Portrait

Ch. 2: The Transcending

Author's Note: Oh ho ho, sadism, sadism… btw! This is where the "AU" part comes in.

For this chapter, you can check the signs. ~ If I start a vignette with one of these squiggly tildes here (these: ~), then it's the AU. ~ But if I end a vignette with a tilde, then that means we've just left the AU, and we're (sotra) back in the manga-verse (which is technically now an AU as well … whatever). If I start with a tilde, but don't end in one, that means we're still in the AU, so the next vignette or so should end in one. Just look for the other tilde for the exit.

If this system ends up sucking, then I'll figure something even simpler out. I just don't want to label things and break the flow of the story or whatever.

Disclaimer: I see no metal, hear no metal, yet speak Hagaren quite fluently.

~ Alphonse awoke with a jolt.

His entire body rocked forward at the jostle of an automobile, thrusting him out of his subconscious state and back into the hands of a midday reality. The first sight his weary eyes drank in was the blur of a black leather chair in front of him; scrolling down a little more he found his legs, jeaned over, and then his shoes, brown and scuffed, both crossed over one another in a nonchalant fashion. He also mistook them for someone else's, but there was an unusual sensation lingering just under his physical perception that kept informing him otherwise. What was it called again? Alphonse vaguely remembered this mysterious pulsating, but its name was slipping from his mind, and each time he managed to catch onto it again it escaped from his grasp. The whole ordeal was quite maddening, really. There was just something about this feeling that continued to elude all his efforts—

Feeling…

Yes.

That was it.

Nerve endings, electrical messaging, neurological interpretations, and back again. He remembered. The cool breeze whipping across his face, the gentle creases of a woolen polo rubbing against his chest, and the sticky car seat coated in sweat just beneath his hands – he could feel it. All of it.

But that wasn't the extent of things.

String of matter reverberated against his nose, sending images of car exhaust, rolling meadows, and oily hair to the boy's curious and stimulated mind. Though intangible, their influence was strong, and each string was unique to its origin. His mouth watered, craving the recollection of things he could smell, then consume! – yes, he could do that, too. His nose brought them in, and his tongue felt them out: this was the pleasure of dining at its finest, distant once but distant no more. He could breathe in his surroundings and interpret its delectability, or even how they made him feel. Whether he coughed violently or was seized by delight did not matter, but only that he could do these and describe his experiences. He could do all these things… and more.

…He was alive.

Alphonse, for the first time in five years, felt alive.

"You awake, Al?"

The boy jumped, interrupted from his dazed contemplation, and turned to his side. The voice sounded familiar – of this much he could be certain – but he had not yet had the chance to examine the extent of his surroundings, and thus did not realize that he was accompanied in the automobile. In retrospect, Alphonse reprimanded himself; how the hell could he be left alone, unconscious, in a speeding car that was still in one, non-conflagrated piece?

"Oh, yeah." Alphonse rubbed his eyes. "Sorry, brother. Guess I sorta dozed off."

He paused, then flinched back in shock. The words simply seemed to roll off his tongue. He had smiled at the blonde to his right, throwing at the teen a nonchalant apology, and dismissed the matter as natural behavior, not even realizing the gravity of their exchange. He was asleep. How long had it been since he had done that? Wait… exactly who was he even talking to?

A simple glance to his left, and Alphonse found himself staring, flabbergasted; he was instantly stripped of any and all emotion save a thick layer of shock on his face. There, just two seats to his right, sat a blonde, golden-eyed boy, bearing a small smile as he was addressed. His left arm rested upon his black, jean-clad lap, while the other, void of anything but the purity of human flesh, balanced his lounging position against the car door. He scratched at the deep blue t-shirt over his chest, then made a face at Alphonse.

"…What…?" Edward Elric shifted his eyebrows. "Is there something on my face, er…"

Alphonse jumped, then forced his head toward the opposite window. "No, no! Nothing… sorry." He took one more glimpse back to confirm that he had not mistaken it for something else. And he hadn't.

Edward's automail… was gone.

"Okay…" Edward fixed his body so that his shoulder held him against his side of the car. "Whatever." He glanced up towards the driver seat. "Hey, mom?"

Alphonse froze, and slowly brought his eyes forward.

"Yes, Ed?"

Chestnut hair flared as the car struck another bump.

