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Fic: The Phoney War, Chapter Six

Title: The Phoney War, Chapter Six: Go the Distance
Setting: Fullmetal Alchemist, mangaverse, post-series, slight ending AU.
Characters: Roy/Ed, Havoc/Rebecca, Riza/Miles, Al, Winry, ensemble.
Rating: R for naughty
Word count: 5729
Summary: Two years on from the Promised Day. Amestris is without a Fuhrer, the military is teetering on the brink of civil war, and Team Mustang search urgently for the opposition's secret alchemical weapon. Any day now could be the first day of the war, and everyone is feeling the pressure. So is it any wonder that Ed and Roy's growing friendship just kindasorta combusted on them?
Notes: Direct sequel to No Small Injury. Illustrated by me, betaed and edited by enemytosleep.

Chapter One: Blue Monday | Chapter Two: Make Your Mind Up Time | Chapter Three: Something Stupid | Chapter Four: Two Plus Two
Chapter Five: Inbetween Days | Interlude: Test Drive



Carefully, Al glanced out the window. The two men were still there. They stood right outside the bookstore across the street, seemingly deep in conversation.

"They followed you all the way from the station?" he asked.

Teacher just nodded and eyed him.

Al didn't like this, not at all. Surely Hakuro couldn't be employing another criminal gang? Would he risk that after what had happened with the Luttenbergers? What was this? He'd have to find out, then. "Right," he said, taking a breath.

Teacher raised an eyebrow at him. "Right. Let's see what you can do."

A distance transmutation from here? Could Al even manage that? He frowned, then corrected himself. Sure, he could. It was just there was just something about having Teacher right there watching him do it.

He took a breath, then stepped over to the window, as casually as he could. It was a few inches open. That was good. He kept himself turned to the side, eyeing the men across the street but not looking directly out the window. Then he tapped his fingers together and pressed them to the wall.

The two men didn't notice the little ribbon of light until it was halfway across the road towards them, snaking across the pavement. Then they ran. Al briefly kicked himself that he hadn't managed to channel the energy right under the road - he was still such a beginner with this sometimes - but he didn't break his focus. He adjusted his aim and felt his intent flow down into the ground, right through to the circle that surrounded the two men even as they sprinted for the nearest cross-street, then sprouted concrete hands that rose up to capture them. Al frowned as he did it: it was so tough to tell from this distance how tight to make the grip. He still remembered that time, back when he was thirteen, that Ed had accidentally broken a street thief's arm that way.

A moment after Al had dropped his hand from the wall, he saw Teacher sprinting across the road.

He turned on his heel and ran for the apartment door. She'd left it wide open, and the cat was already outside, tentatively sniffing the top step. Crap. How did he move so fast sometimes? Al bundled Zozimos back into the flat, shut the door, and ran to join Teacher.

When he reached her, she had one of the two men by the ear. "I'll ask you again, what's the game here?" She pinched, hard. The man yelped. Al repressed a grin.

No. Wait. Hang on. Al's stomach clenched.

He knew these men.

Al looked at the guy whose ear Teacher was harassing. "Sergeant Ramsey? It is, right?"

The man glowered. "Yes, sir."

Teacher turned to him, with a look in her eye that presaged very bad things. "Mustang had me tailed?"

Al threw his hands up. "No, no! These guys work directly under General Hakuro."

"Ah. Dirty tricks, is it?" Teacher cracked her knuckles with determined pleasure.

"Well, yeah." Al squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. This wasn't going to be fun. He turned back to the two bound soldiers - then clapped and put his hands to the concrete bonds. They stared at him blankly as the hands wound their way back into the sidewalk.

"Go on, get out of here!" He shooed them with his hands. They were sprinting away before he got the sentence finished.

Teacher watched them go, then turned to him. "I hope you had a good reason for doing that," she said evenly.

Al put his fingertips to the side of his head, sighed deeply, then nodded back at his building.

Once they'd ignored the small crowd of rubberneckers, crossed the street and headed back up to the flat, Al took a breath and offered his good reason. "If Hakuro's not even trying to hide this stuff now ..." He trailed off. "This is bad."

"But you can't arrest them because it'd escalate matters even more?"

Al nodded. "We're not ready to move yet. And we can't do anything that Hakuro's guys could spin to turn the tide against us. The brigadier general and Major Hawkeye keep lecturing everyone …" He sighed heavily and flopped down on the sofa.

Teacher gave him a wry, unexpectedly sympathetic smile. "I've walked into a real mess, haven't I?" Zozimos rubbed against her ankles. Animals always seemed to get along with her. She looked down. Then she looked back up at Al. "What the hell are you feeding that cat?"

***


Roy set the telephone receiver back in its cradle and dropped the takeout menu into the drawer on the hall table. He exhaled slowly, riding his good mood and trying to continue not to think about work: good sex, beef bulgogi on its way, and later in the evening, a good chance of a second round of both. Roy wouldn't object to more evenings like this.

