Chapter 1: Roy Mustang I
Roy Mustang was having a bad day.
First of all, it was raining. So while the rest of the team pursued rumors of a dissident just outside of Central, Captain Riza Hawkeye had somehow convinced him that he would be more useful completing paperwork than out in the field.
This left him with an empty office, a large stack of paperwork, and no distractions. When some new recruit stumbled into Mustang's office thinking that he was on the East side of the building (rather than the West), Mustang chatted with him for at least twenty minutes before even the private needed to leave for some orientation training.
Which left Roy Mustang alone again, staring down a seemingly growing stack of assessments, plans, and pleas for money, which had been deposited onto his desk from towns all across Amestris. He couldn't imagine Fuhrer King Bradley ever spending this much time catering to the whim of his public, and when Mustang had vowed to become Fuhrer all those years ago in Ishval, he had no idea that it involved so much reading and signing. Whenever his subordinates ran off on assignments, even just ones across the building, he eyed them jealously, as he remained stuck behind a mountain of paperwork.
So Roy Mustang was having a bad day. But all of that didn't even touch on why his stomach had been churning for hours. The Ishvalan Accords were scheduled for next week in Kedesh, an Ishvalan city that was slowly being rebuilt.
When Fuhrer Grumman took office, one of the first things he did was reverse the order forbidding any reconstruction of Ishval, so since then, small towns had sprouted up across the previously devastated landscape. However, the complications Ishval faced were monumental.
The Ishvalan Accords were scheduled peace talks, which sought a comprehensive treaty between Amestris and Ishval to dictate future relations between the two countries. Essentially, the Ishvalan Accords weren't about celebrating their new partnership or the progress achieved so far, but they were about building peace in the future. The event was sure to be a historic occasion that Mustang wouldn't miss for the world, and yet…. he would be forced to stare across the table to Ishvalans, whose lives he'd helped destroy. It was important, but it would not be comfortable.
Roy sighed and closed the proposal for faster train service between Amestris and Ishval. Almost all Ishvalan affairs passed his desk, and given that Ishval was by far the busiest region of Amestris currently, it made for a lot of paperwork.
After the homunculi were defeated, most Amestrians shrugged, bought the bogus stories the new Fuhrer Grumman fed, and went back to normal lives. Ishvalans did not have the same luxury.
Roy rubbed his eyes, struggling to remember the most basic details of the proposal he'd just finished. But before he could glance it over again, the phone rang.
As a Brigadier General, he couldn't say he answered his own phone much these days, but he relished the thought of a distraction.
"Brigadier General Mustang. Who is this?"
"Col- General Mustang!" a high-pitched voice chimed through the receiver. "This is Winry. Is Riza there?"
"Winry?" A flood of questions rushed through his brain. "Is something wrong? Is Fullmetal-"
Winry's bubbly laughter soothed his fears immediately.
"No, no, everyone is fine," she said, a smile audible in her voice. "Is Riza there?"
"I'm afraid not," Mustang said. "Everyone's out of the office today. Can I help you?"
Roy's interactions with Fullmetal's genius automail mechanic had been limited at best, and he was quite certain that the only thing that tied them together was acquaintance with Edward Elric. That Winry would be calling, asking for 'Riza,' meant that there was now two somethings they had in common, but he had no idea Hawkeye and Winry were now so close.
"Would you mind passing on a message?" she asked, and Mustang made an affirmative grunt as he scrambled to find an empty piece of paper.
"Ed, Al, and I were planning on coming to Ishval for the Accords in a week, but there's been a complication with one of my automail patients. A horrible infection- I told him to clean the ports carefully- does anyone ever listen to me? I swear it's like I am talking to a wall. How painful does the infection have to be before someone starts listening to me around here-"
Mustang pointedly coughed, and he could imagine her bashful smile.
"Anyway, I'll be held up for a few days, and Al's gonna take the trip with me, so we'll probably be down a few days later than expected. But Ed'll be going ahead as scheduled."
"You're coming to the Ishvalan Accords?" Mustang asked.
"Hm? Yeah, we wouldn't miss it for the world," she said. There was silence for a moment, when he realized that he didn't have anything else to say to Fullmetal's automail mechanic.
But Winry pressed on like they were… friends?
