"What the-what the hell?" Ed gasped. Whatever Marty had done had felt like his insides had been gently pulled out through his eyes, which left him with a more than queasy stomach and the vague urge to mutilate something.
Or a certain someone.
The 'certain someone' placidly took out a cigarette and started patting his coat pockets in search for a lighter. "I believe in hand-on learning," he said serenely, cigarette clenched between his teeth as he continued his search. "Explaining matters to you is obviously useless. I'll let you see it for yourself."
"See what?" Ed began to ask, but then his attention was caught on something from the corner of his eye.
He turned, eyes widening.
"Col-Colonel?" he stammered, staring at the raven-haired man sitting casually at his desk, head bowed as he scanned carefully whatever documents were laid out in front of him. They had to be rather important, some part of Ed thought distantly, for the lazy ass to actually be reading them instead of just slacking off as usual. A smaller part of him noted that the bastard looked rather tired for some reason.
...But most of Ed was really just bewildered.
"What – how-" he looked about the room, dazedly, "-what are we doing in your office?"
Roy Mustang looked up into Ed's eyes with a glance that was profoundly disturbing for how utterly unconcerned and normal it was - as if he was completely ignoring the fact he was looking at another human being.
"It's getting late," the man muttered, frowning slightly before turning his gaze back to his work.
It was just like Al.
"Hey, what's that supposed to mean, shithead?! Too good to even make a short joke, are you?!!" Ed yelled, trying to cover up his nerves and that inexplicable sense of dread that had struck him when he'd first opened the door of his study to find an empty apartment. "Look at me when I'm talking to you, you good-for-nothing fucking asshole!"
Roy reached for another piece of paper, sighing.
Edward slapped his hands on the jerk's desk, heart for some reason pounding wildly. The bastard was still ignoring him, curse him!
"Dammit, Mustang, answer me!" he cried. "I'm talking to you!"
The Flame Alchemist hadn't even blinked.
The fifteen-year-old bit his lip. "If this is because of Al, or – or 'cuz I didn't come in in a while - I'm sorry, okay? I just – I didn't-"
"He was looking at the clock," Marty cut in nonchalantly, slowly exhaling smoke and tucking a green lighter back into his pocket.
Ed's head turned, forehead furrowing.
"Behind you," the man explained, gesturing to the wall where a wooden analog clock was ticking. "He wasn't looking at you, Edward Elric.
"He was looking through you."
Ed froze, golden eyes widening.
'Not looking'… he didn't… what? That doesn't make sense
He brought his hand close to his face and stared at it.
It seemed normal. Solid.
Then why… why couldn't he see me?
He stole a glance at the man who allegedly brought him here. Ma-what's-his-face.
He knew my name. He can see me.
But Mustang can't.
Does that mean…am I dead? And that lazy drunkard that brought me here… he's an… an ang- No, that's stupid. I don't believe in that kind of crap. Come on, Ed, focus. There has to be some kind of logical explanation.
…Is there a form of alchemy that can make someone invisible? I wouldn't think that was possible – even if invisibility was scientifically plausible, you would have to transfigure every individual atom in your body, which would be impractical since a human body constantly replaces and exchanges atoms with its environment. Besides of which, Mustang doesn't seem to even hear me, and I know for a fact that sound waves can't be messed around with by alchemy.
So that leaves me with… what?
Marty leaned his back against a filing cabinet. "Get it now?"
Edward pressed the bridge of his nose with two fingers, forcing calm into his voice. "What'd you do to me?"
Marty looked amused. "Me? I had nothing to do with it."
His fist hit the wall before he even realized he'd moved. "What the hell happened to me?"
The man flicked the ashes from the cigarette to the floor, where Ed noticed they disappeared into nothing. "Someone wished for something, and they decided to grant it," he replied simply.
This answer didn't make sense at all. But suspending reality for a moment, he decided to play the asshole's game. "You just give any idiot what he wants? What the fuck is wrong with you people?"
Marty corrected irritably, "I said 'they', thereby implying not me. I don't get to make these kinds of decisions. Pretty low on the corporate ladder, as it happens."
Not surprising, Ed thought sourly. "Who's 'they'?"
He shook his head. "Can't tell you, kid, but trust me, it isn't really that big a deal. All you need to know is that some things out there are pretty damn powerful."
Ed scowled, but accepted the answer. "And what did I do to deserve being their guinea pig?"
Marty walked over to Mustang's desk and sat on it, apparently making himself comfortable. The sight was rather disturbing to the boy, as he happened to sit right on the documents Mustang was working on, and it was beyond weird to see the Colonel continue working when some guy's butt was right in front of him.
Talk about mentally scarring, Ed thought disgustedly.
"Truth is, the illustrious 'they' who did this to you and sent me here are actually a bit… haphazard, I suppose. Like to feel benevolent once in a while. They watch what happens in the world, and occasionally, when the mood strikes, or a very powerful desire is made known, they decide to interfere. In this case, they decided to make you disappear."
Marty shrugged. "Dunno. Maybe they think it's important."
He wrinkled his forehead. "Is this supposed to be punishment? It's that important that no one can see me?" he asked skeptically. "That's just annoying," he remarked, completely forgetting his initial reaction to the idea. If he could still do alchemy, it could even be useful. Ed could research in peace, with no one breathing down his neck or knowing what he was up to, he could go wherever he wanted…
Ha. See if the bastard could send him on those missions now…! he chortled silently.
And those books Mustang refused to give him clearance for?
So not a problem.
"Perhaps the intention was not so much to punish you as to rid the world of your less than agreeable presence," Marty suggested rather bluntly. "Not everything is necessarily about you, you know. If the wish had been evil or selfish in nature, it wouldn't have been granted. As it is, you are unharmed but for your incapacity to affect your environment."
Guess that means no alchemy.
In that case…"Unharmed? Unharmed?" Ed cried in disbelief. "I've got important things to do, you asshole!" His voice turned low and dangerous. "Fix me, Marty, or I swear, I-"
"You'll what?" he was interrupted casually. "Kill me, and lose your chance to understand what's going on? Stay like this forever?"
Ed blanched, feeling as if he'd just ran into a brick wall, horrified that someone could… think him capable of…
"I…I wouldn't have…" he stammered, "…I… I don't. I can't…"
The steely green gaze softened slightly. Marty took another long drag on his cigarette, and only after he'd exhaled a ring of smoke did he speak.
"Listen kid, I don't blame you for being ticked. But there's a reason to this, you just have to figure it out. Trust me, my bosses didn't do this just to mess with you. Right now, your best bet is to cooperate with me."
Author's Note: Just to prove to you guys that I haven't completely abandoned the FMA fandom... I swear I'll get working on everything as soon as I can. Until then, this extra long chapter should tide you over...
Love you guys! Don't give up on me yet!