Alright, so here goes my first real attempt at writing FMA. Typically I spend a lot of time RPing a fandom before delving into writing it, but that was not that case with FMA. I was just never interested, I guess. Anyway, onto the important stuff.

First off, this follows the manga's story (and, by extension, Brotherhood), however, it has been approximately (read: exactly) since the day the last chapter was released since I have read it, so some things might be a little fuzzy. (In other words, I read the manga as it was released monthly, and have not read it since. I have also not finished Brotherhood.) None of this should really hold much bearing anyway, because Ed's only thirteen at this point. The biggest issue is Drachma is cold, not hot. Yep.

Secondly...this is my first time writing FMA, so any and all feedback would be appreciated beyond all belief. I really, really want to do the characters justice, so I cannot stress enough how much I love constructive critisism. If I'm going to improve, I need help. I need to know what's good, what's bad...and what's just plain ugly. I'm sure you'll probably notice that virtually nothing happens in this chapter, and that's mostly because I'm testing new ground. I would really like feedback before I dare go any further.

Thirdly...I have no idea how long this baby's gonna be, but I'm aiming for about 20, 000 words. Guess time will tell. I have a pretty epic plot in mind, though, so it might be longer.

Anyway, I'll shut up and get on with the show, now. XD;

Disclaimer: FMA and all associated characters, settings, and concepts are property of Hiromu Arakawa and Square-Enix; no copy-write infringement is intended, no profit is being made.

Warnings: This chapter's pretty mild, with some mild language, compliments of Ed. I'm probably going to be cranking this up to M by the end of the story, though. Just a fair warning.

233 Kelvin

"What the hell?"

"You heard me just fine, Fullmetal. Now, go pack; we leave at o-seven-hundred hours."

"But Col-"

"No arguments, Fullmetal. You're dismissed."

"...bastard." With a barely contained huff, the blond teen whirled on his real leg and stalked out of the office, his automail leg thumping heavily on the tiles with every other step. Wincing a bit as the door slammed behind the boy, Colonel Roy Mustang slumped back in his chair, a tired sigh escaping his lips as one hand came up to run through his short, black hair.

"That boy is going to be the death of me, Lieutenant."

"With all due respect, Sir, I believe it is you who is going to be the death of him," replied the woman in question, a slight frown on her lips.

Roy quirked one eyebrow lightly at her accusation, onyx eyes flickering over to meet mahogany briefly. "What's with the accusation?" Because he knew full well that she was being completely serious—the woman was rarely anything but at work. Or elsewhere, for that matter.

"Well, Sir, you announce to him with less than twenty-four hours' notice that you are going to be taking him north with you on a military inspection to the Briggs Mountains. That is asking an awful lot from a thirteen-year-old."

"He needs to learn that sometimes being in the military is not all about all about using the military's resources for his own gain." The dark-haired colonel sighed tiredly at that. "I want him to succeed in his goals as much as the next person, but he still has a job to do. It's just a routine inspection of the supply lines, anyway. It's not like I'm throwing him on the front lines."

"That may be, Colonel, but he is also an automailist." In response to his confused look, the blonde woman foraged onward—with a sigh, he noted. "Automail needs to be of a specific make for colder temperatures, Sir." At his startled expression, First Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye stepped closer to the desk, handing the man a document and three train tickets. "I have already contacted Miss Rockbell, and she said she will have something ready two days from now. You and Edward will be stopping in Resembool before heading north so that he can have that attached."

Sulking a bit, the dark-haired man glanced down at the document he had been given. "This is going to throw off my whole itinerary."

"Well, Sir, perhaps you should have thought of that before you spontaneously decided to bring the Elric brothers with you."

"...I wasn't that spontaneous," Roy denied after a moment. Really, Hawkeye had already managed to contact the teen's mechanic and gotten them train tickets. So...that was something.

"Because I suspected this would happen, Sir. You have been complaining more than normal that Edward's been running too rampant."

That, Roy knew, was true. He had been giving voice to his...discontent of the boy's methods more so than usual of late, but still. Having his own subordinate know what he was planning before he himself did was a tad unnerving, to say the least. And also a relief, in its own way, because it was devotion like that that had kept him alive in the past.

"Very well, Lieutenant," he agreed with a resigned sigh. Almost four extra days stuck with Edward on a train. That had to be a recipe for disaster.


"Why Fullmetal, I never knew you had such a short temper in the morning."

"Who are you calling so small he can't even see the sunrise?"

