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The Adventures of Roy Mustang: Sex Ed Teacher

chapter 17.

"Doesn't make sense..." Alphonse Elric mumbled, checking over his own carefully
written notes, "none of this makes sense... oh wait... past life regression?
I've read about that... or have I?" he made more furious notes on the paper,
then rested his chin on the table and looked at Mr. Burt who was sitting across
from him, smiling.

"Mr. Burt, can I ask you a few more questions?" Alphonse
asked, not bothering to raise his chin. He considered it like a work out for
his face, speaking and making his chin do push ups as it were, "because I'm
still not sure why it is you know me, or how it is I was here before in a suit
of armor, or why I knew about the barn full of crates. Do you have a little
yellow cat?" Al cocked his eyebrow.

Mr. Burt kept his same squinty-eyed smile. After a moment,
Al realized he'd fallen back asleep, so he sat up slowly and pulled over his
notes. He'd gone through his pad of paper, some paper Mr. Burt had from an old
stationary set that was yellowed and stained but still useable, the backs of
some old receipts Mr. Burt had that he said he no longer needed, the backs of
some envelopes he had in his suitcase, a length of paper intended for service
in Mr. Burt's outhouse and out of desperation, the inner covers of Ed's journal.

Even the most inconsequential thing seemed important now,
the most trivial of circumstances, the slightest peep of the little voice his
mind (that sounded disturbingly like himself) had ever made, waking or
dreaming, seemed monumental. He glanced at his notes, tapped his worn pencil
nub on the paper and tried to remember more. This was all very fascinating information;
could it possibly be connected to his brother's disappearance?

Here he was presented with the theory that perhaps, he
himself, Alphonse Elric, had lived a double life. Sure it seemed far fetched,
what with a doddering old man who couldn't remember if he'd cooked breakfast
or not saying he recognized Alphonse from over six years ago when he had supposedly
been clad in armor (7 FOOT armor)... It would have been so easily dismissed
if not for the dream, and when he thought about the dream, he realized
that while some details where hard and tangible, like the barn and the crates,
others where questionable and did not concur with his own recollections.

The first and foremost of these of course, was his brother,
Edward.

Alphonse remembered a boy about his own age with wide,
large eyes, a round face and blond hair that hugged his cheeks. Someone who
ran beside him, plotted with him, dreamed with him and fought with him on occasion.
The Edward of his dreams was taller, older, his face wasn't as round, his hair
was long and braided, and his eyes, while still large, were entirely different.

While his younger self, or the Edward of Al's own recollections,
had eyes that were full of hope, happiness and even with tears, they still held
optimism. The eyes of the Dream Edward, however, told a different story.

Now, Alphonse prided himself on the ability to read people.
He was really very good at it and his abilities had been called upon by the
General in the past. He would sit beside him in some cabinet meeting or other
and whisper his impressions of each person as they took the podium to make their
speeches. The General relied on these observations when his turn came to speak
if there was one faction or another he needed to placate or threaten without
seeming to. Alphonse rather liked it when the General called him things like
'invaluable' and 'brilliant' and was glad this little knack was just the thing
to ingratiate him to his superiors.

But could his talents be applied to his own subconscious?
That was the true question. It could be a form of narcissism to suppose one
could analyze oneself and find true hidden value. He tapped the scrap of box
he was now using, having fished it from the trash, carefully ripped it apart
and flattened it. He wrote 'Alchemists Analyze Thyself' on the top of it and
then put his elbow on the table, resting his chin in his palm.

Back to the matter of the Dream Edward and his telling
eyes. Al scribbled down a few initial impressions: Dream Edward's eyes held
hope, but it was a guarded thing, not something he let out too often in the
fear it could be dashed. Yes, they held some measure of happiness, at least
when they were turned on Alphonse and were accompanied by the helpful support
of his smile, but it was optimism in measure, much like hope. It was stingily
sequestered and doled out in spoonfuls, not immediately apparent. There were
other elements the Edward of his recollections didn't have.

There was determination, the bully of all the other things
that might be showing there and there was devotion so vast that one might easily
get lost in it. There was sadness tangled all around its lover guilt, neither
of which were shy things, they did not hide their coupling from the world. His
eyes danced with intelligence, not that they hadn't before, but they spoke of
knowledge much older than the youthful face surrounding them. Then there was
a so small guarded treasure lurking, just at the edges. Some iota of something
Alphonse couldn't quite figure out and it was not a bad thing, far from
it, it was more like a longing. A longing and a certainty of something he was
guarding in his heart, which he wanted to be his alone. He was certainly allowed
that, in every way. Alphonse wondered just what had put that there, for it seemed
so at odds with its ocular neighbors.

He looked at his long list of points and ticked them off
one at a time by pointing at them with his pencil and nodding to make sure he
had them properly categorized. Even if Dream Edward turned to be mere speculation,
Alphonse wanted to remember him. He was certain that he would love his elder
brother no matter what. He might like to meet this Edward too, even if only
in his dreams once in a while.


The General stood in the middle of the street and struggled
to calm his breathing. He slowly moved his eyes from one dark building to another
and let his ears move with them, staring hard into every shadow and tilting
his head to every slight sound. The street itself was non-descript. Besides
the hotel, it contained dull blocked office buildings and a restaurant, all
long since closed up for the night. The end where he had left the car opened
onto the main street, the other end seemed to trail off on a small side road
that looped behind the hotel, probably only for deliveries.

But the General was a military man, and though the he
was a man in love with a ghost, he saw no reason to be one himself. If this
was just some cruel joke or lure, he had come waltzing in willingly. He stepped
off the street and onto the sidewalk where there was some light from one pitiful
street lamp a little ways away. He reached into his pocket and silently cursed
himself. Stupid! Stupid to do this, to come without his gloves! This is what
being a sentimental fool got him! He looked back toward the car, if it was Edward
and he had wanted to see him, why was he hiding from him now? The best thing
was to withdraw and check this out again tomorrow in the daylight.

He warily sidestepped down the sidewalk before turning
to stride for the vehicle.