"How's everything in Central been? Congratulations on your promotion, though that's a few months old now, isn't it?"
After most of the upper ranks of the military were ousted during the Promised Day, there were many vacancies, and Mustang didn't need to be asked twice to fill one of them.
Mustang eased into conversation with Winry and before he knew it, Hawkeye and Havoc had returned. He and Winry exchanged goodbyes, but when he hung up the phone, he couldn't stop beaming, regardless of how badly his day had been going.
"What is it, sir?" Hawkeye asked, as she and Havoc settled back into their desks. Neither were disheveled; it must have been another dead-end.
"Nothing," Mustang said. "I just can't believe Fullmetal got himself such a nice girl. Who would have thought that he would manage to swing that?"
"Winry?" Hawkeye asked, and Mustang nodded, before passing along the message.
"I didn't know you kept in contact with her," Mustang said, pushing aside all of the paperwork and leaning forward.
"Winry is sweet, and you know how Edward is with keeping in touch. It's nice to hear how the Elric boys are doing," she said casually, but Mustang knew he had maybe two more minutes before she cocked her gun at his head and made him continue his paperwork under duress. But he couldn't stop pressing his luck.
"And how are they doing?" he asked, regardless of his long conversation with Winry, during which she filled him in on all the important details: Al was stronger than before and improving quickly. Edward was adjusting to quiet life back in Resembool nicely, and the two had taken up sparring with each other again.
Mustang's time procrastinating had finally run out.
Hawkeye marched over to his desk and before she could start berating him, out of the corner of his eye he caught Havoc sneaking out of the office. He was limping slightly: Marcoh's stone could only heal so much. He had to use a cane permanently, but he had probably forgotten it somewhere. He was nothing if not stubborn. He was about as stubborn as Mustang himself, who hated his glasses which enhanced the Stone's healing of his blindness. He had the tendency to "forget" them at home, but Hawkeye never said anything. He knew that she knew that Mustang hated seeing his reflection with glasses in the mirror. It made him look too much like Maes Hughes.
Hawkeye huffed and held her gun at his forehead.
"DO YOUR PAPERWORK!"
Mustang sighed and began reading about the railroad junction in East City again. Hawkeye settled back down at her desk and the minutes dragged by.
After a respectable amount of time passed and Mustang had finished the proposal again, this time actually remembering most of it, he gathered up the nerve to interrupt Hawkeye's deep concentration in the files of some of Central's newest recruits.
"I didn't know you invited the Elrics to the Ishvalan Accords," he said, trying for conversational, like the thought had just occurred to him.
Hawkeye looked up from the file.
"Why don't you want them there?" she asked without a hint of emotion.
She was the only person his deceptions never worked on. She could always see through any mask he wore. It was why they worked so well together.
"It's not that I don't want them there-"
"I just don't know why they'd want to be there," he said. That Ishval's ruins were a continuing source of shame to Mustang didn't need to be said. He knew that Hawkeye held as much grief and regret as he did.
Hawkeye sighed and put the file down.
"They're the next generation, General. They're the ones who will have to see all of our plans through, and few have done more for Amestris than those two boys. They'll be an asset, regardless. I know Major Miles likes them, and Scar has history with them, but the Ishvalans are a hell of a lot more likely to trust people who didn't wage war on their land, sir."
A compassionate answer wrapped around a logical one buried in a militaristic one. Hawkeye was the only one who could out-maneuver him with ease.
"Get back to work, Sir. If you don't finish that before next week, it'll be on your desk when we come back from Ishval."
Mustang held in a groan. Barely.
The week preceding the Ishvalan Accords passed swiftly, marked by the decreasing piles of paper on his desk. Not that anyone could prove it, but Hawkeye could forge his signature remarkably well, and she had assisted him late into the night on multiple occasions leading up to the Ishvalan trip.
When he wasn't burdened by paperwork, preparations for the upcoming Ishvalan Accords kept Mustang busy. The Fuhrer himself was going to spend the first few days there. He wouldn't spend much time in the drudgery of the actual negotiations; rather, his visit was more for public perception and opinion than as a decisive voice in the Ishvalan reconstruction. That was more of Mustang's responsibility.
However, Mustang was constantly fighting with the new Fuhrer, who insisted he didn't need a security detail. After all, as Fuhrer Grumman argued, he'd been stationed to the Aurego border during the Ishvalan War and should have no enemies in Ishval.