"How much longer're we gonna be?"

Smooth, pale skin poked out behind her black leather chair.

"Ed, we've been through this before."

Gentle green eyes came out from hiding for a quick glance at the mischievous blonde. The irises smiled, so that the small pink lips below didn't have to. "I told you that we would get there when we get there. I'm doing the best I can, dear."

"Yeah, but Heiderich and I got a game to play this afternoon! You said we'd be back before three!"

"And I will honor that the best I can, but we have to get there first." Trisha Elric returned to her position at the driver's seat.

There was a sigh. "Fine…" A pause, and ruffles sounded to Alphonse's left. "Al…?"

But the boy could not turn his head. His lips moved, silent; words faded and bled into the air just as quickly as they were produced. It was only a moment or so later that he was able to talk again, speech still fragile at the touch.

"Mom…" he said. "Mom…"

Edward looked at him. "Al?"

"Mom…" His hand buried his face. "Mommy… mommy…"

Trisha's head cocked the slightest bit. "Yes, honey?"

Alphonse's voice became hoarse, his cheeks wet. "Mommy…" He hiccupped and burst into tears.

"Al?" Trisha seemed distressed. "Al, dear, what's wrong?"

Edward stared at the boy, his face contorted with worry. "Alphonse… what the hell happened?

Alphonse then proceeded to wipe his face against his palms and sleeves. "I'm…" He removed his hands from his face, revealing soft, golden hair dripping over his flustered eyes and cheeks. "I'm okay. I just…" The boy looked up at Edward, and began to tear up again.

"I just had this horrible dream…" ~


The building had completely collapsed.

The fire had eaten it whole, and by the time the firefighters arrived the building had burned far beyond the point of salvation. Everything laid askew, ash ridden; for a block there was charcoal to be noted, and for five more blocks there stood not one single pedestrian. Officials from the capital building and workers from the local fire department lined the damaged streets, inspecting the level of destruction dealt and the varied holes in the ground. These "holes," as well a multitude of stray shards of asphalt scattered across the ground, were freckled with various rectangular branches. An officer knelt over a handful of said shards, made a few notes on his clipboard through the dim morning light, and jogged over to another uniformed man.

"Sir," he began, saluting the superior, "the markings observed in the upper sections of the street are identical to those closer to the building, as well. They appear to be the work of alchemy, sir."

The man turned around, an elongated frown splitting his face in two. Three lines marked his shoulder boards, the middle line far thicker than the others, and a handful of awards decorated his chest. "Very good, Sergeant. Inform Major General Raven of your findings and report back to headquarters with a sample for further analyzing."

"Yes, sir!" The sergeant ran to back to one of the myriad of cars parked around the crime scene.

The brigadier general sighed. "Dammit…" He clenched his fists under the memories of the previous night. "Fucking Mustang…"

A small black automobile came to a stop a few meters to his right, skidding just before a large asphalt cylinder. First, a lowly officer chauffer emerged, walking around to the passenger's seat. Out of this seat, though, came a much more stately man, bearing many more stars on his shoulders than his observer, and an eyepatch on his left eye. He stared at the brigadier general for a second, smiled, and came forth to greet him. A few other men followed in his footsteps, but they were dismissed with a wave, and instructed to wait at the car until he was to return.

"Good morning, your Excellency," the man said as he was approached.

"Good morning. Let's go for a walk, shall we?" He walked straight past him, and into the ruins.

"Yes, sir." Führer King Bradley was followed into the rubble and shadows of a six o' clock sunrise.


They walked in silence, waiting for a sign of safety. The sins had traveled through the better part of the crime scene, after virtually all souls assigned to examine the area had been ordered to vacate, and both homunculi were nearing a border of sorts – a border defining the break between the buildings that had suffered from fire damage and the buildings evacuated for safety reasons. It was a short walk, but an excruciating journey considering the circumstances that were to surface, and Envy, still in his pompous disguise, was struggling to retain the anger that boiled inside him. His face was fixed on Wrath's back. He envisioned it smeared in crimson, and the weight of the journey was lifted a tad.

"Wrath! Envy~!"

An obese figure in black greeted the two men, skinning all pleasure from the atmosphere. His mouth was cover in splitters as he waved his corpulent hands in the air, but a quick stream of lightning patched up the damage and dropped the wooden fragments to the ground.

