Spoilers/Warnings: As far as I know, the spoilers are minimal. This diverges from both the manga and the anime, and I wouldn't be surprised if I get some facts wrong anyway (like the ages they were when each major event occurred). Also, this is YAOI. Don't like it, don't read it. Period.
Disclaimer: I do not own Fullmetal Alchemist. I make no monetary profit from the writing and posting of this, or any, fanfiction.
Notes: I like Hughes. I hate that he died. So here in fanfiction land, I'm pretending he didn't. Also, I'm former military. Navy, not Army, but still; my take on the Amestrian army might be a little different than others'.
Yes, this does start out an awful lot like 'The Saffron Soul' by BeautifulFiction (if you haven't read it, go effing read it. It's one of the most amazing things on the planet). Yes, my story does have its own plot. I'm not into stealing other people's ideas, especially not ones as beautiful as 'The Saffron Soul'. That story was the motivation for me to sit my butt down and write, and it has influenced this story, but the idea for this story bubbled to my mind around the time I joined the Navy three years ago. Unsurprisingly, I didn't exactly have a lot of free time to write back then.
Many, many thanks to proser132 for taking the time to edit this for content and flow. Very talented writer and beta.
Chapter One: In Which Rain is Despised
Squelching footsteps on fresh-waxed floors and a noticeable trail of water dripping from a long red coat proclaimed the arrival of one Edward Elric, Fullmetal Alchemist. Those soldiers that he passed in the halls were careful to move away from the young man, noting the dark glower on his features and unwilling to invoke the rage simmering just under his skin.
To make matters absolutely abysmal, he had to see the damn Brigadier General. It had been hard enough to deal with the man when Ed was all of twelve and convinced he already knew everything. It was harder still to deal with him when he was fourteen, struggling to understand the people who could do something as terrible as Ishval, Nina, and Liore. And now that he was sixteen, and Al's body had been restored, he had to deal with the man without the task of finding the Philosopher's Stone.
No one else had the kind of power over Ed that Mustang did, and he didn't mean it in the subordinate-to-superior way. He didn't know exactly what it was that drew him to Mustang. He was handsome, of course – all the women in Central couldn't be wrong. He was intelligent – not like Ed or even Al, perhaps, but Mustang had a kind of knowledge that came with experience and drive along with the same keen intellect that made him a State Alchemist. These things were all well and good, but there were plenty of attractive, intelligent people in the world – people that didn't make him want to knock their teeth out.
So why the fuck did it have to be Mustang that he'd found this grudging respect – dare he even think friendship – for? When he'd reenlisted he could have asked to change commands, he supposed, but the truth was he didn't trust anyone else. Mustang had taken him at face value and accepted not only him but also his little brother. That said a lot about the man's character, particularly when he didn't look at Ed with pity. He had never pitied Ed; Mustang had given him a goal to work towards.
It didn't change the fact that every time his superior opened his mouth Ed wanted to punch him. Ed snorted in vague amusement at the happy image that thought provoked, startling one of the Privates in the hall. Ed didn't even notice when his vindictive smirk caused the young soldier to break out in a sweat and hurry down the hall, taking care to stay out of the blonde's way.
Edward was seriously considering reevaluating his opinion on the existence of God – it was the only explanation he could think of as to why his life was one circus act after another. The only good that had happened in sixteen years of life was the return of his little brother's body. It had taken four long, grueling years of searching for a stone that had not been made using humans – the result was a single-use liquid with a time limit from Xing. It had nowhere near the potential of a true Philosopher's Stone but the power it contained was just adequate enough to get around Equivalent Exchange.
A glance through one of the windows he passed confirmed that it was still pouring out, probably harder than it had been a few minutes ago. He wasn't even convinced that there were individual droplets of rain coming from those clouds. It was like someone had literally picked up a lake and dropped in on Central, then sent it through an array to loop it endlessly. "Whoever it is, he's a fuckin' sadist," he muttered as the door came into view, briefly entertaining the idea of an alchemist with that kind of vindictiveness.
He shoved the door to his superior's outer office open, feeling a shiver of childish delight pass over him when the door slammed into the wall with an immensely satisfying thud. As the door bounced off the wall he noted gleefully that the handle had punched a hole in the drywall. The bastard deserved it for calling him in despite the abysmal weather.
