How to Save a Life

Stagnation n: to stop developing, growing, progressing, or advancing

"What's next?" Ed looked up at Major Maria Ross as he signed the last form in front of him. She ran his office in much the same way Hawkeye had for Mustang when he was a Colonel, but with less threats and more laughter.

"This just came from the Fuhrer's office, highest priority." She slid a thick file across his desk, and Ed couldn't stop his sigh. If it came from Mustang, it usually involved long train rides, brutal fights and not a little blood spilled.

"What does he want this time?"

She tapped the folder before heading back to her desk. "Perhaps if you read it, you'll find out."

He glared at her. "I can transfer you at any time, you know."

"You could." She turned a sweet smile on him. "But then who would fill out your expense reports and find new and clever ways to phrase ‘I blew up a building' or ‘I need my automail repaired because I blew up a building'?"

Ed turned to the file in his hands, knowing Ross had a point. For all the irritations of being a Colonel under Fuhrer Mustang, having a staff to call his own was definitely a perk. He had to sign a lot of paperwork, but he didn't have to write so much of it himself.

As he scanned the pages of the file, Ed felt his blood pressure rise as his jaw tightened. Some things never changed, and one of them was that Roy Mustang liked to mess with him until he erupted in a fit of absolute rage. After six years of knowing the man, Ed wished he could exert more control over his actions, but Mustang always got the better of him.

He pushed back from his desk, his chair legs making a terrible scraping sound against the floor, drawing the attention of everyone in the room. He scowled at them, and then remembered they weren't the ones making him angry. "Excuse me. I need to see the Fuhrer."

"Did you make an appointment?" Brosch asked.


Brosch picked up the phone at his desk. "Do you want me to call ahead?"

"No. I don't want to give the bastard any warning that I'm coming." He smacked the file against the doorframe on his way out.

They'd agreed. He'd go take down rogue alchemists and governmental dissenters; he'd deal with dirty town leaders and help track down missing kids. That was what he was good at, what he knew. Mustang had promised no more of this political bullshit.

This new assignment as Mustang's bodyguard was total trash, and they both knew it. The Fuhrer didn't need a bodyguard. No one was going to try and kill Roy Mustang; the people couldn't get enough of him. The careful spin they'd put on the story of what had happened at Bradley's home had endeared him to the people. They thought he'd saved them. He was the bravest man to ever set foot on Amestris soil. He'd tried so valiantly to foil the plot to save the poor dead Fuhrer and had been so wounded in the process, how could they not think to make him the next Fuhrer? He clearly had the best interests of Amestris in mind.

No, Mustang didn't need him along to keep him safe. He just wanted to trot around the Fullmetal Alchemist, Alchemist of the People, like a show pony.

"The Fuhrer isn't seeing anyone at the moment, Colonel." Major General Hawkeye was waiting for him at the door, her hand resting oh-so-subtly on her gun. Naturally, Mustang would have her ready and waiting to keep Ed from storming into his office and shouting down the walls.

"Like hell he's not. Who does he think I am?"

She placed a hand in the center of his chest and pushed him out into the hall. "He thinks you're a Colonel in his army, Edward, and you'd do well to remember that. We'll be leaving with the morning train and the itinerary is in your file. I suggest you study it and plan the proper precautions."

Ed thought for a moment about pushing back, about trying to get past Hawkeye and in to see Mustang. With Mustang, he could shout and argue and threaten without a second thought. His smug smile and lazy posture seemed to invite conflict. With Hawkeye, however, every time he looked at her, he could only think of all the kind things she'd done for his brother and himself when they were kids. He could never really shake the intimidating aura she carried with her, and so he took his file and his anger and stalked back to his office to make arrangements.

"Hey, Al." Ed threw his keys on the nearest flat surface and immediately began peeling out of his uniform. He'd held out as long as he could against the military dress, but when he'd been promoted, Mustang had sicced Hawkeye on him and Ed ended up wearing the stupid uniform on a daily basis.

In their dining room—and who would have ever thought he'd have a dining room, let alone a home—Al was at the table, a pencil behind one ear and another in his hand. Books and papers were spread from one edge of the table to the other, and his brother barely looked up as Ed entered. "Brother. How was work?"

"The Fuhrer's a bastard, but that's nothing new." It was on his tongue to tell all about it, but Al looked intent on his work. After years of everything being about Ed, his search for the Philosophers Stone, his desperate need to atone, Ed liked to leave Al out of his problems. "How ‘bout you?"

"Professor Thomas thinks that if I make the last revisions and tighten up my conclusion, I should be ready to sit my defense by the end of the month." Al tossed a grin over his shoulder and it was almost enough to stop Ed's breath. It was so pure and so utterly Al. His brother's happiness made everything he dealt with on a daily basis worth it.

He ruffled Al's hair as he walked by, moving into the kitchen to poke around the pantry. "Listen, I have to go away for a little while. Fuhrer Bastard has something for me. It shouldn't be more than about ten days, but make sure you don't forget to eat while I'm gone, okay?"

Al muttered something like an affirmative response in his direction, and Ed walked out of the kitchen toward his room where he could divest himself of the rest of his uniform before starting dinner. Al's cats were curled on his bed, twined around each other and purring loudly enough that he could hear them from the door. "Al! Come get your damn cats."

"Sorry! Sorry, Brother. I'll get them." Al rushed into the room and scooped up the cats quickly, as though Ed might murder them if Al didn't run to the rescue. Al cooed at them, admonishing them in a high, childish voice. "They just like you."

"Yeah, they'd better like me less if they want to keep living here." It was an empty threat and they both knew it, but it made Ed feel better to say it. He gave Al a gentle push out the door and finished removing his uniform.

Making dinner was a dance, a complicated set of steps that included cutting things but not himself, cooking things but not to the point of charring them, and all the while avoiding the small furry animals begging at his feet. It had gotten easier with time, and Ed didn't think he would ever be able to deny Al anything, not anymore, but it would be a hell of a lot easier without the cats.

They ate at the table with bowls held close to their bodies, as the books and papers had not been asked to sacrifice their resting place. Al spent most of the meal explaining his changes as Ed looked over his notes and diagrams. Four or five minor adjustments would make Al's arrays into a seamless work of art; he could see that clearly. Unfortunately, Ed had learned in the two years since his brother had been reinstated to flesh, Al didn't take kindly to his older brother butting his head in. Instead he kept his mouth shut, let Al talk, and nodded in all the right places.

"I'll wash up, Brother," Al said as they finished and carried their dishes into the kitchen. "You should pack."

Packing wasn't difficult. Most of the time, Ed kept a trunk half-ready in the event that he needed to leave with only a moment's notice. It was no trouble to add few more changes of clothes and a couple books he wouldn't read. Half an hour and he was set for two weeks away from home, at least as far as material goods were concerned. There were times he wondered when his life had become so routine, when waking up every morning involved putting on a uniform, going to work, sitting in an office and doing what he was told. Sometimes it felt like he was drowning, suffocating, as if he couldn't take one more moment. Yet those moments always passed and he did go on. He had to. He didn't know what else to do, who else to be if not the Fullmetal Alchemist, dog of the military, beloved of the people. Al deserved a normal life with a normal home and if doing these things could give it to him, Ed could cope a while longer.

When Ed finished, he went out to drop his trunk by the door and found Al packing up his work. "Early night?"

Al jumped. "Um, yeah. Something like that." He piled his books into a neat stack in the middle of the table then straightened to face Ed with a look like he was about to take on a rabid chimera. "Brother? When you come back from your assignment, there's something, I mean, someone I want you to meet." Al's voice was soft and hesitant.

"Sure, whatever." He shrugged. "Since you're done, do you want to do something? We could——"

"I have a date." Al clapped his hand over his mouth as soon as the words were out, his face flushing bright crimson and he looked like he'd rather be anywhere else in the world.

"Oh." Ed swallowed, not sure what to say, or how to feel. "Okay, well, I'll see you when I get back and I can meet——"

"Aquilla." Al still looked mortified, but his shoulders had dropped from his defensive pose and he didn't look like he was about to run off. "She's at university with me."

"Right. Have a good time." He forced a smile that held until the door closed behind his brother.

