A/N: I guess it was really just a matter of time before I decided to check out something in the anime/manga world. People who know me outside of FFN could tell you that my choice of Fullmetal Alchemist is really, really, really unsurprising. But I never had any interest in it until very recently; in fact, it's the first anime and manga series that I've ever picked up (unless you count the Legend of Zelda manga adaptations). I had the incredible luck to meet and chat with Vic Mignogna at Genericon in February 2011, when I was getting his autograph for a friend of mine. He so completely charmed me that I decided to check out FMA out of gratitude for his niceness, and consequently, I have a new powerful addiction.
I definitely love Ed/Winry, but in a way I almost love Roy/Riza even more, and so they're the ones that my brain decided should be the focus of my first (possibly only) FMA fic. This story contains spoilers for the episode "Lost Light" (I only have a few of the manga so I don't know which chapter that corresponds to) and some of what happens afterward.
One of the interesting things about the darkness is that Roy doesn't really know when it's nighttime, now.
The nurses come in with his medication, or to change his bandages, or whatever it is they need to do. And they inform him of the time, as he might once have read it on his silver pocketwatch, and ease him back on the bed and encourage him to sleep. Their voices are all sweet and soothing, and he's slowly learning to tell one from another. They turn out the lights, or at least he assumes they do, and leave him under the steady watch of the Eyes of the Hawk.
He can't see her - by day or by night. But in a way it's okay. He knows she's there, and it's enough. He can sense her presence, hear her breathing. He thinks he's never heard anything quite so beautiful as the sound of Riza Hawkeye breathing.
Losing his sight hasn't dimmed his memories. He remembers how it felt when that sound grew faint and shallow, and ready to cease.
He lies awake sometimes, thinking about that. Thinking about how nothing else - not losing his parents, not even losing Hughes - had ever felt so...no. He simply doesn't know a word big enough to encompass the feelings. So many feelings.
Terror. He couldn't go to her. They held him down, kept him from using his alchemy or his legs or much of anything but his eyes (and isn't that ironic, now that they're the only things I can't use). No, not quite true, his ears worked too. She never screamed, not once. She had just gasped, more astonishment than fear, and collapsed to the floor with her life pouring from the slashed jugular vein.
He had stared at her, and his vision had been swimming with tears that he dared not shed. What prevented them from falling, he didn't know. It wasn't like he could hide what he felt from those around him. When the acolytes of the damned Homunculi knew the depth of your heart and who could be found there, you had nowhere to run.
Weakness. The doctor with the gold tooth (I never did find out the bastard's name, come to think of it, not that it matters) had dangled her life in front of him like a prize. All the other pieces were out of reach - the pawn, the rook, all of them. Only the queen, his precious queen, his most powerful piece, lay before him in a crumpled mass of golden hair and crimson blood. And the doctor had offered an equivalent exchange. Her life for Roy's cooperation.
Did that even count as equivalent exchange? Riza's life was no trinket. Nothing in the world was more valuable than that. He was ready to capitulate, to concede defeat, whatever it took to keep her with him. But he saw her eyes, saw the spark of defiance that still shone there even as the light behind them was beginning to fade, and he knew...he couldn't. If he did what they asked, and she survived, how could he ever face her again? Hadn't he charged her with being his conscience, keeping him on the right path? Even in the last moments of her life, she was faithful to her duty. He had to do the same.
Fury. The arrival of reinforcements, however unexpected, gave him what he needed to break free. He spared no mercy on anyone or anything that dared to get between himself and the Lieutenant. He didn't even care about defeating their enemies at that point; nothing mattered except Riza. Even as he reached her, he knew it was too late, but it didn't stop him from clutching at her, pleading with her.
She was going to leave him alone (because without you I will be alone, in a crowded room I would still be alone in a world without you in it) and he would burn the city to the ground if that's what it took to avenge her. And then he would die. He would burn with the city, or he would burn on his own, it didn't matter. He'd burned plenty of corpses in his life. Two more would be of little consequence; the only difference would be that one corpse would hold the other in its arms as they burned.
Hope. The little Xingese princess had come from seemingly out of nowhere, snapping at him to leave it to her, this was more important than whatever else it was she had been trying to do. And she had traced the circle on the floor with Riza's own blood, and summoned her mysterious alkahestry, and one tiny little groan was all it had taken to make him realize that his world had not, in fact, collapsed in on itself.
Love. He'd been unexpectedly greedy, snatching up her lithe figure and crushing her to his chest in a haze of relief and longing and gratitude. He pressed his face into her hair, fighting nothing. For one long moment, Roy Mustang didn't try to hide behind a facade of jerkass tendencies and Casanova rumors. Just this once, he was honest with himself and any onlookers.
Nobody was watching, anyway, except for the little girl, and he didn't think she would judge him. He finally raised his head and smiled at her, expressing thanks in words that were too feeble for all they needed to say, but her eyes sparkled with pleasure at the praise. She'd heard what he hadn't said out loud.
I owe you my life. You didn't just save her, little princess - you saved me, because you gave me back the thing that I couldn't live without.
Why, Roy asks the darkness (and it doesn't seem to matter if it's day-dark or night-dark, there's no answer either way), why do they go on lying about it?
He knows what he feels, and he thinks he knows what she feels. She once declared an intention to die within moments of him; it would be hard to interpret that any other way. Her grandfather asked him once when he intended to marry her. His response was vague, something about things happening in their due time, but he wonders when the due time will be.
