Disclaimer: I do not own Fullmetal Alchemist or anything related to it. I'm writing this for my own enjoyment and am not getting paid.
A.N. Wow! Last part! I've decided to put a rush on this fic because Arakawa-sensei could crush all my theories with the next chapter.
Thanks to all my reviewers! I appreciate all your comments. And to my Anonymous reviewer: Hawkeye's past, and now Roy's too, really are enigmatic. I think that's why I wanted to write about them so much. Thanks for all your comments, they're really appreciated! Thanks!
You know... If everyone who had this fic on alerts reviewed, I'd be a very happy writer. hint, hint!
Part Three: Grey
She wasn't sure when she made the transition from 'Riza' to 'Hawkeye'. Perhaps it had been the day she was sent to the front lines, where people rarely used rank as, with so many deaths, they were always changing. Perhaps it had been before that when she was stationed further back; when she had first killed another human being. Perhaps, she thought bitterly, it was the day when she had enrolled at the damned Eastern Academy.
Whenever it was, it certainly hadn't been a conscious thought. Once, the name 'Hawkeye' had reminded her of her father. Now it was her call to arms.
But now the war was over, at least, that's what they said. She had watched emotionlessly from a sniper tower the night before as explosions ripped through Ishbal and now she was supposed to return to the base camp to listen to praises from the exalted Fuheur.
But she had something to do first.
Her only job last night had been to shoot down any who escaped the carnage created by the alchemists. There had been few- too few. She would have let the one person, a young boy, escape had he not been pointing the weapon he carried at a soldier in blue. She had aimed and fired and the boy fell to the ground, limp.
The soldier, who had been on the ground ready to plead for his life, picked himself up and glanced over his shoulder in Hawkeye's general direction. He nodded at the sniper he couldn't see, and then stared at the corpse of the boy.
Hawkeye hadn't expected him to kick it into the ditch at the side of the dirt road.
So here she was, trudging down that same dirt road towards the corpse of the child. When she reached him she pulled him out of the dirt and ever so gently placed her fingers over his eyelids and closed them.
The first time she had killed a child, a week after the orders had come through that the entire nation was to be annihilated, she had done nothing but stare numbly at the girl, not much younger than she. It wasn't until one of the men back at the camp had patted her on the shoulder and congratulated her that she staggered away and retched.
Hawkeye dug at the dry ground with her bare hands. She stayed there for over an hour, not noticing as her fingers bled from the abuse. As she laid the body of the boy in the earth and covered it, she wondered if these people, or what was left of their race, still believed in their god. She had heard Maes comment that he would have given up hope in a god that had given up on him, just as Ishbala had done with these people. Major Mustang had simply stated that he was a scientist and didn't believe in such things. Hawkeye had stayed silent, staring into the contents of her tin mug as they sat at the fire. She didn't believe in any god, not anymore. She didn't believe in a devil either. All she believed was that the actions of mankind could imitate the actions of these beings, heavenly or otherwise.
And she had committed acts of the devil. Something, she swore, she would never participate in again.
"Aren't you going back?" a voice asked from behind her. She didn't speak or acknowledge her superior in any way, continuing to pile stones upon the heap of earth. At least this way, she thought, the dogs wouldn't dig the body up.
"You'll be left behind," Major Mustang coaxed, as though trying to persuade a particularly reluctant child out of a toy store.
She was no longer an innocent child and this sure as Hell was no toy store. She didn't answer.
"Is it a comrade?" he tried once again to gain a response from her.
"No," she replied, almost impertinently as she thought of the solider whose life she had most likely saved- the same soldier who had kicked the boy into the ditch. "An Ishbalan child…" she murmured in explanation. Turning round to face Roy, she added, "He was shot and left on the roadside alone." No need to tell him who had shot him. Major Mustang still wanted to believe that she still possessed some sort of innocence, even though he had watched her take down many an Ishbalan.
