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Closer part I

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Closer part I Powered By Docstoc
					Closer part I
Rating: PG-13 - some cussing
Pairing: Roy/Ed pre-slash - good old fashioned UST
Spoilers: None in this chapter
Disclaimer: Fullmetal Alchemist and its characters and situations belong to Hiromu
Arakawa and a bunch of studios. All I own are words . . .
Summary: Ed gets a lesson in looking properly, and Roy learns that sometimes it pays to
keep your mouth shut.

Notes: Can be read as a standalone - it was written as a standalone - but became the fic
that spawned an epic. Later chapters go up to NC-17 rating, but mostly the fic evens out
at an R. There are series spoilers in this fic, just in a weird alternate-timeline sort of way.
If you haven't watched the whole series I don't fantastically recommend reading this (for
one thing, watching the series is a much better use of your time than reading this) but
there's nothing obviously or horribly spoilerish.

All other parts are in my memories.



Colonel Mustang was working late; he'd put off this paperwork, put it off and put it off
and put it off, made a goddamn art form out of procrastination, but First Lieutenant
Hawkeye was completely unimpressed by the new heights he had taken his particular
medium to. That look in her eye had said it better be done before she came in for work in
the morning, and she wasn't the sort of woman who needed to add the 'or else'. Now it
was going on for ten o' clock at night and Roy still couldn't make himself start, it was
painful to start, if it was wrong to make a prisoner of war go through this it was surely
wrong to make a Colonel suffer it . . .

The Fuhrer had spotted Roy's desire for power and was trying to subtly kill him through
boredom. There could be no other excuse for paperwork like this.

He had thought he was alone in the building, tilting his fountain pen up and down and
watching the ink flow back and forth because anything was more interesting than work,
until he heard a rattling clatter-crash from the outer office. He lowered the pen and
looked at the door, and tugged just gently at one of his gloves. It was too late now even
for cleaners, so whoever was in there . . .

Whoever was in there was muttering, either to themselves or to a much quieter partner,
and by the sounds of it had just knocked something else onto the floor. Roy narrowed his
eyes slightly as he paused behind the door. What kind of spy is that clumsy?

He swung the door open smoothly and stepped half into the outer office, hand raised and
fingers angled to click, still partially shielded by the door - and his eyes originally fell a
little too high even though he was aiming in the right direction. He looked down, and
blinked, and Edward Elric gazed back at him in a slightly unfocused but not remotely
perturbed way. He was sitting on the floor with the office first aid kit open on his lap -
that must have been the original noise, the kit was kept on a high shelf and Ed had
knocked a couple of boxes of files onto the floor climbing up to get it - holding a pad of
bandages to his forehead, little ribbons of blood running down the side of his cheek. Roy
realised his mouth was open, and Ed was still just watching him perfectly calmly, like
nothing out of the ordinary was happening, like he wanted to see what Roy would do next.

"What - the hell -" this wasn't exactly the behaviour of a calm and collected superior
officer, but what the fuck - "happened to you?"

Ed blinked and peeled the bandages from his head with a little wince, looking at the
sticky, bloody mess in his hand as if it was interesting, and said, "I got hit by a car.
What're you still doing here? It's really late. Do you pretend not to work all day and then
do it at night? That's . . . weird."

Roy's mouth flapped for a second before he composed himself and walked over, dropping
to a crouch beside Ed, who blinked up at him mildly. "You got - how did you get hit by a
car? Why aren't you in the hospital?"

"It was only a car," Ed said, still sounding very relaxed for Ed, and he wiped at the blood
on his forehead with the back of an already-stained white glove. "No-one looks where
they're going in this city. It dented my automail." He lifted the arm at Roy and then let it
drop again, but he didn't sound at all upset about it. "And my book's ruined. The library's
gonna freak, Al's gonna spaz out and Winry's gonna kill me with a spanner."

Roy glanced at the carcass of a book, torn beyond repair and driven over by the looks of
it, and put two and two and Ed together and said in a slow, sinking voice, "You were
reading as you crossed the road."

"This never happened back home," Ed said, taking a bottle of antiseptic out of the first
aid kit and shaking it before squinting speculatively at the label. "'Course, there're only
two cars back home, it was tripping over cowshit that was the problem."

"Fullmetal, I think you might be concussed." Roy said, trying to keep his voice calm,
trying to think what to do.

"Actually, I'm thinking remarkably clearly." Ed said, tugging a scrap of cotton wool out
of the first aid kit and popping the lid from the antiseptic with his teeth, spitting it over
Roy's shoulder. "It's like all the unimportant thoughts got knocked out of my head. If I
was concussed I'd never have thought to come clean up before I went back to Al, 'cause
he's really gonna spaz out if he sees me like this. And -" He grunted, eyes tightening
slightly, as he slapped the soaked cotton wool to his forehead. "-you're spazzing out,
which is weird, because normally you act like king of the fuckin' world and I'm your
damn clockwork soldier, and I don't know why a little bit of blood's such a surprise to
you. I usually end up bleeding on your stupid pointless missions, or whenever I get close
enough to the Stone to think we actually have a chance. What, you're smart enough to
pass the State Alchemist qualifications, you can't work that out?"

"Full-"

"But then, maybe you would spaz out, it's not like we have a normal military sort of
relationship. I know you go out of your way to watch mine'n'Al's backs, which you
bloody well should considering the crap we go through for you, but I still dunno why. I
know you're not looking to be my new fuckin' dad because you stare at my ass whenever
I leave your office - which you think I don't know about but I can see your reflection in
the window in your door, moron." Ed flicked away the stained piece of cotton wool and
dried his forehead with the sleeve of his coat, as if cleaning a wound and then rubbing it
with a travel-worn and ever-dirty coat sleeve was a good idea. "But then maybe you do
that to everyone, you are a big old man-whore." He stopped rummaging in the first aid kit
and took out a large plaster, tilted his head to one side slightly and said, "Do you have a
mirror?"

"A-?" Roy said faintly.

Ed waved the plaster at him. "Can't see to do this without one, idiot. How'd you make
colonel? Jeez." Ed sat back abruptly, more obviously bruised now he'd got most of the
blood off, and his currently perfectly calm golden eyes searched Roy's shock-blank black
gaze. "I guess at least I know that if I get killed, you'll miss my butt." he said, and rubbed
his forehead again, wincing. "Maybe I am concussed, I'm actually saying all this shit to
you, aren't I? What do you do for concussion, d'you like, lie down for a bit?" His
expression changed suddenly, as if he'd just remembered something important, eyebrows
knitting slightly and eyes twitching as he moved his forehead, straining the cut. "Actually,
I think I do want to lie down for a bit. You're staying still but the rest of the room's kinda
spinning. Hey, you're actually the centre of the universe now instead of just you thinking
you are, right?" He cackled, and tried to stand up - and pitched helplessly forward, with a
little startled yelp, into Roy's automatically lifted arms.

Roy stared down at the heavy blond head pressed against his chest, but Ed seemed to
have forgotten how to move, hands clutching Roy's arms and pulling his shirt taut. He
said, muffled against Roy's chest, ". . . shit."

"I'm taking you to a hospital." Roy said, because that at least was a fact that wasn't going
to run away from his control.

"No you're not, I'm not going to a hospital, I hate hospitals-"

Roy stood up, tugging Ed up with him; he swayed and stayed upright because Roy was
holding him upright, head still flumped drunkenly against Roy's chest, still dragging at
his shirt. "Head injuries can lead to brain damage even when you think they won't,
Fullmetal, and even though in some particular cases it is a matter of debate, the brain is
an important part of a human being."
"Bastard." Ed tried to tug himself away but Roy had him by the forearms, and Ed wasn't
currently coordinated enough to get himself free. "You're just fucked off because now
you know I know you stare at my ass-"

"To be entirely honest," Roy said through gritted teeth, "I would appreciate it if you kept
that to yourself."

"You think I'm gonna tell anybody that?" Ed said, sounding so genuinely horrified that
Roy finally let go of the bubble of tension in his chest, almost melting with relief. Ed
clearly had no idea how much trouble spreading that around could get them both into; if
someone thought it safest to transfer Ed to a different command, someone who wouldn't
understand-

He paused.

"What exactly is so repugnant to you about the idea of anybody knowing that I might be
even slightly attracted to you?" He narrowed his eyes. "It happens to be quite the
compliment, Fullmetal."

"What, because it's you?" Ed sneered, giving another jerk at the hand around his wrist.
"It's my ass, how do I know what perverted thoughts you're having about it? Let the fuck
go-"

Roy sighed, and with just a little grunt of effort, slung the startled teenager over his
shoulder, much-discussed ass in the air, and walked towards the door of the office. Ed
squawked in shock and then howled in fury and humiliation, scrabbling to get some grip
at Roy's back, kicking without the right angle to put any force into it at his stomach.

"You bastard, put me down! Fucking pervert wanker, I'm not going to a hospital, I'm fine,
put me down, I'll kill you-"

"Watching you try right now would be amusing, but some other time, Fullmetal."

"Bastard, fucker, shit-for-brains wrinkled old lech-"

Roy jogged the body over his shoulder as he opened the door and Ed yelped, fumbling
for grip. "That was uncalled for."

"Un-fuckin'-called for, you son of a bitch, I'll tear your lungs out!"

It was a pity; Ed had been so unusually calm and quiet while newly concussed.


*
Roy had heard the brothers' approach as they passed underneath his window, arguing in
that completely absorbed way of theirs about whether or not what had happened was Ed's
fault. Ed was adamant that it damn well wasn't until Al's voice, deeper and hollowed-out
by the armour, began to get frantic and tearful and he sounded like nothing more than a
little boy again, lost and upset. At that Ed began back-pedalling rapidly, anything to keep
his little brother from crying, any confession. Okay, maybe it was his fault, yes it was his
fault, he wouldn't do it again, of course he paid attention to where he was going, of
course he would pay attention to where he was going, he wouldn't leave Al alone, he
wouldn't-

Could armour even cry? Roy mused, as the voices were lost as the brothers entered the
building. He doubted it, and Ed must know that on some level, but as far backward as
Roy would bend over in keeping Ed protected, in finding him leads and clues and hope, it
looked like Ed would be willing to snap himself entirely in half for Alphonse. It was . . .
baffling, because Ed was such a brat, a stubborn, obnoxious, ill-mannered and
overconfident brat, there was no other word for it. But when it came to Alphonse, Roy
had never seen anyone display that level of devotion before in his life. Ed, who treated
orders as if they were requests, glanced at his little brother across the office as if to check,
as if to ask permission. When he noticed scuffmarks on the armour he would rub them off
with his sleeve and the peculiar clumsy tenderness of a big brother wiping his little
brother's face clean, a task which usually fell to Al after Ed had eaten. Anyone who could
walk close enough to perhaps bump into Alphonse and hear the hollow ring would get
stamped out of the way by an overprotective, snarling Ed, anyone who commented on the
strangeness of the armour would get the sort of glare that melted paint off the walls. Al
was the bindings of Ed's world, no-one and nothing else could make him both so
awkwardly gentle and so fiercely protective.

Roy sighed, elbows on the desk and steepling his fingers. Always attractive, with those
wide golden eyes and that bright blond hair, Ed was startling when he was angry,
stunning. He blazed, he spat sparks, he was just too much like an out of control fire and
Roy - well, yes, he loved fire. He always had, it had always hypnotised him. Ed
hypnotised him.

And Ed was fifteen, and a subordinate, and a - man, boy, whichever, Ed defied that
particular definition. And he knew. Roy's eyes trailed up to the frosted window on his
office door. Damn. How could he have been so stupid? At least he knew Hawkeye
couldn't have noticed the same thing yet, he was still breathing . . .

Ed chose to knock and open the door all at once, by kicking it, and strolling in with his
hands in his pockets and a bandage around his forehead, kicking the door closed again
behind him. Roy chose not to react at all to his entrance, and Ed strode up to his desk and
just stood there for a second, worrying his watch in his pocket - Roy could hear the
clinking of silver off automail.
Roy waited, but there didn't seem to be anything coming, so he sat back slightly and was
clearing his throat to speak when Ed burst out with, "Before you - make a joke or some
shit so I want to break your face - I need to do this before you do that."

Roy stared. Ed swallowed, his eyes roamed briefly across the ceiling, and then met Roy's.
"Thank you."

Roy raised an eyebrow. Ed squirmed, but coward was the one thing he was not, so he
went on with an aggravated whine behind his voice, "For, last night, for making sure I -
y'know, for not just leaving me or whatever." He shuffled his feet, glared at Roy like he
wished he'd dissolve into the carpet, and said with bitter bad grace, "Thanks."

"You're welcome, Fullmetal." Roy said, more surprised than he liked to let on. "Am I
now permitted to make the mandatory 'short' joke?"

Ed parroted back, because even bandaged and bruised he was a brat, "Am I permitted to
break your face?"

"If you can reach it." Roy murmured, and the colour in Ed's cheeks went from crimson to
purple. "Before you make a heroic attempt to reach above my shoulders - there's a
stepladder in the broom closet, by the way - I would like to know why you're here,
Fullmetal. I didn't summon you. I don't have a job for you today, you're free to continue
with your research if you wish."

Ed was attempting to school himself into calm, but the Mustang, KILL reflex was clearly
almost overpowering. "I." He swallowed, clenched his teeth, breathed hard and finally
choked out, "Came to say 'thanks'. That was it."

The seeping coldness of guilt was just beginning in Roy's chest when Ed added, "So am I
dismissed now, Colonel Slut?"

And Roy's eyebrows lowered again slightly. Every time he got anywhere close to feeling
something like (more than?) fondness for him, Ed reminded him again why generally
fifteen-year-olds weren't allowed in the army.

"Actually, I think there is something further we need to discuss."

Ed's eyes trailed almost longingly to the door, but he said, "Yeah." and threw himself
down onto the couch, folding his arms. "Okay. Talk."

Roy blinked. He'd really been hoping Ed would have something to say, because he'd lost
sleep over this and still couldn't think of a way out of it. "I realise that you may have
taken some of . . . my attentions the wrong way."

Ed snorted - loud, expressive and derisive. "I wasn't aware there was more than one way
to take it when someone stares at your ass. Repeatedly. Every time you meet them."
Don't let the mask drop. Do not let the mask drop. "Very well then. Yes, Edward, you
have a rather attractive posterior." A pretty damn perfect one, actually. "If you wish to
draw less attention to it, you could try not wearing shiny leather pants."

"Have you ever been dragged three hundred metres across stone by a chimera, not in
leather?" Ed said, resting his elbow on his knee and his head on his fist, braid slipping
over his shoulder as he leaned forward slightly. "'Cause I haven't and I'm fuckin' well not,
I like my skin. Anyway, they're comfortable. They don't snag in the automail and they
don't show up dirt. I like them. So, have you ever tried not staring?"

Check, Fullmetal. "If it really is so distressing to you then I can stop."

Ed's eyes trailed off again, looking at some nothing floating above the carpet to his right.
"Everyone stares," he said, shifting slightly on the cushions, looking for the first time
self-conscious. "They stare at me 'cause I don't fit in here or anywhere. And they stare at
Al because . . . because. And some of them stare just because they're perverts. Like you,"
he added, helpfully and maliciously, eyes flicking to Roy once more. "I don't know why
they're staring but it's easier to deal with at least."

"Easier . . . ?"

"Mostly I hit them." Ed said. "That works. Well, usually. But I can't hit people who're
staring just because I look weird, I'd never stop hitting."

"Would you like to hit me?"

"Yes," Ed said emphatically. "But not 'cause of this. I just wanna hit you 'cause you're
you." At the crack of Roy's smirk he scowled, then sat up properly and said, "Equivalent
exchange."

"Hm?"

"You can stare," Ed said, cheeks colouring again but eyes determined on the Colonel, "if
you can tell me what the fuck you're staring for."

Roy - stared. And realised what he was doing, and blinked. "What am I staring for?"

"I don't get it," Ed said, watching his face closely, looking for the tiniest chink in the
armour to work with. "What does anyone get out of staring? I mean, I get, y'know, sex."
He'd dropped into an embarrassed teenage mumble but came out again quickly, "But how
the hell does just staring do anything for anyone?"

"It - you . . ." Roy remembered being that age himself, good god, he'd 'stared' at everyone.
"Have you never . . . looked at anyone yourself?"

"Of course I look at people, how'd I know who they were otherwise?"
Maybe part of the equivalent exchange for Ed's alchemical genius had been his complete
obliviousness of almost everything else important to human existence - either that or he
was just naturally hair-tearingly stupid sometimes.

"Have you never 'stared' at anyone yourself, Ed?"

Ed went red, again, and snapped, "Of course not, I'm not a pervert like you!"

"Fullmetal," Roy said, briskly and a little irritably, "everyone stares. I stare, Major
Hughes stares, though only at his wife, First Lieutenant Havoc stares, not that it ever
amounts to anything, and if you hadn't noticed your little brother stares at your friend
Winry whenever he sees her. Staring is normal."

Ed was staring now, though not 'staring', eyes blank as he tried to process too much at
once. What came out, eventually, was, "Al stares at Winry?"

"Fullmetal-"

"I'm not - when am I gonna find the time to stare at anyone?" Ed's mouth twitched, and
Roy followed the fall of his eyes closely. "Okay," he said, dully, to the carpet. "You can
stare."

"What?"

"You kept your end of the bargain," Ed looked up, looking gloomy, and then shoved
himself off the couch and turned to the door. "So you can stare. Not your fault I don't get
it," he added in a mutter, and then paused and looked around at Roy again.

"Equivalent exchange," he said, and Roy groaned.

"What now?"

"I won't tell anyone you stare - that was not part of the original deal," he added with a
sharklike smirk as Roy's mouth opened. "All you have to do is sit still."

"Sit-?"

Ed walked up, behind the desk, to stand beside Roy. Roy looked up at him blankly,
because he couldn't remember Ed ever coming behind his desk before. A foot away from
him Ed stopped, working himself up as if to accomplish a dangerous task, drawing in a
deep breath.

"Sit still-? Fullmetal-"

"Just sit still." Ed said stubbornly, leaned forward - Roy fought the automatic impulse to
arch away - and stared.
After ten seconds of skin-crawlingly intense golden scrutiny, Roy said in a slightly
strained voice, "What are you doing, Edward?"

"I'm trying to get it," Ed said calmly, eyes travelling down the length of Roy's nose like
he would be called upon to sculpt an exact replica at some later date.

"Get what?" Roy said, voice tight.

"Staring." Ed said, and narrowed his eyes slightly. "This is stupid." Yes, Roy thought,
trying not to further tighten his grip on the armrests of his chair. "Why would anyone
want to do this? You are all perverts, and you are all weird."

Yes, fine, whatever you say Fullmetal, just take a step back-

"I'm sure Al's not old enough to stare," Ed muttered, squinting at Roy's chin.

Close enough to smell him. Soap and machine oil and the heavy scent of his hair, and the
sweat ingrained in the coat, and well-worn leather, and Ed. Roy swallowed and tried to
keep his eyes on the meet of ceiling and walls in the far corner, where there was a spider's
web cut in half by the shadow of a filing cabinet, and tried not to focus on the
unpredictable man-boy trying to impress every single feature of his face into his mind in
what seemed to be molecular detail.

'Sit still'. It was the single most squirm-inducing experience of Roy's life.

Ed took a step forward - inches apart - and Roy's eyes flicked to his automatically. Ed's
eyes were no longer tight-wide with the screwed-up concentration he apparently applied
to 'staring' as well as particularly difficult texts; he looked almost glazed now, drowsy but
still entirely focused. He was breathing slow and steady and relaxed, his eyes travelling
Roy's face like it was a much more comfortable path, lips slightly parted. When their
gazes met he searched Roy's eyes for a moment and then gave a slow smile, a sudden
moment of openness so devoid of his usual hostility that Roy struggled not to let the
catch of his breath show.

"You have really dark eyes," Ed said sleepily.

There really wasn't much that could be said to that. "Thank you."

Ed was staring at his mouth now. Oh god. He was close enough they were almost sharing
breath as it was.

"I think I get the staring thing now," Ed said slowly.

"Hm?" There were flecks of amber in his eyes, embedded in the gold around the pupil,
darkening the colour, making it deeper, richer. Close enough to . . .
Ed took a step back, so suddenly that even though they hadn't even touched Roy felt
bereft, and put his hands in his pockets, head ducked a little, grinning.

"So, it's cool if you want to stare at me." His shoulders hunched slightly but he was still
grinning. "If I get to stare back."

Roy did open his mouth, but there wasn't a word in the world he could have saved
himself with at that point. Ed's grin shifted into more of a smirk, and he said, "Let me
know when you have anything for us, Colonel." and strolled away, a bounce in his step.

As he kicked the door open and shouted, "Al!" Roy finally got the use of his tongue back,
and called after him, "Fullmetal,"

Ed turned, quirking an eyebrow at him as his brother clanked into hearing. "Be careful on
the roads." Roy said, easing himself into a more comfortable position, feeling the smirk
slide back into place on his own face.

Ed's eyes narrowed briefly, but then he said, "Yeah. I'll look both ways before I cross."
He leaned forward slightly and said, his voice a little lower, making Roy's spine tighten,
"I'll look really hard, Colonel."

The door slammed closed behind him. Roy thought he heard a cut-off snort of laughter.

Brat. Stubborn, obnoxious, ill-mannered, overconfident brat.

...

Roy could still smell him.

He was still for a moment, and then he turned in his chair to watch out of the window, as
the brothers left.

Closer part II
Beta: toxicbullets - she beta's lots of my stuff and she's a *star*, I'm always, always
grateful to her =)
Rating: R, for cussing.
Disclaimer: Not my boys.

Summary: The ante has been upped, and neither Roy nor Ed are coping with it very well.

Notes: Since the first part was meant to be a standalone, the rest of the series may not feel
like it quite meshes. Not much I can do about it now, though ;)

All other parts are in my memories.
Never dared to have your arms around me,
Not that I considered it a sin -
But tonight I want your arms around me,
It's the mood that I'm in.

- Billie Holliday, The Mood That I'm In




When Edward Elric put his mind to something, the world trembled.

Now he'd decided to actually look at Mustang, he noticed far more than the man would
ever have wanted him to, would have allowed him to if he could have stopped it. He
noticed the way Roy rubbed his eye with a knuckle before he drank his coffee, like what
he really needed was more sleep and not more caffeine. He noticed the way Roy could
shut almost everything out of his face except for just something in his eyes, that the man's
mask of marble was not complete. He noticed that Roy took great pride in his signature
even though he acted like he'd rather do anything in the world than actually put it on
paper - a casual, bold, confident signature, and Ed's was still clumsy and childish and
awkward left-handed, damn the man.

What he noticed more than anything was that Colonel Roy Mustang, Flame Alchemist,
legendary womaniser and all-round smug bastard, was just a great big kid. He loved
having his staff to boss around, he loved how Fury thought he was the coolest thing on
the planet, he loved teasing Ed (really should stop rising to the bait, there, Ed knew, but
god damn him he knew exactly which buttons to push), he loved girls fawning and
simpering all over him. He was a great big kid in a military uniform, and Ed didn't see
why he was the one everyone treated like a child.

He knew Roy was watching him watch him. Well, that was fine, that was just part of the
deal.

He needed to stop wondering about what Roy might be noticing in him.


*


Roy prided himself on his control. People didn't realize how much fire alchemy required
it; they saw the big flashy boom and never thought that it took the most intricate working
of chemicals, the greatest concentration to not just blow up himself and everything else in
the surrounding area as well. Partly they didn't realize this because what really made Roy
proud of his control was how effortless he could make it look. Yes, he liked to do flashy
things - what he hated was people realizing how hard it was, how much effort it took.
It was taking a lot of effort to keep his face blank while Ed, every time he was in the
office, watched him like a damned hawk - like Hawkeye, actually, which was worse. He
didn't know if Ed had noticed yet the effort he was putting into his façade, or how long he
could keep it up. He didn't know anything anymore. He'd lost control of this situation
entirely. Damn Ed.

When Hawkeye had first joined his staff Roy had considered his options - she was
beautiful, certainly - but in the end what had won was that Hawkeye was a subordinate,
and a damned good one, and just plain dangerous. And, also, he just didn't want her
enough - didn't want enough of her - to risk all that, especially her friendship. And now
there was Ed . . .

Ed, who was an underage subordinate, who Roy - despite every reason not to - cared
about far more than he wanted to let on, who was as dangerous as a firework in a
chemical factory; less precise than Hawkeye's danger but much more extravagant, and
Roy did like to do flashy things . . .

Bad thought. He had to stop having bad thoughts.

He sent Ed on the widest-ranging missions he could think up, but there was a horrible
contradiction in it all; while Ed was in Roy's immediate area he couldn't let a single
muscle relax in case Ed saw through him even for a second, and when Ed was out of
Roy's sight -

When Ed was out of Roy's sight he worried, stomach knotted tense until reports came
back to him which he read the second they were in his hands, unlike the rest of the
paperwork he was given. He tried to worry as a father would but that was far more Maes'
area than his; he tried to worry as a concerned superior officer but all he could think
about was Ed's face in those sudden, startling moments of vulnerability, when all his
cockiness and self-assurance dropped away and he looked like the world had just slapped
him in the face. That expression made the bottom of Roy's stomach fall out, like he was
the one left suddenly bereft of anything he'd believed in.

He wanted Ed kept safe within his sight but he didn't want Ed to be able to see him.
There's a word for that, and it's 'stalker'.


*


Roy didn't like how still Ed was on the sofa. Roy kept his eyes down on Ed's latest report,
but it was unsettling - usually he could see, at the edge of his line of vision, Ed jigging his
foot or drumming a rhythm with his hands on the cushions or playing with his watch or
gloves, anything rather than sit still. Recently, though, Ed just sat silently while Roy read
his report, and Roy knew he was being watched, he was the entire focus of Ed's attention,
and it made every hair on the back of his neck stand on end, made him unable to focus on
the words and glad that he already knew what had happened, made his mouth dry and
that was the worst part. Ed couldn't know that staring at Roy gave Roy all the symptoms
of the worst case of lust. He didn't dare to wet his lips, just stared at words he could
barely see and tried not to focus his entire attention on the watchful figure on the sofa.

"Your handwriting is getting worse, not that I thought that was possible." Roy said,
putting down the scuffed and much-folded papers he'd been handed. "Exactly how much
actual schooling did you receive, Fullmetal?"

"Maybe you need glasses," Ed muttered, arms folded as he glared at Roy, and now his
foot began jigging. He'd come back from his last mission tanned golden, hair bleached a
shade lighter, and Roy wondered if he'd carry the dry scent of desert summer with him
and then remembered what he did smell like, and briskly tapped the papers straight and
set them to one side.

"I suppose it can't be helped, if you couldn't see over the heads of the other children to the
blackboard."

At least that distracted him; Roy tuned out the screaming rant of a reply and glanced at
the report again, looking up when Ed paused for a breath and cutting in with, "Your
report says that you 'upset the locals'. Would you care to explain how?"

Ed, on his feet and hands clenched, let his breath out in a burst. He swallowed down his
rage, and - still scowling - said, "It was their fault, I didn't do anything. It was gross,
wrong, sick, wrong-"

"What was?" Roy said lazily, hands steepled in front of his face, hiding most of his
expression from Ed, just his eyes visible.

Ed grimaced, wriggled uncomfortably, and said, "This custom-thing of theirs, some shit
to show friendship or whatever, it was wrong-"

"Wrong how?"

"It involved," Ed said in a dark, tight voice, "milk. Goat milk. Goat. Milk. The milk of a
goat. Liquid which has been squirted from a goat. How is giving that to anyone friendly?"

Roy let his breath out in a sigh. "Your cultural sensitivity is astounding."

"Fuck off. It was goat milk." He thumped back down onto the sofa again, arms folded,
legs crossed, and muttered, "Wrong, wrong, sick and wrong. Their priest guy put a curse
on me for that, you're fucking lucky I don't believe in that sort of shit or I'd find some
way to pass it on to you."
"The local people took offence to your reaction, which led to the revolt against the
military official in charge of the area - you go into great detail about the various corrupt
activities the Brigadier-General was involved in."

"He was a bastard." Ed said, head down, kicking one foot continuously off the floor.
"There are - you don't fuck people over like that."

"The locals forgave you when you saved them from the military guards, which you are
luckily going to escape military discipline for because you happened to outrank everyone
present at the time and they did disobey your order not to shoot. Brigadier-General Veirs
is now under investigation for corruption and a new official is in charge of the area. Isn't
it nice when things work out well?"

Ed just stared at him, all suspicion and irritation and far too much intelligence. "If I find
out you knew about their sick and wrong milk thing and sent me there on purpose I'll kill
you."

"I'm afraid you wouldn't escape military discipline for that." Roy said smoothly, sliding
the report into a folder. "You have a week's break before your next assignment,
Fullmetal."

Ed hadn't moved. Roy looked over, met Ed's eyes, and could hardly look away now.
Trapped by Ed's gaze, he said stiffly, "Is there anything you wish to add to your report?"

Ed had his head tilted slightly forward, so he was looking upwards at Roy, across the
room, and Roy couldn't help but notice the intimacy it gave the look, even if Ed was
completely oblivious of it. "I used some fire alchemy to get the General to leave his
mansion," he said, and Roy had blinked before he'd thought not to. "I . . . never did it
before, but I've seen you do it plenty and I wanted to see . . . it's really hard. I blew up a
bit more than I meant to," he added, and rolled his eyes to the ceiling, grinning. "Or, okay,
a lot more. It's pretty cool, though. Maybe I'll read up on it."

Then he looked back at Roy, who was still staring at him with his lips slightly parted, and
they were so very suddenly aware of something between them thickening the air, and
Ed's face froze and Roy didn't know where to look to hide his thoughts-

Ed looked away first, to the side, and he slid clumsily from the sofa. "I'll - um. Al's
waiting for me. I'll - see you."

When the door was slammed quickly shut behind him, Roy put a hand to his forehead
and muttered, "Dismissed."

He's a fifteen year old boy and he's your subordinate. Think of something else, anything
else, Mustang -
More than anything, though, what Ed was was Ed, and that was entirely the problem,
wasn't it?


*


Ed was walking hard and fast ahead of Al, hands stuffed in his pockets and braid
swinging against his back with each step, and Al wished he had an eyebrow to raise.
Usually Al had to slow his pace to let Ed keep up - surreptitiously, though, so as not to
draw attention to how much longer his legs were compared to his brother's - but today he
had to walk a little faster than usual just to stay behind him.

"Brother, are you alright?"

"I'm fine," Ed muttered without looking back.

"Did the Colonel say something? You know he's only-"

"It's nothing." Ed snapped, and Al stopped, standing there holding the suitcase as his
brother took two steps on and then paused, took his hands from his pockets and let them
fall from tightly clenched balls. He turned, walked back with his head down, and banged
Al gently in the chest plate with his right fist. His voice was a rough mumble. "Sorry,
Al."

"It's okay." Al said uneasily, even though something wasn't okay. "You've been acting
strange for a long time now. Ever since you hit your head. Do you think-"

Something like humour flickered through Ed's eyes, and Al said, "Brother?"

Ed shook his head, grinning weakly. "I don't think this is the sort of thing you catch from
getting hit on the head, Al."

"There is something wrong," Al said quietly. "What happened?"

Ed looked back at military headquarters behind them, bright white in the bare sunlight,
deep green flags rippling slightly in the breeze, and banged Al's chest plate again. "It's
nothing wrong. It's nothing at all. C'mon, it's hot, I want a drink . . ."

"Brother, it's not fair to not tell me-"

"There's nothing to tell." Ed took the steps down two at a time, hands in his pockets again,
as long a stride as he could; thump, thump, thump.

"It's not fair to keep secrets!"
Ed stopped at the foot of the stairs as Al caught up, then looked up at his 'eyes' in the
helmet and said, "You never told me you like Winry."

Al jumped, fumbled the suitcase, caught it against his chest and stared down at his
brother, hugging the suitcase tightly. Ed looked up at him with just a small smile and Al
knew he was imagining his face from before, how shocked he would look, if he could
look like anything, mouth open and flapping and eyes wide -

And then he felt sad again, and it must have showed in his eyes because Ed's face
changed a little, his brows knotting together, as Al let the suitcase drop to one hand again.
"It - I - I only didn't tell you because I can't like Winry, brother. Not while I'm like this."
Al shuffled awkwardly, heard the rasp of metal off metal, the scrape of metal on the stone
below him, the sun-warmed stone he couldn't feel. He said, very quietly, "Can I?"

Ed was no longer smiling, but he wasn't looking away, was just looking up at Al with his
mouth flat and his eyes sad, hurt all the way through. "It's not your fault," Al said,
shuffling on the stone again. "It's not, brother, it's just - I can't. But, but we're going to get
my body back, right? And then-"

"Of course we'll get your body back. Of course we'll - I promised, Al."

"I know you did, brother. I believe you."

Ed let his breath out in a determined huff. "Okay, then. But right now I want a drink.
There was a lemonade stall around here earlier-"

"Wait - you never told me what secret you're keeping from me-"

"Hm? Didn't I?"

"Brother, wait up - you didn't!"

"Are you sure you didn't just forget it?"

"You big cheater! Tell me! Wait - do you like someone too?"

The backs of Ed's ears had gone red. "Don't be stupid."

"But you hardly know anyone," Al said, genuinely baffled, catching up to walk alongside
Ed, who was staring very fixedly ahead. "You don't . . . it's not Winry too, is it?"

The choke of laughter was involuntary but very real. Al muttered, "Brother, that's mean."

Ed clamped his lips together, swallowed the laughter, waved a hand and said, "Sorry, Al.
But, shit, she hits me with wrenches."
"She hits me with wrenches too, sometimes."

"Well, whatever floats your boat." Ed muttered, finally catching sight of the lemonade
vendor and switching direction quickly. Al clanked loudly as he turned to follow. Ed saw
a few people look over at the noise Al made, and narrowed his eyes at them.

"Who else could you like? Is it one of those girls we met in the desert?"

"I don't like anyone!"

"You always hesitate before you lie. Is it Rose?"

"I don't like anyone!"

"Is it, um, Miss Clara? Because she was a lot older than you, brother-"

"Al!" Ed stopped, grabbed the plume on the end of Al's helmet and tugged it hard. "I
don't! Like! Anyone! I'm not a stupid lovesick girl! Shut up about it!"

Silence, for a moment, across most of the square as people blinked at the blond boy
arguing with the suit of armour almost twice as tall as he was. The brothers weren't even
aware of them anymore.

"If you can't like Winry right now," Ed said, quiet and certain, "then it's the same for me."

"Brother-"

"That's enough, Al, that's just how it is. Until you get your body back-"

"Brother, no-"

"-that's just how it is."

"That's not what I want! How can you think that's the best way for both of us?"

Ed raised an eyebrow. "Do you really think Winry would give a crap if you were stuck in
the armour or if you were hideously deformed or just really ugly or whatever? She might
be a completely psychopathic evil-minded machine-freak, but she's . . . she's alright,
really."

Al stared. The corner of Ed's mouth tugged, but didn't quite become a smile, and he
pulled just gently on the end of Al's plume again.

"So that's how it's gonna be. If you won't go after what you want because of the
armour . . . neither will I."
Al was still staring at him. Ed shrugged. "That's how it is."

"You better not bring me back really ugly, brother." Al said suddenly.

"Hey, alchemy can't fix everything." Ed muttered, turning away with a grin, then yelping
as Al grabbed and lifted by the back of his neck. "That tickles! Ah- Al, that tickles-!"


*


Roy, walking back to his office and wondering why he ever bothered with the military
canteen - it served the sort of food only Ed could possibly find appetising - passed a
window, caught sight of something energetic happening out of the corner of his eye, and
paused to watch.
In the city square outside headquarters, Al had lifted his brother up like a wayward kitten
and was shaking him by the scruff of his neck. Ed was flailing at him in a hopeless
attempt to get him to let go, and Roy could hear the edge of his wails even from this
distance. He could also see, if he squinted, that Ed was trying to bite any part of Al that
got into range. Exactly what effect did he think that would have on armour as opposed to
his teeth?

Al finally let go and Ed rolled onto the ground and to his feet, jumping up bouncy and
aggressive, not exactly graceful but easy and confident in his body, and immediately
leapt at Al again. Roy really needed to teach him about choosing his battles . . .

There was a small crowd gathering around the brothers as Al proceeded to wipe the
square with Ed, and Roy stood in the window, chin propped on a hand, and watched
along with them.


*


"Someone's being Mr. Gloomy today." Maes said, sliding a photograph along the bar,
"Look, I'll let you keep this one. She's holding a bunny!"

Roy plinked one ice cube off another, gazing dully into his glass, and said, "Maes."

"A bunny! My precious Elysia is so beautiful even animals are drawn to her innocent
glow like-"

"Maes."

Maes pocketed the photograph, raising his head a little so the light streamed briefly over
his glasses, smiling slightly. "So, what is it? You're not depressed. You're not in trouble
with the higher-ups. You've actually done some work recently, so I know Hawkeye hasn't
threatened to castrate you with her holster. So what is it?"

Roy - sighed, heavily, letting his shoulders slump. In front of Maes, this was allowed.
"It's nothing. It doesn't have to be anything."

"It's Ed." Maes said, and his grin broadened just a little as Roy's hand twitched on his
glass.

"I almost hate to ask," Roy said slowly. "But how do you know that?"

"It's always Ed." Maes said casually, taking a drink.

"And you have my office bugged."

Maes gave a theatrical laugh, patting Roy hard on the back a few times. "Of course I don't!
Why would I do that?"

"Because over-curious busybodies shouldn't be allowed to work in intelligence," Roy
murmured. Maes laughed again. He did it so easily, and Roy quirked the corner of his
mouth, because Maes' laughter was exactly the same as his poker-face sometimes, but not
right now.

"So." Maes said, grinning at Roy over his glass. "Ed."

"I need to not think about him. I need to completely purge the brat from my brain."

"Ah, but you can't." Maes said, wagging a finger. "It's not one of your just-for-funs, it's
not one of your just-because-I-cans, because believe me, Roy, you could if you wanted."

"Maes, don't." Roy had raised his glass, but he put it down without drinking. "He's
fifteen."

"More than that, he's Ed." Maes said, sounding rather delighted about the fact.

"I'm glad one of us finds this amusing." Roy muttered. "He's fifteen. You're a father.
You're the closest thing he has to a father. Can't you find some indignant rage from
somewhere and punch me?"

"I don't know, you're not a bad catch." Maes said, grinning like a shark. Grinning like Ed.
Roy really needed to exorcise his brain of Ed, everything he thought and saw and did was
spiralling back into itself and coming to the focal point of Ed . . . "Any father-in-law
would be proud to-"

"He's a subordinate, he's - he's Ed-"
"That's exactly the point." Maes said. "He's Ed. The rules don't apply the same way to Ed,
or else he wouldn't even be here for you two to be in this situation in the first place, hm?
And a mature fifteen is far better than an immature eighteen, don't you think? You
remember being fifteen. It really wasn't so long ago."

"Yes, I do remember. I developed stupid crushes that ruled my world until I forgot them
two months later. Rather like Ed is doing now."

"So, this isn't about protecting him, this is protecting you."

Silence. Roy stared over the bar at its mirrored back, at his own expressionless face
between the bottles. Maes grinned at him, eyebrows raised, hands around his glass.

"Funny thing, though, with Ed - he's the loyal sort, don't you think? Sticks to his brother
like glue, still has the same childhood friend even after trekking across the entire county
away from her for four years, always ends up coming back to what's left of his family . . .
where he gives himself, he gives himself completely. I find it rather sweet. Not as sweet
as my Elysia! But sweet."

Roy kept his eyes on his eyes, blank in the mirror.

"And there's absolutely no evidence of him even considering anyone besides you in a
sexual or romantic light-"

"Maes-"

"-and I am tempted to think, you know, that maybe Elrics mate for life." Maes was still
grinning like a damned pumpkin, like Ed, and Roy tightened his hand on his glass. "You
really want to pass up on this opportunity?"

"You must have considered the danger it would expose the both of us to," Roy said
quietly.

"You're good at keeping secrets, aren't you?" Maes said. "And, I don't know, I think the
danger's worth it. All the best things come with danger attached. What's that thing,
equivalent trade, you alchemists are always hawking around - you want something worth
having, you cough up."

"That's not the exact wording, but . . ."

Maes drained his glass and stood up, clapping Roy on the shoulder. "We can do no more
than what feels right," he said. "Invite me to the wedding."

He squeezed Roy's shoulder and walked away. Roy didn't remove his eyes from his own
reflection, which looked tired, but - younger, all of a sudden. It had been a good long
time since another human being had left him feeling this vulnerable.
He looked down into his glass, thought a curse upon all short blond alchemists, and
knocked back his drink.


*


"How did you know I liked Winry?"

Ed, laying on his back in bed and staring at the ceiling, widened his eyes for a second.
"Uh. I. Saw you looking at her."

"Liar," Al said casually, sitting on the other bed in their dorm room with his knees drawn
up to his chest, hands on his feet. "But, Brother, you never said who you liked."

Ed turned his head to the side, away from Al. "That's. Al, it's not important. It's just . . ."

He rolled onto his side fully, so all Al had now was his back. "I'll get over it," he said to
the wall, and Al watched him closely, but the curve of his shoulder was too tense for this
to be a going to sleep pose.

"When you said that if I wouldn't go after Winry then you wouldn't go after - whoever,"
Al said. "Did you mean that if I did, you would too?"

Ed stayed perfectly still. It was a long time before he said, "I don't know."

"But . . . you'll think about it?"

"Al-" Ed draped his arm over his eyes and said, "Just leave it alone. I don't know what
I'm doing, okay? It's just a stupid - it's just - I can live without it, it's fine."

"But you'd be happier with it?" Al said. "Brother - I like Winry. I mean, I really like
Winry. When she smiles I feel all bubbly inside and I don't even have insides to bubble. I
really . . ." He shifted on the bed, and Ed sat up, looked at him. "I will tell her," Al said
quietly. "I really mean it. Armour or not. I will."

Ed - smiled.

"I'm glad," he said. "You should be happy, Al."

"I won't be, though." Al said. "Not if you're not."

"Al, you-"
"Who could it be that I'd feel bad about it, brother? Who could it be that it's worth feeling
like this about it? You've been different ever since you hit your head and I'm beginning to
think I should take you back to the hospital, you're just-"

"Al, Al!" Ed waved his arms. "It's not the accident, okay? All I did was bump my head,
and Mustang-"

And he stopped, and that half-second of openness was all Al needed, and if he'd had a
mouth it would have dropped open.

"Bro-ther . . ."

Ed shook his head quickly. "It's not, I'm not, Al it's not-"

Al put a hand over his non-mouth and pointed. "You always hesitate when you lie!
Brother-"

"Al, don't-!"

"But, but-"

Ed leapt off his bed and crammed both hands over the mouth plate of Al's armour, as if
that could keep him quiet. "Al, dammit, don't say it!"

"Why not? Brother, you really -" and in a hushed voice, "the Colonel-"

Ed paused, and took a step backwards, and squirmed half a shrug. "Do you think I'm
weird now? It's weird, isn't it? He started it, anyway."

"He started what?" Al said, and then his eyes flared white. "He didn't - brother, he didn't-
"

Ed stared, genuinely baffled for a second, and then blinked and went bright red. "No!
Nothing- Al, we've never even touched each other, okay? God. Where did you get-?" He
began pacing up and down the room, not looking at Al at all, eyes roaming ceiling and
floor. "He - I mean, he stares at me and he's weird but - but he's him. You know." His
voice fell to a mutter. "The great Roy Mustang, owns the women of the East, can win
anyone with a fucking wink. I'm beginning to think that's what he did to - me. God this is
weird. Al, this is weird, do you think I'm weird? I'm not a woman. I'm not. Am I weird?"

"You're not weird, brother." Al said, legs falling over the edge of the bed with a metallic
thud. "But you . . ." He sounded completely awed. "You really like him."

Ed looked away, looked sulky. "I don't. I don't."

Al waited. Sometimes you had to be patient, to get to what Ed meant to say.
And finally his brother sagged a little, and his head tipped forward, hair hiding his face.
"I wish I didn't," he muttered. "D'you think this is what that weird priest-guy cursed me
with? A bad case of Mustang?"

"This has been going on for weeks, brother."

Ed sighed, and sat down on the edge of his bed. "Should never've got so close to the
bastard. It's like I got the emotional clap from him just by sharing breathing space with
him. He's fucking my brain up, Al, he's a fucking disease."

"But he stares at you?" Al said. "Don't you think - that means-"

"Al, don't." Ed said quietly.

"But-"

"Don't. He doesn't. He wouldn't. Don't - make me think this is something I can have, okay?
It fucking sucks enough as it is."

Al lowered his head slightly, so he was almost looking up at his brother, and said, "I've
never known you leave something you don't know alone, brother. Don't you want to find
out? I know it's scary but - don't you want to know?"

Ed kept his head down, metal and flesh hands gripping the edge of the bed suddenly a
little tighter.


*


Maes should have stayed at the bar. If he'd stayed then he could have staggered Roy's
drinking, or at least dragged him out after a while. But now it was well gone midnight,
walking in straight lines was no longer a skill Roy could claim to have, and tomorrow
morning Hawkeye would raise an eyebrow at him and then cut him no slack whatsoever
because getting hungover was his own fault.

Except it wasn't. This was all Ed's fault.

"A thousand curses," Roy muttered to himself, swinging around the gatepost and down
the path to his house, "on, on-"

Ed was sitting on his doorstep.

Roy stopped dead and stared. Ed was bundled up in his coat, halfway through a yawn,
eyes tight closed and a hand over his mouth. He finally finished, and blinked a couple of
times, then focused on Roy and jerked like the entire world had jolted two feet forward
but he hadn't moved. He stood up, brushing the base of his coat self-consciously, and
looked up at Roy as he walked unsteadily towards him, moving past him up the steps and
to the front door.

"Um. I came to-"

"I have a very good idea of what you came here to do." Roy said, fumbling for the right
key. "Unfortunately, you do not. Go home, Edward. Alphonse will be waiting for you."

Ed's hands clenched. "I don't what? You don't have a fucking clue. You act like you have
all this down but you were just as freaked out when I found out about you, and now
you're trying to-"

Roy dropped the keys in his scrabbling, and slammed both hands palm-first onto the
doorframe. Ed jumped behind him.

"You have no idea," Roy growled, head down, leaning on his outstretched arms. "You
don't think it but you're a child, Fullmetal, and what did you come here for tonight? To
talk? Do you think that's what adults do at this time of night? Do you think that's what
adults do when they spend their waking hours staring at each other like you can fuck with
just your eyes? Go home to your little brother and go to bed."

There was a moment of silence so intense that Roy thought Ed had already fled,
somehow, without his hearing it - possibly while he was still snarling at him. And this
wasn't a good way to resolve this, he knew, not when it was Ed, Ed who thought that if he
got hit by a car he could just patch himself up with a plaster but who scarred emotionally
from one wrong word. But he needed to shake the boy-young man-Ed out of whatever
delusions were going on in his mind. They couldn't do this. Roy wouldn't do this.

"I'm not a kid," Ed said from behind his back, so suddenly Roy almost jumped. "I'm not a
kid and I'm not scared of you."

Roy gave a laugh with no humour to it at all and turned around. "You certainly sound
very mature right now."

Ed narrowed his eyes slightly, blushing and furious. "Okay, so I've never had sex, and I
didn't even think about it until you started fuckin' eyeing me up at every opportunity - you
did it, Mustang, not me. And I don't know why I'm here and I don't know what I want
from you. I know I want something. And I'm not afraid of it. What the hell're you so
afraid of?"

Roy took two steps forward and he was right on Ed, grabbing his chin and jerking his
head up, and Ed clenched his teeth and stared up at him and he was shaking, Roy could
feel it, but there was nothing like fear in his eyes. There was a good possibility it was
anger. "You have no idea," he said coldly. "What exactly do you think we could have,
Fullmetal? I am your superior officer, I'm twice your age, I'm-"
"Really fucking drunk," Ed snapped back. "You stink of it. This is you being the mature
one?"

"Do you suddenly find you no longer want me?"

Ed grabbed his shirt, dragging it so it bit against the back of Roy's neck. "You fucking
moron. I don't - I don't - I don't know what the fuck to do-"

"Oh, for fuck's sake," Roy muttered, leaned down, dragged Ed up, and kissed him. Had
Ed ever kissed anyone before? It became apparently almost immediately that he hadn't,
nearly biting Roy's tongue in shock, making sharp surprised noises into his mouth, hands
bruising Roy's chest as he couldn't decide whether to drag him closer or shove him away.
Roy's first kiss, compared to this, had been an incredibly tame affair, but then his first
kiss hadn't been with a man nearly twice his age . . .

Roy had expected this, if nothing else, to scare Ed off - he hadn't expected that fairly
quickly Ed would give as good as he got, finally making his mind up and dragging down
so hard at Roy's shirt that the buttons strained and the back of his neck burned, fighting
up for ground, teeth and tongue and all the tension they'd spent all this time building up,
rage and more. Ed was electric in Roy's hands, fierce and fast and wild, and Roy couldn't
drown out the thought in the back of his mind that god they should have done this months
ago-

He almost slowed the kiss, he almost let himself just enjoy it, and god fucking damn it
how had Edward Elric made him lose control again?

So he took his hands from Ed's face, one tangling tight in his hair and holding his head
back, giving Ed less leverage as Ed's arms scrabbled around his neck and dragged hard;
the other hand slid down Ed's spine - Ed's back arched away from his hand, his body
pressing against Roy automatically and he gave a startled whine into Roy's mouth -

Roy's hand reached the back of Ed's leather trousers and squeezed. Ed yelped, shoved
him back, got an elbow against his chest and pushed but Roy had him held tight and he
couldn't even turn his head away from the kiss - which was suddenly entirely the wrong
word for what this had become. Ed twisted against him in panic for barely a second and
then a knee slammed up between Roy's legs like a sledgehammer.

The world turned white and Roy dropped to the side, body snapping closed, gagging on
pain, vaguely aware that Ed hadn't used the automail knee. Ed stumbled away, tripped on
the steps and fell back with another cry, landing on his butt on the garden path, staring up
at Roy like he didn't know who he was. He wiped his mouth on the back of one gloved
hand, looked at it as if checking for blood and then snapped, "You fucking freak, what
the fuck was that?"

Roy fought for breath, his mind almost blank with pain, clenched around himself. He
panted at the decking in front of his door, "It's what - you wanted - isn't it?"
"Fuck you!"

"I thought - you weren't - a child, Edw-"

Ed leapt up, fists clenched, looked ready to punch Roy and then spun around and kicked
the steps with an automail foot instead, and wood crunched as it snapped. "You fucking
freak!" he screamed, and Roy winced but he really couldn't care about waking the
neighbours when one of his favourite parts of his body was pulsing with blunt, white-hot
pain. "What the fuck gives you the right? I'm an adult on missions that could kill me and
I'm an adult when you want to eye me up and when I want anything back I'm a fucking
kid! How the fuck does that make fucking mouth-raping me right, you shit? Is that how
you get so many women into bed? Did you honestly fucking think-"

"If you've - changed your mind, then - go, Fullmetal." Roy snarled, holding himself up on
one shaking arm, one hand still clamped between his legs. "Go home, and go to bed, and-
" He swallowed and gritted his teeth and went on, "-and don't be so fucking eager to leave
everything of your childhood behind."

"What exactly makes you think I have anything of that left?" Ed spat, and kicked the step
again. "You shit, you fuck, why the fucking hell did you make me feel like this in the first
place?"

"This is all my fault," Roy said, trying to drag himself to his knees. "I'm the only one who
lets this continue, I'm the one who turned up on my doorstep in the middle of the night-"

"So I'm an adult when you want to hand the blame around too," Ed hissed, vicious and
low and dangerous. "Fuck this. Fuck you. I hope your dick goes septic and drops off, you
bastard."

He turned with a flare of red and stamped off down the path, kicking the gate open and
stalking off into the night. Roy dropped his head against the decking and ground his
forehead into the wood. Shit, shit, shit.

Closer part III
Beta: toxicbullets - much love to her ^^
Rating: R
Pairing: Roy/Ed, not that either of them are sensible enough to go along with it
Disclaimer: Fanfic! I don't own it! I *do* own a whole bunch of student debt, and I
worship Hiromu Arakawa like the goddess she is, so please don't sue ^^;
Summary: Ed, Roy, lust, confusion, and the aftermath of one swift kick in the balls.

Notes: This is a fairly short chapter in which people talk a lot and nothing happens. Um,
yay ^^; But there is plot to come! I promise! Actual plot!

All other parts are in my memories.
So for once in my life, let me get what I want -
Lord knows it would be the first time.
- The Smiths, Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want


Alphonse looked over the book he wasn't reading and checked the clock for the third time
in the last twenty minutes. It was nearly quarter past six, and there was still no sign of Ed
coming back.

He shuffled lower into a ball and tried to concentrate on the book again, but the words
were buzzing in front of his eyes. He'd sent his brother off to talk to the Colonel, but he'd
expected him back at some point - but now it was the morning already, and Ed wasn't
back - was he still there? Had they -

If Al could have blushed he would probably have melted the skin off his face by now. If -
if this was what his brother wanted then Al was happy for him, would always be happy
for him, but - but it was a little hard to get his head around . . .

He looked at the clock again. Eighteen minutes past six. When was Ed coming home?


*


Roy Mustang sat at his desk and glared with red-rimmed eyes at nothing. His head
pounded, he could barely even stomach coffee and there was still a dull ache between his
legs, Ed's parting gift. The fact that he'd probably deserved it didn't make it any less
painful.

Well. That could have gone better. No, on second thought, it couldn't. It involved Edward
Elric. It had been doomed from the start.

He lifted up a piece of paperwork and squinted at it, looked down casually and started at
the familiar blocky handwriting on the paper below - he dragged it out too quickly, heart
hammering, but it was Ed's report from yesterday, not anything new. He put a hand over
his eyes and dragged at his skin. God, he'd made a mess of this. He should never have
allowed this to start. The second Ed had asked him why he stared at him he should have
found some way to belittle his ignorance so much that Ed would never bring it up again.
It would have been crushing, Roy knew, humiliation - especially about sexual matters -
always was at that age, but Ed would have gotten over it and Roy wouldn't now feel like
he pretty much just wanted to die, please, where was the cyanide when you needed it . . . ?

There was a knock at the door. Roy looked up, saw the huge silhouette through the
frosted window and knew he had two options: Major Armstrong, or Alphonse Elric.
Suddenly he found that he didn't want to die quite that much, and prayed to anyone who
was listening, any god left he hadn't offended, that it was Armstrong.

The door opened and a suit of armour ducked its head in shyly, and said, "Colonel?"

Roy sat very stiff, expression of alarm frozen on his face, still holding a piece of
paperwork in numb hands. "Al-phonse . . . good morning . . ."

"Good - um, good morning, Colonel - can I come in?"

Roy nodded dumbly. Alphonse was a very polite murderer. Obviously there weren't
enough genes for manners in the Elric bloodline to share, and Al had got the whole lot.
Al closed the door behind him and shuffled to the desk, a movement which looked
ridiculous for a suit of armour, and stood with his hands clasped together, squirming.

"Um," he said.

"Is everything alright?" Roy said, voice cracking just a little. Maybe if he was
grovellingly repentant Al would let him live - or maybe it would just buy him enough
time to leap out of the window.

"I. Um, brother didn't come back home last night, and - and I was wondering - where he
is?"

Roy stared.

Ed hadn't gone back to the dorms? Where had he gone? He must have left Roy hunched
in a well-deserved whimpering ball before one o' clock, where the hell had he gone after
that if not the dormitories? Roy turned his eyes to the clock. It was nearly ten in the
morning. Where the hell had he gone?

"I'm sorry, Alphonse, I don't know . . ." Had he done something stupid? God, it was Ed,
not only had he obviously done something stupid, it was probably something
phenomenally, world-crashingly stupid. "I can ask Major Hughes to find him, he should
be able to-"

"But I thought - I thought brother was - with you last night." Al finished in a mumble,
hands worrying together. "Um. Wasn't . . . he?"

"We talked," Roy said, and put a hand over his eyes, because he couldn't do this, he felt
sick. "No, Alphonse, please don't be angry because I am going to find your brother for
you. We didn't talk. We argued."

"You do that all the time anyway," Al said softly.
"This was . . . different. I don't think your brother is very likely to forgive me." Roy
squeezed his eyes tightly closed behind his hand. Of course Ed wouldn't forgive him,
wasn't that the outcome he'd set out to achieve? "I'll call Major Hughes. We will find him.
I promise."

He raised his head, dropping his hand, and Al was still watching him very closely and
absolutely silently, even more intensely than Ed ever had.

"I don't think I'm ever going to find out what happened," Al said slowly, "because it's
private, and if neither of you two want to tell me anything then I can't make you. But. I
know whatever brother said he probably didn't mean it. He really, um, likes you. And you
like him. Don't you?"

It was odd that looking into red-edged glowing white eyes should be so unsettling not
because they were inhuman but because they were too human. Roy busied himself with
digging the telephone out of his paperwork. "I'll call Major Hughes and tell him to-"

"Oh," Al said, faint and lost, and now Roy really did feel sick.

"But . . . he's really nice." Al said wretchedly. "When you get to know him. And I know
he's a bit of a handful sometimes but it's only because sometimes he thinks so fast he
can't think enough, and - and he really likes you," Al finished lamely, and Roy knew Al
was far taller than he was, he shouldn't look so small. "He really does, Colonel . . ."

Roy stood with one hand on the telephone and said quietly, "I wouldn't be very good for
your brother, Alphonse."

"But he wouldn't care, he's still helping me even though I'm-"

"I'll call Major Hughes now, Alphonse."

Al stared at him for a long, strained second, and then said, "I'll find him. Thank you,
Colonel."

He bowed with a scrape of metal and clanked out, and Roy closed his eyes as the door
shut - quietly, but with an edge of an angry click - then lifted the telephone and began to
dial.


*


It took Hughes just half an hour to find Ed. The first place to check was the place Ed
knew best, and so he had a handful of agents comb the military base from the cellars
upwards, and Ed was eventually located on the roof, sitting with his arms around his
knees, glaring out at the city with the wind tossing his hair crazy.
Maes sighed, walked over to the hunched red-coated figure and sat beside him, grunting a
few times and tutting as he hunkered down to the concrete, sprawling out next to the
tightly wrapped up ball of Ed.

"Your friend," Ed said, without removing his eyes from the cityscape, "is a very bad
man."

"Would a photograph of Elysia cheer you up?"

Ed hunched lower in his coat. "There's a special hell for people like him."

"I thought you didn't believe in heaven and hell."

"Then I'll make one," Ed growled. With Ed, that wasn't just a threat.

"He told me what happened," Maes said, flicking through a few photographs and offering
one to Ed in a consoling way. Ed ignored him, though his cheeks coloured when Maes
said that. "Eventually. Will it help if I tell you that he feels terrible about it?" Ed gave a
rising growl and Maes said, "No, oddly, I didn't think it would." He sighed, knowing it
probably wasn't for the last time, pocketed his photos and said, "Roy - Mustang - is a
good man, Ed. it's just that sometimes his conscience and his brain get a little bit
disconnected. He tries so hard to do the right thing that he sometimes does some wrong
things to get there."

Ed's eyes had narrowed but he still hadn't looked at Maes yet. "He wouldn't have actually
hurt you," Maes said, and Ed lifted his head, finally, and gave him a funny look.

"Of course he wouldn't," he said derisively. "Like he could, if he'd tried I'd've ripped his
balls out."

"Ah. Then - would you like to explain this?" Maes held an arm out at the city, a gesture
meant to convey the entire situation of rooftop angsting, so unlike Ed. "You really
worried Alphonse when you didn't come home."

Ed's mouth twisted, and he looked away. "I know," he said. "I didn't mean to. I couldn't
face going back. I just - feel fucking stupid. I knew he was a bastard, I knew it and I just
didn't care-"

"If I told you he thought he was doing it for your own good would you believe me?"

"He's got a fucking fucked-up idea of my good." Ed snapped. "I'm not a kid. I'm fucking
not, I can't be, not with what I want to do for Al and everything, so everyone should stop
treating me like one. How'm I ever meant to make this better if everyone tries to baby me?
It's just - there's no consistency. Either I'm a kid or I'm not and everyone-"
"We-ell," Maes mused, leaning back on his hands and looking up at the high blue sky.
"It's not really that much of a dichotomy, is it? Because sometimes the kids have to
behave like adults, become adults a lot sooner than they might otherwise have, and
sometimes the adults-"

"Act like fucking infants," Ed muttered, and Maes grinned.

"You noticed that too? Ah, but Roy tries his best. It helps if you remember that everyone
has an age imprinted across the back of their brain from the moment they're born. Roy's
always been, well, maybe seventeen. I've never actually aged a day beyond twenty-one."

"Twenty-one?" Ed raised his head.

"The year I met Gracia," Maes said, and smiled at him. After a moment, Ed gave a tired,
amused smile back.

"I should go back to the dorms. Is Al really spazzing out?"

"I have never seen armour move so quickly."

"Oh, fuck. Fine." Ed stood up, dusted his coat of and looked up at Hughes as he stood too.
"So what're you gonna tell the bastard?"

"That you're okay. That's all he wanted to know."

"I hate him."

"I know."

Ed looked away, and wriggled his shoulders slightly. "I don't know what to do."

"I know."

"I read some books," Ed said, and squirmed some more. "I know tons of crap about, like,
STDs and stuff now. I still don't know the first damn thing about what you're meant to do,
how you're meant to get from this to - to that."

"Well," Maes draped an arm around Ed's shoulders - he had to duck slightly to do it - and
began leading him towards the stairs down. "It's different for every couple. Sometimes
it's obvious and easy. Sometimes it's more complicated than that."

"And sometimes it's better not to," Ed said listlessly. Maes looked down at him, and Ed
shrugged like it didn't really matter, and Maes frowned.


*
Maes' next job was to find Al, and to say to him that maybe Ed would have returned to
the dorms by now, hm?

Once again, he'd never seen armour move so fast.


*


Ed slumped on his bed, made a half-hearted effort to kick his shoes off and decided he
didn't care. Dropping his head against the pillows, he closed his overheated eyes; he'd
slept for maybe an hour just before dawn, curled up and stiff on the roof, but mostly he'd
just sat and practised not thinking about Roy.

It was damned impossible. Surely making a Philosopher's Stone was easier than this . . .

He still wanted bad things to happen to Roy - in fact it was the easiest thing, right now, to
think of more and more inventive ways to maim the man instead of trying to think of
anything or anyone else - but mostly he just wished that this had never happened. Stupid
goddamn fucking gobshite bastard Mustang could have just kept his perversions to
himself and left Ed to get on with the things that mattered, because damn it he didn't have
the time for this, the time to mope, how was this helping Al?

If he'd never actually looked at him - if he'd never actually noticed him, noticed all those
little things about Roy that gave Ed the same flicker of affection he felt for all of Al's
quirks, if he'd never noticed that Roy had the darkest eyes Ed had ever seen before and
was broad and firm and solid under that uniform, and thinking about that made Ed grip
the sheets a little more tightly, if he'd never looked-

He knew how the man smelt - clean, just an edge of musk in his aftershave, or was that
just him-? - and, damn it, damn it, he knew how he tasted - this was insane. He didn't
have the time for this. None of this mattered. What mattered was getting Al's body back,
this was just a distraction he would have to live without.

This was entirely Mustang's fault.

A rapid, rhythmic clanking made him raise his head slightly, and then the door burst open
on its hinges - one of which snapped - and Ed had half lifted himself off the bed before
Al grabbed him in a wailing hug.

"I didn't know where you'd gone! I thought you'd-"

"Al, the spike-!"

"-so scared and I thought I'd never see you-"
"Al, the spike!"

The repeated slamming of his brother's automail elbow into Al's echoing chest cavity
finally made him pay attention, and he looked down and said, "Ah.", and carefully lifted
his brother away from the spike on the front of his chest plate, which had nearly removed
Ed's eye. "Sorry."

"S'okay." Ed muttered, wincing as he shifted along the mattress to make room for Al to
sit next to him. "Jeez, Al, you squeeze almost as hard as Major Armstrong does."

"Sorry, brother. I was worried about you. Where did you go?"

Ed looked to the side. "Yeah, uh, sorry about that. I should've just come back. I just
wanted to think, I didn't mean to make you worry."

Al stared down at him. His brother was being quiet; that absolutely never meant
something good.

"The Colonel said you had a fight."

Ed snorted an almost-laugh. "Well, something like that."

"Did you . . . did you . . ."

Ed flopped backwards onto the mattress, arms folded behind his head. "Decided to forget
it. It's all too fucked up to go through with."

"But - brother - you really-"

"I'm not a stupid lovesick girl," Ed muttered. "And I have other stuff to think about, and
he's a bastard. This is just - better, Al, you know?"

"No," Al said helplessly, "brother, I don't know, how is this better? You -"

"Al." Ed closed his eyes, his face set into his most uncaring expression. "I'm not a stupid
lovesick girl. And I'm going to sleep. And I'm not talking about this anymore. So shut up
about it."

Al watched his brother for a long moment, waiting for another word, trying to work out
what to say, wanting to be able to make this better-

He said quietly, "Sleep well, brother." and stood up.


*
It had been a week, and it was time for Ed to come in to receive his next assignment, and
Roy hadn't managed to eat a thing all day. He couldn't remember the last time he'd felt
this nauseous, this was worse than any hangover, he'd take any hangover over this -

Maybe Ed wouldn't even come in. Maybe he'd request a transfer. Did he understand how
much he needed his superior officer to understand the situation with Alphonse, how much
he needed someone who wouldn't have Al dragged to a laboratory and Ed into court for
attempted human transmutation?

But then, didn't Roy understand that, and hadn't he still let all this happen? He dragged a
hand through his hair and glanced up at the clock again. He was meant to be the adult
here. He needed to start acting like it.

. . . and Ed was usually late, there was no reason to . . .

He raised his head at every noise from the outer office, but when his door was finally
kicked open he still only just managed to keep himself from jumping. He looked up at Ed,
who kicked the door closed again behind him and walked over to stand in front of the
desk, slouching in an unconcerned way, giving Roy a bored glare of, Well?

Roy cleared his throat, leaned his elbows on the desk, steepled his fingers.

"Good afternoon, Fullmetal." Ed quirked an eyebrow. "You may want to wind your
watch now and then." Roy added pointedly, and Ed glanced at the clock over his shoulder
and shrugged.

"Do you have anything for me or not?"

Roy took a folder from his drawer, reached over the desk with it - and paused, as Ed took
the other end. "The other night," he said quietly.

Ed scowled and snatched the folder off him. "I don't wanna talk about it."

"Edward," Roy said, and that name made Ed glance up from the papers he'd tugged out of
the folder. "I'm sorry."

Ed narrowed his eyes at him for a second, then went back to the papers. "Whatever. I'm
not sorry I kicked you in the nuts. I don't care."

Roy's mouth opened, but he didn't know what to say. "You don't . . ."

"I have more important things to do than waste time giving a crap about you." Ed said
calmly, reading through the files he'd been given. "It's all too much of a mess. I have to
think about Al. So I'm gonna go take care of whatever boring crap this involves-" He
waved the folder at Roy - "and when I get back, I'm gonna keep looking for the Stone,
and you're gonna stop leching at me, and that's the end of it."

Roy was silent for a moment, watching him read, head down and eyes giving nothing
away. Maybe Ed had finally learned something from him. "You recovered very quickly,"
Roy said, trying to be glad about it and just feeling heavy and hollow inside, lead-lined
and empty.

Ed finally paused in his reading, and his eyes trailed over the floor for a second as he said,
"I'm used to not getting what I want." He snapped the folder closed and looked up. "I'm
gonna take this back to the dorms to read, it looks like it'll be an early train. Is there
anything else?"

Suddenly Roy didn't know how he'd ever thought he was dealing with a child, because Ed
was looking at him hurt and angry but very businesslike, and he'd never forgotten his
priorities . . .

"Be careful."

Ed blinked, and then gave something like a smile, and turned away. "Yeah. I'll keep my
eyes open."

He didn't slam the door behind him. It was the first time in a long time, and Roy found he
missed the noise.

Closer part IV
Beta: toxicbullets - love the beta, love the beta . . .
Rating: R because Ed cannot stop cursing
Disclaimer: I don't own anything worth having, and I'm infinitely thankful that Hiromu
Arakawa invented something as beautiful as this series and was generous enough to share
it with us. Yay ^^
Warnings: Complete squickness. I freak myself out sometimes.
Summary: Roy is trying to move on, Ed is having a trauma-fest, and Al is surrounded by
cats - so at least he's happy.

All other parts are in my memories.



Seeing things, going places,
Living out of suitcases,
Every day's like a dream
I find myself talking to shadows,
Taking the train of youth
Back home again
'Cause I don't wanna be a hero,
But I don't wanna be a zero -
And I don't wanna sit here wasting time
I just want a place inside your mind
I wish that I could turn the clocks right back
It's easy to forget just what you've got
- Feeder, Turn




The rhythm of a train was so familiar to Ed now that he barely felt it as he gazed
unimpressed through the files he'd been given. In one of the increasingly industrialized
cities on the edge of the plains, people had been going missing - and the only thing of
remote interest to Ed was that everyone who'd gone missing had been an alchemist of
some form.

"Dunno why they expect it to be some kind of bloody conspiracy," Ed muttered, passing
the folder to Al and stretching back in his seat. This train was still cut into old-fashioned
compartments, giving them some privacy from people who always stared as if they were
the strangest travelling companions they'd ever seen. Ed knew that they probably were,
but so what? Didn't give anyone the right to stare. He'd had enough of that, after the
whole Mustang fiasco - the next person to give him a funny look was eating automail.

"But it's all alchemists, brother." Al said. "Don't you think that's a little strange?"

Ed shrugged, kicked his feet onto the opposite seat and folded his arms behind his head.
The ridges of the automail dug into his skull just a little too much, as always, and he
knew he'd have to move it soon. "It's alchemists, Al. They're all freaks and idiots. Maybe
they forgot where they lived and never made it back, maybe they all got eaten by badly-
drawn arrays, maybe they-"

"Didn't look both ways before crossing the road?"

Ed scowled. Al shuffled his shoulders and Ed knew when his little brother was grinning
even if he couldn't show it. Ed humphed and looked out of the window, folding his arms
in front of his chest, letting his head flump onto the headrest. "Whatever. Okay, it is
weird it's all alchemists. Guess we'll find out when we get there."

"Did - how did -" Al squirmed with a rasp of metal. "How was the Colonel?"

Ed skimmed his narrowed eyes back to his brother and said, "He was a bastard."

"Well, at least some things don't change." Al murmured, and Ed looked out of the
window again, and scowled.
*


Ed was kneeling over Roy's lap, completely naked and completely unconcerned, propped
up on his hands with his thighs snug against Roy's hips. Roy was laying back, looking up
at him, as Ed put his head on one side, braid slipping over his shoulder. He grinned and
said, Equivalent exchange?

Roy woke with a snort, raising his head from the desk and then peeling off the piece of
paper glued to his cheek, blinking up at Hawkeye.

She gave him a completely level, completely unsurprised gaze and held out a folder. "The
Elrics should have arrived at their destination half an hour ago, sir. And these are due
back by four o' clock."

"I . . ." He took the folder and said meekly, "Thank you."

She bowed her head slightly and then turned and walked away, pausing at the door. She
looked back and said, "If you finish those papers on time, sir, why don't you go home
early tonight?"

He blinked. "Do you really think so?"

"If you finish them on time." she said, and her eyes very nearly softened. "We need you
at your best, sir."

Which was Hawkeye-code for, I'm worried about you. Roy rubbed his chin - should've
shaved this morning - and said, "Thank you, First Lieutenant."

She closed the door gently behind herself, and Roy slid his hand up from his chin to run
through his hair. He had sunk to the point where First Lieutenant Hawkeye was willing to
cut him some slack. This was . . . not good.

He shook his head, slid the papers out of their folder, and as he read them tried to think of
ways to make this one piece of work drag out across the entirety of the day, some way to
keep his brain occupied - empty brain space had a horrible habit of filling up with Ed.
Maybe he could tidy his desk. He could hardly work with a desk this messy. It was
shameful, a Colonel having a desk this messy . . .


*


Al stood back and marvelled at his brother at work. Ed was information-gathering,
interviewing people connected to the vanished alchemists, nodding along in a polite,
adult way to the blacksmith he was currently talking to. How could this be the same boy
who almost rammed his fist down the Colonel's throat for every 'short' comment?

"She just went out for lunch and didn't come back," the blacksmith said, scratching the
folds of flesh at the back of his neck - he reminded Al a little of Sieg, which was nice, it
made him nostalgic before it made him think of their teacher and parts of Al which didn't
exist anymore went cold and shivered. "We got a couple of orders that afternoon I really
could've used her help for."

"No-one's seen her since?" Ed said, looking around the blacksmith's shop, picking up a
large badly-dented, oil-smeared cog and turning it over in his hands.

The blacksmith shook his head, shifting the hammer at his waist in an almost
embarrassed way. "She was pretty absent-minded. Maybe she . . . I don't know, I want
her to turn up fine, you know? She was a nice kid. We really need an alchemist around
here now, we're not getting any of the old jobs anymore, it's all machinery nowadays, it's
all-"

Ed clapped his hands and almost absent-mindedly straightened the cog, putting it back
down onto its bench. The blacksmith just stared, his mouth wide. Ed looked up - way up -
at him again and said, "What about the other alchemists who went missing? Did she
know any of them?"

". . ." The man blinked himself back to the conversation and said, "I - don't know, a lot of
alchemists moved here since the city expanded . . . there's a new research school or
something opened, but who's going to come here if people keep disappearing? I'll tell you,
it's a good thing the military finally decided to do something about it, this could really
break this place . . ."

Ed snorted. "Yeah, well, a state alchemist went missing, and all of a sudden they're really
interested." He picked up a clock, squinted inside its open back, and clapped. There was a
sodium-edged flare of blue-white and a sudden tick-tick-tick cut through the cramped,
low-ceilinged room. "Maybe I'll look into this new research thing."

"It's . . . on the other edge of town . . . she always drew a - don't you need to draw a-?"

"Thanks for you help, you've been really useful, I'll make sure all the military repair
orders get passed on here, bye!" Ed said, already waving from the doorway, and Al
bowed quickly before following his brother out into the sunlight.

Ed stood with his hands in his pockets for a moment, scowling at the pavement.

"I don't like this," he muttered.

"Do you want to go to the research school, brother?"
Ed narrowed his eyes at the pavement, then looked up with a casual shrug, hair swinging
carelessly. "It can't hurt. C'mon, Al."

Al caught up with his brother within two steps, and quickly shortened his pace again to
match Ed's. "It doesn't sound like it's any powerful or dangerous alchemists," he said. "It's
just normal people, brother, why would anyone-?"

"People just do weird shit," Ed said, and counted off on his fingers as he walked,
"religious crazies, power-hungry crazies, bog-standard crazies, just plain bastards-"

"But why?"

"Like I know. Hormonal imbalance?"

Al sighed. Unlike his brother, he wasn't quite so certain that science could explain
everything.

They interviewed a few more people on their way across the city, and lunchtime found
them sitting on the edge of a fountain, in a large square between the entrance to the
alchemical research institution and a damaged old square-box of a building, a disused
warehouse with weeds growing in its guttering. Opposite the clean white alchemical
research centre it looked as dirty and ruined as a newspaper left to rot.

Ed was on his third pancake - Al suspected he'd been following his nose to this square
and that pancake vendor for the past five blocks - squinting suspiciously at the bright
white building in front of him. "Why aren't we going in, brother?" Al said, watching his
brother tear off another mouthful.

Ed chewed, still scowling at the building. "I just want to see for a while, okay?"

Al looked across at the building Ed was glaring death at, and sighed. He looked around
the square instead, at all the people going about their lives - going shopping, going for
walks, going to lunch, going to work. It didn't quite seem fair that most people never had
to think about disappeared alchemists and corrupt military officials and illegal human
alchemy, but then, he supposed someone had to do it.

A football rolled to a halt by his foot, and Al looked down at it. He looked up at the group
of children running up to fetch it, slowing gradually to a halt as they noticed the huge suit
of armour and the scowling blond boy glaring across the square. Al glanced at his brother,
sitting cross-legged on the edge of the fountain and entirely unaware of anything except
the alchemical research institution and his lunch, leaned down and picked the ball up in
one huge hand. He stood up and walked over to the group of children, who stared up at
him with gaping mouths, and crouched down to hand it to the first boy.

"Here," he said, and the boy slowly lifted his hands to take it, and gave a slow grin.
"Thanks, mister."

Al rubbed the back of his helmet and gave a nervous laugh. "Um . . . I'm not really old
enough to be a 'mister' yet." he said. "I'm only fourteen."

The boy looked down at the ball, looked up at Al, and said, "Wanna play?"

"He's on my team," one of the boys said quickly, grabbing Al's gauntlet.

"That's not fair, you already have Billy and he's taller than everyone, he's on our team!"
one little blonde girl said fiercely, grabbing Al's other arm, and Al wished he could grin
and blush and beam like an idiot, because he really felt like doing it.


*


It was a while before Ed became aware of the clank-clank-clank sound that accompanied
a suit of armour playing football, and when he looked over he was stunned for a second,
and then something pooled all warm and happy in his stomach and he grinned.

Al could always find friends. Which was right, because Al always deserved them.

Eventually Al ran back over to him, waved once more to the group of children, and said,
"Brother, they said I was the best goalkeeper-"

Ed was trying not to grin insanely but he couldn't not. "That's great, Al."

"I really had fun! And I asked them - about that building, the empty one." Ed glanced
over his shoulder at the warehouse, which he'd barely looked at, and then back at Al.
"Because it's strange, having such an ugly old building next to all these nice new ones,
and they said no-one knows who owns it but no one ever goes there, and the children here
never even play there, because it's - they said it was haunted,"

His voice fell into a hush as he said that, and Ed gave a little snort.

"Al, kids say all kinds of crap. It's not actually haunted."

"They said you can see people at the windows sometimes, on a night, even though no-one
ever goes in. And they said there are strange lights in the windows -"

Al paused, because Ed's face had changed, like a dog pricking its ears, and as soon as Al
saw that look in Ed's eyes he realised it too.

"Alchemists are going missing-"
"Come on," Ed said, jumping down from the fountain, coat whipping, heading instantly
for the old warehouse.

Al was torn for a second before he followed, quickly and nervously, saying, "But brother,
what if there are ghosts . . . ?"

Ed rolled his eyes, "If there are ghosts," he said in a gently mocking voice, "then it's the
middle of the day, Al, they won't be around right now, right?"

"Oh. Okay." Al said, and then his attention honed in on a single sound and he chirped,
"There's a kitty!"

Ed glanced at the tabby sauntering along the edge of the warehouse, and rolled his eyes
again as Al tried to run over as quickly as he could, while making as little noise as
possible so as not to scare the cat, and crouched next to it to offer a big leather hand. The
cat sniffed his fingertip delicately and then allowed him to scratch its ears, giving Ed
quite a smug look, actually.

"You play with the damn cat, then, Al." Ed muttered, heading for the alleyway between
the warehouse and the next building along. "It's not like your big brother needs you or
anything."

As he turned the corner he startled a couple more cats, who slipped past him and into the
square. "More kitties!" Al sang, and Ed sighed, but he'd caught sight of a door to the
warehouse at the foot of the alleyway, between a couple of overloaded metal bins. The
paving of the alleyway was cracked and moss-coated, and there were cats everywhere,
sitting on the bins and watching him from the shadows along the walls, a line of glowing
eyes in the dark. And, suddenly, he got why this place had a reputation for being creepy.

He almost paused, but pulled himself together and headed for the door. This was
ridiculous, they were only cats, there was nothing scary about cats. There was a padlock
on the door - surprisingly shiny for an old, unused warehouse, hmm? - which was
hanging open, it hadn't been closed properly the last time it was used. As he pushed the
door open another cat slid out and between his legs, disappearing up the alleyway. Was
every stray cat in the city in this warehouse? Why?

It was dark inside, squares of weak, dust-stained sunlight only very patchy on the floor,
but all around he could hear the sound of mewing and it might be heaven to Al but there
was something that was making the hairs on the back of his neck stand up and his
heartbeat quicken -

There was a smell. He almost took a step backwards. It was a heavy, hot, fleshy, sweaty
smell, like a butcher's shop in high summer, suffocatingly bad.

Ed went very still.
He hoped he had a sick mind, hoped he'd been so fucked up by all the other crap in his
life that he thought like this automatically, hoped that no-one else was actually sick
enough to even think this, let alone-

His hands were shaking. He took a step into the thick, stinking darkness and the mewing
increased, and a few cats ran past and over his boots. He picked up a piece of what
looked like ceiling support, rotten wood that had fallen down, and tried to keep his hands
still for long enough to clap.

Crash chemicals together to get the spark, swirl in oxygen and hydrogen and he flinched
back, because he'd been practising but he still almost set his hair on fire half the time -
but it worked, and he was holding a cracking and hissing torch. For a second he was
blinded by the sudden light, and thought instantly of Mustang-

And then he looked down, at the cats on and around the body, and the entire world
sucked upwards, and the torch hit the floor.

He probably would have fainted or thrown up but he heard Al's voice, from just around
the door, saying, "Brother?"

This flare of terror brought everything back into sharp focus and he barked, "Al, stay
put!"

He heard the clank of the armour starting, and then Al said, "Brother, what's-"

"Al, don't come in!"

There were things Al didn't have to see. There were things he couldn't protect Al from, he
hadn't been able to protect Al from, but there were still things he could save his little
brother from where he could. He shooed the cats off, flailing at them and gagging at the
smell this close, and when the last cat hissed at him and wouldn't leave he felt genuinely
shitty as it squawled as he kicked it off.

Al's voice was uneasy, hesitant, as he pushed at the door and said, "Brother?"

Ed clapped his hands, dropped to his knees, drew some of the floor up into a wooden
coffin and then scrambled away from it, put a hand to his face and his glove slipped on
sweat, his legs gave way and he just sat there shaking as Al stood behind him and said,
"Brother, what's wrong? What happened? You're - brother, what's-"

Al crouched in front of him, leather gauntlet lowered to him. Ed grabbed it desperately,
clenching both hands as hard as he could and cramming his forehead against the metal,
dragging down the scent of leather like he was drowning. Al couldn't smell it. Oh God,
thank God, thank someone, Al couldn't smell it -
He choked it all back, choked it back and stuffed it down a hole and stamped on the dirt
until it was buried, let his breath out with a tight, choked shudder, and looked up dry-
eyed. "We need to get the military police," he said, and his voice was impressively flat.

"Brother-?"

"I think I found the missing girl."

Al stared at him, and then looked around, searching the darkness for a sight of someone,
and then he saw the dark wooden coffin in the edge of the light spilling through the door.

He said, very, very quietly, ". . . oh."


*


Ed made Al wait out in front of the warehouse while he dealt, perfectly calm and so
nauseous he wanted to throw up everything he'd eaten for the past year, with the military
police and the removal of the body. He had to transmute a lid for the coffin so they could
look in, and the smell as they opened it made him sway all over again.

Outside, he found Al sitting against the wall, head down, scratching between one cat's
ears while another sat curled on his lap, purring against the metal. He raised his head as
Ed sat down next to him with a sigh, letting his head thump back against the wall, eyes
closed against the glare of the late afternoon sun. "You look tired, brother." Al said
quietly, "Do you want to find somewhere to stay tonight?"

"We have to watch this place tonight to see if anyone comes in or out." Ed murmured, not
opening his eyes.

"But you need to-"

"I'll sleep tomorrow."

Al looked down at the cat in his lap, and stroked along its back with one oversized hand.

"Why do you think all the cats were here?" he said, as the cat rolled its back and tail
under his gauntlet. "Do you think she maybe fed them, so they stayed with her after she
died?"

Ed tried not to flinch, and maybe he'd learned something from all that time spent staring
at Mustang's poker face, because he barely even twitched an eyelid. "Maybe," he
whispered, and swallowed hard.

She hadn't known she'd fed them. But she had, all the same.
*


The smell lingered. It was hot and dark inside the warehouse, and Ed leaned against the
wall behind the door, half-drifting into a dream that Mustang was holding his arm - his
real right arm, his flesh arm, rotted almost beyond recognition and stinking like a corpse -
and telling him that he was too short to pay the equivalent exchange so he couldn't have it
back, until Al woke him with a hiss.

"Brother, there's someone outside-"

Ed jerked his head up, blinking rapidly, no idea where he was until he saw the weak
patches of dying sunlight in window-shaped squares patterning the ground. He grabbed
the door, wrenched it open, and threw himself onto the person crouching out there
without a second thought.

They rolled with him but he wasn't in the mood, and as the larger body rolled on top of
his and got one knee on his pelvic bone, pinning him with sheer weight advantage, he
clapped and thrust upwards with his automail blade, aiming for the side of the throat, not
to cut but to show that cutting was a definite option. The body over his jerked in shock
and Al cried from behind him, "Brother-!"

"You could have cut my throat open! What is wrong with you?" the boy kneeling on him
snapped, scrambling off. Ed stared.

"Russell?"

Russell Tringham an a hand through his hair, smoothing it down again, and put his hands
on his hips as he looked down at Ed, still gaping, eyes still wide. "I suppose it's too much
to have asked you to learn basic social skills since the last time I saw you," Russell said,
flicking his hair back one last time - it fell smoothly back into place over his eye once
more, and very suddenly, like a slap to the brain, Russell reminded Ed of Mustang. "Or to
have expected you to grown any since then."

Al just caught Ed by the hood of his coat in time. Yep, just like Mustang.

"I was gathering samples," Russell said, brushing his clothes off and ignoring the
scrabbling mess of Ed trying to snatch at him and claw him to pieces, and Al trying to
wrap his brother in his arms to keep him from committing homicide and getting them into
even worse trouble than they already were. "Our control group got contaminated, and we
needed some more native moss. I did not expect to get set upon by a short, bad-tempered,
bad-mannered, psychopathic-"

"-cking kill y-"
Al managed to clamp a hand around his brother's mouth, the other pinning Ed's arms to
his sides, and he said, "Your control group?"

"I'm an important part of the research team at the institute," Russell said loftily, "I was
invited to join by the Director himself."

"What about Fletcher?" Al asked, and Russell paused.

"Well, he was invited too, I supp-"

"Where's Fletcher?" Al said, his voice a little higher. Russell stared at him for a second,
and then both his and Ed's eyes swivelled to the open end of the alleyway.

"He was . . . right behind me. Fletcher?"

Ed had gone very stiff in Al's arms. Al dropped him, a hand raising to where his mouth
should have been. Ed landed on his feet as Russell called, "Fletcher, where did you go?",
turning down the alleyway.

Ed sprinted past him and stumbled out into the square, looking around frantically. No-one
about, it was nearly dark, no-one there-

He spun, grabbed Russell by the shirt and shouted at him, "When did you last see him?
Where was he?"

"Let go- just five minutes ago, less, he was-"

Ed shook him hard and wanted to scream. "Alchemists are disappearing! He's your little
brother and why the fuck weren't you looking out for him?"

Russell punched him, which Ed should really have seen coming, and Al hurried up,
getting between them as Ed drew his automail back with a snarl and Russell yelled,
"Don't you dare speak like that to me! He's my brother, I am looking out for him, how
dare you-"

"Both of you, stop it!" Al cried, one hand just pressing Russell's chest to keep him in
place, the other clutching his brother's shoulder just a little harder to hold him from
leaping. "We have to find Fletcher, that's what matters, you can shout at each other all
you want afterwards but he need to find him-"

Ed's hand curled into a fist and he dropped his arm, clapping dumbly to withdraw the
blade. Russell clutched his hair and whispered, "Find him, find him, where'd he go-?"

"Al, come on. We have to go in and look for him." Ed said quietly.
"Go in where?" Russell grabbed Ed's coat as Al let them both go, but even holding him
up by the coat Ed only met his eye reluctantly. "Go where?"

"The warehouse."

"Why? How can he be in there, we were standing in front of the door-"

"That's where I found the body of the last alchemist who went missing," Ed said flatly,
and Russell dropped him with a little moan. "Go wait at the institute or something,
Russell. Al, come on."

Russell was white and silent with shock as Ed pushed past him, but then he blinked
himself back and said, "I'm coming with you."

"We don't know what's in there."

"My brother's in there," Russell snapped, and Ed couldn't argue with that.


*


Roy let Maes babble on about how Elysia would be a bridesmaid at Gracia's sister's
wedding, how cute she would look like a fairy princess all in pink, how she was holding
practise weddings with all her teddy bears -

"Maes," he cut in eventually, because God the man could go on all night if he wanted,
"have you heard anything about the Elrics' progress yet?"

Maes took a sip of his drink and said, "I thought you were going to forget all about Ed."

"You know that doesn't mean I don't care." He realized that sounded - like too much, so
he added, "I'm still his superior officer and I'm still responsible for him. I know they
arrived at their destination this morning."

Maes - sighed. "And they found their first body by this afternoon. Bled dry, heart
removed, left to rot in a warehouse and half eaten by cats, actually." He propped his head
up on a hand, elbow on the bar. "So, tell me again what part of Ed's innocence you're
protecting."

Roy had gone still, hand tightening around his glass. "The research institute in this city . . .
I think it can help them with their goal." he said hoarsely, and Maes raised an eyebrow.

"And you knew alchemists were disappearing and almost certainly being murdered, and
you still sent him. I don't understand, Roy, and I know he doesn't. He's allowed to lose his
innocence in all the worst ways and none of the good ones?"
"It no longer matters if I change my mind about the morality of the situation." Roy said
harshly, but he knew it wasn't really Maes' questioning that was annoying him, he knew
where all his anger came from and where it was directed. "He's made his own mind up to
forget there was ever any - tension, between us."

"And he seems so happy about it." Maes murmured. Roy narrowed his eyes, then glanced
up at the waitress as she leant down to take his empty glass. Roy gave a slow, smoky
smile, passed her the glass and murmured, "Thank you."

She blushed, putting the glass onto her tray and trying to stifle her smile, shuffling
slightly before turning away with a little sway in her step and a muffled giggle.

"Roy," Maes said, warningly.

"Can you give me a reason not to?" Roy murmured, raising a hand to the barman, who
poured another glass of Scotch.

Closer part V
Beta'd by toxicbullets - *hugs* for her ^^
Rating: R
Warnings: The song prompt for this chapter is a horrible, horrible pun ^^;
Disclaimer: If I owned it I don't think I'd've cried like a wailing child at the movie ^^;
Summary: 'Alone in the dark and somewhere in this building there's someone who takes
the heart and blood of alchemists . . .'

All other parts are in my memories.



When I met you I just knew that you would take my heart and run
- Mary J Blige, Real Love



"What are we doing? How is this meant to help us find Fletcher?" Russell said through
gritted teeth, holding the torch high enough to cast salsa-ing shadows across the walls as
Ed crouched at the meet of floor and wall and ran his hands over the cracks and gaps in
the floorboards.

"Shut up and stop shaking the torch."

"Brother, what are you doing?" Al said quietly, watching as Ed knocked his knuckles off
the floorboards.

"Alchemists are disappearing. The kids see people and strange lights in here, so
whatever's happening to them is happening here. But whoever took Fletcher didn't take
him past us and through the door, so there's another -" He clapped his hands and slammed
them to the floor. "-entrance."

The crackle of the alchemical reaction lit them blue from below for a moment, and then
they were looking down a trapdoor at a flight of steps - and, immediately, the entire floor
shifted under them. Ed put a hand down to steady himself, Al staggered into the wall and
Russell dropped the torch - which span into the trapdoor, bounced down the steps and
went out before it lit the distance to the bottom. They heard it rolling down a few more
steps before clattering to a halt.

"Nice going, genius." Russell muttered. "You just destabilised the whole building."

"You just dropped the fucking torch," Ed growled back, and Al said weakly, "This isn't
the time to fight . . ."

"Where's the point of finding this? If they already brought Fletcher in this way, how does
finding it help us?" Russell hissed. Ed stood up, squinting through the barest light the
high, grimed-over windows offered, and rapped the back of his automail hand off Al's
chest plate.

"Al's gonna stand guard here in case they haven't brought Fletcher through yet, or to stop
them escaping if they have. We're going upstairs."

"Brother-"

"Stay here." Ed said, his voice low and serious, and he heard Al shuffle and clank
uneasily.

"Be careful," Al whispered, and a leather and metal fist nudged his metal one for a
second. Ed smiled up at him, though he wasn't sure Al could actually see him.

"Yeah. You too."

"Can't see a damn thing," Russell muttered, as they walked away from Al, towards the
strange shadows cast by the stairs. Their feet clattered and slid over obstructions they
could barely see on the floor and Ed prayed it was fallen rubble, it was dead rats, it was
anything but the image his mind still couldn't detach itself from. "You left him there to
keep him safe, not to keep Fletcher safe-"

"There are things Al doesn't have to see." Ed said calmly.

"Like what? What are they going to do to my little brother? What did you find here?"

Russell's voice was going higher with panic and Ed glanced back at Al as he reached the
stairs at the edge of the warehouse floor, but Al was just standing silently by the gaping
shadow of the trapdoor, so still he could have been an inanimate suit of armour. He didn't
want Al to hear this. He tested the bottom step cautiously, and it creaked like a bitch but
seemed pretty solid.

"It was hard to tell. It- she'd been eaten by cats. But -" There was a thickening in his
throat he tried to ignore. "Whoever it was had cut out her heart and drained all her blood.
You can't do that quickly," he hissed as Russell gave a muted cry into his hand. "It was
precise, that takes time, nothing can have happened to Fletcher yet, they wouldn't have
had the time-"

"He could still be dead-"

"They drained the blood while she was still alive," Ed said, and his hand tightened a little
on the banister before he flexed it and kept moving. "I asked the police who picked up the
body, whoever did it must have knocked her out or-"

He paused as they came onto the first floor, a corridor of what must have once been the
offices to serve the warehouse below, bleak bare floorboards and doors that could have
been any colour in the darkness. "We have to be quiet," he whispered, and then gestured
at the left hand doors. "I'll take these, you take the right side."

The first room still had a desk in it, and a chair with most of its stuffing bared, a cat
asleep on the seat. The next was empty apart from a rusted filing cabinet. Ed was just
opening the door to the third when he heard a cry and skidded out immediately, almost
falling over in his hurry to cross the corridor-

Russell was leaning over Fletcher, who was lying on his side on a wooden desk, eyes
closed and still. "Fletcher, wake up, wake up," Russell hissed, rubbing the smaller boy's
hair and almost-gently slapping his face. "Wake up."

"Is he-?"

"Unconscious, he won't wake up-"

Ed let out his breath and with it a weight of tension on his shoulders he hadn't realised
he'd been carrying, and then he heard a creak behind them -

He span, and a cat looked up at him, and mewed.

He sighed, and crouched down next to it, meeting it in the deep green eye. "I'm never
gonna really look at you guys the same way," he muttered, but only hesitated for a
moment before rubbing its forehead.

The cat flicked its ears suddenly, its pupils changing, and it sprang out of the room in a
single fluid bound. Ed stood uncertainly but then the jolt came, and Russell cried out,
arms around Fletcher as the building shook.
Ed felt one floorboard underneath his boot give way, and just had time to think, Oh, shit.
before the rest collapsed as well.


*


Molly, twenty-three, brown hair and eyes and a way of tilting her head down and looking
up at him that made him think -

No.

She laughed at every joke he made, even more so once Roy's darkly glowering friend had
gone home to his family, and never once called him a bastard or made a growling retort
of her own. She leaned close enough when she took his empty glasses that he could smell
the lily-of-the-valley of her skin, and she was all curves and softness, no clean, hard
metal edges, no filthy, travel-faded red coat, no suspiciously narrowed golden eyes -

He even got as far as waiting until the bar closed, until she could finish her shift and
perhaps he could offer to walk her home, before realising that this was pointless. He had
an offering on a plate and he just didn't want it. Why go through with this? She wouldn't
kiss clumsily and forcefully and frantically, she didn't smell right, she wouldn't taste right
- there was no way she'd leave bruises on his neck just by trying to drag him down into
range, there was no way he'd feel the sharp scrape of her teeth at the sides of his tongue
for days afterwards-

She said goodnight with an edge of disappointment on her voice, and Roy walked home
alone, face turned up to the night sky, trying to remind himself of the reasons why he
couldn't even fantasize about this.

Ed was fifteen, but it wasn't like he wasn't aware of what he wanted - Roy remembered
what it was like being fifteen. Even if Ed didn't know the technicalities, all the right
desires would be there, buoyed by hormones and all this damn tension.

He was underage, but then, no longer a child, that was blindingly obvious. Even 'young
man' seemed out of place when applied to him - Ed was just Ed, man-boy-Ed, completely
and utterly unique in that classification.

It wouldn't last, but then none of Roy's relationships did, he couldn't let anyone get close
enough to threaten his dark corners, couldn't create vulnerabilities for himself. Sex was
enjoyable and sometimes women - and sometimes men - made good company, but not for
long, not someone he actually cared about.

He was a subordinate, but it wasn't like the both of them didn't know how much secrets
mattered, how much was at stake here.
What it came down to was that Roy would not do this, but he was losing grip of the why,
when all he could think about was the feeling of Ed panting against his mouth, the smell
and taste of his catching breath, which made him want more than he could ever remember
wanting anyone. He had to block it out of his mind, never think of it, never think of the
brat, make his brain an Ed-free zone.

Had he ever really, really wanted anyone before, or had he always done this just because
he could? He was at his front gate and he didn't remember how he'd got there. Had he
ever lost track of time and place thinking about someone he hadn't even slept with before?
He'd probably never lost track of time thinking about anyone. He was confident he'd left
other people unable to think about anything but him before, and it was the first time since
he'd been Ed's age he'd found himself in anything like the reverse position.

"I have more important things to do than waste time giving a crap about you."

He opened his gate and it was more than a pang, when Ed wasn't waiting on his steps,
Roy's stomach clenched. Roy knew he wouldn't be here, he was across the damn country,
but -

He wanted, wanted, wanted, wanted so much it made his head spin, unless that was the
alcohol . . .

Was it for the best? If he'd seen Ed tonight, he didn't know how he'd manage to say no.
Was that really for the best?


*


Complete panic - the feeling of falling was just too similar to the feeling of being flung
through the Gate -

All the breath was knocked out of him with a sharp cry as he hit something sharp-edged
hip-first, and then he finally crashed to the ground, head jerking and thumping his
forehead hard, and blackness ate away the edges of his vision, swarming inwards.

Long black arms like ribbons winding inwards, nowhere to run-

I'm not scared of the dark, I'm not a stupid kid, I don't have the time to be scared -

It took a moment to realise that he could see again, it was just that there was nothing to
see - no light at all. Ed pushed himself up with his teeth gritted, but his hands were on
something that moved and he yelped, falling backwards-
He could hear Russell coughing and choking for breath, and reached out uneasily,
fumbling through the dark until he touched - a leg. The leg twitched and Ed jumped back,
and Russell hacked out, "For someone - so small - you're damn heavy-"

"Who's so small he could fall down a drain and drown in the rainwater?" Ed snarled, but
Russell was ignoring him - Ed could hear the rustle of him shifting Fletcher's body on his
lap, and he said, "Fletcher, are you awake yet?"

Swallowing down his hurt pride, burning in his throat, Ed said, "Is he okay?"

"I shielded him from the worst of the fall."

"Okay. That's good. Are you okay?"

"No thanks to you landing on me, you half-metal mass of blubber, how much do you
weigh?"

"It's the automail," Ed snapped defensively, and poked him in the leg with a metal finger.
"And muscle weighs more than fat, you floppy-haired sissy."

"I'm the sissy, from the boy with long blond hair-"

"Which I don't spend half my life tossing around like a damn girl-"

"Brother?"

Ed looked up automatically, like a dog to a whistle. "Al?"

His voice had come from somewhere above, far above . . . they'd fallen not into the
warehouse again but through it, into the basement.

