The woman's fingernails were biting into his arm and her rapid pants of breath
echoed the rapid beats of his own heart. He was glad for the pain she was causing,
because it really helped him stay focused. His mind tried to sort out what lay
before them as he peered over what appeared to be a balcony and onto a grave
It was a vast grave, dark and silent as all graves should
be. Its skeletal remains were unearthed before him because he had slipped beneath
the living city above that served as its burial soil. It was almost incomprehensible
that such a place existed. Despite his father's careful notes, Russell Tringham
had always learned better by doing.
The woman urged him on and they hurried along a path she
knew now. She faltered only a time or two as they rushed through the veins that
wove the map of this gigantic corpse, the populace that must have been its life
blood dried up ages ago. A glow came into view around the next corner, eerie
in all the stillness, as if some flicker of life was trying vainly to rekindle
its remains and make the vast emptiness breath again.
Then they were inside it, their footsteps loud and gangly
in what was a perfect silence. A theatre opens around them and they walk onto
its stage. The woman, Rose, releases him and rushes forward looking left and
right, stopping as if to get her bearings and then moving again, running forward
and turning. She tilts her face upwards and studies the terraces above them,
turns in a circle and then another one, before running a few more yards to repeat
He knows she is looking for something, but she is dressed
for the dance and so is unknowingly performing with every stop and spin of her
ball gown. He then notices markings on the floor and traces his eyes along them,
lifting to follow them as they stretch across the room. It's an array the likes
of which he's never seen. What was it intended for? The alchemic blood within
him shies away instinctively, not wanting to touch its markings.
"Edward," the woman cries out and spins again; Russell
can almost imagine he hears a ghostly audience clapping. His look now scans
the room around them anxiously, looking up as she is, thinking them alone on
the stage floor.
"Are you sure he was here?" Russell says, almost startled
at the hollow echo of his own voice. "I mean, that he wouldn't have left?"
"He was," she says in shaking tones, "He was, he wouldn't
have left. He said he was going to destroy this place, but it's still here..."
her dance had stopped and now she clutched her elbow and closed her eyes.
What have you done, Edward Elric?
Russell is uncomfortable now with all the silence and
the dim glow of their surroundings, he thinks it might be best to go and summon
help. Ed was a State Alchemist after all, and the dogs ran in packs, they would
charge after a sign of one of their own.
"Let's go back," he tells her, turning toward the door,
his eyes straying once more to the further reaches of the room, cloaked in shadow.
He stops and thinks he sees something, debating if it is tangible or his fertile
imagination getting the jitters, but since they've come all this way and it
was with the intention of finding something, he decides to check it out. He
starts walking toward the hanging darkness, comforting his inner fears by recalling
the face of Fletcher looking so unsettled when he had been given into his arms
as a squalling infant. It had made the journey a little easier, getting to laugh
a little at his baby brother.
As he nears the darkness, he almost tells himself it's
nothing, but then as if to play a game of one-upmanship with his own mind, his
eyes pick out a more distinctive shape. It looks like a body and his feet move
faster. As he lets the darkness slide over him and looks down on the figure,
he thinks at first it might be Edward, but even he is not this small (another
brief flash to himself, flying fists unable to land a blow, and cheeks burning
with indignation). He kneels slowly, almost afraid to touch it at first,
but he forces his fingers to rest on a shoulder. It is warm and solid which
brings great relief, because even though he has seen death in his lifetime,
he's never had to touch it.
Curled on his side, a young boy lay sleeping in a very
strange place to be doing so. He won't wake when prodded and Russell, concerned,
feels his face. There doesn't seem to be any fever.
"Rose!" he calls out and hears her footfalls quickening
over to him, "Who is this? You never said there was a little boy down here."
She doesn't bend down and it's hard to read her face in
"I don't remember seeing him before, " she says, lowering
her voice to a fearful whisper, "is he dead?"
"No," Russell turns the child onto his back, sliding a
hand under his shoulders and behind his knees, and stands, lifting him. He isn't
much bigger than Fletcher and probably about the same age, "we have to get him
out of here, he won't wake up, he might be in shock."
She nods and turns to lead the way into what little light
they could gain.
Russell glances down at the slack face as he steps from
the gloom, his brow furrows and he gives a little start of recognition.
While not as golden as one might suppose, considering
his relations, the boy has the definite stamp of Elric written on his features.
Ed's automail hand seemed to have migrated to his side
of the bed and was resting over his face, it was heavy and it was over his eye.
He started to reach up and brush it aside, but his shoulder didn't cooperate
properly and his hand stayed where it was, resting on the bedside.
Ed, move your hand, he wasn't sure his lips were
moving, but the darkness and weight never shifted.
What are you doing anyway, is it time to get up?
He certainly hoped it wasn't. For one thing, his body didn't seem interested
in anything his mind was trying to tell it and where Ed's hand rested, there
had begun a dull ache.
He waited patiently for an answer and became more irritated
when none seemed forthcoming, so he forced himself more toward waking, and gave
a tiny snort of irritation.
When he finally forced his eyes open, the ceiling looked
different. It was painted white, a common ceiling color, but it wasn't the right
shade and the shadows didn't fall in the same places. The image was distorted
and he blinked, giving a small gasp as his left eye began to burn and itch.
Once again he tried to raise his hand only to have pain lace from the very tips
of his fingers, right into his shoulder.
"Don't try to move," a soft voice told him. There was
gentle pressure on his wrist, "I'm going to have the doctor summoned."
The voice, both feminine and unfamiliar, sounded on his
left side, but he had this damnable blind spot and he couldn't see her. What
was she doing here? Who was she? Had he been drinking? He felt sore all over
and wondered how much scotch it had taken to waylay him this time. Then he thought,
with a little start, what was this woman doing in his bedroom? He must have
really been drinking, but why and where and when? More importantly, he had to
get her out of here before Ed came over and caught him. He made a small distressed
sound and she leaned over him, coming into view.
"It's alright, just be calm, the doctor is on his way,"
Roy noted that even inebriated he still had good tastes.
