Fullmetal Alchemist Fan Fiction ❯ Underneath it All ❯ Crystal Clear ( Chapter 3 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

*** Chapter 03 Crystal Clear ***
After the incident at Bella Torino's Major General Roy Mustang noticed that while all of the office still went to lunch as a group twice a week more often than not on the other three days Ed and Havoc went to lunch together. Now this should not have surprised the General but it did. He was just not sure what the cornerstone of this feeling was.
Roy wondered if it was because all other attempts at relationships Havoc had made had never dreamed of lasting this long. Or maybe it was the fact that according to the majority of Central the First Lieutenant hand landed the most sought after person in the city. Roy was leaning more towards the fact that, in his mind, an unlikely candidate had won or was at least way ahead in race for Ed's attention.
When Wednesday rolled around he had the misfortune of overhearing some of the ladies in the secretarial pool gossiping about his love life or lack thereof. He was really getting tired of everyone feeling sorry for him and assuming that he felt envious of FullMetals popularity. He was just about to turn around and leave the office for the day when one of them said something that stopped him in his tracks.
“Well you know what I really can't believe.”
“And what would that be Deloris?”
“I can't believe that the Lt. Colonel is considering dating Jean Havoc exclusively.”
“At his age and from what he has to pick from!? Surely you must have heard wrong.”
“No, scouts honor Alice. I heard him talking to Maria Ross with my own two ears and it sounds like wants to settle down.”
Now Mustang was not one to fall prey to office gossip but this bit of possible information had him more than just a little intrigued. Had things over the past month really gotten that serious between the two? Roy was admittedly more than a little curious as to what was really going on. He was going to have to up his observation of the two. Not that there was anything wrong with them deciding to become a serious item, it was just a bit sudden.
This is what was bubbling through the Generals mind as he left the office much later than usual to begin his walk home. He was so lost in thought he walked right past Ed and would have continued on if the other Alchemist hadn't spoken his name.
“What's got you in such a daze General?”
Not wanting to lie to the other man Roy opted to be vague.
“Just pondering the secrets of the universe FullMetal. What brings you over to this side of town?”
“Falsetto's, it's the only shop in all of Central that sells the kind of piano wire I like.” Ed replied as he spread his arms out in emphasis.
It was then that Mustangs attention was drawn to the brown bag clutched in Ed's Left hand. As he stood there listening to the younger alchemist go on about how hard it was to find a decent music supply stores; Roy once again found himself confused about something concerning the man standing in front of him. It seemed like any and everything surrounding Ed these days left Roy confused and it was starting to grate on his nerves.
Roy let out a long sigh and decided to ask the question burning in his mind.
“Why do you need piano wire FullMetal?”
“It's for my piano.” He replied with a bit of uncertainty lacing his tone. Roy, now glad he was not the only one lost, continued his line of questioning.
“Why do you have a piano?”
“Because I got tired of the harpsichord and upgraded.” Ed replied with blinking eyes and a slight tilt of his head. That and the expression on Ed's face reminded Roy of a kitten.
“I didn't know you played.” Roy said.
“Oh that's what you meant. Sorry General I thought you were the first to know everything.”
“So did I but I've come to find out here recently that is not the case.”
Roy stood there talking to Ed and found out that not only did Ed play the piano but Al played the guitar. Edward told Mustang about how important their mother felt music was and that she had urged both of them to learn to play something. Ed claimed his mother had said they would live to regret it if they didn't.
They were so wrapped up in conversation they hadn't noticed they had started walking until they came upon what appeared to be a festival vendor in distress. Once Ed saw this he wasted no time approaching the man and offering his help and Mustang followed.
As the two officers tried to figure out what was wrong with the man's vehicle their conversation continued. By the time they found the problem Ed was in the midst of telling Roy about one of his funnier alchemical mishaps while out on a mission. Greatly amused by his colleagues story Roy decided to share one of his own. When Roy finished talking all three men were laughing and it was now Levi's turn to tell a tale.
Before it was all said and done more than two hours had passed and both alchemists were covered in motor oil, grease and grime but that was fine because Levi's vehicle was now up and running.
“I don't know how to thank you officers enough. I'm afraid I'm not able to pay you.” Said Levi as the kindly old man stared at them with grateful eyes.
“Don't worry yourself Levi your thanks is payment enough for me.” Chimed Ed as he wiped his arms down with a towel Levi had given him.
