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chapter 8. Hell Hath No Fuhrer

"Sir, I must protest," Riza Hawkeye says to Roy Mustang calmly, the gun barrel pointing between his eyes belying the tranquility of her words. "You absolutely cannot go out on a date with Edw—with Major Elric this evening," she corrects severely, narrowing her eyes slightly.

Roy sighs; wants to rake hair out of his face, but is quite frankly too afraid to move his hands—he leaves them raised politely in surrender, and just a touch of fear. He couldn't even understand why this was happening—Lieutenant Hawkeye was pissed, certainly, pissed probably because she too was extremely protective of Fullmetal—but everyone needed to just back off and let him control this situation, because if they tried to interfere then his careful planning would most definitely fall into ruin then.

"First Lieutenant," he replies, equally as serene, "I have told you time and time again that this is not a date, this is a protection warrant issued by the military—I have political enemies, as I'm sure you're aware, and Fullmetal will serve as an undoubtedly effective bodyguard—so I would very much appreciate it if you would stop balking on this matter and deliver the mission summons."

"What's happening?" Mustang hears Fury ask from the back of the room; he averts his eyes from Hawkeye's for just a moment to see a good-sized portion of his staff gathering around the back of the office, some actually huddling behind their desks as a protective measure.

"The Colonel still thinks that he's Hawkeye's superior officer in more than just name," Breda snickers.

"The First Lieutenant doesn't want to deliver a mission summons to Edward-san," Farman replies at the same time.

"'Mission summons', hunh?" Havoc snorts in disbelief shortly after that. "From what I hear between the two of them, it's not a missionat all, it's a d—"

He is cut off, however, as his stick of cigarette inexplicably bursts into flame.

Subtly shifting his wrist back into place, Roy quirks an eyebrow—a single eyebrow—at Hawkeye, ignoring Havoc's panicked flails and screams in the background. Dangerous to talk here, that looks says, and from Hawkeye's jerky nod he can tell that she at last understands. She stalks up to him and veritably rips the manilla folder from his hands.

"Will that be all, sir?" she inquires stiffly, fingers gripping the papers hard enough to leave crescent marks from her fingernails—manicured, he notices belatedly, the First Lieutenant actually got her nails done.

"Nothing really," he answers, and allows a smug grin at the thought of Edward's face when he got that letter. "Ah, Lieutenant? Would you kindly tell the little snotrag to, for once in his life, be on time?" he smirks arrogantly in afterthought, sparing a cursory glance at the staff who had rallied together to put out a smoking Second Lieutenant Havoc.

Something in her faces changes; slightly, but there is a change there, the same way there has been a change in Edward as of late—deepening, planing out, growing harder—and damn, he had just missed what Hawkeye had said because he was following an illicit, inappropriate train of thought.

"Sorry, what was that?"

"I said," the willowly blond pronounces clearly, "that you are an idiot for gambling with your position like this, and that I hope to God that Edwa—that Major Elric values his position more, and turns you down." She returns her second gun to its holster and spins on her heel—had she gotten a pedicure to go along with her manicure?—clicking brisk stomps out of the office.

Roy sags in relief and takes a few stumbling steps backward, falling into his chair. A position thing. It was a position thing, not an age thing. Hawkeye was just concerned, that was all, because she was working hard under him to push him to the top, and something like this, if not handled correctly, really would ruin his career—and hers, too, if anyone were to suspect that she was an accomplice.

The situation is delicate, but it's probably just a one-time situation, it's a weird sort of whim he wished to indulge, more for Edward's sake than this own—"Say that you're gonna stop going out on dates; that you're gonna pitch that address book of yours, that you're gonna replace your stupid alchemical code with something other than girls' names—say it, damn you, or I'll...—!"—and he blatantly ignores the fact that giving the boy physical release was supposed to be nothing more than a one-time thing as well.

Mustang is quickly losing control of this situation; he is groping for it as awkwardly and hopelessly as two virgins fumble at each other in the dark(he stomps on his foot below his desk to quell the images the comparison unearths), and he is starting to lose sight of the facts. He blames it entirely on himself, of course—a photogenic memory as opposed to an audio one—because he doesn't remember Edward by the things he says, but rather, the things he does while saying them; hands flexing subconciously like claws ("Doing all that...saying all that...making me feel that way...you're trying to tell me that it was just a bad decision?!"), colorless lips pulled back in a snarl ("So fuck, give me an honest answer for a change! If you do this, are you gonna mean it?"), a watery grin that hides uncertainty in the eyes ("When you've got my arm off, I can't fight back. And when you've got my leg off, I can't run away. I'll be well and truly caught; how would you like that?")... Dear God, he was the one who was well and truly caught—Fullmetal evokes in him a horrible spread of emotions ranging from a nearly paternal pity to abominable lust—and it's not fair that the boy should be so endearing in everything he does.

"Ugh," Roy sighs aloud, and fixes the remainder of his staff with an irritated glare. "What are you all staring at? Get back to work, I said!"

Fury squeaks, Farman shrugs, Breda has the nerve to actually snicker, but Havoc; curious, trusting, obscenely dense Havoc is actually the one who walks up to his desk, if not a bit cautiously. "Uh...Colonel?" he prods hesitantly; Roy nearly snaps his fingers to scare him off, but remembers forced patience and merely raises an eyebrow. Gaining confidence from the fact that he wasn't on fire yet, Havoc goes on. "Are you and the boss really going out on a...on a...going out, tonight?" he prompts with a slightly dubious air, but at least he hasn't said the ill-fated 'd'-word yet.

"He is my bodyguard," Mustang repeats for the eight hundred millionth time that day, and just in time remembers a cocky grin. "He'll hate it, you know, since he's the one usually trying to take a stab at me, and now he'll have to protect me from unscrupulous assailants."

Havoc looks relieved, but still a little uncertain. He does, however, light up a new cigarette and grin around it, showing his teeth. "And I'm safe to assume that the venerable Colonel will be needing a driver for the night?" he asks; his grin has turned knowing, and Roy relaxes, if only a little bit. Fullmetal was making him paranoid. Not everyone around them was their enemy, after all.

"If you'll put out that damned cigarette, you're hired," he says.

The rest of the day goes by in a sort of dreamlike slowness; paperwork has accumulated to a near-fatal amount during the days he has been out (seducing his adolescent subordinate) sick, and without Lieutenant Hawkeye breathing down his neck for him to finish it, the motivation isn't really there. Roy does it, though—skips his lunch break to get some extra time in, actually—because he knows that the First Lieutenant will probably use any sort of reason for him to cancel his evening plans; at long last he throws down his pen, watches as it skids over his desk to land on the floor, and Fury steps on it while moving the crime files to the new cabinent.

Feeling curiously elated, Roy gets out of his chair, sketches an array on the floor, and transmutes the thing back together again; it's been a long time since he's done alchemy that didn't involve fire, and he really needs to be keeping up on this shit because his certification renewal is coming up in a few weeks.

Havoc approaches him then, stuffs his hands in his pockets—trying to keep from lighting up a smoke, obviously—and whistles lowly. "Lucky bastard. That cutie from the library...what was her name? Scieska? She stepped all over an entire can of pens I'd dropped the other day, and I had to pitch 'em." He rolls his shoulders. "Anyway, Colonel, you ready to go? Quittin' time; and I'm not planning on stayin' around this dump any longer than I've got to."

Roy glances up at the clock—five o'clock. He tries not to think that when Edward was five years old, he was already nineteen and enlisted in his first war. "Yeah." He wonders if Havoc will try to talk to him tonight. In terms of preference, he'd rather have Hawkeye as a driver—she made conversation, but only at his behest—but that was clearly out of the question. He wouldn't be surprised if she'd shot out his tires or something just so he couldn't go, driver or no.

But the cars are there, and they look fine, at least on the outside. He didn't think the First Lieutenant was mechanically inclined, but in a fit of paranoia, he has Havoc test the brakes before they leave.

The truth is—a rather nasty and unpleasant truth, yet one that fills him with glee—Roy is actually looking forward to tonight. Not in a particularly lasvicious or prurient way, but in a "this-is-good-food-and-a-good-time" sort of way; Edward will be dressed up, maybe in a suit, and the dark-haired alchemist is definitely eating steak tonight, because he'd skipped his lunch break, after all, and Edward probably would, in that boisterous, juvenile way of his, completely loathe the theater—it'll be amusing to hear him complain about it afterward.

After the theater, after the theater... Roy shakes his head furiously. He won't host those evil thoughts tonight. The play ran late, after all, and Fullmetal would undoubtedly want to go home.

He stops by his apartment first to shower and change; Havoc waits outside the car, undoubtedly planning on getting a few quick drags on a cigarette completed before they would have to leave again. In the shower, Roy turns the water up too hot and scalds himself a bit; a little pain wasn't a bad thing, what didn't kill you made you stronger, after all, it was how he and Edward had made themselves stronger in a lot of the things they did. He underdresses for the theater, because he's not too sure just how dressed up his foul-tempered companion is going to be—he dresses in charcoal slacks and a dress shirt, as well as his near-standard black overcoat—and briefly considers the fedora, but tosses it into a corner instead. It was too suspicious looking, and he didn't want to arouse any unwanted attention. A shame, because it was a pretty sexy fedora.

Outside, sure enough, Havoc hastily stomps a cigarette into the ground with a booted heel and salutes, face twitching a bit nervously. Roy shrugs—just don't do it in the car—and climbs in; the back seats of these cars are huge, and he stretches his legs out, nearly slouching. Relaxed. He was in a good mood tonight, after all.

On the drive back to the military barracks, Havoc talks. At first it's inane things involving some local sports team, then it's the usual office gossip, but of course, the usual office gossip quickly escalates into the dreaded focus on the older man's exact relationship with Havoc's proverbial 'boss'.

"So, ah, Colonel..." the scraggly blonde ventures, not taking his eyes off the road, but glancing up once at the rearview mirror. "Are... Are you and the boss...? I mean, what're you taking him out for? Military business?"

Poor, naive Havoc, Roy thinks, and snorts aloud. "If you're not smart enough to figure it out for yourself, then you don't need to know," he evades in annoyance, a cross frown flitting across his features.

Havoc seems a bit miffed about the insult to his intelligence. "Well, I didn't want to say the word 'fraternization' to your face, but if you're gonna be that way, Colonel..."

Mustang looks up sharply, but Havoc is grinning drolly, earlier harsh words belying his attitude. He's not mad, just pressing his advantage and needling his commanding officer—no, making jabs about him as a friend. The Second Lieutenant's not a homophobe, thank God, but he never could understand how men were superior to women in terms of looks—sure, he got distractingly friendly when drunk, but he was girl-crazy through and through when correctly sober.

Havoc seems to realize something else. "Oh," he breathes, eyes widening a bit, "no wonder Hawkeye's been so pissed at you..."

Roy sighs—he seems to be doing a lot of that lately. "Yes, I can understand where she's coming from, but a situation like this requires the utmost of discretion... I value her position as a loyal subordinate, a colleague, maybe even as a friend, but I think her misgivings on this subject are clouding her better judgement."

Havoc frowns. "Colonel, are you sure we're on the same wavelength here?"

The dark-haired man frowns, too. "Aren't we? Or are you trying to tell me that there's another reason besides the potential death of my military career that's got the First Lieutenant so worked up?"

The Second Lieutenant's eyes widen just a little bit further. "Holy crap, you don't..." He closes his mouth abruptly and turns back to the road. "Never mind, sir. You don't ask, I won't tell."

What the hell? Roy thinks, but he doesn't give it any more thought than that, because they've just pulled up at the military barracks.

They're drab, somewhat plain buildings, and he wonders vaguely why the Elric brothers don't just get an apartment out in the city—they can afford it, what with the elder being a State Alchemist and all—but it's not his place to say anything. This is probably the longest time in about a year they've been in Central, anyway.

He knocks on the door—for stands on ceremony, he puts his typical dastardly smirk on his face—and his arrogant grin is met instantly by a steel fist rocketing from out of nowhere and smashing into his face.

The impact is enough to send him into the hedges framing the barracks—only about ten feet or so, but still—with uncharacteristic klutziness, his feet go flying over his head; there are voices arguing above him, and he tries to breathe, works his jaw gently with his fingers—ouch—and wills the throb of his head to subside.