He ignored the stares of Mustang's staff, though he did give the room a cursory glance as he stalked across the floor. Everyone was here except for Hawkeye; presumably she was out retrieving paperwork for that bastard. Good. That meant he could beat the crap out of the Brigadier General without her running interference.
His entrance to the General's office was no less violent than that of the outer office. He scowled when Mustang didn't even look up from his paperwork. The man had the gall to wave a negligent hand toward one of the couches, the gesture made all the more significant by the fact that he wasn't wearing his uniform jacket. This departure from the norm, however small, was enough to briefly pierce Ed's irritation as he blinked at the white shirt. Rarely had he seen Mustang not in pristine condition, whether in uniform or civilian attire.
"I'll be with you in a moment, Fullmetal," Mustang said simply as he placed another report in his outgoing pile, snapping Ed from his musings.
Edward seethed. "Like hell you will, bastard!" he snapped, kicking the door roughly closed behind him and stomping across the carpet. With some satisfaction he realized that his sodden clothing and boots would be tracking water all over the rug under his feet. He hoped it started to smell. "Do you know how fucking hard it's raining? I had to wade through a foot of water all the way from the perimeter to the damn building!" A hundred meter dash through a foot of water was no joke.
Another folder joined the outgoing pile before Mustang finally looked up, linking his fingers and resting his elbows on the desk. He propped his chin on his hands as he surveyed his young subordinate, a hint of amusement creeping into his eyes. "I suppose it's hard for those lacking in any real height to wade, especially since you'd probably been unable to reach the sidewalk in such deep water," the man acknowledged finally, his tone infuriatingly dry.
"Who the fuck are you calling short?" Ed screeched, cheeks flushing a dark red in rage. Damn that bastard! This always happened! What the hell kind of equivalency was it when he actually respected the man that insulted him?
"I know your attention span is…lacking, Fullmetal, but if you recall, you owe me a report," Mustang said blandly. He ignored the Major's sputtering. "You've owed me this report for a week and a half. Perhaps if you'd turned it in on time, I wouldn't have had to call you in." He smirked faintly when Ed grumbled, backing down just slightly. With a huff the young man shoved his hand into his coat pocket, withdrawing a wrinkled, water-splattered folder and throwing it irately on Mustang's desk. In spite of his halfhearted attempt to keep the report dry, he was soaked so thoroughly that his pocket hadn't been protection enough – not that he cared.
"Bastard," Ed snapped at Mustang when the Brigadier General made no move to pick up the folder, turning instead to the pile he'd been working on. Ed knew well that he wasn't dismissed until Mustang said he was. Grumbling, he moved over to the fireplace, glad for once that Mustang nearly always had the fire lit. He would never admit it to anyone, least of all that bastard General, but the cold rain coupled with the autumn chill was causing his automail ports to ache.
Mustang's voice broke into his thoughts. "You may as well take off your coat and have a seat, Fullmetal. In addition to taking your report I have another assignment to give you."
Ed turned on Mustang with a snarl on his lips but, before he could enunciate a suitably scathing reply his superior favored him with a surprisingly deep look. The words died on Ed's lips, his anger fading to be replaced with grudging concern. "Why can't you just give me the mission right now? What's the point of drying out just to go back out in that?" He gestured to the buckets of water sluicing the glass behind Mustang. Despite it being midmorning it was dark enough – and wet enough – that even the parade grounds and courtyard were invisible. "And what do you mean you have a mission for me, anyway?" Ed snapped. "You just said you wouldn't have called me in if I'd turned in my report earlier!"
"I was waiting on Hughes," Mustang informed Edward as the blonde pulled off his coat and jacket, hanging them up on the coat rack near the fire to dry. Ed sprawled on the couch with his usual grace, arms resting on the back of the sofa. Hearing voices outside his door, Mustang got to his feet as his office door opened again – this time with more decorum – to reveal Hawkeye and Maes.
"Yo, Roy!" Hughes greeted, one hand upraised, before his green gaze settled on Ed. "And Ed's here, too." The Colonel ignored the unspoken of course I'm here, stupid in Ed's glare and settled on one of the couches as Hawkeye quietly shut the door.
