AN: Set post-Brotherhood, in a reality in which Roy never regained his eyesight after the Promised Day.
Disclaimer: Fullmetal Alchemist and its characters belong to Hiromu Arakawa; I own nothing.
by Miss Mungoe
Amaurosis: n, total loss of vision.
It was ironic in every sense of the word – drawn away from the dark path down which he'd ventured, escaping by the skin of his teeth only to be plunged right back in.
He sighed, and shifted with a grimace, the hospital bed uncomfortable under his weight. The sheets felt coarse against his skin and annoyingly clammy – the Central summer heat nearly stifling in the cramped room, and the self-pity clung like a physical thing to his too-rigid shoulders.
Then he thought of Havoc, alone during long weeks of recovery and vainly seeking for a tingle in his lame legs, and immediately ceased his lamenting. Roy could feel every limb, from the still-healing stitches in the palms of his hands to the ache in legs that hadn't been properly used in weeks. No, what ailed him was something else entirely, and self-pity was a darkness that shrouded more than his lack of vision did. And if he began down that path, there was no telling if he'd ever get back.
He heard the door open and close, and the familiar gait of his Lieutenant, her measured footfalls tracing a well-known pattern across the floor. Two steps from the door, a turn, and then three brisk steps to the hospital bed–
"Are you counting my steps in your head, Colonel?"
The good humoured lilt of her voice brushed against him, a gentle sound in his ears, and he felt a smile tug at his lips despite his earlier mood.
"I get bored easily," he quipped, and listened as she rummaged through the drawer in his nightstand.
"You'll be out of here soon enough," came the easy answer. Too easy, perhaps, but he made no remark on that, and simply nodded his head.
He heard her put something down on the nightstand, and the warmth of her skin inches from his face, before she abruptly removed her hand, and he felt the loss where he couldn't see it. She wasn't wearing gloves, he noted idly.
"Would you like to go for a walk, sir? The weather is lovely today."
I wouldn't be able to tell, either way. The remark rested on the tip of his tongue, but he swallowed the words like bile, and put a smile on his face. "Yeah, that would be nice. What time is it?"
"High noon," she said, and paused a moment, before adding, "The sun is bright today. It really is lovely."
He nodded, but despite her promise of good weather he'd never felt more useless. "I'd like to take a walk to the graveyard, if that's alright."
She paused. "Sir–"
"Please, Lieutenant." The appeal fell like a weight. It could easily have been an order, her rank taken into consideration, but he'd phrased it as such deliberately.
He heard her sigh – a long-suffering sound that was just a hint too fond to be anything but. "Alright."
He heard the soft chink of cup-against-plate as she put her drink on the nightstand, before the warmth of her hands circled his, and he slid towards the edge of the bed with an ease that was becoming less and less awkward with every day.
"It's my turn to follow your lead now, Lieutenant," he said as he circled the familiar line of her shoulders with his arm, bracing himself as he felt his feet touch the tiled floor. His next words lurked at the back of his mind, and he'd traced the familiar curve of their letters in his head long before they left his tongue,
"So don't go where I can't follow."
Her answering smile was a flicker at the edge of his subconscious, and he felt her fingers curl around his shoulder, the pressure a promise in its own right.
His foster mother had always called him a particularly stubborn boy, and he was beginning to wonder if she hadn't perhaps made a very valid point.
"Idiot," came the soft-but-vehement remark, and he was momentarily so startled by the rare breach in protocol that he forgot what he'd done to earn it.
He pushed himself to his knees, fingers feeling along the carpet that had tripped him on his way across the room. A vain attempt at getting to the bathroom in an apartment that wasn't his own had seen him face-first on the floor. The noise had drawn her from the kitchen before he'd been able to get back to his feet, much to his humiliation.
Hands grasped his, her skin damp from doing the dishes, and he marvelled silently at the odd sensation of domesticity – these the hands usually found curled around the handle of a gun.
"You should have called." Her voice cut through the impenetrable dark, luring him out into a light he couldn't see, but there was a note of carefully masked grief in her command.
