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and in turn they'll protect the ones they love

Chapter Text

“I thought we agreed to keep this…um…”

Riza paused, raking her eyes from Roy’s over-polished shoes to the single unruly spike of hair standing aloft from its fellows.

“I got bored with casual,” he said with a chuckle, shrugging his shoulders into the perfectly tailored suit jacket. Then he gave her a narrow smile. Riza looked down at her own outfit: a knee-length, off-brand something she had hastily picked up from a thrift store on the outskirts of East City.

“I’m going to look like your stodgy older sister,” she mourned. With deep longing, her mind wandered back to her wardrobe in Central—where a few weeks ago, she had hung another something.

Something she had never worn. Something red, and smoky, and sultry. Something she had bought on an impulse, and shoved to the back of her closet with a self-critical shake of her head.

“I don’t think anyone would mistake you for my sister,” Roy said with a low chuckle. He didn’t wear cologne, but as he approached her, Riza smelled cinnamon.

“Not unless they do things very differently here,” she replied, smirking.

Roy held her eyes for a few seconds. Suddenly, he strode over to the bed, throwing his suitcase open while Riza, bewildered, stood at the other end of the room. She watched him dig to the bottom of his luggage before pulling something out. Something shimmering, and insubstantial as mist—and very, very red.

Riza’s mouth went dry as Roy shook it out. He caught the hungry expression on her face right before she caught herself and wiped it off.

“Casual,” she coughed. Roy gave a ringing laugh.

“I had a feeling you might get bored with that too.”

Chapter Text

Dear Mr. Mustang,

Thank you again for helping me sort through my father’s belongings. I would never have been able to do that by myself. I wouldn’t have known where to start.

I hope you are doing well. I don’t know too much about the military, except, of course, what you told me. And what my father used to say about it.

I’m a little tired these days. The house is quiet now, but not in the way it was before you came. A few neighbors have come by. Most of them are nice.

Do you remember Mrs. Hollis? She brought strawberries over the other day. She thought you were still here.

Life here is very quiet now. Except… I shot a rabbit today.

I’d never killed an animal like that before—one clean shot through the head, hardly any blood. I didn’t bring it back with me. Flies had already started landing on it.

The shotgun leans against the fireplace. It’s lived there for nearly nine years. I remember sitting in front of it sometimes when I was younger, staring at the trigger, where I thought if I just tried hard enough, I could see the fingerprint of someone long dead.

I must have imagined it, of course. There is no fingerprint.

I don’t think…I don’t think war is very much like shooting a rabbit through the eye.

Dear Mr. Mustang,

I hope you have a warm coat, now that winter is almost here. I think I gave mine away.

The rooms keep getting emptier, though I don’t remember emptying them. People come by to see me, because I think they know everything here is more or less for sale. I sold a box of my mother’s old embroidery yesterday. I used to look through that box and touch the stitches.

I gave it to Mrs. Hollis, I think. I don’t remember.

Maybe I will eat those strawberries.

Even when I’m here, the house is empty.

I hope you are doing well.

I hope you are doing better than I am.

Dear Mr. Mustang,

The back wall of the yard is full of holes. I’m getting better. My mother only had the shotgun, but a long time ago she taught me how to hold it, and how to reload, and how to aim.

I’m going into town soon, to the post office.  After that I will come home again, and I’ll practice how to hold, and how to reload, and how to aim.

Dear Mr. Mustang,

I didn’t think Central would smell this bad. The streets have a sordid tang to them, like bad eggs and cigarettes. The recruit barracks don’t smell incredible either, and it’s loud. The girl in the bunk beneath me is the loudest. Her name is Rebecca. And she snores.

There are no old shotguns here. Not like the one I left behind.

I didn’t follow you here, you know. I’m not here because the home I used to sleep in is a crypt, or because the haunts where I used to play are graveyards, or because the body that once held me has decided it is only half mine.

I’m not here because of him. And I’m not here because of you.

