Gah! I finally
got that beast of a chapter finished. Here are the first two chapters (All six was apparently too long. So was three. Stupid LJ. >.>; The rest will follow this post.) of Conversion, which is now officially on hiatus until after I'm finished with NaNoWriMo.
Series: Fullmetal Alchemist (Animeverse)
Pairings: Roy/Ed, Alter!Roy/Ed
Words: 7,005 (Chapters 1-2)
Rating: PG-13 (possibly R in later chapters)
Status: In Progress
Spoilers: Yes, up till the end of the series.
Summary: Five years after his arrival on an alternate world, a chance meeting with someone from his past gives Edward Elric the hope that maybe, just maybe, he might have found his ticket home.
Note: This story diverges from from the anime at the end of the series, the events of the movie never happened as far as this fic is concerned, though I might swipe certain elements here and there as they pertain to this story.
Edward leaned his head against the window and sighed, breath making a faint cloud on the glass. He watched the land outside sail by, leeched of color by the gray sky and the steady drizzle of rain that seemed to be following him wherever he went. The glass was cold against his skin and he knew it wouldn’t be long before the rain turned to snow. A few more weeks would see the land under a white blanket. He didn’t mind winter really, even if it did make travel more difficult. There was a quiet sort of peace unique to the winter months that he enjoyed.
The train to Boston was a bit busier than he was used to, crowded full of people heading to the city for some reason or another. The steady hum of conversation over the familiar sounds of the train was grating on his nerves and starting to give him a headache. At least he had been able to keep the seats to himself so far by propping his feet up on the bench across from him and glowering at any passerby who paused too long. Though he was going to have a tough time keeping it up if they picked up any more people at the next station. Knowing his luck, he’d get stuck with some fluff-head bent on starting a conversation. Ed shuddered.
Pulling out his pocket watch, Edward flipped it open, then sighed and tucked it away. They would reach the next station soon, and then it would be at an hour and a half more to Boston. Turning back to the window, he watched his breath fog the glass for a few moments, then on impulse reached up and traced a simple transmutation circle with a gloved finger. He stared at it for a moment, then closed his eyes and touched his hand to it.
Nothing ever did, and feeling slightly annoyed with himself, Edward wiped it away. He sank down in his seat and stared at his shoes sourly. Why he kept trying alchemy was beyond him. It didn’t work in this world, and he knew it. Maybe it was desperation because nothing else had worked either. Ed had traveled the world the last five years and worked with some of the most brilliant scientists in the world, but he wasn’t a single step closer to getting home than he was when he started.
It was hard not to get discouraged. Sometimes it felt like everything was happening all over again and Ed was chasing another tenuous dream that kept slipping just out of reach. Time after time solid theories and encouraging research led to nothing at all. Edward knew he should stop getting his hopes up, but it was hard not to. Just as it was equally hard not to let the repeated failures get to him.
Edward was jarred from his thoughts by a screeching of brakes as the train shuddered and slowed, preparing for the upcoming stop. Leaning back, Ed closed his eyes and summoned a picture of Alphonse in his mind’s eye. His smile, his eyes, the roundness of his face. Probably not so round anymore. Al would have lost that baby fat by now. He watched his brother in his mind, smiling slightly. That was why he did it. Why he kept chasing shadows and following false leads. He did it because one of them just might lead him back to his little brother some day. That thought alone was worth everything he had gone through. The hope that he might one day see his brother whole again.
“Hey shorty, mind if I sit here?”
Eyes snapping open, Edward rounded on the unfortunate man who had asked that question. “Just who are you calling so short that he-” Ed choked on his words and trailed off, staring at the man in front of him. It felt as though the world had dropped out under him as he stared into very familiar dark eyes. It couldn’t be. Edward’s mouth moved soundlessly for a moment before he managed to croak out, “Colonel!?
Dark eyebrows shot up and the man who looked so much like Mustang cocked his head. “Have...we met?” he asked uncertainly.
Edward blinked at him and sank down into his chair, feeling weak. Of course it wasn’t Mustang. His father had mentioned the possibility of there being people on this world who looked like their counterparts on his own. He supposed it was only a matter of time until he ran into someone he recognized. “Sorry,” he said, pulling his feet off the seat opposite to give the man a place to sit. “I mistook you for someone I know.”