Envy groaned from afar. "Dammit, Gluttony! Didn't I tell you not to eat the evidence?" At this, the lump shrugged, apologized, then sat down.

"Well now, you're one to talk, brigadier general," countered Wrath, steps before the shape shifter.

Envy grit his teeth in disgust, then flashed a bright red up through his body. His muscles shrunk and paled, and the military uniform was stripped and replaced by slabs of black cloth. Lances of greasy charcoal hair sprouted forth from the top of his head, bundled up in a dark headband. "And what's that supposed to mean, you filthy shithead?" he said, grinding his new leather boots into the ground.

"It means you shouldn't have gone after Mustang without Father's permission," Wrath said, "and you certainly shouldn't have threatened his physical condition."

"His involvement in this was your idea, wasn't it?" Envy yelled. "Besides, I couldn't control any of that! That crazy-ass Gurner guy was running around clapping his fucking hands everywhere… It's not like we could do anything about it!"

"I involved Mustang because he was the most powerful alchemist still conscious at the hour, and the only one accessible with preset, long distance alchemy circles," the Führer said. "Regardless—" He leaned in on Envy's malevolent face. "This isn't about Gurner. You were the one who attacked him after the Gurners disappeared." The androgyne bared his teeth. "Am I wrong?"

Envy shook with rage. "…You didn't know her like I did."

"That has nothing to do with this—"

"It has everything to do with this!"

Wrath backtracked an inch, caught off guard by the sudden elevation in volume. Gluttony sank into his knees, these clenched by his limbs of girth. The memories settled into his mind, and the black mass began to tear up.

"…You wouldn't understand," Envy uttered, looking away, "you getting to handpick your own precious whore n' all." He squinted, consumed by his own essence, then faced Wrath. The homunculus was visibly displeased. "But with me… I had to watch her prostitute herself whenever you or Father needed answers. She was like a puppet. So she got fucked in the ass like the obedient doll she was. Great!" In the heat of his words, Envy's body language grew violent. "Now we can all celebrate because she's got cum up where she shits that belongs to someone she barely even knows, and you're able to fill out the crossword puzzle in your fucking Sunday paper! Awesome! Spectacular! Let's ship her off to one of Mustang's bitches next, shall we?! But wait? What's this? Just when she's finally about to give up the ghost on that sad excuse of a manwhore, Colonel Shit-For-Brains waltzes in and combusts her ass ten times in a row!Ten times! Whose idea was that, huh?! 'Cause it sure as fuck wasn't mine!"

"Your emotional compromise doesn't excuse you from your actions, Envy," Wrath said.

"Do you think I even give a shit?!" The androgyne hoisted up Wrath's uniform. Wrath remained unwavering. "Lust is dead! That Mustang asshole killed her! And yet you're acting like she never existed, when in reality, she's at least a hundred years older than you are! That woman had been a full-fledged sin since before your were even born!"

"Don't make the mistake of assuming that I didn't care about her," the Führer snapped, "but we have a job to do, in case you've forgotten – a job you could have put at serious risk had you wound up killing the colonel."

"And I would have! He deserves it!"

"While he might, there are a great deal of sacrifices that his death would make." Wrath narrowed his exposed eye. "I'm sure Pride spent time on addressing this point, did he not?"

The elder homunculus averted Wrath's face in exchange for a view of his boots. "…A little bit, yeah."

"A little bit? I heard he torn a limb each time you tried to shut him up," Wrath said. "You know he'd never stand for that."

Envy grimaced. He could feel it, remember it; the sensation of slow, painful dismemberment had haunted his nerves since he was dragged into the shadows just three hours prior. No matter how many times he was rejuvenated, the feeling would not disappear. "I know…" The grip on the Führer's uniform was released, and he dropped to his knees. "I know…"

"Stand, Envy," Wrath commanded. "You're embarrassing us."

"Yeah, I seem to be real fuckin' good at that lately," the androgyne said. In time, he did stand, but his face exposed a psychological injury beyond repair.

"Just be sure to control your emotions from now on. You are an important part of this team, and it would be a shame to lose you." The way the words came out, Envy almost mistook them for heartfelt, but the malicious aura produced afterwards kept him from any misinterpretations.

"Whatever." The two looked over towards Gluttony, who had dug a hole in the ground with his melancholic appetite. Envy ran his hand flat across his neck, and the mass obeyed, dropping his compulsive dirt feast.

