Disclaimer: I don't own FMA, but I do own Travis Willingham and Roy Mustang's signature. *grin*

Still, Even Now

This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

He turns toward her bed to ascertain if she's asleep yet. The foot traffic of nurses slowed over time to the quiet pace of after hours and the unidentifiable meat product covered in a thick, overly salted sauce meant to be the evening meal came and went quite some time ago. Even his female roommate hadn't chided him for leaving it for the most part untouched. That doesn't worry him until he wonders if she hadn't touched the slop either, knowing precisely why.

Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. He listens. Deep and regular. Each with a soft wheeze. She goes into surgery tomorrow morning.

"Go to sleep, Colonel."

Roy winces and turns his face away. Faker.

My rifle is my best friend. It is my life.

Before they come to wheel her away, he touches her hand across the space between their beds, mentally cursing his inability to hold to it tightly due to his wrappings. The heavy footfalls of the head nurse echo down the hall and he runs him thumb over her fingers once more before releasing her to the care of Central's finest surgeons. Then he is alone in the dark.

I must master it as I master my life. My rifle, without me, is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless.

"Come on, let me hear that beautiful, commanding voice, Lieutenant," he cajoles from his bed. He's seated cross-legged and turned in the direction he believes her to be, fingering the bandages around his palms. He's sure she's not laying peacefully along her bed; instead, half curled in a spreading pool of warm blood over an ornate chalk array. That's the clearest image he can ever recall of her now.

He hears a rustle of bedclothes and sits up straighter, hands still. The creak of bedsprings, the soft hollow tap of a hand grasping hospital bed bars, and he nearly falls backward at the sudden grasp of a cool hand to his ankle.


The hand moves down over his ankle to his toes, pauses, repeats the gesture, pauses, repeats again, then lifts away after a final pause. Her bedsprings squeak as she sits back but doesn't lie down. His brows crease hard to puzzle this over, then lift high as understanding dawns. The cease fire / all clear hand signal. He smiles, then chuckles. "I understand. Get some rest."

He hears her soft sigh and the rustle of her bedsheets, and is out of bed and clumsily tucking her in with nearly useless hands before she can give him another hand signal, like a whack at his side.

I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than any enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will...

"It's far too soon for a military fitness examination, General Hakuro," Hawkeye states in an even tone. Her sharpened tongue made up for her injury-softened voice. "The Colonel is still convalescing."

Mustang turns a page and "inspects" it, bending closer to the papers on the clipboard on his lap. He makes a few checkmarks and signs his name with flourish. They're actually a lab report Breda found in a trash bin at the nurse's station.

"If you want to expedite Colonel Mustang's examination, please feel free to fill out the necessary documentation." By the soft shift of Hawkeye's fresh-pressed uniform material he knew she made a gesture toward his window, which he was told held a spectacular view of the blasted ruins of their former workplace. The one good result of that battle: it blasted away half the paperwork in Central Command.

Hakuro growls. Mustang smirks.

"I'll put his retirement on hold for two more weeks. That's the maximum he's allowed before medical review."

Havoc will arrive in Central in one week.

My rifle and myself know that what counts in this war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, nor the smoke we make. We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit...

"The key to rebuilding Ishval is extending the rail system there," he instructs his men. "That will get the building materials and people there, and it's key to making it a viable trading post between Amestris and Xing."

"It will be difficult to get funding for that," and he turns to the sound of Feury's voice. "especially while having to rebuild Headquarters."

"The Ishvalans need financial support to travel and build homes and businesses as well." He turns in the direction of Hawkeye's soft voice. "They can help construct that rail line with government funding."

He nods and smiles. "Good idea. They'll see the rail line as proof of our intentions, as well."

"Consider it done," Grumman's voice announces cheerily from the doorway.

Roy's eyes widen. "General, I didn't know you were here!"

"I'm not!" The old man laughs, something rustles, and the sound of his boots carry away down the hall.

Hawkeye sighs and something rustles again. "He tossed flowers on my bed. Can you hand me the water pitcher, Breda?"

My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weakness, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel. We will become part of each other. We will...

The crackle of energy from the transmutation fades away. He holds his eyes shut tight and takes a few deep breaths of air.

"Where's Hawkeye?"

He feels her hand brush his shirtsleeve. "Colonel?" she asks, her voice strained.

He turns, grasps her shoulders, and slowly opens his eyes.

And smiles.

Before God I swear this creed. My rifle and myself are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life. So be it, until victory is Amestris' and there is no enemy, but peace.

AN: One online word count states 996 words. Another, 973. Open Office, 1019. Guess what I'm going with.

My entry for the challenge: Roy between the time he loses his sight and regains it, 500-1000 words, between Megami Ze, Disastergirl, mebh, and anyone else who'd like to jump on in. I added an extra challenge to myself by putting it all in present tense, just because.

Italicized text is The Rifleman's Creed, or The Creed of the United States Marine. We were to memorize and recite it in boot camp. For some reason, we were to shout the last word, "PEACE!" I can't ever read it without hearing my fellow recruits shout it in my mind. Anyway, a few words were changed to fit the FMA setting.