"We have to have a plausible cover," Ed said.
"I know, I could be your bodyguard," Al said.
"No better yet, you could be my long lost pal, I could
call you Benny," Ed said.
"Betty?" Al squeaked, "That's a girl's name!"
"No, I didn't say 'Betty', I said 'Benny'," Ed said, flapping
"No thanks," his younger brother said, "You can call me
Ed slouched back against the seat of the train car. He
poked out with one foot and put it on Al's metal knee. He soon realized if he
pushed, Al's foot went up. Ed seemed to find this terribly entertaining.
Al folded his arm and watched Ed make his metal leg lift
and fall a few more times.
"Let's stick to being brothers," Al said, "I like that
better than espionage."
Ed looked up and grinned.
"Me too," Ed said, and he continued to poke Al's knee.
"Especially with the way you behave," Al continued, making
no move to stop Ed, if this would keep him occupied and quiet, "I'd much rather
have people know we are related and pretty much have to be together than have
people think I want to be seen with you."
Roy Mustang wasn't sure who the Gods of Irony had it out
for, himself or the FullMetal Alchemist.
Right when they needed time together, they needed to talk;
a great big juicy lead had plopped right on Roy's desk. In fact, it was the
last report of the six Hawkeye had handed him yesterday and it was the only
one worth reading.
After reading it, he called over Havoc. He scribbled out
a quick note and deposited his silver pocket watch on the desk within Havoc's
"Go over to the library and tell them I want all the archived
files on Redding Maddox," he said.
Havoc picked up the note and the watch, arched an eyebrow,
shrugged and went to run the errand.
When Ed came in that day, there was a little shrine to
Redding Maddox, The Engineering Alchemist, set up on the big table. He started
toward the big desk, but the Colonel said, "Take a look at that material on
the table, Ed."
So he made a sharp left and walked over to the files and
large newspaper archive books spread out for him. Roy stood and walked over
to join him in his examination.
Almost 55 years ago a modern marvel named Redding Maddox
constructed bridges that everyone else thought impossible, and he did it all
using alchemy. Of course Ed was terribly interested, because he was a geek for
alchemy and he immediately plopped down in the chair and pulled the big newspaper
archive book close, his quick golden eyes voraciously drinking in the words
almost quicker than Roy could follow. He turned the page before Roy himself
was even halfway through. Ed leaned forward to study a very fuzzy photograph
of a man with a heavy mustache, square jaw and proud bearing standing in front
of a massive and heavily footed bridge truss.
The caption beneath the photo read: 'The Engineering Alchemist
does it again! The Camberly Gap Bridge is complete!
Ed's lips drew down duly impressed and he glanced back
Roy smiled at him, and Edward turned back to his reading.
After a while, Roy got tired of not being able to finish a page before Edward
turned it (and he'd read all he needed to beforehand anyway) so he returned
to his desk. Edward finished the archive and moved onto the folders. He made
short work of those, then turned in his chair and looked over at the Colonel.
"So this brilliant guy comes out of nowhere, gets a certification,
uses alchemy to erect some of the most advanced modern bridges in the world,
then has one of them collapse, faces a huge scandal and walks out of court one
day never to be seen nor heard of again. That's good drama Colonel," Ed said.
"Yes, and not a year later his name was cleared," Roy
said, "It was discovered the bridge had been sabotaged."
"I read that," Ed said, "And I appreciate you finding
ways to keep me entertained, but what has this to do with me, exactly?"
Roy patted the archive book on his desk that hadn't been
with the others. Ed got up and went over, and the Colonel opened the book and
turned it so that Ed could see the headline on the top of the archived newspaper
Ed's eyes widened. He gripped the book and pulled it closer.
The Engineering Alchemist seeks Philosopher's Stone, the
"He was looking for the stone," Ed murmured, he looked
up at Roy.
"What's more," Roy said and pushed a report folder toward
Ed, "he's been found alive."
Ed snatched up the folder, a picture fell out and wafted
to Roy's desk, Ed picked it up. A tiny old man bent over a cane was standing
on the porch of a tiny wooden house. He flipped the file open and began to read.
Redding Maddox had taken the assumed name of Thomas Burt
and had been living in a town called Pekinpaw for the last 40 years. He made
his living as a cooper and pretty much kept to himself. But just recently, when
the town's only bridge has been washed out, he displayed some remarkable alchemic
talent for a man so old and it immediately caught the attention of some passing
alchemy students who brought the rumor of this miracle to the local precinct.
From there, a second lieutenant had been dispatched to interview the man and
he finally confessed the he was indeed Redding Maddox, The Engineering Alchemist,
who was a national hero so long ago. The Second Lieutenant dutifully filed his
report with the head of his post and it was sent along in a parcel post box
to the Central Library for further processing. Once there, it fell into the
most capable hands of a certain Lieutenant Colonel, who had it given the once
over and when the stone connection was made it was rushed by train directly
into the hands of First Lieutenant Hawkeye who made the Colonel stay late the
previous day to get caught up for the current day, and that's why Roy could
have all the information ready and waiting when Ed strolled in just after lunch
and made it look like he had produced an overnight miracle.