As Roy passed the open door, he saw that Ed was standing in the library, naked apart from his boxers, his eyes fixed on the glass door of one of the bookcases. For a moment, Roy just raked his eyes over him unthinkingly, taking in his muscular back, the thick, honey-coloured hair hanging loose down it, the tight curves of his ass. Then he realised what Ed was looking at.

Ed's eyes met his through the glass of the bookcase, and Roy could already see exactly what annoying conversation they were about to have.

"Takeout's going to be twenty minutes," Roy said, in a pathetic attempt to distract him. "Hungry?"

Ed jerked a thumb at the alchemical lock, at the clear traces of grease pencil Roy hadn't fully wiped off. "So," he said, "you draw out the array even when no one's looking?"

"So? I like the feeling of it. Don't people sometimes write down their arithmetic workings when they could just work it out in their head?" Roy realised he'd folded his arms defensively. He sighed. "I should have realised you knew."

Ed turned from the bookcase to look at him directly, and rolled his eyes. "I saw you transmute with no array. On the Promised Day, yeah? You were throwing up walls all over the place."

"Oh. I didn't realise you were close enough." Ed snorted. "Give me a break, I couldn't see at the time."

"Look," said Ed. Something had shifted in his tone of voice. He looked at Roy carefully. Roy nodded for him to continue. This conversation couldn't be called off now, but damn, Roy really wished that they hadn't started it. "You pay the passage fee, you get the trip. Even if I hadn't seen … I'd know you could do that now."

"I didn't know that. I don't know how the Gate works." Roy pinched the bridge of his nose between forefinger and thumb.

"Yes, you do. You do now."

"Do I?" Roy shook his head.

"Do you remember?" Ed's right hand touched Roy's wrist.

"Yes," muttered Roy. Then he huffed out a half-laugh. How could he forget?

"Then you should know." The cool steel grip squeezed Roy's wrist a little.

Roy put his free hand out and ruffled Ed's bangs. "I don't think" - how to put it? "I still don't think I've really processed the experience." To be absolutely and completely honest, Roy hadn't transmuted without an array even once since he'd gotten his sight back the evening of the Promised Day. Now that he actually looked at that fact, he wondered at it. How could he have left it so long? Sure, there had been so much to do - but why, two years later, was he still carrying a grease pencil in his jacket in case he lost his gloves, to scrawl an array on his hand that lived in his mind?

"You know," said Ed, "I didn't even do one transmutation for nearly a year after it happened. And Al didn't even remember the Gate for years. Like, he'd blocked it out or something."

"That was why he started to transmute without arrays?"

"It's a big deal. Takes you a while. So, do you think you're blocked?" Ed swung their hands, unselfconscious. "You want to give it a try?"

No, Roy certainly didn't. The thought made his stomach clench. "All right." Ah, the power of his ego.

He let Edward's hand drop and tried to think of the simplest array possible. Something a child could do … "Kitchen," he said.

In the kitchen, Roy pulled a wine glass from the cupboard and broke the goblet with a sharp tap against the sink. The first array he'd learnt off by heart was this one, the reconstruction of glass. He remembered kneeling on the dusty floor of the bar, fixing broken barware to earn his mother's broad smile.

He placed the pieces on the tiled floor and knelt. He could feel Ed's eyes on him as he leant against the cupboards in Roy's peripheral vision.

The formula had stuck in Roy's head. When he closed his eyes, he could see it in his mind with complete clarity. He put his hands together, and tried to remember the feeling of the thing, of making the circle with his clasped hands and the array with his mind. Back on the Promised Day, in the middle of battle, the formulae had just come to him. He had clapped without thinking, had let the energy fire around the circuit of his body, as simple as a breath, and then shot it off. How had it felt, though? When he remembered this, it was as though that part of him were numb.

Roy frowned. He opened his eyes. Ed was leaning down sideways into his field of vision, hair in his eyes.

"You are blocked, aren't you?" Ed frowned and scrubbed a hand through his hair. "Maybe it's because you were taken to the Gate by force? I actually never worked that one out. I mean, Pride started the transmutation, he paid a passage fee, so why you too? Maybe -"

"I am not blocked," Roy snapped. "Stop talking at me. I can't concentrate with you babbling."

"Fine," said Ed, disturbingly unruffled. "Show me."

"Stop badgering me and I will."

"I'm not!"

"So shut up, then!"

"I -" Ed rolled his eyes, pantomimed pulling a zipper across his lips, and stood back up to lean against the counter again.

Roy took a forceful breath out through his nostrils, and closed his eyes again. He slapped his hands together, picturing the array, the motion of - he froze. Goddammit. He really needed not to have an audience for this.

Ed looked at him and opened his mouth to say something. Roy tutted and held up a finger, then closed his eyes again.

