A/N: This chapter just refused to be written. Dammit. I had to go through only-heaven-knows-how-many fics to get it going. And then I went through this paternal!Roy phase that just wouldn't go away. And now I feel like my brain just blanked out. And now...I'll shut up already.
Disclaimer: D'you really think CoS would have ended like that if I owned the franchise?
Notes: Shounen-ai warning. Filter off, again; un-beta'ed (but I've read it over. Shouldn't be too serious, right?) References to the anime series. Post-CoS, so spoilers are scattered throughout. Also, you'll know why this is categorized under angst, yes?
Summary: Because life is like that, and you can't do anything about it. Alternate Ending, post-series, post-CoS. Shounen-ai -- Ed/Roy, Al/Winry, slight Royai.
Self-realization. I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates, when he said, "I drank what?"
-Chris Knight, Real Genius
Remember the times when you'd deal with some crazy power-hungry priest who's intent over taking over the entire free state? You'd come to the rescue just because you're driven by this one purpose that you've wholly believed was true, only to find out, at that shining moment when everything's done and over with, that that purpose was fake?
Well, Ed was currently doing so, as adrenalin shot through his veins at mind-numbing speed. As the words dropped from Al's lips, he froze in his tracks and stared. Stunned relief, at that very first instant, before quickly swirling into anger. Which, unsurprisingly, turned into a hurt feeling that was a thousand times worse than rage.
"So," he paused, at a loss of words, trying very, very hard not to clap and transmute the nearest thing he could get his hands on, "You're saying that...that..." he let out a hysterical giggle, "I spent hours in...in...this damned itchy uniform, suffered through a month of wedding rehearsals, and endured all those moronic camera flashes for nothing"
He couldn't help it, his voice rose with every syllable and loudened until it was a crashing cry that echoed off the cathedral walls.
"Fullmetal," that was Roy, "I think you're overreact--"
That thin thread of self-control, so ragged and had been holding faithfully for so long, snapped.
Ed snapped his head up, abandoning wedding tradition and chucking the braided golden cord back into the pews. "That's it, Mustang. I'm always overreacting, aren't I? That's the way you always see it. You only see the irresponsible short kid who only destroys towns and bothers you with the expenses, raiding the military's deep pockets for his own selfish reasons!" Ed knew he was ranting by now, judging by that familiar smirk slowly sliding into place on that face he had been dreaming of so often, but he had had enough.
Enough of this.
He had pined after something, someone who never really gave a damn about how he had felt. Never even bothered checking if he goddamned knew about how this was just a stupid show, probably to cover something up, and--
Ed felt like throwing up.
His voice broke and he hated it, scrubbing hastily at the edges of his eyes. "Well, newsflash, Colonel! If you could --- if you -- " he whispered, more to himself than to the Flame, "Just give me this one time, Flame Alchemist. I may be overreacting, but my actions are justified, so please..."
He flicked his gaze upwards, and there was this tiny flash of something unreadable before the smirk had fallen fully into place, and Roy turned his back on him.
"All right, Fullmetal Alchemist."
Ed's breath hitched at that note of finality in his voice, that tone that said that he just didn't care. The show (and Ed laughed inwardly) had to go on. Even if it was breaking his heart so many times it wasn't even funny.
And behind them, the crowd broke out into tiny little whispers all over.
He restrained (he had to do a lot of that lately) the urge to make the whole congregation's ears bleed from his very colorful vocabulary, and opted, instead, to make do with what he had from the situation. Which wasn't a whole lot to begin with.
"All right, Colonel," he echoed hollowly, trying to erase the dejected expression he knew he had on his face. Frightened of this something that was so important that Roy was willing to throw away his life to cover up. "So that's it, huh?" he bit his lip. "What the hell is so important anyway that you're willing to endure something that's not real for your whole---"
Another fleeting moment of horror as something crossed his mind -- he stared at the pair, in front of the altar, waiting to be wed.
