Genre: AU, Master/slave
Warnings: violence, mild gore
Beta’d by: meredavey
Summary: "Don't you get it? They wanted a war here, that's why Hakuro was put here in the first place! And now you're here and calming everything down and they want you gone because you're getting in the way!"
"It wasn't that hard, with what you gave me," Hughes said. "The bulk of the military's wool comes from a small town in the east called Resembool. Based on birth records, your Ed is most likely Edward Elric. He's just shy of sixteen, with one brother a year younger, Alphonse."
Al. "No other family?"
"None living, as far as I can tell. The mother, Trisha Elric, passed away several years ago. The father. . . ."
Roy raised an eyebrow at his friend's shift in tone. "Is the father on the birth record?"
"Yes . . . but that's where it gets interesting. The birth record of both boys lists the father as Van Hohenheim."
Roy sat up. "Van Hohenheim?"
"Thought you'd recognize it."
How could he not—the name was almost synonymous with "rogue alchemist."
When the military had tightened its hold on alchemy more than a century ago the edict had gone over less than smoothly. Unlike most Roy had read up on both the official and the unofficial records, but the name of Van Hohenheim was known even outside of alchemic circles.
Legend was—and Roy was sure the story was more legend than fact—Van Hohenheim had been a reclusive alchemist with a reputation for doing the impossible. After the law banning all private use of alchemy had passed, the military had tracked Van Hohenheim down in some small, backwater town. Accounts varied on the details, but they all ended the same way: Van Hohenheim refusing to cooperate and facing off with the soldiers. Some accounts say he provoked the soldiers, others say he merely tried to leave, but all accounts say the alchemist was gunned down in the street. And when the dust cleared, Van Hohenheim picked himself up, brushed off his clothes, and walked away.
"It must be an alias."
"Unless the guy's over a hundred years old. But there's no first name listed and none of the records I have give me any clue who he is," Hughes replied. "Is it important?"
"It might be," Roy mused. "We've had some . . . indications of alchemy. It would be unlikely for someone to take the 'Van Hohenheim' unless they were an alchemist."
"'Indications of alchemy,' right. These indications include arrays and sparkly lights?"
"Very funny, Hughes. I'm not failing to report concrete evidence."
"If you say so. Speaking of, things must have calmed down over there if you've got this much time to be nosy about your hostage."
"That's one way to put it." He rubbed his forehead. "To tell you the truth, we can't find the townsfolk. It's starting to worry me."
"How do you manage to lose an entire town?"
"If I knew that I wouldn't have this problem," Roy snapped. "They must have a bolt-hole somewhere, but so far we haven't had any luck."
"Maybe your alchemist sealed it off."
"And maybe it was our resident ghost. I'm more concerned that they're planning a trap."
"Think your Ed might have had something to do with the alchemy?"
"I have no evidence to that effect," he said carefully.
"Oh boy. You really are protecting him. Careful there, Roy."
"I've done nothing against regs."
"That kid is getting to you, isn't he. I told you to watch yourself. It's—"
Roy heard a knock at the other end of the phone, then voices. Hughes hurriedly excused himself and set down the receiver.
Roy sighed, rubbing his eyes. He'd been trying all day to wall off his emotions and keep himself detached. Ed was a hostage, a prisoner of war. The seduction was supposed to be a means to an end: get close and get him to drop his guard. He should be planning how to press his advantage, not—
—Not thinking of the feel of Ed's skin beneath his hands; the way his muscles bunched and flexed; the press of his lips; the way he had finally relaxed into his arms, completely trusting for that one brief moment.
He'd been foolish to think his friend wouldn't pick up on something.
"Heads up, Roy," Hughes voice cut through his thoughts and instantly put him on alert. "I just got word that you're going to have company."
"A small contingent sent to inspect Youswell redirected and is heading your way. They're lead by Lieutenant-Colonel Archer."
Roy's jaw clenched. "Shit."
"Did you just swear?"
"Ed's rubbing off on me," he muttered. "When will they be here?"
"You've got another day, maybe two at the most."
"Sorry Roy, they crept in under my net. I have people trying to sniff out what he's up to but I can tell you now that this stinks of the Brass."
"Trying to weasel around Parliament, no doubt. The Brass have never been pleased with me here."
"You're not dancing to their tune. But Archer . . . something isn't right here."
