Well, here's Chapter 9! I almost made it longer, but that would make this chapter about as long as the last one and have ended it on another nasty cliffhanger. To spare you the nasty cliffy, and my injured hand the typing of a horribly long chapter (I admit it, I suck), I present you with Chapter 9—the shorter version. Next chapter is looking to be really long again though…

Thank you again to everyone who faved this story or put it on alert! I always take that to mean I'm doing something right! And a really big thank you to my reviewers:

Sisyphean Effort: Thank you! Sorry it took me so long!

Amethyst-eyed Koneko: Sorry it took me so long! I'm glad you enjoyed it though! This is a minor, set-up arc though. So let's just say that little surprise of no sex between Roy and Ed was a GOOD thing for poor Ed. Tisdale is not the main baddie. ~.^

Shane: Wow… Harsh, man! Dunno if ANYone deserves what's gonna happen to Ed. XD

Who'reUCallingAPipsqeakMidget: Here it is! I hope you enjoy!

RPSorrow: Wow… Thank you for such a nice review! It more than makes up for not favoriting I think. ~.^ I'm very happy you have enjoyed my story! I'm trying to make it good. ^_^ Also, thank you for your well-wishes on my hand. It doesn't appear broken and seems to be getting better, though the brace is still annoying. XD I hope you continue to enjoy!

Also, I hope no one minds my being shameless here, but... I have a survey up at http: /www .surveymonkey .com/ s/ RMVDHVW. It's very short (8 questions!) and on heroes, specifically, your idea of a hero. Could I please ask people who are interested to please take my survey? Thank you! I want to write an article and this is part of my research process. I might make a longer one later based on the results as well. Thank you if you do take it! ^_^

Once again, I hope everyone enjoys! Constructive criticism is always welcome and well-loved. ^_^

Chapter 9

The Tisdale kitchen, the entire house for that matter, was totally clean. It was so clean it practically sparkled despite its apparent age. A place this clean could only mean one of two things: either its occupants were obsessed with cleaning or they weren't planning on returning.

Roy glared into the shiny steel base as he let Cranning prattle on beside him. Someone else patted his arm and murmured something in a soothing tone, but Roy ignored them. The same as he ignored the other townspeople who had all followed him after he'd stormed from viewing the hotel room he had shared with Ed.

"Are you sure? The sheriff isn't in his office? But—But if he's not here… Where could he—" a disbelieving voice cut into Roy's thoughts from behind him.

Someone else shushed the man, and Roy knew they were looking at him, attempting to be respectful of his loss. That infuriated him as much as anything else.

"Let's go back into town, dear," said a voice Roy vaguely recognized. He looked down to find Emmaline, her lips drooping and her eyes sparkling with sad sympathy, at his elbow. "Don't worry. We'll find Sheriff Tisdale, and then we'll all find your Ed." Roy felt a growl rise in his throat, but she continued on, oblivious to the rage boiling inside him. "Perhaps John will know—"

"John Tisdale?" Roy pinned her beneath his hardest stare, the one that had been known to send wet-behind-the-ears private running. "What did you say before? About his wanting a baby?"

His men might be hours away, but he was still a Colonel in the army. More than that, he was a State Alchemist and a decorated war hero. His subordinate's life was in danger, and Roy figured himself more than capable of burning some insane two-bit alchemist to a crisp. Especially if said insane two-bit had harmed Edward.

"Just that—he wants one," she answered, surprise and uncertainty clear on her face.

"No. You said he wanted to have it!"

Roy spun on his heel and advanced on Cranning, pulling out a pair of balled up white gloves as he went.

"Cranning. I'm going to answer you again. You had better answer me truthfully. What did Tisdale mean when he said not to forget that "other thing?"

Cranning gave an involuntary shudder, his eyes wide with fear and his face rapidly draining of all color. He gaped at Roy for a moment, and then his eyes shot about the room at the others. Most had gone quiet, frozen in shock at Roy's dangerous change in persona, and were watching their exchange. No one was going to help the mayor any time soon.

"N-nothing! I told you—"

"No," Roy snarled savagely. "I want the truth! While there's still time!"

He unrolled the gloves and slipped them slowly onto first one hand, then the other, all the while making sure the array on the back could be clearly seen.

Gasps travelled about the room like soft little explosions. His face might not be widely known, but his gloves and name were famous all over Amestris.

"The Flame Alchemist…" someone finally said, awed surprise making his voice husky.

The tension in the house rose perceptibly. Sweat began to trickle down Cranning's pasty face and he gulped.

"I—I—I can't! I can't! He'll kill me!"

Roy's eyes narrowed to thin slits as he raised one gloved hand, fingers poised to snap.

