Another Run of Events
Chapter One

- mirage –

This is a multi-chapter completed story. Originally written in 2006 and posted in 2008, this enhanced version has been almost entirely rewritten for your entertainment. I hope you enjoy.

Hawkeye approached Mustang's office desk and dropped a fat manila folder. A few forms and the report from the North fluttered in the aftermath, but neither moved. "We've had another run of events sir."

Roy casually raised his gaze, and covered the receiver with mild irritation. "I am on the phone."

Hawkeye's expression was stoic and blank, the expression she'd learned to craft as a female soldier outnumbered by the opposite gender. It was a futile, albeit respectable; attempt to help remove sexuality and the attraction born simply from the lift in the front of her uniform and the seat of her pants. Although Roy Mustang to her knowledge didn't look, because he was polite, she had known him far too long and knew him far too well to find this mock threat, or any of his other threats, remotely threatening.

"I can wait sir," Hawkeye said plainly.

Roy returned his attention to the phone. "It's been a car accident?" he asked. The second lieutenant was on the line and the man was dreadfully unclear.

Today was like any other day, an early rise, not so different reports, and not so different mishaps. Reports had continuously been coming in, and all of them were the thin kind clad in light blue folders with yellow tabs signaling they were not urgent. The remaining shipment of new recruits for Central had finished arriving, and they were now working on getting all the paperwork settled. Central's more experienced ground troops, those which made the compound magnificently developed and sound, were being shipped about the country to improve training in remote locations and stranding the entire first floor with newbies.

"Havoc you're not making any sense," Roy said, interrupting what he was tempted to call a tangent. "How was the horse involved?" He took the corner of Hawkeye's delivered folder and yanked it over the Northern report he was trying to work on. Her folder was the bulkiest item on his desk, and it angered him. He flipped back the cover with disgust just as Havoc's story reached its climax. "Oh," Roy said, fighting a heavy sigh. "It was a horse accident."

Havoc was illustrating the situation with exaggerated tones and slang. The main variables seemed to be Falman, a horse, and a poorly made fence. "Broken leg," Roy repeated. Hawkeye lifted an eyebrow to show her interest, and Roy tipped his chin from the receiver. "Horse accident," he mouthed. She looked sympathetic for a moment before casually abandoning that same concern and resuming her straight expression. Havoc was repeatedly using the expression 'off like a prom dress' when Roy felt he had heard enough. "Fine, fine issue the medical leave. Tell him to recover. I have to go." He brought his finger down on the highlighted sentence within the first paragraph of Hawkeye's report and gave her a questioning glance. She reached over and turned the page for him.

This was the fifth report he'd received outlining an unidentified alchemic substance turning up in a small well-to-do community in the East. It was a substance that was melting through their military base. It was a small outlook post manned with only a few solders and even less important materials. There was absolutely nothing of military value in inventory, so the fact their meager dozen boxes of unclassified documents, and basic office furniture may be in jeopardy was not cause for the attention this case was building. It was the fact no alarms had been tripped or suspects apprehended during the course of, what seemed more fitting to label as, acts of vandalism.

Upon the second report Mustang received a memo, including the names of several higher ups of who he would prefer not send him memos, with the single sentence: What are we doing about this Mustang? As if it were in fact his outpost and he had been turning a blind neglectful eye to the location, rather than sending the single scout he had. The man was a veteran and should have been capable of overcoming an opponent had one been found.

"Havoc," Roy interrupted what was becoming Havoc's lengthy description of the horse trainer. Her long legs, long hair, soft skin, bright lips, round eyes, big breasts, and amazing ass. Havoc said the plump to her lips was enough to reflect the sun. That her eyes were in a constant state of half mass allure, and, whenever standing close to her, the scent of buttercups was unmistakable. "Havoc." Roy was by nature a womanizer, but Havoc's hideously engrossed descriptions over the crackled phone line was very different from standing face to face with a blonde who smelled like a summer flower. It was time to end this. Roy hung up the phone without warning and turned all attention to Hawkeye. "There's been another attack?"

"Not a single clue left behind," Hawkeye said flatly.

"This is a joke." Roy lifted the report and snapped it open. "Do you understand how stupid this is making us look Hawkeye?" He yanked pages up scanning over the highlighted portions. "Like we can't even protect our base. One small insignificant base out in the sticks."

"It's actually a wealthy city," Hawkeye corrected. Roy gave this comment a cold glare, but she was not intimidated. "I included a blueprint," Hawkeye said. She took the report and unrolled the delicate paper. Appendix D and E showed the zoning for the geographic location about their base. "It's all residential sir." Hawkeye indicated the mass of light blue classifying the area around the red military perimeter. "Small community, with a lot of money."

