What are you going to do now? I asked for aid, not a human bomb!"
Roy stared coldly at him and turned away. Ed's pleading became more desperate, and he wrenched free of Al's grip. "You're not going to kill all these people because of me!" He tugged at Roy's collar.
"I'm not trying to kill them!" Roy snapped back. "You weren't in Ishval, so shut up! If I were trying to kill them all, they'd be dead."
Ed stepped back, amber eyes hardening as he stared the General down. "Then what are you going to do?" He demanded.
Mustang grinned humorlessly. "I'm going to snap my fingers until they're terrified enough to surrender." He looked twenty years older to Ed. Hawkeye had a similar appearance, the bags under her eyes speaking of how much she hated war.
Ed sunk to the he knees, driving his fists into the dirt. Al's hand was on his shoulder. "He's doing this because of me. He has to do this because I wouldn't leave. I'm always putting him in a bad position."
He glanced up to watch Mustang charge into smoke and flames until he disappeared. Ed's raging fists found shards of glass on the ground. He wiped his bloody hands on his shirt, burying his face in them. Al helped his brother up, leading him back inside the safety of the palace walls.
"The General could bring peace to Xing, brother."
Ed laughed bitterly. "If he doesn't end up like Hughes."
Their eyes weren't red and their skin was pale, but all Mustang and Hawkeye saw was Ishval, all they heard were commands to obliterate them all, and all they could feel was phantom blood on their hands.
Mustang kept looking at Hawkeye to reassure her—and himself. "We're not going to kill anyone unless we have to. We're going to force them to surrender." He swallowed and muttered, "The Ishvalans would've surrendered if we'd let them."
He put an ungloved hand on her shoulder. "You should go inside and protect the Emperor and the Elrics."
"I am," she said simply.
He smiled at her for the first time in a long time. She smiled back at him, feeling their surroundings fade for a second. "I don't suppose you'll follow an order to escort them out of the country either?"
Her smile curled a bit, almost a smirk. She quickly reverted to a neutral expression. "No sir."
Roy put his hand over hers as she offered him his gloves.
Hawkeye rushed to catch Mustang. "The Emperor says the rebels are refusing to surrender or negotiate."
Mustang snapped again, doing his best to create a wall of fire to keep the enemy out without burning them to death. The flames weren't easily controlled, however, and those who survived them were working their way around Roy's range.
He wiped at the sheen of sweat on his forehead. "I'm not going to kill them. I'll just injure a few. Cover me." She nodded. Roy narrowed his eyes and fought the pangs of guilt that washed over him.
This went on for hours, and Roy gained a lot of ground back. Ling's warriors and army had assembled and were fighting the rebels back, lessening Mustang's work considerably. But they would not surrender.
"Tell Ling to have his guards escort the Elrics out of the city!" He ordered Hawkeye.
By sunset, she still hadn't returned.
Roy had left the rebels to the army and went searching for her when he saw the trail of blood on the palace floor.
From there had been a desperate run through every room. He'd abandoned normal protocol at one point and called out for her.
Evidently, Ling had gotten out of the palace with the Elrics. That left Hawkeye as his only concern.
He heard a scream and glanced ahead. There she was, fighting two masked men even as they pressed their swords at her back and throat. Roy felt dizzy, sudden flashbacks of Riza bleeding to death on the Promised Day besetting him.
She looked up and saw him—and began to shake her head. He ran to her.
Two more attackers leapt down at Roy, so suddenly that he lashed out with a deadly flame. He couldn't pay any mind to that when three more appeared. Roy pulled his gun this time at point blank range. Three successive shots and he was running toward Riza again.
The assassins seemed to give up on Mustang and settled for dragging a struggling Hawkeye away. Hawkeye showed some strength and hindered her captors, not even ceasing when a sword was pressed harder against her throat. Mustang kept running towards her and only when one of the assassins pulled Riza's gun and pointed it toward him did she hesitate.
He watched them advance down the wide corridor toward the exit.
Something in Roy's heart failed him, but not because of Riza's capture, or the fact that she would be tortured should they take her away.
Roy Mustang was an excellent shot.
It was something he'd made an effort to conceal, especially when he could use the flame alchemy he already had a reputation for. It was another card up his sleeve, one he'd never expected to use. The gun in his holster was an accepted formality by everyone but the closest of his inner circle.