And everything fell into place.
And Roy was marrying her in order not to look suspicious.
Oh God no.
Clapping a hand to his mouth at this sudden realization, he scrabbled around wildly, cold sweat trickling down his back.
He shot a frightened look at the younger alchemist and Al's eyes widened in surprise. Ed swung his gaze back at the pair, Hawkeye eyeing him curiously, Roy indifferent and even looking rather impatient. As if he didn't have time for this.
He never did.
"I--I--" he gulped for air like a dying fish, and motioned as if reaching out for the elder alchemist, "It's been fun, Roy, Riza," he choked out, trying not to look like his throat had suddenly run dry. "But I don't think I can be your best man anymore."
"What is it now, Fullmetal?" Roy said exasperatedly, tugging conspiciously at his gloves. "This wedding has been postponed en--"
He only gave him a pained smile in response, one that made the Colonel stop dead in his tracks. One that Ed had poured every emotion into, more than just a quick flash of teeth and a quirk of the lips, more than any other grin he'd have done, one that he made sure the Flame Alchemist would never forget his entire life.
And with that, amongst the stunned silence that followed, Edward Elric ran out of the cathedral and out of sight, hand to his mouth and heart in shattered pieces.
There had been a ten-second moment of silence after the elder Elric had fled, during which Al could be described as nothing but a bunch of frazzled, frustrated nerves.
And then there was the ominous screech, that high-pitched shriek.
Alphonse didn't immediately place what it was, not until Roy and Riza tore past them with a speed quite unnatural for somebody of their age, the Lieutenant abandoning all etiquette and kicking her high-heeled shoes off.
His mouth ran dry.
He never heard the desperate cry from within the stained-glass buliding.
"Fullmetal! Edward! Ed!!!"
Because Edward Elric was never really the sort of person who looked back.
Roy watched, horrified, as he sprinted out into the steps just in time to catch the sight of Ed's lithe figure curving a graceful arc in the air, before he hit the ground with a thump that could've been as loud as an atomic explosion, for all he cared.
Alphonse skidded to a stop next to him, watching silently as the scene unfolded before their very eyes. The expression on the younger Elric's face was something he would never like to see on another human being ever again. Pain, concern, worry -- all etched into a terrified facade.
The driver had already gotten out and was shouting something, and a crowd had started to gather, obscuring their view. He vaguely noted that they sounded quite hysterical.
Al pushed past him and they followed, pushing through the spectators, blood rushing through his veins. Roy shut his eyes tight, fervently praying for the best, that the boy was okay, because he didn't think Alphonse would be able to stand it if--
His eyes snapped open in total disbelief. "What?"
For some strange reason, Al had broken into dry giggles. "He's gone, Colonel."
And his eyes fell upon the middle of the crowd, where there only was an empty square of cobbled street and a few streaks of fresh blood.
Pain in his left side, pain in his shoulder, white-hot intensity as his automail shoulder hung as a deadweight.
But nothing compared to that clenching feeling, suffocating him, threatening to make him bleed so much more; busted automail, he could deal with -- he already did, innumerable times --, a broken heart, he could not.
Roy blinked, listening as Al's giggles turned into hysterical ones, as the crowd murmured, as the press pushed their way into the noisy din and started taking pictures anew.
"Well then, Colonel," the younger Elric managed to say, slightly breathless, "Next time, don't pull a stunt like this. Doesn't work on Nii-san, anyway."
Then there was Riza at his side, flushed and panting, wincing as she shifted her weight on blistered feet. "Where's Ed? I---brakes...I heard..."
"He's gone," he repeated, still staring at the empty patch of ground. What?
The driver was wringing his hands desperately as the honor guard converged on him -- not to mention a few angry townspeople for mowing down the Hero of the People -- and started interrogating right then and there. Churchgoers had already poured out of the cathedral, and if there ever was a human roadblock, this had to be it.