"Looks kind of like my home town." Roy cast his eyes about the plethora of blue squares peppering all sides of the red block which was their base. It was an expensive plot of land, mainly all residential with some light industrial, but not enough to suggest any type of urbanization or even heavy shopping. "What is this?" he asked, dropping his finger onto the large rectangle sitting in the topographical setting with all the inconspicuous insignificance of Lab five.

"A school," Hawkeye said. "A very large campus. A private school, very expensive, and very exclusive. The children of political parties, and the higher financial brackets."

"A school, huh." Roy considered the surrounding buildings which were all a fraction of the size. "There's nothing much else in this town other than the school." He dropped the report to his desk and leaned back in his chair. "That's very odd." Hawkeye was silent. "It doesn't make sense." The most puzzling component to the assault on their base was the lack of any connection between the locations and methods in which it was being targeted. There was no specific location, inside or out, that was consistently focused upon the way a thief would focus on a vault. To make matters more complicated, all of the rooms which had been targeted had nothing of value inside them, making the attacks look almost random. So he had to ask. "What type of thief targets an empty bank?"

"Sir?" Hawkeye asked with confusion.

"Since the school is the largest focus of the town, you don't think the perpetrator could be a child, do you?" he asked, but even as he posed the question he was drawing to the conclusion that was exactly what she was suggesting. Yes, that is what she suspected. He could see her train of thought sitting delicately over the blueprints the way the sheet lay over his desk. It was perhaps the least obvious conclusion, but also a plausible one. A small crafty child. "Did Edward inspire this Hawkeye?" he teased.

"I am trying to be serious sir."

"Yes I know." Mustang smiled, and flicked the corner of the folder. "This is a rather extensive report Hawkeye. What exactly are you planning here?" He was becoming excited. Buried within these pages was Hawkeye at her best. The dedicated soldier driven toward perfection. There was something remarkable about placing a skilled professional and loyal companion together in the same location. She had proven to be a continuous surprise that did not disappoint. She was an excellent worker, close friend, and smart? Was she ever.

"It makes sense that the perpetrator could in fact be one of the students. They rang in age from eleven to twenty three. All of them honor students, excelling in several fields. Medical, engineering, energy power generation, biochemical science, and literature." Hawkeye gestured to the pages she had compiled. "Extensive knowledge in just a few of these fields could create some of what we're seeing. It's possible with this high an IQ basic alchemy has been learned, and this substance sir, is reported to be made of mainly salts."

"Salts?" Roy sat up and lifted the blueprint again. The red outline of their base was simple, but its simplistic design made it strong. "I have it listed as melting a few walls Hawkeye," he said, skeptical this analysis could be correct. Salt just didn't melt walls.

"That's exactly why I think there is something we're not seeing," Hawkeye said. "I have prepared a POA sir." She lifted the hand she'd kept consistently at attention and extended a second manila folder.

A POA: Plan Of Action. She had made a mission, and was handing him a designed solution meant to be carried from start to finish. All he'd have to do was approve it.

Roy hesitated for just a moment, before taking the folder and turning back the cover. She had created a detailed table of contents, diagrams illustrating the more elaborate parts, graphed the tactical maneuvers, and created a backup tactical maneuver, and small diskette of records needed for it. Hawkeye began speaking immediately, illustrating her plan as Mustang read them. "We place two agents undercover in the school, and two in the community. We'll wormhole our way through this, and investigate it from the inside out."

"Impressive," Mustang said, examining the graphics of her plan. She had four positions lined up and had already run it through clearance for success probability. Implanting would be easy, and if need be, effective this weekend. "Who are you sending?" he asked, and she opened her mouth to speak before he cut her off. "I want to keep this internal of course," he warned. He did not want men he didn't trust in his missions. He never had. They were his crew and he was the captain, and he liked all things operating through them and himself. It was his ship mastered meticulously and which never floundered.

"I knew you would sir." Hawkeye smiled. "That is why I would like to station Havoc at the school, as a gym teacher. Fuery in town within the local market, Falman at a residential house, and Edward in the school."

"Fullmetal?" Mustang cocked an eyebrow, glancing again at the large blue square illustrating the school.

"It's practically flawless with him sir. No one would suspect," Hawkeye said, and Mustang heard a bit of excitement in her voice. How perfect it would be, how easy Fullmetal would work, how he would complete her plan. It was amazing, she couldn't wait.

