Dedicated to little-star14 :) Thanks for the request! **hug**

The cover art for this fan fiction can be found by going to my DA page of my profile page up top in the little clicky-click area ;) Just follow the linkkkk!

It began as any other day.

There was a festival in the heart of the city on this particularly warm April afternoon, and the residents of Central couldn't have been more enthusiastic. The wild laughter and shouts of the younger children filled the streets as they ran and played together in between the make-shift vendors, being sure not to disturb their parents as they admired the crafts at each stall. The world outside was happy. There were no wars to be fought, no outstanding criminals in need of capture... nothing in particular to suggest that this day could change two alchemists' lives forever.

In fact, the small office on the second floor of Central Military Headquarters was bustling with quite an unusual surge of activity. As the Second Lieutenants, Breda and Havoc, bustled around sorting paperwork for their superior officers, the other members of Mustang's team were preoccupied in their own share of responsibilities: the young sergeant hurriedly answering phone calls and jotting down information, the grey-haired warrant officer haunched over his desk, scribbling down the last of his preliminary report while wiping the sweat from his brow, and the First Lieutenant trying her best to keep the piece in the side office of one Roy Mustang.

"What the hell are you trying to do, Mustang?" The angry blonde slammed his flesh hand down on the desk, causing a few of the papers to listlessly float down to the floor from its surface. His eyes blazed with an undying hate for the placid colonel seated before him, elbows resting on the desk with his gloved hands folded calmly under his nose, hiding the growing smirk from the other occupants of the room.

"Whatever are you referring to, my dear subordinate?" The hidden amusement on his face laced itself in Mustang's tone, only serving to increase the anger boiling through the seething teenager on the opposite side of the mahogany surface.

"You know damn well what I'm 'referring to'!" Edward mocked, before returning his heated glare to his CO. "Why do keep throwing these worthless missions on me? If you don't have anything important for me to do, then at least give me the satisfaction of using your face as my next sparring partner! 'Investigation of a Series of Armed Threats at Kutherton'? What the hell is that?! Did I become a street cop without my knowledge, or do you just enjoy fucking with me?"

"I assure you, Fullmetal, that these smaller threats are of upmost importance to our countries security. If I had anything on the Stone, you know full well that you would be the first to know." The raven haired man slowly stood from his leather chair and walked to the front of his desk, forcing the teen to back up a few steps at his advancement. When Mustang leaned back against the wood, Edward once again squared his shoulders in defiance. "Unfortunately, nothing has come up for some time... And I'm a busy man. You can't just expect me to whip up some fantastic adventure for you because you tell me you're bored. I have more important things to worry about, much bigger than yourself."


"I don't think I'll ever tire of your childish over-exaggerations, Fullmetal... I suppose that's a perk to keeping you around." The older man laughed at the restrained growl he received in response.

"Damn it, Mustang! Stop treating me like a goddamn kid!" The Colonel seemed indifferent to the youth's outburst and once more stood tall and advanced towards the blonde. No sooner had Edward taken his first backpedalled step, that his knee bumped into the green leather sofa and he found that he was trapped.

"I will stop treating you like a 'kid' only when you start behaving as an adult, Edward." Mustang's breath was hot as it fanned over the boy's face, but the younger alchemist refused to show any trepidation. He stared defiantly back up at his CO, waiting for the older man to finally back off, his eyes glinting dangerously in the sunlight streaming in from the bay window.

A knock sounded at the door, and Lieutenant Hawkeye rushed over to answer it, the threat of her gun suddenly feeling useless and small in the tense office with the arguing alchemists.

"Colonel Mustang, sir!" Warrant Officer Vato Falman entered the room, stiffly saluting as he passed through the doorway and eyes the uncomfortable scene before him. The Colonel leaned back from the blonde an inch and looked over to the new arrival.

"Falman. What do you have for me?" The Flame Alchemist replaced himself in his chair and sat down behind his desk, acting as though the teenager was no longer in the room. Vato strode over to the Colonel, rambling as he walked.

"Sir, we've located the facility used in the abandoned chimera research. One of our lower-ranking officers stumbled upon it this morning and reported that the research was not as 'abandoned' as we had anticipated. Apparently, the chimeras that he witnessed couldn't have been transmuted too long ago, as most were still alive in their confines without any visible food or water source..."

"And the alchemist involved in the transmutations?"

"Gone, sir. As you expected." Mustang let out a long, drawn-out sigh as he contemplated hitting his head against the wooden surface of the desk. However, as he felt this would only serve to worsen his growing headache, he refrained from this form of self-injury and instead watched his subordinates with calculating eyes, hiding behind his authoritative mask.

"... Chimeras?" The Colonel raised his eyes to glance at the mass of gold and red standing before him. He had almost completely forgotten that the Fullmetal boy was still in the room. Of course, he hadn't heard about the recent case, a supposedly abandoned chimera research lab just beyond the Central border, as he had been away on his own suedo-missions. Roy dismissively returned his eyes to the tall officer, ignoring the teenager completely.

"Are the chimeras healthy? Or at least in good shape?" The warrant officer raised a sharp brow at the flame colonel.

"From what I understand, sir, ten of the fourteen are still very much alive... Malnourished, but otherwise healthy. Also-"

"-There's more?" Mustang sighed again, massaging his temples. Falman appeared temporarily flustered, as though he wasn't certain it would be in his best interest to continued, but pressed on nonetheless.

"Yes, sir. The report indicates, sir, that there may be a human chimera somewhere amongst the mess, though I'm not sure I believe that... Private Nowack claims that he stumbled upon a young boy in the lab, with the ears and tail of a black lab." Mustang's interest immediately piqued.

