Series: Fullmetal Alchemist (Animeverse)
Words: 4,466 (13,474 total)
Warnings: 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 - Chapter 1 - Chapter 2
Edward resisted the urge to scratch at the puncture wounds on his arm. They always itched like crazy the day after the injections. He hated those fucking injections. Needles were bad enough, but that bastard was pumping him full of some sort of drug, and Ed didn’t have a damned idea what it was. It left him feeling weak and ill, sick to his stomach more often than not, and then there were the hallucinations. He winced at the thought.
Talking helped. Stopped his mind from going all skittery and strange, pushed back the paranoia that often accompanied the injections. Edward hated the loss of control that came with the drug. Hated the way everything seemed to ghost and warp. He’d thought for a long time that the injections were an end unto themselves, but he was beginning to have his doubts. He didn’t know what purpose they might serve beyond making him feel like certified shit, but that rat-bastard had hinted at a greater purpose.
Maybe the hallucinations were just a hint of things to come. Maybe, if enough of the drug was pumped into his veins he’d just go crazy; a long, endless stream of warped images and strange sounds. Maybe, next time it started, it’d never go away.
Edward shuddered and shook his head hard. He was letting his imagination get the better of him. The possibility was there, but working himself into a panic over something that might or might not happen was just plain stupid. It was hard to keep his spirits up living in a cramped little box with nothing to look forward to but more suffering. The whole mess seemed to weigh on him a little more every day, but he had to try and keep some kind of positive outlook. If not for his own sake, then for Roy’s. Roy had enough to worry about without dealing with Ed’s issues too.
The man in question had been drifting in and out of fitful sleep for hours. His breathing was loud and wet, and when Ed touched him, Roy’s skin was burning with fever. When he was awake, Roy tried to downplay his illness, hide his symptoms, but Ed knew better. In his own head at least, he could admit that he was worried. Scared sick was more like it. He couldn’t help but think of his mother; the sickness might be different, but the end result might be the same. Outside, with access to medical treatment, Roy probably would have been fine. But locked in a filthy cage in a damp, cold basement? With no access to medicine or proper care? The possibility that Roy would die and leave him to endure it all alone was almost more than he could bear.
Roy coughed, the sound of it making Edward’s stomach clench. “Ed?” Roy called quietly when the fit passed, his voice hoarse.
Ed scooted a little closer. “Yeah?”
“Would you mind getting me some water?” He sounded like he needed it.
“Yeah, sure,” Ed said, dragging himself to the corner where the water tank sat. At least they always had water, he mused, picking up the plastic cup and filling it. Of course they would, though. Glasses might be batshit insane, but he wanted them alive for the time being. He returned to Roy, passing over the cup. Ed had tried to avoid drinking much in the beginning. There was no privacy for bodily functions, and it had taken him a long while to get over the humiliation of having to use the toilet --or pan, in their case-- with an audience. Roy always turned his back to offer Ed the most privacy he could, but it was still beyond humiliating in the beginning.
These days, he really didn’t give a shit if Roy watched him take a piss or not; months in captivity did wonders for rearranging a man’s priorities.
Roy gulped down the water quickly, finishing with a sigh and passing the cup back to Ed, who returned it to its place beside the tank. “Thank you,” Roy said, and Ed grunted in reply. He picked up the blanket Roy had discarded in his thrashing and tossed it at the older man.
“Get some sleep, you need the rest,” Ed said, trying not to sound as concerned as he felt. He didn’t think he succeeded.
“Yes, sir,” Roy replied, a hint of humor in the words, and just as he began to settle down the light flared on, startling them both. They exchanged a curious glance; Glasses usually didn’t return so quickly after one of Edward’s sessions. He shrugged at Roy. It probably didn’t have anything to do with him, but rather one of the other experiments.
He was proven wrong, however, when Glasses came straight to their cage, Bear following obediently behind. Their captor motioned for the large man to open the cage and Ed felt a surge of alarm even as he shrugged out of the shirt. He couldn’t mean to have another session again so soon, could he? Roy was evidently thinking the same thing, and he frowned as they went through the familiar routine.
Bear directed him towards the lab, and Ed had to resist the urge to struggle. Bear, well, he wasn’t such a bad guy, and Ed didn’t like giving him trouble. The big man might be simple, but he was gentle, and Edward suspected that Bear might be as much a victim as they, though he couldn’t say for certain.
