"What are you doing down there, Fullmetal?"
Ed jumped slightly at the intruding voice and stood up in a jerky motion. He quickly brushed himself off and tried to pretend like he hadn't been caught off guard. It's not like he was doing anything to be jumpy about. "Nothing. What's it to you, Colonel?"
Mustang shifted his bag of groceries to the left side of his waist to see Edward Elric standing before him before shrugging. He had been on his way home from the store and happened to come across his most troublesome subordinate squatting on the sidewalk peering around a wall corner like some sort of stalker. Mustang smirked; it was only his duty as his commanding officer to see what was going on with Fullmetal. Especially when he was too embarrassed to not respond to the 'down there' comment with his usual height ranting. "Well, you were scrunched down on the sidewalk peering around the side wall. Is it wrong to find out what my subordinates are up to?"
Ed frowned slightly; that was hard logic to argue. But it was still none of the bastard's business what he was doing. Ed snorted and crossed his arms. "I wasn't doing anything illegal if you're worried about your reputation."
"I figured that much. I guess I'll just see for myself, than." Mustang shook his head and walked closer to Fullmetal. He let his grocery bag fall into one arm and leaned over and around the blonde boy to see what he was looking at so intently. He smiled softly at the sight and looked down at the slightly blushing face. "You know, Fullmetal. It's not like anyone's going to pick on you if you went over and watched the street performer closer. There are plenty of adults hanging back behind the children."
Ed snarled and fought off the embarrassment. He was only watching the man out of boredom; that was it! He was studying his technique to balance and juggle at the same time. Research is what it was. "Who said I was looking at that in the first place! Maybe I was just sitting there..." Ed trailed off for a moment. He finished his sentence in a sudden shout a moment later. "Thinking! Yeah, thinking about life." Ed pushed at Mustang's chest that was still in his face from leaning over him. "Now step back! You're crowding me!"
Mustang didn't move from his spot, but shifted just enough to prevent from touching the younger man. He suddenly got a smirk on his face. "Afraid I'll squish you? You are rather-"
"I'm not small!" Ed screamed before the Colonel could even get the height insult out. He was not in the mood today to deal with the other man. In fact, Ed decided to just change the subject and hope the other man would take a hint and leave. "What are you doing anyway? Don't you have to be at work or something?"
"The work day ends at five. It's well past then, Fullmetal." Mustang laughed. It was just like Fullmetal to lose track of time so easily. "And if you must know, I just went shopping." He rustled the grocery bag for emphasis. "But I would have thought that was obvious."
"Oh shut up." Edward frowned and turned his back to the older man and crossed his arms. It was bad enough Mustang was forcing him to stay in Central after all the chaos in Dublith. Edward did not need the Colonel stalking his every move, too. That Archer guy questioning him about Teacher and Wrath made it even worse. "It's not like I was paying that much attention."
Roy shook his head and took a step back. Fullmetal was agitated more than usual and was fidgeting in place. It made the older alchemist curious. Being stationed in Central until things were sorted out couldn't be bothering him that much. Roy was about to comment when he finally noticed something very odd about Fullmetal. "Where's Alphonse? Normally you two are joined at the hip."
"None of your business!" Edward shouted and stuck his hands on his hips. There was no way in hell he was telling Mustang that Alphonse kicked him out of the dorms for being too moody. Alphonse was mumbling some nonsense about Edward needing a break from study and getting some fresh air. It was worse that Alphonse agreed with the Colonel about staying in Central for a while to cool their heads and get a game plan together after everything they'd learnt about Greed. Ed wanted out; not to stay cooped up in some military dorm. "So just leave me alone."
"So you're alone then?"
"I think that would be obvious."
Mustang almost grimaced having his own line thrown back at him, but he decided to chose his battles. Instead, he'd just take advantage of this opportunity to get on Ed's good side. The rift between them had only gotten larger since Fullmetal found out about Hughes' passing. He still hadn't forgiven Roy for keeping it from him for so long. "Have you eaten yet?"
"Huh?" Ed stared blankly at the taller man smiling at him. It was a friendly sort of smile he'd seen the man flash at Hawkeye on occasion. To be honest it was freaking Ed out just a little to see that look on Mustang directed at him. "Uh, no?"
