It’s amazing how quickly vows can be forgotten when you’re awake at 3 A.M., trying to write a paper for an international conference, which you must turn in as soon as it’s morning, and have to finish your biochemistry report, AND trying to resist the urge to fic at the same time. Kind of like, “If I don’t get at least SOME of this off my head, I am seriously going to go INSANE.”
And so. Crappy fics. Writings. Whatever. They’re born. For my pairing ‘ship. And since it’s for my pairing ‘ship, my conscience is never going to let me off on much-needed sleep unless I post them somewhere. Guess who the victims are. I’m really sorry.
I hope you find an iota of enjoyment from this, which probably flies against canon and kicked characterization in the face. And forgive me if that was…er, rude? I’m not really feeling too good right now.
"...there are two kinds of names in life, Mustang. One we're born with, the other we earn. Which do you think has the greater worth?"
He had been young.
"...the one we earn carries the greater weight,sir. It describes what we did, who we are, and more importantly---" he'd grinned at the time. "We can define our given names."
His teacher had only nodded.
Roy Mustang has always cultivated a talent for the immaterial. The untouchable, the unreachable was always fascinating to him. That was how he was aware of fire, how it danced, how it was there and could turn everything it touch to ashes and how one could feel the heat but *never* grasp the fire, never hold it in a one's hand. It was immaterial, but its presence was undeniable. And he had always been the type to throw his entire self into anything he finds fascinating.
The stacks of books only grew, sometimes worrying his parents. He socialized, went out with his classmates in school and the girls next door, dated, broke some hearts and got his heart broken once or twice, and got into Central University with flying colors.
Once there, picking a specialty was easy. There was nothing in the world worth studying more than Alchemy, and he'd gotten a good head start on that. University had been a breeze.
In his last year, one of his teachers asked him that question. He was young enough to answer it correctly, and got his recommendations to take to the State Alchemist registration department.
You've got to be a State Alchemist to get access to ANYTHING, funds, tools, legal advantages, the library, so on and so forth. And so Roy Mustang set his goals on becoming one. Besides, it was proof ultimate that he was as good as he’s cracked up to be.
Studying up for the exam consumed him for months, but that was easy, he knew what he wanted and what he needed to do to get it. Earn his second name, earn the alchemists' prestiege, do something. He could already think of some interesting applications for fire and burning, which actually had more things involved than fuel and a spark. The day he'd received the pretty silver pocketwatch, he was nineteen, and it was like finally reaching the top of the ladder and looking to see the world. All the possibilities were his.
The Flame Alchemist. His second name. He'd earned it for almost as long as he remembered, and now it was given to him. The name that he defined. It sounded like a promise.
He'd share a few of his plans with Riza Hawkeye, and she listened, not making comments and not disagreeing. And it was fine.
Roy Mustang hadn't been a State Alchemist for two months, still drafting up his research proposal, when the call came for Ishvar. He was sent his uniform, the strips and stars signifying the default rank of the alchemists, and was a commissioned dog of the military. Having to adjust to this abrupt change of plans, Roy spent time thinking for a few days, got himself spark cloth gloves, and drew his arrays on them.
He'd share a few of his plans with Riza Hawkeye, because if he was going to be fazed about this, he wouldn't be Roy Mustang. He'd still end up doing something worthwhile, military or no military.
She listened, appeared lost in thought for a few moments, then asked him for more of his plans. A few more hours of him talking and Riza listening, she nodded.
She said that.
Roy had no idea what she meant until he'd looked at the roster for Ishvar, and saw Riza's name in the volunteers. Qualification tests put her in sharpshooters, and he couldn't blame them for that. She'd always been good at it.
He'd asked her about it later.
"I don't want to be in the military," she said. "Not with all the killing."
Riza didn't answer then, but she did in the following months when her shots saved him from snipers and vengeful Ishvarites. It wasn't until then that he learned what his given name promised him.
He still didn't know her first 'because', but the second was clear enough.
Alex Louis Armstrong, the Major from Central, couldn't handle it. He was shipped home later in the conflict. Roy remained.
The ring on his finger, the fire latent on his gloves. All he needed to do was snap his fingers,snap snap snap, cold precise equations for moving atoms and pressurizing air paid for the price of bones and charred corpses. It was then that he realized all the books were wrong, all the teachers were wrong, and all the schools really had no clue. There was nothing equivalent about equivalent trade, like the energy in the thermodynamics of a reaction. You need energy on both sides to be equal, but you always put in more energy than you actually use, some would always be lost in the form of heat. Equivalent trade was like that, and there was nothing equivalent about it. The energy lost in form of heat, bodies burning to crisps in the raging fire when all the reaction energy went to moving atoms in the air. Array made to control and manipulate, not to create and destroy by itself. The cloth and the fire did that for him. All he had to do was pick a place. Like himself. He manipulated the fire, pointed out where to burn, the military manipulated him and pretty much pointed out the same things. Not creating, not destroying anything. Control and manipulation, fire and firemaster not so different.
He'd thought about evening the numbers a bit, gun kissing the flesh of his temples. Riza would probably knock him back to his senses if she was there, but she was elsewhere in the dust and the fire, assigned to the killing zones while Roy Mustang was relatively safe back at camp.
So it was Captain Hughes who did the job instead, glasses cracked and a huge bump on his head.
"I'm no alchemist, Major Mustang, but I'd say grief is a tradeable commodity."
It made sense. And it didn't.
The next time he snapped his fingers, he thought back to the alchemy books and equivalent trade.
