Author's Note: I was taking fic prompts the other day, and I'm very slowly working my way through them. too_beauty asked for angsty with a happy ending, and while it's not nearly so eloquent as I hoped, it vaguely fits the bill. XD *wanders off to go work on a sequel to Keeping Secrets*
Disclaimer: This is me, not owning FMA or the characters etc.
The rest of my fics are here.
Loss was such a bitter thing. It crawled along nerve endings, spreading from Roy’s spine to wrap around his heart and lungs. It squelched out all hope for redemption, squeezing until Roy could scarcely breathe, wedging into all his empty spaces until there was no part left untouched.
He’d carried on as much as he didn’t deserve the opportunity. Roy pretended he didn’t half wish they’d send him to rot in a prison cell for what he’d done, though it could not remotely begin to atone for what he hadn’t. He’d meant to look out for Ed and yet, in the end he’d sent Fullmetal off to disappear, just like everyone else.
It was Al who made it unbearable. The first visit from the younger Elric had been full of questions, unable to remember any of his life in the armor. Roy wanted to scream because to Al he was a stranger, and it ached down to his bones even if he was sure he somehow deserved that.
Al kept coming back though, if only because Roy was a vague connection to his beloved brother. Slowly, talk of missions and when he’d last seen Edward faded into something more familiar. He’d lost track of how many times Al had sat and had lunch with him, intently listening to stories of all the trouble Ed caused. He finally gave Roy a sympathetic smile as he pushed his empty plate away. “You really loved him, didn’t you?”
Roy was taken aback. He’d chased after Ed for years. Frustration and loyalty and a prickly sort of friendship, he’d been prepared to acknowledge. He’d never so much as considered Ed in terms of anything more affectionate. Roy was far more shocked than Al seemed to be when his mouth replied wistfully of its own accord, “I suppose I probably did.”
It wasn’t long after that when his conscience found another route, taunting him with dreams. Ed would be so close that Roy could’ve reached out and snatched him back from wherever it was he’d gone. His fingers would stretch out to take Ed’s hand, only coming up with shadows. He was every bit as effective at protecting Ed there as he always had been, which was to say not at all.
The whole thing was wearying. When Ed was there, when he could pretend the young man was safe, it had been easy to go on like it didn’t matter. His absence was far more conspicuous. Each day that went by only jerked him further into the reality that he had well and truly failed.
Years had passed since he last ran from anything, and he tried to stick it out. In the end, he could only stomach retreat. How dare he go on like nothing had changed when the world had been yanked summarily out from under his feet?
His higher ups had been overjoyed. They had painted him a hero, a man who’d nearly died trying to protect their fuhrer, because it was safer to tell the people that. There was no one he reported to that didn’t know the truth though, and he was sure it terrified them. He had only to say the word and they were overjoyed to shuffle him off, to enable his lonely cowardice.
His team was less accommodating. They tried to understand why the man they’d devoted themselves to abandoned them now, but they seemed to make no sense of it. Halfheartedly, he was waved off by his crew anyway, save for Hawkeye. She did not come to see him off, only leaving him at the office with a brittle look and the distinct impression that she’d have shot him if she thought it would have solved anything.
He left anyway. It was the only penance he could offer. The cold and silence seemed suited to his regret. Putting away his gloves with the rest of a past left behind, he settled into a world that did not want him.
Melancholy was an inescapable thing in that place. He could no more run from it than he could get away from the snow here, a brutal expanse of white even the summer sun could not hope to melt. He kept a lonely vigil, standing guard at a long forgotten post by day, shivering beneath the sparse covers by night. The cold seeped so deeply into his bones that eventually he wasn’t sure he could feel the fire in its hearth, even as he sat beside it.
The eternity of winter was cruel to him, more so in the absence of his gloves. It was a fitting sort of retribution, he was certain, and so he made no effort to shuck the responsibility. Months unraveled until he could scarcely remember a time when he didn’t shiver, when his skin wasn’t every bit as icy as the death he felt internally.