"Eight young men are already dead, mutilated. Now Ed may very well be suffering the same fate. Do you really think the army will think twice about my burning alive the man who prevented me from finding the Fullmetal Alchemist before he was killed?"

Everyone apparently had stopped to watch, and there were several more gasps around the room, along with a few versions of, "That pipsqueak was the Fullmetal Alchemist?"

Roy half-expected Ed to magically appear out of nowhere to give his customary angry rant for being called small. He found himself disappointed and even more infuriated that Ed didn't—couldn't.

"Tell me what I need to know, Mayor Cranning."

Roy's voice went beyond icy and straight to holding all the fires of hell in just those few words.

Cranning shivered and closed his eyes as though taking the last few steps to the gallows.

"Tisdale has a house over by the East Pool Forest. It was John's from when he moved here with his family."

"Nice and isolated," Roy commented, his tone just as furious. It was all the more terrifying for its steadiness, Roy could tell from Cranning's reactions. "Were you also hiding the fact that Tisdale is an alchemist? Or is it John?"

Cranning's form slumped, and he stumbled back into a wall. He shook his head as though to deny it, but which question Roy didn't, and had to, know.

"Neither of them's an alchemist,"Emmaline breathed, bravely, if hesitantly, coming over to stand by Roy. One tentative hand came up to rest on his raised arm. "I promise—"

She froze when Roy turned his glare on her, her eyes lighting with terror at the cold steel he knew she must be seeing there. She bit her lip, flinching with a little cry when he snapped his fingers. But it was Cranning who screamed.

Roy looked back over at him, taking in the bright red welt that ran from his chin to the back of his cheek just below the cheekbone before Cranning covered it with his hand.

"Who is it, Cranning?"

"Miles! It's Miles," Cranning whimpered finally. "H-he's been studying it since we were kids. Quit med school to come back here and devote more time to it."

The smile Roy gave Cranning was possibly more terrifying than his glare, he knew from too much experience, but at that moment he didn't care. He was glad for it. In his eyes, this weak coward of a man was as much to blame as the Tisdales.

Roy turned back to Emmaline and nodded in an attempt to be respectful. "The rest of my team will be arriving at the hotel in town soon. Please meet them and tell them to meet me at John Tisdale's."

He waited for her quick, shocked nod before turning to one of the other men in the room. "I'll need to borrow a car and get some directions."

The man shook his head.

"No. We're coming with you. They killed our people, gave our town a bad name, and lied to us all, but the Tisdales are still one of us. They're ours to handle." He paused, and then quickly added, "With your help, of course. He still has your Ed after all."

Roy didn't bother to correct or argue with the man, he just nodded his assent and ignore the little skipped beat of his heart when the man called Ed his.

"You follow my orders. I don't want any more lives lost to these madmen if I can help it."

There was a murmur of both dissent and surprise at that, but Roy ignored it as he glanced back at Cranning. "Someone lock him up. He'll be under arrest after this."

Roy wasn't wearing his uniform and he certainly wasn't keeping his fingers in a snapping position within this crowd, but when his made his way to the door then, the townspeople parted respectfully before him. He pretended it wasn't a respect laced with fear and that he cared if it was. All that truly mattered to him now was that he find Edward in time.

Ed woke slowly to what he considered to the granddaddy of all headaches. Fortunately, the thick, heavy cotton that seemed to be wrapped very tightly around every last one of his nerves kept the edge off of the pain for him.

What happened… he wondered muzzily as he blinked his eyes open.

Fighting through the cotton and blinking to clear his vision, Ed managed a vague memory of returning to his room after missing Roy. He'd opened the door, gone inside, and then…

And then there'd been a sharp pain in his neck.

Silently cursing because his mouth and vocal cords refused to cooperate, Ed struggled to raise a hand up to his neck where he remembered feeling the needle prick. There was nothing there, of course. He'd already pulled it out in the room. The spot was sore, however, and Ed remembered the grinning face of the man who had done this to him.

It had been him: That host, the sheriff's husband, John. Ed had spun around to find him standing there, his manic eyes full of triumph.

"Got you..." John crowed at him, drawing the last syllable out.

Ed snarled and opened his mouth to respond, but the drug had already started take effect. His vocal cords were frozen, allowing for only a hoarse gasp that sounded just vaguely like the words he'd meant to say. A matching insidious weakness was working its way through his muscles as well, threatening to drag them from Ed's control again.

Fear washed over Ed. It drove him forward, his metal fist swinging for his attacker's head. The man dodged, his grin never wavering as he proved himself faster than Ed had thought anyone could be. Still, Ed fought through the surprise and forced his body to twist mid-move, bringing his left fist up in what was meant to be a punishing swing.