Maybe, he had abandoned that hope, Hawkeye thought, as he opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out for a moment. "Let's go back," his voice was almost a whisper in the still of the desert. "The war is over."
"The Battle of Ishbal isn't over inside me yet," she spoke, voice hollow. Then, more to herself than to her companion, she muttered, "No… It will probably never end." Never. There was no way to bring back the dead; she knew that better than anybody. But unless she could give back what she had stolen from so many, it would never end. Instead she would live in purgatory until her life, too, was stolen.
"I was the one who believed in you and entrusted my father's research to you," she voiced the thoughts that had plagued her since she first saw a column of fire desecrate an Ishbalan village. "I was also the one who chose to go into the Military Academy, wishing for the happiness of the people." Oh, what a naive fool she had been… "Even if that had undesired results," she lamented, "I cannot run from the facts. "To deny, atone or beg for forgiveness is the arrogance of those who did the killing," she struggled to keep her voice even.
Riza Hawkeye sat, fists clenched on her knees as her eyes filled with unwanted tears. The pain 'Riza' had went through when that cursed tattoo had first been transcribed onto her skin would pale in comparison to what 'Hawkeye' would feel if Major Mustang granted her request. But then, Riza wasn't sure she could live with herself if he didn't…
"I have a favour to ask you, Mr Mustang," she fought to keep from trembling. "Please, burn and crush my back."
Roy's reaction wasn't what she had expected. "What, are you…" she heard the 'insane' that wasn't spoken. No, she wasn't insane. She didn't think that those who had injured themselves or died by their own hand during the war were insane either. "There's no way I can-"
No! "At least!!" she pleaded. He had to! Her eyes were shut tightly, even so, tears leaked out from between the lids. "If I can't atone, then, at least, so that it can't give birth to another Flame Alchemist!" So that she wouldn't be responsible for this kind of carnage ever again. "So that the secrets on this back can't be used." She forced herself to calm down, to breathe, before turning to look him in the eyes.
In a much calmer and decided voice, she issued her last plea, "And so that I can lay down my bonds to my father and alchemy, to become Riza Hawkeye as an individual. Please."
'I can never be free.' Words, her words from a long time ago, came back to him. Libera me, Domine. How ironic was it, that those specific words were inscribed on her very being? Free me, Lord…
Under her gaze, he finally ducked his head and consented.
Slowly, as though trying to delay the moment when he would scar her for life, he withdrew his gloves from his pocket. "How much," he whispered miserably, "would I have to burn to kill… or if it would hinder your lifestyle?" He raised his voice to explain, "The depth and range of burns has become within my power. How ironic," he mused. He was worried about killing her when he had tortured countless others before they reached death by his flame. He knew exactly what to do. And yet, his hands still shook. "I've become too used to burning people in this battle," he lamented sadly.
Hawkeye watched as he pulled on his gloves, still unable to meet her eyes. "You found me lying on the ground, left for dead," she stated firmly. He looked up, startled, as she continued. "You think I may have gotten caught up in one of the final explosions whilst returning to base." His eyes widened and he opened his mouth to protest but she cut him off. "You will never be implicated for this. Instead, you will be my saviour."
He nodded. The higher-ups and the doctors would believe it. They were all so grateful to be getting out of this sandpit that they would believe anything so long as it meant they didn't have to stay here any longer. "Yes, alright. Take off your coat and shirt." When Hawkeye shook her head violently he realised the implication of what he had just said. "I didn't- I mean… I need to see it, Hawkeye!"
When she continued to shake her head he began to get exasperated. "I need to see it so I can minimise the burning! I don't want to hurt you anymore than is necessary, Hawkeye!"
"I was caught up in an explosion," she stated, enunciating each word carefully. "You need to make it look like that. It would look suspicious if I was burned but my clothes weren't even singed."
"So I'll burn them separately!"
"No! Please! Just get it over with!" She turned around again, still on the ground, bracing herself. "Please."
