This fic is an AU of the first anime, assuming that Ed is still a state alchemist and Al's body was retrieved without his having to go through the Gate. It's part one of six of a completed fic written entirely during 2010's NaNoWriMo. I'll be posting one chapter a day for the next week. Beta'd by a_big_apple and bob_fish.
The phone call was the third one Roy had received in the last twenty minutes, and he was getting tired of the constant pestering. Picking up the receiver, he swore to himself that if it was General Hakuro insisting upon updated requisition forms for paper goods again, he was going to test the limits of his alchemy and determine whether it was actually possible to set fire to someone through the phone.
"General, sir, this is Second Lieutenant Westin," spoke the unfamiliar voice on the other end of the line. "I was told to pass on a request. You and your team are needed in the downtown area, Central Park, for an investigation."
"Investigation?" Roy echoed. "Local investigations aren't under my jurisdiction, Lieutenant. You'll need to contact Intelligence."
"Yes, sir," Westin was likely a younger officer, judging by the nervous quiver in his voice. "But this incident is, ah, related to alchemy, sir."
"Really." Hawkeye popped her head in the doorway, and Roy waved her in. "What sort of investigation is this?"
"There's been a murder, sir," the officer said. "A child, and there was a transmutation circle. It's," a nervous cough, "I can't really describe it, sir. You'll need to come."
That sounded ominous. Roy eyed his empty inbox. He'd been anticipating a slow day, very little work needing done, perhaps time for a phone call to North. It seemed that he wouldn't be so lucky.
"I'm on my way," he said, and hung up without bothering to acknowledge the nervous officer's spluttered thanks. "Lieutenant, we've been summoned."
"I overheard," Hawkeye said. "We haven't been called in for a local crime in years."
"A special operations team costs too much to deploy," Roy said dismissively. "Cases are passed over us on a regular basis."
"Which means this must be a particularly unpleasant one."
"My thoughts exactly." Roy pulled his uniform jacket on, straightening the collar. "Have Lieutenant Havoc ready a car. We're leaving in ten minutes."
"Sir," Hawkeye saluted, and disappeared back into the main office. Roy could hear her barking orders to the team, could hear his men scrambling to action. With one last look at his desk, empty for the first time in weeks, he went to join his men.
They found the child's body in pieces on the playground, scattered around the perimeter of a large, roughly drawn transmutation circle. It wasn't possible to walk even a foot without stepping in something, a blood splatter or otherwise. The boy, or what was left of him, had been on the playground in the hot June sun for the better part of a day. Roy couldn't smell anything else.
The team that had arrived first was still gathering the remains, and Hawkeye was the one who eventually found the head. She closed the boy's eyes and held her hand over the swollen lids while the men raced around trying to piece together something, anything. They rarely saw crimes of that magnitude in Central, not since before the fall of Bradley's regime years before, and it was the sort of thing bound to leave a mark on a man—one way or another.
"We need to," Roy cleared his throat, "find the family. Contact Intelligence. And," he hesitated with the last order, "have someone contact North HQ. We'll need Fullmetal for this."
"Sir." Hawkeye saluted with one hand, still crouched down and holding her other hand over the boy's eyes.
"Leave it, Lieutenant," Roy said gently.
"Sir," she said again, and left the thing resting at his feet. When she walked away, the head went unsteady and rolled, falling on its side as though it was staring at Roy. Roy looked away.
It was going to be one of those days.
Ed's train was scheduled to arrive at eight in the evening, so of course it came rolling into the station ten minutes before midnight. Roy had gotten the call from the stationmaster just in time to requisition a car and make it to the platform before Ed disembarked.
"You look like hell," was the first thing the young man said to him, standing just out of the train, bag slung over his shoulder and hips cocked to the side. "What's with that face?"
"I wasn't aware there was something wrong with my face," Roy said.
Ed looked puzzled and opened his mouth to say something, but he seemed to think better of it and settled for shaking his head. "There's something wrong with you," he laughed, and bumped Roy's shoulder as he walked past. "C'mon, old man, I'm starvin'!"
Despite the dark, the car was somehow sweltering when they climbed in it, and Ed was quick to shed his jacket and gloves, pushing his hair over his shoulder and smoothing his bangs against the top of his head. "Damn, but I'll never get used to this."
"Isn't it hotter in Resembool?" Roy asked, pulling out onto the street.
"Mm," Ed hummed his agreement. "But I ain't been by Resembool in, what, two years? In North, it's a hell of a lot different."
"I'm looking to get you reassigned."
Ed's smile stretched all the way to his eyes. "Are you? And where might that reassignment be?"
"Guess," Roy snorted, feeling a spark of humor for the first time in weeks. "I'm sure you can puzzle it out."