She was young, pretty and smiled at him gently. Hell, she was even wearing a
nurse's uniform, that must have been fun. He was almost sorry he couldn't remember
Later, he remembered the whys and whens and wheres,
and he wished instead he didn't. His face throbbed, but not in the same tempo
as his shoulder, so he didn't even have the luxury of a half moment's rest between
the painful sensations. A doctor and two nurses milled about him, comparing
notes and talking over him as if he were just an illusion there on the bed.
It aggravated him that he didn't even have the strength to bitch them out properly.
He tried several times to ask questions, even though he
knew these people didn't hold any of the answers he really wanted to
hear. He worried at the First Lieutenant's absence, most notably because of
the plan. He prayed nothing had gone awry in an irreparable way.
What they did tell him was of little reassurance. He knew
he was going to be fine without their half-handed guarantees and they seemed
to turn deaf ears on any demands he made to speak with any of his subordinates.
It was all so incredibly frustrating he could grind his teeth to powder. As
much as he hungered for information on the state of the nation, in actuality,
something else was at the forefront of every hitched and wincing breath he took.
Edward, where is EDWARD?
His heart wasn't interested in deals, as far as it was
concerned, that was over. It had found its soul mate in a hayloft and it wasn't
"A phone," Roy said to the young nurse who came in bearing
water and some medication, "I need a phone in here. I need to speak to my people."
"I'll see what I can do, but you need to take this," she
said, setting the tray on the bedside table, "the doctor's orders," she smiled
kindly and slipped a hand gently behind his neck to help his lean his head up.
He resisted her, gritting his teeth.
"Every time I start asking questions, you people drug
me into oblivion," he growled, "I want a PHONE and I want some GODDAMN ANSWERS!
I'm not taking anything until I get them!" The outburst cost him and his vision
swam. He shut his eyes (no matter what they told him, the other one was there),
and panted against the tap dance of needles from his face to neck to shoulder,
right down to his damn toes.
"Please don't be so upset," the young nurse said, "sir,
you are terribly hurt and we're only trying to help you," she almost made Roy
regret his anger, but there were some things, like social niceties, one just
had to give up at critical times. He considered this time more than critical.
"Get me the phone, or help me out of this bed," he managed
to pant, "because one way or another, no one is hiding anything from me anymore."
"I hear you are causing trouble, but I shouldn't be surprised.
Forgive the insubordination, sir."
His eyes (yes, BOTH) flew open and he turned his
head, even though his shoulder warned him not to.
The First Lieutenant was regarding him evenly, standing
next to his bed. He took in her robe, belted over a set of pajamas, her hair
hanging over her shoulder unfettered and her arm in a sling. (A sling! She
got hurt!) But he was pathetically glad to see her and didn't try to hide
"Hawkeye, I'm going to lose my mind, please tell me you
are really here and not some insane illusion and my god, are you ok?" he asked,
all in one breathless rush.
Her expression gentled then and it looked as if she might
want to touch his hand there on the bedside, but she didn't. This combination
of things made his stomach roll, what was going on? His mind, which had been
so embroiled in the plan to begin with, kicked him hard right in the cerebellum
and his eyes (EYES) darted around the room. It might not do to talk freely
So he mouthed to her instead.
A statement not a question, she mouthed back.
So they were searching for the Fuhrer. He had no fear
of them finding him.
He knew they had probably drilled her relentlessly.
Next. she returned.
Of course, his mind instantly skipped to where it had
stored his well rehearsed explanations. He raised his eyes to hers (his eyes,
both his eyes) and locked them on her sharp ones.
She did nothing for a long moment, long enough for his
heart to begin a soft keening and move steadily toward his throat.
Searching, she finally returned, but on the subject
she could not be persuaded to mouth him more.
Let them come, LET THEM COME!
He could hear them arguing in the hall. A couple of voices
he recognized, one of them Hakuro; one seemed to be Madison, another General;
and Barton of course, his doctor.
He was sitting up today. Earlier, one of the young nurses
had helped him with an eye patch, a stiff, black, half oval shape that laid
over most of his cheek as well as his eye. A goddamn eye patch and still they
hadn't let him have a mirror. What the hell did it matter? It's not like he
had anyone to show off to, not anyone that mattered, not anyone they could find.
The door swung open. Barton was pushed ahead by a tide
of angry voices that all seemed to mutter to a silence when they caught sight
of the Colonel sitting up in his bed, half of his face swathed in black.
"You realize we have a lot of questions," Hakuro said,
without greeting. "and you will have a lot of answers," his voice was a blatant
threat that he did not try to hide.
Roy threw himself out into the open as well, because what
did it matter? There would be no one sitting anxiously in a court room, no one
whispering words of encouragement into the ear on his blind side (it was
fucking gone...), no one to cheer or curse any verdict. What the hell did
it matter anymore? He wondered if pulling this damn eye patch off to answer
their questions would make himself any more of a target. It just fucking didn't
"I have nothing to hide," said the Colonel, "I'll be happy
to answer your questions."
Hell, he even managed to answer them civilly.
The First Lieutenant (though discharged from the hospital,
was still not in uniform and that was just odd) slammed his apathy to the
floor and held a gun to its temple until it whimpered a pitiful surrender, and
she'd done it with just one name.
Then it DID matter that he make it though this damn inquisition,
it DID matter that he try to retain some position and it DID matter that he
hide his mangled face. It mattered, it all mattered. He wanted to see him, to
touch his hair and hear his voice and see his eyes, because he should at least
get to do that.
I will do this for him, for Alphonse, and I will do
this for him... for Edward.
They had not found anything at all, other than strange
arrays, a buried city and other things equally mysterious, but that didn't matter
because they hadn't found a body either.
Not finding a body, that DID matter too.
When your world is ending, you make tough choices. His
first choice, naturally, was to protect everyone around him. He'd made promises
to himself that this fall would be made alone. It was important that he not
drag anyone into his pit with him. If he could just keep that promise, then
whatever else came, he could handle it, because even if he wasn't there to watch
out for Alphonse, the people he saved would be, so that came first.
