Title - When Sorrow Comes
Disclaimer - Arakawa owns all, I'm just having lots of fun.
Timeline/Spoilers - Technically it's a few years post CoS with manga elements
Warning - violence and descriptions of murder.
Summary - As Ed, Al and Alt!Maes settle into life in Amestris, they have to help Roy in his role as ambassador whose main duties are to speed along the Ishbalan homeland restoration. In the middle of this, a series killer seems desperate to get Mustang's attention while Riza is no longer always at his side, guarding, instead, the new Fuhrer.
Author's Note - Thanks to evil_little_dog for the beta. Thanks to both Yuukihikari and soraina_skye for the art! (to see art check out this same story on Archive of Our Own under the name cornerofmadness) Thanks, also, to my flist for all the cheering on! While technically this is part of a series that includes Source of Sorrow and Sorrow's Dark Array this is a stand alone story. As mentioned above, this is a hybrid first anime/manga story. All the events of the first anime stand and the additions are Xing as a country and Olivia Armstrong as Fuhrer. As Roy is working with the Ishbalans and about the only named one in the first anime was Scar, the ones here are OC's (seen also in the two other stories).
When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions!" – William Shakespeare
"Maybe we should have just called," Uzziel said, shuffling his feet on the Mustangs' snowy porch. The old Ishbalan pulled his coat tighter to his body.
"We did," Dev replied, waving a hand between him and Edward. "Mustang mumbled something like he was dying and for me to drop dead first."
"He's just blowing off work again." Ed scowled, working the key in the lock. "So we're bringing it to him. Hughes thinks he knows what happened to that lost food supply to Ishbal, and Mrs. Jasso needed to talk to him about getting doctors and nurses for the new hospital." He swept a hand back to the older woman bringing up the rear.
"Yes, but it could have waited," she replied. "He probably has a reason for not coming into the office."
"Yeah, he's lazy," Dev snorted as Ed got the door open.
The alchemist led the Ishbalans into the marble foyer. Hayate bounded around the corner, taking a playful leap at Ed, who finally managed to successfully sidestep the dog. Skidding into Dev's cane, Hayate nearly took the young Ishablan priest down. Hayate barked at them all, and Riza came out into the foyer to see what the fuss was about. Her eyes widened at the sight of them all. "I wasn't expecting company," she said, regaining her equilibrium.
"Didn't your husband tell you he decided not to work today?" Ed asked.
"Yes, but didn't he tell you why?"
"Just that he was dying and for me and Ed to go first." Dev shrugged. "So we brought work to him."
The tinkling of a bell sounded from the other room, making Riza frown. "Oh, he might just die at that." She whipped around, stalking back into the living room.
They followed her into the richly appointed room. A fire blazed in the marble fireplace that Ed always joked was big enough to roast a cow. Mustang was curled up on the couch with a few bed pillows stacked under him. He had a crazy quilt tucked up to his chin and a handkerchief clutched in his hand. A bag of them, well used, rested on the floor within his reach. Roy coughed so hard, he nearly doubled up.
"Ew, he is dying." Dev grimaced.
"Well, go do your business before he dies," Riza replied.
"I'm not going anywhere near that," Dev protested, waving his hand toward the dying man.
"Me either." Ed took a step backward, his lip curling up. "Hughes can come report to him on his own."
"Honestly, boys." Dev's mother brushed past them to rest a hand on Roy's forehead. "You're burning up."
"Told you I was dying," Roy whined.
"Not fast enough, brother," Li-Ying said, coming into the room with a steaming bowl. "The doc's already been out to see him, Mrs. Jasso. He should be in bed, but then he can't be nosy in there." She shot her brother a look.
"He's taken something for his fever?" she asked.
"Just because you're a nurse, Mom, doesn't mean you have to fuss over him," Dev said.
I'm not going to sit in there and breathe this air." Ed wrinkled his nose. "Let me know if he dies. I'm going to see if Hughes needs me to do anything, then I'm going home."
"That's not a bad idea. The work can wait," Dev said.
