Title: Best I Ever Had - Chapter 2
Series: Fullmetal Alchemist
Words: 4004 (6288 total)
Warnings: Lame title, swearing, implied sex with a minor.
Status: In progress.
Spoilers: We'll be safe and say yes, for the full series.
Summary: After a decade apart, war with Creta brings Roy and Edward together again, and they discover that nothing between them has been resolved. Sequel to Can't Be,
but you don't need to read it to be able to follow the plot here.
Notes: In the course of researching something else, I discovered that in the manga, there is actually a military character by the name of Miles. I didn't know this when I started, so I just wanted to point out that my Miles is a completely different character to avoid confusion. Also taking a bit of liberty with the geography of Amestris since I couldn't find much information on it at all.::Chapter 2::
Ed draped bonelessly over the side of the jeep, squinting against the dust being kicked up as they bumped along the dirt road. No trains ran to this far-flung corner of Amestris, and they had left the paved roads hours ago. It seemed an odd place for Creta to attack, really. According to the lieutenant serving as their driver, before the war there was nothing out here but a few secluded villages and a tiny border outpost.
Of course, if the letters from Riza were any indication, nothing about this war made much sense at all.
Wiping sweat and dust from his face, Ed glanced back at Al. His brother sat with his head tilted back at an awkward angle, eyes closed, attempting to escape the persistent heat by sleeping. Not a bad idea, really, Edward thought, looking upward. The thick canopy kept out all but the most determined sunlight, but the constant shade seemed to do nothing to mitigate the sticky heat. It was so hot and so damned humid
that it felt like his skin was melting off.
The jeep bounced sharply as they hit a large pothole, and Ed banged his chin on the door. Swearing under his breath, Ed rubbed his chin and sat up straight. The lieutenant, who had ditched first jacket and then shirt ages ago, shrugged bare shoulders and offered an apologetic smile. “Sorry. Not exactly a smooth ride out here.”
“I’ll live,” Edward said, slumping back against the seat and watching the scenery move by. He had never been so far south before. They were only six hours or so as the crow flies from the southern border, beyond which lay Areugo. Considering Amestris had such shitty relations with her neighbors, it was probably a miracle Areugo hadn’t jumped on board with Creta. A damned good thing they hadn’t, but still a miracle.
This place though, this wasn’t the Amestris he knew. It might still be within her borders, but the towering trees and thick foliage seemed to belong somewhere else. He could occasionally hear the harsh cries of birds and animal sounds less easily identified above the rumble of the jeep. He knew the constant drone of insects would be there as well, the next time they stopped. The thick jungle was an alien environment to him, and Ed wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.
Except that the damned heat was murder, and would probably kill him in days.
The ride continued in bumpy silence for another hour or so before the thick jungle opened up a bit and the road smoothed out. Still not paved, but no longer that miserable, pitted dirt track that liked to pretend it was a road. Ed roused himself from his half-doze, looking around. The lieutenant, --Willins, Ed thought he said his name was-- noticed his interest and said, “We’re about an hour and a half away. The general was so relieved when he heard we were picking up alchemists,” he added by way of conversation, “we all were, really.”
Ed nodded absently, then blinked when the words penetrated. General? He?
Ed looked back at Al, still sleeping in the back. Alphonse had told him they’d be serving under Hawkeye, but she was a colonel, last he’d heard. Of course, they always could have given her a field promotion since the last letter. Mail was pretty erratic from the front, and now he could see why. “Which general?” Ed asked, tension knotting his stomach. He tried to ignore it. Even if Al was wrong, even if they weren’t stationed under Hawkeye, chances were good it still wasn’t... well. Wasn’t.
Willins glanced over at him, surprised. “General Mustang,” he replied easily. “No one told you?”
It felt a bit like someone had just punched him in the head. “No,” Ed said weakly. “No one told me. We...I thought we were supposed to stationed under Colonel Hawkeye.”
