Fandom: Fullmetal Alchemist
Rated for: Sexual Situations, Mild Violence, Language
Type: Gen, Suspense, Psychological, Dark, Divergence (story ignores series ending and movie), slight AU.
Pairings: Focus on Roy and Ed, but no actual “pairings” (see A/N in first chapter).
Warnings: Yaoi and Het sexual situations
Summary: When Ed shows up unexpectedly after a two year disappearance, Roy tries to help him and learns that there is a darker meaning to the words 'equivalent exchange'.
Chapter Listing Here
Roy counted silently to himself as he waited for the light at the intersection to change so he could cross the street. A car drove slowly by and he had to step back a little to avoid being splashed with the dirty slush that covered the roads. It had snowed yesterday and all of last night, and there were many lawns covered with a fresh layer of pristine snow; undisturbed by the world. But the sidewalks and streets had already been trodden on in the morning rush of commuters.
When the light changed, Roy buried his hands deeper in the pockets of his black trench coat and carefully stepped off of the sidewalk onto the road. As he walked, Roy warily glanced around him. There were people walking to work, just as he was, and there were people sitting in their cars, waiting impatiently for the light to change. Life was going on just as it normally had in Central City. Nothing had changed.
He hung his head and stared at the black pavement as he quickened his step. Why should the world move on when his was falling apart? For some reason, it just didn’t seem fair; but then, the world was often like that; cold, cruel, and completely unfair...
Stepping up onto the sidewalk, Roy concentrated on the little blue pieces of chemical salt which crunched loudly under his boots, yet this didn’t keep his thoughts from prodding at him from the dark recesses of his mind.
He knew what he’d seen and what he’d heard that night in the motel room. He hadn’t imagined it... Yet, still it seemed impossible, and Roy wondered if perhaps all the stress was getting to him. Perhaps he was going crazy... Not a very comforting thought, yet it was the only thing he could think of.
After all, what kind of sane person would remove all the mirrors in their house like that? He felt as though he was being completely irrational, but the absence of the mirrors made him feel more at ease.
He shivered, thinking of that night. There had been someone in that mirror. That prostitute really had spoken to him about Ed. He wasn’t crazy...
Looking up, Roy realized he’d entered the military grounds, and with the reflective double doors that led into headquarters just ahead, Roy slowed his pace to a hesitant stroll. He’d been through those doors so many times, and yet now when he went through them it was different.
He stopped a few paces away from the door and studied himself—he rarely looked at reflections of himself anymore. His hair was slightly messy given the stiff breeze, but he didn’t bother to try smoothing it back. Dark circles hung under his eyes and he looked as if he was huddling within his coat.
Maybe he was...
After all, this was one of the coldest winters Central had witnessed in a very long time. Yet, he knew it wasn’t only the weather that was affecting him like that. He glanced over himself again, wondering if his weariness was as obvious to others as it was to him. And if it was, did it really matter?
He kept to himself now. He came to work, did what he needed to, and left. Avoiding everyone was impossible, of course; Roy, at the very least, had to interact with his direct subordinates. Yet they too seemed to want to avoid him when possible, which was fine with him. Seeing the looks of accusation and disbelief in people’s eyes was bad enough, but when it was from those who used to trust him so much...
Roy lowered his head, closed his eyes, and sighed heavily. He hadn’t been able to hide where he’d been for that week and he hadn’t been able to hide the reason why—damn the press... When he’d come back to work, everyone had known about it—and really, what defense could he give to counter the rumors except for a firm declaration that he didn’t do it. There was none. Oh, he’d tried to convince people at first, yet it did no good and now he didn’t even bother.
Really, he just wanted to disappear. He was tired of this ridiculous pretense that his life was going anywhere but downhill. He hated coming into work and often seriously considered quitting the military and finding something else to do with his life.
And why not? With his record, his chances of getting promoted ever again were extremely low. He knew Hakuro didn’t believe he hadn’t killed that woman; but then, Roy had his suspicions that Hakuro had never believed him when he’d said he hadn’t raped his subordinate either...
No, Hakuro didn’t believe... no one did. Perhaps it would be best if he ended his career with the military... Or even better, why not stop all the pain and just end his life...? Pulling his hand out of his coat pocket, Roy rubbed roughly at his eyes with his glove-covered hand.