Hawkeye knew what Mustang could do, and so when she stared hard at him in the fading light, Roy saw past the fear in her eyes and got the message. Shoot me.
He kept his eyes on hers and the longer he did, the more he felt the cold and detached demeanor he'd taken since his first kill in Ishval crumbling. He couldn't bear it and averted his eyes for a moment.
The General's skill was such that he drew faster than anyone but Hawkeye knew he could, took aim, and pulled the trigger with his eyes closed.
Roy Mustang was an excellent shot, and he'd never regretted that more.
"I love you," he murmured as Riza collapsed. His attackers knew it anyway.
He only hoped that she had.
His assailants seemed to give up altogether, leaving Riza behind in their getaway. The General stepped over her body gingerly in pursuit.
Roy snapped his fingers over and over.
"The city is in shambles, but the war is Ling's. Al can return home whenever he'd like to. I hear that Mei is unharmed." Roy personally gave Ed the report.
Ed was still staring at the wall. He'd escaped with only an injury to his good leg by falling debris and a broken arm. Al had a concussion, but both brothers had survived.
Ed knew that they shouldn't have.
Roy carried Ed's bag as they walked to the train station. "I'm ordering you to take three months' leave. That's all. Just three months. Stay with Miss Rockbell and work things out with her. You can stay with the military, but you're stuck in Central until I say otherwise. And otherwise includes real training. And the only country you are to be concerned with is Amestris. Understand?"
Ed nodded absently. "I haven't even called her," he admitted sheepishly. "She's going to be pissed when she sees my leg."
Roy smirked. "At least you still have your other leg."
Ed glanced up at him. "Where's Hawkeye? Did she get hurt? I haven't seen her since I got back."
"She's at a retreat in the south. She broke some ribs and her legs saving your ass. I finally got her to take some time off," he said without hesitation. His back was turned.
"You should take some time too. Join her."
Mustang laughed. "Not that again. I have repercussions from jumping into another country's affairs to deal with, Fullmetal."
Edward turned somber. "I know." He offered Roy a handshake. Roy slapped it away. "Go see Miss Rockbell or I'll tell her what a mess you've made." Ed scowled and embarked on the train.
Roy turned toward the street as the whistle blared. He kept digging his nails into his hands and shoved them into his pockets. It was sprinkling outside.
He kept walking into the downpour.
"Where have you been?" Winry asked, still smiling like always.
"Around," Edward said vaguely.
"Find anything interesting?" She continued.
He hesitated, staring at the floor and biding his time. "Not really," but he proceeded to fill her in on the details just to keep himself from keeping anything from her again. Expanded the world map with his explorations, discovered alchemical practices for medicine, including how to separate a human and a chimera.
Winry managed to pull herself into an upright position on her bed by the time he is finished. He waits. She says nothing, instead lifting careworn, trembling hands for inspection. He wondered what she thought of him.
"Did you find everything you were looking for?"
He wanted to say "No," because it's true, and "Yes," because it could be true. Because in another life, another circumstance, a different set of memories and nightmares and dreams, it could be. One in which he never questioned his place. His duty. His happiness. A life in which his guilt-ridden, genius-powered drive was absent, suppressed with blithe routines.
"Half of it," he said, and cracked a tiny smile when he found his voice.
She smiled back. It didn't quite reach her eyes until she asked another question. "Can I have the other half now?"
And, after all this time, she remembered just as well as he did. The impulsive words strung together to sound like an odd proposal. Spoken at the train station that would put countless miles of distance between two lifestyles, two choices, two attempts at living and being content.
Before his habitual restraint can kick in, his hand searched out one of hers, removing it from her ongoing contemplation. Removes her from wondering anymore about whether something was left undone. He knows she thinks about this because it's on his mind too.
Whether it all was enough. For their friends? Of course. For Amestris? Yes. But for themselves?
Her hand is still rough and calloused, not like a woman's hands usually are in the least, and he questions whether Winry worked with automail until the day her illness confined her to this bed. He doesn't kiss her hand or squeeze it. It doesn't occur to him to do so, so instead he runs his right thumb along each of the fingers of her right hand, assuring himself that she wears no ring.
