Edward knew he should be inside the cabin, knew he should be following orders to the letter at a time like this. But twelve-year-olds lacked restraint at the best of times; put him at the edge of a battle for their ship and no telling what mischief he might get up to.
At the moment, this only entailed cracking open the door to the captain’s cabin, ever so slightly, in an attempt to catch a glimpse of the action.
The rest of his family had retreated further inside, his father and mother intent on comforting his younger brother. Normally, Ed would have been right there with them, reassuring Alphonse, but…
This might be his only chance to see a real pirate, live and up close.
At first, all he could see was a vague mass of bodies, blurring together as they clashed and shoved and pressed. After a moment’s hesitation, he pushed the door open a little wider.
And there he caught his first glimpse of battle.
A clever maneuver and impressive vigilance on the part of the crew had managed to prevent the majority of the pirate crew from boarding, but several had made it over anyway. Right in front of the cabin, Lieutenant Roy Mustang, who had humored Ed’s questions and curiosity during the trip, crossed swords with a bearded ruffian.
Ed couldn’t tear his eyes away from the fight. Though his father and mother would have never permitted him to learn swordsmanship, not for another few years, at least, he found himself aching with a desire to be able to move that way, with quick, decisive steps and elegant flicks of the wrist. Mustang pressed his opponent back slowly, finally claiming victory with an unexpected shove. The pirate let out a strangled yell, tipping back over the edge of the ship into the sea with a splash.
With a beaming smile of pride, Ed prepared to retreat back into the cabin—
A gleam of gold caught his eye.
Several feet in front of the door, something glimmered on the ground. A coin, perhaps? But from what Ed could see at this distance, the shape and markings resembled no coin Ed had ever seen before. He glanced up, taking in his surroundings: the fight, while not over, looked to be near its end, with only a few pirates left and the crew outnumbering them a good amount.
More importantly, the fight had drifted to the front of the ship, away from Ed.
He weighed the risks, a little cavalier in his assessment, perhaps blinded by youth and adventure, then darted out the door, up the stairs, and to the spot. A small hand scooped up the treasure, and golden eyes gleamed as Ed held it up in front of his face, letting it dangle by the chain that turned it from a coin into a medallion, inspecting his prize.
On one side, intricate designs surrounded a grinning skull, the points of the triangles extending slightly past the edge, keeping the medallion from being a perfect circle. On the other side, in the same raised gold as the skull, an apparently intentional geometric design made of circles, more triangles, and… what were those? The creature at the bottom…
A furious, strangled cry from behind him, and Ed whirled, clutching the coin, eyes wide. Rushing at him was another pirate, this one twice as tall as Ed and three times as big around. All of his excitement evaporated in an instant, replaced by terror, as the man lifted his sword.
A hand fisted in the back of Ed’s shirt, yanking him away, and as he stumbled back, a larger form stood where Ed just had been, sword sliding into place, parrying the pirate back.
“Stay behind me!” Mustang’s deep voice rang out above the din. He shoved Ed there, back into the corner, shielding him from the attacker. “What the hell are you doing out here?” he snapped, metal ringing as he fended off a series of strikes. “You’re supposed to be with your family!”
Ed couldn’t answer, mouth open as he watched the fight, the knowledge suddenly hitting him that he could die here, skewered through with a sword or trampled underfoot, that Mustang could die because of him, that—
The pirate finally drew back, eyes narrowing as he glanced around for his crew members, only to find none. As he turned to run, Mustang made to follow, hesitated, then wrapped an arm around Ed’s waist, yanking him up and drawing him into his side, holding him tightly as he pushed the pirate back. Ed shrieked and clung, not especially convinced that he made a good weapon, but better than being left alone to get into more mischief or as a target of gunfire. At least, that was how Mustang probably saw it. Ed just watched, eyes wide, as the edge of the ship grew closer.
And then the pirate dove over the side into the water, and Mustang skidded to a halt, still holding Ed tightly, glaring after him. He fumbled for a pistol, but by the time he had it lifted, the man had sunk beneath the waves.
Mustang delighted Ed by muttering a very rude word, holstering the pistol, and whirling away, Ed still in hand. Arm. Whatever.
Ed began to struggle as they returned to the center of the ship, scowling and shoving at Mustang’s shoulder. “Hey, hey! Leggo!”
With a mocking snort, Mustang did, plopping Ed down in an undignified fashion, sheathing his unbloodied sword, crossing his arms, and glaring.
“The captain ordered you and your family into the cabin. What do you think that you were doing, coming out into a dangerous battle like this? You could have been killed!”
Ed bristled, eyes narrowing, shoulders hunching. “I didn’t fucking mean to!” he snapped, spicing up his response with a new word he had learned from the sailors. “I just…” Ed hesitated, shoving his hands into his pocket, depositing his newfound treasure. “Well, none of your damn business.”
Mustang’s expression was one of disbelief, horror, exasperation, and amusement, and he could only sputter a bit before the captain sauntered up, roaring with laughter.
“A feisty one, he is! Don’t tell his parents you’ve let him pick up that language, though.” He cleared his throat. “Speaking of.”
Trisha and Hohenheim had ran over to the three of them, Hohenheim’s face drawn tight with concern, Trisha’s eyes wide with fear. “Edward!” she gasped, throwing her arms around him. “You terrified us!”
The captain chuckled softly, patting her on the shoulder. “He’s all right, ma’am. Lieutenant Mustang’s got him taken care of. And with a bold attitude like that, the way he stands up to us all, he’ll grow into himself. A strong alpha, mark my words.”
Ed could feel tension knot his mother’s shoulders. He knew enough about the words—alpha, beta, and omega—to know that it was considered rude to discuss what someone might turn out to be, and though he didn’t understand exactly what it was all about, he thought it might have something to do with age. Still, he got the gist, very vaguely, and he didn’t care. He’d do whatever he wanted regardless of whatever he turned out to be. Nothing could stop him, especially not some stupid word.
“Thank you very much for protecting my son, young man,” Hohenheim murmured, patting Mustang’s shoulder briefly. “We are in your debt.”
Mustang simply bowed, every inch the polite gentleman. “It was my honor, governor.”
Ed wriggled free of his mother’s grip, breathing easier now that the danger had passed. He hurried over to the railing of the ship, watching across the waves as their attacker retreated, vanishing into the fog. Ed wondered how it could move so quickly, its tattered black sails fluttering in the wind, but it had disappeared before he could get a much better look.
“And it appears you’re all right,” a low voice murmured from behind him, heavy with irony. Ed spun to see Mustang watching him, still a little exasperated, but this time more amused than anything else.
“Well, we’re alive, and I don’t see any of them dead.” Ed turned back to search the fog, but came up with nothing. “I never thought I’d see them, pirates. But they were right here, aboard this ship!”
Mustang snorted. “That they were. Even almost getting killed doesn’t dampen your spirits, does it?”
“Well, I’m not dead so it doesn’t matter.” Ed turned back to Mustang, taking him in, then glanced back over to his parents, who still stood out of earshot, speaking urgently with the captain. “So… can you teach me to swordfight like that?”
“I’m… not sure your parents would approve.”
“They don’t have to know!”
Ed could see Mustang hesitate, but behind that hesitation was a spark of willingness. Ed pressed on it, urging. “Please, Lieutenant Mustang? I would know how to protect myself, just in case something happens.”
With a grimace, Mustang sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “You’re too precocious for your own good,” he muttered, but Ed perked up at the resignation in his voice.
“Does that mean you will?” He beamed over at Mustang, hopeful…
“I will.” He glanced back over his shoulder. “When we have the chance. Under one condition.”
Ed straightened, practically quivering with excitement. “Anything!”
A slow, defeated smile spread over Mustang’s face. “Please, call me Roy.”
Ed’s chest burned as his feet moved and shuffled, his arm ached as he held it out in front of him, his ears buzzed with the constant ringing of metal. He panted, the world all gone except for him and Roy, the sweat on Roy’s forehead standing out in shockingly high definition. A drip rolled down his temple, catching near the corner of his eye, and gleamed like a diamond—a diamond that reminded Ed of his own sweat, dripping down his back, itching, driving him nearly to distraction.
But he shook himself, pulling himself back to the present, to Roy, to those dark, intense eyes, widening his own, mouth opening slightly as he sucked in air, panting.
Ed darted in, taking advantage of Roy’s hesitation, wrist snapping as he performed a perfect disarm, sending Roy’s sword skidding off to the corner of the room. Roy jumped back as Ed lunged in once more, but he wasn’t fast enough: within a fraction of a moment, Ed had the blade at his throat, brushing gently up against him, watching the way Roy’s eyes widened.
And then Ed stepped back.
“Very good!” Roy clapped his hands together, expression transitioning into a grin, beaming with pride. “I have to say, this was the best decision I’ve made in quite some time. You keep me on my toes.”
Ed let out a huff of laughter, reaching up to untie his ponytail and shaking his head, letting the sweat-drenched hair fan out and cool slightly. “Damn straight. You’d be bored without me.” Ed lifted his hands into his hair and shook it some more, then tied it back up. As he did so, however, he caught Roy watching him, almost intently.
Roy looked startled at the question, then shook his head, stepping back slightly. “Nothing.”
Ed huffed, tying his hair back into its ponytail. “Yeah, sure.” He narrowed his eyes, squinting at him. “You didn’t let me win, did you?” It had been his first victory in six years; he couldn’t help but be at least slightly suspicious.
“I wish.” Roy smiled, a little rueful. “You’ve come farther than I could have imagined. Most people are at half your skill level after this long.”
“Yeah, well, I had a lot to prove, didn’t I?” Ed bared his teeth in a grin, lifting the sword and saluting before sliding it back into his sheath. “Besides, what else was I gonna do for six years? Sit around and look pretty and wait to be married off?” He scoffed, rolling his shoulders, idly noticing how Roy watched him intently. He tried to shake off the irritation: he had no doubts as to why.
When Ed had shocked everyone and failed to present as an alpha by thirteen, then again as a beta by fifteen, Roy had begun to waver in his commitment to teaching Ed. Besides the impropriety of an alpha such as Roy being alone regularly with an omega, even one that hadn’t officially presented yet, there was also the fact that Ed’s parents (along with the rest of the world) did not consider martial pursuits such as swordplay appropriate for an omega. Al, as an alpha, would have been allowed to do so if he had any interest and a mind to talk their parents into it. Ed couldn’t even begin to imagine the shitstorm if they had found out about Ed’s lessons, but Roy apparently could, and it had left him hesitant to continue a year ago, when Ed’s status as an omega had officially presented.
Ed, of course, had been very direct in his solution to this: they wouldn’t flip out if they didn’t know. Add that to the fact that Hohenheim considered Roy a trustworthy alpha, one who could be alone with Ed and not cause problems, as well as that Roy had always found the strict social roles the upper classes imposed on omegas and alphas to be rather restrictive, and Ed had crafted a truly convincing argument due in no small part to his bullheadedness and drive. Still, despite all of this, Roy had seemed convinced ever since that Ed was going to damage himself like some stereotypical fragile omega and Roy would be the one to pay for it. Roy had never said as much, but Ed could tell from the way his eyes lingered whenever they practiced, intent and serious. If he ever did, Ed had practiced an argument over and over in his mind consisting of points that emphasized lower classes got along just fine with less of these silly role impositions, but Roy had yet to bring it up. Ed would be ready when he did, though.
“I can’t ever imagine you sitting around and waiting for anything,” Roy chuckled, retrieving his own sword and sheathing it. “Let alone a spouse.”
“It’s what my father wants me to do!” Ed sighed and flopped down onto the ground of the barn where they held their practices, seat cushioned with straw, leaning back against the wall. “He wants to have me married, he’s told me, and soon. But fuck if I wanna be controlled all the fucking time by some alpha who just wants to use me to increase their own status!” Ed shook his head vigorously. “I hate it. I feel like there aren’t any options.”
“I can understand, a little.” Roy’s voice was sympathetic as he went to sit down next to him. “With my promotion to commodore next month, I’m expected to find someone to marry myself. It’s something of a frightening prospect. I can’t imagine how much worse it must be for you.”
Ed scoffed at that. He could hear the same frustration in Roy’s voice that he often felt tightening his chest. Neither of them had ever done terribly well with restrictions. Ed learned that long ago. “We could pretend we eloped, then. Tell everyone we got married so we don’t have to marry anyone else, then do our own thing. Perfect solution.”
Roy let out a bark of startled laughter, turning to stare at Ed a little disbelievingly. “You are something else. Has anyone ever told you that?”
“No, but I bet they’ve thought it plenty of times.” Ed grinned at that a little wolfishly, then leaned back a little more. “So?” He had meant it in jest, but the more he thought about it, the more it could work. After all, his father did like Roy…
“I don’t think so.” Roy shook his head, smiling a little ruefully. “I…” He hesitated, then continued. “I actually think I might have a potential prospect. Since you mention the issue. I’ve been thinking about it, reaching out for permission, but I don’t want to force myself on anyone.”
Ed tilted his head, raising his eyebrows. Roy, married? He shouldn’t have been so surprised: Roy had just turned thirty-one, and as he had mentioned, his new position left him with the expectation to marry as well. Still, the idea didn’t quite sit with him, leaving him… confused. Uncomfortable. Possibly because Roy had never shown any interest in the matter before, leaving Ed unable to parse the sudden declaration.
“You could… try to ask them directly before you approach their family?” Ed suggested without much enthusiasm. He knew as well as Roy how these things were done, and any respectable prospect would have found the suggestion horrifying (another thing Ed found unforgivably stupid). Unfortunately, it was really the only way to avoid the problem Roy had mentioned.
“I think you know how well that would go,” Roy replied, voice dry. “I suppose there’s also the possibility of dropping hints to them the next time we speak together and see how receptive they are to the idea?”
Ed brightened a little at that, despite his continuing discomfort at the thought of Roy marrying. He told himself to stop being ridiculous, that this wouldn’t interfere with their friendship. It only showed how careful and respectful of a person Roy was, nothing more. “I think that’s a great idea. Gives them a say without having to make them say outright and possibly getting them in trouble.” Ed grimaced. “I know how that goes, and trust me, if they’re decent marriage material at all, they’ll appreciate it.”
Roy laughed softly. “Thank you. I appreciate it, that I could come to you for advice. You always have such an insightful view on these matters.”
Ed straightened at that, feeling more than a little smug, the words settling some of the hesitation in his chest. “Yeah, well, I don’t know what you’d do without me.”
Roy laughed again, a little warmer, a little softer. “That makes two of us.”
“…must say, Edward, I’m so very glad you’ve begun to see reason. You’ve always needed more accomplishments if you’re to marry well and succeed in society, and I told you you’d enjoy proper pursuits if you simply put your mind to them!”
Ed hummed distantly as he sketched with his left hand. Let his tutor—a stuffy man who enjoyed pretending to be far too important—think that Ed was invested in a charcoal still life of flowers and fruit rather than the book of mathematics propped open on the easel.
Yoki could go on forever, waxing about propriety and Ed’s need to find a good mate and all manner of things that Ed sincerely didn’t care about, but on the bright side, it usually meant that he didn’t realize that Ed didn’t pay attention to him in the slightest.
Ed turned another page, wishing the room still had a clock, but no. Apparently he watched it too often to pay attention to anything else. Ed had argued that Yoki never said anything worth paying attention to, anyway, but Ed received the usual lecture about how respectable tutors were hard enough to find on the island of Xerxes; the process of writing back to Amestris for another, having a scion of the Hohenheim family search for someone both satisfactory and willing, then transporting them back over, could take several months if not over a year.
So for now, Ed put up with Yoki and watched the position of the sun, just as Roy had taught him.
Roy. Ed still ached from their sparring session earlier, sore in the best possible way. The sensations mixed with the memories, the way Roy kept alert, muscles tensing, mouth panting, left Ed with plenty to chew on as he ignored Yoki. The conversation about marriage had thrown him off. Roy had never expressed an interest before, not in anyone. Or anything, really. Nearly all alphas Ed knew tended towards randiness, and for some reason, Roy had a particularly notorious reputation. But Ed had decided a while ago that Roy owed this to his looks and demeanor rather than his actions.
Beyond harmless (if frequent) flirtation, to Ed’s observation, Roy had no inclination of carrying things further. Too focused on his career, perhaps.
Ed couldn’t place why the thought left him so unsettled. He tried to chalk it up to the simple fact that it represented a massive shift in his perception of Roy’s goals, but something still didn’t sit quite right.
“…even paying attention to me!” Yoki snapped, expression growing thunderous from behind Ed’s easel. Ed glanced at him, then out at the sun, which was beginning to set.
“Nope.” He dropped the charcoal, hardly paying attention when it cracked in two, and snapped his book shut. He stood, tucking the book under his arm. “And it’s time for dinner. Enjoy the drawing.”
“Well, let’s hope you’ve at least produced something presentable this time.”
Ed smirked as he turned away. Crude as they might be, the sketches of Yoki being besieged and carried away by a band of raiding pirates would be unmistakable.
As Ed trotted down the stairs, the loud and indignant shrieking behind him proved him right.
The satisfaction from the noises got him through dinner, through polite but distant inquiries from his father as to how his day went, through much less polite and far more enthusiastic private inquiries—demands, really—from Al to tell him about Ed’s latest swordfighting lesson once their father was out of earshot. Ed shared in his enthusiasm when he revealed that he had beaten Roy for the first time, but eventually did excuse himself when Al tried to pry further into the time they had spent together. Al didn’t understand—or, rather, he did some parts, as an alpha—quite where the relationship between Ed and Roy was going, and always seemed as if he felt like he had to feel it out. Ed could have saved him the trouble by grabbing his face and shaking it and crying, “friendship!”, but somehow he thought that might be interpreted poorly. But whatever. As long as no one smelled too much of Roy’s scent on Ed, an inevitable result if they were to have sex, everyone seemed to accept that Roy’s intentions towards Ed were, in fact, not carnal.
Ed shook himself and headed out to the balcony on the second floor, sagging with relief as he breathed in the night air, fresh from the sea. The governor’s mansion had many advantages, but Ed’s favorite was the position on the island, right next to the sea, built high above a rocky cliff, leaving him free to step out at any time and bask in the ocean breeze, the sound of the surf, the imagined sensation of spray from the sea.
The moon shone on the water, distant and bright, and he allowed himself to drift as if he were on the waves, a passenger of the currents. He wished he were, a distant desire that built up to a yearning when he allowed his walls to fall, alone and aching. God, to be out there: on wings, yes, but a ship would do. The breeze in his hair from all around him, carrying him not just to an end destination, but across the waves for the sake of flying across them, for the sheer joy of determining your own destiny.
Envy, Ed thought. That had to be what he felt, when it came to Roy, envy of the fact that he could do so as a captain and, now, as a commodore. Pick up and go with a few words, give orders and be off. And now, he’d have a bride to take along with him. Ed couldn’t help but feel a twinge of envy for the future spouse as well, indulging in adventures while Ed stayed here and rotted of boredom and watercolor lessons.
He crossed his arms on the balcony, resting his chin on them, as he stared out into the star-studded sky, a black inkiness scattered with extraordinarily vast expanses of light pinpricks.
He watched, and he wondered what was out there.
Though Ed usually eschewed activities that he considered frivolous or unnecessary, leisurely pursuits that the upper classes lauded as worthy demands on their time, he did have one weakness.
Fashion. And his father knew it.
He had begun his morning at the crack of dawn, idle curiosity of a dream quickly evolving into a fascination with the symbolism of science. He had examined the medallion before, the one he had found all those years ago, and had slowly uncovered its meaning. But this morning, he reached his breakthrough: the symbols on the tails side, the circle with its flame and salamander, seemed to be some sort of array for the ancient science of alchemy, the knowledge lost to humanity long ago.
Ed’s study had been interrupted, of course, by a knock on the door. He did his damnedest to draw on his irritation as a veritable army of servants paraded into his bedroom, his father bringing up the rear. But within moments, he took in the sight of trunks and chests they carried between them and stood, quickly pushing his studies into a drawer on the desk lest his father examine them too closely.
“What’s this?” he asked, though he knew that anyone with decent observation skills could tell from the gleam in his eye and the straightening of his posture that he knew damn well what they contained. Hohenheim raised an eyebrow, and for all his father’s faults, Ed knew that he did have somewhat decent observation skills.
“I thought it appropriate to refresh your wardrobe.” Hohenheim nodded at the servants, who began to set down their cargo. “It’s just arrived from Amestris. I thought you might want to try it on.”
Ed stepped forward despite himself, biting his lip in anticipation. Though he and his father didn’t see precisely eye to eye when it came to the designs of fashion, it long ago became apparent that Ed would not budge on his tastes, so Hohenheim had decided to acquiesce in order to at least keep Ed in semi-presentable clothing and tended towards much more interesting garb than usual.
The contents of the first chest did not disappoint.
Vibrant colors, stunning embroidery, breathtaking brocade, damask that sent shivers down Ed’s spine. He continued through the wardrobe, reveling in the waistcoats and pants and shoes and undershirts and jackets.
“Dress yourself in a set of clothing?” Hohenheim nodded at Ed’s nightclothes. “I’d like to make sure they fit.”
The servants filed out, followed by Ed’s father, who closed the door behind him.
Ed dove in.
He had already chosen his outfit for the moment: a black waistcoat, silver damask skeletal tree branches stretching across the fabric. A round circle on the breast provided the finishing touch: an eerie rendition of the moon.
Subtle enough colors for Hohenheim not to sigh too loudly. Probably.
When he put them on, however, he made a startling and not entirely pleasant discovery. At first he thought that the sizing might have simply been off, but an inspection in the mirror quickly smashed any suspicions of it being accidental. Nothing slimmed the waist and emphasized the hips like that just by chance.
Hohenheim glanced over Ed when he walked out of the room, hesitated, but then nodded, gesturing for Ed to follow. “You look quite nice.”
Ed snorted. “Wish I felt the same way.” He squirmed, grimacing. “They’re tight. Are you supposed to be able to breathe in this shit?”
“Language, Edward. It’s what’s in fashion for young men of your status. I had these specially designed for your tastes, so I expect not to hear complaints about it.”
A backhanded gift, then. And his father knew that Ed wouldn’t turn them down, not these gorgeous fabrics of intimate designs.
“Yeah, so, why the gift then? What do you want?”
“It’s not so much what I want. There’s actually something that I’d like to… well, you’ll see.”
Ed narrowed his eyes, planting his feet right as they reached the stairs. “Hold up, what?” He should have fucking known that his father had something he wanted from Ed.
Hohenheim only glanced over, looking tired and a little exasperated. “Please, Edward. There’s a surprise I’d like to show you.”
Surprise. Sure. Ed squinted over at him, trying to ascertain if this is some sort of trick.
“You’ll be quite pleased, I’m sure. Now hurry along!”
Ed didn’t hurry so much as slink after his father, scowling as he trudged down the stairs, wondering if he was being led to his doom. Nothing his father could conceptualize as a “surprise” seemed like anything Ed would want to do—
As they set foot into the parlor, Roy looked up, a grin spreading across his face. He had dressed up as well, an elegant blue overcoat with gold embroidery and silver trim, an elevated version of his uniform. And the way he smiled over at Ed, like Ed had just made his morning that much brighter…
Well, it was kind of nice.
Ed smiled back.
Hohenheim glanced between the two of them, and out of the corner of his eye, Ed could see that he looked pleased. Why, he couldn’t figure out, but at least it meant that his father hadn’t found out about the fencing lessons. That would have warranted a disapproving scowl, though given Roy’s silver tongue, Ed wouldn’t have been too concerned about exposure.
“Thank you for seeing me, Governor.” Roy bowed slightly, eyes still on Ed, who winked at him before turning to Hohenheim.
“I guess it’s good enough as a surprise, but I can see Roy any time I want, you know.”
Hohenheim waved a hand, indicating for them both to sit: Ed next to him on the couch, Roy across from them both in a chair.
“That’s not exactly the surprise to which I was referring.” He turned to Ed, and Ed tilted his head at the pleased expression on Hohenheim’s face. “With his upcoming promotion, Commodore Mustang plans to get married. He visited me today to request your hand, and I have accepted. You two are to be wed before year’s end!”
Hohenheim beamed. Roy smiled over at Ed, disgustingly sappy.
Ed’s chest seized with horror as his stomach hit bottom—and kept on going.
The horror didn’t just come from the marriage announcement. Ed had been expecting one for some time now, so he had of course come up with a myriad of ways to chase off would-be suitors or even a pesky fiancé.
Coming from Roy, someone he had thought a friend and even a confidant, this was a betrayal of the highest order.
He took a moment to remind himself to breathe, struggling to tamp down the fury, knowing that screaming would only worsen the situation. It didn’t lessen the desire to, but he hadn’t learned nothing from his father’s talents of negotiation.
“I didn’t agree to this,” he finally managed, lifting his chin and staring his father down intently, hoping to convey the gravity of his words, possibly to imply that they should continue this in private. Ed might be able to salvage the tatters of his friendship with Roy after this, if he managed to get out of it, but not if he blew up in front of his father at how he’d rather drink seawater for the rest of his life than marry him.
Hohenheim, however, barely seemed concerned. “Your first heat will be soon. You’ll need an Alpha, and Roy is the best prospect within a thousand miles.”
Ed gritted his teeth, casting about for how to make this clearer. “It’s not that it’s Roy. I’m not getting married.” He risked tearing his eyes from his father for a moment to shoot a glare over at Roy, who had gone so still that he looked to be carved from marble.
“Unfortunately, son, you’ll have to.” Hohenheim’s voice drew Ed’s attention back to his father. He did look slightly regretful, as if he’d like to be able to tell Ed something different, but that changed nothing. “You will have no social prospects otherwise. Other avenues won’t open to you, your status being as what it is, and the family line—”
“Fuck the family line!” Ed snapped, bristling. “And fuck social prospects! You know I don’t care! I don’t need approval to learn, and study, and research—I can publish, and get money, do it under a pseudonym—”
“I’m afraid it’s not up for negotiation.”
Ed sucked in a breath at the dismissive tone, a slight ringing in his ears. “I’m not negotiating. I’m refusing.”
Hohenheim’s eyes narrowed slightly at the words, and he straightened. “The contract is already agreed upon, Ed. There won’t be any going back or refusing. This family keeps its promises.”
“You can’t force me!”
“Edward, I am your father and this is what is best for you. I don’t want to—I’d rather you agree—but I will if I have to.”
“You can’t!” Ed spat, whirling and glaring at Roy, who hadn’t yet moved.
“He asked, Edward. Follow every rule and courtesy. You’ll show him some respect.”
“And the fuck are you two gonna do if I don’t?” Ed narrowed his eyes, knowing what he had just implied: plenty of alphas took to beating “their” omegas at the sign of recalcitrance. That seemed to shake Roy out of whatever daze he had been in, and he frowned, first in confusion, then it deepened with concern. He opened his mouth, as if to speak, but Hohenheim’s voice rang out before he could.
“Then I suppose he’ll marry Al.”
Ed froze, eyes widening, then turned to look back at his father. Al would be miserable, even if it hadn’t been marriage to another alpha. Unlike Ed, Al did have prospects, dreams of study and learning and a future. Marriage would throw a wrench into that: not make it impossible, but certainly much more difficult. Add that to the fact that while families did sometimes marry an alpha to another, those tended to be pressured… and end up not being happy for anyone involved.
“You can’t…” He clenched his fists. “Fine. I’ll do it,” he gritted out.
“You’re acting like this is a death sentence, Edward. I expected better from you.”
Ed’s lip curled upwards in a sneer. “I don’t see why, father,” he scoffed, the fizz of anger in the pit of his stomach his only comfort against the dread. “I never seem to live up to your expectations. Small chance I’ll start now.”
“I expected you to be pleased!”
“Do I look pleased?!”
“Excuse me, gentlemen.”
Roy’s calm, quiet voice sliced between the two, leaving frayed ends of their argument drifting to the floor as he turned and walked into the next room. Ed heard a door open, then shut, as he stepped out onto the balcony.
Ed almost felt bad, but that couldn’t overcome the bitterness of betrayal from someone he thought had been his friend. His friend, who had conspired with his father to essentially… buy him. Without the slightest regard for what Ed wanted.
“You’ve embarrassed yourself, Edward,” Hohenheim snapped, usually mild expression dark with fury. “Yourself, this family, and Roy. I expect you to apologize to him.”
Ed’s jaw dropped as he balked. “Now?” As far as he was concerned, the only people who owed any apologies—
Ed glowered, clenching his fists so hard that the nails dug into his palms, but he turned and… slunk, really, there was no other word for it, into the next room. As he had predicted, Ed could see the back of Roy’s head on the balcony through the window. Great, he couldn’t even predict his reaction with an expression.
Ed took a deep breath and pushed open the door.
He swallowed and stepped forward, walking up next to Roy. Roy simply stared ahead, out over the sea, refusing to look at Ed.
“Sorry,” Ed said tightly, feeling as if he were prying caramel from his teeth.
They were quiet for a moment, the crashing of the waves the only sound between them, before Roy spoke up.
“I presumed you would be excited.”
For just a moment, rage swept over Ed, leaving him seething at Roy’s arrogance. “Why?”
Roy finally turned to look at Ed, and the dull, almost humbled, expression in his eyes tamped down that fire some. “I dropped hints. We get along well. I thought we were at least friendly, anyway.”
Ed’s brain seemed to screech to a halt. “You dropped hints?” he sputtered.
Roy’s expression took a turn for the incredulous. “Yes! I said yesterday that I was looking for someone to marry, that I was in a position to care for someone now, that I had someone in mind but couldn’t ask directly without being improper, and you encouraged me!”
The cogs within Ed’s brain began to spin again, slowly putting together the pieces of yesterday’s conversation with today’s shock. Now that he thought about it…
“You…” he croaked. “You meant me?”
Roy stared at him, incredulity the only thing on his face now. “Ed, you are brilliant. The most brilliant man I know. Are you truly saying that you didn’t understand what I was asking? That your encouragement wasn’t acceptance of my proposal?”
Ed had to stagger a moment at the word man. It wasn’t one he considered to be familiar: his father, his tutor, even his brother still treated him like a boy. But Roy considered him to be much more.
“I do think you should marry,” Ed finally choked out. “Just… someone else!” But even as he said the words, that discomfort returned again, the thought of some unnamed omega taking Roy as their husband. But that wasn’t fair of him. He had made it very clear how he felt about marrying Roy. He had no right to—
“Do you hate me?”
Ed jerked his head up, out of his thoughts, and stared for a moment. “What? Of course not! Why?”
“You looked like it, back there.” Roy managed to smile, though its wryness drained most of its humor. “Knowing that you didn’t realize what I had been asking, I must seem like an absolute ass. You don’t… blame me? For asking to… for going behind your back? I didn’t mean to, I swear—”
“Yes, I know!” Ed felt a little bad for cutting Roy off so sharply, but he really didn’t care for this near groveling. “I just don’t fucking get it, okay? I never expected this.”
Roy laughed, but again, there wasn’t much humor in it. “Edward, I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t already care deeply about you,” he said quietly.
Ed jerked back to get a better angle from which to stare blankly at him, bewildered. “Say what?”
Roy exhaled, long and loud, before finally speaking up. “I’ve had feelings for you for years.” He swallowed, and for the first time, Ed saw Roy Mustang look lost. “I thought you knew.”
The words hit him like a sucker punch to the stomach as everything fell into place. The thought that he was the omega of which he had been envious. The realization that Roy considered him much more than a friend, and had for quite some time. Fuck. The idea of marrying Roy, that it had suddenly become not just a possibility, but an inevitability. He tried to summon up his anger and horror from earlier, but Roy’s urgent and sincere explanations had punctured that balloon with extreme prejudice. What Ed found left, instead of resentment towards his father or dread, was…
His cheeks began to color as he tried to ignore how nice it was.
No, relief, he insisted to himself. It was simply relief that Roy hadn’t betrayed their friendship, that he hadn’t conspired to effectively enslave him. That relationship, one of the most important in Ed’s life, was not only intact but now stronger than ever.
Still, the images swept in, unbidden: the thought of the feeling of Roy’s hands in his as they stood at the altar; the way his hand could rest on Ed’s waist, tug him in; the heat that radiated from Roy’s body that Ed had always done his best to ignore but didn’t really have to anymore. He swallowed, trying to swallow down the odd leaping sensation in his stomach along with it, but that proved to be a fruitless endeavor.
So he simply ignored it. Damn it, he wasn’t some delicate omega to wilt and swoon over the first alpha to come his way, to simper in gratitude that someone should want to make him a mindless arm decoration. It left him with a fuzzy sensation in his head, maybe, but he could fight what had to just be some instinctive reaction. He had to.
“I… I didn’t have any fucking idea,” Ed finally managed to croak out, knowing he had to be as red as a cooked lobster.
Roy closed his eyes. “I understand that, now. I realized my feelings weren’t returned when you had to be threatened into marrying me. I thought you were at least fond of me in that manner, but I was clearly mistaken, and made an utter ass of myself in the process. I will retract the offer immediately, of course.”
“That’s not…” Ed didn’t know why it was so urgent to him that Roy understand that it had nothing to do with that. “I don’t want to marry at all! It has nothing to do with you!” He stepped forward, closer to Roy, and though they had been this close before plenty of times during sparring, Ed suddenly found himself very aware of the scant inches between them.
Roy turned back to look at him again, eyes opening, brow furrowing. “Your position and your status, surely you didn’t think you could avoid it entirely?”
Ed scowled, feeling his shoulders beginning to hunch upwards as he bristled. “The fuck does that mean?”
Roy sighed, looking defeated. “You know what that means.”
Ed shook his head, trying to deny what they both knew to be true. The difference was that Roy had accepted it; Ed still had fight left in him. “No, no I fucking don’t.”
“You’re an upper class omega, and I’m one of the only eligible alphas on the island. Surely you wouldn’t prefer one of the others—Fuery, or Armstrong?”
Ed narrowed his eyes. Fuery, nice of a person as he was, certainly didn’t appeal. Armstrong, however, would be a nightmare in a blue uniform. He tried not to shudder. “I don’t prefer any of them. Not over you, not at all. I told you, it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with marriage.”
Roy opened his mouth as if to argue, then closed it again. Good. At least someone knew that arguing Ed was a waste of time. Ed stubbornly ignored the fact that as a quality in a husband, it was as appreciated as it would be rare.
“As I said, I’ll speak with your father and withdraw my request. I won’t have a hand in forcing you into something so intolerable.”
Ed turned and glared out into the sea, once again seized by the desire to jump to it, fly away, skim over it, laughing with freedom. “No.”
Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Roy straighten in confusion. “Pardon?”
“I said no.” Ed scowled deeper at the water. “He’ll think I said something to you, or threatened you, or… I don’t know. I won’t put my brother at risk like that.” Though saying the words pained him, they didn’t leave him as empty as he thought they might.
“Ed, if you think I would do that to your brother any more than I would do it to you—”
“Then it’ll happen with someone else!” Ed gripped the rails of the balcony harder, nursing his anger. “Look, I said yes, okay? Can we just… leave it at that?”
Roy stayed quiet for a few moments, then sighed. “If that is truly what you want, I will accept it. I can be a courteous husband, at least.” He reached out to place a hand gently on Ed’s waist. “Worse matches have been made.”
The skin of Roy’s fingers caught a sliver of Ed’s waist, exposed due to the tight fit of the waistcoat’s fabric, and Ed froze.
The most accurate sensation Ed could compare it to would be the small shocks from metal sometimes, mostly when touching it during the winter. It started small, but left a warm tingling in its wake, and he inhaled sharply, eyes widening, tensing up. It suddenly hit him, how close they were, but he didn’t—couldn’t—pull away.
Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Roy blink, a confused expression ghosting across his face. “Edward?”
That voice. That fucking voice. It wasn’t a voice; it was a fucking purr, and it ghosted around him, enveloping him in its warmth, promising so much if he would only—
“No,” he said, strangled, and tried weakly to squirm away, panting.
“Sorry?” Roy asked, pulling back slightly, voice distant and confused. “You want me to—”
“Not you!” Ed snapped, but his body hadn’t listened, and he leaned further into Roy as Roy tried to pull away. “I already said I’m marrying you.” He hated the way his voice sounded, short of breath and dizzy.
Roy stopped leaning back, tugging Ed even closer. Ed was now pressed flush up against him, the warmth of Roy’s side ten times greater than Ed had imagined, sending more tingling through him. “You’ll be mine when you do,” Roy continued, still purring.
Ed fucking broke.
He gasped, sagging back into Roy, wondering distantly how the hell his knees had just gone so weak, but he quickly dismissed the concern as Roy tugged him closer, nuzzling into Ed’s hair. Ed closed his eyes, letting out a breath that sounded more like a whimper, then breathed Roy in, the strong, spicy scent that had always lingered around Roy, like a veil around his shoulders, but seemed to have increased by a hundredfold. Ed reveled in it, heady with the protectiveness, the alpha-ness of it all, and Roy kissed his temple, pulling him closer.