When your world is ending, you become lasting friends
with resignation. To struggle would make it all the more painful and while not
a coward, he didn't see why he should actively seek the hurt. Only foolish men
thought pain made them manly and bastard though he was, he had never been called
a fool. He saw no reason to seek the title now.
When your world is ending, you make sacrifices. He would
sacrifice himself now and let it all be over. He knew all about sacrifices because
he had held them in his arms, loved them beyond measure and watched them run
away from him in the dimming sunlight. It was something he could live with,
maybe even be content with, because he was a good friend of resignation when
he thought it through. So yes, things would be alright for him and for those
he loved and for those he lost. Equivalent trade was a pretty theory if you
could just pretend enough.
But what if the people you want to protect see it differently?
Even though they weren't allowed in the rooms during the
interrogation panels, even though he wasn't allowed the safety of his uniform,
even though they had to sit around on hard, wooden benches for hours, they were
They saluted him when he passed them, making his slow
progress down the hall, relying on a cane. They always made sure to stand on
the right side of the hallway, so he didn't have to turn his head to see them
when he raised it. Each day they were there, he didn't study the floor as hard
as he had the day previously and each day they were there, he fought a little
harder. Each day they were there, things became a little clearer.
Roy Mustang was many things to many people and not all
of them good, but to a group of men and one woman, with whom he shared his sweat,
hopes and dreams in the day to day existence of the mechanics of an office,
he was worthy of such devotion.
Also, Edward Elric loved him and damn it, that counted
So the Colonel began attending the interrogations and
put Roy Mustang in his place.
You always were a lucky bastard.
Technicalities saved him: there were no witnesses, it
was his word alone. He was a Colonel of some merit in the Amestris army and
he was a State Alchemist. He was given these positions of trust by the
state that he served, the state that wanted answers and even though he knew
there were tensions and suspicions, things were a bit different now. Besides
the military's interests, there was now the Parliament to contend with. The
Parliament was new and not seeking enemies to threaten its tentative foothold
in state government and was willing to make deals.
For his silence and for his service, he was made a free
He was a Colonel still.
The train ride was grueling. He had to deal with the irritation
of being helped from the car and she made it no better, standing back silently
as the conductor took his arm and snapping at him with her eyes. Damn the woman
and thank heaven for her, although he wasn't sure which he thought of more at
She arranged for a car, her silence was her rebuke, but
he talked to the back of her head anyway because he could, because he wanted
to. Because he was terrified and because he was sad. She glanced at him in the
rearview mirror and they made up again.
He forbade her from driving right up to the porch steps,
because driving on people's lawns was rude. He was hardly an invalid damn it,
he had his cane. He could feel her eyes boring right into the small of his back
where she knew it would hurt the worst. He managed his way to the porch steps
and gripped the rail grimly, looking at the steps warily. There were only two,
but he hated them. He set his jaw and scaled this fucking two step wooden mountain,
panting a moment on the porch.
The door opened on its own and a small, elderly woman
peered up at him from her round glasses. He knew she wasn't exactly delighted
to see him, but he knew she was also not surprised, her permission sought before
he even made the journey. But, she was not unfriendly despite her reservations
and she stepped back, making a small gesture to invite him in. He limped past
her, his dignity limping with him and stood in the generous front room of the
Rockbell Automail estate. She closed the front door and wiped her hands on the
apron she had around her waist.
"Do you need to sit down Mr. Mustang?" she said, with
no rancor in her voice.
"If you wouldn't mind, Mrs. Rockbell. I'm sorry to impose,"
"It's no imposition," she said, "you were invited to come.
I think you know he will not remember you, but you deserve some closure. He's
out back playing, I'll go to call him in."
"I think I'll forgo the chair then," Roy said, "and come
with you, if you wouldn't mind a bit of a slow pace. I know my body doesn't
look it, but I'm rather eager... and I'm grateful to you. You're kindness is
greater than I deserve."
She looked at him and smiled a little, making a patting
motion with her hand.
"You're far too young and handsome to be flirting with
me," she said, giving a laugh, "but come this way and we'll call him. Hopefully
he's in earshot."
It was not lost on him that the lovely young woman who
was Mrs. Rockbell's granddaughter was nowhere to be seen. He followed her to
a back door and looked out onto the back yard. There was no gate to separate
it from the fields, for the Rockbell's kept no livestock. It was a long, rolling
sea of grass, dots of wildflower colors and large old trees lazily dotting about
until they mingled into a tapestry of foliage in the hillside. It was a beautiful
place to grow up.
There were damn steps here too, he glared at them and
snorted. The old woman raised her hand to him.
"Wait right here," and she walked down the two with ease,
"I haven't told him you were coming, so he's not expecting company." She gave
Roy's dignity a pat and he found he rather wanted to flirt with her.
She cupped her hands to her mouth and took a deep breath.
"AL!" she bellowed and Roy was impressed with her lung
For a few long moments there was nothing.
"AL!" she called again, and again he was impressed because
this time it was louder.
Then a dog topped the small hillock just behind the house,
a black dog that he remembered from before. It came half way down and stopped,
wagging its tail. Mrs. Rockbell put her hands on her hips.
"What have you done with him Den," she called with a laugh.
The sunshine burst over the hill, zig zagging its way
down. The dog waited until it had just passed and then chased after it. It came
running with its shirt tail untucked and its laughter breathless, beaming a
well-worn path into the old woman's arms. Roy marveled that the she could hold
it like that and not be blinded by its brilliance, that she could fondly pat
its head and then turn it toward him. It scorched him as it took him in, its
bronzed eyes widening at the sight. The sunshine had a voice that was clear
and high and excited, and didn't sound like metallic tings at all.
"A PIRATE!" Alphonse Elric yelled excitedly, "A pirate
came to visit me?!"
They sat on the stoop while Mrs. Rockbell went inside
to get them a drink.