In fact, I hope I don’t see you. You’re far away, burning things.

Maybe I will go into the desert someday too, and maybe I will never come back.

Dear Mr. Mustang,

The desert is where they sent me after all. They didn’t tell me whether or not to come back—only that I am to kill as many as I need to, and as quickly as I can. Did they tell you that too?

There is something they don’t teach you about being a sniper. The moment you fire, you realize how lucky you are: that it is you on this side of the barrel, and not your enemy.

I’ve often thought how righteous it would be if I could just feel pain for someone in the crosshairs–but I have no room in me for righteousness. I’m only terribly grateful that it is me there, with my eye on the sight, and my finger on the trigger.

Terribly grateful that I am the face of death, and not someone else.

I think that beneath our different skins, Mr. Mustang, you and I are the same kind of monster.

I wish I could see you do it just once. I wish I could stand in the middle of it. I wish the noise and smoke and sulfur could make me stop remembering you, and I wish I could be one of the things you burn, and I wish I wish I wish I wish I could have you and know your shape and understand the whys and the mysteries of you.

But I still know how to hold, and how to reload, and how to aim.

And war is a bit like shooting a rabbit through the eye after all.

Chapter Text

Out of all the things Riza Hawkeye liked about Roy Mustang, one of her favorites was that he could set her on fire without even putting on his ignition gloves.

It was a skill. Like alchemy, it required precision, calculation, dedication…devotion.

Sometimes, to her dismay, he could do it without even touching her. Over the scratch of pens and the rustle of papers, her eyes met his over their desks. Then, he smiled…not an altogether friendly smile. It was a sharp, burning sort of smile—and his eyes were wolfish, starving—and suddenly Riza’s collar began to feel unpleasantly tight.

Suddenly, he pushed his chair back from the desk. The squeal of the chair legs on the floor raised heads around the room. Riza’s lips tightened.

“Got a memo from Elizabeth this morning,” he said carelessly, rolling his shoulders. “I’d better go check in to see if she’s got new intel. Hawkeye?”

Riza stood up, pushing her chair neatly back under her desk.

“Of course, sir.”

The two of them walked down the bright hallway, down a short staircase, and into a darker, narrower realm of Central Command where the offices were empty, and strange noises were chalked up to rats.

“Do you think Elizabeth has anything interesting news for me today?” he asked.

“I hardly know what you consider ‘interesting news’ sir,” Riza responded. Her uniform was buttoned all the way up to the front of her throat—a decision she was now profoundly regretting.

Roy walked in front of her—as usual. And as usual, he turned the knob of the fourth door to the right. As usual, it was unlocked.

And, as usual, once they were inside, the muzzle came off the wolf.

Roy kissed her, driving her back against the cold wall of the supply closet. His tongue teased sparks on her lips, and then he tilted her head back. He hooked the corner of her mouth with a rough thumb, and her lips opened. He gripped her chin, holding her close and still against him. He kissed her until her knees were weak—until her lips were dark and bruised. He pulled away from her a short distance, wiping the corner of his mouth.

Riza looked at him through half-lidded eyes. Her chest rose and fell rapidly. At this point, the heat beneath her uniform collar could really be considered torture.

“Anything yet?” she murmured.

Roy’s hungry gaze flickered a bit.

“Hm?” He ran a finger down the opening of her jacket, tugging it not quite enough to open.

“Have you—”

He sank to his knees in front of her, and Riza felt herself begin turning to liquid.

“F-found any…”

—Unfastening her belt, slipping her out of her rough uniform pants, sucking a long, wet mark on the quivering muscle of her inner thigh—

“…In-interesting, ah—interesting news.”

He chuckled, his breath hot against her wanting skin. Her fingers clutched his hair as he dragged his nose up the crease of her hip. Then, returning, to kiss her again over her underwear. Riza held her breath as he dragged her undergarments down.

