Series: Fullmetal Alchemist
Words: 5,022 (21,976 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 - Chapter 3 - Chapter 4
Jean sighed as the train screeched to a stop in front of the dilapidated slab of wood that served as Dover’s train station. The rain was coming down in a torrent now, drenching the countryside in dreary gray and limiting visibility. For a moment he considered postponing the operation until the weather cleared, but he dismissed the notion. In a tiny place like this, word would get around about them, and fast. He didn’t plan on giving Markham time to pack up and run.
He turned to the man at his shoulder and ordered him to start unloading the equipment. According to their information, Markham lived a fair distance outside the town. Jean wasn’t surprised. He doubted the man could have gotten away with anything in a nosy little community like this if he had lived in the town proper. Throwing up the hood on his coat, he braced himself and stepped out into the downpour, the droplets falling so hard and fast it almost hurt, even under his coat. The men scattered across the platform like roaches, unloading the cars and other supplies.
Jean put a hand over his pocket wistfully, wishing for a cigarette. He wouldn’t be able to keep it lit, not in this weather, and so he abandoned the notion with a sigh. Everything was unloaded quickly and the train eased away from the platform, vanishing into the rain. Hunching over to protect it from the rain, he drew a map of the area out of his pocket and consulted it. It would take them another half an hour to get out to Markham’s place; more, in this weather.
He folded the map and tucked it away, hopping into the lead jeep as it drew even with him. The nerves had faded into a firm sense of purpose; he gave the driver a nod, and they pulled out onto the road.
Edward whined, and the sound tugged at Roy’s heart. He wasn’t taking the separation well at all, and Roy didn’t know what to do. After the tranquilizer had worn off, he’d spent hours pacing awkwardly by the bars, sometimes ramming them, his distress visibly mounting. Once he had discovered there would be no escape, he’d slumped on the floor against the bars, arm stretched between them towards Roy, whining when the silence drew out too long.
Ever since they’d thrown Ed in the cage, Roy hadn’t been able to extract any words from the blond, nothing at all beyond distraught whines and half-hearted growls when Bear or the bastard came too near. Roy was afraid that the stress was burying Ed’s mind under animal instinct, and he had no way of knowing if it would cause some sort of permanent harm so soon after the change. If he wanted to be honest, the separation was no easier on him. For months, they’d been together, crammed into a tiny space, and the longest they had ever been apart was the space of a few hours. It seemed he’d become as dependant on Ed as Ed had become on him, and he was no happier with the separation.
His only consolation was that Ed was still in sight, that when the lights were on, he could see that he was okay. Ed, for his part, seemed to need constant reassurance to keep back the panic, and Roy’s voice had gone hoarse from the effort of keeping up the steady stream of words, much of it becoming utter nonsense as the hours passed. Once, he had fallen asleep and woken to Edward having some sort of panic attack and the sharp smell of blood.
It had taken several minutes to calm him, and Roy desperately wished they had some sort of light so he could see how badly Ed was hurt. It wasn’t uncommon for him to throw himself against the bars when the attacks hit, and Roy hoped that all he had done was manage to cut himself on a jagged edge. He had visions of Ed’s body rejecting the transmutation, collapsing with the inability to hold itself together, and Roy forcibly pushed the morbid imagery away. Sometimes that happened in a bad transmutation, but the effect was always nearly immediate.
What bothered him the most was his inability to coax Edward into speaking again. The longer they were apart, the more anxious Ed seemed to be become, and Roy had no doubt that the consistently high level of stress was only doing him harm. Roy was startled from his thoughts when Edward whimpered, and he realized that he had lapsed into silence. Raging against his helplessness, Roy began speaking again and Ed quieted.
He rested his head against the cold bars. "I am so, so sorry," he said, unable to escape the feeling of guilt. Even if Edward was no longer one of his subordinates, he was still someone to be protected, and Roy had failed miserably in that regard. All he could do was offer what comfort he could, and Roy knew that it was too little. "I wish there was something I could do," he continued helplessly, "some way to fix this."