What was wrong with him? Why couldn't he be happy for Al? Al was moving forward with his life, doing the things he was supposed to do all along. Ed moved through the house, turning off the lights as he went before throwing himself down on his bed. It was hours before he fell asleep, and Al still wasn't home.

"You look like hell this morning, Boss."

Ed collapsed into a seat by the window, stretched out his legs, and thought about kicking Havoc in the face.

"Don't feel like talking? That's okay. We've only got a twelve hour train ride together. I'm sure it'll be great."


"Oh, God." Ed sat up and began looking for escape routes. It looked like out the window would be the only way to go; it wasn't that far to the ground and the broken glass embedded in his skin would be worth it. Tiredness dulled his reflexes, however, and he missed his opportunity to flee when Hughes slid into the compartment and draped an arm over Ed's shoulders.

"It's been a week since I've seen you! I have so many new pictures to show you." He shoved into his resisting hands while Hughes narrated the shots.

"And there's Elysia carrying Darius. Aren't they adorable?" Any thoughts anyone had that Hughes couldn't get worse about pictures of his daughter were obliterated when Gracia had their second child. Having two of the most perfect, most beautiful and most brilliant children in the world left little room for anything else in Hughes' life.

"Isn't it a little early for that?" Mustang entered the compartment and took a seat opposite Ed, looking arrogant as usual.

Hughes flashed a picture of Elysia playing chess with Darius, while Darius gnawed on a bishop. "How could it ever be too early for this?"

Ed woke to an almost empty compartment and found Mustang staring at him. "What?" he growled, irritated that he'd fallen asleep and that they'd let him nap like a little kid.

"The others went off to the dining car." Mustang stretched as if he'd been the one sleeping. It was common now for Mustang to look tired, worn in a way that Ed didn't remember from his early years with the man, though that could have something to do with the massive scar on the side of his face, which would have taken his eye and brain with it if the bullet had been half an inch in the other direction.

Ed ran a hand over his face, wondering how sleep had left him he more rested, but not better. For a moment, he thought about closing his eyes and trying to sleep again—the motion of the train always put him out—just so he wouldn't have to think so much, but the idea that Mustang would be sitting there just staring at him kept his eyes from closing.

He flicked at glance at Mustang. "You promised."

He shrugged, as though Ed's words meant nothing. "Hawkeye thought—"

"Why don't we just make Hawkeye the Fuhrer already and get it over with?" He sat up in his seat and leaned forward. "Hawkeye thought it'd be a good publicity thing, right? But you're the Fuhrer and you promised."

"I know."

Ed let out a sigh as he relaxed back into his seat and let his head fall back against the wall. As he'd found with most things in his life recently, he was too tired to fight. The little injustices just didn't seem worth the same level of ire he could have worked up just three or four years ago. Sometimes he wondered if he'd worn all the fight out of himself too early, that he'd burned too brightly and there would be nothing left for the rest of his life. As much as he dreamed about restoring Al, he hadn't really thought about what it would be like after.

"You look like hell."

"Yeah, thanks, bastard."

"You have some time off accrued; you could take some if you wanted."

Ed glared at Mustang, wondering what was wrong, because this couldn't possibly be Mustang being nice. That didn't happen. "Oh, you mean like last time? When I got two days before you called and said." He cleared his throat, deepened his voice and launched into his best Mustang impersonation. "'Sorry, Fullmetal,'—in your not sorry voice—‘but I need you to get on a train for three days with a horrible old woman who won't stop talking to you about her grandchildren, eat bad food and by bad I mean the food-poisoned type and stop the end of the world.'" Ed sneered. "It was a miner's revolt and by the time I got there, they'd fixed it themselves. No, thanks."

He could see that Mustang was trying not to laugh. "We could probably work out a couple days when the world isn't in imminent danger. You could spend some time with your brother, see your family."

The mention of Al brought an involuntary frown to his face as he'd been trying not to think about his brother all morning. He shrugged and tried to be casual. "Al wouldn't have much time for me, anyway. He's got a girlfriend."

"You don't sound happy. Is she a troll?"

Only Mustang would be concerned about the attractiveness of the girl. "I haven't met her yet. And I am happy for him. It's just…" He didn't know how to explain it to Mustang without sounding like a child. Ed wanted Al to be happy, but on his terms. He wasn't ready to share his brother, not with some girl who could take him away for good.

A slow smile creased Mustang's face and Ed wanted to leap across the compartment and wipe it off with his fists. "You're jealous?"


"You are." The glee in the other man's voice was ridiculous, and Ed thought for a moment that he wasn't the only one who needed to get out more, if this was his highest form of entertainment. "You're jealous that your little brother has a girlfriend before you do. It's probably his stellar personality and the fact that he doesn't spit fire at everyone who comes close."

"I think fire is your field. And I'm not jealous." It was far more complicated than that.

The teasing smirk fell off Mustang's face as he studied Ed, who shifted uncomfortably under his gaze. "You're not," he started, his tone delicate. "Jealous of her?"

It took a moment for what Mustang was asking to sink in, and when it did, Ed found that there were apparently things he could find the passion to be pissed about. "What the hell are you implying, bastard? He's my little brother, you unbelievable pervert! I love him and I think he's perfect, but that's because he's my brother and he spent six fucking years as a suit of armor and can still act and function as a normal person."

"You didn't expect him to adjust to being in the flesh again so quickly."

Ed glared at him. "What do you know?"

"I've known you almost longer than I haven't, Fullmetal. You're not as complicated as you'd like to think you are."

"Yeah, so uncomplicated and easy to read that you think I'm in love with my little brother."

The teasing light came back into Mustang's eyes. "So it's more the fact that he's your brother than the fact that he's a boy?"

Ed knew he was gaping like a fish, but he couldn't seem to close his mouth. "I'm not having this conversation with you." He stood. "I'm going to go walk the train and make sure there aren't any people who want to kill you. And when I don't find any, I'll see if I can't convince a few that it might be a good idea."

"You can't leave. You're my bodyguard and I'm not supposed to be alone."

"What are you, three?" Ed leaned his head out of the compartment. "Hughes!" he shouted down the hall. Moments later the head of government intelligence came running towards him.

"What's wrong?"

Ed felt bad for a moment for making Hughes worry, but he was more interested in getting the hell out of there. "Nothing. Someone needs to baby-sit the Fuhrer and I need to stretch my legs." He brushed past Hughes and out into the narrow hallway, ignoring the lowered voices behind him.

Though it might be hard to avoid the bastard for the next six or seven hours, Ed was going to try.

"Do you think if I push you down the steps, one of the photographers might get a shot of it?" Ed asked into Mustang's ear as he stepped onto the arrival platform.

Mustang slid cool eyes over him. "I think if you push me down the steps, I'm taking you with me."

Ed nodded and waited while Mustang smiled and waved to the throngs of people waiting for his arrival. The older people in the crowd looked on with faces so full of hope, it seemed they might burst. Younger participants, mostly young women, were actually, honestly swooning at his very presence. The military personnel chosen to act as the honor guard could not have stood any straighter nor been in more perfect form. When he returned their salutes, they glowed.

The people loved Roy Mustang and it was totally disgusting.

"Can we go now?"

"Where's your sense of theater? These people have been standing here for hours; the least I can do is give them a few minutes." Mustang was soaking up their adoration like he'd never been admired before in his life. "If you were a little less prickly, they might love you just as much."

Ed rolled his eyes, ready to duck back into the train until they were ready to go when Mustang grabbed his arm and pulled him onto the platform as well. He yelped, a sound that couldn't have been more undignified if anyone had been able to hear him over the roar of the crowd.

"Smile for the nice people, Fullmetal." When Ed took a step back to try removing himself from the crowd's line of sight, Mustang held him firm. "That's an order."

Ed plastered a fake smile on his face and raised his hand to wave. When the weak evening light hit his automail, the crowd broke into new cheers and he grinned over his shoulder back at the Fuhrer. "Guess you don't have to be a smarmy bastard for the people to love you, huh?"

Behind him, he could hear Mustang chuckle. "You'd be dangerous if you ever figured out what you wanted, Fullmetal."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Ed turned a frown on Mustang. What he wanted? He'd already gotten what he wanted; Al was sitting at home right now in a body that wasn't made of metal.

