Full Summary: Things haven't turned out the way Roy Mustang thought they would. Al's missing his memory, Ed's just plain missing, and the Flame Alchemist's feelings for Hawkeye are getting harder to ignore. Meanwhile, on the other side of the gate, a Nazi general is investigating something that looks a lot like alchemy. All he needs to figure out this strange magic is a test subject...and then Roy stumbles into his hands...Royai, implied Edwin. Takes place after anime, ignores movie.
AN- This multi-chapter fic is a joint venture between skywalker05 and Words Without. We're writing this together, so what you see here is a attempted-merging of two styles. This fic'll be pretty long, will have one major original character (the villain) and a couple more minor OC's. No worries, though: the original characters don't get paired up with anyone and there aren't any Mary-Sues.
Some details: as mentioned in the full summary, this story takes place after the anime's ending but ignores the movie. Canon is upheld as much as possible; occasionally artistic license might have to be taken with some of the details, but we'll always try to explain the changes we made, and make them make sense. Fic is rated T-there will be some language, there will be some creepy content, and good lord will there be violence. Also, there will be Royai, because Words Without is a co-writer and demands her Royai.
At the end of each chapter will be three things: a dictionary of German words, since there will be a fair sprinkling of those throughout; credits for all of the many quotes that are also sprinkled throughout; and any historical notes needed. (Lawl, a fanfic with historical footnotes.)
Please review! If you're confused, if you've caught a plot-hole or inconsistency, if you see a typo-we'd love to know! We're stuck using an online translator for the German words, so if you know German and see something that doesn't make sense-review! Con. Crit can only help, and we worship it.
"Fate - that is relentless.
Thus remembering the hardship of cruel slaughters and the fall of kinsmen friends, the wanderer spoke:
…All in the kingdom of earth is full of hardship...
Here is life, here is friend, here is kinsman, here is man-
all gone now after the brief lending,
all the foundations of this earth become desolate…"
"Free from the noise of citizens, the old works of giants stood idle.
Thus did the Creator of men destroy this world."
Albrecht Kleinman was focused on wiping a coffee stain off the counter top when a customer he had never seen before walked into the general store. The bell above the door chimed and he looked up from the old, sour stain, his blue eyes narrow around crinkled skin.
He was, above all, a survivor by nature: the store had survived the tumultuous economy of the late nineteen twenties and early thirties, Albrecht had survived the loss of his sons to the army during the Great War, and this stain had survived him scrubbing it with a rough cloth every day for the last two weeks. Determination, not adaptation, allowed him to succeed in various worldly endeavors, and so it took him a moment to process the fact that the boy who had just walked in looked rather confused.
The boy was standing in the middle of the aisle, between medicines and newspapers, blond hair falling over his bright eyes. He pushed one hand into the pocket of his black slacks and trudged over to the counter. He needed to stand on tiptoe to see at Albrecht's eye level.
"Can I help you?" Albrecht mumbled.
"Ah, yeah." The newcomer lowered his eyes, looked at the things displayed on the countertop. "What's this, ah, biskuit?"
"A biscuit?" Albrecht gave the boy a sidelong look. He didn't know what a biscuit was? He did have a slight accent; perhaps he was foreign. "It's made of bread. Just like everything else we've had to eat around here lately."
"Okay." The boy's voice was quiet, almost raspily so. "I'll take three of those." He placed a handful of marks on the counter.
Albrecht tried for conversation—and information—as he counted the small pile of money. What with inflation and all, buying as basic a staple as bread practically required a wheelbarrow. "Are you local?"
"No. Ah, passing through. Just got to Berlin."
"I've had relatives there. What's your name?"
The boy's eyes brightened for a moment, as if personal connections meant something more than blood relation to him, as if they meant answers to a question he sought—"Ah, Hohenheim."
"Never heard of them, sorry."
"Oh. Never mind."
The biscuits were pushed across the counter and the boy gathered them up, and silently walked out of the store. Once on the street and under the gray clouds, he took a bite of one of the doughy biscuits, staring up at the sky. The food here tasted like the food back home…but not exactly. The spices were different, and there wasn't nearly the same selection. Then again, it made sense…according to Hohenheim, this country had yet to recover from a war lost years ago.
