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09 June 2007 @ 09:38 pm
[fic] Bright Light Dim - Part III  
Title: Bright Light Dim – Part III
Author: c_b_syndrome/LJ Harris
Rating: PG13 this chapter – NC17 eventually
Spoiler Warning: Post CoS
Other Warnings: Crude language and graphic descriptions of the results of a massive disaster… Eventual Jean/Roy

Summary: In the aftermath of the invasion from the other side of the Gate, the Hero of Central goes missing. But is it a case of revenge? Or attonement?

“He’d thought his post to the northern frontier was a good idea at the time, but his solitude was crowded with ghosts and they were lousy company.”

For ceasefire

Part I

Part II

Bright Light Dim

I’m a search light soul they say // But I can’t see it in the night // I’m only faking when I get it right… ‘Fell on Black Days’ - Soundgarden


As Jean drove to Main Ops, Roy got a good idea of just how far the restoration and clean-up had already come. The electricity hadn’t been returned yet; the only lights he saw were either from the warm glow of a few oil lamps and candles, or from generators set up in the more vital areas, like the triage units. Occasionally, he caught sight of the bobbing lanterns of soldiers on patrol. Most of the structures destroyed in the invasion were still hulking, broken shapes of darkness that blocked out uneven patches of sky, but Roy could see hints of new construction here and there.

The sky was still hidden behind a thick haze, but the full moon cast the winter clouds in a tarnished silver glow that illuminated the light frost on the surfaces and gave the devastated a city an almost magical quality. It was the middle of the night, so there was no activity on streets that were now clear, and as they passed the area where the first airships had broken the surface, he saw the faint twinkle of firelight down below.

People are moving forward and living, even after this, Roy realized, and felt a sense of hope growing within him. He’d stopped listening for any news on the progress of the restoration a long time ago; from the center of ever-growing stacks of corpses, it hadn’t seemed possible.

He shivered and wrapped his arms tighter about himself. Even with the heat in the jeep cranked up as high as it could go, he couldn’t seem to stop the quaking; just getting out of that damp uniform was going to be a relief. The constant bonfires of the burning grounds had kept the area warm enough that Roy hadn’t felt the season change. “This is going to sound like a bizarre question Havoc, but what is the date?”

“December eighteenth,” Jean said, and Roy detected a tightly controlled mixture of anger and sadness in his voice.

Three months since the invasion. He hadn’t realized just how long he’d been sequestered away from the rest of the world while he was mindlessly pitching the dead into pits. He felt like he’d been asleep.

You’ve been asleep for over two years now. He thought he’d awakened when he left his post up north to come to Central, only to discover they were in the middle of being invaded. A glimmer of the old Flame alchemist came through when he took command and, between himself and his people, held back the attack. He felt alive for the first time in ages when he found out Fullmetal had returned; when he and the Elrics had landed the final blow that defeated the invaders from the other side of the Gate. Be honest with yourself, Roy, he chastised. You only provided back-up and support. Those boys did the real work. They were the heroes, not you.

He sighed softly and hugged himself tighter to fight against the shivering.

That night, after the enemy had been sent back to wherever it came from, the celebration was loud and raucous. Being in the company of his former staff –his friends—felt like old times. For a little while, Roy allowed himself to forget the sins he’d committed and his penance, and be warmed by the camaraderie.

But when morning came, Maes was still dead, Edward was still missing –and so, now, was Alphonse—and Roy was still a traitor and an assassin. It was only by virtue of the fact that the Fuehrer was involved in a much greater conspiracy that the newly reformed Parliament allowed Roy to remain alive and relatively free.

He’d thought his post to the northern frontier was a good idea at the time, but his solitude was crowded with ghosts and they were lousy company.

When Hakuro handed out assignments for the clean-up and restoration, the old arrogance in Roy flashed for the briefest instant. That was not the kind of assignment to give to a hero, after all--

He had little doubt that Hakuro was exacting a subtle form of revenge; for thwarting the General’s own desires for power and for humiliating him when they’d been invaded. The simple fact that Hakuro’s first and only act during the invasion was to hide under his desk and a mere corporal –a traitor, no less—did the job he should have been doing didn’t matter. Roy still made him look like an incompetent fool.

--Then Roy had stomped down that pride and considered the logic in the assignment. Central had a population of nearly 2 million people and the conservative estimate of the number of casualties was at least a quarter of that. Nobody relished the idea of digging mass graves and crudely cremating the bodies, but it was necessary. The job could be made more manageable with someone skilled in flame alchemy… and Roy’s affinity wasn’t going to be much use in rebuilding anyway.