"I suppose a Colonel is not as exciting as a pirate,"
Roy said, resting his hands on top of his cane as it sat on the bottom step,
leaning between his knees.
"No, it's ok," Al said, "It's still exciting. I mean,
what would a pirate be doing in Risembool? We are very far away from the ocean."
"True," Roy said, "but it's still a nice place."
Al's eyebrow was itchy, so he reached up to scratch it
and Roy stared in fascination, studying the profile. The resemblance was becoming
painful, but he couldn't let that show.
"I don't think your Granny told you," Roy said, using
the term the boy had for Mrs. Rockbell, "but I was a friend of your brother's."
I loved him more than I can tell you, more than I wish
I could tell you.
Al lit up all over. Ed was one of his favorite subjects
and he would talk about him eagerly if given half a chance.
His first question to any adult of his acquaintance that
he hadn't seen in awhile and especially to this one he hadn't even met, was
always the same.
"Do you know where he is?" Al said, but braced himself
for a negative answer, doing it so physically that Roy knew it was well-practiced.
I would give anything...
"I wish I did," Roy said, looking at his hands atop the
handle of his cane, "because I would go and get him for you."
I would do anything...
Al slumped and sighed, but smiled again right after.
"Thank you," he said, "that is very kind of you to offer.
You won't forget it if you do see him, will you?"
I would serve any god...
"I make you a very solemn promise," Roy said, "that if
I see your brother, the very first thing I will do is bring him to you."
I would pay any price...
Al looked right into his remaining eye. "I believe you."
If I could switch places with you right now.
"I am very honored to have your faith Alphonse, it means
a lot to me," Roy Mustang said, because he would go to his grave willingly to
keep this promise to the brother of Edward Elric.
"Well," Al said and scratched the side of his nose, again
fascinating Roy and thrilling him because Al has flesh to scratch, "I
just think that I can trust you, it feels right. I've watched you while we are
talking, so I can tell you wouldn't make a promise you didn't intend to keep."
It was such a very Alphonse thing to say, he almost saw
seven feet of armor sitting beside him, but he was so glad he didn't, so very
Then Mrs. Rockbell brought them iced tea and they sat
in companionable silence to drink it.
"I want to entrust you with something," Roy said, looking
down at the boy who had politely escorted him back to his waiting car.
Al's eyebrow rose and Roy stood transfixed for a moment.
That Alphonse had facial expressions was still something to be amazed at.
"What is it?" Al asked, all boyish seriousness.
Roy reached into the inner pocket of his jacket and pulled
out a small book. It was the type that was a personnel journal and had tied
strings on each cover to hold it closed.
"Your brother was a very important man who worked for
the state," Roy said, "and he was trusted with many secrets," he intoned.
Al's eyes got huge and he leaned forward a little, hanging
on Roy's words so hard they were holding him up.
"This is a journal he once entrusted to me," Roy said.
I found it pushed under the bed where it must have
fallen out of his pocket...
"But I think it would be better if you have it," Roy continued.
I put it in my dresser drawer, I really intended to
give it back...
"Because as his brother, you are the best person to keep
it safe," Roy informed him.
and I will give this to you, even though it's killing
me, because you deserve such a tangible piece of the person who loved you more
than his own life...
"Do you promise to take care of it?" Roy asked the shining
he loved you more than he loved me, and that's the
way it should be...
"Yes!" Al said all in breathless wonder, eyes fixed on
the book Roy held in his hand.
and I'm glad you don't know what happened and what
he sacrificed for you.
Roy passed the journal into Al's eager, small hands.
"Thank you so much Mr. Mustang," Alphonse said, "I'll
tell him you gave it me to keep for him when he comes home."
Roy smiled to keep from sobbing.
"You do that," he said and reached out, as he'd always
wanted to, and touched the boy on his dark blond head, "he'll be happy that
you have it."
He climbed into the car and didn't look back as they drove
It would have been his undoing.
No, god. No, Ed. Please, not tonight.
You better get up.
Please, I have things to do tomorrow, meetings, they
I think if it were up to you, you'd never leave your bed.
You never gave me mercy when I asked for it.
Move over, you're hogging the covers again.
I just need to sleep, I'm begging, I'm so tired.
If the automail is so fucking cold, go get a towel to
wrap it up in.
Please stop, please. Just for tonight, any other night
I could just leave, you know.
Roy's eyes flew open and he panted for a moment. He was
again curled up tight on that side of the bed, the one he always migrated to,
searching for the body warmth his subconscious insisted should be there.
"Don't leave me," Roy whispered, breathlessly, "haunt
me until I'm dead."
A year passed and then another. Roy weathered them in
the service of his country and because he had always been lucky, (but not
in the ways that truly mattered) his position not only stabilized, it improved.
When Alphonse Elric appeared before him once more, dressed
in a manner that made Ed's ghost speak to him in daylight, he was a Major General.
The boy came to seek answers, having spent time with the woman who had once
before been his teacher. He was twelve years old, a year older than he had been
the last time he'd made the journey and he stood in Roy's office with his hands
clasped before him, gloved in white. A ponytail swung from the crown of his
head and he tried not to look nervous at the many eyes on him, mostly located
from a large table set off to one side.
"I can sponsor you," Roy heard his voice say, "if you
want to take the exam, Alphonse."
Alphonse had written letters and as this tragic history
repeated itself, this time the letters had reached the right hands. The Major
General had expected his arrival, but not expected him to rip into his heart.
Alphonse's brother did that plenty enough for him as it was and he thought it
a bit unfair of the boy to emulate him at everything.
But, he did as he promised and stood as by as Alphonse
passed with flying colors, congratulated all around on yet another progeny
found. He was very proud of the boy, who in their right minds wouldn't be? But,
it wasn't all happiness as it was supposed, because in each step Alphonse took
toward a quest that would consume him, Edward's ghost glared at him from the
depths of his dreams.
You are so selfish, Edward said, to let him
How can I deny him, Roy pleaded, it was just
the same with you!