"Nothing. We should go. Hughes is starting to look anxious." Indeed, Hughes pushed his way in front of Ed and waved off the press and crowd, extending his apologies and moving the circus away from the train platform.

From the platform to a line of ridiculously expensive appointed cars, it was a relatively small distance to the hotel they were staying in, though with the crowds and security, it wasn't a short trip. Ed ended up in a car with Mustang and Hughes, and spent most of the trip wondering how someone like Hughes could actually be friends with someone like Mustang. They were so different on the surface: Hughes who just couldn't seem to make himself shut up, and Mustang who could hold onto his voice like a state secret unless a pretty face was involved.

All Ed knew was that by the time they'd reached the hotel, another outrageously appointed accommodation, Ed was ready to climb out the window and throw himself to the ground to get away from them. Mustang kept giving him knowing, amused glances and Hughes just wanted to talk, find out what was wrong and share anecdotes about how his children solved all the world's problems.

Ed practically flung himself from the car as soon as it rolled to a stop, startling their driver and the man who'd been waiting to open the door for the Fuhrer. "Security, you understand," he said with a smile that he knew would put the man at ease. He stood to the side as some lower ranking officers and hotel attendants collected their luggage and began carting it into the hotel.

The manager fell all over himself greeting the Fuhrer and his group. "Of course we're very pleased to have you staying with us." The man gave a half bow, the smile on his face almost painful.

"Ed." Hughes' voice in his ear distracted Ed from Mustang's response.


They stood, their shoulders nearly touching as Mustang practically courted the manager. No, no, thank you. No really, it's our pleasure. Why anyone bought his bullshit, Ed really didn't know.

"When we're settled, I want to talk to you about something." He held up a hand. "It's nothing bad, but something I want you to think about." He slapped Ed on the back and turned to follow Mustang into the hotel. "We'll talk later."

Twelve hours he'd been on a train with the man and he couldn't have found the time to be cryptic earlier?

It took the better part of two hours to get everyone situated into their respective rooms with their respective luggage. Sometimes government functions were shockingly inefficient, and Ed thought it was a good thing the fine people of Amestris didn't have to see the Fuhrer's ace staff trading luggage in the hallways and whining over how they'd had nicer rooms last time. After few pointed comments from Hawkeye about how they'd find the accommodations in a tent or a trench, the mutters died down.

The hour was late and hotel was quiet by the time Ed got around to seeking out Hughes. He found the man seated in a comfortable chair in the lounge at the center of their floor, a steaming mug of coffee in one hand and a file folder in the other.

"Don't look so worried." Hughes grinned. "Have a seat. You want some coffee?"

Ed shook his head. "Isn't it late for that?"

With a shrug, Hughes finished off his mug and set it aside. "I don't mind. Sleeping kind of feels like a waste of time now."

"Oh, right." Ed looked away and tried not to think about the time when Hughes had done nothing but sleep. Coma, they'd called it, so deep no one thought he'd ever come out of it as a result of blood loss and trauma. That's what happened to people who knew too much under the old regime. Seeing Hughes awake and aware, fawning after his family, was enough for Ed to choke down one hundred years of Mustang as Fuhrer if that's what was necessary to keep them all safe.

"You're not happy."

"You're out of your mind."

"Ed." Hughes frowned at him.

"Oh, I thought we were having a ‘state the obvious' contest." He leaned back in his chair, letting the soft leather envelope him, and crossed his arms over his chest. "Your point?"

"That while there might be other mitigating factors to your level of contentment in your life, your job is high on the list of things you hate." He held up a hand to forestall Ed's protest. "You're good at what you do, no one is denying that. You just don't like it. It doesn't fulfill you, it doesn't challenge you. You have a brilliant mind and you spend most of your time reading and signing reports. Or fixing broken office equipment."

Ed shrugged. That had been a phase to keep him from climbing the walls out of sheer boredom. There were only so many military reports a man should have to read in the course of a single day before it should be considered inhumane. Besides, the secretary pool had been most appreciative of him after he fixed every last bit of broken equipment under their control. "I thought we were getting to a point."

Hughes leaned forward and handed over the file with a flourish. "You know I'm the head of state security and intelligence. It's a big job and I've found that my desire to spend endless hours working instead of being with my family has declined drastically in the past few years. You have the knowledge, the mind, and most importantly, the clearance. I'd like you for my second in command, if you will, to help run the intelligence aspect of the government. I'd still be primarily in charge of security, but information assignments, gathering and decoding, that'd be your realm." He arched an eyebrow at Ed and looked very pleased with himself.

Out of habit more than anything, Ed flipped open the folder and glanced through the pages. Hughes had clearly been thinking about this for awhile. The proposal was set out in clear language; the chain of command had even been sketched out in a diagram. "Doesn't this skip about a dozen regulation steps in the order of things? I mean, I imagine this is a great way to piss off some of the generals."

"It's my department. I can do what I want. The important thing is that I know I can trust you. Roy can trust you. The number of people in the world who hold that honor are very few." Hughes stood. "Read it through, think about it, and tell me what you're thinking tomorrow. I don't need to know right away, but I'd like an answer sooner rather than later."

Hughes wandered out of the room, but Ed barely noticed. He was already deep in the file, thinking about the proposal and all the things he could do with a position like that. For almost a year he'd been telling Mustang that the government ciphers were too easy to figure out, that there wasn't enough organization in the intelligence network.

Mostly though, he thought about Mustang trusting him and why that thought should make him feel warm, uneasy and strangely flustered all at the same time.

A crash and the acrid smell of smoke woke Ed from a deep sleep. The folder he'd been holding slipped from his hand as he jerked awake and fell to the floor, white papers spilling out in a careless arc. Another crash, somewhere down the hall, brought Ed to his feet. He sped down the corridor, shouting at the officers poking their heads out of their rooms to evacuate the building before he was really even aware of what he was doing.

Up ahead the smoke was thicker, but he could make out the tall form of Hughes directing more of their people out. "Where's the Fuhrer?" Ed called to him over the noise.

"He should be in his room, can you——"

"I'm on it." Ed ran past Hughes, trying to ignore the smoke and the burning in his lungs with every breath. His eyes watered, making it even more difficult to see, but he could feel the heat of a fire and knew he was getting close. He called for Mustang, using his name and title, but there was no response as Ed neared his room.

Then, a tall figure turned a corner and ran into Ed. "Fullmetal." Mustang's grip on his arm was fierce as he began to drag Ed back in the direction he'd come from. "Run, the fire's about to——"

Instinct, a honed sense of when things were about to get really bad instead of just garden variety bad, made Ed reverse their positions. He pushed Mustang in front and turned his back to the hallway just as the door burst outward, bits of wood and metal flying at them like small projectiles. The force of the explosion shoved Ed into Mustang, forcing them both to the floor, compounded further when something heavy and hot landed on Ed's back.

He felt the pain, had a moment to catalogue and analyze it, before it stole his breath and his consciousness.

Transition n: movement, passage, or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc., to another

"Don't try to move."

Ed opened his eyes slowly, the darkness resolving to a small room that was definitely a hospital. He hurt enough to know he hadn't received any kind of treatment. He was cold except where his body was pressed up against something warm, and he felt oddly out of balance. "The fuck?"

"Welcome to awareness, Fullmetal." Mustang's voice sighed in his ear. "We've been kidnapped."

He tried to sit up, but when he went to use his arms to push himself up, he discovered why he felt so strange. "Where the fuck is my arm?"

"I imagine the same place as my gloves." Mustang held up his hands, revealing fingers tightly bound and useless. "I tried, but I couldn't really stop your bleeding that well with my hands like this. You should stay still."

Ed swore again as he managed to raise himself into a sitting position. His head swam at the movement and he would have fallen back to the floor if Mustang hadn't caught him with his cumbersome, flipper-like hands. "How long have we been here?"

With a shrug, Mustang helped shift him around so he was leaning propped up against Mustang's side. "A couple hours, maybe longer. No one's been in since I woke up." A long pause followed, but Ed could feel Mustang building up to something. "You know, it's interesting, because I distinctly remember someone bitching about how I wouldn't need a bodyguard for this trip because no one would want to hurt me. Of course, I have a head wound, so I might be remembering that incorrectly. What about you, Fullmetal, do you remember anything about that?"

