Sitting in a beer hall in Zurich, Edward was surprised to hear a distinctly familiar chuckle over the general noises of the crowd. Turning in his seat, he noticed Jean Havoc sitting at a table behind him, smoking like a chimney and chatting amiably with Sheska. Turning back to his companion, Ed noted the glass frozen halfway to his lips, eyes round, and offered a quiet laugh of his own.
"You'll get used to it Mustang," he said, smile a bit sad. "You can go for months without seeing anyone familiar, then bang! You suddenly walk into a crowd of familiar faces."
"If you say so Full.... Edward," Mustang said, still staring at the two familiar strangers. "Who else have you seen?"
"Hmm. I had General Hakuro show up at my door in a plaid suit selling hats once. He got pretty upset when I couldn't stop laughing long enough for him to run his sales pitch. King Bradley's double goes by the name of Fritz Lang. He produces science fiction movies." Ed noticed Roy's face darken into a scowl, and hurried on. "I attacked Lang because I thought he was Bradley and kicked his chauffer's ass, so I ended up having to drive him over to this old castle where I joined a dragon hunt, and later he helped me escape from an angry mob. Don't look at me like that Mustang, it's the truth."
"I feel like I'm back at East Headquarters, listening to one of your more bizarre mission reports," the older man said, chin resting on his steepled fingers, eyebrow expressing his scepticism, and Edward felt a rush of nostalgia. Amused, he realized that back in the day, if anyone had suggested he might one day look back on being the bastard's show dog with fondness, he would have cheerfully pounded the shit out of them.
The ride to Zurich had been uneventful. Hughes old comrade turned out to be another familiar stranger: Vato Falman. The stoic brewer spoke no English, and barely grunted two German words to Edward, but very efficiently enclosed the two fugitives in a beer keg fort in the back of his beat up old truck, even going so far as to stack kegs on planks over top of them. Hidden inside their little alcoholic nest, Mustang was quick to point out the advantages of sitting as close to each other as possible for warmth and comfort. He had snugged an arm around his blond companion's waist and leaned his head on Ed's flesh shoulder, not even bothering to smother his sigh of contentment. Not that Edward had minded. When the older man had promptly fallen asleep moments after making himself comfortable, it had given the young man a tender feeling he'd only ever associated with Alphonse. Edward had settled his head atop his sleeping companion's, but still tired despite the sack time he'd managed to squeeze in at Hughes place, the young alchemist couldn't settle into sleep himself. Unfortunately, that meant he was forced to spend time alone with his thoughts now that he had time for them, and those thoughts drifted along their usual regretful currents.
Alphonse. It hurt to think that he would never see his little brother again. Of all the things he'd missed about his lost home, the comfortable weight of his brother's presence by his side was what he missed the most. Not his automail. Not even his alchemy. If he could have one wish, Edward wished he could have just a couple of hours to spend with Alphonse, to talk, to see how he was doing, what his little brother's life was like now that he had his life back. Leaving Alphonse behind again was the hardest thing he had ever done.
But it staying in Amestris hadn't been an option. Once again circumstances had arranged it so that Edward was between a rock and a hard place. His choices were simple. Stay behind leaving the Gate wide open and risk the possibility of another invasion, consequently endangering everyone in Amestris including Alphonse, or return to this world and close the Gate, consequently stranding himself here for good. And this was a done deal, too. He couldn't fool himself any longer that he would be able to return. Edward didn't believe in fate, but he did believe in equivalent exchange. He had to. He was living it.
The first time, two years ago in the lost city hidden under Central, Edward had been forced to give himself in exchange for his little brother, but he had always believed he would someday find a way home. This time, when he'd aimed the Thule's aircraft back into the Gate, Edward had resigned himself to this fate. He had no intention of reopening the Gate on this side and risking another attack on his native land, and he hoped that Alphonse would give up trying to get him back home and just move on with his life as well. Edward's immediate concern was to find some breathing space, a place safe from attack by the Thules, where he and Mustang could puzzle out how they were going to spend the rest of their lives in this strange world. And if it turned out that they decided to spend it together, well, Edward couldn't find it in himself to complain. It was comforting, really, to know that he wasn't as alone as he'd expected to be.
The trip to Zurich had not been an extremely long one. Falman's ancient Benz and Cie wasn't pretty, or particularly fast, but six hours of steady travel had seen them in Zurich with no trouble. After being released from their refuge into the early morning sunshine, Edward and Mustang had helped the curt German finish offloading his cargo and then parted company with him, their thanks accepted with a short nod.