It made things worse, somehow, and his folly felt strangely deserved.
He exhaled as he got to his feet. "Yeah, sorry. I just..." and he trailed off, grasping in the dark for words he couldn't find. The feeling of uselessness weighed heavy on his shoulders, but once again there was no gentle thrum of rain on the roof.
She sighed. "Stubborn man."
He smirked, but it felt more like a grimace. "You've been saddled with quite a burden, huh?"
The words reeked of an uncharacteristic deprecation he thought he'd purged, but now it clawed its way to the surface like a vicious thing, and by the sharp inhale of her breath he might as well have struck her.
He was silent, and his words felt like lead in his chest, his tongue heavy and thick, and he had no strength to apologize, or excuse himself because he couldn't deny the truth of his uselessness, nor convey the sheer extent of his regret for leaving her with the brunt of the responsibility.
"Roy," she said then, and it was the same as with the dampness of her hands, and he wondered if he'd ever get used to it.
She paused, and then her hands left his, but it didn't feel so much like a loss this time. Her voice drifted away as she moved back to the kitchen. "Two steps from the chair the edge of the carpet curves upwards, but one longer step should do it. From then it's five steps straight ahead to the kitchen doorway, and seven steps to the right to the bathroom. Keep in mind the bookcase on your left."
And just like that the burden lifted, dissipating like steam in the space between them, and when she turned on the tap and the sound of running water reached his ears, his earlier humiliation trickled down the drain with the dishwater.
He smirked, and with a muttered 'aye, ma'am' felt for the edge of the carpet with the toe of his shoe, before turning towards the bathroom, mindful of the bookcase at his left hand side as he passed it by. He didn't linger long in amazement at her easy acceptance of his need to take control of his new existence, because she'd always been quick to adjust and adapt to the wilfulness of his mood. It was partly why he'd entrusted his back to her so long ago, and more recently, his damaged eyes.
It was staggeringly simple, but then it was them, and they'd never been anything else.
"Did you cut your hair?"
The question was posed one day, when she'd brushed against him and he'd felt it feather-light against the skin of his arm. He'd made a point to every day try to make note of whether or not she wore it loose. She'd very rarely done so in the past after she'd first started growing it out, opting instead for a more rigid military-look. He'd seen her wear it down, of course, in private. When it fanned out against the sheets, or brushed the ragged edges of the scars on her back. He knew the feel of it, and the exact length, and so it wasn't much of a surprise when she answered,
Small hands guided his, until they brushed against the soft strands. It was cut straight, the ends brushing her jaw – different from her previously longer do, but also from the short cut she'd worn when they'd first met. Something new, then. Something different – like their new situation, he mused.
He trailed his fingertips along the edges, cut straight where they'd once been uneven. He breathed, and tried to conjure the image of her before his mind's eye – the curve of her jaw and the arch of her brows, the exact colour of her eyes and the corn-gold of her hair...and fell short. The human memory was a traitorous thing, and his fists clenched against her jaw at the realization.
Steady hands curled around his, loosening his fingers, before they were parted to cradle her jaw. Her calloused palms covered his knuckles, pressing his thumbs against the curve of her cheekbones. It was a mute gesture, but then they'd spent years perfecting a silent language, and he understood her intentions without the words to accompany them.
And so he spent the evening reacquainting himself with the feel of her – the smooth line from her brow to the soft dip in her chin, and the smiling tilt to her full mouth. The callouses of her strong hands, and the scars-of-his-own-make disrupting the once perfect tattoo on her back. With the latter he traced the curving lines, the circles and tangents, the elaborate alchemical symbols – the path drawn so easily from his memory, and he lamented that he could remember this but not the subtle nuances of the colour of her eyes.
And then her hair, the colour a translucent ghost at the very edge of his memory but the feel of it an old friend, soft and yielding beneath his fingers. And when he sank into the warmth of her it was with equal parts grief as it was need, but she responded to both with a vigour that was at once familiar and strange. And in their silent language they conversed, speaking words without sounds and chasing shadows like fiends until he'd long forgotten that he had forgotten, and where all that was left was the feel of her under his scarred palms, and a place where her form was as known to him as his own.
