Series: Fullmetal Alchemist
Warnings: Eventual slash, swearing.
Status: In progress.
Spoilers: Yes, up till the end of the series.
Summary: Ed and Roy find themselves in the hands of a madman with a vendetta, one with a very unique idea of what constitutes 'Equivalent Exchange.'
Previous chapters: Prologue
Edward gnawed on the tip of his pen absently, flipping through the thick ledger that Al had insisted they keep. With a triumphant “Aha!” he found the entry he was looking for. Powell, Kendra. Repaired: One wobbly chair, one broken plate, and one creaky front door. With a glance at the large basket of fresh vegetables resting on the table, he marked the entry paid.
Personally, Ed thought the ledger was kind of pointless. They received payment in the form of food and goods more than they ever did money, anyway. But his brother insisted --said it was a good practice-- and somehow, Al always got his way.
The small alchemy shop he ran with Al had been more of a whim than anything when they started it. Something the small community lacked; a way to do a bit of good and help support themselves. Word spread quickly however, and a surprising amount of demand for their services combined with the fact that Ed was something of a homegrown celebrity caused their tiny business to practically explode. It wasn’t long before people were coming to Risembool from miles around to have them fix broken possessions, repair old barns, and help remodel houses.
Slamming the ledger closed and placing it back on its shelf, Ed snatched a carrot from the basket and flopped down on the couch beside Al, who was sorting through the mail. “Anything interesting?” he asked, peering over his brother’s shoulder.
“Not really...Oh!” Al grinned and pulled a letter from the stack written in suspiciously familiar script. “There’s a ‘Thank You’ letter from Eve here,” he said, thrusting it at Ed who scrambled away with a shudder. He wasn’t touching that thing; chances were it unfolded into a man-trap. He wouldn’t put it past her.
Al laughed and put the letter on the table. “Oh, she isn’t that bad, Brother. She just likes you.”
“That’s the problem, Al,” Ed muttered, casting mistrustful glances at the supposedly harmless letter. Eve was aggressive. And determined. And more than a little terrifying. Ed was also pretty sure that she broke things on purpose just to have a reason to turn up on his doorstep every damned day.
“Oh, this one’s from the Brigadier General!” Al said, pulling out a letter in an official military envelope. Curious, Ed scooted closer as Al opened the letter. Mustang wrote pretty regularly, but he didn’t usually use military stationary.
Ed scanned the letter. It was an invitation to...oh, hell. “Promoted again,” he muttered, making a face at the letter. The last thing he wanted was to go to some stuffy military function. He should have been free of those when he retired, dammit.
“That’s wonderful!” Al exclaimed, and Ed just rolled his eyes and flopped back, taking a bite of his carrot.
“Not going,” he grunted.
“How can you say that, Brother?” Al chided, folding the invitation and sticking it back in the envelope. “He’s our friend. And besides, this will be a nice opportunity to see everyone in Central again.”
“We were there two months ago, Al,” Ed grumbled. “If you make me go there more than once a year, I swear I’m going to start killing people.”
“Well,” Al said, a glint in his eye that Edward did not like. “I’m going even if you don’t. Which means you’ll be all alone. With Eve. For a week.”
Edward leaped up, dashing off and calling over his shoulder, “I’ll start packing!”
“Brother! We don’t have to leave for another two weeks!”
Alphonse glanced down at Ed when his brother snorted and shifted slightly before settling back to sleep on his Al-shaped pillow. He had always envied his brother’s ability to fall asleep seemingly at will on trains. Being able to sleep the whole time would make the trip considerably less dull. Or at the very least, if he couldn’t sleep, Ed could stay awake so he would have someone to talk to. Grinning to himself, Al bounced his knee sharply, rolling his eyes when Edward didn’t so much as twitch at the sudden motion.
It was worth a shot.
He turned his attention back to the countryside rolling by outside, the trees nothing more than one long shadow in the dark. The shapes of houses were becoming more and more frequent, and they would probably be arriving in Central some time within the next hour. Alphonse felt a bit guilty arriving in the middle of the night, especially since Roy had promised to pick them up and give them a ride to the hotel, but the train had to make an emergency stop two towns earlier and it put them several hours behind schedule.