The German Marks Edward carried were virtually worthless even in Munich, so it was fortunate that he had socked away a few British Pounds in case of emergencies. He'd had enough to secure a room for himself and Mustang in a rooming house, and to keep them fed for a few days while they looked for a ride in the general direction of England. So far Edward had not been able to find anyone willing to share their transportation, not surprising given the current political climate, but simply hopping on a train was out of the question. Mustang didn't have any of the necessary documents that would make international travel by conventional means possible. Edward planned to fix that as soon as they reached London, but they had to get there first. The young alchemist had a few contacts in the Smoke through Hohenheim that he knew could provide the credentials necessary to establish Roy's identity in this world, just as they had supplied Edward with documents to certify his British citizenship. It was frustrating to be sitting still when there were things to be done, but Edward had learned some patience since he'd left Amestris, so patient he would be.
In the mean time Mustang seemed quite content to follow his young countryman's lead. Edward was surprised to find that the older man was very good company in spite of the years of animosity between them. And the blond wasn't the only one practicing patience. After that single, searing kiss in the janitor's closet, Mustang appeared to be letting Edward make up his mind about where he wanted their relationship to go, either platonic or otherwise. He had not made any advances what so ever, and while Edward was grateful that the other man was allowing him to feel his way through this, he was also a bit disappointed.
The pair had spent their Swiss time together bringing each other up to date on their lives since that last fateful day, two years before, and discussing the collective hazards of being from another world. Hughes had given Mustang a crash course in this world's social and political views, and Edward had to admit that the German policeman had given the Flame a fairly comprehensive overview, but there were many blank spots, common knowledge natives took for granted, that the younger man knew to fill in from bitter experience. The most pertinent one, given the older man's recent confession, was this worlds taboo against same sex relationships.
Mustang finished his supper and slipped his jacket, borrowed from Officer Hughes, over the back of his chair. The beer hall was filling up, and the press of bodies was warming the room. The evening pub crowd was well on its way to their preferred method of self administered stress relief, though the Amestrians were content with a quiet meal and a companionable drink afterwards. The General had taken quite a liking to German beer, much different from the dark ale of their own world. It was something he had in common with his young companion, and a pint after dinner was one of the few luxuries the pair afforded themselves.
"I wish I could tell you that you'll feel more at home here as time goes on," Edward said, noticing how his companion's eye was drawn back to the couple behind him. "I haven't, though with you here I feel more . . . comfortable now. I hope you don't come to regret following your libido into the unknown."
Edward's attempt at humour fell flat on its ass. "I didn't follow you because I wanted a quick roll in the hay," Roy said quietly. "I rather thought that was obvious."
"It is! I just, I don't know. It's just so . . . unreal." Edward looked up apologetically. "I don't have any experience with this kind of thing, you know? I'm having some trouble wrapping my head around the idea of you wanting . . . me."
"And I'm finding it just as difficult to believe that you're still . . . unattached, Edward." The older man countered.
"What's so hard to believe, Mustang? I was kind of busy, back before I left our world, trying to get Al back into his natural body, so I didn't have a lot of time for . . . that sort of thing," Edward ignored his companion's smirk and continued. "And over here? This world has some pretty archaic restrictions around same gender relationships, so that eliminated half my options. On top of all that, this world or ours, there isn't that much of a demand for cripples, you know?" Edward tipped back his stein to finish his beer, and missed his companion's shocked reaction.
"Is that how you see yourself?" Mustang's calmly asked question was edged with something else, and Edward's gaze snapped to other man's face, discovering that it was anger, though it didn't appear to be directed at him.
"Crippled, disabled, handicapped, choose your term. That's what I am," Ed told him gently, seeing how disturbed the older man was with the notion. "I'm missing two limbs. Without the automail, I couldn't so much as braid my hair." The blond smiled slightly at his companion's frown. "It's not pretty, but it's the truth. Take a good look. Still interested?"
Edward was surprised to see Mustang struggle with his anger, finally getting it under control. "I am looking. Shall I tell you what I see?" the older man asked, eyebrow raised.
"Spare me," Edward, said, rolling his eyes.
"No, I insist."