Levi then looked thoughtfully at Roy and Roy just nodded his head and smiled at the older man. For a moment it looked as if Levi was about to speak then suddenly his face brightened and he asked the two of them to hold on for a minute as he went back to the cart his vehicle was pulling. A few moments after that an odd humming sound was heard coming from the cart.
Curious both alchemists walked toward the sound of the noise. Ed and Roy had not moved two feet before Levi reappeared with some sort of papers in hand giving Roy and Ed two apiece.
“Now don't you boys run off just yet, I've got one more thing for ya.”
Roy and Ed stood there caught in the grip of Levi's enthusiasm as the man went back inside the cart. As they waited for the man to rematerialize from inside the cart that humming sound from earlier got louder. When Levi finally did return he held two of the largest helpings of cotton candy either officer had ever seen.
He handed each of them one of the large pink puffs of spun sugar and smiled at his rescuers. Levi then proceeded to tell them that they could use the passes he gave them anytime over the next 3 weeks and that the festival was being held in the small town of Hayden that was neighboring central. Ed was reluctant to keep the passes because he at first thought Levi would be charged for them. But the man eased Ed's fears when he said that all of the people working the festival get these passes free from the owners as a gift for their families. Since Levi had no family to speak of he had no use for them.
The man thanked them again and said he had to get on the road if he wanted to make it in time to setup for tomorrow. He said if they ever found themselves in town of B'Lina during the off season that they would always be welcome at his house. The two alchemists waved to Levi as he disappeared into the evening sky.
Roy examined the two passes in his hand and discovered they were both to see the theater troupe that was traveling with the festival. When he asked FullMetal if his were the same a slight scowl appeared across Ed's features.
“What's wrong FullMetal?”
“Both of mine are for the games and rides.”
A smile spread across Roy's face as he realized what had put the Lt. Colonel in a foul mood.
“Well regardless of your actual age FullMetal you do still appear quite young.”
“Whatever Mustang… I guess this is better than appearing too old to want to have this sort of fun.” Ed snickered as him motioned to the passes Roy held.
“Touché.” Roy said as he took a bite out of the pink fluff ball in his right hand.
“Well I have an idea that will make us both happy.” Ed said as he began to gnaw on his own wad of cotton candy.
Roy said nothing he simply quirked an eyebrow at Ed and waited for him to continue. Ed posed that the two of them trade one pair of the passes so they both get to do it all. Roy thought that was a wonderful idea so he handed Ed one of his theater passes. When Ed reached out with his own pass Roy noticed that he had the glove off of his automail hand.
Roy knew that when FullMetal restored Al's body he also got his left leg back. He found himself wondering again why he did not receive his arm back as well. Not wanting to bring up anything uncomfortable he simply took the offered pass and continued to enjoy his sugary treat.
Roy now realized that by the time they had wandered into Levi they had doubled back past the office and was closer to South side of central. He knew Ed and Al owned a home on this side of town but he had never actually seen it. He knew what kind of salary a Lt. Colonel lived off of and he was more than a little surprised by the neighborhood Ed had drifted into.
There was nothing wrong with the neighborhood, quite the opposite; it was rather nice, a bit upscale even. He was further surprised when FullMetal opened the gate to a well manicured lawn that surrounded a rather spacious looking Tudor style home. He hadn't intended to stop and stare but he did and it soon became obvious Ed knew why.
“Between my salary, Al's salary and the work I do in my lab we've managed to do pretty well for ourselves over the past few years.”
“I'll say…um…did you just say `my lab'?”
“Yep, the basement to this place is mostly one huge laboratory. You want to come take a look?” Ed asked as he stepped up on the porch and began peeling his shoes off. When Roy began to do the same Ed stopped him.
“That's not necessary General I just loathe having shoes on and the sooner I can get out of them the better.”
“I don't mind. I'm not much for strolling around the house in mine either.”
Ed simply nodded and opened the door. When he did an absolutely wonderful aroma reached Roy's nose and made his mouth water. It was then that his stomach reminded him of the fact he had not eaten dinner.
“AL.” Ed shouted “I'm home.”
“About time.” was the reply from Alphonse that came from further inside the house.
The younger Elric had launched off into a nice calm rant about older siblings being trouble and how Ed never knew how to use a phone but he stopped once he reached the foyer and realized Ed was not alone.