“The colonel? Her unit is some hundred miles north of here last I heard. Probably just a miscommunication somewhere. This may be our own little slice of hell out here,” he continued, blithely unaware of his passenger’s distress, “ but General Mustang is the best commander you could ask for.” The last was said proudly.
“I’m sure he is,” Ed replied stiffly. Roy Mustang was probably a great commander...if you weren’t Edward Elric.
A decade of hurt and anger rushed to the fore, feelings it had taken him years to suppress striking with a startling intensity. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t see the man, work with him. Not after what had happened. Sure, it was pathetic; Ed knew that. It was pathetic to be so fucked up over a man who had dropped him like a bad habit nearly eleven years
ago. He had some to terms with that ages ago. He could handle it. What he could not handle was idea of Mustang discovering just how pathetic he was. Of Roy realizing that after all these years that what had happened between them still mattered to him.
That was absolutely unacceptable.
It was unacceptable, and it didn’t have to happen. He was no longer the military’s dog. He was a civilian now. A volunteer
. That meant that he could turn around and go home any time he damn well wanted to, and he was going to take advantage of that. He didn’t care if they needed alchemists; as soon as they rolled in to camp he was telling them he had changed his mind.
This was all Al’s fault. Damn his brother into talking him into this.
Ed was going to give his little brother an earful just as soon as he woke up.
* * *
The anxiety had settled in his belly as soon as he had learned what --who
-- they were driving towards and began to steadily grow. Ed clutched the seat, fingers digging into the fabric and tried to convince himself that it wouldn’t be that bad. If he was lucky, he might not even see Mustang before they left. If he was lucky. Ed snorted and earned curious glance from Willins. Since when had he ever been lucky when it came to Roy?
“Almost there,” the lieutenant assured him, and Ed wondered if the man was mistaking dread for eagerness. He reached out, snatching up the radio handset. “Banana Cream, this is Rhubarb, come in. Over.”
Ed blinked at the man, sure he had to have misheard. A moment later the radio crackled and a sharp, feminine voice snapped. “Key Lime here, Banana Cream is on break. What do you want, Rhubarb? Over.”
Willins winced and answered, “Aw, Lizzie. You can’t still be mad about--”
“This is an official radio channel, Rhubarb
, so if you don’t have anything official to say, get off the damn channel. Over.”
Willins shot him a long-suffering look, and Ed gave him a pat on the shoulder in sympathy. Willins sighed and said, “Just wanted you to know that the ETA on the package is about fifteen minutes. Over.”
“Roger. Out,” came the curt reply, and the radio fell silent.
Edward couldn’t help it, he laughed. In the four years he had spent in the military, he didn’t think he had once heard such ridiculous code names. Willins shook his head and put the handset back. “Who came up with those?
” Ed asked.
“What? Our code names?” Willins grinned. “Captain Bennett was the culprit this time, I think. He gets hungry, and next thing I know our code names are all types of pie. We change our codes every few months, and I swear they get sillier every damn time. Might as well give the Cretans a laugh when they intercept our transmissions, yeah?”
“Well, at least he has a good sense of humor,” Ed replied, amused.
“You’re telling me,” Willins said, navigating the jeep around a fallen tree that partially blocked the road. “We’re certain he’s responsible for a good half of the practical jokes, too, but so far no one has caught him in the act. You and your brother will be reporting directly to him for the most part.”
They lapsed into silence, Edward’s humor evaporating at the reminder. Fifteen minutes, the lieutenant had said. He really shouldn’t be so nervous, and he blamed it on the heat. And Al. Alphonse was the one who had insisted they were needed, had worn Ed down with his arguments and sheer persistence. Eventually, Ed had given in because if he hadn’t, Al would have gone alone and there was no way he could let him do that.
Mustang was never supposed to be a part of the deal.
Crawling over the seats and into the back, Ed jabbed his sleeping bother none-too-gently. Alphonse started awake, peering at Ed with sleepy eyes. “Brother? We there?”
“Almost, but I need to talk to you first.”
Edward’s urgency penetrating his sleepy haze, Al sat up straighter. “What’s wrong?”