He remained awake long after her breathing had evened out, tracing the soft fall of her hair against the pillow and conjuring fleeting images of her smile in the darkness.
The hand on his shoulder pressed down, and he responded in turn, flames lashing out towards the intended practice target. The warmth against his face had been startling at first, unused as he'd been to the lack of light signalling the unleashing of his powers, but he took it in stride now, breathing once–
–before turning, an near imperceptible shift of his stance and another snap of his fingers. Again, warmth – familiar yet just out of his reach.
"Right on target, Colonel."
He didn't nod, but breathed, "Again."
He spun counter-clockwise and she followed – a shadow clinging like the lap of fire against his back, and the shift of her stance in tune with his conveyed an intimacy even his silver tongue couldn't talk away. But she didn't mind as much as she once had, and when rumours sprung in their wake like wildfire she did nothing to douse the flames, nor spur them on. It had taken some time getting used to, this new shift in their relationship from private-to-public, but then, so had many things in the wake of the Promised Day. Every day was about acquainting himself with his new situation and the challenges it posed.
Her hand against his back, his weight adjusting to the right leg, fingers snapping–
–he was blind, but her weight was steady against his back as he rolled across hers, the motion momentarily throwing his darkened world into disarray, but the subtle alteration of her stance guided him, and he lashed out–
The air exploded with fire as his feet touched the ground again, and he staggered once before catching himself – for once without her hands for support. He expelled a breath as he straightened, eyes looking into the nothingness. "How was that?"
He heard her rise back to her full height from her crouch, the gravel underfoot grinding beneath the soles of her boots. "Almost on target, Colonel. You were off by about a foot." The smile in her voice was the flicker of a match in the darkness, "Looks like we'll have to practice some more."
And he mused, not without a small smile, that there was no wonder the rumours flourished when she voiced it quite like that.
"So, I'm getting married."
The gravestone sat, silent in the wake of his sudden admission, and he wondered why part of him had expected anything else.
But he ploughed on, regardless. "You told me once to go find myself a wife, and I did. Or she found me, I'm not entirely certain which." He smiled wryly. "She's nothing like Gracia, as you well know, but then I'm nothing like you, so I guess it works out somehow."
He was silent a moment, rooting around his memory for the ghost of his old friend. The grin lurked just out of his reach, but the voice he could conjure – the humorous lilt never without a hint of laughter,
Hah, I know you've had your eye on her for years, Roy!
He snorted at his own imagination, but he was only human, and so he indulged. "Your horrible puns come to haunt me beyond the grave, Hughes," he sighed, but smirked. "Or perhaps it's just wishful thinking on my part."
Hey, now, what's this doom-and-gloom that's got you so down in the dumps? Look, Roy–ah, I did it again! Sorry, sorry! I'm done now, I swear, no more eye-related jokes–
"By all means," Roy murmured with a slowly curving smile.
–although even you can see that it's pretty funny. Eh? Eh? Ahahahaha!
He didn't snort, but it was a sound quite close, although it came out sounding more like a sob. He breathed, and shook his head. "Mah, this isn't really helping." He sighed. "I came here to tell you the good news, and now I've gone and ruined it." He paused a moment, unseeing eyes tracing the phantom memory of a dear name carved forever in stone.
"You always were the good-humoured one," he muttered into the silence of the graveyard and his mind, and for a moment he was alone, left in the dark even by his own fancies. Then,
And here I was under the impression you thought all my jokes were lame. Or should I rather say...cornea?
And disregarding the fact that it was all part of his own imagination, Roy found himself, inexplicably and startlingly, laughing – the belly-deep sort of laughter he hadn't felt like in years, chasing away the vestiges of grief from the corners of his mind like slivers of sunlight piercing the dark. It drummed a hearty pattern along his lungs until he had a hard time breathing, and for a moment he couldn't tell whether the tears were happy ones or the opposite, or a hysterical mixture of both.