“You can travel with me, when I go. I know you want to travel.” Roy’s voice had lost its growl now, instead full of a reverence, almost a sweetness, at odds with the possessive posture and hormones. “I’ve thought about it, having you along, exploring the world with you.”
Ed panted, reaching up to grip the shirt over Roy’s chest, trying to steady himself, think through his own hormones, suddenly screaming with a shock that Ed could have never expected. “I’m… that’s not…”
Ed half-expected Roy to silence him, easy enough to do with a gesture or word or touch, but he didn’t so much as twitch. “Not what?”
Ed managed to scramble enough of his senses back together, finally managing to wrench away, wide-eyed and panting. Roy let go of him instantly, eyes and chest in a similar state. “That’s not what this is about!” Ed tried to snap, but it came out as more of a yelp. The offer of travel, it tempted him, god did it tempt him, but that’s what frightened him. “I don’t—you don’t fucking control me! You don’t own me!” He wasn’t some prize, to be won with pretty words of what he wanted! “I’m my own person!” He tried to glare, to compose himself, to add gravity to his words, but all he could do was stand there, trembling, redfaced and mortified.
Roy looked at him, then huffed a laugh. “Edward, I fell in love with you as a person, not a thing. I wouldn’t try to control you any more than I would tell the sea what to do. Both actions would be equally fruitless,” he finished, faintly amused.
“You just were trying!” Ed’s voice sounded panicky even to his own ears. “That’s—that the entire fucking point of marriage!”
“I reacted strongly as a response to another strong reaction.” Roy dipped his head in acknowledgement. “I apologize for what I said. It was typical possessive alpha bullshit.” He said the last word with forcefulness and disdain, something that Ed knew Roy had always portrayed towards those things.
“It’s still the entire point of marriage! To own, to control…” Ed laughed helplessly. “And the omega gets fucking—”
Roy watched him for a moment, and Ed’s senses had heightened so much that he could see the pupils in Roy’s eyes begin to shrink, ever so slightly. Roy considered, quiet, taking several deep breaths before he nodded, as if in understanding.
“And are you worried about what your reaction to this says about you and your continued… personhood?” Roy asked, calm as anything, which pissed Ed off to no small degree. He bristled.
“Of fucking course not!” he snapped, but he had a feeling that he hadn’t convinced Roy any more than he had convinced himself. Roy’s raised eyebrow said that much.
“You’re worried that submitting makes you weaker, makes you more of an omega, as if that’s a bad thing to be.”
Ed shook his head vigorously, trying to fight it, because if he admitted that, admitted that the fear existed, he had to admit that the possibility did, too. “No!”
“Even if not,” Roy continued steadily, “it doesn’t make you weaker. Being an omega isn’t a bad thing. What you enjoy doing sexually or socially doesn’t make you any less of a person.”
Roy let out a little huff of laughter. “It’s true, Ed.”
“I won’t let you fucking break me!” He stepped back towards the balcony, gripping it, shaking his head wildly.
“I’m not going to break you. I don’t want to.”
As if that made a fucking difference. “It’ll happen anyway!”
“Ed, it won’t. I have no desire to control you.”
Ed made a frustrated noise, reaching up to cover his face, burying his fingers in his hair. “And like I said, it’ll happen anyway.”
Fingers on Ed’s shoulder startled him, but he didn’t pull away, the slight touch proving to be more comforting than expected. Taking it as an invitation, Roy tugged him slightly closer, and Ed sighed, leaning forward and sagging into him, strong arms wrapping around him.
“You know me, Ed. I wouldn’t do that to you.”
“It doesn’t matter what you do,” Ed murmured, inhaling Roy’s scent, reveling in it.
“What do you mean?” From the way Roy’s arms tightened, Ed could tell that the thought of something happening that Ed didn’t want almost… angered him.
Ed nuzzled into Roy, sniffing some more, allowing himself this indulgence. “I’ll turn… I don’t know.”
“You’ll turn what?” Roy asked, encouraging.
“You could never be useless, Ed.”
The fabric of Roy’s shirt muffled Ed’s scoff. “You just saw to the contrary.”
“And I also see that you’re still you. As I said, what happens during sex or because of sexual desires has no bearing on the rest of your life, or on your worth. And believe me, that was a purely sexual response.”
“I won’t be some meek omega!”
“I don’t think you could be if you tried.”
Ed grumbled at the fond tone, tugging Roy down to bury his face in his neck and inhaling some more. Why bother hiding it?
Roy allowed this for a moment, but then sighed, letting his arms drop and stepping back. He locked his hands behind him, watching Ed seriously.
“I want to make one thing clear, Ed. Even if you do marry me due to your father’s wishes, I will not touch you. Not until you want me to, not until we sort all of this out. I know that this conversation isn’t one that we can finish now, and may very well take multiple discussions to sort out. But if I’m to have you as an equal partner, as I wish, then I want to respect your wishes as well. And if that means being married in name only, to prevent you from being sold off to someone else, if it means maintaining our friendship just as it is, I take no issue with that.”
Ed inhaled slowly, nodding with similar speed. “Understood.” He wouldn’t say ‘all right,’ not when it wasn’t. But much as he would have liked to keep his head buried in the sand, he knew that Roy was right. Another thing he wouldn’t say out loud, but as the first born omega son of an important governor, he had never had a choice. It had left him fighting harder, but his loss had always been inevitable.
Comparatively, for things to fall out this way, he was lucky.
“Thank you,” Roy replied, quiet, and they both fell silent, the thundering of the surf the only audible backdrop.
After they stood for several long minutes, the air cooling between them, Roy let out a soft chuckle.
“So, I feel rather selfish for requesting of you, but… would you attend my promotion? I would like to see you there, and knowing that you can still stand my company in public would leave me feeling less like I was standing in front of the firing squad.”
Ed simply let out an undignified grunt, rolling his eyes and turning back to Roy to raise an eyebrow. “You’re a goddamn drama queen, you know that?”
Roy’s almost sheepish smile turned into a smirk. “Commodore. Then admiral. Royalty is the next step after that.”
Ed let out a groan. “You’re terrible.” He shook his head, then sighed. “Yeah, sure. I’ll come.”
The smirk then shifted into a brilliant grin, one that left something in Ed’s chest flipping around without control. Maybe he had eaten something that had gone bad. He would have to see a physician about that.
“Excellent. I will look forward to seeing you there.” He took a deep breath, and his smile softened. “May I hold you again? You’re absolutely welcome to decline.”
Ed snorted softly, but stepped forward. “If you insist,” he replied, voice prim. “Just because you asked.”
Still, as Roy’s arms wrapped around him, a deep chuckle rumbled through Ed. He would attribute the shiver down his spine to that. And he was tired, of course, worn out emotionally. So when he leaned in to rest his cheek on Roy’s face, he did it only out of necessity. No other reason. No matter how nice it felt.
Disadvantages to being Roy Mustang’s fiancé: you couldn’t hide in the back and nap during his long, arduous, boring promotion ceremony. No, you were expected to sit front and center, attentive and adoring (ugh), as the military swathed their best and brightest in accolades. For his part, Ed thought privately that Roy’s ego didn’t need the boost.
Advantages to being Roy Mustang’s fiancé: yet to be seen from where Ed sat, bored out of his skull and ass numb from sitting for so long.
Ed lounged, barely remembering to stifle a yawn, wrinkling his nose slightly as the sun climbed in the sky. They had servants, of course, to keep them in the shade, but Ed would have sat them down in his seat in an instant if he had been allowed to go free from this imprisonment.
Maybe next time he could bring a pen and write on his hand, or find some way to hide reading material under some sort of accessory. A fan might work; though he would normally not be caught dead with one, the only people who knew that wouldn’t be inclined to call him out on the transgression. He did his best to inhale, but another downside of the beautiful waistcoats with which his father had provided him: they made loud, obnoxious sighs impossible. Ed suspected a conspiracy.
A bead of sweat dripped down his temple, and he batted it away impatiently. This, however, tugged his thoughts away, over to Roy, who stood on the stage in full uniform underneath the sun. Surely he had to be even hotter than Ed? Ed wondered, if he were to get closer, would Roy be dealing with the same? Ed had seen him sweaty before, and though the sight should undoubtedly be disgusting and unattractive, Ed couldn’t help thinking—
Admiral Olivier Armstrong raised her voice, and no matter how bored he might be, Ed tuned right the fuck in.
A good thing, too: her words had Roy stepping forward, saluting, and Ed watched, knowing that it was all almost over. The sword exchanged hands, Roy drew it, and the soldiers went through a few more movements.
The crowd began to murmur as it dispersed, the ceremony finished, and Ed stood, cracking his back. He supposed he should have waited for it to be the proper thing to do, but fuck propriety. Everything below his waist had lost all sensation.
Despite his father’s disapproving glare, Ed managed to skirt away from the crowd and make himself scarce from the inevitable socializing to come. He was pretty sure he caught sight of Hohenheim reaching for his wrist, but a seemingly oblivious Al stepped between them, beginning to chatter away about the history of the ceremony and the significance of its components.
The breeze at the top of the wall provided a wonderful relief from the still, crowded, heated air below, and he took as deep of a breath as he was able. He had to remind himself of how stunning the red and black embroidery of the waistcoat looked; maybe he could get them tailored without his father knowing…
“I always seem to find you hiding away in higher places. Compensating for something, perhaps?”
Ed whirled, eyes narrowed, teeth baring slowly at the figure walking towards him.
“Just ‘cause you’re taller doesn’t mean I can’t toss you over into the ocean easily.”
Roy placed a hand to his heart and pretended to look wounded. “Such cruelty towards your fiancé! Surely that, at least, must provide some incentive to stay your hand?”
“Are you kidding? It just makes me want to do it more.”
Roy raised an eyebrow, opened his mouth as if he was going to say something, then shook his head slightly and closed it again. Ed narrowed his eyes at the small smile on that face, but Roy simply shrugged.
“What? What were you gonna say?”
“Mm?” Roy looked so innocent that he had to be hiding something. “I haven’t the foggiest idea what you’re talking about. I was simply so floored by the wittiness of your retort—”
“Now, now, Edward,” Roy tsked. “Language.” Ed rolled his eyes heavenward, wondering how a complete lack of retort had managed to put Roy on top of this conversation.
“As your fiancé, I demand to know what it was you said!” Ed wrinkled his nose, trying to scowl imperiously.
Roy simply let out a delighted laugh. “Oh? Are we using the ‘fiancé’ card now? Because I have a few things in mind…” He reached out and took Ed’s hand, lifting it to his mouth and, instead of kissing the air above the back, as was proper, he placed his lips to the skin, leaving Ed shivering, even in the tropical heat.
Ed snatched it away, scowl now firmly in place. “Yeah?” Fuck, his voice sounded way shriller than he had meant. “I can’t imagine there’s anything I’d grant you because of it.”
Roy stepped forward, smirk deepening, but it didn’t escape Ed’s attention that Roy didn’t touch him again. “Oh? Then why should I grant you the favor of an answer?”
Ed licked his lips slightly, sort of wishing that he hadn’t been so quick to yank away, only because he suspected it gave Roy an edge over him. “Because it would be rude not to.”
“I think it would be ruder to say what I had in mind!”
Ed stepped forward again, tilting his chin up. “Fine. I didn’t want to know what it was anyway.” He raised his eyebrows, doing his best to let his eyes gleam with defiance, but… well, really, right now he wasn’t sure what this was all about.
Roy smirked down at him… and then his eyes lowered slightly, to Ed’s mouth. Ed swallowed at that, a thread of anxiety suddenly worming its way through him. They hadn’t kissed yet, not on the mouth; that would have been utterly scandalous. More importantly, of course, Ed wasn’t sure he wanted to, not until they had the entire mess sorted out.
But right now, he was thinking about it.
Roy placed a hand on Ed’s waist, light and tentative, waiting for Ed to pull away. Ed didn’t.
Ed inhaled sharply as their foreheads touched, Roy’s eyes boring down into his. He hadn’t expected this sort of intensity, this electricity between them, and he opened his mouth, trying to say something, but nothing came out.
Roy’s eyelids lowered halfway, and Ed felt his begin to do the same. Somewhere in the pit of his gut, something ignited, burned, pulled like a tide at midnight. He gasped for breath, and he couldn’t get enough, and dizzy, dizzy, dizzy—
Their noses touched, and the burning rushed over him, leaving his head spinning. Ed choked, then managed to gasp, but he couldn’t fucking breathe. Roy began to pull away, but Ed beat him to it, yanking back, staggering, flailing.
The back of his knees slammed into the parapet, and the last thing he saw was Roy’s startled face before Ed toppled back, down, down, down until the black, freezing water swallowed him up.
“So it was really the Black Hayate?!”
Riza Hawkeye leaned back, a smirk playing around her lips, resting one arm on the edge of the boat. She crossed one leg over the other in front of her, wondering if she could use the stories of the ship to score her some food. Or, even better, some drink.
She raised an eyebrow at the eager young man in front of her, practically a puppy personified, dark eyes wide in a pale face under black hair. Xerxes was a tropical climate; how had the kid not managed to get even the slightest of tans? Before she could reply, however, his fellow marine spoke up.
“Didn’t you just say you’d seen the ship, Fuery?” came the drawl. She had identified it as indicative of the more rural areas of Amestris, back across the sea, and the bored-looking blond man who sported it leaned back as well, one of the newfangled ‘cigarettes,’ tobacco wrapped in corn husks for smoking, between his lips. “Figured you’d be less excited if you’d already…”
“Yes, well, it was only a glimpse!” the shorter man cut in, indignant. “I told you, crewed by the damned and captained by a man so evil that hell itself spat him back out!”
“Eviler,” she interjected with a solemn expression. “Rumor has it that the ship, it had a dog, yeah? He got tired of it, so he threw it overboard. Let it paddle to a deserted island and left it there.”
The short one—Fuery—gasped and covered his hands to his mouth. Even the taller one looked disturbed, leaning forward, face troubled. “What the hell?”
“So what did you do then?” Fuery spoke up, dark eyes wide. “Were they going to try to kidnap you and force you to be on their crew? Slay you and trap you with them in their eternal torment?”
Riza tilted her head, wondering what would amuse them most—not the truth, of course; fascinating as it was, they had nearly arrested her for looking too much a vagrant once already. Hearing the truth would only reaffirm their suspicions, and the best storytelling wouldn’t get her out of those consequences. So…
“Probably. “ She lowered her voice. The two of them leaned in. “We were left only with one choice.”
“What?” whispered the other man, the blond one, whose name she had missed, clearly interested despite himself.
“I turned the wheel as sharply as I could, sending us swinging left.”
“But weren’t there…?!”
Riza nodded solemnly at Fuery. “Yes. The nose of the ship smashed into the rocks of the cliff, knocking all of us off our feet. But it was better than any other choice we had, a defenseless merchant ship, and better us let our goods sink to the bottom of the ocean—better we sink to the bottom of the ocean than let them get their hands on them.”
“How did you escape?” the other man asked, voice lowered to a whisper as well. “Did anyone else?”
Riza opened her mouth to continue, smirking slightly, when the sight of something falling from a great height flickered in the corner of her eye. She and her two companions turned just in time to see a small, golden-haired form splash into the dark water, narrowly missing the rocks.
At the distant cry, Riza glanced up at the form still standing up on the wall, being held back from jumping in himself, then down to the ominous, rippling pool into which the person had fallen.
“Any of you going to save them?” she murmured.
She turned to see them glancing between each other, ashen.
“Can’t swim,” the taller one of them managed to croak, earning a nod from Fuery as well.
“Pride of the Amestrian Navy,” Riza muttered, yanking off her hat and shoving it into Fuery’s chest, then her belt and holsters. “Do not lose these.”
Before either of them could question her, she shook her hair back, stepped up onto the side of the rocking boat, and shoved herself off its edge, diving into the dark water.
Ed’s scent had rushed unexpectedly over Roy, heady and sweet, leaving Roy panting and dizzy. It lit a heat in him, sparked an intense, almost fierce possessiveness, and Roy reveled in it thoughtlessly. That, perhaps, was why he barely thought to react when Ed toppled away from him in alarm, pitching back over the edge of the wall.
Roy shouldn’t have cried out, shouldn’t have brought attention to his panic, but such was his distress that a sharp shout of “Edward!” had escaped his lips before he could control himself, and as such, two soldiers dashed out to grab him as he peeled off his jacket, intending to jump in after Ed.
“The rocks!” one of them gasped, and her voice barely penetrated the fog of his horror. He knew she was right, yes, but wished she hadn’t pointed out the sense. Even dashing himself on the rocks churning in the ocean, thinking that he would be able to help, had to be better than standing here uselessly.
Still, even as he debated jumping in regardless, he caught sight of a form below. It cut through the froth of the waves, swimming powerfully right in Ed’s direction.
“Down,” he whispered harshly, eyes wide.
He yanked free of the arms around him, throwing himself backwards. His feet slipped as he scrambled down the nearest stairway. Already, voices had lifted around him, panicked yelling and alarmed shouts. Still, Roy blocked it all out, even the bellowing voice of Olivier Armstrong, demanding answers. Footsteps pounded behind him, but Roy had no care for the fact. He only had one image in mind: reaching the dock.
As he drew closer, however, he caught sight of two figures that had beaten him there. One he disregarded, but the other, one with dark gold hair and brown skin, sent a flood of relief rushing through him.
And then, from a distance, the view resolved: the other figure, a dripping woman, stood over a half-naked Ed, knife in her hand.
Roy saw red.
He snarled and sped up, lunging forward the moment he got within reach. The woman sprang back, knife still in hand, but Ed still lay there, hacking up seawater, waistcoat slit down the middle, leaving his chest bare.
Roy yanked off his jacket, reaching out to pull Ed up and into his chest. He wrapped it around Ed, who shook, clearly in shock from his near death experience and… Roy narrowed his eyes, sniffing tentatively.
Despite just being pulled out of freezing water, Roy could feel the temperature of Ed’s skin underneath his hand. Could smell the unmistakable waves of an omega going into heat.
The information toppled haphazardly into his brain, scattered from the headiness of Ed’s scent. He tried to focus on any one thing, take it in rationally, but every movement and tiny sound from Ed made it impossible, dashing his coherent thoughts to pieces. His senses focused on only certain things: Ed within his arms, members of the military gathering behind him… and this strange woman, who had put her hands all over his bare skin with a bare blade, pawing all over Ed. Ed, Roy’s omega.
“Arrest her!” he snarled, almost howling, teeth bared in fury.
Roy heard chains clang as soldiers surged forward to obey his orders, but Ed tore his attention from the noise as he wrenched away.
“Wait!” he gasped, then doubled over coughing. But he soon stood again, croaking. “Wait, Roy. She… she saved my life.”
No, no, no. Roy kept his teeth bared, lip curling up as he glared at the wary woman, who looked as if she would run if the only escape weren’t towards the sea. “She tried to…!”
“Hold the fuck up!”
The raspy, annoyed order startled him out of his daze, just a bit, and he shook himself, turning to look at Ed once again. He was glaring, golden eyes blazing even as he dripped seawater pitifully onto the ground.
“She saved me, asshole,” Ed continued, crossing his arms across what of his chest the jacket left uncovered. “You’re really gonna arrest the person who rescued me? She’s a beta.” As Roy came back to himself, he glanced quickly over at the scowling woman, realizing that Ed was right. “Besides,” Ed continued, lowering his voice even as his glare intensified. “Remember that possessive alpha bullshit you hate so much? Well, take a goddamn look at yourself.”
With Roy’s cooler blood also came embarrassment. He cleared his throat, stepping back. “I rescind my orders. Don’t touch her.”
“Damn straight,” Ed muttered, lifting a hand to try to scrape water out from his hair. He was only marginally successful, and finally untied the hair from the ponytail , tilting his head to the side and twisting it. Roy tried not to look too interested as he watched; had Ed even realized, that he had… The smell of him forced Roy to freeze himself, lest he surge forward and do something that both of them would regret.
That Roy would regret, anyway. Ed would probably just have his head, or worse.
He risked a glance over at Ed’s rescuer, taking her in: blonde, bright blue eyes, a frown on her face as she retrieved her weapons and a hat with an impressive blue and gold feather from Havoc and Fuery, two marines that Roy had always liked. Being dripping wet didn’t seem to bother her, though Roy privately thought that the bath had to have done her some good. She had to have just come in from sea like that, and not on a good ship, either, not if they hadn’t had any bathing facilities for her to use. His brow furrowed at the long sleeves reaching down to her wrists; in this heat, that couldn’t be comfortable.
“What is the meaning of this?”
The imperious voice lifted above the murmuring of the soldiers, and both Ed and his rescuer’s heads snapped up, eyes wide. Roy turned to see Olivier Armstrong striding towards them, chin lifted, a streak of frost on the hot day.
“An accident, Admiral,” Roy replied, nodding respectfully. “My fiancé here fell from the wall and was rescued by… this woman here.” Roy turned back to nod at the first, unnamed woman, frowning slightly as he saw her attempting to slink off. Still, she froze as all eyes fixed on her.
Roy hadn’t noticed Governor Hohenheim bustling towards them, such was Olivier Armstrong’s presence, but now he hurried over to assure himself that Ed was unharmed. Ed, predictably, wanted nothing to do with the doting attention, but he seemed to be subdued enough not to make a scene about it. Instead, he only squirmed away from reaching hands. Alphonse, Ed’s brother, received a warmer reception, but Ed still didn’t seem to want to be touched, choosing to shake off the wet instead. He reminded Roy, he thought, with a stifled chuckle, of a very irate wet cat.
“I am glad to see your fiancé is safe, then, considering.”
Armstrong’s suspicious tone drew Roy’s attention back to her, wishing he hadn’t tuned out the conversation. “Pardon?”
“Yeah.” Ed stooped to pick up the waistcoat, glancing down to see if it was salvageable, and Roy tried once again not to smile. “Considering what? I can take care of myself, y’know.”
An awkward silence descended on the group, everyone glancing at each other with the exception of Edward’s family. Ed, of course, narrowed his eyes, scowling at the notion that anything might be hidden from him, furthering the crankiness that already came from being soaked.
“What? Is there something everyone’s not telling me?” he spat, bristling. “’Cause that’s really classless—“
“You’ve gone into heat.”
The low, female voice startled Roy, and he glanced around before realizing who had spoken. Ed’s rescuer had raised an eyebrow at him, looking utterly nonplussed at the notion even as the more well-bred of the company coughed quietly.
(Armstrong excepted, of course; she remained stony as ever in the face of such matters.)
Silence descended as Ed gaped at his rescuer, then at Roy, then his rescuer again.
“Say fucking what?”
Roy caught a glimpse of Hohenheim wincing, but he stepped forward, attempting to defuse the situation. “It’s all right, Edward. We’ll get you somewhere private, out of public—“
Ed yanked back, scowl deepening. “I don’t need to be hidden away!” he snapped, though Roy could see the flush rising on his cheeks… and feel an answering heat rising again within him. He didn’t see how Armstrong could pretend to be unaffected; he could already see other alphas among the guards beginning to shift awkwardly. “I’m perfectly fine to handle myself!”
Roy hesitated, glancing over at the assembled collection of soldiers, inching over to put himself between them and Ed. Not that he didn’t trust them, but better to be safe than sorry.
And then Olivier Armstrong stepped forward, sending everyone but Ed and Roy into a step back. Roy relaxed slightly; she would never allow herself to let even the slightest loss of control slip through, and no one would dare cross her.
Her eyes swept up and down Ed’s rescuer, and though Roy couldn’t read her expression, he sensed something ominous in the air between them.
“Thank you for your rescue,” was all Olivier said, voice cool and neutral. “You have saved the eldest son of our governor, a deed which will be justly rewarded. You will of course be granted free lodging and goods.” Her glance suggested that a free bath would be in order too, whether desired or not. “What is your name, so we may arrange this?”
Hohenheim glanced back and forth between them, mildly confused, but didn’t protest, at least. The other woman cleared her throat, stepping back, scowling.
“Not necessary,” she said brusquely, glancing around, as if for an avenue of escape, but the company blocked where the dock connected to land, leaving jumping off the side and swimming away the only option for someone who wanted to leave. “I’m just glad I could help.”
Olivier crossed her arms, tilting her head, and Roy could sense a faint air of suspicion. “No? Do you already have a place to stay? You must be a new arrival here.”
“I have arrangements,” the woman replied, not bothering to conceal her suspicion. Roy could relate: as one of the few members of the upper class who had worked his way up instead of being born into it, the attentions of the blatantly rich and powerful tended towards ‘things you wanted to avoid.’
Olivier stayed quiet for a moment, but then nodded.
“Then at least accept my gratitude,” she said finally, holding her hand out.
The woman hesitated, but after glancing around, reached out gingerly to take it, shaking quickly, then trying to withdraw—
But Olivier grasped her hand tightly, yanked her forward, and shoved the long sleeve up to the woman’s elbow. The woman snarled and tried to twist away, but Olivier held it firmly and Roy spotted a tattoo on her forearm. A side view of a stylized black hawk, wings spread, claws extended, flying free of a vortex that seemed to represent the harsh, swirling winds of a hurricane.
Olivier released the hand. The woman snatched it back, frantically covering the arm again, but the damage had been done.
“Riza Hawkeye!” she snapped, eyes flashing. “Notorious pirate, wanted in these waters and many others. Arrest her!”
Several things happened at once. The marines moved forward, Havoc and Fuery on one side, the rest of the contingent on the other. Olivier stepped back to allow them access. And Riza Hawkeye lunged forward, wrapping an arm around Ed’s neck, and yanked him towards her. A blade flashed out of its scabbard, and a long, wickedly curved knife pressed into Ed’s neck, almost drawing blood. Ed’s eyes went wide, and he sagged slightly, apparently frozen with fear. Everyone else froze.
“Sorry, nothing personal,” Riza muttered to Ed, sounding completely unapologetic. To the rest, she snapped, “Back off, right now, or I slit his throat.”
Fury ripped through Roy, and he let out an involuntary snarl, stepping forward. Hohenheim flung his arm out, sudden panic on his face. “Stop!”
Roy barely managed to rein himself in, and only then because of Ed’s earlier sharp words about alpha bullshit. He forced a breath in through his clenched teeth, then another.
“Back,” he managed to choke out, belatedly realizing that Olivier was the ranking officer. She shot him an icy look, but after a very tense moment during which Roy didn’t dare to breathe, she stepped back along with the rest. Roy relaxed slightly at the indication that he was now the one in charge of the incident, but knew that if it all went disastrously, his head would be on the pike adorning the harbor.
“I want a boat,” Riza Hawkeye snapped, pressing the knife slightly harder against Ed’s skin, drawing the tiniest fleck of blood. She frowned slightly. “Ship. Whatever. And I want it within the next ten minutes.” She stepped forward. The rest of the company followed, keeping a respectable distance as Ed simply whimpered, wide-eyed. Roy tried to shove away his confusion and even a little frustration; yes, he knew that Ed was no ordinary omega, but even the bravest might find that suddenly and unexpectedly being thrust into a dangerous situation would test their courage.
“You’ll never get out of here without a crew,” Roy said levelly. “You can’t captain a ship by yourself.”
Riza just scoffed. “You really think so? Then let me deal with it then, and if I fail, you can catch me. And before you say it, no, I’m not going to give myself up. There’s nothing you can offer that I’d take.”
Roy licked his lips slightly as Riza began to walk backwards, Ed stumbling along after. He knew that Olivier would never permit a pirate to walk free, not even for the life of the governor’s son. Especially not an omega.
“Fine,” he finally managed to get out, glancing over at Olivier, who remained impassive as always. He gestured over at a group of marines, looking like they needed something to do before they panicked. “You three, send word to the harbormaster. I want a schooner here, and immediately.” He hoped that Olivier would realize that Roy was only buying time, and not protest. However, if Olivier realized… He shot another glance at Riza, who watched the men retreat with narrowed eyes. She didn’t believe it, either.
Roy ground his teeth, wondering how much time it would buy him and how else to maximize his advantage.
“Any funny business,” she finally said slowly, turning to stare down Hohenheim, “and your son gets a foot of steel in his throat. You’re the one ultimately in charge here, right? You’d better make it clear to that one…” She nodded at Roy. “...that I won’t tolerate whatever trick he has up his sleeve.”
Roy boiled inside, a black, seething mass of rage, at the cleverness of the words. He would have done the same, most likely, and that grated on him along with everything else. While he would trade this pirate her freedom in exchange for Ed’s life any day, now he wanted revenge. Some of that was the possessiveness coursing through his blood, yes, but how dare she—
“You heard her,” Hohenheim barked. “Any tricks and I’ll have you arrested, no matter what your rank.”
Roy could see Olivier stiffen next to him: while yes, Hohenheim technically did have authority over her, he rarely exercised it in matters such as this. Despite his faults, he was a good governor who realized his shortcomings and utilized those people available with more knowledge and experience than he. Overriding Olivier was stupid, but with Ed’s life at stake…
Roy couldn’t say he wouldn’t have done the same.
“Governor,” she finally said, and when Roy glanced over, he could see a frown below her eyes. “I can’t advise—”
“Can it!” Riza snapped, and Olivier whitened with fury, eyes widening. She gestured slightly towards Olivier with the knife, though without moving it too far from Ed’s neck. “Don’t talk him into doing anything—”
So focused was Roy on Olivier’s reaction to someone telling her to shut up that he first only caught the movement in his peripheral vision. For a moment, he thought that Riza had changed her mind, had slit Ed’s throat right then and there, but the knife gleaming in the sunlight wasn’t red with blood.
The entire world seemed to freeze around Roy. No one moved, no one but Ed, as his hand shot up to Riza’s wrist, gripping it tightly as he forced his fingers between his neck and the blade. Red bloomed slightly on his hand as the edge slit it slightly, but the hand gripping her wrist exerted most of the pressure as he forced her arm outward and down. At the same time, he jerked his head back with a snarl, gold also flecking with blood as it connected solidly with the pirate’s nose, sending her staggering backwards, bleeding from both nostrils. Ed whirled away from the flailing knife in a circular motion, Riza too occupied pinwheeling for balance to snatch at him. With another spin, he lifted his leg, strong and muscled despite his short stature, and snapped it out to his side, boot planting in her stomach. All semblance of balance lost, she tumbled back off the pier and into the ocean before anyone else had so much as breathed.
Roy recovered first, very possibly due to the fact that he had known Ed capable of defending himself, and rushed forward. “After her, now!” he snarled, and though he saw her doing her best to swim away, with the head start from the pier, the marines would catch up with her easily. For his part, Roy rushed over to Ed, tugging him close.
“Are you all right?” he panted. For the moment, worry eclipsed everything else: though he could still tell that Ed had gone into heat, he could push it away. Not only was his self-control better than that, but Ed’s well-being was much more important.
“Yeah,” Ed panted, lifting a hand to absently touch his fingers to the slice on his throat. “I’m… great, actually.” His eyes gleamed in a way that Roy had only ever seen in sparring matches. “That was fucking awesome.”
It took every inkling of self-control Roy possessed not to lift his own fingers to his face and pinch the bridge of his nose. Instead, he reached out to put an arm around Ed’s shoulders, ignoring the damp fabric of the jacket. “Edward, please. You were in danger.”
“Yeah, so? I handled it. Really well, I might add. She totally bought the weak omega act. I think everyone did.” Ed squinted up at Roy, who rolled his eyes heavenward.
“I didn’t think it had anything to do with your being an omega. I simply thought that you were frightened because of the danger, like anyone would be.”
Ed scoffed. “Please, you know me better than that.”
Despite himself, a small smile tugged at Roy’s lips. “I suppose that I do.”
The noises of the rest of the world slowly intruded into their reality, and no few of those present were murmuring and glancing over at Ed. Slowly, Ed’s smile began to fade into a scowl, one Roy might think permanent if he hadn’t caught the rare presence of that brief smile. Its lack tugged, just a little, at Roy’s chest. Ed simply pulled the coat closer around his shoulders.
They had dragged the woman from the sea, and were now clapping her in chains. She shot Ed a venomous glance. “Thanks,” she spat at him. “Appreciate the gratitude for saving your life.”
Ed narrowed his eyes, but they dragged her off, and he turned away.
“Edward.” Hohenheim had stepped forward, Alphonse behind, relief palpable on both of their faces. “Please, let’s get you home. We’ll have you cleaned and bandaged and away from all of this…” He glanced around. “Well, you know how it is.”
Only Roy and possibly Al caught the whitening of Ed’s knuckles around the fabric of the jacket. “What, gonna sequester me up for a few weeks? Will I even get to breathe any fresh air?”
Hohenheim’s pained expression was almost as familiar to Roy as Ed’s scowl. “That’s not what—it’s for your own safety, Edward. We’ll sort out the details when we arrive at home.” Hohenheim’s eyes flicked to Roy, and Roy didn’t miss the level, assessing gaze in them. Despite his bumbling appearance, Hohenheim had been appointed governor for a reason, and if Roy had seemed any threat to Ed after the heat began, he had no doubt that he would have been ordered away immediately regardless of how much he was trusted.
“Like fuck I’m gonna put up with—!”
“Ed,” Roy murmured, trying to keep his voice low and level. Ed didn’t look towards him, but nor did he resist when Roy tugged him away from the crowd. “Give me a moment? You’re his eldest son. He’s going to be overprotective. I’m going to try to talk some sense into him, but I can’t make any promises unless you at least appear to cooperate. That will make him much more amenable to any compromise.”
“I don’t want compromise,” Ed hissed, bristling. “I just want things to go fucking back to how they were!” He whirled towards Roy, but they were close, too close, and as he inhaled, his eyes went wide and he staggered. Roy reached out quickly to steady him, but as he did, Ed tilted his head back.
Even in the bright light, the pupils of his golden eyes had dilated, his breath coming in pants. As his gaze searched Roy’s face, he could read the expression in Ed’s sharp features, could see the blush behind his golden skin: a sudden need, unsteady and uncontrolled.
“Just a moment,” Roy managed to grit out, suddenly noticing the sweat trickling down his back. “I’ll speak to your father.”
Ed inhaled sharply, then, as if yanked from a daze, he nodded, stepping back.
“Governor,” Roy murmured with a respectful nod of his head. “I understand that Edward is being difficult, and I would certainly like to help talk sense into him. If you don’t mind, I can escort him to the house alone, away from prying eyes? I would absolutely be willing to mediate a conversation tomorrow, if he proves to be…”
Hohenheim waved his hand to indicate that Roy didn’t need to continue, and the tired expression in his eyes almost made Roy feel sorry for the man. But objectively, he understood Ed’s desire to be free of unfair restrictions placed on omegas. No one ever told Edward Elric to do anything.
“Absolutely. I’ll stay back here and settle things, but I’ll be home soon. I appreciate the offer.”
With mutual nods, they took their leave, and though Roy initially suspected that Ed would be difficult, once he saw that his father was not accompanying them, he reluctantly fell into step alongside Roy.
Though Roy considered starting a conversation, he could tell from the intense expression on Ed’s face that he probably didn’t want to be interrupted in whatever thoughts he was having. So for his part, he allowed himself to be proud of the trust Hohenheim had instilled in him. Most parents would think it insane to allow an alpha to walk an omega in heat anywhere, especially unsupervised. That Hohenheim hadn’t so much as put up a fuss left Roy with more than a little satisfaction.
However, Roy didn’t wonder if the man secretly hoped that Roy would bring Ed home and fuck him immediately, while Hohenheim was avoiding the place. It would certainly lead the heat to pass much more quickly, and though technically scandalous, the fact that the two were engaged might be enough to leave him turning a blind eye.
Of course, now Roy could think of nothing else.
He took a deep breath, then another, trying to steady himself. Hohenheim might not mind, but Ed certainly would. He would never forgive Roy for taking advantage. Roy had no doubt that if he pushed Ed up against a tree right now, he could have Ed begging within seconds, and the image was absolutely a delightful one. But after it passed, after Roy and Ed took their pleasure and Ed came back to his senses…
Roy could never damage their relationship like that.
“What are you thinking about?”
The rough harshness of the voice, even more than usual, startled Roy, and he glanced over and down. “What?”
“You were glaring into the distance,” Ed snapped. “What was it?”
“Nothing,” Roy answered quickly, but right now he couldn’t think quite straight enough to put on a convincing lie. Ed saw, and he took on a mutinous glare. But instead of yelling, he turned back to face the direction in which they were walking.
“Fine,” he snapped, and they were silent.
They continued on for a few more minutes, taking the hill to the governor’s mansion. Roy considered starting a conversation a few more times, but goddamn, this was distracting. He had had omegas in heat before, but this was Ed. And it was his first heat: he would be so inexperienced, so eager and pliant and beautifully surprised when Roy showed him—
But he snapped himself back to the present, gritting his teeth yet again.