"I bet," Ed said, resting his head back against the seat. He looked comfortable, Roy observed, like he was finally resting and taking care of himself the way he should.
Roy missed him.
"I'm not sure what I have at home, as far as food's concerned." Roy tightened his grip on the steering wheel. "Would you like to stop somewhere, or…?"
"Stop somewhere," Ed said, "because once we're in the front door, I can promise I won't be going anywhere till morning."
Oh, thought Roy, and took a sharp right into the next diner, tires screeching and Ed sliding against the door with a loud thump and a curse.
"Overeager!" Ed grumbled. "Coulda warned me—"
"I have no idea what you mean," Roy said, lips curling up into a self-satisfied smile. "I just thought you might like," he glanced at the little restaurant, "Aunt May's… Fish House."
"Yeah, okay," Ed said derisively, slamming the car door. "Well, you know how fish just do it for me." He sauntered away from the car and up to the front door where he paused to look at Roy over his shoulder as though to say, Well?
The waitress was an older woman, pushing sixty at least. She took one look at Roy when they walked in and batted her eyelashes like a woman several decades younger and pushed them to the center table. Ed couldn't resist it and leaned over the moment she walked away to whisper, "I think she likes you," in Roy's ear, laughing.
"All women love me," Roy said solemnly, before adding, "and some men, apparently," with a look at Ed.
"Don't let my bad taste go to your head," Ed cautioned. "It's big enough already."
"You'd know, wouldn't you?" Roy quipped—and winced when automail toes dug into his shin. He was willing to admit that he probably deserved that one.
The restaurant wasn't the type of place Roy would have ordinarily bothered with, too kitschy for him, but Ed seemed more at ease with the casual atmosphere than he'd ever been in any of the upper-class places Roy frequented.
"For a fish house, they serve very little fish," Roy muttered, scanning the menu. "And everything's fried."
"What's wrong with fried? I like fried."
"It's terrible for you," Roy said, scowling at Ed over the top of the menu.
"A lot of things I like are terrible for me," Ed said. "I think I'm okay with that."
After they put in their orders, the food came quickly. Roy was struck by the thought that perhaps he should tell Ed about the case he'd called him down for, that they should at least do something other than make eyes at each other and play footsie under the table like two teenagers on their first date, but after spending two months without anything but phone calls and letters, Roy wanted to enjoy the moment.
There was nothing enjoyable about dead kids—not on their side of the case.
They were lucky the diner was of the twenty-four hour service variety, because by the time Ed had his fill of food and emptying Roy's wallet, it was closing in on two in the morning. Roy was exhausted, and he could see the dark circles under Ed's eyes, the way the young man's mouth drooped.
Starting the car, Roy had a passing thought of his bed and what he'd prefer to be doing in it. Next to him, Ed let out a weary breath, and Roy locked that particular thought away to be explored another time.
"They really need t'do somethin'," Ed paused to yawn, mouth open so wide Roy heard his jaw pop, "about the trains. Always so fuckin' late…"
"One hundred years from now, we'll both be dead, and the trains will still not run on schedule," Roy said. "Don't hold your breath."
"Wasn't plannin' on it…" Ed's head rolled back against the seat and his eyes fell shut. Roy watched him out of the corner of his eye for a moment before turning his attention to the road. When Ed had said he wouldn't be leaving till morning once they got to the house, he'd been correct, but not in the way Roy might've liked. They were both dead on their feet. Sleep sounded excellent. It wasn't what he'd planned for the night, but he'd rather have this than nothing.
When Roy pulled up to his house and parked the car, Ed finally stirred, blinking rapidly before running a hand over his eyes. "Damn, I'm tired."
"It's been a long day." Roy stepped out of the car and heard Ed open his door and follow.
"No kidding," Ed complained. "I used to be able to ride trains all damn day and still be fine. I spent, what, five hours on board, and suddenly I can't even function."
"It's called getting old," Roy explained with a touch of mischief in his tone.
"Fuck you, I am not old," Ed denied vehemently. "Twenty-six, how's that old?"
"Well, that certainly woke you up." Roy grinned. "Have I touched a nerve?"
"Just open the door, old man," Ed ordered. "Listenin' to you is giving me the hives."
Roy, still chuckling, unlocked the door in time for Ed to knock him aside and stroll in, stopping just inside the doorway. "Mm."
"What?" Roy pushed him in and closed the door behind them.
"Smells just like I remember in here," Ed sighed. "S'always nice." His eyes were closed and he looked so relaxed, shoulders at ease and arms slack. How long had it taken Ed to get where he was? How often was Ed this relaxed? Roy stepped closer until his chest molded to Ed's back and his nose buried in Ed's hair as he breathed in the moment.