One more time. He concentrated on the Bar Christmas of his childhood, the way it was in his memories. The heavy drapes, the smell of his mother's cigarillos, whiff of stale beer on the floor, his foster sister Iris's heavy floral perfume. Maurice the cat half-asleep on the counter, paws tucked under him. The chalk in his hand, how he'd never liked the texture. The fine, dusty white line of the circle, the simple strokes and then the thrilling rightness of the thread of power running around it.

He opened his eyes, spread his hands, then brought them back together. The circle completed itself as easily as a breath, and Roy's heart did a little flip as he felt the energy warming his hands. He held his concentration. The formula was clear and plain, and he let it exist. He touched the floor, and watched as the glass followed his will, knitting itself back together.

He was still grinning when Ed reached down and picked up the glass. He held it up to the light. "Nice," he said. It was a seamless fix. A seamless fix Roy had been able to execute since the age of eight, but still. "How's it feel?"

"Good," said Roy quietly. Amazing, in fact. Worryingly good, like the immediate, innocent, visceral pleasure he used to get from transmuting as a kid, as a teenager, as a young man. Before he'd learnt what alchemy could do, and that had sucked most of the fun out of it.

"Good," repeated Ed quietly.

The doorbell chimed.

The takeout was good, and the second round of sex, shortly afterwards, was very good indeed - but still, Roy didn't sleep well that night. As Ed sprawled across the bed, breathing evenly, Roy stared at the ceiling and ruminated. A flash of memory: Riza, fifteen years old, in her school pinafore, laughing at him with her eyes. You want to try and crack the lock on Father's book cabinet so you can nose at all the banned things. Of course he had wanted to. Alchemical learning was a slow cracking of codes and of concepts, patience, concentration, years of work. Alchemists dreamed of secrets.

Roy closed his eyes, and saw again that blank reflection of himself composed of particles of light, standing in front of a door covered in the signs of his alchemy, in a white empty world. According to Ed, everyone got the same little speech. That was rather funny. The bit Roy really remembered was the last part, when it said, and I am you, and the eyeless face looked straight at him and grinned his own grin.

And then - down the centre of the Gate, in between the two doors, the thinnest line of light had started to appear. It reminded him of the alchemic locks on his own bookcases; of the crack of blue light that ran neatly down the centre of the bookcase doors the moment after he tapped the unlocking array, the moment before they swung silently and enticingly open. His chest had tightened with unbearable anticipation; his stomach had clenched.

It was a door to the universe.

It was so damn fast. A warning impulse to shut his eyes, now, this was the thing that had shredded Alphonse Elric into a ghost - fighting a desperate alchemist's compulsion to see what was in there - and before he could force himself not to want it so much, there were whips of black light around his arms, his legs, yanking him forward so fast that he was through the door before he knew it.

Then - then it had been indescribable. It was everything, everything at once. Knowledge and the joy of knowledge and the beauty of the universe and the terror, how perfectly its atoms fit together, gravity from the turn of the earth, heat-energy from the sun, water molecules buffeting each other in the damp clouds, a puddle drying in the sunlight, the gases in the air curling around each other like cigarette smoke of a dozen colours, everything, absolutely everything. It was unbearable and wonderful at the same time, shattering like an orgasm - and then it was gone. And he'd smashed into the floor of a pitch-dark room, with a splitting headache and a chaos of shouting around him.

Of course the Truth could hear your thoughts.

Afterwards, he remembered seeing a blinding white smile, flashing past him as the Gate pulled him in.

***




***


Ed found himself flying towards the ground again. He tucked, rolled, and just about managed to land in a crouch instead of on his ass like the last couple of times. As he rose and eyed his opponent, hands up in a combat stance, he saw Al go in for one of his signature elegant throw-downs - and almost immediately meet the same fate, his own height and momentum used against him to throw him over his target and straight down onto the dry summer turf of Armstrong Park.

How was it? How was it that Ed and Al were now martial arts experts, grown-up and buff and taller than her, and yet Izumi Curtis could still knock them both on their asses with the same casual ease as she had when they were in short pants?

"Al," Teacher said, "your focus is getting mediocre. Have you been slacking off on your meditation regime as well as on the sparring?"

"No, I've kept it up," Al protested, "I need it for my rentanjutsu practice!" Ed saw his chance. He sprang around with a low sweeping kick to take Teacher's feet out from under her from behind - and she jumped over his kick without even looking. Half a moment later, a sandalled foot landed square in the middle of his back and knocked him chin first into the dirt.

"Right, boys," said Teacher cheerfully, picking up her handbag from the grass. "How about I take you for some breakfast? My treat."

***


"It's bad news." Hands laced and tucked under his chin, Roy looked steadily around the table. A dozen faces looked back at him. "If Hakuro's openly letting his own people tail us, that means time is short."