"Fullmetal is in the west Hawkeye. Researching." Mustang sat back with a sigh. He considered the outlines, job descriptions, and false background she had prepared. "He can't simply be uprooted and shoved into an undercover operation." He returned his gaze to her. "And what's more he's not going to want to be uprooted and shoved into an undercover operation. I just had him here whining at my base a few weeks ago. I don't want to repeat the pleasant and familiar experience."

Hawkeye ignored Mustang's sarcasm. "If he is in deed conducting a nation wide search on alchemy sir, then I think an unprecedented alchemic substance is right up his alley," Hawkeye said, with a bit of humor. Mustang was silent. Yes, yes it was. "Falman will of course act as his father so there is no suspicion."

"Falman just broke his leg and suffered a concussion. He's further North with Havoc and can't be moved," Mustang said, handing back the report. Hawkeye made the slightest frown with this flaw. "But I like this. I like this very much." Mustang smiled, complementing her plainly. It was simple, but meaningful and he did not do it often. "Put this into works immediately. Phone Havoc and tell him to get down here, and tell Fullmetal the same. If he gives you any problems tell him he'll be in my office being lectured until he can legally drink if he disobeys."

"Sir?" Hawkeye frowned, confused how they would execute a plan with a vital member of that plan missing.

"Simply send Breda too, and make Havoc the father," Mustang said happily. It felt as if a piece had just slipped easily into place after he had anticipated needing a much greater shove.

"Sir," Hawkeye said, lacing this word with a scolding as if he'd suggested something impractical. Mustang lifted his eyebrows inquisitively but Hawkeye remained silent and gave him nothing more then her small trademark frown which pinched her brow and made a tiny pocket. She rarely gave him this tone. It was that of a patient warning. Like a mother to a child she saw carrying out a familiar act of disobedience. "How sir?" Hawkeye asked, breaking their silence. Mustang kept his eyebrows raised with confusion. "Sir, how can I make Havoc the father? He's too young, it's..." Hawkeye trailed off, and Mustang realized she was right. Havoc wasn't just acting, he would have had to actually impregnate Fullmetal's fictitious mother and help raise the boy. Being so young, he couldn't have done so currently unless he did so illegally. "Even if we fake that he's older. It would be ridiculous," Hawkeye said. "Jean barely looks his age now."

Mustang gave a heavy sigh and rolled the idea about in his head like a marble. He touched upon each of his men all of which were too young. Breda was the closest in age but even he fell a few years too short.

"Breda is the next closest in age but still too young," Hawkeye said, as though picking Mustang's brain. Mustang released another sigh, heavier this time. "Of course," Hawkeye said slowly, as though hesitant to voice her thought. Mustang recognized this tone as well, it came when she'd come to a realization she wasn't sure he'd agree with.

"Spit it out. I think this is an excellent plan. It's practically flawless, I already told you good work Hawkeye," Mustang said impatiently. He wanted to cross the finish line.

"Unless you do it sir," Hawkeye said. Mustang froze. Him? On the field? In a residential house? "We could easily lie and move your age to say, thirty four." If he didn't know her well he'd be offended. Offended and appalled she thought he could look thirty-four, but that was not what she was implying and Mustang frowned mulling over this. If he didn't take it, then his mission would require outside help, and that he did not want. "Fine." Mustang groaned and brought his hand down slowly to his desk.

He took his decision like a shot of alcohol and threw it to the back of his mouth and forgot it. He knew it would take effect slow at first and than all at once snowball into the weekend. He wanted this case stopped. He wanted the perpetrator captured, and he wanted to know what this substance was. If he had to go into the field and play house a bit he could do it. He was a soldier, and also a man, and he could take it. He would master it and conduct this mission from his own false house. It would be a ballet and the town would be their stage. It would be flawless, and with the discovery of this new material he would be promoted.

They would all be promoted.

Ed took one look at Hawkeye's report and abandoned his slouched position on Mustang's couch. "Salts?" Ed asked, directing his question to the room. "Salts? That's got to be wrong. Who melts a brick wall with salts?" Ed lowered Hawkeye's report with a skeptical grunt. "Colonel whoever you have reporting to you needs to be fired." Ed tossed the report back to the coffee table before cockily linking his hands behind his head and resuming his slouch.

Hawkeye did not respond to this. Mustang had glanced to her when Ed tossed her impressive report aside as if exhausted by it, but she kept her face straight. Hawkeye did not become irritated at Ed the way Mustang found himself becoming irritated. Instead she slipped easily into a state of patient understanding, as if somehow there was method to Edward's obnoxious and seemingly random childish antics.

"Edward, I did that report," Hawkeye said calmly.

Ed immediately averted his eyes and looked appropriately embarrassed. "Did I say fired?" Ed teased, managing a coy smile.