The overnight miracle Roy really wanted however, was to
wind back time to a certain point last night and say a bit more to a certain
flushing teenager he'd just confessed love to. The boy had shifted all around
and finally pulled his own hair over his face to hide it. Roy had reached up
and yanked him down against his chest and used his hands in gentle stroking
motions and his lips on top of a very blond head and willed Ed to sleep.
It seemed to have worked and after the boy dropped off, Roy groaned at himself
and it wasn't too much later when he followed suit. He'd woken Ed up early this
morning, dragged the comatose teen to the shower, bathed him, fed him, dressed
him and then delivered him to his brother at the dorms for more sleep.
Now those bright golden eyes were in his office, eagerly
darting over information in a file folder from Roy's own desk.
"Pekinpaw, where is that?" Ed asked.
"West, about 3 days by train," Roy said.
"Right," Ed said, "We'll leave immediately."
The rank and file had filtered back in during this time.
Havoc was stacking up the information on the big table and Breda had sat down,
but was rubbing his back on the chair like a red headed bear looking for a scratch.
Cain walked up to Roy's desk and put a file on it, giving Ed a smile in passing
and Falman stood behind his chair as if waiting for his spine to unbend enough
to sit down.
"I'm off then," Ed said and turned, but then he turned
back and saluted Roy, "Sir!" he said.
Then of course Ed knew it was a mistake.
From behind him he heard Breda snort a chuckled, and then:
"AW! Look at him salute! They grow up so fast!"
"We're going to have to have an ittsy bittsy uniform made!"
"You guys leave him alone, it's protocol to salute your
"You are just a suck up, quit trying to infect Ed with
your hero-glazed mentality."
"I think Edward has learned to salute very well."
"Ed likes the Colonel, he's saluting him."
"He never liked the Colonel before, I guess his good looks
just wore him down."
"Quit picking on him."
"It's a good thing for a young person to learn respect
for their elders."
Ed whirled on the assembled crew and pointed.
"SHUT THE HELL UP!" he shrieked to Havoc and Breda's smirking
Cain rubbed the back of his head and Falman was in a half
way sitting position.
"YOU...YOU ALL...JUST SHUT UP!" And Ed fled.
Havoc laughed after him and Breda grinned and Cain sighed
and Falman tried to use leverage from the table to pull himself into a chair.
Roy blinked, then swallowed, and then grinned.
So that's how Ed found himself on a train headed west
to a place called Pekinpaw with his brother, trying desperately not to think
of a certain bastard Colonel (why the hell did I think saluting was a good
idea) because thinking about the Colonel could accidentally make him hard.
And he didn't want that.
Ed finally left Al's knee alone and now Al was immersed
in one of those books. He suspected he needed to have a little talk with
Fuery so he would quit lending them to Al. Thinking of Fuery made him think
of East City HQ and East City HQ made him think of a certain black-eyed, smirking,
He hadn't even tried to defend him! He'd just let them
laugh at him! But then again, that might seem a little funny... the Colonel
jumping to his defense... FUCK! He didn't need that bastard to jump to his defense!
He could handle it all just fine on his own! So the Colonel's little lackey's
laughed at him? So what? He still out ranked them, jerks, see if he brought
them anything from Pekinpaw, but by the sounds of it there probably wasn't anything
in Pekipaw worth bringing them.
Ed slouched lower in the seat, jammed himself into the
corner and stared out the window. Unbidden, his mind wandered to the night before
and he tugged his collar up with he felt his cheeks heat up. That bastard's
hands, that bastard's mouth, what that bastard had wanted to do... Ed still
felt guilty about it, like he'd let that bastard down. Even thought the Colonel
laughed and told him he wasn't mad and it was ok. Ed still felt like he should
be doing more. It always felt so good, but even that didn't describe it. Now
he always looked for a reason to go back to East City rather than a reason
to avoid going back. Because that bastard was there, that bastard that loved
Al hummed and turned the pages of his book a little quicker,
must be at the good part. Ed smiled and thought about a Colonel sitting behind
a desk looking bored out of his mind and doodling on a desk blotter with a fancy
Well, no Edward tonight. It might be a blessing in disguise
but it certainly didn't feel like one at the moment. It felt rather lonely.
He left the office as usual but there was no real reason to hurry home. He decided
to take a walk in the mezzanine of the park and maybe stop and get a sandwich
He headed for 'his' side of the park, the one in which
the long rows of apartments were dominant. He rather liked the convenience of
living close to such a pedestrian magnet, although initially he'd had doubts.
When he chose to walk instead of ride home, his trip was dotted with tiny shops,
tiny cafes, interesting newsstands and the friendly playful salute or two to
his uniform. The thoughts of sandwiches drifted away when an A-frame chalkboard
caught his eye proclaiming the night's specialty was pork tenderloin glazed
in apricot and rice; that sounded like a plan. He wondered if Ed would like
it? Well, Ed was on a train, poor kid. Al was probably stuffing those greasy
stuffed buns down his throat. That was typical train food.