"You... You've killed him," a voice accuses breathily.

Another voice sounds, panicking and apologetic. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry—Colonel Mustang, are you alright?—Nii-san, I didn't mean to—"

...Nii-san? Roy blinks open and sees the Elric brothers huddling over him—Alphonse is wringing his hands nervously, causing the armor to screech hideously, and Edward is bouncing back and forth on the balls of his feet, unsure of what to do. The younger brother is still spitting out a mantra of apologies to the colonel, and Roy smiles weakly.

"Good evening to you, too, Alphonse," he says, and tries to sit up; Edward darts forward and gets hands under his arms, assisting. "Quite a right hook you've got there—you could have quite the career as a boxer."

"I'm really sorry!" the soul-bound armor repeats, reaching forward as though to help, then stopping with his hand outstretched. "It's just—I thought I could get over it, that I could see you and still act completely civil, but, but... Ah, are you all right?"

To the surprise of the Elric brothers, Roy takes the proffered hand and wobbles to his feet, feeling the world tilt unpleasantly as he does so, and he has to lean on Edward a bit more than he would have liked. "I'm... I'm quite fine," he manages amicably, rubbing his temples. "You brothers seem to have a peculiar fondness for blows to the head, do you not?"

"Are you okay?" Edward asks then, worried, then seems embarrassed that he'd asked.

"Just fine," he replies, pushing himself off the blonde and standing on his own, "but I've a question, if I may."

"Go ahead," Alphonse offers eagerly, and Edward, slightly suspicious, nods after a moment.

"I'm going to assume that the reason I was greeted so warmly with your fist this evening, Alphonse," Roy starts, "is because your elder brother has finally confessed to the existence of an extremely unprofessional relationship with myself, one that could lead to our discharge from the ranks, and you've taken it upon yourself to protect him from my manipulative influence. Is that right?"

Edward gurgles and his eyes bulge, but Alphonse nods solemnly. "I trust you in a lot of things, Colonel Mustang, but I don't trust you in this. He's my only brother."

"Hmm." Roy puts a hand to his mouth in contemplation. Havoc is waiting patiently by the car, and if they delay much further, then they'll be late for dinner, but he likes Alphonse, and he doesn't want this rift to crackle between them like an alchemical rebound. "I don't suppose your brother has elaborated much on our...relationship, has he?"

"Oh, no, he's elaborated enough. And he doesn't know it, but I've translated the code that he uses to write his log entries, too. He says your hands have the miraculous ability to create fire even without your gloves."

"A-AL!" Edward roars, and even Mustang has to hide his faint flush by pretending to mask a snort of laughter. The blonde brother turns to stomp away, possibly to unload on the still-waiting Havoc, but Roy grabs his arm without looking away, and holds him there.

"Fair enough," he concedes, brushing the matter off quickly. "Alphonse, I have no doubt that if you persisted, your brother would likely leave me at the drop of a hat, not wanting to upset you—if you persisted. Rhetorically speaking, let's assume this is the case. What would you do, then, if I persisted? Relentlessly persued him with false promises and sweet words, until I lured him back to me? What would you do, then?"

"Ugh!" Edward grunts, trying to pull away, but neither Mustang nor his brother pay him any heed.

"What would I do?" Al repeats, then shrugs, deceptionally casual. "This," he answers, and punches the older man again.

Roy reels but stays on his feet, hand rubbing once, briskly, at the side of his jaw. "AL!" Fullmetal is roaring again, looking halfway between being angry and afraid, but again, they both ignore him. It is between the two of them, now, a subtle test for acceptance.

"Bait him into it with information about the Philosopher's Stone?"

Another punch, and again, Roy snaps upright as though it doesn't hurt at all. It almost doesn't, because he's feeling curiously dead, as though his soul has been spirited away, and some unknown doppelganger is uttering these alien words out his mouth instead of him.

"Intimidate him into it by throwing around my military rank?"

Punch.

"Extort him into it by waving around the information I have regarding the two of you?"

Punch. "AL, STOP IT!"

"Or maybe I'll just tie him down and force it out of him," Roy supplies, and Alphonse freezes in mid-punch. Edward stills, as well, staring as though he has never seen him before.

"You wouldn't...would you?" Edward asks fearfully, and suddenly Roy is annoyed; they were both missing the point, the two of them—sometimes they could be blindingly stupid for geniuses.

"Of course not," he snaps, throwing his hands in the air in exasperation. "Never mind." He turns to walk away, but a boyish, slightly echoing voice calls after him.

"You are a strange man, Colonel Mustang," Alphonse states slowly, eyes practically glowing. "I'd like it if you stopped seeing my brother."

Aha. Roy turns around; tries not to grin. "No," he says, flatly and clearly, and the younger Elric punches him again—God, his jaw hurt.

"You'd better," Alphonse threatens, even as Edward grabs him by the arms and tries to hold him back, babbling incoherently.

"No," Mustang says again, pauses only when he is hit, then goes on. "I won't stop seeing him. It's his prerogative, not yours. I like you, Alphonse, but the only person who can keep me away from Fullmetal is himself."

Edward gawks, and Alphonse glowers, but there's no feeling in it. "I won't let you near him," the armor swears, taking a battle stance. Roy frowns for an instant—left his gloves at home—but smirks and rolls his shoulders confidentally.

"I don't care," he replies, "I don't care at all. You can hit me, pin me down, jab at my insides 'til I bleed, or fall to the ground, or cough blood...I don't care. Even if every night is as painful as this one, I'll keep coming back." He takes the best martial arts stance he can remember—God, it was from ages ago, probably from before Fullmetal and his brother were even born. "You want to fight over this, eh? Well, then, let's go."

He starts forward, Alphonse tenses—then a clap sounds and a shrill voice blares in his ear.

"Fucking idiots!" Edward rages, sitting up from the ground; Roy looks down to see his the bottom half of his legs encased in stone, and a glance ahead shows Alphonse sharing a similar plight. He snorts back his laughter. "You—!" Here Fullmetal jabs his finger at his brother, "—need to stop punching my...my superior officer!" he demands, "and you—!" It's Roy's turn to get the finger jab, "—need to stop baiting him into doing it! I swear, the two of you are like goddamned children...!"

The last line is what does it—Alphonse breaks down in laughter because he is a kid, and no one ever refers to him that way anymore, and Roy starts chuckling wildly because if he was a child, then he wouldn't feel so guilty for seducing one; it's really what started this entire problem to begin with.

Edward looks pissed, but claps his hands again and undoes the alchemical reaction, assuming for the time being that the two of them weren't going to start beating the shit out of each other again. He mumbles something crude and stalks away to the car, shoulders hunched in anger.

His younger brother shifts anxiously, and Mustang raises an eyebrow, encouraging him to go on. "Sorry about that," he apologizes, and he sounds sincere. "You really... You really were just joking back there, weren't you? I-I tried not to hit you too hard." Roy nods; it wasn't exactly a joke, more like a test, a demonstration, but the boy understood the significance well enough. And, hopefully, so did Edward. That had been his purpose, after all.

Alphonse looks like he wants to say something else, so the dark-haired man smiles; tries to reassure him without words. He really doesn't know what to say, after all—these brothers took away his careful judgement like nothing else could. "Colonel Mustang...you said... You said, back there, that...that, well... You said that you liked me, and I was wondering...wondering if it was...true?"

For a moment Roy's thoughts roll around in his head like dice, bizarre issues involving the very physics of it tumbling around in a disarray, until he realizes, belatedly, that the boy doesn't mean it that way; he is a sick, sick, pervert. Paranoid. They were brothers, sure, but that didn't mean that they were the same in everything they liked and did.

Mustang heaves a breath and looks up at Alphonse—kind, caring, considerate Alphonse—and his grin comes easily. "Sure," he replies, and raps lightly on the armor's shoulder.

Alphonse perks up; his version of a smile, and even his eyes seem brighter than they were before. "I'm glad to hear it," he thanks the older man politely, and bows. "I'm really different from Nii-san, after all, and it's always been clear that you liked him the best... Oh, I wasn't jealous," he amends, shaking his head, "but I didn't want to be a hanger-on, either. I'm not of much use to you without the title of National Alchemist, so..."

It's always been clear to him that I liked his brother the best? Roy thinks in bemusement, even as he stands on tiptoe to pat Alphonse on the head; for a moment he feels the frustration that Edward must feel, being as short as he was. "I..." He starts to frown, then puts on a genuine smile. "No, I'll tell you what. Sometime soon, the two of us will talk—we'll talk without your brother there, and we won't talk about him—and we'll do something you want to do, go somewhere you want to go. As friends, of course." He adds, as an afterthought: "And I'm sorry for making you feel that way."

And he was sorry, honestly sorry, because Alphonse was a refreshingly polite kid, and Roy stubbornly ignores the part of him that is aware that it's only because he doesn't feel threatened by carnal urge whenever he's around the armor-bound boy; he will not use Alphonse as a scapegoat, and he is truly sorry that his actions have made the other Elric brother feel like a third wheel.

"It's all right, Colonel," Alphonse shrugs, already in a better mood. "I apologize in advance for my brother's inevitably rude behavior." Roy squints; there is no way in hell a suit of armor could blush, it must be the light of the fading sun—it was getting late. "And, uh...if you really meant what you said, then could we go to the pet store sometime...? Nii-san won't take me because he says I always end up wanting to bring something home—which is true, but—but I'd really like to just go and look at the cats."

Roy looks at him oddly. "Strange kid." He turns on his heel and walks away, leaving a somewhat crestfallen Alphonse behind.

He turns around—once, just once. "Dogs are clearly superior," he says, smirking broadly. "We've got to go now, if only for you to realize that."

Alphonse laughs, chimingly—he has a contagious laugh, Roy notes, and he joins Edward in the car.

He sits a bit too close to Fullmetal, and the blonde jerks away. "Don't... Just don't," he mumbles, jerking on his tie—

His tie? He actually dressed up? Strange...goddamned strange.

Roy leans over the seat surreptitiously to investigate.

Edward is wearing a tuxedo. It, for once, fits perfectly—Roy notes with distaste that the cut is something he has seen before, and that it was in the window of a children's clothing shop—the sleeves are trim and there are silver cufflinks at the ends, the pants are pressed and creased in a way that clearly screams 'brand new'; the boy is wearing a red cumberbund and tie, along with shiny black dress shoes—he couldn't tie the tie correctly, and is yanking and swearing on it now.

He's left his hair down, as instructed—it fans over his shoulder in a shiny wave as his arms continue their jerking movements—but loose ends are pulled back into a half-ponytail, and his bangs still shield his golden eyes from view—the effect is elegant and stunning. His gloves also look new; they are pure white, as opposed to the earlier dingy gray.

His hair curls slightly at the ends, and without thinking, Roy reaches out and puts his hand in it.

Fullmetal jumps as though shot, abandoning his tie for the moment to glare at his superior officer with a mix of outrage and horror. "Hey! Just what d'you think you're doing?!"

His embarrassment puts color in his cheeks, and he looks startlingly...masculine. No, not masculine, more...

Oh, thank God, thank fucking God, Roy thinks then, and retracts his hand, the boy looks like an adult. "We must have hit a bump in the road," he replies serenely, and settles back into his seat. He adds, as casually as he can, "You ought to keep that look. It suits you."

Edward's color deepens, and he concentrates on his tie again. "No, it doesn't," he mumbles, fingers twitching. "I don't like it—it's uncomfortable. I don't think I'll wear something like it again, not unless you—"

He doesn't say anything else, and Roy doesn't care. He'll go back to dressing the same way he always does, and the oversize coat, tomboy braid, and clunky boots will only serve as a constant reminder that a boy in grown-up packaging is still a boy.

...What the hell was the matter with him?

He reaches over and swats the blonde's hands away from his tie. "Quit struggling, Fullmetal, and let me."

Edward yelps and tries to back away, but it's not that big of a car, and he hits the door. Effectively cornered, all he can do is sit there and let the older man adjust his tie. From up in the front seat, Havoc—who hadn't said an entire word for the entire ride—starts to laugh.

"Ah, Colonel, you're just like a dad dressing his son up for his first big party," he observes, glancing at them in amusement through the rearview mirror. Edward blushes some more; Roy tries to breathe.

