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Another vignette dealing with how Roy brings about the solution to the problem he faces at the end of the manga and Brotherhood. Spoilers below the cut, for those who haven't read/seen it yet!

Continued from Vignette #3: All the Time in the World

I've Got Your Back!

I've Got Your Back! )

[Watch this space for further Vignettes]
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Another vignette dealing with how Roy brings about the solution to the problem he faces at the end of the manga and Brotherhood. Spoilers below the cut, for those who haven't read/seen it yet!

Continue from Vignette #3: What Doth it Profit a Man?


All the Time in the World

All the Time in the World )


Continue to Vignette #4: I've Got Your Back!
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Another vignette dealing with how Roy brings about the solution to the problem he faces at the end of the manga and Brotherhood. Spoilers below the cut, for those who haven't read/seen it yet!

Continued from Vignette #1: Scot Free?


What Doth it Profit a Man?


What Doth it Profit a Man? )

Continue to Vignette #3: All the Time in the World
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 This is a series of vignettes, also being posted at FF.net, about what might have been required of Roy to bring about the ending we see for the manga and the Brotherhood anime. For any further discussion, in case there are spoilers for people who haven't finished the story yet, everything is going under the cut.

Scot Free?

Scot Free? )

Continue to second vignette: What Doth it Profit a Man?
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(Continued from Chapter 11)

Roy stretched his legs out in front of him, cradling the frosted glass containing a fresh, cool drink on his stomach before he took another sip. The kids from three families were almost in a state of riot on the front lawn, still experiencing the release of pent-up energy after the three-day train ride from Central that five of them had just experienced. Those who spent the greater part of their year in the city were always like this, the first couple of days after arriving at their country home on the hill. It was as though the clear, fresh air of this wide valley both energized them and served as a safety valve.

Whatever the case, the children could be very loud sometimes. Their parents were lucky that both the front and back yards of the Mustang house were so big, and contained so many pursuits that the kids could do outdoors. If the youngsters had stayed indoors, the adults would need to wear earplugs.

And life goes on )
FIN


 
 
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(Continued from Chapter 10)

It was Mei who first alerted them. Sometimes, as she and Alphonse worked together in Roy’s garden, she’d take a break and sit on the fence, gazing through a gap in some of the bushes on the southern perimeter, watching the fields to the south of the hill on which the house stood.

And that was why, on a clear morning two days later, she saw the two riders while they were still a considerable distance away. They rode in a rather relaxed way up the small road on the eastern edges of the grass fields, obviously not in a big hurry.

Hohenheim and Havoc stood with Al and Mei at the fence for a few minutes, to make sure that these were the riders they’d been waiting for. But finally Hohenheim remarked, “I’m glad I didn’t bet you any money on this, Jean,” and Havoc laughed.

Getting things sorted out )

(Continue to Chapter 12)
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(Continued from Chapter 9)

As the glass shattered and the room immediately lit up with a rush of heat, Riza realized just how much she’d been expecting this. A wash of blazing light roared over her, smashing into the wall by her bed, and she rolled reflexively onto the floor even as the blanket on the other side of the bed caught fire. She heard a loud cry, “No!”, and instantly the flames snuffed out, leaving the room in blackness.

“Riza!” Roy cried sharply. “Riza – where are you? Are you hurt?”

“I’m fine,” she gasped, springing into a crouch. “What about you?”

Groping hands found her head and shoulders in the dark, pulling her to her feet and sweeping her briefly into Roy’s arms.

A decision )

(Continue to Chapter 11)
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(Continued from Chapter 8)

They didn’t quite make it all the way to the stone pillars, or to the town that was supposedly on the other side, but both of them were quite able to set up a camp for the night. It was almost like old times, in fact, from their years fighting in Ishbal.

The daylight gradually failed, the rays of the setting sun streaming eastward to light the ochre pillars with flame in the distance before vanishing altogether. By the time darkness finally fell, Roy and Riza had found another little spring and a copse of ragged, stunted trees under which to shelter.

