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Fire Scale

Vulcan staggered into the kitchen and dropped into a chair. He sat there with his eyes closed, practically asleep. The doctor smiled at the oblivious blonde. He made tea for them and sat down across from Vulcan, pushing the boy's tea towards him. The blonde opened his eyes at the scraping sound the cup made as it was pushed. He smiled at the doctor in thanks as he lifted the cup and blew on the contents to cool it.

"Tired?" It wasn't really a question. The doctor could see that the boy was already half asleep.

"I had no idea metal working was so much work, and excercisises with Sensei this morning too," Vulcan groaned into his cup. "This schedule is going to kill me!"

"I think that you are being a bit dramatic. You've had the same schedule for the last 2 months and it hasn't killed you yet. Anyway, I went through the same thing during my apprenticeship, and I survived."

"You trained as a doctor though. Isn't that different?"

"Yes. But I also trained in metal craft before deciding to go into medicine."

"Really? Why?"

"Everyone in this village learns. As we get older we specialise in what we want to do, or go into something different, like I did."


"Yes. You met Paul, our machinist. He specialises in making parts for machines, like your automail. And Annie specialises in making decorative items, such as jewellery."

"What about the Master Smith?"

"Georg is a special case. He has an affinity with metal, the gift to be able to mould it into any shape he wishes. He must have seen something special in you to take you as his apprentice."

Vulcan was silent for a while, lost in thought. He finished his tea before looking at the doctor again.

"What will I specialise in?"

"Now that is up to you Vulcan. No one can make that choice for you."

The blonde nodded. Then he stood, yawning.

"I'm going to sleep now. Thanks for the information doc,"

"You're welcome Vulcan. Sleep well."

The blonde made his way to the room that was his since he had been here. He kicked off his shoes and collapsed on his bed fully clothed. He was asleep almost instantly.

"It is time for you to learn to ride a horse."

"What!" The blonde boy stared at the Master Smith in disbelief. "Why do I need to learn that?"

"No student of mine will be unable to ride. You have been my apprentice for 8 months now. I will be teaching you how to be a farrier soon, so you need to be at ease around horses. Now come with me."

The two made their way to the stables and practice area. There was a horse there, already saddled, with its reigns looped loosely around a fence post. Vulcan hung back and studied the horse; its glossy black colour was broken here and there by swirls of dark brown, and the mane and tail were the same black broken by brown. The horse stared back at him, as if studying him in return. The Master Smith approached the horse and untied the reigns. He led the horse to the centre of the practice area.

"This is Obsidian. Come closer boy, she won't bite."

Vulcan cautiously made his way over to the Master Smith and horse, stopping a few feet away. The Master Smith shook his head at the blonde's obvious reluctance to come closer and turned back to the horse.

"A few things to remember boy, She can sense your fear..."

"I am not scared!"

"You are. See she's skittish. You're uneasy so she is too. Calm yourself and she will settle. Second thing; don't stand behind her unless you want to get kicked. Got that? Good. Now time to start, watch me first then do as I do."

The Master Smith mounted the horse, and then dismounted again. He gestured for Vulcan to do the same, and stood holding the reigns and stroking Obsidians nose to calm her. Vulcan approached nervously, but had no problems mounting.

"Good, now take the reins,"

The Master Smith handed the reins to the blonde and stepped away. The blonde stared at the reigns in his hands as if he didn't know what to do with them. He shifted in the saddle and opened his mouth to speak. Obsidian chose that moment to move, startling the blonde and making yank sharply on the reigns. The horse didn't like the pulling at her mouth and reared, trying to dislodge the boy. Vulcan let out a startled yell as he slid from the saddle, ending up in a heap on the ground behind the horse. As he staggered to his feet the horse took the opportunity to aim a kick at the blonde, striking him in the chest and sending him sprawling a few feet away.

The Master Smith was roaring with laughter, even as he secured the horse to the fence and made his way over to his apprentice, who was struggling to get up; one of his arms was curled protectively around his chest. He was glaring at the still laughing Master Smith.

