Riza was side-eyeing him like she was close to saying something, but she kept her mouth shut. She didn’t even have the decency to turn her head right away whenever he glanced in her direction, instead taking her time before looking down at her guns. Roy grit his teeth and tugged at his ignition gloves, even though he’d put them on at least ten minutes ago when they were in the car. For some reason, they felt like they weren’t on tight enough and he kept picturing them slipping off right when he needed them the most.
Ridiculous, of course, seeing as how that had literally never happened before.
He wasn’t used to being this…nervous. He’d practically squirmed in the car and tapped his fingers on the armrest until Havoc cleared his throat. Now that they were at their destination, minutes away from taking action and ending the tense situation that they’d been trapped in for the past twenty-two hours, Roy felt like he might explode. Fire was itching to burst, like it might actually come from his fingertips, and his heart hammered in his chest.
And then he caught Riza’s gaze again. Don’t do anything rash, her eyes said.
Roy scoffed mentally and looked away. He was fine. He was cool. Level-headed people didn’t do rash things.
Just like that, all the nerves seeped out of his body, puddling at his feet, and he stepped away from them. An almost preternatural calm settled over him as his entire body relaxed, his face becoming its usual passive self and his eyes going blank as to not give anything away. This was the look that frustrated so many people. He had learned early on that people got out of sorts whenever they couldn’t tell what he was thinking - and out of sorts people always slipped up.
Not that he wanted his team to slip up - quite the contrary, in fact - but he needed them to see him as something more. They couldn’t see his nervousess: his pacing, his glares, his clenching fists and tightening jaw. He needed them to see him as strong, capable, unyielding, like a building that could never be worn down no matter what storm passed. Not quite a god, but more than a man, at least in times like these. His flame alchemy was great at producing the effect, but it meant even more when he could do it without the use of his fire.
It was unfortunate, but he had let them see that other side of him far too much this last day. It was going to take a lot to erase most of it from their memory.
He’d burned the phone on Breda’s desk right on the spot after that last phone call had come to an abrupt end. Roy fought the urge to rub his face. How was he going to explain to HR why he needed a new phone without telling them that the other one had melted?
Riza was standing at his side, her guns holstered. In any other situation like this, he would’ve had her somewhere high up where she could examine the scene and watch over them through a scope, but whether it was his decision or hers, she was staying at the ground with him. Havoc was gone, having taken position instead, Fuery with him to keep the communications up and running. Breda would also go in with them, though the holster looked somewhat uncomfortable on him, while Falman was to remain outside just in case.
“Babysitting me, Lieutenant?” Roy eyed her, his eyes completely void of anything that might give her pause. However, that blankness only seemed to make her frown even more. Did she want him all fired up, angry, jittery, or even scared? “You don’t need to worry about me.”
“I’m not,” Riza replied, and he could hear the honesty in her voice. “I’m worried for them.”
Roy tried not to allow his lips to twist into a scowl, but judging from the hard look in Riza’s eyes, he didn’t try hard enough. She was not judging him. She was not mad at his brief sign of weakness. Honestly, she probably wasn’t even worried for the men inside the house they were about to walk in. She didn’t feel sorry for them in the slightest. They would get whatever was coming to them. But “whatever” could mean a lot of things, and he would have to be careful…
He pictured the piece of red cloth sliding out of the innocuous-looking envelope into his hand, the frayed edges from where it had been torn off and the stiffness where it was a darker red. He could hear the phone ring in the dead silence, the labored breathing and the familiar but pained voice that snarled, “Got a message for you, Colonel Bastard.” He swore that he could see a young boy crying in an unfeeling armored body when things were explained to him.
“You’ll get him back though, won’t you?” that metallic yet tiny voice had asked.
Roy gazed at the building coldly. Maybe Riza should be worried for the men inside.
“Havoc’s in position, sir,” Falman announced from the car.
Nodding his head, Roy took one step towards the building - and then another. Each step felt like he was crossing a canyon, like it was going on for ages, but in a matter of seconds, he was at the door, one hand poised to knock, with Riza and Breda standing behind him. That was absurd. Here he was, knocking on the door like he was an old friend come to visit, not a soldier coming to bargain for the life of one of his subordinates.
Don’t let them see you be human, a voice warned him. Don’t let them see you be weak. They’ll tear you apart if they do.
He had learned that a long time ago, even before Ishval. Back when he was alone in a cold and unforgiving orphanage, the month before his aunt had found him. If you were weak, the stronger kids would take everything away from you. One time, he had been forced to sleep without a blanket for two days before one of the women running the place realized what had happened and she had scolded him. Those weeks had been formative enough to instill in him the lesson to close up and fight. Sometimes though, something happened that almost shattered that old resolve.
Roy knocked. He waited. Breathed. Told himself to count to ten before knocking again. The door opened at seven.