The door was closed, and Ed was strapped to the cold table just like always. He scowled, angry that he’d barely been given any time to recover. “Couldn’t wait to start fucking with me again, asshole?” At least it wouldn’t be the injections, those were fairly regular. It would just be pain, and the pain always went away.
Glasses was unperturbed by his language. But then, Ed never could seem to get a rise out of him, which was why he was so startled when the man replied in a clipped, professional tone. “Oh, no, nothing of the sort today. There will be no more injections you’ll be pleased to hear; you’ve had enough. Today…” He moved beyond Edward’s sight, and when he returned, Ed couldn’t help but gape. The bastard was holding Ed’s leg. “I’m going to return your leg.”
Ed wasn’t quite sure what to say to that, and so he said nothing at all.
Glasses either didn’t notice the lack of response or didn’t care, setting the leg out of sight on his worktable. “I’ve been doing a bit of reading, you see, and I learned something interesting. Empty automail ports are very prone to infection. The injections would have prevented any infection before now, but now that you will no longer be receiving them, I need to take extra precautions to ensure your health. We can’t have you getting an infection, after all. No, that would put us days, weeks behind schedule.”
He returned to the table carrying what appeared to be medical implements of some kind. Ed could see gauze and bandages, a jar of some clear fluid, and few other things he did not recognize. Ed wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but he was beyond startled when the man began to clean the port on his leg. The smell of antiseptic quickly filled the small room when he opened the jar, and Edward could only watch in baffled amazement as the man cleaned out his leg port first with a damp cloth, and then with the antiseptic gel. He wasn’t gentle but neither was he unnecessarily rough, and after a while Edward relaxed a little. It was incongruous with his other experiences in this room, but he certainly wasn’t going to argue if the man was giving him back his leg.
After the cleaning, Glasses retrieved something that looked much like the concoction Winry used to prevent rust, and spread a generous amount into the port. He examined his work carefully for a few moments, making thoughtful sounds to himself. Then, without warning he grabbed Ed’s leg and slammed it into the port.
Edward screamed, he couldn’t help it. The agony of the sudden attachment to a port that hadn’t seen automail in months was intense, lancing through him in blinding streaks. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed before the excruciating pain began to ebb, becoming something tolerable. Ed sucked in gasping breaths, staring at the yellow bulb of the light above him. He wasn’t looking forward to repeating the process with his arm in the future.
Edward realized that while he had been blinded by pain, the bastard had moved on to his arm and was now cleaning that port as well. Ed stared in confusion around the painful churning in his head. Surely the man wouldn’t give Edward his arm back? That would be stupid. Not to mention suicidal.
But no, once the port was clean, it was covered in gauze and carefully bandaged. It took him a long moment to realize this was probably to keep it from getting dirty again, and he laughed a little. The bastard taking care of him like this was absolutely absurd. He must really want him in decent condition for...whatever it was he was planning. He’d even been giving them more food lately, and Ed couldn’t quite bring himself to care that he was being fattened for the slaughter, so to speak.
A few more minutes passed, and he could hear Glasses clanking around, messing with whatever it was he kept in his lap. Best he could tell from the little he’d seen, it was an eclectic collection of supplies related to alchemy and other sciences with which Ed was less familiar. Finally, he returned, unstrapped Ed from the table, and had Bear return him to his cage.
Edward had the very distinct impression that time was running out.
“Take me with you.”
Jean shook his head, purposely avoiding eye contact. He had hoped, somewhat foolishly, to avoid having this confrontation, but it looked like there was no way out of it now. “I can’t.”
Alphonse made a strange noise, and Jean finally met his eyes and inwardly applauded himself on resisting the urge to cringe. Al was not pleased, to say the very least. In fact, unless he missed his guess, Al was a hairsbreadth from ripping off his testicles and feeding them to him. Jean didn’t quite manage to suppress the wince at that image. “You’re the leader of the team, aren’t you?”
“Well, yes,” Jean said, wishing briefly that Al had a better understanding of military procedure. Taking a civilian on a potentially dangerous operation was beyond stupid, and Keats would have his hide for it. Not to mention Jean didn’t want to risk Alphonse getting hurt. “Keats would nail my ass to the wall if he found out I took a civilian with me. Besides,” he added, “I don’t want you getting hurt.”