"Sorry there was a breakdown in communications," Riza said. "It's ugly weather to be and about."
"The Shepard's Almanac says it'll be a bad winter." Uzziel said, casting a glance at the window. "Seems to be right. As the young man said, let us know if the ambassador passes."
"No one cares," Roy sniffled.
Hala gave him a sympathetic pat. "They do care. They just care more about not getting sick."
"You will miss me when I'm gone." Roy pouted, pulling the quilt up closer to his throat.
"That's the part that worries me the most," Dev said.
"All right, we'll go. You can just let Hayate gnaw on the corpse when he dies, Riza," Ed said.
"If he keeps ringing that bell, I will," she replied, ignoring the wounded look Roy sent her way.
Once they were all back outside again, the wind turned Ed's automail into cold-conducting torture devices. He almost wished that he'd braved catching whatever creeping crud Mustang had. "Can you drop me off at the base?" Ed asked the Ishbalans. Aris had driven the large car they'd packed into like tinned fish.
"It won't be a problem."
Ed only half-listened to the snatches of conversation, mostly about rebuilding Ishbal. While he was technically Mustang's man and the general was the Ishbalan ambassador, Mustang had loaned Ed to Investigations, making him Hughes's problem. Ed didn't mind. He knew Mustang was trying to be less dickish than usual with the gesture. He did wonder, though, if Mustang wanted to him to keep tabs on this Hughes – Meinhard, not Maes – that Al and he had accidentally brought back from Germany. Meinhard had been shoehorned into the dead man's life. Ed had been surprised that both Mustang and Gracia had been so accepting of Al's and his blunder, that there had been a life for Hughes, for him and Alphonse, too.
Ed didn't quite know what his life would be once his three years in the military were over with, but at least his brother was moving forward. After all, Al had been through, Ed was glad to see it.
He shook his head, realizing that Dev had been talking to him. "Sorry, my mind was somewhere else," Ed apologized.
"I was saying we're at the base. And if it's not freezing tomorrow, do you and your brother want to come to the Winking Lizard? They have that band Mustang likes. They're good. I figure you might be bored now that Winry's out of town," Dev said.
"I'll think about it and let you know. Al's up to his eyes in his studies. He thinks he can get into medical school by next year if he completes an ungodly amount of classes between then and now." Ed rolled his eyes. His brother had brains enough to do this easily, but Al could get so worked up about it. He was always so sure he failed the exam only to get a hundred percent.
Dev nodded. "Yeah, he's been after me and Aris for Ishbalan healing herbs and Miao-Yin for Xingese secrets." The priest scowled. "Among other things."
Ed slapped Dev across the chest. "Just keep reminding yourself she's an alchemist and related to Mustang."
"Not fair. A beautiful girl likes me and she's off limits because she's an alchemist." Dev huffed.
"A small price to pay for your faith," Uzziel said from the front seat.
"Easy for you to say old man," Dev grumbled. "Guess Al has no competition from me for Miao-Yin."
Ed laughed and slid out of the car with a thank you. He didn't wait for the Ishbalans to pull away from the curb. It was shaping up to be a miserable winter and he wanted out of it. Winry promised him cold-weather automail upon her return, but even that would conduct cold deep to his core. The docking port around his thigh transmitted the chill right to his groin until it felt like his balls had crawled up behind his belly button for warmth, and his cock resembled a button, or at least that's how it felt.
He hustled into the building and down to the office he shared with Armstrong and Sciezka. He had been surprised to see her still working with the military when he first started. Hughes's office adjoined their anteroom. His door was closed when Ed walked in.
Ed jerked his head toward the door. "Hughes in?"
"Yes, well, he was on the phone trying to get hold of General Mustang," Sciezka replied.
"He's at home, whining that he's dying of a cold. I'll go tell Hughes."
"Poor Flame." Armstrong clucked without looking up from his work. "Perhaps I should take him some generationally inspired chicken soup."
"He's milking it," Ed sniffed, knocking on Hughes's door, barging in before the investigator could answer.
Hughes cocked up an eyebrow. "Yes, Ed?"
