Author's Notes: I know, I know. I only said there was going to be two parts and honestly I had no intentions of writing a third part. It was done in my mind. And then while I work I started thinking about something stupidsexymustang and I were gushing over. A few glasses of wine later, and this was produced.
out of the flames
part three: respite
When the door opened, Rebecca didn't bother to fight the urge to throw the blanket over her head and yell at whoever had decided to disrupt her sleep. She wasn't a heavy sleeper. The slightest of sounds could wake her up, even if she was under the influence of some heavy medication apparently. Jean could sleep through a storm, an earthquake, and possibly the end of the world, but if there was one out of place noise around her, Rebecca would startle awake and prepare to fight someone.
Except that she was stuck in a hospital, her left arm in a cast, and covered in bruises and cuts up to her head thanks to a burning building falling on top of her, so she wasn't exactly in shape to fight anyone.
"Aren't people supposed to leave recovering patients to, you know, recover?" Rebecca demanded as she rolled over in her bed. She tried not to wince at the pain in her side, but it was hard not to do so. Having a metal beam land on top of you, pining your arm down and landing across your chest, wasn't pleasant and tended to leave some painful reminders.
"You didn't want to thank your savior?"
Rebecca threw the blanket back and glared in the direction of the person interrupting her nap time. "Well, if it isn't General Smug Face himself, here to bless me with his presence." Surprisingly, maybe mostly to her, there was not that much heat or sarcasm behind her words. She had called him variations of that name from the time that she had known him, changing it whenever his rank changed, but for perhaps the first time in their lives, even though he sounded like he was being a smug bastard, she didn't mean it.
Roy Mustang smirked back at her as he leaned against the wall. Rebecca almost scowled. No, he was definitely a smug bastard, even if he had risked killing himself to save her life while protecting Jean and Riza. How did he manage to do be both?
Steeling herself, Rebecca sat up in her bed as straight as possible. Not as good as Riza's practical stance since she still had bandages around her waist, but Rebecca was a soldier at heart still. "Did you need something from me?"
"Not from you, no," Mustang admitted, "more for myself." When Rebecca quirked up an eyebrow at him, he gave her a sheepish smile that she could tell right off the bat that was something he normally gave Riza. Probably when he was slacking at paperwork. "I needed to apologize."
That caught Rebecca off guard. Her jaw dropped a little as she gaped at him. For all the years that she had known this man, Mustang had not been one to apologize. He had taken Riza and Jean from her, dragged Riza through all sorts of hell, had even had a hand in Jean getting paralyzed, and so much more – all for the sake of getting promoted time and time again. The man was relentless and entirely selfish when it came to his career, even if it meant stepping on the faces of his subordinates to get what he wanted.
And yet he had risked dying to save a person that he could seemingly not care less for.
Rebecca had been told the details of her rescue a few days after the accident had occurred when the sedatives and the painkillers didn't put her to sleep every ten minutes. Jean and Riza would've thrown their lives away in an attempt to save her. She had known the moment that she saw the roof start to collapse that if she pushed Jean out of the way that she would most likely die. She'd had seconds to make that decision, but she had only needed one. There was no way in hell or heaven that she would let Jean suffer another injury or worse. She loved him too much and he had gone through too much to get where he was today. And so the decision to save Jean in place of her own life had not been a difficult one.
It was harder for her to imagine what had gone outside the building while she had been trapped. Jean ready to die in an attempt to save her, ignoring the fact that she had done what she did to save him; Riza losing sight of herself to jump back into the fire and rubble to save a woman that was more like a sister than a friend. And the only person to keep them alive was Roy Mustang, an absolutely despicable man that only cared for himself. Or did he?
There Mustang was, leaning against the wall, hands in his pockets, his dark eyes focused on her in a way that might have made her squirm if she wasn't stuck in a hospital bed or absolutely in love with his First Lieutenant or knew that his heart lied elsewhere. He was terribly handsome. He used it to his advantage. Rebecca had griped and sneered about that fact, if only because she knew how much her best friend loved the man though she wouldn't admit it, but even she could not lie that the man was attractive in his own bastardry way. He gave off that air now, but for the first time, she could smell it in the air that it was nothing more than false advertisement.
Roy Mustang was a fake. He cared about the people that served under him, to the point that he would risk his life and throw himself to the wolves if it meant protecting them. They weren't really that different, were they?
"This is the drugs, isn't it?" Rebecca decided. "I'm just high off the painkillers."
"No, you heard me correct," Mustang responded, swaggering over towards her like he would have any other easy female cadet. And yet, despite the painkillers she was on, she saw how utterly fake his bravado was. He was making it all too easy for her to see with his obviousness. "I'm here to apologize."
Rebecca took a deep breath through her nose, sitting up straight, sinking, and everything. The idea of Mustang apologizing to her was unheard of? But especially after what he had done? She had to be dreaming. Instead of exclaiming her shock though, she did something also unheard of: she swallowed her pride. "There's no need for you to apologize. I should be thanking you. After all, you saved my life."