She should've been wearing a ring, he told himself.
This house should be larger, should bear witness to another generation of children running down its halls, tracking mud and water and laughter everywhere they went. To a more naïve set of brothers and sisters studying, playing, arguing as if nothing existed beyond Resembool's green hills even if they knew it did.
It should've been the place in which a husband squeezed his wife's hand reassuringly. Almost happily, with the knowledge that the final stone that completed even the freest, highest, most adventurous life had been found and turned through years together in memories and oneness and family.
He shouldn't be watching history repeat itself here. Pinako had warned him. Winry'd been sick for a couple of years now, something science hadn't the cure for yet.
He'd been chasing after the cure for a dead girl, and Winry had been dying. Ed forced himself to look at her, pale and sweating. She was probably on her deathbed.
He forced the words out. They were the first things he hadn't regretted saying or doing since walking into Winry's room.
"You can have all of mine."
Fighting so hard, so long and desperately, to save his brother's body, he realized what little consideration he'd put into why they both wanted to live. He and Al had both been concerned about being alive the way a human was meant to be alive, but never what to do with their lives.
This was something new. Here, with Winry, something he hadn't found freely roaming the countries and cultures and texts and increasing knowledge of them all in Amestris. Something that could've turned into what his research had failed to create. Even having devoted five years to it, something he'd taken for granted.
But Ed didn't regret what he'd found during his research either. He was restless and that same restless spirit is what had his childhood self devouring books. Eventually, he'd found the alchemy tome that was responsible for everything he was. He couldn't imagine being completely separated from alchemy, from science, from traveling. From the light of a new city and the spark of ambition at the thought of another discovery.
He wanted Resembool, the life his mother had been content with. He wanted his life the way it was. Greed, he thought, was a terrible sin to endure.
His youth had been wasted by mistakes, but he'd never given much thought to that. He'd meant to move forward, to leave the past behind. To create a brighter future. And he had.
Edward could gain and never be content. He just wasn't that simple.
He'd just never realized that his future had been wasted as he pined for the life he presently had and the one he wanted and which he would cultivate. This future, right here with Winry, had been fading as each day he tried to decide what was fulfilling in this unexpected second chance at living.
It seemed too much to ask for a third, so he simply kept a gentle grip on Winry's hand as she faded too.
There had to be a way.
He'd saved two nations from disaster. He was arguably the single most powerful man alive. He had every text at his disposal. He had Stones.
Stumbling around from bookshelf to bookshelf, taking more swigs of liquor and becoming more unstable, he settled in to study. Finding it harder to focus, he chucked the bottle and drank coffee instead.
Edward had returned from leave early.
He had saved Fullmetal only to bring him home to another death.
Roy blinked, trying to gather his wits and sight in the low light.
There had to be a way.
He reached for the next book in the stack. A familiar photograph fell out of it. Three blondes smiled up at him, a yellow house with a sign emblazoned with 'Rockbell' on it. Roy opened the journal. Ed's code proved easy enough to understand. The brat had figured out parts of Roy's notes before. Maybe they were too similar to hide these things from the other. Hughes had always said so.
He would spend the rest of the night lurching from the reality of Ed's words.
Dawn came clear and bright when he brought himself to visit the cemetery again. The rising sun was too bright for his eyes and the weather too perfect for his thoughts.
For his sins.
Roy forced a smile for reasons unknown to him. "I don't know why I bought two bouquets. You said you didn't own a vase."
He chuckled. "I assumed that was your way of saying you didn't want flowers from me."
Kneeling down at Hawkeye-no, Riza's-grave, he brushed his fingers over the inscription. Her new rank in death (Major-General), her achievements, and her name.
"Hughes was like my brother, Riza." He tried her first name aloud and decided he loved the sound of it. "And, well. I just thought that I'd like my family to be buried near each other. I suppose I'm not a superstitious man." He faltered.
Roy wiped at his eyes and glanced around out of habit. That was before he realized that he didn't have to care so much anymore.
"I just want to see all of my family when I come here." His voice trembled.
"We keep repeating history, don't we? I'm glad you can't see the man that I've become. But if you can, I wouldn't worry so much. Havoc, Breda, Fuery and Falman don't want to let me quit until I become the man you thought I was."