"I agree. Keep me updated."
"Watch yourself. Don't give him anything they can use."
"I don't plan to."
After hanging up the phone Roy rested his head on his hands, using the relative quiet of the communications room to gather his thoughts.
Too many pieces didn't fit together. Central Command wanted the uprising contained and he was doing that—and with much fewer casualties than Hakuro. He knew he wasn't a favorite of the Brass, and he knew the Brass hated being undermined by Parliament. But he couldn't explain this level of dissatisfaction and meddling when, by all appearances, he was doing what they wanted.
He could worry about that later. Right now he needed to check on his hostage.
As he left Roy pulled on his gloves. Things may have been quiet recently, but Ishval had taught him that the battlefield didn't end at the edge of base. Until he knew this was over—which probably wouldn't be until he was on a train back to East City—he wasn't taking any chances.
He was taking fewer chances with his hostage, as well. After the incident in the kitchens he wasn't going to leave Ed with anyone other than his immediate staff. It was a measure that shouldn't be necessary, but so many of the soldiers from Central were still following Hakuro in spirit if not name.
Right now Ed was in one of the smaller storerooms with Fuery, cleaning some spare parts. It was meticulous and mind-numbing work and would hopefully keep him sufficiently occupied until Roy could—once again—figure out to do with him.
Roy sent the communications officer off to get lunch, then turned to the prisoner. Ed had been withdrawn and edgy all morning, shying away and barely meeting his eyes, answering in monosyllables if at all. If he were to guess, he'd say the young man was unsure of his footing after the night before. If he was to be honest with himself—Roy wasn't much better off.
He smirked as Ed glared up from the bench he was working at. He had smears of grease on his cheeks, which Roy found terribly cute.
"If I say 'yes,' will you move me to something else?"
"Mm . . . that could possibly be arranged. I believe the latrines could use a good scrubbing."
The look on his face was priceless.
Ed bent over to work a brush into the groove of the part in front of him with a grumble along the lines of "fucking bastard." Roy chuckled to himself; at least this was familiar ground.
"Oy," the young man said, head still bent. "If you're gonna make me do shit like this, then tie my hair back. It's in the way."
Roy raised an eyebrow at the command. Ed was eyeing him through the fall of said hair, his cheeks faintly pink. Even a simple demand like that was technically out of line for a prisoner, but there was clearly more behind this than a desire to push boundaries. Ed was seeking out physical contact—an acknowledgement of the night before at the very least, with perhaps a hint of acceptance. The older man smiled as he crossed the space between them, pulling off his gloves to finger-comb the blond hair back.
"I suppose that's reasonable. I wouldn't want you working with a handicap. Well," he touched the metal plate where it peeked out from the neck of the tunic. "Any more of a handicap."
"If I had my arm I could tie back my own damn hair."
"I would like to see how you manage that without slicing off an ear."
He waited to see if Ed would slip and make some acknowledgement that the blade was transmuted, but the young man only snorted. He held out a piece of string without further comment, and Roy obligingly tied his hair into a ponytail.
"There we are." He ran his fingers through the ponytail one last time before stepping back. "Though it looks quite fetching loose."
"Fuck off, I'm not a girl," Ed grumbled. His cheeks were red, but there was the hint of what almost looked like a smile at the corner of his mouth.
Roy smirked as he pulled his gloves back on.
Footsteps in the outer room interrupted them, and Roy tensed. This wasn't the tread of a military boot, but the click of a narrow heel. He pressed his thumb to his fingers as a strange woman stepped into the doorway.
She wore a black cocktail dress, cut low enough to show plenty of cleavage, and long black gloves with red accents. Odd attire for the dessert, but she seemed unaffected by the heat. The woman appeared to be unarmed, but there was something disturbing and sinister about her smile.
"Roy Mustang," she purred, voice low and sultry, as she raised an empty hand. "It's a shame, wasting a man like you. . . ."
Ed slammed into his side, knocking him down. Pain blossomed in his arm as something tore through his skin a moment before they hit the floor. Roy twisted to get a hand free, and saw the woman holding some kind of thin black lance that hadn't been in evidence a moment ago. He snapped, modulating the explosion to subdue but not seriously injure her. He wanted her for questioning.
"That's useless!" Ed cried. "Fry her!"
