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Fic: No Small Injury, Chapter Six of Nine

Title:No Small Injury, Chapter Six: Spare the Excuses
Setting: Fullmetal Alchemist, mangaverse, post-series so potential spoilers right up to Chapter 100. Highly likely to be jossed and end up AU.
Characters/pairings: Roy/Ed (UST and subtext), Havoc/Rebecca Catalina, Al, Hawkeye, ensemble.
Warnings: R for sweary mouths and a bit of violence.
Word count: 11168
Summary: two years on from the Promised Day. As Mustang's faction struggles for power with Hakuro's, the Amestrian Army is one gunshot away from a civil war. Now someone may have fired that shot.
Notes: Illustrated fic is illustrated (by me). As ever, thanks for superb beta-age of both fic and illos to enemytosleep. This time she betaed in the midst of major house renovations, so please be giving her double the applause. Extra thanks this issue to papa enemytosleep for vintage car advice, and to cornerofmadness and papa cornerofmadness for gun and ballistics information.

Extra bonus fun! enemytosleep wrote me a Wrong Turn 'verse fic for fmagiftexchange. It rocks, and enemytosleep writes the most spot-on, hilarious Rebecca ever. See Rebecca and Havoc attempt to set Riza up on a blind date in "Friday Night, Date Night" over on enemy's lj.

ETA: extra extra potential bonus fun! I'm offering fic and art - not just FMA! - at the Haiti charity auction. Please do bid if you feel moved to do so. I'll do all kinds of pairings and genres not covered in this fic, so if you fancy a little Royai or Ling/Ran Fan, or - shock! gen, you know what, I'll totally oblige.

Previous chapters:
Chapter One: the Way to a Man's Heart
Chapter Two: What Would Maes Hughes Do?
Chapter Three: Too Much Information
Chapter Four: Sleeping Dogs
Chapter Five: The Buddy System




***


Breda and Havoc sat in a dark car, parked in a dark side street, watching a dimly lit townhouse window. From the distance, they watched two figures moving about the room. There wasn't any spicy stuff happening, mind you. No, that would be way too interesting.

The plan for the evening had involved them parking outside a nice hotel inside of which a contact of theirs was apparently busy extracting information from a drunken member of parliament. Ross and Sullivan were also inside the bar in case of trouble. Breda had been in a sulky mood all night. Havoc suspected it had something to do with the fact that a mere twenty yards away was a bar full of expensive booze, a pretty spy, and two attractive colleagues who might possibly kiss in front of him. Havoc, while in the same boat, was going home to a bed containing a pretty brunette wearing absolutely nothing. That kind of took the edge off things. It was probably better if he didn't point this out to Breda, though, especially because he'd recently taken to stuffing an envelope in his jacket and claiming it was a 'TMI jar outpost.' Havoc had instead alternated between putting up with him and goading him. Then the evening had gotten a little more eventful.

Their contact, Vanessa, had been briefed thoroughly: Patrick Dunleavy is almost undoubtedly a marked man. We can only guarantee your safety here; do not leave the hotel with Patrick Dunleavy. So then Vanessa had, of course, left the hotel with Patrick Dunleavy.

By the time Ross and Sullivan had gotten outside, Vanessa and Dunleavy were already hopping into a taxicab. Ross jerked her arm at the departing cab and tried to turn it into an innocuous looking wave. Havoc picked up the hint and they pulled away to trail the cab discreetly to Dunleavy's townhouse. Breda had even remembered to say, "Follow that car!", an essential part of any tailing operation.

And now, the evening was once again becoming less eventful. It seemed the previous bit of excitement, like the feminine silhouette that occasionally appeared in the townhouse window, was a tease that was going nowhere.

Breda tutted. "For the love of god, stop fidgeting!"

Havoc bristled. "I'm not fidgeting. It's a medical thing, you know I have to raise my butt off the seat every so often-"

"Uh, no, you keep flicking the lid of your lighter. How is that medically necessary?"

"I just really want a smoke, and I can't have one without the light giving us away! Damn. You know, I totally forgot how much stake-outs suck."

There was a short pause. Then Breda said, mournfully, "I'm starving."

Havoc spread his hands. "Dude, if you'd remembered to get us food-"

"You said you were going to pick something up on the way! You forgot and now you're putting it on me!"

