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Air Feeds Fire


I

Edward Elric was not crying.

He had not cried standing in the bright winter afternoon with blood freezing on the metal of his hand. He had not cried when Hawkeye drew him back so the soldiers could take away the body. He had not cried when they came back to the headquarters complex, merely asked Al to go up to their rooms without him.

Roy had seen the aftermath of enough days like the one just past to know precisely how much trouble that meant. That was why he had kept a quiet eye on Ed all day and finally ended up standing on the roof at nearly midnight, watching his protégé kneel motionless by the rail, still not crying but pressing his clasped hands hard against his mouth.

"Hagane."

There was no response. Roy had not really expected one.

He came softly, and just a bit cautiously, to kneel behind Ed and draw the boy back against him. Ed was shivering, but Roy had little hope that it was from the cold of the night.

"Let go."

That, finally, provoked a reaction, a violent head-shake. Roy tightened his grip.

"Ed, you must."

The shiver was harder, now. Ed's breath was coming uneven, as if he had run a race to the end of his endurance and a bit beyond. When he looked up Roy had to conceal a wince.

Earlier the normally expressive eyes and mouth had been utterly blank. Now the eyes were dull, the gold frosted, and bitter lines caged his mouth.

"I... I'll..."

"It will be all right."

"No! Leave it...!" Ed broke off with a wrench in his voice.

Roy blew out his breath in a white cloud. "You know," he murmured, "many would say that I only helped you go where you wished to go, and that's true. But it's also true that I knew the path you chose would bring you here some day, and you did not know it. I've been your commander these five years, knowing that someday you would kill. So here you are, and here I am. Let it go, Ed. For this night, I'm here. I promise to catch you."

The shiver had become a wracking shudder, and Ed finally turned into Roy's arms and the golden head pressed into his shoulder. The harsh breathing ran over into sobs.

Roy said nothing more, only held Ed and stroked his hair and waited.

At last Ed quieted. Roy took it as a measure of the boy's exhaustion and pain that he made no protest when Roy gathered him up and carried him inside. After a moment's thought Roy turned toward the rooms he kept here for the, frequent, occasions when he couldn't be bothered to walk home. Al didn't need to be worried by seeing his brother like this, and Ed didn't need the pressure to be the collected big brother. Reaching his room Roy only bothered with a single candle, by whose light he set Ed down on the bed and briskly stripped off his coat, belt, boots and shirt before pulling up the blankets.

Ed looked up at him, neither blank nor frozen but his eyes were hazy and his mouth at a loss. When he spoke his voice was barely there.

"Taisa..."

"Sleep."

Ed's eyes widened and his jaw set, hard.

Roy wadded two of his many pillows up against the headboard, kicked off his own boots, and settled down beside Ed. As an afterthought, Roy drew the tie out of Ed's hair.

"Sleep," he repeated, firmly. "I'll stay with you.

He carded his fingers lightly through Ed's hair, unraveling his braid, until the wide, alarmed eyes began to drift closed.

After perhaps an hour Roy allowed himself to hope that this would be enough. It took people differently. For some, the simple presence of another human being who understood was comfort enough, and Ed was, after all, still quite young. If that failed, alcohol was a common alternative. Roy had seen a few scholarly sorts who got through the night by reading favorite books. It was as good a way to avoid reality for a little as any other, he supposed. His mouth quirked up, recalling how Hughes had gotten him though a night like this, years ago.

Roy rested his head back, starting to doze.

Perhaps it would be enough.

II

The gun was swinging around...

"Ed."

Ten more centimeters and it would level with Ed's chest...

"Ed, wake up."

Not yet! He lunged forward...

"Haaaa!"

Hands were on his shoulders, it was too warm to be outside, his throat hurt. Ed blinked, and the chiaroscuro of the room resolved into Roy Mustang.

He's not wearing his uniform. He always wears his uniform. Ed shook his head sharply at the total irrelevance of that observation. What...?

He remembered the Colonel promising to stay, the roof, the street in the afternoon sun... A shudder ran through him, and he fell back on the bed. The Colonel propped himself beside Ed on one elbow, apparently the better to examine him. He actually seemed... worried.

Ed turned his face away.

Mustang reached out and turned it back.

"You were dreaming about it?" he asked, before Ed could snap at him.

