For the past four years, I have lived a lie.
Ironically, the Portal of Truth sent me here.
This alternate world. This nightmare.
It was an accident. I was only 14, and I was trying to save him. Colonel Mustang. Despite his attitude, he was good man at heart, and he wanted the best for our country. I followed him with all my heart, just like my mother.
When he went into the portal, we were separated. I stood before Truth. Truth judged me.
I wasn't sent to the battle.
I wasn't meant to be sacrificed.
I was sent somewhere else entirely.
I was found by a nice couple in a place called Forks, Washington. Charlie and Renee Swan. They cared for me like their own daughter. They loved me.
I appreciated their kindness, as such pure hearts are not often found. But I wanted to go home. I soon found I had no way to return myself.
Renee left Charlie and took me with her. I lived in a desert region called Arizona with her for a long time. I learned about this world I was in. Alchemy was nonexistent, but their technology was far more advanced than ours.
When I turned 17, I returned to Forks. Since I landed there, maybe the secret to my return was there.
Then I met them.
They were even more a family to me. He loved me. He made me forget about home. My home was now here. With them.
I was blinded by the promise of immortality and beauty. I forgot all my teachings. I forgot my path of return and abandoned my studies.
I grew weak. I lost my muscle, my strength. I let that man protect me, control me, twist me into a girl I was not.
He even proposed to me, and after much pushing, I accepted him.
I was to marry him. I would have, had I not been packing my things and found the clothes I had worn when I arrived in this world.
The bottom half of my military uniform, a tight, black short-sleeved shirt, holsters for guns long lost, black leather boots, a silver pocket watch, and my gauntlets.
The gauntlets of the Armstrong alchemy technique that had been passed down for generations.
I had been taught this technique even as an outsider, a Hawkeye. I had both families' morals driven into me.
The determination and resolve of a Hawkeye and the strength and pride of an Armstrong.
The sharpshooting skills of my mother and the alchemy technique of the family that cared for me when she couldn't.
I remembered everything.
I remembered the Elric brothers and their journey for their bodies. I remembered Winry Rockbell and her skill in making auto-mail. I remembered Alex Armstrong and his magnificent alchemic technique. I remembered Izumi Curtis and the months of excruciating training I'd received from her. I remembered Olivier Armstrong and the air of strength around her that inspired me so. I remember Roy Mustang and his cockiness, but also his bright future and dreams for our country. I remembered all the great men in the military, all the alchemists I'd studied under, all the martial artist's I'd trained with.
Most of all, I remembered my mother, Riza Hawkeye.
I was a child of rape. I'm lucky she even kept me, raised me, when she could have just given me up to someone else. Hell, she could have aborted me. But she didn't.
She was young when I was born, just getting ready to join the military after her father's death. Any other person would have been traumatized, but she pulled herself through.
During the civil war, I was left first with the adoptive mother of Roy Mustang, and then handed over to the Armstrongs. I was never really told how they ended up taking care of me, but one day Mustang called home and said Alex Armstrong owed him a favor and that I would be better taken care of there.
At this point, Alex was in Ishval, and Olivier had just been sent to Briggs. She was only a Colonel then. I spent most of my time with Catherine, the youngest Armstrong sibling. When Alex was sent home from the war, I attached myself to him, fascinated with his stories and alchemy.
After the war, I was reunited with my mother.
I was raised on guns and warfare. From a young age, I dreamed of joining the military and becoming a State Alchemist. I can remember Mustang telling me that I shouldn't be dreaming like that, but I ignored him.
I was born to be in the military.
When I really started studying alchemy, I was presented with two choices. Learn the Armstrong technique from "Uncle Alex" or try to persuade Mustang to teach me flame alchemy. Since the Colonel seemed to get depressed whenever it was brought up, I didn't go with flame alchemy.
Before I could learn the Armstrong technique, I had to learn alchemy itself.
When I was 10, Edward Elric became a State Alchemist at age 12. This only fueled my dreams more. During one visit to the Colonel's office, I asked Ed who taught him. I was given an address and a stern warning, but I went to see Izumi Curtis anyways.
I was refused four times. Something in her caved on the fifth.
She literally beat the meaning of alchemy into me. I literally never suffered so much abuse in my life.
After a few months of that, I went off to find Alex.
He was a Major then, and eager to teach. I learned it all quickly. Soon, I had my own transmutation gauntlets crafted, and I was on my way in to become a State Alchemist.