The first few days in Ishbal )

(Continue to Chapter 10)
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(Continued from Chapter 7)

She was always impressed by his reflexes. Virtually the instant he saw her, he was on his feet and over the other side of the cot, standing there as though it were somehow a barrier between them. To his credit, he didn’t start looking for an ignition glove or raise a hand as though to snap his fingers. There was that much recognition, at least, in that first moment. Though naturally she’d been ready to lunge aside if he’d had his glove on and had indeed sent a bit of flame her way.

Meanwhile, recognition of another sort flooded into his eyes as his brows came down and he snarled, “What the hell are you doing here?

Which was, of course, exactly what he had said when they’d found him at the edge of the gorge. Riza didn’t move, responding mildly, “Are we going to have that whole conversation over again?”

A bit of a rocky start )
(Continue to Chapter 9)
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(Continued from Chapter 6)

Havoc strode up to Hohenheim and grabbed the front of the man’s jacket with both fists, jerking him forward. He glared into the man’s face and growled, “Just what do you think you’re doing? Do you mean to say you’ve known all along what was wrong with Roy, and you didn’t say a word?

Hohenheim seemed untroubled by the other man’s vehement anger. “Yes, I’ve known ever since I heard he left Central. But despite how that sounds, I wasn’t trying to keep it from you. I just felt it was better if Roy told you himself. But he had to come to terms with it first, and that’s what I hoped to help him do, if I could just talk to him in private for a while. Obviously I never got the chance to do that.”

“You bastard!” Ed raged. “You never, ever change, do you?”

A lonely journey )
(Continue to Chapter 8)
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(Continued from Chapter 5)

“I came from farther north,” Mei told Riza as they waited for Ed and Al to consult with the farmer. The girl pointed back behind her, sweeping her hand vaguely toward the northern horizon as she talked. “I came through desert three times, two times to come here and once to go home. I never saw so far south in Amestris before.”

“And you were by yourself?” Havoc said, from his horse on the other side of Mei. “You were pretty young, the first time you travelled here. That was quite a journey for just a young girl.”

“There were nomads who helped sometimes,” Mei smiled. But then her eyes glinted. “Sometimes they didn’t help, too. But I could fight them off.”

“It’s still hard to imagine.” Havoc glanced at Riza, who’d been listening intently to the girl’s description of her journey even as her own eyes kept moving, back and forth, looking south across the fields of grass ahead of them.

Armstrong and Hohenheim sat a little aside, each of them holding the reins of one of the brothers’ horses, and each one lost in thought. But Riza noticed that Hohenheim, too, continued to scan the southern fields as though somehow he could detect Roy’s presence just by thinking about him.

What happens when they find him\ )

(Continue to Chapter 7)
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(Continued from Chapter 4)


Before they descended from Roy’s hilltop house, Riza couldn’t resist taking one quick walk through the rooms. It was a very nice place, with wide windows on every external wall to allow as much light into the house as possible. Since Roy had only been there a few days, much of the house still had something of an empty look, despite being pretty well furnished. It just lacked most of the more personal touches that indicated that an actual human being lived in it. In that sense, the teapot and cups in the sink were almost comforting.

One room that did already show signs of human population was clearly intended to serve as a library, since several brand new polished bookcases stood along three of its walls. Only those on the wall to the left of the door had been designated for books so far, and only a few of those shelves had been populated. Unpacked boxes of books remained still stacked in one corner; clearly he hadn’t gotten around to opening them yet. But Riza could tell that even those books probably wouldn’t quite fill even that one wall of shelving. Roy had obviously expected to be here long enough to acquire many more books for this room before he was done.