A smug voice floated from somewhere behind him. "Time for some damage control, Mustang."
"Miss Rockbell," he acknowledged absently, unseeing as the crowd pressed against them on all sides. "Um. Well." He raised his head and held out fingers in a motion he knew so well, making a hush fall from the front all the way to the stragglers at the very back. "Settle down, people."
It was effective enough to make the spectators give him a ten-foot berth as he walked forward, towards the driver.
As Roy approached the driver --a middle-aged man, no more that forty-- the honor guard seemed to shrink back, terrified of the Flame Alchemist. The man froze and slowly looked over his shoulder.
And then he burst into tears.
"C-c-colonel!" he cried, taking a step back. "I-I'm sorry! It was an accident, I swear, I really didn't--"
"I know," Roy cut him off mechanically, the crowd-control instincts kicking in. The press would have a field day with this sort of fodder. "Honor guard, let the man go. Elric wasn't looking where he was going."
He sighed, head starting to ache at the amount of paperwork he would end up after this. "Breda, Fuery, Armstrong --- crowd dispersal. Alphonse," the younger alchemist started at the mention of his name, still in the process of wiping tears from his eyes, "The media," he gestured. Al had a certain aura of diplomacy around him, the complete opposite of his older brother's, so naturally he'd be Central's best bet. After Hughes, of course.
If Maes was here right now...
"Flame Alchemist! Flame Alchemist! Colonel! Does this mean the wedding's over?"
"What did Major Elric mean about a cover-up?"
"Will Central have a press release?"
"What does the Parliament say about this?"
"Why did you--"
Shit. Roy wanted nothing more than to incinerate a few...persistent people, but that would tarnish his reputation irrevocably. He hoped he didn't look to stressed as he felt. Two years of careful preparation, down the metaphorical drain.
"Looks like you're in for a long, lovely stack of paperwork, Sir," Riza quipped beside him, sounding slightly relieved and cheerful at the same time.
"Don't remind me," he replied dryly.
"Uh, well, Lieutenant," they both looked over their shoulders. "I think...these belong to you." Havoc held up a pair of rather battered-looking two-inch-heeled white shoes, a sheepish look on his face.
Riza winced, lifting her skirts and peering at her scratched, raw feet. "Ugh."
"Um, if you don't mind," the auburn-eyed officer squeaked admirably as Havoc stepped forward and swept her into his arms, bridal style (and Roy thought it was such an irony), "It'd be better if you didn't walk on those feet for a while. Chief," he nodded slightly to Roy, before quickly heading off in the general direction of the church.
As he watched, she struggled for a bit before finally letting herself relax, military stiffness melting away as she lifted gloved hands and twined them around the Captain's neck.
He smiled wistfully, the sight of that small, genuine smile on both his subordinates' faces enough to lift his spirits up.
Which was immediately pulled back down by the sheer force of something metallic and very hard colliding with the back of his head.
"Do I have to knock some sense into you, Roy Mustang!?" Winry screeched, an impressive feat for somebody who looked so patient, and who was around Alphonse Elric so much that at least some of the younger alchemist's peacefull disposition should've rubbed off her, "I thought I told you to do some damage control!"
Roy picked up the wrench that shone dully in the sun, and held it out to the blonde mechanic. "I did."
She suddenly bore an impressive resemblance to a raging bull. "Damage. Control," she breathed in a dangerous voice, snatching the wrench and throwing her arm back.
Behind her, Alphonse shot him a smile so smug that it ought to be illegal.
And then it hit him.
Not literally, of course, as he managed to dodge the wrench as it flew into the air -- he was very thankful for that. It hit him in a subtle, bone-chilling way, the kind that makes one's stomach do backflips and makes one's mind go 'You're on your own buddy, because you're screwed, big-time.'.
Without another thought, he started to run in the direction Ed had gone.
