A while back, Sandra mentioned Roy/Winry. And this twisted thing popped into my head. So I started it and left it until I was going through random fics and finishing them. This is the result. (It's unfair because all she has to do is mention a fandom/pairing/object-bigger-or-smaller-than-a-breadbox and I get ideas!)
Eye for an Eye
By Rurouni Star
"Thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot."
-Book of Exodus
It's hard to imagine myself as a little girl these days. I know I must have been one at some point – the memories are there, after all. And it's fairly easy to see myself a bit shorter, a bit less developed, with stubby toes and sticky fingers. The mindset, though – cheerful, carefree, childish – no longer comes back to me. I can't remember that.
I suppose you could say my own life truly began when my parents' lives ended. My first memorable emotion is cold disbelief. It was followed very quickly by fear, anger, grief… I remember clearly a little boy's distraught face, and a tiny clay horse tumbling to the ground. A click on the tile, and a small crack.
In the process of being reborn, I lost everything that I had been before.
It's a strange thing, to be told at the age of eight that your parents have been 'executed'. The word is just a word, a means to an end. When you're a child without parents, you don't care that they have been executed, only that they are gone. It never occurred to me that someone had, in fact, aimed a gun in their direction. I didn't realize a single person in particular had killed them.
In retrospect, it was probably a good thing that my grandmother never informed me of the fine distinction between the 'government' and the 'soldier'. I would have searched very hard indeed for my parents' murderer, and no legal barrier or military top secret could have stopped me - of that I am certain. The result would have been one of three things: the death of a destitute man, the death of a young girl, or the death of us both. And had any of these results occurred, Edward and Alphonse would not be alive today.
I can only imagine the horror my grandmother must have gone through, losing my parents so abruptly. I never did see her cry - but then, she's a very strong woman. I'm sure she waited until the middle of the night. I feel guilty today, remembering how I was afterward. I mustn't have been much of a comfort to her, as a grieving, almost sulking, child. But then, at that age, not very many people can distinguish between themselves and the rest of the world. And the world was, at the time, a very broken playground.
Somehow, though, I got through it all. It was in no small part due to Ed and Al and the various household things they brought for me to pick apart with my tools. After two years of playing and tinkering and building every day, I should have realized that we were all ripe for another tragedy.
Should have, might have. It's all so relative when the only living record is in your memory.
I didn't know Trisha Elric as well as Ed and Al knew my grandmother. But I still cried when she died.
To their credit, neither of my best friends ever said a word about me not being able to understand. By their own philosophy of equivalent trade – the chemical version of 'eye for an eye' – they should have revisited upon me a mountain of familiar, horrible words. They did not. I was grateful and sad and ashamed all at the same time.
But I would have infinitely preferred that they channel their grief into hatred of me than into alchemy. It was the final taboo that destroyed the people I knew, devoured first their overly bright young minds and then their undying devotion, every hour of every day. Eventually, it took their flesh as well.
The night they returned from their training was a hard one for all of us. I learned that night that that while you could put people back together, you couldn't always make them better. It's a lesson I still keep close to my heart, along with the whimpers of my dearest friend and the curious face of a handsome murderer. I can say with certainty that Colonel Roy Mustang was not aware whose house he was in, that night. Even as a young girl, I would have seen it in his eyes. I would have known.
I do wonder. At what point did he realize that he had looked into the eyes of the Rockbell couple's daughter and not known her?
But I'm off topic again.
Ed and Al left a few weeks later, one with a body of steel, one with a hardened heart. I knew I wouldn't see them again for a very long time.
I readily admit it: the first year I knew that Ed and Al were truly gone and not coming back… it wasn't my finest. It was much like being eight again, and throwing tantrums because mother and father weren't going to come home and tell me it was all okay again. My tools became my salvation again – my tinker toys were human beings this time, and each one came with some amount of money.
By the time Ed came back for his first tune-up, I had decided that I was going to make sure he never had to worry about his automail, at the least. That it would be a strength for him and not a weakness, and that he would think of home (and me) every time he looked at it.
Ed never did fully understand why I went to such great lengths to help him. He may be an intellectual, but in matters of the heart he will always be lacking.
Because of my parents, I understood what it was to lose.
Because of Ed, I discovered what it was to fear losing again.
Which brings me, so unexpectedly, to the subject of the man I tried to hate.
I learned about him by accident. Of course. Because no one would trust a little girl with a wrench not to hurt the man that deserved it.
I searched him out, after everything ended, and put myself into his life.
They were right, by the way. I hurt him so much deeper than a weapon could have. I was his ghost, his demon, his sin, and when I looked at him, his eyes would dart away in blood-stained guilt – even as he made himself more polite to me than any other person living.
I used it. I hurt him. I twisted every bit of pain from his heart that I could, and comforted myself with the knowledge that my parents might rest easier. A murderer is a murderer is a murderer, after all, and it was only less than eye for an eye.
He took it quietly, almost happily. The wounds I gave him only bled in private, late at night. It wasn't that the nightmares expunged his guilt – there was never any vengeance short of death that could do that – but they made me satisfied in that primal human way. When I saw the shadows under his eyes, my own grief lessened. And when I was better, he was better, even as he screamed into the night.
It's not something to be proud of, by any means (the destruction of a man, I mean). But it was necessary, at the time.
Because they were dead. And there was now a soldier to punish, instead of a government.
So, another one of those promotions later, Riza Hawkeye hit me. She pushed me up against the wall and told me I was killing him.
I realized then that I was doing it on purpose.
"So what?" I asked. "He killed them first."
"Your parents would be ashamed," she told me certainly; and because Hawkeye never lied, I asked her why she said such a thing.
"They were doctors, and they took care of both sides. They saved your uncles' killers." She paused, and I saw the shadows under her eyes this time. "They'd have saved their own as well."
I opened my mouth and told her I would think about it.
And I did. Very, very hard. And very childishly.
I went to him, feeling eight again, and angry. He looked at me and smiled, tired – asked what could he possibly do for me, and if I wanted some coffee.
And when I opened my mouth this time, I said he was forgiven.
"Eye for an eye," I said. "You took away two of the people I loved most – and then you saved the other two."
He looked at me and I felt for the first time that I had been wrong. I had killed him anyway, for some sin long forgiven.
"Alchemical exchange," he said slowly, "does not apply to human lives." His eyes moved to the ground again. "Or to children left behind."
I stood, silent and guilty, for a long while. And then he asked again if he could get me some coffee.
I thought about saying yes. Because I was perverse, and because I really, really wanted him to stop caring.
Instead, I said: "What if I forgave you?"
He said nothing for a very long while – but stared at me with those shadows in his eyes; weighing, judging - maybe trying to understand me. He left the room with only a whisper of noise.
I thought of Ed, then, and remembered that you couldn't always make people better. That, sometimes, they didn't want to be better.
But he returned to hand me a mug of coffee - and I noticed that his smile was thin, and worn, and handsome.
Dear murderer, I would write in my dreams that night. Please bring me no more coffee – all I want is my heart back.
How do you fall in love with the man you're trying to kill?
Maybe it's the focus. Maybe it's empathizing with him, trying to understand and take him apart. Like my little toys that had put me back together even as I disassembled them.
There's something too, too cathartic about breaking things so you can fix them.
And he knew.
His eyes and smirk returned accordingly after that. But he never, ever forgot to bring me coffee in the morning, and to tell me that he wasn't done.
One of these days, I'll spill the coffee from his hand and demand that he fix me.
Because it's eye for an eye, and equivalent exchange, and only fair.