Hawkeye returned the smile warmly. "It really is a salt." She was moving back to business and Ed looked relieved and appreciative of her graceful forgiveness. Mustang sat at his desk with his head in his hand thinking, yet again, my god, they must have invented foot-in-mouth for Edward Elric. "It's been analyzed by our top labs. Four of our top labs."

"Don't question women Fullmetal," Mustang said flatly. This was the best advice he could give. "It will only work against you." He stood and left his desk. He had no where to walk to, and leaned against the front and surveyed his men. Havoc was still reading, but Fuery was holding his completed packet and awaiting orders. "Fuery, what do you think?"

"Can we really pull this off?" Fuery asked skeptically. "I mean, the town won't notice the addition of so many new people all at once?"

"That's a good point," Havoc said, forcing Hawkeye's Appendix C to the side as if the paper needed to be awkwardly twisted from its staple to be understood.

"In fact they won't," Hawkeye said confidently. "The school necessitates that a family member, or family, also reside in town. So Fullmetal's enrollment and the colonel's sudden appearance won't bat a single eye. Also, because of this fact, families move in and out in four year increments or less. Several false student aliases have also been introduced allowing Fuery to be a family member of one of them, and Havoc you being an employee of the school shouldn't arise any suspicion."

"I want credit for some of this when we find out what it is," Ed said, raising a lazy hand as though prepared to take an oath. "I think that's fair." Ed gave them all a toothy grin. "Since I have the worst roll."

"You have the worse roll?" Havoc asked, with mock outrage which wasn't entirely mock. "I have to be at work at seven." Havoc dropped his packet to his lap with disgust.

"Havoc you're supposed to be at work at seven now," Mustang scolded. Havoc had never shown up earlier than twenty after a day in his life. "Of course, not every job can be as comfortable as the military," Mustang teased. Ed gave an exaggerated sniff of sarcasm. "And because we're all involved we'll all share equal credit." Mustang returned to his desk and sat down. "Falman and Breda will also be in on this since, of course, I plan on moving to the top with my team," Mustang paused and glanced about the room. His followers found this pleasing and were listening intently with expressions of satisfaction. "So for the time being, everyone go home and pack." Mustang lifted a hand and pointed toward the door before relocating a stern finger to members he would identify as 'culprits': Havac and Fullmetal. "But make sure you fully understand the draw backs which are not optional," he said firmly.

"Draw backs?" Havoc asked slowly.

Mustang narrowed his eyes. "Yes." He was expecting a fight, and he was ready to win. "Havoc you can not date, Fuery no pets, and Fullmetal your brother is staying in Central." He quickly removed all three privileges and as he expected three pairs of eyes widened in the breath directly before the moment where argument bloomed. "Now, all three of you remove yourselves from my office!" Mustang pointed to the door. He was aware of what was coming. That they were brainwashed and thought they needed these things to live. That they'd say they were crucial, normal, and even relevant to the mission, but that was a lie. They weren't crucial they would be detrimental distractions. Every time Fuery brought some thing into the office, everyone stopped work to pet it, to feed it, to ask its name and other ridiculousness. Havoc became star struck and equally depressed depending on the status of his dating, and Fullmetal's brother was a massive suit of clanking armor! "I don't want to hear one thing about it!" Mustang snapped, when Ed's mouth was opening and Havoc lifted his hands like a homeless beggar. "One word and I'll make whoever argues with me go undercover as a woman." Mustang narrowed his eyes. "And don't think I won't do it," he warned. "I am giving up things as well." This was true, and he was leaving his mammoth bed of which he had a passionate love affair with. He offered only the finest sheets and in turn she cradled him until the sun rose. If he was leaving town to suffer from his bed in a crappy home-away-from-home cramped with Fullmetal's presence, than dammit, they were all going to suffer.

Mustang paid the rest stop cashier for his juice and small package of muffins. "Let's go," he said, glancing to his right before looking up when he learned he was alone. In the small convenient store he turned around from the single check-out counter and considered the meager three shelves. "Fullmetal?" He was at a loss as to where Ed could have gone.

"I'll come when I am ready," Ed snapped, from somewhere between either the first and second, or second and third shelf. With their height he was entirely hidden and Mustang closed his eyes and tried to count the way Hawkeye had suggested.

