A.N. I apologize in advance for indulging my inner Royai fangirl. Do you guys know how HARD it is to write a loving scene between these two without it turning mushy and going completely out of character? It's ridiculous. But I am just a bit proud of how I wrote Roy here. I really think losing his sight had a profound effect on him, and this epilogue was my excuse to explore it. Please enjoy, and thank you so much for reading Allegiance!
The most interesting thing about blindness, Roy concluded, had to be the fact that, in his dreams, he could still see. The images his subconscious mind showed him were grainy, lacking any detail or depth, and he suspected his memory for what places and people looked like would only grow worse the longer he remained this way. The strangeness of it never crossed his mind until he actually awoke the next morning, otherwise Roy might have savored those sleeping hours when he could remember what it meant to see.
But then again, maybe not. Most of his nights since the Promised Day had been taken up with things he would rather not remember, a sequence of memories and horrors that he knew by heart now. Ishval always came first. Roy would feel the scorching sun and the heat of his own flames, almost close enough to sear his skin. He would hear the distant screaming and catch the fetid reek of stale blood and decaying flesh and hate himself all over again. The roiling emotions would build and build until he was almost physically sick, brought to his knees by the overwhelming guilt...
...then the dream would shift and Roy would be in his office, though gunfire still thundered in his ears and he choked on black smoke that didn't seem to affect the nameless, faceless subordinate across the desk. Despite no outward features, Roy would invariably identify that blank-slated individual as either Hawkeye or Hughes, or even Ed. All of them demanding something of him, some promise he couldn't keep, and his lying mouth would calmly swear the impossible. Yes, he would of course restore Ed's arm and leg. He would of course resurrect Hughes and erase the scar from Hawkeye's back. They could trust him, of course they could. Hadn't he gone to great lengths to ensure they could?
But they knew better. Ed would scream hateful curses in his face and accuse Roy of stringing him along just like his father. Hughes would shake his head sadly and tell Roy not to make promises he had no intention of keeping.
Hawkeye would simply take out her gun and shoot him.
And in the end, he always ended up back there. In the chamber beneath Central with Bradley's swords piercing his palms and pinning him in that deadly array. Roy fought and screamed as the power rose from the shadowed lines and coiled around his body, drawing him into the alchemy like a lover's cruel embrace. And once it hit him, it was like someone had turned his own flames against him. Raw power coursed over him and inside him, broke his mind and shattered his soul, took his body apart piece by piece. The agony was so intense that Roy couldn't even hear himself scream. There was only the fire and the blood and the metallic tang of alchemy and the surety that he had died and was even now burning in hell where he belonged. He half-expected to see Envy's face leering at him, but there was only the horrible pain that blotted out his vision with bright, burning white...
Everything was gone, and only the whiteness remained. That was all that was left, all that was...no, there was something. A shadowed figure and a pair of doors carved with the symbols of flame alchemy. Then the doors opened, and as the darkness within them leapt forth to swallow him, Roy understood only one thing in his mute terror.
This wasn't hell. It was far worse.
Roy came awake with a start, breathing hard, bandaged hands clutching the sheets beneath him. He held absolutely still at first, paralyzed by the darkness that still held him captive, but he eventually calmed and made himself sit up with a quiet snort. The doors or Truth or whatever it was couldn't reach him unless he purposely summoned it. And Ed had assured him that Pride was long gone, which meant no one could force him. Roy took a deep breath, reassured by the bustling noises of the hospital ward, the solid bed beneath him and the strong smell of antiseptic. The battle was over. There was nothing to fear.
As had become his habit now, he reached up and touched his fingers to his eyes. The transmutation hadn't inflicted any outward damage, yet his world was nothing but black. Roy couldn't even see his hand waving in front of his nose. Sighing, he let his hand drop and turned to the left. "Hawkeye?"
No answer. Roy held his breath, listening, and he smiled in satisfaction at the steady beep of the heart monitor. It wasn't really needed anymore, but Hawkeye had understood perfectly what he couldn't put into words when he suggested she keep using it until she was discharged. It was a reassurance of her safety and continued life, even when she wasn't awake to answer him, the only reassurance he had short of hobbling over there and crawling into bed with her.
Roy smirked at the direction his thoughts were taking. That certainly wasn't an unwelcome notion, but...