Ed swung a broken radio around just in time to deflect another lance, the strange blade missing Roy's head by inches and carving a deep gouge into the wall. The woman had hardly staggered, snarling at him as she raised her other hand. He snapped again, ducking to shield his face from the intense heat.
"Come on—" Ed grabbed the front of his uniform and hauled him to his feet. He dragged him stumbling from the room, skirting the charred corpse as much as the small space allowed. They were well into the main room before Roy finally managed to brace his feet and yank his jacket out of the boy's grip.
"The woman is dead. We need to—"
Ed grabbed his arm. "She won't be for long—"
"What are you talking about?" Roy resisted but Ed still dragged him several steps. He hadn't appreciated before just how much strength was in that compact body.
"She's a homunculus! They regenerate! She—aah!" Ed shoved him back just as two lances skewered the space between them. Roy stumbled against the wall, and got a brief, nightmarish image of the mound of burnt flesh crackling and sparking as it rose upwards. He snapped.
Ed grabbed him by the jacket, and this time Roy didn't hesitate to run.
"See? still here." Breda picked up the armor's helm. "Still empty. I don't know what you were expecting."
Havoc scratched the back of his neck. "Doesn't it . . . look like it's moved?"
"No. I don't know." Breda tossed him the helm and Havoc scrambled to catch it. "You're way too caught up with this thing."
"You saw last night's reports! Whatever was skulking around the prison camps was a dead ringer for this—" he waved a hand at the armor. "—this."
Breda sighed. "Look, we're all spooked. None of us know how to explain any of this. But unless you can tell me how an empty suit of armor is getting up and sneaking around. . . ."
"Okay, I get it."
"Now are you coming or not?"
"Go ahead. I'll catch up."
"All the mystery meat's going to be gone by the time you get there."
Rolling his eyes, he shooing his friend out of the store room. "I'm sure I'll survive."
Havoc replaced the helm, carefully centering it before stepping back and studying the armor. He could swear the hands had been resting farther up on the legs the day before.
He sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. "Either I'm going out of my mind, or someone's playing a very elaborate practical joke." He dug a packet of cigarettes out of his pocket and shook one out. "Then again, maybe you were put here to distract us while all the townsfolk slipped away. Don't tell anyone I said this, but . . . good for them." He lit the cigarette and took a drag. "We got no business being here in the first place. Dammit, listen to me." He leaned back against a crate and ran a hand through his hair. "I'm talking to an empty suit of armor."
Havoc continued to contemplate the armor as he smoked. Maybe he was the one looking for a distraction. Nothing about the military being in Liore sat right but there was little any of them could do. Mustang was already doing his best to quell this with minimal loss of life, and it was earning him nothing but contempt from Hakuro's leftover soldiers. "I can only imagine the shit he's getting from Central Command," Havoc muttered. "They'd rather we level the place and be done with it, but Mustang ain't the type to do that. If the town really has given us the slip the Colonel will never hear the end of it." He chuckled. "But why am I telling you all this? Maybe I have been out in the sun too long." He finished the cigarette and stubbed it out.
A shadow darkened the doorway and Havoc waved it off without looking up. "I'm coming, I'm coming—"
"There you are!"
Havoc dropped the cigarette butt and snatched his gun. The figure in the doorway wasn't Breda—and something in that thin, eerie voice set him on edge. "Stop where you are! Identify yourself or—or—"
The creature—a round, bald-headed thing that did not look human—stretched its mouth into a sadistic grin and charged straight at him. Havoc fired a wounding shot, then another—the thing hadn't slowed—
A hand grabbed his collar and yanked him back, lifting him right off his feet. The armor—the goddam empty suit of armor—twisted past him and kicked the creature in the chest.
"H-holy—" He was dangling by his collar from the hand of a thing that shouldn't be moving, facing down a thing that shouldn't exist, and for a split second Havoc didn't know where to aim.
"Back off, Gluttony," the armor said with a child's voice. It—he?—shoved him back against the wall and took a defensive stance as the creature righted its balance.
"Awwwww. . . ." the "Gluttony" creature said. "You're supposed to come with me. . . ."
Gluttony swiped and the armor met the blow and kicked again. Havoc snapped out of his shock and fired two shots to the thing's head.
"Bullets don't work!" the armor said as Gluttony reeled back. The monster steadied itself, the wounds closing with a faint crackle.
"Well—well what do you suggest?"