"Well if it isn't Hot Stuff, and look, he's went and gotten
himself a promotion," a voice said to his left. He quirked an eyebrow and turned
his head, widened his eyes, then felt a slow smirk crawl across his features.
"And if it isn't Four Eyes," he returned, hands going
into pockets, entire demeanor relaxing into his lazy charm, "And she still dresses
like a cross between a paperboy and a mad scientist."
The woman, short brown hair, heavy framed glasses, dressed
in a long canvas jacket, button down shirt, Capri length pants and clunk short
boots made for hiking, gave him a genuine smile and shook her head.
"Long time no see, Flamey," she continued.
"Ditto, Library Paste," he returned.
Nothing like old friends to make lonely things fly away.
Anna Wagoner had been so unimpressed it burned. She was
two years his senior when this pimply faced, barely out of puberty boy
had shown up on the door of their family home and began accosting her father,
the then Lieutenant Colonel Harry Wagoner, The Fireball Alchemist, to be his
teacher. Of all the nerve, of all the audacity. He was arrogant to the
point of shallow, he would never drown in his own humility, he was so hard-bitten
sarcastic, it was a wonder he could get directions to the bathroom from anyone
and he was just an overall jerk. Naturally, he tried to paw her within
15 minutes of arriving. Anna could have said scalding things; she could have
crushed his bourgeoning libido with a few well-directed comments concerning
anatomy, but fortunately for Roy, she was Harry Wagoner's daughter, and her
kindness was greater than his own. Instead of making him an arrogant, sarcastic,
jerk with his feeling hurt and being all bitter toward her, she made a friend
It had been that way ever since, not that he had made
it easy. She remembered that one turbulent summer, his constant complaints
that her father spent too much time on the golf course, his general lack of
any sort of aptitude for house work, and finding him in odd places (like
in the hallway, next to the bathroom door, sitting on the floor) with his
nose in a book. All in all, Roy Mustang has been one big fat pain in the ass,
but she still wrote him all sorts of lengthy letters and he still reciprocated,
when his letters could find her, he always signed them...you and your globe
trotting ways, Flamey.
"You like pork tenderloin?" he asked, pointing at the
"I like free food in general," she replied and preceded
him into the café calling for a table for two.
"Carry me," Ed said, leaning against a cool metal wall.
"I will not," Al said, trying to shift away.
"But I'm tired and didn't get much sleep on the train,"
Ed complained and leaned harder.
"The walk will wake you up," Al stated and picked up the
"You know you say you forgive me for this whole armor
thing," Ed said, "but there are sometimes when I just find that a little hard
"I'm wounded," Al said, he started and patted all over
his chest plate with his hand, "No wait," Al continued, "my mistake. I think
I'd have to feel wounded to be wounded," he said flatly.
Ed worked his jaw for a moment.
"You know," the elder brother said, "you've gotten this
smarmy comment come back thing just about down to a science."
Al patted Ed on top of his head.
"I learn at the feet of the master," Al said.
In the end it was carry Ed or drag him, so Al plopped
him up piggyback and walked the 4 and one half miles from the depot into the
tiny town of Pekinpaw. He got his usual share of gawks and stares and added
to his scorecard one elderly woman, who had been sitting outside her house shelling
peas, who looked up when he walked by, rubbed her eyes and proceeded to mumble.
She followed their progress down the road by leaning over further and further
from her sitting position and kept rubbing her eyes every few seconds.
That, Al decided, had been a first class gawk. He stood
in what might be the town square, but it was hard to tell, it looked more like
a repository for the town livestock. He jostled Ed on his back.
"Brother, wake up," Al said.
"No," Ed said.
"Brother, wake up so I can set you down," Al repeated
"No," Ed grumbled.
"Brother, wake up or I'm going to back up to one of those
interesting brown piles that goat just left and drop you," Al stated.
"Fine," Ed said, "I'm awake."
Al sat Ed on his feet, and then he pushed him toward a
local, who had predictably stopped to gawk. He felt sort of bad inflicting a
grumpy, sleepy Ed on the man, but decided that misery loved company.
Ed stared blearily at the man who raised an eyebrow. This
reminded Ed of the Colonel in some perverse way, but then everything lately
reminded him of the Colonel in some perverse way, and that only served to tick
him off. Because the Colonel had just sat there and let his little toadies laugh
at him, and the more Ed thought about it, the more awake he became and the more
his posture improved and the more presence he radiated and the man began to
back away slowly.
Ed, being the master interrogator and gatherer of information
he was, leapt into action.
"Hey YOU," Ed pointed at the hapless local who was now
plotting an escape route, "don't even think about trying to run before I wring
every last bit of local gossip from you that I can! I'm not playing around here,
oh you might try to run but I'm faster, you might not think so but you haven't
seen me when I'm in a real lather, and see this guy behind me," he jerked his
thumb back at Al, "he's even faster than me, and see all these things there,
"Ed pointed wildly but was supposedly indicating Al's spikes, "he's also pointy.
So if you ran and we had to chase you, why there isn't any guarantee big and
pointy here might not trip and land on you and OH I would so not want to be
you if that happened. You'd be well ventilated. So stay still, listen up, and
spill the beans!" Ed crowed.