The winter solstice is the time of the year when the night creeps in far more earlier than usual; even at only around four, five in the afternoon, the skies darken in twilight. At six, night falls, covering everything in a blanket of darkness dotted with stars.
Which is about the time Roy had been spending in finding -- trying to find -- the Fullmetal Alchemist.
He had ran across all the main streets of Amestris, checked every single place where he remembered the golden-haired boy liked to stay, and asked what he thought was every citizen he had come across. At around five-thirty, he had returned to Central Headquarters, becoming rather worried and anxious. He called together his staff, met in the infirmary (where Riza was nursing a pair of very sore feet) and proceeded to deduce where the hell Ed had gone.
Everything they came up with was shot down by the fact that Roy had already looked there.
Then he was assaulted once more by flying wrenches, courtesy of one now somewhat gratified Winry Rockbell, accompanied by one Alphonse Elric, looking as if his older brother had not gone missing.
And then the younger alchemist stared at him, then steel-grey eyes cleared with sudden realization.
"Colonel," Al had burst into relieved laughter, "I know of one place where you haven't looked."
Roy had protested, very much so, because he had known that it was the one sanctuary that had been private to the brothers. It was the sole oasis where they fought and made peace. He didn't think Ed would've given him the same distinction as Alphonse, his own flesh and blood.
But as the younger Elric had declared, smiling up at him with that small, wistful smile that he had remembered was eternally on Trisha Elric's face, he knew that his older brother had put him and Roy on a different pedestal altogether.
And this was now where Roy currently was, with the night breeze picking up, making the makeshift cape of his military uniform dance in the wind. The moon shone bright high above, reflected in the still waters of the lake below.
He couldn't help but smile as he saw a very familiar silhouette: hunched shoulders, flapping ponytail, arms wound tightly around himself in a way very reminiscent of a small, frightened child.
He couldn't help it as his smile faded away very quickly.
He took a step forward.
Ed's whisper rang clear in the night, more effective than any other scream or yell.
Roy moved closer to him, staring at the blue that was the back of his uniform. "Ed, I--"
"Go away," another staunch plea greeted him, as Ed hunched over even more, voice weakening into something Roy couldn't place. "Please."
He started at that tone of voice. The only time he had ever heard Ed use it was --- never. It was a mix of resigned sadness and desperation. Despair. Everything that the Fullmetal Alchemist never showed willingly. Oh wait. He had heard it before --- only this morning.
He frowned as something clenched in the left area of his chest.
Roy bit his lip, and went for his usual approach to things, which almost always involved Ed flying into a blind rage and making his ears bleed. He only did it because Ed looked quite adorable when he got mad, and it almost always wiped off that irritatingly determined I-will-get-my-brother's-body-back-even-if-it-kills-me (because we can't have that, can we?) expression on his face. "Pipsqueak, you have to understand..."
"I can't," he said brokenly, sounding like a raw growl of rough cloth whispering over jagged shards of glass. "I can't understand anything. Because I've always been a pipsqueak to you, right? A naive pipsqueak who's nothing more than a child, a boy with no childhood to everyone else. Please leave me alone."
Roy's breath hitched as he realized how much this had hurt the younger alchemist. Not only had Ed not retaliated to the jab at his height, he had completely turned Roy's perception of him upside down. It was much, much easier when Ed was screaming, cursing, insulting him in the loudest possible way, rather than this quiet exchange of heartbroken words and shattered feelings. Much easier when it was Fullmetal -- brash, showy, cheerfully brutal, rather than when it was Ed, who was the boy who lost everything and would've given anything to get it back.
He tried again, but took a different approach. "You see, this is why people see you as a child, Edward. You go and drown yourself in self-pity for things that you had no part to play in, and then you deny accountability when asked of something important. Like understanding, for example."
He waited with bated breath, surely this would get the Fullmetal Alchemist angry...
"I know," he said simply, and the sound of quiet sobbing filled his ears, making his heart clench.
