Fandom: FullMetal Alchemist
Summary: Ed and Al's search for the Philosopher's Stone, as seen through the perspective of Roy Mustang. Chapter 3, Hughes makes an appearance.
Recap reference: Chapter 1 and Chapter 2
Life settled into a routine on Roy's return to Central. His second, Lieutanant Hawkeye diligently piled him with paperwork while he found ways to elude her. It was almost a dance the two did, the moves between them honed with practice till it was almost second nature. Riza would pounce, tackle, and threaten while Roy would evade and procrastinate. However, Roy had to ruefully admit that he was outflanked more often than not. Still he enjoyed this little harmless game. Much better than marching to frontlines as a living weapon of mass destruction.
Two other things alleviated the monotony of Roy's time. One was his alchemy. Despite his feelings over how his power over fire was abused, he had no inhibitions about understanding the science behind it. He enjoyed studying, reading up theories, learning from the mistakes made by others gone before him. He actually found it fun, though most people around him didn't understand his thirst. While he did his research, he kept in mind the Elric brothers. After Ishbal, he'd thought about human transmutation but he'd been too much of a coward to try it. Instead, he sought another path. Now his research was for somebody else and it gave him new purpose in doing it.
The second thing that ended up occupying Roy's time and energies was more happenstance than intent. It was during one of his many lunches with his long time friend and confidant, Maes Hughes.
As usual, Hughes was singing the praises of his wife, still in the throes of recently wedded bliss. "Garcia is so beautiful, I could look at her all day," he gushed as he pressed kisses on her photograph.
"Well, you seem to be doing that just fine," Roy replied dryly, not really caring for being made to look at her too. He was pleased for his best friend but sometimes all the gushing bored him greatly. "And don't start trying to fix me up with someone just like her," he added quickly. He wasn't in the mood to be matchmade today.
"Actually, how about someone not like her at all," Hughes said, suddenly serious.
The change in tone caught Roy's attention. "How do you mean?" His gaze sharpened on his friend, impressed by the abrupt switch to all business.
Hughes brought out a second photograph. "This is Desiree Sapphire Rosen," he said, with a smirk at the fancy name. "Lately she's been seen in the company of many officers in Central. We also know that she's connected to an aide of the Drachma ambassador. I'd like you to go out with her. And tell me what questions she asks of you."
Roy raised an eyebrow. "You want me to go out with her?" He stared at his friend. "Like spy on her?"
His friend grinned and waved his hand dismissively. "It's counterespionage! Or whatever you want to call it. I'm sure you're a good listener. Just use your charm, she'll be eating out of your hand."
Roy stared at him for a mere half minute before he caved. The task proved surprisingly easy. The lady proved not to be a lady at all and the business was taken care of behind the scenes with the least amount of diplomatic fuss.
The little bit of excitement had whetted his appetite and he found himself taking on more such tasks. Before he knew it, he'd cultivated a reputation as a heart breaker. Not that Roy meant to break hearts. It was all part of his cover, of course. Roy was entirely sincere with his dates and an excellent listener. After all, he wasn't inclined to share his personal angst with just anyone so what could he do but divert the attention to his partner? Besides, he had to admit it did his self-esteem good to be able to charm people so thoroughly. It also amused him immensely whenever Hughes sighed and moaned about having created a monster.
One day, things changed-- Edward and Alphonse Elric were coming to Central.
The call had come through one busy morning. As usual, red tape ensured he was one of the last to find out about a militant group's threat to free their leader. He'd spent a few minutes examining who among the brass had potential to be compromised when Hawkeye transferred Edward Elric's call through.
Some unexplained hunch made Roy direct the earnest sounding Edward and his brother onto an earlier train-- the same train carrying a VIP whose schedule was in his hand. That he could practically hear Edward snapping to attention on his order amused him even more.
"I'm going to try their luck," he murmured smugly to a confused Hawkeye.
He didn't have long to stay mysterious. The next call from Hughes sent him into twitchy irritation. Fond as he was of his best friend, having to listen to him gush about his pregnant wife was wearing on his nerves.
“My wife is such an angel!”
"You've already told me that 50 times already, Hughes! Don’t call me to tell me such things, call her!" Roy interrupted in between gush. His fingers were itching with the urge to snap.
“I already have! I just want to share it all with you,” came the reply.
"If I ever find out how to make a fire array work across the phones, you're in big trouble!" Threats didn’t seem to work at all.
Roy must have snapped his fingers in reflex because he spotted Havoc jumping to attention with a horrified gasp. Hawkeye must have seen the same and with a fine sense of self-preservation, picked up the extension to yell that Gracia wasn't going to deliver her baby any time soon.
None of this even made Hughes pause for a second. Roy finally slammed the phone down and collapsed on his desk.
It seemed like two seconds later when the phone rang again and Roy was resigned to having Hughes talk to him till his brain melted into a puddle of goo. But suddenly he turned serious.
"What? A suspicious guy in a suit of armor?" Roy repeated. He remembered all too clearly the last time he'd seen those two and tried not to sound too gleeful at the thought of knowing something Hughes didn't. "Oh he's all right." He went on to explain who Alphonse and Edward Elric were.
A few more disjointed comments from Hughes on Edward's reaction to being called chibi and suddenly Roy heard the distinct crack of gunshots. Alarm flooded his heart but there was little he could do after the line abruptly cut off. He cursed fluently and turned to Hawkeye, issuing her commands to mobilize his people.
It was the waiting game he had to play in times of crisis that chafed him the most, Roy decided. He suffered yet another bout of impotency after the terrorist Bard called him.
"You are not to kill anyone," Roy warned. There was little else he could do but he swore to himself that if anyone was harmed, he'd toast them all.
The ride down to the train station seemed an eternity and the wait for the train to show up, even longer. Then it rolled in and there was nothing for Roy to do.
He debriefed Hughes quickly, made sure his friend was packed off with the paramedics, visited General Hakuro and listened to him rant about his scanty security and Roy's apparent lack of care in dealing with the General's safety. He bore with it because he must before skillfully diverting the General with a new thought to reward his rescuer.
After sending them all off, he returned to the platform to inspect the prisoners and his gamble that had paid off.
A sudden lurch from one of the prisoners and he was rising, free of his bonds. Roy watched calmly as the man charged at him, a sharp blade of steel jutting from his automail hand. Riza was instantly at his side, gun drawn to fire, but before she could do anything, Roy reached out his hand and snapped his fingers.
The resulting explosion was so satisfying that Roy wanted to laugh out loud. He'd wanted so badly to toast something all day.
"I am Roy Mustang, Lieutanant-Colonel. The Flame Alchemist," he declared flamboyantly, knowing the show he just put on could only enhance his reputation. He strode over to the Elric brothers.
"You put us on that train knowing about those men!" Edward glared at him accusingly.
Roy favored him with another smug smile. "General Hakuro has agreed to sponsor you for the State Alchemist examination," he said, relishing the look of astonishment on Edward's face. "Did you think that any child could just enter the examinations?"
He studied Edward for yet another moment and was surprised by how protective he suddenly felt for this young child. He'd suffered so much, how could Roy help him on a path that only promised more pain? He found himself walking past him.
"It's up to you whether you want to do it."
Even as he said the words, Roy knew Edward wouldn't give up. And neither would Roy.
Notes: I took liberties with the reasons why Roy is such a playboy. He’s got plenty of reasons for doing it. Plus my Hughes muse suddenly decided to be responsible for Playboy!Roy. Yay for Hughes. Also I’m not going to type out word for word all the dialogue Roy has in the anime with other people. It just got too cumbersome. If you know all the extra stuff, good for you. As always, comments are appreciated.