Titled: Infinite Hit List
Fandom: Full Metal Alchemist
Length: 2000 words
Disclaimer: I do not own Full Metal Alchemist and etc.
Notes: I should not be allowed on the FMA playground.
Her father was a cunning man.
His transcription of his alchemy unto his own daughter's flesh was done for a calculated reason, rather than just mindless cruelty. Because he had taken advantage of her own humility, and the shame nakedness can bring to every human being. She would never expose his secret to another except one she absolutely trusted, for reasons more her own than his.
Roy probably didn't think anything of it. He was a young man then, only just threatening twenty, but he had seen women before. He could be a scientist, when the situation demanded it.
But Riza was only a girl. Her cheeks had burned when she fumbled to the edge of her shirt, unsure as to how she should show him the entirety of her naked back without actually doing so, and clasped a towel to her petrified chest the entire time, face flushed and ducked low, hating her own insecurity.
She jumped a mile when he moved her hair over her shoulder, and could only nod at his quiet apology. His fingers had been very cool, and gloved, and she hadn't quite been able to stop the shiver.
But she had trusted him.
Later at night, hours after he had gone, she lay awake for a very long time.
She lied when she saw the recruiters.
It wasn't so much a conscious thing as it was the tattoo on her back, burning into focus at the black haired man in his dark uniform. He was a little too short and a little too wide to be the one she was looking for, and when he turned around she saw so clearly that it wasn't him, it wasn't him at all.
She approached him anyway, furtively, like it was something wicked.
When he asked for her age, she told him nineteen.
She was only three years short, anyway, and eighteen was probably such a common lie, so it was best to overshoot.
Her friends all thought she was crazy—and maybe she was. She was good in school, not the top of her class but still diligent and hardworking, not the type to drop out. She endured their questions for three days, offering only silence as an explanation and dodging the accusations with a slippery smile, before she changed the topic.
But she had never been very close to them, in the first place, and while she wavered through the night, the first step was the hardest. After that, she focused ahead, sighting in on her target.
She spent her first month at the local academy unsure as to why no one would take her seriously. She studied, practiced, she knew how to march and load and fire her gun and her aim had an acceptably talented edge.
When she finally understood, she didn't hesitate. She cut her hair sharply at her jaw, bound her chest and wore her clothing loose, cap pulled low. She switched to Central, and kept her eyes open. As a boy, people didn't question her. As a boy, things were harder. Sexism had never been a particularly prevalent part of society, not for centuries. If you were a woman, you had all the rights a man did. But there were always the expectations.
She was not allowed to be weak. She was not allowed to whine or complain, and while she never directly lied about her sex, people were willing to see what they would. No one coddled her, and no one offered assistance to the smaller, slighter boy barely strong enough to lift the lead-cased sniper rifles.
In line with the other soldiers, Riza set her teeth, sweating and straining beneath the merciless sun, and ordered herself to excel. She would catch up to him. She would.
They picked her out for the battlefield.
She heard her instructors fighting for her in the hall, panicked whispers falling on cold ears. She reached under the hem of her shirt and searched for her bindings—the time for deception could pass now.
"She's not ready—" her drill master snapped, "Gods, you're sending a child out there. She's barely enough muscle on her to lift and load her gun."
"Her file is excellent," the smooth voice interrupted, and there was only the barest hint of amusement there, "And the rest of the cadets are almost good enough as well, in fact. I'm not here only for her—we need men, you see. We need women, and we need children. We need the masses, no matter how untalented they might be."
Riza straightened the buttons on her uniform, and adjusted the strap slung over one shoulder. Her heart was pounding, a little victory growing in her breast. She had done it. She was being assigned protection of the flame alchemist. She would see him again.
But below her elation, a tiny prick of fear crawled.
She strode into the hall stiffly, and pulled a sharp salute. "Riza Hawkeye, sir."
The man who turned to face her reminded her of a serpent, coiled and fat about the tree of temptation. His hair was pulled into a loose ponytail, wide mouth and yellow eyes quirking in some nasty, private joke. "At ease," he ordered laxly, and held out his hand for her to shake. "Zorof Kimbly, Crimson Alchemist."
Riza never hesitated. She shook strongly, meeting his gaze unflinchingly. Suddenly, and quite beyond her limits, she spoke, "I understand I've been assigned to the protection of R—the flame alchemist." She swallowed even as she finished, quite aware of her impudence, but he didn't seem to care. Nor did he answer her question.
"You never miss your mark, do you?" he asked shrewdly, smile stretching. Something uneasy coiled in her stomach, and Riza on barely managed to repress her urge to swallow. She nodded slightly, neither denying nor overstating her abilities. She had bled for them—she had the right to claim.
