Title: "Another Man's Shoes"
Author: rlohengramm "RealRoyMustang"
Warnings/Notes: Slightly Implied Shounen-Ai, May-Be-Considered AU Storyline
Genre(s): Comedy, Action/Adventure, Romance
Characters Involved: Roy Mustang, Edward Elric
Summary: You don't know a person's life until you walk a mile in their shoes...through a bit of botched Alchemy Roy and Edweard get to see each other's lives firsthand!
Another Man's Shoes
Edward Elric wasn’t sure how it fell to him to catalogue the life’s work of one recently deceased State Alchemist but he wasn’t complaining…much. Silas Mariner, who was also known as the Mind Alchemist, had a prodigious library and the journals he kept pertaining to his personal research were painstakingly detailed. He was hoping someone who spent most of his life doing research might know something about the Philosopher’s Stone. Edward looked at the piles of boxes containing books, scrolls and other documents and realized he more than had his work cut out for him.
“We’re not expected to do this in one day Ed,” his brother Alphonse gently reminded him. “The Colonel knows there is a lot of stuff here.”
“Yeah,” Edward agreed as he made a note of the dates the journal he was examining covered in the State Library’s record book. The head librarian had given him a new volume within which to catalogue all of Mariner’s work. He had thought – and rightly so – that the Mind Alchemist would have enough information to fill one of the Library’s huge stacks all by himself.
The Fullmetal Alchemist was glad his brother was there to help. Not only was Alphonse great company but he was also a skilled Alchemist in his own right. It was only because Edward insisted on taking full responsibility for the botched transmutation that cost him an arm and a leg and left Alphonse a soul trapped in a suit of armor that Edward was the State Alchemist and Alphonse was a civilian. Now four years after that fateful night that changed their lives forever, Edward was still searching for the Philosopher’s Stone and a way to restore their shattered bodies.
But after hours of going through musty old tomes and handwritten journals the two Elrics were no closer to finding any clues to the mysterious Stone. It was getting late and Edward’s stomach was growling its emptiness. Alphonse chuckled because the noise Edward’s belly was making echoed in the cavernous dungeon of a cellar they were in.
“SHUT UP!” Edward ordered his stomach but it ignored him and continued to burble loudly.
“Ed, why don’t we take a break and get some food? It’s not like all of this is going to walk away…” Alphonse suggested.
“I know but I don’t feel like going to the mess hall. I want REAL FOOD not Army dren!”
“Well McFly’s is nearby-“
“No money, Al,” Edward stated cutting him short. He turned out his linty pockets for emphasis. “And I’ll get laughed at AGAIN if I ask the Paymaster for an advance. So I’m stuck with Dren on Dry Toast until payday.”
“Maybe the Colonel will lend you a couple of cenns.”
“And maybe I’ll win the State Lottery,” Edward remarked. “Mustang wouldn’t lend me money for take out. There is only one thing he’d ever pay for and even THAT he doesn’t need to pay for because he gets it for free!”
“Oh, we’re onto this again are we?” Alphonse commented dryly.
Edward sighed heavily. Mustang’s love life wasn’t anything he wanted to talk about but since everyone else in their unit talked about he couldn’t help getting into the conversation. “Look, I’m with Havoc on this one. HOW does he do it? Girls fly to him like bees do to flowers. What is his secret?”
“Maybe he’s just nice to them,” Alphonse suggested.
“I’m nice to girls but you don’t see them crawling all over me like a plush toy!”
“The only girl I’ve seen you be extra nice to is the one at Wu Fei’s and that’s because she’s the chef’s daughter!”
Edward made a face. “Yeah and because she thinks I’m cute I get extra egg rolls.”
“That’s my brother. Always thinking with his stomach!”
Edward grinned and pulled up his tank top to bare his well-defined abdomen. “Hey I was told this was one of my best features!”
“And your most sensitive!” Alphonse replied catching Edward off-guard and proceeding to tickle his brother’s stomach until Edward was almost not breathing from laughing so hard.
“Not…fair!” Edward protested between gasps for air. “I can’t tickle you back!”
“Not now, but someday you’ll be able to get even,” Alphonse promised.
Edward leaned back against his brother who was holding him gently in his metallic embrace. He gazed wistfully up into the glowing eyes in the armored head saying, “Yeah, and when that day comes, I will show you NO MERCY!”