"I did not forget! You said you were going to pick up cheese fries with bacon from Kenickie's on the way to our rendezvous point -"

"Do not say cheese fries with bacon, you're making it worse." Breda paused for a beat, and then sniped, "Can't believe we're on a stake-out in a red car-"

"On a moonless night, in a dark street, and this isn't exactly the only red car in the city. This is a great car for the job: it's fast, it's manoeuvrable, and it looks like it's from a spy movie. What we have here, my friend, is your continued sour grapes that I won't let you drive it."

"You know you're just using the hand control thing as an excuse to stop me getting my hands on your pristine baby. How hard can it be? The accelerator's like a motorbike throttle, right? I can ride a motorbike."

As if that was that.

"Okay, for like the fiftieth time, motorbikes have foot brakes and gear shifts. What you used to ride was a scooter. No gears, teeny tiny engine, not a motorbike. And this"- he waved expansively - "is in no way a scooter. It's my beautiful, insanely expensive souped-up sports car -"

"I could show her a real good time, you're just worried that I can give her what she needs better than you."

"Pfft. You drive like my grandpa. Who's dead. And who drove a donkey cart."

Breda gave the explosive little sigh that he always used to signify whatever and also I am losing this argument so I will now change tack and get you back later, once you've let your guard down. "Hey, we should let the Chief know what's up."

"Yeah." In fact, they really ought to have done that by now. "Ross and Sullivan must have called in and told him this chick left the hotel-"

"Or maybe they're too busy making out in a dark corner -"

"You are so, so bored. This is what happens to your imagination when you survive on a bunch of one-night stands - not all of them, by the way, peak quality goods."

"How quickly he forgets," said Breda acidly.

"Geez, and here I'm trying to be a considerate friend! You need to let go of the fantasies and get out there, man. I could get Becky to fix you up with -"

"I'm going to call in from that phone box over there, okay?" Breda really had it in for him now, Havoc could see it in his eyes. If they went for a post-stakeout beer, it was definitely going to be one of those times that Havoc would have to assess whether vodka shots had been snuck into his pint mug.

Breda pulled out his gun, checked that the street was deserted, then hopped out of the passenger seat and walked off briskly. Havoc fingered the sidearm lying in his lap. This was either going to be extremely dull, or one of those missions where things go a little bit off-plan, and then a lot. It would hardly be a surprise if someone tried to get the jump on them right now -

From somewhere ahead, there was an explosive popping sound. Gunfire, or just a car backfiring? Havoc looked in the direction of the townhouse: a small figure was running down the fire escape steps that led down the back of Dunleavy's building. Havoc squinted at it. That had to be the girl. His second guess looked to be right, then.

The side-street was barely lit, and she would have had no idea that he and Breda had followed her there in the car. He watched her sprint closer, barefoot with her high heels in one hand and a bag slung across her shoulder. He scanned the empty street. No visible pursuers, and no Breda either. He brought his gun up, ready to open the door and fire if he had to. Should he whistle? Wave at her? Fuck it. When she was a few metres away, he flashed the lights once. She slowed down and her saw her eyes flick down to the numberplate. Sensible girl. Then she was belting over to the passenger side and throwing herself into the car.

She doubled over and wheezed, clutching the bag, and without even asking her he started the car and went to pull out.

The girl's head popped up and he half-saw her turn big, curious eyes on him. "Hey," she said, grinning, "It is my lucky night after all."

The glass of the passenger window shattered.

She screamed like a B-movie heroine. Havoc lost a precious second to his useless instinct to slam his foot down and floor the gas. Then he turned the throttle quickly and smoothly and let up the clutch lever, spun the wheel and was out of the side street in a screeching fast trail-braked turn that made the air smell of rubber. He turned onto the main boulevard with no time to look or stop. A big car and two motorcycles swerved to avoid him. As Havoc climbed up the gears and cut rapidly through the lanes of evening traffic, he was followed by a trail of colourful blasphemies and obscene hand gestures. He registered that Breda had been back on the corner, and had started at them in utter shock. Good. He'd know something was up and have time to get his gun out and be ready for trouble.