At least schlepping corpses around for 16 hours a day kept him too damned tired to be haunted by ghosts --or to even think for that matter. Hell, he thought, I had no clue I was ‘missing’ until Jean showed up.

As much as he was loath to admit it, Hakuro had been right. It really was a lesson in humility. Two years of seclusion up north certainly didn’t do it. He was still the master of his domain. It didn’t matter that there was no one to command, the only people he had to answer to were too distant to care much about what he did while in the middle of nowhere. On the other hand, his new assignment had put him in a position to take orders from a second lieutenant with a mean streak and who apparently held a grudge against Roy; for what, he couldn’t recall. It didn’t matter now; he figured the man was probably justified.

The jeep came to a stop at the service entrance in back of the main building at HQ, and Jean shut off the engine. A quick—and somewhat timid—grin flashed, and he announced, “We’re here.”

Roy only puzzled over the captain’s anxiousness briefly, as he followed him down the steps to the back door. “You’re quartered in HQ?”

As Jean unlocked the door, he shrugged. “I told you, I—“

“—Got people,” Roy finished for him. “I see,” he said as they slipped into the dimly lit landing and took the stairwell down.

Once they were in the lowest level of HQ, they wove and shimmied between stacks of old desks and cabinets that were covered in dust and cobwebs. Roy remembered that this whole floor had been nothing but storage for decades, but had been dorms for enlisted men way back before the rest of the base had been built. He’d had no idea that there was any space even remotely livable down here still, but it was warm and dry. It didn’t matter if they had to make a pallet on the floor of the janitor’s closet, as far as Roy was concerned, this could just as well have been a suite at the Regency in comparison to the past three months.

They silently threaded their way through the warren of tight corridors, and when they came around the final corner Roy was surprised at how clean it was. The junk had been cleared away and the floor had been swept and mopped. The passage was still narrow, but felt cavernous after navigating that maze. Three doors lined one wall, and a fourth was across from them –a dim light shining from underneath. At the other end of the hallway, the stacks of furniture started again.

“How many people know about this little arrangement of yours?” Roy asked.

“Just the team,” Jean said, as he pushed the fourth door open and flooded the hall with light.

He still considers us a team, Roy thought as he followed him into the latrine. The realization warmed him.

They passed the banks of sinks and urinals and stalls, through another door into a locker room with a communal shower at the far end. The lockers were long gone, having been cannibalized for the newer barracks, but the benches were still bolted to the floor. Someone had dragged an old supply cabinet in and Jean opened it up, exposing quite a few hoarded towels, bars of soap and small bottles of shampoo. As he leaned down and rifled through a box at the bottom of the cabinet, he said, “We rotate around, but we have six clean beds.” He came up with a threadbare laundry bag in hand and handed it to Roy. “We handle our own cleaning and laundry, this way no one gets any funny ideas. Toss your uniform in here, I’ll take it out to the burn pile.”

Roy took the bag and laid it over the bench, then started stripping.

“The other end of the basement is where they set up the barracks for the rotating soldiers and they come in through the front doors, so no one is gonna come snooping around.”

With his jacket, shirt and cavalry skirt shoved into the bag, Roy sat on the bench and fought his left boot off. When it finally came free, a small amount of rancid, black water poured onto the floor. It wasn’t much, but the rank odor quickly polluted the clean air of the locker room.

Jean groaned in disgust and Roy shrugged an apology as he peeled off a sodden sock.

“Boots too, Boss,” Jean said as he fetched a towel to clean up the noisome puddle. “Hawkeye’ll have you a new uniform in the morning, but there’s nothing here that can be cleaned and salvaged.” Jean grabbed the laundry bag after dropping the towel on the floor, and held it open.

“No, I suppose not,” Roy said as he dropped the boots and socks inside. He stood, and started to unfasten his pants, but paused when he noticed that Jean was taking a sudden interest in the ceiling. Touched by the offer of some sort of privacy, even if it was only symbolic, he felt a small smile tug at the corners of his lips and finished removing his clothes.

“Uh, the eye-patch too,” Jean said. When Roy hesitated, unwilling to expose the hideous scars of his ruined eye and cheek, Jean gave him a look that brooked no argument.

