And tell me, where does the train lead now?
The memories came upon him suddenly, rushing into his vision abruptly, cutting him off from the rest of the world. And an ache began to pound in his chest, taking up the spot where a human heart was supposed to beat, full of useless regret, full of despair. Nostalgia came up and muffled his senses as he watched the train pull in; but as he watched, his view of the train shifted to another one of almost twenty years ago, in which he had boarded just as silently and efficiently, headed for a little town in the country called Rizen Pool.
Fairy tales had already ended for him. Once upon a time was no more; they had ceased as of fifteen years ago. And just as suddenly as the first memory, another came upon him, blocking the chatter of the train station as he stared down at his folded hands, devoid of their usual gloves, clasping the handle of his suitcase. A red-clad figure stepping off of the train, bright hair shining in the sun, recovered from the near-death pallor he had first saw him in. Angry, determined words shouted at his back.
He reminisced sadly, something very unlike his usual practical self: Once upon a time, this train would have led him to that same boy that slowly grew into the man that finally left his side in Riore.
This train had taken Fullmetal to so many other places. He, too, had once ridden the train under the orders of someone else, had gone into far corners of the country to solve problems that were not his own, but he could not recall if any of them had been enjoyable as Fullmetal's missions had been for him. Similarly, this train was the one that had brought Fullmetal away from him, slowly giving him strength and experience to build the persona his adulthood would initialize.
And finally, it had brought them to the last place they'd ever been to together a battlefield. There was a strange romance in that, he decided, that the lover – his lover, the lover of a man said to be unreadable – could not be saved by his own hands. In the end, he had failed himself.
Had Fullmetal sat here, and stared out of the window like he was now, watching the people pass before him but never quite seeing them? Roy Mustang had gone on similar missions when he was younger, but all of the names and the faces were only facts to him, never holding any emotional attachment to them. Perhaps Fullmetal had asked his brother the time, or played at cards, or eaten a meal.
And then there came the strongest memory of all so far: in his office, watching the boy out of the corner of his eye over another snippy, sarcastic report, slouched on the couch, glaring at him, trying to stare him down. Had that been the first time he had seen Fullmetal as he had grown up to be, his height and his build starting to catch up with the complexity and maturity of the mind that controlled it?
It seemed all that occupied his mind these days were reports, events, uprisings; the embrace of another, a golden memory fifteen years old, was already forgotten and forgiven. How had time kept all memories intact and yet passed so fast?
White paper, and the shaking hand that held it – had that hand really belonged to him? Was it one of the same pair of hands that had once fought against Fullmetal?
Were those memories even his at all?
These were the same ones that received the news, the unmistakable print of black ink that inspired nothing but utter despair for two weeks, though he was still outwardly operating on automatic. It wasn't that he didn't love Fullmetal enough that that paper was ever smudged with tears – his heart had been too hardened with loss over the years to care let those emotions show.
Still, he went along and did his job, became the Daisotou, rediscovered what made him happy and found new outlets for his emotions – and all those regretful promises that he made to himself and to his dead lover in the space of a dark moment before he tried to sleep in the hour allotted, those demands he tried to force on himself after the war ended and he spent a week at home, drinking up the expensive wine he'd previously bought for anyone but himself...he had been so dead in spirit but so high on raw emotion at the time that he barely knew what he'd been saying.
All of those bets he made with himself gradually faded as he learned to step forward with emotion and feeling again. The only one that he'd kept was the one that he'd never marry anyone. It was the only vow he could not find anyone to break it for.
And now he was traveling, watching the gleaming city break into the slow rolling hills. And he knew that Fullmetal had seen the same scene many times over, perhaps he had even met some of the people that were reaping the crops now, or that woman sweeping the porch, or the owner of that automobile that stopped by the edge of the road while the train passed.
Stonily he stared ahead, and just like all the years before, no tears sprang to his eyes. Only a slight tightness around his mouth betrayed his bitterness.