They had called ahead to alert the brigadier general, Alphonse apologizing profusely for the delay, but Roy had still insisted on picking them up. Al smiled inwardly. He was a very kind man, despite how much he enjoyed teasing his brother, and Al liked him a great deal. He suspected Ed did too, but his pride probably prevented him from admitting that he liked a man with a seemingly endless repertoire of short jokes, even a little.
It was fun to watch them together, and if Al wanted to be honest, their visits to Central were...reassuring. The past three years, ever since Ed had restored his body and they had moved back to Risembool, his brother had become something of a shut-in. Outside of work, Edward seemed to have no desire to spend time with, well...anyone besides Al. Not that he wasn’t touched that Ed felt his company was all he needed, and Ed certainly seemed happy enough but he really felt his brother needed more outside interaction. Ed might always grumble about the visits, but once they were there, he enjoyed himself. Talked to people without Alphonse having to prod him, even. It was nice.
The squeal of brakes and a gentle jerk as the train shuddered to a stop pulled him from his thoughts. Looking out the window, Al realized they were already in Central. They must have been closer than he had realized. “Brother,” he called, shaking a black-clad shoulder. Edwards grumbled but didn’t open his eyes, swatting at Al’s hand. Alphonse shook his head and gently pushed his brother off his lap. “We’re here,” he said a bit more loudly.
Edward yawned and sat, leaning over Al and staring out the window blearily. He grunted and got to his feet, fishing his suitcase out from underneath the seat. Al followed suit, smiling to himself as he followed his still half-sleeping brother off the train.
Daniel Markham pushed his glasses up his nose, surreptitiously watching the two young men seated nearby as the train crawled through Central towards the station. One stared out the window distantly, the other slept with his head pillowed on his brother’s lap. His fingers twitched with the urge to act, and he folded them firmly in his lap. He had waited too long and come too far to let impulse get the best of him now.
It was unfortunate that the Elric brothers had left Risembool when they had; it had thrown something of a wrench into his plans. He tugged idly on the cuff of his shirt. Perhaps, he mused, it would turn out to be a blessing in disguise. If they vanished here, in Central, there would be little cause for immediate alarm and once their friends realized something was amiss, Daniel would be long gone with his prize. It had taken some quick thinking to adjust his plans, but he was clever enough to handle a few unexpected changes.
He could scarcely believe it was nearly time. He had spent years carefully crafting his vengeance, years of planning and waiting, of research and testing. Daniel had needed to make sure everything was ready, perfect, the procedure as stable and precise as he could manage. It was vital, so very important, that Edward Elric suffer just as he had suffered, but worse, oh yes, much worse. That he suffer until he could not live for the pain, despair tearing away at him with poison claws until there was nothing left.
Daniel took a deep breath to calm himself. Couldn’t allow himself to get over-excited. It might lead to mistakes, and he knew that with this particular prey, a single mistake might be the end of it. He was too clever by half, if the stories were true, and Daniel would give him no room to exercise that cleverness. None at all.
The train came to a stop, and he watched the younger brother rouse the elder, before turning to his own companion. He elbowed the large man to get his attention. Gentle grey eyes blinked down at Daniel, questioning. “Grab our luggage, Benjamin. It’s time to go.”
“What the hell do you mean you don’t have a room?” Edward snarled at the unfortunate clerk, who drew back slightly in alarm. “I made the damn reservation two weeks ago! Elric, check again.”
With a sigh, the man did as he was told, Ed tapping automail fingers on the counter impatiently. This was stupid. He’d made the reservations weeks ago, had even called ahead before they left to double-check. “I’m sorry, Mr. Elric,” the man said with a shake of his head, “but I simply don’t have a reservation for you. We’re booked solid for the next two weeks because of the festival. There is always a chance of a cancellation, if you’d like to wait, but otherwise I’m afraid there isn’t anything I can do.”