Let go, let the fuck go—

"How very kind of you to point that out, Second Lieutenant," he replies icily, proud that he hasn't singed the man—no, he was without his ignition gloves, so strangling would have had to do—"But I'd like to point out to you that there's an entire road full of fellow motorists out there, so I would much prefer it if you would do your job and watch the road, instead of watching us."

Havoc looks at him oddly before shrugging and going back to driving. Fullmetal looks at him oddly and persues the tie event instead.

"Stop treating me like a kid," he hisses, shrinking back in disgust. "We're... We're—We're this, now, so stop thinking you can boss me around, asshole. It's not funny."

It is funny, Fullmetal, about as funny as a funeral. "It goes badly for my reputation if I'm seen in public with a scraggly companion," he responds smoothly, waving a hand in front of his face.

Edward glowers at him, then his look turns contemplative. "How's your face?" he asks, then hastily looks away.

Roy blinks. "...Fine. It's just fine."

"I tried to—"

"I know."

"...Sorry."

"Don't be. He has every right."

Edward sits upright at that, pushing hair out of his face. "No, no, he doesn't! Making my decisions for me! And the two of you, duking it out like schoolyard bullies...! All because you had to insist on proving to him that you'd stick by me come hell or high water! Your... Ouch, your face," he breathes at the end, and reaches fingers up to probe gently at the older man's jaw. "Does it hurt?"

"Aches a bit," Roy answers stiffly, keeping his eyes straight ahead. Damn him.

"You should put some ice on it."

"I'll live."

At Mustang's dry tone, Edward seems to snap back to normal. "Yeah, you'll live," he mutters darkly. "Unfortunately."

The rest of the ride to the restaurant is in silence.

In the ensuing quiet, Edward fumes, and Roy thinks.

How...unpleasant. Even now, I can't keep myself from lusting after him. It's hard for him to understand, because he has such innocent intention in everything he does, but... I wonder what he would do if he had a chance to see the real me? Children are so...complicated. They used to try to kill me, and now they try to kiss me. And this one, evidently...

He glances over, and Edward is staring out the window pointedly, refusing to look at him.

...wants to do both. And if he knew what I wanted to do to him...

He flinches a bit in shock as Havoc suddenly opens the car door. He is nearly grateful for the interruption.

"Yo, Colonel," the cigarette-sporting soldier prompts. "Should I stay with the car, or let the valets handle it?"

"This place has valet parking?" Edward interrupts in awe, and Roy ignores him.

"Stay, if you wouldn't mind." Mustang grins congenially. "It'll give you an hour and a half with your darling mistress Miss Nicotine."

Havoc pulls a face but steps back, letting the other man out of the car. He then walks to the other side to get Edward's door, but the shorter blonde swings it open without preamble, and it smashes into Havoc's face—the soldier utters a variety of curses that are extremely inappropriate for an upscale restaurant, but Edward moves determinedly inside, oblivious to the chaos he has caused. Roy chokes back a snort of laughter.

"If you'd be so kind as to pull out front in about an hour and a half?" he asks politely—he even gives the Second Lieutenant a tip—before following his subordinate into the restaurant, still grinning.

Fullmetal is gawking at the elaborate interior of the restaurant when the dark-haired man accosts him at the doorway, putting a hand on his arm lightly; the blonde twitches but for the most part doesn't react, eyes taking in the crystal chandeliers, the bustling waiters, and the silver platters being ferried back and forth with professional celerity. He also seems to note the enormous amount of patrons, and his arm tenses instinctively under Roy's fingers.

"Someone's gonna recognize us," he whispers in a panic, so low that the older man almost doesn't hear him. Mustang stoops so that he is at eye-level.

"Don't worry," he replies with confidence. "As long as you don't make one of your trademark scenes, we'll be just fine." The situation—an older man clearly lecturing a young boy—is so familial that he smiles disgustingly at himself; it is more like a snarl. "Be a good boy, Fullmetal, and I'll treat you to dessert."

"B—!" Edward starts to rant, sucking in an outraged breath, but Roy clamps a hand over his mouth as the hostess appears to seat them. The blonde shakes in fury, mouth wrinkling in an attempt to free his mouth, but he stays thankfully silent.

Also working in their favor is the fact that Roy has slept with the hostess; she was a lovely girl named Evelyne; lovely if not somewhat boring in the sack, but she does not bat an eyelash when he requests to be seated away from the other diners, and mostly blocked from view by an ornate paneled screen that had been imported from Xing.

"I do hope you'll call me sometime again, Roy," she purrs as she leaves; Edward works his jaw furiously and grapples to remove the older alchemist's fingers from his mouth, but is unsuccessful.

"Certainly," he murmurs lowly in assent, inclining his head slightly, and Edward bites down hard on his fingers. He waits until Evelyne has rounded the screen before hissing and yanking his hand away, jamming it into his mouth and nursing his throbbing fingers spitefully. The boy had some teeth on him.

Edward, for his part, looks characteristically pleased with himself; he takes a seat in the chair opposite Roy and stretches, slouching in an undignified manner. "Guess you'd better get Evelyne to get you some ice for that," he says, smiling nastily. "If you call her back, I swear on my brother's soul that I'll fucking kill you," he adds, smile never faltering, and Roy shivers inadvertantly.

"Jealous, are you?" he questions aloud, smirking to cover his disquiet. He is making more of it than what it is, and I ought to be stopping him. ...Why can't I ever stop him?

The blonde reddens and starts fiddling with a napkin. "N-Not even," he spits; blinks twice, then looks away.

"Jealous it is, then," Roy pronounces triumphantly as the waitress comes around to give them their menus.

As fate would have it, he's slept with the waitress, too. "Hello, Roy."

"Hello, ah—P-Pollyanna," he greets warmly, breath hitching only once when Edward kicks him in the leg—hard. The chesnut-haired woman smiles back lustily—pauses for a moment, and takes in Fullmetal.

"You've brought company!" she exclaims—if it had been another woman she would've served him his soup in his lap—but instead she smiles, and clasps the menus to her bosom dreamily. "He's too adorable, Roy, really—is he a relative of yours? I know you don't have any immediate family, but perhaps he's a distant cousin of yours?" Her eyes are damn near twinkling in excitement; distantly Roy feels a headache coming on. "Aww, look at the little dear—he's blushing! Don't be shy, sweetheart—what's your name?"

"Ed—" Edward starts, and gives a yelp when he is the one kicked in the leg. Roy stares at him across the table, keeping his face as blank as possible. "—van," he finishes lamely, "Evan."

"It's lovely to meet you, Evan," Pollyanna is gushing, and she sets the menus down on the table. "Would you like some juice, sweetie?"

Edward blushes but seems determined to bear it, something for which Mustang is eternally grateful. He knows it's not easy for the boy to hold in his temper, but he is managing it with some effort; "—the fact that you were willing is enough—" "Yes, please," he replies politely, keeping his head down.

The woman doesn't stop there. She leans over the table—Roy notes with raised eyebrows how Edward gulps and eyes her cleavage embarrassedly—and flips open to a page on the menu, pointing with the pen she used to take down orders. "A place like this really is intimidating for boy, Roy," she chides him—brave (ignorant) woman even pets Fullmetal on the head, stroking his hair and inadvertantly bringing the blonde closer to her considerable bosom. "Look, darling, here's the children's menu, okay? You just go ahead and order whatever you want—this big lug can afford it, trust me."

She winks at Roy, who manages a pained smile in return; Edward is squirming against the woman's grip, trying to get his face out from her breasts; at least no one can see the odd spectacle that's going on behind the broad screen.

"Pollyanna, I think we need a few more minutes to decide," Roy interjects, nearly desperate in his urge to get this woman away from them; she really wasn't helping the situation at all.

"Sure thing," she replies, winks again, but finally frees Edward, whisking herself away to wait on the other diners. The boy chokes, face going past crimson to purple, and throws his face into his arms, shaking and kicking his legs furiously under the table.

There's silence, and Roy waits wisely for Edward to break it. He doesn't trust himself to speak, anyway. How, he finds himself wondering, would she have reacted if she had learned that Fullmetal was fifteen, instead of whatever age she made him out to be? Would she have still held him delicately to her chest, still stroked his hair as though he was a doll?

...Would she, then...have suspected those actions of me?

"She... She squished me," Edward manages after a while, leaving his head to rest on his arms. "A-Against her... against her..."

He sounds truly disturbed; for a moment, Roy's brow furrows in concern. "Are you all right?"

"Fine...fine." The blonde sits up and fans himself with his menu, face still tinged pink. "Just—do you know how awkward that is? She's—She's got her boobs pressed up against my face, and...and I wanted to..."

"Ah. I'm sorry, then, for letting things get out of hand."

Edward looks at him, surprised. "You're not mad at me? For oogling one of your girlfriends?"

Roy taps the flat of his knife along his jaw absently. "You're not mad at me for having them, so why should I be?"

"No, no—she's not your girlfriend anymore, you nasty bastard, so—"

"I know, I know." Roy waves a hand in front of his face in dismissal. "What I'm trying to say is; you're not mad at me for ever having them, or for the fact that they still flirt with me...you understand?" He lets a look of reminiscence pass across his face. "And Pollyanna does have quite the admirable bosom, wouldn't you say?"

"S-Stop remembering, you ass!" Edward's face is approximately the color of a ripened tomato. "I... I shouldn't be looking at girls either, because I made you promise that..."

"It's no big deal," Mustang shrugs. "Look away; I care not."

He doesn't, really. Edward is a teenage boy. Girls will make him hot, other boys will make him hot—hell, even small animals and perverted older men(himself notwithstanding) will make him hot; he's just at that age, and it wouldn't be fair for Roy to deny him oogling rights—

- should not, could not, would not deny Edward Elric anything—

- just because he was a little fucked-up in the head.

The blonde doesn't look convinced, but he goes back to perusing the menu. Another silence stretches, and it is again broken by Edward.

"Hey, Colonel...er..."

"Yes?"

"This... This kid's menu stuff isn't so bad," the boy says in a rush, burying his nose in the laminated folds of paper. "I-It's cheaper, too...maybe I'll get something off of it instead?"

There is a moment where Roy gapes and swears to God that he has an out of body experience. He is not there. He is not there. He cannot be there, because there is so absurd and surreal and full of children—he takes a deep breath, and that seems to suck his soul back into his body; for a moment, the world spins and he sits there, transfixed. Then—"Don't take what Pollyanna said to heart, Fullmetal. And don't worry about my wallet, either—order what you like."

"Alright," the blonde mumbles, sifting through the pages awkwardly—Mustang does the same. The night is becoming excruciatingly painful. It hurts to breathe.

It doesn't take him long to find the steak he wants to order; he glances up surreptitiously and finds Fullmetal gawking over the wine list—he looks down at his menu again, and, without looking up, flips the younger alchemist's menu to the next page.

Edward glowers, but Roy shakes his head. "Even if you're not a kid, you're still underage," he tells him—damn near telling himself at the same time; he stuffs slightly shaking hands under the tablecloth and clenches the legs of his slacks firmly.

Eventually Pollyanna comes back to take their orders, pen poised and ready. "I'll take the 8 oz. T-bone, medium-rare, with the potatoes and the vegetables on the side," Roy orders bluntly, ignoring the woman's obvious attempt to stir up a meaningful stare and maybe a grope or two from him. "And bring me a glass of the house wine," he adds, recalling the beverage to be fruity and not too alcoholic—a nice vintage.

"A-Ah...I'll have what he's having," Edward stammers, "except I'll take the juice instead of wine, thanks."

Mustang is too damn indulgent, really. He nudges the boy under the table with his foot, and coaxes aloud, "Try the cranberry, trust me. You'll like it."

Fullmetal gives him an odd look, but nods slowly. "Okay. I'll have that, then."

Pollyanna tries to stick around and flirt, but Roy is brusque with her and she takes the hint, flouncing off to fill their orders and looking slightly crestfallen. Edward looks relieved that she is gone.

"I...I don't like overbearing girls," he confesses, quite literally sagging in his chair with relief. "Winry's one thing, since I grew up with her—she's my age, too—but older women kind of weird me out." His expression is half embarrassment, half petulance. "It's 'cuz they're all like that Pollyanna lady," he grumbles, hands twisting again at his napkin. "They don't realize that I'm fifteen. That maybe I don't want their fucking boobs in my face because it makes me horny."