"Are you alright? Did you find Fletcher?" Al called down - if Ed squinted he could see
the edges of the hole Al was peering down, could just about make out the dim outline of
his brother.

"Yeah, we found him, and everyone's fine, nothing broken." Ed began feeling around in
the mess of rubble they'd fallen down with, which must have absorbed some of the
impact. He found a piece of wood, held it at a distance with eyes narrowed, then clapped
his hands to it and winced as it burst into flame. Ah. He'd managed to do it without losing
his eyebrows again. He was getting good at this, stupid Mustang could take his -

...

Stupid Mustang.

"Do you want me to come down?" Al called. "The fall shouldn't hurt me, so-"
"No, but it could hurt us!" Russell said quickly. "Tell him no, he's all spiky, we'll be
crushed-"

"I'll find a way up," Ed said loudly and firmly, lighting another piece of wood from his
torch and handing it to Russell. "You wait here, I'll come back and get you once we know
how to get out."

"You better."

Ed snorted and stood with a wince, pressing a hand briefly to his hip. In the jumping
torchlight he could see that they'd fallen into a basement storage room of some sort; it
had a high ceiling, and the wooden supports holding the warehouse floor above them
must once have been strong and regular but were now twisted and snapped and sagging.
The entire warehouse must be on the verge of coming down. But that trapdoor he'd left
Al guarding must have led down here, so all he had to do was find that staircase - and it
was somewhere over there . . .

There were still stacks of crates making corridors and compartments in the basement; it
must have been in glancing off one of those towers he'd hit his hip during the fall. Ed lost
sight of Russell and Fletcher after a couple of turnings. He was trying to head in the right
direction but the layout of the crates hampered his movement; he considered transmuting
them out of the way, but when he tripped and bumped into a stack of crates, rocking them,
the roof supports groaned alarmingly, and he guessed that now was a bad time to risk
further alchemy.

Two more turnings and -

Dead end. Hm.

There was a flutter of air and the torch went out.

Ed stood in the darkness, head slightly bowed, thinking. Alone in the dark and
somewhere in this building there's someone who takes the heart and blood of
alchemists . . .

He span, hands already coming together, ready to bring the blade out of his automail -

A gleam.

Ed blinked, pausing just enough. The - man, he supposed, was standing there holding a
silver pocket watch aloft; not a State Alchemist's watch, though similar enough, and a
lantern in his other hand. His head and face were covered by a gas-mask, heavy rubber
and huge black goggles, with a stubby black rubber pig-snout over the lower half of the
face. The rest of his body was covered in heavy black cloth, so not an inch of skin
showed - he was even wearing thick black rubber gloves over his hands, from which the
watch chain dangled.
The watch swung back and forth, clockwork-regular. Ed's eyes followed its each swing.

"I can look away anytime I like," he said, quite slowly, though his eyes didn't move from
the watch for a second.

"No," the pig-man said, his voice thickly muffled and oddly nasal behind the gas mask.
"You really can't."

Left-right left-right, ticktickticktick-

"It's just a watch," Ed said, but his voice sounded odd to him now, a little garbled, like his
tongue was too thick in his mouth. He realized with a rush of cold adrenaline that his
body was getting heavier. He swung up his hands to bring them together again but they
didn't even meet - his muscles had turned to putty. His left arm barely even made it
halfway, and the right - he could work the hand and elbow, not that he could reach to his
other hand, but the shoulder joint had given up along with the rest of his body.

Now was really not the time for everything except his automail to malfunction . . .

"Just keep your eyes on it." the pig-man said, taking a step towards him. "Can you move?
Even a little?"

"Whudud yuh-?" Ed gritted his teeth, unable to move lips or tongue properly to get the
words out. "B'std-"

The pig-man stopped in front of him, lowering the watch slightly, peering into his face.
Ed tried to put all his hatred into his eyes but the man had slid a hand into his pocket and
Ed couldn't help the involuntary noise of shock he made. Bad touching-

The pig-man lifted out Ed's watch, holding it up so it turned slowly in the dim light from
his lantern. "State Alchemist," he said, and Ed could feel the strain of the watch's chain
where it attached to his belt loop before he dropped it to bounce off Ed's leg. "You don't
look much like one. But still, there's not much point being discreet anymore if the
military already knows. I may as well use all of you and everyone else at the institute
tonight, get so much power the military can't intervene."

This close, Ed could see the array worked into the silver of the pig-man's watch, and
another small sound left his throat, a self-reproachful sound of realization.

That gleam of light when he'd turned. He'd thought it was the watch shining in the light
from the lantern - but the lantern light was too weak, that bright flare had been an
alchemical reaction: the pig-man had activated the array on the watch. This wasn't some
weird hypnotism, this was alchemy-

He was wearing a gas mask. He'd changed the chemical composition of the air, put in
something with a paralysing effect on inhalation. Damn it, damn it, damn it -
Putting all his strength into it, breaking into a sweat just from forcing his mouth to move,
Ed hissed, "Bstd."

Even his breathing was laboured now. But it seemed his internal organs were still holding
up more or less fine, and of course the man would want his heart beating if he wanted to
extract his blood. Bastard, bastard, Ed wanted to smash his face into a crate for making
him feel so -

- helpless -

The pig-man set his lantern on a nearby crate and picked up a black leather bag Ed hadn't
even noticed until this moment. When he unzipped it, sharp silver picked up a little light
from the lantern and glowed, dim and dark.

Surgical tools. The girl with her chest broken open and heart cut cleanly out . . .

"You're an alchemist, so I imagine you'll find this interesting." the pig-man said, pausing
to readjust his gas mask, and his voice came out just a little more clearly after that. "I
imagine you've heard of the Philosopher's Stone?"

The noise Ed made was nothing but a whimper. He didn't know how he was still standing
upright, not after that - he knew about the Stone? What about the Stone? What-

"One method for making the Stone - one very inefficient method - is to use thousands of
people as sacrifices, as fuel. I believe it's been done at least once before, and possibly
more, but really, for the effort you put into it -"

He was laying out tools as he talked, and Ed couldn't move his head to look at them
properly, but he saw sharp edges as they moved through the air and the slight sheen of
silver.

"Blood is powerful, modern alchemy's forgotten that. And the blood of an alchemist -
well, that has very special properties."

He stood up, holding a clear bag, a needle, a fine pipe between the two. Ed tried to move
his head back and couldn't even blink, could no longer twitch a fingertip.

"Maybe just a hundred. Maybe just a few dozen. And I can have a perfect working
Philosopher's Stone . . . and if the military sent you, they will come for me very soon, so I
may as well use you while I can."

He pushed Ed, just lightly, in the chest, and Ed fell over half-backwards and half-
sideways with a strangled scream of a curse in his throat that came out as no recognisable
word. His hip bounced off the floor again and that hurt, he was going to have a bruise -

- he was going to be dead, what did a bruise matter -?
"I suppose you're curious about the hearts. They're not necessary, not for this, no - but I
have some experiments planned for human transmutation, once I have the Stone and I'm
safe from a backlash. I have some very interesting theories . . ."

He crouched and took Ed's right arm, and this close Ed could see through the smoky
black goggles to his eyes just turning puzzled as he felt cold metal instead of flesh he
could drain the blood from. Ed closed his hand in the man's sleeve and wrenched with all
the strength in his elbow.

No muscles there, bastard.

He was quite a slight man, under all that rubber, and the last thing he'd expected was for
movement from a paralysed victim. But being slammed into the floor wasn't enough,
wasn't nearly enough, and even though he was struggling in a panic to free himself from
Ed's automail hand there was nothing more Ed could do, just hang on-

The pig-man slammed his hand down over Ed's throat, pressing hard, and choked, "Let
go, let go, I'd rather do this while your heart's still beating but there are other ways-"

Black bubbles popped in Ed's vision. He gripped harder, twisting his hand on the pig-
man's arm. There were no other ways. If you're going down, go fighting-

And then a huge leather gauntlet grabbed the man by the back of his neck and wrenched,
and Ed let go with the automail, and Al lifted the pig-man up to his eye-level. The pig-
man screamed, high and horrified, as Al took the watch the man was still holding from
his hand and smashed it into a crate with a burst of glass and clockwork and cracking
silver.

Ed took his first proper breath of the past few minutes, and his head fell to the side, eyes
rolling back.


*


"This is completely unacceptable, Fullmetal."

He was in the Colonel's office and - where were his clothes?

Mustang watched him from behind his desk, from behind his loosely clasped hands.
"Completely inappropriate in a military institution." he said.

Ed's first thought wasn't to cover his exposed - well, him, but to cover the automail, ugly
and clunky and surrounded by scars, and the horror and the fear that fucking perfect
fucking Mustang would see made him just want to cover his face and not be here, made
his throat hurt-
Arms around him, Roy's uniform against his cheek -

"Being out of uniform is a court-martialling offence."

Hands lifting his face. He was shaking. "Colonel-"

Oh.

He still tasted the same, even in a dream.


*


"Brother."

A huge, heavy hand on his head, as Ed's eyes cracked open, as the world swam into
groggy focus. It felt oddly comforting, even though Ed knew that with the slightest shift
of pressure that hand could crack his skull like an egg. His little brother. Just his presence
was soothing. He lifted his head, winced at the swirl of nausea, and Al's hand lifted to
allow him to sit up and blink dazedly up at him.

"Are you okay?" Al said.

Ed nodded sleepily. Blinking seemed to take twice as long as normal, as he turned his
head to scan the area. The pig-man, de-masked and unconscious with a bloody nose, had
his hands tied by his rubber gloves, transmuted into handcuffs. Russell was watching him
with his back against some crates, one arm holding Fletcher, who was swaying slightly
with his eyes unfocused, only just upright at his brother's side.

Ed nodded at the pig-man, who still looked sort of like a pig even without the mask, and
said in a still slightly grating voice, "You reco'nize him?" to Russell.

"He's the Director of the institute. These tunnels must lead right to it." Russell said, and
narrowed his eyes slightly. "Jeez. Wherever I find somewhere I can actually get some
work done, you come along and ruin my employer."

"Stop workin' f'r evil nutcases, then. 'nyway, it'll prob'ly stay open," Ed said, grabbing
hold of Al to pull himself upright, staggering a little and catching his dangling watch to
check briefly before tucking into his pocket. "End up unner, under, mil'tary - damn it.
God fucking damn it, if he planned this-"

"Brother?" Al said.

"The military'll take over th' institute, he fuckin' knew this would -"
Ed was sick of being manipulated, sick and tired and angry, damn Mustang, damn him,
he had to play with every last corner of his mind, he couldn't leave him any peace at all -

His cheeks flushed dark and he clenched his hands, squeezing his eyes closed. What the
fuck right did he have to make him feel like this-?

Al placed his hands on Ed's shoulders to help him stay upright and said, "I'm sorry I came
down when you told me not to, brother, but I was worried. You took so long, but I came
down the steps you found and you were-"

Al was pressing Ed's cheek into his armour like this, pressing one of Ed's eyes closed
against cold metal, and after a pause, Ed closed his other eye too. He felt tired and angry
still but Al always did let him forget that, briefly. "S'okay." His voice dropped to a
mumble. "Thanks."

There were things he could protect Al from; it turned out there were things he needed Al
to protect him from, as well.


*


The sun was just coming up, there was the pale promise of a bright, clear day in the sky,
and Ed was sitting on the edge of the fountain with Russell while Al and Fletcher chalked
arrays on the paving stones, an impromptu alchemy competition between friends. Ed
could hear them laughing, and sighed, propping his elbows on his knees and his head on
his hands. He had a headache. He had chosen to believe that this too was Mustang's fault.

"At least I got my moss samples," Russell said, leaning back on his hands. "Ten hours
later than anticipated, but whatever . . ."

"Not my fault," Ed muttered.

"Everything has to be difficult with you." Russell said, tossing his head and grinning.
"You can never just take the easy route, can you? Jeez."

"Not like I try and make it hard," Ed said in a mumble, glaring at the clean white Institute
opposite them. Russell quirked an eyebrow at him, and then sat up properly.

"Thanks," he said, and Ed looked up, blinked. "For helping me save Fletcher."

Ed's eyebrows lowered, "For helping you save Fletcher."

Russell rolled his eyes. "Thanks for saving Fletcher, Mr big brave Fullmetal Alchemist -
I'm sorry, Mr small brave Fullmet-"
He just ducked the swing, and as Ed began shrieking he scooped up a double-handful of
water from the fountain and flicked it up into Ed's face. Ed spluttered and blinked,
stopped in his tracks, and stared at him dumbly with eyes wide and water dripping from
his hair.

"You have to learn to relax," Russell said calmly. "You're going to give yourself ulcers."

"You - just -"

"You showed me I had to be a better big brother to Fletcher once. Well, you have to do
the same for Alphonse. You can't do that properly if you're this tightly wound up, can you?
There are other ways to let off steam than spazzing out at nothing, you know."

Ed stared at him, then stared some more, and then noticed something in his eyes - just
something, just a flicker of a spark, an intensity that wasn't usually -

He felt the blush shoot to the surface, put a hand to Russell's chest and shoved him into
the fountain. He was reminding him far too much of Mustang now.

Russell came up spluttering and screaming, and Ed propped his head on his hands again
and said, "Chill out, Russell, jeez, you're gonna give yourself ulcers or something . . ."


*


Al waved to Fletcher and Russell until they couldn't be seen from the train anymore. Ed
raised a hand to Russell in a half-wave and then flumped back into his seat with his arms
folded and a scowl fixed on his face. Russell had just smirked back. They were both still
slightly damp - Ed hadn't moved quite fast enough to escape his own ducking after
pushing Russell into the fountain - and Russell had seen his sudden flare of panic, and he
really was just a young blond clone of the Colonel . . .

"That wasn't a very nice job," Al said, sitting back in his seat, hands in his lap, turning to
his brother. "But it was nice to see Russell and Fletcher again, wasn't it, brother?"

Ed grunted.

"Fletcher said they were doing really well at the institute but it's really hard work. They're
working on a new sort of medical alchemy. Do you think we could do that, after all this,
after we get our bodies back? It'd be interesting, and it could really help people."

Ed's face twitched just a little but he said, "Sure, Al." in an almost-normal voice.

He already knew that getting Al's body back would be enough, he didn't even know what
the price for that would be. He'd long since given up on his own limbs. And there were
days, weeks at a time, where he knew that the price for Al's body was probably more than
he could pay and live, and he was gradually, gradually, coming to accept that. He just
couldn't see it. Couldn't see himself living to twenty, couldn't see himself having a life
beyond this, couldn't see the after like Al could. He could see Al afterwards, yes, happy
again with his body back and his life back and the world finally treating him how he
deserved to be treated - he just couldn't see himself doing anything but this, didn't know
how to have a life after this, didn't know what a normal life entailed, just couldn't see
it . . .

You can make a Philosopher's Stone with a smaller sacrifice, if you use the blood of
alchemists. What could the willing sacrifice of one alchemist make? God, he wished he'd
never known, the temptation to start thinking through the array -

Don't think about it, don't, Al would never forgive you, even if you weren't there to be
unforgiven -

But he'd put Al in the armour. He would get him out of it. And if that meant the price was
himself - body, heart, blood, he didn't care some days, the guilt was alive in him like an
octopus in his guts and he would give anything, anything-

"What they're working on now sounds really difficult but really interesting," Al said,
looking out of the window now, at the slowly speeding up flash of the scenery. "They're
trying to make a sort of blood-substitute made from plants for hospitals to use, instead of
taking donations from people. It could save lots of peoples' lives and it-"

Ed nearly fell out of his seat, grabbed Al by the chest-spike and screeched, "They're
doing what?"

"Brother-"

"We're getting off the train! We need to go back!"

"Brother, the train's moving-"

Ed already had the window open. "Grab the suitcase, Al." he yelled over the rush of wind
bursting into the carriage, the much louder clatterclatter of the rails, one knee already out.
He laughed, suddenly, hair flying in the wind and eyes bright and excited. "Al, this is it,
this time, this - I know it, this is it!"

Closer part VI
Beta: toxicbullets (yay ^^)
Rating: R
Disclaimer: Don't own, don't sue, promise to hand it back in mint condition when done
with it.
Summary: 'And the East had gone insane while he'd been away.'
All other parts are in my memories.



I know ugliness, now show me something pretty . . .
- Patrick Park, Something Pretty



Al had done everything short of actually kicking him out of the door to get Ed to hand his
report in. It was late already, he had to do it, he could come back to research after he'd
handed it in, he would get in trouble if he didn't, Al would keep working while he did,
just go.

They both knew it was more than that, and Ed appreciated more than Al would ever
guess that Al didn't bring up the other reason. Yes, he wanted to do nothing but research
this right now, nothing but work out how to turn plant matter into something that could
be taken as an alchemist's blood, something that could create a Stone - but almost more
than that, almost more than anything, he just wanted to put off facing Mustang again for
as long as he possibly could. The Colonel had always been able to twist him up inside
with rage and humiliation even before this, and now just meeting his eyes made all of
Ed's internal organs turn traitor and turn to butter.

And the East had gone insane while he'd been away. In the outer office everyone was
meekly doing their work, even Havoc and Breda, and Hawkeye gave him the longest,
most unreadable look ever, so deep he squirmed inside and out, before speaking.

"Welcome back, Edward." she said softly. Her face gave nothing away, but there was
something in her voice . . . "When you see the Colonel - could you go in quietly, please?"

He raised and knotted both eyebrows. "Why-?"

"If you don't mind." And there was almost, almost something like humour in her eyes
now.

Well, it would make a change, he guessed . . .

So he knocked, carefully with his flesh hand, report clasped under his arm along with his
coat, and stuck his head around the door.

His breath caught. After a pause, he went in and closed the door.

Hawkeye very carefully put down a stack of folders, and Havoc glanced at her with a
curious, confused expression. She went back to work, and didn't meet his eye.
*


Ed put his report on the desk, as gently as he could, then sat quietly on the sofa and
wrapped his arms around his knees, hiding behind his crooked legs so only his eyes were
visible, and stared at the Colonel.

He was asleep, on his desk, on his paperwork, pen still hanging from his fingers. His hair
was messy, his clothes were rumpled, he looked tired and Ed wanted to touch him-

He tightened his grip on his legs a little instead.

What the hell was Mustang doing? Stupid fucker, he needed to be alert, he needed to be
awake, he needed to be cool and untouchable and smirking and smug, not asleep and
open and vulnerable -

Ed wanted to touch his exposed throat, where the top catch of his uniform was open, with
just his fingertips, just feel the pulse and the warmth of him and know he was fine. He
closed his eyes briefly. Of course he was fine, he didn't look injured, obviously he was
fine. But - what had happened? Why was Mustang, who for a fire alchemist shouldn't
have been such a damned ice statue, crashed out on his desk?

What was Ed meant to do? Leave his report? Leave? He couldn't leave him like this, he-

The research. Al. He didn't have time for this.

He owed Mustang, for the accident. Equivalent trade . . .

But he was a bastard, such a bastard, he deserved -

Ed's stomach flopped over and writhed in frustration, and his face twisted. Mustang was a
bastard and he did stupid fucking things. But didn't Ed do that too, and much more often?

I don't know what to do. Al, what do I do?

He took a breath. Al would understand. A few hours more in the armour, he'd understand,
but Ed still felt like a selfish brat for taking advantage of Al's understanding, because he
didn't deserve it . . .

He used the time to watch, as closely as ever before, and after a while forgot even to
loathe himself for spending a minute away from trying to restore his brother.


*
Roy's breath coming out in sigh, through his nose, against the paperwork underneath his
cheek woke him. He blinked, the office swimming in front of him, and closed his eyes
again. Damn. He had to stop doing this. He wouldn't have to, if he could sleep on a night,
of course . . .

He raised his head, rubbed his hair, and found himself staring at Edward Elric - sitting on
his couch, just letting his legs down from hugging them, watching him with wary golden
eyes. Roy gazed at him sleepily. He should feel some discomfort about sleeping in front
of the subordinate he was always meant to present a pristine façade to, but the only
disturbing thing about this situation was how very natural it felt to wake up and find Ed
there.

Ed's hands rubbed his knees for a second and then he said, his voice a little tight, "You
know how I said I wasn't gonna think about you anymore?"

There was something horrible and helpless in his face. He looked almost ill. His voice
was completely miserable, stretched and hopeless, as he said in almost a whine, "I can't.
Why won't this just go away? I can't - I can't get my brain away from you, what the fuck
did you do to me?"

". . . E- Fullmetal . . ." Roy's voice sounded rough in his ears, low and cracked with sleep.
Ed shook his head hard, eyes closed.

"What am I meant to do? You're - you won't, and I want my life back."

"We can't discuss this here." Roy said, and Ed jerked, didn't open his eyes but nodded,
mouth a taut line. "Come over tonight."

Ed's eyes opened with a start at that, and Roy curtailed his confusion with, "To talk,
Edward." Just softly. "Please."

Ed swallowed, mouth still clenched, nodded and picked up his coat and left. Roy looked
down at the report on his desk and the only thing to be glad about was that now at least
Hughes wouldn't overhear the conversation they had to have.

Not that Roy would put bugging his house above the man, but he was going to go over
every corner of the living room with a magnet tonight, before Ed arrived.


*


Al sighed. His brother was not being helpful.
They'd done most of the brainstorming on the train back, while Ed was still buzzing from
his talk with the Tringhams. He'd explained to Al what that man in the warehouse had
told him - you can make a Philosopher's Stone with alchemists, and what Al had felt
knowing that the man had wanted to make a Stone with his brother had been enough to
make him shake, the blind white rage and the terror at what he'd almost lost - and
combined with the Tringhams' research, maybe they could do this, maybe they could
make a Stone without hurting anyone . . .

He tried not to look straight at his own excitement, just let it sit, just in the corner of his
vision. His brother was so certain, but Ed had always had a strength of belief like steel
and Al couldn't let himself, not yet . . .

But still, it was a good thing the 'ideas' portion was over for the time being, and they were
onto research; his brother was about as useful for ideas right now as an empty bucket. Ed
was trying, Al knew that, struggling with a book on botanical alchemy he neither liked
nor had any expertise in, but it was never long before his eyes glazed and Al couldn't
even name the expression on his face before he finally, finally blinked himself awake
again, scowled and went back to reading.

After the dozenth or so time, Al lowered his own book a little and said, "How was the
Colonel?"

Ed pulled his head back slightly, but didn't flick his eyes from the page. "Yeah. He was
fine."

. . . and that was it. Something had changed. Al knew it couldn't go back to how it had
been before, and he wanted everything so badly for his brother, wanted him to finally just
remember how to be happy -

"'m gonna go talk tonight," Ed added in a mumble, then sat up and rubbed his nose,
snorting. "So I better get this boring fucking thing read by then."

And after that he read like the only other thing that existed apart from himself was the
book, and Al tried not to think about being able to smile again, because he really felt like
doing it.


*


There was a knock at the door, which was almost surprising, because Roy had half-
expected the kick-and-enter method even in his own home. When he opened it Ed looked
up at him and tensed his shoulders, hands in his pockets, head a little ducked so his hair
almost shielded his face. Roy stepped aside and murmured, "Come in, Fullmetal . . ."
Ed shuffled awkwardly past him and stood in the hallway like he didn't know what to do,
as Roy closed the door. He turned to him again, cocked an eyebrow - Ed shuffled lower
in his coat and scowled - and offered, "Can I take your coat?" with just a little smirk.

Ed's chest rose and then fell with a count-to-ten sort of breath, and he yanked his arms
out of his coat and handed it over with a glare. "Do make yourself at home." Roy said,
hanging it up and wishing they could hold onto this hostility they were so used to. He
didn't know what he was going to say, had no idea what Ed was going to say, and Ed had
been right before, and Roy was finally willing to admit it: he was scared.

What of?

He shouldn't do this. He shouldn't want this. He couldn't help it.

Into the living room and in front of the oversized fireplace, huge in the wall. Roy sat at
the left side of the sofa turned to face the fire but Ed paused, standing on the rug and
smirking at the fireplace.

"Should've known you'd have a giant fire," he said, and cut an odd little sideways smirk
at Roy, who raised his eyebrows.

"Oddly enough, I find it rather soothing."

"It's the middle of summer."

"Not everything has to be rational," Roy murmured, and Ed did look at him then, a little
as if Roy had drawn a straight line and called it an array, as if Roy had just said
something utterly nonsensical. Roy wanted to keep that incredulous, wide-eyed
expression, because that he could deal with. But . . .

"Do you want to sit?"

The expression faded from Ed's face, left something flat-mouthed and wary-eyed behind.
Ed sat, uneasily, at the opposite end of the sofa to him, almost as much distance between
them as was possible. He wasn't going to make this easy, Roy knew - whatever the hell
'this' even was.

Silence, for a few seconds.

"I read your report," Roy said, rolled his eyes on the inside at how desperate his voice
sounded, too eager to fill the silence, and flattened it out into something unreadable. "It
felt like you'd missed a lot out."

"What else did you want?" Ed muttered, hands on the edge of the cushions as if to aid his
escape if he needed to spring off in a hurry, glaring at the fire. "Power-crazy sociopath
cuts up alchemists for blood and spare parts, we caught him, the end. What-"
"You said he was using the blood and hearts for research. What kind of research?"

Just a pause. Ed was close enough, closer than he ever was in the office (except when, by
whatever insane logic Ed worked by, he leaned in so close that Roy could smell him as he
stared), so close Roy could see the slow movement of his chest as he breathed, just a little
too fast to be relaxed.

"The Stone," he said, and Roy had suspected but . . .

"You came back a day later than was expected."

"Had to talk to someone about . . ." and the excitement bubbled over, and Ed's hands
squeezed so hard at the edge of the sofa cushions that Roy half expected the automail to
put holes in the material. "We can do it, we can use his research and we don't have to hurt
anybody-"

"F- Edward-"

"I swear we can, I can make it work but I just need the time - there's so much to -" He
finally looked at Roy and his face was alive and alight and shifting amber and gold in the
firelight, and there was a burning inside his brain that couldn't be hidden through his eyes.
"I can bring Al back, I know I can-"

What was he meant to say? Tell him not to get so far ahead of himself in case it ended in
pain all over again? Ed was always throwing himself right into the sun, he never would
learn to look before he took the last step, but he looked so alive that Roy just couldn't . . .

"I can set you assignments only in the local area for a time, if you wish to focus on your
research."

Something in Ed's eyes leapt at that, but it changed quickly, and he tilted his head slightly,
looked up at Roy full of questions and reluctance.

". . . thanks. But we haven't - actually talked about - anything, yet, have we? I mean, this-
" A hand waving between them helplessly. "-thing."

"No. We haven't."

Ed deflated. "What are you going to do?" he said, just softly, with just an edge of
nervousness.

Roy still had nothing rehearsed. He had nothing left but honesty.

"I don't know, Ed." Ed twitched a little at that name. "This was never meant to happen. I
can hardly be helped for finding you attractive -" The duck and squirm were really
impossibly endearing, but also couldn't help but remind Roy that he was dealing with an
entirely inexperienced teenage boy - "- but you were never meant to notice. And then I
tried to ignore this, and then to deny it, but you . . . I find you strangely undeniable."

It was true; Roy couldn't ignore this and couldn't pretend this away. There was just too
much weight of want. At this rate it was going to drive both of them crazy. Ed just stared
at the carpet, shoulders hunched.

"And I don't expect you to forgive me for my response to any of this. I have tried to do
the right thing, I swear to you, but I think so far I've failed miserably."

"Don't think I've been helping much," Ed offered in a mumble, and looked up,
determined and embarrassed as hell and said, "I read books on this. So, what, do you
want to - to just fuck me or what? Because I'm not just gonna - just because you made me
feel like this doesn't mean you get to-"

Roy had probably heard Ed use the word 'me' dozens of times, and he'd certainly heard
Ed use the word 'fuck' hundreds of times, but never yet in that conjunction, and he
couldn't help his mouth going instantly dry, and he was entirely right; Ed was undeniable.
And yes, God he wanted to fuck the boy sitting next to him, and he'd never even let
himself think those actual words before and it was like getting hit in the face with a plank.

"I think we have already established that I am not man enough to take advantage of you,
Ed." he said, his voice a little rough. Ed started, and grinned guiltily.

"Uh. Yeah. But . . ." He swallowed, looked Roy up and down in a flick and met his eye
again, and Roy's breath caught . "You don't know I'd do that this time."

Roy had never heard his heartbeat so loud in his ears before, as if his heart had travelled
up his throat, pushed and bullied its way through his brain and lodged itself in his ear
canal.

"What are you going to do?" he asked, and Ed wasn't looking away anymore.

"I don't know what to do," he said. "Fuck, you know I don't know anything, and you
know - you get everything and I don't even know and-" Through clenched teeth he hissed,
"Are you actually gonna sit there and make me beg for this?"

All Roy was now was a heartbeat, an increasing pulse as his hand reached out like
something beyond his control, but still making it look so easy and graceful, as he moved
across the cushions and took Ed's closest hand. Ed started but didn't pull back, stared
open-mouthed as Roy lifted his left hand and wrapped his own hand around it, and this
was undeniable too; his hand was so much larger, an adult's hand and unless Ed planned
to stay that height for the rest of his life - and he'd rather die, obviously - Ed wasn't nearly
done growing yet.
"I know I'm young," Ed said suddenly, and Roy blinked up from staring at their hands,
Ed's still gloved in his. "I'm not stupid, of course I know that. It's just that being young
doesn't make me any more of a kid than you are."

"Than I-?"

"Ask Lieutenant Hughes," Ed muttered, and Roy stared. Ed shrugged awkwardly, and
Roy felt the movement through to the hand he was holding. "I can't be a kid, you know
that. Sometimes it feels like I've lived about five lives already, before my mother died
and then afterwards, before we tried to bring her back, and then after that, and . . . and
I've seen - some bad shit, and I've done some worse sometimes, and - sometimes there's
so much bad it'd just - it'd be nice to have something nice." He trailed into a mumble.
"That's all."

Sometimes talking to Ed was a horribly humbling experience. Sometimes talking to Ed
made Roy feel fifteen himself, and far smaller than Ed had ever been.

"This . . . can never enter the office, you know that."

". . . yeah, I get . . ." But Ed looked confused, all the same.

"Just feeling this puts both of us in danger. It puts your brother in danger, Ed."

And that made him clamp his mouth shut, and there was very real fear in Ed's eyes for a
second. "I know."

"Discretion is the most important thing."

Ed tilted his head to the side, let his breath out in a huff. "I get it. I'm way smarter than
you, I get it already-"

Even now, still a brat. Roy raised an eyebrow, rubbed the back of Ed's hand with his
thumb and Ed glanced down. "And I would never 'just' fuck you, Ed."

And that slammed the blush on, and Ed looked up instantly, eyes wide and startled - and
Roy touched the side of his face, brushed his hair back, leaned close so they were almost
eye to eye, almost mouth to mouth, he could smell him again so close and it went straight
through him like a firework crackling under his ribcage. He said what he hoped was the
most honest thing he could offer. "I will never let this be something you don't want."

Ed swallowed, mouth open and Roy could feel his breath against his mouth, and Ed was
gold in the firelight and as tense as a strung wire, his breathing quickening, his pupils
huge and dark and edged with gold like the sun eclipsed -

It was Ed who moved, curled an automail hand in the side of Roy's collar, tugged just a
little almost as a warning before pulling properly, mouth to mouth and he tasted like Ed.
Roy smiled against his clumsy kisses and if it took a lifetime it would be so damn good to
learn how Ed learned to do this properly . . .


*


He'd lost track of time. Roy was sitting on his sofa making out like a teenager with a
teenager and he'd entirely lost track of time. How long had they been doing this now?
Long enough that his mouth felt a little strained but in a way he didn't mind at all, in a
way that added to the sensation. When was the last time he'd just kissed someone for this
long?

His hands wanted to wander but that was the last thing he could let himself do, so he kept
one on Ed's back, stroking one shoulder blade just gently with a thumb, while the other
hand was pressed over Ed's on the cushions, warm underneath his palm. Ed's right hand
had eventually shifted from dragging at his collar to hooking around his neck - Ed had his
head tilted back as much as he could without spraining himself but he was still holding
Roy down very firmly, and Roy wouldn't dare to breathe a word about the height
difference right now.

Ed seemed to bring out his inner teenager, turn Roy into a fifteen year old himself. Was
this wrong? He tried to ignore that voice in his head; Ed is Ed, fifteen is just a number,
he's more adult than most of the people you know-

And then Ed choked into his mouth, and Roy pulled back dazedly as Ed shook his head
and the laughter burst out of him. He leaned back against the sofa, eyes closed and
howling, and Roy stared.

"Suh-suh-sorry," Ed sobbed between breaths, cracking his eyes open and panting to try
and keep the laugh inside. "I-" He closed his eyes for a second as the laughter won for a
moment, and then got control again - "It's just fucking weird-"

"Weird." Roy said flatly. This was not a common reaction to his shows of oral prowess.
Half of him wanted to point out that that made Ed weird, and the other half of him only
just remembered that he was meant to be the adult here, and I know you are but what am I?
was a far more juvenile reaction than he could afford to sink to.

"I mean - you know what I mean." Ed tugged Roy's sleeve and grinned up at him. "This
is you. And me. And we're - doing this. I never, never really thought - shit, this is weird."

"Weird, Ed." Roy said, dark eyes watching him coolly.

"Well . . . yeah." Ed tugged his sleeve again, and he wasn't laughing anymore, but he did
lick his lips, eyes darting to Roy's mouth and then up again. "Can we do it again?"
You should go back to Alphonse, it must be late by now. I want to do far more than 'this'
and you have no idea. You completely rewrite the person I think I am and what the hell
happens to my self-control when you get within three feet of me?

He slid a hand to the side of Ed's jaw and throat and kissed him again, eyes closed and
God, Ed had got the hang of his quickly, opening his mouth and tongue moving lazily,
mismatched hands on Roy's hipbones as he let out the smallest happy breath into Roy's
mouth. Roy wanted him closer, closer, close and tight against him and okay, yes, now it
really was time for Ed to go home, because Roy's crotch had decided it had forgiven Ed
even without an apology.

Roy broke off and up, and Ed's head tilted with him for a second, and then he looked up
dazedly. "Whuh?" he said, and tugged a little at Roy's collar. "Why did-?"

"It's late, Ed. Alphonse will be worried about you."

Ed jumped, looked around for a clock and spotted the slim grandfather clock in the corner.
"Shit," he muttered, sitting up quickly, suddenly his attention nowhere near Roy and Roy
had to keep the disappointment small and bitter inside. He hated himself for that; he knew
Ed belonged to Al more than anyone else, and it was just wrong of him to even want a
part of Ed to belong to him, but-

"We can do this again, right?" Ed said, and Roy's insides lurched at the happy, eager
expression on Ed's face.

"If that's what you want."

Ed grinned. The smile bubbled onto Roy's face without even asking permission, and
usually Roy's facial expressions treble-checked with his brain before they let themselves
be known. "Ed," Roy said, trying to school his face into seriousness, wanting to touch
him again, "this can't enter the office. Not even a hint of it."

Ed's face closed up a little but he nodded. "I get it. No change in the office. I get it."

Roy nodded. "You can come here whenever you like, so long as you're sure no-one but
Alphonse knows about it."

Bafflingly, because it was Ed whose expressions Roy could skim as easily as, and so
much more enjoyably than, his day's paperwork, he couldn't read the flicker of emotion
over Ed's face. It only lingered for a moment before Ed said, his voice dropping like a
stone into Roy's stomach, "We're gonna be . . . really busy, the research . . ."

Ed looked to the side, mouth tight, and Roy knew that expression, he'd seen it a thousand
times on Ed's face before - it was the patented Edward Elric 100% self-loathing guilt
expression. "I should've been helping now," he said quietly. "'stead of . . . this." His voice
was very quiet now, almost apologetic and so guilty Roy's stomach clawed itself in
sympathy. "I don't have the time for this."

Oh. That shouldn't have hurt like it did, but Roy's surprise at the depth of his
disappointment was even stronger. He touched Ed's cheek again, and Ed looked up
quickly. "I would never take you away from Alphonse." he said, voice firm and strong
and on the inside every organ was curling up and crying. "I would never jeopardise your
mission to restore your brother for a second. But, even if you choose not the spend it with
me, you have a right to some time for yourself, Ed."

He couldn't quite place that expression either. Dubious, cynical, almost angry -

"I should go," Ed muttered, and stood up. Roy stood with him, and kissed him one more
time, because he didn't know any more if Ed would be back, Ed's guilt was like a damned
assault course his every other emotion and desire had to force its way through.

Ed still had his eyes closed for a second when Roy let him go, and when he opened them
they fixed on Roy like searchlights. "If you took some time for yourself," he said, "what
would you want?"

Trapped. Damn him, damn his intelligence, damn his ability to make Roy say things that
could be turned back on him, leave him with no answer but honesty left. "I would want
you."

Ed's mouth twitched, and he still had one hand curled in Roy's uniform jacket, which
tightened just slightly. "G'night, Colonel. Thanks for . . . um, everything."

"Ed," Roy took the hand from his jacket, rubbed it lightly. "'Roy', please, while we're
here."

He was blushing again. It really was remarkably easy to make Ed blush. "Roy," he said,
stubbornly forcing the name out of himself. "'night."

Roy kissed his hand and finally handed it back. "Goodnight, Edward."

He let him out, and Ed's hand trailed almost longingly down his arm for just a second,
eyes searching on his, and then he was walking down the path and gone. Roy stood in the
doorway to let the night air cool his skin off, and tried to focus on one thing in the whirl
of his brain, any one thing.

What he kept coming back to was, I really hope Maes didn't leave any bugs I didn't find.


*
Al was in their dorm room, when Ed opened the door, since he couldn't stay in the library
unaccompanied by a State Alchemist and it would be closed by now, anyway. He'd
clearly heard Ed coming from down the hall, because he was sitting on the bed he never
slept in, surrounded by books and watching Ed and Ed knew his eyes were shining even if
he couldn't wear any expression at all.

"Welcome back, brother." Al said, as Ed closed the door and kicked his boots off,
dropping his coat onto a chair.

"How'd your reading go?" Ed said, trying to keep his back to Al, shoving the books
scattered across his own bed into a rough pile against the wall.

"I think Fletcher and Russell were right about the best place to start, the best plants to
start with . . . but I still don't know how we can make it like alchemist's blood. I don't
know how it's different."

Ed lay back on his bed, arms folded behind his head, and sighed. "Me neither. I guess
that's even more research to do."

"How was the Colonel?" Al said, and there was a sneaky edge to his voice that made Ed
scowl, or try to; his stomach did a little dance and there was a smile trying to force its
way onto his face - his cheeks ached, prickling from within from clamping it down.

"He's fine."

"You were gone a really long time."

"Was I?"

"What did you talk about?"

"You know, not a lot." Ed waved his automail hand - the flesh arm was much more
comfortable behind his head anyway, and he let the automail flump across his stomach
instead. "My report. Stuff."

"Stuff," Al said, head lowered, wrapping his arms around his metal knees and grinning on
the inside. "Brother, you're blushing."

"I am not!"

"You are too, you're blushing, what did you talk about? Did you do something else
instead?"

"-Al! We just-"
"You kissed the Colonel." Al said smugly, and Ed stared at the ceiling, completely rigid.

Oh God, he had. He'd kissed the Colonel. He'd kissed the Colonel. His mouth felt slightly
tired from it, he wasn't used to moving it like that, he could still taste him . . .

"Was it nice?" Al said, and - Ed paused, sat up. There was a shy, uneasy curiosity in Al's
voice - he'd never kissed anyone, Ed knew, and Ed ducked his head slightly. Al would,
soon; he'd get Al's body back, get him on the first train to Riesembool and then announce
to Winry that she just had to like Al, because there was nothing about Al not to like.

"It was." Ed bit at the inside of his bottom lip, remembered the feeling of Mustang's
tongue sweeping across that same spot, wanted to close his eyes and groan but not in
front of his little brother. "Yeah. Nice."

"Just nice?"

Ed looked to the side, and he couldn't keep the smile down at all anymore. "I think it's
something you just have to do, Al."

". . . okay."

"But we're gonna get your body back soon. And you can-"

Ed had already picked up a book but Al leaned over and took it off him, and put a hand
over the top half of his brother's face, his gauntlet large enough to cover both his eyes.

"Tomorrow, brother." he said. "We're not going to learn anything new tonight, this is
going to take a long time, I know that, and you're tired. You haven't slept properly since
we set off on the last assignment. You need to rest."

Ed was still for a moment, then reached up slowly and put his hand around Al's wrist, too
big for Ed's fingers and thumb to meet when he wrapped his hand around it.

"Al," he said.

"What is it, brother?"

"You're . . . you know you're like, the best little brother in the entire world, don't you?"

Al's armour clanked as he shuffled and stood back, and now he was blushing too, even if
only on the inside. "Brother . . . go to sleep."

Ed gave him a shrug and a grin, and yawned, and rolled back onto his unmade, still-book-
covered bed. "G'night Al," he mumbled.

"Goodnight, brother." Al said softly, and turned off the light.
Closer part VII
Beta: All love to toxicbullets! For without her I just quiver a lot, really.
Rating: R
Disclaimer: Obv not mine (v brief disclaimer ^^;)
Summary: Roy is more obvious than he means to be, Ed is indecisive, and there is much
paper.

All other parts are in my memories.



If loving you is so wrong, then I don't wanna be right.
- Millie Jackson, (If Loving You is Wrong) I Don't Want to be Right


Ed had read every book on the subject he could get his hands on, once he finally took the
time to notice that what was happening between Mustang and him really was happening.
Mostly it was library books he'd had to check over quickly while Al wasn't looking,
because Al wouldn't understand his brother's very sudden U-turn in his interest of human
sexuality. Most books, however, had been very unhelpful. Neither party involved was
female, descriptions of sexually transmitted diseases were just plain scary, and most of
the 'what to do if you happen to fall for someone of the same sex' texts he came across
just made him feel bad inside. He was pretty certain they were complete bullshit but it
seemed like nothing could stop the slow swim of his stomach, the sinking of uncertainty
and nausea. He didn't believe in God, so the religious idiots could shut up. He never
listened to anyone's opinion except Al's, so everyone else could fuck off. But at the same
time -

At the same time he didn't know what he was doing, and a confident voice saying This is
wrong, you are wrong, this is a disease, you must not feel this or want this left a prickle
of unease he couldn't quite get rid of. He'd sinned so much already, it just seemed to fit
the pattern that he was doing it again . . .

Not that the Colonel - Roy - had cared. He was uneasy about Ed's age, and his own
position, but the last thing he seemed worried about was that they both carried the same
physical equipment. Ed didn't see why it had to be a problem if no-one else made it a
problem. It was just him and Roy. Everyone else could fuck off and leave them alone,
none of their business, it was difficult enough without other people butting in.

He dreamed that Roy was reading a description of gonorrhoea from one of the books Ed
had briefly read, while he was fucking him from behind over a library desk. Because it
was a dream what Ed was mostly concerned with was how Roy was holding the book
open and gripping both of his hips at once, unless he'd memorised the passage -

When he woke up he had other worries entirely, like keeping perfectly still and hoping
like hell he hadn't made any noise or movement in his sleep, anything to attract his
brother's attention, because that dream had woken certain parts of his body quite
drastically . . .

He listened for Al turning a page, took in a deep breath - one, two, three - leapt out of bed
and sprinted for the bathroom.

"Brother?" Al yelped.

"Gotta pee!" Ed wailed, slamming the door behind himself.

God, he hated being fifteen. He hated it.


*


Roy would never, never tell Ed that he didn't quite - not 100%, not entirely - trust Ed's
impulse-control issues inside the office. This was a test. He didn't know what he'd do if
Ed 'failed'. He didn't want to think about it. He woke up without Ed and went through his
morning without Ed and only the little snatch of Ed he had had last night made it all seem
like a good morning at all.

First Lieutenant Hawkeye accompanied him to the library, and he knew she was a
dangerous choice - Hawkeye noticed everything - but he needed to know, for all the times
when he and Ed would have to interact in front of officials with power over them both,
that Ed could keep his desires to himself. He didn't want him to - he found Ed's emotional
immediacy completely intoxicating, sometimes he almost let himself get carried away on
the tide of Ed's rage or joy or frustration (or lust) - but he needed him to, for Ed's sake
even more than his own, and that was what mattered.

Ed and Al had taken over a corner of the reading room, had made a little wall of books
around themselves, and while Al looked up at the clean click of approaching military
boots Ed remained hunched low over his book, eyes wide and fascinated, tracking the
page smoothly.

"Good morning, um, Colonel, Lieutenant." Al said, cheerfully if a little nervously, and
looked at his brother. Ed turned the page and continued reading like he was the only
person in the room. "Brother's a little bit . . . busy, now. Do you need to talk to him?"

"If that's possible, Alphonse."

Al sighed, and said, "Brother. Brother, the Colonel's here. Brother."

Ed squinted at one sentence as if he was angry with it but didn't look up for a moment.
"Brother," Al said more loudly, and put one large hand between Ed's eyes and the page.
Ed made a frustrated noise and raised the book over Al's glove, craning his head back so
his braid thumped off the back of his chair, eyes narrowed now as he read. Roy wondered
if the boy needed glasses; it was an odd image, but one he found he rather liked.

Al finally put his hands over his brother's on the book and forced it closed - he had some
trouble with the automail, and Ed ducked closer to keep reading right up until there was
so little opening left he nearly lost his nose - and then Ed sat back so quickly the book
slammed and dropped to the floor. "What? What, Al, what? I was-"

The librarian, from the desk in the centre of the room, made a hissing noise of obscene
fury, and Ed scowled in her direction before hissing more quietly at Al, "What?"

"The Colonel is here to see you, brother." Al said, and bent with a clank of metal to pick
up the book. "You're completely impossible sometimes . . ."

"I'm not-" Ed suddenly seemed to realize what Al had actually said, and glanced up at
Roy, then at Hawkeye, then back to Roy, eyes narrowed again, this time with distrust.
"What do you want?" he said.

Roy had half expected to meet an embarrassed, shy Edward after last night. He didn't
know where he'd got that idea from. Clearly he wasn't getting enough sleep if he thought
Ed would ever be shy about anything. "Good morning to you too, Fullmetal."

"Yeah, whatever." Ed took the book from Al again and weighed it in his hand as if
considering what impact it would make on Roy's head. "What are you here for? I'm
busy."

"We're all busy men, Fullmetal."

"Hm," Ed said, head tilted suspiciously, and Roy let a smirk crack through.

"I've found you an assignment within the city, for once. The Ivy Alchemist unfortunately
passed away last week and his research needs cataloguing for the military. You have a
month for the assignment, though I doubt it will actually take that long."

"A month," Ed said distastefully, putting his book on the desk to take the folder he was
offered. "I'm busy."

"As I said, I doubt it will take up the full month."

Ed was already skimming the top sheet of paper. "Ivy Alchemist," he said quietly.

Roy picked up a book from the top of the pile - A Brief Treatise on the Life-force in Plant
Matter, which didn't seem at all brief by its weight - and said, "Hm? Yes. He specialised
in organic alchemy. Plants, I believe, mostly."
He couldn't look away as Ed's eyes were torn between complete joy and you smug
bastard, how do you do it?

"I'll get on it right away, sir." Ed said, and there was just the edge of a smirk to his voice.
Then he picked up his book again. "One more chapter."

"Brother, no, you'll be reading all day-"

"So long as it's done within the month, Fullmetal." Roy murmured, as Ed shifted lower in
his chair and sank into the book as easily as a bath. Roy just kept the smile off his face,
nodded to Alphonse and turned to leave, Hawkeye walking silently at his side.

"So we have Fullmetal out of our hair for the month," he said, once they were out of the
reading room and out of earshot of the bristling librarian. "Or perhaps I should say out
from under our feet."

"You may want to wait until we're outside, sir. Edward's hearing is eerily acute regarding
certain matters." Hawkeye murmured. The corner of Roy's mouth twitched up.

"True, and yet he never quite manages to hear what you actually say . . ."

Outside, to the car, and Hawkeye waited until she'd closed the door behind him and
climbed into the driver's seat to say, "You seem more energetic, today, sir."

With an effort Roy kept his eyebrows from climbing. "Do you think so?"

She hit the indicator to turn into the street and her eyes met his, briefly, in the mirror. For
half a second she looked right through him. "You seem much more relaxed with Edward
back. And so long as you're in a good mood, perhaps you'll finish with those reports by
this afternoon."

And it was easy to moan and sink low in his seat and whine about it, but his stomach
shifted, unsettled on the inside. Hawkeye saw everything. And yet what she'd seen
through wasn't Ed but Roy himself . . .

He'd been testing the wrong person. He hadn't fully realized, until this point, quite how
much Ed's presence cracked the edges of his mask. At least he knew what he had to work
on, and at least he knew that he could trust Ed to stay focused on what was important. He
just had to run through his own priorities a few more times to be sure.


*


There was a military guard outside the Ivy Alchemist's home, who would remain there
until after the notes were removed to a safer storage facility. Ed had to wave the watch at
him to get past, but once he'd turned the key he'd been given in the lock and shoved hard,
he still couldn't get the door to open.

"You have to really push it," the guard said helpfully. Ed put his automail shoulder to the
door, Al leaned over him with both hands flat, and they pushed-

The door moved inwards in jerks and groans, until there was just enough space for Ed to
squeeze through and drag some boxes out of the way so Al could fit inside. Al stood in
the hallway and looked around in awe. There were bookshelves along either side of the
narrow hallway, stacks of books and boxes of files covering most the floor and running
all the way upstairs, and plants along the top of every bookshelf, just beginning to shrivel
from lack of care, green spilling from every flat surface where a pot could sit.

"This is what our dorm room would look like if I didn't tidy up," Al said, sounding almost
impressed. Ed whacked him with his automail hand - he'd learned long ago that hitting Al
with the flesh hand achieved the opposite to what he wanted.

"I'm not this bad. Damn, look at it all. Here I thought that fucker was doing us a favour."

Al looked down at him. "I thought . . . maybe you'd be nicer to the Colonel, after-"

Ed quickly hit him in the chest again.

"Nothing," he hissed, "nothing in the world would stop that man being a bastard."

"Hmm."

Ed snorted, and looked away from Al, nose in the air, cheeks heating a little. "Anyway.
First thing to do is water all these plants, then we can make a start . . . I'll see what it's
like upstairs, you take care of down here."

"Right."

Al waded through to the kitchen, which was just as full of boxes and books and plants as
every other room, and dug around for a watering can. When he couldn't find one he threw
out the milk, which had separated into two evil-looking yellow layers, rinsed that bottle
out and filled it with water. His brother probably needed protecting from the rancid milk
anyway, it would leave him traumatised for life, and Al still bore the faintest hope that
one day Ed would just get over it and drink what he was given . . .

He'd almost finished watering all the plants in the kitchen when he heard a, "Wah-!" from
around the corner, and then a rush almost like water hissing downhill, and a series of
thumps-

Al knocked boxes everywhere stumbling through to the hallway again, where Ed was
sitting at the foot of the stairs on a landslide of books and papers, clutching a book in
both hands. He winced and rubbed his head, then blinked down at the book he was
holding.

"What happened?" Al said, brushing papers away from him and trying to sort everything
back into piles.

"I was looking through a cupboard, this thing fell on my head - who keeps things
balanced precariously in cupboards at the top of the stairs?" Ed fell into a mutter,
slamming the book down onto a pile next to him. "Now there's even more crap to clean
up, this is gonna take days-"

"We have a month, brother."

"We have more important things to be getting on with!"

"It's alright, brother, we have plenty of time-"

"It's not alright! We're gonna do this as quickly as possible, take anything that might be
interesting, and as soon as we have your body back I'm getting the hell out of this fucking
military-"

In the shadows in the cupboard at the top of the stairs, a small, dark shape narrowed its
eyes. You could dangle a Philosopher's Stone underneath the brat's nose and he wouldn't
smell it.


*


It was getting dark. Al noticed the light fading through the windows, and glanced at his
brother, who was skimming files and sorting them into three piles, graded by how
interesting he found them; one for me, one for the military, one for the bin.

"It's getting late, brother." he said, watching Ed blink and raise his head, and rub his eyes.

"Yeah," he mumbled, then leaned back on his hands and yawned widely. "Ugh. M'be we
should call it a night."

"Were you going to go see the Colonel again tonight?"

Ed's eyes widened, and his cheeks coloured, and he looked around quickly for something
to fix on that wasn't his brother. "Uh, no, not really, I wasn't thinking, why?"

Al liked this new power he had over his brother, to reduce him to blushing incoherency
whenever he wanted. He knew that teasing Ed - who seemed to be even more clueless as
to what was happening than Al was - was wrong, but it was also a lot of fun . . .
"Why not?"

Ed squirmed, ducked his head to hide behind his hair, and said, "Because we're busy. And
he says he's busy. And I went last night. And he'll smirk at me and say stupid sarcastic
crap. And . . . it's bad enough without . . ." He stood up, brushing his trousers off. "Don't
want him to get cocky and think he owns me or anything." he muttered.

"You don't want to see him - even though you want to see him - because you don't want
him to know you want to see him?"

"Uh . . . yeah."

Al stared. "Love is a lot more complicated than I thought it would be," he said, honestly
baffled, and got a rubber plant in the face for it.

"Who said anything about love?"


*


Roy opened his door onto a furiously scowling teenager, and smirked as he stood to one
side to let him in, though there was an edge of fondness to it; Ed really couldn't let this be
easy for himself, could he?

"Good evening, Edward."

Ed grunted, folded his arms and shuffled his feet, glaring to the side. "Can I take your
coat?" Roy offered, and held a hand out.

It was easier, formalities over, in the living room in front of the fire. Ed's eyes travelled
Roy's face and he was almost smiling, and Roy couldn't help but remember being pinned
in his chair by glaring golden eyes as Ed tried to understand the very basics of human
sexuality - attraction to another person. Well, he understood that now.

I'm the first person you ever really looked at. What if it had been someone else?

Surely I should be thinking it would have been better if it were someone else?

"I should shove your head into the fire for sending us to that house to clean up," Ed said.
"It's like a library crossed with a damn rabbit warren, it's gonna take forever."

"I'm sure it'll take less time than you think."

Ed scowled sceptically, and Roy wanted to touch him so much his fingers twitched. "Is
that all you came here to share?"
Ed's face changed slightly, eyelids relaxing a little, and he knelt on the sofa to turn to Roy,
to touch him hesitantly on the shoulder - and then his hand tightened in Roy's shirt and
Roy raised a hand to his cheek as Ed leaned in and kissed him, arms sliding around Roy's
back.

In a lifetime of corrupt actions . . .

Ed tilted his head back for a breath and Roy pressed his mouth to the throat he'd been
offered, making Ed choke on the air.

. . . this is possibly the worst I've ever let myself do.

He nibbled his way back up Ed's jaw to his mouth, licked Ed's slightly dry lips to moisten
them for him, and when they parted he found his way back inside.

I don't think I can stop.

Ed leaned his shoulder against the back of the sofa to balance himself, to keep himself
upright, one hand coming up to curl his fingers surprisingly gently in the hair at the back
of Roy's head. He half-opened his eyes and licked his lips, breathing a little harder now,
and gazed at Roy like a low-burning fire, just a glint of deep, dark gold.

I really don't think I can stop.


*


Roy leaned in to kiss him again, pressing him slightly back into the cushions, and Ed let
him. Wanted him to, which was worse.

This isn't about love, bastard.

He was fifteen, he couldn't help it. Roy was a fucking sexy bastard and god, god, god he
knew what he was doing. Ed wanted more and wasn't sure if he wanted that but just
wanted-

This wasn't about love, he just liked the way Roy looked and tasted and smelled and
moved, Al didn't know what he was talking about. He could hardly be blamed for not
knowing it, he'd never smelled the man . . .

Roy's mouth left his again and began travelling his jaw, the side of his neck, his throat -
Ed tried to keep down the whimpers, at feeling teeth scrape the thin flesh covering his
exposed windpipe. The books had never said anything about this, about how vulnerability
was the best part. Roy's mouth moved to his pulse, beating fast under the skin, and
sucked, and Ed's body jerked against his -
And, fuck, he hated being fifteen-


*


Roy pressed his hands to Ed's shoulders and forced himself to pull back, forced himself
to settle his own breathing as Ed closed his eyes and panted, flushed dark. Roy licked his
lips, swallowed, and tried not to focus on what had made him stop. It was the position
they were in that had let him notice, that and - once again - the shiny leather pants didn't
help. The fact that knowing what Ed wanted made him want more himself didn't help
matters.

He put his hand on Ed's chest and Ed jumped, looked up at him with startled eyes.

"Just breathe," Roy said calmly. "We don't have to rush, Ed."

Ed looked up at the ceiling and took a few long breaths, and his eyebrows knotted. Roy
asked, "What are you doing?", because he was wearing the strangest expression . . .

"I'm thinking about Major Armstrong." Ed said, and shifted a little on the cushions as
Roy stared. "That usually makes it go right away." He swallowed. "Sorry. About that."

Oh. Ed closed his eyes again, squeezing them hard, and looked so embarrassed that Roy
wanted to wrap his arms around him and hide him against his chest. Instead he touched
the side of Ed's head and murmured, "It's alright, Ed, you're not doing anything wrong."

Ed took another sharp breath and opened his eyes. "That's what you want, though, right?
That's why you've been staring at my ass all this time."

There was a hard knot in Roy's throat he couldn't swallow around. "Only if it's something
you want too."

Ed stared up at him for a long moment, mouth twitching as the emotions moved through
his eyes - want and fear and something like anger, there was always anger with Ed,
nervousness and some strange insecurity - and finally he said, "Not - tonight."

"That's fine. We don't want to do anything you're not ready for or don't want." There was
a flicker of stubbornness on Ed's face for a second - Roy assumed he resented the 'not
ready' comment. "It's very much in my own interest to not try to push you, Ed. I don't
want to risk the automail knee this time."

Ed ducked his head. "Right." Roy couldn't see his eyes behind his hair, and his voice
came out very small. "Sorry about that."
Roy was too surprised to respond for a good long second, because he'd never expected an
apology for that, that was something he'd fully deserved. "You . . . don't have to be sorry
for that. You didn't do anything wrong. And I was . . . a bastard, I suppose is your
favourite word for it."

"Whatever." Ed muttered, and sat up properly, and tugged at the front of Roy's shirt. "So,
I don't have to go back for a while yet . . ."

Subtlety was never Ed's strong point. Roy slid his fingertips down his throat and kissed
him, and tried to focus on nothing else, not the complications or the dangers or the age
difference, tried to just surround himself with the taste and the smell and the feel of Ed.


*


Al was already beginning to enjoy his brother's returns from the Colonel. Al got to do
some reading and tidying while Ed was gone and then Ed came back happy, even if he
was furious with himself about it. Al pretended not to watch Ed throw himself face-down
on the bed and bury his face into his pillow. He could see from his ears how hard his
brother was blushing, and Al ducked his head and looked out of the window and thought
about Winry, and how he hadn't actually seen his brother happy like this since before
their mother had died.


*


Another day, another pile of paper crap to clean up. Ed sat on a stack of papers, leaning
back against a bookshelf with one leg flung over a box, flicking through whatever was in
easy reach of his hands. He couldn't be bothered. This was boring, boring, fucking boring
and Mustang could-

He put his automail hand to his cheek to cool the blush off and loathed the man who
could turn him into a squirming mess at just the thought of his name. It wasn't fair. What
was equivalent about this? He didn't know what Roy was getting out of it; all he was
getting out of it was an increasing need for more of it . . .

Al was humming in the kitchen, watering the plants. Ed sighed, dropped his right hand
and picked up the closest book - the one that had dropped on his head yesterday. He
scowled, and almost threw it in the bin just because it had dared to fall onto his head, but
then he flipped it open to check the title. There was no text on the outside - it was just a
slim hardback book, bound in black.

He read the title, then read it again, and then again to make sure, and once more, quite
slowly.
The Life-Force and the Gate: A Theory on Things Living and Lost

By the time Al came out to find him and ask if he wanted any lunch yet, Ed was halfway
through and completely lost to the world.

Closer part VIII
Beta: Secret Ninja Porn Beta. No you can't know who they are. Ninjas are secretive like
that.
Rating: R - NC-17?
Disclaimer: If I owned it, Fullmetal Alchemist would not be suitable for daytime viewing.
Summary: *cough* The inevitable. Check the rating ^^;

All other parts are in my memories.



And when faced with temptation
You know a man should stand and fight,
But you will be my downfall tonight.
- Del Amitri, Downfall



Al was trying to move papers and boxes and books out of the way before his brother
walked into them again and upset another avalanche of paper. Ed, for his part, was pacing
up and down as far as the circumference of the phone cord would allow, having dug the
telephone out from underneath a pile of papers and plants as soon as he'd finished the
book an hour ago.

"-no, it's another element, are you even listening to me? There's five of them, air, earth,
fire, water and - not the Stone, you idiot, life, are you listening at all? It's not a square, it's
a - a pentagram or something inside the circle-"

Ed paused to sketch an array onto the wall with his fingertip, tapping a rapid rhythm
against the floor with one foot. His frustration was making him shake, that he couldn't
show this to Russell, that he couldn't explain properly everything that his brain was
fizzing over with. Al kept out of his way and moved a few plants into the kitchen, Ed's
voice following him through the open doorway.

"So what? What would a philosopher know about alchemy? I'm telling you there's five
and do you know how much more quickly this research could go if you just - wh- y- fuck
it, put Fletcher on, I said put Fletcher on - because he's a better alchemist than you,
obviously, and I want to talk to him - who's so short he couldn't pick up chalk to draw an
array?"
There was a thump and a rush of falling paper from the hallway, and Al sighed, and
walked back through to clean up after his brother once more.


*


Roy had spent most of the day appeasing Hawkeye with paperwork. She knew. He didn't
know how she knew but then, he'd been so tired and depressed before Ed had returned
and decided to take matters into his own hands that he couldn't have been hiding his
feelings very well, and Hawkeye was infinitely more observant than Ed ever was. She
knew . . .

He wondered if she also knew how much he appreciated her loyalty and discretion. It was
one thing he didn't know how to express.

He also spent a large part of the rest of the day avoiding phone calls from Hughes, until
he was finally tricked by a call from a payphone.

"-so she made a hospital for her teddy bears! She looks so cute in her nurse's uniform the
sun comes out every time she smiles, I have pictures-"

"Maes . . ."

"- she would be a wonderful nurse, so caring and sweet-!"

"Maes, I have work to do." Roy said, drumming his pen off the paperwork. Odd how
when he was working he wanted any distraction to come along and save him from it, and
now one had he wanted to be left alone to go back to work once more.

"Ah, that's interesting, because Ed hasn't been in the office to distract you for a couple of
days - so you should have got plenty done, hm?"

". . ." Roy's hand was gripping the pen hard enough to hurt; he dropped it carefully.

"Maes?"

"Yes, Roy?"

Roy leaned forward, close to the mouthpiece. "You wouldn't bug my house." His stomach
sank a little. "Would you?"

"Are you saying there would be something for me to hear if I did?"

Roy watched a silhouette moving past the window of his office door, and tried to think
what to say. "You know," Maes said conversationally, "if it's going to make the pair of
you miserable to keep pretending you don't want each other then I'd rather you both just
went for it. But if you took advantage of him, Roy, then I would show you what's in store
for Elysia's first undeserving boyfriend."

"I would never hurt him." Roy's voice came out more coldly, more angry, than he'd
expected. Maes laughed.

"Joking, joking! Do you think I'd've pushed the two of you together if I thought you would?
For god's sake, Roy, I've known you for more than half the time Ed's even been alive.
Predator you may be, but you have your scruples."

Roy was quiet for a moment. Did Maes know how much he'd needed to hear that?
"Thank you."

"So! Shall I bring these photos over? I made copies!"


*


Ed didn't come over. Roy made an effort at reading a book until Ed was late, and then put
the radio on until it was too late for Ed to come, and then just sat back in his chair and
tried to convince himself that it didn't matter, it was just one night and Ed couldn't,
wouldn't always want to see him. He was probably embarrassed about last night. He was
probably busy. He was probably asleep, by now.

Roy had never seen Ed asleep, not since the first time he'd ever seen him, small and pale
and half-whole, half-dead on a bed in the Rockbells' surgery. He didn't know what Ed's
normal sleeping face was like. He tried to imagine it, but Ed was such a manic ball of
energy, his face was never still, and it was hard to imagine him relaxed at all, let alone
asleep . . .

It occurred to Roy that he shouldn't be thinking about Ed quite this much. Damned brat.
Ed wanted his life back? What the hell happened to Roy's life?


*


Another day, another night, no Ed. Roy trailed from room to room looking for something
to do and wanting to whine. Why wasn't he here? Had he changed his mind? Why wasn't
Roy glad about that? That meant they were both safe, that meant there could be no more
tension -

"Someone's pining," Maes said gleefully when Roy finally caved in and called him.
Roy gritted his teeth. "I just wanted to know if he decided to leave the city without telling
me. It's the sort of thing he's prone to doing."

"Leave the city? He hasn't left the house you sent him to clean up for a day and a half
now. Alphonse has been in and out a couple of times to bring in food, but no sign of Ed."

"What's he doing?" Roy said, and cringed as his voice came out as a moan. "What can be
so interesting-"

"-that he's forgotten about you?"

"That's not what I meant."

"Maybe you're losing your touch."

"Maes."

"If you want him, go get him." Maes said in a matter-of-fact tone.

"But."

Crawling on his knees after Ed. The brat didn't have him on a damned leash.

"Either you want to see him or you don't. Your call."

Roy rubbed his fingertips off his palm, missing the gloves, the comforting rasp of nearly-
sparks, and stared at the fireplace. Red and gold and black. Damn it.

"When I first met my beautiful, beautiful Gracia I couldn't think about anything or
anyone else from the first time I set eyes on her," Maes sighed into the phone. "She was
like an angel stepping into my life and brushing everything over with her perfect purity,
and I've never been able to look back, I've never wanted to - ah, she made me a new man,
Roy, she turned me into the real me-"

"Then I have Gracia to thank for your wonderful advice and photograph obsession," Roy
said sourly, and Maes laughed down the line.

He didn't want to be a new him. He didn't want to find out what Ed was turning him into.

(". . . I want my life back.")

Exactly how did Ed think he'd got the raw end of this deal?


*
Roy held off until lunchtime the next day, but for some reason the sight of rubbery pork
chops in the canteen sealed his fate. Possibly it was because you never did forget the
sight of Ed trying to eat one, using both hands and tugging with his teeth, determined to
eat it because it was food, dammit, even if it didn't act like it or taste like it -

So he had Havoc drive him across the city, because Havoc at least wouldn't look into the
mirror and straight through to his soul. Outside the Ivy Alchemist's house Havoc leaned
against the car and lit a cigarette, and Roy stared at the building in front of him and
planned a taunt for every possible contingency of what Ed could be doing in there to lose
track of time this drastically.

He was greeted at the door by Alphonse with a finger over his mouth plate. "He finally
fell asleep," he whispered, shuffling out of the way to let Roy in. "I don't want to wake
him up, Colonel."

Roy blinked at the hallway, which was certainly much more tidy than the last time he'd
seen this place and decided to leave it to Ed. The boxes were all stacked neatly along the
walls, much of the clutter had been removed, he could see the floorboards - and the plants
were looking a lot healthier, dusted and watered and glossy, deep green. And there were
arrays drawn across the walls, scratched in black ink almost on top of each other, notes
jostling for space in the gaps in an awkward handwriting he recognised, more slanted
than usual, written in a desperate hurry.

"Apparently it would have killed him to wait for me to fetch more paper," Al muttered,
hands on his hips. "And he won't let me wash it off, does he think we're going to carry the
wall back to the library with us? He really doesn't think sometimes-"

"Where is he?"

"In the kitchen. He's a heavy sleeper but please be quiet, Colonel, he's very highly strung
right now . . . he found a book, and I read it once he finally let go of it, and it . . . it could
help." Al shuffled a little, head ducked, and Roy recognised that pose from Ed. "I hope."

"I'm pleased for you, Alphonse."

Al squirmed with happiness, armour grating off itself, and said, "I'll go do some more
cleaning upstairs." before shuffling away. Roy watched him retreat upstairs and then
looked at the door to what he assumed was the kitchen, and fixed his face into a blank,
haughty mask. Superior officer visiting wayward subordinate. That was what this was
about.

Ed was at the kitchen table, stacks of books on either side of him and even sitting on a
short pile of books on top of the bench, slumped over a pile of papers with a pen fallen
just out of the reach of his ink-stained gloves. The lower half of his face was pressed into
his folded arm, so just his closed eyes were visible. His coat had been draped around his
shoulders, which must have been Al.

Roy approached carefully, and stopped behind his shoulder. Ed didn't twitch. He was
dead to the world, completely out of it, and Roy bent silently to read what he'd been
working on. Mostly it was Ed's scrappy, childish, left-handed writing, but here and there
Al's neater hand had crossed out some of Ed's equations and impulsive notes and had
placed corrections. Ed was the more innovative and active alchemist, Al was more
methodical and less prone to overexcited mistakes. Roy remembered reading their written
State Alchemist examinations, and noting then that the brothers complemented each other
perfectly, both frighteningly intelligent for their age and able to prop up each other's
flaws and support each other's work perfectly. Had they grown to meet the other's needs
or were they both naturally the other's right hand?

Ed made a small noise in his sleep, muffled into his arm, and his nose pressed a little
harder into his sleeve.

So this was Ed's sleeping face. Roy tried not to stare. No tension, no hostility, no anger.
He looked peaceful and open without his usual distrust of everything and everyone,
eyelashes surprisingly dark for someone so blond against his cheeks, sheer exhaustion
relaxing his face entirely. He looked too open, almost, and the protective impulse that
clenched at Roy's insides was nothing to do with a superior officer and their subordinate,
and God knew had nothing to do with any fatherly considerations.

This was getting somewhere beyond lust, and Roy wasn't sure he wanted to follow it. He
was also fairly certain he didn't have a choice.

He drew out the other bench at the table, sat with one ankle crossed over a knee and his
hands clasped loosely below his nose, and waited for Ed to wake up.


*


"You do know you're going to fall, don't you?"

A cliff at his back, and Mustang pressed against him so close, Ed's heels scraping the
edge and the air, and he tried to grab Roy's jacket for balance. There were eyes down
there, he could feel them on his back, if he fell he'd fall through the Gate-

"Colonel-"

A push.
Ed woke with a jolt, sat quickly and realised too late that he was making an unintelligible
noise ("Nbnsngnah-!"), and that he had a piece of paper stuck to his face. He peeled it off
and winced, and squinted into the kitchen.

It was dark outside, and the light was on, and Al was unpacking a paper bag of
sandwiches. "Welcome back, brother." he murmured, and Ed looked around, baffled.
How was it dark?

Al handed him a sandwich. It was a pretty automatic reaction to start eating it.

"Wh't time is it?" Ed said through a mouthful, dabbing the crumbs he'd sprayed with a
fingertip so they weren't wasted. Al sighed and tilted his brother's face up to wipe off the
mayonnaise with a paper napkin. "Al-lll, stoppit-"

"It's nearly seven o' clock. Did you sleep well?"

"Neck hurts," Ed muttered, shifting his shoulders. "Why'd you let me fall asleep? I was-"

"You're impossible. You didn't sleep at all for the past two days, of course you were
going to sleep now. You still look tired."

Ed shrugged, winced again, stood up and worked his shoulders as he paced about the
kitchen. "We can do this," he said quietly. "We've done harder. We can make something
to substitute the human sacrifice for the Stone-"

"But how is that paying the equivalent trade if we're not actually sacrificing anything?"

"We're sacrificing the plants." Ed stopped and stared at a rubber plant, eyebrows lowered
a little, and then patted it almost as if in apology and began pacing again. "Life force is
life force. If we can distil enough-"

"By concentrating them into something that mimics an alchemist's blood."

"Yeah. Kind of gross, but whatever works."

Al started to say something, stopped, and then said, "The Colonel came to visit while you
were asleep."

Ed felt something run prickling up his spine. Mustang had been here while he was asleep?

"He - did?" Wait a second. "Did he say something sarcastic?"

"He didn't say anything." Al said, and his armour clanked a little as he shuffled, and Ed
guessed that he was smiling. "He stayed for a long time but you didn't wake up, and he
had to go back to work."
"Like he ever works," Ed muttered. But . . .

He realized his hands were curling, and he forcibly relaxed them again.

"You could go see him." Al said.

"Ah-" Ed turned away, shook his head. "I should work on this."

"I need to read the notes you made before you start on new ones." Al said. "You could go
see the Colonel, then go back to the dorms and get a proper sleep, and tomorrow
morning-"

"I don't need to see him!"

"You want to, though. You're so stubborn."

"I am not st-"

"You're the most stubborn person I've ever met." Al huffed, and caught his brother up by
the back of his jacket - Ed yelped and thrashed until he was dragged up eye-to-eye with
his little brother, when he went pinned-rabbit still. "Do you honestly think it'll make me
happy if you make yourself unhappy?" Al growled, and Ed just blinked at him. "Go. If
you don't take a break you'll make yourself ill. And if you don't go then I'm taking you."

"Al-"

Al shook him by the back of his neck and said dangerously, "Don't think I won't,
brother."

"You-"

Al made a huffing noise and began marching to the front door. Ed yelped, "I'm going, I'm
going! Put me down-"


*


Mustang answered the door and looked down at him with the slightest ghost of a smile,
and Ed felt it again, that clutching at his insides. He also felt again how small Mustang
made him feel, and shuffled in with a scowl.

Not his fault the man was unnaturally tall.

They did the same 'can-I-take-your-coat?' dance, and Ed thought about all the things he
could transmute Mustang, or bits of Mustang, into, and cracked a grin at the thought of
transmuting him into a filing cabinet to contain all the paperwork he never did. But then
they were through to the living room and in the firelight Roy was tall and glowing,
flames moving in his dark, dark eyes, and Ed's breath was trapped in his throat.

No words. Maybe it had shown on his face, that his heart was pumping loud in his ears
and he was very aware of his tongue in his mouth, that his skin was screaming at him
with the memory of what Roy felt like. He reached for Roy's shirt, and Roy pressed him
back with a hand on his automail shoulder, the other cupping the back of his skull and
tilting his head back. Mouth to mouth and Ed couldn't breathe properly, couldn't even
think, could only feel the wet heat of the man and his taste -

His every too-short breath smelt of Roy. He didn't even become aware they'd stopped
moving, that his back was pressed against the wall with Roy pressed very firmly over him,
heavy and warm, for a long while - and when he did realize their position his knees
staggered and the want shot right through him like a gun's sharp crack.

He wanted him now. No more hesitation, no more uncertainty. He wanted it now-

He tried to buck but Roy had anticipated him, had moved his hand down to press Ed's hip
into the wall and keep him from moving. Roy broke back and Ed just wanted that hand
lower-

"Ed," Roy panted. Ed made a sharp whining noise and heard himself from the outside for
a second, and felt horribly alarmed at how desperate he sounded. What was he doing? He
couldn't stop.

"We shouldn't-"

"No," Ed choked, still breathing far too hard, arms grabbing around Roy's neck and
dragging him down, nose tips grazing alongside each other as he reached for his mouth.
"Now, please-"

Roy made a noise that was almost a whimper as Ed bit his bottom lip hard and his hand
had finally left Ed's hip for his side, which let Ed grind into him. And -

Oh -

Roy was hard -

For him.

His knees almost couldn't carry the weight of his body again, and he choked out a breath
with a cry in it as Roy swung him away from the wall. Ed staggered back into the back of
the sofa and put his hands on it to steady himself, panting hard, feeling his mouth still wet
and looking up at Roy through his disarrayed hair. He licked his lips, and it wasn't
remotely gross even if it should have been that half that spit was Roy's, and he swallowed.
"Why-?"

Roy was staring down at him, breathing hard, hands clenched at his sides. His eyes
looked completely wild, and when Ed looked down he could see Roy's erection straining
behind his pants, and he had no idea what he was doing but he wanted -

"Ed," Roy almost yelped as Ed closed the distance between them and put his hands on
Roy's belt. Roy tried to pull back but Ed gripped tighter and began working on the catch.

"You can't tell me you don't want this," he whispered, too fast, fumbling to get the belt
open. His own voice sounded almost pleading, and Roy had gone stiff. "It's okay," Ed
said, looking up at him as the belt came open and he began on Roy's fly, which was
somehow very different from opening his own. "I've read about this, I've dreamed about
this, please let me-"

"Ed-"

He didn't know which of them sounded more desperate anymore. Somehow they'd moved
back to the wall, Roy pinned against it this time, as Ed lowered himself to his knees and
eased down Roy's trousers and underwear. For a second he had no idea what he was
doing. It was bigger than he'd expected, but not, at the same time.

He moved his hands, not quite touching it but pressing Roy's groin on either side of the
thick black hair, and he was surprised that his hands weren't shaking.

"You have to tell me what feels right," he said. "I don't-"

"Oh God,"   Roy whispered above him, and Ed finally gave a frustrated snort. For fuck's
sake.

"Will you just fucking let me do this? Fucking hell how do you ever get laid?" he
snapped, then slid a hand down to hold the underside, to hold it steady, and licked
experimentally.

Roy made a noise like he was dying. Ed considered the taste for a second, decided it
wasn't too bad, and opened his mouth.


*


It wasn't the best blow job Roy ever had - Ed was messy and overeager, almost gagging
himself and barely remembering to keep his teeth to himself - but it was Ed, and the sheer
amount he'd wanted this made his legs give way shortly afterwards, while Ed was wiping
off the overspill he clearly hadn't previously considered with the back of a glove.
Roy slid down the wall and sat, groaning, legs splayed as wide as he could with his
trousers around his ankles, on either side of Ed. Ed looked down at an ink-stained,
semen-spattered, supposedly-white glove and then looked at him, right in the eye - with
Ed kneeling and Roy sitting, they were the same height. Ed swallowed again, tongue
flicking at the corner of his mouth, and tilted his head a little so he was looking up at Roy
once more, as if he was more comfortable like that. If anything he looked embarrassed.

"Okay?" he said uneasily, and Roy raised a clumsy hand and forced himself not to bat Ed
in the side of the head with it - his arms felt like they'd been glued on as afterthoughts,
barely connected to his brain - but just brush his hair out of the way so he could cup his
cheek.

"You didn't have to do that," Roy croaked.

"Moron. Wanted to." Ed peeled off his left glove, dropping it distastefully to the side, and
paused before taking off the right. When he did the automail gleamed dark amber in the
firelight. He sank on his heels, kneeling wider and lower now, propped up on his
clenched hands. "Was . . . it okay?"

Roy managed to get his other hand to Ed's face, tug him gently so they leaned forehead to
forehead without headbutting him - every muscle was still jelly-loose - and murmured, "It
was. Perfect. Thank you."

Ed squirmed, happy and smug, and Roy felt his left hand toying with his shirt. The right
was still kept carefully away from Roy. He'd shown no sign of being awkward about the
automail so far, but now it was uncovered and not hidden away as usual, Ed seemed to
feel uneasy. Roy slid his hand to the cool metal wrist and wondered how much feeling
there was there, as Ed started, and Roy squeezed just gently. He didn't want Ed to think
he felt uncomfortable with it; as far as he was concerned, it was just another part of Ed.

Roy's voice came out low and deep and he'd dreamed about this. "Would you like me to
return the favour?"

Ed's breath caught immediately and God, Roy didn't know how anyone could hold this
against him, saints and angels couldn't see Ed flushed and damp and flustered like this
and say no.

"You don't - have to -" Ed said shakily, and the corners of Roy's mouth tilted slightly into
a smirk.

"Maybe I want to as well, Edward."

"No, I mean-" Ed looked away, cheeks heating, and scowled at the wall. "You really don't
have to."
Roy looked down. Ah. Ed hadn't even been touched by anything except the material of
his own pants, but then - he was fifteen, anything that would stay still long enough
probably made him horny, he was a walking bag of hormones and frustration. He'd come
just by giving a blow job.

But then, being fifteen came with its advantages, too. Roy slid a hand down over warm
leather and between his legs and Ed choked and scrabbled against him, and began
hardening again almost instantly. "Roy-" he said in a high voice, grabbing on hard to his
shoulders and clinging on.

"Ssh," Roy murmured, kissing across the bridge of his nose and his eyelids when Ed
closed his eyes and whimpered. "Just lay back and trust me."

He crooked one of his own arms for Ed to lay his head on, eyes closed and trying to
control his breathing as Roy tugged his pants down, slid his hand through the wetness
there and worked with slow, steady strokes. Laying beside Ed like this he could watch his
face, tried to draw it out for as long as possible until Ed was gritting his teeth and sobbing
and shaking his head hard, dragging painfully tight at his shirt, and then he arched up and
choked and Roy felt selfish for doing it like this but maybe it was worth it just to see
him . . .

There was a whine on the edge of each of Ed's panting breaths as he lay on Roy's arm and
Roy placed kisses across his forehead, nosing his sweat-damp hairline. "So beautiful," he
whispered, and Ed murmured something incoherent and his head fell to the side, nose
nudging Roy's arm before he closed his eyes for the last time and let his breath out in a
sigh.

Roy waited for a few seconds but there was nothing more coming. Ed was asleep. With
his trousers around his knees, head on Roy's arm, on Roy's living room floor.

Ed's sleeping face for the second time that day. Roy gazed down at him and thought, God
forbid he ever think of this as a conventional relationship . . .

Closer part IX
Beta: toxicbullets (w00t! ^^)
Rating: R
Disclaimer: The series would have been a mess if I owned it. Luckily, it's Hiromu
Arakawa's (*worship, worship, bow, scrape*)
Summary: "I suppose you're curious about the hearts."

All other parts are in my memories.



My head is battling with my heart
My logic has been torn apart,
And now it all turns sour . . .
- Bic Runga, Sway



"I suppose you're curious about the hearts."

Ed was laying on Roy's living room floor as Roy himself sorted through a bag of surgical
tools. The bookshelf in the corner, instead of containing a number of neat leatherbound
volumes and a single framed photograph of Roy and Major Hughes in full military
uniform, was stacked with hearts, leaking bloody across the floor. The firelight made the
blood look alive, vivid and rich and still-flowing, and the hearts glistened wetly.

"They're not necessary, not for this, no-"

Ed tried to say something but his mouth wouldn't work, and Roy was crouching beside
him with a silver implement Ed knew, it had been used on him before to hold his ribs
apart while the automail was attached, piece by piece. Panic woke up and screamed in his
ear but he couldn't move-

"I'm safe from a backlash, I have spares-"

Ed could feel that his mouth was open but he couldn't make a scream come out, couldn't
move, couldn't roll or twitch - no no no no-

"Don't be difficult, Fullmetal. You're an alchemist. I thought you understood equivalent
trade."


*


Ed came up from sleep jerking and kicking, tangled in too much bedding, choking for air.
He scrabbled the sheets away from his face, closed his eyes and panted, slowly falling
back into himself, into the now. He licked his too-dry lips and brushed his hair back, and
paused as he felt it still braided, messy and loose now. He never slept with it braided. He
blinked one eye open, one hand still pressed over the other eye, and stared at nothing,
confused.

No sound of Al clanking nearby. The bedding felt too heavy and thick, the bed was too
wide, and it was too dark - the thin curtains in the dorms might as well have not been
there, for all the light they kept out. Where-?

The bed smelt of Mustang.

He swallowed.
He was wearing his boxer shorts and black vest, and nothing else, and he was in Roy's
bed. He ran that part past his brain again; he was in Roy's bed. He'd done something
stupid last night, hadn't he?

Memory sat up and chirped on his shoulder, and Ed pressed his lips together hard. There
was a bitter taste in the back of his throat. And now he knew why.

He couldn't have done that. He couldn't have practically begged Mustang to be allowed to
have his cock in his mouth. That was. Insane . . .

Most of Ed's life tended to border on the insane, when he really considered it.

He sat hugging his knees for a while, wondering how he was going to explain this to Al.
Sorry I'm late home, I was busy blowing the Colonel. So, about restoring your body . . .

But then he remembered Roy's deer-in-the-headlights expression when Ed had taken hold
of his belt, and he grinned into his knees. Maybe just for that it'd been worth it.


*


Roy could hear thumping and scuffling from upstairs. His guest was awake. He chose not
to raise his head from the newspaper; he didn't know what sort of mood he'd find Ed in,
after all. He hoped like hell it was a good one. Carrying the boy to bed last night, and Ed
looked even younger when asleep, Roy had thought over the evening again and again and
tried to find the part where he took advantage of him. All he kept coming back to was Ed
pretty much snapping at him to shut up and strip. If someone was being taken advantage
of in this relationship, Roy was fairly certain it wasn't Ed.

He hadn't known what to do once he'd got Ed into his bed. He'd undressed him carefully
to his underwear, placed the covers over him, and then stood back uncertainly. Was it
uncomfortable to sleep on the braid? What if he woke in the middle of the night and
didn't know where he was? What about Alphonse? Roy had almost worried that it was
too late to call him before remembering that armour didn't sleep.

The scuffling thumps had stopped, and Roy could hear the pipes complaining. Ed was in
the shower. Roy conscientiously averted his mind from the thought of Ed showering and
put some more coffee on to distract himself.

When Ed finally made his way downstairs and peeked around the kitchen doorway, Roy
hid his smile behind the newspaper, just his eyes showing over the top. Ed's hair, dark
gold when damp, was tied back in its habitual braid, his eyes were bright and wary, he
was back in the clothes Roy had left folded on a chair in his bedroom, and he was
watching Roy from behind the doorpost like Roy might bite.
"Would you like some breakfast?" Roy offered. Ed's entire face perked up at that and Roy
clamped down hard on the smile, standing up to find the loaf of bread. "Did you sleep
well?"

"I guess." Ed scratched the back of one ankle with the other foot, took a couple of steps
closer, watched Roy turn the grill on and slice bread. "Where'd you sleep?"

"On the sofa."

"You didn't have to do that."

"I've slept in much stranger places while I've been in the army, Ed."

"Well, yeah, but so've I." Roy felt a tugging at the back of his shirt and jumped, looking
down and over the bread knife he was holding at Ed, who was looking up at him uneasily.
"Are you angry?"

"Am I-? Angry at what?"

"Me. 'cause . . . ah. Last night. Are you?"

Roy stared at him. Angry? He put the bread knife down and bent to kiss the top of Ed's
head. "Of course I'm not angry."

"Then last night was okay?"

"I hope last night was enjoyable for everyone concerned, Ed."

"Okay. Yeah, it was great. Cool." Ed tugged at his shirt again, not meaning anything by it,
just tugging because he could. He grinned. "Then we can do it again?"

A twitch ran the entire length of Roy's body. "If you like."

"We should do it lots."

"That's . . . fine by me."

Ed beamed, grabbed a piece of half-cooked toast out from underneath the blue flame of
the grill with his automail hand, and walked over to the newspaper with it hanging out of
his mouth. "I used y'r toothbrush," he said around the bread. "Figured we shared so many
bodily fluids it doesn't matter anymore. S'rry."

He didn't sound remotely sorry. He was already flicking through to the science
supplement. Roy checked the toast under the grill, turned it, then went to stand behind Ed
and drape his arms over his shoulders, placing his chin on top of Ed's head, lazily reading
the headlines surrounded by the steamy scent of Ed's clean hair.
"What're you doing?" Ed said suspiciously, trying to look up through the top of his own
head at Roy, eyes narrowed.

"You smell nice."

Ed's face twisted as he considered that, and then he shrugged, jogging Roy's head on top
of his. "Whatever. You freak."

Roy closed his eyes for a moment, breathing in Ed's shower-new smell, feeling his damp
hair against his cheek, then kissed the top of his head again and disentangled himself to
check on the toast. He'd gone through all these motions before, but doing it for Ed felt
bafflingly comfortable. He dropped some more toast in front of Ed but was too slow at
bringing the butter, so the toast was gone before he'd actually put it on the table. He
raised an eyebrow.

"Shall I make some more?"

"There's more?"

"I have some eggs somewhere-"

"You have eggs?"

"Apparently growing boys really do need their food."

Ed glared at him for a long time, and then said in a forced-steady voice, "Is this a hidden
'short' joke?"

"I wouldn't dream of it. We need to keep something for the office, after all."

"Bastard." Ed spat, but it was as instant a reaction as a knee-jerk, and there was no real
feeling behind it. "What are we meant to do in the office?"

"Exactly what we've always done. Your role is that of a barely-obedient, loud and
aggressive brat of a subordinate-"

"And yours is smug, self-satisfied, arrogant old pervert?"

Roy smirked. "See? You do catch on quickly."

A paper ball hit the back of Roy's head as he whisked the eggs, and when he turned Ed
was staring very fixedly at the paper as if completely absorbed by stock prices.

No, Roy thought, watching Ed's eyes strain not to stray from the newspaper. Nothing like
a conventional relationship.
*


Al wasn't in their dorm room, so Ed hurried on to the house they were meant to be
clearing up for the military, skidding around the corners and scaring people walking their
dogs, almost getting hit by his second car in two months as he bolted across the road,
eventually falling through the door calling, "Al-?"

He hung onto the doorframe and stared.

The hallway was clear. It looked like somewhere someone could actually live. Ed padded
through nervously, and wondered briefly if he'd got the wrong house and was about to
leap in on a perfect stranger happily going about their business in their kitchen. But the
arrays he'd left scribbled across the walls were still there . . .

"Al?"

"Brother, up here!"

Ed made his way upstairs, and found Al putting the last few files into neat boxes.
"Almost done," Al said cheerfully. "Some men from the military came with a van to take
most of it away, but I kept the things I knew you were interested in."

"You - did all this last night?"

"I know you want to start work properly on all the research we've been doing," Al said. "I
even managed to copy down and work on the arrays you drew on the wall while you were
gone. I can't do anything with you under my feet all the time."

"Who's so short-"

"How was the Colonel?"

Ed lost his thread and went lobster-red, eyes wide and terrified, and stood with his mouth
open for a long second. "Um."

"He called last night to say you'd fallen asleep. I told you that you needed to rest."

". . . he called?"

Al was staring at his own hand on the edge of the box, and then he looked up and said,
"Brother, you're . . . doing more than just kissing the Colonel now, aren't you?"

Ed clearly didn't know what to do with himself, flailed his arms and walked in a tight
circle and said to the wall, "Al- I- Al-"
"I'm happy as long as you're happy, brother." Al said softly. "But . . . he is a lot older than
you."

"Well. Yeah." Ed said, still to the wall, in a low mumble.

"He isn't - he wouldn't - he isn't hurting you?"

Ed's stomach bounced as it hit the floor. Oh god how much did Al understand about what
men could do together?

"If he did I would break his face," Ed said firmly. "And he just - wouldn't. I know he
wouldn't. You . . . don't have to worry, Al." He squirmed himself smaller and mumbled,
"I'd kind of appreciate it if you didn't even think about it, actually."

"If he hurt you I would kill him." Al said, quiet and sure, making Ed look around to him
at the force of it. "I don't want to because I like him, he's nice, but if he ever makes you
sad-"

"Al," Ed tugged the plume on Al's helmet and pulled a face. "Look, I appreciate the . . .
whatever, but I've got this covered, okay? And it's not like he can make me 'sad' anyway,
so it doesn't matter."

Al was silent for a moment, and then he picked up a box under each arm. "Do you want
to take these back to the library, brother?"

Ed's legs wanted to fold with sheer relief at the change in topic, but held himself upright
through willpower alone. "Yeah. Thanks, Al. I'd better see about getting us a lab soon so
we can start experimenting."

"The Tringhams have been trying for months and they haven't made blood yet."

"The Tringhams don't have the youngest State Alchemist in military history." Ed said
smugly, picking up the last box and staggering back a step before hiking it into a better
position.

"How could I ever have forgotten that?" Al said in a wondering voice, and Ed kicked him
with the automail foot as he walked past. Al kicked him back, but carefully, and the kick-
fight escalated all the way downstairs, until Al held Ed against the wall with one foot on
his chest and demanded a surrender.


*


Roy hummed as he signed his name with a flourish, holding his hand up for the next
paper Havoc passed him. It was a good thing Havoc wasn't allowed to smoke in the office,
because his mouth was hanging open and the cigarette would have fallen to the carpet
long ago.

"Are you feeling alright, sir?" he said warily, passing Roy the next piece of paper.

"Never better, Lieutenant! Did you notice the sunrise this morning? Truly glorious,
beautiful day-"

Havoc sighed and handed over the next piece of paper. "What was her name, sir?" he said
in a resigned voice.

"I am sure I have no idea what you're talking about, Lieutenant!"

Roy was aware that he sounded like Hughes. Maybe this was how Maes felt all the time,
because he always went home to the person he most wanted to see.

. . . if the thoughts never left his head, they couldn't actually be dangerous, could they?


*


The waiting game. Would Ed come over tonight?

Roy wanted to resent Ed for leaving him dangling like this every night, but it was his
fault they were in this situation - he'd told Ed to come over, he'd put Ed in the position of
pursuer and himself in the position of pursued. It wasn't his usual set-up, but he couldn't
have set out to chase Ed, he would have tasted the bile twenty-four hours a day if he
thought he'd seduced Ed instead of (damn it, deep golden eyes squinting at him from
barely a foot away, desperate to understand the point of attraction) the other way around,
even if Ed hadn't set out to achieve that . . .

He couldn't resent Ed, anyway. All he felt was needy, and this was very, very bad. This
wasn't something he felt.

This was reminding him of Sarah.

Sarah . . . had been the worst mistake he'd ever made, or at least one of them, and he
should have learned his lesson then - never date anyone more intelligent than yourself.
Sarah had seen through every last flimsy veil of his bullshit and had always narrowed
nut-brown eyes at him like she was angry with him for even attempting it. Like he was
better than that. Except he wasn't; he'd been twenty-one and fairly certain that he was
going to be sent to Ishbal and he was going to die. He'd been terrified out of his mind and
the last thing he'd wanted was for Sarah to ever see that.
Maybe she had seen it; either way, she left him and he moped for three months before
determining to screw everyone who would spread for him before he was sent away and
killed.

And he was sent to Ishbal, but he didn't die. What did happen, he sometimes thought,
might have been worse. And after that he could never face her again, even if she'd have
him back. He was . . . not a good man. He wasn't the sort of man who stood up for his
principles even in the face of death. He was the sort of man who pulled the trigger against
innocent people because he was ordered to.

Sarah got married. He knew there were children. He rarely thought about her now, except
to remember the mistakes.

But now, Ed . . .

He was probably breaking the 'never more intelligent than yourself' rule, but only in
particular ways - Ed was an alchemical genius and certainly not stupid, but was
incredibly naïve in some respects and he hardly ever thought beyond the immediate in
terms of human interaction. But Ed was disrupting all Roy's dark corners, stirring up the
memories he'd so carefully buried. Roy was beginning to genuinely worry about what Ed
knew about him, was beginning to feel that prickle of cold fear at the back of his neck
that Ed would ever know what he'd done, what sort of person he really was, what he'd
done-

The thought of being something Ed despised was physically sickening. If Ed ever knew
he would never, never forgive him, because Ed was the sort of person who stood up for
his principles even with a gun to his head.

Idiot boy, idiot-

Naivety or bravery?

The telephone ringing startled him into dropping the book he'd forgotten he was holding
and certainly wasn't reading. He swallowed, picked it up, and set it neatly onto the table
by the sofa. Ed was clearly bad for his health. He knew now how Havoc felt, twitchy and
ratty in the office, biting down on pens. Roy was a mess, and he needed his fix.

He lifted the receiver and said, "Hello?", expecting Maes, expecting this to be exhausting
and alarming.

". . . Colonel? Ah, Roy?"

"Edward," he said, his name coming out as a breath. Had Ed ever rung him at home
before?
"I, um, hi. I really hate telephones." Ed had fallen briefly into a sullen mutter, and Roy's
mouth quirked into a smile. "I just, Al said, I can't . . . make it tonight. We're stuck in the
library, I can't - I need to keep working on this right now."

Disappointment was a smooth black stone in his throat. "That's fine, Ed. You're under no
obligation to come every night."

"Yeah, but . . . whatever. Uh. I'll see you soon." There was a little pained pause.
"G'night."

"Goodnight. Good luck with your research."

There was another long pause. Roy listened hard, eyes closed, trying to feel Ed's breath
down the line.

"G'night," he said again, and the phone clicked off. Roy stood still for a moment, then
sighed and hung up.

A night to himself. Well. What to do?

He could have a bath. He could listen to the radio. He could go to a bar, not that he really
felt like flirting with anyone who wasn't short and blond and obnoxious as hell. He could
read a book. He could do a crossword puzzle.

Good God, he had had a life before Ed, what had he done with himself all those years?
Why couldn't he recapture himself now?

"- ah, she made me a new man, Roy, she turned me into the real me-"

If this was the real him then he really wasn't worth knowing, actually.


*


The next night there were two tired thumps on the door, just before he gave the evening
up for lost. Roy opened the door onto a dishevelled looking Ed, blinking sleepily up at
him from shadowed eyes. The most natural thing to do seemed to be to wrap his arms
around him, press him up into his chest and lower his face to his hair, hold him close and
warm.

Ed relaxed, after a moment, and just let himself be held. Roy felt his cheek flumping into
his shirt, felt the sigh let out. "Al made me come," Ed mumbled against him, then jerked
his head up. "I mean, it's not that I don't want to come because - but there's so much crap
to do, and . . ."
Roy stroked a hand over his head and Ed squirmed away. "I'm not a cat," he muttered,
butting his head back into Roy's chest instead.

Ed reminded Roy of a dog more than a cat, to be honest - undyingly loyal, lazy and manic
by turns, both greedy and unselfish at the same time.

"How's your research going?"

"Mmf. Long. I fuckin' hate plants."

"You need to sleep."

"Came to see you," in an almost-whisper against his chest, and Ed's arms hooked around
his waist, cheek nuzzling his chest.

"Come with me."

He took Ed's hand and led him upstairs, and Ed said, "Oh," when Roy opened the
bedroom door, like he got it. Roy just brushed Ed's hair out of his face and kissed his
forehead.

"Not tonight. You need to sleep."

"But-"

"Shoes off."

"I'm not a kid!"

"For God's sake, Ed, do you think adults don't get tired?"

He didn't know how Alphonse put up with this every day, honestly. Ed had to be almost
dragged out of his jacket and trousers and into bed, where he sat watchfully as Roy lost
his outer layers and climbed in beside him. It just took a little tug to convince Ed to curl
up close against Roy's chest, head fitting neatly against his shoulder and throat, and Ed
sighed in a light gust against his skin before closing his eyes.

"If I'm a good boy and go to sleep can we do something in the morning?" he mumbled
without opening his eyes.

Roy slid his arms around him, letting his nose fall into Ed's hair, letting his eyes fall
closed. "If you like."

Ed just gave a soft grunt. Roy smiled into his hair and waited for his breathing to even
out, so he could scoop Ed that little bit closer and relax around him.
This had got somewhere far beyond lust. He wished to God he knew how Ed viewed
whatever they had. He was fifteen. Who really falls in love at fifteen?

Roy realized with a sinking stomach that he'd just thought the most dangerous word in
the language, the only four letter word he was afraid of, that he'd spent most of his life
shying away from. And he was being ridiculous. It was Ed, this was hardly going to be
the romance of the century. Ed would eventually get over his hormones, get bored, and
move on. And Roy . . .

Needed to not feel this.

He spent the next few hours listing everything about the boy that made him want to break
his desk over his head, from the way he rolled his eyes when Roy saluted a superior to
the way he never wiped his boots off before tramping into his office, the way he asked if
he could do something and then did it anyway before he'd got a reply, the way he
demanded things Roy had no intention of ever giving -

Ed shifted in his sleep and whispered something into Roy's skin. Roy pressed him a little
closer and kissed the back of his head.

He'd never done this for a lover before, slept with them without actually sleeping with
them - as a general rule he didn't even like sleeping in the company of others, there was
something horribly threatening about having someone else in the room while he was
unconscious and defenceless. But if Ed wanted him dead he'd do it in the daylight, face to
face, loudly and violently. He was perfectly safe in bed with him; he was only in danger
in his office.

