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A/N: This fic is rather different than anything I've done to date. This is the first time I've attempted to do a Royai fic based upon actual events from the manga/anime, so I put far more effort into capturing the flavor of the canon verse... as such, it's a lot more serious and intense than the other stuff I've done. It's very short (for something of mine), and the focus is not entirely fetishy in nature - i.e. the plot is not rooted in the fetish aspect of it so the sneezing itself is minimal. I actually wasn't really planning to post it on the forum, but I let one of my good friends from here read it and she encouraged me to do so :)

Thus, I decided to give it a shot - if you like it, awesome!.. and if you don't, my apologies... :lol: As always, please give me feedback!

 

Title: Noise and Silence

Fandom: Fullmetal Alchemist manga/Brotherhood anime

DISCLAIMER: I may have more fanfic ideas for FMA than I will ever be able to write, but there is NO WAY IN HECK that I own any rights to it. I just have fun playing around in the FMA universe!! All of the characters are amazing and I bow in respect to the mangaka and the anime creators. ^_^

Summary: The Flame Alchemist and his subordinate both know the meaning of loss, for they have endured the atrocities of war, death, and grief. Can hope ever be born out of heartache?

Spoiler Alert: Don't read if you haven't made it past episode 10 of Brotherhood/volume 4 of the manga!

 

~~

In the end, it was the noise that got to her.

 

Long-range combat was one thing; if one was on sniper duty, a distinct detachment was involved. The cries of the dying were distant, vague; the chaos and carnage unfolding in an almost orderly fashion, as if the violence and death were occurring in a world separate from the watcher. The events seen through the scope of a rifle were impersonal, predictable, following predetermined rules of precision.

 

Infantry, however, was an entirely different story.

 

The smoke, the dust, the blood... the explosions, and the bloodcurdling screams of agony – the agitated cacophony was like a sentient miasma that assaulted the senses, eating away at the very humanity of all who were unfortunate enough to be enveloped by it.

 

It was never a question of skill. When it came to marksmanship, Riza Hawkeye was the best of the best, even at her young age and cadet status. Everyone said so; and it was because of her extraordinary abilities that she had been placed on the front lines at Ishval to begin with. She followed her orders without hesitation, carrying out her vowed duty to protect her fellow countrymen. She was known amongst her comrades as The Hawk’s Eye, a steadfast guardian whose watchful gaze had saved dozens of soldiers’ lives – for when she was at her post on the ridge, no enemy had any hope of escaping that gaze.

 

Her talent for sniping was certainly the main reason that her nickname was known even to the company members who had never actually seen her. However, she was equally lethal in close-range combat, which is why from time to time she was assigned to the morbid, bloody infantry hell that was labeled by the commanding officers as “purging duty”– a cold, deceptively mollifying term.

 

Riza was not one to forsake her military training in the face of the insanity of war. Her stamina was impressive, unmatched even by some of the combatant men. She worked alongside soldiers and state alchemists alike without batting an eye, operating efficiently and obediently as dictated by the principles she had been taught. Indeed, to those who knew her, it seemed that her steely determination had been hardwired into her very soul, and many of the Amestrian soldiers found themselves in awe of the young woman with the short blonde hair. Whatever assignment she was given, she carried it out to the letter, and she was respected by all.

 

But even the most strong of spirit were not immune to the psychologically destructive events of the Ishvalan War of Extermination... to the daily genocide of a people who were once co-inhabitants of the nation of Amestris – once lovers of peace. One by one, countless individuals succumbed to the horror of the war that seemed to have no end, either falling ill, becoming afflicted with madness, or losing the very will to live. Many were sent back to their homes, haunted by the cries of those they had killed. Those who remained picked up the slack without question; faithful, unified soldiers. Riza was one of those whose resolve was not prone to faltering, no matter what she was required to do. She was there for a purpose: to protect and serve her country and her companions.

 

But as the weeks passed, the screams of the slaughtered began to penetrate her dreams, replacing any solace she had had from the living nightmare that was the eastern front.

 

So in the end, it was the noise that got to her.