"Colonel," a voice said hoarsely, off to the left on his
blind side. He turned abruptly, jaw set, and fingers still digging in his pocket
as if they could magically produce a glove. There was a figure leaning against
the wall between the hotel and the business next door and the General took a
few steps back, the voice was unfamiliar.

"You've been given bad information," Roy said, "it's General
now. Who are you and what do you want?"

I will not give you the satisfaction of acknowledging
you lured me here using my dead lover's name.

"Bad information? You ass," the voice said again, raw
and scratchy, "your goddamn ego sure hasn't suffered. Haven't spoken to me for
years and the first thing you make sure you do is correct me on your damn rank."

The voice was unfamiliar, but it had familiar touches.
Or was that just what he wanted to hear? The dead don't come back to life, at
least not as anything you'd want to come back to life. He swallowed down
memories then, a mansion, blood, the crack of a child's neck, a thing with a
deadly eye. The figure shoved itself off the wall and moved in a jerky, rolling
motion. It stepped forward on its right leg, but threw his left leg forward
and put it down hard, leaning forward into it to keep it from folding back.
After about five of these jerky repetitions, it staggered out into the light.

Tangled light hair hung over his shoulders, he wore disheveled
clothing and he seemed to be clutching a useless arm to his side, but he raised
his face and in the wane light, golden eyes flashed.

"Well get the fuck over here," Edward Elric growled, "because
I think I'm going to fucking pass out."


Time stood still.

All around him sound fled, light dimmed and even the ground
beneath his feet gave way, because nothing had prepared him. Edward swayed to
some unseen tempo and still, Roy could not move, stuck literally to the spot
as every sense screamed joy and disbelief.

The dead do not come back to life.

He had grieved, he had accepted for brief periods of time,
he had his precious voice that spoke to him in his mind, but he didn't have
the reality of this man silhouetted in sparse lamplight. He didn't know what
to do, he would have done of one of his circles, but his body kept pointing
in the direction of Edward (Edward! EDWARD!) and refused to turn away.

Edward seem to make a disgruntled sound that turned into
half a gasp, then he did that laborious move again, throwing out his left leg
(automail malfunction) and making that slow, rolling gait. Then he seemed
to shudder all over and simply fell.

Roy blinked as he hit the pavement. His body felt the
tremor of the impact all the way through the concrete and he moved, too
late to prevent the fall, but crossing the few feet between them seemingly instantaneously.
He went down on his knees and hovered, not touching, but staring at the profile
obscured by heavy golden hair. With his hands raised, he reached down within
a mere touch of the body there and he held them in limbo, trembling.

When I touch you, you'd better be real.

He laid his hands on Edward's side and back, and they
were warm and solid. The General heard a keening sound, but it did not sound
like it was coming from Edward. In fact, he felt his own throat work. He rolled
him slowly onto his back and ran a hand behind his neck, lifting his head from
the pavement. His one black eye traced a face that was the same and yet different
all at once. He looked pale, but it was hard to tell in the bad light. He was
panting slightly through parted lips and his eyes looked dark and bruised, as
well as his cheekbones, making them prominent on his face.

Edward's eyes fluttered open suddenly and he looked unfocused
for a moment, seeming to hitch a frightened breath, but then focusing on and
scowling at the face hanging above his own.

"You bastard, you let me fall," he said accusingly.

"I'm sorry," Roy yelped, "but will you forgive my utter
ASTONISHMENT that you are alive?" his stress making his voice high.

Edward snorted and winced.

"Some boyfriend you are," he groused raggedly and coughed,
"disappear for six years and you went all soft in the head," Edward's eyes settled
on the dark side of Roy's face, "and you are definitely telling me about that."

Roy's mouth kept opening and closing and one of Edward's
eyebrows quirked up.

"And you're doing a damn fine fish out of water impersonation,"
he said, "I knew you'd be surprised to see me, but I didn't think it would make
you stupid," Edward's mouth quirked at the sides.

"You shut the fuck up," Roy suddenly said, "how dare you
show back up, take ten years off my life and start insulting me," Roy pulled
Edward up against his chest, ran a hand under his legs to the back of his knees
and heaved to his feet. "And you've put on weight."

"Now who's being insulting... AH!" Edward tried to bite
back the gasp of pain and clamped his jaw shut.

"We have to get you to a hospital," Roy said, voice dropping
to concern immediately.

"No," Edward gasped out, "can't, your place."

Roy started for the car, grunting.

"What do you mean no? You're hurt," he said.

"I'm AWOL, or have you forgotten General? I don't
want to advertise myself right now, anyway. It's not as bad as it looks, I'm
being a baby," He flopped his head against Roy's shoulder, "and I want to go
home."

"AWOL," Roy said with half a snort, "no my love, you are
buried with a very nice marker, I'll take you to visit it. You better not be
lying to me about worse than it looks," he wanted to take Edward home and never
let him out of his sight again.

"Have I ever lied to you before?" Edward said weakly as
Roy set him on his feet and leaned him against the car to get the passenger
door open.

"Yes," Roy said, "to get what you wanted, to get around
me, to avoid work," he said opening the door wide and turning to pull Edward
over.

"I mean besides all that, that was just business," the
blond said dizzily, then winced and gasped as Roy got him into the car.

"Yes," Roy said again, "when you talked to me in my head,"
he ignored Edward's raised eyebrow and quirked lips, "you were a lot nicer."

"How is that a lie," Edward asked before Roy shut him
in.

"I think lulling me into a false sense of security by
being nice to me in my head was setting me up for the ambush of reality you've
just pulled on me. Deception is a lie, Edward," and he shut the car door.


"I need to go back to Central," Alphonse announced, "and
have a discussion with my Pirate, he's holding out on me." Even though Mr. Burt
was asleep upright in his chair, Alphonse found it comforting to have someone
to announce his plans to.

"A pirate, you say?" Mr. Burt wasn't as asleep as Alphonse
had assumed, "You have a very interesting life, young man. Do you think he'll
be able to tell you about the troubles you are wearing so openly on your face?"

Alphonse blinked in surprise and put his hand to his face,
actually expecting to feel something there. But then he caught himself (metaphorically,
not literally. Your manners are the ruin of your good sense, at least that's
what Winry says. Not that she is any sort of shinning example of politeness...)

and lowered his hand sheepishly, then he stood.