Mustang tilted his head in a curious manner. "I was wrong about you, Lieutenant."
"Wrong?" Rebecca rubbed her head with her good hand. "You're here to apologize and admit you were wrong? Now I know I'm dreaming."
Instead of getting aggravated though, Mustang only chuckled. "I should've expected that from you. Here I am, thinking I could come in here, apologize, and be on my merry way – but no, you wouldn't let me do that. You've gotta drag me in the mud first." He wasn't angry though. That much Rebecca could tell. He was all too cheerful, chuckling and still smiling. It was like he was happy that she wasn't trying to get on her knees to thank him for saving her life and keeping Jean and Riza out of harm's way for her. She rather wished he would. That way it would've confirmed everything she had thought about him before. "You love him, don't you?"
For a moment, Rebecca didn't think she could breathe. Mustang was so straightforward with his question that it wasn't a question at all. He knew that answer, regardless of what she said. He alone had been the one to see the way she had jumped so willingly to protect Jean's life in disregard of her own. He alone had been the one to save her when it meant putting his life and goals at risk. Her death wouldn't have been a mark against his record. It would have been nonexistent in the end. She could have died and he would have still risen to the top. In the end, it didn't make sense for him to risk his life for her.
Unless he cared about his subordinates more than he was supposed to, more than he showed to the world.
In a way, it was so terribly similar to the way she hid her feelings for Jean. She could snap at him, whack him on the arm, refuse to talk to him, and huff at him in irritation, but at the end of the day, Rebecca could not deny that she loved Jean with her entire heart and soul. The mere idea of him getting hurt had jumped her heartbeat to yell at him to stay behind cover, but the sight of him in a position where he could have died… Her entire body, mind, and soul had screamed for her to save him.
So Rebecca did the only thing she could do. She tilted her chin up, regardless of the pain, and made the most serious expression she could muster as she said, "I do."
And of course, in response, Mustang only smiled. "I know."
"Then why would you ask me?" Rebecca demanded heatedly.
"I just wanted to hear you admit it," Mustang replied. "I know how stubborn you are."
Rebecca swelled up with rage, but it deflated just as quickly. It had taken her months to come to terms with herself that she loved Jean Havoc. The moment the thought had crossed her mind, she had been absolutely repulsed by it – and at the same time, she had been incredibly happy. Jean was a conflicting man. He liked to pretend that he was dumb, just another country bumpkin, and yet he was savvy and quick to draw and oh-so-willing to lay his life on the line for the people that he cared about. He'd fight someone for Breda, take Riza into his arms, and take a bullet for Mustang. And for Rebecca? Oh, he'd take on the entire world for her, even when they weren't talking to one another because of a petty fight.
Closing her eyes, Rebecca forced the words out of her mouth. "I misjudged you."
When she opened her eyes, she was able to spot for the briefest of moments that Mustang was taken aback as well. After all, Rebecca was not one to admit her faults, perhaps even more so than the General himself. "Oh?"
"For the longest time, I was convinced that you only cared about yourself," Rebecca said. Mustang didn't flinch. He had been accused of much worse, especially by her. Jean had told her of how he had accused Mustang of not wanting to help her because Mustang supposedly hated her. It hadn't been the case at all. He simply couldn't help her at that time because he didn't have the means. The moment he did, even if it meant dying, he had jumped to save her. Idiots, the lot of them, including Edward Elric for giving Mustang the array. "I now know that I was wrong. You're one hell of an emotional fool."
"My true weakness," Mustang chortled.
This time, Rebecca smiled. "You'd do anything for love, wouldn't you?"
"Apparently so would you," Mustang countered.
It occurred to Rebecca that she hadn't truly seen Roy Mustang. She could picture him becoming upset over Riza having her throat slashed in order to threaten him to perform human transmutation, but she had never truly understood how it had broken him until this very moment. Her entire body softened as she looked at the man that she had threatened to pummel over the head with her purse on multiple occasions. She would have done anything to protect Jean, to save his life, just as Mustang would have done to protect Riza – and as of a few days ago, to protect Jean too. The love of her life was so foolhardy.
"I thought you were such a petty person," Mustang began thoughtfully, "just waiting on Havoc to make it big once I got to the top. Surely you knew I would bring him with me. He's an excellent and loyal soldier, if nothing else."
Rebecca had to bite her lip. Of course she knew those things about Jean. It was one of the first things that had attracted her to him. Back in the day, she could go on all day about how she wanted a rich husband, but at the end of it, a good man in a uniform, a man that was loyal to his commanding officer, somehow won her over no matter what. And Jean had been so good and loyal to a fault, so kind and gentle and relentless at the same time. He brought her flowers on one day and then took her to the gun range for a date on the next. How could she have not fallen for him?