 

It was one of many nameless days. At Ishval, every day was as brutal and draining as the next, so none of the soldiers really bothered to keep track of them. Hawkeye was part of a squad of twelve, sent into the slum sector to eradicate the insurrectionists who had holed themselves up in the filthy wreckage.

 

Or so their orders were.

 

In practicality, this meant that every non-Amestrian living thing a squad member encountered must fall at the mercy of his gun, no exceptions.

 

The air was foul, the entire city plagued with a black, boiling smoke that obscured even the scorching desert sun – the work of the alchemists, mostly, in addition to the grenades and explosives belonging to the military. Hawkeye and her squad members did a clean sweep of the slums, rationing their bullets so as not to waste precious ammunition. “Make every shot fatal,” were the literal instructions of their captain. Hawkeye and the others obeyed wordlessly, flitting from shadow to shadow with a silence as cold as Death itself. The rubble and fumes made it nearly impossible to see, however, and eventually, the twelve of them became separated. Hawkeye barely noticed the absence of her teammates – she had immersed her body and soul in soldier mode, disconnecting her mind from the reality of her actions as if she were still stationed up on the faraway hill. This was her method of resisting the madness.

 

When the seconds had turned to minutes, and the minutes melted into hours, she found herself at the end of a dank, narrow alley. She detected movement at the far end, so she moved in to investigate, positioning practiced fingers around the barrel and mechanisms of her weapon. Her heavy boots scraped against twisted metal pipes and rugged slabs of concrete.

 

The end of the alley was a depression scooped out beside the remains of a brick structure, littered with debris and repugnant with refuse and blood. Huddled there was a person, one of the “insurgents,” wide-eyed with mortal terror and grasping a rifle in his grimy hands. Hawkeye cocked the trigger, sighting down without hesitation.

 

NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!”

 

A shrill scream rent the air, a sound that was almost more animal than human. A girl came out of nowhere, throwing herself in front of the man and pointing a handgun at Riza. She looked to be about ten years of age.

 

Hawkeye’s hands moved of their own accord, settling into position and squeezing the trigger.

 

CHAAAAA

 

It was as if the world had suddenly slowed, playing the moment in slow motion. Riza saw the bullet strike the child, tearing into her small body as the crimson spot began to seep through her tattered dress. She fell, a look of despair engulfing her face as the life left her eyes.

 

Make every shot fatal.

 

CHAAAA

 

The second bullet came on the heels of the first, a flawless shot from the steady hands of a true marksman. The man lurched forward as the blood misted from his chest, then he, too, fell to the ground, motionless in the pooling red.

 

As time caught up with itself, Riza stood in the alley, the cry of the girl ringing in her ears. As she gazed at the bodies, an uncontrollable tremor coursed through her body.

 

DAMN IT!!!” she wailed, the muscles in her arms burning as though her body itself was rebelling against the atrocities she had committed. She collapsed to her knees with a strangled moan, bile rising in her throat. “What the hell am I doing!?” The question sprang unbidden from her lips. The young girl’s face seemed seared into her vision, joined first by the man’s image and then followed by countless faces of the dead.

 

Riza rocked forward onto her hands, anguished tears beginning to scald her face. The sounds of those who were killing and dying around her intensified, becoming a senseless roaring in her ears. “What am I doing?” she repeated, barely aware of her own words. “Why am I here?” As her heart thudded rapidly, adding to the noise, she closed her eyes and dug her fingers into the dirty sand beneath her, scraping the skin around her nails.“WHY?” A gut-wrenching sob heaved from her chest, then another, then another.

 

Soldiers are supposed to protect. If my job is instead to kill, then what am I?

 

The little girl’s scream echoed in her mind, over and over and over.

 

The Ishvalans intend to destroy our way of life, therefore, we kill so that we will survive. But if I have to take the lives of innocent children in order to save myself, am I any different than the people we are trying to destroy? Why do I deserve to live?

 

The concept of time became utterly meaningless as Riza stayed there, paralyzed by her own despair. She knew full well that, at any moment, she could be disposed of by one of her own targets... but all her mind could hear were the screams. The pain was so great that it no longer mattered to her if she was found and shot; in fact, she would have welcomed the irony.