Ed remained silent for the rest of the trip, expression not deviating from its glare, even when they reached the door of the mansion. Before Roy could open it for him, Ed reached out, yanking it open himself. Roy stayed back: he knew that the last thing Ed would want right now would be coddling.
“So, I’ll see you tomorrow?” he tried, keeping his tone casual.
The only response he got, however, was a curt nod. Ed strode forward, not even looking over at him, and vanished into the house, the door nearly clipping Roy’s nose as it slammed shut behind him.
Ed tossed again in his bed, kicking his sheets down further. He had already thrown them off long ago, bunched them at the foot of his bed in frustration as the sweat trickled down his neck. He glared up at the dark ceiling, trying to steady his breathing. He had been panting earlier, a direct result of the action that had left semen coating his hand. For the seventh time.
It hadn’t helped. Not any more than the first six.
The tropical night wasn’t particularly hot, not any worse than it had been in quite some time, but his skin flushed and burned, sending Ed that much closer to combustion.
Yet again, Roy’s face flashed through Ed’s mind. This time, instead of the cocky smirk or the triumph of a sparring match, Ed remembered the fierce anger and protectiveness of earlier that day. It had pissed off Ed at the time, but now, in the darkness of the night, amidst the throes of a heat, he wondered how that ferocity would translate in bed. He could feel his underwear soaking again at the thought, a new and unfortunate symptom of the heat.
Roy. Fuck Roy. Except he wasn’t, and that was the problem. Still, Ed couldn’t truly resent him all that much; Roy hadn’t done anything after walking him home. Much as Ed had wanted him to, he would have regretted it afterwards.
And there was another problem: Ed had wanted him to, against all of his judgement. It had taken every trace of his self-control not to lunge at Roy, right there, and that infuriated him. He hated not having control over this.
So Roy had had to go.
After Hohenheim’s return, had managed to avoid too many awkward questions from his father about where Ed had learned to fight like that. Hohenheim had tried, but Ed had muttered something about not being up for conversation and Al, presumably, had dragged their father away from the closed door. Ed had returned to fisting his cock frantically, determinedly refusing to even come close to his asshole. Much as he had wanted to. Much as he wanted to now.
With a disgusted snarl, Ed shoved himself up, throwing his legs out of the bed and standing. Muttering Xerxesian curses under his breath, he stripped yet again. Grabbing a clean corner of the underwear, he wiped the semen from his hand and tossed it into the laundry basket next to all the others.
He glanced down at his right hand: though he had wiped off the sticky residue, he really should wash it properly. But that would mean calling someone for water, and the last thing Ed wanted was for someone to see him like this. He would be fine until morning: his left hand was his dominant one, and he wouldn’t be doing any hand shaking any time soon.
He stuck out his lower jaw and blew upward from his lower lip, trying his damnedest to get the sticky bangs off his forehead. It did about as good as the breeze blowing in from the open balcony doors—that is, not at all.
With a sigh, he ran his left hand through his damp hair, staring balefully out at the full moon. He had opened every possible outdoor-facing window in the vain hope that it would help. Instead, it only tempted him to throw himself into the ocean. Not to drown, of course—he had had enough of that today—but the cold salt water could only provide relief.
Ed tugged on a fresh pair of underwear, walking slowly over to the outer doors. He reached up towards his chest. When his fingers found metal, they clasped their prize, drawing it forth.
The coin gleamed in the moonlight as he stepped out onto the balcony. Ed ran his thumb over the stylized skull, then flipped it to look at the back. It still drew him, even after all this time. As he lifted it higher, tilting his head back to get a better angle, the design almost seemed to change under the light of the full moon. He hadn’t known why he had chosen to wear it today, under the waistcoat, or why the pirate—Riza Hawkeye, her name had been—had found it so fascinating. Luckily, her attention had given him the presence of mind to turn it around to avoid prying eyes. Still, he had found himself with a strange reluctance to remove it.
A loud boom jerked his attention away, sending him spinning around to face the city, eyes wide.
The ridged around the medallion cut into his palm as he clenched it into his fist.
A black ship loomed in the harbor, black sails tattered and fluttering in the wind. Ed’s initial thought—how the fuck did it sail with holes in the canvas like that?—he knew was only a defense mechanism meant to stave off the imminent panic.
Still, it tugged at the string of a memory. But the cannons boomed again, and then again, and fire flared up in spots across the city. The panic swamped over him anyway.
He stumbled back inside, gasping, trying to force the fear back. Who the fuck was crazy enough to attack Port Dublith? The navy gathered here was legendary across the Xerxesian Sea; though the pirates might score a few hits due to their advantage of surprise, what could they loot with such speed that would be worth the risk they were taking?
He took a deep breath, then another, trying to calm himself. The mansion, while in a very defensible spot from the sea, would undoubtedly be an alluring target with its ornate Xerxesian architecture and opulence. Tempting as it might be to find a weapon and charge down to defend the city, he was needed here. A few guards would have remained to guard the mansion, but most would have rushed to the mounting defense. The servants couldn’t defend themselves.
His fingers fumbled at simple breeches and a shirt, the medallion dangling against his bare chest. Ed kept his swords in the armory instead of his room. Unfortunate, but necessary for his secrecy. It wouldn’t be too far—
As Ed stepped out into the upper hall, the front doors downstairs exploded.
Ed watched in horror as a handful of grimy pirates burst in through the carnage, waving gleaming weapons. Several servants had stepped outside, their expressions matching Ed’s.
“Chairs!” he yelped at them as the pirates tilted their heads upwards. “Get chairs! Block the stairs!”
The servants reacted quickly, and within moments, dozens of chairs were being hoisted from their rooms and chucked down the staircase. Though the pirates began taking down the makeshift barricade soon after they created them, it would buy them time to escape.
“Master Edward?” one of the servants gasped, his golden eyes wide with fear above a freckled nose. “They’re—they’ll want—“
“Everyone out!” Ed snapped, motioning towards the back of the house. They would all know the alternative entrances. Once they began to move, he then motioned to one of the guards. “Roksana? Lead them all out.”
The woman hesitated, but Ed narrowed his eyes. “That’s an order. I’ll be fine.” With some reluctance, she nodded and began to usher them all away. Ed reached out to squeeze the first servant’s shoulder with his left hand.
“It’ll be all right, Jesper. Just follow.”
Ed watched them all go before even thinking about starting off himself, keeping an eye on the pirates as they yanked the chairs away, getting ever closer.
I’m not going to get away in time, Ed realized, mouth dry. He’d be lucky if even the servants managed. The pirates had now gotten close enough that he could see the whites of their eyes. One of them pointed at Ed, grinning viciously through his dark beard.
The last of the servants vanished through the door leading to the closest exit. Ed’s mind race: if he followed, the pirates would, too, and might very well catch them all. He made his decision instantly. Even if only a couple followed him, it would increase the servants’ chances.
“Go to hell, motherfuckers!” he screamed, voice instantly drawing all attention towards him. Teeth bared even more, and belatedly, Ed realized why they might be interested him. An omega. In heat.
But it was too late now.
Ed whirled and darted back through the hallway, then through one of the doors, slamming it shut and barring it. He heard shouts from outside—“Which door?!” “I don’t know; split up, you idiots!”—and smiled grimly. His father’s study had a coat of arms hanging above the desk, two swords crossed through it.
He lunged over triumphantly, scrambling up onto the desk, gripping one of the hilts.
He yanked, but the sword stuck fast. The entire structure fell from the wall, and Ed yelped as it dragged him with it. He managed to let go before he fell on his face, but the noise would undoubtedly alert the pirates to his location.
Ed dropped the useless decoration and darted over to the window, throwing it open, praying, but knowing what he would find.
The sea crashed below him, onto wickedly sharp rocks, nothing even resembling a foot- or handhold on the way down.
Ed swallowed, and behind him, a crashing noise sounded against the barred door.
The door swung inward, slowly, on one broken hinge.
Two pirates stepped through, hulking men who had to be twice as tall as Ed and three times as thick with muscles. They peered around the room, swords drawn, scowls on their faces.
No direct beams of moonlight fell through the windows to illuminate them, but the ambient light did that perfectly well: one with dark hair and involved sideburns vaguely resembling a gorilla, the other blond with a bushy, lionlike mustache.
The dark-haired one spat out a muttered curse and strode over to the open window, sheathing his sword and gripping the ledge as he peered down into the water. A quick glance around the room revealed nothing; he had perfect view of the desk’s foot space, and nothing was under it. Other than that, the room seemed unusually sparse, minus the bookshelves.
“We gotta go after him,” he muttered, beginning to lift a leg to the windowsill without much relish. The blond one, however, lifted a hand, eyes narrowing behind spectacles.
“Wait,” he growled, turning his head and sniffing slightly.
Ed’s eyes widened from inside the closet with a barely-cracked door, and he covered his mouth to stifle a gasp of horror. Of course. Of fucking course. How could he have been so stupid? They would smell him, unless they were both omegas—not likely. Could they pinpoint him based on the scent? He wished he had thrown himself out the window. It would have rid the world of a damned fool at the very least, even if he hadn’t survived.
“We can sense it, you know,” he continued, beginning to prowl around the room very much like a large cat. Ed drew back, the cold sweat of fear finally beginning to take him. The way the huge man kicked aside Hohenheim’s desk like a child’s toy… those hands could snap Ed’s neck with barely a twitch.
“That’s right,” the other one broke in, voice also threatening as he looked around, as if realizing something. “You’ve got something of ours, and we’re taking it back.”
Ed frowned slightly, a thread of confusion worming his way in between the fear. Involuntarily, his fingers clenched around the medallion against his chest.
“The gold,” the blond one said, voice lowering menacingly. “It calls to us. You can’t hide.”
In unison, the two pirates stepped towards Ed’s hiding place. Ed dropped the necklace back around his neck, feeling behind him for something, anything, with which he could fight back. But these two had swords, and the tiny cabinet had only china, for when his father wanted tea. Perhaps he could shatter a teapot over one of their heads, but the other would undoubtedly—
His hand closed around something long, hard, and metal. With an odd mixture of panic and relief, he yanked on it, ready to defend himself.
It held fast, some support feature of the cabinet, firmly attached.
The pirates stopped right in front of the door. Ed was out of options. It swung open, revealing the two of them, eyes and teeth gleaming with triumph.
As one of the hands darted for him, Ed yanked back, barely escaping the grasp, and gasped in a breath.
Roy shouted orders amidst the chaos, rallying marines, herding civilians to safety, organizing defenses. Though Port Dublith was much larger than the other settlements he had defended, the principle remained the same. Roy took note of the ship’s location with every cannon boom: from what he could tell, only a single ship had gone on the attack. Where were its allies? No one would be stupid enough to take that risk. He thought.
The pirates had sent plenty ashore, and they swarmed the city, looting what they could. Before long, however, Roy’s troops had mobilized, swords and guns cutting through flesh. But they never seemed to end: for every one Roy saw cut down, another took their place. Roy even thought that he recognized the faces at times, someone he had killed earlier. But that would be impossible.
Roy couldn’t tell how long he battled, staving off looters, dragging civilians free from burning buildings. It was automatic at this point, instinctive movements honed over years of duty. But finally, the numbers began to dwindle. Roy kept up his work still, working with maximum efficiency.
The urgent voice of a woman cut through his concentration. He knew that voice; who…?
As he turned, he caught sight of a golden-haired, golden-eyed woman, hair cut almost to her shoulders. That was right: one of the Xerxesian guards from the governor’s mansion. Her name escaped him for a moment, and as she rushed towards him, anxiety seized in his stomach.
“Roksana,” he managed to get out, finally recalling her name. His eyes flicked her up and down urgently. “What’s the matter?”
“Master Edward! They attacked the house—the other guards got Master Alphonse out, and the governor…”
“The governor was with me when they attacked,” Roy replied sharply. “He’s safe.” Barricaded in Roy’s office, as ordered. At least the man didn’t share his son’s recalcitrance. She nodded, but the fear didn’t leave her eyes. “Ed?”
“I went after him, and that’s when the pirates broke in. She swallowed, and his stomach dropped to the pit of his stomach at her anxious expression.
Roy’s mind raced frantically as he looked for Ed, and his stomach dropped to his toes as he saw no one there. “Where is he?”
“I’m sorry, Commodore, he…” She took a deep breath, steeling her face. “He ordered me to get the rest of the servants out. I couldn’t disobey a direct order like that. But he needs help, and if I go back alone, I won’t do any good. We have to go now.”
Roy barely even noticed the tone in her voice, giving the orders; she had to be insane, talking to an officer like that, but all Roy felt at the fact was fervent gratitude that she had the guts to do what needed to be done. He nodded, and she quickly concealed her surprise that he hadn’t stopped to argue as he waved down what marines he could, directing them to follow him.
She ran at a sprint towards the mansion, Roy keeping pace, hoping that his troops were doing the same. The hill, usually a fairly unchallenging incline, seemed to drag him down with every step, urgency as well as his strong legs pushing him forward.
Roy’s chest tightened with physical pain as he saw the shattered remnants of the grand door, the pieces of furniture as he stumbled inside. But Roksana barely took notice, shoving past it and rushing upstairs.
“He went this way, I think—“
The two of them turned down the hall, spotting another shattered door at the same time. They dashed through it into Hohenheim’s study.
The marines stumbled to a halt behind him, panting, but Roy held up a hand for them to keep it to a minimum. They went silent and he listened hard, searching, but he could hear nothing in the house, nothing beyond the soft sound of the wind and surf coming in from the open window.
It was then that he realized the noise of the cannons had stopped.
Ed tried to stop himself from shaking as the two pirates rowed him out to the black, evil-looking ship, but he couldn’t control himself any more than he had been able to earlier that night. His wrists chafed as he twisted them again, but the rope binding them behind his back held fast, only drawing pain from the coarse fibers. He gritted his teeth, wondering what the fuck he had been thinking.
Falling into the hands of a few randy pirates was bad enough. But now he was going into the proverbial chimera’s den, about to be in worse shape than he was before. Still, he had knowledge gleaned from his research about pirates, even if he wasn’t foolish enough to take it all as incontrovertible truth. That the pirates had acknowledged his request for parley, a feature of the code set down by the pirates Marcoh and Scar centuries ago that forbade harm to an adversary until a parley was complete did leave him with hope. The fact that he was now being brought to their captain, as also specified in the code, did put a damper on the whole situation, but if he could negotiate a peace…
The ship loomed up in front of the three of them, and Ed swallowed, hard. That is, if the scent of an omega in heat didn’t drive them all into a frenzy, first.
A surprising amount of pirates remained on the ship when they finished shoving him up the ladder in a completely undignified fashion. How many had gone on the attack?
“A captive?” one of the pirates snapped, scowling fiercely. The woman had short brown hair, some sort of tattoo on her face. Ed couldn’t make it out, not with the clouds covering the moon. “I wasn’t aware we were taking those.”
“The brat invoked parley,” Ed’s blond captor muttered, and despite his fear, Ed bristled.
“I am not a fucking brat,” he snarled, then wrenched away from the arms holding him and strode forward to the woman. Was this the captain? “I am here to negotiate—”
“It’s an omega!” one of the pirates yelped with surprise, and Ed could feel the air on the ship change. “And he’s in heat!”
Murmurs broke out, the pirates gathering closer, and Ed could feel his mouth growing dry. He glanced around, wondering if he could make it to the edge of the boat—
“That does not matter in the slightest,” a cold voice came from the back of the ship. “We must not harm those who come here under the protection of parley.”
The crowd parted like butter for a hot knife. The man who stepped forward drew his attention away from absolutely everything else.
Dressed almost entirely in white, the man cut an odd figure that lingered somewhere between 'ghostly' and 'dashing.' He watched Ed through half-lidded eyes, their already narrow shape turned to near slits. In the dim light, the irises looked black. His thin mouth cocked up at one side in a smirk, and two long strands of black hair framed his face, the only hair that had escaped the even longer surprisingly well-kept ponytail in the back. And something else, something that Ed could smell but not see.
The captain—for who else could it be, with the deference the pirates displayed, the elaborate hat?—was an alpha.
“Captain Kimblee, at your service.” He lifted his hat, bowing elegantly, with more poise than plenty of the high-rollers Ed had met. When he stood, placing the hat back on his head, the expression had grown mildly patronizing. “Welcome to the Black Hayate. How can I accommodate such an esteemed guest?”
Ed ignored the eyes from all sides that raked over him like he was a particularly delectable side dish and stepped forward, raising his chin and staring the man in the eye.
“I am here to negotiate the cessation of hostilities towards Port Dublith.”
The captain only raised one elegant eyebrow. “Sizeable words, for someone of such diminutive stature.” Ed tried to school his expression, try to keep from bristling and snarling, but he knew that the fury blazed through his eyes from the way the captain’s smirk widened. “And what is your request?”
Ed set his jaw, eyes narrowing. Fine; he’d play their game. “I want you to get the fuck outta here,” he snapped, “and never come back.”
Kimblee’s eyebrows shot up, and if Ed wasn’t sure about what might have been begrudging approval in the man’s eyes, he certainly drew a chuckle that seemed almost respectful from the crowd.
But Kimblee only inspected his fingernails, expression settling back into boredom. “An intriguing offer, or at least the manner of its delivery. I would never have expected an omega to be so brazen.”
“Then you must not meet many,” Ed shot back, voice flat. “That, or they’re playing dull to get away from you.”
Unruffled, Kimblee lifted one finger to tap it against his lips. “A tact that you’ve chosen not to take, I see. I do appreciate the entertainment, at least. So, then, what leverage do you offer? I fail to see any reason why I should continue to offer you my hospitality.”
Ed licked his lips slightly, glancing around, trying and failing not to let his nervousness show. He had been so certain at first, but now, when faced with the possibility of—
“As I thought. Continue the attack!”
Before any of the pirates could so much as move, Ed grabbed the medallion, yanking it over the top of his head with a flourish. Striding over to the edge of the ship, he dangled it by the chain over the sea. “Fine. You want leverage? Then I’ll drop it.”
Though Kimblee’s face remained disinterested, the rest of the pirates began to murmur, and Ed could feel the tension tighten in the air. Still, none of them spoke, not while Kimblee continued to negotiate.
“We’ve already brought in plunder from your port that outvalues that little trinket a hundredfold. Pretty, yes, but what is its loss to me…” He reached out towards one of the pirates holding stolen goods, plucking a gaudy pendant with an inset sapphire twice the size of the medallion that was surrounded by smaller diamonds. “When I’ve chests of treasures like this?”
Ed narrowed his eyes. “Fine,” he snapped. “Then I guess I’ll get rid of it.” He loosened his grip, and the medallion tumbled downwards.
Every last one of them down to Kimblee yelped and lunged forward, eyes wide in horror, as the medallion dropped, jerked, and the chain caught on Ed’s finger, still dangling, but this time several inches lower than it had been.
“You were saying?” he practically purred.
Kimblee’s face slowly shifted from shock and horror to resentment. The other pirates muttered angrily, glancing towards him.
“If you insist.” His voice cool, he stepped forward. “You return the medallion, and we will, as you so eloquently put it, ‘get the fuck outta here’ and never return.”
At the ease with which Kimblee had agreed, Ed narrowed his eyes, then glanced around. The pirates stared at him hungrily. Or was it the medallion that they wanted? Still, he would be a fool not to take precautions.
“And none of you lay a hand on me,” he barked. “I’ve heard enough about what pirates do, and I won’t be gang raped by you bastards.”
Kimblee’s eyebrows shot up again. “Please, master… I don’t believe I received the pleasure of your name?”
Ed hesitated. His real last name would undoubtedly reveal him as the governor’s son, which would make him ripe for the hostage-taking. Better to drop the gold and get the hell out of here.
“Edward Mustang.” It would be true in a month, anyway.
A soft murmur arose from around him, but Ed ignored it. “Very well, Master Mustang. Your virtue was in no danger before this—I quite pride myself on my hospitality—but you now have my word.”
Ed’s lips twisted in dislike, but Kimblee extended his hand. Ed glanced down at it, running his right thumb against the fingers of that hand feeling the slight stickiness.
“Shake on it,” he said promptly, then stuck out his right hand, grabbing it before Kimblee could pull away, and pumping it multiple times, lingering possibly longer than was proper. Kimblee narrowed his eyes with suspicion, but kept his hand extended even after Ed withdrew. With no small amount of hesitation, he reached out to drop the medallion in Kimblee’s hand.
The hand drew back, and before Ed could take note of anything else, it had vanished.
“We’ve got what we need, ladies and gents and scallywags! Hoist anchor and pull out!”
Ed glanced around as the pirates began to scatter, an unpleasant feeling beginning to churn in his stomach.
“Hold the fuck up a second,” he called, scrambling after Kimblee. “Wait, we completed the parley—you need to return me to shore—!”
Kimblee stopped immediately, and Ed nearly ran into that dramatic white coat. He whirled, and the cold glare did not bode well. Even worse was the sudden sensation of an alpha so close, close enough to grab him, to throw him on the ground, to have his filthy way with Ed. And god, Kimblee probably knew it too, the bastard. Ed clenched his jaw, fighting against it with every fiber of his being.
“There was no such part to our agreement,” Kimblee replied, voice cool. “You should have thought of that before we shook. A completed parley does not demand any further inconvenience be made of either party once an agreement is reached.”
Ed’s throat tightened, and he turned, eyes fixing on Port Dublith in the distance. If he ran now, could he swim that far? He was a strong swimmer, living where he did, but Ed had never been at this distance from dry land, not without a boat to take him back. Still, better that than—
Kimblee’s arm gripped his shoulder, turning him back around. “I wouldn’t do anything stupid, Edward,” he murmured. “I can promise that we’re faster than you are in anything you might attempt. As I mention, I pride myself on my hospitality. Avail yourself of it for a while; it’s going to be quite a trip.”
Ed gasped and tried to wrench away. Fuck it; he’d make the swim. He had to.
The two pirates who had brought Ed to the ship stepped forward, each grabbing an arm. Ed thrashed, but he might as well have been a paper doll in their strong grips.
“Take him to my cabin. Make sure he can’t get out. I’ll be down to see him shortly.”
Despite every curse word he knew, some which even made a couple of pirates glance in his direction, slightly impressed, the two dragged him towards the back of the ship and into the double doors. After they tossed him inside, he lunged for the exit, but they had already slammed the doors, a thud marking the sound of some sort of bar being lowered.
Ed shoved against them, snarling, but found it fruitless, as well as the windows of frosted glass within the cabin. Useless. Fucking useless.
He glanced over at the bed anxiously. Kimblee’s bed. He shuddered at the thought—mostly revulsion, but to his unending irritation, the thought of ‘bed’ and ‘alpha’ in the same sentence left him squirming a little in a not-so-awful fashion—and took a seat as far from it as possible, glaring around the room.
Edward, what the fuck have you gotten yourself into this time?
Roy gnashed his teeth, hands wringing fitfully behind his back, as he stared down at the map.
He tried to keep his anger, his frustration, his desperation, behind his mask, usually so calm and sure, but he knew from the glances Olivier shot in his direction that he was not succeeding.
Hohenheim was doing no such thing, pacing and running his fingers fitfully through his hair, usually so neat, but now hanging limp, tangled from a hasty brush (or complete lack) and constant worrying.
“If we look at where the Hayate has typically hit,” Olivier was saying, tracing her finger over the map, “we might be able to hypothesize where they’re heading next.”
“But Port Dublith isn’t a typical attack for them!” Roy finally burst out, unable to contain his frustration any longer. “This has none of the markers of something they would usually do. These pirates are brilliant. They’ve been attacking settlements for seven years, and they always plan it perfectly in a way that will ensure their success. Dublith is too big, too well-guarded. They weren’t just here for treasure. They were here for…” He paused, swallowing. He didn’t want to say it any more than anyone else did. Roy couldn’t allow himself to think it. “They obviously had some other purpose. And we need to find out what that was.”
“And how do you propose that?” The irritated snap came not from Olivier this time, but Hohenheim. He turned, fists clenched, and Roy could see the agitation in his eyes. It left Roy with no small amount of guilt, knowing that Hohenheim might very well blame Roy for not keeping Ed safe. Lord knew that Roy blamed himself. “Do you really think any of us are dallying, Commodore Mustang? We all want my son back as badly as you do.” He turned away, looking sick. Roy knew why: the thought of Ed in the hands of pirates, in heat, overnight, left him sick as well. “So if you have any alternate ideas, I would absolutely love to hear them, but if not, your complaining will do us no good whatsoever.”
Roy inhaled sharply, anger beginning to twinge in his chest—he wasn’t complaining! Yes, the man was distraught, but that gave him no right—
Roy turned at the familiar drawling voice, attempting to be more proper in order to show respect, but Roy doubted that Jean Havoc could suppress his accent if his life depended on it.
Jean swallowed, opening his mouth, but as Hohenheim and Olivier turned as well to stare at him, he seemed to shrink. The attention of one alpha he might be able to withstand, but the fierce, cold look of Olivier could scare anyone, let alone an omega.
Fuery broke in, piping up, and Roy didn’t miss that he was trying to spare Havoc the stress. “Yesterday, that pirate—Riza Hawkeye?—she mentioned the Black Hayate. She brought it up, actually.”
Roy straightened, eyes widening, hope blooming, all grudge with her forgotten. “We could ask her—”
“No,” Olivier interrupted, voice sharp. “The prisons were breached last night, but they left her in her cell. If they were allies, they would have released her. I doubt very much that she knows anything of the Hayate.”
“Or,” came Jean Havoc’s quiet, respectful voice, still heavily accented. “It could also mean that she knows too much—I’d figure if she didn’t know ‘em at all, they’d’ve brought her for their crew, right? She’s kinda famous—infamous,” he hurriedly corrected. “She could have a bone to pick with ‘em—”
Another frigid look from Olivier shut him up and sent him physically stepping back.
“Or,” she said, voice chilly, “she could lie to us and tell her that she knows where it makes berth, use that as leverage, and then escape the moment our backs our turned. She’s a devilish creature, and I won’t allow her the opportunity.”
The words staggered Roy, snuffing out his glimmering of hope before it could catch. He glanced around at the assembled group. No one looked at him, some deliberately averting their eyes, but Hohenheim eventually lifted his face. Roy caught the raw, pained expression in it as they stared at each other, echoing Roy’s internal turmoil.
Roy gripped the sides of the table, breathing slowly, trying to clear his mind of emotional attachments. He did have to do what was right, what would be the most likely course of action to save Ed. Finally, he turned back to Olivier, stepping over, chin lifting, and met her eyes levelly.
“Admiral,” he said, voice quiet, but full of conviction. “Please.”
The bottoms of Roy’s shoes clicked briskly against the stone floor as he strode forward, clearing the last of the steps and pausing before the locked door. He hesitated, steeling himself. This was the right thing to do. He was certain of it.
He slid the key into the door and turned it.
The sight of rubble greeted him as he stepped into the prison. He hadn’t seen the damage that the cannonball had done until now, but he had been advised earlier that morning that one had blown out the side of the structure, releasing all of the prisoners. All of them except one.
Riza Hawkeye was lying back on the pile of straw that served as an almost bed, hat tilted over her eyes to shield from the sun streaming in through the bars, one leg crossed over the other. Though he had no doubt she heard him coming, she didn’t move.
He cleared his throat, but she continued to ignore him. Bristling slightly, he straightened.
“Do you want out of here or not?”
That caught her attention. Ever so slowly, she lifted her hand to her head, removing the hat, and turned to watch him, expression wary.
“I don’t see why you feel the need to ask questions when you already know the answer, but if you insist, yes, of course I do.” Roy waited as she shifted, then sat up, placing the hat back atop her head and resumed watching him. “I assume there’s some catch.”
Roy snorted softly, but then nodded. “I was told by one of our marines that you mentioned the Black Hayate.”
“Aye, that I did.” She tilted her head. “Why are you here, to ask about children’s tales?”
“I know the ship is real.”
“Your marine, what’s his name? Havoc didn’t seem to think so. But then again, what can you expect from an omega.”
Roy struggled to contain his reaction, but he felt his shoulders tighten, the flicker of a scowl across his face. At the satisfaction in her eyes, he knew that he had just given her what she had been looking for. Damn.
“Do you know where it makes its berth?”
She smirked slowly. “Of course. You would too, if you listened to the stories. The infamous Isla de Muerta, an island that can only be found by those who already know where it is. A haven of treasure and bounty, the loot of a thousand ships, but also of curses dredged from the depths of the sea, their horror incomprehensible to those who do not already suffer it.”
Roy rolled his eyes. “I am not here to ask about children’s tales. I’m here to ask about the truth behind them. Can you find this Isla de Muerta?”
She tilted her head, the smirk fading. “Well, I’ve been a lot of places. I may have been there before.”
Roy reached out to grip the bar of her cell, anger flashing. “Enough with the games! Can you find—find it or not?”
She sighed, watching him, studying his face intently. After a few more moments, she spoke. “I don’t believe you ever did me the politeness of offering your name.”
“How is that—”
“I won’t work with people who treat me rudely, Mister…”
“Mustang.” Roy crossed his hands over his chest. “Commodore Roy Mustang.”
“Really. Quite a name, that.”
Roy scoffed. It hadn’t been the first time people had doubted him, thought he was making it all up. Ed had told him once that it was awesome; most others used the word ‘ridiculous’ instead.
“So, are you going to help me or not?”
She stood, taking her time, and began brushing the straw off of her clothes. “I don’t suppose I could get a good bath in addition to my freedom?”
Roy stared back at her icily with an expression that might have taken even Olivier aback. “We are running short on time.”
“Ah, yes.” She finished brushing herself off and watched him, eyes searching his face. “Silly me. He is in heat, isn’t it? You know, the captain of the Hayate is an alpha, and a vicious one at that. I don’t blame you for wanting to hurry.”
Roy’s chest froze, his breath unwilling to come forth, and he felt as if someone had dug a knife precisely where it would hurt the most.
“What?” he managed to gasp, bones now going numb with horror. “How did you know?”
“The more we talk, the more time we waste. Let me out. I’ll help you find it.”
Though his brain still screamed at him to ask more questions, find out how she knew they had taken Ed, he knew she was right: he couldn’t slow them any further. With one quick glance around, he shoved the key into the lock. “Trick me, and I’ll run a sword through your ribs.”
“I would expect no less.”
Roy kept his step calm as he headed towards the docks, glancing around furtively to see who was nearby. He caught no especially familiar faces, everyone far too busy cleaning up and repairing after last night’s attack. Under the light of day, he could see that it certainly could have been much worse.
“In and out pretty fast,” Riza murmured, glancing around and echoing his thoughts. “They obviously were after one thing in particular.”
“I brought you with me to help, not speculate,” Roy snapped. “Or talk in any capacity beyond what is needed.”
“And how do you know their goals won’t be relevant to where we need to go to capture them? The fact that they were after something means that they have somewhere else in mind that they want or need to be, which—”
“Fine!” Roy snapped. “I get your point. But at least hold your tongue until we’re underway.”
Riza muttered something about uppity alphas, but then fell silent.
Roy strode up to the Alchemy, eyes sweeping it up and down lazily. The two marines guarding it frowned at the sight of Riza, but then straightened when Roy came into view.
“Commodore!” they said in unison, saluting, and then the senior said, “How can we help you?”
Roy nodded at them curtly. “I have orders from Admiral Armstrong to use this ship on an urgent mission of utmost secrecy. You are to shift your guard duties to the Briggs instead, and if anyone asks, advise them that I allowed no questions.”
They stared at each other, then back at Roy, clearly confused.
“Now!” Roy snapped, and they hurried off.
“Clever,” Riza murmured, and Roy shot her a suspicious glance. Still, he said nothing, and she continued. “So, the Admiral’s only spared you, huh? She expects us to find the governor’s son with only two people?”
“Something like that,” Roy muttered, beginning the task of setting the ship out into sea. As they sailed quietly out of the harbor, no one gave them a second glance.
“So,” Riza called, steering the ship while Roy saw to the rigging and sails. He had relinquished the wheel to her as soon as they were out of sight. “Bit of a crazy plan, rescuing your beloved and all that, isn’t it?”
Roy straightened, then whirled. “How did you know? That that was why I wanted to go after the ship?”
She shrugged. “It wasn’t hard to figure out. First of all, you got defensive when I insulted omegas, which while I did mostly to piss you off, told me that they, or one, was on your mind. Second, you were already all prickly and defensive, and you mostly seem to be a levelheaded person unless your fiancé—what’s his name, Edward?—is involved. And third…” She lifted a finger, eyes boring intently into Roy. “You’re the only person on this little mission. Going after them for revenge would be stupid, but even stupider to send only one man. And since that one man was you…”
Roy gritted his teeth, returning to his work. He kicked himself for being so obvious; he needed to regain his usual composure before continuing. There were reasons he had been promoted to Commodore, and impulsiveness was not one of them.
“If you’re interested in more things I know, by the way, I also know that this little adventure of yours wasn’t sanctioned by the Admiral.”
He froze again, tense, but this time, he didn’t turn, he didn’t ask. That one wasn’t as hard to figure out, and she had proven herself to be a clever woman.
“You’re not arguing.”
“No. I’m not.”
“Well then.” She shrugged. “Since you’re at least admitting it, let’s make course for Tortuga and pick us up a crew.”
“He did what?!”
Van Hohenheim, governor of Port Dublith, had never seen Admiral Olivier Armstrong so angry. He had always found her an intimidating woman, but that was usually a good thing, as it commanded immediate respect and obedience.
Right now, however, he found himself nearly terrified.
If he had been the subject of her rage, he wasn’t sure he would be able to stand against it. As it were, he managed to hold his ground, even as Olivier looked as if she were about to pick up the messenger and throw him through the fifteen-feet-thick wall.
“This morning, Admiral.” The messenger looked terrified, and the red of the setting sun gleamed off of Olivier’s face, rendering her that much more terrifying. “He said he had orders, for an urgent mission of secrecy…”
“Of course he did,” she spat viciously, whirling away. “You may go.”
Hohenheim decided that it would not be the best time to mention that, even though Roy Mustang had broken that vile pirate free from her imprisonment, he did hope that it provided some means to finding his son. Instead, he watched her pace, furious.
“I’ll need to get together a party for pursuit. But it’s already been so long…! Damn,” she spat, glowering at the map in front of her. “That idiot. I’ll have his rank stripped for this.” Gripping the sides of the table, she looked up slowly, the expression in her eye unlike any that Hohenheim had ever seen.
“No. That would be too kind. I’ll have him hanged.”
Riza watched Probably-soon-to-be-former Commodore Roy Mustang pace the deck of the Alchemy, watching him idly. If she had been interested, she might have thought the way the setting sun framed his fine features to be handsome, possibly even breathtakingly so. But Riza Hawkeye was extremely picky about her men, and one too many mishaps with them had put them completely off the table. At least he hadn’t tried to use his pretty boy charms to persuade her of anything; he seemed the type, and Riza had an arsenal of scathing comments to set him straight if he did. But for now, at least, he seemed far too agitated.
“How long?” he asked, finally turning to her, anxiety written all over that perfect face.
She shot him an unamused look. “Pacing won’t get us there any longer.”
The man let out a snarl, then turned back away. She rolled her eyes. Leave it to a military man to stay bitter about this; their high and mighty attitude always left her grinding her teeth. She had plenty of her own baggage with them, starting with her father and ending with the bastard who had cemented her belief that piracy was a more moral option than the military, as well as the only option left to her. She might have reached it more quickly, with Amestris’s aggressive colonization of anything it could reach, Xerxes included, but sometimes one person could be the breath of wind that tipped a boulder off the edge of a mountain.
Still, this Mustang fellow didn’t seem too awful, especially not for a Commodore. She sighed, figuring that she could satisfy personal curiosity while diverting obnoxious habits.
“So, how did someone as upstanding and moral as you get dragged into the cesspit of the Amestrian Navy?” At the aggrieved glance he shot her, she shrugged. “We’ll be around each other for a while. Might as well get to know each other.”
“I really have no desire to have any communication with a pirate,” Mustang snapped, but he sighed, leaning back against the rail that separated the quarter deck from the main deck. “My mother died when I was young, and my aunt raised me. My father’s sister. But Amestris wasn’t the best place to be, not for someone who grew up in a brothel with no formal schooling, even an alpha.”
Riza’s eyebrows shot up at the first bit. She wouldn’t have expected the brothel at all.
“The only chance for me to have any sort of opportunity beyond your typical… well, dull apprenticeship was joining the navy. Or the army, I suppose, but something about the sea called to me.” He smiled, a little crookedly, clearly despite himself. “And I’ve done very well for myself, I’d say.”
She turned away so he couldn’t see her roll his eyes, and he continued.
