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The Adventures of Roy Mustang: Sex Ed Teacher

chapter 12.

Alphonse took a step in time with every swing of Ed's braid. It was a precise
measurement of time that was just enough to lift a foot and move it forward
but not to long that you had to stagger your next step.

Tick Tock.

"I don't know Al," his elder brother said in front of
him, "the way he described it, there's got to be more to it, something they
aren't telling us."

"I know what you mean," Al replied behind him, "I got
that feeling too, maybe we should stay one more day."

Another few steps timed to the swing of a length of blond
hair.

Tick Tock.

"I guess it couldn't hurt really, I wish we'd had thought
of it before we got all the way out here," Ed said, looking at the train station
sitting just ahead of them.

"It looks like train might be about to leave anyway,"
Al said, "they are moving the ramp and closing up the boxcars."

The timing didn't work so well when Ed jogged up the steps
at the end of the platform.

"Yeah, I think you're right. Well since we're staying,
no need to rush to get on, but while we're here, I'll go ahead and call in,
let him know we decided to poke around a little more," Ed said.

"Good idea," Al said, following his brother into the depot
house. "That way it won't be a totally wasted trip."

The depot house was not spectacular in the way of depot
houses. It had benches and a long counter and racks with brochures. In one corner
sat some boxes that for some reason didn't make it on this run, but there was
one interesting thing, a large old map, framed carefully and hung on one wall.
It was colored, and Al went over to investigate it, wanting to know if the detail
was hand done.

Ed, meanwhile, had approached the main counter, flashed
his watch and been given access to a phone. He looked over at Al and what Al
was looking at, and got a bit interested himself as he dialed the number to
Mustang's office. He was leaning forward and peering across the room at his
brother, so the first two rings didn't register, but then there was a third
and a fourth, and that was rather odd. Had he misdialed? If the Colonel didn't
answer himself, usually on the one and half ring, then Hawkeye had picked up
the phone by two.

Just as he started to hang up, the line clicked and he
heard a familiar voice. "Colonel Mustang's office."

It was Havoc.

Ed had never known Havoc to answer the phone on the Colonel's
desk before.

"Hey Second Lieutenant," Ed said cheerfully, "This is
new, did you get promoted while we were gone?" Ed teased, "Don't tell me, the
First Lieutenant is now the Colonel and they finally kicked his ass out."

"Ed," Havoc said, "I'm glad you called in, there is something
you need to know..."


At last, my love had come along...

The deep velvet voice wound its way through his mind and
he relaxed and smiled as he finished up the work on his desk, running late.
It hardly mattered, as Ed was out of town, so there was no immediate need to
rush home and make sure there was food in the house.

My lonely days are over, and life is like a song....

The woman certainly knew how to get under his very skin,
just her voice could make him laze around in contentment for hours. She was
a particular favorite at some of the clubs he had visited when he still resided
in Central and he couldn't help but fall in love with her voice.

At last, the skies above are blue...

Ed had chuckled and tilted his head.

The skies above are blue from light refractions, not
because some singer thinks it's from love...
the boy's tenor rang in his
mind.

You're missing the point of the song Ed, just listen...
the Colonel remembered saying.

Well my heart was wrapped in clover, the night I looked
at you...

Ed had rolled his eyes.

What does that mean? the Ed in his mind chortled.

Will you just listen, Roy had returned exasperated,
I'm trying to share some culture with you.

The blond snorted and flopped back into the couch cushions.

I found a dream that I could speak to...

Roy shook his head and sighed, stood and retrieved his
coat, checked for his keys, watch and gloves, and then shrugged the coat on.

He locked the big office door behind him, nodded to the
guard when he exited the building and jammed his hands down in his pockets for
the walk to the car lot.

He's been gone three days, so much for superior intellect.
No, that's unfair. I thought he'd call in today, must be something good going
on. I'll have Mrs. Cates bake us a meatloaf, he'll like that. I can make some
potatoes to go with it, he likes potatoes.

Note to self: Remember to tell Hawkeye to move all
my appointments up, clear up my afternoon schedules. Don't want to be working
so late when he's in town.