"Hey--" he muttered intelligently, at a loss of anything else to say. Roy paused as he took into account the events that had started this ball rolling over a very steep hill, resulting in more than one broken heart and a lot of broken trust. He cursed himself for not being able to see it coming, for not even realizing how Ed felt, for not even checking if he was all right with this...
Roy thought he knew. And he had admired Ed for keeping cool. But then he realized, if the boy didn't know...then all those reluctant smiles and those cheery 'good-lucks' and that one night, last night, when the sadness was radiating off the boy in waves and that he had drunk so much...
If he had only asked. If he had only seen it. It would have saved Central a whole lot of trouble.
He silently sat on the right side of the blonde alchemist, luxuriously stretching out his legs before him and welcoming the cool brush of dewdrops soaking through the coarse fabric.
That smile on his face, and those two words that echoed after. Ed never apologized for anything...
They sat there in silence for a good five minutes, each reflecting on what the other had done.
"Just...bastard..." Ed's voice was rather shaky, muffled by the cloth of his sleeves, "Confirm what I think...what...what was so important that you were willing to give up your life to cover up?"
Golden eyes shone in the darkness as he lifted his head up from his arms with a wince, strands of blonde sticking to his cheeks, dried tear tracks visible in the pale moonlight.
Roy shot him a wistful smile, and Ed started, looking rather surprised.
"I'm a fool, Ed," he decided that he liked the way the younger alchemist's name sounded in dropping from his lips, "Two years ago, I had this obsession with a particular officer. Never thought in a million years that such a relationship would work. But then media had its way and suddenly the phrase military fraternization was becoming quite overused..."
Ed made a small humming sound, and discreetly touched fingers to his left shoulder with gingerly-applied pressure. "There's no Fuhrer anymore, Colonel. What are you aiming for?"
Roy peered over around him. "The Parliament."
"Ambition is a cruel thing," the boy replied, turning away and fullly facing in the other direction, wince sounding particularly pained.
"Works for me," he countered in a light tone of voice, pressing his lips together and trying to see what Fullmetal's exact condition was. After all, when one is hit by a car, you couldn't expect not to have any sort of injury. And surely he did not imagine those bloodstreaks on the cobblestones. "Fullmetal, let me see your arm."
There was a whispered curse and something else that froze in the night chill, but before Roy could work it out, Ed shifted positions and sat cross-legged instead. "So there goes the press, hounding you for something you didn't want to be made public." He sighed almost silently, grip of his right hand tightening on his left shoulder. "I understand."
He blinked, abandoning all attempts to check the boy for serious injury (God knows what he had endured, anyway). What? Was it just him, or did the younger alchemist actually figure out the real reason behind this? Roy eyed Edward carefully, for a few minutes. And he decided Ed wouldn't be acting like this if he actually knew. Heck, they might be even having this conversation if he knew.
"You...and Riza..." Ed was mirroring his wistful expression earlier, Roy could feel it, "Would've made quite a pair of parents, you know."
"How should I know?" he felt his words choke in his throat, as the Fullmetal Alchemist's voice broke again, "I -- "
"Military fraternization and everything else," he continued bitterly. "I understand that part very well." Roy shot him a curious look, and golden, hawk-like eyes stared stonily back for a moment before looking back down. "Don't give me that, bastard. I seem to remember telling you that I've grown up more than you'll ever know."
He opened his mouth to reply when Ed's wistful statement earlier made him stop in his mental tracks. Parents.
"Edward...you don't really think I've gotten Riza pregnant, do you?"
The boy froze. "What?"
He had to laugh at the way Ed's head snapped up so fast. "There haven't been any encounters of that kind between us, I'm certain of that."
Ed's voice sounded small and very quiet. "Then...why?"
Roy closed his eyes and took a deep breath, hoping fervently that the younger alchemist would forgive him for what he was about to confess. "Military fraternization with a subordinate female officer, Fullmetal, doesn't sound nearly as bad as military fraternization with a subordinate male officer. Who was ten years younger than me. At least, back then..."
