Author's Note: Woot, I just wrote this all tonight in one sitting. Pretty proud of myself, although it means I'm dead tired and should go to sleep soon. Like, NOW.
Anyway. I wrote this for the transmutefluff challenge. And my, was it a challenge. Not only did I have no idea what to write about, but even after the first couple of lines I had no idea what was going on in the story. Not to mention that it's solely Mustang and Hughes centric, which is kind of difficult for me to write. I'm not used to Ed not being in there... but oh well. It's just this once...
Keep in mind this was written rather quickly, without my obsessive editing. As usual in my style, I keep description to a minimum - you guys can probably see various plot-holes anyway though - and I've no clue when this was supposed to have happened. Probably just a bit before Ed entering the military.
I do like this, though. Oh, and um, I suppose I should warn you guys. This is sorta fluffy, pretty angsty, and there's guy bonding, sort of. But no matter what you think is happening, it's NOT yaoi! It was kind of weird to write this, because I realized halfway that it could swing that way pretty easily, but it's not! I swear! I mean, yaoi fans are welcome to read this and read into it whatever they like, but it was intended as a pure friendship...thingy.
...And now, hoping I haven't scared you guys off, please read the actual story...
6/25/07 - Finally got about to revising it... should be slightly better, hopefully?
"…Wait, what are you doing? Roy? Roy!"
"What does it look like, Hughes?"
"It looks like… well, you know." Hesitant pause. Black-rimmed glasses were pushed up his nose with a slightly trembling finger. "But… you wouldn't. You couldn't possibly be…"
...As out of place as it was, the man smirked.
"Why?" he asked agitatedly, still trying to understand. "I thought it was… I thought we were done with this!"
And still, that damnable smirk remained on that pale face.
He made himself breathe.
Gently, now. Can't push him. "...Roy, please. Don't do this."
The other shrugged, blue overcoat slipping haphazardly off his shoulders. "You know I didn't want you to come."
Screw it. "And I'm glad I didn't listen, or else I wouldn't be able to stop you from - from trying to kill yourself! God, Roy, get down from there!" he yelled with what he hoped was a stern and no-nonsense voice, but it probably came out a bit more frightened and tremulous than he would've liked. "Get down or so help me, I'll…. I'll be really mad!"
The lieutenant-colonel sitting on the top beam of the bridge snorted, ran a weary hand through his black hair.
"You're terrible at threats, Maes."
He forced out a grim smile, carefully keeping his fists unclenched. Maes Hughes wasn't unaccustomed to anger, but he didn't enjoy expressing it – viewed it as a hindrance, usually, especially when there were better ways to obtain what he wanted. "Yeah, well, that's why I hang around scary state alchemists like you. Saves me the trouble."
"You shouldn't. It's not safe."
"Says you. I get the better end of the deal, in my opinion." Hughes paused, then pleaded more softly, "Come on, Roy. Don't make me… don't make me get up there."
"Feel free to leave," his friend offered placidly, gazing back up at the black, turbid skies. He looked terribly at peace in that moment, rather like a crazed martyr before the pyre or a child about to get the toy he'd wanted. Maes preferred the first comparison, however - the latter image was a bit disturbing, and he was already quite comfortable with the idea that his best friend was insane. "I'm not stopping you."
His eyebrows rose incredulously. "And let you commit suicide? What kind of friend do you take me for?"
No answer came, and his heart involuntarily rose into his throat. It wasn't like Maes thought he was unappreciated, or that he was the only one who saw their friendship for what it was - a friendship - and he knew Roy well enough to know he was an asshole only because he cared (and how messed up was that? he reflected morbidly). But that didn't mean that his attempts to drive Maes away didn't hurt, just a little.
...Though really, what did Roy expect? Like any decent friend - scratch that, human being - would leave him to his own devices.
The idiot. Goddamnit, why couldn't he have picked someone well-adjusted for a best friend?