"I'm awake," Roy said softly. "What time is it?"
"Seven-thirty in the morning," Hawkeye murmured and yawned. Sheets rustled and bare feet padded across the floor, followed by the squeak of wheels when her IV was moved and various plastic tubing arranged. At last, the mattress dipped beside him. Roy held still as she took his hands to check that the stitches were still in place and no infection had taken hold. He didn't waste his breath telling her that was the nurse's job because Hawkeye would simply ignore him and do it anyway. Instead, he shut sightless eyes and cherished the touch of her hands and the steadiness of her breath beside him. Not for the first time, Roy wished he could see her face. On a normal day, it was difficult to gauge her emotions, but now it was nearly impossible.
"Dr. Marcoh said he would come early today," Hawkeye said finally, releasing his hands. "I spoke to Havoc yesterday after you were asleep. The transmutation was successful, although the muscles in his legs have become atrophied in the past six months. He plans to start physical therapy soon."
"I see," Roy said with a small smile. The news heartened him greatly, though he doubted he would ever forgive himself for what had happened in the Third Laboratory. "He'd better not slack off."
"Lieutenant Breda will make sure he doesn't," Hawkeye said with a slight undercurrent of humor. They lapsed into silence again, but it irked Roy that it was no longer comfortable and easy like it used to be. The very air between them was heavy, loaded with things left unsaid for far too long, and their very refusal to acknowledge it was driving a painful distance between them. Or maybe the distance had been there all along, and it was only now that he realized how much he despised it.
"Is there anyone else in here, Lieutenant?"
Hawkeye sounded puzzled when she answered. "No, sir. I would have told you if—"
"Good," Roy said, looking to where he thought her face might be. It was a little embarrassing that he could be staring off at nothing and not even know it, but he didn't want to say this with his eyes closed. "There's something I need to say to you. Something that may cause you to shoot me, only I hope that's not the case."
Almost at once, her weight shifted away from him. "I...this isn't the right time, sir," she said hastily. "The others will be here soon..."
Roy reached out blindly until his hand came in contact with her shoulder, which he gripped to keep her from standing. His other hand lightly traced across her back until he found her other shoulder, missing the fall of blonde hair that the nurses had hacked off so they could treat her wounded neck. Hawkeye didn't resist when he inched forward and rested his forehead on the back of her neck. She smelled different this close. Less like gunpowder and starched cotton and more like the young girl he had known when he was an apprentice.
"Sir," Hawkeye said, but it was less of a question and more of a quiet plea.
"When you were lying there," Roy breathed, and he felt her head turn toward him sharply, "when I realized what they'd done...I won't lie when I say I nearly gave in. It didn't matter to me that they would succeed in their plans and we would lose everything. For me, I had already lost everything. And all I could think was, in all the years we've been together and lived for each other, I've only ever kissed you once. Once."
He folded his arms around her and drew her right up against his chest. She didn't quite relax against him, but her shoulders fell just fractionally, her head lifted to bare her neck in an almost instinctive show of trust. Roy buried his face in her shoulder, shuddering as he relived the horror of that moment.
"I never want to feel that way again."
Hawkeye said nothing at first. Then she shifted, turning in his arms until they were face to face. She slipped one arm around his waist and her other hand cupped his jaw, thumb tracing the stubble. "I don't want to be the reason you gave up on your dreams," she said in an almost helpless whisper.
Roy shook his head firmly. "You're the reason those dreams exist in the first place. Besides, this whole thing has shown me that if I want my life to mean something, I can't rest all my hopes on a single dream. Because I can fail. It could all be snatched away from me in an instant, and there's nothing I can do about it. If Marcoh hadn't offered me the Stone, I would have been forced to find a new dream anyway."
"But you are going to get your sight back," Hawkeye said with all certainty. "Now that the ones responsible for Ishval have been unseated, you're closer than ever. You'll finally have the power to make a real difference. Isn't that what you wanted most?"
"What good is power without the people I care about?" Roy retorted. He chuckled ruefully and ducked his head. "Jeez, just imagine Fullmetal's reaction if he heard me saying that. He and Al had the right of it all along. Since I can't predict when everything I've worked for will come crashing down, shouldn't I try to hold onto whatever happiness I can? And maybe...maybe it's okay to ask for more. We don't need to keep punishing ourselves. We just need to make it right, however we can."