“You told me we were going to be stationed under Riza,” Ed said, and despite his best efforts the words came out accusatory.
Alphonse blinked at him, confused. “I said we might be, Brother. There was never a guarantee. Why?”
Edward barely had the presence of mind to remember the man in the front seat, and lowered his voice to a near whisper. “Well, it isn’t. It’s Mustang
Confusion gave way to understanding, and Al’s eyes went soft. “I’m sorry, Brother, I didn’t know.” With a glance at the lieutenant, he leaned closer and whispered. “Will you be okay?” That earned him a sour stare, and Alphonse sighed. “It’s been a long time, Brother. It might not be so bad. Might even be good for you, to see him again. Get some closure, you know?”
“Closure,” Ed repeated in disbelief. He loved his brother, he really did, but sometimes Al got some crazy notions in that head of his. “I don’t want closure, Al, I just want to never see him again. That should be simple, right? Avoiding one person in the whole damned world?” He slumped back against the seat and sighed.
Alphonse shrugged helplessly. “I’m sorry, but there isn’t much we can do.”
“As soon as we get there,” Ed said firmly, “we are turning right back around and getting the hell out.”
“You can’t be serious!” Al squawked, and Willins half-turned.
“Everything all right back there?”
“We’re fine,” Ed assured him. When he was sure the lieutenant’s attention had returned to the road, he whispered. “I’m dead serious.” Al frowned, and Edward sighed. “I can’t do this Alphonse. I can’t
. I know it doesn’t make sense to you, but...I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to see him again.” It was hard to admit it, even to his brother. He felt like...well, like a wuss. People got dumped every day and managed to move on just fine. Sure, his case was probably more unusual than most, but still. Most of the time, he managed to forget Mustang had ever existed, but that didn’t change the fact that he hadn’t been able to develop any sort of romantic interest in anyone
. Not for lack of trying, he had wanted to prove to himself that he had moved on so
badly, but it had just never happened. Eventually, he had just given up.
Al stared up at the trees for a long moment before he nodded. “Okay, Brother. Okay. We can put in a request for reassignment if that’s what you really want.”
What Ed really wanted was to go home and forget the whole thing, but he knew that wasn’t going to happen. Riza’s letters about the personnel shortage, particularly when it came to alchemists, had Al all gung-ho to do his part. Which probably hadn’t been the colonel’s intention, but here they were all the same. “Thank you.”
Alphonse squeezed his arm gently, and Ed was suddenly grateful for his brother all over again. Al might not really understand his reluctance after all these years, but he supported him regardless. It was nice to know that there was always at least one person on his side.
It wasn’t long before first the walls, then the gatehouse came into view. There was a soldier leaning against the gate, and as they drew closer, Ed realized it must be ‘Key Lime’. She was pretty, he decided as they rolled to a stop. Or rather, she would be if she wasn’t glaring daggers at poor Willins. “Hello, Sergeant,” he said, hopeful.
“Lieutenant,” she returned curtly, scanning the jeep briefly and marking something down on the clipboard she carried. She thumped a fist on the gate, calling, “Open up!” After a moment, the gate did so, and she waved them on through, returning to the gatehouse without a second glance.
Willins sighed as he put the jeep into gear, pulling slowly into the outpost. The lieutenant had told them the outpost used to be nothing more than two ramshackle buildings in the jungle, no more than three soldiers posted there at any given time. It used to be something of a ‘doghouse’ post, back before the war. In the five years since Creta had launched the first attack, the tiny outpost had exploded, first tents, then as the war dragged on, buildings popping up as needed. These days, the outpost was more of a small town.
Edward had hoped they could just sort of sneak in and back out again, but he was beginning to see that wasn’t going to happen. The jeep was attracting a lot of attention, and --good grief-- was that a crowd
It was. Apparently their arrival was news enough to gather an impressive group on onlookers. Ed sighed. So much for doing things quietly.
Willins snapped him from his thoughts by reaching back and tapping his leg, pointing towards the group when he had Ed’s attention. “There’s Captain Bennett and General Mustang there, off to the left. See ‘em?”
