A.N. This idea came to me randomly as I was watching Brotherhood. I was very excited to see that Mustang's core group was getting more airtime. And I began to wonder...how DID Mustang find these guys and earn their loyalty so completely? And so, I present my version of how that happened. I'm taking lots and lots of creative liberties and pulling facts from both versions of the story (though there is a heavy slant toward the manga) and much of what I write will take place pre-series. I was going to have the prologue be its own chapter, but figured it was too short, too vague and didn't really explain much. Think of it as an expanded summary.
A king is nothing without his people, just as they would be lost without him. In exchange for their loyalty and trust he protects them, with his life if necessary. When a king strays from this path, only chaos and anarchy will follow and it is the responsibility of the people to see him removed from power.
When the Eastern Rebellion came to an end, one man looked on his comrades with the eyes of a king. And he made an unspoken vow to protect them from those who would throw their lives away. With time and commitment, he would someday become their Fuhrer. With his own hands, he would protect those directly below him, and they in turn would protect those below them. And so it would follow until everyone was safe.
But he couldn't do it alone.
And so he found us. One by one, we became his soldiers and he became our leader. We are Colonel Roy Mustang's most loyal subordinates, and these are our stories.
Chapter One - Second Lieutenant Jean Havoc
Romantic music and warm light streamed out the windows of the upscale restaurant, flooding the dark street outside. The atmosphere made passersby carry themselves a little higher as they caught the mood, and Havoc couldn't help but smile as he leaned against a nearby lamppost waiting for his date to show up. They had only met that afternoon and things were already looking promising. Melinda had seemed impressed that he was a soldier and never mind that he wasn't very far up the ranks and didn't plan on going much farther.
Running a hand though his cropped hair, Havoc let out a rueful chuckle. Well, maybe she was just one of those girls who couldn't bear to hurt a guy's feelings by turning him down. But pity date or not, he wasn't about to let the opportunity slide. Not when, for once, he was actually feeling quite confident and jovial, even a little suave.
Yep, this was going to be a very good night.
Spotting a taxi down the road, Havoc recognized Melinda's profile in the backseat and hastily snuffed out his cigarette. Most women didn't like his habit, and Havoc generally waited until the third or fourth date to introduce them to it. If there was one thing he despised more than being dumped, it was a cancer lecture over his chicken alfredo. What a way to kill the mood.
The taxi pulled up to the curb, and Melinda smiled shyly when Havoc gallantly opened the door and offered her a hand. She stepped out, blushing up a cute little storm. "That's so sweet of you to wait outside for me, Jean. Especially when it's so chilly out here."
"Ah...it was nothing," Havoc replied, wishing he'd had time to come up with something more dashing. Like 'I'd never leave a lady out in the cold' or 'I didn't want to miss a moment of your beautiful smile'. Crap, why did these things always come to him a few seconds too late? To make up for it, Havoc held out his arm for her to take. Melinda giggled at the mock-formality and linked arms with him as they strode into the restaurant like they owned the place. The seating hostess was all smiles as she showed them to their table.
Havoc had really splurged on this place. Everything inside, from the décor to the food to the guests, radiated a ridiculously expensive aura. Most of the tables were already taken by preoccupied couples who didn't even look up as they walked by. The only loner was a man with dark hair and broad shoulders sitting at the table directly beside theirs. Black, slanted eyes studied the two of them, and Havoc automatically went stiff under their inspection. He nodded a greeting, which was returned coolly. Even out of uniform, soldiers knew their own.
And he didn't miss the way Melinda's eyes roved over the stranger momentarily, though she had the grace to quickly zip her attention back to Havoc as soon as they passed and look mildly ashamed of herself. But Havoc was taking no chances and steered Melinda into a seat that would place her back-to-back with the other soldier and thus unable to make eyes at him. He ordered a bottle of wine for them both and the waiter scurried off, leaving them alone.
Now came the part he sometimes had trouble with. The awkward art of making conversation.
"I've never been here before," Melinda said in awe, glancing around. "I'd never been able to afford it."
Havoc winced, fancying he could feel the hole being chewed into his wallet. "Yeah, neither could I. But I figured, what the heck, might as well make a good first impression."
"Which you are ruining as you speak."
