Series: Fullmetal Alchemist
Words: 3,667 (25,648 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 - Chapter 5
Agreeing to let them put Edward back in a cage was one of the hardest things Roy had ever done. Unfortunately, Patton and Ed himself hadn’t given him much choice. Edward was no longer human by definition, and chimera had no more rights than animals; less in some ways. Patton would have been within his rights to demand that Edward be put down after attacking that soldier, provoked or not. The situation made his blood boil, and when Patton stepped forward to take Edward, he jerked the smaller man back instinctively.
Patton’s lips tightened into a thin line. "Sir," he began.
"At least let me get him some clothes and something to eat first," Roy interrupted. He’d have argued for a bath too, but the only way he’d get something like that was to go back in that house, and he didn’t think either of them were prepared to do that.
For a moment Patton looked like he was going to argue, but then he nodded. "I’ll have to put a guard on him."
He was seized by a sudden bout of coughing before he could reply, and he bent over double, bracing his hands on his knees and waited for the fit to pass. Edward whined anxiously, and Roy reached out blindly and gave his arm a reassuring squeeze. His lungs felt like they were on fire, and he really did not need this. Not now. "Fine," Roy said shortly once he could, simply relieved that Patton wasn’t going to fight the point. Ignoring the other man, he turned to Havoc who looked as angry as he felt. "Find him some clothes?" he asked.
Jean blinked, breaking the angry stare he’d had trained on Patton and looked at Roy, eyes flicking down to Ed who was still wearing his coat. "Yeah, sure. There should be some spare uniforms, I’ll get one for both of you." He took a few steps back, obviously reluctant to leave them, before turning on his heel and trotting towards the line of vehicles parked nearby.
Patton flagged down two nearby men that Roy didn’t recognize, and neither of them looked too thrilled be anywhere near Ed after what had happened to the other soldier. While Patton gave them their orders, Roy moved a little way off and looked down at Ed, who was being remarkably quiet. The blond was clutching tightly at his arm, but his attention was elsewhere. He was staring hard at the medics tending to the injured men, expression troubled.
Not for the first time, Roy wished he could tell what the younger man was thinking. "Come on, Ed," Roy said, turning him away from the scene and moving in the direction Havoc had gone. Their newly appointed guards followed at a respectful distance, but Roy got the impression that it was only because they didn’t want to be any closer to Edward than absolutely necessary. Havoc emerged from the back of one of the covered trucks and waved them over. He tossed Roy a couple of bundled uniforms and motioned towards the truck. "You can change in there," he said. "Yours should fit well enough, but I dunno about the chief. And," he rummaged around in the truck for a moment before producing a jug of water, a pan and a rag. "It’s not a bath, but at least you can clean up a little."
Roy was so grateful for Jean right then it was almost physical. He didn’t think he would have had he strength to deal with this alone, not after everything they had gone through. He clapped Havoc on the shoulder as he hopped up into the truck. "Thank you," he said simply.
Jean offered him a small smile that quickly vanished when he turned to bark at the guards. "Hey, bozo! How about giving them a little privacy? Truck isn’t going anywhere." Roy glanced over as he helped Ed up, noting that the guards looked relieved to have an excuse to hang back. He was a little offended on Ed’s behalf, even if it did make things a little easier. They were acting like the small blond was some sort of ravening beast, and it was infuriating. Edward was going through enough as it was without being treated like a monster. This was supposed to be a rescue, but because of something Ed had no control over, he was going from one cage to another.
Roy sighed, using the water to dampen the rag. He took Ed’s hand and began cleaning away the grime as best he could. Edward for his part was being uncharacteristically pliant, and Roy suspected that he was more troubled by the way he had attacked that soldier than anyone else. Rinsing the rag in the shallow pan, Roy tipped Ed’s chin up and began to repeat the process on his face gentle hands. Ed’s eyes were downcast, and Roy said, "Hey."
Those starling yellow eyes flicked up to his face, and Roy wondered if he’d ever get used to them. He smiled slightly, "There you are. I was beginning to forget what you looked like under all that dirt." The comment earned him a small, wry twist of the lips that went as fast as it came. Ed sighed, but didn’t take his eyes from Roy’s, expression clouded and unhappy. God, he hated seeing him like this. Roy was sure that Edward knew what was going on, more or less, and he was obviously not any happier about it than Roy was.