"As to the mission, this came in after Hawkeye phoned you to bring in your report," Mustang said calmly, glancing at Hughes to acknowledge the man's presence. "If you were staying in the dormitories, you wouldn't have been out in the rain nearly as long."
"Like hell I'd make Al sleep on those uncomfortable damn bunks now that he's–" Ed began hotly, only for the rest of his statement to be cut off by a hand on his mouth. For a man with an old bullet lodged in his chest near his shoulder, Hughes moved quickly. Before Ed could be suitably enraged, Hughes leaned closer.
"It's a common practice of the military to scatter listening devices in the rooms of the higher-ranking officers," he murmured quietly to Ed. "It's good that your brother decided to take off his armor," he added at a normal volume, stepping away and casting an appraising look at Ed. The blonde folded his arms irritably, golden eyes sharp as he nodded slightly to Hughes.
Mustang gestured for Ed and Hughes to sit down, a folder clasped in one gloved hand. Muttering, and only marginally drier, Ed sat down. The Brigadier General handed him the folder. "We've been handed a case from the police," he said without preamble, watching Edward flick open the folder and page through it. Within moments the blond was absorbed in the words, the index finger of his right hand tapping his lips. So focused on the case file he was utterly oblivious to the fact that Mustang had grown silent and was watching him with a rare degree of gravity in his level black eyes.
"A serial killer?" Ed asked finally, nose wrinkling irately as he glanced at Mustang. For a moment he paused, blinking, as his stare clashed with the Brigadier General's. Ed floundered briefly, nonplussed by the depth of the other man's expression. "Isn't that what the police are for? Why hand this sort of thing over to us?" he asked finally. Inwardly, he wondered what the hell was that? His too-old golden gaze shifted to Hughes when the Colonel deigned to explain.
"They've been working this case for almost three months with no breakthrough, Ed," he informed the young man. "Thirteen victims – all blonde, mostly children around the age of ten or eleven." Ed blanched, flicking through the photographs included in the case file. "Until this morning Samantha Prewitt was missing and had been for almost a week. They found her body tucked into an alley on the east side of Central.
Mustang took up the narrative, moving over to rifle through the photos until he found the one he wanted. The girl in the photograph was a very fair blonde with wide green eyes framed in a heavy fringe of eyelashes. From the very, very gentle swell of her naked chest she was a bit older than the killer's usual MO – maybe thirteen or even fourteen.
Ed's eyes were immediately drawn to the array carved into her stomach. "Fuck," he whispered, lightly tracing it with a gloved fingertip. He didn't notice both Hughes and Mustang watching him. "What the hell kind of array is this?" The circle was nothing like the arrays he – or any other alchemist he'd encountered – used. It was more intricate even than the Human Transmutation circle he'd designed to retrieve his brother and full of archaic symbols that he didn't even vaguely recognize.
Mustang and Hughes traded looks. "The Deputy Inspector said that this was the first victim that had any signs of an array and sent it immediately to us," Hughes said quietly. "The orders for you to investigate come directly from Fuhrer Grumman."
"I don't like it," Mustang remarked, crossing his arms and gazing out the window. The rain showed no signs of slackening. "The MO is for young blondes. You're the best person to research this sort of thing, but we have no clues as to who the killer might be and you're just the type of victim he or she might be after."
Ed leapt to his feet, outraged. "Who are you calling a kid who could pass for ten years old?" he yelled indignantly.
"You are a kid, Fullmetal," Mustang replied dryly, hiding a smirk.
"I'm sixteen fucking years old, you bastard!" Ed howled. Only Hughes' hand on his shoulder, pressing gently but insistently, kept Ed from leaping at Mustang. The Colonel pressed the blonde back into the couch.
"Listen, Ed… All teasing aside," he ignored Ed's muttered curse and Roy's hastily smothered chuckle, "we know you're the best for this. I can honestly say that you're the most intelligent researcher we have. But you're also impulsive and a magnet for trouble."
"Get to the damn point, Hughes. Am I getting these orders or not?" Ed snapped.