"He's hardly getting any more popular," Riza added. "So it's likely he believes the Homunculus will be ready for action soon."

"Our best case scenario," Roy continued, "is this. One, we manage as soon as possible to mobilise enough support - from the military, parliament, industry and the people - to move. And two, we manage to get Chrysalis and the Homunculus in custody."

He paused, looking around again, assessing. Ross was mirroring his pose unconsciously, her hands folded together on the table and her eyes large and serious. Breda was frowning and sticking his bottom lip out, his I-mean-business look. They believed Roy could do this. They believed they could do it, under his command. He squeezed his hands together a little, and took a breath. "Now. What if we get enough support to take power before we're able to locate Chrysalis? That's doable, but it's risky. We can't leave Chrysalis running around the country with a Homunculus in his front pocket, so we'd need to put a lot of energy into finding him at a time when we'd need all hands on deck to stabilise the country."

"And Hakuro's people would be much more trouble if we haven't captured their secret weapon," Riza added. "They'd think they had a chance."

Roy nodded. "Next option. If we capture the Homunculus, then the problem of gaining sufficient support solves itself, with a little spin. Hakuro's always been openly against taboo alchemy. If we make what he's done public, it would sink him beyond hope. Therefore, the current plan is to continue throwing as much as we can at our search efforts. We consider all avenues. And when we get a lead, we move immediately. In the meantime, we continue to broaden our base of support. But the search takes first priority. So. What's the current state of play?"

Falman shuffled papers and took a breath - but it was someone else who said, "Sir."

It was Miles. "There's a fourth possibility to plan for that you didn't mention." His voice was even. "Defeat."

Roy said nothing for a moment. The room was silent - but he could feel the tension that suddenly strung the place taut.

"Sir," said Breda. He was addressing Miles, his brows lowered. "Around here, we don't talk about defeat."

"Perhaps it's time we did, Lieutenant," said Miles evenly.

"Do you mean, if the Homunculus were ready tomorrow? We have the signal-to-strike flare protocol," said Riza. Her tone had that subtle clipped quality it took on when she was taken aback. "We'd send the flare up over the city, and move for power immediately."

"Yes. But I didn't mean that," said Miles. It seemed he hadn't even shared these thoughts with Riza yet. "I'm asking, what would we do if during that strike - or any other time - it became clear we were going to lose?"

"Sir," said Breda, "we don't do that here."

"So you said," Miles said. "But everyone does that one day, yes? Pretending that we're all immortal and invincible is not determination, it's unsound military strategy. A plan for every option means a plan for defeat."

The temperature in the room seemed to drop another couple of degrees. Around the table, people stirred. Roy heard murmurs. Havoc's lips twitched as he mouthed something silently across the table. Ed was staring furiously at the centre of the table, his eyes huge.

Roy was observing the shock and anger in the room so intently that that it took him a moment to realise: he himself wasn't outraged at all.

Something lit up in his mind.

"Major," he said. "What would you advise?"

"A plan of retreat," said Miles. "Retreat, survive, salvage, and regroup."

Roy brought his chin up. "You're absolutely right." He looked around the room, at the tense and watchful faces of his people. "If the worst happens - then we still have to struggle for survival. If we survive, we can still move."

Havoc tapped a pen against the table. "We've managed it before."

Roy inclined his head. "We should remember that." There were a few nods from around the table. Roy imagined that he felt the air in the room shift once more.

Riza took the cue. "Now," she began. "If we review the plan for each scenario in turn."

As the meeting rolled onward - the beginnings of a plan discussed, the latest leads on Chrysalis scrutinised - Roy found himself feeling oddly triumphant. Ah, his ego. No, he couldn't give himself the credit for this one - but he could at least give himself the credit for hiring well. Even as a paid-up member of Team Mustang, Miles remained distinctly his own man. They were such a tight-knit team, his people. They'd been through everything together, stood against impossible odds. They thought in unison. And it was a strength so much of the time, that it was easy to forget it was also a weakness which could bring them down. They needed people to point out their blind spots, to stop them making grave mistakes. This was exactly why Roy had been right to bring Mrs Curtis on board, too. Did Hakuro have the sense to hire people who'd disagree with him? Roy found himself doubting it. He was a stubborn man, slow to change his mind. What might he be missing?

Riza was last to file out of the room. As she gathered her papers, Roy smiled and raised an eyebrow at her. Riza shook her head and chuckled.

If we survive, we can still move. Roy rolled the phrase around his head as he walked through his department. It was vaguely familiar. It wasn't until he was sitting at his desk, reaching for his to-do list, that he realised he had been quoting Hughes.

