Haunted by Water
Author – D M Evans
Disclaimer- not mine, all rights belong to Ms. Arakawa
Rating – FRM
Genre- mystery, action
Pairings – Roy/Riza, Maes/Gracia, Roy/Maes, Roy/Maes/Riza/Gracia
Timeline/Spoilers – manga based, no direct spoilers except for Roy's parentage and things that happened in Ishbal. So hmmm, spoilers for anything past chapter 50
Summary – crimes of today resurrect ghosts of the past. When Maes asks for Roy's help investigating arson and murder, Roy never expected to have to face his past or that they would have to find a killer before Edward is targeted.
Warning – spoilers as noted above, implied sex (Het, m/m, threesome), violence, off screen rape and murder of young teens, arson, Roy & Ed's potty mouths.
Author's notes – This was written for the FMA_big_bang challenge on livejournal. this was very hard to finish in time. The plot was expansive. Thanks to everyone who helped me knuckle down and finish. Thanks to Betas –S J Smith & Bob_fish. Check out my livejournal (cornerofmadness) to see the fully adult chapters and art
Roy shifted on the seat, his thigh overly warm from Hayate using it as a bed. It didn't mesh well with his numb butt and overall irritation. Across from him, Breda still looked like he might have another panic attack, almost as if he thought Hayate would leap from the train seat where he was wedged between his favorite people and attack the soldier. Roy trailed his fingers through the dog's fur. Hayate had his head on Riza's lap and he envied the dog.
Roy needed off the train, which should happen soon since they were actually in the station. He felt cramped. Worse, he was confused. Hughes hadn't had time to talk – the first clue something was seriously wrong – only enough to tell Roy that he needed his expertise and to expect another call. It came quickly from General Grumman's office. Roy was to go to Central on temporary duty assignment with two of his men. All he wanted now was to crawl into bed and stretch out.
"Are they ever going to open the doors?" Breda obviously wanted away from the dog as fast as possible.
"I wouldn't be in too much of a rush," Roy said. "Hughes didn't get us all the way out here for fun. General Grumman sounded positively grim when he said to report to General Gran for the duration of our stay."
"I wish they had been a little clearer as to what is expected of us," Riza said, fastening Hayate's leash to his collar.
"I figure if Hughes was that terse, this is going to be bad in ways I don't want to think about it." Roy scowled.
"Could it be about Edward? Hughes cares about him and that boy is more trouble than even you, sir," Riza said, shooting him a look of concern to go with her sarcasm.
"He didn't use the code so I don't think so," Roy said and Breda quirked up his eyebrows at that.
The conductor chose that moment to call for them to disembark. Breda was off like a shot. Roy took Hayate's leash, which was better than carrying Riza's purse, not that she needed help with either, but he liked to be accommodating, especially when he felt a little powerless at the moment. As they waited on their baggage, Roy scanned for Hughes' lanky frame. He'd probably be easy to spot. Unless Roy misjudged the wad of photos he had received in the mail, he suspected his best friend would be towering over the crowd, waving handfuls of pictures of his newborn daughter. Instead, two low-ranking soldiers arrived at the same time as the luggage.
"Colonel Mustang, sir?" the young lady asked as if she wasn't quite sure who he was.
"Yes. Where's Lieutenant Colonel Hughes?" Roy judged her to be the leader of this pair. The young man seemed more nervous and oddly resembled Edward.
"He got called away unexpectantly, sir. I'm Lieutenant Ross and he's Second Lieutenant Brosch. We're here to take you and your men to your temporary housing," Ross said.
"Something's happened," Roy guessed and he saw in Brosch's eyes that he was right.
"We're not at liberty to say," Ross replied, her tone firm. "Major Armstrong's orders."
"Take us to Hughes then, instead of housing. The bags can sit in the car," Roy ordered and they winced.
"General Gran ordered everyone away from that area, sir." Ross seemed unhappy to have to tell a superior 'no.'
Roy protested. "But Hughes asked me here."
"The General was very specific," Brosch said apologetically.