The Brigadier General sighed. "The point, Fullmetal, is that we're trying to warn you to be careful." Golden eyes swiveled to him in utter shock. Roy suppressed the urge to roll his eyes, prompting another faint blush from Ed. Habit dictated his responses but Ed knew the older man was just looking out for him. "Don't take any unnecessary risks. We want the killer caught but not at the expense of losing a State Alchemist."
Ed grumbled. "I'm always careful," he informed his superiors with a scowl. "It's not my fault that I always get stuck with the people who've gone off the deep end." He got to his feet, folder in hand. "If I'm going to get to work…?" Ed added, glaring at Mustang. He was waiting for a dismissal.
Hughes, too, rose, wincing as muscle and skin pulled against the old bullet wound. "I've got my own paperwork to take care of," he said with his usual lopsided grin, running a hand through his hair. "Plus, I've been away from my photographs of my beautiful Elysia and Gracia for far too long!" His took off his glasses, polishing them with a handkerchief. "Keep me updated, Roy!" he announced as he left the room, pulling the door shut.
Mustang shook his head and went back to his desk. "You may as well sit back down, Fullmetal." When Ed gave him a blank look the Brigadier General smirked. "I still have to look over your report."
In the outer office Mustang's men blinked at the closed door, shaking their heads, smiling, or wincing depending on their natures. Ed and the General could never seem to be alone in a room for longer than thirty seconds without Ed yelling. Less than a minute later a fuming Edward yanked open the door, slammed it shut, and proceeded to pull on his jacket and coat, muttering all the while about smug Brigadier Generals and their bastardly smirks.
The smell of stew wound through his senses as Ed opened the door to the small two-bedroom flat he and Al shared, doing wonders to perk him up despite the impression of a drowned cat his coat and hair lent him.
"I'm home, Al," he called as he stripped off coat, jacket, and boots, dropping them carelessly on the floor of the hallway. His brother poked his head out of the kitchen, his burnished bronze stare dropping disapprovingly to the clothes on the floor.
"Welcome home, brother. Your clothes will smell if you don't put them in the wash," Al rebuked his brother softly. Ed sniffed, meandering into the kitchen to drop the case file on the table. Unlike his report, he'd taken better care of the file, tucking it under his sleeveless vest to try and keep it dry – though it was still noticeably damp.
"I'll take care of 'em in a minute, Al. I'm going to grab a shower anyway. Damn rain," he grumbled. "Damn Brigadier General for calling me out in the rain."
Alphonse shook his head. "If you didn't put off turning in your reports…" he began, but Edward had already disappeared to grab up his discarded clothes and wander off for a shower. Al sighed faintly. "You make things so complicated, brother," he remarked to the air instead, turning to go back to the stew simmering on the stove. The file on the table caught his attention and he hesitated, wanting to read it, before shrugging. His brother would tell him about it later.
Ed grumbled all the way to the bathroom, tossing his sopping clothing aside as he twisted the taps to run the shower. He ached from the chill of the rain and his mind tumbled with the specifics of his new assignment as he stepped under the warm spray of water. Despite the difficulties he knew were ahead – he was going to be spending a lot of time in the library to understand that strange array – he couldn't help but go over the meeting in his head. His thoughts invariably led him right back to Mustang.
"Damn it," he hissed, dipping his head back to let the water smooth his hair as he reached for the shampoo. "What was with him today, anyway?" he wondered aloud, pausing with the bottle in his hand. Ed had seen all kinds of emotion on Mustang's face – when the man dropped his masks, anyway, which was rarely. He'd seen anger, sarcasm, interest… Nothing, however, came close to the dark, almost measuring way Mustang had looked at him today.
It was fucking weird, and a little disconcerting. They'd known each other for four years now – five if Ed wanted to count the year of rehabilitation after the automail surgery. Why did the man pick now of all times to change the rules of their game? It didn't make any sense. Unless Mustang was just trying to catch him off guard?
Remembering the bottle in his hand, Ed shook his thoughts of Mustang away and lathered his hair. It was a pain to only be able to wash his hair with one hand, but the first time he'd forgotten about his automail hand he'd gotten it caught in his hair and Auntie had to cut his hair free. Not only had it been painful but it was also embarrassing so Ed made it a point to make sure he kept his automail away from his hair.
