Author's Note: I now have a lovely beta reader, Riza's Cupcakes! (also rizascupcakes on tumblr, so go follow her!) Thanks to her, my grammar and flow is perfected, so hopefully I haven't missed anything in my revisions she sent me.

Also: thank you wonderful readers for your reviews! 100+! Wow! I'm really so honored that you all have stuck with this for as long as you have, and I appreciate each and every one of you.

PART III — Charity

Chapter XIV: Protection

Edward, Alphonse, and Breda sat silent in the train car. Pleasantries had been exchanged upon arriving at Resembool as well as departing the morning after, but each could find nothing to say to the others during the ride. Perhaps it was their way of coping.

Ed stared out the window into the dark night, hair tied in its old braid, chin resting on his hand.

Snap. Crack. CrackBOOM. Snap. Crack. CrackcrackBOOM.

His head was filled with the sounds and visions of Mustang's alchemy, streaks of orange and blue twirling around each other and exploding in front of his eyes. He thought back to the first time he'd seen the unique transmutation.

It was three weeks since he'd passed the State Alchemist exam, and though the weight of getting his and Al's bodies back had settled heavily on his shoulders, he was still high off of the pride in being the youngest qualified State Alchemist. He'd been placed under Mustang's jurisdiction, but that was okay, since he rarely saw the man during the weeks anyway; the bastard always sent them away to remote towns on what he liked to call "clean up duty."

One day, after returning from such a mission, they found the Colonel's office nearly empty, except for Hawkeye, Fuery, and Breda. Noticing that it was still during prime work hours, Ed demanded to see Mustang, loudly complaining that his superior officer was slacking off on the job, making him do busywork, and only saw him and Al as more puppets to play with. No one had said a word to interrupt him, and when he was done, Hawkeye stood up. With a stern face and quick step, she motioned them to follow her. Ed rolled his eyes. "Mustang's babysitter," he thought. She led them through the long main hallway and outside to the enormous arena and pointed. "I don't need practice, Hawkeye. I'm–" But she shook her head and continued pointing. He turned to look.

Mustang was there in the arena, uniform jacket tossed to the side and sweating as he jumped and rolled from place to place in between targets. Fire seemed to be burning in small blazes all around the arena, sending up gray smoke, and little explosions would go off every now and then all over the place. "Is he crazy? Is he trying to get burned?" Ed scoffed. Was his commanding officer an adrenaline-junkie? "Yo, Mustang! Careful not to set yourself on fire. I'd be sooooo heartbroken!" He jumped the small concrete barrier and casually strolled to his panting superior, not caring that Hawkeye and Al were calling after him.

Hearing the sound, Mustang whipped around and swept a hand up, a fierce look on his face and his eyes narrowed. They softened as he recognized the boy.

Ed stopped a few meters away, surprised. "Whoa, whoa, whoa it's just me, Mustang," he said, his own hands up. As the words left his mouth, he noticed Mustang's raised hand was gloved and he looked ready to…snap his fingers? He laughed. "You were gonna snap at me, Mustang?" He snapped his own fingers, jumping around and sticking out his tongue. "God, if I'd known that, I wouldn't have been–"

It all happened in the miniscule space of a second. Ed saw the Colonel's gloved hand swing down in front of him, heard the distinct sound of something snapping, and the ground a few meters behind him exploded into flames; the inferno was out a few moments later.

Ed yelped. "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!" He looked accusingly at Mustang, who had eased his stance and smiled smugly.

"A lesson." He grinned and started to walk towards the middle of the arena where two dummies, a large one and a small one, stood. "Never engage your opponent unless you know the full extent of his abilities," he droned.

"What did you just attack me with? Hidden bombs? Grenades? What are you even doing out here anyway?" Ed yelled. "This arena is for alchemists only, Mustang. This is where the big boys play," he said pompously, trying to downplay the fact that he'd been scared out of his pants.

"I didn't attack you with any machines, Fullmetal. I'm surprised it took you this long to notice. I also happen to be an alchemist." Mustang's back was still to Ed, but he stopped walking and raised a gloved hand so Ed could get a closer look. A fairly simple-looking transmutation circle was carefully stitched onto the back in red embroidery.

"What?! You? Lemme see that!" He tried to snatch at Mustang's hand, but the Colonel brought it out of his reach.