“I think…” he muttered. His breath against her made her twitch and moan. He grabbed her hip, pinning her against the wall. Riza felt him smile against her, her nerves bunching into tight points of flame beneath his touch.

“I think I’ll come across something interesting very soon,” he said.

It was fire. She was all fire.

Chapter Text

“Go to sleep.”

“I’d enjoy that, sir, but your holster is digging into my spine.”

Riza froze, then arched away from Roy as far as the cramped space would allow.

“That…is your holster, isn’t it?”

He snorted so loudly she was tempted to jam her knuckles into his mouth. Stealth might be out the window, but at the very least she could prevent him from blowing the entire lid off their operation.

“I would think you’ve handled enough holsters in your life to answer that adequately, lieutenant,” Roy whispered with a grin.

Riza buried her face in her arms. He enjoyed their stakeouts far, far too much.

Chapter Text

“Are you kidding me?” Winry groaned. Ed waved down at her from the roof, a wide, sheepish grin on his face. The ladder he had used to get up there was now lying unhelpfully on the ground.

“Wanna help me out?” he asked in a cheerful voice.

Winry planted her hands on her hips.

“I don’t know,” she said, drawling the words out mockingly. “I feel like I should milk this opportunity.”

Ed’s grin began to droop.


“It’s not dairy often a former state alchemist gets stuck on the roof.”

Ed began grinding his teeth together, and Winry pressed a fist to her mouth to hide her laughter.

“What’s wrong, Ed? You’re looking a bit steamed!”

Chapter Text

Roy learns the true meaning of heartbreak the day he asks, half-joking, "If you could change one thing about me, what would it be?" and Riza replies, with no hesitation, "Your mustache."

“Really?!” he asked, sputtering. “Not even our workplace status so that we could finally date?”

“Nope!” said Riza cheerfully.

“Not even my history as a war criminal?”

“Nuh uh.”

“Not even–” Roy swallowed. “Not even my foot fungus?”

Riza met his eyes, and her own were suddenly as cold as watered steel. Roy shivered.

“Sir,” she said quietly, terribly. “The mustache is a fungus of the soul. It is the demon that lives in my sleep, infesting my waking hours with the knowledge that when I close my eyes, it is there. I cannot look you in the eye. I am forced to gaze slightly to the left of your face whenever we talk, but even then–I can see it. I see its shadow quiver with every word you speak. Sometimes I lie awake at night and try to remember a time before the mustache, and it is like trying to remember a life that has never been mine.”

Riza stopped. She took a deep, shuddering breath. Roy just stared at her, his jaw working.

“So…you’re sure you don’t think it’s just the tiniest bit sexy?” he asked, giving the mustache a flirtatious twirl. Riza reached for her gun.

Chapter Text

"Don't make me do this."

“A deal is a deal, Fullmetal.”

Ed shook his head despondently.

“I still don’t know how you could even remember something like that. It was 3 a.m. and you had more whiskey in you than blood.”

Mustang smirked, and repeated sagely: “A deal is a deal.”

Grinding his teeth together, Ed gave the very pregnant, very amused Winry an apologetic glance before extending his hand. Mustang, looking altogether too pleased with himself, took it.

“God…dammit,” Ed growled. “Fine. If it’s a boy, his middle name can–can be–”

He gave a slight shudder.


Chapter Text

It was a quiet day. Many of his days were quiet.

However, the morning did start with rather a lot of screaming. The little one had woken from increasingly severe night terrors, and now she clung to his neck like a soft, squirmy, tearful bib.

“Did you have a bad dream?” Ed asked his daughter. She nodded violently, sniffling into his shirt.

“Do you want to tell me about it?”

She shook her head with equal enthusiasm. The little pigtails Winry had lovingly curated the night before were bobbing at half-mast. He tried to untangle some of the knots with his fingers, but quickly exchanged that endeavor for a new tactic.

“Do you want ice cream for breakfast?”

She sniffed once, hesitant, half-expecting the offer to be rescinded. Then, tentatively, she nodded.