Mustang settled back in his chair, and trailed a gleaming eye over his companion's frowning features. Roy took his time, lazily examining the young blond, starting with his eyes, trailing over his nose, lingering on Edward's lips as he licked his own. The teen followed the eye as it regarded his golden hair, then slipped over the curve of his cheek. The gaze moved lower, sweeping across Edward's chest and broad shoulders, settling on the young man's strong, gloved hands clasped on the table between them, then wandered back up to settle on Edward's lips once again. The younger alchemist shifted uncomfortably in his seat, pulse quickening. He had almost been able to feel the other man's eye ghosting patterns over his skin.
"I see golden hair that shines like the sun, eyes of liquid amber, full lips just begging to be kissed." Mustang started quietly. He smiled at Edward's indrawn breath, and finally met his eyes. "I see smooth, tanned skin glowing with an inner vitality. I see a strong, fit body, beautifully proportioned, muscles firm and toned, steel limbs mated perfectly with flesh, superbly coordinated. I see a stunning young man. And because I know you, I see so much more than just that. I see the brilliance of your mind, the pureness of your heart, the beauty of your soul. That's what I see. And yes, I'm still interested." The older man lifted his glass in salute, and drained the last of his ale.
Edward had to clear his dry throat before he could speak. "Are you flirting with me Mustang?" he asked, voice a bit rough, trying to regain his composure.
"I am," Mustang confirmed, sleepy eye fixed once again on Edward's lips.
"I'm not a girl," Ed reminded him, trying valiantly not to blush, and failing.
"Believe me, of that I am well aware," Mustang's purr assured him. "I have successfully flirted with people of both genders, Edward, and have been on the receiving end of flirtations by both as well."
"So you're saying that flirting has nothing to do with a person's sex, then," Edward said, attempting to wrangle the conversation into more comfortable, clinical territory.
Mustang would have none of it. "Oh, I definitely wouldn't say that," he murmured with a smirk and a lifted brow, deliberately misinterpreting the blond's words. "In fact, I'd venture to say that flirting has everything to do with sex. Flirting is an aperitif that whets the appetite for the main course, if you will."
"You're . . . making me blush," Edward admitted, though it was hardly necessary for him to say it.
"Ah. So it's working then," and Mustang smiled a satisfied little smile, eye half closed like a contented cat, just before his eye went wide and something heavy crashed into the side of Edward's head.
Edward rolled with the blow, letting it knock him from the chair, following through with the motion, rolling to his feet, arms set in a guard position, ears ringing. The same big, bullet—headed German he'd practically neutered outside the pub in Munich was advancing on him, already throwing his next punch, the fight already won in his mind, and the small blond easily ducked around the driven fist to flatten his attacker with a swift, automail jab to the side of his head. A shouted warning behind him sent Edward dodging to his right, leg slicing through the air to slam a metal heel into a second assailant's jaw, snapping the man's head back, at the same time as a bar stool smacked into the thug's head from behind. The second man went down as well. Jean Havoc, bent cigarette clenched in his teeth, crouched low and hefted his bar stool, ready for more action. Edward spun round, looking for Roy.
Mustang was halfway across the beer hall, grappling with Rudolph Hess, and not doing too badly, considering that Hess was much heavier and a good deal taller than the dark haired alchemist. Edward darted toward the pair just as Hess managed to shove Mustang away. The German reached a hand into his jacket, pulling out a pistol, and Edward knew he'd never reach him in time. Then Sheska was there, swinging her heavy beer stein in a two handed grip, beer splashing in an amber arc. The sound the mug made when it connected with Hess' skull caused everyone in the room to wince, and the man dropped like his strings had been cut. The girl prodded his ribs with her toe a couple of times before dropping the stein and dusting her hands off each other in drunken victory. The crowd of shell shocked bar patrons offered a shaky, half—hearted cheer.
Edward's gaze swept the room for remaining enemies, and finding none, turned to Havoc. Sheska was plucking the broken cigarette from his mouth with a lopsided smile. "Thanks, we owe you one," Ed said to them.
"No problem," the taller blond said, a light French cadence marking his tone. "We should leave here now. Bullies like these usually travel in packs." Turning to the bartender, Havoc turned on a charming smile. "Have you a back door, mien Herr?" he asked sweetly.
Hurrying out the back way with their new allies, Edward noted a smirk Mustang couldn't suppress. "What?" he finally asked, annoyed.
"I was just thinking that one thing's for sure, Edward. You certainly don't fight like you're crippled, disabled, or handicapped in any way."