The two laughed imagining the day when they could have a tickle fight like they used to when they were both young and whole and then an eerie silence fell upon the pair as the reality of their life now came crashing back down on them. Alphonse released his hold on Edward and the elder Elric gathered up a few scrolls that had fallen off the table during their horseplay. An old parchment one caught his eye and he opened it on the table using books to pin each corner down to keep it flat. The two brothers examined the document and a light shown in both their eyes as they figured out what it did.
“I gotta show this to the Colonel…” was all Edward said.
Colonel Roy Mustang was hip deep in one of his least favorite chores – paperwork. He despised the administrative aspects of his job. He preferred being in the field on the front lines doing something. He was the Flame Alchemist, the hero of the Eastern Rebellion. It was hard for him being cooped up in an office all day shuffling papers and reading the field reports from other officers. He had hoped that by moving up in the ranks he would get himself into a position to make a difference in how things got done. However it was hard for him to see himself making any positive contributions from his small office at Central HQ. He knew his people were doing a good job but he couldn’t see the good they were doing. He could just only read about it….
The sound of the door to his office opening pulled Mustang from his reverie and he raised an eyebrow speculatively at the sight of the two Elrics striding into his office. Actually it was Edward who strided confidently up to his desk. Alphonse was a few steps behind looking as apologetic for the sudden intrusion as a man can when confined to a seven foot tall suit of steel armor.
“Don’t they teach knocking in Resembool?” Mustang remarked.
“I didn’t see a tie on the doorknob so I didn’t think I was interrupting anything,” Edward shot back.
Mustang hung his head. He’s had sex in some odd places but had never brought ANY of his girlfriends to his office. And that Edward knew the universal signal for a “room in use” meant that he’d obviously lived the Army barracks for WAY too long.
“I think its time you moved to some more upscale housing,” Mustang commented.
“On MY pay?” Edward retorted. “I can’t afford to leave the dorms. Not unless you’re giving me a raise…”
“When you EARN one maybe you’ll get one,” Mustang stated.
“Look after four years of YOU and your dren I think I’ve earned more than a cost of living increase!”
“Major Elric you wouldn’t BE here if it wasn’t for me.”
“No, I’m here in your UNIT because of you,” Edward corrected and pulling out his silver state issued Alchemist watch he added, “I got this because I passed the state exam!”
Mustang glared at him. Edward returned the hot stare. Alphonse knew they were closing in on “get out the ruler and measure it” time and decided to intervene before things got ugly. “Ed, I thought you came here to show the Colonel that neat scroll you found.”
The distraction worked. Both officers forgot their quarrel and instead were focused on something they both loved – Alchemy. Mustang quickly gathered up all the folders and loose papers from his desk and set them aside so Edward could open the scroll for him to see. Both of them were examining it in fascination. Alphonse edged closer so he could see the two of them actually enjoying doing something together. The two of them looked like children seeing a butterfly for the first time. The look of wonder and joy on both their faces was a pleasure to see.
“You want to try it?” Edward ventured.
“Well, yes, but this symbol here indicates that the person who initially activates the circle is the one whose memory will be broadcast over the center ring,” Mustang said indicating the marking he had found within the intricate design.
“So we have to pick who goes first,” Edward said simply and Mustang nodded. Edward grinned wickedly stating, “Well, age before beauty!”
“Eat me!” Mustang spat as he powered up the circle.
The familiar glowing yellow white lights and eerie fog of alchemic power began to fill the air above the circle. The symbols of power from within the scroll glowed and their eerie light reflected off the smoky haze. Mustang and Edward’s attention were focused on the heart of the circle where images began to appear. First an attractive Asian woman helping a young boy who looked like her and his Western father take his first steps, then a handsome Eurasian man in Army blues getting Lieutenant’s bars pinned to his uniform, again the same young man all smiles as he is cuddled in bed between two pretty buxom blonde twins, and on it goes.
Edward knew the young man he was seeing was the same man who was standing across from him fueling the circle’s power. It seemed Roy was a player even when he was Ed’s age. It wasn’t fair! Maybe it was that his mother came from Xing and he got from her those exotic good looks. Or he really was that good in bed. If he only knew what Mustang’s secret was maybe he could bottle it and share it with Havoc, who was seriously in need of a date. Maybe the memory scroll they were using might give him a clue. Edward focused on the images before him hoping they would give him the answer to some of the puzzle that was Roy Mustang.