The armor crouched down and started to draw on the floor. "I don't know! They don't exactly die."
"What's going—gyagh!" A young sergeant-major stepped into the store room and immediately flinched back at the sight of Gluttony. He fumbled for his gun as the monster turned, grinned—and lunged. Obscenely large teeth sank into the man's arm as if it had been soft bread.
"No!" the armor shouted above the sergeant-major's scream. A wave of spikes rose and rippled across the floor, impaling the Gluttony creature and tearing it away from the unfortunate soldier. "That won't keep him long—hurry!"
Not knowing what else to do now that the world had gone crazy around him, Havoc nodded and squeezed past the spikes.
"A woman in a black dress, armed with unknown weapons, highly dangerous," Roy detailed as the field doctor patched up his arm. The wound wasn't serious—thanks to Ed—but it had already bled down to his hand, soaking his glove. "Exercise extreme caution but use deadly force if necessary. She should not have breached our perimeter and I want no more mistakes. Understood?"
He dismissed the soldiers, and as soon as the doctor was finished dismissed him as well. Ed was hovering near the doorway, all but bouncing with nerves. Roy took him by the shoulder and pulled him into the room, shutting the door and turning the young prisoner to face him. "Talk. I want an explanation."
Ed chewed at his lip, but then met his eyes and took a deep breath.
"Homunculi are compositionally identical to humans but they're formed around a ph—an energy source, and it gives them certain abilities. They regenerate and are damn near impossible to kill. They each have a—a talent, I guess, like Lust's lances—"
Roy held up his hands to halt the flow of words. "That woman? That's 'Lust'? How many of these—beings—are there?"
"I—uh—I'm not really sure." Ed floundered for a moment. "There's three that really like to stir shit up—at least that I've run into—"
"Who do they work for? What are their goals?"
"I don't know!" Ed flailed and Roy grabbed his shoulders to keep him in place. "But they're deep into some—some shit with the military—Envy hinted that he's the one who sparked off Ishval and I'm positive now that they're behind this mess too and they have—they must have some big pull with someone high up in the ranks and there's some big master plan or some goal or something—it's not like they've outlined this shit to me! It's just what I've pieced together from Envy or Lust bragging as they tried to kill me or from Greed—"
"Enough!" Roy consciously loosened his grip, resisting the urge to shake the kid and demand he start making sense. "Okay. Let's assume I believe you. Why was this Lust targeting me?"
"Because you're in their way!" Ed shouted. "Don't you get it? They wanted a war here, that's why Hakuro was put here in the first place! And now you're here and calming everything down and they want you gone because you're getting in the way!"
It was ludicrous. Somewhere between a paranoid conspiracy and outright madness. But Roy couldn't deny how well it fit with the way the Brass had been acting ever since he'd been assigned here by Parliament.
Then there was the fact that if Ed had wanted to deceive him he was more than smart enough to have concocted a more plausible story. His gut told him that, whatever the truth was, Ed believed what he was saying.
"This is insane." He moved the young man to one side and opened the door. "Come on."
"Your arm." That was all it took to get Ed to fall into step beside him and he rushed out of the medical wing. "Don't make me regret this."
Ed gave him an odd look. "If I wanted you dead I would have just let Lust skewer you."
He conceded the point with a smirk. "I would have a lot more dead soldiers if you were the type. Even so." They stopped outside the storeroom, and Roy fixed the prisoner with a stare. "I'm taking a big risk."
Ed paused in the middle of brushing out the automail port, meeting his gaze with a sincerity Roy was not sure he deserved. "Yeah. I know. I get that."
He could hear the criticisms: his emotions were clouding his judgement. He'd misjudged and gotten too close. Gotten invested. Arming a prisoner like this was unacceptable and the only reason he was considering it was because he'd let down his guard and this kid had gotten to him.
He unlocked the door.
The prosthetic still rested on the shelf next to the dusty pile of clothes. Being confronted with the keen edge of the blade gave him a moment's pause, but Roy pushed the doubts aside and picked up the arm. Regulations and protocol be damned, he couldn't stand the thought of Ed crippled with that sort of danger about.
"Here." He held the arm out, one hand near the shoulder and the other carefully around the wrist. "Do you need any help?"
"I got it." Ed grabbed the prosthetic. Roy flinched back to keep out of the way of the blade and the young man winced an apology.