The rumble of a vehicle distracted Roy from his words. It was unusual enough for their captor to leave. He had only heard the car handful of times before. He opened his mouth to begin speaking again when the sound was joined by a second vehicle. Roy’s heart jumped. That was new. The man never had visitors. There was a third car, the slamming of a door, and the muffled sound of shouting.
Stomach twisting with painful hope, Roy began bellowing at the top of his lungs, already abused throat screaming protest. Another sound joined his shouting, and Roy faltered briefly when he realized that Edward was howling, the sound eerie and almost musical; distinctly inhuman. Shaking the strange feeling off, Roy resumed his shouts, hearing the pounding of many feet when he paused for breath.
The shouting got louder, but he still couldn’t make out he words. There was thumping upstairs as his captor ran around, a flash of alchemy between the floorboards, a crash and two distinct gunshots. Roy’s heart flipped when he heard a body hit the floor. Shocked silence reigned for a moment, and the shouting started again, but there were no more gunshots and for the first time in weeks, Roy dared to hope.
The light flicked on, and there came the heavy thudding of someone flying down the stairs and a painfully familiar voice calling, "Mustang? Mustang!"
Havoc. "Here," he croaked, and then coughed and tried again. "Here, I’m here!"
Uniformed legs came into view and Roy never thought he would be so happy to see that blue. Havoc crouched, staring though the bars for a shocked moment before reaching through and clasping Roy’s arm. His eyes looked suspiciously bright, and Roy blinked back relieved tears. "Thank god," Havoc said, then shook his head sharply. "Keys. Where are the keys?"
It took Roy a moment to process the question. "By the door, I think."
Havoc nodded and vanished from sight, returning a moment later and fumbling with the key ring. A few moments more and the lock fell away. The cage door opened and Roy stared at it in shock. Free. He was free. He crawled out and got to his feet, muscles that hadn’t seen use in months giving way under the sudden weight and he stumbled into Havoc, who caught him easily and gave him a moment to find his balance. "You stink," Jean commented.
Roy laughed unsteadily. "I’m sure you would smell like roses if you hadn’t had a bath in months," he retorted.
Havoc grinned at him, and Roy suddenly remembered Edward. "Ed," he said, stumbling away from Havoc and to the cage across the way. He sank to his knees and reached through the bars, coaxing Edward from his terrified crouch in the back of the cage. Edward stared at him with wide eyes for a moment before launching himself forward, clinging to the offered hands like a lifeline. His arm and shoulder was caked with dried blood, but the wound didn’t look very bad. A wide cut, but it didn’t seem very deep.
There came a low whistle from behind him, and the rattle of keys as Havoc knelt to unlock the cage. "He doesn’t look so good," he said, searching to the correct key.
Before Roy could explain, the pounding of booted feet sounded on the stairs and Edward tensed up, growling low enough that only Roy could hear him. "Get them out of here," he said to Havoc.
Havoc halted in his search for the key and looked at Roy. "Huh?"
Two soldiers appeared around the corner and Edward growled loudly, earning a startled stare from Havoc. "Get them out of here!" Roy snapped.
"Out!" Havoc shouted to the two men, who paused and looked at each other in confusion. "I said out! And keep an eye on the door and make sure no one else comes down until I say they can."
The two men seemed baffled, but they saluted and retreated back up the stairs.
Edward settled slightly once they were gone, though he kept sending suspicious glances at Havoc. "You want to tell me what’s going on?" Jean asked softly, finding the correct key and opening the lock with a satisfying snick.
"In a minute," Roy said, opening the door and finding himself with an armful of distraught Edward. The smaller man clung to him, winding his only arm around Roy’s shoulder and tangling his fingers in his hair. Ed burrowed his face in Roy’s neck, breath coming fast and hard, muscles shaking almost imperceptibly. Roy hugged him close, maybe a little too hard, but Ed didn’t seem to mind.
He heard Havoc stand and move away, giving them a little privacy. The sudden realization that they were out, that they were free, washed over him in a startling wave of sheer relief. Edward clung to him a little tighter, nuzzling at his neck and that was when Roy realized he was crying. Pulling back slightly, Roy swiped at his face quickly to remove the evidence, before adjusting Edward slightly so that they could stand.
