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we haunt ourselves

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"There's something funny about that kid," Maes says thoughtfully after Fullmetal has waltzed into and out of their headquarters for the first time. "I just can't put my finger on it."

Roy taps his fingers on the table and thinks, remembers the blood and gore and the brilliant, fascinating, utterly horrifying array drawn onto the floor. "He killed his own brother. Funny isn't quite the word I'd choose."


"Well, color me impressed." Maes says, staying safely behind the same wrecked wall Roy is crouching on. The ongoing Fullmetal versus everyone else fight has left the area in ruins. "And please watch out for the flying debris. My darling Elicia doesn't want you bleeding all over her birthday cake tonight."

It is impressive, even Roy has to admit that. Mostly, Fullmetal seems to run on instincts and reckless violence alone, disregarding his own safety in the pursuit of victory. And then there are sudden moments of thoughtful, calculating silence followed by ground shaking destruction that reminds Roy of the Crimson Alchemist. Fullmetal would’ve been terrifying in Ishval.

"Huh," Maes says and tackles Roy to the ground. Roy is almost certain the spear wasn’t meant for them. "Interesting."


Maes, who has never let little things like common sense stop him from doing something, invites Fullmetal to his house.

"Are you insane?" Roy says and shakes his head. "Never mind, just tell me why."

"To meet my beautiful wife and my perfect daughter, obviously." Maes smile is as gentle as a knife sliding between ribs. "I know what I’m doing."


"Of course!" Maes is very, very good at dramatic pauses. "Which is why you’re coming with us."


All the boy does is blink and look around, play with Elicia and compliment the dinner. He's quiet and perfectly polite, which is just weird from someone who shouts at Roy more often than not.


Fullmetal imprints on Maes like a duckling to its mother, and Maes embraces his new role with open arms. He even manages to drag Fullmetal out of the library without any casualties to either people or books.

It would be hilarious if it weren't Maes.

"What are you scheming?" Roy asks one quiet afternoon, reading yet another report of Fullmetal's amazingly successful misadventures in the south. It'd be easier to reprimand him of ignoring orders if he didn't leave a sea of cheering people in his wake.

Maes doesn't look up from his papers but his lips quirk alarmingly. "Just idle curiosity. Everyone needs a hobby, Roy, you should try it sometimes."


The pile of food on Fullmetal’s tray is on par with Armstrong’s lunch and the speed he shovels it down makes Roy feel slightly sick.

"Where does he put all that?"

"He’s a growing boy." Maes shrugs and bites into his sandwich. "You know, he’s not that much shorter than you anymore. One of these days you have to invest in heels if you want to look down your nose at him."


"I hope you’re not encouraging him," Roy says. The complete catalogue of all the books Fullmetal has read in the past month is much longer and more alarming than he anticipated. "You know what he’s capable of. I don’t want a chimera army running in the countryside."

"You know he likes animals too much to do that." Maes pauses thoughtfully. "Or at least cats, I’m not sure what’s his opinion on insects and reptiles."

"Somehow that’s not very reassuring."


"Say, have you ever seen anything like this?" Maes slides a folded paper across the table and continues, "Elicia is such a magnificent artist and she's only four!"

Roy unfolds the paper and looks at picture, the bright colors and wobbly lines and misshaped stick-figure people. It looks like something a child might draw if the child was inclined to add an alchemical array on the blinding yellow sun.

"Did she sit on your front yard or draw this from her memory?"

"As her brilliance has yet to reach its peak, she had a model for this one. Isn't it wonderful?"

"It's very nice." Roy has never seen the array before, and it's impossible to tell from a glance what it's supposed to do. It makes his skin crawl nevertheless. "You should be careful. With the hobbies she has, she's going to decorate your walls next."

"Her infinitely patient mother has taught her the difference between paper and everything else. It's a crucial skill in life, and my little darling knows from experience that she has to clean up after herself." Maes snatches the paper back and stuffs it into his pocket. His house has a very convenient fireplace. "Not that I’d personally mind if she'd do that, it'd only brighten up the place!"


"I thought you should visit us," Maes says cheerfully. "Elicia wants to show her latest masterpiece to you in person."

Roy tightens his grip on the phone. It's something he hasn’t managed to train himself out of no matter how much Maes and Hawkeye nag at him. "You mean you want to show her off."

"Ah, but who wouldn't want to show off something as beautiful and perfect as Elicia?" Maes sounds happy and carefree, and Roy can’t pick up the slightest sign of distress. "Even Ed thinks so."


Roy expected the scars connecting Fullmetal's automail arm to his torso, the twisted, thick lines marking the place where flesh ends and metal begins. He expected the other scars too, scratches from all the trouble Fullmetal has gotten himself into over the years.

The array is a surprise.

It's the one from all those months ago and it's carved into Fullmetal's skin right above his heart.

"I know, all right?" Fullmetal mutters to himself, sitting on the couch and staring at the floor. He's holding a knife and all things considered, it worries Roy less than the odd twist of his mouth, the look in Maes' eyes. "Bastard. You fucking better be as trustworthy as Hughes says."

"Ed," Maes says simply and Fullmetal relaxes a fraction.

"Hah, yeah. Okay." He looks up, looks straight into Roy's eyes and says, "I drew it myself. Back when I killed our mom and- anyway, I didn't have anything to write on except myself, and there was a knife. Pretty convenient, huh?"

Roy can imagine it, a younger Fullmetal bleeding to death in front of his mother and brother’s corpses and cutting a perfect circle, an apparently functional array on his own flesh. It’s grotesque and nightmarish, but he can imagine it easily enough. He clears his throat. "That's not quite the word I'd choose."

"I bet." Fullmetal smirks and then it fades away. "It worked, and as long as I redraw it every few weeks, it keeps on working. I didn’t tell your people anything because I don’t trust the military any further than I can throw you, but Hughes says you’re okay, so here we are."

"Get to the point, Ed," Maes interrupts and pats Fullmetal’s automail shoulder fondly. "Al is right, you’re too fond of dramatics."

"No one’s perfect." Fullmetal shrugs and blinks, and then he says, "Hello, Colonel Mustang," except that it isn't Fullmetal, the voice is the same but the tone is completely wrong, and Fullmetal never, ever calls Roy that if it isn't to make fun of him. This doesn’t feel like a joke.