 

She did not know how long she remained on the ground, weeping. She did not know whether the footsteps she heard behind her belonged to a comrade or an enemy. She did not even know if she still possessed the ability to lift her head from the ground... but just as she hollowly imagined the sound of the gunshot that would end her life, the single instance of unfathomable agony followed by the forever of oblivion... she found herself being violently hauled to her feet.

 

Come on, get UP! You can’t stop now. You’ve GOT to keep moving.”

 

Hawkeye’s legs remembered how to keep her upright, even if her mind did not. She raised her stinging, empty eyes to her rescuer – a voice, a vision from her past. Whether or not he was real was irrelevant to her, for she had lost the ability to care about what was happening.

 

He still had a firm grip on her arm, and was trying to pull her forward. When she would not move, he clenched his teeth and grabbed her by the shoulders, giving her a sharp shake. “Listen to me.”

 

His hands found their way to hers, and he removed the gun from her numb fingers. “Hawkeye.”

 

His obsidian eyes were angrily locked on hers, and as she stared into them, a spark of something... a memory, a feeling – a tiny flicker of life – stirred within her.

 

He seemed taller than before, as he glared down at her, his coal-black hair shaggier, dirty and falling into his face. War had hardened his youthful features, and his smudged ivory gloves bore the telltale circles of red which declared his status as a “secret weapon” of the military. But his eyes were just as she had always known them – challenging, tenacious, holding the same passion.. the same fire.

 

Mustang.

 

Those eyes grew severe as she did not respond. “Don’t you let them see you cry,” he commanded, wrapping her hands around her weapon once more. “You’re stronger than that. I know you are.” He made sure that the grasp she had on her weapon was firm, letting go of her arms. Then, taking her chin brusquely in one hand, he began using his thumb to brush the tears from her cheeks.

 

Hawkeye stiffened.

 

A scent similar to that of singed fabric drifted to greet her. The material felt coarse, abrasive, like industrial-grade sandpaper... but the pressure of the hands within the gloves was anything but rough.

 

As the moisture on her face was slowly wiped away, she suddenly found herself regaining control of her faculties. Her eyebrows knit, and she stepped back, pushing his hands away.

 

Yes sir.”

 

He gave a satisfied nod. “That’s more like it.”

 

A new explosion rocked the ground, and Mustang glanced warily at the murky sky. “Where’s your rendezvous point? I’m sure your squad members are waiting for you.”

 

She stood to attention, shifting her gun to its proper position. “Yes sir. Our orders are to rendezvous at Talin Rena.”

 

He turned toward the mouth of the alley, his once-white overcoat ruffling with the motion. “Good. Getting there won’t be a problem.” Without waiting to hear a response, he started to move. “Let’s go, soldier. Whatever you do, stay right behind me.”

 

Looking back, Riza wondered why she chose to listen. She had been fully ready to die, to receive the justice for the crimes she and others continued to commit. But at that moment, though nothing about the war had changed, her shame somehow was no longer incapacitating. She found that she was able to walk, able to follow... and so, she did.

 

They exchanged no more words, for the way back to the target point was difficult and tumultuous. However, every potentially fatal obstacle they encountered was immediately neutralized by Mustang. A chill went down her spine the first time she saw him raise his hand, the telltale alchemic energy arcing about his wrist. With every snap, he cleared the path ahead of them, obliterating rubble and enemies alike. A bitterness tightened her chest as she recognized the cold, calculating determination in the lines of his posture.

 

My father poured his entire self into his work... he was a man of science. Mustang is a man of action, rather than science... and yet he has become the same. A wielder of the most volatile, deadly form of alchemy known to man.

 

The sheer rawness of the power is exhilarating!” Her father had told her, one day shortly before he had recorded the secrets to that power on her back.

 

Mustang had never said as much to her... but judging from the intensity of the aggression that she could clearly sense when he used that power – dangerously fierce, yet flawlessly controlled as well – she did not doubt that he felt it just as acutely as his master had.