Suddenly the glowing light changed from sunny white yellow to a menacing blood red. Edward has seen this effect before and the last time a casting went this wrong it had nearly cost him and his brother their lives. The Colonel knew something was going wrong and tried to pull out but it was impossible for him to withdraw. Edward clapped his hands together to charge his own alchemical power and attempted to break the circle’s hold on Mustang.
The last thing either Edward or the Colonel saw was a blinding flash of pure white light…
Edward’s head felt like two men with jackhammers had decided to try and open up his skull. The pain was almost as bad as when he got his nerves reconnected after an Automail adjustment. He covered his face with his hands and moaned. However the pain suddenly became a secondary concern when he felt two flesh and blood hands covering his face instead of just one. He opened his eyes and saw his Automail right hand was gone and instead he had two flesh and blood hands.
He glanced down and saw he was in a hospital bed with an IV tube going into his chest. He had another one in his right forearm and leads to some machines were taped to his chest. He saw a device that monitored heart and blood pressure beeping off to the right of him and the oxygen tube that fed air into his lungs via his nasal passages made his upper lip itch. He pulled the oxygen tube off his face and moved to sit up but a stabbing pain in his gut made him think the better of it. He slid the blanket that covered him up to his armpits down and saw he was bandaged up from below the nipples to his waist.
Edward lifted the blanket further to see his legs. Both were human and seemed untouched by whatever had gotten him in the gut. He also noticed he was a lot taller than he had been before he blacked out. He had never heard of an alchemical explosion that could restore lost limbs and make someone grow taller but apparently that is what happened to him. He tentatively touched his face, which had a bandage over one cheek and then felt his head. His long braid was gone and the short hair felt silky to the touch. His thick hair never felt that nice. He glanced around the room trying to see if there was a reflective surface anywhere so he could see just what had happened to him.
The polished chrome of the IV stand caught his eye and the face he saw staring back at him through the mirrored surface made him gasp. He was completely human because he wasn’t Edward Elric anymore. The face staring back at him in the chrome belonged to none other than Colonel Roy Mustang!
“What the frell…?” he breathed aloud grasping at his throat as sound of a voice that wasn’t his own hit his ears. “This can’t be happening. If I’m in here, does that mean the Colonel…?”
Before Edward could finish the thought the door to his hospital room opened and Captain Hawkeye entered followed a little too closely by Edward and Alphonse Elric. Alphonse looked uncertain while Edward looked both angry and determined. Edward noticed that his body was also damaged – his Automail arm was in a sling – but it seemed he had fared better than the Colonel did. Considering Mustang was at ground zero for whatever went south with the casting it made sense that he would be bearing the brunt of the trauma. Edward felt like he was having an out of body experience as he sat there looking at himself fume.
“This is YOUR FAULT!” Edward heard himself declare. “If you hadn’t interfered-“
“We’d both be dead – or worse!” Edward as the Colonel shot back. “That red glow didn’t mean we were casting at sunset. The circle was rebounding!”
“Why didn’t you just break my contact?”
“Then why did this happen?” Roy as Edward said pointing at himself but it looked to everyone else like he was indicating his broken Automail arm.
“I don’t know! I’ll have to look at the scroll to see what we botched.”
“That isn’t going to be possible Colonel,” Hawkeye interjected calmly. “The explosion you were caught in destroyed half your office. You are lucky to be alive.”
“The scroll is GONE!” Edward as Roy cried.
Hawkeye rolled her eyes. She hated to be the bearer of bad news but whatever piece of paper had been on the Colonel’s desk was now ash along with the files he was supposed to be working on. “Colonel everything made of paper within ten feet of your desk is now a cinder. YOUR DESK is a cinder. The two of YOU are lucky you AREN’T cinders!” Hawkeye stated only raising her voice in places to emphasis how grave the situation is. “You are lucky the High Command thinks you were hit by a terrorist bomb. If they knew the truth you’d both be in the brig. Performing Alchemy experiments outside of a lab is forbidden and you BOTH KNOW THAT! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!”
Both officers were cringing. Roy as Edward and Edward as Roy both looked like a pair of errant schoolboys. Alphonse sighed. If they got turned in both of them would lose their licenses. This was serious.
“Captain, you aren’t going to tell on them are you?” Alphonse ventured.