'You were his age once too,' Hawkeye said, when hours ago Mustang climbed into the rented SUV they were to use as their 'family' car. That was how she began her directions. Mustang knew then she was worried about them spending so much time in each others company. That she worried about him playing the role of the 'loving' father, and Ed the 'obedient' child. It was so ridiculously warped and disturbingly twisted he didn't know how they would succeed past their social façade but he didn't care as long as the social façade held. What Ed did in his personal time was the boy's business, and although Hawkeye worried her advice would not be enough to save him from the four hour ride of obnoxious monotony Edward was capable of, he was confident he would triumph over Edward's games because he was the colonel, and as the colonel was able to make many of the rules.

He set them quickly. Buckle up, no talking, feet on the floor, leave the window up, turn the music off, and it had only taken them two hours to reach this gas station. Aside from these commands Mustang was surprised he could lower his guard as much as he had because Ed had proven to be relatively quiet. He'd arrived on time in the parking lot behind their base with his brother and a duffle bag at the crack of dawn. The boys said their goodbyes quickly and then Ed was left behind in jeans and a hoodie discussing small tactics with the rest of them before they disbanded.

Hawkeye's plan had three separate cars traveling down. Havoc alone, Fuery and herself, and then of course Mustang. He was driving with Fullmetal because they had to live together and it was good for appearances. Just like Fullmetal not listening to anything he said in public was bad for appearances. And Fullmetal so far, this being their first public appearance, had not listened to one thing he said. Hawkeye's advice for the ride was to stay patient, her advice with regard to Edward was to be friendly. No matter what, she said.

"Get your ass to this counter now," Mustang said, in a low furious voice. He took a step toward the three aisles to show his intention and Ed leaned out of the second to see him. The boy was holding a bag of chips looking somewhere between confusion and annoyance.

"What?" Ed asked, teetering on skepticism Mustang really just said the word 'ass' in public and to his own 'son.'

"Don't make me repeat myself Ed," Mustang warned. He kept his irritated gaze fixed on Ed as the boy stomped out of the aisle, arms full of snacks, and dumped the landslide of sugar and fat to the counter. Ed had been struggling to hold everything because a bag of chips he'd selected was so full of air it looked ready to explode and was difficult to carry with the large bear claw, box of cookies, bag of candy, and bag of pretzels Ed had collected. The automail had helped, and Ed gave the cashier a sly chuckle when he slipped the bag of candy off the large screw in his wrist the way one lifts a bag from a hook.

Mustang found this obnoxious and watched the bear claw slide down the pretzels and landed near a row of cigarette lighters and gum before realizing Ed was looking at him. He returned the gaze and Ed gestured toward the mess he'd dumped. "You gonna pay for this?" Ed asked smugly.

Mustang gave Ed as dark a glare as he dared in public where it was unknown he was not the boy's father and in fact his far to be respected colonel. Why the hell should he buy this garbage?

Ed lifted a slow eyebrow as he read Mustang's meaning perfectly. Then Ed said it, hook, line, and sinker. "Dad?" Ed emphasized this word in a long patronizing sound. Daaaaad?

Mustang froze where he stood. It was as startling to hear that word fall from Edward's mouth as to hear a younger voice direct it at him. It had the effect of strong profanity and he was shocked Ed would start the mission outside the town, and felt under minded he wasn't prepared to handle it better! Quickly, and a bit nervously, he looked to the cashier. The fat man seemed indifferent, but Mustang felt branded a bad parent not buying his child food. He lowered his eyes to the mess of oily unhealthy useless items Ed had collected and considered saying it.

I am not buying this crap.

All he had to do was say it, and didn't parents say that? His sister referred to many things her four year old had as 'crap,' but now in this time of need he couldn't remember if she did so to the youngsters face.

"I am hungry," Ed said, pushing the issue when Mustang's jaw tightened that fraction of an inch.

Mustang ripped his wallet back out. "Just get in the car," he said, voice dripping with irritation. Ed extended a hand for the shopping bag as the man rang up his prize, and left for the car as Mustang paid. It wasn't quick enough to beat the colonel and the moment they were outside Mustang released a fast annoyed breath and fixed Ed in a tight glare. "That was uncalled for," he scolded.

Ed crawled into the passenger side and sat down hugging his bag. "If I get to be a kid again, I no longer have to pay for my stuff," Ed said happily. Mustang considered the odd way Fullmetal used the word 'again,' as he slid his key into the transmission. "I think the army can put forth some funding for our undercover work Roy. Just file an expense report if a few snacks are making your almighty-colonel-wallet tight." Ed laughed at his own joke and settled down beaming with his treats. Mustang found this disturbing. The combination aside, all of it was poorly made unhealthy convenient store trash. While driving he watched Ed rip the top off his box of cookies, and, while smiling, began tossing them back as if they were potato chips.

