Disclaimer: Co-written by Kristen Sharpe. I don't think she owns FMA either. . .
"Yes," Colonel Mustang said into the mouthpiece of the phone as he used his shoulder to hold it against his ear while his hands were otherwise engaged sorting various bits of paperwork. "Fullmetal has a little problem. No, a new little problem, not the usual "little problem". No, no. It's nothing too big. Just a small issue really."
"You aren't talking about the cat thing at all, are you?" the office's other occupant said, through gritted teeth as the Colonel put down the phone with a *click*. At first glance, the speaker was a handsome golden-haired boy who was slightly short for his age. On second glance though, one would notice the feline ears poking out from beneath the curtain of thick blond hair and the overly large amount of hair covering his left arm, almost like fur. Not to mention the fact that the fingernails of his left hand looked more like claws.
Mustang's reply was in a tone of total sincerity, unfortunately spoiled by the barely concealed smirk on his face. "Of course I was, Edward. What else would I be talking about? By the way, have you eaten since this happened? Maybe you should have a glass of milk."
Now it was Ed's turn to smirk. "No. Milk gives cats diarrhoea, which means I can't risk drinking it, possibly ever again. Just in case. And, I had a nice, big breakfast - excluding milk - before coming here, for your information."
"Well, good," the Colonel said idly, apparently suddenly absorbed in the copious amount of paperwork cluttering his desk. "Those rats were getting into the office supplies something awful."
"WHAT?" the Fullmetal Alchemist howled, jumping off the office couch and slamming his fists onto the top of the Colonel's desk. "Rats?" he snarled at his superior officer. "You jerk! You- you morally bankrupt Colonel with a God complex! You think this is funny? Why I oughta- "
Mustang smirked and took advantage of Ed's proximity to reach out and scratch the boy's cat-like ears.
For a second, Ed let out an involuntary hum. Then he recovered his wits.
"I've informed everyone that you were attacked by a rabid chimera, Sir," Hawkeye announced as she strode into Mustang's office later that day.
Mustang, now covered in scratches and several small band-aids, looked more like he had tried to bathe an enraged housecat. He nodded gratefully to the First Lieutenant. "Good. Sometimes, the truth is the best policy. How are FullMetal's burns?"
"Successfully bandaged, Sir," the Lieutenant replied. "Although apparently there was a brief altercation over the administering of painkillers. Luckily, Doctor Knox has promised not to press charges.
"Huh?" Mustang said, a confused expression on his face. Then realisation dawned. "No, don't tell me," he said, holding up a hand as the Lieutenant opened her mouth to explain. "Needles?"
"Yes," she confirmed. "However, once Alphonse arrived, he took the situation well in hand."
"Right," Mustang said. "So where are they now?"
"Al promised to bring Ed straight back here once the doctor was finished checking him over, " Hawkeye replied. "They should be along any minute now."
Sure enough, not a half-a-minute later, Alphonse Elric's heavy armoured tread was audible from the corridor outside the office and soon there came a polite but heavy knock on the office door.
"Good work Alphonse," Hawkeye told the armoured boy as she opened the door to let him in.
"It wasn't that difficult," Al told Hawkeye bashfully. "With cats it's just a matter of rubbing them along the spine. So I figured it might work on Brother too."
Mustang rose from his chair and peered curiously past the blond Lieutenant. He saw that Al was holding a snoring Ed like a baby and gently rubbing the older boy's back.
The Colonel walked over to them and surveyed the slumbering older brother. Ed was mumbling unintelligibly in his sleep and an odd not-quite-hum was coming from his throat. After a second, Mustang realised that the boy was trying to purr. It was not a sound designed to come from a nearly human throat. FullMetal sounded like a car that was having engine trouble.
As the two adults and one soul bound to armour regarded the sleeping teenager, his voice grew a little louder and it was possible to make a few words out. "Mmmm," the sleeping boy murmured. "Kill Colonel . . .get Al's body back . . . no, wait, fix Al first. Then castrate jerk . . .got claws for it now . . . mmyeah."
