Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye watched him as he stared at the letter on his desk. His pen was in his right hand, poised to sign at the bottom. Roy Mustang. Just two little words and it would all be over with. He was useless and this letter of resignation was the only option. He touched the patch over his eye lightly. It hid his shame from the world, but in that blinded eye he could see the faces of every person he had killed, every person he had let down.
Suddenly the telephone rang. He stared at it for a moment, and then hesitantly answered it. "General Mustang here. What is it, Falman? Uh-huh. Uh-huh." He hung up the receiver and smiled slightly. "I half expected it to be Hughes on the other end." Hawkeye looked at him through heavy-lidded eyes. "He would always call when I was trying to do something important."
Hawkeye stood up at once. "General, may I speak freely?" He waved his hand, consenting. "Please don't sign that paper."
Mustang averted his eyes and furrowed his brow. "I have no choice."
"That's not true!" Hawkeye cried. "Those two boys need you!" Her eyes were shining. "They still need your help. Roy," she pleaded.
"Damn it, Riza, I can't!" Mustang nearly shouted, slamming his fist on the desk. "How can I face him? He doesn't even know who I am. And let's not forget I'm the one who's responsible for his brother's disappearance to the other world."
"You are not," Hawkeye protested. Mustang put his hand on his forehead, under his dark bangs. "If Alphonse Elric needs anything in this world, it's hope, and you can give that to him. If you resign, what good will you be to him?" Mustang began trembling. "And what about Lieutenant Colonel Hughes? He did everything to push you to the top, and now, because of a sudden guilty conscience, you're going to quit and throw all of that away?"
Mustang did not move, but remained absolutely still, his left hand still covering his eyes. "You're dismissed, Lieutenant," he said coldly.
She blinked. "General, if you would just speak with him!"
He stood up and ordered loudly, "You're dismissed, Hawkeye!"
"With all due respect, sir, if you think you ruined Alphonse's life, why in the hell won't you go and fix it?" Before he could reply, she had walked out and slammed the door behind her.
Mustang sat back down, slightly taken aback. He thought for a moment, wearily. He had not slept for days. He was still putting things together, trying to figure things out. He picked up the telephone. "Havoc. I need you to drive me somewhere." He glanced out the window and grabbed his hat and coat. He met Havoc at the front of the building and got into the car.
"Where to, General?" Havoc asked, a cigarette hanging from his mouth.
"The train station," Mustang answered, pulling his hat down over his eyes. He had changed into civilian clothes. What he was doing was not an order, it was a choice.
Havoc raised his eyebrows, surprised. "The train station? Where are you going, sir?" he questioned, noticing the general was not wearing his uniform. Mustang didn't reply. "May I ask when you'll be back, sir?" Again, there was no response, and Havoc exhaled slowly, pushing his blonde bangs out of his eyes. He cleared his throat, but did not speak again until they arrived at the station. Mustang let himself out and started walking. Havoc leapt out of the vehicle and into the rain. "General! What do I report back?"
"Nothing!" Mustang yelled. "Tell them I gave you the afternoon off!"
Havoc's eyes lit up. "Thank you, sir!" He saluted as the brigadier general marched into the station.
Mustang arrived at Rizenbul late in the afternoon. The sun was setting, turning the blue sky to deep orange and red. He remembered the first time he had come to this place. He saw Edward in his left eye, only thirteen, and Alphonse in that giant suit of armor. He approached the Rockbells' cottage at a steady pace, looking rather inconspicuous with his civilian's clothes on. As he neared the entryway, he heard a low barking, and the door was opened before he had the chance to knock.
"General!" A young girl stood before him, her long blonde hair pinned back with a bronze-colored barrette. "What are you doing here? Is something wrong?" He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. "Oh, what am I doing?" she asked herself, shaking her head and smiling. "Won't you come in?"
She let him pass, and then closed the door behind her. "Thank you, Winry," he said, removing his hat and coat.
"It's no trouble at all!" Winry assured him. "Please, have a seat." She smiled, her gaze drifting to his eye patch. "So, what can I—er, not eye—that is…what can we help you with?" she finished lamely.
Mustang began to laugh loudly then, causing Winry to jump in surprise. "Sorry," he said when he had finished. "But I could use a good laugh."
"Sorry," she said, red in the face, "but what happened?"
"Oh, this?" He pointed to the black patch. He smiled slightly. "My eye was blinded when I was fighting with Füher Bradley."
