Thank you so much to everyone that's reviewed! It means so much to me and keeps me motivated to continue writing. Your feedback is everything to me.
Sorry for taking so long to update this time. Thank you for being so patient! If you follow me on Tumblr, you know the last few months have been stressful and chaotic for me. My mental health has been on a steady decline and my writing has suffered for it. I'm feeling a little better though so I'll try my best to get back to updating more frequently again.
I've also been busy working on my original novel that I am currently publishing on P atreon so that's taken up a lot of my writing time as well. It's a story that's been in the works for over fifteen years. It means a lot to me and I'd like to keep my focus on that whenever possible, so when the mood strikes, I may choose to write for that instead of fanfiction until my novel is complete. I have not forgotten about this fic or Beyond the Veil though. I will continue to write my fics as well, but potentially at a slower pace.
Red light crackled around Gluttony's wounds, each bullet hole closing within seconds. No matter how many vital points Riza hit with deadly accuracy, it all proved futile. The hulking homunculus held her off the ground by her throat as she continued to struggle and fire bullet after bullet into its skull. She grit her teeth as Gluttony's hold on her neck tightened and the click click click of her gun's trigger indicated she was out of ammo. She dropped her hand to her side and the gun fell to the ground with a clatter.
This was it. This was how she was going to die. She would no longer be able to protect Roy. But at least he would live. He would not be incriminated for what they were doing here. He would go on, working toward their goal without her, and that was enough for her.
"That's it, right?" Gluttony spoke, a grin cracking his round face. "All done? Then it's time to eat!"
Rize cringed as Gluttony opened his grotesquely large mouth. A strange symbol on its tongue caught her eye briefly before she slammed her eyes closed, ready for the creature to bite her.
A growl and an angry bark sounded behind Gluttony and Riza's eyes shot open to see Hayate leap at Gluttony.
Her dog sank its teeth into Gluttony's shoulder and the homunculus dropped Riza to try to swat at the puppy attacking it.
"Oooh that tickles. Such a bother."
Riza stayed low and dodged past Gluttony, one of her hands coming up to rub at her sore neck. She reached the wall near the exit and pushed her back against it, coughing and trying to catch her breath.
Riza looked out the door to see Fuery racing toward her, throwing a handgun her way. She snatched it from the air and stood, taking aim. Fuery and Riza fired on Gluttony as Hayate leapt aside. The room filled with the deafening sounds of gunfire as they emptied their handguns into Gluttony. Just as before, all the wounds they inflicted on it made no difference. Gluttony smiled at them, healing itself as soon as Fuery and Riza ran out of ammo and stopped firing.
"What's wrong? Bullets run out? Goodie! Time to eat!"
Roy screeched to a stop at the curb near the entrance to the building in which he knew Riza, Fuery, and Hayate were. He practically dove out of the car and raced into the building and up the stairs as fast as his legs could carry him. The sound of gunfire faded as he got closer to the top and he feared the worst. Until a bark followed a minute later by more gunshots reached his ears. Someone was still fighting. That meant he might have made it in time.
'Please be okay,' he thought, hoping with all his might that they were unharmed. 'Just hold on. I'm almost there! I won't let anyone else die before me!'
He reached the top floor and rounded the corner just as the gunfire faded again. He tore down the hall and stopped in the doorway to find Riza and Fuery, out of ammo, with little Hayate standing in front of them, trying to protect them.
He lifted his right hand and aimed at the giant thing standing in front of the window. His alchemy crackled in the air, transmutation circle on his glove lighting up as he snapped. His flames shot forth and Gluttony was blasted back through the brick wall as the explosion hit it.
Riza's eyes widened when she turned and saw Roy's gloved hand hanging in the air next to her.
Roy let out a breath of relief, as did Fuery. Fuery walked over to the hole in the wall, Hayate at his side, and he looked down at the smoldering rubble where Gluttony landed.
"Who the heck was that fat guy?" he wondered, turning back to Roy and Riza. "Lieutenant, are you hurt?"
"Why did you come here, sir?!" Riza cried and Fuery and Hayate stepped back in surprise at her sudden outburst. "Our lives are insignificant, sir! If you just let us die here, you could have pleaded ignorance of this whole affair, but now you've outed yourself to the enemy! Sir, are you a complete idiot?!"