 

The Flame Alchemist, is it?

 

Wave after wave of blistering heat washed over them both as the infernos raged. Hawkeye shrank back into the narrow shaft of cooler air formed from the resistance Mustang’s body provided, shuddering. Perhaps her disquiet was residual from the trauma she had just been brought out of. Perhaps, it was not. She followed in his shadow, coming to a fuller realization of why Mustang was already, at age twenty-five, a major in the Amestrian army. His alchemy was well-suited to the Ishvalan front lines.

 

He was truly a force to be reckoned with.

 

As long as the flames do not devour his soul, too.

 

It wasn’t long before they arrived at their destination, without harm or incident. Her teammates welcomed her arrival, and before she knew it, Mustang had vanished.

 

I never did thank him.

 

Riza’s mental state had returned to at least a semblance of normalcy, though deep down she knew she would never be quite the same.

 

At one time, I owed my livelihood to that man...

 

...Now, I owe him my life.

 

~~

 

In a way, the silence was almost as disturbing as the event itself.

 

Colonel Roy Mustang was not generally a man of many words; but in all the years she had served under him, First Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye had never once witnessed a time where he did not speak at all.

 

It had been nearly two full days now. She remembered the moment it happened all too well – remembered how, the instant he took that phone call, she had known that everything was very wrong. She had watched his face as he listened, his eyes hard and emotionless. Only his hands had betrayed him, as he replaced the receiver. They were shaking.

 

He had turned to her then – his voice even, authoritative.

 

“Gather your things, Lieutenant, we’re going to Central. Lieutenant Colonel Hughes is dead.”

 

Those were the very last words he had spoken.

 

From the four-hour train ride to Central to the briefing at Headquarters, all the way up to the preparations for the funeral, he had not said a word... at least, no more than a simple yes or no.

 

Thinking back, it occurred to Riza that she had done the talking for him, shouldering the burden of his responsibilities without a second thought.

 

It seemed that the whole of Central was stricken dumb with shock as the procession of black vehicles wound throughout the deserted city streets. When they reached the cemetery, all of them began making their way across the grassy knoll, Riza and her C.O. taking their places in the ordered ranks of soldiers who were there to pay their respects.

 

The air was sharp and chill; even the weather seemed to be mourning their loss. Though it was a cloudless day, the sun itself seemed to have lost its warmth, and Riza was glad for her military-issued overcoat. She had expected Mustang to ask for his long before now, but today he seemed not to feel anything. At last, she just offered it to him, and he took it without comment.

 

The ceremony was everything a man like Maes Hughes deserved – his memory was honored by his family and his comrades, and the entire event was conducted beautifully. The Fuhrer himself was present, and his imposing figure added an extra gravity to the occasion... and an acute finality, as well.

 

It was over before she knew it. Near the end, when Hughes’ young daughter began pleading that her father not be buried, there was not an unaffected soul in the group. Her cries carried across the rows of gravestones, knifing at the hearts of those who, like her, wanted nothing more than for Hughes to come back... to be able to return to his work, with the signature cheerful smile that he withheld from no one.

 

Afterward, the crowd slowly dispersed. Riza lingered longer than some, offering her condolences to the family and speaking quietly with some of her acquaintances from Central. Eventually, however, the bitter wind began to chafe her face, and she looked around for her superior officer. After a moment of careful scrutiny, she finally noticed him standing alone at his best friend’s grave.

 

She hesitated then, not wanting to disturb him.

 

“Lieutenant Hawkeye, the car is waiting.”

 

It was their driver who spoke. It was then that Riza realized that most of the soldiers present had already departed for Headquarters.

 

Riza nodded solemnly. “All right. I’ll get the Colonel.”

 

She slipped her hands into her pockets and started walking, her boots crunching in the dying grass.

 

His back was to her, and she wasn’t certain, but he seemed to be saying something. She pressed her lips together, still loath to interrupt him.

 

“Colonel.” She kept her voice soft, unimposing. “Are you warm enough?”

 

Mustang continued to stare at the tombstone at his feet. When he finally opened his mouth, he spoke as though he had not heard her question.

