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When people thought that Olivier Mira Armstrong could hear them, they said she was a woman of action. When people didn’t think she was listening, they said she was impatient and vicious. She rather preferred the second. As it was, woman of action or not, she was stuck in a meeting room with six idiots, a useless old asshole, and the most infuriating man in the world, all of whom were shaving years off her life with every second. She wanted to kill the imbecile who had set this whole mess in action by making a tank explode in the no-man's-land between Amestris and Drachma.

“General Armstrong,” Mustang said, calling her attention from her angry musings.

What.” Olivier growled.

“If you’re finished glaring off into space,” Mustang said with his annoying little smile, “Brigadier General Winchester had a question for you.”

Assholes, Olivier thought. She could feel Mustang smirking at her, like the bastard knew what she was thinking. Her lip curled. As if she was hard to read. She didn’t hide her disdain— not like he did. She wasn’t a little bitch.

“Fine,” Olivier said. “Ask.”

“What— what would you recommend,” Winchester started, a quiver in his voice.

She scowled. “Sit up straight. If you have a question to ask, then ask it, or stop wasting my time.”

“Yes, sir.” He snapped up in his seat. “I wanted to ask what sort of machinery you think the Drachmans might fortify their front lines with and how we can defend against them.”

At least it wasn’t a stupid question. She frowned, thinking. “They’ll be setting up long range artillery aimed at the nearest city. It will be a threat to your citizens. I’d suggest standing your ground, but given your history of incompetence, the city should be evacuated.”

“Of course,” Mustang slid in smoothly, “the goal is to keep them from firing at all, eliminating the need for retaliation.”

“Good luck with that,” Olivier snapped.

Mustang smiled mildly. “That is why we’ve gathered, General.” He looked down at the table at the senior staff. “I’m sure we’ll be able to figure something.”

“I came here to prepare for a war with Drachma,” Olivier said, standing up. It’s been hours and all they’ve talked about so far has been invoking peace treaties. “The rest of you can muck around with politics. I’ll be getting ready for the eventuality of battle.” She stalked to the door and opened it before turning around. “Major General Winchester, you will join me as soon the Führer gives you leave. I’ll need a detailed report on the state of West Command’s current defenses.” She nodded sharply, “General.” That was the most respect she would ever show Mustang. “Führer.” She inclined her head slightly deeper than she did for Mustang. “Others.” She gave them all an imperious stare. They flinched. Cowards. She glared at Mustang once more, for good measure, and left.

The door slammed behind her.

Her private office in Central was rarely used. It wasn’t a grand affair, not like Mustang’s, which was always bustling with staff despite the fact that it was only his secondary office, or Grumman’s which had been decorated far more richly than the spartan requirements of a soldier ought to permit. Hers had a single desk and two chairs, with a window looking to the inside of Central Command. The only reason she kept the office instead of demanding the space be put to better use was that it had a private phone.

She snorted. ‘Private phone’ was an oxymoron when it came to the military. She was sure Mustang and Grumman had each tapped it to keep an eye on her, which was fine. She didn’t have anything to hide.

She dialed the number for Lieutenant General Howitzer’s office. She doubted she’d get through to him— Western Command was probably in chaos right then— but his secretary would be able to put her through to someone who could give her what she needed.

“This is General Armstrong,” Olivier said as soon as she heard someone pick up. “Where is the Lieutenant General?”

The woman on the other end coughed politely. “He’s a bit busy now, General. May I take a message?”

“No,” Olivier said. “Who manages the armory?”

“That would be Colonel Stryker, sir. Shall I see if he’s available?”

“Yes,” Olivier replied, and waited for the woman to put her through.

She was drumming her fingers on the desk, frowning, when she got a strange feeling. Call it a soldier’s intuition, or credit her excellent hearing, but she knew there was someone in the hall. Someone walking quietly, as if they were trying not to alert her to their presence.

She hung up.

The door opened inward, as all doors in Central Command did. Good for barricading yourself in, hard to block from the outside. She’d give the bastards who built the country some credit; they were certainly paranoid enough to think ahead. She respected that. Paranoia had kept her alive.

Olivier unsheathed her sword and stood to the side of the door so it would mask her when it opened. She didn't have to wait long. The door creaked open without a knock— that was the first indication that her hunch was correct. The second indication came when the person didn’t ask out loud if she was in the office.

She still couldn’t see them. They were on the other side of the door, and she couldn’t exactly stab them with the iron-reinforced wood between them. She also refused to give away her tactical advantage by moving. The would-be assassin could damn well come to her.

The person took another step forward, past the protection the door had been affording them. She smiled wolfishly, and attacked.

Olivier stabbed their gloved hand first (foolish of them to put it out like that for her, even if they were holding a gun) and the person let out a grunt of pain. Good, Olivier thought. If they had screamed, she would have had people come rushing in, and the last thing she wanted was some idiot private coming in with a gun and messing the whole thing up.

They dropped the gun and Olivier kicked the door shut, trapping them in the room with her.

She stabbed their other hand, hitting just where the tendons came together. They wouldn’t be able to hold a butter knife for months, if ever, let alone a gun. Blood dripped profusely from both gloved hands, staining the carpet. She smirked. She was going to enjoy billing Mustang for that.

The would-be assassin stared up at her, hands useless at their sides. Still, they tried to knock her off balance with a kick, then elbow her in the chest to get her to drop her sword. She was very nearly impressed. Usually the idiots sent to assassinate her started crying the second she’d gotten her sword into them and collapsed on the floor. This one had moxie.

Their attempt didn’t work, of course, but it was still a refreshing change of pace. She dodged the kick, let them unbalance themself by moving forwards, and then shoved them to the ground, where she stabbed their calf. But it had been nice of them to try and give her a challenge.

“Alright,” she said, pulling her sword out of their calf and watching the blood leak from the wound. “Are you finished yet?”

To the assassin’s credit, they gritted their teeth, forced themselves over, and tried to kick at her with their one good leg. She stabbed that one too, this time in the foot.