The man settled across from him, regarding the the blond curiously. He really did look like the colonel, Ed mused, still feeling a little off balance. Same face, same eyes. The hair was a little longer, tied back into a short ponytail, but that was the only real difference. The man quirked an eyebrow at him in a manner that was very Mustang. “If you thought I was someone else, how did you know my name?”
Edward gaped at him and received a level stare in return. As if the situation wasn’t strange enough, did they really have to have the same name? Honestly. “Your name is Roy Mustang?” Mustang smiled slightly and nodded, making a noise of agreement. “That’s...odd.” Edward said slowly, suddenly wishing the man would go away.
The smiled widened just a fraction into a very familiar smirk, looking more than a little amused. Ed scowled. The man was insufferable in any incarnation. “And you are?”
Ed blinked and sighed, realizing he wasn’t going to get out of a conversation. “Edward Elric,” he said shortly, hoping the man would get the point and shut up.
No such luck. “Nice to meet you Edward.” He leaned forward, resting his arms on his knees and pinning Ed with an intent stare that he knew very well. It was the stare that said “You aren’t getting out of this, so don’t even try.” He sighed and returned the stare with a sullen glare that didn’t seem to faze Mustang in the slightest. “Now I don’t suppose you’d mind telling me how you know me?”
“It’s a long story,” Ed said with a sigh. “You wouldn’t believe me anyway.” Which was very true.
“Well, we still have a good hour and a half to Boston so I think I have more than enough time to listen to a long story. As for whether or not I’ll believe you...” he shrugged. “I can’t really say until you tell me, can I?”
Edward glared at him, but Mustang just smiled and sat back, waiting. Oh hell, who was he kidding? He’d never win a contest of wills with that man. Not that he would ever admit that out loud. “You’ll think I’m nuts,” he grumbled irritably. He pressed his hands together, warm flesh against cold metal beneath his gloves. He glanced up at Mustang. Why not? Worst case, the man would just write him off as a crazy. “What would you say if I told you I wasn’t from this world?”
That earned him a raised eyebrow. “As in...a Martian?”
Ed had to laugh at that. “Not quite. I’m still human, just not from this world. I traveled here through the Gate in order to save my brother. In the the world I come from, there’s a man who looks just like you. Also named Roy Mustang.” Ed picked at his glove, peering at the other man from under his bangs, but Mustang said nothing, nodding for him to continue.
After a moment of consideration he pulled off his right glove, holding out the hand for Roy to inspect. “It’s called automail,” he told him, curling the metal fingers around Mustang’s when the other man touched it. To his credit, his only response was a slight widening of his eyes. “Or rather, a poor imitation. I was only sixteen when I first arrived here and once I grew a little the automail I had needed replacing, so I did the best I could with what I had.” That had been a nightmare. Trying to imitate what Winry had made him when he had never payed much attention to how automail was built was no easy task. The end product was serviceable, but by no means up to par with what he was used to.
He withdrew his hand, slipping his glove back into place. “I guess the best place to start would be the beginning.” Edward sighed, looking into the dark eyes of the colonel-but-not. “Have you ever heard of alchemy?”
* * *
“And here I am.” Edward said with a sigh. His throat felt raw and dry and he swallowed with a grimace. Hazards of talking nonstop for over an hour he supposed. Mustang was silent as he had been for nearly the entire story, eyes distant and thoughtful. Ed was actually surprised the man had let him get through the entire thing. Even he had to admit it sounded like the ravings of a lunatic as far as the people of this world were concerned.
When it became apparent that Mustang wasn’t going to say anything immediately, Ed turned his attention to the window, blinking when he realized they were already in Boston. The train was crawling along, and while Edward couldn’t see the station yet, he knew it would probably only be a few minutes more.
He glanced back at Mustang, frowning when he realized the man was watching him, that damnable smirk on his face. “What?”
“I was just thinking. That colonel of yours was quite a man, wasn’t he?”
Edward rolled his eyes. If an ego was a physical thing, Mustang’s would probably be smothering him right about now. “Yeah,” he admitted reluctantly. “He was something. Wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he was Fuhrer by now.” The smirk widened, and Ed scowled. “Doesn’t change the fact that he’s a bastard though, and so are you.”