It felt like his heart just stopped. He did see them. Even at this distance, even after all these years, he picked Roy out immediately even though he was barely more than a blur of blue and black. He clutched at Al’s hand, panic welling in his chest, and incongruous as it was, his first thought was that he hoped Roy looked old. He was what, forty now? Stupidly, and a little bit viciously, Ed hoped he looked every day of it and more. Somehow, he was sure that if Roy wasn’t still that smug, painfully attractive bastard he remembered, it would make things easier.
They drew closer, and Ed wondered why he had bothered to hope. Roy looked...good. Better than good. Amazing. His only concession to age that Ed could see was a touch of silver at the temples. The bastard. He wasn’t going to get old, he was going to get distinguished
. Another black mark against him in Ed’s book.
And then he realized that if he could see Roy, Roy could see him
, and he was suddenly very interested in Alphonse, who was patting his hand soothingly, brows creased in a worried frown. The jeep stopped, and he heard Willins hop out. He risked a glance up, carefully keeping his eyes on the lieutenant, who was offering a salute to the man Ed refused to look at. “Here they are, sir, safe and sound. Might have to scrape them off the seats though,” he added with a grin. “Permission to go crash, General? I’m beat.”
“Go ahead, lieutenant,” Roy replied, and hearing that voice again hurt. He paused, then added dryly, “And next time, try and keep your personal affairs off the radio.”
“Yessir,” Willins said, ducking his head in embarrassment. He turned back towards the jeep, offering Ed and Al a wave before trotting off.
Edward realized there was no getting out of it, and somehow, the knowledge calmed him. He wasn’t a kid anymore. He was an adult, and damned if he would give Roy the satisfaction off seeing him in hysterics. The man had enough of an ego as it was. Gathering his anger around him like a shield, he took a deep breath, pushed open the door and stepped out.
He and Al were met with hoots and hollers from the gathered men, even a few scattered cheers and whistles. He wasn’t sure what to do, but Roy saved him the trouble. “Don’t you have something better to do?” he barked.
“No, sir!” someone called back, earning a few laughs.
“Then I suggest you find something!” The man Willins had identified as Captain Bennett roared. The men fell silent, and he continued, “Because if you have time to loiter around gawking at our guests, than you certainly have time to scrub out the privies!”
Ed had never in his life seen so many men scatter quite so fast. Roy, he noticed, was fighting a smile and losing miserably. “Thank you, Miles.”
“Any time, sir.”
Then Roy turned his attention to him, and Ed met his eyes without flinching. It gave him confidence, and he squared his shoulders slightly; he could do this. He could. It surprised him when Roy sighed slightly before extending his hand. Ed shook it, and that too turned out to be relatively painless. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all.
“Hello, Edward, Alphonse. This,” he gestured to the man beside him, who nodded in greeting, “is Captain Miles Bennett. You’ll be getting your assignments directly from him.” He paused while Ed and Al shook the captain’s hand, then continued. “I’m sure that you’re both tired after your trip, so I’ll leave you with the Captain to get settled.” He paused, eyes finding Ed’s again. “It’s good to see you again,” he said, and Ed was startled to find that the words sounded entirely sincere.
Roy was already walking away before he could muster a reply, and he nearly jumped out of his skin when the captain suddenly clapped him on the back. He laughed, and Ed was surprised to see the man looked a good deal older than Roy. “Grab your bags, boys, and let’s get out of the damned heat.”
Ed did as he was told, exchanging a glance with Al as they followed the captain. “The general told me we couldn’t hope for a better pair of alchemists,” he said, grinning over his shoulder. “And let me tell you, we’ve been dying for some talent. We lost our last real alchemist --beside the general that is-- six months ago.”
“Hey! With all due respect Captain, you can shove it.”
Ed turned to see a young girl trotting up to them. Ed would put her at eighteen at the most. She thumped Captain Bennett in the shoulder. “Thought I’d come to see what a couple of ‘real’ alchemists look like.” She thrust out a hand towards Al. “Private Sophie Meyers.”