“You’ll bleed out if you keep trying,” she said casually. And it would have been a pity if they did that. She would have respected them more, of course, but she needed them alive. It had been a while since someone had tried to kill her in Central, and there was a good chance she had been lured down here away from all her men just for that attempt. Besides, if this person had cared about the respect of their target, then they were pathetic anyways.

“Fine,” the assassin growled.

She looked at them, unimpressed. They would probably still try to kill her if they got the chance. Not that she was foolish enough to give it to them.

Now that Olivier had the wherewithal to look at them, she saw how well put-together his disguise was. The assassin was a brunette with a strong jaw and a weak nose— an altogether unforgettable face— but for the stab wounds, he would have looked like a normal Lance Corporal going about their business within Central. His uniform fit perfectly, which was highly unusual for someone disguising themselves, but was probably also why he didn’t get noticed. He was even wearing gloves, something that had been adopted more and more by the junior officers since Mustang’s increase in notoriety. It was unfortunate a man like Mustang was so popular; he was going to lead all the soldiers that idolized him in to imitating his ludicrous fashion sense.

She gave the assassin one more cold look before stomping over to her desk and calling the number for the board room they had been meeting in. The person who answered was one of the Major Generals. She couldn’t remember his name; she hadn’t bothered to learn it.

“We’re busy,” he said.

“No, you’re not.” Olivier paused for half a second. Her instinct was to ask for Grumman. The man was a dick, but he was wily, and he had used to thrive on espionage and assassinations back in the day. But, she considered, Mustang had been the one running the meeting. Mustang had been the one calling the shots. He may have been an asshole, but she was reasonably sure that he wasn’t out to get her. She hadn’t decided to go after the position of Führer yet, after all, and he was still in the east. He needed her to keep things steady in the North. “Get me Mustang,” she ordered.

Mustang picked up a moment later, bemused. She could almost see the stupid expression on his face as he picked up the phone. “What is it, General Armstrong?”

“Someone tried to assassinate me,” she said. “They’re bleeding out on my office carpet. You might want to come see them before they pass out.”

“I’ll be right there,” he said, and he pushed open her door half a minute later, thankfully unaccompanied. Credit where credit was due, Mustang was punctual.

“So, this is the would-be assassin?” Mustang asked.

Olivier nodded.

“He’s in rather more pieces than I expected, considering your tendencies, General,” Mustang remarked drily.

“We needed him alive, didn’t we?” Olivier’s voice was cold. She didn’t believe in keeping dangerous people alive unless they were useful. “Unless you’d rather I cut his throat here and now.”

Mustang gave a small shake of his head. “That won’t be necessary.” He knelt down next to the man, putting pressure on the calf wound— the worst of the four. “I’ve called for a doctor.”

Olivier snorted derisively. Trust Mustang to play the good guy. Well, whatever worked. People do tend to get a bit less chatty once you’ve stabbed them. Maybe his gambit would pay off.

“Now,” Mustang said, voice just on the hard edge of strict-yet-caring, “why don’t you tell us who you are and why you were trying to kill our dear General.”

The assassin, to his credit, said nothing.

Olivier raised her eyebrows. “You know,” she said to him, “General Mustang might be too soft for it, but I’m willing and able to withhold medical treatment if you refuse to talk.”

The assassin laughed weakly. “I thought you needed me alive.”

Olivier stepped forward, placed the tip of her bloodstained sword at the man’s throat and used it to tilt his face up to meet hers. “Trust me,” she said. “We’ll find a way to deal without you.”

“Fine,” the assassin said, and then conveniently passed out.

Olivier looked at him with disgust. “Coward. Now we have to keep him alive.”

“Yes,” Mustang said with rather more dry amusement than the situation merited, though that was his default, so Olivier should hardly have been surprised. “That is rather unfortunate. Now, would you help me save this man’s life so that you can kill him later?”

Olivier scoffed, but tore a strip of fabric off the man’s uniform to begin bandaging his hands.

She and Mustang retreated to the corner as the med team lifted the man onto the desk, bandaged his wounds, and began to perform a blood transfusion.

“I’ll have one of my people look into the quartermaster angle of it,” Mustang said quietly enough that only Olivier could hear. “His uniform fit too well for it to have been stolen.”

“You noticed it too, then,” Olivier replied. “Good.”

Mustang grimaced. “I just wish it had come at a better time.”

“That’s what I’m worried about,” Olivier said. “No one at Northern Command would have been able to get this close to me. I don’t think this was some opportunistic idiot with a grudge and a desire for a promotion.”

“You think they engineered the Drachma situation just to lure you down here?” Mustang sounded less surprised than he should have been. Either he was the one trying to kill her or he had been suspicious from the start too.

“Yes,” Olivier said. “What kind of idiot blows up a tank by accident thirty meters into no-man's land? Even the imbeciles at West Command shouldn’t be so clumsy as to do that. I’d initially written it off as incompetence, but this confirms my suspicions. Major Henschel is on leave this month, which means he was unable to accompany me when my presence was requested, and Captain Besson is on an inspection tour of Briggs. The only one of my men we could spare to accompany me is a Sergeant who was recently transferred from West Command.”

Mustang raised his eyebrows slightly. “You realize this assassination attempt means that all the senior staff are going to be confined to this building.”

Olivier scoffed. “That’s a terrible idea. We’re sitting ducks when surrounded by other people.”

“Yes,” Mustang inclined his head slightly in agreement. “The two of us are rather hard to get rid of when left to our own devices, which is why they might be relying on us being forced to reign ourselves in around other people.”

“I suppose that means we’ll have to go about this subtly.” She curled her lip in disgust.

“Yes.” Mustang sounded as if he were holding back a chuckle. “Sorry to bother you so, General.”

“Whatever. Are we done?”

“Actually,” Mustang said. “I wanted to say that I’m flattered by your faith in me.”

Olivier sneered. “Better you than Grumman. Besides, you need me. I don’t need to worry about you just yet.”

