Title: Ink

Fandom: Full Metal Alchemist

Pairing: Roy Mustang / Riza Hawkeye

Rating: PG

Spoilers: Chapter 61 of the manga.

Words: 572

Disclaimer: Nothing is mine.

(Edited for clarity.)

--

I was scared.

That is all it takes, in the end. Ink on yellowed paper, a handwriting he knows better than his own. He finds it so ironic, and oh, the world smirks, inclines its head and speaks of consequence with a smile. (It's not consequence, it's accidental, meaningless.)

You should have--

She speaks to him with ellipses and periods and commas. Once, they spoke with silences, with pulling their hand away right before the touch, with the air between them.

I needed you to…

She quietens over and over, and he knows she'd say nothing more, even if she was here. He wishes he could lie to himself now – he's become brilliant at lying to himself over the years, all of them have (it's the only reason why they exist after Ishbal), and as clichéd as it is, as overly romantic, when it comes to her, he loses this ability.

There's nothing romantic about it, – he quietly wishes there was – what they had, have, was never romantic. It was fierce and translucent, it was love and far beyond love. It was raw and bare and simple, strong outlines, tangibility in a world of mirages.

I kept quiet, the whole time when the ink was seeping into my skin, and he tried to comfort me – he was never any good at that, obviously, because comfort isn't about memorizing formulas and arrays – until his words transformed into prayers in a language I couldn't understand. He was more like the Ishvarlans than us, I realised it then. – I kept quiet, all the time, even though it burnt. I'm strong. I want you to know that. I'm strong enough to save you.

He reads her words from the border of the two lives (and how it hurts, each ink stain); the first life where they were young and naïve and uncertain, where all roads were charming and unexplored, and this one, this heavy, strange life where only one destination exists. Maybe there is no sadder place than the one the letter would have been sent from, where their destinies have already been sealed, without their knowledge. (He had no idea of the burden she was already carrying, and she had no idea where it would lead. There are times, still, when Roy wonders if Mr Hawkeye knew what he was doing when he tattooed the alchemical array on his daughter's back. He must have believed in the good things it could accomplish, but he also knew it had to be protected, knew its potential dangers and never mistook his daughter or student to be unflawed. It would be easy, to say it was his doing, but in the end, Roy knows better, unfortunately.)

He asks her questions without a sound and the air is heavy with ghost-like replies, it's been for years. (He knew her for a lifetime – he shouldn't have.)

You came by the next day, and the scent of ink made me nauseous (you're a soldier) and the fever got worse and I was on fire, not just my back (you should pay more attention to your surroundings), I was so sick, and it hurt, and you stood there, and all I could think was that you should have saved me (you might get shot, if you don't), that for once you should have saved me (but I'll be there in the air, too, and my bullet will be quicker than theirs, I promise).

"Sir, excuse me, but you're not the type to be happy," he repeats her words, and he can almost remember her exact tone. It's ironic; sharp eyes are blessing in a war, and during peace time they only help you to see everything you shouldn't, everything you'd be happier without.

Neither are you, Lieutenant.

No, you're right.

And maybe that is why he reads such things now. This is a letter he was never meant to receive, and the moment he saw it, he knew it should be burnt. But then, he has always been self-destructive, more or less, never the type to become happy.

This is the only thing I cannot forgive you; that you didn't save me when my father made me the book to hide his secrets in, secrets I didn't understand and I could do nothing about it, because he was my father and I owed it to him, and it was an honour. When he explained it, eyes full of fire, intoxicated by his discoveries, by the magic of science, I had no choice.

But for that one single time, I wanted to be saved. (Forgive me my childishness, just this once. I'll be strong from now on, I promise. I won't let you down.) And I do know you have a thousand examples of crimes so much worse, you are able to drown yourself in words alone, I know. It makes no difference. Everything else is forgiven. But – I was scared.

He sees her, her shadow has been burnt into the paper like the form of the mushroom cloud has seeped into walls somewhere far from here, in another world.

This is a ghost he doesn't wish to meet again; her too skinny form, bones pushing against skin, hands roughened, scent of gunpowder and copper buried in the pores of her skin, lips white-pink, and the eyes, – maybe blindness would be a blessing – killer's eyes on a girl he even kind of loved once, a girl he left knowing she'd be happy somewhere there, a girl who once brought all secrets for him to see, and his fingers gingerly run over the book pages of her skin, ink on white. He is still able to perfectly remember the array from those two times he saw it – once in the dim light of her house, where they both were so unbearably young and awkward, and once in the midst of sand where it was decided this would never end, at all.

He traced it out across her back sometimes. He knew it without having to see the remains of it, each line perfectly clear in the back of his skull, his fingers dancing over each scar, each of his greatest sins. She looked up at him, spoke with silence and he could never tell if it was pain or love in her eyes, or maybe there was no difference at all.

He reads the yellowed pages, and sees the sharp-eyed girl who's decided she'll never give it to him. She held onto her decision, even when dark didn't lace her words quite as strongly anymore, when it became just another ghost.

The three last sentences are written by another girl, one who's heading home to her nothing. They are written by a girl who comes from a world much closer to this one. (They survived a war without having anything to go back to – maybe it was a miracle.)

In the train, he realizes, she's written this on the train. I was right there – asleep, probably.

They are written by the girl who will eventually come back to him, whom he'll be unable to deny although he knows he should.

Not that it'll change anything – I've learnt that much – but when it comes to my scars, (the memories of fire) there is nothing to be forgiven. I can only thank you, and it won't be enough.

It has been, he thinks, and there's a pause in his thoughts here because he'd rather have every memory and image and ghost die right now, enough. Too much, it's been.

She speaks to him in silences, in commas and ellipses and periods. She speaks to him in the air between them, in unsent letters written by girls who were almost her but not quite. She speaks to him in the intention of a touch.

It's been a while since she lived.

She speaks to him in stray atoms, in the air.

--

fin.