Curious, Mustang reached for one, but Ed startled as severely as if Mustang were holding a knife. "Get out!" Ed cried, jerking the box out of reach. "This is my food old man!"

Mustang took to the recently opened bag of pretzels instead. "It's my money," he said. Ed watched Mustang fist a few pretzels with mounting annoyance. "If you want things so bad, go get a job," Mustang teased, eating with one hand and driving with the other.

Ed held his box of cookies with a scornful glare before using the box to indicate Mustang. "I am not looking forward to living with you Mustang.

"Yeah," Mustang snorted. "And I am so thrilled." He finished off the pretzels and glanced at Fullmetal. Ed was sitting in food, but the boy gave him an understanding nod with a bit of relief it was a mutual disgust.

"So just let me do what I am supposed to do, and stay out of my room, okay?" Ed asked, before looking over with a bit of alarm. "I get my own room, right?"

Mustang shot Ed a look of disappointed annoyance. Oh the stupidity of the question. It could be no other way between them. What was this, a sleepover?

"Of course."

"Good," Ed said, sounding pleased and reassured. Ed slouched down and propped his feet on the dash board before depositing the bag of pretzels in his lap. Wearing old jeans fraying at the bottom with slightly faded grass stained sneakers, Ed looked positively domestic.

Mustang considered these 'casual' clothes. Clothing he'd never seen Ed wear in the office. It hadn't occurred to him until now, although he knew it would be true, that Ed owned outfits aside from tight black leather ensembles, and that within them Ed would look more like a child to him than a soldier. Sitting now in a red sweatshirt bunched about the chicken thin legs Ed had sprayed outward about his food and collecting crumbs from Ed's chewing mouth, Mustang envision this version of Fullmetal as the Fullmetal that would have been. The boy Edward would be growing into if he hadn't committed mass taboo, lost an arm and a leg, and joined the military before knowing the true definition, and very wonderful meaning of words like: keg, clit, and, jimmy. This was Edward Elric growing up in a small town with a small family and being happy. Going to school, getting a job, meeting a local girl, and having some children in a life not built around slaughter, political treachery, and weapons. This was Edward untouched by everything that had slammed into his life like a fist to his jaw.

Mustang found himself startled, shaken, and almost taken back with this sudden double take on the boy who had been in front of him since day one. This perspective of a young Edward was not one Mustang liked to consider. Yes, he knew Edward was young. He heard the wise cracks and complaints from the other solders who felt it was uncomfortable, inappropriate, and hysterical Ed used the same locker room as they did and showered along side of them when his head was sometimes, as they put it, 'at the perfect height.' He was well aware when speaking to Ed if he started using 'that' tone, and pointing too often, that Hawkeye gave him 'the look' which indirectly meant she thought less force was needed in a situation where he was used to, and enjoyed, applying force.

In the passenger side Edward was eating and drinking happily, as the boy had been for most of the trip, and Mustang felt the startling and uneasy sense he could literally see Edward changing in his chair. For a good twenty minutes of the initial drive they had discussed military level tactical maneuvers and mission objectives for the next few days, and Edward had seemed like another soldier. Then after forty minutes Ed became inquisitive and played with the car's knobs, become slightly excited when they passed cows, and Mustang felt like he was saddled with a child.

It was always this back and forth. This extreme in exchange for another extreme. So this was the closest Mustang had come to catching a glimpse of his life if he too had not caught wind of the military, grown up someplace quiet, perhaps married her, and had a son. This was what his life might be like on the road, where his priorities consisted of fixing roofs and helping people with homework. It would not be all war and political competition. It would not be his seemingly endless struggle to the top seated along Edward's seemingly endless struggle to find peace for him and his brother.

"Roy?" Ed startled Mustang from his thoughts as thoroughly as if he pulled a plug. "What's wrong?" Ed asked, sounding annoyed.

Mustang glanced over quickly. Ed was frowning at him, chewing diligently with his legs blanketed in opened food. "What do you mean?" Mustang asked innocently.

"Why are you so quiet?" Ed asked, after swallowing most of the bulge in his face so he could speak. "And you were looking at me. I know you were. I am a foot away from you Roy, I know when you're looking at me," Ed said, lifting his tone with curiosity. "What is it?"

Mustang sighed, he couldn't share his musings. Sometimes you actually required twenty or so additional years before the contemplation of what life had done to you could take effect, but he had other topics they needed to discuss. "In order for this to work we need to cooperate a little more," he said kindly. His previous frustration had faded, and he had reached Hawkeye's level of patience for the time being.

"I am cooperating." Ed was instantly defensive. "I am in this car, aren't I? I brought clothes, left my brother, didn't I?" Ed asked, heavily insulted these feats were going ignored.

