A/N: And so, we reach the end. I've been writing this story for over two years, which seems strange, because I haven't felt that much time passing. Thank you, thank you, as always to any of you out there that have read, or will read, this story. I'm extremely touched by the continued interest in my work, and I can only hope that you had as much fun reading it as I did writing it. Thanks for giving it a chance, and sticking with it all this time!
I love you all. For serious.
I do not own Fullmetal Alchemist, and am making no money off this work.
Five Years Later
Roy Mustang seemed not at all surprised as his office door was kicked in. Long-suffering, maybe, with something like a mournful sigh decorating his facial features. But not shocked, or startled, as might have been the normal reaction.
"Bastard!" Edward Elric greeted, boot still in the air and grin fixed on his face.
"There's this thing called knocking, Brother," Al said serenely, as he followed Ed into the office. "And people in polite society, you know. Use it."
"Fuck polite society!" Edward countered cheerfully.
"So busy, Elric," Mustang said. "Too busy for your shortness and your crazy."
"You've never had a busy day in your life, Bastard," Edward said, dropping onto Mustang's office couch like he owned it, booted feet kicking up to rest on the table. "Unless you count honing your inner asshole skills as work. Which hey, fair point, I bet that keeps you occupied." He thought for a moment. "Also, I'm only four inches shorter than you, can't call me little anymore. Dick."
"Hello Roy," Al added, unfazed as ever by his brother's loud everything.
"Alphonse," Mustang returned. "Nice to see you. Kindly remind your intelligence-challenged brother that some of us have actual jobs, with bigger responsibilities than running around the country like an alchemic fix-it button."
"A desk," Ed pointed out scornfully. "Your job has a desk."
"Because the military, in its infinite wisdom, decided that I should use my finely crafted social skills to head up the alchemy division, whilst you play blunt instrument and battering ram like a champion."
"Blah, blah, your jealously overwhelms me," Ed returned comfortably. "Where are the others?"
"Havoc and Falman are on a recruiting mission up North," Mustang said. "There's been some rumors about alchemists practicing in secret, and we could use the man power. Fuery's in the East, working on the communication lines. Apparently, some of ours got a little too eager to use their powers on a construction project, and knocked them out."
"Amateurs," Ed sighed.
"They'll learn. Breda's on his way back from the border. Still in peace talks with our Ishvalan neighbors, they seem determined to denounce alchemy as some form of crazy witch magic." Mustang resisted the urge, just barely, to roll his eyes. "Breda's bring them around."
"Who knew he'd be such a good diplomat?" Ed mused. "Where's Riza?"
"Escorting my next appointment in," Mustang said. "Because, Elric, as I mentioned already, some of us have real work to do."
Ed snuggled down defiantly into the couch cushions, smiling with all of his teeth as if daring Roy to try and move him. To his right, Al sighed.
"Winry wants to try and do dinner tonight," he said. "With whoever's around. She said the new restaurant next to her shop is good."
"I'll let Riza know," he said. "Breda should be back this afternoon as well. We'll give Fuery, Havoc, and Falman a call afterward so they feel included." He tilted his head in Ed's direction. "Put a ring on her yet, Elric?"
"Put one on Riza?" Ed shot back, cheeks flushing.
"You're both really stupid," Al added around a smile.
There was a knock on the office door, and Roy's answering invitation was almost lost under Al's serene explanation of, "See Brother? That's how normal people do it," and Ed's reasonably phrased response, "And we've been normal, when exactly?"
"Your appointment, Sir," Riza said to Roy, with a small smile for Ed and Al.
"Hey Hawkeye," Ed greeted. "How's the idiot treating you?"
Riza's blank face was the stuff of legends, although the smile in her eyes gave her away.
"Could you specify, Edward? Which idiot in my life are you referring to?"
"The one with the fancy fingers."
"If that nickname ever gets out," Mustang said pleasantly. "I'll murder you in cold blood. Welcome," he added, to the sharp-looking man in the suit who slunk into the office.
"Happy to be here," the man said, and Ed eyed his greasily slicked back hair with something like honest confusion. "My name is Jack Nora. Thanks for agreeing to meet with me, Colonel Mustang."
"Charmed," Mustang said. "Please excuse the extra guests. Major Edward Elric and Major Alphonse Elric just returned from a mission. We were debriefing."
Ed snorted disbelievingly, while Jack Nora's eyes sharpened with interest.
"The Elric brothers," he said, and almost immediately, Ed went stiff and Mustang's eyes went sharp and yet somehow blank.
"Yes," he said, dismissively. "I believe you're here to do an article on our division? Talk about the addition of an alchemy based branch to the military?"
"Right," Jack said, and licked his lips. Somehow, he didn't look at all interested in talking about the military. "Colonel, are you aware of today's date?"
