"Major General!" The door to Roy Mustang's office flew open, as though hit by a sledgehammer.
Without thinking, the Flame Alchemist replied, "Ah, Edward, it's been... Alphonse?"
It was the younger Elric, his slate-gray eyes narrowed and his entire body shaking. His right hand was clenched around a sheaf of papers, and his left was nervously running through his long, blond hair. "I need to talk with you!"
"Oh?" Roy smiled, as he looked at the younger man. "Unfortunately, I am currently busy with the last-minute preparations for the promotion ceremony. Lieutenant Hawkeye insisted that I work quickly; considering the sheer amount of unnecessary papers, I will need to split my attention between you and them. Do not mind me." He motioned to two large stacks of papers that wobbled ominously at the sides of his desk, and at a rather large metal bin that was placed precisely in the middle.
"U-uh..." That was not the reaction that Alphonse had been expecting, and that threw him off of his carefully-rehearsed script. So, he tried to improvise. "It's... about my research. I think..."
There was a snap, and a rush of flames leapt from the bin. Alphonse involuntarily jumped, and his thoughts scattered. Roy looked up, mildly amused. "Please, continue."
But, Alphonse's train of thought had gotten horribly derailed, so he changed the subject. "Hawkeye told me about the upcoming promotion ceremony. Um... it's going to be a banquet, held tomorrow, right?"
For just a moment, Roy stared at the younger man, his one eye narrowed. Then, abruptly, he chuckled. "Yes, it will be tomorrow, and yes, it is called a banquet. But when you're the one receiving the promotion, you can barely get a bite in edge-wise."
Alphonse found his eyes straying to the pyrotex gloves easily perched at the edge of the metal bin. Almost without thinking, he muttered, "Oh?"
"Indeed. There are, of course, the insufferable speeches..." He uttered a pronounced sigh, playing a very convincing role of the bored connoisseur, "Which begin before the food is served, and continue far into the night. All the while, there are those subordinates who try to ingratiate themselves with you, and those superiors who try to make sure you know exactly where you stand with them. Combine that with the inevitable questioning about forms and procedures..." Roy slumped his head against the back of his left hand, and gazed at Al. "It could be more accurately described as a torture session. They even make sure to put the best food right in front of you, so you can watch everyone else eat."
"Oh... I see... I didn't know that getting promoted was so much work." All during that monologue, Al had found his gaze locked on the glove: it was fascinating, the intricate alchemic design, the strange rasping noises that it made on the steel bin, the way that it sparked with every contact...
Which was why he was surprised when Roy abruptly stood up. His eyes involuntarily followed, to stare at the older man. His uniform jacket, while still immaculately clean, was unbuttoned and loose in the front, exposing his white undershirt. He was sweating slightly, a side-effect of working so closely with his chosen element, and a part of Alphonse wanted to see more...
It's not fair, he decided, That Roy Mustang makes the uniform look like they were designed with him in mind. The shoulders were wide enough to accentuate his form, with the hips cut just right, and when he posed, hand in pocket, the boy swore that he could see an aura.
It was with a dawning sense of horror that Alphonse made the connection: Roy Mustang has given me a uniform fetish. He had no idea what his brother would say if he knew; besides the obvious: "That bastard Colonel! General! Whatever rank he's squirmed to, he's a bastard! I'll kill him for this!" Just thinking about that situation was nearly enough to make him sick.
Another snap, and another spread of fire, wrenched Al's attention back to the situation at hand. Namely, a concerned Roy Mustang, who had just incinerated another short stack of papers. "Alphonse? Are you all right?"
"Y-yes! Of course!" He offered a smile, and knew from the look on Mustang's face that the older man wasn't fooled for a minute. He added, apologetically, "What were you talking about?"
And there was the Smirk, which gave Alphonse the sinking feeling that Roy Mustang knew exactly what had been going through his mind. "I was remarking upon the fact that the preparation is hardly worth the end result. It is the rank, not the ceremony, that truly matters." A long pause, broken by the sound of Roy tapping his fingers against the metal bin. "Alphonse, you still haven't told me why you're here."
"W-well..." He still couldn't concentrate, not with that action grabbing his attention and welding his neck so he couldn't turn away. "I thought that I had made a breakthrough, so I wanted to talk with you... but... it's kind of complicated. I-I'll let you get back to work, and we can talk about it when you get home." He offered a hopeful smile. "Will that work?"
No such luck. The Smirk told him that much. "Oh no, I'm most intrigued."
"U-um..." It took a moment, but Alphonse decided to rush through the explanation as quickly as possible. Now he knew why his brother had always been in a bad mood when he left Roy's office. "Well, you see, I think that the biggest barrier was actually keeping the Gate in one place. So, if two circles were used, and we interlinked them with the binding array, then it might be-"
Snap. Flash of flames. Smirk. "You may wish to slow down, Alphonse. Most of those terms are unfamiliar to me."
"I-I don't know if I can..." He offered a weak smile to Mustang. "It's kind of complicated..."
"Then, I assume the papers in your hand are notes. Let me see them."
Roy Mustang advanced towards him, and Alphonse stubbornly stared at the notes as though they were holy writ. Anything to keep from seeing the predatory look on Roy's face, or to keep his knees from transmuting into jelly... Or to keep from thinking about how those gloves would feel...
For the second time, there was that sinking feeling of horror. Now a GLOVE fetish!? Alphonse felt a blush starting, and he wanted desperately to slap some sense into himself. It's like Roy's perversity is an infectious disease! He didn't, of course, remind himself that he was actually quite intrigued by the thoughts that were running through his mind.