"And what do you say, Fullmetal?" Mustang waved his hand out of Ed's reach again.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Ed jumped.

"Ah ah ah." Mustang grinned. "What is the magic word, Fullmetal?"

"You BASTARD LET. ME. SEE!" Ed clapped his hands and a spike of earth shot up near Mustang's foot.

Mustang dodged out of the way, anticipating the cheap move, and snapped again, exploding the ground near Ed's hands this time.

"What–" Another column of flame rose up to his left, dangerously close to lighting his red cloak.

"The magic word, Fullmetal. Or the next one ignites your precious hair."

The dust cleared and Ed saw Mustang's figure in front of him, ready to snap again.

"Fine, bastard. We'll do it your way," Ed muttered. "Please."

"Please what?" Mustang smirked.

"I already said it!"

"Please what?"

"You…! Fine. Please, sir," Ed grumbled.

"Thank you."


Mustang ignored the expletives and stripped off his glove, handing it to Ed. "You are never allowed to take these from my desk, office, wherever I keep them. NEVER. Or I will report you to the higher-ups for stealing from your superior," Mustang said, all playfulness gone. "You wouldn't be able to activate the circle anyway."

Ed studied it. It was just a circle and some triangles. Really? That was it? He tossed the glove back to Mustang, unimpressed. "Eh, sure fine, whatever. What's your field? Solid matter combustion?" He expected to hear something rather elementary, since it looked like Mustang's particular alchemy wasn't exactly graceful or useful, except in combat.

"Gases," Mustang answered shortly and replaced his glove.

Ed struggled to keep his jaw from crashing into the dirt in astonishment. Mustang worked with gases? Mustang? His specialty was gases? Well, that would explain the massive explosions of fire, Ed thought, recalling his chemistry. Transmute a path of…something flammable through the air to the target and…was that how it worked? "Gases?" he repeated weakly.

"Yes, Fullmetal. Don't underestimate me." Mustang approached the two dummies.

Ed stood rooted to the ground, and looking around the arena, shook himself from disbelief. He'd have to ask about it later, a crowd was beginning to form around the edges of the circular court. "What are you doing here anyway? Aren't you supposed to be on duty?"

"Practicing defense." Mustang pointed to the two dummies he stood in front of, and for the second time that day, Ed's mouth dropped open. "Cut that out, Fullmetal, it's very unbecoming."

The dummies were makeshift representations of himself and Al. "That's me," he said dumbly.

"Fantastic deduction, Fullmetal." Mustang tapped the larger dummy. "Ever since you two were placed under me, I've had to practice conducting the ignition paths around your bodies to different targets. Your heights, masses, and body compositions are too different from the rest of my team's, and I'm not used to protecting…children. And since one of you is so large and the other is so…" he trailed off, eying Ed's height. "Short."

"DON'T CALL ME SHORT! I'M NOT SHORT!" Ed bellowed, face turning red.

Ed smiled at the memory. He had been something close to short all those years ago.

He remembered that day vividly: he had asked Mustang about his specialty days later, and he had balked at the answer, skeptical that Colonel Mustang, of all people, was capable of bending the most difficult state of matter to his will with such ease. An alchemy lesson from his times with Izumi Curtis flashed across his brain: "Elemental alchemy is some of the hardest to master. When it comes to transmuting the different states of matter, the pure solids are the easiest, then the liquids and most fluids, and finally, the gases. Because the atoms in solid matter mostly stay in a conserved space, relatively speaking, they are the most straightforward to work with. Liquids are a little harder because the particles are more mobile than in solids, forcing alchemists to concentrate on just trying to find a straight pathway for their transmutation. Gases are the most difficult to master since the atoms have such erratic pathways and aren't easily contained. Finding a straight and reliable pathway to your target is virtually impossible. Precision and flexibility are a must when working with gases, and only attempt to transmute them if you have no other choice. Miscalculation can be deadly and can result in rebounds, even if your calculations are just the slightest bit incorrect. We will not be working with any gases from now on, and don't let me catch you trying!"

Mustang had stated that he only worked with gases, transmuting them into their component elements and igniting the pure oxygen or hydrogen by creating a spark with his "ignition gloves" he'd called them.

"Pyrotex ignition cloth, Fullmetal. I stitch the circle onto the gloves myself."