Mustang laughed at that, shaking his head with a genuine smile. “Very forward with your opinions, aren’t you?” Before Ed could answer, the other man nodded to the window. “Looks like we’re here.”
Edward blinked and looked out the window, watching as the train pulled into the station. Boston. He wasn’t even sure why he was there, except that he had needed to get out of New York. The last thing he wanted was to be trapped in that city for another winter, even if he was at something of loose ends. There was nothing promising at the moment that he hadn’t already pursued. So, on a whim that morning he had decided to pack his bags and go somewhere else. He hadn’t even settled on where until he had gotten to the train station.
He stood up and grabbed his suitcase from where he had tucked it under the seat, waiting until the car cleared a little before making his way off the train as Mustang trailed behind him. The sudden shock of cold air as he stepped onto the platform caught him by surprise, and he pulled his coat tighter around him. Edward paused, feeling a little lost. It was the first time he had ever been to Boston and he wasn’t really sure where he was going.
Mustang seemed to notice his hesitation and took his arm and led him off the platform and into the terminal, leaning in so he could be heard over all the noise. “Where are you staying?” he asked.
Ed stared down at the polished floor then looked up with a shrug.“I hadn’t thought that far ahead, actually.” That earned him a raised eyebrow and in a burst of childishness Edward stuck his tongue out at the older man. “I kinda left suddenly, don’t look at me like that!”
Mustang smirked and Edward scowled, briefly entertaining the merits of kicking the other man. Hard. “You can stay with me if you like.”
Ed blinked, not sure he had heard quite right. “Huh?”
“I said you can stay with me if you like,” Mustang repeated, leading him down another set of stairs and holding open the door for Edward as they stepped into the cold October air again. “I’ve got more than enough room for a guest, and honestly,” he looked at Edward and grinned. “You’ve got me curious.”
“Curious enough that you’re willing to take a stranger home with you? I could be lying you know.” Edward mentally kicked himself. Way to go, moron. You get offered a free place to stay, and you argue with him. Genius.
“Maybe,” Mustang said, giving him a sidelong look. “Do you realize you called me ‘Colonel’ four times while you were telling me your story? Well, three. Once I believe it was ‘Colonel bastard.’” He smirked.
Puzzled, Edward cocked his head and tried to remember. Had he really? He shrugged and offered a half-smile. “Sorry. I guess I wasn’t thinking.”
“I know,” Mustang said without looking at him, eyes scanning the street for something. After a moment he looked over at Edward. “Which is what, among other things, convinced me that you weren’t just spinning me a tale.”
Edward was about to ask just what those other things were when a black car pulled up beside them. An older man climbed out, nodding to Mustang. “Well?” he said, waving in return and then looking at Ed. “What do you say?”
Looking down at his shoes, Edward considered. Staying with the colonel-but-not would be strange, to say the least. He frowned, mind working furiously. There was always the possibility that this Mustang and the one he knew were connected somehow. In fact, he would be willing to bet on it. Which meant he might be able to tap into that connection somehow to get home. It was a long shot, he knew that, but it was worth trying. Besides, who was he to say no to a free place to crash? Edward shrugged and grinned. “Why not?”
Mustang seemed pleased by this. He opened the car door for Ed, who slid into the back seat, stowing his suitcase by his feet. The door slammed shut and Mustang climbed in the other side. Once they were settled, he nodded to the driver. “This is Evan. Evan, this is Edward Elric, he’ll be staying with us for a while.”
The man nodded politely to him, not taking his eyes off the road as he pulled away from the train station. “A pleasure Mr. Elric.”
“Ed, please.” He said automatically. He hated being called Mr. Elric. That was his father, not him.
“Evan looks out for me, don’t you?” Mustang said.
There was a long-suffering sigh from the front seat, and Edward grinned. He knew that sigh. Had heard it from Hawkeye on numerous occasions. It was the sigh that wondered how one ever managed to put up with a certain dark-haired egomaniac. “I do what I can, sir.” Mustang grinned and winked at Edward, who found himself smiling back. The man’s good humor was infectious. Maybe he wasn’t quite
the bastard the Roy Mustang he knew was.
