And all the years we have wasted
introduction: she is his air (there is no story called 'how she became his air', for even thinking of such a thing would suffocate him)
It's funny how people grow accustomed to things.
They grow accustomed to a certain café's morning coffee always being a little too bitter.
They grow accustomed to getting ink to their index finger and thumb from reading the Central Times.
They grow accustomed to their little daughter always mispronouncing their name a little when gleefully shouting it. (Except for Hughes; he never grew accustomed to anything his daughter did.)
They grow accustomed to Hawkeye always standing at a certain distance from the Colonel.
Colonel Roy Mustang, however, isn't always that accustomed to it. At times he forgets she's there, because, let's face it, she's like air, in both meanings of the expression (vital and taken for granted). At times he is startled by her presence, just like in Hughes' funeral where he suddenly felt the amber eyes on him, and realised she had been there all along and everyone else was gone. (This in the both meanings of it.)
He's not quite sure how he should feel about it, because he needs her there, but then again, it feels awfully sad, like he's prisoning her. And yet there is no other choice, or rather, there was no choice made to begin with; this is the only possibility.
She feels strange when she one day realises she hasn't spent as much time with anyone else on this earth as she has with him. And that it is hard to catch up anymore.
three tales of the first war (ashes to ashes, in between, a phoenix):
i. and afterwards
"You believe in heaven, Hawkeye?"
She glanced at him and shifted her gaze back to the stars, hugging her legs to her body. There were so much more stars here than there had been where she – where they – had lived and yet even that had been quite far from any cities. There were so much more stars here, and it felt so much sadder and so much lonelier.
"No," she shook her head. "I don't even find the whole idea that pleasant, to be honest."
"You don't?" he inclined his head. "I think it's a pretty nice thought; I just can't bring myself to believe it."
"I think the scientific explanation is beautiful enough. Too much so, almost," she said slowly. "To return to the universe, the disintegrate and become something else. I think that's enough. I don't want to live forever, to see everything become faded and dull. And once this world ceases to be, it never was at all. That's a sweet idea. Or bittersweet, rather."
They watched each other. "And I guess…" he began. "…if there's such thing as eternity for us, our encounters on this planet cease to be so beautifully coincidental and wondrous. That'd be a shame."
They both know what he's talking about.
Once they die, their atoms may one day meet and become something new. Somehow, that thought is much sweeter than any idea of heaven.
ii. how they become ghosts, how they cease to be human
He had never been religious, but now he had to believe in this inferno, not only because he saw it, but because he smelled it, and because the stench was stuck in his skin, in his clothes, in his hair. It stained everything around him and he wondered how he could ever face anyone from the world out there, how they could ever bear such a smell, if it wouldn't make them retch. Then she entered the tent, and he wondered if she was some kind of an angel of doom, because she didn't look like the girl he used to know, the quiet, strange, boyish, charming girl he had become accustomed to having around, and he didn't mind, he didn't mind, if the angel of death was anything like her.
iii. when the world ended for the first time
The world was but glowing embers now, and it was so disgustingly beautiful that it made one want to cry endlessly and die as air escaped their lungs. Her pale white hand pulled him to watch it, and it was like waking from hibernation, a thousand years of sleep. Their bodies felt heavier than ever, and the world was glimmering and turning into ash before them. They were standing at the end of the world. And then they walked along a dark road, in a rain of ash, and the world was burning out around them. There was a strange, light feeling then, and he glanced behind, wondering if they'd left their bodies somewhere along the way. It was okay; their veins were connected, and they could feel the ghost of a pulse.
sins, sins (no atonement)
There were times when his sins seeped through his skin like ink and painted his eyes. It was the most vivid colour in her mind if she was asked to imagine one, and it might be the only one she'd remember if she ever became blind; the colour of his sins. And he whispered that once, in a dark voice, 'protect me from what I want', and she shivered in his arms for she didn't know what it was she needed to protect him from, if she herself was one of those things.
fallen saints (no angels)
He was disgusted by the blood on his hands, and yet didn't go rubbing his skin off, because he knew it would still be there. He spent time, especially right after he had returned from the desert, sleepless nights simply gazing at his hands, their paleness, and their blue veins, and the blood, the blood, the blood. He could never touch a woman again.
He thought of her as a saint for sometime, not quite certain why, but he needed something to adore. He believed in her holiness until one night, during a mission, he awoke to see her sitting by the window, the shadows of her face growing deeper in the bluish light, and she was staring at her hands. She turned to him. 'I've told you there is nothing holy about me.'
He had never seen such a sad smile before.
finally (it's all about lost things)
She wonders if it's a good thing that it happens at a time like this when no one is notices, or even cares about such things. It's not a question of whether it should happened or not. For years, it's been inevitable they'll fall for each other, it's only been a question of time.
It occurs to her when she watches him standing by the headstone for a moment, clutching his hat, before she goes to him. It's a simple thought, now, now it will happen, from now on we'll have an affair to hide, together with our unspoken past. She isn't shocked, she doesn't think of how improper it is. She's been through this enough times already, now it is only inevitable.
She drives him home, and it seems that he first notices her is when she's already standing on his doorstep. She is willing to leave but knows this is when it will begin. She doesn't mind being a part of his mourning, doesn't mind if that's all she'll be. On his doorstep, he breathes out, 'Hawkeye', and kisses her on the mouth and she can taste the swallowed tears in his.
speaking of weather
She's never quite certain of what to make of the rain. Because she finds it quite pleasant, and he's rather charming when he shoots gloomy glances at everyone and everything, like a grumpy child.