"Please," Al added weakly behind him.
It took them less than 3 minutes to find out who was sleeping
with who, who had run off with who, whose pig had piglets that day but were
hidden in the woods so that extra tax wouldn't have to be paid on them and oh
yes, Thomas Burt? Why he lives right down this little dirt road. Can I go now
It always amazed Al that Ed didn't gather information
so much as he extorted it, and it always worked.
Ed walked over to where the dirt road left the town 'square'
and sighed, more walking. He blinked when Al's hands landed on his shoulders
and Al lifted one leg and attempted to hook it over his hip.
"HEY," Ed yelled and twisted away.
"Carry me now," Al said, "it's only fair. Oh and the suitcase
Ed's jaw flapped with no grace.
"I can't carry you!" he squawked.
"So much for equivalent exchange," Al said, "And you could
too if you tried." He advanced on his wide-eyed sibling again.
Ed turned and trotted up the road.
"That's pretty dangerous," Al called after him, "You wouldn't
want me to chase you and ventilate you!" Al said, hefting the suitcase and starting
Ed made a rude gesture and laughed.
Al also laughed and followed his brother toward their
"So are you still studying... Micro... things...?" Roy
waved his fork around and squinted at Anna across the table.
Her mouth flattened out and she sighed.
"Don't even try to discuss my career with me," she said
flatly, "you didn't care then and you don't care now and there is no point in
trying to pretend you care. All your un-caring-ness makes me care even less
about discussing it with you," she shook her head.
"Oh good," Roy said, "because I really don't care, it's
boring as all hell. So you notice I'm a Colonel now?" he grinned.
"Why yes I do, you great big pompous ass, congratulations.
They have sunk their hooks even deeper into you, and you being the shameless
hussy you are take advantage of it, don't you? Tell me, when is the last time
anyone has seen you out of uniform?" she smirked.
Last night, in my bed, thank you very much.
"Haha," Roy said aloud.
Anna shrugged and grinned and dived into her pork. The
way she ate reminded him a little of Ed. Then everything lately reminded him
a little of Ed. He shifted in his chair and tried not to think about sleeping
alone tonight. Through the rumor mill, mutual friends and small talk, they got
through dinner and well past the polite time to be taking up the table. So,
because Anna was his friend and nothing more and never would be more, he invited
her back to his apartment for some very fine scotch and to keep her longer so
Ed's moans wouldn't haunt his dreams all night. So, because she was his friend
and maybe sensed he was a little lonely and wanted someone to talk to, she agreed
and they had a pleasant walk through the park over to his apartment. He was
right, the scotch was very fine.
Anna was a very rare and delicate thing to Roy. Anna was
a woman who was his friend, and that meant something. He always credited
Maes Hughes for defining what friendship meant to him and he had placed it retroactively
on Anna. Tall, thin, bookish Anna who thought that because she was two years
his senior, she was two years his superior and even though she got his hackles
up on more than one occasion, more often that not, she was right and he hated
it! Oh he just hated it. Until he got older that is, and appreciated it. Amazing
what a few years will do. Here he found himself wishing himself older already
so he could see the appreciation in a pair of golden eyes.
And maybe, finally, have sex.
Anna appreciated scotch the way a fish appreciated the
water. She crossed her legs, becoming right at home in his overstuffed leather
chair and with all the perception he always remembered her having, she said:
"So let's hear it Flamey, there is something you are just dying to discuss."
"Ah, you know me too well for never being around me, how
do you do it?" Roy asked, leaning back into the couch.
"You always scoff when I say women's intuition," she said
and took a sip, "but it always turns up and bites you on the ass. Talk about
Roy stared into his glass for a moment.
"It's very unorthodox," he said, "and I'm not sure I should
be sharing it."
"Whoa, that's the Colonel talking," Anna said, "It must
be something big. Well if you don't want to tell me, my feelings won't be hurt.
But, I think you need to tell someone and if you do, then I'm here."
Roy twirled the glass slowly, watching the amber liquid
that in just the right light was the shade of Ed's eyes.
The house was leaning to the left. Ed and Al leaned too,
just to make sure they were seeing it right. Peeking over the slanted exterior
of the roof was the point of a large barn.
"I'll go knock on the door," Ed said, "you stay here Al,
that porch doesn't look safe."
"Ok," Al readily agreed, because the porch didn't look
safe, but if Ed was willing to risk it, more power to him.
Ed knocked a couple of times. Then he knocked a few more,
then he pounded, and then he froze because the porch creaked.
But the door opened and the man standing there, small,
old, bald, and hunched over his cane, squinted at the young man and smiled.
Ed knew he'd just met his new best friend, because the
little old man looked up at him.
With a lot of coaxing, they got Al into the house. When
Ed and Al both went to sit on the little sway-backed sofa, it let out a mighty
moan and so Al, ever considerate of the neglected majority of inanimate objects'
feelings, sat on the floor.
"It's my lucky day to have such fine young visitors,"
The old man said, smiling a toothless smile, "I should make you some tea I think,"
and he started to stand.