Hughes bit his lip and touched the ladder reluctantly. "…Blast it, Roy," he muttered chokingly, "you know I hate heights."
He didn't expect the other to hear him, let alone an answer - but there it came, words firm and certain and rattling him to the very core.
"Yes. I do."
Maes's head snapped up to stare at his best friend. "Is that why you're doing this here? Because you thought I wouldn't come up to get you?" he let out in disbelief. "How can- how can you think that…? I thought we were - I thought we were friends!"
"It's easier," Mustang responded, utterly nonchalant, as if what he said made any sense at all.
...Which it didn't. Maes was pretty sure of that.
The dark-haired man suddenly chuckled and threw an amused glance downwards. "Really, Hughes. You think I'm doing this for you? You think I'm so pathetic that I'll climb the tallest thing around just because I'm afraid you will talk me out of it?"
He chuckled again, in that frightening way that reminded Maes of a cold dark room with books strewn about, marks on the floor, pails of blood - the familiar face, so pale and worn with hopelessness, grief and guilt - of the pistol, so carefully put aside on the shelf.
Of those surrendered words, so cynical and self-loathing that it hurt to know they came from one of the best people in the world.
"I only thought… it's pretty here."
The comment was wistful, not at all sad. And to be honest, that's what frightened Hughes the most.
"…I think you need to seriously reevaluate your standards," he managed after a minute, shivering as he looked about the grimy, careworn road, the bridge that seemed to creak with every gust of the wind, the choppy, stormy waters, the thick, ungraceful clouds overhead. "In any case, it looks like it's going to rain hard. We should go before we catch a cold."
There was a short laugh, and the sky rumbled as if in answer. "I think you fail to understand what suicide means, Maes." He turned, and Maes saw he was no longer smiling. "But I've tarried long enough. Goodbye, then."
Hughes' friend looked away and made to move, shifting his weight preparedly.
His mind thought rapidly, tried to think of some way to stop him, stall him, anything, but of all things that came out, it was –
"But Roy, you hate the rain…!"
The man stilled.
Seeing an opening, Maes continued on eagerly, "You know you hate it, you always have! Can't you… can't you wait for- for some other time, some day when it's nice out, sunny…" He was speaking nonsense- as if death on one day is better than another – but he didn't care. "Do you have to go out on a day like this? Does your death have to be so miserable?"
Clouds flashed white in the distance.
He gazed up desperately. His friend was still not moving, which had to mean he was listening.
He took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "You have this tendency, Roy…" he said quietly. "…A tendency to lose sight of your goal, of what you're meant to do. You look outside and see that it's raining, and you forget… forget that it's not all that's out there. That somewhere else, or on a different day, the weather changes."
A flash of darkness brought a dim room and a cynical smile before his eyes once more, and he shut them briefly before looking up again. Had to.
"Life's not just rain, Roy. You can't… you can't forget that there are other things out there… that there are things worth… worth holding on to, worth not dying for. Sure, there's… sadness… and the past… can't be changed… but you know, part of life is just looking through the window… and waiting for the sun to come out.
"...So please, Roy… don't do this. Please. Please, just - just wait. Wait with me."
He squeezed his eyes shut. This was it. This was all he had.
…He could only trust it was good enough.
"I don't hate the rain," Roy finally replied. His voice sounded dead and dull.
But the mere fact he answered gave the other man hope.
"I wish it'd rained more, actually. Back in Ishbal. That way, I would have been useless in the war. That way…"
The words were whispered so softly that Maes had to strain his ears to listen.
"…I wouldn't have been able to hurt anyone."
He tensed as his mind replayed what he'd said, then curved his lips at the sea sarcastically.
Just who was he fooling? Why on earth was he talking when by all rights he should be ending it right now?
Enough, he decided resolutely.
Time to go.
Roy Mustang gave himself a moment to breathe, and his hands started pushing against the steel beams.
There was no hesitation . He'd already said goodbye, after all -
"..So you're a coward, is it?"