Turning off the taps, he snagged a towel from the shelves in the corner, still thinking. He paused, brow furrowed, before scowling in defeat. Fuck it. If Mustang expected him to play along with being jerked around, the General had another thing coming!
He dried swiftly, swiping the towel over the fogged mirror. His reflection stared back at him through the water droplets on the reflective surface: pursed lips, narrowed eyes, wet hair – and scars. So many scars. Scars from his fights, scars from his automail – even the scar from where he'd fallen out of that tree when he was six.
Muttering darkly again, he turned away, wrapping the towel around his waist and scooping up his clothes. Pausing long enough to dump them in the wash, he padded down the hall to his room to dress. Emerging a few minutes later in fresh trousers and his usual black vest, he slipped back into the kitchen just as Al was setting a bowl of stew on the table. They smiled at each other.
"Feeling better, brother?" Al asked kindly as Ed sat down and picked up his spoon. He waited until Al was seated with his own bowl of stew to respond.
"I guess. I think it's this new case that's got me all wound up," he said, spooning stew into his mouth. Noting the expression on Al's face he felt his cheeks heat and looked away. Al really was way too perceptive sometimes. He'd realized what Ed was feeling before Ed himself had discovered why he suddenly started noticing things about Mustang. Al could always tell when Ed was wound up over the General.
Al cleared his throat quietly. "You know, brother…" Ed watched his little brother through his eyelashes, pretending to be intent on his stew. "I won't bother you about this, because it's your life and your decision… But if you don't tell the Brigadier General, he won't know, and things will never change."
"Are you crazy?" Ed yelped, dropping his pretense – and his spoon. It landed on the table with a dull thunk, splattering stew on the table. Ed ignored it. "Tell that bastard? And give him even more ammunition against me? No, thanks. I'd as soon let this stupid crush fade on its own then give the man even more reason to mock me."
Al sighed, nibbling on a piece of bread. "I don't think you're giving the Brigadier General enough credit, Ed. I mean, I know you two fight a lot, but it doesn't seem to be as hostile as it used to be, before…" He trailed off, but the words before I got my body back lingered in the air, unspoken.
Ed blew his bangs out of his face; they settled resolutely back in his eyes as he opened his mouth, but Al wasn't finished.
"I'm not saying that you should confess all at once. But maybe you could try, you know, turning your reports in on time and not antagonizing him every chance you get. It's easier to find that you like someone when you aren't stuck on disliking them."
Silence stretched between them for several minutes, the only sounds being the clink of spoons on cheap stoneware. Finally Ed pushed his bowl away. "I'll think about it," he mumbled. Al beamed at him.
"That's all I can ask." His gaze dropped to the folder on the table. "So, you want to talk about this new case? Since it's bothering you so much?"
Another day, another meeting with Fullmetal, another battle with the urge to do something entirely inappropriate to the blonde. The day had started out like any other, too.
Wake up at 0600, haul his ass out of bed to put on the kettle for coffee, drag himself to the shower. It wasn't until he was partway through soaping his body when he remembered that today was Wednesday. He cursed under his breath. Today was the deadline for Fullmetal's report to be turned in to Lieutenant General Rush – his superior. A report, moreover, that Ed hadn't given him yet.
Despite the irritation blooming in his mind, thinking about the report brought his thoughts to his young blonde subordinate, and the images of flashing gold eyes, tanned skin, and black leather had their usual effect on his body. He groaned, adjusting the temperature of the shower to cold. It was going to be a long day. Certainly he could take care of his issue in a different manner, but jerking off to thoughts of the young Major – who'd been in his command since he was twelve! – was not how he wanted to start his day.
With the first mug of coffee doing wonders for his mind, he dared to hope his day might improve. Then he pushed the curtains hanging on the window over the kitchen sink aside, saw the weather, and gave up on the day being anything but miserable. Not only was it raining – scratch that, it was pouring goddamn buckets – but he had left his umbrella and his military issue raincoat in the office the last time it had rained.
That was just peachy. As he grabbed his gloves from the table in the entryway he had to wonder if it was even worth it to put them on. They'd be soaked within the twenty steps it took to get to the car Havoc had pulled up to his gate. Shaking his head, he stepped outside, locked his door, and took a deep breath. While his stoop was protected, he knew he was about to get very, very wet.