Unfolding the smaller of the two provided uniforms, Roy helped Ed out of Jean’s coat and Roy’s own dirty old shirt, and into the fresh, clean uniform. He almost left off the jacket, but decided that although it was getting warmer out, it was better if Ed were too warm than too cold, especially if Roy wouldn’t be able to look after him. Once Ed was situated, he repeated the process on himself, relieved to at least have clean clothing even if he couldn’t have a real bath.
Once they were both dressed and as washed up as they could manage, Roy got Ed situated on the end of the truck bed where Jean was sitting. "I don’t suppose there’s any hope of getting some real food?" he asked.
Havoc offered him a small smile. "Afraid not. All we have at the moment are field rations." He hopped off the bed of the truck, and nodded in the direction of another one. "I’ll go grab you some; they might only be rations, but you can have as much as you want."
After what they’d had to eat for the last few months, field rations would be a godsend, and he said as much. Jean gave him a pat on the shoulder. "At least you’re out now," he said gently.
"Halfway," Roy replied, sliding a glance over at Ed who had returned to staring at his feet. Not for the first time he desperately wished he knew what was going through his head.
"Bastards won’t have him for long, we’ll figure something out. You can bet on it." Havoc’s certainty was reassuring, and Roy nodded.
"You’re right. We’ll get it sorted out, one way or another. I’m not leaving Ed with them one second longer than absolutely necessary." He repeated the vow silently to himself, feeling at fault for Ed’s current predicament. Roy should never, never have left him alone, not even in Havoc’s care, not even for a moment. The instant they were back in Central Roy was going straight to the top to get things sorted out.
Havoc left and returned shortly with food, and they ate slowly in silence, Roy trying to drag it out as long as possible. Once they finished he’d have no more excuse to keep Ed; he’d have to hand him over to Patton as agreed and Roy knew that even though the younger man seemed placid enough now, once they were separated he was going to be anything but. Roy was so tired and worn and worried, and he really didn’t have the energy for this, not now.
Ed seemed to sense his distress and leaned into his shoulder. It was a bit silly for Ed to be trying to comfort him of all things, but Roy appreciated it regardless. Painfully aware that he could put this off no longer, Roy nudged the shoulder against his and asked, "How much of what’s going on did you catch?"
He refused to assume that Edward didn’t understand what was going on around him, and he was rewarded when yellow eyes flicked up to his and Ed rasped, "Enough."
Roy hoped that was a good thing, hoped that it meant that Edward would do better going back into captivity than he feared. "I’m sorry," he sighed, glancing up at the guards who still kept their distance but seemed to be getting impatient. "You know I won’t let this go, right? I promise I’ll come for you as soon as I possibly can."
Ed nodded, his own gaze traveling to the guards briefly before returning to Roy. "Know," he frowned. "I know."
That was all there was to say, then. Roy hopped off the bed of the truck, helping Edward down before nodding to the guards. They glanced at each other for a moment before one said, "I’ll just go get Sergeant Patton," and moved away. He returned a few moments later with Patton in tow, and Roy could feel Ed tense beside him. God, this was just so completely fucked up.
The two guards came forward slowly, shooting nervous glances at each other. One gingerly took Ed’s arm and Roy heard Edward growl. He put what he hoped was a comforting hand on the younger man’s shoulder and said low enough that only Ed could hear, "Don’t give them a reason to hurt you. It won’t be for long. I promise." Yellow eyes met his and Roy could see the beginnings of panic there, but Edward nodded slowly and began moving at the guards urging. The other guard shot Roy a grateful look and he struggled with the urge to punch the man square in the jaw.
Roy moved to follow, but Patton stepped between him and Ed’s retreating figure. "You should rest, sir. We’ll take care of him from here."
"I want to make sure he’s being treated right," Roy said, trying to move around him, but Patton again stepped in his way.
"He’ll be restrained and placed under guard just like a dangerous prisoner, sir. I assure you that we’ll follow every protocol." Roy scowled at the shorter man, but Patton seemed unfazed. "Please, after your ordeal you need rest. We’ll take care of it."