If the action wouldn't have caused him to fall over as well, he would have shoved Mustang to the floor. "I said no one wanted to kill you. There's a difference. Plenty of people want to kick your smug face: angry fathers, jealous boyfriends, me. These people don't want to kill you; they don't even want to hurt you that badly. If they did, you'd be missing your hands instead of just having them tied." Ed thought about his last statement again, tilting his head to one side and blocking out Mustang's response. "Am I still bleeding?"

"What? Yes, I told you I couldn't really stop it. Did you damage your brain?"

"No. I mean, my head hurts, but that's not the point. See, our captors, while well-organized, are really stupid. They took your gloves and my arm, but didn't think beyond that. Now, help me reach my back."

"What are you going to do?"

Ed blew out a frustrated breath as he tried to reach the wound on his own. "I'm going to draw an array, and you're going to activate it." His fingers reached the edges of his wound, a long arc down his back that was still bleeding heavily if his soaked shirt was anything to go by. No wonder he felt so lightheaded.

"Isn't that dangerous?" Mustang's hand reached back to restrain him.

He tried to jerk his hand out of Mustang's grip and only managed to fling himself against the floor. "Gosh, I don't know, what did they teach you in alchemy school? Of course it's dangerous, you idiot. You know what's more dangerous? Waiting around here to see what they do to us when Hughes and Hawkeye refuse to pay whatever they're asking to have you returned."

"Fullmetal, we don't know where we are, we're injured and there could be a hundred men out there waiting for us the second you do this. We need more information." He helped Ed back up, but kept his grip strong enough to keep Ed from poking at his wounds.

"How good are you at getting away from assholes that want to hurt you? ‘Cause I'm damn near an expert at it by now." Ed pulled away and struggled to his knees, closing his eyes against a moment of vertigo. "Now, I'm going to draw the array, you're going to activate it, then if we make it through that, we're going to make a run for it. Can you run?"

Mustang was right behind him, but this time instead of trying to stop him, he steadied Ed as he began to draw the precise, elegant array that would transform the wall into a door. "It's not me I'm worried about."

"Yeah, well," Ed paused to wipe the sweat from his eyes. "Don't worry about me." When he'd turned from freezing to feverish, Ed couldn't remember.

"Wait," Mustang reached out to still his hand, and then shoved him to the ground. He sprawled out next to Ed, their sides pressed close. "Someone's coming. Keep the array covered."

The door to their room opened and a tall man slipped in. He didn't look like someone involved in a massive explosion and kidnapping, but then, most people didn't. His eyes were dark and hard to read and Ed had an instant dislike of the man. Though, Ed supposed, it could have had something to do with the fact that the man had Ed's arm hanging carelessly in his hand. Behind him, another man entered, taller and bulkier and definitely someone who looked like he kicked puppies for fun in his spare time. He went straight for Mustang and pinned the man to the floor with his booted foot.

"You're awake. Good." The first man's voice was soft and reminded Ed of every librarian he'd ever met. "Your people are surprisingly stubborn, Mustang. Though I suppose it is the way of the military. Everyone gets a promotion when the one at the top dies."

Apparently it wasn't just an act just to piss off Ed. Mustang really could keep a calm, disinterested face in just about any situation. "They're my people. They know what to do with people like you."

The man took two steps and swung the automail, letting the weight of the metal and the arc of his swing build up momentum for him. But instead of targeting Mustang, the hand—his hand—fell on Ed. It cracked against his face, breaking open his skin and, Ed was sure, broke bone as well.

"Do you think that's going to get you what you want?" Mustang didn't even twitch as he stared the other man down.

The man smiled and crouched over Ed. "I think you're a lot more attached to Mr. Elric than you let on. He's been under you command for six years. You've watched over him and protected him even when it was a detriment to your own career. There is no one else in the military for which the same could be said." He caressed Ed's face with the automail, wetting it with Ed's blood. He looked at Mustang. "I'm sending another message to your people. Hopefully they'll listen to this one or it's going to get very uncomfortable for you and your protégé." His eyes swung to Ed, who wanted nothing more than to jump up and pound the man into the ground. Unfortunately, he didn't have the strength to take on both men and he couldn't risk exposing the array. Instead, he played weaker than he was in hopes of fooling the man for a little while.

"I'm sending your automail, covered in your blood, wearing one of the Fuhrer's gloves. It's a pretty visual, don't you think?" He pressed the cold metal into Ed's face, grating the broken bone and releasing a fresh flow of blood. "But I thought I'd make a point, first." He flipped the automail around, caressing it slightly. "I've always wondered how powerful and accurate this bit of machinery actually was."

"Why don't you give me my arm back and I'll show you," Ed snarled through clenched teeth.

The man smiled. "Yes, why don't I? I've heard reattachment is excruciating." He turned to Mustang. "If you move, I'll kill him and send his body as a message instead." Then, moving faster than Ed thought possible, the man sprung forward and shoved his automail back into the port.

Even though he'd been half expecting it, and it'd been done to him before countless times in the past, the pain of reattachment was, in fact, agonizing. His body arched off the ground and his vision tunneled to black. He heard nothing but the roaring of blood in his ears and the only thing that kept him from passing out was the bright, copper taste of blood in his mouth where he'd bitten through his lip. It might steal the breath from his lungs, but he'd be damned if he'd scream for this bastard. He'd had the damn surgery and not cried out.

A moment later, Ed felt the release of the arm being taken away, his already sensitive and abused nerves on fire. Distantly, he was aware of the men leaving, closing and locking the door behind them but Ed spent all his energy on just breathing and not throwing up. He heard Mustang cross the room and then gentle hands lifted his head and Ed found himself in Mustang's lap. The Fuhrer certainly looked odd upside down.

"Ed? Edward?"

Ed blinked slowly, wondering how long Mustang had to have been calling his name to drop his title. "Yeah?"

"Are you all right?"

Ed laughed at the complete ridiculousness of the statement, though it came out as more of a strangled cough. He closed his eyes and concentrated on breathing slowly and letting his body settle so that every movement didn't send spikes of pain along his nerves and send his stomach rolling in loops. "If I say yes, can we get the hell out of here?"

"You're in no shape to move. If it was dangerous before, it'd be suicide now."

"I can damn well walk out of here." Ed clenched his teeth, ignoring the pain in his cheek and struggled to sit. "They won't be back for hours. We can get out now and have a good head start before they know we're gone."


"Do you want them to send part of you next time? Cause I think it'd be pretty hard to snap with no fingers, Fuhrer." Most of his array had been smeared by Ed's own body and he knew he'd have to start over. Luckily for him, he was still bleeding.

Mustang moved out of the way, watching him with hooded eyes as Ed worked to draw out the array as quickly as he could. "He's right."

"About what?" Blood was so much more imprecise than chalk and far less elegant.

Ed jumped when Mustang's hand landed on his shoulder. He hadn't known the other man was so close. "I have taken risks for you that I wouldn't for anyone else."

One last stroke with his finger and the array was complete. Ed turned to Mustang, whose face was strangely open. "What are you talking about?"

"This is dangerous, what we're about to do——"

Ed backed up and held up his remaining hand. "If you're about to do the equivalent of deathbed confessions, it needs to wait." While part of him was curious what Mustang thought he needed to say to him, the rest of him with filled with a wild, blind panic for reasons he both couldn't identify and didn't care to. Mustang opened his mouth again, but Ed didn't want to hear it. "Seriously, stuff it."

Mustang nodded, and Ed thought it was the end of it, but then Mustang's hands were around his throat, cupping his jaw. For a brief, terrifying moment, Ed though Mustang was trying to kill him—that that had been the major revelation: Roy Mustang secretly wanted to murder him.

Instead, Mustang's face swooped in and crushed their lips together in an awkward, painful and perfect kiss. Ed was actually glad for the pain in his face as it helped him focus, kept him grounded as Mustang traced his lips with his tongue, stole his breath and surprised the hell out of him in under a minute. He captured Ed's bottom lip, sucking gently before releasing him and sitting back.

Ed sat back on his heels, unable to stop staring at Mustang's mouth. He expected a smirk, a stupid comment, something, anything other than dark eyes that looked nothing but hungry. "That always work for you?" Ed asked when he could find his voice.