But then there's rain. Rain that makes him haunted and distant, that weighs him and crushes his chest.
This is rain that hovers over them continuously, and her umbrella is no use against.
another war, much later
Neither one of them is panicking. She's cleaning her gun with calm, languid movements, and you'd have to look very close in order to see her hands tremble. He's brushing invisible specks of dust off of his uniform. Their eyes lock accidentally.
"It'll be okay," she says quickly, and a little too late, "sir."
They look at each other and their breathing is shaky.
He closes the space between them with a few quick strides, his fingers slide to the place between her jaw and neck.
They kiss then, and there's such a bittersweet taste, and they can feel each other quiver.
"I'll be there," she whispers against his lips, "even if you can't see me, even if-- I'll be there."
There's a sound at the door, and the two officers slip away from each other, and as the Sergeant enters, he marvels at their calm.
life, wars for one man, no others
He'll invent substitutes for Hawkeye; this is something he has become very talented in over the years. The substitutes are always as poor but at least there are many of them.
The ones which work the best are the oldest, the most ancient ones; alcohol and women. He is uncertain of which one works the best.
Alcohol is good because it takes everything away, bitter on his tongue, and burning his insides, it's just what he needs. The bad thing is, at times he'll (just at times, he doesn't do such things excessively, he'd hardly be alive if he did) stagger to Hawkeye's doorstep. She'll sigh and tell him off, but eventually she lets him sleep on her couch. This is when he cannot complain about his hangover the next day, for he is sure that would push her off the edge.
Women are good, because he enjoys to see how they fall under his spell, he enjoys their soft words, and their (whether it's real or faked) interest in him and his life. He never tells enough, but that's just how he wants it. He never dates blondes, however, and doesn't admit this has anything to do with a certain First Lieutenant. Sometimes he wonders if he should try to find a woman as much like her as possible, but he never does. That would be blasphemy.
He has several substitutes for Hawkeye, and in the end, none of them works.
one of the last missions: the two last people on this earth
'Hawkeye,' he is leaning against the door pane, and outside there are just bare hills, sky coloured pale blue, and it feels like this mission will never end, like they will stay here, in this place with raw wind, and nothing will ever change. 'Why are you still here?'
'Excuse me, sir?'
'Why are you still here?'
She recognises his tone easily. 'To aid you, sir.'
'It could be the end of you.'
'Isn't that obvious?'
He turns to look at her, and her face is softer than usually, and quietly, he wishes they'll be here forever, with the raw wind and the bare, dusty hills and nothing will ever change.
and then it's all too late
It's years later, more than a decade, it's an accidental meeting, and he supposes that's how it's always been. It's awkward, naturally, awfully much so, and they'd like to pretend they haven't noticed each other, but it's too late.
"Si—" she laughs softly, lowers her gaze. She has no name for him anymore. (They shouldn't have met, ever again.) "Mustang."
She looks up then, for her ribcage feels tight, like it's being crushed by some unknown force, and it's evident in his eyes, too.
"I should go," she breathes and her chest feels still awfully heavy. "I hope you—Please be well."
(Please don't die. But it's been too many years.)
"I'm sorry," a breathless whisper, "I loved you." (It'stoolateit'stoolateit'stoolate.)
He tries to find words, but there aren't any, and then she has disappeared into the crowd.
the part where they finally run away (call it a faraway memory, call it a foolish dream)
A tiny room, with cigarette-stained wall paper flaking off the walls, and there's something rustling in the corner, and the air is too heavy, and Mustang lights the oil lamp for the eighth time because the flame flickers off continuously. It's impressive to watch; how he snaps his fingers with his eyes blank, not even glancing the lamp, preoccupied, worried, scared, and yet the spark goes exactly where it's supposed to.
'Hawkeye, Hawkeye, Hawkeye.'
It's dark outside, so dark, and he wishes he could take her to a hospital and knows he can't, and so he watches the yellowish white bedclothes get stained by her blood that is almost black in such a weak light. Shadows are restless and twirl across the walls and make him sicker than he is. He doesn't want her to die here. Just that it can't be here. (He finds comfort in lying to himself, as if there'd be any place good enough.)
Time passes and he lights the oil lamp again and again, and right after one snap, her eyes flutter open. She stares at the ceiling at first, watches the stains on it, and he cannot say a word, so that he won't startle her and so that she'll stay alive and awake. Slowly she turns her head to the side and sees him.
'Sir,' her voice is barely above a whisper and blood colours her lips. 'Wh-what…?'
'You got shot. We have to stay hiding for a while, and I can't take you to a hospital, not before tomorrow at least,' he says, rushed, in one breath, just to get it said. He breathes. 'How are you?'
She smiles a half-smile in reply. 'Thank you.'
He shakes his head because he doesn't deserve it. They watch each other in the faintly orange twilight. 'We'll…' he begins and his voice cracks, not with tears but with hesitation. '…after this, we'll get the hell away from here. Away from… all of this. I've had enough, finally.'
He's breathless. She looks at him, eyes worried, darker, sadder, softer, more clouded. 'I don't…'
'I've taken enough chances now.' A pause. 'Go with me. Please.'
She closes her eyes, breathes shakily, and for a moment he thinks she's fallen asleep and nothing will be solved, and nothing will change yet again. Her eyes open.
If I wake tomorrow alive, she thinks as she closes her eyes again and gives in to the dark. I will. If there is a tomorrow, I will.
We'll be in love tomorrow.
If there happens to be one.