He didn't know what this was turning into. Not love, not yet, he could stop that happening,
never have to go through that again. How come he could seduce anyone he felt like and
the only people he ever really wanted were those who had the power to utterly crush him,
those who were completely unlikely to ever really want him back?


*


In the cellar again, the after-lights of the alchemical reaction flickering around him. Only
-

Only what's laying there in the array, twisted and misshapen and wrong isn't his mother
but his brother, head tilted too far back and mouth too open and spilling blood -

Al is looking right at him, and there are cats all around his body, eating.


*
Roy was wrenched from sleep by Ed jerking up as if dragged, and the noise he made was
somewhere between a scream and a sob and a retch. Roy stared, didn't react for a second
as Ed rolled to the side and pressed his hands over his face and choked, his body jerking
erratically with sobs he wouldn't let out, and when Roy finally touched his shoulder he
cried out and rolled right off the edge of the bed, dragging half the covers with him and
yelping as he hit the floor.

"Ed!" Roy scrambled for the edge of the bed and Ed thumped his head into the side of the
mattress, teeth clenched and eyes tightly closed.

"Sorry, sorry-"

"Ed-"

"I'm sorry," Ed hissed, humiliated and furious and terrified. "I always dream - fucked up -
"

Roy climbed down, touched him and he flinched, and wrapped himself around Ed
anyway. "What did you-?"

"No," Ed said sharply. "I don't wanna talk about it."

He sat still, as Roy rubbed circles onto his trembling back. He blinked hard a couple of
times and there were almost tears in his eyes for a second, and then he said in an uneven
voice, "What if I can't bring Al back right?"

Oh. "Ed-"

"I don't want to do that to him," Ed choked, and finally broke and grabbed at Roy and
thumped his head into his chest. "I can't, I can't not to Al I can't - he can have my body I
just don't-"

"Ed-"

"-anything but I can't do that to him, I'd give anything but nothing's enough-"

Roy got a hand to either side of Ed's face, held his head back hard so Ed was forced to
meet his eye, shaking with panic. "Breathe," Roy ordered, and after a blank-eyed pause
Ed's breath came out in a gasp.

"Colonel-"

"Roy," he reminded gently.
"Roy," Ed murmured, and blinked slowly, and seemed halfway to relaxed again. "Shit."
he mumbled. "You think I'm a freak now."

"No more than usual, Edward."

"Fucker. I-"

"Everyone has nightmares."

Ed opened his mouth, paused, and gave a horrible sort of laugh. "Al doesn't."

Roy just stared him in the eye and said nothing. Ed licked his lips, still breathing too fast,
and looked to the side. "What if I can't bring him back right?" he whispered again. Roy's
fingers tightened slightly on his skin.

"If anyone can, Ed, then you can. And if Al's body can be taken as the equivalent
exchange for something, then it can be given back as well. I know you would never let
your brother down. And you've been getting so far recently, you really seem to-"

"I can't let Al know." Ed raised his hand and wrapped it gently around one of Roy's wrists
at his face. "What'm I meant to say? 'Sorry, Al, we can do all this work but I could still
fuck it up and bring you back - inside-out -'"

"Breathe." Roy snapped again, and Ed shut his eyes quickly, did as he was told. That was
a first. "Panicking about it won't help. All you can do is work towards your goal."

"'m not panicking," Ed muttered.

"That's good to hear, since I thought you were getting hysterical." Roy murmured.

Ed's eyes flashed open in an angry glare.

"I am not-"

"Good. Because you don't have the time for it, do you?"

Ed paused, squeezed Roy's wrist slightly. "No," he said quietly. "I don't."

They were sitting very close, Ed's messy splayed kneel and Roy's crouch overlapping far
more than was just friendly. Close enough to feel each other's breath. Ed swallowed and
rubbed slightly at the wrist he was holding. "You remember you said we could do
something this morning?"

Roy watched his eyes closely. There was still a flickering edge of fear in Ed's eyes, and
his hands were just that little bit unsteady. The last thing he needed was for Ed to start
using sex as a response to trauma. Down that route, he knew, lay nothing but further
trauma. Ed was exhausted and upset and he couldn't be allowed to do this to himself.

"Why don't you come over tonight?"

"To-?"

"Alphonse thinks you need to take regular breaks. I agree with him. In fact, come into the
office this afternoon and I'll have something for you."

"But I'm-"

"That part was actually an order, Fullmetal."

Ed narrowed his eyes. "Woof woof, sir." he muttered, and stood up. "I'm using your
shower."

Roy sighed, fumbled around the bedside table without sitting up and checked the clock. It
was far too early in the morning for this.

Closer part X
Rating: R/NC-17-ish
Secret Ninja Porn Beta Beta'd. Hm. Quite an odd sentence, that . . .
Disclaimer: Not mine, and while I *wish* you could make a living from fanfic, I'm not
making any money from this. Seeing as I'm not making any money any other way either,
suing me would be seven different kinds of pointless right now.
Summary: Plot, w00t!

Notes: I'm not proud of this piece of writing. Some things I wrote that I hated grow on me;
this didn't. *shrug* I promise I'm not usually this crap ;)

All other parts are in my memories.


You know I can't let you slide through my hands.
- the Sundays, Wild Horses


Ed stood in the office almost spitting with fury, all sparks and flaring anger, blazing like a
building on fire. "What is this?" he snarled, holding up the piece of paper he'd been
handed between finger and thumb like it had been dipped in something particularly
repulsive. Milk, perhaps?

"It's your new schedule, Fullmetal." Roy said calmly, hands clasped loosely in front of
his face, watching him from behind the desk.
"My new what? Have you actually scheduled my bedtime? Am I five now or something?"

"I have scheduled the latest time you are allowed to remain in the library until. If you're
incapable of getting a sensible amount of sleep left to your own devices-"

"Why don't you just set me a naptime and get me a bib, you bastard?"

"Well, we can certainly arrange for a high chair in the canteen if you wish."

For a second Roy thought he'd gone too far and Ed was going to actually throw himself at
him and tear him apart bare-handed, but then Ed took in a long breath, eyes never leaving
Roy's, and hissed, "Fuck you."

"It's hardly asking much of you to leave the library before midnight at least sometimes,
Fullmetal."

He was actually surprised by how much hurt there was underneath Ed's anger, as if Roy
had betrayed him. How? He knew the rules, that whatever they became to each other, this
was all they would ever be in this office. Why act now like he didn't understand? Roy
was beginning to feel irritated. For a genius Ed could be idiotic, sometimes.

"I can take care of myself," Ed said quietly.

"Then you shouldn't find that schedule at all difficult to stick to."

"Don't you dare treat me like a kid - you - you told me to join this fucking army, don't
you fucking dare act like I'm an adult when I enrol and I'm a kid when you-"

"This is for your own good, Fullmetal."

Ed flushed dark and Roy wondered why that was the wrong thing to say in this situation.
"You shit," Ed spat, turning and stamping for the door. Roy raised his head slightly.

"I didn't actually dismiss you, Full-"

"Then you'd better have me court-martialled so you can control every fucking thing I do,
you bastard." Ed bit from the doorway, and slammed it so hard behind himself that the
shelves jumped and a stack of paper on Roy's desk dissolved.

Well, Roy thought, paper whirling around him like snow. Why he'd been worrying that
anyone would notice Ed being more affectionate towards him he didn't know.


*
Ed's anger hadn't even begun to dissipate by the time he returned to the dormitories, and
when Al looked up from his book the balled-up schedule bounced off his helmet, beside
the spike.

"Broth-?"

"He's fucking in league with you!" Ed screeched, kicking the door shut behind him,
kicking a stack of books across the room for good measure, and finally the leg of his bed,
snapping it like a twig with the automail foot. The bed jolted and sagged. "I'm not a
fucking child!"

Al unrolled the piece of paper and began reading it. "Ah."

"Ah? Is that all you have to say?"

"You broke your bed, brother."

Ed clapped, knelt and mended the bedpost, then took a bouncing run-up and kicked it into
two splintered halves again. "Damn it, damn it, damn it-"

"Maybe you should calm down a bit. It's just that everyone's worried about you-"

"Fuck it, I'm not a kid! I'm going to the library." Ed snarled, stalking to the door again.

"You should be back by-" Al checked the schedule, "-six o' clock for dinner-"

The door slammed behind Ed, rattling the window and all of Al's steel plating. He sighed,
and looked down at the schedule again. Three thirty: temper tantrum had been
mysteriously missed off.


*


Ed was determined to stay in the library all fucking night if he had to, to prove he could.
It was pointless, though, when he couldn't focus on one page, every word buzzing in front
of his eyes and nothing but anger in his mind. Bastard. Bastard. Bastard.

Ed hated that Mustang had seen him coming up from one of those dreams, hated even
more that he thought it meant he now needed to treat Ed like a child. Ed had nearly
screamed it in the office, he'd so much wanted to rub Mustang's face in his own hypocrisy.
If I'm such a child then why did you come on my face, fucker?
His eyes trailed off the page he wasn't even reading. He couldn't say that. He couldn't do
that to him. He could imagine Roy's face if he ever used his age against him and he just
couldn't do that to him.

Not, he realised with a sinking stomach, that Roy would probably ever want to touch him
again after today's outburst. Oh God he was stupid. The right way to prove you're adult
enough to be treated like one is by screaming like a little kid?

"-it's just that everyone's worried about you-"

He could have made an adult argument for it. Inspiration can't be switched on and off,
you just have to work while you can. Once they started the experiments he'd have to keep
whatever hours they dictated anyway and catch some sleep whenever he could. The
dreams didn't mean anything, he was used to them, he wasn't actually fucked up, it was
just that sometimes it was all too much, just for a moment. It wasn't like he actually
planned to work himself to collapse, he just wanted this done, he just wanted Al to have
his body and his life back - and he had to put the work in, it was his fault Al had lost his
body in the first place . . .

He put his elbows on the desk and pressed his palms into his eyes, warm flesh and cold
metal. He was an idiot, and Al deserved better than this. He knew Al would forgive him
for anything, but that didn't mean he deserved to be forgiven anything, Al was just good
like that. He propped his forehead up and stared down at the book in front of him. He
would read this essay, he would actually pay attention to this one damned essay, and then
he'd go back and apologise to Al for being a brat. And . . .

His throat tightened, and he could feel the blood in his cheeks and he was horrified to feel
a prickling in his eyes when he thought about Mustang. I'm not sorry I shouted, I'm not,
you fucker, I'm not a weak, pathetic little child and I don't need you-

"We're closing soon, boy."

It was a breathy, low female voice, and Ed blinked up from his book. A pale-skinned
librarian with dark violet eyes and wavy black hair pinned up, very female, her
femaleness barely contained by her straining blouse. Ed had always found breasts slightly
alarming. Apart from everything else, the alienness of them, they were human sources of
milk and therefore not to be trusted.

"Right." he muttered, closing the book and standing up, blinking his eyes quickly clear.
Stupid Mustang. Stupid him for getting caught up thinking about stupid Mustang. "I'll
take this one with me."

"Lots of books on plant alchemy," the librarian husked, leaning a little too close to his
shoulder, and Ed ducked away. "Can I help you find anything you need?"
"Nah, it's cool, it's just - a hobby." And then, something about her - "Wait - do I - know
you?"

"You've probably seen me in the library before." she said, picking up the messy stack of
books he'd left on the table. "You're here a lot, aren't you?"

"No, I mean-"

"Botanical alchemy's so slow," she murmured, running her fingertips across the cover of
the top book, and Ed glanced at the movement and thought of Roy - the same cat-
smoothness - and blinked back to her eyes quickly. "Don't you think? You can get
everywhere so much more quickly with biological alchemy."

Ed looked to the side. "Sometimes speed's not the only thing you're worried about," he
said.

"But life is so short," she said, and gave a slow, sly smile, and turned away with the pile
of books, swaying her way to the librarian's desk. Ed stared after her for a moment. He
recognised her, he was sure, but -

He sighed, swung his coat over his shoulders, and planned an apology to Al in his mind.
I'm sorry I'm a brat. You'd be a way better big brother than me. I'm only doing this
because I want you to be happy so much -

He didn't even think about Mustang. Definitely not.


*


"Update," Maes said, as Roy glanced at him over his glass, from the quietest corner of the
bar. "The quick version, because I know you want to go home and pine for Ed and it
gives me more time to tell you about Elysia's new choice of career."

"Maes."

"Point one." Maes held up a finger, and Roy rolled his eyes and took a drink. Tonight was
not going to be his lucky night for actually getting a word in. "Scar sightings are down to
zero for the past few weeks. We're still finding bodies here and there but not one
sighting."

"Which means-"

"Which means he's taking out all our witnesses as well, whether it's intentional or not.
But the trail of bodies is heading this way, and I want you to be careful."
"And to warn the other State Alchemists in the East," Roy murmured. Ed had a habit of
tripping into murderers.

"Point two." The second finger. "The Fuhrer is visiting the East."

"What?"

"Not sure why yet, especially considering Scar's heading this way too. Maybe there's
some upheaval in Central they're hiding from Intelligence. Or maybe something's going
down here that we don't know about. Either way, shine your shoes and make Havoc get a
haircut. Point three." The third finger. "Elysia's going to be a vet. She's going to look after
bunnies and puppies and kittens, she's going to be the most beautiful, sweet, gentle-"

"Maes . . ."


*


Lust shook her hair loose and sighed. "It's not going to work. Those boys are only
interested in this route to the Stone now."

"Ah, you're just not trying hard enough." Envy said, leaning against the wall with his
arms folded. "What we need to do is take everyone he knows prisoner and kill them, one
by one, 'til the brat does it our way."

Gluttony looked between the two of them, a finger plugged in his mouth, waiting. He was
hungry.

"It might be faster, Envy, but there's so much to go wrong." Lust unbuttoned her blouse
and dropped it to the side - the librarian it used to belong to was now somewhere in
Gluttony's digestive tract - smoothing out her long black dress. "At least this way we're
guaranteed a Stone at the end of it."

"Unless the little snot has an accident." Envy murmured. He didn't even blink when the
knife-edged spear of Lust's fingertip shot past the side of his face and buried in the alley
wall next to his eye.

"No accidents, Envy." she said, eyes narrowed, one hip cocked as she stood. "That boy is
our closest hope right now."

Envy glared at her, beginning to hunch like a dog bristling, teeth bared. "Afterwards-"

She shrugged, pulling her hand free and turning away with a flick of her inky hair.
"Afterwards he's yours, if you like. All that matters is that he makes the Stone."
"Mine," Envy said, his mouth twisting up into a smile. "Hey, I like that."

"Can I eat him?" Gluttony said, and his eyes were on Lust even if he was talking to Envy.

"When I'm done with him," Envy patted him on the bald head, "I'll make a whole four-
course dinner out of him for you."

"Ahh . . . good."


*


Al watched his brother lay on his back on his newly-mended bed, staring dully into space.
It was always odd when Ed sank into one of his bouts of lethargic depression, because
usually he dealt with every problem with endless action but every now and then he just
stopped. Al never quite knew what to do about it; mostly he just accompanied his brother
in his silence, and occasionally tried to catch him off guard and get him to admit what
was upsetting him.

"It's not too late to go and see the Colonel, brother." Al said softly.

Ed's eyes didn't change, but after a pause he rolled onto his side so his back faced the
room, loose hair slipping down his back. Al would have sighed, but it was a conscious
action while he was armour, not an involuntary one, and he didn't want to upset his
brother any more by even suggesting that he was being tiresome.


*


No Ed tonight. Roy hadn't expected it, to be honest; he'd expected Ed to be angry at him.
He'd also expected him to see sense at some point, if just so he could actually have some
sex soon. If every time Ed saw Roy he was so tired he crashed out as soon as he was
horizontal, they were never going to get anywhere.

Roy averted his mind from thinking about Ed horizontal, but thinking about Ed vertical
was leading to bad thoughts as well. It was probably best to just not think about Ed at all.

He turned the radio on, turned it up, and leaned his head back over the headrest of the
chair, eyes closed. He could use a good long sleep himself. Being woken at dawn by a
hysterical teenager did not create a restful night's slumber.

He should have guessed that no-one could lead Ed's life and not pay some sort of price
for it. The physical price was obvious, and the more time he spent with Ed the more he
learned about the mental price as well. Ed seemed to be trying to embody the philosophy
of live fast, die young and Roy didn't want that. He wanted Ed to not be in danger, wanted
Ed to not be physically and mentally exhausted. He wanted Ed here so he could return
the blow job, more than anything.

He sighed. He could give Ed a couple of days, let him get the rage out of his system. He
would come back.

. . . right?


*


Al looked over their notes while Ed slumped beside him and glared at the bookshelves,
head propped on his hands. "We'll need a control group, brother."

Ed rolled his eyes to Al without lifting his head. "Huh? Wh- oh. Why?"

"So we can see how big a change we've actually created, and we know which method
works best. Teacher always taught us to be methodical, brother."

"Oh." Ed said, and rubbed his eyes. "Whatever. You do that. You're better at that kind of
stuff anyway."

The last run through before they started the experiment. Ed had put in a request to use
one of the laboratories he was entitled to, and had even played with the idea of going
back to Central where there would be bigger facilities -

But it would be Central. It would be miles away from the fucking bastard who wanted to
use Ed's weaknesses to shorten his leash. And Ed didn't know why he didn't want to get
the hell away from him, not when he couldn't bring himself to go see him, not when he
made him feel like this. Ed had never felt so humiliated in his life, and Mustang was a
damned expert at making him feel humiliated. He wasn't weak and pathetic and helpless,
he couldn't help what happened in his mind while he was asleep but he wasn't-

"What are you thinking about?" Al said suddenly, and Ed's elbow slipped on the tabletop
so he banged his chin off the wood. "Brother! Be careful-"

"'m okay," Ed muttered, rubbing his new bruise. And I'm also a complete spaz. Maybe-

Mustang is not right.

Al's voice dropped to a conspiratorial murmur in the hush of the library. "Are you going
to go see the Colonel tonight?"

Ed let his breath out quickly and said, "No."
Clear and firm and sure. There was no way, no way in hell. Show the man one weakness
and he'd pounce like a cat on a wounded bird. What would he do when he really saw the
automail, scars and all? The thought made Ed shrink up inside. He couldn't do it. He
couldn't. He'd been stupid to think that he could have this, especially with fucking perfect
fucking Mustang.

He hadn't realized that he'd feel cold sleeping on his own, without that larger body draped
around him. He'd get used to it again. It had only been one night. Ed didn't need him,
didn't want him, and he definitely didn't think about him.

At all.

Ever.

*

Ed's request for a laboratory passed across Roy's desk, and he made sure it was signed
and forwarded onto the correct authorities. It claimed that the brothers were trying to
develop a blood substitute for use in battlefield surgeries, which almost made Roy smile.
If they pulled off this experiment, they really could help lives beyond their own with it. It
was a method so much more suitable to the brothers' temperaments than the selfish
sacrifice he knew the Philosopher's Stone usually called for.

No Ed that night.

He was beginning to think that something had gone wrong, somewhere. Ed shouldn't be
this angry about an order not to live in the library. He had an excuse now, something to
bargain with his guilt with whenever he was just too tired to go on. Shouldn't he at least
have come around to have round two of their shouting match?

Another day without Ed, though everyone knew that the Fullmetal Alchemist was setting
up an experiment and a small crowd had gone along to watch, as if Ed was some sort of
military mascot or performing seal. Roy would have been pleased to go just to see the
fireworks; Ed would be so smug about his audience until he realized they were only there
out of absurd fascination, Ed hated to be made to feel like a freak, and did not take well
to gawping - as Roy well knew. But he could hardly go while Ed was still feeling so
volatile, and he was certain Maes would give him a detailed report of proceedings.
Possibly with photographic evidence.

Maes did give him a report, that night. All had been surprisingly quiet; the crowd had
slowly dissipated once they'd realised quite how dull serious alchemical experiments
could be.

"Ed seems . . . muted." Maes said down the telephone, as Roy stared into the fireplace.
"Haven't you two made up for that shouting match in the office the other day yet?"
"Not . . . yet."

"Well, you'd better hurry up, Roy. Some of those lab assistants are pretty cute, you're
lucky it's so hard to distract Ed from anything geekishly chemical-based."

"Maybe I'll go along and see these lab assistants for myself." Roy murmured, but his
heart wasn't in it.

"Don't think I don't know when you're miserable too," Maes said warningly. "The whole
aim of this was to stop the two of you moping."

"I'm not moping."

"Ah, and I'm the Fuhrer, pleased to meet you . . ."


*


There was a knock on his door that night, but it wasn't Ed. Roy blinked at Alphonse's
huge shape in the doorway, and realized he'd have to do more than step aside to let him in,
he had to press himself against the wall to let Al squeeze past.

"Sorry, Colonel." Al said in an embarrassed voice, rubbing the back of his helmet as Roy
showed him through to the living room. "I'm not staying long. I only came to see -
brother's miserable. But he won't come to see you. I don't know what happened."

"Neither do I." Roy admitted, trying to keep the gloom out of his voice. "Your brother's
moods can be surprisingly difficult to predict."

"He was really mad about that schedule you set him."

"I know. I'm only trying to keep him from working himself to exhaustion."

"Brother never listens to reason when it comes to things like that." Al said, shrugging.
"The only thing you can really do is pick him up by the neck and carry him to bed."

"Pick him-?"

"I'm almost going to miss it," Al said, and shuffled slightly, and his body language said
that if he could, he'd be grinning in an embarrassed way. "When I get my body back,
being unable to pick brother up and shake him when he's being stupid."

"You could always ask Major Armstrong to do it for you."
"That's true." Al rubbed the back of his helmet again. "Um. Can I ask you for a favour,
Colonel? Only . . . brother's not going to come to you, he's being stubborn, he can be so
stubborn sometimes - but if you wouldn't, wouldn't mind, would you try going to
him . . . ?"


*


Roy paused at the door, uncertain whether or not to knock, and then opened it anyway.
He was a Colonel and outranked every person in this dormitory, he could go where he
liked. Ah, the privileges of rank . . .

Ed and Al had a room containing two beds, a lot of books, and nothing else - not even a
photograph, and Roy guessed Ed's entire wardrobe was in the suitcase at the foot of the
bed - with a bathroom to the side, the door closed. Ed was laying face-down on one of the
beds, his hair let loose and spilling over one shoulder, one arm tucked underneath the
pillow like he was trying to smother himself with it.

No-one can mope quite like a teenager.

Roy walked over, waited for some sign that Ed was even awake, and then sat carefully
beside him on the bed. Ed's body tilted as Roy shifted the mattress but he made no
voluntary movement. Roy paused, then reached down and gently smoothed Ed's hair
away from the back of his neck. Ed sat up with a start at that, stared at Roy and said,
"You're not Al."

"No. I'm not."

"What - are you doing here?" And then Ed's face changed, his posture tightened, and he
said, "Why are you here? I thought - you can fuck off. Just leave me alone."

"I don't want to leave you alone." Roy reached out for him and Ed ducked away, and Roy
felt small and lost inside. He was trying to take a plunge, he was trying to make this
something worth having. Why had Ed changed his mind?

"You don't get to do this," Ed snapped. "I can't - believe you did that, I must be fucking
stupid if I thought you'd do anything different-"

"Do what? The schedule?"

"Treat me like I'm pathetic and weak and need you to look after me!" Ed had his hands
clenched like if Roy reached for him again he'd punch him; Roy didn't want to risk it. "I
should've known you'd use anything you learned about me to get more fucking control
over me! It was just a stupid dream! I have them all the time and I'm fine, I'm not so
pathetic I need you to make it all better, you arrogant bastard-"
"That's not what I meant to achieve, Ed. I didn't - I have never assumed you were pathetic
for a second, I would never think that, none of this has been about controlling you-"

Hissed and dangerous, "Then why do I feel like this?"

"I think possibly because we need bilingual dictionaries for dealing with each other. And
a clearer delineation of the boundary between us as us and us in the office. I was not
trying to schedule you as my lover but as a soldier, and I would have done that whatever
else we were to each other." Roy risked reaching out with a hand and Ed was trembling
with fury but only tightened his facial muscles slightly when Roy touched the side of his
head. "I was trying to get you out of the library at a reasonable time, yes, but I'm sorry if I
made you feel like I was patronising you. I didn't mean to."

"For once."

"Well. Maybe."

Almost, almost, Ed's eyes twitched into something like a smile before tightening again.
"You meant to piss me off, though."

"At least when you're angry you're not sad." Roy trailed his hand down to cup Ed's cheek
with a gloved hand, and Ed's eyes flickered with annoyance - mainly at himself, because
he clearly wanted to cave. "I'm used to you angry. I'm discovering that I just can't . . . I
don't want you to be upset. Ever."

Ed stared at him for a long moment, eyes still narrowed suspiciously.

"How'm I meant to trust you if you're gonna do shit like that?" he said.

"I . . . you don't have to trust me. You're not forced to. I wish you would." Roy moved his
fingers, just slightly, just caressing the face that was still tensed to pull back. "I didn't
mean to make you feel like you couldn't. I would never betray you, Ed. I wouldn't."

Another pause, while Ed watched him carefully, his thoughts unreadable behind his eyes
with all that tenseness. "I didn't think you'd want to see me anymore." he said, his voice a
little awkward. "Not after I shouted."

"There are very few things you could do that would make me not want to see you
anymore."

Ed shrugged, looked to the side. "I'm gonna have to keep weird hours for a while. The
experiment's gonna need us to check on it all the time."

"But Alphonse can do that on a night."

"It's my experiment too."
What he meant, Roy knew without any dictionary, wasn't It's my experiment but It's my
sin. He already knew there was no talking Ed out of that.

"Please promise me you'll just rest sometimes, Ed."

"I do. I sleep all the time. It's just . . . it's never enough."

Roy rubbed his cheek, very softly, very aware of the roughness of his gloves. Ed's face
was softening by the second, as if he just couldn't stay angry however much he wanted to.

"I missed you when you didn't come over," Roy offered, and Ed blinked, looked down,
and he was almost relaxed now.

"Yeah. Guess I missed you too, bastard." he mumbled. "I just thought . . . I shouted at
you."

"Ed. One argument does not end a relationship. Especially a relationship between us."

"It doesn't?"

Roy stared. But of course Ed had no idea, had no experience to draw on.

"Of course it doesn't. The hope is that even if you argue, being together is worth it. And
we're probably going to argue a lot."

"Because you're an arrogant bastard."

"And you're an impossible brat."

"Fuck off and die." Ed said, though in quite a calm voice, head tilting slightly to the side.
"Are we . . . You still want to do this? This is an actual relationship? We're - going out, or
whatever?" Ed's brows lowered, like it was just too strange a concept to get his head
around. He was also blushing again. He was quite possibly the most easily embarrassed
person Roy had ever met, and it was strangely, hopelessly endearing.

"You have no idea how much I want you." Roy said, perfectly honestly. "And don't you
want this to be a relationship?"

"I . . . guess. It's better to tell Al that than that I just want your hands all over me all the
time." Ed grinned, and Roy laughed, low and surprised, at Ed and himself.

"All the time, Ed?"

"I really missed you." Ed admitted, ducking his head again. It was the first time Roy had
ever actually seen him with his hair loose, and there was a lot of it for him to hide behind.
Roy brushed the heavy blond sheet aside and leaned in to kiss him. It was also the first
time he'd pursued Ed, and something about that, something about admitting to himself
what he really wanted from Ed made it all feel real, finally.

He was really in Ed's dorm room, really on his bed, and he'd really convinced him that
they even could have a relationship. He was really kissing him, really holding him, really
pressing him slowly back against the mattress and stroking his fingers through all that
hair, really holding him by the hipbone against the bed. This was actually happening.

Ed was lazily sliding his tongue against Roy's and tugging him down, one arm around his
neck and the other pressing at his waist. Roy slung a leg over him - there was no point
pretending they were doing anything else but this at this point - and Ed tilted his own hips
up, pressing against him, groaning into his mouth. This was actually happening. Roy's
crotch, a few steps ahead of him on that score, really believed this was happening.

Then Ed made a deeper, more desperate sound, and the last of Roy's self-control
selflessly sacrificed itself, leaping out of the window for the sake of his screaming libido.
It was Ed. He was completely helpless.

Ed's head fell back and he panted at the wall while Roy ground down hard, fumbling for
both their belts one-handed. "Waitasec-" Ed said suddenly, arms clutching around Roy's
neck to drag himself back up. "What if Al-?"

"It's really too late to consider that, Ed." Roy gasped, slipping his gloved hand into Ed's
underwear and biting his neck as Ed's head fell back again with a choked-off moan.

"Fuck. Fuck it. Do it fast, then."

Fast was really not a problem. Roy got both of their clothes out of the way just enough
and thrust against him quick and sharp, trying not to thump the bed into the wall too
much. Damned dorm rooms. Damned single beds. Damned never actually getting naked
with Ed. There would be time, there would be time -

That thought and the accompanying image, and the fact that Ed was moaning and
scrabbling at his back underneath him, and the fact that Ed really did bring out his inner
teenager meant it was all over far too soon - embarrassingly soon, Roy thought. Not that
Ed was complaining, purring happily into Roy's throat, rubbing his lower back with both
hands.

"We should argue more if we get to do this afterwards," Ed murmured breathlessly, and
closed his teeth just lightly on Roy's throat before coming up for a kiss.

"Luckily we will probably never stop."

"Oh, good."

"For example, the schedule was an order, not a request, and so you will be keeping to it."
"Fuck you." Ed slid his legs up, knees on either side on Roy's waist, and nudged him in
the side with the automail, just a little too hard to be friendly. He took a few more breaths
and said, "I'll be in the lab whenever I have to be, and your schedule can go fuck itself."

"Are you disobeying a direct order, Fullmetal?"

"I'm a bad dog, Colonel." Ed nudged him with both knees this time, and grinned up at
him. "What're you gonna do about it?"

In this position? Roy knew what he wanted to do about it. He should not be quite so
ready to go again quite so soon . . .

"Do you have a cloth, or some tissues?"

Ed stared at him, mouth opening to ask a question - perhaps he thought Roy was planning
some sort of strange sex game-slash-punishment - but then he looked down at their
collective mess. "Oh. Yeah, in the bathroom."

Cleaning up could feel awkward and perfunctory; Roy found that Ed's stomach was so
sensitively ticklish that there was no time to feel awkward, he was too busy trying to pin
him still for long enough to get him cleaned off. Panting for breath between giggles, Ed
lay back on the bed and watched him zip himself back up through half-closed eyes, one
arm crooked over his forehead, hair spilt over the pillows dishevelled and glorious. With
his hair loose and messy like this he looked like an angel who'd had a damn good time
falling. Roy leaned down again to kiss him, and Ed rubbed the back of his neck as he
closed his eyes.

"I'm coming over tomorrow night," he said, when Roy pulled back again, but couldn't
stand up for Ed's hand on his neck, was forced to remain eye-to-eye with him. "The
experiments all need twenty-four hour lags right now so we can see what's happening,
and we can time them so I have time to come over."

"That's good to know."

Ed's hand travelled up to tangle in his hair. "So, when I come over," he said casually,
eyes flickering with humour and danger and something deeper, that amber-edged desire
that made Roy's mouth run dry, "either you're actually fucking me or you're giving me a
damn good reason why not. Okay?"

Roy's mouth opened but there just weren't any words. Ed grinned, kissed him, and let go.
"Okay." he said, smugly answering his own question. "G'night, Roy. You better get
plenty of sleep, right?"

His voice was low, edged with a growl deep in his throat. Absolute brat.
Roy had unleashed a monster. And he was beginning to not think that it was the worst
thing he'd ever done but, just possibly, the best.

Closer part XI
Rating: R/NC-17-ish
Props to the Secret Ninja Porn Beta.
Disclaimer: While I own every volume of the manga so far, I don't actually own *it*.
Alas.

Spoilers: I keep forgetting to do this - the series as a whole will be chock-full of them, in
an AU-squintwise way. So if you haven't watched the whole series, don't read this =P

Summary: "-HIV, crabs, a whole bunch of varieties of warts, syphilis-"

All other parts are in my memories.


There is this hunger,
This restlessness inside of me,
And it knows that you're no stranger, you're my gravity.
- Jewel, The Absence of Fear



It was the last missing fact and then Ed was confident he'd have this whole thing down,
and it would finally stop reducing him to breathlessness even in dreams. And it was
entirely up to Roy - he just couldn't do it himself, even as a scientist he just couldn't bring
himself to test his own anal elasticity. More than anything else, what the hell would he do
if Al came in and found him doing it?

The only thing was . . .

How did it fit?

All the books had been eerily silent on the topic. Ed had had enough trouble fitting even
most of it into his mouth, and he knew his mouth was bigger than - that, and -

He wasn't nervous. He wasn't. One thing he did know was that nothing Roy would ever
do to him would or could ever hurt a fraction as much as the automail had. And he also
knew that the tissues in the mouth and anus are the fastest to heal in the body, which he'd
always felt was bad organization, before - he was always getting scratched and stabbed
and battered and bruised, but never in either of those two places. Now he suddenly felt
quite glad for it.

He wasn't nervous. Not remotely. This would be interesting just in terms of its biology.
He wasn't nervous. He - wasn't.
He could have demanded the right to do it to Roy instead, but he didn't know how it
worked, and if he didn't know how Roy could do it to him without hurting him then he
was determined not to do it to Roy. He didn't want to hurt him. He was always hurting
people he cared about, and he didn't want to, he didn't . . .

He cared about Roy. Odd that he could only admit that to himself when he caught himself
off-guard.


*


When it came to uninteresting things, when it came to work, Roy could manipulate Ed to
within an inch of his actions. When it came to having a relationship with him, Ed had a
habit of bouncing in out of nowhere, skipping steps and steps ahead and then going back
to visit and revisit previous steps like he didn't want to leave them alone. Roy should
have guessed from how this had started, with Ed deciding with no prior warning to stare
all the way through him, that this would always be slightly out of his control. Roy just
couldn't work out what Ed would do next. Casually announcing that Roy would be taking
what Roy knew was his virginity tonight was just the latest in a string of 'what-the-fuck?'
interactions with him. Ed was as unpredictable as an overexcited Jack Russell, which
made Roy, what, a frisbee?

And he'd still forgotten to tell him about Scar, and the sudden memory of that had him
scrambling for the telephone in his paper-covered desk and dialling the labs in a panic.
Damn it, damn it, Ed pushed everything but himself out of his mind (selfish brat, not
wanting to share Roy's thought-space with anything but himself) and this was more than
important, this was maybe Ed's life -

The receptionist at the laboratories asked him to wait, and the wait turned out to be a
good quarter of an hour long before Ed deigned to stalk away from his experiments and
bark, "What?" down the telephone.

Roy raised an eyebrow. It was a good thing this was happening over the telephone or he
would probably just have been spat on. "Good morning, Fullmetal."

The sound of a long breath being drawn in and slowly let out, and, "If this is just you
trying to waste my time, I will transmute select parts of you into costume jewellery."

"Everything's going well then, I assume."

"Up to my elbows in fucking plant goop! Stinks like a sewer! Now what the fuck do you
want?"

"Just a warning, Fullmetal. Scar is on the move. He's heading to the East."
A derisive snort. "Right. Thanks. If he pops into the lab I'll tell him you said hi."

"Edward." Roy said quietly. Sometimes that boy didn't seem to understand what 'dead'
meant.

Ed sighed down the line. "I get it, do you think I don't get it? He hurt Al last time. I
haven't forgotten. I'll keep an eye out, he won't catch us by surprise again. So . . .
thanks."

The last word was added in a mutter. Roy was just glad that he'd finally acknowledged
that Scar could be dangerous. "Good luck with your experiment."

"Yeah. Thanks. See y- uh, bye."

See you tonight. Hmm. "Goodbye, Fullmetal."

He hung up and sat back in his chair, letting his breath out in a sigh and running his hand
back through his hair. Tonight he would finally be seeing everything of Ed. He didn't
quite know what Ed was expecting, it wasn't like he had any experience to draw on . . .

Not that Roy was nervous. Not about this. This he was an expert on. For once Ed would
be the one who wouldn't know what had hit him.

Not nervous.

Not at all.


*


Al watched his brother and baffled. For someone who wasn't in love Ed was a skittish
mess today, losing his concentration entirely and gazing into space for long periods of
time, then blinking back into such a manic blur of activity that he'd already broken two
test tubes. It wasn't like it mattered at this stage of the experiments, where all they were
really doing was waiting to see what happened, but he really hoped his brother woke up a
bit for some of the later stages . . .

Al knew that it wasn't really safe to talk about it in a military institution, so he didn't ask
his brother if he was going to see the Colonel tonight. He didn't really need to. Ed was
now staring into the flame of the Bunsen burner like a doomed moth, his lips slightly
parted. Al didn't want to know what he was thinking about.

So his brother had finally discovered hormones. It was better than him moping, Al would
rather his brother was happy and completely useless than sad and working around the
clock to get his body back. They had time. They did. But finding that even Ed, who didn't
even like people, was finding himself entangled with the Colonel made Al begin to feel,
for the first time, impatient. How old would he be by the time they managed to make a
Stone? How much would he have missed out on?

. . . they hadn't even seen Winry for months, how old would she be . . . ?

Ed took a little breath, blinked himself awake and tapped the steaming glass bulb above
the flame with a stirring rod, scowling. "This takes for-fucking-ever," he whined, and
looked down at the notepad in front of him. "I hate this kind of alchemy."

"Don't you find it sort of relaxing?" Al said, and Ed ground the heel of one palm into his
eye.

"How is waiting five hours for some plant goop to decide whether or not to change colour
relaxing?"

"You're too impatient, brother." Al said, and noted his own words, and would have
blushed if he could have. He must have been spending too much time with his brother, he
was developing all of Ed's worst traits.

"I like to get things done quickly." Ed said. "What's so wrong about that?"

"This isn't about getting it done quickly. It's about getting it done right."

". . . huh." Ed tapped the steaming plant goop again and said, "It's . . . I like getting things
right first time."

"Well . . . I'd rather take my time and make sure it's right. But I know you like to jump
into things."

Ed gave him a funny look, trying to work out if that was an insult or not. "I want this to
work," he said eventually, looked down and scribbled a rapid nothing onto the notepad.
"It's your body, Al." he added in a low voice. They couldn't talk about this loudly, here.

"I know, brother, it's your body too. It will work. But if it takes some time, I don't mind."

"I don't know how long it'll take," Ed admitted, and Al took a breath, on the inside, and
nodded.

"I don't mind. It takes as long as it takes."

He would be patient. He'd had a lot of practise being patient, in dealing with his brother.
This was just one more time he would have to be the calm, level-headed one.

"It takes as long as it takes." Al repeated, and determined to be patient.
Ed toyed with his pen and looked into the flame again.


*


It was the first time since the very first night that Roy was expecting the knock. He found
himself even more unable to settle on anything before it came - how could he read a book
when at any second Ed would be at the door, and then . . . ?

The knock came, and Roy sat still for a second, taking care to settle his breathing, before
he answered it.

Ed stood there with his hands in his pockets, head cocked at Roy, large golden eyes as
watchful as ever. Roy stepped aside and closed the door behind him, and for a moment
they stood in the hallway staring at each other.

"Can I take your coat?" Roy said, and Ed's face cracked into a smile. Roy couldn't not
smile back, as Ed handed his coat over, shaking his head, still grinning.

"Shit." Sometimes Roy suspected Ed cursed just so he had something to say. "Anyway.
How was your day?"

"Hm?" Roy hung the coat up and turned to him again. "The same as usual, I suppose.
Hawkeye brought Hayate in today. Breda hid in the storage cupboard. Hayate kept guard
outside its door all afternoon."

Ed laughed, and Roy wondered how they'd spent so much time staring so closely at one
another and he'd never really noticed Ed's laugh before, the first sharp, surprised bark,
like he hadn't expected to find anything funny and then hadn't expected to actually laugh
at it. The husky edge to Ed's voice made Roy's toes want to curl. He tried to ignore the
fact that it hadn't quite broken yet.

"How are your experiments going?"

Ed waved a hand dismissively. "You know. Slow. Going to drive me crazy."

"It's bound to take some time, Ed."

"I know. Al's always going on about it too. I'm not that impatient," Ed muttered, and Roy
gave a low chuckle, though he wouldn't dare say that he didn't agree. Ed caught Roy's
cuff in one hand and looked up at him, laughter still in his eyes and a slight smile
flickering then fading across his mouth. "So," he said, his eyes changing, and his fingers
rubbed a little nervously at Roy's wrist now, across his pulse. "Um, do you want to do
this upstairs? Or - I don't know. It's up to you."
Roy looked down at him, unsure what to really say. "We don't . . . you don't have to treat
this quite so . . . mechanically, Ed."

"Huh?"

"It's not a doctor's check up. It's not a race. This is something you should enjoy."

"Enjoyed it plenty so far," Ed murmured, and blinked when Roy tilted his face up. "Oh,"
he breathed happily, against Roy's mouth, because he knew this bit.

Kissing Ed, Roy had found, was surprisingly easy from the first - even from their
disastrous actual first kiss, and Roy didn't want to remember that right now. There was
just something so natural and simple about it, the absolute ease with which Ed relaxed
against him and fitted his body neatly to his. A kiss can disperse the spark or build it;
with Ed it had always been about building. He tasted right, he smelled right, he moved in
all the right ways, he felt right against him -

Ed leaned his forehead into Roy's throat and breathed hard against his collarbone, licking
his lips. "Upstairs?" he said, close enough that Roy felt the hum of his voice all the way
down his ribcage.

He ran his hands around Ed's back, sliding across the slight indent of his waist, feeling
him shiver.

"Upstairs." he confirmed.

It took a surprisingly long time to get there. They had to stop halfway up the stairs - Roy
shouldn't have let Ed go ahead of him, because those shiny leather pants wagging
innocently from side to side as he took the steps were more than Roy could resist - and
again outside the bedroom door, because Roy was developing a fetish for pushing Ed
against walls and kissing him. Ed wasn't complaining, grabbing Roy's shirt at the waist
and dragging it taut as Roy angled his head back and bit his throat.

Inside the bedroom Ed put his hand over Roy's to stop him from turning the light on, and
pulled him towards the bed instead. The light coming through the open curtains edged
everything in blue, gleaming bright off the catch of Ed's jacket as Roy flicked it open
with a finger. Ed swallowed and shrugged it off and then just sat on the mattress and
stared at him for a second, before reaching across and rubbing the first button of Roy's
shirt between his fingers.

"Never seen you with everything off," he said, an edge of embarrassment on his voice as
he popped open the button.

"It's fairly necessary if you want to do this, Ed."
"Shut up. I know that." The next button. "Um. Do I-" - button number three - "have to as
well?"

". . . not if you don't . . . want . . ." Button number four. "Why not, Ed?"

Even in the dim light of the room Roy could see Ed's face was flushed dark as he quickly
worked open the last of Roy's buttons. "It's. You don't want to see it."

"See what?" Roy caught his face, held them forehead to forehead as he slid one hand
down to tug gently at the tie around the end of Ed's braid.

"Don't act like you don't fucking know," Ed hissed, pressed his left hand to Roy's chest,
then curled it into a ball and swallowed hard. "I know it's my fault I have the - automail,
but - it's ugly, you shouldn't have to-"

Roy slid the tie out of Ed's hair but let the braid fall back, kissing him instead of working
it loose. "Nothing about you is ugly." he breathed against Ed's skin. "Nothing. Nothing.
You're beautiful."

"Fuck-" Ed jerked his head away. "I'm not a girl and I don't need you to lie-"

"What part of this is a lie?" Roy said quietly, a slightly more dangerous edge on his voice,
catching Ed's left hand before it could pull back and sliding it to his right side, just below
the ribs, where there was an angry welt of silvery skin. "Everyone has scars, Ed. Do you
think they make me ugly?"

"No- I didn't-"

Roy caught Ed's automail wrist and before he could pull back swung him onto his lap, Ed
yelping, legs sliding neatly to either side of Roy's all the same. "You don't have to believe
me if you don't want," Roy said, sliding a hand underneath Ed's vest and laying his palm
out against the skin, feeling Ed jump against him. "And you don't have to do anything
you don't want to. But, fucking hell, Ed, I wish you could see what I do."

Ed's back was arched, his hair was beginning to fall loose, he was breathing hard and
watching Roy with his mouth slightly open, his skin silver and blue in the faint light. Roy
felt dizzy. "You're so beautiful." he breathed again, and kissed Ed before he could reply
with something stupid.

"You don't have to do anything you don't want to." Roy repeated, once Ed hung his head
back and panted, his stomach fluttering underneath Roy's palm. He licked his lips before
he replied, but didn't open his eyes.

"You want me to take everything off."

"That's not my call to make. And it's not like I haven't seen you before, Ed."
"Fuck it," Ed muttered, and grabbed Roy's open shirt. "You first, bastard."

Ed sat back on his hands and watched as Roy stripped, just a little too slowly to be casual,
and quirked almost a smile before looking him up and down properly. Roy padded back
over barefoot and touched the side of Ed's face, leaning in close to see his eyes. "Okay?"

Ed's tongue flicked at his lips for just a second. "Okay," he whispered, and pulled his
black vest off, tugging the last of his hair loose with it. Roy slid a hand down his side and
kissed him, pressing him carefully back into the mattress and reaching for Ed's belt
himself. Ed closed his eyes and breathed hard as Roy slid his pants down and then
murmured, "Ah, boots."

Ed gave a little growl of frustration and kicked them off, and Roy laughed, put a hand on
his stomach and made him jump. "It's not a race." he said, smirking a little, and Ed
scowled and grabbed the back of his head, pulling him down for a kiss, shuffling his
trousers and underwear off himself.

"Not remotely impatient." Roy murmured against his mouth. Ed licked Roy's mouth, bit
his lip briefly, a sharp nip of a reprieve, and scowled at him.

"So - how does this work?"

Ah. For a moment Roy had almost lost track of why they were here. For a second he
wondered if he had any right to be here. He couldn't let himself think about that at this
point.

"There's something I have to do first."

"What? It's cold like this, you better be fucking- quick-!"

His voice had climbed an octave as Roy slid a hand between his legs and licked his neck
simultaneously. "I never did get the chance to return the favour, when you were so
insistent about doing it yourself." he breathed into Ed's skin.

"You-"

He moved down Ed's body, kissing whatever skin came into reach; straining ribcage,
trembling, twitching stomach, lower-

"But-"

"Trust me, love."

"But you were going toahh-!"
"There's plenty of time," Roy murmured, low and deep against him, and Ed tangled his
hands in the sheets, every muscle tense, and whimpered.


*


Things really didn't take long, with teenagers. Roy climbed back up to stroke Ed's hair
back and kiss him, and hoped the second time tonight would last longer. He really didn't
want to be humping away while Ed just wanted to go to sleep. And he was now so hard
he almost hurt, because the noises Ed made in trying not to make any noise were just
about the best thing Roy had ever heard, the quick breaths and choked-off whimpers he
was trying not to let out.

"You -" Ed panted. "Hah-"

"Breathe," Roy murmured against his forehead, kissing his hairline again.

"'m breathin'," Ed muttered sullenly, and turned his body slightly to press himself against
Roy, sliding his legs open around him. "So do it already, c'mon-"

Roy slid a hand down his back and cupped one cheek, making Ed jerk against him briefly.
"Exactly how much do you understand the mechanics of this, Ed?"

Ed rolled his eyes, still breathing a little too hard. "For fuck's - sake, Roy, I've known
how this works since I was - thirteen -"

"Thirteen?"

"You should not let kids - wander around a military canteen, the stuff those guys talk
about." Ed said, grinning, and then paused. "I'm not a kid anymore," he added
conscientiously, and tightened his hands on Roy's sides briefly. "Don't freak out on me.
I'm not."

"I know." But Roy gazed at his face anyway, and raised a knuckle to brush some loose
hair out of Ed's eyes. "That was only two years ago."

Ed shrugged. "Feels longer." he said. "Will you just fucking fuck me already? I'm gonna
be legal before you get around to doing anything."

Roy sighed. So much for romance. "I have some lubrication in the drawer."

"Oh." Ed said, as Roy moved off for the bedside table. "I guess that makes sense," he
muttered, shifting himself onto his elbows, feet flat on the bed. "So, um, you're clean,
right?"
Roy turned back to him with a tube of lube in one hand. "Clean? Are you insulting my
personal hygiene at this point in the proceedings?"

"No, I mean-"

Ed took a deep breath, and began reciting sexually transmitted diseases. Roy stared. It
was quite a long list - Ed's memory was really frightening for some details. He crawled
onto the bed and kissed Ed to shut him up, because it was getting a little disturbing ("-
HIV, crabs, a whole bunch of varieties of warts, syphilis-") and said, "What kind of
books have you been reading?"

"They weren't very helpful for the practicalities," Ed admitted, shrugging. "I know I don't
have anything, or I'm assuming I don't-"

"I promise I have nothing to infect you with, Ed."

"Good. Some of them sounded gross."

His eyes trailed down to the tube Roy was holding. "Um," he said. "How are we doing
this, then?"

"There are a number of possibilities. It depends on what you're most comfortable with." It
seemed that being very matter-of-fact about everything was the best way to keep Ed
relaxed. Not knowing what Ed expected from tonight had made Roy uneasy - but keeping
Ed from feeling nervous seemed to be the best way to keep himself calm and as in control,
in his bed, as ever. "Would you rather do this face to face or from behind?"

Ed was blushing, watching Roy uncap the lube, head ducked a little and annoyance
flickering in his eyes. "I guess I'd like to see what you're doing," he muttered.

"You still don't have to do this if you don't want to."

"I know, and I want to," Ed said in a hushed voice, and Roy checked his eyes, still held
fascinated by the lube. No fear, just a wakening curiosity. Roy snagged a pillow from the
head of the bed and said, "Hips up."

Ed snorted and positioned himself on the pillow. "So." he said, watching Roy warming
some lube on his fingertips. "Um. How does it fit?"

"Surprisingly easily, if done right." Roy settled himself alongside Ed and with his dry
hand lifted one of Ed's legs, rubbing his thigh in gentle circles. "Do you trust me?"

Ed looked into his eyes for a long second and then the corner of his mouth twitched into a
smile.

"I guess I do." he said.
*


Roy woke up with a mouthful of hair.

He raised a hand cautiously to pick it out, and looked down at the head attached to all that
hair scribbled across his pillows and chest. They hadn't closed the curtains, and Ed
looked good in morning sunlight, bright and fresh and golden, curled up against Roy's
side with one leg slung possessively over his.

Roy carefully picked all the loose hair up and stroked it aside, smoothing it over Ed's bare
silver shoulder, rubbing the automail with his fingertips. Ed always did keep it covered.
Roy had assumed he'd wanted to avoid difficult questions - Ed was so bluntly
overconfident about everything that Roy had never actually realised that he was ashamed
of it.

Gold and silver. His lover is made of precious metals and doesn't even recognise their
value.

His lover. Roy took a moment to stare at Ed's still, peaceful face and gently, gently stroke
his shoulder and try to get a grip on that concept. Of every person on the planet, the last
one he'd ever assumed he'd be applying that title to was Ed. Even the Fuhrer would have
made more sense - Roy was confident enough in his abilities to at least get a promotion
out of it. Ed had certainly had no complaints last night.

Him and Ed. Ed in his bed. Ed sleeping against him. Him and Ed.

He nuzzled against Ed's hair and slid his arms closer around him, and waited for his lover
to wake up.


*


Ed woke up to a world of white skin in front of him, and licked it to check if it was awake.
Roy jerked around him and he grinned. Yep.

He lifted his head, yawned and brushed his hair back, and sat looking down at Roy's
raised eyebrow. "Mornin'," Ed mumbled, and yawned again behind one hand.

"Did you sleep well?"

"Mmf." Ed stretched for a good, long, luxurious second and then nuzzled down
underneath the covers again, bumping Roy's arm into the right place so he could lay more
comfortably next to him. He sighed happily and closed his eyes.
"You're not going back to sleep."

"Don't see why not," Ed rumbled into his chest. "It can't be time to check on the
experiment yet. And like you're ever into work on time."

"I resent that, Edward. I take my job very seriously."

"Sure you do," Ed snorted, and yelped as Roy rolled him over so he was on top, one hand
placed lightly and threateningly against his stomach.

"I happen to know all your ticklish spots now, Ed. I'm not a sensible man to pick a fight
with."

"I will find yours, fucker." Ed muttered, and trailed his fingertips down Roy's side, across
his stomach, pausing over the puckered scar beneath his ribs. "Where'd you get this?" he
said quietly.

"Ah . . . Ishbal." For a second Ed thought he wasn't going to get anything more than that,
but Roy continued, "I was shot on patrol. Luckily it passed cleanly through without
striking any important organs."

Ed glanced up at Roy's eyes, completely black and completely unreadable, and then his
eyes trailed down to his own shoulder, shining in the morning sunlight.

"So we're both a little bit fucked up."

Roy gave a single almost-laugh. "Well. Just a little bit."

Ed flattened his palm against the scar and slid the automail up, gingerly because he knew
it could be cold in the morning, especially if it fell out from underneath the covers in the
night, and stroked Roy's back. "So . . . how much time do we have until you have to go to
work?"

Roy smiled, and leaned down for his good morning kiss. What he didn't expect was for
Ed to break away, turning his head to the side on the pillow and saying, "Geh, morning
breath-"

Roy thunked his head into the pillows. He moaned, "Just one romantic moment, it isn't
that much to ask for, is it?"

There was a pause, and then he felt Ed's arms shifting around him, holding him closer.

"I like you even with morning breath," Ed offered. "Is that fuckin' romantic enough for
you?"

"For now." Roy mumbled, as Ed's hands rubbed a clumsy massage on his back.
"If you'd brush your teeth I'd like you more."

"Brat." Roy muttered, and slid his fingertips back to Ed's unguarded stomach.

Closer part XII
Rating: R
Beta'd by toxicbullets (who managed this even ill. The girl is a saint ^^)
Disclaimer: I neither own Fullmetal Alchemist nor make any profit from this. Sometimes
wish I did on both counts, though.
Summary: It's been five whole minutes, so it must be time for an argument.

Notes: This chapter was entirely not meant to happen. It's *their* fault (*points at boys*).
Idiots. Had to reorganise the entire rest of the plot after this disaster of an attempt to make
them do as they're told. Never work with animals, children or lust-addled alchemists, I'll
tell you that.

Finally, nothing says 'slash' like nineties girl group r'n'b ;)

All other parts are in my memories.


What's it gonna be?
'Cause I can't pretend . . .

Hold me tight and don't let go,
Don't let go,
Have the right to lose control,
Don't let go-
- En Vogue, Don't Let Go



Ed hadn't forgotten one word of last night, but what he'd actually done hadn't really sunk
in yet. He didn't know if maybe he was meant to feel different in some way; all he felt
was not particularly sore but just a little bit . . . off, in unusual places. Luckily there was a
lot of time waiting for plant goop to change colour and supposedly trying to work out
how the blood of an alchemist is different from the blood of a normal human being in
which to go over what was said, and over it, and over it again.

"Trust me, love."

At the time Ed had been understandably distracted by a particular mouth's vicinity to a
particular organ, and he hadn't even noticed. Now when he thought about it he wanted to
break Mustang's head open.
How dare he. How fucking dare he, where did he think he got the right? Ed didn't need
or want Mustang's lines, he wasn't one of Mustang's stupid women - and how many of
those had he used the exact same words to? The rage was fighting to get out of Ed,
thrashing at his insides, but he kept it clamped down deep, pressed his mouth tightly
closed and tried to read. He suspected, and hated himself for it, couldn't actually admit it
in so many words, that if he let the anger out what would follow would be pain. Better to
hold onto the anger, let it burn like a hot, heavy stone on his stomach, better to be angry
than to really admit why he was angry.

Not how dare Mustang think he needed some patronising endearment, but how dare he
say it and not mean it.

Al kept giving him funny looks. Not that Al could change his face, but Ed knew a funny
look from his little brother when he saw one. He didn't know what expression he was
wearing right now. He checked the bulb of thickening plant goop, small bubbles
travelling from the spherical glass base and upwards, tried to flatten his face out in his
reflection and went back to his book.

Think about Al. Think about this. Don't think about him.

The fucker.


*


Roy looked over his lined-up troops and allowed a thin smile onto his face. Breda
couldn't pull his stomach to attention, even with the smallest size Fury's uniform was still
a little baggy on the shoulders, and Havoc couldn't begin to compete with Falman's
ramrod-straight attention pose - only Hawkeye actually looked like a real soldier, poised
and still and as steady as a cocked gun.

He was so fucking proud of all of them that sometimes he thought the top of his head
might blow off.

He saluted sharply as the Fuhrer and his retinue entered, and heard the neat click of
Hawkeye's boots as she did too, and the almost-simultaneous click of the others joining
them. He saw General Hakuro's eyebrows raised a little dubiously at the goon squad
behind Roy and thought, That's right, underestimate them. You have no idea.

The Fuhrer waved his hand amiably and said, "That's enough, Colonel. Well, what a tidy
office. Good job. Well done."

Roy kept his face calm as he lowered his salute and wondered again what the man's game
was. He wouldn't make the mistake of underestimating Bradley, but he honestly had no
clue how this man was running the country . . .
*


Maes flicked a stale piece of bread from the arm of the bench to the ducks and said, "I
feel like one of us should have an accent of some sort. And you should be carrying a
newspaper."

Roy sighed, arms folded, sitting back beside Maes. Lunchtime and they'd met in the park,
in front of the duck pond, wary of telephones and all military institutions while the Fuhrer
was in the East. "We're not spies, Maes."

"Nor are we fantastically loyal, though, hm?" Maes said, and pushed his glasses further
up his nose. "I still don't know what he's doing here, or how long he plans to stay. But
you'd better watch yourself, Roy."

"Of course I plan to be on my best behaviour."

Maes was silent for a second. "I really want you to be careful," he murmured, and Roy
raised his head, looked with brows lowered at his friend. "I don't know what's happening,
but I have a bad feeling about all this."

"A bad feeling." Roy said, pitched low and cynical

Maes glanced at him, eyes sharp and shielded behind his glasses, and Roy didn't know
what he wasn't saying but understood anyway.

"I'll be careful. Maes. You know I will."

The corner of Maes' mouth quirked into a crooked sort of grin, and he looked across at
the pond. "I brought Elysia here last weekend. She fed the ducks."

"That's nice."

"I remember the first time I brought her here. I could hold her entire head in my palm she
was so tiny. Now she comes on her tricycle, and one day she'll be too big for
piggybacks."

"You're in a strange mood."

"I'm feeling nostalgic. And you're in love with Ed."

Straight out of nowhere, like everything to do with Ed, and Roy was falling for a second,
through the narrow black towards white like a supernova-
"No," he said, and the entire world had popped in his ears, had revealed itself rushing and
clanging and loud. "Ed-"

"Do you know how much happier you'll be if you can just admit it to yourself?"

"No," Roy repeated, a little more desperately. His palms were sweating in his gloves, and
his mind was full of Ed (against the pillows, trusting and tense and moving with him,
head tilted back, eyes closed and mouth open - "Ah- tha- there- ah!"). "Maes-"

"I happen to know he spent the night at yours last night. Which you can get away with as
long as you let it be known he's using your personal library for research, by the way. But
I also know that it's Ed, and you wouldn't be doing this with him if you didn't really feel
this."

"No, I-" (Ed opening his eyes and laughing, bright and gold and beautiful, rubbing up and
down Roy's sides. "Surprisingly easy. Guess you did it right, then.")

"Don't you want to be happy?"

"It's not important." Roy said, snapped, and was surprised at himself because his voice
was shaking. (Ed's nose against his throat, his breath shaking, jumping with laughter and
exertion. "That - haa - you -") He gritted his teeth, forced himself steady. "He's fifteen
years old, what do you think this is for him?"

"I can ask him, if you like." Maes said with a little grin.

(Ed's eyelashes brushing closed against his skin, and then so quietly, "Oh . . .")

He was angry, now.

"Maes," he said, coldly and calmly, "Ed is fifteen. He certainly has a crush and maybe if
you asked him he would think it was love. He will change his mind very soon."

"And what will you do if he does?"

Roy's stomach came up for the third time and drowned. He didn't want to think about this,
he could cope with this if he didn't think about it-

"I'm sure I'll survive. For god's sake, I lived for over twenty years without Ed, I think I
can manage-"

"'Manage'. Without him. And you think that will make both of you happy."

"It isn't about me being happy. It's . . ." He let his breath out between his clenched teeth.
"I don't know what it is. I don't know."
"Hoo," Maes let his breath out in a sigh. "You have it bad, Roy."

"This isn't funny, Maes." he said bitterly.

"Aspects of it really are, actually."

"Why do you always have to interfere? This would never have happened if you hadn't-"

"This was always going to happen." Maes said calmly. "Maybe not so soon as it did,
maybe not in this way, and maybe not this well, Roy. Imagine what could have happened
if you'd let it escalate without resolving it."

"No-"

"You know now there are situations where Ed can't say no to you, and you can never say
no to him-"

"I would never have-"

"At least this means something. You could have just ended up falling on top of each other
in the office-"

("- ah!")

"Maes-"

"- and he wouldn't have known what had hit him, and I would have castrated you for it in
the rightful place of any actual parent. If Alphonse didn't get there first." Maes cocked his
head at Roy. "At least this way there was some wooing. And if you really think this is just
a crush for Ed, you can't have been looking at him properly, Roy."

"Don't tell me I'm not looking closely enough. This all started because we both looked
too closely."

Maes brushed the last of the crumbs from the arm of the bench to the ground and lifted
one foot to let a duck waddle past to reach them. "I'm not saying Ed would be a good
wife, because I think he's a bit too . . . volatile, actually, and you'd never get him into the
wedding dress-"

"Maes-"

"But don't you want this to be something that could last?"

Silence. Maes spread his arms in a what can I do? shrug.
"As amusing as I find this whole thing, you do have my sympathies. A homosexual
relationship with an underage subordinate. You only need to be related to him to get the
whole bag of complications, don't you?"


*


The plant goop was being difficult. Al restrained his brother from throwing it across the
room in a fit of impatient pique, and convinced him to wait it out for another few hours.

In the meantime, there was still the blood of alchemists to investigate. There were blood
samples in the labs anyway, but none labelled as specifically the blood of alchemists or
not - but Ed and Al knew the basic composition of human blood anyway, they'd studied
that years ago, so all they needed was to compare specifically alchemists' blood. They
currently only had one alchemist with any blood available, and since it was his blood they
were looking at Ed was being difficult about sharing the microscope.

"It's just blood. Blood's blood." He squinted down at it - he had to kneel on one of the lab
stools to comfortably look down the tall neck of the microscope, which Al was planning
on pointing out if he didn't start sharing soon. "Nothing special about it." Ed muttered.

"But if they're physically identical -"

"- then what makes it special?"

Al could tell his brother was getting irritated; this was heading towards the area of
slightly spiritual vagueness Ed despised. To Ed, humans were bodies - bodies that ate and
slept and crapped - with attached souls, and the mind somewhere in that package. Wishy-
washy 'ah, but alchemists are just different' was far too unscientific for him.

"Can I see?"

"Maybe we need more samples." Ed put his eye back to the microscope. "I mean, maybe
my blood's . . . I'm not a normal alchemist."

"Brother, you're so selfish-"

"It's my blood."

"If you're like this with the Colonel I don't know why he's so interested in you," Al huffed,
and Ed jerked away from the microscope instantly and stared at him.

For a moment the two of them were perfectly still, Ed's eyes wide, Al uncertain what he'd
said that was so wrong but feeling terrible about it, whatever it was.
He gave a clanking shuffle and said, "Can I see?"

Ed pushed the microscope over, mouth a tight line, eyes blank.

"Sorry, brother." Al said softly.

Ed sat properly on the stool and watched Al for a long few seconds. He looked down and
said, "I am a complete brat, aren't I?"

Al looked up. "No, brother, you're - well, not always -"

Ed looked to the side. "I don't know why he's doing this," he admitted, wincing as he did.
"I don't - get it."

Al knew this was important, because his brother never volunteered information about his
relationship with the Colonel. "He likes you," Al said. What was difficult to understand
about that?

Ed narrowed his eyes and said, "Hm."


*


Maybe it was just the sex.

If Roy was willing to use stupid, manipulative lies of pet names, but only once he was
actually in bed with him, then maybe this really was only about what it had been about in
the beginning - Roy's access to Ed's rear. Whatever Roy had said, what mattered was the
sex. Ed was too furious to think for a second, and then his brain woke up again and
pointed out that wasn't that all he'd wanted this to be about? He got near Roy and
breathing got difficult, so if he got the man touching him out of the bargain, what was so
bad about that? What else did Ed want from him?

"Trust me, love."

Ed felt like using the automail knee this time. He didn't know why. Why should he be this
angry about it? Because it was embarrassing? He could just ask - demand - Roy didn't say
it again. But - but -

But he knocked on Roy's door that night clenching and unclenching his automail fist with
a muffled clicking noise through the glove, already ready for the fight. If Roy was all
over him from the beginning then Ed would keep his head, get some space, and kick his
kidneys out. He didn't know why he was so angry but he couldn't help it, he had to be
angry, as soon as he stopped being angry - he didn't know what would happen if he
stopped being angry. He didn't want to know.
As usual, the sight of Roy made Ed fall towards him slightly and he had to remind
himself that the man was a bastard. "Good evening," Roy said lazily, and god his voice
and yes, Ed hated him even as his stomach lurched. Roy closed the door behind him and
said, "How was your day?"

"Boring." Ed said bluntly. "Yours?"

"Ah. Fairly interesting, actually. Can I take your coat? I put some coffee on."

"Coffee?" Ed said, confused. You couldn't use coffee in sex. It would hurt. What-?

"I thought we could talk." Roy said calmly, hanging his coat up.

"But. We - don't." Ed stared at him. "I mean, we shout at each other and you say stupid
sarcastic crap that makes me want to hurt you, but we don't talk."

"Then maybe we should start." Roy said, holding an arm out, gesturing to the kitchen.
"We spend enough time together. It shouldn't be beyond us to have a conversation."

Mind completely blank of anything else to do, Ed went where he was directed. The
bastard. Ed came over expecting Roy to be a manipulative sex-obsessed pervert and the
fucker was being a complete gentleman. Utter, utter bastard.


*


". . . don't you want this to be something that could last?"

Roy passed Ed a cup of coffee and he took it, glancing distrustfully at Roy, then piled the
sugar in and ignored the milk. Of course.

Roy sat down opposite him and said, "The Fuhrer is visiting the East."

"Oh. We heard some sort of military parade thing from the lab. It was annoying."

Roy's mouth quirked into a smile. "Well. The office is in turmoil, since no-one knows
why he's here. I'll probably be working late for a while."

"Actual work." Ed said, watching him with lowered eyebrows over his mug. "Do you
want some sort of medal?"

Roy gazed at him for a moment, eyes slightly narrowed, and Ed glared back. This wasn't
Ed's usual snarkiness - he was angry about something. He was very probably angry at
Roy, he usually was, though for once Roy didn't know why.
"Is everything alright? Have I inadvertently done something to merit your wrath?"

The little flicker of Ed's eyes said yes but he opened his mouth, hesitated, and then said,
"Why d'you suddenly want to do - this?" He lifted the cup of coffee with his eyes still
narrowed in a puzzled, suspicious way. "You never wanted to earlier. 'cept, y'know, the
sex stuff, you always get bullshitty and mushy and touchy-feely then."

"What makes you think it's bullshit?" Roy said, calmly on the outside at least, and took a
sip of coffee.

"Because." Ed glared at him, getting angry and getting more angry because he was
getting confused as well. "Of course it is."

"Would you rather I just bent you over the nearest available surface?" Roy said, and he
felt angry himself now, a tight resentful anger, because Ed was sitting there sullen and
sulky because he was forced to talk to Roy instead of just having a make-out session or
more, and claiming that everything Roy was feeling was bullshit.

You have no fucking clue, you little-

Of course he didn't. Roy had never told him.

"Fuck you." Ed snarled, cheeks colouring with a combination of anger and
embarrassment and further anger at the embarrassment. "What the hell is your game?
You wanted this to be a relationship, well, I dunno what that means, but it looks like it's a
way for you to feel better about just fucking me."

Roy's coffee cup slammed onto the table so hard it spilt, across the wood and his hand,
and he couldn't even feel it. Ed jumped in his chair at the noise, and suddenly Roy was
taken back to that first disastrous night he found Ed on his doorstep, and he didn't know
what they were doing and it was too late to turn back now.

"I already told you once," he said, forcing his voice steady. "I would never 'just' fuck
you."

"What does that even mean?" Ed snapped, standing up and stalking to the sink, grabbing
the dishcloth and shooting cold water over it. "You - you - fuck."

He stamped over and slapped the wet cloth over Roy's burnt hand, and muttered, "Idiot."

But he didn't take his hand off Roy's, and Roy looked up and met his eyes and between
them crawled the thick, sticky static of anger and sex.

"Is that all this is to you?" Roy said quietly.
Ed's face twisted, breathing too hard and too fast, and he exploded with, "I don't know, I
don't know anything, I don't understand this and I don't understand you and I don't
understand why you'd-"

He stopped, and looked away quickly. Roy caught his wrist before he could take his hand
back. "Why did I do what? Ed, what are you so angry with me about? Is this about last
night?"

Ed glared into the corner of the room, and Roy's stomach did a slow roll. "Ed - I - did I
hurt you?" Or - "You didn't really want to . . ."

If he hurt him (he didn't, he didn't, he knows he didn't), if Ed changed his mind, he knows
he's going to throw up.

Ed swallowed hard. "No." he said in a strained voice. "I initiated it, I knew what I wanted.
And if it'd hurt then you'd fuckin' know about it."

"Then what? What have I done?"

Ed's eyes finally met his again, and looked hard, like he was looking for something
specific. "You don't even remember." he said flatly. "You don't even know you did it, do
you?"

"Did what? What did I do?"

Ed took a deep breath and let it out slowly, eyes not changing at all. "If this is about more
than just sex then what's it about, bastard? What do you want?"

Ed couldn't make him say this, Ed couldn't keep demanding this, did he want him
crawling, did he want blood? Why did he have to make everything so hard for everyone?
Didn't he even realise the easy route existed? "I want you."

"You have me, you had me, on my fucking back with my legs wide open-"

("- ah!")

"No! This is about more than-"

"How many other people have you said this shit to?" Ed spat, and wrenched his hand so
violently that Roy didn't have a chance to hold on. "You don't even know you said it, is it
just what you say to everyone you screw, don't you even notice it anymore? You fucking
shit-"

"What have I said? What are you talking about?"
Ed opened his mouth and what came out was a choke, and he looked absolutely horrified
to find his eyes wet, and he jerked away with a hand over his mouth. "Fuck - fuck - what
the hell did you do to me? Why'm I-?" He choked, halfway to sobbing, only sheer fury
keeping him from crying. "You shit, what did you do to me?"

He stalked up and down the kitchen, shaking his head hard, eyes tightly closed. "You shit,
you complete bastard, why'm I-? I can't believe I let you turn me into-"

"Ed-" Roy stood, tried to catch his arms around him as Ed moved past but Ed jumped
away as if he'd been scalded and stood there shaking, hands clenched hard at his sides.

"Don't touch me now," he hissed in a low, furious voice. "Don't you fucking dare."

"What did I say? What have I done? I don't even know what the hell you're so angry with
me for-"

"That's because you're a shit."

"If you'll just tell me I'll apologise, whatever it is, it can hardly be worth all this-"

Ed's arm jerked back, fist clenched, and Roy flinched - but the punch was pulled at the
last second, and Ed just stared up at him like he'd forgotten what he was about to do.

"You'd apologise," he said dully. "You're sorry you said it."

"If it upset you this much then of course I'm sorry. What the hell was it?"

Ed's arm flopped bonelessly to his side. "I need to sit down," he said, and then did, on the
kitchen floor. Roy stared, and then crouched down next to him, willing to risk a punch for
this, as Ed put a hand over his eyes and bowed his head so his hair hid his face.

"I don't even know what's happening anymore," Ed said quietly. "You royally fucked my
brain over, you complete bastard. I can't think straight, I don't understand any of this, and
you're just standing there saying this is more than sex but you won't say what else it is.
We don't enjoy each other's company, we can't stand each other. We don't talk, we don't
share any interests or what-the-fuck-ever you're meant to do when you're fucking
someone and it's more than just fucking. So what is it? Why am I here? What the hell do
you want from me?"

Roy closed his eyes. The room was swaying, and his hand was beginning to throb,
prickling and hot. He sat down, carefully, beside Ed, and propped his forehead up on one
hand. What he'd wanted was to finally have a conversation with Ed, to prove to himself
that this could be a normal relationship, that this could be something that would last, at
least as long as Ed still wanted it because Roy couldn't do anything but want it anymore.
What he'd got was this complete mess which just proved once more that they could never,
never have a normal relationship, they couldn't even have a civilised conversation, but
neither of them could cope as if this wasn't happening either.

And not for the first time in his life, Roy felt his lack of courage like an actual hole inside,
something he was missing, because he couldn't say it. Even if he could admit it to himself
he couldn't to Ed, because Ed couldn't feel it back, and Roy just couldn't make himself
vulnerable like that, just couldn't give that much, just couldn't.

So he bowed his head and said nothing.


*


Ed felt nauseous, and was also developing a headache. Being attached to Mustang really
was like being diseased.

He couldn't say it. He just couldn't make that word come out of his mouth. Because if he
said why the hell did you call me 'love', you complete and utter bastard? then Roy would
know that Ed was so upset because he'd used that word without meaning it, and then he'd
know -

What? That Ed wished he had?

Did he?

I hate you I hate you I hate you -

He felt so, so tired, suddenly. He just wanted this to be better. He just wanted to lay at
Roy's side and he fitted there so well and Roy was always so warm, and sleeping like that
was better, somehow. He wanted Roy to be like he was after sex, stroking and nuzzling
and whispering things Ed couldn't quite hear in the soothing rumble of his voice. And he
realised with a physical choke, sudden and immediate and unquestionably true, that he
did want Roy to mean it. He really did. He couldn't hate the man more, because he
couldn't want him to mean it any more. If Roy meant it then it would mean - it would
mean -

Everything. That someone could want him like . . . that, which wasn't something he'd
ever assumed would happen, was so not a part of his life plan that even now he didn't
know how this was happening. That there was something in him people could still want
like that, that he was more than just the sick sum of his sins. That someone did want him
like that. That Roy did, and part of Ed suddenly wanted that so much it hurt, and he hated
himself, but he wasn't about to run away from this. He'd hate himself more for that,
forever and forever, and he'd spent too long hating himself for his failings already.
He swallowed, and his mouth was completely numb and his throat was barely acting on
his orders, and said with his voice trembling, completely despising himself, "You called
me 'love'. That's. Why I was angry."

He could feel how tense Roy had gone without even touching him. He closed his eyes,
nothing left to lose, and said quietly, "And you're a shit for saying that when you don't
mean it."


*


The entire world had stilled around them, and Roy's mind was very quiet, now.

He hadn't known he'd said that. Because he lost control around Ed and what happened
was just what was natural, what was undeniable, not what he'd planned. His subconscious
had just failed to inform his brain when it had borrowed his mouth. And Ed . . .

Ed was angry with him, or had been, because now he was sad and silent and curled up
small, because Roy had used the only four letter word Ed never shouted, because he'd
used the most dangerous word in the language and he hadn't backed it up. And there was
no escaping now, nowhere to go, and the fifteen year old wiping his nose on his gloves
next to him had more balls than Roy had ever had.

"Of course I meant it." Roy said, raising his head. Ed looked up at him, with wide
betrayed eyes and the beginnings of confusion and a lot of anger. "I didn't know I'd said it,
Ed, I'm sorry about that - I should have said it and meant it properly. Things just have a
habit of falling out of my mouth when I see you. But of course I meant it. It's not a word I
have ever, ever used lightly." He followed Ed's eyes, the hurt and the suspicion and the
deep, deep fury, and offered him a hand weakly. "Please, Ed. It's not something I'm very
used to saying." He swallowed. "I didn't . . . I can't help it. I do love you. That's what I
want from you, that's what I want that's more than sex. And you don't have to return it,
and if it's too much we don't have to-"

His throat was hurting too much to go on, so he was lucky that Ed chose that moment to
take the held out hand and pull himself into Roy's chest, dragging at his shirt, pressing his
face to Roy's breastbone and breathing oddly. He wasn't crying, but Roy didn't know
what he was doing.

And all the weight was gone, now, and Roy felt light inside, like the top of his head
might come open and let a rush of fizzing air out. He let his breath fall out in a relieved
pant and wrapped his arms around Ed, pulling him closer, pressing his face to his hair,
hopelessly in love and finally accepting that he would follow this as far as it went. It
couldn't end in anything but crap but it would be worth it anyway.

"I love you," he said into Ed's hair.
The last thing he ever expected was the mumble into his shirt of, "Love you too."


("Oh . . .")

Closer part XIII
Rating: R/NC-17-ish, and therefore Secret Ninja Porn Beta Beta'd!
Disclaimer: I own: chibi!Ed keyring with disturbing grin, little plastic so-cool-you-drool
Roy figurine, a whole bunch of manga, and a pile of student debt. I do not own Fullmetal
Alchemist. I'd be happy to do a swap, though . . .
Summary: Ed has a strange idea of romance, and the plant goop returns.

Notes: This is one of the few music prompts so far which is *such* an incredibly good
piece of music - and very Ed - that I urge everyone in its direction. All hail the Flaming
Lips!

All previous parts can be found in my memories.



What is the light
That you have
Shining all around you?
Is it chemically derived?

- The Flaming Lips, What is the Light



Ed squeezed his eyes tightly shut against Roy's shirt and thought, Shit.

Roy hadn't said anything. And Ed didn't know why he'd said that, didn't know why he had
to sound like such a mumbling dork about it, but he'd said it now, hadn't he?

He hadn't even known, he hadn't actually thought about it, but there was no other word
for it, was there? He got near Roy and his body sang, his thoughts rolled around to him at
least every few minutes, and Roy made him feel - safe, maybe, and that wasn't something
Ed ever really felt. He did trust him. He had no reason to, the man was a manipulative
dick, but Ed trusted him enough to fall asleep naked all wrapped up with him. He trusted
Roy not to reject him even though he'd done some horrible things and he was half scars
and a third metal and always a brat, he trusted Roy with the things he didn't know and
needed him to cover, he trusted Roy even though he knew the bastard was a bastard, and
could use this against him whenever he chose to . . .

And he wanted Roy to say he loved him and mean it, and what else could that be? He
wasn't a girl and he never used that word normally, Al was the only person he ever
connected it to in his mind, but Roy had thrust the word into his brain and he was stuck
with it now. And he meant it. His stomach swam, bobbed, floundered and went under. He
meant it.

He took a long, shivery breath and Roy's hand moved up his back, his head bowed so
when Ed looked up they were forehead to forehead. Ed stared for a long moment, dark,
dark eyes and that expression made his guts loop around themselves, and said with a
nervous rasp on the edge of his voice, "What happens now?"

Roy had a hand on the side of his head, fingers rubbing lightly through his hair. "What do
you mean?"

"We . . . this changes stuff, doesn't it?"

And suddenly he was terrified. He'd just handed Mustang himself, entirely, with no get-
out clause - and now he wasn't sure anymore that he could trust him, or even if he could it
was just too much -

Roy just closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against Ed's. "I don't know how much it
changes anything. I've felt this way about you for -" He took in a breath, and Ed closed
his eyes at the close, low hum of his voice, a little soothed already - "a long time, Ed. It's
not like my feelings have changed tonight."

Ed swallowed, gripped his shirt more tightly.

I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know what's changed, I don't know what's happening,
you have to show me what to do because I can't mess this up-

"Though I find it fairly typical that we're having this conversation sitting on my kitchen
floor." Roy added, raising his head slightly, eyes open again and almost smirking. "No
candles, no music-"

"What the hell would the candles be for? I'm not a fucking girl." Ed snapped, and then
whapped Roy's chest with the flat of one fist - the automail, he was pissed off - because
the man had dared to laugh. "I'm not!"

"Ouch."

"Shut up! You better not be thinking I'm a girl!"

"I am intimately aware of your gender, Ed." Roy said, rubbing his chest briefly. He sat
back on one hand, sliding his legs out so Ed was sitting between them. "And one needn't
be a woman to appreciate a romantic gesture. It's only meant to show that you think the
other person is worth it."

Ed narrowed his eyes. "Just because I let you fuck me doesn't make me a girl."
"Of course it doesn't," Roy said, and he looked almost confused now, raising a hand up
Ed's back to rub the back of his neck, and Ed writhed for a second, ticklish, before he
dropped it to stroke Ed's shoulder instead. "Why should it?"

Ed opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again, hesitated - and only at the raise of Roy's
eyebrow did he let the words fall out. "Some of the books I read - said this was - wrong,
and, I -"

"Oh, god." Roy muttered. "You need to stop reading everything you have access to, Ed, a
lot of stupid, stupid people write books."

"Like I don't know that," Ed snapped. "I'm not a girl."

"I know you're not. Neither of us are. All of those books were probably written by people
who need to get laid and get over themselves."

Ed trailed his fingers down Roy's chest and said sullenly, "Russell said I looked like a
girl."

"You don't. You are a very attractive young man, but you don't look anything like a girl."
Roy slid his hand around to touch the bridge of Ed's nose, ran his fingertips around his
slowly heating cheek, so Ed met his eyes embarrassed and annoyed. "No. Nothing like a
girl."

"Sometimes I act like a girl." Ed finally admitted, looking to the side again.

"Women are not the sole possessors of emotion, Ed. And who's Russell?"

Ed rolled his eyes. "An arrogant, slimy, lousy alchemist." He looked up at Roy again, and
slid his arms over his shoulders, uncertainly at first and then hooking him closer, shifting
his legs over Roy's. "Um. So . . . what were we meant to do tonight?"

"We were meant to be having a civilised conversation, but it seems we're incapable of
doing that."

"We've been managing fine for the last few minutes." Ed said, and watched the puzzled
drop of Roy's eyebrows.

"I . . . suppose we have."

"So, what, is that our conversation quota for the evening done?" Ed moved his legs again,
pressing himself more insistently against Roy's body. "Can we do fun stuff now?"

Roy - smirked, after a pause, and his hands were warm over Ed's hips. "Ah, the virility of
youth."
"Shut up, old man." Ed muttered, and pulled him down hard for a kiss.

He loved him. He had no idea why, smarmy smirking smug bastard, and he could never
admit it to Al or anyone else, but oh god he did . . .


*


Roy had less control than he thought he did, clearly, because he'd wanted to go over
every inch of Ed's body with his hands and mouth tonight but he barely got halfway
before the noises Ed made were just too much, and then he was laying with his face
against Ed's throat and his sides heaving and Ed laughing beneath him, wrapping his arms
around Roy's shoulders. Ed had more control this time, though - he'd gripped the edge of
the mattress with his automail hand, putting holes in the sheets instead of Roy's back, and
the left hand hadn't left bruises tonight, though Roy could still feel the fingertip indents in
his flesh left over from the night before. It was like Ed was leeching all the control out of
him for his own uses.

He wondered, vaguely, what Ed was laughing about. Mostly he just enjoyed the sound
and the feel of it, the erratic jumping of the warm, damp body underneath his. They were
crushed into a fairly uncomfortable position but right then, he felt like he could stay there
all night. He kissed the divot of Ed's breastbone and Ed tilted his face down into Roy's
hair, hands smoothing up and down Roy's back. Ed purred, low and rough, "Fuck, you're
good at that."

Roy gave his own laugh, sudden and sharp and unexpected, into Ed's chest. That could
possibly be the first actual compliment he'd ever received from Ed. "It takes two, you
know." he said, raising his head to look down at Ed. Ed lifted an eyebrow at him and
smirked slightly, and tilted his hips to help Roy slide out, screwing his face up for a
second as he finally got to lower his legs.

"The actual mechanics are pretty simple, I guess." He yawned as Roy shifted to his side,
rolling Ed with him and pressing his grin into Ed's hair so he couldn't see it. "Kind of
messy but nothing too strenuous. Though there are some unpredictable factors." A kick to
the ankle with no warning made Roy jerk his head up. "What are you smirking about?"

". . . just out of curiosity, how did you know?"

"You're always smirking." Ed muttered darkly.

"Hm." Roy brushed some of Ed's hair back and Ed just watched him with slightly
narrowed eyes. "I've never heard anyone . . . review sex like that before."

Ed shrugged, frowning a little. "How'm I meant to know how you're meant to talk about it?
Was - that wrong?"
"No, just . . ." He kept stroking Ed's hair, because he knew it was only a matter of time
before he'd be stopped, and he liked doing it. ". . . very you."

"Hmm." Ed's eyes were still narrowed suspiciously as he caught Roy's hand and lifted it
away from his head, tugging him down again to curl up again Roy's chest. "Uhh, crap,
we're all sticky. I don't wanna move."

"Do it in the morning." Roy mumbled into his shoulder.

Ed nudged him with his shoulder and said, "Get some tissues."

"Why me?" Roy muttered, and got nudged again, a little harder, pushing his nose to the
side. "Stop doing that."

"I face the possibility of having to explain to my little brother why I'm walking funny
tomorrow, and it's you fault, so you take care of your mess, bastard."

"You're the one obsessed with equivalent trade." Roy said, muffled into his shoulder. "I
did it last time. And the time before that. Your turn."

"I wouldn't be covered in- I wouldn't be a mess if it wasn't for you!"

"Neither would I, Edward."

"You'd be covered in someone's mess if not mine." Ed muttered, and Roy's head was up
before he could shoulder-butt him again. "What?"

"Do you really think this is all my life revolves around?"

"This and slacking off in the office?" Ed suggested, giving him a puzzled look. "This all
started because you couldn't stop staring at my ass, you're gonna pretend you're all pure
intentions now?"

"How do you know you wouldn't have found someone else to - make mess with, if not
me?"

Ed's eyebrows lowered. "Because. I don't look at people like that, except for you. And if
anyone else touched me like you do I'd break their arms."

They stared at one another for a long, long moment, until Ed was beginning to go red out
of sheer confusion, and then Roy picked himself up with a little moan of effort and
flumped across the bed, fumbling for the bedside table.

"Manipulative brat."

"What did I do?"
"I don't dare tell you. You're dangerous enough as it is." Roy rolled back with a box of
tissues and Ed grinned, more than a little evilly. "And 'nothing too strenuous'?"

"Huh?"

"We're obviously not doing something right if you believe that."

Ed convulsed automatically as Roy touched his stomach. "Ah-!"

"Will you stay- still?"

"Only if you - stop doing that!"

"You were the one who wanted to get cleaned up, stay still-"

Nothing could be easy with Ed. But then it was worth it, for the afterwards, when Ed lay
half on top of him, still sniggering in small, jumping bursts. Once he'd calmed down, Roy
just lay sleepily, stroking a hand across Ed's right shoulder, eyes blinking towards closed.
Ed was heavier than expected - the automail, of course, added to the weight that could be
expected of a (short) fifteen year old, and Roy knew that it weighed him down in many
more ways than just physically.

He felt Ed's eyes close again his chest, and Ed took in a long, deep breath, letting it out
again and opening his eyes. Roy looked down and Ed looked up, gold against black for a
long, long second. Then Ed smiled, open and warm and completely unguarded, and Roy
felt it all the way inside, all the way to his roots, and it chained him that little bit more.

He raised his hand to the side of Ed's head and for the first time Ed moved into the touch,
still watching him closely though his eyes closed a little, like a contented cat waiting to
see what happened next.

"I love you," Roy said, helplessly.

Ed closed his eyes fully, turned his head down and kissed Roy's chest, and slid off to lie
warm and heavy at Roy's shoulder. "Love you." he mumbled into Roy's side.

He couldn't say it eye to eye. Roy turned into him and pressed them close together. He
didn't expect him to; he didn't think Ed knew what the word meant. Ed probably did think
he loved him - Roy had been convinced he was in love about five times before he was
twenty. In his entire life he knew he'd been in love once, before now, and now - this -

This was so much it was terrifying. For a fifteen year old boy. For god's sake, for Ed.
Roy's heart was clearly a complete masochist.

He hoped Ed kept on believing this for just a little longer, just a little longer . . .
*


Ed leaned against Roy's shoulder, blinking sleepily at the coffee pot as Roy dealt with
mugs, milk, sugar, trying to jog his shoulder as little as possible. "So, what does it mean,
that you'll have to work late?" Ed, said, pressing a little closer into the stiff material of
Roy's uniform and closing his eyes again. "Should I not come over?"

Roy sighed. "It just means that I don't know if I'll be here if you do come over. I don't
want you to be waiting for me if I won't be coming back for hours." His shoulder nudged
Ed awake again. "Do you want this coffee or not?"

"Coffee," Ed chimed, enthusiastic but drowsy, and fumbled for the mug he was given.
"Dunno what hours we'll be keeping with the experiments, so, I dunno, maybe we'll be on
the same schedule at some-" He yawned, which took quite a long time - "point."

"Maybe we will."

Roy steered Ed to the table and got him sat down, and Ed hugged himself happily around
his coffee mug. Normally he felt like even he hadn't done enough bad things in his life to
meet the equivalent trade for how horrible and evil mornings were - no-one deserved
mornings, surely, no-one - but waking up with Roy was somehow better. It wasn't that
waking up with Al made it worse, Al was usually very patient with him up until the point
where any more patience would just make things worse for both of them. But . . .

It was nice to wake up next to a warm, breathing body, to a nuzzle and a good morning
and a kiss, and Ed could even overlook the morning breath for that. It was nice to grope
through the bathroom routine with someone else, passing the toothpaste along and having
a shoulder to lean against in front of the mirror, and it was really nice to come down to
the kitchen, because Roy had really good coffee.

And. Ed ducked his head just to think it, lowering his face to his mug. And because Roy
was there. That made things automatically better, like the addition of chocolate made any
dessert better. Roy was like chocolate. Ed looked up at him over his mug, with one
eyebrow raised, and thought, Hmm. For some reason he quite liked the combination of
chocolate and Roy.

"Why are you looking at me like that?" Roy said calmly, taking a sip from his own mug
and flicking the newspaper open.

Ed shrugged, hiding his grin in a gulp of coffee. "Just thinking. Stuff. So, uh, I can come
over whenever I have time and check if you're here. Or you could come by the lab but -
jeez, we're gonna be busy." He put his mug down and stared at the table. How had he
forgotten this, the most important thing, Al? "We're . . . I don't know what we're doing,
we're getting somewhere but . . . uh. Can I ask a favour?" He looked up at Roy and tried
to grin but his mouth was being difficult. "A kind of creepy and weird favour?"

Coffee cup in one hand, paper held open in the other, Roy raised an eyebrow at him and
waited.

"Um." Ed squirmed, gripping the seat of his chair with both hands. "Could I borrow some
of your blood? Just a little bit. And, uh, obviously not borrow but have because I can't
exactly give it back, or I can, but I don't know what you'd want to do with it, and - uh -
please?"

"My . . . blood."

"We need to work out why alchemists' blood is different, that's all, and mine just looks
like, you know, blood, so we need more samples but we don't even know many
alchemists and it's weird to ask anyway and-"

"Breathe," Roy reminded him, and Ed let his breath out in a rush.

"You don't have to keep doing that, I'm not completely incapab-"

"Of course you can have some of my blood if it'll be helpful." Roy finished his coffee and
put his mug down. "Since Major Armstrong is visiting the East with the Fuhrer, you
could ask him too."

The fall of Ed's stomach must have shown on his face, because Roy laughed. "Yeah,
maybe." Ed muttered. "Hey, what about Dr Marco? What happened to him after that
whole Scar thing? I still need to say thank you for that note, but -"

He didn't quite understand the expression Roy wore, even if it was only there for barely a
second. "He's under the protection of the Fuhrer now. I haven't actually seen him."

"You knew him, though, right? I mean, you must've both been in Ishbal together, and you
were both State Alchemists-"

". . . yes." Roy picked up his coffee mug and tried to take a drink, and seemed surprised
to find it empty. "I suppose I'd better set off if I want to get in to work on time." he said,
standing up and scraping his chair back with a jolt. Ed looked up at him, confused,
because Roy was always as poised as a particularly smug cat - and then there was
realisation, and instantly shame.

Oh.

"If - ah, if that's something you don't wanna talk about then that's fine, I mean, I'm sorry I
brought it up or whatever, I - have plenty of stuff I don't wanna talk about either, so I
know- uh." Ed ran out of words. Roy stared at him and Ed forced himself to meet his eye,
hands tightening on the chair. "So . . . uh. Sorry."

Roy stared at him for a moment longer, then walked over and put his arms around Ed,
pressing him close, and Ed blinked in surprise before settling against him, closing his
eyes despite himself. Always warm. And he smelt like . . . well, him . . .

"You give the impression of being a mannerless brat, but really you can be quite sensitive,
can't you?"

"Say that again and I'm breaking both your wrists." Ed said, muffled into Roy's uniform.

"You see? You give a warning instead of just breaking bones. Quite the charming young
man."

"I'm gonna break both your wrists and then tell Hawkeye you did it yourself to get out of
signing stuff."

"Now, that's just below the belt."

"You deserve it."

"I love you."

Ed tightened his hands in Roy's uniform, this time. "I love you," he said softly, and
leaned his head against his jacket.


*


Ed lifted the corked test tube to the light and watched how the colour of the blood inside
changed, red and black and flashing white as the light moved across it. It was just blood,
he knew, but it had come out of Roy's body, travelled through his heart and arteries, fed
his brain and muscles and liver, it would still have Roy's hormones and particular
chemical signature in it -

He put it carefully back into the rack and put his automail hand to the side of his face.
Luckily it had one use besides punching people; it was good for cooling off blushing fits.
He shouldn't feel like this about blood, this was how people were meant to feel about
poetry and music and all that mushy crap, but Ed felt a thrill for Roy's blood and skin and
crackling nervous system and the fascinating muscles of his stomach, teeth and nails and
the flex of his wrists, his sweat glands and every marvellous hair follicle. Ed knew how
complex the human body was, so much more than just its chemical make-up, knew how
every generation of the evolution of the human species - every species, and the
development of the planet as it stood - had led to the miraculous body he was allowed to
touch and taste and smell, skin to skin -

And he was glad that everything was as it was, because it meant Roy could be exactly
what he was, exactly how Ed wanted him, just like this.

(for ever and ever, just like this, yes yes yes)

Roy yanked the breath right out of him. Long and lean and powerful and perfect, and he
could make him laugh, he could make all the crap in Ed's life seem less crappy for just
little moments, and how the hell had this happened? How had Roy gone from an arrogant
git smirking at him from behind a desk to the only other fixed point of Ed's universe
besides Al? Ed turned the word 'love' inside out in his head and still couldn't find the
point where the switch had flicked and his every thought was suddenly had in relation to
Roy. Somehow he'd got tuned in to Roy, all day and all of the time, and everything else
was just static.

Chemicals, he thought. Chemicals in the brain. Love is essentially a chemical imbalance,
a disruption of the nervous system, a temporary mental illness evolutionarily useful for
propagating the species. He frowned. Though clearly not in this particular case. The
chorus in the back of his mind of I am not a girl sang loudly and insistently and he tried
to ignore it.

The plant goop bubbled, Al was making slides with their blood samples - even with his
huge hands he was less likely to break delicate glass slides than Ed was - and somewhere
outside birds were singing, the sun was shining, and Roy was in his office finding
inventive ways to get out of his paperwork.

Ed grinned at the book in front of himself and sat up straighter on his stool. Right.
Actually read this so he had something to show Al when he got back-

"This all looks very interesting. Very complicated. What does this do?"

Ed grabbed the edge of the desk to keep himself from falling backwards off his stool and
said in a too-high voice, "-you?"

The Fuhrer smiled at him, and Ed realised he was meant to salute and half raised a hand
to do it, realised it was the wrong one, realised it was too late to salute anyway, realised
his mouth was open, and sat there dumbly. "What does this do?" Bradley asked again,
raising a hand to one of the smaller bubbling bulbs in the increasingly intricate system of
glass tunnels and bulbs and tubes Ed and Al had created, an entire city-of-the-future
made out of gleaming glass.

"Don't - touch that-" Ed said quickly, scrambling down from his stool. "It's really hot,
you'll burn yourself-"
"Ah, sorry." the Fuhrer chuckled and lowered his hand. "It would teach me not to touch
things I don't understand in laboratories, though."

Ed just stared. Bradley just smiled. "Uh," Ed said. "Are . . . can I help you?"

"I'm just visiting the laboratories, but everything I've been shown so far has been much
less interesting than this." Bradley looked around, nodding as if pleased, hands clasped
loosely behind his back. "What are you doing here? It all looks very enterprising."

"We're . . ." At least alchemy was always easy to talk about. "We're distilling plant matter
into - well, animal matter, if it works. To make something approximating human blood,
for surgeries to use. Though if the theory's sound . . . we could make more complicated
things." Ed curled his metal hand into a ball, felt the click of each joint shifting inside the
glove. "Skin grafts. Organs. Lost limbs, maybe. Eyes." He glanced at Bradley's bland
smile, but the man was giving nothing away, he was even better than Roy. "Soldiers get
shot up a whole lot. So . . . this could be useful."

"It could indeed."

". . . so, um, are you . . . ?"

The sound of many military boots heading down the corridor, and some panicked
murmurings, made him look to the door. "Ah, I've been found." Bradley sighed. "They're
getting better at this."

Ed looked at him again, and then back to the door as it opened and he recognised General
Hakuro amongst the brass peering in, who gave him a blank stare before looking behind
him to Bradley. "Fuhrer," he said, and his face sagged in relief. "We've been - ah, have
you been enjoying your tour of the laboratories?"

"Actually, it is more interesting than I had imagined. This young man has been
explaining his experiment to me."

Hakuro looked down at Ed, and Ed raised an eyebrow back to him. He got the sense that
the man didn't like him, but he did owe him, for the train thing - as far as Ed was
concerned, Hakuro could disapprove of him all he wanted; equivalent exchange
demanded he didn't scupper any of Ed's plans.

"Well. That's. Good." Hakuro looked over Ed's head to the Fuhrer and Ed clenched his
jaw tight. "Would you like to move on now, sir?"

"Hm, I suppose so. Well, good luck, young man. I hope you achieve your goal." He
smiled at Ed again and Ed looked back up at him. "Let me know if you do come to make
an eye, hm?"
And, laughing, he left. Hakuro gave Ed a look, and Ed gave him his most innocent smile
back, and scowled as soon as the door was closed. Like he needed all these distractions,
he was busy, he was working - what had he been doing before everyone came in and
interrupted?

He rolled his eyes to the ceiling and clamped down his grin. What had he been doing?
Daydreaming about Roy. Okay, so now he'd work . . .


*


Wishing he could make a paper swan out of this morning's work and running over the
Fuhrer's schedule for the day and what it could mean in his mind, Roy saw a glint of gold
at the base of his vision. He looked down.

There was a long blond hair caught in one of the buttons his uniform, gleaming against
the deep blue. He picked it out, held it taut between fingers and thumbs, and it was just
over a foot long and a bold, unusually golden shade of blond in the sunlight.

Ed's head pressed against his chest, his breath of, "I love you."

Roy closed his eyes, tilted his head back in his chair. I'm sure you think you do.

In strange ways Ed was always honest, and when it came to his emotions Ed just didn't
seem to know how to lie at all. Either he genuinely believed he was in love or else he was
deeply in lust and he'd slept with Roy now, and the only way he could rationalise his
behaviour to himself was to call it love - but, either way, Ed wasn't going to be fifteen
and naïve and new to this forever, and one day . . .

Roy curled the hair up and slipped it between two pieces of unfinished paperwork he was
hiding in his top drawer. One day Ed wouldn't be there anymore. Roy would just have to
hold on to what he could for as long as he could, and when the time came, try not to
resent Ed for the honesty that would inevitably stop Roy's heart dead.

And in the meantime, just enjoy every breath of Ed . . .