"Well, then... This changes things a bit doesn't it?" The Colonel placed his chin atop the web of his interlaced fingers, and smirked confidently at the other three occupants of the room. "Lieutenant Hawkeye."

"Sir!" Her military training kicked in and she immediately straightened her back, standing at attention with her right arm poised in a respectful salute.

"Rally the men. Inform them that they will all be taking a short field trip with me tomorrow to investigate the recent developments on this case. I expect all five members of my team at the Central train station bright and early to catch the first train out of here. The sooner we leave, the sooner we'll return... Hopefully, with a human chimera in our custody." Hawkeye blinked, and Falman voiced her confusion at the Colonel's statement aloud.

"Five, sir? Don't you mean six?" Calmly, the alchemist sighed, unlocking his fingers and bringing his right fist up to rest on his jaw while his left mindlessly picked up a pen and tapped it against the wood.

"No, Falman. I meant what I said. Fullmetal will not be joining us." The resulting explosion rocked the small office, causing the Warrant Officer to duck behind the couch for shelter from the raging blonde ball of alchemic fury.

"WHAT?!" Edward stalked over to the desk, looking as though he was prepared to kill, and slapped his palms down on the desk. The force of his steel automail hand on the polished wood was enough to cause the surface to splinter and crack slightly under its weight. Mustang eyed the cracking wood, the amusement from earlier now completely gone from his expression.

"How can you say that?! This case obviously revolves around human transmutation and you said that I would be allowed free reign when it came to this shit! How can you sit there and take that all back?!" Mustang raised an eyebrow, shifting his gaze from the ruined desk surface to his livid subordinate. He could scarcely remember a time when he had seen the boy so angry, not that it was a rare occurance for him to blow up over the tiniest things... But he couldn't an instance where Fullmetal literally appeared to be retraining himself from throttling the man before him.

"This is not a job for children, Fullmetal. You are under my command, and as such, you will follow my orders without argument. Do I make myself clear?" Apparently not, as the boy continued to rant and rage about in front of his desk.

"But I know more about this kind of stuff than anybody else in the military, you bastard! I took over Tucker's research remember? I decoded his notes! I can help you, damn it! You can't even look passed your own agenda to see that you need me for this case! I can't believe you're still treating me like a goddamn child!"

"ENOUGH!" Mustang abruptly stood from his chair, mirroring Edward's position and placing his face less than an inch from the other's face, their noses almost touching. "I'll repeat what I said earlier, Major." He spat the boy's title out as an insult, reminding him of his place. "You are a child as long as you refuse to act like an adult. You're staying here. End of discussion." Each word from the Flame Alchemist's mouth dripped with venom. He was done with this conversation... done with the stupid child who could never seem to learn his place. Calming himself down, he righted himself and walked to the window, anticipating the slam of the door on Edward's way out of the office. He was wrong... as he always was.

"No." The Colonel jerked violently as though he had been slapped.

"No?" Edward stood his ground, though the Colonel hadn't moved from his spot at the window, and calmly continued after a deep breath.

"No." He repeated calmly, causing Mustang to swiftly turn around and glare at him, looking about ready to openly slap him where he stood. He continued before his CO could open his mouth to yell. "You want me to act like an adult, right?... Well, here's me following your orders, sir. I'm genuinely sorry for my earlier behavior. I know that it was childish and wrong on my part and I accept full responsibility for my actions. However, this case means more to me than you know... And, as I possess the necessary knowledge to be useful to you in this situation, I kindly ask you to reconsider your decision, sir." With a slight hesitation, Edward bent at the waist and bowed as deeply as he dared. "Please take me with you."

The office settled into a shocked silence at Edward's submissive display, each of the three adults staring at the child's respectfully held position. Falman suddenly felt the need to sit in the couch he had before hidden himself behind, startled at Edward's sudden change in behavior. The first Lieutenant appeared to be very concerned, brown eyes reflecting her worry as she stared at the boy before her. Mustang, himself, was speechless. He narrowed his eyes in suspicion, dubious of the teenager's intentions and half-believing the boy to be mocking him. His tone, however, had been nothing but sincere... and Mustang had felt the unwillingness with which he had performed the display.

"... At ease, Fullmetal." The boy instantly straightened his back, flashing a brief salute at the Colonel before standing normally again, though his posture appeared a bit straighter. Mustang narrowed his eyes again at his subordinate, his suspicion quickly rising.

"What are you playing at?" Edward appeared irrefutably startled by this accusation, pouting his lip out at the realization that the Colonel thought it was some sort of game to him.

"I only want to provide my assistance with this case in any way that I can, and use our findings to further my own research... And, in all honesty, you won't even know what to do with the human chimera once you actually find him... If you do find him, and that's a big 'if', he's not going to just come quietly... You'll need me for that."

"And what makes you feel as though you are better qualified to deal with this creature any more than the other members of my team?" Edward visibly flinched at the term 'creature', and struggled to come up with an answer for his CO. The true answer was on the tip of his tongue... But there was no way he could admit that out loud in such an open military setting. Even if they had been alone, Edward would never tell Roy Mustang, of all people, what continually ate at him day after day...

"Nina." He resolved. Mustang faltered for a moment, his calm exterior flickering to pity before being replaced by his mask once more.

"Alright, Fullmetal, you win." Edward barely contained his look of happiness as he danced around the office in victory.

"Thanks, Mustang! You won't regret this, I promise!" He yelled as he raced out the door and into the hallway before the man could change his mind. Roy shook his head with a small smile and seated himself in his chair, focusing on the paperwork in front of him, and began signing away with a newfound fervor.

By chance, Fullmetal had been right: Mustang wouldn't regret this decision for a single second the remainder of his life.