This will be a 5-part story set in the timeline of episode 25. There are a multitude of unwanted spoilers for that episode included in this story, starting in the second chapter but the real wicked one will appear in chapter 3. If you have not seen the series up through episode 25 or its manga equivalent I earnestly suggest that you do not read any further.

Chapter titles are partially inspired by the novel Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, though neither any prose nor characters of her book are used in this fanfiction.
Full Metal Alchemist characters and concepts are used liberally and without permission.

In writing this I tried to keep in mind all the stuff I learned when I read On Writing, by novelist Stephen King, mainly: adverbs are Teh Evil; don't be too chicken to cut out your favorite part cause its your favorite part because if it doesn't fit it doesn't fit; and minor characters believe themselves to people too.

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Chapter 1 - Rockefeller Tall

Evening rolled past Roy Mustang's window with a quiet rumble, withering slowly into nightfall with each lonely mile. Desert turned to swirling plains, then grass gave way to looming trees. The hours to Central City passed in the tapping of the colonel's fingers and the shifting of his boots against the carpet. With each bump of the train tracks his heart plunged further into worry, and even as he told himself it would be alright he could not stop looking to the horizon, where all sorts of shit was happening that he had no grip on.

A sturdy pane of glass separated him from the darkness, and the illusion of safety it presented only aggravated him further. He glared past it, knowing that trains can only go so fast and none of his alchemic talent could prod this one to a higher velocity. He must wait, just like everyone else. Wait until they arrived. Wait until he could make a call from the station. Wait until he could see if he was needed. Wait and see. Wait and see. It was a dirty phrase in his mind, an idiom symptomatic of everything he hated about the world and sometimes people too: inaction; lack of forethought; lack of control. It was a child's response to one's problems, and only a child truly believed that waiting and seeing would bring any worthwhile results. This had pretty much always been Roy's outlook.

When the colonel was young (as all cynics were once) the boy across the street had decided to break into school after-hours to steal all the chairs in the classroom and put them in a cornfield half a mile away. A splendid prank for his age—tricky enough to become a small-time legend with the younger set, simple enough to pull in one night with one pair of hands. The problem was that for once Mustang was left to find out about it with everyone else.

"So you won't be in trouble again with your pop," the eleven-year-old had said with a snicker, pushing his spectacles up on his nose and favoring Roy with a superior grin. "Besides, I need someone on the outside when the national military comes for me and my parents and all my cousins and aunts and uncles."

Mustang remembered tackling the boy to the rocky grass, punching for all he was worth and roaring that he would never ever bring pie or books to such a traitor no matter how foul the dungeon he was thrown into, or how rarely he got to go outside. He could eat rats think about all the trees Roy would be climbing and the creeks he would be swimming in while the other wasted away into a horrible mummified state.

As a rule, Mustang didn't care for being the one who had scramble to catch up, the one who needed to be told the big picture because he couldn't discover it for himself. He hadn't like it at ten and it had nearly killed him at twenty. He spent a decade after one bloody Ishbal night building his life up in such a way that he didn't have to think about helplessly drowning on the outside of the big picture, because he would have already trudged waist-deep into it. Deep into the politics, deep into the lies, deep into the promises. From his place in the center of the mud pile Roy gave the orders, and Roy laid out the plans, and the military had no need to come for them, because they both ran to it.

And they had run to it together. Sure, his friend went to law school and took a desk job, and Roy studied science till he was doing arrays even when taking a shit. But while they chose different roads they still headed in the same direction, still talked and met and passed the occasional word that they had no business passing. They made life easier for each other. And then Ishbal happened, and after that Maes made life easier for Roy.