by Kellen

Rating: T, or PG-13

Summary: When two-year-old Elysia Hughes is kidnapped and her father injured, Gracia turns to Colonel Mustang for help. When Roy arrives in Central, he finds that he is not only racing against time, but a criminal who will stop at nothing to satiate his thirst for revenge and a military that is determined to keep this crime under wraps.

Author's Notes: Ok, yeah, it's because I'm a sucker for action stories and there's a dearth of them in this fandom. I wrote my own. My frustration got the better of me. LoL. As you can probably tell by the summary, this will feature Mustang pretty heavily, as well as Gracia. That doesn't mean, though, that I'll ignore the rest of the characters. Hawkeye and Havoc will play major roles, and Ed and Al will be featured. I won't forget Breda, Falman, and Fuery. Mostly based on the anime, but, well… The idea came from the spot in that one episode where we suddenly jump three years. I'm of the opinion that a lot can happen in three years. Ed's only been a State Alchemist for a couple years. No one knows about the homunculi, and everything's still pretty innocent. (Well… yeah… all right… Compared to things that happen later in the series, everything's pretty innocent…) And because people have asked about my stories before, this will not be shonen ai or yaoi. In fact, romance isn't something that will figure very heavily into the story. You will see moments between Maes and Gracia, of course, and may see a few Mustang/Hawkeye moments, but other than that, action and drama is the focus of this story. It will be fairly short. I don't envision it going past 5 chapters. Anyway, I'll shut up now… well, after the disclaimer…

Disclaimer: If I owned it, it would be renamed "Flame Alchemist". The characters and settings are the intellectual property of someone who is not me (and when I edit I will put the proper names here). I'm just playing in the sandbox for a few moments. I hope you enjoy the ride.

The sun in East City shone brightly, illuminating dancing dust particles as the rays streamed through the open window. A gentle breeze blew, shifting papers on the wooden desk. With a grunt, the man sitting at the desk blindly reached behind him and slammed the window closed. Turning around, he stood up and scowled at the sunlight and impulsively brought the blind down with a violent motion.

So violent, in fact, that the rod snapped off the wall and the whole contraption landed at his feet, bounced and banged against his shins. Still holding the end of the blind in one hand, Colonel Mustang bit his lip against the loud curses threatening to make themselves known and bent down to pick up the blind. Deliberately gentle, he turned and moved to set the cursed thing on his desk. Just before he let go, however, the door to his office came open and two heads, one blond and one grey, peeked around the doorjamb.

And because Mustang knew that soon the sarcastic remarks would flow – especially from Havoc – he instead threw the blind at the door. Falman, being the smarter of the two, immediately disappeared while Havoc waited for the blind to rebound off the door. With a smirk firmly in place, Havoc opened the door, stepped into the office, and picked up the abused blind. "I think you dropped this, chief."

Mustang's eyes narrowed. He raised an arm and pointed to the door. When Havoc didn't immediately comply, Mustang snapped his bare fingers. Havoc gulped audibly. "I'll, uh, just be, um," he pointed to the door, stepping backwards, "out here if you need me." In his haste, he ran into First Lieutenant Hawkeye as she tried to come in the door.

The sight of Riza Hawkeye vainly trying to use a stack of books to avert Havoc's panicked backwards stumbling was enough to soften the glower on Mustang's face. Havoc kept going and Riza winced as his boot heels found her feet. After a few moments of amusement, Mustang sighed. "Havoc, stop. Get back in here." Jean Havoc was a self proclaimed handyman; maybe he could fix the blind. "And stop molesting Lieutenant Hawkeye."

That stopped the both of them short. Mustang chuckled; he loved seeing Hawkeye blush. It happened so rarely that the pink tinge was a precious thing indeed. (Especially when he caused the reaction.) Havoc rolled his head back and grinned sheepishly at Hawkeye.

"Get off my feet," she answered brusquely. "Now, unless you want that cigarette down your throat."

Havoc threw a jaunty salute as he stepped away from her. Unfortunately, he'd forgotten about the blind still in his grip and nearly knocked Hawkeye in the head with it.