The girl - Vanessa - was still ducking down, head on her knees. Oh hell, was she shot?

"You all right there?" She made a little squeaking noise. "Uh, if you're not doing anything, could you check to see if either of us got hit?" Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Vanessa pop her head up in surprise. Good idea, keep her busy. She was supposed to be trained, but she seemed pretty panicky, he really didn't want her to do something dumb like jump out of the car.

The girl checked herself over shakily, picking bits of broken glass off her skirt and out of her hair. Then she leaned over and checked Havoc out. Kind of literally checked him out, looking him up and down with big eyes and a sneaky little smile. She smelled like perfume and sweat. It was a measure of how doomed he was that the combination made him instantly think of Rebecca.

Further down the boulevard, the traffic thinned out as they headed further out of town. Havoc took a good look in the mirrors, then let himself relax a little. He flicked his eyes over to Vanessa. "So ... I take it someone got into the house?"

She nodded. "Dunleavy's shot. He out was in the hallway, I just hopped straight out the window. I think the guy must have already been in the house, actually. It seemed like he was waiting for us."

Through the rearview mirror, he saw a metallic flash from the side of a car, an arm extending from the passenger window ...

This time, he went straight for the gas the right way, opening up the throttle and shifting over into the fast lane. Behind them, shots cracked. The girl screamed and ducked again. Havoc pushed up the speed and shifted briefly into the slow lane to overtake a car which was failing to exceed the speed limit. The little sports car was roaring so hard it rattled the fixtures. He'd never taken her quite this fast before. Air whined through the tiny gaps between the convertible roof and the frame. And there was that feeling of calmly buzzing energy in his chest, the runner's high. They were in serious danger of dying here, but he was grinning like a madman.

He'd got a quick look at that gun under the streetlights. 9mm or .45, the old question. If he was right, and this was a little 9mm instead of a big pistol, then right now they wouldn't be able to get an accurate shot. Although there could be more than one gun, and more than one gunman. He could gamble it and rely on getting far enough ahead of them, but then this was a straight road, heading out now through the villages that had been absorbed into the city's edges and into the open countryside. It would be difficult to shake them.

Okay, then. It'd have to be the other option. Breda was going to be so pissed. He glanced at Vanessa. She had a death-grip on the edges of her seat. She really didn't look up to what he was about to ask her. "Hey," he said, trying for reassuring. "There's something I want to try. Hopefully get us out of this mess. I need your help." She nodded vigorously. "Okay, in a minute I'm gonna ask you to hold the throttle here and the wheel. When I tell you, put your hands next to mine and I'll let go once you've got it. You're going to have to hold on pretty hard, but it won't be for long. Just stay calm for me."

She nodded one more time. Right. "Trial run," he said. "Take the wheel." She reached out with her right arm and held it steady. He let go and quickly wound his window down with a few turns. Her hand was shaking already, and the car was starting to weave a little. It'd just have to be good enough.

Havoc throttled off and dropped back gradually. The road was nearly deserted now, which was going to make this simpler. With any luck these guys wouldn't be checking their speed, and just think they were just outpacing him. As they started to shoot again, he wove in and out of the lanes. Two guys in the car. Crap. But only one of them, a stocky bald guy on the passenger side to the left, was shooting right now, leaning awkwardly out of the window and shooting right-handed. He had an advantage there, but it was going to disappear as soon as he put his plan into action. There'd be no time to reload either. This had to be done fast.

He wove into the slow lane and throttled off again. As he dropped back rapidly towards the pursuing car, he shouted, "Now!" Vanessa leant over and he felt her little hands come around his just before they drew level with the bad guys - then, leap of faith time. He let go and grabbed the gun from his lap. He turned and braced his elbows on the window, left palm cupping his right hand, and popped off a couple of shots. The passenger returned fire. No time to duck, so he just had to tune it right out. He got off two more shots. Then another.

Then, abruptly, the other car ploughed straight across to the other side of the road. He must have hit the driver. As the car receded rapidly in the rear-view mirror, he saw its headlights spin as it hit the ditch and flipped right over.

Havoc reclaimed the throttle and wheel from Vanessa's shaking arms, then sucked in a long, deep breath. "Thanks," he said. "You were great."