Havoc blinked at the unexpected intrusion, and Melinda looked over her shoulder in surprise. The black-haired soldier glanced back at them with a knowing look. "Trust me, she doesn't want to hear about how poor you are and how much poorer you will be by the end of the evening. In fact, since this looks like a first date, you really should leave financial issues out of the conversation entirely."
"I don't see where that's any of your damn business," Havoc said as calmly as he could, though he was bristling inside.
"Swearing should also be kept to a minimum, lest she think you unsophisticated," the man advised carelessly. He turned to Melinda suddenly and held out his hand with a charismatic smile. "Allow me to apologize for interrupting your evening, Miss...?"
"Oh, um," Melinda stammered, blushing again. "S-Sundry. Melinda Sundry."
The stranger took her hand and, to Havoc's outrage, gently kissed the back. "Lieutenant Colonel Roy Mustang. The Flame Alchemist."
Melinda's eyes grew wide at the title, and Havoc barely resisted the urge to snarl and smack their hands apart. Great, just great. Not just another solder, but a freaking alchemist. They were the stuff of legends out here in the east. Why couldn't the seating hostess have sat them next to a plumber or a homeless guy or something?
Luckily, the waiter arrived with their wine, and Mustang released his date. Melinda turned back to Havoc with not a little reluctance, and he cast around quickly for something to restore the mood. "So...so you never told me what you do for a living, Melinda! Wait, let me guess. Teacher?"
Melinda smiled modestly. "I'm a veterinarian, actually."
"Wow," Havoc commented. "No offense, but you don't look it. What kinds of animals to you care for?"
"Just pets mostly, like dogs and cats," Melinda said with a little pride. "Birds too, sometimes. Although you wouldn't believe what strange things people bring into my office and call their pets."
"Sounds like you'd never have a dull day on the job," Havoc said, grinning.
"It's not always so great," Melinda murmured. "Just the other day, I had a cat die on the operating table. It can be so hard to break the news to a client, especially if they've had their pet for a long time."
Havoc hesitated, unsure of what to say to ease her sudden sadness. Then out of nowhere a pale hand snaked over the tablecloth and covered Melinda's. "That must be so hard for you to talk about," Mustang said gently. "Why don't you two change the subject?"
"Why don't you stay at your own table?" Havoc shot back in fury. "Aren't you saving that other chair for your own date?"
"I'm afraid my date cancelled at the last minute," Mustang replied candidly. "My reservation was paid for and I didn't want it to go to waste."
"Sorry to hear that," Havoc sniffed.
"Although," Mustang added, casting Melinda a significant look as he squeezed her hand. "If I'd known such an enchanting beauty would walk in, I'm afraid I wouldn't have been able to pay my previous date the attention she deserved."
Melinda flushed deeply, visibly wilting under his gaze. She sent a pleading look in Havoc's direction. "Jean...couldn't we at least keep him company? He's all alone over there."
Havoc's mouth dropped open. He snapped his attention around to Mustang, and the man actually had the gall to smirk at him before adopting an expression that was appropriately wretched and wistful. "Now, Melinda," he said, every bit the noble martyr. "I wouldn't want to impose..."
"But it's no trouble at all!" Melinda said eagerly. "Right, Jean?"
Havoc fumed silently, fists clenched under the table. No matter how he looked at it, there was no way to stop this turn of events without looking like a complete ass. Just how the hell had Mustang managed to set that up? He ought to clock this guy right in the nose!
Oh, and have a lieutenant colonel call you out in front of the entire restaurant and your date? He's HOW many ranks above you? He's got you over a barrel as is!
"Jean? We can join him, right?"
Never hit a superior officer, never hit a superior officer...
"Sure," Havoc croaked. "Why not?"
Melinda smiled brightly as the two of them moved to the other table. The rest of the date went smoothly enough, if Havoc ignored the fact that Mustang was making all the conversation and that Melinda had fallen head-over-heels for the infuriating man. To top it off, Mustang simply insisted that he be the one to pay the bill, since Havoc clearly could not afford to eat in a place like this. He earned a tiny victory when Melinda left with him instead of Mustang, but he wasn't counting on getting a phone call from her anytime soon. He hadn't missed it when the other man slipped a piece of paper into Melinda's palm.
Havoc dropped Melinda off at her home without a hitch and walked back to his apartment with his shoulders slumped in defeat. And he sincerely hoped he never came in contact with Roy Mustang again. Ever.