"What the hell was that?"

"Your first lesson," The Master Smith's reply earned a feral snarl from the blonde, which he ignored in favour of examining his apprentices injury. He probed the blonde's chest gently with his fingers and the boy winced.

"Just bruising to the ribs. You'll be sore for a few days but otherwise fine."

"Why didn't you help me?"

"You wouldn't have learned anything if I had. The best way to learn is to do, and to make mistakes. I trust that you won't make the same mistakes again."

"No, I won't. But you didn't have to laugh, and that horse is evil."

"She's not evil; by pulling sharply on the reins you hurt her mouth. And with you sitting in the saddle with all the grace of a sack of potatoes, I don't blame her for wanting you off. You will try again now."

The blonde glared at the horse, which looked back at him innocently. He gritted his teeth and moved towards the horse. He was determined not be defeated by the animal. The Master Smith stood back to watch, grinning in anticipation of what was sure to be a good show.

Roy was waiting outside the Fuhrer's office for a meeting with him. He couldn't seem to keep still and was pacing in front of the closed doors. He stopped as the doors opened and the Fuhrer's secretary appeared. She motioned for him to enter and stood to one side to make room for him to pass. Roy entered the room and saluted the Fuhrer, who was seated behind a massive desk.

"Ah, colonel Mustang. It's been a while."

The Fuhrer smiled benignly at Roy. The secretary closed the doors quietly and made her way to a much smaller desk situated to one side of the room. Roy's eyes followed her movements for a moment before snapping back to the Fuhrer.

"I requested your presence here to hear from if the reports that I have been receiving are accurate."

"Sir, I assure you that the reports I sent are accurate. Is there any part that you wish me to elaborate on?"

"Indeed Mustang, you can tell me why, in the 18 months since you were given your assignment, you have failed to catch the murderer."

"We have made progress sir. We now have an accurate description of the man, and he has gone to ground. The murders have stopped."

"I am aware of that already. In fact I received a report this morning. Apparently a man matching the murderer's description was seen crossing our eastern borders. It seems that Scar has left Amestris."

"Sir, will we be pursuing him?"

"No, I think not Mustang. You and you team are to be transferred back to Central."

"Yes sir."

"You are dismissed Mustang."

Roy saluted and turned to leave. As he reached the doors he paused at the sound of the Fuhrer's voice.

"And Mustang, if you must continue your wild goose chase of a search for Fullmetal, do it on your own time. If it interferes with your duties you will regret it." The Fuhrer paused "He has been gone for 2 years now. Do you really believe that he is still alive?"

"Yes sir. I do." Roy answered without turning to face the Fuhrer.

"Very well, that is all."

Roy opened the doors and exited the room without looking back. He frowned as he walked through the corridors, causing some of the people he passed to move away from him hurriedly, hoping that they wouldn't be around to feel the force of his displeasure. Roy barely even noticed them; he was too intent on getting to his subordinates as fast as possible.

He entered his temporary office to find his staff sitting and talking. They all looked up at his entrance. He walked in and collapsed into a chair without saying anything.

"So, how'd it go?" Havoc was the one to break the silence.

"We're being transferred back to Central,"

"That's good, right?" Furey looked unsure of his statement.

"Why are we being transferred sir?" Hawkeye asked.

"The Fuhrer received word this morning that Scar crossed our eastern borders. It is no longer practical to pursue him."

"What about looking for Ed? Are we still going to search for him?" Furey asked.

"The Fuhrer has basically forbidden me to search using military resources. He suggested that I do it 'on my own time'."

"But we're not going to stop are we?" Furey persisted.

"No, but Alphonse is going to be doing a whole lot more travelling now that we can't."

Vulcan groaned as he woke. His head ached, his whole body ached and his mouth felt completely numb. He stayed still; his eyes were closed as he tried to remember what happened the night before. Annie had wanted to celebrate; it had been 2 years since he had decided to stay in Tetsu Valley. She had decided that it was his birthday, as they didn't know when his real one was. And since he was now 16 she was going to get him drunk. She had told him that everyone should get drunk before being legal because it was more fun that way. He couldn't remember much of anything past the first 4 or 5 drinks.