In order to pass the exam, I decided to put my own twist into the Armstrong technique. I studied a bit of Basque Gran's weapon alchemy in order to make it work. After much trial and error, I combined the two.
I was accepted faster than you can say King Bradley.
The Raging Bullet Alchemist. That was my "second name".
At age 13, I was the second youngest State Alchemist, right after Edward Elric.
Some State Alchemists distance themselves from the military and do their research on their own. Ed was the prime example. He had gone for the title only for research. If an alchemist does this, their rank is automatically equal to that of a Major.
I wasn't doing that.
I joined up and started climbing the ranks immediately. Elric might be the youngest State Alchemist, but I was the youngest soldier.
Soon, I was a First Lieutenant, just like my mother. She wasn't overbearing like Hughes with his daughter, but you could tell she was proud. I was happy to help her.
Then I met Olivier Mira Armstrong, the Major General of Fort Briggs. She hit number two on my list of respectable women (my mother at number one). Never had I seen such a beautiful specimen. She was the pinnacle of military beauty, and I was mesmerized.
So was my mother, upon first meeting.
After that, the two retained some kind of friendly rivalry, bordering on romance.
I didn't understand that kind of thing back then (especially between two women) but now I kind of admire it. Besides, all hell would break loose if they didn't like each other.
My life was relatively happy.
All that came crashing down in a sudden moment.
The Promised Day.
I had been helping Olivier, Izumi, and Alex fight the homunculus called Sloth.
In a split decision, after the battle was over, I ran off to find my mother.
When I found her, something was happening to the Colonel. They were putting him through the Portal of Truth?
The distraught look in my mother's eyes told me something horrible was happening.
Just as he was passing through, I ran and grabbed his ankle.
I followed him in.
We were separated.
I saw the Truth?
I was put through some kind of gate.
Then I was laying in the dirt and the rain.
A car pulled up. Someone put me inside.
My life changed.
Then I forgot my old life.
But now I remember.
And at that moment, I made the decision.
My phone rang.
"Bella? What are you doing?"
It was Alice.
"The wedding's off," I growled, "I'm not living a lie anymore."
I hung up on her and threw the phone down so hard it broke. Then I grabbed my gauntlets and strapped them on. Before I leapt out the window, I grabbed a piece of chalk from a drawer.
I landed on the wet ground with a thud. You could almost hear the vampires scrambling around in the trees trying to get me.
I saw a flash of Edward's face in the trees. He lunged at me in an attempt to capture me, but I dodged and started running.
I was weak. I had lost the thick layers of muscle that used to be packed on my body like bricks. It wasn't ugly muscle, but it was enough to be noticeable. It was smooth and flowed naturally about my curves. God, I missed that.
I ran with every pitiful ounce of strength in my body, disgusted at what I'd become. A weak girl. A weak, controllable girl.
I heard them around me and wondered if they would actually hurt me.
I had tried to perform alchemy when I first arrived here, but it didn't work. Would it now?
I bit my lip and hoped for the best.
I crashed my knuckles together and pulled back, hoping those blue sparks would light up my fists with an alchemic charge.
I grinned wildly, and then slammed my hands down on the ground. Dirt wasn't much to work with, but it was enough.
I wasn't strong enough to launch bullets out of the ground like I used to, but I could still send a ton of spikes and shit out.
I heard them stop in shock and I laughed a little.
I kept running, and put up wall after wall. That should give me enough time to do what I needed to do.
I reached the big stone in the middle of the woods. I'd seen it on nature walks with that bastard Edward. It was perfect.
I started drawing the circle for human transmutation from memory. Hopefully, it was correct. In a matter of minutes, it was done.
I placed my hands down on the circle.
There was a bright light.
I was going home.
Truth stood before me, grinning that sinister grin.
"So you want to go back, eh? There's a toll."
I grinded my teeth.
"Yeah, I know. Don't give me all your bullshit, just take it and put me through."
"You're a brave one, girl."
"Shut up," I spat.
I felt like I was losing my balance, and I realized why with an expected horror.
My right leg had dissipated just below my knee.
I tried to hold in the vomit that was boiling in the back of my throat.
"Bye bye, little girl."
My vision faded again.
When I came to, I was laying in the streets of Central, bloody and alone. It was night, and the clouds in the sky parted every now and then to reveal stars. The moonlight barely lit the way.
I got up and steadied myself against the wall. I was bleeding like crazy. If I didn't get to HQ fast, I was dead.
