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mikkeneko

Austere and Lonely Offices


Then

It's not often that a mere Major—even a brand-new-minted State Alchemist—is summoned to a private meeting with the Fuhrer. Roy Mustang, days away from his twentieth birthday, is full of fanciful thoughts and stories. He is being selected, he thinks, for a special mission, one which can only be entrusted to him alone. He is looking forward to it, eagerly—looking forward to being able to serve his country, and his leader, in any way he can.

He wasn't expecting this.

"Sir," Roy blurts out helplessly, "are you—are you ordering me to—to sleep with your wife?"

The woman is seated on a low davenport, facing him; her husband, Fuhrer King Bradley, stands behind it. He places a hand on her shoulder, gently, and says, "The doctors have confirmed it for certain; I am unable to have children naturally. Yet I must, for the sake of my wife and my position, have a child I can raise and love as my own." He raises his head, and fixes the stern gaze of his one remaining eye. "I have heard well of you, Roy Mustang; both for your intelligence, to pass the State Alchemist examination so young, as well as your young man's virility."

Roy gulps, and stammers, and doesn't know how to explain to the leader of his country that these stories of his prowess were all fake, boasts and brags made up to win the respect of his peers, and if not for a fumbled night with the barmaid the day before he shipped out, he'd still be a virgin. In the end, he just says, "Sir."

The Fuhrer gives him a grave nod, which makes Roy feel ten times smaller. "You should feel honored, young man; the importance of this matter to national security cannot be overstated," he tells him in a gravely voice. "The country follows not only the leader, but the image of the leader, to unify the people in support and contentment. But the support of the people is a capricious thing, that can be cruel. If news of my condition were to become public knowledge, though a blameless crime, it would quickly become a scandal that could potentially shatter this country's confidence. Those who oppose me for their own reasons would quickly seize on anything as an excuse to build up their own power base, ripping apart our unity. Do you understand?"

He doesn't; he's young and overwhelmed and this talk about public opinion and factionalism and image is too far above his head, the stuff of politics and governmental matters, not for him. But the way the Fuhrer is looking at him makes him feel like he can't admit to this, can't let him down, so he only stiffens his hands at his sides, and says "Yes, sir."

The Fuhrer's face creases in a smile, and that relieves Roy; he doesn't want to let this man down. But still—something like this—his eyes are drawn downward, against his will, to the couch where the Fuhrer's wife sits, pale and composed, hands crossed in her lap. "But—ma'am—is this really..."

"Is this really what I want? Yes, it is." Anna Bradley raises her chin, looking determined; one hand rises up to rest on her husband's hand, on her shoulder. "I love my husband. I will do anything possible to support his career. Furthermore, I want children. We've discussed this before, and all the possibilities. I know that, no matter what, Bradley will love our child and raise it as our own."

"Yes, ma'am," Roy said, somewhat helplessly.

"As you can see, that is not an issue you need to worry about," Bradley says gravely. "But secrecy is of the utmost importance for this task. You can see that not one whisper of this can ever escape to reach the ears of the others. Do you accept this task?"

He is given an order by the leader of his nation, his supreme commander in chief; no matter what the order, Roy does not know how to say no. If he even can say no.


The first night, Roy is terrified; so much so that he can hardly perform the duty he's been assigned. He tries very, very hard to be careful and respectful, to make up for his lack of experience, and at the end, either he's managed not to hurt her, or she doesn't complain.

The second night, Roy is a little more secure; enough that he offers, diffidently, to return the favor for her. To try and accompany this act with a little more pleasure than just that necessary for the mechanics of the situation itself. She declines, and thanks him for his consideration.

By the third night, he is familiar with the routine. Whatever else he does in the evening, socializing with his peers, being seen, even occasionally leaving with a woman to keep up the act, at midnight when they come to fetch him he must be alone. He is escorted to the Fuhrer's residence through alleys in the city he never knew existed. His escorts leave him at Anna's door, long enough to do the deed, but hardly a few minutes after that; and he is returned to the dorms afterwards, completely in secret. The Fuhrer himself is never seen.