"Havoc," Mustang called, "do see if you can't fix that before you cause any more damage."

Havoc blinked. "Me? You're the one who tore it off the wall."

"That's an order, Lieutenant."

Havoc's eyes narrowed and he stepped past Mustang, muttering as he regarded the naked window. Mustang smirked when he caught the phrase "abusing the privileges of rank" and turned back to Hawkeye. "Problem?"

She shook her head. "No, sir. I found one of the books you had requested and was bringing it in to you."

Mustang's eyes lit up. Hawkeye blinked; how a book on the weather patterns of the southern region could make anyone look like a child just given exactly what they've always wanted was beyond her. "If I may ask, sir?"

Mustang nodded. Hawkeye barely refrained from sighing. He knew exactly what she was going to ask, and yet he was childish enough to make her actually voice the question. She crossed her arms, glaring at her superior officer. Mustang's mouth quirked in a half-smile. Even Havoc turned from his vain perusal of the window to regard their little game. The blond man smiled, shaking his head. The two did this every time, and according to his own calculations – he'd have to get his calendar out of his desk to see exactly – Mustang and Hawkeye were pretty much evenly matched. Too bad Fuery or Breda weren't there; Havoc could have used the money. Betting against Hawkeye was usually pretty stupid, but seeing the Colonel's mood so far meant he didn't have the patience for these games and he'd be the one to give in first.

Then again, these moods sometimes led to stubbornness unmatched… Havoc sat back and waited.

Mustang spoke first. "Oh, all right, Hawkeye." He shook his head. "It has to with alchemy."

"I had realized that, sir."

"Of course." He waved off the reprimand. "I'm able to change the content of the air, right? More oxygen, less oxygen, whatever I need at the time."

"Bombs on command," Havoc supplied, grinning insanely. "I would kill for bombs on command."

Mustang blinked, turning to the man standing behind him. "You're frightening, Havoc. You know that?"

"Yes, sir," he replied.

Shaking his head, Mustang turned back to Hawkeye. "I just wanted a better understanding of the atmosphere throughout Amestris and beyond."

"But weather patterns, sir?"

Mustang smiled. "I know. It sounds incredibly boring."

The look Hawkeye sent him said everything: If you can put this much energy into something as boring as weather patterns, surely you can actually get some actual work done once in awhile.

"You don't approve of my extra curricular research, Lieutenant?"

"I didn't say that, sir."

"Nicely evaded, Hawkeye."

"Evasion, sir?"

His mouth quirked. Havoc was grinning. Word games with Hawkeye always lifted the colonel's mood. What had put him in this particular funk that ended up with the blind being ripped off the wall and thrown around, Havoc didn't know, but a whole day of the colonel randomly destroying his office? It wasn't something Havoc wanted to put up with again. He'd fixed far too many dents, dings and cracks for Mustang to be in these moods very often. Making a silent pact to send Hawkeye something nice for her intervention, he turned back to the window as the phone rang.

Mustang glared at it and finally grabbed the receiver after the third ring. "Mustang." The greeting was curt, inviting the caller to get straight to the point. After moment, though, the stern mien on Mustang's face fell to concern and confusion. He motioned to Havoc, who went to shut the door. By the time he returned to the desk, Hawkeye had set the books down next to the telephone and was watching the colonel intently. So far, Mustang had yet to speak a word. Bracing the phone on his shoulder, he reached for his pen and then grabbed whatever report was on top of his stack. He scribbled on it and handed it to Hawkeye.

Train, Central. Send Breda.

Hawkeye turned on her heel and was out the door. Havoc watched the door swing closed, blinking at the suddenness of her departure. He started when Mustang finally spoke.

"Gracia, listen…" It was apparent he was cut off; even Havoc heard the stream of shrill words from the receiver. Mustang frowned, opening and closing his mouth, unable to get a word it. His brow furrowed and Havoc actually stepped back. He knew that look well. "Gracia, stop." The command wasn't shouted, nor was it quiet. Mustang, however, knew how to get anyone to listen to him. "You need to take a deep breath."

