Here it is, after a long wait. Sorry it took 6 months. Hopefully the next update will be much sooner. :) The spoilers really start to kick in with this chapter, which is a scene taken from the anime and somewhat elaborated on.


Chapter 2 - Atlas & Axle

He opened the door to a familiar pair of glasses. The bright lights of the hallway must have been making Roy pale, because it took a bit of time for the sad surprise on Maes's face to transform into the habitual smile.

"This is a first-class apple pie I got my girlfriend to bake just for you. How 'bout it?"

Roy thought about the situation for a moment, pondering the advantages. He could take the pie and the mollycoddling that came with it, or he could turn his old friend away again and retreat to his cave. And yet—Maes was smiling, and Roy loved that smile. Just like the smiling man knew Roy had claimed to love Gracia's cooking, once upon a time. So he lifted the corners of his mouth in something closer to irony than amusement, and stepped backward.

"Roy." And here is where the other shoe fell.

"Yeah. It's exactly what you think."

The room was a pigsty; papers and clothing littered the corners, and books— books were fucking everywhere. Stacks of them and piles of them, thrown aside like so much junk by a man Maes knew held the printed word to be as sacred as religion. It was disconcerting, out of character, and it caught Maes for a moment, until he saw what lay underneath the books, below the empty bottles and the files and the tomes.

Array after array, covering nearly every inch of the apartment floor. Some were in chalk, some were in paint, and some looked like they might have been in blood or oil. Or alcohol. In the dim light he could see them drawn on the walls and even some of the furniture.

"My god." Maes was familiar enough with Roy's line of work to know the difference between biological and chemical alchemy, and the shape of some of these arrays was not lost on him. Roy was not a biological alchemist, and this was not normal.

"I don't get alchemy," Maes snapped, grabbing his friend by the shirt and forcing the other man to look him in the eyes. "But there isone thing I do know! There's only one kind oftaboo in alchemy, and those who commit it..."

Roy gave a dry chuckle, and didn't even try to struggle out of his grip. "Don't worry. I haven't done anything."

It was like listening to a corpse speak. Maes let him go. "You were going to."

Roy put his hands in his trouser pockets, and almost smiled. "A lot of people died. I mean, I killed a lot of people."

"It was war."

Roy looked away, gaze drifting back down to the carpet of arrays. "You weren't there."

"That's right, Roy, and if you didn't want to kill people, you should've requested a desk job like me, and never stepped into that fucking exam room." Roy didn't respond. "Did you think that you would be helping if you became a 'true' alchemist and revived a couple of those dead civilians?"

"Well, I don't know..." That smirk. Maes hated that smirk. It was pathetic and cruel and didn't belong on Roy's face.

A deep sound of packing flesh filled the little room when Lt. Hughes's fist collided with his best friend's cheek. "Damn it! Is human alchemy so easy to commit that you need to study it for just a little while?"

The other man just touched his darkening jaw and refused to answer. Maes was incensed by this whole display, and it was bring out his bitterer side. "Or did you want to die, Roy? If that's the case, there are easier ways." /Like that sidearm you carry, old friend. I'm sure you've thought about that./

"I…" Roy took a hollow, shuddering breath. "I couldn't do it. I was afraid. All those people I've killed...yet I was afraid of dying. I guess that's just the kind of coward I really am, deep down."

"Everyone is afraid of dying."

A grimace, and a faraway look. "Still, even a life like mine can have some use."

Maes blinked, and it was like he was looking through his glasses at different person. A different Roy Mustang. This Mustang set his shoulders in determination, and turned to stare at his best friend with absolute focus.

"Maes, I've decided..."