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Like a Heartbeat

In the stillness of remembering what you had...

Like a heartbeat ... drives you mad

      "Life's about changing, nothing ever stays the same."

In 1915, the old military regime had crumbled without the puppeteer behind the stage, and from the ashes came a more diplomatic parliament. Brigadier General Roy Mustang and Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye narrowly escaped being charged for Fuhrer King Bradley's murder. Officially, they were heroes who tried valiantly to save the fuhrer from psychotic delusions of the late Lieutenant Colonel Frank Archer. Unofficially, their careers were dead, and they were pariahs among the military. Mustang transferred Hawkeye out of his command, keeping her in Central instead of out on the road with his new job responsibilities. She had been shot in the battle, and that, to him, was a warning. He would not bury another friend.

Edward Elric, though seriously wounded, was able to provide a sufficient toll to the Gate to restore his little brother, Alphonse, to his rightful body. Neither of them yet out of their teens and having lived more than most twice their age, both brothers were looking forward to a quiet, very early retirement in their sleepy hometown. But Alphonse's involvement with Winry Rockbell, and Pinako's fading health both proved to be obstacles, and little by little, Edward watched his brother outgrow him, coming into his own to take care of the family -- just as Edward always wanted for him.

Be careful what you wish for.

Life went on.

The state alchemists were separated from the military, and those certified had to choose one or the other, a commission or a certification. Edward retained his watch and second name, but the requirements of his job meant sacrificies in order to remain living near his brother. As the years went on, he began staying at Riza Hawkeye's house instead of a hotel during his monthly business trips to Central City, and gradually made his peace with the dependability of the routine and his newfound home away from home.

Everything was the same as it had ever been as Edward arrived in Central, the same as any other month over the last several years.

The same as any other month, any other day, until the bombs went off in Central Headquarters, collapsing a portion of the building with enough force to rival a 6.0 earthquake.

June 8, 1922. The day everything changed.

In the stillness of remembering what you had ... and what you lost

A decade ago, Roy would have thought it was impossible to be any more jaded regarding government powers than he'd been. A decade ago, he'd thought a lot of things.

The office was suddenly feeling claustrophobic, like a prison cell. As tiring as a life constantly on the road was, his occasional, necessary stays at the various headquarter buildings made him appreciate how he usually spent his time. No desks, no paperwork, no four walls from eight till five. No reminders of how things used to be.

No reminders of what was missed.

Roy was silent while he worked, pulling folders out of a box and checking the contents, starting an inventory list. There was work to be done, and where once upon a time he would have made a game of procrastinating as much as he could, the work gave him sufficient distraction from all of the could-have-beens.

The quiet rustling of papers was drowned out by Havoc clearing his throat. "Hey. Think you could maybe tug a few strings to get Hawkeye assigned in he--"

"No." He didn't wait for his subordinate to finish that sentence, and pretended to ignore the way Havoc was staring at him, no longer working.

"We both miss working with her, and I know she wouldn't mind the chance to--"

"I said no, and I mean it," Roy snapped, harsher than he'd intended as he cut him off again. He drew a deep breath, forcing a calmer tone. "For one, that's assuming I've any strings left to pull, which I don't. Second of all, she lives here. She's got a set residence, a set routine. This isn't making us popular with Liore, and I don't want her involved in this. Hawkeye would make too easy a target for them."

"Aw, c'mon, boss." Havoc clearly wasn't about to drop the issue. "We're talking about Hawkeye here. What's a little danger once in a while?"

Roy glared at him. "I'm telling you, It is not worth the risk it would put her in. She's already been shot once, thanks to me. I've buried one of my best friends, again no thanks to me, and I'm not burying anyone else."

"And I suppose you're going to make me transfer out and stay home if I ever get wounded in the line of duty?" Havoc retorted, crossing his arms.

"You're goddamn right I am, and don't give me that look." Frustrated, he knocked the empty box off the desk with the back of his hand and sat down, the old chair groaning at the sudden weight. "My choices got me into this mess, and all of you are paying the price for it."

"I'll give you whatever look I want, especially when you're being an idiot." Havoc hitched a leg up on the corner of the desk.

"And I still outrank you." Roy tossed his pencil on the desk with enough force that it bounced off and skidded across the floor, disappearing from view.

"You made your choices, that's all well and good. But guess what? Nobody made a single damn one of us follow you. We were where we were because we chose to be there. And we'd all still be here if you and Parliament would allow it."

"And you're all idiots!" Roy snapped. "What good did it do? What was the point? You wasted your careers for nothing!"

"I sure as hell don't think I did, and I know Hawkeye doesn't either. Every time you're stuck in an office for more than a few days, you--"

This time, it wasn't Mustang who cut him off. They both froze at the deep, loud, yet far-off rumbling series of booms, and he wasn't sure if he heard it before he felt it, or vice versa. It started low, and the lights flickered, and in the span of barely a second or two, it became a roar so loud that it hurt his bones to feel it, drowning out everything else.

Adrenaline skyrocketed as the lights went out, plunging the windowless office into a pitch black that only seemed to amplify everything else. The noise was too distinctive, and although he'd never felt or heard it on the same scale that rattled his bones and made everything ache, there wasn't any doubt what it was. Roy grabbed for Havoc's arm, fingertips brushing blue wool, intent on getting out, getting to safety, getting his subordinate to safety amid a single thought of absolute certainty.

