Roy was just getting ready to throw on his coat and head out early for an evening with Stephanie from the secretarial pool when a set of voices accosted him at his door.
"Brother! You heard what the Second Lieutenant said! The Colonel's out for the evening, and we'll just have to wait until tomorrow to give him our report! You never like giving your reports, so what's so different about this one?"
"Kill him, I swear, Al, kill him! Sent out for three weeks to watch cows piss in a field! Three weeks we could have been getting some real research done, and—!"
Gritting his teeth together audibly, Roy just barely managed to transform his scowl into a smirk before he pulled the door open to be greeted with a frustrated boyish face and an apologetic metallic one. "Evening, boys," he greeted smoothly, and tried to step around them, but Edward leapt almost admirably into his path, arms thrown out comically to the sides as if to reinforce the order to stop. The colonel sighed dramatically, casting his eyes to the ceiling. "Didn't the Lieutenant inform you, Fullmetal? I'm busy tonight. I'm sure the insults and swear words that you deem worthy to pass off as a legible report can wait until morning."
It should have been the end of the argument, but the blonde clenched his jaw shut firmly and stood his ground, glare omnipresent and heartbreakingly familiar blush beginning to appear across his face. "Your tramps can wait," he growled, looking up through floppy golden bangs and looking nothing short of young. "This is actually important, you know."
"...Is that so?" Roy arched an eyebrow, took a look at the clock, and decided that to humor the short-tempered little blonde wouldn't make him any more late for his date than what he already was. "Well, then, come in." He stood off to the side and cast a wary look at Alphonse, who at least had the decency to look a little bit remorseful for his brother's actions.
"I'm sorry," the younger Elric apologized, rubbing a gauntlet to the back of his head, "but Brother seemed really adamant about seeing you, and—"
"Okay, you can wait outside, Al!" Edward said then, loudly, and started pushing his younger brother out the door, only stopping when the tips of spiked shoulders had crossed the threshold and he had slammed the thick oak behind them, sagging against the door in what could have been classified as relief.
For a moment, there was silence. The boy looked up from where he was slumped against the door, cheeks still that bizarrely feminine rosy color, hands planted on either side of his legs as though bracing to run away, lips parted almost a fraction. Roy stared back, looking down the bridge of his nose as though to enforce the gross differences in their heights, motionless save for the tips of his fingers, which were rubbing together slightly as they always did when he was...not nervous; appropriately wary.
He cracked a dry smile. "May I inquire as to this 'important business' you seem to have with me, Fullmetal?" he asked politely, albeit blandly, and willed his hands to stop that traitorous twitching.
Edward started, as though surprised to be addressed so bluntly, and dug his fingers even further into the wood of the door. Unwittingly, the older alchemist remembered the same way those fingers had scrabbled uselessly at a metallic stall door as the words 'F-Fuck you, Colonel Mustang!' had echoed mercilessly off of the bathroom walls; he tried to swallow in a way that wasn't obvious.
"Three...three weeks," Edward said finally, slowly and perpetually out-of-breath, the same as always. "You... You sent us to that hole for th-three weeks, and all we did was watch farmers shovel dirt and horses chew grass. You shit! But of course I would just happen to get into a fight with the mayor's pig-headed son, and accidentally collapse the train depot—the train depot which, might I point out, was expecting it's semi-annual shipment of supplies from Drachma, though I'm sure you already knew that! And, of course, now the town has no choice but to accept Amestrian aid, and ally themselves with the Fuhrer, right? So here I go, busting my ass yet again in the hopes that they would actually have a Philosopher's Stone to use in this stupid festival of theirs, and what do I get? Straw all in my hair, and two jabs of a pitchfork to my ass because I happened to—to..." A falter in the lengthy tirade, and Roy tried very hard not to laugh. "...to...tip over one of Farmer Hogswell's cows," the blonde finished in an embarrassed mutter, turning his head to the side and flushing even more than his usual sunburned complexion.
Roy crossed his arms and seemed to mull it over for a minute, before sighing and shaking his head. "That was your matter of great importance?" he queried tonelessly, letting his annoyance show in his eyes and stiff posture. He took a step for the door, wondering just what a plausible excuse for his tardiness would be to give Stephanie, but Edward dug his heels into the carpet and shook his head, still not relinquishing his hold on the door.
"I-I'm... I'm not through with you y-yet, bastard!" he breathed, voice slightly higher than usual, and sounding slightly panicked. "I-I'm...I'm your subordinate, I'm more important th-than whoever you're c-consorting with f-from the s-secretarial pool," he added, as though trying to convince himself of that fact, as well, and still didn't budge from his place at the door.
"Move, Fullmetal," Roy ordered, quiet yet deadly, the portrait of dismissal. "Whatever other business you might have with me can always wait until tomorrow."
Twin yellow eyes flickered in his direction like sunlight rippling off the water, wavering and uncertain. "Can't...?" A sharp inhalation, the gathering of courage. "Can't...whatever business you have with them w-wait...until..."