The rest of the trip passed in silence, and Edward turned his attention to the world outside the window. The steady drizzle that had followed him from New York seemed to be letting up, he realized, though the clouds still hung dark and heavy in the sky. Even in the grey light the trees were dazzling shades of red and gold, a sudden gust of wind sweeping leaves from branches as he watched.
Edward glanced over at Mustang, then back out the window. He wasn’t sure yet what he would have to do to use the connection between the two. He was certain enough that he would need this
Mustang’s help to do it, though he didn’t think it would be too hard to convince the man. He already seemed genuinely curious about the whole thing as it was. Ed smiled at nothing in particular, suddenly feeling better than he had in ages. Maybe, just maybe, he was finally on to something.
It obviously wasn’t far to Mustang’s home, because after only a few minutes the car pulled into the drive of a large estate. Edward gaped, turning to glance at the dark-haired man. “You live here?
” he asked, incredulous.
The question was met with a smirk. “I told you I had plenty of room.”
Edward rolled his eyes. “A bit of an understatement, I think. How many people live in that monstrosity anyway?” Monstrosity was really the only word for the large manor, Ed decided as he peered out the window. He had a sneaking suspicion someone could get lost in there and die of starvation before they found the way out.
“Five,” Ed repeated flatly, turning to stare at the other man, who seemed amused by his reaction. “You have got to be joking, Mustang. What a fantastic waste of space.”
An elegant shrug and a smile. “Myself, Evan, the maid, the cook, and Kara. Evan is of the opinion I should get married and have legions of children to fill the place out a bit,” he said with a wry smile. “Since that isn’t going to happen in the foreseeable future, we keep most of the house closed up.”
Edward tried to picture Roy Mustang as a family man, but couldn’t. Too strange a notion, that. “Who’s Kara?” he asked as the car rumbled to a stop.
“My niece,” Mustang said, nodding his thanks to Evan as the older man opened the door for him. Edward didn’t bother to wait for the man to come around to his side, he hated letting people do things for him. Grabbing his suitcase, he pushed open the door and got out, closing it behind him and coming around to stand with Mustang, still staring at the building looming above him. Damn, but that was a huge house.
“She visiting?” Ed asked, following the other man up the walk.
Mustang shook his head. “No. Her parents died in an accident last year,” he sighed, looking suddenly sad and Ed shifted uncomfortably. He hadn’t meant to stumble into awkward territory. After a moment Mustang shook his head and smiled slightly. “Having her around certainly makes things livelier.”
As if on cue, there was a happy squeal as a dark-haired blur darted around the side of the building and attached itself to Mustang’s leg. Ed grinned as the blur resolved itself into a little girl, four, maybe five years old, beaming up at her uncle and babbling happily. She was practically covered in mud from head to toe, but it didn’t seem to bother Mustang in the slightest as he picked her up, settling the girl against his hip. “You didn’t give Emily too much trouble while I was gone, did you?”
“No!” She chirped, donning that innocent look of a child who had, indeed, been a great deal of trouble but would certainly never admit it.
“She’s been an absolute terror,” Ed looked up to see a plump, middle-aged woman appear around the corner. She smiled at the little girl with obvious affection, then sighed in exasperation. “Oh Kara, you’re getting him absolutely filthy.”
She reached out to take the girl, but Mustang waved her off with a smile. “I don’t mind, I can always change later. Say hello to our guest, Kara.”
Edward smiled as bright green eyes turned on him. She clung to Mustang and smiled shyly at Ed. “Hello.”
“Hello,” he returned, smile widening when she tried to hide behind her uncle’s shoulder. Cute kid.
She peered at him for a moment more from the safety of her uncle’s arms before turning to Mustang and saying in a loud whisper. “She’s pretty.”
Edward took back his previous assessment. She was most certainly not
cute. He growled, both at the comment and Mustang’s surprised laugh. Taking a deep breath, Ed told himself that she was just a kid and didn’t know any better. Just because his hair was long didn’t mean he looked like a girl, anyway. Did it? He scowled at the little girl, who was looking back and forth between him and her uncle, confused.
Mustang looked over at him and grinned widely. “Edward is a boy, sweetheart.”