"Mmm," Roy hums noncommittally, propping his cheek up on his fist. "But with you, everything makes you aroused, doesn't it?"

Just curious, that was all. He was just fucking curious.

Edward sputters uncomfortably, and he accidentally rips his napkin in two. "That's—! Y-You can't...!"

"Can't I? It's my right to know, after all." The older alchemist grins evilly—they are behind this screen, after all, and Pollyanna won't be back with their food for a long time yet—and feels himself going into sadistic mode. "It was the same for me, when I was your age."

Edward's age, which is something he tries very hard not to think about. It would be so much easier if he were morally bankrupt, if he got his jollies out of toying with children, like the men he had read about in so many criminal files back in the office.

"W-Well, that is to say..." The blonde fidgets and averts his gaze. "Not everything. Not when I fall out of trees or get punched in the face, for example."

He thinks he is being witty, but this new information makes Roy think of something else. "What about before you fell from the tree, eh?" he purrs, and slips his foot out of his shoe. "Did you like what you saw?" He lifts his foot and carefully, very carefully, strokes Edward's ankle.

The blonde jumps and pushes his chair back, making an odd squawking noise. "A-Agh! You're a nasty pervert, bastard! Doing something like that!"

Roy smiles serenely, both hands now folded under his chin. "Sorry, did I get you? My foot slipped."

Edward frowns at him, closes his eyes, and then takes a deep breath, scooting his chair back in. "Slipped, right. Just make sure it doesn't 'slip' again."

"Of course. So—back to the question at hand." He pauses for just a moment; waits for the boy's brain to catch up. "Did you get off on watching me screw that other woman?"

"None. Of. Your. Business," Edward punctuates clearly, face turning red enough to spell out the answer. "I've got no reason to tell you."

"Ah, is that so?" Roy lifts his foot again, this time brushing it against Edward's calf. The blonde shudders; it clearly takes him quite a bit of willpower not to bolt.

"Stop that."

"Then tell me the truth, Fullmetal. It's not very nice to lie."

Edward pushes his chair back a bit, but Roy scoots his forward; he was only mildy interested before, but now he is determined to hear the words fall out of those youthful lips. His foot continues its path upward to the blonde's thigh.

"If I tell you, will you—" The younger alchemist's breath catches. "Will you stop that?"

Roy pretends to think heavily on it, toes kneading into the boy's flesh. It's actually relaxing him instead of arousing him; he lets his eyes fall closed and hears the sounds of murmured conversations and silverware clinking on plates behind him.

"Sure," he agrees after a minute's pause, "but the real question is, would you actually like for me to stop?" To prove his point, he lets his foot wander a bit too far to the left and grazes it along what is clearly a throbbing hard-on. Already. Just from his fucking foot. He finds himself wondering, giddily, what Edward would do if he were to go down on him under the tablecloth. Would he hold it in? Would he thrust so forcefully that the older man's head would hit the table above them? Would plates fall to the floor when he did? Would he moan in that lovely juvenile voice of his when he came, or would he clench his jaw shut out of sheer stubborness?

"...Stop," Edward is saying when Roy snaps back to reality, to the world where playing footsie with his underage subordinate would get him thrown in jail, where food was going to be coming soon and he ought to move his foot right now. "I... I got pretty hot, watching you and that woman go at it," he confesses in an agonized mutter, "are you happy? I couldn't stand it, seeing you with someone else, after what you did to me, but..." He looks down even further. "...But it was you, and you were so...so—just you. Sexy," he grits out, as though the word is made of broken glass and it hurts him to say it.

Roy blinks—once, just once—and retracts his foot without further argument. "That's all I wanted to hear," he says quietly, disturbed on the inside.

Great. The boy thought he was attractive—another spike to add to this briar of thorns. He had sort of known it, before—Fullmetal was always staring, and sometimes at places he shouldn't have been—but to actually hear it was another thing. Edward wasn't appalled by him. He thought he was good-looking. He'd probably be willing to do a whole spread of things, if Roy asked him to do so...

Letgoletgoletgo—

"Here's your steak, Roy, grilled to perfection," Pollyanna trills in his ear, and he whips around, so grateful to the woman for interrupting his train of thought that he could have kissed her—except, of course, Edward would have killed him. "And yours, too, sweetie-pie."

The younger alchemist's color has returned to normal, his insatiable appetite pushing away his earlier embarrassment, and he picks up his knife and fork eagerly—a sadistic butcher child from a pagan land. Roy grunts.

"Leave the check for us up front," he says to Pollyanna, subtlely dismissing her for the rest of the evening. "If we need your assistance, we'll call," he adds to the woman's gloomy face, and she smiles a small smile before waving at the two of them and leaving them to their meal.

He cuts his steak wearily, no longer looking forward to it like he had been at lunch. The steak is too rare; it bleeds copiously when he cuts it, and there's a hair-raising screeching noise coming from the table across him.

"Damn—stupid—thing," Edward is grunting, holding his knife at the wrong angle and sawing improperly—his knife against his fork is what is making the screeching noise—and his arms are bent at the elbows; intent on his incorrect work, a small pink tongue is poking out of the corners of his mouth in concentration.

The image is insanely endearing—slowly, slowly, he is going mad—and Roy takes a moment to close his eyes and memorize it with his photogenic memory before opening them again and smirking amusedly. "Do you need some help, Fullmetal?"

"No," Edward hisses in return, looking up enough to shoot the older man an indignant glare before returning to the task at hand. "I'm not a kid."

Right, Roy thinks, and takes a sip from his glass. Right. It'll be a test of manhood. If he can cut this steak on his own, then he won't be a kid anymore—he'll cut himself free from the chains of appearance that bind (us) him—and then, I'll be free. Free to—

Slam!

Edward throws down his fork and knife, pushes the plate forward, and slumps down in his chair. "Colonel," he whines in a very un-Edward way, "cut this for me, you bastard. I can't get it."

"Certainly," the dark-haired alchemist murmurs lowly in assent, and gets up from his chair. It was stupid of me to judge Fullmetal's maturity on something as mundane as cutting steak, anyway, he tells himself, picking up the silverware and starting to cut. And look, the boy's steak doesn't bleed. The motherfuckers cooked it to perfection.

He cuts Edward's steak into congruent, bite-sized pieces in silence, while the blonde twists embarrassedly underneath him and casts nervous eyes around for the presence of other diners, afraid of being caught with his pants down—figuratively speaking, of course, but oh, if only.

Roy feels eerily like a father.

When he's finished with the chore, he straightens up, chances a friendly ruffle to Edward's hair, and returns to his seat, picking up his silverware.

Fullmetal looks decidingly grumpy. "You'd think, after nine months of living with a fucking butcher and his wife, that I'd learn how to cut my damned steak."

Mustang shrugs. "...Butcher?"

"My sensei and her husband," Edward replies offhandedly, and digs into his meat with fervor. "Hey, this is good," he states, eyes widening in satisfaction. "Maybe I'll have you take me out to dinner more often," he hints not-so-subtlely, and Roy shrugs again.

"Why not," he says blandly, not a question. There is steak juice at the corner of Edward's mouth—boy was a messy eater, obviously—and he wants to lick it off, to roll his tongue in it, to force his way into that awkward mouth and taste steak the same as he has ordered, only without the blood—Fullmetal is everything that he is, without the blood—

Letgoletgoletgo—

"—something on my face?" Edward queries obliviously, scrubbing at his mouth with the back of his hand, barely slowing enough to talk. "I'm serious, the food here is great, Colonel," he enthuses, and lowers his head to eat again.

Roy sighs, but the blonde cannot hear it. He takes aim with his own silverware and goes about the mundane task of imbibing nutrients—there are a million things he'd rather be doing right now, but the food is slightly comforting because it's a reminder that they're in a public place—he could always go under the tablecloth, though...

Clang!

He hastily picks up his dropped fork, and Edward stops stuffing his face long enough to glance at him in wonder. "Hey, are you alright? You've been acting weird all evening. First you pick a fight with my brother, then you're rude to Havoc, and now you keep spacing out every time I try to talk to you. Got a concussion or something?"

"Fine...I'm fine." Roy fishes for a change of subject, and finds one in the shape of his wineglass. He's already taken a sip or two of the vintage, though he hasn't meant to. "Here, Fullmetal," he offers, and switches glasses with the boy—cranberry juice is about the same color as wine, and no one will be any the wiser. Too damn indulgent.

The blonde looks bewildered. "What?"

"You were looking at the wine list like you wanted to try it..." Roy trails off, twirling his fingers idly in midair. Had he been wrong? It didn't matter to him. Cranberry juice was all right. "So, go on. Have a taste of mine. See if you like it."

"O-Oh..." Edward colors a bit, and picks up the glass with both hands. "Thanks?" he proffers, raises the glass to his lips, and takes a sip.

Takes another sip. And another. A longer sip, and on the next gulp, he's finished off the entire glass. Roy blinks, lifts his face from his fist to digest the situation. What the—?

"It wasn't bad," the blonde admits, screwing his face up and peering at the empty glass as though he couldn't believe it was empty, either. "Can I have another?"

Roy is shaking his head before the sentence is through. "No, no... a glass is enough. I don't need you getting drunk, Fullmetal."

What. The. Hell. His head suddenly hurts, and he wants something alcoholic to drink.

Edward pouts—goddamn pouts, thrusting out his lower lip. "Suck-ass," he curses, sticking out his tongue, and goes back to his dinner.

It's not long before they finish their meal—Edward looks around for a drink at the end, and Roy sets his juice down without a word. Edward downs nearly the entire glass of that, then sits back in his chair, hands folded over his stomach, and sighs contentedly.

"Would you mind if I drank the rest of this?" Roy asks mildly, gesturing to the remainders of the cranberry juice, face neutral. Edward is a sloppy drinker—there is an obvious mark where his lips touched the glass.

"It's yours," the blonde consents offhandedly, eyes closed. Feeling as though he's going to be sick, Roy puts his lips to that mark and drinks deeply, tilting his head back. Over the rim of the glass, he sees Edward crack an eye open long enough to take in the line of his throat; the boy colors again and squinches his eyes shut tightly, turning his head to the side.

When he's done, Mustang sets the glass down on the table with a thunk and flags down Pollyanna, who is bustling from table to table—the restaurant has gotten suddenly busy. "Can you bring us the dessert menus, please?"

"Your wish is my command," she replies throatily; not too busy to flirt, Roy notes depressingly, quite the same as myself.

She returns speedily with two dessert menus, and Edward perks up at the mention of sweets, running his tongue along his top lip inadvertently as he rifles through the pages, muttering about this and that; Roy's eyes follow that tongue as though he is a mouse paralyzed by the snake—no, he is the snake, and the boy is the snake-charmer...how unpleasant.

"Try the apple pie, sweetheart," Pollyanna recommends, tipping a manicured finger at the golden circle displayed on the menu. "It's to die for."

"I'm not too fond of the 'dying' part," Edward jokes, distinctly uncomfortable but still managing a grin, "but I'll give it a shot."

...Snake charmer. Roy looks up expressionlessly. "...Death by Chocolate," he orders quietly, folds up his menu, and hands it back to Pollyanna.

There is silence while they wait for their dessert, but it is not an uncomfortable one. Roy is actually starting to calm down a bit when something hits his foot.

Not something—someone. Someone's foot. He jerks and glances at Edward, who is pretending to be nonchalant, but the telltale blush is spreading across his cheekbones. Roy freezes, and considers.

He could stop the fiasco now—smart, smart move, nip it in the bud before it grew serious—he could tell Edward to cut it out, that he didn't particularly care for him harrassing his person (in other words, a bald-faced lie); or he could endure it, return it in kind—shudder, moan, sleep—and then he could go to jail. If he castrated the scenario now as effectively as a Cretian choirboy then Edward would probably never feel confident enough to approach him again; he would skulk and cower and grope himself ashamedly in the dark, and that was a sad end for such a vibrant boy—but an even sadder end would be the one that would occur if someone were to find out what was going on between the two of them.

Mustang grimaces, once, behind his hands; relaxes then, and lifts his own foot to toe lightly behind Edward's knee. Again, again, he'll have to do the thinking for the both of them. How tiring, but...