Even standing, Edward didn’t seem inclined to release him. Havoc came back over, and if he noticed red eyes and tear tracks, he kept it to himself. "Give me your coat," Roy said, holding out a hand for it. Havoc shrugged out of long black coat and held it out. Roy made to take it and then paused, Edward’s increased sensitivity to smell springing to mind. "This is yours, right? You didn’t borrow it?"
Havoc raised his eyebrows in question. "It’s mine."
Roy nodded and accepted the coat, pulling it around Ed’s shoulders. Ed made a soft sound of protest when he was moved away long enough for Roy to get his arms through one of the sleeves. The coat was several sizes too large, sleeve covering his hand and several inches dragging the floor. He looked ridiculous, but it would serve. Ed’s nose wrinkled slightly, and he raised the sleeve and sniffed it, eyebrows dipping in a puzzled frown. He turned slightly, still gripping Roy’s arm and looked at Havoc as if trying to figure out a very peculiar puzzle.
"Ed," Roy said, and the blond head cocked slightly at the sound of his voice. "This is Havoc. You remember him, don’t you?"
Too-yellow eyes blinked at him, then shifted back to Havoc. The man in question shot Roy a look and then said, "Hey, Chief."
Ed released Roy’s wrist, taking a step towards Havoc before glancing back at Roy as if to make sure he was still there. Havoc watched, obviously confused, as Edward slowly approached him. Reaching out and cautiously bracing a hand on the lieutenant's shoulder, Edward stood on his toes and peered into Jean’s face. Havoc shot Roy another look, and Roy said, "Just let him."
Edward looked back at him at the sound of his voice, and Havoc nodded. Ed watched Roy for a moment before turning his attention back to the lieutenant. Havoc jerked in surprise when Edward poked his nose into his neck, but promptly stilled, looking distinctly uncomfortable but allowing the odd exploration. After a moment Ed pulled suddenly away, head swinging this way and that, before he looked back at Roy.
His jaw worked several times before he rasped out, "We...?"
The flood of relief was so strong that Roy staggered under the weight of it. "They found us, Ed. We’re safe."
Understanding lit Edward’s face and moved a little unsteadily back to Roy. He slumped against Roy’s chest, forehead resting against his shoulder. "Out," Ed said, voice muffled slightly. Roy understood the sentiment, but he was wary of taking Edward out there with all those soldiers around.
"Can I tell Havoc what happened?" he asked, resisting the urge to plant a kiss on top of the head resting again his shoulder. Edward sighed heavily, and after a moment he nodded. He met Jean’s eyes over Ed’s head and said, "They turned him into a chimera."
Blue eyes going wide, Jean stared for moment before shaking his head in denial. Gathering Edward’s hair, Roy lifted it off his neck to show Havoc the black spotting, the most visible evidence. "I...shit. What?"
"Shit." He rubbed his neck, staring upwards for a moment. "How bad?"
Roy sighed. "Not as bad as it could be, but..." He trailed off with a sigh. "He has a hard time speaking, and I think he loses control entirely when he’s upset." Edward sighed again, and Roy gave his arm a reassuring squeeze. "I really don’t know how deep the damage goes," he finished quietly.
Havoc looked at Ed, eyebrows knitting together in concern. "But," he looked back at Roy. "You can fix it, right?"
Roy’s felt slightly ill. He had forgotten how little Havoc really knew about alchemy. He shook his head sadly. "Chimera can’t be reversed, Jean. Trying would kill him."
"...Shit," Jean said eloquently. "Will he be okay?"
"I don’t know yet." Roy hated saying the words, but it was true. "I hope so."
Edward tightened his grip on Roy’s arm. "Out," he repeated plaintively.
"Okay," Roy said soothingly, giving in to impulse and smoothing dirty blond hair. He eyes caught Havoc’s. "This stays between you and me. If anyone asks why he’s acting strangely, just tell him he’s traumatized." He sighed. "That’s hardly a lie at this point."
Havoc merely nodded. "Let’s get you out of here."