Edward snorted. "Yeah, well you do, Mustang. Starting tomorrow, we're getting in some regular sparring practice."
True to his word, the next day found Edward harrying a beleaguered Mustang in the courtyard of Havoc's rooming house. The younger man had removed his jacket, but kept his shirt and vest in place, as well as his gloves, to hide his automail from view. The older had laid aside his borrowed jacket as well, and fought in shirtsleeves rolled past his elbows. The sparring match had drawn quite a few spectators, the early morning alpine chill failing to deter onlookers, Jean Havoc among them. Edward's unusual fighting style was likely part of the reason, but not all of it. While Mustang was obviously outmatched, he was no novice in the realm of physical altercations. The older man was a reasonably good boxer and had some moves of his own to show off, which made for an interesting competition. The General was defending himself fairly well, putting his natural talent for strategic misdirection to good use, and though the contest was far too uneven for the onlookers to be placing bets, most were shouting encouragements to the older combatant.
Edward kept his metal limbs out of the fray as he put his former commander through his paces. Carefully pulling his punches and kicks, the young alchemist dodged and blocked, letting his sparring partner find his centre. As the battle wore on, the General's breathing became laboured, but just as the blond seemed about to call a halt to the match, Mustang suddenly launched a surprise offensive that caught the younger man off guard. Edward dodged aside, a neat one handed cartwheel putting him out of range of the dark haired man's longer reach. A graceful handspring landed the blond behind his opponent, who was tumbled to the ground a split second later, feet swept out from under him. The peanut gallery groaned. It was the sixth time Mustang had hit the ground that morning, bruising both his ass and his ego.
Roy accepted Edward's offered hand with a rueful smile, breathing hard as the blond tugged him to his feet. "I was sure I'd finally win a round with that attack," he said.
Edward laughed. "Never happen, old man," the boy smirked as he went to retrieve his jacket.
The onlookers gave the two Amestrians appreciative shoulder slaps before drifting away, realizing that the show was over.
Moving to a wooden bench by a wall, Mustang rolled down his sleeves, giving his already stiffening shoulders a satisfying roll. Edward had gone easy on him, but Roy had been using muscles long out of practice with this type of activity, and he knew he'd be suffering by evening. The General sat on the bench to catch his breath, and was joined by the younger alchemist, followed by Havoc, ever present cigarette hanging precariously on the edge of his grin.
"I've never seen anyone fight like that before," the taller blond said to Edward, blue eyes considering. "I don't think I know anyone who could match you, one on one. You spend almost as much time in the air as you do on the ground. When you say that you are from far away, well, so am I, so it must be very far away, that's for sure."
"I started training when I was ten years old," Edward told him with an answering grin, knowing better than to try to explain his origins. "And if you think I'm good, you should see my little brother. He could always wipe the floor with my ass any time he felt like it." The young man's face glowed with pride for Alphonse, and Roy smiled.
After escaping from the Thules at the local pub, the two fugitives had spent the previous night in their new friend's rented room at his invitation. When asked, Havoc had been hard pressed to come up with an explanation as to why he had jumped into the brawl to Ed and Roy's advantage. He'd finally admitted he'd acted on impulse, and that it had seemed like the right thing to do, noting that he had always hated bullies.
Not French, but French Canadian, this world's Jean Havoc was just as easy going as his Amestrian counterpart. He and Sheska had met some weeks ago in Zurich as tenants in the same rooming house, and had hit it off. The young woman had been displaced from her home in Ukraine by the Germans, the Red Army, and the White Forces, and had been drifting across the European landscape for some months before reaching Switzerland. Havoc had been drifting as well, ever since his conscripted tour of duty in the Great War had ended, wanting to see more of the world before returning home. The two had sensed a kindred spirit in each other, and their friendship had rapidly grown. They had gone to the pub the previous night to decide if they wanted to travel together, and to where.
When pressed by the couple for explanations for the beer hall attack, Roy and Edward had been deliberately vague, suggesting that the less Jean and Sheska knew, the safer they would be. The older Amestrian's artfully constructed responses to questions had alluded to possible espionage on the part of the Germans, and left it up their new allies' imaginations to fill in the blanks. The blanks that got filled somehow resulted in Sheska volunteering to go to the train station the next morning to arrange for passage to London for the two fugitives. When Ed reluctantly revealed that Roy didn't have the documents necessary for international travel, Havoc had told them not to worry, that he had an idea, and refused to elaborate no matter how much Ed tried to wheedle it out of him.