Mustang turned pale. "Alphonse," he whispered. "I suggest you head to the Library and begin researching how to un-chimera your brother immediately. Who knows what being half cat could do to his health if he remains that way for any length of time?"
"But . . ." Al said disappointedly, guiltily reluctant to give up the only 'cat' he might ever have some hope of keeping.
"It's clearly bad for his mental health," the Colonel insisted, keeping his voice low. "Look at the kinds of things those primal cat instincts are making him come up with!"
"Um . . . No, he's mentioned that before. Minus the part with the claws, I mean."
"Alphonse, library. Immediately."
The order came out louder than Mustang intended, waking the slumbering chimera-boy "Don' yell at my bruvver!" Ed said groggily, screwing up his eyes at the Colonel. He swiped at Mustang with his clawed left hand, and then sniffed the air curiously. "You smell funny. Like a wet match." With that, Ed's eyes slid shut and he relaxed back into his brother's arms.
Mustang heard a small choking noise from Hawkeye's direction. "Alphonse!" he ordered. "Take your brother and go to the library. Now!"
"Yes Colonel, sir," Al squeaked, before rushing out the door, holding his brother tight.
Once the Elrics had departed the Colonel turned to his most trusted subordinate. "I do not smell like a wet match."
"Of course not Sir," Hawkeye agreed, straight faced.
Roy Mustang had known Riza Hawkeye a very long time. He folded his arms and carefully regarded her perfectly composed expression. "Hawkeye, I'm going for a coffee. You'd better be finished laughing by the time I get back."
At the East City Library (restricted military section) Edward Elric sat at a corner table behind a very large pile of books. "This sucks," he complained to his brother, hunching his shoulders. "I feel like everyone's giving me funny looks."
"I told you not to come, Brother," Al replied, thumbing through a large volume entitled 'Being a Treatise on thee most difficult Art of Chimaera Creation' –Theophrastus Van Hoen. "With the hood of your coat up like that, you look like a robber."
"Oh come on!" Ed protested. "Who robs libraries?" There was a long, telling pause. "Okay, but it was only once!"
"No it wasn't," Al pointed out. "What about that time in West City Library when you lost your p-"
"That time doesn't count!" Ed said loudly. "I never actually took that book out of the library. So it was only once!"
"Brother!" Al said in exasperation. " Shh! We're in a library. Calm down!"
"Al, thanks to the that nutbar Mustang sent us after, I'm half cat! And you want me to calm down?"
"Yes," his brother replied firmly, reaching out a hand and running it down his Ed's spine before the blond boy could launch into one of his rants.
The height challenged alchemist hummed as a warm shudder ran down his spine. "You . . . cheater. . . Al" he purred, arching slightly.
Al shrugged. "Sometimes you have to do whatever works."
"Fine, fine," Ed agreed, pushing Al's hand back. "Stop before people really start staring." He squirmed away and shoved Al's book towards him, then paused, turned the book upside down and shook it. Another, smaller book fell out. 'Housebreaking Your Cat'? Al! How many times have I told you we can't–" Ed stopped and looked from the book to Al several times. "Al . . . dearest baby brother of mine . . . please tell me this is a joke . . ."
"Umm. . ." Al said, rubbing the back of his armoured neck nervously. "Yes, of course it is Brother! Just kidding!" Then he laughed, weakly.
"Riiight . . . anyway, let's get a move on. I want to have something concrete to tell Colonel Sarcasm when he comes to check up on us."
Hours later, Mustang made his way into the library's restricted section and found his subordinate growling - more literally than usual - over a pile of books. "So, no luck, Furmetal?"
"No," Ed said, his voice tinged with exasperation, "it's more that everything I've found is-- WHAT DID YOU CALL ME?"
"Fullmetal of course," the Colonel replied innocently. "Hmm. . . I wouldn't have thought getting cat-ears would affect your hearing adversely. Are you feeling unwell?"
