Guilt

A FMA Fanfic

By Jaelle




Disclaimer: Really really not mine.

Setting: Post-series (Ed is 19, Al is 18).

Pairings: Winry/Al, implied Roy/Ed.

Warnings: Discusses the attempted sexual assault of a minor (non-canon!). I guess that makes it an AU as well.

Spoilers: General spoilers for the series so far, but nothing specific I think. Vague spoilers for ep 15.

Rating: PG-15.

*Thoughts*
Flashbacks



“Oh come on Elric,” Havoc moaned. “You’ve done nothing this week but sit here in the library and read!”

“I LIKE it in the library,” Edward Elric, the legendary Fullmetal Alchemist, responded automatically, his eyes not moving from the page in front of him.

“I bet you’re not like this at home,” Havoc muttered.

Ed said nothing but the slight sweat drop sliding down the side of his head suggested that Havoc had been bang on target.

*Hmmm... maybe I should try hitting him with a wrench. That might work.*

“Come onnn...”

“Why are you pestering me?” Ed demanded irritably. “I’ve ALWAYS been like this!”

“Yeah, but you were doing it for a REASON back then,” Havoc pointed out. “You’re NINETEEN Ed. It’s a Saturday, it’s Spring, the sun is shining, the girls are pretty, and you’re the famous Fullmetal Alchemist. Don’t you want to go out and get laid?”

Ed flushed in embarrassment. “Please don’t feel like you can be so casual with me,” he finally spluttered.

“Don’t try to get on your high horse with me,” Havoc said, grinning. “I remember when you first came here! You were just a little kid, barely 11 years old, and confused about everything.” Havoc gave him a lazy smile. “You’ve grown up since then.”

Ed coloured again, this time in pleasure.

“Only a little bit though,” Havoc teased.

Ed frowned at him and went back to his book.

Havoc leaned back to regard the young boy, well, man now really. It had been a year since the awful night when Ed and Al had faced down the remaining homunculi, and Ed had somehow pulled off what could only be described as a miracle; not only defeating the homunculi, but somehow managing to restore Al’s human body at the same time. It had nearly killed the young Alchemist in the process, but he’d survived, and so had everyone else.

Despite the change in circumstances, it had still been a surprise to everyone when Ed returned from his well-earned medical leave alone. Hell, it had been a surprise that he’d returned at ALL. He’d said nothing at the time, but the large framed photo of him beaming in the Best Man’s position next to Al and Winry which took up residence on his desk told a lot of the story. Al himself told the rest of the tale when he came to visit his brother, accompanied by his lovely young wife.

“I was going to come back and take the exam to become a State Alchemist and help nii-san,” he’d confessed to Havoc and Maria Ross after a long night of celebration, while his brother snored gently nearby. “I wanted to fix his body and look after him like I promised. When I told nii-san though, he didn’t like it and we had an argument...”

“... HUGE violent fight,”
Winry had told Gracia and Hawkeye in private. “I’m surprised you couldn’t hear Ed screaming from here! But Al wouldn’t change his mind, and finally Ed knocked him down and SAT on him and just kept yelling and threatening to physically BEAT some sense into him until Al finally agreed to stay behind.”

“... and then, well Winry and I have always liked each other, and if nii-san was sure he didn’t need my help, then...”


And then there had been more drinking and celebration, and Al had had to carry his brother home, before leaving a few days later, wistfully asking everyone to keep an eye on his older brother while he was gone. A month ago a photo of Ed grinning and carefully holding a small baby, with Al and Winry hovering behind him protectively, had replaced the wedding photo.

There had initially been some concern that, without the stabilising influence and protective backup of his little brother, Ed might go off the rails. But the elder Elric brother seemed to have calmed down remarkably since his successful re-transformation of his brother. He was still short, and still sensitive about it, but he no longer exploded angrily whenever someone mistook him for a 14-year-old. He still argued with his commanding officer, the newly-made-General Roy Mustang, but no longer had to be restrained from physically assaulting the man. And he still charged in where angels feared to tread, but without the sense of desperation that had once driven him to take the most insane of risks. In short, the boy had grown up. In all aspects except one, apparently.

“Oh come on Ed,” Havoc prodded. “Don’t you want to meet a nice girl like your brother did and settle down?”

“No,” Ed replied shortly. “What I WANT is for you to go away and let me read.” He glanced at the lounging man. “Please?”

Havoc grinned. “Okay, okay. I’m going.” He stood up. “By the way, the General wants to see you.”

