Disclaimer: I don't own.

Hullo to everyone – this is it: the final chapter.

(Note: took some liberty with details of Mustang's specs so, you know, meh!) Also, if anyone's interested, I wrote the end of this chapter with Candy by Paolo Nutini (my future husband) on an almost constant loop.

A massive thanks to the glorious Southpaw for all her hard work throughout the 23 chapters! (and to artFULLYoutuvit)

Thanks to everyone who's been so kind and supportive in their comments – massive help in wrestling my way through this! Thankee thankee thankee!

Please, please check out my profile for links to mind blowingly amazing artwork by hand-made-city and the cheeky, pencil toting Fudfoodle (who incidentally was very helpful in giving the draft of this final chapter a 'thumbs-up'). And who, along with Megami.Ze., listened to me moan (a lot!) about finishing this in good time. They're also both great authors in their own right, so watch (their) space.

Okay – I hope you enjoy and thanks again to everyone. Mwah!

History says, Don't hope

on this side of the grave.

But then, once in a lifetime

the longed for tidal wave

of justice can rise up,

and hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change

on the far side of revenge.

Believe that a further shore

is reachable from here.

Believe in miracles

and cures and healing wells.

From The Cure at Troy – Seamus Heaney

With the setting of the sun, a hard winter rain had started to fall on Central. Icy daggers cut through the air and bounced knee-high off the wide empty streets of the industrial complex. Hughes, bending far over the steering wheel, swore in rhythm with the lashing downpour. His heart hadn't stopped hammering since Ed had come on his radio. He knew that Mustang and Hawkeye had been hit, but how badly – he couldn't be sure. Ed signed off before he had a chance to ask him anything. He only hoped that the boy's urgency was a sign that he still had time to save his friend. Anything else was unthinkable.

"Shit-" He swore as his car skidded to a stop in a huge puddle at the front of the warehouse. He half fell from the vehicle, not bothering to cut the engine, and raced to the entrance. Even over the pelting rain, an ominous rumble could be heard coming from inside the building, while sharp blue light pulsed from the windows, a couple of which had been blown out.

Shock pains lanced up Hughes' arms as he shoved open the door and his breath was stolen from him in the very next instant. The warehouse was alive with light. Indigo bolts of electricity darted across the ceiling, the webbed energy snagging hungrily on the rafters and crackling in stop-start jolts across the corrugated roof. Huge factory lights exploded all about the hangar, showering the space with orange sparks that fizzed against the raging sapphire. The noise cut through ear and mind, a low rumble punctuated with the whip crack of godly power. Silhouetted against the private apocalypse was the Colonel's team – he knew them instantly: Havoc's strong back, Breda's stout resistance, Falman's quiet poise... and there, kneeling resolutely against this wonder – Hawkeye.

Hughes knew it was futile to call to them. Instead, he pushed against the strange, hot wind that billowed out from the centre of the room and finally managed to struggle his way to Falman. The older man was bracing himself against the force with his right arm raised before his eyes. With a tap to the shoulder, Hughes broke him from his terrified enchantment.

"What's happening?" He cried.

Falman turned to him, his bright eyes reflecting the bolts that raced overhead. "Mustang's gone!"

Hughes shook his head, not having heard – or understood perhaps.

Falman swallowed and bent forward, taking Hughes by the elbow and shouting into his ear. "The Colonel... he's dead, Sir." His eyes found Hughes' and held them. "The Colonel was shot in the back. He – he's dead. He died. This-" The man gestured to the transmutation but Hughes was already moving away from him, tripping off in deafened disbelief.

Stumbling forward dumbly, he reached Havoc who knelt with one hand resting gently on the top of Hawkeye's arm.


"Havoc-" He called, not able to hear his own voice in his ears. "Havoc!"

Slowly, the blond turned his heavy eyes to Hughes.

"Sir..." He responded. It seemed as though that was all he could muster.

"Roy -"

Havoc stared at him squarely then nodded once, his sharp eyes glancing off and beyond Hughes' shoulder.

"It's Ed..." He swung his head back to gesture at the transmutation. "All this..."

His right hand tightened on Hawkeye's arm, long fingers nestling into the folds of her bloodied uniform. In the same slow motion, his whole countenance bled away into something entirely sharper. His gaze found a new focus and with a sullen smirk that could rival Mustang's, he spoke with a ragged, determined strength.

"He'll do it. He has to. Have a little faith, Sir."

Hughes stared back dumbfounded, but then his gaze too found a new focus: Ed.

The boy was bent low against the wall of light, his blond hair whipping about him and his blue waist-cape snapping fiercely in the maelstrom. Hughes' mouth fell open as he was swallowed by the spectacle; he stood as stock still and unbelieving as the others. Ed was saving Mustang. Have a little faith, Havoc had said, and optimism, Hughes could do.

Ed's fingers burnt with energy as it bit, rat-vicious and hungry on them. His stomach lurched as he felt, from somewhere inside the circle, Mustang's soul, the very essence of the man rage for life. Every now and then, the boy's eyes would roll back in his head as he became lost in the ecstasy of the reaction, images of the Colonel's life darting before his eyes like minnows. Slanted rooves; dirty fingernails; ten small toe prints on the sand; a cough; the wet corner of an old blanket; a warm breath; bright eyes and long lashes; a damp laugh in the dark; a limp hand in the light; a big machine riding on rails for miles and miles; a world he didn't know, where you couldn't see the mountains anymore; books; a house; a blonde; a sigh; a cry; a kiss under a low-blown tree; blue sleeves; red eyes; white fire; black nights; an explosion of colour and noise; the taste of heat in the throat and cold in the heart; a boy in a wheelchair with a look that could kill...

With that, the transmutation shuddered, rocking Ed where he knelt with his palms pressed firmly to the ground. Another shock rumbled out through the floor, bouncing pebbles and rattling scrap metal to a chorus of jangling steel. Finally, Ed felt the grip of the reaction loosen about his heart and lungs, uncurling itself from his middle and withdrawing towards the circle like a retreating tide.

He cried out as the last tendrils of energy came loose and slipped away, leaving nothing but a hollow in his chest and a burning in his hands. In seconds, the turbulent violets and blues faded to greys. Ed rubbed his streaming eyes and tried to peer through the clearing smoke. Behind him, he heard a vague scratching echo of his name being called.

Two figures started to show through the mist, the steaming floor making them appear as if they were floating. One was bent on hands and knees while the other had been tossed to the far end of the circle.

"Ed!" Hughes shouted. His voice sounded thick and impossibly tired.

"I see something!" Ed called back over his shoulder, trying to rally himself to standing.

A light touch to his arm paused him in his efforts.