Roughly, he pulled on one of his gloves, shoving the other back in his pocket. He snapped and let the flames dance along his fingertips for a few brief moments. Hawkeye was taking deep, steady breaths, physically and mentally preparing herself. He kneeled down behind her.
"I'm sorry," he whispered.
The moment the flame touched her skin, Riza bit down and ground her back teeth together. She didn't scream, though, as Major Mustang's flame made its way over her left shoulder and the stench of burning flesh- her burning flesh- drew tears from her eyes. At least, that's what she told herself it was. She wouldn't give in to the searing pain- she couldn't!
Roy's eyes also shed tears. He had burned people during the war, people he didn't even know, and he had hated it. It seemed that as long as he was burning people, his war would never be over. And now, here he was, burning through multiple layers of the skin of a friend. The worst thing was, it was all his fault. He shook and he tried to support his arm with his other hand, but it was no use. His vision blurred from tears, and he knew it was from his disgust at his own actions, not the burning skin. His had trembled violently and a small portion of the centre of her back burned under his flame instead of the area he was concentrating on.
He stopped then, hand dropping to the ground as he bent forward so that his head almost rested on his lap. When his quiet sobs subsided he realised he could still hear Hawkeye's breathing. It was sharp, ragged and obviously pained. It was amazing that she was still conscious at all.
Roy crawled round to face her. Her eyes were wide and her mouth a bloody contrast to her face. She had apparently bitten down on the inside of her lip to stop herself from screaming. Roy grabbed her, pulling her to her feet, ignoring the sharp intake of breath as he pulled her body over his shoulder.
Hawkeye was barely aware of what was happening. She could feel herself bouncing off Mustang's shoulder as he ran. He could hear him talking, possibly to her, but she couldn't make out the words. Her eyes closed and she screwed up her face, suppressing the urge to yell.
Mustang was calling a name and she felt herself being lifted onto a hard mattress, face down. Outside of her own little world of pain, there was pleading, a thank you and finally a command to leave.
Roy had carried her to Dr Knox, a man who had committed as many evil deeds in this war as he had. He was now a specialist on burns and Roy knew he could be persuaded to stay quiet should he have any wish to divulge this particular piece of information.
He hadn't been able to burn her whole back. He was too scared of losing complete control and killing her. The higher-ups wouldn't have noticed one more burned body, one more soldier dead, but scarring her as he had just done, even when it had been she who requested it, didn't sit well on his conscience .
Knox had told him to leave, and with one last look at his friend, lying, almost unconscious, on the medical cot, he closed the door behind him.
In the future, Roy Mustang would have many a nightmare about the atrocities committed in Ishbal. But the one thing from this hell that he would take to his grave was sound that came from the room he had just left. For a Roy closed the door, Hawkeye's pain became too unbearable and she screamed.
She wasn't fully coherent again for a number of days, what with the mixture of painkillers and sedatives she had been fed. There were times when she drifted in and out of consciousness and every one of these times she could have sworn Roy was sitting by her side. One of these times, he spoke.
"I can't undo everything I've done, Hawkeye. But, I swear to you, I will make sure it doesn't happen again. I'm going for the top. I'm going to become Fuheur. I swear, Riza. I swear that I will not make you suffer like this again."
There and then, Hawkeye realised that by burning the tattoo on her back she had cut her ties to her father. But the scar that covered it had created a new tie, a new bond. One with Roy Mustang. One that she hoped she wouldn't regret.
Her last conscious thought was that there was no black or white in the world. There was only grey. But there were many shades of grey and she would continue to hope that it would continue to get lighter as Roy Mustang became closer to his dream.
A.N. Well, that's it! Wow! I think I'm really going to miss it! This chapter was, once again, mainly written during school. Oh well!
I hope everyone who read this fic enjoyed it. I'd seriously appreciate comments! You'll make my day if you drop me a review!
Thanks to everyone who's kept with this fic!