Havoc was frowning; the moment Mustang's inflection held any sort of gentleness or concern, he knew there was trouble. And Colonel Mustang sounded very concerned indeed.

Hawkeye slipped back into the room, closing the door quietly behind her.

"Gracia? Are you calmer?" Mustang was clenching the edge of his desk hard enough that his knuckles shone white. Suddenly he smiled grimly. "Right. I know. I'm stupid. Start again, and tell me – a little slower this time – what happened."

It was what Mustang said next that sent Havoc's worry careening into overdrive. "Is Maes all right?"

Hawkeye looked up, worry shining in her red-brown eyes, at this. She caught Havoc's eye and motioned him away from the desk with her. While still keeping an eye on the colonel, she spoke quietly to him. "Catch up with Breda; he's making calls to get train tickets. I told him two, but I want three."

"You're worried."

She nodded. "If Mrs. Hughes is calling here in a state over her husband…" She trailed off, turning her gaze to Mustang. "He's going to Central," she whispered. "He'll need someone to keep an eye on him, and I'll need someone to do the legwork while we're there."

Havoc regarded the colonel. "I'll do it," he said softly.

Hawkeye nodded, nearly smiling. "Get packed; I've a feeling we're leaving as soon as he hangs up that phone."

Mustang suddenly straightened, clenching the phone tight in his hand. "What happened to Elysia?" He listened for a moment and even Havoc and Hawkeye heard the frantic worry in Gracia's tone, if not her actual words. Mustang was shaking his head. "We'll find her, Gracia. We'll find her."

Hawkeye pushed Havoc toward the door. "Tell Breda to step it up with those tickets."

Havoc didn't need any more encouragement; he was out the door in a second.

"I'm on my way." The colonel paused. "Of course I am." He blinked, his countenance softening at something Gracia said, and he almost genuinely smiled. "Take care, Gracia, and try not to worry too much. Tell Maes I'm on my way." With that, the phone was hung up and Mustang stood still for a moment, hand still on the receiver and eyes toward the floor. When he looked up, Hawkeye was biting her lip, worried but trying to look professionally detached. "Maes is hurt," he told her. Hawkeye nodded; she'd picked up that much. "Elysia is missing."

Hawkeye watched as he breezed past her to the door. "Sir?"

He sighed. "The girl was mostly likely kidnapped by the same man who attacked Major Hughes and his wife."

Hawkeye's breath caught in her throat. Mustang was through the door, grabbing his greatcoat. She turned on her heel and quickly marched out behind him. "Breda," she called. Both Havoc and Breda looked up from the desk, where Breda had just hung up the phone.

"Passage for three leaving from Platform Two in 45 minutes, sirs," Breda called.

Mustang stopped. "Three?"

Havoc grinned his trademark "anything goes" grin. "What? You think we'd let you go alone?"

Gracia Hughes hung up the phone, wiping tears from her eyes. Resolutely, she turned around, and after quietly thanking the nurse on duty, strode down the hallway. Upon reaching the fifth door, she turned to go in, but rested her hand against the wood for a moment as she steeled herself. Slowly and quietly, she pushed her way through the heavy door and approached the single bed where her husband lay, unmoving and still as death. She laid a hand on his chest and kissed his forehead, then lovingly played with the hair that never seemed able to lay straight. "You can rest easy now, love." She kissed his cheek and then whispered in his ear. "I did like you said, Maes. I called Roy when things got rough, and you were right. He's dropping everything and coming here." Her hands clenched into fists in the sheets. "It'll be all right now, right?"

Maes Hughes only answer was an irregular breath. Gracia tried to suppress the sob that rose in her throat. She laid her head next to his shoulder and cried softly well into the night.

And all the while, someone watched from the half-open door, frowning and cursing Gracia Hughes for ever thinking to call East City. After Gracia exhausted herself and fell asleep, the bulky figure turned away. Preparations had to be made. With the Flame Alchemist coming, the situation was bound to become more difficult.


I adore concrit, by the way. Please tell me if something strikes you as wrong. Thanks!