Without further word, Ed adjusted his grip and then, visibly bracing himself, pushed the arm into place.
It would have been a scream if his jaw weren't clamped shut. Roy grabbed Ed as he staggered, his heart in his throat. He'd heard that automail attachment was painful, but he'd never imagined this.
"Are—are you all right?"
He clearly wasn't, but Ed nodded anyway. "Just—gimmie a second—" he said through his teeth. He leaned against the taller man, his breathing hard and deliberate. Roy held him steady, watching his pale, pinched face. After a long moment, the automail twisted. The hand flexed, then straightened, and the elbow tentatively bent. "Shit. The calibration's off."
"Is it a problem?"
"It's just the fine tuning. Precision's off by. . . ." He straightened the arm out to the side and bent the elbow. "Shit. Almost a centimeter. I can compensate—but my mechanic's gonna be pissed."
Ed was still leaning against him. Roy didn't mind in the least, but it was quite a contrast to the prisoner who had flinched any time he was touched. On some level Roy knew he should be trying to take advantage of this change. That had been the point, after all. That was the game.
Gunshots shattered the false calm before he could ponder further. He and Ed both jumped back, and exchanged a brief, panicked look before sprinting for the door.
Roy paused to hastily shut and lock the storage room, finishing just as Hawkeye rounded the corner. "Lieutenant?"
"Sir. We're under attack by unknown parties. I'll take charge of the hostage."
Something seemed off, and he hesitated. In that same moment Ed sprang forward, and before he could raise his hand or even cry out that razor-sharp blade was imbedded in Hawkeye's throat.
"Nice try," Ed hissed.
Roy was frozen by shock and betrayed trust, unable to fully comprehend what he was seeing. But just as he took a step toward the unreal scene, Lieutenant Hawkeye—melted. Her face distorted into an inhuman snarl and she oozed back from the blade, her arm whipping around, distending and solidifying into a weapon. Ed yanked his arm free to parry then sliced at the—the creature again.
"You—infuriating—little—pipsqueak—" The monster bore no resemblance to the lieutenant now. It lashed out with one snakelike arm and stabbed with the other, but Ed expertly dodged and parried, getting in a kick and then another slice that forced the thing to jump back. "Stop interfering!"
As soon as Ed flipped out of the way Roy snapped, sending the monster up in flames. He snapped again, sending a stronger jet of fire toward it. It writhed and twisted as it burned, trying to get below the flames.
A smoldering appendage shot towards him and he jerked away, his concentration broken. Ed sliced the appendage off before it got close, but the creature was already slither-scrabbling away.
Ed dashed after it, rounding the corner and skidding to a stop. "Shit!"
Roy caught up and quickly scanned the empty alley. "You didn't mention those things can change shape!"
He shook his head. "Just Envy. But he's bad enough on his own."
Roy looked at the young man as if he'd never seem him before. Ed was standing with his feet braced and his weight centered, his bladed arm held at the ready just slightly away from his body. He couldn't get the image of that blade in his lieutenant's neck out of his mind, but he'd been right about one thing: he would have a lot more dead soldiers if Ed were a killer.
"Come on." Roy tugged him toward the courtyard. "Is this Envy likely to come back looking like someone else? What can I watch for?"
"Um . . . he sometimes forgets details . . . and he's really not a good actor. But all he needs to do is make you hesitate."
"I'll keep that in mind. What tipped you off this time?"
"Lieutenant Hawkeye isn't that cold—and she calls me 'Ed'."
The courtyard was in chaos, with soldiers shouting and running this way and that. The commotion centered on the main storeroom but no one seemed to know quite what was going on. Roy yelled for order, commanding most of the soldiers back until he could asses the situation.
Lieutenant Havoc was on the ground just outside, tending to a man whose arm was a bloody mess. "Leave the armor alone!" Havoc was calling to the soldiers who clustered with weapons drawn at the doorway. "That—that other thing is the danger!"
"Lieutenant! Report!" Roy ordered as soon as he was close enough.
"We were attacked, sir." Havoc finished securing the field tourniquet and then helped the dazed soldier up from the ground. "A single assailant, but it's—it's—"
The poor man looked like he'd had a chunk taken out of his arm. Havoc passed him off to two others. "I dunno what it is, Sir, but it doesn't die, and—"
Roy whipped around just in time to see Ed elbow a soldier out of the way and slip into the storeroom.