Chuckling to himself in amusement, Roy did not miss the dark looks some of the car's other passengers were sending him, nor the resigned sigh from the younger Elric. This was going to be a long trip, right? So he might as well have some fun. He did not like causing a scene, certainly...but Edward had no qualms about doing so, so who was he to stop the boy? telling Hawkeye about this.

"That hardly even makes sense, Ed." He smirked. "I was calling you too short for your own temper—and that's saying something."

"Yeah, well at least I'm not a pyromaniacal asshole with a god-complex! And I'm not even short, either!" exclaimed the teen, fury written all over his features as he jumped out of his seat. The large suit of armour that held his brother's soul only just managed to hold him back from socking his officer in the face.

Frowning as though thoughtful, Roy lightly pressed one hand to his forehead, shielding his eyes and pretending to glance around as he further baited the already-riled teen. "Could have fooled least, that's probably what I would say if I could even see you."

"Why you-!"

"Brother, please," Alphonse Elric's soft voice chided gently. "You're drawing attention."

With the realisation that their banter was upsetting the younger boy, Roy opted to back out, letting Alphonse deal with calming the now-silently fuming Edward down. Though not without one final shot.

"You really are too easy, Fullmetal."

"Yeah, well at least I'm not a womanising freak who's obsessed with himself and burning stuff!" So much for that plan.

"Pity that I have no idea to whom you're referring."

"I doubt that; you spend enough time obsessing over yourself! Since everything's about you, then clearly that statement was, too." That was delivered with the familiar, arrogant smirk that everyone who knew the young blond was so familiar with.

Roy was about to retort when one of the train's staff strode over to them, a slight frown on her lips as she gazed down at them. "I'm sorry, sir, but I'm going to have to ask that you settle your...son down, or else I am going to have to ask you to get off at the next stop. Some of the other customers have complained."

Flashing her the most winning smile he could muster, Roy motioned for Al to restrain his brother as he replied, "Of course. I apologise if we've caused you any trouble."

With a soft huff that clearly indicated to Roy that she was not interested—no wedding ring, though? So what...?—the woman nodded faintly before turning to leave. "Just keep him under control." With that, she was gone, off to tend to other customers, or something. Though, it seemed not without a final shot from Edward.

"I'm not that bastard's son!"

"Edward, please," the dark-haired officer finally muttered with a tired sigh. "Get some sleep, or something." Because really, he had not enjoyed the insinuation that he was old enough to have a kid—never mind a teenager —either, but he was not about to make a fuss about it.

...but really, he was barely fourteen years older than the kid! Nowhere near old enough to be the boy's father. Really. And he definitely did not look old enough to be. Twenty-seven did not look over thirty! He...was blowing this out of proportion, too.

"He's right, Brother. Why don't you take a nap?" Alphonse suggested gently, gazing down at the top of the vibrantly golden head.

"Yeah, yeah...wake me for lunch, Al?"

"Of course, Brother."

With the midget menace settled down at last, Roy found his gaze wandering out the window, his chin resting against his fisted hand, which was propped up on the armrest.

"Say, Colonel?"

"Hm? What is it, Alphonse?" he asked, mildly surprised by the younger brother's attempt at conversation.

"Why are you bringing my brother with you on this? I mean, I know he has to do what the military says, but...isn't it dangerous up there?"

"The Drachman boarder, you mean?" he asked, glancing at the suit of armour with a wry smirk. Shrugging, he continued, "I mean, it can be, but we're only checking one of the supply bases, and it's pretty isolated. Nothing's going to happen."

"Oh...okay. If you're sure. It'll probably be a good experience for Brother, too. And isn't there a lot of snow up there? We grew up so far south that it almost never snowed. I'd like to see snow again." Really, it was almost too easy to perk up a child. It almost made Roy long for such naïve innocence. After going to could never be called innocent again. Though, perhaps that was not a good word for those two boys, either. They had seen hell, too, just a different kind.

"...I just wish I could feel it." That almost too low for Roy to even catch. In fact, the young colonel suspected he had not been meant to hear. Perhaps, then, Alphonse was less cheered up than he had seemed to be a moment before.

"You know, don't have to come with us. I'll be there to keep an eye on your brother for you, if you'd rather visit your friends for a little while. Ed's not going to get a lot of time to look into your situation on this journey, anyway. We can send for you as soon as we get back."