Ed reached out, snatching the front of the man’s shirt and half-dragging him across the counter. “Listen, asshole--”
He was interrupted by a hand on his shoulder. “Brother, leave him alone. If they don’t have any rooms, then there really isn’t anything he can do.”
With something that was half grumble and half growl, he released the bastard and turned to Al. “Well, what are we supposed to do? I’d forgotten about that stupid festival, we could drive around for hours and not find a place with a room.”
“You can stay with me.”
Both heads swung towards Mustang, who was waiting with their bags. Al blinked and then shook his head. “Oh, no, we don’t want to be an inconvenience. I’m sure we’ll find something.”
Roy snorted. “It isn’t an inconvenience. I’ve got plenty of space. If you insist, we can see if we can find somewhere for you to stay tomorrow, but it’s too late to worry about it tonight.”
Alphonse looked at Ed, who shrugged. Didn’t matter to him, and it would save them money in the end.
Daniel watched two shadowed figures moving behind the curtains and cursed his abominable luck. He didn’t know why they had chosen to stay with the general over the hotel, but it was proving to make his plan more difficult. He had planned on capturing the brother as well, and while he was not vital to his plans, his presence would help. Unfortunately, he had no way of telling who the two individuals downstairs were. Edward might not even be among them.
Still, he could not afford to wait. Daniel would simply have to take the chance and hope for the best. He fingered the two syringes in his pocket, checked to make sure that Benjamin was out of sight, and rapped on the door.
After a moment he heard the muffled sound of footsteps, and the door opened to reveal the general.
Schooling his features into a slightly confused smile, he said, “Ah, is Kadie home?”
The general blinked at him and shook his head. “I’m sorry, I think you have the wrong house.”
Daniel frowned, glancing at the numbers beside the door. “I must have written it down wrong, I’m terribly sorry for disturbing you so late.” He hesitated a moment, and then asked, “Could I ask to use your telephone? I swear I won’t be a moment, but I really should call her.”
He frowned, but sighed and nodded. “All right. Come on in.” The general turned his back to Daniel, and lightning-fast, he wrenched the syringe from his pocket and plunged it into the other man’s neck.
The sedative was strong and remarkably fast acting. Mustang only managed a strangled sound before he slumped against the wall and slid to the floor. Daniel scowled at the unconscious man as he stepped over him. He only had two syringes, and had been forced to waste one on the general.
Hurrying down the hall and around the corner, he came face to face with his prey, and had to struggle not to smile. “Oh, thank god!” He said, grabbing the startled young man’s arm. “He opened the door, and he just...collapsed!” He fluttered in fake panic.
“What are you-- shit!” Edward saw the general’s body slumped on the floor and dashed over, kneeling beside him and checking for a pulse. He completely forgot about Daniel in his alarm, and he came up behind the short alchemist unnoticed, calmly plunging the second syringe into his neck. The dosage set to work even faster on the smaller man than it had the general, and he slumped over without even a sound.
Stepping over them, Daniel waved Benjamin over. He didn’t have the time to search the house for the brother, and he had no more of the sedative besides. It was too risky. In the end, he had gotten what he had come for, and that would have to be good enough.
Benjamin hefted Edward’s dead weight at Daniel’s direction, and he paused before directing him to take the general as well. Too messy to kill him, too dangerous to leave someone behind who had seen him. Best to take him, then. Perhaps he would find a use for the man.
Daniel allowed himself a small smile as Benjamin bound the hands and feet of the two men before stuffing them into the back of the rented van.
Everything was finally coming together.
The first thing Edward became aware of was the noise. Barking, squawking and howling, a cacophony of sound that drummed through his skull and gave him the urge to scream. His head was thick, pounding, he couldn’t seem to think and all the damn noise was not helping.
The second thing he became aware of was that he was lying on something hard, cold, and smelling strongly of animal.
The third thing he became aware of was the touch of a hand on his hair.
The realization was enough to startle him out of his haze, at least a little, and he tried to move, but it was like trying to swim through molasses. His limbs were sluggish at best, leaden weights that left him flopping feebly instead of moving like they should. His automail didn’t seem to want to move at all. What was wrong with him? The hand moved away while Edward fought with unresponsive limbs. “Ed?”