"I got nowhere with Mustang. I tracked him home, but he should be dead by now according to him." Ed shrugged.
"What? Does he have a sniffle? He's so dramatic." Hughes chuckled.
"Look who's talking." Ed snorted, putting a hand on the messy stacks of papers on Hughes's desk. "You both are crazy."
Hughes smirked. "Talking like that about your superiors can get you an official reprimand."
Ed's eyes glittered as he swung into the chair in front of Hughes's desk. He tipped back on two legs. "Superiors in rank only."
"I see you want to assist on the case where stolen goods were recovered in a sewer."
Ed's chair thumped down and his expression twisted into a snarl. "Are you serious?"
About the stolen goods? No, so behave yourself." Hughes rocked back on his chair, mimicking Ed.
Ed snorted. "I'm always behaved."
"Do I have to take out the lists of grievances again?"
Ed waved him off. "Just tell me what else I need to do."
"I planned on you being with Mustang today. Why don't you catch up on your paperwork and we'll call it a day for you unless, of course, you want to help with the sewer case."
"Not unless there's no other choice." Ed tugged on his uniform's collar. He'd never get used to it. No wonder Mustang was such a miserable bastard. The Amestrian uniforms were constrictive and heavy. He was grateful – not that he'd admit it – that Mustang hadn't made him wear the uniform before. Ed received no such largesse now, but all in all, three years of duty wasn't much to ask for the restoration of his and Al's lives in Central.
That thought didn't make the uniforms any more comfortable. At least, the warmth they provided was finally welcome, but in his six months of wearing them so far, that hadn't always been the case. Ed had been half-afraid he'd have to tell Winry his docking port shorted out from the salts of the ball sweat rolling down his thighs.
Hughes rolled his shoulders. "Finish up your paperwork. If nothing new pops up, I'll okay you going home early."
Ed's nose wrinkled as he drummed his metal fingers on Hughes's cluttered desk. "That won't get me out of here early. Have you seen my paperwork?"
"I have noticed it's higher than you are tall."
Ed rolled his eyes. "Takes more than that to rile me up now." It was true. He'd finally grown and was about the same height as Mustang, which wasn't quite as tall as he'd like. Hohenheim had been so tall and broad, dammit, and Al was, too. What happened to him? It didn't help that he worked with Hughes and Armstrong in this office, both of them freakishly tall, and in Mustang's office, he worked with Dev. The Ishbalan priest and Ed's oft-times co-conspirator was even taller than Hughes. Ed wasn't short, he just worked with people who were giants.
"Progress, then." Hughes smiled. "And when you go home tonight, tell Al that Gracia wants you two to come over for dinner."
"Is she up to it?"
"She feels fine. No morning sickness yet." Hughes caught Ed up in an one-armed embrace. "Can you believe it? Is my Gracia not the paragon of motherly perfection?"
Ed snorted. "Don't know what was the scarier idea, you having a kid or Mustang. Guess you win, since it's already happened." He wished he'd have bit his tongue before those words came out. Hughes's eyes dulled. Amestris's Gracia had lost her Hughes. Germany's Hughes had lost his Gracia and their unborn child. "Sorry."
"It's all right." Hughes's lips twitched. "For my money, Roy being a father is much more terrifying."
Ed nodded. "Unthinkable, and it's just that you'll be inflicting double the photos on us now."
Hughes laughed. "I will."
"I'm using my state alchemy salary to buy a photography shop. When I retire in three years, you alone will have already made me a rich man," Ed said.
Hughes snorted at him and pointed to the door. Ed went back to this desk, settling in to work.
The only light on in the small home he shared with his brother was upstairs. Al was probably holed up, studying his brains out. Ed wondered if Al had eaten or had anything left over. It was a little earlier than Ed usually got home, but it was still dark as midnight out.
Ed scurried inside, disappointed that the warm air of the cottage held no scents that suggested dinner. Flicking on a hall light, Ed dragged upstairs to see what Al was doing. He ditched off his uniform jacket, draping it over the railing. He got two steps up the staircase when something zoomed between his legs, nearly toppling him over.