Planning the Pursuit )

(Continue to Chapter 6)

 
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(Continued from Chapter 3)

Olivia Armstrong was as good as her word. As soon as Riza had taken the surprising call from Pinako Rockbell in Risemboul, she had sent Breda and Falman rushing through the halls of the building, hoping to catch the General on her way out. Being the inquisitive person she was, she hadn’t gone that far, and immediately returned to Riza’s office, commandeering her phone.

Olivia had pulled a high-speed express train – coincidentally, the one Roy Mustang himself had used on official trips around the country during the past five years – and had gotten them on their way by evening, radioing ahead to be sure that all tracks they’d need would be entirely clear of traffic as they passed through. Far from the usual three days to Risemboul, it would take them just over a day and a half.

Will they arrive in time? )

(Continued in Chapter 5)
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(Continued from Chapter 2)


Spring had completely taken hold here. For the past couple of mornings, Roy had stepped onto his front porch and just breathed. You could almost smell everything growing within an inch of its life. There was a small lake to the north, and the humidity travelled down to this area, bounded and prevented from moving east by that ridge across a low valley behind the house. This little cottage he’d bought several months ago was situated in a good position: on a hill from which he could view the valley and the ridge behind, and a gentler valley in front of the house that widened slowly toward a row of hills a few miles away to the west.

Behind him, slightly to the northeast, lay Ishbal, just a short distance away with its heat and its desert. Fascinating, what a couple of high ridges did to block the means of turning that land into as lush a region as this was. And before him, across a small rocky river and over those green hills just a bit southeast, was Risemboul.

Continuing the hunt )

(Continue to Chapter 4)
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(Continued from Chapter 1)

Chapter 2

Roy leaned back in his chair and surveyed the remains of his bowl of stew on the table. Most people who travelled in higher social circles had no idea that some of the best meals they would ever eat could be found in these small country inns. Never mind the posh restaurants – people in smaller places like this really knew how to cook, and most of their ingredients had been on the trees, in the ground, or in the barns no more than a couple of days ago. Nothing equaled good home cooking, with local foods.

He took another sip of his mug of ale and surveyed the rest of the clientele. They were pretty much as he expected: mostly farmers, a few local merchants, and a couple of others whose professions were not immediately visible. Only two women at the tables, probably having supper with their farmer husbands. And three women and two men serving the tables and going back and forth with trays of drink and food.

Read the rest of Chapter 2 )
(Continue to Chapter 3)

Orphead

Feb. 8th, 2010 07:18 pm
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When Riza found him, he was sitting on a rough chunk of concrete in almost complete darkness, knees drawn up, huddling over the bloody, shaking hands curled in his lap. Only the radiance from a single ceiling fixture, dangling lopsidedly halfway down the ruined tunnel, outlined his profile and provided enough light for her to pick her way toward him through the piles of rubble.

“Oh no!” Ed, white-faced beside the hospital gurney on which his brother lay. “We’ve left a blind man wandering those wrecked tunnels all alone!”

“He was hanging onto me,” Izumi, muttering. “But Alphonse was stumbling so much that I was trying to help you. I didn’t even notice when he let go.”


She moved slowly, trying not to breathe the cold air too deeply, with its light fog of cement dust and the strong smell of burned metal. She took soft steps, setting her foot down with care each time, testing the shattered, treacherous rubble to make sure it wouldn’t shift under her. Some of the uncertainty of her footing undoubtedly stemmed from her own dizziness; she’d had only a few minutes’ worth of the blood transfusion by the time Ed and Izumi brought their prize into the Emergency department.

Their long-sought prize: a boy who appeared to be in his early teens, so thin he was virtually just skin and bones, with long, stringy, light brown hair hanging down his back and over his shoulders. But those large, luminous eyes had turned to her and a bright smile had suffused his face. And when he greeted her, she knew his voice, though it was equally thin, and hoarse from disuse. And lacked the metallic echo.

Alphonse Elric, in the flesh, at last.

“Where’s Colonel Mustang?” Falman, coming to the end of both beds. “Nobody can find him anywhere.”

And Ed and Izumi, staring at each other, aghast.