Does he deserve to be that happy, after everything he's done?
Yes, he answers himself without hesitation, yes she does. If he can make her as happy as she deserves. What right he himself has to such happiness is another matter.
But at least he can try to earn his happy ending. He can work to set things right in Ishval, to the extent that he's able. Fuhrer Grumman has given him carte blanche on that project. He works with his men, with Fuery and Breda and Falman, now that they've all been summoned back to his command. He wants Havoc there too, but that has to wait. He has work to do.
So he studies, using their eyes. Riza doesn't say much during most of the sessions, she listens. The nurses urge her to speak as little as possible, to allow her throat as much rest as she can give it. She had ventured to speak only long enough to find out that Fuery was taking good care of Black Hayate while she convalesced; satisfied on that point, she obediently muted herself.
He imagines her sitting there, with a shawl draped around her shoulders, her hair now clean and shining and hanging loose. In his mind the queen is serene as she watches the other pieces at work, seated upright on her pillows as if they were a throne, the bandages on her throat somehow taking on a regal appearance just for the fact that it's her throat they adorn. And he knows that she's paying close attention, and that when he slips and forgets, she can remind him. He swears he can feel the brown-eyed gaze rest on him at all hours of the day, and it's so much of a comfort to him that he hardly requires anything else for his recovery.
He has what he needs, in the cot next to his own.
The due time will come sometime, if she will have him.
Dr. Marco comes and offers him a Philosopher's Stone. He will heal Roy's blindness, he says, as his contribution to the restoration of Ishval.
Roy hesitates. It feels a bit wrong, and he admits as much. He doubts Fullmetal would approve. After some contemplation, he consents on one condition. Before he gets his sight back, Havoc regains his ability to walk.
He will be able to see once again.
Perhaps it's one more sin to add to his pile. But the weight of her gentle stare is on him, he knows it, and there's something in it. Pride. She's proud of him, somehow, he doesn't know why. On the other hand, she's stopped him more than once from making that pile bigger than it already was. So if she approves of this, then maybe it's all right.
One night, as they are left alone in the silence and (he presumes) the darkness, he decides to ask her.
"What do you intend, once we're released?"
"What do you mean, sir?"
"You still mean to watch my back?"
"Unless you're rescinding the order for me to do so."
"Then yes, I will continue to watch your back, sir."
"Don't call me that." He's surprised by the annoyance in his own voice.
"Sir. We're alone here, Lieutenant. You can use my name."
"He says, as he calls me by my rank."
Silence reigns for a moment. Then she says, somewhat abruptly, "Do you remember when we went to Resembool?"
"To recruit Fullmetal, you mean?"
"Yes. You were closeted in with him and Madam Pinako for a long time."
"What of it?"
"I sat with the girl. Winry. You remember her."
"Sure. Fullmetal's in love with her, doesn't like to say so."
"Yes. We had a talk about the military, and how she didn't like soldiers."
He wonders where this is going. "Uh-huh."
"I told her I don't always like being a soldier. I don't like having to kill people."
"Then why do you?" The question is out before he can stop it, but somehow this feels very important.
"That's what she asked."
"What did you say?"
Her voice has an arrested edge to it. "I told her that I do it because...there's someone that I need to protect. No one forces me to pull the trigger. I have to do it until he reaches his goal. I have to protect him."
He listens to this a few times in his mind after she stops speaking. "You've never told me that before."
"Did it need to be said, sir?"
It didn't, and they both know it, so he doesn't bother answering. Instead he says, only, "Lieutenant."
"You once asked me not to go where you couldn't follow."
"Is there anywhere you won't follow me?"
Her turn for the pause. "Not as long as you stay on the path we discussed when you first made me your subordinate."
"Suppose I gave you a new order, then."
"Instead of following me, perhaps you'd walk beside me?" He wonders where he's suddenly finding the courage to discuss the elephant that's been in the room all these years.
"I can't watch your back if I'm beside you," she points out.
"I am willing to take that chance."
"I don't know if I am."
"Oh, but Elizabeth," he says, his voice turning abruptly coy, "I'm absolutely desolate without you next to me. You're still my very favorite of all the ladies on my list, you know."
There's a suppressed chuckle. "You still owe me that fishing trip," she says, as though the whole conversation before Gluttony's attack hadn't been subterfuge and code. Which, Roy has to admit, it wasn't. Not entirely.
"I owe you more than that," he says, back to seriousness.
"You don't owe me anything."
"I want to give you everything." Taking a breath, he half lifts his hands, as if to create fire, then drops them back onto the bed. "Your new orders are to cease walking behind me and watching my back." He hears her gasp and continues, a bit hurriedly, "I expect to be Fuhrer in another several years. I am going to need a First Lady on whom I can thoroughly rely. Who else can I trust in that position but my queen?"
"I see." It's not a yes, but it's not a no, either, and he finds himself at once chagrined and emboldened. He persists.
"Will you do me the honor, then?"
He can almost hear her thinking for the next minute, or week, or however long it is until she speaks again. "Yes, sir."
If he weren't already lying down, he would possibly collapse backward from the sudden release of having it settled. "Very good. Your commitment is appreciated."
"I intend to still watch your back, Colonel."
"If you insist."
"The Eyes of the Hawk remain on me, then?"
"Always," she promises him, and it's all the vow he needs.