Once they were out of sight of the Fuhrer's country estate, Colonal Roy Mustang spoke up. "Thank you for behaving yourselves back there, Ed, Al. I appreciate it."
From the back of car Al responded brightly "Your welcome."
"What do you mean?" growled Ed. "I always behave myself." Roy gave him the barest of glances. Ed was slouching in the passengers seat staring out the window.
"That was meant to be a compliment," said Roy acidly.
"So I'm an embarrassment to you and you are ashamed to be seen with me in public, yeah, I hear the great compliment there. Forgive me if I fail to grovel at your appreciation."
Roy sucked in a breath to say something then changed his mind to pay attention to his driving. The Fuhrer's country estate was an elegant mansion meant for summertime vacations, surrounded by miles of forest and fields and served by a narrow unpaved road. But it was late October, and raining, and what was a picturesque drive on hard packed earth that afternoon had turned into a treacherous course filled tight curves though barely visible foliage now that it was fully dark.
When the road straightened out again, Roy continued. "Why is it that you can be so sweet and friendly at the Fuhrer's table, but you go off on these absurd tirades every time I speak with you. You can be on your best behavior with him, but I deserve your worst? If I'd called you 'a lot of bang for such as small cracker, ' You'd have gone through the roof, yet you just let it slip by. Care to let me know why that is?"
"Brother, don't!" Al leaned over the back of the seat to pin Ed, until the predictable fit had passed.
"He's the FUHRER!" said Ed when he could. "I HAVE to respect him."
"And I'M your boss. I outrank you, and the way things are going I will ALWAYS outrank you. Surely I deserve some respect. And cooperation. And for that matter have I told you just how annoying I find it when I send you out to do a mission and you end up coming back two weeks late after getting involved a half dozen issues I never approved you to handle. NO one else in my command does that to me. Do you have the least idea just how embarrassing that is?"
"I do what needs to be done, and frankly, sir, you've always benefited from my sidetrips."
"I could transfer you, you know."
"That wouldn't be so bad." Roy could hear the smugness.
"Really. Who do you think would want you in his command? You've got a reputation for being a loose cannon. There is only person I know of, and he'd keep you locked in a lab until your contract ran out. I give you EVERYTHING you want—freedom to do your research, forgiveness for your inevitable screw-ups, and I allow your brother to tag along beside you on missions, despite the fact that he is not even in the Military. I even put up with your childish tantrums. Is it really that much to expect some common courtesy and, hell, respect from you?"
"We are extremely grateful, sir," Al chimed in. "Brother will try to be more polite. He just has a problem with that kind of thing."
"Shut up, Al. Mustang, don't play the victim, you keep me around because I'm useful to you, not out of any long suffering nobility."
"I can't believe—Oh HELL!" Roys attention flipped back to his driving. Fat drops of rain were hitting the windshield, and sticking. He slowed the car down even further. Freezing rain on top of everything else. What else could go wrong?
"Can you drive even slower," muttered Ed. "I really don't want to sleep in my bed until, one or maybe two in the morning."
"I'm driving as fast as I can," Roy said through gritted teeth, "Unless you want to end up wrapped around a tree."
Almost on cue the cars narrow wheels started to slide on a patch of mud. Roy turned into the slide and tried to regain control, but the vehicle continued slowly inevitably off the road and jerked with sudden speed down into a ditch. Roy braced himself against the wheel, out of the corner of his eye he noticed Ed do much the same. With a wincing thump the grill of the car came to rest against a wall of mud, and the car settled to a stop at 60 degree angle.
"Are you boys ok," Roy asked.
"I'm fine," said Al.
"Not even a bruise. I've never seen a car crash so slowly before. That took talent."
It took a lot of effort not to smack the boy. A LOT of effort. "Lets see if we can pull it out."
Ed stood in the DAMN cold rain and eyed the car. It was a good 6 feet down the embankment From the road only the top of the chrome fender was visible in the lantern light. "I really don't know what you think I can do with it."
From the ditch below, Al called up, "I think the engine might be messed up. It looks kind of broken."