"Oh no sir," Al said, and for armor, got to his feet with
surprising speed, "let me do it, I'd be happy too."
"That would be very nice. And they say the youth of today
are so lazy, but I don't see it, I don't see it at all, thank you young man."
The old man grinned again, and it was hard not to grin back at him. Well Ed
did anyway and Al thought a grin at him.
Al negotiated the walk from sitting room to kitchen like
a soldier navigating a mine filed, but he made it safely and Ed could hear his
brother's content hum as he went about inspecting the old man's kitchen.
"Now," the old man's voice said, drawing Ed's eyes back
to him, "Just what can I do for the two of you?" he asked.
"Well sir," Ed said politely, because Edward's mother
had taught him manners and he was grateful to drag them out when the occasion
called for it, "we've come across some information about you, about who you
use to be," Ed said hesitantly.
"Ah," the old man said, "you mean those boys who saw me
alchemise the bridge and that other nice young soldier who came to interview
me. So you know I used to be a state alchemist," he said.
"Yes sir, and I am too, a state alchemist that is," Edward
"That is amazing, why you don't look much older than my
oldest great grandson, and he's only 11," the old man said.
Ed winced, but someone this old was allowed to mistake
short for young.
"I'm 15," Ed supplied helpfully, "but that's not really
why I'm here. It was said, or rather I read, in your earlier days you were searching
for the philosopher's stone."
The old man smiled for a bit, and then he slowly nodded.
"I was, but what could you possibly want with the stone?"
the old man said, "The stone was a thing for desperate times and desperate measures."
Al came back then, carefully carrying some teacups and
using a plate as a make shift tray. He sat them down then slowly navigated his
way back to the kitchen. Ed was rubbing the knees of his pants in anxiety.
"I have my reasons," Ed said, preparing himself for the
inevitable ethnical and moral conversation yet another adult was going to level
on him, he could recite his standpoint in his sleep by now.
"Well everyone does," the old man said, "Oh I seem to
remember an ancient text... it was given to me as a gift when I made my search
public...oh it was so long ago, but it seemed to me it had many ways of creating
the crimson elixir in its pages."
Ed's heart flat out stopped.
It was a good thing Al had returned then with the cream
and sugar bowl and noticed his brother turning blue. A few hard raps on the
back made Ed gag and choke and start breathing again.
"It's been years ago," the old man had continued while
the back pounding was going on, "I don't seem to remember who gave it to me..."
"Where is it?!" Ed cried, having just cheated death.
"Eh? Hmmm, let me think," the old man said again.
"I'll get the tea pot!" Al said excitedly, because tea
always made good things happen.
Ed waited. He rubbed his palms on his knees so hard that
the leather began to get thin; he even swore his automail palm was sweaty. Al
had returned with the teapot, poured the old man a cup and hovered nervously
at his elbow, but the old man had gone silent and hadn't said anything further.
In fact he'd gone completely still as well. The brothers looked at each other.
They decided to wait it out.
Then Ed got a nervous twitch in his automail leg and it
started to bounce.
"Shhhhh!" Al hissed.
Ed made a helpless shrug and grabbed his automail knee
and held it down.
Still, the old man seemed to ponder silently.
Still a while later, Al finally ventured: "Do you think
"I don't know," Ed squeaked miserably, "Why don't you
Al, seven foot tall or no, armored or no, wasn't about
to touch a potentially dead person.
"No," Al said, backing away, "You check."
"Why do I have to do everything," Ed whined.
"Because you're the elder," Al said.
"What if I want to give you the honorary title of elder?"
"I've seen that job," Al said, "and I don't want it."
As they stared at each other, each trying to will the
other to do it, the old man spoke as if he'd never stopped speaking to begin
"I seem to remember it might be in a crate in the barn,"
Ed jump to his feet.
"Do you hear that Al?! It's in the ba...." and Ed crashed
through the floor.
He got his usual damage assessment.
"He landed on his head," Al said, "he's not hurt." and
then they fixed the floor.
"Really sorry about that sir," Ed blushed, and then thought
about just deconstructing the whole house and reconstructing it, but later.
The old man insisted on escorting them out to the barn.
"This way," he said cheerfully and shuffled toward his
front door. After a couple of feet, he stopped and Ed and Al stopped.
"Right this way," the old man said again, shuffled a couple
more feet and stopped, and Ed and Al stopped.
"Here we go," the old man chortled, got his hand on the
doorknob and opened the door, shuffled to the porch and stopped, and Ed and
"Fresh air is good for you," the old man supplied and
shuffled to the edge of the porch and stopped, and Ed and Al stopped.
"Oh my, these steps are so steep," the old man said, slowly
pushing one unsteady foot onto the first of two steps that led off his porch.
"I'll carry you!" Ed cried, trying hard not to hop up
and down in place.
"Don't be silly, you're not tall enough," the old man
Al slapped a hand over Ed's mouth and held him against
"What if I carry you?" Al offered.
"Don't be silly, you're too tall and pointy," the old
man said wobbling on the second step.