Ed flinched, and turned over to put his back to his commander. A familiar sigh, though less extravagant than usual, brushed past his ear.

"That won't work, Ed."

Mustang leaned over and pulled Ed back around, and looked down at him very seriously.

"Have you ever been drunk?"

Ed blinked at the non sequitur, startled into answering.

"Once. I remember being very upset about absolutely everything. Can't think why people enjoy it."

"Mm. That won't do then."

The Colonel's look had turned thoughtful, as if he were carefully turning over words for some question he wanted to ask. Ed waited, feeling suspended in a bubble of unreality between the horror he was trying not to think about and the normal, daily routines of life that he couldn't quite manage to recall right now. He wanted to do something to drive the horror further away, but couldn't think what would do it. And the tangible warmth of the Colonel's body beside him was comforting when so much else familiar seemed so far away. Under that warmth a little of the tension seeped out of Ed's shoulders.

Mustang nodded, as if Ed had answered whatever question he hadn't yet asked, leaned down and kissed him.

It was a gentle kiss, but it continued for a while. Long enough for Ed's mind to stop being blank. Long enough to notice how pleasant the blankness had been, and to register that the experience was not actually displeasing. Just... startling. When Mustang drew back Ed couldn't quite find anything to say.

"Perhaps, yes," Mustang mused, and added more quietly, "what a memorial for him."

The feeling of unreality clashed with the extreme presence of the moment as Mustang's mouth found Ed's again. Moments of time flashed through Ed's mind. The Colonel smirking at some successful manipulation; the Colonel coldly ordering him to pull himself together; the Colonel smiling evilly at Ed's fury; the soft look that sometimes passed over Mustang's face when he found some new lead or hope for his star subordinate. And a new moment, now, Mustang's fingers threaded into Ed's hair and his lips warm against Ed's ear, and Ed didn't care, now, about the strangeness, because Mustang was making him solid and here and that was enough.

He started to lift his hands, hesitated, and only closed the left on Mustang's arm. Mustang lifted his head.

"Use both hands. I don't want you stopping to think about anything just now."

Ed let those words echo in his head, understanding that Mustang meant to distract him with this, probably quite extensively, and that if he consented he would have to trust Mustang to see him though something he had no experience of. He hated not knowing what he was doing.

Mustang was waiting for his answer.

Slowly, Ed reached up and wrapped both arms around Mustang's back.

Something flashed in the dark eyes looking down at him, like that sometime softness but hotter. Ed let out his breath and shivered as Mustang scattered a line of butterfly kisses down his chest.

Mustang's gloves were of such rough cloth Ed hadn't expected his hands to be so soft. Soft and cool, in contrast to the warmth of his body, as they mapped paths down Ed's arms, circling his wrists and fingers, across his stomach. And finally, slowly, between his legs.

"Aaaaaahhh..."

Ed's body arched up against Mustang's hand, his lips parting under Mustang's mouth as his legs, half reflexively, opened under Mustang's touch. His own hands closed hard over Mustang's shoulders, trying to brace himself in the tide of sensation. As Mustang paused to unfasten Ed's pants, Ed gathered the wits to note that he seemed quite adept at it; a lot of practice, perhaps. The thought made him laugh, and Mustang drew back a bit.

"I'm sorry; did that tickle?"

"Only in my head." Ed's own reply made him laugh again.

Mustang's brows twitched up, and then he smiled.

"You're much too coherent."

He tipped Ed's head to the side and began to trace the tendons of his neck. Ed's wits departed again. When he felt Mustang's tongue and then teeth on his throat such heat rushed down Ed's spine that he barely noticed the departure of his remaining clothes, too.

The feeling of other cloth against his skin recalled him.

"You're wearing too much," he managed, though his voice was husky.

Mustang didn't joke this time. His mouth lost its usual curl and became grave as he brushed back Ed's loose hair. "I don't want to push you to anything tonight."

Ed shook his head and ran a finger down Mustang's shirt, looking studiously at it to avoid his eyes.

"I..." I want to feel your skin. He couldn't possibly say that! Ed felt himself blushing and damned his fair coloring for the umpteenth time, because Mustang was sure to notice it, even in the low light.

"Hmm."

Mustang's faint smile had returned, Ed could hear it. He saw it, too, when Mustang stood up from the bed and Ed looked up.