"Nevermind," said Roy. "I guess we are walking."
Ed's jaw dropped. The prospect of walking through freezing rain was hardly appealing. In the few minutes they'd been examining the car, the rain had already started to soak through his coat, and the end of his braid had developed a coat of ice. "Forgive me sir. I think that's CRAZY! Shouldn't we wait in the car."
Al started scrambling up the steep slope, using the car to help lever himself up. There was a groan and the car began to turn, then flip up to come to rest almost exactly on it's grill "Oops," said Al. Although Al's armor really restricted his body language and expression, Ed could tell by the tilt of his head that he was keenly embarrassed.
Ed held out his metal hand to help Al the rest of the way up. "Careful, it's slippery."
"I'm starting to ice up," Al complained. "My joints are all creaky. Colonel, could you melt me?"
"I wish I could, but my gloves are wet. Ed you are right, we need to find shelter."
Ed looked around and spotted two suspicious ruts in the field a few hundred feet up the road. "There! Where does that go?"
Roy smiled, "Good eye. It's a driveway. There must be a summer cottage around here."
Ed heart leapt. He'd been worried that Roy would insist they walk all the way back to the Fuhrers mansion, a good two miles back by now.
On the good side, the "summer cottage," was only 500 feet up the path. The bad news was that it wasn't so much of a "cottage" as it was a "cabin" or maybe "hovel" would be more appropriate. It was as tiny as Ed and Als dorm room, the only thing that set it apart from being a shed was the narrow brick chimney poking above the wooden shingles.
It really didn't matter, it was SHELTER. The rain had soaked completely through his clothes. The cold had gone beyond the "uncomfortable" stage, right to the "bones stinging with agony" stage. And as bad as it was for himself, Al had it worse. With no body heat to melt the ice, it built up and up, so that he was constantly cracking as he moved, and his steps became slower and slower. Meanwhile the rain continued to pour as heavily as it could, showing no sign of wanting to either slow down or turn to snow.
"Ed," said Roy in a shuddering breathless voice. "Get it open."
Ed smacked his palms together and felt the tingle of alchemy circulating through his nerves. Then he touched the lock and WIIIIIILLEd the bolt to pull back. He opened the door and stepped inside.
Ed's lamp illuminated a dusty wooden room with a tiny wood stove, a small table and a single chair. In the back of the cabin was a rather narrow bed one pillow and a single folded blanket. "Huh—homey," he muttered. Roy and Al crowded in behind him.
"It will do," said Roy scanning the room. Ed noticed him looking at the single bed with it's lone blanket. "Let's g-get a fire going. Warm this place up."
Al put a log into the tiny stove and piled tinder on top. Roy snapped his fingers. Nothing.
Impatiently Ed held out his hand, "Give me your glove. I'll get it dry."
"Come on, it's just a matter of separating out the water and moving it. Can do it with my eyes closed."
A minute later Roy took back what was left of his glove, "Hmm. I don't think I'll let you dry the rest of my clothes." He closed his hand and watched the glove shred to powder
"I got the fire lit," said Al brightly. He held up some matches in his oversized hand. "They were on the table." Then his voice turned a bit gloomy, "There isn't a lot of wood though. I'm not sure it will last the night. I think this was mostly meant to be a stove."
Roy began to strip down, setting his coat and shoes in front of the fire. For a moment Ed was worried, but the older man stopped when he reached his undershirt and shorts, then quickly retrieved the blanket and wrapped it around himself.
"Oh, I see. Well if you get the blanket, I get the bed," said Ed.
"Don't be an idiot, Ed," said Roy. "We are going to share the blanket and the bed. Get off those wet clothes before you become completely hypothermic."
Ed's jaw dropped.
Roy suddenly laughed. "Oh for heavens sake, forget the false modesty, boy. Al is right here to protect your virginity if comes to that."
Ed flushed bright red.
Al spoke up, "You know he's right. It's like that time we were camping and we shared the sleeping bag..." His voice trailed off. Then. "I can't keep you warm anymore."