“Well hello Major General nice to see you again, it's been a while. Sorry about all the fuss I was making, I didn't realize Ed had company.”
“Not a problem Alphonse, nice to see you as well.”
“Well since you're here and I'm sure it's somehow my brothers' fault you're arriving so late, why don't you stay for dinner?”
“Only if you're sure an extra mouth won't be any trouble.” Roy said as he smiled at the younger Elric brother.
“None at all, if I can feed Ed anyone else should be no challenge at all.”
“Humph… very funny Al.” snorted Ed as he walked towards the stairs. “Since the two of you are having so much fun at my expense I'll leave you to show the General where he can clean up.” With that Ed disappeared up the stairs.
“Follow me General.” Al said as he led the way through what was apparently the living room followed by a dining room. Off to the left of the dining room was clearly the kitchen because Roy's nose determined that's where that delicious smell was coming form. When they stepped out of the dining room they walked down a short hall that ended at a small bathroom.
Al told Roy where the towels were and left the General to cleanup. Shortly after Roy turned the water off a soft knock was heard on the door. When Roy opened the door Al was standing there with a clean shirt in his outstretched hand. Initially he had doubts about the shirt fitting, but one good look at Al told Roy the young man had grown quite a bit since his restoration-they now stood eye to eye.
Roy thanks Al for the shirt, strips his uniform jacket and undershirt off and dons the clean white shirt Al was kind enough to bring him. Roy mused that Al remained as thoughtful as ever. He then wondered if there were any kittens about. Roy's mind flashed back over the countless times Ed had come into the office grumbling about how Al tried to take in every stray they encountered.
As the General walked up the short hall he heard Ed explaining to Al just why he was so late getting home. When he arrived in the dining room he was greeted by two smiling faces and a table set for three. Apparently Al had taken it upon himself to get everything ready while the two of them cleaned up. This was fine by Roy he was more than ready to eat.
The conversation the three of them had over dinner was stimulating to say the least. It was a bit surprising to Roy that the younger Elric had not joined the military like his sibling. Mustang soon found out that Al taught advanced alchemical theory and biology at the University for a living. From what was said despite his age, or lack thereof, Al seemed to have no problem holding his own with the other professors.
The General found himself lost on more than one occasion during the discussion Al had initiated. The Elric brothers discussed science on a level and with an ease Roy found hard to describe. The three of them were so engrossed in their world of science that time got away from them. It was the grandfather clock located somewhere in the Elrics home chiming twelve times that pulled the three alchemists back to reality.
“Is it really midnight already?” Al questioned.
“I guess it is.” Ed replied as he got to his feet and started gathering the dishes.
“Sorry to keep both of you up so late.” Roy said as he began helping his hosts clear the table.
“Not a problem General.” Al said as he followed his brother to the kitchen. “It happens to Brother and I all the time.”
Once everything had found its way into the kitchen Ed told his younger brother not to worry about the dishes, he would do them once he got back from giving the General a ride home. Al nodded while trying to stifle a yawn, said his goodbyes and left the room. Roy watched Ed as he sifted around the kitchen in search of something. He did not have to search long because only moments after he started his search Al's voice called out with the information that the keys were hanging behind the door. Ed responded with a thank you and guided the General out the kitchen door.
The kitchen door led out to what was apparently a wraparound porch. The two officers followed the porch around the back of the house to the car the Elric brothers shared. Roy was not aware of the fact that the Elric brothers owned a car and said as much once he and Ed started off down the road. Ed said he never really drove it to work because he preferred to walk when the weather was nice and that when it was cold or stormy out Al just dropped him off on his way to the university. The University was a much longer trek from where they lived so it just made more sense for Al to use the car.
When they arrived at the Generals house Roy thanked Ed for the ride home and said that he was going to have to have the brothers over for dinner sometime in the near future. Ed smiled and agreed before he bid the General goodnight.
* * * * * * *
It was now Friday of the same week Roy had eaten dinner at the Elrics house. The office was alive with the usual chatter and rustle of papers when Roy had come out of his office to get some information from Riza and give some approval letters to Ed. Roy was in the process of turning around when Ed asked him to hold on a minute and started reaching under his desk for something. Ed pulled out a paper bag and handed it to Roy.
“What's this FullMetal?”
“Oh, that's the clothes you left at my house Wednesday night.”
