I know what you're thinking. It's about time!
Warning: Long shot is way too long. I only planned on it being a paragraph but as I wrote it just kept getting longer and longer.
Roy watched reluctantly as the blond disappeared further and further from view, hobbling over the chunks of brick and concrete littering what used to be a smooth floor. His onyx eyes could just see the familiar mop of gold through the cloud of thick dust lingering in the air, surrounding him like a cloak, mingling with his oxygen.
The Colonel soon realised it wasn't the dust at all clogging his lungs. It was worry, the air was thick with it, pounding from his heart and flooding his head. He had faith in his team and always would, without a doubt. Why was this so different? They'd dealt with far worse before, yet his nerves were still sharp and weary.
Ever since Roy could remember, he'd always seen the worst of everything. The people he'd meet, the situations he was landed in, he could only see the bad traits, and there was no light at the end of the tunnel for him at all. It was people like his subordinates that he couldn't see darkness in at all, any of them. Roy had known after just a single meeting that they were all genuine, people who he could confidently trust his life with.
They weren't like him, the 'hero' of Ishbal. Perhaps it he surrounded himself with these wonderful people because he had such little faith in himself. People that could make the world an undeniably better place like Edward.
The teen was undoubtedly strong, probably more than the Colonel himself, who had years of military experience. It still didn't stop Roy from worrying. Even the strongest men could lose a battle, Ed was no exception.
"Edward, please just let me-" the blond raised a finger.
"If you get hurt from interfering, don't come crying to me."
The raven frowned; Ed could see the concern plaguing his features.
"Please, just trust me."
The Colonel gave a look of confirmation to the others, who nodded silently in response.
Despite the adrenaline pumping through his veins, and the foreign substance lingering in his blood, Edward felt ecstatic. He felt like nothing could touch him, like he could do anything without failing. Frank looked him in the eyes with his glaring blue orbs. They both knew the battle was almost over, he knew what Ed was thinking, his small smile confirmed it.
It was a matter of waiting, waiting for Ed's suspicions to be proved correct.
The chalked array on the floor had been long destroyed amongst the chaos, the pieces were everywhere. Alex and Roy had been looking for a chalk, anything the man could write with, aiming for his arms to stop them from working, too distracted to think.
Being open minded was everything. It could be the difference between life and death. Frank didn't need anything to write with. But how could Edward prove it? He knew it was a long shot, know it sounded ridiculous. No one would believe him, so he had to prove it.
The blond watched Franks pale hands, his long, slim fingers. He used to work with investigations as Hughes replacement, not a state alchemist. Yet if Ed's theory was correct, how was he able to perform it? It took years of hard work and research to learn the basics. There was only one thing that could have helped him.
There was just one thing he didn't understand. Why had he kept this a secret for so long? A last resort? A surprise?
"Something on your mind, FullMetal?"
"Yeah. Why am I still here?"
A metallic fist grabbed Archer by the collar, moving to his throat. He remained still, wide eyed and grinning.
"Why?" the blond demanded, anger surging through his veins like a wild beast, temper flaring.
"I have no idea what you mean," he smiled, even as the metal hold tightened further, a dark bruise trailing across his pale skin. Ed knew the man could barely feel a thing, but it didn't matter. Knowing it would hurt later gave him a small sense of satisfaction.
"The arrays, you didn't even use them did you? You just murdered them you sick bastard!"
Lives had been wasted, innocent young victims slaughtered like cattle.
"Clever boy," Frank mouthed breathlessly, a smirk still tattooed to his features. Roy raised a brow in question, utterly tired and confused. It was amazing how differently the mind worked in different circumstances.
The Elric locked eyes with his superior and smiled triumphantly, eyes burning with determination.
"He doesn't need a circle. He's been leading us on!" 'But why bother leaving the arrays at the crime scene?' he thought, it made no sense.
Frank caught the alchemist off guard, peeling the metal fingers from his throat, and pounding a fist into Ed's stomach. Edward staggered backwards, a blue flash of light blinded him, golden eyes blurred and squinted through the colourful flashes.