I have to call Hughes and verbally shake him, he's
been awful quiet lately, I wonder what the hell is going on? Ah yes, the protest
group, that probably has him busy.

Note to self: Stop and get your mail, god knows how
much is crammed in that post office box by now. Fortunately, anyone who knows
me knows to send it to the office, but there are still those dense few.

Havoc and Breda are up for review next month. Falman
needs to be told to take some leave time. I need to get Cain some more books
on electrics. Hawkeye's birthday is the month after next, Hakuro wants me to
review the reports on the new happenings in what was once Ishbahl. Cabinet meeting
in Central at the end of the month, going to attend that, invited or not. Remind
Ed he left his blue shirt under my bed, I fished it out and it's clean now.

Roy glanced up as a figure passed him on the walk. His
trained eye as an officer quickly noted the man's uniform was ill fit, but the
man with eyes down had mumbled and tossed off a half-hearted salute with his
left hand, since he was carrying what looked to be a tool box in his right.
Roy snorted and didn't bother to return it. The motor pool Sergeant should hear
about this, letting his men be downright sloppy.

I'll stop and get a sandwich and a paper, make some
coffee when I get home.

The Colonel opened his car door, caught the side of his
trench and threw it over his right thigh so he could slide in without it being
in the way. He'd already fished the key out, so he jammed it into the ignition
and turned it while reaching to pull the car door shut.

A dream that I could call my own....

Oh yes.

Listening to that phonograph when I get home, too.

Click. Snap. Hiss.


Alphonse startled as his brother dropped the phone on
the depot house desk and screamed his name, running for the doors. It took Al
a moment to un-root his feet from the spot and follow hurriedly, glancing once
at the startled desk clerk as he banged out the door.

The train had already started to pull away, it was shuddering
and groaning and chugging, smoke wafted over the cars and down onto the covered
platform. Ed was running hard, and reaching with one white gloved hand, Al rushed
to try and catch up.

Something has happened... Havoc said.


He was going to make it. He had to make it, the train
hadn't picked up that much speed. His automail leg made his gate as loud as
the piston turning the train's big wheels. The train was familiar with this
routine and it offered no resistance to its engineers.

There has been a bombing... Havoc said.

He was going to make it. He was small, sure, but he was
fast, everyone said so. The platform was long and the last car hadn't reached
the pole holding up the end of the roof yet.

I don't know if the Colonel told you about the recent
protest group in Central..."
Havoc said.

He was going to make it, his nostrils were full of smoke
and he was stretching his arm as far as he could. He could get a hold of the
rail around the caboose car and pull himself on. The train was picking up speed,
but so was he. He would reach it.

The Colonel was caught in the blast.... Havoc said.

He could hear Al's armor clanking loudly behind him as
the train was cleared the end of the platform and pulled away. He wasn't going
to make it, he had to get to East City.

Don't.

Leave.

ME!

He truly didn't know who he intended that for, train or
lover. He wasn't going to make it, the engine was already heading into the turn
and the cars had cleared the platform.

PLEASE!

Then he was flying. A hard hand had grabbed him by the
back of his shirt through his coat, almost strangling him and a thumb had jammed
his coat into the waist band of his pants so it could get a good grip, and then
he was off the platform. He slammed into the railing and luckily one of his
feet slipped through the bars, granting him a good perch on the caboose floor.
He wrapped his hands frantically around the railing post and panted, for a moment
not knowing what had happened. But then he whipped his head around, released
the post with one hand and reached back. He watched a suit of armor windmill
its arms backwards, teetering precariously on the platform's edge, then stagger
a step back, right itself and wave.

He felt torn in two all over again.

Roy ahead of him, Al behind him.

The armor waved again, moving to the very front of the
platform as the caboose hit the bend. Ed waved back and then pulled the back
of his gloved automail hand over his eyes.


He wasn't going to make it. He threw his weight against
the car door that wasn't quite pulled all the way shut.

Not yet! Who will watch out for him? No one understands
him like I do!

The door slammed open on its hinge and whipped back toward
him, striking him as he threw his body out, and catching his leg, making him
half fall.