Closer part XIV
Rating: R
Beta: Toxicbullets. Future generations of my family will build statues to her honour.
Disclaimer: If my job title were 'creator of Fullmetal Alchemist' I would be ecstatic.
Unfortunately my job title is 'office dogsbody'. Feh. (actually, now it's 'happy bookseller'
^^)
Summary: Lots of time is spent in the lab - and, finally, the rain comes.

Notes: Ooh. Short chapter. Anyway, in a continuation of the actually decent music theme
I have going recently - omg Jesus & Mary Chain w00t! One of the greatest pieces of pop
music ever written, oh yes, oh *very* yes. Also, I'm a sucker for romantic set-pieces, if
you haven't guessed by now. *And* I'm a feedback whore. I think that's all the
information you need . . . ^^;

All previous parts can be found in my memories.


. . . and your kiss was almost gold
- the Jesus & Mary Chain, Almost Gold



Ed slumped on the lab stool and thunked his forehead into the workbench, moaning as Al
peered into the microscope.

"I don't get it." he groaned without lifting his head. "Blood's blood, blood's just blood, I
don't get it-"

"Maybe we're looking at it the wrong way," Al said, raising his head. "Maybe it's not
something you can see down a microscope."

"Maybe it's all a load of bullshit and that wanker in the gasmask didn't know what he was
talking about." Ed muttered into the workbench.

"Don't be so negative. We have to try."

"Been trying." Ed rolled his head to the side so he could give his little brother a miserable
blink. "Tried'n'tried'n'tried."

"You're just tired." Al said gently. "You should take a break, brother."

"Don't want a break. Want it to work."

Al sighed. Ed narrowed his eyes at him.

"I think we've been in this lab too long," Al said, meekly averting his gaze from his
brother's death-glare. "Maybe we need to look at it from a new angle."

"Hmm," Ed said, still dangerously.

"It would be nice to get out into the sun- light." Al stared at the clock. "Brother, it's half
past ten."

Ed glanced up at the clock, shrugged. "I guess."
"But - how did it get so late?"

"Do you actually want me to explain how time works?" Ed said, pushing off from his
stool and walking stiffly around the lab, trying to kick some life back into his feet.
"Maybe we need to break it down, maybe it's something that needs bringing out, do we
have any enzymes that work on blood?"

"Maybe we should call it a night."

"But there's stuff to do."

"But it's late, and you need to sleep, and don't you want to go - you-know-where
tonight?"

Ed somehow managed to bang his head into a cupboard door handle at that, and Al
hurried over with some wet paper towels while Ed sat on the tiles and stared at nothing,
hand clapped to his head like he didn't know what had happened.

"It's a good thing the Colonel doesn't come on assignments with us," Al said, lifting Ed's
hand away and dabbing at the bump with the towels. "If you get this clumsy just
thinking-"

Ed yanked on Al's helmet-plume so hard his helmet came off, and Al yelped and chased
it across the tiles, while Ed sat there holding a pad of wet paper to his head and glaring at
his brother. "We can't talk about this here. And I'm not clumsy," he added in a growl.

"You didn't walk into that cupboard for fun, brother! Why'd you pull my head off? You're
so mean-"

"I'm mean, stop saying stuff you know makes me-"

"I know makes you-?"

"You know." Ed said darkly. "I have no idea why anyone has you pinned as the innocent
one."

"Probably because I'm the only one not sleeping with inappropriate older men." Al huffed,
and Ed went absolutely still and absolutely white.

"He's got you on that one," Hughes affirmed in a grave voice, crouching at Ed's shoulder.
Ed glanced at him, mouth still open, looked back at Al, and then he and Al gave
simultaneous shrieks and stumbled away from him. Hughes beamed, apparently very
pleased with himself.
"How did you - how do people keep doing that?" Ed gasped, one hand clutching his
jacket over his chest, where his heart was trying to hammer its way free. He was far too
young to feel so very close to a heart attack.

"Ah, that would be the ninja powers." Hughes said cheerfully. "Plus you two really don't
pay enough attention to the world around you when you start bickering."

"We don't bicker," Al said, sounding hurt. Ed was very suddenly back on his brother's
side, and folded his arms, glaring at Hughes. That was right. They didn't bicker. They
were far too busy and important to bicker.

"That's good to know. Brothers should get along."

"Why're you here?" Ed said, deciding in a continuation of the busy-and-important theme
that he didn't have the time to look through this man's endless photograph collection.
"We've got stuff to do, we're busy-"

"Not too busy to break off and have a brotherly disagreement."

"We don't disagree about anything!"

"We do sometimes," Al said thoughtfully.

"No we don't, Al, shut up." Ed snapped, still glaring at Hughes. "Are you here for a
reason or just to waste our time? Because we can go back to working and ignore you if
we have to-"

"I just came to see how things were going." Hughes said cheerfully, grinning in a way Ed
didn't trust at all. "You know, how the experiment's going, how you're both doing, what's
happening with the Colonel."

He said the last line in a low stage-whisper, one hand shielding the side of his mouth, and
Ed went instantly dark red.

"Everything's fine!" he said in a high, strangled voice, waving his hands at Hughes.
"Everything's fine so you can go now, nice to see you-"

Hughes stood with his hands on his hips, and glanced at Al. "He gets embarrassed very
easily, doesn't he?"

"I don't know how he actually manages to get anywhere with the Colonel if he can't even
talk about it." Al said, and Ed wailed, turning away quickly so he didn't have to look at
the pair of them and clenching his hands into fists.

"Stop ganging up on me! Al, you blood traitor!"
"You're so overdramatic."

"Are you calling me a girl? I am not a girl-"

"Ah, so it'll be Roy in the wedding dress." Hughes murmured, and Ed turned around to
look at him at that.

"The what?"

"Never mind, never mind, so, how is everything going? This all looks very . . . bubbly."

He looked around at the glassworks steaming and glooping in intricate loops all over the
workbenches. "I'm not even going to pretend that I understand any of it." he added,
pushing his glasses up his nose and grinning. "So, you talk and I'll nod and then we can
pretend that we've had a conversation."

Ed rolled his eyes. "It's going fine, everything's fine. It'd be going better if we didn't keep
getting interrupted."

"What else interrupted you?" Hughes said, reaching to poke a glass bulb before Al caught
him around the wrist.

"That's hot, Lieutenant-"

"Everyone's interrupted us," Ed said irritably. "One of the lab assistants keeps dropping
things and mixing up our papers, we had the Fuhrer and half the damn military brass in
here earlier, you'd think they'd have something better to do-"

Hughes stared, and Al looked down at his expression and dropped his wrist.

"The Fuhrer?"

"Yeah." Ed watched him with just a little hint of unease. "Why?"

"Just . . . what did he say?"

"I dunno. He was asking about - this." Ed shrugged at the experiment all around them.
"He seemed kind of interested, that's all. Why, what's-"

"Nothing, nothing, well, the Fuhrer, how about that." Hughes rubbed the back of his head
for a moment and then grinned at them both. "Look at the time, I'd better be getting home
- don't work too late, you two-"

"Lieutenant-" Al said, but Hughes was already in the doorway.

"Good luck!" Hughes sang, but before he could go Ed had him by the sleeve.
"Sorry, Lieutenant, there's a spectator's fee for this experiment now."

"A . . . spectator's-?"

Ed held up a syringe with a grin that seemed to be mostly fangs. "Just a few little drops of
blood," he crooned. "We don't have enough normal human samples."

"Brother," Al sighed, and Ed cackled as the glass vials glooped and bubbled and smoked
all around him.


*


The alarm clock went off, and Roy thumped at random spots on his bedside table until he
knocked it off. It rattled to the floor and kept on chiming and he moaned, found the glove
on his bedside table, tugged it on without removing his face from the pillow and clicked -

The bells made the saddest noise as they melted, ringing in a distorted way until the clock
fell apart and flamed on the floorboards.

Roy peeled half his face free and squinted at the light coming around his curtains.
Entirely unfair that if he had to work late he had to go into work early as well, but there
were too many important people around to be seen slacking off - or even to be seen
having a normal human need to sleep. Entirely unfair that he actually had to do his work,
even though most of it could be done by a chimp trained to replicate his signature, and on
top of that he had to try and work out what the Fuhrer was doing in the East, and how
best to get himself noticed in only good ways.

The most unfair thing of all was that in two days he hadn't even heard from Ed, because
waking up with another body - Ed's body, specifically - in the bed was beginning to go
from feeling slightly unnerving and awkward to very, very right, to what was meant to
happen. Waking up without Ed made it feel like he hadn't actually woken up, like
something was missing to the extent that this couldn't be a new day, this was just a
continuation of yesterday; time couldn't actually move on without Ed there to punctuate
his nights and days.

He sat up in bed, rubbed his hair. Ed's month to take care of the Ivy Alchemist's estate,
which had actually only taken a few days, would run out soon as well, and Ed would
have to apply for the time off assignments to work on his experiment. Roy didn't know
that the time would be granted, and mostly hoped it would - because he didn't want Ed
out of his sight, admittedly, because of the danger assignments invariably put Ed in, and
because he just wanted Ed here - but a small, tiny, sick little part of himself he really
despised actually wished that it wouldn't be. Ed doing well in military assignments
reflected well on him, and he needed something to catch the Fuhrer's attention . . .
. . . while all Ed wanted was the chance to restore his brother's body. Roy knew,
sometimes, that he just wasn't a good person at all.

Is it worse to use a fifteen year old boy like that, or is it worse to use your lover like that?


*


Sometimes Ed dreamed in arrays.

He hadn't even told Al that, because he knew that it was geekish to a degree he didn't
even need his brother to know, but sometimes while he was asleep alchemy was
something he could feel and hold and manipulate in his hands, and he dreamed in
equations and arrays and when he woke up things he hadn't understood previously fitted
together like he'd written the definitive text on them. They were soothing, as dreams,
there was nothing distressing about them, nothing violent or stressful, nothing that dug at
his deepest roots and shook him all the way through. He didn't trust dreams, but these at
least had no way to hurt him.

He was jerked awake, cheek cushioned on his folded arms on the worktop, by a
shattering sound like a greenhouse collapsing. The stool swayed dangerously backwards
and he just managed to catch the edge of the worktop, hold himself up, heart pounding in
his ears as he turned around to look -
At the youngest lab assistant, the girl called 'Douglas' by her name tag (which made no
sense, but then gender as a dichotomy seemed to be taking a holiday right now), who had
just dropped another tray of test tubes.

"Sorry, sorry-!" she cried, dropping to her knees to pick up the glass.

"Hey, be careful, that's sharp-" Ed yelped, scrambling down from the stool. "There's a
dustpan and brush-"

"Sorry, I'm sorry, thank you so much-" she whimpered, as Ed helped sweep the glass
together to transmute whole again and she blinked her tears back. Sometimes she
reminded him of Al, even though she was older than he was, but she was so eager to
please and so upset when she didn't manage to.

"S'okay," Ed said, wincing and looking down at the bead of blood working its way
through one fingertip of his left glove, staining the white pink and then slowly red.

He'd dreamed the array needed to use one lone alchemist as the trade to bring Al's body
back, and now the sight of his own blood was making him feel a little giddy. So close he
could taste it, metallic and desperate at the sides of his tongue - but Al would never
forgive him, never, that wasn't the way they'd set out to do this, he couldn't think like this,
couldn't do this-
He couldn't stop thinking about it now, though.

Damn it. He'd have been better off not knowing it was possible . . .


*


There was a lot of time to fill up, while waiting for plant goop to decide if it was going to
be helpful or not, while waiting for blood samples to react or not. They had to stay in the
lab to keep checking, but they had little to do while they were stuck in the lab - it was as
if the universe had conspired to find the exact conditions to make Ed suffer most: forced
inactivity. Extra research quickly fell through; they didn't know what to research next
until they had the results for these experiments, and anyway, they were bored to gloom,
in Al's case, and sulking, in Ed's case, with books by now.

There were always ways to fill the time. Ed slept, Al played with the lab rats, they
constructed a letter to Winry, Ed daydreamed with his eyes a thousand miles away,
unconsciously sliding a stirring rod into his mouth, Al tried to ignore his brother fellating
glass objects and felt thankful he couldn't blush, Ed comforted Al slightly ineffectually
when the lab rats were 'used' in an experiment in the laboratory next door, Al fetched
food, Ed ate the food -

At some point Ed stained the fingertips of his automail hand in a pool of chemicals, and
found even a wire brush couldn't get them clean. So he and Al devoted half an hour to
working out the exact chemical composition of what the metal of his hand had been
changed to so they could change it back before Winry found out, wrenched the arm from
its socket and beat Ed to death with it. But that led to a new way to pass the time, like the
alchemy games they'd played as children, and soon they were transmuting each other's
helmet and arm into a variety of metals for the other to work out. Ed was meant to keep a
hand over his eyes so he couldn't see the circle Al was using for each transmutation, but
Al was pretty positive his brother was peeking.

"Ah, you're just sore you're losing."

"How can winning ever mean anything to you if you always cheat?"

When even that became boring, there was spitball shotput - which Al won, even if he had
to run paper underneath the tap without any actual spit to use - and building a tower out
of test tubes, which was diverting but always ended in mess. There was paper ball
football until they almost brought down the entire tottering glass city of their experiment,
so they abandoned that for noughts and crosses, until Ed got bored - odd how he tired so
much more quickly of games he consistently lost, not that Al would comment on it . . .

Finally they just sat, back to back on the tiled floor of the laboratory, Ed blinking
drowsily. He hadn't even left the lab in two days now and his eyes were buzzing from all
the bright white tiles. He yawned and glanced at the clock. Half an hour and then they
had to take some more measurements.

"What do we do after we get our bodies back?" Al said.

Ed looked up at the ceiling. Al still thought about it in the plural; it had been about
nothing but Al's body for a long time now, for Ed, he was just used to the automail. Well,
if this worked, maybe they could grow an arm and a leg one day. Probably best not to
think about it too much.

Having two hands he could really touch Mustang with . . .

"What do you want to do?" he said, relaxing back against broad, cool steel.

"Ah . . . I suppose I'd like to go home for a bit. It would be like a holiday. And we could
see Winry."

The steel squirmed underneath Ed's shoulder blades and he grinned. "If that's what you
want to do, I guess we'll do that first."

"Do you mean it, brother? What about the Colonel?"

One knuckle on each hand ran through the lines between two tiles on the floor as Ed
curled his hands into balls. "I don't know," he said quietly. "I have to . . . I have to come
back to him. Crap, I hate how that sounds. But I guess . . . I have to. The bastard."

"It's nice, though, brother. That you have him."

Just the smallest smile, but it grew, Ed couldn't stop it growing. "Yeah. I guess it is."

"What about the military?"

Ed gave a snorting sigh of annoyance, thumped his shoulders back against Al's back. "I'm
probably stuck until my next assessment. Then maybe I could convince them they don't
want me anymore."

"You should be good at that."

"I can't wait for you to get your body back so it actually means something when I hit
you."

"Do you really think this will work?"

". . ." Ed looked up at the ceiling again, and remembered the array he'd dreamed, the
array that would work. "If it doesn't, something will. And it will work. It has to. We've
done everything right, if we can just make blood-"
"-and find out what makes alchemists' blood different-"

"-and use that then why shouldn't it work?"

". . . brother?"

Ed folded his arms behind his head, leaning back on Al like he was an armchair. "Yeah?"

". . . I'm really glad . . . we're here together. Because I don't think I could do this on my
own."

Ed closed his eyes, grinning weakly.

"I know I couldn't do this on my own."

"So it's a good thing we have each other."

"Yeah."

"Even though you have the Colonel as well now."

"Hey, you're still my little brother. And you've had me for longer. And first."

"Well . . ."

"We'll always have each other, Al." Ed reached up and banged the back of Al's shoulder
with one fist. "Hey. You still come first, you know that, right?"

"I know that, but, brother, that's not what I'm trying to say -"

"What are you trying to say?"

There was a pause, where Al would have been taking a breath if he could have, and then
he said, "Maybe when I get my body back . . . you can stop making me come first.
Because I shouldn't be the first thing you think about, brother, it's your life. So when we
finish this - you and the Colonel-"

"Al- that's not-"

"If you want to be with him, then you don't have to keep putting me first, you know
that?"

"I - know-"

"It's nice seeing you happy."
"I - but -" Ed scrabbled for words and finally caught on to some, grabbed them like a
lifebelt. "We have to finish this first."

"I know."

"And then -"

"And then you're allowed to belong to someone else, if you want, brother." Al said softly,
and Ed looked down, eyes wide and blank. His entire life he'd belonged to someone else.
He hadn't ever really realised that before.

And now he'd handed Mustang the leash . . .


*


Trapped underground, surrounded by cool white tiles, Ed had barely noticed that it had
been getting hotter and hotter and heavier and heavier for the past few days - but when he
emerged into the thick grey day it already smelt like rain. He walked to Roy's house and
the sharp smell of hot concrete rose to meet him all the way, and the sky was pressing
downwards, and by the time he opened the gate the first drops of rain tapped off the
ground as rapid and sharp as a typewriter's clack. Within seconds he was wet to the skin.

It rained a cacophony off the car roofs, it rained a carnival off the concrete, it rained a
hootenanny off the wilted grass, and Ed stood halfway down the path to Roy's front door,
eyes closed and face raised to the rain, hair slicked against his head and coat heavy and
wet on him, and everything smelt like summer and the rain was as warm as bathwater,
and sometimes he felt like if he could just get clean-

He heard the front door open, and as he smiled he tasted rainwater on his lips.

"How'd you know I was out here?"

A moment of silence, and then Roy's voice smoothing straight through him, and he could
feel the leash around his neck and he was happy anyway. "Do you know, I have no idea?
I just . . . suddenly, knew. How did you know I was home?"

"Didn't. I was just gonna sit here 'til you got back."

"Do you want to come in?"

". . . maybe in a minute."

"It's raining, Ed."
"Sometimes you're so observant it just kills me, you know?"

"Are you just going to stand there and get soaked?"

"It's not like I can get any more wet."

A pause, and then he could hear Roy walking, and didn't bother to open his eyes as there
were arms around him, and he could smell rain and Roy and two fingers tilted his face to
just the right angle. "Now we're both wet."

"Sometimes, Ed, you're so observant it just kills me."

"You're such a bastard," Ed laughed, and he could sense Roy's mouth so close against
his . . . he licked his lips. He could taste rainwater, but in the back of his mind he could
taste Roy . . .

"Aren't you even going to open your eyes?"

"Maybe in a minute."

"You really are very strange."

"Shut up."

A low growl so close made his body bloom, like a desert flower or the flames of an
explosion, as Roy's arm around his waist tugged him closer. "And you're fucking
magnificent when you're wet."

And finally, finally, finally Roy's mouth over his. Ed slid his arms around Roy's clinging-
wet shirt and tasted rainwater and Roy and knew that this was it, forever. He didn't care
about the military and he didn't care about those stupid fucking books and he didn't care
about being a girl or being the worst kind of sinner or being patched together with metal
and scars, he just didn't fucking care, because Roy wiped the slate clean, because he
wanted, needed, loved-

Roy broke back and Ed opened his eyes, and there he was, dark, dark eyes, skin pearled
with water and hair dripping, looking down at him with amusement and desire and so
much more, and Ed caught his arms around his neck, caught his hands in his hair, panted
on a laugh, "God, I love you-"

Roy stared and Ed laughed, "Fuck knows why." and pulled him down to kiss him again,
heels off the path and rain glancing off his eyelids.

Closer part XV
Rating: R/NC-17-ish
Secret Ninja Porn Beta beta'd (thanks as always, honey ^^)
Disclaimer: It's been a while since I've pointed out how much I adore and *worship*
Hiromu Arakawa, uber-talented creator of Fullmetal Alchemist. I'm just a fangirl with a
crappy job. Please don't sue.
Summary: A lazy Sunday in.

Notes: One of the chapters of this thing where the plot went on holiday. We'll get around
to it again sooner or later . . .

All previous parts can be found in my memories.



But don't change a hair for me,
Not if you care for me -
Stay, little valentine, stay -
Each day is Valentine's Day.
- Ella Fitzgerald, My Funny Valentine



Ed had taken to sex like he was born to do it, and Roy supposed he was, everyone was,
really. After some initial unease with the automail Ed was as easy and casual and curious
and eager with his body and Roy's as he was in all physical activities; Ed fought like he
was dancing, a whirling mess of energy, slept like he'd never had the chance before in his
life, sprawled and as heavy as if his weight became more concentrated the more deeply
he slept, ate like he would never get the chance again in his life - and made love as if it
was the simplest thing in the world, focused, uncomplicated, and quite clearly enjoying
every minute of it. He also tended to turn sex into an argument, a slight jockeying for
who was in control, and it really was easiest to just let him lead, though fighting back was
fun . . .

Roy had never known anyone laugh so much during sex, and it might have been
disconcerting if he didn't know Ed was doing it just out of joy and not actually mocking
Roy's skills. Roy hadn't often seen Ed being simply happy but he felt like he could get
used to it, and he could definitely get used to the way Ed rolled his hips while Roy was
inside him, his thighs snug along Roy's hips and propped up on his hands as he looked
down at him through half-closed golden eyes and grinned.

Roy slid a hand between their bodies, closed and stroked, and Ed drew his breath in,
tipped his head back so his damp hair shivered down his back, and sighed at the ceiling.

"If you told me we'd be doing this a year ago I'd've . . ." Ed closed his eyes for a second
and then looked down at Roy again, moved one hand to lay against his chest and kept
rocking, rocking, rocking and one of Roy's hands was cramping as it pressed into the
mattress. "No fucking clue what I'd've done. I'd've thought you'd lost your mind."
"So would I, if - I'd said that."

"Actually, I'd- probably have smacked your head in."

"I can imagine."

"We should definitely keep doing it, though."

Roy gritted his teeth. "No - arguments - here."

"Well you wouldn't, right now, would you?" Ed said, smirking, and his body arched back
and spasmed as Roy's hips jerked up involuntarily. "Ha -!"

Roy took a second to try and drag his melted brain back together, and slipped both hands
between Ed's legs - Ed gave a sharp yelp and then his body was shivery and languid and
rubbery over Roy's. "But then, you're not going to argue now, are you?" Roy said
breathlessly, and Ed tried to glare at him but he could clearly hardly see straight.

"Equivalent - exchange - you bastard, you better finish -"

Roy wanted a record to be made of the noise Ed made as he 'finished'. He could borrow
one of Maes' recording devices, but he wasn't sure how Ed would take to the suggestion,
and there was absolutely no non-creepy way to secretly record proceedings. There was
also no way to ask Maes without an eternity of . . . having asked Maes that.

Ed kept moaning, soft and satisfied, as Roy shifted them apart, rolled them over and
closed his eyes against Ed's hair, stroking his hands slowly around his sides. They were
sticky and slick now, but he hoped that if he didn't mention it maybe Ed wouldn't notice,
maybe they could just go to sleep. He was even willing to stay in the wet patch to keep
Ed from forcing him up again at this point. "I think I dreamed this situation, once." he
mused, opening his eyes again slowly.

"Only once?" Ed said in a gravel-lined voice into his throat, and Roy laughed.

"Well, a number of times, but this particular situation . . . I remember one dream very
clearly."

"Huh. Dream about you all the time. It's a fucking nightmare, I sleep in the same room as
Al-"

"Alphonse doesn't sleep."

Ed's fingers flickered across his chest. "You know what I mean."

"All the time, Ed?" Roy purred, and he could feel Ed's mouth sliding into a grin against
his skin.
"Like you wouldn't be the first person to announce how fucking good you look."

Well, yes. God, Roy must look fantastic having sex with Ed. He did know an ex he could
borrow a wall-sized mirror from . . .

Again, he wasn't sure how Ed would take to that suggestion . . .

Ed mumbled into his throat, "I don't wanna fall asleep so I can spend longer falling asleep
with you." His face wrinkled up against Roy's skin. "Shit, that sounds ridiculous, doesn't
it?"

Roy wrapped his arms around him, pulled him closer, kissed the closest part of him - his
hairline, somewhere above his right eyebrow. "I think it sounds perfect."

"You're ridiculous."

"And I love you too."

"Fucker." Ed muttered, and Roy felt his nose nudge at his throat. "Love you too, bastard."

Most baffling of all was that now, when Ed said that, Roy almost believed him . . .


*


He dreamed that every book in the library was pouring blood and he was knee-deep
already, sloshing around wildly trying to find the book that had caused the flood so he'd
know how to make it himself, and the only disturbing thing about it was that it wasn't
disturbing at all.

Ed lifted his head from the pillow and gave a soft grunt of realisation at where he was,
and pulled himself to his knees, hair falling forward, gazing at the light coming around
the window. He scratched his head and tried to work through the days he'd spent in the
lab, trying to think backwards, trying to count -

Sunday. It was Sunday.

He cracked a grin. The day of rest. Which, if all worked out well, he could spend being
very energetic with Roy. He glanced down at Roy, buried to his nose in the sheets and
still heavily asleep, and just touched the side of his head before he realised what he was
doing, and it was too late to stop by then.

Roy wasn't a cat, and there was no need to stroke him, but . . . Ed wanted to.
His eyes trailed down Roy's body underneath the sheets, the curves and angles already
permanently impressed into his mind, and - came across an angle that shouldn't have been
there. He stared for a while, checked Roy's face again - still asleep, and still perfectly
peaceful - and looked down again.

Hmm.

Part of the male sleep cycle, of course, it happened every night, every morning (as he
well knew, morning sprints to the bathroom before Al noticed now an almost daily event)
- 'morning wood'. You really shouldn't let kids wander around a military canteen.
Considering he'd barely understood the point of it a few months ago, Ed had already had
a remarkably wide and developed sexual vocabulary.

He tried to ignore- it, nuzzling back underneath the sheets and stretching himself out
alongside Roy, one eye buried in the pillow so he could look at him from the right angle.
He wanted to follow his face with his fingertips but he held himself back, traced with just
his eyes, and remembered -

"Just sit still."

He bit his bottom lip, felt his cheeks heat. He'd been such an ignorant kid. He'd never
noticed, he'd never bothered to look. He'd been too busy, too wrapped up in Al and the
Stone and so much guilt he could swim in it, and he'd never looked . . .

God, just look at him, Roy was incredible, he was-

Ed pressed his face into the pillow and let his breath out there, muffled, so if the
embarrassed moan escaped it wouldn't wake Roy. He peeled his face free and squinted at
Roy again, and his eyes flicked across every inch of him that was actually visible.
Everything about this . . .

Everything about Roy.

He would get Al's body back, he would get the fuck out of this fucking army, and then
they'd work this out - Roy could scheme around anything and Ed was used to working
hard for the things he wanted, and somehow they'd make this something that would work,
despite the military and the rest of the world.

Okay. Cool.

His attention kept getting diverted, Ed couldn't help it. His eyes kept getting dragged
helplessly down and there it still was . . . what was Roy dreaming about? Ed felt a sudden
jolt of jealousy. It bloody better be him, if it was any of Mustang's women-

He glared down at the offending erection. His territory now, he was not sharing. As much
as anything else, he'd read a lot about sexually transmitted diseases and Roy better not
dare put himself in a situation where Ed could catch anything from him. Blood he could
deal with, broken bones he could deal with, bruises and dislocations and burns and torn-
apart bodies - but pus . . . there . . . ick.

He needed to stop thinking about pus in situations like this. It could be very off-putting.

He glanced down again. Another part of Roy's body that Ed knew intimately, the weight
and the scent and the taste of it -

The taste of it. He swallowed, and was surprised to find his mouth was watering.

He hadn't done that since that first night he'd cornered Roy against the wall, and he was
fairly certain he hadn't got it quite right that time, not really. He looked up at Roy's
relaxed, sleeping face, or at least the top half of his face, and looked down at his not-at-all
relaxed cock. Well, he had a captive audience. He could practise.

He lifted the covers up - Mustang was sleeping with his mouth open, and that made him
grin - and crawled down the length of his body. Roy's arousal smelt different from the
normal scent of his skin or his sweat, and hovering over it Ed paused for a moment,
looking down at his target. Roy really wasn't laying in a very helpful position for this.

He'd really liked that first time. The way Roy had filled the world then - completely
impossible for your stupid brain to keep spazzing away at you when there's this, huge and
heavy in your mouth, when you're nose-deep in someone else's pubic hair and completely
surrounded by the smell of them, you have to concentrate on swallowing and breathing
but all you can swallow and breathe is them -

The intimacy of it, he supposed. Nothing more personal than getting face to face with
someone else's genitalia.

Genitalia?

Ed knew dozens of words for sexual organs, but never could find a completely
appropriate one for situations like these. The clinical textbook words didn't fit, almost
made him snort with sudden laughter at their incongruity, and all the cruder words he'd
picked up were uncomfortable in his mouth. He couldn't help thinking about Al hearing
him saying them, and there was something very wrong about that, but he didn't know
why - he cursed all the time in front of Al. Somehow this was different.

Face to face with Roy's crotch, he knew he really shouldn't be thinking about Al . . .

The other thing he'd really enjoyed about giving a blow job: reducing Roy to choking,
babbling incoherency. He licked his lips, slung a leg over Roy's torso, tried to tilt his head
to the right angle, and prepared to give Roy his good morning wake-up call.
*


Roy woke slowly, didn't realise that he was awake and not still dreaming for a long time,
and then blinked in dazed surprise and looked down -

And oh god, he was dreaming -


*


Ed purred in a self-satisfied way against Roy's chest, one arm thrown over him and hand
over his heart to feel the pulse thrum hard and fast. "What -" Roy panted, gulped,
struggled to continue - "brought that on?"

"When you have the materials at hand it's a waste not to use them."

Roy tried to lift his head to stare at him but his neck muscles had turned to jelly and there
was no hope. "You didn't . . . just . . . actually say that."

Ed cackled, wriggling his body happily against Roy's. Roy let his head thunk back into
the pillow, groaned. "I don't understand you - at all-"

"That was 'perfect', though, right? I got that right."

Roy took a breath to get out, "I should have guessed from watching you eat that you have
no gag reflex."

Ed sniggered into his side, and Roy trailed a hand through his hair and felt his breathing
finally begin to slow to something he could cope with. "It may be . . . a little while before
I'm up to returning the favour, Ed."

"That's cool, I want food first anyway."

"Excuse me?"

"I'm starving, aren't you hungry?"

"You want food first."

"Well, you are doing me back, but - yeah, I want food first, I haven't eaten since
sometime last night-"

"You have very strange priorities."
"Says you, just 'cause I'm not a sex addict-"

"I am not a sex addict."

"You're the only one who really believes that."

"I'm not the one who thinks a blowjob is an appropriate way to wake someone up."

"Bitch bitch bitch, I didn't hear you complaining in the middle of it-"

"Ed?"

"What?"

"Can we have five minutes of post-coital bliss before we start arguing?"

Ed sighed into his side.

"Five minutes."

Roy stroked his hair. "Thank you."

"Wake me up when the food's coming."


*


"What's this thing?"

"Hm? Dress uniform."

"It looks like a dress."

"It happens to look rather attractive on, Edward."

"You'd think a paper bag looked attractive if you were wearing it. What's this? Is this
another dress?"

"It's just a sweatshirt."

"Really? It's really-"

"It's really what?"

". . ."
"Hm?"

". . ."

"Did that sentence have an end, or-?"

". . . it's really . . . it's . . . long. You freak. Why don't you have any normal-sized
clothes?"

"All of my clothes are normal-sized."

"Who are you calling abnormally sized?"

"This should fit, it got shrunk last time I-"

"You will die."

"But then who would cook your breakfast?"

"I- it - you are such a bastard!"


*


The noise Ed made on first sight of Roy's library, because Roy wanted it recording for all
of time, wanted it engraving on his tombstone to echo through his soul for all of his
afterlife:

"Huwaaaah-!"

And, okay, with his eyes gleaming like that and wearing that starry grin Ed could have
passed for an eleven year old all over again, but it was Ed, that was what mattered, and
Roy just leaned on the doorframe with his arms folded and one eyebrow raised trying to
clamp down his own goofy grin as Ed pelted from one side of the room to the other like
an overexcited puppy. It wasn't a big library, Roy always aimed for quality over quantity,
but Ed was almost skipping around those few shelves around his desk.

"This is out of print! Where did you get this? This is out of print!"

"Edward . . ."

"Can I borrow this? Is this a first edition? Am I allowed to touch this? Are they all on fire
alchemy or- where did you get this?"

"Ed-"
"Al's gonna freak when he sees - why didn't you tell me you had all this? Oh god I want
to live in here-"

Roy couldn't keep from laughing, put a hand over his face and thought, Oh god, marry
me . . .


*


"Cream."

"No. God, no, it's just thicker milk."

"Ice cream."

"I like ice cream."

"Ed, it's just frozen cream."

"With chocolate. Chocolate makes things better."

"Chocolate milk?"

"If . . . no, actually. Ack, no."

"Custard."

"It . . . yeah, probably. Does that have milk in it?"

"You do know that chocolate has milk in it."

"Never say that again."


*


Roy sat loosely on the sofa, arms stretched over its back, head tilted back and eyes closed,
the radio on quietly in the corner. He hummed along now and then, but Ed - sitting
between his legs on the floor, completely lost in the book he was holding away from his
nose - didn't even glance up.

This was . . . nice.
Which was just plain weird, because the words 'nice' and 'Ed' shouldn't really appear in
the same paragraph - but in a way, it was like caring for a baby; once you'd got them
settled, they were perfectly good company. Get Ed absorbed in a book and he was
absolutely charming - quiet, peaceful, and really a very attractive addition to any room.

Roy kept wanting to nudge him awake but every time he looked down he couldn't find
the heart to disturb him.

Ed could never settle on the middle ground. If he was reading it was the only thing he did
- and he was absolutely the biggest geek Roy had ever dated, and Roy had dated a few
other alchemists, but no-one had ever been this bad. Probably no-one else in the world
was this bad. But for such a science nerd Ed was also one of the most physical people
Roy had ever met; not the cloistered, twitchy lab-geek that aspects of his personality
suggested he should be, but incredibly aware of his own body and how he could drive it
to its maximum. Ed was the only man Roy had ever slept with who could casually slide
into the splits, and Roy hadn't yet worked that into their lovemaking, but he had faith in
his own imagination . . .

Ed yawned, put the book to the side and stretched, rubbing one eye. Roy put his hands on
his shoulders and leaned down, and Ed looked up at him, puzzled at first as if he didn't
know where he was, and then he smiled - and Roy slid his arms around his chest, pressed
his face into his hair. Ed held happily onto the hands wrapped around his chest and
wriggled back more closely against him.

Baffling how affectionate he could be. He'd thrown an egg at Roy over breakfast - he'd
barely ducked in time, and he didn't think anything he'd said had warranted that - but now
Ed was hanging on like he didn't want to let go, and when Roy lifted his head to look at
him Ed had his head tilted back against Roy's stomach, eyes closed, perfectly relaxed.

I don't understand you at all.

"I need to call Al at some point." Ed murmured without opening his eyes.

Roy kissed the side of his head, closed his own eyes. "Alright."

"Then . . . we could go back to bed."

Roy grinned without opening his eyes and trailed his fingertips across Ed's chest, which
was there, somewhere, underneath the baggy blue sweatshirt of Roy's he was currently
wearing. "Could we."

"For a nap, pervert."

"A nap?"
"After that we could do stuff," Ed conceded, and angled his head back - Roy raised his,
opened his eyes - so he could look up at Roy in the eye. "Hey," he said. "What would
happen if we got caught doing this? I mean, what would really happen?"

"Ed-"

"I get that people can't know, that's not why I'm asking, I just - want to know. 'Cause . . .
you'd get in more trouble than me, right?"

"That depends how you define 'trouble'." Roy said, as Ed climbed onto the sofa beside
him and burrowed back against the cushions, only one eye visible and fixed on Roy, the
loose pony tail he'd left his hair in falling over his shoulder. "What I'm doing is a criminal
offence, though, yes."

Ed blinked at him sleepily, with one eye still hidden against the cushions. "It's stupid," he
said, blunt and derisive and completely sure he was right. "It's not like I don't want you to.
I always want you to."

A smirk. "Always, Ed?"

"When you're not being a bastard, anyway. Actually, that's not very much of the
time . . ."

"Well. It makes no difference. The age of consent stands where it stands, and you . . ."

"You weaselled around that to get me in for the State Alchemist exam."

"Yes, but no-one expected you to pass it. And besides," - Roy allowed himself a dry
smile - "risking your life for your country is one thing, Ed, sex is something quite
different."

Ed rolled the one visible eye and muttered, "Getting my brains blown out is fine, getting
blown is wrong. Completely retarded law. What would happen to you, if anyone found
out?"

"I would lose my rank and go to prison, I expect. And you would be transferred to a
different command, since it would be assumed you were manipulated into this obviously
abusive relationship. You would invariably have to hide the truth about your bodies from
your new superior officer, putting yourself and Alphonse in danger, and we would never
so much as see one another again." He paused, staring into the fireplace, and said with an
ache in his throat, "This can never get into the office. I know you understand that. But I
would end this now before I would see you put in danger."

Ed looked completely lost for a second, and then he said, "I know, I know, but . . . it's just
sex." He paused, sat up and put a hand on Roy's chest. "Well, it's more than just sex, you
know that, but - you know what I mean. It's-"
"In the eyes of the law, Ed, if you're under sixteen then you can't give consent."

"It's not like you're some kind of fucking child molester, if anything I molested you- and
I'm not a child-"

"Still."

Ed sighed, and flumped back half onto the cushions and half onto Roy's shoulder. "I get
the point of the law, because some people- but I hate that this is . . . I hate that I'm putting
you in danger."

Roy paused, then wrapped his arms around Ed, lowering his head so his nose just brushed
Ed's temple, eyes still on the fireplace. "'Some people'?"

Ed's eyes narrowed. "I can't get anything past you, can I, bastard? You are fucking lucky
I trust you-"

Roy looked away from the fire and down at the much more dangerous blaze in his arms.
"That time you . . . I remembered that you said that other people had . . . 'stared'."

Ed sighed against him. "Hardly anyone ever tried to do anything, 'cause Al's almost
always there and he - looks scary, even if-"

"No-one ever-"

"Like I would have let them." Ed snapped, and kicked him in the ankle. "It was just a
couple of times and one of them won't even be able to do it again after how I kicked him,
but it's just . . . I dunno, I was twelve the first time, I didn't know what the hell was
happening and if I hadn't been me- they just thought once Al wasn't there I wouldn't be
able to stop them, because they were bigger or whatever, the fuckers-"

He sat up, looked Roy clear and calm and confident in the eye, and said, "This is a
different world to that."

No fear at all, and he looked almost angry at Roy for even considering anything different,
and the corner of Roy's mouth twitched into a smile as he cupped the back of Ed's head.
Ed slung his body lazily over Roy's, head on his shoulder, and closed his eyes again.

"'part from the part where I kicked you in the nuts." he mumbled, and around a yawn,
"That was kind of similar."

". . . I . . ."

Ed nudged him with his shoulder. "I don't care about that if you don't," he offered,
sounding almost embarrassed.
". . . okay?"

"Okay," Ed said, sleepy and happy, and smiled. "That's not what'd happen, by the way, if
anyone found out about this."

"Hm? What?"

"The whole you-going-to-prison complete-misery mess of crap. That would never
happen."

"What makes you think that?"

"Because if anyone tried to take you away then I'd kill them," Ed said, growled, and Roy
felt his hands tightening slightly against him all the way through his body. "And after that
then . . . I don't know, we could flee the country or something. Hey, we could go to
Xing."

"Xing?" Roy's voice was a little thick, with that fierce, protective, possessive snarl still
catching in his chest. Roy knew there were people who would kill and die for him,
whether he deserved them or not; Ed was the only person emotionally innocent enough to
come out and say it.

"I like Xingian food. We'd have to take Al, obviously. And we'd probably have to come
back for Winry, Al likes her and I'm always trashing the automail-"

"You really do have this planned to the last detail, don't you?"

"Still better than your crappy sitting in jail and wasting away pining idea."

"I think you need to choose our destination on more grounds than its cuisine, Ed."

"We're not going to Drachma, the weather's crap-"

"Creta is always nice."

"Hell, it's not like it really matters. We could make it work, right?"

". . . right."

"Right." Ed said again, and grinned up at him. "So are we eating now or sleeping first?"
His fingers slid along Roy's collarbone, through his thin shirt. "Or something else?"

Roy wrapped his arms around him, nudged his head off Ed's, and said, "Can we just . . .
stay like this, for a little bit longer?"
There was a pause, and then Ed said, "You are ridiculous." and curled himself closer,
letting out a sigh against him. "Hey," he said. "We could make it work, right? I mean . . .
crap happens, but you're not gonna . . . you're still gonna want this, right? Even though - I
make things difficult for you, and -"

"Throw things at me?" Roy closed his eyes. Ed was worried about him changing his mind.

". . . I am tempted to think, you know, that maybe Elrics mate for life."

Some moments in life are just perfect, and Roy couldn't feel anything but sad.

"Even though I throw things at you," Ed said quietly, and Roy pulled him closer,
chuckled into his hair and felt a little bit like he was drowning, like the water had already
closed over him. Ed always left him with nothing left but honesty. The brat was a fucking
expert already, Roy should be taking notes.

"I will always want this. I will always want you. God help me, Ed, I can't stop."

Ed sighed again. "Good," he mumbled, and yawned again. "That's good."

Roy could swallow and shake and feel how deep he'd sunk - or he could pull Ed closer,
closer, closer, breathe in his scent and tilt his head up, and smile into the confused flicker
of his eyes a second before he kissed him.

Closer part XVI
Rating: R
Beta: all hail toxicbullets!
Disclaimer: However hard you dug through my overloaded bookshelves, you would not
find the contract of ownership of Fullmetal Alchemist anywhere. It belongs to Hiromu
Arakawa, who is goodness and light personified and wouldn't dream of suing poor,
penniless fangirls just *borrowing* her property . . . right?
Summary: Storage cupboards can be dangerous places.


Notes: . . . and back to at least *some* plot. I hope this is even the bit I'm meant to be
posting next. I've got chapters all over the place on three different computers and a
memory stick and roman numerals confuse the crap out of me. Also in an attempt to save
myself from the effects of sleep deprivation I steeped my brain in Coke until it dissolved.
Whoops!

All previous parts can be found in my memories.

I've been misbehaving,
I've been thinking nasty thoughts about you - sorry baby,
I never said I was an angel
Who could be with the finest, finest you -
Move that body, go ahead and cast that corporeal spell
And if they ask me baby, I promise not to tell.
- Maxwell, Temporary Night


Roy liked Ed lounging across his bed like a big cat, watching lazy and amused and just a
little bit dangerous as Roy moved across the mattress towards him - he liked Ed rolling
onto him in the night, asleep and relaxed and open, pressing his cheek to his chest and
muttering in his sleep as Roy brushed his hair back and kissed his shoulder - he liked Ed
leaning against him at the bathroom sink, toothbrush hanging out of his mouth as he
sleepily watched Roy shave -

He liked Ed turning the shower off with his hair slicked to him and dripping, he liked Ed
sitting back and sighing after he'd eaten enough to satisfy two young elephants, he liked
Ed tugging his boots on and glancing up at him as if to check he hadn't gone anywhere -

The only sight of Ed Roy didn't enjoy was his back as he walked down the path and out
of Roy's home and his sight, for god knew how long this time. Ed didn't seem too keen on
the idea either, because he was still holding onto Roy in the hallway, arms around him
and head pressed into his chest - and they'd been standing here for five minutes now, and
the sun was slowly turning the world weakly silver . . .

"I have to go," Ed mumbled, and didn't move at all.

Sometimes Roy had to be the adult, he knew, sometimes he had to display the control that
Ed couldn't. Only his arms didn't want to let go. Ed leeched all of the control out of him,
but what was he doing with it right now?

"Have to see what's happening in the lab." Ed said, and stayed perfectly still.

Roy tried to let go again, failed, waited.

"What exactly did you do to my brain?" Ed said in a patient voice, without moving.

"I can assure you I did nothing."

"You broke it, you bastard. Okay, I'm going now. I'm going."

There was a pause.

"Bastard."

"I fail to see how this is my fault."

"Then let go."
". . ."

"Ah-hah," Ed said, and finally looked up and smirked. Roy raised an eyebrow at him.
"On three?"

"Three," Roy said, and forced his arms open. Ed grabbed him closer and thumped his
head back into Roy's chest.

"No, wait," he said. "Stop laughing, you bastard, just - okay, I think I can - be out of the
lab on . . . Tuesday night?"

"I have an inspection on Wednesday to prepare for. I'll be busy Wednesday night as
well."

"I can't do Thursday."

"I can't do Tuesday."

"Can't do tonight," Ed muttered, and half-nudged, half-kicked him in the shin with a boot.
"Shit."

"Friday?"

"Friday," Ed said miserably. "It's Monday, though. That's . . . I hate this."

Roy sighed, put his arms around him again. "I'm sorry."

Ed's hands had tightened in his uniform. "I really hate all of this crap-"

"Ed-"

"I know." Ed swallowed down the anger, took a slow breath, and raised his head. "I know,
I get it, Friday. Okay. I can wait."

"Am I really so hard to live without?"

"Yeah, Mustang, I just shrivel up and die without you." Ed sneered, yanking himself
backwards - but Roy caught his arms more tightly around him now, rested his head on his
hair and laughed as Ed squirmed against him. "Get off, pervert, get off-"

"I don't think I want to. You're exactly the right height for this. Actually, you're about an
inch too low-"

"You bastard!" Ed howled, grabbed at him once more and swung-
Odd, because even with the automail and the bottomless appetite Roy weighed far more
than Ed did, but then Ed already had more experience of hand-to-hand fighting than Roy
would ever have. Why would he need it? So there really wasn't anything he could do, was
disorientated enough by the sudden spin that Ed had him easily thumped into the wall,
hands tight around his wrists and scowling up at him-

There was a pause while Ed's anger simmered in the air between them, and then they
simultaneously realised their situation. Ed's eyes widened, and Roy's smirk returned,
much more broadly this time.

"Why, Edward," he purred, sliding his legs further apart with Ed still pressed heavily
against him between them. "How very forceful you are."

Ed had gone completely rigid. "You-" he began, but ran out of words immediately.

"Right here? Right now?"

"Wait-"

Roy tucked his boots behind Ed's, pushing him that last inch closer. "If you insist, how
can I resist? I am powerless against your advances-"

He leaned down. Ed stared up, mouth open in horror, sucking in a breath as Roy's nose
slid past his -

"Ah." Roy said, mouth paused over Ed's, breath to breath. "I forgot. We don't have time
for one more, do we?"

He stood up, released his hold on Ed - Ed's hold on him had long since dissolved - and
began smoothing his uniform down. "Well. You'll just have to hold on until Friday."

Ed stared. And stared some more. Eventually he blinked, and said in a not-remotely-
comprehending voice, "What?"

"Have a good week," Roy said, tilting Ed's unresisting face up with two fingers
underneath his chin and kissing him, just a little too slowly to be a simple 'goodbye' kiss.
"I'm sure the time will fly by."

Ed stared at him dazedly as he let go again and began pulling on his overcoat. He stared
right up until Roy had the coat on and was reaching for the door handle, and then he
seemed to wake up again with a bump and his mouth dropped open. "You bastard, you're
not-"

"Well, you have to get back to the labs, and I have work-"
Ed was faster than he was, had the door slammed shut with his own body half a second
after Roy had turned the handle. He caught one arm around Roy's back, snatched the
collar of his uniform and dragged him down furiously, hissing, "Equivalent exchange,
you bastard-"

Roy had to put a hand against the door just to steady himself, as Ed dragged his bottom
lip into his mouth and bit, tongue flicking out to follow-

He really had got the hang of his remarkably quickly, Roy thought, dizzy, adrenaline
already lifting as Ed teased a helpless response out of him. What the hell had happened to
his much vaunted self-control? Ed gave a muted whimper into his mouth and somehow
this had gone from Ed pulling Roy down to Roy dragging Ed up, pressing him up into the
door so he was forced onto tiptoes, one of Ed's hands now tangled in his hair instead of
wrapped around his back while Roy held them both up with his hands flat on the door,
underneath Ed's arms and tight enough against his chest to support him. Roy broke off to
pant into the side of Ed's head for a moment and Ed tilted his neck back and made one of
Roy's favourite noises, that sharp, desperate, needy whine on the edge of his breath. "-ha-
!"

Roy moaned, turned his head to find Ed's mouth again - but Ed swung his head away,
wrapped both his arms around Roy's neck for balance and gave a lust-helpless laugh into
the air. "That went way better than I expected," he gasped, let his head fall to Roy's
shoulder and patted his back in a commiserating way as he gave another jumping laugh.
"Shit, I don't think I can walk straight."

"You-" Roy panted.

Ed raised his head, so Roy was eye to giddy golden eye, and clumsily patted his cheek
this time. "'kay, I have to go to the labs now." he said breathlessly, licking his lips and
sliding out of Roy's grip and to his heels again. "See you Friday."

"You-"

"Me?" Ed said innocently, tugging his coat back onto his shoulders.

"-absolute brat-"

"Fair's fair, the labs'll be hell after this." Ed said, taking a step closer - Roy took a
suspicious and too-fast step back, but Ed held his coat just firmly enough to lean up and
breathe in the skin of his throat. After a pause, Roy unexpectedly felt a kiss on the skin
just above the collar of his uniform before Ed stepped back. He felt just the edge of teeth
as well; tender was not Ed's speciality.

"G'bye," Ed said cheerfully, staggering just a little as he turned the door handle and
swung it open, almost tripping over the doorstep. "See you - wow - Friday -"
He stumbled down the steps, and Roy heard him muttering, "Major Armstrong, Major
Armstrong-" as he wobbled down the path and away. Roy closed the door again just so he
could lean against it and press a hand over his eyes, licking his lips and swallowing.

Unleashed a monster. Ed was going to be even worse than he was. He'd penned and
signed his own death warrant . . .

The sudden image of his eighty year old self dying in bed, on top of Ed, made him feel
even more dizzy. It also didn't help with the erection issues he was having.

It had to be said - he genuinely couldn't think of a better way to go.


*


Ed was humming. Al watched him moving around the lab and was almost glad he didn't
have facial expressions right now, because if his brother saw the sly grin he wanted to
wear then he'd probably turn one of the Bunsen burners on him.

He liked his brother like this - love suited Ed, he thought. It mellowed him slightly,
layered cotton wool over some of his vulnerabilities and even if he had brand new
vulnerabilities to make up for it, at least Al trusted that the Colonel would never bruise
Ed in his new tender spots, and was slowly bandaging over the old bruises. It gave him a
new, quieter confidence than his usual brash, noisy arrogance, it gave him a focus beyond
Al and the quest that dragged him down like an iron collar. It made him seem younger
but more mature. It made him hum. Tunelessly and tonelessly, but it was still
humming . . .

It was a little bit like his brother had had a very successful lobotomy. And Al was glad of
it, he was, and he did trust the Colonel not to hurt Ed, but he wasn't sure if they weren't
both being naïve. They both trusted the Colonel, but were they right to do it? He'd never
betrayed them before - but he did like to play games, especially with Ed, and unless Ed
cheated he'd always had appalling luck, he always lost . . . and while Al did trust that the
Colonel would never set out to hurt his brother, he didn't quite trust that there wouldn't be
accidents.

"We need to get to the library between experiments," Ed said, pouring some of their plant
goop into another beaker and lifting it to squint through it at the light. "Somewhere there's
a book that tells us what we need to know."

"Okay," Al said, because it wasn't his job to say 'What if there isn't?', it was his job to
make Ed's good mood last for as long as possible.

"Do you think this looks anything like blood?"
"I don't think blood's normally that colour."

"Mouldy blood?"

"Brother, that's disgusting."

Ed shrugged, put the beaker down. "We're gonna need more clamps."

"You could wait for one of the lab assistants." Al said, but Ed just raised his eyebrow at
him with his hand on the door handle.

"Which would you prefer, the guy who never showers, the girl who doesn't know what a
test tube is, or the girl who drops everything? I'll just go myself, it won't take five
minutes . . ."

Al sighed, and picked up the beaker. Ed had already gone, which meant Al would be
making slides from their latest batch of plant goop again. His brother always found a way
to weasel out of it . . .

The door opened again, and he turned to tell Ed it was his turn, really this time - but
stopped when he saw the person standing in the doorway, who put their finger over their
mouth and smiled and whispered, "Hello, Alphonse!"

Al put the beaker down carefully. As nice a surprise as this was, he knew it meant the end
of his brother's good mood . . .


*


Ed had forgotten how much he hated the storage cupboard. Whoever had designed it was
a complete moron. How was anyone of normal height expected to be able to reach the top
shelves?

He stood with his arms folded, glowering at the tray he wanted, considering whether to
climb up (which was undignified) or transmute a stepladder (which was humiliating).
When he found the person who'd designed this damned cupboard he was going to
transmute their head into a stepladder.

The light clicked off. It was on a timer, to keep absent-minded alchemists from leaving it
on all day and night, but it made him blink. He hadn't really been staring at a shelf for all
that time, had he? This had to be Mustang's fault. Bastard had turned Ed's brain to putty,
made him lose all track of time and priority and thinking about Mustang made him think
about this morning, and this was really not the time . . .
The door clicked closed. He stiffened instantly, because he could feel the presence of
another person in the room, in the now absolute darkness. His mouth was dry, his skin
felt tight, and he was incredibly aware of the blood pumping in his eardrums, of the
whisper of movement behind him -

And the murmur of, "Guess who?" had him clapping and spinning and automail thrust
forward before he'd even thought-

He placed the voice, stumbled in the attempt not to puncture their windpipe, and Russell
ducked to the side as Ed's automail blade punched a hole in the door. Ed sagged to the
side, heart pounding even harder now, and Russell's voice said through the darkness,
"You're really not the best person to surprise in the dark, are you?"

"You - you-"

"Breathe," Russell said, and Ed could hear the grin behind his voice, but -

("Breathe.")

He wrenched at his arm but the blade was stuck, sunk right up to his knuckles in the door.
"What the fuck are you doing here?" he snarled, jerking his arm back, not moving it an
inch. "Where did you - how the hell-"

"Did you have another inane rephrasing of the same question, or are you-?"

"What the hell are you doing here?"

Russell shrugged - Ed heard his shirt move, and he could hear the smirk behind his voice.
"The military requested we move here to continue with our research. Requested, not
ordered, because some of us are still in control of our own lives-"

"Fuck you." Ed spat, and twisted his arm again but all he was doing now was straining
the muscles in his shoulder. He kicked the door and stretched left-handed for the light
switch, but it was at the other side of his body, he couldn't reach it-

And then Russell's hand was around his wrist, holding it against the door, and he was
twisted into such a strange position that he couldn't find the leverage to pull free. "Wh-?
Let go-"

"I was requested to come here to help with your research," Russell said quietly, and Ed's
eyes had adjusted to the darkness enough so he could just see his face, very close and
very, very dangerous. "I gave you this, you wouldn't have known where to begin without
me, and now it's your research?"

"You can have the research, like I give a crap, put your name on it and see if I care." Ed
muttered, struggling to twist himself back into something resembling a comfortable
position. Both shoulders were beginning to complain at him now. "All I want's the result,
I told you that already."

"You still didn't tell me why."

Ed squirmed, jerking his left wrist now but not managing to free it from Russell's
increasingly unnerving grip. "Let go."

"No. Tell me what you want the research for."

"Let go-"

"You owe me for the research." Russell said, and Ed moved his face back as Russell
moved his closer. "I do want to know what you're so interested in making blood for,
but . . ." His foot shifted against Ed's and Ed yelped, tripped, lost his balance - and now
he was supported by one arm stuck in the door, one pinned to the wall, and Russell's arm
around his waist. "I can take something else in exchange."

"Get off," Ed whispered, and he was beginning to panic now, really panic, and he
couldn't breathe properly like this-

"But I like you like this."

"Russell, I'm not joking, let go-"

"You're really not joking, are you?" Russell turned his body and Ed stumbled against the
door, found himself pressed there by Russell's weight, and now Russell had an arm free
to catch the back of his head and hold him steady, twisted to face him. "Jeez, it's not
something bad, you know, you'd enjoy it if you'd just-"


*


The scream had both Al and Fletcher bolting from the lab and down the corridor, and
they heard the shriek of the most nervous lab assistant dropping another tray of test tubes
as she came downstairs, and the clap and crackle of an alchemical reaction -

The door to the storage cupboard had been transmuted into a splash of wood hanging off
its hinges, and Ed was sitting inside, propped on his hands, breathing hard and almost
shaking - and Russell was sitting outside, staring at him with his mouth open and his
hand over his forearm.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" he finally yelled, and Ed flinched but snarled right
back, "I fucking told you to let go-"
"What happened?" Al said blankly, as Fletcher knelt down next to his brother and peeled
his hand from his forearm.

"You got bit?" he said, amazed.

"I can't believe you bit me." Russell snapped.

"Brother, you bit him?" Al said weakly, and Ed looked like a cornered animal now,
looked like he wanted to press himself even further back into the safety of the storage
cupboard.

"He - he -"

"I what?" Russell said, and Ed clenched his teeth, face flushed dark red, and shook his
head, eyes tightly closed.

"Fuck you-"

"What in the world could I have done to offend you so very much?" Russell said, all
wide-eyed innocence, and Ed looked like he wanted to throw the entire contents of the
storage cupboard at him and melt through the floor -

Al said, "Did you get the clamps, brother?"

Ed's eyes swung to him, and Russell looked up at him and said, "What?" and Ed finally
blinked and looked like himself again.

"Uh . . . no. Okay."

He stood up, dusted the back of his trousers off, got a knee onto the shelves and swung
himself up. He dropped down again with a box underneath his arm. "Okay. We have
plant goop to take care of."

"Are you actually going to apologise for-" Russell snapped, and then shrieked as Ed
walked past. "You just stood on my hand!"

"Whoops," Ed said, tossing the box of clamps to his brother, who caught them quickly as
he hurried after him. "Can't imagine how that happened."

Al glanced back at Fletcher. It wasn't like he could look apologetic, even if he wanted to.
Fletcher just looked confused.

"There was no need to use your left foot!" Russell yelled after them. "And you still weigh
too much!"
Al looked down at his brother, who stuck his hands in his pockets and walked along head
high and eyes unconcerned, and Al was suddenly glad of that quiet new confidence of
Ed's - Al was, after all, the same age as Russell and not as naïve as everyone thought. He
had half a suspicion that he knew exactly why Ed had bitten Russell, and he was half
surprised that Ed hadn't collapsed into a puddle of fury and helplessness and humiliation.
His brother was a little (a lot) skittish about sex; it was a wonder he even managed to
look the Colonel in the eye . . .


*


Havoc looked at Breda and Breda looked at Havoc. Fury just looked confused, Falman
wasn't even interested and Hawkeye was thankfully out of the room.

"He's been humming all morning." Havoc said.

"He's been chirpy for a long time now, though." Breda pointed out, kicking back and
squinting at the Colonel's office door. "And before that he was acting strange too . . ."

"How does he always do it?" Havoc moaned, and Fury gave an uncertain smile.

"Ah . . . it's nice to see the Colonel in a good mood, isn't it?"

Breda gave an impressively loud snort and said, "I'm the only person seeing the big
picture here, aren't I? He's been like this for weeks. This isn't one girl and a big smile the
next day."

Havoc looked both wary and miserable. "Two girls?"

Breda rolled his eyes. "The Colonel," he said in a talking-to-children-and-Lieutenant-
Havoc voice, "was consistently tense and depressed. Then very suddenly he is
consistently smug and cheerful, as smug and cheerful as he usually is when he hoiks
something young and pretty out from underneath Jean's nose."

"Oi."

"Do I have to point out that even our Colonel can't snag someone new every night, not on
top of all the nosing around the Fuhrer he's been doing?"

"And?" Havoc muttered, moodily shuffling some papers.

"I've given you all the figures, do you need me to draw in the equals sign and add it up
too?"
Havoc and Fury just stared at him. Even Falman had raised his head curiously now.
Breda rolled his eyes again and said, "One plus one, in this case, gets us one, boys - one
girl, for a number of weeks."

"But-"

"For the Colonel, that's practically married." Breda said, and gave a broad grin. "Maybe
that gives you a chance with the secretarial staff now, Jean."

"Oi . . ."


*


When I rule the country, all the women in the military will wear miniskirts was less of a
concern now. Roy knew he was humming, but why not? It was a beautiful day, the sky
was blue and bright, and he'd woken up this morning with his nose buried in the hair of a
still-beautiful-even-when-snoring Edward Elric. Today was fucking fantastic.

When I rule the country, Roy thought, skimming his eyes down a report, Ed will wear a
miniskirt. Just for a little while. Even if I have to drug him to get him into it.

He'd give his right arm to get Ed into fishnets as well.

His mind was such a happy place, recently. He'd become a master at sweeping everything
he didn't want to think about underneath his subconscious, out of view, out of sight and
out of . . . mind. Ahah.

Things not to think about:

I'm fucking a subordinate underneath the Fuhrer's nose. (I have lost my mind.)

I'm fucking an underage boy. (I have lost my moral compass.)

Said boy has a habit of dragging words out of me that I never intended to let out. (I have
lost the last of my dignity.)

Said boy also has a very powerful case of puppy love, and very soon it will fade. (very
soon, I will lose everything.)

Things to think about instead:

I'm allowed to touch Ed whenever I want. (so long as it's behind closed doors.)

If Edward Elric is infatuated with me, clearly I am the God of Sex. (no arguments there.)
I have been, as far as the Fuhrer can see, a Very Good Boy. (good thing he can't see
through walls.)

. . . and Ed, just Ed, every aspect of him. (Laying on his stomach on the bed, arms folded
on the pillow, head on his arms, intently watching Roy's every movement as he dressed;
raising his head from a book to scratch his nose before sinking back in again; blazing like
a forest fire in the office, teeth bared in a growl, gripping the other edge of Roy's desk
and leaning forward as if he wanted to head butt him or possibly tear his face off with his
teeth; leaning up against Roy's chest with his hands tight in his uniform, wearing that grin
and curling his fingers in the seams; blinking dazedly at his morning hair in the bathroom
mirror like he didn't know where it had all come from . . .)

Roy hummed and signed the report quickly, to listen to the brisk rasp of pen on paper.
Balancing the wants and needs of the mind and the body was always a delicate matter. It
turned out adding the heart into the mixture tipped it far beyond his control - so where
was the point in trying to control it?

Ed would completely ruin him. And he wanted him to, just so for the rest of his life he
would have had the experience of being ruined by Ed.

Closer part XVII
Rating: R
Beta: One day I will think of a way to thank toxicbullets other than dumping more fic
on her.
Disclaimer: I'm playing with something that doesn't belong to me. Naughty, but it's not
like I make any money from it.

Summary: 'This was not going to be a good week.'

All previous parts can be found in my memories.



Notes: None in particular. A chapter without a ramble heading it! Apart from this,
obviously. Um.



You will pay for your excessive charm.
- Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Details of the War



This was not going to be a good week.
It wasn't that Ed and Russell couldn't work within the same lab, because they could,
clearly - Russell was genuinely committed to what he was doing, and Ed couldn't even be
distracted by a naked Mustang when doing fun things with the periodic table. It was just
that this sort of experiment left quite large portions of time where it needed minding but
there was very little to actually do. Ed devoted his time to glowering, and Russell devoted
his time to smirking, and Al and Fletcher had the exhausting job of keeping between
them, of keeping them apart, of making sure there was always one of them in the room as
well so they were never left alone together.

When Al was left alone with them he felt his non-existent stomach sinking against cold
metal. The tension in the air, the heavy, stormy atmosphere rolling between Ed and
Russell reminded him of all that weight that used to hang in the air between Ed and the
Colonel, and Al knew Ed didn't even realise what he was doing, that he was walking
down exactly the same path he'd walked before . . .

But -

He wasn't, was he? Because back then Ed hadn't even connected the thought of sex with
himself, seemed to have understood the mechanics of copulation without ever quite
managing to plot himself into the picture. And back then Ed hadn't already flung
everything of himself into the arms of someone else. Al knew that Ed would never betray
him, and he knew in exactly the same way that Ed would never betray the Colonel, it
wouldn't - couldn't - occur to him to ever do either. Ed could be stupid and selfish and
bad-tempered; disloyalty was just beyond him.

This was different. Of course this was different. The flirtation was more obvious, and so
was Ed's helpless rage; with the Colonel, he'd always fought right back. With Russell, he
shied away and snarled from a distance.

Ed at one end of the desk squinting at a book, Russell at the opposite end adjusting a
microscope, and between them sat their little brothers, gloomy on their lab stools. Al had
thought it would be fun having Fletcher here, but if they had to spend all their time
babysitting their fractious older brothers . . .

Fletcher wrote something on a sheet of notes and slid it across the desk, blinking dully at
Al. Al picked it up and read, We have to do something about this.

Al considered that for a moment and then wrote, Tranquillisers?

The corner of Fletcher's mouth tugged into a smile and he pressed his lips together to
swallow it, glanced at his brother before writing, We could handcuff them to opposite
ends of the lab.

They'd only transmute themselves free.

I can blackmail my brother into being good, do you know anything about Edward?
Al gave an involuntary choke of laughter, hollow and echoing in the helmet, and Russell
raised his head. Ed's eyes didn't even flicker from the page.

Did he have anything to blackmail his brother with? He had enough material to have Ed
in the palm of his hand for the rest of his life, even considering that with the armour he
was practically immortal. He really should pass at least some of it on to the Colonel, to
help him deal with Ed in his more difficult moods.

But then, the Colonel really didn't need anything more to hold over Ed . . .

They were running out of paper. Al looked at Ed, sunk in a book and settled for the rest
of the day if left undisturbed, and Russell seemed to be behaving himself with the
microscope . . .

Al put his hands on the desk and pushed back, standing up. "Shall we fetch the cells in
the refrigerator?"

Fletcher instantly looked at his brother, but Russell narrowed his eyes and kept up the
tiny, tiny adjustments as he sought out whatever he was looking for without his attention
even flicking in their direction. "Ah . . . okay." he said, hopping down from his stool and
looking up at Al. "You'll have to lead the way, I don't know this place very well yet . . ."

They paused again at the door to look back at their brothers - Russell waved an arm and
said, "Check the temperature, I think someone's been leaving the door open." and Ed still
hadn't moved. Al thought a sigh, and closed the door behind them.

"Sorry," Fletcher said quickly, desperately. "I'm sorry, he's not normally like this-"

"I'm sorry my brother is always like this," Al said.

"I don't know why he's behaving like this, I'm sure he doesn't want to upset Edward-"

"I think brother probably does want to upset Russell." Al said apologetically. He had no
illusions about that. "I think maybe we just have to keep breaking them apart when they
start fighting, and make sure they don't damage the experiments."

"Normally he gets on with people really well," Fletcher whispered, squirming, shrugging.
"I don't know why he's . . ."

"I'm sure it'll be alright," Al said quickly, because he didn't want Fletcher to feel bad
about this, nothing about this was his fault. "They both know that the experiments are
more important than their bickering, brother's good at putting things behind himself and
working and I know Russell wouldn't let it interfere-"
Fletcher nodded, eyes a little clouded, then suddenly smiled up at Al. "It's nice to work
with you," he said. "It can get lonely, when brother's all caught up in alchemy and forgets
I'm there."

"I know what you mean." Al said, and looked at the closed door to the lab. "It doesn't
sound like they're arguing . . . we should go get those cells."

"Right." Fletcher said cheerfully, and then grinned and tagged the armour and bolted off,
calling, "Race you!"

"That's not fair! You get a head start-"

"You have longer legs!"

Fletcher laughed, and Al couldn't help it, let his own laughter run out behind him like a
streamer.


*


Maybe it was some sort of radiation? If alchemists' blood looked just like normal blood,
maybe it was repeated exposure to transmutations that irradiated the blood in some w-

"You never did tell me what you wanted to make blood for." Russell said, far too close to
his ear.

Ed pulled back from the book - too fast, he realised, and the stool was very suddenly
balancing on not enough legs, perfectly steady in the air like gravity hadn't yet noticed it
couldn't sustain this angle. Ed hung suspended and wide-eyed, caught in the between-

But time was rushing back in, and he was just flailing for some grip at the workbench
when it slipped between his fingers and he was plunging backwards -

Into Russell's arm, bumping him back into a rocking equilibrium before the stool settled.
Ed clutched at the workbench and gasped, and Russell said, sounding almost impressed,
"You really are very highly strung, doesn't it get tiring?"

Ed's breath fell out of him in an automatic, "Fuck off, Russell."

"What do you need blood for? It's just weird wanting to make it without a reason."
Russell raised an eyebrow. "It's also weird if you can't tell people the reason, that just
makes their imaginations run riot."

"Like I care what you think anyway." Ed snapped.
"You're not quite pale enough to be a vampire . . ."

"Screw you, I'm working, leave me alone-"

"And I'm sure you'd have sunk your teeth into my handsome young neck by now if you
were, anyway."

"You just couldn't love yourself more, could you?" Ed sneered. "If you were the last
person left on the planet, I'd kill you. Then me," he added thoughtfully. No Al. No Roy.
Just not worth it.

"But then, I suppose you couldn't reach my neck, so-"

Whatever had been about to explode out of Ed was stopped by a finger over his lips, a
grin so close to his eyes. "And you really are very highly strung."

Ed's brain fizzed, caught helplessly between what he'd been about to scream and Russell
just being far too close. He blinked, jerked his head away from Russell's finger and
snarled, "And your hand is still on my back."

"Really? Sorry." Russell said, removing his hand quickly, leaning against the workbench
and still smirking. "You really don't like to be touched, do you?"

"Not by you." Ed snarled, slamming his book open again and glaring at the page.

"Is it for Al?"

Ed almost sprained a muscle jerking his head up. "Wh-?"

"He always wears that armour," Russell said, his voice a little more quiet now. "And
Fletcher said the red water didn't have any effect on him, and . . ."

Ed looked away, eyes and jaw tight. Russell watched his face for a long moment and then
said, "What's wrong with him?"

The anger rose as immediate and huge as a fireball and Ed spat, "There is nothing wrong
with my little-"

"I didn't mean it like that, you know I didn't mean it like that, you don't have to take
everything as an attack - why do you need to make blood? Does he need a huge
transfusion or something?"

Ed's hands clenched and unclenched against the workbench. His mouth felt too dry.
"Something like that," he said, and wet his lips. "Something . . ."
What was he meant to say? It's my fault, I could hardly have done anything worse to him
and it's my fault, and he's too good to say it or blame me but I know, I know - and if he
ever does, if he only says it once I think it'll be the last thing that ever happens, I don't
think I can come out of the other end of him hating me for this-

"Well," Russell said softly, and his eyes trailed across the tiles for a moment before he
shrugged and looked at Ed once more. "Lucky you've got us here now, or you'd never get
anywhere."

Ed swallowed, hard, and croaked, "Piss off and die, Russell."

And he would have thought that maybe this was what it was like to have a friend, until
Russell's fingers skimmed across his waist as he walked back to his seat and this time Ed
really did fall off his stool.


*


Ed trailed his fingers over his mattress, laying on one crooked arm on his pillow,
everything shades of grey with the lights off.

It's late, it's really late, you'll be back from work by now, right? I could just go check, I
could . . . you shouldn't overwork yourself, damned idiot, if you fall asleep on your desk
again what's the Fuhrer gonna think? You'll get fired. And it'll serve you right. Hah.

Hey, and it would put the whole intra-military sex problem off the sheet . . .

His fingers curled against the mattress and he swallowed against the thick feeling in his
throat. This was stupid, he was stupid, but he just wanted . . . he wanted so much his
insides were writhing.

Love, he was learning, is ten per cent comfort, joy, happiness, and ninety per cent sheer
nausea.

I'm cold like this. Why aren't you here? What did you do to me?

He closed his eyes and pressed his face into his pillow. He could do this, he could survive
a long night alone, he'd done it before, all those times he hadn't wanted Al to know what
he'd been dreaming when he'd woken too terrified to even move, all those nights twisted
up inside and trying to clamp it all down where it couldn't spill out and upset Al - he
could do this . . .

It was irrational, it was completely irrational -

If you'd just put your arms around me everything would be alright.
How would everything be alright? How would it get Al out of the armour, how would it
make him and Roy safe, how would it make anything alright? He couldn't stop believing,
all the same, that having Roy here now, having his hands soothing over him and his body
so warm and real and right, would make the night just perfect, just beautiful . . .

You, you sickly, sentimental, puke-inducing old bastard, have poisoned my mind.

Why aren't you poisoning me right now, where are you, please-

He gritted his teeth against the pillow.

Not please, not please, I am not begging you-

Oh god please please Roy please-


*


Roy filled in all the loops in his signature with a fine cross-hatching and thought, When I
am Fuhrer there will be no Tuesdays.

He would have the day removed from the calendar for its crime of separating him from
Ed, and have all Tuesdays replaced with some sort of holiday that let him spend the day
screwing Ed speechless. But it would be silly to come into work on Monday and then not
again on Tuesday . . .

When Roy Mustang was Fuhrer, there would be four-day weekends and the only reason
he wouldn't keep Ed handcuffed to his bed would be because it would limit the number of
positions possible.


*


Ed was really beginning to loathe that storage cupboard with every fibre of his being.
When they'd finished with these experiments, he was going implode it. He'd already
worked out the array. The only thing he hadn't thought up yet was how to keep Russell in
there while he activated it.

"I am actually warning you this time, Russell." he said, trying to keep his voice steady
while backing out of the storage cupboard, very definitely presenting only his front to
Russell. He should have learned from Mustang, his favourite pervert, never to turn his
back on the enemy. "The next time, I will break your ankles. Would've been your wrists,
but this way you still get to help out in the lab and I can kick you in the foot whenever
you piss me off."
"Remembering our last fight, I really would like to see you try." Russell said smugly, and
Ed clenched his fists, gritted his teeth, and tried to think about how angry Al would be if
he upset Fletcher by turning his big brother into a bloody streak.

"I fucking mean it you bastard-"

"You really are most adorably virginal, aren't you?"

Ed was so stunned that for a second he didn't say anything. He left it so long without
saying anything that No I'm not seemed a little weak.

He didn't even know what to feel. Smugness? Derision? Rage? Blind terror? Face-
melting embarrassment?

"It's only sex, you know." Russell said, folding his arms. "And I can guarantee you you'd
enjoy it."

Horror, it seemed, had won the war of Ed's raging emotions.

"How the hell can you be like this? You're Al's age!" Another emotion jostled and
squeezed through to the forefront. "And what do you mean, I'd enjoy it? I'd rather drink
the plant goop, you arrogant-"

"It doesn't have to be so huge and terrifying. It's just sex. You're a teenager, you have
urges, and you would very definitely enjoy it, believe me." Russell was moving forward,
out of the cupboard, and he was smirking.

Ed was backing away. "I very definitely would not." he said firmly.

"And how would you know?"

"How would you know I don't know?" Ed rattled back, still backstepping.

"Oh, I know." Russell said smugly, still stalking forwards.

"How would you know?" Ed snarled.

"Things like this kind of give it away," Russell said, slipping a hand in the catch of Ed's
jacket and a foot around the back of one boot; Ed yelped as he tripped into him and one
of Russell's hands slid up to move his head into place, one moved down-

An automail palm across the face can cool off the most ardent of lovers, and an automail
knee in the shin could put off Casanova on heat. All the air left Russell's lungs as Ed hit
the ground on top of him, and Ed - face-to-throat with him - flailed and kicked and rolled
off and began screaming abuse, and all Russell could pant, splayed out like a starfish,
was, "I'd forgotten - how much you - weigh-"
"Bastard!" Ed howled, stalked back towards him to attack, retreated rapidly as Russell
began to sit up, kicked the wall in frustration and walked away.


*


Wednesday brought with it bad news.

Roy read the same invitation three times to make sure, but there was no getting out of it -
on Friday night the Fuhrer requested the pleasure of his company at a formal reception.

You don't want the pleasure of my company, Roy thought despairingly. My company will
be anything but pleasurable if I'm not with Ed on Friday n-

Ed. Ed . . .

Ed was going to kill him. Ed was going to tear his lungs out through his nostrils. Ed was
going to stamp him into a sticky, wet mess.

The military was an unforgiving mistress, but Ed was more unforgiving still, and Ed was
the one he hoped to get to touch and mouth all over on Friday night. Ed should be his first
thought, the one he wanted to placate - but they couldn't work like that.

They couldn't display devotion to one another, even if just for appearances they had to
put their ambitions first; but that was irrelevant, because they both would pursue their
ambitions with everything they had. Ed would never let Al down. And Roy had his own
reasons to pursue his goals . . .

Roy tapped his invitation off his desk and thought hard. There was a way he could make
this work. The invitation was for eight, so he could feasibly leave by ten, and be home
before eleven - to the raging blond demon-prince who would flay him, gut him, and
display his mangled carcass across his own front lawn.

He tapped the invitation, turned it, tapped it, turned it, tapped it.

Hmm.


*


The office fascination with the mysterious One Woman was increasing by the day. The
Colonel was gloomy again, and what kind of woman could not only hold Mustang down
but dictate his every mood?
"She would have to be . . ." Havoc wiggled his arms in a wildly curvy shape. "I mean, she
would have to be - wow-"

"Redhead? Blonde?"

"He likes women with dark hair best, they don't clash with him."

"She would have to be some sort of lethal Amazonian temptress to hold the Colonel like
this." Breda said, and Havoc's pen wagged up and down in his mouth as he grinned. He
quite liked the thought of someone finally giving Mustang a taste of his own medicine.

"Actually," Breda continued, amusement in his own eyes, "she'd have to be a female
version of the Colonel to get to him this much."

Havoc tried to picture that, and grimaced. "The Colonel wouldn't look very good in a
dress."

Breda rolled his eyes to the ceiling. He was working with idiots.


*


As dangerous as the tension between Ed and Russell had become, more dangerous still
were their actual arguments - because when it came to points of alchemy they were both
as sure as steel they were right, and the clash of those egos made the walls tremble.

Russell knew his botanical alchemy, to a far greater extent than Ed did, he had years of
study on Ed - but Ed was simply the better alchemist, and they were evenly matched in
arrogance as well as ability. Their arguments were of glass-breaking intensity, and Al
solved one of them by snatching up his brother by the back of his collar and carrying him
out, calling over Ed's scream of rage, "Ten minute time-out!"

Al held the door to the lab closed and after trying to force him out of the way for five
screeching minutes, Ed paced up and down the corridor with fists and teeth clenched,
almost sobbing with fury, trembling with it.

"Brother . . ." Al said softly.

Ed spun and began kicking the wall repeatedly with his left foot, and Al heard a word
over the thumps as they settled into a rhythm, heard the continuous choke of, "Friday,
Friday, Friday, Friday-"


*
"He's going to kill me."

Maes sighed, drew his hand back through his hair, pushed his glasses back up his nose,
and leaned back against the park bench. "I'm sure he'll understand."

Roy was - amazed. That possibility hadn't even occurred to him. "Do you think so?"

Maes burst out laughing, and Roy clapped his hands over his face, groaned. "He's going
to kill me, Maes, and I haven't even made the lowest rank of General yet-"

"Haa, that's the problem you focus on . . ."

"Obviously there's also the problem of my being far too young and pretty to die-"

"No bread for you, shoo." Maes said, nudging a duck away with his foot. It waddled
away, feet slapping on the grass, and then began skirting closer again. "Have you told
him yet?"

"Of course not. I may as well enjoy the last moments given to me."

"You have to think about how you're going to tell him. You've had enough practise
blowing off dates, surely."

"None of them were inhumanly fast alchemist-sociopaths, though."

"Hmm." Maes folded his arms and lowered his head, nodding thoughtfully. "Over the
phone?"

"I can't."

"He wouldn't be able to tear your throat out physically over the phone, just verbally."

That wasn't the reason. He didn't know how much of a rejection Ed would take it as, and
leaving him hurt without being able to show him how much he hated the situation himself
- "I can't."

"So, in person. From behind bulletproof glass? Ah, that won't help, he'll just transmute
it . . ."

"I think . . . I just have to take my lumps."

"The daring, dashing Flame Alchemist." Maes said, glancing at Roy out of the corner of
his eye and grinning wickedly. "Terrified of facing a fifteen year old boy."

"Shut up, Maes." Roy leaned forward into his hands, closing his eyes. "Just shut up."
*


Ed could hardly hear Russell on Thursday for the pounding in his ears of tomorrow,
tomorrow, tomorrow - which was a relief, really. Ignoring Russell seemed to be a far
better tactic than fighting back. It meant Ed could get on with some work - and it
frustrated the hell out of Russell, and that made everything seem better.

Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow -

Al seemed to approve of his pretend none of this is happening tactic. When Russell spoke
Ed stared at the page in front of him and thought about Roy (long and solid and all that
skin beside him in bed; those sudden moments when his perfectly controlled, untouchable
front broke and Ed felt how much he wanted him thumping the breath right out of his
chest; uniform on and head raised and strong and calm and dignified; that look in his eye
as he bent over him . . .), which gave him a sufficiently glazed look to make Russell
twitch with frustration. When Russell moved towards him he smoothly sidestepped, or
got a workbench or a brother between them. It led to less broken glass, and people using
the other laboratories had stopped coming to tell them to keep the noise down.

Damn, though, he was a persistent bastard. You would think 'Russell, take your hand off
me or I will fucking smash your skull in' would get the message across. It didn't help that
Russell was right, in some ways. Ed was horny and tense - just not for Russell. Ed loved
sex, fucking loved it - but he had Roy, what would he want with anyone else? No-one
else knew how to move like him, no-one else would be him. Completely pointless.

Through the blur of whatever Russell was saying to him he picked out the word 'little',
and it sunk through him like a small black hole, and he wanted to tear-

Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow-

Tomorrow he could put his arms around Roy and breathe him in and the entire week
would be better, the entire world would be better, briefly - because all the world was
would be contained in the four walls around him and Roy.

Mush. Mush. His brain was melting into mush. Roy owed him for melting his brain, he
bloody better make it up tomorrow night . . .

A sudden movement to either side of his vision made him start, and he raised his head
fast enough to nearly crack Russell in the chin. Ed struggled not to fall off his stool, to
turn to face Russell, who was leaning over him with a hand on either side of him against
the workbench, boxing him in.
"You really haven't listened to one word I've said for the past quarter of an hour, have
you?" Russell said, and Ed got an elbow to his chest to hold him off and snarled,
"Where's the point? You never say anything worth listening to-"

"Maybe you'd hear something you liked if you listened properly."

"Where the hell're Al and-"

"Your brother went out to fetch lunch, and mine went to use the bathroom."

"Russell-" Ed pressed at him with his elbow. "Just, why? Why do you keep doing this?"

Russell's grin broadened. "Are you actually that naïve, or-"

"Answer the question, asshole."

"Well. You're not unattractive. And you are very definitely a challenge." He grinned,
flicked his hair back. "I like overcoming challenges."

"Fuck you." Ed snarled, and Russell raised an eyebrow.

"Fuck you, actually." Two fingers over Ed's lips before he could start shouting, and Ed
smacked his hand away with a growl - "Why not, anyway?"

The growl died. 'Because - Roy' wasn't a reason Ed could give. But there was a second
reason, just as truthful, that he could.

"I just don't like you like that." Ed said, maybe a little too bluntly. "Sorry."

Russell at least looked - startled, actually shocked, and Ed tilted his head to the side -

And saw a movement out of the corner of his eye; the door to the lab was open. Russell
saw his eyes flick over and they both looked across guiltily for whichever little brother
had caught them - but it wasn't Al or Fletcher, it was Roy, whose mask was very firmly in
place as he looked at them.

Ed stared at him. After the adrenaline rush of just seeing Roy, his first thought was to
snarl, Well, help me you bastard-

But he couldn't, could he? 'Get your hands off my (boyfriend/lover/mine)' wasn't
something Roy could say . . .

Ed squirmed, and said, "Colonel . . ."

The fact that he'd just thought the word 'boyfriend' was making his face heat, and he
didn't understand the look Roy was giving him at all . . .
Closer part XVIII
Another one from my Secret Ninja Porn Beta. Every girl should have one ;)
Rating: R/NC-17-ish
Disclaimer: I don't own the series, I don't own the characters, and I make no money from
this - though god knows I could use it.

Summary: Ed's adventures in amateur porn.

All previous parts can be found in my memories.


Notes: I was unsure about this part but my secret ninja porn beta told me it wasn't crap,
and I trust her, so here it is. And the cliffhanger is resolved in time for the Monday
Morning of Extreme Evilness. Yay ^^


I'm trying to realise you being with some other guy
I don't know the reason why,
You oughta be with me until I die.
- Al Green, You Ought To Be With Me



There was an argument going on in the lab when Roy clamped down his smile (there was
always an argument where Ed was involved) and pushed the door open. And went
perfectly still. For just a second, he was so surprised his face was exactly as blank as he
always trained it to be.

And then the surprise broke and his face nearly crumpled.

Ed sitting on a lab stool leaning back, elbow pressed to the chest of the taller blond boy
leaning over him with a hand to either side of him, and Roy had researched the
Tringhams after hearing they were to aid the Elric brothers in their experiment, and the
name Russell had rung a bell . . .

The position was too close to be friendly, the position was only two breaths away from
being overfriendly . . .

"Fuck you, actually." the other boy, Russell, said around a smirk, and raised his hand to
press his fingers over Ed's lips to keep his growl quiet but Ed batted his hand away, teeth
gritted. "Why not, anyway?"

Ed pulled his head back slightly, eyes narrowed, and after a second's pause said
brusquely, "I just don't like you like that. Sorry."
The other boy looked surprised, and Ed gave him a strange, not-quite-apologetic look -
and then caught sight of Roy out of the corner of his eye and they both looked over
quickly, and surprise broke over Ed's face like a wave. Roy saw the first opening of oh-,
and then annoyance, and then -

Then he just looked puzzled, and angry about it, and embarrassed, and angry about that.
"Colonel . . ." he said, but there was clearly nothing further coming.

"If I could borrow my subordinate for a moment," Roy said, perfectly calmly, one hand -
he couldn't stop it, the muscles hurt from trying to stop it - slowly dragging his fingertips
together and scraping up almost-sparks. "If you're not using him, that is."

Russell gave him a long, piercing look, but he had nothing on Hawkeye, nothing on Ed,
and he slipped away from Ed looking suspicious but without saying anything. Ed almost
fell off his stool in his eagerness to step away from him, squirmed his jacket more
comfortably onto his shoulders, and gave Roy another confused, annoyed, angry look and
walked out. Roy closed the door behind him, forcing himself not to give Russell one last
look.

He'd been trying to prepare himself for the inevitable from the start - Ed wanting
someone else, Ed wanting someone his own age, Ed not wanting him anymore. But
seeing him -

Not yet, not yet, please God not yet-

("I just don't like you like that. Sorry.")

He blinked and there were black bubbles popping in the corners of his vision. He wasn't
breathing properly. But - not today. Ed had been firm, positive, casual in his refusal. Not
today, but Roy felt the closeness of what he'd almost lost, as close as a kiss -

"Is there anywhere here to discuss confidential military matters?" he said, around a brittle
smirk. Ed stared at him with narrowed eyes for a moment, and then shrugged.

"The labs're all being used. C'mon."

Roy followed him down the corridor, until Ed stopped and opened a non-descript door,
turning a timer so the lightbulb flickered on. A cupboard full of alchemical supplies. Ed
walked in, turned to face him and folded his arms, his face as unimpressed and irritated as
it ever was in the office. Roy closed the door behind himself and stared down at Ed - this
golden flare of anger and fire and heat - and, not for the first time, he understood the
moth . . .

"You're being weird." Ed said accusingly, and Roy's body was no longer following orders
from any rational part of him. Ed yelped as he was thrust roughly into the shelves at his
back, rattling them and knocking something to the floor to shatter like a starburst
underfoot, and Roy fixed his mouth over Ed's like he could mark him, like he could tattoo
his claim over his mouth, like he could drink him in and own him-

(there may be others, you may tire of me and leave me, but I will always have had this, I
will always be the first person you ever saw properly, I will always own this part of you-)

Ed's hands fell helplessly down his body, caught in his uniform, and he barely rode the
kiss, hardly able to respond as Roy pressed himself full-length over him. Roy wanted to
rub his scent all over Ed like a tomcat, rub off the closeness of -

- oh God, he was jealous - jealous - and his 'rival' was a fourteen year old boy . . .

He forced himself to pull back at that thought and Ed gasped, sagged forward against him,
hands shaking as they closed around his arms. "Damn," he said hoarsely, panting against
Roy's chest. "Miss me, then?"

Roy tilted his head down into Ed's hair and inhaled him. He could barely think around the
word Mine so huge and loud in his head. He licked his lips and murmured, "Well,
Monday morning gave me a lot to think about."

Ed panted out a laugh and stood up a little unsteadily, pushing off from Roy to support
himself once more. "Okay. There's that. But-"

He really could be startlingly fast when he wanted to, seeing as it always took him so
long to hand his reports in. Before Roy could make a sound Ed had his hand in Roy's
collar and he'd yanked him down, eye to narrowed golden eye, and he snarled, "What the
fuck, Roy? What happened to all the discretion is the most important thing -" in a deep
but still nasal impersonation of his own voice that Roy thought he probably didn't
deserve- "crap if you're gonna start humping me in military buildings? That wasn't a
'hello, I've missed you' kiss, that was-" Ed drew his bottom lip in with his teeth for a
second and swallowed and said, "something else."

Roy let his breathing slow to something more dignified as he tried to think what to say.
"You seemed to be having fun, when I got here."

Ed spat back, "That has nothing to do with-" and then paused.

"That . . . has everything to do with this, doesn't it?" he said, mouth open, eyes wide. The
look of open-mouthed surprise gave way to a particularly evil grin, and he said, "What
did you think, Colonel, I'd found something better?"

"I sincerely doubt that you could find something better, Edward." Roy said calmly,
smoothing down his uniform, and Ed's grin widened for a second.

"Yeah, you are the God of everything, Mustang." The grin flickered down. "I told you
already I don't look at people like that. And I already told you I love you, you bastard,
isn't that supposed to mean something?" His forehead creased, and his voice was a little
uneasy, now. "It does, doesn't it?"

"Of course it does. Of course it-"

"So why the hell would you think I'd suddenly change my mind?"

Clearly Roy had spent too long in the office, clearly he was overworked, clearly too
much Ed had corrupted his brain and made him as likely to say exactly what he was
thinking as Ed always was - because what came out of his mouth was, "Sometimes I
wonder if you know what that word means."

Ed's face twisted with confusion and he said, "What word?"

. . . damn.

There must be a way to have this conversation without Ed breaking him in two, without
losing him, which was worse, was terrifying, and Roy's stomach was free-floating inside
as he said, ". . . when I was your age . . ."

"You're not me! What word?"

Roy's heart had come loose as well now, was bobbing around inside with his stomach and
bouncing painfully off the base of his throat. He shouldn't have started this, he shouldn't
have said that, there was no way to pull this back - "What do you mean when you say
'love', Ed?"

Ed stared at him, but the surprise gave way to something else very quickly. His eyes held
Roy's hard, eyes fixed and mouth a tight line, and eventually he lifted his head just
slightly, let his breath out slowly through his nose, and said, "Do you love me?"

Perfectly calmly, as if he was asking to borrow a pen. "Of course I - Ed, you know I-"

"Say it."

Roy struggled to keep his own voice steady, but he couldn't match Ed's perfectly level
tone right now, he was helpless in front of someone who didn't even come up to his chin.
"I love you," he said, and Ed's eyes were even harder now, impossible to see behind.

"And you mean that when you say it, and I don't, is that it? Are we back onto the 'because
I'm a kid' thing, or is this just that I'm too fucking stupid to know what I feel-"

"Ed-"
"Don't touch me." Ed said, in the same stone-level voice, and the strength behind it made
Roy's hands hesitate in the air as he reached for him. Ed didn't move, didn't break eye
contact for a second.

"I don't know what I mean by love. I don't mean it. That's it?" He took another slow, hard
breath through his nose and gritted out, "You arrogant bastard."

"Please try and think about this in context, for god's sake, Ed, I'm the first person you
ever even looked at, how can you know I'm the best thing for you if-"

"How do I know? Do you think I'd put up with you for anything less? How do I know?"
Ed's teeth were clenched as he let out in a hiss, "I watched my mother die still waiting for
my father, and you think I don't know what love means? Fuck you." He thumped his
chest with an automail fist and spat, "I would tear my fucking heart out for you, I would
kill for you, I would crawl for you, fuck if I don't love you, Mustang-"

"Ed-"

"I will die still in love with you even if right now I wish I didn't give a shit about you.
Don't you ever dare dictate to me what I'm feeling." Ed said, still hard and cold as steel,
chest rising and falling more quickly now. "This week sucked, I hated this week, and I
thought I'd see you and everything would be-"

"I'm sorry- Ed, I-"

"-shows what I know, you're still a dick-"

Ed, who never could hold his emotions under the surface for too long, was now breaking
into the wrong side of hysteria, voice climbing an octave. "You better fucking make this
better or I think I'm gonna punch you and there's not a lot I can do about it-"

"Can I touch you now?"

"You fucking better-"

Ed found physical communication far easier than verbal communication - he could kick
and punch, scream and cry, touch and kiss and laugh but when it came to words, outside
of books, he always seemed to end up with the wrong ones. When Roy got his arms
around him, got a hand in his hair and held him as close as he could, Ed squeezed against
him and he was shaking, saying, "We can't keep doing week-long breaks, we can't, I
can't-"

"No, no." Roy murmured, and nuzzled against the top of his head, smoothing his hands
down his back, feeling his muscles tense even more for a second and then begin to loosen.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Ed. We can - I'll think of something."
"You better." Ed muttered against him, hands tightening in his uniform as Roy rubbed his
back to jelly. "This week . . . mmm, sucked. The only reason I didn't tear Russell's stupid
fat head off was thinking about tomorrow night."

Tomorrow night. Oh god.

Roy licked his lips. "About tomorrow."

"What time should I come over?" Ed said sleepily into his chest, wriggling happily under
his hands.

There was no way in hell, after the catastrophe this visit had been so far, that Ed wouldn't
kill him after learning this. He needed some way to pacify his lover or he would be
picking bits of his own vital organs out of his teeth. "I have something for you."

He peeled Ed away and Ed stood back, watching intent and curious as Roy fished in his
pockets and took out his keys, separating the spare key to his house. "I'm going to be a
little late tomorrow night," he said, his voice as casual as possible. "Why don't you let
yourself in?"

"How late?" Ed said suspiciously, without moving to take the key.

"I should be home by eleven."

"Eleven." Ed said, voice flat, eyes narrowed.

"I'll make it up to you, everything, I promise." Roy said pleadingly, more because he
knew Ed would like to hear him sound like it than anything else. After a pause Ed tilted
his head to the side and raised his eyebrows.

"Will you."

"You know I will." Roy murmured, sliding his arm around Ed's waist again. Ed tilted his
face helpfully up, but there was a flicker of fire under his eyes as he stopped Roy's mouth
with metal fingertips.

"If you ever doubt that I know what you mean to me again," he said, in a patient, step-by-
step, talking-to-idiots-and-Roy voice, "I will dump you and then kill you, then me. The
same goes for if you ever touch anyone else or otherwise try to leave me. I made my
mind up already. If we're going to do this, if I'm stuck being yours, then you're mine. It's
only equivalent."

Roy stared at him for a moment.

"You . . . don't like to step into things half-heartedly, do you?"
"I just don't want other people, I don't know how to feel like this about other people,
you're the one who diseased me." Ed said helplessly. "I don't, why would you think I
would?"

"I . . . when I was your age . . ."

"If you're trying to predict my behaviour, how is using your past behaviour a sensible
model?" Ed wrinkled his nose. "Thankfully I'm nothing like you, or else Al'd have to wait
until he was fifty to get his body back."

"You really aren't very good for your lover's ego."

"Then it's a good thing I'm stuck with you, if I'd've ruined someone with a normal-sized
ego." Ed said, nudging him in the ankle with a foot, grinning a little. He was getting
better at not seeing every argument they had as a calamitous ending to everything, and
Roy was thankful for it - though in a way, convincing an insecure Ed that Roy still
wanted him, would always want him, had been easier than dealing with a much more
confident and dangerous Ed.

Roy held the key up, one arm still around Ed's waist. "There isn't a single person on the
planet I could use to predict you. You're completely unique." He knew that flattery could
get you quite a long way with Ed, and Ed finally looked relaxed now as he watched Roy's
eyes. "Say you'll be there for me tomorrow night. I swear I'll make this up to you."

Ed considered him with narrowed eyes for a moment, then slid a finger through the key's
loop and spun it thoughtfully. "I wouldn't get any sex if I didn't go, right?" he said,
raising an eyebrow, grinning. The fact that they were in a storage cupboard in a military
laboratory had been squeezed out of Roy's mind with all the Ed, Ed, Ed around him, and
the only thing he could do was slide a hand underneath Ed's jaw, stroke over his cheek
with the pad of his thumb and kiss him. At least he had the sense to keep it slow and
shallow, because there was still a day and a half before they could resolve what had
started on Monday morning, for god's sake . . .

The door opened, and Ed froze against him as Al said, "Ahh . . . I'll . . . come back later,
shall I?"

Ed swallowed, pressed his face into Roy's throat where he could hide and said in a
muffled voice, "Al . . ."

"I was passing on important military secrets." Roy said calmly. "So important and secret
that they needed whispering. Into his ear. Hence our proximity."

"Shut up, Roy." Ed muttered into his chest, head sinking further.

"I'll just close the door, brother." Al said. "It's probably a good idea for you to lock it
when I do."
"We're done anyway." Ed mumbled, and Roy couldn't not laugh, and Ed was up in a
second, furiously red and belting him in the chest with his hand. "Shut up, you bastard,
which part of this is funny? This is all your fault-"

"I'm closing the door." Al said firmly.

"-and what kind of bullshit is important military secrets anyway, who's gonna buy that,
you moron? You better not be insulting my little brother's intelligence-"

Al sighed, and closed the door. Roy looked down with a raised eyebrow as Ed just kept
on going.

"-turn up out of bloody nowhere and start molesting me in the labs, all this crap and I'm
meant to be working, and why've you been 'busy' every night if you don't have any work
to do now?"

"I came to tell you-"

"Shut up! Who told you to talk? Damn ratbastard wanker, after you've made this up to me
I'm gonna break every bone in your damn body, and you better not tell me you don't
deserve it, and you will be making this up to me-"

"I hope to one day get the chance, yes-"

"-such a bastard, I ought to transmute you into the wall for all this-"

"-if you ever stop talking."


*


Roy squeezed the corners of his eyes with one hand, head leaned back against the back
seat. "Not your idea of a fun Friday night, Colonel?" Havoc said from the driver's seat,
turning into the road.

Roy took his dress uniform cap off, ran a hand through his hair and dropped the hat
beside him on the backseat. "A roomful of wrinkled Generals, inane small talk and
mediocre wine. I don't know what you're talking about, Lieutenant Havoc, it's the most
delightful amusement any man could wish for."

"You didn't have something else planned this evening?" Havoc said. "Something more -
lively?"

Roy opened his eyes and glared at the back of Havoc's head. He was about as subtle as
(Ed) a breezeblock to the head; he was fishing. What did he know?
"Hm. There is a new waitress at the Pickerel . . ."

"A new-?"

"And I should drop in to a few coffee shops, I've been too busy recently and I don't want
everyone to pine . . ."

"But - we thought-"

"You thought what?"

"Never mind, sir." Havoc hunched lower over the steering wheel. "Breda's an idiot." he
muttered. "So you're still . . . available, then."

Roy stared at him for a second, then leaned his head back and closed his eyes again.
"Why, Lieutenant, I had no idea. As flattered as I am-"

"With all due respect, sir, shut up." Havoc said, staring gloomily at the road.


*


There was a light on in the living room window as Roy stopped outside his own front
door and smoothed his hair once more, adjusting his hat and his uniform, letting himself
in. Anticipation growled like hunger in his stomach. He didn't know what sort of mood
he'd find Ed in, and it gave an edge of delicious unpredictability to proceedings . . .