“Oh.” Kara looked back at Edward thoughtfully, who forcefully reminded himself that killing children was generally frowned up. After a moment she smiled brightly at him and announced, “You’re still pretty.”
Ed stared. “Um.” He looked at Mustang, who’s shoulders were shaking with suppressed laughter, then back to the girl in his arms. “Thanks,” he said, not really sure if he should take it as a compliment or an insult.
She seemed content with that as Mustang passed her back over to the woman. “Get her cleaned up, would you Emily?” He looked back at Edward as she disappeared into the house, a wide smirk on his lips.
“Stop laughing at me you bastard,” Ed growled, and if possible, the smirk only grew.
“I wouldn’t dream of it.”
Edward rolled over and buried his face in his pillow, hovering between sleep and awareness without really being either. It took his sleep fogged mind a moment to figure out what had woken him. He was cold. No, not cold, downright freezing
. The rational part of his mind suggested that he rectify the situation before he froze to death. The tired and cranky part of his mind politely told the other part to shut the hell up and let him go back to sleep. Edward was inclined to agree with the second part, but the first was not to be denied and against his better judgment he found himself awake.
“Damn it,” he muttered, feeling around for the blankets that he must have kicked off sometime during the night. Maybe if he didn’t think too much he could still go back to sleep. The world however, seemed to have different plans for him. Giving up his blind search, Ed sat up and rubbed his eyes with a sleepy yawn.
The blankets, he discovered, had somehow vacated the bed completely and were lying in a heap on the floor. He glared at them for a few minutes, blaming his premature awareness entirely on the offending pieces of cloth. No apology was forthcoming however and he yawned again, swinging his legs over the side and wincing as his bare foot came in contact with cold floor. He stumbled over to the blankets and picked them up, tossing them back on the bed.
A peek out the window confirmed that indeed, no sane person would be up and about yet. With a sigh, Edward cast about for a shirt, frowning when he realized his clothes weren’t where he left them. A quick search of the room revealed that his clothes were gone altogether, leaving him only the pajama bottoms he had slept in. With a grunt of annoyance he decided he was too tired to care. Caring didn’t start until after the first cup of coffee.
Coffee. Feeling slightly cheered by the prospect, Edward ran a hand through his sleep-mussed hair and tied it back in a quick tail. Slipping into the hall, he paused, something catching his attention. Was that bacon he smelled? His stomach rumbled a happy affirmative and Ed, needing no further urging, made a quick stop to relieve himself and then followed the heavenly aroma to the small dining room with a minimum of difficulty and only two wrong turns.
Mustang was already up and dressed, newspaper in one hand and a piece of toast in the other. He looked up as Ed entered, raising his eyebrows at his guest’s state of undress. Edward noticed this, and was thankful he was too tired to be embarrassed about it. “Good morning,” Mustang said as Ed slumped into a chair.
Head hitting the table with a muffled thump, Ed grunted, “Coffee first, talk later.”
Mustang chuckled, pushing his own cup over to the younger man. “Take it, I’ll get another.”
Edward picked up the cup with a mumbled thanks, sitting back and taking a long drink. It was hot, and burned a bit on the way down, but he didn’t care. He finished the coffee quickly and set down the cup, feeling a little more human. A little. Crawling back into bed until noon would probably work wonders, but it wasn’t really an option now. Ed sighed. “I needed that.”
“I noticed.” Mustang folded up his newspaper and set it aside. “Not much of a morning person are you?”
“No,” Edward said, making a face. “What time is it anyway?”
“Just past six-thirty.” Ed jumped as the answer came from behind him, Evan appearing from nowhere with two fresh cups of coffee and a plate in hand. The man was like a ghost, he was never there until you needed him, and Ed swore he hadn’t once actually seen him come or go. Evan didn’t bat an eye at his state of undress or at his automail, setting the plate and one cup of coffee down in front of him and passing the other to Mustang.
“I wish I hadn’t asked,” Edward grumbled, thanking Evan. While waking up this early was just wrong on many levels, he could definitely get used to being fed.
“I apologize about your clothes Edward.” Evan said. “I had them taken down for washing, I didn’t expect you to be up so early. I’ll have them back in your room by the time you’re done with breakfast.”