No one was out. It was probably past curfew.
I realized I was wandering into military headquarters with no idea if Mustang had succeeded in overthrowing Bradley. Had the Elrics defeated Father? What had happened in the four years I was gone?
Nevertheless, I had no idea where to go. If I was still considered a traitor, I would either be shot on sight or taken in and healed for questioning. I had to take that chance.
After what seemed like hours of stumbling through the streets, I reached HQ. I wondered why there were no MPs wandering around. Maybe Mustang had succeeded?
"Help," I muttered as I entered the building. "I'm... I'm Isa... Isabella... Hawkeye..."
Then I blacked out.
When I came to, the first thing I saw was my mother's face.
When I was fully awake, the first thing she did was slap me.
"You idiot! Why? Why did you do that? Why did you jump into that damn portal? I lost you! For four years I lost you!"
Tears. Those were things not often seen on my mother's face. I felt awful.
"I... I'm sorry, really. I was just trying to save him... Colonel Mustang. You looked so awful, I wanted to help..."
"I'm grateful that you tried to save me, but you disappeared for four years. Besides, I'm okay now," said Mustang from the doorway. "Also, I'm a Brigadier General now. Your mom's a Colonel."
I had noticed the change in rank on their shoulders.
"So, we won? You're not Fuhrer though..."
His face twisted a bit.
"I was blinded during the battle. By Truth. Marcoh healed me though."
"Think he could fix my leg?" I asked, pulling off the covers to examine it.
The Colonel-excuse me, the Brigadier General shook his head.
"He's off making a New Ishval with Scar and Major Miles."
"Scar's still alive?"
"Yeah. Don't worry, though. He's no danger."
"EXCUSE ME!" screamed mom. "I think I was in the middle of being angry, Brigadier General?"
He smiled apologetically and stepped out.
Alex Armstrong stepped in.
Holy crap, he could cry.
Before mom could finish, he had grabbed me and pulled me into a bone crushing hug. I squirmed, trying to get out of his teary-eyed grip.
"Oh, you've lost weight!"
"Muscle, Major, I've lost muscle," I corrected.
"I'm not a Major anymore, I'm a Colonel! Sis is a General now."
"Wow, that's a promotion!"
He glanced around at Mustang standing outside the door and my mother glaring angrily at me.
"Well, after your disappearance you were promoted to Colonel."
"Aw yeah!" I exclaimed. "Yeah, I kinda need a new uniform..."
We continued to chatter excitedly until a gunshot went off.
"LISTEN UP! You, Bella, have made me more worried than I've ever been in my life! I hope you've made the choice not to do something so reckless again! Especially after you lost your foot!"
She glared at me.
"You... You lost your foot. You lost your foot..."
She wrapped her arms around me.
"I'm sorry mom... I'm so sorry..."
It took me a moment to realize I was crying too. When I was finished, I unhooked my arms from her neck.
"I'm gonna go to Rush Valley... Hook up with Ed and Winry, get a new foot. I'm not gonna worry about trying to get my real foot back, I don't really care. I just... I just..."
"I guess I'll tell you the whole story."
I finished about an hour later.
"Vampires? That sparkle? Really?"
"I'm not joking!"
He got serious.
"Well, that was quite an adventure. You don't want to go back, do you?" he asked.
I shook my head.
"Never. I hate them. I just want to stay here, grow old and die. I especially don't want to lose anymore body parts."
The Flame Alchemist chuckled a bit.
"Good. We're honored to have you back, Colonel Hawkeye."
"Since both of you are Colonels, this is going to get confusing," he said, referring to me and my mother.
"I'll be sure to get promoted as soon as possible, sir," said mom.
"Well, I've got some work to attend to," said Alex. "I'd best be going. Stop by the Armstrong Mansion any time, Bella!"
"Doesn't Olivier own it now, though?"
Colonel Armstrong glanced at mom.
"I'm sure Sis won't mind," he said, winking at mom.
I stared at her after he left.
"Something you're not telling me, mommy dearest?"
"You'll find out in due time. After all, you are going to be posted at Briggs soon. Make sure to get cold climate auto-mail."
"Right," I responded, smiling.
"Alright, I've got work to do. Alphonse Elric is here, though, and he's taking a vacation to Rush Valley in a day or so. He'll be your escort."
"I need an escort?"
"You'll be on crutches, I'm sure you'd appreciate some help."
And with that, my mother left, leaving me alone in the room with Roy Mustang.