That is your excuse, Ed said, to use my little
I'm not using him, I'm giving him what he wants,
Roy tried to reason.
You keep telling yourself that, but I know all about
you. You forget I'm always in here and I can hear your prayers, Edward
Roy could not respond to that, because he was caught out.
He prayed that Alphonse would find him and Edward's anger would not make him
People get lonely.
The Major General was no exception. When things began
to happen, very slowly, he did not even recognize the signs at first.
They talked more, they walked closer together and they
met for dinner. After all, they'd known each other for years and they were good
friends. They shared a fateful night and blood and loss, and they'd shared dreams
that were ambitions.
So the first time he kissed her, after accompanying her
home from dinner, he though he was living out a death wish. Really, what was
he thinking? The woman never went unarmed.
The fact that she kissed him back almost killed him, anyway.
He almost broke it off before it had even begun.
The bed was warm again, the company was warmer and he
found that he still appreciated the feminine form in all the right ways.
But, Edward stopped talking even when implored. Roy was
almost frightened by it and then questioned his sanity for missing it.
So they tried it and Roy let himself become comfortable.
Like his relationship before, it was handled very discreetly for she was his
subordinate and it was still forbidden. Roy thought it grim irony that he should
have to hide every affair he ever had of any lasting merit.
The affections did not impact her office performance,
he found out wryly enough. If anything, she became more of a taskmaster and
slave driver, but in the night time hours, she would yield a little to him and
let him take the lead in the dealing of intimacy.
A year passed them by, with letters from a boy they both
doted on and a job they were both devoted to.
Roy should know his good things never lasted. She came
home with him as usual that night, though at dinner she had seemed a bit different,
as if something prayed on her mind. He would take care of it, he always did.
With his lips and his body, he would make her forget whatever it was that creased
her lovely brow and made distant her brown eyes.
"We need to talk," she had said as he hung his coat on
the mirrored foyer rack.
"Something at the office bothering you?" he asked.
She shook her head no and walked past him into this living
room, sitting down on the sofa.
"Do you want some coffee?" he asked, starting to feel
a bit nervous.
"No, please sit down Roy, I have to tell you something,"
So he made his way over, intending to sit beside her,
but she stopped him with a look, so he moved to his leather chair.
She had her hands fisted and resting on her knees, but
her gaze was steady as she looked at his face.
"I have to tell you I've decide this is over," she said,
with the same proficiency she did when she told him his daily schedule, "and
that I'm sorry it's turned out to be this way."
He didn't know what to say at first, and floundered ungracefully
with his mouth open. He did manage to get something out, but it was only one
"Why?" he asked bewildered.
"I'm not even sure you are aware of it," she said, "and
that's the tragic part," She took a deep breath, warning off his protest with
another look, "I am not saying you are using me, or attempting to make me a
replacement, because I firmly believe you wouldn't do that."
Roy started to feel cold.
"But, there are things that are very telling in the way
you treat me sometimes," she said, "and believe me when I tell you that I know
it's all unintentional. There are things that I am guilty of as well in my dealings
with you and I wish I had sorted out my feelings before I let it go this far,
but the fact of the matter is this: Roy, I think I loved you for your ambitions.
Now that you have none other than Alphonse, I find that what I saw in you back
when you were a Colonel is no longer there. So I must conclude that I love the
ambitions above the man and I'm sorry for that, because it's not what you deserved
Roy sagged back a little in his chair.
"So you think it's not something that might be worked
out?" he asked, not sure why he was asking. Maybe it was some remnant of his
ego he though had died long ago.
"No, not when you lie with your face buried in my hair,
denying to yourself your wish that it was a deeper shade and belonged to another
person," she said, "I accept that now, because I do know you were trying with
all your heart for it not to be so. You are a good person, Roy."
She knew. How long had she known?
She stood then and he stood.
"I'll see you in the morning, sir," she said.
"Major," he returned.
She walked out of his bedroom, but not out of his life.
For that, at least, he was grateful.
After she had gone and he'd had his self pity scotch,
he made his way to bed and lay looking at the empty place beside him.
I'm sorry, Edward said softly, I tried so hard
to stay away. I don't want you to be lonely.
It's alright, my love, Roy said, not in the least
bit surprised to hear him again so suddenly, I'll always have you. Really,
who could ask for more?
It was a sobering realization to him that he would always
be alone after that, in the physical sense.
He knew it would be unfair to anyone else he ever tried
to get close to, so he accepted it with grace and aplomb and went about his
business. He was very grateful to the Major for leveling with him and their
working relationship remained the same as ever without a beat skipped, but they
no longer had dinner together, and while he missed it, it was only appropriate.
Sometimes in the night, if it was warm enough and he left
the window open, he could hear crickets. They would always push his thoughts
toward barns which naturally led to thinking about haylofts, a particular hayloft
of course, as if he could ever forget it.
He was made anew that night, he was the one shaking and
reborn. As he'd looked down at Edward after hearing something he'd heard from
him before, but never in the actual words, he'd felt a sense of astonishment
and a little fear. Now that the words were spoken aloud, there were no more
excuses. As he gently withdrew and sank into the Edward's waiting arms, he found
a touch of hesitation. Here is everything he thought he'd wished for, everything
he'd dreamed, offered freely from the lips of the person he longed to hear it
from most, and now that he'd gained it, what was he to strive for next?
Edward's arms folded around him, breath panting in his
ear. He lay against him, feeling his body tremble, listening to his swallows
and struggles to regain his breath. When he had desired a particular woman and
she had fancied herself above him, it had become a most delicious game. Now
of course, it never involved a confession as Edward had just made, but it was
still the chase that held him fascinated and led him on. It made him think about
her, plot to overthrow her and gave him patience to indulge her; it had always
been like that. Had he here, on some grander scale, just played this game with
a boy's heart?
Is that all he was in the end? A true predator in every
since of the word, that once the prey was taken down, once he'd taken want he
wanted, once he heard what he wanted to hear, it was over? Terror gripped him;
it seized him in his very core.