Not about to let his dinner plans be ruined by a pig-headed thirteen year old old, not about to admit that he was afraid of said pig-headed thirteen year old, Roy took a step forward and grabbed the blonde by the wrist.
His only thought then had been to force his way out of the door, if need be, but as Edward pivoted, sharply, and flung the older man over his shoulder with a reactionary speed that suggested he had been waiting for the movement, Roy acted entirely out of instinct. He kept the momentum rolling and somersaulted head-over-heels to slam Edward into the carpet, and none too gently, either. For a moment, he marveled at the stillness of the small form beneath him, until he realized, far too late, that he had just fallen into another cleverly-laid trap.
The younger alchemist shook beneath him, minutely, hands fisting and unclenching slowly, pulse beating visibly through the skin of his skinny—and hopelessly dirty, as well—neck, eyes as wide as bronze coins, and legs kicking a bit, weakly, in an attempt to find some purchase on the carpet.
"L...Let me up," he ordered breathlessly, but his eyes begged to be held down, to be pinned, and his automail leg snaked around Roy's calf and hooked, as though it could be held there through sheer will. It was fucking stupid of the boy to let himself be caught in such a trap, and yet he had gambled anyway, had taken a chance at imminent violence for a single shot at a familiarity he would have otherwise never had.
"What," the colonel asked quietly, not necessarily angry anymore, "exactly are you trying to gain, from this?"
His tone—mildly flat, cautiously curious—seemed to give Edward courage, and the blonde took a shaking breath, narrow chest accidentally brushing the ornamental medals on the older man's uniform.
"You... You treat me and my brother like shit," he announced, and only his telltale blush gave any indication that the words weren't truthful ones; they were, undoubtedly, but they pertained to an entirely different scenario than the one at hand. "On this day you need our report as quickly as possible, on that other day we're stuck at the dorms for as long as a week while you clear room in your schedule to listen to us tell you things that you already know. It's annoying, it's a pain in the ass, and...and I hate it; you're such a bastard."
"...And?" Roy prompted dispassionately, shifting a bit from the effort of keeping himself propped up on his arms on the floor. At the movement, Edward hissed and turned even redder, wriggling his shoulders as though trying to sink down into the floorboards, scrunching up instinctively.
"And...and..." For a moment, words seemed to fail the intrinsically verbose blonde, but he found the answer from somewhere deep within his mind, and spat out a series of vehement words that caused the older alchemist's stomach to go plummeting directly to his toes.
"I won't take second place to anyone."
For a moment, the air seemed to crackle and freeze at the pronunciation of those dreadful syllables, time seemed to slow and governments seemed to stop, and Roy felt his grip tighten on those bony wrists hard enough to hurt. "Don't... Don't be ridiculous," he scoffed, turning his fear of the proverbial pedestal into an annoyance he could feel, and an anger he could use. "You're my subordinate, and..."
Edward's face seemed to close up, and his eyes broke like a wave on the shore; he drew in a hitching breath, closed his eyes, and waited for the inevitable blow. It was a pathetic face, a cringed and cowed and craven face that belonged on a starving street urchin more than it belonged on the Fullmetal Alchemist, and against his will, Roy leaned forward, moderating his words and his tone.
"...and...still just a...kid..."
It was terrible, it was traumatic, it was horrifically flattering to see such intense reactions to every single one of his actions, and Roy faltered, holding a jaded heart in his hands and not having any goddamned clue what to do with it. He was still hunched, bent over and pinning Edward's wrists to the floor, and his breathing was starting to grow as frantic and as irregular as the other's.
And, damnably so, the blonde leaned up to meet every inch that Roy backed down, straining the tendons in his neck and fluttering his eyelashes in trepidation, though his eyes still remained shut closed. For a moment, there was stiffness; it was an embrace that was not an embrace, because the angle was all wrong and the boy's hands were still pinned, but it was a terrifying nearness that made the older alchemist's head spin.
"...and I...really..." But it was those eyes that were doing him in, slowly and certainly, and he felt like he was drowning, watching motionlessly as the sea closed in over his head; he hated the rain.
Closer, still, ever closer. There was golden hair against the side of his cheek, almost hypocritical in it's inherent softness, and a face leaned heavily into his neck, butterfly-kissing just underneath the lobe of his ear and breathing roughly into the edges of his hair. Wrists jerked underneath of his palms; reflexive, not resisting, and hips squirmed artlessly up into his own, moving recklessly, and of their own volition.
"...shouldn't..." He lowered his head, he lowered his goddamned head, and thought randomly of the phrase 'cease-fire'.
There was a moment of silence after that, respectful of the dead.
"...Sorry," the dark-haired man whispered at last, but the brush of his lips against the shell of that warm ear was all that he was able to give the boy, and he felt the tension ease out of his frame as he pushed himself to his feet; he was the rubber band that hadn't snapped, not yet. Miraculously, he had escaped this trap intact, and alive.