"I would very much like to meet your brother one day, and to see a match between the two of you," Jean said, smiling. "For now though, I think I'll go and keep watch for my cute little comrade. She should have returned by now."
Jean wandered out of the courtyard to keep an eye out for his friend, leaving the two Ametrians to catch their breath.
"If they continue the way they are, I don't think it will be too long before those two have more than just friendship between them," Roy mused when the tall blond was out of sight.
'You're probably right," Edward said, grinning at the thought. "If we end up in Canada, which isn't a bad idea by the way, it wouldn't surprise me if we discovered them together there eventually."
The two sat in companionable silence for a while, the cooling sweat of their exertions finally chilling the older man enough to be uncomfortable. He shrugged stiffly into his jacket, grimacing once again at how out of condition his muscles were.
"Did . . . our Havoc end up with anyone special?" Edward asked, a wistful expression on the young man's face.
"Not yet," Roy told him, returning to his seat on the bench. "But I'm still convinced that it's only a matter of time before Jean figures out that Riza is interested, and Riza allows herself to be persuaded to give Jean a chance. After that, nature will simply take its course. I think those two would be good for each other." It was on the tip of his tongue to express regret that he wouldn't be there to see that prediction come true, but stopped short. He didn't want to hand Edward the itinerary for his next guilt trip.
"Hawkeye and Havoc," the boy said, leaning back on the bench, face tipped up to the sky. "Me and Al always figured it was you and Hawkeye all the way."
"Much like you and Ms. Rockbell, Riza and I have been friends since we were kids, but while that friendship is strong, it never evolved into a deeper attachment." Roy saw he had Edward's interest, and continued. "Her father was a master of fire alchemy, and he took me on as his apprentice. Riza has supported and protected me for years. It was a big disappointment to her when I let the Brass take my rank without a fight and went up north to lick my wounds in solitude. She tried to help me even then, and so did the rest of my old team, but I didn't want to be helped. I just wanted to be left alone."
Edward had no comment to make, but his eyes were on his former commander. There was no judgement in them, no censure, no pity. Just the quiet acceptance of someone far too familiar with grief and the many ways, good or bad, that a person can find to deal with it. Roy felt himself fall even deeper under the young man's spell, heart swelling. He wanted to fold the young man into his arms and see himself reflected in exotic amber. He wanted to drink in Edward's taste and feel the boy's heart beating against his chest. He wanted to touch, and be touched in return. He wanted . . . everything. Roy had been holding himself back, giving Edward time to reach out for him, but he couldn't be patient any longer. Roy braced himself and took the plunge.
"Remember that first day, when we landed in the Thule's villa, and I said that this wasn't about you?" Edward nodded. Roy smiled. "Well, I lied. It was always about you, Edward. I've had . . . inappropriate feelings for you since you were fifteen, and at first I wrote them off to a simple, physical attraction for an eye—catching young man. I wasn't blind, I reasoned, and one would have to be, not to admire your attractiveness and your graceful carriage. Of course I couldn't act on an attraction to my underage subordinate, but I used to tease you just to see that flame in your eyes, and imagine I put it there for an entirely different reason."
Edward smiled at that, but made no comment.
Roy took that as a good sign, and continued. "The longer I knew you, the more I admired you. Your determination to give your brother back his life, but not at anyone else's expense. The fierce loyalty to your friends and allies, myself and my team included. The way you never turned away from a fight, or from those in need, or from your deeply held principles. It got to the point where you were on my mind almost all the time, and I realized then that I'd crossed the line from simple physical attraction into something more."
"Why didn't you say something?" Edward asked, but he knew the answer to that question before he even finished asking it.
"How could I?" Roy countered. "I had no indication that you would be open to such a confession. You were under so much pressure already; I couldn't burden you with that as well. I thought I'd wait until you were older, your quest completed with Alphonse back to flesh and blood, before I approached you. And then you disappeared. The grief I felt, the regret that I never had a chance to really know you, just devastated me." Edward's eyes were locked to Roy's, intense. Roy plunged ahead, needing to finish what he had started. "I made a split second decision to jump aboard that rocketship before you could disappear again, and I haven't regretted it. If friendship is all you want from me, that's fine, I can live with that, but ideally I would like to take this as far as it will go. I believe we could have something very deep and very special, given half a chance. What say we take that chance, Edward?"