Ed was sitting on the rug in front of the fire, books scattered in a small, messy city of
stacks around him, alongside a discarded damp towel. His hair was slung back in a pony
tail and almost dry, and he blinked lazily away from the fire and up at Roy, and quirked
half a smile.

"You're wearing the dress." he said. Which Roy really hadn't predicted. He looked down
at himself and lowered his eyebrows.

"The dress uniform."

"Same deal. How was your thing?"

"A test of endurance, knowing you were here. Did you take a shower?"

Ed raised a hand self-consciously to his head. "I stunk of plant goop," he said defensively.

Roy let his breath fall out of him in a sigh. "Such a pity. If I'd come home earlier I could
have seen you all wet . . ."
"Oh, you'd just love that." Ed said, beginning to grin again. "What is it about you and me
when I'm wet?"

"Clearly I need a bigger mirror in the bathroom, so you can see what I see. I'm sure you'd
understand then."

Ed snorted and pushed away the book open on the rug in front of him, leaning back on
his hands. "Not all of us are complete narcissists, Mustang."

"I would quite like to fuck you in front of a mirror," Roy mused, and watched the
blankness that took over Ed's face, then the rushing blush. "I want to be able to watch. I
want to be able to watch you watching us." He let himself smirk, slowly, as Ed blinked
rapidly and shot his gaze away from Roy, into the fire, cheeks burning dark red. "Is this
turning you on?"

"You're such a pervert." Ed muttered.

"I can't help it. Fucking hell, look at you . . ."

Ed looked, slowly, back up at him, and for a second Roy let himself smile, just smile, no
subtext and no hidden emotions. Ed raised his head a little more at that and Roy said
softly, "I really do have a lot to make up to you, don't I?"

"Well." Ed muttered, still ruffled. "Week of horny torment after Monday morning.
Accusation of I-don't-even-know-what yesterday. Being late tonight. Being a perverted
old bastard. Yeah, you pretty much owe me big, Mustang."

"To be fair, Monday was half your doing."

"You started it."

"Very well, I will repay you that too. Unfortunately . . ." Roy spread his arms slightly.
"All I have to offer is myself."

Ed was still looking up at him, still blushing a little, just beginning to smile. "I guess
that'll do for a start," he allowed in a begrudging voice. "So . . . you gonna stand in the
doorway all night?"

Roy smirked. "You'd think we would have spent enough time in each others' company by
now for you to pick up the basics of subtlety."

"You'd think we'd've spent enough time in each others' company for you to pick up a
black eye, too." Ed snarled, and Roy laughed, a sudden deep bark before he strode across
the room - Ed blinked up at him - crouched, and neatly flipped his cap onto Ed's head. It
slipped instantly over his eyes and Ed yelped, hands flying up to push it back, allowing
Roy to neatly scoop him up into his arms and bounce him closer. Ed wailed, finally
managed to push the cap back over one eye at least and caught his arms around Roy's
neck for balance. "Roy-"

Roy stood, turning quickly enough that Ed had to grab onto the hat with one hand again
to keep it from flying. "Since I was so late, we have a lot of time to make up for." Roy
said briskly, setting off for the stairs.

"Roy," Ed said through gritted teeth, hanging on to the back of Roy's neck with one hand
while the other held the hat back on his head, "do we have to have the 'I am not a girl'
conversation again?"

The easiest and most enjoyable way to shut Ed up was usually to kiss him to
senselessness. It also made climbing the stairs a feat of such balance and orienteering that
Roy thought he deserved some sort of medal for services to sex just for reaching the
bedroom door, which he kicked open, without either dropping or concussing Ed.

"Ooh. Manly." Ed drawled, hat still covering one eye. Roy rolled his eyes and tossed him
onto the bed - Ed bounced, yelped, laughed - turned the light on, stood back and waited.
Ed sat up, pushing the cap back again to regain his sight, and licked his lips as he looked
at Roy.

There was something so absolutely intoxicating about being wanted this way.

Roy reached up and began undoing the clasps of his uniform. He saw Ed's attention fall
to his hands and murmured, "Look at me."

Ed's eyes shifted up to meet his again instantly, and he looked - embarrassed, at being
caught looking. "Do you like what you see?" Roy teased, and Ed lowered his head,
scowling and blushing, but didn't look away.

"You're such a bastard."

Roy held the eye contact, almost feeling Ed's each quickening breath in his own chest,
and slipped out of the long jacket of his dress uniform to drape it onto the chair. "A
bastard you can't wait to start touching you."

"Fuck you." Ed was still dark red, but he unconsciously wet his lips again and Roy
smirked.

"Something like that," he murmured, walking to the bed, climbing onto it and onto Ed,
kneeling over his waist. "I know you want me, Edward."

Ed rolled his eyes. "Yeah, I just can't resist you." He thumped his head back onto the
pillows - the hat tilted back - and said in a monotone, "Oh Colonel, take me, take me
now."
Roy blinked down at him, and then almost laughed. "I know you can do better than that.
I've seen your acting when you want to get out of things you don't want to do."

Ed sighed, gave him a squinted, calculating look, then closed his eyes and tipped his head
back again.

As Roy opened his mouth in a question Ed took a couple of deeper, faster breaths, and let
out a little sound on the third breath, small and helpless. Roy's mouth remained open but
the words blocked up in his throat. Ed's head fell to the side - the hat rolled to the floor -
and he gasped out a proper moan this time, shoulders tensing. He arched up, eyes
flickering to golden slits as his body curved under Roy's and he breathed, "Ah - hhah . . .
that's . . ."A low shudder of a groan as his eyes slid closed again. "Uh, uhhhRoy . . ."

He squeezed his eyes more tightly closed, shook his head from side to side, clenched his
hands in the sheets and panted, chest fluttering faster now, "Oh - like th- that, th- ah aah -
Roy, Roy . . ."

He couldn't bend his body any further back, mouth hanging open and helpless on each
breath, hair flung across the pillow and loose in its tail. Roy was frozen over him like a
wax statue, eyes wide, mouth open and completely dry. "Ha- hah- ah - Ruhhh, ahah-ah-
ahhhaRoy-! - Just- like- hah-!"

And then he opened his eyes, thunked his body back onto the mattress, raised an eyebrow
and said, "Better?"

Whatever was lodged in Roy's throat was almost as hard as he was. "Absolute brat," he
rasped.

"Learned from the best." Ed smirked, and wriggled again underneath him. "Shit, that
made me hard. Are you gonna do something to me already?"

The delicate, ice-thin balance of power in this bed really could alarm Roy sometimes
with the speed at which it broke and shifted. Luckily it was enough to press his hands
over Ed's wrists, hold him against the mattress and slide his mouth down Ed's throat to
elicit a very real whimper from him. He smiled into Ed's skin for a second before he
popped the catch of Ed's jacket open with his teeth.

"I'm very much looking forward to your repeat performance tonight, Edward."

He slid his teeth back up Ed's throat and pressed his mouth over the corner of Ed's, taking
his lip into his mouth as Ed hissed, "Bssstrd . . ."

Roy bit his mouth tenderly and murmured without raising his head, "You really are
wearing far too many clothes for what I intend to do to you."
"Hurry the fuck up, then-" Ed choked, struggling to jerk his hands free, arching himself
up between Roy's legs. Roy shifted a knee to hold him down.

"Patience, love."

Ed thrashed his head from side to side. "Nononow-"

"Oh, no. I have an entire week to make up to you. It's going to take a long time."

"-kill you-"

"Not until after I've finished you won't."

"Bastard-"

Roy lifted one of the hands he was holding down and Ed finally blinked up at him as he
felt Roy move his own hand down his body, and he sucked a breath in quickly and looked
down as Roy held it hovered between his legs, just over warm leather. Roy paused for a
moment, looking down at him as Ed remained perfectly, perfectly still, and then he
whispered, "I know you don't really believe me about this, but you are so fucking
beautiful right now, Ed . . ."

Ed's eyes flicked to his, and for a moment they just stared at one another, gold against
black, breath to breath and absolutely still, balanced on the moment.

Eventually Ed licked his lips and whispered, "If you're not gonna let me up, can you at
least kiss me already?"

Roy smiled, and when he kissed him he pressed his hand down, so he could feel Ed's
moan vibrate up into his mouth as his legs slid further apart underneath him.

Closer part XIX
Rating: R
Beta: toxicbullets. Thank you thank you thank you ^^
Disclaimer: I'm still searching for a little cow keyring to wear alongside my chibi!Ed
keying to show my unending devotion to Hiromu Arakawa. The series is hers, the
characters are hers. And we love her for it.

Summary: 'It is the star to every wandering bark . . .'

All previous parts can be found in my memories.



Notes: Other things I do not own in this chapter: the poetry. Believe me, no-one wants to
read my poetry. *shudder* But! Some of the poems contained are really very good. I
mean no insult at all on the poems Ed dislikes, they're fine pieces themselves but I just
can't see Ed appreciating them at all. There are also two of my favourite poems in the
world referred to here. If you want the credits, just email me and I can send you links.
Some of them are *lovely*.

Also this is my favourite Ed/Roy song, in the world, evar. It just makes me smile every
time.



I wandered around and finally found the somebody who
Could make me be blue,
Could make me be true,
And even be glad, just to be sad,
Thinking of you . . .

Some others I've seen might never be mean,
Might never be cross, or try to be boss, but they wouldn't do -
For nobody else gave me a thrill,
With all your faults I love you still,
It had to be you,
Wonderful you,
It had to be you.
- Tony Bennett, It Had To Be You



Roy was jerked from sleep by a metal foot in the shin, bruising hard, and raised his head
with a start. "What? What?" he said, blinking around, baffled, looking down at Ed.
"What?"

Ed said something muffled into the pillows, twisted onto his back and muttered, "You're
heavy, get off-" and kicked again. Roy slid his legs out of range and propped himself up,
staring down at him, still rubbing his shin.

"I'm not on," he said, confused, and Ed shook his head.

"Get off, Roy, not here-"

Roy opened his mouth and then noted Ed's eyes were still closed and fluttering as his
head fell to the side. "Are you asleep?"

". . . not here . . ."

"You are asleep. You are the most unsettled sleeper I've ever shared a bed with." He
rubbed his shin one last time and, eyebrows raised and jaw propped up on his hand, gazed
down at Ed. "Not that I've actually shared a bed with many people while at least one of
them was asleep."

Ed made an incoherent moaning noise and Roy smirked slightly. "Dreaming something
good?"

Ed shook his head, whispered, ". . . she can see, get off -"

"Who can see?"

"Roy, she can see, stop it-"

"What exactly are you dreaming?" Roy said, lifting the end of Ed's own pony tail to tickle
the side of his nose with. "What possible reason could you have for not wanting me to
touch you? Whoever 'she' is, Ed, a little voyeurism never killed any-"

"Roy, don't, she can see-" Ed choked, kicking again. "Please-"

Roy paused at that, because he hadn't actually known that 'please' existed in Ed's
vocabulary. "What are you dreaming? What's-"

"Don't, she's looking, Roy, don't, please, get off-"

He touched the side of Ed's forehead, stroked back through his hair. He lowered his face
to Ed's to murmur, "You're dreaming. You're dreaming, love."

"Don't, she can see-"

"Hush, Ed, I'm not doing anything. I'm just here."

Ed shook his head again and whispered, "Not here, there's - so much blood-"

Roy felt a hole open up inside. Oh, no . . .

"Ed, wake up. Wake up. You're dreaming, wake up."

"Don't-!"

Roy held his face between his hands, brushing his thumbs over Ed's cheeks, hissing
urgently, "Wake up-"

Ed came up with a jerk, eyes open and heart hammering, and thrashed in Roy's hands
before he took stock of where he was. His eyes searched Roy's for a breathless second
and then he whispered, "Oh."
"You were dreaming, love." Roy murmured, sliding his arms around him, pressing his
face to Ed's hair. He smelt of salt; sweat and panic. Ed clutched at him and swallowed,
pulse stuttering against Roy's skin.

"Oh." he said again, eyes closing tight against Roy.

"What were you-"

"No." Ed said urgently, and pulled him closer. "Please, don't, I - know I'm fucked up, I'm
sorry, but please don't ask-"

"Okay. Okay." Roy smoothed his hair back, kissed the top of his head and finally his face
when he raised his head. "You're not 'fucked up', Ed."

"Liar," Ed muttered, sinking back against him. "What time is it?"

"I have no idea. It's still dark."

". . . sorry."

Roy laid them both out again, stretching himself onto the mattress still wrapped around
Ed, and murmured into his hair. "I don't mind. Everyone has nightmares. Just go back to
sleep."

Ed's hands slid around his back, warm and cool, and he said, "Do you?"

"Hm?"

One of the hands squeezed. "Nightmares, Mustang."

"I . . ." Roy raised his head a little. "Not when you're here, apparently."

Ed looked up at him, looked too surprised to speak.

"Of course, that might just be because I have very little chance to actually sleep while
you're here."

The surprise turned instantly to anger. "I said I was sorry, bastard-"

"Go back to sleep, Ed."

"Hope you dream something vile." Ed muttered, flumping his head back against Roy's
chest.
"Sweet dreams to you too." Roy murmured, drawing a hand slowly through his hair and
stroking his shoulder, waiting for Ed's breathing to slow and even out before he let his
own eyes droop closed.


*


Ed woke sometime after dawn from a fairly innocuous dream that he couldn't find his
watch and the military headquarters just weren't the way they should have been, were like
a maze, and stared at the patch of body he'd been sleeping against for a long time.

He sat, slowly, and looked around the room. Just Roy's bedroom. Nothing unusual about
it. Everything smelt of Roy, everything was deeper and darker and richer than in the
dorms he didn't even think of as 'home'. This should be the safest place he knew . . .

Laying down again beside Roy, one eye against the pillow, he looked over his face
carefully, for all the information he could glean from it. There was little new to learn,
though Ed still liked to look. Roy needed more sleep. He needed a shave. He had a little
scar, just a fleck, on his right cheek, like he'd been caught by a chip of gravel a long time
ago. He was drop-dead fucking gorgeous and while asleep he couldn't even wear his and
don't I just know it? smirk.

Ed was growing quite fond of that smirk, actually.

If you knew everything about me - would you still think I was . . . ? Ed stared hard, tried
to dig out the answer. If you knew exactly what I've done and what a mess I am-

He would never tell Roy some of the things he dreamed about. Never. He couldn't tell Al,
couldn't tell anyone, it was just wrong. It wasn't his fault. No way in hell he'd dream that
if he had any say in it. But it came out of his brain, it was a part of him . . .

Something else was bugging him, flickering in the back of his consciousness. He stared
into Roy's closed eyes, parted his lips slightly, paused and then mouthed a silent, I love
you.

Why hadn't Roy believed that? Why did he hear Ed's I love you as something else? It
wasn't like it was exactly easy to say, but he did it, all the same. Roy was the only person
he knew he'd ever dig the balls up, or find the inclination in the first place, to make
himself say it to. He had to say it to Roy, the weight of this baffling, frightening, drug-
thick love forced its admission out of him. But if Roy didn't believe the things he said
then what was Ed meant to say?

Am I doing something wrong? What am I doing? What am I not doing? How am I meant
to know how you're meant to make someone believe-
How was he meant to make Roy believe he loved him? What could he do, what could he
say, that a hundred other people hadn't done or said first?

His hands were shaking a little, and he had to close his fists tightly against the mattress.
Sometimes it drove him a little crazy, sometimes it terrified him, sometimes he wanted to
bite Roy just to leave a mark - there was nowhere he could touch Roy he hadn't been
touched before, no way he could touch him he hadn't been touched before, nothing he
could let Roy do to him he hadn't done before -

He swallowed, raised a hand and touched the side of Roy's head, and thought, You have
to be mine. You fucking own me, you can't not be mine-

"Why isn't this easy?" he whispered, and Roy didn't move. "All it is is . . . why should
this be any more complicated than . . ." He curled his fingers in Roy's hair. "-this, us,
this?"

He slid closer, wrapped his arms around Roy, leaned his cheek into Roy's hair. He smelt
of cigar smoke from last night, low and sweet like wet wood, and the sweat and musk
scent of sex. He smelt adult and male and -

"Hurry up and wake up, bastard." Ed muttered, hands sliding down his back, pressing his
face closer to his hair. "Or I won't have time to molest you before I have to go back to the
labs."


*


Roy draped his arms over Ed's shoulders from behind, while Ed tied his hair back. Ed
snarled, holding his braid half-complete, hair tie clenched in his teeth.

"Off, Mustang."

"I'm always 'Mustang' when you're mad at me."

"Off, Mustang."

"You see my point?" Roy sighed into Ed's hair. "You don't have to go into the labs
today."

Ed twisted an elbow and began pushing Roy back, nudging his head off, so he could
finish his hair. "I do, actually. But I am coming back tonight, and you will be here."

"Will I," Roy murmured. Ed narrowed his eyes. "Yes I will. Apparently."
Ed snatched his hair tie out of his mouth and snapped, "You don't have to see me if you
don't want-"

"Of course I want. I always want. Even when you wake up feeling . . . horny and angry at
the same time, which I didn't think . . ."

Ed paused, flicked his braid over his shoulder and walked over, put his arms around Roy
and pressed his head to his chest, eyes closed briefly. "Sorry," he mumbled.

Roy touched the top of his head. He was surprised he'd actually got an apology. "I worry
you don't get enough rest," he said.

"I told you already, I sleep all the time-"

"I know. But-"

Ed's hands tightened in a very definite threat against his sides. "You better not be
accusing me of having a little kid's tired temper-tantrum or I'll tear your kidneys out."

"Wouldn't dream of it." Roy let his arms slide over Ed's shoulders, down his back, and Ed
looked up at him. "I will be here," he promised, and Ed gave a weary sort of smile.

"Right. So will I."

Roy kissed the tip of his nose and Ed wrinkled it, muttered, "You're completely
ridiculous-"

"You bring it out in me."

"Bastard."

"Charming."

"Pervert."

"You should know, you're the one sleeping with me."

"Bastard."

"No, call me a freak pervert again, you know it turns me on-"

"Son of a-" Ed tugged away but Roy had him by the arms, swung him around and straight
back into his chest. The laugh burst out of Ed entirely involuntarily. "Complete bas-"

Kissing Ed was so many different kinds of good, but only Ed could turn a kiss into an
argument as well.
*


In a way, Roy was right; there was just no need for four alchemists in one lab. Among
other problems, it was a health and safety nightmare - after the attempted use of a clamp
stand as a lethal weapon during one particular incident that morning, Al decided that he
and Ed should spend the afternoon in the library instead, because they had some results to
start researching with again now. Mainly, though, he just wanted a few walls and streets
between his brother and Russell.

There were other things to research besides alchemy. While Al was in the rare books
room, waiting for their requested book, Ed guiltily slipped a volume from the shelf in the
fiction section and skimmed through it. By the time he put it back on the shelf again he
felt a similar combination of anger and nausea to the one Mustang usually brought out in
him.

This was how people in love were meant to act? Bollocks to that.

But they were all the same, wherever he looked - people fainting and starting and
blushing and not eating or sleeping, pining away. He banged another book back onto the
shelf. Oh God, spew. He wasn't like that, was he?

. . . well, he did end up blushing a lot, but that was only because he had the great
misfortune of being in love with Mustang, who was a complete pervert. And he had a
slight habit of causing accidental bodily harm to himself whenever Mustang's name was
mentioned, but . . .

Well, it would take more than Mustang to put him off food.

He slid another book off the shelf, scowling.

How do I love thee? Let me count the - spew.

If thou must love me, let it be for nought/Except love's - spew.

Tread softly, because you tread on my - spew.

The problem was, one party was meant to be all girly and simpering and whiny, and the
other was meant to be all macho and strong and confident. Ed suspected he would suck at
either role, and so would Mustang, for that matter. So what were they meant to do? If
there weren't any helpful books explaining what to do then he'd have to make this up as
he went along, and what if he got it wrong? He must be getting it wrong already, or Roy
would have believed him . . .
His face was charged with beauty as a cloud/With glimmering lightning. When it
shadowed me/I shook, and was as uneasy as a tree/That draws the brilliant danger,
tremulous, bowed.

Ed paused, and pushed the book back onto the shelf, his ears ringing. Suddenly it was
early days in his new time with the Colonel and Roy had him pressed back against his
wall, helpless and confused and needing -

He felt . . . that little bit unsettled, all the way through. Poetry really ought to come with a
warning - 'may cause extreme nausea, for a variety of reasons'. He slid another book free.

What is your substance, whereof are you made/That millions of strange shadows on you
tend?

He looked down, cheeks burning. So apparently poetry explained to you what you
already felt, not anything new. So much more useful than alchemy . . .

Let me not to the marriage of true minds/Admit impedi"Brother?"

Ed started, fumbled the book, juggled it back into his hands and slammed it back into its
space on the shelf.

Ed looked up at Al. Al looked down at Ed. And Ed knew when his little brother was
grinning, even when he couldn't . . .

"What are you reading?" Al said, and Ed kept his hands crammed over the book's spine,
holding it in place on the shelf as if it could fly off and betray him.

"Nothing!"

"Then can I see?"

Ed was beginning to sweat. "Al-"

Al really could look very scary, all those spikes leaning (leering) over you . . .

Al put a large leather finger onto the top of the book's spine. Ed pressed harder with both
hands. Al was stronger, and gravity was on his side - he was trying to lever the book
down, Ed was trying to push it flat . . .

"Al!"

"But it must be interesting, brother, for you to get so-"

"Al! I'll - I - I'll tell Winry how old you were the last time you wet the bed!"
Al jumped away with a clang, and Ed sagged against the book, panting. "Jeez," he said,
faintly.

Al stood and rattled for a moment before he drew himself together and said, "If you ever
did that I'd tell the Colonel how old you were when you last-"

"Al!"

They stared at one another, all tightly-strung nerves and quivering metal.

"Truce?" Ed offered weakly. Al tilted his helmet back, and after a pause gave a sigh.

"Truce. What are you reading?"

Ed - slid the book off the shelf, slowly, and hugged it close. "It's." He looked away,
scowled, could feel the blush hot on his face. "You know." he said in a sullen mumble.
"For him."

When he finally found the courage to blink his way back up to Al, his little brother was
still standing there staring down at him, and his posture said '-what?' - though possibly
with more punctuation than that; at least one more question mark, and maybe an
exclamation mark or two. Then he moved with a shift of metal into something more
neutral.

"Well . . . um, the book we requested came through."

"Okay. Well, I'll take that if you want to keep looking through the journals . . ."

"Okay." Al said, but Ed could feel him staring at him all the way back to their desk.

Was he really acting that weird? Was he acting like one of those idiots in the novels? He
would rather die, cut his own throat open on the spot-

He couldn't help it, this was all Mustang's fault . . .


*


Roy had decided to pay more attention to office gossip now, since Havoc's ineffectual
grilling in the car. If they'd noticed his change in behaviour . . .

Hawkeye gazed back at him as calmly as ever - of course. Breda watched him like he was
trying to plot his next move - and Roy had played chess against him before, and knew not
to underestimate him. Havoc looked completely miserable, at the combination of Roy as
a rival once more and having to work on a Saturday. Fury was busy trying to console
Havoc, and Falman . . . well, Falman's thoughts were a mystery at the best of times.

Roy knew that Ed fully understood the importance of their not being discovered, but also
knew that Ed wouldn't for a second accept Roy returning to past modes of behaviour. If
Ed ever caught him flirting with anyone else, even looking at anyone else -

When Ed said that he didn't even look at other people, Roy knew he was telling the truth;
Ed was to all intents asexual, completely oblivious to other human beings as sexual
beings, making the lone exception for him. So he was Roysexual. A thought Roy rather
liked. But Ed didn't notice people coming on to him until they physically draped
themselves over him, and then he never appreciated the gesture (except from Roy, and
then only sometimes); how could he accept Roy tending to his harem of admirers? He
wouldn't understand it, couldn't accept it -

Either it would make him furious or distraught. Roy didn't know which was worse; one
might cost him his own life, but the other could cost him Ed.

He couldn't lose Ed at this point. He'd finally realised the depth of Ed's attachment to him.
Ed -

Loved him. In that clumsy, dangerous, devoted Edward Elric way of his. Ed - had made
his mind up, and Ed was about as likely to change his mind as Hawkeye was to leap onto
the table and break into song. In fact, by the looks of it, Ed had already inked Roy into
the rest of his life and fully expected things to work out in a way that made that possible.
It made Roy just want to smile but with an edge of unease; Ed had no experience of
relationships, hadn't realised that it's only if you're very, very lucky that your every
relationship except one will end in crap. And the odds of that being your very first one . . .

What was he meant to say to Ed about that? Besides the fact that he remembered what
first love is like, remembered exactly the excitement and the joy and nerves and
emotional enormity and the first other body besides your own that you can touch, it was
Ed. Everything about Ed was an absolute. He wouldn't deny that whatever Ed was going
through was huge for him, had kicked his world over and changed the angle he saw life
through. All Roy could do was trust that Ed would always look at life that way, would
always look at him that way.

But then, if Ed ever did look like changing his mind, Roy had made his mind up too: he
would not let this go. If it meant he had to charm Ed to his knees, he'd do it. If Ed had the
chance to be happy - to be happier - with someone else, then Roy would be merciless in
his charm offensive. He would remind Ed what he'd seen in him in the first place - that he
was Roy Mustang, damn it, and people did not leave him. That was unheard of.

. . . except for the only other person he would ever have claimed he was in love with, but
the odds of it happening again . . .
Roy sighed. There was only one thing for it. Surreptitious combustion of all potential
rivals. There was even a small possibility that Ed would find it romantic.


*


Insects whirred in every patch of muggy light as Ed waited outside Roy's door with his
coat under one arm, popping his jacket open and sighing. The sun hadn't quite set but the
moon was rising already, fat and barley-coloured behind the rooftops. It prompted four
sonnets out of Ed's memory instantly but they were all vomit-inducing.

What it really reminded him of was how much bigger the skies were at home, huge and
open and empty, all the stars in the universe couldn't fill them - a sea of fields below, the
distant glow of home, and a sea of stars above - and then he'd known already what his
teacher had had to beat into him again all those years later: you are (deep breath) small,
but you are part of something glorious . . .

Roy opened the door and Ed opened his mouth to say, You should come back with me,
after all this when Al's in his body again, you should take a holiday and come with us and
see-

But his mouth stayed open without making a sound. When did he start making long-term
plans? When did he start thinking about the after?

. . . well, now the after involved Roy . . .

"Your mouth is open, Edward." Roy murmured, still holding the door open. "I suppose I
should take it as a compliment."

Ed's mouth snapped shut instantly. "Shut up. Bastard."

"You really are the most pleasant company."

"Shut. Up." Ed dumped his coat on the stand as Roy closed the door. He turned to face
him, and Ed paused before reaching up and brushing the shadows underneath Roy's eyes
with his thumbs. "Hell, you look exhausted."

"One minute you can't close your mouth, now I look exhausted. Consistency is not your
finest quality."

Ed scowled. "Shut-"

"Actually, that was unfair." Roy slid his arms around his back, tugging him one step
closer. "It makes watching you completely fascinating. And where it counts, you really
are quite beautifully constant." Ed didn't know where to look, didn't quite dare to look
away, from Roy's eyes so serious and intense and so dark they left him a little bit dizzy.
"I admire that."

And that would have been a good place to have turned the conversation in that direction.
'So, why would you doubt what I feel about you, then?' would have had about the right
weight of accusation and genuine question to it.

Or, 'I read some books today to try and find a way to say it to you that you'd believe, but
none of it's us enough, they're not my words and I'm sorry but I just don't have any better
words.'

Or just, 'Then believe me when I tell you that I'll always want you.'

What came out, though, was, "Why the fuck don't you believe me when I tell you I love
you then, you arrogant bastard?"

Roy blinked, pulling his head back a little. Ed scowled, clenched his fists and snarled,
"You say it means something when you say it, why's it any different for me? If you don't
believe me then why should I believe you? I don't lie about stuff like this, I've never said
it to anyone before in my life and I wouldn't've if I didn't mean- it's not like it's fucking
easy-"

"You've been letting this simmer since Thursday, haven't you?"

Ed gritted his teeth and hissed, "How is this a fucking relationship between equals if
you're gonna treat me like a kid or an idiot?"

"Ed - Ed - I'm sorry, I am, but please just listen, then you can shout at me some more if
you like-"

"I fucking should-"

"I know. Please?" Roy stroked a hand over his hair, slid his hands down to cup his face
and searched his eyes - and Ed scowled and tilted his head forward a little and waited.
Roy sighed.

"I . . . you have no idea how very unusual you are, really, do you? Teenagers think they
fall in love every other day, Ed, wait-" over Ed's sudden reply, and Ed bit back his words,
swallowed, and glared. "-you are young, I know that you know that, even if you are a
very atypical teenager. Because every person who has ever been young would think I was
a fool for believing that you know what you're saying to me. I think I'm being a fool
when I remember how I was at your age."

"When you were the same old man-slut you've always been." Ed muttered, and Roy took
in a breath, let it out slowly, eyes a little narrowed.
"I was on my way to becoming that, in your eyes at least, yes. But you . . . aren't. I'm a
fool for thinking you would be anything like I was when I was younger."

Ed was horrified at that. "You thought I'd-"

"No. Clearly not. You are . . . you care too deeply about people to do that." Roy smiled,
and Ed's brows folded uneasily at him. "Even sex is about more than just sex to you, isn't
it? You can't just kick back and see it as fun, you want . . ."

"Shut up." Ed muttered, cheeks darkening under Roy's gloves, and Roy shook his head,
still smiling.

"It's nothing to be ashamed of. It just means too much to you to trust someone like that.
Edward." Roy said quietly, seriously, drawing Ed's eyes back to meet his. "I find it . . .
flattering, and touching, and terrifying that when I touch you what you feel is what I feel
for you. You are a revelation, to me. You have changed the person I thought I was, and
sometimes I find that hard to accept - neither of us very much like being told what to do -
but I want to keep this, I want to see what you're turning me into, and I really want to see
what you're growing into. You're outstanding already. You are going to be . . ." He raised
his eyebrows. "Actually, I think you're going to be beautiful and terrible and you will
very probably take over the world."

Ed suspected Roy would feel his blush through his gloves, hot and helpless, would feel
the brush of his eyelashes every time he blinked, rapid and nervous. He failed to say
something twice before he whispered through a rough throat, "Idiot."

Roy - laughed.

"I can't doubt you. Ed, love, I can't doubt you, you are a Philosopher's Stone, I've never
met someone as unchangeable as you in the ways that matter. You are magnificently
faithful, almost terrifying in your faithfulness, and you understand it, which makes it,
makes you, almost unique. Because you have lived at least three times the life anyone
else your age has, three times the life I had by your age, and of course you know what it
means. Of course you understand what you want to hold on to. The problem has never
been my doubt of you." He stroked Ed's hair back from his face, bent down a little so they
were closer, and Ed raised a hand to one of the wrists at his face, ducking his head just a
little before looking up again. "I'm not sure you'll believe this, but I think all along I have
been doubting what you would see in me that you would want to put that brilliant,
frightening faith behind."

Ed cleared his throat a little, raised an eyebrow and tried to force his voice to be casual.
"I'm supposed to believe there's a gap in your ego?"

"Believe it or not, I have not had much luck in my life when it actually comes to love."
"Well if you had, maybe you wouldn't've had to shag around so much." Ed muttered,
putting his other hand around Roy's other wrist, smiling a little as he nudged at the hands
around his face. "I . . . read some books today. Still trying to get my head around this -
me and you thing."

"You read more books on 'this'."

"Uh . . . yeah. Not like before though, but all that mushy crap you're into, poetry and all
that bullshit." Ed shuffled in Roy's hands and glared into his shirt instead of his face.
"Most of it made me want to heave."

"That's nice to know."

"Oi. I could still decide to keep being mad at you, Mustang. Anyway, I read a couple that
weren't so . . . um."

He looked fixedly away from Roy and began reciting a sonnet, rapid and arrhythmic.
Two lines in he became aware of the intensity of Roy's attention on him, the dumb shock
on his face, and he'd only got as far as, "It is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests
and is never shaken; It is the star to every wandering bark-" when Roy leaned down and
kissed him.

The next words fell muffled into Roy's mouth, and Ed blinked in surprise a couple of
times before closing his eyes and leaning closer. This wasn't a we are about to have such
hot, messy sex kiss, this was . . . mm. Nice.

Roy broke back, ran his thumbs across Ed's face and stared at him in wonder, like Ed had
just popped into existence in his hallway. "You learned a sonnet for me." he said blankly.

"I . . . guess," Ed said, and there wasn't the space to squirm when Roy was kissing him
again already. Okay. Okay, this was really nice. He should definitely read more poetry.

"You actually like all this romantic junk, don't you?" he said breathlessly in the next
pause, while Roy kissed along his jaw and back towards his mouth.

"One needn't be a woman to appreciate a romantic gesture," Roy breathed against him,
and Ed shuddered all the way through at the feel of it, the hum of his voice so close. "It's
only meant to show you think the other party is worth it."

"Roy," he panted, clutching his shirt to drag him closer, nose against nose and he glanced
up at him and oh God look at him - "I'll learn a whole book of the stupid crap for you."

Roy dragged him up for another kiss and murmured, "Such a gentleman." and Ed burst
out laughing.
Closer part XX
Secret Ninja Porn Beta (tm) beta'd
Rating: NC-17. Ish.
Disclaimer: Were Fullmetal Alchemist mine it would look like this. So clearly it isn't.

Summary: The plot does not move forward one millimetre. But no-one actually gets
dressed for the whole chapter, so maybe that makes up for it.

All previous parts can be found in my memories.



Notes: Structureless mess of a chapter. I've broken this fic down into sections to help me
deal with the plot more, and this is the end of the second section (which contains parts 13
through 20; section one contains 2 through 12, and part 1 just kind of sits there because it
was always meant to be a one-shot anyway), and almost completely pointless in terms of
plot. We'll get around to that next chapter ^^; Been writing insane amounts recently, so
I'm getting frustrated with these bits where nothing actually happens (well, except some
plot set-up that won't actually mean anything for another ten chapters, blah), and
basically just want to get these posted and out of the way ;P


And when you look in my eyes
Please know, my heart is in your hands;
It's nothing that I understand,
But in your arms you have complete power over me -
So be gentle if you please 'cause
Your hands are in my hair but
My heart is in your teeth babe and it
Makes me wanna make you near me always.

- Jewel, Near You Always



It was too hot to sleep ("And too hot for that," Ed muttered, holding Roy off with an
automail foot on the face when that didn't get the message across), so they sprawled side
by side on the bed, covers kicked to the floor, listening to the insects hum outside. Roy
had been pushed to quite a small area of the mattress by Ed, who did like to sprawl.

"You take up a surprising amount of room, all things considered." he murmured, blinking
slowly at the ceiling.

Ed took in a slow breath, let it out again, hands clenching and unclenching. "Do you think
pissing me off at this point is clever, seeing as you're hoping to get to screw me
tomorrow?"
"Ah. You're learning the basics of strategy. Very good."

"Strategy," Ed muttered, and rolled to face Roy. He was wearing one of Roy's lighter
shirts, falling almost to his knees, half buttoned up over his underwear, hair in a pony tail.
"How'd you end up in the military, anyway?" he said, and Roy - stripped down to pyjama
pants - tilted his head to the side to look at him. Lights off, curtains open, the same blue-
lit curves and light-silvered angles as that first . . .

"I didn't 'end up' in it. I chose to enrol."

"Were you dropped on your head as a child?"

"Need I remind you that you made exactly the same choice, Edward?"

"No. I really didn't. You choose something when you've got a viable alternative." Ed
touched Roy's side with his fingertips, rubbed as if testing the space between each rib.
"You were there that night. What the hell else did you think I'd do?"

There was a time, once, when looking into Ed's eyes and telling him only half the truth
had been easy. "You would have thought of something."

"You knew." Ed snorted. "You knew it was this or nothing and that's why you offered it."
He narrowed his eyes at Roy, but didn't stop touching his side. "Answer the question,
anyway. Why'd you choose to sign up?"

"Would you believe, to serve my country?" At the suspicious raise of Ed's eyebrows Roy
added, "Well, and someone said I'd look a god in the uniform."

Ed laughed, fingers curling against Roy's side before he flung himself back onto his back
and wriggled against the bed. "Of course."

"Which I do."

"Of course you do," Ed said soothingly, and then yelped as Roy's hand slid across his
stomach.

"Don't-! Bastard!"

"One thing you haven't learned yet is how to choose your battles, Ed."

Ed grabbed Roy's wrist with both hands and held it out of range of his stomach.
"Bastard," he muttered again. "So how old were you?"

"Are we still on this?"
"If you haven't noticed," Ed said, casually testing the bend of each of Roy's fingers as
long as he had his hand captured, running his fingertips down the lines on his palm, "I
don't know shit about you, and you probably have a file somewhere with my entire life on
it, and I don't think that's very equivalent."

"Hm. I was eighteen."

"Eighteen."

"Is that so hard to believe?"

"But - how long've you been in the military then? It must be - how old are you?"

"You're sleeping with me and you don't know how old I am."

"Well, you never told me. Hey, is it like trees? If I count the wrinkles do I get your age?"

"I do not have wrinkles."

Ed snickered. Roy scowled.

"Ten years." he said stiffly. "I've been in the military ten years."

"Huh." Ed bent Roy's wrist back a little, eyes following the fine veins underneath the skin.
"Long time to stick around for such stupid reasons."

"They didn't seem stupid at the time."

"To serve your country?"

"Well. We were at war."

"Yeah, I remember." Ed's fingertips found his pulse, and he half-closed his eyes for a
moment, feeling the rhythm. "There was this mobile cinema that used to come around to
our village now and then, and they showed reels of - you know, our brave boys at the
front, all that crap, on the side of a barn before they showed the film." He paused, then
drew Roy's hand to himself and hugged it almost absent-mindedly against his chest. "All
the adults used to go really quiet. Al didn't like it."

"And you?"

"I just wanted them to put the film on already. I liked the ones with the fat guy and the
skinny guy who were always hitting each other."

"Hm."
"And I didn't like . . . how upset it made everyone." Ed nuzzled his hand closer, silent for
a moment, and then kissed his knuckles with his eyes closed. "You do look good in the
uniform," he murmured, and Roy - shrugged.

"I know."

Ed grinned against the knuckles still held to his face. "I know you know. You couldn't
love yourself more."

"I'm sure I could make the effort if I really wanted."

"You don't want to concentrate too hard, Mustang, if you keep tensing up your face you'll
deepen your wrinkles."

"Brat-"

Roy rolled to get a hand to his stomach and damn it, tickle him breathless, but Ed still had
his other hand and tugged at just the right moment so Roy's body fell on top of his, legs
on either side of Ed's, and he caught one hand in Roy's dogtags. Ed searched his eyes for
a second and then smiled.

"Look at that. You were right. No wrinkles."

Roy leaned down, his nose sliding past Ed's, eye to eye. "I know."

Ed closed his eyes, nudging his head lower, sighing against Roy's neck. "Mmf. Too hot."

"I'm glad you think so."

Ed snorted, smacked him in the side with a hand - luckily, the left. "Not you-"

And then the right hand, harder this time, making Roy pull his own wandering hands
away. "And it's still too hot for that, pervert."


*


They didn't have to have sex every time they saw each other. There was no reason not to,
though.

Roy propped himself up on the mattress, watching through half-closed eyes as Ed arched
and squirmed and tried to slam his body up into Roy's. With his other hand Roy held a
heavy, cool metal leg over his shoulder, a position he'd manoeuvred them into after
seeing that look in Ed's eyes when they started; it gave Ed less leverage. If they had sex
the way Ed sometimes wanted, they'd thump their hipbones bloody.
The only point of sexual incompatibility they really had; Roy liked slow, long, deep - and
Ed always wanted harder, faster, now.

Roy was almost surprised that Ed hadn't tried to change their dynamic as far as penetrator
and penetratee went - until he realised that Ed had worked out long ago that as long as the
person on top (figuratively speaking; Roy was inventive with positions) is primarily
concerned with the comfort and pleasure of their partner, the penetratee holds all the
power in the coupling. So long as Ed was happy for things to continue as they were, he
dictated the basics of position and pace and damn but he knew it. Roy could only drag
back little moments of control, shifting the position to offer himself more leverage, to
keep Ed from giving them both bruises . . .

"Will you fucking - fucking - fuck me already?" Ed panted, struggling to buck into him
and giving a gritted-out wail of frustration. "Roy-"

"I am fucking you." Roy smirked at the shift of Ed's face when he said that; porn talk
embarrassed the hell out of Ed, mostly by how much he almost-secretly liked it.

"It's a fucking - wussy - sort of fucking-"

"It's strange," Roy murmured, changing the tilt of his hips and watching Ed's head tip
back, and he briefly closed his eyes at Ed's swallowed groan. "You bitch throughout
when we do things my way, but then you come hard enough to frighten the neighbours."

"-bast-"

"Look at me."

"You-"

"Edward." in a low rumble, and Ed's eyes opened automatically, fixed on his - and he
flushed dark red instantly. "I like to watch you," Roy murmured, and Ed screwed his face
up but didn't look away.

"Will you just-"

Roy slid his hand down to Ed's thigh, lifted higher, moved deeper-

Ed gave a low groan of happiness and tilted his head back, but at a touch from Roy's hand
opened his eyes again. Roy held the eye contact as his own breathing got a little beyond
him, as Ed shuddered and choked and bit his own lip hard-

Best way to start a Sunday Roy knew.


*
The heat settled across the city like fog, almost visible above the concrete and thick
enough to chew. Ed kept his eyes nearly closed, head back against Roy's chest, hair stuck
to Roy's skin with water. The bath had been a good idea. It was too hot to do anything
else.

Roy's hands skated slowly down his body, fingertips almost catching on small scars down
his sides, hooking around his stomach and holding on. Ed smiled slightly, let his eyes
closed. He felt Roy's chin nudge the top of his head, felt the kiss through his hair, and felt
the internal blush, more dangerous than the bright red external one he was still prone to.
Roy unsettled him all the way down, made something that his body knew made him
vulnerable, knew was dangerous, into something he couldn't keep from falling straight
into . . .

The slow rise and fall of Roy's breath, his steady, low heartbeat, the feel of cool water
and all of Roy's skin, firm and solid behind him - the soft slip of water against the sides
of the bath, the erratic flicker of birdsong outside - the scent of water, of Roy, of soap and
steam -

Ed catalogued away quietly, set the scene aside in his mind. He would keep this moment
for the rest of his life. He wanted it to be a good long life, now, plenty of time to keep
recalling this . . .

If Roy chose to clench his hand, he'd burst Ed's heart into blood. All Ed could do was lay
back and hope he wouldn't.


*


Roy watched Ed wring his hair out, leaning his head into the emptying bath to do it. He
was wearing one of Roy's shirts again - sticking to him with water, he hadn't bothered to
dry off properly - and as he squeezed the last water from his hair he rubbed his scalp and
muttered, "I need to remember to bring a brush with me next time, I can't get your stupid
combs through it-"

"You could leave one here," Roy offered, and Ed tugged his fingers through his hair and
grimaced.

"Yeah, well, I'll have to get another one. And a bottle of oil, Winry'll go berserk when she
finds out I've been getting water into the automail and not oiling it, and she will know."

Roy sat on the edge of the bath, dropping the towel he'd been drying his own hair off with
to his shoulders. In some ways, Ed's newness to relationships meant they missed a lot of
the meant-to-be-meaningful moments; Ed saw nothing special in moving parts of his life
into Roy's home, it was just a matter of practicality for him. It still held some symbolic
magic for Roy.

("Here, Ed, I offer you shelf space in the metaphorical bathroom cabinet of my life."

"Whatever. I'm starving-")

Ed commenced the deadly comb vs. wet hair battle that followed every bath and shower
at Roy's, and Roy watched from the sidelines. After a while he said, because sometimes
he did wonder about it, "Why do you wear it long?"

"Why do you wear yours short?" Ed muttered, dragging, dragging, dragging at his hair.

Why . . . ? What was he meant to say to that? "I suppose I just always have."

"Grew long during the automail surgery." Ed said, wincing as he tugged particularly hard.
"Had other stuff to worry about at the time. And then it was just easier to tie it back than
cut it off."

"You're going to pull it all out at this rate," Roy said, standing up and taking the comb off
him. Ed snapped, "Hey-!" but Roy began smoothing his hair out, twitching the comb
away from Ed's hands whenever he grabbed at it. Sometimes the height difference was
quite helpful.

"Give that back!"

"Stay still, you're going to lose an eye-"

"Then give me the comb back!"

"It gives me a headache just watching you, stay still-"

"I don't try and shave you, leave my hair alone!"

"Having watched you brush your hair, you have no idea how thankful I am that you've
never attempted to shave me."

Ed slumped into sulking, arms folded and head tilted forward, and Roy worked slowly,
carefully, holding slips of hair to tug gently through the knots. Roy was patient, but it still
took some time to get Ed's eyes slightly closed, to get that blissful haze over his
expression. Roy smirked and pretended not to notice, and took maybe just a little longer
to brush it than it needed before combing it loosely back and tying it into his favourite
slack pony tail.

"Beautiful," he said, looking at their reflection in the mirror over the sink - Ed in a pale
blue shirt sagging open over one shoulder, hair making dark spots where it dripped, with
Roy at his back, towel around his waist, arms sliding around his neck from behind. God,
they looked good, a study in light and dark, gold and black.

"Narcissist," Ed said, rolling his eyes and slipping his hands to Roy's wrists, squeezing.


*


Ed lounged against Roy on the sofa, playing with Roy's arm, running his fingers through
the dusting of hair on its back and turning it to watch the flex of skin as the elbow worked.
"Why don't you live in dorms?" he said, touching his fingertips to the veins on the inside
of the arm and following them down to the wrist.

"I did. For a long time." Roy gazed at the ceiling, apparently willing to let Ed investigate
different body parts all day if he felt like it. "It's not really proper for a Colonel."

"All the other colonels I've met've been married and stuff." Ed hugged Roy's arm to
himself and leaned his head back against him - if he tilted his head back as far as possible,
and Roy looked down at an angle, they could just meet each others' eye. "'course, they
were all a lot older than you. How come you made Colonel already?"

"Because I'm good at it."

"I could do your job, you don't do anything."

"There is rather more to it than that. And if you don't get over your little habit of blowing
assignments up behind you, I'm afraid you'll never get promoted."

"Like I care." Ed muttered.

"Do you intend to stay a Major for the rest of your life?"

"Do you honestly think I'm gonna stay in the military for the rest of my life?"

"Hm." Roy looked down at him. "I'm trying to picture you in the uniform."

"Don't." Ed snorted. "It's not really my thing, is it? Uniforms and saluting and please, sir,
may I lick your arse again-"

"No, I suppose it isn't. You've never once licked my arse. In fact, you have never yet put
your mouth in the vicinity of-"

"Such a bastard."
"You did sign certain paperwork when you joined up, Ed, you can't just back out
whenever you feel like it."

"No, but you can work around that, right?" Ed grinned, and held Roy's arm out at its full
stretch, as if admiring the length of it. "Ah, I'll work something out."

"What do you plan to do, after you restore Alphonse?"

"I dunno yet, I just want to get the hell out of this stupid army." Ed sighed, slumped
against Roy's side again. "Don't wanna hang around, there could be another war or
something, like I want to get mixed up in that . . ."

"You're probably one of the best hand-to-hand combatants the military probably has right
now."

Ed shrugged, testing the roll of Roy's thumb in an almost embarrassed way. "Thought
about it, before I signed up, the whole . . . killing people thing." he said. "I could kill
someone for Al. I know that. And for you." he added, nudging Roy with his shoulder.
"But - if it's just in a war, if it's just because . . . that's stupid. No-one deserves to die just
because someone higher up in the hierarchy decided they should be in a certain place at a
certain time. It's dumb." He sighed and lowered his voice. "I don't want to kill anybody,
anyway."

Roy stroked a hand over his head, absolutely silent.


*


As it became evening, as the sun moved to the other side of the house and began to sink,
they moved back into the bedroom. Ed flopped onto the bed and moaned, "Hot, hot, it
needs to be less hot-" and Roy sat down next to him, fitted his hand over Ed's, looking
down at the interlacing of fingers. Ed raised his head and gazed blearily down at their
hands, and then blinked as Roy lifted his other hand. "What're you-?"

"You've been treating my body like a science experiment all day. It's my turn." Roy said,
raising the automail, listening to the clack and click of its moving parts. In this weather,
the metal was almost as warm as flesh. "How much feeling do you have in this arm?"

Ed watched his hands moving across his automail wrist, eyes entirely focused. "Not a lot.
There're more pressure censors in the hand but in the arm . . ."

Roy rolled Ed's overlong sleeve up, put his hands back to his wrist. "Can you feel this?"

"Feel what? Oh. Not much. That, yeah. Yeah. No. Are you even doing anything? No.
Yeah. Wh-"
Roy slid his tongue up one of the ridges on the metal forearm and saw the change in Ed's
pupils instantly. He'd never thought he would finding tonguing metal sexy until he saw
Ed's reaction to it. When Ed touched Roy's body, testing it and learning it and enjoying it,
it didn't always lead to sex; sometimes it was just Ed touching and learning and testing
and enjoying. As soon as Roy put a hand on Ed, he wanted him. He couldn't help it. This
body -

Ed closed his eyes, breath quickening as Roy kissed his way to the inside of his elbow,
traced with his tongue up as far as the sleeve would allow, then tugged down the loose
collar and tested the edges of metal with his teeth. "Wh - what are you-"

"Can you feel this?"

Ed shuddered. This body . . . Roy kissed across the edge of scar tissue and metal and Ed
made a high, helpless noise, shoulder blades flexing under Roy's hands as his mouth
moved to the back of his neck, his teeth scraped and bit. Hair gritted under his teeth, and
there was an edge of salt to Ed's skin already, and this body -

He slid a hand down to Ed's hip, began prompting and lifting him to his knees, and slid
his mouth up to behind Ed's ear. "I know you can feel this," he rumbled, hands moving
underneath the shirt, sliding it up.

Ed's back arched under his chest in a way that made every dream he'd ever had of this
seem alive and happening right now. But it was only for a second; Ed squirmed and spun
awkwardly, grabbing him -

Roy yelped as the room rolled up around him and then he was lying on his back, the
breath thumped out of him, and Ed staring down into his face, eyes a little wild. "Not -
like that -" Ed panted, hands in his hair and leaning down closer. "Okay? Not like that-"

Roy raised a hand, coughed, let his chest jerk a couple of times to drag a breath down and
touched the side of Ed's head. "Ed-"

"I like to be able to see you." Ed mumbled, hiding his face down in Roy's throat, kissing
the skin apologetically, nervously. "Okay? It's just . . ."

Roy slid his hands around Ed's back, stroked down his sides. "Okay." He coughed again.
"That's fine."

"Sorry. Didn't mean to shove you so hard."

"You're surprisingly heavy."

"Shut up."
"Ed," Roy ran his hands up, to the sides of Ed's face, gently nudging him to look up. "I
would never hurt you. You do know that?"

"Don't be - I know - that's not what this is - shit, I should've never said anything, you don't
have to turn this into some big-"

"Ed."

"I just, it's not-"

"Ed. It's fine." Roy stroked his hands back across Ed's face, into his hair, carefully letting
the tie out. "It's fine. Okay?"

Ed - sighed, laying down full-length on top of Roy, arms folded on Roy's chest and head
resting there. "Damn. That was getting good, too, 'til I had to go ruin it."

Roy stroked down his shoulder, looking down at the loose shake of blond hair spilling
over the side of his chest and onto the mattress. "It still looks pretty good from up here,"
he said, and Ed raised his head, raised an eyebrow, and the corner of his mouth twitched a
little.

"Really."

Roy tugged at his elbow invitingly and Ed moved up his body, leaning down for him,
smiling. Roy kissed him, a few times, to make sure the muscles under his hands were
relaxed, and then opened his eyes. He looked up at Ed as Ed slowly blinked his own eyes
open, and Roy touched his cheek.

"Do you trust me?"

Ed looked surprised, then confused, and said, "Do you think I'd be here if I didn't?"

"Maybe I'm just that irresistible, Edward."

Ed sat up with a huff, knees sliding to either side of Roy's waist. "Yes I trust you, you
arrogant dick. Do you see me letting anyone else fuck me?"

"Hopefully, I never will." Roy rubbed Ed's knees, since he couldn't reach much else of
him in this position, sliding his fingers into the fold of skin and the smoothly connected
metal at the back, skating up a little higher, a little higher . . . "Will you let me prove to
you that you can trust me?"

Ed's eyes searched his uneasily. "What do you mean?" he said, shuffling back as Roy
shifted to sit. "I said I didn't want to-"
"Not that. Not if you don't want." A strange hang-up to have, they'd had sex in every
position except from behind, but everyone had their neuroses and Ed had a whole herd of
them. "Just let me . . ."

Kiss him, for a long time, slowly opening the few buttons actually fastened on the shirt.
The sky outside the window was flushed orange and the room and their skin was tinted
with the sunset, Ed almost amber and glowing when Roy opened his eyes to check on
him. Ed's eyes cracked open, bright, deep gold as Roy moved back, but he whispered,
"No, no," and kissed Ed's eyelids, making his eyelashes sink again. "Close your eyes,
love."

"Close my-"

"You can open them whenever you want, you know that." Roy trailed a hand down Ed's
hair, tucked his body more closely against his. "I'm just asking you not to."

"But . . ."

"Please?"

Ed knelt there, eyes closed, and licked his lips. "This is kind of weird."

"Weird, Ed." Roy murmured, and Ed's mouth cracked into a helpless grin.

"Can we do it again?" he parroted, and his eyelids twitched automatically. "Shit, it's
really hard to keep your eyes closed."

"Well, I could blindfold you-"

"No-"

"-but I'd rather you just close your eyes and believe that I will never let this be something
you don't want." Roy leaned down, forehead to forehead, eye to closed eye, nose nudging
the side of Ed's. "Okay?"

". . . okay."

After a couple of kisses Ed began moving along with him again, eyelashes flickering now
and then, making him screw his face up with concentration not to open his eyes. It took a
long time to shift him gradually down onto his back, to lean over him, finally relaxed and
loose and calm, finally moving his body where Roy nudged. Roy didn't mind. They had
the time. Darkness was bleeding slowly through the sky, the sun must have set at the
other side of the house, and there was a single, almost ridiculously bright star at the turn
between bright and dark blue sky in the top corner of the window . . .
. . . and Ed was being beautifully compliant, breath jerking a little but laying still as Roy
kissed along the base of his ribcage, upwards towards a nipple. He had to go along with
Roy, he couldn't see to start the semi-argument sex tended to become between them. He
swallowed and his head sank to the side, and he screwed his eyes more tightly to keep
them closed as Roy lowered his mouth and dragged with his teeth-

The closest he came to opening his eyes was when Roy slipped his tongue into his navel,
shrieking and coming up flailing, but Roy just laughed and pressed him down and kissed
random spots across his face, while Ed smacked ineffectually at him and cursed a few
times. Roy put his arms around him, tugging him closer, pressing the side of his head into
the top of Ed's, and tried to remember the last time he'd ever been this happy.

"Edward?"

Ed shifted in his arms. "Can I open my eyes yet?"

"Not yet." Roy kissed the top of his head, inhaled his scent once more, and slid the
fingertips of one hand down Ed's back. "May I make love to you now?"

Ed screwed his eye more tightly closed again and groaned, "Only if you promise to never
call it that again."

"I really don't want to make any promises I don't think I can keep, Ed."

"You are so-"

"Relax, just relax, trust me." Roy murmured, pressing him back into the mattress again,
kissing him and grinning against the side of Ed's jaw. "Am I really so old-fashioned I
physically repulse you?"

"Make love," Ed sneered, and moaned softly as Roy's teeth closed on his throat. "Can't
you just-"

"-fuck you?"

"Yesss," Ed hissed, as Roy's lips travelled across his windpipe.

"We did that this morning. Now I want to make love."

Ed made another muffled wailing noise. "Stop saying that!"

Roy laughed into the junction of Ed's shoulder. "But I like it. I want to make love to you.
I want to make love to you until we're both raw."

"Shut up, you - idiot old -" Roy's teeth drew the breath out of him again. "-bastard-"
"No, no 'bastards' tonight, tonight just-" He propped himself up on an elbow, stroked a
hand through Ed's hair. "Just be mine. Please."

Ed was silent for a second, and then he said, "I want to open my eyes now."

"If you like."

Ed wrinkled his nose, cracked his eyes open a little, then blinked a couple of times. When
Roy was certain he'd focused on his face he said, "Okay?"

"Okay," Ed whispered, slipping his arms around Roy's shoulders, raising his hips at the
prompt from Roy's hand, helpfully reaching up for the bedside table lube himself.

"Now can I make love to you?"

Ed clapped a hand over his eyes, couldn't keep from laughing as Roy nosed and nudged
his jaw. "Just - this one fucking time - if you ever pull this again I'll - stop doing that
when I'm trying to be mad at you-"

"We can fuck until we can't walk next time, if you like."

Ed laughed again, more softly this time, and murmured "Oh, good." as Roy tilted his
head back to kiss him.

Closer part XXI
Rating: R
Beta: toxicbullets, who is the very soul of patience.
Disclaimer: Only the mistakes are mine.

Summary: Behind door number one, Ed on the warpath. Behind door number two,
Lieutenant Hawkeye and the Glare of the Doom. And behind door number three, a can of
worms like you wouldn't believe.

All previous parts can be found in my memories.


Notes: I'm writing slash to Alanis Morissette. Because I'm just that cool. I really hate the
last chapter I posted, I think it's one of the weakest things I've ever written, so I just want
to exorcise it for myself by posting this, which is one of my favourite chapters of this
whole thing. Not because it's the strongest writing, because I could go through counting
the structural mistakes, but just because it was *hellishly* fun to write. Still gives me an
evil little grin thinking of it. *sigh . . .*

I do love weekends and the chance to post obscene amounts of fic ^^
If it weren't for your maturity none of this would have happened,
If you weren't so wise beyond your years I would've been able to control myself,
If it weren't my attention you wouldn't've been successful and if
If it weren't for me you would never have amounted to very much -

Ooh, this could be messy but
You don't seem to mind,
Ooh, don't go telling everybody
And overlook this supposed crime . . .
- Alanis Morissette, Hands Clean


Roy didn't want to move even a muscle. It was still more hot than could possibly be
sensible, and after last night . . .

He didn't even shift against the mattress, just concentrated briefly to feel Ed against his
chest, underneath his protectively crooked arm, still breathing steady and low. His eyelids
twitched in the knowledge that the sun was burning the room bright, but he tilted his head
a little more into the pillow, not wanting to wake up properly yet. It had been one of those
nights, fairly few in number, where Ed hadn't so much as twitched in his sleep, certainly
hadn't kicked or started mumbling incomprehensibly or, worse, started saying something
Roy could understand. He hadn't even started drooling on Roy in the middle of the night.
This was a morning to treasure.

He felt like he'd forgotten something . . .

Couldn't be important. All of his muscles felt pleasantly liquefied, and he could smell
how hot the day was going to be, could smell Ed.

Ed, Ed, Ed, Ed, Ed -

His face was sliding helplessly into a grin against the pillow. Could anything have been
more perfect than last night? Ed had just let him, in a way he never did, no edge of an
argument, no jostling for position, Ed had just let him . . . there was a difference between
fucking and making love, and Roy didn't care how much Ed rolled his eyes at that,
because he'd finally got to show him it.

Sliding into Ed was like sinking into a swimming pool on the hottest day of the year. Roy
probably hadn't had as much sex as Ed imagined, but he'd had more than enough in his
life to know the difference between just-for-fun and something special, and Ed -

He couldn't shake the feeling that he'd forgotten something.

He twitched. Damn it. He was awake now.
Roy opened his eyes, focused on Ed's face, smiled. He made the mistake of trying to peel
his arm free, though, and it was too hot for that to be easy; at the separation of flesh Roy
winced and Ed woke, lifted his head dizzily from the pillow, then flumped it back again
and moaned.

"Too bright . . ."

Roy's eyes followed the golden curve of Ed's left shoulder, the scattering of summer
freckles. "I know."

"Close the damn curtains, Roy."

"I quite like it."

"It's too damn bright." Ed screwed his face up against the pillow. "You're perving at me
while we talk, aren't you?"

"How in the world did you know?" Roy murmured, watching the embarrassed wriggle of
the muscles in Ed's back. Mmm.

"Obviously we're spending too much time together," Ed muttered, and then opened his
eyes. "What time is it?"

They both paused, and then both sat up at once.

"Where's the alarm clock?"

"I - melted it."

"You melted it? You freak, why?"

"Obviously I was going to get a new one-"

"Where're my trousers? My watch is still attached-"

"Mine are on the chair-"

For a moment they fought over the same pair of dark blue military-issue trousers before
they realised what they were doing, and with a little embarrassed grin Ed offered Roy his
own clothes so he could fish in the pocket for his watch.

"Half past nine," he said, and Ed moaned.

"I'm meant to be in the labs at nine today, fuck-"

"I'm meant to be at work, for god's-"
"Where are my trousers? Shit, where's my underwear?"

"I need a shower," Roy said dazedly, as Ed pelted around the bedroom twice and then
began scrabbling under the bed.

"Clothes, clothes, fuck-"


*


Ed had at least found the most essential items of clothing, clumping downstairs with one
boot on, black vest but no jacket, and Roy suspected no underwear under his trousers. He
was already dressed and almost out of the door as Ed fumbled to pull his hair back, but he
couldn't resist testing that theory, and Ed made a muffled noise of shock into his mouth as
Roy's hands slid around and squeezed -

Yes. Hmm. Tempting . . .

Ed shoved him off with two automail fingers to the forehead, still holding his hair back
with the other hand. "In what way do we have time for this?" he growled.

"Ah." Roy stood there, arms around him, completely torn. Late for work. Ed,
underwearless. Damn it. "The gods hate us."

"What gods?" Ed spat, and Roy raised an eyebrow, was about to ask him in what way
they had time for a theological discussion if they didn't have the time for a quickie
against the wall-

As there was a knock at the door. Ed froze, but Roy let his battle-honed reflexes take over
and thrust Ed into the living room, slamming the door behind him. The last thing he heard
was a surprised, "Whup-!"

He smoothed his hair back and opened the front door with, he knew, a slightly manic
edge to his smile. Havoc gazed back at him, cigarette hanging low in his mouth.

"Afternoon, Colonel."

Roy straightened his uniform jacket. "I seem to be running rather late this morning."

"We noticed." Havoc took his cigarette out of his mouth and flicked the ash at its end off
the edge of the steps, grinning a little. "Well, Lieutenant Hawkeye noticed."

Oh. Hell.

"If you can just give me five minutes-"
"I'll be in the car." Havoc said, waving vaguely as he sauntered down the steps again,
leaving a puff of nicotine-laced smoke behind him. Roy closed the door and then looked
around at the still-closed living room door.

Hell, Hell and again, Hell.

He opened the door very, very carefully, just a crack, swinging it further when there was
no immediate barrage of abuse or violence. Ed's booted foot was still hanging over the
back of the sofa he'd tripped onto, his socked foot over the sofa's arm, one arm dangling
off the cushions, laying very still and staring at the ceiling.

"I want to hurt you in so many ways right now that I just can't pick one," he said, without
moving.

"I'll just - slip out and leave you to think about it, then-"

"Stay," Ed barked, and Roy stood frozen in the doorway as Ed sat up, glaring, hair fallen
loose again in a Medusa-like tangle. "I think I'll just go with whatever feels right," he
growled, eyes narrowed and voice rumbling low in his throat like a big jungle cat, and
Roy thought - you can't outrun them, you can't climb a tree, if they decide to pounce all
you can do is die -

There was only one power he had over Ed, and as Ed tried to drag himself off the sofa
Roy quickly slid his hands under Ed's jaw and kissed him again, hard. Ed flailed at him,
kicked him really quite hard - Roy winced; this relationship was sometimes barely worth
the cost in bruises - and finally began to sink under as Roy tilted his head back that little
bit more, broke up and gazed down at him through half-closed eyes. Ed blinked up at him
dazedly, made a little questioning noise, put a hand to the back of Roy's neck and pressed
him down again.

Roy pulled back once more to say, "We have to go to-" but Ed dragged him back. He had
to go to work. Or not, then. He remembered with a little breath into Ed's mouth that Ed
wasn't wearing anything underneath that Ed-scented leather. Maybe . . .

There was another knock at the front door, and Roy dropped Ed in a hurry. Ed yelped as
he fell right off the sofa, and Roy only just slammed the living room door behind himself
as Havoc opened the front door and peered in. Havoc stared at Roy, breathing too hard
with his hands firmly gripping the door handle, back pressed to the door, and then his
eyebrows raised and his mouth fell a little, his voice coming out dull and miserable.

"You have a girl in there, don't you, sir."

"Woman, Havoc." Roy said as airily as he could manage, gripping the door handle more
tightly as he imagined Ed overhearing this. "If they're old enough to come home with you,
they're women. And I really, really don't, actually."
Havoc looked at Roy, looked at the door, sighed. "I won't even ask, sir. But Hawkeye is
going to . . . look at you if you're not at work twenty minutes ago."

"I know, I know, just - five more minutes?"

Havoc rubbed his hair, shrugged. "You really do like to play with fire," he said, closing
the door behind himself again.

Roy put a hand over his eyes. The universe was conspiring to kill him. Even if he
managed to survive the wrath of Ed, snarling behind door number one, behind door
number two he had Lieutenant Hawkeye and the Glare of Doom.

Head bowed meekly, he opened door number one.

Ed - face down and buried in his hair on the rug in front of the sofa, one foot still twisted
up onto the cushions - said in a muffled voice, "I picked one."

"Ed-"

"Two, actually, I'm gonna see if I can do them simultaneously-"

"I have work, you have to go to the labs-"

"You're gonna have a damn good excuse to get off work today once I'm done with you."
Ed growled, pushing himself up on his arms. Roy backed away into the hallway and Ed
stalked after him, eyes narrowed, raising his clenched fists and uncurling them to clap-

"Ed, I'm sorry, there isn't time-"

Ed made a little rumbling noise and tensed his elbows to bring his hands together, and in
desperation Roy did the only thing he could do; he grabbed Ed by the arms, span him into
the wall, kissed him dizzy. Ed's hands scrabbled at him like he wanted to throttle him for
a moment and then slid helplessly down his uniform, and he whimpered-

Roy concentrated on the kiss, the only thing standing between himself and sudden, messy
death. This, at least, he could do and do well, he never made a mistake with Ed here. Ed
clutched onto him and made small noises at the side of every breath as Roy worked him
towards incoherency, sucking the iron-tasting wound on Ed's bottom lip where he'd bitten
himself yesterday, dragging at Ed's tongue, feeling him drown - if he could just get him
dazed enough to not burst out of the door after him as he fled, if he could just get him to
slump here until he and Havoc were gone -

There was a knock at the door, and Roy had only just lifted his head when it opened. He
was still for a moment, staring at the wall above Ed's head, then he looked quickly down
into Ed's slowly-blinking, confused eyes, and then with a wince around at Lieutenant
Havoc -
Who stared at him over his cigarette for a long, long moment, before taking it from his
mouth and tapping the ash out over the edge of the steps once more.

"Really not a woman," Havoc confirmed in a croak, and Ed peeked around Roy, went
white, shuffled behind him once more and thumped his head into Roy's chest. "What -
exactly-"

"I can explain this," Roy said calmly, and Ed moaned.

"Please don't try and explain this."

"I really can explain this," Roy said, a little more desperately, waiting for the words to
well up that would make all of this go away. They always had before.

...

He put a hand on Ed's head as Ed buried it against his chest again, and looked around at
Havoc - who was watching him with unadulterated horror, unable to look away, like Roy
was a slow-motion train crash.

"Important military secrets," he began, and Ed kicked him in the shin.


*


Al didn't know what to do. He could go to the labs - but if Ed wasn't there what excuse
could he give for where he was? He could ring the Colonel's but what if no-one answered,
worse, what if the Colonel answered and he didn't know where his brother was either?
What if Ed had wandered head-first into another car, what if he'd had a fight with the
Colonel, what if -

Al paced around the dorm room like a trapped cat, looking out of the window now and
then, too scared not to look for his brother but too scared of what he'd find to start
looking . . .


*


Ed gripped Roy's hand so tightly it hurt, and Roy was glad it was the left hand. He
squeezed back, gently, but Ed's eyes didn't flicker away from Havoc for a moment.

"Jean," Roy began, and Havoc paused before flicking his cigarette down the path, closing
the door behind him.
"Is this the part where you tell me it's not what it looks like?"

"That rather depends on what it looks like." Roy murmured. His mouth was dry. He
realised that Havoc wasn't even looking at him but at Ed, and Ed was staring right back,
head high, eyes narrowed with a threat behind them. Roy glanced again at Havoc, back at
Ed, and realised where the conflict really lay.

He squeezed Ed's hand again, murmured, "You need to get to the laboratories. Your
brother-"

"Don't try and get rid of me so the adults can talk," Ed said quietly, without removing his
eyes from Havoc's. "Or else it's exactly what it looks like."

Havoc was nervous, Roy knew the signs, his fingers rolling a little as he longed for the
cigarette not there. He realised his own fingers were moving to draw up sparks, and
stilled his hand. There was only Ed actually still in the entire room. Havoc finally looked
away from Ed's dangerous gaze, met Roy's eyes, and he looked desperately
uncomfortable and a little bit . . . angry? And Roy knew exactly what this looked like . . .

"Okay, we can stand here and have our own little soap opera," Havoc said, rubbing the
back of his neck, swallowing. "Or I can get you into work before Hawkeye's patience
really runs out, sir."

Roy took a slow breath. "Jean. I know-"

"If you tell anyone, I'll kill you." Ed said, quiet and deadly, and both men looked around
to him again. Ed had taken just half a step to put himself in front of Roy and he was
trigger-finger tense, all the flare and electric spit of his anger held inside right now, and
Roy was suddenly incredibly glad he wasn't Lieutenant Havoc, he wasn't faced with this
when he'd thought he was just going to pick up a superior officer incapable of arriving at
the office on time . . .

"Edward," he said softly, but Ed wasn't moving, was standing as a shield between Havoc
and Roy, between the world and Roy, and Roy knew how Al felt now and didn't he find it
exhausting, having this every day?

"I don't even know what I'm meant to tell," Havoc said, rubbed his eyes and flung his
arms out. "Hope you don't mind me smoking in here, Colonel, I don't think I can-" he
said, rummaging for his packet of cigarettes, dragging one out, tapping it nervously off
his wrist. "Actually - I'll go wait in the car. Actually - I'll -"

He stared at them for a moment longer and then said, "I'll go wait in the car." and almost
fell over the doorstep in his hurry to leave.
The door slammed, and Ed instantly sagged back against Roy, who propped him up, put
his arms around him from behind. "Oh shit," Ed breathed, grabbing at the arms around
him. "Oh shit, oh shit, he's not gonna tell, he wouldn't, right? He likes you, he-"

"I'll talk to him."

"I can't, I won't let anything-"

"Everything will be fine. Ed." Roy lowered his face to Ed's hair, held him tightly.
"Everything is going to be fine. Believe me."

"But-"

"Can you come here tonight? We'll need to talk."

"Oh shit, oh shit," Ed whispered, and Roy caught his hands and rubbed the backs of them
soothingly, couldn't understand where all the sudden panic had come from.

"Ed, Ed-"

"You're not-" Ed choked something down and squeezed Roy's hands too hard, and Roy
only just managed to keep the wince off his face. "Okay. Okay. I need to get to the labs. I
need to-"

"Breathe."

"I need to-"

"Ed. Just five minutes." He tucked Ed more closely to his chest, rubbed his hands, felt the
wild thrum of Ed's panic through his body. "Just breathe."


*


Ed paused at the foot of the gate to stare at the military car at the kerb, then clenched his
hands and stalked off. A minute later Roy emerged, and Havoc got out of the car, moved
to open the door-

Roy shook his head, climbed in the passenger seat instead of into the back, and there he
put a hand over his eyes as Havoc got back in. The door closed, and Roy slid his hand
back, through his hair, and stared through the windscreen at nothing for a second.

"You can explain what, exactly, sir?" Havoc said, and Roy just gazed out of the window,
because he didn't want to see whatever expression was on Havoc's face right now.
"I'm not going to insult your intelligence by pretending Ed's presence at my house this
morning was some sort of friendly visit."

Havoc was silent for a moment, and then said hoarsely, "Colonel, what the hell?"

"We - Ed -"

"We'd all been wondering why you were so goddamn happy these past few weeks, Breda
was idiot enough to think you were in love and what, all along it was just that - that - that
you found someone who couldn't say no-"

"What do you-"

"I don't - I know he doesn't act like a kid but damn it he's not even old enough to shave-"

"Jean-"

"Don't Jean me, damn it, I defended you to him, when he signed up he thought you were
scum who'd do anything to further your own ends and I was idiot enough to tell him- he
didn't enlist for this-"

"Lieutenant," Roy snapped, and twisted his head to glare at Havoc, hands white on the
steering wheel and mouth twisted he'd clamped his lips so hard together. "There are more
than enough things I would never do, and you know that. What the hell did you think-?
Are you actually sitting there and telling me-" There was something sour at the back of
his tongue - "you think I'm forcing him -"

"One word from you and he's ruined." Havoc said quietly, glaring at the road ahead,
hands still tight on the steering wheel. "And he'd do anything for Alphonse. Anything."

"I am not hurting him. I would never hurt him."

"You wouldn't-? What would you rather we called it, sir? You're- are you actually-" He
dragged his hands from the steering wheel, pressed them hard over his face. "He's fifteen
and - how the hell -" Havoc's voice was almost a whine, almost a laugh with despair.
"How have you convinced yourself that this isn't rape?"

"Lieutenant Havoc, shut the hell up." Rage was sick, screaming inside him, and his voice
came out harsh and clipped. "You have misunderstood the situation."

"Misunderstood," Havoc choked, his voice too high. "Give me one good reason not to
turn you in to the military police-"

"Because if I were scum enough to be doing what you think I'm doing, you know I would
take Ed down with me." Roy snapped, and then his voice softened. "You have the wrong
end of the situation, Jean. I'm afraid Lieutenant Breda was right. Believe me, I am not
forcing Ed to do anything he doesn't want to do. Armies couldn't force him to do
something he didn't want to do."

"You - Breda -"

"I am in love." Roy let his head thump back into the headrest, felt the exhaustion drag
him down. "I can't help it. I did everything I could, Jean, everything and he just chased
me down and clipped the leash on me anyway. That . . . is why Ed was at my house.
Because he may as well own it, because he certainly owns me."

Silence. Roy just slumped with his eyes closed, aware of the odd flicker of birdsong
outside the car, aware of Havoc sitting still and quiet, breathing more slowly now, still
too hard.

"Ed," he said eventually.

"Yes."

"You're in- you. And Ed."

"I'm afraid so."

Another moment of silence.

"Ed."

"Jean . . ."

"He's - still fifteen."

"I know. I know. I have already had my moral mental breakdown over this, Jean, but he
acts as if . . . he honestly doesn't care."

Havoc was silent for a moment longer, breathing slowly. "Does his brother know?"

"Yes."

He sighed. "I guess if Alphonse is letting it happen it can't be anything bad."

Roy finally, finally felt his mouth twitch into something like a smile. "That's the theory
I've been working from."

Havoc shook his head. "'One Woman'. We thought you'd finally met your match in some
terrifying harpy of a sex goddess."
"The terrifying harpy bit sounds about right. Has my change in behaviour really been
noted by the entire office?"

"Well," Havoc glanced into the rear view mirror, hit the indicator, turned into the street.
"You've been happy, sir."

Roy blinked, as the scenery began to pick up, and let the smile broaden slightly.

"I suppose I have."

Closer part XXII
Beta'd by toxicbullets, overworked goddess who always comes through for me -
thanks honey ^^
Rating: R

Disclaimer: Don't own FMA, don't make any profit, just get to torture myself over it for
free.

Summary: 'This happens every day. Roy's done this before. Lots. He probably has special
ways of making people want to kill themselves less. He can probably make you think it
was your idea in the first place.'

All previous parts can be found in my memories.



I need your loving
Like the sunshine -
And everybody's gotta learn sometime . . .
- Beck, Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime



Ed didn't quite know how he'd got back to the dorms, stood in the doorway wondering if
he shouldn't have gone to the labs instead, and then Al was hugging him and wailing and
there was cold metal jabbing him in places that would really rather not be jabbed and he
didn't know how that was happening either. The tablecloth of his life had just been jerked
off, and he was trapped in the second of not yet knowing if all he'd be left with was a load
of broken china.

But Al was upset. That was the most important thing. He patted Al's side and croaked,
"No, everything's fine-" and wanted to die, and let his head fall forward so his forehead
clunked into Al's chest plate.

Al broke off his panicked, angry, mother-hen tirade to stare at his brother, and then he
gingerly put one huge leather hand over Ed's head. "Brother-?"
"Everything's fine," Ed said, and his automail made a scraping sound as he curled his
hands into balls against Al's chest.


*


"Nice that you finally felt like showing up," Russell said, and Fletcher smiled and said,
"Good morning Alphonse, Edward!"

"Fuck off Russell." Ed muttered, while Al went with the less controversial, "Good
morning Fletcher, Russell-"

Ed stumbled to his place at the workbench, stared at the results in front of him, and
nothing meant anything. He kept on staring. Oh god, he'd forgotten how to read. What the
hell-

"Upside down, brother." Al whispered, turning the paper around with one leather finger.

Ed scraped his hands slowly up his scalp, dragging his hair back. "Right," he said weakly,
and tried to work out what the hell he was meant to be doing. Al's body. Focus. This was
for Al.

I would end this now before I would see you put in danger.

No no, it was fine, Ed was used to danger, he didn't mind-

Breathe. Breathe.

His entire body was one big too-quick too-hard heartbeat, and when he put a hand to his
forehead he could feel the sick, fast pulse and he felt impossibly light, dizzy. This is for
Al, concentrate-

Havoc was alright, he wouldn't tell anybody, but, but -

This can never get into the office.

His breath fell out of him and for a second he thought he was going to faint right off his
stool. Stupid, selfish brat. He didn't mind what danger he got put in, but what about Roy?
He was the one who'd look like a manipulative, abusive pervert if this got out, at best Ed
would look naïve and used, Roy was the one who would get punished for it. There was
nothing equivalent about that. And what about Al? Ed shouldn't be doing anything to
jeopardise Al's chances, Al should be his single greatest priority, and what was he doing?
Listening to the wrong organs, completely ignoring his brain -
But sometimes - just sometimes - the way Roy looked at him made his heart sit up and
gasp, just sometimes Roy looked at him and Ed knew that in Roy's eyes he was worth
something, and for those small, startling moments he felt worth something too. And to
give that up . . .

He was very aware of his own breathing.

After last night. After Ed had finally just laid back and let him, finally understood the
point of sex - yes, it's beyond your control, yes it's threatening to let another person see
you at the most naked and open you will ever be, and yes, there really is nothing that can
make you as vulnerable as letting another person inside your body - but for the right
person . . . when it's Roy, when it's Roy inside you and touching you and leading you
through the too much and out again -

After last night . . .

If Roy thought it was too dangerous to go on . . . then that was his decision. Ed
swallowed, and the words blurred on the paper in front of him. For once in his life, he
wouldn't be the selfish one, he wouldn't refuse to let go of what everyone else knew
wasn't right, for once he genuinely would do the best thing for someone he cared about,
instead of the best thing for himself.

He wanted to die.

He swallowed again, blinked hard a few times, and as soon as he could focus again he
began to read.


*


When Roy emerged from his office, it was to absolute silence and everyone staring
guiltily up at him - except for Hawkeye, who continued working as if nothing was
happening.

Roy looked over his staff's faces to Havoc, who looked quickly out of the window and
began tapping his pen off the table. Roy sighed.

"Which part of 'please treat this with absolute discretion' did you translate as meaning
'please tell everyone in the office', Jean?"

Havoc cut him just the corner of a guilty grin, and Roy tried to glare but he was very
aware of Breda's grin growing to pumpkin proportions. "I'm stepping out for lunch," he
said, and ignored Havoc kicking Breda under the table, Breda kicking him back.
He met Hughes in the park, on the bench. Hughes was explaining to a duck that this
sandwich had been made by Gracia, queen of cooks, and so it must savour the crust it
was about to receive; the duck stared back at him with one stupid, orange eye and then
the other.

Roy sat down with another sigh and Hughes' greeting was, "You're doing a fantastic job
at the whole secret relationship thing. Well, that is - the relationship seems to be working,
the secret . . ."

"How do you know-?"

"I'm not in Intelligence for the pension plan." Maes said, dusting his hands off and sitting
back, the light glancing off his glasses. "You trust your men?"

"They won't breathe a word. They'll just make my life hell for it." Roy narrowed his eyes.
"It seems unfair that my life has to be hell, seeing as that's certainly where I'm going
afterwards."

"Ah, you're not so bad." Maes cracked a grin. "Maybe Ed is your karmic payback for
whatever you did last time around."

Roy considered that. "Either I did something utterly terrible or something very, very
good, I really can't decide."

"The Fuhrer's going nowhere, by the way, for a while. To the end of the year at least. He's
set up to stay. Maybe even longer, I can't say yet."

"I can't keep these hours up until then."

"So don't. Better to work well than to work lots."

"Hm. Ed will be happy."

Roy hadn't actually realised he'd said that out loud until he saw Maes' grin, and then he
folded his arms and crossed one leg over the other, flicking his foot a little irritably as he
looked out across the duck pond.

Maes' grin widened. "When should I expect the engagement to be announced?"

"Maes . . ."

"One other thing, before I forget. Frank Archer's been put on the Scar case."

"Archer." Roy lowered his eyebrows a little. "Hm."

"You don't like him."
"I barely know the man."

"Do you have some rule about not trusting anyone even more manipulative than you
are?"

"I may occasionally convince people that what they want to do is what I want them to
do," Roy said calmly, glaring at the other side of the pond. "I have never used anyone in
my life."

"Still, he's looking for promotion too. You're still on your best behaviour?"

"I am a saint in the making, Maes."

"Apart from the occasional lapse into sleeping with fifteen year olds."

". . . our friendship is entirely renegotiable, you do know that?"


*


Al put a sandwich down in front of Ed, and Ed stared at it for a moment, opened his
mouth to say something, but then the smell was too much and he pushed it to the side
wordlessly.

"Brother?"

"M'not hungry." Ed muttered.

Al stared at him. Russell lifted his head from the microscope to stare at him, and Fletcher
stopped taking notes to stare at him. Ed looked blankly back at them all.

"What?"

"Are you feeling alright?" Al said, and Ed's face twisted.

No, I feel like I swallowed a bag of rocks and washed it down with a couple of bottles of
acid, actually.

"I'm fine." he said, and tried to make his voice sound like his, and went back to his book.

"He looks peaky, to me."

Russell, shut your stupid big mouth or you'll be coughing up teeth.
"Maybe he's tired?" Fletcher suggested quietly, and Ed snarled, "He can hear everything
you're saying, he's not an infant-"

Fletcher squeaked and hid behind his brother, who put a hand over his head. "Hmm."
Russell said, smiling slightly. "Mood swings. Off his food. Nausea."

Al looked down at the sandwich and said, "Aren't those the symptoms of the early stages
of pregnancy?"


*


Afterwards, when Fletcher had gone to help Al clean the sandwich out of his helmet and
Ed had repaired almost everything he'd broken, Russell said, "You just get more and
more tense, don't you?"

"Russell, just fuck off." Ed muttered, rubbing his eyes with the back of a hand.
Unhappiness and nausea were making him exhausted. Why couldn't Roy have just done it
this morning? Why couldn't he do it over the phone, so Ed didn't have to stand in front of
him and pretend he was fine while Roy hammered Ed's heart into pulp? Why did he have
to put him through this entire day of hell before he just - ended it?

"Are you okay?"

Ed paused, and then - felt the shake begin somewhere inside his hollow stomach cavity
and work its way up to his hands. "No," he croaked. He tightened every muscle but he
couldn't stop the shake and he hated himself. "Don't tell Al. Don't tell Al."

"Don't - what's wrong?"

"I can't." Ed shook his head hard, clenched his hands, clenched his eyes closed, clenched
his teeth together and hissed, "Don't ask, I can't talk about it, just - just -"

"Hey-"

"I'm fine, everything's-"

"You really look fine, after all." Russell stood in front of him and breathed, "Jeez, you
really are - you're not going to spaz out if I touch you now, are you?"

Ed shook his head without opening his eyes. Clumsy arms tugged him forward and he
held his body stiff, barely let Russell hold him. Not Roy's strong, firm, sure hold;
awkward, teenage, only half an offering and Ed was used to everything. This was what
the rest of his life would be . . . ?
"You're such a spaz." Russell muttered.

"Shut up!"

"What the hell're you so worked up about?"

"I'm not worked up," Ed choked. He was shaking. He was not crying. "This is me being -
brave and mature, actually-"

"I'd hate to see you being weak and childish, then."

"Shut up, Russell, just shut-"

Russell tugged him closer, bent his head against Ed's, muttered, "You're hyperventilating,
idiot."

Ed wasn't, actually, he was almost suffocating himself keeping the sobs down. Shows
what Russell knows. Idiot.

"You're such a mess." Russell said. "Didn't they make you take some sort of
psychological examination before they let you in the military?"

"I'm not fucking crazy!"

"You're not fucking sane, either." Russell snapped, and Ed flashed his head up, eye to eye
and teeth gritted -

Eye to eye and really too close. He closed his eyes and twisted his head away and said,
"Russell, let go."

A pause, and then he started as he felt Russell's knuckles slide down the side of his face,
and he jerked to look at him quickly. "I'll bet I could get you to like me that way," Russell
said, offering a smirk, and Ed -

Actually felt something snap in his brain. Bollocks to this. Bollocks to everything.

"Okay, Russell, yeah, why not?" He pulled out of Russell's arms and looked around for
anything that would work, then swept a workbench clear of papers and climbed onto it,
turning to face Russell, sliding his legs wide. "Here, now, why not? Show me what
you've got. Fuck me into next week. Go for it."

Russell stared at him blankly, not moving. ". . . you . . ."

"Come on. What're you waiting for? I can transmute some lube out of something, you're
gonna have to be quick though before our brothers get back - come on, trousers down,
cock out, fuck me." Ed clenched his hands against the top of the workbench and didn't,
actually, know what was going to come out of his mouth next; maybe he'd scream some
more, maybe he'd start crying, maybe he'd throw up. He was no longer in control of his
brain or his vocal chords. "Well? This is what you wanted, isn't it? Here I am, so screw
me already. Maybe I'll even enjoy it."

"I -"

Ed glared at him almost trembling for a few seconds more and then - deflated. He
recognised the burst bubble of Russell's bravado now, he'd been there; pretend you know
what you're doing and hope like hell you're going to end up with something you wanted.
He pushed down from the workbench to his feet again, and leaned against it watching
Russell's stricken eyes.

"You've never done that." he said quietly. Not a question.

Russell swallowed hard. "How the hell've you-"

"Don't ask. Really don't." Ed grimaced, scratched his hair. "So, what, you've had a few
fumbles in the dark and you thought I'd be up for it? Jeez-" He folded his arms, looked
away, wrinkled his nose against the hot blush. He just couldn't talk about this without
wanting to die of embarrassment, it seemed he'd never get over that. "We're not . . ." He
screwed his face up, muttered, "We're very different people."

"That's one way to put it." Russell said, looking to the side himself, cheeks darkening.
"How did - how do you-"

"You don't have to say it like that." Ed snapped. He shuffled. "I had. I found the right
person. That's all. Now fucking drop it before Al or Fletcher get back, and just - just
leave it, okay? I don't do random fumbles, and you're not- it's not you, it's just-"

"I get it, you can stop talking now." Russell hissed. "Damn it. You better not get cocky
about this-"

"I could," Ed said, picking up an armful of paper and dumping it back onto the
workbench, glancing pointedly back at Russell. "But we're very different people."

Russell glared. "I guess you didn't entirely waste the extra year you have on me after all."

"Yeah, Russell, I specifically got some extra experience between the sheets just to piss
you off."

"Screw you."

"Nope, you had your chance and you blew it."

"You little-"
"Who's little?"


*


Ed stared at Roy's door trying to control his breathing, trying to keep his face steady,
trying to use everything he'd learned from watching Roy to keep the pain and the nausea
internal.

He closed his eyes briefly, and knocked.

When the door opened he looked up and Roy looked down and - smiled, and for a second
Ed thought he was going to throw up on his shoes.

Just do it already, just say it-

"I'll make some coffee."

Oh, hell.

Ed walked after him on someone else's legs and thought, maybe this is part of some
ceremony you have to go through. There were things people said, weren't there? We
should be friends, it's not you it's me, you're a great person but, and in their case, it's just
too dangerous. He sat where Roy gestured and focused on his breathing, focused on the
normality of the situation.

This happens every day. Roy's done this before. Lots. He probably has special ways of
making people want to kill themselves less. He can probably make you think it was your
idea in the first place.

Ed had it all planned. Roy would make his speech. Ed would say, I understand, it's fine,
and grin, and wait until he was out of sight of Roy's house to empty his stomach. Then
he'd go back to Al and never speak of this again. It wasn't a bad plan. The only other plan
was to beg, and . . . no, no, he'd do the right thing even if -

Roy stopped halfway through brewing coffee and said, "Are you alright? You haven't
said one word since . . ."

Ed opened his mouth, reeled with another wave of nausea, clamped it shut and nodded.

"You look - are you coming down with something?" Roy crouched slightly in front of
him, placed a palm against Ed's forehead and Ed swallowed, closed his eyes, felt-

His next breath came in three staggered gasps and he screwed his eyes hard closed but
Roy said, "Ed, what's - something's wrong, what's-"
He put his arms around him, and Ed forced himself not to touch him, buried to the nose in
Roy's shoulder and fighting hard to stick to the plan. He wished Roy would just do it,
quickly, like ripping off a plaster or an arm-

What if he wanted to have sex one last time first? Ed almost moaned aloud at the thought.
If he tried to say no he'd burst into tears. If he went along with it he'd probably still burst
into tears. He was just - this was just -

Roy stroked his head, and his arms were solid and so right around him, and Ed was
drowning.

"You can-" His breath jumped again, and Roy raised his head as Ed finally managed to
get a word out. "- just do it, it's - fine, it's fine, I-"

"Just do what?"

"Just do it, don't fucking make me-"

"Just do-?" The first sob choked out and Ed hated himself. "Ed - oh, no . . ."

Ed gave up. What use did he have for dignity, anyway? He clutched Roy and
concentrated on not hyperventilating, that was hard enough, and Roy kissed the top of his
head, stroked his back and said nothing at all until Ed had exhausted himself and just
slumped against his chest, Roy's now damp shirt held tight in his fists, eyes tightly closed,
breath struggling, waiting. The release was exactly like sex, he realised, cracking his eyes
open against Roy's shirt. He could go to sleep now, here, wrapped up in Roy, and how
exactly was this part of the plan . . . ?

Roy kissed the side of his head again and raised his own head a little so he could look
down at Ed, one hand cupping his face to hold it up, to keep Ed's eyes steady on his. "I
don't know what's happened," he said softly, and his thumb stroked Ed's cheek. "Ed -
what's wrong?"

What's wrong?

There was a scream inside Ed, and he was relieved that the anger was back, the anger he
could cope with . . .

"I'm fucking waiting for you to fucking dump me you fucking retard," he snarled, and
Roy's eyes widened blankly as Ed dragged the back of a glove over his eyes and spat, "So
will you just fucking do it already so I can - can - I don't even know what the hell I'm
meant to do next-"

His voice cracked on the last word and, despising himself even more, he slumped face
forward into Roy's arms and started sobbing again. Roy held him at a tentative, arm's-
length distance, like he didn't know what he was holding, like he'd just been handed a
baby still slick and bloody from the womb.

"Dump you?" he croaked.

"'cause Havoc was here and he saw - and you said if anyone found out - and I don't want
you to but if you don't want to I can't-"

"You - wait, what-? You - Ed, for god's sake, have you been thinking like this all day?"

"Like I can think about anything else!" Ed screeched, and punched him in the chest,
because it was there. Roy let his breath out in a low wuff and dropped, and Ed - only
balanced on the chair because of Roy's arms - went over with him with a yelp. They
ended up on the kitchen floor, Roy's back to a cupboard, Ed sprawled in his lap, still
clutching his shirt and still sobbing erratically into it.

"You -" Roy coughed, fumbled for Ed's head with one hand. "Ow- Ed, no-one is getting
dumped." He coughed again, put a hand to his chest. "So long as you don't accidentally
kill me one of these days, I'm not going anywhere."

Ed went absolutely still. After a pause he took a little breath and raised his head, blinking
at Roy in an odd, dazed way.

"I . . . you're not -?"

Roy winced, still rubbing his chest. "I convinced Lieutenant Havoc not to turn me in to
the police quite yet. Unfortunately I couldn't convince him not to tell Breda, Falman and
Fury. Lieutenant Hawkeye already knew. I think. Sometimes it's hard to tell with her."

Ed stared at him for almost half a minute before he said, "Exactly when were you going
to tell me about this?"

"I . . . suppose it slipped my mind."

"Slipped your mind. Slipped your mind." Ed said faintly. "Does anyone not know?"

". . . everyone else?"

"Everyone - you - you said if anyone found out-!"

"Well, it certainly can't get any further than this. And I had hoped you would at least be
old enough when the office found out that it would look slightly less-"

"All day. All day I've been going - out of my mind-"
"You do have a slight habit of overreacting," Roy murmured, and realised too late that Ed
had gone purple.

"Overreacting? Overreacting? Overre-fucking-acting?"

"Ah-"

"You said! You said if it was too dangerous that was it! And I don't even know how I got
back to the dorms this morning, I don't know what I did today, I thought you were never
gonna even touch me again! I nearly threw up on my desk! I haven't eaten a thing all day!
I attacked Al with a sandwich! I told Russell to fuck me on a workbench! I-"

"You did what?"

"That gets your attention, you bastard-"

"Wait, wait-" Roy raised his hands and Ed swallowed down his fury, glared at him.
"What are we arguing about, exactly?"

Ed opened his mouth, paused. For a second, looking into each other's eyes, they ran back
through the conversation.

"You were meant to dump me and you didn't," Ed said eventually, ducking his head and
scowling.

"And you would rather I had?"

"No!"

"Then . . . why are we arguing?"

"I don't know," Ed muttered, picking irritably at one of Roy's shirt buttons. "I know I'm
mad at you, I just can't work out why. Today was one of the worst days of my life, and
I've had some fucking bad days, Mustang. Today made it into the top ten easily. Top
five."

Roy's face softened, slowly, and he smoothed out Ed's hair a little, brushed it back from
his forehead and kissed him there. "I'm not 'dumping' you," he said softly. "I want to
protect you if I can, Ed, but I just can't let go of this at this point. I won't let you go. Not if
I can help it."

Ed kept playing with the button for a little while longer, then looked up just as Roy
moved to kiss him again, so he hit him on the side of the bridge of his nose, and Ed had
to close his eyes quickly. He smiled without meaning to, tried to stifle it, and then just
opened his eyes and gave a helplessly relieved breath.
"Today really sucked. I mean, really sucked." Ed swallowed. "Should give you some clue
of what'll happen if you ever do dump me."

"Then it's a good thing that won't be an issue."

Ed blinked, slowly, then leaned forward into Roy's chest and slid his arms around him,
nuzzling to a comfortable position and sighing. Roy touched the side of his head, brushed
his hand through his hair with a sad, relieved smile. "You look exhausted."

"Thanks, Mustang."

"Do you want to sleep here or at the dorms?"

". . . I need to call Al."

"Okay." Roy slid his arms around his back. "Okay."

Ed was silent for a moment, his breathing slowing down, and then he said, "I really
wasn't overreacting, you know."

Roy kissed the top of his head and said, "What?"

"If you wanted to stop doing this. I was going to let you, do you know that? I was just
gonna - I had this plan, to just - let you and then work for Al and then after that - I don't
know, I have no idea, I can't picture it without you anymore. I went crazy thinking no-
one'd ever touch me the way you do again." His hands tightened against Roy, almost
painfully. "I didn't even know I needed this until you had to go and be - you know,
everything I've ever fucking never known I needed, and . . . you're not allowed to stop."
he finished in a whisper. "You can't. I'll beg. Shit. I'll beg-"

"Don't," Roy whispered, his hand catching in Ed's hair. "Don't, Ed, don't ever-"

Somehow they'd got tugged face to face, somehow they were kissing, and Ed had never
even known he'd needed something like this. Roy's mouth, Roy's hands, Roy.

If you ever stop touching me I'll go crazy.

He was almost asleep in Roy's hands now. The man could mould him like clay . . .

"I'll call your brother." Roy said, his body shifting under Ed's, finding some purchase and
lifting him to his feet. Ed leaned against him, holding on to him, feeling like he didn't
have any strength anymore unless he used Roy's. "Let's get you to bed."

"Not a kid," Ed mumbled, and Roy walked him slowly out of the kitchen, arms around
his shoulders.
"No. I know."

"Tell Al I'm sorry about the sandwich."

"I will."

Ed let his head fall against the chest behind it as Roy walked him upstairs, jogging him in
quite a pleasant way. Warm, steady, safe. Bedroom door opening. No light, all warm and
dark and Roy-smelling and good. Bed, solid and secure, and he rolled in just the right
way to pull Roy down on top of him.

"Don't go yet." Always so warm. Heavy in such a good way. "Stay."

Arms. So warm . . . he inhaled Roy's scent and exhaled, "Love . . ."

He didn't hear the reply, if there was one.

Closer part XXIII
Rating: R
Beta'd by toxicbullets - for her very existence, I am thankful ^^
Disclaimer: Despite all the crap I trawl them through, I don't own the characters =(

Summary: "Carpet burn is not an adventure."

All previous parts can be found in my memories.


Notes: . . . tired. But - plot! And, for the record, sort-of spoilers for the series. I do hope
you've all watched it all by now. If not, what are you doing here? Go! Watch it! It IS the
most important thing you can do with your life right now!


If I took you, darling, to the caverns of my heart
Would you light the lamp dear,
Would you light the lamp, dear?
And see fish without eyes,
Bats with their heads hanging down towards the ground -
Would you still come around?
- Laura Veirs, Spelunking



"It's easy enough to grant."

"But they don't have everything yet. There's no point in just giving them the time to
create blood if they don't know how to make the blood of an alchemist."
"How much ordinary blood would it take to make a Stone?"

"Well . . . you'd get to find out if a homunculus that ages can die of old age, in the
meantime."

"Then we need to push them in the right direction. Where is Envy?"

"Lust, I'm hungry."

"We'll find you something to eat afterwards. Envy's minding another angle, and the
Tringham boys will still be in the laboratory, wherever we send the Elrics, so that side of
the research won't stop. Still . . . this would be so much faster if we could . . ."

"I'm hungry."

"Hush."


*


Ed woke dazedly still in darkness, and didn't know where he was until he recognised the
smell of Roy all around him, and let his head settle back against the pillow, let his eyes
closed again. His eyelids felt uncomfortable and sticky, because . . .

Because he'd been crying like a little kid for half of last night. Fucking great.

It wasn't a pillow. He was laying on Roy's chest, firm and warm, and there was a hand
moving just gently on his shoulder. He squeezed his eyes a little more tightly closed and
mumbled, "You're awake, aren't you?"

"Yes."

"You think I'm a total spaz now."

"Only sometimes."

Ed pressed the side of his head into Roy's chest. "Shit." he muttered, and Roy slid his
arms around him, tugged him a little higher up, fitting Ed's head into the curve of his
shoulder. "Sorry." Ed breathed into his skin. "About yesterday."

"I suppose I'm sorry too. I didn't realise you'd take everything I said quite so literally, and
I didn't realise . . ."