"Would you like dinner with me since you're all by yourself? I have all these groceries and it's just me at home. I think company would be nice, don't you?" Roy made sure to keep his voice even and smile in place. It was no secret that Fullmetal was less than thrilled with his presence on a normal basis. If Roy wanted to bridge that gap and fully bring Fullmetal into the team with Hawkeye, Havoc, and the others- he needed to play his cards right. However, at the moment Fullmetal was staring at Roy as if he had two heads. "What do you say?"
Ed's stomach growled on cue and he watched Mustang's smile start turning into a smirk. Now Ed had lost his 'I'm not hungry' excuse. However, Ed did see some rather nice looking pieces of fruit hanging just above the top of the bag; suffering through an evening with the bastard Colonel was equivalent exchange for a free meal, right? "I should probably call Al and tell him I'll be late."
"Great, you can call from my place." Mustang smiled and started walking again down the street. Fullmetal followed him after a moment and he could hear the steady clicking of his Auto-mail at every other step. "What would you like to eat?"
"You're letting me pick?"
"You're the guest, Fullmetal."
"Well, what do you have?"
"How about you tell me what you want and I'll see what I can do?"
"How am I supposed to ask for something if I don't know what you have to make it with?"
"No need to get angry, Fullmetal." Roy chuckled lightly at the younger man's pouting face. The frustration was almost cute. "What do you like to eat? It's a simple question, Fullmetal. Even if I can't make it today, I might be able to put it away for a later date."
Ed trotted alongside Mustang quietly as he considered his options. He looked up at the other man and looked for any sort of trick behind those dark eyes. Not finding any malice or manipulations, Ed finally muttered out a tiny request. Reluctantly. Its' not like he needed to ask for anything from Mustang, after all. "Stew."
It was a very quiet response considering it came from Fullmetal, but Roy heard it clear enough. He looked down into his bag and took stock of the items. He had been planning to make some stir fry in the Wok Hawkeye got him for his birthday but he could adjust. "Stew, huh? I think I can manage that."
Roy almost had to pause at Fullmetal's face. His eyes were lit up and he had a hopeful expression that seemed to spread out over his entire body. For the first time, Roy thought Edward truly looked his age and it made the older man smile. There was a youthful innocence there that Roy wanted to protect. "Yes, really. I even have some beef in this bag I'm carrying."
"Yeah!" Edward cheered in a controlled sort of glee. There was no way the stew the bastard Colonel made would be as good as Teacher's or his Mom's. But it was stew. Stew was the best. "How soon until we get to your place?"
"Another five minutes or so." Roy smiled softly. He had his reservations at first, but the way things were looking it should be a pleasant dinner. "Come on then, let's go before your stomach devours your body trying to get to the non-made stew."
The response was playful and Roy found himself laughing. He definitely should have approached Fullmetal sooner.
There was blood everywhere.
Envy frowned at the scene before him as he walked confidently into the room. Humans who attempted human transmutations always paid a price at the gate, but this poor soul not only paid a price but ended up splattered amongst all the walls. This alchemist didn't have the luxury to wallow in the guilt of his sins. He got a one-way ticket straight to hell.
His Sin, was currently writhing on the floor in the middle of a smudged transmutation circle; a bulging, squirming pile of flesh and bones.
Envy was surprised to run across this scene by accident, really. He had been stalking around on his own in downtown central and caught sight of the transmutation in the corner of his eye. The light of a Human Transmutation is distinct and called his curiosity. The androgynous homunculus squat down before the wheezing concoction of flesh and poked it. "Well, well. Aren't you a poor little thing?"
A sunken eye turned up out of what looked like the skull towards the taunting man. It took a pained breath and moaned in its agony. Everything was excruciating pain.
"Are you hungry?" Envy pulled out a handful of red stones he carried with him for just such an occasion and shook them in his palm enticingly. He wasn't sure what was possessing him to help this creature, but he did so anyway. Envy guessed it was just curious to see what would come from the mass. Maybe it would be the new Greed. "They're yummy."
The newly born creation let out an unearthly squeal of pain as the other being shoved the red rocks into his mouth with enough force to press him into the ground. The stones seemed to melt on his tongue and the beast was swallowing on instinct. The changes that followed in its anatomy felt like fires being lit on every inch of its' form. Bits of flesh stuck together and started to take form, but stopped soon enough. However, the creature's awareness of his surroundings was increasing; he even knew that his form was incomplete.