Roy leaned away from her and stuck a finger in his ear that was now ringing from her scolding. Sure, what she was saying might have been true, but there was no way he would ever sacrifice her or any of his team so easily like that. She had to know that. Especially not after what happened to Hughes. He would never let such a thing happen again if he could help it.
"Okay, okay," he said, trying to placate her. "I get it, I'm an idiot!"
"Out target is moving, sir," Fuery said.
"Okay, good. The 'nest' is clear." Roy pointed at Fuery. "Sergeant Major! Begin recovery! Don't leave even a scrap of trash behind!"
"Y… yes, sir!"
Riza pointed to Hayate.
"Hayate! Don't leave his side!"
The dog sat at attention and barked.
Roy and Riza descended the stairs and exited the building.
"Lieutenant," Roy said without looking back as he stepped down the last of the stairs toward his car. He was trying to sound commanding, but Riza heard the underlying softness in his voice.
"I'm glad you're alive."
He had been worried. More than he let on. Though his actions that evening were certainly reckless, after what happened to Hughes, how could she blame him?
"I'm sorry to have worried you, sir."
Roy, Riza, Havoc, and Alphonse followed Barry the Chopper as he chased his body to Lab Three, one of Central's main alchemy research facilities. Barry's body, apparently controlled by some kind of animal's soul, disappeared into the jail and Roy was ready to let it go and call it a night. They had mostly accomplished what they'd set out to do and he wasn't about to put his team in any more danger. Unfortunately, Barry had other plans.
"All right, we know where he's hiding," Roy said, ready to go back to the car. "That's all we need for now. We're pulling back."
Barry ran out from around the corner they were hiding behind, cackling like a madman.
"Hey!" Jean hissed. "Get back here!" Barry wasn't listening and disappeared through the gates to the building. "That bastard's completely lost his mind!"
"No, this is convenient," Roy muttered, earning himself a dumbfounded look from Havoc. He strode at a quick pace after Barry, Riza and Havoc right behind. Pulling out his gun, he entered Lab Three. The employee's inside were murmuring and gasping, confused about the sudden interruption of their routine. "Listen up! We're in pursuit of a murderer who fled into this building! All personnel must evacuate immediately!"
One of the military guards stationed at the lab ran up to Roy and saluted.
"Sir! What's going on?"
"You heard about the incident at the penitentiary earlier today? We pursued the perpetrator here. Leave the murderer to us! Have your men bar the exits!"
Another young soldier ran up and saluted.
"Shall I call for reinforcements sir?"
"I've already called them!" Roy replied, getting irritated by the interruptions. "Now watch those exits!"
"When did you call for reinforcements?" Al asked as they moved away from the panic of the employees as they scrambled to get out of the building.
"I lied," Roy deadpanned, ending the conversation.
Walking further into the building, and down a flight of stairs, a chained off door caught Havoc's eye and he alerted the colonel.
"Hey, Colonel!" he called, gaining Roy's attention.
Before anyone said a word, Al stepped over to the door, clapping and transmuting the lock open. The door swung open to reveal another flight of stairs. They began their descent in silence, Havoc and Riza in front with their guns drawn and at the ready. The air was thick with must and the scent of decay. Everything was covered in cobwebs and a layer of dust from disuse. Roy looked up and down the dingy hallways before he turned to Riza and spoke.
"Which way did Barry go?"
"Should we split into two groups, sir?"
Roy nodded at Riza's suggestion.
"Very well. But don't stray too far. Report back if you see any sign of him."
Roy and Havoc disappeared down one dark corridor and Riza and Al turned to search down the other.
"Lieutenant," Al said and Riza stopped walking, turning to him. "I'm not getting in the way of the mission, am I?"
"Not at all. Your alchemy is really coming in handy." Riza smiled and pat Al's armor. "I'll be counting on you if there's something that we soldiers can't handle."
Al appeared as flustered as a suit of armor could, rubbing the back of his helmet.
"Oh… Yes, ma'am."
They walked in silence, the echo of Al's armor clanging with each step bounced off the walls. He tried to keep as silent as possible so they could listen for any sounds of Barry or anyone else that could be down there with them. Riza didn't seem to mind the slight noise, though. Her sniper's training kept her focused, gun held out in front of her, ears and eyes open and sifting through every little noise from the scurrying of rats to the dripping from the corroded pipes above them. She wondered if Barry had perhaps gone the other way, until she found traces of blood.