Edward turned his face to look at him, eyes half lidded
and wet his lips. Roy met his eyes, to see himself in them, to see what Edward
"I told you I'd always tell you when it was great," the
young man said, voice rough from over use, but still riddled with mirth, "and
that was great." He grinned.
I am truly reborn.
Roy returned the grin for a moment, and then it was his
"I love you," he said to the shining gold eyes and all
doubts vanished before it.
"This is one of those times when people say it, huh?"
"Yes," Roy sighed, "my only regret is that I can't feed
Edward snorted a laugh.
The floodgates opened as they had before, but the pain
came like never before. He thought he'd grieved, yes he thought he had in those
hard days when the world pressed down on him and he walked bent with a cane,
but he hadn't truly, he hadn't wanted to believe.
He was gone. He was gone just like that. He had
just stood there and watched him go. What could he do? He couldn't follow, he
had his fucking duty! It wasn't even a duty he'd been commanded to do,
it was one that he, himself, had wanted to do! He just let him go, let him run
off into oblivion, and for what? For Alphonse of course, for his little brother,
his little brother who consumed his life. Oh to be Alphonse Elric, Edward Elric's
great cause. What would it have been like to be that? What did it feel like
to know that on your word, he would do anything, just anything! To have
that power to keep Ed by his side, why Roy would have fucking killed people,
he would have!
But Alphonse Elric was a bigger man, he never took advantage.
More the fool he, he let this happen to Edward, he let it happen and who was
happier for it? Why Alphonse of course, because he didn't remember, he didn't
have to live with the memory of throaty moans or sobbing confessions of love.
No, he had his perfect memories of just what he wanted to remember and that
was it. He could hold a cherished memory of Ed while he was still whole and
not bother with the rest of it, it must be fucking nice!
Roy Mustang got to his knees on his bed and screamed.
Goddamn you Edward Elric, you had shouted your hatred to his face when you were
twelve years old and at fifteen, you plotted this fucking revenge. You were
a wonderful actor to be sure and you certainly made a stellar performance with
your naïveté and your hopeful looks. You drew him right in and you
messed with him, you fucking messed with his heart and his soul, and he committed
sin for the want of you, but that's what you had planned. Not only were you
going to take from him his ability to ever want anyone else again, you were
also going to damn his eternal soul. Congratulations, you did it! You succeeded!
You brought the great Roy Mustang down and did to him what no one else had done
You made him fall in love!
How fucking dare you, how dare you.
To create him anew and then abandon your creation in the
name of love...
But that is what you were all about really, in the end.
You were all about love.
Roy folded himself over his knees, and put his face in
Forgive me, forgive me. I can be allowed a little anger,
yes? I'm so lonely and I'm so tired, but I try. I try, you know that, right?
I don't mean any of it, I really don't.
I know, Edward says to him then, and I'm so
sorry, I wish I had never...
NO! Don't say that.
Keep your beautiful apologies; I never wanted them in
the first place.
All I wanted was you.
I had you, even for just a little while, and yes it hurts
But it was worth it.
It was all worth it.
At night he had dreams of armor.
His sixteenth birthday had been spent trudging through
the rain from a train station toward a tiny town called Pekinpaw.
He was utterly exhausted and saturated by the time he
made it, and was being passed door to door. He found that there wasn't actually
an inn, but somebody (although nobody seemed to remember just who) had a room
He had to stand for a moment in front of the little house
because it was tilting to the right, so he tilted as well to make sure he was
seeing it correctly. The peak of a large barn showed over its battered roof.
He hadn't intended to stop here, but he accidentally slept
though the last stop and had been shaken awake by the conductor at this one.
His sore backside informed him grumpily that it would like to sleep in a bed
thankyouverymuch, and he gave into it, only to regret it later when he was told
the town was four miles away from the station. He wished he had someone to carry
He climbed two steps to the porch and froze halfway to
the door when it creaked ominously underfoot. He stood there a moment, wondering
what to do. He likened it to the time he was standing in the tall grasses near
the road side and heard a rattler snake. No matter which direction he had turned,
the rattler's rattle seem to sound on all sides. So after an hour of indecision
and the growing insistence of an ever expanding bladder, he'd just made a break
and run for it, thankfully not treading on the snake, which would have been
worse in the long run for them both.
His bladder had been kind enough to let him make it to
a tree that was just down the road before it told him resolutely it was going
to ruin his pants.
Here he was again, in the very same situation! How was
it he always managed to do this to himself when he had to go to the bathroom?
He tried stretching toward the door to see if somehow he could knock on it,
but he was just too far away. He tried stretching back toward the steps to see
if he could get a foot on them, but again he was just too far away. He was disappointed
in himself because he had told himself resolutely that this inability to make
snap decisions had to go. There were many times in his past travels where the
skill of speedy decision making would have come quite in handy, letting him
avoid all manners of unfortunate situations. Like when he missed the train,
worrying over the least unhealthy of the stuffed buns the station sold that
was going to be his dinner. Or when he just missed meeting with a bibliophile
he'd been tracking down for months to inquire on his theories of parallel dimension,
because he was caught up in an inner discussion on whether he should or shouldn't
remove his gloves before offering his hand to shake. Little things like that
really irked him at times. He knew good and perfectly well he had read it somewhere,
this politeness concerning hand wear, but he just couldn't remember where. Since
it was a sub category bit of knowledge, he'd stuck it in a sub category file
in the miscellaneous part of his brain where trivia that might be useful sometime
in the future was stored. But, the filing system was a bit sloppy and disorganized
there, so data retrieval could be questionable. He really should come up with
a better system, he supposed. There were so many failings in the current one,
but he read so much that he had to put it somewhere and he'd been so busy, he
hadn't really any time to contemplate it.