Hawkeye’s expression was a lot gentler when she turned to face Alphonse. “No, I’m not going to tell on them Al,” she said then added glaring at the two men, “Although they DESERVE IT! That was an incredibly stupid thing to do! And you both know better!”
“Sorry,” the two officers said in unison hanging their heads in shame.
“Well, at least all the damage done is fixable,” she said looking at the two Alchemists. “Edward has to see his mechanic and you Colonel are going to be in bed for a while.”
Edward as Roy attempted to get up but the searing pain prevented him from doing much more than shifting onto his side. “What hit me?” Edward as Roy dared to ask.
“What didn’t?” Hawkeye snapped and Edward as Roy sank back into the pillow closing his eyes.
“Please don’t be mad at him,” Alphonse said. “It was an accident.”
“No, she’s right,” Roy as Edward said. “We should have taken that scroll to one of the Alchemy Labs to test it. That’s why the labs are there.”
“Guess we screwed the pooch this time,” Edward as Roy remarked.
“Yeah, we did and without that scroll I’m not sure how we can undo our mistake!”
Edward as Roy looked into those determined gold eyes and stated, “There has to be something in one of Silas’s journals about that scroll. It was with his research and considering the kind of records he kept its logical to assume an answer is in there somewhere.”
“That may be but you aren’t in a position to go back into the library and find it.”
Edward as Roy sighed. “I know I can’t but after Winry repairs your arm you can do it.”
Roy as Edward looked at the non-working Automail limb and asked, “What does it mean when I can’t feel my fingers?”
“Part of the neural net has become detached and that means the main damage is up inside the shoulder mounting. Can you move the hand?”
Roy as Edward attempted to make a fist but only some of the fingers responded. “It’s sort of working and what does work hurts.”
“You better let Winry know that you got messed up in an explosion and NOT out fighting or you’ll add a concussion to your list of woes,” Edward as Roy warned him.
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
Hawkeye looked at the two Alchemists curiously and asked the Colonel, “Since when do you know so much about Automail?”
“I don’t!” Edward as Roy stated suddenly realizing that Hawkeye didn’t know about the identity switch. “I mean I know some stuff but I’m no expert. After four years of dealing with him I learned a few things.”
“Yeah,” Roy as Edward put in realizing the same thing Edward had. “The Colonel’s been reading up on the stuff.”
Hawkeye shrugged not sure if she was buying that load of dren but there didn’t seem to be any other way to explain how the Colonel could know about how Edward was wired. “Well, the two of you managed to find a way to keep yourselves out of Central. General Hakuro has Major Armstrong filling in until Edward gets his arm repaired then Major Elric will have the joy of filling in for you until you are well enough to come back to work.”
“What?” both Roy and Edward cried in unison.
The look they got from her made them both backpedal swiftly and regroup.
“I’m covering for him?” Roy as Edward queried.
“How hard can it be shuffling papers all day long?” Edward as Roy remarked.
“That isn’t all there is to the job!”
“Oh? Could’ve fooled me,” came Edward as Roy’s snide retort.
“Look COLONEL,” Roy as Edward began pointedly his expression hard. “There is more to the job of running Central command than paperwork!”
“And I’m sure you’ll have no problem doing said job,” Edward as Roy replied smoothly.
Roy as Edward glared at the smug man lying in the bed before him. Through gritted teeth he said quietly so only Edward as Roy could hear, “Don’t get too comfy in there!”
Edward as Roy only smiled. “Have a nice trip to Resembool.”
“Eat dren!” he spat and turned on his heel and left with Alphonse clamoring to keep up.
Once Edward and Alphonse were gone Hawkeye commented, “You really shouldn’t let him talk to you like that.”
Edward as Roy shrugged. “He’s pissed and just needed to vent. Besides I’m off-duty now anyway.”
“Now you are but he has a long record of behaving badly.”
“He also has a long record for getting things done.”
Hawkeye couldn’t deny the truth of that. “Still he needs to start acting like an officer. He’s not a kid anymore.”
“Ed stopped being a kid when he passed the State Alchemist exam,” Edward as Roy pointed out. “It’s about time everyone got with the program on this fact.”
Hawkeye cast him a hard look. “Edward is sixteen years old.”
“And he never had a childhood. He never had all the things that we did.”
“Maybe you had a happy childhood Captain but I was an Alchemist’s apprentice. I was inside studying while the rest of you were out playing tag.”