Edward mulled this over, brows furrowed, amber eyes narrowed. "I don't think you know what you're asking," he slowly said at last. "You don't really know me, and I don't know you either."
"Time together will take care of that problem," Roy said. "There's no rush. We can take this as slow as you want."
"I have to admit, I'm very attracted to you," Edward said quietly. "I'll even admit that I had a major crush on you back when you were a Colonel and I was just one of your many lackeys."
"You were never anyone's lackey. The term implies a crude level of obedience completely foreign to your nature." Roy rubbed his chin and smiled his slow, easy smile. "A crush. I always wondered if all that angry barking and snarling was masking a different kind of bite."
"Funny, but I wondered the same thing about all the baiting and sarcastic commentary you used to treat me to. Now I know."
"I could never resist igniting all that passion. It wasn't quite the variety of passion I wanted to kindle of course, but it was exciting all the same," Roy said, a fondness in his eye.
Edward picked up a smooth stone from the garden by the bench, rolling it between the palms of his hands, and Roy watched the boy as he carefully considered what the older man was offering.
"If this doesn't work out I'll probably be the reason," the blond said as he looked up with a regretful sigh. "I'm not very good company. I tend to get lost in books for days at a time and forget to eat and sleep and talk. I'm also an expert at screwing things up, and I'll get into messes that you'll have to get me out of. You'll always be apologising for me. We'll fight all the time. I won't listen to you."
Roy smiled again that open, easy smile, the one that was just for Ed. "Good. That's settled then."
"How touching," an unfamiliar voice intruded. "A pity you won't be free to pursue this . . . romance, as you see fit."
Rudolf Hess stood just inside the courtyard, back to the only exit, flanked by three burly subordinates. The sneering German commander's gun was out, casually pointed at the two Amestrians, and he clearly believed he had the advantage, right up until the moment he was knocked cold by the swiftly flung stone Edward had been holding.
The blond alchemist was in motion before Hess hit the ground, advancing on the three remaining thugs with a shark toothed grin and fire in his amber eyes. Roy almost felt sorry for his young companion's attackers as it took them some moments to realized their prey was in reality a dangerously efficient predator, and by then it was too late. True, the young man was small, but he was also surprisingly strong even without the automail, and so much faster and more agile than his assailants that the Germans never really knew what hit them. Edward was a wraith, dodging and weaving between the three big men, tangling them up in each other, blocking punches while striking back with fists and feet, elbows and knees. The fight was over in moments. The thugs lay battered on the ground in unconscious heaps.
Edward looked over the destruction he had caused with great satisfaction. Then he frowned and leaned in closer. "What the hell! This guy again?" he said outraged, pointing at one of his victims. "This is my third go at kicking this bullet—headed guy's ass!"
"Never mind that, Edward," Roy took the young man's arm and pulled him toward the exit, stepping through the scatter of bodies. "We should be going."
The pair rushed out to the street, nearly trampling Jean Havoc on his way into the courtyard. The tall blond looked relieved to see them.
"The bullies are back!" Jean told them as he hurried the pair to his room. "They tried to grab Sheska on her way back from the train station. She barely managed to escape. She's not sure if she was followed coming back here, but she has your tickets. You'll have to get out of here as quickly as possible. The train leaves in twenty minutes."
The trio burst into Havoc's room, causing the Ukrainian girl to jump up from her seat on the bed, eyes wide. Jean rushed to the dresser and pulled it away from the wall, then reached behind it. With a smirk he pulled out his travelling papers, scraping off the wad of chewing gum that had secured them to their hiding place.
"These will get you safely to England," he said, handing the documents to Roy. "Once you're there, burn them. I'll wait for a week before I go to an embassy and report them stolen. I still have my dog tags. There shouldn't be a problem."
Roy looked at the papers, gratitude welling up. "I . . . thank you Jean," he finally managed. "And you as well, Sheska," he added, turning to the girl. "Your generosity for two strangers amazes me. I'm sorry for the trouble we've caused you. We are forever in your debt."
Havoc rubbed the back of his neck, quirky grin in place. "Ah, don't worry about it. Zurich is starting to get boring anyway, and it's time we were elsewhere. Odd as it may sound, I feel like I know you both somehow. And if you find that England isn't far enough away from your troubles, well, I'm sure I'll find my way back to Montréal eventually. Perhaps we will meet again."