Beside him, Ed was eerily reminiscent of a choking goldfish.
"The rumors had spread too far to dispel the notion that, in fact, the Flame Alchemist was after somebody in his office. I had to take drastic measures. My position in Central was too precarious to be jeopardized. And besides...it didn't help that the one person that I actually wished was there had gone missing for two whole years..."
Ed started spluttering and wincing alternately in a very amusing fashion.
"I had 'proposed' in a very public place over a year ago, while the junta was still in place, just so the media would shut up. But then Parliament took over and took to the lighter side of things. And then a year later, somebody turns up and throws a wrench into my plans..."
Roy looked sideways at him, peering out of one good eye. "I didn't really think that after those two years, you'd still remember me, Fullmetal. Even if I only saw your face, that one single grin, I'd be happy and contented. Because, I think, going back on a marriage proposal is something that's strongly advised against in this society."
"So you're marrying Riza because you wanted to cover up the fact that--"
"Yes," he looked away. "I loved you, Ed. Still do, in fact," he added almost as an afterthought, because it had been a fact of life that Colonel Roy Mustang, Flame Alchemist, had been pining after a certain whirlwind of red, black and gold for years.
And then something hard and fast collided with his jaw with enough force to knock him back slightly.
Beside him Ed was breathing very hard, and Roy wondered whether he was channeling Winry or Izumi. Or a frightening combination of both. Oh well. He probably deserved it.
"That was for making me wear a uniform that was itchy as hell," the boy said matter-of-factly, golden eyes glowing in the moonlight. "Just thought you should know."
He looked sideways once more at the elder Elric, bewildered. And then he laughed. No. Giggled. Like a girl who had just taken a lover. (Um, excuse me. Edward was so being the girl in this relationship.)
It felt great.
The hairs on the back of his neck prickled as he realized Ed was staring at him quite intently, regarding him with a gaze that could've been direct sunlight in their intensity. "But no, really, Mustang," he said quietly, tearing away his gaze from his own and his lips thinning, "Seriously. Because the last two years of hell had been my price I had to pay to the Gate, and I really need to know whether this is part of it too."
On the last part, his voice broke.
Roy knew this was Ed, in a very subtle way, was asserting himself that no, the world didn't blame him for everything. That yes, he did deserve some kind of happiness in life.
He shifted closer to the younger alchemist, reaching over and taking his flesh hand from his left shoulder, cringing at the grimace of pain that flashed across the handsome face. Through the coarse white fabric of his gloves, and through the soft flannel of Ed's, he could feel a mutual warmth.
"I love you."
Ed shifted and giggled rather hyperly. The words dropped from his own lips in a way telling him that they were long overdue. It had been waiting to be said for a long, long time.
"I love you too."
It sounded very much like an oath and a promise. Roy decided that he liked it that way.
Ed snorted, a cross between a strangled groan and a sigh, bringing up their hands to his eyes and wiping at the edges. "Dammit, Roy. I'm not crying, okay? There's...there's just something in my eye, yeah," he denied in a vehement whisper, interspersed with giggles.
Roy smiled bemusedly, shifting even closer and coaxing the temperamental alchemist to do the same, hand never leaving the younger's.
"Of course, Ed. Just something in your eye."
You know how they tell you that real love doesn't have an ending?
Roy had snorted at it more than once, when life was working his way up the ranks, flirting the miniskirts off the general populace of Amestris, coming home to a nice, warm, shot of scotch and probably a good novel.
That was then.
Now, he truly believed in it, and stood by it, even after being laughed at four consecutive times by one Jean Havoc, even after being chided by the Parliament, even after being questioned by Alphonse Elric one too many times.
Because on that moonbeam-filled night, as Edward Elric conceded and laughed brokenly, vehemently denying that those were tears falling down pale cheeks, he noticed something was amiss. Something was out of place.