When Mustang had exhausted every other avenue of persuasion, he used his secret weapon to convince him of the gravity of the situation: Riza Hawkeye. She had only recently learned that she was his granddaughter, and when Grumman was being stubborn, only she could get through to him.
It was finally compromised that he would consent to half a unit dedicated solely to his security. This, of course, didn't count Mustang or Hawkeye, who were no slouches at defense themselves.
It was an unfortunate side effect of these sorts of things that they very quickly grew from a quiet negotiation for the future of the country to a gaudy display of Amestrian power, but Mustang's hands were tied.
Jean Havoc, Riza Hawkeye, and Heymans Breda would be accompanying Mustang to Isvhal. Vato Falman had long since abandoned Mustang's circle, remaining dedicated to his post at Briggs. Mustang enjoyed asking about inside information about the "Ice Queen" because Falman, although loyal to Mustang, was far more scared of Olivier Armstrong and refused to say anything. Which left Kain Fuery as the only one of Mustang's men in Central. Fuery'd dedicated all of his time to modernizing the military's radio system. Anyone who stepped into his tinkering space in the Central Command basement would get at least an hour's explanation about how it was going to change the way the entire country operated.
Team Mustang had been through changes over the past year, but he was glad to have Havoc, Hawkeye, and Breda on his side during the coming weeks. Havoc and Breda hadn't served in Ishval, which he hoped would balance out the Ishvalan reception to their military party.
At last the big day arrived. A private train would take them from Central to Ishval, even though there were less than forty in their party, which would leave at least half of the train unoccupied. A benefit of travelling with the Fuhrer, Mustang supposed. Mustang and his men met early to sweep the train for any dangers, and before the sun rose completely, Fuhrer Grumman, Hawkeye, and his security detail arrived too.
"Relax, Mustang," Grumman shouted out as a greeting. "If anyone is trying to kill me, they wouldn't do it while the Flame Alchemist is here."
Captain Hawkeye sent a thankful look to Mustang regardless, and the train's crew began carrying the luggage aboard.
"Fuhrer!" a shout echoed from the neighboring road. Grumman twirled his moustache before turning around.
Mustang, who had been directing the security force, spun around as well, and was disappointed to see Ariyn Fitzgerald carrying a large duffel bag running past the station's gate.
"You didn't forget you invited me, Fuhrer Grumman sir, did you?" she asked, putting her bag among the luggage. Her tone was light but her smile was cold, and when she removed her oversized sunglasses, she revealed an empty gaze. A few wrinkles pulled at the corners of her eyes, but her hair was mostly dark with only a few grays hidden beneath her bun.
"Of course not, Representative. I was hoping you would show up. I would have hated for the train to leave without you," he said, before checking his watch. "You're very nearly late."
"Very nearly," she said, and although she was smiling, Mustang held in a sneer before boarding the train and joining his team's cabin. Hawkeye and Breda shot him concerned looks as soon as he entered.
"Why the long faces?" Havoc asked, fumbling with a cigarette between his index and middle finger.
"I thought you had quit smoking," Mustang said, snatching the cigarette and throwing it out the window.
"Plans change," he said nonplussed, before reaching into his pocket and grabbing another one. "So what gives? Who's the she-devil?"
Breda and Mustang exchanged dark looks.
"What?" Havoc asked again.
"Keep your voice down," Hawkeye whispered before closing the cabin door. As soon as it shut, Mustang stretched out on his chair and leaned all the way back.
"That's Ariyn Fitzgerald," Breda supplied when no one else said anything. "She's the Head of the Parliamentary Representatives from the East." Breda frowned.
"But it's the Parliament," Havoc said. "They're powerless."
And so they were. Amestris did have a Parliament, established at the same time as the country itself, but it was only a facade for the military state that hid behind it. There was a saying that passed through the lips of the military: even the janitor of Central Command had more power than the Parliament.
"They're powerless for now," Hawkeye said. "Representative Fitzgerald has been maneuvering for more power since Bradley died. Because she is the Head of the Eastern division, she thinks this falls under her jurisdiction."
"Doesn't it?" Havoc asked. "I mean she looks mean as hell, but isn't she kind of right?"