Sheska jumped up and threw her arms around Roy's neck. She gave the dark haired man a kiss on the cheek, then turned to embrace Edward as well. Suddenly she froze, one hand squeezing the young alchemist's right shoulder. She pulled back, running her hand down his arm, tracing over the automail through Edward's thin shirt.
"Your arm. It's metal."
Edward nodded, then hesitantly peeled off his glove to expose his mechanical hand, flexing the fingers.
Sheska stared at it blankly for a moment before speaking. "Are you . . . aliens?"
Edward looked as if he was about to deny it, then stopped, a thoughtful expression on his face. "I never really thought about it, but yeah. I guess we are," he admitted.
"Wow," the girl said, awed. "Aliens!"
With a fond grin, Havoc rolled his eyes.
East City Headquarters, if he was not mistaken. He was in the bastard's office, but it appeared he had a new commander. Hohenheim sat behind the desk, tugging distractedly at the collar of his uniform, Colonel's stars winking in the pale sunlight slanting through the window.
"I thought you were dead," Edward told him.
"Really Edward?" His father frowned. "I'm over four hundred years old. That's because I'm damn hard to kill. I thought you'd be smart enough to realize that." The old man smirked a very Mustang smirk. "Now, let's hear about your latest assignment." Hohenheim steepled his fingers under his chin.
"So . . . you're sort of like a cockroach?" Edward asked.
A long—suffering sigh was part of Hohenheim's response. "No Edward. A cockroach is easy to kill. You just step on it. The difficulty lies in attempting to eradicate the entire species. Or the portion infesting you kitchen at least."
Oh shit, the bastard was going into full lecture mode! A quick dive through the nearest window might be his only hope of getting out of range. If he hit the pane feet first he might not be cut too badly. The young alchemist prepared for launch.
A glassy chime drew Edward's attention away from his planned course of action, and he turned to see Alphonse and Alfons seated on the couch in front of the fireplace. A bottle of Russian vodka, half full, stood tall on the coffee table in front of the two Als, along with a precariously constructed jenga tower. Ed watched as Alfons picked up the bottle. The young German gulped down a shot of vodka and then took his turn at removing a wooden peg from the rickety tower. Everyone in the room held their breath, and while the tower listed slightly to the left, it didn't collapse. Alphonse grimaced and grabbed the vodka bottle away from his double.
"Put that down, Al!" Ed shouted. "You're too young to drink!"
"Too late brother!" the younger Al sang, already quite drunk. "See what happens when you're not around to look out for me?" He took a swig from the bottle and squinted at the jenga tower, head tilted, planning his move.
Hohenheim sighed, leaning back in Mustang's big leather chair, putting his feet up on the desk. "Looks like abandoning families is not just my crime anymore," he muttered.
The jenga tower crashed to the table, and Alphonse swore. The two seated blonds began to rebuild, drunken hands clumsy. Ed compared their faces. Apart from their eye and hair colour, and the maturity of Alfons' greater age, the two were nearly identical.
"Edward, focus!" Hohenheim barked, banging a booted heel down on the desk and making everyone jump. The partially reconstructed wooden tower crashed down again amid the Als' outraged bilingual cursing. "I need your report before the train reaches the next station! I have a date with destiny, and you're wasting my time!"
Edward looked out the window behind his father to see the countryside flashing by. The office was on a train? Why had he never noticed that before? Wait a minute! What fucking report?
"Don't mind him, Fullmetal," a smooth, familiar voice husked into his ear as a strong arm pulled him back into a broad chest, wrapping him tight. "He's almost as full of shit as I am."
Edward's hair suddenly tumbled loose from the high tail it was fixed in. The man behind him hummed appreciatively, running long, pale fingers through the blond fall. The young man glanced over towards the fireplace. The Als were busy with their drinking game, oblivious to anything else going on in the room at the moment, and Edward regretted that he'd be forced to kick Alfons' delicate ass for getting his little brother drunk. Ed returned his gaze to his father. Hohenheim seemed to be distracted by a photograph on his desk, running a shy finger along its polished silver frame, expression wistful.
An elegant hand reached around to cup Edward's cheek before stroking back through his hair. "So beautiful." The voice from behind was low and husky with lust. The gentle fingers continued to sweep slowly through Edward's silken hair.