Riza’s foot slipped on a rock that suddenly snapped with a sharp crack, and she slid sideways with a jerk, waving her arms to keep her balance. Ahead in the shadows, she saw him raise his head.

They weren’t going to let her come, at first. But when she’d pushed herself up, glaring at the nurses and yanking the needle out of her arm, at last the chimera man who had carried her out of the tunnels had agreed to carry her back. She’d left him back a ways, on safer ground with better light, with instructions to bring a search party if they didn’t come out in an hour.

Now, fumbling with one hand against a rough wall that was leaning in a rather odd direction, she could just see ahead, just see the vapour of Mustang’s breath in the cold air. He was breathing too quickly, in short, almost jerky spurts.

“Who…who’s there?” he whispered. He leaned his head back against the wall behind him, and she could see the fringe of his hair hanging in his eyes.

Riza tried to call back, but could hardly even manage a rasp. “It’s me, Colonel.” She mouthed the words in silence. “Wait for me.” Swallowing around the pain in her throat, she took another couple of unsteady steps, reaching out the fingers of one hand to touch the wall and keep herself upright. Ahead in the tunnel, she saw his head tilt, just slightly, as he listened to her halting steps and the occasional clatter of a dislodged piece of rubble on the floor. Down the tunnel, the dangling light fixture buzzed and flickered.

At last, as she drew close, he bowed his head again over his hands. “Lieutenant Hawkeye,” he murmured, “you should not have come back.”

She went to one knee and shifted a couple of chunks of masonry along the base of the wall beside him, then slowly turned and lowered herself to the floor, her feet sliding out in front of her with the scrape of dust and metal shards. She leaned with a sigh of relief back against the wall. “How…did you know…?” she whispered.

“Of course it would be you,” he said softly. “Who else but you, always? But this time…” He swallowed and hunched even further between his trembling shoulders. “You shouldn’t have come back,” he repeated.

“Not leaving,” she shook her head. She lifted a hand and touched the backs of her fingers to his cheek. He flinched and jerked away from her touch, but she’d already confirmed what she suspected. “Come back now. Hypothermia…“

“Hypothermia,” Mustang agreed. “Heading toward shock too, I imagine.”

“Then come back.”

“No.” He turned his head away and took a long, careful breath. But despite his efforts at control, and the tension in his voice signalling how he had tightened his jaw, she could hear the shiver beneath his words. “Hawkeye. Listen to me. It’s over. We’ve won and Amestris is safe. Alphonse has his body back, and the homunculi and the power behind them are gone. We’ve done the work we set out to do.”

“Not all…”

“We did all that was actually possible. You must see that now – “ He broke off with a sharp catch of breath, and she realized what word he’d used.

“I know about your eyes.” She forced the words out with a rasp. “Doesn’t matter.”

She almost thought he smiled, but she wasn’t quite sure in the faulty light. “I knew you’d say that,” he answered quietly. “But I’ve been sitting here in the dark…in the dark that’s all I have left…and I’ve been thinking things through. I let them go…Ed and Al and Izumi…so I could stop and think. It’s funny how clear things become when you can’t see. We wanted to overthrow the forces that had set Amestris on the destructive path it’s been on, and we’ve done that. Our country has been saved, Hawkeye. I know I had aspirations to lead the country, but maybe that wasn’t my real task. Maybe I was just supposed to clear away the garbage so someone else could start clean. You know Olivia Armstrong will be a much stronger leader than I ever would have – ”

“No!” It came out with such force that she couldn’t help but gasp at the stab of pain that blazed up the left side of her head and down her arm and upper chest. Off to her right, she heard the small chink of falling concrete, as though her cry had shaken loose a precarious chunk of ceiling.

“Hawkeye, please be careful.” Mustang half-turned toward her, lifting his hands, and then he, too, gasped and had to curl them back in his lap. He bent over them, shivering uncontrollably, his breathing harsh and ragged. “Dammit,” he whispered, “y-you’ll hurt yourself if you stay here. You sh-should be in the h-hospital.”

