"A falling star fell from your heart and landed in my eyes."
It will be the first time he's seen her since she left for Xing, and he finds himself remembering the Promised Day.
Alphonse can't claim to know much about love and how it works, but he wonders if this is what it feels like. He thinks he may know what it looks like, because as he remembers that day, he dwells on his last moments as a disembodied soul in a cold hard steel, and what stands out to him most is her tears, her small face scrunched up in sorrow and regret. She'd cried over him when she'd given him the means to give up his soul, and when he'd returned, weak and emaciated but alive, she'd cried over him even more. What was remarkable was that her tears were the same - tinged with joy, yes, but fundamentally, genuinely, for him.
The thought threatens to blow him away, because there's no doubting the validity of such emotion. Her tears had come not from a girl's fantasies, but from a place much more profound, and they had not changed - not when he was in armor, not when he was in flesh. She'd looked at him with more than just her eyes. It makes him realize that her perceptions of and feelings for him transcended such material things, and if the beautiful smile that lights her face is any indication, those feelings have not dimmed in the intervening years.
She runs forward. A glad cry of, "Alphonse!" escapes her, and her voice is giddy with emotion. Alphonse braces himself just in time, and her arms encircle him tightly as she laughs for joy.
If anything, the feelings have grown stronger. Alphonse cannot help but laugh in return, and as he holds Mei close for a moment, still able to revel in the warm touch of human skin, he realizes that those kinds of feelings are all he'd ever ask for in a partner. He thinks that maybe this is what love really feels like, though it's only just beginning, and he knows, with glad certainty, that whatever else it may be... it is entirely real.
"I screamed aloud as it tore through them, and now it's left me blind."
He takes only one person with him when he prepares to regain his sight, and she's patiently waiting for him when he gets back.
Her beautiful face is the first thing Roy sees, just as he'd wanted. As she offers him a steadying hand, he recalls being trapped in darkness and listening only to her voice relaying calm instructions. He'd been helpless at the time, hopelessly frustrated by what had been done to him, but because of her, he'd been able to move forward. She'd kept the hated uselessness at bay, enabling him in even his crippled state to function, and he shudders to remember that, worse than not being able to see her, he'd come so close to losing her.
"Looks like I got my vision back," is the first thing he says, meaningless words to cover the fact that his eyes want nothing more than to linger on her, drinking in the face and eyes and presence that he so dearly missed.
"Did it every really leave?" Riza asks him.
It's a good question. There's so much he still needs and wants to do to help his country, to protect those to whom he owes everything, and he wonders if that mission will ever leave him. After a moment, he shakes his head, a wry smile crossing his face. "No. It didn't. And it never will, as long as I have you by my side. That is..." here Roy studies her face intently, once again remembering how she'd guided him even through his darkness, "if you still want to be there."
A genuine smile touches her face, softening her features. "Having come this far? You shouldn't have to ask," she chides him gently. "I'll be there. Always."
Roy's hand briefly intertwines with hers, their fingers dancing together, and with renewed determination, with purpose in his every breath and heartbeat, he turns his newly restored vision to land and country, his Queen at his side.
"And in the dark, I can hear your heartbeat. I tried to find the sound."
He's exhausted from the efforts of the past months, and though his goal has at long last been achieved, though he wants nothing more than to rest, it seems that others have different plans.
His assailant comes in the dark, and the only warning Ling has is the glint of the knife in the shadows. But she is there so fast that all he can sense is her heartbeat, and she takes the assassin down with her beautiful swift grace. As the man collapses, Ling shakes his head wearily, too tired to summon up the energy to be shocked. "Sent by an enraged half-brother, no doubt," he murmurs.
"My lord!" Lan Fan is full of concern over his state, and Ling knows a faster, quite unorthodox way to calm her down than by mere words.
He grabs her by the shoulders and pulls her into a tight hug. She goes rigid with shock, but he forges on recklessly, not giving her a chance to recover. "Thank you," he says fiercely, "for always being there when I need you." He is keenly aware of the steel arm she now possesses, and the memory still hurts; he wants nothing more than to repay that a thousand times over. "I'm sorry for never thanking you before."
She relaxes a infinitesimal amount. "You don't have to apologize," she says quietly.
But Ling doesn't let go. He leans his head in and whispers into her ear before he has the chance to rethink himself, before she can pull herself away. "I'm going to need an Empress," he murmurs.
