Rating: PG/T/or K+ even (depend on what you're looking at - quite frankly, I don't understand the new rating system...)
Warning: post-series, some bits of info throughout the series (even though with a slight twist)
Summary: Gilded – adjective; "deceptively masking true selves in favor of a more glamorous exterior." ...Now why, he wondered, did that sound all too familiar?
Roy Mustang shifted as he stared out the window from his bed. It was half past three in the afternoon and the sun was shining through his window, creating cross-shaped shadows along his floor up to the edges of his bed. Riza had just stepped out to go grab something to eat from the marketplace just down the street, which left Roy plenty of time to himself while she was shopping. Sometimes, he wondered if he was taking advantage of her, playing the sick patient in bed while she worried herself over him and took extensive care of him while all he had to do was open his eyes, smile that charming smile, and keep her company in this all-too-small bed.
He remembered waking up the first time, his eyelids feeling as though there were rocks over them. A small constant pang of pain jabbed him on the left side of his head as soon as he woke up, irritating him immensely. At the time, Roy wanted more than anything than to hit himself and maybe make the pain go away by numbing himself. However, the thought of more pain to ease pain seemed a little stupid and – well, painful. So instead, he forced his eyes open, annoyed by the sudden purge of light and confused as to why he could only move one eye.
Riza was the first thing to come into view and the expression on her face let him know immediately that something was terribly wrong. Shifting as best he could, he managed to get up into a sitting position, letting Riza fluff and shift his pillows around to make him comfortable. The woman had been too tired looking and honestly worried at the time that she looked like she was about to fall apart.
"Hawkeye...?" he had managed, aware that the sound of his voice was strangely off and the name almost foreign.
The blonde woman smiled lightly. "Yes, Colonel?"
Roy stared at her as best he could with his one eyes, unsure as to why he could only see properly with one eye in the first place. He took a deep breath and looked away, taking in his surroundings instead. The room they were occupying was pretty bare with only a single bed, a small couch, coffee table, dresser and mirror. Connected at the far was a small bathroom which Roy had hoped to walk into soon so that he could look at himself, but at the time, having only just woken up from what was probably many days of sleep if Riza's disheveled and tired appearance said anything, he didn't feel like he had the energy to move.
"How are you feeling, Colonel?" came Riza's voice, distracting him from looking at the bathroom.
Roy turned his attention back toward the tired woman and glanced around himself again. "Where am I, Hawkeye?"
Riza shifted a little closer to him, seeming almost hesitant to telling him. "Sir, we're in an apartment. It was the most convenient one I could obtain after you were... shot."
Roy had stared at her then, recalling the last few moments he had before he blacked out. The fight with Pride, saving the little boy, running into... Lieutenant...? Who was it that shot him? His memory fuzzed as he tried to recall the moment. The only thing he could remember was the heat of fire at his back, the sound of a gun and metal working together, a shout of desperation (who was that?), and then... nothing. He was certain that after he was shot, just before he blacked out, that someone was by his side, calling out to him. Who, though? Frowning at the holes in his memory, Roy turned to Riza for the answer.
Riza, though, only stared back at him with tired eyes, concern reflected in them. She truly looked like she was about to collapse. Without thinking, he reached out and ran the tips of his fingers over the arch of her cheek, brushing away strands of hair from her eyes and revealing the bruise-like circles underneath her eyes.
"Yes, Colonel?" she replied, not at all seeming to be aware of the change.
Roy sighed and rested his hand on her cheek, looking her over with his one good eye. Her hair was down and slightly longer than he realized; her eyes were a little more blue and radiant even though they were drooping and slightly sunken in from what must have been lack of sleep; her body still looked like it was healthy but sagged a bit from fatigue; and her face and smile was just a little bit strained and creased with might eventually turn out to be permanent lines. Still, even though she didn't look her best that day, she was still beautiful. It was a simple kind of beauty that she possessed and Roy admired it as much as he admired her hard work and dedication. Perhaps, he thought, that was why he loved having her by his side in the military, even if she did load his desk with paperwork.
Staring at her, Roy was glad to know she was fine, but once again confused with how he could only see through one eye. Running his thumb over her cheek he raised the question, noting how she flinched slightly and her eyes darted to his left, almost to his blind side.
"Riza, what happened?"
The blonde woman had stared at him for a long moment, both eyes staring into his one good eye. Slowly, she pulled out of his grasp and glanced at his other eye, the one that ached, the one that he couldn't seem to work. It was almost unbearable before the silence was cut and Riza finally answered him, explaining to him what happened before he blacked out, while he was unconscious, and what had happened to his eye. At first, the news had been shocking and almost insanely ridiculous, but Roy had remembered the pain he felt. Eventually, he got up and had Riza drag him to the bathroom across the room and lean against the sink, staring at himself in the mirror. Just as she said the wound to his eye impaired his vision, leaving a gruesome scar and bad experience in its place.