He needed more of those stones.
Envy laughed as a newly formed hand groped at his skirt and pulled. It was trying to drag itself over to him. How darling. "Do you want more?" Envy kicked the hand from his person and smirked down. "Than stay there like a good little monster and I'll be back."
The form on the ground clawed at the ground and tried to turn itself upright as the other in black walked away. The hunger for more stones to finish his form was gnawing at its insides. Telling it to move and take them by force, but some other voice disagreed. The quieter voice reminded him of the benefits of patience and listening. Waiting. So it would wait. Wait for the stranger to come back with more stones.
The creature's rasped breaths echoed in the empty, destroyed room.
"Welcome back, Brother." Al chirped from his seat in the corner of the dorm. He had a few alchemy books pulled open and spread around him as he studied. Without Brother around, Al had gotten a chance to read up on some personal books for a change. He love spending time with Ed, but sometimes even Al wanted a few moments to himself. The suit of armor closed the book in his lap softly before setting it on the table and turning to Ed. "How was dinner with the Colonel?"
"It wasn't as bad as I thought." Ed shrugged out of his red coat and boots to collapse onto the bed. He stretched out his entire body like a sunbathing cat and listened to the joints in his back crack before collapsing into the sheets limply. "He made stew."
"I bet that was good." Al laughed. "You like stew no matter who makes it."
"That's because you can't mess stew up." Ed nodded and yawned into his hand. Ed hadn't meant to stay at the Colonels so long-just eat the stew and leave. But somehow he ended up staying for a couple hours after they ate just talking and playing games and stuff. That Colonel was sneaky. For a full moment, Edward didn't suspect anything off about Mustang and actually enjoyed his company. Ed was almost fooled into thinking the other man cared. "Did you have fun all by yourself?"
"Yes, it was quiet." Al snickered as Ed popped up from the bed and glared. Al twitched and chose to change the subject before the good mood was ruined. "So, what did you do at the Colonel's other than eating stew? You were gone for close to three hours."
"Huh? Not much." Ed shrugged. "We played cards and talked. He was telling me about a few leads on the stone, but thought I should hold off on looking into them for a while. Something about waiting for the right moment. I think he's just trying to keep us trapped at central."
"He's just looking out for us, Brother."
"You mean looking out for himself." Ed rolled over to the window. The Colonel may have been nice today, but Edward wasn't stupid. The actions of the 'Fullmetal Alchemist' reflected back upon Colonel Mustang. He was just trying to keep Ed on a short leash. Nothing more. "I'm going to sleep."
"Brother." Al trailed off while looking at that slim back. He really hoped Ed didn't believe the things he said about the Colonel. Al liked to think he was a good judge of character, and Colonel Mustang always gave off a fatherly vibe to him. Just, a father fond of 'tough-love'; that's all. "Good night."
"Well look at you." Envy stood with his arms crossed among the back wall and watched his new project intently. After sneaking a huge swarm of red stones from Dante and the others to hurry along the progression of his newfound discovery, a few weeks later he found himself staring at a fully formed homunculus. Envy smirked at it and chuckled. It would be more fun if he kept this one a secret for now. "Doesn't that feel better?"
The man licked the last of the stones from his palm, retracing his tongue along the junction of his wrist and palm to get every last trace of the living energy. Envy, as the other had introduced himself, had said these stones were made from human lives. Not that the now-fully formed monster cared. All he knew, was that now with a belly full of sloshing red stones the pain was gone and his head was clear. The stones were already created; whether or not he ate them – the humans would still be dead. The monster was making use of them and making sure those souls didn't go to waste. They provided him with a complete, fully functioning form.
And now he could think.
And he remembered.
"What do you want from me?"
Envy smirked at the question directed at him. The elder sin took a good look at the newest addition to the artificial humans and the red ouroboros tattooed into the back of its hand and smirked. "I just want to watch the fun, Greed. That's all the payment I need if you were wondering what you owed me for those little rocks."
"Greed?" A slender eyebrow rose and he took in Envy's lanky gait as he walked closer. The taller man narrowed his eyes as Envy came closer and closer. Instinct told him to lash out at the other man; but the part of his brain that could process the situation told him to hold off.