Vanessa looked up from rummaging in her handbag, gave him a hysterical little smile. "Wow" she said, "thank you." She inhaled deeply. "Some evening, huh?" She yanked out a long, silver case and flipped it open. "Smoke?"

***


Roy really should have had breakfast before this breakfast meeting; he didn't have nearly enough caffeine or blood sugar in his system for this.

He was sitting at a large, round table laden with food, documents (and documents with food on them) in a private room of his foster mother's half-decorated new bar. At the table were Madam Christmas himself, Vanessa, Riza, Major Miles, and Havoc. They were debriefing after Vanessa's information-gathering session the previous evening. He'd been running the meeting - for the first thirty seconds, at least. Then his mother had told him he had crumbs on the corner of his mouth, handed him a napkin, and while he dabbed and felt like he'd instantly shrunk a foot or two, she'd blithely taken over. It had all gone downhill from there.

"In my house," said Madam Christmas emphatically, "we do not have this kind of - what was the word, sonny?"

"Clusterfuck, Mrs. Mustang," said Havoc helpfully.

"Clusterfuck!" she said, rolling the word in her mouth. "Kind of figures the army would have to have a word for that. Vanessa, honey, you want to explain what the hell got into you last night?" Just like her to save the really humiliating questions to ask in public. Roy didn't feel too sorry for Vanessa, though. It was probably going to be his turn in a minute.

Vanessa fiddled with her necklace and looked vaguely as though she was considering bolting. "Calculated risk?" she said hopefully. "Look, we needed someone to turn over his townhouse at some point, I still think you should have just broken in while I had him at the hotel."

"Because I said no, that's why," said Roy. God, he sounded about sixteen. He really should have got the family stuff out of the way first. Riza had seen it all before, but he could already see Miles weighing his technique for handling family against Olivia Armstrong's doubtless more authoritative stance. As for Havoc, he was enjoying this far too much. Roy tried again. "I already offered Dunleavy protection and had him curse me out down the phone. If his house got burgled for compromising documents, who do you think he'd blame? I could start a civil war right now by stealing Hakuro's spot in the elevator - do you think I really want to do something that'd turn the whole of Parliament - by the way our allies, we're trying to build a democracy if you feel like keeping up - against me?"

"Roy's right and you're wrong," said Madam Christmas to Vanessa. There we go, that was that then. She gestured with a cigarette. Whenever he went home, Roy found it difficult to get used again to the whole smoking at mealtimes thing. Then she turned to Roy and jabbed the cigarette at him. "Kid, your sister just risked her life for you. Show some manners."

"Thank you, Vanessa," said Roy. Fuck the coffee, he just wanted to go back to bed. "I really appreciate it. And thank you, Captain Havoc, for bailing my sister out of her own idiocy." Vanessa narrowed her eyes. Roy resisted the urge to stick his tongue out. Instead, he retrieved a cardboard folder from where it lay dangerously close to a pat of butter. "Speaking of idiots, I'm still rather impressed that Dunleavy was stupid enough to keep all his correspondence about this in his house. He even had carbon copies of his own letters to Flowers."

Riza said, "Well, it's good practice in general. If you did that, you might remember what you've said more often."

"Yes, but my point is -" Oh great. She was winding him up. Wasn't she supposed to have his back or something?

Vanessa said, "What gets me is that he had them all stashed in the hidden drawer at the back of his writing bureau. I can never believe how many people do that, it's kinda like having 1234 as your safe combination."

"God bless dumbasses," said Christmas, "for they let us get the job done in half the time."

"Anyway," said Roy - oh hell, was Miles ever going to obey an order from him ever again after this? - "he's documented it all so well that we pretty much know everything now. It turns out Flowers found out about The Perfection of Matter and Katzenklavier's research when she overheard a conversation in a private room of the Marchmain Club."

"The Sellers Room?" said Christmas. "Did she sneak into that little cupboard in the next room where you can hear every damn thing through the panelling? Takes me back."

"Apparently listening into conversations there was a habit of hers and some of her allies in the Progressive Party," said Riza, furrowing her brow. "A lot of politicians and brass are members, Flowers and her friends used to keep tabs on who was meeting there in the hope of picking up something useful."

"Katie used to do that?" said Havoc, shaking his head. "Man, I still can't believe she was screwing us over. I thought I knew that girl."

