The way tales told it later, Roy Mustang returned from his self-imposed exile purely out of the goodness of his heart and in service to his country, to try to save the world.
This romantic, idealistic image of the heroic Flame Alchemist took hold of the popular imagination very quickly. Very few among the general public knew, or indeed had much interest in, the mundane details of how their idol had actually gone about saving the world. Instead they grieved through the three official days of mourning, wept in the streets outside the state funeral where both the Flame and his Beloved were eulogized, and welcomed the news that plans were already underway for a commemorative statue in the square before Central military headquarters. It would feature General Mustang standing, arm raised, fingers ready to snap, while Major Hawkeye crouched at his side, gun at the ready, poised to protect him. The public wept again at the tragically romantic image.
There were ordinary details that the general populace never heard. Like the fact that Roy Mustang, to the surprise of almost everyone, was actually very wealthy. When his will was read, they learned that he had left his estate to be divided equally between Gracia Hughes and Riza Hawkeye, with Hawkeye given the option of refusing her half, so that the entire fortune would go to Gracia. This will had been made on the same day he had arranged the education fund for Elysia Hughes.
All of her friends knew what Hawkeye would have done. But they agreed that since Roy believed he could never tell Riza how much he loved her in life, he would have seen this as a way of telling her in death. But Gracia would have received all the money, even if Riza had survived. They were all agreed on that.
The mourning of Mustang's and Hawkeye's friends was more complex than the general populace could begin to guess. Being conducted very publicly, it took a heavy toll on them in private. For every occasion that someone said to them in public, "You must be very proud," there were a hundred lonely, solitary moments asking "Why?" Few people ever understood the regrets, the questions, and even the recriminations that were mixed with the understanding, the love and yes, the pride in what their friends had accomplished.
One thing the public did know about, for it was a very public affair, was the severe grilling Major Havoc took from both the Assembly leaders and those of the military. The newspapers, in fact, followed the hearings every day, their front pages splashed with photographs of Jean Havoc sitting alone at a table facing rows of stern interrogators, with a huge gallery of spectators arrayed behind him. For a while it looked as though the Major might take some blame for the two deaths, until both the former Lieutenant Colonel Armstrong and Major Cash came to his vehement defence. Both of them could testify to General Mustang's plans and intentions from the beginning. And in the end, their testimony, added to Major Havoc's accounts of his last encounters with General Mustang and Major Hawkeye, carried the day.
Jean Havoc was exonerated of any blame in their deaths. The large crowds who had gathered outside the public assembly building every day of the hearings threw flowers at his feet as he came outside after the final meeting. And General Mustang's very last official act – secretly recommending that Havoc be promoted quickly to Lieutenant Colonel – was finally implemented.
The public did not know until later that shortly after this, Lieutenant Colonel Havoc asked to be posted to distant Ishbal, where the military of Amestris was helping the Ishbalans rebuild their country. Or that he had requested that Major Reg Cash come with him, as well as any of Mustang's former subordinates who would be willing to go.
The public did learn of the Ishbalan response to the Flame's death, however. In the temples of that land, now rebuilt, prayers of gratitude were offered up, and the priests commended his soul and that of his fair consort to the care and mercy of Ishbala. While the people of Amestris were proud that their hero's fame extended beyond their own borders, most were still mystified that a man whose earliest fame had been achieved through the destruction of Ishbal would be so honoured.
Many in Amestris, some for the very first time in their lives, began to contemplate the deeper meaning of concepts such as redemption, sacrifice, and forgiveness. And these people, perhaps, finally began to understand the truths behind the legends that had already started spreading like wildfire.
Alex Louis Armstrong, who had worked so closely with Roy Mustang on his final project, always maintained that the Flame Alchemist would have undertaken the task whether or not he would be rewarded or honoured later. Those who knew him, despite the various mundane details they could add to the story, agreed that the popular tale was ultimately the true one after all: Roy Mustang had loved his country and his world, enough that he had been willing to give his very life's blood in their service.
And when people began to go into the old ruined sanctuary, to lay flowers before the stairwell that had once led down to the vast underground cavern, Roy's and Riza's friends went with them, and laid flowers of their own.
Once again, all the credit and appreciation in the world must go to Roaming Fool, who beta'd some of these chapters, and whose influence was felt in all the rest of them. Without her, this story would not be remotely what it is today. So – thanks infinitely, RF!