Time period: 15 years after the chosen day in FMA Brotherhood:
A red vortex of anguish and horror swirled around him, but he took no heed. Instead, he focused on the dark haired man before him, desperately trying to stop him…
From doing what?
Something important, but that was all he knew. He couldn't recall specifics.
The dark-haired man spoke, but no sound came out of his smiling mouth. The cruel grin held no reassurance. Instead, it promised nothing but pain. The man seemed to revel in the overwhelming negative atmosphere around them.
A young voice yelled out, and he realized it was him, although he couldn't make those words out either. It was a protest of some sort, directed at the dark-haired man, but the other figure only laughed and turned his back as an arm from a completely different being came reaching out for him followed by two determined, golden eyes.
Desperation raced through him as he tried with all his might to avoid the hand, but it clamped down on his head and-
"NO!" Selim Baker gasped, shooting bolt up in his bed. It took him a moment to focus on his surroundings. Just his room. His plain, old, ordinary room. No swirling vortex of pain and suffering, no insane, dark haired man, no reaching hand or challenging eyes. It took a moment, but he finally began to feel his racing heartbeat slow down.
It had been a long time since he'd had that dream. More than a year. Taking several deep breaths, he willed his body to relax again. Absently, he reached a hand up to rub at the scar on his head. Two perfect circles, one inside the other. His mother had told him it was a birth mark, but he later came to the conclusion that it had to be a scar. Birthmarks didn't look like strange targets. It had become a sort of nervous habit to rub at it.
Slowly, his muscles began to unclench and he relaxed down onto the bed again. Still rubbing his scar, he glanced at clock on the night stand beside his bed. 2:14 AM. He needed to get back to sleep if he wanted to be somewhat coherent for school tomorrow. Sighing, he flipped his pillow over to the opposite side. The cool material felt good against his skin.
As his body finally calmed down enough for him to begin drifting off, his eyes found the moon hanging in plain view through the window next to his bed; a half circle shimmering in the black-blue of the sky. Normally he would have scowled and turned away. He'd never really cared for moonlight; appreciating that it gave some light to the night time darkness, but not liking how it made the world seem cold and unwelcoming. Usually he much preferred the sun. But tonight, the soft glow gave off a quiet comfort in calm waves that seemed to wrap around him, lulling him thankfully back to sleep.
By 2:20, he was already out.
"Selim!" Dark hair over equally dark eyes turned towards the voice that had called out to him. He smiled when he saw his best friend come running up, breathing heavily. Johannus Browbeat, son of Col. Albert Browbeat, had never exactly been athletic. Slightly plump, with thick, blond hair combed to the side, he was a perfect picture of a child born to status, especially compared to Selim's thin, rather wiry frame.
"Johan," Selim greeted as he waited for the boy to catch his breath. "Are you ready for the test?"
"You kiddin'?" Johan returned Selim's grin full force. The dark-haired boy almost laughed outright. The one area Johan didn't seem to fit into 'elite' society was the way he talked. He happened to be the only boy attending St. Bartimus' Academy that Selim knew of who didn't care to use language that would be considered more 'posh'. His language wasn't exactly modern slang, but Selim still found it entertaining. Most of the other students considered themselves too good to associate with language used by the common masses. "I stayed up all friggin' night long plowin' through this monster." With that, he waved the large text book with the title A Study of Amestris' Historical Events in front of his friend.
Selim shook his head. He'd believe that when he saw it. Johan got good enough grades to normally keep his parents off of his back, and that was about as far as it went. He highly doubted that Johan had put in as much effort as he claimed.
Then again, that was part of what made Johan Johan, and Selim had long ago concluded that he wouldn't have it any other way. Not that he didn't try to urge his friend to get better grades. Selim knew that when properly motivated, Johan could give him a run for his money on intelligence.
"Come on," Selim grinned, turning back towards the school.
"Don't you think it's creepy?" Johan asked.
Selim paused, blinking. "Don't I think what's creepy?"
"We're taking a test on Fuhrer Bradly's term in office," the blond replied as if that explained everything.
"So?" Selim asked, wondering what Johan was getting at.
"You're named after his kid, right?"
Ah, so that was what the blond meant. "Selim Bradly, the adopted son of the 23rd Fuhrer who was killed in the coup? Yes."
"Don't you think it's creepy, talking about the kid who you were named after, who died? Who looks a lot like you too…"
Selim shrugged. "Children are named after famous people all the time," he responded. "Why should it bother me?"
Johan shook his head. "It'd totally freak me out."
Selim raised an eyebrow. He'd heard that term used before, just not from his friend. "Is that a new phrase?"
Belying his 15 years, Johan just stuck out his tongue. Selim rolled his eyes. "Mature." He paused for a few moments before shrugging and continuing on his walk to school. They still had several blocks to go.