Each day was much the same, an eternity of the meaningless routine he’d reduced his existence to. Get up, get dressed, spend a few hours trudging through snow that threatened to drag him to his knees. It was miserable and no one would have cared if he’d ignored the assignment altogether. As rarely as he saw another human being, it was a safe bet no one would ever have even known. He did it anyway.
Winter was ruthless. Howling winds bombarded the rickety post, and the snow was relentless, threatening to swallow the little cabin and Roy along with it. A sensible person might’ve chosen to hide away from the bitter cold, but Roy found some small solace in duty.
It began innocently enough, flurries that Roy was so used to he no longer even took note. Already a mile away from his post, he kept going, determined to finish his rounds. It seemed nothing out of the ordinary if he was tugging his coat a bit more tightly around his slender frame.
The snow kept falling until the air was thick with it. That too was nothing so terribly out of the ordinary. Perhaps he found himself glancing a bit more often at the clouds overhead, but almost halfway done, it was just as far to finish as it would be to turn back.
His pocket watch long since tucked away, Roy carried no timepiece. The sun was shrouded by clouds and endless snow, leaving him little to gauge the time of day. He ticked off the hours in labored footsteps and the steady seep of numbness through his body as the cold fought its way past the confines of his coat.
He should have been home, or what sufficed for home, by now. The world all looked the same in a blizzard, and perhaps he’d taken a wrong turn. Regardless of why, the post was not where he thought the post should be, and that was cause for concern.
Roy took in the situation in a detached sort of way. How fitting to be lost in his own frigid, self inflicted purgatory. All that was left was to keep going, get to higher ground and hope for the best.
It was impossible to tell the passage of time amidst the barrage of snow that fell around him. With little other choice, Roy kept walking, looking for some place he knew. The blanket of white that covered his surroundings shrouded any hope of recognition, leaving him with a feeling of dread that pricked at his spine on its way down.
The bleary gray of snow heavy clouds darkened as the day progressed. Each step left Roy aching a little more until only sheer determination kept him off his knees. Half starved and freezing, he knew he couldn’t let the sun go down on him out here. He had to get back because there was no one out here to help him.
Exhausted and shivering with relentless cold, he did his best to fight off the urge to panic. It was impossible to tell if he was somewhere he knew, if he was even going the right way or just walking in circles. If he could only find shelter, perhaps he could wait out the worst of the storm.
It felt like hours that dragged on, the snow sucking at his every step until he wasn’t sure he could lift his feet even once more. He couldn’t think anymore, except to wonder if perhaps he were trapped in an awful sort of nightmare. Roy couldn’t see the sunset, but he could feel the icy air ache down to his bones, and the sky threatened soon to offer no more light.
When he finally caught sight of the signpost, it should have perhaps been a hopeful thing. The mountains sheltered this place a bit, and the snow was still drifting enough that he could almost make out the road. It was something he recognized, though in his delirium, he wondered if he were seeing something real at all. The sign, however, was for the road that went to his post, a road no one travelled for weeks at a time, and if he was seeing a sign, it meant he was still far away from the post itself.
Freezing and exhausted, Roy dropped to his knees just short of the sign. He couldn’t move another foot, let alone the miles he would have to to get back. He might have howled in frustration if he’d had any energy left to spare, but he’d reached his limit as all hope of salvation was stripped away. Roy collapsed where he kneeled in the snow, and finally the world was not enveloped in white.
“Couldn’t you just sulk like a normal person? You know, in your house or something instead of out here in the middle of fucking nowhere?” There was a voice against Roy’s ear, soft and almost gentle despite its edge. In the faint edges of wakefulness that prodded at him, he thought he knew it.
There were pinpricks of warmth, and Roy realized with what he thought to be a dizzying sort of clarity, that he was dying. No one was due out this way until the supply truck next week. That left him alone in the snow for who knew how long. Already hallucinating strange things like a bed beneath him, and what felt to be blankets tucked tightly around his body, it was clearly too late to find safety.
“Come on, wake up. I did not come all the way out here for this.” That voice was near his ear again, startlingly close, and Roy could only move helplessly closer to it.