Shifting his bags to free up a hand, Al shook it. “Alphonse Elric, and this is my brother, Edward,” he said.
“Hey,” he said, shaking the girl’s hand as well.
“Nice to meet you.” she said, falling in to step beside them. “I gotta say, I’m glad you’re here. I was so relieved when they told me they’d picked up two new alchemists and I could go back to regular duties.”
“You’re an alchemist?” Alphonse asked, curiosity piqued.
Sophie snorted. “In the loosest sense of the word, maybe. I’m crap at it to be honest. But the general doesn’t have the time to be a general and an alchemist too, so,” she shrugged, “the job fell to me. Anyway, I’m on duty in five minutes, I gotta go. Just wanted to say hello and welcome!” She turned around and left just as quickly as she had come.
“Meyers is a good sport,” Bennett commented, directing them through a row of squat wooden buildings. “The men like to complain, especially about the coffee, but she works hard.”
Ed nodded absently, then suddenly remembered that he needed to tell the captain they were leaving. “Listen--” he began.
“Here we are!” Bennett interrupted, pointing at a small building off to the right. “The men were so excited when they heard you were coming, they put up private quarters for the two of you.”
Ed secretly wondered if the captain knew what he was going to say and was trying to guilt trip him. “We can’t stay here,” Ed said.
Bennett shot him a bewildered look. “Well, if you boys would rather stay in the barracks, you’re more than welcome to.”
Ed sighed, shaking his head. “That’s not what I meant.”
The captain sighed. “No, I didn’t think it was. In you go,” he said, ushering them inside, “We’ll talk inside.”
The small house was surprisingly nice. The main room contained two beds, a table with four chairs, and it looked like they had a private bathroom in the back. Ed knew enough to know that these kind of accommodations were usually reserved for higher ranking officers, and he sighed, sinking into one of the chairs. Once Al and Captain Bennett were seated, the latter fixed him with a stern look. “So what is this all about?”
“I apologize for coming all the way out here and getting everyone’s hopes up, but we can’t stay. We’re going to be heading back to Central as soon as possible to put in for reassignment.”
Bennett nodded slowly, scratching his beard thoughtfully. “This wouldn’t have something to do with the general, would it?” Ed paled in spite of the heat, and the captain sighed. “I thought so. Don’t worry, all he told me about it was that the two of you had parted on bad terms some years ago.” He leaned forward, crossing his arms on the table and pinning Ed with a firm stare. “Can’t say I know what has the two of you more prickly than a pair of frightened porcupines, but I will say this: We need you. Badly. Supply lines out here are practically non-existent, and we’ve been almost totally self-sufficient here for the last three years. Urabi doesn’t push us much these days, and to hear the general talk, she’s as tired of this bullshit as we are, but that doesn’t change the fact that we’ve been toe to toe with the enemy for years and that’s a hell of a drain on the resources.”
“We have to try and keep our men fed, clothed and armed, and all we get from the higher-ups are erratic shipments when they pull their heads outta their asses long enough to realize that maybe we need supplies. We get what we can from the land, and thank god there’s good hunting out here. Beyond that, Sophie has been buried under a workload she was never trained for, and the general has been turning himself inside out tying to support her when he can on top of all the rest of the garbage we pile on him.”
The man certainly knew how to lay it on. The worst part was, Ed didn’t think the captain was trying to guilt him, he was just laying down the facts. He shook his head slowly, feeling like a coward. “I’m sorry, but I can’t.”
Bennett let out a loud sigh and leaned back, wooden chair creaking at the movement. “I’ll make you a deal then. There isn’t another train through Kent for three weeks, and I doubt you want to camp on an empty train platform in the middle of nowhere ‘til then. So, I want you to work with us in the meantime. If you still want to go in the end, I’ll have Willins drive you back out to Kent. What do you say?”
Edward looked at Al, and his brother said, “I think that’s fair. We should give it a chance.”
What the hell. It wasn’t like they had much of an option anyway. Edward nodded. “Three weeks.”