He stopped in his movements. Hughes sounded angry, and he wondered why.
Well, besides the obvious, that is.
"You want to be useless? You're so afraid of doing the wrong thing… that you'd just take away your ability to make a choice?"
His friend narrowed his eyes. "I see what this is. You think you're perfect, Roy? You think you're better than everyone? You think so fucking highly of yourself?"
His forehead wrinkled as he frowned over his shoulder. "What are you-"
"-You're so deathly scared of making mistakes that you want to prevent the possibility of them ever happening in the first place? That's all it is, right?"
Even without looking Roy could feel the mocking, angry sneer, so out of place on his friend's usually cheerful face.
"Y'know, I thought this was about playing the tragic hero, acting out because you're guilty and depressed, being heartbroken that you'd been an idiot and followed orders you disagreed with. But really it's not like that at all, is it? It's not that you think the world would be better without you; you think you'd be better off without the world!
Hughes snorted derisively. "No wonder you want to kill yourself. You can't stand being flawed. You're so pitiable you can't admit you're not God – can't face the fact that you can make mistakes! You're such a pathetic human being that you can't even trust yourself anymore!"
Roy clenched his hands into fists, but the words kept on coming. For the first time, he almost wished he was down there - just for the privilege of punching Maes Hughes in the face.
What did he know? What did he understand? Maes had a fucking desk job now, damn it! So maybe he shot some people way back when - that didn't bloody mean anything. Now that the war was over he was done, his hands were clean, his sins forgotten.
But Roy was an active-duty State Alchemist; his murdering spree wouldn't end with the war in Ishbal. And hell, he'd flambéed hundreds of people every day back then and got to see their faces up close, hear their screams - he'd chosen the way they'd died, whether it'd be quick and painless or slow and excruciating - and he had to live with that, knowing that they wouldn't be the last ones. Knowing that if he wanted to keep his position, try to advance, his hands would get as bloody as they come.
Damn him and his lectures. Hughes would never in a million years understand what he was going through.
That didn't stop him from pretending he could, though, and Roy narrowed his eyes as Maes continued.
"Instead of learning to be a better person, dealing, you convince yourself that it's all your fault - as if you even have that kind of power. And even if you did, what of it? Instead of using it, you run away! Instead of trying to make things better, you find the tallest bridge to jump off of! Well, the world doesn't work that way, Flame! I don't know what the hell is going through that thick head of yours, but death isn't a solution, you fool!"
"-You know what'll happen when you die, Mustang? It isn't just that some idiots will be sad. It isn't just that I'll have to go inform headquarters that you've broken under the pressure, and do a whole lot of paperwork that I'd really be happier not doing.
"They'll replace you with someone else. Someone who I can almost guarantee will not have the qualms you do for making mistakes and hurting people. Someone who'd probably appreciate the power of their rank a great deal more than you, and do the best they can to get more of it. Oh, and I bet you they won't tolerate failure, or your little team being pals, or even decent human beings. They'd make them do the same mistakes you did in Ishbal, and your subordinates won't have a choice because, just like you, they can't disobey orders.
"But maybe they will anyway. Maybe one of them – maybe Havoc, or Falman, or Breda, or Riza, or even Fury – will have more guts than you did. What do you think'll happen then? They'd get dismissed – or better, killed – and it would have all been for nothing, because someone else will take their place. Nothing will have changed, because they weren't important or high-ranking enough to matter. So what would you have gained, Mustang? Are you such a coward that you'd leave your fight to others?"
His body shook with rage. "You don't know what you're talking about!" he shouted angrily. "If it hadn't been for me, countless innocents would have lived!"
"If it hadn't been for you, someone else would have done it instead," Hughes said coldly. "And they would have enjoyed it."
Roy faltered. "You don't know that!" he protested weakly.
"Doesn't matter," came the callous reply. "People would still have been killed. Dead is dead, Mustang."