With a shake of his head, it looked like Mustang was about to launch into another explanation that they didn't have time for.

"Never mind, just activate the damn array." Ed stood and moved away, ignoring the pain in his body. Instead he focused his attention on the lines sketched out on the floor. It was his array and he was sure of his own work, but how long had it been since Mustang had activated anything other than his gloves? He trusted the man with fire, he could trust him to be lazy and ambitious, but Ed didn't really trust him with much else.

"You'd better be right," was all Mustang said before he pressed his hands to the ground and the array came to life.

The blood wasn't as clean as Ed liked and the image crackled around the edges where the lines were less than pristine. From the way Mustang jumped, Ed imagined there was a fair amount of energy feedback, but the pattern held and within moments their way out was nothing more complicated than a door.

He offered his good hand to Mustang and pulled him to his feet. "Let's go."

They started off in a shambling run, reminiscent of the frightening lurch of the monster in the horror picture Al had dragged him to the last time there'd been something besides newsreels playing. The monster was a chimera, cobbled together from different animals and people and ultimately more pathetic than frightening, but his lumbering steps and incoherent speech made him the nightmare of the local village. It should have been the alchemist who created him that was punished, but instead, the sad creature had paid the price. Ed had stopped going to see pictures with Al after that one.

Within ten yards, Ed was out of breath, his pulse pounding in his temples and at his throat, and he was beginning to think that this hadn't been such a good idea after all. Surrounding them was nothing but forest, thick enough that Ed could see no end to it. He knew from studying the file that the town they were visiting was close to a forested area, but they could be anywhere. Ahead of him, Mustang kept up a steady pace, though he was never more than four steps ahead of Ed. He could have easily outdistanced Ed in this state, but he kept looking back over his shoulder to make sure Ed was still there.

After ten more punishing minutes, Ed had nothing left in him but to breathe and set one foot in front of the other. He kept his eyes firmly on the ground in front of him; the heels of Mustang's shoes on the very edge of his vision were his only guidance. He counted his breaths to keep himself going, the running litany of numbers filling his thoughts so far as to push out everything else.

The change in terrain was so sudden, from uneven and treacherous earth to smooth pavement that Ed stumbled, his steps carrying him past Mustang. Lights flashed and Ed looked up as a horn sounded. He had enough time to see the car coming at him to take a step back before it struck.

The car had slowed considerably and it barely bumped him as it came to a stop, but it was enough. It threw Ed off balance and sent him crashing to the pavement, his head connecting with the unforgiving ground. He was almost pleased when the darkness took him.

The only thing more boring than being in a hospital was being in a hospital by himself. They'd transferred him to a private room after his first roommate complained that Ed kept him awake all night. It wasn't his fault that he wasn't allowed to sleep and the nurses kept coming in to check on him every half hour to make sure he wasn't dead. They guy hadn't looked that sick anyway, and if he'd just held up his part of the conversation, Ed probably would have left him alone. But he refused to answer, so Ed had to keep talking.

Of course, the drugs he'd been on the first couple days had been amazing. He knew he was in pain, but he felt so good, he didn't care. They'd pulled back his medication since then and things had grown predictably more painful and boring.

The door to Ed's hospital room opened, but he could barely muster the energy to look up. Everyone who was going to visit him had already.

"You're in luck." Hughes dropped into a chair and placed Ed's automail arm on the bed; Ed was proud of himself that he didn't flinch at the sight of it. "Marshal had already sent your arm ahead as a message by the time you two escaped. I managed to convince the MPs that they didn't really need to hold it for evidence." Hughes grinned and poked at the metal. "I even had it cleaned for you."

"Thanks." Ed closed his eyes.

"How're you feeling?"

Ed shrugged. "A little bit less like total shit, but that could be the drugs." He shifted slightly, trying to take some of the pressure off the wound on his back. "What's the news? You wouldn't be here if you didn't know something."

Hughes tried to look offended. "I'm not allowed to visit a sick friend in the hospital?"

"I'm not sick. And if you were visiting, you'd be molesting me with photos and stories of your children." That had been the first visit from Hughes, the one that made him worry that he might actually be terribly injured.

Hughes slid a folder onto the bed. "This is why you should be working for me. You're observant, analytical, and I've never been kidnapped."

It was a little awkward trying to maneuver the folder with one hand, but Ed got it open without help, even though Hughes fluttered to one side looking like he'd die if he didn't find some way to help. Ed spent a minute looking over the file and by the time he was done, it was all he could do not to throw it across the room. "That's it?"

"That's it."

"Three guys with a stockpile of explosives and too much time on their hands? All they wanted was money?" When the drugs had allowed him to think of it, Ed expected their kidnappers to be part of a highly motivated organization protesting workers' rights or the new regime. Instead, he'd been kidnapped by three guys with good jobs from good families who wanted a little extra cash. "When do I get to meet them?"

"You're not going anywhere near them. They're in custody and they've already confessed, so you're not going to need to be present for the trial." Hughes leaned back and stretched his legs out in front of him. "The doctors say that you can be released in a couple days and we can head back to Central then."

Ed schooled his voice to careful nonchalance. "Who's still left?"

"Just me, Al and a couple uniformed officers. Everyone else went back this morning, but I told Roy someone should stay with you on the way back. I doubt anything will happen again, but it's better to be safe."

Ed nodded, not sure what else to say. He'd asked about Roy upon waking the first time, scaring the nurses with his intensity until someone could find an answer for him. There was no way he could ask again without raising Hughes' suspicions. "I told Al to go home. He still has class."

"And he ignored you because you're in the hospital. Were you expecting something else?" Hughes looked over his shoulder to the door. "He's very worried about you. The nurses keep catching him asleep in unused rooms when they try to send him away during non-visiting hours."

"He's outside the door right now, isn't he?"

Hughes nodded.

"Fine, let him in." Ed supposed he was due to be fussed over; it'd been almost six hours since the last time. It was just when Al looked at him like that, all worry and reproach, he made Ed feel like an ass. Like he'd gotten hurt on purpose in an effort to deprive his little brother of life with his sibling.

Hughes stood and patted Ed's shoulder carefully. "I'll visit tomorrow and bring the pictures you asked about."

"Hey!" When Hughes turned, Ed closed his eyes for a moment. "I'll take the job. Now send in my brother."

"So, yeah, I think it's a bad idea, but I think we should go ahead and do it anyway." Ed handed the folder over to Hughes, shifting as he tried to find a more comfortable position. Three weeks since the failed kidnapping, two weeks since he was allowed to return to his own home and a week in his new position and Ed found the new responsibilities to be fitting him as well as Hughes had predicted.

"I agree. We should run it by Roy, but it should be fine."

Ed couldn't help his frown. "Could you run it by him?"

Hughes took off his glasses and sat forward. It was surprising how much distance the thin sheets of glass created, even on someone as open as Hughes. Without them, he looked younger, more serious and more accessible. "What happened?"

"Nothing." Ed stood, careful of the lingering stiffness in his joints. The doctors told him it would go away, that it would just take time. Ed had visions of walking with a cane by the time he was twenty.

"Something happened. You won't talk about it; Roy is even more tightlipped than you are." Ed was horrified with himself that even the phrase ‘tightlipped' made him think of Mustang's mouth, the pressure of his lips against his own. "The two of you can't be in the same room together for more than twenty seconds before one of you remembers a very important engagement and basically runs for the door." He sat back and slipped his glasses back on. "I'll take the report, but you should talk. It's going to be hard to run state intelligence when you can't even look him in the eye. You can consider it an order, Colonel."

Ed tightened his mouth to keep his comments in. As much as it irritated him, his argument wasn't with Hughes, and it wouldn't do to have Hughes and Mustang both pissed at him. "Yes, sir. Anything else, sir?"

Hughes sighed. "No, you're dismissed."

Ed turned and strode from the office, his mind already trying to think of a way out of the direct order. He could ignore it, tell Hughes something came up, or even lie, say he'd tried to see Mustang, but the man turned him away. Mustang wouldn't look at him most days, let alone speak to him, so it wasn't out of the realm of possibility. Actually, that could get him out of it, after all. He could go and try to see the Fuhrer, be turned away as he had been the first few times Ed had actually tried, and report that to Hughes.

