[identity profile] tierfal.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] tierfallen
Title: Mistaken
Fandom: Fullmetal Alchemist
Pairing: Roy/Ed
Rating: R
Word Count: 22,500 (4,200 this part)
Warnings: major spoilers for '03/CoS; language; a bit of violence (unimpressive next to canon); adults behaving irresponsibly (including alcohol use); naughty stuff to come
Summary: It is a telling and terrible reflection on Roy's life that the kidnapping is not the worst thing that's happened this week.
Author's Note: The triumphant return of this old trope!fic, haha. Super overdue, but I've finally finished the damn thing now, so hopefully I'll be able to update faster from here on out. Also, check out this RIDICULOUSLY AMAZING art that sen-elric did after the first chapter! ;_____;


MISTAKEN
[Part II]

Roy doesn’t recognize either the face or the torch, although he sees enough faces day-to-day that it’s possible he’s forgotten a few of them.  Torches are a bit harder to come by, but there’s nothing especially distinct about this one, so its identity is a mystery to him, too.

If he’s going to push his luck, he might as well shove it and hope there’s a cliff somewhere.

“You have the wrong person,” he says.

The miscreant with the torch—who may, judging by what looks like a recent burn up the side of his cheek, be one of the ones involved in their capture—glares at him a little more intently.  “He called you ‘Mustang’ a minute ago.  I heard him.”

Perhaps Roy knows Ed too well—is it possible that that’s the root of this?  He knows, without looking, on the factual level of blood and bones and breath, that Ed is wincing.

But he’s facing the opposite direction, so it doesn’t matter much.

“My dear man,” Roy says, “do you have the slightest idea how many Mustangs there are in the Amestrian military?”

The miscreant’s eyes narrow, and the corner of his mouth turns down.

Got him.

“How many of ’em use alchemy?” the man asks, trying to maintain a condescending tone.

“I’m not sure,” Roy says breezily.  “I am sure that I would hate to have gone to all of this trouble and tied up the wrong military official.  Wouldn’t you?”

The man grinds his teeth and weighs his options, but a temporary loss of face in front of a prisoner—who is still, regardless of the power play, chained to a chair—is objectively preferable to the possibility of what Roy has suggested.  Now that he’s planted the seed—

“Don’t fucking move,” the man says, and then he turns on his heel and strides off back the way he came, torchlight dwindling away with him as he goes.

“What the hell was that?” Ed asks.

“Buying some time,” Roy says.

“You would,” Ed says.  “You would procrastinate on a hostage situation.”

“I’m not sure it counts as procrastinating when I’m the hostage,” Roy says.  He shifts, rolls his shoulders, winces at the way that pulls at whatever they did to his back at some point, and twists his wrist around.  “There’s a pin in my right jacket sleeve—just underneath the cuff.  It should be parallel to the cuff’s edge, about an inch below.”  He contorts his forearm as far as he’s able, and his fingertips graze Ed’s, and he does not flinch.  “Can you reach it?”

“Shit,” Ed says, although it sounds almost as admiring as it does surprised.  Roy holds his arm as still as he’s able, and Ed’s fingers sweep across the fabric of his sleeve, slide inside the cuff, fumble— “Good damn thing it was on the right side, huh?”

“There’s one in each,” Roy says.  “I thought this side would be easier for both of us.”

“Right,” Ed says.

There’s a pause.

“Pun… not… intended,” he says.

“Just take credit and run,” Roy says.

“Is that your model for government?” Ed asks.  His fingertips dapple against the fabric of the sleeve, and a part of Roy laments the layers in between their skin.  “Maybe I’ll go back to fucking England.”

“That’s my model for everything,” Roy says.  “I’m deeply wounded that you don’t know that after all this time.  Do you pay any attention to me at all?”

“Eh,” Ed says, because indifference is—as he surely knows—six times as devastating as denial.  “When I can’t avoid it.  Where did you want this stupid pin?”

“Can you pass it to me?” Roy asks.

Ed mutters under his breath so faintly that Roy can’t hear a whit of it, but before he can inquire, the head of the pin prods at his index finger, and then he’s gingerly attempting to accept it without stabbing either of them.

Yet.

“Thank you,” he says when he’s grasped it well enough for Ed to let go.