“Well, I guess I should be glad you think I’m a threat.”

“You’re not,” Olivier said. “That’s why I called you.”

Mustang shrugged and started to leave. “You should consider changing, General. You’re breaking uniform code.”

Olivier looked down at herself; she was covered in blood.

 

Mustang had been right; Central Command was put on lockdown the second he had announced the assassination attempt. He, Grumman, and the other senior staff had been confined to their offices for the time being, with only their most trusted aides allowed in and out.

Her own office was covered in blood, so she was assigned the office of a minor official. Her Sergeant had picked up another aide to help her. She had already been suspicious of him, but that made her downright pissed. He had picked the most infuriatingly cheerful idiot in the whole damn city.

She could glare most people into submission, and, if that failed, she could cut them down to size with cold remarks or her sword, depending upon the situation. The only people who had ever even been able to pretend with any sort of proficiency that they weren’t scared of her had been the Fullmetal brat, Mustang, and Grumman himself. At least Fullmetal had been taciturn (if inclined to shout), Mustang reserved, and Grumman disinterested; the smiling asshole was a friendly nightmare disguised as a twenty-five-year-old girl.

The girl (Olivier hadn’t bothered to learn her name and she didn’t intend to) stepped inside the office, as she had done every fifteen minutes for the past four hours. “Can I get you anything, sir?”

“No,” Olivier growled, arms crossed. “Do your duty and guard the door.”

“Yes, sir!” The girl responded cheerfully.

Olivier didn’t bother hoping she would stay out. Olivier’s orders hadn’t worked before. The girl must have been informed that she had a tendency to do whatever she wanted and was checking on her every few minutes to make sure she was still there. Olivier almost wanted to see what would happen if she tried to leave. Maybe the girl would show some unprecedented spine and pull a gun on her. It would be a stupid move, but she didn’t seem all that intelligent.

In between the frequent interruptions of the demon spawn, she had been gathering comprehensive lists of West City’s military arsenal and had interrogated Major General Winchester, along with several of his subordinates at West command, over the state of their border defenses.

It would have been laughable if it wasn’t horrifying. At least Bradley’s officers had been competent.

She listed scenarios, created contingency plans, and evaluated the uselessness of the soldiers at Western. It was harder work than it would be for her soldiers, but she was a competent leader. The idiots at Western were not.

She was three pages deep in a counterattack scenario when she heard muted arguing at her door. A knock sounded, along with more arguing, and she huffed.

“Come in,” she ordered.

A confused and scared looking officer walked in, holding several folders and looking for all the world as though they were walking into a den of lions.

Olivier frowned. “What is it?”

“General Mustang said you requested the last four evaluations of field camps on the west border, sir.”

She scowled. She already knew that. She was the one that had requested them. “And?”

“Here they are, sir.” The hapless officer set the folders on the desk.

“Very well,” Olivier said. “Dismissed.”

She didn’t think very highly of Mustang’s campaign to institute routine inspections of field camps. He had been going on about ‘ethical accountability’ and ‘ensuring a decrease in war-focused defenses’ when he had suggested them, but Olivier knew that it was a waste of time and resources. She had a lot of experience in actively deceiving military inspectors— she’d done it at Briggs for years so that her COs would get off her back and let her run her fort— she knew how easy it was to hide anything you didn’t want people to see, even if the inspections were random. She had asked for the records from Mustang without the intention to read a single one.

She was under surveillance by her subordinates— they both were— and since the assassin that had tried to kill her had clearly been well enough connected in Central Command to pass for an officer, there was a good chance that at least a few of the people watching them weren’t just concerned, but actively hostile.

The inspections were the perfect ruse. When Mustang had tried to instate them, she’d marched into his private office and chewed him out. His private, soundproof office. And because she couldn’t have been bothered to fight him publicly on it— if he wanted to invest money in teaching subordinates how to lie to him, that was his business— no one else knew how little she thought of them. After all, it would make perfect sense for her to request reports of the very camps she was looking into defending, at least to anyone but Mustang himself. It had been the best way to give him the ability to send her a clandestine note.

Olivier opened the first folder and scanned through the pages, looking for a sheet out of place. When she didn’t find anything, she moved on to the second one. It was only on the third one, stuck in between the seventh and eighth pages, that she found the note.

‘Don’t trust aides,’ it said. “More to follow.”

Olivier frowned, made sure that no one was about to come in, and got up and threw the note in the fire that she had requested for that very reason. Then she set aside the useless folders and got back to work.

She was forced to spend the night in the office. It wasn’t bad at all; there was a couch and the smiling asshole brought her a few blankets, not to mention there was a private bathroom attached. It irked her, though. She didn’t like how vulnerable she was, staying in one place without adequate protection. Back at Northern Command she might have been alright (not that any of her subordinates would have been foolish enough to try and quarantine her), but the guards in Central were weak, and untrustworthy besides. She wouldn’t be happy until she was back in the North. Mustang better have had a damn good plan coming.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until noon the next day that she got any indication that Mustang had new information. She’d already gotten through potential offensive and defensive strategies for field camps based on one of four separate scenarios, and at the moment she was evaluating the feasibility of constructing more permanent structures and the logic of invading the no-man's land to put pressure on Drachma. That was to say, she was almost out of work to do and she had resorted to coming up with harebrained schemes that the old brass only would have approved because it would have gotten another spot of blood on their fucking circle and the new brass would never agree to because they’re sensible— if useless— fucking cowards.

The wench from Satan brought her lunch with a cheery smile, saying that Mustang’s investigation was going well and surely General Olivier Mira Armstrong would be able to go talk to General Roy very soon.

Olivier gagged when the girl used his first name. Not only was it gross insubordination and indication of a schoolgirl crush, it humanized Mustang beyond the power-hungry asshole she knew he was.

“What has Mustang come up with?” She asked the horrifying self-help book combined with a middle-aged woman’s ‘live, laugh, love sign’ in the shape of a human.

“Oh,” she giggled vapidly. “I’m sure I wouldn’t know, but Captain Havoc has been coming by every few hours and offering me updates.”

