Character(s): Roy Mustang, Riza Hawkeye
Notes: Spoilers up to chapter 15 of the manga (episodes 25 and 10 of FMA and FMA:B respectively [is it even a spoiler anymore?]). Almost Royai.
Word Count: 566
Summary: Roy Mustang is trying to cope after an unexpected loss.
Roy Mustang is not unfamiliar with Death. For someone to suggest otherwise is laughable, makes him snort as the beginnings of a
bitter smirk pull at the corners of his mouth. Death has been his constant companion for years on end, lurks in the shadows of his
room, ready at any moment to slink out and remind him of its presence. As the second hand of the clock has ticked by, Death has
steadily morphed into so much more than the wispy figure he sees as he checks over his shoulder when paranoia pricks at his neck.
Death is a thousand blurred faces whirring behind his eyelids and the smell of burning flesh. It is his parents' smiles, now dull and
faded in his mind's eye because it has been an eternity since he last saw them light up their faces. Death is the innumerable Ishbalans
whose lives he had marred from existence, whose facial expressions flecked with hopelessness and hollowed-out eyesockets all look
exactly the same. And now Death has slipped into the skin of Maes Hughes, now wears his glasses and his wide grin, now mocks him
cruelly, relentlessly as the last person Roy Mustang ever expected to be taken.
It has only been a month since the incident, but Roy can't shake the feeling that is has been years, no, surely more. His face is
thinner now, drawn and worn, lines of worry and tiredness etched deep around his eyes from the expression he makes as
hopelessness swirls chaotically inside his head. By now, the aura of weariness around him is thick and palpable; even those who he
bumps into in the hall can taste the melancholy on their tongues and are careful to keep their heads low, avoiding eye contact in case
he can steal the light from their irises too. Food has lost its savor and he has stopped eating because no matter how much food he
consumes the ache, the ache, the ache in the pit of his stomach is always there. Armstrong asks him casually if he's lost weight, like
it was a calculated and purposeful act brought on by dieting and pumping legs, but he knows the real reason, everyone does, but no
one can speak it. Roy is almost glad of it, because each time uncaring lips utter Maes's name, he flinches as the weight of it hits him
full in the chest and Death sucks the air from his lungs.
Riza Hawkeye sees him stiffen too and can see right past the facade he shields himself with, just looks straight into his empty eyes
and knows. She recognizes his need for casual tones and stretched-out silences, but is willing to actually let her empathy seep
through the fabric of mock normalcy. And though she is still blank and cool and collected, every once in a while, she will let her hand
accidentally graze against his shoulder and linger there for the briefest instant. It is the most comforting act she will let herself bestow,
but Roy understands she is trying to instill all she can muster into this swift touch. And in those small, quiet moments so far and few in
between, he lets the hurt dampen and almost forgets. Roy Mustang closes his heavy lids and for that one millisecond, receives a
short-lived reprieve and feels as though maybe, just maybe, he is not alone.