For a twelve year old, Ed had hidden his admiration pretty well, forcing it behind a look of aloofness and skepticism. Like he'd let Mustang catch him admiring him. Hah! Yeah right. The truth was he still admired Mustang for his obvious perseverance that allowed him to master the gases.

Ed remembered asking Mustang time and time again to teach him how to transmute gases and the basics to Flame Alchemy ("I'm a prodigy, Mustang. I'm sure I can handle it") but Mustang had always refused, saying it was too dangerous and that he didn't have the time ("I was considered a prodigy too, you know, Fullmetal, but we can't all get our way.") To that, Ed had retorted back, saying that if Mustang was being such an ass about it, then he'd go and look for the damn research himself. Mustang had laughed and told him to go on and look, but he'd never find the research anywhere. After finding Ed going through his desk one day, Mustang had scolded him like a child that had lied, and said to him darkly, "The secret to Flame Alchemy lies with me and one other person, and will not be shared with anyone for as long as we both shall live. Do not ask me again." A deadly spark had flashed across Mustang's usually calm eyes, and Ed had never dared to bring up the subject afterward.

He absentmindedly snapped his own fingers at his reflection on the window, still reflecting about the day he found out about Flame Alchemy. Perhaps the most emotionally terrifying part of that day was when he had seen the two dummies that had been made to look like him and Al's suit of armor. I've had to practice conducting the ignition paths around your bodies…I'm not used to protecting children he remembered Mustang saying. Protecting children. Though Ed had shrugged it off that day, he sighed now, realizing what Mustang had really said to him then: You and Al are under my protection and I will not hesitate to burn anyone if they threaten you. Again, the word FATHER pounded itself on the inside of his skull.

Ed leaned back, slamming his back against the wooden train seat.

"Are you okay, brother?" Al looked toward him and cocked his head, gold bangs falling out of his face.

"Fine, Al. Just thinking." Ed pulled at the tail of his braid, wishing the train ride was over. Hawkeye was expecting them, and the delay at one of the train stops had made them late by at least a half hour. "You remember when we first saw Colonel Bastard's Flame Alchemy, Al?"

Al smiled lightly. "You were jealous." He turned his head to face his older brother. "And you kept trying to do it yourself. You failed miserably." Al chuckled behind a hand.

"I asked if you remembered the first time we saw it, Al. Not how I was…obsessed with the transmutation." Ed frowned and harrumphed.

"Okay, okay!" Al laughed. "Of course I do. It was pretty amazing. Teacher always told us that gases were dangerous to transmute, but the Colonel, ah General, does it so effortlessly," he said thoughtfully.

Ed snickered. "Of course Teacher told us. We were just kids."

Breda smiled at the brothers in front of him and checked his watch. "We should be there soon. I'll call Hawkeye." He stood up and straightened his long brown jacket. "I'll be back."

Ed and Al nodded at the officer and turned back to each other. "I hope he's all right," Al said quietly and clasped his hands tightly in his lap. "He was kidnapped right after we left?"

Ed nodded. "That's what Hawkeye said. Mustang was shot in the chest twice, had surgery at the Resembool hospital, and kidnapped after they had left. Hawkeye thinks it's because of Flame Alchemy." He balled his hands into tight fists.

"She must feel awful," Al murmured.

Ed was silent, thinking about two days before when he had left Hawkeye's apartment.

"So the kidnappers want the secret to Flame Alchemy between June twenty-first and July twenty-second? That's what you think that message meant?" Al asked, his voice low.

"I'm pretty sure that's what it meant. Astrological signs aren't really used anymore except for dates," Ed confirmed and sighed. "We still have a little over a month."

Breda suddenly appeared behind Al, panting and his face red.

"Er…Breda? Is everyth–"

"Hawkeye!" Breda gasped out. "She's been taken captive!"

For the first time in three weeks, Roy woke peacefully. His eyes weren't clouded, his mind was sharp, and his injuries hadn't irritated him during the night. Though it was only the third day since he'd been medically treated and placed in this room, his wounds had healed at an astonishing rate, much quicker than a normal human's body would be capable of. How was his body doing this? He didn't know, and suspected the Crow may have had something to do with it. If the Crow had created another Homunculus, that meant he had had a Philosopher's Stone in his possession at one point. He still might.