“Has he, now.”

“Oh, yes,” she said, “and he’s such a sweetheart, too.” She sighed dreamily.

Olivier very dearly hoped that the girl was actually a double agent and that this was all a routine. If it wasn’t, the girl was doomed. She would have done much better in retail, where her vapidity would have been seen as cute instead of annoying.

“So,” the girl said, hopping up on her desk, “Whatcha working on, sir?”

Olivier glared at her with the fury of a thousand fallen emperors. “Get back to your post, Sergeant.”

“All due respect, sir,” the evil asshole said, “but I’m on break. There’s someone else outside to guard you right now.”

“Then go take your break elsewhere,” Olivier hissed. “Or do something useful with yourself.”

“Alright, General. What can I do for you?”

Olivier handed her a folder of possible strategies to be delivered to Brigadier General Winchester, who could supply them to West Command. She had been as thorough as she could without being there herself, which meant that they were several pages longer than she was wont, and several pages shorter than the idiots at Western might have needed.

“Deliver those,” she ordered.

“Yes, sir.” The smiley moron finally gave her a worthwhile salute, and left.

Finally, she’d gotten rid of her. Olivier estimated that the errand would take her at least half an hour. Good. Olivier had time. All that was left was to wait for Mustang’s inevitable communication.

True to her expectations, there was a knock at the door after a few minutes.

“Come in,” she said, ignoring the sounds of protest the sergeant outside her door was making.

The person who entered was one of Mustang’s men— the black-haired one who did surveillance. In any other circumstance, it would have been odd that he was using one of his most trusted men as a message runner. As it was, she just hoped Mustang had a good enough reason to convince the people looking on that it wasn’t weird.

“General Armstrong, sir!” The man saluted.

“At ease.” She frowned. “My apologies for the trouble at the door. My other aide is on an errand for me. It’s a pity both of them weren’t here.”

What she really meant was ‘I couldn’t get rid of the other one, but if it comes down to a fight then you’ll be fine.’

He nodded in understanding. He had probably expected that; Mustang always had been one to plan for every eventuality.

She raised an eyebrow, waiting for him to respond.

“General Mustang apologizes for having forgotten earlier,” the man said, producing a small box and putting it in front of her. “He had intended to give this to you as a late birthday gift.”

“How very... thoughtful.” She opened the box, finding a silver necklace. She drew it out, inspecting the delicate pendant. It was a silver dragon twisted in on itself with tiny sapphires for eyes. It was gorgeous— small enough to be tasteful, intricate enough that it could function as a piece of art in its own right. Olivier wasn’t given to collecting jewelry, or any frivolities, but she would have liked to keep this one. It was a pity she’d have to get rid of it. Trust Mustang to have made the first tasteful purchase of his life just so she could toss it away.

“Jewelry?” She said flatly, looking for a seam in the pendant. And there. She dug her thumbnail in and popped the whole thing open. The pendant was hollow, clearly meant as some sort of locket. Inside, however, instead of a photo, was a note on the thinnest sheet of paper she’d ever seen. Mustang’s writing was crammed on to it in shorthand.

‘BG Winchester and MG Tishina from West = traitors. Setting a trap for them + accomplices. Using you as bait. Fuery has a note for you. It should piss you off. Come yell at me.’

Olivier’s gaze flicked up to the man— Fuery.

“What a piece of garbage.” She replaced the pendant and note in the box and got up. “Does he think every woman can be charmed by his expensive gifts?”

A small smile flickered on Fuery’s face as she tossed the box, pendant, and note into the fireplace and the whole thing went up in flames.

“No, General Armstrong,” Fuery said. “He said you were too discerning for that. He had a note too.”

Olivier scoffed loudly as Fuery handed her the note.

‘General Armstrong—

Forgive my timing, but I could not wait any longer. The incident today made me all too aware of how little time we have left in the world— and of how much better my time left would be if you were in it. You are beautiful, Olivier; I cannot stop myself from seeing it any longer. Please, when this is all over, allow me to love you the way you deserve to be loved.

Yours forever, in body and soul,

Roy Mustang’

The knowledge that it was fake just barely assuaged her anger. Olivier knew that it was a ruse and she still wanted to tie Mustang down and peel his skin off, bit by bit, until he was screaming for mercy under her hand.

“That insufferable bastard,” she growled, casting the note to the desk where it shows up conspicuously, white stationary against the dark mahogany. Good, the smiley traitor should see it. “Does he think I can be wooed and bedded like his two-bit whores? I am a General. I could destroy him.”

Fuery was doing a decent job of seeming terrified, but there was a sparkle of amusement in his eyes. Maybe he was happy that Mustang’s plan was working; maybe he just wanted to see his boss get slapped around. She didn’t care which.

She pulled the door open with a slam and pushed past the traitorous Sergeant.

“Sir, please,” he begged feebly, letting her push aside with no resistance. He wanted her out in the open where anyone could get to her and no one could pinpoint him as a suspect.

Olivier resisted the urge to swear. Mustang had been right. On one hand, good, because that meant she could leave this imbecile behind. On the other hand, Mustang being right meant that he’d become even more of a smug little bitch.

Olivier stalked down the hall, glaring at people who jumped out of her way and pushing aside the ones who didn’t. She turned a corner, heading into an empty stairwell, and put her hand on the pommel of her sword as a warning to Fuery.

As expected, the second there weren’t any people in sight, the Lance Sergeant pulled a gun on her. Or at least he tried to. Before he could, her sword was at his throat.

“Drop the gun,” she ordered, and he paled.

He dropped the gun and she kicked it away without looking away from him. From the corner of her eye, she saw Fuery enter the stairwell and pull out his gun before hitting the Sergeant with the back of the barrel.

She sneered. “Mustang needs me to do his dirty work, does he?”

“He calls it delegating, sir,” Fuery said with a tone that indicated that he didn’t think very highly of that excuse.

