Author's Note: This story-thing will have three parts but I would prefer that it be seen as one long one-shot because that's how I intended it (but chapters are easier to read and I'm not done yet). Even though I meant it as a one-shot I think the three chapters will all end up seeming distinctly different. This one is told from the perspective of some dude and has a lot of messy political science stuff. I'm articulate. Enjoy.
Former corporal of the Amestrian Army Paul Hastings leaned back against the brick wall adjacent to the cell, his eyes closing for a second as he tried to drown out the soft sounds of the cell's sleeping occupants' breathing. He had about five minutes before he would have to wake them and he needed that time to reflect.
This is the high point of my career, he thought to himself a tad morosely. Now instead of telling people that working as a prison guard is just irritating, occasionally violent work I can say that I was the one assigned to watch the imprisoned Fuhrer Mustang and his wife. As if that somehow makes everything so much more meaningful.
Sure it was technically an honor, certainly the highest honor he could receive in such a career, but it was so much easier to watch over thieves, rapists, murderers, to feel satisfied that they were cooped up where they belonged and it was his duty to make sure they stayed there, than it was to watch over two people who he was really starting to believe didn't belong there. Perhaps, he could relate to them too well.
Hastings knew from the beginning of his life than he was never destined for greatness and for a while that suited him just fine. He came from a family of firefighters who lived in southwestern Amestris near Wellesley, received the standard education for a suburban boy with no ambition, and followed the easiest path he could by becoming a firefighter like his brothers, uncles and father and marrying the pretty but dim girl he had been seeing for years.
The appropriateness of a former firefighter guarding the cell of the Flame Alchemist was not lost on him.
After a few years on the force and the birth of his daughter, he decided to enlist, growing frustrated with how stuck he was in his town and, although he had saved many people in his current position, he felt he had to do something grander and more consequential, ambition finally sparking within him after a few years of running through flames for strangers. He also gave credit to his daughter as inspiration. He had never really felt the need to make the world better for himself but making it better for her was an idea he couldn't shake.
After four years and a corporal's rank, Hastings was sent to Pendleton to fight in the Western Border War against Creta where he was severely injured enough to get an honorable discharge. With his limited options, he was able to procure a job as a prison guard but he was always put on very specific assignments since his prominent limp prevented him from a lot of the more severe cases. He could still throw a punch better than any of the other guards though, many of whom were also retried soldiers or MP. Around the same time, his marriage fell apart which he wholly blamed himself for because of his post traumatic stress and related depression.
Since then his life had been a drone. He had friends, occasionally went on dates, saw his daughter once a week and spent a lot of his work day lost in his thoughts but at 33 years old he couldn't find anything else to look forward to.
The time when Hastings had been recovering after his war injuries was when he started to get interested in politics. "A little late," his wife had said since he had been fighting for a government he knew nothing about for years. That was really why he became so involved. He had committed himself to something he didn't understand and would have to pay for it for the rest of his life; the least he could do now was stay informed.
He had never really considered his feelings about Fuhrer Bradley until after he had been injured when suddenly Bradley had become his personal scapegoat so he could lay blame elsewhere and revel in the man's demise. He still had a lot of anger back then that had numbed over the years into blaming himself for his own foolish behavior. Supposedly most Amestrians were either for or against Bradley based on how they felt about the Ishvalan War. He had been a teenager during Ishval, living on the opposite side of the country so that war, a war that was now back in the news again, hadn't affected him. He had nothing against Ishvalans but he had been more focused on trying to teach himself guitar and getting his girlfriend to let him get into her dress; national affairs weren't a concern.
But by the time Bradley had died he felt differently and suddenly the radio and the newspaper were a consistent element to his day, especially when he realized he couldn't do any of the physical activities he enjoyed anymore.
Fuhrer Grumman had taken power immediately preceding Bradley's death and Hastings truly had a lot of respect for the man. He was a bit strange, his speeches peppered with peculiar old-fashioned phrases and laughter, but he was committed to ending the Western and Southern Border Wars and in his mere three years as fuhrer-president he was able to fully end the Western War with some reparations that Amestris could feasibly afford and establish a rather shaky truce with Aerugo. This put him in good favor with most of the country except for the conspiracy theorists who were convinced Bradley had been murdered by Grumman's men and the ardent Bradley supporters who thought that ending the wars was a way of admitting defeat, accusing Grumman of being too soft.
When Grumman chose to step down, citing that it had been fun but he was more than ready to retire, the choice for the next fuhrer came down to two obvious candidates: Lieutenant General Olivier Armstrong and Major General Roy Mustang.
Grumman had supported Mustang, claiming that although he was rather young to be Fuhrer, he was more than capable. However, most of the upper brass sided with Armstrong who was older, more experienced and since she was not a former subordinate of Grumman's, her election would not seem so suspect. Hastings and many more liberal reporters believed that the brass also sided with Armstrong because she would be a stronger leader along Bradley's lines and many of them were still longing to keep the government fully in the hands of the military, a balance Mustang seemed to threaten.