Riza laid a hand on Roy's arm. "Hughes will contact us as soon as he can. We should get to the visiting officer's quarters so he'll be able to find us."
"There wasn't room for all three of you in the VOQ," Ross said. "They assigned the colonel to a small cottage on base."
"That should be pleasant," Roy conceded, as a sudden clap of thunder made him jump. Just what he needed, a storm to start up. "Take us there."
Roy had to content himself with letting Brosch get the luggage and watching Breda freak out at having to share the back seat with Hayate. If this ride to the housing wasn't short, Roy thought he'd lose what little patience he still had left. Brosch took them first to the rundown officer's quarters for Breda. The female quarters were in slightly better shape, though Riza didn't seem particularly happy to be staying there.
Ross and Brosch spoke in hushed tones that Roy had no interest in trying to overhear once he figured out it had nothing to do about whatever Hughes had summoned him for. It took Roy a moment to realize when they had pulled up to his cottage. The military base appeared to have grown up around this whole row. The grey stone cottage looked like it was closer to its second century than its first. White paint was present only on one side of the house and the windows were tiny, almost cell-like, speaking of an era where glass panes were expensive and rare and windows were made of oiled leather and stout shutters. He could practically smell its age from here. It reminded him of Master Hawkeye's old place on a much smaller scale.
Ross and Brosch deposited him inside with an economy of words, as if afraid of getting browbeat into taking him where they had been forbidden to do so. He hadn't even managed to finagle the location from them so he could go on his own. Instead, Roy familiarized himself with his temporary home. Electricity had been a late addition, running along the walls, hiding behind white-painted metal tubing like mice. The living room actually had a bit of a homey feel as the grey stone walls opened up into a sizeable fireplace. If the autumn weather got any cooler, he'd make use of it. The kitchen beyond it had those cabinets he never understood, the ones that ran all the way up to the three and half meter ceilings. All right, he understood the need to make use of all the space, but who the hell could actually use them?
The bathroom was tucked behind what Roy suspected had been an outside wall behind the chimney, another late addition taking the place of the outhouse. He could sit on the commode and touch all four walls. It would be like showering in a coffin. The bedroom was upstairs and ran the length of the cottage. The bed, a generous double, called his name but Roy did little more than turn down the sheets. Boring, not-that-soft, military white sheets. He missed his own bed already.
Roy sometimes wished he had his own house, like Hughes. Houses on base were reserved for family men. Roy didn't want to buy his own place like Hughes had because that would be conceding he was in the Eastern Command for life. Roy wouldn't do that since he had no intention of being there until he died. He liked his command, liked the people he worked with, but hated the place. Buying a house would be admitting he was never going anywhere, ever.
Shoving the uncomfortable thoughts from his mind, Roy contemplated a shower then bed. Instead, he slipped out of his uniform and into a suit. The cottage had been graced by a phone so he called a cab. The night was young after all, the sun barely down. Granted, it was storming but why sit at home in a place that wasn't home? Before he had time to properly depress himself, Roy found himself at Sparky's. The bar was only half filled but he ignored the people at the tables as he slipped onto a stool. The redheaded bartender grinned at him.
"Haven't seen you in forever, Roy," Janina said.
He smiled at his foster sister. "I didn't know I'd be in town or I'd have given you fair warning."
"With rogues like you that would have been helpful," she huffed at him. "Your usual?"
"You know what I like." He flirted just like Mother had taught him. Sometimes it felt weird with his sisters but they weren't really kin and no one could know of their relationship. "Is the Madam in?"
"She was busy. I'll go check to see if she's done and let her know you're here," Janina said but she set up his whiskey for him before she did.
He had nearly knocked it all back by the time his redheaded sister reappeared. She beckoned to him. "Come on, Roy boy. She has time for you."
Janina deposited him in Chris' office. The smell of stale smoke made him think about Havoc and all the damn paperwork the man would generate and gleefully leave on Roy's desk. His mother's dark eyes swept over him and her lips quirked down, her cigarette wiggling. She had found something in him wanting.
"You're too skinny," she announced.
Roy sighed. "Don't make me take off my shirt and prove you wrong, Madam. I'm perfect."