Envy stopped a few feet from the man and poked him in the chest in the middle of a trademark red line that so man of the homunculus shared. He trailed his finer down the chest and back up again with a cruel smirk. "That's your name. You're the new Greed."
"What happened to the old one?"
"He was killed." Envy shrugged and removed his hand from the new Greed. "Not that I care."
"Greed." The name sounded both comfortable and disgusting on his tongue at the same time as he repeated it. Part of him accepted it as his new form, but memories of being called by another, more fitting name, prevented him from fully accepting it. It was a puzzle he would have to figure out in due time when he could get more information. "And what am I than to have such a name?"
"You're a homunculus. An artificial human created by the sin of a pathetic mortal trying to play god. An empty, soulless shell masquerading as human." Envy smirked as with every punctuated syllable the other's eyes would narrow. "Easy as that."
"So the same as you?" Greed smirked. "We're a sin?"
"Exact-where are you going?" Envy frowned as the man started to walk away from him. He was hoping to have a little more fun at the new-born's expense.
"To see for myself."
"None of your concern." With that, Greed walked out the door leaving Envy at his place. He was grateful the other homunculus chose not to follow or pick a fight. Greed had too much to accomplish to worry about dealing with petty, unimportant individuals.
He had bigger goals.
"What do you mean I can't go to Liore?" Edward slammed his fist down onto the Colonel's desk. "You can't keep me in Central forever. It's been weeks!"
Roy massaged his forehead as the boy yelled at him. He wasn't quite ready yet to tell Ed about the uprisings in Liore just yet and the boy already wanted to run out to the city to look up some rumor about the Philosopher's stone. "I told you, Edward. No. I need you here."
"Doing what?" Ed snarled. "I've done nothing but study in the library."
"It's called being 'On-call' in case I need you at a moment's notice, Fullmetal." Roy frowned. At first, keeping Ed in Central and out of trouble was easy enough. But the boy was getting cabin fever and Roy was running out of ideas. "It's part of that 'Dog of the Military' thing you agreed to follow."
"This is bull shit!"
"Colonel Mustang, Sir?" Hawkeye wrapped on the doorframe of the inner office with a small folder in her hand. Edward and the Colonel both looked stressed and exhausted after a thirty minute shouting match, but the Lieutenant did her best to pretend she didn't notice. "This just came from General Hakuro's desk. He wants you to look into it."
Roy took the folder from his Lieutenant wordlessly and started to flip through the pages. Fullmetal was starting to fume at him silently for being ignored momentarily, but that was alright. If Hawkeye interrupted his meeting to deliver it, the notes had to be important. Roy smirked suddenly. "For example, Fullmetal. I need you to go check out this assignment as soon as possible."
Ed stared at the folder shoved across the desk at him and he picked it up tenderly as it if would burn him. His eyes widened when he got a good look at the pictures and descriptions inside the document. It all looked very familiar and he could feel his gut clenching. "Human transmutation."
"Apparently someone tried it and it rebounded badly enough to splatter them across their apartment. It's fairly secluded as they thing this happened a few weeks ago and they're only just now noticing it. I want you to go there and find out who it was and what he was doing. Also, find out if he were working with anyone else so we can stop them from attempting the same. Write up a full report as soon as you're done."
Ed nodded and closed the folder after memorizing the address. For once, the Colonel gave him an assignment he was more than happy to take. Edward had no qualms with beating some sense into other idiots who made the same mistakes. Plus, Ed needed to make sure that a rebound was all that occurred. Edward didn't' even want to think of what the consequences would be if this was an attempted resurrection.
"You're dismissed, Fullmetal." Roy waited for the boy to leave before letting out a huge sigh and slouching into his seat. That boy was going to be the death of him, he just knew it. Roy cracked a heavy eye open to look at a disapproving Lieutenant. "Is there a problem?"
"Are you sure you should be assigning him to this case?"
"Fullmetal knows more about it than any of us, Hawkeye." Roy closed his eyes again. "Besides, it's mostly a clean up and research job. How bad could it be?"
"If I recall, those are famous last words. Sir."
"So they are." Roy laughed and wiped a hand down his face. That would be his luck, but for now, he let his faith lie with Fullmetal.