The Man's Too Strong

Rating: PG-13, language, other bad things Disclaimer: Don't own FMA. Don't know anybody who does. Nor do I have any affiliation with Dire Straits. Owning an album gives me no rights to the song. I think... Who'm I kidding. (wink)
Summary: AU, dark. Roy Mustang reflects on the past while awaiting execution. "You're here to pretend you can offer me forgiveness"
Notes: Got the idea from a Dire Straits song, which has lent its title to the fic. You're going to hate me for this. I swear I don't think anything like this would actually happen. Though-- it is interesting how seamlessly the motives would fit in-- (ducks)

SPOILERS: Pretty much-- every spoiler I've half-accidentally come across. (I hope they were all right XX If not, just be kind to me and consider it an extra-AU, please.) The identities of the homunculi (hope I spelled that right), and their origin. I'd cite episodes if I knew them, but if you haven't seen them all, LEAVE unless you really, really want to get spoiled. None for the very end of the series, but only 'cause it's an AU. XX Knowing me, I'll probably half-accidentally find out word-for-word what happens THEN, too. A warning to those who may be able to avoid my fate: Don't. Read. Fics. Unless you want to be spoiled. 'Cause it'll happen. AUs, summaries, it'll still happen. Even IF you resist the urge to read ones that've been labeled 'spoiler'. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

(-)

A small window. Sunlight slanting in through the bars. But the man wasn't looking at the window: he was staring at the gray blocks of the wall. In the darkest corner of the cell.

Fitting, the priest thought, trying to suppress his hate for the man. Or rather, for all the man had done.

"You're here to pretend you can offer me forgiveness?"

The low, lazy voice drifted to his ears like smoke.

"I don't think that it's pretending," he answered.

"Of course you don't. But you find it difficult to believe that I could ever be forgiven, don't you?"

"Anyone can be forgiven."

"I don't mind. I don't believe it either."

The priest let out a short breath, torn between irritation at the convict's attitude and recognition of some very human traits in the threads of his speech. "You could confess your sins to me. It might help."

"It certainly wouldn't help you."

"It might help you."

"You honestly think that anything, at this point, can?"

The priest took a deep breath. "The most essential thing is to face the truth," his mentor had told him, "and never under any circumstances to lie. For it becomes a habit... and there are many who will see through it instantly."

"No," he admitted, "but I know I'm wrong."

The manipulator smiled faintly. Smirked, really.

"You want me to exorcise my ghosts and parade them in front of you. Well, that wouldn't be too difficult a task; they're restless enough spirits."

"I would imagine."

"You won't believe it, but I still see their faces. The first people I killed. Or, the first people I know I killed. With alchemy... you can level a city and never see a single face, a single body. It's almost entirely tactics, dots on maps, front-lines and intelligence reports. Unless you think too much about the flames. Dangerous, for a soldier. Since then we've found ways to do such things from even farther away. That, I think, is the way of the future; depersonalize war, and your soldiers grow so much more efficient..."

"You would know, wouldn't you."

"See, you still don't like me. And you shouldn't." He sighed. "But I was, at one time, trying to fix things. At one time, I only meant well. But changing things from inside the system... I made too many compromises. Became numb to too many sins. Put too many reforms aside until tomorrow. Until tomorrow never came." Again that faint smirk. "Until you managed to surprise me. I'd thought that couldn't be done. He'd be happy about that... Probably laughing down at me right now."

"Who?"

The former leader stared at the ceiling for a moment before he started to speak.

"He'd been trying to leave. He wouldn't have succeeded, but it was I who talked him out of it. I wasn't lying, either; my argument was entirely valid; but still I sometimes wonder what might have happened if, as usual, he hadn't listened to reason..."

(-)

"This is stupid."

"You can't leave."

"I damn well can!" Ed threw a shirt into the suitcase. "Try to stop me! Try it! It'll be fun! I've been just waiting for another chance to--"

"You think I'm the one who'll stop you? You think you can take half the army?"