Roy hated being soaked by rain, especially cold rain. He was the Flame Alchemist. He liked warm and fire, not cold and water. He dithered for a moment under the protection of his roof but knew if he waited too much longer he'd be late and Hawkeye would favor him with that reproving glare she was so good at.
Hardly caring about his image – and it wasn't like his neighbors could see him in this downpour, anyway – the usually sedate Brigadier General made a mad dash for the car in question, slamming into the vehicle and pulling the door shut decisively. Havoc glanced in the mirror and raised a single eyebrow. "No umbrella or coat, Chief?" he asked in surprise.
"Just drive, Havoc," Roy snapped, already irritated. His subordinate shrugged.
"Sure thing, sir," he replied, throwing the car in gear and easing away from the curb. Normally a very careful driver, today Havoc drove even more judiciously, fingers tight on the steering wheel. This sort of weather was just the type that caused wrecks by less-than-wary drivers. Luckily, they reached headquarters without incident and Roy was forced to make another dash in the rain, only slightly mollified by the sight of usually prideful generals doing the same, even those who had remembered their coats.
At least he wasn't the only one who disliked braving this rain.
He ignored those that stared at him and hid smiles as he stalked through the hallway, hair plastered to his head and uniform dripping. If his gloves weren't utterly useless right now he knew no one would dare laugh but, as it was, everyone knew fire didn't work so well with water.
At least one thing had gone right today: he made it into the office just as the clock struck seven. Hawkeye raised her eyebrows at his close shave but said nothing. Roy wondered, not for the first time, just who was in charge here. The blonde woman handed him a mug of coffee. Peering into it, trying to decide if he was tired enough to brave office coffee, he remembered something.
"Someone call Fullmetal and tell him to get his report in within the hour," he ordered, sipping cautiously at the beverage and making a face. The tar-like consistency identified it as Breda's turn to make coffee today. He looked up in time to catch Hawkeye's stare. Knowing she was thinking about the rain and the lack of warning he was giving the Major, Roy gave in to the uncharacteristic desire to roll his eyes. "He's been putting it off for almost two weeks, Lieutenant. It's not my fault that the weather on the day I have to rout it is so terrible."
Hawkeye still disapproved, but the Brigadier General was right. "I'll phone him right now, sir," she said reluctantly. "Also, sir, Colonel Hughes is waiting for you in your office." Correctly interpreting the question in her superior's eyes she gave a tiny shake of her head – Hughes wasn't here to blabber on about his family. He murmured his thanks distractedly and pushed open the door to his office.
To his surprise Hughes didn't even look up. "Morning, Roy," he said simply, obviously poring over something. Brow furrowed, Roy set his mug down on his desk, grabbed the dry gloves waiting for him – courtesy of Hawkeye – and walked over to his friend to peer over his shoulder. Maes was holding a case file open in one hand and reading the contents with a scowl on his usual genial features. Roy glanced at the grate, noting that it was already loaded with wood, and clicked his fingers distractedly. Fire, warm and cheery, erupted to start its merry consumption of the wood.
"What brings you here so early?" Roy asked when Hughes still didn't look up, stripping off his uniform jacket and hanging it up to dry. Green eyes glanced up from the file. Maes' lips twisted in a grimace as he wordlessly handed the file over. Roy took it with no small amount of trepidation and began to skim the contents. His pallor, normally pale, took on an almost pasty hue as he flicked through the photos included. Without a word he sat on the couch opposite Maes to read.
Hughes sat back against his sofa, sagging a little. "That report landed on my desk this morning," he informed his friend. Despite the fact that Roy was a rank higher, Maes' work in Intelligence meant that he had positional authority to delegate tasks. "Police have been working on it for around three months. That last victim?" He could tell by the way Roy was staring at a photo that he was looking at the victim in question. "When they found her, they called in the military. Alchemists fall under our jurisdiction."
"You want Fullmetal on this case?" Roy asked, closing the folder and setting it down. From his expression, Hughes knew he was surprised. Hughes' feelings toward Edward and Alphonse Elric were well known: he considered the boys his surrogate sons. For him to willingly seek out Edward for such a dangerous case was baffling.