"I think...that is the most humble thing I've ever heard you say," Hawkeye said, sounding torn between awe and amusement.
Roy smiled, which turned into a grin. He ran his hand down her arm until he found her hand and entwined their fingers. "So what do you say, Lieutenant? Hell, after fifteen years together—"
"Fourteen, then," Roy corrected, grasping her hand tightly. "That day in Ishval, you asked me why I waited so long to show you how I felt. Now I have to ask you the same question. What the hell are we waiting for? What's the point of fighting this when one of us could die and we could so easily lose what we never got the chance to have? I don't want to waste any more precious time. So please...tell me you're tired of waiting too."
Hawkeye withdrew her hand from his, only to slide her fingers firmly behind his head and pull him close until he could feel her breath on his face. "I am," she murmured, trembling with a long-buried pain. "I have been ever since the Third Laboratory. When I thought you gone...all of a sudden, the future was meaningless because I didn't have one without you. I...I love you, Roy. And whatever dreams you decide to follow, I'll never leave your side. I refuse it."
It was truly amazing how such a simple declaration could make the loss of his sight seem like a pittance. For the first time in what seemed like ages, Roy smiled and tipped his head back. "God, I've been waiting my entire life to hear that. I love you t—"
He hadn't even gotten the words out before Hawkeye kissed him firmly and without a trace of reservation. Roy almost smirked at her impatience to get on with things, but he held the comment in and reciprocated eagerly. A soft moan caught in Hawkeye's throat as he drew her close until their bodies were flush, relishing this intimacy that had been denied them for too long. Just the touch of her chapped lips against his ignited an intense passion in him, and Roy couldn't work out if that was because his other senses had been enhanced by the loss of his sight or if it was just her.
Either way, Roy knew for a fact that he had never felt this strongly for another human soul. If he blocked out the sounds and sensations of the hospital, they could have been back in the desert again with nothing around them but the ruins and nothing between them but their vow.
This was everything he wanted. This, right here, was what made it all worth it. Even the failures.
"Oh, what the crap..."
I'm going to KILL that shrimp, Roy thought vindictively as he and Hawkeye reluctantly parted. The distinctive thump-clink of Ed's footsteps had halted at the door, and when he spoke, Roy could easily envision the brat's Cheshire grin. "Is it safe to let my little brother in? We're not, ah...interrupting anything, are we?"
"Yes, you are," Roy said brusquely and attempted to pull Hawkeye back into his arms. "Go away."
"Sir," Hawkeye chided gently, and her weight left the mattress. Roy heaved a bereft sigh and slumped back down, glaring in the general direction of the door as she greeted the visitors. "Hello, Ed. And you too, Al. Are you feeling better today?"
"I managed to keep my first meal down," Al said proudly. It was still a slight shock for Roy to hear his voice without the hollow echo, and his first instinct was still to look up in search of the armor. "Brother wanted us to be here for this. He wants the colonel to see what I actually look like before we leave."
"I look forward to it" Roy said, heart swelling in both pride and sadness at the thought. He had been waiting for this day just as long as they had, but now that Ed and Al were whole again, he had no choice but to let them go and live their lives as they chose. It almost made him jealous of that Hohenheim bastard who could look at two such strong and selfless boys and call them his own.
A knock came at the door. "Dr. Marcoh is here now," Hawkeye said for his benefit. "And Lieutenant Breda and Sergeant Fuery."
"Havoc'll be here after the doc is done," Breda informed them. "He's keeping the nurses otherwise occupied so they don't come barging in here and see something they shouldn't."
"He's...um, indisposed," Fuery said, sounding both puzzled and a little flustered. "Apparently, there's a friend of his in Central that he needed to check in with..."
"Lady friend," Breda snickered.
"...so he'll be along a little later," Fuery concluded hastily.
"Oh, I see," Roy said, biting back a chuckle of his own. "Well, I suppose that takes precedence."
"Are you ready now, Colonel Mustang?" Marcoh asked him. "There should be just enough energy left in the Stone for this, and I expect you're aware of the possibility of a rebound. I only have one chance so I'll do my best to make sure that doesn't happen."