"...I can try."

"They know what you're doing, now. They'll never let you go."

"They can never be allowed to..."

"You aren't that close-- are you?"

Ed was silent.

"Because I know if you were that close, you'd have put it into a report."

"This is more IMPORTANT than goddamn reports, dammit! Look at what they've done with what they've GOT! If they had the Stone--"

"--maybe they'd undo it?"

Ed laughed harshly. "You sound like Maria Ross. Hush, don't worry about a thing, Mommy and Daddy in the military'll take care of it, everything'll be all right. YOU, for one, should KNOW better."

"I--"

"You DO know better," Ed said, and stared at him.

"What?"

"You DO know better. So why are you keeping me here?"

He shook his head. "It really isn't me, Fullmetal. The military is taking an interest in your research. And even if they weren't, they'd never let you leave."

Ed stared downward, realizing it was true. "So... what are you here for, then?"

"To stop you from throwing away your one chance at escaping it. All you have to do is prevaricate just long enough, don't you realize that? Pretend to believe their lies. Pretend to be happy about working together with them. They'll be suspicious, but they'll never be able to prove you're lying, because you, and possibly your brother--"

"You know damn well Al's smarter than me--"

"--are the only ones in the country, the world who will truly know what the hell you're doing. You've come to places where you thought it was impossible, right? Just never manage to come up with a solution. It will blow over, policies and priorities will change. They always do. This is the only way to stop them from chasing you forever. The only way to prevent them from finding the truth."

Ed let out a breath. "You... may possibly be... factually... coincidentally... in an astonishing display of improbability... somewhat accurate."

He smiled at him. "Yes, I am right, thank you for noticing."

Ed threw a pair of socks at him.

(-)

"How goes it?"

Ed rolled his eyes, dropping himself on the couch like he belonged there. "The task force is hopelessly muddled. We can't communicate right, nobody has any damn IDEA what anyone else is doing and if people aren't working on conflicting lines, they're all working on the exact same thing. And we still can't figure out that Linnaeus quote."

"Linnaeus?" he questioned, raising an eyebrow. "Efficient."

Ed grinned. "You were... accurate, I'll admit it."

"Just don't get carried away," he warned. "They're all still alchemists. Doing anything too transparent will induce them to turn you in for a promotion. And we don't want them going to more... drastic measures to induce your cooperation."

Ed snorted. "They couldn't make me do it. There's no way."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. Once..." Ed hesitated, eyes flickering with mistrust. "Lab five... the homunculi..."

"Yes?"

"They'd been trying to get me to create it... and I couldn't."

"Not for lack of skill, I'm assuming?"

"No." Ed hesitated. "I'm still trying to find another way to do it, there must be another way to do it. That's what I'm hoping."

"To create the Stone?"

"Yeah."

"You know one way already?"

"...Yeah."

He blinked. "Then what on earth could possibly..."

Ed laughed harshly. "You've gotta remember that nothing involving souls is equivalent. Nothing. Ever. In any way. And so to create something that could bring even one back, much less more..."

"You'd have to use even more..." he said slowly, realizing that it all made perfect sense.

"They tried to get me to transmute the Red Water into a Stone. And I would've, too, I was going to in a heartbeat. Except there wasn't enough there... And they'd brought those prisoners in to fill it out."

He nodded slowly. The incident made sense now.

"Except I found out, and they were going to... and I almost... but I couldn't, and I don't know whether to feel guilty that I didn't or that I almost did, so I'm just guilty about both, and..."

"How did they..."

"Al."

He closed his eyes. "I see."

"And that's... the other reason I can't let them ever know the secret. Because they'd do it. And them making it... would be almost as terrible as what they'd do with it when it was done."

Ed was looking downward, flushing, guilty and uncertain about having revealed so much.

"Yes," he said slowly. "So you've been trying to find another way."

"There's got to be one. If I can just find it, if I could just have the time..."