If the subject of the assignment weren't so shameful, Roy might feel excited, as though this were some grand adventure, some all-important clandestine mission. Instead, when he finds himself in his room again alone, he cannot explain just why there seems to be a layer of invisible grime over his skin.


It does not occur to him until later—years later—that this might be considered a case of sexual abuse.

Not that it matters.


After two weeks of nightly visits, the escorts stop coming; the next day, he receives from his sergeant another discreetly worded note, stating that the success of the assignment has been confirmed, and he is no longer required. That makes him feel better; vastly relieved, for more reasons than he can quite fathom, and a little victorious.

A month later, a triumphant headline runs in the newspaper: the Fuhrer's wife is expecting. An almost holiday feeling settles over the city; the men walk around with stiff backs and puffed chests, as though sharing in their leader's good fortune, and the women are all mad with romantic and maternal fervor. Morale in the army runs high, despite the mounting losses in the Ishvar campaign, and Roy feels proud that he was able, in some anonymous part, to contribute to this.

It occurs to him to regret, in a humorous way, that he has pulled off the ultimate coup—he has slept with the wife of the leader of his country, and impregnated her with his child—and he will never, ever be able to brag about it. He keeps the secret in his head, and silent, and contents himself with the knowledge that he is a little different from all his peers, for all their posing.


After that, other men's girls don't seem so sacred any more.


He does not follow the details of the pregnancy, or the birth. He has other things to concern him. It is not very much longer before State Alchemists are called into Ishvar, and with the rest of them, Roy goes. It is his first combat assignment.

The next few months are a nightmare of blood and burning buildings, of following trails of blood through smoky and rubble-strewn alleyways, of flushing out guerillas (children! only children!) with knives and stolen guns. For a year, Roy can't concern himself with much of anything besides a stain of black on the wall, smears of blood over glass, betrayal and death.

He wants to die.


He can no longer look up to the Fuhrer. Mud and smoke and blood have washed away his innocence and naiveté. The only thing that keeps him going is the determination that someday, after the Fuhrer is gone, he will step into his place and he will change things. He is no longer alone, without support against the world; he has friends who will help him, and he settles himself in for the long, slow climb.

For a while he contemplated a satisfying revenge against the Fuhrer who'd orchestrated so much blood and death and chaos; the scandal that he'd so feared years before, multiplied, to bring the man out of power, to revenge his lost innocence. But as satisfying as the thought might be, it is only a daydream; who would take his word for it, unsupported, against all the extinguishing pressure that the Fuhrer could bring to bear on him? Even if he succeeded, he could only create more chaos, and it would be his wife who suffered most from it, and his son.

The Fuhrer's son was born while he was gone. Roy makes no attempt to see him, or watch over him; he barely skims the personal stories in the paper, makes no attempt to attend the same parties. He does not care to become involved, nor dare.

A part of him feels vaguely concerned, vaguely responsible, but it is enough to hear—through idle chatter, or an editorial here or there—that the Fuhrer is a dedicated family man, a loving husband and a fine father. That whatever his flaws as a leader, he is still a decent enough person to care well for his family.


He catches sight of a photograph, once, and wishes he had not. The boy looks like him.


Seasons change, scandals come and go. Roy gets promoted, then again. It sickens him, a little, to use his reputation from Ishvar as credit for advancement, but his determination steadies him. Hughes gets married, which relieves Roy, because this last step seems to convince Hughes at last that Roy is not going to steal his fiancée away from him. Roy does not have the heart to tell him that if he had ANY interest in stealing Gracia away, which he doesn't, a wedding band would not stop him.

It's when he's standing beside Hughes at the altar, the best man at the ceremony, and listening to the preacher drone on, that something occurs to him. He is older now, and some things which seemed like far-off 'someday' dreams to his eighteen-year-old are suddenly, shockingly now.

For the first time, it really hits him; he is a father, he has a child. He has a son out there who he will never see, who will never know him, who will grow up belonging to another, and Roy has no hope of ever reclaiming him.