"Wednesday," Mustang returned, and Jack Nora either missed the rapidly dropping temperature of his voice, or chose to ignore it.
"June 17th," Jack Nora added. "Five years to the day since you and your team went public with your story about alchemy asylum."
"Hmm," Mustang hummed noncommittally, but his face was blank, carefully empty, the paper doll mask that he'd carried like a souvenir all the way out of the asylum. "I hadn't noticed."
Jack Nora tipped forward eagerly in his seat. On the sofa, Ed and Al were silent, mouths pressed firmly shut.
"After the initial story, your team never gave another interview about the events that occurred inside the asylum," Jack said, his eyes shining with something like greed. "There's been speculation for years. What really happened inside those walls? What details did you skip over in the general overview you gave?"
"We didn't skip over any details," Mustang said, and his voice was blank, blank and quickly approaching sub-zero. "The military has our full report."
"The military," Nora repeated, and shook his head. "But not the public. Inquiring minds are curious, Colonel. The people have a right to know what really happened."
"Do they?" Mustang asked mildly. "Based on what grounds, I wonder."
"Public interest," Nora said casually, because he was apparently a very stupid man. "There's a lot of mystery surrounding your little team, Colonel. People want to know the inside scoop."
"I'm starting to think that you never had any intention on writing about our division, Mr. Nora," Mustang said, with a tiny, almost entertained smile that could have cut through glass.
Jack Nora seemed to realize, quite suddenly, the atmosphere inside the room. He licked his lips again, nervously this time, and took a peek around. On the sofa, Ed and Al met his gaze with closed mouths and arms crossed against their chests, body language like a closed wall. Riza Hawkeye stood in the doorway, hands serenely folded and eyebrows raised just enough to imply scorn. And behind the desk, Mustang looked mildly interested and amused, and altogether kind of terrifying for it.
"It's not their story, Mr. Nora," Mustang said, almost apologetically, and for some reason, it made Jack shrink a little in his seat. "And it certainly isn't yours. It's ours, and we have no interest in sharing it further than we already have."
"We have a right," Jack insisted weakly, because he'd covered all sorts of stories, in all sorts of situations, and he refused to be intimidated sitting in this sun-washed office.
"To the suffering we endured?" Mustang asked, smiling gently, and it made Jack's blood sing with a strange sort of fear. "No. I'm afraid you don't, Mr. Nora. Riza, if you would be so kind as to escort him out."
"But…the story," Jack protested, and then stuttered into silence at the full force of Mustang's stare.
There was something like burning in his eyes.
"Will not be written by you," he said, so quietly Jack had to strain to hear him. "A fact you'll have to inform your newspaper of, I'm afraid." He gestured to the door. "Have a pleasant day."
Jack Nora, in his only smart move since sitting down, lit out the open door like there were monsters at his back.
"What a fucking idiot," Ed tossed cheerfully into the silence that followed his departure.
"You didn't hit him, Brother," Al said. "That means you get ice cream on the way home!"
Ed looked pained.
"I only did that, like," Ed's eyes went blurry as he took a mental count. "Huh. Seven times."
Mustang dropped his face into his hands.
"Riza, kindly inform the military higher-ups that they should perform background checks on any reporters sent to us in the future."
"At least Falman wasn't here," Ed mused comfortably, and rolled his shoulders to ease the lingering tension. "Or Fuery. Remember last time? I've never seen a respected member of the press cry like that before."
"You'd think they'd lose interest," Al said softly. "I mean, it's been five years. It should be obvious by now that we're not going to share the story."
"Give it time," Riza said dismissively. "Our story will fade, eventually."
In the quiet of the room, Roy's words, from five years back, seemed to whisper through like a ghost, soft and colored with age.
We're not to be used. By anyone. Ever again.
News reports on Mustang's team often contained comments of 'everyone around them, following in their orbit, feels like some sort of outsider, one step out of place and never quite in tune with what they say'.
"So, to recap," Ed said. "You're a bastard. Hawkeye, we missed your face. And we'll see you both for dinner tonight?"
"With Breda in tow," Riza agreed.
"Cool," Edward said, and hauled himself to his feet. He took the time to wander over to Mustang's desk, give him a quick shot in the shoulder. "See you, Bastard," he said, and there was something like a question in his eyes.
"Later, Elric," he said, and it sounded strangely like We're fine.
"Come on, Al," he said. "I've decided that you do owe me ice cream. Not punching a reporter is a big deal for me."
"It really is," Al agreed, somewhat mournfully, and followed his brother out the door.
Riza didn't take his hand once they'd left. She didn't come over, and brush gentle fingers over his lips, like she actually wanted to, because that still wasn't how they worked, in front of others. But she smiled at him, a gentle curl, soft and hardly there at all.
Roy smiled back. There was nothing burning in it, or sharp like knives.
And so, everything really was okay.