"Shit! No!" Havoc grabbed his firearm as he and Roy ran for the entrance. "That thing'll eat him in a single bite—"
They both skidded to a halt as blue light flared in the storeroom, and jumped back as body parts came flying out the door.
As soon as the mounds of flesh hit the ground they started to draw together, reforming the same way Lust and Envy had. That was all Roy needed to see.
"Keep clear!" he warned, before he snapped and turned the flesh and bones into ash and charcoal. "Stay back from it! It's still dangerous!"
Roy turned to the storeroom in time to see what looked like spikes melt back into the floor. Ed was standing to one side, speaking to someone out of sight.
"—Lust and Envy are here, too," he was saying. "They're targeting Mustang."
"That's not all they want."
It was a child's voice, the same voice he'd heard the other night whispering to his hostage through an opened window. The last thing he'd expected to walk into view was the suit of armor that had been sitting empty in their storeroom.
"Shit! That thing's moving!"
Roy turned back and snapped again, returning the creature to ash. "Can these things be killed?" he called to Ed.
"I—I'm not sure," Ed admitted. He pushed past the soldiers at the door and scanned the courtyard. "I think so, but we've never seen one stay dead."
"Can I expect any more to pop up?"
"No—no, this is pretty much it. At least, as far as we know."
"We have three assailants!" Roy called to the surrounding soldiers. "A woman in black, this creature here, and one who—who can disguise himself. Keep alert and use caution!"
"You might add that guns don't do a whole lot," Havoc pointed out. "Oh! You got your arm back!"
A shot sounded on the far end of the courtyard and two men fell. Roy rushed forward, fingers poised, but he couldn't tell where to aim his flames. By now everyone was armed and wary, eyes darting this way and that to find the shooter. He ordered them all to stand down, selecting two to get the wounded to medical. "Hold your fire unless you see a clear threat! These assailants are highly dangerous but there's only three of them. I want everyone in teams of five until—"
Over by the storeroom Havoc had gone rigid. The woman in black—Lust—stood behind him, one arm curled around his chest in a parody of an embrace with a black lance resting on either side of his neck, while two lances protruded from his abdomen. Lust smiled at them from over the lieutenant's shoulder, and Roy swore under his breath. She was too close for him to risk using his flames, and she knew it.
"Now then, there's no need for all this fuss," she said. "You wouldn't want me to slip and twist my hands here, would you?" Havoc made a choked-off, strangled sound as fresh blood seeped out from the around the lances in his side.
Roy's hand shook, his fingers were pressed together so hard. "What do you want?"
She ignored him, turning instead to Ed. The young man stood about five feet from them with his blade raised but he too was frozen.
"That's a good boy," the woman said to him. "Why don't you get your little brother out here so we can all talk? No sense in hiding now."
Ed made no response, but a tense moment later the suit of armor stepped from the storeroom. The nearby soldiers startled and backed up warily as it straightened to it's full height of seven feet. Several took aim at it and Roy signaled for them to stand down. He wasn't sure what part the armor played in all this, but the homunculi were a much bigger threat.
Out of the corner of his eye Roy saw Lieutenant Hawkeye make use of the distraction to move through the crowd. He quickly turned away to not call attention to her.
"There we are. We've been looking for you two. We hadn't thought you'd return here. And you." She turned now to Roy. "You've been quite a little bother, but maybe I acted too hastily. Let's let poor Gluttony finish regenerating, and then let's see what we can work out, mmkay?"
"I don't—aaah!" Claws sliced across the back of his hand and he jumped back. The soldier next to him sprang away, dissolving and reforming in midair to a slim, androgynous-looking being with wild hair.
"That's better," it said. "You're far too dangerous, for a human."
Roy spared a glance down, finding a series of slashes on the back of his hand. The wound was negligible, but his glove was ruined.
The mound of charred flesh had reformed into a short, bald man at least as wide as he was tall. He rocked himself onto his feet and turned dull eyes to the woman. "Lust! He burned me!"
"I know, Gluttony. He's been doing that."
"Can I eat him?"
"Not just yet."
"Can I eat them?"
A single gunshot broke the odd stalemate. Lust's head snapped back, and Ed immediately sprang forward, grabbing Havoc and slicing at the lances. Gluttony cried out in distress and darted toward Lust with surprising speed but was intercepted by the armor. Envy cursed and shot a spearlike arm toward Hawkeye. She landed two shots before she had to dive out of the way. Several soldiers fired but the lithe homunculus was proving hard to hit.