"But... the wives..."
"I'm not Greed," he says, cutting her off. "I don't want women - I want one woman." He's shaking from the confession, practically giddy with heightened emotions and adrenaline that has not worn off since the attack, and he's aware of just how much he's changing his own world with these reckless words. But he doesn't care - not when it's for her. "I won't be like Emperors past," he swears. "In anything. And I'll get rid of that pesky tradition for you, Lan Fan, because it's the only thing I can do for you in return for all that you've done for me... that is, if you'll have me."
He waits with bated breath, and he can practically hear his wild heartbeat, until finally, Lan Fan relaxes fully into his embrace. "I'd like that, Ling," she says softly.
That she's finally expressed a desire for herself makes him happier than he would have thought possible, and he holds her just a little tighter, closing his eyes. Finally, finally - he can stop taking and start giving, and there's no better place to start than with her.
"But then, it stopped, and I was in the darkness. So darkness I became."
He draws closer and closer to Resembool, his very last steps on this earth, and the memories become brighter and brighter in his mind's eye, until it as if he is walking among their ghostly sweetness, no longer a part of the physical world.
Trisha dances with him and around him, a thing of innocent beauty and joy such as he has never before seen in this world. Her dancing is earthly and real, and it gives him a sense of connectedness to the world around him, something he has not felt for many years.
Those sweet nights with her are indescribable, and it's love such as he has never known it before, love that brings him closer than ever to the reality he's long distanced himself from. He feels human again.
Her stomach, gently swollen, both fascinates and frightens him, and he feels almost like a child. An acute fear fills him, overlapping into his demeanor and actions, but her gentle eyes and loving touch calm him with hardly a word. "You will be a fine father," she tells him. He wonders if it's possible for something like him to be given such a title. But Trisha's reassuring words, and later his sons' impossible innocence, eventually convince him that perhaps he could.
And then, finally, her promise to him, which Fate so cruelly sought to break.
"... I'll wait for you..."
Though he knows he will soon be joining her, Hohenheim's throat constricts with the memories. As he reaches the edge of the graveyard, he pauses, looking back at the rolling expanse of earth that he is soon to be leaving behind. His heart is threatening to break under the weight of so many memories and regrets, and he thinks of his sons, his beautiful sons, who had done what Trisha had always been able to do - taken away his personal darkness. It was a terrible thing that had come over him after leaving them, a thing had nearly consumed him after he learned of her death, but his sons had given him humanity once again, in that brief time that he'd gotten to know them. It is more painful than he'd imagined, to leave them so soon, but it is with some comfort that he knows he's leaving them in good hands: their own.
The realization gives him a pause, makes him think, Perhaps... I wasn't such a bad father after all. Maybe they learned a thing or two from me.
Or maybe not. However, Hohenheim is content to know that Alphonse is able to trust him still, that Edward is willing to call him 'father', to know that his failing can be forgiven.
He turns back to the small graveyard and sighs, in relief and melancholy and anticipation and happiness, and he takes those last few steps forward. I guess I'm coming home now, my love.
"I took the stars from my eyes, and then I made a map
and knew that somehow I could find my way back.
Then I heard your heart beating. You were in the darkness too.
So I stayed in the darkness with you."
Tonight, it is shadowy tendrils and grasping arms and screams and pain, so much pain, that jolts him into awareness. He is left gasping for air, disoriented and frightened, until gentle arms enfold him, pulling him close to the living warmth of a human body. He can hear a heartbeat, slightly increased in response to his own, but steady and not erratic like his; it soothes him. As his breathing slows, so does her heartbeat, until at last both of them are calmed and able to breathe easy. They stay like that for a while, however, and Edward marvels at how she can do that, how she can hold him up so much - literally, as he thinks of his cold automail leg. It's a humbling thought, to know that she's now his wife. He still can't quite wrap his mind around it.
"Are you alright now?" Winry finally asks him.
"Yeah. Thanks," he says, but she doesn't let him go. She doesn't ask what the dream was, either; she already knows what his occasional nightmares are filled with.
He presses himself closer to her, breathing in her scents, and the more adequate words that he wants to say are lodged in his throat; he's never been good at expressing his emotions like this. How can he possibly explain how grateful he is? How is he supposed to thank her for never giving up on him, for staying by him through everything? But he doesn't have to say anything. "Winry," is as far as he gets before she interrupts him. She knows.