Hughes pinched the bridge of his nose. "I forgot to bring them, but the orders for Ed came down from Grumman." He saw the faint widening of Roy's eyes and felt a smile crawl briefly over his features. It wasn't often that the Fuhrer micromanaged like this. "I'm just the messenger in this case, Roy, but the killer's MO worries me…"
Silence draped the room, broken only by the crackle of sparks. "Fullmetal should be here within the hour," Roy said finally. "Go get his orders and meet me back here at 0830. If I tell him to be careful he'll just blow me off. If you tell him he might actually think about it." Maes' light chuckle lessened the bitter air in the room a little.
"I'll be here," Hughes promised, getting to his feet and lifting his hand in a casual wave, shutting the door behind him and leaving Roy to stand in front of the fire, arms crossed and deep in thought.
By the time Edward arrived, fifteen minutes late, no less, Roy was seated behind his desk signing papers and reading through reports. The blonde made his usual loud entrance and Roy had to work hard to keep from looking up and snapping at the young man. He managed to keep his attention on his paperwork, mouth working on autopilot to tell Fullmetal he'd take care of him in a moment. Ed reacted predictably enough that Roy listened with only half an ear.
Only when he'd finished the report he was currently working on did he look up, a smirk curving his lips as he drew Ed into their traditional bait-and-rant session before telling the blonde to take off his coat and have a seat. The chance to watch Ed stalk over to the couch without that red coat covering him was worth the glare he received for his comments. He had no idea what made Ed favor leather, especially on a rainy day, but it was clear that the blonde had not bothered with an umbrella – not that it would have made much of a difference – from the way the material clung to his trim hips and toned ass.
Hastily Roy jerked on the proverbial reins of his thoughts, drawing them away from that path. Whatever else, Edward was his subordinate and barely legal despite the fact that he had been considered an adult since joining the army at the tender age of twelve. These thoughts were entirely inappropriate.
Roy had been telling himself that for months and it hadn't helped abate the heated interest that curled languidly through his body whenever he saw the young blonde. Even so, Ed trusted him. That trust was a fragile thing, especially given that Ed had only realized that not all adults were worthless thanks to Roy and his team. Most of the adults Ed had dealt with, Roy recalled grimly, were either corrupt military officials or crazy alchemists bent on destroying the country – or at least throwing it into severe anarchy. He didn't want to lose that trust or the very, very grudging respect he'd managed to earn.
He shook his head slightly in an attempt to clear his thoughts from the path they'd wandered down, scrawling his signature over yet another report – a requisition for a State Alchemist to rebuild a town in the east that had suffered from some sort of laboratory explosion. If not for the fact that he already had a mission to give Fullmetal this one would have been right up the brat's alley. As it was he'd pass it on to Major Armstrong later.
Why did Ed have to be all brilliance and gold and strength and determination? Ed wasn't ambitious. His brother was at the university right now, taking all sorts of classes and learning everything he could, and Edward had renewed his contract with the army only a few months ago – around the same time he'd restored Alphonse, actually – completely surprising everyone who knew him personally. To this day he'd given no reason for his actions. He'd turned down offers of promotion for years now, so if he was going to make the army a career he was going about it oddly. Maybe he took that Hero of the People epithet seriously?
Roy shrugged mentally. Whatever the reason, Edward was still here, still in the army, and still under his command. All his happy fantasies needed to stay firmly in the realm of dreams. It was just so much easier said than done. He watched Ed plop down on the sofa nearest the fire, arms thrown over the back. Firelight danced over the exposed metal of his automail and highlighted the golden skin allowed to peep around his black tank top.
Ed's voice broke into his thoughts, as it so often did. "Why can't you just give me the mission right now? What's the point of drying out just to go back out in that?" He gestured to the window behind Roy's desk. A quick glance as Roy got to his feet revealed that, yes, it was still pouring ungodly amounts of rain. "And what do you mean you have a mission for me, anyway?" Ed snapped. "You just said you wouldn't have called me in if I'd turned in my report earlier!"