"She is. But the last thing we need is the Parliament sticking their noses into Ishval right now. I trust the Fuhrer to set things right in Ishval, and I know the Ishvalans will be looking for reparations. We don't need Ariyn Fitzgerald worrying about the political ramifications in Central while we negotiate with the Ishvalans. I trust her about as far as I can throw her."
They fell into a comfortable silence until Havoc brought out a deck of cards. The ride to Ishval was pleasant, and Mustang almost forgot how unpleasant the following days would be. Almost.
Not that they wouldn't be vital. Ariyn Fitzgerald's insistence on coming just confirmed how much Mustang needed to do this. This was why he had climbed up the military ladder. Why he didn't just quit after committing nightmare-worthy atrocities. He had to make this right, if that was even possible anymore. Perhaps there was redemption for Ishval, but there was no redemption for him. There were some things you couldn't come back from. And although that line was fuzzy, burning innocent children alive was certainly past it.
If the Ishvalan delegates spat in his face, he wouldn't blame them. He sent a nervous smile to Hawkeye and she returned it, before throwing down a four of a kind.
Damn it. He hadn't won a single game yet.
"Mustang? What's Ishval like?" Havoc asked suddenly, and Breda nodded, though he never glanced up from his cards. Mustang was sure Breda was hiding a good hand, so he folded, but didn't know how to answer Havoc's question.
It was easy to forget that Havoc and Breda were still in the military academy when the Ishvalan War ended, and had never made the trip to Ishval before. The war in Ishval was the embodiment of everything that was wrong with the military, but there were military men who had only heard stories of the sandy hell.
"Hot," Hawkeye said before folding as well. "Prepare to sweat through your uniform and never feel cold again. You'll be digging sand out of your shoes for months, but I've never seen it in peacetime." She tilted her head. "Who knows what it will be like now?"
Mustang hadn't had the chance to go back yet, even though he'd been given a large role in the oversight of the region. The last time he'd seen Ishval, the war was over, and he, along with the invading Amestrian army, was returning home, trudging through the decimated countryside. Only rubble remained where once had been cities and civilization. He remembered his last look at Ishval before boarding the train home; he'd peered through the grimy window at the endless sandy expanse littered with ruins, knowing he was partially responsible. Hughes had been with him then.
"It'll be rough. Kedesh, the city we'll be based in, was destroyed during the war. It's being rebuilt but slowly, so most of it is still in ruins. It won't be like what you're used to," Mustang said as Havoc finally folded as well. Breda collected his winnings and revealed he'd had a horrible hand. Havoc groaned.
By the time they reached the station in Ishval, it was dark, Mustang had lost 30,000 cenz, and the next time they went out for drinks, the first two rounds were on Havoc.
A young member of the Fuhrer's security detail slid open the cabin door as they were cleaning up the last of the cards. His boyish face and wide eyes betrayed an innocence Mustang was unfamiliar with. Even twelve year old Fullmetal hadn't seemed so young, though he'd had a lifetime's worth of pain by then.
"The Ishvalan delegates wish everyone to freshen up before our meeting tonight," he reported each word bouncing as he said them. "We'll be shown our accommodations right now, sir."
Mustang nodded and let the boy run back to the front of the train. Maybe he seemed so young because Mustang himself was getting older.
The Amestrian party gathered off the train, and they were greeted by a single Ishvalan woman who gave the visitors a deep bow. In Mustang's experience, it had always been difficult to tell the age of Ishvalans because of their white hair, but this woman had creases across her forehead and beside her eyes that betrayed her true age. Her red eyes surveyed the Amestrians, but did not contain the anger Mustang was expecting, even though she must have lived through the Ishvalan War.
Pleasantries were exchanged, and she led them from the train station and into the city itself. The sun had long since set, so it was hard to see much of the rebuilding progress. The road they were walking on was dirt, just a step above sand in Mustang's opinion. Establishing (or re-establishing he supposed) roads would be crucial in the big cities. There was so much to do, so many details to account for. It was truly recreating a country from nothing.
The city sprawled across the terrain, just a few buildings close to the train station, gradually clustering together as the lights filtering from the windows of homes illuminated the road. The Ishvalan guide, who introduced herself as Abra, was in a deep discussion with the Fuhrer, so Mustang dawdled behind the security detail with his own unit. Neither he nor Hawkeye could stop scrutinizing every dark corner they passed for assailants. Mustang hoped it was just habit and not a shared bad feeling.