There was a metallic taste in his mouth, so he decided to clean his teeth to try and get rid of the flavour. He struggled up from his bed and to the bathroom and looked at himself in the mirror. He looked pale and there were dark circles under his eyes. He was still fully clothed and they were wrinkled and messy from sleeping in them. As he cleaned his teethe felt the brush tap against something hard in his mouth, he spat out the remaining toothpaste and rinsed his mouth out before checking in his mouth with a finger. He encountered a little ball on his tongue; he withdrew his finger and stuck out his tongue to look at it in the mirror. There was a bar stuck through his tongue with a little ball on each end. He stood and stared in shock.

"Wha'..." He found that he couldn't speak properly. So he spun around and stalked out of the room in search of Annie. He found her in the kitchen with the doctor. They both looked up at his entrance. He stormed over to Annie and glared at her.

"Wha' di' ya do?" He attempted to demand, but failed to produce complete words.

"Pierced your tongue. I've been experimenting with miniature threading for jewellery. You thought it was a good idea when I showed it to you last night." She smiled at him sweetly. He snarled wordlessly in reply.

"Let me see Vulcan." The doctor held Vulcan's face gently as the blonde stuck his tongue out. He finished his examination and let go of the boy's face.

"It should heal cleanly, though it is rather swollen at the moment, the swelling should go down soon. We can take out the bar if you like. It will take at least a month to heal completely weather it's taken out or not. And you'll have to be on a liquid diet for at least the first week."

"Please keep it Vulcan. It's your birthday present from me." Annie begged him, looking at him with pleading eyes. "It won't heal any faster if it comes out. Please, I'll make it up to you."

The blonde looked at Annie for a few moments before closing his eyes with a resigned sigh and nodding his head in reluctant agreement. The red-head clapped her hands and hugged him happily.

"Here, drink this." The doctor handed Vulcan a glass. The boy took the glass but made no move to drink its contents, he just stared at it with a mildly disgusted expression on his face.

"It's only milk. It won't kill you." The doctor looked faintly amused at the blonde's reaction. "You will need to drink it Vulcan. It will help you heal faster."

Vulcan looked at the doctor with a pained expression. Then shot a poisonous glare at Annie, who was giggling behind her hand, before returning his eyes to the deceptively innocent glass in his hand. It was going to be a long week.

Roy hurried towards his office. He had just gotten out of a meeting with the Fuhrer, lieutenant general Grumman, major general Hakuro and brigadier general Grand. It was not good news, he needed to share it with his subordinates and Alphonse, who was visiting. He slammed the door open then shoved it closed with equal force. The occupants of the room all stopped what they were doing to stare at him.

"What's wrong colonel?" Alphonse sounded concerned as he asked the question.

"The border disputes to the south are flaring up. And there are murmurs of unrest to the east. Investigations suspect that Scar is stirring things up."

"How does this affect us sir?" Hawkeye asked the obvious question.

"The Fuhrer is anticipating a war on two fronts, and so is planning on expanding the army. He is sending out the conscription notices in a few months. 1 able bodied person from each family. I'm afraid that you are on that list Alphonse. Your friend Winry will be too."

"Oh, why wait so long before sending the notices?" Al seemed to be resigned to his fate.

"It will take that long to set up the training camp in the south east. Alphonse, we can't continue the search for Edward with this going on. I'm sorry..."

"I understand sir." Al hung his head looking defeated. "I guess it won't make much difference. We haven't found him in 3 years..."

"Don't give up hope Alphonse, we will find him." Hawkeye rested a hand on his shoulder in an attempt to comfort the boy. Al nodded gratefully.

"We are being assigned to the training camp. The advance party will be leaving to start construction in 2 weeks. We are to follow 2 weeks later. Alphonse if you were to volunteer, I could arrange for you to come with us at that point. Will you do that?"

"Yes sir, I will."