***


The best breakfast in the world, at least so far in Al's experience, was crusty bread rolls with butter and slices of yellow cheese and ham. The café opposite Al and Ed's flat gave you jam and honey too, and bowls of milky breakfast coffee, and in the summer they set tables out on the street under their awning. Sitting opposite of Al, Ed finished assembling a thick sandwich of ham, cheese, a quarter-inch layer of butter and tomatoes. Then he unhinged his jaw and managed to get about half of it in a bite.

Al took a sip of coffee and absently watched a pretty girl crossing the street. "We're lucky we got the last table here," he said. Breakfast at home was not to be found. Al had stayed too long at the library yesterday morning, and had managed to miss the iceman's round yet again. Iceless, their icebox was currently a warm, smelly cupboard.

"Mmph," said Ed. Then he frowned, and propped his chin on his hand.

A moment later, Al realised why. From the table behind Ed, he heard someone say, distinctly, "war."

It was a party of four, three women and a man, all in their twenties. "And they're not reporting any of it in the papers," one of the women said. A car drove past, and the next thing Al caught was the man saying, "Eclipse Day all over again." For the next few minutes, Al and Ed ate in silence, trying to listen. Al heard mention of "Bradleyism," he picked up the fear which seemed to creep in at the edges of the conversation. "It's going to happen," another of the party kept saying, "it's going to happen." The conversation turned to the best routes out of the city in a crisis, whether the trains would be running, whether the roads would be blocked.

It was a gorgeous Saturday morning, gorgeous enough that the student population of the university district all seemed to have hauled themselves out of bed to get an early start on their slacking. And yet: Al was getting used to hearing this kind of talk in public. You noticed it most in a pub at about nine o'clock: after people had settled in, conversations turned and the mood darkened.

"Yo. Elric and Elric?"

Al looked up. It was the girl he'd seen crossing the street a minute ago. She was standing by their table now: a Xingese girl about his own age with bobbed hair and a stripey dress. He'd never seen her before in his life.

"Uh -" Ed began.

"Pretend you know me," the girl said quickly. "Don't look, okay, but that guy at the table by the door is a spook, he's watching us."

"Hey!" said Al loudly. "How've you been?"

"Awesome," said the girl. "Invite me to sit down."

"Pull up a chair," said Ed flatly. "Did, you know, the Madam send you?"

"Yep," she said. "Delivery girl." She picked up one of their bread rolls. "So, make some pointless small talk at me."

Ed blew a breath up into his bangs. "Nice day for it," he said.

"That's a cute dress," said Al.

"Why, thank you," said the girl, helping herself to the last slice of ham.

A moment later, Al felt a little hand squeezing his thigh under the table. He just about managed not to react.

Then the girl leaned across, gave him a kiss on the cheek, and waved at Ed. "Well, I've got to go do some stuff now. See you guys around sometime," she said.

Al waited until she was a few yards away, then put his hand to his thigh. He'd thought he'd heard paper crackle. Sure enough, he could feel an envelope there.

"Well," said Ed, "that was some classic Roy Mustang suspense drama for you. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing the way someone would do it in a crappy spy movie." There was a weird little grin on his face, the corner of his mouth pulling up and twitching. Al knew that particular look. He took a breath, and decided once again not to go there.

As Al rose, he slipped the envelope into his book bag. After they'd paid and left the café, Al only got as far as the hall of their building before Ed pulled the envelope from his bag and tore it open. Al hovered behind him and looked over his shoulder.

Al scanned the note quickly, then blinked: it was in Ed's own alchemy code. It was, of course, from the brigadier general. Al spared Ed a look; his ears had gone pink. Al raised an eyebrow, Ed managed a twitch of a shrug; then they both turned back to the letter.

Ed's code took the form of a travel journal, so it wasn't for a few moments that Al realised the letter was describing an actual journey. They were being ordered out west, via a complicated train route doubtless intended to throw off pursuers. Once they got to Papenburg, they were to go to a particular hotel, where they'd receive further instructions.

"Didn't we -" Al started, and then stopped as Ed gestured up the stairs. They headed inside the flat, and Al continued, "Didn't we stay at that exact hotel a few years ago?"

"Yeah," said Ed. "This time you get to whine about the crappy mattresses too. This has got to be Chrysalis, right?"

"Mustang's sending us both. That's got to mean he thinks it's something big. I guess we'll find out when we get there?"

"Or," Ed said. From out the envelope, he pulled another slip of paper, folded over and sealed. On it was written, open this on the train. Ed grinned and tore it open.

Inside, it just said, I knew you wouldn't open this on the train.

Ed cackled. "Asshole." He shook his head. "I'll get him back."

"Have fun with that," Al said mildly. The cat pushed its head against his calf. "So, Zozimos," he said, "we've got three hours to get you a vacation home."

Ed tutted without malice; after two weeks, they were still deadlocked over the cat's name. "Teacher could come over and feed him?"

"You want her to see how much of a shambles this place is?"

Ed shrugged. "She's seen it already, the deed's done."