Ed wiggled free of Al's grasp and hopped off the porch
and trotted in front of the old man.
"Well then how about you take my arm and I'll help you,"
Ed said forcing a big smile.
The old man reached out and took Ed's arm, then released
it and knocked on it.
"You have a very muscular arm young man," the old man
said, "but I think I can manage."
When they'd finally rounded the corner of the house, Al
said: "I'll go in and make you both some dinner."
Ed, who was squatting on the ground, elbows on knees,
chin in hands said: "Ok, that should burn up another couple of feet."
Roy took a deep breath.
"I think I'm finally in love," he said. He waited but
there was no gasp or no exclamation of denial, so he looked up.
"What do you want? Did you want me to alert the media?
It was bound to happen sooner or later," she said and took another sip.
"I suppose," Roy said, "but it's not quite in the way
everyone would expect, I think. In fact I know it isn't," Roy killed his glass
and poured another.
"So what's so special about it, other than the fact you
think it is?" Anna said.
"Well for one thing," Roy said, "it's another man, well
no it's not even that."
"That is surprising I will admit," said Anna. "So you
were playing this big game of overcompensation? Roy, no one is going to hold
that against you, I don't think."
"He's one of my subordinates," Roy said and took another
Anna winced, her own father was a retired career military
man, she knew enough to know that wasn't good.
"You might want to rethink that then," Anna said, "If
you want to stick with the military. I hate to sound callous or anything, since
I know you telling me this the way you're telling me this, it's a big deal.
Ah that sounded wrong... I mean, it is a big deal; love always is, but Roy,
you always seem to have these priorities."
"I know I know, but he makes them seem unimportant, at
least at the moment," Roy said.
"You got it bad," Anna murmured, "So how serious is it?"
"Bad enough to know it must be love," Roy said with an
exhale of air that might have been a chuckle with more effort, "because he is
one seriously lousy lay."
"You poor bastard," Anna said, "so what is the name of
this turn off on legs?"
Roy did chuckle then.
"His name is Edward," Roy said, another sip of his scotch.
"Edward," Anna said and chewed her lip, "The same one
in your letters? You really misrepresent him then, because I was under the impression
he was just a kid. That alchemist you brag about finding, isn't that Edward?"
"He's 15, he'd be insulted to hear you call him a kid,"
Roy said quietly.
Then the room was very silent.
"It will be dark soon," Ed said, munching on a chicken
leg about 5 feet from the barn door.
"That's ok, I'm sure we can find a lantern," Al said,
holding the old man's plate as he nibbled at a piece of bread.
After the bread, they had arrived.
"Here we are," the old man proclaimed, "You boys make
yourselves right at home, I'll be in the house if you need me," and the old
man turned around and shuffled a few feet and stopped.
Ed looked at Al and they leapt at the barn door, freed
it of its rusty latch and threw it open.
If was a fine old barn, large enough to stable a good
many horses, tall enough to have a loft you could stand in, wide enough for
a smithy to practice his wares in it's belly and they couldn't walk three feet
into it, for it was floor to ceiling with crates, crates, crates and crates,
all seemingly unmarked.
"Someone hates me," Ed finally said.
Al patted his back.
"You should be used to this by now," his little brother
tried to sooth, "I think it's some sort of cosmic payback."
"Quit trying to comfort me Al," Ed snapped.
They hauled and they uncrated and they shuffled and they
moved. They swore and they sweated (at least Ed did) and they sorted
and they dug. Several times Al had to haul Ed away from some other interesting
find to shake him and get him back on track.
The birds were chirping and they had the barn halfway
cleared. There were stacks. Stacks of outright junk, stacks of almost outright
junk, stacks of what the hell is this, and stacks of really neat stuff and do
you think he'd mind if we messed with it?
A small cat came screaming across the back yard, then.
It ran right up to Al and without further adieu, wound sinuously around Al's
Al of course, lost his mind.
"KITTY!" He reached down and scooped it up and scratched
it under it's tabby striped chin.
"Al, crates!" Ed growled.
"I'm taking a break," Al announced, "We've been at this
all night and kitty is hungry. Yes she is, come on kitty, let's go get you something
nice, maybe Mr. Burt has some cream..."
Al wandered away in cat-induced bliss and left Ed standing
It took a good half hour to haul Al back and then he only
came because Ed grabbed the cat and ran back to the barn with it.
Still holding the cat, Ed noticed the huge suit of armor
barreling down on him. His mind, clouded as it was (though not with KITTY!,
with NO SLEEP!), flipped out and thought scrabbling up a nearby stack of crates
was a good idea. The crates begged to differ and just as Ed reached the top,
they showed their displeasure by toppling directly onto the suit of startled
armor standing next to them. Ed and KITTY! landed in an ungraceful heap on the
other side and everybody screamed loudly for a moment or two. KITTY! even scratched.
When everyone was calmer and KITTY! was cradled safely
in cool metal arms, they surveyed the damage the crate toppling has wrought.