He would fix the equations for this. Pay the price for the deaths, sum total at zero. Oh, there'd always besome energy lost to heat, but better energy on his side than theirs. He was willing to try his hypothesis. He was *going* to test it, Mustang's Theory of Equivalent Trade Under Nil Array Conditions. It even sounded ironic when he thought of it that way.
He'd shared his plans with Riza Hawkeye and Maes Hughes, who listened until he was finished.
Then one of them asked if he knew what it meant.
Roy had looked at them, and confirmed that no, he hadn't gone out of his mind for the sake of nothing yet.
Once again, Riza only nodded.
She said that. This time, he understood what she meant.
Maes was more talkative, but he was grave nonetheless.
They were all murderers in the war. Roy with Fire, Riza with her gun, Maes with his knives and data. They all had something to lose and something to give, earning their second names, defining them point-blank with body counts. Define them. Never let the names give the definitions. They knew, and agreed.
He knew what he wanted and what he needed to do to get it, but this time, it wasn't going to be easy.
Roy Mustang lived his second name and lived his first, one for what he earned and one, he hoped, for what he was about to earn. Riza Hawkeye became Lieutenant Hawkeye, Maes Hughes became Major Hughes.
But he was going to pay the price, and that was equivalent enough trade. Some equations are reversible, and someday the reactants would come back again. When it was all over and the products had overspilled, the molecules exceeding equilibrium.
Roy Mustang had thrown away his research proposal and lived his uniform and spark cloth gloves. He would live them to the end of his days, even if his crazy plan manage to work. It was somethinghe earned, like his second name and the fires that still haunted his dreams.
He still remembered, though, the day he and Riza went over each other's graduation papers, him knowing exactly nothing of civil laws and her apparently knowing exactly nothing of Burman's Theory of Relativity.
Someday Lieutenant Colonel Hughes would be Maes, someday Lieutenant Hawkeye would be Riza, someday, when it is all over, they would earn it all back, except the part that was lost in the form of heat.
He'd realized the name one was born with carried a weight all of its own.
Colonel Mustang sipped his coffee, pondering ways to get out of his paperwork.
It was that day again. That Dreaded Day of the Entire Year for Whoever Is Unfortunate Enough to Be On the Same Base With Colonel Mustang.
The first time Riza heard it, she thought it was an unnecessarily long name. Even if the Colonel receive ceiling-high stacks of chocolate every year, he always take care of his Valentine gifts. She didn't think he'd eat all of it, but you can never be sure about Roy Mustang. (Havoc had theorized that the Colonel transmuted them into 'trinkets', to much speculation from the rest of the staff)
Now if he'd just turn his face this way, he just might notice the way she's blushing and the way she's trying to hide a little box of something as she walked toward the door. But no, the Colonel never looked up from his paperwork when she came in. Call it survival instinct.
And for all her shooting skills in the world, walking up to his desk and putting it there was just...out of question.
Instead, Riza inwardly sighed and walked out of the Colonel's office.
She'd just tell him coffee is out of stock and make some hot chocolate instead.
"Fine, you stupid mutt," he said. "Be that way."
"Okay, I'm relenting. Give that back."
"How about I give you a sandwich? Huh? We dogs of the military have to stick together, right?"
"Come on, I thought you don’t need a salary.”
"Good boy, good boy..."
First Lieutenant Hawkeye walked into the room.
Black Hayate had a porn magazine titled "Military Blondes" in its mouth.
The Colonel had a sandwich in his hands.
It looked suspiciously like a bribe.
Hawkeye clicked her gun.
"I believe," she said, her voice firm. "In disciplining strictly."
Gunshots, screams and yelps followed.
Colonel Roy Mustang was said to have flinched at the mere sight of blondes for the next few weeks, and Edward Elric would regretfully reflect, later on, that it was a pity he was away on a mission.
They'd greatly debated on what to name the baby.
He insisted that his wife has no naming sense whatsoever, pointed to the family dog, and everyone agreed in an instant. However, *he* admitted to having no naming sense whatsoever as well (Breda commented, dryly, that it was such a match made in heaven), and threw the work right into their collective laps, calling it a favor.
At least there had been no paperwork.
Fury had commented, somewhat wistfully, that if only Brigadier General Hughes were still around, the problem would fall into *his* lap instead, and they could sleep safely with the knowledge that they hadn't give the baby a silly name or something.
That was when Havoc asked, airily, whether the Fuhrer would ever pick up his friend's habit of shoving baby photos into everybody's faces.
The next day, they pooled their resources, drafted up a letter, and sent it (with 'Extremely Urgent' stamped on the envelope, Farman knew exactly how to handle the mailing staff) to Alphonse Elric, who had been known to give creative names to his cats.
In front of the desk. Exactly half a meter.
They drew the line right there, and he might as well have drawn it in chalk for its presence.
Every morning, she would walk in through the door, stop exactly where that line is, and give him his dose of life-giving coffee. And paperwork. Oh, God, all the paperwork.
They drew the line right there, and neither of them crossed it, like an alchemical array constructed out of air and resolution. He knew the reasons as well as she, and for all the times their hands touched when he reached out for coffee or the next paper-that-needs-signing-now-Colonel-sir,
Closeness is a weakness, intrude too far into personal space and one start to rely on the other too much, depend on the other too much. Lose the boundary line and it becomes hard to tell which part of them were each other and which part were themselves.
A risk they could not afford to take.
So they drew the line right there, exactly half a meter. Close enough to touch and reassure, close enough for daily reminders of why the line was there, far enough to see things with an objective eye, far enough to move onward at their own pace, with their own internal clockworks, self-sufficient in their own ways, not needing of the presence of the other except for the knowledge of the behind-the-lines.
And they would keep it that way.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'll go find some cyanide to eat.