Not yet! I want to see if he looks like his brother!
I want to see what color his hair is and hear his voice without a metallic ring!

He flailed out as he fell, one hand finding the car door
handle, the other finding the catch that protruded from the door frame where
the car door latched. He heaved hard to pull himself upright.

Not yet! I don't want the First Lieutenant to become
the diamond she resembles, I want to show her how to let people in!

He wasn't going to make it. His great coat snagged on
the window handle, holding his arm momentarily trapped, but he ripped it free
and twisted violently. He got one foot and one knee on the pavement, and grabbed
the side of the door to get to his feet.

Not yet! Havoc is command material, he just doesn't
know it! Breda isn't as dumb as he wants everyone to think, I need to break
him of that! Cain has such potential and I'm pushing him in the right direction!
Falman needs to bend before he breaks, PLEASE!

He gained his feet, pushed off the door.

I found a thrill to press my cheek to... she crooned
to him softly.

HE NEEDS ME! NO, I NEED HIM...

A thrill that I have never known... she husked
against his ear.

He was running. One, two, three strides away from the
car.

Well, you smile, you smile... she said.

Golden eyes looked at him and lit up at the sight, white
teeth flashed.

Oh and then the spell was cast... she moaned.

Four strides, five.

Don't leave me! He wasn't sure if he meant his
life or his memories.

Then the sound of all heaven opened above his head.

And then, there was nothing.


"I don't know if you can call it luck, but the car door
seemed to have taken the brunt of it."

"What is the prognosis?"

"Too soon to tell."


The Conductor had startled at the panting boy in surprise.
When he was finally able to mumble "Ticket," he got a silver pocket watch shoved
in his face for his trouble. That in itself was guarantee for payment. The boy's
eyes skittered from his face, haunted and wild, and when the conductor tried
to speak to him again, he received a raw and curt "Leave me alone!", and took
it as a sign that he shouldn't pry. A State Alchemist's business was his own.


Ed crammed himself into the last bench of the last car
on the last train out before tomorrow morning. For a few long moments he thought
nothing as he caught his breath, eyes glued to the slices of color rolling past
the window.

Don't panic, brother. The Second Lieutenant said he
didn't have all the facts and that the Colonel was in the hospital,
his
brother spoke softly to him in his head.

Ed looked at the empty seat opposite him.

"But..." he said, sucking in his lower lip.

We don't know what happened, all we know is that there
was a bomb and the Colonel got hurt. It might not be so bad, people survive
much worse things, like me.
his brother's disembodied voice reassured him.

"Al, I haven't told him..." Ed whispered.

I think you have, just not with words, and if you haven't,
who says you won't have the chance to? The Second Lieutenant didn't say he was
dead,
his phantom brother spoke.

Ed put his feet up on the seat opposite him and buried
his face in his knees.

He better not be, the blond thought, because
if he is, I'll kill him.


There were so many things to do, that she didn't have
time to worry about the things that had already been done. Just because the
Colonel was absent didn't mean that the office came to a grinding halt. The
boys were at their usual seats, all silent with heads down, working intently.
It was odd what a disruption to routine could do to the fine-tuned inner workings
of a proficient office, which this was not and never had been, but all the same,
the effort was appreciated.

She listened to her own boot heels click on the floor
as she approached the empty desk and began arranging paperwork on it by priority,
just like she did every day. It didn't matter that the Colonel was absent, because
the work would keep coming anyway. The military cog would hardly be slowed for
one man. If the loss of one soldier could affect the whole of the engine that
was the army, then it was hardly an engine worth maintaining.

Someone shuffled and coughed behind her as she worked
fastidiously, this here, that there, he'll want to know about this first. Her
fingers trailed inadvertently to a silver pen butted up against a desk blotter.
It was a tourist trinket etched in flames and he horded it jealously, like it
was some priceless treasure. She didn't even know where it came from since it
was certainly not military issue. She rolled it back and forth under her fingertips
for a moment before letting it return to the place it had been before she disturbed
it.