"You can't say stuff you don't mean, how'm I meant to believe-?"
"Ed," Roy said softly, hands rubbing up and down his side and back. "Of course I meant
it. If I thought this would put you in danger I would rather you were miserable and safe, I
really would. But Havoc isn't dangerous. Apart from the passive smoking risk."

Ed - sighed, fitted himself more neatly against Roy, put his arms around his chest. Broad
and solid, and a hand slid down his spine and made a little noise whisper out on his next
breath.

"What time is it?"

"Not time to get up yet."

Good. Ed didn't want to move, not yet . . .


*


It was just getting light when Roy raised his head from the pillow again and found no Ed
in his arms. Hm?

He followed the rustling noises down the stairs and to the kitchen, where Ed had emptied
most of his cupboards out onto the table, apparently eaten a large portion of their contents
already, and was now sitting on the floor squinting at a packet of dried pasta like he was
wondering if it could be eaten raw. He was also floured as pale as an albino Elric, eyes
startlingly yellow in the white.

"What are you doing?" Roy said from the doorway, and his voice came out more sleep-
rough than he'd expected.

"I'm still hungry," Ed said, almost as if puzzled by it, and put the pasta down. He looked
up at Roy, hair loose, mussed from sleep and whited out like an overexposed photograph.
He looked like he'd been burrowing in the larder. "It's your fault, anyway, if you hadn't
made me - if - I have a whole day's food to catch up on."

Roy sighed, walked over, sat in front of him and ruffled his hair to try and beat out some
of the flour lightening it to a bleached-wheat colour. "Exactly how did you get quite so
covered in flour?"

"You were the one who put it on the stupid top shelf," Ed said, squinting his eyes against
the clouds of flour, smacking at Roy's hands. "Quit it, I'll get a shower-"

"You'll clog my drain up with dough if you do."

"Then I'll transmute it out, no problem, stoppit-"
"Do you actually know how to cook?"

"Hey," Ed snapped, finally grabbing both of Roy's wrists and holding them off his head.
"Yes I know how to cook. It's slow, boring food-alchemy, it's easy."

Food-alchemy. Sometimes Roy wondered what he was dating.

"If you go get a shower and make sure my drain doesn't get blocked, I'll make pancakes."

It was a little like watching a dog react to a whistle. "Really? Pancakes?"

What was he dating? "Go get washed, Ed."

Ed scrambled up, dusted the flour from his trousers with a grin and pelted out. Five
seconds later, as Roy was standing up, he pelted back in and threw his arms around him,
kissed him on a laugh and as Roy blinked in surprise he skidded out again.

Roy brushed some flour from his cheek and stared at where Ed should have been for a
moment, then looked at the catastrophe of his kitchen and raised an eyebrow. Whatever
he was dating, it certainly left its mark . . .


*


Al was finding Ed's relationship with the Colonel at least as stressful as Ed himself was.
His brother's habit of suddenly disappearing was new; Al was completely unused to not
knowing where Ed was at every moment of the day. Usually Al was with him, after all,
following him wherever he went, guarding him as he slept. But yesterday Ed had never
given a proper explanation of where he'd been for half of the morning, or why he was so
obviously, so unguardedly distressed all day - his brother's inability to hide his emotions,
against the Colonel's iced-over expressions, made Al feel threatened and uneasy on Ed's
behalf - and then he'd gone off that evening saying he didn't know when he'd be back, and
there was still no sign of him . . .

Mustang had called last night, the message had been passed on to Al from the phone at
the other end of the dormitories - Ed had 'fallen asleep in his library'. A simple, innocent
enough code, and so much like Ed that no-one would question it.

The leather of Al's gloves creaked slightly as he curled them into fists, and he began to
look around the dorm room. He didn't know what was happening but he understood the
shape of it: his brother was unhappy, and it was because of the Colonel. Ed was still
spending the night with Mustang but he'd been a frightened, clenched-up ghost of himself
yesterday, and what was the Colonel doing to . . . ?
He didn't think he could kill the Colonel with his bare hands. It wasn't that he physically
couldn't, he was confident he could, fire alchemy or not - but he did like him, or he'd
thought he did, and it would be too upsetting. Which meant he needed a weapon of some
sort. He looked around the room almost in a daze, gauntlets gripping the edge of his bed.
There wasn't much to hand. He could transmute his bed into a mace or something, it
wasn't like he really needed it . . .

The uneven sound of his brother's approach, one tread heavier than the other, made him
look up - and Ed pushed the door open, yawning, and then paused as he saw Al staring so
silently at him. For a moment neither of them moved.

"What?" Ed said, eyebrows lowering defensively, hand still on the door handle.

". . . good morning, brother . . ."

Ed stared at him for a second longer, eyes and mouth flat with suspicion, and then he shut
the door behind himself and said, "What's up with you?"

"What's up with - me?"

"You're giving me a weird look."

"I can't help looking at you like this."

"Don't give me that crap, your eyes change." Ed scowled at him. "Don't try and hide
things from your big brother. Now what's wrong?"

"Nothing's . . . nothing's . . . how was the Colonel?"

Ed pulled his head back, just slightly, as always, and his face tightened before it softened
into that little smile, that warmth behind the eyes. "Yeah. He's fine. Ah . . . we've got to
be into the labs soon, you coming?"

Al tilted his head a little, said, "Brother, aren't - yesterday you were . . . did you have a
fight with the Colonel?"

Ed's cheeks darkened slightly and he looked to the side, giving a small flinch of
embarrassment. "Uh, yesterday. No. That was . . . just me, being weird. As usual." he
added in a mutter. "But everything's fine, everything's . . . fine." And he quirked a glance
at Al, and he looked like he wanted to grin but he wouldn't, and then it broke free anyway
and all he looked was happy. "So, nothing's up with you? You're fine?"

"I'm . . . fine."
"C'mon then." Ed opened the door again, jerking his head for Al to follow, braid flicking
behind him. "We can let the damned Tringhams be the last ones in today, that'll show
Russell-"

Al had to uncurl his hands from the edge of the bed to stand up, and when he did he
looked down and saw splintered, broken wood. Wincing on the inside, he followed his
brother out. He'd very nearly dashed the Colonel's brains out for nothing. That had been a
very lucky escape for everyone concerned . . .


*


They were summoned, mid-morning, to see the Colonel. Outside the door to the outer
office Al watched Ed draw himself up, taking in a long breath with his hands clenched at
his sides.

"Brother?" Al said. He hadn't seen his brother this unenthusiastic about going into the
office since the old days, before his brother was . . . attached to the Colonel. Ed had been
brighter all morning, as argumentative as ever with Russell but with a more confident
edge to his arguing, had responded with the same roll of the eyes to his summons like this
was all too tiresome - it was only now, outside the door, that he looked actually uneasy.
Ed really did have mood swings down to a fine art.

Ed stared at the door for a moment, looked up at Al and said, "They know."

Then he turned the door handle and strode in, as cocky as ever, and Al stumbled after him.


*


Ed didn't like the thought of other people knowing. Hell, it was hard enough as it was . . .
and what right did anyone else have to know? It was between him and Roy, that was all,
and it was scary and difficult and Ed didn't even know if he was getting it right most of
the time still - and Roy was a smug git but at least he rarely pointed out Ed's mistakes, in
this area at least . . .

It was also the safest, strangest thing he had, and he felt protective, possessive, defensive.
It was his and everyone else could just fuck off, stay back, no-one else was allowed to get
in and endanger it because he did enough of that himself.

He opened the door, and - everyone looked up, apart from Hawkeye. Havoc stared, Breda
leered, Falman gave him a curious look, Fury blushed and looked back down at his work.
Ed took in a slow, long breath, hand still on the door handle, his insides all hot and itchy -
"Good morning, Edward, Alphonse." Hawkeye said, finally putting down her pen and
looking up from her work. "The Colonel is waiting for you."

Ed shot one last scowl to Havoc, who gazed innocently out of the window, tried to ignore
Breda's expression, which made his face heat a little, put his head high and stamped to
the inner office, kicking open the door.

He kicked it shut again so hard it bounced off its frame and as he kicked it the second
time he heard the explosion of laughter behind it. Bastards-

"I do hope you intend to repair any dents you leave," Mustang murmured behind him,
and he spun all clenched up with rage with a snarl already in his throat, but Mustang just
smiled one of his infuriating smiles and gestured to the couch, leaning back slightly in his
own chair. "Take a seat, Fullmetal."

"You just fucking love this, don't you," Ed muttered, stalking across the floor to flump
down, arms folded, glaring at the bastard Colonel. Of course Ed loved him; didn't stop
him being a bastard.

"I can't imagine what you're talking about." Mustang said, leaning forward to write
something on a piece of paper and hold it out for Ed to read before he could growl his
reply.

My office may be bugged.

Ed stared, blinked up at Roy, startled - and Roy cocked an eyebrow, clicked his fingers,
and dropped the flaming remains of his message into the ashtray that seemed to be there
only for that purpose. "So. Your request for time off from assignments has been refused,
and I need to find some way to keep you occupied."

"Yeah," Ed snorted, scowling at the wall, still a little unsettled, trying to remember what
he'd said in here that anyone could have heard . . . "Didn't think the bloody military'd cut
me a break after all the crap I go through for it. Guessed as much when the Tringhams
turned up to 'help' with the research. So, what, I'm being packed off to the middle of
nowhere again?"

"Actually I've found you an assignment right here in the city." Roy picked up a folder,
checked it, held it out; Ed stood, giving him an odd look, and took it from him. "There
have been a number of thefts from a military weapons warehouse, which obviously we
don't wish to continue."

"So what d'you expect me to do about it?" Ed said, flicking through the folder, which was
mainly detailed information about the stolen weapons. Boring.

"Well, stopping any more thefts might be helpful, don't you think?"
"Die," Ed said casually, pausing over the description of a gun taller than he was. Who
needed to be able to put a hole that size in another person? "How'm I meant to do that?"

"I'm sure you'll think of something. Do try to keep the explosions to a minimum. The
paperwork is really very tiresome."

"Die in pain," Ed elaborated, stopping to stare at one of the listed weapons. "You have
grenades that can-? Why does anyone need grenades that can-?"

"There are some very bad men out there, Fullmetal."

"All the more reason not to leave grenades lying around that can - that's horrible. Who's
the military planning on using these against, anyway? Who deserves this?"

"I believe they exist primarily to convince people not to put themselves into a position
where we may want to use these against them."

"You can't play who's got the biggest dick with people's lives, this is - this is just sick."
Ed stared at the folder he'd been handed, face twisting. "I can't believe I have to-"

"You signed up, Fullmetal, you knew what you were enlisting for."

Ed looked up at Roy, tried to read something behind his eyes, anything behind his eyes,
but there were no handholds there . . .

He let his breath out, slowly. "This'll give me time to check in on the lab at least, I
guess." he said grudgingly, and scowled to the side. "I'll go read this."

"Be careful."

Ed shrugged a whatever and let the door swing shut behind him, completely unaware of
the office staff glancing up at him and Al calling, "Brother?" as he walked out. What had
he signed up for? What exactly was he a part of, here? Was it really any more ethical to
stay quiet and use the military's resources to make a Stone this way than it was to just use
Dr Marco's research to create one the old-fashioned way?

"Brother," Al said again, catching up to him, putting a hand on his shoulder. Ed looked
up at him, managed a smile, thumped the folder into Al's chest for him.

"C'mon. We get a day out of the lab for a change."


*


Ed gave the warehouse a quick once-over, completely ignoring the military guard
following him and his brother around. There were too many potential ways in - old tin
walls, and amidst all these crates someone could hide for days without being spotted . . .

"An alchemist could be in and out of here in minutes," he muttered, thumping the wall
with the flat of a metal fist; it made a deeply satisfying clongongongggg noise.
"Transmute in, grab whatever, transmute the wall back-"

"Do you think it could be an alchemist?"

"Could be a State Alchemist." Ed said with a shrug. "There's corruption crawling around
every stinking corner of the army, shouldn't be a surprise they're selling their own stuff to
the enemy . . ."

"So what are we going to do?"

Ed grinned.


*


The transmutation was really very impressive, Al did have to admit that, and it was the
biggest mousetrap he'd ever seen in his life, yes, big enough to encircle the whole
warehouse, creaking metal jaw hanging open over the doors.

"Now the thieves can't get in." Ed said, hands on hips, in a 'and-that's-the-end-of-that'
voice.

"Brother, now no-one can get in." Al pointed out, and Ed paused, looked over his
mousetrap once more.

"Ah."


*


Yes, it was a very big moat. Yes, it would stop thieves getting in.

"Same problem?"

"Brother . . ."

"Okay, okay, jeez . . ."
*


"Brother-"

"They can't get in this way!"

"Neither can anyone else! Put the doors back, I'm sure we'll think of something-"


*


The sun was on its way to setting, fat and low in the honey-thick sky as Ed banged on
Roy's door and opened it. He knew that wasn't the etiquette in the city, but at home it was
what everyone had done - knock and enter at once. Why not? It wasn't like you were
going to walk in on a stranger, it wasn't like you'd walk in on anything that didn't happen
at the same time every day . . .

"Oi, Mustang," he called, and Roy emerged from the living room, blinked at him.

"I didn't expect-"

"No, I needed to-" Ed shut the door and looked back up at him, shuffling a little, and then
reached for him almost helplessly. Roy gave a confused smile but kissed him anyway,
and Ed hung off his neck, keeping him close, looking up at him with his brows tightened
with worry. "I needed to ask, 'cause . . . your office is bugged?"

"I don't know. Well, no, that's not true. I do know." Roy glanced behind himself and
began to walk backwards, Ed still hanging off him on clumsy tiptoes, so he could sit on
the stairs and they were finally something like eye-to-eye with Ed flumping onto his lap.
"Maes - Lieutenant Hughes has my office bugged already, I know that. Ed-" He laughed
as Ed went green. "It's not like there's been anything in particular for him to hear."

"No, but-" Ed pressed a hand over his mouth. "He heard - damn, that's - he heard the first
time I really looked at you." he mumbled behind his hand, eyes on Roy's throat because
he didn't dare to look higher. "Hell. That's. Embarrassing."

"Do you wish you hadn't done that?"

"No! Even if it was- but what's it matter if Hughes hears anything? He's your friend, isn't
he?"

"If he can, someone else can. The whole point of bugs is that you don't know they're there,
Edward."
"I know that." Ed snapped, and looked up at him again. "So, okay, that's that. Best
behaviour in the office. We already knew that, though."

Roy was still in his work shirt, though not the jacket. Ed touched the starched collar for a
moment, rubbed it with his thumb, frowned. "Is that all?" Roy said, and Ed paused,
swung himself off Roy's lap and sat next to him, hands gripping the edge of the step.

"No. I needed to ask. It's . . ."

He looked down, gripped the step a little more tightly. He'd fallen for Roy, he knew, long
before he'd really known who he was. This was all back to front; he'd slept with Roy
before they'd got straight what they meant to each other, he'd dropped headlong in love
before knowing who the hell Roy even was - surely it was meant to be easier than this,
simpler than this? He'd really screwed this up . . .

"Okay, I really hate the army." Ed said to the carpet. "I mean, I hate it, and I hate that I'm
stuck with it, and sometimes I really hate myself for getting myself into this position
anyway. It's for Al, if it wasn't for Al-" He flicked his eyes to the side, even further away
from Roy. "As far as I can see the military's just a festering puddle of puke and
corruption and greed and it uses people and it kills them and it deserves whatever's
coming to it. I've seen all the crap it leaves behind it wherever it goes, and - and if it
hadn't started that stupid fucking war with Ishbal we wouldn't have people like Scar
wandering around killing even more people, and Winry's parents wouldn't be dead, and -
and everything'd suck a lot less, anyway."

He was aware that Roy had tensed beside him, but he didn't look at him, not just yet. "So,
you know why I'm here. But I need to know why you're here, 'cause . . . you know the
reasons you signed up for are bullshit now, so - so why're you - I know you, I know you're
not the sort of self-serving greedy bastard the higher-ups are, and I don't understand why
you're still doing this when-"

He looked up, finally, and Roy was staring right at him, face almost grey. Ed's mouth
dropped open and then he said, "Are you okay? You're - what did I say? Are you -"

"I'm fine," Roy said softly, and cleared his throat, and looked almost like himself again.
"Does it really bother you so much?"

Ed's mouth twisted. "'Course it does. Of course it does, I know Granny Pinako doesn't
approve and if my teacher ever got her hands on me - and if my mother knew -" He
tightened his jaw. "It's the worst feeling in the world, knowing the people you actually
care about the opinion of would be ashamed of you."

"I know." Roy looked him in the eye like he was looking for something - he did it a lot,
and Ed didn't know what he was looking for; all he'd ever see was Ed, he couldn't be
anything different. "I . . . came back from Ishbal very disillusioned." Roy gave a small
noise that could have been a laugh but sounded a little too strained. "Well, that's one way
to put it. It changed everything that I was, and everything that I thought I was. And . . . I
made a decision, or Hughes made it for me, and I have to stay in the military to fulfil it."

"What decision?"

Roy was still searching his eyes, for what Ed had no idea, but he looked right back and
waited. Whatever it was, Roy must have found it, because he sat a little higher on the step
and said, "I am going to be the next Fuhrer of Amestris."

Ed's mouth opened, closed, opened again.

"You're- you-"

"The military is as corrupt as the men at the top allow it to be. Wars start because the men
at the top allow them to." There was ice in his voice, but there was a blaze underneath it,
and Ed felt something shimmer hot and cold up his spine at the sound of it. "I will never
let Ishbal happen again."

Ed looked into his eyes - bottomless black, fixed and sure and burning - and believed him,
of course he did. How could anyone not?

"Complete megalomaniac," he murmured, nudging Roy with his shoulder, and Roy -
smiled, after a pause.

"Well. I would like to be something you would be proud of. Your moral compass is . . .
I've never known anyone stay so . . ." His hand touched Ed's hair and Ed glanced up at
him, already embarrassed. "Pure."

"Idiot. You just like ordering people around."

Roy leaned back on the stairs. "There is that."

"Okay. Fuhrer, huh?" Ed cocked his head thoughtfully. "I always kinda guessed you
wanted to take over the world, but . . ."

"But?"

Ed shrugged, grinned. "I guess I never thought even you had an ego big enough to
decide . . ."

Roy's hand slid around to the back of his neck. "Brat."

Roy was already moving towards him, his hands were already tilting his head back, and
Ed gave a small laugh, closed his eyes, let him. Kissing Roy was just good, anyway, so
he slipped his arms around Roy's waist and just let him, just relaxed back into his hold
and let him . . .
Roy gazed down at him and his eyes were so dark Ed's breath stuck in his lungs. His hand
trailed down Ed's cheek and this was getting - too much, he'd only come to ask two
questions . . .

"I have to go," he said, and Roy's mouth actually fell open and Ed laughed. "Hey, you set
me that stupid assignment, I can't hang around here all night, I've got stuff to do."

"You've-?"

"Stake-out," Ed said, shrugging in Roy's arms and pushing him off, gently, with a hand to
the chest. "Me and Al need to keep an eye on the warehouse. Plus, sex on the stairs?
There'd be - carpet burn and steps digging in weird places and - no, thanks."

"You can be surprisingly unadventurous sometimes."

"Carpet burn is not an adventure. Fuck, if that's your idea of an adventure-"

"What would you know about carpet-?"

"Hm?" Ed said innocently, shifting his coat on his shoulders, standing up. "Oh, well, you
know . . ."

"How would - you haven't -" Roy paused, scowled, realised he was doing it, and lifted his
head with a superior set to his mouth. Ed completely failed to stifle an evil grin. "You
can't out-manipulate me, Edward, and I really do advise you not to try."

Ed glanced up at the ceiling, and his mouth was a little wobbly with struggling to clamp
the grin down. "You're right. Of course. What would I know about carpet burn?" He
turned for the door, smoothing his coat down. "Those tiles in the labs make an awful
squeaking noise, though, when you-"

"You- cannot make me jealous when I know you haven't-"

Ed opened the door and stood there, leaning against the edge of the door, eyes flickering
with mischief as they skimmed over Roy and settled on his eyes. "Yeah, it doesn't drive
you crazy at all. I like it when you get all possessive." His grin broadened, and he ducked
his head without breaking eye contact, so he could look a little up at Roy even though
Roy was still sitting. "Makes me feel special."

"Brat."

Ed laughed, and closed the door behind himself, leaning against it for a second, eyes
closed, just letting himself feel happy. Then he took a breath, stood up, and marched off
for the warehouse. Long night ahead . . .
Closer part XXIV
Rating: R
Beta'd by toxicbullets - in heaven, she will sit on Hiromu Arakawa's right hand.
Disclaimer: Don't own the characters or the poem, technically own some of the situations
but happy to share, and really would rather not be sued seeing as I'm on minimum wage
^^;

Summary: 'It was a lucky shot, or an unlucky shot, depending on the point of view.'

All previous parts can be found in my memories.



Some things are better left unsaid,
But they still turn me inside out . . .
- Annie Lennox, Why


It was a boring sort of stake-out. Ed folded his coat up into a pillow and laid back against
Al's back between the crates while Al sat with a book, listening. The most he heard were
rats, and his brother snoring, on and off until the sun came up.


*


Roy was scared.

He knew the symptoms; cold sweat, body rigid, hands shaking, heart thrumming too fast
in his chest - he was terrified. Hughes watched him disapprovingly, hands on Ed's
shoulders - Ed watched as closely, as fixedly as he always did, like the only thing he
wanted to see was what Roy would do next - and at the muzzle-end of the gun he was
holding the Rockbells stood, clutching at each other, faces pale and blank, white and
knowing -

Knowing exactly what would happen next. Knowledge turned their eyes into accusations,
dark in their blanched faced, and even then he'd thought how pretty the woman was, how
young . . .

Maes murmured, "This was always going to happen." and Ed watched, waited, like he
knew what was coming next as well.

Maes, no, not yet -

"Maybe not so soon as it did-"
Not yet, he couldn't bear it not yet-

"Maybe not in this way-"

- please -

The gun went off like someone else had fired it, and Roy jerked up from sleep and
gagged on air. Entire body jerking with each breath he bent over, hands clutching at his
hair, drowning -

Oh - god - oh - god -

Each breath slowed him down, each breath anchored him a little, a little more, back to his
bed, back to the present . . . until he was himself again enough to grip at his hair more
tightly, bend his face right into the covers like he could suffocate himself there, hold
down the scream and not cry, he would not cry, he was a grown man for god's sake and -

If Ed ever saw him like this . . .

He slid his hands down, pressed them over his face. If Ed ever knew, ever found out . . .

He would give anything to have Ed here at this moment, anything except having Ed see
this, having Ed know . . .


*


Al came back with a stack of library books and Ed's lunch in a bag and found his brother
had dozed off again against a crate. He sighed and dropped the bag onto Ed's stomach -
Ed jerked up with a startled yelp and looked around frantically - and sat down next to him,
flipping open the first book.

"Eat your lunch, brother." he said, and Ed scowled at him before opening the bag.

"Hey, pie!"

Al rolled his eyes, since he couldn't pull a face. Ed always had been ridiculously easy to
please.

Ed at least had the sense to peel his gloves off before he got them gravy stained - he was
always ruining gloves, inadvertently but beyond even his ability to repair - and settled
down happily to eat.

"Do you have a plan?" Al said, looking up from his book after a while. He always tried to
have something to occupy himself with while his brother was eating - the speed and the
mess of it were utterly compelling once you'd started watching, so the best thing was not
to get dragged in in the first place.

Ed sucked some gravy off his thumb, smiling blissfully, and said, "I thought about
putting the biggest gun in a big circle with a trap over it and transmuting a flashing Steal
me sign-"

"Brother-"

"But then I got talking to the guards." Ed licked his fingers clean and sat back against the
crate again with a sigh, kicking his legs out and folding his arms behind his head.
"They've never seen anyone breaking in, they've never seen much of anything, but one of
them did hear some funny noises the last time stuff was stolen. Like the crates were
shifting on their own, and when he stuck his head around the door, everything was quiet
apart from some noise like really big rats . . ."

"They're using . . . a tunnel?" Al said, watching his brother settle back to go to sleep again.

"They transmuted a tunnel."

"How do you know that?"

"Because it starts underneath this crate," Ed said, and banged the crate behind him with a
fist without opening his eyes.

"It-"

"I found it while you were out."

"So . . ."

"So, I could fill it in, but we wouldn't catch anyone then, and I want something to wave
under Mustang's nose. So we'll just have to wait for them to turn up again."

"But we don't know when they'll be back."

"If they don't show up tomorrow night I'm just filling the tunnel with glue and leaving
them to it." Ed muttered, and yawned again. "Need to make sure the Tringhams aren't
messing up all our work, after all . . ."

"It's nice to be out of the lab for a bit."

"Out of the lab and into a warehouse. We're really moving up in the world."

"It's . . . airy."
"You don't always have to go looking for the silver lining, you know."

Al gave a half-annoyed, half-surprised humph. "You don't have to be so fixated on the
cloud, brother."

Ed cracked his eyes open and said as if it had just occurred to him, "D'you think that if
we'd had another brother, he could've, like, mediated?"

Al turned the page, still prickled, and said, "It wouldn't've been worth the risk of getting
another one of you."

"Ahh, I would really hit you right now if I could be bothered," Ed said, and closed his
eyes, and yawned again.


*


Hughes was feeling stressed.

He had a sneaking suspicion from the various fragments of reports he had that Scar was
right here in the city, but he couldn't prove it, and could hardly start a city-wide search on
a whim. Archer was certainly in the city, searching the seedier districts, stirring up
trouble. Archer wasn't incompetent, far from it, and so Scar should be here; but where?

He didn't know why the Fuhrer was here, and he got a little tightening to his stomach
whenever he thought about the Fuhrer's interest in Ed's experiment - and he was used to
trusting his gut instincts, even as he tried to ignore this one. Maybe Bradley just felt a
personal interest in their experiment because of the possibility it offered of replacing
what had been lost . . . ?

Roy was twitchy again. Every attempt to get Roy comfortably married off had failed, but
Maes believed in monogamy with all his heart, believed that if anything could give Roy a
reason to keep moving forward it was love - so once he'd seen that Roy was finally
beginning to notice that Ed was hardly a child anymore, and Ed had actually noticed that
Roy was more than irritation personified, he'd thought - ah. Someone Roy actually knows
before he beds. This has potential.

More than potential, they couldn't keep away from each other, and then they couldn't
keep their hands off each other, and now . . .

Now, when Roy should have been giddily happy, he was twitchy again. Did he think
Maes didn't have enough on his mind? Cheer up, man! he wanted to scream. All you need
is love, just enjoy it!
His friend, not that Roy would believe it, was more stubborn than Ed had ever been. And
when Roy was determined not to relax, he was damn well not going to relax, thank you
very much . . .

It wasn't often that Roy called him - usually Roy could trust that Maes would chase him
around on the phone about five times a day, after all - and when he did, it was only ever
for one reason.

"Why are you still in the office? I thought you'd be at home by now."

"You know how it is, with the Fuhrer in town. Busybusy."

"The way you talk about your family I'm sometimes surprised that you manage to pry
yourself from their side at all."

Maes, kicked back in his desk chair with his heels on the desk, shifted his boots slightly
to the side to look at a photograph of Gracia crouched down behind Elysia, arms around
her daughter, smiling that smile that made his world brighten like the sun rising. "Ah, you
know how it is, the military is a cruel mistress. Cruel, cruel, to keep me from Elysia's
bedtime . . ."

Roy sighed down the line - Maes caught only the edge of it; when he wasn't doing it for
dramatic purposes, Roy always pulled away from the phone slightly to sigh. "Come on,
then." he said, head lolling back and spinning slightly side-to-side in the chair, anchoring
himself to the desk with his heels. "There's a young blond thing out there completely
besotted with you. Usually that makes you happy. Or smug, at least, and that works out to
the same thing with you-"

"Maes." Maes paused in his swinging, turning just slowly, slowly in one direction at
Roy's voice. ". . . I'm going to have to tell him."

"Tell him what?" Maes rolled his eyes to the ceiling. "Ask a stupid question . . . Roy . . ."

"Maes." Maes winced at his friend's voice and thought, Why'd you let yourself get
dragged off to a battlefield in the first place, you idiot? Last place in the world for you,
for god's sake- ". . . I'm scared."

"Roy, he wouldn't just . . . he's in love with you."

"How do you know that?"

"Because I've looked at him, idiot." Maes pushed his glasses up to rub his eyes, and
sighed. "You know how Ed looks at Alphonse like he's Al's first puppy? You know how
Al dictates his every mood and can completely destroy him - ah, not that he ever would -
or make his day with just a word? Because he does exactly the same for you, Roy, jeez,
his face when anyone mentions you . . ."
"Have you ever come head to head with his conscience? Maes - I don't know who you're
talking about but this, my - he would never forgive me this. This isn't a mistake, this is-"

"Do you really think-"

"I can't tell him. I don't know what I'd say. I don't - know what to do."

Maes pinched the bridge of his nose under his glasses and admitted in a low voice,
"Neither do I."


*


Sometime after the sun had set, in the deep, dust-scented shadows of the warehouse, Al
heard a shifting from inside the crate his brother was leaning back against. Ed's eyes
cracked open, yellow like a wolf's in the darkness, and he grinned.


*


The first man out of the back of the crate was dispatched by the array Al had drawn -
quieter than Ed's clapping method when they needed stealth, and he was bound to the
nose in ropes before he could squeak. The second man had a large leather hand pressed
over his mouth and was carefully lifted into the shadows, and the third had Ed's coat
flung over his head and Ed's heavy metal fist strike him in the side of the skull.

Ed raised his eyebrows at Al as he shrugged his coat back on. How many of these guys
are there?

Al jerked his helmet spike at the hole at the back of the crate. Brother-

Someone in military uniform was climbing out. Ed rolled his eyes in an I told you so
directed at the entire world, took a step forward -

The corporal spun and Ed recognised the machine gun in his hands with a little meep.

Everything was illuminated in stuttering flickers of light as Ed dived to the side and
rolled behind another crate and Al spun back into their hiding place. The noise was like a
blow to the head, almost as stunning as a shot hitting home, and as Ed shifted his back
against the crate he was standing behind, head ducked, he muttered, "Just how many
frickin' bullets did this guy steal?"

The noise shut off very suddenly, and Ed paused, kept still, waited . . .
"Come on out with your hands where I can see them," a voice called through the dark.
"Don't think we won't find you."

"Don't think so," Ed shouted back, tilting his head back against the crate. "You keep
shooting you're gonna hit an explosive. I'm pretty confident about surviving the explosion,
how d'you feel about it?"

He could hear muttering around the corner; -just strike something inflammable- and -back
down the tunnel- and -fucked if I'll miss this score- and -sounds like a kid-

The long rumble of the front door opening made Ed's eyes widen. No-

He'd already bounded over the crate as the flare of machine gun fire cut down the guard
looking in and there was no time to scream, so Ed just clapped his hands and slapped
them to the concrete, rolling the floor over the man with the machine gun and his
associates like a wave and crashing it down again, knocking them down and trapping
them in a fat cigar roll half as high as he was with just a little hole at either end for air. Al
was running over for the fallen guard and Ed kicked the roll of concrete, crunching up
dust and ignoring the muffled wails inside it, and yelled, "What the fuck good does
shooting anybody-?"

"Brother, I think he's dead." Al called faintly from the other side of the warehouse, and
Ed looked over, mouth tightening, knowing that if they'd been a few seconds quicker no-
one would be . . .

There was a noise from behind him. He glanced over his shoulder as a final person
emerged from the tunnel, scrambling on hands and knees for a second and just getting
upright before they tripped over the tapering end of the concrete roll of criminals.
Military uniform, watch chain striking off the floor - State Alchemist. Ed raised an
eyebrow at the man laying at his feet, who shrieked and scrabbled away from him, back
towards the tunnel. Ed narrowed his eyes. He was so angry he was shaking, and here was
someone who deserved a pounding. Oh, good.

In a few quick strokes the man chalked an array onto the concrete, and Ed quickly raised
his own hands, tensed -

Hands nearly slammed to the array the man paused, making a small, choked noise, and
looked behind himself - to the hand gripping him around the ankle. Ed's mouth opened
just a second too late, as the reaction took hold -

His leg exploded. The human body isn't meant to explode; it was wet, and messy, and Ed
froze all the way through, mind both completely blank and completely racing - this didn't
become any less 'oh, fuck-' just because he'd seen it a few times now . . .

The man screamed and screamed and screamed and Ed felt dizzy, like his legs were
going to give way, but then a hand - an arm - reached out further from inside the crate
and grabbed the man by the back of the neck. Ed's heart started again with a thump and
he yelled, "No-!", springing forward -

The left arm had reached out for the man's neck, Ed realised a second too late, and he
realised what the right arm was doing when the crate exploded outwards. He heard Al
yelp something, got his automail over his face and went down, feeling shards of wood
bounce off his back and crunch underneath him as he rolled - and hit the remains of the
crate hard, and stopped. He pushed himself up on his arms just in time to see the State
Alchemist go from one leg down to one head down, and couldn't even move to flinch
away from the spray of blood.

The scarred man of Ishbal stood up, clenching his hands, and stepped out of the tunnel.
He looked down at Ed, and Ed looked up at him, and there's nothing in the world that
unsettles as deeply as looking into the eyes of someone who wants you dead.

"Fullmetal Alchemist," Scar murmured, and the clanking sound of Al running up made
Ed snap back to life.

"Al, stay back!" he barked, and Al skidded to a halt out of sheer shock.

"-brother -"

Ed stood up, boots gritting on broken wood, and shifted himself to a position he could
move easily from as Scar considered him. "God has been kind to me tonight."

More adrenaline even than the sight of Roy gave him. "I'm not dying here," Ed hissed,
hands tightening into balls. "I'm not dying for something someone else did, I've done
enough shit of my own without you pushing more onto me-"

"Ishballah will decide your guilt." Scar said calmly.

"And what about yours?" Ed snarled back, and the man let his breath out slowly and
didn't take his eyes off Ed's.

"That has already been decided."

This has been rankling with Ed for some time, now, and even through the blanketing fear
it bristled in the back of his mind like an angry cat. "You blew up my arm you bastard."

Scar's right arm flexed, and that almost-sad expression had gone now. "Now I can finish
the job."

"You come here and try it," Ed growled, and Al screamed, "No, both of you, stop it-"

Ed yelled, "Al, stay back!" at the same time as Scar said calmly, "Stay back." and for a
second their eyes flickered on each other.
"You leave my little brother out of this," Ed muttered, keeping the eye contact. "I joined
the military, he never did a thing, you leave him out of this."

Scar inclined his head, just slightly - a silent yes - and moved so fast Ed tried to stumble
back but Scar had him by the shoulder before his foot had hit the floor again. He'd
already clapped by the time Al's cry started, and slammed his own hand to Scar's chest.

"Go on," he hissed, gold eyes glaring against red. "Go on, I dare you, transmute and see
what happens, because as soon as you go so will I-"

Both still, both tense, and Al almost sobbing trapped outside them, metal rattling as he
shifted with terror, whispering continuously, "No, no, brother, no, please, can't we just-?"

"I am not afraid to die," Scar said quietly, without moving.

"Nah, but think of all the people you won't get to murder if you go out now." Ed sneered,
and suddenly -

This man wanted to kill all State Alchemists.

Roy was a State Alchemist.

This man wanted to kill Roy.

His hand twitched against Scar's chest, and the equilibrium was broken; Scar jerked his
head up, and Ed flinched - no, shit-

"There!"

Ed and Scar both looked up, and Al was between them in a second, wrenching them apart
by the arms. A troop of soldiers had dropped to one knee in the half-open doorway,
behind the body of the fallen guard, guns raised - Ed didn't recognise the officer standing
behind them, pale and tall and dark-haired, who looked right at him -

And said, "Fire."


*


It was a lucky shot, or an unlucky shot, depending on the point of view. Ed was at the
right angle, arm lifted up by Al and twisted in the right way so that instead of blowing his
head open the bullet hit his automail. It didn't hit the automail casing, which could
withstand bullets, he knew - it hit the open underside, the metal-wrapped wires, and
something burst into shards of falling metal.
Scar wrenched himself free and away in the horizontal rain of bullets, but Al wasn't even
trying to hold him; he almost glanced at Scar before he disappeared back down the tunnel
but didn't have the time, instead stepping around his brother, dragging him behind his
metal body, hunkering down under the gunfire.

Ed clapped a hand to his arm, broken wires sagging out of the open underside, and then
he realised what had happened a second before the pain hit, and his mouth opened but no
scream came out. His legs crumpled and Al's arms caught around his chest, held him up,
and over the ringing in his ears he hadn't even realised the shooting had stopped.

"Brother-" Al spun him by the shoulders to see his face, held him upright, and Ed couldn't
even see him. "What's - your arm, what happened to-"

Ed made just a small noise, vibrating in the back of his throat.


*


Roy poured a drink, sat back, stared at the fire. A night without Ed, a night to think. He
had rapidly come to hate thinking.

Part of him had already choked up and was just waiting, waiting for Ed to find out and to
completely despise him, completely hate him, refuse to forgive or ever forget, and how
could he come to understand when Roy still didn't?

Part of him remembered the sonnet Ed had chosen to mumble out at him, the desperation
in the way Ed had clung to him at thinking he was going to lose this, the way he looked at
him . . .

'Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! It is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark . . .'

Now he didn't know how he'd ever thought of that piece of poetry without thinking of Ed,
even when he hadn't known that Ed existed. He'd studied that in school, and at the time
had thought a 'wandering bark' was a lost dog, but - dog or ship - the image of Ed,
wherever he was, looking to Roy to navigate . . .

Love is not love/Which alters when it alteration finds . . .
Ed had already stuffed Roy into the same box in his mind that contained Alphonse, the
box labelled 'without this, life is not worth living'. Did he have any right to ruin this for
Ed, to damage him so much . . . ?

"Selfish bastard," he muttered to himself, and the fire snapped and crackled back at him.
There was no way he could argue even to himself that it was in Ed's best interest not to
know. The Rockbell girl was as close as Ed's family, and Roy had killed her parents
because he was ordered to. His hands were shaking a little, he could hear the ice clinking
in his glass, so he took a drink to steady himself. The best thing for Ed - the best thing for
Ed -

There was no 'best thing', in this situation. How had he let this happen? The least worst
thing for Ed -

Blissful ignorance while Roy's stomach chewed itself out from the inside, or knowing
and-?

He didn't know how Ed would react. He just didn't know.

Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.

I would do anything for you, anything, but I can't change what I've already done- you
have no idea how much I wish I could change what I've already done - no. You do know,
don't you?

How could Ed ever forgive him? Ed had never even forgiven himself.

The telephone startled him almost into dropping his drink, and after he'd taken in a slow
breath, he gave it a level glare. It was probably Hughes, who took Roy calling him to be a
free ticket to then ramble about his wife and daughter for the rest of the night if he felt
like it.

"Roy. Okay. You have to promise you're not going to freak out."

"Freak out." Roy said calmly. "At what?"

"You have to say it. You're going to listen to everything I have to say before you go -
running off to - I don't know. Okay?"

". . . okay," Roy said, a little more uneasily now. "I promise. Maes -"

"There's been - some sort of disturbance at the warehouse you sent Ed to keep an eye on -
I think Scar was involved, I know Archer was involved-"

Roy's heart, which against all laws of anatomy was now positioned at the base of his
throat, had stopped beating. He barely said, "What-?"
"I think - the reports are still- I can't know until I get down there, but I think Ed's been a
little bit shot. But he's not-" The telephone banged off the side table. "What was that? Are
you still there? Oi, Roy!"

The mouthpiece kept swinging from side to side on its cord, shouting at him as he
grabbed up his gloves, his jacket -

"You promised! Dammit, Roy, I'm going to remember this next time you want something
from me- get back here!"

Closer part XXV
Rating: R
Beta'd by toxicbullets - speed queen of betas ^^
Disclaimer: Only the writing's mine.

Summary: "Hi, Winry."

All previous parts can be found in my memories.




Nature has a funny way of breaking what does not bend.
- Jewel, Innocence Maintained



The warehouse was full of activity when Roy got there. Some soldiers were cutting open
a tapered cylinder of concrete with hacksaws, revealing it full of criminals like a very
strange chrysalis; there were soldiers investigating a half-shattered crate, running in and
out of it like the crate was infinitely bigger on the inside than it appeared on the outside;
there were three boots sticking out from underneath bloody sheets by the wall; and down
the central aisle of crates, Ed was working himself up into a proper fit of ranting abuse at
Colonel Archer, who gazed down at him dispassionately, two soldiers with guns at his
back undecided as yet whether Ed was actually a threat. Al was standing at Ed's shoulder,
trying in a tentative way to grab him and lift him away, and Ed had one arm - his right -
up in a clumsy sling, holding it stiffly to his chest.

Roy took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Ed was on his feet, he was angry as hell, and
if he was hurt at least it wasn't enough to shut him up. Roy closed his eyes briefly, and
strode over.

"-fucking same side, for what it counts with you slimy bastards! Could've blown my head
off, my little brother-"
Archer glanced up at Roy's approach, and Al looked back at him, but Ed hadn't yet
noticed.

"Had him! I had it all under control, I fucking had him, why'd you come in and fucking
shoot me?"

Al stepped out of the way so Roy could stop at Ed's shoulder and place his hand on it
gently - the left shoulder. He didn't know what had happened to the right. Ed started and
looked up at him, mouth open. "-you-!"

"If you don't mind, Colonel, I'll need a report from my subordinate." Roy said calmly,
and Archer had only just opened his mouth when Ed started up again.

"He fucking shot me! He looked right at me and said fire! What the fuck, you never told
me there'd be all this-"

Archer's eyes flicked back to Roy, as clear, cold blue as a winter sky. He murmured,
"Either muzzle your terrier, Mustang, or I will."

Ed was stunned into actual silence, cheeks rapidly darkening to purple as his mouth
opened again before Al finally grabbed him up - very, very carefully - clapped a hand
around his mouth and sang nervously, "Let's go look at your arm, brother!"

Ed thrashed for half a second in Al's arms before he clearly flung himself the wrong way
and made a muffled gargling noise behind Al's gauntlet, going stiff and still again. Roy
glanced at him, tightened inside as Al carried him away. What was-?

"He's rather untamed for a soldier." Archer said. "Hasn't anyone explained the meaning of
'superior' to him yet?"

"'Superior officer', you mean." Roy murmured, because there was a difference. He was
trying not to glare at this man, because he had no hold over him; they were equal in rank
and even if he wanted to shake him, he had to hold himself back. Superior. Of course Ed
knew the meaning of superior, he was a different species compared to men like
Archer . . . "What happened here?"

Archer raised an eyebrow to him. "Am I reporting to you, Mustang?"

Do not clench your fists. Do not allow one twitch onto your face. "Indulge my curiosity.
One of my subordinates was involved."

Archer gazed at him for a moment longer like he was trying to read him - Roy kept his
face still, steady, bland - and glanced across at his men, working on securing the
warehouse. "I tracked 'Scar' here. I would probably have brought him in as well, except
your subordinate got between my men and their target."
"You tried to shoot through him."

"Losing a major is regretful," Archer said mildly. "Capturing or killing a man wanted for
the murder of multiple State Alchemists is worth the price."

Losing a major. Losing a major. In Roy's mind Archer went up like a bonfire, blazed and
flared and trickled with his own smoking fats. The image was startlingly vivid and
violent, garish in black and bright orange.

"His talents are unique," Roy pointed out, only just keeping his teeth from clenching. "It
would be rather more than 'regretful' to lose him at this point."

"I'd forgotten you tend to get rather over-attached to subordinates," Archer said, and gave
him a thin smile, the only sort he could.

"You can't order loyalty out of people."

One corner of Archer's mouth tugged up just a little more. "By the time they're under
your command they should have already sworn loyalty to the Fuhrer. What more do you
want? You don't expect chess pieces to care for you over anyone else who would move
them, do you?"

Careful breath, give nothing away, keep your eyes completely blank - "I'll extract a full
report from Major Elric, anyway."

He looked across to Ed, standing in the doorway now beside Al - demonstrating to him
that yes he could still move his fingers, look - who looked up at Roy almost as if he felt
his eyes on him. Roy saw the expression that almost formed on Ed's face, but then Ed
drew himself up, thumped his boots together, and - saluted.

Roy just kept himself from raising an eyebrow in surprise as Ed and Al left, Al hovering
over his brother like a blanket just about to descend, a military guard ignored at their
back. At least that gave Archer one less failure of discipline to comment on. Not that he
gave a crap what this carrion bird of a man thought, but there were plenty of higher-ups
who would share the same view.

"It's taken me years to build a command I can trust far beyond duty alone," he said calmly,
without yet looking back to Archer. "I do not expect any more of them to come into
danger when your men cross assignments with them."

And he inclined his head slightly, in a stiff not-quite-bow, and walked away.


*
He had to stop and call Hughes (who moaned, "Please just tell me that you didn't set fire
to Archer's head.") before he headed on to the dormitories. To get a report from his
subordinate. Of course.

He knocked, not quite certain what he was about to walk in on, and Al peeked out at him
before he opened the door. "It's the Colonel," he said, and behind him Ed lifted his head
from where he'd crammed his face into the pillow and looked up at him, eyes exhausted.
Roy walked over, paused over him - the automail arm, still bound up in a sling, was held
against his side without even the covers laying over it - and Ed just gave a weary grin and
let his head flump back into the pillow.

"Doesn't hurt," he said. "You c'n stop looking at me like that, I'm not gonna break."

Roy smiled helplessly, crouched beside him and stroked a hand over his head, brushing
his hair back. "What happened?"

"Caught your damn thieves. But they had a State Alchemist with them, and Scar was on
his tail, and - couldn't stop him killing him, but then . . . well, then he was there, and we
still have a score to settle."

"Please don't start picking 'scores' with serial murderers, Ed."

Ed shrugged, and then drew his breath in quickly, and out again in a, "Shit."

"Brother, don't move your-"

"I know, shit, okay." Ed squirmed his left side against the mattress and glared up at Roy,
who just stared down at him helplessly. There was nothing - nothing - he could do. "So, I
kind of got trapped in a - huh. In a 'who's got the biggest dick' competition with that
scarred bastard . . . and Al got between us . . . and then your friends showed up and tried
to shoot all three of us full of holes."

"They're not my 'friends'."

"Whatever." Ed muttered, closing his eyes against the pillow. He looked more tired than
hurt, face pale and worn out, eyes darker than usual. Roy touched his cheek and Ed
opened his eyes a crack at him and watched him, and Roy murmured, "How did -?"

"It's my fault," Al said from behind, and Roy looked over his shoulder as Al shuffled and
looked down and whispered, his voice hushed and tight, "If I hadn't got between you - if I
hadn't been holding your arm-"

"Al, jeez, no, it's not your fault, okay? If you hadn't got between us I'd be inside-out right
now, and if you hadn't been holding my arm I'd've took that bullet to my face, it's fine,
nothing's your fault-"
"I'm glad you're both alright," Roy said, beginning to feel as tired as Ed looked now the
adrenaline was wearing off. He looked up at Alphonse, down at Ed, and Ed gave a one-
shouldered shrug at him.

"Alright for now. Winry's gonna . . ."

"It's not your fault it got broken," Al said, and Ed grimaced.

"Like she cares, she'll just belt me with a wrench anyway - one day she's gonna kill me
by accident and then she can keep her stupid automail perfectly preserved on my corpse-"

"Brother, don't say mean things about Winry."

"You never defend me from her!"

"You usually deserve it!"

"Boys," Roy murmured, and Ed turned a flaming golden glare on him - and, snake-fast,
sat up on the bed and grabbed Roy by the collar, dragging him to his eye level

"If you patronise me," he said in a quiet growl, "you will come to regret it."

"Brother . . ."

Ed clearly hadn't thought this position through properly; it put Roy in perfect range to cup
his cheek and kiss him, and Ed jumped against him as Al shuffled around with a series of
coughs and metallic clatters to face the wall. Ed blinked rapidly for a few seconds and
then half-relaxed, and pushed Roy off firmly but gently.

"Freak," he muttered, and Roy smiled fondly, stroked his cheek.

"You're alright staying here tonight? You don't need a doctor?"

Ed scowled. "No I don't need a doctor, I'm fine. And as soon as I get my arm fixed I'm
gonna smack you with it for patronising me again, bastard-"

"I'm glad you're alright."

Ed paused, then nudged his nose off the side of Roy's, his one working arm around Roy's
shoulder. "'course I'm alright. Like I'd go and die a dumb way like that."

"I'll leave you to get some sleep."

Ed closed his eyes briefly and his hand tightened against Roy's back, but he nodded.
"Okay. G'night."
"Can you come over tomorrow night or do you need-?"

Ed glanced over his shoulder at Al, as if looking for permission, but all he had was Al's
back. "Yeah," he muttered, and licked his lips. "Okay. See you tomorrow."

Roy kissed him again, just gently, and stood up. Al turned back to them and coughed
once more (how, Roy thought, did armour cough?), shuffling his feet. "Thank you for
visiting, Colonel." he said.

"I'm just glad you're both not too badly hurt," Roy said, and glanced back down at Ed,
who grinned wearily back up at him.

"So go already, some of us need to sleep."

"Hm. I do truly believe that even on your deathbed you would still be a brat."

"And you'll probably just use the opportunity of going down to hell to look up girls' skirts,
pervert." Ed snapped back, and picked up his pillow as Roy quickly slipped around the
door. "Go to bed!"

"Goodnight, Alphonse-" Roy ducked the pillow. "Sleep well, Edward-"

"I hope your arm drops off in the middle of the night!"

"Goodnight, Colonel. Brother, lay down-"

Roy closed the door behind himself, straightened his uniform, and strode off. Ed would
still be a brat at the end of the world, and thank God for it; he'd nearly had a heart attack
once this evening already, finding Ed to be not like Ed through pain and exhaustion
would probably have finished him off.

God. He needed a drink.


*


"Hi, Winry. Uh . . . yeah, it has been a while, hey, how've you been? Uh-huh . . . that's
great! Isn't that great? No, I'm not being weird! Ahahahah, weird, you say the funniest . . .
things . . . Winry . . . uh. How're you? I already asked? Really? Wow, I guess I just love
hearing you talk that - much . . .

"Uh. How am I? I'm fine! I'm good! Al's good! Uh, though, there is - something -
"You don't have to start yelling at me right away! I haven't said anything yet! I haven't
said one word and how would you know if I'd broken the automail, huh? You don't have
to leap down my throat every time I- okay - okay -

". . . actually the automail kind of is a little bit . . . well, I kind of got a bit. Shot. In the
arm.

"I did not do it on purpose - I do take care of it! Of course I do! I have been remembering
to oil it! It's not my fault some psychopath opened fire at me - I didn't do anything to piss
anyone off, actually - who's so short you- yeah, well, you're twice as obnoxious! And
twice as loud, and in a higher key! So-

". . . no, I didn't get shot, just the arm . . . I said I was fine, didn't I? Well - what, d'you
want me to write a letter every day? We're busy, we - yeah . . . well, I dunno, if the lead
we're working on works out, maybe sometime soon, yeah . . .

"So, uh, about that lead. 'cause it's kind of . . . we're kind of tied to the labs for a while,
while it . . . so we can't exactly come back to Riesembool, so, uh, hey, how'd you like a
holiday in sunny East City?

"W- Winry- Win- will you- it's for Al, okay, please? I can't give up the research time,
we're - what? Uh, it's to do with . . . blood, actually. Yes it's gross. I know it's gross,
Winry, I know, yes, boys are disgusting - I'm not taking the piss! I'm not! Winry-

"Please?

". . . yeah. Yeah. Okay. We'll meet you at the station, okay? Just - yeah. I know. I'll see
you soon. Okay? Yeah. Bye. Bye, Winry."


*


Ed on his doorstep, one coat sleeve flapping, hair in a lop-sided pony tail. Roy closed the
door behind him and Ed shrugged at his coat awkwardly, but one-armed just managed to
tangle himself in it, jerking so hard at it that it came over his head and his growl of
frustration came out muffled. Roy bent down so he could look under the coat, into Ed's
face, and said, "Need a hand?"

"You are such a bastard."

"Here."

"Mind the auto-"

"I know."
Between the two of them Ed's head came free, finally, and his hair was now dragged even
more loose and low. "Dammit," he muttered, shaking his hair out as Roy hung his coat up.
"You better not laugh."

"I wouldn't dream of it." Roy tugged him forward, carefully, and after a little pause Ed
rested his head on his chest as Roy wrapped his arms around him. "God. I thought I was
going to have a stroke when I heard . . ."

"C'n take care of myself."

"I know. I'm very thankful for it, seeing as you're such a magnet for trouble."

"Which part of this is my fault? I was doing everything you wanted me to, not my fault
that every time I meet that scarred bastard I end up with my arm in bits-"

"What is wrong with it?" Roy reached, gingerly, for Ed's right wrist, and Ed tensed as he
touched it, wrapped his hand around it, lifted very, very carefully. "I can't see any
damage."

"Nah, it . . . there's all these wires on the underside, I can't lift it to show you - I dunno
what they do, y'know, in particular, but I know at least some of them are connected right
to my nervous system." Ed looked down at his arm almost speculatively, as if he could
work it out just by squinting at it. "I think some of them got . . . well, shot, obviously, but
it - it hurt like fucking hell at first, and now it's just - too much. I can feel everything.
Anything brushes against it and it's just - too much. So I guess I need Winry to knock the
wires back in and tape 'em up or whatever she does back there."

"You can still move your hand?"

"The fingers. Not the wrist. I don't know how it works."

Roy squeezed his wrist, let it carefully back into the sling. "Well. I thought we'd be
scraping you off the walls, so I'm just glad you're not more hurt."

There was a pause, as Roy held him close enough to feel his breathing, closed his eyes
and just -

"Do you have anything to eat?"

- laughed, helplessly, and let his face fall into Ed's hair.

"Luckily I have restocked my larder since your last raid."

"Oi. Don't invite me over if you don't want to feed me."

"No, no. I should have learned that by now."
Ed snorted, halfway to angry already. "Well, you always have been kinda slow-"

Roy tugged his arms a little more tightly around Ed as he started to pull away for the
kitchen. "Edward."

"What? I'm hungry-"

"You are absolutely the most obnoxious brat I have ever had the misfortune to come
across." As Ed spluttered, Roy closed his eyes in his hair. "I'm so, so fucking glad you're
alright."

Ed trembled with cut-off rage and then - sighed, and his left hand slid up Roy's back,
tangled in his hair. "I'm not going anywhere at least 'til I get Al's body back, you know
that." he said, and gently shook Roy's head from side to side by his hair. "Now feed me or
I'll find someone who will."


*


This was better, having Ed beside him in bed, even if Ed had to lay on his left side and
Roy couldn't casually drape an arm over his right side, even if the covers had to be
carefully pushed down to below his crooked automail in the sling. Roy could, if he was
careful, stroke Ed's face and neck and rub his waist as he kissed him, Ed's left hand
pressed to his chest. They both knew not to risk anything too energetic tonight, and for
once Ed seemed happy with the slow, gentle route. So this was what it took to get him to
slow down a bit. Roy didn't think it was worth it, actually.

He pressed himself up on an elbow and Ed just lay there, eyes closed, breathing slow and
steady - Roy could feel the rise and fall of his stomach with his hand over Ed's waist.
"Whut're you doin'?" Ed mumbled, without either opening his eyes or raising his head.

"Nothing."

"Can't go to sleep if you're gonna stare at me."

"I think you probably can, actually."

Ed's face cracked into a grin, but he didn't open his eyes. "Yeah. Bet I can."

Roy laid back down onto the pillow, face to face, touched Ed's temple and whispered,
"Go to sleep."

Ed shifted a little, sighed into the pillow, and after a few minutes . . . did.
Roy closed his eyes, let every muscle relax. No time to even think about all his dark
secrets when Ed was actually there; impossible to hold onto shadowy corners when
you're sleeping with the sun. No time to brood, no thought given to the worst periods of
his past, no time and no space for anything but Ed's presence. He let his arm lay heavy
and protective across Ed's waist and knew that if they could work through that, if Ed
could still say he loved him even if he knew what he'd done . . .

If they could survive that, they could survive anything, anything, because it was the worst
thing Roy had ever done and he knew there was nothing Ed had done or could do that
would ever make him stop wanting him now. And right now, he almost felt alright about
it - hard not to feel optimistic with a young blond thing completely besotted with you in
your bed.


*


Ed opens Roy's wardrobe door and a wave of blood rushes out and over his ankles, but
that's fairly normal, he always dreams about blood now, it no longer holds any fear for
him.

Inside the wardrobe hang row upon row upon row of women on coat hangers, who give
him mocking smiles and whisper like leaves rustling things he can't hear, as he reaches
for the arm that's no longer there. He feels his stomach sink, sink, sink. Every single one
of them is watching him, and everything he'll never be . . .


*


Ed shifting in his sleep woke Roy, Ed jerking his head and grunting, eyelids fluttering.
Half asleep Roy slung an arm around Ed and mumbled, "You're dreaming agai-"

Ed was awake in an instant, up with a jolt and - making a noise as close to screaming as
he would ever get. Roy nearly fell backwards off the bed before he realised what he'd
done, and Ed hunched over, clenching himself around the arm hugged to his chest,
gasping at his knees -

"Ed - oh god, I'm sorry-"

"-fuck-" Ed choked.

"I'm sorry-"

"-fuck, no, it's - something's got twisted - fuck, it-" Ed scrabbled at his arm and panted,
"Can't, can't do it, get it off-"
"How do you-?" Roy tried to follow Ed's clumsy left hand, and Ed pressed his fingers
over the clasps, he pushed -

The arm fell free, tangling briefly in the sling before thumping onto the bed. Ed sagged
backwards, each breath edged with a whine as he slumped onto the mattress. "-oh.
Shit . . ."

"I'm sorry, god, I'm sorry, I thought you were having-"

Ed squeezed his eyes shut as Roy leaned over him, slid his hands through Ed's hair,
whispered, "Ed- are you-?"

Ed swallowed, didn't open his eyes. Roy felt a little desperate. "What's wrong? Does it
still hurt? What-? Please, Ed-"

Ed shook his head, swallowed again. "S'fine if it's off, the port's not damaged-"

"Then why didn't you just unhook it in the first place?"

Ed lay very still, then bit his lip for a second before he said, "Didn't want you to see me
with it off."

Roy - blinked. Ed still wouldn't look at him, so he touched the side of Ed's face until he
opened his eyes, nervous and miserable.

"Why?" Roy said softly.

Ed crossed his arm over his chest, hand over the port. "'cause. You act like it's a part of
me. And . . . it's nice. Because it's not, is it? It's this thing I wear because I - lost mine, or
whatever, and I wanted you to keep treating it like . . . I didn't want you to -"

"Edward," Roy lowered his face to Ed's, put a hand over Ed's, propped up on his other
elbow. "Do you honestly think - for god's sake. Ed, I happen to be in love with you, and
very deeply in lust with you, and - I don't know how you view your arm and leg, but . . ."
He tilted Ed's chin up when he tried to look away, held the eye contact. "I don't know
what it's like to lose your leg and then knowingly offer your arm for your little brother. I
don't know what it's like to then go through this surgery to give yourself a better chance
of restoring your brother. I know that you're braver than I will ever be. And I know that
I'd still love you if you were a head in a jar."

"Head in a jar," Ed muttered, voice still a little shaky. "That's gross, Roy."

"Ed. You happen to be quite alarmingly attractive however many limbs you are in
possession of. And you are just going to have to learn to deal with me wanting to have
sex with you more or less all of the time however you happen to view yourself."
Ed tipped his face down into Roy's throat and mumbled, "More or less all the time."

"Unfortunately, sometimes I just have to sleep."

He felt the twitch of Ed's smile against his skin, and nudged his head down alongside Ed's.
"Please don't worry about things like this, Ed. Please don't worry about how I view you.
God, if you had any idea how I look at you I think that rather charming easily-
embarrassed aspect of you would burn up and die."

"Don't- bastard."

"I don't know how you look at it, but I don't see how the automail could be more a part of
you." At least Roy could now get his arms around him properly. "You eat with it. You
sleep with it. You touch me with it. If you come to restore your body of course I would be
happy for you. But I will always just want you, whatever that entails."

Ed was silent for a moment, still in his arms as he thought.

Finally he said, quietly, "I want my arm back." He opened his eyes, looked up at Roy,
clear and determined and steady. "Been years since I've even let myself think that. But . . .
I want two hands I can actually feel you with. So after I get Al's body back-"

"That would be nice."

"Yeah." Ed kicked the automail off the bed - it rattled on the floorboards and Roy winced
- and he shifted himself closer against Roy, closed his eyes again, let his breath out in a
sigh.

"Tired . . ."

"Mm."

"This time, don't wake me up even if I start screaming in my sleep."

"If you wake me up by screaming in your sleep I think I'll just smother you with a
pillow."

"Bastard," Ed breathed into his skin, pillowed on Roy's shoulder.

At least this time, Roy thought, they could go to sleep tangled up in each other as they
were surely meant to - even if Ed was a hard, twitchy, metal-edged pillow who was prone
to start mumbling or drooling without warning in his sleep.

"I wouldn't swap you for the Fuhrership," Roy said into his hair.
Ed, already asleep, snorted against him and began snoring enthusiastically. Roy sighed,
tugged him closer, closed his eyes.

"I would swap your vocal chords for the Fuhrership, though."

Closer part XXVI
Rating: R - hard R-ish
Disclaimer: I am really too tired to go into how much detail of how much this isn't mine.
But it isn't ;)

Summary: Ed feels horny, Roy feels snubbed, and Al feels nervous.

All previous parts can be found in my memories.



You could stay here
Make your home here
Hide away here
I could wrap you up in cotton wool . . .
- Lamb, Cotton Wool


Little things made Ed happy; little touches, gestures, words. If Roy had said every
morning, "Ed, I love you beyond all reason." Ed would have been suspicious - but
remembering how he took his coffee, nudging him back every time Ed shoulder-nudged
him as if to check he was still there, touching him every time he moved past him - little
things pleased Ed in a quiet, relaxed way. Big outpourings of emotion made Ed feel
stressed, but tapping into the same easy comfort he shared with his brother just made him
happy, and Roy was willing to go out of his way in a hundred little ways every day to see
Ed happy. It wasn't something that happened often enough.

The very idea of breakfast in bed made Ed absolutely ecstatic. Food! Without even
having to leave the bed! He gazed at Roy as adoringly as if he'd just invented doughnuts,
on the spot, just for him - or as adoringly as various ex-girlfriends had at particularly
well-thought-out gifts. Ed had no interest in gifts - material possessions beyond the bare
necessary mean little to someone who lives out a suitcase - but food brought right to him,
without his having to move . . .

Roy was going to have to set off for work soon, and very seriously wash the sheets free
of crumbs this evening, but Ed was purring against him (and probably smearing his
shoulder with jam in the process), hugging Roy's upper arm with his one arm and
beaming, and he just didn't want to leave yet.

Ed sighed, opened his eyes and murmured, "What time is it?"
"Time to start moving."

"Mmf. Fine."

"You could stay put, you know."

Ed poked him in the side, quite viciously, and Roy swallowed his yelp into a cough. "Not
an invalid. Anyway, we're gonna lose at least two days with Winry here, so we have a ton
of reading to do."

It was probably too inappropriate for Roy to say, "I want to lock you in here where you'll
be safe for the rest of both our lives." so he just grunted in a non-committal way. Ed
leaned against him for a moment longer, then tilted his head up and squeezed Roy's arm
to make sure he had his attention.

"I don't know whether to tell Winry about this." He watched Roy's eyes closely. "I don't
know what to tell Winry. I mean - 'Hi, Winry, how've you been? Me? I'm sleeping with
my commanding officer! Cool, huh?' It's . . ."

Roy looked up, over his head, at the wall. "I can see that that might be rather awkward."

"It's not like I'm - ashamed of this or whatever, it's just - embarrassing." Ed sighed against
Roy's arm. "Winry's practically my sister, what'm I meant to-?"

"I embarrass you."

"You know what I . . . I never thought I'd be doing this with anyone. Don't be a freak
about this."

"Well, what did you tell Alphonse?"

Ed ducked his head, burying his face in Roy's skin. "He just knew. He knew everything
before I did. I never told him - anything, but I know he knows it all and . . ." His fingers
tightened on Roy's arm. "Ah, jeez, why can't this just be easy?"

"Life rarely tends to be 'easy', Ed."

"You say that like I don't know it." Ed muttered. "So . . . I'll work something out,
anyway." He nudged Roy with his shoulder and said graciously, "I'll let you use the
shower first."

"First use of my own bathroom. Your magnanimity knows no bounds."

"You're such a bastard. How did you get so many stupid women to sleep with you?" Ed
rolled away and pushed at him with a foot. "Go on, hurry up, I need to wash my hair-"
Roy sighed, rolled out of bed and picked up his dressing gown. Ed was letting him use
the bathroom first so he had the time to try and clean up the coffee spills on the sheets
that he thought Roy didn't know about. Breakfast in bed as a concept was perfect for Ed;
it was only when Ed actually became involved that the romantic ideal fell apart a little.


*


No food in the library, one of the rules they were actually forced to stick to. Ed ate lunch
on the steps outside, Al sitting beside him as he efficiently stripped an apple to its core
and flicked it into the bushes. He sighed, sitting back on his hand, and leaned his head
back to feel the sunlight on his face.

Al shuffled a little on the step beside him. Ed cracked his eyes open.

"Winry's getting in tomorrow morning," he said.

"Ah . . . yes." Al said uneasily, shifting again.

"Do you remember that conversation we had?"

"Which . . . conversation?"

"Don't pretend you don't know, I know when you're doing it because I do it." Ed said, and
looked across at him. "About you liking Winry, and you said you'd tell her."

Al put his arms around his huge metal knees, looked down the steps. "I know," he said.

"So you've got to tell her," Ed said, watching him. "You said."

"You break promises all the time." Al said quietly.

"Well, you're the good one." Ed muttered, and then sighed. "Al, you just - you have to.
'cause . . ." His stomach tightened, his mouth twitched. "'cause if she says no that'll suck,
but she can't because - she can't, and - and it'd suck way more to not know. It'd - suck."

"I know," Al said softly. "I know all about that."

Ed looked down, sat up to rub his nose. "Um." he said. "So . . . you gotta tell her. Right?"

Al was still for a long time. He was so good at being still that sometimes Ed felt a little
nervous, wanted to check the blood seal was there and that he wasn't just talking to a
hollow suit of armour. Finally Al raised his head a little and said, "Things worked out
really well for you and the Colonel."
Ed blushed, couldn't help it, coughed and shuffled into a smaller shape on the steps. "Uh,
yeah, I guess, it - yeah."

"But I don't know - how it would work out for me and Winry, brother, even if- we never
see her anymore, and I can't - um. I can't kiss her or anything." he said in a mumble. "So-
"

"I'm going to get your body back, Al, I will, and-"

"That's not what-"

"I'm sorry," Ed blurted, and then realised what he'd said and bit his lip. Had to say the rest
of it, now. "Al - I didn't mean to have this if you couldn't, it's - none of this is fair, none of
this is equivalent, all of this's been my fault from the start and then I go and-"

"This isn't your fault, brother." Al said calmly. "And I want you to have this. I want you
to be happy. You're so good at making yourself unhappy that it's only equivalent you
have someone like the Colonel to make you happy."

Ed rubbed his nose again, rubbed an eye. "Sorry," he mumbled again.

"Stop saying sorry. What are you sorry for? I don't want the Colonel, you can keep him -
and if you mean my body, I should be the one saying I'm sorry because you had to give
your arm for me-"

"It was my fault."

"We both did it. Do you think I blame you for it? I had my chance to say no, brother, and
we both did it . . ."

They sat in silence for a little while, side by side in the sun.

"You're such an idiot sometimes." Al said quietly.

Ed rubbed his eyes again - he knew Al was pretending that he believed Ed was rubbing
them and not wiping them, for his sake - and said, "Don't call your big brother an idiot."

"Don't act like an idiot, then."

"Don't you act like an idiot and not talk to Winry. We made a deal, anyway, I talked to
Roy so you have to talk to Winry-"

"I don't remember making a deal."

"Well, we did." Ed muttered, because The World According To Ed was set in stone and
he didn't need anyone messing around with it now.
"You call him Roy now," Al said, amazed. "You used to only call him words we weren't
allowed to say in front of teacher."

Ed looked away, scowling, and tucked his knees against his chest with his one arm,
lowering his head so only his eyes were visible. "Yeah, well." he muttered. "Bastard just
had to go and make me fall in stupid love with him, didn't he?"

He glared at the sky, cheeks still too hot, until he became aware that Al was still staring at
him. He raised his head, and tried to read what was happening behind Al's eyes; he was
pretty good at it, Al was his little brother, after all. He could see -

Want. This was the first thing they hadn't been able to share.

"I'll talk to Winry," Al said quietly, and Ed beamed, and Al gave an embarrassed little
shuffle on the step.


*


Roy hadn't expected a knock that night but there was Ed, hair plaited and still with one
empty coat-sleeve, in a good mood about something. "Here," he said, thrusting a piece of
paper at Roy as he shrugged his coat into a red puddle on the floor and then bent to pick it
up. "We moved into the lab for a while this afternoon but there wasn't much to do, so I
worked that out."

Roy gave him an uncertain look, then unfolded the paper and looked at it. A chemical
formula, a long one, which he read through a couple of times before admitting defeat. He
could tell that he could probably make it burn, but that it wasn't particularly flammable
on its own; unlike Ed, he saw little poetry in the periodic table and couldn't translate this
into something meaningful unaided. "What is this?" he said, as Ed grabbed his arm and
began pulling him through to the living room.

"It's the chemical make-up of your blood," he said, and Roy felt a cold flush run right
through his body for a second. Ed tugged him to the sofa and onto it, and looked so happy
about it that Roy had to force his face to at least not look so blankly shocked. "It took
forever to get it exactly right. Some of the trace elements- are you alright?"

Roy's face had gradually softened. After the initial what the hell?, because previously
he'd been given aftershave, ties, books, even socks, once, but this . . .

. . . was very Ed. He seemed completely fascinated by Roy's body, inside apparently as
well as out; Roy remembered the excitement of the first other body besides his own he
could touch, the electric thrill of it was like nothing else - you never forget that. Ed was
dealing with the enormity of it in the only way he knew how: by breaking it down into
bite-size chunks of scientific knowledge.
"I'm fine." He smiled, and Ed smiled again instantly, and Roy felt a little dizzy at the
power he had over Ed now. Nothing like the orders he could give in the office, the orders
Ed squinted at speculatively and considered following, this was deeper and more
frightening than that. "Thank you. This is . . ."

He looked down at it again, Ed's blocky, childish, left-handed scrawl, and even if he
didn't understand exactly what was written he understood what lay behind it.
"Unexpected." he settled on, and Ed gave him an odd look as he worked out whether that
was good or not. Roy laughed, wrapped his arms around Ed's shoulders and tugged him
closer. "Thank you."

"S'okay," Ed mumbled, and his hand was rubbing along the hard edge of Roy's hipbone,
through his shirt. Roy raised an eyebrow and looked down at him, and Ed grinned guiltily
up.

"What? We haven't done anything since forever. Well, Sunday. And Winry'll be here
tomorrow and-"

"You brought me a gift with the intention of getting sex out of me."

"Better than turning up empty-handed." Ed said philosophically, and then paused. "If you
don't want to -"

Roy took a second to try and objectively consider the situation, but there was no hope. He
could smell him, and Ed was warm against him, and was watching him with curious,
uneasy, bright golden eyes -

"I always want to." he said, because there was just no arguing with his body. Which
apparently contained some traces of potassium, nitrogen and a handful of metals he'd
probably picked up orally from Ed's automail. His body wanted Ed, and Ed wanted sex.
That equation was certainly easy enough to follow.

Ed grinned, shifted a little further back, bent down and began working Roy's trousers
open one handed. Roy stared down at him, eyebrows raised, and after a moment cleared
his throat to get Ed's attention. Ed looked up, halfway through working the belt open,
lowered his eyebrows and said, "What?"

"Were you just going to dive right in?"

"Why not?"

As quick a learner as Ed was, it turned out there were still some things Roy couldn't
expect him to pick up automatically.

"Foreplay, Ed, you do remember foreplay?"
Ed just stared at him. "Tell me you do know what I'm talking about," Roy said, raising his
eyebrow. "Foreplay, Ed, the part where I make you helpfully incoherent before the
clothes come fully off. I'm not even - well, I'm not exactly 'ready' for whatever you were
planning yet."

"I figured you would be once I got you down my throat." Ed said, and Roy twitched a
little more 'ready' just at that. Ed sighed, like Roy was being very tiresome, and shuffled
back a bit. "Lie down, then." he said. "And you can do your buttons, it's a bitch one-
handed."

"You really are seduction personified."

Ed jabbed a finger at him. "Shirt. Off. Now."

Roy smirked and opened the buttons down his shirt, shuffling to lay down on his back as
Ed pushed at him. He watched with barely hidden amusement as Ed shifted to a position
that spread his weight over Roy more comfortably, automail leg dangling off the edge of
the sofa instead of digging into Roy's side. Ed touched Roy's breastbone, ruler-straight,
clear and sharp under his skin like a young branch, then his eyes flicked up to Roy's and
he said, "Tell me what to do, then."

Roy paused for only a second, but it was enough. "Tell - you-"

"Tell me what to do." Ed repeated patiently, and Roy read the glint of mischief in his
eyes and slid his arms around Ed's waist, encouraging him further up his chest.

"If you're actually going to follow orders for once, you can start by kissing me."

Ed just smiled enigmatically and bent his face to Roy's, closing his eyes for a second,
nose pressed to Roy's cheek, before he gently kissed the side of his mouth. Direct centre,
and then across to the other corner, little fluttering kisses moving back again -

"Like you mean it," Roy growled against his mouth, and he felt the shake of Ed's laugh as
he finally opened his mouth to him. Roy was giving the orders, but he knew he barely
had a foot on the scales of the balance of power right now, and Ed . . .

Ed was going to be worse than he'd ever been. Ed was going to be completely lethal. Ed
was feeling his way through Roy's body and blood and wrapping his fingers around his
veins, tightening his hold from the inside, slowly and surely like opium smoke. When
Roy murmured, "Lower," Ed obliged, mouth shifting down his throat with a slight scrape
of teeth. He'd chosen to start this game and he could break it off whenever he liked,
leaving Roy . . .

"Lower."
Leaving Roy, that was enough. Did Ed know how hopelessly, how helplessly he needed
this?

". . . lower, Ed . . ."

Ed breathed a laugh over Roy's right nipple, and Roy's shoulders jerked against the sofa
cushions. "I'm gonna be thinking about this next time you're being all Colonel Smug in
the office," Ed said, and lowered his mouth again.

"Then I might as well make the most of it while I can," Roy murmured, and slid a hand
into Ed's hair. "Harder."

Ed made a little growling noise and Roy closed his eyes, grunted out a breath as he
complied.


*


"How did you get your hair braided if you can't even open buttons?"

"I c'n open buttons," Ed muttered into Roy's chest, lying dizzy and exhausted on top of
him. "No reason why I should, though, they're your stupid buttons. Al did it, anyway."

"The buttons?"

"My hair. Does sex make you more stupid?"

"It certainly makes you heavier."

"You keep on talking like that, see if I ever put my mouth on you again-"

"You were the one who turned up on my doorstep expecting I would just strip on
demand."

"Suchabastard," Ed let out in one breath, and closed his eyes, flumping his head down
against Roy's chest. "Don't let me go to sleep. I have to go back to Al."

Roy looked down at him. "You came here for sex with every intention of leaving again
immediately afterwards."

"Not immediately," Ed muttered. "And I don't want to go, I want you, but Winry's gonna
be here tomorrow and Al's freaking out and-"

"I should be offended about this. I think I am, actually." Roy said. Ed blinked up at him,
dazed and drowsy, and Roy looked back steadily. Ed stared at him.
"Are you being serious or are you trying to fuck with my head?"

"What do you think?"

Ed was beginning to look a little panicked. "I don't know," he said. "You are fucking
with my head, whatever you're trying to do - you didn't have to, normally you're the one
that's always pawing at me, if you don't want me I can-"

"Ed - breathe. I'm not angry." Roy slid his fingers into Ed's hair at either side of his face,
holding him steady. "This is just hardly an ideal situation."

Ed paused, then lowered his head to Roy's chest again, lay there as Roy wrapped his arms
around him. "I know," he said softly. "When I get Al's body back and everything, will
this get less complicated?"

"Do you honestly believe that this will ever become less complicated?"

Ed stared at the sofa cushions. Roy could feel his each slow in . . . out breath against his
stomach.

"It's simple in my head," Ed said. "I mean . . ." His hand curled slowly against Roy's side.
"I love you. And I want . . . this. So, if you want me . . ."

"I will always want you."

"Then why should it be such a mess?" Ed looked up at him. "It's only a mess when other
people start butting in. Or when I screw up. Or when you're a bastard. Actually-"

"Are you beginning to see?"

"Shut up. I guess it is a mess. Is it always a mess?"

"What? Love? My god, Ed, mess doesn't begin to cover it."

"Shit. Fan. I get it." Ed began to grin a little. "At least that means it's not just my fault it's
a mess."

"Why would it be your fault if it was?"

"'cause you really ought to know what you're doing by now, right?"

"To be honest, it never gets any easier. Not the real thing. You can't practise this."

Ed crooked his arm over the chest he was laying on, looked up at Roy with unsettled
golden eyes for a moment, just on the verge of speaking - and finally said, "Sometimes
you scare me shitless." He watched him closely, eyes flicking uncertainly between Roy's.
"'Cause you can - it's all too much sometimes and I kind of want to just - run. Really want
to run. I know I can't, though. I know I'm stuck with you, all of this'll just come along
with me wherever I go. But . . . all of this, all of the crap and the scariness and the mess
and the wanting to break your head open - it's worth it, isn't it? It's pretty cool when it
works out right."

"'Pretty cool'."

Ed rolled his eyes. "Okay, it's - pretty much the best thing in my life. And Al's gonna see
Winry tomorrow, and right now he's in the shitting himself stage - figuratively speaking-"

"Mm."

"- and I don't wanna leave him on his own. Otherwise I'd want to be here. Because . . ."
He tipped his nose behind his bent arm, so he was just a pair of eyes, and said, "Because
I'm definitely in the best-thing-in-my-life stage, and . . ."

Roy settled his hand on top of Ed's head, murmured, "You're getting quite good at this."

"At what?"

"Charming your way out of relationship faux pas."

"I didn't-"

"I know you didn't. That's what makes it so charming."

Ed stared at him for a little while, as if trying to work him out, then he glanced down and
up again with the corner of his mouth quirked. "We made a real mess."

"It can be cleaned."

Ed sighed against him. "I need to get back to Al."

"Your hair needs neatening, unless you want him speculating about how it got dragged
loose in the first place."

"Whose fault is that, bastard?" Ed tapped Roy on the chest, scowling up at him. "You've
always got a hand in my hair, I might as well shave it off and save myself the bother if
I'm stuck with you."

"Don't. I like it." Roy trailed a hand through Ed's loose hair, pinged the insane upflick of
hair that never would lie flat, played with the skewed plait and smirked at Ed's eye-roll.
"Do you want me to rebraid it for you?"
Ed gave him an odd look, glanced down again and said, "You better wash your hands
first."


*


In the doorway Ed paused, holding one cuff of Roy's shirt and looking out at the world as
if dubious of setting foot into it. He tugged on Roy's arm and said, "Next time I see you
I'll have two working arms again."

"I look forward to it."

"I'm gonna try and remember what you did to piss me off in the meantime, so I can belt
you with the automail if I need to."

"Well, while you're doing that you can work on your written report for your last
assignment, which you still haven't handed in yet."

"Should've known I wouldn't get any time off to get my damned arm fixed back on after
the stupid military trashed it in the first place." Ed gave a sigh through his nose, then
closed his eyes and shrugged, newly-fixed braid bouncing off his back. "Well, whatever.
It'll get done." He cracked his eyes open to grin at Roy. "Just don't hold your breath."

"Keep me informed. I want to know what's happening." Roy said, keeping Ed's eyes held
for a second. Ed snorted.

"I can already tell you what'll happen. Winry'll turn up and be all ga-ga over the latest
piece of mechanical crap she spotted on the train journey in, then she'll concuss me with
something heavy for breaking her damned automail, then she'll make us buy her stuff to
make it up to her. Same as always."

"A word of advice on women, Ed. Whether you feel you are actually in the wrong or not,
it is always best to shut up, listen hard, and buy whatever it takes to distract them."

Ed's eyes trailed away from Roy's and he murmured, "Well, you'd know, wouldn't you?"
He looked up again and said, "So, bye."

Roy frowned a little, bent and cupped Ed's cheek to kiss him goodbye. Ed kept his eyes
closed for a second afterwards, and when Roy stroked his cheek he raised his head,
opened his eyes and repeated, "Bye." before setting off down the path.

Roy waited until he was out of sight to close the door and make his way back to the
living room. He sat with a sigh and a crinkle of paper; digging underneath the cushions,
he found Ed's note, his own blood written out in code. The paper was a little stained now,
but with a different bodily fluid entirely . . . really should have put it somewhere safe
before -

Roy paused, as the thought occurred: would Ed try and work out the chemical make-up of
that? Lucky he didn't have any, ah, samples to work from. Ed's fascination with Roy's
body was flattering and intriguing and really quite unsettling at times.

Roy sat back, holding the paper up and gazing at Ed's handwriting. "Edward," he said to
the empty room, beginning to smile. "I honestly do love you beyond all reason."

And it made him smile all the more that the reverse really was just as true.

Closer part XXVII
Rating: R
Beta: toxicbullets - w00t! ^^
Disclaimer: Don't own any characters, don't own the series. Don't even own volume nine
of the manga yet, blah . . .

Summary: Enter Winry.

All previous parts can be found in my memories.



Oh why'd you have to be so cute?
It's impossible to ignore you . . .
- Imogen Heap, Goodnight and Go



Ed kept kicking Al in the ankle. Possibly he thought it was comforting; Al just wished he
would stop using his left foot, because it was making a hollow metal gonging noise every
time and even in the crowded, noisy station people kept looking over at them. As if they
didn't attract enough attention on their own, the seven-foot-tall suit of armour and the boy
with a long blond plait and one bright red coat sleeve hanging empty.

"Winry's train should be next," Al murmured, watching another train gradually steam out
of the station, picking up speed in jerks and clanks.

Ed looked up at him, eyebrows high and folded, and Al sighed. "I'm fine, brother, I'm fine,
you can stop acting like-"

The next train rushed past them, making them both jump, slowing in a hiss of steam -

And Al's voice died, and Ed gave him a pained smile before drawing himself up, facing
forward as bravely as he could. Even before they had Al's battle to fight, he had his own
ordeal to go through: possible death by wrench. And very suddenly Ed did not want to do
this. His hand tightened into a ball at his side. They hadn't even been able to find all the
bits that had got blown out of his automail, Winry was going to-

"Actually I could just . . . only have one arm for a while, it's not too late to cancel-"

But Al had gone very still, and Ed followed his gaze nervously to a familiar blonde head
bouncing down from the train. He swayed but held himself upright. Face this like a man.
Right. Right.

Al only just snagged him by the hood of his coat, legs still whirring in a run, as Winry
caught sight of them and waved. Al waved back with his one free hand and Ed dangled
there, spinning slowly, giving her a look of absolute pleading. Winry slung her toolbox
over her back and Ed took in the size of it and whimpered. He felt Al wince in sympathy.

Face this like a man? There wouldn't be enough of him left to identify his gender once
she saw the dents . . .


*


Winry seemed older - really older, really more of a woman - every time they saw her. Al
marvelled over the table as Winry sucked the last of the mousse from her spoon and
sighed happily. Ed seemed to think that if he could feed her enough chocolate before she
saw the state of the automail, maybe he would escape concussion; this was the third café
they'd stopped in.

Winry was nearly sixteen now, and so was his brother but Ed barely seemed to change.
Maybe it was because Al saw Ed every day, and Ed never bothered to change his clothes
unless he destroyed them so absolutely he was forced to get new ones. But he saw Winry
only every few months or so, and her hair was longer, her skirt was shorter, her - well,
she'd grown up . . .

She leaned back in the booth and beamed, and Al ducked his head a little and Ed gave a
hopeful sort of smile. "So good," she moaned, and sighed again. "You can't get stuff like
this back home . . ."

Then she looked at Ed and her eyes narrowed and she said, "You're being nice. You
must've really trashed the automail this time."

Ed's face dropped. "Nononono- Winry, it's really not that bad, and it wasn't my fault-"

"Ah, jeez, you always say that! I watched you kick a wasp's nest once and then wonder
why you got stung!"
"This really wasn't! Al, tell her! I was just standing there, I was an innocent bystander-"

"Brother really didn't do anything to deserve being shot at," Al said, which was the truth,
at least. Ed had done plenty to get himself blown up, getting shot really had come out of
nowhere. "He really didn't, Winry . . ."

Winry folded her arms and glared at Ed, who was hiding behind his ice cream bowl. Then
she broke into a sudden smile, closed her eyes and tossed her head.

"Well, you have to pay either way, right? Call outs don't come cheap! And I have some
new alloys I wanted to try out, they'll cut a few millimetres off the outer casing without
losing any of the strength - very expensive but very exciting-"

Ed sank down so he was propped on the table by his chin and stared gloomily at Winry,
and Al shuffled and tried to only look at her in small bursts, as if too much at once would
make her disappear.


*


Ed just raised his watch at the guard as they passed into the military compound, heading
for the dormitories. The guard glanced over Ed's shoulder at Winry and raised an
eyebrow to him and Ed gave him the darkest scowl he could muster, which actually made
the man take half a step back.

All adults, all adults, were perverts.

"So what have you two been up to?" Winry said, looking up at Al, who was carrying her
suitcase and tool kit for her. "You're still . . ."

"We're still gonna get back to how we were." Ed said, walking ahead of them, not
looking back and not breaking his stride for a second. "It's just gonna take a while, that's
all."

"We have some interesting experiments," Al said. "They're going really well."

And then Ed looked back at Al and Al looked at Ed, and Winry looked between them
both and sighed.

"You two never explain anything properly . . . not all of us have your dumb psychic-
brothers routine, some of us need you to talk, you know."

"There's no evidence of 'psychic' activity being anything other than a hoax." Ed said,
walking on again in an unconcerned way.
"It's really complicated," Al said. "We're trying to make . . . um, animal matter."

"You're trying to make blood, he already told me. And it's disgusting," she called after
Ed's back, but he just shrugged and kept walking. "Why's he rushing off ahead? Doesn't
he want to walk with us?"

"Brother always was impatient," Al murmured, glaring after Ed. Don't you dare leave me
alone right now brother - don't you dare-

"What's he so impatient about, getting back to his room? He's so weird." She muttered,
and Al watched Winry watching Ed's back for a few steps before she sighed and looked
up at him and smiled and something inside Al took off like a firework. "I hope it works
out fine. The experiments and all. Were you both . . . planning on coming home,
afterwards-?"

Al nodded quickly. "Yes. For a little while at least. I think brother might be bored at
home, now, though."

Winry looked back at Ed, as he stopped in a doorway and glared impatiently at them both
before setting off inside. "It'd just be nice to know where you are from one week to the
next," she said, her eyes following the last flick of Ed's coat around the door.


*


"This is where you live?"

"What's wrong with it? We only come here to sleep." Ed said, brushing some books off
the bed to clatter to the floor. Al winced and put Winry's things down on his own bed,
and picked up the books to stack them neatly as Ed cleared his bed.

"It's -" Winry turned around, taking in what there was of the room. Brown walls. Brown
floor. Brown beds, brown sheets, improbably brown stains on the ceiling. "-I'm not
staying here, am I?"

"We can get you a hotel room or something," Ed said, finally finding his arm underneath
the last few books on his bed. "Here it is! See? It's hardly damaged at all, it's just these
wires on the inside-"

He jiggled it to show her, and a few more pieces of metal fell out and bounced off his
mattress. Winry watched them fall silently, and Ed looked up from the little pieces of
gleaming metal to her eyes and said, "Um."

She held her hands out wordlessly, and he handed over the arm by its wrist, head ducked
meekly.
She ran her fingertips over the sleek metal casing and said, "You dented it."

"Uh . . . I kind of got hit by a car a while back."

"It's all scratched up."

"I got crap all over it, we had to use a wire brush-"

"There is -" She wrinkled her forehead, raising the hand to be absolutely certain -
"mustard in the finger joints."

"Oh yeah, do you remember that hot dog-?" Ed began to Al, turning his head from Winry.
There was no time for Al to warn him that she'd raised the arm by its wrist, tears in her
eyes, swinging it like a club.

Al put his hands over his eyes. From the noise, Winry clobbered Ed across the head twice
before he managed to get past her and into the bathroom, and the automail cracked off the
door behind him. Al heard the transmutation of the door into the wall and peeked
between his fingers at Winry shrieking against where the door should have been,
pounding with one fist and the wildly swinging automail arm, then turning with her teeth
clenched and hissing, "Chisel, I brought a chisel-"

Ed made a strangled noise from somewhere behind the wall, Winry scrabbled through her
toolkit, and Al ran his hand down his helmet, wincing on the inside. "Winry . . ."

"Get back out here you cowardly, careless, short alchemy geek!" Winry screamed.

"I am not short, you psychopathic machine freak!"

"You're so short I can't even see you!" Winry shrieked, and stabbed at the wall with the
chisel she'd dug out of her toolbox. Ed gave a yelp from the other side - the walls in the
dormitories were thin enough that Winry would be able to hack her way through in a
matter of minutes - and there was another sharp slash of chalk and a crackle of alchemy,
and Winry was pounding helplessly at a wall of solid steel.

"Short!" she screamed at it, bringing up sparks with her chisel. "Diminutive! Stunted!
Undersized, bean-sized, tiny, miniature, little, petite-"

Al thought he could hear his brother exploding at the 'petite' comment from the other side
of the steel wall, but it was hard to tell over the clanging of Winry's attack. "Maybe
everyone should just calm down . . ." he said nervously, but Winry spun and began
digging through her toolkit again, coming up with a mechanical buzz saw.

"I need a socket," she snarled, and Al took a step backwards.
Then there was a knock at the door, and everyone fell silent. The door creaked open just a
little and Hughes said, "I'm not interrupting, am I?"

Winry sniffed, dropped the buzz saw into her toolkit, smoothed her skirt down. "Winry,
this is Lieutenant Hughes," Al mumbled. "This is Winry."

"Ah, Winry! I've heard lots of about you. And, wow, the Riesembool courtship rituals are
some of the loudest I've ever come across-"

"Lieutenant," Al squeaked, rattling, and Winry blushed dark and tossed Ed's arm onto the
bed beside her toolkit. "We weren't - no-one was -"

"I just came to check on everyone, I haven't seen you both since before the little
accident."

"Little accident?" Ed's hollowed yell came through the wall like an angry god. "Your
bloody military shot me!"

"They shot my beautiful automail!" Winry yelled back, snatching the arm up again to
crack it off the wall, making Ed yelp again. "If you want me to fix your stupid arm you
get out here now and get me a hotel room!"

"No way! You're gonna hit me again!"

"You deserve it!"

"You're completely psychotic! No-one's ever gonna marry you, you freak, no-one'd want
to risk the bruises!"

"No-one would ever marry you, knowing you'd destroy everything of theirs that was
difficult and beautiful and meant anything!"

"Everyone seems very energetic this evening." Hughes said cheerfully. "But you can't
make Winry stay in a hotel on her first night in a strange city! She should stay with
friends!"

"But she only knows us, Lieutenant, and-"

"Now she knows me! Pack up her bags, no problem!" Winry blinked, but Hughes had
already marched in and snapped her toolkit shut, grabbing up her suitcase. "Let's go! You
can spend the night with my beautiful Gracia and my cute, cute daughter and come make
a start on Ed's arm tomorrow morning!"

"My bags-" she said blankly, stumbling out after him as he strode away.

"Goodnight, Edward, Alphonse!"
". . . goodnight, Lieutenant . . ." Al said, peering around the doorway to watch Hughes go,
Winry walking after him in a daze, trying to grab at either bag as they swung in his grip.
Al stared for a long time, and if he'd had a mouth, he knew that it would have been
dumbly open.

There was a nervous knock from the other side of the steel wall. "Is she gone? Al, is she
gone? Is it safe yet?"

Al sat down, slowly, on his bed. He stared out at the empty room and remembered Winry
walking there, the way her skirt had flicked when she'd moved, the whirl of her hair as
she spun -

"Not quite yet, brother." he said, and propped his head on his hands, elbows dinging off
his knees, and stared into space.


*


On one of the workbenches at the back of the lab, behind the gleam and bubble and hiss
of the experiment, Winry perched on a stool and took the automail to pieces, screwdriver
poised, eyes flickering across what was missing.

"This shouldn't take long," she said in a grudging voice, as Al looked down at her. "It just
needs a little rewiring, and I can easily replace the damaged casing. Should be ready by
tonight."

Ed, sitting at the other end of the lab hidden behind a book, shuffled himself into a
smaller ball. Winry had given him a good morning whack around the head with her
toolkit when they'd gone to pick her up, so he hadn't escaped after all. But if it could be
done quickly . . .

If it could be done quickly he could still get his Sunday with Roy - being done, preferably
quickly. Maybe the universe didn't hate him so much after all.

"It looks very interesting," Russell said, and Ed looked up at that, and Al looked across,
and Winry spun her screwdriver in her fingers.

"It is." she said proudly. "These wires feed information from the nervous system, giving
the joints and gears information about movement and force - these take information back
from the pressure censors - it's a perfect enclosed system, and as long as nothing
interferes with it-" Ed ducked behind his book - "it works seamlessly with the body, a
flawless blend of biology and machinery." She pressed a hand to the side of her face and
whispered, "It's like it is natural, when you get it right, it's so perfect it can't be made, it's
like - it's just incredible-"
"It sounds completely fascinating," Russell murmured, and Winry looked up at him as he
smiled, tilting his head back so his hair fell in just the right way. Winry smiled back, with
a sly glance across at Ed.

"It is. And it's nice to find someone intelligent enough to notice."

"Well, when a girl as pretty as you starts talking, you just have to take notice . . ."

Ed looked at Al, first. He'd gone completely stiff, so still he might have been any empty
suit of armour, and Fletcher looked up at him and said, "Alphonse - ?"

"Stop it, you're making me blush." Winry giggled, and Russell's eyebrows were doing -
the things Roy's eyebrows did when he was being ridiculous, and no fucking way was
this happening to Ed's little brother.

Ed's book hit the workbench with a slam, but Al didn't even twitch. "Russell, can I talk to
you?" Ed growled, and Russell looked across, gave a slow smirk.

"Of course you may. Lead the way, Edward."

Winry watched Ed stalk out of the room, Russell behind him, and went back to work with
a little smile, tilting her head, tucking her hair behind her ears and feeding wires through
her hands. Fletcher tugged at Al's arm and said, "Alphonse . . . ?"


*


Ed marched straight for the storage cupboard, the blood hot in his cheeks and ears.
Russell strolled after him, hands in his pockets, watching his each step with satisfaction.

Ed kicked the door open and spun the timer without even looking at it. The light flickered
on as Russell walked in and said, "So it takes the jealousy card before you notice what
you actually do want-"

Ed slammed the door, grabbed Russell by the collar and wrenched him up against the
shelves, which clattered behind him. "Hey-!" Russell started, but the words stopped in his
throat when Ed jerked him against the shelves, banging his shoulders, and pressed his
face closer.

"Winry is off limits, you damned manwhore." he snarled. "Find someone else to sniff
around, you do not go after Winry."

Russell scrabbled for grip at his arm. "You really are freakishly strong for someone of
your height-"
A box fell from the shelves and crashed to the ground when Ed slammed Russell back
against them. "This is not a joke, Russell, this is not for fun, I am fucking serious. Leave
Winry alone."

Russell stared down at him, hair and bravado thrown a little awry, and said, "Is this a
protective thing, or a possessive-?"

"All you need to know is that if you keep chasing her, I will cut your balls off and make
you eat them." Ed pressed his face closer, growled, "Got it?"

"Are you actually trying to start a fight while you only have one arm? You're strong but
you're not so bright."

One more slam into the shelves and Russell yelped, grabbed Ed's arm hard and snarled,
"That hurt you little-"

"Al likes Winry." Ed said in what, if he hadn't controlled it and kept it low and deep,
would have been a roar. "Al likes her. So you stay the hell away, got it?"

Russell stared. "Alphonse . . ."

"I don't care if you grope me and piss me off and just generally drive me crazy," Ed said
quietly, "but if you make Al upset for a second - one second, Russell, one little second - I
will kill you. That's it." He stepped back, dropping Russell with no warning, and he let
his breath out in a whlp! as he hit the ground. "And I know you understand, so I'm not
gonna say anything else, 'cause I know that you know that I mean it."

". . . Edward."

Ed looked down, his hand on the door handle, and Russell rubbed his throat where Ed
had left bruises. "If you ever pull anything like this again," Russell said quietly, "I will be
forced to show you the difference between us again. And I won't go easy this time."

Ed quirked his mouth at Russell as he considered him, then shrugged. "Yeah. You can
try."

Outside the cupboard door he paused, let his breath out in a little sigh, and set off for the
lab again. If he had to commit murder to let Al be happy, it really wasn't so bad a price.
Especially if it was Russell he so unfortunately had to bump off . . .


*


There was a note on Roy's doormat when he got home that evening.
Arm back on tonight. See you tomorrow?

Roy had to smile, but . . . was just a day's recovery enough? That was possibly a stupid
question, Ed took physical damage very much in his stride, Ed's ability to absorb physical
damage and just keep going seemed almost endless. If he had the arm reattached and got
some rest tonight, he would probably be as fine as if nothing had ever happened by the
following night.

The following night was Sunday. Sunday had become, by this point, 'their day'. It was
infinitely unfair that he wouldn't have Ed tonight, as was usual, wouldn't wake up with
him tomorrow . . .

Patience, Mustang, patience, it would be worth it to have Ed back to his old, dangerous
self, it would be worth it to feel both Ed's arms, warm and cool, wrap around him again.

He folded the note over and put it in his pocket, but eagerness for Ed was prickling
already. Maybe he could visit, go 'pick up Ed's report' . . .


*


"I hate this bit." Ed muttered into his pillow, gripping the edge of the mattress with his
left hand.

Winry glanced at the side of his head and down again at what she was doing, checking
and adjusting the port for reattachment, lining up the automail.

"The arm's really perfect this time," she said, wiping her wrist across her forehead and
running her fingertips down the smooth lines of steel. "It's lighter, but it should be just as
durable." She scowled up suddenly. "That doesn't give you any excuse to try and trash it."

"I don't try and trash it." Ed snapped. "Just . . . shit happens."

Winry's eyes trailed up the automail, across the rough scarring around the shoulder port,
briefly across the breadth of Ed's bare shoulders and the few smaller scars there, the scars
she didn't even know the origin of. If she asked, she knew all she'd get was a shrug and
one of Ed's ridiculously condensed stories; chimera, guy with a knife, just wasn't quick
enough. "I know." she said, eyes falling to bright metal again, away from all that skin.
"You'll be careful, right?"

"Winry, we've barely left the lab in weeks. This was just - y'know, one of those things."
Ed screwed his eyes up against the pillow. "Can you just stick it in already? Al's gonna be
going out of his helmet outside and Ishah-!"
Winry winced, and Ed made a few gritted, muffled noises into the pillow, then lifted his
head with his eyes still closed and croaked, "Thank you."

"You're welcome." she said quietly. "Now roll over, idiot, and don't break it again. And
you don't just stick automail in, don't treat it like a kitchen appliance-"

Ed shifted onto his back, swallowed and panted, "Winry, can you yell at me when I'm in
a bit less excruciating pain . . . ?"

She paused, tugged the sheets up for him and squeezed his new, cold metal wrist. "Get
some sleep," she murmured, and stood up, picking her tools up. "I'll tell Al you're done."