"I think so. I think he knows a lot more than he lets
on and he knew my brother as well," Alphonse heaved a little sigh, "but every
time I broach the subject with him, his soul hangs its head, " Al looked at
Mr. Burt, "That's probably not an analogy that makes any sense."

Mr. Burt still smiled. "It just means he's sad and that
you must think very much of him indeed to see it, because he tries not to show
it on the outside."

"Exactly," Al said, "he thinks he's so strong. He is,
really, but I wonder why my brother is the person who has made him wrap himself
up in self-imposed misery, it's very puzzling."

Alphonse gathered up his notes, stacking them neatly and
chronologically.

"At any rate, this armor business is making me all out
of sorts and that's not a feeling I like," Al told him, "it plagues me and when
things plague me, I have to cure them. (Like finding my brother, that is
my most deadly plague of all)
"

"I once had another life too," Mr. Burt said, "and when
I think about it sometimes, it's like a dream."

Alphonse didn't want to appear rude, but he did want to
be in a hurry.

"I'm going for my things," he said, "please keep talking,
I can hear you down the hall," and he trotted to the room that had been his
for the last couple of days.

"Once, I built bridges," the old man said, "I relied on
my talents and my intelligence to tell me how to make them. I spanned a great
many mysteries in my time. Dry valleys, tumbling rivers, nothing could get in
my way, but then one day my bridges fell down," he stopped, seeming to catch
his breath and prod his memory, "and many people questioned if I should have
made bridges at all. It was painful to have so much of my life inside these
creations and to hear that no one truly understood," he trailed off then, but
Alphonse's footsteps sounded behind him.

"No, please go on. I merely stopped so I could hear you
better, the floor creaks very loudly there and I didn't want to miss a single
word," Al sat down in the chair opposite him again.

"You understand people, I think maybe too well," Mr. Burt
said, "your Pirate sees this, and there are things that maybe he doesn't want
to have to share with you. Maybe it hurts him that you understand, maybe he
wants you to be a little selfish," Mr. Burt smiled.

Alphonse tugged his lower lip and mulled this over.

"To share something is to halve the burden," the old man
said, "it will still be heavy, but you can bear up under it better when you
are in like company."

Alphonse felt his heart skip. He'd left the General to
carry the loss of Edward all alone. Alphonse felt the loss too, keenly and painfully,
but it was a soft-tinged thing, a gentle memory as well as an insistent push,
but what was it that the General carried exactly? He was one of those infuriating
adults who had the privilege, Alphonse found at times, he would give his very
own right arm for, he knew Edward of the after.

There was this great after Alphonse hungered for.
They tried to hide it from him, but how could they? The Edward of his memories
was all of eleven years old and he couldn't possibly be all that Alphonse had
come to learn he was without this mysterious after. This plagued him
too, it burned the edges of all common sense (see Winry, I do have
some)
with its very illogical existence. There was no Happily or Ever,
but there was an After, and Alphonse was living it without Edward. When
he found Edward and brought him home, he would force the two rogue words into
submission.

But just the thought of the General being lonely was enough
to make Al's breath hitch once, and here he though he was so understanding.
He was, but it was too much.

I always said you were polite enough, but oh no, you
always push the envelope!
the voice in his head said, the one that was getting
quite bold as of late.

"Nothing wrong with being polite," he muttered aloud.

No there isn't, except the way you do it. It's like
a shoe maker making you shoes for all six feet. That's four too many, and it
makes you run in circles and pee your pants. I hardly see how this is good.

the voice put it's hands on hips.

Alphonse felt the color in his cheeks.

"Shut up," he muttered again and then covered his mouth
with his fingers, widening his eyes at Mr. Burt. "I'm so sorry," he rushed out,
"that wasn't intended for you at all, but for myself, you see. I'm having very
unorganized thoughts today."

Mr. Burt just continued smiling.

"I think perhaps you are giving yourself some good advice.
You should follow it," the old man said.

Perhaps he was right.


Mr. Burt accompanied him to the porch steps, holding onto
his elbow.

"Be careful here," the old man said in his cheery way,
"these steps are a doozy," and he put one little old shaky foot down, squeezing
Alphonse's elbow who smiled and grinned inside.

Mr. Burt was just a wonderful person.

When they had gained the yard, they both looked back for
a moment at the house.

"I want to do something for you," Alphonse said to Mr.
Burt, "other than pay you for my room, if you'll permit me," he smiled.

"What would you like to do for me young man?" Mr. Burt
said, "Just your company has been blessing enough."

Alphonse shrugged off his black jacket and pushed up his
shirt sleeves. He reached into this pocket and pulled out a pair of white gloves,
the palms of which were embroidered with arrays (thank you Granny) and
slipped them on.

Decompose, understand, reconstruct. Yes, he knew this.
He gave himself a shake, making his pony tail swing, and walked back toward
the house. He slapped his hands together in front of him and knelt, slamming
them onto the ground.

The house shuddered and groaned, rolled and flowed. It
forgot itself and then remembered itself and then was given permission to embellish
itself, which it did with lovely scroll work gracing the railings of its newly
seated porch. Alphonse rose to his feet slowly, wiped the back of a hand over
his cheek and turned to look at Mr. Burt.

"A talent beyond your talents, you are a young man of
many, many layers," Mr. Burt says, "and I think this is equivalent exchange
enough for the time you spent with me, although somehow I feel I owe you more.
Your company was a balm."

In that instant, Alphonse knew he had yet another newsy
letter to write once a month like all the others, but he really didn't mind.

Mr. Burt was looking at his new house and he leaned slightly,
just a little to the left. Alphonse's eyebrows rose and he turned to look at
his creation.

The Theorem Alchemist leaned just a bit to the left as
well.


"Where are we going?" his voice was still hoarse and scratchy,
but it was real and alive and it ran over every nerve Roy Mustang had. He risked
another glance over at his passenger, but it was dangerous, they'd already almost
hit one lamp post.

"Home," Roy said, "that's what you asked of me."

"But we're leaving the city," Edward said, using the door
window as a pillow for his head.