A quick detour on the way to his office was all Ed needed to find his way to the office of the Fuhrer. Most of his staff was crowded around Havoc's desk, while Hawkeye was conspicuously absent.

"Hey, Boss, come take a look at this." Havoc waved him over and presented him with a small black notebook. "It's the Fuhrer's address book. He left it on his desk," Havoc turned innocent and feverishly bright eyes in Ed's direction. "Is it my fault if I just wanted to keep it safe and maybe call a few of the numbers?"

Ed saw the endless pages crammed full of names and felt his stomach roll. This had been a bad idea from the start. "He in?"

Fury turned to him like an eager puppy, ready to offer information. "He left early and then Major General Hawkeye had to take a meeting for him."

For the next several minutes, Ed stood with the others as they flipped through the pages, nodding at their comments like he cared. All the while, his heart pounded and his anger grew by the second. Ed hadn't asked for Mustang to mess with his head like this, he hadn't asked the man to tell him he mattered, to kiss him, to look at him with something other than amusement and then not look at him for three weeks.

"You all right, Boss?" Ed looked up at Havoc's concern. "You look a little…" Havoc rocked his hand back and forth. "Not that it doesn't make me feel like a man when I have to carry you to the infirmary, but you should watch yourself."

"Who's so small he has to be carried around like an infant?" The response was completely instinctual and by the smirk on Havoc's face, he'd been expecting it. Spending all that time with Mustang wasn't good for anyone. "Never mind. You know what? If that's what it takes to make you feel like a man, so be it, because it's clearly not your love life." He reached out and tipped the little book out of Havoc's hands and onto the floor, and then walked out of the room.

Even as he tried to ignore the shocked mutters his outburst had left behind and the feel of the smooth leather book under his fingers, Ed couldn't let the matter rest. It had been years since he'd let Havoc's teasing really piss him off. He hadn't been so childish since before Al got his body back. It was all Mustang's fault; he'd done this to him. As much as Ed hated to admit it, Hughes was right. He and the bastard did need to have a talk.

Ed stalked through the halls, ignoring the people he passed. He supposed he should have stopped to salute some of them, but today, at this time, he could give a shit. If the Fuhrer wanted to court marshal him for improper conduct, let him. At least then he'd have to look at Ed.

"I'd like to requisition a car, please." Ed remembered the please at the last minute. He tried to stay on the best of terms with the secretarial pool, since they were generally a scary bunch when scorned. He even managed a smile for the young lady he spoke to and was duly rewarded with a quick phone call, fast arrangements and himself in a car in less than ten minutes.

"Where to, Colonel?"

"The Fuhrer's manor." Ed turned his head and stared out the window, watching the city thin and finally disappear as they drove. Mustang didn't live quite as far out of Central as Bradley had, but it was still beyond the city limits. One didn't accidentally end up at the Fuhrer's home. An invitation or a purpose was required.

As they neared the manor, the car was waved through three checkpoints, none of which actually stopped to search the car or ask for credentials. The driver said he was with the Fullmetal Alchemist, but really, without checking, he could have been anyone with a uniform and a driver. By the time they reached the main drive, Ed was stunned that more people didn't try to kidnap Mustang on a regular basis. The man was practically asking for it.

"Should I wait, or will you call for a ride back, sir?" his driver asked as Ed stepped out of the car. Ed was about to tell the man to wait, or better yet, keep the motor running, but thought he might have an easier time getting Mustang to speak with him if he didn't have a car waiting.

"I'll call." He tapped the roof of the car and trotted up the steps to the main door, guarded by two men in uniform. When they saw him coming, instead of readying their weapons, or asking him to stop, they opened the door.

"Please God, tell me you don't let anyone who walks up to this door inside like you're bellhops at the local hotel."

"You're the Fullmetal Alchemist," the one on the right said as if that was the answer to all questions.

"Do I have an appointment, clearance, anything that you know of? And what if I was here to kill the Fuhrer?"

The one on the left looked confused. "You aren't though, are you, sir?"

Ed was tempted to reach out and shake them to see if it helped. "That's not the point."

"Lieutenant General Hughes called ahead and said we should be expecting you, sir."

Ed let out a sigh and brushed past the men. He really only had it in him for one fight today, and this was not it. The guards closed the doors behind him and a man in a crisp suit was waiting just inside the foyer.

"The Fuhrer has asked not to be disturbed, but if you'd like to wait, come this way." The man gestured for Ed to follow, which he did mostly because it was one thing to know Mustang had a wait staff, but it was another entirely to actually see it. Ed was actually surprised that there wasn't a herd of young women in short maid outfits running around. That seemed to suit him more than the dignified, slightly aged man leading Ed to a sitting room.

A tea service and a pile of books waited for him with a clean sheet of paper folded in two waiting on top. The butler bowed and backed out of the room, leaving Ed to wonder at how strange his life had become.

As he undid the collar of his uniform, Ed picked up the paper and was completely unsurprised to see a note from Hughes. It wasn't his handwriting, knowing Hughes he'd transcribed it over the phone, but his name was at the bottom of the page and it sounded like him. ‘He's going to be stubborn, but you're better at it than he is. Wait here as long as it takes. Good luck.'

Ed folded the paper, set it back on the elegant scrollwork end table and thought about leaving, ignoring the whole problem until one of them died. How the hell Hughes had figured out any of what was happening made Ed uneasy. He didn't like other people knowing the details of his life. Just the act of walking with automail made him a target of public speculation; he didn't like the idea of others knowing things about him that didn't show on the outside. But this wouldn't be the first time Hughes had held his hopes and fears in confidence; last time he'd nearly died before giving anything up.

With a deep breath, Ed sat, picked up one of the books and settled in to wait.

It was quite late when the door to the room opened and Mustang stepped in. He looked surprised for a moment before his cool mask of amused indifference fell. "Fullmetal. How long have you been here?"

Ed closed his book and set it aside, trying to ignore the sudden pounding of his heart. "Your security sucks. Do you remember just how easy it was for you and Hawkeye to get to the previous Fuhrer and stage a coup?"

Mustang shrugged. "This only proves that anyone who really wants to get to me can do so. Why should I spend my time worrying about it and inconvenience my whole staff?"

"You're an idiot."

"If that's all you came here for, let me call you a car." Mustang crossed the room to the phone on the far side, but Ed stood and his movement brought Mustang to a halt.

"That's not what I came for and you know it."

Mustang turned to face him, his expression serious and unforgiving. "I don't know what you mean."

Ed took a breath and plunged ahead. "Since when do you fuck guys?"

Mustang's cool expression never faltered. "Since when do you?"

"I think that since I'm not the one with the reputation as an inveterate womanizer, I get to have my question answered first. Since you're the one who mauled my face with your lips, I get to have some answers. And since you're the one who won't look me in the face, didn't even fucking visit me in the hospital, you get to do the talking." Ed advanced on Mustang as he spoke until he was toe to toe with the man, his automail finger digging into the center of his chest.

"I wasn't aware I was required to make an appearance. I'll have to talk to my scheduler."

"If I just pound your smug bastard face with my automail, can we be done with this?" He was furious and tired at the same time. Why he'd ever expected Mustang to give him a direct answer or treat him as anything other than a child, Ed really didn't know. He turned to go, his fists hanging limply at his side, but Mustang's hand on his shoulder brought him to a halt.


Ed spun. "No, see, that right there. You tell me you care, and then you ignore me for weeks. We wouldn't even be talking if Hughes didn't order me to track you down. You seem like you don't care, and then you call me by my name. Not ‘Fullmetal' or ‘Elric' or ‘Colonel' but Ed, and no one calls me that anymore except Al. Just tell me what you want from me."

And Mustang, the bastard, always a man of action, dove in exactly as he had before and captured Ed's mouth with his own. Only this time, Ed had both his hands and wasn't weakened from injuries. He fisted his hands in Mustang's uniform and pulled him closer until all Ed could see, smell and taste was the other man. Their teeth clicked and Mustang was a biter, but now that Ed had a hold, he wasn't letting go.

This was all he'd been able to think about that first week in the hospital, all he'd wanted. Every time the door to his room opened, he kept expecting to see Mustang walk through the door, irritate the hell out of him and then kiss him again. As the days went by, though, Ed expected it less and less until it was no surprise that the only contact the Fuhrer had with him was through the official channels of his office.