He sighed and leaned back, closing his eyes. "Time is running short, Fullmetal..."

"I know." Ed rested his head in his hands, hands clenching in his hair. "But if it's that or failing... then I fail. I couldn't... Not in front of him... Nothing could ever make me do that."

"Never say never," he whispered, darkened eyes staring at the wall.

(-)

Ed stared at the box in his lap, white as sodium and probably just as dangerous to touch. Though it was probably what was in the box that was affecting him, to the point where it was even making him shake.

"Do you recognise it, by any chance?" asked the Fuhrer, for all the world like he was asking about a painting in an art gallery, instead of a human hand in a tastefully carved wooden box.

So of course the boy had a dilemma; he couldn't keep holding the thing, but he couldn't very well throw it away; that would be appallingly disrespectful, after all. So Ed could only just sit there, and turn his head to the Fuhrer like it turned on a long-unused door hinge instead of a youthful spine.

"What have you done to her, you sick ----ing bastard!" Ed whispered, in a voice that was almost inaudible, shaking with-- fear, instead of rage.

"She's safe. I believe we're keeping her with your brother."

Ed didn't visibly react to the news, because it was, at this point, no surprise.

"We know you're lying, young man," the Fuhrer said, in a voice that was soft, forgiving, and kind. "I understand why. If I were you, well. I probably wouldn't trust anybody either. But this is science, Fullmetal. You have a duty, an obligation, to report to the world what you know."

"I don't know anything," the boy whispered, and it was an obvious lie.

"New knowledge cannot be hidden, young man! Particularly not something as important as this! Lives can be saved, do you realize that? Miracles can happen! This Stone can bring so much good to our society! Cure so many diseases! Stop--"

"Like you'll actually do that," Ed said, able now to inject some venom into his voice, though he was nowhere near normal.

"Oh, but we will, Fullmetal!"

"You'll save people's lives. At the cost of killing hundreds!"

"Prisoners, criminals, who have committed heinous atrocities against the people? I think it's a fair trade. Don't you?"

"And who the hell are you to decide that, huh?" Ed's voice still wasn't much higher than a whisper, though it rose shakily on the last word.

The Fuhrer simply smiled at him. "The Fuhrer. Come."

The Fuhrer left the room, leaving Ed to stare at the smiling, brown-haired secretary who'd been standing behind him-- who went everywhere with the man, these days. And she left, too, leaving Ed to stare at-- him.

He considered it a mild challenge for himself, a bit of a test, to continue to look straight into the boy's eyes calmly, to clinically watch the boy's reaction. He could almost see his reflection in Ed's widened amber eyes, could almost watch himself for any sign of guilt or apology or smug pride. There wasn't any. Because he honestly didn't feel it.

He could almost see Ed's mind shut down completely as the soldiers came in to escort him to the train.

(-)

Ed had pretty much been dropped on the floor in the middle of the room, and he was staying there, staring at the ground just in front of his knees. The thought flitted through his mind that maybe they'd broken the boy beyond repair-- but no, Ed was made of sterner stuff than that. Ed was made of sterner stuff than anybody in this room. He had an astonishing toughness, really.

Ed looked up at the Fuhrer. "Are you all named the same way?" he asked.

Roy blinked and looked over at the Fuhrer, who didn't even blink.

"Along the same scheme, yes," the Fuhrer said, still smiling.

"Seven of you, then?"

"To our knowledge."

"And who did it?"

The Fuhrer smiled. "Someone you know."

Ed nodded. "Yeah, I thought so. I can't believe-- which are you?"

"Pride," the Fuhrer answered. "And since I've no doubt you're wondering, this is Sloth."

The homunculi... he realized. Named after the seven sins. Had the Fuhrer just admitted...?

"That worthless son of a bitch," Ed said simply.

Sloth smiled, shaking her head slightly. "You can't blame it all on him. He just finished what you started."

"Why hasn't that Envy bastard killed him? Does he need help? 'Cause I'll provide it."

