FMA: I do not own it... some wee cow does :p

New multichap folks. Try not to focus on the dates too much; they're there to guide you through the narrative rather than pinpoint any particular time within the canon world.

Massive thanks to Wordswithout for her thorough and supportive beta work!

Gah... legitimately nervous about starting a new piece... Tally ho!

East City, 20th February 1911

The memory of a dead father.

"Lieutenant Colonel Mustang's office," Riza Hawkeye spoke into the receiver having answered the call after just one ring. "I'm afraid Lieutenant Havoc isn't at his desk at the moment. I can pass on any-" she paused, "I see... I'll put you through."

The others in the office looked up to see that Hawkeye's expression had fallen into a sombre solidness. They knew then that whatever message the caller had for Havoc could only be bad.

"Sir, I have Dr Kinnock from the Rotunda hospital in Bannage for you." She nodded once, "Thank you."

Replacing the receiver, she shook her head and met the eyes of her concerned colleagues. Havoc's father had been unwell for nearly three months now, and as time moved on, the team knew that that phone call was becoming more likely. The young Lieutenant put up a brave front, but as the weeks progressed the team began to notice the skittish flurry of dread that washed across his face every time the phone rang. Maybe it was for the best, Hawkeye thought, that Mustang would be the one to deliver the news.

A few moments after the call came through, Mustang emerged from his office with his coat already on. With lips drawn in a tight line and eyes sharp, he made his way towards the door.

"I'll be at the firing range. I don't want to be bothered unless the world's ending, clear?" he clipped.

Everyone nodded apart from Breda who half stood and sputtered out his question, "Havoc's dad, Sir?"

"Passed away an hour ago. They're waking him tonight and Thursday; the funeral's on Friday. Hawkeye, put through the request for leave, please, and Breda," Mustang said, feigning frustration, "do try to have your dress blues washed and pressed by then."

Entering the firing range, Mustang didn't have much trouble finding Havoc; he needed only to follow the frantic, unmeasured shots barking out through the cold practice suite. He didn't need to take a breath to steady himself: he had been preparing for this moment for weeks.

He entered the booth, careful to maintain his quiet until Havoc emptied his pistol. When the man grunted and dropped another clip to the floor, Mustang reached forward and tapped him lightly on the shoulder.

Turning with red eyes, Havoc knew immediately what Mustang's presence signified.

"That's it then?" he asked, pulling the ear defenders from his head.

Mustang nodded, "That's it."

Havoc nodded in return, a new dampness springing to his eyes. He plucked a cigarette from his breast pocket and thrust it into his mouth with shaking fingers.

"That stupid bastard," he mumbled, trying in vain to light his cigarette, "drinking himself into the fucking turf while my mother watched."

Mustang winced, watching the man struggle with his cigarette. Having never known a father, Mustang couldn't draw comparisons or mourn for some distant loss; he could only concentrate on his man's own complicated grief. Ignoring the irony of Havoc's smoking at such a time, he took the lighter from him and flicked it to working; there was no room for his alchemy here.

Seconds later, cigarette and all had been discarded as Havoc was pulled by neck and back into a tight embrace where he wept deeply in the silence of the sound deadened booth.

Central City, 26th October 1915

Sullen mouth and purpled eyes. The hungry strokes...

How could a man of thirty look so small? A man who had murdered thousands and harboured a dream to save a nation; who drank deeply and loved darkly; who cut the minds of most with the sharpest of tongues, and who rubbed shoulders with the most powerful people in the whole world.

Here, lying in front of Hughes, Mustang looked nothing like the poised Colonel who left Central only two weeks before to supplement an offensive in the South. His roughly shaved head was swathed in white bandages stained to yellow by the sickly light of the hospital room, and his left arm was set in a heavy cast. His left hand, also bandaged thickly, was cut short with his ring and little finger having been blown clean off. Breaths broke shallow from a sullen mouth and his purpled eyes remained closed and unmoving. He had been like this since they found him eleven days ago, half buried and bloody in the wetted earth.

Hughes hissed, pulled from his thoughts by a steaming cup of coffee held in front of him. A light hand rested on his shoulder.

"Has there been any change?" Gracia asked, settling herself beside him.

Hughes took the cup gratefully and found his wife through bleary eyes, "A little. Some movement before and a little mumbling."

Gracia took his hand and squeezed it gently, allowing her eyes to drift across the slick, grey skin of her husband's best friend.

"That's a good sign. Maybe he'll come round sooner than we think," she assured him. Feeling a fat tear splash on her hand, she took her husband by the shoulder and pulled him against her, "Oh Maes..."

Hughes shook his head and drew in a hard, thick breath, "That's not it. That's not it at all, I-"

Gracia shifted herself to better support the man, only to have him shudder and correct himself, sniffing loudly.

"Ah," he sighed, removing his glasses to wipe at tired eyes, "you know, Gracia, I'm not sure it's even fair of me to want him to wake up. It would be altogether kinder if he never did..."

Of course, Gracia thought, because what could be more terrible? When Roy Mustang awoke, it would be to a world from which his dearest friends had been obliterated.

Hand in hand and under the blanket of each other's sadness, husband and wife sat quietly while the hospital equipment checked off Mustang's dark slumber in a chirping series of hungry strokes.

Thanks for reading chaps. Interested in your thoughts as always. See you soon :D