As predicted, he didn't hear from Melinda the next day. Or the next. Or the next. Havoc tried not to let it bother him, but it was hard, damn it. And it wasn't even the loss of Melinda's company that was bothering him the most. Whenever Havoc remembered that night and the smooth, self-assured, smirking bastard that ruined it, it was all he could do not to punch something. Even his comrades noticed the raincloud hovering over his head and made a silent pact to avoid him until his foul mood abated.
The best Havoc could do was to take his frustration out on the targets at the shooting range.
And if he happened to picture Mustang's face painted on his target…well, that was just good, healthy anger management.
"Sheesh, Havoc! What'd that poor target ever do to you?"
Havoc glanced over to see Lieutenant Breda setting up in the spot next to his, sidearm unholstered and earplugs already in place. He shrugged feebly in response to his friend's playful inquiry and took aim again. Right between those slanted black eyes...
"So how'd your date go the other night?"
"That bad, huh?" Breda said sympathetically. "Wait, don't tell me. Someone else has caught her eye, right?"
Havoc grimaced. "That obvious?"
Breda took a few shots of his own, tongue stuck out a bit in thought. "Well, you haven't been acting the way you usually do when you get dumped. Normally, you get all depressed and...gooey."
Breda gave a fairly decent impression of someone slumped over a desk with a hangdog expression. "Like a kicked puppy," he said blithely. "Just waiting for the next bosomy woman to come along and snuggle you."
"Thanks, Breda," Havoc said acerbically. "That means so much to me."
"I'm saying that now you don't look like that," Breda pointed out with a quick grin. "Right now, you've got that other look in your eye. The one every guy gets when someone hits on his girl. It's like instinct or something. So what happened? Did an old boyfriend show up? Or did you leave her alone two minutes too long and some other guy lured her away?"
Havoc gave a half-hearted shrug, mildly embarrassed. "Kind of the second one," he muttered. "It's not a big deal, it's not like she was my girlfriend or anything..."
"For that night, she was yours," Breda said when the echoes died away. "You've got to quit being so fatalistic about this stuff! Why didn't you do something to stop it?"
Havoc shoved another clip into his gun angrily. "It's not as clean-cut as it sounds! I'd like to see you try and keep a girl with that smooth-talker around!"
"Just who are we talking about anyway?" Breda asked in alarm.
"A lieutenant colonel. Called himself the Flame Alchemist."
A huge guffaw made Havoc look over in consternation as Breda braced his hands on his knees and howled at the ground like a hyena. "Oh man!" he wheezed. "You fell straight into that one! Roy Mustang's infamous for his popularity with the ladies. You stood no chance, my friend. No chance in hell."
Havoc scowled, personally not seeing what was so funny about the whole thing. When Breda continued to laugh at his expense, he switched his attention to his target across the range. The vaguely humanoid shape was starting to sag a bit, unable to stand straight after being so thoroughly pummeled with bits of lead. Not bad. Now if only it was Mustang's bleeding corpse instead of a cardboard cutout...
He sighed and holstered his sidearm, suddenly craving a different kind of smoke than the hazy residue from the guns could offer. Breda did the same when he noticed Havoc patting his pockets, still sniggering as they left the range together and walked side by side back to the small base.
"Please tell me I'm not Mustang's only victim," Havoc implored as he lit up and took a long, soothing drag. "It might salvage whatever's left of my ego."
"If it were anyone else," Breda cautioned, "I'd say go kick his ass and get the girl back, but he's called the Flame for a reason. Best not to crisp your outsides as well as your insides, huh?"
"Meh," Havoc mumbled.
"Look on the bright side," Breda said in encouragement. "He's only here for another month or two. I heard their moving him up to East City HQ because of his valor in Ishval."
"A month or two without a date?" Havoc whined. "That'll kill me faster than the cigs!"
Breda gave him a clap on the shoulder and they parted, and Havoc turned the words over in his mind as he made his way to his guard station, a stone tower on the base's perimeter. Valor in Ishval, huh? Not that it meant much. Half the State Alchemists in the country had earned that same honor when they were called to end the uprising nearly a year ago. Only good timing and a mix up of paperwork had prevented Havoc from being yanked out of training to participate, and in that he counted himself lucky. The horror stories were enough to keep him awake at night, and plenty of antipathy still lingered among the citizens. It seemed more and more soldiers went missing every day, victims of violent crimes or dead by their own hand, and that was enough to make everyone double check their guns and circles before they went out at night.