"Now, now. Don't you talk about your father that way." She smiled.

He blinked again. Were they saying that Hoenheim Elric...? Though-- thinking about it, that wasn't actually surprising. The military had known he was dabbling in such things for years-- hence the hunt to find him.

"If you pretend to be my mother," Ed said simply, "I will kill you where you stand."

"Well, this is certainly enlightening," he said.

Ed thoroughly ignored him. "Are the others coming?"

The Fuhrer smiled. "They're already here."

Ed glared at him but couldn't say a word.

"The material is in that room," the Fuhrer said, and pointed.

Ed stared back down at the ground, looking like he was flipping through his options.

He thought he knew the boy well enough to imagine it. Flipping through protests, questions, possibilities of escape-- but it was all pointless. He didn't have to ask what would happen if he wouldn't; he already knew perfectly well. Didn't have to ask what was happening...

Maybe if Ed had time to think about it, he thought, he'd wind up refusing anyway. If his brother's life, for whatever reason, wasn't worth doing this, then shouldn't the same logic apply to Winry, too? But the Fuhrer-- Pride-- had planned this remarkably well. After this, Ed was in no state to think logically.

Ed clapped his hands slowly, hesitated briefly before slamming them violently on the ground. A golden circle appeared around the prisoners' room, a rather elegant and startlingly complicated array. Ed clapped again, and another circle appeared around him.

But wait... why should there be two arrays?

He glanced up at Edward's eyes, which told him all he needed to know.

He leapt forward as Edward activated the circles in a brilliant flash of light that turned night into day--

(-)

"I should kill you," Ed had said quietly, sitting with his back to him.

"I thought you just tried," he said, shaking his head to try to clear his vision. It wasn't getting much better, but it was enough to show him the ruins of the warehouse around them.

"And failed. I'll never forgive myself for that. I should have killed you, too."

"It's not your fault I managed to see it and run into the array. You gave it a damn good try. I'm impressed."

"Hardly counts. You're still here."

He put one of his hands down, levering himself up, and it closed over something-- something so alchemically powerful he had to jerk his hand away. It was glowing, shedding a crimson light around. "You did it," he breathed.

"Yeah," Ed growled.

"I didn't think it was possible."

"Burn in hell."

"Where I presume the Fuhrer is?"

"And my father's other abominations. Though they're proably not his, he was just taking the credit. I wish I could have killed him, too. It's just not fair, is it?"

"So the Fuhrer was a homunculus."

"Evidently."

"Made from the remains of a failed human transmutation?"

"Is there any other kind?"

He laughed quietly, and juggled the Stone in his hands. "I'll make sure they're let out."

"Oh, PLEASE."

"I mean it. She should be okay, other than-- the obvious. And I'm sure they haven't harmed Alphonse. You'll be able to do everything you need before you run away."

That made Ed turn around. "You're not."

"Hmm?"

"You are NOT going to sit there and pretend that you've been on our side!"

"Do you think that I would side with THEM?" he hissed. "After what they did?"

Ed glared at him.

"Haven't you figured it out yet? Hughes was looking around for information on the homunculi, he must have found it."

Ed's eyes widened, in spite of himself. "You think they--"

"Who else could've done it?" He glared down at the alchemical gem in his hands. "You can't think I'd be on their side."

"You didn't know they were..."

"I hardly had to. There were plenty of other--"

"You were perfectly happy to let them--!"

"LET them? You think I LET them!"

"You weren't doing a hell of a lot to STOP them, what with your standing there and not saying anything at all!"

"What the hell was I supposed to have done? They already knew you were lying, before the project even started! I-- I was outplayed. I'll admit that. I was just-- trying to follow my own advice, even though I couldn't think of anything I could do."