"Now, what exactly do we have so far?" Wrath asked, getting to the matter at hand. "I need a full report to relay to Father by noon."

"Yeah, yeah." Envy changed back into his military get up and cleared his throat, when the two homunculi caught sight of a clipboard dropping just outside their border of rubble. Looking further into the scene, they discovered that two soldiers investigating the streets had made their way into the ruins, and now stood with their eyes wide as their mouth was agape. A camera soon followed the clipboard to the ground, and they slowly backed away.

"M… monster…" one managed out. "What… the hell just…"

"Oh, did you see that?" Envy asked. "'Cause, I thought it was pretty cool."

Wrath sighed. "You also need to learn to control your volume."

"F… Führer Bradley, sir!" The second man pulled a gun on the shape shifter. "A… arms in the air!" he commanded. "St-step away from the Führer!"

Envy looked back and forth between the two men shaking in their not-as-cool leather boots (which he had not bothered to revert to), and slid a smirk across his smug, bloodthirsty face. "And what happens if I don't, ya smelly faggot?"

"Then—" The armed soldier staggered in his stance. His eyes were painted with fear. "Then I'll shoot!"

"This is quite the dilemma, indeed," Wrath said. He glanced at Envy, and the androgyne nodded.

"H-Hey…! I s-said arms in the air!" The soldier was struggling for control over his own gun. "Führer, p-please, d-don't make any sudden movements—"

But the sentence, timed to perfection, was sliced in two by the tip of a silver saber, much like the stomach of the solider that owned the words. Blood flew out from the wound, dirtying the homunculi's chests in red, and intestines spattered to the ground from a ring of exposed organ systems once tied together by ribs and skin. The upper half of the man enjoyed two seconds of airtime before thudding against the debris – face going blank upon contact – and his diaphragm was knocked out position from under his lungs with more crimson spats. The lower half of the body collapsed backwards, more hanging organs and blood to follow.

Wrath sheathed his saber, already running through its cleaning procedures in his mind, and Envy, understanding that Wrath felt his job complete, decided to showcase his pearly whites before spilling more man onto the crime scene. The remaining soldier, who had been far too terrified to even consider moving his limbs, dropped to his knees and began to mumble.

"Why…" he muttered. "You're… the Führer… h-how…"

Envy rolled his eyes. "Yo, Gluttony!"

The mass sitting to the side of the ordeal perked up. "Yes?"

"Are you hungry?"

Gluttony paused, processing the query, then found his tongue bleeding saliva onto the floor. His expression transformed from curiosity to malicious craving. "Can I eat him?" he asked.

"Sure!" Envy said, facing the human meal. "In fact, why don't you start with the head?" The line's objective, much to the homunculus's pleasure, was achieved; the targeted solider trembled at his suggested fate, then, finding the strength to stand, staggered upwards and began to back away. Envy, in response, ran his arm through lightning and pierced the man with a steel-edged limb. The man flinched in pain, unable to move, or even to speak as his juices soiled the cloth around the wound.

"Wow, you sure are strong," Envy sneered. "If I were stabbed like this, I would be screaming." A sadistic compulsion conducted his metal fingers, and they sewed through the insides of the man as his visage was swallowed in agony. Still, not a sound escaped his mouth. No sounds could escape in the river of blood that crawled through his teeth.

"Envy…" Wrath sighed. He was in one of his moods again.

"Still nothing?" the androgyne asked. He frowned. "Well gee, we'll just have to fix that…" Envy ran his index-needle through a nerve ending just before one of the man's ribs. "Won't we?!"

A few crackles managed their way out of his throat, but nothing else emerged. "Damn you…" Envy forced his fingertips out of the man's chest, flinging tiny morsels of flesh to the floor. "Speak when you're fucking spoken to!"

"Envy!" Wrath grabbed the sadist's shoulder.

"Don't interfere with this, dammit!" he snapped.

"No, Envy," the Führer said, "that's not it."

"Then what?!"

"You already broke his voice box."

The homunculus stared at Wrath, then at his victim. He wiggled his remaining fingers, and saw his neck jiggle a tad. "…Oh…" He pulled his fingers out of the officer and they smoothed into soft, pale hands. Envy stepped back, and just as the solider took to a small smile of relief, his head to torn off by the blade of Gluttony's teeth. Blood was slurped from the cusp of his disfigured neck, and the stomach fluids sucked up along with the spinal column as Gluttony moaned in the pleasure of fresh meat.