Mustang gracefully stripped his clothes off, wholly unembarrassed, and his eyes never left Ed's.

This was not helping the blush to go away.

And it was different, when Mustang returned to the bed. The light slid over his skin and down long, sleek muscles. The heat of his body was shocking, and his weight somehow more solid now. It left Ed gasping as Mustang sank down over him, and he froze at the silk-shivery feeling.

Again, Mustang waited for him. Waited with a question in his eyes. Waited until Ed breathed out an answer.

"Roy..."

Then he moved, and Ed lost track of time and thought, because the world consisted of Roy's skin against his own; of Roy's palms sliding down his ribs, urging his legs apart. Roy's teeth nibbled the inside of Ed's thigh, stealing his voice; Roy's hair brushed, feathery, against him; the burning wet heat of Roy's mouth closed on him, stealing even his breath.

Fire unfurled through Ed's veins, tossed him up like a spark. He felt the curl of Roy's tongue but couldn't feel the bed under him. Everything in him rushed down, down to one point, and then swept out like a shock front, leaving him shaken, trying to remember how to breathe.

Gradually his attention to normal details returned, and he noticed Roy lying against his side tracing random patterns over his collarbones.

"What about you?" Ed asked, as his wits recovered enough to determine what the localized pressure against his leg probably was.

Roy lifted his head. "Aren't you falling asleep?"

Ed, pleased to be contrary, gave him a smug smile. "Nope. What about you?" he repeated.

"I hadn't thought to go quite that far to distract you."

"Whatever works," Ed shrugged, insouciant as he could manage while naked.

Like the flame he commanded, Roy had created a small sphere of light and warmth, but Ed could feel what was outside that sphere waiting for him. He didn't want to leave yet. On the other hand, there were certain stories that he had overheard both among the soldiers and on his travels... He looked up at Roy. "Would it hurt?"

It took Roy a second to follow Ed's train of thought, and then surprise flickered across his face, followed by speculation. At last, he drew himself up with cool dignity. Quite unfairly, Ed thought, he managed it very well despite being naked. "It certainly would not. I have considerably more skill that than, Edward-kun."

The tone was classic Mustang-taisa, but he was grinning. Ed, already on edge, broke down laughing again, but buried his head against Roy's shoulder, shy of the sudden intimacy brought by that look. How much more intimate can we get? he wondered, exasperated with his own silliness. As Roy's arms closed around him, though, Ed knew that somehow this moment was far more intimate than what Roy had just done for him. And compared to this, even that might be lesser.

"Do it, then," he whispered.

Roy put a hand under his chin and tipped Ed's face up to see his eyes. "Ed..."

The question was back, and this time Ed scraped together words to answer it. The man who had stayed by him tonight, who had known and cared what he would be feeling, who had used him and driven him and protected him, who had let him fly free to chase a dream all these years, deserved words now. "If you say you won't hurt me, you won't. I trust you."

Roy's eyes widened with more surprise than Ed had ever seen him show. And then his mouth quirked and he leaned over to rummage in his nightstand, emerging with a small bottle whose cap he removed and set handy. He looked back at Ed, one brow tilting up. Ed, remembering some more of the stories he's heard, blushed again, but didn't look away.

"Do it."

Roy's hand passed down the length of Ed's spine, drawing Ed to him. "I will."

His hand worked its way up again, digging into the muscles, gradually unwinding them. Ed, pressed full length against Roy's body, was hard put to stop himself from purring.

"Sure you're not trying to make me sleep?" he sighed, eyes half closed.

"Not asleep, but I do need you to be relaxed."

"Couldn' get much more r'laxed than that," Ed mumbled against Roy's chest.

The grin edged back into Roy's voice. "We'll see."

Having reduced Ed to suitable pliability, Roy arranged him, spread out, on the bed and set out to discover every particularly sensitive spot on his body. Ed himself hadn't been aware of any of them. The sole of his foot; just behind his ankle; the back of his knee. Roy spent some time on the hollow of Ed's hip, making him squirm. When Roy sucked, hard, on Ed's nipple the sudden spike of sensation brought Ed up off the bed. Roy gave him a smug look through his eyelashes before moving on to Ed's shoulder.

The odyssey ended with Roy lying over Ed, teeth and tongue playing with his ear.

"Thought you... haaaa ah... said... relaxed..."