"Really?" said Riza. "She always struck me as rather cunning."

Right, that really was enough. Roy threw a very sharp look around the table. He got silence, and a chastened look from everyone except his mother. She raised an eyebrow approvingly.

Feeling a little more like himself, Roy began again. "The conversation Flowers heard was between Henry Katzenklavier and a middle-aged soldier she didn't know, about the progress of his research. She heard enough to guess that it was a member of the old guard, though. The Perfection of Matter was mentioned. She looked it up and discovered the book was banned, and at that point she went to Dunleavy. Dunleavy had missed his chance at the big time, and it seems he thought of himself as her mentor, and he was helping her climb the greasy pole. She was aiming to be party leader. Anyway, it seems Flowers then visited most of the city's alchemical booksellers trying to find her own copy. She only managed to buy a copy two weeks before she was murdered."

Miles glanced over. "Sir?" Funny how he always asked before speaking. You could tell the Briggs bunch apart in the office by their strange lack of insubordination. "Did Dunleavy's letters tell us what they planned to do with the book?"

"Funnily enough, yes," said Roy dryly. This part really wasn't funny. "Flowers was convinced that the soldier she heard speaking with Katzenklavier was old guard. She and Dunleavy were planning to threaten Hakuro to expose publically that his faction were sponsoring illegal alchemy. They were going to blackmail him in return for political concessions. This book is very, very illegal. She may not have known what Katzenklavier was doing, but just the fact that it's taboo would be enough in the current climate to turn the tide against Hakuro. So: the short version is that the concessions they were hoping for would mean that if I managed to edge out Hakuro for the Fuhrership and start instituting democratic reforms, they'd have enough clout to push for fusion of powers."

Madam Christmas snorted explosively. Riza's lips thinned; she knew this already. Everyone else around the table just looked blank. These people had all plotted revolution with him, weren't they supposed to be a bit better informed about political theory? He was sure he'd had this conversation with Havoc at least twice over the years.

Riza came to the rescue. "We're aiming towards a presidential democracy - that's separation of powers. The president is in charge of the economy, the military and state bureaucracy. Parliament makes the laws. The Progressive Party is with us on this, but apparently not all of them agree on it. Flowers and Dunleavy were aiming for a parliamentary democracy instead - that means that Parliament would make the laws, run the economy - and they'd be in charge of the military."

"It's bad because it looks like Flowers and Dunleavy thought they had a lot of Party support. Our allies aren't exactly our allies anymore. We're trying to reform a whole state, to stabilise the country. We can't do that without a solid power base, that's half the reason I didn't just take the Fuhrership straight away as soon as I had the chance. If the reformers are divided between a lot of little factions jockeying for power and backstabbing each other, the whole of Amestris is going to suffer for it. We could lose everything."

Vanessa spoke up. "And it's bad because Dunleavy wanted you dead. He said so in the bar, he was drunk off his ass. He said he was going to see you strung up, and -" Oh. That. Vanessa had trailed off. Roy gave her a wry smile. She was still an idiot - but yes, his mother was right. She'd risked a lot for him.

Havoc said, "Whoa, now. I'm not denying the other stuff, but Katie definitely didn't hate the military that much. She lived with Rebecca, they'd been friends all their lives, and I know we both had arguments with her about political stuff but - there' s no way."

Roy shrugged. "We don't know how far Flowers agreed with Dunleavy there. Unfortunately, we also don't know whether Flowers had actually got to the stage of blackmailing Hakuro's people. If we knew she had, that's be enough evidence to get them in trouble. But it's just as likely that Katzenklavier caught wind of her sniffing around after the book, had her political background checked out, and guessed the rest."

Havoc checked his watch, then raised a hand. "Chief, guys, I gotta go in a minute. I'm meeting Vikus Weaver -"

"The guy who runs Weaver Freight?" cut in Christmas. "Now there's a man with fingers in too many pies."

"That's the one. He's called in a couple of favours" - Havoc pulled a face - "and I think he's found out which gang Katzenklavier's hired for all these hit jobs. But I just want to tell you now, I pretty much know what he's going to say. Falman called me on the field telephone at home just before I came here. They identified one of the guys from the car, and he's one of the big hitters in the Luttenberger gang."