Olivier sniffed. She might actually like this one. At least he wasn’t the idiot who tried to flirt with her or the blond woman who was utterly devoted to Mustang. Olivier may have admired loyalty, but she detested a lapdog.

Fuery handcuffed the Lance Sergeant to the railing.

“Let’s get going,” Olivier said. “Mustang’s ass isn’t going to save itself.”

“Yes, sir!” Fuery gave a proper salute again.

Yeah, she liked that one.

Mustang was lolling around the entrance to his office, pretending to not be working. He wasn’t just pretending, either, which Olivier found idiotic, but at least he had a reason to be lying around, unlike most of the times she walked in and saw him avoiding paperwork.

You,” she growled, grabbing Mustang by the collar and dragging him outside his office and down the hall, into the courtyard.

“General Armstrong,” he said in what he would probably call his most charming tones and Olivier would call his smarmiest most infuriating voice. “I see you got my letter.”

Olivier’s lip curled in disgust. She didn’t even have to fake it.

“You disgusting little worm of a man.” Her voice carried. Good. She meant it to.

Olivier dragged Mustang close so he had a good vantage point over her shoulder, then muttered. “Where?”

“Roof sniper. Nine o’clock,” Mustang responded in the same quiet tone.

She spotted someone moving toward them from the other side of the courtyard.

“Approaching. Eleven o’clock.”

She shoved Mustang back so that he fell on the ground and pulled out her sword. He clapped and pressed his hands to the ground, causing a wall of stone to erupt just on her heels and shield both of them from the sniper.

“Hah!” She crowed. “You missed!”

“Please, Olivier,” Roy begged, loud enough that everyone within five hundred meters could hear them. “I couldn’t keep my feelings hidden any longer.”

“Feelings?!” She roared. “Feelings?! Do I look like some sentimental waif you can say a few pretty words to and she’ll collapse into your arms?”

The man behind Mustang was getting closer. She resisted the urge to swear. If he pulled out a gun before he got close enough for her to stab him ‘accidentally,’ then she’d have to pull out her gun and shoot him and the jig would be up. Olivier would have to improvise.

She advanced on Mustang, pointing her sword at his throat and making him crawl back.

“Please.” Mustang was rather good at begging. It made Olivier sick. “I care about you! Is that so hard to believe?”

Yes, they both thought.

He crawled backward a few more meters, and... there! Olivier pretended to focus on him entirely, blustering wildly with her sword.

“Why would I consent to be romanced by the likes of you?” Olivier spit. “I am the head of the Armstrong household, the Wall of the North, the Queen of Ice. You’re just some no-name punk who thinks that being a General means he can go after women he has no chance with!”

She caught Mustang’s eye and her gaze flicked up for all of half a second to the man behind him. He gave a nearly imperceptible nod.

Olivier stabbed exaggeratedly at Mustang, and he rolled out of the way nimbly, darting behind the figure of the man.

“Do you think hiding behind another man will protect you, Mustang?” She couldn’t keep a smirk from creeping onto her face.

The man looked confused, unsure of what to do now that everyone was watching him and he was caught between a crazy lady with a sword and the Flame Alchemist.

“I’ll gut you like a fish,” She growled, and then stabbed.

She deliberately missed Mustang, of course, though he darted out of the way quickly enough that from far away it probably seems like she might have gotten him. Instead, she stabbed the man through the hand.

Her eyes narrowed as she addressed him. “You should have moved.”

“I—” he started. She didn’t let him finish, kicking him to the ground and letting Mustang trap him beneath a ‘mistimed’ wave of rock.

Olivier advanced on Mustang again, swinging her sword dangerously. She hauled him up by his collar, sword at his throat.

“Any more?” She muttered, glaring.

“Havoc has the sniper,” Mustang said. “Now try to kill me.”

She did as he said, dropping him. She gave him half a second to move before stabbing the ground where she dropped him. He rolled to the side, clapped, and walls of rock erupted around them.

“What exactly was the point of that?” Olivier asked, just loud enough for him to hear.

“No one is crazy enough to risk their lives to try to get between us. The only people showing up will be the ones that can capitalize on it. All we have to do is wait for someone to drop in.”

“Hm,” Olivier frowned. “Maybe you’re not as useless as you seem.”

Mustang just looked at her, amusement dancing in his eyes. Bastard.

Then another person dropped in.

Mustang clapped, setting a swirling vortex of flame around them for just long enough that Olivier could be there when the wall of fire dropped. She stabbed them in the hand and they froze in surprise. Olivier smirked, taking advantage of that to grab their undamaged hand and twist it behind their back, forcing them against the wall.

Mustang sauntered over leisurely like the dick that he was, before using alchemy to encase their hands and ankles in stone.

Olivier grabbed the person’s hair and used it to force their head around.

Mustang raised an eyebrow. “Lieutenant General Winchester. How kind of you to join us.”

“What the hell are you doing?” Winchester whimpered.

Olivier sneered. “You’re not in a position to be asking questions.”

“We’re more interested in what you were doing about, oh,” Mustang checked his stupidly expensive watch, “forty hours ago.”

Winchester paled. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Olivier pulled his head back painfully, ripping out some of his hair in the process. “Answer us, Lieutenant General. Or I promise you this will be far more painful than you can imagine.”

Winchester’s bottom lip quivered like a toddler about to have a tantrum.

Mustang raised an eyebrow. “I should remind you that General Armstrong is of equal rank to me, and therefore I have no ability to order her to stop.”

Winchester’s face collapsed. “Fine.”

Olivier let go. “Start talking.”

“It wasn’t my idea,” he claimed. “Tishina told me to do it.”

Olivier scoffed and Mustang gave him an unimpressed look. They were both intimately familiar with the knowledge that orders were something that one chose to obey, not something one is forced into.

“What exactly did the Major General tell you to do?” Mustang’s voice was mild, but his eyes had the sort of laser focus Olivier could appreciate.

“He said that Major Kornet would blow up a tank in the no man’s land, right outside of the border. He said all I would have to do is go to Central Command and make sure no one realized the senior staff were being picked off until it was too late.”