You could have heard a pin drop in the office after that statement was made. Roy's back was turned to most of the others in the room but he didn't have to see them to know all eyes were on the him and Ed. Roy could feel the weight of their stares and if the expression on Ed's face was any reflection of his own his was in no hurry to turn around and face them.
Ed's cheeks and ear's were an impressive shade of pink by the time he decided to lower his face and pretend to be engrossed in his work. The General decided to follow Ed's lead and continue on as if nothing happened. Roy said a polite thank you as he turned on his heels, made direct eye contact with no one and marched into his office where he remained for the rest of the day.
When quitting time came Roy made sure everyone had ample time to vacate the office before he even started closing for the week. When he stepped out of his office the only person he saw was Furey, and he was hurriedly digging around for something in the file cabinet.
“Is there something I can help you with Lieutenant?”
“Yes there is sir. I need to find the minutes from your last meeting with the commander of the team in East city.”
“Are they that important to have you flustered like this?”
“No I'm just in a hurry because if I'm late again I'm sure Lt. Hawkeye will make good on her threat to leave me behind.”
“I didn't know you rode home with Hawkeye in the evenings.”
“Oh not from here sir, we all usually meet up at the town square and leave for Baysol from there.” Furey said as he slid the top drawer closed and proceeded to move on to the next one continuing his search. “Now that you join us for lunch have you decided to come to Fidel's in Baysol as well?”
Roy was not sure who Fidel was or if he had ever had a reason to stop in Baysol for anything. As far as he could recall Baysol was a two bit town that was about a forty minute drive west of Central. From Roy's point of view something important had to be going on there to get the Lieutenant this anxious about being left behind. So without much thought Roy decided to tag along.
“Sure why not. What time do you all leave for Baysol?” Roy asked.
“Well Ed and Al leave around six and these days Havoc is usually with them. I can never… ah-ha I found it!” Furey all but shouted in joy as he slammed the file cabinet shut.
“You were saying.” Roy said as a reminder for his second Lieutenant to finish his original train of thought.
“Oh sorry about that sir, I would just like to have enough time to shower and change and not have to run all the way to the towns square. I was saying, I can never seem to be ready that early and usually catch a ride with Hawkeye, Breda and Falman or Danny and Maria. They don't leave until seven.”

Roy looked at his watch and saw that it was already a quarter after five. Realizing he would have to get a move on himself he bid the Second Lieutenant farewell and headed for home.

On the way there his mind was trying hard to come up with a viable reason for everyone to be going to Baysol. He could not think of any real social hotspots or attractions being located there. But he figured he would trust his coworker's judgment on this and tag along. When he got home he showered, changed and headed out to the town's square and he arrived with 10 minutes to spare.
Everyone looked a bit surprised to see him. He figured Fuery would have informed them that he was coming but when he looked around Fuery was nowhere to be seen.

“He is always late sir,” said Riza as she checked the hem of the skirt she was wearing, “that's why I threatened to leave him last time.”
“So what is the big attraction in Baysol?” Roy asked.
Danny opened his mouth to answer but silenced when Riza cut in and answered with `you'll see when we get there.' Roy would have questioned her further but Furey chose that moment to come running into the square. Riza checked her watch and shook her head at the out of breath man in front of her. With Cain's arrival they all wasted no time loading up in the two cars present and starting on their way.
Roy thought it was a pleasant change of pace to see all of them out of uniform. Especially Falman, Roy was almost positive that man lived in his uniform. Even on the rare occasion he bumped into the man when he was off duty he was still garbed in his uniform.

Roy did not miss the fact that everyone conveniently avoided all of his questions concerning why they were all so concerned about going to Baysol and getting there at a certain time. Not wanting to ruin their little game he let it go and played along. Roy figured he would get his answers soon enough.
When they arrived in the town of Baysol they did not travel far before Riza brought the car to a halt in front of what appeared to be some sort of tavern or pub. If the crowd was anything to judge by this was quite the popular little nightspot. There was a line for admittance at the door but when the men guarding the door recognized Breda and Riza their group was waved in around the line and the shorter of the two guards told Breda that their usual tables were ready.
Havoc was already seated at one of three obviously reserved tables fairly close to the small stage that appeared to be setup for a band. Everyone took seats facing the stage so Roy did the same anxious to see what all the fuss was about. He did not have to wait long because in a manner of minutes some of the lights closest to the stage went out and two of the last people in the world he expected to see on a stage came into view. The two people were not alone but the others were of no consequence to Roy his attention was focused on the Elric brothers.