Finally, they arrived in the city proper, and it was clear that this was the epicenter of the reconstruction in the area.
Although the buildings only stood about three stories high, they were bunched together. It didn't look dissimilar from Ishvalan cities he'd once destroyed. Here the dirt road turned to cobblestone, though it was too dark to see how far it extended. The street they were on wasn't as quiet as the path from the train station. Figures danced in and out of shadows, mostly ignoring the large Amestrian party. A few stopped and stared, but before anyone approached, the Amestrians were escorted into one of the tallest buildings in sight.
They were greeted by a dim lounge fit with a bar in the far corner.
Abra barked something in Ishvalan at a young boy who was napping on the couch, and he jumped up with a start. His red eyes widened at the large group, and he gave an off-balanced bow. Given her tone, Abra probably chastised him, but the boy just laughed. He beckoned the group upstairs and into a hallway of matching doors. He, like Abra, bore a burgundy and gold striped sash across his clothing, which was loose and light. His steps were soft on the creaking floor, so different than the soldiers' heavy stomping.
Mustang, Breda, and Havoc were pointed to the last room, which was adjacent with Hawkeye and Ariyn's lodgings. After everyone had retreated into their rooms, the boy remained fixed in the doorway of the last room.
"Do you need anything?" Havoc asked him. The boy rocked from side to side, and it struck Mustang that he may have never seen an Amestrian before.
"What's your name? Are you part of the military? Why are you really here? Abram from down the road says that the military will only mess everything up. Did you ever kill anyone? Your eyes are funny looking, do you see everything in dark colors?"
Havoc held his hand up to halt the barrage of questions and grinned.
"I'm Jean Havoc," before throwing out his hand and the boy shook it with rigor. "I am part of the military and hopefully we'll be able to help all of you out. Do you see everything in red?"
"No," he said with a thoughtful frown.
Havoc scratched his head, "Er, what's your name?"
"Gilad," he said, before perking up. "Come down for dinner when you can. Madam Abra is making really yummy food for you, but I'm not allowed to eat any of it." He pouted, before covering his lips. "Oh! Don't tell her I said that. She'll chase me out of here with a broom again!"
Havoc laughed, "Your secret is safe with me." The boy ran off, his small feet quiet on the wooden floors.
"Cute kid," Havoc said before sprinting toward the bathroom. "I call first shower!"
An hour later, the Amestrians met in the hallway and descended to the ground level for dinner. Among them, only Ariyn Fitzgerald didn't wear a military uniform, and in the sea of blue, she seemed much more human than she usually did. Mustang made a beeline towards the Fuhrer, but she followed behind him.
"Are your accommodations up to your satisfaction, Fuhrer?" Mustang asked, sharing a significant look with Grumman.
"Pleasant enough. I can't complain," he said. "I'm looking forward to dinner, but would you mind sitting next to an old fart like me? I hate to take you away from your subordinates."
Mustang smiled, "Not at all, it would be my honor."
With that settled, Fuhrer Grumman turned to Ariyn Fitzgerald, and engaged her in a discussion about the culinary history of Drachma.
People tended to forget how smart Grumman was, and that for all of Mustang's tricks, he was still a novice compared to the current Fuhrer. In the preceding conversation he'd told Mustang in his code that he didn't mind Ariyn's presence but still to keep an eye on her.
The Fuhrer's security detail had no interest in dinner according to its leader, a stocky Major with a rugged beard. Major Wilson ignored the disappointed looks gracing his men's faces, and ordered them to survey the landscape, guard the dining room, and sweep the Fuhrer's room for explosives.
"He's certainly thorough," Mustang muttered to Hawkeye, as they hung back from the rest of the party.
"Better safe than sorry, sir," she said. With the security forces gone, it was only Mustang, Hawkeye, Fuhrer Grumman, Representative Fitzgerald, Breda, and Havoc, as well as Major Wilson, who would be the Fuhrer's personal bodyguard.