The blare of the train's whistle lifted Ed's head with a jerk, scowling into the darkness rolling by the window of the private compartment, the dream shattered. Or most of the dream, at least. A gentle hand still moved through his hair, nimble fingers sifting through loose strands of gold. His head had been in Mustang's lap. He sat up, blinking, and the hand in his hair dropped to slide around his waist and pull him close. Edward didn't fight it. Instead he slipped his own arm around the other man's waist and leaned his head on his shoulder.
"You shouldn't do that Edward," Mustang said, voice low. "Watching you sleep has taken a terrible toll on my self control. I don't think I can trust myself to resist your charms."
"Do I look like I want you to resist them?"
That, apparently, was all the dark haired man had been waiting for. The older man took the blond by both shoulders and gently eased him back until he was pressed into the corner of their seat. Then he leaned in, and Edward was caught in the burn of his dark gaze. The boy traced along the man's jawline, Roy's elegant features made human by light stubble rough against his fingers. A cool palm brushed the younger man's flushed cheek in return, supple fingers played over parted lips, then slid back to his nape. Their lips met, and a bolt of pure want shot straight through Edward's body, pooling deep in his centre, warm and exciting.
All of his senses were hyperaware. The air around him was filled with the scent of wood smoke, sharp, clean sparks, and Roy. The man's taste was exhilarating, hot and heady. Heat from the arm tightening once again around his waist seeped into Edward's skin like some kind of drug, melting him against the dark haired man's body. Edward slipped his hands around Roy's waist, to explore the knobbed ridge of his back. The General responded, slowly stroking a hand up the outside of Edward's thigh.
The train's whistle sounded again, and Edward came back to himself, suddenly alert to exactly where this was happening. He tried to push the older man back, but the arm around his waist tightened possessively. "What are we doing Mustang? We're in public! Anyone could walk in on us!" Edward whispered, incredulous.
"I have a first name, you know," the older man whispered, his hand never pausing in its passage up Edward's thigh. "Don't you think it's about time you started using it?"
"Roy. There. Are you happy?"
"I am," Mustang's voice purred into his ear, making him shiver. "In fact, I believe my name from your lips is the most erotic sound I have ever heard."
"You're a pervert," the blond quietly accused.
"You say that like it's a bad thing," Mustang observed, hand stroking back over Edward's slim hip, slowly approaching virgin territory.
Edward didn't get a chance to confirm or deny this, as Roy's mouth again descending over his cut off any sort of reply. The older man's hand continued to tease, approaching sensitive territory but never quite reaching it, always backing off just shy of the more intimate parts of his anatomy. The younger man's hands were clenched in Roy's jacket, poised between pushing him away and pulling him closer. A quiet moan slipped past Edward's tightly held defences.
"Shh," Mustang whispered, his lips brushing Ed's. "You wouldn't want anyone to hear, would you?"
Edward wondered how he was supposed to endure this exquisite torture in silence. Mustang suddenly pulled away, just as the door to their compartment slid open. The slice of yellow light that fell into the small cabin was blocked by the conductor in the doorway, requesting their tickets with a somewhat amused smile. They had to be getting close to Calais, and the Channel ferry.
Sure enough, the train slowed to a gradual stop, and soon the pair were hurrying along with their fellow passengers towards the ferry terminal. The General strolled along beside his companion, occasionally giving him a lazy smile, all right with his world. Edward on the other hand, was flustered and half hard, finding it difficult to walk normally. He hoped his dilemma wasn't obvious to the people around him. Trust the bastard to arrange it so that he had to go through customs with a boner. If he got patted down, the border guards were going to think he was some kind of freak.
It wouldn't be much longer before the runaway Amestrians were in London. Hohenheim's flat would be a good first stop, though they'd have to be careful there. It was probably the first place Haushofer and company would look for them, so they would have to be in and out as quickly as possible. The old man had hidden away some emergency funds in those paid up lodgings, and the young alchemist thought it would be well worth the risk to go for them. The official documents necessary to make Roy legit wouldn't come cheap, and the pair would need money to cover their travelling expenses as well. Edward suspected that getting out of Europe altogether and disappearing into the wide world was their best option to avoid the Thules, and that was the blond's new goal. The next few days were going to be busy indeed.
But all that aside, Edward knew one more thing for sure. He was definitely going to find a way to get Roy alone, with no possibility of interruption, and soon. Otherwise all this unresolved sexual tension was going to drive him crazy.