The soft linen sheets fluttered around his body as he sat up, still weak from the torture wounds, and his eyes caught the familiar blue of his military uniform as he glanced around the room. It was folded correctly in the standard military way on top of the dresser next to his bed, and a note was attached to the front. My uniform! How did they get it? His mind raced as he remembered the hotel in Resembool, and he dragged a hand over his face. I'm such an idiot.

Frowning, he leaned forward and plucked the note off of the fabric. A neat hand had written: General Mustang, you will be escorted to the Dining Hall at 9:30 this evening. Wear the uniform.

Roy scoffed. The audacity. The nerve! He almost laughed out loud. So they were trying a different way of torture now! You jackasses. Like hell I will. He flicked his hand and the note dropped to the floor. You can all burn in hell. He sighed and attempted to stand, determined to regain his strength; his legs still ached, especially the left, which wasn't in a cast anymore, and as he put weight on his feet he felt the blood rush down to the wound.

Limping over to the dresser, he leaned on the rough wood and stared at his reflection in the mirror. Dark eyes stared back at him and examined his face: the bruises had fled, leaving his face pale and bony, and the small cuts had healed completely. His gaze traveled downward and he saw that his chest, though faintly scarred from the large staples, was the same: no bruises, no sign of any major injuries, just thin and pale. Frowning, he slowly turned around to study his back. How had he healed so quickly? The tattoo was still there, the blue-black ink standing out against the skin, and he exhaled, satisfied. Riza. Lieutenant. He wondered what she was doing now. If I ever get back…

His back had taken most of the rough beatings during Macer's torture, but there were hardly any signs that that had been the case; long lines from the whip and chains covered his back, but they were fully healed as well. What is going on? I shouldn't be healing this fast! The large angry red burn wound on his right abdomen and lower back was still present, and as he kneaded his skin there, he felt that his ribs had been completely mended and the knife wounds closed.

Roy dropped onto the edge of the bed and sat in disbelief. I don't…know. I can't be doing this by myself. Does he have a Philosopher's Stone? He ran a hand through his black hair, suddenly stopping halfway through. His hands had been released from their bulky splints, and he noticed that his fingers were completely repaired. He rubbed his hands, testing out each finger. Can I perform alchemy? He smirked.

A pounding on the door snatched his attention though and he stood up rapidly, unsure who to expect. The door swung open and a small woman stepped through, lips pinched tight in a disapproving frown.

She held a gun in her hand. "You're to come with me, Mustang," she spat in an accent. "The Crow wants his son to join him for dinner." She kicked the door fully open.

"Yeah? Tell him to–"

The pistol cocked, and Roy found himself glaring down the muzzle. "You're to do as you're told, Mustang." She growled. "Don't make me use this."

Roy studied her. She didn't look incapable or frightened; in fact, she looked dead set on pulling the trigger. They wouldn't kill me now. Yet despite his pride and unwillingness to appease the Crow, he was a tiny bit curious as to what the old man might want. Old idiot.

"Fine, lady. Let me get dressed." Roy turned away from her, ignoring the gun. He wasn't afraid of the stupid things anyway (except in the hands of his Lieutenant) and he'd lost count of how many times they'd been pointed in his direction from criminals and insurgents. He snapped the uniform from its folds and slowly drew on the trousers, trying to be careful with his left leg, and feeling the weight of the material hang on his waist. It felt almost normal. One of his own dress shirts had been included in the bundle–Damn. What else did they fucking take?–and he tucked the hem into the waistline, the routine slowly becoming nostalgic.

"Hurry it up, Mustang," the woman snapped. "I haven't got all day."

Roy ignored the irritating woman and pulled on the jacket, medals and ribbons dangling on his breast. He fastened the buttons in front of the mirror, slowly drinking in his appearance. The epaulettes gleamed haughtily from his shoulders, the three stars polished to a shine. He straightened the jacket and tugged at the bottom of it, noticing that it didn't fit him quite as well as it used to and hung loosely on his thin body. Scowling, he tucked the hems of his trousers into his black boots and laced them tightly, still ignoring the complaints of Irritating Gun Woman.

"Done? Move your ass, Mustang," Irritating Gun Woman gestured with the pistol. "We're already late."

Roy said nothing and slowly walked past her out the door. It was the first time he'd been out of the room and he quickly took in his surroundings. Hallway, stone walls, easily transmutable, only one exit?