The thought came to him more often of late, and Roy was beginning to entertain the idea seriously. Maes wasn’t here to stop him like before. No, Maes was dead, and Roy felt bitter resentment at that. Maes, who’d had something to live for, was dead, and he, with his pathetic excuse for a life, was still alive.
How terribly ironic...
Pulling his hand away from his face, Roy glanced up at the reflective doors again, then let out a small, surprised cry when he saw the reflection of a tall young man standing next to his reflection. On instinct, Roy raised his hand, ready to snap and quickly turned to look behind him.
Relief flooded through him when he saw that there actually was someone standing beside him, almost standing far back enough to be standing behind him. The young man didn’t seem fazed at all by Roy’s surprise. He simply looked Roy up and down with an expectant, yet disinterested, expression.
Roy took a moment to study the stranger in return. He looked to be in his late teens and was dressed in brown slacks and the top of a white, button-up shirt showing behind a long, dark-brown coat. The teen’s ears, nose, and cheeks were tinged with pink from the cold and Roy thought it was obvious the young man was cold, yet he did nothing to protect his head from the weather. His sandy-blond hair was combed to one side, and his eyes... his eyes were a light brown, bordering on a wheat-colored yellow. Roy almost wanted to back away, but he felt like he’d seen this face somewhere before and that almost gave him the same eerie feeling as the color of his eyes.
Finally, when the young man said nothing, Roy said slowly, “Can I help you?”
“Roy Mustang,” the young man said gravely in a light baritone voice. It wasn’t a question. This person knew who he was.
“And you are?” Roy asked warily. He didn’t like being at the disadvantage, and in his paranoid state, Roy almost could believe that this person wasn’t even real.
The sandy-haired teen stared silently at him for a moment, then demanded in a flat voice, “I want to know where my brother is.”
Roy blinked, then frowned. His brother? “And your brother is...?”
The young man’s features didn’t change. Instead he said, “I know he came to see you. Where is he? You have no right to hide him from me. Even if he told you not to tell me where he is, he’s not in his right mind, you have to have noticed that by now. It’s best if I take him home with me.”
Narrowing his eyes, Roy stared intently at the young man in front of him. The voice sounded somewhat familiar... And those words... ‘his brother... not in his right mind...’ When it came to him, Roy’s head reared back and his eyes opened in shock. This was... No, it couldn’t be, could it? Ed would have told him, right? Or maybe... maybe Ed wouldn’t. Maybe he would simply disappear...
And suddenly everything made sense.
“Alphonse Elric,” Roy said breathlessly. Even though he said the name, he wasn’t sure that he believed it. It seemed so unreal, but then a lot of things were seeming unreal to him recently... The young man nodded slowly, but kept his eyes riveted onto Roy’s. He was waiting for an answer, but Roy was still too surprised to give him one.
Alphonse Elric... Roy had seen a picture of the boy in the Rockbell home so many years ago, and of course the voice wasn’t exactly the same as it had been when his soul had been attached to the armor, but it was close. The voice of Alphonse Elric that Roy had known had been one of a young boy, and it had held a hollow tone that this Alphonse’s voice didn’t have.
Roy let his eyes travel over Alphonse’s face and body. The teenager’s features were serious and his body language held none of the ease that he would have imagined from listening to the Alphonse Elric who had been trapped inside of that armor for so long.
Finally, Alphonse said in a low tone, “My brother, Mustang. Where is he?”
Roy frowned at the disrespect and near contempt in Alphonse’s voice... There was almost a threatening note as well, which almost made him feel more than a little uncomfortable. The Alphonse he had known had been a kind person and had often bordered on being too polite. This young man...
Slipping his hand back into his pocket, Roy considered Alphonse for a moment before turning and waving him to follow. “It’s cold out here. Let’s go inside,” he said. Not that his office was a lot warmer, given that the heater still wasn’t working... Yet, it was better than standing around in the snow.
Opening the door, Roy quickly let himself inside and began walking toward the elevator. He didn’t know for sure that Alphonse was following him, but he believed that he was. In fact, it was almost as if he could feel the teen walking behind him, and could feel his eyes riveted on his back.
When he reached the elevator, Roy pushed the button, and glanced back to see that Alphonse had, indeed, followed him and was now looking around the large foyer with a dark expression on his face.
