Rating: no sexual content.
Summary: Mustang on dualism. How do you explain a war?
cross - fma_gen
By the sea's side hear the dark-vowelled birds.
"What did you see?"
"Sand. Red. Not much."
There are colors you remember and colors you don't forget. The difference was in doubleness. Some are not colors.
Roy remembers crouching afterwards, picking through the cinder, putting his fingers on the palm of a hand, on the fleshy center where the blood would have gathered if it were alive—and there you could see how strong the body was, how bowed the strength in your bones, in the membranes that wrapped your fasciae together, how quickly it becomes ash.
And he, too, tested his body afterwards, pushing through the veins on the insides of his hand when he'd regained fully conscious motion, and feeling was the same. How much you could trust it, he wasn't sure—touch, or any sensory at all, when he wanted to confirm what he knew or know what he touched. For a while after he was shipped back, he was amazed that the city pulsed on, in the absence of pain. When he made up his mind, he was pulsing, too.
His technique called for a background in energetic studies; more than anything you had to know bond construction, more specifically the thermodynamic laws that described it; from there you could manipulate combustion and hydrolytic reactions. Physical control required a mental awareness of surrounding oxygen concentrations. In Ishbal the conditions were ideal. Humidity was always nearly zero and the desert winds were constant.
The first week he was stationed, he saw that the wind was not a whorl as he had thought, but a sheet. A steady laminar flow that lost you the horizon. The sky was warring. They were transported in trucks that were not especially designed for the terrain. Roy just shielded his eyes against the sandstorms. Some would lose their sight, and some would end up with sand in their lungs. Some were hyperthermic; they were held down while they vomited because they went into terrible convulsions.
He read these things after the rebellion was over; alchemists didn't fraternize with regular military; they themselves were guarded people. He didn't know or really cared to know much beyond oxygen turnover level, wind data, and the horizon. The conditions were ideal.
The glass was falling. Had been falling all day. Summer in Central had days like this. Still days, when movement curled into a sphere, and the clouds were low onyx sheets. But you'd wait hours and hours before the storm really hit you. The days were rare. You get caught without an umbrella and go home slinking like a drowned rat on the paved street, skipping from lee to lee, legs wet to your knees. When it came down the sound was steady geography, dismantled, fallen laws. Afterward, the sky was cesious, its stars were naked broody lights.
When Fullmetal was nervous, you could hear his arm clink. You became aware of your own hands, what they were doing. Al didn’t hide his anxiety and rarely had any. The sound reminded Roy of how Maes swirled his drink when he was nervous.
Maes had a terrible time quitting smoking.
See, he would've done anything for Glacia, ridding addictions included, but he was almost unbearable during the first week. Scratched his fingers constantly, the space between the two knuckles where the cigarette would have been, and grit his teeth when he touched the calluses.
Roy has met plenty of people who were willing to rhetorize will and fate—he's done it himself—when you see the things he's seen—people questioned the nature of moral responsibility and people left, were eliminated if they knew too much, and most just left fate as contingency and ducked their heads. And he tells himself in the most secret voice that maybe he believes in neither, will nor fate. Could not see a line.
But in what kind of abyss does that leave you, then?
Roy drank when he was nervous. He didn't smoke. But if he did, he knew that his habit would be vicious.
The rain clung to her afterwards, and she used her sleeves; you couldn't see much in that sort of weather.
She carried him all the way back, half ran, half dragged, and drove in the middle of the lanes because she couldn't see at all. When she made it back she knew that she was calmer—the pulse was there; she knew about keeping what counted.
During the war there were nurses who broke, and she's seen them, lying on her side with a fractured arm, frozen with their hands deep inside people’s guts, trying to tell the extent of organ damage. It wasn’t as if a mechanic were contemplating fixing a broken automobile. One stood still with her hands stained, letting the blood run. Bodies were different machines. Before the injury she was mostly assigned sniper jobs taking out the insurgence leadership. She would have been useless in the last parts of the operation.
There are things break and won’t return, she knows. The details can be regrown, but the structure has to remain, in the mind and in the body. There are deeper fractures than shattered bones.
Roy researched the secrets of the body as well. But he had different things in mind. Organic unity you would liken to something metaphysical, but there you entered anthrocentric formalities that led you nowhere.
There are stories that you pass on to your children, because maybe they'd listen. There are other stories that fails in the transmission, that are chiasmal because you don't understand it yourself. These stories you won't even repeat in your head, having lost the important parts that made its tones human. Some were not colors.
When the red faded, he thinks that he remembered blue.
On a stretcher in a make-shift war hospital he saw the burned man who spoke with his hands. His fingers wriggled pink where the flesh was new. He smelled red for ten days, stationed next to the hospital, seeing nothing but the terracotta walls and waiting for command—such sallow bronze, such savor of metal, which was red, as red as any.
But those were not colors. Those were whole deserts whose silence failed. Those were objects that were not memory, not even in sleep.
If you went outside, you would see that he remembers blue, after a crest of red when he closed his eyes. Blue was easier; from blue you couldn't escape. His voice gave suddenly after two months in command. In the debris there were hands. And naked spines. Long elegant bones, each vertebra like a puzzle piece. He saw the hypostyles fracture in the ancient heat, and long, long stitches where skin should have been, where there was no longer color, no longer the memory of color, and maimed fingers wriggling pink where the flesh was new, where the doctors sewed them together only to have them shaken loose again. His fingers itched in his pockets, and didn't know any color either.
And that was the difference you won’t remind yourself of, the difference between the remember and the not forget.
See, there are hard lessons that taught you these sort of differences. But there are also harder ones that made you unlearn them, that taught you how meaningless words are.
When he is alone, there was no mystery to warfare, but he smiles in the middle, and drops his pencil on the desk.
Nothing special, nothing to say. Marchoh's eyes had blood in them when he'd found him, and Roy had said, "There's no use reminding yourself what war is," and left.
When the red was finished, Roy lost his eye. There were no colors.
He found their files years later in Central, reviewing a case regarding a letter to Hohenheim-- Rockbell. Rockbells. Both born in Rizembool. Married, eight years. Child, one, female. Voluntary presence. Eliminated as insurgence aides. There were pictures of both, taken for their respective medical degrees, and an intelligence photo of the wife dressing a maimed girl in an enemy camp hidden some miles away from the city-- the military raided it two days later-- between the high dunes, next to a campfire. There was a blurry veil. He didn't know if it was the wind and the sand or the hands of the cameraman.
There were strands of hair on his pillow and the whiskey burned all the way down. The grass was higher than he thought. Things he kept silent; he discolored them, and they were powerful.
The light was flooding in. He felt the warmth on his skin, felt the tight scars that were new. Bodies were important.
The Elrics knew this but it took four years for them to prove it.
He remembers when the nature of their quest was met with questioning tones; they said that they were young and wanted too much. Were they children? There was a time when Roy was young, and he then, too, would have said it was foolish. He would have blamed younger folly. He thought he was invincible, and didn't know death, couldn't touch it. He would have said that there are far more important things than reclamation, that new things would replace lost ones, that some faces are, after all, interchangeable. It didn’t take too much to see that the world was young, too. That humanity was just trying to figure out the rules, like a stubborn toddler flexing its hand that was too big and too strong for its arm, and when it swings it swings too wide, and when it hits it hits too hard.
There are not colors but words.
Nabokov, regarding a note on the significance of red in Lolita, pointed out that symbolic meaning cannot be distilled from colors.