Jean’s thoughts were swimming in confused circles like a fish with one fin. A chimera? Ed? His brain refused to grasp the notion, rooting sternly in denial. Chimera were monsters, and the chief was no monster. Shit. This was bad. He frowned inwardly as he helped Roy up the stairs, his legs unsteady enough that Jean didn’t trust him to make it on his own. Alphonse was going to be heartbroken, and Jean felt a renewed surge of guilt that he hadn’t found them soon enough.
He reached out to help Ed and the blond shied away from the sudden movement, staring at Jean with wide, mistrustful eyes. It was painful to see, and he pitched his voice in what he hoped was a soothing tone and said, "It’s just me, Ed. I’m not going to hurt you."
Edward stared at him for a moment before taking a deep breath and accepting the offered hand. Jean helped Ed wobble unsteadily up the stairs, and he promptly latched on to Mustang again the moment he could. It was almost funny, in a sad sort of way, to see the usually independent kid clinging to Mustang like a lifeline. The thought was sobering. Maybe he was a lifeline. Jean could only imagine what the last few months had been like for them.
He nudged Roy in the direction of the door, skirting around the men taking care of Markham’s corpse. Jean glanced down at the body with a savage sort of satisfaction. He was glad the man had taken the first shot, and he was glad he’d killed him, especially now that he knew what the bastard had done to Ed. Speaking of Ed, he realized with a jolt that he was growling quietly. A quick glance around confirmed that no one had noticed and he moved them quickly past the body. Hiding the fact that Ed was a chimera wouldn’t be easy if the soldiers noticed him growling like an angry dog. Goddamn. Growling. People were not supposed to be able to make sounds like that, and it was uncomfortable proof that Ed wasn’t quite human anymore.
Jean ushered them outside, and he noticed both of them squinting against the brightness, despite the heavy cloud cover. At least the rain had stopped, he noted, getting them settled away from the majority of the men. They had already gathered something of a crowd, a few locals milling curiously outside the perimeter. A couple of soldiers came over, one with two cups of coffee in hand, the other with blankets. Jean intercepted them before they could get too close, tossing the blankets over his shoulder before accepting the coffee. "They’ve been through a lot," he said by way of explanation. "I just want to give them some room."
"Yes sir, just let us know if you need anything," said the shorter of the two, before darting off to move back a few civilians who were closer than they should be. The other offered a salute, peering curiously at Ed and Roy over his shoulder for a moment, before moving off back towards the house.
Jean sighed, wondering how he was going to keep everyone away from Ed on the two-day trip back to Central. He returned to the other two, unable to suppress a grin at Roy’s expression when he spotted the cups in his hand. "Please, please tell me that’s what I think it is."
"Coffee," he announced, depositing one of the cups in Roy’s hands. The other man took a sip, a blissful expression on his face. Jean snorted and handed the other cup to Ed, who peered into the black liquid as if he didn’t know what to do with it. Jean dropped one of the blankets on Roy’s head and draped the other around Ed’s shoulders.
Edward blinked at him. "Thanks," he said, voice rougher than Jean remembered and he just stared in surprise for a moment.
"Uh, yeah. No problem." He sat down on Ed’s other side. Relief and guilt warred in him, and Jean snuck a glance at the other two. They had both lost weight, and they were both filthy. Roy was sporting a scraggly beard that didn’t suit him in the slightest, and he was obviously sick, though he was trying to be discreet about the coughing. He looked like shit, but he still looked like Mustang. Ed on the other hand, he seemed...diminished somehow. Everything about him spoke of something different, though Jean couldn’t quite pinpoint exactly what it was. He was uncharacteristically skittish and jumpy, head snapping this way or that at the slightest sound.
He wondered how he was supposed to break the news to Al and felt a wash of sympathy for them both. The poor kids just couldn’t seem to catch a break.
A soldier was approaching, and Jean almost scowled when he recognized the same man who had approached him on the train. Jean rose to intercept him, and Roy shifted protectively in front of Ed. The man didn’t even spare a glance at the blond, saluting Roy sharply. "I have a message for you, sir."
Roy merely nodded, and the man waited a moment before saying, "I was instructed to give it in private, sir." He shot a pointed glance at Jean who had to resist the compulsion to stick out his tongue.
