A failed assassination attempt leaves Mustang no choice but to flee to Xing. Hawkeye follows.
That weird foreign music plays somewhere nearby and Roy can't stand it just as much as it calls to him. He half-turns to the people in his office, wanting to tell someone to shut the damn radio off, but then he only sees a paper screen embroidered with swans. Havoc, Hawkeye, Breda, Falman, Fury are in Amestris, and he is in Xing.
"Somewhere nearby" is inevitably the lobby of this cheap hotel. He has forgotten the local name for such hotels. Inside it, locals play their stringed instruments in tones that sound wrong to Westerners' ears. Everything is wrong.
He wants walls instead of paper screens. He wants a bed instead of a wooden-slatted contraption with a hard mattress. Even the moon looks like it's made out of paper, or wood, out here. Round face and thin body, like the people. He wants a drink that he knows the name of; the fact that he knows no one is frightening and comforting.
There is no one to call his name, know who he is, know what he's done. During his training, during the war, his life was like this. Then he met Hughes, and then he met those under his command. Then he knew them. They all accepted what he had to do and are inevitably happily under some new command. Life happens. You're transferred because your commander assassinates the head of the country, but doesn't think his response to the people out enough and is booted out.
He hears, above the obnoxious music, a hostess speaking. The language here slurs and moves like water. He knows some of it from training and personal research, enough to get by, but prefers German by a long stretch. But there are no people speaking German here.
The sliding door in the room to the right of him opens, and he sees the shadow of the hostess girl and another woman. The woman's voice sounds vaguely familiar, but they're speaking so quietly he can't make out what they're saying. Their hands meet; extra coin for something, he thinks, and hears a satisfying clink in return. Who has business in a place like this?
The hostess leaves. The woman opens a suitcase, rummages around, then kneels right next to the edge of the screen so her shadow is complete and distinct.
She speaks in German.
He freezes. They found him. He closes his eyes.
"No, this is Mister Bradley."
"It's taken me a long time to find you."
"That was the intention." He speaks sharply. "I told you not to follow me."
"If it had been an order, my response might have been different. It was a hurried request from a friend who wasn't in his right mind."
He pushes his hair back, shrugs his shoulders, and thinks how it is such a Hughes thing to do. "Who's to say what a right mind is? Who in their right mind assassinates the head of a country?"
"Things are better, now. They aren't as good as they would be if you were ruling."
It hits him: I don't understand blind faith. Gods are whispers in the back of humanity's mind, alchemy can fail due to human error, and if alchemy isn't always right than nothing is. In the back of his mind he can't help feeling comforted that Hawkeye followed him, but-
"I will never-"
"You don't have to say it. And it doesn't necessarily have to be true. I said I'd follow you, and I have. It sounds cliche, but what else is there?"
She has never moved once since the beginning of the conversation. She's right, of course: he tries to calculate every possible following situation when he says things like "Will you follow me?". In his one great pride, he didn't even consider failure or how Hawkeye's not an alchemist, so all she has are guns and words. He meant what he said in seriousness at the time, but he meant everything he did in seriousness at the time, and look what heights that brought him to. That stupid music is still torturing his brain; he's even heard better during his stay. Why won't someone pay the man enough so he'll stop? He tries to pull himself together. Five seconds have passed.
"What exactly are you trying to accomplish?"
"I wanted to see you. Everyone wanted to see you, but if we all left it would look suspicious. Loyalty is unfortunately still important."
They still consider him a threat to the state. He's unsure as to whether this is a good or bad thing.
"You've seen me, so now you can leave." There was his old tone of voice. Commanding. He had wondered where it went, to be replaced either by soft whispers or a bitter growl.
"Come outside," she says, and he sighs and slides open the paper door to the courtyard, almost breaking it yet again.
He's unused to seeing her in any color but blue. Pink accents her eyes and he's amazed at how the most deadly person he knows can, every once in a while, look serene. Maybe it's just the moonlight, or his adjustment to this country's need for serenity in all things. Even death, which he's seen far too many times come in the form of limbs shot off or a bayonette through the back. It was never serene then.
His outfit (what is the name? He can't remember; he's been told so many times but he can't remember) is blue, to twist the knife in a little deeper.
"I think I'm going to stay here for a little while. I need a vacation."
"You will not."
She has an amused smile. "I have six months' worth of leave, Colonel." This catches him off guard, and he remembers that she never took a vacation under his command. Under stingy Amestris leave policies, if she has six months of leave then she hasn't taken a vacation other than individual days for years. "Have you visited any of the local temples?"
"Would you like to go with me tomorrow? I hear they're gorgeous."
He sits on a rock. "I don't think I have much choice, here. I could tell you to go away, but you'd just come back."
She nods. "Correct."
"There's nothing for me to do here."
"This is the time for us to think of something to do, for some resolve."
Her words make sense. He just wishes he could accept them, in a world that doesn't seem to make sense anymore. There are the same moon and stars above that were in Amestris, but their positions are all wrong. His position is all wrong.
"Can you let it go?"
He doesn't answer. He wishes, silently, that the moon and stars would revolve and turn backward, put him back where he is supposed to be.