But please, he tells himself, tells anyone who could hear and listen, please let him feel this; feel this in the here and the now. Smite me, God, strike me down, but...let him keep feeling this. I'll do the thinking for the both of us, I swear.

Roy's sock catches in the automail around the same time Pollyanna returns with their desserts; Edward goes to apologize, but it's just a sock, after all—no real harm done—and Roy nudges him soothingly while turning his head to smile at the chesnut-haired waitress carrying their plates.

"Your check's up at the front counter, dreamboat," she says in the best come-hither voice she has; Edward hisses at her back as she leaves, but freezes suddenly when he looks at his pie.

"Colonel," he says slowly, prodding at it with his fork, "what's this?"

The 'this' he is referring to is a small mountain of white fluff heaped atop the brown crust; a somewhat new delicacy in East City, made possible by refridgeration.

"Whipped cream, Fullmetal," he replies peacefully, taking his fork and dipping it into his cake. He has a secret passion for chocolate—it is dark and sensual and delicious, not to mention insanely bad for one's health; if chocolate were gold instead of brown...

"What?"

"Whipped cream," he repeats patiently, not at all put-off. "It's quite good; I've had some atop my coffee."

"...Hunh." Edward pokes his finger into the cream, and eyes said finger distrustfully before popping it into his mouth. His expression changes from one of suspicion to one of bliss, and his eyes shoot back open in amazement. "Hey! This is pretty fucking good!" He grabs his fork and begins to eat in earnest.

Roy ignores him for a bit. The date thing was probably a bad idea. He can't stand looking at the boy for more than ten seconds without becoming overcome by that distasteful fantasy of sliding silently under the fancy tablecloth—dims the lights like a candlelit bedroom—and spreading eager legs, unbuttoning creased pants slowly and extending a teasing tongue—

...It seems he cannot escape it even when he isn't looking at Edward, so he lifts his face and regards the blonde, who is recapping inane stories from his youth.

Roy stares. Edward goes on talking. "—So when Al and I starting fighting over who got the top bunk, we smashed into the dresser and ended up breaking one of my favorite toys—"

Roy stares some more; he can't help it it—what the hell was that? "—and I remember crying a lot—you'd better not laugh, asshole, or tell anyone about this!—and Al felt so bad that he let me have the top bunk instead...eh?" Edward blinks, and looks unbearably adorable with a giant blob of whipped cream on his nose, undoubtedly left there as an aftereffect of nearly inhaling his pie.

Roy coughs back a laugh and rubs his nose subtlely; the younger alchemist doesn't get it, so he mimics wiping his face—Edward still doesn't get it.

"What, you need a napkin or something? Here, have one." He tosses one across the table about the same time that Mustang lunges across the table and grabs his wrist, hauling him up from his chair.

"What're you doing?!" Edward squawks nervously, careful to keep his voice low. Roy ignores him and drags him the few feet from the table to the bathroom—their table was in the corner of the room, after all, so it was only natural that the bathroom would be within proximity—dragging the blonde roughly through the door; he couldn't wait anymore, it was driving him insane.

He commends his self-control...he waits until the two of them are safely sequestered in a stall before leaning down and sucking the whipped cream off of Edward's nose hungrily, hard enough to be painful.

"A-Ah, jeez..." Edward sighs, trying to come across as annoyed and failing. He instead sounds as though the waiting was driving him mad, as well—he tilts his head back and pushes Mustang's head lower, towards his neck. "Why...why didn't you tell me I had that gunk on my face?"

Roy tries to smirk, but it's hard to smirk and kiss at the same time, so he gives up the arrogant act in favor of trailing a sloppy line of kisses down the blonde's neck. "That 'gunk' is made of milk," he points out calmly, panting only slightly. He is a dog. Knick, knack, paddy-whack.

"So?" Edward's breath catches, and he squirms against the door of the stall, struggling to get out of his suit jacket. "Ice cream's made of it, too, and I like that."

"I'll keep that in mind," the older alchemist promises; catches the blonde's fingers and pins his wrist to the wall, slipping his hand through gently—he feels unyielding metal, and recognizes the automail. Edward's other hand is abandoning his jacket and travelling lower, lower; gloved fingers are slipping underneath the waistband of gray slacks hesitantly, and gold eyes meet dark ones in question.

"Go," Roy groans in encouragement between kisses—in the face of his urgency, they are turning into bites, "keep going. Lower. You're fine—we're fine. Just keep moving, dammit—"

At first Edward looks alarmed at his rough tone, but he flushes inexplicably and casts his eyes down, looking suddenly pleased with himself, and starts to comply.

Lower, lower, oh, just a little bit lower and he'd be there, so close to touching that loathsome organ filled with dark desires—he could almost feel the heat from those fingers, they were so close

Around the same time that Roy arches up into that touch, the bathroom door opens; he jerks, startled—in that moment, Edward's fingers brush agonizingly against head of his very real erection—he bites down on his lip hard to stifle a moan, and the boy jumps, back hitting the stall door with a thump.

"—pasta here always gives me gas," their interruptor is muttering to himself, and bangs into the next stall. For a moment his two neighbors stare at each other, morbidly embarrassed and blushing hard; eventually Edward unlocks the door without breaking the older man's gaze, and he stumbles into the harsh light of the bathroom.

Odd grunts and a nasty smell are rising from the next stall over; the blonde turns on his heel and pushes out the door, hair disappearing last in a whirl of gold—Roy takes a deep breath, discovers that because of the smell it was a mistake, and follows Edward.

"Out of hand," he manages to breathe to the boy lowly on their walk up to the front counter to pay the check, "I let things get too out of hand."

"Pity for you, wasn't it?" Edward answers flatly; and leaves him up at the desk alone to the pay the check. It isn't until the hostess comes back to bring him change that he catches the double entendre; he chuckles dryly at himself and his subordinate's unexpected wit—Evelyne tries to flirt with him as he leaves, but he pretends to be running late.


Havoc has been waiting for about fifteen minutes for them to show; the lot to the restaurant is slightly clogged with angry chauffeurs, so they don't bother to make their usual small talk, Roy simply gets in the car, and the Second Lieutenant simply drives.

"So how was dinner, Boss?" he asks of Edward conversationally during the drive to the theater, glancing up once in the rearview. "Colonel give you a hard time?"

"The hardest," the shorter blonde affirms, nodding and scowling for effect. He puts a slight emphasis on the 'hardest', and Roy wishes he'd stop trying to be subtle. He gets it, dammit. He knows he is sick.

"Well, at least the food was good, wasn't it?"

"Dinner was good, but dessert was better," Edward answers; Roy's hands twitch and he crosses them stubbornly over his chest. He would not be baited by a child, goddammit.

"Be glad for it, the theater is death by boredom," Havoc swears ominously, and goes back to driving.

He doesn't hear Edward mutter, "Well, we'll just have to start a show of our own", but Roy does, and he feels his brain cringe in dread, but his gut flutter in anticipation. Damn him...fucking snake charmer.

And as luck would have it, they are late to the theater. "I'm sorry, sir," the attendant apologizes, polite yet firm, "but you cannot go in until after intermission. It's policy."

Edward doesn't look too upset, but Roy scowls for a change—he paid good money for these tickets, and here they were going to waste. He is getting ready to argue some more when a voice sounds from behind him.

"Colonel Mustang! Fancy meeting you here, eh?"

For the second time that night, Roy has an out-of-body experience; some alien spirit turns his body slowly to face the grinning face of the middle-aged Fuhrer Bradley. "Sir," he croaks, and salutes, back ramrod straight.

"Late for the theater, Mustang?" comes another voice—God clearly must be dead or on serious vacation he thinks morbidly to himself—it is General Hakuro, grinning cockily.

"Tarried a bit too long at dinner," he replies smoothly to the asshat's face, proud of his ability to remain in control. "I'm afraid you'll have to inform me how the first half of the show went, General."

"They won't let you in until intermission?" Bradley interrupts, and his face crinkles in a sort of friendly annoyance. "Pffft! Walk with us up to our box, then, won't you? My invitation—you and the Fullmetal Alchemist, of course."

In that moment, Roy nearly feels bad for planning to ursurp the man—but he did put assholes like Hakuro(who is at the moment nearly frothing in outrage) on the payroll; the man really has to go.

Edward cringes and tries even harder to hide himself behind Mustang's back, fingers clinging to the back of his coat; the Fuhrer bends down and smiles jovially. "Hello, Major Elric! Good to see you so well—back in town for a while, eh?"

"The Fullmetal Alchemist?" Hakuro sneers. "Sorry, I couldn't see you down there, cowering beneath Colonel Mustang's legs and all."

A blow to both his height and his position; Roy recognizes the signs of an Edward Elric rage fit, and hastily clamps a hand to the boy's shoulder. Edward blinks himself calm, swallows, and tries to answer the Fuhrer. "Y-Yes sir... Al and I had to turn in our report to the Colonel."

"Ah, good!" Bradley starts forward, and—feeling compelled—the two alchemists follow him. "How goes your search for the Stone, then?"

He says it almost casually, but Roy knows—the man is dreadfully curious. They all were. Men who had a taste of its power always thirsted for more...himself included. If he had the Stone, he could undo the mistakes of his past. If he had the Stone, he could become Fuhrer. Men always thought along those same lines, that deadly paradigm of 'if only'...

He is certain of one thing that sets him apart from these men, though. 'If' the Elric brothers were to ever, by some act of miracle or skill, create the Philosopher's Stone...

...then he would not be the one to rip it cruelly from their grasp. He would—has already planned to do so, as a matter of fact—defend their right to use it to the end, even if it meant going against all of his goals, all of his ideals. If they worked hard for it, then it was theirs. It was the same in everything the boys did—their hard work won out, and Roy always saw to it that it did, even if the results weren't so obvious.

...He does not count himself into this principle. No matter how hard Edward may work for him, he will not—cannot—belong to the boy. The same could be said for the reverse—Fullmetal would do what he willed, but Roy would never ask him to give himself up, not entirely. Equivalent exchange.

Edward is talking to the Fuhrer awkwardly, scuffing his new shoes on the floor and still holding the sleeve of Mustang's greatcoat in his fingers tightly; King Bradley always puts him on edge, and Roy can't understand why. The man was congenial if not strange—"apple pies should always be baked at the even temperature of 175 degrees; no more, no less!" he is insisting now, for example—but there is no real harm in him; he is simply a misguided man who allows warmongers like Hakuro to bully him into starting wars, or so Roy thinks. He honestly doesn't know. Sometimes he wonders if Bradley's facade is somehow more remarkable than his own, if he was quietly mocking Hakuro and the generals around him with that guffawing laugh and that mirthful eye.

Edward's fingers are becoming painful, but the dark-haired alchemist doesn't pry them loose. The Fuhrer makes him feel small, and it's not just his height. Sometimes even Mustang feels like a child around the man; he was fatherly but also connivingly instructive—he, like Roy, was very good at getting people to go where he wanted them to go, and Fullmetal was still sometimes anxious around him; Bradley is moderately terrifying in his military regalia—both he and Hakuro are in full dress uniform.

"Mustang," says the middle-aged man comfortably during a lull in he and Edward's conversation, "if you and the Fullmetal Alchemist would like to watch the show along with the General and myself in my private box, you're more than welcome."

Edward chokes; Roy inclines his head deferrentially. "It would be our honor, sir."

When the Fuhrer gives an order, you obey. It's the sort of power Roy wishes he had. Hakuro, kindly shoot off the rest of your ear, that scar there is most unsightly. Hughes, I'm drafting a new law that makes flash photography illegal in all parts of Amestris. First Lieutenant Hawkeye, into the miniskirt you go. Fullmetal—

Ohhhh, God. Fuhrer or no, he was still going to hell for these wicked, wicked thoughts.

He casts around frantically for a diversion. "Sir, if I might ask, where are you and the General's lovely families this evening?"

"Oh, you know—bridge night at the Corelli's," Bradley says dismissively, guffawing. "My wife is addicted to bridge, and it seems that the General's wife is the same."

Undoubtedly at her husband's urging, Roy thinks nastily, but doesn't say it aloud. Instead, he says: "And your son?"

"Well, Salem was never one for the theater—he's a young boy, after all," the Fuhrer replies. "Hakuro's daughters are the same." His look turns curious. "Which reminds me, Mustang—the Fullmetal Alchemist does seem like a rather strange companion for a night of dinner and the theater."