The blond fell into step beside him, still trying to fully recover from his short sprint and tucking the book back inside his bag. Selim shook his head and thought back on his own study session. His grin faded.
"I asked about my parents again last night."
Johan immediately sobered. "And?" he asked.
"She still refuses to tell me anything. No clues and no hints. Just the same pathetic promises she's used since I was six. I could be reading about them in that history book and I wouldn't know it." His frown deepened. "I don't even know their names." He'd asked about his parents on a semi-regular basis for as long as he could remember, and the only thing his adopted mother had ever told him was that they had died in the Coup d'etat staged by those closest to Fuhrer Bradley. "She told me she'd tell me when I'm older...again."
"That excuse is gettin' kinda old," Johan muttered in agreement.
"It got old ten years ago," Selim replied, his voice equally low. "It kind of worries me. I get the idea that they were involved in something serious."
Johan nodded, looking thoughtful. "Maybe they were undercover agents, or in the Fuhrer's personal bodyguard entail, or something cool like that."
"Maybe," Selim murmered.
"That would be awesome!" Johan said with a grin, then turned to look up at the leaves on the trees that lined the street as the rustled in the wind. "It really does bite that you don't have any idea. Your father could have been the Fuhrer himself for all we know."
Selim snorted. "Yeah, right. Fuhrer Bradley couldn't have children, remember?" That had been an undisputed fact that he remembered reading in more than one text.
"Well, your mom did used to work for him. She'd be close enough to look after his kid," Johan continued, now teasing more than anything else.
"That was before she took me in," Selim responded with an eyeroll, knowing his friend was referring to his adopted mother.
"And she's related to Madam Bradley, right?"
Selim frowned in response. He had always thought it a bit...uncanny that he looked so much like Selim Bradley and his adopted mother looked like Fuhrer Bradley's wife. They could truly be related, or Selim could be just a random child orphaned in the coup, taken in because he happened to look like the Fuhrer's son. But that was the frustrating thing; he just didn't know.
Johan shrugged, sensing his friend's uneasiness. "I'm just sayin'. You'd totally be like a prince or something."
Rolling his eyes again, Selim glanced over at his friend and couldn't help but smile. All of his frustration seemed so meaningless when Johan was around. His natural optimism just seemed to infect everything. It was hard to not smile right along with him, no matter how angry Selim had been before hand. He'd never openly admit how much Johan's antics amused him.
His pride wouldn't let him.
Later that day
"I don't think I'll ever get used to Mr. Polluck," Johan muttered as he dejectedly examined his most recent foreign country report. It looked almost tattered with all the red marks scattered across the page. At least he'd done fairly well on the history test. "Why should I care if the country of Manipal eats differently than us? It's an island in the middle of the ocean for goodness sake! I don't get it, and I don't think I ever will."
"It's not that difficult," Selim muttered back. His own report had been neatly shuffled into his book bag with the rest of the papers. He'd been rather upset at the score of 97, but after noticing the marks of the other students, he hadn't complained. At least not openly. Still, he'd always taken a certain amount of pride in his high, nearly perfect scores.
"Says the genius Baker," Johan muttered, stuffing his paper into his own bag and running a hand through his sand-colored hair. "Hey, Selim," he looked over at his friend, "let's go to a pool hall or cafe or something. With this score, I'm definitely grounded. Let's make the most of it while we can."
Selim blinked at his friend before breaking into a smile. "The usual place? You can have a head start if you want."
Johan waved a hand through the air, declining the invitation. "No thank you. I'm not in the mood to get beat half-way to Xing. You win every stinkin' time."
"It's not that bad," Selim replied, glancing up at the sun. "Although, running in this heat is probably not a good idea."
"It's a very bad thought, actually," Johan insisted. "But I have a better one. Let's stop by Old Man Mauer's store and get some candy!"
Selim shook his head. "That's not fair. You know my weakness." Almost as if in response to the comment, the dark-haired boy's stomach let out a loud groan followed by an audible rumble. Johan burst out laughing. In response, Selim punched his arm. It wasn't his fault that for as long as he could remember, he'd had an absolutely ravenous appetite.
"Of course I know," Johan finally gasped, rubbing his arm where Selim had punched him, making the dark-haired boy feel slightly guilty. "Come on!" the blond said finally, dismissing the entire situation with a wave of his hand as he ducked into the afore-mentioned convenience store and began to scope out the racks for their favorite candies.
Selim smiled and followed.
The chair creaked as Selim sat back, grinning at the empty glass in front of him, his third sundae now resting happily in his stomach.
"You're still hungry, aren't you?" Johan asked, shaking his head. He already knew the answer. Selim's ability to eat just about anything sometimes scared a few of the kids at school. It still seemed to amaze Johan as well, even after 9 years of friendship.
