Paper in Fire

chapter 4.

Roy hung up the phone with a frustrated sigh. Alex Armstrong confirmed that Edward had checked in upon arrival in Lior three days ago, but that was the last the Strong Arm Alchemist had heard from him. That damn brat! What the fuck was he playing at now? After all this time, did he still not understand the concept of backup? He was going to get himself killed one of these days, and a dead Alchemist for the People wouldn't look good on Roy's resume. The Brigadier General drummed his fingers on his desk, weighing his few options. The new rail spur to Lior still wasn't complete, making access to the city difficult. Lior was too damn isolated. Roy picked up the phone again.

"Central Intelligence. Colonel Hughes Office," a pleasant male voice announced.

"Colonel Hughes please. This is Brigadier General Mustang."

"One moment please, Sir."

If anyone had contacts in the desert city, it would be Maes. Roy continued to drum on his desk while he listened to the quiet buzz of telephone limbo, idly wondering if there was any way to get music to play over the phone line while you were waiting on hold. That way you wouldn't have to listen to those annoying little clicks and hums. Perhaps he should suggest it to Kain Fuery . . .

"Roy! To what do I owe the pleasure?" Maes suddenly gushed into his ear.

"Same as always, Maes," Roy gritted his teeth. "The brat's off the radar again, and I want to know what the hell he's up to."

"Out of touch, is he? Give me the details. Where, and for how long has he been incommunicado?"

"Lior, for about 3 days."

"Hmm. That's not all that long, considering its Ed. Something specific worrying you? Or are you just missing the little maniac." Roy could hear the man's grin.

The 'no one can know' rule didn't extend to Maes of course. As if Roy could hide something like that from someone who knew him almost better then he knew himself. Maes knew about their affair, but seemed to believe that Edward was to Roy what Gracia was to Maes. In other words, his 'perfect match'. Roy never bothered to set his friend straight on the true nature of his arrangement with Edward, since this misinterpretation had ended his friend's annoying habit of playing the matchmaker. The Brigadier General had had his fill of blind dates arranged by his meddling best friend over the years, and was now grateful to have this breathing space, for the time being at least. Maes had always been a hopeless romantic, terrifying in his drive to see everyone as happily hooked up with their ideal partner as he was.

"Maes, I'm serious." Roy tapped his pen on the report he was supposed to be signing. "It's nothing specific, but . . . it's Lior after all. There could be some lingering hard feelings around Fullmetal's actions there in the past, and I find it frustrating when I can't keep tabs on him."

"Frustrating. Sure." The annoying grin was still audible. "Well, I'll check into it and get back to you. Did you get the pictures I sent you by the way?"

"Yes, and there was postage due on the envelope. You packed too many photos in there again."

"There is no such thing as 'too many photos' of my Elicia, Roy. Isn't she a little angel in her school uniform? Her Kindergarten teacher thinks she's extremely intelligent, not to mention completely adorable! Very perceptive woman, wouldn't you say?"

"Maes . . ."

"I can't wait for her first school play. And I hear they're doing a holiday concert for Winter Solstice, too. Oh, and class picture day is the first Tuesday in October. I hope they are using a reputable photographer. Elicia is incredibly photogenic though, so it's not really a matter of how skilled the photographer is . . ."

"Maes . . ."

". . . after all, look at the material he'll have to work with. We're going out tomorrow to get something special for her to wear . . ."

"Maes!! "

"Yes Roy?"

"Ed. Lior. Call me back when you know something."

"You're no fun at all when you're missing your little blond sweetheart."

Roy slammed the phone down as hard as he could. "Little blond sweetheart my ass," he muttered under his breath.

Really though, this was just one more indication this had gone on long enough. Roy was really leaning toward cutting Edward loose once and for all. The 'Major Pain' episode, Ed's atypical behaviour in response to Roy's digs just before he went on assignment, Maes' ridiculous assumptions it all added up to possible complications Roy didn't need. It wouldn't do for his relationship with the boy to become public knowledge. Same sex relationships were generally accepted, for the most part — this was the Twentieth Century after all, not the Middle Ages. Fraternizing with one's subordinates was officially frowned upon of course, though it was common knowledge that it often happened. The Brass generally turned a blind eye to it, not really caring about who was fucking around with who. But the age difference. That was the killing point as far as Roy was concerned. The kid was nearly half his age. Worse, he'd had Ed in his command since the kid was twelve. If it became known that they were in a sexual relationship, there would be speculation on just when that relationship had begun. Political suicide, no question.

It was a shame, really. The kid was beautiful, though he didn't seem to realize it, smooth skin, lithe young muscles and captivating amber eyes, the automail lending a touch of the exotic. They were both alchemists as well, and while Roy was a master in his element, Edward's genius made the Flame Alchemist feel like a rank amateur by comparison. Talking theory with the boy was always intriguing. In bed he was uninhibited, and though initially he'd lacked experience, he was a fast learner, and he'd also more than made up for any shortfalls in the skill department with an unconventional sense of creativity. And Edward was playful — a quality that Roy's other, more seasoned partners often lacked. In bed or out, it was never boring. To have to give all that up . . .

. . . looking in from the hall, Edward curled loosely on the bed, breathing deep and even, sheet draped low over slim hips, golden blond locks tumbled over strong shoulders, spilling across the pillow, the dim light from the dying fire gleaming on a metal shoulder, gilding smooth, peaceful features . . .

But no, it was past time, actually. Six months had always been Roy's general rule of thumb to avoid having to deal with a partner becoming too attached, and this had gone well beyond that time limit. Of course he'd be as gentle with the kid as possible, but there was too much at stake for this to continue. The boy would get over his crush soon enough, as teenagers always did. And even if Roy Mustang was looking for a suitable someone to commit to, let's face it. Edward Elric just couldn't be considered trophy wife material.