The building is collapsing.

At the end of the longest road ... is an endless prayer

The cast:
All ages are as of June 8, 1922

Edward Elric: The Fullmetal Alchemist. 23 years old, resides in East City with his younger brother.

Alphonse Elric: 22 years old, resides in East City with his older brother, spends the majority of his time next door in the Rockbell household, helping Winry care for her ailing grandmother and keep the automail business running.

Roy Mustang: Brigadier General, and the former Flame Alchemist. 36 years old and constantly on the road, investigating reports of uprisings and threats against the government.

Riza Hawkeye: Captain, 32 years old, resident of Central City with her dog, Black Hayate. Currently works in the records division, in a post that is no longer authorized for concealed weapons.

Jean Havoc: Captain, 33 years old, and Roy Mustang's only subordinate, lives out of a suitcase as well, working the same investigations.

Winry Rockbell: 22 year old automail mechanic and resident of East City where she lives with her grandmother, Pinako Rockbell, her 26 year old girlfriend, Sheska, and boyfriend, Alphonse Elric.

Gracia Hughes: Resident of Central City, 34 year old widow of Maes Hughes, mother of 11 year old Elysia, and girlfriend of Captain Maria Ross.

Maria Ross: 31 year old captain and resident of Central City, works in the security division.

Russell Tringham: The Green Thumb Alchemist, assigned to East City to try and transform the arid region into a place more productive. 22 years old, lives with his 17 year old brother, Fletcher, and their friend, Rose Thomas, aged 27.

Somebody save me from myself ... I can't go on this way

"Like a Heartbeat" is by kuchenhexe, originally written during NaNoWriMo 2006. This journal was created to avoid spamming chaotic_library with who knows how many chapters, and for lack of anyplace else to post it.

The story title is derived from a Fleetwood Mac song, 'Dreams', chosen for its variety of possible facets and meanings, as well as offering a hint of connection toward a very appropriate unreleased Stevie Nicks song, 'Love, Don't Fail Me Now'. These songs are used only for inspirational purposes and without permission or any connection to Fleetwood Mac or Stevie Nicks.

Fullmetal Alchemist is the intellectual property of Hiromu Arakawa/Square ENIX, MBS, ANX, BONES, FUNimation Productions, Ltd., and the world and characters herein are used without permission, for a nonprofit work of fanfiction.

OTHER DISCLAIMERS: This is rated R for language and mature themes. The pairings portrayed herein are Ed/Riza primarily, with secondary pairings of Gracia Hughes/Maria Ross, and Winry Rockbell in a polyamorous relationship between Al Elric and Sheska. There is deliberate subtextual content leaning toward Roy Mustang/Jean Havoc, although I personally fail at writing that pairing, which is why it's only subtextual at best.

Any additional disclaimers can be found in this entry.

Who wants to wrap around your dreams ... and have you any dreams you'd like to sell?

Fleetwood Mac

Now here you go again,
You say you want your freedom.
Well, who am I to keep you down?
It's only right that you should
Play the way you feel it,
But listen carefully to the sound
Of your loneliness,
Like a heartbeat, drives you mad
In the stillness of remembering what you had,
And what you lost.
And what you had,
And what you lost.

Thunder only happens when it's raining,
Players only love you when they're playing.
Say, women, they will come and they will go.
When the rain washes you clean, you'll know.

Now here I go again, I see the crystal visions,
I keep my visions to myself.
It's only me.
Who wants to wrap around your dreams and
Have you any dreams you'd like to sell?
Dreams of loneliness,
Like a heartbeat, drives you mad
In the stillness of remembering what you had,
And what you lost.
What you had,
And what you lost.

Thunder only happens when it's raining,
Players only love you when they're playing.
Say, women, they will come and they will go.
When the rain washes you clean, you'll know.
Love, Don't Fail Me Now
Stevie Nicks

Matter of the heart, what the heart has to say,
Burns the dark, and the mind will have its way.
Well, you know that the heart will come
Like a long-lost friend,
And you feel it with every beat,
But you won't give in.

What's the matter with a heart
When it's frozen inside?
You can't imagine how to start,
You have to swallow your pride.
It comes down to a single word
That you just can't find,
But the minute that you let it out,
You can leave it all behind.

Well, love, don't fail me now, don't let me go.
End this emptiness, melt all the snow.
Lonely as I am, such a stubborn man,
Love, don't fail me now.

And if you're looking for the light,
You can turn from the pain.
If you don't get it right,
You can try it again.
It's a matter of the heart,
Or the heart of the mind,
Love, please save me.
Don't let me be blind.

Try, you can try again,
Somebody save me from myself,
I can't go on this way.
At the end of the longest road
Is an endless prayer,
Like a voice in the wilderness
Crying, "Is there anybody...
There must be somebody there!"

Lonely as I am, such a stubborn man,
Love, don't fail me now.
Love, don't fail me now.
End this emptiness, melt all the snow.
Lonely as I am, such a stubborn man,
Love, don't fail me now.
Love, don't fail me now.
Love, don't fail me now.
Love, don't fail me now.
Don't let me go.
Love, don't fail me now.
Don't let me go.
Love, don't fail me now.
Don't let me go.