"And are you one to talk?" Selim asked, raising one eyebrow at the two empty glasses sitting conspicuously in front of Johan.
The larger boy grinned. "Yeah, but I couldn't still put down two or three more."
Selim conceded the point. Currently his record was seven. He'd been particularly hungry that day and he'd also had a brain-freeze headache for the rest of the afternoon, although that hadn't stopped him from eating a rather large dinner that night.
Blinking away the fond, if embarrassing memory, Selim decided to ignore his friend and contentedly glanced around at the casual café they'd been loitering around as they stuffed themselves silly. Well, Johan had. Selim never really had seemed to get uncomfortably full.
Then his eyes reached the large time piece in the corner and he immediately shot to his feet. "Is it really that late?" he asked incredulously. His sudden movement caused his chair to fall to the floor as it knocked into the people sitting at the table behind him. They turned around to scowl at him, but he ignored them. "My mother's going to kill me!"
Johan blinked. "Did your mom change your curfew?"
Selim shook his head. "No, but I'm supposed to let her know if I won't be home before dark. She freaked out the last time that happened."
"Oh," the light-haired boy muttered. Then he sighed and grabbed the book bag holding all of his papers and supplies. "Fine. Let's go."
They quickly left the small shop, heading in their homes' general directions. That had been one reason they'd ended up being such close friends. After starting at the Academy the same year, they'd quickly realized that they happened to live near each other. Once they'd gotten to know each other a little more (and practically terrorized both of their neighborhoods), their parents began to arrange for the boys to be driven to school by a chauffeur or family member. Once they'd both turned 13, they'd practically begged their parents to let them walk to and from school, with only recent success.
Selim could still remember how leery his mother had been at even the suggestion. Every time the subject came up, they would inevitably get into an argument about her treating him like a child and her insisting that she had Selim's best interests at heart. It had taken over a year of straight out persistence to wear her down, and he did not want the privilege taken away. Getting home later than normal just might do that. He could already hear the arguments about how now that he had turned 15 he should act like it and be more responsible.
Annoyed at himself and the situation in general, Selim pushed his friend to hurry along the darkening streets.
"We takin' the shortcut?" Johan asked.
"Yes," Selim replied.
"If your mom finds out, you'll be in even more trouble," he pointed out.
"It's just a street and a few warehouses," Selim responded as he turned a corner, Johan right behind him.
"Right," Johan responded dryly.
Only a few blocks wide in both directions, an industrial area of town had stood abandoned for over a decade. The government hadn't gotten around to doing anything with it yet, and no one else seemed to really care to keep it maintained. As such the area had fallen into disrepair and tended to gather people his mother would call "dubious", when it wasn't completely abandoned. They'd been warned several times not to cut through there, but Selim was in a hurry. Besides, it wasn't like this was the first time they'd taken it.
That didn't stop it from being ominous. As they continued to walk, the area slowly morphed from a rural neighborhood to one with small, dirty lots full of junk and weeds, and then into factories and warehouses.
Whether it was because of his hurried state of mind, or the creepy atmosphere from the broken buildings in the red-orange evening sunlight, Selim had become a little more aware of their surroundings. That was when he caught it. Just out of the corner of his eye, he saw something move in the shadows behind them.
They were being followed.
It took all of his willpower to not stop right then and there. Beside him, his friend continued to go on about a game they'd discussed multiple times before. Selim nodded and hummed in agreement every now and then, but he kept his attention on the presence behind them. He didn't tell Johan. The last thing he needed was for his best friend to panic. Selim was beginning to wonder just what he should do when Johan sighed. Looking around again, Selim realized they'd almost reached their neighborhood.
"Guess I'd better go this way," he muttered, pointing off to the left towards his own house. Selim didn't say anything for a moment, but then he nodded. If they split up, he could find out who this guy had decided to trail. Maybe they were some sort of target? But why would anyone stalk them? Did they knew Johan's father's position? But why would they go after a colonel's son? There were easily richer targets. Then again, he could be trailing Selim, although that made even less sense. Yes, they were both well off, but dark-haired boy couldn't think of a good reason for either one of them to be stalked, unless it was a random mugging.
Selim bit back a groan. Why couldn't he have noticed the guy earlier? Then they could have avoided the shortcut and gone to a house and potentially a phone. Maybe they could have avoided this altogether. Still, if the guy was planning on mugging someone, Selim would prefer if the person came after him. It would take a load off of his mind to know that Johan was safe.
"Later," his friend said with a grin, drawing him out of his thoughts. "Good luck with your mom."
The dark-haired boy returned the smile shakily. Johan looked slightly puzzled for a moment before he shrugged it off and struck off down the uneven road.
Selim continued to walk towards his house until Johan had disappeared around a corner before he turned to confront his stalker, thankful that whoever it was had been after him and not his friend. Selim looked weaker, but truthfully, he was better in a fight. Johan wasn't as fast as Selim.
