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So Soft and Tender

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It had been a busy afternoon: a conference on the border war in Pendleton, complete with maps and top secret photographs; lunch with the mayors of the southern counties after a successful effort to unify community resources; tea with Fullmetal and Flame, bringing them to heel after getting too close to Father’s plans…

Elric had surprised him.  He was nothing like Mustang in that he insisted he’d never use his alchemical talents for bloodshed.  But for the young man to even think he could get away so easily by quitting the state alchemist program, King had to almost chuckle at that.  He was still so young, so naïve, despite all he and his brother had already been through.  Satisfied that the two of them (three if you counted the younger Elric in that hulking suit of armor) would continue to follow orders, he dismissed them, trusting Pride to keep tabs on them going forward.  With nothing else planned for the day, the Führer finished his cup of tea and went home.

In the car, his mind wandered around the details Pride had discovered about the women now under Father’s watchful eye.  The Rockbell girl was bright, tenacious, and stubborn- similar to the alchemist who saw her as more than a friend (but never said anything about it to anyone. That was a confession Pride had heard Fullmetal mutter under his breath, cheeks pink as cherries, as he ate dinner alone once).  As for Lt. Hawkeye, they already had a file on her in the Personal Records department, but it was too obvious the relationship with Mustang was much deeper than that.  Pride had seen her secret tattoo, had witnessed Mustang burning the ink away after the Ishvalan Conflict was over, had seen the two of them twisting in one another’s bed sheets after their return from the front, and was aware of the countless notes and secret hand signals.  Surveillance through the shadows was a mighty useful thing.

And Wrath couldn’t wait to see how much he could torment the sniper once she was under his command.

He had no doubt that she would know something was going on once she was transferred to his office, and how it was that she ended up there; Mustang wouldn’t have to say a word.  And from what reconnaissance they’d done on her, they were led to believe that she lived solely for helping Mustang reach his goal to take the country for himself.  Their relationship probably meant more to her than his desire to rule, however, and King planned on using that to his advantage.  He could kill her from the inside out and never lay a finger on her.  That sounded exciting.  Though to be fair, splitting her in half with one of his swords sounded equally exciting, and the thought of seeing Mustang’s reaction to that was the most exhilarating among the three.

At last the car reached the mansion, and delivered him to the front entrance.  The butler opened the door and he watched as Vera made her way down the grand staircase, smiling from ear to ear and looking elegant as ever.

“I wasn’t expecting you home so early, dear!” she called as she descended the last few steps.  “What’s the occasion?”

He smiled at her, a genuine expression of happiness that made his guts feel warm and the tension of the day recede into memory.  “It’s a beautiful afternoon and I felt like walking with you in the garden.” 

He could smite his enemies without a care in the world.  He could order armies of men to their deaths, condemn an entire race to extermination, and personally make miserable people he felt were worth the effort- and none of this gave him any emotion apart from satisfaction when the job was done.

He was a monster in every sense of the word.

Yet this gentle woman before him could soften his thoughts, give him a kind of joy that being Führer and a homunculus couldn’t ever bring him.  In the furthest reaches of his consciousness, he hoped she might be spared when the end came, but the monster in him knew it would not be so.  And yet, losing the one person most dear to him wouldn’t keep him from doing his part when it was time.

He’d sacrifice his only tenderness to see his assignment completed, and though he may miss her for a time afterward, he wouldn’t be slowed down for long.  He wouldn't even hate himself for it afterward.

Ignoring the tug of his humanity deep in his head, he offered her his arm to escort her to the manicured gardens on the estate, giving her a kiss to her soft cheek.  He liked the way she giggled when his mustache tickled her.  He made a note to see if she had the same reaction later when he kissed her in places further south along her body.

For now, however, he let himself taste what might have been if he’d lived a normal life, enjoying the moment and not dwelling on what the future held for both of them.