"I live in the suburbs," Roy replied, "Hawkeye thought
a General in an apartment was a court marshalling offense."

"So whipped," Edward muttered. "Tell me about Al," he
said softly.

"What's to tell?" Roy replied, "He waltzed into my office
and gave me heart palpitations, he had the exam board eat out of the palm of
his hand, every female officer within miles fall madly in love with him, he
breezed through any assessment offered without even trying and he looks so much
like you I want to claw my remaining eye out. He out smarts, out charms and
out shines even the most polished brass, and can tell you, without any uncertainty,
not only what is on their minds but what they had for dinner last week. He has
completely besotted me to being a fan of letter writing and he's never around
long enough for any true satisfaction of his presence. He has this inner fire
to find his missing sibling and it's always written very plainly on his features.
He loves his brother so much that for the last four years, he has been on a
ceaseless journey and has developed theories that no sane man could read without
falling into gibbering incomprehensibility, and not from lack of coherence,
but from the sheer force of his logic. He is, without a doubt, bloody fucking
brilliant and he owns his superiors, including me, with panache enough to woo
marble into weeping. Since you had to go and remove yourself from my presence,
I can only now humbly thank you for leaving him behind, because truly Edward,
he couldn't be more perfect, and that my love, that is why you're a goddamn
miracle."

Edward was silent for several long moments and when he
spoke, he tried to hide the tell tale catch of emotion in his breathing.

"I always knew I loved you for a reason," he finally said.


"Quit being so fucking noble, I can walk," Edward growled
when Roy helped him out of the car and made the motion to pick him up.

"Quit being so fucking stubborn, just let me carry you,"
Roy growled back and moved to pick him up again.

Edward fought him, so Roy stood back and folded his arms.
Edward squared both his jaw and his shoulders, then took one rolling step forward
while Roy studied his fingernails and sniffed. Edward gritted his teeth and didn't
give him the satisfaction of glaring at him, instead he took a deep breath and
another step. Roy reached out casually, pressed his fingers to Edward's shoulder
and pushed him right over into the grass of the manicured lawn.

"YOU BASTARD," Edward howled and rolled onto his stomach
to get his flesh knee under him, but Roy put a casual boot on his upturned butt
and pushed him over again. Edward snarled and panted and tried again, and again.

"I can keep this up all night," Roy said flatly.

"FINE, if you're so eager to goddamn paw me right off
the bat, then carry me," Edward screamed from his front lawn, "I see what I
was to you all along," he yelled again, then dropped his voice, "you really
are just a slimly pervert, it's what I expected," he panted.

Roy regarded Edward looking up at him from the damp grass
and put his hands on his hips.

"And just what is it that you are to me?" he asked, Edward
couldn't see him arch his eyebrow in the dark, but he did it anyway.

"Bed toy," Edward sneered and wiggled all around, reaching
up with his good arm.

"Try ulcer," Roy said and caught his hand before Edward
could jerk it away.


Roy got him in the door, then turned and kicked it shut.
He grunted and bounced Edward once to redistribute the weight on his arms and
Edward gasped out loud.

"I'm sorry," Roy said, "I'm sorry, Ed."

"Stop apologizing," Ed grit through his teeth, "I'm fine,"
he blatantly lied, "you're the one who wanted to carry me, so suck it up."

Roy walked to down the long central hallway and Edward
twisted his head back and forth, giving a low whistle when they passed the large
arched entrance to the living room.

"You've really done well for yourself," he said on his
journey, "this is a really nice house."

"It wasn't my idea," Roy said, "Hawkeye picked it out,"
he grunted.

They passed a few more doorways and Ed jiggled in his
arms a bit.

"You got a den!" he said excitedly as Roy turned to take
him into the bedroom.


He sat him very carefully on the edge of the bed and was
sorry to have to put him down. Ed looked up at him and gave him a half smile
then. Roy shook his head and shrugged off his coat, tossing it onto a wing-backed
chair that occupied one corner of the wall near the head of his bed. He knelt
and worked a muddy, scuffed, short, brown boot off Edward's right foot and then
turned to the other one. When he gripped the heel, the whole leg lifted unhelpfully,
so he lowered it and tried again. Edward tried to help, reaching across his
body and pushing down on the knee, but Roy finally took hold of the artificial
limb about the ankle and worked the boot off. The foot was rounded and indented
like a foot should be, but it was molded and there was no effort to mimic a
true foot in it. Roy felt saddened by it and was a bit startled that he missed
the automail. It had been such a part of Edward.

He stood up then, leaned over and dug under the shirttails
of a filthy, white, button-down shirt that was untucked and hanging beneath
an equally tattered vest. He found a belt buckle and was able to unhook it unseen
because it wasn't the doubled-looped, lovemaking-hampering puzzle like the other
one Ed used to wear, and that somehow saddened him too. He pulled it free, let
it drop and then undid the button at the top of Ed's pants. He decided to leave
them for a moment and instead worked on the buttons of the vest. When he got
to the top button, Ed bowed his head down suddenly and planted a kiss on the
fleshy part of Roy's thumb, and Roy began to tremble.

Delivered to his arms was this bruised and battered angel,
with its dirty, dull and tangled yellow hair, and its bruises and smears of
red that could only be blood. It stank and its clothes were ripped and tattered,
but it was the most precious thing he'd ever had the allowance to set his eye
on. The reality was beginning to catch up to him, up until now he'd been living
out this wild fantasy, complete with Edward's barbs and jibes, but now the dreams
were fading away and he was left with this creature before him. He licked his
lips, pushed the vest over the angel's shoulders and began to unbutton the shirt,
his breathing was coming in hitches now and his shaking fingers were having
trouble with the buttons. The angel raised its flesh hand and laid its fingers
on the outside of his wrist, rubbing up and down in a gesture that spoke of
its wishing to comfort Roy's distress, but Roy knew it was hopeless. He got
the shirt open, and looked at the leather strap that was stretched across the
angel's upper chest. It had a buckle like a belt as well, and it had sweat stains
along its edges.

"Help me take the arm off," Ed said softly, "it stopped
working anyway."

Roy swallowed hard and fumbled with the smaller buckle,
getting it after two or three times.