Before she could speak up about it, a loud explosion shook the walls. Riza and Al whipped around to stare down the tunnel.
"What was that sound?" Al wondered aloud.
A worried knot formed in Riza's gut. She bit the inside of her lip and warred with herself for a moment about whether or not she should run back and see if the colonel was all right. She quickly decided to keep moving forward with Al. Roy could take care of himself and Havoc was with him. He didn't need her to protect him all the time. She ignored the noise and Al's question and refocused on the mission.
"Barry went this way," Riza said, turning back to follow the drips of blood on the floor.
A minute's walk later, the dark corridor opened up to a brightly lit, stark white room. On the far wall, an intricate transmutation array was engraved into the stone. Riza and Al's eyes fell on the large figure standing beneath it. Barry stood over his old body, his hatchet as bloody as his body was.
"You sure took your time, babe," Barry spoke, turning to Riza slowly.
Riza cringed as she and Al stepped closer into the room toward Barry. She covered her nose with her hand.
"What's that stench?"
"Heh heh heh, I'm sorry you had to see that," Barry replied. "What a waste of meat. My body's all rotten."
The sound of high heels clacking on the cement alerted the group to a new presence entering the room. Riza aimed her gun immediately at the dark haired woman that walked in.
A dark chuckle rumbled in Barry's metal chest at the sight of Lust.
"'Bout time you showed up, Lusty."
Lust practically growled, eyes narrowing as she seethed.
"Number sixty six! I see… so they used you as bait and I fell for it. Why did you help the colonel?"
"What can I say!" Barry laughed. "I gotta be me! I never wanted to live my life, such as it is, kissing up to your freaks and hiding in the shadows! But even when I escaped after Lab Five fell I had to keep a low profile so you wouldn't find me. The only way I can be free is if you're all dead. But above all… I want to chop you up!"
"Tsk, what am I going to do with you? And you, Armor Boy…" Lust turned her attention to Al. "You just had to tag along with the big boys. Now you leave me no choice. Killing two human sacrifice candidates in once night is a setback."
"Human sacrifice?" Al repeated.
"That's right," Lust answered with a smirk. "You and another."
"HEY LADY!" Barry cut in. "Stop chit chattin' with the help! The next words to come from your pretty mouth, Lusty, will be you last!"
Barry dove at breakneck speed toward Lust, his hatchet raised high, a gleeful, murderous glint in his glowing eyes. Lust wasn't even phased. She lifted her arm casually. Her claws extended toward Barry in a blur of motion and he halted, the sound of metal being sliced filling the air.
"I hate rude men."
Confusion didn't even have time to set in before Barry's armor shattered, crumbling in a heap on the floor at Lust's feet.
"Now," Lust said, stepping over the pieces of Barry's armor, gaze fixed on Al and Riza. Riza cocked her gun. "Who wants to go first. Armor Boy? Or maybe the lieutenant? You seem like the loyal type. Very soon I'll send you to join your commanding officer."
Riza's eyes widened at Lust's words. Understanding crossed her features and ice filled her veins. No, it couldn't be.
"Wait. You said 'two human sacrifices in one night.' It can't be… it can't be…"
Lust's cruel smirk widened immensely and Al and Riza felt the horrible truth down to their core with just that one look.
That was all it took to send Riza into a frenzy. How easy it was to break her. If she had been able to think with any amount of coherency she would have been disgusted with herself, but her mind was filled with despair. It was over. Everything they'd worked for. Her hopes, her dreams, her reason for living. If he was dead, it all died with him. There was no point anymore. They had failed. She had failed him.
"Why… WHY YOU-" Riza screamed, a gut wrenching sound that pierced the air as it tore through her, manifesting her rage and anguish. She began firing her gun with a deadly accuracy that even she did not know she possessed. She dropped each empty gun to the ground, grabbing another in an instant, shooting in a never ending stream of bullets. Yet they did nothing to the monster called Lust who looked almost bored as each bullet sank into her flesh.
When the last bullet left its chamber, Riza grit her teeth, clicking the trigger over and over, willing her gun to somehow regenerate ammunition.
"Are you finished?" Lust's bullet wounds began healing themselves in crackling red light, just as Gluttony's had.
Finally, Riza lowered her gun in defeat, raising her head as tears streamed down her face. She dropped to her knees and wept, no longer caring about what Lust would do to her.