"'Thank you' isn't necessary, you know," she says. "Don't you remember your proposal? We're for each other now."
He blushes at the awkward memory, his face heating, and Winry laughs. Edward lifts his head to bury it in her neck instead. "I'll say it anyway," he tells her. "Thank you. And you deserve more than that."
Her hand comes to rest on his hair, absently running fingers through it. "You've already given me more," Winry tells him quietly. "So stop being a sap."
Edward sighs contentedly and wonders how he, whom fortune always seems to frown upon, could possibly be so lucky.
"The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out.
You left me in the dark.
No dawn, no day, I'm always in this twilight
in the shadow of your heart."
Despite the clear inevitability of it, Edward cannot fathom the fact that he's losing. The chessboard is like the rest of the place, glowing and smooth and untainted white, and no matter how hard he focuses on it, willing it to cooperate, he can't seem to gain any headway.
"You're freakin' impossible," he mutters.
His opponent cackles in glee. "You may have beaten me once before, Elric," Truth tells him, "but that doesn't mean you can beat me at anything else!"
"Oh, watch me," Edward says, more determined than ever. But as he picks up a bishop, confident in his move, something draws his attention and makes him hesitate. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees the towering form of a great gray gate a second before it disappears, and instinctively, he knows what it means.
The bishop drops from his fingers. His golden eyes grow wide.
They are met by a pair several shades lighter, equally surprised and unfathomably glad.
Edward jumps to his feet and covers the distance between them at a remarkable speed. A wordless cry of happiness escapes him, and he tackles his brother in an enormous hug. Alphonse staggers back but keeps his feet, laughing in delight. Edward hugs him fiercely, teasingly asking, "Al, what took you so long?"
Alphonse is still laughing. "It's only been a few years!" he says, and as Edward pulls back, he sees tears in his brother's eyes. With a start, he realizes that his own eyes are overflowing, and he wonders how that could have happened without him knowing. He says nothing about it; he only smiles and keeps a hand on his brother's shoulder, reveling in the simple contact.
Alphonse studies him hungrily, as if trying to make up for every lost day. His tears are no longer small, and he suddenly casts his eyes downward, losing his smile. "You left me behind," he says quietly. "That... was the hardest thing I've ever done, Ed. But I did it. For you. And... you've been waiting here this whole time?"
Edward closes his eyes briefly. There's no point in bringing up the years he lost off his life from that time in the snow, oh so long ago when they were young and the world was at stake; they both know why he had to go first. "Of course," he says, opening his eyes and taking in every detail of his brother's face, as young as his is now. "I told you that before I left, didn't I? There's no way I could move on without you."
Alphonse's eyes light up, nearly overcome with emotion, and the tears are not as painful now. "I missed you, Ed."
Edward smiles. "I missed you too, little brother."
Smiling, crying, they turn as one to face Truth.
Truth grins as a golden gate begins to take form behind it, brighter than the surroundings; that gate is magnificent and makes even its imposing gray counterpart seem feeble in comparison. "Are you ready, humans?"
It's Edward who glances back, even though he knows there's no walking down that path anymore. "Hey, Al..." he says wistfully. "You think we did a good job?"
"With what?" Alphonse asks gently.
Alphonse gets a thoughtful look on his face. "Well... look at it this way: the world is safe for now, the kids know how to carry on, and the grandkids are endearing little terrors. I think we did alright." He smiles, placing a reassuring hand on his brother's shoulder. "They'll be fine without us. You can let go of all your responsibilities now, Ed."
Edward sighs long and slow, shrugging his shoulders as if physically letting go of everything he's ever had to worry about; now that his wait is over, there is nothing left to hold him. "You know..." he says in wonder, "that feels kinda good. You ready for the next step?"
"As long as you're with me," Alphonse tells him.
Truth, who's been patiently waiting, steps aside for them to pass, still grinning at them - not as inferiors, but as equals. As they walk past, Truth inclines its head. "Good luck, humans," it says, to their surprise. "You have earned it."
The golden gate opens slowly, and the inside is brighter than the gold; they can't see what is within, but they know. Blessed with unusual longevity from their father's side, they were the last to go, and they know what waits for them on the other side. Edward's heart swells at the thought, and his hand searches for Alphonse's. Their hands link, a mirror of their souls.
"Together?" Edward asks.
"Together," Alphonse affirms.
And together they go.
10.3.11 - Don't forget.