"I'm an alchemist, you blind bastard! If it hadn't been for me, they would still have stood a chance!"
Snort. "You really are full of yourself. You think the war would have been lost without you? Last time I checked, you weren't the only alchemist out there. What about Alex? He was there, same as you were, and feels bad about it just like you do, but you don't see him going around jumping off bridges. You saying he's stronger than you? Or," He suddenly smirked - a cruel, humorless thing, "are you saying he should off himself too?"
Drops of water landed on him, cool and slithery, crawling under his shirt and making him almost shiver. He gripped the ledge of the platform until his knuckles turned white. "That's – that's not fair, Maes! I… that's different!"
"Bullshit, Roy. The hell it is."
The droplets turned into a torrent, and he bitterly welcomed the cold washing over him. He shut his eyes against the flood, as if that way he wouldn't be able to hear what the other had to say.
"Shut - Just shut up! You don't get it, you can't know what I'm-"
"Of course I can't, I'm not a moron -"
"You don't understand what it's like to know that the world would have been better off without you!!"
The anguished yell tore out of him mercilessly. Hopelessly.
"You don't… you don't understand what it's like, Maes…" Roy whispered brokenly. "I… I can't do this anymore. I know I want to be Furher, to… to change things, but every…" he squeezed his eyes shut.
"Every night," he began again, head bowed, unsteady voice echoing strangely against the steel pillars, "I see faces… faces I know, faces I've burned… and also… faces I haven't yet, but I know that there's… always the possibility…" He shuddered.
The single word was breathed unto the hairs on his neck, and he stiffened in shock, eyes opening wide as solid arms came around him, gripping him fiercely.
"Even if you've done horrible things in the past, even if things would have been better now if you hadn't been there, it doesn't change the fact that you're here now. You can make things better. You're the only one who knows what to do and how to get there. You, Roy. No one else."
"…Maes…" he blurted out his friend's name. "…What are you… ?"
"I know you, Roy Mustang. You're an idiot, the most inconsiderate friend a man could have... and very possibly the smuggest, most annoyingly successful womanizer on the planet," Maes said wryly, drawing out from Mustang something that could nearly be described as a smile. "...But you're also loyal to a fault, and you'd never hurt anyone close to you - and never someone who doesn't deserve it. You've grown. You've changed. I know you, Roy."
"…And I also know you're wrong."
Roy jerked his head up.
Fond whisper, and the arms around him tightened. "The world wouldn't have been better off without you."
His eyes closed almost painfully. "Maes…"
Hughes chuckled suddenly, voice changing into something more light and familiar. "For one thing, who else would have introduced me to the love of my life, huh? That definitely wouldn't have happened if it weren't for you." He adopted a mock-stern tone. "So if you ever dare imply that you've never done anything good, prepare yourself for a good kick in the balls, my friend. Or I'll tell Gracia you don't like her, and you know what she's like when she's angry."
He relaxed into his friend slowly, frowning at the waters. "I know."
His friend beamed, loosening his hold a bit. "Good. I knew you had a brain somewhere in there, just needed to dig a bit to find it. Now, let's get off, shall we? Same time, if you please. The ladder's slippery, and I'd hate for either of us to fall now. Would be kind of ironic if you ask me."
Roy didn't move except to turn and look at Hughes in the eye, searching for something he couldn't explain. "Maes."
Lightening flashed off his best friend's glasses. "Hm?"
"…You hate heights."
"And you hate the rain."
"…I do," he admitted finally. "I really do."
"All the more reason to get out of here, isn't it?"
A/N: I hope they're are mostly IC. I really haven't seen the episodes in a while... kinda forgot what Hughes is like...(I know! Shameful, horrible thing to occur!!)
But he knows I love him! (hugs Hughes) And so does Roy! (hugs Roy)
...And just so Ed and Al don't get jealous...
(Elric brother hug!!)
It would be kind of you to review and tell me what you think...