Alphonse Elric did not respond, yet Roy knew that the boy was seriously considering it. After all, it had to be hard on a boy as sensitive as he was to live Edward's fast-passed and violent life. The boy could probably use a break to a kid for a bit. Edward was different; he had thrown childhood away the day he had signed the papers declaring himself a dog. That was no reason for both boys to suffer, though. Not all of the time. As invaluable as Alphonse was for controlling Edward, the boy deserved a break.

"Well, you can think about it." Once again, his words were met with silence.

Roy was, simply put, annoyed. He could see maybe losing a hand or two, but this was ridiculous! Roy Mustang, the Flame-freaking-Alchemist, was getting his ass handed to him in poker by a thirteen-year-old brat!

What had happened to his renowned and infamous poker-face? Apparently, no amount of poker-face could save him when his hands just sucked. Except, his hands didn't least, no more than they normally did; some good, some bad. Everything was pretty normal save one thing: Ed's hands were uncommonly good—nay, amazing. That, also taking in the fact that Al, seated across from him and next to Edward, sounded and looked as resigned as a suit of armour possibly could...

A snap of the fingers, a curse and a jolt back from Ed, a gasp from Al, and a pile of charred cards later, and Ed had no longer won. Funny, that.

"Sorry, Fullmetal. My fingers slipped."

"The hell they did!" the irate teen snapped back, glaring across the table to where Roy sat, smirking. "You did that on purpose!"

"The same way you pulled that ace out of your sleeve 'on purpose'?"

"...smug asshole."

"I call them as I see them, Ed." No need to mention that he had been an ace cheater at poker himself, at that age. Or that he still had a rather frequent tendency to do so. He was just above cheating when playing kids. Really.

"Brother, were you really...?"

"Oh, knock it off, Al," the blond teen replied, snorting and falling back in his seat with his arms folded across his chest.

"But Brother, cheating is wrong!" the suit of armour murmured, a mixture of sadness and annoyance lacing his tone.

"I said knock it off!" That was pure annoyance.

"Just promise me you won't cheat ever again!"

"Alright, alright, fine," the older brother responded, waving his metal hand in resignation. Though Al appeared to be satisfied with response, Roy suspected that this was not going to be the last time the poor boy was faced with his brother's cheating ways. Oh well, it was not his problem. Something else was, however, and he intended to get to the bottom of it.

"Edward, what's going on with you?" he asked at last, sweeping the ashes and pieces of card off of the table and putting the remainder of the deck away. The boy was irritable, sure, but not usually to this extent. He had been next thing to completely insufferable for the entirety of the trip thus far—when he was not sleeping, of course. Those moments, thankfully, were fairly plentiful, but they had been stuck on the train for over twelve hours already, and Ed had been awake for almost half of that time.

"The hell's wrong with you, Colonel Bastard?" came the retort, the sulking teen turning to glare out the window at the darkened landscape.

"Fine, Fullmetal. If that's how you want to be, see if I care." Honestly, he just tried to be nice for once, and this was the response he got? Well, see if he asked again.

Across from him, a hurried, whispered argument erupted between the two brothers before a sheepish Alphonse glanced across at the colonel.

"Sorry, Sir, he's just not looking forward to having to change his automail," the younger boy apologised.

Blinking faintly in confusion, the older man motioned for Alphonse to continue.

"Well, see, it really hurts him, a—"



"Al! That bastard doesn't need to know anything!"

"And I gue—"


"It's okay, Al. I think I get it." Roy smirked evilly. "He's scared of a little pain."

"Hah! You wish! I just don't see why we should have to bother Winry over this. It's stupid and all it's doing is wasting time that could be spent getting our bodies back." With a huff, Edward rolled his eyes.

"Performing your duties is hardly 'wasting time,' Fullmetal. You would do well to remember that. Or are you more concerned about 'bothering' your mechanic?" That with a knowing smirk that sent the blond teenager before him into a fury.

"Wh-what? What are you insinuating?"

"Don't play dumb, Ed. You know very well what I'm saying."

"Y-yeah, well, you're wrong!" Fullmetal snapped back, slumping back into the seat with a huff, tilting his face to stare out the window.

Was he hiding a blush? Oh yeah, he was. Still, Roy figured that it was high-time to back off before he wound up with an Edward who was too pissed off to be good for much of anything. Still, if the young alchemist's attitude did not improve soon, then it was going to turn out to be one very, very long trip. It almost had Roy wondering if he had made the correct choice in bringing the kid with him on this inspection. He stood by his point that the blond fireball had to perform his duties as well as focus on his own desires, but this was...shaping up to be one awful inspection.