"Are you ok?" Ed said.

Of all the stupid questions... He wasn't the one covered
in purple and blue and red, he wasn't the one that could barely walk or had
a dead weight for a right arm. He grit his teeth.

"I'm fine," he blatantly lied.

The skin beneath the strap was pale, smooth and almost
shiny. He touched his fingertips to it briefly before pushing the shirt off
Ed's shoulders and going to draw it down his arms, but it seemed to snag on
something and Edward gasped again. Roy pulled back and looked at him for a long
moment, then put a knee beside Ed on the bed and leaned behind him, lifting
the heavy blond mane. Dried blood lay under it in long stripes that cemented
the shirt to Edward's back. Roy laid the hair back over it gently and pushed
off the bed to look at Edward.

Edward bit his lip.

"Liar!" Roy said and pointed, "You told me it looked worse
than it was! You duped me out of taking you to the hospital!" he turned as if
to get his coat.

"No Roy, please don't make me," Ed wailed desperately,
"I don't want to go, I want to be here with you and I want to see Al and I don't
want to go to the hospital because they won't let you stay with me the whole
time! I just wanted to get back here to Al and to you and I clawed and scraped
and pleaded and please don't do this to me now," and Edward Elric's voice rose
to hysteria. Roy had NEVER heard that before. It shot straight though his chest
and pinned him to the wall behind him, and he could only stand and stare at
him, "Please Roy, PLEASE! I'm SCARED," Ed slammed his jaw shut and tried to
hold it all in and his whole body shook with it. Roy was released and moved
to him, careful of the wounds that lay across his back, he pulled Edward to
his chest and made the soft crooning noises that he used to make to a sobbing
teenager.

"I won't," Roy said, "I won't make you go. But, you'll
have to put up with me and my clumsy attempts to play nurse maid," he kept his
voice as normal as he could and gently rubbed Edward's sides slowly, up and
down, up and down and Edward stopped shaking after a few moments, his breathing
returned to normalcy.

"Well, I've survived worse," he said muffled in the General's
chest.


Alphonse gave up reading and slouched, watching the scenery
outside his passenger car window. He would be in Central tomorrow and he looked
forward to it. It had been a while since he'd been back and the mess hall would
have noodles and meat sauce because tomorrow was Thursday.

He worried his bottom lip a bit. He'd really rather just
go and stay with the General, that way he could get the man alone enough to
start asking him questions. Discreetly of course, because direct questions made
the General dance his sidestep and made him flippant and disgustingly charming.
He could dance the dance of evasion very well and Alphonse found that while
he wasn't attracted to men, if he were, the General was quite the looker. He
wasn't above admitting when there were attractive qualities to anyone, because
there wasn't any reason not to. The General could radiate charm, ooze confidence
and it was naturally the reason why he was a General.

But, he always felt like he was imposing, even though
the very posh guest room that the General insisted was his was so alluring and
attractive, almost as the company of the man himself. It was stocked with paper,
lots and lots of paper, and a cup jammed to the stressing point with finely-sharpened
pencils and heavy antique wooden bookshelves, weighted down under many a gold
letter-etched spine, all for Alphonse's perusal. It was a very well laid, if
obvious, trap and Alphonse let himself be caught in it from time to time, if
only to please his Pirate.

But eventually the sad and longing looks the Pirate tried
so hard to hide would drive Alphonse back to his dorm room.

It was more than tempting this time, though, and he decided,
as much as he liked noodles with meat sauce, that he would forgo headquarters
and get a cab directly at the station.


Wet cloths lay directly over the two long wounds across
Edward Elric's back, they were warm as they worked the magic of loosening the
shirt from his skin and despite it all, they still felt like heaven.

He was home.

He could hear the General moving around behind him, the
rustle of fabric as he gathered up the remainder of the clothes he had been
wearing, the clink and clunk sound as he picked up and moved the broken mechanical
arm and the equally broken mechanical leg.

Edward was naked except for the shirt that loved him so
much it wished to remain melded to him, or had somehow gained vampiric tendencies
and was slowly leeching him dry, but even it didn't matter, because his remaining
arm had been freed from it, so it was kind of like a self-attached dingy white
cape. Edward was naked of his mechanical limbs as well. They were heavy and
useless anyway, so it wasn't any real burden to him to relinquish them into
the General's hands.

Edward Elric was naked, vulnerable and incomplete, face
down on the bed of the most notorious lecher in the military, and for the first
time in six long years, he felt safe, protected and loved. It was a good feeling
and he fell asleep.


It was easier to deal with cleaning him up while he was
asleep. With just enough gentleness and a while lot of warm water, Roy was able
to peel the shirt off Ed's back without incident. The two long slashes they
revealed were nothing less than gruesome and Roy wondered how much wheedling,
pleading and demanding he'd have to offer up to hear the story. But then he
found it really didn't matter, because all that really mattered was snoring
softly, nose buried in the sheets.

He began to try and clean the wounds since it shouldn't
be put off. He felt regret when one golden eye opened blearily, the one he could
see on the side of Ed's face that wasn't buried in the sheets, and rotated until
it caught sight of him.

"I'm sorry I woke you," Roy said, shuffling bottles of
scraped knee and infection medicine in his hands, neither of them seemed appropriate,
but they were all he had to offer.

"'sokay," came the muffled response, then a resigned sigh,
"how does it look?" he asked.

"Like something tried to eat you," Roy replied and arched
an eyebrow at Edward's sardonic laugh. But Ed remained stubbornly silent after
that and merely watched him whenever he strayed into view.

Roy found that on inspection, the wounds weren't quite
as bad as he first assumed. They were a bit deep, but not dangerously so in
his opinion, so he decided on the scraped knee medicine and uncapped the bottle.


Roy Mustang was deaf now, as well as blind in one eye
and he was certain his eardrums would never recover. He was also, despite
his age, an amazing athlete, but oh no, not really, because this young man who
only had one arm and one leg, who is now lying gibbering in a pile on the floor
next to him, climbed a fucking wall. Yes he did, Roy watched him do it
before diving to intercept his fall, but he should have known better, because
Ed had landed on his head and therefore was unhurt.