Roy walked off to the bed. "When you get cold enough..." He then lay down and turned his back on both Ed and Al.
Ed considered his option for three seconds. Even standing right next to the fire he was bitterly cold. There was no way he could sleep, even if he did push aside Mustangs clothes and curl around the stove itself. So he bowed to the inevitable, stripped to his underwear and crawled in next to the colonel.
It was warmer. He pressed his back against the Roy's, and felt the older man shift to accommodate him better. Then it occurred to Ed that yet again he was being used by his commanding officer. Roy didn't want to share the bed out of some desire to keep him from freezing to death. Roy just wanted the extra body heat.
Ed watched as Al quietly spread his brothers clothes out next to the fire. Then as he finally grew warm enough he closed his eyes and slept.
Roy dreamed he was trying to carve an ice sculpture for the Fuhrer's birthday. Somehow this offering would be the key to winning over the Fuhrers complete confidence, and when he had that...
Riza was standing behind him, shining, glowing golden like the sun. "I always loved birds," she said, admiring the sculpture.
"Yes, of course," said Roy. "It's an eagle."
"You look cold," said Riza, "Do you mind if I give you a hug."
Roy wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her close.
"You know I shouldn't fraternize with my underlings like this. It could get me in trouble."
"Don't worry, Al can keep a secret."
And Roy was vaguely aware of Al hunkering like a steel lump in the corner. "It's ok with me," the boy said.
Ed dreamed he was walking through the rain, searching for Scar. He was damn cold except for the giant orangutan he carried on his back.
Why was there an ape on his back anyway?
As if reading his mind Al chimed up behind him "Mustang says it's standard cold weather issue. Live animals can keep soldiers warmer than just a coat."
"Yeah, it's warm, but it's kind of slowing me down. I'll never catch up to that murderer this way."
The orangutan breathed on Ed's neck and his arm slid up his chest and copped a feel. "And I think it's getting frisky with me. Al can you carry it a while?"
"No can do, brother, Mustang told me you had to carry it."
Ed woke up. Sure enough sometime in the night Roy had turned around and was now spooning him. Ed tried to shrug the other away, but in immediate response Mustangs arm tighted around Ed's chest, pulling him back and also making it hard to breathe. The bigger mans breathing was slow and steady signaling that he was still asleep. Ed picked at the hand and managed to slide it down to his waist, where it clutched him in a grip of steel.
Roy muttered something indecipherable.
Ed sighed. Al was sleeping in the corner, and the fire in the stove had died down to embers. It was getting colder anyway. Having the Colonel wrapped around him wasn't completely bad.
Ed let himself drift back down to sleep.
Riza seemed surprisingly hard chested. Must be the new issue bras. Roy vaguely remembered her telling him that they had made armor inserts for them. Probably for the good but it did take a lot of the fun out of feeling her up.
She drew his hand back down to her waist.
Somehow they had come to be standing in his empty office.
"I hear that exercise can make people warmer. Let me put on some music," Riza said. "We can dance." She leaned provocatively forward and switched on the radio.
"Mmm," smiled Roy. "Why is it you never asked me to dance before. I had the feeling you weren't all that interested in me, as a man that is."
"Well, to be honest, sir," said Riza, "I have a thing for armor. It puts me in a romantic mood. I keep it around when I entertain all my lovers."
"Strange, I find the armor kind of off-putting."
"Don't mind me," said Al who was sitting on the couch. "I won't look."
Slow rhythmic dance music started up, but instead of facing him, Riza backed into him, and rubbed her body provocatively against him. "It's a new dance. It's very hot in the South I hear."
"I like the South."
Ed dreamed he was walking through a field yoked up like an ox to a cart. Every step forward was druggery, the only thing the least bit pleasant about the assignment was the hot blanket someone had wrapped around him.
Somehow if he could just shrug off the harness, he knew he could go free, but no matter how he wiggled and squirmed it seemed to cling tightly to him. Finally Ed gave up struggling and looked back at the cart. Al and Mustang were sitting lazily on the bench. "You know, you could come down here and help," he called up to them.