Roy could remember now how he first thought about getting a replacement, perhaps a fake eye, or a transmuted one into his skull, but that was his delusional side talking and in time he came to terms with his handicap. It took far too many days to orient himself again; first he took to standing properly, then balancing himself, and finally walking around like normal without bumping into someone or something because he couldn't see it from his left side. Slowly, he built up his courage to walk outside, letting Riza stick to his left side and escort him around the market place.
One day, a child ran into him, stared at him wonder. Kneeling before her, Roy comforted the child and gave her a few laughs. And then she reached up unnoticed and pulled away his eye patch... That day, Roy had not reapplied the bandage over his scar, so the little girl stared at the markings stretched over his skin, suddenly becoming frightened and crying over his "ugly" features. Up front, Roy tried to comfort the little girl, saying that he was a soldier and it was just a battle scar, something like a hero's metal. But of course, the child was too caught up in her wailing that she ran back to her mother, earning a confused yet reproachful look. When the two left, Roy quickly turned down another street and found himself a narrow alley to release his hidden anger. It was confusing, but at the time, he was ashamed of his eye patch, criticizing himself. Riza tried to calm him down at first but after he started to curse and continue to berate himself, she resorted to wrapping her arms around him, leaning herself against him and sending him her love and comfort through that simple contact.
That day, Roy remembered bitterly, was the day he openly cried and leaned his head on a woman's shoulder. He wrapped his arms around her and buried his head in her hair. Nothing in that alley was mentioned anywhere in public. Though he didn't seem it after, the little girl had hurt him. And not only that, he felt this big wave of guilt, regret and sorrow wash over him that afternoon, triggered by a little girl's crying and comment about his features. For a brief second, he had even thought about his lady acquaintances and goals in the military. For just a moment, he thought everything he had worked for to become the next Fuhrer was down the drain as soon as he lost his eye.
It was a selfish thought, and now, looking out at another lovely day, Roy realized how stupid he was, and decided to overcome each and every day with his head held high and push towards his goal even harder. He decided once he picked himself up that he would not let anything affect him; he would still flash that charming smile and know-it-all smirk; and he would now carry himself with pride. Whatever happened when he returned to work, he would take as best and as calmly as he could come what may. He knew there would be a lot of hypocritical talk going about, many insults thrown his way, and probably very little support from his fellow soldiers (whatever number was left of them), but with Riza and those few others in his department at his side, he figured he would make it out okay.
Grunting and shifting again, Roy slid out of bed, testing out his legs. Even after so long, it still took him a while to get used to moving about. Being bedridden for such a long time, and then being forced to stay in bed by a certain woman he knew, his legs were still a little wobbly. He sighed as he stood and made his way to the window, pushing it open and leaning on the sill to peer outside. The streets below were still busy, adults and children still dancing around, going home or else running on errands. New models of cars merged with the older style of buggies in the streets, proving to be fairly more efficient.
Roy remembered being one of those people once upon a time. He would run straight from school to his house, meet his mother in the kitchen making dinner already, then run out to grab a few ingredients for the side dish and then a candy for himself. But then, he sighed, came an illness throughout the town. His mother caught it and he was forced to do more chores around the house, take up a job – sometimes even two or three at the same time, and wasn't allowed to buy his sweets anymore. He took care of his mother single-handed. As an only child, he was both spoiled and independent. Without a father, he learned to be his own man. As his mother's condition grew worse, Roy tended to her every need, spoiling her as much as she did him, caring for her up until... Well, he couldn't say to her very last breath because he was never there when she died. Instead, he was off in the bookstore, spending money on alchemy books. His mother begged him to go please himself because he always spent his time with her, never leaving the house except to run to the store and work. (By that time, he had quit school to function around his jobs and mother.) So, upon her wish, he took the money and spent it all on books, trying to catch up on what he missed out and focusing on his favorite subject: alchemy.
...It was fate that he came home to her corpse with a stack full of alchemy books and a grin on his face. That grin was wiped off as soon as he stepped through the door and found out that the one person he cared about was gone. For a month after her death and burial, Roy became depressed, refusing to move or eat. It took a great deal of effort from his comrades at work to force him to get back on his feet and take care of himself at least. Despite their hard work, though, Roy never really came back, withdrawing from even his friends at work. Most of the time outside of work, he poured himself into his small collection of alchemy books, researching and learning. In a way, he wanted to find out if there was a way to bring his mother back (it's almost like déjà vu...), and in another he wanted to pursue his dream and learn more about alchemy, knowing his mother would love for him to do that.