"I’ll be checking up on him from time to time to make sure you do follow protocol, sergeant," Roy snapped, infuriated at the whole situation and far too tired to deal with it all with a calm hand. If they planned on treating Ed like a prisoner, then he wouldn’t be comfortable, but he wouldn’t be outright mistreated either. It was probably the best he could hope for at the moment. Patton saluted, turned on his heel, and walked away.
Roy watched until Edward was out of sight.
"I just can’t believe it," Mrs. Carter sighed, ushering Roy through the door like he was a child and not a grown man. "Daniel kept to himself, but he always such a nice man." The Carter family had turned out to be the nearest neighbors to their captor, whom Roy had discovered was named Daniel Markham. The community was already in an uproar over the news that one of their own had kidnapped a military general. "And Ben! He was a sweet boy, a little simple you know," she confided, then paused, turning a horrified stare on Roy and wringing her hands anxiously. "Oh, they didn’t hurt Ben, did they? I know he looks like a great big villain, but he’d never hurt a fly! Not on purpose."
"He’s fine, ma’am," Roy assured her. Bear, or Ben rather, had given himself up quietly after Havoc shot Markham. Roy had every intention of asking for leniency on the big man’s behalf; he didn’t believe the man was capable of being intentionally malicious any more than Mrs. Carter did.
"Oh good," the portly woman looked quite relieved, and Roy was glad. She was a very kind lady, and he didn’t want to cause her any undue distress. "Take off your boots, dear. Can’t have you tracking mud all over the house."
Roy complied, following her through the house. It was small, but neat and well-kept, and something smelled so good Roy’s stomach was turning itself inside out in anticipation. "It was my Marian that tipped them off you know," she continued, poking her head into a linen closet and pulling out a towel. "She’s going to school in Central," Mrs. Carter continued, puffing up proudly. "A right genius my girl is. Anyway, she recognized the other one, the boy, from a poster if you can believe it. How is he? The other gentleman told me he wasn’t well."
That was the story they’d been forced to tell when Mrs. Carter had offered a bath and a meal to those ‘poor boys’. That Ed was simply too sick to be left unattended. "He’ll be fine once we get him some care," Roy told her, wishing it wasn’t such an outrageous lie. He felt unbelievably guilty to be getting a bath and a real meal while Ed was huddled in chains under guard somewhere. It was beyond unfair.
"That’s good to hear," she asserted, ushering him into the bathroom. She set the towel on a stool and pointed to a basin and mirror. "You can go ahead and use Harold’s things to shave and I’ll have a bath drawn up for you quick as I can. I’m afraid we still have to heat our bathwater the old fashioned way out here."
She made to sweep out the door but Roy stopped her with a hand on her arm. "I can heat the water myself," he told her. No sense in making more work for the woman than he already had. "As long as you have something I can write with."
Mrs. Carter raised her eyebrows in question. "And just how would you do that?"
"I’m an alchemist," he informed her with a smile
Her eyes went wide with delight. "No kidding? An alchemist? Well, I’ll be! I’ve never seen an alchemist before, you just wait right here and I’ll fill the tub and find something for you to write with." She bustled from the room and Roy reminded himself to ask later if there was anything she needed fixed. It was only right after the generosity she showed, as well as the genuine regret that no one had noticed anything amiss sooner.
Once the bath was filled and Mrs. Carter had scrounged Roy up a piece of charcoal to work with, he quickly drew the array on the side of the tub and activated it. He heard the woman behind him gasp at the brief flash of light, and then the water was steaming. "Oh, no one is going to believe it when I tell them about this!" she chirped, clearly delighted. "A real live alchemist, right in my own home!" She beamed at Roy, and then turned to go. "I’ll leave you to your bath, dear. If you need anything at all, just holler."
As soon as she was gone, Roy slipped out of his clothes and settled into water that was just a touch too hot. Oh, it felt wonderful. After months without a bath, he’d have been happy with a dousing in cold water, but this was absolutely heavenly. His battered body relaxed in the heat, and even the constant ache in his lungs seemed to abate a little. Roy spent a little longer than he should have simply indulging himself in a soak, the steam making his hair stick to his face. Eventually, he mustered the energy to actually clean up, the water quickly turning a disgusting, sludgy brown as he scrubbed away months of dirt and grime.