"I missed you," Roy mumbled into his hair, feeling Ed lean back against him.
"Yeah," Ed said, the words heavy with sleep. "You, too."
There was an old comfort in the way they touched that Roy had never felt with anyone else. They walked together to the bedroom, tripping up the steps in a confusion of weary limbs. By the time they tumbled onto the bed, Roy felt too heavy to do anything but kick off his boots and rest his head on the pillow.
The last thing he felt before sleep pulled him under was Ed's head pushing against the space between his neck and shoulder, breathing a warm, happy sigh against his skin.
Roy's eyes fluttered open to morning, blinking away the nighttime image of the dead boy's head staring up at him from the ground with an accusing scowl, saying, where were you when I died?
"You were pretty restless last night." Ed was awake, laying on his side and watching Roy. His forehead was wrinkled. Roy reached out and smoothed his thumb across the worried crease, smiling sleepily.
"Sorry," Roy said—or rather, yawned. "Did I keep you up?"
Ed rustled into the sheets, pulling them up over his shoulders. "Nah. I can sleep wherever. A little moving around isn't enough to bother me."
At some point during the night, Ed had gotten out of his shirt. Roy was not so fortunate—falling asleep with all his clothes on left him feeling stiff and uncomfortable. Shifting, he sat up and tried pulling off his uniform shirt, but the buttons caught and almost tore. Ed rolled closer and grabbed Roy's hands, moving them out of the way and undoing the buttons himself. Roy rested his back against the headboard and watched Ed's hand, one flesh and one metal, undo his shirt and creep down to his lap, nimble fingers fidgeting with his zip before managing to get it open.
"Up," Ed commanded. "Get your butt off the bed!" Roy, amused, did as he was told and let Ed tug his pants off, taking his boxers with them and leaving him in nothing but his socks and unbuttoned shirt. Ed snickered.
"Very funny," Roy said, slumping back down onto the mattress and reclaiming the sheets from Ed's half of the bed. He slung an arm over his eyes, yawning loudly again. "What time is it?"
Ed rolled over to the other side of the bed again, glanced at the clock, and then rolled back to Roy. "Just before eight," he said.
"I'm shocked you're awake."
"Me?" Ed laughed. "You're the one who sleeps in his office. I can go days without sleep."
Roy made a vague humming sound. "I suppose that might be true."
"Might be," Ed huffed. "Is, more like it."
Reaching under the blanket, Roy grabbed for Ed, running his hands down the man's hips. "You're naked?" he asked, bewildered. How had he slept through Ed undressing?
"Maybe I've been awake for a while." Ed rolled up and over, settling himself with a knee on either side of Roy's hips. Ed was—hard, very obviously hard, and his cock jutted out right at Roy's eye level. Wrapping a hand around its base, Roy laughed, sleep still catching in his voice, and said, "Shall we make up for lost time?"
"That was the idea." Ed's eyelids fluttered when Roy adjusted his grip, squeezing and releasing slowly. "Mm…"
How he managed to go so long without Ed in his bed, Roy didn't know, but he wasn't about to waste any more time. "Imagine," Roy murmured, "if you were reassigned."
"Might not be such a good idea," Ed rasped. "I'd have to leave the bed at some point, y'know. Fuck, if you keep doin' that—"
"We eventually have to go to headquarters," Roy said, pushing into a sitting position, Ed's cock pressed between their stomachs. "There isn't time to—prolong things." Ed was writhing in his lap, moving just so that Roy's cock slid against the cleft of Ed's ass, the friction perfect. It really had been too long, much too long.
Roy squeezed tighter and Ed's back bent like a bow, his forehead pushing down against Roy's shoulder as he exhaled a sharp, tight sound and came all over Roy's fist. He left his head where it fell, panting against Roy's shoulder. His forehead felt warm and damp against the thin layer of Roy's shirt, the sensation vaguely uncomfortable. The room was too hot as it was, and coupled with the frustrating feel of being just on the edge but not close enough, Roy couldn't stand just sitting still.
"Ed," he began, and as though he could read Roy's mind, Ed let out a short laugh and twisted in Roy's lap, his legs spilling down off the side of the bed as his lips went over the slickened head of Roy's cock and sucked.
This, Roy thought, one hand in Ed's sweat dampened hair, was the sort of morning routine a man could get used to.
There was a total of six files on Roy's desk when he and Ed made it into the office just before ten—every one of them involved the same case.
"So this is it?" Ed glanced up from the first file. "This is my case?"
"Your area of specialty is necessary for the investigation," Roy said. Part of him wished Ed wasn't the most talented bioalchemist in Amestris, if only it meant he wouldn't have to deal with things like this. Hell, Roy wished he didn't have to deal with the case.
