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and the dreams grow teeth

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The thing wearing Roy's body fools her for thirty-five seconds, the time it takes for a man to walk down the stairs of Central Command, stop in front of his lieutenant, and smile. It smiles very widely, and very toothily, and it uses the colonel's mouth to look like the bastard he occasionally pretends to be. It says, "Lieutenant."

She salutes it.

The conversation they have is brief and to the point. It asks her how she'd feel about being the Fuhrer's assistant; she says that she'll go where she's ordered. It laughs. "There's no loyalty anywhere!" it says. "Don't get too comfortable. I'll want you back."

"Colonel," she says. "Did you have a chance to read the report I gave you about the Northern marches?"

It narrows Roy's eyes, then smiles wider. "Slavedriver. It's on my desk. I'll read it in the months without your help."

She salutes again. "Sir. Where are we going now?"

"You should go home," it says, standing too close. "I have to think about our course of action."

"Be careful, colonel," she says, and watches it walk away.

She finds an alleyway as fast as she can and is sick until she can't be anymore, then she closes her eyes against what threaten to be tears and stands again. It's shadowed in the alleyway, cool and comforting after the hot Central spring.


Edward comes by to return her gun, Alphonse at his heel. Edward shifts from foot to foot and she knows they know; Alphonse drops a hand on his shoulder and asks to come in, and she knows they're real. No simulacra as clumsy as the colonel's could fake the affectionate exasperation with which he shoves his brother inside, or the soprano with which he says, "Lieutenant, Colonel Mustang..." and then can't finish.

"I know," she says. "It's all right."

The story they tell is confused, Ling Yao lost to a homunculus, a meeting with the Fuhrer. They hadn't seen the colonel, but Fuhrer Bradley had practically gloated about it. It had been a deal. They can't tell her the terms.

"I'm sure it made sense at the time," Alphonse protests, as Edward paces up and down the length of her little kitchen. "The colonel is very tricky."

Edward pivots to glare at her. "He's very stupid," he snarls. "Everyone we know is an idiot! This entire country has a population of a million idiots and a couple dozen monsters!"

"So he's -- replaced?" she says, groping to understand the alchemical terms. "Copied?"

Alphonse shakes his head. "Possessed."

"We don't even know by what," Edward growls. "It could be any of those bastards, or one we've never even heard of."

"We have to get him out of there," Alphonse says, definitively, and Edward jerks his head up and down: obviously. As easy as getting their bodies back.

"I'll do anything," she says, factually. "But the country's on high alert now because of Selim. We'll have to be careful."

"Selim?" Edward looks blankly to Alphonse. "The Fuhrer's son?"

She opens her mouth to ask didn't you--? but Edward was inside a monster's stomach an hour ago; all bets are off. "Selim's vanished," she says, instead. "They say it must be Scar."


Something brushes her calf, then winds up her thigh. Another slides down her shoulder. She is very still.

"Lieutenant," it says. "You're out late."

In the light from the lantern, she can see the long shadow of the bridge open a lazy eye. "Colonel," she says, and turns. Roy is standing behind her, his face half-dark, his uniform unnaturally straight. "You're going home. Enough work put in?"

"I don't understand you," it sighs. "You're a nuisance. Father should have killed you while you waited for your colonel, but you know how impetuous my brother is." A hand slides over her neck, curves up her chin, rests on her cheek. "What do you think? Will I make a good Fuhrer?"

"Colonel Mustang will be the next Fuhrer," she says, tilting her chin up, and another hand tugs up her neck to straighten her out. She can just see a sliver of white on her chest, an eye opening, or a mouth.

"I don't think so," it says. "It's possible." It reaches out another hand to take her gun, and some critical line is crossed and Roy's shadowed eyes tip up and he's looking at her, he is looking at her, and he nods, and without moving her own head she uses her free hand to go for his throat.

It makes a wet inhuman sound and she wishes that she thought like Rebecca, that she lacquered her nails hard enough to tear. It doesn't struggle for breath, maybe it doesn't need to breathe, but it does have to squirm, to use Roy's instincts, and she knows how Roy moves. She moves with Roy and snaps its fucking neck. She jerks back: a bullet in its forehead, a bullet to each shoulder, and while it's crackling back into place a bullet to each hip, and behind her she hears the Chang girl's clap and it rips into five crawling pieces, and only one of them has black fingers around her ankle, and she hesitates, one more bullet to get her free and out of range, but no, she's going to need it for later. "Alphonse!" she yells, and the dome closes up around them.

She can see, by the red light, Roy pulling himself back together. And then they are alone in the dark.


"You're going to have to breathe eventually," it says, from somewhere along the back wall of the dome.

Her hand closes over the pistol. "Eventually," she says. "But there's air for a few more hours."

"Humans." It's Roy's laugh. "You don't understand when to give up. This whole world is finished, and you're still waiting for your lover to come back."

She shakes her head; she expects that it can see in the dark. "No."

"Oh?" It lets out a hiss. "He's waiting for you."

"I know," she says. "I'm under orders."

There's a listening silence. Eventually he says, "Do you know how many people are inside me? Hundreds and hundreds. How long do you think one little voice can last once I know it's there?"

"The colonel is also under orders," she says. "To protect his country, and not to make me kill him."

There's a rustling noise, and she hears its footfall getting closer to her. She lifts the gun but it only laughs again, this time with an echo behind it. "You won't shoot me," it says, definitely. "You're saving that bullet."

She closes her useless eyes as it kneels in front of her. There's a pressure against the barrel of her gun: its hand? its mouth? It says, "Don't worry. He won't let me kill you."

"Yes," she says. "That is one of the ways in which he's a fool."

The pressure lifts from her gun and it sits down next to her, Roy's arm around her shoulder, as though they're children again and one of them has just undergone her father's temper, as though at any minute he's going to turn his face into her cheek and admit that he's afraid. It rests its forehead against the crown of her head, instead. She holds very still.

"Riza," it says, in the best imitation of his voice yet. "I gave up everything for you."

It kisses her, open-mouthed.

"And when they open the dome," it says, as she breathes in, out, in, "and I'm free, and I'm not just this stubborn shell, I'll do that again before I snap your neck."

It drifts back against the opposite wall.

She settles the gun inside her mouth. She waits.