"Is it safe?" Hughes asked, kneeling beside the teenager.

Ed looked at him, then back at the thinning fog. He shrugged weakly.

"I don't know." He rubbed at his eyes again, trying to make sense of the figures in the circle. The memory of the Po-Yang monster barked in his mind. "I could feel him, Hughes. I was right there with him... He was here just a second ago but I – I don't know..."

"Havoc said Knox-"

A cry interrupted the investigator: a low, braying sound.

"Was that-" Hughes started but the sound came again, more irritable this time.

Man and boy stood, each supporting the other. Hughes cast a cautious look back to Havoc: she may not want to see this, it said. Havoc nodded and held fast to Hawkeye who trembled against him, doe-nervous and ready to spring forward at the slightest slip.

The figure groaned again.

"Knox?" Hughes called, swiping smoke away as he went.

Ed's eyes widened when they landed on the doctor, but whatever it was that struck him was quickly concealed again. He took one last appraising look, head cocked, before moving off.

"Colonel?" He shouted timidly, inching forwards into the circle and trying his best to ignore the brown-red stain on the concrete. Mustang's blood had been virtually seared into the floor.

Outside the circle, with the remaining lights now thrown on, Breda and Falman had their guns trained on every shadow and crook of the building. Havoc had slipped his radio from its pouch and was signalling for Hughes' most trusted staff. Regardless of the outcome, this would be a clean-up operation like none other. The hefty lump of flesh and bone at the back of the shop floor attested to that.

As Hughes drew nearer, he almost laughed when he saw the state Knox was in. The man was scrabbling grumpily for his glasses with one hand, while the other groped at his back to stave off an ache. It was a ludicrously normal sight – some old guy hunting for his spectacles. Spotting the black-rimmed glasses, oddly intact, Hughes crouched for them and held them out to the doctor, frightened that the normalcy was hiding some terrible reaction as yet unseen.

"Are you o-"

"About goddamn time." The doctor grumbled, grabbing hold of Hughes' arm to help himself up. His gruffness did nothing to hide the panic in his voice when he next spoke. "Where's the kid?"

"Guys!" Ed's voice echoed from the other side of the circle.

Both men turned, and both were terrified by what they might see.

At the edge of the array, Mustang's body lay pale and naked in the sickly light of the few remaining factory lamps. He was curled in on himself, the white slope of his back facing upwards and his dark head resting easily in the crook of his arm. His skin was impossibly pale – translucent almost – and his black hair had grown out some to fall over his back and shoulder. Between his scapula, exactly where the bullet had entered, was a deep, scarlet birthmark. He wasn't moving.

"Roy!" Hughes called as he ran forwards. A hot tang of vomit made itself known in his throat. Be alive. Please, please, please, the word pounded against his skull.

Hawkeye bucked in Havoc's hold, a new despair biting into her. Why weren't they letting her see him?

"Please..." She whispered tiredly, black shadows beginning to snatch at her vision.

He fixed his strong arms about her and spoke softly against the shell of her ear. "Sorry, Ri. When it's time. I promise."

Hughes raced over a discarded uniform and past Ed, who was frozen where he stood. He threw himself down beside his friend, oblivious to the pain that shot into his kneecaps. He tore off his coat and tossed it over Mustang before turning him onto his back.

"Roy..." He moaned, seeing the same angry discolouration fan out in a starburst from where the bullet had exited the man's throat. From this close, the skin didn't look scarlet so much as a deep, sombre blue. The same detail marred a claw mark on his cheek and the back of his right hand: anywhere that had been an open wound was welded shut with the strange nevi.

Hughes wiped at his nose with his sleeve and lowered his ear to his friend's mouth to listen for the precious suck and flow of air, but there was nothing.

"Hey..." Hughes said, slapping Mustang lightly on the cheek, sickness uncoiling itself further in his belly. "Hey, Roy, come on..."

Knox knelt beside him, closely followed by Ed.

The young alchemist surveyed Mustang's recumbent form, noting that other than the birthmarks everything else seemed to be in place. So why wasn't he breathing?

"Hey. Mustang." Ed bit out, leaning over the man and being careful not to disturb Hughes' coat.

Knox and Hughes stopped in their own study to stare at the irreverent teen.

"Don't just lie there, you lazy bastard." Ed took Mustang's lax right hand with his cool metal fingers, hoping the freeze and echo of alchemy would stir the man. "Hey! I'm talking to you, you stupid ass."

Hughes' mouth turned down and he cast sad eyes at Ed as the boy grew more distressed. "Ed..."

"You design this array for Fuery-" Ed continued through a wheeze. "Then you don't even have the decency to let it work on yourself."

In a shockingly sudden move, he struck Mustang hard across the face.

"Typical." He spat.

"Hey!" Knox shouted, fierce eyes darting to the boy.

"Ed..." Hughes soothed, reaching out only to have his hand batted away. He tried again, cautiously letting his fingers settle on Ed's forearm. His voice shook.

"Ed... you tried your best... Ed, I..." A massive tremor within his heart threatened to break Hughes in half. He collected himself, barely, with a sigh. "You tried your best."

Golden eyes vaguely registered Hughes before they slid back to Mustang. Fullmetal spoke through a grimace.

"All due respect, Hughes – but that's bullshit. I caught his soul in time and that array was perfect." He grabbed Mustang roughly by the shoulders and shook him. "You hear that you asshole? It was perfect. Perfect!"

He shook the body so violently, the Colonel's head cracked once against the concrete. Hughes was about to snatch at Ed's arm when the boy raised both hands in the air, lacing his fingers together.

"Ed, no!"

"I won't let you prove me wrong you bastard!" Ed screamed and slammed his fist down, the blow making a loud, hollow thud against Mustang's bare chest.

The Colonel lurched with a gag-draw of breath. He shot to sitting, arms hanging back and larynx pushed to the sky. His black hair hung back in a veil, and from beneath his unruly fringe, two bright blue eyes stared upwards. Hughes, Knox and Ed gasped as one and fell back onto their haunches as the Colonel drank in the cold air of the warehouse. His skin leapt and shivered against the chill as steam continued to swirl about him in thin, ghostly tails.

"Roy..." Hughes whispered. In the dim yellow light, the man could barely make out his friend's features and he found himself unnerved greatly by the wolfish stare and hungry, wetted breaths. He wondered, seeing the vivid, uncanny blue, if his friend was blind.

Knox appeared to catch his thoughts, explaining with a murmur. "Virtually no protein in the eyes... like all newborns. This is... unexpected..."

Newborns, the word snagged with all three of the them but Mustang didn't pay much heed.