At first Armstrong's election was met with mostly positive reviews from the population. Former Bradley supporters were happy to see a strong leader back in office (even if their excitement was lessened slightly by long-standing sexist ideas regarding women in power) and women were happy to see a woman rising to such a high level. Meanwhile, Mustang didn't quite leave the spotlight, continuing his four years and counting effort to rebuild Ishval and acting as something of an ambassador to Xing, further developing the relationship between their countries and building trade routes and transportation through the East Desert. He also advised Fuhrer Armstrong to smooth out their country's relationship with Drachma. In spite of her reluctance after having spent most of her career stationed on the Drachman border, attempts were made but not too much progress.
After four years of Fuhrer Armstong's regime with no substantial progress aside from an increase in military spending that many labeled as superfluous since Amestris was experiencing more peace than it had in its 400 years as a country and an increase in security that had mixed reviews, the people were clamoring for a change. Armstrong was not a bad ruler, but her priorities were not the same as those of the people and her harsh stance on issues left many more concerned than secure.
At this time Roy Mustang, now a General, started to become a name that would get thrown around a lot in the same breath with "potential fuhrer" as his ideas that had seemed so radical only a few years ago, seemed to be just what the country wanted.
Fearful of a revolution, the upper brass decided to take a risk by giving both Armstrong and Mustang time to give speeches to the public to see how they would be received, in hopes that the answer on who should rule would eventually become clear with the least damage done to the current political structure.
If Hastings hadn't been avidly interested in politics before, that period in time would have turned him onto it. Hell, everyone in Amestris from the high society to the lowest laborer suddenly had opinions on how the country should be run.
But, as expected, it wasn't just the speeches and the promises that the people were judging from. The personal lives of the two candidates became a topic of conversation as ruthless reporters started printing any bit of scandalous information they could get their grubby hands on, holding a direct sway on the public's opinion and subsequently, the brass'.
Throughout Armstrong's reign her popularity among women had waned dramatically, finding her unrelatable with her exceedingly masculine personality and her lack of attention to domestic issues that they had been hoping a woman would feel the need to address. Why was a woman of such high social standing unwed at the age of 45? The Armstrongs were practically Amestrian royalty; were there not suitors vying for her hand at one point? Did she prefer the company of women? How could we trust a leader to run a whole country when she had never had to run a marriage or a family?
Fuhrer Armstrong met these questions with an obvious answer: "I have committed my life to this country's military. My personal life is unimportant compared to that."
While many agreed that the answer was reasonable, the flood gates had broken and now everything about her was up for inquiry. Did her family's social status affect her judgment? Her position? Did she carry on any kind of life outside of her job? Did anyone outside of her troops truly like her? Want to spend time with her casually? Did she ever spend time casually at all?
When Fuhrer Armstrong's life was started to get exhausted in publications, the focus shifted to Mustang who also held a similar single status and, on top of that, whose family and early life were rather shrouded in mystery. His background was searched first with initially very clean results: his father was an enlisted man from a small farming town who held the rank of master sergeant and his mother was a veterinarian whose parents were Xingese immigrants. They both died when Mustang was very young and because his maternal grandparents had moved back to Xing and his paternal grandparents were unfit to care for an infant, he had been taken in by his father's older sister who ran a bar in Central. School records showed that he was publically educated until he was 14, privately tutored in alchemy until he was 18, and graduated with high marks from Central's military academy at 21 when he was made a State Alchemist and commissioned as a major. Records showed that his Xingese grandfather was still alive and that on political business he would often visit him.
His record was perfect: a story of humble, somewhat tragic beginnings showing just what drive and hard work can lead to.
Until they looked a bit harder. When the name of Mustang's aunt was released no one thought anything of it until a few clever investigators made the connection between Chris Mustang and Madame Christmas' bar. The place was quite publically known as a hostess bar which, while in and of itself is not illegal, does hold implications of prostitution. Reporters picked this up as a direct connection to Mustang's reputation as a playboy that had been discussed by many generals who had expressed distaste for him in the past. Soon pictures surfaced of Mustang cavorting with women almost all of whom could be traced back to his aunt's bar and suddenly Mustang's credibility was slipping so fast it seemed he would be unable to recover. Chris Mustang organized deals with the reporters who threatened to ruin both her nephew's and her own career using her information network and they backed off quickly but there was still damage done.