There were many bumps on the road ahead of him and it took many years of practice and failures, research and a lot of experimenting before he figured out what he could do, what he knew, and decided he wanted to become a State Alchemist – heck, the Fuhrer even. In those days, he saw himself as some hero that would do great, save the world, make it better. He saw himself saving millions of people, executing his orders to clean up the town - city - state - nation - world! He even saw himself with women, but not the ones found in whorehouses. No, he saw himself with single women, divorced women, young women, older women; he saw himself helping every single one of them, escorting them, courting them, healing their wounds and making them feel loved and appreciated, almost like goddesses. It was a crazy dream back then, and in a way, he still kept part of it with him.
Roy smiled to himself and breathed in the fresh air, spotting a mother with her child, leading him down the street toward a candy shop. Whether or not the woman would actually take the child inside was despite the amusement Roy found in the little boy's actions, tugging at his mommy's summer dress and pointing toward the obvious shop. He remembered doing that at that age, begging and pleading to go inside while his mother feigned ignorance and busied herself by looking at other shops instead. Then, when he would start to lose hope that she would ever listen to him, she'd take an unexpected turn right into the candy shop and buy him a small bag of assorted candy or a single big one. Those days were the best of his life... with his mother, out of the street, having fun, getting exactly what he wanted.
Yeah, exactly what he wanted. There was almost never a "No" to his desires. It took many years later for him to find out the hard way that you couldn't always have what you wanted. When his mother disappeared from his life forever, he wanted her back, desperate and confused in how he would live without her. Like any other alchemy student, he came across the work of life transmutation. He wanted to try it, many times he did, but he was too scared of what was involved. It was a good thing too because later on in his career, he ran into someone who attempted it and met with horrible results. That man was trying to bring back his younger brother after a freak accident, but as God would have it, once life was taken, he wasn't going to give it back.
Left with little options and a lot of dead-end dreams, Roy pursued his main goal: becoming Fuhrer and saving the world. He knew he couldn't literally save the world, but if he could make it in the military and work himself up to that spot, he could practically do anything and he would be damned if he didn't at least try and make it better. So with that on his shoulders, he worked hard on improving his alchemy, learning about his unique ability to produce flames with a single snap, and snagged himself a position in the military. It was hard, he remembered, starting off as paper pusher, running into the wrong crowd at first, and after a few hit and runs, so to say, he molded himself into the person he wanted to be and made friends amongst a bunch of good people that helped him work his way up the chain.
The higher up he went, the harder composed Roy made himself, forcing out this kind of person that was meant for the military, meant for the position he held, and wove it like a sparkling banner. It was hard - oh hell it was hard, but with the few friends he met along the way, like Hughes, Riza, Falman and the others that were currently under his charge, he was able to overcome the obstacles he said he would. There were many times he felt like breaking down, tearing loose, opening up, but feared that what he would reveal would destroy all his hard effort.
To heal his bleeding wounds, Roy resorting to something he wasn't too proud of. In a way, he reasoned with himself and said it was part of his goal, but another part of him didn't like it. He resorted to picking up women. He was really good with women, able to slip them a few words, sneak in a tongue, then slide into their beds and win himself a couple of nights with their company to keep his broken mind occupied. Over time, his conscience turned a blind eye to it and his reputation just grew. With some of the men in the military, he earned a bad reputation of stealing their girlfriends and fiancées, but despite that, he didn't care since they held their own purpose to him.
Those times were very rocky and often he found himself repeating it later on in his career, satisfying his selfish wants with simple orders and a simple "yes" or "no." After all, he was an only child, spoiled by his mother and even spoiling her in return. One thing he kept the same whenever he went out with women while in the military and balancing work, Roy spoiled his women, caring for them like God's lambs or man's goddesses. Trinkets, gifts, prizes, pleasures, he gave it all to them. Then, he'd work and play with them and make them tired of him and eventually (but surprisingly quickly) break up with them and make it their idea. It was a con artist's masterpiece and there were times that Roy felt horrible about it. Though he was making these women happy, in a way he was playing with their emotions.
It was a lot of work to soften his bad reputation, cut short his line of hungry women, and focus more on his work in the military. He supposed that though the emotional toll was unbearable, the war he involved himself with earlier on in his career helped with his standing. Roy secluded himself again, looking into his research of alchemy again, rolling over in his head the many gruesome memories of the war many times. His depression pushed aside the thought of women, other officers, and all the petty things in the office he had to deal with. Thanks to Hughes, he was able to get back on his feet again, quicker than he might have thought, and ran after his dream again. He turned into another paper pusher, signing above the dotted line and giving orders. His actions in the rebellion earned him a better reputation amongst his peers, and a few new comrades, even friends. He figured out whom he could trust and whom could help him push his way up.