It connected, but not with enough force to do any kind of damage. The drug had already drained him too thoroughly. Ed felt a strange mixture of fury and horror at the realization that the bright red that smeared across John's cheek was his own blood.

Stumbling back, his balance nearly totally shot now, Ed stared at his own split knuckles and wondered how that had happened. The hard corner of the end table stabbed into his back, stopping him too late to save the lamp from crashing to the floor. It shattered as it landed, sending one large, heavy ceramic piece sailing over to the coffee table where it hit the books piled there. They, in turn, clattered to the floor, some skidding to a halt in front of the fireplace.

A fog was closing in over Ed's sight by then. He blinked, trying to clear it, but when he looked back at John, Ed found his attacker to be veiled in a thick layer of grey.

"Too bad we can't kill you yet, but you're still needed," John said, his voice sounding regretful. There was just a trace of malicious glee underlying the tone, however.

Ed launched another automail punch again, but vertigo hit him as his arm flew forward. His body followed his punch, pitching forward to crumple at John's feet. He rolled and blinked up just in time to see John's fist hurtling towards him, and then unconsciousness swept over him.

Ed stifled a moan at the combination of embarrassment and fury at his own incompetence. How stupid did he have to be to have been caught so easily? If Roy didn't kill him for this, he was never going to let Ed live it down. The same with Al.

A small whimper managed to escape him before Ed even knew it was there. How could he be so careless? Al still needed him!

"He's awake," a voice Ed dimly recognized said from above him. Apparently, his brain was moving in slow motion along with the rest of his body.

Opening his eyes, Ed stared blearily up at John and Sheriff Tisdale. They both stared silently back at him, triumph on their faces.

So they had been in on it together! He'd been right! Now if he could just break free of this strange paralysis that held him, he could beat their heads in for what they'd done!

Exactly what had they given him to make his body so unresponsive anyway? Couldn't have been poison—they would need him alive for a little bit longer, right?

Ed felt another jolt of fear run through him, which he channeled into as strong a glare as he could manage while he fought to push himself up off of the hard concrete floor beneath him. He'd just managed to make it onto his elbows when a large hand pushed him back down again.

"Shh…" Sheriff Tisdale told him in a kind, soothing voice. "Don't try to move, young man. You'll just make things worse on yourself."


Tisdale snorted in amusement as John asked in an incredulous voice, "Did he just tell you to fuck off? That little sh—"

At the word little, Ed felt his normal rage flare brightly within him. He managed to push himself to his knees this time, his hands clapping together in front of him. The array blossomed in his mind, beautiful and perfect, as he slammed his hands back to the ground. Light, bright blue and crackling, appeared, but the array disintegrated in his mind just then. The light went wild and the power turned back on him, blasting him back down to the ground.

John's chuckles blended strangely with Ed's moan while Tisdale leaned over Ed, one eyebrow raised in amusement.

"Impressive. He's strong. Even managed to scorch the floor. I'll have to retrace those lines to be sure they weren't disturbed," Tisdale said with a look at the floor.

Ed turned his head and just managed to make out the thin white lines painted there. He had missed them before. Cursing silently, Ed wondered again what they had given him.

"He'll be the perfect experiment," Tisdale continued, heading back out of Ed's line of sight.

Letting his head roll to the side, Ed cringed internally at the cruel expression on John's face. Their eyes met briefly, sending a chill down Ed's spine, before the other turned to grant a beautiful and perfectly hopeful smile on Tisdale.

"And then I can have my baby, right?"

Stepping back into view next to John, Tisdale put down a paint bucket and reached out to tenderly caress his husband's cheek. "Of course, my love. We'll be able to have a baby, and then we'll go far, far away from here."

Pulling John hard against him, Tisdale kissed him as John clung to his shirt. They looked like every couple pictured on the sappy, saccharine dime store romance novel Al had a tendency to bring home whenever their search became too much for him. It was even more cringe-worthy in person than on those covers in Ed's opinion.

The fog began pressing in on Ed's sight again and he fought against it, trying hard to concentrate on those memories of watching Al reading or cuddling one of his rescued kittens. He had to escape! He couldn't die here! Not yet! Not yet!

The couple stopped kissing and looked over at him. Ed couldn't see their faces well enough now to make out their expressions.

"He seems to be going back under," John commented, sounding disappointed.

"It's alright," Tisdale said. "I don't think it matters so long as he was strong enough to wake up once. And he did hit his head. Let's just get him ready."

Ed finally lost his battle with the darkness once again as they reached for him.