“So should you. Not leaving,” she repeated.

“Please. Go back. There’s nothing left for you to do here. Just go back, and let that be the one last thing you ever do for me.”

“No.”

He fell silent, and at first she thought he was just shivering, until she recognized with some alarm that he had begun to weep. “Hawkeye…why? Are you going to smear your blood on my hands too? Why can’t you just leave me here? I’m finished.”

“No. Not finished.” She shifted gradually on the dusty floor until she faced him, with one shoulder leaning against the wall for support. “Your job – not done – “

“Yes it is. You have to understand that. Just listen to me. Olivia is there, she’s strong and capable. No one will do better at bringing order out of the chaos we’ve thrown the country into. But I – “ Again he leaned his head back against the wall, staring with sightless eyes into the dark, his cheeks gleaming with tears. “Hawkeye, I can’t see. I’m a physical wreck. And I…I don’t even know if I’m an alchemist any more. I’m empty. I’m just…empty.” He clamped his jaws tight, to keep his teeth from chattering.

It was certainly true that he was almost spent; even in the near-dark, Riza could see that. Cold and shock, as he’d said, on top of utter physical exhaustion. What had happened during that final battle, to leave him in this state, when Ed and Izumi hadn’t appeared to have suffered to anywhere near the same extent?

It didn’t matter. She could get those details later. But if she couldn’t persuade him soon to come back to the hospital with her, it would be too late. The faint light down the tunnel cast an odd glazed sheen over the moisture on his face, and she wondered if it was starting to turn to ice.

She swallowed, and braced herself for more pain as she forced her voice to work. “Listen…listen,” she said. “Yes, the general is strong, but…she’s military. She’ll be…new version of…same thing. Maybe better…while she leads…but who will come after? Another military person…”

“There are ways to choose a proper successor – “

Shut up!” She reeled, her head thumping against the wall. For an instant she thought she had burst open the slice in her neck, but as she clamped a palm over the wound, she realized that wasn’t the case. She’d only made it start to burn, so hot that it almost felt cold. The coolness of her palm brought almost instant ease, so she left her hand there.

“Riza? Riza! Are you all right? I’m sorry – god, I’m s-so s-sorry…”

“Quiet.” Her voice was hardly more than a squawk; she wondered if she’d ever speak properly again. “No time. Colonel, think. Always, we planned – set up democratic council – again. General Armstrong – won’t do that. Will keep things military. It’s what she knows.”

“It’s what I know, too,” Roy whispered. “And I have blood…s-so much b-blood…” He lifted his ruined hands again, and lowered his eyes to them, as though even without sight he could see blood dripping from them. “I’ve learned so many terrible things about myself in the past few hours…th-things I always hid from…things I would never let myself – see!” He blurted the last word as a high-pitched bark of laughter. “At least Olivia doesn’t have that. And the country doesn’t need another murderer for a – “

Riza pulled herself away from the wall, planting her hands on either side of his face and forcing him to turn his head toward her. His voice choked off in a surprised gulp. “Listen,” she commanded. “No one innocent…not you…not Ed…not me…not Hughes.” His eyes widened as the breath caught in his throat. He tried to pull back, but she wouldn’t release him. “This is why…we continue…making restitution. We don’t quit.”

“Is that what you think I’m doing? Quitting?” The hysterical laughter lurked again at the edges of his voice. “Don’t you understand, Hawkeye? I’m trying to give the country what’s best for it. And…and I don’t think that’s me.”

She released the pressure of her hands, but kept them there, cupping his face. “Colonel, please listen. When I was…at hospital…and when…coming back here…all I heard, from everyone…where is Colonel Mustang? Where is Colonel Mustang? In hallways…in street. Military and…civilians. They weren’t…asking for…General Armstrong. Asking for you, Roy. You.