Alphonse bristled, and Jean realized that perhaps that wasn’t the right thing to say. “Not that I don’t think you can take care of yourself,” he hastened to assure the angry young man. “Shit, I’d be the first to admit that you could wipe the floor with me ten times over.” He sighed, fingers twitching with the need to light up. “But if I let you come I’ll be the one who takes the heat for it, and honestly, if something did happen to you I’d never be able to forgive myself.”
The admission seemed to mollify Alphonse somewhat. He sighed heavily. “You can’t expect me to just sit here and wait while you go rescue my brother, do you?”
Jean shrugged, feeling a little helpless. “It’s out of my hands, kid. Breda isn’t going, neither is Fuery or Falman, and how d’you suppose Hawkeye feels, being stuck halfway across the country?”
Al blinked, as though he hadn’t thought of that. Jean couldn’t blame him for being single-minded though, not about this. “I...suppose,” he said unhappily.
“Hey,” Jean said, and when Al looked up at him, he reached out on impulse and gave the kid a rough hug. “I know waiting sucks, but if they’re there, I promise to bring them back in one piece. It’s only a few extra days, and Breda knows to reach you here as soon as we have news.”
“I’m sorry,” Al said, the words muffled as he leaned in Jean’s shoulder.
“What for?” Jean asked, looking down at the top of his head. The kid was taller than Ed, he noted absently, but he probably wasn’t going to do much more growing.
“For being a brat,” Al said. He sounded dejected, and Jean gave him another quick squeeze before he realized he should release him.
“You’re not a brat,” Jean said, then added with a smile, “I think the chief has that market cornered in your gene pool. You’re just worried about him; I understand that.”
Alphonse sank down onto the couch and looked up at him dolefully. Jean counted himself lucky that Al hadn’t used the expression when asking to go; he wasn’t sure he could have said no to it. “I’m lucky you put up with me.”
Jean shook his head with a smile. “If you keep feeding me like you have been, you’ll be lucky to escape.”
That startled a laugh out of Alphonse, and Jean smiled inwardly, pleased. He glanced at the clock. Unfortunately, unless he wanted to miss the train, he had to go. It would reflect poorly on him if he showed up late, and the last thing he wanted to do was give General Keats an excuse to remove him from the team. “I’ve got to get going,” he said, and Al nodded.
“I’m counting on you.” The words were so soft Jean almost didn’t catch them.
He collected his coat and opened the door. “Then I’ll have to make sure not to disappoint you,” he said before ducking out into the hallway and closing the door behind him.
He shrugged into his coat. Truth be told, he was a little worried that was exactly what would happen. In spite of the fact that this had the feel of the real thing, if it turned out Edward and the general weren’t where the girl had said...well, he didn’t want to come back empty handed. He didn’t think he could stand to see the bitter disappointment in Al’s eyes.
Jean went outside, leaning against the hood of the car. He pulled his cigarettes from his pocket and put one between his lips. A bit of fumbling produced his lighter, and he lit the cigarette, took a drag, and exhaled with a deep sigh. God, he’d needed that. He was feeling so rattled that he’d been tempted to light up in front of Al, even though the kid hated it. He’d never asked Jean not to smoke around him, but Jean tended to feel guilty if he did.
He took another drag before he unlocked the door to the car, sliding into the driver’s seat. He tapped his thumb on the wheel for a moment before starting the engine. No sense in worrying overmuch, he decided as he pulled out onto the road. For now, he would only focus on the chance that they were there, and on what it would take to bring them back.
The drive to the station wasn’t a long one, and Jean arrived with plenty of time to spare. The train was still being loaded, and most of the men who had been selected for the rescue were milling around on the platform. He spotted Keats to the side, talking to a few of the men. When the general saw Jean, he waved the men away and walked over. Jean made a note to keep on eye on the two of them; he didn’t trust Keats as far as he could throw him and that mistrust extended to his men.
Jean saluted crisply. No sense in giving the man a reason to chuck him. “First Lieutenant,” the general acknowledged, looking away for a moment to watch the men load the train. “We want Markham alive, Havoc.”