Ah, that explained that then. “No problem, I’ll live.” It was very strange having people do things for him. He wondered how the rich ever got used to it without feeling guilty. “Uh, I can wash my own clothes and stuff though. I mean, I wouldn’t want to be an imposition and you already...” he trailed off at the offended look on the old man’s face. “Unless you don’t mind,” he finished weakly.
“Of course not,” Evan said immediately, picking the empty cup up off the table. “It isn’t an imposition at all.”
There was a chuckle from the other side of the table, and Ed looked over to see Mustang watching him with amusement. “Never suggest that Evan can’t take care of things,” he advised, smiling behind his coffee. “He takes his job very seriously.”
With a nod and a yawn, Edward filed that advice away and went back to giving his breakfast the attention it so deserved. Mustang pushed his plate aside and watched him silently, nursing his coffee. Once Ed was finished eating, he said, “You know, that arm of yours is truly remarkable. It works just as well as a real one. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“This?” Edward asked, gesturing with his automail hand. “This is junk. You should see what my mechanic back home could do. That was some quality automail.” He sighed. What he wouldn’t give to have his old automail back, not these sluggish pieced-together pieces of crap he had now. At least he hadn’t gotten much bigger for all that he had grown a little taller. Very little, he thought sourly. With a bit of tinkering he had been able to make a replacement arm and leg, but if he had to replace the fittings for either, he would have been out of luck. “Its a small shop in the middle of nowhere, but the Rockbells make some of the best automail out there.”
“Limbs like that are common then?”
Ed shrugged. “More or less. There were a lot of people who lost limbs in the war, some who lost them through alchemy like I did. There are even people who voluntarily replace their arms with automail to make themselves stronger, but that’s just stupid if you ask me.”
“Amazing,” Mustang said, pulling out a pocket watch and checking it with a sigh. “I wish I could stay and talk longer, but I have a meeting with one of my business partners in a half hour.” He didn’t look particularly thrilled. “Hopefully I’ll be back around noon. Until then, feel free to have a look around, do a little exploring.”
“Alrighty. Have fun?” Ed offered, grinning when Mustang just snorted and rolled his eyes. Apparently business meetings weren’t his idea of a good time. With a wave Mustang was gone, and Edward swiped a lonely piece of left over bacon from his abandoned plate. He ate slowly, considering what to do.
Bath first, he decided. Hopefully his clothes had reappeared by now so he would have something to wear after he washed up. Then Edward would see if he could beg some paper and a pen off of Evan and start working on ideas to get himself home. He sighed. That was probably going to be a lot of trial and error since he had nothing to work from, but he wanted to have something to show Mustang when he broached the subject with him, even if it was only theories.
There was a sudden tug on his pant leg, and Edward started, looking down to see Kara standing beside his chair, hair mussed and dressed in a pink nightgown. When had she gotten there? Kara rubbed her eyes sleepily, and when she realized she had his attention, she asked, “Where’s Uncle Roy?”
“He left for a meeting,” Edward told her. She looked rather put out by the news, and Ed added, “But he said he would be home by noon.”
“Oh.” She considered this for a moment. “I’m hungry.”
Ed blinked at the sudden change of subject. “Um.” Not sure what to do, he looked around, but no help seemed forthcoming. “Do you know where the kitchen is?” he asked. She nodded, yawning.
“All right then,” Ed stood up and picked the little girl up, swinging her up onto his shoulders and grinning at the delighted squeal. “Let’s go find you some breakfast.”
“How come your arm is like that?” she asked, poking his automail with a tiny finger. “It’s cold.”
“Well,” Ed said slowly, trying to figure out how best to explain it to a little girl. “My real arm fell off, and so I had to replace it with a metal one.”
“It fell off?
” She repeated, and Ed smiled inwardly at her horrified tone. “How come?”
“Well, I did something really bad, and that was my punishment,” Ed told her, which was more or less the case, at least with his leg. He didn’t think she would really understand if he tried to explain the whole Al thing to her.
“If I do something bad, with my arm fall off too?” She asked in a small voice,
“Nah. It only happens if you do something really
bad. ‘Sides, you’re a good girl, right?”