Ed flipped through the file, and Roy watched the same wrinkle appear on Ed's forehead that he always got when he was thinking about something particularly difficult. "Hm. This is the circle?"
Leaning over Ed's shoulder to get a look at the picture, Roy nodded. "That was the only circle in the area. The damage came solely from it, as far as we can tell."
"It's really…" Ed hesitated, bringing the picture close to his face. "Something's off about it. Has the actual circle been preserved?"
"There's a guard standing watch," Roy confirmed. "I thought you might want to see it in person." Ed was just staring at the photo, eyes narrowed. "What? Do you recognize it?"
"I—it's hard to say. There's something familiar about it, though."
"Do you think you might know the alchemist who performed the transmutation?"
"I don't know," Ed said. "There's no telling at this point. I think the first thing to do is figure out exactly what the purpose of the circle was. Where's the body?"
Roy looked away. "You're sure you want to see it?"
"Don't be an idiot." Ed tucked the first file under his arm. "There's no way to do this properly without seeing the body."
"What's left of it, anyway," Havoc said, walking into the room with a stack of papers in his arms. "Hey, boss. Long time, huh?"
"Hey, Havoc," Ed grinned. "S'only been a few months. The way you guys go on, you'd think life ends when I walk out the door."
"Not for me, it doesn't," Havoc said. "Anyway, the examiner wants a word with you. Said he wants a second opinion."
"Second opinion?" Ed raised a brow. "From me?"
"Just passing on the message." Havoc shrugged. Ed looked over at Roy, nose scrunched.
"Right," he said, pushing his bangs back out of his eyes, frowning thoughtfully. "Guess I'll head over, then. Mind if I take this?" Ed asked, waving the file.
"Go ahead. It'll be more use to you than to us, at this point." Looking at the stack of files related to the case on his desk, Roy let out a disgusted sigh and collapsed into his chair. "I foresee a great deal of overtime in my future."
Ed laughed at him, rather unkindly, and clapped a hand on Roy's shoulder before strolling from the room, calling, "I'll come find you later," over his shoulder. Havoc closed the door behind Ed.
"Kind of like old times, huh, General?" Havoc dropped the load of papers on Roy's desk, a few sheets slipping off the side of the thick pile and drifting down to the floor. Roy, shooting Havoc the dirtiest look he could manage, grabbed his pen and picked up the first sheet.
"You have no idea."
When the doctor in charge of the autopsy pulled the sheet off the body, Ed suddenly understood Roy's reluctant attitude. It couldn't even really be called a body—just a severed head, an arm, a foot, and a mess of meat and other partial limbs, like someone had just dropped burnt, raw hamburger on the table alongside the rest of the mess.
It was—disgusting, there wasn't a delicate way of saying it. Ed felt ill.
"This is everything they could find," the doctor was saying. "It was all within about thirty feet of the transmutation circle, according to the report. You saw it?"
Ed swallowed and nodded. "I saw the photos, and I'm heading to the actual scene after…" He gestured to the table.
"Do you have any thoughts?" The doctor sounded so clinical about it, like he wasn't even fucking disturbed that this kid, some little boy, had been so completely destroyed. If that attitude was all part of the military, a promise for Ed's future, then Ed wanted nothing to do with it.
"Not sure yet," Ed started, "I wanted to see what you said."
The doctor nodded, looking away from Ed to casually observe the boy's remains. "The best way I can describe it would be—like a bomb was detonated," the doctor said. "The way the parts were spread out, the slight charring here," he pointed to the blackened edges of the severed limbs, "is all indicative of some sort of explosion. You're familiar with the late Crimson Alchemist?"
"Er, yeah," Ed said, disturbed. "Kimbley, right? I met him once—unfortunately…."
"In a way, the damage is similar to Crimson's explosive alchemy, only—"
"Less precise," Ed finished, a light going on in his mind. "The circle—it was so basic. But there was still something off about it. I can't put my finger on it, but there's something…"
"What a mess," the doctor muttered, rubbing his eyes and looking human for the first time since Ed walked in. "The last time I saw anything like this was during the civil war. Keep me updated, would you?" He extended a hand.
"Yeah," Ed said, gripping the doctor's hand. "Sure thing, Doctor, ah—"
"Knox," the old man said.
"Doctor Knox." Ed let go of the man's hand and took a step back, wanting nothing more than to get away from the child's carelessly exposed remains. He cleared his throat. "Later, then."
It was an interesting comparison, Ed had to admit. From what little he remembered of Kimbley, the man had been completely out of his mind but still able to pull off the most intricate, precise alchemical explosions. A genius, people had said. Just like Ed.
He was beginning to think that label was more of a curse than a gift.