At one time, he used to jot these things physically down,
filing up several small journals with his endless musings on the long train
rides from stop to stop, whether on a mission or on his own mission, it didn't
matter. But soon he'd have a dozen or more of the little things and ended up
dragging his suitcase instead of carrying it, so he abandoned the idea. He was
a resourceful man; he could remember the really important things, but he hated
it when the little things suddenly needed to be the important things and was
always left flat-footed, digging desperately through a filing cabinet in his
The only journal he carried with him now rested in the
inner pocket of his black jacket next to his heart, where it needed to be. It
was a constant comfort and reminder his Pirate had given him so long ago and
one that had helped propel him on his journey to begin with. Speaking of his
Pirate, he owed the General a newsy letter. He intended to write one the very
next day and see it off in the post at the train station. Yes, that was the
His bladder suddenly informed him that he was a scatter-brained
twit, and to punish him for idle musings, it was going to ruin his pants unless
he found an acceptable tree and very soon, because it was becoming a bit tired
of always being put off. So Alphonse Elric took a deep breath, steeled himself,
made two very rapid steps to the front door, got his toes on the doorframe and
knocked as politely as he could, yet still wishing to convey a sense of sheer
urgency (and terror of falling through the porch).
He waited and no one answered. He waited a little more,
pressing his thighs together, telling himself to think of very dry things. He
knocked again, a little louder this time and shifted his feet, but not too much,
and bent over a little. Maybe he should go and find a tree. Then again if he
left and the person answered the door while he was gone, they would think it
a prank might not answer the door when he came back. But wouldn't that be better
than ruining his pants? Well maybe, but then he'd have to sleep outside and
it was raining. (Dry things!) He was already wet and cold, and he hated
both those sensations and could just do with out them, (but thoughts like
that were always followed by a No! He was grateful for every sensation, and
that always puzzled him, almost like there was another Al inside him that would
occasionally offer up these nonsensical tidbits at odd intervals, and it had
been happening a lot as of late), but as the saying goes into every life,
a little rain must fall. Oh no, don't think about the rain, oh please hurry
and open the door. Should he wait or should he go, he worried his bottom lip
He was doing it again! As he wondered if he should be
angry at himself about it or not, and went to cross reference 'Anger directed
at himself' with 'How he should resolve it', the door opened. A little old man,
at least that is what Al assumed, stood in the doorway. He seemed to be held
together by his age spots and gave Al a toothless grin.
"Hello young man," he said, "what can I help you with?"
Al wanted to blurt out can I use your bathroom oh please
get out of my way!, but that was downright rude, and he wouldn't do it.
"Room for let?" he gasped out, jamming his knees together.
The old man said nothing for a long, long moment, and
Al began to worry that he had died standing up right there in front of him in
his doorway. If he was dead, would it be polite to use his bathroom anyway?
"Oh yes," the old man suddenly spoke, "I do, would you
like it?" he asked pleasantly.
"Yes," Al said, tears gathering in the corners of his
eyes, "would you mind terribly if I used your bathroom?" Al begged shamelessly,
throwing caution to the wind and hoping he wasn't making too serious of a generation
gap by lack of proper manners to the elderly or some such. OHPLEASE let him
"Of course," the old man said, "it's around back, just
come on in when you're finished; I'll leave the latch unlocked."
He shut the door in Al's face.
In retrospect, it was a good thing it was raining so he
could hide the evidence.
The little old man had showed him to his room after a
protracted twenty minute shuffle down a three foot hallway. It was simple and
plain with just a bed, table, chair and a small chest of drawers, but to the
tired and damp boy, it seemed like heaven. He thanked the elderly gentleman,
declining the offer of tea and looking forward to turning in for the night.
He undressed, making sure to keep his pants far to the side of everything else,
and wondered if there was a mud sink about that he could use to wash them in
come morning. From his suitcase, he retrieved an undershirt and a dry pair of
boxers and pulled them on. He then dug through his jacket pocket for his brother's
journal and pushed the oil lamp to the far end of the table where its light
could pool on the head of the bed.
He flopped down on it and fussed with a slightly musty
pillow, but got comfortable quickly enough. He pulled the journal's string tie
loose and flipped it open about half way in, letting his eyes run over the words
and drawings his brother had left behind years ago. He knew this journal by
heart, cover to cover, and it might be a bit silly, but he always reread a bit
of it each night before he went to sleep. It was filled with arrays, theories
and musings. Food he'd had at lunch that day, or something someone had said.
He wrote about the weather or the smell of a train car, a rock that got into
his boot, or any little thing that caught his fancy. The other thing that intrigued
Alphonse about the journal was his own private game of speculation on what might
have been on the pages that were missing. He could run is finger between certain
pages and feel the jagged edges of what used to be an entry in his brother's
It made him a bit angry at first, to think that pages
had been deliberately removed from it, and he wondered if it was the Major General
who had done so, but then he figured that maybe there were reasons. After all,
his brother was an important person and worked for the state, like he did himself
now, but he probably held a much higher position and state secrets are state
secrets that you don't even have the luxury of sharing with your sibling, at
least not when he was just 10 years old. But now he was sixteen and he determined,
in his letter to the Pirate tomorrow, he was going to ask after these journal
pages that should rightfully be his. He yawned, a sure signal that he should
put a cap on it for the night and tied the journal back up, laying it on the
table. He turned the oil lamp down until the flame went out, got under the covers
and quickly feel to sleep.
Edward stood staring at a towering mountain of crates,
none of them labeled. Someone must hate me, is what he said. Alphonse was looking
down at him from a height and though that maybe he was standing on a crate.
It's cosmic payback, he decides, telling Ed so. Ed, in his sarcastic way, asks
him to quit trying to be a comfort. When he moves, he hears clanking like he's
wearing armor, but it's not heavy and his movements aren't hindered. When he
speaks out loud, like he did to Ed, his voice always sounds like he's speaking
into a bucket. Alphonse heaves a sigh and follows his brother into the barn.
When he opened his eyes, he met a pair of slightly running
"How are you today young man? Would you like some breakfast?"
the little old man asked.
"Yes!" he replied without even thinking, then realized
he'd done it, a snap decision in spur-of-the-moment fashion and got a bit excited.