"You're a bastard," Ed said as he pulled away, finally desperate for a breath. He refused to release his hold and kept his forehead pressed against Mustang's.

"What'd I do now?" Mustang's voice was soft and smoother than Ed had ever heard, and he found he liked it; he wanted Mustang to keep talking in that tone forever.

"Why didn't you come to see me? A guy gets a confession of undying love and he expects a visit."

Mustang cocked an eyebrow at him, a funny expression this close. "I don't recall anything about undying love. In fact, I recall you not letting me speak at all."

"Ha. That's because your words lie, Mustang. Your actions give you away."

Mustang dipped in for another kiss. "Say my name."

"I just did." Weren't they talking about something else? It was hard to remember things clearly with Mustang so close, his hands roaming freely over Ed's shoulders and back.

Mustang paused, his lips close enough that Ed could feel the heat from them on his own. "My name, Ed."

"Roy." Roy groaned and rewarded Ed by leaning in to suck at the flesh along his neck and behind his ear. Chills raced along Ed's spine, followed by trails of fire as Roy touched him. "Roy. Roy. Roy!" He pushed the man back to get his attention. "Answer my question. Why didn't you visit?"

Ed could see Roy's eyes focused on Ed's mouth and he self-consciously licked his lips. The movement made Roy suck in a deep gasp before he blinked to focus his attention on Ed's eyes. "You didn't seem particularly receptive to my advances."

"Did I punch you in the face?"

Roy looked at him oddly, and then shook his head. "No."

"That's what happens when I'm unreceptive to an advance."

Roy sighed and let his hands drop to his sides. He made a move to turn away from Ed, but Ed held fast to the fabric of his shirt and kept him in place. "You're my subordinate; it's inappropriate."

"I hate to tell you this, but the whole damn country is your subordinate. You should have thought of that before you took the place over. Are we playing ‘reasons this is a bad idea'?"

"I'm telling you why I didn't come to see you in the hospital. You're young and there are about ten different ways this is wrong and will end badly."

Instead of letting Roy go and stomping away—much like the man probably expected of him—Ed tightened his grip on Roy's shirt and pulled him closer. "You're not seriously bringing my age into question, are you? Because I'm well over eighteen and have been fighting, bleeding and killing for your army since I was twelve. I think you can consider me all grown up now, you self righteous jackass."

Roy pulled in a ragged breath as his eyes raked over Ed. "I know." He leaned into Ed, almost as though drawn against his will, his eyes closed tightly.

Ed slid his hand across Roy's stomach to the small of his back and pulled him flush against his body. "Do you want me to talk you into this? Do you need me to tell you it's all right?" he whispered in Roy's ear, grinning as he felt the shiver run along Roy's body.

"I'm not a fifteen year old girl." Roy's voice deepened as he spoke and rumbled through Ed's body.

"Then quit acting like it."

Roy smiled, the first real smile Ed had ever seen from him. "Do you want me to throw you over my shoulder and carry you up to my bedroom?"

"No, thanks. I'd rather not spend the night in the hospital with you when you throw your back out. How ‘bout you just show me where the bedroom is."

Roy ducked in for another kiss, this one slower and less desperate than the previous two, giving Ed a chance to explore on his own, tracing the ridges and grooves on the roof of Roy's mouth and the even line of his teeth.

When they pulled back for a breath, Roy buried his face in Ed's shoulder. "You smell so good."

"I smell like metal."

"I like it."

Ed rolled his eyes but didn't try to push Roy away. Instead, he slid his hands up Roy's back and over his shoulders, tracing bone and muscle, cataloging how they shifted with each breath and tensed under Ed's touch. He ran his hands back down, along Roy's spine, which arched up at his touch until Roy's head was thrown back, exposing his neck.

It was practically an engraved invitation. While his hands wandered under Roy's shirt, feeling the warm flesh for the first time, Ed moved in to suck at the base of Roy's throat. If the deep, rumbling moans echoing across Ed's lips were anything to go by, Ed had found a sensitive spot.

As he worked at Roy's throat, he moved his hands over Roy's sides, across his flat stomach and up his chest. Ed pulled back just long enough to divest Roy of his shirt, dragging it up and over Roy's head without waiting to fumble with the buttons.

In the soft light of the room—'s steadily burning lamps and the flicker of the fire— Ed could see clearly the scars and muscle that defined Roy Mustang. He held himself under Ed's scrutiny, tall and proud, his chest almost heaving as he panted from Ed's touch and Ed's gaze. Roy's eyes were half lidded and heavy with lust.

"Do I meet with your approval?"

It was on his tongue to make a joke, to lighten the moment and make it less than it was, but Roy just kept looking at him, staring at him past his clothes, past his barriers. Ed opened his mouth to respond, but found the only response that made sense was to keep his voice to himself. Instead, he flung himself back at Roy, opening his mouth to Roy's tongue and letting his body speak for him.

Somehow, they ended upstairs in a room Ed could only assume was Roy's bedroom. It smelled of him and looked like him, and Ed felt immediately comfortable there. Along the way, Ed and Roy both lost a good bit of their clothing and by the time Ed pressed Roy back onto his bed and slid down on top of him, Ed was a little amazed they hadn't died on the stairs.

As he worked at Roy's belt and the fastenings to the pants, Roy kept running his fingers along the joint of his shoulder and automail. If it didn't feel so amazing, Ed would have found it odd.

"Do you have an automail fetish I should know about? I mean, am I going to have to disconnect it and give you two some alone time?"

Instead of appearing offended, Roy sat up and smiled, running his mouth along the same path his fingers had just followed. "It's part of you and you usually keep it covered. I like you and I like it."

Ed pulled his arm away, unsettled, and pushed Roy back on the bed. "Yeah, well, it's weird."

He returned his attention to Roy's pants and gave a little gasp of triumph when he finally managed the last fastening. He leaned forward to press a kiss against Roy's stomach, just above the fabric before sliding his pants down and off, revealing pale flesh and long, long legs and a cock he couldn't wait to touch.

He tossed the trousers over his shoulder, heedless of where they might land and began a slow exploration of the blindingly graceful body before him. He caressed the ankle closest to him, running his hands up strongly muscled calves and sturdy thighs before ending in the soft growth of dark hair surrounding Roy's cock. For a guy who spent most of his time invested in inappropriate napping, Roy was incredibly well defined.

As much as he wanted to touch him, and as much as Roy clearly wanted the same, Ed found he liked this aspect of Roy. He hadn't expected Roy to lay there, gasping at his touch, arching into his every move and letting Ed do as he pleased. Ed liked watching Roy come apart at the seams under his touch and he found he wanted to make him squirm just a little.

Using his flesh fingers, he traced idle patterns along the sensitive skin of Roy's belly and thighs. Roy's muscles spasmed franticly at the lightest touch, almost as if his skin was laughing, or perhaps trying to grab hold of Ed and keep him stationary. Small, breathy sounds and hands that fluttered and twitched told Ed his touch was welcome and it wasn't long before Ed could no longer contain himself.

He reached, careful to use only his flesh hand and wrapped his fingers around the base of Roy's cock, testing the weight and thickness for just a moment. When he had Roy's full attention, Ed gave a gentle squeeze and stroked all the way to the tip, making Roy arch up off the bed and cry out.

The movement seemed to make Roy lose some of his passivity as he sat up suddenly and wrapped his hands around the back of Ed's head and pulled him in for a deep kiss. A moment later, Roy used the moment of Ed's weakness to roll them over on the bed and begin pulling frantically at Ed's pants.

"Fucking uniform," he muttered as he worked the snaps, buttons and fasteners.

"You're the one, um," Ed had to stop as Roy caressed his cock through the fabric of his pants. It felt so good, Ed was half tempted to tell Roy not to bother, just keep doing that. "Yeah, you're the one who, yeah, said no more leather pants."

Roy pulled the last fastener free, sending the bit of metal flying across the room. "I guess I'll have to rethink that. Imagine how much easier it'll be to do this in my office if all I have to get you out of is those pants."