Roy suddenly wishes he'd paid attention to what Bradley and Edward had been saying. "Well, these are dangerous times, sir," he replies carefully, keeping his face blank. "It would be unwise for me to venture out in public during wartime without some sort of...protection."

Hakuro scowls, but Bradley nods vigorously, still smiling. "He's a powerful ally, and undoubtedly loyal to you. And because of his age, he makes quite the inconspicuous bodyguard, no?"

Loyal to you. Not loyal to our country or loyal to me, but loyal to you; Roy wonders almost hysterically if the Fuhrer has the miraculous power to read minds. "Deceptively inconspicuous," he agrees aloud, and the middle-aged man sweeps open the curtains to the theater box; their odd little party tramps inside.

Almost immediately, Fuhrer Bradley frowns. "Hmmm...only three chairs here." He laughs. "I'm used to coming here with just my family, that's all... Hold on, I'll send for another chair."

"That shouldn't be necessary," Hakuro interjects, smiling cruelly. "The Fullmetal Alchemist is here as Mustang's bodyguard, after all...there's really no need for him to have a seat."

There is a moment where Roy sees red—he is well and truly angry; being antagonized by Hakuro himself was one thing(the two shared a mutual dislike if not hatred), but he would not stand for someone harrassing Edward—the boy might look tough, but he was intimidated by these men, he would do whatever they said without question or complaint, even if it was demeaning to himself. Roy steps forward, but fingers snarl in his coat.

"Yeah, he's right," Edward agrees, breath whooshing out unnaturally, "I really ought to stand. Can't take a bullet for you sitting down, Colonel."

He is telepathically sending a message—I'm your bodyguard, asswipe, so don't get so angry—a message to stay calm and pretend as though their relationship didn't transcend anything beyond proper. "If you're comfortable with it, Fullmetal," he relents, closing his eyes wearily; he should be the one standing in the boy's place, because he had swore long ago to make his life easier from behind the scenes; he wants to pitch Hakuro's smirking form over the balcony and into the crowd below.

"I'll send for another chair during intermission," the Fuhrer proposes, taking off his overcoat and hanging it over the back of his seat. "Would you mind waiting until then, Edward-kun?"

"N-No sir," Edward stammers, looking away to face the stage, clearly pretending to search for potential asassins.

"Of course he doesn't mind," Hakuro insists, sliding into the chair on Bradley's right smoothly. "Mustang has trained his dog well, after all—wouldn't you agree, Colonel?"

Roy frowns as he takes his seat on the Fuhrer's left—the man called him Edward-kun—and forces his face back to normal just in time. "I'd hardly say 'trained'... Fullmetal does deem it fit to humor me from time to time, though."

Edward stands off to the side and a little behind his chair as Hakuro says, "A shame; can't even collar your own dog. You can't just let him run rampant, Mustang, you need to enforce his good behavior."

Automail fingers are digging into the chair hard enough to creak. "I've found that the respected dogs will come to their master's aid far more than the beaten ones," he counters smoothly, keeping his eyes on the stage below.

"Nonsense! You can only assert authority through fear. The only reason our country is as powerful as it is today is because of the Fuhrer's excellent demonstrations of military power!"

For a moment Roy is transported back to Ishbal; those burning corpses are photographed inside his memory again—an excellent demonstration of military power—and his fingers are rubbing together as though he wants to snap his gloves. "I like to think that my subordinates respect me, instead of fear me."

Hakuro snorts. "Sometimes dogs will run with the big dogs in order to make their lives better for themselves," he comments snidely, if not—to Mustang—somewhat enigmatically; Edward makes an odd strangled noise and the chair cracks slightly—not wanting to lose his seat, as well, Roy bats his hand away.

"Sometimes they will," he replies evenly, raising an eyebrow at the oblivious King Bradley to make his point. Hakuro scowls, and Roy presses his advantage. "To tell you the truth, General, it also helps if you view your comrades as partners, instead of pets."

It is a bad move. "So, you and the Fullmetal Alchemist are partners now, hmmm? You'd better be careful that he doesn't convince you to share the bed, Colonel—he's bound to have fleas—"

"Oh, be quiet, would you?" Fuhrer Bradley hisses at them from out of nowhere, eyes still glued to the stage. "I'm trying to watch the show!"

Hakuro shuts up, Roy shuts up. Their eyes meet behind the Fuhrer's head—truce for now, but I'll be back with a vengeance—and Roy wills his fucking hands to stop shaking.

He doesn't know. He can't know. There's nothing to know. Only Hawkeye knows, maybe Havoc. And Alphonse. And, and...he's just pulling things out of his ass; the man likes to be incorrigible, after all, and he'd have known that commenting on something that disgusting would set me off

Something that disgusting...but he is doing it, Hakuro is right, he ought to be locked in a closet. Beside him, Edward is shaking. He pretends to reach for something in his coat pocket and brushes the boy's hand lightly; reassuringly, he doesn't know. The shaking is reduced to a nearly miniscule tremble.

A half an hour goes by without event before Edward starts fidgeting. Roy tries to ignore him—he doesn't want to bring any focus down on the poor blonde—but eventually Hakuro notices, and the Fuhrer, too.

"What's the matter with you, boy?" the general snaps; Bradley smiles reassuringly and queries, "Gotta piss?" to which both Mustang and Edward stare at him.

"E-Eh, well, it's nothing, really, just that my leg..." The blonde shifts, putting all his weight on his right leg; Roy notices then, somewhat belatedly.

"It hurts to stand still on your leg for so long, doesn't it, Fullmetal?"

Fidget. "Well...sort of."

"Nonsense!" Hakuro harumphs dismissively, "you walk on it all the time, don't you?"

"Begging to differ, sir," Edward counters, gaining confidence, "Al and I ride the locomotives a lot more than we walk. And walking is shifting the weight between my left and right legs; standing still like this..."

"Sit on the floor, then," Bradley suggests, shrugging; both Hakuro and Roy shake their heads in unison.

"He won't be doing his job!"

"He won't be able to see the show!"

Edward twitches, and the Fuhrer looks amused. Bradley's face then perks up and he holds up a finger, seeming to have struck a golden idea.

"He's a light boy, Colonel, and intermission's in about a half an hour," he points out, grinning from ear to ear. "Sit him on your lap until then."

Edward chokes, paling instead of flushing violently; in the same moment, Roy is pretty sure he has died, his soul was floating up and away from that crazy place, with its bizarre mind-reading executives and flabbergasted generals; his face only falters for a little bit, a muffled grunt and a slight widening of his eyes being the only receipts of his surprise.

"Sir, don't you think that's a little inappropriate?" he questions mildly; dead, he is dead.

"Pshaw!" Bradley waves a hand dismissively. "Salem always sits in my lap when we come to these shows," he says. "He can't see the stage, otherwise."

"I'd also like to point out that Salem is ten," Roy returns stiffly; Hakuro is watching his face intently—he cannot let it show on his face—"whereas Fullmetal is fifteen; he is also not my son, as yours is."

"There's no need to be so defensive, Colonel," Hakuro points out with annoying superiority. "We're the only four up here who would be able to see us, so you don't have to worry about what everyone will think." The man is smiling like a shark.

"I would also think that the Fullmetal Alchemist is enough like your son for it to count," Bradley adds neutrally; Mustang is starting to feel boxed in. Edward, Edward...

He turns to Edward, who is white and shell-shocked. He's giving away too much on his face, way too damned much; Roy swivels and sees Bradley watching him patiently—maybe even a little amused—and Hakuro eyeing him eagerly.

Edward shifts again, his left leg practically lifted off the ground to ease the pressure, and that's really what does it. The dark-haired alchemist sits up straight and brushes off his pants. "Sit down, Fullmetal."

The boy gurgles, red spilling across his cheeks; Mustang gives him a withering look—trust me, please—he puts into his eyes, and the message seems to get across; twitching and muttering and shooting glares all around, the blonde perches gingerly on the older man's knees, back arrow-straight.

The military police do not leap out from behind the curtains and cuff him, rivers do not spew blood, and the world does not explode. The only thing that happens is that Bradley chortles good-naturedly, and turns back to the play. Mustang shrugs cheekily at General Hakuro—Fuhrer's orders, what're you gonna do?—and the man turns away from him pointedly, seeming to sulk. Whatever the hell had just happened, he had just passed it. By the skin of his fucking teeth.

A few minutes pass, and Edward grunts, fidgets for a bit, and slides back further on the older man's legs, relaxing a little at a time. Roy puts his feet flat on the floor, unaware that he, too, had been tensing up. Nothing was going wrong. Even Hakuro has gone back to watching the play, his fun for the night clearly ruined.

Another five minutes go by; the blonde squirms a little more and scoots back even farther; by the time the span of fifteen minutes is up, he is well and truly in Roy's lap, legs dangling off the ground comically—he's even swinging them back and forth in boredom—and arms jostling for their own place on the chair's armrests; the older man sinks back into the seat and lets him take over, instead sliding an arm around the boy's waist to steady him. Just to steady him. That was it.

Edward jerks and looks around visibly, afraid of being noticed—they won't be noticed, because the sides of the chairs are quite high, and Mustang's hands are lying quite low by definition. Eventually the boy gives it up and sighs; leans back until his golden-haired head is pillowed against the older alchemist's dress shirt.

The warmth is unexpected—it is too damn hot in this theater—and Roy feels certain parts of his anatomy stir against his will; dammit, he will not suffer through a repeat of (dessert) dinner, he will not cave in to such barbaric notions again. He had come too damn close to letting the situation get out of hand—

—which was a shame, wasn't it?—

- too damn close to asking of Edward something he swore he would only give. He likes Edward, but he doesn't like himself; foul creature that he is, to crave such unchaste actions from a child—he swallows hard and lets his doubts overrun his mind...it is better than feeling, at least.

Pervert. Nasty pervert. Cradle-robbing pederast. Dog. Devil. I stole everything from him. I don't think the boy's ever been kissed, yet I see it fit to molest him over and over again—he should have pleasant memories of his first sexual encounter...they shouldn't be at all like mine.

Against his will, he shudders—once. Edward rolls his head back at him, but Roy shakes his head.

He should have found a sweet, smart girl—like the one from the library, except she should be blonde like he is—someone who could put up with his temper, and his ego, someone who would understand the guilt he feels about his brother, and not alienate poor Alphonse for his handicap. A girl who knows when to tell him straight up how it is, but at the same time comprehend the times when it's better to humor him and let him go his own way... Someone to protect him, without being overprotective. A girl who would remind him to brush his hair and his teeth, and somehow find a way to get him to drink milk...

Edward is fidgeting again, and the friction is ecstatic torture emanating from his lap to pound achingly into his head. Letgoletgoletgo—

- And a girl who would scratch behind his earlobes after sex, just the way he liked it, and one who wouldn't mind occasionally scraping their tongue or their teeth along the cold ridges of automail. A girl who would understand that he has the tendency to underestimate himself in the performance department, and that you sometimes had to encourage him to boost his confidence, even if it was uncomfortable—

Around the time that the lights for intermission come on, Roy is mortally aware of the fact that no one else on this earth—save perhaps the boy's brother—knows Edward Elric as well as he does. It is fucking disturbing.

Edward flies to his feet in a rush, pretending to stretch. "Wow, intermission already?" he asks, raising his arms above his head—for him, it is a pretty decent act. The infernal blush gives it away, though—Roy steps in front of him before Hakuro has a chance to notice.

"My legs are dead," he exaggerates, smirking at the Fuhrer, who grins back. "I don't suppose I can convince you to send for that chair, sir?"

"Of course," Bradley nods, and motions an usher over. Hakuro snorts.

"You certainly didn't seem to mind it," he accuses smugly; Roy sighs internally, the man is an idiot.

"Of course I minded it," he asserts. "You wouldn't believe how heavy Fullmetal is—it's surprising, really, all things considered."

The blonde, predictably, has an Edward Elric grade fit. "Who is so short you'd need opera glasses to see him?!" he howls, dancing in front of the general wildly, arms flailing about.

"No one did," Hakuro snaps in reply, looking confused; the Fuhrer steps back from talking to the usher and places a hand on the general's shoulder, forestalling any impending argument.