"Who are you?" he asked. The sun had yet to completely set, but the man who walked forward still seemed to be shrouded in shadows. "The way you move, you wanted to be noticed. So state your business."
A dry, almost raspy chuckle reached his ears, sending shivers up and down his spine. "Haven't lost your touch, have you." He said it as more of a statement than a question, and had a certainty in his voice that made Selim all the more uneasy.
He swallowed unsurely but didn't back down, hoping he looked braver than he felt. "You have yet to answer my-"
"Not as cold though. Excellent. That makes my job easier."
Selim did not like the sound of that. "What job?"
A knot of ice began to form in teenager's stomach. "My what? Why?"
The voice began to cackle. "Don't you know, little boy? Don't you remember?"
Selim gulped. "Remember what?"
The man chuckled again. "Oh, this is too good! No wonder you're powerless." He reached a hand to pull off the hood of the long jacked he'd been sporting. The man underneath had fairly dark skin, and looked like he hadn't cut his hair in years. Judging by the state of his clothes, Selim doubted he'd had a bath in about that long too. He'd always had a keen sense of smell, and he deliberately directed that particular sense away from the man. An uneven, dark beard streaked with gray hung ragged from his hollow cheeks and jaw. His grin spoke of more than a little insanity as he sized Selim up like a butcher would a prized cow.
"Who are you?" Selim asked again. The man's face rang a bell, but he couldn't remember where they'd met. The man's grin widened, but he didn't say anything. "Don't play games with me! You'll regret it!" It was a bluff, of course. Not even a good bluff, but it did help him feel a little more brave.
To his great surprise, the other man broke out into laughter. "Oh, I won't regret it. I know you're not someone to be taken lightly," he said with a grin, and pulled something out from under his coat. Selim's eyes went wide as he recognized a very large gun similar to one displayed in a local museum; semi-automatic, black and deadly. "See, I came prepared."
"Why are you doing this? I demand you tell me!" he blurted out, hoping the man didn't pick up the steadily growing quaver in his voice.
Again, the man let out a laugh, this one sounding a bit more incredulous and (if it were possible) crazier. "The name's Clemin."
Selim felt his eyes go wide. "The former Brigadier General Clemin?" he asked, his mind returning to the test he'd completed earlier that day. He'd been one of the generals behind the Coup d'état that had taken so many lives, including the Fuhrer's and his son's.
And Selim's parents.
A rush of anger burst through him.
"You! It's because of you my parents are dead"
The man's grin only grew wider as he set the weapon against his shoulder firmly. "Parents? Ha! Which ones?"
That question took Selim aback. "What do you mean?"
"Do you mean your false parents, the Bradleys, or your real father, the homonculus?"
Something in his words caused the world to freze. Selim felt the blood rush out of his face as he stared down the man with the gun. "F-fuhrer Bradly? He's not my father! And what is a homonculus?"
That incessant grin turned particularly gleeful. "Oh, so they didn't tell you? Well, that will make it all the easier for me to kill you!"
"What?" Selim asked, taking a fearful step back. "Why? Why me? I wasn't even involved in the war!"
"Oh you weren't, were you Selim Bradly?"
Selim felt his heart beat speed up. "How can I be Selim Bradley? He died before I was born!"
The man just laughed again and leveled his gun at the teenager. "I will have my revenge, monster!"
Selim turned to bolt, hoping he could out run the man's aim when a new voice yelled out, and Selim felt his blood run cold.
"Johannus!" Selim replied. His friend had, for whatever reason, come back and now stood on the crumbling, sidewalk corner with wide, horrified eyes, taking in the scene as best he could.
Clemin spun around, surprised at the newcomer and pushed his finger down on the trigger, releasing a hailstorm of bullets towards the larger boy. Selim saw as if in slow motion, and knew he wouldn't be fast enough to push or pull his friend out of the way.
"NO!" he yelled, desperate for something—anything—to save his best friend. A throb in his forehead was all the warning he got before the shadows in front of Johan shot up, creating a sort of black shield that easily repelled all of the bullets.
For several moments, all movement stopped as the three of them stared at the new, black, converse wall.
"What the...!" Johan exclaimed taking several steps back as he took in the sight.
Selim stared, open-mouthed, wondering where the heck that had come from. Only the vaguest thoughts brought the notice of the pain in his head to his marginally coherent mind.
Clemin, who had stopped shooting, eyed the wall warily. "So you do remember something."
Johan blinked and peeked past the wall at Selim. "This is from you?"
Selim shrugged and held his hands up in surrender, shaking his head. He had no clue! How was he supposed to answer that anyway?
The cocking of a gun registered suddenly and he did the first thing he could think of: he ran. Sprinting desperately towards the wall, he saw Johan pale even more, undoubtedly worried that his friend was now trying to dodge bullets in front of his eyes.