He sat up on the bed as the little old man turned to go.
By the time the little man was out in the hall, Al was
mostly dressed. He took his dirty pants outside, wearing his sleep undershirt
and his spare pants, and indeed found a mud sink with half a cake of soap. He
scrubbed the pants as best he could, rinsing and wringing them out, then left
them over a line tied between to sapling trees at the corner of the house and
hurried back inside. With profuse apologies to the little man, he squeezed by
him in the hallway, finished dressing, dug in his suitcase for his pad of paper
and precious pencil nub, squeezed by the little man again with more apologies
and found the kitchen.
He cooked up breakfast, set the table, poured the coffee
and sat down when the little old man finally made it over.
"Will you look at that," he said in wonder, "I must have
cooked it before I woke you," he slowly sat down into the chair opposite Al.
"You must have," Al said with a smile, the little old
man was so pleasant and well meaning that Al couldn't help but like him enough
to let him think whatever he wanted, "and I really appreciate you taking care
of me like this," he said.
"My pleasure, young man," the little old man said, "it's
so nice of you to visit again after these few years. When did you give up your
armor and where is your brother?"
Alphonse stared at him across the table, and lowered the
toast he'd started to raise to his mouth.
"I'm sorry sir," Alphonse said slowly, "but did you say
suit of armor?"
"Why yes," the little old man said, bursting the yolk
on his fried eggs and dipping a toast edge in, "you came here after a book,
I believe. Your brother and yourself searched all the crates out in the barn."
Alphonse began taking notes.
"Will you tell me about it?" he asked the little old man,
"as much as you can remember?"
The little old man nodded. "I'm a bit slow on some things
nowadays," he said, "but my long term memory is as sharp as a tack!" He grinned,
toothless and happy.
The letter that reached the General in Central a few days
later was more frantic than newsy.
It was a snap decision. Even as the little old man prattles on, the name Mr.
Burt! sears through his mind and he knows this man, but how can he? He's
on his feet and out the door, running to the back of the house where barn in
his dreams stands. He goes to it and struggles a bit with the doors, when last
time it was so easy. He gets them open and staggers back, seeing crates and
crates and crates and crates, none of them marked. It's some cosmic payback,
he is sure, but he doesn't find it comforting.
Alphonse Elric, not given to emotional outburst in the
slightest, opens his mouth up and screams.
Alphonse was starting to remember, but by the letter he'd
received, Roy could sense the boy's confusion and maybe a bit of fear. He hoped
Alphonse would head back to Central immediately, because he would like to have
the boy close now. He worried for him.
In the four years since Alphonse had begun his quest,
many things had happened, not the least of which was his promotion to full General
a bit earlier in the year. This gave him the power to be hopelessly indulgent
of the boy, who he has grown to love just as hopelessly, and looked forward
to his long, rambling letters. Alphonse was a romantic at heart, but brilliant
and sharp for all his musings. He had fascinating theories on his brother's
disappearance, all of which Roy lets the tax payers fund. Alphonse's scribbled
musings of half-formed ideas was such manna, that assessment boards wept with
pleasure, so there were no worries in having to justify the boy's budget, who
was not even rank conscious in the least and could not give his proper rank
at any given time. He just stuck to Major when referring to himself, because
that was what his brother was.
But the boy didn't return right away and there was no
way to find him because Roy had never made him use proper channels, which he
regretted now, but what could he do about it other than wait and hope and wonder?
If he got desperate, he could send Havoc after him as he used to send him after
his brother, but for the moment, he decided to wait and listen.
"Mr. Mustang," a young woman says through the phone lines.
It's very late and he's very tired. He tries to not yawn impolitely in her ear.
"Yes?" he mutters, scratching his belly. Very, very few
people have his home telephone number, so he knows this voice, but he's too
sleep lethargic to properly care and doesn't want to guess. "Who is this?" he
asked so he'll know who to bless out at the office tomorrow.
"Winry Rockbell," she says. He's instantly awake.
"To what do I owe this honor?" he asks quietly, not sure
what to think.
"A dead man called me," she says, her voice shaking, "and
I would think it was some horrible cruel prank, but he sounded so... it sounded
like him, it really did. He asked me all about Al, but I didn't tell
him much because I was scared and he said he understood. He says he's in Central
and he says he needs to find you, only he can't. He wants you to meet him right
away, but I don't know if I want to tell you where. Maybe it's a trick? I just
don't know, maybe I shouldn't have called you..." she stops a moment and sniffles.
"Do you..." he can't believe he can actually speak, "do
you believe it's him?"
She is silent for a long moment. "Yes."
"Tell me where he is," the General asks, and she passes
along the name of the hotel lobby the call came from. Roy doesn't even remember
His heart hammers. For a moment he stands, unable to even
thing of what to do next. He turns a complete circle of confusion, an odd habit
that is reserved for only the most sensory overload of situations. As he stands
and has a meltdown, his instincts take over.
He can do that and does, but sloppily and clumsily. He's
so hurried and jerky with his movements.
Go to him.
He runs out the bedroom door.
As a General, he was expected to have a General's abode
near other Generals for some reason, and he'd long given up fighting such things,
so it's almost a forty five minute ride just to get to the city. He is glad
that he always took it upon himself to drive, even when he could have had a
driver. Because of this habit, he has a vehicle at his residence.
He is not very familiar with the area of town the address
leads him to, all he knows is he is looking for a hotel, The June. He moves
from street to street, looking at the older buildings huddled together as if
jealously guarding a secret from any random passerby on the streets. When he
finally locates the street named in the address, he abandons the car at the
curb and goes on foot. It's easier to read the building numbers and signs that
When he slams into The June, he is met only by the startled
desk clerk who squawks like he is being murdered when Roy grabs him by the shirt
front and screams in his face.
Yes there was a man here, yes he used the phone, yes he
was a blond, yes he was short, no he didn't know where he had gone, but maybe
Roy should go look for the poor guy, because he looked like the ground had opened
wide and spat him out.