“I requested to be sent out this way, not just because of the opportunity, because people were less likely to care about where you came from and more about your abilities, but my aunt always told me that my father had headed to the Xerxesian Sea to find his fortune. I suppose I had a childish fantasy that I might find and meet him one day.”
“And just happened to shoot up through the ranks in the process.”
“Well, there is that.” He smirked a little. “I guess I can’t suppress my natural talent.”
She rolled her eyes again, and he laughed at her expression.
“Admittedly, I did actually hear from him, once, several years ago, but…” He shook his head, a faraway look coming into his eyes. “Even though I replied, I never got anything back.” He lifted a hand briefly to his chest, then shrugged. “But I’ve gotten over it, and found a home here besides.”
A home that you’ve been quick to throw away, Riza thought, but instead she said, “Your mother was Xingese?”
Mustang looked slightly startled. “Yes. One of my aunt’s girls, actually. But how did you know? The features, yes, I understand, but that it was my mother…?”
“And your father’s name was Richard Mustang?”
Mustang froze, mouth still open as if to say something, but he could only stare. Riza glanced out into the horizon, taking in her bearings, waiting for Mustang to recover his.
“How?” he croaked, and though his lips asked the question, his eyes didn’t look as if they wanted to know the answer.
“You’re a spitting image of him,” she replied, barely glancing of him. “Well, he didn’t have the Xingese features, but they fit you well. Better than his own face did, certainly. But there’s still no missing it, even twenty years younger.”
“You… you knew him,” Mustang finally managed to get out, usual eloquence clearly lost at this revelation.
“Yes,” she replied simply. “Sailed with him, actually. A very good pirate.” And one of the few who hadn’t—
She caught a gleam of steel out of the corner of her eye, and if she hadn’t known Mustang was so desperate, she might have whipped out her own sword to defend herself. As it were, she just glanced out of the corner of her eye at him, unimpressed.
“You’re lying,” Mustang spat, true anger flickering across his face for the first time. “He would never—my father had his flaws, but he wasn’t some murderer and thief!”
Riza sighed, turning back to watch the sea, noting the stars showing and adjusting her course accordingly. “He was a looter, scallywag, rascal, scoundrel, and an excessive drinker, just like the rest of us. And I respect him for it.”
“You’re just making this up—!”
“And why would I do that?” She turned back to him. “Put that away before I put it up for you.”
“You’re welcome to try,” he snarled, and Riza lifted her gaze heavenward.
“What was it that your fiancé called you out on? Typical alpha bullshit? If only Edward could see you now.” At the name, Mustang froze, a flicker of hesitation crossing his face. “An astute young man; it’s a wonder he puts up with you, if it flares up this often. Do you think he’d be even angrier if he learned that it was what caused you to fail in his rescue?” She turned and faced him again, expression cold. “That is, if you ever see him again.”
Mustang swallowed, hard, and slowly lowered his weapon, still saying nothing.
“Good. Now, so we’re clear. Your father was a pirate, and so am I. It’s in your blood, whether you like it or not, and you’ll need to follow my command, again, whether you like it or not. You’ll soon learn, Commodore, that what you can and can’t do on the seas becomes very, very different than when you’re sailing with the Amestrian Navy. You can sail under a pirate, no matter what you might have thought before, and you’ll need to if you want to rescue Edward alive.”
For a moment, she thought he was about to raise the sword again, that she would really have to fight him, but with a sigh, he sheathed it.
“Good,” she said curtly, turning back to face the horizon. “Now, Tortuga.”
Tortuga, Roy thought sourly, had to be the foulest, most disgusting pit of seething humanity that had ever seen the face of the planet.
He wondered if it would be any better by daylight, but had to admit that he didn’t want to see it that way, its garish flaws and debauchery illuminated any more than they already were. He stepped around drunks and their vomit, brushed off clever pickpockets, and dodged sex workers of all genders and statuses doing their best to lure him and Riza in. He could honestly say that, despite growing up with sex workers, he really did not want to know about the discount he and Riza could get together.
“We’re getting a crew from here?” Roy muttered, shooting a disdainful look at a pair of legs dangling from inside a barrel, a loud snoring sound coming from inside. “I don’t know if we can find anyone sober enough to sail.”
“Trust me, sobriety is not a requirement for good sailing. Quite the opposite, in fact; the drunker they are, the stupider risks they’ll take for you.”
Roy half expected to see the flash of a grin on Riza’s face, but she only searched the crowd ahead of them intently, stopping occasionally to whisper a question into an ear, receive shrugs or points in certain directions. Roy ended up lost within minutes, but Riza at least appeared like she knew where they were going.
Eventually, they reached a tavern, tastefully named “The Fuhrer’s Ass,” and Roy had to wince as they stepped inside.
The smell washed over him, unwashed bodies, every imaginable kind of alcohol, and other things he didn’t want to think about. Omegas sat straddling alphas, clothing falling off their shoulders, betas with their hands on all sorts, and every single person in the tavern had a drink nearby.
“Well I’ll be damned, even more than I am already! Riza Hawkeye, back from the dead! Again!”
Roy turned towards the voice, loud and cheerful above the ruckus, and saw a tall man striding towards them. His long velvet jacket was a deep purple, fraying at the corners, a matching hat on top of his head with a pheasant’s feather sticking out of the top. Underneath, a golden belt offset a truly terrible bright red outfit, a color, Roy thought with a pang, that Ed would have loved.
He might have loved the terrible clothing, too, he thought critically, trying to draw his mind away from his worry. He looked up over the face, grinning, with black stubble on the chin, and frowned. Something familiar…
“Maes Hughes?” he choked, eyes widening.
The brow creased, then the eyes brightened again, Maes reaching up to sweep the hat off of his head and bowing deeply. “Roy Mustang! I haven’t seen you in ages! And look at you, just as put-together as always!”
“You know each other?” Riza asked, slight amusement in her voice.
“I was about to ask you the same—“ Roy muttered, but Maes interrupted him.
“Do we ever! And let me tell you,” he continued, slapping Roy on the shoulder. “Roy boy here is a fantastic—”
Roy’s elbow shot out, catching Maes in the ribs, sending him over wheezing. Riza did not need to know about their ill-advised affair, so many years ago, on one of Roy’s ships. Though it had begun casually, Roy had gotten attached, too attached, but Maes, beta as he was, soon lost interest in Roy’s sexual habits. They had drifted apart afterwards. But Maes had been fairly respectable. Enough. How had he ended up here?
“You can seduce him later, Hughes. For now, I need a favor.”
Maes drew back, looking mock offended, placing the garish hat over his heart. “Seduce! I would never! Why, my lady wife would have my balls, if I didn’t castrate myself first!”
At that, Riza—and Roy—actually choked. “Wife?” she managed, looking genuinely shocked.
“Wife!” he replied cheerfully, hand digging into his pocket. “Would you like to see photos? I have so many; she’s the loveliest and smartest and—”
“Pass,” Riza interrupted brusquely, then turned to Roy. “Mustang.”
Maes’s eyebrows shot up, and Roy could not only see him make the connection, but several other heads turning at the name as well. Roy gritted his teeth.
“Call me Roy,” he snapped, voice low. “And only Roy. That goes for both of you. Understood?” He glared at Maes, then Riza.
She only sighed, looking absolutely unimpressed. “Roy. I’m assuming you brought cenz?” At his nod, she waved towards the entrance. “Go find us a place to stay. You’re pickier than I am, so if we end up somewhere you hate, it’ll be your fault. Got it?”
Roy bristled at the orders, but Riza’s words from earlier that day lingered with him. He would have to listen to her if he wanted Ed back. As Riza slung an arm around Maes, leading him away, he glared after their backs.
He then turned to go, but not before his sharp ears picked up on Maes’s voice.
“Mustang!” he hissed. “I never put it together. Is he…?”
“Yes,” came Riza’s low reply. “He’s Richard Mustang’s son. I believe I’ve got myself some leverage.”
Despite his worst fears, Tortuga in daylight wasn’t any worse than it under moonlight. The revelry had died down, at least, and most of the drunks from last night seemed to be sleeping it off. The worst threat now seemed to be stumbling over them.
He tried to tell himself that the itching was probably psychosomatic, that he had done a very thorough investigation of the mattresses from the night before and found no bugs. But still, he found himself scratching furiously at even the hint of an itch.
Maes led them to the docks, where the Alchemy stood docked, a line of soldiers standing for Riza’s inspection. She smirked slightly, stepping forward to the first, an individual of medium height and build, sex obscured by a wide brimmed hat over the head.
“So,” Riza drawled, looking pleased. “Looks like you’ve put together a fine band of miscreants for our adventures.”
“All of ‘em will fight tooth and nail for you, Captain, and they’re all at least half-mad to boot.”
Riza reached out to take the brim of the hat, tugging it off. As she did so, she asked, “Name, sailor?”
But as the hat came free, Riza froze, eyes wide, as they settled on the face in front of her. A lovely woman with short, dark hair; long, thick eyelashes, and a small mole right below her eye stared back at her.
Without warning, she cocked her fist back and walloped Riza in the face, sending her staggering to the ground.
Roy lunged forward, dismayed and even afraid for even a brief moment before realizing exactly who he was about to protect. He paused, then drew back, glancing down at Riza’s fallen form.
“Oh, my,” Maes murmured, voice mild. “Is that Maria Ross I see? What an unexpected coincidence.”
The woman named Maria Ross, dark eyes frigid, cracked her neck, then her knuckles, glared down at Riza as she staggered back to her feet.
Riza shot a venomous glare at Maes, but he ignored it. She turned back to Maria.
“You!” Maria snarled, stepping forward, fists clenched, mere breaths away from Riza. The two women were fairly matched in height, but for some reason, Maria seemed to be glaring down.
“Me?” Riza murmured, wary but unrepentant.
“You stole my ship!” Maria snapped, drawing herself up.
“You let your guard down,” Riza replied mildly. “And I more… borrowed it. With every intention of returning it.”
“You got me drunk!”
“We got drunk together.”
Maria scoffed, crossing her arms, eyes gleaming dangerously. Roy straightened slightly, nose picking up the scent of an irate alpha. This could get messy.
“And I come here, wanting to see what you’re up to, maybe if you’ve come to make amends,” Maria continued, eyes narrowing, “but no, just here with your latest ship, collecting a crew. Tell me, what happened to mine?”
Riza drew back slightly at that. She didn’t look sheepish, precisely, but perhaps a bit less cocky when she cleared her throat. “Well, it may have had an… accident.”
“Of course it did,” Maria spat viciously. “And can you even think of what it did—”
“This one’s for you,” Riza continued smoothly, as if Maria hadn’t even spoken. “Once I’m finished with it, once I have mine back, it’s all yours. You think I’d return here without a token of my apologies and affection?”
Maria’s eyes, still narrowed, seemed to take on a more suspicious look than angry. “You did not.”
“Maria, love, what use could I have for it after I have the Hayate back?” Riza gestured over at the Alchemy, and Roy bristled at the implication that she could simply keep it after all this was finished. But no way was he going to risk losing his alliance now.
Maria turned then, though didn’t step back, going over it with a critical eye. “I suppose it isn’t terrible.”
“Isn’t terrible! It’s a far cry from that bucket of rotting wood I, er, borrowed. Nicked it from Port Dublith. They say it’s the fastest ship in the Xerxesian Sea.”
“Minus the Hayate, of course,” Maria replied dryly, and Riza only inclined her head slightly in acknowledgement.
“So, Madame Ross, does this make us even?”
Maria still looked hesitant, and Roy wondered once again if there would be trouble. He supposed he’d have to defend Riza from especially grievous harm.
Then, however, Riza leaned in, placing a hand on Maria’s chest, and kissed her deeply.
Judging from Maria’s slight gasp, it was a very good kiss, and they remained that way for several moments, Riza tilting her head slightly before pulling away, one eyebrow raised, expression still serious as always. The two watched each other.
“All right,” Maria finally said, voice slightly raspier than before. “I suppose we’re even.”
At that, Riza smirked, probably the largest smile Roy had seen on her face yet. “Excellent.” She reached out to clap Maria on her shoulder. “I even promise not to do anything terrible to you the next time you get drunk.”
“How about before?” Maria murmured, and Roy lifted his eyes up to the sky. Thankfully, Riza’s only response was a wink, and she moved along, exchanging a few words with each person standing, until she reached a tall young man who didn’t answer.
“I asked you,” she repeated, tone taking on a stern note, “what your name was.”
He only stared back, a frown beginning to crease his face, glaring back with brilliant blue eyes under a sweep of blond bangs. Though the hair wasn’t quite the same shade and he was quite a bit taller than Ed, the expression, demeanor, and hair color sent a pang through Roy’s chest.
“He doesn’t talk, Captain.” A high-pitched voice, sounding almost alarmingly young, spoke up. A boy, clearly a few years younger than the other, stepped forward slightly, and for a moment, Roy could see why Riza had missed him. He had to be Ed’s height, maybe even shorter.
“Why not? And who are you?”
“Fletcher Tringham, and this is Russell Tringham. He had… the Amestrian navy caught him a few years back and cut out his tongue.” Roy could see the older, Russell, tense at the words, but he nodded in agreement. “I can translate for him. We have hand signs.”
“I see,” Riza said steadily. Was it Roy’s imagination, or had her eyes flicked back over towards him when he had mentioned what the Amestrian navy had done. Shit, he couldn’t have been more than fifteen at the time, and Fletcher couldn’t be more than fifteen now. He hadn’t presented yet, still with the odd neutral smell that would inevitably give away as he grew older, but given that betas usually presented by fifteen at the latest, Roy imagined he would end up an omega, just like his older brother. Russell Tringham was one, clearly newly presented, but Roy had no doubt, given the steel in his eyes, that anyone who took him for weak or useless would be quickly and thoroughly corrected.
“It’ll have no effect on your work as a sailor, though, I trust?” she said finally.
Russell’s eyes flashed, and he lifted his chin, staring defiantly back at her, an indignant expression clear upon his face. She raised an eyebrow.
“He, uh, says yes, Captain,” Fletcher said, voice quiet but steady.
Riza nodded and moved on, completing her inspection, before turning back to Maes.
“You’ve outdone yourself, you rapscallion. Will you be joining us, or do you have a wife to tend to?”
“Not at all!” A woman’s voice, pleasant and neutral, chimed from the gangplank.
Riza and Roy both turned in the direction of that voice to see a woman about Maes’s age making her way down, smiling pleasantly. At first glance, she seemed to be wearing a skirt, but as she came closer, Roy could see that they were actually a pair of full breeches that gave the appearance of a skirt from a distance.
“As if I’d leave without her!” Maes beamed. “As if you would. She’s the best boatswain in the Xerxesian Sea!”
“You’re bringing your wife?” Riza asked flatly, but the woman walked right up to her, chin raised, though the pleasant expression hadn’t left her face.
“I’m more than just his wife, Captain Hawkeye. Gracia Hughes, boatswain, at your service.” She tilted her head. “I can assure you, marriage has not dulled my abilities one bit.”
Despite her calmness, Riza didn’t brush her off, instead sizing her up, watching her carefully. After a few moments, she nodded.
“And the ship?”
“Excellent condition, Captain. And there’s one more crew member I think you’d like to meet.”
Gracia lifted her fingers to her mouth, letting forth a sharp whistle. Immediately, a black and white bolt of furred lightning dashed down the gangplank, hurtling towards Riza.
For a moment, Roy didn’t realize that the shriek of delighted laughter was Riza’s. He had never heard that sort of joy from her, never seen an unguarded smile on her face. But she knelt, the Shiba dog pressing against her, wagging its tail with such glee that its entire body shook. Riza held it tightly, making most undignified cooing noises.
“Hayate here’s been pining for you since you left. I don’t think he understood that it was too dangerous to come along, and he won’t forgive you if you leave him behind now.”
Riza nodded to Maes, the ecstatic grin still on her face. “Absolutely.” Turning away, she raised her voice. “Onto the ship, then! We’re on borrowed time! Chop chop! Anyone who falls behind gets left behind!”
In a sudden rush, the entire line surged towards the ship, instantly picking up the familiar pace of a crew getting ready to sail. Despite the initial ragtag appearance, Maes had picked out a good bunch.
As Maes saw to the final preparations, Roy watched, walking towards the ship himself—
“There he is!”
The voice seemed to penetrate the general murmur of humanity, and Roy turned, frowning slightly.
And then froze as he saw two figures in Amestrian blue running towards him.
“Ship!” he called, whirling around, eyes widening. “To the ship!” When Riza poked her head over the railing, he called, “They’ve found us! We need to go!”
The last of the crew crowded onto the gangplank, no strangers to departing in a hurry. Roy glanced behind him briefly, noting that the Tortugans seemed to be jeering and throwing rotten fruit at the two marines chasing him. Bless the lawlessness in this place for once. But they hadn’t all gotten on yet—
The ship rocked, and the gangplank wobbled, already off-balance from the hurried rush of feet. Before Roy could step onto it and before Russell Tringham could step off, it slipped, sending both the wood and the young man toppling into the ocean.
Russell let out a strangled yelp, flailing around for several moments before managing to grab onto the plank. Good for him; now he wouldn’t drown. Roy, however, had no way of getting onto the ship and two marines hot on his trail.
He didn’t really have much of a choice. Roy turned, gripping the hilt of his sword. He wished it hadn’t come to this, but he had to save Ed, even if it cost him his own neck.
For the first time, as the thought entered his mind, he realized that this mission would definitely cost his career and likely his life. Just as quickly, he decided that it was worth it.
But as the two got closer, they didn’t raise their guns or even pull out swords. Instead, the moment they got close, the shorter bent over, panting, hands on his knees. The second, much taller and quite blond, looked a little winded himself, but not by much. With a surge of recognition, Roy’s jaw dropped.
“The one and only! Well, two and only, I guess.” Havoc trailed off, glancing over at Fuery.
“Couldn’t… leave you… behind,” Fuery panted, wheezing at this point. Roy winced; he knew that too much exertion wasn’t good for him.
“And she,” Havoc continued, nodding in Riza’s direction, who was watching the proceedings with interest, “mentioned Tortuga while we were talking. So we figured we might as well try to track you down here.”
“To bring me back?” Roy asked, voice wary, frown furrowing his brow.
“Nah.” Havoc shook his head, reaching over to rub Fuery’s back, which seemed to steady him a bit. “To keep you from getting yourself killed. Also to warn you. The Admiral’s furious. She wants your head on a pike.”
Roy nodded grimly. “I expected no less. And you just… came after me? Without telling her?”
“’Course.” Fuery, breath somewhat recovered by now, nodded. “We don’t want you dead.”
Roy nodded again, though this time with determination. “I had hoped we would have more time before my ruse was discovered, but apparently not.” He turned back to the ship, which had recovered Russell and the gangplank, both dripping wet and one of them clearly very irate. “Can we get that set back up? We’ve two more for the crew.”
Though both Havoc and Fuery looked startled at the declaration of their status as crew, they followed Roy aboard, the stains on their blue uniforms from the rotten vegetables almost comical.
“We’ll have to get you boys some new clothes,” Maes murmured, all quartermaster’s business, and led them away. Roy had to suppress a smile. He hadn’t expected a show of loyalty like this, not with so much to lose. While Roy had already laid out at least five different explanations for their presence when the dung finally hit the rudder—him ordering them, deceiving them, capturing them to prevent news of his absconding with the ship—and would have plenty more by the end of it all, the thought that they came with the full intention of support, even at the cost of their careers or, possibly, lives, left him with a confidence he hadn’t felt yet.
He turned to Riza, watching her pull out a compass that he had seen her inspect before. Roy frowned, walking over. When he caught a glimpse of it, then glanced over at the rising sun, he confirmed his suspicions.
“Why use a compass that doesn’t work?” he asked.
She looked up from behind the wheel, snapping it shut. “Who says it doesn’t work?”
“I just saw it. The sun’s rising in the east, and the compass—”
“It doesn’t point north, Commodore Mustang. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.”
Without waiting for a reply, she lifted her voice, letting it carry across the ship.
“Let loose the mains, you lot! I want us out of sight of Tortuga yesterday!”
Despite the late hour, Ed couldn’t even imagine sleeping, especially not in that luxurious bed, both foreboding and inviting, so pristine that it appeared not to have been slept in for quite some time.
Nor did he plan to do anything to alleviate the heat. Despite the pressure growing once again, Kimblee would undoubtedly smell it. Ed had escaped unscathed so far; he had no desire to test his luck, especially not against an alpha as canny and dangerous as Kimblee.
He tried to distract himself with a cursory inspection of the bookcases lining one wall of the cabin. He didn’t know what he was expecting—Sacking and Pillaging for the Beginner, perhaps—but he didn’t find it. Instead, he found treatises on trade and economics, histories from many perspectives, both favorable and critical towards Amestris. Scientific works, too, but nothing especially recent. A Deconstruction of the Heavens, for example, was on Ed’s own bookshelf, right next to three others that had eventually disproved the once-revolutionary text.
But nothing caught his attention especially, and with a sigh, he stepped away, pacing back to the middle of the room and glancing around. The leaded glass of the window would have likely provided a splendid view out onto the sea, but even with the light of the moon, all Ed caught was blackness.
He sighed, resting his head against it morosely. Despite himself, he thought back, back to Xerxes, back to Roy. Roy had to know Ed was missing by now: it had been an entire day since the kidnapping. After passing out from sheer exhaustion, he had woken up in the next morning in the brig, utterly alone, with what little remained of his clothing soaked with seawater. He had spent the day there, only being dragged up to the captain’s cabin once again after the sun had set with no explanation.
So here he stood, shivering and damp and exhausted. And starving.
Finally, a thump sounded from the front, and Ed turned to see Kimblee striding in, a bundle in his hands. At Ed’s suspicious glare, he only smiled, pleasant, but in a way that left Ed shivering slightly.
“My, you look positively freezing,” he murmured. “What a coincidence. I’ve come to invite you to dinner with me, and I have a change of clothes perfect for the occasion. You can get rid of those dreadful rags.”
Ed’s eyes narrowed, but the word ‘dinner’ had his full attention. “And where will it be?”
“Here, of course.” Kimblee strode over, placing the bundle on one of the elegant chairs. “Do take a look at what I’ve provided.”
Ed crept over as Kimblee stepped back, picking through the offering. To his surprise, a well-kept, if slightly old-fashioned, set of clothing lay there. What’s more, they seemed to be in his size. He lifted the waistcoat, admiring the shade of red despite himself.
“Please, try it on. I’d love to see how it fits.”
Now the reality of the situation began to sink in.
“A gentleman would step out,” he said finally, trying and failing to restrain the bite in his words.
“If I see one, I shall let you know.” Kimblee tilted his head, eyes half-lidded, smirk stretched across his face. “What, are you shy?” At Ed’s continued glare, he sighed.
“Fine, fine. I suppose I could allow you some privacy.”
Ed started to relax, very slightly, but instead of leaving, Kimblee simply turned around. Ed waited, but he made no move to leave.
“Are you changing?” Kimblee called. “I’ll be turning around very soon; I’d advise you change before I do it for you.”
Spitting a curse, Ed scrambled to strip, hyperaware of his naked body not ten feet away from Kimblee. He shoved on the underwear first, feeling at least slightly less exposed, then the breeches, a soft material that might have been doeskin, dyed a rich black. Once he got the shirt on, he relaxed, but soon found himself distracted with the conundrum of trying to lace up the waistcoat.
It apparently took more inspiration from corsets than his normal wear, complicated lacing and all. By the time Kimblee turned around, he had tangled the strings and his wrists so badly he wondered if he would be able to eat.
Kimblee simply chuckled, stepping over in two long strides and taking Ed’s wrists. “Please, you’ll lose an arm that way.” With surprising gentleness, he worked Ed’s hands loose from the mass of string, then began lacing the back properly.
Ed thanked whoever might be listening that he at least had a shirt on underneath this layer, because he already wanted to combust, being so close to Kimblee like this. He hated the slight shiver that ran through him at the proximity, the lurking desire to lean back into him, let those arms slide around him, pull him in tightly. The fingers seemed to send little jolts of electricity up his back, and when they finally gripped the strings and pulled, tightly, Ed gasped, the air rushing from his lungs. For a moment, dizziness swept over him, but he managed to grab hold of himself—barely—as Kimblee finished tying it properly.
The moment he was able to wrench away, he did, whirling, watching warily. But Kimblee only stood back, admiringly taking in the sight of him.
“There you are. You look like a proper gentleman this way. Surely it must be nice, to find yourself in clothes so fine.”
Ed managed to bite back a retort that he wore them with regularity. No need for Kimblee to get ideas that he was a lot more important than he seemed—though, at this point, would it be so bad? Ransom would at least get him home.
“Do you plan to hold to the promise you made during our initial agreement?” Ed asked, cold, ignoring the way his chest rose and fell.
“But of course. I’m a man of my word, after all.”
Ed snorted, but looked away, lifting his chin haughtily. “Then release me. You have your little trinket, and nothing more to gain from me.”
Kimblee gestured to the table. “I’ll be the judge of that. Please, take a seat. We can talk business over dinner.”
An unpleasant feeling knotted in his gut. He began to develop a sneaking suspicion that Kimblee knew, knew that Ed had lied about his identity, and was going to make him regret it before the inevitable ransom demand. Perhaps even cut off his finger and send it. Ed had heard of such barbarous methods; he wouldn’t put it beyond pirates to implement them.
Still, what else could he do? He sat, chin still raised defiantly.
Kimblee, still standing, rang a bell, and the cabin doors opened. Ed tried to keep his eyes from going wide at the feast that the pirates presented. He had had food of this caliber before, of course, but he hadn’t expected it on a pirate ship.
Though at that thought, he let his eyes go a little wide. A governor’s son wouldn’t be impressed at the offerings.
Kimblee seemed pleased at the reaction, and he motioned for the food to be set down. Once finished, the pirates lit the candles and vanished back through the doors. Kimblee sat, watching Ed for a few moments, taking in the sight. Ed sat rigid, watching him back, refusing to submit.
“Please, eat,” Kimblee finally said, gesturing at the table. “We say no prayers here. Godless heathens, really.”
Ed could believe it. He hesitated for a moment, but he hadn’t had anything in almost a day. Maybe over a day? He couldn’t tell what time it was. He picked up the utensils, but then looked up at Kimblee’s snort.
“Please. Aren’t you Xerxesian? You look it.”
“Half,” Ed replied sharply, and Kimblee nodded.
“Then you should be reasonable about this. No need for useless utensils. A formality that I’ve always found especially trying.”
Ed neglected to mention that Xerxesian cuisine was usually eaten with only hands due to its preparation, which made it much less messy—and that Xerxesians tended to stay cleaner, which made it a much more sanitary endeavor. But his stomach screamed at him to eat, and after a moment, despite the sticky sauces, Ed grabbed the steak by its bone and bit into it.
That such wonderful fare would be found in such conditions left Ed faintly surprised in some corner of his mind, but the rest of it was preoccupied with profound relief as he practically inhaled the food. So delicious and satisfying was the food that it distracted him, for a time, from the desperation of the heat. Once deriving the steak of all edible parts—including the marrow—he downed it with a generous amount of wine, then moved on to the seafood: Mahi with mango, fresh octopus, scallops served in their dappled shells. Plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables served as sides, and Ed tried them all, expertly using the dryer and leafier ones to avoid dirtying his hands too much. Finally, lifting his head from picking clean a chicken bone, he paused.
Kimblee hadn’t eaten a bite, simply watched him, faintly amused.
Slowly, Ed set down the bone, alarm bells suddenly ringing. He glanced over at Kimblee, to see if perhaps he had simply cleared a plate, but one wasn’t even in front of him.
“Did you enjoy?” he murmured, raising an eyebrow.
Ed gripped the edge of the table, pushing back slightly. During the motion, his fingers felt the cold steel of the knife usually used to cut meat, and he subtly slipped it off, palming it.
“What’s the matter with it,” Ed snapped flatly, more a statement than a question. Kimblee drew back in mock surprise.
“Why, Edward, why would you ever think that anything would be wrong with it? I just wanted to see you comfortable.”
“Ed,” Ed snapped. The way Kimblee said Edward… it reminded him too much of Roy, and it left Ed seething. He only wanted Roy to say his name that way. “And you’re not eating. Did you fucking poison me?”
“Please, Mister Mustang—”
“I said my name is Ed!”
Kimble sighed dramatically. “Please, Ed. I’ve already offered you my hospitality many times; you don’t need to continue to insult it. I have no reason for killing you.”
“You have no reason for keeping me, either!” Ed snapped, snatching up his napkin and wiping his face angrily. “It’s not like you won’t be long gone right after dropping me off, so really, unless you just want to keep feeding me, there’s no reason not to.”
“See, Ed, that’s where you’re wrong.” He steepled his fingers, tilting his head and watching Ed. There was a hunger in his eyes that left Ed’s stomach a twisting mess. Despite their situation, however, there was nothing sexual in the gaze, no indication that it had anything to do with Ed’s status or heat. Somehow, that worried Ed more.
Kimblee drew out the medallion from inside his jacket and held it up. “Do you know what this is?”
Ed watched it carefully, considering his answer. Finally, he said, “It’s an alchemical symbol.”
Kimblee’s eyes lit up, and he looked absolutely thrilled at the words. “You’ve much more to you than I thought, Ed. Yes, it’s an array. One of eight hundred and eighty-two, to be precise.” He tilted his head, smirking. “When Fuhrer Bradley led his invasion of Xerxes, he did so not just for its resources, but for its knowledge. Legend says that the Xerxesians, knowing they could not win against the military might of Amestris, forsook their abilities rather than letting it fall into enemy hands. Stripped the science of alchemy from the minds of any who practiced it, sealing it away for only those clever enough to discover it. Inscribing the arrays on pure gold, the knowledge only to ever be reclaimed by those who sacrificed to gain it, and curse any who took instead of gave. The Amestrians, they thought, would never think to sacrifice, and would ensure their own doom.”
Ed scoffed. “Please. Legends. Myths. Yes, alchemy was a science, but hardly the stuff of magic later tales make it out to be.”
“Mm, see, we thought the same. Knowledge, gained through sacrifice? On an island that can only be found by those who already know where it is? We found it; clearly that part was a story. And all we found were the coins. Beautiful, yes, but not a word of knowledge to be found. So we did the reasonable thing.”
“Left, like civilized human beings?” Ed muttered.
Kimblee let out a delighted laugh. “We took them, of course. Spent them. Lived like kings. And how wonderful it was, for a time. But soon, we realized…” He reached onto the table, picking up an apple and inspecting it. “That no matter how much we ate, how much we drank, we never found satisfaction. Starvation. Thirst. In the midst of bounty.” He glanced over at Ed, eyes raking him up and down. “Insatiable lust, each encounter worse than the last—not even the most desperate omega in the fiercest of heats was enough.” He laughed again, this time harder, dropping the apple. “And I’ve come to learn that I was a fool. Curses are very real, Ed,” he finished smoothly.
“I’m sure,” he snapped, wondering if this was a power play or if the man was simply batshit fucking crazy.
“You will be.” He stood, walking over to Ed, who pushed himself up, sliding the knife up his sleeve. He stepped back, keeping the chair between the two of them. “See, the real treasure wasn’t in the coins. The real treasure will be in the knowledge. Once we collect all of it once again, and we make our sacrifice.” His eyes gleamed. “And you, sir, have just given us the last of the coins we need.”
“And… and the sacrifice?” Ed choked out, barely able to breathe as he began to realize the consequences of his actions.
Kimblee reached out, fingers stretched towards Ed’s face. “I told you. I have no reason for killing you.” His fingers touched Ed’s jaw with the faintest of caresses, eyes gleaming. “Yet.”
With a snarl, Ed smacked the arm away with one hand, drawing the knife as he did so. With one swift motion, he sank its blade into the left side of Kimblee’s chest. Into his heart.
He panted for a few moments, triumph coursing through him as he stared at the silver blade sticking out of the white jacket. But something was wrong. It should be blooming red with blood. And Kimblee should not be watching it idly, looking almost impressed.
With one casual hand, he reached up and plucked it out. Blood did shine on the blade, but it didn’t flow from the wound, as it would have from a living body, the heart still beating.
Ed’s jaw dropped in horror.
“Spirited, certainly. I was right when I decided you were interesting.” Kimblee strolled forward leisurely, and for a moment, every part of Ed’s body was too numb with horror for him to do anything than stumble backwards. Soon, however, he reached the back of the room, pressing against the windows. A wild thought flew through his mind, that he should turn and jump, see if there was some way to swim back to shore. Anything had to be better than facing Kimblee, the knife held outwards, both casual and threatening at the exact same time.
But Kimblee dropped it as he stepped forward again, toes stopping on the edge of the moonlight beaming in through the window.
“Perhaps,” he murmured, eyes gleaming, “you’ll be the first thing I feel, once I’m free.”
He stepped forward, into the moonlight, slowly and deliberately. Ed’s eyes widened as he took in the horrific, impossible sight.
And then he screamed.
I want to give a quick shoutout to my friend moonbelowsea, who sent me a suggestion for some Roy dialogue that I thought was the most touching thing I've ever read, and I've worked it into the story. You'll know the part when you see it. Those words are all hers.
<3 you lus
A horrified noise ripped from his throat, and he couldn’t stop it, much as he told himself to stifle it, to stop clawing his nails into the wood behind him, to get to his sagging legs and run, but his feet froze to the ground as Kimblee grew ever closer, his flesh melting away as the moonlight touched him. Smooth, pale skin turned into rotting chunks, bones showing through, teeth bared in a mockery of a grimace as the lips peeled back, shriveling up and vanishing. Bits of scalp hung from his head, still with hair attached, the rest hanging in bedraggled strands around Kimblee’s face. The clothing, once tidy and immaculate, seemed to shred before Ed’s eyes, hanging limply off the skeletal form that was all that remained of the pirate captain. When he finally stopped, Ed found that he couldn’t even scream anymore.
“Yes,” he murmured, voice still smooth and arrogant, after all of that. “We’re monsters.” He reached out one skeletal finger towards Ed’s face. “So how could I resist a glimpse of beauty with you?”
The brush of the bone against the skin of Ed’s cheek jolted him from his stupor, and he twisted away, gasping. With a cry of—what? Terror? Defiance?—he swung at Kimblee, connecting firmly with where his nose would have been. A gratifying crunch sounded beneath his hand, but as he pulled away, even as bone fragments fell to the floor, the only sign Kimblee showed of even minor inconvenience was a staggered few steps back.
But it was enough. Ed shot away from the window, bolting towards the door, listening intently for footsteps behind him. A miracle, perhaps, but he couldn’t hear anything. With a gasp of relief, he fumbled at the handle, flung the door open, and tripped out into the sea air.
If he had thought this would be better, however, he was dead wrong.
Darius and Heinkel, recognizable from their hair and physique, turned, but that was where the resemblance stopped. Their bodies had skeletonized the same way that Kimblee’s had, and he couldn’t tell if they were grinning or simply staring, their lips gone. He shrieked again, then whirled, only to run into another pirate—this one the woman with the tattoo he had seen earlier, it still visible on the shriveled, almost mummified flesh clinging to her cheek. He shoved past her, gasping, but with every step he took, he descended further into a nightmare.
Heads turned, held up only by spines, to watch him, laugh at him. Tattered hats, jackets, rags draped on bone, only made the entire scene that much more horrific. He turned to find a door belowdeck, to find somewhere to barricade himself, but found himself blocked by a maze of undead pirates. He stumbled closer to the front of the ship, still keeping an eye out—
There! He dodged a reaching hand, then another, but the third caught him. With a snarl, he brought his fist down on the wrist—and it detached, the hand skittering up his arm towards his neck.
He screamed again, grabbing the hand and throwing it behind him, trying to dive through a gap in the ranks—
But hands wrapped around his arms and lifted him, and ignoring his kicking and shrieking, brought him ever closer to a vaguely familiar form, draped in tatters of white clothing.
“Now you see, Edward,” Kimblee hissed, his eyes, the only whole things left in his body, gleaming. “The moonlight shows our true forms. Neither living nor dead, we endure a cursed existence. The price of taking even one of the coins was this, condemning us to damnation, and we took them all. Spent them all.”
The two pirates deposited him in front of Kimblee, shoving him forward, into the mass of bones. He gasped, but Kimblee grabbed the front of the waistcoat, his other hand reaching up to grip Ed’s chin so hard that he couldn’t twist away.
“Myths. Legends. Just as you said.” He grinned terribly, leaning in closer. “And now, you’re in one too.”
With another shriek, Ed kicked forward, managing to connect with a knee. Kimblee’s hand fell away, though intentionally or because the attack startled him, Ed couldn’t say. With a gasp, he twisted free, lunging towards the open door to the captain’s cabin.
Faster than he ever thought he could, he slammed the door shut, the bar falling into place behind him.