“So what’s the plan?” Ed asks.  “I mean, I’m assuming you have a plan.  Which I guess might be too generous.  Can I deduct that from my taxes as an act of charity?”

“I’ll write up a receipt for your donation,” Roy says, scooting his chair as much as he can manage and craning his neck so that he can just see the floor below his right hand.  He needs to think this through first, because all he’s going to be able to focus on once he begins is timing it perfectly.  “You can submit it with your tax forms and hope for the best.”

“Oh, good,” Ed says.  “I always wanted to be buried in bureaucracy.  Dirt is so passé.”

“Try snow,” Roy says, angling the pin very carefully.  He leans a little further out, trying to identify a link on the chain without an abundance of rust on its surface.  “It’s somewhere in between.”

Ed’s silent for a moment while Roy runs the side of his knuckle against a promising link to see if it’s as even as it looks.

“I sort of wanted to ask you about that,” Ed says.

“It would have been much easier to ask me things,” Roy says, “if you had avoided me just a touch less intently.”

Obviously,” Ed says, as though Roy’s very existence is an unconscionable affront to humankind, which at least is nice and familiar.  “The avoiding you was a higher priority than the asking you.  At least at the time.”

“That’s fair,” Roy says.  In a cosmic sort of way, it is.

“Question for you now, though,” Ed says.  “What the hell are you doing?”

“Laying groundwork,” Roy says.

“That is a characteristically vague and completely useless answer,” Ed says.  “Five points.”

“Thank you,” Roy says.

He tries to relax his shoulder so that his neck won’t start to ache halfway through, and then he pricks the tip of his index finger with the pin.

He uses his thumb to push it back gently and tucks it in against his palm, and he watches, to the best of his ability, as a gleaming red droplet starts to form.

It’ll blot all over his canvas if he lets it swell too large; he gives his unlucky capillary just a moment to produce some ink before he touches the tip of his finger to a likely link of the chain and draws out the widest circle he can fit.  It leaves him very little room for detail, but he does his best to cram a few lines and the most important sigil inside without mangling their presentation too much.

When that’s set, he crooks his finger and massages along the length of it with the pad of his thumb, calculating as he waits.  Sure enough, his neck hurts like hell.  But so does being murdered by fanatics, presumably, and that one can’t be fixed by a night at home with a hot water bottle and a few glasses of wine.

He extends his curled hand as far as he can reach while still encumbered by the twine, and then he turns it over and lets the quavering droplet fall.

The splash doesn’t spread the color too broadly.  Good.

In some ways, this is much easier, because this array is carved into every plane and curve and corner of his mind.

In other ways, it’s all the more difficult, because he hasn’t sketched it slowly in longer than he can recall, and there are very few slower ways to draw an array than by waiting for yourself to bleed it out onto the floor.

“Oh, Christ,” Ed says.  Evidently he’s twisted around enough to see now.  “I thought that might be what you were doing.”

“Who or what does ‘Christ’ refer to?” Roy asks.  He presses with his thumb at his index finger again, but the dripping has turned to a sluggish sort of dribble.  He squeezes another few centimeters of the outer circle out of it and down onto his makeshift canvas, and then he pierces the tip of his middle finger with the pin.  “It’s a holdover from the other side, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Ed says.  “It’s complicated.  But it rolls off the tongue, and it used to piss people off over there, so I made a habit of using it.”

“That sounds like you,” Roy says.

“Who the fuck else would it sound like?” Ed asks.

Roy would like to offer him some clever witticism in response, but he can’t tear his mind away from rolls off the tongue, rolls off the tongue—Ed’s tongue is a thing of wonder; Ed’s tongue is a gift to only the most fortunate, to only the most desperate, to only those who will never have the indescribable pleasure of tasting it again—

Last night, Ed’s eyes were on him half the time they shared a table, and that tongue kept darting out to graze across his lip.  Last night, Ed’s mouth was doing ungodly, unspeakable things to the rim of a pint glass.  Last night, Roy had had too much; Roy had pocketed the inhibitions that kept him carefully restrained, and with the alcohol buzzing softly—with the fizzing flood of it all through his brain—he couldn’t quite remember where he’d put them, and he reached out with these same two fingertips and touched Ed’s cheek.

