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Shared Pain

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Mustang lay in the darkness imposed by his mind, gazing blindly at the ceiling. He’d been in the hospital for a week and was currently lying on his back in the bed. He had finally kicked everyone out of the room, claiming exhaustion. The truth was that he needed to be alone. He’d been acting like he was fine, but the reality was he was lying to himself as much as everyone else. Part of him knew he didn’t have to lie to his subordinates – no, his friends – and that they of all people would understand. They had even made not-so-subtle attempts to get him to open up. He knew this, yet the rest of him just kept thinking about his oath to reach Brigadier General no matter the cost. He himself had made this oath; no one forced him, and therefore had no reason to feel sorry for his blindness. It was the priced he paid for his title. He would live with it, and eventually his heart would accept it too. So he just had to keep acting until it wasn’t acting any more. That was easier for everyone anyways…

A knock at the door interrupted his line of thinking. “Damn it,” he muttered. He really didn’t have the energy to deal with anyone right now. He threw and arm over his face with a sigh, hoping that if he didn’t say anything that they’d think he was asleep. Of course, that hope was dashed as he heard the click of the door latch opening. “That you, Hawkeye?” He slid upwards until he slouched against the headboard in exasperation. He crossed his arms and ankles, turning his face towards the direction of the door. “I said I was fine. I wish you’d stop worrying.” He heard a scuffle against the floor followed by the door latch click again.

‘That’s weird. I didn’t hear any footsteps… Did she leave?’ He cocked his head to the side, straining to hear anything, eyes roaming the room fruitlessly. “Hawkeye?” he said while trying to keep his heart rate from picking up in panic. He hated this feeling of insecurity that accompanied the darkness surrounding him.

Someone chuckled by the door. “Sorry chief, wrong blonde. Mind if I join your bedside?” a masculine voice said. He heard the scuffle again, moving towards his bed. It reminded him of the wheels on the carts at the library. ‘Wait… wheels, wrong blonde… Surely it can’t be…’

“Havoc?” Mustang sat up completely and crossed his legs. He clenched the sheets next to his thighs. It couldn’t possibly be Havoc. He was back at his family’s general store. He wouldn’t make a trip here just to see him. Not only would it be incredibly difficult in that chair, but it was also Mustang’s fault he was in it.

“Ah, come on chief. Don’t sound so unsure. Surely it hasn’t been so long that you’ve already forgotten my beautiful voice?” Havoc chuckled. Mustang heard a thwack followed by a snick. Suddenly the room smelled of cigarettes. Ah, now he recognized the noises. They were Havoc hitting a stick out of the pack and lighting the lighter.

“What are you doing here Jean? Surely you didn’t come all this way just to… see… me.” Mustang could hear the bitterness in his own voice, causing him to grimace. He turned his head away to face the general direction of the window. There was a lump forming in his throat, making it difficult to talk. “I’m sure Hawkeye told you I was fine, yes?”

Havoc scoffed. “Oh ya, she called me up and told me you were ‘fine’.” The sarcasm was thick in his voice. “She also told me you won’t talk to anyone about anything beyond the report you submitted, herself included. Oh, she also mentioned that you have nightmares almost every night; one’s bad enough to make you cry out.” Mustang paled, flinching. He hadn’t realized anyone had known about that or that he was calling out in his sleep.

Every night since that incident he’d been plagued by nightmares. They were of his most wonderful memories shattering into nothing, of chasing a light that just got further and further away, of pitying faces surrounding him, and of being denied his position and being sent back to Madame Christmas as useless. Every night he woke in his own sweat and tears, lying in silence lest he call attention to his room. He hadn’t had more than a couple hours of sleep every night and he was exhausted.

He opened his mouth to give some kind of snarky response when he felt a hand gently grab his knee. “I know why you won’t talk to anyone. I bet you’re even trying to convince yourself that you aren’t upset. But I know better, Roy. I’ve been where you are right now; still am if I’m being honest.” Roy closed his eyes, still turned away. “So if you open up to anyone, I want you know that I’m here and I do get it… And,” Havoc sounded mildly amused, “it’s only fair since you did the same for me. Equivalent exchange and all that nonsense you alchemists are spewing.” Havoc’s voice was quiet but strong. He gave Mustang’s knee a gentle squeeze before pulling away.