Madam Christmas took a pull on her cigarette. Vanessa's eyes got very round. The Luttenbergers were one of the big names in organised crime right now. Damn. Well, they had known these people were professionals, it was bound to be something like this.

Roy turned to Havoc. "Right, get anything else you can from Weaver, and let's discuss this further in the office." Havoc nodded. He pulled out from the table, gave Roy an informal salute, pivoted and left.

Roy continued. "They've attacked two of my subordinates now. We can justify moving on them openly without connecting them to Hakuro's faction. We'll cook something up for now, but I'm not letting this go on any longer. Major Miles, I want you to start drawing up names for a mission team. We're moving on them in the next twenty-four hours." He turned to Riza meaningfully. "Major Hawkeye, you're injured, I'm keeping you on the bench."

Riza locked eyes with him for a second, then blew a breath out quietly and said, "Yes, sir."

Well, there went one piece of the puzzle. Of course, once they managed to take down the immediate threat to Roy's team, they'd have to turn to the far more disturbing problem of the root cause of said threat. Katzenklavier was almost undoubtedly working for Hakuro's old guard - but what the hell was he trying to do? Something taboo, according to the Elrics, and clearly something so important that it justified the risks of using hired assassins to target Roy's people. It never damn well stopped, did it?

***


Ed woke up swearing. He felt the rage and the horror and the sickness, he yelled, threw a desperate punch at nothing - and then he was in his own bed, in his pigsty of a bedroom in the little flat in the university quarter. Light was seeping through the thready curtains. Already, he could barely remember what he'd been dreaming about, but it wasn't difficult to guess. He cycled his shoulder a couple of times to loosen the tension.

Al's voice called sleepily from the next room, "Brother? What is it?" The connecting wall was so thin that they often had entire conversations through it. This was great those times when Ed couldn't be bothered to get up, and substantially less great those times when Al brought a girl home.

"I'm fine, Al. Go back to sleep."

There was a muffled response from the other room. Ed rubbed a hand over his face and then caught sight of the culprit of his nightmare: his notebook, still open on the coverlet. He must have fallen asleep while he was reading. This takwin thing - human transmutation or not, spending all day with it, immersed in Xerxes, was starting to fuck with his head. He was trying to understand a civilization that had invented the building blocks of modern science, but thought nothing of treating people like cattle; treatises on morality that casually talked of experiments on slaves, bribes for angry gods and alchemy that killed a whole people. Shit, at least his father had given a crap when you came down to it, more than you could say for any of the assholes that had written these books ... fuck it. He needed coffee.

A few minutes later, Ed sat at the little fold-out table in the living room, a chipped mug of coffee cooling in his hands, and freezing air and blinding white light filling up his mind.

His father had stood between him and the Gate. Voices poured from his skin. Ed looked through the whiteout all around him, but he couldn't see Al. His father said, "I'm so proud of you both." The voices shouted to Ed in a language he didn't know. His father said, "Can you understand them? They're your people, your family. You two are what's left of them." He was talking to Al, too. Where the fuck was Al? Ed looked around again anxiously, and when he looked back - oh fuck - those long, thin shadows were pouring out of the Gate, too fast, inexorable, reaching for him.

A clatter sounded from Al's room. Ed looked around the living room, dazed. Shit. These memories, these flashbacks, they weren't normally this bad, were they? This vivid? Not since the first time, not since Mom ...

He took a step back instinctively, uselessly putting his arms up in a fighting stance. He went to shout a challenge, to bargain or to protest - but the whips of black light weren't reaching for him at all. Instead, they were wrapping themselves around his father's limbs and face and body, thready and questing like the roots of a plant. In a hundred places, the tendrils of shadow were pushing into his father's skin. They were worrying him into fragments. And - oh God - his father was smiling. Smiling and saying something Ed couldn't hear, and the voices inside him were sighing and disappearing, popping like bubbles one by one.

There were noises from the tiny kitchen: Al clanking dishes, a kettle filling with water -

- and Ed was holding his little brother, impossibly tiny, skinny and cold in his arms. A painful, heart-hammering chemical high was slamming through him. Al pointed a shaking, twiggy arm at Ed's own Gate. Ed looked across to it. In front of it, the Truth was standing, the creature made of light wearing Ed's own arm and leg, grinning at him horribly through the last of the dust that had been his father, through the last of the whispering voices.