“And how were you supposed to do that?”

Winchester shivered. “I just had to keep everyone stationary long enough for the bombs to be set.”

Olivier’s eyes narrowed. “Set by whom? When?”

“I’m not sure when,” Winchester’s voice was still trembling. “There was a private alchemist who was supposed to help wire them, and then someone would place them just beneath the offices before detonating them at the same moment.”

“Convenient,” Mustang remarked. “It would set up Howitzer for Führer and allow Tishina to take over West Command.”

Olivier snorted. “And leave him in charge of the breakout of a war with Drachma. Idiots.”

“He might have a connection with Drachma,” Mustang suggested.

“He doesn’t.”

Mustang turned to her, curious.

“The Drachman General that presides over the area west of Amestris is well documented as an Amestrian hater,” Olivier explained. “He lost his son in an attack years ago. Other than his horrifying sentimentality, he’s a rather worthy opponent. He’d crush any opposition in his ranks before a whisper of making a deal crossed the border.”

“Hm.” In all likelihood, Mustang was still going to look into it. He may have been an ass, but he was a thorough ass.

“As I was saying,” Olivier continued. “You’re all idiots.”

Mustang bit back a smile and Olivier fought back the urge to roll her eyes.

“In any case,” Mustang’s expression sobered. “Have the bombs been set yet?”

“Only three.” Winchester looked terrified. “The ones aimed for Major General Rhys, Major General Pantera, and Lieutenant General Granat.”

“That’s where we’ll start, then,” Mustang said. “General, would you mind going and yelling at Fuery? He did deliver that note, after all. He should know what the fruits of his labor turned out to be. I think Hawkeye is going to try to comfort me. I’ll make sure she handles the remaining loose ends.”

Olivier frowned. “I’m going after them too.”

Mustang sighed, but didn’t argue. At least he’d finally learned that he couldn’t win against her. “There’s an empty meeting room right under Major General Korsar’s office.”

“What do we do with him?” Olivier looked at Winchester with disgust. “I suppose you’ll want to give him a trial before executing him for treason.”

Mustang gave her a flat look. “Yes, General Armstrong. I’d rather not murder him in cold blood, even if I do have the right to do so.”

Olivier huffed.

“I’ll make sure Winchester and the other one stay right here,” Mustang said smoothly.

Olivier grunted. “Good. Now let’s go.”

Mustang clapped and dropped the walls, making sure Winchester was still ‘accidentally’ trapped.

“I cannot believe you, you inveterate twerp,” Olivier bellowed. “You’re so pathetic that I can’t even be bothered to kill you.”

Mustang pretended to let out a sigh of relief.

“And you!” She stalked towards Fuery, grabbing him by the collar and dragging him much the same way she did Mustang. “Bombs near Rhys, Pantera, and Granat’s offices. Disarm them,” she muttered. Then she pushed him away from her and yelled. “You will never deliver me another letter of that sort to me again!”

“Y— yes sir,” Fuery stuttered, saluting awkwardly. Though his face looked terrified, his hands were steady and his eyes were focused. Interesting, Olivier noted. She’d known for years that Mustang wasn’t as useless as he pretended to be, but this was on a whole different level. Perhaps the man wasn’t only clever, but had surrounded himself by people clever enough to keep him in check. She’d have to look into that.

Olivier frowned, stomping off to go stab a few more hands. Fuck, she loved this part of her job.

Olivier took Mustang’s suggestion and headed to Korsar’s office to start. Even if she couldn’t have picked him out of a lineup, she had taken great care to memorize where each of the offices were in Central and which names were attached to them. In her experience, it was always useful to know where potential rivals sat.

She was within fifty meters of the room Mustang must have been referring to when she encountered the smiling idiot.

“General Armstrong!” The child of Satan gushed. “I was so worried! You disappeared with Sergeant Orlan and then I heard that you were trying to kill General Mustang and oh dear, I’m so sorry! I shouldn’t be addressing you in this way.”

Olivier frowned and unsheathed her sword. They were in an empty hallway, fifty meters away from where a bomb might be. She was willing to bet the annoyingly cheerful idiot was on de facto guard duty. Olivier was almost relieved. She didn’t enjoy getting shot, but she enjoyed shallow morons even less.

The girl was about five meters away from her. If she chose to pull out her gun now, Olivier was going to get shot. Olivier huffed. She knew what she had to do and she hated it. It was a risky gamble, and if it didn’t pay off then odds were she was getting hit somewhere vital.

Olivier threw her sword.

It wasn’t something most swords were made for, but Olivier Mira Armstrong did not settle for mediocre weapons. When she had been twenty, right after her first promotion, she’d sought out the premier weaponsmith in all of Amestris and asked him to make her the perfect sword. He had agreed, and she’d spent months helping him develop the right balance and length for her style. When it had finally come time to forge it, she had stopped him, asking for one more thing: that it be balanced enough to be thrown like a knife. The result had been horribly expensive, but absolutely perfect. Olivier still had his son making her swords.

Then, to her surprise, the girl dodged with incredible agility and pulled out a gun, the expression on her face going from distracted worry to laser-sharp focus. Olivier’s sword clattered to the floor uselessly.

It should have been horrifying. Olivier should have been terrified. Instead, she couldn’t hold back from showing her teeth in a wolfish smile. This was what she lived for— a good fight.

The girl took aim, but Olivier didn’t give her time to shoot. She rolled towards her, using her shoulder to cushion the impact so that she stood up right behind her and a little to the left. Olivier tried to kick her legs out from under her, but the girl twisted away, ducking under Olivier’s rushed punch and trying to get her gun into an angle where she could be sure to hit her target. Olivier didn’t let that happen.

She feigned a strike to the girl’s neck and when she tried to dodge, Olivier’s other hand caught her in the stomach. To the girl’s credit, she didn’t double over, only winced and slowed for a few seconds. A few seconds, however, was all Olivier needed.