"Give me your hands, Mustang," the woman ordered, not lowering her pistol. Roy turned to meet her gaze and she held up a pair of metal cuffs. "Crow's orders. Apparently you're not trusted with your ability to perform circle-less alchemical transmutations."

Roy knitted his eyebrows together and reluctantly held up his wrists. The cold metal clapped on his skin like ice and he felt imprisoned again. Damn. So much for trying to escape this labyrinth.

After the cuffs had been tightened so he couldn't slip them off, he felt the pistol poke him in the back. "Move, Mustang!"

Choosing not to retort back, he slowly walked down the hallway, passing other armed men and women, who stopped to stare at him as he walked past. He kept his eyes focused on the hallway in front of him, steadily limping on the rough stone floor. With directions from Irritating Gun Woman–"Left here, Mustang. Right. Keep going past this room."–he eventually made his way to the Dining Hall and she shoved him through the double doors. The Crow stood at the close end of a long table, his hands crossed in front of him. Roy flashed a quick scan around the room, noting that though there was only one visible exit, the one he had just walked through, there was a small indentation in the far wall, outlining a small doorway.

Hidden passage. Wonder where that leads.

Floor to ceiling windows covered the wall to his left, and he didn't recognize the outside landscape. Aerugo his brain reminded him.

"Finally made it, General?" The Crow waved Irritating Gun Woman away. "Thank you Lyssa. We have some new recruits that need your help in the range."

Lyssa backed away from Roy and holstered her weapon. "Sir!" She inclined her head and left, scowling over her shoulder at Roy.

Roy stepped forward with his chin held high and a stoic face. He didn't acknowledge the Crow. New recruits? What is this place?

"Ah. Always the military man aren't you, son?" He circled Roy, examining the younger man. "Always so cool and collected. Always keeping it under control. Though I've heard you have quite the…fiery temper if prodded." He chuckled. "I'm afraid you got that from me. Your mother was the calm one."

Roy narrowed his eyes, but still kept silent. A sudden movement captured his attention and he spied two men, presumably some of these recruits, in the corners of the room. They moved slowly toward him and began to flank him.

He almost rolled his eyes. Amateurs. Can't you tell by my stance? My blind spot is behind me. Not at the sides. He thought of Riza. She would know.

"I'd say you've been thoroughly healed. Though that left leg still needs a little work. I'm sorry I haven't been as attentive to it as your other injuries. Macer did quite a number on it, didn't he?" The Crow stopped in front of him. "Why don't we sit down for dinner? I'm sure your body would appreciate the nourishment. I can't have my son looking like a corpse." He sat at the head of the far end of the table and two men brought out plates of food. "Finest in Aerugo, General. Sit down."

Roy heard the click of a gun near his head and slid his eyes toward the sound. A man glared at him from behind the weapon.

These people are really starting to aggravate me.

He took a seat to the side of the Crow, who was waiting patiently, and watched the older man suspiciously, waiting for some kind of trick. "I promise there is no type of poison in the food, General." And to prove his point, the Crow leaned over and took a bite from the plate in from of Roy. "I am not so heartless as to kill my own son."

"What's the catch?" Roy challenged, placing his cuffed hands on the table and straightening his back.

"No catch, General," the Crow stated calmly and began to eat. "Can't a father have a civil conversation with his son?"

"I'm not your son," Roy bit out. "And I've been handcuffed, as I'm sure you're well aware," he sneered.

"Of course you're my son. Where do you think you got your talent for alchemy?" The Crow looked at him with bright eyes. "I heard about how you passed your State Alchemist exam in 1905 at the age of nineteen. The youngest person to ever pass." He almost sounded proud. "Until dear Edward Elric." He spat out the name venomously.

Roy clenched his teeth. He should have expected that Ed would be dragged into this somehow. "Leave Edward out of this. He has nothing to do with this."

The Crow glanced up from his food. "And what is the Fullmetal Alchemist to you, General? I've had word that he's returned from Xing from his honeymoon. I'm surprised he married so young," the Crow commented and shrugged his shoulders, forming creases in his black jacket. "You have my word that the Fullmetal Alchemist will not be harmed. I have no business with him." He continued to eat. "Unless he crosses me. Then we will have problems. And there will be nothing you can do to save him."