"What about a living one?" the crimson alchemist asked conversationally, walking just two steps before her to the armored car. Riza caught glimpses of other, talented cadets within and felt slightly sick.
"I haven't…I haven't ever had the order to shoot a living person, sir," she said carefully, "It would make target practice significantly more costly."
He offered her a hand, and helped her vault into the vehicle. "Of course. Always following orders…"
She settled against the window, wedged inappropriately close to a lanky, brunette boy who looked only a year or two older than herself. When she breathed, it misted against the bullet proof glass.
The car stank of fear. Riza cast her gaze out, catching on some familiar faces, and then closed her eyes as the engine flickered, sparked to life, and felt the tires begin to roll.
I'm coming, she thought firmly, I'll find you.
This isn't what I wanted.
She saw her first fight distantly, through her sniper scope and huddled up high, lurking in the shadows of the very bell that rang hope to the people she slaughtered. She hadn't killed anyone yet.
She hummed a lullaby to herself as she peered, cross-eyed to make the lines blur, through her scope, searching through the seas of pain for the man she had followed to hell.
She found him when the fires started. All at once, her breath quickened, and she zoomed in, focusing on the worn face, shadowed in orange light. He looked tired. He looked fifteen, he looked fifty. She saw him with a black cross over his face and thought, I found you—
And then she watched him kill a man. And another man. And it went on, and every snap of his fingers seemed harder, until the blaze of flame dimmed him out. Riza swallowed, heart in her mouth, and continued to watch until—
Until she saw the woman, leaping out from the rubble with her leg charred off, bleeding everywhere and there was witch light in her eyes, and blood on the knife she was holding. She screamed a long, terrible scream and Riza could only stare, petrified, as she lunged for Roy—
She had her knife nicking Roy's shoulder when one of the men in his group turned and gave a shout, cocked his gun and squeezed and then there was only red and black and brown in the ugly, snarling hole that had once been the woman's left eye.
Town on the battlefield, Roy flinched, tender finger brushing the slight cut and dismissing it, moving on with an impatient headshake. He caught the man who had saved his life by the shoulder and offered a strained smile of gratitude, clapping the man on the back and receiving a salute in return.
Up in her tower, Riza watched, still frozen, her breaths even and slow, until the shakes set in. She clutched the gun to her chest and bent over it and cursed and cried at her own weakness, until the flare of red had her pressing her watering eyes back to the scope, breathing quick and sharp in her chest as the panic set in.
She couldn't find Roy.
Frantically, she swiveled, some exploding pressure in her chest sending her heart into painful slams as she tracked the sparks, but there were so many flares and was that him, was he that dead man on the ground?
She saw the other sniper before she saw him. Followed the man's line of sight, and with a sudden, power surge was on her feet and hooking one leg around the bell's rope even as she leaned out far, far beyond the cover of safety for the angle she needed to hit. She was clutching a sweaty hand pistol, rifle discarded on the ground.
She squeezed one eye shut, so only the right would be damned, and fired.
He gave a little start, like he'd been startled by something, and then went still—very still indeed.
She scrambled back to safety, mind blanking at what she had just done. She looked back through her scope and caught the tired, dying face oh a man who must have been, she realized, just twenty. Just a boy.
She'd be seventeen next week.
No more crying, she promised herself, and tracked his progress, focused only forwards, just as she always had—always would. You can cry later. Crying won't save him.
There was a teenage boy huddled behind the ruins of some building, twisting a grenade between his teeth. Riza did not have time for hesitation. Roy didn't have time for hesitation.
And she never missed.
She wasn't quite sure what to do when she saw him without the sniper scope, and said his rank, not his name, and hurt at the way he sagged.
He knew how old she was. He wished her a happy birthday, and asked—"What are you doing here?"
She didn't really tell him. She didn't really know how. She thought he might know anyway, for at night he sat beside her at the fire, staring into the flames. And together, they looked for a very long time, and she wondered if power is a punishment.
He sort of leaned against her, a little. When she did not object, more so, falling against her side with the fullness of the weight he carried and setting his head against her own whilst slipping into exhaustion.
Suddenly, pressed to his side and aching to silently support, Riza understood her place.
"I'll follow you," she told the fire evenly, and watched as it burned out, "Wherever you go. If you'll let me."
"I didn't want this for you," he said into her hair, so soft she's sure he hadn't meant for her to hear. And then, "Stay near me."
She didn't say anything to that, only let it rest in the deathly-still night, in a land that is far from home. In a moment, he took her hand, and gradually driftsed to sleep.
She stood guard over him, well past dawn.