"I'm doing you a favor, " said Mustang. "Just consider it training."
"The colonel says if you work hard enough you might grow taller," called Al.
I give up, thought Ed and stopped moving.
Ed opened his eyes, but it made no difference. The fire in the stove had gone out but for the tiniest of glows. Ed couldn't even see Al. He couldn't see Roy either, but he could sure feel him, shifting about restlessly against his back. Why couldn't the colonel just stay still.
With some effort he pried the man's arm off his waist and managed to shrug it behind him.
Mustang grunted, but didn't wake.
The dance had stopped. He sat down on the sofa, and Riza smiled before climbing onto his lap.
"Do you mind if I take down your hair," Roy asked.
"Does it bother you it being up?"
"It's tickling my shoulder a little. And I've always wondered what it would look like if you took it down."
"Me, too." Said Al, who had been standing quietly by the door. "Did you know it's almost the same color as my brothers?"
Roy had noticed that, but didn't particularly want to be reminded of it right at that moment. "I thought you were going to be quiet."
"Well, ok," said Riza. "Go ahead."
Roy fumbled with the latch that held her hair twisted up. For some reason he couldn't use his right hand, which seemed pinned between them, and his left was clumsy. The latch resisted him utterly, but Roy found he could pull bits of her hair out of the clasp. He stroked the locks that were free. Soft. Very soft and pretty.
Ed dreamed he was sleeping in a rodent infested barn. He snuggled up with his back against a loose heap of hay, just getting comfortable when a mouse climbed up into his hair and got tangled in the braid.
"Ah!" said Ed, and reached behind him, pulling Mustang's fingers out of his hair. Mustang snorted. Still asleep.
"Brother?" whispered Al from the corner. "Are you ok?"
"I'm fine," Ed breathed back. "I just had a bad dream." Like Al could do anything about the situation anyway.
Roy's dreams circled back to his ambitions for a while. But no matter what he did, he seemed for one reason or other to be holding someone soft and warm in his arms. Sometimes it was Riza, sometimes it was other girlfriends from his past. Once it was Edward which was somewhat disturbing.
He lay on his bed and Riza cuddled in close to him. He couldn't remember how she'd gotten there, but he really didn't mind. Not as long as she didn't. Her hair tumbled loose across his chest.
He used his knee to part her legs and slid his hip up against her buttocks. She didn't resist him, but she didn't exactly welcome him either.
"If you don't want to be here," he whispered in her ear.
"It's not that. It's just I don't want to do anything in front of the kid."
Sure enough Al was standing in the door like some oversized mannequin. "Do you mind Al? Could you close the door."
"Ok. I'm just looking for my brother."
"He's not here, look somewhere else."
I need to pee, thought Ed as he opened his eyes. It was barely dawn, the room turning an ever lightening grey. The fire in the stove was out. Al was still slumped next to it. And Roy...
Roy had managed not only to wrap his arm about Ed, but to actually roll over partially on top of him. Ed's legs were tangled in Roy's. And the Colonel was softly snoring into his ear.
Ed tried to wiggle out from beneath his superior officer, but Mustang tightened his grip on his shoulder, pinning him down.
Sighing Ed waited. It was still early. Maybe he should just let himself go back to sleep again. But then he felt a distinctive jab.
Al closed the door leaving them finally alone.
Roy felt instant relief and began pressing in on Riza. Despite her nakedness, he couldn't seem to quite connect right, so he settled for rubbing himself pleasurably against her buttocks. She responded by arching her back—
And slapping him.
Roy opened his eyes and rolled over onto his back touching his stinging cheek. "What the..." he blinked a few times, as Ed rolled out of the bed onto the floor. He remembered where he was. "What the hell was that about?" Roy roared.
"You were POKING me."
"I was what?"
"Brother?" said Al suddenly becoming animated.
"Nevermind, sir." Ed was red as a beet. He swept his dry clothes off the floor and hastily began putting them on. "Just remind me, even if the alternative is to sleep on a ice cube, NEVER to share a bed with you again."