Rather, his gaze found Hughes', and the azure softened to a powdered confusion. "Hughes?"

The Colonel wavered and was caught by his three companions. He blinked heavily and struggled to find Hughes' face again. A low rumble sounded from his throat as he corrected himself with shaking, uncertain fingers.

"H-Hughes?" He repeated feebly, reaching a hand to touch at his friend's damp face. "Are you dead or am I alive?"

"You're alive friend." Hughes answered quietly, catching Mustang's fingers with his own and squeezing. Mustang blinked again and looked about him stupidly.

"I..." The Colonel started meekly in nothing more than a whisper. "My head... I can't... What happened?"

Hughes shrugged. "You know... I have no idea."

Unable in his exhaustion to hide his emotions, Mustang's face fell into a petulant scowl. "Hn."

Pulling him into a tight embrace, Hughes barked out a shallow, breathy laugh. "You're only back three minutes and you're already a grouch. My god – you don't know how happy I am to see your grumpy face."

The smaller man shuddered and allowed himself to be held. Hughes, rubbing circles on his back, couldn't help but think of how small Mustang felt in his arms. Out of uniform, and in many ways new to the world, the naked vulnerability of the alchemist shifted some paternal tide in the man. Beside him, Ed looked on with jaw set and eyes captivated by the sight.

There was a sloppy murmur against Hughes' uniform.

"Mmm?" Hughes asked, his lips in a tight line, as Mustang shifted and mumbled his thoughts into his ear.

"Where is she?" He grunted irritably, with his shivering body collapsed messily against his friend's chest and the coat resting precariously below his navel. His head fell back heavily, but Hughes managed to catch and support it as delicately as he would Elysia's.

"Where is she?" He repeated through a muddled, child-like yawn with eyebrows knitted.

It was impossible for Hawkeye to have heard him, but at that moment, she tore herself from Havoc and darted free of his outstretched hands. Ignoring his calls, she stumbled on drained legs, ducking her head to better see her Colonel past Knox and Ed. In seconds, she was throwing both of them aside without word or warning. Neither gave protest, as they saw her wild-eyed and desperate – a vision of relief and hunger made real. Unthinking, she shoved Hughes away with one hand and caught Mustang with the other. The dark haired man fell against her, before reason took him and he pushed himself back, scanning her harried visage.

"You're here." He said softly, an open, honest grin breaking onto his face.

A mute nod and a bittersweet smile was all she could return.

"You're hurt." He muttered, his smile faltering as he skimmed the lightest of touches across her wounded flesh.

A beat later, he fainted against her, fatigue and confusion robbing him of what little consciousness he had left.

Hawkeye knelt back with him, cradling his head against her good shoulder while her hands locked behind his back. A warm breath, steady and strong, brushed against her neck. Then another came, as steady and as strong: a miracle of his living. Somewhere, in some childish part of her mind, she wanted the clocks to stop and the earth to cease spinning.

With Falman and Breda instructed to remain outside the warehouse and wait for Hughes and Christmas' team of 'cleaners' to arrive, the party readied themselves to leave. Hughes rolled his shoulders and groaned as he gathered Mustang up in his arms, careful to maintain his decency amongst the staff – ego or no, even the Colonel had his limits. With Hawkeye quiet and close, her eyes never leaving Mustang's sleeping form, Hughes offered a knowing wink to Ed and Knox.

"Believe it or not-" He grunted. "This isn't the first time I've carried Roy half-naked and unconscious to a car."

Overhearing, Havoc snorted, still grim faced, and made his way out of the building to start up the engine.

"A vision..." Ed deadpanned, then waved Hughes and Hawkeye off as they started towards the exit. "I want to hang around for a moment – sort something out."

"Suit yourself – don't be too long. You know who still has to get her shoulder treated..." Hughes called back, his voice strained with his burden.

Still shaken, Knox grumbled and allowed himself the morbid indulgence of looking at the dark stain on the floor again.

"So much blood, kid. You performed a miracle." He said gruffly, not meeting Ed's eyes.

The alchemist paused, his face set in deep concentration before he regained himself with a breath. He looked to Knox.

"I might have performed a couple actually."

Knox didn't say anything, but merely stared forward absently as though waiting for a train to arrive.

"You didn't make it out of the circle in time, doctor. I'm not certain how, but I know that much now for sure." Ed said, his eyes narrowing as his young mind raced through thought and theory.

Knox sniffed. "We should join the others." He said, but he made no move. There was curiosity there, certainly; a damp intrigue to what hidden truth Ed had yet to reveal.

"Mustang's uniform, his blood: it was all left alone. But doctor-" Ed's golden eyes locked onto Knox's, "you're not just matter, you're not blood – you're another person. The array wouldn't have ignored that; if you saw what it did to Po-Yang..."

Knox nodded grimly. Then after chewing over a thought for a few moments, he reached into his pocket and produced the tooth Hawkeye had given him. "What about this?"

Ed recognised it immediately from the Colonel's brief and the story of that first letter from only a week ago. "His mother's tooth... but that only goes so far."

"I don't understand." Knox said, shoving his hands into his pockets, then yanking them back out again in irritation. He folded them roughly across his chest.

"The array just skimmed right over you, I couldn't feel you anywhere in there. You were just like his bl-"

"Don't say it, kid." Knox snapped, not unkindly, but with a sharp tune of giddy anxiety.

Ed shook his head as he spoke. "The tooth only takes you half way there. His mother's matter and you-"

Silence swept about them as Ed landed on a conclusion that Knox had both yearned for and feared in the last few hours.

"Does he know?" Ed asked, all of a sudden affronted by his discovery. But he had to know. The truth was right in front of him and the miracle of both men escaping the reaction unscathed was too great.

"No. And he's not going to." Knox said, warning clear in his voice.

Ed met his caution with sheer disbelief. "Why?"

Knox kicked his foot and turned his mouth into a scathing grimace-smirk. Ed fought not to see the resemblance now that the truth was before him.

"Let's go." The man clipped out, and started walking back towards the exit.

Ed followed silently, but deep in his gut, a sense of injustice was growing at Knox's glib quashing of the revelation.

Nearing the door, Ed stopped and took the older man by the elbow. "Knox. Mustang, he has a right to know."

"Listen kid, I've been in that boy's life for as long as anyone has and we're doing okay. There's no point in unsettling things this late in the game. We actually get along fine, which is more than I can say about the other boy: the one who does carry my name. Now come on."

Knox took two steps before he realised that Ed hadn't followed. He paused, annoyance eating at him, and half turned to regard the boy with one unimpressed eye.