An image of fucking Roy over his own desk flashed through Ed's mind and it was all he could do not to come right then. "Fuck, yeah." He reached up and pulled Roy to him, all the breath in his lungs deserting him as Roy settled on top of him and their cocks slid along each other for the first time. It felt so perfect, so right, Ed didn't know if he'd ever be able to breathe again, or if anyone would be able to pry him out of this bed, ever.

He reached down between them and wrapped his hand around their cocks, pressing them together as they thrust against each other. Sounds, horrifying, embarrassing sounds that he couldn't stop erupting from his throat filled the air and the only comfort Ed had was that he wasn't the only one making them.

Roy was heavy against his chest as they were pressed together from neck to toes and Ed still wanted more, he wanted them to be closer. If it were possible to meld two beings together without alchemy, Ed would have done it in that moment just so he wouldn't lose this feeling. Every breath was shared with Roy, every nerve was on fire from the way Roy touched him. Roy was everything and it was amazing.

In an effort to be closer, Ed reached up and wrapped his legs around Roy's waist, pulling him even closer, driving them together and pushing all the air from Ed's lungs. All the while, Roy had his face pressed against Ed's throat as he sucked the skin there to bruising.

"Fuck, Roy." Ed couldn't think of any other words. All his vocabulary, all his learning deserted him in this moment.

Roy muttered something against his skin and it sent vibrations and chills in echoing waves across his body. He lifted his head from Ed's throat and crushed their mouths together as his body gave a final jerk and suddenly the space between them grew slick and hot. Just knowing that it was Roy's come coating his fingers, stomach and cock was enough for Ed. His body tightened like a bow and between one breath and the next he came, shuddering and hard, held tight in Roy's arms.

In the silence that followed, they clung to each other as though rescued from a natural disaster. Even Roy's deep, slowing breaths puffing against his flesh set off tremors and anytime either of them moved it was like every nerve in his body lit up and it was all he could do to hold still.

Slowly, slowly, they came down. Their breathing evened and their heartbeats calmed. Ed imagined for one moment that they were breathing in sync, that their heartbeats had aligned and they'd connected on some other level. This was what he'd always been told sex was like but had never really experienced. Before, sex had been about release, about a little fun and nothing else.

Maybe all the books and stories weren't full of shit. Because with Roy, he wanted to do it again, to stay in this bed until they starved to death because mundane things like eating and sleeping seemed so far outside of what he should care about, they were almost another language. And Roy, Roy who had always watched him and predicted his movements, Roy who understood him seemed to understand him in this. They said no words but Roy wrapped his arms tightly around Ed and just held on.

Transmutation n: an act that changes the form or character or substance of something

"Hey, it's time to get up." Roy's voice, rough yet soft from sleep, broke through Ed's slumber better than any alarm he'd ever had.

"What are you talking about?" Ed blinked slowly. The room was too dark for it to be morning.

Roy kissed Ed's shoulder, along the seam where metal met flesh. "As much as I'd like to, I can't spend the day in bed. I have to go in, and so do you."

"Go in?" Ed looked around the room, trying to find a clock. He knew the bastard didn't make it in before nine on any given day and not usually until ten.

"It's almost nine. It's one of the luxuries of a nicely appointed bedroom. The curtains are——"

"Fuck the curtains. It's nine?" Ed sprung from the bed and ended up hop-tripping across the room as the sheets tangled in his legs, nearly sending him sprawling to the floor. "When did it get so late? I have a meeting and, oh fuck! Al. He's probably worried sick." Ed began searching the room desperately for his clothes but could only find about half of them. He thought he remembered removing his uniform jacket in the sitting room, and maybe his shirt in the hallway, but he'd be damned if he could remember where the hell his shoes ended up. He turned to Roy, but he seemed to be far too amused to assist. "Laugh it up, bastard. Are you going to help me?"

"I thought I'd watch the show."

If Ed could have found his shoes, he would have definitely thrown at least one of them. "Fine." He tugged on his pants and rushed out the door, down the hallway and took the stairs three at a time.


Ed stumbled to a stop and turned to Roy's butler. "Yes?" He had to fight the blush at his half dressed state and the fact that the man was holding the remaining bits of his clothes. His shoes were in a place of honor on top and looked to be newly polished. Ed wasn't sure if that was the most mortifying part of the whole morning or not. "Uh, thanks."

The butler nodded and respectfully looked the other way as Ed hastily put on his shirt and jacket, which smelled as though they'd been laundered. It was enough for Ed to wonder if this was a special service offered all the guests or just the ones who spent the night fucking the Fuhrer.

"There's a car waiting, sir."

Ed nodded his thanks and practically ran out the door. His only thought was to hope that he didn't know the driver. The last thing he needed was for Havoc to be sitting behind the wheel ready to ask all kinds of inappropriate questions only to spread the answers across Amestris.

The car parked in the drive was already running, and the driver looked to be another member of Roy's personal staff. He slid into the car, gave his address and slunk down in the seat to rest his head against the window. Although he should stop by his office—Ross wasn't nearly so terrifying as Hawkeye but she was still learning—Ed thought it better to go home and try to catch Al before he headed off for classes for the day.

The cool of the glass felt refreshing against his temple, and as he watched the street speed it helped to calm him. He'd never stayed away overnight before. The others he'd had sex with in the past had been just that. He'd have sex, lay uncomfortably in the other person's bed just as long as was polite and then bolt home.

When Al was still in the armor, he didn't like to leave his brother alone for too long. Al had too much of a penchant for getting kidnapped or wandering off to talk to mad scientists. And once everything had been fixed, well, it was habit. Al was still his first thought every morning—a result of too many nightmares that played out exactly what could have gone wrong every step of the way in excruciating detail—and Ed didn't think it would seem like much of a home if Ed wasn't there.

When the car reached his house, Ed barely waited for it to stop before jumping out and offering his thanks in a shout over his shoulder. Inside, Al was just gathering his things in preparation to leave.

"Al, I'm so sorry. I should have called, I never meant——"

"Brother." Al held up a hand, his voice calm and reasonable and wise beyond his years. "It's okay. I'm not your keeper, and you don't have to tell me where you are all the time. Besides, Lieutenant General Hughes called and said you'd probably be late." Al arched an eyebrow at him. "The Fuhrer brother? Really? I suppose he is handsome, but isn't he a bit old?"

"I, it was just, that's none of your business." And what right did Hughes have to call and tell his brother that he was sleeping with Roy anyway? "That's not the point——"

Al shrugged, clearly ignoring him. "I should have expected it, I suppose. You two fight too much not to love each other."

"Al!" When did this conversation get so wildly out of his control? He was supposed to have found Al a worried mess, apologize profusely and promise it would never happen again. He was supposed to have blamed Roy for everything and rethink a relationship that had barely had time to begin. Al wasn't supposed to be so understanding. Al wasn't supposed to be teasing and happy for him. "I never said anything about love. We just, we were," Ed trailed off, not really wanting to get into the specifics of his sex life with his little brother. "I never said anything about love."

Al smiled at him, a secret, sweet smile. "Oh, my mistake then, I guess. Does this mean you won't be moving into the manor?"

"It's been one day." Ed checked the time. "Less than one day. No one's moving anywhere. You're still in school and someone needs to take care of you."

Al crossed the room and wrapped his arms tightly around Ed's shoulders, crushing his chest with the hug. "You don't have to spend all of your time taking care of me anymore. It's okay for you to think about other things, to do other things and to be with other people. I'm fine."

Ed's throat grew tight as he wondered how the hell his little brother had become this person who was so insightful and kind. It certainly hadn't been his influence. "You just want the house to yourself."

"Well, you are kind of messy, brother."

Ed pushed Al away playfully and swallowed hard. "Don't you need to get to class?"

"And you need to get to shower; you smell a bit rank." Al gave him a wicked grin.

"Go to class." Ed turned toward his bedroom, with a sigh of relief that their conversation had gone so much better than he expected.

"Oh, and brother?"

"Yeah?" Ed called as he pulled his jacket off and tossed it onto his bed.

"When you see the Fuhrer today," Al's voice was suspiciously sweet. "Tell him to expect me when I'm done for the day."

Ed poked his head around his door, taking in Al's determined eyes. "I don't need you to protect me."

"Of course you don't," Al said in a tone that spoke otherwise. "Have a good day."

Ed grinned as he walked to his shower, thinking that maybe he might just have a run of good days ahead.