 

“Alchemists as a whole... we really are horrible creatures, aren’t we.”

 

Riza wordlessly moved forward so that she was even with him, her eyes drifting to his face.

 

“There’s a side of me that’s desperately trying to crack the theories of human transmutation right now. I think I understand what drove those boys when they tried to...” Roy paused, swallowing quietly. “..bring back their mother.”

 

At that moment, Riza finally truly understood why he had not spoken in all this time. He was not numb with grief. Instead, he had been hashing everything out in his mind, over and over and over, trying to figure out what could have been done differently... what he could possibly do now.

 

And, judging from his bitter, tired statements, he had not been able to come up with anything – save what was forbidden, what made no sense.

 

Riza studied his face, the hard lines that usually graced her countenance all but faded away. “Are you all right, Colonel?”

 

He seemed to rouse himself, replacing his military cap over his slicked back hair, concealing his tormented eyes in the shadow of the brim.

 

“Yeah. I’m fine. Except... it’s a terrible day for rain.”

 

At first, Riza wasn’t sure she’d heard him correctly. She glanced up at the sky to confirm what she already knew. “What do you mean? It’s not raining.”

 

“Yes...” Broken and raw, his voice in that moment was no longer the voice of Colonel Roy Mustang, the firebrand of East Headquarters. “...it is.”

 

Riza watched in quiet surprise as the tears began coursing down his cheeks, her heart breaking with his. She was not free to comfort him. She could not take his hand... embrace him... tell him it was okay to cry. She could not even allow him the chance to remain at his comrade’s graveside to deal privately with his grief.

 

She could only fulfill her duty.

 

She took a deep, inaudible breath. “Oh.” Her tone was pragmatic, even, though perhaps rather quieter than usual. “So it is.” Though it sounded perfectly appropriate for someone of her relationship to him to say, in reality it was not the correct statement to make, and she hoped that somehow he would recognize her compassion in the irrationality of her agreement.

 

She straightened, glancing back down the hill. “Why don’t we head back. It’s getting chilly out here.”

 

Her superior turned in a manner that kept his face out of her line of sight. “Right.”

 

Without another word, he began making his way across the neatly plotted lot.

 

Riza followed, a bitter taste rising unbidden to her mouth. I thought that after Ishval, I would never be able to feel grief again. But I was wrong.

 

Lost in her own thoughts, feeling almost ill now that the adrenaline was wearing off, she had almost tuned out the happenings of the world around her... until a sound made her stop.

 

Uh’tSHH!

 

Her heart skipped a beat when she heard Roy sneeze.

 

Mustang had always possessed a sensitivity to cold... subtle, but easy enough to detect if one spent as much time around him as Riza had by now. Her forehead creased a little, for it would seem that her suspicions were proving correct; right now, when he was especially vulnerable, was not the best time for him to be out in it.

 

Sure enough, from her position behind him, she saw the telling twitch of his shoulders, heard his breath quietly hitch. And then – “Hh..hhtTSCH! Uhp’tSHU!”

 

Her heart sank down toward her toes, and she clenched her pocketed hands. As she did so, however, her fingers brushed against something hidden within the depths of her coat, and an almost startling thought occurred to her. She drew the object out, firming her jaw with dutiful resolve.

 

“Sir.” In a moment, she was back at his side, and she briefly touched his arm to get his attention.

 

Almost reluctantly, he faced her, pulling a white-gloved hand down over his eyes, nose, and mouth before making eye contact with her. “What is...” he trailed off, tired, red-rimmed eyes resting upon her quietly outstretched hand.

 

Nestled in her palm was a small square of soft cloth, modest but clean.

 

She did not say anything, only raised her eyebrows slightly as she caught his eye. Close as she was, she could clearly see how his clean-cut features were affected from the combination of tears and cold. As she gazed at him, she saw his eyes defocus again.

 

Hht’TSSHH!” He brought his fist up to his mouth so as not to spray her, then sighed, tugging off his gloves. “Point taken,” he began gruffly, shoving his gloves into his pockets and reaching for the handkerchief.