Something was wrong.
For when the car had hit the Fullmetal Alchemist dead-on, it had crushed his automail arm into his side, crushing into skin and muscle and tissue and bone with enough force to start massive internal bleeding.
Because when his golden-eyed lover rested his forehead in the crook of the Flame Alchemist's neck, when tanned skin came in contact with pale flesh, it was ice-cold.
And that single ribbon of blood spilled from the boy's lips.
Followed by another.
Until the trickle became a stream, and crimson spilled over into regulation blue.
Adrenalin, the doctors said. It was adrenalin that kept Edward conscious, that kept him running. That kept him talking, that kept him from shutting down completely, that kept him lucid and that kept him breathing.
The adrenalin of dealing with him, of running away, of a heart broken -- it had kept him alive, because there was always a fierce, raging energy that Ed utilized whenever he was emotionally charged.
And when he -- they -- had confessed to each other, the boy had relaxed, let blood flow once again to clenched hands, enough for reality to rear its ugly head and laugh in their faces.
He would remember how he had cradled the weakened and bleeding alchemist in his arms. How he ran through the empty, darkened streets of Amestris, calling, shouting, pleading for help. How one by one the shuttered windows of the houses opened, and how warm light shone from each of them, how one cry led to another.
How the infirmary turned into a veritable madhouse within fifteen minutes of their arrival.
How the stares followed him as people, staff, coworkers saw him rush by with a very broken Hero of the People.
How Alphonse had screamed and begged on bended knee for the doctors to please save my Nii-san oh God please don't let him die and had to be sedated to be calmed down.
How he and the younger Elric had stayed by the wheat(crimson-matted!)-haired boy's side as the head surgeon and his team feverishly worked to save his rapidly-fading life, how Winry Rockbell, tight-lipped and fiercely determined, quickly dismantled the automail arm and port, holding the appendage as some grisly sort of trophy.
How Fullmetal had murmured his brother's name with a small, knowing smile, not a wince nor a moan nor any other indication of the excruciating pain of automail surgery.
You see, there are those moments in a lifetime one remembers vivdly, as if seared into memory with a promise as true as a snap of the Flame Alchemist's gloved fingers.
How lithe fingers had squeezed the one hand that had never left his, that one brief touch of white cloth and warm flesh underneath. How Edward Elric, Fullmetal Alchemist, Hero of the People, whimpered once, curling up slightly into his side in pain.
And how Ed never opened his eyes again.
Those kind of moments.
Contrary to popular belief, the driver had not been executed. Rather, he had been court-martialed accordingly and acquitted, with Roy himself backing the old man up. Had he been found guilty, the death penalty was waiting for him. Roy did not want anyone else remotely close to him dying. He had had enough of it, than you very much.
Alphonse had worked wonders for the military scandal that fueled Amestrinian housewives' gossip grapevines. The newly-reinstated state alchemist worked with renewed fervor, grey eyes hardening into steel as he retreated into that brooding shell that the elder Elric had made known before. The fact that his chase after Ed involved almost every citizen he had passed helped very much. His staff had come up with the most convincing story to ever grace the front pages of the Central Times.
That the Flame Alchemist had staged this very elaborate scheme in order to get the Fullmetal Alchemist to notice him. It was fairly out-of-character, he had tried to argue, for both him and Edward, but what was important was the fact that the public ate it up with no complaints whatsoever, demanding more and even more.
'Flame and Fullmetal', black-and-white words leering at him, springing from the pages of every single newspaper in Amestris, accompanied by an unsolicited photograph of a blurred something in the foreground of a few houses, which he presumed was supposed to be himself. Dammit. If they had to take a picture they should've gotten at least a clear shot.
On second thought. No. It was better that it was blurred, because then the broken state that the 'Hero' was in would pretty much shoot down any respectable image that Amestris held dear to its collective heart.
And Roy was sure Ed wouldn't have liked that.
