By Antigone Rex
Prologue: Hush (\ hŭsh \)
1: noun - a silence or stillness, especially after noise
2: verb - to calm or soothe
A quiet mantle surrounded Central City. Though the streets remained in ruins, little of the cacophony remained from the battle that took place mere hours before. The citizens huddled together in the safety and comfort of their homes, grateful for the simple grace of life. And who could blame them? This day they were unexpectedly confronted with the tenuous binding between body and soul.
The silence inhabited the streets, sinuously flowing through hollow buildings destroyed alchemy and munitions alike. It soaked into the paving stones, muffling the sounds of boots as soldiers made their rounds. The inky silence even pervaded Central Headquarters, pooling on the empty throne once occupied by a homunculus-turned-Fuhrer.
The silence slowly flowed into the military hospital, where soldiers lay softly moaning in their beds. The quiet inhabited the soft scrape of nurses shoes as they tended to the dying. It crept into a room occupied by two war-worn soldiers, where it took up residence, coiling like a serpent, unseen by unseeing eyes.
Roy Mustang sat in a hospital bed, his bandaged hands clasped around his knees. His eyes were opened far too wide, as though trying to drink the moonlight that filtered through the nearby window. For perhaps the hundredth time that day, he reached up to touch his eyelids to reassure himself they were indeed open. They were. His head bowed, and his shoulders shook with silent laughter.
Though his sight was gone, his nightmare earlier that night was a chilling testament that he could still see in his dreams. His smile slackened as he recalled the horrible images that woke him from sleep: Blood-red eyes twisted in pain. A woman's hand, weakly holding back lifeblood as it spilled between her fingers. Flames consuming all.
He let out a low, wheezing laugh. How fitting. His only remaining sight would be a nightly torture. This punishment was far less than he deserved for all that he'd done. He closed his eyes, pressing his forehead into his knees. He was past exhaustion, but this silent blanket of darkness was far preferable to the thought of returning to dreams which promised no rest.
He was started out of his reverie by the stiff rustle of hospital-starched sheets nearby. Only hours after he was struck blind, and he was amazed at how quickly his other senses swelled to fill the void of his lost vision. It felt like he had entered a foreign world; like he was experiencing scents, sensations, and sounds for the first time.
Another sound, this time the soft scrape of a bare foot on tile floor – he was certain of it. He cursed inwardly for laughing aloud earlier. He had woken his companion. As silently as he could, he slowly reclined back on to the hard pillow, closing his eyes in what he hoped looked like convincing slumber. More sounds of scraping came from the bed nearby as his companion fumbled with her slippers in the darkness. He heard her hand smack clumsily against the metal frame of the bed as she attempted to regain her balance. He fought the urge to get up to help her, reminding himself that he was supposed to be asleep. Regardless, he could not help but smile when she uttered a very unladylike curse under her breath.
Another rustle of fabric sounded to his left, followed by the soft hiss of a tightening sash knot. Then a moment of silence, followed by a muted sigh. He heard the soft pat of footsteps as his companion rounded the partition curtain that separated the two beds. His heart pounded against his rib cage as he heard her approach. Rallying himself, he concentrated on his breathing, doing his best to sound like he was sleeping peacefully. The footsteps stopped in a space near the head of the bed. She was there. If he but opened his eyes he would be greeted with a view of Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye's midsection.
No you won't. He reminded himself bitterly. You will be greeted with darkness. Unending, depthless, fathomless darkness.
He felt a soft breeze graze his cheek, accompanied by the whisking sound of cloth against cloth. For a moment, there was thick silence. He imagined the feeling of warmth radiating near his scalp. Then, he felt her fingers softly comb through his unruly hair.
"You aren't fooling anyone, sir." Her melodic voice cut through the silence like a song.
Mustang started, his eyes opening slowly. His lips curled into a smirk. "You should be asleep, Lieutenant." He imagined the look of exasperation on her face and his smirk widened. He tried not to think about the pleasant feelings that stirred each time her fingers met his scalp. "You shouldn't even be out of bed."
"I…" she hesitated. Her hand faltered, resting lightly on his forehead. "I…can't sleep either."
Roy reached up, blindly grasping for her wrist in the darkness. He clasped it securely; it felt warm and soft and solid beneath his fingers. He sat up, gently pulling her alongside the bed, not daring to release his grip. It was not that he was afraid she would run. More so that he needed her to remain. In so many ways, this woman was his anchor; she was stalwart and steadfast when memories threatened to swallow him whole.
It was a long time before he spoke again. Riza waited patiently, utterly still.
"I… can't believe we did it." His voice was throaty, barely under control. His fingers tightened on her wrist. "We… survived." The word brought unbidden thoughts of horror and pain.
Riza shifted as flashes of her colonel played across her thoughts. She recalled his eyes most of all: Their wrath as he stared at her down the barrel of her gun, their anguish as she bled to death on the floor, and their emptiness after they had lost their sight forever. Tears pricked at the corner of her own eyes as she slowly raised her free hand to the nape of his neck. Her fingers twined into his hair.
With a shuddering breath he did not realize he was holding, Roy leaned his head forward, pressing his face into her middle. She smelled of solvent and mineral oil and gunpowder - a smell that was uniquely her. He released her wrist, wrapping both arms around the small of her back. She buried her hands in his hair, making small, soothing circles on his scalp.
A sad smile slowly formed on her lips. "Yes. We did."
The silence that coiled through the room only moments before was dispelled by the sound of soft, shuddering sobs. Though the rest of the city was blanketed in a mantle of quiet, here - in this space - unspoken words forged from unspoken love cast the silence away.