Mustang rolled his eyes. Yes, Alphonse and the sorrows of leaving him behind. "I mean between us Fullmetal," he said, looking over. Ed was back in his bag of chips crunching away. "I think we should try and relax a bit more. Think of this as a vacation," he said optimistically.

Ed shoved the chip bag to he floor and wiped his hands down the thighs of his jeans. "Can you pull over?"

"What?" Mustang asked with surprise. He felt slighted his honest attempt to bond hadn't even been noticed.

"Can you pull over?" Ed repeated. "I have to piss." Ed grasped the door handle and looked to Mustang expectantly.

"You couldn't have gone ten minutes ago?" Mustang slowed, slapping the blinker with irritation. "We just stopped!"

"I didn't have to go then!" Ed snapped. "Now are you gonna pull over? Cause I gotta go!"

Ed was grumbling under his breath when Mustang drove to the shoulder. The pavement became gravel and briefly the sound made Mustang remembered driving along the beach as he slowed the car. Not yet to a complete stop, Fullmetal hopped out. They were the only car on the desolate country road, and the sun was sinking toward the horizon when Ed ran out into the open field and stopped by a patch of wild flowers. Mustang watched Ed widen his stance and mess with his pants before the boy was pissing.

This was ridiculous. Mustang looked to the clock and became annoyed he could not even manage a four hour car ride without pit stops. He had never wanted to have children. This was a nuisance, they were a nuisance, and it was not only slowing him down, but costing him money. Ridiculous.

Ed jogged back to the car and climbed in happily. "Okay?" Mustang asked, emphasizing his agitation.

Ed slouched down in his seat and propped his feet back onto the dash board. With a casual wave forward Ed picked up the bag of pretzels and pushed a handful into his mouth. "Okay. Drive," Ed said, chewing.

In the dark, in the car, it was harder to read the map than he had anticipated, and Mustang wound up lost several times. Fortunately for him there were no witnesses because shortly after the sun went down Fullmetal fell asleep in his chair. Ed was old cold with his head slumped into his right shoulder, his legs curled into the cushion, and most of him still buried in snacks.

Mustang was left in silence. Alone his mind wandered more, and he added forty minutes of I-Am-Not-Sure-Where-I-Am before pulling into a decently sized brick house. It was fairly expensive and middle class, but not dramatically so. They wouldn't attract any attention. With a driveway on the left, the house had minimal landscaping, and a small front porch. Several inside lights had been left on for them, and Mustang looked over the exterior several times before turning to his professional backup.

Ed was snoring.

Mustang knocked the bag of pretzels aside and gave Ed's leg a nudge. "Fullmetal?" He had half a mind to leave the boy in the car. Mustang nudged a bit harder but Ed slept through his prodding without the slightest twitch. "Fine," Mustang snapped. He left the car and locked it behind him. He would admit he felt a bit nervous without any men in a strange community. In Central they were a phone call away, never more than twenty minutes, and then of course there was her. Out here they were infiltrating, and the peaceful setting was unsettling. You could not live on the battlefield and then transition to a suburban neighborhood easily. No matter what, and against your desires, you looked for danger, instinctively, you looked for war.

Roy unlocked the front door with his gun tucked under his thin sweater and jacket. Inside the house was modestly furnished and the heat was on and running. It was a basic town house design with the stairs immediately greeting you and the living room to your left. The kitchen was in the back and Mustang found this dressed with light green tiles, and white cabinets. It was stocked with dishes and provisions, but the refrigerator was empty. All in all Mustang considered the kitchen rather girly, and did not like it. The room was rectangular, dissected by a barstool counter which split the room from the kitchen to the breakfast area which held large sliding glass doors into the yard. These doors would be the worst for them without shades, and he made mental note to make sure guests stayed out of the kitchen at night when it would be so easy for the outside world to see in.

The remainder of the house was covered with a casual gray carpet which ran right up the stairs and throughout the upstairs hall. The design of the second floor was just as simple placing the full bath at the right and both bedrooms to the left. With disappointment Mustang found the bathroom imitating the kitchen's design, but it was stocked with soap, shaving crème, razors, and shampoo for them. Overall the amount of trim and soft white was reduced and this allowed it to be acceptable.

Both bedrooms were furnished with a bed and dresser. The larger Mustang found fashioned for him with fake pictures of a smiling blonde who was his false wife from which he had separated, and one of a young boy who he guessed was supposed to be Fullmetal at an age when the boy may have been tolerable and even nice. Fullmetal's room had several posters up. Three were music bands and one had Mustang laughing even as he shut the light off and left the tiny square room. The poster was a busty shot of a very pretty blonde wearing only the trademark H Havoc had scribbled near her cheek and one wet tee shirt. Mustang found this fantastic. She was hung on the back wall to be easily noticeable, so aside from the small twin bed, book bag, school books, and large shopping bag Mustang curiously peeked into; she was by far the best thing in the room.