The world didn't stop turning because one man was absent,
but at the moment, it felt like it did.


He pushed and shoved his way to the front of the exiting
crowd, ignoring the outraged cries and grunts. He hit the platform running,
pushing by the conductor and forcing his way through someone's family, all clustered
together and searching faces with eager eyes. He ran the length of the platform
to the outer terminal and stopped, eyes scanning the cars. He leapt in front
of a startled corporal and flashed his watch, and before the man could do more
than salute, Ed was in the car. The corporal fretted, looking between a glaring
state alchemist and the crowd streaming out of the inner depot, but what was
he to do? He shrugged, got in the car and drove him to the East City Military
Hospital.


"You think the only good advice is your own," the lone
figure beside the bed said, pushing his hands into his pockets, "even though
we keep telling you that you have a fat head, you never listen. You haven't
changed at all; you just have another stripe on your shoulder."

Roy Mustang was silent, which was very unusual for him,
and his head was ringed in white, like a false halo. There were other white
patches on him too, one peeking out of the neck of his hospital gown and others
hidden by a sheet.

The man removed one hand from his pocket and used his
index finger to push the thin metal nose piece of his wire frame glasses up
his nose.

"You're getting a piece of my mind when you wake up. I
know you won't listen, but I'll know I tried. So the next time you get yourself
killed, I'll have a clear conscience." He turned his head to a sudden commotion
in the hall. The young high-pitched voice sounded familiar.

Ed?

Maes Hughes opened the door of Colonel Mustang's room
and looked out to see the MP stationed there arguing with a wild, blond mess.
Ed looked like he hadn't slept in days; his hair hung in the front of his face,
even his antenna was dropping forward. His eyes darted to the older man's and
his expression changed a bit from aggravation to relief.

"Lieutenant Colonel," Ed cried out, ducking under the
MP's arm and coming straight over to Hughes, "Tell him who I am, let me by,"
he tried to duck around Hughes too, but he caught him by the arm.

"Hang on a minute Ed," he said, then he nodded to the
MP and gave Ed a tug, but the boy resisted grimly, his mouth a hard line, "I'll
let you see him, but let's have a talk first," Hughes urged gently.

Ed let himself be tugged across the hall, but didn't look
up at the Lieutenant Colonel, he kept his eyes fixed on the hospital room door
where a ruffled MP huffed and flustered.

"He's pretty banged up," Hughes said, "but as usual, he's
a lucky bastard. A car door landed on him and they think that's what saved him
from the blast, but he hasn't woken up yet and it's going on four days."

Four days. While he and Al were messing around with
that nowhere lead, the Colonel had been lying here in the hospital. Why hadn't
he called in sooner, why hadn't they tried to contact him?

"I'm surprised to see you here, I was told you were out
in the field," Hughes said, "did someone tell you when you called in?"

Ed nodded once, but didn't name names. They liked to hide
things from him, so he wasn't going to volunteer Havoc to a possible dressing
down.

"Where's Al?" the Lieutenant Colonel asked.

I left him all alone so I could come running here,
some elder brother I am. I left him on a train platform in a Podunk town, waving
goodbye to my sorry ass, and missed him so badly that I had conversations in
with him in my mind so I wouldn't panic. How pathetic is that? Let me go, I
have to see him, let me see him, please!

"He'll be along," Ed said hoarsely.

The Lieutenant Colonel looked at Ed's face for a long
moment, then nodded, released his shoulder and watched the boy dart across the
hall into the hospital room door. He started to follow and then stopped. He
wasn't sure what this was, but he decided that Ed alone was more company than
Roy could stand and went to get himself a cup of coffee.


The smell of antiseptic was not a pleasant memory, and
the silence almost burned. Waning sunlight filtered through the blinds, laying
stripes light across the room and bed. It made the figure lying there look like
he was a painting on several canvases, alternating between dark and light.

Ed was scared.

It's not like he hadn't been scared before, far from it.
He had been scared plenty; he was just good at not showing it. He was scared
with a maniacal prophet used a false stone, he was scared when it was said that
a scarred man stalked State Alchemists, he was scared when his younger brother
screamed his name before dissipating before his eyes, he was scared when a thousand
eyes peered at him from deep shadows. Scared was nothing new to him.