Ed subsided slightly, scratching at said ears. "Yeah, well you better have," he muttered, before clearing his throat. "I'm fine. Anyway, as I was saying most of the information here is about creating a chimera, not undoing it. And I can't just reverse the process, that would rip me apart."
As the Colonel considered this information, Ed made a choking noise and tried to clear his throat again, before beginning to hack and cough. When he doubled up and continued to cough, Ed missed the look of genuine concern that flickered across his commanding officer's face.
"Are you sure you're okay, Fullmetal?" Mustang asked, resting his hand on the boy's shoulder.
"Fine," Ed snapped, shaking Mustang off. "I just have this awful feeling like something's stuck in the back of my throat and it won't come. . ." He broke off and coughed again, this time with a retching sound.
The object hit the nearest book with a resounding splat.
"Is that a . . . hairball?" Mustang said hesitantly, a disgusted look on his face.
"Uh. . ."
"Because, you know Fullmetal, the reason cats get hairballs is-"
"I know!" Ed interrupted, flushing bright red. "It's not a hairball dammit! I use the shower like everyone else!"
"Mm hmm. Then would you care to explain exactly what that is, Edward?
"Well, it's not a-"
A disapproving sniff cut through the beginning of Ed's rant like a knife through butter. "I'll thank you to keep it down please gentlemen," said the librarian who had apparently appeared out of nowhere. She was a middle-aged woman, with thin glasses and her grey-streaked hair was tied back in a severe bun. "This is a library, you know. We expect people to control themselves. If you can't be quiet, you'll have to leave."
"But of course Madam," Mustang said quickly, turning on his considerable charm as Ed swallowed nervously and stepped back. "Please excuse Edward's dreadful behaviour. He's under a lot of stress right now."
"Well, all right Colonel," the librarian agreed. "I'll overlook it just this once. But you really should have your son wait for you in the public area. These shelves are supposed to be restricted to military personnel." With that, she turned on her heel and disappeared among the shelves, leaving both Mustang and Ed mouthing incoherently.
"But- but I don't look anything like you!" Ed managed eventually. "Crazy, delusional old biddy!"
The Colonel didn't reply. He was too busy picking up the pieces of his temporarily shattered self-confidence. I'm not old enough to have a teenage son! He thought blankly. I don't look that old! Do I? Why doesn't this place have any mirrors handy?
"Uhm. . ." said a voice behind them. It was Al, returning from looking up some more books . . . ones on chimeras, of course, and not cats, of course not cats. He pointed to the mess which Ed had coughed up onto the library book, which the delusional librarian had thankfully failed to notice. "Is that a hairba-"
"I think they make stuff to treat that," Al said brightly.
"Al, I am not taking cat medicine!" Ed snapped. "Not in a million years!"
"But Brother, you're part cat right now so-"
"I am fine," Ed hissed though gritted, sharper than usual, teeth. "I do not need medicine, cat or otherwise. What I need is to find some way fix this. And some books. That. Are. Helpful!" He scratched his ear again, viciously.
"Hmm. . ." the Colonel mused thoughtfully, now recovered from the shock of the librarian's assumption. "Don't cats get fleas?"
This comment proved to be too much for poor Ed, who had just about reached his boiling point. "I DON'T HAVE FLEAS!" he howled. "I DON'T EAT RATS! I DON'T LIKE TO BE PETTED! I DON'T WASH MY BUTT WITH MY-"
"Brother!" Al said frantically. "Library!"
It was too late. Attracted by the impressive volume of Edward's temper, the Librarian from earlier had reappeared, and was headed their way with a thunderous scowl on her face that couldn't mean anything good. "Gentlemen! I'm going to have to ask you to-" The librarian caught sight of the Most-Definitely-Not-A-Hairball splashed across two pages of a particularly rare text and her mouth snapped shut, with her teeth producing an audible click. "What. Is. That?" she demanded in a furious, controlled whisper after taking a deep breath.
Ed still hadn't quite calmed down and he spun around, ready to yell blue murder, then saw the furious scowl on her face and stopped abruptly, standing their with his mouth open.