Along the way, his reputation around the office depleted considerably, he earned himself a few more insulting rumors, and perhaps a new line of women. By that time, Roy was a certain person. To everyone and even himself, he was one certain way and if others didn't like it, they could very well kiss his butt. He had to pull many tricks to get the way he was until the newest addition to the military arrived naught but almost half a decade ago. When this person came it, he bedazzled every officer around him. Not only for his surprisingly small physique, but his amazing no-circle transmuting talent as well. Almost in every way, Roy saw this boy as a younger, feistier version of himself. This young blonde boy was determined to become something, search for something that was near impossible to find and obtain, and resembled kid-Roy in many frightening ways.
Roy could assume now that that was why he liked him in the first place. When he first met the boy in Risembool, the child was laying on a bed, face feigning calm sleep, the tiny lines around the edges of his features speaking of the frustration and determination he held while Roy spoke about his prone form. He knew the kid heard every word he said, which was why he generously volunteered information to lead the boy to him and military. And, when he finally stepped foot on Central grounds, he saw the same determination and fire in his eyes. It was amusing how easily played he was, practically letting Roy push him in the right direction not only to "help" the boy get in the military, but help Roy earn a few points from the Fuhrer for discovering him. It was all for his own benefits, of course, he told himself.
But who knew that Roy himself would be played by the very person he brought out into the dangerous world? Because Roy had pushed himself into a position that limited and yet expanded his authority, young Edward Elric used those fiery eyes of his to persuade Roy into letting him do whatever he wanted. Roy willingly let the boy pursue his dream, dragging along his brother, but when things got more dangerous and the boys were deep in trouble, Roy was forced to play big brother and work around Edward and follow his path of insanity. Roy had to put aside his own goals to protect those boys. What made him do it in the first place was pretty much beyond him, but he could chance a guess that it was because of Edward. The boy, as he said, was so remarkably similar to him that Roy just had to bent to his will and help the boy out, figuring out too late that what he had thought was played in his hand, letting the boy gallivant all over the play to find a measly stone, was in fact Edward's hand of cards.
When Roy first let Edward go easy in the military, let him get away with no uniform and constant roaming, Roy thought he could use the boy to work his way up the chain again. In a way, it did, a little bit, but when murder became involved, Roy realized that when he signed that permission slip, he automatically became responsible for those two boys and he would have to put everything on the stops just for them. It was very frustrating and sometimes more trouble than it was worth, but like earlier, he kept to his job and held up that certain character everyone saw. Very few people saw through this façade of his, and one of them was dead. Because of the little (huge) mess those two boys got themselves into, one of his best friends was dead and everything was a wreck.
...Because everything was upside down in his world, Roy took his time here as an invalid to think about the past and future and put the two together. He honestly didn't know what to do, so he hoped that whenever he returned he could figure something out and know that someone out there, perhaps Riza, would be there to back him up. They probably both knew how he would act around the others, but what was the real question was how he would feel on the inside. It was an uncharted, bumpy road ahead, all thanks to a little boy who reminded him of himself. Stupid kid. No, not really. Edward was very smart, he knew, and very courageous. He was just... perhaps, a little naïve about some things.
Roy sighed at the many thoughts of Edward and Alphonse and their reported adventures. Roy had many contacts in the multiple cities the boys visited, so not only could he keep track of what was going on, he basically knew of all the troubles the boys got themselves into before they even told him. Many of them were comical, hearing about "that short blonde kid" nearly getting blown up for the umpteenth time.
However, when those boys started adventuring into uncharted dangers, Roy began to despise himself for not being there for when the two were in real trouble. Dealing with Scar and the Homunculi... The fact that Roy was stuck behind a desk many miles away from Ed and Al made his blood boil. He would rather have no known about their troubles than be weighed down by them.
Roy paused, shaking his head. No, that was wrong. It was only because he was keeping such a close eye on them even from far away that he was able to help them as quickly and efficiently as possible. There were just too many incidents where those young boys could have gotten themselves killed...
A thumb and forefinger came to rub vigorously at the bridge of his nose. Thinking about those two, even now, brought forth a massive headache. As much as Roy cared for those brothers, he really didn't appreciate the migraine that came along with them.