Hell, in the wake of this war, he was lucky to be getting dates at all. Even the failed ones should be cherished, Havoc thought glumly.
At his guard station, a corporal rushed up to him and gave a hasty salute. "Sir, there's a civilian on the phone asking for you."
Havoc flung the cigarette aside and hurried inside to the phone, thinking it must be an emergency call from his family in the next town over. Who else would call him on a military line?
"Melinda?" Havoc spluttered. "Wha—how—?"
"Jean, I'm so happy I got in touch with you!"
"Y-Yeah, it's good to hear from you too," Havoc faltered. "But how'd you get this number?"
"I asked Roy," Melinda chimed. "He was so nice about it too! I can't imagine how a man like that is still single."
Havoc nearly dropped the phone. Now that was just weird. He just couldn't see Mustang as the type of guy who would go out of his way to do that. But in the next instant he forgot about it. Who cared how she got the number? He had never expected to hear from this woman again, and here he was talking to her! Take that, Mustang!
"I'd really like to see you, Jean," Melinda blurted out. Then she gasped and quickly retracted. "Oh no, that sounded so needy..."
"No, not at all!" Havoc said hastily, falling in love with that voice all over again. "I'd like to see you, too. Have to admit, I was worried about that Mustang guy butting in the other night..."
"Oh, him," Melinda laughed. "Roy is a very pleasant man, but...but I don't just want to let you go, Jean. I been thinking about you ever since that night, and I think this could go somewhere if we give it a try. Please...say you'll see me again?"
Well, how about that! Havoc allowed a smirk of his own to curl his lips and cleared his throat. "Of course I will. In fact, are you free tonight?"
"I get off work at six. Maybe you could come pick me up?"
Havoc dug around in his pockets and fished up a piece of paper to scribble down an address with a victorious flourish. They exchanged a few more pleasantries and flirtations before they hung up, and Havoc was left in no doubt that Melinda really did want to see him. Sure, it was always a possibility that she was still seeing Mustang, but that was a minor inconvenience. Or maybe Mustang had been a jerk to her on a second date and she was seeking him out for a shoulder to cry on.
Either way, Havoc thought as he turned the paper over in his hand, this date would definitely go better than the first. He would make sure of it!
The corporal peered over Havoc's shoulder. "Sir...you do know that you're night shift is tonight, right?"
"Son of a bitch!"
"You're my hero, Breda!" Havoc said fervently as he yanked on a coat over his uniform. "I'll pay you back, I promise!"
Breda rolled his eyes and waved him off. "Damn right, you will. You know how much I hate the night shift. Just don't get lost and keep an eye out for the Flame!"
Havoc flew out of headquarters and jogged down the darkening street, keeping Melinda's directions handy. He knew the layout of the town quite well after a year, but he'd never been to the veterinary clinic where she worked. Luckily, he found his way with little trouble and soon enough he was standing outside a quaint little building in one of the more rundown neighborhoods. Only one light shone from within, spilling over onto the sidewalk where one of the streetlamps had been smashed.
He peered into a window and, seeing nothing, tried the door. But the clinic was locked up tight. Havoc stepped back, uncertain. He had expected Melinda to be waiting for him outside, but now that he was here he wasn't sure he liked the idea of an unaccompanied young woman standing on this street alone. Could something have happened to her while she was waiting? Havoc checked the buttons on his coat to make sure his uniform was still hidden and slipped into an alley to search for a back entrance.
Two steps into the alley, he heard shuffling footsteps up ahead. Up ahead was the faint silhouette of a person hunched over near a dumpster. The stance was too tense and alert to be a homeless person, too bulky and muscular to be Melinda. Trusting his instincts, Havoc drew his gun and clicked the safety off. The tiny sound ripped through the silence like a firecracker, and the figure spun around. A snap just as loud echoed back to Havoc and out of nowhere a column of fire roared into life, scorching the brick walls and blinding him in its intensity.
"Fucking hell!" Havoc yelped. He shielded his face and dove around the corner for cover, blinking spots from his eyes.