Junk and stuff lay scattered here and there, but one thing sort of stood out
of it all. It was linen wrapped, book shaped and large. Ed crawled over to it
and plucked at the linen wrapping. The linen gave way easily and a large leather
bound book with a hand tooled cover laid nestled in its folds. Ed turned the
book over, his lip trembling. He pointed a shaky finger at the book and looked
up at Al.
In big, gaudy, gold-pressed letters, the words 'The Crimson
Elixir' ravaged the front of this all telling miracle and both brothers fell
silent in reverent awe. Even KITTY! stopped purring.
"This is it, this is it!" Ed squealed then slapped a hand
over his mouth and looked at Al.
Al, miracle of miracles, set the cat on her feet, crawled
over to his brother and also looked down at the book in worship.
"Go on," Al said, "Open it."
Ed dusted his filthy gloves on his chest for all the good
it did them, gingerly turned the cover of the big book and slowly laid it open.
The yellow, cracked page that it revealed repeated the
book title, then some other incidental information that was hard to read. It
looked terribly, terribly authentic and terribly, terribly old. Why had the
Central Library not known of this mystic tome located in a crate in a musty
barn of a musty old hero? It didn't matter, it was there now, and it was in
Ed slid a finger under the first yellowed page and went
to turn it. The page crumbled in on itself.
Both brothers gasped and scooted backwards and regarded
their prize on all fours.
"Now what do we do," Al whispered.
"We have to think of an array to hold the pages together,"
Ed said, "And we have to do it fast, I don't think the air is doing it any good,
and it's morning and it's damp."
"An array to act like library paste," Al said quickly.
"Right, brilliant, get to it!" Ed said.
"What? I said to act like library paste, not that I knew
one!" Al returned.
"I have to do everything don't I?" Ed said.
"It's that elder thing," Al told him, "and we've already
had that discussion."
Anna finally broke the spell.
"Did you just tell me you're fucking a 15 year old boy,"
she said in a reasonable tone.
Roy snorted a sarcastic laugh.
"Let's just say it's not for lack of trying," Roy said,
"but yes that 15 year old has been in my bed," he killed his drink again, poured
"At what point," Anna said slowly, "did you loose your
"At the point where he let me kiss him," Roy returned,
lowering his nose to the rim of his glass.
"He let you kiss him? Or you made him think kissing him
was a good idea?" she pressed.
"Look, either way, what's happened has happened. I don't
know anymore, all I know is I'd rather he be here right now and not off on some
mission," Roy took a sip, "I know what it is... I KNOW... but this is what it
is, and I'm trying to deal with it for both our sakes. You don't know him; he's
not like a normal 15 year old..."
Anna put her glass on his mother's phone stand that doubled
as a side table and sat forward.
"You are telling me that you think this 15 year old boy
is not a normal 15 year old boy, could that be because you are molesting him?
Are you seriously telling me you've deluded yourself into thinking this is a
relationship worth pursuing? Are you trying to tell me that you want me to accept
the fact you are taking a CHILD into your bed and you needed to tell someone
about it? Like some insane brag?"
"NO!" Roy shouted, then dropped his gaze, "No, it's not
a brag, it's not something I would even breathe a word to with anyone
else. I'm not asking you to accept it, but goddamn it you told me I could tell
you anything, and so yes, sometimes it eats me alive, and YES, I wanted
to tell someone, but no dammit NO, it's not to brag. I would never do that to
him, I would never debase him by bragging about something like that, I love
him! I do! I don't even know why I thought you would understand..." Roy put
a hand over his eyes.
"You wouldn't debase him by bragging about him, but you
have no qualms about debasing him by fucking him, you are seriously one piece
of work. I thought I knew you, but I don't know you at all," Anna stood and
grabbed her bag.
"Anna," Roy said, put down his own glass and got to his
"You know what the only damn thing is that is keeping
me from going to your superiors?" She said, and Roy went white as a sheet, "Is
that my father loves you. You don't get it do you, he loves you like a son,
he brags about your ass and the fact that you're some fucking star and
you send him goddamn smoking tobacco for the holidays! Hell, he has your picture
on his desk next to mine and mom's and it makes me sick..." She covered her
mouth then, and blinked hard as if to clear tears.
Roy started to reach for her but she flinched back and
pulled her hand away.
"You need help, you need to talk to someone who can help
you, because Colonel Mustang, you are fucking your subordinate who is a child
and if someone besides me were to find out, you are through," she shook her
head. "I'm going now and I don't think we're going to be friends anymore."
"Anna," her name was an agonized whisper.
She shook her head and strode for the door, Roy could
only stand frozen and watch her go and hate himself and love Ed and want to
cry all at once.
Two days later, Edward Elric and his brother Alphonse
came back to East City, reported back to headquarters and Roy listened to their
I have to tell him it's over.
"You wouldn't believe the crates," Ed was saying, "They
were this high," and he gestured and Al gestured higher behind him. It made
the others laugh and Roy forced a smile.
I have to do it tonight.
"So then we finally found it, but when we tried to look
at it, it fell apart!" Ed said, flapping his arms and Al nodding sagely behind
He'll be alright, he has Al and he's so young, he'll
get over it quickly. I can handle this, I have to do what's right for him.
