Betaed once again by the awesome Crazythorn.


Switching Off

On the day the Fuhrer died, it snowed.

He went to sleep the night before, as the flakes drifted gently down. He never woke up. They found him that way in the morning.

There was no big fanfare, no great uproar. The nation mourned. By the time he had died, the title of Fuhrer had diminished far past what it had been, and much of the nation's power had been transferred to the Parliament. Asmestris was peaceful now.

A few dozen of the Fuhrer's closest associates attended the funeral. Family and friends. Mostly friends. The people who weren't there were almost as significant as those who were. There was Brigadier General Hughes, of course, who was murdered years and years ago. There was General Hawkeye, who contracted a strange disease and didn't make it past the age of forty. Izumi Curtis and Major General Farman. Brigadier General Breda and Tim Marco. So many had gone before, passed on, and now the Fuhrer was joining their ranks.

The ground was covered in ankle-deep snow on the day of the funeral, but the sun glowed bright in the sky. A few children who didn't know better gazed at the white blanket with a certain amount of longing, but refrained from throwing snowballs whenever their parents glared. Though most military funerals were silent, dreary affairs, the Fuhrer demanded in his will that his funeral should be a place to remember him as a human and not the Fuhrer. It was strangely enough in his nature as a reformer to ask that, and all that attended were determined to carry out his wishes.

Over there, by the headstone, stood General Havoc. No cigarette in mouth; he'd quit long before, when his health had been steadily declining. His blonde hair had turned a deep silver, and his hands were a spiderweb of wrinkles and veins. He gripped a cane, even though he didn't need one. A vague smile floated on and off his weathered face as he recounted stories of the Fuhrer's dating habits and office behavior. The Fuhrer was a notorious ladies' man back in the day. But so was Havoc, and the stories are told with a warmth and affection, even when Havoc didn't exactly benefit from the Fuhrer's behavior.

Next to him was Kain Fury. His round glasses were the exact same type that he wore thirty years ago. He hadn't quite lost the nervous twitch of a social outcast not completely at ease with himself, but there was an easy adult confidence to him that helped balance it out. He talked softly, but not hesitantly, about the Fuhrer's kindness. There were nods from the others when he described meeting the Fuhrer for the first time and being intimidated by the man's sheer power. He had been relatively innocent then, and his face now contained a certain amusement for his younger self's discomfort.

Alicia Hughes was attending her second military funeral. There was a certain poise and beauty to her that would have made her father glow with pride. She didn't know the Fuhrer very well, but he had visited her and her mother occasionally. She talked about his visits before. The way he had joked with her father and smiled at the sight of her, too young to really understand what they were saying. She told them that the Fuhrer was with her father now, most likely recounting their adventures while having a beer. She smiled as she said that, and it got a muted, but honest, laugh.

General Armstrong was the oldest of them all. His muscles had atrophied over time, but his presence was no less intimidating. He did need his cane, and it was hard to tell just how it managed to hold his massive frame upright. There was a rapt silence when he began talking. Even the children, who were fidgeting after listening for so long, stood quiet and still. Armstrong spoke of the War. He spoke of killing for the first time. He spoke of the first time the Fuhrer had killed someone. He spoke of atrocities and hate. He spoke of deception and murder. At the end of it all, he spoke of the peace the Fuhrer brought. It was strange to see so large a man cry, but no one commented on it. Some of them were crying as well.

The coffin was draped in a flag. The bright green shone on such a sunny day. The people there each had a turn to speak, to remember. Some choked up, others didn't, but all their voices carried hints of their love of the man. In the cool morning, their breathing was visible, and their hands were tucked into mittens and gloves. Some shivered after standing so long in the snow, but all were there to pay their respects.

Somewhat isolated from it all, yet still fully a part of it, stood the Elrics. When it came time for them to speak, they talked together, until was less a speech and more of a dialogue. Edward had grown taller and older over the years, though he'd never quite caught up with his brother. Alphonse was quieter, and little less knowledgeable having lost a few years, but there was a certain self-understanding in his eyes that gave him the upper hand. They talked of missions and adventures and how the Fuhrer helped them and hurt them. It was honest in the best sense of the word. There was no white-washing of the Fuhrer's faults, no covering up of the viciousness and drive that helped him get to the top. There was no hiding the immense amount of respect the brothers had for him either, for his intelligence and rare moments of obvious kindness.

The casket was lowered as someone played a traditional song, pained and beautiful. There was one final salute before the service was over. After it did end, the people drifted off slowly, almost reluctant to put the man to rest. A few stayed to visit other gravestones, other people lost.

The Elrics were the last to leave. They stood there, just past the mound of earth. "Thank you," Edward muttered to the engraved name. It was probably the most the Fuhrer would ever get out of him in terms of gratitude, but the man deserved it, in his own way. The Fuhrer had brought about real change, real reform to this place. He'd given the Elrics hope, and the means to achieve their dream. The appreciation had been understood, and there was no need to say it out loud. It was different now, though. This was a moment of rare honesty, and the words were needed for closure.

Edward and his brother walked away from the graveyard under the bright winter sun. Spring would come, then summer. The world moved on.

It was just another funeral.