The crackle of alchemy fizzed beneath his pale palms, like a burst of lightening sparking from his fingertips, like a God. Never before has Frank felt so powerful. Now he knew why so many vowed to learn alchemy. It made them feel untouchable.
A long metal pole emerged from the floor, the tip pointed and sharp. He grasped it tightly, and lunged for the FullMetal alchemist.
Ed's automail transformed with a flash, the sound of clashing blades rang out through the air. The blond was quick on his feet, but he was struggling to keep up.
"I lost everything because of you and your stupid brother, my men, my mind, and my career!"
Ed remained silent, focusing on the beam weaving through the air, slicing through the oxygen like a knife through hot butter. A great weight settled on his chest, crushing his aching lungs like a slab of stone. Edward knew this feeling. It had followed him his entire life. Guilt.
The young alchemist carried the burden of so many things, things people his age shouldn't have to deal with. Ever. The fact was, everything had already happened to Ed, and he knew it would do no good trying to change the course of events. He and his brother had already learnt that lesson, the hard way.
Frank was mad, the blond had known since he had first laid eyes on the man. He could still remember those piercing blue eyes looking down at him, down at everyone. That navy uniform might has well of been a crown for all Frank cared. It was a reminder of his importance. It didn't matter that hundreds of others wore the same uniform, because Frank Archers fit better than anyone else's, the man had made sure that everyone knew.
It wasn't often that Edward saw the other Colonels. They were busy with their own teams, working their way to the top. Just like Roy Mustang was.
Despite the irregular meetings with some military faces, Ed never forgot a face when he saw one. /
Colonel Mustang growled with irritation as another person clipped his shoulder, as if he hadn't been there in the first place. Invisible.
The sun grilled the earth with no mercy for its inhabitants, its powerful blaze growing stronger as the day passed.
Glancing at the other military dressed figures, Roy wasn't surprised to see that it wasn't just him that kept tugging at his tight collar. Several other men were trying to desperately relieve themselves of the heat, and failing. The few women present remained as stubborn as ever, refusing to touch their pristine uniforms, continuing to ignore the presence of the unbearable sun.
Military ceremonies were usually warm, it was to be expected from the sheer mass of beings huddled together in thick uniforms, shirts buttoned to the collar. This year was no different. The intensity of the summer weather had arrived earlier than expected, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
Approaching the Fuhrer was out of the question. Ever the bravest men and women refused adamantly.
Each team had been arranged in a neat formation together, standing in impeccable straight lines that had been rehearsed strictly over and over again. Despite the procedure being the same each year, there were always a few beings that managed to go wrong. Even a single step out of time stood out like a sore thumb, and punishments were unavoidable.
From the corner of his eye, Roy could see that even Hughes was struggling to stay enthusiastic. It was at times like this he wished Maes didn't work for investigations, and then perhaps the man's positivity could rub off on him.
It was a blessing to know a man like Maes. After a rough day at the office the Colonel could always guarantee he would be waiting for him, with the promising offer of a drink and several hours of time to talk the frustration away. Despite the man having a family, he always managed to spare time for Roy when he most needed it, no matter what hour of the day it was.
Friendship in the military wasn't often welcome with open arms, especially between soldiers in different teams and with different ranks. People couldn't understand that an entirely different world existed beyond fierce competition for promotions.
The Colonel skimmed his onyx eyes over the large crowd with curiosity, ignoring the chattering of the public and the dull drumming of the band. Even the usually scruffiest men had taken the time to make their uniforms neat and orderly. Perhaps that was why one individual stood out to him the most. A familiar mop of blond hair approached him, not even caring as they disrupted the neat formations. There was only one person it could be, and Roy inwardly sighed with embarrassment.
The young alchemist couldn't care less that he wasn't in uniform, and could feel the stares drenching him from head to toe.