Mustang hadn't even met the Ishvalans yet, and he was already exhausted. Playing political mind games with Ariyn Fitzgerald would almost be fun if not for the serious consequences for failure in these Accords. Although the Fuhrer was just as enthusiastic about Ishvalan reconstruction, he was also taking advantage of his time out of Central away from the public eye. His eccentricities were on full display for Ariyn Fitzgerald, who hid her disgust for the odd behavior with the thinnest of smiles. Mustang got the feeling she'd never been granted one-on-one time with Grumman before. That his peculiarities were half act and half reality, she probably wasn't aware.
The dining room was well-lit, in the first display of electricity Mustang had noticed (he'd been thankful for the plumbing upstairs though). It had a homey feeling despite its sparse decorations. In his experience, Ishvalans weren't too keen on worldly possessions, but the far wall was lined with newspaper clippings, photographs, and pages cut out of books. He couldn't read it from the doorway but he could see that it was a mixture of Ishvalan and Amestrian script.
The Ishvalan ambassadors were sitting at the table when they arrived, but upon the Amestrians' entrance, they rose and bowed. Mustang and his companions followed suit.
He recognized Major Miles immediately, his spiked hair differentiating him from the others. He was without his dark-tinted glasses, proudly revealing his red eyes. Although he was still formally in the military, he dressed as an Ishvalan, the traditional sash cutting across a light purple robe.
And after a moment, Mustang recognized one of the other men: Scar. It wasn't a surprise he didn't recognize him immediately. He bore a smile, and a softness Mustang hadn't remembered, if that was even possible. His broad shoulders were hidden beneath his loose robe and he'd grown his hair out so that it could be tied in the back. His X-shaped scar still shone from across his eyes, but without his face distorted in a glare, he barely registered to Mustang as the same person.
Major Miles rushed forward for introductions.
"This is Grand Cleric Heridas," he said, gesturing to Scar. Grand Cleric Heridas. Mustang vowed to not slip that up. He supposed that it made sense that Scar wouldn't go as 'Scar' forever.
Then Miles pointed to the other Ishvalans gathered in the room.
"This is Elder Vikram and Elder Shan," he said, pointing to the man and woman beside Scar. (Grand Cleric Heridas, he mentally corrected.) When Elder Vikram twisted toward them, he exposed a thin, dark scar stretching from his temple to underneath his sash. He nodded toward the Amestrians when he was introduced, but his shoulders were tense beneath his tunic.
Elder Shan was the eldest of the party by far. She hunched over as she stood, leaning heavily on a cane. She was short, shorter than Fullmetal by at least a head, and she had an eyepatch covering her right eye. Her face was lined with deep grooves, and as soon as she was introduced, she returned to her seat at the table, letting her cane rest against the back of her chair. After the introductions on both sides were complete, Elder Shan invited everyone to sit.
"If our companions don't mind, I'd like to lead a short prayer," she said, bringing her palms together, lowering her head, and closing her eyes.
"Please, go ahead," the Fuhrer said, and the other Ishvalans mimicked her pose.
She murmured a few lines in Ishvalan before switching to Amestrian.
"Speedily fulfill the vision of your prophet. Nation shall not lift sword up against nation. Neither shall they learn war anymore. And let us say 'amen.'"
The other Ishvalans echoed, "Amen."
There was a moment of awkward silence as they lifted themselves out of prayer positions and Scar seemed to be staring at nothing, but it passed as Abra and the young boy brought out trays of food.
The international language of food united the table and soon the merry sounds of chewing and drinking filled the dining room. It was mostly an Ishvalan spread, spicy and colorful foods unfamiliar to all of the Amestrians, but as they'd been travelling all day, not even Ariyn complained.
At one point Scar (Grand Cleric Heridas, he corrected himself again) and Major Miles started discussing the increased budgetary proposal for Ishvalan schooling and Mustang saw Ariyn itching to join the fray, but before Mustang could say anything, Elder Shan shushed them.
"We have weeks to discuss that, boys. No need for such talk tonight. Don't you have anything else you can talk about?" She smiled to negate the harshness of her words, but both quieted immediately.
"When you get to be my age, if I say something can wait until morning, you know it can wait. There's never an assurance of tomorrow. After all, I might not make it 'til then!" She chuckled to herself, and the Fuhrer joined in.