Luckily, Hughes chose that moment to return and Ed's attention shifted to the other man. Roy noted with interest that despite Ed's irritated expression his amber gaze softened considerably. Roy knew Ed still felt guilty about the bullet that was forever lodged in Hughes' chest. If it had been half an inch to the left Hughes wouldn't be here at all, and it was investigating for Edward that had drawn attention to Maes enough for that thing to try and end his life.
Ed reacted predictably to the mission – horror at the array, irritation at Roy's attempt to get him to be careful, grudging acquiescence to Roy's words when Maes added his two Cens. Roy was a little surprised that Fullmetal gave in so easily but he surmised it had to do more with Hughes' presence than anything. With the mission explained Maes got to his feet, announced his desire to get back to his paperwork – and photographs – and left. Ed probably would have followed if Roy hadn't reminded the blonde that he still needed to look over his report.
Riling Ed up was always too easy, particularly when he was already irritated, but in the end Roy let his subordinate snatch his coat and jacket and stalk out of the office. He felt uneasy watching the blonde leave. Ed had grudgingly agreed to be careful, but Roy didn't take much heart in those words. Ed was the type to rush headlong into danger without thinking. Roy drummed his fingers on the desk for several long moments, scowling darkly. Making a decision Roy got up and opened his door.
"Sir?" questioned Havoc when the Brigadier General glanced around the room, obviously looking for something. Noting that Hawkeye was still out, Roy turned his attention to Havoc and the next in the chain of command.
"Get a hold of Major Armstrong and ask if he can spare Sergeant Major Brosh and First Lieutenant Ross to keep a discrete eye on Fullmetal," Roy stated, brushing his hair idly from his eyes. He ignored the questioning look Falman, Fuery, and Breda gave him, though he knew they were wondering what Ed was up to that he needed bodyguards. "Also, let him know that I have a mission to pass on to him."
Havoc picked up the phone and dialed, relaying Roy's request to Armstrong. Hanging up, he nodded to Roy. "They're on their way out now, Chief," he said quietly, "and the Major said he'd be by later for the mission." Roy crossed his arms, gloved fingers tapping on his bicep idly. He ought to feel more relieved but, somehow, he wasn't. He was concerned for Ed's welfare. The last time a serial killer had been out and Ed had been a potential target was when Scar was still running around and look how that had ended up: Ed's arm busted and Al's armor falling to pieces.
It didn't help that the last victim had an array carved into her chest. It was strange that she was the only one of the thirteen victims with any signs of alchemy being involved in her death and that Ed was so obviously worried about the array in question. It was rare that Edward could not identify an array on sight and Roy found that this only increased his worry.
Roy hated mysteries like this. They never tended to be solved without bloodshed.
Despite the rain keeping most folk indoors, there was someone out, huddled in a dark coat with an equally dark hood. There was nothing to show whether or not the person in question was male or female – the face was hidden and the figure swathed with bulky fabric.
The person was tucked into the shadow of an alley, ignoring the water dripping from the eaves of the buildings as it observed the entrance to Central's First Branch library. It kept absolutely still – the better to not draw any attention – as another figure appeared, trotting down the street. Dressed in black and red, hood up, the figure turned to pass through the gates of the library, displaying the Flamel symbol on his back.
The one who lurked in the shadows felt a smile curve lips that were tinged blue with cold. The military was so predictable. Carve a circle on someone's chest and suddenly they needed to research it – and who better to research it then their young protégé, the Fullmetal Alchemist?
The smile fell, morphing into a silent snarl, as two other figures appeared, both dressed in the blue of the Amestrian army. Bodyguards, it seemed. No matter. The skulking figure didn't keep military hours. There would be time later to retrieve the boy – but not too much time. The sooner, the better. Patience was a virtue, greed was a sin, and sins were so much easier to cope with.
Word Count: 6,725
A/N: Hisashiburi desu, ne? As it happens, today is the two year anniversary of my marriage, and tomorrow my daughter is seven months old! So I guess this is a little present to me, from me. For everyone else, hope you enjoy!
I'd like to address one of my pet peeves on this series here. Roy is not the Commanding Officer! Whichever General is in charge of his department is the CO and, barring that, the Fuhrer is the CO. Roy is simply the highest accessible officer in the chain of command that we see in the series.
Here's hoping that I can finish this story.