"Don't move or you'll burn where you stand!"
Havoc froze at the familiar voice and groaned. "Well, guess that's why they call you the 'Flame' Alchemist..."
"Who are you?" Mustang demanded from the shadows.
"It's me!" Havoc said indignantly, coming out of hiding with his lowered gun in plain sight. "We spoke the other night while you were hitting on my date!"
Mustang emerged from the alley to stand in the dubious light from the clinic window. Havoc scanned him for arrays and spotted one stitched to the back of a white glove on his hand. "Ignition-cloth?" he snorted. "Really? You know those will be completely useless if you get them wet, right? Why don't you just use a lighter?"
Mustang pulled a face. "What are you kidding? People would take one look at it and assume I'm addicted to those cancer sticks."
"Why do people keep saying that?" Havoc said wearily. "There's no proof at all to back that up! And why are you even here? Don't expect me to believe Melinda invited us both to pick her up!"
"Her name's not Melinda," Mustang said bluntly.
Without another word, Mustang turned on his heel and beckoned him into the alley. Havoc followed only reluctantly, unsure of what to expect. Now that he thought about it, Mustang seemed rather edgy and somber, the exact opposite from his demeanor the night before. His swift reaction earlier was enough to make Havoc keep his gun in his hands as he followed a step behind the alchemist.
Mustang peeled off his white glove and stuffed it in his pocket before reaching inside the dumpster he had been inspecting, an act that made Havoc cringe in revulsion. But then his eyes went wide as Mustang brought a piece of blue fabric into view, charred around the edges and bearing the remains of rank stripes. Havoc coughed when he caught a strong whiff of formaldehyde.
"What's this about?" Havoc asked. "Why's that here?"
"You know that soldiers have been going missing, right?" Mustang said bleakly, waving at the dumpster. "I think I've found their bodies. Or what's left of them."
Havoc stepped closer and held his breath as he peeked into the dumpster. It looked normal for the most part, as far as dumpsters went. Until he saw more bits of blue cloth scattered over the rest of the garbage. Near those was a bag that had fallen open to reveal a pile of dark ashes, the remains of something large that had been burned down to nothing.
"The uniforms are evidence enough," Mustang told him. "But I'm sure we can find a way to prove those are human remains. I need you to head back to HQ and report what we've found here..."
The hairs on the back of Havoc's neck rose, and he took half a step away from Mustang. "How did you know to find this here?"
Something in his tone must have given his thoughts away because Mustang's eyes narrowed as he turned to Havoc quickly. At the same time, Havoc brought his gun up and pressed it to Mustang's temple.
"What do you think you're doing, soldier?" Mustang asked quietly, staring at him in disbelief.
"A dark alley," Havoc breathed, "a Flame Alchemist and a dumpster full of burnt corpses. Do you honestly expect me to believe a word you say right now? For all I know, I caught you in the act of dumping this mess!"
Mustang gritted his teeth, clearly livid. "Lower your weapon. That's an order, soldier!"
"Not gonna happen," Havoc said harshly, all the while fighting to keep his hands from shaking. He'd never fought an alchemist before, but he was well aware of what they could do. He had absolutely no desire to end his life as ashes in a dumpster.
"Use your head, Lieutenant! You're girlfriend's the one who did this, not me!"
"The hell she did! And keep your damn hands in sight!"
Mustang paused in the act of reaching for the glove in his pocket and held his hands out from his body, palms up. "Havoc, just listen to me. You're aiming your gun at the wrong person!"
"I'll be the judge of that," Havoc retorted and held out his hand. "Hand over the glove and come with me, Flame. You can explain yourself just as well from inside a cell..."
Something sharp embedded itself in Havoc's shoulder, right in the deltoid. He whirled around and fired, but his shot went wide and his attacker dove around him to stab a second needle into Mustang's thigh. Fire blossomed outward from their struggling forms, and Melinda fell back with a shriek of agony. Havoc staggered into a wall as his gun fell from senseless fingers, clattering to the ground. In the next moment, the world tilted and he crumpled to the ground. Havoc stared at the gravel an inch from his nose as his vision darkened and wondered for the millionth time why he had such rotten luck with women.
"Lieutenant, wake up! Havoc!"