“Right,” Kara agreed, though she didn’t sound entirely convinced Ed noted with amusement.
“All right kiddo, where are we going?” Kara pointed him to a small side door Edward hadn’t noticed earlier. The kitchen, he discovered, was only a short hallway and two doors away. He made a point to remember so he could find it on his own later.
A small, thin man looked up as they entered, smiled at them and went back to cutting potatoes. “What can I do for you two?” he asked, a faint accent to his words that Edward couldn’t place.
Ed lifted Kara off his shoulders and set her back on her feet. “The midget here says she’s hungry.”
The man dropped the sliced potatoes into a bowl and set his knife aside, looking at Kara with one bushy eyebrow raised. “That so? And what would you like miss Kara?”
“Eggs!” she chirped.
“Then eggs you shall have,” he told her with a smile. He waved her into the chair he had just vacated, picking up the knife and sliced potatoes and putting them on the counter. Without turning, the man said, “There should be some eggs on the counter there behind you Ed, pass them over would you?” Edward did so, a little surprised, both at the friendly, familiar tone and the fact that the man already knew his name. As if reading his mind, the little man just grinned over his shoulder at him and said, “Evan told me, if you’re wondering. I’m Liam, the one in charge of feeding this lot. Roy’d die without me, isn’t that right kitten?” he said, nudging Kara.
She giggled and nodded. “Liam says Uncle Roy can’t cook,” she informed Edward, rolling an abandoned potato back and forth between her hands.
“I tried to teach him once, but he’s a lost cause, that one. He burned soup. Soup!” Liam threw his hands up theatrically and Ed grinned. “One disaster after another with that man, I swear. I finally had to ban him from the kitchen after he nearly burned the place down,” Liam said, pointing to scorch marks on the wall near the stove.
“Somehow, I’m not really surprised,” Edward said, vastly amused. This Roy Mustang may not have been the Flame Alchemist, but he still managed to burn things well enough apparently.
“You still hungry while I’m at it?” Liam asked, cracking eggs into a pan.
“I’m good, thanks,” Ed said. Then a thought occurred to him. “I don’t supposed you know where I could find Evan though, do you?” Liam bobbed his head in a cheerful affirmative, pointing behind Edward with a spatula.
“What can I do for you, Edward?”
Okay, that was starting to get downright spooky, Ed decided, turning to find Evan digging through the pantry behind him. He knew for a fact the man wasn’t there a minute ago. “Uh, I was wondering if my clothes were done?”
“Yes,” Evan said, finishing whatever he was doing and closing the pantry door. “They’re clean and waiting for you in your room.”
“Thanks. I don’t suppose you could point me in the right direction for a bath then?” He tugged on his ponytail with a rueful smile. “I’m a mess.”
“Of course, follow me,” Evan said, turning to leave without waiting for a reply.
“Bye Ed!” Kara called, waving at him. He smiled at her and waved back, hurrying after Evan.
The old man led him to a room not far from the guest room he was using. “There should be everything you need inside. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“Actually, yeah,” Edward said, remembering his plans from earlier. “I don’t suppose there’s any way I can beg some paper and something to write with off of you? There’s something I want to do before Mustang gets back.”
“Certainly. I’ll have it waiting for you after you are finished bathing.”
“Thanks,” Ed said, and Evan just inclined his head and vanished down the hall. Edward stared after him for a moment. He got the impression that the old man didn’t like him for some reason, though the others had been friendly enough. Resolving to ask Mustang about it later, Ed went back to his room, and true to word, found everything waiting for him.
A half an hour later found Ed cleaner, happier, and more awake. After straightening up after himself, he made his way back to his room, braiding his damp hair as he went. There was a stack of blank paper and a pencil waiting on the desk for him as promised. Evan may not like him much, but that didn’t stop him from getting things done.
Ed picked up the pencil, tapping the blunt end against his leg as he walked over to the window. It really was a nice day, no trace of the rain and clouds that had been so prevalent the day before. Might as well take things outside, find a place to park and get some work done out in the fresh air while it was still warm enough to get away with it.
Picking up the papers Edward went downstairs, grabbing his coat and shoes from where he had left them near the door and slipped out into the crisp, cool morning. Shielding his eyes against the unexpected brightness, Edward paused, looking around. There was a stand of trees around the north side of the house that looked promising, still resplendent in the brilliant shades of fall. Edward began walking that way, tucking his papers under his chin and shrugging on his coat.