"So, mister Brigadier General Mustang, would you happen to know what I'm missing here?" I asked.
"I'm sure Hawkeye would get mad if I told you before she did. Like she said, you'll find out once you see General Armstrong."
I huffed and crossed my arm.
"Toodles!" he called as he left. "I'll send Alphonse your way later!"
Later indeed. It was probably an hour. Of course, I wasn't counting.
"Bella, you're back! I mean, Colonel Hawkeye, ma'am!" he stuttered upon entry.
"It's okay, Al," I laughed. "You know you can call me Bella. I prefer it from friends."
He laughed nervously and scratched the back of his head.
"Sorry. Still not used to the whole military thing..."
"After all this time?"
I laughed a little.
"So, you got your body back?"
He shuffled around a little.
"Yeah. Had to get a bunch of muscle back, too. You should've seen me. All skin and bones," he said. "Brother and I went around repaying all the people that helped us on our journey."
Al smiled a little, but it was tinged with sadness when he looked at me.
"You've lost something yourself, haven't you?"
"Nothing auto-mail can't fix," I said grinning.
"It's just below your knee isn't it? You won't have to worry about paying for a full limb with a joint. That gets expensive. Brother's cost a lot."
"I'll be okay. When are we leaving?"
"Tomorrow, if you're up for it."
"I'm up for anything."
"I was not up for this damn heat!"
"Haha, it is pretty hot in Rush Valley," said Al, smiling apologetically.
I removed my jacket and shirt, leaving me in nothing but a sports bra and long shorts.
"Hmm... Brother said he'd be around to meet us..."
Al put a hand on his forehead to shade his eyes and started looking around.
Standing taller than I last saw him and waving with both real arms was Edward Elric. I wanted to run up to meet him, but that obviously wasn't happening. Instead, I hobbled up to him as fast as my crutches would let me.
"Fullmetal, not such a pipsqueak anymore, are ya? You're the same height as me!"
He grumbled something about not being short anymore and glared at me. I chuckled.
"Not so 'fullmetal' anymore though, are you?"
"Nope, just the leg," he said, pointing down. "That's okay, though. If Winry didn't have me to work on I don't know what she'd do."
"I see you need a bit of metal. How'd that happen?"
I looked down at my leg, or at least what was left of it.
"Why don't we get to the shop and I'll tell everyone at once, okay? It's a long story with a lot of shit you might not believe."
"Let me get this straight, you fell in love with a sparkling vampire named Edward?"
I nodded grudgingly.
"AHAHAHAHAHAHA! THAT'S TOO FUNNY!"
Even Al was laughing a bit. They were both hit in the head with wrenches.
"Shut up! This girl obviously went through some emotional shit! Shit that I can make money off of!" screeched Winry. "Now, Bella, be a dear and come over here so I can take measurements."
Slightly scared, I sat down so she could measure me.
"How long will this take?"
"I can have the prosthetic built in about a week. Surgery will take a while, maybe a day or so, and rehabilitation will take... Oh, say a year or less. The leg was cut off below the joint, so it won't take as long as a full leg. It's just part of your shin and your foot."
"How's three months sound?"
She looked at me.
"That's pushing it."
"I like to push things. Besides, I want to get back to Centr-"
I stopped. I was being stationed at Briggs now.
"Winry, I almost forgot. It's gotta be cold climate auto-mail. I'm being posted at Briggs."
"Alright, that sets you back. I gotta order materials. In the meantime, I'll start on a design."
I sighed out of irritation. Winry finished measuring and went off to the drawing table. I turned to face the brothers.
"Got any weights?"
Ed glanced up from his book.
"Yeah. What for?"
"I've lost muscle. A lot of muscle. I need it back."
"What are you, malnourished? Did they stop feeding you over there? Fine."
He retrieved some dumbbells and bars from the back of the shop.
"I used these to get my arm back in shape."
"Cool. So, you still a State Alchemist? I know Al is."
"I gave up my ability to use alchemy to get Al back. I still study it, but I'll never use it again."
"Oh, sorry. That's gotta be rough."
He smiled sadly.
"It was definitely worth it though."
I smiled back at him.
"Okay, while she works on my foot, I'm going to start training!"
"Ack, already?" Al asked incredulously. "You're still injured!"
"Screw injuries, I'm tough!"
"No! Don't hurt yourself!"
"I'm not going to hurt myself!"
"HEY! YOU TWO! SHUT UP! I'M WORKING!"