After this welcomed laugh Mustang left to fetch his accomplice: the esteemed Fullmetal Alchemist who slept through the passenger side door opening and was drooling down his face.

"Fullmetal?" Mustang tried to keep his irritation from his voice. He gave Ed's shoulder a single jab and the boy's eyes cracked open in a groggy daze. "You're drooling." He pointed to the string of it and Ed wiped it away with his sleeve while sitting up. Ed inhaled slowly and stretched his flesh arm toward the dashboard while looking at the lit house.

"That our house?" Ed asked, bringing his flesh hand to his chest and scratching lazily. Mustang reached in and unbuckled the boy before lifting the bag of pretzels and chips off him. Ed ignored this and slid out once free of the food. Mustang tossed it back in angrily.

"Let's move in," Mustang said, leaving the passenger side open and walking to the trunk. Ed followed slowly rubbing his face and waking gradually as if he had hibernated his way four hours from Central.

"Don't eat my food," Ed ordered, pulling his duffle from the trunk and waiting while Mustang retrieved his suitcase. Mustang found this order ridiculous and locked the trunk before walking toward the house with an outstretched arm pointing toward the open passenger side door. Ed rushed to it and grabbed his snacks. "Roy? Did you hear me!" Ed called, loading his arms before hurrying along. "They're mine and I want to eat them."

Mustang entered the tiny colonial and left up the stairs. A hot shower after the drive sounded wonderful.

Ed came in over the threshold and stopped with a bit of shock. "You…" Ed muttered, planted in the open doorway and staring inward as though intruding. "…you don't even want to investigate the downstairs first!"

Mustang tossed his suitcase onto his bed, and called out, "Already did!"

He could hear Fullmetal trekking through the downstairs before the front door slammed and Ed was taking the stairs two at a time. Mustang opened his provided dresser and began transferring clothing when Ed arrived in the upstairs hall. The boy went left first and then was backtracking after that wrong turn into the bathroom.

Ed found his bedroom and Mustang heard the snacks drop to the boy's feet before Ed was stomping forward and tearing paper off the wall. Mustang was laughing quietly with a bit of giddy excitement he remembered from his college days before Ed even made it to the provocative poster. Somehow now in the world of adults this seemed dangerously close to inappropriate Code of Conduct and Sexual Harassment Mumbo-Jumbo, he should not encourage as the boss, but he doubted Ed had linked it all together. Young boys embarrassed by naked tits hardly ever realized they could report that they were.

Mustang was almost entirely unpacked when Ed appeared in his doorway holding up the shreds.

"I think this is yours," Ed said, looking annoyed and deterred they actually took the time and effort to play pranks while off base. "I thought I was working with adults on this mission." Mustang laughed, and Ed's expression tightened with annoyance. "Yes. Ha. Ha." Ed dropped the shreds to his feet and left.

Mustang had brought minimal casual clothing for around the house, and professional but average quality dress apparel. Although they were supposed to be financially stable enough to afford sending Edward to this school, he had seen other soldiers go through a divorce and knew what it could do to your wallet. As a result he wanted to look appropriately respectable, but not so high class he was easily remembered or stood out. His dress would allow him to transition smoothly from the town, work, and school inconspicuously.

"Fullmetal!" Mustang called, unsure where Ed wandered to. "There should be an alarm clock in your room." Mustang pushed all of his socks into his top drawer waiting for a response. When he received none he continued. "Set it so you can be up at seven!" He slid his empty suitcase under his bed and left in search of the boy. Ed's bedroom door was closed and Mustang knocked politely before cracking the door. "Fullmetal?" In the middle of the boy's room was a pile of snacks. Dropped a foot away was a fully packed duffle bag, and on the bed, stomach down and sprawled out, Ed was dead asleep.

On top of the covers.

In his clothes.

Mustang frowned in disgust and added 'on top of the covers' and 'sleeping in clothes' to his list of why he would never have children. This would be reason number two and three. Number one he'd already discovered and explored heavily with the boy and it was 'backtalk.'

Thank you for reading the first chapter! I hope you enjoyed it! (Please leave a review if you can). My profile will contain a current log of my posting activity and upcoming stories if you like my work. Please feel free to check it out, I am honored you stopped to read, and hope I can keep you coming back for more. : )