At the sound of his first name, which she had never used in addressing him before, he grew still and sat in silence for a long moment. Somewhere in the distance, Riza could hear a faint, dripping sound echoing in a tunnel. At last Mustang’s brows drew together and he murmured, “I don’t understand how the people…would ever…”

“I…we need you. All need you. You understand…weakness. Despair. You don’t want to rule…you want to help. And…you know you need help. Not like…Bradley. Not even like…General Armstrong. Already…people follow you. You are who they want. Flame Alchemist. Alchemist…for the people.”

“But I d-don’t even think I’m the F-Flame Alchemist any more. I think my p-power…is g-gone.” Tight jaw or not, he could no longer prevent the shivering from affecting his speech.

“Your power…never in hands,” Riza whispered. “Vision…never in eyes.” She slid her own hands down his cheeks and pressed them against his chest. “Here. Always here. Roy.” Beneath her fingers, she could feel his heart labouring. Battered, yes, perhaps even broken, but not stopping. Not yet.

He lowered his head, and this time she clearly saw his face crumple as the sobs came now without resistance. She pulled his head onto her good shoulder, and slid her arms around him. She let him cry for a few moments, trying to contain the shivering in the circle of her arms, hoping at least that her own body warmth would keep his condition from worsening.

“Riza…I’m tired,” he murmured at last. “S-so…tired…”

“I know. You can…rest at hospital.”

“I d-don’t know if I can make it there. I’m s-so cold I c-can’t feel my f-feet and hardly my legs. But I can s-still feel my damn s-skewered hands, can you b-believe it?”

Riza managed a quiet laugh. “Not fair…is it? But I…have help. We’ll get you back. Just…let me…help you up…”

“No.” He swallowed, took a quick breath, and already his voice was firmer. “You’re not strong enough. I’ll get up myself. But you’ll…,” for an instant he faltered, “you’ll have to guide me through the mess.”

“Of course. Always had…your back…haven’t I? Always will.” She pulled away from him and got to her knees, pressing a hand against the wall and lurching to her feet. Leaning down, she slid a hand around Roy’s upper arm and said, “Get on…knees. Lean on wall, put opposite foot down, and push up.”

It took some work, and Riza couldn’t do much more than guide his movements rather than lifting, but at last, even without being able to use his hands to brace himself, Roy managed to push himself up the wall until he was standing on his feet.

“Well, that was fun,” he muttered. “Nothing like a little dignity to set the tone. And I’m sure the place is a real mess, isn’t it? This isn’t going to be easy, with you so weak and me stumbling around like a…,” his lips twisted, “…blind man.”

“Soon,” Riza whispered, “you can call. Chimera man – waiting. He’ll come help.”

“You are efficient, aren’t you?” Roy managed a smile.

Riza allowed herself a little chuckle. “No. Needed him…carry me. But here…I’ll try to guide…”

Before she could take hold of him, he laid his wrists on her shoulders and peered into her face as though he could actually see her. “Listen…you have to know that you don’t have to s-stay with me now, if you want to d-do something else with your life. You don’t have to chain yourself to – “

“No!” She gripped his forearms. “Not leaving. Told you.”

“Riza…are you sure? You’re absolutely s-sure? This is a whole n-n-new situation now.”

“Yes.” She swallowed around the burning in her throat and whispered, “I’ll never leave you, Roy. Never. Doesn’t matter what…happened in past. All we can do is go forward. No looking back – “ she broke off, staring at his shadowed eyes as she bit her lip, wondering if he’d noticed her clumsiness.

But he lowered his head until their foreheads were touching, and closed his eyes. “No looking back,” he breathed. “I suppose I need to remind myself about that ag-gain. It’s hard to remember, when you’ve had your own p-past thrown in your face with such f-force. Sometime I have to tell you about the Gate… But never mind that for now. I know you’re right. You’re always right. And I…I s-still need you to remind me. And to keep pointing me in the right direction – damn.” He lifted his head. “I can’t believe how literal that’s suddenly become.”