But, he was having a harder time with this. The only time
fear like this had ever twisted his stomach in two, was when he heard Al's frantic
screams on that fateful night. Now, as it was then, he was helpless to do anything
but stand there and watch. He dragged his brother back from the other side with
his arm, and at this very moment, he thought seriously about offering his other
one. He stood near the foot of the bed and cursed himself quietly that he couldn't
move forward any farther.


Let me show you how to dance, he could tell by
the look in the Colonel's eyes that the man was laughing at him.

Screw you, he told that handsome, arrogant face,
I'm not one of your girlfriends and I don't give a damn about that shit.

But I like this song, the Colonel had said, undaunted
as he tried to catch Ed's hands.

But Ed was quick and scooted away, raising his automail
foot and baring his teeth.

I said NO.

Ed covered his face with his hand.

I said I would protect you.

You said you loved me.

Ed pulled his hand down, clenched his fists and moved
slowly, haltingly to the bedside. As he peered over the Colonel, it looked even
more like one part of the man was painted in hues of night. There was a dark
bruise on his cheek and his hair looked even shorter on one side. On that same
side, his skin looked pink and almost blistered.

Ed slowly peeled the glove off of his flesh hand and he
looked at it, his hand wasn't too dirty. He raised it and hesitated over the
Colonel's face, looking for some bit of skin that didn't look purple or blistered.
He finally settled on the corner of the bastard's mouth and laid light finger
tips there. The Colonel made no sound, no corresponding smile like he usually
did when Ed touched him. There was no flash in black eyes and hinted he wanted
more, there was no reciprocating touch that promised more, there was nothing.

Don't leave me.

"Don't leave me!" Ed's own voice startled him in the silence
of the room. He bit his lips and closed his eyes tight against the sting.

But the Colonel didn't reply.


Hughes shook him awake. Ed sat up groggily and blinked
at him, disoriented and confused. It took him a moment to remember where he
was, another moment to realize he'd fallen asleep with his head on the bed next
to the Colonel's hand.

"Go on back to your dorm and get some sleep, Ed," the
Lieutenant Colonel said kindly, "You look like you could use it."

"No," Ed said groggily, "I'm fine, really. Someone has
to be here if he wakes up."

Hughes found it rather touching this brash, loud-mouthed
child, who wanted everyone to think he was so capable and so tough (and in
many ways he was)
, was actually soft hearted. He appreciated that Ed obviously
valued the many things Roy Mustang had done for him. Outside of himself, Hughes
had never seen Roy bend over so far backwards; it was almost as if he would
let the Elric brothers snap his spine.

But even so, it wouldn't do with Ed so bedraggled and
exhausted, sleeping in a chair with his head on the bed. When was the last time
the boy had anything to eat?

"I'll call you if there is any change," Hughes urged.

Ed started to argue, but a certain inner voice said softly
"It's going to look suspicious if you carry on, brother."

He missed Al in a way that was almost physically painful.
He stood, let himself be ushered out, and even let the Lieutenant Colonel walk
him to the front doors and get him a cab.

"Get some sleep Ed, come back later. He's a lot tougher
than you think," Hughes said again and gave the boy a fond rub on the head.

Ed was so soul sore and lonely for both brother and lover,
he couldn't even summon the strength to be offended at this overtly fatherly
gesture as he usually would be.

"You must really be wiped," the Lieutenant Colonel said,
"to let me get away with that." The he put Ed in the cab and sent him to the
dorms.


The dorm room was cold, gray and empty. Al wasn't home
yet and that made Ed worry and hurt. The Colonel didn't speak to him and that
also made him worry and hurt. He dragged at his clothes and fell onto his bed,
curled around a pillow and grit his teeth.

"I want you to know that it's ok if you aren't ready
yet," Roy whispered. "Please don't feel there is something you owe me because
I said it, it's something I wanted to say, and I give it freely, no strings
attached. And since I've given it to you, it's yours to do what you want with,
understand? It's not an obligation of any sort. If it was, then it wouldn't
be what it is, ok?"

