A/N: Many thanks to my Sapphyness (who beta'd) and la' Chev (who will beta). The title may be subject to change, but the current one comes from this (h t t p : w w w . y u n I . c o m / l I b r a r y / l a t i n 4 . h t m l) site, which translated mortvi non mordant as: Dead men don't bite. coughs lightly So. Yes. Wrote this one the plane back from D.C., because FMA is tehultimate, and I am now obsessed. The plot bunnies are also refusing all requests to get Kam's fic done. NYARG. -- Actually say down and plotted this one out from beginning to end, so I will follow through with it. As it's mostly for my own Roy/Ed-y enjoyment, I plan on taking my own sweet time. If any wish to quicken my lackadaisical pace, they may feel free to bug me.
Disclaimer: FMA does not belong to me. If it did, it would be Roy's hand in the opening scene. Instead of Winry's. Yes. Sapphy, you know what I'm taking about.
Warnings: Slash, slash, and more slash. Roy/Ed-ness and so forth. Though not in this chapter unfortunately. If you don't like it, run away now and spare yourself the horror that will be. That said, onward!
Mortvi Non Mordant
The stone was a dull red-brown when he pulled it from his pocket, flaking muddy crimson across white gloves as it passed between his fingers. The thing smoldered dismally through its dried blood coating, the off-ruby hue of bright light seen through closed eyelids. Ed tossed it back and forth between his hands once more, then dropped it with a soft splunk into the waiting bathtub and watched as pink streamers bled from the rock, weaving in curls of color that spun darkly at their base, outwardly diluting. He waited, but it seemed that time was taking its own sweet pace and in the end Ed would be the first to admit he had never had any large endowment of patience. Stripping his gloves he retrieved it, flesh and automail giving a final scrub to rid the stone a last layer of crusted blood. Glowing bright in his palms it was a pretty thing, and better, he could feel its perfection: a beacon of fullness and power that reached in and sent hot shivers down his spine. For an instant, his mind teased at forbidden nothings –remembering the cost – but if anything, he was good at pushing away memories he'd rather not dwell on, and away from those Edward could savor the moment.
He did, in fact. Clutched it, preened, and almost did a little dance, tongue-tied as he was, just thinking about what to tell Al. For one glorious, unbridled instant he even allowed himself to entertain a fantasy in which he pranced (triumphantly) down to the Colonel's office, and after (smugly) slamming the stone before the man's (fat) head, turned the arrogant sot into an (arrogant) chicken. Who was too-short-to-be-seen-without-a-telescope now? Ah, gloat, gloat, gloat. But Ed thought he deserved it. There are even some who'd agree that he did.
So it was that he was sitting on one of those ridiculously low stools – the kind that squats just an inch or so off the ground; never quite wide enough and always too long to be comfortable – when it happened, spinning the thing with a lazy sort of satisfaction. Noticed a Flaw, and it was the feel of it that alerted him more then anything else his mind could try and persuade itself it saw: a pocket of cool in an impossible heat. Bubble of nothing so small that it wasn't so much perceptible as something else entirely. It made Ed go cold and then hot all at once, knotting his soul as his stomach dropped out and razor-winged butterflies shredded his hope into ribbons.
Amazing that a twinge – all but feather light – could inspire a sensation so similar to being hit over the head with a truckload of bricks. Or several wrenches, for that matter, and there he could speak from experience.
Ed would never be entirely sure where his brain went during those next several hours. Weeks later he would speculate – privately – that it never returned at all. When some sense of awareness awoke, however, the bathwater was lukewarm – a fake cherry color – and his rousing could be credited to one of the inn's maids who was poking her head in as a reminder that – unless he wished to pay for another night – it was time he be going, and that she really did need to clean. Still, it not so much her irritated glances as it was the hands on the clock (informing him he was beyond late for his meet-up with Al) that got him going. Draining the tub (and with a parting scowl for the maid) he left – a dust cloud through the lobby's front door – in a half-sprint towards the military's dorms.
He supposed it was only the unluckiest twist of fate that caused him to run into the Colonel. Fortune had always hated him and, after this turn (however mild) in his luck, she was showing her disfavor with a vengeance.
Ed would admit –rather grudgingly – that perhaps his mind hadn't been all too focused on where he was going, but it wasn't as if Mustang couldn't have stepped out of the way. Ed pictured the chicken, and gritted out an apology through a clenched smile that almost hurt for its tightness. The Colonel nodded, as if taking his due, and Ed almost burst. In the end, however, he didn't and (with notable effort) turned to walk away.