Mustang instinctively jerked forward to grab blindly for that comforting hand before it could go. “Wait!” He gasped and recoiled as soon as their hands met.

Havoc froze when Mustang cried out, watching the man’s face closely. There was pain, then shame as he yanked back. Then all the blood drained from his face, leaving him as white as the sheets. Sweat broke out on his forehead, causing his hair to stick there. Havoc was shocked. He’d wanted Roy to open up to him and knew the only way to do so was to push the man into it, but seeing this? He wondered what floodgate he just opened.

Hawkeye and he had both been lovers with Roy at different points, so she had called him in concern. She had told him that the chief was walling himself off, but there was no way she knew the extent. Suddenly he was relieved that he’d decided to make the trip down here, no matter how Mustang reacted. Roy would never willingly show this to anyone, and if Hawkeye couldn’t get him to open up then he was probably the only person who could force him to.

Mustang’s mind wouldn’t stop whirling. He wanted to accept Havoc’s comfort, to embrace the trust of an old lover, but he also felt like he needed to be strong, to show everyone he was infallible. These emotions warred within his mind. Pain blossomed behind his eyebrows. His stomach started to churn and his body to shake. “I’m going to be sick,” he whispered, jaw clenched and shoulders tensing.

“Shit!” There was a pause followed by a thump, and then Havoc was wrapping his hand around a container. He must have grabbed the trash can by the edge of the bed. Just in time too as Mustang lost what little he’d eaten that day. He heaved until there was nothing left, resting his forehead on the arm he had propped on the container rim, shaking from the exertion. He was just so tired. Tired and hurt and… scared. Mustang gave in. It was as if admitting that to himself, he had broken the dam that held everything back. Sobs racked his body. He buried his face in his elbow, trying to hide the pain despite the fact that Havoc had already seen and heard.

Havoc did the best he could, confined as he was to the wheelchair. He placed his one hand back on Mustang’s knee and used the free hand to rub the Roy’s lower back in comfort. He’d never seen Roy like this and his mind was scrambling with how to handle this. He’d had his own breakdown, but he didn’t keep his emotions cooped up like Roy did and had no clue how he was going to react. Luckily he was good with reading people and could roll with the punches.

Mustang finally ran out of tears, but he didn’t move for a minute. He felt so ashamed to have broken down in public, even if it was to an old love, but he was just so tired and sick and he didn’t know anymore. “How am I supposed to do this Havoc?” he breathed. “I can’t see the paperwork. I jump at the slightest sounds. I panic every time someone comes in the door. I’m at everyone’s mercy. I’ve never felt so weak…” Mustang raised his head, raising his hand in front of his unseeing eyes. “Why can’t I just accept this!?” he clenched his fingers into a fist in anger. “I made the decision to get here at any cost, no one else! So why can’t I accept this!?” He slammed his fist down onto the sheets.

He felt Havoc’s hand leave his back followed by the sound of a drawer being opened and closed. “Here, trade me.” Havoc gently tugged the waste basket from his hand and replaced it with what felt like a cloth. “I know you won’t appreciate me lying to you Roy so I won’t. It won’t be easy. But it is possible. You’ll have to have someone you trust dictate the necessary paperwork to you. After time you’ll be able to tell what sounds are what and you won’t be so unsure and jumpy. You aren’t helpless to intruders. For now, why don’t you come up with a safe word that you give people that will be close to you, like Hawkeye and the others? Then you can just threaten to fry anyone who comes too close and doesn’t identify themselves to your comfort. You may be blind, but I know full well you can still contain a flame to a small area. It will take practice but I bet with Hawkeye to give locations that you’ll be just as accurate as you used to be.” Havoc snagged the wash cloth when Roy finished mopping up his face.

“As for the not being able to see things, you may not see with your eyes but you can still ‘see’, Roy…” Havoc gently grasped Mustang’s hand and placed a kiss on the palm before setting it on his cheek. “You have your memories and your sense of touch is still there. I know it’s not the same, but it’s something. You aren’t completely blind to the world. And you sure as hell aren’t alone. Riza and I are both here for you, just like you and she were there for me; the rest of the group is too. Ed and Al are still in town, and I know Hughes’ wife and daughter love you like family.”