He closed his eyes and bowed his head. "I'm sorry, Edward. This-- this should never have happened. Take the Stone. Find your brother and your friend. Fix our mistakes, and destroy the Stone after. I'll say it was an explosion; looks close enough to the truth. I'll say you realized he was a traitor and gave your life to stop him. You'll have to hide. You probably won't be able to go back home, maybe not ever. But Alphonse and Winry can go home. I'm sure we'll all find some way to arrange meetings, eventually. Edward, you didn't have a choice. They would have killed them, I'm certain of it. Don't let-- don't let this ruin your life."

Ed was silent for quite some time. "Run away. And leave you to be Fuhrer, no doubt."

"I can hardly be worse than the last one, can I?"

And Ed chuckled. It was a quiet, bitter chuckle, but it was a chuckle nonetheless.

"I'm still not sure I believe you," he warned.

"I can hardly blame you." He smiled, somewhat shakily. "Edward-- I am sorry. I-- I failed you."

"Huh..."

"The local authorities will have to show up soon, Edward," he warned. "Time is running short."

"...Fine." Ed stood. "Give me my Stone."

He smiled, and put it in his hand. "I wish you luck."

"...Thanks." Ed tried to smile at him, but couldn't quite manage it.

He watched him walk away, then looked up at the stars, then to the east. He wasn't sure, but he thought that the dawn might possibly be on its way.

(-)

The sun was starting to rise, though the horizon wasn't visible behind the city buildings. The central grounds were crowded today; the people were standing around, restless, but not milling around. Murmuring angrily-- but not loudly. Waiting for the announcement from the hastily-constructed stage.

Waiting for the prisoner to be brought out.

And thus they cheered loudly when the firing squad ceremoniously marched in, when the assorted government officials-- and there were a lot of them, all hungry for the publicity, the reputation as one of the State's avenging angels-- filed onto the stage.

If the military units that followed looked subdued-- ashamed-- uncertain, it was only to be expected. They had, after all, lost their supreme leader-- and one of their own had been willing to betray the State to murder heaven only knew how many people in some insane bid for power. Naturally suspicion was falling on them. Naturally they were falling prey to the severest paranoia.

And the State Alchemists. The State Alchemists had been hated enough before. After this, many feared, their reputation might never recover.

But people were, he knew, astonishingly quick to forget. And with an alchemist as the new Fuhrer, they'd adjust quickly enough.

The crowd's cheering grew almost deafening as the chained prisoner was pushed out of the building, marched to his place. Forced to stand and face the court. Not that it was a court in the strictest sense; everyone knew, after all, that you couldn't risk cases of high treason being upset by the frivolous delays and requirements of a normal trial, and also, it was manned by politicians, whose grasp of criminal law was usually sorely lacking. The hissing and screaming continued until the lead 'judge' rose for the sentencing, during which the blood-hungry crowd didn't want to miss a word.

"Edward Elric. You stand accused of High Treason and multiple murders. This Conclave has found you guilty on all counts, and the penalty is death."

Of course, what they did with the firing squad was very amusing, he thought; they loaded all but one gun with blanks, for safety's sake, and also so that no one would know who had fired the killing shot. Which was an asset, in this situation, for exactly the opposite reasons; likely the idiots would never stop bragging. Still wouldn't.

"Do you wish to make a final statement before the court?"

Edward was shaking. He didn't think it could possibly be with fear; Edward was made of sterner stuff than that. And he was right; it slowly became apparent that it was-- laughter. High, half-wild laughter.

"High treason!" Edward cried. "You got one thing right. King of irony, aren't you? I never should've--" Another burst of wild laughter escaped him. "I never should have let you live. Traitor. You always were a traitor! Iscariot, iscariot. Always with the hidden poison dagger, eh? Always waiting to strike that final blow. And you did it, didn't you?"

More laughter, high and wild and creaky. For whatever reason, never looking at the subject of his tirade. "Judas. You got what you wanted. But you know what? You know what?" Ed bent over, laughing, like someone on the very edge of sanity. "You know what?

"I GOT YOU!"

And now Ed was screaming with laughter, awful, high, piercing, grated, insane laughter that filled the courtyard-- might have filled the entire city. The entire world.