"Fullmetal–" There was a smooth smirk in that voice, and Ed's eyebrows jumped in annoyance to hear it. "You should know that your brother is looking for you; he seemed rather worried so I told him I'd have my staff keep an eye out." Then, as almost an afterthought, "I had doubted anyone would see you."
Halfway down the hall, Ed stopped, twitching. From anyone else, that little statement might have been meant as it sounded. But in Roy-talk "doubted anyone would see you" was a simple translation away from, "knew they wouldn't notice you because you're a midget and couldn't be spotted without the aid of twenty different magnifying glasses." Red flashed across his vision, and the hand in his pocket white-knuckled into a fist around his Philosopher's stone.
The stone. Ed's rage bled out and down into it – solidifying into purpose – and turning, he gave a little cat smile.
"I guess even you can't be right all the time, Colonel."
And whistling, he pranced (triumphantly) away, braid swinging, still grinning and not noticing the odd look Roy sent after him.
"Worried", it turned out, was an understatement.
Al was frantic when he opened the door, and Ed nearly died in the crushing steel hug that followed.
"Niisan!" The boyish tenor was almost lost in the clanking of metal and Ed's wheezing gasps for such things as 'help', 'stop', and 'air'. Apologetic, Al eased his embrace from 'death grip' to merely 'uncomfortable'.
"Niisan," He repeated, once Ed's face had lost its blue-purple tinge. "Where have you been? You've been gone for weeks, and you said you'd only be away for a day or two, and then I get your message last night that you'll meet me at 12:00 and it's almost a quarter past one and–"
…Ed was listening, really he was. He was even beginning to feel a little bad about his poorly managed contact, despite the apparent gains parked heavily in his pocket. But when his eyes – trailing repentantly around the room – found it, he couldn't help himself. Truly couldn't, and shivered as this first alien stirring of unchecked anger and nothings – small as it was – swelled within him; a first glimpse at the size of the pit in which he'd dug himself. Sometimes the extent of a sacrifice is never realized until it has been made it.
"What is that?!" He managed a poke in the item's general direction as he watched his brothers face go from ranting anxiety, to surprise, to an embarrassed would-be-flush.
"Oh. Um." Al's voice was rather small, and the cat – upon receiving such attention – looked up and yawned lazily.
Ed gave it a glare, and waited.
"Well…" Al stammered, and while some might have found the sight of the dark armor stammering before the rage of someone just barely clearing the five feet marker amusing, Ed most certainly did not. Not with that thing on his bed. "Well…you see Niisan…you…were away…." Ed's eye twitched and the younger of the two brothers shook his head vigorously in denial of the words, "No! No, that's not what I meant…it's not that you were away…it's just that you were and I got kind of lonely…and the poor kitty was so hungry and alone too and…. Can we keep him, Niisan?"
Ed growled, and it sounded suspiciously like "no" to Al's listening ears. Stalking up to the bed, Ed made a grab for the cat, which in turn jumped down and under the mattress. Ed's attempt to retrieve it from that particular spot resulted in tattered shirtsleeves and three long scratches down his un-automailed arm. In the small tornado of cursing and yowls that followed, Al found himself the long suffering neutral party; stepping in only to prevent Ed from finally chucking the hissing feline out the window, and instead placed it gingerly outside their front door.
"Ed." He said, attempting to draw his brother's attention, still fixed as it was on the door and the small animal behind it. "Niisan. Edward." Ed finally looked up, shaking his head as he did, shoulders still heaving. At the time, Al reflected on the moment as strange and not entirely Ed-like in behavior, but what happened next drove all such thoughts from his head. "Just tell me, where have you been?" And that seemed to pull the older Elric brother together, for Ed reached in his pocket and slammed a small gleaming stone on to the table beside him, face transforming from anger to something of a mad grin.
"Oh, nowhere much. Seeing new places, trying new stuff. Getting you an early birthday gift among other things." Folding his arms, Ed smiled into the silence, "What do you think? It's a little heavy on the reds, and the whole glow bit's a tad gaudy, but I've heard that this chip of rock can work wonders…"
And Al didn't say anything.
Really, there wasn't anything to be said.