"So it turns out it was a cookbook," Ed said glumly.
"It had some really interesting recipes in it," Al said
trying to sound cheerful, "I'm going to make some of them for the guys."
There was general applause from the big table.
"I'm sorry to hear it," Roy said.
Ed shrugged, rubbed the back of his neck. "Yeah," he said.
"Mr. Burt was really nice though," Al said, "he let us
keep it and some other interesting things."
I can't let this stop me, I know he's disappointed
but he's been disappointed before, I have to do this, I have to do it tonight.
Ed raised his arms and let them flap to his sides.
"That's it," he said.
"Written report by the end of the week," the Colonel said.
Ed rolled his eyes.
Roy scribbled on a piece of paper on his desk and handed
it to Ed.
"Here's something else I want you to check into," he said.
Ed took it, and looked at it.
Tonight, 7:00, park entrance.
"No sweat," Ed said.
He was so absorbed in the right words to say that he didn't
notice Ed until Ed tugged on his sleeve.
"Come on Colonel," the blond grinned, "why are you spacing
out on me? You're not that old, believe me, I just spent four days with old."
"Sorry Ed, come on," he walked off down the path, toward
the middle of the park, Ed tagged along at his side. It didn't help that the
boy dressed again today, in soft blue and black slacks with those loafers, and
his hair wasn't down, but it wasn't braided either; it swung in a high, jaunty,
ponytail just below the crown of his head and he looked beautiful and young
and happy. Happy to be walking at Roy's side.
How can that be bad?
Ed was worrying something in his pocket, Roy could hear
the clink, clink of automail fingers rolling something over and over, Ed had
a lot of nervous energy.
I didn't seduce him, did I? He said willingly, I was
there, I heard him.
"You are being very quiet, it's kinda weird," Ed said,
looking up at him as they walked.
"Oh, I just have a lot on my mind. Work you see, I'm sorry,
I'll stop. You deserve my full attention after all, you've been gone for a few
days and it's rude of me to bring work on a walk with us." Roy inclined his
head toward Ed.
"It's ok, I get to think out everything on the train,
I mean you're allowed and all. I uh, I missed you," he ventured, then rushed
on in his usual embarrassed way after any sort of sentimental admission, "and
I was hoping you had something else for me to go on when we got back."
"I'm working on it, I promise," Roy said.
Because after tonight you are probably going to want
to be far away from me.
"Oh!" Ed said and grabbed Roy's sleeve, "We haven't been
in here so early before and the ice cream vendor is still open, do you want
one?" Ed leaned hopefully in that direction.
Oh my god.
"Sure," Roy said, "whatever you want Ed."
They were home now and Ed tasted like chocolate ice cream.
I have to tell him, I have to tell him now.
Ed's shirt was on the floor at his feet.
I can't let this go any further, I have to tell him
Colonel Mustang, you are fucking your subordinate
who is a child and if someone besides me were to find out, you are through.
Ed moaned into his mouth and pulled at his shirtfront.
Please Ed, have mercy, I have to tell you.
Ed was naked and straddling his lap as he lay back on
the bed, playing with his hair and making an attempt to be the boss of the kisses.
He sat back suddenly and said: "Ah damn I forgot, you started pawing me the
minute we walked in, be right back!" He hopped off the bed and ran to find some
discarded and abandoned article of clothing.
Roy looked at the ceiling and blinked his eyes rapidly
This is the last time and after he is lying there sated
and glowing, then I'll tell him. Please don't let him cry, I'll come apart if
Ed came bouncing back in and climbed back on, his hand
behind his back.
What has he done now?
"When we were digging through all those boxes, we ran
across a lot of old military stuff, a lot, and I found this thing and
Mr. Burt said I could have it, I tried to buy it from him, but when I told him
who it was for, well who you were, he said it was a gift from the Engineering
Alchemist to the Flame Alchemist via the FullMetal Alchemist. I spent a lot
of time on the train cleaning it up and Al helped get it working," Ed shyly
ducked his head and opened his hand and offered up to Roy Mustang an ancient
lighter, silver and etched with a crest of the Amestris military from half a
Roy took it with shaking fingers.
"I asked him how he was able to make bridge no one else
could," Ed said, and rubbed the side of his nose in an embarrassed way, "he
said that sometimes there were things that just needed to be spanned, no matter
what anyone else though about it, even if they thought it was too high or too
wide. He said that there were just places that some people had to go no matter
what, even if they thought it was wrong, someone had to go there. That is what
he thought about when he made an array and that is what made a good bridge.
A bridge that may not go where you wanted it to go, but one that people wanted
to walk on." Ed shrugged, "He's a great alchemist," Ed continued, "to be so
old and still be able to make bridges."
Roy rolled the lighter over in his palm and then back
"Do you like it?" Ed said, ducking his head and trying
to see Roy's eyes.
Ed squeaked when the Colonel grabbed him and held him
tightly to his chest.
It may be wrong, and maybe I shouldn't cross that bridge..
But I'm going to Anna, I'm going anyway.
"I'll take this as a yes," Ed said.