Roy sighed heavily. "Would you give me a moment?"
"Of course, sir," the sergeant replied, retreating to a respectful distance.
Roy stood, gently disengaging Edward’s grip and earning a low whine. "I’ll only be gone a moment, I promise. Jean will stay with you, don’t worry." Jean returned to his seat beside Ed and was startled when he latched on to him much the same as he had with Mustang.
Jean looked up at his commander. "He’s one of Keats’ men. Don’t trust him as far as you can throw him."
Roy nodded. "Stay with Ed, and don’t leave him under any circumstances until I come back."
Edward whined again when Roy walked away, and Jean gave him what he hoped was a reassuring pat. "Don’t worry, it won’t take long." Edward didn’t answer, simply burrowed hard against his side, and Jean could feel the rapid in and out of his breathing. Too fast, and Jean was reminded of what Roy had said about him losing control when upset. Frantically searching his mind for something, anything to distract him with, he blurted the first thing that came to mind. "Al is going to so relieved we found you."
"Al?" Edward rasped, and Jean felt a surge of relief. He didn’t have the first clue how to deal with a chimera suffering from separation anxiety.
"Yeah," he said. "He was really worried about you. It’s two days back to Central, but you’ll be able to see him soon."
Edward stiffened at those words. "No," he said, shaking his head.
Jean blinked, wondering what he’d said to make the kid lock up like that. "No what?"
"No," Ed repeated forcefully. "No Al. Not-" Edward shuddered against him, and he continued in a quietly miserable tone. "Not this."
It took Jean a moment to understand what Ed meant, and when he did, it made his heart twist painfully. "You don’t want him to see you like this?" he asked gently. He felt Edward nod and sighed. He couldn’t really blame him. If their positions were reversed, Jean wasn’t sure he’d want to see his family either. Then again, he wasn’t as close to his family as Ed was to Al. "He loves you," Jean said firmly. "That won’t change because of this."
"Not Ed," came the reply, rough and sad. "I--" he trailed off, and the next word was so quiet Jean almost missed it. "Monster."
Jean had no idea how to deal with this. "You’re not a monster," he said, hoping he sounded more convinced than he felt. He wished Roy would come back, because Roy might be able to talk some sense into the kid. Jean knew shit-all about alchemy, how could he argue when Edward might be right?
The sound of footsteps made him look up, but it was not Roy as he had hoped, but three of the men. He held Edward a little tighter. "What is it?"
One stepped forward. Patton, his mind supplied. "We’re here to take the chimera, sir."
Jean felt Edward growl against his shoulder, and he wondered how the hell they knew. "I don’t know what you’re talking about," he said, congratulating himself on sounding so nonchalant.
Patton sighed. "Please, sir. We have our orders. All chimera are to be taken into custody, and that includes that one."
Jean felt a surge of anger at the man for discussing Edward like he was some sort of animal. "Well," Jean said. "I have my orders, and he’s to stay with me until General Mustang says otherwise."
Patton’s blank expression twisted into a disapproving frown. "I don’t think either of us want to create a scene here; you will give us the chimera so it can be contained for transport back to Central."
"Edward is not an it," Jean barked, temper snapping. "He’s a human being, and I expect you to treat him as such."
Patton looked as though he wanted to roll his eyes, but had far too much restraint to do so. "Of course, sir. However, General Keats has ordered all chimera taken into custody." The man was a goddamned broken record.
"Well, you can feel free to take that up with General Mustang."
The other two men --Decker and Mills-- took a step forward, and Jean leaped to his feet, hauling Edward with him. Edward, for his part, was openly growling at the men now. "We have permission to take it by force, if necessary," Patton warned.
It was amazing how Keats managed to be a pain in his ass half a country away. Suddenly grateful he had kept his gun, he drew it and trained the weapon at Patton. "That’s nice. So do I." Which wasn’t strictly true, but he suspected Mustang would heartily approve. The men with Patton drew their own weapons, but he ignored them. They were drawing attention now, and Jean fervently hoped it got back to Roy before things got ugly. "I don’t feel like getting into a pissing contest here, Patton. Let it go."