“It wasn’t all work Roy,” she said in a tone that made Edward as Roy turn to face her. “My father was a strict taskmaster but he did let you have some space.”
Hawkeye’s father was the Colonel’s sensei? Edward was doing all he could not to let the shock of this revelation show on his borrowed face. So she knows about Alchemy but can’t – or doesn’t - practice it. Is she a squib…?
Hawkeye saw his eyes go distant and she asked, “Roy what is it? What’s wrong?”
“Just how much Alchemy did your father let you see?”
“Pretty much whatever he was working on. Why?”
“Because I am not sure what your weirdness quotient is.”
Hawkeye’s jaw dropped. Weirdness quotient? She had never heard the Colonel use that phrase. That was one of Edward’s more famous expressions when he was about to unload some strangeness on them. And he was good at finding all the weird things that existed in their world.
“I think Edward’s beginning to rub off on you,” she commented dryly.
“More than you know,” he fired back.
She chuckled softly. “Okay. What bid of oddness have you uncovered?”
“The scroll that blew up in my face. It…did something to me.”
She raised an eyebrow. “What kind of something?”
“Let’s just say ever since that happened I haven’t quite been myself.”
Hawkeye wasn’t sure what he meant by that. The explosion banged him up pretty good but he managed to escape suffering serious head trauma. He had a nasty concussion and she was sure his head was throbbing something fierce but he was managing to handle that pain quite well. Judging by the exchange she saw him have with Edward the Colonel still appeared to be in his usual rare form. If there was something different about him it wasn’t obvious…. yet.
“Okay, I’ll bite,” she said approaching him.
Her demeanor was more casual and friendly than he was used to seeing but Edward realized that she wouldn’t be this way around him. She was Roy Mustang’s friend. And he was now Roy Mustang! She dropped the rail on the right side of his bed so she could sit on the edge near him. Hawkeye was so close now he could smell her perfume. Captain Hawkeye wears PERFUME? Edward had never gotten near enough to discover THAT about her. Edward knew she was Roy’s friend but were they friends or “friends with benefits”? Edward hoped it was the former because he didn’t think he could handle the latter!
“What feels different?” she prompted.
“It’s hard to explain,” Edward as Roy began. “And I have a feeling you’d think I was crazy if I told you what I was experiencing.”
“Roy I know you aren’t crazy,” she reassured him. “Crazy things have happened to you but I know you are quite sane.”
“So if I told you I switched places with someone you’d believe me…right?”
“Switched places? What do you mean?”
“They’re living my life and I’m living theirs.”
“Someone is out there being you?” she cried. “How?”
“No, it’s not like that. I’m still here in the hospital. There isn’t anybody out on the streets disguised as me. What happened is everyone is seeing Roy Mustang but the person inside this body isn’t Roy!”
Hawkeye looked puzzled for a moment then dared to ask, “If you aren’t Roy Mustang then who are you?”
She blinked. “What?”
Edward as Roy endeavored to explain. “That scroll I was examining was supposed to allow an Alchemist to share his memories with another person. It was going fine until for some unexplained reason it started to rebound. Roy couldn’t break contact with it so I tried to sever the connection forcibly and it blew up in our faces. When the dust settled and I woke up I was in here and Roy is in my body. For some reason messing with that circle made us able to trade a whole lot more than memories. We traded lives!”
Riza Hawkeye wasn’t sure if what she was hearing was not only true but also possible. She knew Alchemy was a powerful thing and had seen and heard of a lot of odd things being done with it but this was beyond anything in her experience. “You asked about my weirdness quotient? Well it's just been met.”
“This isn’t a joke!” he declared.
“Then prove it,” she challenged. “Tell me something only Edward Elric would know.”
“Just how much do you know about Edward Elric?” he challenged back.
“Enough to know if I was talking to the real thing or a pretender,” she replied. “And just because I don’t do Alchemy doesn’t mean I don’t know it when I see it or hear it so no tricks. Understand?”
He nodded. She sat there on the bed eyeing him expectantly and Edward had to think of something to say or do to prove he was who he said he was. He wanted to do some Alchemy – even something basic – but something told him he couldn’t complete his circle internally anymore. He would have to use a drawn circle – or Roy’s gloves – to do any Alchemy while he was in his borrowed form. He wondered if Roy was having the same problem he was getting used to being in a body that was not his own….
More soon to come!