Smoke curled out of her long nose when Chris snorted. "I see your ego still knows no bounds. Sit, son." She pointed to the chair in front of her desk. "You didn't tell me you were coming west."
"Didn't know until Hughes called me. I still don't know what he wants but whatever it is, it's official business." Roy took a seat, grimacing. "I have a very bad feeling about this."
Chris nodded. "As well you should. There have been a series of fires set, dead children, only that part has been kept out of the papers."
"I see Maes told you more than he told me," Roy said sourly.
"My boys keep me informed." She grinned. "Except he did fail to tell me about you but I'll forgive him. That newborn of his isn't letting him sleep."
Roy snorted. "Tell me about it. The bastard calls me when he's up with Elicia at all hours. Why in the world you fostered that fool…."
"Because he's one of the smartest boys I had ever seen, much like some arrogant young men I could name." Chris shot him a meaningful look as she stubbed out her cigarette. "He's a natural at information gathering just like you are at alchemy. And you know you love it when he calls you at three in the morning so you can hear Elicia taking her bottle."
Roy rolled his eyes. He never knew exactly why he was one of the few children Chris had ever given her last name. His sister had kept their birth name but she had been older when they came to Chris and he had been so very young. Hughes has been older, too. Maybe that was why Hughes wasn't a Mustang but, then again, she couldn't give too many of her fosters that surname or it would give away the whole intelligence gathering network. "Tell me about these fires."
"I don't know much to tell. They've been running your brother ragged."
Roy nodded, not liking that. He was protective of Maes. He and Maes were more than brothers. Their foster mother knew and never judged. Neither did Maes' wife who had stunned them years ago with her willingness to accept their relationship and join in, along with Riza. Still, if Gracia could put up with whatever the military was making Maes do, who was he to say anything? "What can you tell me? I was told in no uncertain terms I couldn't get involved until Hughes comes and gets me, I assume. Why else would I be here? They refused to take me to him."
"I suppose you could stumble on the scene yourself." A sly smile played over his mother's mobile lips.
Roy smirked. "Hard to protest that. If I get close enough and Hughes sees me, he'll bring me in. So, I suppose you know where he is."
Her cigarette holder jabbed westward. "Sadly, not far from here. You could walk."
Roy paid for the information with a kiss to his mother's cheek and a promise to come back for a proper visit some time while he was in Central, his job allowing. The rain hadn't abated when he got outside and, like a fool, he had forgotten his umbrella. Hell, he hated the rain.
"Roy!" He turned back to see Janina brandishing an umbrella. "Someone left this here weeks ago," she said and he took it with his thanks, heading down the street.
Inside the umbrella, Roy found an envelope. He tucked it into his jacket for reading later. It took all his determination just to slog through the downpour. Water slapped against the sidewalk as overtaxed and dirty gutters failed to shunt the rain down the drains. People thought he hated the rain because he was useless. Roy liked to let them think that. It was to his advantage, after all. No one would guess the real reason he hated the rain, why he felt a deep desolation of the soul in storms like this. Lakes brought similar melancholy to him and he only ever went to them in the company of people he felt safe with. No, let them think his depression was due to his short-circuited alchemy. Even he preferred to think that.
It wasn't hard to find the site. Even with the deluge, the smell of smoke hung in the air. Two blocks more and the intense search lights were a dead giveaway. Several large lights, generators chugging away adding diesel to the miasma, illuminated a partially burnt building. Several soldiers stopped Roy there and he regretted changing out of his uniform.
"Move along, sir. There's nothing to see," one of the soldiers said.
"Sergeant, I'm Colonel Mustang. Lieutenant Colonel Hughes requested I come as quickly as possible." Roy gestured to his civilian clothing. "As you can see, I haven't even bothered to change. I'm sure he'd appreciate you telling him I'm here."
When the man looked ready to protest, Roy pulled out his ever-present pocket watch and the man's mouth clamped shut. He nodded, turning on his heel. However, his companions didn't move and weren't about to let Roy past their perimeter. The first soldier came back with Hughes, who had the decency to look surprised to see Roy standing there in the rain.