"That's a load of crap." Ed said as he pushed his weight onto one leg with his arms folded. "You can tell yourself that hiding away is what's best for your kid; come up with some excuse to make your fear sound fair and selfless; that you aren't responsible enough or good enough to be that man. But none of us missed what you did for the Colonel tonight. Or how you looked when you did it either...But you know what? Even for that, it's a real lousy kind of a guy that wouldn't want to call himself Mustang's dad."

With his piece said, Ed strode past the doctor, not bothering to look back as he dropped his final, personal taunt.

"But don't worry, there's more where you came from – don't I know it."

Knox bit on his lip, watching the golden braid disappear around the corner and decided that tired as he was, he had a lot to think about that night.

The rain hadn't relented, despite their own catharsis, and everyone was quiet as Hughes' cramped car sped through the streets towards Madame Christmas' place. With Knox's approval, Hawkeye would be treated there under the watchful eye of the doctor himself and whoever the Madame could place at his disposal. They kept details of injury and event to a minimum, asking Christmas to clear an entire floor of the city mansion and have the back entrance secured for their arrival. Al was already there, safely tucked away where a giant suit of armour wouldn't draw too much attention.

With Havoc, Hughes and Knox in the front, Ed was nestled against one window in the back. Hawkeye leant against the other with the Colonel lying peacefully against her, his legs stretched out to lie across the younger alchemist's lap. Ed smiled to himself as he remembered Mustang sprinting forward, sword arm outstretched and voice ringing out across the warehouse. It had been hellish, and not something Ed cared to repeat, but a part of him was thankful for that superheated rush of justice and gall with his superior. He patted Mustang's leg and dropped his head back against the soft leather of the seat, hoping for the world that Knox would reconsider.

Across the bench, Hawkeye sat in a doleful half-sleep, feeling the burden of slow blood release and emotion drag on her. She worshipped Mustang's weight against her, calming her heart every time he took a breath or made a plaintive, gentle noise in his slumber. Under the passing street lamps, the newness of his body was startling. His pale skin, smooth as scar tissue, was iridescent in the fleeting light and his longer, raven hair fell about him in a muted, sombre crown. She swept a weary hand through the black strands, and let the motion hypnotise her into a calm she hadn't felt for days. Lost in her peaceful deed, she didn't notice that there wasn't a single grey to be seen.

Havoc and Hughes shared a broad look as they both caught each other's eyes studying the pair through the rear view mirror.

"Autumn wedding?" Hughes asked quietly so as not to be heard in the back, a sly smile nipping at the corner of his mouth. If only Mustang knew what was being said right under his nose...

Havoc breathed out a laugh and shook his head. "I've lost fifty big ones if there is..."

From beside the boys and with a heavy heart, Knox also regarded the couple and was shamed by Hawkeye's guileless dedication. A lot of hard thinking, he mused darkly, watching the rain slice past the window.

In the darkness, he turned to her, the brush of the heavy blankets inspiring a shudder. A wave of goosebumps rose across his new, sensitive flesh. Hawkeye couldn't be sure if the others knew or if they just assumed, but on waking after being treated by Knox, she found herself shoulder to shoulder with Mustang.

She had been knocked out for a matter of hours, and now in the quickening blue of the morning light, she found herself roused to wakefulness while Mustang still maintained his peaceful slumber. A short time ago, she heard footsteps by the door - Knox or Christmas she imagined - listening for any sound of distress. The doctor had told them that in the wake of the powerful transmutation, they should expect the same requirements for Mustang as they would a new born infant. He slept impossibly deeply, and wouldn't be able to eat solid foods until his stomach grew more robust. Then there were those melanin starved eyes - those unearthly orbs she had last seen before he collapsed back at the warehouse. Knox assured her that as he settled into his new skin, the bright hue would darken into the familiar, enchanting black.

Curious, she shuffled closer to the sleeping form. She studied him at length: the longer hair yet to be cut by Christmas; the black lashes; the meteor trail of the dark scar that cut across his cheek, and the gentle ghost of a smile that graced his lips. Any fine wrinkles had vanished from around his eyes and mouth, a product – she imagined – of the new, unworried skin. His body too seemed fuller and less angled. Where before his front was a flat plane of taut muscle, he now possessed a softer slimness, unshaped by a strict exercise regime and scant meals. His remade hands had never held a gun nor sent a flare into the fray; had never held a woman... It was peculiar, this brand new and aged paradox lying beside her.

Her mind raced to process the days that led them to this point, lying half dressed and convalescing in his mother's house. As she blew softly on the odd scarring of his neck, thrilled slightly by the hypersensitive reaction of his skin, she struggled to imagine how they were ever anything other than this intimate. It was like their time apart was the incongruity, and this was how it was always meant to be.

She thumbed his cheek lightly and he pushed against her palm, moaning far inside his chest, the sound like distant thunder. Creeping out of bed, she made her way to the en suite looking back once - just because.

Washing her hands, she froze as she heard a muted thump from outside the bathroom. She tore back the lock and yanked open the door, shocked to see a heap of tangled limbs and, staring up from under a dark fringe, two sharp blue eyes.

"Roy..." She whispered, rushing forwards.

"Why aren't you in bed?" He asked, panic colouring his voice. He didn't seem to mind that his legs were sprawled ungracefully beneath him and half the blankets had been dragged to the floor.

Hawkeye mock scowled, moving towards him and lifting him under the arms. "Why aren't you in bed? By the doctor's account, you shouldn't even be awake."

Mustang considered this deeply as she settled him back on the mattress.

"You got up." He answered finally.

Climbing in beside him, she pulled the thick blankets about them again. "Well, I'm here now. How did you-?"

Her question was cut short by his snoring softly against her.

Strange, she thought, still reeling from the intense gaze her Colonel had managed to fix on her before falling into unconsciousness again.

Feeling the weight of a smooth palm against her belly, she roosted herself in the cradle of his hips and lost herself in the cotton calm of sleep.

The strong smell of coffee teased Hawkeye from her slumber. Death-tired, she forced her eyes open to see an array of rings and bangles as a hand placed a mug on the bedside table, closely followed by a small rack of toast.

"It's not good for you to sleep so late. Better to be up and avoid the habit. But I know you're not one to lie under your injury - Roy's told me more than enough about it before." Christmas said as she settled herself in a low seat beside the bed. "How are you feeling?"

Hawkeye struggled to sit up, her shoulder feeling especially tight. She succeeded in dragging herself to half sitting, and tried to hide the blush that raced up her neck. This woman's foster child was stretched out beside her, one finger hooked in the elastic of her underwear. She thanked god for the multitude of blankets.

"I'm not sure, Ma'am." She answered demurely, glancing at the coffee and pouting while she pulled together her response. "Everything seems so... distant and unbelievable. This time last week I was taking my dog for a walk."