He pressed his face harder into the pillow.

NO! It's not ok! You give and give and give and I'm
too stupid, too blind to see it. I LOVE YOU TOO, only I'm a fucking coward!
You shouldn't love me! I am worthless, doesn't anybody see that?! DOESN'T ANYBODY?!
What about you, AL? What the fuck has your big brother ever done for you that
is so great?"

His brother's voice answered him serenely: You saved
my soul.

I'm the one who jeopardized it in the first place!
How can that be any favor to you? HOW?!

His automail fist punched the mattress, but the mattress
wouldn't back down, so he did it again and again.

And you, you BASTARD, I put your life on the line by
risking your job, I am awkward and stupid at sex, GOD, how can you stand it?!
I was mean to your friend, I've cost you your reputation, every goddamn day
you put up with more and more of my BULLSHIT!

His eyes were stinging.

"No," he mumbled to the pillow, "no."

I will do what's right, I will. I will tell you, somehow
I'll make you hear me, I swear. Al, where are you?

He ached to hear clanking metal.

I'm scared.

He finally gave into the pillow and made it damp.


"Brother, wake up," a soft tinny voice sounded in his
ear. At first he just smiled at his inner Al, glad for at least that little
bit of company.

"Brother," came the voice again, this time accompanied
by the touch of rough leather on his shoulder. Ed's eyes flew open, jerked to
a half upright position and stared at Al, who was leaning over the bed.

"I talked to Second Lieutenant Havoc," Al said, "after
you left, I got the next train out, I'm sorry it took so long to get back."

Edward Elric made a single sound that conveyed more love
than any mere word could have ever done justice. He reached up and grabbed one
of Al's shoulder spikes and tugged. Al leaned further over and Ed threw his
arms around his brother as far as he could reach, pressing his face to a cool
metal chest plate.

"It's ok," Al said and rubbed Ed's back, "I'm here now,
it's ok."

For the second time in less than a day, Edward Elric cried.


Edward told Al in a scratchy voice everything he'd seen
in the hospital room and everything he'd done. Al nodded his head and patted
his brother, sent him to shower and cooked him some food. He watched Ed play
with it, hair scraggly wet and face drawn.

"Eat it Ed," he scolded, "you won't do him any good if
you make yourself sick, he wouldn't like that."

Ed gave Al a guilty look and obeyed, but slowly.

"Did Lieutenant Colonel Hughes tell you what the doctors
said?" Al asked.

Ed shook his head no.

"Well maybe you should ask him when you go back," Al said.

Ed nodded yes.

"I think he'll be ok," Al said, "I think the Colonel is
a strong person."

Ed shrugged.

"And who would want to leave you behind," Al continued,
"I know I wouldn't."

Ed looked across the table at his younger brother.

"I really love you Al," he said, "and I should tell you
more often."


Hughes looked at Ed askance, but he was clean this time,
in clean clothes and had better color.

"That wasn't much of a sleep," he said.

"I'm fine, really," Ed said evenly, "I just thought I
should ask his condition, I mean we didn't really talk at all, and hey, I could
say the same thing to you, you look beat."

The Lieutenant Colonel shrugged and smiled.

"All part and parcel of the whole Roy Mustang routine,"
he said, "it's not the first time."

"You've been friends a long time," Ed said, more a statement
than a question.

"Yeah," Hughes said, "sometimes I think I need my head
examined."

Ed couldn't help it, he laughed a little and Hughes smiled.

"The doctor was by earlier," the Lieutenant Colonel said
and smiled at the boy's hopeful look, "they pinched his fingers and he moved
them."

Ed's eyes positively lit up. "Really?" he asked and then
seemed to school himself, "Well that's good," he followed, in much more subdued
tones.

"I tell you what, you can sit with him long enough for
me to get some food and maybe catch a nap on a couch in the waiting area," the
Lieutenant Colonel said to him.

"Oh sure," Ed said, "take your time. I have all sorts
of things to say to him now that he can't hear me. I may never have such an
opportunity again."