Leaves crunching under his feet, Edward wandered from tree to tree, looking for one that would suit his purposes. It didn’t take long, and soon Ed found himself staring up at a great brute of a climbing tree, a perfect branch about halfway up with his name on it. Rolling up the stack of papers and sticking them in his pocket, Edward grinned and swung himself up on to the first branch, climbing the gnarled old tree like he was born to it.
Once he got to his branch he settled down with a happy sigh, shifting a little until he got comfortable and leaning back against the trunk. Edward sat like that for a long time, content to watch the leaves swaying in the breeze, one or two of them occasionally separating from its fellows and dropping to the ground below. He was in a better mood than he had been in a long time. Ed pulled the paper from his pocket and retrieved the pencil from where he had tucked it behind his ear. He was finally, finally
on to something.
A voice in the back of his mind whispered that there was no guarantee that it would work; no guarantee it even could. Edward ignored that voice. He had a hunch, a gut feeling that if he could just figure out the how, that he would be able to use this Mustang to get home. Years of experience had taught him that his hunches were usually right, particularly when it came to alchemy. The trick would be getting it to work long enough to get anything done, but Edward was relying on the connection between the two to take care of that problem.
Resting the stack of papers against his knee, he tapped the pencil on his nose for a moment, thinking. Best to start with the basics and work out from there, he decided. Ed hunched over and began to write.
* * *
“What on earth
are you doing up there?”
Edward ignored the question, not wanting to lose his train of thought. He waved a hand vaguely to stall any further questions and finished what he was writing, pencil scratching against paper. Reading it back over, he nodded to himself, satisfied. Picking up the stack of notes, Ed swung his legs over the branch, looking down to find Mustang looking up. He grinned down at the other man. “I like trees. Helps me think.”
Mustang snorted. “Won’t be doing much thinking when you fall and break your neck.”
Ed raised his eyebrows, absently sorting his notes into some semblance of order. “Do I detect concern for my welfare?”
“More concern for how I’m going to explain to the police how someone got his fool self killed on my property.”
Rolling his eyes, Ed said dryly, “I’m touched Mustang. Really.” He leaned over and put a hand to his heart. “Right here.”
Lips twitching up into a smile, Mustang shook his head and said, “You coming down? Liam has lunch waiting.”
At the mention of food, Edward realized that he was, indeed, quite hungry. He hurriedly mashed the rest of his notes together, one page slipping from the others in his haste. Ed made a grab for it and missed, watching helplessly as it fluttered to the ground. “Crap. Can you grab that?”
Mustang did so, looking at the paper curiously as Ed swung down out of the tree faster than was probably safe. He landed lightly next to the other man, who passed the paper back to him. A quick glance showed it to be one of the arrays he had drawn up, and he stuffed it back in with the others. “How’d you know I was out here, anyway?” he asked suddenly.
“Emily saw you head out this way earlier,” Mustang said, looking at the notes in Edward’s hand. “What was that?” he asked, pointing.
“Alchemy array,” Ed said, rolling everything up and sticking it in his coat pocket.
Mustang nodded in understanding. Edward had given him a brief rundown of alchemy the night before, and the man had caught on remarkably well considering that two days ago he had never even heard of it. “What is it for?”
“Actually, I wanted to talk to you about that,” Ed said, deciding it was as good a time as any as they began to walk back to the house. “I think you might be able to help me get home, and I was wondering if you’d be willing to help me try.”
Mustang nodded slowly. “I thought you might ask. It seems to me that the fact that there’s a Roy Mustang both here and there is a little too strange to be coincidence.”
“Yeah,” Edward said, tucking his pencil back behind his ear. “The two of you are connected somehow, I don’t doubt that. With your help, I might be able to use that connection to uh...hitch a ride home, more or less. It could take a long time before I figure out what we need to do, though. Will you help me?”
Mustang stopped suddenly, looking up at the sky for a long moment. He nodded once to himself, then looked over at Edward, a faint smile on his lips. “I’ll help with anything you need. Just tell me what to do.”