He thought the scowl was the worst that Ed could do to him—bottom lip pushed out and shining, much more pout than frown, tipping so much closer to coy than anything like hostility—

But then Roy said “I could try do to a cartwheel, if that would cheer you up,” and the smile started as a glimmer in Ed’s eyes, and then their corners crinkled, and then it spread across his whole face, wildfire-bright—

Like a moth to light Roy needed to be near him—a yearning, a compulsion, too fundamental to fight and too instinctive to deny.  There wasn’t time to cry for help or beg for mercy; there wasn’t time to second-guess, and he’d drowned the voice of reason in one, two, three too many drinks.

He set these same two fingers under Ed’s jaw and tilted his chin up and leaned around the table to kiss him.

And now he’s draining them to try to save their skins.

He dug a little deeper with the sharp end of the pin this time, which has increased the speed of his progress—the downside of which is that he edges ever nearer to the moment when he’ll have to free-hand a complicated pictograph with splattering blood from four inches off the ground.

“Are you making what I think you’re making?” Ed asks.

“Yes,” Roy says.

He makes a noise in the back of his throat, and Roy suffers.  “Am I supposed to just ‘let you handle it’?”

“Yes,” Roy says.  Suffering is secondary, after all, to bastardliness.  Everything is.  Those are the rules.

“Do you really think I’m just gonna sit here and—”

“Of course not,” Roy says.  “Hush a second.”

“When we get out of here,” Ed says, “I am gonna whip your ass.”

“So long as you give me a safeword,” Roy says.

Ed sputters.  Roy joins the last vertex of the last triangle, and then…

Would it be a lie to say he’s never been an artist, when he’s spent so much of his life creating things that weren’t there before?  Ed’s always called alchemy a science—like it’s clinical and mathematic; like it’s stable and simple and cold.

And Ed has always been the first to demonstrate that it’s not any of those things—that the love you put into it and the heart you put behind it affect it every bit as much as the lines that you lay down.

Roy guides the slowly-trailing trickle through one last twist, resisting the urge to flick his fingertip; showmanship would sink him; and…

It’s done.

He clenches his hand into a fist, and the hot beat of his pulse feels like satisfaction tastes.

He would know.  He had his mouth full of it that night; his heart was overflowing with the words he couldn’t speak and an incandescent joy and something like redemption; he had a ribcage full of stars—

He drifted off to sleep swimming in the beauty of it.

And when he woke again, the other side of the mattress was long since cold.

“You are fucking incorrigible,” Ed says.  “You know that?”

“I would have to be quite a lot stupider not to have noticed,” Roy says.  “Thank you, by the w—”

“Wasn’t a compliment,” Ed says.

Roy smiles.  He’s trying to stop the bleeding, though he supposes it doesn’t matter as long as he doesn’t spill any more on his recent work.  “Anything can be a compliment if you look at it the right way around.”

“Deep,” Ed says.  “You get that out of a book, or did you make it up all by yourself?”

“You said it,” Roy says.  “Six years ago.  I believe I’d just called you reckless, feckless, and remarkably explosive.”

Ed is silent for three full seconds.

“But that one does sound like a compliment,” he says at last.  “’Sides which—are you really borrowing philosophy from the likes of me at the wise old age of fifteen?”

“You were wiser then than many people I know are now,” Roy says, meaning it.

Ed snorts.

And then they both shut up at the sound of approaching footfalls from down the corridor—lots of approaching footfalls.

“Okay,” Ed says quietly.  “Your time to shine, Mr. Mastermind.  What do you want me to do?”

If only there was time to glory in that; it’s darling.

“Cover me,” he says.  “Something is going to go wrong.”

“And here I thought I was a downer,” Ed says.

“It’s called ‘realism’,” Roy says, “and it saves lives.”

“Like ours?”

“I hope so.”

“That’s more like it.”

The same man returns at the head of the party, bearing the torch—and, this time, an expression so sour one has to wonder who convinced him that raw lemons were a delicacy.

Before Roy can gloat properly, he steps aside, and a second man comes through the doorway.  Several others crowd behind him, and Roy sees the gleam of yet another handgun, but the people carrying them are irrelevant.  The man in the front is the one who matters.

Not just because every other potential murderer in the room is watching him for cues—that’s a hopefully-no-one-dead giveaway, of course—but also because he’s wiping the blade of a melodramatically long knife on his sleeve as he saunters over the threshold.