Olivier threw an uppercut to the jaw, kicked her legs out from under her, and used a well-placed strike to the girl’s temple to knock her out. She went down.

She took the girl’s gun and emptied the magazine, pocketing the extra ammo before tossing the gun back down. Olivier then grabbed her sword, handcuffed the girl and kicked down the door to the meeting room.

She was more than a little disappointed when the only person there was a wimpy nerd who failed to get his gun out in time to shoot her. Olivier knocked him out with the pommel of her sword and lamented not bringing more handcuffs. Just because she could improvise doesn’t mean she wanted to.

She dragged his limp body out into the hall and shoved him into a janitor’s supply closet along with the girl. Luckily, the closet had a lock on it, so Olivier could use her master key to lock them in. It wouldn’t keep them in for more than a few minutes after she woke up, but that was more than enough time for Olivier to get in contact with someone who could lock them up properly.

She barged into Korsar’s office, ignoring his worried guards who had heard the clamor and were trying to keep her out. She ignored them. They’d notice the stars on her shoulder soon enough.

She dialed Mustang’s office number. Hopefully the bastard wouldn’t have been so incompetent as to forget to have someone running communications.

“Mustang’s office.”

“It’s Armstrong,” she said. “I’ve got a bomb in Meeting room 124-A, and a dangerous assailant and someone who was constructing a bomb in the supply closet next to it.”

“We’re on it, sir.” The man’s voice was muffled through the speaker as he ordered some people to go take care of it.

“Good.” Olivier didn’t allow herself to relax. Even if the person she’d caught was really the only person constructing the bombs like Winchester had said, odds were the second the other conspirators found out what was happening, they would either make their move or try to get out. “Where else am I needed?”

“Er,” the man on the phone said. “Major Hawkeye is taking care of Major General Forpost. You could join her.”

“What else?” Olivier knew that the Major was an incredible shot and a dangerous woman in her own right, but she didn’t enjoy spending time with people who liked Mustang.

“General Mustang has gone to check in on Major General Saurer.”

Olivier swore. It was between Mustang’s lapdog and Mustang himself. “I’ll meet up with the Major.” At least she didn’t talk as much.

Forpost’s office was fairly close to Korsar’s, so Olivier got there just as the Major did.

Major Hawkeye had one other man with her: the blond one that had flirted with Olivier. Olivier’s lip curled in disgust.

“I’m here to help,” she said.

“Thank you, sir,” Hawkeye replied, voice low and dangerous. “Havoc, keep an eye on the hallway while General Armstrong and I check the adjacent offices.”

Olivier allowed Hawkeye to lead her to the office on one end of the hall while the annoying blond one secreted himself in between the door to the stairwell and the wall on the other.

Olivier kicked the door open to the first office, sword at the ready. It was, unfortunately, empty. So were the next two.

She kicked open the door to the third to find an idiot trying to climb out the window, and another one aiming at her with their gun. In the split second before they shot, Olivier rolled out of the way. As it turned out, she didn’t have to.

Hawkeye wasn’t even fully through the doorway before the one about to shoot Olivier had a bullet in the thigh and the one in the window had one in the calf. Olivier wanted to scoff at the woman’s mercy, but Hawkeye had just saved her from several weeks in the hospital, or worse, so she’d chalk it up to Mustang’s bastard influence and let it go.

The idiots collapsed to the floor.

Olivier was closer to the coward trying to jump out the window, so she went for him, pinning him to the ground with a well-placed kick and twist of her wrist. Despite the fact that Hawkeye had just grappled the other one to the floor and seemed to be having more trouble than Olivier pinning him down, she tossed Olivier a pair of handcuffs. Olivier, against her will, was impressed. Hawkeye was a good soldier, even with Mustang’s influence. It was a pity Olivier wouldn’t be able to take her back to Northern Command and clear her of her attachment.

Of course, it’s at that moment that Mustang chose to waltz in.

“Major!” He said brightly. “Nothing I can do?”

Hawkeye forced the man’s head to the ground and finally got him cuffed. She stood up, dusted off her uniform, and gave Mustang an annoyed look.

“Sir, why are you here?”

Olivier noted with pleasure the flash of betrayal and annoyance that went through Mustang’s eyes.

“I thought I could help.” Mustang sounded hurt.

Hawkeye gave him a strict look and Olivier revised her opinion of Hawkeye as Mustang’s lapdog. If anything, the opposite was true. Maybe being down in Central was actually been worth it if she got to see this.

“As you can see, sir,” Hawkeye said, “we’re quite finished.”

Mustang didn’t pout, but it was a close-run thing. This was the best damn day of Olivier’s life.

 

Olivier was leaning against the wall with her arms folded, frowning. With Grumman’s assistance, Mustang had taken over all interrogation leaving her to do nothing, but he also wouldn’t let her go back to Northern Command until he was sure that the plot had been entirely quashed.

“Are you going to keep me here forever, Grumman?” She asked the man as he emerged from the interrogation room that she was sulking next to.

“No,” he said mildly with the same sort of expression that made Mustang’s face so fucking punchable. “Just trying to take care of you, my dear General.”

Like he could take care of her. The man had just spent the last two days letting Mustang run things. He wasn’t even trying to keep the Führership. The look of rage on her face must have amused him, because he laughed and walked down the hall without a care. Fuck, she really hated that man.

A second later, the smiling asshole— well, not smiling anymore, thank fuck— emerged, escorted by two soldiers.

“Wait,” Olivier said, holding up a hand. “I’m going to talk to her.”

The soldiers looked at each other, unsure, but Olivier’s glare made short work of their uncertainty. They escorted Olivier and the woman back into the room and stood at the doorway, ready to intervene if need be.

Alone,” Olivier hissed at them (honestly, were Mustang and Grumman such wimps that they had to have to incompetent fools like these guarding them?) and they left.

The woman across from her raised her eyebrows. “What could you want with me?”

Olivier leaned back in her chair, evaluating the woman before her. Young, yes, but clever. A mercenary, too, if Mustang’s intelligence was reliable (which it usually was), and good at it. Olivier hadn’t had anyone come as close to killing her as the person in front of her in years.