"I know something that you don't, I see something that you won't, Traitor, Traitor..." Ed sang. And looked at him now, straight in the eye, and wasn't there.

"Mister Elric, this childish outburst--!"

"Go ahead and shoot, you lousy bastards!" Ed screamed, a wild grin upon his face. "Go ahead! DO IT!

"I'LL SEE YOU ALL IN HELL!"

Shaking his head at the uncontrollable outburst, the leader pointed at Edward Elric. "The sentence is passed. Ready!"

They already were.

"Aim!"

They already had.

"FIRE!"

(-)

The priest's chair jerked backward, hitting the wall, and he almost lost his balance as the tyrant barked out that last word. He was breathing heavily. Staring at the man who was still lying on the cot.

The traitor chuckled, and folded his hands together. "You're obviously one to get involved in a story easily."

The priest tried to think of a reply, but was totally and completely lost.

"I can still see it, you know..." the ex-Fuhrer mused. "Blood running down his forehead, matting that pretty blonde hair. His eyes were open. That didn't surprise me. I was feeling somewhat paranoid at the time, thought they were looking at me... And then of course the crowd got hold of the body, and I didn't have to worry about it anymore."

"After all that..." the priest said slowly. "After all that child had been through... you blamed it on his coup attempt!"

The ex-Fuhrer nodded. "They found him right where I said he'd be, in posession of the Stone. What other explanation was there? He'd been through so much-- it was understandable that he might snap. After all, he did in the end."

"You sent him to rescue his family and used that to frame him for high treason and murder."

"Yes."

"Were they even still alive when you sent him there?"

A careless shrug. "The girl was. Though understandably the worse for wear. I hadn't been involved in that part of the plan, after all; they found his brother's suit of armor washed up on the shore a few years afterward."

"So you lied to him. You betrayed him-- in the worst way possible. TWICE."

A faint smirk. "You still want to offer me forgiveness?"

The priest swallowed hard, feeling nauseous. The Stone, after all, had done such horrible things, and how many times had they cursed the man who made it? How many people had cursed the name of Edward Elric, while-- while obeying, while revering--

"I can't," he said.

A quiet laugh from the cell.

"Not for myself," he clarified. "I-- no. I can't-- even begin to even think about--. But God... God's forgiveness is there, if you'll only take it."

The traitor sat up, graying hair falling about his face. "How can your god forgive me if you can't?"

"My god's a better person than I am," he said, swallowing and managing to look the traitor in the eye. "Why would I worship him if that wasn't so?"

That earned him a smile, and a surprised laugh, that he wished he hadn't gotten. "So! Your faith isn't blind after all. Well, I suppose I can respect that. But I will accept no forgiveness."

"Why not?" the priest asked.

The traitor ignored him, drifting with a faint smile into his reverie. "But it's fitting, isn't it? I finally get the same punishment he did. The punishment I deserve. Maybe somehow he did get me. That's a nice thought, don't you think?"

"Yes," said the priest.

There was a knock on the wall as the guards came down the hall. "Pastor, we're afraid your time is up. Not that it's of any use." The leading guard glared at the traitor. The priest couldn't fault him.

"I hope you change your mind," he told the traitor.

A faint laugh. "No you don't."

The priest wished devoutly that he could contradict him.

The cell door was unlocked, and Roy Mustang walked out quietly. He didn't move any more than he had to as they locked the chains around him, and he walked calmly, serenely with them out to the yard, noting that the priest was following.

He knew the crowd was secretly hoping he'd try something, as the door opened and the noise burst in. Partly for excitement, partly for the excuse to make him suffer. Probably he deserved it, he knew. Definetly he deserved it.

He walked out in front of the court-- the real court, this time-- unhurriedly, like he was walking through the halls on any normal day. Entirely unconcerned.

"TRAITOR!"

He glanced around to trace the source of the strident yell, somehow crystal clear in all the clamor.