“He was here...” Alphonse muttered quietly under his breath, then glanced at Roy as if he would confirm it. “You’re stalling,” he said flatly.
“I’m not stalling,” Roy denied as the elevator made a ‘ping’ noise. “I’m tired of being on my feet and I’d like to have this conversation sitting down.” This was partially true, but it was also true that he was stalling. Should he tell Alphonse about Ed coming to visit him? Normally, he wouldn’t even have to think about it, but with the way the teen was acting...
Roy turned when he heard the doors to the elevator open and a couple of female privates were talking to each other, but when they saw him, they immediately quieted and murmured, “Sir,” as they quickly moved out of the elevator. When they were a few steps away, he heard one of the girls say, “That was him! I...” but the rest was lost as they moved out of range.
Stepping inside of the elevator, Roy waited for Al to follow, then pushed the button for his floor. He stood there feeling frustrated, depressed, and extremely helpless. There was nothing he could think of that would change anything besides leaving the military, yet he was still there. The military had been his career of choice, and it had been what he’d done since leaving home as a teenager. What would he do if he left? As horrible as the situation was, the thought of starting over was almost just as bad.
He was brought out of his thoughts when the elevator ‘pinged’ and the doors opened. Stepping out of the elevator, Roy waited for Al to follow before starting down the hall.
“No one told me you’d regained your body,” Roy said, trying to ease the tension he felt. When Alphonse didn’t answer, Roy glanced at him. “Your brother simply left his watch without telling anyone and disappeared. I had no idea.”
“It’s none of your business,” Alphonse said flatly.
Roy frowned deeply, and said, anger threaded through his voice, “I helped the two of you for years, and you say it’s none of my business?”
“Where is my brother?” Alphonse demanded, getting back to why he’d come.
Roy stopped in front of his office, slowly withdrew his keys, and unlocked the door with careful deliberation. “What if I don’t want to tell you anything,” he said, resting his hand on the knob. “What if I decide that information is none of your business?” Glancing back at Alphonse, Roy saw the dangerous glint in the teen’s eyes and he suddenly had the most insane urge to laugh.
Was the young man before him, really Alphonse Elric? Was the young man who had visited him all those weeks ago, really Edward Elric? Maybe Al wasn’t even really there. Maybe his mind was imagining this whole thing and perhaps he’d been doing nothing but talking to the air since he’d gotten to headquarters.
Opening the door, Roy shivered a little at the chill in his office and mentally cursed the maintenance crew again before turning and lifting a hand to invite Alphonse inside. The young man didn’t move to enter the office, but Roy could see a small shiver pass through the teen.
“He’s been here...” Al said softly and his features were suddenly anxious and concerned. “In this office... It’s so strong...” Looking over at Roy, Al said in a pleading tone, “Please, Colonel... Where can I find him?” Roy stared at him curiously as he returned his keys to his pocket. That was more like the Alphonse he knew; yet, as welcome as it was to see and hear something more familiar, the sudden change in the teen’s demeanor was unnerving...
“Why don’t you come inside and—” Roy began, but was cut off.
“No!” Alphonse said firmly and that hard look was back along with something else... Fear? Perhaps a little, but Roy wasn’t sure what Alphonse would have to fear. “You’ll tell me where Ed is now,” the teen demanded forcefully.
“I don’t know where he is...” Roy murmured softly as he considered how quickly Alphonse’s harsh manner had returned.
“But he’s been here,” the teen pressed in a beseeching tone that again was like the boy he’d known. Instead of speaking, Roy simply nodded. Al glanced at the room, then backed away slowly. “He’ll be back. He’ll come back...” He paused, searching Roy’s face as if considering something, then whispered, “Back to you...”
“I don’t know...” Roy began. “He...”
“He will return, Mustang; and, when he does, you’d better call me and let me know,” Alphonse demanded in a threatening tone. Then, without warning, his eyes took on a worried look and he said softly, “Please... Colonel... you don’t understand... I have to find him... I’m so worried...”
Roy ran his tongue along the back of his teeth absentmindedly as he thought. Something definitely wasn’t right here. There was something very wrong with Alphonse... But then, there had been something wrong with Ed too... What had happened to them?
“Alphonse,” Roy said softly. “Can you tell me what’s wrong with Ed? Can you tell me...” what’s wrong with you... “...about how you got your body back?” To this, the young man simply stared at him as if unsure what to say. His face neither held the hard look nor the concerned one, but one of hesitant wariness.