Alphonse would say the same thing later, at his Nii-san's funeral.
There was a slow, somber procession from Central Headquarters in the late afternoon, a week after the winter solstice. It had been one of the most attented in the history of Amestris, for this was the death of one dog of the military that the people actually cared about because the blonde alchemist had actually cared about them. Ed was all energetic smiles and blue alchemy, and to them, he was their savior, their benefactor, and more importantly, their friend. If there had been a time when the Hero of the People shone, this was the time the People of the Hero paid tribute.
Even the footmen, bearing that small, delicate casket draped over with the Amestrinian flag, were hard-pressed not to tear up. The Parliament, looming like the enigmatic figures that an annoyed Ed made them out to be. Then the staff, all wearing grey-black and in full military regalia, heads bowed and shaking fingers around ceremonial weapons.
And then, right behind the casket, walked Alphonse Elric, an unreadable expression on his face, Winry crying into his shoulder unabashedly. One had lost a best friend; the other had lost that and so much more. Pillar of strength. Confidant. Adviser.
The ceremony was a pompous one, filled with empty words and even emptier speeches. All the press wanted was Roy's own eulogy, looking for fresh fodder as they were. And he did. Gave them the most heartfelt words he had ever uttered in his life, spoken in a tightly controlled voice in every semblance of the Flame Alchemist.
Ed would've killed him if he had been alive. No, maim him first, then throw up, then kill him.
Problem was, he wasn't.
"Well, Colonel," there was that thoughtful ghost of a smile, and the younger Elric shifted the trademark bloodred coat around his shoulders, having adamantly refused to wear the black dress uniform, "Nii-san wouldn't have liked that. Too many people. He was always that private sort of person."
"What do you expect? He's the Fullmetal Alchemist."
Al shrugged. "He's my Nii-san," he stated in a very final way.
Onyx eye blinked. "Alphonse...are you...?" he trailed off, knowing that the unspoken question will not go unheard.
Chestnut ponytail danced in the evening breeze and lifted the edges of his own trenchcoat. "Don't worry. At the very least, I'm happy. Nii-san went knowing he was loved. Very much so."
He ignored the tears gathering once more at the edge of the boy's soft-grey eyes as Al straightened up, clapping his hands lightly in a chalkless array. Blue star-shaped flowers with glowing white centers pushed through the bladed grass, looking vaguely like fireflies were fluttering amongst the petals.
Red overcoat flapped once more as the younger Elric turned to leave, in the general direction of a particularly majestic tree under which the younger Rockbell was waiting patiently.
"Did you know what he always said, Colonel Mustang?" Al suddenly said vaguely, and Roy looked over his shoulder, marvelling at how the boy looked oddly wise beyond his armor-trapped years with that look in his eyes, "Don't look back."
And then with a spin of the heels and a whisper of grass, he was alone with his thoughts for the first time.
There would be a time later for recollections and fond memories and whatnot, but for now, it was the time to just be and let the fact that the boy -- now a man (for Ed would surely be rather pissed off, 'I'm eighteen, dammit!') that he had loved for so many years was now lying in a grave six feet under a pair of polished shoes, white marble and firefly grass.
(And for some ironic reason, a rank higher than him. Brigadier General. Damn. Maes would have had a field day.)
Alphonse would be okay, that he knew, because his Rockbell was there for him from his very start, making sure he recovered his memories of his brother.
Roy would be okay, sometime in the future. That he knew with certainty.
He had lost everything in his life that had made it...well..his life.
Somehow he exactly knew how Alphonse felt.
And in front of Ed's grave, right before that impressive slice of marble, Roy Mustang finally broke down and cried, the half moon high above shining down and crying tears the color of moonbeams with him.
Ummm...Honestly? That was a very depressing thing to write. But hey. Fanfiction.
Drop me a line, 'k? Flames are all right. There's a multi-chaptered fanfic in the works.