Christmas turned her head to the side in thought before smiling cheekily. "You've got my son lying half-naked beside you; I think we're past calling each other 'Ma'am' and 'Miss Hawkeye', don't you?"

Hawkeye didn't say anything but fought the overwhelming urge to inch away from Mustang who was still ensconced in his deep, unnatural sleep.

"Don't look so worried! It's the best place for both of you!" Christmas laughed. "I know he won't do anything stupid with you around and I know that you won't leave him in case he tries. Has he woken at all yet?"

Hawkeye nodded. "Once. Early this morning - he was asleep again in seconds." She then reached for the coffee and took a long, much needed draught. She shuddered when she thought of what lay beyond the walls of Christmas' house and the safety of the weekend. What could they possibly say to the brass? When would that problem come knocking on their door?

"If you keep scowling like that you'll get a face like a walnut. Why don't you tell me what's on your mind? It's only us girls and I haven't had a chance to talk at length with you since you were still in pinafores and white ankle socks."

Hawkeye took another deep sip and returned the cup to the table. She looked at nothing in particular as she spoke. "What are we going to do? When he was up last night he couldn't take a single step. He'll need time to recover; to build up his strength again. And the scarring... I don't know. The senior officers, they keep such a close watch on him and I don't know if he'll be ready to face them when he needs to." She shook her head. "Honestly... I'm frightened."

Christmas sat back, sighing loudly as she strung her arm across the back of the chair. Her nonchalance and joking were doing very little to conceal how much she needed the reassurance of conversation as much as Hawkeye.

"Well," she began, "I can tell you two things that are going to cheer you up. One, is that Dr Knox has been ferreting out some favours from a consultant friend of his. They've logged Roy's blood with high levels of infection similar to the young Sergeant's. By all rights - even if he was well enough - with that kind of infection, Roy would be driven from headquarters with a ten foot pole. He's got a sick line for a month, with a two month extension pending approval on request.

"The scarring – Knox is chalking it up as some strange reaction to the heat and chemicals at the plant. He's getting the older Elric boy to sign off on his report detailing the chemicals that could provoke that kind of biological response. He's been tampering about with your records too, Riza, so don't be surprised if you get a letter from your life insurance brokers in the coming weeks. You, lucky lady, have got a month's leave as well. Your grandfather's seconded one of his staff through to your office until you're fit to return. So you see! We old folk aren't too bad at all this, are we?"

Hawkeye told her anxiety to shush as she thought about her time away from work. It would be time with Mustang, after all, which is exactly where she needed to be. Christmas skimmed above her musings and continued, her eyes falling on the dark tangle of her son's hair.

"As for Roy-boy there, I'm not sure how happy he'll be when he sees the state of himself. That scar on his cheek won't go down well. I don't know if you've noticed, but he has a thing about appearances." She smirked and looked as though she were about to take the Lieutenant by the hand before she thought better of it. She opted instead for an awkward clearing of her throat.

"I'm sorry if I took some liberty in putting you both together. But you can't blame an old doll like me for trying. It took us long enough to separate the two of you when the car arrived and so... well." The woman slapped her hands down on her knees and stood. "Well. I'll leave you be. There's a radio on the credenza and some silly novels in the bookcase in case you need to occupy yourself for a little longer."

Hawkeye couldn't tell if the woman was smirking or if her face naturally fell into the expression, a sign perhaps, of things to come for the man next to her.

Christmas chuckled lightly, seeing Hawkeye's polite bashfulness, and made her way to the door. She was half way out when she paused and spoke, only half turning back.

"You're lucky, getting a second chance like this. Be a little bolder, Riza."

Hawkeye stared after her, her eyes remaining glued to the door long after it was closed. The spell was broken as Mustang shifted and moaned. His face pushed against her arm, kitten-like in his unconscious search for some attention.

"You're impossible, Sir." She whispered before sliding back to the bed and pulling him flush against her.

He sighed through a smile.

When she next woke, he was not in the bed and the room was filled with curtain muted morning light. It was Sunday and they had both slept right through the night.

"Sir?" She called, then realising how ridiculous the title sounded in the privacy of the room, she called him again by his name.

She whipped her head to the en suite as the toilet flushed and soon after, the squeaking effort of a tap sprang to life. A few moments later the locked snapped back, the door opened and Mustang emerged bleary eyed and unsteady from the room. She noted, once again, the softer lines of his body and of course, the ostentatious splash of the deep indigo birthmark on his neck.

"Hi." He said, wobbling dramatically as he let go of the door frame. Even his voice was softer and less weathered.

Hawkeye shifted from the bed and guided him back by the hip and elbow, taking most of his weight as his feet made fawn-like treads on the soft carpet.

"I'm a mess." He laughed, embarrassed, then flopped onto the bed. A weak arm pulled her towards him. "Any ideas why I look like a wild man? Or what this is?" He asked, drawing his head back to look at his neck and tracing the pattern there.

Hawkeye pulled the blankets about them, nipped by the chill in the room despite Christmas' thick curtains and central heating.

"How much do you remember?" She asked.

Mustang's brows drew together as his frazzled mind tried to piece together his journey to the bedroom.

"Enough... I suppose. I – your shoulder..." He said, taking her hand.

"It's fine. Just muscle. He's dead. The one who... Havoc got him." Her eyes flitted back and forth as she tried to think of what he needed to know – it was a struggle. "Edward's in contact with his teacher to set up some forum where the assassins' group can confirm for themselves that Wei Po-Yang is gone for good – from you at least. Curtis is optimistic; they wanted him gone and they're hopeful that you truly destroyed him. She even thinks they'll congratulate you for a job well done."

"Po-Yang." Mustang said softly, closing his eyes as the image of the towering beast rushed against his mind. That one memory opened the flood gate, and soon his thoughts were awash with pictures and sounds from those horrid few hours. He gasped as the reality of what had happened slammed into him. He had been shot. He had died. Hawkeye's tears and Knox's grim countenance came back to him in flashes of distress, and he had to hold a hand to his chest for fear that his heart might erupt there. Hawkeye sensed his silent alarm and took his hand, squeezing it as hard as she could. Even that small gesture recalled the consuming, shuddering death that had claimed him as she pressed her fingers to his wounded palm. He died.

"I – I died." He gasped, blue eyes searching the air in front of him for answers. Already, they had darkened a shade, and he looked a little more like himself. "I – my god -"

The understanding of it was terrifying. His blood soaking the floor of the warehouse and the click-pain of the torn muscles shifting in his neck were enough to make him retch. And yet here he was in one piece, in bed, with the woman he loved. It all seemed too good to be true.