Mustang's voice shattered the oblivion of Havoc's mind and dragged him back to cold, harsh reality. His body still felt so heavy and numb, unwilling to respond to even the smallest commands, and his mind was just a disjointed as it struggled to recall the recent past. Corpses in the dumpster, turbulent flames, sharp needles, Melinda...
"Come on, get your ass moving!"
"Make me," Havoc grumbled, but he forced himself to flex his fingers and toes, coaxing some vestige of life back into his limbs.
"Quit screwing around," Mustang snapped. "You're girlfriend is trying to kill us in case you hadn't noticed!"
A careless giggle came from nearby, and Havoc's eyes flickered open. Oh, this did not look good. The space he was the size of a small closet, about three paces wide and four long—the perfect size for a dog kennel. Oh crap, it was a dog kennel. Three of the walls around him were concrete and the fourth was the wire mesh of an animal cage. Across the way, Mustang was locked in a similar cage.
Havoc slowly uncurled from his position sprawled on the floor and sat more or less upright, leaning heavily on the mesh. Someone walked between the kennels, and he looked up at the woman he had hoped to call his girlfriend in bitter disappointment. There were burns on her forearm and jaw from Mustang's attack, unfortunately not life-threatening, but she still beamed at them both like a delighted girl at her new pets.
"Did you hear that, Jean?" Melinda said in a teasing tone and with not a trace of the blush he had found so endearing. "He called me your girlfriend. I guess that means he's being the bigger man and stepping aside. Isn't that sweet?"
Havoc snorted and surreptitiously checked his belt, unsurprised that his gun was gone. He glanced in Mustang's direction, but the alchemist merely shook his head and nodded at the white cloth poking out of Melinda's pocket.
"I still can't believe my luck in ensnaring you both tonight," Melinda went on, hugging herself in triumph. "I thought it would only be you tonight and then tomorrow I would make a tearful call to Roy about how my dear sweet Jean hadn't shown up for our date. I was so looking forward to that."
"Why did you murder those soldiers?" Mustang barked. "What will you gain from this?"
Melinda rounded on him with a mad glint in her eye. "How about the satisfaction of putting down the military's dogs with my own hands?" she said harshly. "Yes, that's all you people are. Real men wouldn't have taken a child from his mother's clinic, put a gun in his hand and made him into a living target for the Ishvalans!"
A faint flash of light in his periphery made Havoc look around. At the end of the corridor was a doorway, and from beyond came a flickering orange light that played over the stark white walls. His gut clenched. Of course, as a veterinarian, Melinda would have access to one of those machines that cremated dead animals. A simple and effective way to disguise a murder.
"I can't speak for whoever recruited your son," Mustang said slowly. "But the military hadn't yet begun civilian drafting when the war ended. So it must have been your son's choice from the beginning to join the fight..."
"It wasn't!" Melinda shouted. "He belonged here! Not there, here! He should have—!"
She stopped all at once, laughing giddily. "No, don't do that to me, soldier. Trying to make me regret my crimes? Well, the bigger crime is allowing rabid dogs to live when they could pass on this disease of violence to others. What I'm doing is right."
"Oh, shut up and get our murders over with," Mustang muttered. "I'm sick of hearing all that filth come from such a beautiful mouth."
"For the love of God, will you quit flirting with her?" Havoc said petulantly. "She's not about to sleep with you, in case you hadn't noticed."
"I wouldn't necessarily say that," Melinda purred, brushing her fingers over the mesh. Mustang regarded her with nothing but disdain, and she soon stepped back with a haughty little huff. "Well, in any case, the fire should be nearly ready. I'll be back for you boys in a minute."
Havoc watched her march away into the next room and shut the door forlornly. What a crappy way to end the night. He leaned back against the mesh and patted his pockets until he found his lighter and cigarettes. Luckily, she hadn't thought to take those away. He lit up, deliberately taking as much time as possible. This could very well be his last smoke, after all.
"This is all your fault, you know," Havoc said conversationally, glancing over his shoulder. Mustang had taken up a position that mirrored his own, sitting cross-legged with his back to Havoc.
"How is it my fault?" Mustang grunted. "It was your actions that allowed her to get the jump on us."
"Can you really blame me for jumping to conclusions?"
The quiet ssshnick of a rank pin being undone. Havoc twisted his cigarette between his fingers, gazing at the tiny flame on the end like it held all the answers.