Roy lowered his head. Fullmetal. God I hope you're safe. "Fine." Roy knew full well that Ed wouldn't be able to sit still during whatever this lunatic had in mind.

If I ever get back, he and Winry must be taken somewhere safe. Safer.

"I insist you eat, General. You must keep up your strength." The Crow raised his eyebrows. "As for the handcuffs, I am sorry, but considering the circumstances of the past few days, I do not have the time to deal with your petty alchemy."

"Well, after two weeks of torture, you can't expect me to be perky," Roy retorted, hands still clenched on top of the table.

"Eat, General. Must I force you?" The Crow looked disinterested in beginning another argument.

Remembering Macer and his "mealtimes," Roy sarcastically admitted to himself that this was nicer. He picked up a fork awkwardly with a cuffed hand and slowly brought the food to his mouth, still unsure about whether it was poisoned or not.

After a few moments of utter silence, the Crow stopped eating and looked up at his son. "And how is my lovely sister? I haven't had word of her for many years."

Roy stopped eating and glared at the Crow. "She's fine. I don't know where she is at the moment," he said shortly.

It was true. He still received messages from Madame Christmas and she still provided him with covert information (though a bit erratically and not as often as before), but her whereabouts were unknown to him. He figured she would return to East City in her own time and hadn't pressed her about it. "What do you care?"

"I am grateful to her for taking you in, General. From the looks of it, you've become quite the gentleman." The Crow pushed his plate away and opened a large folder. "Your mother would be very proud at such a fine man you've made yourself to be."

Roy felt his heart tighten and he forced down the will to lash out at the older man again. How dare you talk about her!

"I do wonder why you aren't married yet though, son." The Crow flipped through pages in the folder and took some out, spreading them in front of him and still not looking up.

"It hasn't crossed my mind," Roy said through clenched teeth, his hand gripping the fork with white knuckles.

"A handsome young man like you surely attracts the attention of many young ladies. You certainly inherited your features from your mother." He chuckled. "Is it because you have already pledged yourself to someone?" The Crow looked up from his papers and looked expectantly at his son. "I don't see a ring on your hand, so perhaps not."

Roy stared, incredulous. Was this really just a stupid conversation about nothing? There has to be a catch.

"I haven't thought about marriage," Roy said flatly.

"I'm sure you have, General. You're thirty-four for God's sake." The Crow shrugged again. "But no matter. Eat, General."

Roy frowned at his hands and hesitantly continued to chew, swallow, chew, swallow, chew, swallow. He couldn't taste any bitterness that would give away most common chemical poisons, and he grudgingly admitted to himself that he was malnourished and needed the food. He continued to eat in silence, keeping his eyes on the Crow and the two men that had moved behind his own chair; both didn't have their weapons drawn, but their faces were hard with indignation and surveillance. It appeared he wouldn't be going anywhere unless the two morons behind him let him.

"Walk with me, General." The Crow stood when he noticed Roy had stopped eating.

The cold muzzle of a gun was placed between his shoulder blades. Sighing loudly, Roy heaved himself up from the chair, moving his previously broken leg with some difficulty. Using the chair for support, he managed to straighten but looked up to find himself face-to-face with the Crow. They were inches away from each other.

The Crow stared at Roy through dark eyelashes and his gaze dropped to his chest. His lips suddenly broke into a small grin. "Ah, may I?" Without waiting for an answer, touched the smallest of the three medals hanging on Roy's left breast. "The Eagle's Heart, I believe? For your outstanding performance in the Ishval Conflict perhaps? I believe it's the second highest below the Dragon's Ribbon." He smoothed the ribbon of the medal, fingering the ribbed cloth. His eyes swept over the three lines of service ribbons that were pinned proudly above the medals. "It's been years since I've seen these ribbons. I did not carry as many as you, General, but still, they bring back such…sentimental memories." He paused and turned away from Roy, clasping his hands behind his back. "And what did you do to be awarded these decorations, son?" he asked over his shoulder.

Roy said nothing. Ishval. Burning corpses. Bloodstained hands. Blistering heat. The dead. Flashes of stifling nightmarish memories ripped through his mind, and dropped his head, suddenly gasping for air. Pain. Fire. Death. Murderer.

The Crow whirled around, only to find Roy in the exact state as he was before, head held high, shoulders set, and back straight. Lifting an eyebrow, he motioned for Roy to walk with him over to the tall windows. "Aerugo, General. I'm sure this is the first time you've stepped out of your dear Amestris."