In keeping with his previously stated policies of honesty and keeping the public informed, he requested to make a statement to clear up all the supposed fallacies in his character. He stated that he had never been involved with prostitutes and that he considered those girls who work for his aunt to be like sisters, taking great offense to the idea of them being labeled as prostitutes by the media. He also said that the supposed "playboy reputation" he had been saddled with didn't come from any sort of fact as, "anyone who knows me can attest. I haven't had a date in years," pointing out that one's reputation in such matters does not necessarily affect one's ability to lead a country. People snickered and rolled their eyes at his attempts at redemption, a reaction he had apparently been expecting because what he said next was so shocking and risky to his candidacy that he had to be telling the truth:
"While I am coming clean, I would like to clear up any other questions about why I am still a bachelor at my age. The truth is I have been in love with my aide and bodyguard Lieutenant Colonel Riza Hawkeye for many years but fraternization laws have kept me from making an honest woman of her. She, like myself, has given up everything she can to improve this country and that includes living a normal, safe life. If I become fuhrer, I plan on spending the rest of my life making that up to her and I gladly welcome the military and the press to investigate my relationship with her as they will find that no rules have been broken."
After months of reports and interrogations Internal Affairs had no choice but to conclude that he was right. There was nothing in the fraternization laws against being quietly in love with your subordinate if you don't act on it or let it lead to favoritism and bad judgment.
The picture of Lieutenant Colonel Hawkeye's reaction to the confession was on the front page of every paper in Amestris. Apparently, he hadn't run his entire speech by her beforehand.
Some wrote the love confession off as a publicity stunt, a way to gain the peoples' hearts, but many were intrigued, leading to Mustang giving a fuller explanation of his long history with her that was difficult not to believe.
During Mustang's first speech as Fuhrer Mustang, he announced his engagement to the now former Lieutenant Colonel, stifling anyone who still tried to claim that his confession had been a sham.
Since his election by the upper brass, Mustang had improved relations with Drachma and Aerugo, increased funding in technological developments, and began government reforms to start turning power back over to the democratically-elected Assembly while decreasing his own power as Fuhrer. Although the more traditional citizens who preferred the likes of Bradley and Armstrong remained unsatisfied, the public was very fond of Fuhrer Mustang after only a year labeling him as one of the best and most innovative fuhrers the country had ever had.
The public had also taken an interest in Lieutenant Colonel Riza Hawkeye, or as she was known now First Lady Riza Mustang. She was more serious than the Fuhrer, always dressed well, and while she was fine with sitting for interviews, she would often ignore reporters on the street and would refuse to answer any question she found too personal. Likewise, the press wasn't too fond of her. The people, however, did like her, finding her to be much more likeable and warm than Fuhrer Armstrong had been, changing the public opinion of military women, and very admirable in both her military career and her current charity work involving animals and orphaned children. She had been very open about the fact that she did not wish to sit back and be a society wife now that her military career was over and she had special authorization to carry firearms on her person since she had stated that she refused to ever stop being her husband's bodyguard.
But in spite of everything Fuhrer Mustang had done, there were still radicals who rallied for a leader without military ties, as if a taste of change brought on but Mustang's regime brought on a hunger for total revolution. Most were happy with Mustang gradually easing out of military-rule but these groups demanded Mustang step down or worse. They had opposed almost every Fuhrer in the last few years, trying to shoot down Bradley unsuccessfully on many occasions, calming down a bit with Grumman, and then calling Armstrong's election a joint oppression by both the military and the upper class. Now they had Mustang to target pointing out that no matter how much he tries to fix the country, it will never change the fact that he was labeled as the Hero of Ishval for slaughtering thousands of innocent people.
Mustang did not try to argue with the terrorists, instead stunning everyone by asking to be put on trial for the things he had done during the Ishvalan War, stating that, "I had done immoral things that have no place going unpunished in a peaceful society like we are experiencing now." He said he would like to represent all the alchemists and be tried as if he was not the leader of the country. Mrs. Mustang then expressed the same stance and wish, wanting to represent the foot soldiers and, in particular, the snipers who held identical orders to the alchemists: kill every Ishvalan citizen you see.
They were soon put into custody under Hastings' watch and trial dates were set as quickly as possible, the country being run by the brass and the Assembly in a joint effort until the matter was resolved.
They were allowed to be in the same cell, larger and separated from the rest, the kind usually reserved for important people or really belligerent criminals who needed to be separated from the pack or protected from the press. The cell was scarcely furnished as they all were with just bunk beds, a bucket with a wooden enclosure around it for a toilet and a sink with a lot of empty cell space. The Fuhrer and his wife had walked into the cell and quietly looked around as the doors slammed shut. When the click of the lock was heard, the Fuhrer had turned to her and said softly, "better than a trench" to which she nodded solemnly.
Hastings knew he had been asked to guard them because they wouldn't do anything that would require him to intervene. He was thankful for that at first but as the day wore on it was getting more difficult to watch the situation they were in. He understood war guilt, he had plenty of his own, but his would never have to be addressed in such a manner. If he had more ambition and intelligence (or at least the desire to learn) he could have easily been Mustang.