The Gate, the Truth, said, "Come and get it, alchemist." It stretched its arm - Ed's own arm - out to him, tauntingly.

Ed looked at the Truth, looked towards the moment that their quest would be finally complete, held out before him. His whole body buzzed and crackled with anticipation. Part of him wanted to howl with grief, another part to scream with triumph. Carefully, he let go of his brother and stood. Hohenheim's dust streamed silently through the Gate in helix spirals. Ed watched it go, and the horrible mixture of feelings and sensations in his chest intensified. But he was only one move from checkmate: in this final moment, his first thought was practical. Had his father paid the whole of the passage fee? Was it enough? Ed took a step forward. The grin widened, split the Truth's blank face. Ed took another step forward - and then something inside him recoiled hard.

He stopped.

He said, "I know you, you son of a bitch. What's the catch?"

The Truth said nothing. Ed's stomach rolled. He whipped his head around, and saw Al standing shakily behind him on thin legs, smiling hugely, alight with hope and love, wishing him onward. And behind him, Al's own Gate was swinging slowly open.

Gently, it stretched out the first, slim tendrils of undoing to Alphonse's neck.

NO.

"No! You can't have him!"


There was a warm hand on his shoulder.

"I said, do you want some oatm - hey. What's wrong?"

Ed looked up at Al's freckled, square-jawed, worried face, so different now from the starved boy he'd shielded in his arms as they fell away from the Gate into nothing. Ed just shook his head. "I'm - fine." He felt oddly distant from his own voice. He pinched the skin between his left thumb and forefinger, hard. The pain woke him up a little.

"Do you feel sick? Did you have a nightmare?"

Ed took a gulp of cold coffee. His stomach recoiled. "The second one."

Al said, "Mom, or the Promised Day?"

"Second one."

Al sighed and flopped down in the other chair. "Yeah. Me too. You know, you've actually got a point about this book. I mean, I still think it's fascinating, but - it's really creeping me out now. I keep wondering if ..."

Ed nodded, and made an affirmative noise in his throat. He said, "No oatmeal. Thanks. I'm gonna go take a shower, then I'm going to head to Mustang's and get to work. Coming?"

"Yeah. We can pick up some pastries on the way, raise our blood sugar levels."

"Cool." Ed nodded again. "Let's crack this fucker open."

***


Onwards to part two of Chapter 6!

Comments

( 43 comments — Leave a comment )
ratatusk
Jan. 14th, 2010 10:55 pm (UTC)
Whoo! Seeing this up here just made my day! I'll definitely be back later to post up a better comment when I have the time.

(I forgot that I never asked you how you liked the last three Doctor Who specials! What'd you think?)
bob_fish
Jan. 19th, 2010 04:02 pm (UTC)
I forgot to answer this!

I was rather disappointed, actually. What a waste of John Simm (and of Catherine Tate)! I enjoyed the last ten minutes of Waters of Mars, but all in all Tennant's departure could have been waaaay better for me. Wilf was grand, though, and as a big fan of Doc 5's exit at the end of Caves of Androzani, I appreciated the idea that after all the grand world-saving Ten dies to save one ordinary person. Uh, pity they did that one much better with Nine and Rose (how much do I love Parting of the Ways? a lot). It was nice to see Sarah Jane, though. Love her. And Mickey. I know a lot of people eyerolled at pairing him with Martha, but I thought it was rather fun, and they make a lovely pair of sexy ninjas.

(and thanks for bidding in the Haiti auction!)
havocmangawip
Jan. 14th, 2010 11:34 pm (UTC)
I audibly squeed when I checked my e-mail after writing and errands. Today is just too good a day! It thawed enough to was the car and wear my light coat! I WROTE at Panera with my latte AND I have a TON of yarn. :) (I also have a big bottle of Heineken. :)

This made me guffaw...

Breda tutted. "For the love of god, stop fidgeting!"