Jean stared at Keats, the screech of the train drowning out all sound briefly. The man had to be kidding him. All he managed to get out was a disbelieving, “What?”
“I said I want Markham alive, First Lieutenant,” Keats barked, “Your first priority is to bring him back alive and preferably in good condition, is that understood?”
Jean resisted the urge to scowl, but only barely. “I thought my first priority was to get the general out safely.”
Keats stared at him, and Jean knew without a doubt that the man didn’t give two shits about Mustang. “Of course it is,” the bastard agreed, lying through his goddamn teeth, “But Markham’s retrieval is still a high priority.”
“Yes, sir,” Jean said, saluting stiffly.
Keats returned the salute and walked away.
Jean growled to himself as he got on the train. He didn’t care what Keats said, didn’t care if they wanted Markham in custody. If they could retrieve him alive easily, then they would. If the bastard put up a fight, Jean would have no qualms putting a bullet in his brain and Keats be damned.
Roy was jerked from sleep by another fit of coughing. He curled onto his side and waited for the fit to pass, lungs and chest aching, the violent coughing renewing the throbbing in his head. He was very, very ready for this illness to go away. He rolled back on his back with a groan, knees resting against the bars.
A moment later Edward slipped beneath the blanket that Roy was certain he hadn’t had when he’d gone to sleep, curling against his side and tucking his head under Roy’s chin. He rubbed at Ed’s arm, alarmed by how cold he was. “You’re freezing,” he said.
“Yeah, well, I’m not the one trying to cough up a lung,” Ed snapped, the air practically vibrating with his worry. “You need to keep warm more than I do.”
Edward’s fear of Roy’s illness was becoming more pronounced every day, and Roy wished fervently he could hide it to spare him that. He touched Edward’s hair, gentle. “I’m not going to die, Ed.”
The body beside his stiffened. “Who said I was worried?” Ed demanded, but the words lacked any sort of conviction, and after a moment Ed curled closer. It was probably a bad idea, being so close. He didn’t want Ed catching whatever it was he had, after all. However, good idea or not, Roy preferred the comfort of Ed resting against him to laying alone, and he said nothing.
It wasn’t long before Edward’s breathing began to even out, and Roy was relieved. Ed wasn’t sleeping enough. The drug that their captor was injecting him with often led to bizarre nightmares, and while he couldn’t blame Ed for trying to escape them, he wasn’t doing himself any good by depriving himself of rest.
An hour passed, maybe two, and the lights came on. Roy blinked against the sudden brightness, and Edward started upright, blinking around in bleary confusion.
It seemed a bit early too Roy’s mind for their captor to make his appearance, but he couldn’t be sure. Glasses appeared, practically bounding down the stairs and looking downright cheerful. Roy doubted it was a good sign, and that feeling was only reinforced by what happened next.
Glasses crouched in front of the cage. “Good morning Edward, General,” he crooned, ignoring Roy as he always did in favor of Ed. “Did you sleep well?” The man asked, “I do hope so. You’ll need your strength today; it would be a shame if you died.” Edward froze, eyes darting to Roy for a brief moment. Roy wished there was some way to reassure him; but it would have been false. The man’s words could only bode ill.
“The problem with this procedure,” Glasses continued, oblivious to their reactions, “Is that the fatality rate is very high. You will die eventually, of course, but you have not yet suffered enough. Not nearly enough.” He pulled the gun from his pocket and trained it calmly on Roy, but Roy ignored it. He was used to it by now.
Today was the day their captor intended to do whatever it was he had planned, that much was clear. It was also clear that they needed to get Edward out, now, before the man inflicted some kind of permanent harm on him. But what could they do? Roy reached out and captured Edward’s arm as he passed, mouthing run at him when gold eyes focused on his. It wasn’t a good plan, nor one with much likelihood of success. Their captor would almost certainly shoot Roy and while he certainly had no death wish, if Edward got out, then it was worth it. The man wanted Ed alive, and Roy was banking on the fact that the bastard wouldn’t shoot Ed.
Edward merely scowled at him. He looked like he had several choice words for Roy at the suggestion, but all he did was mutter, “Keep warm,” before passing out of the cage and into Bear’s grip.