As much as the teen irritated him, the Colonel admired Ed's rebellious attitude. Only one individual had the balls to interrupt like that. An Elric.
The blond took his position next to his superior, a smug smile on his lips, like a Cheshire cat. Roy's admiration for Ed soon vanished as quickly as it had first appeared. It wouldn't be FullMetal receiving a scolding for this. It would be him, Roy Mustang.
"What on earth are you doing?" the Colonel hissed, still facing forward, still as a statue, "I thought I sent you to Liore after that criminal?"
"You did," the teen replied, boredom seeping from his tone, "That was four days ago." He said as if it had been a walk in the park, when in fact, far from it.
After several days of reckless duelling, the stubborn law breaker had surrendered, Alphonse had dragged his brother back to head quarters, and despite the nagging, Ed had once again refused to see a doctor. A few hours after his return home, he decided to drag his bruised and battered body to the office and pay the Colonel a visit, and of course brag how well the mission had gone. It was something he had really been looking forward to.
Seeing the hundreds of troops gathered at the training grounds had done significant damage to his enthusiasm.
"Are you injured?" there was a pause.
"Nothing I can't handle."
"As soon as this is over, I will drag you to the hospital wing myself, you-"
"Save the lecture, I already had this one from Al."
The blond hissed as his lip twinged, still profoundly bleeding and the coppery taste dominating his taste buds. As the ceremony continued, Ed chose this particular moment to shut himself out from the world and dwell in the comfort of his own thoughts.
It had been weeks since the Elric had found the time to do any research on the stone at all, and-
His golden eyes narrowed, flaring curiously at the gaunt looking figure several rows in front, looking directly at him. Ed chewed his lip in thought, immediately regretting it soon afterwards.
"Who's that guy over there?"
Roy sighed. "Which guy? There are hundreds of them!"
"The one looking at me."
The Colonel didn't like the way that blue gaze lingered on his subordinate, as if the man were very deep in thought. Whatever he was thinking, it had something to do with Edward, and Roy didn't like it. He scowled.
"He's training with investigations, just ignore him. No one you need to know."
"I wish it was that easy."
After what seemed like hours later, Edward mentally noted never to attend another fancy ceremony if he could get away with it, and never to try and please his superior with an early report. The bastard would have to learn to wait like a good dog.
Just as the prospect of leaving appeared ever so close, the blond found it snatched from his fingertips, as the Fuhrer decided to make one final announcement. A very long announcement, congratulating the best men for their succession in the recent attacks trying to locate Scar.
There was no doubt that innocent people had been slaughtered and injured, it was always expected from the military. Alchemists were supposed to be for the people. Ed couldn't understand why state alchemists had to be so entirely different. They were used as human weapons, congratulated for each life they took, regardless of whose it was.
Apparently, according to Fuhrer Bradley, war was a necessity. The FullMetal alchemist had to strongly disagree.
Of course for every life taken from the opposition, there had to be an occasional comrade lost.
"We shall remember them."
Ed couldn't listen to the man's words any longer; they were making him sick to the stomach. Everyone he was blatantly lying. The deceased would soon be replaced and long forgotten; the number of coffins would grow and grow until finally Bradley had reached the very top. The man was already Fuhrer, what more did he want?
Little did Edward know, he had much more to learn about Bradley, something he would soon discover in the following years to come. Greed was a terrible emotion, an uncontrollable desire that ruined even the nicest of people.
The pale man was still watching. Ed wondered how he hadn't spotted such a face before, something that stood out and was so unforgettable.
When the military dogs were free to leave, a hoard of soldier's poured from the training grounds, more egger to begin work than they ever had been before. In a matter of minutes all that remained was the occasional group of people lingering behind, chattering amongst themselves.
The Colonel didn't look amused in the slightest, a stern frown and a pair of narrowed eyes looked back at his blond subordinate. Words collected at the tip of his tongue, but Roy knew it was better for him to keep his mouth shut this time. He was far too exhausted to lecture the boy again, and he knew the alchemist hadn't been having the best time recently.