An unassuming man opened the door - or he would’ve been unassuming if not for the ridiculous masquerade mask that took up over half his face. He stepped back and waved a hand to usher them inside like some sort of butler.
Unable to stop himself (it wasn’t the nerves), Roy flashed a quick smirk. “Sorry, I wasn’t informed that this would be a costume event.”
The man blinked behind his mask, as if unsure of how to respond, but Roy swept out of the hallway and into the main living room before he could figure it out. Riza and Breda followed without a word, although he thought he could feel Riza’s exasperated gaze on his back before it moved to search the room. Two more masked people were in the room, a woman and a man, lounging ildly like it was some sort of fancy dinner between friends, except for that both held handguns at their waists pointing at him. The woman gave him a Chesire’s smile. Had he met her anywhere else, he would’ve thought her as attractive, but right now, he wanted to burn that smile right off her face. Unpleasant but effective at relaxing him.
“The guest of honor arrives,” the man greeted brightly. Then, he tsked and shook his head. “I believe I told you specifically to come unarmed.”
Roy’s lips quirked into a grin and he held up his hands. “What - these? They’re my formal ignition gloves. I’m only following the dress code.”
“You know the drill,” the man replied, no longer a cheerful fellow. His frown was the only visible part of his face. It was an ugly mask, Roy decided as he carefully peeled his ignition gloves off and dropped them on a table out of his reach. He knew the man would only protest further if he put them back in his pocket, though he was loathed to leave them sitting in the open for anyone to grab. They wouldn’t be able to use them, as only he had the knowledge of flame alchemy in his mind, but he still didn’t like them floating around. “Now, where were we?”
“I believe you were about to hand over my subordinate to me,” Roy pointed out.
“Where are my required funds?”
Roy waved a hand at Breda, who was holding a suitcase, but then signaled him to stay in place. “Of course, it’s technically military policy not to negotiate with terrorists.”
“We’re not terrorists,” the woman said, her voice airy and light. “We’re businessmen, contractors if you will, selling valuable products to our government.”
“I’m pretty sure kidnapping military officers and ransoming them isn’t a good business tactic. As for calling my subordinate a product-”
The woman laughed. It was the most infuriating sound that he had ever heard. “That’s what State Alchemists are to the government though, are they not? You’re only as good as how useful you are to them.” That smile of hers took a dangerous, sharp turn and he knew right and there who was running this show. It wasn’t the man. It was her. This was all her. “Surely you know that, Hero of Ishval. I admire your work, by the way. A shame you didn’t leave the State Alchemist Program like so many others. We’ve helped a few find good work after they left feeling so disillusioned and bereft of meaning.”
“I want Fullmetal in this room,” Roy said flatly. “And he better be in solid condition. The government is not fond of damaged goods.”
“Relax, we didn’t starve or torture him,” the woman sighed as the man waved a hand at the man who had opened the door for them. “Now, did we have to use somewhat extreme measures to convince him to cooperate? Unfortunately, yes.” She shook her head in dismay, a woman who thought it was unfortunate that it had rained and ruined her plans at the pool. “You’ve raised a stubborn boy, Mustang.”
I didn’t raise him, Roy thought irritably. Then again, he was the only male authority figure in Edward’s life since his father vanished all those years ago. Roy was not about to think of that. He was Edward’s boss and nothing more.
To the right, Edward was dragged into the room, appearing somewhat sluggish. His hair was messed up and his signature red jacket was gone, but besides a few cuts and freshly formed bruises, he looked like - well, he looked like he usually did after getting into some sort of mess during a mission. The kid was always hurting himself like he thought himself invincible. His hands were shackled in some sort of metal contraption so that he couldn’t clap his hands together or even move them, limiting his alchemy. It would’ve been better to disassemble his automail arm, but Roy was relieved that they hadn’t. Likely, they hadn’t known how. He did stumble though and dropped into a seat, looking unfocused and groggy.
“What’s wrong with him?” Roy demanded.
Edward scowled. “What’s wrong with you?” But his voice was slurred and lacked any real heat, like it took effort just to speak.
“A sedative to keep him from acting out,” the woman explained. “Such an unruly boy. You’ll need to work on that.”
“You drugged him?” Roy growled. What if Edward had reacted badly to it? What if he’d hurt himself? He nodded his head to Riza, who stepped past him and walked over to check on Edward. When the man holding onto him hesitated, Riza stared at him so intently that he swallowed. Edward halfheartedly fought her off, but he could barely manage to look at her straight, much less push her away.
“As opposed to what?” the man questioned. “Beating him or knocking him unconscious? He was not cooperative.”
“You kidnapped him,” Roy stated incredulously. “Did you think he would go with you willingly?”