Unwilling, but unable to come up with a reasonable excuse to keep it, Roy removed the patch and dropped it in the bag with everything else. He could stand naked and proud in front of anyone --filth and all—even the rest of the scars he’d collected over the years didn’t shame him… not like these did. It was vanity, he admitted… but they shamed him for other reasons. Reasons that made him feel exposed and vulnerable whenever anyone caught even a brief glance of them…

…reasons that he shoved into the dark corners of his mind and avoided looking at.

Jean didn’t say anything as he knelt down to sop up the rest of the putrid water on the floor, then tossed the ruined towel into the bag, but Roy could sense in the younger man’s demeanor that he understood more than he probably should have; certainly far more than Roy was comfortable with.

Jean remained quiet after he drew the strings on the bag closed, dug a fresh cigarette from his jacket, and headed for the door. Just before he pulled it open, he dropped the bag and turned. “Oh, almost forgot…” He strode back to Roy with a ‘come here’ wave, and when they met in the center of the room, he said, “Bend over.”

Roy snapped straight. “I beg your pardon?”

Jean scowled with a ‘give-me-a-break’ look, then his right hand shot up and clamped around to the back of Roy’s head. He gently --but insistently-- shoved down, forcing Roy to bend at the neck. Deft fingers carded through his stiff and dirty hair with a light touch.

After a moment, Roy understood. Handling so many corpses every day, there was bound to be more than a few that had been infested with lice. Jean and the others had worked their asses off to make these somewhat black-market quarters a clean and comfortable haven from the devastation beyond those walls; they wouldn’t want to have them infiltrated by parasites. He relaxed and was surprised to discover that Jean’s touch was quite soothing.

When he’d finished looking for bugs, he slapped Roy on the shoulder and said, “Looks like you lucked out. I didn’t see any critters. I’ll check again after you shower though, just to be sure.”

Roy watched the other man leave the room with the laundry bag of ruined clothes, and wondered why he was so disappointed that the inspection was over with so quickly.
sevlowsevlow on June 10th, 2007 03:37 am (UTC)
Follow your feelings, Roy! <3

Again, I am loving this so far! Can't wait for the next bit.
[★i slipped on my slippers]: Roy // Flameceasefire on June 10th, 2007 04:07 am (UTC)
Roy, your angst is showing. XD

Wow, Havoc must have some good connections to be able to set himself up with all that after the invasion, right? Also, Jean still considering them a team made me all ";_; ♥"

And I laughed out loud when Jean was all "Oh yeah. Bend over". I could see Roy's look of shock perfectly in my mind. XD And Roy, I think you may have a slight attraction to your dear Captain. *tsk tsk*

Excellent work! *bounces* I keep refreshing fm_alchemist to check if you've posted more chapters. *dork*
c_b_syndromec_b_syndrome on June 10th, 2007 04:11 am (UTC)
Hey, Jean has 'people' XD

And of course Roy is attracted to him... Jean -is- teh smex after all! ;)
[★i slipped on my slippers]: Jean // Snuggly Warm <3ceasefire on June 10th, 2007 04:13 am (UTC)
Who could resist him, really? XD
c_b_syndromec_b_syndrome on June 10th, 2007 04:17 am (UTC)
Certainly not me :D

*prays every night that she wakes with a Havoc of her very own* #^^#
[★i slipped on my slippers]: Jean // In the lightceasefire on June 10th, 2007 04:28 am (UTC)
Me either. :D

*hides Havoc under her bed*
havocmangawip: TachiTomorrowSepiahavocmangawip on June 10th, 2007 04:12 am (UTC)
Ah, perfection.

I love that Jean's "got people". The Tachi would so find a way to work and stick together during all of this.

I can hardly wait!
kashicatkashicat on June 10th, 2007 04:07 pm (UTC)
Wow, you are really chugging along with this, aren't you? But ya know, I really thought you'd get to That Scene by the end of this. Heehee! *bouncing up and down in anticipation*
Orion117orion117 on June 19th, 2007 06:38 am (UTC)
I liked your backstory on how Roy, a mere corporal, ended up in charge during the battle in the movie. Hakuro would be definitely be hiding under a desk.

Roy's thoughts on his self-exile up north, and his time on the cremation squad were very affecting. I also enjoyed seeing the quarters Havoc and the others had set up through Roy's eyes.
c_b_syndromec_b_syndrome on June 19th, 2007 07:34 am (UTC)
One line from the dubbed version of the movie gave me that idea ^^;;

(and atm I can't recall it, but Roy sent soldiers off to protect the Brass when they were being attacked).

And I always thought Hakuro was a power-hungry toady. Wants the power, but doesn't have the cajones that Roy does to EARN it ^^;;