"But then you were so willing to give your life up for Havoc's – and I saw the look in your eyes." Mustang shook his head. "There wasn't any doubt. You were ready to give up your life for his. You had no intentions of coming out of this alive as long as it meant that he would live."
It took a certain amount of strength for Rebecca to breathe in this moment. When Jean was with her, she was able to pretend that she had expected him to save her. She smiled and told him that she knew that he would come to get her, that he would never abandon her, that he would find her. And then they would live happily ever after. But when she had seen the roof of the factory collapsing, she had known: it was her or him. She chose him.
Maybe it was selfish. If she had died, she would have never known the difference. But all she had been able to think about was Lust stabbing him in the back, him almost dying, and she couldn't bear for that to happen again. She wanted Jean to live. She wanted him to be safe. She just wanted him to be okay. If it had meant her dying to ensure that, she was fine with that.
"He's suffered enough, hasn't he?" Rebecca finally managed.
At that, Mustang bowed his head regretfully. "Yes, yes he has."
"I couldn't…" Rebecca clenched her good hand into a fist. "I couldn't allow him to suffer again. He went through too much already. He's too good of a person for that."
"He is," Mustang concurred wholeheartedly, and Rebecca knew. She knew that she had never seen Mustang for what he truly was. Jean had told her of how Mustang had carved his alchemy symbol into the back of his hand when his gloves had been ripped by Lust – how he had cauterized Jean's wounds before his own, even if it meant bleeding out – how he'd burned and severely scarred himself, before crawling to his feet and staggering to save Riza and Alphonse – but it honestly hadn't occurred to Rebecca until she had been told the details of her own rescue the lengths that Mustang would go to save a person he cared for. And he did care for Jean, and if it meant dying in an attempt to save her for Jean, he would do it.
Rebecca finally understood Riza's predicament. Damn this man. Damn him to hell and heaven and back.
"You know then," Mustang said.
"How could I not?" Rebecca asked with a short laugh.
No one would have done what Mustang had done to save her if they did not understand what the two people involved were going through. It was so painfully clear to Rebecca that Mustang had nearly lost someone that he loved with his entire soul. No one talked about it. His screams for her to call back him, the way that that Riza had been used against him, how he had held her in his arms in a pathetic attempt to bring her back. No one on the team had seen it happen, but they all knew that it did. Princess May Chang had been all too willing to recount the absolute beautiful love that she had seen between the then-Colonel and his then-Lieutenant.
Mustang shook his head, maybe at himself, maybe at her, maybe at all of them. "The things we do for love…"
"It's not supposed to be logical," Rebecca said. "Love is a tricky thing. I was ready to die for Jean."
"And I was ready for perform human transmutation for Riza," Mustang admitted. He sunk in on himself for a moment. Rebecca blinked in surprise. It was an obvious show of weakness for Mustang, especially in front of people that he didn't trust, but she realized that the moment that he admitted this was the moment that he had completely opened up to her. How many people had he done this for? Riza? Havoc? That Elric kid? "I knew that if I performed human transmutation, I would've condemned myself to hell, but I was willing to do that if it meant saving her life. Turns out she had other ideas and I listened."
Rebecca understood that it wasn't easy for Mustang to admit this. He liked to pretend that he was strong the entire time – that he had never faltered once – but the cold hard truth was that he would have performed the ultimate taboo sin in order to save the woman that he loved, even though he knew the consequences. He would have given up anything for Riza. Truth be told, Rebecca didn't like to think about it. She wasn't an alchemist and she had never had anything to do with that science. But she knew enough to know equivalent exchange. In Mustang's mind, the only thing equivalent to Riza was his life. To Rebecca, the only thing equivalent to Jean's life was her own.
They were such foolish idiots.
"I just…I couldn't stand the idea of him being hurt again." Tears welled in her eyes. She closed them, begged the tears to leave her, and then took a deep breath. "I love him, sir, and I refuse to admit otherwise. It may have clouded my judgment, but I don't care."
Despite their disagreements, Mustang didn't argue. "Thank you for your dedication to save another officer."
Rebecca blinked. "You're not….angry? Frustrated? Tired? You could have died trying to save me…"
"And so could you have," Mustang finished. "You're a much better person than I gave you credit for."
From her times working with him, she knew that compliments were far and few between, but she also could somewhat recognize the soft smile that he was giving her. She thought that Riza would understand its meaning completely – that she would be able to decipher it on the spot – but Rebecca wasn't as skilled, and she was left t to believing that Mustang was being kinder to her than he normally was. Mustang did not like to admit weakness and certainly not kindness, but in this respect, he was willing.
"You'll take care of him when I can't?" Mustang asked teasingly, though Rebecca could detect a hint of seriousness in his voice. The man truly did worry over his subordinates. And he was trying to rise to the top. What an idiot.
Rebecca did what she could do: she smiled. "Always."
And she would, forever and a day. Jean liked to pretend that he was protective towards her, but she would fight with her entire life for him, even if it meant fighting against him.