 

However, as he did so, she pulled her hand back, squeezing the cloth in her hand as she drew herself up. “Don’t stop, sir. You have to keep moving.”

 

Pushing the cloth toward him again, she paused. “However....” She hesitated, as if unsure whether to continue or not. Finally, however, she firmed her chin, chocolate-brown eyes flitting briefly from the handkerchief to his face. “Sometimes, tears testify to strength, not weakness.”

 

A gust of wind whistled through the gravestones and the tops of the trees, catching the edges of their long coats and teasing Riza’s bangs into her eyes.

 

Mustang reached out for the cloth, his fingers momentarily closing over hers. Hawkeye almost flinched at the touch. His hands were cold, as they often were... but they were anything but limp or lifeless. No, his grasp was firm, strong. Just like she remembered.

 

For that single moment – which was little more than a passing breath, yet felt like a lifetime – the two of them looked at each other, the silence between them speaking volumes.

 

Then, he accepted the handkerchief from her, and that silence was broken.

 

As he began to turn away, he spoke again. “Thank you.”

 

No Lieutenant.

 

Not even “Hawkeye.”

 

Just one simple phrase, a common, benign courtesy. But Riza Hawkeye knew precisely how much those two words of his were worth.

 

He faced away from her, taking a couple steps back up the hill as he blew his nose. She waited patiently, grateful to have a minute to sort out her jumbled thoughts.

 

No one was around to see their interaction, since up by the graves they were safe from prying eyes. Nothing really had transpired, either... but somehow, she knew that this conversation had been just a little too real for both of them.

 

He seemed to take his time, even going so far as to neatly fold up the handkerchief and place it in his pocket before returning his attention to her. When, at last, he turned around, his entire demeanor was altered.

 

“I’m going to the court martial office, Lieutenant.” His gaze was steely, laced with a sudden latent energy. “Find Major Armstrong and meet me at the scene of the crime.”

 

He slid his fingers along the brim of his hat, an intense determination engulfing his stance as he strode past her toward the entrance of the cemetery. “I will get to the bottom of this, I promise you that.”

 

Riza squared her shoulders, something very like a gentle smile playing about her lips as she watched his retreating back. It was gone in a heartbeat, however, and she, too, began to make her way to her destination.

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

~~

 

...There you go. Lemme know what you thought! :3

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AWESOME. Y'know, in the end, I didn't even care how much Mustang sneezed (though they were fantastic!) because you wrote this so well!! :heart: I really don't think I could be disappointed with anything you post, it's all just amazing, and it's clear how much attention you give your fics. I'm so glad you did end up posting this - I love the connection between the past and present scenes, I think you illustrated it beautifully. Thank you so much for sharing this! :D

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What did I think of it? Hmm....

LOOOOOOOOOOVE

That about sums it up. Angsty, adorable, all-together tear-jerkingly huggably lovely. :')

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when I was reading this part in the manga, it didn't dwell in my mind too long that Hughes was "dead" cause we all knew she was alive, but Mustang didn't know that. I think you did a really amazing job (as you always do LOL) of showing how deep the bond between Riza and Roy is. your writing gets better every time I read it, I swear. you could write FMA fanfics forever and I'd still read 'em.

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Don't mess with Hawkeye. That's what I learned...that and don't mess with Roy unless he has a teasy cold to toy with :D. Another wonderful story you made! ^^ This story had a more serious tone to it, but you managed to make the serious tone...how can I say it clearly?...become your advantage in your words. It wasn't gloomy gloomy serious, but a serious that made the reader understand what you were saying. Plus, it all worked out in the end :)...in more ways than one XD. Roy is such an easy person for you to write about...(target ;)) Thanks for sharing this!

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GAH!!!! *flails* I am SOOO glad you chose to post this! I swear it's the ONLY fetish-related fanfic that has ever made me want to cry! You did it SOOO well, and the characters were so spot on it just about floored me! And Poor Hughes! Poor Roy! Poor everyone who loved Hughes! *Almost cries again* Thank you for sharing!

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