Hughes laughed and patted Ed's shoulder.

"Ok then," Hughes said, "he's all yours."


All mine, all quiet and unresponsive and hurt and bandaged
and blistered, but all mine.

Ed looked back at the door for a moment, then slide his
gloved fingers under Roy's, then back at the door another moment, then he pinched.
The Colonel jerked his fingers. That was great, but it wouldn't do to get caught
pinching the fingers of an invalid.

Ed took a few deep breaths.

"Ok," he said, "I have a few things to say. First, I want
to say I'm sorry for going back on my word, for not protecting you. But I think
you know as well as I do that I can't always be here, like you can't always
be there for me. We both have things we have to do, so yeah, it hurts that I
failed you, but I'm not going to beat myself up over it. I mean, I have already,
and I'm ok with it now. Second, you are some stupid fuck to let this happen
in the first place. You're smarter than this, so I don't get how you could just
blindly walk into something unless you had a lot on your mind, like me, so we're
going to have to work something out. I know it's hard not to think about me...
oh that sounded arrogant didn't it. What I meant was, it's hard for me not to
think about you, so I sort of thought it would be the same for you, maybe, I
don't know. I don't know what's going on behind those slanty black eyes half
the time. Nevermind, you get it, you get what I'm saying, I know you do, because
you're who you are. Third, I want to thank you for taking care of us, me and
Al. Without you to fall back on, we'd pretty much have nothing, and I realize
that. I know I don't come across as grateful, but I am. I'm bad about saying
that to your face, but I should sometimes, I should learn to say thank you when
I need to. Al says I'm socially inept. I think that's unfair, I get along just
fine with people when they aren't bastards, like you are. I don't threaten people,
much... I mean, I just know I can't let things stop me or get in the way. You're
just like that too, so you know where I'm coming from with this. How is it I'm
called socially inept by my own brother, but people fall all over you and want
to lick your boots when we are practically the same thing? I think that's pretty
shitty. You always get everything, but I get laughed at, and shot at, and chased."

Ed worked his jaw; this wasn't where this conversation
was supposed to go. He chased after it and pulled it back on track.

"Ok, so thank you for taking care of us. It means a lot
to us both, and a lot to me because you're so nice to Al and don't treat him
like a freak. Yeah, thanks."

Ed took another deep breath and then another.

"Ok last point and I'll shut up," he said. "There is something
I want to tell you, something I say to you a lot, just never out loud. It's
hard for me to say it, because when I do, it usually does more harm than good.
But, you have stuck by me, been patient with me, and helped me when I needed
it most. I think about you, I think about how you would react now, and I like
looking at you and touching you and I REALLY like you touching me. I like talking
to you and listening to you, even when you make me mad. I like just being with
you and I want you to know I like being with you, too. I more than like it,"
Ed bit his lip.

He leaned close to the Colonel's ear.

"I want you to know," he said softly, "that I lo..."

The Colonel jerked and snorted, his eyebrows twitching.

A voice hoarse and low whispered to Ed: "There's meatloaf
in the icebox." Then the Colonel sighed, snuffled and licked his lips.

"Meatloaf?" Ed said, momentarily stunned.

"I was going to make potatoes," the Colonel said groggily,
"but I feel like shi..." and was caught off by a pair of warm lips over his.

"...it." He finished when Ed pulled back. The Colonel
blinked, opened his eyes and regarded Ed in a very unfocused fashion. "Would
it be ok if you just made sandwiches with it?" he queried.

"Fuck yes," Ed said, smiling. Then he pulled back. Wouldn't
be good to be seen kissing an invalid either.

"Oh good," the Colonel sighed, "and when you're through,
come back to bed." Then he closed his eyes and went back to sleep.

Ed pinched his fingers again.


When the Colonel was released from the hospital, he was
told he still needed to take some time off, so he sat in his bed, faded blue
and peeling, surrounded by magazines and books and empty boxes of chocolates.
Flowers and stuffed animals and notes and cards, bottles of wine and boxes of
cigars and even new bedroom slippers that were spotted like an exotic cat (these
were from Anna)
. They had been the only gift from a female that Ed had brought
him without complaint, and now here he came again, snarling, shoving another
vase of flowers on Roy's dresser and snatching up the card.