The voice was familiar, and Ed gave up struggling with his body for a moment in favor of cracking open his eyes. It was dark, and he could only make out the vague shape of a person leaning over him. Then it clicked. “Mustang?” he asked, and winced. Talking made the pain in his head worse.
“You’re awake.” Relief. The hand returned to his head. “You’ll want to stay still, give the drug some time to wear off completely.”
Drugs. That would explain why he felt like his head was stuffed with cotton. Cotton and angry little men stabbing his brain with sharp spikes. Yeah, being drugged would explain...wait. “You drugged me?” he shrieked, instantly regretting it when a particularly vicious little man with an exceptionally large spike attacked his brain with gusto. It also set the animals off, and Ed whimpered.
Mustang snorted. “I didn’t drug you. Whoever kidnapped us did.”
Ed frowned, trying to remember a kidnapping. The last thing he remembered was arguing with that prick at the hotel. After that, it was nothing but a fog. He swore. “Why the hell would someone kidnap us? “
“The usual reasons, probably. Ransom, blackmail. I can’t say for sure, I haven’t even seen our captors yet. I haven’t been awake long myself.” Ed heard the other man shift slightly. “They took your automail.”
Well. That was fucking fantastic. No wonder his limbs didn’t want to move, half of them weren’t even there. It took a moment for the implication to sink in. If they knew enough about him to take away his automail, then chances were good he was the one they’d been after. Of course, their captor could have simply taken it in order to cripple him. No way to be sure.
Ed frowned, something worrying at the edge of his consciousness. When it finally struck him, he sat bolt upright, ignoring the pain. “Al! What happened to Al?” Last he could remember, Alphonse was with them.
“He isn’t here,” Roy assured him, helping Ed into a sitting position and leaning him against the bars for support.
Well, there was a bit of silver lining. If Al wasn’t with them then chances were he was fine and looking for them.
“Do you know where we are?” He asked the other man, peering into the dark and wishing he could see more than vague shadows.
“A kennel of some sort, maybe a zoo.” Ed heard Roy shift in the dark, sitting beside him. “I can only guess. I’m not even sure we’re still in Central. There’s no telling how long we’ve been out.”
Ed lifted his arm experimentally, testing. Still a bit sluggish, but the effects of the drug were definitely wearing off. If the bastards that brought him here thought taking his arm would make a difference, they were sorely mistaken. “I’m going to need your help when we get out of here,” he muttered, biting his finger sharply. Ignoring the pain, Ed squeezed the blood from the wound and began tracing an array on the floor. “Until we find my leg, at least.”
“Ed, it won’t--”
The crackle of alchemical energy cut him off, lighting the room in a brief and brilliant flash before it just...fizzled. Ed frowned at the floor, blinking away the spots dancing before his eyes. What the hell? He had never seen that kind of reaction before.
“-work,” Roy finished. He sighed. “I think they have a Logan Array under the cage.”
Edward swore, slumping back against the bars. The Logan Array was named for the man who had developed it, but it was more commonly known as the anti-array. An impressive bit of creative alchemy, the array was designed to disrupt and disperse any alchemical reactions from within the array itself. Ed had never seen one in action himself; they were most common in prisons to keep alchemist prisoners from transmuting their way to freedom. If they were sitting in the middle of an anti-array, it meant that any attempt to escape via alchemy was doomed to failure.
It also meant that at least one of their captors was a skilled alchemist.
The day was just getting better and better.
Light suddenly flooded the room and Ed squinted and tensed. He glanced at Roy and was startled to see a large, purple bruise marring the side of his face. He didn’t have time to ask however, because the sound of footsteps drew near.
A moment later a tall, thin man wearing a white lab coat and glasses came into view. He couched down in front of the cage, resting his arms on his knees and peering through the bars. All Roy received was a disinterested glance before the man’s gaze settled on Ed, and he smiled, the expression so full of hatred that it made his skin crawl.
“Ah, Edward Elric. I’ve waited a very long time to meet you.”