"The array..."

"Knox checked you over; he said everything was fine, that it would just take time..." Hawkeye urged, her own voice wavering with Mustang's contagious wonder and anxiety.

"Fullmetal..." He barked out a laugh. "God damn it, Fullmetal!"

He turned to Hawkeye, and laughed again. He would have scooped her up and held her aloft like a trophy if he thought he could manage it. Instead, he smiled and pressed a hard, joyous kiss to her forehead.

"Good grief, he's good. He's great! I'm great! That array is... great! And think of Fuery! The kid's going to be okay. Perfect! Ha ha! Perfect!" He tittered and shook his head. "Great..."

Hawkeye rolled her eyes. "Your modesty is great. Truly."

Mustang cast her an exaggerated look of admonishment and she smiled back, happy to see him awake and cheeky, boisterous and healthy minded. Their eyes locked together in dizzying triumph, dancing back and forth as they drank in their heated closeness. Hawkeye was the first to break the spell.

"So... you're safe?" She asked.

Mustang looked up and gave the question proper thought before answering. "Other than a few new – unusual – birthmarks, it seems so. My irises should darken down with exposure too: baby blues, huh."

Hawkeye nodded her confirmation. "So the doctor says."

"I presume a more talented liar than myself has come up with a cover for the mark on my face?"

"Is there such a thing?"

"As a cover? Of course there-"

"As a more talented liar."

Mustang blinked, scowled and then puffed out a disgruntled breath. Hawkeye felt a finger prod at her ribs. "That's cheeky."

She ran a hand through his hair, noting absently the lack of grey, and offered him a placating look, her amber eyes lighting to a burnished gold as the light struck them. "In my life, I've never felt anything close to what I felt in the last few hours. I didn't think terror and elation sat so closely together until you woke. Even after the array, there was so much blood. I thought: this is it, the end of everything. But you're here. And Fuery's going to be okay. The world didn't owe us any kindness, so I can only put it down to luck."

Mustang nodded and mirrored his lover's actions by lacing his own fingers through her hair.

"That's a lot of luck." He said, and grazed a delicate kiss against her lips. Then his hand paused. His face fell.


"After the array there was blood?"

Hawkeye recalled the dark stain then nodded.

"Inside the circle?"

"Yes. Everywhere. Burnt into the concrete."

"How much, would you say?" He pressed.

Confusion and worry crept into the bed beside Hawkeye. "I don't know. Pints certainly. You bled out. Pints of it... I don't like talking about this-"

"Pints? So how – the – what – what's my? So what am I?"

"Sir?" Hawkeye asked, falling into the habit of titles.

"If I lost that much blood and, as far as I can tell, kept all my fingers and toes, then where's the deficit matter? I mean – what's given so I can be me without all that blood?"


Mustang was already clambering over her, tumbling out of the bed and onto the floor. He stood as quickly as he could manage and tripped into the bathroom.

"Do I look different? Of course I do: birthmarks; weakened, uncoordinated motions; scant muscle memory; smoother, new skin – no stressers so no wrinkles..."

"Your hair."

Mustang pointed a finger at her, adding her input to his list. "The long hair."

"No, your hair: it's all black. There's no grey."

He frowned, insulted by the allusion to 'those greys' before his mouth popped open. He gawped at her, the beginnings of epiphany in his eyes.

"The crack in the tile."

"What? I don't understand. Roy-" Hawkeye's chest tightened and she placed her feet on the floor, ready to rush to him because by the looks of things, there was every chance he was about to collapse again.

"Oh my god."

"Roy, what? What's wrong?"

He looked back over his shoulder, then fell against the mirror, pulling down the skin under one eye in examination then raising himself to his full height, or what was now his full height.

"When I last stayed in this room, I remember brushing my teeth here and noticing a crack – this crack in the tile. I was looking down at it."

Hawkeye shook her head, but somewhere in her middle, the truth was beginning to make itself known.

"Now..." he pointed at the crack, "It's totally level with my eye line. I'm shorter. I'm fucking shorter, by at least-" he did a rough calculation from the memory of last noting the broken tile, "an inch and a half. No..." He groaned.

Hawkeye was out of the bed, eyes full of shock and astonishment, and deeper inside some primal caution at the uncanny transformation. "You're younger?" She asked, standing face to face with him and recognising immediately their being closer in height.

He swallowed, his throat bobbing, and scrubbed at his hair. "This is terrible. Oh my... I can't..."

He tottered clumsily, grasping at the edge of the basin. Hawkeye caught him firmly by the elbows.

"Sir... Sir! Calm down..."

"Short... I... the brass... my... the Fuhrer! What?"

"Sir! You need to calm down or you're going to-"

She didn't have the opportunity to finish as Mustang's eyes rolled back in his head and he brought them both crashing to the floor.

Knox looked at the file in his hand, looked at Hughes, Hawkeye then Christmas. He did not want to meet those fierce, unreal eyes.

"Tell me, Knox." Mustang demanded, sitting forward on the edge of the bed. Hawkeye had dressed and was sitting silently in the chair to his right, nursing her newly bruised wrist.

"Well.." the doctor grumbled, toying with the tatty corner of the medical record. "You were 5' 9" at your last medical."

"I know what height I am!" Mustang spat out, then rolled his eyes. "Was."

"You're now-" Knox paused when Mustang pulled in a bracing breath. "A little above 5' 7"."

The room was deathly quiet. Hughes began to speak but stopped, the words catching in his throat as Mustang glared at him.

"Don't," he grit out, "say a thing, Hughes. Go on, Knox."

Knox risked a glance at Christmas who appeared, outwardly at least, to be taking the whole exchange in a muted brand of good humour.

The doctor flicked back through the various medicals the Colonel had undergone over the years.

"The last time you were 5' 7" was when you were – oh."

"Oh?" Mustang asked with eyebrow raised and mouth drawn in an agonisingly thin line.

"Twenty." The word sounded strangely chirpy for all the weight it carried, and no one, least of all Mustang, quite knew what to do with that information. After a long ravine of silence, Knox flicked the file closed and coughed. "Twenty."

"Twenty?" Mustang asked.

"Yeap." The doctor said, suddenly wanting to explain that he had nothing to do with the drop in height or number of candles on the birthday cake. It was the fault of Mustang's so-called 'perfect' array; a little too perfect.

"Ten fucking-"

"Ladies present." Christmas warned, despite everyone in the room knowing that she had a vocabulary that rivalled the bawdiest soldier.

"Ten years! Ten! A third of my living, breathing years on this planet!"

Hawkeye touched his arm lightly. "No fainting, Sir."