He glances up as though he wandered in here by mistake, and then he smiles.

The genuine delight in his eyes is the real concern.  It’s a complicated thing—tainted by a sick sort of triumph, bolstered by relief.

You can’t negotiate with a man who’s already gotten exactly what he wants.

Then again, Roy’s always loved a lost cause.

“It’s him,” the man carrying the torch says, gesturing with it before realizing that that’s a rather poor strategy.  “Isn’t it?”

“Yes,” the man with the knife says.

“Damn my popularity,” Roy says.  “Understandable, of course, but—still.  A bit of obscurity really wouldn’t go amiss sometimes, don’t you think?”

The man with the knife smiles wider.

“My guess is that you’re going to enjoy eviscerating me very slowly,” Roy says, letting his eyes linger on the way the torchlight licks the blade.  “Which I completely understand; don’t get me wrong.  But given that I’m going to be so very rewarding to dismember at a leisurely pace, I hope you might consider doing me a favor first.”

“Oh,” Ed says in an undertone, “my God.”

The man with the knife is tilting it back and forth so that the reflection of the firelight dances across the walls.  “No promises,” he says.

“Ed has done nothing,” Roy says.  “He had nothing to do with Bradley, and he has—wisely—had very little to do with me in the intervening time.  He’s hardly even been here.  You can check the records, if you like.  Let him go.  It’s in your own best interests, really.  There will be an extremely special kind of hell to pay if anything happens to him.”

“Trust me,” the man with the knife says, which is very cute.  “I’ve seen the records.  I know who he is.  And I know you’re full of shit, Mustang, but that’s about what I expected.”

Evidently, he hasn’t seen enough.  Evidently, he doesn’t know about Al.  Evidently, he has no concept of what the Elrics mean to one another—no concept of what would befall him if Ed was dead, and Alphonse had nothing left to lose.

So it’s for all of their own good, really, if you look at it that way.  At least Roy’s going to make it quick.

The man steps forward, and the angle of his wrist makes it quite clear that he knows how to use the weapon in his hand.  “I was going to start out with your other eye,” he says, “but you know how plans change, Colonel.  I want you to get to see what happens to him, and then what happens to you.”

“Nothing is going to ‘happen’,” Roy says.  “Things will be done, deliberately, and we’ll take responsibility for them.”

The man smirks.  He is, Roy wants to note, an amateur at that.  It isn’t balanced right.  He can’t call up the right balance of bittersweetness.  “Pithy.  Anything else you’d like us to write down for your obit?”

“Not really,” Roy says.  “Ed?”

“Yeah,” Ed says.

“I’m sorry about my aim,” Roy says.  He jams the pin back up into his sleeve—haphazardly, but it’ll hold.  “It’s improving, but it’s still not what it was.”

“S’fine,” Ed says.

The man with the knife looks terrifically unamused.  “I’d heard you were a talker, but this i—”

Roy reaches up behind himself and touches an unbloodied fingertip to the first array.

The chains split in fifty places at once, and the links slip and shudder loose, tumbling every which way—

The surprise has barely even begun to register.  Roy tips his chair.

Upon hearing the sick snap of bone and tendon and Lord knows what else, it occurs to him that he miscalculated a bit.  He hadn’t factored in the likelihood—or, perhaps, the guarantee—that flinging the combined weight of his entire body and a sturdy chair onto the bound, bent hand he’d extended would immediately break his wrist.

It occurs to him—as the pain blossoms up and out and floods his nerves, bright-white-blinding and breathtakingly acute—that that was rather stupid.

But his hand’s on the array.

He drags two tendrils of the torch directly towards them, swirling in to sear straight through the thickest portions of the twine, hoping with everything left in him that Ed hasn’t moved—

And he blasts another dose of it—only the narrowest curtain of real flame, but accompanied by a rush of sizzlingly hot air—back towards their adversaries.

Shreds of disintegrating twine crumble away from both of his wrists; he rolls far enough to brace his working arm beneath him and scramble to his feet, trying to keep track of his own footing as well as the cadre of killers staggering backwards, howling and waving the flames out of their faces.  It is exceedingly difficult to watch two things at once when you only have the one eye to work with.

Ed spares him some of the trouble by seizing his sleeve with both hands—the metal one especially ungentle—and hauling him sideways.  He slips; Ed heaves him what would have been two steps further and then claps, and slaps both hands to the ground, and the floor seethes and reforms into a stone barrier between them and the door.