The woman huffed. “Well, when we explained to him what we were trying to do, we thought he might be more…agreeable. After all, we’ve heard how often he complains about you. By anyone’s guess, he hates you.” If they thought the words would hurt him, they were wrong. Roy knew how Edward felt about him. The kid was quite vocal in that respect. They didn’t understand though. No one did. Dislike didn’t equal disloyalty or even disrespect. “But apparently, despite everything, he’s loyal to you. I think he even trusts you.”
Roy didn’t speak. He gazed at the man and woman for a moment before turning his gaze to Edward, who was doing his best to glare at him. “Do you trust me?”
“I trust that you’re a smug bastard,” Edward managed, “and I know you.”
A chuckle found its way out of Roy, rumbling deep in his chest. “Still a brat.” He almost smiled. Instead he held up a hand palm up, like he was halfway shrugging in defeat. The man in the chair sat up eagerly as Breda took a step forward. “Now.”
There was a tiny clink of glass breaking, almost unnoticable, and a zip in the air before the gun the woman was holding practically burst out of her hand and she screamed, more in shock than in pain. Before the man sitting down could react though, Roy snatched one of his spare ignition gloves out of his pockets and struck his fingers together. He didn’t even bother putting the glove completely on. He just needed the material to rub together to create a spark and his alchemy did the rest. It produced only a small burst of flame, but placed strategically placed under the man’s chair and it sent him flying across the room and into a wall, shattering a mirror.
At the same time, Riza pulled Edward to the ground, getting him out of the way as much as possible. When the man that had dragged Edward into the room went to attack her, he was hit in the face with the empty suitcase that Breda had unceremoniously chucked at him. Not the standard route, but still effective. Riza kicked out with as much strength as possible, hitting the man right in the shins and causing him to howl in pain and buckle to the ground. One well placed hit to the side of his temple with the butt of her gun and he was knocked out cold.
As Breda took care of the guy that was trying to get back to his feet, Roy focused on the woman. She reached under the table and pulled out another gun, but the moment she aimed it at him, he had his ignition glove on and his fingers pressed together, aimed directly at her.
The woman smiled even as blood trailed down her wrist. “I wonder what’s quicker: a bullet or your flames.”
“I don’t think that’s the right question at all,” Roy told her. “More like whose fingers are quicker.”
The smile on her face wasn’t an inch pleasant. It was cold and dirty. He didn’t know what crimes this woman had committed beyond what she had ordered done to Edward in an attempt to exort him, but he was certain that she had done a lot of very nasty things. “Why don’t we put our weapons down and find out like adults, hm? The bedroom is to the left.”
“That’s…disgusting,” Edward groaned as Riza pulled him to his feet.
Roy felt the sudden urge to reprimand this woman for making such a dirty joke with a kid around, which was weird and out of place. However, his statement distracted the woman just enough for Roy to have an extra second to work with and in the next the woman was screaming as her hair, once stunning dark golden curls, burst into flames. She dropped the gun as she was forced to pay attention to the fire on her head. Crude but effective. It was only a matter of time before they put the fire out and she was lying on her belly handcuffed, bald, and panting.
After twenty-two very stressful hours, things were over. They had gone smoother than he could have hoped for, but then it had helped that these criminals hadn’t been nearly as clever as they’d thought. The idiots had actually rented this place two weeks ago from his foster mother, Madam Christmas, who was an actual businesswoman even if she did deal with shady people every now and then. When they had tracked Edward’s captors to this place, she had been furious and sent him all the blueprints. It had been difficult to keep the woman from coming down herself and ending them on the spot. Really, Roy had done them a favor.
Walking over to them, Roy took hold of Edward’s automail arm, which was hanging limply at his side. Likely due to the sedatives, he was having trouble holding the heavy thing up and moving it. Maybe it was interacting poorly with the nerves that connected his automail limb to his flesh and blood body. He inclined his head to Riza, telling her that he could take care of things, and she moved to help Breda with perps. Slowly, Roy walked Edward out of the house, careful to keep him from stumbling and falling over, though he nearly walked into the door.
“Careful, asshole,” Edward grumbled as he blinked against the sunlight.
“I won’t let you fall and make a fool of yourself,” Roy told him, an amused look on his face. Better an amused one, like he was teasing Edward for stumbling about like an idiot, than a concerned one. He could never let Edward see him as weak. Edward was only allowed to see a very specific side of Roy - and a caring, worried, protective (paternal) side was not one of them. “You’ve got to trust me.”
“Never, you lying, manipulative jerk,” Edward replied, but again, there was no heat or true anger behind his words. In fact, it kind of sounded to Roy like Edward was saying the exact opposite, but maybe that was just the drugs talking. Roy decided not to linger on it. All that mattered was getting Edward to a hospital and back to his little brother and hopefully Edward would forget about the way that Roy had acted decidedly gentle with him.