"Who's Desiree?" Ed demanded.

Roy sighed.

"You don't complain so much when they send candy," Roy
pointed out.

"Candy is useful, these are just decorative," Ed snorted.

"Useful?" Roy asked.

"Yeah, keeps me from kicking your ass," Ed growled.

Ed came over to the bed and hopped on, crawled up beside
the Colonel and flopped over, sticking his nose against the Colonel's hip.

The Colonel smiled and patted his hair, running the pad
of his thumb around the edge of Ed's ear. Ed sighed at the touch, closing his
eyes a bit and settling.

"I'm sorry I scared you," the Colonel said.

"Shut up," Ed growled, "it's not like you did it on purpose
or anything, and I wasn't scared, you're too much of a bastard to die."

The Colonel chuckled and sighed.

"I suppose you're stuck with me," the bastard said.

"I've had worse," Ed shrugged and rubbed his nose against
the Colonel's hip.

"Do me a favor?" the Colonel asked.

"Sure," Ed said without hesitation.

"Think you can bring my phonograph in here?" the Colonel
questioned.

Ed sat up and swung his feet off the bed.

"I don't see why not," he groused, "I've already lugged
a half ton of fucking flowers in here today," and he went to fetch the box.


The Colonel shuffled through his discs while Ed stood
by on call to be the manner of the phonograph.

"Make up your mind already," the blond grumbled, "I'm
not your maid, you know."

"I'm sorry, ah, here it is," Roy carefully unsleeved the
disc, holding it by the edges in the palm of his hands and offering it to Ed.
Ed started to close his automail fingers over it and take it, but the Colonel
whipped it out of the way.

"Not like that," the Colonel said, scowling, "you'll scratch
it."

Ed snorted, turned and stomped to the bathroom. He returned
with a wash cloth wrapped around his metal digits.

"Happy?" he snapped.

"Almost," the Colonel said, "but hold it like I'm holding
it and try not to let your fingers touch the grooves," he said loftily, then
presented Ed the phonograph disc like it was plated in gold.

Ed gently pressed the flats of his palms to the disc's
edges and carried it slowly over to the dresser where the phonograph was perched.
He then realized the error of his location of the phonograph, because the chest
of drawers was almost as tall as he was and the phonograph was sitting up high
now, he couldn't readily see over the side. It he just lifted the disc up over
the box and dropped it, the Colonel might, literally, have a cow. He was picky
about these things. Ed went up on tiptoe, but still couldn't get a clear view
over the top of the phonograph box, so he stood there bouncing on his toes in
indecision. He grimaced when he heard a chuckle behind him.

Ed turned around, went back to the bed and let the disc
drop onto it, earning a gasp from the Colonel. Then he went back to the phonograph
box, picked it up and took it to the dresser. He set it down amidst the flowers,
several of which crashed to the floor, and the Colonel gasped again, but Ed
merely turned around, clapped his hands and knelt. He then picked up the reconstructed
vases and flowers, and carried them to the chest of drawer and put them
there. He came back for the phonograph disc, picking it up carefully
with palms just on the edges, paused to show the Colonel his tongue, took it
over to the dresser, lowered it over the turntable, pulled his hands away and
let the disc drop neatly onto the spool. He cranked the handle, toggled the
switch and the disc began to turn.

"Second track in," the Colonel said amusedly behind him.

"Yeah, yeah," Ed said, "You always start out with the
same old song."

He turned to look at the bastard and the bastard patted
the bed beside him.

Ed took this as an invitation for a short run and leap,
and the Colonel laughed as his velvet-voiced goddess filled the room and his
lover filled his arms.

..and here we are in heaven, and you are mine..

At last.

Ed sighed and leaned back on the Colonel who nuzzled the
top of his head.

"You know what?" the blond said.

"Why don't you tell me," the Colonel replied.

"I think I like this song," Ed said.

The Colonel kissed the top of his head.