Now, it was not that Roy did not want the boys to succeed, because he really and truly did...but the fact remained that someone in their lives had to put a foot down and rein them in when they went too far. After all, was that not part of the problem in the first place: the fact that they had no real, consistent adult figure around to tell them 'no!' sometimes? Because really, in the end, was that not a lot better for them then just letting them run amok, no matter how much it might seem to be helping them? If they could not mature into good adults, then what was the point of fixing themselves?

Well, that was what the decent, more philosophical part of Roy's mind was telling him, anyway. Perhaps the truth of it remained to be seen, but he...well, if he was totally honest with himself, he wanted to see the boys succeed, but in more ways than just fixing their bodies—or getting it back, in Al's case. He wanted to see them grow up into good people. He did not care if the wild and rebellious Edward hated him for it, because it had to be done.

Someone had to look out for those two boys.

With the train due to arrive in Resembool late that evening, after they had already been stuck on board the thing for almost a full day, excluding transfers, Roy found himself growing increasingly restless. That, he was sure, was partially the fault of Edward, who seemed set on driving the poor colonel mad every waking moment. Blessedly, that was not all that often, but it was still enough to almost succeed in the task.

At that moment, however, the teen was dozing against the wall, a thin trickle of drool escaping him. To Ed's left sat Al, the boy immersed in some alchemic text or another. Left to his own devices for the moment, Roy considered taking a nap himself when the dull hum of conversation from nearby hit his ears. Normally, the man would be content to ignore it, yet he could have sworn he heard something about a 'short brat'. Needless to say, that was enough to garner his attention.

"—young, but the kid's bratty enough, so maybe."

"Yeah, maybe. Though they don't look at all alike."

"Hahah, know kids. Things did get pretty messed up during the Ishvalan War, too. So, you know. They probably aren't related, whatever the mother tells them both!" The followed by raucous laughter from all parties.

"Still, the kid's annoying and I wish he'd shut up. I mean, how many complaints have we had about him from other passengers? And they only got on last night!"

"Yeah, well, he still managed to keep them up half the night."

Roy huffed; that was a gross exaggeration. Sure, the teen had thrown a bit of a tantrum that night, but it had hardly lasted more than a few minutes. Really. There might have been another one later that night, too, but still! Half the night? Hardly!

"Whether the guy's his father or not, the kid's still a brat."

Okay, enough was enough. They could say all the crap they wanted about him, because none of it was true, anyway, so why should he care? Edward was not his son, and he had not had any affairs with one Trisha Elric, nor had he even raised the boy. So, their points about him were utterly moot. He also did not really care about protecting the boys' mother's integrity, or Hohenheim's parenting—though perhaps it was a generous stretch to attach that word to van Hohenheim. No, what made him angry was that they were judging Ed without even knowing him. He was a good kid, if a tad temperamental at times.

With everything the boys had seen, Roy figured they were entitled to a few personality flaws. If all the older brother had against him was a bad temper and defensive streak, well...that was okay, in his book. They were both good kids, and nobody, especially someone who did not know them, had the right to doubt that!

Before he could stop himself, Roy was on his feet, striding two seats away to where the train personnel sat, gossiping about himself and his subordinate.

"Yeah, and what about that guy who's with them? Who the hell wea—"

"—excuse me," came Roy's easy interruption, an almost casual smile on his features. Anyone who knew him, however, would have known otherwise, because that expression was anything but easy-going. "But I couldn't help but overhear your conversation." Well, he could have, but whatever. That was so not the point.

"In the future, if you have an issue with one of my subordinates, I trust you will take it up with me, and not gossip about it amongst yourselves. That boy's been through enough, and he hardly needs to deal with your crap on top of it. So, any complaints can be directed directly at me in the future." Watching the workers' uncertainty, he folded his arms pointedly. "Are we in agreement?" Fullmetal was a handful, but he was also a good kid, and he had enough on his plate without taking crap from people like that. "We are? Good." With that, Roy turned and strode off, not caring if anyone else wanted to speak or not. He had said his piece, and he was not even entirely sure why, but what was done was done, and he was going to take a nap.

"Thank you, Colonel."

Glancing at the suit of armour, he sent the boy a quick nod as he settled back into his seat. Apparently, he was not the only one who had been listening. Well, whatever. Settling down into his seat, Roy leaned back and let his eyes drift closed.