So, he offered no resistance when Roy's hand reached out and snatched the papers. He couldn't stifle the gasp that escaped his lips when the rough texture of the pyrotex scraped across the back of his hand. He could, however, feel apprehension at the fact that the Smirk seemed to expand, as Roy instantly picked up on what had caused the end result.
Innocently, Roy went back to his desk and sat down. He flipped to a page at random. "I see. Interesting. I think I'll have to take a look at this."
"B-but!" Alphonse tried to protest, but it took him a moment to organize a logical argument. "You've got work to do! You can't read the notes and use your alchemy at the same time!"
"True, Alphonse. And I would rather not have Hawkeye... expressing her displeasure." He looked up, and smiled. "Come here."
Like before, Alphonse found himself obeying before his mind could stop him. He stopped short of the older man's chair, and muttered, "Yes?"
"Here." Roy peeled off his left glove, and offered it to Al. "If you really want to talk about this at home, then help me."
The glove was too large for the boy's hands, but after a moment of struggling, he forced the pyrotex into a position where he could snap his fingers. He also struggled, with far less success, with the mounting blush, as the rough texture set the nerves of his hand on fire and nearly made him gasp. He turned to face the metal bin, face set in concentration.
He didn't realize his mistake until he heard Roy's voice, right in his ear. "You know how my alchemy works, right?"
Al knew that his face had to be crimson by that point, but despite his nervousness, he found the older man's presence... invigorating. "Y-yeah. I just need to... to... change the concentration of oxygen, right?"
"Brilliant." And Roy meant it, too. Alphonse had forgotten all of the nuances of the Flame Alchemist's technique, and to have identified it so quickly... "Your brother would be proud, Alphonse."
Al managed to squeak, "I-I think he'd kill me if he knew what I was doing!"
"Hm... true. You'd better be ready for him, then." The boy, even without being able to turn around and confirm, knew that Roy was suppressing a laugh at the absurdity of the notion. They both knew that the Full Metal Alchemist wouldn't do anything to hurt his brother. But, still...
"Focus, Alphonse. Concentrate on the effect."
"I know, I know! I have done alchemy before." Unlike his older brother, Al really didn't mind the teasing so much. He did mind the fact that Roy was whispering into his ear; how was he supposed to concentrate when there was something so deadly right behind him?
"Now... do it."
Once again, Alphonse obeyed the command instantly. The results, however, were not pretty. As he had feared, Mustang's presence behind him was so distracting that he really couldn't focus on the proper balance of oxygen in the effect. So, the fireball was much larger than expected. Much larger. The flames erupted from the metal bin, where they belonged, to the two other stacks of paper, where they did not. The sudden rush of air had also managed to scatter them, which meant that there were several layers of combustibles sitting on Roy's desk, which was made of wood, and the floor, which was of the same material.
There was a mad dash, as the two alchemists started gathering what papers were burning and threw them into the bin. The remaining stack of mostly undamaged papers was... quite depressing. Roy offered a wry smile. "Yes, your brother would be quite proud."
"I-I'm sorry! Please forgive me!" And with that, Alphonse made another mad dash: straight out the door, and onward. Roy knew that he wouldn't stop until he had reached their house. With a sigh, he stood up, and walked out of the door.
He didn't get far, before Hawkeye's voice arrested him. "Sir. A moment of your time."
Not good. She's angry at me. Roy slowly turned around, a smile on his face. "Lieutenant Hawkeye! I successfully cleared out the unnecessary paperwork!"
"That isn't what I want to speak with you about. Sir." Her voice was clipped and precise: too much so. She was trying to keep from pulling out a gun.
"Oh? Then, what is it?"
"It's about Alphonse."
A feeling of panic began crawling up and down Roy's spine: one of Riza Hawkeye's few weaknesses was the Elric brothers. His worst fears were coming to life right before his eye. "Oh?" He prayed that she wasn't seeing his nervousness.
No such luck. Amber eyes bored into him. "I advise you against attempting to seduce Alphonse Elric. He's young and innocent, and he's vulnerable without his brother." The Flame Alchemist had to bite his tongue to keep from crying out: another one of her weaknesses was protecting the vulnerable. Combine the two... "Do not take advantage of him, sir. He isn't the same as the women that you love and leave."
"I suppose that now would be the best time to mention that I am actually feeling affection towards him?" Leave it to Hawkeye to wrench a confession out of me at gunpoint, Roy grumbled to himself. "I agree, he isn't like the others. I don't plan to treat him that way."
For a long moment, the amber eyes held him in stasis, as Riza considered his words and compared them with what she knew of the man in front of her. Finally, she looked to the side. "I want to believe you, sir."
It was as good as a go-ahead, considering the source, so Roy could barely contain the smile on his face. "I am glad that I meet with your approval, Lieutenant."
"However." That one word grabbed Roy's attention more effectively than a gunshot ever would. "I know you, sir. I know what you really want is to be the one to take his innocence from him. You want to have another conquest on your record."
Perfectly true, and Roy could only nod in agreement. It was at times like this that he wished Hawkeye wasn't so good at reading him.
"I also believe that you could be the best person to help him, sir. He tries to hide it, but he's in pain, and there are very few people left that can reach him." Roy's eyes widened: that was a heartfelt confession and her begging him to help her, in Riza-speak. "I won't try to stop you, sir. However," Roy braced for it, "If you hurt him..."
There was a pregnant pause. "If I hurt him, Lieutenant?"
She offered a salute, her left hand resting easily on the butt of one of her pistols, and her face entirely expressionless. "I will not forgive you, sir."