He had almost hoped, for a moment, that the shopkeeper had known Hohenheim, that he was one of a network of people with information about the world of alchemists. But the encounter had borne no fruit; there was no network, no quick answers, for Edward Elric. There never had been any. So he continued his walk toward home base—not toward home.
"Hey, Havoc. Where's the general? There're more papers for him to sign."
First Lieutenant Havoc looked up lazily from his desk, features slightly obscured through a haze of cigarette smoke. "Hell if I know. He wandered out of the office for a lunch break two hours ago."
Second Lieutenant Fuery looked as though he might start crying. "The major said I had to give him this stuff! She'll kill me if I don't get them to him like she said."
"Nah." Havoc straightened up, and spoke around a yawn. The mid-afternoon sun cutting through the wall-to-ceiling window in the office was making him sleepy. "She won't kill you, she'll kill Mustang."
"If she can find him," First Lieutenant Breda cut in from his desk. "I think he skipped out altogether and went on a date."
"Agh! That bastard!" Havoc fumed. "I don't believe him! It's been, what, six months since we took Bradley down? We're all war heroes, and I still don't have a girl! Meanwhile, that jerk is fooling around with more women then he did before the rebellion!"
"He's the brigadier general," Breda shrugged. "Losing an eye isn't gonna stop him from getting all the tail."
"I kinda thought what happened with him and the major would stop him, though," Fuery said quietly. "I mean—when he was recuperating and all."
The other two men exchanged uneasy glances. Warmongering homunculus at the head of the government or no, fraternization between officers was still forbidden, and Roy Mustang's subordinates were used to keeping quiet when it came to the weird something that their commander had going on with his female subordinate.
(No one was quite sure what that something was…but it was definitely there.)
Havoc chewed on the edge of his cigarette, thoughtfully. "Well, I dunno. I'm pretty sure they never did anything while he was at her house. Hawkeye just took care of him like she always does, and when he was strong enough to come back to work he moved back into his apartment. Doesn't seem too earth-shattering to me."
"Yeah, but that's the weird part," Breda pointed out. "Nothing happened. He slept in her bed for three months and nothing happened."
Jean shrugged. "The major's smart. She probably knew it was too risky—not to mention illegal—to sleep with him and kept her distance."
"The general wouldn't care," Breda snorted. "He's never been one for following the rules, y'know. I thought he'd be grabbing for her the minute he had the chance!"
"Maybe he did. Maybe she turned him down."
"No way. Hawkeye's got the hots for him, we all know that. Even she couldn't resist him, illegal relationship or not."
"Hmm." Havoc grinned. "Wanna bet?"
"Someone didn't learn his lesson after the last bet. How much money did I take from you then? Half your paycheck? Was that it?"
"That was an unfair bet! You knew she was taken before I even asked her out! Of course she'd turn me down!"
"Pretty sure it was half your paycheck."
"Pretty sure you're an—"
"Something must've happened," Fuery said, mostly to himself. It just didn't make sense otherwise. Brigadier General Mustang and Major Hawkeye were acting the way they had always acted around each other—absolutely nothing had changed in their relationship, as far as Fuery could see. The general still flirted with women and 'misplaced' his paperwork and stared off into the distance when he thought no one was around to see; the major still kept the office running and forced Mustang to sign papers and guarded his back. Nothing had changed.
Something should have changed! Everything else in their lives had!
The government they served was finally back in the hands of the people, and compared to the first few, rough months, was relatively stable. All of Mustang's subordinates—all those who had helped defeat Bradley—had been given promotions. Roy Mustang himself had not been promoted; Bradley was a monster, but he was a monster in power, and the new government's elite didn't necessarily trust his killer as of yet. He'd kept his rank, though, and his unexpected good fortune (Fuery knew his boss had been half-expecting a firing squad) was nothing short of miraculous.
But something still wasn't right.