"Much too coherent," Roy chuckled. His voice, so close and soft, so resonant and deeper than Ed remembered hearing before, swept a shudder through him every time Roy spoke.

"It won't hurt, regardless, but for you to enjoy it I also need your proper... attention."

He moved his hips against Ed's.

"Ah!"

"Mm. Impressive, as always, Hagane."

Ed couldn't manage a proper glare, but the glint in Roy's eyes said he appreciated the effort.

In a rush Roy sat back on his knees and pulled Ed up to straddle him. The irrepressible corner of Ed's mind noted that he was now taller than Roy, but only had a moment to appreciate it before Roy slid a hand up into Ed's hair and drew him down to a kiss. This kiss was deep, demanding that Ed not only receive but return. Ed thought, a bit fuzzily, that Roy seemed to be pursuing Ed's voice with his tongue. Roy's tongue tasted faintly of salt, and something else Ed couldn't place.

Then Roy's other hand returned, slick now, sliding between Ed's cheeks, moving, circling, slowly pressing... in.

Ed made a sharp sound in his throat. Neither his body nor his mind could quite decide how to react. Roy's fingers were still moving, as if seeking something... something... oh...

Tremors raced through Ed. His hips jerked against Roy. His moan was swallowed in the kiss. And Roy's fingers were still moving, pressing, there... there...

Ed broke away from the kiss and tossed his head back, and Roy laughed.

"Now. This wasn't it?"

His teeth closed once again on Ed's throat and Ed lost all control of his movement and thrust hard against Roy.

"Now."

Roy let Ed back down on the bed, and Ed's senses narrowed down to snapshots. Roy's hands spreading him open. That sliding pressure again, but larger this time. Slowly, slowly, moving. Ed's own hands clenched on the sheets; the thought flashed by that his right hand was probably putting holes in it. And something... shifted. The slow movement was smoother. He's... inside me. Ed let out breath he hadn't know he was holding, and for the first time heard an answering sigh from Roy.

Roy was leaning over him on one hand. Sweat gleamed on his skin, his breath came fast through parted lips, his eyes were half-lidded but burning. Because of me... Ed's presence, his body, had broken the reserve of this famously reserved man. The thought curled, hot, in his stomach.

And then Roy shifted, moving inside Ed again, sliding, pressing there, and his other hand came up to surround Ed and stroke him, and the heat surged up, wringing Ed's every nerve. He could hear his voice and Roy's, but both were distant. The fire closed on him, tighter, tighter, and Ed strained with it, spreading his legs and stretching his arms wide into it, seeking the hard movement of Roy's body, until the world shattered into sparks and brilliance.

"Ed!"

When his senses returned to normal order Roy was leaning on both hands and they were both panting.

"Roy... I..." Ed couldn't, for the life of him, think how to finish his sentence.

Roy gave him a faint, gentle smile and stroked back his hair before hauling himself off the bed with a slight groan. "Wait here a moment, Ed." Roy returned with a damp towel and a glass of water. He handed the glass to Ed and dropped two small pills into his hand. "Take those," he directed, "or you'll feel it in the morning."

Lassitude was too pleasant for Ed to emerge just to ask what Roy was talking about.

"I trust" Roy remarked, as he settled back down, "that you'll be going to sleep now?"

Ed mumbled an affirmative, just aware enough to hear Roy's Good and feel a cool hand rest on his shoulder before he was asleep.

III

Roy woke slowly, slowly enough to remember who was in bed beside him before he started and woke Ed.

He propped his head on his hand and regarded the boy for some minutes. In the approaching dawn, with the sheet cast down around his hips and his hair fanned out over the pillow, Ed looked like an artist's sculpture. Roy was reasonably sure that Ed had, as yet, not the faintest idea how striking he was, but Roy had watched his protégé's gold eyes and powerful body attracting admiration and desire for several years now.

That Ed had actually let Roy do this was... unexpected. Roy had been careful not to step beyond the line of teasing, with him. Of course, these were extraordinary circumstances. He didn't regret using something that had drawn Ed back from the edge so well, but he hoped that this night would not disturb the working relationship he had spent so much time fostering...

Ed stirred, stretched, opened his eyes. He blinked, visibly putting his memory in order, and finally reached up a hand to touch, briefly, the center of Roy's chest.

"Thank you. Taisa."