"I'm ready," Roy said and carefully laid down on his back, breathing deeply to steady his nerves. There was some scrambling movement as everyone arranged themselves around his bed, but not close enough to get caught in the transmutation should it go awry. He felt Hawkeye's firm grip on his left shoulder and heard Marcoh grunting as he seated himself on a stool to his right.
"Colonel," Ed said suddenly. "Look, I just want to say...you'd better not waste this, alright? I only agreed to this because you didn't deserve what happened to you. It wasn't like with me and Al, you got dragged into it against your will. But this right here is your choice, and the lives that went into that Stone deserve to have their sacrifice mean something. So don't screw up!"
"I don't plan on it," Roy promised him. He felt Marcoh set the Stone on his brow and held absolutely still as the doctor laid his fingers over Roy's temples. After a breathless pause, alchemic energy crackled and coursed into his eyes and along the delicate nerves to the occipital lobe at the back of his brain, the raw power encircling his head in a fiery crown.
Roy gritted his teeth, anticipating agony like he had felt when he lay helpless beneath Bradley's swords, but this transmutation was careful and controlled, a caress as opposed to a tidal wave. Bright red light burned the darkness away and dazzled him, and suddenly Roy was the Philosopher's Stone. He was within it even as it was within him. Desperate, pleading voices echoed in his mind and broken fragments of memory flashed before his closed eyes. Once again he felt a faint echo of the hot desert sun on his face, but instead of bringing a surge of remorse and self-loathing, Roy was swept up in nostalgia and longing. He wanted to return to the desert and taste the sweet cactus fruits and the clear waters of the oasis, to walk in dusty streets with his brethren and kneel before the altars of Ishvala.
This, Roy realized in wonder, was what remained of the Ishvalans that had been sacrificed to create this Stone. These memories and emotions that made up the core of their being, this yearning to return to the place they belonged. To return home where their loved ones waited for them.
You'll see it again, Roy swore without words. As the handful of souls were snuffed out one by one, the last part of themselves spent making him whole again, Roy held fast to those bits and pieces of individuality. I'll take you there, and you'll see your home again. You'll see it through my eyes.
"Did it work?" Ed asked anxiously as the transmutation ended, leaving Roy with only the darkness behind his eyelids. "Well?"
"Sir?" Hawkeye called to him. She brushed the bangs from his forehead. "Roy..."
Roy opened his eyes.
A king is nothing without his people, just as they would be lost without him. I learned that one simple fact by playing chess, if you can believe it. The concept seemed so simple back then. Each piece has its place, each one has its own skills and its own position in the hierarchy. The king is the one who leads them and ultimately sends them forth into battle, and if he does not use those pieces wisely and to their fullest potential, even the greatest of kings can fall.
But there are flaws in that game. Many flaws. The king is not permitted to be in danger, yet my queen often berates me for throwing myself into harm's way at the least opportunity. Knights are the most mobile pieces on the board, and a knight who is immobilized is useless. There are plenty of pawns, all of them exactly the same, and they wouldn't dream of changing sides right in the middle of a game. In chess, numerous sacrifices are necessary so that the higher ranking pieces can stay standing.
But real life is not a game, and people are not chess pieces. Maybe they started out that way in the beginning, but I can't see them as mere tools now that they have faces and voices. One by one, they became people to me and wormed their way into my heart. For their individuality, I value them. For their loyalty and sacrifices, I love them. I'll never take them for granted, I'll never consider them worthless. How could I now that I know the true value of a human soul? Maybe it's foolish for a king to think this way, but let's face it, I'm only on this throne for as long as it takes them to get fed up with me and knock me flat on the board.
I will see Ishval restored and give back some of what I have taken. I will send these people forth as my vassals and trust them to do as they have always done. I will ensure this country is set on the right path, but I won't do it without them. Now you know my story, and theirs as well. I am Colonel Roy Mustang, and they are the reason I have made it this far.
A.N. Oh my God, I am DONE! This is a very surreal experience for me because I have never spent this much time and energy on a single story. An entire YEAR of my life went into writing this! I actually loved having this as a work in progress because Allegiance was what I turned to when I had nothing else to work on, and I'm a little emotional now that it's over. I'm going to miss looking at my laptop and saying to myself, "Oh yeah, I should really get going on that next chapter..."