“Don’t tell your mother,” Ed said, giving the hallway door a nervous glance as though Winry would materialize behind him with a lecture about nutrition.

Downstairs, he spooned up two generous bowls of ice cream, and sat opposite his daughter as she solemnly scooped half of it into her mouth.

“It was a really bad dream,” she said, once fortified by dessert. “There was a lot of yelling. I think that was me.”

Ed nodded. “Yes, that most certainly was you.”

A dribble of vanilla ran down her chin, and she wiped at it, leaving a sticky smear across her face. Ed leaned across the table with a napkin.

“There was lightning inside our house. And lots of hands.”

Ed stopped. His arm still extended across the table, napkin hanging from his fingers.

“Then everything was white for a minute, and I was crying…and I hurt a lot, and it felt real.” She looked at him, forehead creased over huge, watery blue eyes.

Beneath his sickness over the nightmare, Ed’s stomach churned with a new kind of horror: the kind he imagined Hohenheim must have felt when he looked at his sons, and he knew what they had done, and what they had seen.

“It wasn’t real,” he said. He wiped the ice cream off her chin, and pinched her fat cheek.

“But it felt real—”

“A nightmare is only as real as you make it,” he interrupted, telling himself as much as her.

The kitchen door creaked open. Winry stood on the other side of it, rubbing her eyes. Ed yelped, sweeping both bowls off the table and into his lap.

“Why are you two up so early?” she croaked. Her hair was a sleepy nest of tangles, and her thick slippers slapped softly across the floor as she shuffled over to the table. Instead of sitting down next to Ed, she leaned on the back of his chair, resting her chin on top of his head. He caught a comfortable whiff of old automail grease, lemongrass soap, and toothpaste.

“Ice cream,” he admitted.

“Mmm,” Winry hummed. “Leave any for me?”

Ed offered her his own unfinished bowl. She took it from him, holding it at eye level in front of his face as she scooped a spoonful into her mouth. A cold drop landed directly on his nose, and he jumped.


She rapped him on the forehead with the butt of the spoon. “It’s your own fault for digging out the ice cream at five thirty in the morning.”

“It was under extraordinary circumstances,” Ed muttered.

Winry set the bowl and spoon back down on the table. She sighed, her cheek pressing warm against the top of his head.

“I know.”

: : :

The brothers were sprawled out beneath the big apple tree in the backyard. Winry and May sat with matching cups of coffee at the outdoor table. May began laughing heartily at something Winry said, holding her round, expectant belly while her shoulders shook. At the back of the yard near the fence, the young Rockbell-Elrics were enthusiastically experimenting with their blunt kunai: a gift from Xing that Ed strongly suspected originated with its emperor.

Alphonse was drawing squiggles in the dirt with a short stick. The squiggles morphed into stick figures, into cursive letters, into sharply angled renditions of the distant mountains.

“I miss when you were better at alchemy than I was,” he said suddenly.

Ed snorted. “Yeah, those four seconds were really fun.”

“No,” Al insisted. “I mean it. I really miss that.”

“I wasn’t the gifted brother, Al. Just older.”

Al sighed deeply, and set down the stick.

“I miss trying to overtake you in skill. It was your progress that guided me, Ed, and now I don’t remember what that felt like.” He shut his eyes, wiggled his human fingers. Enjoyed the dirt that caked underneath his fingernails.

There’s no one to be greater than anymore.”

Ed grinned. “For my humble little brother, you sound damn conceited.”

Al gave a short laugh. “Yeah, I suppose so. But…don’t you understand?”

Ed nodded, slowly. He picked up the stick Al had dropped, and drew a circle in the dirt. It was a flawed shape; the circumference shivering under an unsteady hand.


His voice held no sadness. If there was a trace of melancholy, it was sleeping underneath the heavy years of contentment: that what had happened to him was what should have been, and that what he sacrificed had been worth its loss.

“I can’t draw a perfect one anymore.”