"You were saying?" Envy asked, returning to his original stance.

"I need a report to give to Father. It's been a few hours since Pride—" Wrath watched his teeth clench. "— has been over, and I've been sent to update the two of them on our current situation."

"Just how much did Pride tell you?"

"He ran a quick scope over the area to make sure there wasn't anything that needed to remain classified before we started investigating," Wrath said.

"You just said that," Envy said, folding his arms. "I'm not one of your frickin' subordinates. Just get on with it."

"He said he found thirteen bodies," Wrath continued, "but he wasn't able to identify at least four them from under the rubble."

"And we're not magicians," Envy said, his frustration growing. "We've only got seven of the identifiable ones, including some of the Gurners. I've got some lower dogs working on where the others bodies were located, but we can't find 'em."

"You had better hope that they aren't our prized candidates," the Führer said. "You know what happens if they are."

Envy looked to his feet, avoiding Wrath's intensive stare. "I know."

"…This is the extent of my knowledge," he finished, and Envy leaned against a fallen support beam. A spot of Gluttony's meal flicked up to his cheek.

"Well, there isn't too much after that," the androgyne said, wiping it up with his finger. "We've found a lot of alchemized materials, some of which Major McSparkle-Fag attested to making, but nothing out of ordinary. Except…" He stopped.

"Except?" Wrath inquired.

"…except, well…" The homunculus kicked upright again, and started out of the ruins. "You should see it for yourself."

The Führer raised his eyebrows for a moment, but ultimately decided to follow him.

"Oh, right. Gluttony!" The mass looked over to Envy, how was slowly disappearing beyond the debris.

"Yes?" he replied, head cocked to the side.

"Don't leave any leftovers, 'kay?"

"Okay!" He finished the digestive system as the word came through his bloodied teeth, following up the organs with a sloppy bite into the soldier's right calf.

Wrath chuckled at the hindsight of it all, and started up behind Envy once more.


"This."

At first, Bradley's frown was short, customary, but after scanning the object of interest his frown stretched down to the farthest edges of his face. He had feared bad news at Envy's lead of evidence, concern sparked by the escorting of their "party" to the trunk of an evidence transporter, but he had been desperately hoping that his fears would not be realized.

And they were.

In the wake of a rising sun, there rested a box filled with broken wooden boards, each containing a piece of what appeared to have been identical circles.

"Alchemy boards," he finally said, and anger seethed at the back of his throat.

"We found a few others like them," the brigadier general said, "but there wasn't anything written on them. They were probably part of the reaction, too, but we have no proof to support that."

"…And you said that there was a purple glow coming from the building… correct?"

"Yes," the subordinate replied, watching Bradley's fingers trace over the lines. "Oh, and try not to touch any of those without gloves, sir."

Wrath stared at the boards for while, his face reflecting extreme dissatisfaction. "…Do you have any idea what you've done, boy?"

The brigadier general paused. "What…?"

"Hey! We've got something!"

Both men flipped their heads behind them and found a mass of uniforms gathering around Pride's indicated area. One of the soldiers emerged form the crowd and approached the pair with a salute.

"Führer, sir! Brigadier General, sir! We've found more bodies!"

The two men exchanged looks, then advanced towards the crowd. "Alright then, let's see it."

They joined the horde's borders and a pathway was paved for them out of respect. As they came in further, the men were able to make out an arm, clad in black with a touch of blue and silver underneath, and then flesh; pale, but not unhealthily so. It seemed uncomfortably familiar. Uncomfortably, because it was haloed with blood and biceps that did not belong to the body itself.

At last they reached the center of the commotion, and Bradley motioned for the men excavating what remained to stand aside. He leaned down, his general close behind, and moved a large bulk of wood up from over the upper half of the body. The identity of the man was revealed to the rest of the unit, and shock swept the masses. Bradley froze at the find, terrified of the implications, but forced his finger to the victim's neck.

There was a pulse.

It was weak, which was only to be expected out of the circumstances, but there was in fact a consistent, undeniable pulse.

Relief overcame the man, but it was also accompanied by adrenaline. There probably wasn't much time before the pulse was to drop.