Roy got up stiffly, put his hands around Edward's waist
and heaved him upright.

"I fucking hate you," the young man says in the tones
of the boy he was, "I fucking hate you with every last breath in my body," he
snarls, tracks down his cheeks and tears in the corners of his eyes.

"How was I to know it would sting like that?" Roy tried
to defend himself, "Alphonse never carried on like you do," Roy got to his feet
and lifted Ed.

"You put that on my little brother?" Ed howled as he was
dumped face down onto the bed again, "Now not only do I hate you, I have to
fucking kill you!" the blond howled.

"I don't think you can catch me," Roy smirked, "did you
see that dive?"

"Of course I did, you moron," Ed said panting but settling,
"you landed on my damn head!"


The awkwardness of the position did nothing to discourage
the purring. After Roy had gotten the rest of Ed clean, Ed had complained and
scratched his head very pointedly until the General came up with a solution
to wash his hair.

Edward was still face down, but his back was neatly bandaged
and he had his head and shoulders hanging off the side of the bed. On the floor
below him were a few large bowls, a couple of pitchers and the odd towel or
two. Buried in his hair were the General's long fingers, scrubbing delightfully
and thoroughly and hitting every itchy spot just right. When they got to the
nape of his neck, Edward kicked his foot in pleasure and gave the General all
sorts of throaty encouragements. He fucking loved having his head rubbed, he
loved it!

Roy was chuckling and indulging him horribly, because
Ed was pretty sure his hair was clean by now, but every time the man started
to remove his fingers, Edward would make this small pitiful whine, and there
the fingers would go, charging right back in. The General had already let him
get away with it three times already. Wasn't the General good to him and didn't
the General love him?

The only thing that could make this moment perfect would
be Alphonse, but it would be perfect enough soon, because the General promised
to get right on it in the morning, from his den via telephone. He could dispatch
a whole troop to hunt his wayward younger brother down if need be, and said
he would be thrilled to do it, so this whole General thing was pretty helpful
indeed, even if Edward sort of missed being able to call him Colonel.

This time, when the General slowly withdrew his fingers,
Edward let him, and then hurled threats from the depths of a towel wrapped around
his head scrubbing at his hair. The General sat him up and moved behind him.
"Now it's time you indulged me," and he started to brush his hair.

Edward's hair had certainly grown even if the rest of
him hadn't done much of it. What had been a decent braid in the past was now
a long, trailing ripple to just about the center of Edward's back. It was still
wet and Roy paused to gently pick out knots and tangles with his fingers, but
it was glorious none the less and fell to the brush naturally, easily tamed,
unlike its hot-blooded owner. He eventually got it worked into a smooth fall
and set the brush aside. He ran his fingers through it a few more times and
Ed made a soft sigh like he was content, turning his head slightly to look over
his shoulder. Roy leaned forward then, pressing his lips to the back of that
same bare shoulder and just left them there with his eyes closed.

"Missed me?" Edward asked, and without meaning to, opened
those damn flood gates Roy had in his mind. He really should get rid of them,
or see about having them welded shut. Now that Edward was here, safe, mostly
whole and not too badly hurt, the gates figured it couldn't hurt to have one
last torrential flood through the General's mind.

He was back. He walked back in the same way he
had run out, with ease and grace and some hint of a heavy future or past, and
he acted like he'd never left. He acted like he hadn't created this gaping hole
in Roy's chest, he acted like he hadn't haunted his every waking and sleeping
moment for six goddamn lonely years and Roy just wanted to shake him.
How could he do it, how could he always deliver these deadly blows and how could
Roy take it? How could he always get right back up and ask, no goddamn beg
for more? How much was one mortal supposed to be able to withstand? He really
wished he knew, because he was pretty sure he was near the breaking point. His
chest began to tighten painfully and he made a hard hiccup. Edward made a questioning
sound and he gritted his teeth, but fuck! What was the use? What the fuck was the
use? He was humbled in all things Edward Elric and he knew he had no fucking
pride anymore; it was just stupid to pretend he did. If Edward laughed at him,
well then so what. It wouldn't matter and he just didn't care and oh god
he's back, he came back to me and I can't... I can't ever pay whoever I need
to pay back, not in a dozen lifetimes, and you ask me if I FUCKING MISSED YOU?


"What... what do you think?" Roy didn't even try to keep
the tremble out of his voice.

"Well I would hope that you did," Ed's voice floated back
to him, "but knowing you and your dashing good looks and devastating charm,
and your inability to say no, well, I don't think you would have been strapped
for company," Ed was trying to make his voice light, but now it was a bit uncertain.

"I see," Roy said quietly, and tried desperately to clamp
down on the things going on in his thoughts, in his chest.

"You're not telling me you've been alone all this time,"
Ed said again, uncertainty growing.

"No," Roy said, "not all this time, and yourself?"

"I might have dabbled here or there, nothing serious,"
Ed's voice had dropped to a mumble.

Roy ran his finger slowly down Ed's back, starting at
the bandage and ending near the small of it, Ed shivered.

"Well..." Ed said after a moment, "anyone I know?"

"Hawkeye," Roy said without hesitation, running his finger
back up and the spreading his hand into the hair, still very careful of the
bandage.

"You complete liar," Ed said, "you're still alive."

"I'm glad you find this so amusing," Roy said, his gut
twisting. Was that really his voice? It sounded distant and sounded cold, not
at all how he wanted, not how he wanted to speak to Ed. Not to Edward, not to
the only thing that had kept him alive these last, lonely, devastating, soul-crushing
six years. Not to that voice that whispered to him in the dark and made him
both doubt his sanity and embrace it.

"I'm saying all the wrong things," Edward muttered.

"How can you," and Roy had to stop and catch his breath
a moment, "how can you ask me if I missed you," and then the emotion was back,
a ragged hiss, a gut wrenching snarl.

"Roy," Edward began.