"Here here," he said, lifting his glass in appreciation. "Kids are obsessed with getting things done quickly. To do most things right you have to do them slowly and carefully. Just the other day…"
He regaled the table to a tale of his secretary's children, and Mustang began to relax a little. Even Havoc chimed in after a bit, before being quieted by Elder Shan.
"How old are you? You're hardly out of your teens yourself."
"I wish my parents agreed with you, Elder. They keep bothering me to get married and have kids."
"I keep trying to convince Grand Cleric Heridas here to get married," she said, pointing to Scar. "He's never had much interest in marriage, I'm afraid."
"I'm dedicated to Ishvala," he said quietly, massaging his temples. Mustang got the feeling that this was a long-running argument.
"Ishvala will understand if you devote some time to a lady friend," she said, shoving Scar good-naturedly. It was strange to see Scar, a man older than Mustang, treated like a kid, but then again, Elder Shan was probably older than the two of them combined.
The night wrapped up with good feelings all around, and when everyone agreed to retreat to their rooms and begin the actual work tomorrow, Mustang remained in the dining room. Although it had been a long train ride, he wasn't tired yet. This new Ishval was everything he'd worked for; these Accords had to go smoothly or it would all be for naught.
"Cenz for your thoughts?" a low voice asked from the doorway. Mustang turned around to Major Miles' face schooled into a neutral expression.
"Nothing worth a cenz I'm afraid," Mustang said, pushing any discomfort from his demeanor. Miles was a few years older than Mustang but had spent most of his military career at Briggs. "That could have gone worse."
"I'm not looking forward to all of the press," Miles said slowly. "The last thing we want are reporters and tourists crawling all over our construction sites."
"I'm not sure about tourists, but reporters will definitely want to come after these talks conclude. We're hoping to keep them off our backs at least for now. One of the Fuhrer's security team will be photographing all of our work tomorrow. Most everything else can be done in press releases from Central after it's all over."
"I don't like this fanfare," Miles said, leaning against the far wall. "It encourages dangerous people to strike."
Major Miles was both easy and difficult to talk to. He was blunt but it was a relief to know he said what he believed.
"Perhaps, but hiding the government's affairs doesn't build trust. We're trying to gain some of that back," Mustang said. Miles stared at Mustang, his red eyes betraying nothing.
"Are you planning on being the next Fuhrer?"
Mustang coughed on nothing, but Miles just stared at him undeterred.
"You asking for General Armstrong?" Mustang finally asked.
Miles shook his head, "I'm asking because I think you have a very good chance of becoming Fuhrer one day."
Mustang didn't know rumors of his lofty ambitions had spread so far. Miles sat down beside him, now eye level with Mustang.
"I want to make sure that when you become Fuhrer, you do not forget about these promises for Ishval."
Mustang automatically launched into a political response of affirmation, but Miles halted him with his hand.
"No, I mean it," Miles said, his burgundy eyes squinting at him. Mustang sighed and wished he had his collection of brandy with him. He told Miles as much.
"Major Miles," Mustang said. "If I do become the next Fuhrer, I assure you I will respect any agreements we come to here, and that I will continue my support for the revitalization of Ishval. I will not let the military do what it did to your land as long as I am alive, whether it be here in Ishval or anywhere else."
Perhaps honesty was contagious or perhaps it was what Miles needed to hear, but the words came fumbling out regardless. Miles looked him up and down, before one side of his mouth upturned in the closest thing to a smile Miles probably ever did.
"I will hold you to that," he said, and then he was gone.
Suddenly exhausted, Mustang followed him up the stairs soon after. Each step felt heavy, every misdeed he'd committed weighing him down. There was never an assurance of tomorrow, Elder Shan had said, but that did not stop Mustang from dreading tomorrow all the same.
A/N: I'm so excited to finally be posting this story! I saw the Ishvalan AU tag on tumblr (late to the game, I know) and I saw all of the amazing artwork that went with it. I kept daydreaming about stories that would fit with the theme. After reading all of the Ishvalan AUs I could get my hands on (and there aren't many of them), I knew I had to write one of my own.
I started working on it in January, but I wanted to be finished with it before I posted it, so here we are. It'll be about 100,000 words or so. I'm still making edits onto the later chapters, but it's all written, so there will be a consistent posting schedule: a chapter a week every Tuesday.
I can't wait to hear your thoughts about the story, so please review!