"Selim!" the blond yelped again. He could hear the bullets hitting the ground behind him, and only barely dodged behind the black wall before they caught up. "Are you alright?" the blond asked as his friend rushed to his side.
"I'm fine," Selim muttered, waving his hand dismissively.
"Do you really think that will save you from me?" the ex-general yelled from somewhere on the other sides of the wall.
"Who is this guy?" Johan hissed.
"Ex-Brigadier General Clemin," Selim muttered as he approached the edge of the wall to peek around it. They had to get out of there, but Selim didn't dare make a move without knowing exactly where their assailant was. Something told him not to underestimate this man.
The other boy's eyes grew wide. "Ex-Brig—the guy who tried to overthrow Fuhrer Bradley?"
"And killed him," Selim said again, darkly. "Along with my father." As far as Selim was concerned, Clemin and the others who started that coup were responsible for all of the deaths from that battle. The thought startled him. He'd never really been one to assign blame before.
"AH, HA, HA, HA!" the booming voice of the insane man exploded as he stepped into view from behind the edge of the wall in back of them. Both boys started and whipped around, already backpedaling away from their assailant who had his gun pointed directly at Selim. It didn't take long for them to realized that he'd hurriedly sneaked to the opposite side of the wall while they'd been talking. "Is that what they told you? Do you want to know the truth?"
"Truth?" Johan managed, his voice shaking. He looked petrified with fear, standing on the deserted street, surrounded by old warehouses and vacant lots with his pale skin standing out in the dim light from the half-working street lamps and what was left of the daylight. Selim wondered if he looked that pathetic too.
Clemin focused on Selim. "The truth is, your father was behind everything! It was his idea to turn Amestris into one giant transmutation circle! Suck the lives out of all the people and use them to live forever!" He got the strangest look of ecstasy on his face as he looked up at the stars. Selim wasn't about to complain. The longer that gun didn't fire, the more chance they had of someone coming to their aid. Someone had to have heard this racket by now! The man was shooting a semi-automatic gun for goodness sake!
The rag-clad man continued. "We were there to help him. We knew he wasn't human, and we still tried following his orders so that we could gain immortality too! And then he stabbed us in the back!"
"My father would never do that!" Selim shouted. The words surprised him, and he almost kicked himself for saying them aloud, especially when the man turned those insane, glinting eyes back to him.
"Do you really think so?" Selim didn't answer, but he felt his fists clench. How was he supposed to answer that though? He didn't know anything about his father. For all Selim knew, his parents could have been with the traitors. That would explain why his mother didn't want to tell him...
No! He shook the thought from his head. What was the point of listening to this insane criminal? And why should Selim believe him? Still, the man's words seemed to strike something in the back of his mind. They rang all too true...
"That monster would have done anything as long as he achieved his goals in the end," Clemin continued.
"Stop it," Selim growled. He didn't notice Johan's fearful glance between the two now glaring at each other.
The man didn't seem to be listening, too lost in the past. "I was one of his right-hand men. A Brigadier General. We were all on the puppet strings of your father. Would you like another truth? It was Bradley's job to keep the country at war so we could have enough excuses to make philosophers stones. All of it was your Father's idea."
Johannus looked completely confused as Selim's eyes narrowed. "Stop saying that."
Clemin laughed again. "So that's where your pride lies this time! You think your father was a great man, but he was nothing more than a betraying, murdering homonculus! And you're no different." He aimed his gun directly at Selim's head again. "That thing put me in prison. I will have my revenge!"
The man had gone too far. His father had been in the military, and his mother had supported him. That was all Selim knew about them. For years he'd thought of his parents as good, upstanding people like his adopted mother said. He'd always imagined his father as a proud, military officer working to help the country who would come home to his loving wife every night. Then this stranger dared to show up, spewing lies everywhere. And they were lies. They were. But despite Selim telling himself over and over again in his head, the man's words broke through that dream like a mace through stained glass. And it hurt. A lot.
"I said," Selim heard himself say in a dangerously quiet voice, "stop saying that!" For that instant, he saw red, and only wanted to stop this man and his mouth, no matter what it took.
The shadows responded.
Faster than any of the three people there could follow, one whipped out—as sharp as a blade—and cut directly through the gun before it could even fire a shot. The mad glee in the other man's face changed to horror and fear in an instant and he stumbled backward. Then another shadow shot out, wrapping itself around the former Brigadier General, tripping him completely. Surprised and panicking, he yelped and fell backwards as more shadows crawled towards him, wrapping around his ragged frame.
Selim didn't remember standing up, but somehow done so, leaving Johan behind him as he took several slow, triumphant steps forward, unable to help himself. He stood there grinning smugly as the man looked on in fear, trembling.