Mustang stayed silent for a few moments, running his hand unthinkingly over Havoc’s jaw. He was right of course. And Mustang had known these things already, but he hadn’t realized how much he needed to hear them out loud. He could come up with a code phrase to ease his mind when people came in. He did have his memories to rely on until he could get his feet back under him. He hated doing paperwork anyways so this just helped him get out of it. That reason alone was enough to rejoice over. That thought made him snicker.

“I… You’re right… I… I don’t know what to say, but thank you. Of all the people to do this, I never would have expected you to be the one.”

“Why? It’s not because you think it was too difficult to get here surely.” Jean sounded incredulous.

“I’m the reason you’re in that chair. I’m surprised you can be around me at all without blaming me,” he replied, dropping his hand to his lap.

“Roy, you idiot! Lust put me in this damn chair. You kept it from being a fucking grave!” Havoc sounded genuinely angry and Mustang’s eyes widened in shock. “Blame you? Jeez Roy, I knew you could be dense sometimes but not stupid! Of all the hair-brained ideas…” he growled. Mustang was abruptly jerked forward by his collar and it was pure luck that he managed to brace himself on the edge of the bed. Havoc suddenly stole his lips in an intense embrace. Mustang hesitated a moment, but then wrapped his free arm around Havoc’s neck, leaning in.

But as soon as the kiss deepened, Mustang felt his balance shift forward. “Mmphf!” He tried to catch himself on something but only succeeded in knocking over Havoc’s chair on the way down. They landed in a heap with such a loud thump that Mustang was surprised no one came flying in to see if they were okay. Havoc had managed to keep him from cracking his head on anything, but he still lay on the floor dazed for a moment before he started laughing. “Never thought you’d knock me off my feet with a kiss quite so literally, Jean.” he laughed as he sat up. He heard Havoc grunt in pain.

“Shit Roy. Thanks for bringing me down too. How the hell am I supposed to get back up without calling someone in and explaining?” he sighed, but chuckled so Roy would know he wasn’t really upset.

Mustang faced Havoc. “How about I be your legs and you tell me where to go?” He offered his hand in Havoc’s general direction.

“Uh huh, ‘cause that will turn out amazingly,” Havoc muttered under his breath, accepting Mustang’s hand at the same time. “Can you even lift me? I’m not exactly small, Roy.” Mustang just laughed. “Alright then muscles, just toss me on the bed. Bigger target and all. Be easier to reach you anyways. I can get back down on my own if you’ll set the chair upright for me.”

“My dear Havoc, such a way with words.” Mustang murmured in a sarcastic voice as he quickly ran a hand down Havoc’s side to find his legs. Havoc threw an arm over his shoulders and Mustang picked him up under the knees. “Um, Havoc? Is it the bed in front of me, or behind me? I’m a bit turned around…” Mustang blushed in embarrassment and some anger.

“Directly behind you about a foot.” Havoc chuckled, “Well aren’t we a pair. The cripple leading the blind. That’s just sad.”

Mustang backed up until he felt the bed against the back of his knees. “It’s probably hysterical to watch though,” he responded with a wince. He turned and set Havoc down a little ungracefully. Havoc had been correct, his height made it awkward to carry him. He stood up and paused momentarily. “Actually Havoc… you may have stumbled across something.”

“Pretty sure I can’t stumble, but what do you mean?” Havoc sounded amused.

“Like you said earlier, I need someone I can trust to be my eyes. While I’m sure everyone on the team would be willing to help, none of them can do it full time. Not and still do their own work.” He knelt down and reached forward until his hand bumped the toppled wheelchair. “So I’ll need to find someone to help. But the pool of people I trust is very small…” Mustang cocked his head towards Havoc as he stood.

The silence grew for a minute as he righted the chair and moved it within reach of the bed. “You offering me a job, chief?” Havoc’s voice gave away nothing.