“Don’t worry.” Riza cleared her throat again, feeling the muscles relax as other worries began to dissipate. “We’ll train Black Hayate to help guide you, and you’ll just look like you’re taking him for a walk.”

“Your voice is coming back. Thank goodness. And that’s a good idea.” His voice, too, was growing stronger. She could hear a smile in it as he added, “Do you think I’ll look like a dashing man of mystery if I start wearing sunglasses?”

She laughed softly. “Let’s get you out of here. Now you’re getting delirious.”

“Right.” Roy laid an arm across her shoulders, taking care not to jar her injured neck. “Let’s leave this place behind us and get on with the next phase. No looking back.”

“No looking back,” she agreed, slipping an arm around his waist and turning him toward the tunnel leading out.

Phoenix

Dec. 12th, 2009 02:21 pm
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“Don’t be afraid,” a soft voice whispered.

Spoilers for Chapter 102 )

Control

Sep. 11th, 2009 03:17 pm
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Roy bent over the miniature locomotive, brows drawn down in deep concentration as he tightened the tiny screw on the bottom of the frame. He rarely had to wear his glasses – few people knew he even owned them – but this close work was impossible without them. It didn’t help that the ceiling fixture in this small basement room wasn’t the brightest light around, but he wasn’t going back upstairs just to bring another lamp down. He adjusted the spectacles on the bridge of his nose, taking care to point the tiny screwdriver away from them.

He’d bought this small model train set a couple of days ago on the way home from work, and had noticed the wobbly wheel immediately, but he’d had to wait for the weekend before he could do anything about it. Now he sat back in his chair, pushing one of his rolled-up sleeves past his elbow, the dark rectangle of the open door on the other side of the table serving as a backdrop as he held the two-inch locomotive between thumb and finger, flicking the wheel with a finger on the opposite hand.

Read on... )Read on... )Read on... )
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(See Chapter 3)

He made his way along the dark hallway, guided by a wedge of lamplight that emerged from a half-opened door nearby to fall across the carpet and climb the wall on the opposite side. He could hear the murmur of voices, but couldn’t yet make out any words. The strip of light wavered and trembled a couple of times, forcing him to pause and blink until his eyes cleared.

Ed inched closer to the door, grateful for the plush carpet that masked whatever sound his steps might have made. His feet didn’t feel entirely steady right now, for some reason. He pressed his shoulder to the wall and leaned slowly forward, peering around the door jamb with one cautious eye, several strands of blond hair straying off his forehead to dangle at the edge of his vision. He saw Madam Chris and the colonel immediately, bending with their backs to him, over a thick ledger illuminated by two large lamps on either corner of a wide desk. Behind it ranged almost an entire wall of shelves filled with books.

“So,” Mustang mused quietly, “we don’t quite have enough.”

What Ed discovers )

FIN

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(See Chapter 2)


Ed glanced sideways as he danced, watching the colonel a few feet away twirling Devra near the phonograph. One of the two dark-skinned women who lived and worked here, she had taken the long red scarf the man had given her and tied back her voluminous curly black hair. The ends of the scarf whirled about her brown dress as she turned, like ribbons around a may pole.

“Pay attention to your partner, Ed.” Jasmine’s fingers tightened slightly on his left hand. “When you’re just learning, you could end up kicking her in the shins if you aren’t attentive. Which could be disastrous with that metal foot.”

He jerked his head back, smiling sheepishly, and looked up at the woman currently teaching him some elementary dance steps. “Sorry about that,” he said. “There’s so much going on around here, I’m getting distracted.” He judiciously neglected to mention the after-effects of the glass of wine he’d gulped, rather too quickly, while the presents were being opened.

“But there’s always a lot going on, on a dance floor,” she reminded him. “Though in this place, things do get a bit...overwhelming sometimes.”

Further revelations )

(Chapter 4)

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