"No," Mustang said finally. "I really can't. But I suppose I could have at least tried to approach you about this earlier. I just wanted proof first."
"What made you suspect her in the first place?" Havoc asked, genuinely curious. Was it possible that Melinda's nature had been glaring him in the face the whole time and he'd missed it? Mustang's answer was slow in coming. In the silence, Havoc heard a pained hiss and the quiet scratch of a finger tracing over the concrete floor.
"I have a friend in Investigations who's constantly telling me that coincidences don't exist," Mustang explained. "The soldiers who went missing were all on their way to meet with their dates. A different name every time, but in most instances the women were veterinarians. From there, it was just a matter of finding a veterinarian in that age range and getting her to pick me as her next target. Why do you think I was at the restaurant the other night?"
Havoc sighed ruefully. "And here I thought you were being a jackass just for the hell of it. According to my buddy Breda, you're a woman magnet."
"Not always a good thing," Mustang pointed out. "Just look at where we are."
"Good point. You done with that transmutation circle or should I snuff out this cigarette?"
Mustang met his grin with a cocky look. "You've worked with alchemists before, haven't you?"
"Actually, no," Havoc answered. "You just strike me as the type who'll do whatever it takes to save his own ass."
Havoc flicked his cigarette through the wire mesh. It landed in the very center of the walkway between their cages. Mustang set the rank pin aside, the sharp portion of the metal still slick with blood, and pressed his palm to the bloody array on the floor.
"Wrong," Mustang shot back. "This is to save both of us."
The door at the end of the corridor opened, and Mustang activated the array. A fireball exploded upward from the cigarette and engulfed the veterinarian in a whirlwind of flames before she even had time to scream. Within seconds, she was a smoking heap on the floor in too much agony to even move, let alone cause them any harm.
Mustang heaved a sigh of relief. "Ok, just one more array and we're out of here..."
A shrill whistle cut him off and the sprinklers in the ceiling spewed to life, drenching everything in sight. The array blurred in the icy water and washed out in seconds. Roy stared up at the ceiling in open-mouthed astonishment.
"Now do you see what I meant?" Havoc bellowed over the fire alarm. "What good is your alchemy if you're useless in the rain?"
"Will you shut up about that?" Mustang roared, shivering as his uniform was soaked through. "And who exactly is the useless one? Without my alchemy, you'd be ashes in an urn right about now!"
"You could have just gotten us out of the kennels in the first place, but nooo, you had to go and make a damn fireworks display out it! Are you always this showy, you womanizing—!"
"Why don't you get over here and say that to my face, you insubordinate—!"
"I'll TELL you what I'm gonna do when I get out of here, you wet match!"
"Gimme those cancer sticks! I'm gonna burn your eyebrows off!"
The next day found Havoc safely back at his post, scanning a newspaper article bleakly. The reporters had managed to get most of the details right about Melinda a.k.a. Marissa a.k.a. Miranda Sundry and her role in the deaths of the missing soldiers. Somehow, Havoc couldn't muster up much in the way of shock over the one-eighty switch in the veterinarian's personality. It really wasn't that unusual for those who felt they had been wronged by the State to target random soldiers in pursuit of revenge. But why were they making Mustang out to be the hero who saved him from a gruesome death? They didn't seem to comprehend that the Flame Alchemist would have become the Cremated Alchemist without Havoc's cancer sticks to save him.
"Done with that?" Breda asked. "I haven't gotten a chance to read it yet."
Havoc folded the paper and tossed it to him. "Knock yourself out. I think I'm only mentioned maybe...twice."
"Psh, I'm more interested in reading about your girlfriend," Breda replied. "I still can't believe she turned out to be the one killing all those soldiers lately. What's it like to date a psycho?"
"Not much different than dating normal women," Havoc quipped. "The breakups are a bit bloodier."
"Ah...good to know. Hey, where are you going?"
"To see Mustang," Havoc said glumly, pausing at the door. "Don't know what about, he just said he wants to have a one-on-one with me about something."
"Oh yeah, about Mustang," Breda snickered from behind the paper. "I heard from the firemen that you two had quite the bonding experience."