He waited for one terrifying moment, expecting a pounding, even a crashing as they tried to break the door down. But the only thing that drifted in from outside was laughter.
With a horrified moan, Ed sank to the floor, shaking, back to the wall, knees drawn up to his chest. After a few moments, trying to catch his breath, he wrapped his arms around his legs, buried his face in his knees, and began to sob.
Roy drew relief from the fact that he wasn’t the only one of the crew sitting on the floor of the deck, exhausted, slumped against the wall of the ship. He flicked soaked bangs out of his eyes, glancing around.
While all necessary hands were on deck, the storm had subsided, leaving time for those not needed to take a breather. Even Maes, who, as quartermaster, was one of the most important people on the ship, had staggered over to sit next to him.
“Hate storms,” he muttered, taking a swig from a flask and handing it to Roy. Roy accepted, the liquor providing at least a kind of warmth that burned down his throat.
“So do I,” Roy murmured, running his fingers through his hair, trying to get the water out of it. “That was one of the nastier ones I’ve gone through, and I wasn’t even navigated. Riza Hawkeye has talent, for all her flaws.”
“Tell us something we don’t know!” Maes replied, eternally cheerful. “She’s something of a mystery, you know, everything before she showed up on Tortuga, several years back. Seven, I think, actually. How time flies!” He laughed.
Somehow, the knowledge that Maes had been an occasional visitor to Tortuga even back during their acquaintance surprised Roy not at all. “How did you get involved in piracy, anyway?” he asked, voice dry.
Maes sighed, tugging off his hat and waving it. Water droplets splattered them both. “Well, I’ve always been in and out. The navy’s not… the best to its nonmilitary coworkers,” he finished dryly.
Roy nodded, grimacing. Unfortunately, something he couldn’t correct across the entire organization.
“So I’d take some unofficial jobs to get money. Some… less legitimate than others. And then I met Gracia.” With a besotted sigh, he turned to watch her, testing ropes, climbing netting to check on sails, expertly giving the ship a thorough inspection after the storm.
“She had grown up in a family who had used to be wealthy, and still thought they were. They weren’t terribly fond of the notion that an omega like Gracia had plans beyond marrying and popping out babies. Lucky for me!”
“And so she recruited you?” Roy asked dryly.
“Well, not right away, but I came around a few years back, when we married. Actually, now that I think about it,” he continued, voice thoughtful, “the first time I met her, I managed to charm her out of taking a job on a crew and spending some time with me instead. Lucky that; it was Riza’s last foray as the Captain of the Black Hayate.”
Roy choked on his second sip of alcohol, sputtering a bit before handing it over to Maes. “She was what?”
“Oh, yeah, didn’t you know?”
“Well, I knew she had a dog named Hayate, but not…” He trailed off, turning his head back to the wheel, where Riza stood, still navigating fearlessly. “She didn’t say anything about it.”
“She named her ship after the dog. First dog, of course. The Black Hayate on the ship now is from its litter.” He glanced over, and Roy followed his gaze to Fuery, newly bedecked in much more appropriate clothing for absconding illegally with a ship on the high seas. He had Hayate in his arms, scratching behind his ears, laughing and cooing. “This was… what, it would have been twelve, fourteen years ago that she first took its wheel? Eighteen or twenty, I can’t remember. Anyway, so she had come to Tortuga, looking to go after the legendary treasure of Isla de Muerta.”
Roy’s eyebrows shot up. He had heard of it, the tales told by superstitious sailors. “She doesn’t seem the type to go chasing fairy tales.”
“No, she isn’t.” Maes grinned. “Which should tell you what you need to know about it. Anyway, Gracia nearly signed on. But she stayed behind instead. Good thing, given what happened next.”
Despite himself, Roy leaned in. “And what’s that?”
“Well, from what I hear, she and the quartermaster got close. Real close. Dunno exactly the nature, but…” He shrugged. “He’s a handsome alpha. Riza doesn’t like many men, but when she does, she’s damned decisive. From what I understand, he stole the bearings from her chamber, snuck a look at her maps while she was asleep. Not long after, there was a mutiny.”
“Sounds a lot like what she did to Maria Ross,” Roy murmured archly, and Maes snorted.
“Well, a little. But the difference was, Riza at least left Maria alive. The crew left Riza on a deserted island, alone with her dog, who fought nearly to the death to save her."
“The first Hayate?”
“Aye.” Maes nodded. “Now, see, when you maroon a pirate after a mutiny, it’s considered customary to give them a pistol loaded with one bullet, and one bullet only. It won’t help with hunting, or being rescued, but…” He lowered his voice. “When you’re starving on an island, no fresh water in sight, it becomes pretty tempting, you get me?”
“I get you,” Roy replied, wincing at the thought. Though the idea of suicide seemed repellant to him, he could see that the alternative could be much worse.
“Well, Riza, she didn’t let that drag her down. Word has it that she took to the water and swam back to land. Took her three weeks, it did, her and Hayate. They took turns sleeping, one carrying the other when they couldn’t keep going. They caught fish in the water, barely living off of what they found. But they finally made it to land.”
“I see.” Roy tried to keep the skepticism out of his voice.
“And once her feet hit earth, true, solid earth? She swore she’d have her revenge. And she still has the pistol, too.” He lifted a hand, index finger and thumb out to make a gun. “She’s saving that single bullet, to use against her treacherous quartermaster.”
“The captain of the Black Hayate. The one who kidnapped Ed.”
“Aye. Zolf Kimblee, the man who betrayed her.”
“That’s… very dramatic.” Once again, Roy kept his voice neutral, and Maes just laughed, pleased with himself. They sat in silence for a while before Maes opened his mouth, hesitated, and spoke again.
“So… about this Ed.”
At that, Roy straightened. “Yes? What about him?”
“I hear he’s your fiancé.”
“That he is.”
Maes was silent for a few moments, considering, staring off into the gray sky. Finally, he spoke.
“Are you doing this out of… duty and pride? I know the stories. ‘My bride was stolen, so I’m gonna get him back and punish the others because nobody gets what’s mine and gets away with it.’”
Roy bristled at the thought of the kidnapping. “That’s part of it, I suppose.”
“So, once you get him back, are you going to take him back to his father and leave him there? Drop him and have nothing more to do with it?”
Roy whipped his head to the side, mouth open. “What?”
“Well, you know.” Maes watched him back, expression serious. “He’s got to be damaged goods by now. I know you’re thinking of him, a pure delicate omega like spun glass, who you’ll find and save from a terrible fate. But face the truth, Roy. In reality, the glass has long since broken. Don’t get your hopes up. They’ve had him for how long now, and him in a heat? You’re not naïve. He’s not going to be a virgin, not anymore. Don’t get your hopes up.”
Fury surged up within Roy’s chest, and he nearly decked Maes, right then and there. He took a few breaths, trying to calm himself. “I don’t care,” he said tightly. “He could have invited the entire crew of the pirates into his bed and I’d still want him, if he’ll have me.”
Maes tilted his head, watching him, expression inscrutable. “But you’ve thrown away your life for this. You had a position within the navy that most people would kill for. Money, honor, prestige, and more. You’re throwing it away for a single person? One who isn’t even worth it anymore, by most accounts? You can find another spouse; there’s no need to throw your life away on this—”
“Stop,” Roy said, voice cold, and Maes did.
Roy struggled to his feet, taking more deep breaths to quell the rage coursing through him, doing his best not to tremble. He turned, gripping the railing of the ship, and Maes stood as well, watching him carefully. Roy focused on the fog, not the hurt, that someone he had trusted could betray him like this.
Finally, he spoke.
“Do you know why? Why I tried so hard, to climb the nigh-impenetrable rungs of the social ladder, attain wealth, power, all of this that you’re so concerned about me losing?”
Maes shook his head wordlessly, and Roy continued.
“I made captain years ago, not too long after I accompanied the governor on his journey to Xerxes. I know you haven’t ever been one, but there’s something that changes when you have your own ship, your own command, when you have the power to decide where to go, what to do, when you command the breeze that blows into your face.
“That day, when I was younger, I saw two amazing things right in front of me: I saw the sea in its terrible wildness, and I saw a golden boy I’d never be able to reach. That day, I fell in love twice, and I knew I wasn’t in any position to attain either.” He turned to look at Maes, face a mask of inscrutability.
“You’ve been thinking that my fiancé was a complement to my life. But all this time he’s been my end goal.”
Maes straightened, surprise clear in his face, and Roy continued.
“I don’t need everything else I’ve attained if I have him, because everything up until now has been steps on my way to be with him. And he’s accepted me, of his own free will. That’s all I need. As long as he’ll still have me, I will be there.”
Maes watched him for a few moments, then a slow smile spread across his face. He reached out to squeeze Roy’s shoulder.
“I’m really glad to hear that, actually,” he said softly. “I was worried. I know you’re a decent sort, for the navy, but most of what I’ve seen, once people get on up there...” He shook his head. “I’m sorry for what I’ve said. I could’ve asked you directly, I guess, but I’ve been burned too many times, even if it’s you. I believe you, and I’m glad I can come along to help.”
Roy’s anger had faded to irritation at that. He didn’t like the notion that he had been… tested, in some way, but he bit it back. He had heard enough horror stories about members of the military that he could at least understand Maes’s suspicion, even if he didn’t agree with it.
“I’m glad I pass to your satisfaction,” he snapped, then turned away.
To see several pairs of eyes watching him.
Havoc was the first one who spoke, back straight, a fierce loyalty in his eyes.
“I never knew that about you, chief,” he said, voice low but intense. “We were already behind you, a hundred and ten percent, but I’ll be damned if we don’t make sure you get your happily ever after. No matter what it takes. Got it?”
Roy managed to smile, mouth crooked, and he nodded.
Fuery piped up, “We’ll even alibi you to Admiral Armstrong, if we have to.”
Though Roy opened his mouth to reply, the third person spoke up, cutting him off.
“We’ll worry about her prissiness later. I want you lot to get ready.” She shot a stern look to Fuery and Havoc. “I’ve got some plans to work out with you.”
“Oh?” Roy asked, keeping his voice mild, watching her carefully. “Already?”
Riza smiled, but it was a mirthless thing, her eyes alight with revenge and hunger.
“Already.” The smile turned into a fierce grin, and she turned to look out onto the horizon,
“We’re catching up.”
The cold light of the sun filtered in through the window at the back of the captain’s cabin, illuminating a small form, curled up in the brightest of its rays. His hair, disheveled, gleamed an almost metallic shade of gold, one that matched his eyes, puffy and red-rimmed as they were. Still, the daylight provided some relief, as it meant that he would no longer see those… things.
With a deep breath, he pushed himself to his feet, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. It had been a lousy night, but he had finally managed to nod off, several hours after the shock and panic had worn off. He stumbled over to the table, still full of uneaten food, and reached for the water. Though not especially cold, it was better than nothing. He splashed it on his face, focusing on his eyes, hoping it could help the swelling go down.
Once that was finished, he sipped at the remainder, feeling it soothe his raw throat. Closing his eyes, he reached up to straighten his hair, tugging it out of its mussed ponytail and putting it into a braid. No need to let them know how they had disheveled him.
His gaze returned to the dinner table, and he headed over, fingers ghosting over the offerings as he tried to come up with some sort of plan.
A short time later, Ed looked up from a slightly stale piece of bread as the door swung open. He dropped it to the floor, lifting his chin and glaring out at the two escorts waiting for him. Darius and Heinkel, faces stern and unreadable.
“It’s time,” Heinkel said.
Ed stepped forward. He wasn’t going to be dragged to this. Wasn’t going to allow them to destroy his dignity, at least.
They knotted Ed’s hands in front of him, leading him out into the sunlight. Kimblee stood waiting, smiling coldly at him.
Ed only stared back, not saying a word.
With a low chuckle, Kimblee stepped around behind him, and Ed managed to keep from jumping when he felt gentle hands on his neck. Exhaustion, at least, kept the usual flicker of desire from that fucking heat to a minimum. Golden hair fell in waves around his face, and Ed’s shoulders tensed.
“Really?” he drawled, putting on his best disinterested voice, disdain heavy in each syllable.
Kimblee only laughed again as he ran his fingers through Ed’s hair. “So beautiful. It would be such a shame to bind it all up, where it can’t be seen.” Another movement, and Kimblee had placed the medallion around his neck, fastening it.
The pirates began to move forward, but Kimblee lifted a hand. “Hold.” They froze, and Ed turned his head slightly, trying to catch a glimpse without forfeiting any composure.
Kimblee’s hands started on his shoulders, then traced down his back. A “hmm” noise, and then they slid up his front as well. Ed resisted the urge to twist away; he wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction, even as Kimblee placed his hands on Ed’s sides.
Ed gritted his teeth as Kimblee continued to move his hands further down, over his ass, up the inside of his thigh—oh, fuck—!
“Ahah!” Kimblee shoved his hand down Ed’s pants, and Ed couldn’t withhold a gasp. But there was nothing sexual in the motion, and as he gripped the steak knife Ed had tied to his thigh with a napkin, withdrawing it, he tsked.
“I would have thought you had known better by now, Edward.” Kimblee sighed, forlorn. “You disappoint me.”
“My name is Ed,” Ed snapped, voice haughty, refusing to even look to the side or acknowledge Kimblee further.
Kimblee ignored him. “Let’s go.”
Ed’s escorts dragged him forward, the entire pirate crew watching him, making low, hungry, murmuring noises. Ed swallowed, refusing to show any fear, either. They led him to one of the small boats, lowering him into the water as they paddled ashore.
Though Darius and Heinkel led him with unrelenting cordiality, Ed could feel him begin to shake as they entered a dark cave, water sloshing as the paddles continued to dip. As Darius lit a torch, Ed could see the occasional skeleton curled up to the side, or splayed out with a rusty sword through the ribcage. With another swallow, he turned his eyes forward, doing his best to shut out the noises of the pirates whose boats followed.
Up ahead, Ed finally caught sight of the gleam of gold. When Darius’s torch advanced a little farther, Ed gasped.
Even as a rich governor’s son, he had never seen so much wealth in one place. Mounds of gold coins sat heaped on the ground, as if it were the hoard of some gigantic dragon. Chests sat half-open, jewels and precious metals spilling out onto the ground. Ed caught sight of statues, even, paintings, illuminated manuscripts, treasures that not only held monetary value, but amazing cultural value as well. If he had been here under any other circumstances, he might have cried with joy.
The boat bumped the edge of the land, and Darius and Heinkel helped Ed out. He pulled away from their touch, marching forward on his own.
Ahead of him, in the center of it all, sat an enormous stone chest designed with some sort of diagram. He couldn’t get close enough to see without arousing suspicion, but he longed to tug his hands out of their bindings and run over, taking in every ancient carving embedded in the stone.
It was towards this chest that Ed found himself dragged.
As he stepped towards it, one reluctant foot in front of the other, a mulish expression on his face, Kimblee breezed past him, taking his place next to it. Once they reached the chest, they shoved Ed forward, and Kimblee caught him by the back of his shirt.
“And now, Edward,” Kimblee murmured, “feast your eyes on something you’ll never see again.”
He shoved the top of the stone chest away with one foot, letting it rock to the ground with a tremendous crash.
Despite himself, Ed’s eyes widened at the sight: hundreds of coins, each with a unique design, as far as he could tell, on the reverse side of the skulls. Each one of them a brilliant, almost glowing gold.
“Appropriate, hmm?” Kimblee murmured, reaching up to stroke a lock of Ed’s hair behind his ear.
Ed gasped and twisted away, but Kimblee held him firmly, laughing and reaching down into the chest.
And there, he picked up an ugly, black, stone knife.
Riza had made the call that only the two of them would actually go ashore the island. The others were to remain on the Alchemy, preparing for their escape, ready to move at a moment’s notice.
Before, Riza pulled Gracia aside, murmuring a few orders into her ear. Roy watched them, a little curious, but at Gracia’s nod of assent, the determined look in her eyes, he figured he had nothing to worry about.
The two of them rowed ashore—or, rather, Riza did, Roy holding the torch to light the way. The walls of the cave left him unsettled, to say the least: strange drawings, old skeletons, and even, in some places, treasure, gleaming underneath the rippling water.
He found himself reluctantly enchanted by the gold color, eyes fixed on it as they ghosted over the water, jumping slightly when they finally hit stone.
Roy could distantly hear cheers, triumphant cries of dozens coming from somewhere within the cave, but he tried not to think of what that might mean.
“You know,” Riza murmured, climbing carefully out of the boat, “you’d best watch yourself, before you end up turning into one of us.”
Roy’s head snapped up, attention yanked back to the present. “What?”
“A pirate.” She tilted her head, smirking. “You broke me out of prison, stole a ship near singlehandedly, collected a crew of buccaneers from Tortuga, and now…” She gestured down into the water. “Your obsession with gold is showing.”
Roy’s jaw dropped as he glared after her, following as she stepped further into the cave. “I am not obsessed with gold!”
She paused, then turned again, drawing back slightly, the smirk on her face larger now. “Are you sure about that? I see something in here that says otherwise.”
Roy frowned slightly, stepping forward as she gestured at him. As he did, his eyes widened, his breath stopping.
In the center of the room, the light of dozens of torches leaving golden hair and eyes gleaming, a knife to his throat and a medallion around his neck, stood Ed.
“And how we have suffered!” Kimblee howled, his impromptu speech inflaming the pirates. “For what crime? We took nothing that was not there for the taking! Unguarded, undiscovered, belonging to no man!”
A loud cry of assent. Angry assent. Ed could feel his knees beginning to tremble. Though not all of the crew were alphas—plenty weren’t, in fact—the tension and high-strung emotions in the air had created an unpleasant aura that he could sense. Senses already on high alert due to his heat, it left Ed nothing but terrified.
“For seven years, we’ve suffered! For seven years, we’ve had no life worth living, not one to even speak of! We’ve bled and sweated, plundered and killed, seven years of unceasing work to undo our punishment!” Kimblee released Ed’s shirt to rake his fingers through the gold. Ed debated running, but in front of these pirates, so agitated, lusting for blood? Suicide.
“We have all paid the blood price, we have all sacrificed to lift our punishment! But one person’s blood remains!”
Ed looked around wildly, dozens of pairs of hateful eyes on him, fingers pointing in his direction, as they cried, “His!”
Kimblee’s hand slid around Ed’s waist, and he nuzzled into his neck, inhaling. Ed gasped and tried to twist away, but Kimblee held him firmly, chuckling into his ear.
“I can’t wait to smell you,” he breathed, then reached up to Ed’s chest, grabbing the necklace, and yanking it off him. He snatched up Ed’s hand, forcing it open and the medallion into it.
“Blood!” one of the pirates cried, and it quickly became a chant. “Blood! Blood! Blood! Blood! Blood!”
Kimblee laughed, cold and cruel, and shoved Ed forward, baring his neck to the gold, lifting the knife. Ed knew that he had to do something now, fight or run or—
“Begun by blood, by blood undone!”
With one swift motion of the knife, a sharp pain lanced through Ed, and the mesmerizing color of ruby against gold gleamed in front of his eyes as his blood dripped down into the stone chest.
this chapter is dedicated to blondie (you know who you are)
Ed stared down at his palm in surprise, the blood flowing freely from it, but not nearly as much as he had expected. Or as deadly. It coated the medallion in his hand, and Ed felt an odd sense of… almost anticlimactic disappointment.
“That’s all?” he sputtered, already starting to get annoyed with himself at how worked up he had gotten—and at Kimblee for playing it up like that. What a jackass.
“Waste not,” Kimblee shot back with a smirk. He grabbed Ed’s wrist, twisted it around, and forced him to drop the medallion.
It clattered into the chest with a small clink.
Ed glanced around at the rapturous faces of the gathered pirates, wondering if he could sneak away now. If the curse had been broken, he might be able to fight a couple off… but then where would he go? He couldn’t sail a ship by himself. Well, he might be able to. How hard could it be?
“Did it work?”
The pirate with the tattoo on her face had snapped it, face deep in a scowl. She glanced around, taking her comrades in.
“I don’t feel any different.”
The assembled company began to murmur assent, an undercurrent of anger among it all, and Ed tried not to let panic well up in his chest again. Hell, he was just along for the ride. It wasn’t his fault if it hadn’t.
“How can we tell!” one of them cried, looking up at the sunlight filtering in through the roof of the cave in distress.
Kimblee snorted, and Ed turned to see him rolling his eyes. He reached into his belt, pulled out a pistol, and shot it at the man who had asked, the bullet leaving a hole in his heart.
Ed’s jaw dropped, but the man stayed standing, just as stunned. His neighbors turned to peer at him.
“You’re not dead!”
“No, I’m not—you shot me!” he sputtered, turning to look back at Kimblee. “His blood didn’t—”
Kimblee whirled on Ed, his usually cold eyes taking on an expression of terrifying vengeance. Ed nearly staggered back at the sight of them. “You!” he snapped, baring his teeth. “Your father, was his name Richard Mustang?”
Richard? Ed knew the name, or at least it rang a bell of familiarity. Perhaps simply because of its similarity to the name Roy? No, it couldn’t be, but Roy didn’t talk much about his family…
At the shake, Ed started from his stupor, and his fear immediately turned to anger, face twisting as he sneered. He worked up saliva in his mouth and spat at Kimblee’s feet.
Kimblee’s hand seized the front of Ed’s shirt. “Then where is his child? The son he sent this coin to, seven years ago, who carries his blood!”
Ed’s lip curled, a fiery satisfaction flooding through him at the control slipping from Kimblee’s eyes. He shrugged, a bitter smile on his face. “Fuck if I know.”
With a howl of fury and not a hint of a warning, Kimblee backhanded him, sending him and the medallion flying down the mound of rocks and gold, slamming to a stop right before he could roll into the water. His head cracked against one of the cave’s formation, leaving him lying there, stunned.
And then, a wet hand clamped over his mouth.
Ed started back to his senses at the touch, but as he glanced around frantically, he made no noise, not even an attempt at it. When his eyes landed on Roy, finger pressed to his lips, Ed froze.
Roy could see the range of emotions that flickered through those golden eyes: desperation, shock, disbelief, hope, wonder, relief, and then a softening that seemed to melt the iciness in Roy’s chest, even in the freezing water.
He leaned in to press his lips against Ed’s ear. “I’m here to get you out.”
Roy had worried slightly that Ed would panic at the sight of a wet form coming up from the murky depths of the cave’s water would terrify him, at least startle him, earn a yelp or a gasp or something, but he had, as always, underestimated his fiancé. When he pulled back, Ed was watching him with a fierce expression of determination, cold and angry and bright. He glanced around for something, then reached out and snatched up a necklace—
Roy stared at it, thunderstruck, as Ed fastened it around his neck. He knew that necklace, knew it well, from years past. How on earth…
Pieces of the puzzle began to click into place, and the developing overall picture left Roy grim.
He led Ed into the water, and they slipped away, back towards the entrance. Behind them, the crowd of pirates had begun to yell angrily, throwing nasty challenges at Kimblee, blaming him for their misfortune. For his part, Kimblee had drawn his sword, daring any dissenters to come after him.
Though Roy didn’t dare risk turning around, he noted that he didn’t hear a single person step forward.
“Are you all right?” he panted in a low voice as they got out of eyeshot of the pirates. Ed nodded, panting.
“I’ll be fine. Roy, how did you—what the hell is she doing here?” he snapped.
Roy looked past Ed’s gaze to Riza Hawkeye, arms full of oars.
“Saving your ass,” she retorted, lifting her eyes heavenward, as if inconvenienced in the most terrible of ways. “Let’s go. We need to be gone, now.”
Riza led the way out of the cave, rowing them out into the open air before tossing the oars—every last one that the pirates had used to navigate inside, it looked like—into the water. Before them, the Alchemy stood, white sails fluttering in the wind.
“My god, Roy,” Ed breathed, eyes wide. “I can’t believe you found us this fast.”
“It wasn’t me,” Roy murmured, reaching over to squeeze Ed’s hand, eyes unable to look anywhere else. Roy needed it, the sensation of Ed’s skin against his, to remind him that this was real. “Riza found this place. She led us to it.”
Ed glanced over at her, clearly suspicious. She ignored him, but Roy didn’t miss the slight roll of her eyes. “Why?”
“In, ah, exchange for her freedom,” Roy replied carefully, glancing away from Ed, who snorted.
“I can’t believe Olivier authorized that.”
Roy only laughed weakly, turning his eyes back to the Alchemy.
They reached the ship with little trouble, hoisting it up with impressive speed. Roy kept his arm around Ed as he led him across the deck, towards the cabins, as Ed looked around.
“Woah, wait, hold on, these don’t look like Marines. Roy…?”
Before Roy could explain, a shout came from the crow’s nest. They all whirled, and when he squinted, Roy saw a splashing noise around the mouth of the cave.
“They’ve discovered he’s missing,” Riza said, voice urgent. Raising it, she continued, “Hoist the anchor! Let out the mains! Get moving, buccaneers!”
The crew responded near instantly, and they began to move faster than Roy had ever seen a ship take sail. He glanced around admiringly, then turned back to Riza, expression sobering.
“You said the Hayate is the fastest ship in the Xerxesian,” he said, voice low. “Won’t they catch us?”
Riza shrugged, apparently unconcerned. “Aye. Gracia!”
The woman hurried over, back straight, eyes gleaming. “Yes, Cap’n?”
“You completed your work?”
Gracia smiled prettily, sweet and innocent. It sent a chill down Roy’s spine. “Absolutely, Cap’n.”
“What was that all about?” Roy asked as she sauntered off, his voice still low, arm still holding Ed tightly against himself. The wind began to stir his hair, already drying.
At that, Riza finally turned, sporting a wolfish grin.
“I had her cut the Hayate’s rigging.”
Ed stumbled into the captain’s cabin, generously offered them by Riza motherfucking Hawkeye. Ed had nearly snapped how it was Roy’s ship, or had been, up until his promotion to commodore—and even then, technically he could still claim ownership of it, by virtue of being above the captain whose it was now…
But that rambling train of thought perhaps best explained why he had left the argument unfinished. He just wanted a goddamn bed, and not one that belonged to a terrifying, narcissistic, undead jackass of a pirate captain.
He had listened to Roy’s fumbled explanations as to why the entire crew looked more like the one he had just abandoned than anyone he had ever seen in the military and come to his own conclusions. So, as he watched Roy bandage his hand, not looking Ed in the eyes, he finally spoke.
“Olivier didn’t let you come after me.”
Roy stiffened, though he continued to bandage Ed’s hand with gentle fingers. “What makes you say that?”
“Even if she had let Riza go free, she never would have put her in command of the Alchemy. You did that, and this crew…” He gestured towards the door with his free hand. “You stole the ship. You broke her out.”
Roy finished tying the bandage and looked up at him, expression guarded. Despite his words, Ed’s stomach dropped when he saw not a single trace of denial in those eyes.
“Holy shit,” he breathed. “You sprung a pirate and stole a ship to rescue me?”
Roy laughed at that, and Ed caught notes of—of pain, of amusement, of exhaustion. He reached out to cup Ed’s face, and Ed froze at the tenderness in his eyes as he gently stroked a thumb down his cheek.
“Edward,” he whispered, voice nearly cracking with the strength of the emotion in it. “You’re worth it, a thousand times over.”
The words seemed to hang in the air between them, unbelievably loaded for such a simple phrase. The meanings began to tumble through Ed’s mind. Roy had broken an unbelievable number of laws to rescue him, undoubtedly sacrificed an impressive, almost legendary career to see him safe. And after days in the hands of pirates: they hadn’t touched Ed, no, but Roy didn’t know that. He had thrown his entire life away for Ed in a heartbeat, knowing that he might die for it.
With a strangled gasp, Ed stood, staggered forward, took Roy’s face, and kissed him deeply.
He hadn’t expected his first kiss to happen like this: damp, bedraggled, bleeding, narrowly having escaped death. But somehow, it fit, fit the unpredictability of their lives, the adventure that both of them longed for.
He felt Roy go very, very still for a moment, then gasp, a sharp inhalation through his nose, and kiss Ed back, swift and fierce and deep.
Although Ed had initiated it, he hadn’t expected this sort of response. He held on for dear life as Roy lunged forward, drawing Ed up in his arms, holding him tightly—but not as if to keep him from escaping. He practically cradled him as if shielding him from harm.
An overwhelming sense of want swept over him, so strong in its force that it might have staggered him if Roy hadn’t been holding him upright. As he kissed back with the desperation of someone trying to keep from being swept away, he could hear a deep groan from Roy’s throat, then the sensation of a tongue slipping between his lips.
Ed opened his mouth eagerly, whining as he leaned into it, reaching out tentatively with his own tongue as Roy coaxed it into his own mouth. Ed followed, gasping for breath, taking every suggestion with alacrity as Roy tugged him into his lap, settling him so Ed’s legs straddled him.
After several moments of desperate, heated kisses, however, Roy pulled back.
For a moment, Ed thought the world had literally dropped out from under him. He sagged forward, then reeled back, gasping, dizzy, confused. He gripped Roy’s shoulders tighter, regaining his bearings, then looked up.
The fierce expression on Roy’s face sent a terrifying thrill through Ed’s chest, but even as he watched, it seemed to fade.
“Ed,” he croaked, voice hoarse, and he pulled back a little more. “We shouldn’t… not…”
It took a few moments for rationality to slice through the haze of sheer want, and when it did, Ed’s mouth dropped open.
“Wait—hold the fuck up. After—after all this, you’re telling me you don’t want to fuck me silly?” Ed choked out, eyes wide with disbelief. Roy was not going to do this to him, not out of some misguided sense of chivalry. If he really wasn’t into it, sure, but he’d better not be putting this off for Ed’s sake! Ed had been half hard through all of this, and being this close to Roy, feeling him, smelling that heady, almost musky scent of an alpha, had him fucking leaking.
Roy looked pained at the thought, but then swallowed. “You’re stressed, and I just rescued you—I won’t have you doing this out of obligation—”
With an indignant shriek, Ed surged forward, jabbing his forefinger into Roy’s chest. “No! You don’t get to do this! Don’t you dare make my decisions for me!” he shouted.
Roy drew back, eyes wide, clearly taken aback. “What—”
“You heard me! Look, if you don’t want to have sex because you don’t want to, tell me. That’s fine. You’ve respected me, so I’m going to respect you, if that’s what you want. But look, Roy. I’ve been held captive by pirates, under the threat of rape and murder for days, was almost turned into a human sacrifice, thought I’d been poisoned, scared to within an inch of my goddamn life by skeleton monsters, and I’ve been horny through all of it.” He took a deep breath, panting, then snarled. “I've been fighting my body through all of it. You know why? Because I wanted it on my terms. I wanted it with you. And not just ‘cause I'm desperate. I made my choice, so if you’re forcing me to pass up on sex because you think I’m not ready, you can go fuck yourself!”
Ed didn’t realize he was panting, didn’t realize that he had stood, fists clenched, eyes blazing, as he stared at Roy, who was watching him in surprise. God the fucker looked amazing, all gorgeous messy hair that fell in his eyes and was still a little damp—the best look for him, honestly, even if it wasn’t damp with sweat—those piercing dark eyes, that almost aristocratic face—
Ed shivered, achingly hard now, and without ceremony, he lifted his hands and undid the buttons on the front of his waistcoat, tugging off the medallion and letting it fall to the floor, corsetlike laces still tied in the back. The rush of air left him dizzy, even headier, and emboldened, he reached down and yanked off the undershirt, leaving him half-naked in front of Roy.
Despite himself and the warm summer air, he shivered. This was absolutely improper, he knew, could leave him a social outcast if others found out, sneered at, scorned…
But fuck it, they were engaged anyway. And even if they weren’t, Ed found himself not giving the tiniest bit of a damn, emboldened by the heat coursing through his veins, his blood pumping, his heart pounding.
“You gonna fuck me or not, Mustang?”
ayyyy guess who wrote two chapters today!!!
A couple things: if you're not really into the smut, feel free to skip this chapter; you're not missing too much characterization.
also, i write knotting weird, i've been told, but i like it better so yolo ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The words hung in between them, physically palpable, as Roy stared back at Ed, eyes wide. Ed tried to tamp down his shaking—but how could he, with Roy’s dark eyes taking in the sight of him, trying not to watch him like a meal and clearly failing. Ed stepped forward, over his clothes, wordlessly closing the distance.
And with a sudden, swift movement, Roy darted forward, wrapping Ed in his arms and pressing him tightly against his chest. Ed gasped as Roy’s mouth covered his, kissing him back fiercely, a groan in the back of his throat. Ed swallowed it desperately, twining his arms around Roy’s neck, pulling him close, shivering at the rough, scratching sensation of Roy’s clothing against his bare chest. As Roy lifted, one hand reaching down to grab his ass—in support, ostensibly, but the way he gripped it left Ed laughing into his mouth—Ed wrapped his legs around Roy’s waist, letting Roy carry him away, back towards the captain’s bed.
Ed gasped as the two of them tumbled onto the bed, Ed on his back, Roy pressing down into him. Another desperate kiss, and Roy’s hands began to fumble at Ed’s breeches before pausing, then retreating to yank off his shoes. With a laugh, Ed mock kicked at him, but Roy caught the foot, turning to bite at the bare ankle.
Ed’s amusement turned to shock at the sensation of near-pain that jolted through him, and his foot yanked back out of reflex. Roy held it tightly, however, and spread it out to the side as he lowered himself again, for all the world seeming as if he were prowling forward, a gleam in his eye.
At that, Ed shivered again, a thrill running through him, part fear, part arousal. But before he could move, Roy pressed down against him, resuming the kiss.
Ed gasped into his mouth, fumbling to cling to Roy’s shoulders at the sensation. He could feel Roy’s erection through both of their pants, the sensation diminished somewhat through the layers of fabric, but he didn’t miss how large it was, much bigger than Ed’s had ever been.
But then, he shouldn’t be surprised, not after what he had heard about alphas.
Roy groaned as he hooked his fingers into Ed’s waistband, lowering the pants, and Ed gasped as Roy worked Ed’s cock free, achingly hard and leaking generously with precome. Ed keened softly when Roy pulled back to strip him completely, but quickly stuttered into silence when, instead of leaning back down, he remained partially upright, taking Ed in with his eyes.
Ed could feel the flush spreading along the lines of Roy’s gaze, from his face to his neck and collarbones to his chest and waist and hips and—well, he didn’t miss the gleam of satisfaction as Roy reveled in Ed’s completely naked form, whimpering and squirming beneath him.
Roy slid a hand up Ed’s leg, still not leaning down, and then reached his thigh, tracing his fingers along up the inside. Ed jerked, though more out of surprise than a means to escape, but Roy paused until Ed stilled before continuing, reaching the crease where Ed’s leg connected with his body, sliding his finger through the golden hair there.
He gripped Ed’s cock loosely, but Ed yelped and bucked, even the small sensation almost too much to bear. Roy teased at it, stroking slightly, but before Ed could even think about coming, he slid his fingers down to Ed’s balls. Ed could feel the rough fingers stroking, cupping, rolling them gently, and he let out a strangled, almost despairing sob, curling his toes and hissing at the maddening sensations.
And then Roy’s hand moved even lower, to places where Ed had dared not venture.
Ed seemed to forget how to breathe as Roy’s finger teased gently through the trail of wetness below his balls, then at the entrance to his ass.
“Ohgod,” Ed choked, eyes wide, mouth open as he stared up at Roy, unable to quite process that beautiful, almost terrible expression of possession, devouring every last drop of the sight before him.
With a soft growl, Roy slid his finger inside easily, slick from days of an untended heat.
Ed keened again at the sensation, at once a startling intrusion and still not enough. He tightened, then relaxed, jerking his head back to look up at Roy pleadingly.
With a slow smirk, Roy obliged, sliding a second finger in.
Ed gasped. Now that was something. Still not quite enough, but closer. He squirmed his hips, then arched them, demanding, trying to force them deeper. One thigh twisted self-consciously as he tried to cover himself, just a little, but with a ragged exhalation, Roy shoved Ed’s knee to the side, splaying him open even further. Before Ed could react, he leaned in, elbows forcing them to stay apart, spreading him open for Roy to see.
His fingers curled, almost massaging, and there, there it was, the deep current of pleasure that Ed knew he had always been missing, even as he felt it for the first time.
His knees pressed against Roy’s elbows, not truly trying to press them closed: even now, being exposed like this, on display, sent a thrill of both humiliation and need through him.
As Ed panted, turning his head to the side, looking up at Roy out of the corner of his eye, he could see Roy stiffening, eyes widening—
And then Roy pulled his fingers out.
With a yelp of displeasure, Ed braced himself on the bed below him, trying to sit up. But a large hand pressed against his chest, shoving him back down.