Three months spent healing from Bradley's sword and Archer's gun…three months alone, with the woman who'd saved his life, the woman who was always right by his side. The only person, male or female, who dared confront him when he was in a bad mood…the only person who knew how to hold Roy together when it seemed like he was falling apart…three months alone, with her…
Something should have happened, but as far as Fuery knew, nothing had. It didn't add up. It didn't…feel right. If the end of the military as they knew it wasn't enough to bring those two together…what was?
He was in one of his moods today. Hawkeye could tell.
She'd searched out all his usual avoid-paperwork-spots, and had finally found him holed up in a corner of the cafeteria, nursing along a glass of water he probably wished was booze. His back was to the door, and when she called his name, he tilted his head to glance over his shoulder.
For a second, the only side of his face Riza Hawkeye could see was the side half-hidden by the eye patch. For that second, it was hard to breathe.
(To see her general permanently wounded was bitterly cruel. To be faced with that reminder of how close he had been to death was almost a nightmare in of itself.
She still dreamt about it at night—dreamt about those few, terrible seconds at the mansion, when all she could see was her general's body sprawled out on the steps, when nothing she said or screamed or promised could get him to move. She still remembered how it had felt to clutch at his bleeding, lifeless body; she still sometimes heard his labored breathing, heard him whimper slightly with each breath, because each breath hurt so much.
She still remembered—she would always, always remember.)
Hawkeye moved over to stand by the general's side. There was a thick alchemy text open on the table in front of him; the pages were thin, spotted with age, and the cover was torn nearly in two.
"General Mustang," she said crisply, "You've been on your lunch break for two hours. Don't you think you should get back to work?"
"Maybe." The general looked up at her, flashing that damned, infuriating grin of his. "But signing paperwork is so boring. A brigadier general should have more important things to do with his time."
"You mean the meetings you continue to be late to, when you're not simply absent altogether? The files you have yet to review? The long list of phone calls you've—"
Mustang put up his hands. "I get it, I get it!" He sighed slightly. "I'll get back to work soon, Hawkeye, I promise. Just gotta finish this up first."
Curious despite herself, Hawkeye glanced over his shoulder to see what it was he was so enthralled by at the moment. She knew the general, and she knew the determined impatience his dark eyes reflected when he was truly interested in something. When Roy Mustang was learning something new or trying to answer a question, he didn't just study it. He threw himself into it, drowning in notes and data, tearing through one textbook after the other.
The general had that unquenchable craving for knowledge that all alchemists had, but more then that: the more the general knew, the more he could control. The more he knew, the more strings he had to pull, the more avenues he had open for his use.
The more he knew, the less there was that would surprise him, the less that would leave him reeling and gasping in the dead of night. The general, even after all he'd been through, was still so sure that, had he only known enough, he could have saved Maes…
'"The Secret Lawes Of The Alchemick Sienses'?" Major Hawkeye read, unable to keep the surprise out of her voice. "How old is this book, sir?"
"Old." The general turned back to it and flipped a few pages. The leather-bound book literally creaked with each page turn, as if no one but the general had bothered to open it for years. Considering the text's condition, Hawkeye realized how entirely possible that scenario was. "Older then anything they have in this building's library. Had to run over to the main one," he added, meaning the library only accessible to state alchemists. "Took me an hour to find it, too."
"You couldn't find a more up-to-date book while you were there?"
"Please," he scoffed; Hawkeye knew better then to pay attention to the arrogance in his voice. (She knew better then to fall for the mask he was wearing.) "I've been through the library here a thousand times. Same thing with the main branch. Ninety percent of the books they have are useless for what I need now. It's the older ones-" and he gestured at the ancient book on the table, "that are actually worth my time to read."
"And what," the major asked, "do you need at the moment?"
She realized the question was a mistake the second the words were out of her mouth.
The general didn't answer her right away. His expression glazed over completely, shutting her out, but his obsidian eyes burned a hole into her skin until Hawkeye actually felt herself growing uneasy.
"There are a lot of things I need, Hawkeye," he announced after a moment, and for the life of her she couldn't place the emotion in his voice. "I don't think you have time for the list."