Roy stared out the window, slowly orienting himself. It was nighttime and an almost full moon gleamed from her place in the sky directly overhead. Outlines of small hills in the distance framed the landscape, and dozens of bright lamps had been lit in the large courtyard below where a group of fifty or so men and women, all dressed in the same gray shirt and navy pants, were standing at attention. From his place on the second floor, Roy could dimly make out the face of Lyssa—Irritating Gun Woman—pacing in front of the line of recruits, shouting out orders. What is this place?

"I'm sure you have questions as to who I am to these people, Roy," the Crow addressed him. "And I'll tell you."

The General felt the familiar cold muzzle against his back again. "Don't try anything stupid, Mustang," the man behind the gun growled.

"A leader of a group of people who will slowly tear down your Amestrian Empire from the inside out," the Crow continued. "Amestris took something dear of mine without pity or remorse, and I intend on taking it back." He observed the men and women below him. "And you, my son, will help me."

"You're insane," Roy said, incredulous at this stupid man's audacity.

"Am I?" the Crow queried.

"I won't help you," Roy ground out. "And I. Am not. Your son. You're a maniacal liar with an ego twice as big. You're insane," he repeated.

"Roy. Roy, Roy, Roy," the Crow sighed. "Stubborn as always." He turned to face the General. "And still so naïve. You will help me, willing or not. I'm afraid I have a bit of leverage over you right now, and you're in no place to refuse." He turned back to the window. "Your Flame Alchemy will be a valuable resource for me."

"You won't be getting it," Roy said as calmly as he could. He was beginning to feel hot and overwhelmed, and the Crow's requests were getting old. The sigil needs to be kept secret.

The Crow opened his mouth and the next two words struck Roy like a bolt of lightning.

"Riza Hawkeye."

He jerked violently and his eyes went dangerously dark. A thousand thoughts rippled through his head, each one ending in death. Lieutenant! How did they find out? She's safe. She's safe. The team is safe. Did they find her? No. He thought back to Fuhrer King Bradley.

It's happening again.

"Riza Hawkeye." The Crow smiled maliciously. "I received a very informative phone call yesterday from Ania. Apparently Master Berthold Hawkeye did not have a son, like I had previously assumed, but a daughter." He straightened his collar on his long neck, still grinning. "Quite the fair young woman she is, son. Quite attractive."

Roy clenched his fists until he could feel the skin break. I can't let this happen again! "And what do you think she is to me?" he asked slowly.

"Considering that you wear her dog tag, and that you've known her for more than twenty years, I'd say you have developed a rather close bond with this woman. I could presume it has nothing to do with the romantic, as she's apparently been your adjutant for her entire military career, you wear no ring, and with your…cavorting around with numbers of other women; from an outsider's standpoint, it would appear she is just another officer." The Crow paused, and turned to face Roy again, a smirk plastered on his lips. "But, fortunately for me, that is not the case. Rumors have their way of reaching my ears and from what I've heard, I'd say you're more than involved with this girl." He began ticking reasons off his fingers and Roy felt his heart sink at each one. "The Ishval Conflict. Amestris's Third Laboratory. The so-called Promised Day; my informants in Amestris are very diligent. You would die for this woman, would you not? You've invested too much emotion and feeling into this woman for me to overlook, so pardon me if I take advantage of this rather, ah, convenient relationship. "

Roy closed his eyes, doubt gnawing at his very being, and despair flooding within him. It's happening again. The Lieutenant. My weak point. These bastards. He cracked his eyes open to find the Crow filling his field of vision. A bead of sweat trickled down his aching neck and he struggled to find words for an answer. None were forthcoming. "She's–"

"You will help me take down Amestris." The Crow interrupted, and placed a fatherly hand on Roy's shoulder so that Roy had to look up to meet his eyes. "Or Riza Hawkeye will die by your own hand."

The Crow's widening smirk seared itself onto Roy's retinas, and his mind erupted with phantom images of Riza Hawkeye dead, with unseeing eyes as his flames devoured her body.

Author's Note: Has anyone read another fic that describes/details when Ed first sees Roy's alchemy? Because I haven't ever found one. If you find one or know of one, please message me! I would like to know how other writers envisioned it.