bob_fish (bob_fish) wrote,

Fic: The Riderless Horse, Prologue

Title: The Riderless Horse
Author: bob_fish
Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Gen Fic
Characters/Pairings: Roy and Riza (friendship), Team Mustang, Hakuro, Madam Christmas. No pairings here, but is a standalone prequel to a Roy/Ed fic
Rating: R for the sort of occasional gruesomeness that comes with a murder mystery
Word count: 25966
Warnings: the non-canon character deaths you see on the summary, swears, blood and guts at about the same level as the FMA manga itself
Summary: You've only been awake for thirty-six hours, staged a coup, fought a bunch of monsters and nearly died a few times. It's not as if you've had a tough day. Post-Manga, Slightly AU from Ch 105. What if Olivia Armstrong hadn't survived the Promised Day? The final battle is over, but the struggle for Amestris goes on - and if Team Mustang were looking forward to a little rest and recuperation, they can think again. When Fuhrer Grumman dies after only a few hours in office, Roy and Riza launch a secret murder investigation. The stakes are high: not only the country's future, but the lives of everyone they know …
Thanks: to enemytosleep for her usual kickass job as editor and beta - even though this time, she was simultaneously running Big Bang so capably and efficiently. To my artists a_big_apple, dreamer1789, and almost_british for their lovely arts. I also totally owe cornerofmadness, seatbeltdrivein and havocmangawip for awesome specialist advice and feedback, and a_big_apple for draft feedback and cheerleading.
Extra tl;dr note: This fic is a part of my Wrong Turn 'verse, and a prequel to No Small Injury. However - it's gen, and can also be read as a standalone to canon if you'd like to do so.

Roy isn't exactly getting the guided tour of Armstrong Manor. Olivia Armstrong strides rapidly through the vast, high-ceilinged rooms of her family home, looking only ahead of her. Her legs are longer than his, Roy tells himself as he tries to keep pace with her. All the furniture is swathed in dust sheets. Roy looks down at the old inlaid marble floor, then up at the ceiling fresco. His mother would give her eye teeth to have a good nose around here. He'll meet her in a few hours. He hopes that her calculations are right, and that they haven't already come for her. His stomach gives a little twist of fear. He wishes she'd left on the train with the girls. He wishes the girls could send word that they made it.

It's the day before the eclipse.

If Olivia Armstrong dies, she declares, she's leaving this house to Roy. At first, he assumes she's just saying that to show how her family's traditions are just so much dead wood to her, that she's trying to stick it to her old man. It takes a few moments for him to see the unsubtly hidden message in that silly declaration.

She's leaving him the country.

The idea is somewhat mind-blowing. Their rivalry is civilised, but about matters of government, their disagreement is profound. He has never considered before that she might countenance leaving him in charge. He supposes it means that he won't have to contend with a Briggs rebellion if she dies tomorrow. If he survives. He briefly considers returning the sentiment, but doesn't. It's hardly necessary. If he were to die, she'd hardly be waiting for an endorsement from his people. She'd have her boots up on the Fuhrer's desk before his corpse was even cold.

If there was such as thing as a good dictator, Olivia Armstrong would make one - but Roy doesn't believe in good dictators. He believes in the mess of democracy: presidential elections, squabbling political parties, protests, radicals handing out pamphlets. He believes in heated arguments in pubs in which people shout out loud that the President is a moron, in a free press cruelly documenting every time a politician loses his dignity in public. This country was cobbled together from fifteen warring states, by a monster, to serve that monster's purposes - but Roy doesn't love it any the less for that. Amestris has become worth loving through her people, and her people can remake her into something better.

Roy himself spoke with Grumman a few days ago, trying to strategise about what to do next if Roy dies tomorrow - although he's absolutely not going to let it happen. Grumman was unhelpful. He offered contingency plans, but he kept trying to divert the conversation. He laughed and told Roy he was indestructible, remember that time when he was eight, and fell sixteen feet out of the big oak in University Park? Roy tried to tell him that this was a much taller tree, but Grumman laughed and told him he worried too much for someone so young.

That's the exact problem: Grumman has known Roy since he was a child, through Roy's mother. In Grumman's mind, Roy is still about eight years old. Roy can hardly believe that after a whole career spent in the military, half of it dealing with the endless troubles of the East, Grumman still has any belief that your affection can protect the people around you. But he's old. This is obviously one of his bouts of sentimentality. Roy pushes him into making plans, but in the end he just lets him have his belief that nothing bad could possibly happen. He imagines that if it comes down to a contest between Armstrong and Grumman, things might not go well for the old man.

Olivia Armstrong strides away from him into the trees. Roy watches her go with a grin, amused at how he's riled her up. Then it flashes sharp and solid into his mind that this was the last conversation they will ever have. Might be the last, he corrects himself. Stop being melodramatic. Armstrongs and Armstrong Manor both influence one to melodrama. Everything around here is too big, too theatrical, but Roy is a Mustang: he's been taught different lessons. The first thing he ever learnt from Chris Mustang was, keep your wits about you and stay in the game.

On to Chapter One!
Tags: [chapterfic] the riderless horse, [fandom] fullmetal alchemist, [fanworks] art, [fanworks] fic, [fic series] wrong turn 'verse

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