"And now, if the two of you will excuse us," Bradley says amicably, if not resignedly, "it is our civic duty to mingle with the other theatergoers; self-serving, brown-nosing twats that they are. We'll be back."

Roy salutes, laughing on the inside, but Edward is confused, and all he can manage is a dumbfounded "Eh?" and a head tilt to the side—oh, it's damnably cute. The older man fishes in his pocket for his wallet when the two superior officers are gone. "I need a drink," he mutters, and goes in search of one, the blonde tagging along adorably in his wake.

He was planning on imbibing something fatally alcoholic, but he's calmed down considerably by the time they reach the canteen; instead he orders hot chocolate, and at Edward's awkward shuffling and tugging on his coat, he gets a second one. They sit at a quiet table to drink.

"Listen," the blonde says right off the bat, blunt but averting his eyes, "you didn't have to do all that. I would've been just fine on my own—standing, I mean."

"Ah. Is your leg all right, now?"

"What? It's fine, it alw—"

"Good; then it wasn't a waste of time." Roy takes a sip from his cup and ignores the stiffness in his legs. For a boy his age, Edward was light, but he wasn't all fluff and feathers, either—the automail weighs him down, and the dark-haired alchemist is glad that it was only for a half hour. Both his legs and his self-control probably wouldn't have been able to survive it.

Silence for a while, though not uncomfortable. Roy breaks it with, "Hot chocolate is also made of milk, Fullmetal."

A mildly annoyed glare is shot in his direction. "I don't care. It tastes good. If someone can come up with a way for nasty milk to taste un-nasty, then props for them."

"Hmmm." Mustang takes a gulp of the rich brown liquid; his is nearly gone already. "Since you seem to like variants such as ice cream and whipped cream, can I ask what is so particularly heinous about milk?"

"It. Tastes. Gross," Edward says clearly; shudders as though thinking about it was evil, and takes a swig from his cup as though erasing the imagined taste. "It clogs your mouth, and it sticks near the top of your throat, and you can't get the taste out even when you brush your teeth or drink something else. Plus, do you know where it comes from? It comes from a cow's...a cow's... Ugh!"

He looks nauseous at having envisioned it, and not wanting to see the boy get sick, Roy shrugs and drops the issue. It shouldn't matter to him whether or not Edward drinks his milk, or whether he eats right when he's away on a mission, or whether he gets enough sleep or no.

...He's not the boy's father, after all.

But he is old enough to be, theoretically, and he does not feel better. He stands from the table, crushes the small paper cup in his hands, tosses it in the trash bin, and waits for Edward to follow suit. The halls have become somewhat thronged with theatergoers hurrying back to their seats before the doors are locked. The dark-haired alchemist starts to offer his hand; considers all the spectators zooming around them, and instead holds out the tail of his greatcoat.

"Here, hold onto my coat so you don't get lost, Fullmetal," he offers, and smirks. "I'd be hard-pressed to find you in such a...tall order of theatergoing persons."

His slight insult must have been lost in the din of the crowd, because Edward merely grumbles and takes a fistful of the older man's coat into his hand, blushing, looking down, and plodding forward on petulant feet. They make their way slowly through the crowd, being pushed, bumped, and jostled, but Roy still feels those fingers latched firmly onto the back of his coat, and he knows it's all right.

"You're late," Hakuro hisses when they return, leaning forward in his seat to glare over at the two of them as they sit down. Roy shrugs, and opens his mouth to come up with an excuse, but the Fuhrer interrupts.

"On the contrary, General, they're just in time! The kissing scene is just about to start!"

Edward goggles noticably, but Roy simply smirks and leans back, folding his hands in his lap—the Fuhrer has brought the requested chair as he said he would—and Hakuro looks ready to have a hissyfit.

No longer distracted, Roy thinks to focus on the show—kissing scene included—but it is a piece he has both seen and read before; a story about a young girl from a war-ravaged land who pretends to be a princess in order to kill the king that ordered her homeland's demise...an excellent story of cruelty and manipulation—practices the dark-haired alchemist has down to almost an art—but he is not fond of the connontations the screenplay carries about age. The heroine, Rowena, is twelve; the king, Leopold, is thirty-three.

He tells the story to Edward, leaning over inobstrusively when the puzzled expression on the boy's face grew to an almost painful level; Edward snorts and sits up stiffly when he starts to talk, but slowly his face begins to grow interested.

"Not only is this king a sicko, but he's stupid, too," Edward announces swiftly upon completion of the backstory, face set. "Falling in love with a little girl—disgusting... and he can't make the obvious connection between his queen and the princess of the land he blew up. I bet the girl falls in love with him, too—no, I bet she kills him, or I'll eat my coat."

Roy, of course, knows how the story ends—open wide, Fullmetal—but deigns not to comment, instead narrowing his eyes at the upcoming scene—Leopold's description of his nubile wife to his advisors. He sits numbly through such phrases as 'honeyed lips; kisses sweet as taffy', 'peachpetal skin with a permanent splash of rose' and 'silken skin atop chaste hands; eager to do as I bid'—Mustang wonders how he could have missed these things before; he has seen this play, and while he thought it mainstream and dull, he had never found it as loathsome as he does today.

Edward is snorting, but quietly. "Hmph...he's exaggerating. Nobody's that perfect."

"He's not describing perfection, Fullmetal," Roy corrects with patience, leaning over but keeping his eyes fixed straight again. "He's describing his wife—who is, as you've seen, not without flaws of her own."

"More of that 'love is blind' crap?"

"No, not quite..." Roy taps a finger along his jaw absentmindedly. "He would not, for example, be exaggerating about her lips if Rowena had a nagging sweet tooth, would he not?"

"...I suppose not," Edward agrees reluctantly, clearly not convinced. "I don't think he means it in that context, though."

"The last part, then. Rowena is a queen; before that she was a princess. She's never had to do hard labor in her life, so it's only natural that her hands would be soft—doughy, even—and it's also natural that she would do whatever Leopold requested of her...she has an act to live up to, after all."

"Well, that might be true, but..." Edward grumbles, clearly upset that his points were being bested one by one. "But I think it's pointless to describe someone that way. Why couldn't the playwrite just say 'Here's Rowena, she's pretty hot, blonde, and determined to kill the man who took away her kingdom. The end.'? Instead he's got to go around confusing people with his false images. This play is fucking lame; let's go home." He casts a look up at the older man, who ignores him. "Please?"

Mustang rolls his eyes; again, the point was lost on him. "Never mind," he sighs, propping his cheek up on his fist. "Just shut up and watch the show."

"It's booooring," the blonde complains, kicking his feet out childishly. "Dinner was more fun."

"I said no. You want to see how it ends, don't you?"

"You could always tell me," Edward points out peevishly, face reddening from frustration. "Come on, I'll die if I've got to sit through another hour of this."

Roy turns his head slightly to regard the younger alchemist, and raises his eyebrows. "I would have gone with Patricia," he retorts, feeling a bit peevish himself, "but I highly doubt you would have appreciated that."

"No," the boy mumbles lowly, defeated, and sinks down in his seat. "I wouldn't have." He sulks and leans against the side of the chair, head dangerously close to the older man's shoulder. Roy stares for a moment at that gold, gold hair—he left it down like I asked him to, how surprising—and nearly feels hypnotized; he blames it on the lackluster predictability of the play.

Time slows to an almost unrealistic crawl. It is no longer passed in seconds, or minutes, but in Edward's fidgets and grumbled mutterings—twitch, "this is so lame, kill him already", twitch—shortly after the sixteenth twitch and an annoyed "bastard owes me big time for this", the noises stop; suddenly, there is a heavy weight on Roy's shoulder, and he jerks, surprised.

Let go, let the fuck go—

Edward has fallen asleep in his chair.

He is using Mustang's head as a pillow, his eyes flutter occasionally in dreams, he breathes softly into the older man's dress shirt, and his lips are slightly parted—he may or may not be snoring, but if he is, it is light and impossible to hear. A wisp of hair flutters inward and outward as he breathes, waving tantalizingly in front of his face.

Times passes now in the irresistible rise and fall of that piece of hair.

'Tyrant Leo!' Rowena is saying in the play; Roy shifts in his chair and debates waking Edward so he can see the end, the piece was in its final moments, now; 'For years I have suffered and screamed and served—for you, foul snake, you shall finally get what you deserve!'

Leo's return to Rowena: 'Always, always, my grip on you too lax! Browbeating wench with that hair of flax! What can a mindless strumpet do? Stand ready, whore, so that I may have at you!'

There is a swordfight which is quite admirable; Roy leans over and shakes Edward as softly as he can. "Fullmetal, wake up. You're going to miss the end of the play...you wanted to see it, didn't you?"

Over the staged clank of swords, the blonde mumbles something that is clearly a negative response, turning his face into Roy's shoulder with persistence before relaxing again. The older man sighs, but he cannot keep his small smile to himself, either. He'll never hear the end of it, now—the blonde will undoubtedly yell later about being allowed to sleep through the play's conclusion, but he does not make a move to shake the boy harder.

'Ah! Oh! Ye gods in the sky, what fate beyond doth lie? To my desecrated nation—crash and burn, cry then die! for fallen, pierced through the heart, am I!'

And Edward is wrong—Rowena neither kisses the king nor kills him...she grows overconfident in his affection for her, and allows herself to be baited into fighting a duel she cannot win; she is slain by Leopold during the last scenes of the play.

'Let go, Rowena dear; for you, I shall shed a tear—go now to death, for there is nothing to fear. I, Leopold, shall remain here. 'Twas an odd twist of fate that brought thee from the sea...almost as odd as when I bent on my knee. Silly girl, could you not see? The one I loved most—was me.'

A popular misconception with this play is the ending scene—most viewers read Leopold's lines as a sign of forgiveness; he loved his wife but not enough to just roll over and die for her—but Roy knows better. The king is mocking his beloved Rowena; she was lovely and luminent and lucky, lucky that Leopold found her amusing enough to live, and in an odd sense, lucky that she was able to die without living forever in his captivity.

...It really is a sick and twisted play.

He shakes Edward awake when the lights come back on. The blonde sits up and blinks groggily, eyes foggy—it takes him a moment to register his surroundings, but even when he remembers where he is, he barely makes the effort to nod to Hakuro and the Fuhrer when they leave.

"Taking your precious pet home to put him to bed?" Hakuro asks contemptuously under his breath; Roy shrugs, blandly.

"It really is past bedtime for the children, isn't it?" he offers with a touch of smugness; Edward's face snaps almost reflexively into a glare and he stomps hard on Mustang's foot. Hakuro blinks at him before sweeping his coat around and leaving. Bradley nods to them before turning away, looking a bit fatigued himself but seeming determined to grin his way through the crowd of theatergoers lining up in the lobby to greet him.

"...ass hurts..." he mumbles as he walks away; he is walking rather oddly, and Roy beats back a chuckle. Wouldn't do to laugh at the most powerful man in Amestris—for now, he corrects himself, shrugging into his coat.

Edward is, amusingly enough, trying to put his coat on upside-down; he tries twice, looking at it oddly, before throwing it back onto his chair, blearily angry. "Coat shrunk..." he grumbles, but doesn't say anything when Roy flips it up the right way and holds it up for him to slip his arms into, instead yawns and rubs at his eyes—it is late, close to one in the morning.

Havoc had ran out of cigarettes about an hour ago, and so is not in the mood to converse when they get into the car—he only shoots an odd look through the rearview mirror when Edward neglects his seatbelt to shove his head doggedly under Roy's arm, already prepared to go back to sleep—Roy exhales and bonks his head against the side window, watching the city lights go by in a blur.

He isn't sure what to make of tonight. It went, for the most part, off without a hitch—Pollyanna's sudden appearance, as well as those of Hakuro and Fuhrer, not withstanding—Fullmetal dressed up, and he left his hair down; Alphonse may have did quite the number on his jaw, but for getting sexually involved with his older brother, the boy was justified. Dinner was pleasant, and while he'd just as soon forget about the fiasco in the bathroom (Edward's sleeping head has inadvertantly fallen down into his lap), the play they two of them have just attended was also a timely and fitting reminder that he cannot do the things he would like to do for himself, he can only do those things for Edward.

Havoc stops at a traffic light and sees it fit to make small talk. "How'd your d—er...evening? go, Colonel?"