Quicker than Ed had imagined possible, Roy had stripped, yanking off his jacket, then his belt, then shirt and pants. Ed missed the part where he kicked off his boots, so distracted was he by the sudden, glorious sight of naked Roy Mustang.
Years of hard work on a ship and swordplay had kept him toned, though his frame still had something of a fineness to it, not quite slim or even wiry, but not particularly bulky, either. It suited him, that and the tanned skin from years in a tropical climate, though not as dark as Ed’s.
And then he saw Roy’s cock and swallowed.
He was at least as hard as Ed, as flushed, but for someone who had never even fingered himself before this, too anxious about what it said about him—until he learned better, of course—he had to wonder if it would fit. If it would hurt. For some reason, the second option doesn’t sound… entirely unpleasant.
With another growl, Roy was back on the bed, this time keeping Ed’s legs spread with his own knees. He ran a hand down Ed’s chest slowly, and Ed trembled. With fear, with anticipation, with the overwhelming array of sensations—he didn’t know.
Roy leaned down to kiss him again, and this was something Ed could hold onto. He wrapped his arms around Roy’s neck again, lifting a leg to hook it around Roy’s waist—
But Roy grabbed it, holding it still.
“Mm?” Ed mumbled against his lips, not wanting to pull away, arching his hips upward.
“God, you’re beautiful,” Roy gasped, voice ragged. His hand gripped the inside of Ed’s thigh, then his ass again, then withdrew, pulling his hand towards himself. What…?
And then a pressure against Ed’s ass, hard and thick as Roy lined himself up, and Ed froze.
“Are you ready, darling?” Roy gasped, eyes wide as their breath mingled.
Ed nodded fiercely, then nearly shrieked as Roy pushed himself in.
It hurt, but at the same time, it was a delicious, fulfilling pain, and hard on its heels came a deep and satisfying pleasure as he stretched open. Roy pressed in, burying himself completely, and Ed felt the warmth of Roy’s hips on the insides of his thighs as they both stayed still for a moment, panting. The thick warmth of Roy’s cock pressed up into him, leaving Ed fuller and more satisfied than he could have ever imagined.
Then Roy groaned, rolling his hips, and the thickness inside him began to grow even thicker.
Ed gripped Roy’s shoulders tighter, gasping, whimpering, jerking his head up to watch Roy, trying not to look too anxious and failing. Roy’s face, bangs falling in his eyes, was only inches from his own, and Ed’s breath caught at the yearning in it, the eagerness, the tenderness combined with ferocity that Ed never would have thought possible.
“It’ll be all right,” Roy crooned, leaning down to mouth over Ed’s jaw, then down his neck and shoulder, all the while the cock inside him growing.
Intellectually, Ed knew what this was: a knot, meant to tie them together, prevent Roy from pulling out too far, but knowing and feeling were two very different things. Already he wondered if he wasn’t about to explode, so intense was the pressure, but at the same time, the excruciatingly wonderful pleasure that it sent sparking through him left him gasping, assisted with gentle nips from Roy’s teeth. As it reached full size, Roy bit harder, sucking a mark into Ed’s skin, and Ed yelped.
That was nothing, however, compared to the noise that he made when Roy began to pull out.
He couldn’t have gone more than halfway, not with the way the knot tugged against his entrance, but it felt like an excruciatingly long amount of time. He managed to stifle it, but a fierce kiss from Roy, tongue sliding forcefully into his mouth, drew another cry from him.
“No, gorgeous,” Roy panted, voice still ragged. “I want to hear you.”
And then he slammed back in.
Ed tilted his head back and screamed, eyes wide but sightless, as everything he had yearned for over the past few days rushed home, filling him with an overwhelming mess of sensations: Roy’s hands hard on his hips, almost hard enough to bruise. That giant cock inside him, yanking out and slamming in, answering his begging and craving in a way that he almost—almost—regretted. The heat of Roy’s mouth and breath as it claimed every inch of skin that his hands hadn’t, returning to Ed’s mouth to kiss or bite or lick before it resumed its relentless journey.
As Roy fucked into him with a force that left Ed vaguely surprised it didn’t break his pelvis, he began to understand. His needs ran deep, and Roy—Roy could give them to him, and fuck, he’d goddamn better. “Harder,” he choked out, lifting his hips with each thrust, relishing in the filthy slapping sound of their skin together. “More—goddammit, Roy, I need it—please!” he keened.
“I know,” Roy growled, burying a hand in Ed’s hair and yanking his head back to continue to mark his neck. “And you’ll take it all. Because you’re fucking mine, you got it? Mine.”
The sound of possession sent an electric thrill down through his abdomen to his cock, aching in its hardness, dripping obscene amounts onto his stomach, smearing all over Roy. He wanted to whimper, to tilt his head back further in submission, but fuck, he had earned this, he had, he had been through so fucking much to get it and Roy had better not fucking forget it.
“And you’re mine!” Ed barked back, yanking his head forward to stare Roy in the eye, fierce and just as possessive. “And don’t you forget it!” With a snarl, he punctuated his words with his nails, digging into Roy’s back and dragging down.
At that, Roy let out a broken noise, desperate and shocked, and then managed to gasp out a strangled shout.
After the teeth, the hands, the cock, after the filthy words and the growling and the overwhelming sensations, it was Roy’s expression as he looked down at Ed, one of possession and longing and disbelief and outright wonder and worship, that drove Ed to the edge.
With a shriek, he arched into that thick cock, impaling himself, filling himself with such force that he nearly saw stars dancing in front of his eyes. At the same time, every single cell in his body seemed to flash with a white-hot heat, pulsing through him, leaving him gasping in its wake. The world seemed to contract around him, even as Roy groaned, gave a few more thrusts, and collapsed on top of him.
Roy’s heaving chest pressed into Ed’s nose, squishing it, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. Ed vaguely lifted a hand to run it through that damp hair—damp with sweat, just the way it should be—and mumbled something incoherent as the haze began to settle in.
Roy let out a grunt and shifted so that Ed could at least breathe better, his chin settling on Roy’s shoulder. Ed let out a hum of satisfaction, eyes drifting half-closed as he hooked a leg lazily around Roy’s thigh. Above him, a deep rumbled hum of pleasure vibrated through him as Roy mouthed gently at Ed’s jaw.
“Wow,” Ed breathed, shifting to press closer together, the knot still full, keeping them together as Roy’s warmth continued to spill into him. But for now, they could stay tangled together, panting, blissful.
“I have to agree,” Roy murmured, normally smooth voice hoarse and unsteady. “Wow.”
Ed chuckled softly, closing his eyes fully and burying his nose into the crook where Roy’s shoulder met his neck. “And don’t you dare think we’re done yet.”
A fond sigh, and a gentle hand ran down Ed’s shoulder.
“I wouldn’t dream of it.”
Ed drifted within his bliss, everything around him hazy, Roy the only solid presence within his universe of utter satisfaction. He vaguely ached in countless places, even besides the obvious—his neck from where Roy’s teeth had done a number; his hands and knees from where he had braced himself up as Roy took him, over and over, his throat, even, from where he had cried out, yelled, screamed, sobbed, heedless of who might hear them.
A small rumble from beside him and a shift of an arm, and Ed turned to his side, pressing further into Roy’s chest. He nuzzled wherever he could reach, resting his head on the front of Roy’s shoulder.
“How are you feeling?” Roy murmured, lifting a hand to comb lazily through Ed’s hair.
“Fan fucking tastic,” Ed breathed, squirming closer. “And I don’t wanna, y’know, die, for the first time in days.” Though not completely gone yet, the heat had receded, more of a satisfied itch in the back of his head than something that needed urgent attention.
“I’m glad to hear it.” He sighed, and then silence, but by now, Ed knew Roy too well to know that silence meant something.
Roy twisted his head to look at Ed. “What?”
“You wanna say something.”
Roy sighed again. “Can’t I just enjoy postcoital bliss with my fiancé for at least a few moments?”
“Not if he doesn’t get to enjoy it with you, and he won’t as long as he’s wondering what the fuck you’re thinking. Out with it.”
“So demanding,” Roy muttered, and Ed smirked. He’d better not forget it.
Shifting, Ed propped himself up, then leaned his chin forward to rest on Roy’s stomach. “So?”
“So.” Roy closed his eyes briefly, and Ed tried to stifle his worry. They were back together again, and they had all escaped; what more could go wrong? “These pirates. They said something about a curse?”
Ed swallowed. Oh. “I… yeah. You’re gonna think I’m crazy, Roy, but they weren’t. I saw them. Those coins, they turned the pirates into… something. Something awful. You can’t see it in daylight, but they’re just skeletons. Rotting corpses walking. And they can’t die.”
Roy nodded slowly. “And they said something about blood, to be repaid?”
“Right. That’s the strange place. They had all paid their own blood to the chest, to break the curse, but they needed one more, I think. They said it was mine, but I gave them the wrong name…” He shifted, a little uncomfortable now. “They said it was… they asked if I was the son of Richard Mustang.”
Roy’s hand stopped its motion, resting on Ed’s hair, still.
“You gave them my name,” Roy said quietly. “My last name.”
The ugly pieces settled together, and Ed nodded. “At first, I thought it was a ransom kidnapping, and I didn’t want them to know they had leverage. So I panicked. Said the first thing that came to mind.” He laughed bitterly. “It isn’t my blood they needed.”
“No.” Roy sat up, pulling away from Ed, then turned so his feet reached the floor. After a moment of hesitation, he stood, walking over to the pile of Ed’s clothing, digging through it. Ed could feel a knot forming in his throat.
When Roy turned, holding up his hand, the medallion glimmered in the candlelight of the cabin.
“Where did you get this?”
Ed took a shaky breath. “You remember… what was it, six years ago? When we were crossing to Xerxes from Amestris. The ship was attacked. The Hayate. I remember that now, with its black, ragged sails.
Roy nodded mutely.
“I found it, when I snuck out. That’s why I snuck out. I saw gold, and I wanted to pick it up. I thought one of the pirates had dropped it.” He reached out, to turn the side of the coin so Roy could see the raised pirate insignia, but Roy didn’t move, and Ed let his hand drop. “I kept it.”
Roy withdrew it, looking down at the gleaming surface, running his finger over the gold, then turning it over.
“Seven years ago, my father sent this to me, along with a letter,” he said quietly. “I received it from Amestris. He wanted to…” Roy shook his head. “It isn’t important. But he told me that I needed to keep it safe. That I should never let anyone have it. Then I lost it.” He swallowed, looking up, eyes meeting Ed’s. “That day of the attack, a blade caught in it. I wasn’t hurt, but it snapped the chain. I had to choose between looking for it and saving my life. I always thought it had been kicked into the ocean, or perhaps stolen by the pirates who boarded us.” An index finger traced the circle, and Ed knew he was examining the odd design on the back.
“I’m sorry,” Ed said quietly. “I didn’t know. I thought… well, I told you what I thought.” He drew the blankets closer, suddenly very, very self-conscious of his nakedness. At least, he thought that was what caused it: he had no other reason to be ashamed, did he?
Roy didn’t say anything, and Ed could feel his anxiety growing. He stood, bringing a blanket with him, stepping over. “I studied it, actually. The entire time I had it. From what I can figure, the skull seems to be some sort of Xerxesian symbol, but the rest is more complicated. I had to pull from a bunch of old books on alchemy—those were fun to get my hands on, let me tell you—but see, these triangles and these circles, a rough meaning of its symbolism is… ‘from earth, from water, from air, fire.’ At least, I think so. The salamander and the flame mean that the fire is the end goal.”
Roy remained silent, and Ed swallowed. “Kimblee mentioned something about alchemy to me, that the Xerxesians sealed away their knowledge with the coins, that they took them instead of gaining that knowledge. I didn’t really understand it all.”
As Roy continued not to speak, Ed leaned softly into his arm, looking up at him. Roy startled, and Ed jumped back. “Sorry!”
“No, no.” Roy shook his head, blinking up at Ed. “I’m sorry. I was… thinking.”
Roy clasped the medallion in his fist, lowering his hand. “The blood sacrifice. It needs to come from those who initially stole the treasure. Richard Mustang was one of those. A pirate, who sailed these seas seven years ago.”
Ed choked, unable to form the words to reply.
“And if he’s dead, then they need the blood of his son to break the curse.”
“So,” Ed murmured, head swimming as he took in the implications of those words. “It wasn’t my blood they needed. It was…”
Roy nodded, gently placing the medallion onto the table. “It was mine.”
Though Roy seemed to be in a daze after this revelation, Ed did his best to comfort him, leading him back to the bed, curling up with him, trying to coax conversation. But this proved fruitless, and Roy had eventually turned to him, smiling sadly.
“I need some time alone, Edward, if you don’t mind. I’ll leave, of course. So you don’t have to.”
Ed had shook his head immediately, standing to gather his clothes. “No. No way. I’m not gonna kick you out. I need some fresh air, anyway. Clear your head, all right?”
With a grateful smile, Roy had nodded, and Ed had slipped out onto the deck, trying to avoid the knot in his throat.
Of course, he soon realized the folly of this decision as nearly every single person on the ship determinedly kept from looking at him. At first, he thought they were busy, but when he caught one of them shoot a quick glance in his direction, then look away, he realized, face reddening.
Had he really been that loud?
“So, I take it your deflowering was successful,” came a wry voice that Ed half-recognized.
He choked, sputtered, and whirled. If his face was red before, it had gone up in flames now. Riza Hawkeye, of course, did not seem to give a damn.
“That’s none of your—you don’t even—you have no proof—!”
She stared at him with an incredulous expression. “Seriously? You think that we don’t know what you two were doing out there? I’ve been in noisier thunderstorms!”
Ed bristled at the tone. “Well, it’s still none of your goddamn business!” he snapped. “We’re engaged, I wanted to, and besides, I’ve been in a heat for days and that goddamn bastard has been teasing me—”
Riza made a face, a wrinkled, displeased expression that made her look a little more human. “Kimblee? God, what an asshole.”
Ed’s eyebrows shot up. “You know him?”
She blinked at him. “Know him? He sailed for me. Goddamn traitorous bastard. My second in command, got the bearings for the Isla de Muerta right from under my nose—waited until I was asleep, the sneak. Stole my ship and marooned me on an island.”
Ed’s mind processed this information. “You… were lovers with Kimblee?”
She grimaced. “If you could call it that.”
“But he’s so…” As she watched him, an eyebrow raised, he shrugged. “I mean, you seem like you have taste. That pretty woman, with the brown hair…”
“Her, yeah. She took your hand when you got back onboard and checked you over. She seems… well, better.”
Riza let out a bark of laughter, stepping back to perch on a barrel. “Well, keep in mind, it was seven years ago. I made a stupid decision, and underestimated him, too. Not to mention the bastard can be charming when he wants to.” She snorted. “Alphas tend to be a lot more susceptible to control through sex than you’d think. Even more than omegas. You lot—and I speak in general terms—at least recognize that it can become a vulnerability if you let it. Alphas? Plenty of them think they’re above that…” She waved her hand, and Ed began to smirk, finishing for her.
“Possessive Alpha bullshit.”
“Exactly.” She nodded. “So if you know what you’re doing, sex can actually be a very convenient way of… well, equaling out the power imbalance they see as being there.” She made a face. “In this case, though, I miscalculated. Or maybe it was just a bad stroke of luck that the maps caught his eye. Either way, I’ll have my revenge on him.”
“You know,” Ed said slowly, stepping up to her side and trying to perch on another barrel, but he couldn’t actually reach so had to lever himself up to fully sit. He winced at the ache in his ass, but shook it off. “Even though he did that, he saved you from the curse. I don’t know if you’ll believe me, but—”
“Oh, I know it’s real,” she interrupted, waving her hand. “When the Hayate attacked Port Dublith, a couple of them found me in prison. Taunted me. It was a cloudy night, but a ray of moonlight managed to make its way in through the window. “I suspected as much, after some thought. Good to have them confirmed, though.”
“So you got lucky.”
“Yes, but I’m not going to thank him for it. He mutinied, then tried to kill me, then tried to kill my dog.” Her face darkened. “I can’t forgive him for that. Any of it.”
“And so you helped Roy, not just for a chance to escape, but for revenge, too?”
She shrugged. “If I happen to succeed…” Lifting a pistol from her belt, she began polishing it with her sleeve.
“But the pirates can’t die.”
Riza was quiet for a few moments, then, “They can’t die yet.”
A chill trickled down his back at those words. “What? What are you talking about? In order for them to die, they need to break the curse, and for that… You’re not going to give them the medallion, are you?”
She snorted. “Just like that? Not a chance. But as long as they remain that way, they’ll never stop looking for it. Or your boy toy down there.” She gestured towards the cabin. “So yes, we’ll eventually need to break the curse. But we do it on our terms, not theirs.”
Ed began to feel a cautious sense of optimism rising within him. “Like… lead them back to Isla de Muerta, but before they get there, have Roy break it? And when they come to attack, thinking that they’re immortal, we’ll be able to catch them by surprise?”
Riza glanced over at Ed, visibly impressed. “You’ve more of a brain in your head than I thought. Yes, that would be ideal, but I’ve learned that things seldom end up ‘idea’ on the seas. And your little plan relies on one thing that I don’t think we’re going to get.”
“What’s that?” Ed asked cautiously, the thread of optimism beginning to fray.
She lowered the pistol, lifted a spyglass, extended it, and peered out into the horizon.
“It’ll only work if they don’t catch up to us.”
The thread snapped, leaving all of Ed’s hopes dashed inside his chest.
That day passed without a sight of the Black Hayate, and Ed entertained himself getting to know the other Hayate—the one with black and white fur and an adorable little ‘whuff’ instead of a bark. The dog’s fondness eventually led the rest of the crew to warm up to him, make an effort to get to know him, and Ed quickly became friends with Gracia Hughes, warm and smart and capable. Her husband, Maes, was nice as well, but something about him just rubbed Ed the wrong way. Not in a way that caused Ed to hate him or anything, he was just kind of…
Ed found himself relieved beyond belief to see Havoc and Fuery—familiar faces grounded him in a sense of normalcy, at least—and they had made fast friends with two pirates named Breda and Falman, the first a canny, fat man with red hair who seemed nearly unruffleable, the second a taller thin man with white hair and a young face, awkward but brilliant. Roy eventually stepped out of the cabin, joining them, and Ed grinned as he watched Roy stir up the group, treading the line between military man and pirate, earning affection from all.
He chatted some with Fletcher Tringham, who seemed nice enough, and seemed like the kind of person Al would really get along with. Russell Tringham, his brother, was surlier, and Ed found himself picking up bits of the sign language they used just to debate. He hadn’t expected to find someone so studied on a pirate ship, but Russell had a knowledge of science and mathematics that rivaled Ed’s own, if incredibly self-taught, clearly not having the same advantages of tutors that Ed had.
Still, it was nice to have someone to argue theory with. He found himself wishing for the book collection on the Black Hayate, so they could both read it and discuss.
The evening drifted on, the sky darkening, the crew working ceaselessly to make a speed that Roy declared absolutely impressive. Still, Riza watched the horizon, face stormy even as the sun set, a brilliant red over calm seas.
He and Roy eventually retreated to the cabin together, making love a few more times, though much less hurried and frenzied than before. Roy held him, guided him, explored every inch with his hands and mouth as Ed did the same, clumsier but just as eager. With every movement inside of him, Ed craved more even as he was satisfied, twisted and writhed underneath Roy as breaths mingled and limbs tightened and tongues danced.
As they drifted off that night, Ed aggressively buried in Roy’s arms, Ed allowed himself to believe they might just make it.
The next morning, stretching and curling around the form of Roy, still half-asleep, Ed chanced a glance out the window at the back of the ship, peace settling over him with the gray of dawn.
Something caught his eye, however, and he sat up, peering closely. He inhaled sharply, gripping Roy’s shoulder, and shook, hard. “Roy. Roy. Wake the fuck up and look!” he hissed.
Roy sat up, grunting sleepily, rubbing at his eyes, and then froze.
Behind them, on the horizon, a ship with tattered black sails rode straight for them.
Ed staggered, gasping, out onto the deck, feet bare, in nothing but a shirt and breeches. “Riza! Riza, did you—”
“Aye.” The sharp voice came from Maes. “We see it. We’ve been doing our best to increase our speed for an hour. They’re still gaining.”
Ed swallowed, glancing around. All the cannons had vanished, and the deck was significantly sparser than it had been yesterday. Riza was at the wheel, occasionally shouting orders, occasionally with her head together with Maria, speaking quietly and urgently. All this time, he and Roy had been…
He stumbled up the stairs towards Riza. “You should have woken us. We could have—”
“Could have what?” Riza didn’t even snap, such was the dismissiveness of her tone. “You two are passengers. All we need now is speed, and unless you have something in those pants of yours, you can go belowdeck and stop distracting us.”
Ed made a furious, indignant noise, but a hand on his shoulder led him to turn. Maes.
“You’d best listen to her,” he murmured. “They’ll reach us within a few minutes. If they don’t see you, they might think they’re pursuing the wrong ship. If they do…”
He didn’t have to finish the sentence. Ignoring every instinct telling him otherwise, he stormed back, flinging the door to the captain’s cabin open.
“Give me a sword,” he declared to Roy, who had just finished dressing, lifting his chin. “I won’t be taken so easily again.”
The cannons boomed, as Maes had predicted, within a couple of minutes.
The Alchemy had never had much firepower in the first place, so Ed understood the wisdom of casting what little they did have into the sea in an attempt to reduce weight. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.
The next few booms did no damage, splashing off to the side, but inevitably, Ed heard the noise—and then a couple seconds later, a nasty cracking sound.
“Chain shot,” Roy breathed, eyes wide. “They’ve hit the mast.”
Ed squeezed his hand tightly, jaw set. He knew that he looked white—he felt it, really—but even if the bastards couldn’t die, they could be fought off. They had proven that six years ago, and they would prove it again now.
“We’re slowing,” Roy murmured, glancing back out the window. Ed didn’t have to. He knew what he would see, the hull of that hated ship, too quickly escaped, too quickly returned. “Are you ready?”
“Fuck yeah,” Ed breathed.
And then there came the shouts.
Ed didn’t miss the screams as the pirates boarded, wincing at each noise, tensing at Riza’s command, voice high above the cacophony. So much for hoping that they wouldn’t think it was the correct ship—
Ed’s hand flew to his neck. Fuck. Fuck. The damn thing was probably a fucking beacon. They had followed him, had followed the medallion. It called to them.
A thumping against the door of the captain’s cabin as someone on the other side struggled to force it open. Roy saved them the trouble: lifting the bolt, he gave the door a savage kick, sending it flying open and the person on the other side staggering to the ground.
Roy quickly drew his sword across its neck. They all knew that these pirates couldn’t die, so they had developed another strategy: disable. Cut off heads, limbs, stab out eyes. They were at a huge disadvantage, but it was that or die.
Ed lunged out with them, sword drawn, swinging himself. He cleaved two pirates in half before they realized what had hit them, then turned on another and swung down, dismembering an arm. As it fell to the ground, he dove for it, throwing it overboard. He could already see that others had thought the same: the sea around them had no few body parts floating in it and—Ed realized with a churn of his stomach—still moving.
He turned back to the fray, blocking two swords swinging in his direction—but not too hard. Two pirates lunged for him, and Ed managed to press them back, but not without a sudden realization: they weren’t trying to kill, only capture. They wanted him back.
The thought of finding himself in Kimblee’s clutches again only made him fight harder.
He lost track of time, of the number of times his sword passed through undead flesh, of the blood that soaked his clothes. He did his best to fend off the attackers, but their numbers barely seemed to falter. Ed caught sight of the crew—Havoc, pinned to the deck with a pair of crossed swords over his neck; Maes, a gun shoved up under his chin as Gracia let her sword fall from her hands; Russell, screaming wordlessly as they wrestled him to the ground.
Ed snarled and pushed, the comforting presence of Roy at his back, but all hope quickly began to fade.
A hand gripped his shoulder, and Ed whirled, ready to strike, but he froze when he saw Roy, staring at him solemnly.
“Are you fucking crazy?” Ed gasped. “It’s the middle of a battle! You’re gonna—”
“Ed,” Roy murmured, voice urgent. “You know as well as I have that we’ve lost. I just want you to know that I love you. More than anything. Do you understand?”
Ed stared, dumbfounded, but Roy shook him. “Do you?”
He nodded slowly, dread slowly creeping through his chest. With the briefest of kisses between parries, Roy pulled away. Before Ed could stop him, he made his way to the back of the ship, and climbed up onto the railing. Suddenly, Ed saw his plan.
“No! Don’t you fucking dare, you crazy bastard!” he screamed, wrenching forward even as rough hands grabbed his arms, sending his sword skittering across the desk, binding his wrists behind him. “Don’t you fucking—”
But with a last, fervent look, Roy dove off the railing into the sea.
Ed sat, staring dully ahead, as he was led, once again, to the Black Hayate, this time much less gently. His captors shoved, gripping his biceps so hard he thought they might bruise, eventually pushing so hard that he toppled forward. Without his hands in front of him to catch his balance, his face smashed against the deck at full force, leaving him gasping.
A hand buried in his hair, wrenching him up. As Ed finally regained his senses, he gasped, kicking and spitting, trying to twist on his attacker and bite him.
He was met, of course, with the smirking face of Zolf Kimblee.
“I’ll be taking that,” he murmured smoothly, reaching out and yanking the medallion from his neck with such force that it left Ed’s neck aching. He went to toss Ed in with the rest of the captives, but then paused and sniffed at him delicately.
“Well, this is a change. You got someone on the ship to fuck you silly, then? Couldn’t handle the heat?” A hand reached down, squeezing Ed’s ass, and Ed snarled and struggled again. “You could have just asked. I might not get anything out of it, but I could have done you the service, for bringing this back to me.” He held up the gleaming gold.
Ed managed to land a kick, and Kimblee drew back, annoyance passing across his face. “Throw him in with the others.”
He found himself tied to the center of the mast, along with most of the rest of the crew, defeated but not broken. He could hear angry murmuring, even whispered hints at what they might do when they escaped. Ed tried very, very hard to hold hope in it, but as he looked over at the Alchemy, masts now nothing more than firewood, he felt a tight hopelessness in his chest.
“Well!” Kimblee exclaimed, even more delighted to see Riza than he had been to see Ed. She glared up at him, lip raised in a sneer, mocking even in defeat. “I never expected to see you again.”
“Unfortunately, you have the pleasure. I’d rather have avoided it myself, but you know how these things go.”
With a laugh, he reached over to her belt, withdrawing the pistol. “Now, this looks familiar. Where have I seen it before?”
She only stared back at him, refusing to say a word.
With a sigh, he turned away, ‘tsk’-ing. He pulled back the hammer, then aimed the gun at Ed’s chest, point blank. “Edward. Your real name. Give it to me.”
Ed froze, eyes wide, staring down the barrel. He knew there was a reason he shouldn’t—but right now, facing death, he could feel his courage beginning to wane.
Both Ed and Kimblee turned to see Riza watching him, a mockingly amused look in her eye. “Edward Hohenheim, son of the governor of Xerxes. Go on. Shoot him. See what happens, even if you can’t be killed. That might not be an asset for very long, not after the Amestrian Navy gets ahold of you.
For the first time since Ed had met Kimblee, he seemed to teeter, off-balance, almost afraid. His eyes flicked from Riza, back to Ed, obviously trying to gauge the truth in her words. Ed only stared back, face impassive.
Kimblee slowly lowered the gun, and Ed began to relax, at least slightly. His eyes followed the barrel still, and it almost pointed towards the floor—
But it stopped, right at Ed’s knees.
“Very well, then, you brat,” he said, voice shaking slightly. “You’ll tell me where you got that medallion, or I’ll start here and move up. There are plenty of places to shoot that won’t kill you.”
Ed’s heart nearly stopped beating. He glanced around, trying to find some sight to steady him, but… nothing.
“One.” Kimblee tilted his head, smirking coldly. “Two.”
Ed couldn’t. Even knowing Roy was gone, he couldn’t.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
The entire pirate crew whirled, an alarmed murmur rippling through them at the sight of the man balancing on the side of the ship, one hand tangled in the rigging, a gun in his hand.
“And why not?” Kimblee snapped, glancing around in irritation, undoubtedly wondering how this man had escaped. For his part, Ed couldn’t suppress his grin.
Wet, yes, from the sea—drenched, really, but alive. Ed nearly tried to wrench forward, but knew it would do no good, and might even hinder whatever undoubtedly brilliant plan Roy had in mind. For a short time, Ed had assumed the most idiotic thought he had likely ever had in his lifetime: that Roy, knowing the battle was lost, had taken his own life as a final ‘fuck you’ to the pirates, leaving them cursed forever. But apparently battle fever had knocked the sense out of Ed; of course Roy would have something better up his sleeve than that.
Roy lifted his own gun, then pressed it underneath his chin. Ed’s grin froze.
“My father was Richard Mustang, pirate of the Black Hayate some seven years ago. I am his son. His only son. I’ve enough weight on me that I’ll sink to the bottom of the ocean if I don’t swim to stay afloat.”
The entire ship had gone deathly still, Kimblee’s face a shade of white Ed hadn’t even thought possible.
“Touch him, refuse my terms, and I’ll pull this trigger without a second thought.”
“Easy now,” Kimblee finally said, voice cracking in a beyond satisfactory fashion. “One you’re gone, there’ll be no one to protect…” His voice trailed off as he glanced at Ed, then back at Roy, sniffing the air furtively. Ed knew very well that Roy’s scent must still cling to him, and he hated Kimblee for knowing it. Kimblee tried again. “You’ll need to stay alive to save Ed.”
Roy nodded slowly, and Ed took the moment to wrench from Kimblee’s grasp, staggering forward. He stumbled into Riza, who caught him as best she could. But he knew that there was nowhere else to go, and so, apparently, did Kimblee. He didn’t even seem to notice, eyes still fixed on Roy.
“Then, like I said, you’ll agree to my terms.”
Roy nodded over towards the gathering of crew. “They go free, unharmed. Ed included.”
Kimblee nodded slowly. “Easy enough. Anything else?”
Roy watched him steadily, eyes narrowed, looking for the trick. Ed couldn’t see it either, but he knew it had to be there. Somewhere.
“No. That’s all. Do so, and I’ll go with you without a fuss.”
“God dammit!” Ed yelped, calling after him. “Don’t, Roy! You can’t—!”
A hand darted out, striking Ed across the face, leaving him staggering into Riza again. Roy let out a hiss of warning, pulling back the hammer.
“Hold,” Kimblee snapped. “Don’t hurt the brat. You lot know better.”
Ed gasped, continuing to struggle, but Riza, her arms free, reached out to steady him, unknot the ropes. “Let him do it, lad. It’s the only way any of us are getting out of this alive.”
“No!” Ed gasped, trying to step towards Roy. He had just gotten Roy back; he couldn’t lose him again, but Riza pulled him back, grip tight.
Seeing that the situation was well in hand Kimblee smirked, stepping forward, chin lifting. “Agreed.”
Roy hesitated, but then stepped down onto the ship, holding the pistol out to Kimblee. Kimblee snatched it, then gestured, and three pirates lunged for Roy, tying his arms behind his back and pulling him back towards the middle of the ship.
“Very good. Now, load them up.”
For a moment, Ed glanced around, confused, but the pirates cut the rope binding the prisoners to the mast, though they left the ones binding their hands. One of them grabbed Ed, pushing him roughly towards the plank between the two ships, then back onto the Alchemy. Again, unable to catch himself, he hit the deck with his face after a particularly rough shove.
The rest of the crew followed, and as Ed hoisted himself up, he began to realize their plan. When he looked back towards the Black Hayate, several pirates had guns pointed at the crew, warning them exactly what would happen if they attempted to head back towards the Hayate.
Ed glared bitterly out at the scattered wood around him, giving a despondent kick at the splinters littering the deck.
“You bastard!” Roy was yelling, struggling as Ed had been earlier, fury in his eyes. “You’re going to let them starve— ”
“Nonsense.” Kimblee shrugged, undoing the ropes that bound the Black Hayate and the Alchemy together. “I’m sure they have a good chance of being rescued. After all, the Xerxesian Sea is full of ships. I’m just removing them from my immediate vicinity.” He smirked. “Letting them free, just as you suggested. What happens to them next is not my concern.”
“You slimy, treacherous—”
“You’re the one at fault here, Mustang,” he murmured, waving his hand dismissively. “You should have been more specific.”
“It would cost you nothing—”
Kimblee finally whirled, irritation flashing in his eyes, so obvious that Ed could spot it even from the deck of the Alchemy. “It would cost me time , boy, and more risk than I care to take bringing them anywhere close to a settlement. If I set them adrift on a dead ship, they at least stand a chance of being rescued, and they’ll have supplies to last them quite some time. Better chance, at least, than their former captain. After all, technically not part of the group you requested, is she?”
“I said the crew—”
“No, you gestured at the crew. She was over next to your little omega, instead.” He shrugged. “All for the best, really. Too risky, leaving her on a ship without supervision.”
Riza, now the only mortal left on the decks of the Black Hayate besides Roy, glared over at Kimblee, arms finally bound. “Well, at least you’re not enough of a piece of shit to try and kill my dog this time, too.”
Kimblee only spread his hands magnanimously. “Why, Riza, I’m not trying to kill you. Just… putting you away for a little while. In a familiar spot, actually.”
Her face darkened, eyes narrowing. “The island.”
“That’s right,” he replied cheerfully. “The island. Of course, if you escaped before, you shouldn’t have any trouble again, aye? But by then…” He shrugged. “You won’t be a problem any longer.”
Ed couldn’t even bring himself to muster anything other than a dull, resentful anger. Not a modicum of surprise, of course. Nor outrage. In the few days he had known Kimblee, he had developed an understanding, and at this point the only thing the man could do to surprise him would be something entirely altruistic.
“Let them loose!”
At Kimblee’s command, several of the pirates began lifting the planks that connected the two ships together. Ed began to struggle against his ropes, his eyes meeting Roy’s, matching the desperation in them. Ed nodded, sharply, just once. I’ll be fine , he mouthed, and he could see a tiny bit of relief on Roy’s face, though much more doubt. Fair enough. Ed didn’t know if he was telling the truth, either.
But he knew he couldn’t get free in time, and the guns leveled at them made it a futile task, anyway. Once the two ships were untethered, the Alchemy rocked back, floating away at a snail’s pace.
“Let out the mains! We’ve got an island to stop, at, boys!”
Gritting his teeth, Ed watched the Hayate pick up speed, quickly sailing out of reach. Once it had left, taking the pirates with it, they no longer had any incentive to stay bound. Scrambling over to a sword fallen on the desk, he maneuvered until he got the blade through his bonds, then sliced them off. He nicked the side of his wrist slightly doing so, but simply wiped it on his pants. No time to worry about that.
All around him, other sailors were doing the same. Maria had freed herself in moments, grabbing a knife and slicing through the bonds of those slower than her and Ed. He did the same, and in a very short time, they were all free. There was that, at least. Frantic murmurs descended into silence and one low growl as they all glanced around at each other.
“So, what now?” Maes finally said.
“We have to go after her!” Maria burst out, clenching her fists, downright fury in her eyes. “They can’t get away with this, the twice-traitorous bastards.”
Beside Ed, Hayate barked in agreement.
“I’m down with that too,” Ed said, glancing around to see if there were any dissenters. “I’m not going to leave Roy to them. Not with how Kimblee was…” He hesitated, then shook his head. “Not a chance.”
“I hate to argue,” broke in a voice, kind and sympathetic, but firm. Ed turned to Gracia, ready to retort to anything she said. “But how are we going to? In case you hadn’t noticed…” She gestured upwards, and the rest of the crew, Ed included, followed it with their gaze.
Above them, all three masts had been snapped off in various places. The sails had all been cut, slashed to ribbons by the pirates of the Hayate. They were dead in the water.
Ed turned back to her. “Is there anything we could do? Anything at all? Make repairs, a replacement set?”
She shook her head, eyes weary. “Unfortunately, the repair gear all had to be thrown overboard, along with spares. They take up a lot of weight. We couldn’t keep them and keep up the speed we needed.” She sighed. “I wish I had had better foresight. It wouldn’t have made a difference, in the end.”
Ed bit the inside of his cheek, whirling to pace across the deck. “I’m not giving up that fucking easily. Kimblee’s fucked with the wrong man. The wrong crew. ” With a snarl, he whirled to face them, eyes flashing. “We’re gonna make him pay for this. Together, we’ve got dozens of brains. We can come up with something. ”
The crew glanced at each other, a few beginning discussion amongst themselves. Ed ran his fingers through his hair, racking his brain himself.
And then came the tiny sound of a throat clearing.
Ed looked up to see Fletcher and Russell Tringham stepping forward. Fletcher looked even tinier than usual, with how haggard and dirty the battle had left him. Russell… well, the dark look in his eyes sent a shiver down Ed’s spine.