Mustang looked at each of them with stunned eyes and everyone, having been told what the 'something different' about him was, now saw the youth in his gaze.

Hughes clapped his hands once and held them together. "Let's look at the positives-"

Mustang looked wholly unimpressed by Hughes' input, but the man continued nonetheless.

"You're in one piece, which is a damn sight better than anyone could have hoped for by all accounts. We know Fuery will be okay; Ed's got clearance to work on him tonight and since he had the decency not to lose gallons of blood, we know he won't drop any inches."

A warning glower from Mustang did little to stop his friend.

"Look, Roy, none of us even noticed the age thing until you brought it up. You look fresher, sure, but with the new, shiny suit of skin and all, you would have done in any case. We can write it off as the incident at the sewage plant, and besides, no one's going to be looking for anything strange. Knox can amend your medical records to account for the height thing and as for your uniform, well, you would have had to order new threads since your house burnt down."

"Another positive." Mustang grumbled.

Christmas levelled her 'no nonsense' stare at her son. "Don't be ungrateful. Any normal character would kill to be ten years younger, and here you are giving off a stink. Stop being a brat and count your lucky stars you're alive. You were starting to go grey anyway, so either way we'd be getting an earful. You have a new body, you'll buy a new house – this is a new start so," she couldn't resist, "grow up"

Mustang's face flushed at the telling off and he chalked 'keeping a cool facade' up with the other skills he would have to rebuild.

"See!" Hughes said lightly. "Positives. It's only a couple of inches, Roy."

"A couple of inches closer to being Fullmetal's height!"

If he wasn't already exceptionally pale, his face would have blanched. "Tell me no one told the squir- Edward." He corrected himself, not wanting to arm his mother and Knox with that particular moniker.

All but Hughes shook their heads.

"Hughes..." Mustang groaned and hung his head in his hands. "Aw, this is going to be hellish."

There was no disagreement, and though no one would dare say it, they all saw a naughty kind of justice in Mustang's vertical comeuppance.

It didn't take long for Hughes to make a swift exit away from the scowling, dark features of his newly youthful friend, and Hawkeye had accompanied Christmas to her office. The woman had offered for someone to collect Hawkeye's belongings so she could stay and recover in the bordello. Though Hawkeye was elated about the coming hours with Mustang, she couldn't help but be suspicious of Christmas' motives. The woman had already referred, four times, to how Mustang and two of his original 'sisters' were the last to settle down.

Left alone in the room with the petulant, bristling Colonel, Dr Knox considered leaving his new revelation for another time. But then a pair of savage golden eyes flashed before him and he knew that 'another time' wasn't really acceptable.

"Well," he started, taking up Hawkeye's seat by the bed, "that's what you alchemists get for playing around with circles and light. You should be thankful you only lost a few years and not a leg. Look at the Elric boys."

Mustang sat back with his eyes closed, trying his best to calm himself. Ten years, his conscience screamed.

"I don't need you to tell me about what they gave up. I know full well."

"Well then stop your whinging and start looking forward again. Since when did you become so preoccupied with being the old guy?"

There was really no answer to that. He supposed that working with the Elrics, he was now caught in a pendulum swing between scandalously young Colonel and old, bothersome superior. He wondered what the dynamic would be like now.

"It's a shock. Surely you must see that. We're going to have to tread very carefully so as not to alert the wrong interests. Things have grown dangerous – more dangerous."

The doctor hummed slightly and fidgeted with the medical file. "You're going to have a rough few weeks before you go back too. Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, meningitis; probably best to give you the chicken pox while we're at it – you've got a lot of immunisations to get. You'll most likely catch a few nasty things. There's a bad flu going around..."

"Wonderful." Mustang deadpanned. "Just wonderful."

Knox gave a single nod and a steepled his fingers. "Hey kid-" His jaw slackened with the feeling he was about to throw up. It's a mistake. Step back. Don't say it, his thoughts leapt and sputtered.

Blue eyes rested on him, waiting for the rabbit about to be pulled from the hat.

"I have something to tell you, and I am very, very glad you're as weak as a kitten at the moment, because this is really scary news."

With interest piqued, Mustang sat up straightly and gave the doctor the attention he needed. Despite him being a grumpy old fart most the time, the doctor was a guy Mustang wasn't about to ignore. He respected the man, and owed him his counsel.

"Fire away, old man."

Knox smiled at the nickname and did exactly that.

A long day. Mustang never knew they made them so long. He wondered, with a wry curling of his lip, what an ordinary week might look like. One without rampaging teenage alchemists, ancient bitter foes and mysterious regressions.

Knox's news burned inside him like a hard drink of whiskey, the feeling at once dangerous and warming. A father. The sensation wasn't unsettling. It wasn't unpleasant. In fact, a big part of it made a kind of sense to him. It was as though he heard the news before and was merely being reminded of it. Knox was positively shaking when he delivered the news, and Mustang, schooling himself to pragmatism, had laughed and shook the man by the shoulder, Pleased to meet you!

He had the suspicion that when the high tide of shocks began to roll out again he would begin to process the news on a deeper level, but in the wake of everything that happened, Knox's story of the cheeky, raven haired girl brought a pleasing gravity to Mustang's life. I belong, the voice in his head sang and he remembered his mother's words from inside the transmutation, You are loved...

Mustang listened with a smile on his face as Knox described the vivacious, cranky girl; full of winks and a solid, open laugh. They mourned the loss of the photograph but revelled in the shared remembrance. Knox cocked his ear to Mustang and let tears flicker on the surface of his eyes as the young man told him how beautiful, how kind and strong she had been in his dream-state. No doubting it kid, that wasn't a dream – it was her. Don't I know it. It was her.

And that's how father and son passed the evening. When Knox stood to leave, an unspoken competition ensued over who could remain the most cool about the truth of Mustang's parentage. The younger saying, We don't have to hug, do we? While the elder called back over his shoulder, Fat chance of you making it onto my will, kid.

It also went unspoken how thrilled and petrified both parties were, but they were feelings that would have to wait for another day.

Now, lying in the near black room, Mustang sighed contentedly as Hawkeye, dressed only in a light vest and black pants, slipped into the bed. His hackles jumped as a breast brushed against his arm. He sucked in a sharp breath and blew it out slowly. It was strange to think that were it not for the agony of the past week, he would probably have been lying in his own bed alone – thinking about the very woman who now lay beside him.

"Are you okay?" Hawkeye asked, her eyes just visible through the darkness.

"Mm-hm." He replied as levelly as he could then bit his lip when she nestled closer to him. He fixed a hand awkwardly to her hip.

"Are you thinking about Knox?" She asked.

Mustang snorted. "Definitely. Not."

