Roy and Winry must confront one of his most heinous past deeds, and either move past the grief and bitterness, or be locked forever into an emotional prison.
She follows an accustomed path, peace reaching tenuously toward her, drawing her through the enveloping dark with silver tendrils of bittersweet promise.
And overhead in the black sky - stars, stars, stars, glittering like diamonds, flames of ice at their heart.
Old sorrows freshly stirred, she must restore her long-established balance. Grief has been an old companion, edges softened and muted, overlaid in seven years with a blanket of new loves and joys. Today, though - today it burns again, prodded to renewed life by the day's stark confessions.
'I got my orders in the morning...and I shot them that night.'
There are fresh tears to weep, the burning words somehow, somehow to absorb, a new equilibrium to attain. This is an old pilgrimage. Time to breathe, alone, and learn to live yet again with loss.
But not alone, oh not.
Beside two graves, on the rise of ground ahead, a dark figure standing. Head tilted, shoulders set, a hand in one pocket, his outline carves a fissure in the stars, a swath of darkness black against the black firmament.
Anguish rising in her throat, the involuntary cry cuts into the night, 'What are you doing here?'
Here! Here, upon her private, sacred ground, defiled by the very touch of his feet, the merest hint of his sulfurous presence. Here, the monster who destroyed them, who destroyed her peace, who destroyed her family --
-- who, himself, had made the ground sacred upon which they stand. And who wishes, somehow tonight, to do it proper honour. If she seeks a hint of disrespect in his stance, she cannot find it.
The horror, the paradox, could collapse her to her knees. But already his head lifts, half turning, before he stops and wills himself still. Still as his enduring silence. Still as death, she thinks forlornly. Her mother's grave lying at his feet.
'Pardon my intrusion.' The tone clipped and impersonal. Hands now straight at his sides. He speaks into the dark night, still half turned, not looking back. 'I'll go, and let you be alone.'
Yes, she thinks. Go.
No, she thinks. Stay and answer.
'Why did you come here?' The strident demand hammers at his rigid back, like the fists of a petulant child. But does she not have cause? Doesn't she?
'You know why.' Cool, so cool and distant. 'I was sent to find the brothers.'
She swallows outrage at the effort to mislead, so transparent, dismissive. She knows, by now, his more subtle talents, this master of diversion and deflection, nimble on his feet, turning a conversation upon a raised eyebrow or a half-smile.
This time, in this place, it will not be allowed.
'Why do you not answer?' The need to weep surges yet again, grimly suppressed. In its place a tenuous question, lifting its head above the anger: why does she even want his answers? She cannot heed that question now. 'Why do you never answer anything?'
Lifting his head, gaze directed at the vigilant stars. His willful silence a long habit, born of arrogance perhaps, or ambition, or...or what? Insidious doubts have mingled in her mind from the beginning, with the horror and the grief. A newly-grown respect engulfed, in one instant of revelation, by repulsion. Yet if he would give her one reason, one only, she might...
Why, why will he not reply? Does she not have a claim upon him?
'Can you really want my answers?' So softly he whispers into the humid dark, his words seem part of the breeze or the flowers' scent. As though he, too, belongs in this place to which their long, tortuous paths have brought them. 'Haven't you been hurt enough already today?'
Walking, wrists bound, in the earlier daylight filtering through trees along a river bank, her accusation flung resentfully at his unresponsive back (always, his back turned upon her) - 'Was that the kind of devotion you showed when you killed my parents - Roy?'
And then, bent upon teaching a lesson in violence to the truant brothers, brought up short by her exhausted plea to stop, at last his surrender and confession - 'I shot two doctors once, in Ishbal.'
His voice trembling then as it trembled now, speaking of sparing further pain. How could a monster wish to spare her pain?
Hugging her arms about herself, she seeks a path through the encompassing sadness. It wafts about the two of them, a poisonous miasma, a prison that neither can escape. Where is the peace she had expected here? What can she ask of him, that he will answer?
'Do you truly not believe in saying you're sorry?'
Somehow, at last she has touched him. A sharp catch of breath and clenching fists, his pain exposed, inner restraint betrayed. Slumping shoulders and bowed head still starkly imposed upon the field of stars.
'Winry.' The soft whisper trembles into the dark evening, the weight of her name on his lips conveys a burden of unexpected sorrow. 'Every moment of my life since Ishbal has been exactly that.'
She peers in silence at his back - why will he still not turn? Forever, it seems, she must stand behind and merely guess his heart and his intentions. Turning his back to everyone, secret self hidden, deepest desires and miseries guarded like treasure, sharing himself with no one left alive.
Yet he spoke aloud today. The memory creeps upon her, a key perhaps to his silent prison, and to hers.
'I tried to kill myself...but I was too much of a coward.'
The poignant words, murmured almost to himself, painful admission and a yearning, even now, for punishment. But he could not die, as they had. So then...what?
Then penance and restitution. A vow taken, and the long years to climb, step by step, to rise until the wars would stop, the killing finally /stop/, he would do this, he! And no young man's life - no young girl's life - ever again to be destroyed with flame or two deadly, irrevocable shots from a shaking gun.
Perhaps she understands, at last, the photograph she saw: two devoted friends from years ago, one vowed to ascend the ranks and heal the world, one vowed to help and support him, to guide and believe in him. To love him.
To die for him.
She sees him will his hands to loosen, to unclench, lifting his head again to gaze into the stars. He speaks to them - to her - a vow renewed, iron control abolishing the tremor from his voice. 'It may mean nothing to you now. But I swear to you that there will be no more graves on my account. I will see to it.'
Two graves for her and one for him. Both their dead carried on his shoulders, stiff with duty and atonement.
A sigh escapes her, a long release from unbearable grief. Never will the sadness vanish, but it may yet transmute. A hope for peace glimmers, and in the cool evening air, the miasma dispels and fades.
'And this may not mean anything to you, Roy.' The steadiness of her words surprises her. 'But...' Can she say this? Can she believe it?
Yes. She can. She does. 'But...I forgive you.'
He stands before her, still as death, yet she senses as the tremor rocks him. Then the shuddering, gasping breath, shattering control and iron will.
'Winry.' He can barely speak, his voice a treacherous thing, forsaking him. 'It means...more than...' But he can manage nothing else. Instead...
At last, at last he turns toward her, hiding nothing, the treasures of his heart laid bare to her gaze.
Stars, stars, stars, glittering like diamonds on his face.
This is unlike my usual style, so I'll be curious what people tthink. I envisioned this story almost as a dream-scene, so it virtually demanded to be written in this impressionistic way, as though it happened at a misty distance.