After a few moments of silence, Al’s gaze turned to the office and he whispered, “It’s so cold...”
“There’s a problem with the heater,” Roy said simply. “I have a blanket you can use if you’d like to come in.”
Suddenly, Alphonse’s eyes narrowed and his gaze slid to Roy. “Nothing can protect you from this cold. They know he will come back and they’re watching you,” he said in a dark tone.
Taking a step forward, Roy said, “Alphonse...” as he reached out to take a hold of the young man’s arm, but Alphonse took a quick step back.
“Don’t touch me!” Alphonse snapped harshly and knocked Roy’s hand away so hard that pain flared and tingled from his pinky finger, through his wrist, and up his arm; and Roy wondered if it was sprained or even broken. Down at the end of the hall a couple of soldiers stopped and stared at them for a moment before glancing at each other and hurrying on. Roy almost sighed at that, sure that some sort of rumor would be started about this...
“Who is watching me?” Roy asked as he held his injured hand to his chest with his other hand, but Al was still backing away from him, now with a look of obvious fear and panic.
“I’m sorry, Colonel...” Al whimpered, and his eyes suddenly shimmered with tears. “I... I wasn’t... I didn’t mean... I...”
“It’s okay, Alphonse,” Roy tried to assure him, though he didn’t really feel sure about anything right now. “Let’s just talk, okay?”
Al continued backing away, but his features took on a wary look before saying in a subdued voice, “I live in Rizembool, at the Rockbell residence. You have the number. Call me if you see him.” And with that, Al turned on his heel and ran away.
Ed wearily glanced at the buildings around him. The weather was bitterly cold yet inside his clothes he felt oddly hot and all he wanted to do was curl up in some corner and go to sleep. He felt light headed and it was only through sheer will that he kept himself from passing out.
Slowly, he pulled out his pocket watch and held it up by the chain before snatching it in his other hand and turning the backside up. He had to blink a couple of times before he could focus on what was scratched into the surface, but finally his vision cleared and he read what was on the back before looking around again. He was close, but not there yet. With an exhausted sigh, Ed stuffed the watch back into his pocket, knowing that in five minutes he’d have to pull it out again to remind himself where he was going.
Ed slowly began trudging through the snow covered sidewalk and thought over and over in his mind that he was going to see Roy Mustang and his address was... It helped him remember—both the address and the fact that he was going to visit Mustang.
This morning he’d felt semi-clear headed, but his mind had started fogging up as the day continued on. Ed had a feeling he was getting sick, and knew that it might be best if he found some place to rest; but something deep inside was driving him to visit Roy Mustang and he couldn’t stop until he got there.
Ed knew he’d scratched in the man’s name and address on the back of the watch—he had a vague memory of it—yet he couldn’t seem to remember why he’d done it. It must have been important... He assumed it was important. Perhaps Mustang could help him find what he was looking for; maybe Mustang actually knew what he was looking for...
Stopping, Ed worked hard to keep his head from dropping and from letting his eyes close. He concentrated on his breathing—on the misty puffs of air that he was exhaling. For a moment, he thought he’d lose his grip on consciousness, but after several deep breaths, Ed stood straight and looked around.
He was standing near a tall apartment building and only about seven to ten paces away was a door that led into the building. It all looked familiar, but... Pulling the watch out, Ed checked again before looking around for the address on the building. When he saw the dull number painted on the building, Ed sighed with relief and sank to his knees. Cold wetness from the snow seeped into the fabric and his right knee instantly felt a deep chill, but he didn’t care. He was here.
Ed tried to push himself back onto his feet after a moment, but he didn’t have the strength, so he crawled on his hands and knees over to the door before what little energy he had ran out. When his body dropped down into the snow, he didn’t even register that it was happening. Somewhere deep inside of him a voice was screaming for him to get up, to continue on, to not give up. That voice was trying to explain that he could die if he stayed in the snow, but Ed didn’t care. He was too weak. He couldn’t go on. He didn’t want to go on.
He was tired of not knowing if tomorrow he would remember everything or if he would be completely clueless of who he was. He just wanted to find what it was that he was looking for and make this hellish nightmare end. He just wanted to be with his family—with Al and his mother—and live a happy life.
He just wanted...