Feeling the pressure between his eyes (eye and eye-socket, really) fade, Roy looked back out the window and down at the people below. Faintly, he wondered, what ever happened to Ed? Roy never figured that out. He only knew what little Riza could give him, and even that was useless because no one in the military knew what happened to him. All anyone knew was that all of a sudden, in the mess of things, Alphonse' body was found... with no memories past when he and Ed tried to ressurrect their mother. The boy was innocent of the scars of the past few years, and there was hardly a person that was willing to tell him the full truth of it all. In fact, if Roy was ever confronted, he would be the least willing of persons to reveal such information. That, he knew, was too much for him to handle.
Al was a strong boy, but to be told his brother "died" to bring him back...? If Al wasn't affected, Roy would be. Edward and Alphonse Elric were like sons to him. Caring for them, trying to keep them out of trouble, giving them everything they wanted if it was in his power... Roy, unlike all others thought him to be, was not that strong a person. Just looking at his earlier years... No; as soon as he became Fuhrer, then would he be able to relax. ...Maybe.
...Oh, who was he kidding? He was stupid, he knew it. In reality, he would never be able to be who he wanted to be. Never. After all the lying, string-pulling, butt-busting in and out of the military, there would be no way he could ever be himself in public. In the security of his office even he would not be able to let down his guard. That glass would always be there, whether he liked it or not... all for his dream. A childish dream, he supposed, but one he could not get rid of either way. He had set his mark far too many years ago to erase it now.
The shuffling of paper bags and keys drew Roy's attention from the streets below to the door behind him. Already he knew who was at the door. He slowly made he way over, finishing unlocking the door before swinging it open, catching one of the grocery bags as he began to fall.
Riza gave Roy a startled look as she looked up from the door handle to the man standing in the doorway, holding half of her shopping. "You're up," she said, stating the obvious.
Roy smiled his charming smile. "You should've knocked. I would've helped you."
Riza shook her head, moving past Roy to set down her bag onto the table. "You shouldn't be moving around too much. Where's your cane?"
His cane. Roy took out Riza's key from the door and closed the door with his foot, glancing at the foot of the bed where a wooden cane rested. He didn't like using it. It reminded him more of how crippled he was. It reminded him of why he hadn't yet returned to the military even though he was feeling better.
"It's not like I'm walking around outside, Riza. I'm just lazing about here in the apartment. There's nothing here I don't know about already." He broadened his smile and settled the bag in his arms on the table next to Riza's. "There's no need to worry about me, I'm quite capable of myself."
Riza shot Roy a look that clearly stated her arguement to that before moving off and emptying her groceries. Behind her back, Roy dropped his smile, though the edges of his mouth still curled in amusement. This, he knew, was the woman that cared so much for him. After all the trouble he put himself through, she was there for him. She, unlike all the others that failed him, betrayed him, died for or by him... she had stayed by his side, handicapped or not, always supporting him. What her reasons were, Roy didn't quite fully understand, but the fact that she alone, if everyone else died, if everything else in the world failed him, would be there. She, he knew, would be able to see him wade through the troubles of today and tomorrow... and see him ungilded. Whatever he did, right or wrong, uncertain or solidly sure, Riza Hawkeye would trail after him, saving him whenever he tipped too far over the edge, pointing him the right direction, loving and caring for him even if she guessed that he did not love her back.
But... he did. It wasn't like the love he felt for his mother, nor the love he felt for his closest comrades in the military, nor the love he felt for the two Elric brothers that fell into his lap one unfortunate day long time ago, nor the love he felt for the women he conned and spoiled day after day. It was a kind of platonic love that only his true self, the Roy Mustang that never got to see the light of day after his mother's illness, could give. It was a love that was more for his own benefit than Riza's. It was a love from the bottom of his heart that could not be more grateful or pleased in knowing that this women, no matter what happened or was bound to happen, would still be by his side. His side. Not Roy The Flame Alchemist Mustang's side. Just... Roy. The real Roy.
AN: Aand, that's it. Not much, I'll tell you. And quicky honestly, I had no earthly clue where this one-shot would be end up when I first started it. I just picked up oen of my favorite vocab words from school and said-- "Okay, we're going to write a fic with this word in it, or else something that kind of has to do with it. That's our self challenge." --and... here it is. I wrote this a while back and only just remembered that I had it rusting up in my files on (Whoops.) So, rust scraped off, here it is. (Now, if only I could do that with some of my other stories... O.o" ) I hope it all wasn't too confusing.
I'm not exactly sure if I'm satisfied with it. I think I could've done better... read over it and fixed it before uploading it, but I guess I just got lazy on that part. I hope it's still decent despite the roughness of it. Tell me what you think, 'kay? This old cat needed to refry her eggs a bit before she even contemplates pulling out another story, let along continue with her other projects... O.x