Mustang trailed a hand along the edge of the mattress, using it as a guide as he walked to the other side to sit next to Havoc. “Well, that depends on if you want it. If you do, then yes it is an offer. If you don’t, then no it’s just brainstorming,” he grinned. He reached over until he bumped Havoc’s leg as he sat to avoid crowding the man. He leaned back against the headboard and closed his eyes with a sigh. It was always easier to pretend with his eyes closed. Mustang felt a twinge of melancholy settle back over his shoulders.

“Not to be a pity party, but do you really think I’d be that helpful? I can’t even get up and down the stairs without a lift. And I don’t really want to give Armstrong more reasons to strip in public… Rephrase – I especially don’t want to give Armstrong another reason to strip in public.” Mustang felt the bed shake as Havoc semi-mockingly shivered in disgust.

“Ha! That’s one sight I certainly won’t miss,” Mustang grinned. “If you accept, I can transfer to a room on the first floor. It’s not like I have all that many possessions to move, and I don’t particularly want the same office that was the center of all this mess.”

“Hmm,” Havoc replied, drawing out the silence. Mustang would be sad to see Havoc go, but he would accept whatever the man decided. Not that he had any idea who he trusted enough to fill this position otherwise. Suddenly Havoc laughed. “Oh Roy, of course I accept. You look so serious, relax. And maybe with me there you won’t have to do quite as much paperwork as you would if it were Riza, ha!”

Mustang laughed as well. “In that case, perhaps this isn’t the best idea after all. The world’s two biggest paperwork procrastinators working a desk job together. I can hear the rumors now.” They sit in companionable silence for a few minutes. Roy pushed his fingertips against Havoc’s pants, hoping to find a hand.

Havoc wouldn’t have even noticed Roy subtly searching for his hand if he hadn’t been looking down. In the past, Havoc would have felt the push on his pant leg and would return the finger push, but now? He was torn between accepting to comfort them both and denying it because a relationship between them couldn’t go anywhere now. He sighed sadly and reached down to encompass Mustang’s hand. “Roy… I’m not going to lead you on. I love you, I always will, and I wish to god I could be with you, but we can’t.”

“Are you worried because I’m the Brigadier now?” Mustang was confused.

“No…” Havoc sighed heavily again. He didn’t really want to talk about it but there was no point in skirting the topic either. “I can’t move or feel anything from the waist down, Roy. Anything.” He watched the realization come over Mustang’s face. He was surprised when it was followed by an ironic laugh.

“Well, despite common belief, I don’t pick my lovers just for their body. I do enjoy your company as well. And there is much we could do above the waist if you wanted. Or not. If you’ll have me that is?” Mustang gave Havoc’s hand a comforting squeeze. “It’s not like you’ll be the only one overcoming impossible obstacles…” He turned a wry grin on Havoc.

Havoc thought about this for a minute. “Alright then, deal. On both accounts. Now let me kiss you without falling off the bed.” He gently grasped Mustang’s chin and drew him into a kiss.

................................Riza Hawkeye POV................................

Riza let Havoc into Mustang’s hospital room, shutting the door as soon as the ex-Lieutenant was inside. She replaced the guards for the night as she had been since she found Roy calling out in his sleep. She knew the colonel – no, the Brigadier – wouldn’t want anyone knowing he was having nightmares. She had called Havoc when it became clear that Roy had no intention of talking to her. She’d hoped between being a previous lover and someone with a seemingly debilitating injury that they would connect on a level she couldn’t.

She heard a crash come from the room, followed by one man’s laugh and another’s disgruntled voice. Since no one called out she declined to open the door. Mustang would hear the door handle and she didn’t want to interrupt. So she stood patiently outside the door as a guard. It was almost two hours later with no sound from inside that she decided to check inside.

She lightly knocked twice and turned the handle. The sight that greeted her made her smile and sigh with relief. Havoc lay on the bed, propped on the headboard. One arm was behind his head and the other ran sleepily over a head of black hair. Mustang had slid down and was lying even with Havoc’s hip. His head was in Havoc’s lap and he had a knee thrown over Havoc’s lower leg.

Havoc looked up blearily at Hawkeye, smiling briefly before returning to his doze. Riza just smiled and shut the door. Yes, calling Havoc had been the right decision. And perhaps they would both be comforted in the process…