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Paper in Fire

chapter 7.

Sitting on the train the next morning, Edward felt rather proud of himself for a number of reasons.

For one, he had spent last evening in the company of one Kelly Connor, a Librarian's Assistant at the East City branch of the National Library. He had noticed the very pretty brunette looking his way quite often whenever he was in the library, and had finally decided to take a chance and ask her if she would like to have dinner with him. He figured she was only three or four years older than him, so she might decide to give him a break. If not, well, she didn't necessarily look like a cruel person, so maybe her rejection of his offer wouldn't be too hurtful. Much to Ed's surprise, she had enthusiastically agreed to join him.

That had been Saturday, and their date had gone extremely well. Kelly was bright, had a great sense of humor, and she seemed to enjoy Ed's company as much as he enjoyed hers. So Ed took another chance, asking her if she would like to join him again on Tuesday, and she was once again pleased to accept. This time, with a little more time to prepare, Ed had made arrangements to go to a popular dinner show he had heard Havoc talking about, and that had gone very smoothly as well. Finally yesterday, when he told the young lady he was being sent out on assignment the next day, she had asked him out for a send off dinner that evening, and it had been a very nice evening indeed. He looked forward to seeing more of Kelly to find out what could develop from this budding friendship. It was nice to have someone to go out and do things with, and Ed hadn't really had that kind of someone since Al had gone to live in Central.

He was also proud of the way he had been able to veto his body's vote to take Mustang up on his offer of some recreational alone time. Every moment he'd spent on the road had strengthened his resolve to put distance between himself and the Brigadier General, but he'd been worried that he'd cave once he was back in town, temptation close at hand, and he'd nearly been right. It had been bad enough in the library or lab, thinking about what he could be doing instead of research, or lying on a crappy cot in the dorms, thinking about Mustang's luxurious sheets and what they could be doing between them, but facing the bastard was ten times worse. Hell, it had been unbelievably difficult to stand in the office, keep his face blank, and turn Mustang down, but once again he'd managed, heart pounding. It also didn't help that the Flame had been invading his subconscious lately, those dark eyes burning him in his dreams, clever hands teasing heated flesh, lips ghosting over his own. He'd awoken more than once, sure the older man had just whispered his name. In the end Ed had not given in, but hadn't gone so far as to tell his commander that it was over between them either, though he knew he would have to, and soon. At the thought, Ed felt the familiar ache, followed by burning shame and rage. He'd do it when he got back from this assignment. Damn it, he was done being played by that bastard!

Porter wasn't too far off the beaten path, and the few hours on the train flew by as Edward was absorbed by his thoughts. When the train finally pulled into the station he was on the platform before it had completely stopped, scanning the sparse crowd for someone official—looking. What he found was a petite redhead, wearing a tan, short sleeved dress shirt with matching slacks, standing on a bench at the rear of the platform. The late afternoon sunlight glinting from the badge pinned to her ample chest signaled that Edward had found his contact.

Making his way through the few disembarking passengers, Ed stepped up to the woman. She looked down from her vantage point.

"Sherriff Brown?" The woman nodded. "I'm Major Elric. East City Headquarters sent me to look into your possible chimera problem."

Sparkling blue eyes gave Ed the once over, and she smiled. "Major Elric. Nice to meet you. " She offered her hand, which Edward accepted, returning her firm grip. "You're not quite what I was expecting, but I guess you probably hear that all the time."

Ed grinned. "You're right, I do. For the record, you're not quite what I expected either."

"Come along to the station and I'll introduce you to my staff. Then we'll get you squared away at the Inn." The woman made small talk as they walked the short distance to the town's police station, and Ed listened with half an ear as he took in her appearance.

At 5'6", Ed was loath to admit the he had probably pretty much finished growing, but the top of Sherriff Brown's head only came up to his nose. Looking to be in her late twenties or early thirties, her short cut, bright red hair contrasted strikingly with the brilliant blue of her eyes. Not wanting to be caught checking out her figure, Ed kept his eyes firmly on the Sherriff's face, but from what he had seen earlier, the lady was very nicely stacked. The young man smiled at his thoughts. A couple of weeks ago he wouldn't have taken notice of these things.

Ed was ushered into a small storefront on the main street that functioned as the town's police headquarters, and was quickly introduced to the dispatcher and Sherriff Brown's two Deputies.

"We have all the files pertaining to this case set out for you on this desk in chronological order sir." The younger of the two deputies seemed a bit in awe of the State Alchemist in their midst. "If you tell me how you like your coffee, I'd be happy to get one for you." He added.

"I'm sure Major Elric is tired from the trip out, Randall," the Sherriff cut in smoothly. "I think he'd be happier to get to the Inn, where he could have some supper as well."

"Elric?" The other deputy swung around suddenly, eyes widening. "Edward Elric?"

Uh oh. This could go either way. "That's right," Ed said calmly, dropping his arms to his sides in case he had to defend himself.

The man rushed over to shake Ed's hand all over again. "I'm sorry, it just sank in," he said, pumping away at Ed's hand. "I have family in Youswell."

Ah, so it was like that. Ed smiled widely. "Oh yeah? I haven't been there in quite a while. How's the place holding up?"

"Better than ever, now that Bradley's crew is out and the Prime Minister's running the show. They're finally getting a fair price for their ores."

Seeing that the man was just getting warmed up, Sherriff Brown cut in once again. "Hold on now, Karl," she said. "Let's get this young man some food and a place to sleep, and then you can talk politics to your heart's content, alright?"

The burly man rubbed a sheepish hand along the back of his neck. "Yes ma'am." He said, then to Ed, "Sorry, sometimes I get a little carried away."

"No problem," Ed replied. "We can talk later."

The Sherriff directed Ed back out to the street, and they made their way to the Inn. Porter wasn't much bigger than Resembool, so it was a short walk, the redhead greeting curious townsfolk but offering no introductions. Reaching the Inn, Ed let her take the lead while he surveyed the clean, simply decorated lobby.

"This here's Major Elric, Murray," the young woman said, gesturing in Ed's general direction. "You should have a reservation for him."

Checking his ledger, a young man about Ed's age nodded. "Sure do," He said. "Mom started making up the room when we heard the train come in. It should be ready shortly." The teen suddenly froze, eyes darting towards the Sherriff.

The lobby seemed to darken, and Ed watched, fascinated, as Sherriff Brown bristled, her eyes almost shooting sparks. "I hope that wasn't a smartass reference to my height, Murray," she growled menacingly.

The frightened youth quickly shook his head, eyes wide. "No Ma'am!" he assured her.

"Fine." Turning to Ed, the woman took in his wide grin. "Something funny?"

"Nope." He said. And, still grinning, he took another chance. "Just wondered if you'd join me for dinner, Sherriff Brown."

The woman cocked up one eyebrow, and looked at the younger man speculatively. "You're on. And call me Maxine."