Wait… Come out here? Roy struggled to open his eye, to free himself of the thick shroud of unconsciousness that pressed in around him. With more effort than he thought himself capable of, his lashes flickered, finally letting him see something beyond empty darkness. His head throbbed and the world was fuzzy and soft around the edges. Was it really supposed to hurt this much?
His line of vision was limited to the blur above him, slowly sharpening into a tentative sort of focus. A smear of gold smoothed out, bit by bit until the sunlight he hadn’t seen since before the storm fell from above, tickling his face in tendrils of satiny hair. Amber eyes blinked down at him, strangely warm in the firelight, and only promising that he was imagining things because Ed had never looked at him like that. Ed was gone.
“Edward?” Roy’s heart caught in his throat. Ignoring the pain of muscles unwilling to move, he reached out because he needed to know. The world reeled and he grimaced in pain, but there was the easy give of flesh under his fingers, and it didn’t matter to him in that moment if he was imagining it or not. “Is that you?”
“The fuck, Mustang. Of course it’s me,” Ed grumbled like he hadn’t been gone for nearly four years now.
“What’re you doing?” Roy managed to slur out. His tongue felt glued to the roof of his mouth, and he was just beginning to recognize the excruciating heat that coursed through him not as dying, but as his skin beginning to thaw once more. His arm hung between them, bare of his coat and uniform, and he couldn’t quite stifle the pained whimper as he let it drop back to the blankets.
“Apparently saving you, though I haven’t a clue why since you obviously have a death wish going out in a blizzard like that,” Ed grumbled, human fingers sliding gently beneath Roy’s naked shoulders, deftly helping him sit up. Despite his complaining, he worried over Roy, adjusting the blankets to keep him warm.
He’d imagined this moment so many times, that Ed would come home and things would go back to the way they once were. Somehow, his fantasies never involved Ed cradling his still shivering body, holding a mug of tea to his lips. “Drink this. It’ll help.”
His mind raced, frantic to regain the upper hand. His body, however, was too weak to do more than recline against Ed’s chest, barely managing to wrap a hand around the cup Ed offered him. His voice was pitiful, even to his own ears, hardly more than a plaintive whisper. “I thought you were gone.”
“So I noticed.” Ed seemed content enough to substitute himself for furniture, supporting Roy’s weight as if it were nothing. The steady thud of his heart pattered beneath Roy’s ear, and he might’ve fallen back asleep if Ed had let him. “You gotta stay awake at least until you’re warm again. I didn’t come out here for a fucking corpse.”
What did you come out here for, then? Roy wanted to ask, but his lips wouldn’t quite form the words. He still shivered against Ed, though it was an intermittent thing, an action which, without fail, made Ed hold onto him more tightly. He’d never meant for being pressed against Ed to be so pathetic.
“Next time you decide you miss me, would you mind finding some less inconvenient way of showing it?” Roy looked up in alarm, scrambling for how Ed could know, and why he was here if he did, but Ed’s grip was iron, keeping him from jostling too much. “My brother tells me everything.”
Well, and that was the end of it. Ed was probably just waiting for him to be coherent enough to defend himself so he could justify beating the snot out of him. In his current state, it took the long moments until Ed’s grip finally loosened for him to reassess the situation.
Ed knew. Ed knew and came out here anyway, and while that might’ve meant rejection, Ed didn’t seem angry enough for that. Quite the contrary according to the gentle weight of Ed’s arm around his shoulders, or the idle stroking of a hand over his hair as Ed quietly watched the fire.
“I lo…” Roy cut the sentiment short. His mind was just beginning to clear, enough at least to tell him to keep his mouth shut for a while. There would be time for that when he could think straight. Ed’s eyes flicked down to look at him, but by some miracle he didn’t push. His hand only stilled for a moment before resuming smoothing through Roy’s hair like it was the most natural thing in the world.
Later, maybe, he’d demand answers, but in that moment it was enough to feel the heat of Ed’s body against his, enough that he was alive.