Riza didn't know what she was supposed to say to that. Her head buzzed, because she thought she understood what he was implying—but the general knew better then to imply what she was thinking—he'd spent three months in her bed and she couldn't forget that—but she also couldn't forget the horrible scars that lurked underneath his eye patch—those scars that she was responsible for—her mistake…
"Brigadier General," she said, to get the conversation back on familiar ground, "What are you researching that modern-day alchemic research can't help? With all due respect, it seems a bit backwards."
Mustang shrugged. An errant lock of hair fell into his eyes, and the major ignored the urge to brush it back. It was out of habit, she silently reminded herself—she'd grown used to taking care of him during those three months. It was out of habit, and the habit would die soon enough.
"Thing is, Major, I'm not really researching actual arrays or laws or anything. I'm looking for theories—the kind that no one pays attention to anymore. Not because they were proven wrong, but because…hell! They're too weird to be possible. You know." He turned another page, wrinkling his nose slightly when he saw that the words were far too faded to be readable. "The kind of theories you're only gonna find in more…out-dated text books."
Hawkeye raised an eyebrow. The general was talking in riddles again, dancing around his response, never quite answering the question presented to him. It was one of his time-tested tricks for avoiding giving up information he wasn't willing to divulge.
"Why would you be skipping your paperwork to research crazy alchemy theories, sir?"
"'Cause crazy alchemy theories are more fun?" The general grinned. "Paperwork's a friggen waste of time. Even with the new government, the bureaucracy's driving me crazy! Seems like a waste of time to kill Bradley when I still have to do useless crap-!"
Riza waited a moment. Then, carefully: "Does this research have something to do with Edward Elric, sir?"
Mustang didn't react, not openly. He turned another page in the book and glanced down at the writing as if utterly unconcerned with the conversation. "Fullmetal had to do something to bring his brother back," he said casually. Too casually. "And I don't think he's dead, either, even if a lot of the military brass decided it's easier to pretend he is. Kid was too good to just roll over and die. And they never did find a body…"
The general stood up and stretched. He looked wearier then he had a few minutes ago, and Hawkeye understood why; up till this point, they'd never really discussed what had happened with Ed.
(They'd never really discussed a lot of things.)
"I don't know," he sighed. "A lot of these ancient theories are talking about some really crazy things—other worlds, other versions of the gate…other forms of alchemy altogether. 'Dark Magic', I think this book calls it." He picked the book up and glanced at its torn cover. "Says people considered it a sin or something."
Intrigued, Hawkeye looked at him. "And you think what that book discusses could be the key to finding Edward?"
"Don't know what I think at this point. Just grasping at straws." He rolled his eyes. "Office is nice and quiet without the runt around. Wherever he ended up, I feel bad for the people around him."
There was silence, for a while. Hawkeye wondered why they'd never talked about Ed—or, for that matter, about what had happened on Mustang's end of the fight. She knew the basics: Pride had killed his son, Mustang had killed Pride, and Archer had come too goddamn close to killing the general in return. No one knew much about Ed's battle…that girl who'd been with him, Rose, had told them what she remembered, and of course Alphonse couldn't remember a thing. But she'd never really sat down with General Mustang and discussed what all of this meant. At the moment, she couldn't figure out why.
Then the general brushed lightly at his eye patch (probably just to scratch some itch the fabric kept him from reaching) and Riza Hawkeye figured out exactly why.
If they discussed the fights, if they went into what had happened that night…then they'd also have to discuss everything else. Everything else being, of course, the fact that Hawkeye's commanding officer had slept in her bed for months on end; everything else being the memory of his fingers brushing against her skin as he reached for a lock of her hair. Everything else being them acting far more like a couple then they had any right to pretend to be.
They weren't a couple—they would never be a couple. And Hawkeye had been foolish to forget herself and let the barriers fall to shreds. It was cold, obvious logic, and the major had accepted it for years.
Everything could change, she thought, but that never will. Almost as if to prove her point, she turned and headed back towards the office, leaving the general to his work. Deeply preoccupied with what was written on the pages before him, he didn't look up when she left.
The stench was horrible.