"He's alive! Get me an ambulance, now!" Soldiers scramble around at the command, having convinced themselves that there wasn't any hope to begin with, and a plethora of phone calls were made.

"And there should be more around him." Bradley stood and faced the general brigadier. "Start digging. I'll call for more help if we need it."

But all the subordinate could manage was a gape at the bloodied man. He watched as his red chest lifted up and down, his fingers twitching slowly in rhythm.

"Holy shit…"

Bradley looked down at the man, his exposed eyebrow raised a tad. "What?"

"There's just… no fucking way he could still be alive…!"


~ The office was vacant, for the most part. There existed but four pieces of furniture, varying from the tiny selection of a lamp, to a desk, then to a chair, and ending in a couch positioned just before the sole window masking the western wall. All was white; the desk and chair blotched the purity with glossy brown and black tones, and the offset was extended further into the room by a mountain of cardboard boxes in the eastern corner next to the white lamp. It was organized nothingness, progressing only at the discretion of the paperwork on the glossy brown desk.

The door clicked, then opened. From it, two men made their way into the office: one was short, elderly, yet full of liveliness as exemplified by his smirking mustache and mischievous glasses; the other taller, young, black hair slicing his forehead into multiple sections over his playful eyes and busied mouth. Both conversers were clad in a blue uniform, strung together with gold rope and stars, but the taller man chose to further weigh himself down inside of a black overcoat.

"Damn, and you'd think that they'd at least give you time to move in," Lieutenant General Grumman said, inspecting the boxes to their right. "Looks like you've barely touched them."

"Only for paperwork, sadly." Major Roy Mustang sighed, inspecting the vast nothing in which he worked. "Now they're just going to collect dust, it seems."

Grumman laughed. "That's certainly better than havin' to work on them!"

Roy grinned. "I suppose it is, sir." He walked over to his desk to collect some files, then moved behind to search for a container for them.

"You suppose? Don't tell me…" The general eyed him. "You couldn't possibly be thinking of working anyway…"

Roy froze, then met Grumman's gaze.

"…could you?"

The youth paused, smiling sheepishly. "I suppose, sir."

"Ah, you dirty little bastard!" The man gave a hearty laugh. "You're going to kill everyone in town with that kind of attitude."

Roy chuckled. "If looks could kill."

"Not that your looks could kill," Grumman said. "I, on the other hand, had to have been pickin' up at least three girls a week in my prime. Oughta make a move before the wrinkles grow in, kid."

"I've made plenty of moves myself, general," the youth countered, "in plenty of places."

"Ah, yes, your… 'informants,' were they?" The elder smiled. "Rather risqué form of research, don't you think?"

Roy shrugged. "More bang for my buck, sir."

"How much more?"

"That's classified."

"In what? your pants?"

The major shot him a sly turn of his lips, then walked over towards the mountain of boxes. "In my coding, in my notebook, in my pocket." He began to search the cardboard for a suitable file container. "So, yes, sir. In my pants."

"You're allowed to take them off for recreational purposes too, you know," Grumman said, leaning on Roy's desk. "Why don't you use the week to relax with a neighbor? It's not like they're going to let you go anywhere else, anyway."

"I appreciate the suggestion, sir," the youth said, "but I'm afraid I must decline."

"And why's that?"

"Stubbornness, sir," Roy said. "I refuse to quit working just because some ridiculous brass man decided to locked down Eastern Headquarters for seven days." He turned to him. "A small plague, sir, will not keep me from my studies."

"You think this is a 'small plague'?" Grumman asked. "Three tenths of Amestris would have to disagree with you there."

"Well, if it doesn't apply to me, then I'm not going to spend time worrying about it."

"Awfully selfish thing to be saying." Grumman approached the western window. From it, East City could be drunk in at the blink of an eye; rich brick buildings became busy cobblestone streets just after a border of midday shoppers and markets. Cars sped across the alleyways adjacent to teatime cafés, and everyone in its wake was stocking up on provisions and reading material. "…It's almost like they know that it's coming," he said after a while.

"I wouldn't be surprised if they did, sir." Roy pulled a briefcase out and returned to his desk. "Information around these parts has a way of becoming… leaked."

"Within three hours?"