"I'll hear your report tomorrow," he said cautiously, voice cracking under the strain, and focused every fiber of his being on walking out of that door. And he gave himself credit—he didn't even bolt.
Out in the safety of the lounge, he took a deep breath, let it out in a sigh, and closed the door softly on Edward's ragged sob, from his place where he was still lying on the floor.
It was around that time, Roy could say, that the Fullmetal Alchemist started taking on the most dangerous missions from that part of his lifetime. Street gangs, serial rapists, hell, even a mass-murderer from Colinsworth who had started killing people in an attempt to find an appropriate body for which to attach his dead wife's soul. All cases relating in some way to the Philosopher's Stone, of course, but it seemed as though Edward took a sadistic glee in listening to the colonel's weak protests as to why he shouldn't go there, or the dangers that lay in wait in that place; always—inexcusably—waiting for those few humdrum, sentimentally-ensnaring words: I don't want you to go. Still sore from falling so gracelessly into the boy's last trap, Roy let him go, let him come back bruised and bloody and no more knowledgable about his quest for the Philosopher's Stone than knowledgeable about his quest into his superior officer's heart.
"Could've died, you know," and though the ploy was easily recognizable as one, the older alchemist still couldn't stop himself from sucking in a harsh breath, or from inadvertantly narrowing his eyes. Edward glowered, under the pretense of petulance, but burning within his eyes was a childish joy that was absolutely appalling to behold as he talked so carelessly about his near-death. "Maybe you'll think twice before sending me into some shit-place to run your shit errands, eh?"
That year, Roy remembered, was the year that his smiles were perpetually tinged with gloom.
"Some lessons are just never learned," he replied, smirking darkly, and was rewarded with Edward's obnoxious, almost hysterical laughter.
"Sir," said Lieutenant Hawkeye crisply one Thursday afternoon, "just what is the meaning of this?"
She held up, distastefully, between her thumb and forefinger, the remnants of Edward's last report, which had been lying on the colonel's desk waiting to be checked over and approved for filing. In a fit of restlessness and boredom, Roy had taken the stapler and added an aluminum beard to that bright-eyed, brashly grinning face.
"Why Lieutenant," he huffed in offense, lying clearly through his sharkly-smiling teeth, "I have absolutely no idea."
"That was Edward-kun's official enlistment photo," Hawkeye informed him flatly, not at all impressed with his fibbery, and Roy took a closer look at the image at hand; why yes, yes it was. He raised an eyebrow at her, and momentarily, she glared.
"Since you've so gleefully mangled it," she said stiffly, and with no small amount of asperity, "then you'll just have to use up your lunch break to photograph a new one, won't you, sir? You can telephone supplies and ask to borrow one of their cameras, and while you're doing that, I'll call and set up an appointment with Edward-kun."
Her tone, as it always did, left no room for argument, but that was one of the few times in his life that Roy had seriously considered it. For a moment, he contemplated dialing emergency services, but gave it up with typical resignation and dialed supplies instead.
"This is your fault, you know," Edward grumbled sulkily, fidgeting and twisting from his spot on the couch in the most ridiculous way. "Why the hell'd you have to mess with my enlistment photo, anyway?" His hands, dropped carelessly into his lap, began to wring together in a way that made the automail hiss, and Roy winced. "It was a pain in the ass to get it taken back then, and it's a pain in the ass to get it taken now."
Roy stood up straight, stretching out his back. "There; over in a flash, pardoning the pun." He was quietly disconcerted at the way Edward's eyes tracked the lines of his body through his clothes, because it was something that no thirteen-year-old should want or wish or worship from a man so much higher in rank than they were, and fourteen years their senior, to boot, and yet, the boy did.
Angry at the situation, Roy retaliated in the most subtle way he could think: "A moment, please. And don't move, Fullmetal."
Though he was in the process of threading one arm through the sleeve of his coat, Edward froze, leaving said arm pirouetted comically through the air, a confused and vaguely petrified look on his face. Roy leaned over casually, and pressed the shutter button of the camera.
"And that one," he said silkily, with just an undercurrent of loathing that probably only he could catch, "is for me."
Edward gaped, and flushed, and even took a jerky step forward before the inflections of the situation caught up to him, and he slammed his jaw shut with a snap.
"Bastard," he hissed, face reddening from anger now, instead of embarrassment, and yanked his coat on the rest of the way. At the door, however, he paused, and his looked turned terrible and somewhat sly.
"If you like that," he grinned tightly, before slamming the door shut furiously, "then I'll send you some naked ones along with my next report; how's that?"
The clock ticked up on the wall, and the camera toppled from it's perch on the tripod and was sent smashing to the floor; unbroken, thank God, because no amount of Hawkeye-torture was worth the horror of another photograph session like this one, again.
"...They'd go nicely on the bookshelf, I think," Roy murmured aloud, to his empty office.