Roy watched helplessly as the cage was once again closed and locked. Glasses stood, easily avoiding a kick from Edward and clucked reprovingly. “You should be conserving your strength,” he informed the short alchemist, and then he smiled, the sight a chilling one. “You’ll need it.”
Edward paled as he was ushered into the lab, shooting Roy one last terrified look before the door swung shut between them.
Roy leaned his head against the bars and swore. Idiot, he should have run when he’d had the chance. He knew the reason Ed hadn’t was because of him, and Roy supposed he couldn’t blame Ed for not wanting to be the reason Roy got shot, but it was frustrating regardless. Every so often he could see the flash of alchemy beneath the door, and it made him twitch involuntarily every time. This was the first time alchemy had been involved, and that did not bode well.
Worse, less than a half an hour had passed before Bear returned. He unlocked the wolf’s cage, hefting the large animal in his arms. The creature hung limp, almost dead weight, though it did muster the energy to raise its head and growl weakly at Bear as he returned to the lab.
Roy’s gut churned at the implications.
It didn’t take long. A hour, perhaps more, and Edward screamed. The sound was terrible, joined shortly by the pained howl of an animal, and it was worse than anything Roy had heard come from the lab before. It was a terrible, soul wrenching sound, and Roy pressed himself into the bars as though he could somehow melt through them and run to Edward’s aid.
The screaming stopped, but only briefly, when it began again there was only the animal cry of rage and pain, and Roy went cold. He refused to acknowledge what it might mean, and maintained his vigil at the bars, staring hard at the door as if force of will alone could splinter it.
When silence fell, it was almost worse then the screaming, and Roy desperately wished for enough space to pace. As it was, the nervous tension was eating him alive. When the door opened, he startled and then leaned into the bars, desperate for some glimpse. Glasses emerged looking incredibly pleased, and Roy spared a thought that he’d kill the man with his bare hands given half a chance, before his mind was once again consumed by worry.
A moment later Bear emerged cradling a limp and unmoving Edward in his arms. For a terrified moment, Roy feared he was dead, but no; his chest was moving with his breath, just barely. Unconscious then. Even Bear appeared troubled as the cage was opened and Edward was passed into Roy’s care with painstaking gentleness. The door was closed and locked, the bastard crouching down to observe as usual.
At first glance, Edward appeared physically intact. No cuts, no bleeding, no broken bones, and most thankfully of all, none of the animal features that would have confirmed his fears. But as Roy began to calm, he realized that something about Ed wasn’t quite right. There was a peculiar black mark on his shoulder. Carefully turning him over, Roy didn’t bother to stifle his gasp at what he saw.
Black spots and marks of various sizes covered his back in an almost tattoo-like pattern. Along his spine and on his shoulders and thighs, vanishing up his scalp under his hair. The pattern was familiar, and it took Roy’s tired brain a moment to figure out where he had seen it before. The wolf. The wolf had the same black patterns across its back, he was sure of it. He hadn’t paid it much mind at the time, and his stomach twisted with the ramifications.
Slowly, carefully, feeling a little numb, Roy began to carefully check Edward over, searching for inhuman traits, for anything out of place. His body seemed normal as far as he could see, but Roy was no doctor. The other signs he found were telling enough. Long, sharp incisors had replaced normal, seeming too large in his mouth. And his eyes. When Roy pried them open, they were no longer the accustomed shade of molten gold, but a feral, distinctly inhuman sort of yellow.
Chimera, then, Roy confirmed with a bone deep sort of weariness that almost made him want to cry. He had suspected as much, but he’d hoped otherwise. The outward physical changes were few and minor as far as Roy could discern, but there was no telling how his mind had suffered. There had been rumors before Bradley’s death that the military had perfected the art of human chimera; that there were methods that would leave the mind wholly intact, or nearly so. It was foolish to hope this was the case with Edward. After all, what worse fate could there be for a man who prided himself on his wit and his intellect than to have those things stolen from him and be left with the mind of an animal?
Roy tried to wake him, feeling increasingly desperate when Edward didn’t respond. The fear that Edward might have been broken beyond repair gripped him, but the small alchemist refused to awaken and reassure him. Eventually, he gave up and settled on making Ed as comfortable as possible. He would wake up eventually.
All Roy could do was wait, and hope.