"Fine, just fine." Roy thinks of something characteristically appropriate to say, and also remembers his smirk. "It was a daunting task, though...keeping sight of Fullmetal through all those...high-society theatergoers."

Havoc snorts a laugh. "It's worse 'cuz the chicks wear heels, isn't it?" The light turns green, and the tall blonde puts his foot to the gas and his eyes to the road. "I won't judge ya, Colonel, but I will ask, 'cuz I'm putting in late hours tonight—your house or his? Or both, if you feel that way, but be prepared to pay me overtime."

"...Mine," Mustang says quietly, eyes still out the window. Edward will sleep, he will sleep. It's just late, that's all, and the Second Lieutenant will obviously want to get home, and he certainly doesn't want to wake Alphonse. He's being hospitable, not...not anything else.

"Alrighty, then," Havoc says good-naturedly, and turns down his street. Edward's head is a deadweight in the older alchemist's lap.

He makes the mistake of looking down—oh, God.

Blonde, blonde hair spilling across his legs—flashes red, green, electric blue in the city lights winking by—soft and long and unbound, a red hair ribbon gathering loose strands in a half-ponytail; a red hair ribbon, like a fucking girl's

- teeth gnashing furiously at that red ribbon, ripping it out of that burnished hair (perhaps it would end up draped across the lamp, like the other one); snarling his hands in those spidersilk strands and forcing a obedient head down; that hair would probably cascade over his thighs the way it is now; seeingtouchinghearingbreathingfeelingfallingpantingpleasing—

—letgoletgoletgo—

"—here."

"What?" Roy says sharply; his chin slips off his fist and he thwaps his head painfully on the window, causing him to epithet his inquiry with a curse. From up in the front seat, Havoc looks back at him warily.

"Here," he replies slowly, "we're here. Jeez, you alright, Colonel?"

"Peachy," he snaps in return; he is getting tired of people asking that question. The truth is, he isn't fine—moody and masochistic with a somewhat fucked-up mental state—but it's not anyone's business but his own; it isn't even Edward's business, though it probably should be—most of it was concerning/caused by him—but he won't say a word. He'll keep his demonic thoughts and devilish desires to himself; he is becoming painfully aware that this cannot keep going on, that the boy will either grow tired of him, or worse, he will cave in, and submit himself to that sea of sin—and they will both feel, and neither one will think.

...He can't hold out forever.

Fullmetal has laid down very strict lines for him to toe, and he feels like a trapeze artist on the highwire, except the wire is razor wire, and each step is cuttingly unbearable. He could live with Edward, but he can't live without his girls—they are the one thing that keep him from giving in, girls and girls to slake his lust—but the boy seems determined to take those away, too; it is going to be damned near impossible to resist a nubile teenage boy writhing underneath him, especially if said teen outgrows his awkwardness and takes it upon himself to learn the art of seduction.

Inwardly, Roy curses his weakness for blonde-haired beauties and shakes Edward awake, irritated beyond measure. When the younger alchemist sits up, he bumps the bottom of Mustang's chin painfully, causing the older man's jaw to click together audibly. Edward snaps awake almost immediately and starts apologizing hastily, eyes still slighly fogged from sleep.

To hell with seduction, Roy thinks then, waving off Edward's apologies and Havoc's snickering, and gets out of the car, he's too damned attractive because he's awkward, awkward and endearing. It's funny...I hate kids, but only because I love them too much. Kids I couldn't save, kids I robbed of their parents back in the war, kids who wanted my protection and affection and acceptance, hell, kids who wanted to kill me, and one, one very odd kid who wants to kiss me...

He gives a twenty to Havoc, who is already muttering under his breath about finding an all-night convience store—clearly the man is in some desperate need of cigs—at the tip, the Second Lieutenant rolls up the window and rolls back onto the road, speeding away dangerously; the man always went over the speed limit whenever there weren't any passengers in the car.

"Aggggh, I'm beat," Edward breathes, stretching his arms over his head and ambling up the apartment steps. "I oughta call Al, but he's probably asleep already—" He turns back around, foot poised in the process of ascending another stair. "Colonel, you coming, or what?"

"Not yet," Roy replies darkly, the double-entendre lost in the night breeze, and plods up the stairs slowly behind the blonde, reaching in his pocket for his keys; he fumbles with the door in a sort of haze, and pushes it open, letting his companion in first before shutting and locking the deadbolt behind him. He leans against the shut door for a moment, head to the ceiling, then heads into the living room.

"You can take the bedroom, Fullmetal," he says quietly to Edward, who has shed his tie and jacket and is working on his shirt. "I'm fine with the couch."

The blonde freezes and turns to stare at him. "What're you talking about? I thought we'd—that, 'cuz...you know...I mean, we'd sleep and all, but in the same..." His face flushes, and his eyes narrow. "What, I'm not good enough to share a bed with unless I let you put your paws all over me, first? And which one of us is the dog, again?"

"Don't... Don't start a fight with me, please," Roy sighs, he even asks for it with 'please' like a recalcitrant gentleman. "Just take the bed—or the couch, I don't care which. Just not with me."

"That's—That's pretty fucking cold," Edward admits lowly, suddenly focused on pulling off his shoes. "I, uh...it's not like I snore or anything, you know. And I'm not a sheet-stealer, and I'll stay on my side of the bed, if you want..."

Tempting, tempting... but the problem is, the boy is also tempting, too damn appealing; Roy swallows and shakes his head. "I'm fond of my privacy, that's all." Get angry, get angry. Just...just stop with this kicked puppy act, please—rant and rave and then go sulk in the bathroom for all I care, just stop killing me with those wounded eyes.

"...I see," Edward responds stiffly, straightening up, and there is indeed an angry flush to his cheeks. "Then next time, sir, you and your privacy can enjoy a night out on the town, and it can suffer through public humiliation for you in my stead."

Humiliation, humiliation... ah, right, Pollyanna at the restaurant and the Fuhrer at the theater. "Fullmetal, you're being unreasonable."

"What's so unreasonable about wanting to feel your warmth at my back?!" Edward shoots without thinking, then pops his eyes open wide and drops his jaw. Roy sits abruptly on the sofa, and just barely manages to make it look planned. His legs have disappeared beneath him; letgoletgoletgo—

"I think there are some spare sets of pajamas in the closet, but I'm afraid I'll need them back," Roy offers after a minute, a minute that seems like both infinity and an instant; he attempts a stab at humor, as well. "For as often as you keep borrowing my clothes, I think I'll start to open a boutique."

Edward is still angry, but his righteous violence is tempered by embarrassment. "Who needs 'em?" he grumbles petulantly, shedding shirt and socks in a trail as he stomps down the hallway. He jerks open the bedroom door, works for a moment at the waistband of his pants—"Maybe I'll sleep naked in your bed, you bourgeois bastard, how would you like that?!"—and stumbles through the threshold, tugging down at his dress pants with one hand and slamming the door viciously with the other.

For another (infinite/instant) minute, Roy sits there, and doesn't know what to do. Hall closet—he'll need blankets. Sleep attire would be nice, too, but they're in the bedroom closet, and the bedroom is where Edward is; and who knew, maybe he really would be sleeping in the nude, just out of spite...oh, shit—

—letgoletgoletgo—

- to hell with it, he'll sleep in his slacks. Mustang moves about silently for a while, grabbing blankets and pillows and shrugging out of his coat and dress shirt; when he finally lays down, staring at the ceiling, all he can think about is how damn short the couch is, and how much he'd rather be in bed. He tosses and turns for a while but finally drifts off into a light sleep, which is easily broken by the sound of the bedroom door creaking open.

Out of curiosity and instinct, he stays limp, still feigning sleep. Footsteps are padding quietly in his direction, but there is an odd sound to one of them—heavier, and hollow, almost. Edward. Edward was...ugh. The dark-haired alchemist wants to sit up and tell him off, maybe even send him home, but intrinsic fickleness and a morbid curiosity keep him in place.

There is a soft clap near his head and the world explodes in blue-white behind his eyelids for an instant as alchemy is performed; he tenses against his will and his eyes shoot open once to glance around wildly; Edward is kneeling on the floor and seems intent on his task, and thus does not notice.

After a few agonizing seconds, the transmutation is over; Roy moves his arms and legs a little bit to make sure they're intact, but of course they are—the boy is a genius, and even if he was still angry, he wouldn't be careless enough to hurt him—though the couch seems different from before. Flatter—longer, even. His feet no longer stick over the edge.

He does, however, jump and blink his eyes open in alarm at the blankets being lifted beside him and a cool, compact form sliding onto the couch to curl up against his chest.

"F-Fullmetal," he confirms, still in a mixture of shock and denial, but there he was, Edward Elric, head nestled under his arm and face scrunched as though expecting a blow. "Wha... What are you doing?"

"Sleeping," the blonde pronounces clearly, though tinged with lethargy. "And so should you."

Not funny; it wasn't funny. Not even in the morbid funeral sense. It was just plain...alarming and damning and oh-so-right; Mustang tries to sit up on his elbows. "Get off of me, Fullmetal." He shifts his legs and tries to swing them off the couch—the couch that has, he notices now, been neatly transmuted into a substitute cot.

Edward peeks an eye open partially, looking anxiously for the older man's reaction, still cringing. Repercussions, he expected repercussions, but he didn't care enough about them to stay in bed alone; he wanted protection and affection and acceptance, and Roy feels his horrified sort of anger ebbing away. "Come on, get off. Why aren't you sleeping in your own room? What are you doing out here?"

The words are there but there is no real bite to them; the blonde relaxes and offers a grin that is part sheepish, part pleased with himself. "You wouldn't come to bed, so...I brought bed to you."

The explanation is stupefying simple, and Roy hazards a laugh. "Ah. I see." Sleeping. They would just sleep, that was all. Full or partial nudity notwithstanding. "So, does it really mean that much to you?"

A sleepy but unhesitant "yep" is the reply, and Mustang sighs, sitting all the way up this time. "Well, there's no need for this, then," he relents, casting eyes towards the couch, "so kindly turn my furniture back to normal, Fullmetal."

"Then you'll—?"

"Sure, why not. Let's go to bed."

Edward practically bounds to his feet, clapping his hands together and grinning a grin that is no longer sheepish or pleased or amused, it is just plain happy; Roy nearly expects him to say "yay!", but knows he would probably go throw himself down the stairs if the boy did.

The couch is turned back to normal and the dark-haired alchemist notes belatedly that Edward is wearing his boxers, and seems less and less awkward about parading himself around in them. It is a level of familiarity that is disturbing.

The blonde zooms down the hall and through the bedroom door, nearly cackling in his glee; Roy, shaking his head and sighing amusedly, is a bit slower in following suit. He takes the time to kick off his slacks at the doorway—if Fullmetal could do it, then so could he—and he catches yellow eyes peering out from the dark, widening at his lean body.

"Wow, that's, uh..." Edward blushes and looks away when he lays down in bed, pillowing his arms behind his head and staring at the faint patterns of light filtering in from the street. "You've, uh, always wore clothes to bed, so, er..."

He thinks I'm attractive. How unpleasant. "Why don't you try shutting up and going to sleep, Fullmetal?" Roy suggests aloud, voice bland. He stares without seeing. He cannot move, he cannot think. He is alone in his bed, and this golden-haired, adolescent boy-god lying next to him is nothing more than a sick fantasy.

"Why don't you try giving me some space here and fucking off, Colonel?" Edward returns, glaring momentarily, then his face softens and he shrugs, rolling that addictive hair off of his shoulders before flopping down and inching close to the older man, throwing one of his legs over Mustang's hip possessively and snaking a hand around his neck to tangle in dark hair, snorting softly and relaxing into deep sleep.

It was almost funny. When awake and aware, Fullmetal had the tendency to shy away from any sort of physical contact—back before things got out of hand between the two of them, he always flinched and fidgeted at something slight, like Mustang's hand on his shoulder or his back—but now, in satisfied somnience, he fought for skin-to-skin closeness like it was the Philosopher's Stone, craved it like candy. It is...tempting.

Disgusting. He shouldn't want to kill children or kiss them—he has the killing part under control, even if there were to be another war—but he isn't so sure about the kissing part. Edward's lips are pressed up against the ridge of his collarbone while he sleeps.

...I fucking hate kids, Roy thinks then, and wraps his arms even tighter around those boyish hips before smiling himself into sleep.