Hawkeye laughed and a hot, wet breath tickled his ear. He budged back a little and as she followed him with those delicious, neat hips of hers he realised the true peril of having a brand new, hypersensitive body.

"I better..." He tried but his words got jumbled in his tightening throat and sputtered out in a series of unintelligible syllables. "You're really close."

Hawkeye quirked a brow, but soon timidness took her as she felt Mustang shift again and groan. She shivered and her leaping flesh against his belly and legs was a little more than he could manage. He was hard. Big time.

His lust knocked against her thigh and she gasped at the plucky meat of it. "Oh my-"

"Oh my-" Mustang mimicked, swallowing hard and willing his body to remember how to remain in control. His body was tuned in to a different station it seemed. "Oh my-"

Their eyes met and each held their own fierce, hungry stare. Neither spoke, neither trusted themselves to. The night she stayed in his house, she had refused the act – scared that after years of devotion she finally faced that intimacy. But things had changed, both inside and out for them, and having held him so close as the life dripped out of him, Hawkeye realised how precious their time was. Moments had to be seized, for they could so easily be lost.

Be a little bolder, Riza.

Bizarrely, she found herself following Mustang's mother's advise and so, sliding her leg up and over his thigh, she pressed her lips to his. Without will or direction, her palms swept along his temples and pushed back into his hair. He moaned against her, and his hands came alive, grappling with her good shoulder and pushing her back. The vest came off easily and he could have died at the fullness of her. He made to roll onto her but his weak elbow collapsed and instead he fell against her.

"Sorry, I -"

"It's okay, it's okay..." She panted, and threw him back to the bed again. She was on him in a second, curling her fingers under his arms and pressing them into the tender flesh south of his shoulder blades.

Mustang wanted to cry as she pushed herself back across his belly, her buttocks coming to rest on his crotch now feverish below his pyjama bottoms. Almost more shocking, and certainly less acceptable than all the other revelations of late, was the thought that he, Roy Mustang: Lothario and seducer, was about to humiliate himself in front of this brave, vicious, gentle woman. The party would be over before they even started. He couldn't have that.

"P-protection-" he cried as her hair swept against his chest. He met her lips with his and indulged in a deep, ravenous kiss before he spoke again, repeating himself through a low, rumbling sigh.

Hawkeye paused and sat back, the smooth curve of her breasts picked out by the scant light. "Yeap. Pill."

She gave him the answer he both did, and really did not want. There was no hiding behind that excuse then. This was it. He was about to sleep with Riza Hawkeye and there was a very good chance he was going to blow it – so to speak.

He consoled himself with the precedence that she had yet to abandon him – weaknesses and all – and so tugging off his bottoms and steeling himself with a breath, he gave himself to her.

As she sank herself onto him with a devastating whimper, he caught her by the small of the back and saw stars. After a matter of only minutes, all the blood had drained from his legs and he bucked against her hard. Then again, and again. He cried into her shoulder as she continued to offer him kisses and smiles against his damp neck. Even as his body betrayed him, he smiled back – laughed even, rapturous in the shadow of her wicked little waist and ferocious, spirited eyes.

He gasped and choked for air, his body wasted and cheeks flushed.

"I swear that's never happened before..."

Hawkeye laughed and wiped a passion born tear from his cheek with her thumb. "Sure."

He grumbled and pulled her off him with one arm. She lay sweating beside him, her lips parted and curved in a tiny, nearly imperceptible smile.

"Don't be mean. This is all new to my little man." He kissed the top of her head. "That was embarrassing. It really isn't usually-"

"The famed womanizer..."

"That's unfair. You didn't get me at my peak."

"Roy Mustang: Casanova."

"Haw haw. How does it feel to be with a younger man, granny?" He asked, trying to sound cocky in his rebuttal.

"Didn't have long enough to decide." She answered straightly, feigning seriousness.

"Stop it..." he whined and nuzzled her neck. "You're a horrible, mean woman. I can't be held responsible for anything this body does, or does not do, for the next three months at least."

"Three months..." Hawkeye mused.

Mustang caught the conspiracy in her eyes and knew well to play along. "How many nights is that?"

"Over ninety."

"A lot of practise."

"Just what the doctor ordered."

"We better get started."

"It's probably for the best."

Eyes of the darkest blue glistened devilishly, and with a mischievous laugh, he pulled the blankets over them.

It was a long time coming, but finally winter took its bow and gave way to the light, thin brightness of spring. Trees blossomed pink and white on the streets of Central while heavy coats were abandoned for another year in favour of jackets.

At headquarters, a buzz swept through every office and corridor as another financial year drew to a close and every officer rushed frantically to get their books balanced and accounts away to the military finance department.

Colonel Mustang's office was no different, and after two and a half months of recovery and respite, the man was in possession of enough energy to make everyone else's life a pain. Following Hawkeye from his office, he grabbed a portfolio from Fuery's desk and scanned it.

"It's looking well, Sergeant." He said distractedly, turning his head to study his less than modest outgoings for the year. "You're going to start mending artillery to earn your keep Fullmetal, I don't have the budget for your antics."

Ed made a show of checking his cuticles as he threw out his comment. "Why Colonel? Funds a little tight this year? A little short?"

Mustang grinned back, his black eyes sharp. "Not as short as my fuse, kid." He replaced the file on Fuery's desk. "That's a good piece of work but take it easy, Sergeant."

"Sir." Fuery said back, returning the knowing smile Mustang cast him. They both shared a certain kind of strangeness now in the wake of the transmutations, and Fuery enjoyed the unspoken connection. It was heartening to know he had survived what Mustang had. And not that he ever said it, but he would have taken that bullet a thousand times over for the man.

Hawkeye coughed impatiently, holding open the door with her foot. They were on their way to meet General Grumman at the train station. They planned to tidy up the affairs of winter and put the issue to rest. She didn't want to be late, keen to hear the older man confirm that everything would be fine.

"Okay." Mustang said and waved a goodbye to his staff as he strode towards the door. The team waved innocently back before turning eyes full of mischief to each other.

"Hey Colonel!" Havoc called, leaning back precariously in his chair. "You forgot your hat."

Mustang paused at the door, his hip brushing against his Lieutenant's. He felt her breath wash against his neck and under his collar. He looked down and smiled before casting a sly look at Hawkeye. There were no grey hairs to hide now and so Havoc's tired little trick would not have the desired effect.

"You know what, Havoc?" He called back. "Don't worry about it."

With that, Mustang ushered Hawkeye out with a gentle touch and closed the door behind him with a soft, satisfying click.

Ta-da. Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts if you have half a chance - would love to hear :)

All the best xx