Ed just grunted and lay still, face held tight and closed. She crept to the door and closed it
carefully behind herself.

Al was waiting there, hands twisting nervously in front of his loin cloth, and beside him -

"Miss Rockbell," the dark-haired man in military uniform said quietly, and she blinked
up at him, almost blushed. He looked like - a film star, or - he had the darkest eyes . . .

"This is Colonel Mustang, Winry." Al said in a very slightly strange voice. "Um . . . he's
come to get brother's report."

Winry gave the man a more critical glance now, but his face was entirely blank,
unreadable. "You can't wait until tomorrow?" she said. "He needs to rest."

"I promise not to keep your patient long." Colonel Mustang said. His voice was . . . "If
you don't mind -?"

She opened her mouth, shook her head, and he inclined his head to her before walking
into Ed's room. The door closed behind him. Winry swallowed, saw the way Al was
looking at her and coughed. "So!" she said, a little too quickly. "My automail's back in
fully functioning order, and tomorrow you two can take me shopping, and everyone's
happy!"


*


It wasn't like other pain; it crept then jolted up his nerves, even where he didn't actually
have nerves anymore. His nervous system panicked when the alien metal and wires were
attached right to it, and his brain knew no other way to read that panic but as pure pain in
restless, spasming instalments. Ed felt worn out as soon as Winry had got the door closed,
exhausted by it already, crawling and suddenly slamming through him. Sometimes he
wanted to sob with it. He was damned if he would, though.
He heard the door click closed but he hadn't heard it open. He raised his head, squinting,
trying to see -

"It's just me." A hand on his head, familiar weight tilting the mattress beside him. "Go to
sleep."

Ed's eyes sank closed, his voice came out scratched and uneven. "You came here to tell
me to go to sleep . . . ?"

"By all rights, I should be watching you fall asleep in my bed tonight. But your bed
works just as well." He heard the starched rustle of Roy's uniform, felt arms lift and shift
him, a brush across his forehead, his head fitted onto Roy's lap - "Go to sleep, Ed."

A prickle of pain made Ed tighten his body for a second but Roy's hands smoothed over
his head, rubbing down his shoulders, and his breath sank out of him. He made a soft
noise of happiness and Roy's arms wrapped him closer. "Go to sleep . . ."


*


Winry washed her hands in the communal bathroom and Al stood outside, not wanting to
interrupt his brother and the Colonel, wanting - he wasn't sure what he wanted from
Winry. "Was it all alright?" he said through the door. "No complications?"

The tap turned off and he heard the rustle of paper towels. "Everything went fine. I am a
genius, you know." The door opened and Winry grinned at him briefly before her face
closed up a little. "He can't keep . . . damaging the nerves like this, though. He's put his
body through too much already. One of these days he'll do something to himself his
nervous system can't recover from-"

"I'll look after him," Al said quietly, and Winry glanced at him, smiled.

"I know you will. It's lucky you two have each other or I don't know what . . ."

"Me neither." Al felt hot and rushing inside, felt fizzy and quivering and small. "Win-
Winry?"

"How did he get shot?" Winry said, rolling down her overalls and tying off the arms
around her waist. "I mean . . . he said the military did it, but that doesn't make any . . . and
why's that guy want his report now, anyway, doesn't he get sick leave or anything? This
stinks, this isn't right, this-"

"The Colonel isn't so bad." Al said quietly. He squirmed. "Winry, um . . ."

"I hate this stupid military, I hate it - it's only using him and it's scary because-"
Al waited, watching her and feeling even smaller, shrunken and useless inside. She said
quietly, "Because sometimes I don't know if he'll come back at all."

"Winry," Al said softly. He didn't know what else to say. Every time they left her, and
every time she sat waiting, waiting for them not to come back, just like her parents
hadn't . . . suddenly, saying, 'Winry, I, um, kind of like you.' seemed stupid and small.

She rubbed at her eyes. "Look at me being all stupid," she said, laughing unevenly. "It's
just - jeez he'd yell if he could see me now-"

Winry really did talk about his brother a lot, Al thought, and then -

- he felt, for just a second, exactly as hollow and cold as he knew he was.

"He's such an idiot." she muttered, scrubbing with the heel of her palm at her eyes.

"Winry," Al said, his voice very soft, and he wondered how he had any breath for it but -
he didn't breathe, did he? "Do you like my brother?"

Winry drew her breath in quickly and out again in a high, shaky laugh. "Al!" she choked.
"Where did you get-? Like him? He's such an idiot and he's bratty and rude and loud and
he always wrecks my automail and -"

Al didn't feel small anymore. He felt exactly as big and clunky and awkward and
oversized as he was, he felt like no-one could ever see his soul because all they'd ever see
was the suit of armour his brother put him in, while everyone saw Ed, everyone saw Ed,
because Ed was bright and fierce and loud and he glowed -

And Al was quiet and thoughtful and stayed at his back always, and when he was like
this . . .

Al had done very few cruel things to his brother in his life. They'd had brotherly
bickerings and disagreements and full-on fights, but there were things they didn't say to
each other, didn't even think about saying to each other, because they were all each other
had and because they'd trusted each other completely even when they had had more than
just each other. Al had hardly ever set out to hurt his brother, even when he'd wanted to
he'd bit it all back because . . .

Because he loved Ed, and because Ed loved him in such an uncritical, absolutely trusting
way that Al just couldn't betray him. He knew how easy it would be to destroy his brother
like that, and he'd never wanted to, because he knew he was all Ed had.

But Ed had more than just Al now. Ed had the Colonel, and Ed had Winry, and even
Russell liked him - everyone noticed Ed -
"Brother is in love with the Colonel." Al said quietly, and Winry's laugh choked off in her
throat.

Instantly, in the same second he'd said it, Al would have given anything in the world to
have taken it back, would have given the soul that was the only thing he had left, because
he knew exactly how deep a betrayal this could be.

Closer part XXVIII
Rating: R
Beta: toxicbullets - who is so cool that, when the ice caps melt, she will be followed
by crowds of little penguins who snuggle up to her while she sleeps. She's *that* cool ^^
Disclaimer: The person who owned Fullmetal Alchemist would not be as broke as I am
right now.

Summary: It's hard to convince someone you're not being used when you're sleeping with
the most manipulative lech in the military.

All previous parts can be found in my memories.



Notes: . . . this chapter makes my stomach churn. Am I going to be lynched for this?
Please don't lynch me for this. I have, like, *no* control over the plot of this anymore. If I
did, we'd've had a big flashing *happily ever after!* chapters ago. So . . . please don't
lynch me. Please?

Also, apologies to Ed - I am consistently a bitch to him, you'd never realise how much I
love him from reading this.

*nervous*


People say that I've found a way
To make you say that you love me.
- Al Green, Tired of Being Alone


"Winry-"

Winry's elbow jerked back and Al lost his grip instantly, and Winry clenched her jaw
hard and kept on striding for the door.

"Winry, don't- I didn't-"

She jerked it open and stared, hard, for a long few seconds, and her breath came out hard
and helpless. Colonel Mustang looked at her with his face completely unreadable - and
Ed was asleep with his head on his lap, asleep in a way she'd never seen him before,
especially not after an automail refit; he looked absolutely relaxed, absolutely calm,
absolutely at peace with that hand in his hair, that arm around his back -

Winry slammed the door shut and marched off for the stairs and Al nearly fell over as she
stalked past him, letting out her first choke. She saw her discarded toolbox by the
bathroom door, almost picked up a wrench, bent to do it - but then clenched her hands
tight and broke into a run, out of the dormitories, just out, just away, she couldn't cope
with this, just away-


*


Ed woke with a jerk at the bang of the door and mumbled, "Whu- ow-"

From outside the door footsteps raced away and Al cried, "Winry-!"

Roy's hands were uncomfortably tight on him. "What the hell's-" he said, trying to push
himself off the bed, fumbling for grip and automail screeching pain at him as he pressed
down with his full weight on it.

"Ed," Roy said quietly, and when Ed looked into his eyes his mouth opened a little at
what he saw there. "Exactly how determined were you to not let Miss Rockbell
know . . . ?"

Ed stared up at him, swung his head to the door, ignored the shot of pain in his shoulder
and pushed himself up. "I have to get dressed, ask Al what happened, we can catch her-"

"Do you even know where she'll-"

"I know. I know Winry. Fuck . . ." Ed rolled his automail shoulder, swallowed hard,
grabbed his vest from its heap on the floor. "Fuck."


*


Roy drove in silence. Ed sat beside him in silence. Every insistence that Ed should stay in
bed and let someone else deal with this, should deal with this later, was met with a dull,
unmoveable fury - Ed's mind, once made up, couldn't be moved by a team of Armstrongs
at their peak. But Roy could tell by the way Ed gripped his right arm, by the tightness of
his face, that he shouldn't be here, he shouldn't even be awake right now. He also knew
not to point out Ed's current weakness to him, that it was the last thing Ed wanted to hear
right now. Ed would never forgive that truth said out loud at this point.
In the darkness Ed's bleached face was grey, eyes fixed blankly out of the windscreen,
occasionally lit orange by streetlights. His occasional blinks and his tight, slow breathing
were his only movements. He shouldn't be out of bed. It was taking all of Roy's self-
control to not turn around, take him home, wrap him up and plead with him to just be safe,
that was all he wanted, Ed to be safe -

Roy slowed down outside the station. "Are you sure-?"

Ed nodded, unhooked his seatbelt and stayed bent a little for a second as Roy pulled up
fully. Ed closed his eyes, let his breath out, lifted his head and opened the door.

"Ed-"

Ed looked down at him, looked almost through him, dazed and distant. Roy felt even
worse than Ed looked, felt like his stomach was going to escape from him entirely.

"I'll wait here," Roy said softly, and Ed focused on him, gave a quick flicker of a smile
and said, "Right," and closed the door behind himself.

Roy folded his arms over the steering wheel, pressed his forehead into them. Oh god. Oh
god. Fucking - hell -

He tightened his grip on the wheel for a second and forced himself to relax again.
Tonight . . .

Just hearing her name should have been enough of a warning. Just finding that Winry
Rockbell was still working on Ed's arm should have sent him home with his tail between
his legs, like the cowardly dog of the military he was - but instead he'd found some
perverse, gnawing desire to see this girl, the girl he'd been bound to even before he'd
known Ed had existed. He wanted to see, wanted to see that she was alright, that she was
something like happy, wanted to see that he hadn't destroyed her like he'd destroyed her
parents and himself.

And as far as he'd been able to see, she was like any other fifteen year old girl, bright and
energetic and strong, they really bred them strong in Riesembool, girls and boys alike,
and he'd even noted that she was very pretty (another thing they bred well in the
countryside) alongside the automatic tenet but too young, of course.

Before he'd remembered Ed and had thought a wry sort of smile.

So this entire mess - Winry fleeing into the night, Ed stumbling off alone into the empty
station, Alphonse left brittle and scared and wretched back at the dormitories - all of this
came from Roy, and what Roy wanted; too greedy to give up Ed for one night, too selfish
to let this girl go, leave her alone after taking everything from her once already -
All I wanted was to be there for you in case you needed me, I swear to god, Ed, all I
wanted -

He clenched his hands on the steering wheel again and forced himself to raise his head.
Save his apologies for such a time as they would be useful; right now Ed needed him to
not be steeped in self-pity, right now Ed needed him . . .


*


Ed knew the platform that trains in the direction of Riesembool left from. He walked as
quickly as he could, stumbling on the steps in his hurry, and his knees nearly gave way
with relief that there was a sobbing girl with long blonde hair sitting on a bench on the
platform, with no luggage and no coat and he knew no ticket -

His legs were shaking as he approached, his knees felt hot, and his arm was stabbing into
his shoulder like Winry had jammed a drawerful of electric knives into the port instead of
the automail. He groped for the back of the bench and sat down, breath sinking out in a
helpless gust of relief. A few more steps and he'd have pitched face-first onto the ground
and he knew it.

"Ed, go home." Winry choked, wiping her eyes again, sniffing hard. "You need to rest."

"What the hell're you doing?" Ed snapped, and his automail fingers were rattling against
the wood as his arm shook so he tightened his hand on his knee instead of the seat. "It's
the middle of the fucking night, Winry, you can't just run out 'cause-"

A second of silence.

"Because what?" she hissed, and blew her nose harshly on the sleeve of her overalls.
"Because what, Ed?"

"I don't know," Ed said, his voice too quiet and clumsy in the silence of the station. "I
mean, I get - everything, but - I don't know which part of it you ran out 'cause of-"

"For god's sake, you idiot, everything!" she screeched at him, so suddenly he started, and
his metal hand banged off the bench again. "I don't even know what you - I thought
everything was just like normal and you had to go and - I don't even know! I thought I-
and you're - what are you even - I don't want to know - what are you even - no-" She
screwed her hands up at the sides of her head, eyes tightly closed. "I don't want to know,"
she choked. "I thought I-"

Ed looked to the side, cheeks flushed, and mumbled, "Al . . . told me. But . . . Winry, you
can't - like - me-"
"Why, because you like him?" she spat. "Which you couldn't even find the guts to tell me,
you just had to go and keep pretending everything was normal and making me think - and
all the time you were -"

"This isn't all the time, this is new and I just didn't know what to - no-one's even allowed
to know, Winry, he could get in too much trouble-"

"He should!" she screamed back at him and Ed flinched away, eyes wide and blank. "I
almost went back in and smashed his brains out on your dormitory floor! What the hell
are you even - he's old enough to be your dad!"

"He's not! He - well - if he'd been a teenager-"

"Don't say that like it makes it any better, it's sick! Are you actually letting him - have
you actually let him-"

Ed took a slow breath and then met her eye, no fear whatsoever, sure and firm and hard.
"Have I 'let him' what? How the hell is it any of your business what we do? I love him."
Something in him took some strength he desperately needed from that, to say it so loud
and clear - "I love him. I'm not just sleeping with-"

For a second he thought Winry was going to physically attack him, but then she choked
out another sob, a scream of frustration in it, swallowed it down and scrubbed her eyes
with the back of a wrist and spat, "You always were stupid about some things but I never
thought you were this - he must be twice your age and he's using you like this and how
can you think-"

"He's not using me."

"How can even you be this thick-headed? How can you actually think-"

"He loves me."

Winry lost her thread a little at that, stared at him blankly for a second. "He told you
that." she said in a shaky voice. "He told you that and you believed him."

Ed's stomach jolted. "He does, we're not just - Winry, d'you think I'd just-"

"I think you're an idiot. I think once you finally start trusting people you don't know
where to stop, and I think you're letting a man twice your age do I don't even know what
to you because, because what, because he told you he loved you? Exactly how stupid are
you, Ed? What about Al, what the hell kind of example is this for-"

"Don't. You. Dare." Winry was pinned-rabbit trapped by the flare of Ed's eyes in that
second. "Don't you dare tell me what's best for Al. He's happy with this, he thinks Roy's-
"
"So he's got the both of you fooled, well done him." she sobbed, wiping her eyes again,
breath shivering. "Please," she said, her voice coming out low and pleading. "Ed, please,
just - think about it for five minutes, why would he-?"

"Why would he love me?" Ed said, and Winry met his eye and swallowed.

"Why would he tell you he did? He just wanted-"

"Why would anyone actually love me," Ed said quietly, and Winry shook her head
quickly.

"That's not what I meant! I-"

"No! Winry, you don't get it, you don't know him, you haven't - he's not using me, we're -
we're - us, he's - mine! If he just wanted that he'd never put up with me, I throw things at
him and shout at him and we drive each other completely crazy, I've never hated anyone
like I hate that bastard but-"

"But you love him? You hate him and you love him?"

"Yes! Yes. Look, it's - hell, I never said it wasn't a mess -"

Winry bent her head forward, hands in her hair, and said to her knees, "I don't understand
any of this."

Ed flumped back against the bench, staring at the roof over the platform. "Neither do I."
he muttered.

For a moment, neither of them said anything.

"I don't trust him." Winry said quietly.

"You don't know him. Winry, please, this is - you can't tell anyone, not even Auntie
Pinako, 'cause she won't understand - please, Winry. He could - you have no idea how
much danger I put him in and I can't, I can't watch anything happen to him, I'd die first, I
mean it-"

"I know you do." she muttered at the floor. "Idiot."

"I know what this looks like," Ed said desperately. "I'm not that stupid, I know I look
stupid, I know I look like I'm being manipulated and I don't even realise it. You don't
know him. He's - he's - he's an arrogant dick and everything but - he makes me laugh and
he's patient enough to even put up with me and - and he's good, Winry, he's just good,
however much of a mess I am he's just-"
"I don't want to hear this." Winry whispered, and Ed looked down at her bent head, felt
his stomach curl.

"You can't like me, Winry, you can't-"

"Because-"

"Because Al likes you, Al likes you and even if - I couldn't, you know I couldn't-"

"Oh god," she said, and her laughter choked out like she was dying. "Oh god that just
completes the picture, doesn't it? Not only are you - you and I like you, you moron - not
only are you all gay for some guy twice your age-"

"Hey-"

"Al can't like me," she said, cramming her palms against her eyes. "Al can't, because
you'd never look twice at me if you knew Al - oh god. Oh god, this night is just perfect,
this night couldn't get any better . . ."

The automail was twisting all of Ed's nerves to see how much it took until they snapped.
"Tell me about it." he said, teeth gritted.

Winry took a deep breath and lifted her head, tossing her hair back, wiping her eyes again
and looking at Ed with searching eyes and her mouth tight, like she was trying to work
him out for the first time. "Al likes me?" she said. "But he's . . ."

"He's what?"

"He's just a kid, Ed . . ."

"He's not. He's really not, Winry, and - look, I'm not gonna say anything about age
difference-"

"Oh, it is far too soon to joke about that."

Ed gave a guilty grin. Winry glared at him until she couldn't hold it any longer, and
sagged back against the bench.

"You like guys," she said blankly, as if it was finally sinking in and it was completely out
of the blue. Which it pretty much was.

"I don't," Ed said, scowling. "I like him."

"I guess that explains why your hair's almost as long as mine."

"Winry-"
"Do not dare tell me I am not allowed teasing privileges." Winry said darkly, and Ed
shrank a little under her eyes.

"Okay," he said weakly. Her face softened slowly, looking over his, and her eyebrows
folded a little in confusion.

"How - did you know I'd be here, anyway?"

"'cause you always run home. Al always went off on his own when he was upset but you
always went straight home, every time."

She very nearly smiled, at that. "Sometimes," she said softly, "you can be . . . really
weirdly considerate."

"I'm always considerate," Ed muttered. "But . . . are you gonna come back now? The
Lieutenant's gonna be wondering where you are, and-"

"I'm not coming back." Winry bit her lip and looked to the tracks. "The first train home's
in an hour and I'm getting on it. Can you say sorry to Mr Hughes and Gracia and Elysia
and ask them to send my bags on after me? I'll send the money back for it-"

"Winry-"

"I can't stay here. I can't. I need to go home and . . . I just need to get my head around all
this, Ed, I mean -" She waved her hands helplessly. "You and him and Al likes me and-? I
just need to - to get all this clear in my head. All this time I've been waiting for you and
you went away and . . ." Her eyes trailed over Ed, and Ed squirmed a little under her gaze,
and his arm prickled and spat pain at him, and his skin felt too hot on him. His brain felt
too hot, and throbbed like a blister. "You grew up. And I stayed the same and . . . and I
need to work out . . . who I am when I'm not thinking about you the whole time."

Ed looked down and mumbled, "I never knew you thought about . . ."

"I know you didn't, because you're an idiot."

"Oi."

"Don't you dare tell me you're not."

Ed sighed at the platform. "Yeah. I'm an idiot. I know. None of this is any easier on my
end, you know."

Winry stared at him, and her eyes were softer than Roy's were, he could see straight
through to the hurt inside. "Take care of yourself," she said quietly.

He held her eye and nodded. "You too. And-"
"I won't tell anybody. I just need to - think."

". . . I know."

Silence, for a while.

"Go back to bed, Ed. You shouldn't even be up."

"I know. I think I'm gonna throw up."

"Moron. Get back to bed before you bust my automail again."

"Your automail."

"My automail." she said in a warning voice, and Ed pressed his hands to the bench,
pushed himself up on shaking legs. It was his bones; they were too hot, and they were
overheating the rest of his body, heat pulsing out in waves like the pain.

"Your automail," he confirmed weakly. "Winry . . ."

Winry stared up at him for a moment, and he almost thought she was going to stand up
and - do he didn't know what - but then raised her head, same determined Winry as ever,
and said, "Be careful."

"I will. You too. And -" He took a sharp breath, because silent black fireworks were
going off in the air all around him, covering his vision. "You'll think about Al, right?
Because - he really likes you, Winry, and he's way better than me, he is, you know he is-"

"Go to bed, Ed."

". . . g'night, Winry."


*


Roy rubbed the pads of his fingers against each other on the steering wheel and stared at
them blankly, as if he could draw up sparks even without his gloves. Ed had been quite a
while; what was happening? How long were you meant to leave your physically
compromised lover talking to a childhood friend with an undeniably deep crush on him
before you were allowed to panic?

You are being ridiculous. Calm down. Breathe, Mustang.

There were still no people around - the first train wouldn't even get in for an hour, and the
front of the station was empty - and at the first sign of movement Roy raised his head
immediately. Ed had emerged from the platforms alone, and was walking slowly towards
the car, clutching his right arm to himself. He hadn't even raised his head yet. Roy
unhooked his seatbelt - and Ed disappeared at the other side of the car, crumpling out of
sight.

"Edward-" Roy scrambled out of the door, around the front of the car - to Ed, kneeling
beside the wheel and holding himself up on one nearly-steady arm and one arm rattling
like a tin can full of loose nails, a small puddle of vomit on the ground in front of him.

"Sorry," he whispered, and spat to clear his mouth without raising his head. "I'm not
meant to - to do much just after it's - sorry -"

Roy knelt beside him, got his arms around him, pressed his head to Ed's. He could feel
the shake running right through his body now. "Sorry," Ed said again, his voice trembling,
not like his voice at all.

"Don't be sorry."

"I have to talk to Al." Ed squeezed his eyes closed. "I have to talk to Al."

His body was too hot against Roy's and he smelt all wrong, like cold sweat and sick.
"You have to sleep, Ed, you need to rest-"

"I have to talk to Al." Ed repeated stubbornly and one hand caught in the braiding of
Roy's uniform, hung on tight. "I have to, I -" He choked, shook his head. "I'm the worst
person - the only thing I have to do is not fuck up my little brother's life and I can't even-"

"No."

"I'm the worst person in the world, you don't-"

"No." Roy pressed him closer and just knelt, holding Ed and hating himself. "You are
nothing approaching a bad person, Ed, for god's sake - how is any of this your fault?"

He could feel Ed's each gulping breath against him, could feel Ed very specifically not
crying. "Al hates me." he managed to grit out eventually, his voice shaking, and Roy
shook his head against Ed's.

"He doesn't. He couldn't." Ed thought this made him a bad person. What the hell did that
make Roy? He couldn't think about that right now. Ed needed him right now, Ed needed
him to focus on him right now. "You couldn't make Alphonse hate you if you tried. You
know that he loves you."

"I couldn't be shittier to him if I tried," Ed muttered, and Roy pressed a hand to his
overheated forehead and said, "You're running a fever, Ed . . . I'm taking you home."
"Home-where? I have to talk to Al-"

"You can talk to Alphonse in the morning."

"No I can't - I have to see him, Roy, please-"

Roy closed his eyes for a second and - again, and again, and forever again - cursed Ed's
stubbornness. "I am taking you home, to my home, where you will rest. I will then fetch
Alphonse and bring him to you and then you can talk. I am not offering you this as an
option, just so you know. This is what is going to happen."

"You bastard," Ed choked against him. "I fucking hate you-"

"I don't care if you do if it means you don't make yourself any more ill." Roy shifted his
weight, shifted his arms, lifted Ed to his feet. Ed smacked at him and gave a weak growl
that just didn't sound like him and said, "Put me down, I can walk, it's my arm not my
legs and I can walk-"

"I know you can. I know that you could probably force yourself to run a marathon in this
state even if you dropped dead at the end of it. But you don't have to." Roy held him
upright, arm wrapped tight around Ed's chest as he opened the car door. "I'm here. Just
once, Ed, you don't have to."

Ed sank against Roy, fell where he was pushed, eyes still closed and hissing quietly, "I
hate you, I hate you-"

"I know you do," Roy whispered, and kissed his forehead.


*


Ed kept his eyes half-closed for the entire car journey and grudgingly, silently allowed
Roy to help him up the path and into the house and upstairs. His eyes were still dulled
and tight, he was still too hot against Roy, still a weakened and impotently furious
version of Ed. His right arm was vibrating, his left fumbled with exhaustion, and Roy felt
now like he was going to throw up. Ed's mind was still perfectly awake, but his body was
in something like shock - and he couldn't see Ed like this . . .

"I'm talking to Al," Ed panted at him, sagging halfway up the stairs so Roy had to support
him, his knees giving way entirely for a moment. "I'm not - sleeping 'til I've seen Al, I
have to-"

"You're going to make yourself worse."

In a low, rough, tremble-edged growl, "I am talking to my little brother."
Roy was silent as they negotiated the next two steps, making his mind up. The best thing
for Ed. The best thing for Ed . . .

His stomach rolled.

He said, "Alright."

He got Ed onto the bed and dug around in his drawers, placing two tablets on the bedside
table with a glass of water. Ed watched him through cracked-open eyes against the pillow
and rasped, "What's that?"

"Painkillers. Unless you're about to tell me it doesn't hurt."

"You're a bastard." Ed growled, low and more feeble than it should have been as Roy sat
him up. Even his left hand wobbled as he took the offered tablets, and Roy pressed the
glass to his lips.

"Drink. I'll go telephone your brother."

Ed swallowed, butted his head against Roy's arm in the only expression of hatred he
could muster right now, and sank back down when pushed. He let his breath out slow and
hard as Roy gave him one final glance from the doorway and walked downstairs.

It was now very much the middle of the night, but the telephone in the dormitories was
answered before the first ring had finished. "Hello? Brother? Is that you? Brother-"

"It's me, Alphonse." He must have been waiting beside the telephone for them. Roy
pinched the bridge of his nose and wondered if he really had the energy to deal with two
hysterical Elrics in one night. "Your brother's upstairs. I got him to go to sleep."

"Is he alright? Did you find Winry? I'm sorry, Colonel, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, this is all my
fault-"

"No, Alphonse, really, this was bound to happen sooner or later. And I am still confident
that no permanent damage was caused to anybody tonight." Almost confident. Almost
almost-confident.

"Did you find Winry?"

"Edward followed her to the station. I think she's catching the next train to Riesembool."

". . . oh."

"I'm sorry, Alphonse. I hope . . ."
"No," Al said softly. "No, Colonel, it's alright. Winry, Winry will be happier at home
anyway . . ."

"I think - it would mean a lot to Ed if you could be here when he woke up. I can come get
you-"

"No, really, you've done enough for us tonight . . . I'll walk. It's really not that far from
the dormitories. I'll - he's alright? - I won't be long-"

"He'll be fine." Roy allowed himself, finally, to smile. "Ed wouldn't let something like
this slow him down for very long."

He didn't know quite what the second of silence meant, Al was hard enough to read even
face to face, but when his voice came it was quietly relieved. "I know. Thank you,
Colonel. I won't be long."

Roy put the phone down and stood, for a moment, with his hand on the receiver. He
didn't even know if he had the energy to make it back upstairs.

But Ed was there, and he climbed steadily, so he could stand in the doorway and see . . .
Ed was laying on his side facing away from the centre of the bed, loose hair fallen over
his face, body slack and helpless on the mattress in a way Roy wasn't used to at all.

He walked over, climbed onto the bed beside Ed and leaned over his shoulder, brushing
Ed's hair from his face and touching his overwarm forehead, as Ed's eyes didn't even
flicker. Ed thought he was a bad person. Roy had just fed his lover, completely dependent
on him at this moment, sleeping pills under the guise of painkillers and he could tell Ed it
was for his own good forever but -

Roy leaned his head into Ed's shoulder, wrapped his arms around him from behind, held
down his own hatred bitter and tight in his throat. If Ed thought he hated Roy, it was
nothing, it couldn't compare to how much Roy despised himself. For Ed, Roy would be
the best man he could be; but if Ed needed it then Roy would be the worst man as well,
there was no moral he held he wouldn't trample in the name of protecting Ed, even if he
was protecting him from himself.

Roy pressed his closed eyes to Ed's shoulder. "I think we would both be better off if I
could find a way to try to love you a little less," he whispered. "I'm sorry, Ed. For
everything. I'm sorry."

Ed slept on. Roy pressed himself closer, kept his eyes closed, hated himself.

Closer part XXIX
Rating: R
Beta'd by - toxicbullets, fastest Beta in the West! (or anywhere else, for that matter ^^)
Disclaimer: Don't own the characters and make no profit from it. Alas.
Summary: Roy did a bad, bad thing.

All previous parts can be found in my memories.




This is how I feel:
I'm cold and I am shamed, lying naked on the floor.
- Natalie Imbruglia, Torn



There was no answer at the door. Al knocked again, twice, and stood there feeling stupid.

He knew what Ed would do. Ed would barge in without a second thought, he saw an
unanswered knock as an invitation to enter on his own terms. But Al wasn't Ed, and he
couldn't just march into someone's house . . .

Yes, he could, he had to. He had to apologise to his brother, if he never got to do
anything else in his life he had to apologise to Ed; all of this was his fault, his brother was
hurt because of him and Al couldn't bear that, couldn't stand it - Ed trusted him utterly,
wholehearted and unquestioning, Ed had never doubted Al for a second and Al . . . had
done a bad thing.

He winced (metal grated), opened the door, called quietly, "Colonel . . . ?"

He stood there for a moment in the silent doorway, and then said, "Um, I'm coming in."

There were no lights on downstairs, and the hallway was lit dark blue by the faint light
creeping in through the windows - but there was a light upstairs. Al climbed the stairs as
quietly as possible, very aware of his metal tread creaking the wood, and crept across the
landing, whispering, "Colonel? Brother-?"

This was ridiculous. How was he meant to attract anyone's attention if he was scared to
disturb them?

"Colonel?"

There was a light on in one room; Al pushed at the door, gently, wincing again at the
squeak -

A bedroom, a large bed, two bodies. His brother was the smaller body, drained and pale
but asleep at last, and wrapped around him, cradling him protectively from behind with
one arm hooked as a shield around his chest, the Colonel - who looked just as tired, but
was holding on to Ed like he wouldn't let go and wouldn't let any of the world get in. Al
stared for a moment. He rarely saw his brother actually interact with the Colonel, Ed was
shy and oddly protective of his relationship, but . . .

Al wasn't sure what people in love were meant to look like. They looked like an enclosed
world of their own, they looked like they needed no-one else but paid the price -
equivalent exchange - of needing each other so desperately that neither of them would
make sense on their own any more.

Al understood his brother's nerves, now. Love was scary.

He picked up the blankets from the foot of the bed and carefully, carefully, laid them over
the two sleeping figures. He crept back, turned the light off, brought the door to a gentle
close behind himself. He would apologise to Ed in the morning. He couldn't wake him
now.

He stood in the hallway and wondered what to do. Maybe he could clean up or something,
since he was pretty much an uninvited guest - he'd been told to come, but no-one had let
him in, after all . . .

He tiptoed downstairs again (clank, clank, clank), not wanting to risk waking them by
moving about upstairs, and tried the first door; the kitchen. There wasn't much to be taken
care of in there, but he watered a plant on the windowsill and scrubbed the sink out.

The sun was beginning to come up, filling the hallway with murky, pale light, when he
turned the light on in the room at the back of the house. Roy's study.

Al looked at the bookshelves and said, "Ooh."


*


Roy woke himself up by sighing in his sleep and flapping a gust of Ed's loose hair against
his face. He raised his head blearily and couldn't think when he'd fallen asleep. It was
light outside, how long had he been-?

Ed lay heavy against him, and Roy blinked down at him, remembered last night, and
closed his eyes for a second. He was still for a moment, then looked down, placed a palm
against Ed's forehead. No fever. Ed had overstressed his body last night, that was all; rest
was all he'd needed.

In a perfect world, that would excuse Roy's behaviour. In the real world, he knew he
deserved public flogging. He slumped around Ed's back again, pressed his face to Ed's
hair. He had no right to this, no right to have dragged Ed into this. What was he doing?
How the hell had he ever thought that this relationship was a good idea? He'd made
himself impossibly vulnerable, and Ed-

He propped himself up on an elbow, looked down at him. Ed hadn't moved, hadn't so
much as twitched in his sleep. Roy touched his throat just to feel his pulse - he looked so
still. And he looked, for the first time, small. And he was, Ed could deny it loudly and
repeatedly but it wouldn't change the fact that he was short, and it was obvious already
that he never would be a tall man. But he gave the impression of being so much more
than he was, there was just too much Ed for such a little body, but now he looked . . .
small, and young, and fragile, and what the hell was Roy -? Ed looked like if Roy rolled
over in the night he could crush him. Which was absurd, Ed was as stubbornly strong as
an unwanted weed, Roy could no more crush Ed than he could lift his own house. But . . .

Admit it, Mustang, actually say it: Ed looked like a child, right then.

He slid down the covers a little and concentrated on Ed's left arm. He always took a lot of
comfort from that arm, he was quite dizzily in love with that arm, and not just because it
was attached to Ed. There was nothing childish about the musculature of that arm, Ed
could support his entire body weight on it, the next step up from Ed's left arm was of
almost Armstrong proportions. There was nothing wiry or teenage about it. Roy wouldn't
at all mind being swept away by that arm. The breadth of Ed's shoulders already
promised that one day that would be very, very possible.

He kissed Ed's shoulder through his vest, held up Ed's arm and admired it with a slight
smile. Golden and firm and powerful. The fine lines across the forearm might have
looked self-inflicted but Roy knew two things; firstly, they were leftovers of the Barry
the Chopper incident, and secondly, if Ed wanted to hurt himself he would leave no
marks so small and discreet. Ed preferred emotional torture to sate his bouts of self-
loathing, anyway.

Roy's smile faded. Ed's arm hung dead in his grip. And whose fault was that?

He lowered Ed's arm, stroking the back of his wrist, tucking Ed closer against himself,
staring out into the dimly lit room. He didn't want Ed to wake up. When Ed woke up,
staggering amounts of shit would hit the fan, and Roy couldn't deal with . . .

But he wanted Ed to wake up, wanted Ed to sit up and scowl and flop back down and
mutter about how much he hated mornings, wanted Ed to sprawl across Roy's back and
grin at him from his own shoulder, hands wrapping around his chest from behind, he
wanted Ed pestering him for sex and breakfast without knowing himself quite which he
wanted first. He just wanted this to work the way he knew it could, he wanted this to not
be as tangled and complicated and sullied by wrongs - actual and assumed - as it had
become.

He stared at nothing for a little while, then blinked and looked down. When had the
covers got pulled up?
*


"Alphonse,"

Al, sitting on the study floor, jumped with a rattle of metal. He looked guiltily up to the
doorway, where the Colonel stood with mussed hair, in a crumpled shirt. He had one
eyebrow raised, and he looked caught somewhere between puzzled and amused. "Good
morning Colonel," Al chirped quickly, putting down the book he was reading, quickly
picking up the small pile he'd accumulated and putting them back where he'd found them
on the shelves. "I was - um - borrowing-"

"It's alright. Your brother has already grazed over most of my bookshelves anyway. I'm
sorry . . . about last night, I must have . . ."

"It's alright if you needed to sleep, Colonel, and I'm sorry for coming in uninvited." Al
said. "Is brother-?"

"He's still asleep." The Colonel was almost always hard to read, but sometimes when his
face became even more difficult to read that was almost a signal in itself. "I think he
really would appreciate it if you were here when he woke up, though."

Al looked at the floor for a long moment, then said very quietly, "I'm sorry I told Winry. I
don't know why I did that. I - I'm really sorry. Everything -"

"Miss Rockbell would have found out sooner or later, anyway."

"I'm sorry," Al said quietly.

After a pause, the Colonel surprised him by saying, "So am I."

Al didn't know what he meant he was sorry for, but shuffled a little and said, "I need to
call this afternoon and see if Winry got home safe . . . but I can wait for brother to wake
up until then." Al paused, then raised his head. "What should I say to her?"

Roy walked across to sit heavily in his desk chair and sighed, dragging a hand through
his hair. "I really don't know if I should be handing out advice on relationships,
Alphonse . . ."

Al felt a sudden clench of cold terror. "Are you and brother - not -?"

Roy glanced up at him, gave a strained flicker of a smile. "We 'are', for as long as he will
have me. I just seem to upset him on a very regular basis."
"Well, brother's easy to upset." Al murmured. "When he's being difficult . . . if you're just
very straightforward and very insistent and you drag him by the ankle he'll usually cheer
up in the end."

"Drag him by the ankle."

"Brother respects a determined dragging. Um . . . what would you say to Winry? If, um,
you were . . ."

Roy sighed, closed his eyes. "I would tell her what I needed to say, in such a way as to
upset her as little as possible." He opened his eyes again, smiled wearily at Al. "I
appreciate that you have a very complicated situation with Miss Rockbell. But the truth is
the most respectful thing you can offer someone you care for." Just a flicker of something
in his eyes, just a note of sourness in his voice. "I really need to talk to Edward."

"Does he need dragging?"

"I think I do."


*


Ed couldn't piece his dreams together. There was something about his mother but all he
remembered of it was the lingering distress, there was a lot of Al and Winry and Roy
until he couldn't drag them apart, there was Scar and the Gate and enough blood to drown
in, there was Roy and the rain was so hot it burned Ed's skin, there was his father but the
bastard wouldn't turn to face him -

He almost managed to surface twice before he finally dragged himself out of the swamp
of dreams, his body heavy and waterlogged, his brain dreamlogged. There was a hand on
his head, heavy and gentle, and Al said, "Brother . . ."

Ed thought sorry sorry I'm sorry, Al but he was just too heavy, and he was sucked back
under again.

The fourth time he woke, his head was nearly clear. He let himself fill his lungs a few
times and blinked up - at Al, perching awkwardly beside him on Roy's bed. Ed wasn't
quite sure how he'd ended up in Roy's bed or how Al had got there, but he felt
staggeringly thankful for both. He felt like crap. All he wanted was Al and Roy, and if he
could have both -

And then he began to remember last night, and squeezed his eyes closed again. He could
have both, but he deserved . . .

"Brother . . . I brought your lunch."
On the second attempt Ed sat upright and looked up at his little brother's nervous,
frightened eyes, and felt small and stupid and bad. What was he meant to say? 'Sorry', he
knew, but for what?


*


Roy opened the bedroom door in the evening and found Ed awake and sitting groggily
next to his little brother, both of them propped on their hands and dangling their feet over
the side of the bed - well, Al's touched the floor, but Ed's dangled enough to make up for
both of them. They both looked up when the door opened but neither of them said
anything, and it was obvious that they hadn't been talking before Roy had come in.

He looked between them, one then the other, and they stared blankly back at him.

"It's nice to find you both in such a talkative mood."

Ed's eyes narrowed at him, and Al ducked his head a little. "I take it you've spoken, then."
Roy said calmly, and the brothers both looked down for a second, then across at the
other's knees. Ed nudged Al in the shin with a foot. Al nudged him back, and they finally,
nervously, met each other's eye.

Ah. Roy had forgotten the communication methods of teenage boys. Why talk when you
can kick each other?

"I need to call Granny Pinako and see if Winry's home yet," Al said quietly. "If she took
the most direct trains-"

Ed nudged him with his foot again. Al mumbled, "And I'd better see Lieutenant Hughes
afterwards, get Winry's things . . . I'll - see you tomorrow, brother . . . ?"

Ed smiled at him, a little strained but genuine. "Yeah. Unless - you want me-"

"No, you can-"

"No, it's-"

A pause, then they clumsily kicked each other again and Al stood up. "I'll see you
tomorrow, brother. Um. Have fun. Goodbye, Colonel . . ."

"I'll show you out, Alphonse."

At the front door Al twisted his hands in front of his loin cloth for a second and said, "I
don't know if you're . . . if you and brother are having trouble, Colonel, but - you make
him happy." Al paused, drew himself up and took a stand. "I want you to know that and
to remember that, in case anything happens. You make him happy and - and it's nice
when he's happy." Al lowered his helmet a little. "Um. That's it."

Roy gazed back at him with his face very still, and then said softly, "I understand. Give
my regards to Lieutenant Hughes and his family."

Al gave a clattering bow and left. Roy leaned against the door behind him, forehead
pressed into his folded arm, and then looked back upstairs. Maybe he did make Ed happy.
He was very, very good at making him unhappy as well, though. Right now, he had lied
to Ed and drugged him without his consent, yes - but this wasn't yet another truth he was
concealing from Ed, this wasn't yet something else to keep him from sleeping, and he
wasn't about to let it become that.

Ed was still sitting on the edge of the bed, looking up at him blearily when he opened the
door again. His eyes looked hopeful, and his mouth twitched eagerly, but Roy didn't
move for him yet, didn't step forwards, and saw a flicker of uncertainty in Ed's eyes.

"I don't normally feel this crappy, day after refitting." Ed said almost apologetically,
lifting an arm out for him, eyes just a little uneasy. "I dunno why . . . aren't you gonna-?
Are you mad at me? I don't remember much of last night, if I -" His smile was uneven
and nervous. "You can't be mad at me for something I don't remember doing when I feel
this shitty, that's not fair."

"I'm not mad at you." Roy steeled himself, walked over and sat next to Ed, who looked
like he just wanted to burrow up against him instantly but held off, watching him
apprehensively. "How much do you remember of last night?"

Ed wriggled. "Uh - I remember Winry being mad at me. And I remember . . ." The
memory flickered alight right there in Ed's eyes and Roy saw him curl up inside with
humiliation. "I remember puking. Shit," he added in a mutter. "I remember being mad at
you. I don't know why. That's it."

"You wanted to talk to your brother. I didn't want you to, not last night. You'd made
yourself ill already, and you were making yourself worse."

". . . yeah. I remember now." Ed screwed his eyes up. "This shouldn't be as messed up in
my head as it-"

"Ed - do you remember coming back here?"

Ed just shook his head. "Nothing at all?" Roy said, a little desperately, and Ed looked up
at him.

"I remember being in a car but I don't know if that was before or - did I do something
really-?"
"No. No, you . . ." Roy looked at the back of the door, because Ed's eyes were making his
stomach clench at this point. "I brought you here. I put you to bed, and gave you some
pills. Do you remember any of that?"

Ed shook his head, eyes fixed on Roy, and Roy was surprised at himself that he didn't
waver at that new knowledge. Ed didn't remember, Ed need never know - but that wasn't
an option. He steadied himself, met Ed's eye again, and said, "I told you they were
painkillers. The pills. They weren't. They were tranquillisers."

Ed's eyes still on his for a moment, before realisation and then emotion - shocked, hurt,
horrified, furious - woke up behind them.

"I haven't seen you as ill as you were last night since the very first time I saw you," Roy
said, and didn't look away. "You were determined to make yourself worse, for your
brother's sake but it made no difference, Ed, and you wouldn't have wanted Alphonse to
see you like that even if-"

Ed stood up, and Roy was a second too slow at grabbing his arm. He pushed off the bed
after Ed, expecting he could catch him on the stairs once he was out of the room, before
he got out the front door. "Ed, I know you're angry-"

The bathroom door slammed in his face and locked, which he hadn't expected. He
stumbled to a halt outside it and stared at it blankly, then touched it with his fingertips
and repeated, "I know you're angry-"

"Angry?" Ed spat back through the door. "You fucking bastard, angry? I ought to kill
you-"

Roy tried the handle, already knowing it was hopeless, and said, "Why have you-?"

"Because I don't know what I'll do to you right now if I can get my hands on you," Ed's
voice hissed. "You fucking-"

"I know."

"You lied to me, you drugged me-"

"I know . . ."

"I ought to smash your face in, you bastard, what the hell were you-?"

Roy sat, with his back to the bathroom door, and pressed a hand over his face. His voice
came out quiet and hopeless. "I've rarely been so scared in my life, Ed, as I was last
night."
"What the hell kind of an excuse is that? You drugged me, you shit! How the fucking hell
am I meant to trust you when you keep on doing stuff like - shit-" A thump at the back of
the door bruised Roy's shoulder blades but he barely winced. "How the hell - what, are
you just gonna start drugging me whenever it's convenient for you? Whenever I'm being
difficult? How about next time you want sex, what if I say no, will you just-"

"Ed-" He was going to throw up. "Please-"

"Fuck you!" The door slammed under what had to be Ed's right fist, and Roy flinched
more at Ed's voice than the sharp, bright pain flaring at the back of both shoulder blades.
"You slimy evil manipulative shit, I need to trust you, don't you fucking -? I have to trust
you and you just keep -"

Roy felt the thump of Ed's body against the other side of the door, sliding down to sit at
his back with just the door between them. "Leave me alone," Ed's voice said quietly, now
just below his own ear level. "Go back in the bedroom. Now."

"Why-?"

"I have to piss and I don't want you to be able to hear me when I hate you. Go away."

Roy sat still for a second, then stood up and walked through to the bedroom, leaving the
door half-closed behind himself. The room was dark, the open window letting in the only
light, and he could see his own pale reflection ghosting across the mirror in the corner as
he sat on the bed, sat on his own bed as he'd been ordered to, and tightened his hands
against the mattress.

He would beg, he would promise, he would mean it -

Ed took his time. Roy didn't know if he was doing it specifically to punish him; he heard
a ragged, high snarl and a crash at one point that was just Ed's anger spilling out of him
for a second and sacrificing something in the bathroom, it didn't matter what, it could be
replaced, Ed was the only Ed he'd ever know -

He waited in the dark. He knew that this was a new low. If it wasn't for Ed, he would
never have let this happen to himself, but he couldn't lose him; he would wait on demand,
he would crawl, he would beg. If Ed wanted blood, Roy would bleed. If Ed wanted pain,
Roy would suffer. Whatever he asked - whatever he demanded - Ed could name his price,
could choose the precise pound of flesh he wanted, and Roy would hand him the knife
without a word.

The bathroom door opened. After a pause, Roy's knuckles gradually tightening on the
mattress, the bedroom door opened.

He couldn't see Ed's face well in this light, but he could see the moonlight glinting
dangerously off his narrowed eyes, could see the fixed line of his jaw. "Why did you do
that to me?" Ed said, his voice quiet and rough, like he'd been screaming himself hoarse
even though Roy hadn't heard a sound.

Roy's chest was so tight the breath hurt as it entered his lungs. "Because you were hurt,
and you were tired, and you were ill, and you were only going to get worse if I let you."

"It's my fucking choice to do that."

"Would you let me drive myself to my death?"

"Yes," Ed spat, and then - "No - and I wasn't gonna kill myself, I-"

"No. But you were . . ." Roy swallowed hard, and his throat had been replaced by a stone
pipe and it hurt. "You were shaking. Ed - I love you more than is sensible for either of us,
I love you more than I know how to cope with, and you were shaking. You don't shake
when facing known murderers. I'm not saying this excuses my behaviour, I'm not saying
anything excuses my behaviour, I just -" A slow breath. "I was scared. I do stupid things
when I'm scared. And nothing scares me like the thought of you being hurt. Nothing."

Ed didn't move from the doorway, just stood there breathing hard with his hands clenched
at his sides. "I have to trust you," he said eventually, gritting it out like he hated every
individual word. "I don't get a choice. You know I need you, not just for this, but with the
fucking military and Al and everything - you know I need you. You know I have to trust
you. And you're absolute scum for doing this to me even when you know that."

"I know." He wouldn't look away until Ed did, whatever it took. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Ed,
please-"

Ed's jaw worked silently, hands clenching tighter, and said through clamped-hard teeth,
"How am I meant to forgive this?"

Roy could feel the blood pumping in his hands but he couldn't feel the mattress, even
though he must be squeezing it almost hard enough to tear the sheets. "Because I'm
begging you to," he said, and his voice broke a little, and Ed's face just fell. Even in the
dim light Roy could still see that expression.

Ed stumbled into him, paused with his hands on him before wrapping them around his
back, paused again before sinking his head into Roy's shoulder. Roy just folded his arms
helplessly around him, concentrated on breathing. Grown men do not cry. His throat hurt.
Grown men do not cry.

"Why did you tell me?" Ed mumbled into his shoulder. "I didn't even remember, you
could've just . . ."
Roy answered with the absolute truth, which he knew from too much experience already.
"Because you deserved to know. And because keeping the truth from you makes me feel
physically sick."

Ed's grip tightened on him. "I wish I didn't need you," he hissed against him. "I fucking
hate you. I fucking hate you, I wish I didn't love you-"

Roy said quietly, "I don't deserve you."

Ed's hands were leaving bruises. "I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, I wish you'd just-"

"I will never do that again. Never."

"You will," Ed sneered. "First time I start-"

"I mean it."

Ed raised his head, at the low shake of Roy's voice. He searched his eyes, swallowed
down his anger, pushed at Roy and rolled himself onto the bed, over Roy and dragging
him down again on top of himself, holding him so tightly Roy couldn't pull up from the
embrace that had to be crushing Ed. "I hate you," Ed choked into his shoulder. "The
worst fucking thing that ever happened to me was you - no - you bastard." Ed thumped
Roy's chest with the flat of his fist. "You know I'm stuck with this, you know I'm stuck
with you, stop making me feel like this-"

Roy tightened his arms around him, already too tight, pressed his face to his hair. "I'm
sorry."

"I hate you," Ed hissed, low and harsh. "God, I hate you, I hate you-"

Closer part XXX
Secret Ninja Porn Beta beta'd
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: I own squat, except the particular wording.

Summary: Equivalent exchange. Sort of.

All previous parts can be found in my memories.


Notes: Dredged up the energy to put this together, gods know from where ;) And a word
on my secret ninja porn beta, who cannot be named because she is ninja, and therefore
secretive like that: she rocks. That's all ;)


Furnaces burn everlasting
Black tattoos of you onto me.
- Laura Veirs, Magnetized



Ed slept badly. He was too hot, he was too weighed down with Roy, but he wouldn't push
him off, couldn't push him off. He loathed him, he hated him, he hated him and every
time he tried to make his muscles shove him away he choked.

He didn't feel like he'd been drugged. He felt like he'd been poisoned.

He dreamed that the room was on fire, the curtains billowing flame like a ship's sails,
smoke gathering over the bed, and Roy's weight pinned him to the mattress but he didn't
even want him to move. He dreamed about Roy in the cellar again, in the bloody mess of
the failed transmutation while the circle burned, and Roy was still stripping him naked,
still seeing everything and taking everything and there was nothing Ed could do or even
would do. He dreamed all night of fire, he couldn't drag himself out of the furnace, just
the thought of stepping away from it made him cold. He needed this. God, he needed
this . . .

He opened his eyes.

It was still dark, and he was still tired, but he wanted to be awake, he couldn't take
unconsciousness anymore. He checked Roy before he pushed himself up; they'd moved,
in the night, and now Roy's head was resting against his chest, his arms loose around him
in sleep. Ed touched his forehead underneath his scuffed hair, looked into his closed eyes
and wrapped him close for just a second, squeezing his own eyes tightly shut. Asleep,
Roy was just Roy. It was only awake that he could do things that turned Ed inside-out.

He shifted out from underneath Roy, trying to lay him gently on the mattress, trying not
to disturb him, so he could sit. He still felt impossibly hot, tugged his vest off and
dropped it to the floor, found his braid tangled and ruined and let it loose, dropping the
hair tie after his vest. He ran a hand back through his hair and then pressed his hand over
his face, eyes still closed, letting out a soft grunt of a groan. He wished yesterday had
never happened. He wished the last two days had never happened. He wished-

Stupid. Wishes don't make anything happen.

He opened his eyes, stared down the bed.

"I'm sorry."

Ed looked down, at the darkness of Roy's eyes in his pale face, as he watched him from
the pillow. "I told you I'd never betray you," Roy said softly. "And I did anyway. I'm
sorry. I'm sorry, Ed."
Ed breathed slowly.

Roy had drugged him - really, Roy had been drugging him all along. From the first time
he put his mouth over his, the first time Ed got close enough to inhale him, the first time
Roy looked him in the eye, all along Ed had just been falling deeper, and now he was
stuck with it, stuck with Roy, he craved him in a way he hadn't known he could. Ed
despised himself. Roy could do whatever he wanted, and Ed knew he'd just roll over and
take it every time.

"You do a whole bunch of stupid fucking things in the name of my own good." he said,
rolling onto Roy, kneeling over his waist, looking down at him. He slid his hands up,
settled them over Roy's throat, pressed his thumbs to the windpipe and felt the warm
shape of it under his left hand, felt the hard pressure of it under his right hand. "I ought to
kill you for that." He pressed just slightly. "If you ever do it again I will kill you."

"I will never do that again." Roy said, not even raising a hand to stop him, just watching
him and waiting. Ed slid his hands down to hold himself up on the mattress, on either
side of Roy's neck.

"No court'd convict me." he said matter-of-factly. He knew it was true; one look at the
evidence and Ed would easily shrug off a court-martial for the murder of a superior
officer, after what that superior officer had done to him.

"I know. I'm sorry."

Ed stared down at him. He needed a shave, his eyes were shadowed, and Ed wished to
god - to anyone - he didn't love the bastard, because after all this, after all this he couldn't
bear to see him hurting like this . . .

"Equivalent exchange," he said. "You owe me now."

Roy just watched him, perfectly still. "Yes."

Ed didn't know what he wanted. Or he did, but he didn't know how it could be given.
"You're mine."

"I know."

"You're mine."

"I belong to you," Roy confirmed quietly, and it wasn't enough . . .

Ed lowered himself across Roy's body, held his hands in Roy's hair, held his mouth over
his and clenched his teeth for a moment, feeling his breath, not kissing him, just wanting
- and when he did kiss him it was something low and deep and dangerous instantly; it
wasn't a kiss, it was a prelude with teeth. He drew at Roy's mouth, he squeezed his eyes
closed and wanted -

He was still too hot, he still felt drugged, he felt drunk on Roy. His mind was somewhere
else entirely, floating over the bed as Ed arched his body down into Roy's and wrenched
open the trousers Roy was still wearing from yesterday, dragging them off, taking hold of
him and Roy gave a muted groan underneath him, closed his eyes and put his arms
around Ed's back. Ed struggled his own underwear off, kicking it over the edge of the bed,
and pressed himself down against Roy, breath hissing out between his teeth.

Roy tilted his head back against the pillow, opened his eyes and just looked at Ed for a
moment as Ed dragged himself against him, teeth gritted. He reached for the bedside
table, hand searching and coming back with the lube, and Ed's eyes watched him
narrowed and burning. He paused but didn't stop Roy from taking his left hand, from
slicking two of his own fingers - and he only opened his mouth in surprise when Roy
bent his own knees, lifted his own hips, pressed Ed's hand between his own thighs.

. . . oh.

Ed had known this was an option in the abstract, of course, but . . . he pressed cautiously,
testing, tentative, but Roy relaxed and took his fingers in and took Ed's breath with him.
Tight, warm, weird, Ed couldn't remember the last time he'd been this turned on, he'd
already forgotten what this had started as -

When Roy tugged at Ed's waist, murmured, "Now, Ed." Ed fumbled his hands free,
swallowed and his throat was trembling. Roy took him in effortlessly, while Ed's thighs
and arms shook, Roy took everything else that was left, burned Ed's brain out like
firewood. He was so hot Ed whimpered.

Roy watched him with impossibly black eyes, head arched a little back and grunting on
each soft breath as Ed struggled to find his rhythm, struggled not to sob, fire spreading
upward from his groin and through his belly and melting his muscles. Ed tried to listen to
the body beneath his, tried to ground himself, tried to move with each of Roy's breaths.
Roy had made him drown every time he touched him but right now Ed was drowning in
flames, heat flickering in sheets through him, too hot to breathe. Roy took his still-slick
hand again with a whimper and slid his fingers through Ed's, pressed their hands around
himself, arched upwards and Ed moved up into him and watched Roy come, panting and
shuddering with his back curved off the mattress.

Roy gazed up at him with drained, dark eyes and clasped the backs of Ed's thighs with
both hands, urging him in. Ed fell right through him and his body curled up, stretched out,
he cried out at the fire - and Roy's chest rose and fell hard and fast underneath him as his
forehead rested there, dazed with pleasure and heat and tightness and heat.

"Yours," Roy whispered breathlessly. "Yours, Ed, I'm always yours."
Ed's breath fell out of him and into Roy's skin in a sob.


*


The sky was pale, light and watery - it was going to be a misty dawn. Ed watched the
rising sun burning the cloud away through the window, over Roy's chest, where he was
still laying with his head on his shoulder.

"That's not the first time you've done that." he said, and felt Roy's body shift a little
underneath him, felt Roy's arm lift and lie across his side.

"No."

"Do I ever get to be your first anything?"

"You're the first person I can seriously imagine spending the rest of my life with. You're
the first person I've seriously wanted to spend the rest of my life with."

Ed closed his eyes, pressed them against Roy's shoulder for a second, then raised his head
again. "Why do you even have sleeping pills? Since when did you need tranquillisers?"

"I . . . sometimes struggle to sleep."

"No, you don't. I've watched you go to sleep, you don't."

Roy's thumb stroked his shoulder blade. "I don't when you're here."

Ed breathed slowly, digested that information. He didn't understand it, but he knew it was
important. "You're not the worst thing that ever happened to me," he said. "I didn't-"

"I know." Either Roy hadn't tried to hide the pain in his voice or he just couldn't. "I
deserved for you to say it, though."

Ed could have denied that, but he just let his breath out and lowered his head. "You know
I'm stuck with you," he whispered. "You can't pull stuff like that, you know-"

"I know." Roy's face lowered to his hair, and he asked quietly, "Will you ever trust me
again?"

Ed raised his head a little, nudging Roy's head back up, and stared into his eyes. Then he
put his hand to the back of Roy's neck, gently pulling him down, closing his eyes, kissing
him. Roy's arms folded around him, one hand slid up and through his hair, and Ed just let
Roy hold him suspended for a long moment. Whether he trusted Roy or not, whether he
hated him or not, it all meant nothing when Roy was kissing him. All that existed was
this.

He kept his eyes closed, breathing slowly, as Roy raised his head and stroked his cheek
and waited. "I knew you were a manipulative bastard when we started doing this," Ed
said, and licked his lips. "I kind of . . . I've always known you could screw me over,
and . . . and what'm I meant to do about it? I love you, you bastard." He opened his eyes,
clenched his jaw. "You're not a Colonel in this bed, you know, and I'm not a kid here or
anywhere, and you don't get to act any different."

"I know that."

"You don't get to patronise me, you don't get to manipulate me, because you don't do that
when you love someone, I wouldn't do that to you-"

"That's because you're just a better person than me, Edward."

Ed narrowed his eyes to look for the joke and realised there wasn't one.

"Don't say stuff like that," he said, more unsettled than he understood, pushing himself up
on his arms, hands on Roy's chest. "Don't. You know that's not-"

"It really, really is."

"No," Ed mumbled, tugging at Roy to pull him against himself again. "Don't, you idiot,
for god's . . . I only ever manage to do anything good when I actually manage to think
about you or Al first, I don't . . . don't be thick. If I thought you were just a bad person I
wouldn't be here. Even after what you did."

After a pause, Roy's arms held him a little more closely, and he murmured, "I don't want
you to trust me because you have to. I want you to just trust me."

"Then don't do shit like that." Ed snapped. Fucking duh. He lifted his head a little. "Can I
see the pills?"

Roy stared at him for a second then sat up, Ed sitting back to watch, as he wordlessly
opened his drawer and took out a small plastic bottle. He held it out for Ed, who took it
silently, wrinkled his nose up as he read the chemicals contained, then looked up at Roy
and - sharply, precisely, mercilessly - banged it right into Roy's forehead.

Roy fell backwards off the bed with a yelp, and Ed scratched his hair in a contemplative
way. "You will never do that again," he said, his voice calm with conviction. "I'm getting
a shower. You can make breakfast. If you behave yourself maybe I won't tell Al what you
did."
Roy made a muffled, unhappy noise from the other side of the bed, and Ed stole his
dressing gown on the way out.


*


Ed stood in the shower with his forehead against the tiles, eyes closed, water rushing over
him.

This sucked. This really, really sucked. Roy had been his good thing, Roy had been his
safe place, Roy had been what he could come to when everything else in his life was
miserable - why did he have to go and ruin it, why did he have to-?

Because Ed wasn't allowed a good thing, clearly, because Ed didn't deserve a respite.
Well, balls to that. He gritted his teeth without raising his head. He knew already that
Roy would never do that again. He didn't know that Roy would never try to manipulate
or lie to him again - that was more or less just what Roy did, but . . . he wouldn't, would
he? Roy loved him. Ed turned his head a little away from the spray of water. He believed
that, when Roy said it, and he knew Roy didn't want to hurt him. Ed didn't want to hurt
Al, after all, but he managed it every time, even when he didn't know what he'd done . . .

He didn't understand, still, why Roy had told him. That made his throat tighten, because
he knew that if he'd done something like that and Roy hadn't even remembered . . . he
knew he couldn't make himself say anything. His throat hurt. And Roy thought Ed was a
good person. Hah.

Ed opened his eyes, watched the water pour light over the tiles. He knew how much
second chances mattered. So yes, he'd trust Roy, even after this, or at least he'd try to.
He'd trust him, again and again and again, he'd trust him. Every time.

Woof woof.

Ed closed his eyes again, swallowed hard, let his breath out slow and shaky. What had his
teacher always taught him? Go with the flow, don't fight it, accept it . . .

His teeth clenched all the same.

The bathroom door opened. Ed didn't turn around.

"Are you alright?" Roy's voice said, and Ed opened his eyes and lifted his head, brushed
his hair back, heavy and warm with water.

"I'm fine."

"You've been in there twenty minutes."
"I'm using up all the hot water."

". . . why?"

"Because you don't deserve any." Ed paused, then turned and tugged the shower curtain
aside and said, "I decided I forgive you. I'll still murder you if you ever do it again."

Roy just stared at him. He looked so tired . . . Ed felt his love for Roy squeeze inside his
chest, twisting and tightening. Oh, hell. Just because Roy was a bastard didn't mean he
had to be.

He held the shower curtain open, jerked his head for Roy to join him, smiled for the first
time since yesterday. It felt strange and stiff on his face. "C'mon," he said. "You might
get the last five minutes if you're quick."

The relief on his face . . . Roy lost his clothes more quickly than he ever had before in
Ed's sight, so he could step in beside him and they could wrap their arms around each
other in the spray of warm water. Ed pressed his cheek to Roy's chest and closed his eyes,
and Roy's hand scratched across his scalp in a way that made his spine curve slightly. His
safe place.

"I will be something you can trust." Roy promised, and Ed took in a slow breath, let it out,
tipped his head against him, smiled again and this time it felt blissfully natural.

"Yeah. You better."

Roy pressed his face to his hair, murmured, ". . . thank you." His arms tightened around
him. "You have . . . no idea how much I need you."

Ed opened his eyes, but didn't raise his head. "I really think I do, actually."


*


Roy was even more attentive when he was apologetic, and Ed liked it when Roy touched
him anyway. Constant little brushes against his shoulder or the back of his wrist or the
side of his head, and Ed almost wanted to say, Screw Monday, Monday never did
anything for us, let's go back to bed-

Ed watched Roy over the kitchen table, flexing his right shoulder now and then just to
check; he still needed to give the automail a thorough workout now it was reattached.
Though - the words 'thorough workout' made him think of this morning, and . . .
Roy gazed back at him in a strangely open way for Roy, holding his coffee and not hiding
anything. He looked puzzled at whatever was on Ed's face. Ed looked down at his own
mug, flicked the rim awkwardly, glanced up again and said, "That thing this morning."

Roy just looked back at him. "Um," Ed squirmed in his seat, drew himself up, met Roy's
eye and watched him carefully. "The - sex. Did you just do that as a really fucked up
apology or-"

"It's something I've wanted to do for a long time. I thought that perhaps this morning you
did too."

Ed's eyes widened and his lungs tightened at the thought that - Roy had thought about
that, Roy had thought about it and wanted Ed to-

"We can do it again if you enjoyed it." Roy said calmly, and took a sip of coffee.

Ed's hands tightened a little against the table and he tipped his head forward a little to
hide behind his hair, shrugged and nodded, mumbled, "Yeah, it . . ."

He jumped as Roy's hand moved over the tabletop and settled over his right hand,
holding it, squeezing it. He looked up, into Roy's eyes, was frozen for half a second and
then took a breath and grinned and said, "Yeah. It was cool."

"Cool," Roy said, and that word in his voice made Ed's grin twitch wider. "It wouldn't
hurt for your reading to branch out further than textbooks, if it could expand your
vocabulary a little."

"My vocabulary's fine."

"Oh, of course. Everything's fine or cool or okay-"

"What d'you want me to say? 'Oh, Roy, it was exquisite-'"

"I thought it was."

"Shut up," Ed was surprised that he was laughing. "You're just - I dunno, we never did
that before, it was - different."

"Different."

"Good different. I still like it when you - uh." Ed looked down at Roy's hand around his
hand - around his automail - then back up to his eyes. "You've done that before."

"Yes. I told you that."
"I know, so . . . I knew, I mean, everyone knows, you and - women." He scowled a little
and Roy just waited, patiently, for him to finish a coherent sentence. "But this means . . ."

"You must have realised there had been other men, previously."

Ed swallowed tightly, tried not to scowl but it was hopeless. "I was kind of trying not to
think about it."

"But . . . ?"

"But, I dunno, I just thought . . . I don't know much of anything about you, do I? Not
really, not stuff that matters."

Roy sighed. "What do you want to know? Relationships with men tend to come with
more outside complications, given the world we live in. In the past I've avoided them
unless I couldn't help it."

"So you 'can't help' me."

"At first I did think of it like that, you know that." Roy squeezed his hand again, watched
his eyes. "And I know that you know what you mean to me now."

"I still can't help you," Ed murmured, eyes on their hands. "Even when I want to. It's . . . I
dunno, I know I'm not having a normal - teenagerhood or whatever, I know that most of
the stuff I'm doing I maybe shouldn't be yet, but - this thing -" He looked up at Roy's eyes,
the darkest he'd ever known, and in his chest his love woke and shifted and stretched out
for space, compressing his lungs. "This feels like the most grown-up thing I have. Not the
sex bit. This."

Roy said quietly, "It is, Ed."

"I know. I'm - glad. It's - it makes me feel - I dunno, I know that if I can do this then
I'm . . . safe." A grin twitched at his face. "If I can survive you I can survive anything."

Roy - sighed.

"You do so enjoy leaving muddy footprints all over my self-confidence."

"Like I could make a dent in it." Ed looked between Roy's eyes, let him stroke his
automail hand; he could feel the soothing shift of pressure across the metal plates, and he
wondered if Roy knew what he could feel. "I just - you make me feel safe. That's it."

The unspoken sentence behind it: Please never make me feel anything different.

Roy squeezed Ed's hand again.
*


Tuesday, they had arranged, was the earliest night they were both free. Ed and Al needed
to put in some lab time, they couldn't keep leaving things to the Tringhams, so they
would mind the experiments overnight tonight - and besides, they needed the time to
construct a 'we're really very, very sorry' letter to Winry.

Roy wanted to follow Ed down the path, through the city to the laboratories, wanted to
stand behind him with his arms around him while he worked. Instead he went to the
office, uncomfortable in ways he hadn't been for years, carrying his morning with Ed
with him in his overtaxed muscles. It had been worth the stretching and the discomfort -
he was just going to have to accept that he just wasn't as flexible as Ed, and face to face
on his back really wasn't a comfortable option for that - worth it because Ed had been
wild and demanding and strangely careful, fierce and strong and just the right balance of
considerate and carried away, beautiful and dangerous with hair everywhere and teeth
gritted. He was almost completely untamed in moments like that, only his own awareness
and hatred of hurting people keeping him that little bit leashed. Not objectively the best
sex Roy had ever had, no. But it was Ed. That was enough.

Hawkeye glanced at him and there was something of a question in her face, and Roy
decided to trust her to keep everyone else off his back for the morning at least. He just
wanted to hide in his office for the time being, he couldn't really face other people.

He would never lie to Ed like that again. Never. He didn't know, however, that if he had
to go back and relive that night he wouldn't still do it. Ed hadn't seen himself, Ed had no
idea. Ed had been perfectly willing to make himself seriously ill so he could make a
delirious, uncomprehending apology to his brother, who thought he was the one who
owed the apology anyway. Ed had put his body into shock and then still kept dragging it
around after his stubborn, fixated mind, Ed seemed to think he deserved to feel that bad.

Roy knew there were no words in the world that could have convinced Ed to do the
sensible thing that night, but suspected himself of being morally lazy anyway, because he
still should have tried to find them. Usually he convinced people that what they wanted to
do was what he wanted them to do. When they wouldn't comply, he put them into
situations where they had no choice but to comply. But where the hell was the point of
being right if he was going to do very wrong things to be right?

Ed - wouldn't do that. Ed treated morality as mutable up to a certain point, but after that it
was as fixed as a chemical formula, which was why Roy knew he'd transmuted gold on at
least one occasion but he'd never killed anybody, knew Ed had attempted human
transmutation and then had done it again in the name of saving his brother, and he knew
that Ed would kill for the right reasons but never because he was told to. And Roy
couldn't even scrape up the guts to tell Ed the truth about the Rockbells, a truth he fully
deserved to know. Not yet. He couldn't, so soon after this. Ed really would never forgive
him.

Roy looked up at the window-shaped pool of light flickering on the opposite wall of the
office and thought, this is how you reset your own moral compass: whatever you do,
make damn sure it's not something you would be ashamed to tell Edward afterwards.

Getting to the top of the military hierarchy without doing anything Ed would narrow his
eyes at - now that, that was a challenge . . .


*


Russell watched Ed with narrowed eyes.

Ed and Al were struggling over a letter, muttering to each other and flicking away balled-
up pieces of paper and Ed kept scratching angrily at his hair, getting ink all over his
cheek because he always forgot he was still holding the pen.

This boy, this boy had somehow found someone to have sex with? He got embarrassed
when Russell said the word, he was such a child-

Russell couldn't help remembering Ed in the caves underneath Magwar's mansion,
stepping forward completely fearlessly against a man with enough red stone to turn the
mansion into a hole on the hillside. When Ed stood up fully, back straight like that, he
gave the impression of being two feet taller than he was, even if in reality he barely came
up to Russell's chin. In that moment he'd lived twice Russell's lifetime, in that moment
he'd been impossibly mature. It was an impression that came across rarely, but with all
the power of a cannon going off.

He'd watched Ed have a condensed nervous breakdown last week and come back
bouncing the next day. He didn't even begin to understand Ed, it was like there were half
a dozen identical Edward Elrics swapping places every other day for kicks.

Automail limbs and they needed this experiment, this blood, for Alphonse . . . what were
those two? What had they done, how had they got themselves into the position they were
in?

Russell no longer tried to convince Ed that what Ed wanted was him; he was subtly
alarmed by the thought of everything about Ed that he didn't know. But . . . he did find
that he did want to know more. Ed was an arrogant and irresponsible brat. Ed was a
quietly mature adult. Ed broke down like a glass vase shattering. Ed was stronger and
braver than grown men. Ed was - completely fascinating.
Fletcher yawned, on his stool, blinking sleepily. Russell smiled briefly at him and
checked his watch. "We're calling it a night," he called across to Ed and Al, who looked
up. "Hopefully the experiment'll be safe in your hands for just one night."

"Yeah, and hopefully nothing'll hit you when you cross the road." Ed snorted back.

"Ah . . . goodnight, Fletcher."

"Goodnight, Alphonse!"

"Goodnight, Edward."

"Screw you, Russell."

"Brother, that's not nice."

"He's not nice!"

"I happen to think I'm very nice."

"No-one asked you! If you're going, go already!"

"Sweet dreams, Edward." Russell teased from the doorway, and ducked the pen that
followed him out.

This boy . . . was worth further investigation.

Closer part XXXI

Rating: NC-17 (and thus completes the angst-fluff-smut cycle)
Unbeta'd, not even my secret ninja porn beta - wah!
Disclaimer: Is this suitable for daytime TV? Series can't be mine, then.

Summary: Lies Ed told Roy, volume I.

All previous parts can be found in my memories.


Notes: Finally ^^;

This is the end of section three (containing chapters 21-31) and of dubious helpfulness to
the plot. The following conversation actually happened, at least in my head:
Writer: Stop having sex!
Boys: No! We like it!
Writer: I have plot to get through! Plot, damn you!
Boys: We can't he-ar you, we're having too much fu-un . . .
Writer: Dammit, cold water, I need a bucket and cold water . . .


The sexiest thing is trust.
- Tori Amos, Jamaica Inn



"Archer's been asking about Ed."

That was enough to stop every thought in Roy's head, and he looked across at Maes
feeling - blank, confused, panicked, and then he held his emotions down underneath his
thumb and chose calculating. It was the most helpful one available.

"Asking what about Ed?"

Maes stretched his legs out and sighed, a small gaggle of ducks quacking around his
ankles. Roy really should have warned him not to feed them; they now followed around
everyone they saw in a military uniform. "He thinks it's unusual that someone who used
to travel so widely for the military now has such a short leash."

"He doesn't need to travel. He has his research to be working on now."

"You know that. I know that. Do you want Archer to know that?"

Roy folded his arms and sat with one leg crossed over the other, glaring out across the
pond. "Doesn't Archer have enough to be thinking about on his own?"

"He's pushed Scar back some way towards the North, out of the city. To be honest - I
think he's angling to get Ed under his command for that assignment." Roy raised his head,
mouth opening. "I don't know if he thinks Ed genuinely could help given his background
with Scar or if he just thinks Ed's a more interesting sort of cannon fodder."

"I will never allow that man any hold over Ed." Roy held the rage inside, didn't let so
much as a tic onto his face. "Never."

Maes looked gloomily down at the ducks, one of which bit his trousers in an optimistic
way, in case they were edible.

"He's expressed his concerns to General Hakuro that an important military resource is not
being 'fully exploited', anyway, who also thinks it's all rather curious. Roy - it's only a
matter of time before people start questioning the hold you have over Ed."

"What," Roy said quietly, "am I meant to do about that?"

Maes unfolded his legs and recrossed them and the ducks fluttered around him eagerly.
"You know that already. Jeez, we're going to have to hold the wedding off for years at
this-"

"Maes."

*

Roy chose to walk home on Tuesday evening. It was a warm, gentle night, and the air
smelt heavy with late summer flowers, and he needed to think. Ed could turn up at any
moment, after all, greedily clamouring for every spare inch of Roy's brain to be occupied
with him.

Doing the best thing for Ed remained difficult beyond Roy's ability to talk his way around
or out of. There were always two 'best thing's, one for the short term, one for the long
term. The long term was clearly the better to aim for, but it almost invariably left Ed
completely distraught in the short term, and Roy sometimes just couldn't do that to him.
But then, aiming for the short term just ended up hurting him in the long term . . .

The truth about the Rockbells: long term good, Ed deserved the truth, but short term very,
very bad, because he didn't know how Ed would react and just thinking about it made
him feel ill all the way down.

Ed making himself ill: making him go to sleep was short term good but long term very,
very bad, he knew that. He'd known that at the time, he'd just overridden those concerns
because sometimes when it came to Ed he was stupid like that.

Hiding their relationship: better to have Ed here for the short term and risk their long term
being discovered, or to send Ed away and hope for those little moments they could share
in the long term? (-no, actually, this one was easy: he wanted Ed away from Archer
before he could try to claim him, and he wanted Ed travelling in the geographical
opposite direction of the scarred Ishballan as soon as possible. He would find the
appropriate assignment first thing tomorrow morning.)

Starting their relationship: if only they could make it work, then in both the long term and
the short term it was the best thing Roy knew, the easiest decision he'd ever made. If it
didn't work, then it was the worst decision he'd ever made. What was he meant to . . . ?

Roy hated unnecessary risks. Good strategists never make unnecessary risks - though
even the best strategist couldn't plan for Ed.

He turned onto his own street and that particular shade of red made him stop dead.

Halfway down the road Ed had got distracted, in the middle of the pavement, and was
watching a moth bounce and flutter around the light at the foot of someone's path. He was
completely absorbed, eyes following every scuffle of the moth's wings, mouth set in a
peaceful sort of smile. This was the Ed who crossed roads without even looking, this was
the Ed who couldn't be dragged from a book by the promise of all the sex in the world,
this was the Ed whose focus was a single fine beam that couldn't be split to cover a wider
spectrum. Roy loved this Edward, loved being the focus of that concentration, loved
seeing Ed apply it to anything else. It was just so -

He smiled. Just so pure.

He admired Ed from a distance; it wasn't often he got to see Ed without Ed seeing him,
unless Ed was asleep or sunk in a book. Ed, hair paler blond by night, the planes of his
face lit by the lamp the moth clumsily circled, eyes illuminated golden. He raised a white
glove and the moth bumped to it curiously, landed on an automail knuckle, let Ed raise it
to his nose and tilt his head to squint at it. He looked completely fascinated, but by the
beauty of nature or the science of the flying insect or a little bit of both Roy really
couldn't say.

He walked up, and Ed just kept on staring at the moth settling its wings on his finger until
Roy stopped beside him and said, "Why, Fullmetal, you've finally made a friend."

Ed blinked up at him and the moth took off, circling Ed as if he were a lamp before
making a waving line for a streetlight. Ed looked away from Roy to watch the moth leave
and then glanced back to him again and grinned and Roy wished to god that they lived in
a world where his own paranoia didn't keep him from just scooping Ed up and kissing
him there and then on the street, as the stars came out and the moths danced wherever
they found the light.

Instead they had to make do with their own special brand of romance. "Then that's one
more friend than you'll ever manage." Ed said, and his grin bared a few more teeth, and
he began walking off ahead of Roy for his own front door. "C'mon, hurry up, I'm
starving-"

Their very own, very unique brand of romance, Roy thought dryly, walking after him
with just a little smile.

*

There was a trick to forgiveness, there was some knack to it that Ed had never been able
to latch on to. You had to be able to let go, and Ed couldn't let go of anything, never had
been able to. For as long as he could remember he'd hated his father, he'd have cut his
legs off for Al, he'd seen Winry as a sister and Roy as a smug bastard - the fact that Roy
was now pretty much the best thing in his life hadn't changed that at all.

He'd decided to forgive Roy. But he couldn't - quite - let go of what Roy had done, he
couldn't quite think about him the same way right now. It made him uneasy whenever he
let himself think about it - which wasn't that often, to be honest, Roy glanced at him and
chased all the nervous corners right out of his brain.
The trick to forgiveness: Roy had done his piece, had prepared for any punishment Ed
wished to vent upon him, and Ed had chosen not to. By doing so he had forfeited the right
to not forgive Roy. So he should just forget about it, Roy was sorry and Ed loved him and
if he wanted this to be simple then why did he have to keep complicating it for himself?

The trick to forgiveness; it's not just the other person being sorry. You have to do
something too. Forgiveness is active, not passive. And Ed needed to work this out for
himself, Roy had done everything he could . . .

Roy made tomato sauce and Ed poked at the pan of boiling pasta with a fork and
crunched dry spaghetti. "I don't know how you can," Roy said, mouth pressed closed with
distaste, and Ed grinned and said, "Al dente."

Roy lit a candle as he set the table, turned the lights off, and as Ed opened his mouth he
said, "If you insist one of us must be, I'll be the girl, Edward, I really don't care. I like
candles."

"Well, you would." Ed muttered, but he hugged him from behind as Roy moved past him.
He liked his arms around Roy, he liked to feel the breadth and the warmth of him, and he
let him go only at the thought of food waiting for them.

Ed didn't know why he started talking about alchemy over dinner. He couldn't stand the
thought of silence or of what else they might end up talking about, and anyway, Roy was
an alchemist too, and it was interesting. He talked through the difficulties but the
possibility of changing one substance into another when they didn't actually share the
required properties in the first place, and Roy asked questions and made some
suggestions, which Ed tried not to dismiss too abruptly. Some of them were even useful,
and when he grinned Roy raised an eyebrow at him.

In the light of a single candle Roy's eyes were liquid black and his skin was skimmed
over with gold and shadows and Ed lost his thread a couple of times just to stare at him.
Ed didn't even realise his plate was empty until Roy stood up to take it, and paused to
wipe tomato from Ed's face with his palm and murmur, "You're covered in oil." and lean
in to lick it from his mouth. His tongue was sharp with basil and gone so quickly that he
took Ed's heartbeat to the other side of the kitchen with him as he stacked plates.

Roy hadn't changed, Roy was just Roy, this was Ed's problem to work through -

He followed Roy to the sink, played with the folds of Roy's shirt and said, "Can we wash
up later?"

"Do you mean 'can we wash up later' or do you mean 'can I distract you for long enough
that you'll be left doing it in the morning'?"

Ed touched Roy's stomach with his fingertips, arms around his back, and murmured,
"Can we do it in the morning?"
Roy glanced down at him over his shoulder, and Ed looked up at him, and wondered
again what Roy was doing, why he wanted him, because - because in moments like this
Roy was just perfect, and Ed knew that he'd never be anything even approaching that.
But Roy turned, cupped the back of his head and held his waist, kissed him and Ed had
needed this. He didn't even need to forgive Roy when they were doing this, all he had
was Roy and what he felt for Roy. What he felt for Roy right now wasn't the wild
fierceness of yesterday (you're mine) but it was no less intense, it was filling Ed's
stomach with bubbles and popping them in sudden machine-gun volleys. Roy's hands on
him, Roy's body against him, Roy's mouth -

Ed realised the other side to that equation, realised what he'd left out, what he needed to
do to cement this, to forget the bad things and just love Roy as simply and as cleanly as
he knew he did when he could shut his stupid, interfering brain up. Forgiveness isn't a
selfish You have done wrong, and now you owe me. Forgiveness demanded something
from him too.

You're mine.

And I'm yours.

How was he meant to do that?

Roy was being gentle, either because he wanted to or because he was waiting for a
prompt from Ed to do otherwise. Usually Ed got impatient with him when he was gentle,
usually he was fighting to get Roy to be faster and rougher and to show him that he
wanted him - but what Roy wanted was to be slow and tender and close, wasn't it?
And . . . if Ed wanted, not for Roy to show him how much he wanted him, but to show
Roy how much he wanted him . . .

Equivalent exchange was different in love, the equations were more complicated and
sometimes there was no solution. He had to do this not just because it was what Roy
wanted and Ed wanted to do things for Roy, but because it was just what Ed wanted, too.
And - the heel of Roy's palm against the side of his face, his fingers soothing in Ed's hair,
his arm sliding slowly around Ed's waist and encouraging him just that bit closer - maybe
he did want it. He felt Roy's breath in his mouth and made a small, soft noise. He did
want it. Just for one night, after the last horrible weekend, he wanted something
comforting.

He opened his eyes, and after a second Roy opened his and focused down on him, lifted
his head. "Are you alright?"

Ed wrinkled his eyebrows and Roy said, "You're being quiet."

Ed scowled. "I am allowed to be quiet."
"But you so rarely take up that privilege."

Ed gave a growl and grabbed a fistful of Roy's shirt to drag him across the kitchen after
him. "Come on."

"Wh-"

"Come on," Ed repeated, and blew the candle out as he went past.

*

Lies Ed had told Roy. Not, actually, all that long a list.

"I'm fine" but that didn't really count, that wasn't a lie-he-told-Roy, that was a lie-he-told-
Al and a lie-he-told-Winry and a lie-he-told-himself, sometimes, that was a lie-he-told-
everyone, that was just something that got him through the days. That didn't count.

"It'll get done", with regards to various reports. But work-lies didn't count either.

"That would never happen", with regards to their being discovered, to what could happen
to Roy. Ed would die to defend him. But he didn't know that the worst wouldn't happen
anyway, and while Ed had dozens of thoughts to terrify him in the pit of night, few made
him as clenched-up and desperate as the thought of what he couldn't stop happening to
Roy.

"I like to be able to see you".

...

Not untrue in itself, Ed did like to be able to see Roy, liked Roy to hold eye contact with
him during sex even when he tried to close his eyes because it was just too much.
Sometimes Ed felt like he was sharing the bed with at least fifty other people but as long
as Roy was looking him right in the eye he was the only one Roy saw, as long as Roy
was looking him in the eye Roy couldn't be thinking of anyone or anything else. And he
did like sex face to face with Roy, liked his weight over him, liked to be able to hear and
feel and taste his each catching breath, liked to be able to feel each soft grunt from inside
Roy's chest vibrating into his.

But, no, that wasn't the reason Ed had panicked at the feel of Roy behind him, lifting his
hips. That was . . .

Even now it made his jaw and his hands clench. Getting on your hands and knees and
lifting your ass in the air and offering yourself -

Woof woof.
Even for Roy that thought was just too much, even for Roy that just made his stomach
twist. It turned out that Ed so often failed to find some much-needed dignity because all
his dignity was focused obsessively on a fierce and irrational desire not to be taken
doggie style. Ed neither understood his own psychology nor had any desire to; clearly he
was a complete fruitcake, but, fuck it, he was a fruitcake with balls and he was damn well
not giving in to his stupid, whiny dignity. His dignity could go fuck itself. Equivalent
exchange: Ed's dignity had never done anything for Ed, it couldn't come crawling to him
now and expect anything back.

Roy was still giving him a look of mild surprise - Roy very rarely looked more than
mildly surprised, after all - as they reached the bedroom, as Ed finally stopped yanking
him along by the shirt and looked up at him. He pressed his spread fingertips to Roy's
chest, smiled but his mouth felt awkward, uneven, he couldn't make it feel real; he hadn't
felt this nervous about sex with Roy even the very first time.

"Are you sure you're alright?"

A very good place to insert a lie. Instead Ed just looked up at him and said, "I will be.
Kiss me."

Roy looked unsure but Ed leaned up and slid his arms around his neck and maybe Roy
saw the need in his eyes, because he bent his head and kissed him anyway. Ed closed his
eyes, clumsy in his boots on tiptoe (one day he would be able to do this with his heels on
the floor), and focused on Roy. God, Roy, God, this, this had to be love, there couldn't be
any other word for not being able to get enough of the taste of another person's saliva.

It would have been fairly easy to say Fuck me and shove Roy onto the bed. Ed suddenly
realised that Roy's route, the tender route, was a hell of a lot more difficult. There was
also the added element of complication that now Ed not only had to make clear what
position he intended for this to happen in, he had to make clear which cock was going
where. He began to panic a little. Maybe he should just let Roy do what he wanted,
maybe that would be enough-?

No. Damn it, no, he was meant to prove to himself that he trusted Roy, he was meant to
prove to himself that Roy belonged to him and he belonged to Roy and that that was right
and good. He suspected his cowardly, sneaking dignity was behind this assault on his
grand plan. His dignity could fuck off. Ed was giving the last of his dignity to Roy
whether it wanted that or not.

Roy was giving him another puzzled look. "Are you sure-?"

"Roy," Ed hissed, and then swallowed down his irritation because damn it tonight was
meant to be all romantic and all that crap like Roy liked - "Can you just promise me one
damned thing, please?"

Roy smiled a little at whatever he saw in Ed's eyes, stroked his hair back from his face
and said, "Anything."

"Don't ask questions. Okay?" Ed swallowed, slid his hands up Roy's body and found his
nipples through his shirt, rubbing with his thumbs (careful with the automail . . .) and
watching the changes in Roy's expression. He began stepping backwards, towards the bed,
and Roy watched his eyes and moved with him. Walking backwards was never the
brightest idea - the back of Ed's knees struck the bed before he expected and he fell with a
yelp, flumping onto his back on the mattress and staring up at Roy's amused expression.
But Roy was standing between his spread legs like this, and his gaze moved up Ed's body
and met his eyes with such obvious desire that Ed's breath stopped in his throat. Roy bent,
crawling onto the bed and over Ed's body, on his hands and knees on top of him and
kissing him. Ed made a few softly helpless noises into Roy's mouth and thought, See? He
can do it. You just have to do it naked while he fucks you. Easy.

Luckily Ed's body wasn't paying any attention to Ed's brain, Ed's body was just thankful
they were finally getting somewhere. Ed's hips arched up for Roy automatically and
when Roy lifted his head Ed let his own head fall to the side, getting his breath back. He
looked up at him and in just the light coming through the window Roy's expressions were
harder to read even than they normally were. He licked his lips, his throat shaking a little,
curled his fingers in Roy's hair - and Roy smiled down at him with no warning and
suddenly Ed wasn't anything like nervous anymore. He was so beautiful, he was so
perfect, and Ed knew he loved him, he actually loved him . . .

He touched his fingertips to Roy's throat and whispered, "Make love to me."

For five seconds Roy stared and didn't move. His lack of reaction was worse than almost
any actual action he could have taken, and Ed flushed dark and squirmed inside and
wished -

"Did I choke on some undercooked pasta?" Roy said, and Ed blinked.

"Did -?"

"Or maybe I fell down the stairs. I can't think when else I might have died without
noticing it."

"Died . . ."

Roy was beginning to grin down at him. "Because suddenly, by some bizarre fluke, I'm in
Heaven and some angel that looks just like Ed is asking me to make love to him."

Red and furious and humiliated Ed snarled, "I am trying to be nice to you, fucker, and
what did I tell you about asking questions?"

"No more questions," Roy promised. "I'll never ask another question again in my life if
this is actually happening."
Ed swallowed hard, stared at his fingers against Roy's throat for a moment, then looked
up again to his eyes and said, "Do you think, just for tonight, we could try being nice to
each other?"

Roy paused, then bent his face to Ed's and murmured, "I suppose it wouldn't kill us,
would it?"

"No questions." Ed reminded him in a mumble before Roy kissed him.

It took a long time for them to lose their clothes, and Ed was almost glad, almost wanted
to keep putting off the actual conclusion of this for as long as possible. He unhooked each
of Roy's buttons and kissed each patch of skin as he uncovered it, and then just pressed
his face to Roy's naked stomach and breathed in his smell. Roy's hands travelled up his
back, tugging up his vest and skimming over his skin, and Ed sat so Roy could pull it
over his head, so he could peel the tie out of his hair, could kiss him again and Ed thought
I love you, I love you, you know that, right? just in case Roy could hear his thoughts
when they kissed.

Roy rolled Ed's trousers and underwear down in one go and ran his mouth down the
length of him as he did, dragging a noise out of Ed before he kissed his way down the
inside of one thigh, over his knee and down as he tugged Ed free of the leather, then back
up the other side, across smooth, cool metal, sensible enough to be mindful of his tongue
in the hinges. Ed just lay dazedly back while Roy worked his own trousers off above him,
one hand stroking Roy's side as he watched, and when Roy bent back down over him,
arms around him and mouth on his, Ed wished that more problems could be solved by
sex. Roy breathed slowly against his mouth and Ed slid a hand down Roy's back, closed
his eyes with a muffled groan as Roy thrust against him once and reached across for the
bedside table.

Okay. Ed was awake again very suddenly, even as he watched the movement of the
muscles in Roy's side as his body stretched. He slid his legs up a little, turned over and
propped himself up on his hands, and pressed himself back against Roy.

Roy made a little choking noise and Ed closed his eyes for a second, as Roy's body
moved back, kneeling behind his. He said, "Ed . . ."

"No questions," Ed said, hands tightening against the mattress. He swallowed. "You
promised."

A pause, and then one of Roy's hands touched his hip tentatively, slid down and stroked
the bone through his skin. "Ed . . ." His body shifted up and blanketed Ed's, warm weight
right across him and Ed turned his head, saw Roy leaning on his shoulder. "Not a
question. I promise. I just . . . you know that you don't have to do anything-"

"Don't make me change it to a no talking rule." Ed warned through gritted teeth, and Roy
watched his eyes - narrowed, glaring, determined - for a second before kissing the side of
his head and sitting back.

Ed scowled into the pillow, kept his hands clenched tight in the mattress to keep the
muscles in his arm from shaking. This was fine. This was okay. This was in no way
degrading or humiliating. Really.

He couldn't see Roy like this but he could hear a few things; the cap of the lube, the
sheets shifting, his own breathing huge and loud in his ears. Ed licked his lips and held
himself steady, waiting, and had to lick his lips again because they dried out almost
instantly. He needed this. He needed this exorcism, he needed Roy to prove to him if he
could that nothing they could do was debasing in any way, he needed Roy to prove he
could trust him, but-

But he was naked on his hands and knees waiting for Roy to fuck him, and he closed his
eyes and bent his head against the pillow and knew that this was what Winry saw, this
was what everyone thought, this was-

"I like your back."

Ed blinked, and turned his head on the pillow a little so he could hear better, cracking one
eye open.

"Your shoulders-" Roy's hands smoothed across his shoulder blades and then across the
scarred curve of his left shoulder, the metal plates of the right. "I think you're going to be
broader than me, soon. You really do have a very beautiful back. Classical. You would
have been much in demand as a sculptor's model, once."

His hands skimmed down Ed's sides and Ed drew his breath in, wriggling involuntarily,
and only half because it tickled. "Perfect shape. You have surprisingly slim hips, given
your shoulders. It gives you a lovely V-shape. You really would be a perfect artist's
model."

"Apart from the metal bits," Ed muttered into the pillow, and Roy's hands massaged his
back in a way that made his entire body roll. His eyes fluttered involuntarily. Oh . . .

"It would just make it that little bit more difficult to capture you perfectly. It just makes
you that bit more unique. In this lighting, it makes you shine, Ed." Roy's hands, callused
just on the thumb and the side of the middle finger, travelled Ed's back and Ed took in a
breath as he felt Roy bend over him, pass his mouth over his shoulders. His breath shifted
Ed's hair. "Your skin. Your skin drives me crazy. I think about you in the office, your
skin, these freckles . . . you wouldn't think such innocent little marks could lead to some
of the completely obscene thoughts they do."

"You could have obscene thoughts about anything," Ed whispered, and realised -
Roy wasn't usually this chatty during sex. But Ed had told him he liked to see him, and
then put himself in a position where he couldn't . . .

. . . so Roy was talking to him, instead, so he knew he was there, so he knew it was him.
Something tightened so hard in Ed's chest that he had to let his breath out sudden and
harsh. He'd wanted proof. He'd wanted to give something to Roy so Roy would prove to
him that he could trust him, of course he could trust him, Roy would never be something
he couldn't trust again - and Roy, calmly and confidently and without any fuss, had risen
to the occasion just for him.

"I could have obscene thoughts about anything to do with you," Roy said, and Ed had to
swallow against the pillow, had to close his eyes again, and how could he do anything but
love him?

"I can get hard just thinking about you. Your skin makes me - god, Ed, you taste . . ."
Roy's mouth travelled down Ed's spine and Ed curved underneath him, hair slipping
down his shoulders, as Roy's lips slid down to the small of his back and he kissed the
hollow there fondly.

"Your hips. I was talking about your hips before I got distracted by all your skin." His
hands slid down to hold Ed's hips steady, at either side of them, and his thumbs stroked
across his waist. "Do you know what lies below your hips, Edward?"

Ed sighed into the pillow, closed his eyes for a second, and lifted his head a little more. "I
knew you'd get to the obviously obscene sooner or later."

"I have found a small flaw in my plan for you as an artist's model, I'll admit. Who wants
to walk around a gallery with a screaming erection the whole time? Still, we should be
thankful for the obviously obscene, Ed, we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for what lies
below your hips."

"We wouldn't be here if you'd been able to stop staring at it, you mean."

"But it's such a lovely example. It's so very perfect." Roy's breath was warm on Ed's
lower back and Ed wet his lips again, loosened his hands slightly against the sheets so he
could tighten them again. "Below you hips, you do have a very beautiful tailbone."

Ed went still. And lifted his head.

"My tailbone."

"Mm," Roy murmured against the very base of Ed's spine, sending the vibrations all the
way up and making Ed squirm with shock. "You have a very attractive tailbone."

"Even you can't have obscene thoughts about a tailbone," Ed muttered, but then Roy put
his mouth to it and sucked and Ed made an entirely involuntary squeaking noise.
"I could have obscene thoughts about every single hair on your body, love." Roy
murmured, and his hands slid lower, cupped, squeezed, and Ed rocked forward and - due
to the laws of physics - back again helplessly. "Then there's this, of course, and I do have
some very obviously obscene thoughts about this."

Ed sighed as if Roy was being very predictable, and then laughed suddenly as a tongue
followed Roy's hands. "Roy - that tickles and -"

"And?"

"I'm sure it's not very hygienic," Ed muttered, tilting his body so he could look back at
Roy, who laughed and stroked across the lowest part of Ed's back with one hand, and Ed
sucked a breath in and writhed; he'd never realised how sensitive that part of his back
could be.

"Hygienic," Roy said, his voice just a little uneven with amusement. "I'll admit, over
dinner I was having some very unhygienic thoughts about you and that kitchen table."

"Not the kitchen table," Ed moaned, as Roy's hand slid lower down his back, slid between
and his thumb began to . . . stroke. He tipped his head forward and panted into the pillow,
"We eat off that."

"And we sleep in this bed, and yet . . ."

"Maybe we could get a tablecloth." Ed conceded in a mumble, and with no warning Roy
had a slippery finger - in. Ed tensed and arched the wrong way and made a high noise,
but Roy's hand rubbed soothingly at his back and he murmured, "Relax, Ed, relax . . ."
and Ed slumped back a little, let his breath out in a gasp, looked back at Roy a little dazed.

"When did you do that? How did you do that one-handed?"

"I'm very talented." Roy murmured, and his other hand slid around Ed's hip, between his
legs, stroked and squeezed. Ed moaned and wriggled back against him and Roy carefully
worked in another finger, leaning across his back to murmur, "Your arms will get tired,
love. Down . . . like that. Yes."

Ed lay on his crooked arms and blinked at the pillow, just letting Roy's hands move on
him and in him for a while, swallowing and trembling a little and trying to relax. "I feel
kind of stupid." he said, then had to close his eyes and grit his teeth and grunt his breath
out because Roy was stroking there and there and he was losing it a little. Roy shifted his
hands slightly and, with a stifled whimper, Ed was losing it quite a lot.

"Stupid?"

Ed squeezed his eyes more tightly closed - Roy's hands were moving, moving, moving -
and ground out, "I'm laying here with - my butt in the air w-waiting - for you to fuck me.
I. Feel. Stupid."

"I thought I wasn't going to fuck you tonight. I thought you wanted me to make love to
you."

"You'd better do something - fucking quick, or-"

Too late. Roy's hands knew him too well, and Ed pitched between them for a moment
like his body couldn't decide which hand it liked best, and -

Ed made a long noise into his folded arms and Roy kissed his back again and said, "So
beautiful . . . I love the sounds you make."

Ed swallowed and just lay there trying to settle his breathing. Roy's hands slid free and
Ed groaned again into his arms, eyes still closed, slowing his breathing and trying to
work out what Roy was doing, when there was a hand back between his legs, cool with
lube and gradually, insistently, stroking him awake again.

"So beautiful," Roy murmured above his shoulder as he whimpered. Ed blinked his eyes
open, lifted his head blearily. "So very beautiful, Ed, so . . . do you have any idea how
much I love you? This . . . I am never happier than when I'm here with you."

"'Specially if we're doing this," Ed got out breathlessly, and Roy laughed against him,
gentle and deep.

"Just to see you, love, just to see you . . ."

Ed writhed and dipped his back and said between clenched teeth, "Roy-" and thankfully
Roy understood, lifted him to the right angle, shifted, pressed -

Ed let his breath out long and slow and Roy was slow, slow, careful, until he could kneel
over Ed's back, his weight comfortable and familiar, his breath warm against Ed's skin. "-
god." Roy panted, and brushed Ed's hair to the side to kiss the back of his neck. "Okay?"

Ed nodded, shifted his knees lower and wider, and if he twisted his neck and Roy tucked
the loose hair behind his ear for him he could meet his eye.

"This isn't so bad," he said, and grinned, and his eyes shuttered closed when Roy rocked.