"Fall back! Stay on the north side of the courtyard!" Roy ordered. "Don't hit the prisoner or the one in armor!"
Ed had gotten Havoc off to one side but was now deflecting attacks from the regenerated Lust. Roy signaled for the gunfire to stop so two men could move in to get the fallen soldier.
Several of the black lances skimmed off the blade of Ed's automail, missing the young man by inches as he dove under the homunculus' attack to get in close. He was driving her back, forcing her to keep her attention on him and away from other targets. It was frightening and compelling to watch.
Roy couldn't let himself get distracted.
His left glove was bloodstained, but might still be usable. He snapped, shifted his fingers and snapped again, and on the third try finally got a weak spark. It was enough to send a jet of flame toward the shapeshifter.
Gluttony charged him and he dove out of the way. Soldiers scattered like pins, falling over each other and leaving themselves perfect targets. Roy snapped, then again, then managed to get Gluttony in flames. With others so close he couldn't risk the intense blaze he wanted, but was enough to slow the thing down.
Someone grabbed him by the arm and yanked him to his feet. The armor—Alphonse, he guessed—pulled him out of the way and intercepted an attack from Envy. Roy yanked his arm free and bridged the fire from Gluttony to Envy before the homunculus' regeneration killed the flames entirely.
The armor grabbed him and ran back toward the storeroom, carrying him as easily as if he'd been a child. "Unhand me! Now!"
"You're the one they want dead, Sir."
Hearing a preadolescent voice coming out of that huge suit of armor was a surreal cap on an already unbelievable day.
Alphonse deposited him against the wall and knelt, sketching an array on the bare stone faster than Roy would have thought possible. He activated it and the courtyard rippled and bucked, waves of stone pushing the soldiers to one side and rising up to close around each of the homunculi.
Ed slipped and tumbled end over end as the ground rose around Lust, but managed to flip back to his feet like a cat, immediately turning his back on the entombed homunculi and dashing over to Havoc. One of the men stood to block the way—which was pretty brave, considering—and Roy yelled for him to stand down.
"Sir, he's armed! We don't—" Ed had already darted around him and the soldier went for his gun.
"I said stand down, Corporal!" Roy snapped. "We have other priorities."
Havoc gave him a pained smile as Roy knelt down next to him. "Sorry, Sir. Didn't see her coming."
"None of us saw this coming, Lieutenant," Roy assured him. To the man holding a bloody rag to Havoc's side, he asked, "Can you get him to medical?"
"It would be better if we had a stretcher, Sir. With a wound like this he shouldn't be moving."
A shadow fell over them, and then the wooden poles and cloth of a stretcher were thrust down between them. "Here," an echoey, juvenile voice told them. "I used some crates and blankets from the supply room, so it should be strong enough."
The trigger-happy soldier looked ready to jump out of his own skin when confronted by the walking armor, but after a punch and a pointed glare from his comrade he took his hand off his firearm and helped to carefully lift Havoc onto the proffered stretcher.
"Colonel." Hawkeye had followed him over, and now called his attention to the cracking stone coffins.
Ed spun to face the emerging enemy. "I'm surprised it took them this long."
"Well, they had to regenerate first," Alphonse explained.
Roy glanced at the suit of armor. "If we lured them further into the city, would that endanger the citizens?"
He smiled thinly. "That's what I thought. Hawkeye, make sure everyone stays within base. Engage the creatures as little as possible—we want them to follow us."
"Sir! You can't go on your own—"
"That's an order, Lieutenant. Lieutenant-Colonel Archer will be here soon and I need you here." He motioned for the men to hurry. It looked like Gluttony was eating his way out. "Archer's going to have a field day when it looks like I've deserted," he added under his breath.
The armor's strange glowing eyes glinted with an unknown emotion. "Would it help to call it a kidnapping?"
Before Roy realized just what he was suggesting, the armor had grabbed Ed and thrown him over one shoulder and clamped an arm around Roy's middle. Ignoring Ed's squalling and Roy's shouts of protest, Alphonse turned and ran from the courtyard just as the homunculi broke free. For the second time in less than five minutes Roy found himself carted off like a piece of luggage.