His guilt had been the driving force to protect people. He had wanted to protect people in Ishval, too. Determined to never let Ishval happen again, to never let another comrade die when he could save them, he'd been powerless to prevent both.
But he could carry on. He was perhaps the only one besides Alphonse who could bring Ed out of his stupor and show him how to move forward again. Roy couldn't do this on his own, and, he suspected, Ed couldn't either. Everyone who had held them up when they'd given up was either gone or too far away.
They'd carry on like they always had. And he wouldn't let Fullmetal do that alone anymore.
Roy Mustang gathered his resolve. He let the tears flow freely and let his voice crack as he took in the sight of the two headstones. "I'm sorry," he said finally.
"The rest of my family won't be joining you anytime soon."
Neither would he.
General Mustang yawned and scrubbed his shadowed cheeks before looking up to find the dark, angry eyes of Fullmetal.
Ed hurled the watch at the General's head, who caught it deftly. "I'm resigning!"
"No, you won't." Mustang replied instantly.
That only made Edward angrier. "What has alchemy ever done for us? We're still giving to the void!"
The General popped the watch open, eyeing the inscription, and tossed it back with a smirk. Ed let it drop. "What have we ever done without alchemy? You'd never make it as a civilian. You'd feel even more powerless without me."
"And you'd be shit without me. You used my talent to move up the ladder. I discovered the Homunculi and Al helped decipher Father's agenda." Ed retorted.
Mustang glared. "You got quite a bit out of the deal yourself, and a longer leash than you deserved." He sighed. "What are you going to do when you retire?"
Instead of hearing the whine of abused automail, Mustang saw Ed's knuckles go white when he clenched his fists and held them. "None of your business," he spat.
Mustang leaned back in his chair. "I have the authority to let you out of your obligations as a soldier early, Edward. But you have to convince me it's in your best interests to do that."
Ed marched closer to Mustang's desk, slamming both tightly-wound fists on it. "You mean in your best interests? That's who you've been looking out for! Everyone who supports you makes all these sacrifices and you don't even care!"
That was it. Eyes widening wrathfully and provoking a fearful reaction he'd never seen out of Fullmetal before in his presence, Roy tugged Ed—still the shorter of the two by a slight margin—up to eye level until the younger man's gold eyes filled his vision.
"Don't talk about things you don't understand, Fullmetal. I know what you're doing. What do you expect to accomplish? Do you want to kill yourself?" Roy roared.
Edward didn't struggle, but laughed. Roy half-expected that to be spat on. "No, Roy," Ed abandoned any respect for rank he'd upheld. "Don't talk about things you don't understand. You've lost one person. I've lost everyone!" With that, he threw a wildly aimed punch.
Mustang wanted to scream that no, Ed hadn't lost everyone. Instead, he dodged and hit the younger man in the jaw.
When Ed hit the ground, Roy moved around his desk to loom over him. "Even if I hadn't seen that the books on human transmutation were in the wrong order, someone else would have noticed that you left your notes in the library!"
Roy could see the question in Edward's eyes. He laughed the way Ed had laughed moments ago. "We're far too much alike, Fullmetal. Haven't you wondered where Hawkeye is?" He waited for Ed to put the pieces together.
The time it took for his bright young subordinate to do so disturbed him. The young man gasped, pulling himself to his feet. But before he could say anything, Roy spoke again.
"I know exactly what it feels like, but it's hopeless. You proved that years ago. That thing wasn't even your mother. It's impossible. They're gone, Ed."
Sounding very much unlike the charismatic General he was, Roy stopped trying to keep the despair out of his voice. He laid hands on Ed's shoulders and hoarsely said, "I don't want to lose you, too."
He turned away and rubbed at his face again. "I suppose I do have my own desires at heart," he managed to say. "But they involve you."
"I'll help you—" Ed began.
"No," Roy stopped him. "Not my goals. My own personal gain."
Ed forcefully turned Mustang around to face him and locked gold eyes on Roy's tired black. "I'm not good at being personal." He frowned.
Roy smiled, and that looked tired too. He stooped down to pick up the forgotten watch, caressing the surface before handing it back to Edward. He squeezed the younger man's hand briefly, just a little too long, before pulling away. "Neither am I."