"If you're quite finished trying to show me up FullMetal, you can hand in your report."
Ed silently pulled several folded pieces of paper from his pocket and tossed them carelessly to his superior, like the reckless teen he was.
Soon he found himself walking the long stretch of central's corridors, embracing the long silence. What he wasn't expecting, was a hand on his shoulder.
After jumping several feet in the air and nursing his pounding heart, the blond glared daggers and turned swiftly to the person directly responsible. Standing behind him, was the gaunt looking figure from earlier. The man reached out a hand with a smile and introduced himself.
"Frank Archer, you must be Edward Elric if I am not mistaken."
The Elric stared at the hand offered to him and nodded silently, curiosity welling up inside of him. It was highly unlikely that Frank was simply looking for friendship. He was just like the others, looking for a person to put in a good word for them to widen their reputation, and thus, Ed snapped straight to the point.
"What do you want?"
Frank looked hardly surprised by the alchemists rude outburst, after all it was no secret that FullMetal liked to speak his mind to whomever he pleased.
"You're so very talented," Archer forced a smile upon his lips as if he were disgusted. "I've"
"Heard so much about you," Ed finished, as if he'd rehearsed the same line time and time again. Now he was certain. The man was defiantly after something, just like the rest of them.
Archer was getting more and more fond of that wild attitude as the minutes passed. If the blond used his power and reputation the right way, he could become great, greater than he already was. It was always the people with the most influence who didn't wish for fame or a wild. It was always the lowly likes like himself who became the most famous dictators, who wanted far more than they could ever possess.
"Would you care to-"
"No." The teen snapped before the man could even finish.
"Not even if-"
"You could at least-"
There was only one person that was always happy at work.
Ed spun on his heel to find an ecstatic looking Maes bounding towards him, trademark grin etched to his features, a pile of paperwork tucked neatly under his arm.
"It's been a while, how have you been?"
"Wonderful... absolutely wonderful..." the blond sighed.
How could he be happy? Al was still bound to the suit of armour, he was still lugging a pair of false limbs around, and as if life couldn't get any worse his research budget had been cut degradingly low by the 'higher ups' at the Colonel had so nicely put it.
The man hadn't looked very sympathetic when he had broken the news, and Ed had taken it... as well as he ever did, storming through the hallways and disrespecting furniture as usual.
Hughes couldn't help but feel a pang of sympathy for the boy and looked at the work tucked under his arm, and then to the frown on Edwards face. Work could always wait.
The blond shook his head.
"Great! We have so much catching up to do!"
Flinging an arm around the teen's neck, Maes dragged a reluctant Ed to his office for some well deserved time out and a long chat that was much needed. The young alchemist looked back, golden eyes flaring like the sun.
The hall was empty. Frank was gone, not leaving a single trace behind him.
Edward bit down hard on his lip until he could feel it sting in protest.
Good, the drug was beginning to free Ed from its clutches, whatever the substance was.
Growling with frustration he lunged for the weaving beam and clasped it tightly in his hand. The metal was beginning to strain under the force, creaking as the blond's knuckles turned a deadly shade of white.
Their eyes were locked, gold glaring at blue.
"If I win," the blond wheezed tiredly, "You'll tell me what you wanted."
"The day of the ceremony, remember?"
Frank lifted his head as he recalled the distant memory, smiling as he had done before.
"If you win hmm? You're feeling rather confident."
"Not if," the Elric corrected, "when."
As the alchemy buzzed at his fingertips, Edward sadly recalled the promise he had made to himself two years ago. No alchemy.
After that first clap in so long he'd been disgusted with himself. He already knew he was slipping back into his old ways, relying on alchemy when his strength failed him. Gripping the metal in his hand, he squeezed tighter. He hoped he could be forgiven.
Forgiven by whom?
It didn't matter. Himself perhaps?
It was about time Edward forgave himself for everything.
There will probably be a mistake or two, I have checked it several times but mistakes always slip past me. Thank you for being patient : )