"But her hotel's halfway across town. She'd come over once a day, we don't know how long we're going to be away. He won't get enough stimulation! He'll be bored and act out!" Ed arched an eyebrow. "Okay then, what about the books?" Ed's eyes went wide. Between the two of them, they had at least fifteen illegal alchemy texts sealed in a strongbox in the corner of the living room, along with Ed's sidearm. "You know she'll get into the box in no time, and you know we'll get back and there'll just be a big pile of ashes in there instead."

Ed sighed. "And then she'll dropkick us both into the box head first. Okay, it's not happening. Who can we send him to?" Ed bent down and scratched the cat's head. The cat purred, stretched and rubbed its whole body against him.

"Maybe Captain Ross -" Al started.

"No," Ed chipped in, "I got a better idea." He was grinning. The grin meant trouble.

***


Ed checked the time on his watch, and took the stairs two at a time. "It's me," he called out as he keyed himself in. There was a called 'hello' from inside. Roy was in. Roy, who, at least when they met at his, was starting to be Roy now, not Mustang. It made a weird kind of sense, the two names, almost as if Ed's commanding officer and the guy he was fucking were two different people. Which of course they weren't, but still: it felt like a boundary. Boundaries were good.

Roy was in one of his usual spots: sitting on the sofa in the living room, surrounded by a nest of paperwork, a steaming mug resting beside him. "I just successfully reheated my coffee by clapping at it," he said. "Tastes absolutely disgusti - what's that?"

Ed brandished the wicker picnic basket Roy was staring at. The basket meowed. Roy raised his eyebrows. "I guess you reap what you sow, sir," said Ed, setting the basket down and starting to undo it. "You want Fullmetal and Bridgewire out of town for a couple of weeks, so Fullmetal decided to see if he could offload his main domestic responsibility onto this guy he's screwing."

The basket meowed again.

"Absolutely not," said Roy.

"I'm going to make this totally worth your while," said Ed.

"You're prostituting yourself for cat care?" Roy put his head on one side for a moment. "All right, what are you offering?"

Ed shuffled on his feet, but then the moment of embarrassment left him and he was shameless again. "How about for starters, I pin you down on that sofa and - uh, damn. Is there actually a word for that thing, that thing where you rub your dicks together?"

"Frotting," said Roy helpfully.

"Dammit! He was right after all -" Ed stopped himself.

Roy raised his eyebrows.

"Okay," Ed tried, "that sounded weird, it's just a bet I had with this friend of mine, a while ago, this stupid running joke thing where he claimed there was a word for it in Amestrian and I said-"

Roy chuckled very deeply and dangerously. "That wouldn't be your friend the Emperor, would it?"

"Yes," said Ed flatly.

Roy said nothing, he just grinned fit to bust.

Ed folded his arms and tutted. "I didn't even say anything happened," he said. "What the hell makes you think anything happened?"

Roy smirked, with emphasis.

"Yeah, yeah," Ed muttered, bending to undo the straps on the basket. "Laugh it up." He hauled out the cat. It took some doing. There was a lot of cat to haul. Done, Ed brandished him at Roy. "Here he is. Predator Dead Xerxean Elric."

"That's not a cat," Roy said, "that's a small bear."

"He comes," said Ed, "with a bunch of shit Al thinks he needs." He swung the backpack from his shoulder, set it on the floor, and pulled a note out of his back pocket.

Roy took the note and read it. Then he turned it over, read the other side, shuffled the second sheet to the front, and read that too. His brows furrowed more and more. "Half an hour a day of waving a piece of string at him for mental stimulation and bonding?"

"Al thinks the cat's going to have a nervous breakdown if you don't hug on him enough." The cat sniffed tentatively at Roy's leg, then sat on his feet.

Roy raised an eyebrow. "So, that joke about him hiding cats in his armour, back in the day - actually true?"

"Every damn word," said Ed. "Trust me, I had to clean out the kitten shit from inside of his chestplate."

As Ed filled up the litter tray and set down food and water for the cat, he could still hear Roy chuckling intermittently in the living room. As he walked back in, Roy folded his papers and set them aside.

"Right," Roy said, "is there any chance you still feel like pinning me down and doing that thing that you're not sure there's a word for?"

Ed looked him up and down for a moment. "You're so fucking annoying," he said, truthfully. Why did people who annoyed Ed make him hot? It was the bane of his life. Still, whatever. Without another word, he crossed the room, pulled down Roy's pants and shoved up his shirt, then pinned him down and did that thing that there was apparently actually a word for.

A couple of minutes into the proceedings, he realised that the cat was sitting three feet away, staring at them like they were nuts.

On to the next chapter!