"Within three hours, sir," the major said, "one can disconnect trade and travel from the third most populated city in the country and condemn all those who have not already locked themselves away from the disease to death." He sealed the files away. "And I do not intend on becoming a part of that."

Grumman looked at him. "You're running away?"

"I prefer to call it 'recreational leave,' sir."

"Aha! Smart boy. I'd join you, but these bones are too old for pokin' pussies." Grumman smiled. "Besides, I can barely make it pass eight o' clock, let alone a full round."

Roy grinned. "I never said that I was going with sexual intentions, sir."

"You didn't need to." Grumman took a seat on the white couch. "So where you off to? Dublith? South City? Vegas?"

"Where?"

"Nowhere." The general folded his arms behind his head. "Just name your place, kid. I can get you a mistress in any town you choose!"

Roy sat down in his own chair, a tiny smirk upon his face. "Any woman in my age group, sir?"

"Hey, they have daughters."

The major grinned. "I suppose they would, sir."

"Hm. You and your 'supposing'." Grumman frowned. "Just tell me. Surely you had someplace in mind."

"As a matter of fact, I do. Perhaps you've heard of if, General." Roy folded his hands just under his chin, and rested his head upon the support of his forearms. "It's a little town just south of here." His lips perked, yet his eyes were stained with malice. "Resembool."

Grumman stared at him for a long time, then allowed his vision to fall to his lap. He shook his head. "This is about him, isn't it?"

Roy made a face. "And if it is?"

The elder sighed. "You know, one of these days this 'vengeance' of yours is gonna nip you in the ass."

"I am aware," the man said. "I simply need to beat vengeance to it." With this, he stood.

"You leaving for the day?" Grumman asked.

"I want to beat the crowds before everyone's chased out of Headquarters for the week." Roy shuffled up his things up into his arms, and the briefcase was swung over his shoulder.

"Not a bad idea," the general said, and joined him. "Before you go, though."

Roy turned back toward the man, his legs firmly placed forwards. "Yes, sir?"

Grumman paused a moment, then spoke. "Riza Hawkeye."

Roy cocked his head. "Who?"

"She's—"

The men were interrupted by a knock at the door. Roy bit his lip, then glanced towards Grumman for approval. He extended his hand in invitation, and Roy responded, "Who is it?"

"Second Lieutenant Garfiel , sir~! Requesting permission to enter, siiiiiir~ !"

The flamboyancy raped the poor major's eardrums, but nevertheless, the door was opened, and the man skipped inside. "Granted," Roy sighed as spontaneous flowers tapped the door shut.

"Major, sir," the lieutenant sang, "I have the map and automobile routes you requested! Where would you like them?"

"Here, I got 'em." Roy stuffed the files into his free arm. "Thanks a lot."

"With pleasure, sir!"

The youth sighed. "Of course." The two stared at each other for a (-n awkward) moment until Roy finally waved his hand. "…Dismissed."

"Sir!" Garfiel opened the door, then skipped out of the room. Roy put his foot against it to prevent closing, and faced Grumman. "If you'll excuse me, General."

"Of course. I'll lock up for you," the elder said. He held the door open, and Roy began proceed out of the portal, but stopped himself just short of a complete exit.

"'Riza Hawkeye,' was it?" he asked, his face unseen.

Grumman chuckled. "Just remember to enjoy yourself every now and again, will you?"

Roy smiled. "Goodbye, sir."

The door was closed.


"Oh? And that's what the train tickets're for?"

The woman took a stab at her filet mignon dinner. The dark ambience of the restaurant allowed for only a sliver of candlelight to give color to the meal, which, she presumed, was instituted to give off a secretive, romantic feel for the establishment. But like most small town restaurants, despite the red décor and piano player at the corner of the room, it failed at its job.

"Yes," she responded after a moment. A fork slid into her mouth, and chewing commenced, much to the annoyance of the man sitting across the table. She giggled, recognizing his thirst for an elaboration, and allowed the flavorful cut to linger over her tongue before she swallowed and continued. "King said he wanted to go there to start a little project."

"Project?" the man asked. His shades glistened as he lean forward a tad, creating the very much-desired effect of secrecy. He wanted it to appeal, and the woman slid a smile, confirming his success. "What project?" he asked again.

"Something special," she said. "Seems like someone there's caught his interest."