Not a moment too soon: gunshots echo as the first bullets ricochet off of the other side.

“Not bad,” Ed says, and by the feral gleam in his gorgeous eyes, it looks like he believes it.  “Now what?”

Forcibly, Roy ignores the angry, urgent throbbing emanating from his right hand in order to draw the pin back out of his sleeve with the left.  He’s shakier with this hand, but he can still etch out a passable array on the surface of the stone.

“We’re leaving that way,” he says, tossing his head upward to indicate the sewer grate in the ceiling.  “I need you to get us there.”

“Done,” Ed says.  “You gonna hold ’em off?”

“But of course,” Roy says.

Ed grins—grimly.  There were times, in the life before Ed disappeared, that Roy thought they would both be dead by now.  There were times he thought that both of them were too damn destructive to make it this far.

They have more in common than could ever be safe.  Given the choice, they’d sacrifice themselves for just about any other life, because they gauge any life’s value fundamentally much higher than their own.

But in a situation like this—when it’s down to guts and grit and impulse—the self-preservation instinct is just too fucking stubborn to snuff out.

Ed eyeballs the distance; his palms meet; the steel one smacks down on the floor, and a column of stone surges skyward, popping the grating off the opening as though it’s wax, not wrought iron.  The peak of the platform drops again, below the level of the ceiling, to clear the space, and then a series of progressively lower blocks follow—a staircase; he’s making—

There’s no time: if Roy’s caught on, the individuals actively attempting to murder them will be only moments behind—

“Go,” he says, tossing the pin aside to flatten his working hand on his array.

Some men are willing to die for what they believe in.  Some are willing to die for others.  Some die because they’re ordered to; some die because someone else has orders.

But very few of them—Roy is a betting man, some days, and he’s gambling tonight—

Very few of them would walk through a wall of fire to ensure the death of another.

He’s much less invested, now, in any precautions towards the possibility that these bastards make it out alive.  He isn’t careful.  He doesn’t hold back.

Their only saving grace is that he can’t see what hell he’s wreaking, or all of them—every last rotted soul—would be forsaken.  They came for Ed.  They had every opportunity to spare him, and instead they elected to torment him for Roy’s crimes.  If they were in his sights, one eye or two, the grease of their meat would drip slowly off of the charred skeletons, and the police would have to identify them by their teeth.

No part of love or war has ever felt fair to Roy Mustang, but anything is justified in self-defense.

Ed makes a break for the stairs as red light envelops the rest of the room—over the crackling, Roy can just make out a scream, or two; and then the heat and the smoke blast by him, and he gathers his right arm to his chest and forces his body to run after one of the last things in this miserable world that really matters: Ed, alive.

The acrid air siphons the breath out of his lungs and scalds it as he tries to choke it back down, and the steps Ed made keep splintering as his weight hits them.  The fire that had swallowed the door starts fading as he scrambles upward—just two more cracking blocks; just one—

He fixes his eyes on the target; the hole in the ceiling is so damn close

A gleaming silver hand dives back down through the open space, fingers reaching; Roy offers up his left arm, and Ed grabs on, and Roy scrabbles for traction, and Ed heaves back—

The balance tilts, and tips, and Roy tucks his elbow in and rolls as his body hits the pavement—but he doesn’t make it far before Ed’s boots scrape, and metal fingers grip his arm and drag him upright.

“Fucking hell,” Ed says, brushing him off.  “What’d you do to your h—”

Roy uses the left to shove him in the direction they’ve selected by default.  “Run.”

“Hey!” Ed says, but even as he snarls, he obliges.  “Don’t you fucking push me around, y—”

Roy must remember that leading by example motivates Ed much better than instruction.  Which is convenient enough, really, given that he wants to get both of them the hell out of here as soon as humanly possible.

By the towering silhouettes, the flickering streetlamps, and the boarded-up windows, he would plot their position towards the outer edges of the warehouse district.  They need to find a place to hide; they need to find a way to call i—

The first bullet glances off of the asphalt, spitting sparks, three feet to Roy’s left; the second strikes a streetlamp—

Roy breathes “Shit” on his exhale—and prayers and oaths aren’t all that different, are they?


[Part III]

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