“We were talking. Well, you know,” he amended, glancing back over at Russell. “And something occurred to us.”
“What’s that?” Ed asked, voice slightly breathless.
“Well, Riza said you were the governor’s son, right?”
At that, Russell’s eyes darkened even further, and with a sick feeling that would have worried him more if he hadn’t already been so preoccupied with Roy’s trouble, Ed realized that Russell must feel furious, knowing that someone he had considered a friend had connections to the Amestrian Navy. But he would worry about that later.
“I am, yes. I didn’t tell them because I thought they might be after ransom. Clearly, I was mistaken.”
“Then wouldn’t he have someone out searching for you?” Fletcher ventured, and Russell nodded. “More than one someone, honestly, even not counting Roy. If we can get some kind of mobility, Maria should be able to get us into one of the shipping lanes, at least, and while we drift there, we have more of a chance of being—”
“Wait!” Ed yelped, whirling once again to glare up at the broken masts. “Wait, wait. That’s—okay, yeah. I know what we’re going to do.” He looked down again, taking in the crew. “Grab all of the remnants of the sails. Everything you can find. If we have any alcohol down in storage, bring that up too.” He turned to Havoc and Breda, the two strongest people he spotted. “And I pray to god we still have some barrels left, or boxes. I need you two to get as many as you can that will hold water and fill them. With seawater, not any of our rations.”
“Sure thing, Boss,” Havoc replied immediately, throwing a salute. Breda nodded at him, and they turned to obey orders.
“What are you planning, kid?” Maes murmured, watching him with interest.
Ed allowed himself a grin, mirthless and fierce. “You’ll see.” He looked around at the remaining crowd. “Well? Get on it!”
They scattered, and Ed headed back to the captain’s cabin, rummaging around until he found the flint and steel that they had used for the candles last night. Upon returning, he found that his orders had been obeyed to the letter: every scrap of useless cloth lay in a pile, and several bottles of rum had been set out beside them. One of them was three-quarters empty, but after a cursory squint around and far too many innocent faces, he decided to let it slide.
Sinking to his knees, he began to knot the cloth together, wrapping larger pieces around smaller ones, forming a large, lumpy ball. To it, he attached two longer strips, then opened a bottle of the rum and proceeded to soak the cloth, which had turned out to be just big enough that he could still lift it.
When Maes caught sight of the flint and steel, his eyes widened.
“No. Ohhh no. You’re crazy.” He reached out, but Ed yanked them away. “You’ll burn us alive!”
Ed nodded over to where Havoc and Breda had just pulling in their fourth barrel of seawater. “Hopefully not. Who wants to climb?”
In the end, it was Gracia who volunteered, her experience climbing rigging combined with the small knives she carried that made excellent foot- and handholds making her the best choice for the job, much to Maes’s displeasure. With an expert speed, she tied Ed’s bundle of rum-soaked ripped sails to the top of the mast, hanging by one arm as she used the flint and steel to set fire to the contraption. Ed bit his lip, watching anxiously, but once it ignited, she scampered back down the mast, retrieving her knives as she went.
Though the bundle eventually burned out, falling down into the sea instead of onto the ship—a stroke of luck—but before it did, the mast caught fire, the damp wood sending a thick, dark smoke up into the air.
“Everyone, keep an eye out for falling sparks,” Ed ordered. “Use the water to douse anything the moment you see.”
“Aye aye, Captain,” came a wry voice, and Ed turned, a little startled, to see Maes watching him, arms crossed, a reluctant smile on his face.
“I—what?” Ed sputtered. “I’m not!”
“You are now, apparently. Just wrested control just like that.” Maes sighed melodramatically. “Now I know how Riza must have felt, betrayal coming from inside her own crew…”
“I didn’t do that, okay?” Ed snapped. “Just ‘cause you couldn’t come up with any brilliant ideas—”
“Hey, hey now. No need to get nasty. I was teasing.” He lifted his hands in placation. “I hope it does work. But I just want you to know… it’s very unlikely that we’ll be able to find them again,” he finished quietly. “Even if we manage to make our way back to the Isla, it could take days, even weeks. I spoke with Maria, and she says it’s a damned tricky place to track down.”
Ed drew back, watching Maes carefully, then nodded. “Yeah, maybe usually. But I’ve got a better idea.” Reaching into his pocket, he withdrew—
Maes’s jaw dropped, eyes wide. His eyes slid up to Ed’s face, but before he could say anything, he let out a strangled cry and pointed, now staring beyond Ed’s shoulder.
Ed whirled, and immediately, a fierce joy surged through his chest, followed by one of fear and trepidation. He knew that flag. He knew those sails.
Coming over the horizon, headed straight towards them, was the Briggs.
Ed had braced himself for the worst, when the Briggs finally came up beside the Alchemy, marines swarming its deck. Havoc and Breda had quickly put the fire out with the seawater, ending any immediate danger to the rest of them, but Ed caught sight of the long, blonde hair whipping in the wind from the quarter deck.
A flurry of action from the Briggs, and planks were laid across the side of the ruined ship to allow boarding. Instead of the marines rushing over to them, however, they beckoned the crew of the Alchemy onto the much bigger ship.
Ed glanced around. No one was being bound; was it possible that Olivier hadn’t recognized the Alchemy? Maybe, just maybe, if he ducked out of sight…
A frantic voice, one that he had not expected to hear for quite a bit longer, left him turning, eyes widening. Hohenheim’s familiar face, melting with relief behind the glasses, filled his field of vision before a pair of strong arms wrapped around him, nearly crushing him.
“I’m so glad you’re safe, son,” he whispered, holding Ed close. Despite himself, despite his relationship with his father, his fear for Roy, his trepidation over what would happen now that Olivier had found them, he let himself sag a little, briefly enjoy the small comfort of being embraced by his father.
With a gasp, Ed wrenched back, whirling to face the golden form hurtling towards him, wrapping him up in another hug. This one Ed returned much more enthusiastically, clinging to Al for several more moments than he had his father.
“Brother, are you all right? I can’t believe we—did they hurt you?” Al pulled back, holding Ed’s shoulders, glancing him up and down. When his eyes landed on his hand, bandaged, the wrist bleeding sluggishly, he grabbed it, pulling it towards him. “What happened?” His eyes left the hand, moving up to meet Ed’s, a sorrow and a question in his eyes. Ed swallowed and turned to see his father with the same look. They could tell. They could see that his heat had diminished, though not as much as someone not related would have been able to, and they assumed the worst.
“I’m fine,” Ed assured them both, squeezing first Al’s hand, then his father’s arm. “Seriously. They didn’t touch me, if that’s what you’re wondering. Roy rescued me before they could do anything awful.”
“I see.” Hohenheim’s face took on a crafty expression for a moment, then settled. “I suppose I can’t blame him for what he did, then, if you’re back to us, safe. And I assume that the rest of this crew came along unknowing of his crime?”
Ed tilted his head, matching the crafty expression with one of his own. “So, Roy gets a full pardon?”
“I would be remiss if I didn’t thank him properly.”
Ed shrugged. “Well, he may have… implied that it was his ship. Technically, it was, after all. He just didn’t tell them that he had taken it without permission, or had to break Riza out to find me. That goes double for Havoc and Fuery.”
Hohenheim let out a little huff of laughter, then drew Ed back in. “Understood. I’m so very glad to see that you’re safe.”
Ed nodded, then pulled back, casting about. “All right. We need to start a course for Isla de Muerta right now. If we hurry, we can catch Roy before they hurt him. Or worse.”
Hohenheim frowned, then glanced around. “Roy? I… I see. He’s not here. Neither is that awful—Edward, where are you going!”
Ed ignored his father, clambering up the steps to come face to face with Olivier Mira Armstrong, chin held high. “I have the location of our next destination.”
She stared back at him, arms crossed, towering over him. “Our next destination is Port Dublith, where you will be returned to safety.”
“No.” He turned to his father, staring up at him determinedly. “The pirates, they took Roy. They’re gonna do something awful to him—it’s complicated. But the important part is that we need to set course for where they’re going immediately.”
“Absolutely not,” she said immediately, voice implacable. “Our immediate goal is to get you and your family back to safety, as they insisted on accompanying me on this trip.” She shot Hohenheim and Al a look that indicated exactly what she thought of them doing so, but she couldn’t override the orders of a governor. “Once that is complete, I can begin patrols to track the Hayate. Once it becomes our top priority, it won’t escape us for long.”
“But it’ll be too late by then!” Ed burst out, real fear flaring up in his chest. “They’ll have killed him! They’re awful and merciless—they would have…” He broke off, taking a shaky breath at the thought.
“While regrettable, that is the result of his decisions. He threw his lot in with a pirate, and now he must reap the consequences.”
“But he’s one of your own!” Ed spun around, taking in the marines around him. “He’s a fucking commodore, one of your best men, and you’re just going to abandon him to be slaughtered?”
He heard a harsh laugh off to the side and turned to see Russell Tringham, staring at him with a bitter, mocking smile on his face. Russell’s eyes flicked to Olivier, his expression saying all that Ed needed to see to guess his thoughts on the Amestrian Navy. Olivier shot Russell an irritated look out of the corner of her eye, but then turned away. As Ed met Russell’s eyes, just briefly, he knew what she was going to reply.
“That is my decision, and I stand by it.”
With a snarl of frustration, he whirled to his father, the only one who could settle this. He could overrule Olivier, trust his son, help mount a rescue for Roy.
“He saved me, father.” Though he felt slightly bad for doing so, he put an emphasis on the last word, knowing that their distance was something Hohenheim had always regretted. “He’s my fiancé. I love him. Don’t let her do this.”
Hohenheim hesitated, glancing between Ed and Olivier, equally determined expressions on both of their faces. Finally, he sighed, sadly, shoulders sagging.
“I’m sorry, Edward. But I defer to the Admiral.”
Ed’s jaw dropped, betrayal burying in his face like shards of ice. The matter decided, Olivier turned away, voice lifting again as she gave orders. Ed whirled on his father again, mutiny in his eyes.
“Please, I am sorry—”
But Ed smacked away Hohenheim’s hand, fiercely fighting the tears that threatened to spill over.
“Don’t speak to me,” he said, ice frosting the air between him. He turned to walk down the stairs, back straight, mind wheeling. This wasn’t over yet. He could still fix this.
It took a moment for him to realize that others had fallen in beside and behind him: Havoc, Fuery, Breda, Falman, the Tringhams, the Hughes, Maria, and… and Al.
“You got a plan, boss?” Havoc muttered, glancing back over his shoulder. “We’re all with you, if you can come up with something.”
Ed chewed on his lip, turning to his brother. Al watched him back, unfaltering loyalty in his eyes.
“I’m with you until the end, brother. Whatever you choose, I’m here.”
Ed nodded slowly, pieces beginning to click into place as a plan formed. His mouth finally tugged up in a mirthless smile.
“Hey, Al. You know where they keep the infirmary down here?”
Ed knew this was suicide. And possibly murder. He would not only probably get himself killed, but everyone who followed him.
But hey, they had chosen to do so. If he survived, he’d drown in guilt over it later. Right now, only one thing mattered.
The waves lapped softly against the edge of the boat as it bumped against the pier, Maria settling it expertly into place. The crew then began to move, the moonlight guiding their way as they bent to pick up dark figures on the floor.
For Ed’s part, he helped Maes place the gangplank, securing it for the rest.
One pair headed off, then two, working quickly in the darkness, stepping off the pier and onto the sand. They continued to come, returning to the ship for more, each pair carrying something on their way out, each with free hands on their way back.
As Russell and Breda walked by, Ed caught the sight of familiar long, blonde hair spilling out from between Breda’s arms. He swallowed, not envying either of them their burden. He didn’t miss how careful they were to set Olivier Mira Armstrong, terrifying Admiral of the Amestrian Navy, onto the beach.
She grunted, sighed, then turned onto her side, still snoring peacefully.
“Is that it?” Ed hissed, peering around. Dozens of dark forms littered the beach, up beyond the reach of even the highest tide. None of them were moving, and no one headed back towards the gangplank.
“Aye, Captain,” came Gracia’s whisper. “We’re ready to set sail.”
Ed heard a sharp inhalation from behind him, and he turned to see Al, golden eyes gleaming in the moonlight, watching him with fear.
“Are… are you sure you want to do this, brother?”
Ed nodded firmly. “It’s the only right thing to do.” Helping Maes remove the gangplank, he murmured orders, the rest of the crew scattering immediately to follow. The sails unfurled, the wheel turned, and the Briggs went sailing off into the horizon, leaving dozens of Amestrian marines napping blissfully on the beach behind them.
“That was brilliant!” Fuery declared, eyes shining behind his glasses, which glinted in the moonlight. “I can’t believe you got all of them. And you did wonderfully, too!” He turned to beam at Havoc, who, though Ed couldn’t be sure in the moonlight, might be blushing.
“Well, my cooking is kinda legendary, and I guess when they heard they could have that instead of the boring crap we usually get, they wolfed it down without a second thought. Made it easy enough to slip that… what was it your brother got us, Ed?”
Ed shrugged. “Who knows? It put them out, and that’s the important part. Now we can get to business.”
“They’re going to be all right, though?” The concerned voice came from Fletcher, who seemed almost reluctant to be asking the question about members of the Amestrian Navy, but Ed didn’t blame him: killing an entire ship was a bit much, even for revenge.
“Positive,” Al said, voice firm. “I made sure to check the doses, and it’s a drug that doesn’t have any sort of threat to life. It’s why most ships carry it.”
“Comes in handy to have a doctor as a brother.” Ed grinned over at Al, who promptly blushed (probably), ducked his head, and scuffed his foot on the ground sheepishly.
“’M not a doctor yet. Give me a few more years, though, and I’ll have learned plenty.”
“That’s amazing.” Fletcher beamed over at Al, eyes sparkling, and Ed made a mental note to tease Al about it later. “You must be brilliant.”
Al sputtered. Ed snickered. “Also, that island’s got a busy enough port during the daytime, and it’s peaceful enough. When they wake, they’ll be able to get a ride out. Just, y’know, not before we’ve snuck out from under their noses.”
Fletcher nodded approvingly, and Ed stepped away, ready to inspect the ship for any more problems.
One of which, of course, came flying his way immediately. A shout from the other side of the ship, and Maes hurried up.
“Ed,” he said urgently. “We’ve, uh, got a bit of a…”
“Great,” Ed muttered, pinching the bridge of his nose. “What is it?”
“Well, seems like we missed one.” With a wince, Maes turned and pointed. Ed frowned, squinting into the darkness, and as he recognized the form storming towards them, his heart sank.
Maes turned his head, clearing his throat and sidling away. Ed couldn’t blame him, really. He lifted his head, stepping forward, ready to take the brunt of the blow. With a cross of his arms, he straightened, utterly unapologetic. The crew had called him captain. He would do them proud.
“Edward!” Hohenheim snapped, voice raised, louder and angrier than Ed had ever heard it. “What in the world is the meaning of this?”
“Hello, father,” Ed said, voice level. “I’ve commandeered this ship. I’ll return it when I’m finished, of course, but until then, I’m now in charge.”
Hohenheim choked. “This—this is insanity! You can’t—where are the marines? Where is the Admiral?” He whipped his head around, seeing no familiar face. “What did you do?”
“Nothing terrible,” Ed snapped, rolling his eyes. “They’re in the port we just left. I thought I’d keep them out of danger. I didn’t realize you had your own meal, so if you do, indeed, want to stay out of danger, you’ll be sure to listen.”
“Edward, turn this ship around instantly! Your mother would be ashamed of you!”
Ed froze, feeling the color draining from his face. For a moment, he felt himself sway, dizziness rushing over him, but he managed to right himself, fury rushing in where shame had just vacated.
“Would she?” Ed gritted out. “Or would she be proud? Relieved? Glad to see her son taking the action her husband should have done, years ago, when her ship vanished? I’m not going to give up on Roy the same way you did on her.”
The silence that dropped between them was more deafening than any storm could have been. Hohenheim stared back at Ed, usually dark face nearly white, eyes wide, mouth slightly open. For his part, Ed regretted the words the moment he said them, at least a little. It was more than that, and he knew it, knew that searching for a lost ship without a single clue was an errand of folly. But Hohenheim could have at least tried.
“Let’s go,” murmured a third voice, and both of them turned. Al had taken Hohenheim’s elbow, tugging him away. “We’ll get you back inside, father.”
As they retreated, Al turned, very briefly. Though he had no chastisement written on his face whatsoever, the sad, hurt expression seemed a hundred times worse.
But he could worry about burning bridges later. He had a life to save.
With a deep breath to steel himself, he walked up the steps to the quarter deck, straight towards Maria. “Hey. Can you teach me how to steer this thing?”
She hesitated, glancing at him, then back at the wheel. “No offense intended, but I think you’d better leave this one to me. Isla de Muerta’s not an easy place to find.”
Maes, right behind Ed, leaned against the railing. “Actually, Maria, I think this is one request you’ll want to take.” He pulled off his hat, this one a huge, dark red, wide brim affair with a golden feather coming out of it, and dropped it on Ed’s head. “Show her, captain.”
With a soft snort, Ed tilted the head back so he could see, then reached into his pocket and pulled out his prize. At the sight, Maria’s eyes widened, just the way Maes’s had. “Is that…?”
“Yeah. I nicked it off her when I realized thinks had gone to shit.” Ed grinned, opening the compass, watching as its needle swung in a direction that was definitely not north. “She used this thing to find the Isla, right?”
“Aye, that she did,” Maria breathed, eyes full of renewed hope.
“So? Let’s do the same.” Ed grinned, showing as many teeth as he could. “Teach me how to sail this fucker.”
Miles away, in the belly of the cursed ship known as the Black Hayate, Roy Mustang’s mind raced.
His worry did no small part in distracting him from any sort of productive thinking, but each time it tried to creep in, hover around the edges of his planning with insidious whispers that it would do him no good, that he should just give up, he shoved it away with one brisk thought.
You cannot help Ed until you get yourself out of this.
At the moment, his best plan seemed to be waiting until they hit land to make his escape. He might even wait until after they broke the curse; Ed’s explanation had left him chilled, but with no uncertainty that their undead state needed to be remedied. In that, he and the pirates had the same goal, but that was where their similarities ended.
The ideal course of action would, of course, have been to double back and break the curse before the pirates had realized what had happened, then fight them. But that was now no longer an option. A modified plan, however, could involve him stealing the medallion and breaking the curse when they least expected it… but that was a harebrained scheme at best, and he had no plans for the actual specifics.
So that brought him back around to worrying about escape after they used his blood to break the curse.
A slam of the door above him, and as he lifted his head, two of the pirates—Darius and Heinkel, Roy remembered—descended the stairway, one with food on a tray, the other with a flask of water.
Roy lifted his head, accepting both through the bars, then set it down on the ground as he sat. “Thank you.”
They shot him a bit of a wary look, and Roy shrugged.
“Ed mentioned you. He thought you were interesting.”
They exchanged a glance, then turned back. Heinkel eventually spoke up, crossing his arms. “It’s not as if we were going to kill him. The captain scared him around a bit, but all we want is to get free of this damned curse. Can you blame us?”
Roy suppressed a smile: Ed certainly had a way of growing on people, reluctant as they might be. A bit like a particularly resilient fungus. “Not at all. I think this entire fiasco might have been avoided by just sending me a letter and asking for my help,” Roy said dryly. “I would have been happy to help.” Not any more, of course, not since he had met Kimblee, but they didn’t need to know that.
The other one, Darius, shifted. “Well, we might have… made some fast assumptions. We’re in something of a hurry.”
Roy let out a huff, taking a sip of the warm water and trying not to grimace. “I can imagine. Though it does leave me curious.” He set it down, watching the two of them. “That medallion, I knew nothing of it beyond the fact that it came from my father. I didn’t even know my father was a pirate until a few days ago. The least you could do is give me a little bit of an explanation.”
Darius snorted, but shrugged. “All right. What do you wanna know?”
“First of all, why you need my blood would be nice. What happened to my father. Just a little background in general.”
They exchanged a glance again, and this time, it was Heinkel who spoke. “Richard Mustang, aye? Good man. Never sat right, what we did.”
Despite his pleasant expression, Roy could feel an anxious twist in his stomach. Yes, he had suspected the worst, but to have it confirmed still rocked him. “What you did?”
Heinkel sighed. “After we took the treasure, after we discovered the curse, your dad told us—well, said that after what we did to Captain Hawkeye, we all deserved it. Deserved to stay like this for eternity. Can you imagine!” He scoffed. “She didn’t even die. Anyway, so he sends a piece off, to you, I guess, and won’t tell us where. The Captain loses it, orders him strapped to a cannon, then…” He made a motion with his hand, indicating something diving downward.
Roy swallowed. “Then?”
“Pushed him off,” Darius finished. “Sent him to the bottom of the sea, into the depths of Dante’s Locker.” He paused, then scowled. “’Course, soon after that, we learned that everyone who’s cursed has to give blood as a sacrifice, and we didn’t have none of his. So that’s where you come in.”
It did all make a horrible sort of sense. Hearing about his father, though…
“If you can’t die, though, wouldn’t he still be alive, to take blood from?” he asked quietly.
“Theoretically, I guess. But who knows what shape he’s in, after so many years underwater? Dissolved into pieces, still stuck in the crushing depths… Really, you’d be doing him a favor by freeing him.”
The thought of such a fate left Roy’s stomach roiling. Much as he disliked the thought, he couldn’t help but agree.
“You might remember, we actually got close, some years back. Six, I think? Yeah, a year after we found the coins.” Heinkel. “Found you aboard a ship.”
Roy frowned; the memory did seem somewhat familiar. “I… yes. But we fought you off.”
Heinkel made a disapproving noise. “Can’t regenerate the way we can under moonlight. Was a bad time. Would’ve had you if it weren’t for the time of day.”
“I see,” Roy said, voice neutral, head spinning. He reached down to pick up a piece of hard tack, chewing on the tasteless bread. He knew that he should ask more questions, gather more information while he had a receptive audience, but nothing came to mind.
Instead, he simply sat and ate, head spinning with everything he had learned.
Several hours later, Riza Hawkeye sat, cold and soaking and miserable, clinging to a rope.
She was, in fact, quite nearby to Roy Mustang, if she had felt so inclined to inform him of that fact. But doing so would undoubtedly give away her position as well, so she refrained.
It had been no easy feat, timing her dive so that she had been able to turn back towards the Hayate, reaching it moments before it set sail. As she had suspected, they had been in such a hurry to reach Isla de Muerta that they hadn’t even bothered watching to see her go ashore, simply turned and headed out immediately. She would have thought they were smarter than that. After being marooned once, did Zolf really think that she wouldn’t have a contingency plan?
With a grunt, she shifted her weight, trying to get to a slightly more comfortable position. What a joke. There were no comfortable positions, not in this harness, suspended from a few clever holes bored subtly underneath the stern. Gracia hadn’t just sabotaged the Hayate’s sails at Riza’s request; she had prepared this too, just in case. Her foresight had paid off, and things had turned out splendidly. She didn’t care about those two disgustingly sappy star-crossed lovers, she told herself firmly. All she wanted was her goddamn ship back, and she didn’t care who she had to step on to get it.
Climbing the rudder had been no fun, either, nor had the frantic work she had to perform to secure herself before the Hayate set out at full speed. Especially unpleasant had been the sleep the night before, dangling like a target, waking at every strong gust of wind. But now she was more or less rested, she had fed herself from the supplies in her waterproof pouch, and she was ready to get some fucking revenge.
Riza twisted around to the other side of the rudder as the bastards disembarked, dragging Roy along with them, jeering. She caught the sound of Zolf’s voice, above it all and immediately wished she hadn’t: “No mistakes this time. We cut his throat and spill all the blood!”
The crew muttered, some in dissent, some in agreement. Wonderful. Now she had another thing to worry about. Not that saving Roy’s life was her goddamn responsibility—she had repaid that debt, after all, leading him to his fiancé—but at this point, she wanted this over with, no mess, no fuss. And it would make her revenge that much sweeter, stifling his plans like this. While still breaking the curse, of course.
She waited a little longer, until the noises had died away. Zolf had always been needlessly dramatic, so she would have plenty of time to follow them before the grand show.
After loosening her harness, dropping into the ocean, and swimming ashore, she turned to climb into one of the boats—and stopped.
A pair of sails had appeared on the horizon. She knew them, and the flag they flew. The Briggs. The most well-armed ship in the Amestrian Navy. How had Olivier Armstrong found them so quickly? That nuisance!
Her plans would have to change. Easy enough: alphas tended to carry their thinking parts below the belts, anyway. Zolf would be simple to manipulate, with all the cards she now carried.
Without another glance backwards, she climbed into the boat and began to row inside.
Roy glared at his surroundings, scowling at the stone cave. His second time here in… how many days? Had it been two? Three? Either way, far too soon of a return. One of the men shoved him forward, and this time, instead of Ed, he ascended the mound of stone and gold, towards that stone chest, already shoved open.
“No more ceremony, eh?” Kimblee called, to much cheering. He lifted the coin, then grabbed Roy’s hair. “Cut his throat and be done with it?”
“Sounds good to me!” one of them yelled, though others began to murmur amongst themselves. He had caught the dissent amongst the ranks, that they were uncomfortable, to say the least, about killing a helpless prisoner. Pirates came in all kinds, it seemed. If he survived this, he might be able to use this advantage.
But as the stone knife pressed up against the soft flesh of his neck, that was looking more and more unlikely. He tensed, getting ready to snap his head back—
“I wouldn’t do that, if I were you,” called a familiar voice, insolent in its laziness.
A ripple of shock rocked through the assembled pirates, finally reaching those in front. Even Kimblee, Roy could feel, stiffened when the crowd parted. Roy felt his own jaw drop as well.
“She’s back!” one of the pirates hissed, sounding well and truly frightened. A few more took up the sentiment. “Back from the dead again? She’s immortal! She has to be!”
Riza tilted her head back and laughed coldly, but Kimblee lifted his hand, cutting off the chatter.
“And why not?” Kimblee drawled, remarkably fast in controlling his reaction. If Roy hadn’t felt that initial tension, he would have thought Kimblee had expected Riza to stroll into the cave, confident as you please.
For his part, Roy wondered, not for the first time, if the woman was utterly mad.
“Because.” She shooed a few pirates away from the front, stepping up the slope towards them, then crossed her arms, leaning on the stone chest. She didn’t even spare a glance at Roy. “Guess what I saw outside?”
“What.” Out of the corner of his eye, Roy could see the irritated look on Kimblee’s face.
“The Briggs. The very ship of Olivier Mira Armstrong, most feared admiral of the Xerxesian Sea, sailing over the horizon, straight for your little island.”
A shocked murmur rippled through the pirates again, and terror lanced through Roy as he realized her plan. “No!” he yelped, snarling as he lunged forward, but Kimblee’s fist in his hair stopped him. “You traitorous—”
A casual slap from Kimblee cut him off, leaving him gasping, but he continued to glare mutinously at her as blood trickled down from a corner of his mouth.
“Is that so,” Kimblee murmured, voice low. “And why are you telling me this?”
Riza sighed, turning to face him properly, hands gripping the edge of the chest as she leaned forward, over it, towards him. “Please, Zolf.” Her voice had taken on a tone, almost a purr, sultry and low, that Roy had never heard her use before. No—a mistake; he had heard it once before, one night, a few overheard words from a snatch of a conversation with Maria. “You’re smarter than this. You know exactly why I’m telling you this.”
Roy pulled back slightly, and this time Kimblee let him. As he finally caught a decent view of both of them, he could see Kimblee’s eyes flick downwards. Following his gaze, Roy noticed that she had unlaced the front of her shirt so that it opened past her collarbones, revealing a generous amount of cleavage.
“I want you to say it,” he finally said, and she sighed, tilting her head back.
“Because, you don’t want to go up against them while mortal, do you? You’ve got the advantage, so use it while you still have it. Sneak out there, however you please, ice the lot of them, and there you are, two ships.” She grinned, and Roy felt his heart sinking. “The Briggs is much finer than the Hayate, and if even I can admit it, you know it’s true. You’ll want that as your ship, leaving the Hayate without a captain.”
“I see,” Kimblee replied, voice dry, eyes narrowed. Riza simply stepped back, spreading her arms and mock-bowing. “So you want it back.”
“Aye.” Lifting up and resuming her earlier position, one that was rather flattering to her assets, she raised an eyebrow. “I’ll sail under your… command,” she finished, emphasizing the last word. “Give you a share of my treasure. The buildings of a pirate fleet, Zolf. You can have it all.” She dragged her hand across the gold coins, eyes locked on his. “This will seem like nothing in comparison to what you’ll reap. All you need to do is wait for the opportune moment.”
She glanced over at Roy, who was watching her intently. As she withdrew her hand from the chest, Roy thought he caught a glimmer of gold, but it vanished immediately.
Roy could see Kimblee’s eyes beginning to gleam, and he began to feel a faint hope. What had she meant? “And in exchange, I suppose you don’t want me to kill him?” He gestured over at Roy.
Riza simply scoffed, tilting her head back slightly. “I don’t give a damn. I just want my ship back, mate.”
Kimblee shifted, the sound echoing in the utterly quiet cavern. Roy tensed, but running now would do him no good.
“Fifty percent of the treasure.”
“And yet you’ll only get fifteen,” Riza sighed.
“Twenty-five,” he snapped. She only raised an eyebrow.
With a roll of his eyes, he shook his head. “Fifteen. But you owe me a hat.”
“I’ll owe you more than that,” she murmured with a smirk, loud enough for only Roy and Zolf to hear.
His eyes gleamed. “Done.”
Maria hadn’t let him actually steer much.
He had argued and pouted, but though she had agreed to show him the basics, she and Maes had won when it came to actually taking command of the wheel. Ed had eventually acquiesced when she pointed out that teaching him would take longer than either of them wanted, and the faster they got to Roy, the better.
So, he had just paid close attention in case he needed to later.
He received no small amount of impressed looks as they sailed into Isla de Muerta’s cove, making excellent time. Ed couldn’t resist a smirk: that would teach them to doubt him. He finally closed the compass, lifting his eyes to the island.
“So,” he said, as the crew crowded close. “I’m only going to take a few in. Four, maybe five of us at the most. That’s how they managed it last time, that’s how we can do it again. And we’ll need a distraction, so most of the people who go are going to be in charge of that. Any volunteers?”
Gracia immediately stepped forward. Maes winced, looking as if he wanted to as well, but Ed shook his head. “We’ll need you to stay in command of the ship while I’m gone.”
The two Tringham brothers stepped forward as well—a relief; Russell was a hellcat of a fighter, and his brother, though small, had the agility of a feline as well—as did another pirate named Izumi. Ed nodded at the three of them. “I think that’s all we need—”
Ed’s head snapped up at the familiar voice, the familiar form pushing past the crowd to stand in front of him.
“No way.” He shook his head fiercely, glaring up at Al. “Not a chance.”
Al crossed his arms. “I crossed the ocean to rescue you, helped you with your insane plot to drug the Admiral, and you’re still not safe. You can’t keep me from coming with you.”
Ed remained still, sizing Al up. He could see others nodding, agreeing, and he gritted his teeth. It would be nice to have someone as intelligent as Al along as well.
“Fine.” He shook his head. “If you get killed, I’m telling… I’m telling father it wasn’t my fault.”
“I’ll leave him a note for you,” Al retorted, voice dry.
The five of them loaded into the boat, waiting for Ed as he explained the rest of the plan.
“Once we’re out of there, I want you guys to start shooting. Don’t hold back. Make sure we’ve got Roy with us; if he is, that means we broke the curse. We can’t give them time to recover from the rescue. Send that island into oblivion. Crush everyone inside.”
Maes nodded solemnly. “Aye.”
“Once that’s done, we should be mostly in the clear. Give it a few days, even, and we can start digging, maybe try to recover some of that treasure.” He smiled a little wryly and earned approving murmurs for his words.
“Thinking like a pirate. Nicely done, mate.”
With a wink, Maes pushed him towards the boat.
Russell and Izumi each took an oar, speeding them towards the entrance that Ed would have been quite happy never to have seen again.
He retraced the familiar route, listening intently for any sign of the ruckus that he remembered from his brief stay. Quiet. He hoped that meant they hadn’t started anything yet.
Once they docked, Ed crept forward, leading the way. When he reached an angle that let him peer into the treasure room, an odd, unfamiliar sensation of dread gripped his chest.
In the vast expanse of cavern, Ed caught sight of a few familiar forms: Kimblee, Darius, Heinkel, the tattooed woman Martel, Riza Hawkeye—what in the world?—and, most importantly, Roy.
But they were the only ones. Other than that, it was entirely empty.
“I have to hand it to you, Riza.”
Roy knelt, seething, on the floor of the cavern, Darius standing guard behind him, as Riza picked idly through treasure. She would hold a piece up, evaluating, then toss it aside as if it were a worthless rock. “Mmm?”
“I never thought you had what it takes to run a ship. Not as a beta, especially. It’s why you lost control of the crew all those years ago, after all.” Roy could see Riza still for a moment, then continue. “I always thought you were too… soft.” Kimblee smirked, crossing his arms. “But you’ve proven me wrong. Helping this brat here track down his lost love? For a moment, I thought you were a romantic.”
Riza rolled her eyes in Kimblee’s direction, looking well and truly annoyed. “Ah, yes, he offered to free me in exchange for navigation here, sparing my neck from the noose, to reclaim his stolen fiancé. Clearly, I could have had no other intentions beyond being a closet romantic. Your powers of deduction astound me.”
Roy watched Kimblee’s eyes narrow, but he didn’t snap. In fact, he looked reluctantly amused. Though the thought left him grimacing, he could understand how… certain things had happened between the two.
“But of course. My point is, I underestimated you, much to my sorrow. We’d be much richer and much happier if I hadn’t, I think. But there are time for amends.”
“I’ll say.” She sighed, lifting a golden hairpin, set with sapphires, and tucked it into her bun. “First, you’re going to teach me how you managed to stay away from the Royal Navy all those years. Never a word of a single encounter!” She cast about the room, and her eyes brightened at something behind Roy. He turned, trying to spot what it might be, but only saw more treasure. Darius turned as well, more distracted by the shiny things than Roy was.
“Who says we never had an encounter? We were just able to make sure that no one survived to tell of it.” He laughed. “What’s a missing ship or ten, especially in the Xerxesian.”
“Point.” She knelt in the gold, sifting through, then stood, looking disappointed.
“What are you looking for, Riza?” Kimblee asked, sighing with an indulgent impatience, so full of condescension that Roy gritted his teeth.
She glanced up, mildly interested. “What? Oh, nothing.”
“Then what are you doing?”
Riza smiled blandly, but Roy caught a gleam in her eye that left him tense, waiting, as if for something to shatter.
With a whirl, Riza pulled the hairpin from her bun, throwing it in Roy’s direction like a throwing knife. He lifted his wrists, and the bladed edge sliced through the rope like butter, glancing off the stone edge and scattering away.
Immediately, Roy lashed out with his foot, kicking Darius’s leg, sending him toppling down into the water with a splash. He lunged to his feet, just in time to catch the sword Riza tossed him.
“You bitch!” Kimblee snarled, whirling on them both, drawing his own sword. Riza pressed up against his back, ready to fend off from all sides, but as Roy caught sight of the gleaming medallion around Kimblee’s neck, he knew this could be a problem.
A movement from behind Kimblee caught Roy’s eye, and his eyes widened.
Right before he swung at Roy, Kimblee caught sight of Roy’s expression and turned, choking at the sight of Ed charging up the mound, sword raised, several others behind. He gasped, and Roy took the opportunity to slash his sword across Kimblee’s back. Technically, it wasn’t dishonorable if he couldn’t die.
Kimblee screamed in anger, whirling, sword aimed at Roy’s gut, but Riza dove in front, catching the swing, parrying, and attacking with a vengeance that forced Kimblee back.
“Hey,” Ed gasped, eyes wide, as he came in range. Briefly, Roy caught sight of Gracia, the Tringhams, a sailor named Izumi who could fight like no one’s business, and… Alphonse? What in the world?
More importantly, however, was the one in front of him.
“Hey.” Though he should have been furious at Ed for taking the risk to come back here, the sheer joy of seeing him again stretched his face in a grin.
With a small sound of joy, Ed reached up, hooked Roy around the neck, and dragged him down for a kiss.
Roy gasped, shock running through him. He wanted to yell at Ed—not now! Not while there was still danger! You could die!—but all he could do was moan softly, leaning in, testing with his tongue—
“Hold it, asshole!” Ed laughed, breaking off, breathless. “We’ve got a fight, first.”
Nodding grimly, he turned, taking in the situation. Riza seemed to have Kimblee well in hand as they battled, all expert parries and thrusts and footwork, so right now, time to focus on the rest of the pirates.