"You always WERE a traitor!" the voice yelled.

He looked more closely at the milling crowd-- and there. A medium-height man, with light brown hair, staring at him with pure hatred-- and a blonde, blue-eyed woman, about the same age, beside him, one of the many who were throwing things at him, but were too far away to hit. Up near the front-- had gotten there early-- and hanging around--

All the heroes of the revolution, the new political minds-- firmly in the middle.

"You always WERE a traitor! But WE GOT YOU ANYWAY, MUSTANG, DAMN YOU TO HELL!"

The woman was screaming too, piercingly, and he couldn't make out the words, but he saw that she was wearing gloves as she fervently threw--

Wrenches.

It wasn't possible.

The man who was standing there, starting to cry, staring at him with undiluted hate-- and triumph, too.

Could not possibly be.

Could not be anyone else.

Roy Mustang thought back again, quickly, over those memories. Edward couldn't have had time to get to them. But--

--the thing that had saved his life, the superfluous second array. The one under the room had made the Stone. And the one around Edward?

Alchemy at such a distance wasn't possible.

"But why not, when you think about it?" Edward had said. "There's always a LITTLE distance involved. Why shouldn't you be able to do alchemy from further away? The arrays would get damn complicated, but it's possible."

He could almost see Edward's array, parts of it, in his mind's eye; cluttered, complex, amazingly intricate--

Of course. Of course. Give Ed five seconds with the Stone and the first thing he'd do--

"Roy Mustang," said the judge. "You have been found guilty of High Treason, War Crimes, intentionally misleading the public, Criminal Alchemies..."

He ignored the sentence, knowing all it said anyway. When that armor had washed up... Al must have escaped, and thrown it in the river. Or else, been thrown in the river, then escaped and managed to swim to shore. The seal must have been broken by the transmutation, or washed away...

And suddenly he knew who his opponent had been. All this time. The person who had managed to surprise him, to defeat him.

Edward had warned him that Al was the smarter brother.

"...and most likely, a number of other obscenities that have not yet come to light," the judge finished, rolling up his sheet of paper. "The punishment for this is death. Do you wish to make a final statement before the court?"

Roy Mustang smiled.

"You're right," he said. "You got me. I did it. I deserve far worse than this. And I don't even know why I did it."

He paused, and smirked.

"In the beginning my goal was to reform the government... a task at which I failed abysmally. But it's ironic, isn't it... that in the end, I caused a reform better and more thorough than any I could have managed from within."

Al jolted. "He ISN'T."

"Evidently, I managed to produce enough unrest, aided by the sharpest and bravest minds, to give this country a new government and a new start-- an opportunity to learn from our mistakes, and never let such tyrannies and atrocities happen again."

"He ISN'T!" Al yelled.

"All I ask of you is to embrace these freedoms; hold them dearest to your heart. NEVER let them be taken away. Never let things like Lior-- Youswell-- Ishbal-- ever happen again."

"You have got to be KIDDING ME!" Al yelled.

"Al, what?" Winry tugged on his arm.

"He's trying to say this was all part of his PLAN!"

Roy Mustang laughed. "Oh, God, no. I didn't plan this. Not consciously. Never think I'm anything but a worthless, manipulating, soulless bastard."

"Reverse psychology!" Al moaned.

"Do not be bitter about the revolution," Roy Mustang proclaimed. "Go forward into the bright new future that these patriots have so bravely provided. I wish you nothing but happiness and success."

"God Almighty!" Al cried.

Roy Mustang turned back to the judge. "I'm done now," he said, and smirked.

The judge shook his head wordlessly. "Ready!"

He waved and smiled at Al and Winry, just to see Al writhe in frustration.

"Aim!"

He knew very well he was going to hell, but he was absolutely certain Edward wouldn't be there with him-- as much as the boy would surely like to help punish him. He couldn't help wondering, though-- damned priest-- was, by any chance, forgiveness--?

"FIRE!"

(-)