"It's always been a personal favourite. I always find the angle . . . we'll have to try this the
other way around soon."

Ed tilted his head back and gritted out, "Not tonight." His automail was holding up, but
his left arm was beginning to shake and his thighs felt hot and tight already.
"Well," Roy panted against his neck. "Not tonight, no, we have dishes to take care of."

Ed started to laugh, head falling forward to choke against his folded arms, and Roy kissed
the back of his neck again and smiled into his skin.

Closer part XXXII
Rating: R, for Ed cusses, bless him.
Beta: toxicbullets! Thanks honey, as always =)
Disclaimer: I don't make any money from this because I don't own the characters.
Because I don't own the characters, I don't make any money from this. I think that covers
it well.

Summary: Love is an argument you can't bear not to have with someone.

All previous parts can be found in my memories.


Notes: Ed had been being far too mature recently and decided to be a brat. Thank you, Ed.
*pokes him* Held up my plot for a whole chapter! Mind you, he has good reason to not
want the plot to happen. *cackles*


It's been one week since you looked at me
Cocked your head to the side and said, 'I'm angry.'
Five days since you laughed at me
Saying, 'Get back together, come back and see me.'
Three days since the living room
I realised it's all my fault but couldn't tell you,
Yesterday, you'd forgiven me,
But it'll still be two days 'til I say I'm sorry.
- Barenaked Ladies, One Week



Ed was falling asleep, bit by bit, on Roy's chest. Roy was breathing softly into his hair,
and the motion of his chest rising and falling slowly underneath Ed's cheek was
something like a slowed down train, or the sea . . .

"We wrote a letter to Winry." he said, and Roy's hand brushed gently at his ribs to let him
know he was awake, he was listening. "Al said . . . he spoke to her when he called
Granny Pinako's and she said like, all of Riesembool's been planning for us two to get
together since we were little kids. And I mean, you'd think someone would've told me
about it . . ."

"It is a rather pleasing image." Roy's voice came to Ed more through the chest he was
laying on than from above him. "Childhood sweethearts."
"She hit me with stuffed toys when she was too little to pick up wrenches," Ed muttered.
"And I made her cry on about a daily basis. She spent a whole week pretending I didn't
exist once, she only stopped when I filled her shoes with frogspawn and she had to
acknowledge I existed to hit me a bunch of times with one of them."

"And it never once occurred to you that this was her way of expressing her feelings for
you?"

Ed propped himself up on Roy's chest at that, stared down at him. "Her way of what?"

"You grew up surrounded by women, but they might as well be a separate species for all
you seem to understand them."

"We can't all be you." Ed snapped, curling up at Roy's side again, settling his head on
Roy's chest like a cat. "Not my fault my dad fucked off," he added in a mutter, and Roy's
hand touched his hair.

"I know it's not. Of course it's not."

"Don't act like I'm all wounded from that, I'm not, I'm glad he left. He was a selfish,
scummy streak of shit. I hope the old bastard died in a ditch wherever the hell he went."

Roy's hand stroked through his hair, and his face bent slightly against the top of Ed's head.
Ed sighed.

"It's just . . . I feel about -" He raised a hand so Roy could see it, held thumb and
forefinger a centimetre apart. "-this big when I think about Winry and Al and-"

"It really wasn't your fault, Ed."

"I'd give my other arm and leg for Al to be happy."

"I know you would. Alphonse knows you would."

Ed shifted against Roy's body for a second. "It's not enough if he knows it, I need
something to back it up with . . ."

"You back it up every day whether you realise it or not, Ed, I've watched you do it."

"Sometimes you're actually pretty good at this being nice thing."

"I'm always nice."

"Really."
"It costs nothing to be polite."

"Or to make cheap short jibes."

"That too."

Ed growled softly, "One of these days you're gonna push me too far and I'll never touch
you again, you know that?"

"I ought to enjoy it while I can, then." Roy murmured, his arms cupping Ed's body,
drawing him closer, stroking over tired muscles. Ed yawned against him and his anger
melted away. His anger was always as helpless as an ice cube faced with a flamethrower
when Roy started touching him. He sighed, kissed the skin he was lying against without
really thinking about it, and sank down into sleep.

*

Roy was woken by a combination of sunlight burning in through the window and Ed,
sitting cross-legged beside him in bed, tracing across Roy's shoulder blades with his
fingertips, feeling down his spine and making him arch underneath the touch.

"What are you doing?" Roy murmured, and Ed peered over his back to his face and
grinned and even with his face mostly pressed into the pillow Roy's mouth twitched into
a smile.

"Just looking. I'm starving, I'm gonna go start breakfast - jeez, it's gonna be hot again-"

He was already sliding out of bed, and Roy closed his eyes for a moment before pressing
himself up on his arms, just in time to see his shirt-tails leave the room on Ed's back. He
smiled after him, flumped back into the pillows.

Mmf. Tired in all the best ways.

He must have drifted to sleep again, because the next time he heard Ed he carried the
smell of coffee and smoke with him as he tugged his clothes on quickly and sang, "I kind
of set fire to your kitchen a little bit, nothing to worry about, I'm sure it can be fixed -
soI'mgoingnowseeyousoonRoybye!"

Roy opened his eyes as the bedroom door slammed, sat up as the front door slammed,
and looked across at the cup of coffee steaming innocently on his bedside table.

. . . what?

*

Nothing useful in any of the books, nothing useful anywhere they looked - maybe Ed
should just request permission to go beat the information out of that gas-masked bastard
from the warehouse. He doubted he'd get it; the military could be pissy about really weird
things, considering some of the things they were happy to allow to go on.

He did find a lot of old books that claimed the blood of virgins had special properties,
which made him cough and slam them shut every time. He kept them in a special pile
away from Al. Like his little brother needed to read something like that . . .

The summons took a while to find them; after they hadn't been found at the labs or the
dorms, Havoc had been sent to pick them up from the library. It was a horrible surprise
for Ed when Al wrenched his book off him entirely and, once he'd stopped trying to
snatch it back and had actually listened to what he was being told, he found Lieutenant
Havoc there. He hadn't actually said a word to him since that morning, and he followed
him out to the car feeling queasy, and not sure whether to be glad of the presence of his
little brother at his back of even more terrified because of him.

He sat in the back, next to Al who had his knees pressed almost up to his chest. Ed didn't
know where to look. Out of the window, up at Al, between the seats and out of the
windscreen, a little flash up to the mirror - where Havoc was watching him with his
eyebrows and cigarette raised jauntily.

Ed lowered his eyebrows and said, "What?"

"You alright back there?"

"We're fine," Ed snapped.

"Um, I'm a little bit squashed," Al said meekly.

"Not far now." Havoc called back cheerfully.

Ed folded his arms and glared at the back of his head. After a little pause, Havoc's eyes
met his again in the mirror.

"What?"

"I haven't said anything." Havoc said, grinning.

Ed made an incomprehensible growling noise, and Havoc looked back to the road again.
When they stopped at a junction he took the cigarette from his mouth and stubbed it out
in the ashtray, and Ed opened the window in a pointed way.

"The Colonel's in a really foul mood this morning." Havoc said conversationally, and Ed
opened his mouth, closed it, closed the window again.

Al looked down at him. "Brother, did you do something to upset the Colonel?"
"No- I didn't - you watch the damn road!" he shouted at Havoc, who gave a cough that
sounded suspiciously like a swallowed snicker and did as he was told. "I didn't do
anything," Ed said frantically. "Anyway, he keeps the stupid mugs on the stupid top shelf,
I could've concussed myself falling off the worktop, not that anyone thinks about that-"

"Ah, domestic bliss." Havoc murmured, and Ed kicked the back of his chair.

"You shut up! What would you know about it? You don't have to live with the bastard,
he's not all fucking charm, he has weird morning hair-"

"Brother . . ."

"-and he pees in the shower, that's just-"

"Brother!"

"I think this is the best thing that ever happened in our office." Havoc said blissfully,
smiling at the road ahead.

Ed scowled, caught the back of Havoc's chair and leaned forward, with just a glance back
at his brother, so he could whisper by his ear, "Not one more fucking word, alright,
because even if it's him at least I'm getting laid, Lieutenant."

Havoc hit the brake hard outside military headquarters and looked back at Ed, for whom
mercy was a distant concept, who gave him the widest, most evil grin he could muster -
and Ed was an artist in that category, it was a masterpiece amongst evil grins - before
sitting back and folding his arms, smiling smugly.

Havoc made just a little noise in his throat, and Al gave his brother a puzzled look before
opening the door.

*

"Good morning, Fullmetal. You're a difficult man to find sometimes."

Mustang pushed a note across the desk and Ed glanced up at him suspiciously and then
picked it up.

"Do you know -" Mustang leaned back in his chair and smirked at him. Ed loathed that
smirk. "It's just so easy to drag your height into this that I really can't find the challenge
in it?"

Ed clenched his teeth and seethed silently, reading the note he'd been given. You will be
coming over tonight to fix my wallpaper.
"Well, that's what senility does to you," Ed growled, holding his hand out with his eyes
narrowed. Mustang raised an eyebrow and handed a pen over, and Ed began scribbling
underneath what he'd written. "What did you want me here for, then? I have stuff to do,
you know."

He held the note out for Mustang, who read, I WILL be in the labs tonight, so tough shit.

"An assignment." Mustang said, his voice suddenly clipped. He wrote a note and held it
out with a folder, and said, "Sit."

"Woof fuckin' woof, sir." Ed muttered, taking the folder and note and stalking to the
couch, flumping down. He narrowed his eyes at the new note. Then you can come over
tomorrow night. I'll save the dishes for you.

The bastard.

"So what pointless crap is this?" he snarled, jerking the elastic band off the folder and
opening it.

"This is where you'll be heading next week. I still need you to hand in last week's report
first, so you leave on Monday."

Ed read through the first page - he really wished military documents would just get to the
point, they always went on forever - and frowned a little. "Where is this place?"

"About a day's journey south-west of here by train. I've already logged ticket prices so I
know what your travel expenses should come to, Fullmetal."

Ed answered by balling up his last note and throwing it at Mustang's head; he snapped his
fingers and there was nothing but floating ash left by the time it reached his desk. Ed
stuck his tongue out. Mustang raised his eyebrow. Ed waved the folder at him and said,
voice tight, "So, if I've got 'til Monday I can take this back to the dorms with me to read.
You really don't need me here."

"I suppose not."

"You clearly don't want me here."

"Fullmetal-"

Ed slammed the door behind himself, stalked through the outer office with everyone
staring at him and Al saying, "Brother-?" and made it as far as the first courtyard before
he dropped the folder and kicked a bench hard and screamed his fury until every pigeon
in military headquarters had taken to the skies in panic.

*
"You really do have the most spectacular mood swings. Are you on some sort of
medication?"

"Fuck off, Russell, just fuck off-"

*

Roy opened the door and raised his eyebrows at the expression Ed was wearing, and Ed
just tightened his jaw further and curled his automail into a fist. Roy stepped to one side
and said, "How nice of you to finally stop by."

"Fuck. You." Ed stalked past him, dumped his coat without breaking his stride, stamped
into the kitchen and clapped his hands. The streak of black over the cooker was easy
enough to repair, Ed knew the pattern off by heart by now anyway. "There," he snapped.
"Your ugly-arse wallpaper's back to how it was. Happy?"

Roy leaned against the doorframe, arms folded, and said, "I do find it completely
fascinating that you try and take full and staggering responsibility in overwhelming
situations, and then when you have an accident in the kitchen it's everyone's fault but
yours."

"It didn't - I wasn't - fuck it! It's not important, is it? Anyway, if that's all then I'm going
back to Al, if that's alright with you."

"What was yesterday's little outburst in my office for, Edward?"

Ed glared at him for a moment, then looked to the side. "Because I was mad at you.
Obviously."

"For what, expecting you to fix the damage you caused?"

"For packing me off to the middle of fucking nowhere just because I set fire to your
stupid kitchen!"

Roy tilted his head forward slightly, looking genuinely surprised for a second before his
eyebrows lowered, his face closed. His voice was as cold and flat as ice. "You actually
think I choose your assignments based on some petty personal whim of my own."

Ed narrowed his eyes at him, about to snap, Yes when the word stopped in his throat. No.
He didn't. Because Roy wouldn't, would he? Ed folded his arms and glared into the
corner of the kitchen, waiting for Roy to say something, prickling with anger and the
beginnings of guilt, and even more anger because he hated being made to feel guilty,
every time he felt guilty the great ocean of guilt rose up and rushed the dams and crushed
him again and he couldn't cope with it, he couldn't breathe -
"Colonel Archer is beginning to speculate on why you no longer travel for military
matters. He has already brought this up with General Hakuro." Ed looked up at Roy and
his mouth opened, and coldness seeped out of a hole in his chest and froze his veins. "I
set your assignments, I am in charge of you. It's the next logical step in their reasoning to
wonder why I am keeping you in the city. Do you think I want them to start speculating
about that?"

Ed shook his head silently, his mouth moving to speak, but he only managed to make a
sound after a pause. "Why didn't - you tell me-"

"Because you had already barged out before I had a chance to. I meant to bring it up the
other night, but I must have forgotten. For that, I apologise."

Ed wished he wouldn't keep his voice so hard and clipped, wished he'd give him some
opening . . .

"Being able to apologise for small wrongs is a hallmark of maturity, Edward."

Oh, the bastard.

"Well, I'm sorry for a whole bunch of stuff." Ed snapped, and stalked out past Roy,
grabbing up his coat. "I'm sorry I'm stuck with you, I'm sorry I didn't set fire to your
stupid head, I'm sorry I ever said I trusted you when all you do is rub my nose in-"

"Sometimes," Roy said coldly from the kitchen doorway, "I really wish you wouldn't
remind me quite how young you are."

"Excuse me for being young! Sometimes I wish you wouldn't lie to me and fucking drug
me, we don't always get what we w-"

"Don't you dare bring that up now." Ed was stopped in his tracks by Roy's tone of voice,
silenced by the look in his eyes, couldn't look away or even think in that second. "I
apologised, Edward, and you accepted it, and you have no damn right to hold me hostage
over that whenever you feel like it. How, exactly, do you think that makes me feel?"

Ed stood with his hand on the door handle, feeling his chest shake, barely able to drag
down enough air, and the rage was clawing his stomach to pieces.

"Maybe about half as shitty as you deserve to," he spat, and didn't even slam the door
behind himself, just left it to bang against the wall as he strode down the path.

*

Ed made it halfway to the dorms before his throat stopped up and he was positive he was
going to throw up and his eyes prickled horribly. Oh - shit, what had he done? Why had
he said any of that? Why did he always have to say stuff like that?
He staggered to the steps outside the military base and dropped down there, trying to
level his breathing out. Roy would hate him. Roy would hate him, and not just in the way
they always hated each other, really hate him and he really deserved him to-

No, the bastard, he should never have said half that stuff either, he had no right to go
rubbing Ed's nose in the fact that he couldn't help being fifteen, that he never could be
anything better or different for Roy -

"I'm gonna throw up," he whispered, head between his knees, and swallowed.

"Would you like a paper bag?"

Ed nearly fell over, nearly wrenched his head off with his own knees (and what a way to
go), looked up and stared at - Lieutenant Hughes, who stood far too tall on the step next
to him, smiling down at him. "Chilli in the canteen today, right?"

"Lieutenant . . ." Ed blinked. "What're you still doing here?"

"Working late, again, sigh . . ." Hughes sat down next to him with a flump, leaning back
on his hands. "Never out of the office recently."

". . . huh. That's too bad."

"Well, yes, but I have Gracia capture special moments of Elysia's day for me." Hughes
flipped a photograph underneath Ed's nose from out of nowhere. "She's eating breakfast!"

"Lieutenant . . ."

"Her bowl is pink! See her tiny little spoon? It has an elephant on it!"

"Lieutenant-"

"You really sound like Roy when you do that." Hughes said cheerfully, tucking the
photograph into his top pocket, and raising an eyebrow slightly as Ed looked away,
mouth twisting. "Hmm . . . touchy topic?"

Ed shuffled into a slightly smaller ball on the steps. "We had a fight." he mumbled.

"No. Not you and Roy. Such an occurrence is unheard of."

"Don't - don't be a bastard!" Ed jerked his head up, and he thought for a second he was
about to burst into tears before he got it under control again. "I said - I was a complete
shit." He bit his lip, looked away. "I'm always a complete shit. And I said - some really
bad stuff."
"Well, you do, when you love someone. You can never hurt an enemy the way you can
hurt the person you love most."

Ed buried himself to the nose in his knees, arms around his legs, and mumbled, "Why?"

"Because you can. Because you know exactly how to hurt them. And because human
beings are perverse creatures and just do things like that sometimes."

Ed swallowed again, hard, and whispered, "He's gonna hate me."

"No." Hughes said casually, watching the sunset over the city in front of them. "I really
doubt there's anything you could say that would make him hate you."

"You didn't see his face. You didn't hear what I said. But I can't - I can't be anything
different for him, I can't, and it's not f-"

"Why do you think he wants you to be?" Hughes cocked an eyebrow at him and Ed
looked up uneasily, without raising his head from his knees. "The impression I get is that
he likes you exactly the way you are, Edward. Why would he want you to be anything
different?"

Why-?

Because if I was older it would be less weird. Because if I was a girl people would look at
us differently. Because if I wasn't stuck in this stupid military he couldn't get in so much
trouble. Because if I didn't lose my temper every five minutes and if I wasn't so stubborn
and if I didn't act like such a brat-

"He'd probably like me better if I was less of a shit." Ed muttered.

He didn't expect Hughes to ruffle his hair, he didn't like it when people ruffled his hair, it
reminded him that everyone in the world could reach his hair, and he gave Hughes the
filthiest look he could muster - but Hughes just laughed.

"So say sorry. There's two sides to every fight, and make-up sex is always-"

"Lieutenant!"

Ed stared in horror. Hughes laughed, and flipped through a handful of photographs,
smiling at one in strangely soft way for Hughes, holding it out for Ed.

"Elysia took this one. I know it's missing the top of her head - but that's my Gracia,
smiling like an angel." He glanced down at him and Ed swallowed down the knot of
barbed wire in his throat. "No-one else can say sorry for you, Ed."

Ed looked to the side for a moment, then stood up.
"I'm going to bed. See you soon, Lieutenant."

". . . sleep well, Edward. Ooh, she took a photo of herself in the mirror! Hah, so cute!
You have to see- Ed? Where'd you go?"

*

Al looked up as he came in and stared at him. "Brother, are you-?"

Ed opened his mouth to say I'm fine but enough shit had passed out of his mouth this
evening already, so instead he said, "Al, you know me pretty well, right?"

". . . sometimes," Al said guardedly. "Sometimes you're a little bit unpredictable,
brother."

"Why the hell'm I so damn good at shooting myself in the foot?"

"Um . . . it's a talent?" Al said, and watched Ed drag his feet over to his bed and drop
face-down onto it. Al put his book down and said, "What happened?"

Ed was still for a long few seconds, and then said into his pillow, "I am a horrible human
being."

Al watched him uneasily. "Brother . . . ?"

"So's he, sometimes."

Al gave a softly disappointed noise. This, again, then.

"Maybe you should just sleep on it, brother, and in the morning . . ."

Ed made a sniffing noise into his pillow, and Al stared. "Are you-?"

"I'm not crying," Ed choked out. "I'm not a girl."

There was a long pause before Ed's muffled voice mumbled, "I think I should be a girl."
and he shifted his arms around the pillow, pressing it into his face.

"Brother . . ."

Al didn't know what to do, Ed didn't always like to be touched when he was upset,
sometimes the only thing he wanted was for no-one to acknowledge quite how upset he
was - so he stood up and sat down again on the floor beside Ed's bed, by his head so he
was there if he was wanted, and said, "Get some sleep, brother."
Ed gave another muted sniff into his pillow, and that was the last sound Al heard from
him all night.

*

Friday. An entire day of Russell taunting him about mood swings and Ed bounced rapidly
between blind fury and complete wretchedness all day. He didn't know why he couldn't
think about anything but what he'd said and Roy's hands, Roy's hands in his hair and on
his face and on his throat and holding him-

Saying I'm sorry really shouldn't be this hard. But what he'd done - that was just cruel,
and cruel wasn't something Ed had ever known he could do. All the worst things he'd
ever done to Al he'd done by accident, he'd never set out to hurt his little brother. But he'd
wanted to hurt Roy in that moment, he'd really wanted to, he'd wanted him to feel hurt
because he was hurt. Equivalent exchange.

I am the worst human being on the planet.

He could go over tonight. He could go over tonight and . . . he stared at the report he was
meant to be writing and couldn't even feel angry about getting his arm shot open anymore.
He was so twisted up inside it hurt, and all he could think anymore was I'm sorry, Roy,
you know I'm just stupid and I'm sorry and please don't hate me but how the hell was he
meant to just say that?

Friday night, and like the big coward he was he sat in his dorm room and read the file on
where he was going on Monday again, while his little brother glared at him over the top
of his book.

On Saturday morning he took his report into the office and he really meant to hand it in
to Mustang but he started shaking as soon as he got through the doorway to the outer
office. He was going to throw up. He was really going to throw up, and leaving vomit on
someone's floor was no way to ask for forgiveness. He handed the papers to Lieutenant
Hawkeye and mumbled an excuse and fled, and when he got back to the dorms Al asked
him how it had gone and then got really angry with him and shouted, and he shouted back,
and now Al was angry with him too and Ed stuffed his head into his pillow and tried to
burrow his way through his bed and into another world where he didn't suck so much.

Saturday afternoon he threw an I'm sorry paper ball at Al, who threw it back. Ed kept
throwing it until Al was forced to talk to him, or at least shout at him again, and Ed
mumbled quickly, "I'm sorry I'm a brat, but you know it just makes you look even better,
right?"

And Al's eyes were still scowling, but he said, "It doesn't take much to make me look
better than you," and threw the paper ball back at him less like he wanted to knock his
head off with it this time.
*

Saturday evening.

"This'll be the first Sunday you've spent in the dorms for weeks," Al said casually,
without lifting his head from his book.

Ed really wished Al would stop saying things like that. He kept his eyes raised, flesh arm
folded behind his head, watching the sunset turn the weird stains to clouds on the dusty
golden sky-surface of the ceiling.

Al turned the page and said, "At least you can help me do some washing. Do you even
know how much clean underwear you have if we're leaving on Monday?"

Ed made a mumbled nothing-noise, and thought that Al was probably way more of a girl
than he was, actually.

"I wonder how long we'll be gone," Al said, loudly and thoughtfully, and Ed could feel
his eyes on him. He just concentrated on staring at the ceiling. That lump there was
exactly the same shape as Roy's hipbone, and that little mark could be the small mole at
the edge of his groin - oh god.

"It could be weeks," Al said. "Weeks and weeks. Imagine if we get distracted on the way
out or back, it could be months."

Al, shut up, shut up Al, shut up-

"We could be gone for ages. I wonder what everyone'll do while we're gone? Russell and
Fletcher will be minding the labs for us, and Lieutenant Hughes is very busy right now . . .
I wonder what the Colonel will do?"

Sheer helpless want made Ed's stomach clench closed.

"I'm sure he'll find some way to keep himself amused, he always was very-"

The wail escaped and Ed didn't know how, but his body was on autopilot; he grabbed up
his coat, stumbling his boots on, and Al said, "Where are you going?"

"Where do you think?" Ed choked, and the door bounced off its frame and swung open
again behind him.

"Well, finally." Al muttered, getting up to close the door.

Closer part XXXIII
Unbeta'd. *nervous twitch* Though many thanks to        brinylon, who got it posted for me
the first time when I couldn't ^^;
Rating: I never can work out these . . . hard R. I guess.
Disclaimer: So glad Hiromu Arakawa owns the series, because lord knows I'd've made a
mess of it were it mine.

Summary: Sunday again.

All previous parts can be found in my memories.


Notes: New Year's resolution: update this damn thing more/get it out of my life already.
So . . . much . . . more . . . to write . . . *weeps*


There's something 'bout the way the hair falls in your face,
I love the shape you take when crawling towards the pillowcase;
You tell me where to go and, though I might leave to find it,
I'll never let your head hit the bed without my hand behind it.
You want love, we'll make it,
Swim in a deep sea of blankets,
Take all your big plans and break 'em -
This is bound to be a while . . .
- John Mayer, Your Body is a Wonderland



Ed thumped twice on the door and sagged there, panting hard, swallowing and choking
on each breath. Possibly running the entire way hadn't been the best idea. He leaned on
the doorframe and looked up when Roy opened the door, looked down at him and didn't
look at all surprised, stood there silent and impossible to read while Ed gasped down each
breath and tried to find the air to make one damn word, that was all it took, one word -

He held a finger up - just give me a minute - and fought down the next few breaths. Just a
few more seconds - his head fizzed - just a few more seconds -

"One word," Roy said, leaning against the other side of the doorframe. "Film, book or
song, Edward?"

Ed wasted a desperately needed couple of breaths on, "Don't be - you bastard-" He
choked down three breaths in quick succession and gasped out, "I'm sorry-"

"For what?"

"For - shit - for what I said, I never had any right, I - think I'm gonna throw up-"

"Come in and sit down, idiot." Roy said softly, tugging him in by the arm.
"You're not - please don't hate me, I'm stupid and I'm sorry-"

"I don't hate you," Roy said. He closed the door and looked down at him but he didn't
move to touch him and Ed thought he was just going to collapse if he didn't. "I just want
this to be a relationship that will last, and there really is no relationship at all if we can't
keep moving forward."

"I know, I know, and I - I shouldn't've brought that up, I know you feel shitty about it and
I didn't mean anything by it, I just wanted - I just wanted to say something horrible to you
and - that was what I came up with." Ed sagged against the wall and panted, "I'm sorry,
sorry, sorry-"

Roy murmured, "Your hair is a mess." and leaned in, brushed it back to either side of Ed's
face, kissed his forehead and Ed gave a stifled whimper. "Go sit down. I'll get you a glass
of water. Did you run all the way from the dormitories?"

"Not - all the way, I tripped outside the library-"

"Go sit down, Ed."

Ed wobbled his way to the living room and threw himself onto the sofa, flumping his face
into the cushions and moaning. The smell of Roy and Roy's house. He wriggled there and
groaned to the empty room, "I'm sorry sorry sorry-"

The door closed, and he raised his face blearily to Roy, who looked down at him with a
raised eyebrow. "You have a very strange interpretation of 'sit' sometimes."

Ed sat up and stared up at him and said, "I'm sorry-"

"You really can stop saying that now."

Ed shook his head. "No - it was a shitty thing to do, I don't - I'm really lousy at being
good for you, I know I am. I try but I'm just - I'm just . . . an inherent fuck up, and-"

There was something behind Roy's eyes when Ed said that, and he said softly, "You're
not an inherent fuck up."

"I fucked this up," Ed muttered, and Roy passed him the glass of water.

"Here. We've both done our share of fucking this up. We just have to keep moving on,
that's all there is to it. You told me that this was the most grown-up thing you have, and
you were right, Ed, it is. And you are obliged to live up to that."

Ed swallowed a mouthful of water, stared into Roy's shirt, and mumbled, "'quivalent
exchange."
Roy gave a small amused breath and said, "If you want to look at it that way, yes, it is."

Ed lowered his head over the glass and said, "I wanna say I'm not gonna fuck it up again,
but I know I can't promise that 'cause . . . I pretty much just do fuck things up. But-"

"It's enough, Ed, that we try." Roy murmured, and Ed finally looked up to his eyes, dark,
dark, dark, and couldn't move for a second. "You really took your time coming back. I
was beginning to think . . ."

Oh. Ed ducked his head to the glass. "Sorry," he breathed, and Roy's hand brushed across
his jaw, tilted his head back and raised his face again.

"I love you," Roy said against his mouth, and Ed mumbled, "Oh thank fuck-" and Roy
started to laugh before he kissed him.

*

Maybe Roy should have felt more bitter, maybe Roy should have stayed angry and stayed
hurt and should have dragged his lover through the mud a little over this - he really
couldn't. He found Ed breathless and desperate on his doorstep and all he felt was relief,
and for some reason Ed had put him into a playful mood, Ed dragged out Roy's inner
teenager and demanded he keep up with him. They kissed on the sofa and somehow,
somehow they got tangled and they were kissing on the floor and the glass of water got
spilt all over the rug and Roy could make an effort at being angry but with Ed's hands
clutching at his hair he really couldn't, actually. It was like trying to be angry at an
overenthusiastic puppy. Ed was puppy-new to this still, puppy-eager, puppy-clumsy,
puppy-wriggly underneath him and puppy-happy, puppy-playful with a certain tendency
to bite.

For a moment, it was doubtful that they would make it upstairs. Ed's hair had come loose
and when he kissed him at the foot of the stairs, Roy's back to the wall, there was hair
everywhere across their faces and in their mouths as they kissed and Roy just wanted to
shove him onto the stairs there and then - but there was Ed's 'no stair-sex' rule to mind,
and Ed was dragging at him anyway, coat hanging off his shoulders, one boot kicked off,
nothing but joy in his eyes. He tugged Roy up the stairs like he had him on a leash and
hell, he did, didn't he?

Clothes off, biting Ed's shoulder and growling and Ed started laughing, shoving at him
and kissing him and pulling him down onto the bed on top of him. Ed's hands tangled in
his hair and Ed's breath against his mouth as Roy slipped slicked fingers into him, kissing
him to keep him distracted . . . distracted enough that Ed didn't even question where his
other hand was, was growling and writhing and oblivious until Roy slid his fingers free
and then seated himself on Ed, instead of the other way around. Ed yelped, choked,
cursed, hit him in the side and laughed helplessly, holding him by the hips while they
moved.
It was an interesting position; they both had to be mindful that Roy's entire weight on
Ed's hips could be a bad idea, but Ed quickly lost track of that and was interested only in
struggling up into Roy, who was obliged in the interests of not crushing Ed to hold
himself ever so slightly out of range. Ed spat at him that he was evil incarnate, this was
fucking torture, RoyRoyRoyRoyRoydammit -

Roy rolled them onto their sides. It was too awkward. He tried to shove Ed to the edge of
the bed - maybe if Ed stood they could- but Ed didn't seem to understand what he was
trying to do and shoved back at him. Legs got tangled, and bedding got tangled, and half
a second before it happened they both knew what was coming and there was a moment of
shared ohcrap and then they were bruised on the floor, and Ed started to laugh so hard
into his side that Roy thought they'd never get a damned move on and actually have some
sex. Ed just kissed him inside their wrapped-up cocoon of sheets and murmured against
his mouth, "Roll over, then." and that worked at least. And it was a personal favourite.
And Ed panted Roy's name into the back of his neck throughout, and that was just perfect.

*

Sunday morning sunlight coming in through the window, and Ed lowered Roy's hand -
he'd been playing with the flex of his fingers - and said, "All day?"

"That's the idea."

"But - food. Food, Mustang. And what if I have to piss?"

"Delightful image. You are allowed to leave the room for essentials, obviously. The point
is, we have one day left to us before you set off on your assignment, and I can't think of a
better way to spend it than entirely in bed with you."

"All day, though? We'll drive each other crazy."

"To be fair, Ed, we'll do that wherever we are."

"We'll get bored."

"No time spent with you is ever boring."

Ed turned Roy's arm over and held it in a very definite think-hard-or-I-break-this position.
"Is that a compliment or an insult?"

"Compliment. Compliment. I swear to god."

Ed turned his hand back and flicked thoughtfully at the heel of the palm. "Well . . . I
s'pose we've got nowhere better to go. It's only here or somewhere else in the house."

Roy sighed and rolled on the mattress to face Ed. "One day . . . I will get to take you out
on an actual date."

"What, like a girl?"

"There would be food. I know some excellent restaurants."

"You know, I can't always be bribed with food."

"That's news to me," Roy murmured, then yelped and scrambled to sit. "Did you just bite
me?"

Ed just gazed back up at him with narrowed, dangerous eyes, "Did you actually think it
was a good idea to piss me off while I was holding one of your body parts?"

*

10:02 - Argument.
10:04 - Both parties stare at ceiling trying to work out who was actually in the wrong.
10:08 - Mustang camp makes reconciliation attempt. Blown out of sky by Elric camp.
10:09 - Silence and sulking.
10:11 - Elric camp attempts to take Mustang camp's arm. Successfully repelled.
10:12 - Elric camp announces that Mustang camp is peopled by fucking gobshite fucking
wankers and he's going to use the bathroom.
10:15 - Elric camp returns; squirts half a tube of toothpaste onto stomach of Mustang
camp. In the ensuing hostilities, casualties are taken by both sides.
10:18 - Further silence and sulking.
10:22 - Mustang camp asks what, exactly, they started fighting about in the first place.
10:23 - Make-up sex.

*

Ed was napping. Ed napped a lot; Roy didn't know how he'd ever thought Ed wasn't
getting enough sleep - he did nothing but. Left without stimulation for more than a few
minutes Ed would just kick back, stretch out, curl slightly onto his side and close his eyes,
and be snoring in seconds.

Roy watched Ed's each breath shift some loose hair back and forth, watched his eyelashes
lay still against his cheeks, watched his chest rise and fall slightly underneath his slumped
automail arm, and felt such a ball of protectiveness inside that it stopped his throat up. He
would die for the body laying next to his, he would take bullets to keep the perfect
package of Ed's already-wounded skin and muscle intact, he would kill, god but he would,
whoever it took to defend him -

Ed mumbled something in his sleep and then snorted so hard he woke himself up,
blinking in a startled way and lifting his head. "Whf-?"
"Just a dream, love." Roy murmured, and Ed squirmed into his arms, rolled his body out
and said into Roy's chest, "Mm, you're all warm . . ."

Roy pressed his face to Ed's hair.

I would die for you. I would die for you.

"You kinda need a shower though," Ed said, and yawned.

*

"If you were an animal what sort of animal would you be?"

"If - what?"

Ed watched him drowsily, face half-buried in the mattress and his own hair - somehow
he'd travelled down the bed so his head was nowhere near the pillows, and he was curled
at the bottom of the mattress in an L-shape. "Well, me'n'Al're stuck on trains a lot and
there's not a lot to do, so sometimes - we talk about crap. So, go on, what sort of animal
would you be?"

Roy took another pillow, since Ed wasn't using them, to prop himself up so he could look
down at Ed more easily. "What sort of animal do you think I'd be?"

Ed considered it for a moment, and Roy could see the humour forming in his eyes, and
the twitch of an evil grin at the corner of his mouth. "Weasel."

"Weasel." Roy said flatly, and Ed fought to swallow his snickers.

"Okay, okay, not weasel - peacock."

Ed had to press his face into the mattress, choking on laughter, and Roy glared down at
him and said sourly, "Whereas you, Edward, would make a splendid pygmy shrew."

"Who's so short-"

Roy was glad he'd stockpiled pillows; good strategists should only choose battles where
they knew they had their opponent outgunned from the start.

*

The topography of Ed's lover. A winter landscape, white and smooth for Ed to trace roads
over with palms and mouth, for Ed to choose his own route south to warmer climes. The
smooth, powerful boulders of his shoulders, the angles of his throat and collarbone,
strong and clear and sharp like icicles. The flat plains of his chest, like the spread pages
of a book but Ed wrote the words, breathing them into his winter-white and summer-
warm skin and leaving a trail of kisses behind himself so he'd be able to find his way
back home, back up to his mouth. The ridges of his ribcage underneath the skin and
muscle, the subterranean passages of his blue-veined rivers underneath the warm ice of
his skin. Ed licked the rough hollow of an old wound against his side to heal it as he
moved into the slalom of his stomach, even and warm, cupped by the bowl-shaped
mountain range of his hipbones. He travelled south, kissing his way around the curves
and the lines of white stone to the tropical quarters where Roy's scent was hot and dense
and ripe with sex and he could nose through the coarse hair and find the warmest places
of all, Roy's equator, breathe him in and whisper things that only he could hear but Roy
could feel all the way through.

"You're taking your time for once," Roy said hoarsely from a million miles away, and Ed
rumbled against him, "Yeah, isn't it fucking annoying when people do that?"

*

"What would you do if you had all the money in Amestris?"

"These just become more and more fascinating."

"Answer the question, bastard."

Roy sighed at the ceiling. "I suppose I would invest it in the facilities for you to research
to restore your brother outside of the military. I can't think what else I'd do with it."

The silence stretched out for so long that Roy lifted his head and saw Ed staring at him
with such a blank, open, uncomprehending face that for a moment he almost thought he'd
said something wrong. "Edward - what else would I do with it? I can't buy my own goals.
And it's not entirely selfless, you know, if you're out of the military it's one less
complication for us."

Ed reached out, carefully, and touched the side of Roy's chest. "I thought . . ." Ed was still
staring at him like he didn't know what to make of him. "I thought you'd say some
bullshit about giant mirrors and a lifetime's supply of lube or some -" His hand curled
against Roy's skin. "I think I want to blow you again right now."

"Give me five- two minutes and I'll take you up on that offer. What would you do with all
that money?"

Ed slung his leg over Roy's lap and gazed over his head thoughtfully for a second before
he said, "Giant ice-cream statue." and leaned down, laughing into Roy's mouth as he
kissed him.

*

Roy could swim in Ed's laughter. It bubbled, it poured out of him like he had an endless
supply, which he did; it jumped out into the air around him, it rippled and rivered and
danced. He sounded surprised every time he laughed, like he never did expect it to
happen.

"Roy-" Ed choked and his laughter buoyed Roy up like a swelling ocean. "Stoppit - get
your hands -"

Roy could drown in Ed's laughter. He lowered his face to his stomach and sucked where
he'd been tickling and Ed shrieked, flailed, his laughter rushed and stuttered and streamed
into the air, and Roy joined him, laughing helplessly into his skin while Ed kicked at him
and howled.

*

"Once upon a time-"

"Very original." Ed sneered.

"Once upon a time," Roy repeated calmly, "there was a -" He looked down at Ed. Ed
looked up at him. "Prince?" Ed scowled. "King?" Ed tilted his head, eyes still narrowed.
"Emperor." Ed grinned. "Emperor. And you think I'm a megalomaniac."

"Tell the fucking story, Mustang."

"You would have made a magnificent emperor. Whole peoples would have cowered in
your wake. You would have drunk the blood of your enemies from their skulls, you
would have crushed and laid waste-"

"Blood? That's even more disgusting than milk."

"Then you would have drunk lemonade from their skulls, either way you would have
been fearsome, Edward."

"Roy. Will you just tell. The fucking. Story."

"Once upon a time there was a little empeow big emperor, huge emperor, really quite
staggeringly large emperor-"

"Stop taking the piss!"

"Once upon a time there was an emperor whose height was really of no particular interest
to anyone who had a very good, very loyal, very strong brother he loved very much, but
was otherwise very lonely."

"I hate this story already."
"It gets better. A handsome prince is about to arrive."

"Now I really hate this story."

"The handsome prince had a very annoying, very interfering, very nosy best friend but
was also otherwise very lonely. Until he saw the emperor."

"Who he had a bunch of perverted thoughts about."

"He had some filthy thoughts. His thoughts were not at all suitable for discussion in front
of impressionable minds."

"Uck. And?"

"And what? This is a serial, you know. You get the next part later on."

"That is so fucking lame! I sat through all that crap and I don't even get an ending?"

"I'd like to see you do better."

Ed sighed against him. "I don't know any stories."

"None at all?"

Ed paused, fingers moving against Roy's chest. Then he told him a story.

It involved a princess, a phoenix, the sun and the moon and a lion and a serpent, and from
the rhythm of Ed's voice it was a story not that he was telling but that he was repeating,
word for word, as he'd heard it before - heard it and heard it and heard it, by his
familiarity with it. It wasn't a very Ed-ish story; by the time he'd finished, Roy was just
running his hand through Ed's hair, smoothing it over his head above his ear, quietened
inside.

"That was actually quite lovely," he said. "Where did you learn that?"

"It was in one of the old bastard's old books," Ed muttered, without lifting his head. "It's
an old formula for transmuting gold."

Roy opened his mouth, paused, ran through the elements of the story again. Yes, it was,
wasn't it? If he'd been in bed with anyone but Ed at that point, it would have taken some
of the romance out of the situation; as it was, it just grounded it a little more, made it so
very Ed. "Pretty much the only 'story' we had in the house," Ed said to his chest. "We . . .
she used to read it to us. I learned to read from that. I taught Al to read from that."

Roy slid his arms lower around Ed, the lower part of his face pressed into Ed's hair, eyes
thoughtful, and then he said, "My sister taught me to read."
Ed shuffled in his grip, looked up at him. "I didn't know you had a sister."

"Five years older."

"But . . ."

"We were never as close as you and Alphonse. Cards at Christmas. That's all."

Ed watched him, curious and a little bit wary. "I really don't know shit about you, do I?"

Roy opened his mouth to say You know more than everything of any importance - and
stopped.

"You will do," he said. He meant that. "One day."

Ed rubbed his nose thoughtfully, then nuzzled the side of Roy's chest with his forehead
and murmured, "Well, I've got the time."

Roy stroked his hair back, kissed the top of his head, and Ed said drowsily, "'m gonna
have a little . . . sleep."

"I'll be right here," Roy said softly, and Ed nudged his nose against Roy's chest and
slipped into sleep as easily as a book.

*

About three times already today Roy had actually opened his mouth to say it. He didn't
know what he'd say - "Edward-" but then . . . ?

His stomach shrank, every time. His heart rushed and wilted, the insides of his mouth
were dry and hyper-sensitive, clouds rushed around his brain, tightened dark and stormy.
He couldn't. He couldn't. Give up this, now? There had to be a better time to tell him than
now, there had to be a time to tell him that would destroy Ed just a little less -

You're a coward, Roy Mustang. You were a coward when you pulled that trigger and
you're a coward now. You make me sick, just so you know.

oh god I think I'm going insane

In his arms Ed slept like Roy was the safest place for him in the world. Roy concentrated
on Ed's breathing, concentrated on Ed's warm skin and the hard, cold edge of his automail,
concentrated on Ed's heartbeat against his ribs.

Not today. Not today. Not today.
No. Not today. He would. He would. But not today.

*

Roy was humming when Ed woke up. He didn't know what; it didn't matter what. He
could feel the vibrations in Roy's chest against the side of his head, and if he closed his
eyes again, just lay still . . .

Roy's face lowered to his hair and he murmured, "Awake yet?"

Ed let his hands curl against Roy's sides. "Not yet," he whispered, and he felt Roy smile
through his hair and begin humming again as his hands stroked down Ed's back. Ed's
eyes sank closed again, and wasn't the world just better when viewed from inside Roy's
arms?

*

The sun was setting.

"Like . . ." Roy's fingers traced down his cheek and Ed watched his eyes, curious and
patient and ever so slightly dangerous, as always. "Gold, obviously, and embers at the
end of the night . . . and like very fine Scotch."

"None of the cheap stuff." Ed said, beginning to grin a little.

"Of course not. Only the best. And - not roses, there's not a rose in the world that
bright . . . buttercups, maybe, and yellow tulips, certain breeds of lily-"

"Stop naming flowers."

"I visited a spice market in the East, once, on duty. Those colours - almost bold enough.
Like fireworks. I want to say the sun but it's not strongly yellow enough . . . like clouds at
sunset. Like honey. Like a bonfire." Roy's hand slid through his hair, but he didn't take
his eyes from Ed's. "Completely unique."

"Huh. Sometimes you do know exactly what to say."

"Mm."

*

"He walks in beauty, like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies, and all that's best
of dark and bright meet in - his aspect and his eyes -"

"That's a poem for a girl, isn't it? You just changed the words. You are reciting girl's
poetry at me."
"Please be reasonable, Edward. There are very few love poems written to long-haired
teenage boys with anger management issues."

"See if I ever do anything nice for you again, fucker-"

"-and sometimes I can really see why."

*

"A cat."

"Hm?"

"The animal you'd be. Not - like a little tabby or anything, one of those big ones you get
in jungles. A black one. That's . . . what you'd be."

Roy scratched his hand through Ed's hair and felt Ed's body wriggle happily against his.

Ed would not be a cat; Ed had none of the poise of a cat, Ed was too innocently Ed to be
a cat. And not a dog, though Ed shared a lot of a dog's qualities - loyal and playful and
over-energetic and lazy, but there was just something a little bit undomesticated about Ed,
something just a little bit wild.

"Wolf," he said, as his lover turned and rubbed his forehead against him. "You'd be a
wolf."

A bright yellow eye glanced up at him and grinned, and Roy followed the fire-flicker
there and thought, Yes.

*

The sun set. Roy lay with his hand on Ed's head as Ed slept on his chest, quiet and just
moving slowly, softly, softly with each breath. He thought, Yes.

Closer part XXXIV
Unbeta'd (whimper)
Rating: NC-17 (Ed's fault)
Disclaimer: So very not mine.

Summary: Roy's alternate life history.

All previous parts can be found in my memories.


Notes: Plot, w00t. But I can't find my Secret Ninja Porn Beta. I genuinely am sorry for
any weirdness beyond my usual 'Commas? I have no need of commas! Ah, now I have an
excess of unused commas, I'll put them all in *this* sentence!' weirdness. Sorry ^^;



I was happy in my harbour when you cut me loose,
Floating on an ocean and confused

- KT Tunstall, Silent Sea



"Roy,"

His eyes opened to darkness - still the middle of the night. A hand took his as he lifted it
blearily, and he felt cool metal fingertips against his lips, focused on Ed leaning down
close over him. "Awake?" Ed whispered, and kissed him before he'd blinked.

Mm. Not a bad way to wake up, but why-?

"My train leaves in two hours," Ed breathed against his mouth, and Roy became aware
that Ed's thighs were open over his, he was breathing fast already, chest fluttering against
Roy's. "Dunno when I'll be back-"

"I know."

Ed tilted his forehead to Roy's, eye to eye and breath to breath, and whispered, "Fuck
me."

Those words were almost enough, every time, and Roy's mouth was dry. "Ed . . ."

"No - please - I don't know when I'll see you again, just - fuck me-"

With the last of his breath Roy kissed him, slid a hand down his body to answer for him,
still half asleep and sliding a hand over the arch of Ed's back, down and between and - he
hissed as Ed's slippery left hand slid between his legs, stroking him, slicking him, and his
own fingers found Ed wet, which made no sense . . .

No. Wait. While Roy had been asleep Ed had been -

That thought was more than enough. While Roy had been asleep, Ed had been using his
own hands to get himself ready for this, and Roy didn't even need Ed's hands to get him
'ready' with that thought. Ed shifted his body up, mouth open over Roy's and eyes closed,
sinking himself onto Roy with a long, sharp hiss. His hands scrabbled briefly at Roy's
body and he panted what could have been a laugh into Roy's shoulder before raising his
head again, rocking himself back onto him. "Roy -" His left hand dug into Roy's shoulder,
his right was screwing the sheets up. "C'mon, please-"

Roy groaned, held his hips and moved, and he didn't know if he was waking up or sliding
more into a dream-state. Ed was shaking his head, teeth gritted. "Harder, fucking -
harder-"

More of a dream state. This was something surreal, as he rolled Ed onto his back and
pressed his legs up and apart and listened to his breaths become half-stifled cries. Ed's
hands failed to find grip on Roy's shoulders, clenched at the sheets for a second and then
he arched his body back and gripped the headboard, left hand hanging off and right hand
gripping almost tight enough to crack it. "Roy - harder, fuck me, fucking-"

His sharp whine of triumph and pleasure as Roy finally just put his head down and
gripped his thighs harder and thrust was almost drowned out by the slam of the
headboard off the wall. They'd never done this, they'd never done anything approaching
this, but Ed was writhing back against him and choking out cries with every thrust now
and Roy could barely hear the sound of skin thumping off skin over his own grunting
breaths -

He'd only woken enough to think, God, the neighbours - when Ed was clenching hard and
flexing and shuddering around him and that was it, he was gone, nothing but white and
Ed and he couldn't get deep enough. When he blinked his eyes clear his thighs were
trembling and Ed was splayed across his lap, slumped back against the pillows with his
arms hanging off the headboard still, panting hard and watching him with a wild glint in
his eyes and hair tangled over his shoulders. Ed's breath made his sides heave, harsh and
fast, and his shaking left hand drew down Roy's chest, as he wet his lips to pant, "Time
for another?"

"Time," Roy gasped, realised he was still gripping Ed's thighs far too tightly and loosened
his hold, stroking gingerly over the reddened flesh with this thumbs. "Energy, Ed, I don't
know if I have the energy for-"

"You do, you do," Ed murmured, prying both his hands from the headboard to wander
over Roy's body, underneath his own legs and gripping Roy's thighs from behind.
"What's it gonna take, Mustang? I want this, I need this, I dunno when I'll see you next - I
want to still be able to feel this tomorrow, I want to know we had something today-"

"Ed . . ." Trying not to groan, with Ed's hands pressing needy and urgent, but it was
hopeless.

"Shit, you know I'm no good at this, you're the one who can do all the perverted talk - just,
I just want a mark, I just want to - know whose territory I am while I'm gone-"

Roy choked that moan out, he felt raw already but rocked into him again helplessly all
the same, and Ed's head fell back with a happy whimper. "Harder - Roy -"
A sudden bright, sharp pain in his shoulder and he opened his eyes in time to see Ed blow
on the skin he'd bitten, kiss it surprisingly gently all things considered, lick it and blow on
it again to cool it. Ed looked up, met his eye, raised shaky hands to wrap in his hair and
pressed his face closer, whispered against his mouth, "Yours, yours, harder-" and this was
beyond a dream.

*

Ed leaned against the tiles in the shower out of sheer necessity. His legs were still
shaking, and the hot water running over his tight muscles felt so damn good as he slid his
hand over the bruises on his thighs. He'd remember this tomorrow. Shit, he'd still be
feeling this next week.

He heard the door opening, and after a pause the shower curtain moved back and Roy
stepped in. Ed blinked with weary glee up at him, though Roy was looking over his body
with something like worry. He touched his fingertips to the purpling imprints on Ed's legs
and Ed just quirked a grin at him, slid his hand over Roy's against his leg.

"What? I told you to do it."

Roy stared down at their hands for a moment, then ran his other hand through his hair as
the water slicked it down and looked into Ed's eyes for a long second. "Sometimes you
terrify me."

Ed opened his mouth, felt fear clog up his throat. What-?

"I don't mean . . . this, Ed, that was . . ." Roy still had a hand against his own forehead,
giving Ed a wry smile as he said, "'good different', though maybe next time you feel like
that it wouldn't hurt to be a little more careful-"

"Hahah," Ed said, and Roy stared at him for a second before he got it.

"Hilarious. There are ways to have very memorable sex without bruising each other, just
so you know. Just . . . I've never been comfortable with emotions I can't control, and you
seem to revel in them. It's . . ."

Ed pressed the hand against his thigh closer and leaned up into Roy, water rushing over
his closed eyes, and he murmured into Roy's throat, "It's okay, you know." He grinned. "I
wouldn't let anything bad happen to you."

"Apart from you yourself."

"Hey -! Bastard."

"I also have a feeling that maybe the main point of that was to let you feel better about
biting me like that."
Ed raised his head a little, looked at the dark red mark he'd made, then leaned up to kiss it
again and said, "Equivalent exchange. Don't want you to forget me while I'm gone, do I?"

"Do you really think I could?" Roy massaged Ed's strained thighs and Ed tilted his head
and grunted softly into his chest. "I'm going to have to call Alphonse to come pick you up
and get you to the station, aren't I?"

"I can't even make it downstairs," Ed admitted, and grinned up at him. "Still worth it."

"Enjoy your ten-hour train journey, Edward."

"Enjoy explaining to Al why I can't walk properly, fucker."

*

Ed hung off his neck at the bottom of the stairs, greedy for his goodbye kiss, until there
was a huge shadow in the windows of the front door and a knock. Ed stumbled to open it,
grinned up at Al and said, "Okay! Let's go!"

"Good morning, Colonel." Al said over Ed's head as Ed set off with an odd rolling gait
down the path. Al paused to watch him, not yet moving from the doorstep. Ed stopped by
the gate, looked back at him and said, "What?"

Al looked back at Roy, and something in his eyes made Roy's stomach shrink. He wanted
to whimper, It wasn't my idea! but that would just be admitting that it was still his doing,
and he liked having his body intact, he liked being attached to all his favourite organs -

Al looked back at his brother's face, fixed in an expression of perfectly bright innocence -
and Ed never looked innocent except when he'd specifically done something to warrant
the pretence - then back at Roy's stricken face. He muttered, "At least you made up." and
bowed stiffly to Roy before setting off after Ed. Ed shot Roy a grin from beside Al and
then threw one arm up in a wave as both brothers turned out of his garden and down the
street, out of his sight.

Roy . . . needed more coffee.

*

Nothing Ed had ever done with Roy had ever hurt before, and, yes, sitting on a hard train
seat for ten hours was not looking like the best idea right now. He was also going to have
to watch what he was wearing around Al, or the palm-shaped bruises on his legs would
take some explaining.

He stretched out on his side on the seat and pillowed his head on his balled-up coat, and
closed his eyes to avoid his Al's suspicious gaze. Still worth it. If he concentrated he
could still feel Roy's hands on his thighs, and that was all he'd wanted; proof he could
carry around with him, a mark, something so he knew. Roy's hands had dug in hard there,
every fingertip was imprinted in -

. . . probably best not to think about that in a busy train carriage opposite his little
brother . . .

*

Roy walked to work, a little sore and far too tired considering he'd barely left the bed
yesterday. The early morning mist had burned away already in the sunlight, though there
was still a slight mist-halo around the edges of buildings and through the leaves of trees.
And he didn't know why his attention was stolen by the light hitting the back of one head
in particular, wavy brown hair to the small of the woman's back and a small child holding
each hand -

And when she turned, head ducked to talk to the little girl, he stopped walking entirely,
stared stupidly as she theatrically checked the road to cross it, making both children look
both ways. Halfway across her eyes caught his uniform and looked up. She looked
completely startled for a second and he couldn't even think to move, as she reached the
pavement, tugged gently on each child's hand to keep them from pelting into the park
behind him and said, "Well - it's been a while, Roy . . ."

His breathing was very slow, very steady. "I suppose it has been. You look well."

"Please, I haven't had one decent night's sleep since Katie was born. Katie, Stuart, this is -
" She quirked an eyebrow at him and he knew that expression and it made him smile
slightly even now.

"Colonel."

"Colonel Mustang. Are you going to say hello?"

The boy hid behind his mother's skirt. The girl said, "Are you in the army? I'm going to
be a State Alchemist when I'm older-"

"No, dear, you're not." Sarah said in her soft, very firm, 'this is what is going to happen'
voice, and shook her head at Roy, smiling ironically. "Colonel now. You've been busy."

"So have you."

"Hah. You have no idea. Are you free? It's been years, we should catch up."

"I'm . . . already late for work, but-"

"Lunch, then. Twelve thirty?"
Her habit of arranging other people's days for them made him think of Ed all over again,
and he sighed, eyebrows raising. It had been years. "Why not?"

*

Ed woke, blinking and confused, to his little brother shaking him. He wiped the drool
from the side of his mouth with a glove and made some questioning noises, because he
was too sleepy to manage much else.

"Brother," Al said tightly, "if you're going to dream that, could you not do it in a train full
of people, please?"

Ed opened his mouth, paused, then rolled onto his stomach and buried his face in his
matching-shade-of-red coat and groaned, squirming on the seat while Al folded his arms
and glared out of the window.

"It's his fault," Ed mumbled.

"Brother, I really don't want to know."

*

Sarah chose the time, and the coffee shop, and told him to stop flirting with the waitress,
he wasn't impressing anybody. Roy watched her from the other side of the table as she
stirred her tea and tapped the spoon off the rim of the cup and thought, My god, you
crippled me, do you even know that?

He'd spent a long time forcibly forgetting Sarah, and now she was in front of him again -
not really much taller than Ed, curvy and sharp-eyed, her hair grown long instead of in
the bouncy bob he remembered - he was remembering again everything about her he'd
ever been fixated on. It occurred to him that a few months ago, coming face to face with
her again he'd probably have been crippled all over again - but now he could feel Ed at
his back, could feel this morning too strongly still in his muscles and sharp in his
shoulder, could feel the invisible shield of Ed all around him. Ed's supply of strength was
endless, which was good, because now it had to prop Roy up too.

"So, it's been . . ." She tilted her head, eyeing him over her teacup. "Six years. What've
you been up to?"

"Hm. Much of the same, I'm afraid."

"Charming your way around women and the military. How very predictable of you."

"There's no point in changing a winning formula. And you?"
"Well, I've been creating small people, Roy, that keeps me busy enough." She smiled
slightly, the same lipstick still, the same dusky pink. "No, I lecture at the university three
afternoons a week. Modern political philosophy and ethics. Isn't my life fascinating?"

"Utterly compelling."

"You are still a complete brat."

"I was never a complete brat. How is your husband?"

She paused, and he saw that with her thumb she was turning the ring on her finger, eyes
lowered a little, smiling in a way he hadn't, actually, ever seen her smile before. "He's
well," she said softly. "He's fine. He's still not famous, because I'm still the only person
convinced of his genius, but he's well."

"You always did like lost causes."

"I dated you, didn't I?"

"You did," he confirmed, feeling a little surprised about it himself. "I never did
understand why."

"Clearly I was looking for someone pretty but dumb," she said calmly, and took a sip of
tea. "So, who is she?"

"Who is who?"

"Whoever it is who's got you so giddy, idiot. New girlfriend? Or long-term? I haven't
spoken to you in so long-"

"What exactly makes you think I'm 'giddy'?"

"Roy," she said, her voice somewhere between fond and irritated and gentle, "the last
time I saw you, you didn't have facial expressions. I think I'm right in saying something
changed for the better in the meantime."

"Perhaps I just grew as a person." Roy murmured. The last time he'd seen Sarah had been
six months after returning from Ishbal, when she'd been guiltily but hopelessly in love
with her now-husband, and Roy had been working through his days on autopilot with
Maes pestering him from over his shoulder all the time. And now . . .

(In the back of his mind Ed stretched and rolled onto his back on the bed and said, "Okay,
if you had to get fat or go bald, which would you choose?")

"You don't grow as a person, you're too stubborn for it." she said firmly. "Who is it? You
must be seeing someone."
". . . not really, no."

"'Not really'?"

He hid his smile behind his coffee cup. "It's a military secret, I'm afraid."

"You are such - such - a brat."

"I'm really not."

"You're the biggest brat I've ever met, Roy, and I spend most of my time with two people
under the age of ten."

"I really could introduce you to far worse brats than myself." Roy said calmly. "Your
children seem charming, by the way."

A pause, and that same smile he didn't quite know on Sarah, nothing so soft from her,
surely? "They are," she said. "Even when I want to strap them to their beds to get half an
hour's peace, they really are."

"Your daughter wants to be a State Alchemist."

"No," Sarah said sharply. "She doesn't."

"You would know much better than her."

"Of course I would, I'm her mother. Roy - I don't want to talk about this with you. We
argued enough about this back then. She's just - she's seen all those articles in the
newspapers about that boy alchemist, she just thinks it's cool. She wanted to be in the
circus a month ago, I'm sure she'll get over it."

('That boy alchemist'. Ed sat on his knees and ran his hands down Roy's legs, eyes
thoughtful, and said, "Why are feet so weird?")

"So who are you seeing?" Sarah said, and Roy met her eyes and wondered how much of
him she could still see through. Who was he seeing? He and Ed had spent two months
crawling all over each other, inside and out, and he still didn't know.

He looked up at Sarah - sharp brown eyes, her face a little plumper now but her eyes
identical if more tired, no less attractive though she'd certainly matured, and once this
woman had drop-kicked his heart into the wastepaper bin and he remembered feeling that
for her -

No, he remembered that he'd felt that for her; when he tried to recapture the feeling now
all he felt was Ed, his love for Ed, constant like his breathing; sometimes quicker,
sometimes softer, but always there. The only people he fell for, really could fall for, were
those who wouldn't take his bullshit. Ed would like Sarah. They could get together and
swap unpleasant stories about Roy.

"Why did we never get married?" he said, genuinely curious at this glimpse into his own
alternate life, and she blinked at him.

"Roy - for god's - I would have beaten you to death with the bouquet before we got
halfway through the ceremony. And you would have deserved it. And can you imagine
our children? We'd have scarred them for - and you know, Roy, you know why we didn't
stay together, you know that."

She looked uncomfortable, but she wasn't looking away, because Sarah had more balls
than he'd ever had. Yes, Roy knew why they hadn't stayed together. She had never loved
him the way he'd loved her, and that was all there was to it.

Roy looked out of the window for a moment and said, "We did argue a lot."

"We argued constantly. It was all we ever did."

Should he risk a smirk? "It wasn't all we ever did."

"Shut up, Roy, I'm a married woman." Sarah said briskly. "We argued about everything.
You and that fucking military-"

"That is no way for a mother of two to talk."

"Shut up. You and that fucking military and you knew how I felt about it even before -"

They stared at one another across the table, but Sarah had always, always had more balls
than he'd ever had.

"Even before it packed you off to that hellhole and ninety per cent killed you," she said.
"I cried for fucking weeks after you came back like a zombie. I was numb the whole time
you were gone, I was just waiting to see your name on the casualties list, and when you
got back I cried and cried and fucking cried, Roy, I hate that military and I hate what it
did to you and my cousin and everyone else who's ever got involved in it. So, no, my
daughter is not going to be a State Alchemist. My daughter can become a bounty hunter
in the lawless desert if she likes but she is not joining your fucking army."

She was shaking. Roy sat, waiting silently, but the tears never came and she took a
trembling gulp of tea and was Sarah again, angry still but angry like the sea, unstoppable
and staggeringly powerful. "Anyway," she said. "That's why we never got married. Idiot."

"It's not 'my fucking army'," Roy said. Yet.
She sighed. "Brat. We always were better at being friends than anything else, you know."

"I know. Well . . . I know that now."

"Do you still speak to Maes?"

"More than I can help. He married Gracia, in the end. They have a daughter now."

"That's lovely."

"Nearly four."

"That's really lovely. I'm glad for them." Her sharp, bright-brown eyes looked right
through his attempt at a mask and she said, "You're really not going to tell me anything,
are you?"

Tell her what? 'I'm sleeping with an underage male subordinate'? 'I'm in love with
someone just pushing sixteen'? '"That boy alchemist" drags me around on the end of a
leash'?

"I'm happy," he said, and the words were thoughtful, unfamiliar on his tongue. "Isn't that
enough?"

She raised her eyebrows at him, considering him over the rim of her teacup. "Maybe, for
you, it just might be."

*

To be fair, Ed thought, face screwed tight as he forced himself to walk normally away
from the platform, he'd have been sore and limping after a ten-hour train journey anyway.
It was just the icing on the cake that he'd wanted sex memorable enough to hurt this
morning too. It was looking like a less good idea by this point. In fact, he was beginning
to think he should have pounded Mustang's head into the wall of the shower before he'd
left this morning. Why'd he let Ed do that? Bastard.

They were the only people getting off at this stop. There wasn't even a station, just a
platform and a sad little bag of mail to be picked up, and a path off through the scrubby
bush land towards the town. Al was walking patiently, glaringly, slowly, carrying the
suitcase at his side. He raised his head a little and said, his voice hushed, "It's very quiet."

"I guess." Ed muttered, but then lifted his head and listened. Apart from the retreating
train . . . "Yeah. It is quiet."

No birds. No people. Pretty much nothing, apart from their own footsteps.

"I know the file said this place wasn't meant to be very busy," Al said uneasily, "but
there's no sign of a car coming along this track in years - and -"

"How far is it to the town?"

"About six miles."

Ed really did do very animated double-takes. "About - what?"

"Didn't you look at a map before we set off?"

Ed felt hopelessness drag his entire being down, drag his soul down through his stomach.
He clunked his forehead into Al's side and whined, "Al - if you love me at all you'll carry
me."

"I'm not carrying you, brother."

"Al - please, please, please -"

"Brother, I am not carrying you. And it's only going to take us longer to get there if you're
going to stand here and whine-"

"Please, Al, c'mon, everyone knows you're the better brother, I'd do it for you, please-"

Al kept walking. Ed hung off his waist, boots dragging along sideways, face pressed to
Al's side.

"I'll give you whatever you want, Al, anything, I'll transmute you anything - this sucks,
this sucks so much, you never did love me, you're such a brat and I'd do it for you - Al,
come on, carry me, please, I'm dying-"

*

The 'town' was barely even that, a small group of buildings around a central square, dusty
and forgotten out here amidst the bush. About a quarter of the town's population were
present for, and stopped whatever they were doing to watch, the entrance of a suit of
armour walking along in determined, dignified silence with a blond boy gripping it
around the ankle, dragging after it like a limp, moaning red flag.

"I hate you I hate you I hate you-"

Al stopped, unceremoniously stuck his leg out and shook it, dislodging Ed to roll into the
dust. Ed lay there whining out his hatred and might have stayed there for hours if Al
hadn't said, "Brother, someone's coming over. Are you going to start acting like you
represent the Amestrian army or are you going to lie there and sulk?"

"Sulk," Ed muttered into his arm, and then there was a pair of boots in front of his face.
He followed them up, realised that he really hated being this low down, and stood up
quickly, beating the dust from his coat, drawing his back up straight to meet the man in
the eye - if he looked up; otherwise he'd meet him in the chest. The man was all in black,
though faded slightly from years of washing and wearing, with tired blue eyes and wavy
blond hair and glasses low on his nose.

"Can I help?" he said, and his voice was soft - a scholar's voice. "There's a railway back
the way you came if-"

"Nah, it's okay, we know about that. But . . ." Ed was sore, tired, hungry, and he was
damned if he was going to put himself out any further in the name of the military today.
"We do need somewhere to stay for the night, if you know anywhere-?"

"Somewhere to stay?" the man said, and looked up at Al, looked down at Ed, looked very
confused. "It's - honestly, it's not a long walk to the train-"

"Isn't there anywhere at all to stay?" Ed glanced up at Al, one tired eyebrow raised,
mouth flat. It wouldn't be the first time they'd had to transmute a tent and make do, but
jeez, tonight of all nights . . .

"No, you can - I could offer you a bed, I am the village priest, but . . . wouldn't you rather
get out of here before nightfall? It's really not that far."

Ed shook his head. "Sorry. We're staying, for a little while at least. We at least need
somewhere to crash tonight."

"If you really don't mind," Al said, and the priest stared at them both.

"Staying here? Staying - here? But - why?"

Ed and Al blinked back at him. This was the first time anyone had been quite so baffled
by their presence, and not just because they were who they were - the loud, impatient
teenager and the extremely polite armoured 'man' - but just because they were there at all.
Ed slid his automail fingers around the watch in his pocket, shifting it up into his palm; it
clicked, metal off metal, fitted there so perfectly that he sometimes thought that the
automail and the watch were made for each other. They could usually learn more about
their assignment before it was revealed who they were actually working for, but this
was . . . weird.

He lifted the watch out, held it up, shrugged.

"The last two military officials left in charge of this place kinda vanished," he said, as the
priest stared with blank eyes at the slow spin of the watch on its chain. "So they sent me
to find out where they are and what happened to them. So, yeah, we can't get on the next
train out of here even if we wanted to. So . . . is that bed still free?"
Closer part XXXV
Beta'd by dormantdrake, who took care of this with almost no warning in almost no
time. *Angel*. Thank you so much =)
Rating: R - mentions of sex and typical Ed-level cussing
Disclaimer: If I were published, I'd be *happy* for people to fanfic my stuff. I hope this
works in reverse and that Hiromu Arakawa really doesn't mind me borrowing her
characters and world ^^;

Summary: In a lifetime of bad days, Ed is having some *very* bad days.

All previous parts can be found in my memories.



Notes: I only just realised that 'Closer' without the C is 'loser' and really should not be
finding that as funny as I am . . .


But you know I come when you whistle
When you're loving and kind.
- Joni Mitchell, You Turn Me On I'm a Radio



Beds were such good things. The mattress was the best invention humanity had ever
achieved. Ed lay face-down, heavy and limp, eyes closed and making soft crooning
noises of delight. Mattresses. God, they were good. Good for sleeping on, resting on,
good to share with Roy . . .

The bastard. The sadistic, evil bastard. Ed was going to treat him to some serious
equivalent exchange when he got back. But -

It always was a little cold, now, alone in a bed.

He shifted onto his side, blinked sleepily out at the bare room he and Al had been offered
by the priest. Whatever religion this was, it apparently involved snakes; there was a
wooden cross on the wall between the beds, with a serpent curled around it, beady
wooden eyes on Ed's. Ed's gaze automatically slipped to his dust-stained red coat,
hanging off the back of the door.

"Brother?"

Too tired to process right now. "Nothin'," he mumbled, and yawned. On the other bed, Al
had dug his book out of the suitcase and was sitting with his knees up, reading. Ed closed
his eyes against the pillow and murmured, "S'kinda cold tonight."
He was half asleep, aware of Al's armour grating off itself and Al's bed creaking, but he
didn't think anything of it until there was an extra weight over him, and he opened dazed
eyes at Al.

"It's not like I need it," Al pointed out, and patted his blanket over Ed before heading
back to his bed and picking up his book. Ed stared after him, then smiled slightly, and
said half into the pillow, "G'night, Al."

"Goodnight, brother. Sleep well."

When he didn't have Roy to keep him warm, Al could do it - not in the same way,
obviously, but Al had always done it, always been around, before Roy, before Roy was
Roy and not just Colonel Shit smirking behind his desk. Ed had the best little brother in
the world. And if anyone said any different, Ed would break every individual bone in
their face while he carefully and at length explained to them exactly why Al was the
greatest person ever to walk this planet.

He wriggled into the mattress. He'd do it in the morning, definitely, anyway.

*

"I can't," the blond priest said into one hand, the other propping him up on the table. "I -
we have to send them away."

The older priest stayed sitting, hands steepled, something a little regal in the tilt of his
head. "You've never turned away from your duty before, Brother Westley. You have
always performed for your people and your prophet. Why now?"

Yes, Brother Westley, why now?

Envy watched from behind one of the books on the almost-bare bookshelf, small and
silent as a mouse. This empty, dust-blown hole hadn't improved any since they'd last
visited - in fact, it had gone even more downhill, if that was possible. Once this priest's
house would have been full of books and tapestries and at least a few home comforts for
the poor whining maggots, and now all it had was the wooden chairs and table, the
gapped shelves, the quiet, cold kitchen. And upstairs . . .

Envy had really drawn the short straw this time. Keep an eye on them, Lust had said,
sanctimonious bitch. They have a habit of drawing trouble to themselves - as you should
know, Envy, you should have been watching them more closely in the warehouse.

He'd been watching, alright, he'd watched the stupid little shrimp get himself caught up
with the scarred man - oh, he'd watched, his mouth had watered, he'd wanted to see the
brat get blown open, see how bright he was on the inside - he'd watched him get his
cheap toy arm shot apart, it had been the best part of the evening, most amusement he'd
had in years -
"Children." Westley said into his hand. "Children, Brother, I can't . . ."

"Children sent by the military. Even if they weren't appropriate sacrifices, Brother
Westley, they can't be allowed to snoop around our home - they will bring more soldiers,
they could ruin everything-"

"If they go missing more soldiers will come anyway, and-"

"The Serpent will protect us."

"-and they're children! I can't-"

"Brother Westley."

"I - I can't -"

"Do you doubt the Serpent, Brother Westley?"

The man stood and shook, head down.

"Will you desert your people when they need you, Brother Westley?"

Go on, Brother Westley. You know you want to. He's such a little shit. You'd enjoy it.
Believe me. I would.

"I -"

"Sleep, Brother Westley. The answer will come to you. The true answer. I know it."

Envy knew what would come to him if it was the wrong answer; a long, dark drop. But if
the man was wavering -

Damn. He didn't have the patience for this. The priest went to bed and Envy visited him
as a snake since he liked them so much, and locked his poison-bloated body in his
bedroom come the dawn, wearing his new priest's body and a very slight smirk.

*

Al was going to have to wake his brother up soon, he really was . . .

He looked up from his book again, to Ed curled up and buried to the nose in bedding. It
was strange, because only a few months ago Ed had slept splayed out and always kicking
the covers away, but now - now he curled into a ball to make room for another body in
the bed, now he was nuzzled down and his mumblings in his sleep were gentler than
they'd once been. What had the Colonel done to him? A 'very successful lobotomy' he'd
once thought, and that seemed more true by the day . . .

It was a miracle - it must be a lot of work - that the two of them had held on to this so far.
Everything was against them including themselves, even Al had made this more difficult
for them . . . he still felt awful about that. He felt awful about that. How worked-up and
upset and ill his brother had made himself over it, how upset Winry had been, how tired
the Colonel had looked - that had been all his fault and that had been horrible, that had
been horrible and he would never do anything like that again. His brother only knew how
to be happy with the Colonel, now, and Al would do everything he could to make sure his
brother was happy. He knew that Ed was working so hard towards Al's happiness, after
all.

They were a team. They didn't make sense when they weren't a team. Every time Ed was
a brat, every time Al got frustrated - that didn't matter, because they were a team and
they'd do this together. They would. But his brother needed to be awake to do
anything . . .

Al put his book down and patiently, as always, began the wearisome job of waking Ed up.
"Brother. Brother, the sun came up ages ago, brother - wake up, brother, we have a job
today, you know we - brother, wake up, wake up- I'm going to go get a jug of water to
pour on you. I mean it. I am. Brother. Brother. Wake up!"

*

"Mmmkay," Ed yawned behind a hand, cross-legged in bed underneath the covers - he
still hadn't properly emerged, hair loose around his shoulders and eyes blinking sleepy
and slow. "Re-mmmnn, review. What do we know?"

"The last two military officials sent to mind this area went missing," Al said, looking
through the folder once more. "They never even made one report back. We're meant to be
finding out what happened to them."

"But, like, before that." Ed wound a hand vaguely and stifled another yawn. "I mean, this
place was meant to be rich once, right? 'cause it's a bit of a shithole, now, and-"

"Brother."

"What? It is! There was more at home than there is here, this is just dust and nothing."

Al sighed. "You could be more polite, brother, there's no need for us to be rude when
we're already imposing on people."

"Yeah, well, priest. It's his job to be nice. To be nice and to lie to people."

Al narrowed his eyes at his brother, but looked back to the folder. "The report says it was
wealthy for a very long time, but then overnight the city just disappeared."
"Disappeared."

"This was all that was left. All of the buildings and most of the people-"

"Just disappeared. If this is one of his fucking wild goose chases-" Ed started to yawn
again, and Al put on his most innocent voice to say, "Brother, why are you always so
tired after you've spent the night at the Colonel's?"

Ed choked on his yawn and kept the hand he'd yawned behind clamped over his face, not
remotely hiding the blush between his fingers. "No reason! Read the damn file!"

"That's all there is. After the city disappeared this place was very poor, and it gradually
cut itself off from the outside world. Now there's only the railway, and the train only
stops here once a week."

"So we're stuck here for a week until it comes back."

"Ah . . . I suppose so."

"So laaame," Ed whined, and was about to fling himself out of bed before he paused, face
frozen for a second before he said, "Uh, Al, how about you go find that priest guy and ask
if we can buy breakfast or something?"

"You're going to go back to sleep, aren't you?"

"I'm not! I'm gonna get up and get dressed, but - but you don't need to be here for that,
right? So you can go find the priest and-"

Maybe not quite so successful a lobotomy, Al thought, as he put the folder down
suspiciously and closed the bedroom door behind himself. But then, maybe his brother's
brain had always been slightly damaged.

*

"Jeez . . ."

Ed looked down at his very impressive Mustang paw-prints and winced, touching the
storm-dark bruises with his cool metal hand. He couldn't let Al see these. He'd spaz out.
But -

- the noise Roy had made when he'd just wrenched Ed's legs up, jerked them further apart,
slammed in-

Ed transferred his automail quickly to his face, to try to leech out some of the blush, and
looked around for his trousers. Okay, he'd got a souvenir from Monday morning, but it
was a hell of a mixed blessing; he couldn't forget it, he had Roy written on his skin - but
he couldn't forget it, it was written on his skin . . .

Am I meant to miss you already? There's a whole week at least left to go. Hell . . . why
don't I just wear your name and address on a collar, you dick?

It would have been nice to have Roy here. Even if Ed didn't need it, could cope on his
own, it was nice to know that if he wanted to he could lean his head back onto a strong
chest and let Roy bear the weight for just a moment. But Roy wasn't here, so Ed would
cope on his own. Trousers up, fly up, belt closed - and Al need never know, even if when
Ed let his hand linger on his own thigh he could feel the tenderness of the bruise, for a
second almost felt the presence of Roy's fingers.

Hope you're still feeling Monday morning, bastard . . .

*

Roy's shoulder hurt like a bitch. Like a very specific bitch, like a short blond-haired bitch
whose idea of a good time was to ride Roy raw and take a chunk of flesh out of his
shoulder when he left. When Ed got back . . .

Roy didn't know who he was trying to kid. When Ed got back Roy would sit up and beg,
as always. Come see me! Spend the evening! The night! Can you spare a day? Play with
me! Please let me touch you, please, please-

Completely hopeless. Completely pathetic. Roy resented being made to feel needy, one
reason among many why he'd always preferred a good bout of casual lust to capital-L
stomach-churning heart-clamping Love in the past. Want was so much less frightening
than need. But - Ed . . .

When Ed got back he would hold him close, breathe him in, make him safe. Just for a
little while. Take Ed's burdens from him and leave them at the door, take him to his bed
and let him sleep, safe, for a night. It made him pause at his desk, pen in hand, feeling
tired and vulnerable for a second. There was just so much. How could he ever make Ed
safe and happy? Roy couldn't restore Alphonse, couldn't in his current position protect Ed
from unscrupulous higher-ups. He would work at this. He would make this work. But he
felt so tired, right then . . .

Hawkeye paused, taking one batch of paperwork to hand him another, and said quietly,
"Sir?"

He looked up at her, blinked, let a half-smile onto his face. "Just thinking, Lieutenant."

She gazed at him for a moment - he wondered just how much she could read from his
face - and inclined her head slightly, and left him. He squeezed the bridge of his nose.
Edward. Would you very much mind getting out of my brain for five minutes so I can get
on with my job and my life?

In the back of Roy's mind Ed snarked, Bite me, Mustang, and he knew he'd never get any
peace. He smiled tightly. Good.

*

"I'm just the village priest," he said, as Ed chased the last crumbs of food around the plate
with his fork. "I care for the people of the village. I mark their harvest festivals, their
births and deaths and marriages. I'm afraid I know little of history, our books are very
few."

"But you must have been here when the last two officials arrived," Al said, aware of his
brother listening hard even though he seemed to be blissed-out on food, smiling in a
supremely satisfied way as he leaned back in his chair with his eyes closed.

"I have no recollection of them. Perhaps they were delayed on the trains? But they would
have arrived eventually, wouldn't they? I really can't say. I don't believe they ever arrived,
though."

"Well, that's a pity." Ed said, and Al looked at him. "Guess we'll never know what
happened to them. We might as well do some sightseeing while we're here, though,
right?"

"Brother?"

"There's little to see. The temple is rather nice."

Ed's eyes flicked to the priest, then to Al, and he smiled slightly. "A temple. This should
be cool."

"Brother . . ." Sometimes Al wished he was psychic, so he knew what was going on in his
unpredictable brother's head.

"What's with all the snakes, anyway? Never seen a religion with so many wriggly things.
People don't usually like snakes."

"The Serpent represents the mortal world," the priest murmured, standing and taking Ed's
plate. "It sheds its skin as one day we all will, revealing our new, perfect, spiritual bodies.
One day we will all be new, and cleansed."

"Isn't that nice?" Ed said to Al, and Al narrowed his eyes at him. It was mean to mock
priests behind their backs. They were only doing what they thought was right - except,
and Al winced on the inside, except for those cases they'd come across where they were
doing very, very wrong things for personal gain. But he didn't know why his brother had
to act like all religion was some big fraud out to get people. Ed resented the lot a god he
didn't even believe in had given him; but to be fair - equivalent exchange - Ed had never
given any god anything but grief either . . .

"Okay, so, we'll go have a look at this temple - and we can see if we can walk to the next
train stop if one won't be here 'til next Monday - and if not, we can pay you a week's rent
and call it a holiday." Ed grinned. "Right, Al?"

Brother, what are you planning?

"Right," Al said, and there was a little something of the snake in Ed's grin . . .

*

"Brother," Al hissed, as they walked at a distance behind the priest. "What are you
doing?"

"I don't like that guy's smile." Ed muttered, kicking a stone ahead of him, hands in
pockets. "I don't trust him."

"You don't trust anyone."

"That's because most people want to screw us over. Everyone keeps staring at us, have
you noticed?"

". . . yes."

It was a horribly uncomfortable feeling. Whenever Al looked up there were eyes on him -
but when he met those eyes they flicked away. No-one smiled or said good morning.
They weren't wanted here at all, that was clear.

"Can't wait to get the hell out of this place." Ed said quietly. "Back to East City, see
what's happening in the lab-"

"See the Colonel," Al murmured, and Ed kicked him in the ankle.

"Here," the priest said, stopping ahead of them, gesturing to a dark doorway. "Our temple.
It is humble, but the heart of our town."

The doorway was to a high-ceilinged building which still gave the impression of being
squat, too many pillars on its front face, not enough windows. Ed didn't remove his hands
from his pockets to climb the steps and Al followed a step behind him, nervous of the
dark doorway they were approaching . . .

Inside it was too dark to see for a moment, through the dust-motes and the shadows, but
Al looked over his brother's shoulder and almost felt for him the prickle that ran right
along Ed's body, hands out of his pockets and uncurling - because at the other side of the
temple, over the altar, was a huge stained glass window of a man reaching upwards to the
sun, with a blood-red stone in his hand and a serpent at his feet.

"What-" Al thought for a second Ed was about to grab the priest before he remembered
himself, hands clenching and unclenching quickly. "What - that window, what's-"

"I'm afraid I don't know," the priest said calmly. "It's a very old building. Our books don't
go back this far."

Ed had already run to the window, leaving just a growl of frustration behind him, echoing
in the silence of the temple. Al coughed awkwardly and tinnily and said, "It's, it's a very
nice window . . ."

"The glasswork has stood up to the test of time very well, yes . . ."

Ed was running his gloved hands over some writing along the base of the window. "I
can't read this," he muttered. "I can't - read it, damn it-"

"There is one other example of that language in the village," the priest said, and Ed's head
flicked back to him instantly, eyes searching, urgent. "There's a well, behind the temple. I
can show you-"

"Please," Ed said quickly, and Al thought he saw something strange in the priest's
expression as he turned away, but in the shadows how could he be sure?

*

Through the bushes and sun-bleached grass higher than Ed's waist. There was a well-
trodden path beaten into the dust but on either side the undergrowth was thick and
parched and eerily silent, not even a flicker of birdsong. Ed realised why, after a few
hundred yards, because he knew a bird trap when he saw one, hadn't he and Al set
enough of them on the island?

"You have a problem with birds?" Ed said, and the priest gave him a bland,
uninformative smile, and Ed thumped Al quietly in the chest plate without turning around
because he could tell how nervous Al was beginning to feel even without seeing him.

The narrow path opened out into a round clearing, a little sheltered by twisted dried-out
trees but a huge sunpit, heat-faded and dry. In the centre of the clearing was the well - a
stone circle set right into the ground, so deep that even though the clearing caught the sun
like a mirror the well was black inside and bottomless. There was a little boy a few years
younger than Al crouching over the rim of the well, holding something out in his hands,
but he jumped back when he saw them. When Al waved he fled to the far side of the
clearing, watching them with quick distrustful eyes and his closed hands clamped to his
chest.
"More snakes," Ed murmured.

The rim to the well was a stone snake, its tail in its own mouth, and there was writing run
all around the snake like the cut of its scales. Ed approached, eyes flicking across the
writing, trying to spot anything he could use - a letter he recognised, a pattern, anything,
every code could be broken if you could just find a way in -

He stood right over it, squinting down, and then became aware of a sound . . . very
distant . . .

Running water. It was a well, after all. But-

Al, standing right over his shoulder, stared down at him as Ed put his hands on his chest
plate and pushed hard, feet scrabbling pointlessly before Al obliged him by taking a step
backwards. "Brother-?"

"Back back back back - we didn't come this far for you to get rinsed off, Al -"

Ed backed Al to the edge of the clearing, and Al said, "Brother, I wasn't going to step in-"

"There's no rim! What if you fell?"

"I wasn't going to fall!"

"It's not worth the risk! If anything happened to you-"

Ed paused, shut his mouth and scowled to the side, and hit Al in the chest. "We didn't
come this far for you to get rinsed off," he muttered again, and Al murmured,
"Brother . . ."

The little boy had approached the well again, now they'd stepped back. The priest just
stood at the entrance to the clearing, hands behind his back, smiling slightly. The boy
crouched, held his hands out - and a small lizard wriggled and squirmed in his hands,
frantic and fast-

"The-" Al said, but Ed stared wordlessly as the boy hit the lizard's head off the edge of
the well and, now it was limp, dropped it in. Ed blinked and stepped forward - the boy
scuttled back - and snapped, "What did you do that for?" He spun to the priest. "What the
hell'd he do that f-?"

The priest was flanked by a few of the village men now, approaching slowly, holding
heavy rusted chains or kitchen knives or just blocky pieces of wood. Ed gave their home-
made weapons an unimpressed glance and looked up to their faces - and then he paused,
because he knew desperation when he saw it, and it was always easier to fight someone
who knew what they were doing than it was to fight someone clueless but desperate.
"What's . . . going on?"

"What do you think?" the priest said softly, and Ed let his automail fingers click-click-
click-click into a fist. "The entire area is set with traps. I don't recommend you run. There
are quick ways to die and there are slow ways to die, and some of those traps . . ."

"What do I think," Ed muttered. "I think we just found out what happened to the last
military officials that got sent here." He nudged Al with his shoulder. "Don't let them
push you into that well."

"Brother-"

"Whatever happens - anything, Al, do anything before you let them - you know you can
survive anything they can do to you but not water, promise me-"

". . . brother . . ."

"Quickly, dammit-"

"I promise," Al said, and they both shifted themselves ready to fight. "Don't you get
hurt."

"Yeah, yeah . . ."

All the same, it shouldn't have been too difficult a fight; twist and punch and toss one guy
over his shoulder, duck and spin and clap to draw the blade from his automail casing,
charge that damned smiling priest -

Who swung an arm out at the last second and should not have been that strong; it was
like running into a tree. Ed staggered to the side, dropped awkwardly to one knee and
grabbed a fistful of grass to keep from sagging sidewards, one foot on the stone rim of the
well, eyes popping with black bubbles. Ow. He stood on shaky legs, saw Al holding up a
man in either hand and looking right at him and shouting, "Brother-!"

Ed looked around at the little boy who'd thrown the lizard down the well, who shoved
him.

Shoved him.

Like they were fighting on a playground.

Except they weren't, and Ed's arms pinwheeled and his boots failed to find purchase after
a second's hard scrabbling, and he already knew it was too late. The boy watched him
closely as he fell backwards, screaming out a few words the boy's parents would not
appreciate him learning, and he heard Al's wail - and dropped.
Closer part XXXVI
Beta: Thanks again to dormantdrake =)
Rating: R, for cussiness
Disclaimer: The tacky plot is mine. Otherwise, all Hiromu Arakawa's.

Summary: A collection of horrible ways to die.

All previous parts can be found in my memories.



Notes: My beta pointed out that people who hate cliffhangers will now hate me even
more. Ahah. I'm gonna hide behind this big sheet of metal in my Corner of Shame. No
reason, just . . . hiding . . .


And the heart bears indentations of yesterday's hurting child
- Emiliana Torrini, Serenade



Roy sneezed.

"Bless you," Hawkeye said quietly, glancing critically at the 'finished' paperwork she'd
been handed.

"I think I may be coming down with something," Roy said, rubbing his nose hopefully.
Hawkeye narrowed her eyes at him and he tried to look as pathetic as he could.

"Perhaps you are," she said, laying another folder in front of him. "Then you'll want to
get this finished today in case you can't make it in tomorrow."

Roy picked up his pen and rolled it gloomily between his fingers. "First Lieutenant
Hawkeye . . . you are a genius in office management, you do know that?"

"If you say so, sir." she said calmly, and carried his last batch of paperwork out. Roy
sighed, rubbed his nose, glanced at the clock. If he could survive the afternoon, he was
just going straight home to bed to sleep, without a snoring, muttering teenager waking
him every twenty minutes for once.

Mmf. He rubbed an eye. It would have been nice if Ed could have managed to be here for
him, if he was actually going to be ill. The image of Ed in a nurse's uniform was a new
one, but one he bookmarked in the back of his mind for future viewing; he quite liked it.

Ed and Al had now been gone for a day and a half, and he hadn't yet heard a thing - even
Maes' Intelligence division had no idea what was going on in that village, without a
military official there communication had dried up long ago. No way of knowing where
Ed really was, what he was doing. But Roy trusted, always trusted Ed. The boy spat in
the eye of Death on a daily basis. And this place had some link to something that could
be the Stone, he knew that . . .

You better come back in one piece, Fullmetal. Roy tightened his grip on his pen for a
moment. If you dare to get yourself hurt over some petty military affairs then I really will
never let you out of my sight again.

*

Ed hated falling. Hated it, hated it - so dark and he had no idea how deep this thing was,
and -

(arms wrapping him and trapping him and eyes that could see everything and nothing he
could do nothing nothing nothing)

He couldn't think about the Gate, couldn't even bear to properly contemplate what had
happened, because - because something had opened his mind up and taken out and
trawled though everything in there that was precious and personal and his, and then
crammed it all back in with so much alien information that his skull strained, some other
thing had completely cancelled out everything that made him human, no respect for
privacy or personality or individuality, had torn open his brain and he'd screamed but it
had still thrust back in things unasked for, like he was just a container it could fill up with
whatever it wanted even as he'd begged-

And the word he kept coming back to, even though he knew it wasn't, was 'rape'. The
Gate had opened him up and torn him apart and played with him, used him and hurt him
and spat him out again, curious but uncaring, and now the feeling of falling in the dark-

Al-

No, he couldn't bring his brother into this, Al could get washed away to nothing -

Roy-

He hit water so hard it might as well have been brick, and for a moment the world wasn't
black but white with light exploding behind his eyelids. There was water in his mouth
and throat and lungs and he choked, gagged and swallowed more, kicked and twisted but
he'd never been any good at swimming, he'd always laid on his back in the shallows
staring at sun-patterns through the leaves while Al and Winry splashed each other farther
out in the lake . . . and now he had the automail, which filled with water to twice its
weight and dragged him down like a lump of iron. Exactly like a lump of iron.

This is a really horrible way to die.
He kicked for what he hoped was the surface and his boots scraped on stone (the edges of
a tunnel?), hands flailing and the left bruising off more stone (he was in a tunnel-). There
were ways he didn't mind dying, but he realised very quickly that drowning was not one
of them. The current was more than he could fight but he didn't need to, all he needed
was to find the -

Surface. Air hit him in the face like a slap and he was shot off the edge of the tunnel,
coughing and choking as he hit a lower ledge, bruised his side and was rolled underwater
for another second, hands scrabbling, rolling over and over - air water air water air water
- and grabbing on hard to the first surface he caught.

The current washed over Ed's head before he raised his face, coughed and spat out a
mouthful of water and blinked up blearily through his hair. His lungs burned, felt like
they'd been used as punching bags, but he gripped the edge of stone he'd caught with his
powerful automail hand and got himself to his knees, shakily to his legs, stood on one
trembling ankle and one steady automail leg. The water now flowed in a tight stream it
had gouged in the centuries through stone, now only as high as his knees as he stepped
onto the bank, stepped cautiously forward.

From somewhere, there was light. He could see. He could see . . .

He was standing on the top of the tallest building he'd ever thought could exist, standing
between two pillars - no, standing in the frame of a huge empty window, the top half had
been smashed off long ago. Headless, scaly stone bodies wrapped the edges of the
window frame and the water poured down between them, twisting and glinting, to the
city laid out below him like a map, like a scale model.

Ed's breath slowed, hair dripping, clothes stuck to him with water, mouth slightly open as
he stared out over the underground city. His brain kick-started, whirred like an engine
coming to life. The city had 'disappeared', vanished off the map . . . but how did it just
'disappear' underground without anyone noticing, how could he see anything, where was
the light coming from, what the hell-?

He'd never been so high up in his life, and he was underground. He spread his arms
wordlessly, staring blankly out at the city below him.

King of the world.

His arms lowered. Al. He'd left Al behind him. Those idiots could be doing anything to
him, they could chop him up or throw him down here or-

"Most people just drop, you know."

Ed spun, automail raised, head lowered and eyes narrowed - but it was an old man,
dressed in the same black as that damn priest, his back very straight, gazing down at Ed
almost as if amused. Ed's scowl deepened and he shifted his feet, ready to leap, ready to
fight. The old man didn't approach, though, stood to the side of the stream that had nearly
given Ed the longest and last drop of his life and smiled at him. Ed thought about
smashing his teeth through and snarled, "'Most people'?"

"The last two military dogs who visited. Every visitor we've ever had, actually. The birds
the people catch. The small animals, the cats and dogs, dead bodies, the unwanted
children - anything they can offer."

Ed stood dripping and feeling the shiver begin, clamped it down hard and held himself
stiff. "Why?" he said through clenched teeth, and the old man seemed even more amused
at his face, and Ed wanted to break him. He was standing between him and Al.

"To bring back the Stone, of course."

And Ed's brain stopped entirely. It started again tentatively, uncertain it had heard right,
and then with a rush all at once -

"What - Stone?"

"We had power, once. We had wealth because of the Stone." The old man raised a hand
to the city behind Ed, but Ed wasn't about to turn his back on him. "The people don't
remember the Stone, but they remember the power, and they remember the promise. Feed
the Serpent enough blood and we'll get it all back. Feed the Serpent every drop we can
spare and it will reward us."

Ed remembered the snake in the stained glass window, the stone snake around the well,
the snake he was wearing on his own back. "So you throw people down that hole to
drown or - splat."

He could feel the air on the back of his neck. It was a hell of a drop. Higher than military
headquarters in Central, the single tallest building he'd ever seen. Hell . . . you'd have so
much time to think on the way down, you'd see everything - maybe falling in the dark had
its advantages if the alternative was seeing . . .

"It's the only hope they have," the old man said calmly. "This is their home. This is their
family's home, this is all they have and all they've ever known. They can't contemplate to
leave. All they have is the past."

"Why are you telling me this?" Ed said, eyes flicking between the old man's, entire body
tensed, still ready for the attack that hadn't yet come. "You know why I'm here, right?
And you know that when I get out of here I'm gonna blow this fucking charade of yours
sky-high - and you can't make a Philosopher's Stone just by chucking people down a
damned hole, you moron-"

"Why do you think I'm telling you this?" the old man said, his eyes amused on Ed's.
It was a long, long drop, and in that second Ed felt his stomach fall every inch of it. Oh,
he was stupid sometimes.

"To keep me distracted," he groaned, and flung himself forward. Something crashed
overhead where he'd been standing in that same second; he rolled, automail over his head
as masonry fell, chunks of stone the size of his skull crashing around him - but he rolled
right into the narrow stream, was dragged helplessly towards the edge, clapped and
transmuted a trough to roll into at the edge of the world instead of over the rim -

On his back, in a trough filling with water, he stared up into the grey eyes of a snake with
a head as big as he was.

"Oh, hell." he said quietly.

*

Al kept one man pinned underneath his foot as he bent the man's kitchen knife into
something metallic and tangled and dropped it to the side. The other men, backed away
almost to the other side of the well, watched him from a tight, nervous group, all ready to
attack but no-one ready to attack first.

"My brother fell down there," Al said, loudly and urgently. "Someone has to tell me how
deep it is and where it goes right now."

They stared at him. Al clenched and unclenched his hands and said, "I promised him I
wouldn't go down so you have to tell me what's down there! He's my brother and he's the
only brother I have and I can't lose him down - down some big hole! Tell me!"

The group of men shuffled, swaying, to pounce - but none of them dared.

"Tell me!" Al shouted, but he knew it was hopeless, because he couldn't add an 'or I'll-'
because he didn't know what he'd do. He wasn't his brother, who really could make an 'or
else' sound so nerve-chilling that grown men wilted at his snarls. What could he threaten?
He really didn't like hurting people, and it wasn't like he was about to kill anyone - but his
brother-

With a nervous false start and then a rush the men leapt at him again with a roar and Al
felt tightened up inside with frustration. He knocked them all aside, sent them flying into
the undergrowth or struck them senseless or just used them to clobber their comrades. Al
saw the little boy who'd pushed his brother flitting to the entrance of the clearing (where
had the priest gone?) and surged forward, swung out one long arm and grabbed him by
the back of his neck.

"Leggo!" the boy shrieked, kicking and slapping and trying to bite Al's arm. "Leggo! You
leggo!"
Al didn't have the time for this. He shook the boy hard and as he yelped, he barked, "Tell
me what's down there!"

"You leggo!"

"Tell me or I'll break off your legs!"

The boy went completely white and Al felt awful, but his brother - "Tell me what's down
there," Al said, shaking the boy a little more gently. "You pushed my brother down there,
I have to get him back, I have to."

"Y'won't," the boy sniffed through snot and tears. "Y'won't, nuthin' comes back, Serpent'll
have him-"

"Serpent-?"

"Serpent has everyone, Serpent'll make us all kings again if we give him stuff to eat -
Serpent'll've et him already."

Al's hand tightened in the boy's collar and he saw from the boy's face how very aware of
that he was. "How do I get down there?" he said, quietly, dangerously, and the boy shook
his head, wiping his face on his sleeve.

"No-one comes back, Serpent'll've et him, no-one comes-"

"Well, I'm not letting go of you until he comes back." Al said, walking to the edge of the
well and sitting, on the grass outside the stone circle. As soon as the boy's feet touched
the floor he tried to flee but Al gripped him as only an empty suit of armour can. The boy
ran on the spot for ten seconds, jerking in different directions, then hit frantic and
screaming at Al's arm, kicked and sobbed and bit and bellowed, and finally collapsed
exhausted in his grip beside the well, sobbing into the grass.

"He is coming back," Al said quietly, and the boy pounded at the grass and shook his
head and snarled out his sobs.

*

Nothing for it. Grab the edge of the trough and swing out over - nothing, as teeth as long
as his arms clashed down where he'd been laying. The trough shattered and Ed choked a
cry as he dropped, coat flapping up wet and heavy in the air -

He grabbed a piece of jutting-out stone, a gargoyle sticking out of the front of the
building, jerked on his automail shoulder and winced and looked up. The snake hung
heavy over him, coils and coils and coils of grey scale hanging over the edge of the
window he'd fallen from, watching him with dark silvery eyes and a flickering black
tongue.

Okay, now that is a horrible way to die.

Ed's automail arm still had a blade sticking out of it, but it was also fixed to the wall. Let
go to attack, and you drop. Hang on, and when the snake lunges you barely make a
mouthful for it. Or -

The snake shot itself down and Ed couldn't even think that fast, let alone move -

He dropped, the snake's fangs tore his coat on his back, he clapped and his right hand
scraped down the wall, scattering dust. Alchemy crackled and Ed's hand jerked on the
stone ladder he'd created, his shoulder strained and his boots scrabbled and his teeth
clenched and the snake shot past him. Ed ducked his head to the ladder, held on tight as
the snake's endless body buffeted and bruised him and crushed him so hard to the ladder
that he was sure either the stone or his ribs had to give -

And then the pressure was gone, and he blinked uneasily, raised his head, looked down.
There was a lake far below there, all that water had to go somewhere . . .

And the snake was coiled around a giant statue about three floors below him. Fucking
great.

Ed scowled, grabbed the next rung of the ladder and began to climb. Deal with the snake
when he had a plan. First off, relieve that bastard in black of all his teeth.

*

The old priest stood still, staring out over what used to be a city. One more sacrifice. And
one more, and one more, and one more . . . every time he fed the Serpent he looked into
its eyes and saw the endless, endless hunger there, and no longer knew what he believed,
no longer knew how much it would