"Well?" the librarian asked in a tone which suggested that a horrible fate lay in store for all book damagers. "An explanation, if you please?"
"Oh, we're so sorry," Ed said, his contrite expression belied by the sudden evil glint in his eye. "'Dad' had a bit of an accident. He's been ill lately. You understand."
The librarian sniffed and turned the Evil Eye on Mustang whose jaw had dropped at the incredibly blatant lie.
"W-What?" he stammered, half frozen by icy fury in the librarian's gaze. "Fullmetal! You-"
"Sorry Ma'am," Ed interrupted, talking at top speed. "C'mon Al, nothing helpful here, let's go." With that, he dashed away.
"Brother!" Al cried, rushing after the rapidly vanishing Ed. "Wait for me!"
"I assure you, madam," Mustang began once he'd recovered his poise. "I am not—" He found himself facing a glare that could melt steel and gave up. "I'll see to it that you receive sufficient funds to restore this."
"Very good, Colonel," the woman agreed, the glare subsiding slightly. "See that you do so as soon as possible."
"Absolutely. Of course," Mustang promised. "After I take them out of Fullmetal's account and his furry hide," he muttered under his breath, hurrying out of the library.
Meanwhile, out in the city, Ed was ducking and dodging around pedestrian traffic, easily outpacing Al's bulky armour.
"Brother! Slow down!" Al called.
"I just need an hour free of cat jokes, and I could come up with a fix for this!" Ed murmured to himself as he ducked and weaved around the crowded streets. He scratched at his ears again. "Okay, an hour free of cat jokes and this stupid itch!" He stopped in a doorway and debated where to go, still scratching. "Argh! This—" He paused again. "Maybe the cat had fleas before? Can fleas survive a transmutation?"
"I don't think so Brother," said Al, who had just caught up. "The transmutation charge would probably kill them. . . or you'd be part cat, part flea. . ."
"I AM NOT PART FLEA!" Ed roared.
This proved to be his undoing. A gloved hand grabbed his flesh shoulder from behind and gripped hard.
"I'm delighted to hear it Fullmetal," a voice said, purring evilly right above his ear. "Thanks for letting me know exactly where you were. By the way, are you aware of the penalty for framing a superior officer?"
Ed turned his head, saw the vengeful gleam in his commander's expression and said, very quietly, "Oh crap."
If one had happened to enter the men's showers in East HQ that day, one would have seen a very strange sight. The Fullmetal Alchemist being held in a tub of oddly coloured soapy water, by his armoured younger brother, while his commanding officer, the Flame Alchemist, looked on, leaning against the window and yawning intermittently.
Soapy water splashed from side to side of the large tub as Ed once again surged upwards. "Are you trying to drown me?" he demanded.
Al pushed his brother's head back down, careful to keep his nose above the water. "No. But, you have to keep as much of yourself as possible in the flea dip. Otherwise it won't work."
Ed scowled. "This stuff smells awful." He glanced to the side. "And, somehow I doubt this is any kind of official punishment."
The Colonel stretched his shoulders briefly and then leaned back against the window sill once more. "Oh, your punishment hasn't even started yet Fullmetal. I'm just keeping you sanitary."
Ed glared at him. "Fine, fine!. Then can you leave, since I'm 'bathing'?"
"And, give you a chance to escape? No way kid. Besides," he said with a smirk. "It's not like you're indecent."
"That's true Brother," Al agreed tentatively. Upon getting hold of Ed and the requisite amount of flea dip, Mustang had opted to throw the boy in the tub complete with his 'infected' clothes.
"That's a cheap excuse, jerk!" Ed growled, before being pushed back under the soapy water by Al.
"Mmm hmm," Mustang replied. "You tell the librarian that I damaged a valuable book with a hairball and you think I'm the jerk? Clearly your chimera state is affecting your brain Fullmetal. You've lost the ability to use logic." He folded his arms and muttered "If you ever had it at all."
Ed's head emerged from under the water, spluttering liquid and obscenities. "For the last time, Colonel Shit, IT WAS NOT A HAIRBALL!"