The military is also searching for your father, Hohenheim. Roy looks down at the bed, at the little boy lying pale and bloodless between the sheets, and it twists something hard in his gut, although he lets nothing show on his face. He does not care for this combination of children and blood, of pain and fear on young faces.

This boy is brave, to do what he's done, to pick up a weapon far too deadly for a child and point it in the face of death. He had already decided that he would not report this crime, no matter what the laws say; now something moves inside him to push him further. "Come and see me in Central," he says. "I will help you."

These boys are without their father, and Roy is without his child. As he walks back into the rain, pulling the soaked hood over his head, he finds himself hoping—for the brothers' sake, nothing more—that they come to him.


He arranges things the best he can; one of the newer State alchemists is a family man, with a young daughter, and his area of research is squarely in line with what the boys are seeking. He is no parent, Roy thinks, and it's best for the boys to be set up in a family household, to comfort them from their recent losses.

It's a mistake.

Looking down at the golden hair, dull and flattened by the rain, he cannot let the boy's sobs tear his heart out. This is his fault, he thinks, his failure to foresee or prevent this, although intellectually he knows the blame all falls on that madman Tucker, and whoever it was that murdered the little girl.

He wishes that he could take this pain away from them, that he could send them away from this place and this city and anything that ever resembled alchemy again. But he doesn't have that power. The most he can do, he comes to realize, is support them in the direction they need to go.


The sky is high and blue, when they put his best friend in the ground. Gracia weeps softly at the foot of the grave, and her daughter's voice is miserable and confused, crying for her lost father. Of everything, it's her face that Roy can't get out of his head.

The sky is high and blue, and it is raining.


The country is at war. The country is always at war, moving from one fabricated enemy to the next. The Fuhrer sets them at each others' throats, like dogs, friend against friend and family against family.

The Fuhrer sent him here to kill the boy, he knows. He's wondered for a long time how much the Fuhrer knows, how far into Roy's own head he sees, and whether the choice of this assignment was oblivious or deliberate cruelty.

He will do what he has to, he thinks, to make it to the top; to gain the power he needs, to protect the children from war. He's not sure whether the Fuhrer knows, and whether it was intentional, to present him with this dilemma.

Not that there's any choice to be made. Not when Fullmetal is watching him like that, anger and defiance layered over fear. Wild and desperate. Cornered. Hunted. A familiar face, oh yes, a very familiar face; one he's seen in his nightmares for years since Ishvar. Edward is no coward, by any stretch of the imagination; but he ran, because he was afraid, and Roy hunted him down.

What, he wonders, is going on behind those golden eyes? What does Ed imagine that Roy is about to do? What does Ed think he means to Roy, after all this time, all this effort that Roy has poured into him, all this grief and worry that he received in return?

Hughes was lucky, Roy reflects, that he never had a son.

"Why?" he asks, and his anger rings in the little canyon he and Armstrong created. "Why did you not come to me?"

Now:

The Fuhrer is a homunculus.

Roy's betrayal is complete. As the last veil is stripped away, he can see everything; everything the Fuhrer has done, why it was done; his part in it, just a tiny cog in the wheel of the larger machine. The Fuhrer has used him, used them all, used them up; men, women, children all.

The plan of careful waiting is no more. Roy stares out the window of the car as the city rumbles past, Hawkeye in the driver's seat. He will no longer wait, he must act, he must act to see that one more child is never harmed by the Fuhrer's smiling devilry. One more child who is too close, much too close to this monster in human form.

"It will be your job to see that the Fuhrer's family is taken far away," he says quietly, over the rumble of the engine. "Somewhere safely away."

Hawkeye murmurs agreement. He never told her about this, although he thinks she suspects something at least. It won't matter for much longer, though. Very little will matter for much longer.

He will see the Fuhrer dead. He will have no more children used as pawns, forced unwittingly into shame, or fear, or violence, or pain.

His son will be safe at last.