He was dimly aware he was making something of a spectacle of himself, but couldn't quite make himself mind. Wiping the mirth from the corners of his eyes, he fell silent again, and when he felt her approach, he marvelled at her timing – as though she'd known he was ready.
"Were you laughing, Colonel?"
He turned towards the sound of her voice – the surprise mingling with an unmasked joy he hadn't heard since he'd asked her to marry him, and suddenly – startlingly – the image of his old friend was clear before his mind's eye, bespectacled eyes grinning wider than his mouth.
He reached out a hand, curling his fingers around hers without guidance. "I was relaying good news," he said then, as if to answer her question. He didn't know if he could make her grasp the need to conjure fanciful spirits from thin air, but certain sentiments he knew she could understand, like the desire to converse with an old friend long in the grave but dearly missed. He smiled, and thought of the man who'd drawn such joy from the happiness of others, and resolved to do his best to live up to that memory.
"He'd have been upset if I wasn't laughing."
It's the truth but at the same time it's a lie, because Maes Hughes had known him well enough to not hold his grief against him in the wake of his passing. But part of Roy wanted it to be the truth, because it gave him one less excuse to linger in his sorrow.
Her hand tightened against his arm, "You should take some pictures to show him, next time you're here."
He smirked as they turned to walk back to the city centre. "You'd have to pick them," he said. "As I'd no doubt end up taking the wrong ones." He motioned to the space before his eyes. "Hard to distinguish one photograph from another and all."
The remark – ill-timed, perhaps, and just a twinge dark – made her laugh, a wonderfully breezy sound, and he hoped Hughes really was listening. "I'll see what I can do," she retorted then, and the mirth lacing her words was a fiercely welcome thing. And he could almost hear the response in the silence behind them, trailing in the wake of their footfalls across the graveyard,
You picked a good one, Roy! See to it that you don't let her go, now.
His grief rested a little lighter, and the dark a little less suffocating, and Hughes' memory was an image clear-as-day in his mind's eye. And like the sun warm against his back, the sound of a familiar laughter rang loud and clear across the expanse of his consciousness, ever guiding him forward.
In the end, it's a startlingly simple thing that makes him see.
He heard her shift against the mattress, and felt her fingers strong and steady and just a tad clammy against his forearm. Voice thick with exhaustion, the words left her in an exhale, "Like mine, but darker."
He smiled, tracing a thumb gently across impossibly soft skin, and breathed, "Nose?"
"Mine, as well."
He snorted, but it was a good-natured sound, "And the chin, is that yours, too?"
He laughed, "Lucky."
The next word rested heavy beneath his ribs, and he drew a starved breath before he voiced it aloud, something akin to fear drumming a pattern along the roots of his heart–
There was a pause, and when she spoke next he could hear the smile in her voice – the warmth of it like the sun against his face,
He smiled, and shifted the weight of his son where it rested in the crook of his elbow, the movement deliberate and certain in its ease. The warmth of the little shape thrummed along his skin, seeping through the thin material of his shirt, and the soft cooing sound was a beacon in a darkness that had long since ceased to be overwhelming. It was part of him now – as intimate and familiar as his wife's constant presence, the gentle fire curling around his being and guiding him forward. He'd walked so long in the dark, but the newborn in the curve of his arm rested safe and protected regardless, and in this one moment he felt that for all that had been taken from him he had been given back tenfold. A far-from-equivalent exchange, but where he had so long felt cheated there was now only a sense of staggering privilege.
"Mine, huh? Imagine that," he murmured. And for once, he could.
The heavy drum of rain against the roof lingered in the wake of his words, but Roy Mustang had never in his life felt more useful.
AN: Angst and silly eye-puns, I feel this combination accurately reflects the crazy fluctuations my emotions were put through while watching Brotherhood; you laugh one minute and sob like a child the next. But I ended it on a lighter note, because regardless of the angst-y AU setting, I want them to be happy, damn it. Please leave a word if you've got the time!