The door to the showers opened and a familiar cheerful voice said "Wow, Ed, you really threw up a hairball?"
"Hughes?" Mustang said, surprised to see his best friend, "What are you doing here? You're supposed to be in Central."
Ed had a sudden flash of depressing foresight vís-a-vís the answer to the Colonel's question and gave a heartfelt groan of despair. He wasn't going to like this, he just knew it.
Hughes grinned his familiar manic grin and whipped out his ever-present camera. "Oh, I just came for this," he said, quickly taking a picture of the chimerified Fullmetal Alchemist, though the only visible parts of Ed above the foam were his hair, cat-ears and what Mustang privately labelled his antenna. "My little Elysia will think he's the cutest thing!" Hughes gushed.
"Do NOT take," Ed choked on some flea dip as he tried to stay underwater, "pictures of this!"
"But Elysia will love your ears!" Hughes enthused. "You might get invited to a tea party!"
Mustang rolled his eyes. "Seriously, Hughes, why are you here?"
Hughes straightened to his full height and his expression became serious. "Exactly how did this happen, Roy?" he asked calmly.
Mustang sighed. "A few days ago a dead chimera washed up in the city's sewer outlets along with a human corpse. That screamed 'illegal transmutation' to the civilian police so the case landed in my lap-"
Hughes nodded in understanding, as he interrupted. "So you sent Ed down to investigate and—"
"He came back like this," Mustang finished, gesturing to the soaking wet cat-eared Ed, who was currently glaring at both of the older men and muttering under his breath.
"Can't you just interrogate the alchemist who did this?" Hughes wanted to know.
"Not unless you have a working knowledge of necromancy," Mustang deadpanned.
"Um, Lieutenant Colonel," Al interrupted politely. "When we were chasing him after Brother was um . . ." he paused as Ed favoured them all with a vicious glare. "Anyway, he used an array on the wall to try to escape but it wasn't correct and. . . uh. . ."
"Yes?" Hughes said expectantly.
Ed coughed guiltily. "He sort of . . . uh, splattered."
"Oh," said Hughes. " I see. Roy? A word outside?"
Mustang nodded. "Don't even think of going anywhere Fullmetal," he warned Ed. "Or you'll be scrubbing toilets with a toothbrush for the next year."
Ed gulped and nodded.
"So," Hughes said quietly, once they'd shut the door behind them. "What are you gonna do Roy?"
Mustang shrugged. "I honestly don't know Hughes. I know nothing about chimeras. The only recent authority on them was Shou Tucker and he's. . ."
"Dead?" Hughes suggested.
"Yes. Thank you. I was working up to that."
"Hey, don't look so worried Roy. Ed and Al are geniuses right? They'll figure something out. We just have to run interference and make sure none of the higher ups get wind of this. Leave it to me, eh?"
Mustang let out a sigh. "Thanks Maes," he said gratefully. Then he smirked. "Guess I'll just have to concentrate on keeping Ed from giving everyone fleas for the foreseeable future."
"Yep. By the way," Hughes said, his tone filled with curiosity. "Hawkeye says you actually scratched Ed's ears. Why the heck did you do that? You must've known he wouldn't take it well. Just look at you. You're a walking advert for band-aids."
"I don't know, he was just there Hughes, you know? I just . . ."
"Aha!" Hughes interrupted knowingly. "Your secret love of cute things got the better of you again, didn't it? Just like that time you started singing to Hawkeye's puppy."
"That doesn't count!" Mustang protested. "I was drunk! And we swore never to mention that again!
"Yeah. . . Didn't swear not to show anyone the pictures though. The expression on your face was just adorable!"
Loud splashes, swearwords, and the crack of automail against tiles echoed from the showers and Mustang's impending rant halted before it could begin.
"Brother!" they heard Al cry. "You can't go out the window! We're on the third floor!"
Mustang's eyes widened and he ran, shoving the door to the showers open at full speed, with Hughes barely a step behind him.
"FULLMETAL! GET BACK HERE!"