Comments

( 43 comments — Leave a comment )
cornerofmadness
Sep. 2nd, 2011 08:03 pm (UTC)
that illo of Roy is lovely
bob_fish
Sep. 2nd, 2011 08:06 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I ♥ clappy Roy.
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flybynight00
Sep. 2nd, 2011 08:09 pm (UTC)
Oh my god, I think mine is the first comment! Great as always, I squealed when I saw it on my f-list. I would comment on my favorite parts of the chapter, but my brain was so fried by that picture of Roy that all I can say is OMG THAT PICTURE OF ROY *NOSEBLEED*
flybynight00
Sep. 2nd, 2011 08:10 pm (UTC)
Dammit, corner, I was almost there!
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sun_arose
Sep. 3rd, 2011 01:37 am (UTC)
The plot thickens. Gorgeousness of that pic aside, it's strange to see Roy in Ed's signature pose. The lighting is wonderful!

So THAT'S what "frotting" is. :D I feel so American. British sex slang FTW.

One other thing - in the last section, you use "meowed" and then later, "miaowed"... Not sure which one you actually prefer.
enemytosleep
Sep. 3rd, 2011 02:02 am (UTC)
Brit Filter Beta
*waves* I feel the need to defend bob_fish as her beta on some of this.

The discrepancy of "meow" and "miaow" are likely from me Americanizing her draft. On a similar note, "frotting" is not actually a Britishism. ;)
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havocmangawip
Sep. 3rd, 2011 06:50 am (UTC)
I want in the war room. I can read lips pretty well.

"The temperature in the room seemed to drop another couple of degrees. Around the table, people stirred. Roy heard murmurs. Havoc's lips twitched as he mouthed something silently across the table. Ed was staring furiously at the centre of the table, his eyes huge. "

This is so so so bad for the country and Team Mustang. I am in love with Miles. He's EXACTLY what the team needs.

I did get to watch "live SWAT/rappelling/rescue" style action a few days ago. If I ever stop drooling over it, pre-38 ninja-ness will happen. OMG... FAST rope... ever watched it? THEY NEED HELICOPTERS in Amestris! Though tall buildings work too.

Lost coherence thinking of the fittest hottest NY State Troopers again... the best part? Wm just laughs at me. He did also ask when I read "Twilight" recently if I wanted an Edward or Jacob body pillow. I said NEITHER. I wanted Havoc, but my bed isn't big enough. (Isn't he the best?) Hooray for "look but don't touch". That goes for people ogling me too. (I get that a lot. Who knew? I never noticed it. I'm pretty dense.)
bob_fish
Sep. 3rd, 2011 02:09 pm (UTC)
I know! (and I need a Miles icon!) After everything they've been through, Team Mustang are so close-knit that Roy is right to worry that they're vulnerable to getting too groupthinky for their own good. I like that Miles doesn't blend in even though he's been with them two years now and is dating Hawkeye! This is how I picture him at Briggs too, quietly ignoring the Briggs roaring, machismo and vodka shots and just going his own way being badass and competent - and getting people's respect for it.

I would love to read some pre-38 Havoc & gunbu ninja-ness from you! You should totally do that. Helicopters would be awesome, but Central and East have lots of cool big buildings for rope action.
hellbentllama
Sep. 3rd, 2011 06:09 pm (UTC)
excellent as always, i love the play between ed & roy, and the slight hints of past ling/ed XD so jealous I cant see it all! more smut interludes please? cant wait for next update! :P
bob_fish
Sep. 3rd, 2011 10:27 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! If you look at my fic index, you'll see that all the Camping Trip of Doom fics take place in this 'verse, so the Emperor and Ed have quite the past. More smut interludes would write themselves with embarrassing ease. I'll likely expand the interlude I wrote for fma_slashfest when I repost it here.
alasse_mirimiel
Sep. 3rd, 2011 10:19 pm (UTC)
I love the slow progression of Ed and Roy’s relationship, the little things like Ed swinging their hands, his little grin at Roy’s antics and the sealed note Roy left inside the envelope.

So now we know why Roy kept using arrays! It makes sense. Ed was very gentle and firm there, when he confronted Roy about it. I’m glad he did, clappy alchemy is a huge advantage and the way things are going, they all need every advantage they can get.

The illustration is amazing. Semi naked Roy doing alchemy without a circle? HOT.

He remembered kneeling on the dusty floor of the bar, fixing broken barware to earn his mother's broad smile

That’s so cute!

How was it? How was it that Ed and Al were now martial arts experts, grown-up and buff and taller than her, and yet Izumi Curtis could still knock them both on their asses with the same casual ease as she had when they were in short pants?

Because Izumi is awesome.

Ross was mirroring his pose unconsciously

That was cute, too.

As much as I don’t want to think about the worse case scenario either, Miles had a point there. Roy is right about needing people with an outsider’s perspective; nobody in Team Mustang is a yes man but they’ve been through too many hardships together. Roy, despite his ego, is well aware he can make mistakes.

Roy unconsciously quoting Hughes is both heart-warming and heartbreaking.