Ragazza Bella, Al's cat, stopped at the top of the stairs, meowing as if she was disappointed she hadn't killed him.
"Damn it, Al! That furball tried to murder me!"
"Not hard enough," Al shot back from his room.
The one thing that truly differed between Al now and when he was younger, besides the armor body, was this Al had a smart mouth, probably from years of hanging around his big brother. Ed sighed. "Very funny, Al. You'll cry when Rags finally kills me. Have you eaten?" He rounded the corner to his brother's room. As expected, Al's bed was covered with books.
Their small, military-owned cottage did have a library, but by the time they reconstituted their alchemic collection, there wasn't much room left over for Al's studies. Also, Al didn't want to be running up and down the stairs in the middle of the night and risk waking his brother.
"Too busy memorizing the muscles of the body. Why does anatomy class have more words to learn than I had when I was trying to figure out German or Italian?" He threw a pencil down, making it bounce off the bed.
Ed chucked Al's shoulder. "You enjoy it."
"Yeah, it's pretty amazing. Besides, Winry knew most of these before she was ten, so I can't do worse than she does, or she'll never let me hear the end of it." Al grinned. "Provided you haven't frightened her away for good."
Ed snorted. "Not a chance. So, do we even have food in the house? It's cold as hell. I don't want to go back out there."
"I think we have eggs. We were supposed to go to the grocer."
Ed glanced at the frost-flowered window over his brother's shoulder. "It's early still. The grocer is open. We should probably go out and do that now. We can grab something at the deli on the way back."
Al nodded and got up to find his shoes. Ed went back down the steps and put the uniform jacket and his overcoat back on. Might as well tramp down there in his military clodhoppers. Al came downstairs, told Rags to be a good cat, as if that was possible, and followed Ed out into the night.
"If you want to practice your medical skills, you could go to Mustang's. He claims he's dying," Ed said.
"Is he?" Al adjusted his scarf around his neck, glancing over curiously.
"He has a cold or something." Ed shrugged. "What he is, is a big baby."
Al nudged him. "Be nice. You're not exactly a prince when you're sick. There were times I wanted to just sit on you and let the armor do its work."
Ed shoved back. "Thanks for nothing. Do you think it's cold like this out in the desert where Winry is?"
Al glanced east as if he could see where Winry was, helping to round up volunteers in Rush Valley to staff the first automail clinics in the new Ishbalan homeland. "It gets cold there, so maybe. Probably not as bad as this. She'll be home soon, Ed."
"I know. I just miss her." He missed everything about her. Now he understood why his brother used to get so goopy with Ziata. He couldn't see Al's face well in the washed-out light from the street lamps, but he worried about his brother. He wished he really knew what Al thought, seeing his brother in a relationship when his own ended so tragically. Al said that he was very happy for them and Ed mostly believed it, but there was that niggling doubt. "You okay, Al?"
"Why wouldn't I be?" Al picked up the pace just a bit or was that Ed's imagination?
"You've been studying too hard," Ed replied, lame but true.
"I'm fine. Come on, hurry it up. You're right. It is cold out here."
Ed let his brother hurry him along to the grocer. His stomach was going to guarantee a hefty bill. He'd worry about the rest another time.
He didn't know what it was about combat boots that made him so weak in the knees. There were so many lovelier shoes that a woman could put on her feet, and he loved those as well, but few were as treasured as the boot. Maybe it was the thought of what that boot could do to him that got him all hot and bothered. He couldn't resist a woman in uniform.
As carefully as his automail hand could, he set the boot aside. The mate to it was far bloodier and he didn't care to take it home with him. Hearing a noise at the mouth of the alley, he froze. This was wrong. This wasn't how he envisioned it. He wasn't supposed to get caught.
The sound moved off and he crept out of the alley, leaving her there. She looked peaceful, now that he'd pulled her trousers back up. He would have to find another way of getting his prizes. This was too risky, bloodier than he had thought it would be. Harder too, but that had only made it more exciting. He hadn't even had time to dedicate it like he wanted to. He would do better next time.