Though the three were outnumbered, they still had the very significant advantage of immortality, and even as they attacked, Izumi and Al on Martel, Gracia and Russell on Darius, and Ed and Roy on Heinkel, they could only push back, not make any leeway. Roy caught sight of Gracia burying a knife in Darius’s ribs, sending him staggering backwards in pain, but it was only an inconvenience, nothing more.
A rapport echoed throughout the cave, Martel’s head snapped back, and everyone paused for the briefest of moments, glancing around in alarm. Fletcher Tringham stood at a distance, eyes hard, pistol in hand, taking aim again.
With a shriek, Martel lunged away from Al and Izumi, headed in Fletcher’s direction. Russell immediately followed, letting out a wordless cry of his own, tackling her before she got even a quarter of the way there. She snarled and slashed at him, opening a wound in his side, but Russell didn’t seem to notice, instead wresting the sword from her hand, grabbing her by the back of the neck, and bodily flinging her into the wall. She slipped into the water, where she floundered, gasping.
Roy turned back onto Darius and Heinkel as they seemed to grow more urgent at the fall of their comrade. Out of the corner of his eye, Roy kept an eye out, but Martel seemed to be staggering back out of the cave, bones at a strange angle, possibly taking time to recover.
Or to get help, Roy thought, a lump forming in his throat.
He let out a shout, pushing the two larger men back, bit by bit. Though they didn’t seem too thrilled at the thought, they held on grimly, even as they shoved, struck, and kicked, landing nasty blows on anyone who managed to get too close.
“Are you really happy like this?” Ed gasped, chest heaving, a cut above his eyebrow. “Do you really wanna be here? C’mon, this guy’s led you into disaster time and time again. He dragged me out without even checking my name, then tried to blame it on you.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Heinkel growled, shoving him away, aiming a halfhearted punch in Ed’s direction that Roy easily blocked. “We’ve got no choice.”
“No choice!” Ed flicked his sword forward, forcing Heinkel back, then spread his arms in a gesture of exasperation. “You think we want to leave you cursed? Goddamn, we just want Kimblee dead, and for that, we need to break it too. I can’t imagine you wanna stick around with him after this.”
A harsh bark of laughter from Darius. “A mutiny, then.”
“Makin’ up for your last one.” Out of the corner of his eye, Roy could see Ed grinning fiercely. “Let’s be honest, after all this, who d’you really want to be serving under? Kimblee or Hawkeye?”
Roy could see them exchange glances, and he pressed his advantage. “Leave. Now. We’ll let you go, get a head start, whatever it is you’d like. I promise you, by the end of the night, you’ll be free.”
As if on cue, all seven of them froze, poised, the only sounds in the cave that of Kimblee and Riza fighting behind them.
A brief glance, exchanged in a fleeting moment, and both of them nodded. Without another word, they turned and fled.
“How…?” Izumi stared at Ed, eyes wide, white teeth gleaming against her dark face, looking impressed despite herself.
Ed shrugged. “Got to know them on the trip. They’ve honestly only stuck with Kimblee because they’ve got no better option. Wasn’t hard to figure out.
Shaking his head, Roy grinned down at Ed, beaming with pride. Then, as if on cue, they all turned to face Riza and Kimblee, ready to end it all.
It was right at that moment that Riza lunged, sword flashing. Kimblee smacked it aside almost lazily, smirk faint, and then ran his own sword through her chest.
“Do you hear something?”
At Maria’s tense voice, Maes straightened, frowning slightly as he peered towards the cave. Though he carefully inspected any sign of the entrance with his spyglass, he saw not even a hint of movement.
“No,” he breathed, lowering it and collapsing it. “They’ll probably take a little longer. It’s not an easy rescue. We could be here for a while.”
Maria nodded uncertainly, but continued to stand there, tense and ready, as if waiting for something awful to happen.
He reached out to place a hand on her shoulder. “Hey. It’ll be all right. Some of our best went in there. They might still even have Riza, and if they do, have you ever known for her not to come through?”
“That is true.” Maria smiled wryly. “Sometimes, even when I wished she hadn’t.” With a sigh, she turned to Maes, nodding appreciatively, then glanced away from the cave.
And froze, expression shifting from one of muted concern to abject terror.
“We’re under attack!” she yelped, drawing her sword and whipping around. Maes did the same only on her cue, and his eyes went wide.
Skeletal figures scrambled over the railing behind them, clearly dripping wet from the sea, and a horrible thought dashed through him.
They had walked underwater, around to the back of the boat!
“Fight back!” he cried, pointing with his sword, for once glad that Gracia had gone inside. Though he couldn’t tell exactly how many were now swarming, it appeared to be at least the majority of Kimblee’s crew. That meant that those who went inside would now be facing far less—
Or would be dead already.
With a scream of denial, he lunged, leading the charge against the undead, lopping off a head and crushing the ribcage of another with a forceful kick. Though the tactics they had used in their last fight with the Black Hayate had ultimately proved unsuccessful, they had no other options, and it at least seemed to be easier to sever body parts with little flesh attached.
“What in the world!”
With a sinking feeling in his gut, Maes whirled, the voice ringing vaguely familiar in the way only a newcomer to the ship’s would. The goddamned governor, he thought savagely, door to the captain’s cabin open, eyes wide, standing there like an idiotic sheep waiting to be devoured by wolves.
“Dammit!” Maes yelped, lunging through the fighting to close the distance, motioning frantically at Hohenheim. “Get back in the cabin and lock the door!”
But two skeletal pirates had already seen him and now ran for him, swords raised.
With another spat curse, Maes kicked the legs out from under one, then ran the other through. Ineffective, perhaps, but it at least distracted the pirate long enough for him to shove the governor back inside and slam the door, with a bonus of trapping the skeletal arm when he did so, severing the limb and sending it dropping into the captain’s cabin.
The pirate roared with fury, but Maes just beheaded it, sending it scrambling for the skull as it rolled across the deck. He whirled, back to the door, ready to take on the next. He could hold them off until they succeeded. They had to succeed, he told himself, clamping down on the fear and despair beginning to take hold. Gracia was in there. She could do anything, and add her to Riza—
The sound of a shot echoed out in the dark, and something slammed into him, sending his head cracking against the wood of the door behind him, the rest of his body following.
His legs seemed to have stopped working. Idly, he noticed a distant pain spreading across the left side of his chest as he leaned back into the door for support. When he looked down, the darkness of blood bloomed across his shoulder.
He looked back up and caught a fleeting glimpse of a pirate, pistol in hand, smirking, but it turned away, ready to kill its next attacker.
As Maes’s knees collapsed, sending him sliding to the ground, he could feel the slickness of his blood spreading across the wood behind him.
Ed let out a strangled gasp, legs and arms suddenly heavy, as his sword fell from his hand. No. No. Fuck, this couldn’t be fucking… No!
With a cry, he lunged forward, but something grabbed him, held him back, even as Riza sagged onto the blade. Ed whirled, staring at Roy in shock and betrayal, but Roy only stared at Riza and Kimblee, expression fierce.
Turning his gaze back to the horrific sight, the dark blood of Riza’s blood gleaming dully, the spreading bloom at her chest, he stayed, wanting to help but knowing there was nothing he could do.
She inhaled, a ragged, shocked gasp, blood trickling down one corner of her mouth. She took one step forward, then another, impaling herself further on the sword as she reached out to him, as if she could still stop him.
“Oh, Riza,” Kimblee murmured, their faces so close that he could have kissed her. “I really did think you were smarter than this.”
She reached up a hand to her chest, then to his, leaving a bloody smear on his white coat. Her eyes unfocused…
Then sharpened again as she snatched the medallion, yanked it off his neck, and sprung away. The move sent her hurtling back into one of the rays of moonlight filtering in through the holes in the top of the cave.
Ed’s jaw slowly dropped as his eyes went wide.
Her skin had melted away, leaving only rotting bits of flesh and two bright blue, vengeful eyes, remnants of her lips stretched into a triumphant grin. She tilted her head back and laughed, clear and devastating, the strange, grotesque horror of her face nauseatingly familiar even underneath the rot.
“No, you didn’t, Zolf,” she laughed, tone mocking. “And that’s why you’ve lost.” She lifted the medallion, then with the same hand, reached into her sleeve and pulled out another.
Kimblee’s shocked expression mirrored the rest of the room as they all stared, frozen.
Then, with a loud, furious shriek, he lunged towards her, swinging like a madman.
It did no good. He clipped her shoulder; she sliced his side. The blood flowed freely from the wounds until they stepped into another patch of moonlight, revealing their skeletons, then out again, healed completely. He howled with rage, lifting his gun and shooting her in the chest. She only laughed, stepping backwards again. Though everyone in the room shifted, tense, ready to fight if anyone else came forward, none of them dared move forward towards the terrible sight.
“You bitch!” he snarled, usual calm shattered, hair hanging in limp strands where it had escaped his ponytail. “You traitorous, two-faced, greedy, lying—”
“Oh, I’m traitorous? Please Zolf; you’re nothing more than hot air. It’s time you learned to accept that. If that brat over there could accept that his father was a murderous pirate, you can at least come to terms with your true nature.”
Beside him, Ed could see Roy stiffen, and he turned. Roy stared over at Riza, eyes wide, as if parsing something.
Then he moved.
Ed immediately followed his lead, as did the rest of the gathered crew. Kimblee turned, attention drawn by the movement, and Riza shoved her sword through his neck. He gargled, coughing up blood, then yanked away, staggering for another patch of moonlight. As he stepped out of it, healed again, Roy reached the stone chest. Riza turned, ignoring Kimblee for a moment, and flung the bloody coins towards him.
“No!” Kimblee roared, lunging forward and tackling her. She gasped, her aim going wild, but with her seven allies in the room, Kimblee had no chance. Ed scrambled forward, snatching them up, and as Kimblee tried to shove himself to his feet and rush Ed, it was now Riza’s turn to tackle him from behind.
“The sacrifice!” she called, eyes frantic. “Give it the sacrifice!”
Ed glanced over at Roy, who was nodding, but still, something caused Ed to hesitate. He glanced down at the coins: one familiar, with the salamander and flame, the other a much simpler design, one circle inside another, a large triangle over it all, and three smaller triangles in the middle of each side of the larger.
Russell reached Ed first. He grabbed his wrist, slashed the back of his palm, then smeared the coin through it. With a furious cry, Russell yanked back, but Ed ignored him. One down.
“Your hands! Give me your hands!”
Al was next, immediately obeying, and Ed drew the blood as quickly as he could. Gracia and Izumi were more hesitant, but followed the example set, and Ed finally finished with Fletcher before darting over to Roy, who held his hand out, eyes meeting Ed’s in understanding.
Ed nodded, offering his sword. Roy grabbed the blade, slicing his hand down it, then pressing it against Ed’s. Squeezing, Ed passed over the two coins.
Howling with fury, Kimblee managed to wrest an arm free, snatching up his pistol, aiming it at Ed. Roy froze, eyes wide. Only for a moment, but it was enough.
A shot rang out through the cavern, and with a gasp, Roy opened his hand, letting the coins fall.
Time seemed to stop.
Everything else vanished around him. A huge stone door in front of him, cracking open the tiniest bit—a flash of light, and he was being dragged through. He wanted to fight, protest, but tiny limbs lashed out, wrapping around him and yanking him forward.
Visions flashed before his eyes—symbols, the tree of life, gold, words—then became far too much to take in, and he opened his mouth to scream.
Nothing came out.
And then he understood.
His eyes widened as the universe seemed to stretch out before him, everything that had ever been and ever would be. Everything that would create it, everything it would devolve into. But it came to him as if behind a glass wall, too much for any mortal to bear.
Then the vast breadth of knowledge vanished, leaving inklings in its wake, but they were enough.
Maria saw Maes go down.
She lost sight of him afterward, as the pirates closed in around her, but the sight left an emptiness in her chest, a confirmation of what she had already known. They would lose this fight. There was no victory.
But she would not go down without a struggle. She would die giving them all hell.
She lifted her sword and screamed, hearing the surviving members of the crew do the same. With a fury lighting her blood like none other she had ever felt, she rushed forward, swinging furiously at the jeering pirates, not even bothering to defend themselves.
Her sword struck flesh, and blood splattered across the deck.
Even Maria stilled for a moment at the sight, thinking, with a jolt of terror, that she had killed one of her crewmembers. But the man who slumped to the deck, dead, was not one of theirs.
A shocked murmur rippled through their assailants, raising to a horrified cry, almost a moan. The crew closed ranks around the pirates, steel of their blades leveled at their throats.
The man in front of Maria glanced down at the body of his dead comrade, then up to the moon, still shining bright in the sky. As he glanced around, he took in what Maria had already seen.
Not a single skeletal pirate remained in sight. Every last one of them had reverted to flesh and blood.
Maria heard the clatter of a weapon falling to the deck, then another, and within moments, the sound shattered through the night.
Ed staggered as the world resolved into focus around him, then froze, waiting for the pain, the blood, the kick, but nothing came.
He slowly lowered his gaze to his chest, sagging with relief when he saw nothing. Had Kimblee’s shot missed?
He realized that the entire cave had gone deathly quiet, and he turned towards Riza and Kimblee, frozen together.
For a moment, he saw blood on Riza’s face and his stomach twisted, convinced of the worst. But she drew away, stumbling back, and Ed could see no wound.
Below her, Kimblee stirred, attempted to climb to his feet, then collapsed again, gasping. It was only then that Ed saw the red stain spreading from the left side of Kimblee’s chest, the gun that Riza held in her hand. The one she had carried for eight years.
“You…” Kimblee rasped out, chest heaving, eyes crazed as he stared up at her.
“Me,” she said simply, then stepped over him, walking away, not giving him even a second glance as he choked, then let out one last breath.
Ed watched Riza walk towards the stone chest, somewhere deep within a hazy fog, her determined expression the only thing he could see for a moment. But then she bent down, lifted the lid of the chest, and slammed it back down on top.
“Good riddance,” she said quietly.
Slowly, the urgency seemed to sap from Ed’s chest, replaced by an exhausting, bone-deep weariness. He glanced around, spotted Roy, and took the few steps over to him, leaning over into his shoulder, receiving an answering arm of comfort around his own.
“So,” Ed eventually croaked out, voice raspy. “Did anyone else see that… thing, or…?” He glanced around, wondering if he was just goddamn crazy, but it had made sense. It had made sense, and it had fit so well with everything that he had studied. It was the missing piece, the key to it all.
“Yes,” Roy replied quietly. “The… gate, it’s called?”
Ed heard Russell inhale, a shivering breath, and when he glanced over, he realized that Russell had been even more afraid of being mad than Ed was. He nodded at Ed, as did Fletcher, Izumi, Gracia… and Al.
“It’s the real gift of the chest,” Riza said matter-of-factly, digging through treasure until she pulled out an ornate crown, snapped in two from the pressure of all the weight above it. With a satisfied grunt, she turned.
“You’re the genius, right?” she said, staring at Ed. “Fix it.” She flung it in his direction. He had to step forward, but her aim was good, and he caught it gracefully. He stared down at it, bewildered, then back up at her, but she only watched him expectantly.
He returned his attention to the metal, turning it around in his hands, letting his mind drift back to the memories of the place. The gate. The knowledge he had glimpsed, the way the universe had fit together so perfectly, like interlinked fingers.
With a hum of thought, almost as if moving on instinct, he looped the crown around his wrist, then pressed his hands together, staring down at them.
An odd energy, like static right before it shocked, seemed to surround him, heavy and yet intangible at the same time. He shivered, but it didn’t help; he was the power source, and he needed to let it out.
He released his hands, placing one on the crown, feeling it, the way its molecules and atoms had separated, imagining them whole again, the entire shape whole again.
Blue lightning flashed from his fingertips, and he gasped as it coated the metal, then vanished.
The crown sat in his hand, whole again.
“What…” whispered Roy, and Ed could hear the awe in his voice.
With a gleam of triumph in his eyes, Ed lifted it, taking in the flawless circle.
“It’s alchemy, Roy,” he murmured.
The obligatory experimentation with everyone’s alchemy lasted only as long as it took them to realize that the Briggs still had a crew of pirates on the attack. Unfortunately, alchemy didn’t help with walking across water.
“Equivalent exchange,” Al murmured, staring down at his hands. “Even for something that seems like magic, it has its limits.”
“It’s not magic,” Ed corrected. “It’s science. All of that shit about it being magical is stupid idiotic Amestrians being superstitious.” At the glance from the assembled crowd, he shrugged. “It’s true.”
“You seem to know a lot.” Izumi, whose dark skin marked her as decidedly not natively Amestrian, smirked over at him.
“Like I said, I’ve been studying for fucking years. And none of that tells us how to get back to the ship. I guess we could try ice…”
Riza cleared her throat, and they all turned to see her crossing her arms, one eyebrow raised.
“Did everyone forget that we still have boats?” she asked, pointing to the crafts in question, oars piled on the ground.
As they sheepishly rowed back out to the Briggs, Ed watched Roy’s face in profile, against the darkness of the cave and, finally, the night sky. His fiancé. The man who had saved him, and who he had saved in return. And his alpha. Definitely his.
And he had a damned good pair of arms.
They reached the Briggs quickly, but instead of encountering a battle that needed to be won, they were hoisted up to whistles and cheers, and to the wonderful sight of nearly the entire crew of the Black Hayate bound and defeated.
“They gave up, once they realized they could die,” Maria declared, a smirk on her face as she eyed Riza. “Didn’t do too bad without you, did we?”
Riza smirked back, but then frowned slightly, registering that Maria had taken charge. She opened her mouth, but Gracia beat her to it.
Maria’s smirk faltered, and she glanced back towards the quarter deck. “This way.”
They split off, Gracia, Riza, Ed, and Roy following, the others peeling away to converse with the rest of the crew. Gracia’s eyes widened as they ascended the stairs to see a makeshift infirmary. A few bodies lay in a corner, covered with a white sheet, and several more crew members lay on bedrolls, nursing wounds of various severity.
One of these was Maes.
“Clipped him in the shoulder,” Maria said, turning to Gracia, who rushed forward. “He’s lost a lot of blood, but he’s like to pull through, long as infection doesn’t set in.” She nodded at the bucket of salt water, which had clearly been used to thoroughly douse the site of the wound.
As Gracia knelt, Maes cracked open an eye.
“I’ve died and gone to heaven,” he murmured, smiling almost drunkenly. No, Ed corrected himself. He was drunk. Likely an attempt to dull the pain.
“You are not allowed,” she whispered fiercely. “Don’t you dare, Maes, or I’ll have your ears!”
Ed relaxed at the sight. For a moment, he had feared the worst.
Roy’s hand slipped into his, and Ed looked over, smiling faintly up at him.
“Y’know, I think we did okay.”
Roy bent down, kissing Ed’s temple. “Yes. I rather think we did.”
As Roy led Ed down the steps, Ed caught sight of someone he didn’t expect: his father, out cheering and mingling with the rest of the Briggs’s crew.
“Very good! You’re a real fighter, you are, taking on those nasty pirates like that. A well-earned victory to us, I say!”
At the pained look from Ed, Roy let out a chuckle. “Make ourselves scarce?”
They ended up in Riza’s contingent to reclaim the Black Hayate. Though a couple pirates had been left to guard the ship, they quickly surrendered at the oncoming force, leaving Riza in command.
“Excellent.” She walked up and down the deck, surveying, ‘tsk’-ing at the tattered sails with a shake of her head. “This will need some fixing up.”
Ed cleared his throat, and she turned her head, raising an eyebrow.
“The alchemy should help. We should all help in different places. Roy and I will start in the captain’s cabin.”
She narrowed her eyes at the declaration, and to his side, Ed could hear Roy choke. But Ed just offered her a winsome smile; they had helped her reclaim the ship. Surely she could allow them a bit of… down time.
She scoffed. “Just make sure you clean it very, very thoroughly.”
“Well, yeah.” Ed bolted off in that direction, hand tight around Roy’s wrist. Roy made an alarmed noise as he was dragged along behind.
“Edward! What are you thinking? We’re still—”
Ed cut Roy off as he pressed Roy up against the closed door, kissing him deeply, eyes closed, a soft moan against his lips. Bit by bit, Ed could feel Roy relax, until he draped his arms loosely around Ed’s shoulders.
“I guess we could…”
“Damn right we can.” Ed lifted his head. “I’m still in a fucking heat, or hadn’t you noticed. Now help me transmute all the dirt and shit out. Kimblee didn’t sleep, but that doesn’t mean this place doesn’t need a good cleaning.”
“You’re so bossy for an omega,” Roy muttered, earning him a light kick to the rear. Roy only laughed.
Transmutation would make cleaning so much easier from now on. Within a few minutes, they both stood in the middle of a spotless room, gleaming in apparent newness, the grime from the windows vanished, not a single speck of dust anywhere to be found.
So busy was Ed with admiring his handiwork that he didn’t notice the movement behind him: without warning, he felt himself lifted into the air, princess style, and then tossed onto the bed.
He let out a delighted shriek. With a laugh, he tried to shove himself off, but Roy rumbled, amused, and pushed him back on, pinning him down as he lay on top.
“No fair!” Ed gasped, eyes gleaming.
“You’re talking to a pirate, remember?” Roy growled, leaning in to bite the side of his jaw. Ed gasped, the words shivering through him and settling with a thrilled sensation in his belly that, though blatantly arousal, had nothing to do with his heat.
“Yeah?” he panted, fumbling for the buttons on Roy’s clothing. “Tell me more.”
Roy chuckled, vibrating Ed’s neck with the noise. “Well, I’ve finally gained my prize, and I intend to enjoy it to the fullest.”
“That so.” Ed finally shoved Roy’s jacket off, arching up into his hips, feeling their hardening cocks pressing together.
“It is. And, well, it seems there must be claiming involved, so I’ll have to make that sacrifice.”
“And what if your treasure doesn’t want to be claimed?” Ed shot back, a grin stretching across his face, tone making it blatantly obvious that this was not the case.
“Mm.” A tongue flicked out, tracing its way up Ed’s neck. “I think I can convince him.”
Ed gasped and jerked upwards, twisting quickly, and Roy pulled back, a startled expression on his face. Taking advantage of the surprise, he lunged forward, shoving Roy onto his back, then straddled him, eyes gleaming triumphantly.
“Seeing as how I’m the one who rescued you, Mustang, seems like I should be the one doing the claiming.”
It took a few moments for the words to penetrate Roy, for his expression to shift, mouth stretching into a slow smirk.
“Then by all means.”
With a huff of triumph, Ed stripped off Roy’s shirt and pants, then lifted his own over his head. He moaned softly as Roy’s hands slid up his sides, shivering at the touch.
He took it slower than he had their first time, grinding, gasping, working himself up before he even finished undressing. By the time Roy’s fingers dragged down his ass, hooking in his waistband, tugging off his pants, Ed’s cock had grown achingly hard, so flushed that it leaked onto Roy’s stomach. Of course, that wasn’t the only thing that leaked, and as Ed continued to grind against him, he could feel the slickness coating Roy’s abdomen, then his cock. Roy groaned, and Ed teased, rolling his hips up, catching the tip on his entrance, and then rolling back down again. Though he could feel himself shaking, too, the desperate look on Roy’s face made it worth the wait.
So, of course, did the way Ed finally lifted himself up and, without warning, sank down forcefully onto Roy’s cock.
Roy cried out, fingers gripping Ed’s hips so hard that Ed hoped they bruised. The knot swelled, filling Ed that much more, and he gasped. He would never get used to this, he knew, the sensation of being stretched open, claimed, possessed.
Then, he proceeded to fuck himself on Roy’s cock with so much force that the bed shook.
Roy’s low growls and groans matched Ed’s higher pitched yelps, and his fingers dragged down Ed’s hips, gripping desperately as Roy thrust upward, meeting him with a force that left white exploding behind Ed’s eyelids.
Ed arched his back, rocking his hips forward, head tilted back, and Roy snarled at the sight. With a groan, he lunged forward, sitting up and biting Ed’s lip, then kissing him fiercely.
After they pulled apart, to much panting and thrusting, Ed found himself shoved onto his back, heels unexpectedly hooked over Roy’s shoulders. Roy gripped his ankles, continuing to fuck into him. Ed felt a delighted shiver of near-fear as Roy growled, gripped Ed’s hips, and turned.
With a startled yelp, Ed felt himself twist around Roy’s cock, then shoved unceremoniously onto his face in the bed. Roy’s arms grasped around his waist, yanking him back up, and his hands scrambled to find purchase on the bedsheets. Eventually, he steadied himself, more or less, elbows and knees apart enough to help him keep his balance.
Roy growled, bent forward, and slammed into him.
Ed lost track of everything: the boat, the bed, what they had just gone through, and lost himself to the pleasure. Roy took his goddamn sweet time, dragging Ed to the edge of orgasm, then pulling back, thrusting just enough to keep him feeling like he were about to explode. His mouth littered Ed’s back, marking, little jolts of pain on his shoulders, neck, collarbone, vertebrae.
And then Roy gripped Ed’s waist, forcing it towards the bed, and fucked downward into him with a ferocity that left Ed screaming.
When he came, it was with a force that had him collapsing into a limp, boneless mess.
When the two finally left the cabin, hours later, the sun was peeking over the horizon. Ed blinked sleepily at it, still trying to wake back up. When he got back to Port Dublith, he was going to sleep for a week.
That is, if he ever got back. The memory that Roy had still defied orders and stolen a ship, breaking a pirate out from prison, did what Roy could not, penetrating his brain and making him suddenly feel awake. He knew he was safe, even though he had more or less done the same, but that just grated. Technically, Roy had no social position whatsoever, only the military rank that could be stripped as easily as breathing, had Olivier a mind to do so.
The pirates had gotten quite a bit done overnight, and not many of them remained on deck. Ed presumed they were enjoying some well-earned rest. Ed caught sight of Darius and Heinkel furiously scrubbing the deck, Gracia keeping a watchful eye on them, but decided not to say anything. Instead, he and Roy ascended the stairs to the quarter deck, where Riza stood, overseeing it all.
As they reached her, she nodded. “The crew is loading the last of what we could find of the Port Dublith goods onto the Briggs. There’s plenty still down there in Isla de Muerta for us, and I figure it might buy you some favors with… well, you know.” She grimaced.
“Thank you,” Roy said, soft surprise in his voice, and she nodded.
“Least I could do, after you got me my ship back. Can’t have Kimblee’s lot, though. I’ve got… well, let’s just say I’ve earned the right to punish ‘em.”
“Fair enough,” Ed muttered, and Riza turned to him.
“By the way, you’ve got something that belongs to me, and I want it back.”
Roy turned, frowning, and Ed winced. “Right. Well, can you blame me?”
“Not if you give it back to me.”
Ed reached into the pocket of his breeches and pulled out the compass, holding it out. Roy’s eyebrows raised, but he said nothing. Riza snatched it.
“What, afraid we’ll come back?” Ed joked as she opened it, inspecting. “Or just can’t find your own way back without it?”
She glanced up, raising an eyebrow. “What on earth are you talking about?”
Ed nodded. “The compass. It’s… well, I don’t know how it works, but it’s attuned to the island, right? Points you in its direction?”
A slow smirk spread across her face. “Not exactly.”
Ed frowned. “Then what…?”
Riza snapped it shut, the smirk now a grin. “This? It points you to your heart’s greatest desire, boy.” With a tilt of her head, she shot a pointed look at Roy, who was staring at Ed, absolutely speechless.
When Ed’s jaw dropped, a fierce blush flushing across his face, she tilted her head back and laughed.
It tugged at Ed’s heart in a way he hadn’t expected, watching the Hayate, black sails freshly repaired, sail off into the horizon. The expression on Riza’s face as she had taken the wheel, fierce and eager and almost tender, had left him breathless, and the thought of her finally where she belonged, unfettered and free, left him oddly content.
“Well.” Hohenheim cleared his throat as Ed spun the wheel at Roy’s instructions, while Roy did the rest of the work himself, talking Al through anything else necessary. Sailing the Briggs with four—effectively three—people wouldn’t be especially easy, but they could at least make their way back to where they had left the crew. It hadn’t been too long. There was a very good chance they might still be there, and as for repercussions, Ed’s worry was… starting to dissipate.
“That was something of an adventure, I’d say!” His expression had settled into something livelier than Ed had ever seen, cheeks flushed, eyes gleaming as he stared out into the sea. “Almost delightful, even. I never thought swashbuckling could be so… dashing.”
Ed refrained from mentioning that the ‘adventure’ had cost several lives, including that of Roy’s father who had undoubtedly perished with the breaking of the curse. Though the effects of the gift of alchemy hadn’t left the cave, the curse appeared to have been absolute. Roy had tried to comfort himself with the thought that his father had finally been spared an eternity of agony, but Ed could see that the thought still tore at him.
“In fact, that Hughes fellow actually saved my life! Right before I fought off one of those brutes. Its arm had detached! It went right for my throat! But I won’t be killed so easily. Absolutely not.”
Ed snorted. This was the tenth time he had heard the story. Still, he supposed he should be grateful. His father had apparently been so busy bragging of his ‘escapades’ (failing to mention, of course, that he had been barricaded in the cabin for most of the fight) that he hadn’t even noticed his son and Roy vanish for an entire night.
That, or he was intentionally playing oblivious. Ed couldn’t really be sure.
He and Roy didn’t have much time to talk, not while they sailed, it proving a massive effort to crew it with only the two of them. But the wind was in their favor, and they sailed into the harbor of the small island where they had abandoned the crew of the Briggs by the time the sun was setting.
Olivier, of course, stood on the end of the pier, eyes blazing, arms crossed, expression so chilly that Ed found himself surprised that she didn’t freeze the water itself to come after them.
But Roy sailed the ship into place with the delicacy of a baker putting the final touches on a fragile pastry.
“You dare show your face here again?” she thundered, storming up onto the ship the moment the crew had placed a gangplank for her. “After your treachery? Don’t think that you’re going to get away with—”
“Admiral Armstrong, please!”
Olivier turned, jaw tensing at the friendly, almost laughing voice, eyes wide, as if she couldn’t believe someone dared speak to her in this fashion.
“Yes, Governor?” she asked, voice taking on another layer of ice. Hohenheim seemed not to notice, tone unceasingly cheerful.
“You’re so… angry!”
A few heartbeats of disbelieving silence before she said, “Excuse me?”
Ed could actually watch her go through several stages of response to Hohenheim’s words. Confusion. Surely she had misheard? Disbelief. He couldn’t have actually said that? Shock. He had said that! Anger. Fury. And it continued on.
“I think you need to calm down a bit. Not much harm done, right? I mean, yes, the Alchemy destroyed, but there are other ships!”
“And the fact that Commodore Mustang stole that ship and helped a known convict escape?” she choked out, voice tight with rage.
Hohenheim simply shrugged. “Well, technically it was his ship. No one saw him break her out, either. And besides, those nasty pirates got the comeuppance they deserved for it, I promise. And we even got a good amount back of what was stolen from Port Dublith!” He reached out and patted her briskly on the shoulder, the force rocking her, with how stunned she was at the contact. “In fact, I think you deserve a vacation. You’ve done so well.”
“Governor, I don’t think that’s necessary—”
“Nonsense!” Hohenheim reached out to grab her hand, shaking it briskly, either the bravest, stupidest, or most oblivious man Ed had ever seen. “I insist. Take two weeks, on me! We’re in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Why not enjoy it?”
Ed and Roy took the sputtering, almost gargling noises of shock and outrage as their cue to slip quietly belowdeck.
The fall breeze blew through Roy’s hair, gently swaying the slicked back strands, tugging at Ed’s own hair, worn down and gently curling around his face. Ed grinned up at him, feeling like he were about to burst, unable to quite comprehend the reality of the situation, wondering how in the world couples in love managed to survive long enough to have a year anniversary, let alone procreate. God knew that he was about to keel over at the sight of Roy there, in his formal military wear, beaming down at Ed, eyes looking as if they beheld the greatest treasure in all of the world.
“And do you, Edward Elric, take Roy Mustang to be your husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, ‘til death do you part?”
“I do,” Ed breathed, heart leaping inside his chest.
“Then before the law of this land, and before all those assembled, I proclaim you to be husbands. You may kiss.”
With a gasp of joy, Ed lunged forward, releasing Roy’s hands, grabbing his face, and yanking him down for a kiss.
Around them, what seemed like the entire population of Port Dublith cheered.
When Ed pulled back, face stretched into a grin, the only thing that could match its incandescence was the love and joy in Roy’s face.
The bits after seemed to flash by in a blur, Ed and Roy smiling and nodding and accepting congratulations, hands clasped tightly together. Roy had to insert a smooth word and a subtle rescue whenever Ed got too sarcastic; Ed had to liven up the conversation a little when Roy got too proper.
It was perfect.
They eventually managed to get free of the press of people, breaking away and ducking behind a building to catch a breath and share several long, laughing kisses. As the wedding had been held outdoors, to accommodate the sheer number of guests who would undoubtedly want to attend, that just made it easier to find a hiding spot.
“So,” murmured Roy, lifting Ed’s left hand to his mouth and kissing the back of it, thumb lingering on the golden ring there. “We’re married.”
Ed let out a delighted laugh, marveling at how the word no longer sent a surge of disgust and dread through him, as it would have just month ago. “Yeah. Weird, huh?”
“Do you feel any different?”
Ed paused, thinking. Aside from the minor sexual frustration—for the sake of appearances and keeping their noses down after their escapades, they had been forced to spend their nights apart since returning to Port Dublith, and Ed was ready to fucking end that once and for all—the more frequent physical contact with Roy, and the knowledge that he was so getting laid tonight, the entire situation didn’t… seem too terribly different than it had before.
God, had they been basically married the whole time? Ed made a face at the thought.
“I hope it’s not that bad!” Roy laughed, expression one of adoring disbelief.
“God, I’m stuck with you for the rest of my life, you bastard,” Ed grumped, elbowing him dramatically. “I should’ve thought this through!”
“Tell me about it,” came a third voice, the driest thing on the island, from behind them. “I don’t envy you, boy.”
Both of them whirled, eyes wide, hands still together—so really, Roy turned, and Ed swung around him with an alarmed yelp—to see a figure lounging on the corner of the building, face obscured by a large, black hat with a turquoise blue feather adorning it.
“Oh my god,” murmured Roy from beside Ed, voice flat with shock. The figure tilted its head up, and Ed caught a glint of humor in two familiar, bright blue eyes.
“Riza!” Ed gasped, than quickly lowered his voice, glancing around. But no Olivier was in sight, and he beamed. “I can’t believe you came!”
“And I can’t believe you didn’t even send me an invitation. Really, all I do for you two, and I don’t even get a free pass for all the food I can gorge myself on? It’s downright rudeness, I tell you.”
“Ed wanted you to be the one to marry us,” Roy replied, his own tone matching hers for dryness, but Ed could hear the smirk in it. “But we couldn’t find you. It’s a shame; it would have been so romantic, you reading off our vows…”
Riza made a gagging noise, pulling the hat off her head and fanning herself. “On second thought, glad I missed it. You don’t look that good in uniform.”
“Hey, he looks downright fuckable—”
“Trust me, I know your feelings on the matter better than I ever would have wanted to.” At Ed’s flush, she smirked. “Tell me you didn’t miss my teasing.”
“I get enough of it from him,” Ed muttered, lifting his chin, pretending to be offended.
“Anyway, I wanted to come give you saps my congratulations. Maybe we’ll see each other around. Maybe not.” She winked at Roy. “In fact, I quite hope not. Somehow I have a feeling your goodwill only stretches so far.”
Roy snorted, but didn’t confirm… or deny. “Well, thank you. We’re quite happy to be around to have them.”
“I’ll bet.” She replaced the hat on her head. “Maes and Gracia give their best. And so does their baby bump. Russell says something I can’t repeat, and, well, the rest of the crew hopes you live a long, happy, and landlocked life away from chasing us.”
Roy chuckled, wrapping an arm around Ed’s shoulder and pulling him in. “I’ll keep that in mind. Tell them thank you, too.”
“Yeah, yeah.” She stepped back, then lifted her arm in a lazy, irreverent salute. “Have one on me, you two.”
Ed sighed happily, squeezing Roy's hand as she walked away.
He paused a moment, then tilted his head up to Roy, smiling innocently. "Hey.”
"Wanna steal another ship?"
Thank you all so much for sticking with this to the end! I would like to sincerely apologize to my father, who is retired navy, and any age of sail aficionados for my probable absolute disaster in maritime terminology and whatnot. Assuming you're still reading this and didn't exit out in disgust by the first chapter.
If you're interested in more Disney AUs, check out my fic Adversity's Bloom, a Lan Fan centric Mulan AU! Though the main pairing in Ling/Lan Fan, you'll recognize a couple of familiar ships in the background. ;)