He tried to give them as much privacy as he could manage but he couldn't help but overhear their conversations. They didn't talk about their upcoming trials. They talked about other things: old friends and coworkers, books they had read, movies they had seen, the past, current affairs. Sometimes they would restlessly pace around the cell; sometimes they would sit next to each other on one of the beds but either way the air around them was comfortable even in silence. He would look into the cell when they got quiet and when they looked at each other he could practically see the unspoken words, see them reading each other's expressions. Hastings couldn't help but think of his ex-wife and how they had never been able to talk like that. It was difficult now to see how their relationship had been so fiercely doubted.
The worst part of the job was when he was supposed to watch them whenever they used the toilet which made him terribly uncomfortable. Generally there were things you assumed famous people did not do and that was one of those things. When Mrs. Mustang stood up for that purpose she would shoot him a pointed look and he would turn away respectfully even though he wasn't supposed to. Fuhrer Mustang didn't seem to mind but Hastings understood: being in the military has a tendency to wash away any sense of discomfort when it comes to having other men see you naked.
When night fell, they both curled up together on the bottom bunk, the Fuhrer's arms around his wife as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Hastings knew that if he had been in that situation with his ex, she would have called the bottom bunk for herself right away.
Fuhrer Mustang and his wife were not a publically affectionate couple. When they walked together, she walked a step behind him, clearly an old habit from her days as his aide that wouldn't die. They never hugged or kissed which was probably why the stalker-like photo someone had taken of their wedding kiss had gone for so much money. Their affection was subtle: holding hands while seated and small looks that could be easily read by anyone who has ever been truly connected with someone else. This was why Hastings felt like he was witnessing something especially intimate when he arrived that morning to wake them for their trials.
Usually he just banged on the cells without finesse until the lazy prisoners rolled from their beds and glared at him harshly. He just couldn't bring himself to do it to them though, instead rapping lightly at the bars in hopes that they were light sleepers. Soldiers usually weren't as they had to train themselves to sleep through anything including explosions and gunfire but perhaps that ability had waned in them over the years.
Fuhrer Mustang stirred a bit, leaning over to press a kiss on his wife's neck before saying in an amusingly whiny voice, "Riza, I thought today was my day off."
Opening her eyes abruptly at the sound of his voice, Mrs. Mustang glanced around the cell in confusion before realizing where they were. She looked over at the door to see Hastings standing there and abruptly hopped out of the bed, breaking her husband's grip, and almost literally standing to attention. The Fuhrer followed her upon realizing for himself, his movements slower and heavier. Clearly he wasn't the morning person.
"Sir," the Fuhrer said, nodding towards Hastings in greeting.
The Fuhrer is calling me sir? This is wrong.
"Fuhrer Mustang, sir," he added in the word like he was throwing it back to him. He didn't want authority like that. "Your trial is in an hour and a half if you would like to start getting ready now."
He nodded. "Yes, thank you."
Hastings turned towards his wife. "Your trial will be this afternoon but if you would like to attend . . ."
"Of course," she said brusquely, cutting him off.
Hastings realized what a stupid thing that had been to ask. Why wouldn't she go to her husband's trial?
"Well, you can start getting ready also. Just as a warning, you'll have to ride in separate cars. There will probably be a lot of people surrounding the court house and it would be wise to not enter through the front." He had watched over prisoners with highly public cases before and learned a thing or two about protecting them from the media.
She nodded but didn't say anything, her expression somber as she turned towards her husband.
Hastings started to limp towards the door to get the guards who would supervise their preparation and transportation to the court house when he heard the Fuhrer call out to him, "Were you once in the military?"
Hastings stopped and shakily turned around.
"Yes," he mumbled hesitantly, limping back towards the cell slightly. "How did you know?" he asked curiously, wondering if there were files on him, if the Fuhrer had seen files before being imprisoned. Maybe he knew about his disorderly conduct or even the time he got in trouble for robbing a house on a dare when he was a kid. Or he could have just done what everyone else did and assumed from the limp.
The Fuhrer's lips curled up a bit into a small smile. "You have that look in your eyes," he said cryptically but with such guarantee that Hastings wasn't about to question him about what he meant. "Were you injured in battle?"
Hastings nodded shamefully. "Western Border War."
Fuhrer Mustang cast a defeated glance to the ground before looking over at his wife for a second. From where he was standing, Hastings couldn't see her face so he wasn't quite sure what they were communicating to each other, although he was sure seeing her wouldn't have made it clearer. They spoke their own language.
"You're the reason we're doing this," the Fuhrer admitted as if it was a secret he was keeping bottled up. "So that no one else will be harmed or killed in pointless wars. That's a cause I'm willing to die for."
Hastings looked at the Fuhrer, not as the leader of their country but as a man who just wanted to do something worthwhile. Like he had.
"As would I, Fuhrer Mustang."