Once he was clean, he got out of the bath and dried quickly, fully intending to take advantage of the offered shave. Roy had never been a beard man, and being stuck with one had been a constant irritant. Minor in the grand scheme of things, but something he was thankful to be rid of. When he was finished and dressed, Roy gave himself a once-over in the mirror. His hair was in dire need of a cut, but beyond that he looked almost presentable, if a bit on the thin and pale side.
Mrs. Carter was at his side as son as he stepped out. "Well, look at you! Don’t you clean up all handsome?" She gave his cheek a motherly pat and sat him down at the table. "Harold and the boys should be in any minute," she informed him. "I can’t imagine how long its been since you had a good, home cooked meal, so you go right ahead and eat as much as you want, you hear? There’s plenty to go around."
"I appreciate that, Mrs. Carter," he said. And he did, though Roy simply could not shake the image of Ed in his mind’s eye and the guilt that image brought with it.
"Call me Emma, please," she said, bustling around him and setting the table. "So, is there a Mrs. Mustang at home?" she asked as she worked.
Roy blinked at the question, and shook his head with a smile. "No, I suppose you could say I’m married to my career."
Emma tsked disapprovingly. "Behind every great man is a good woman," she informed him, shaking a fork at Roy before setting it on the table.
Before Roy could reply, the door banged open and an older man trundled in, followed by three younger copies of himself. Thankfully his appearance seemed to derail Emma from her train of thought, and she swept back into the kitchen, pausing to give her husband a quick kiss.
The man --Harold, Roy thought it was-- gave him a curious once-over. "You must be that fella Markham had locked in the basement."
Straight to the point, Roy observed with a wry smile. He stood with a nod and offered his hand, "Your lovely wife invited me to dinner. I hope it’s no imposition." Indulging in social niceties after all that time in a cage was an utterly strange experience.
Harold took the offered hand, his own calloused and rough, grip firm. "No trouble at all," he said, taking his seat at the head of the table. "You look like you could use a good feedin’ and Emma always makes enough to feed the whole county anyway."
"That’s because you eat enough for the whole county," Emma retorted, reappearing with a large pot that she sat on the table as Roy retook his seat. Introductions were made all around as Emma came and went with more and more food; a huge pot roast, potatoes, beans, a salad, and fresh baked rolls. It was very hard to maintain his manners with such a spread staring him in the face, but somehow he managed.
Once everyone was served, Roy broke into his fare slowly. While they hadn’t been precisely starved, they hadn’t been well fed either, and Roy knew that over-indulging now would simply make him sick. The food was excellent, and Roy heaped praise on Emma for it. "I don’t suppose you’d let me take a little with me for my friend, would you? He’s not well enough to come himself, but I know he’d appreciate it."
"Of course dear!" Emma beamed at him. "I don’t know why I didn’t think of that myself! As soon as we’re finished here, I’ll put together a care package for the poor thing."
The conversation continued from there, ranging from the few details of his captivity that Roy could safely tell them to more mundane concerns such as last year’s crops. Roy kept mostly to himself, though he did answer any questions they asked as politely as he could, and felt a little bit better about things. At the very least, Ed would get to eat well tonight too.
That had become Edward’s mantra over the last few hours, ever since the guards had taken him away and clapped him in chains. Roy had promised to get him out as soon as he could, and Ed clung to that promise like a lifeline. It was hard, so, so hard not to let that stark fear get the best of him again. Fear that shouldn’t be his, fear of unfamiliar smells and people and being separated from his pack. From Roy.
Ed had been okay for the first few minutes. But as minutes stretched into hours, he began to lose the battle, just like before. It was easier to keep his head in some ways; the blind panic that threatened was tempered by the sure knowledge that Roy would keep his promise, but the multitude of foreign smells was difficult to deal with. Fear from the men that guarded him, the nearly overwhelming scent of motor-oil and too many strange humans. Roy’s scent was lost among all the others, and that was perhaps the worst of all.
They would not let Roy see him, though Ed wasn’t quite sure why. That meant at the very least, it would be days before he’d see him again, maybe longer. The thought caused a surge of anxiety, and Ed tried to distract himself by reciting alchemical formulae in his head. It worked for a while, but eventually his mind could no longer grip the facts and figures, and he slipped once more into his comforting mantra.