Edward hadn't told Al about finding the Flaw and he didn't plan to. It was beyond tiny anyway, and only random chance that Ed had come across it in the first place. Fixable, livable, and not even a spec when compared to the stone's collective power. Asking Al to look it over had ended with nothing, and examining it a second time himself had produced similar results. No sign of any defect, all but bursting with impossible energy, Ed was beginning to think that he'd simply imagined the blemish in a fit of paranoia. After all, why shouldn't something good happen to them? It was about time, certainly. It was about time.
Ed's hand on the chalk was steady, but something small inside and right below his breastbone was shaking and he wasn't sure if it was with anticipation or anger or at the sheer stupidity of trying this again. Of those foolish enough to have attempted human transmutation very few survived the ordeal, and never had he heard of anyone with the mindless idiocy to give it a second attempt. Third. He pushed the thought away. This time would be different, he reminded himself. They had the Philosopher's Stone and even if it wasn't entirely immaculate, it was only by the smallest of margins. They should be able to do it. They would do it. And on the off chance that something did go wrong…well…. Ed's mouth twisted in something that was just a little bit grim and incredibly fierce. He'd just have to make sure that Al wasn't the one footing the bill this time.
The last delicate tracery of white arched and finished with a flourish as Ed completed the Array. It was as perfect as he could make it, more then perfect, mapped out with a complexity hundreds of times that of the first endeavor and made with an effort second only to the one which had created the stone.
Technically, they didn't even need it – a Philosopher's Stone should have been able to manage the job just fine on its own – but neither Elric brother felt, understandably, up to taking chances. Well, aside from the risks they took merely attempting human transmutation. For a long second Ed just stared down at it, watching the last fading rays of daylight creep through house's high basement window. It was done. The wait was over.
He moved and pinned a cloth over the darkening glass
They would do it tonight.
The brothers had chosen the root cellar of a house real estate agent's had been trying to sell for the past several years without too much success. The place itself was fairly large (cobwebbed to extremes) and had the great misfortune of being a lovely piece of architecture in the worst of all possible neighborhoods. Of those with the kind of money to buy such a place, none were eager to obtain land in the particular area, and those desperate enough to hazard the quarter had not the financial means to do the purchasing. The estate itself had all but been declared an unofficial National Treasure (having been a crucial player in several minor civil wars) and thus couldn't even be destroyed to make room for more shanties. The brothers had found the structure on a mission several years back, and filing it away for future reference had proved an intelligent decision.
Setting up for the event was far more difficult, and Ed would deem the next several days some of the longest of his life: dodging Hughes, Havoc, Hawkeye, (how may people with last names beginning with 'H' did he know?) Armstrong and a myriad of others he normally counted friends, coming up with lies on top of lies, and the waiting alone enough to send him spiraling into insanity. It didn't help that he was fairly sure Gracia didn't quite buy the story on needing a bit of 'off' time, thought Hawkeye was getting suspicious, and was all but positive that the Colonel knew something. Ed figured the sooner they did the transmutation the better. This was his and Al's problem, and they would fix it. If the Roy and his staff could find a heart for them afterwards, Ed would be the last to deny them. But… he needed to do this last thing alone. He had lived the last several years of his life in pursuit of the moment, and didn't quite think himself capable of sharing it. It was too…personal. Important. They'd both given up too much.
"Al," he called, "It's ready."
And so it began.
They started at midnight for no other reason then that it was midnight and if such things should be done they should be done at such times. Al was nervous and it showed in the duck of his head, but then again, so was Ed. He had nearly bitten Hughes's head off that morning, and then spent the next two hours wrapped up in a distracted, self-berating daze that left even Hawkeye asking after his health. Well, not really, but she had given what – on her – could have passed as a concerned look. In hindsight, he supposed mumbling obscenities under his breath couldn't have invoked too much faith towards his mental stability, but it wasn't like he could help it. The butterflies were back, and the empty pocket in his chest had been strung with barbed wire.
Now, however – with the stone shooting off warmth into the cool steel of his automail fingers – the feeling was beginning to ease and he felt a grin tugging at the corner of his mouth as he regarded his brother. What would Al look like, he wondered? Would his body be that of a child or older; remembered features transformed with the years despite a none-too corporal state.
Excitement replaced apprehension, and the brothers gave each other a parting nod I'll see you on the other sidebefore slamming both hands palm down onto the array and exploding everything in white-yellow light.