“I’m offering you a job,” Olivier said.

The woman’s eyes widened slightly in her otherwise emotionless face.

“I’ll get rid of your sentence if you come work for me,” Olivier said.

“Why would you do something like that?” The woman asked coolly, emoting back under control. Olivier liked that. She’d fit right in. “I tried to kill you.”

“So have a lot of people,” Olivier replied, “but you nearly managed it.” She frowned. “It wouldn’t be easy. You would be under watch at all times and you’d have to meet my standards. One slip up, and I’d have you executed.”

“Enticing,” the woman said flatly. “Why should I accept?”

“Because the alternative is wasting your talents rotting away in prison.”

The woman frowned, considering it. “You have a point, there.”

Olivier huffed and stood up, unwilling to let the woman waste her time by deliberating. There was only one answer that made sense. “Well?”

“I’ll take it.” The woman met her blue eyes with cold, stubborn, brown ones.

Olivier allowed herself a small smirk. “What’s your name, private?”

“Frea Carlson, sir. When do we leave?”

“Tonight,” Olivier said. Mustang be damned. She was going back to Northern Command even if he had her arrested.

Olivier called in the soldiers and told them to unhandcuff Carlson. She didn’t wait for them to finish before she left.

Mustang was waiting for her when he walked out, wearing an expression of calculation that— much like every expression in his arsenal, and his face in general— Olivier found extremely annoying.

“General Armstrong,” he said pleasantly. “Have a good meeting?”

Olivier scowled at him. “She’s coming back with me.”

Mustang raised an eyebrow, but the man must have been developing a sense of self-preservation because he didn’t make a single comment about her future safety. Either that, or he was half-hoping Carlson would kill Olivier in her sleep.

“I’ve been meaning to ask,” he said after a moment. “What happened to that pendant I gave you?”

“I got rid of it.”

He winced, and a rush of savage glee went through her at his look of horror.

“That was very expensive, you know.”

She snorted derisively. “I know what you make, Mustang. You can afford it.”

“Still expensive.”

“I was doing the world a favor. I saved some unlucky woman from your gifts.”

Mustang raised an eyebrow at her. “I bought it for you.”

“I didn’t think you had that much taste.”

Mustang smirked. “I have a lot of talents.”

And fuck, but he pissed her off. It was almost enough for her to want to take the Führership from his weak hands.

She knew she could do it; Mustang was clever and slippery but she was clever and slippery and ruthless and she could crush him if she wanted to. It was a pity she didn’t fight battles she didn’t want to win.

Amestris didn’t need a soldier in charge, it needed a politician. Bradley had made Amestris glorious, unparalleled in engineering and prosperous enough to support a large military. Bradley had also left the borders in shambles, let the people in the small towns starve for the sake of his army and carved bloody runes into the country’s history. Olivier was not Bradley, but she was too much like him to make a good Führer.

And Mustang wasn’t a bad option for it, either. The man was a good politician, though she’d known that for years, but he’d also surrounded himself with good people. Alone in an office of immoral politicians, Mustang would fail. With people with integrity helping, there was a decent chance his naïve idealism could do some good.

“Cens for your thoughts?” Mustang offered, looking at her with a worrying amount of concern. Maybe he wasn’t hoping she’ll be killed. Unfortunate. Then she’d have had an excuse to knock him down a few pegs.

“Cheap bastard, aren’t you?”

Mustang shrugged. “Old habits, you know.”

“No,” Olivier fixed him with an icy stare.

Mustang shrugged again. Sometimes she really hated working with one of the three people in Amestris that weren’t scared of her.

“Grumman didn’t help much,” Olivier noted, waiting for his response.

“Yes, well,” Mustang said, throwing her an analytical glance, “he’s getting older.”

“So are you,” she spit. It was true in a roundabout sense. Mustang was indeed older than the punk he used to be, but he was still barely thirty-five.

“And you,” Mustang pointed out. “The cold can’t be good for your joints.”

Olivier wanted to laugh. She didn’t look a day over twenty-five, and didn’t feel it either. There were perks to having alchemists for ancestors. They had figured out how to change their DNA. It was what gave the Armstrongs their trademark strength, or, in her case, longevity.

“The heat can’t be good for yours,” she replied.

Mustang raised an eyebrow. “Hoping to keep a closer eye on me in Central?”

“I’d much rather never see your face again,” Olivier sneered. “I’m going back north tonight.”

“That’s a shame,” Mustang said, letting a touch of wistfulness creep into his voice. “I had hoped you’d stay long enough to come to my housewarming party. I’m moving back to Central at the end of the month.”

And that was it. Olivier had gotten the confirmation she had been asking for. Mustang was taking Grumman’s seat, and it would be sooner rather than later.

“I’ll send you some flowers,” she said. “Perhaps some nasturtiums.”

“Oh?” Mustang tilted his head, considering. “That’s an unusual choice.”

Olivier snorted. “It suits you.” And it did. The flowers were awful; they smelled bad and weren’t particularly gorgeous. They would have made a fitting gift anyways, but they were particularly appropriate for the situation at hand. Nasturtiums were for victory, after all, and Mustang was about to have his.

He smiled at her, for once not entirely disingenuous. “Thank you,” he said.

Olivier’s lip curled as she looked him up and down. “You’re going to make a terrible Führer.”

***

Roy watched her walk away, repressing a shiver of fear.

“Sir?” Riza appeared at his elbow, eliciting a small start.

Roy shook his head to clear it. “That woman terrifies me.”

“I’ll admit that she intimidates me as well.” Riza’s expression, as always, was perfectly neutral, but he couldn’t resist a bit of fun.

“Getting a little jealous, are we, Major?” He grinned. “Don’t worry, there’s only room for one terrifying blonde woman in my life, and it’s you.”

Riza gave him a withering look, perfectly conveying the fact that she thought that he was an idiot. “All due respect, sir, but shut up.”