"So, Brigadier General Clemin," somewhere in his mind, he became aware that his voice didn't sound like his. Instead, it sounded like several voices at once. His mouth almost seemed to move of it's own accord, but it felt too satisfying to stop. He enjoyed watching the man struggle in his hold. "How would you like to be delivered to the police? In large or small pieces?"
The man's eyes widened, the former insane confidence now completely gone. Seeing the terror from him felt surprisingly good. Maybe he would forgo giving him to the police at all. He was still hungry after all. He lifted a hand to call the shadows to him.
"SELIM!" Johan's voice seemed to pull him away from the red and black haze that had obscured his vision. He snapped out of it, looking around and taking in the scene with blinking eyes, as if he'd only just arrived. The shadows loosened and fell away, leaving the ex-general a quivering mass of flesh on the ground in front of him.
It took a few seconds for his mind to catch up with the situation. When it did, Selim backed away, eyes growing wide. He'd been about to kill that man...in cold blood! He'd even considered eating him! Horrified, he looked down at his hands, half expecting them to look completely different—like a monster's, or covered in blood. How could he have done that? How could he have even thought that? Only a monster... Unable to look at in Clemin's direction anymore, he turned and met his friend's fearful eyes. That fear was no longer directed towards the ex-general.
"I...I..." he started, but couldn't seem to say anything.
"C-come one," Johan said urgently. "Let's get out of here! We can report him to the police! Hurry!"
Nodding, and more than a little grateful, Selim turned to follow his friend as he ran down the street. Only then did he realize just how exhausted he'd become. It took every ounce of strength and will power he had to even take the next few steps.
Still, despite his fatigue, he managed to half-jog, half-walk down the street. His thoughts did not linger on the escaped, convicted criminal who had just tried to kill him, or what the man had said about his father. The words "homunculus" and "not human" occupied his thoughts, repeating over and over again.
They passed another street lamp, and he caught sight of his normal, average shadow. Had all of that really come from him?
Just what was he?
And why did he fear that he would hate the answer?
"Selim!" He heard his mother's voice and felt himself relax. Somehow, she always made him feel safe. He smiled for the first time since they'd reached the police station.
She came around the edge of the hall and saw him through the doorway to the small room they'd been instructed to wait in. He sat with a blanket draped across his shoulders to ward off shock, probably looking horrifically pale and tired as she practically ran forward, throwing her arms around him. Next to him, Johannes raised an eyebrow and smirked. Selim found he didn't really care at the moment.
"Mama," he said softly, just reveling in her presence.
"What happened?" she asked, backing away and holding him by his shoulders firmly.
"W-we were attacked," Selim said softly, "by Brigadier General Clemin."
She gasped and began to look him over. "Are you alright?" she asked. "Did he hurt you? How did you escape?"
Selim flinched, and Johan suddenly seemed to find the floor particularly interesting. "We ran," the dark-haired boy replied, probably a little too quickly, but she didn't push it. "He was crazy, kept going on about my father being part of some conspiracy." Was it just his imagination, or did he feel her stiffen? "Was he?" he heard himself ask. He couldn't look in her eyes, too afraid of what he'd find there.
"Selim, tell me exactly what he said," she spoke softly, her voice suddenly far more serious than it had been moments before.
Selim exchanged glances with Johan for a moment before the blond looked away. "He said Fuhrer Bradley was my adopted father, and that he was supposed to keep the country at war. He also said that everyone in the upper ranks were puppets for my real father."
His mother remained silent for several seconds. Then he felt her hand on his chin. "Selim, he was trying to hurt you, and kill you."
"I know," he muttered.
"Then why is it bothering you so much?"
For a moment he considered telling her that the General's words had felt right somehow. Then he saw the worried, almost pleading look in her eyes, and couldn't do it.
"I don't know," he muttered.
"Johannes!" two worried voices came from the doorway as Johannes' parents, Colonel and Mrs. Browbeat, came rushing in. His mother, a plump woman with short, dark hair, began to look over him and ask even more questions then Selim's mother had. "There you are! Are you hurt? Are you alright?They told us you were attacked by an escaped criminal! Why did I ever agree to let you walk home alone? We knew this would happen eventually, what with your father's position! What happened? Why were you walking home so late?" Meanwhile, Johan's father, a tall, thin man with graying hair stood by quietly overlooking the situation. He had an impeccable blue uniform on, despite the late hour of the day.
"'Mm fine, mom," Johan muttered, trying to back away from her unsuccessfully.
"Well, I think this should end your notions of walking home, young man!" She said sternly, standing up and suddenly looking rather cross.
"What?" Johan exclaimed. "But mom-"
"We'll talk about this in the car," Johan's dad said, speaking up for the first time in a quiet, but firmly commanding voice.