"I wanted to die, did you know that? I wanted to
crawl in a fucking hole and hide my head and scream for them to shovel dirt
over me. How can I have missed you? I mean, it's not like I drew my every breath
lying there in that hospital bed thinking of you, is it? No, it's not like I
made every fucking day sitting in that court a living hell by wishing for you
to be there, is it? How can I have missed you Edward, you never left me! You
haunted me endlessly, you tortured my dreams, your image played over my every
waking moment like you were fucking burned into my retinas! How can I have missed
you? Your brother called to me, wrote to me and looked at me with eyes, but
for a shade of color, that were just like yours. How can I have missed you when
I would wake in the night screaming your name and listening to it echo off the
walls, alone in the goddamn bed with my fucking body insisting, fucking insisting
you had just been right there and that it was warm on your side! HOW COULD I
HAVE MISSED YOU!?" he screamed.

Edward was trying to turn around, but his current condition
made even the most simple of movements difficult. Roy only watched him and let
him struggle, not moving to help. He was making noises too, almost like an imitation
of the noise he always made, those rumbly throat murmurs that Edward would press
himself to against his chest, heaving sighs of relief.

"I didn't miss you at all," Roy continued, "I fucking
died and was a goddamn corpse until this very night. I could feel nothing!"
he howled.

"No," Roy said and shook his head violently, "that's not
right, let me rephrase that. I could feel nothing unless you allowed me to!
You took from me every ability to feel anything for anyone else, you robbed
me of my very breath, I looked for you in every fucking man, woman and child
I met for six goddamn you, six fucking years, but BY THE GOD YOU DON'T BELIEVE
IN, I didn't fucking MISS YOU!" His throat ripped and the sound he made was
raw like an animal. His eye clouded and he couldn't see, he clawed at it and
the goddamn patch, but then there was another hand clutching his shoulder, sliding
to his neck and hooking behind it, trying to pull him forward, and a voice,
also raw and not the same, but still that voice it used to be, begging.

"Please don't cry, I didn't mean it. Please Roy, I'm so
stupid. Please don't cry like that, I'm sorry, I'll do anything," Ed was saying,
eyes wide and frightened.

"I would do anything, too," Now that it had started, it
wouldn't leave him, "I would have said anything! Served any god! Paid any PRICE,"
his voice cracked and his chest heaved, "just to have you, JUST TO HAVE YOU..."
He couldn't breath and there were those sounds from his own throat again.

Ed was pulling on him desperately, starting to make a
keening sound which flayed him. He grabbed him and crushed him and held him
and knew him... but he no longer missed him.


"So silly," the voice was soft and the lips that moved
against his forehead were softer.

"I know," he said, sniffing. He dragged the sheet up again
and wiped his nose and eyes, his voice was still shaky, but improving.

"I didn't mean for it to be that bad," Edward said quietly,
"I meant it like a joke."

"You have a fucking lousy sense of humor," Roy grumbled
against Ed's chest and sighed, "I need to change the sheets, I've gotten these...
damp."

"Keep them away from me, that's not just tears," Edward
warned and Roy boggled. Was he still such a prude about bodily fluids?

"I'm really sorry," Ed said again, peppering kisses along
where Roy's forehead met his hairline, "it was very thoughtless thing to say."

"Don't worry about it," Roy sighed, tilting his head back
a bit to give Ed better access, "just count yourself among the lucky few that
have ever gotten to see me turn into a girl."

"I want to make it up to you," Ed's lips moved down a
bit and adored a fine black eyebrow.

"No need really," Roy said closing his eye and offering
up his eyelid too, "I'm a big boy, I can handle it."

"When I feel better," Edward murmured against that closed
eyelid, "I want to make love like we did that night in the barn and I want to
do it a lot," he husked to his General.

Well.

If Edward really wanted to make it up to him that badly,
than who was Roy Mustang to stop him?


Alphonse went over his notes again in his head on the
taxi ride from the station to the General's house. He wanted to have a well-prepared
mental checklist of points to bring up that would lead to other points that
would finally center on a question. If he was crafty, he would be able to pin
the General with it and not give him a loop hole for evasion, he'd get some
answers from the exasperatingly clever man.

He gathered his things together when they pulled up to
the end of the General's driveway, paid the driver, gave him a tip and some
sound advice about what to do with his aging father's pension that would protect
it from his greedy sisters, walked up the driveway to the General's front door
and rang the bell. The General was going to be pleased to see him, he always
was. That always made Alphonse happy and a little giddy (but not because
of anything that might be construed as something other than a father and son
type of affection that he and General shared, because that is all it was. He
even had it written down, so he knew it was true.)
, and he found that for
all the times he had to deal with his sad, dark eye, he rather liked his Pirate's
attentions.

However, he was startled by the complete surprise and
incredible joy that sight of him brought to the Pirate's face this evening and
squawked when he was yanked inside and literally dragged down to the living
room.

"You never disappoint me Alphonse," the Pirate said, grinning
and sitting him on the couch, "I'll have to call Lieutenant Colonel Havoc and
tell him the hunt is off," he ruffled Al's hair.

"Oh, were you looking for me, sir?" Al said, setting his
shoulder case down since the General had left the suitcase abandoned in the
foyer hall. "I should have called in and let you know I was on my way back."

The General grabbed the coffee table and pulled it over
to sit on it so he could be facing Al, and smiled a real smile, it was in his
eye. Either something incredible must have happened or the General was getting
really good with his cover ups, which Alphonse doubted.

"Do you remember the promise I made to you when you were
ten years old?" the General fled and the Pirate grinned at him merrily.

"Well, it depends on which promise you mean," Alphonse
said, "you made me a few before I turned eleven. You promised me a bike for
my birthday and you certainly delivered on that."

"No, I mean the really important one," the Pirate said,
"when we sat on your Granny's stoop the first time I met you."

Where was he going with this? Of course Alphonse remembered,
he never truly forgot anything.

"You promised me my brother," Al said, "You promised me
that you if you saw him, you would bring him to me," Al smiled, thinking he'd
done it again, he'd found a photo he forgot he had or a letter that had been
written or some such small thing that had brought him joy in the past when he
shared them with Alphonse.

The Pirate slapped Al on the knees, he stood up, and tossled
the boy's hair. "Don't move."

"This is me, not moving," Al said to his retreating back.
It was certainly fun when the General was in a good mood.

