spinny roses

And Return to Nothing

chapter 2.

The scenery passed by in nothing more than a green blur. Edward tightened his coat around him, shivering as he looked out the window. It wasn't that it was cold... it had just been a long day.

In the seat across from him sat one Lt. Colonel Roy Mustang. Mustang was watching him with his inscrutable dark eyes. He shivered again, looking away. There was something uncomfortable in that gaze. Thankfully, Mustang had managed to secure a private car. With a yawn, Edward made a big show of stretching and laying down on his seat.

"You are not to practice alchemy in public."

One eye cracked open as his lips curved into a frown. "What? Why? Why can't I use my alchemy?"

"Explaining that leg will be hard enough." Mustang looked pointedly at the metal peeking through Edward's pants. "If it's known you use alchemy, the first thought that will pop into people's heads will be that you performed human alchemy."

A twitch started around Edward's eye, but there was really nothing he could say about that. He was well aware of what would happen if it was thought he performed something forbidden. "So I don't use alchemy. Great."

"In public. You are to keep up your skills in private." Mustang turned his head to watch the scenery fly by. "I do have access to some books for you to study."

Edward sat up, eyes sparkling. "Really?"

"Mm." Mustang turned his head back, an odd look flickering through his eyes. Edward started to squirm, not really liking the idea of being looked at like a piece of meat. "Great, fine." He laid back down, trying to ignore the stare.

After a few minutes, he cracked one eye open to see if Mustang had stopped.

"What the hell are you looking at?!"

Mustang chuckled, finally looking away. "It's going to be hard using you as a spy. You stand out."

Edward blinked a few times. "Um, yeah. I'm just going to go to sleep now..." With that, he closed his eyes again.

That scream...

"MOTHER!" Edward's voice was ripped from his throat as he ran. His mother was hurt! He had to save her. This time, he would save her.

He froze, seeing the monster his mother became. It was still his mother... That mass of flesh with exposed organs and familiar kind eyes was still his mother! He took a step forward, trembling.

A glove raised, and the fingers snapped. His mother was consumed by the flames, but... the scream rang in his ears, unending as the flesh melted and warped...

And Edward started suddenly, taking gulps of cool air into a raw throat. There was something holding him. He fought the grasp, panicked. "Let me go!" He pulled free, tumbling onto a rumbling floor. A few coughs escaped as he fought back the urge to vomit. "Mother..."

A strong hand reached down, pulling Edward upright. "It was a nightmare," Mustang told him, dark eyes steady. "It doesn't have power over you unless you give it power."

The young boy trembled, the memory fueling the dream coming back in full force. "I couldn't save her... or Al..." His breath filled his lungs with a sharp whistle. "I should have..."

Mustang pulled Edward close, pressing his head against his chest. "Breathe. Nice and slow."

"Don't look."

Those words resurfaced, and Edward's eyes started to close. Mustang's chest was rather warm, after all. And the steady beat of his heart was definitely soothing.

"You know," Edward murmured, half asleep, "if you tell anyone about this, I will hurt you."

Mustang's soft laughter followed him into sleep.

Joints near the automail were hurting. Edward frowned, rubbing at his leg. "Hey, can we get to your place soon? I think it's going to rain soon."

Mustang just flipped the hood of his cloak up.

"Hey, aren't you listening to me?" A vein near Edward's forehead started twitching violently as cold droplets started to splatter around him. "And aren't you in the military? Why aren't we riding to your place in a nice car?"

The older man ignored Edward all the way to his house. By the time they got there, the boy was shivering and soaked through. "Cold cold coooooooold..."

"Hang your coat up," Mustang instructed. "I don't want it to start stinking."

"It's cold," Edward growled, but eventually peeled his coat off. He raised himself up onto the balls of his feet, stretching to reach the peg.

"Hm." Mustang smirked, hanging up his own cloak. "I'll have to lower that for you."

"HEY! Who are you calling short?!"

"I hope that was a rhetorical question. Your room is this way." Mustang started upstairs. "My room is next to yours. If you have another nightmare like that one, assume right now that you'll be sleeping outside."

The sound of Edward's teeth grinding was perfectly audible. "Yes, sir."

"You will find some clothing in the drawers and in the closet," Mustang continued, ignoring the grinding sound. "Though they may be a bit big." He opened the door to Edward's room. "Get changed into something warm."

The boy quickly shut the door behind him, going through the drawers. There was one pair of pajamas. Only one. Edward's jaw flexed as he peeled off his wet clothing, leaving it in a heap on the floor. Not only was there just one pair, they were almost too big. The waist nearly fell off his hips. "Great."

"Edward." The door opened again, showing Mustang with two mugs of something hot. He gave one cup to the young boy. "With this weather, it wouldn't do if you caught cold."

"Thank you," Edward breathed, taking a sip as he sat on the bed. "Soup?"

"It doesn't take much to cook," Mustang explained. His eyes raked up and down Edward's figure. "What am I going to do with you?" he asked absently. "You are much too pretty to do housework."

A mouthful of soup was spat back into the mug. "Excuse me?"

Mustang stepped forward, fingering a stray lock of Edward's hair. "You would much better be suited... oh, but you're still just a child."

Edward blinked a few times. "Eh?" Suddenly, his mind came up with an answer that caused his stomach to twist. "That... no way! That's disgusting!"

With a chuckle, the man let the lock of hair fall. "You are quite pretty. With your looks, people would pay good money for your company."

"You're lying!"

"And people say interesting things while drunk," Mustang continued over Edward's protests. "Things that may be of use."

"I'd rather scrub out ovens," Edward snapped out, heated.

Mustang just took a sip of his soup. "Too bad. We were close to a breakthrough... but the spies we had couldn't get close enough. Not as close as... say... intimate company could." He fixed Edward with a glare.

Slowly, the boy lowered his head. "I'm sorry, sir," he muttered. "It's just... I'm a little young for this. Right?"

"There are many that know useful nuggets of knowledge in the minds of those that like children around your age," Mustang pointed out. "If you are willing to learn, then you will start soon." He tapped the mug against his lips. "Hmm. Do you know how to pour wine? Gracefully, of course. Or perhaps serve tables? And your listening skills must be tested."

"I... I don't know." Edward took a sip of his cooling soup, not willing to look up at a disappointed face.

"And, of course, I must ask if you've given any thought to which gender you would prefer."

Edward blinked at Mustang. "Huh?"

The older man's voice filled with impatience. "If you were faced with the possibility of sexual situations, would you rather prefer females or males?"

"Huh wha huh?" He took another quick sip. "Um... I... if it'll bring Al back faster, I guess it doesn't matter?"

"Of course." Mustang let out a long suffering sigh. "I'll give her a call tomorrow. In the meantime..." He grabbed Edward's chin, lifting it. "Get some sleep." He kissed him, a quick and almost clinical kiss. "Welcome home."

Edward just watched as Mustang picked the mug from his hands and left the room. Then his face screwed up, his arm lifting to scrub at his lips. His first kiss... stolen by a man. A man more than twice his age.

"Like I can sleep after that," he muttered. "Gonna have nightmares, stupid pervert."