Patton, to his credit, seemed to take no notice of the gun pointed at him. "The chimera is a danger to himself as well as others. Restraining him will be for his own safety."
"That’s the biggest pile of bullshit I’ve heard all day," Jean snapped. Decker took another step forward and Jean narrowed his eyes. "Stay where you are, or I will shoot."
"Havoc, please," Patton shook his head. "You’re already going to be in hot water over Markham’s death. If you give up the chimera and cooperate, the general may go easy on you."
"Keats can go fuck himself, and you can quote me on that," Jean said, calmly aware that he was only digging himself deeper but finding it hard to care. "Let me spell this out for you. If you want to take him, you’ll have to kill me first. If you think they can shoot me before I shoot you, I welcome you to try." He wished he was half as calm as he sounded. Where the fuck was Mustang anyway?
He felt Edward tense beside him, and that was the only warning he got.
Ed sprang away from him and leapt for the nearest of them. Decker didn’t quite manage to bring his gun up before Edward clamped his teeth around his arm, dragging the man down with startling speed. There was a stunned moment when no one moved, and then Mills swung around to shoot Edward and Jean fired, catching the man in the shoulder. Patton dove for Decker’s discarded gun but Jean beat him to it, kicking the weapon away and knocking Patton to the ground, kneeling on his chest and pressing the barrel of his gun hard against the other man’s head. Patton stilled, staring up at Jean with narrowed eyes.
"Get this fucking--" Jean looked up when he words cut off suddenly, stomach dropping when he saw the large man pinned beneath Edward despite the handicap of size and a missing limb, throat held captive in Ed’s teeth. He was staring wide-eyed at Edward, and Jean could hear a loud, rumbling growl. Shit. He really hoped Ed wasn’t about to tear his throat out.
"Ed! Jean!" Relief washed through him when Mustang appeared around the side of the house, running as fast as his legs could manage.
Edward released his captive’s throat at the sound of Roy’s voice, springing up and running to Roy. Decker didn’t move, but Jean didn’t think he was dead, despite all of the blood.
Jean glanced up from Patton as the two approached, and was a bit disturbed to see Edward licking the blood from his lips. Roy stared hard at the men on the ground. "What happened?" he asked, voice dangerously even.
Jean stood, allowing Patton to get to his feet, but he didn’t put his gun away. "We should probably get them looked at first," he said, nodding to the men bleeding on the ground. Mills would be fine, but he wasn’t so sure about Decker.
Roy looked, eyes flicking between the mauled soldier and Ed with a frown. He sighed and called for a medic, waiting to make sure the men were tended to before moving off and motioning for Patton and Jean to follow him.
"These gentlemen decided they had the right to lock Ed up," Jean said before Roy could ask. "I wasn’t about to let them."
"You’ve proven my point for me," Patton snapped, earlier composure gone. "That thing is a menace and needs to be restrained. He nearly killed a man!"
"You threatened him first," Jean pointed out.
"We can sit here and argue semantics all day, but it doesn’t chance the fact the chimera is dangerous and very nearly tore out the throat of one of our men. It must be locked up!" Patton stared hard at Ed who growled at him in response.
"As long as he stays with me, he won’t hurt anyone," Roy said stiffly, and Jean realized that Patton had them by the balls. By attacking a soldier, Ed had proven himself to be dangerous, at least in the eyes of the military. It didn’t matter that the bastards had provoked him, and Jean narrowed his eyes at Patton, wondering if that had been the plan all along.
"And risk your own well-being? I think not, General." He paused a moment, and added, "Once we return to Central, you might be able to get them to release him into your care."
There was a tightness around Roy’s eyes that said he knew the chances of such a thing were practically nil. He also knew that he would only cause more trouble for them --and for Ed-- by fighting it. His only option was to give in, and Patton knew it, the sneaky little rat. "Fine," Roy said shortly, anger evident. "But if I find he has been mistreated in any way, I will have your head on a platter, understood?"
Patton offered an oily smile. "Of course. I assure you, he will receive all the care he deserves."