Havoc bristled. "I'm not fidgeting. It's a medical thing, you know I have to raise my butt off the seat every so often-"

"Uh, no, you keep flicking the lid of your lighter. How is that medically necessary?"
bob_fish
Jan. 15th, 2010 02:46 pm (UTC)
Yay Heineken and yarn! I like writing at cafes too. I think the fact that cafes have coffee and cake is probably something to do with this. XD

I loved writing Havoc and Breda's silly banter, as ever. Breda is seriously going to want to get his own back after this - not only does he miss out on the car chase, he misses out on the chick! Havoc should probably watch out for the next few days. I can't decide if the payback prank would be something really evil or whether it would just be Breda putting his stapler in jello in the manner of The Office.
corposant
Jan. 15th, 2010 06:30 pm (UTC)
I love the way you write Madame Christmas!
bob_fish
Jan. 18th, 2010 11:36 am (UTC)
Thanks! I love writing her pwning everyone. She's awesome.
cornerofmadness
Jan. 19th, 2010 02:34 pm (UTC)
if i don't review as I read the two bits I will forget things...

love this first part. i dont' know what amused me more, Roy feeling like a child in the face of his family or the Breda/Havoc exchange (but it might be how is flicking your lighter medically necessary for the win)
bob_fish
Jan. 19th, 2010 02:40 pm (UTC)
Ha, thanks. You know, the Breda thing happened because Breda had absolutely nothing to do (he even misses out on the girl!) so he got snarky. He's so losing out to Havoc plot-wise, poor chap. And the Roy thing happened because I had so much boring expo to deliver in that scene, so I just set Roy's family on him. Always fun.
cornerofmadness
Jan. 19th, 2010 03:48 pm (UTC)
poor Breda, he has nothing to do in my big bang either. he's just roaming around Central pointlessly at this point (along with Armstrong) but at least he got snarky here.

humor to break up boring expo is always a good way to go. Poor Roy.
bob_fish
Jan. 19th, 2010 03:52 pm (UTC)
Stuck with Armstrong! As if things couldn't get any worse.

Yes, my go-to solution for boring expo scenes (of which there are a kabillion in this fic, damn plot) is getting the expo-deliverer to take the piss out of Roy. Poor Roy, why is it so much fun to tease him?
cornerofmadness
Jan. 19th, 2010 05:19 pm (UTC)
I'm trying to decide if Breda and Armstrong have anything in common.

Roy, yes he IS fun to tease and to break (my current occuptation in big bang)
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flybynight00
Apr. 7th, 2010 02:33 am (UTC)
Rereading this for the nth time while looking forward to moar plz, I have a question: why did Katie need to buy the book herself? Couldn't she just say ha I know what you're doing?
bob_fish
Apr. 7th, 2010 11:07 am (UTC)
Aha, very good question. I'm not sure how much of the following plot logic made it into the fic, but ...

Katie: ha I know what you're doing. Parliamentary democracy now plz or I expose your naughty research and then you're screwed.
Hakuro: What naughty research? What am I doing, then?
Katie: Um. Naughty things? With naughty alchemy? One of your guys says he's got a banned book called The Perfection of Matter, and he's researching with it, and ...
Hakuro: And how do you know it's not about gardening, and it got banned because the author said the Duke of Lior's new fountain was tacky?
Katie: ...

In other words, if the research turned out to be very naughty indeed, Katie's party would have enough leverage to bargain for some major concessions. But in order to have some bargaining power, Katie needed to be able to show they knew enough about the research to be on to them, rather than to have some vague suspicions. Imagine her disappointment when on getting hold of a copy of this book, she found it was so obscure that she was none the wiser, although the illustrations were pretty creepy.

So how did I do? XD
enemytosleep
May. 8th, 2010 11:40 pm (UTC)
On stopping in to comment on Chapter 7, I realized that I never officially commented on Chapter 6. Bad, bad beta.

I loved Breda and Havoc's opening action scene. It was just perfect: the snark, the camaraderie, the appreciation of the goods and how the good's appreciation could not be fully appreciated (Vanessa/Havoc, in case that was confusing).
bob_fish
May. 9th, 2010 01:17 pm (UTC)
Well, since you gave me another look at naked Winry, I forgive you.

Yeah, I like how Havoc's general horndoggery has been partially derailed by being in lurve. He's a sap, bless him. XD
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