The room, tiny to begin with, was clogged and claustrophobic with smoke. Black lines crisscrossed the floor, the walls, even the ceilings, forming strange patterns against the damp stone. These patterns were intricate, and amazingly so: circles and spirals and long lines of words, all intersecting, blending into each other. The design as a whole was one that must have taken months to paint properly.
In the center of this tangled, patterned web lay a monster.
The grotesque, spider-like form was motionless, except for the haggard rise-and-fall of its burnt-black chest as it choked out weak, wet breaths. Occasionally it would snatch at enough strength to let out a cry—an unearthly screech…a terrible, staccato mixture of hissing, chirping, and squealing in fear. The look in its many, foggy eyes was confused, disoriented; the demon was obviously in pain.
'"A thing of immortal make, not human, lion-fronted and snake behind, a goat in the middle, and snorting out the breath of the terrible flame of bright fire.' Well." General Raskoph took a step closer to it, sounding fascinated. "Well. A rat instead of a lion, and a pigeon instead of a goat—and all I've seen it snorting is blood. Still…Homer's little fantasy holds true after all. How encouraging, that our first try at creating a chimaera would be a success…"
"You call this…this thing, a success?" the thin, brown-haired lieutenant behind him demanded. While the general was obviously amazed, the lieutenant stood stiff and uncomfortable, his brown eyes darting from one corner of the room to the next. He kept glancing mistrustfully at the five robed figures standing on the other side of the demon, but had yet to look at the creature itself.
The general noticed this, and hid a smirk. "Of course, Oberleutnant Krauss. Why…you wouldn't?"
"Look at it!" Krauss protested. "These—these people" (and he shot a glare at the men in robes) "told us that their 'dark magic' could give Germany a new weapon. A weapon none of the other countries would have, a weapon we could use to show Germany's true strength. This thing is not a weapon! It's a—a—"
"A start." The general bent down to study it more closely. "True, a bird-snake-rat that can't even hold its head up isn't very dangerous. But think about it, Lieutenant: it's a start. Where life was not, now it is. 'For a living dog is better than a dead lion,'" he quoted, and a smile danced across his lips.
"What's that from?" Lieutenant Krauss asked grumpily. "One of those heathen books you insist on calling 'classic'?"
"The Bible." General Raskoph straightened up. "Didn't your parents take you to church as a child, Lieutenant?"
"Hmph." The lieutenant eyed Raskoph, almost suspiciously. "Didn't realize that you're a Christian."
"I'm not." Briskly, Raskoph turned to the hooded men. "You said this was your first attempt at creating new life?"
"Ah—yes, General," one of them spoke up quickly. "Our first real attempt. But we followed the inscriptions exactly as described in the Heilig Manuskripte. And—and we chanted the incantations perfectly, I'm sure of it."
"I see." The general looked back down at the pitiful thing by his feet. "If you did everything correctly, then why did we get a diseased lump of flesh instead of the vicious monsters you promised me?"
"Ah-! General—you see—"
"No, no. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have phrased it so strongly. I'm sure with a bit more time and research you'll realize your mistakes."
"A bit more time…!" Lieutenant Krauss broke into the conversation, incredulous. "A bit more time! General! I can appreciate the fact that the 'dark magic' these people say exists is…powerful enough…to make demons that could possibly defeat a mouse or two," he almost sneered, "but this nonsense isn't worth wasting so much time on. Germany is growing! The Führer has finally achieved his place as leader of the Reich! He is leading us into a new era, and it's important for you to prove your place in it—but you want to waste time with fairy tales instead! The Führer would be disgusted if he knew!"
"Fairy tales?" The general smiled again, and it put everyone in the room at edge. "That's fair enough…I wouldn't expect you to understand just how apt that metaphor of yours is. No doubt your parents taught you the version of Snow White with a cheerful ending when you were a boy."
He turned to catch Lieutenant Krauss's eye, and there was mirth in his eyes. The lower-ranked soldier felt shivers fall down his back.