It was almost painful at first, and Ed had forgotten the intensity of it. Or perhaps it had never been this intense and that was the Philosophers Stone, spilling out power and color until it bled the lines a dark golden red; energy, channeled and inconceivable for its sheer strength raging in fiery torrents. Across from him, Al was coated in raw brilliance to the point that it hurt Ed to look at him, and glancing down he saw his automail arm and leg suffused in the same. There was a giddy feel to the process – light headed, almost like drowning – and his first coherent thought was: it's working. Everything was copper crimson and right and his world had been reduced to the round hardness of the stone in his fingers and –ohmyfuckinggod – he could feel hisleftknee and it was itching.
Somewhere along that particular train of thought it occurred to him to look up at Al… and had he just seen eyes in the dark metal sockets? Shadowed skin and sandy-brown hair? Ohmyf-
Then the light went purple, and everything stopped.
But didn't, really. It was more like a vacuum that, having been turned to reverse, had been adjusted back to its' original setting. A black hole of greedy sacrifice, and Ed swore if he ever got out of the circle he would hunt down every last dictionary in existence and personally vivisect each page with the word, never mind it was paper. The rock in his palm was cold and dead, the source of it all, and even as he cursed himself – felt the void calling him in – Ed saw gold spark, reborn, around Al.
It was with a sense of relief that he realized everything hadn't gone entirely wrong. The stone was simply not as finished as he had thought it might be. Had been given, but not given enough, and would work if just settled with more – oh he would kill it: rageslayDIE– sacrifice. He took a breath, and the decision was made before he could finish the inhale.
Slipping off into blackness was easier then he could have imagined, with none of the pain or terror he'd expected. Light trickled down to a star's pinpoint in a far away offness, and – catching words almost inaudible for their distance – he wondered why his mind was taking this last opportunity to inform him that he was …a short little fool. For an instant, the darkness receded and the voice in his head redoubled its' efforts. A short, short, short, little, tiny, microscopic, stubborn, stupid, dust spec of a fool. The small part of himself that wasn't bent on all consuming altruism took a moment to wonder what in the world was going on. That hesitation was all the voice needed, for suddenly there was a hand in his own and a body at his back and the red-gold was everywhere, swamping him in warmth and a touch of self-satisfied conquest. Opening his eyes, he could swear he saw Roy Mustang smirking down at him, and it was with a feeling of dream-like aloofness that he imagined could see through the other man's head. Confusion, then surreal panic, rose in his throat as an unconnected portion of his brain cackled madly and informed him that oh but he was in no end of trouble. And it made perfect sense for the second or two before the rest of him – genius that it was – caught up (watching the ceiling through the Colonel's head getting clearer and clearer) and realized with an incredulous horror just what was going on.
"What in the hell do you think you're doing?"
Admittedly, the glare that accompanied the words couldn't have been all too terrifying, and his voice –hoarse and soft through the rush of alchemy – wouldn't have scared off a pigeon, but Roy didn't have to laugh.
Lord of lords, Ed could see that ancient, ugly, moth-eaten tapestry of a unicorn through the back of Mustang's neck – had a hand through his shoulder – and the man was laughing. Hysteria bloomed and rushed through his blood and down to two sets of toes while Roy sat there and faded away with the answers.
"Don't leave, youbastard. How dare you…I said don't leave–"
Ed reached out and found emptiness, all the while cursing his remarkable lack of anything resembling eloquence. And damn it all, he was prepared to sacrifice his arm again but he was never going to let the Colonel hear the end of it.
Clapping his hands Ed preformed his search: felt a touch and then...nothing. He blinked, tried a second time, and…failed once more. Panic finally boiled over and burst past his lips, laughter loud and fierce at the absurdity, waiting for a punch line. For someone to come out and tell him this was all a very bad joke, because there was no way Colonel Roy Mustang was gone. He was too willful, too arrogant, too smug to do anything so boring as go and die. Not when he hadn't even made an attempt at Fuhrer, hadn't performed his inevitable coup. It wasn't….Roy-ish. Not sneaky or shifty or scheming at all.
So he tried again. Again. Againagainagainagainagainagainagain. And zero times itself a million times over never increases its value.
The light was beginning to die, and with it, his laughter. There was emptiness, space, and silence and then a small noise issued from across the room, and Ed looked up to find Al. Oh god Al.
His stomach did ailing flip-flops, but some were for joy, and he was alive, and Al was alive, and if he tried he could push away whatever it was in the back of his mind that was sick beyond sobbing.
More A/N: …despite all appearances, it will be Roy/Ed. Comments and criticism are always appreciated: and if reviews don't make the world go round, then they help keep it happy.