He grunted at Mustang. "I wasn't expecting you until the morning but since you're here, come on back. It'll be good to have your eyes on this before the rain ruins everything."
Roy fell into step with Hughes who snagged the umbrella out of his hand, holding it over head. "Hey."
"You're too short. I'm sure you're wondering why all the secrecy about getting you here." Maes's pace was a touch too brisk.
Roy nodded. "Among other things, yes."
"I'd rather not say much and let you come to your own conclusions." Maes folded up the umbrella once they were under the spotty shelter of a precariously weak roof.
Spot lights turned night to day. Roy could see Armstrong hunkered down, studying something. The smell made Roy's stomach flip. He knew it too well, roasted human flesh. Under a gaping hole in the ceiling where the flames and the storm conspired to make short work of the fire-damaged roof, Roy saw a small charred body, not a child, a teen maybe.
He blinked rapidly and the smoke-filled building disappeared, replaced by a street of mud-brick buildings and smoking roof tiles. He saw the bodies, blackened sticks for limbs, heads exploded where the brains had boiled in their own skulls. His lips were coated with grease.
Vaguely, he heard Hughes calling his name. Maes said it sharply one more time and Ishbal receded back to the recesses of Roy's mind. His friend stared at him, no doubt seeing his distress. Roy shook his shoulders, firming up his tenuous grip on reality. It had been some time since he'd had a flash back. "What happened here?"
"We were hoping you could tell us," Maes said.
Roy's nose scrunched as Armstrong stood up, stepping aside for him. Roy moved past the man, taking a better look at the victim, then studied the room. "Whoever this child was, he was torched. See how burnt he is?" Roy squinted. "She?" He couldn't tell, too much damage. "Human flesh is harder than you think to burn. All around the body, the fire did less damage. But look at that wall." Roy pointed. "I'll need to see it in the day but that looks like lizard-skinning. It's where the fire burned hotter."
"So, very hot fire in two places," Armstrong said and Roy nodded.
"I'd say someone poured an accelerant on this poor person and then splashed it around the walls." Roy took a deep breath. "I don't smell gas so maybe alcohol. It's hard to tell." He turned and looked at Hughes. "I was already on the train when this happened. There are more, aren't they?"
Hughes's large mouth twisted. "Too many. This makes the fourth, all young teens as far as the coroner can tell."
"Two boys and a girl," Armstrong added. "And he'll have to tell us which this poor child was." His blue eyes were clouded with sadness and determination. "There's no way of knowing who any of them were."
"We're going through the missing persons reports with the local police," Hughes said. "Hoping maybe for dental records but if these kids were from poorer families, those won't exist." He gestured to the body at their feet. "This one is in the best shape. The rain came up unexpectedly tonight. There were no signs of it earlier in the day."
"It put out most of the fire before anyone ever arrived," Armstrong continued. "We haven't had a body in this good of shape before."
"What do you think I can do for you?" Roy closed his eyes momentarily. He needed that break from the horror, thinking he knew exactly what Maes wanted from him. Roy knew he wasn't going to like this.
"You've already started. You know how to read fires, Roy," Maes said. "We don't. I wouldn't have thought about the fire being started in two separate places. Of course, the last few times there was next to nothing left to even look at."
"I want to see those places, too," Roy said, glancing up through the hole and the rain pissing through it. The water made bits of burnt flesh float away even though they had put a tarp over the body. "In the daylight, of course. I brought Hawkeye and Breda with me."
"Good, we'll make good use of them," Hughes said. "I'll be meeting with the coroner tomorrow while he does the autopsy and Armstrong continues to work the missing persons' files."
"There is an astonishing number of missing children," Armstrong said, his voice heavy. "And that's not even considering they may have come from the Ishbalan slums on the outskirts."
"I'll go with you," Roy said without enthusiasm. He didn't really want to see an autopsy but that would be the best way to learn something, seeing it for himself.
Hughes nodded and went back to work, giving Roy directions as to what he could do to help them. Roy realized the severity of the whole situation when Maes didn't mention his wife and newborn daughter once.