I disclaim…

a.n. A Riza-centric fic that's mostly speculation and interpretation of her academy days and time in Ishval. Because the flashback scenes throughout the series are some of my favorites and frankly I wish there were more of them. And because I want to understand Riza better. Pulls dialogue and reflects events from chapters 58-61 and 24, I think. Now if only chapter 108 would hurry up and come out so I could daydream more about the future and less about the past. It is June, dang it! Only a matter of days…

summary: Like Mustang's green dreams for the future, Hawkeye's reasons for entering the military have not changed. They've simply been redefined. Royai if you squint, maybe. Riza-centric

A Question of Why
A Fullmetal Alchemist Oneshot
By FlamingRedFox

When she'd first joined the military, her response to 'why' had always been a half-truth. It wasn't a white lie, that was for sure. More of a… lie of omission. She couldn't outright tell her comrades her reasons for enrolling at the Academy involved a certain promising young alchemist. And she certainly couldn't tell them that same reason was centered around a determined insubordination should said promising young alchemist betray a trust she'd relinquished too easily. There was simply no way in hell she'd own up to the fact that the main reason she was there was to keep an eye on the much talked about Flame Alchemist and possibly put a bullet through his skull if she ever caught him intentionally using her father's secrets in a manner contradictory to the naïve dream for happiness that had won her heart several years ago. No. That would have most likely gotten her court-martialed. So instead she monotonously replied with her secondary reason before again falling silent and hoping no more questions followed.

"It seemed like a good way to keep a roof over my head and a meal in my stomach. My home is my country, and now my country is my home."

She would work to keep her country safe, and in return they would guarantee her a safe place to live that wasn't haunted by cobwebs and dust and creaking doors she'd been unwilling to open in years. That seemed like a fair trade. As much as she sometimes hated alchemy, she couldn't help but live by its rules. You had to give something to get something: equivalent exchange, and risking her life to ensure she managed to keep her life was as equal as it came. She would live to die, even if it meant a part of her had to die in order for the rest of her to live. It was certainly better than becoming another listless ghost in a crumbling house she could no longer afford and a dead end job she held no passion for.

In her Academy days most people were satisfied by that simple albeit petty answer. Most of them were no better, chasing fame and glory or seeking escape from a home life that held no promise of adventure or a better future. Sure there were some, like him, who dared to give a noble cause. Most of them, however, gave petty reasons for their petty positions in a system that dared to steal their souls.

And then Ishval happened and she realized her reason needed to change. Of course, the question had changed too. It was no longer the casual, "So, why did you join the military?" Now she was asked the much more weighted, "Why did you decide to stay?"

To say she was unprepared for the atrocities of the civil war was an understatement. She was barely an adult, not quite twenty-two and still shooting paper targets instead of living people. Her rank was worthless: a Cadet; a student. She was not fully trained and yet there she was in a sweltering desert, experiencing the practicality of lessons never taught in the classrooms she would have to return to. Provided she lived, of course.

She took aim, pulled the triggered, and watched another life slip away as a direct result of her praised talents. As her own personal death tally grew, an ever increasing number that would be permanently engraved into the surface of her memory by the time all was said and done, she could she could no longer answer the question of 'why.' If anything, she was the one now asking it.

"Why are soldiers, who ought to protect citizens, killing them instead?"

She'd finally found him, held him in the scope of her rifle, finger poised over the trigger as she prepared herself to shoot. She'd feared the worst and now it had come true. She'd provided the means to make a monster, and now it would be by her hands that that same horrid creature would be driven from existence. But something made her hesitate. That haunted look that danced in his eyes was a mirror of her own, and when she finally met him face to face for the first time in four years she found herself asking him a desperate 'why' that held no promise of a happy answer.

So when the war was ended and she found herself once again within the safe confines of her final year at the Academy, sent back to school as if vacation leave had just drawn to a close and the events of her summer deserved praise instead of penance, her answer to that old question of why had needed to change.

She could no longer speak of petty convenience, and she certainly couldn't admit to her desire of being the Flame Alchemist's executioner. The former reason had turned into necessity; she walked a path from which she could no longer turn back. The latter, she realized, was now a blatant lie. She'd had her chance and she couldn't take it. She'd selfishly gone to spy on him and it had resulted in the loss of naïve innocence. Her desire to see the results of her trust had turned them into decorated murderers, and when she herself was no better than him and neither took pleasure in what they had done, she could not bring herself to take his life out of little more than childish spite. Thus, her new answer to 'why' became a qualified statement again based on the principle of that blasted alchemy.

"So that the new generation that will be born can enjoy happiness, to pay the cost, we will have to shoulder corpses and a river of blood."

It's what she'd told him when she'd found herself under his official command for the first time. It's what she'd told him right before he'd asked her to be his aide. It's what she'd told him before she promised to protect his back and shoot him should he ever stray from the path of his noble yet naïve dream. And ironically, she realized, this new reason had redefined her reason of old and again left her telling only a half-truth, because she would admit only to him that her reason for being there was to watch him like a hawk and act as his executioner should such an unfortunate event ever arise.

The question seemed to come less frequently as time passed. The longer she served, the less people wanted to know. Or maybe it was that the longer she served the more people around her became permanent friends of sorts. She saw the same faces day in and day out, conversations routine pleasantries with formed acquaintances rather than awkward introductions to strangers in a class or two or soldiers on the battlefield wishing to thank or congratulate her. They already knew her given reason of 'why,' just as she knew each and every one of theirs. In a time of what seemed like relative peace (at least for the East), there seemed little reason to ask a question that had answers with no reason to change.

Thus, when a sad, curious, blunt little girl had dared to voice that dreaded question of 'why,' she found herself caught off guard. It had been preceded by an even ruder question, though a child of eleven probably did not realize the personal hell such words could make a person relive. The bluntness was forgiven and met with the only sort of answer such a question deserved. For the first time in the five years she'd chained herself to the state, she found herself answering with the simple, honest truth. Why was she in the military? Because…

"There is someone I need to protect."

Because, alchemy laws be damned, she firmly believed that his life was worth the sacrifice of hers.

a.n. And there you have it. Constructive criticism welcome, especially considering some of my stranger stylistic choices. I rather like complex sentences, repetition, and omitting names, eh heh heh. Inspired by the Royai 100 Themes number 23, "Someone I want to protect." Probably won't ever conquer all 100, but eh. I can proudly say I did 1/100th of the themes. xD Also, I operated on the assumption that the Military Academy is four years of physical/practical and classroom/academic training, and that Hawkeye would have entered it sometime in 1905 at the age of eighteen, for those of you curious about the vague timeline I created/modified. Hope you enjoyed. ^.^