"You're prostituting yourself for cat care?" Roy put his head on one side for a moment. "All right, what are you offering?"

Only a moment? Roy, you’re easy XD I loved that final scene. I wonder how Roy will call the cat, because I doubt it’ll be Predator Dead Xerxean Elric.
bob_fish
Sep. 3rd, 2011 10:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! It's always lovely to get a mega-long review, especially highlighting so many of the details I enjoyed writing the most. Hoorah! (And yes, Roy is easy XD)

sky_dark
Sep. 3rd, 2011 11:27 pm (UTC)
you know I love you and I love this and there wasn't nearly enough and I love that your cat is Al's cat and Roy has to take care of it and Ed is a prude about words and all of it. Do more. <3
bob_fish
Sep. 3rd, 2011 11:42 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you like! And do you like naked clappy Roy? Huh huh huh?

Haha, Al's cat predates my cat, but I wrote my ideal cat into the fic, and then I found him in RL and he's all stretched out next to me being a goober right now? *loves goofy cats* Of course getting goofy cats has really helped with writing a goofy cat.

Ed is a doof and I actually wrote in one of the CToD fics that, being quite naïve at this stage of his sexual career, he was convinced that Ling had personally invented frotting.
ishte
Sep. 4th, 2011 05:34 am (UTC)
Nice to see a continuation of this. I'm anxious to see how the story progresses. I was greatly amused to see Ed come to the realisation that the cat was watching them 'frot'.
bob_fish
Sep. 4th, 2011 10:28 am (UTC)
Thanks! Glad you're enjoying the plot and the silliness!
forochel
Sep. 4th, 2011 09:52 am (UTC)
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA




that closing there; it is ACE.
bob_fish
Sep. 4th, 2011 10:28 am (UTC)
Cats, they like to watch. Thanks!
stultiloquentia
Sep. 5th, 2011 06:43 pm (UTC)
I do NOT have time to translate all my burbly noises into actual words on a screen, but you should know that they are varied and enthusiastic.

I love Al shooing the spies, and Ed being surprisingly low-key and good for Roy in the clappy scene, and your OC spy chick is great (and Al, so politely quick on the uptake, hee!), and Miles, oh, god, Miles wins this chapter, I think. Love!

That PICTURE is DEVASTATING. Hoo!
bob_fish
Sep. 5th, 2011 06:51 pm (UTC)
Oh good, I'm so glad I could inspire burbling noises! Thanks so much!

Ed has his moments of maturity and perceptiveness as well as his moments of blundering ridiculousness, and I enjoy them both (and so, increasingly, does Roy).

I love writing Al's brand of flirting. The friendliness and straightforwardness and interest in the other person and cheery compliments are all thoroughly real - that's what makes it so devastatingly effective.

And I'm really happy with how Miles' scene seems to be working for folk who've commented - it was a tricky one to bash out.

And and I really enjoyed drawing that picture.


P.S. On an entirely different note, I just discovered (possibly behind the curve) that Cofax has now completed Carpetbaggers and posted the remaining chapters on AO3. I'm savouring them in breaks between work and housepainting.
(no subject) - stultiloquentia - Sep. 5th, 2011 06:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
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a_big_apple
Sep. 8th, 2011 01:28 pm (UTC)
And now you see how far behind I am on internet things...but HOORAY, AWESOME CHAPTER! Izumi kicking their asses, and Ed's bet with Ling, and Al being so adorable I want to squeeze him, and Miles being awesome, and Roy's ego, and THAT ILLOOOOOO omg.
bob_fish
Sep. 8th, 2011 02:48 pm (UTC)
Oh, hoorah! Thanks for lovely comments. I am further behind than you, I should be updating this sucker waaaay more regularly. Oh, and I enjoyed drawing naked, clappy Roy very much.
mebh_me
Dec. 22nd, 2011 08:11 am (UTC)
Roy eats bulgogi! Amazing!

Still contemplating a fic where Roy's heritage isn't Xingese but from a little country juuuuust east of there. I'll then be able to contribute to delicious bulgogi!roy^^

Amazing fic... the dialogue, characterisation and build is just wonderful! Yeo!
bob_fish
Dec. 22nd, 2011 11:13 am (UTC)
Aha, this came about in the most random way. I was writing a Big Bang fic about Madam Christmas adopting four year old Roy, and decide that his mum came from an Eastern province of Xing called Qiongya (I used an obscur-ish old name for Hainan Island). My beta enemytosleep then borrowed the idea of Qiongya and decided that in some respects Qiongya is alt-Korea. But you're right too, I sometimes wish that there were a few more canon countries outside Europe in FMA world. You should write that fic!

Anyway, bulgogi = 110% delicious. Nom.

Thanks for reading and enjoying and saying nice things!

Edited at 2011-12-22 11:14 am (UTC)
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( 43 comments — Leave a comment )