"No doubt," the general murmured, "they told you about Snow White and her happy future. No doubt they left off the part where the wicked stepmother is forced to dance in hot, iron shoes until she dies. People always leave off what they don't wish to remember."
"And what, exactly," Krauss snapped, trying and failing to sound angry over discomforted, "do your vague literary references have to do with this situation?"
"People leave off the darker sides of things. They put them away. They forget." The general's voice was deep, even, melodious. His handsome, Aryan features (blue eyes, blond hair: the perfect example of an Übermensch) shone with his delight. His trim body (the type of body the uniform both soldiers wore was made for) radiated with pleasure.
Lieutenant Krauss suppressed another shiver.
"People want to ignore the nastier facts in the world," Raskoph continued, returning to his study of the chimaera. "That's why this world is so ruined and miserable. People are soft. They weep, they debase themselves, they do whatever it takes to keep alive. Like animals, frothing off instinct. Like the lowest sort of worm.
"But some of us…some of us, Lieutenant, remember the old stories. Some of us remember how the children's tales are supposed to end. We haven't all forgotten the stepmother dancing in her iron shoes."
Krauss couldn't keep the edge out of his voice. "What bearing does any of this have—"
"That is why Germany is destined to succeed in this world," the general said. His words were soft—but they bit. "That is why. Because Germany has awoken, and remembers the true cost of life. Germany has finally remembered that not everyone can live happy and in peace. For one side to achieve their happy ending, the other must suffer. Only one side can marry the prince, Lieutenant. The other must wear the iron and dance until they die. Finally, our people are beginning to remember that."
The mistake of a chimaera let out another one of its high-pitched shrieks. The noise was inhuman, inhumane, and even the figures in robes winced. The fools, Lieutenant Krauss thought wildly. None of them have any idea what they've gotten into!
General Raskoph did not wince. His thoughtful expression did not waver an inch.
"You see, Lieutenant, the fairy tales are right. There is always pain for the end that does not win. These foolish humans, these philosophers, thinking they can find some magical cure-all for the suffering in this world. The authors of those fairy tales did not try and play pretend. They knew the world was full of death, and so death was what they wrote. It was the fools after them who replaced their endings with sunshine and flowers."
The chimaera wriggled desperately. Its three back legs thumped against its skinless tail, and it tried unsuccessfully to open its warped beak.
"I am going to bring back the true endings, Lieutenant Krauss," Raskoph announced. "That is how I will serve my country best. Like the endings of bedtime stories, people forgot the dark magics out of fear. They did not understand what power they were being offered, and so they cast it aside and called it a sin—forced themselves to forget. But I will return it to Germany anew.
"I will take this work of the devil, and use it to create new weapons. I will remind those who stand against us of the stepmother and her wicked fate. I will bring hate to reaches of this world that have never felt its lash before. And in this way I will give myself life.
'"Destruction cometh, and they shall seek peace, and there shall be none,"' Raskoph whispered. "Where life was not, now it is. This poor, failed thing is a start—yes, only a start. I will prove the existence of dark magic to an unbelieving world, and in their doubt they will see their devastation."
The chimaera squealed again. General Raskoph looked down on it and smiled.
"You are a precious beginning," he told it kindly. Then he raised one leg, and brought his foot down hard against the creature's stubby neck.
There was a crack, and a spurt of red-brown blood, and a terrified, agonized, animalistic wail. Gore splattered against the floor, the walls, the shiny black of the general's boots. The demon lay still, broken nearly in two.
Calm as ever, the general turned towards the robed men. They hastened to raise their right arms in stiff salutes; Raskoph returned those salutes with his own.
Raising his voice for the first time, he cried, "Sieg Heil!"
The 'dark magic' mentioned in this chapter, which is extremely important to the fic, is mentioned in the last couple anime episodes-Ed's father is seen talking to the black-cloaked men about it-and will be explained more in further chapters. Once, again, please review!
1) Oberleutnant: first lieutenant
2) Heilig Manuskripte: sacred manuscript
3) Übermensch: 'superman'...a 'superior person'
1) "A thing of immortal make..."-from Homer
2) "For a living dog..." and "destruction cometh..."-from the Bible