Neither Johan nor Mrs. Browbeat looked happy, but they complied with a nod. Then Johan slumped back against the worn police chair, not quite a motion of defeat, but not exactly full of confidence either. Selim always found it interesting that the blond seemed to be such a different person around his parents than the kids at school.
"Come on," Mrs. Browbeat said with only the barest sigh, then looked over at Selim and broke into a smile. "I'm so glad you're alright too, Selim. Thank you for protecting my son."
"Actually," Selim heard himself say, then seemed to realize what he'd just done, and looked down, blushing. "Actually, he protected me."
Mrs. Browbeat blinked, looking between Selim and Johan. "Really? My Johannes?"
"Mom," Johan muttered, but Selim could tell he was pleased with the attention.
"I think it's time we-" Col. Browbeat started, but someone opening the door cut him off.
"Mr. Bradley and Mr. Browbeat," a nasally voice said. The policeman that voice belonged to stood in the doorway, blocking it rather effectively. He wasn't exactly thin, and he didn't look up once as he read the report on the clip board in front of him. "It seems that your story was confirmed. We found evidence of a fight where you indicated as well as the remains of a gun, but it seems the perpetrator has gotten away..." he faded off as he looked up and saw the adults in the room. Immediately he saluted, dropping the clip board he'd been reading off of and letting it clatter to the floor. "M-madam Bradley! Col. Browbeat!"
"Baker," Selim's mother said softly. The man's proclamation didn't help the situation. Did she really look that much like the former Fuhrer's wife?
"At ease, officer," Johan's father said tiredly.
"Y-yes sir," the balding man stuttered.
"I believe it is time for us to take our children home," the Col. said quietly, but with obvious authority.
The officer only barely held back a wince from the look on his face. "Of course, sir," he said quickly. "Just let me go get the release forms."
"We'll follow you."
Again, the authority was undeniable, and Selim couldn't help but find himself impressed. When he grew up, he hoped he had as much control over his own life as Col. Browbeat seemed to have over his.
The small group followed the heavily set officer down the hallway and stopped at a desk where another officer sat. After the first officer explained the situation, they got the forms out to be signed fairly quickly. Then Selim and Johannes were shunted out the main doors and to their respective cars. To Selim, it all happened in a blur he only snapped out of when he saw one of Johan's chauffeurs open the Browbeat's car door.
"See you tomorrow," Selim called. Johannes nodded as he was pushed into the back of the car and their driver started the engine. Meanwhile, the Selim's own chauffeur also started their vehicle.
With one final wave to the other car, Selim sighed and got in the back of the small, black limo. When they got inside, his mother closed the door, and pressed a button to shut the window between them and the front seat so they could have some privacy. Once alone, Mrs. Bradley turned a sharp eye on him.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"What?" he replied.
She regarded him. "You're not acting normally. You've been very aloof and distant."
He shot her a dry look. "I was just attacked by a maniac for nothing more than a silly, imagined reason. We actually managed to get away from him to somewhere safe and they kept us shut in a room while they investigated." He shuddered.
"They didn't lock the door, did they?" his mother asked worriedly.
Selim shook his head, and she heaved a small sigh of relief. He'd always had a severe claustrophobia and tended not to do well locked up. Especially in the dark.
"Oh Selim, you had me so worried when you didn't come home or call me."
"I'm 15," he muttered.
"And you can get ambushed like anyone else," she commented sternly. "If you had called, I wouldn't have had the police and half the army out looking for you all night."
Fat lot of good that did, Selim thought dejectedly. "We just went to get something to eat. Is that so wrong?" Selim responded, turning to look out of the tinted windows. "We lost track of time."
Mrs. Bradley sighed, slumping back against the leather seats. "Oh, Selim. This is why I want you escorted."
"I can take care of myself," he said, a touch of anger coloring his words.
"Like you did tonight?"
"I'm alive, aren't I?" He shot, glancing over at her just in time to see her close her eyes as if in pain. Then he realized just what he'd said. Of course he was alive, but what about the other family members his mother had lost? Her husband. Her first son. Most of her extended family... No wonder she was scared to lose him.
It was his turn to sigh. "Mom, I'm sorry," he said softly. "Johan was having a bad day, so I wanted to cheer him up. That's all. I'll be more careful. I promise."
She looked up at him with that sad, wistful look that she normally reserved for their arguments. It almost seemed as if she were thinking of someone else when she looked at him like that. "I still think you should be punished." Yeah, he'd seen that coming. "You're grounded until the end of the week."
He sighed again, this time in resignation as he nodded. "Yes ma'am." Actually, he'd probably gotten off pretty easily.
They sat in silence for a while. The lack of sound besides the motor didn't feel awkward, but it did seem rather strained. After a moment, Selim decided that now would probably be the best time to ask, when no one else was around and she could tell him the truth.
She looked over at him. "Yes, Selim?"
"What is a homonculus?"