"There was yelling, swearing, and name-calling," Havoc said, ticking each one off on his fingers. "I almost shot him, he almost torched me, and by the time we got rescued we were two seconds away from beating the living crap out of each other. Oh, and did I mention he stole my girlfriend?"
"Yeah, that sounds about right," Breda said with a completely straight face.
Havoc rolled his eyes and headed further into the base where the higher-ups kept their offices. Mustang didn't have his own private office, instead sharing one with others of his rank, but the other desks were empty when Havoc walked in. The phrase 'no witnesses' popped into his head ominously, but he shook it off as paranoia and saluted briskly. Mustang was leaning against one of the desks with his arms crossed—no longer dripping wet and red in the face, he was every inch the lieutenant colonel. The only sign of the recent trauma were faint shadows beneath his eyes and a bit of gauze taped to his palm where he had drawn blood to paint the array.
Havoc stood ramrod straight as he waited for the other man to say something. Away from psychotic girlfriends and life-or-death situations, they were still superior and subordinate. Mustang could choose to court martial him for his actions that night. Havoc squared his shoulders and braced himself for the inevitable lecture on always following orders and never, ever questioning a superior officer. Even if said superior was an ass.
"I'm going to be transferred to East City three weeks from now," Mustang said evenly. "You're coming with me."
Havoc's mouth dropped open and stayed that way while his brain tried to catch up with his ears. "I...uh...can I ask why, sir?"
Mustang looked him over carefully and nodded, more to himself than to Havoc. "I've been given permission to assemble and command my own team once in East City, and I want you to be a part of it. You'll be the second I've chosen so far, the first being my second-in-command who served with me in Ishval."
There was a long silence. Mustang seemed to be waiting for some kind of reaction. But the truth was that Havoc didn't quite know how to react as the news finally soaked in. A transfer...to East City...working for Mustang...
"You're going to make my life a living hell, aren't you?" Havoc said desolately.
Mustang's lips quirked at the gloomy statement, and he turned to look out the window, watching the soldiers roam around the base outside. "If you're expecting punishment for almost blowing my head off, you don't have to worry. Maybe another officer would have been angry that you didn't lower your gun when ordered, but not me. You made an assumption based on what you knew at the time and acted on it without hesitation. It's what I would have done."
"Yeah, I guess," Havoc said slowly.
Mustang faced him again with his hands braced on the desk, looking Havoc squarely in the eye. "I'm going to be frank with you, Havoc. I've got my own goals that I'm working towards. In that respect, I'm not that different from my peers. But the last thing I need are people under me who will follow any order without a thought or a care. If I wanted that, I'd train a pack of dogs for the job."
An amused smile played across Mustang's features. "What I need are soldiers who can call me a wet match to my face without fearing the consequences. Think you can handle that?"
Havoc mulled that over. Obviously, he didn't have a choice in the matter, but for some reason it didn't bother him that much. A scant few days ago, Havoc had loathed this man, but it had been a petty feeling based on nothing truly substantial. And now...
What did he think of Mustang now?
Remembering the day they met at the restaurant, Havoc couldn't help but be impressed and a little awed. Mustang could have easily turned his suspicions about Melinda over to the military police and let them deal with it. Instead, he had put himself on the front line by searching for evidence with his own eyes. How many officers would do that for soldiers they didn't even know?
Maybe this wouldn't be as bad as he thought.
Havoc saluted smartly. "Yes, sir. I believe I can."
"Good. You're dismissed now."
Havoc was halfway to the door when something else occurred to him and he looked back hopefully. "Sir, does this mean you won't steal my girlfriends anymore?"
Mustang's answer came in the form of a slow, devious smirk. Havoc's heart dropped like a stone.
"I'll let myself out..."
A.N. Poor Havoc just can't win, can he?
Just to warn everyone, this story is incomplete and likely to remain that way. As of now, I only have solid ideas for Fuery, Breda and Falman. I'd love to write something for Alex Louis Armstrong and Maria Ross (and of course Hughes, Hawkeye and Ed), but I'm having some writer's block. The manga/Brotherhood explains how Mustang met a lot of the characters I mentioned, so it would be difficult to either come up with anything original or put my own spin on what was already animated. I'm open to suggestions!
Until then, this remains a permanent work-in-progress. Honestly, the whole reason I published this was so I could share this first chapter. Havoc and Mustang are so funny when they're yelling at each other!