Then he heard voices coming down the hallway and a squawk
that sounded almost the same as the one he had made when he was being dragged
into the house, but only one set of foot steps. The General walked under the
archway with a grin that threatened to encompass his whole face and a startled
blond that had stared at Alphonse from dozens of photographs, struggling in
his arms. The blond man went both dead still and sheet white when he looked
at Alphonse and everything in the world stopped turning, everything in the world
except for that Pirate's voice, laughing.

"See," he said, each note excited and happy, "I always
make good on my promises! One brother, delivered!"

Alphonse Elric's world toppled from its stand and rolled
away.


It was...

BROTHER!

Edward!

But it couldn't be, because...

Where is his arm? Where is his leg?

He walked before Alphonse on a wall, arms spread for balance
and speaking of stew.

They are automail, you know that! He just has them
uncoupled!

They glinted in the sun and made his brother shine.

His hair is so long and he looks so different, his
face isn't as round and he's not even like the dream anymore...

Ed's long red coat flapped in the wind behind him, his
braid swinging out a cadence that Alphonse could walk to.

It's been six years, he's gotten older, you've gotten
older!

Alphonse struggled with the voice both his and not. The
man in a pajama top and swathed up in a blanket in the Pirate's arms, reached
his hand out to him and Alphonse found it hard to breathe as he fought desperately
for some balance. The Pirate's face began to darken and the man who was his
brother but was not, but was so different, curled his fingers and began to pull
his outstretched arm back, turning and pressing his face to the General's neck.
Al only made out part of what he said: 'doesn't remember'. The General opened
his mouth, his dark eye flashing. Alphonse rushed to beat him to speech, but
was so confused and unnerved, he took a half step back instead of forward, and
the General barked at him hard like a command.

"Alphonse!" he snapped.

Alphonse's befuddled mind flailed for the correct response,
slamming his body to attention and saluting, because it was the only thing he
could think of to do. His eyes dropped from the General's angry expression to
the blond haired man, his brother, shaking in the General's arms. The General
turned his face, expression going beyond gentle, and pressed his cheek to the
blond head, crooning and offering comfort, comfort for the hurt that Alphonse
was inflicting. He didn't want to hurt him, he was just confused and he held
his salute at attention.

Again the General acted before he did, striding over to
the couch, bending and setting the man on it, gently trying to extract his fingers
from his sleeve. He glanced at Alphonse, disappointment written all over him
and swimming in his black eye before turning back to croon at the blond man.
"It will be ok, he is just shocked. Of course he remembers you." Alphonse wished
for a hole to crawl into. Really, how can he go any lower than to hurt his own
brother and disappoint the General?


It's not fair, it's just not fair. Why can't it ever be
fair? Why is it like this? Maybe I should just go back and then it will all
be over. Maybe I should have given them what they wanted. He doesn't remember
me!

Roy turned his cheek against his head and made that blessed
noise he always made, the noise that Edward sometimes clung to in the night
those six years past. He doesn't remember me! That noise wasn't helping
this hurt, this incredible pain that threatened to just kill him on the spot.
He couldn't look, he couldn't breathe, when will it be enough? When will it
finally be enough? If God hated him so much, why didn't he just let him die,
there had been plenty of opportunities in the past! Because dying was escape,
that's why. Dying was release and God hated him too much for that, the bastard.
Roy shouted at his brother. He would open his mouth to object, but he was afraid
that all that would come out of it was all the hopelessness, terror and pain
that rolled around inside of him. He didn't want to give Alphonse any more grief
than what he'd already given him. He wanted to beg Roy to take him back to the
bedroom to hide him in the dark like the monster he was and must be, but Roy
moved and sat him on the couch. He didn't want to endure those eyes in the face
of this boy who is his little brother. He was so beautiful and so different than
the little boy Ed remembered, he just wanted him to have a happy life, not this
crippled freak having to be carried from room to room. He made a half sob and
clung to Roy's shirt, terrified and too much of a coward to be truly alone.
It was so selfish to want to drag Roy down into his pit with him, but he couldn't
look. He just couldn't look.

He doesn't remember me!


Edward didn't need this. He'd been hurt and damaged enough
already, especially at the hands of his own brother, but that wasn't fair. Roy
regretted barking at Alphonse, because now on top of the confusion, he looked
miserable and he hadn't dropped the damn attention stance or his hand. Roy grunted
his frustration and detangled from Ed who was making every indication that he
wanted to climb back into his arms. He reached out, snagged Alphonse by his
jacket and yanked. The boy stumbled, over balanced and fell onto the couch.
He struggled to right himself, sitting up on his hip and panting like he'd been
running. Roy thought that maybe he had in that amazing cerebellum of his, because
he knew how this kid's mind worked.

He knew that lately Al had been having dreams.

Edward, of course, was vastly different than any concrete
memory Alphonse had of him, so Roy couldn't blame Alphonse for his reaction. Despite
his incredible intelligence and insightfulness, Alphonse was still just a
kid
and they can react unpredictably.

But he could handle this, he could. He only wished it had
been all screams and tears of joy like he wanted it to be, no matter how girly
that would have been. He himself was having trouble avoiding that as of late,
but he should have known better. Someone upstairs had decreed that no matter
what, the Elrics would never have an easy time of anything.

"He looks different, I know," Roy said kindly to Alphonse,
who looked like he was about to start crying, "but you still see your brother,
right?"

That did get the response that he wanted and Edward needed.

"Yes, he does, of course! I was just... I was so shocked
and I didn't expect it! It was really low of you, General, to just spring it
on me like that, you should have warned me! I'm sorry! I'm sorry, I didn't mean
it," and Al crawled across the couch and straddled Ed's leg. Ed jerked his head
up and looked at him.

"Of course he's my brother," Alphonse said tearing up,
"even though I'm mad at you General, you did deliver, you always deliver what
you promise," Alphonse threw his arms around his elder brother's neck, buried
his face there and started crying.

Edward slowly raised his hand and laid it on Al's back.
His fingers tangled briefly in the ponytail there and started to rub, closing
his eyes and he tilting his cheek against his brother's. Roy sat back on his
knees and took in the sight.

The very first time in all these years, Edward Elric was
truly, finally, happy.