He'd figured she would either look at him with confusion or dismiss the inquiry completely. Instead, she dropped her purse, spilling the contents everywhere. As Selim watched, her face grew pale—far paler than he'd ever seen before—as she stared at him with wide eyes.
"Mom?" he asked, suddenly worried. "Are you alright?"
"W-where did you hear that?" she managed, her voice breathless. "From Clemin?" Selim nodded slowly.
She continued to stare at him for several more seconds before turning to her own window. "They're beings created with Alchemy."
"Oh. He said that my father was-"
"Selim," she turned on him so quickly he almost hadn't been able to follow her movement. "Drop this subject now. Forget you ever heard about it. It will only bring you pain and misery. Please."
It was too out of the ordinary for her to interrupt him. He knew he'd hit too close to something. His eyes hardened. "Was my father a homonculus?" He spit the question out before he'd really registered that he wanted to ask it.
"Selim," she whispered. "Please." He'd never heard her sound so desperate. The worry from before returned in full swing.
"Mom..." he started gently. "Mom, I-" but she cut him off with a shake of her head, biting her lip as she turned away.
They rode the rest of the way in silence.
Two days later
"What do you have for me, Major Fury?" Major General Roy Mustang asked as he turned to the door in his swivel chair. It took him a moment to focus on the figure, as it always did. When the figure did indeed come into focus, he knew something had come up. Fury didn't look worried or grim like that for no reason. Yet again, he found himself almost regretting moving to the larger office of a Major General and leaving his men to their own ranks and rooms. Almost.
"Sir," Fury said, snapping a salute before hurrying inside. "I have some disturbing news."
"Have you caught Clemin yet?" Roy asked with a sigh.
Fury frowned and shook his head. "No, sir," he said quietly, adjusting the glasses on his nose. "He's managed to avoid us so far, but we currently have several leads, some of which lead us out of the city."
Roy nodded. "Very well, Major. You have permission to follow any leads necessary."
The dark-haired major nodded. "Thank you, sir, but that is not the reason for my report."
Roy raised an eyebrow. "What is it?"
"We found another assassin, sir."
Roy almost swore aloud. "In the ranks?"
Fury nodded, if anything his face looked even more grim than before. "Yes, sir."
"Good work," Roy put a hand up to his chin, cupping it thoughtfully with his finger and thumb. "Have they confessed?"
"Yes sir. They claim to be from the FFO."
Roy sighed. FFO, the terrorist group that claimed to be a rebellion fighting for freedom from oppression. 'Freedom From Oppression Society' as they called themselves. Frankly, with their tactics, Roy thought they could only seriously consist of criminals already on the run from the government and young brats who had no idea what real war was all about. They were a rad-tag group of terrorists at best, with little real leadership and no real plan other than "assassinate the Fuhrer". He doubted they'd even thought further than that.
"Very well," he said, looking up at Fury who still stood at attention. "Send me the file and I will question them myself."
"Yes, sir." Fury said again, then paused. "There is something else, sir."
Fury put a picture down on his desk. At first Roy didn't really understand what he was supposed to see. Then it clicked and his eyes widened. The weapon itself wouldn't be that out of the ordinary; an older model of a fairly common, semi-automatic rifle used for heavy mobile combat. Something only really large men could carry easily. What drew attention was the fact that it had been completely severed in two. Cleanly, from what he could see of the cut.
What cut through a metal gun without leaving so much as a dent?
"We found that, sir. Two boys claimed they were attacked by Clemin. Apparently they were taking a shortcut home, and that's when they claimed they were attacked. When the police went to investigate the site, they found this, and some other evidence of a struggle." More pictures appeared on the desk. Several dozen rounds of bullets littered the little-used street, followed by pictures of holes in walls, trees and the street itself. "Clemin's fingerprints were found on the gun."
Roy looked over the pictures again, then glanced back up at his underling. "What of the boys?"
"Apparently they escaped."
"Did they say what did this?" Roy pointed to the picture of the mutilated gun.
Fury shook his head. "No, sir. Not in their statements, and the policeman who was supposed to ask them questions did a...less than thorough job."
"I see. Perhaps we should question them."
"We have already visited their houses sir. They claim to have no idea what happened to the weapon and that it was whole before they were able to get away."
Roy shook his head. "We need to find out what did this."
"Sir," Fury ventured uncertainly. "I do have a theory..."
Blinking, Roy looked up, eyebrows raised. "Yes?"
Fury swallowed nervously. Very odd. He knew Roy welcomed his opinion. Suddenly the General got a feeling he wasn't going to like this.
"Well, you see, sir, one of the boys attacked was Selim Baker, also known as Selim Bradley."
Sometimes Roy hated being right.
I've actually had this written for a few months now, but got kind of stuck. Now that I'm motivated to get past it, I'm posting it. :) Please let me know what you think!