"Huh. Is that so?" The man took a firm stab at his chicken marsala and stared at it. "Really should've gotten the steak."

"You should've." The woman cut a piece, pressing the knife down with her pale, slender fingers. She raised the morsel. "Wanna bite?"

"Hell yes." The man opened his gate of sharpened teeth and the meat was delivered to the tip of his tongue; he bit. It tasted rather exquisite for such a small sample, making it well worth the price (though, it was for that specific reason that he did not order it: too expensive). "Mhmm," he moaned, "delicious."

"I am," the woman said, retracting her fork.

"You are," he concurred, then reached for his wine. "And our target?"

"Even more so, but then, King wouldn't go into details."

The man took a sip of his drink. It was a little too meek for the meal. "Might be personal."

"Might be."

"A lover?"

"Perhaps."

"But didn't win the money in the divorce?"

Chuckles sounded. "Sounds a little too typical a scenario for our King, doesn't it?"

The man laughed. "It wouldn't be typical if didn't apply to anyone. Someone's gotta fit the bill for these things."

"I suppose…" The woman glanced to the side. "And speaking off which…"

The pair watched as they were approached by an almost suave and suited server. He stopped just before the edge of the table, and placed down a small black book. "Your check," he said.

"Thank you, kind sir," the woman said, smiling.

The man took a peak inside the bill, and his face was smothered in distress. A single lock of his flawless black hair was unhinged.

"Goddamn it, Lucille," he said, "I told you not to spend so much. Look how far we went over. I didn't even order any dessert!"

"I'm sorry, George," the woman replied. "But I simply couldn't help myself! Honest."

"And how will you be paying, sir?" the waiter asked.

"Actually…" The man pulled his server's jacket an inch closer to the table, slipped a revolver against his chest. "We won't be."

"Don't scream now," the woman said, "or we'll have to detonate the whole restaurant."

"That's… that's impossible…!" the waiter gasped, holding back pitiful squeaks of fear. "You're bluffing…aren't you? You've only been at your table… this whole time…! How could you've—"

The barrel dug deeper into the server's abdomens. "Now, now," the man said with a wide, unsettling grin, "there's no such thing as impossible."

The man thought the waiter's eyes were going to explode from within their sockets. He froze, only tiny shivers rocking his hands and knees, and managed but a single word from his chattering teeth:

"Greed…"

"Correct," Greed said. "Now, if you'll excuse us…" Greed and his guest stood from their seats. "We have some business to take care of." The man retracted his weapon, and the two walked out of the restaurant back door, leaving their frightened server to his own accord.

"That was rather cruel of you," the woman said, walking into the sunlit sidewalk. "You didn't need to pull a gun on him."

"True," Greed said, "but I don't really want to hear that from Lust, the gunslinger girl."

Lust giggled. "Interesting way to put in. Although, I understand that you have your own addictions."

A flash emerged from the restaurant windows, followed instantly by a massive explosion that consumed the restaurant behind them. The aftermath spilled pieces for fire onto the structure and vomited smoke onto the cloudless sky.

"…I might," Greed responded.

"It's rather unhealthy," Lust said, fixing her disheveled hair.

"What can I say?" The man smiled. "I love to blow shit up."

"At least you waited for after the main course," Lust said. "I don't think we'll be getting anything for the rest of the day."

"Not unless Gluttony brings some of those Cretian sausages along for the ride."

"That's assuming that he won't eat them first."

"…Damn," Greed sighed. "I hate it when you're right."

"I usually am."

"Oh, shut up, you old hag."

The woman flinched at the word. "…I'll call I cab, assuming you didn't scare any away."

"I probably did," he laughed. "Let's just get out of here before we're spotted."

The woman chuckled to herself, rather entertained by the whole ordeal. She imagined thousands of tiny cars jumping on their hind wheels and hopping out of town. "Yes, let's. Perhaps this time we'll actually make it on time." ~


Well, that was pretty fucking long. It's all pretty fucking long. Hope your eyes don't hurt. I might recommend reading this in parts.

Also, Envy's little "fuck with the Flame Colonel by using Maria Ross as a scapegoat for Hughes' death" plan didn't actually include Lust – it just so happened that Lust was "dating for data" at the time.

Anyway, stick around! There are ninjas next chapter! And I guarantee they're not the kind you're imagining! : D

SO REVIEW. Or there will be no ninjas.