"The Homunculus?" Winry asked. Mustang nodded. "Does it hurt?"
"No," he replied, "it just doesn't work."
"I bet I could make you a mechanical eye!" she said excitedly, her own eyes gleaming.
"I have no doubt."
Winry beamed. "So, General, I know you didn't come all this way to talk to me, so what is it?"
"I was hoping I could speak with Alphonse," Mustang answered, a small smile still on his lips.
"Oh! I'll get him for you!" She started up the stairs, calling his name. Mustang frowned, waiting for—dreading the boy's appearance.
"General Mustang?" he heard the boy ask eagerly. "He's here?"
"Al, don't scare the poor man! He's had a long train ride!" Winry shouted after him.
Suddenly Alphonse ran down the stairs and was right before him. "General!" he cried, hugging Mustang around his middle. He was so small. "I thought I would never see you again!"
"Then…your memory's back?" Mustang asked hopefully when Alphonse had let go.
"No, but Winry told me all about you—how you helped Brother become a State Alchemist, how you helped both of us on our journey!" Alphonse exclaimed.
"Look, Alphonse," Mustang began seriously. "I came here to say something to you." Alphonse frowned and stared at him with wide gray eyes. "It's about that night…the one when Edward performed the transmutation that brought you back, but banished him to the other world." His eyes were hard. "I wanted to say…that I'm sorry I wasn't there."
Alphonse looked at Mustang somewhat sadly. "There was nothing anyone could have done," he said earnestly. "Rose told me what happened, at least what she could remember. Even if you had been there, you couldn't have stopped Envy. He was a monster. He would have done anything to kill Dad."
Mustang was stunned. "Then…you don't…hate me?"
"Of course not!" Alphonse replied cheerfully. "And I know Brother doesn't either."
"But I wasn't there for you boys when you needed me most!" Mustang protested. "I got you both into this mess and I wasn't there to get you out!"
"But you're here now," Alphonse explained. "That's what's important, General." For an eleven-year-old boy, he suddenly seemed very wise. "Besides, I'm leaving for Dublith soon to study alchemy with Teacher. I'm glad you came." He smiled.
Mustang nodded. "I am too." He looked up at the staircase where Winry was sitting, watching them with tears in her eyes.
Jean Havoc leant back in the office chair with his feet propped up on the desk, taking long drags on his cigarette and slowly exhaling the smoke. He closed his eyes, enjoying the smooth, relaxed feeling it was giving him. It was his first day off in a long time, and he intended to enjoy it.
The telephone rang and he picked it up. Sounding professional, he said, "Lieutenant Havoc here." He stretched and a wide smile formed on his lips. "The General's not here. Nah, I'm just keeping his chair warm till he gets back. I drove him to the station and he gave me the day off for keeping my mouth shut. You should come up—we'll have a drink or smoke some of Mustang's cigars—Ah!"
The door burst open and Riza Hawkeye stepped inside, pointing a gun at Havoc. "Put the phone down, Lieutenant, put out that cigarette, and get your filthy boots off of the desk!"
Havoc slammed down the receiver in fright and, in an attempt to pull his feet down, he fell to the floor. "Yes, sir! Sorry, sir!" he said, scrambling to his feet.
"The cigarette, Havoc?" Hawkeye said dangerously, her eyes hard.
He quickly put it out and saluted. "Lieutenant, I know this looks bad, but—"
"What in the hell are you doing here, Havoc? I don't remember reading your name on the door." She put her gun back in the holster.
Havoc did not relax his salute. "As I was telling Lieutenant Falman, sir, General Mustang gave me the afternoon off."
Hawkeye frowned, not convinced. "He did what?"
"He told me to keep it under my hat, sir," Havoc answered nervously. She put a hand on her gun, glaring at him. "He called me at eleven-hundred and I drove him to the train station," he said quickly.
Her eyes softened and her frown disappeared. "You took him to the train station?" she asked, not believing her own ears.
"Yes, sir. The General didn't say where he was going," he explained. "He didn't tell me anything else."
Hawkeye smiled. She knew where Roy Mustang had gone. "Lieutenant Havoc," she began.
"Yes, sir?" he squeaked.
"Put your arm down."
"Yes, sir." He relaxed and scratched the back of his head. "So, you're not mad?"
She smiled at him then, and, without another word, walked out of the office.