Al picked up a guitar that was leaning against a set of drums and Ed took a seat behind the piano. Once everyone was in place a relative hush fell over the crowd. When the band started playing Roy's eyebrows shot up a few inches. They sounded good. The sound coming from the stage was smooth, soft and languid-kind of a jazzy blues mix.
Roy Mustang looked at Riza about to make a comment when the next thing that happened made his eyebrows disappear into his hairline.
Edward Elric leaned into the mike and started to sing.
In the ten years he had known him Roy was sure he had heard every possible sound and syllable the eldest Elric could make. But nothing he had ever heard come out Edward Elrics mouth sounded anything like the voice that was now filling the small pub. The shock must have been clearly written on his face because when he finally peeled his eyes off the stage to look at his companions he found knowing smirks on all of their faces. Roy was too mesmerized by the music and surprised by the situation to say anything so he simply sat back and enjoyed the show.
As the night wore on the music became livelier and some of the patrons left their seats to dance. Roy received his second shock of the evening when Falman extended his hand to Riza, she accepted and they strolled out onto the dance floor to join the crowd.
When they finished playing the band left the stage and joined the others at the reserved tables. Al was the first to notice Roy's presence.
“Hey Ed, look who's here tonight.” Al said as he pointed at the Major General.
Now it was Ed's turn to look stunned, even if it only lasted for a moment. The shock on Ed's face swiftly gave way to a smile as he walked around the table that Havoc, Riza and Roy were sitting at and took a seat beside Jean.
“What brings you all the way out here tonight? I thought you said this wasn't your sort of thing.”
“I did?” replied Roy “I don't remember making that comment. I don't even remember being asked.” Roy said truthfully.
“Jean told us you said you were not into the whole bar and live music thing.” Al said thoughtfully as he reached for the bowl of pretzels in front of Riza.
Roy glanced over at the First Lieutenant just as a small smile flickered across his face. Roy narrowed his eyes at Havoc but replied with, “I don't really remember our conversation going quite like that.”
Roy was guessing that Al sensed the sudden shift in his demeanor. Because the young guitarist quickly announced how long ago that was and how the only thing that really mattered was that Roy was here now. Ed then asked Roy what he thought about the bands sound.
Roy answered that question and all of the other ones Ed and Al aimed at him but all the while his mind was replaying that long ago, and until now forgotten, conversation with his First Lieutenant Jean Havoc.
“Hey chief, I got a question for ya.”
“Fire away Lieutenant.”
“Do you still go to bars and whatnot on the weekends?”
“You mean like Rossi's downtown?”
“No I'm talking about the kind that have room to dance, bands that sort of bar.”
“No I can't say I've been into that sort of thing for years. Why do you ask?”
“Not really important if it's not your sort of thing. Have a good evening General.”
With that said the Lieutenant had disappeared and the subject had never come up again. Roy was a little peeved to have his words twisted in that manner, especially when he got the distinct feeling that Jean had been overly vague on purpose. Roy had no desire to dampen the evening and chose not to press the issue. He would not forget it but he wasn't going to focus on it either.
In the midst of Roy's musings someone from the bar came over to see if they wanted anything to eat or drink. When the bartender left Ed proceeded to introduce the other members of the band. Zac was a carefree looking gentleman that played bass guitar and Miles was the soft-spoken heavyset man that was the groups' drummer. Ed said he would introduce the two ladies, Ashley and Lena that sang and played various other instruments like the tambourine and saxophone but they wouldn't arrive until it was time for the second set and that didn't begin until ten-thirty.
They all sat around joking and laughing until Ashley and Lena arrived with barely enough time for a hasty introduction to the General before they had to all get back on stage. When they started the second set Roy noticed the songs involved a lot more guitar and Ed did more singing than playing.
When the evening drew to a close and everyone was heading to their respective cars Roy's mind was roaming over the night's events. He was still a bit awestruck with it all. He couldn't help but look at the Elric brothers in a whole new light. Roy chuckled lightly to himself and this earned him a sideways glance from Riza but she didn't comment. He was laughing at the fact that he was still amazed at anything that involved the Elrics. By all rights and purposes he should expect the unexpected from them by now, especially from Ed.
Roy decided then to open his eyes and put his ears to the ground…he was not going to be caught unaware again.