Ed sighed and slammed his book closed. “You couldn’t have mentioned that earlier?”

Havoc just smirked at him.

“You’ve been working for Mustang for waaaay too long,” Ed grumbled as he got to his feet. “You’re starting to ACT like him.”

Havoc laughed and escorted Ed to see the General.

**

Ed entered Roy Mustang’s office and, for old times sake, kicked the door shut behind him before shooting a smirk at Roy. *Huh, maybe Havoc’s not the only one he’s rubbing off on. What a horrible thought.*

“Ah, Fullmetal,” Roy looked up. “Just in time.”

Ed raised an eyebrow. “What is it?”

“Tonight I am throwing a party,” Roy informed him.

Ed rolled his eyes. “Yes, I know. Everyone’s been talking about it for months. I suppose you want me on security.”

“Actually, I want you to attend,” Roy said.

Ed stared at him. “... What?”

Roy casually tossed an embossed invitation across the desk. Ed glanced at it and confirmed that it did indeed have his name on it. He tossed it back. “Sorry. Busy.”

“No, you’re not.” Roy batted it back at him.

Ed crossed his arms and let it bounce off him and land on the floor. “I’m not going.”

“You ARE going,” Roy said. “That’s an order.”

“You can’t ORDER me to attend a party!” Ed snapped.

“Do you know, I believe that I CAN,” Roy said in mock-wonder. “Isn’t that interesting?”

Ed opened his mouth to argue some more, but reconsidered when he saw the glint in Roy’s eyes that showed that he meant business.

“Why are you only inviting me NOW?” He asked instead. “Everyone ELSE got their invitations six weeks ago!”

“Feeling overlooked?” Roy asked with an evil smile. Ed twitched slightly but let the jab at his height go.

“I just want to know what you’ve got in mind,” Ed grumbled. “You never tell me anything.”

“Why should I?” Roy asked. “But as it happens, in this case I have an excellent reason for not inviting you until the very last minute.”

“And that would be...?”

“I didn’t want you to have time to think of an excuse to get out of going!”

Ed’s jaw dropped and he gargled uselessly as he tried to think of a response to this.

Roy glanced at his pocket watch. “The time is now 4.30 exactly. The shops will be open for another hour, so you’ll have enough time to acquire something more appropriate to wear. This is a formal occasion, Fullmetal.”

“What’s wrong with what I’ve got on now?” Ed demanded.

Roy looked over Ed’s usual attire of black, black, more black, and a red jacket. “Words fail me.”

“First time for everything,” Ed grunted. “Look...”

“Alicia! Fullmetal is ready for your assignment!” Roy yelled.

Edward paled as Alicia Hughes, 7 years old and the proud owner of the hearts of everyone in the Central military department, opened the door behind him and grinned. “YAY! Come on Ed, let’s go shopping!” Her mother, Gracia, stood behind her, smiling gently.

Ed glared at Roy. “You utter bas...” Ed glanced at Alicia and swallowed the rest of the word.

Roy smirked at him. “Have fun.”

**

Later that evening:

"A wonderful party," an elderly lady was assuring Roy. "Truly the jewel of this years season."

"You're too kind to say so," Roy said, trying frantically to remember her name as she continued to gush. "Excuse me please Lady... Falconer, but I must greet a guest. Please continue to enjoy the party."

Bowing to her, he headed for the doorway and the Fullmetal Alchemist, newly arrived in a smart-fitting tuxedo.

"Very nice," he approved, pausing him just inside the doorway and straightening the younger man's bowtie. "I shall have to team you with Alicia more often."

Ed glared at Roy. "One of these days..."

Roy just smiled at him and brushed imaginary lint off Edward's shoulders. "Well, if you don't like formalwear you could always try wearing the dress uniform," he suggested lightly, enjoying the look of disgust on Ed's face. "Now if you'll excuse me... Gracia, Alicia, so good of you to come."

"It's our pleasure Roy," Gracia Hughes offered her hand and Roy bowed over it. "My, you certainly seem to have created a sensation. This looks like the who's who of the military world."

"I tried for the civilian world as well but I wasn't quite as successful there," Roy admitted. "Please be welcome in my house. Have fun. Mingle." The last word was directed meaningfully at Edward, who scowled and tugged at his bowtie.

Roy escorted Gracia and Alicia to the buffet tables and introduced them to a few people, with Ed trailing along behind. Ed immediately began to graze the food selection, but was forced to stop when he was recognised and people came over to talk to him. Roy hid a smile at Edward's obvious confusion. He doubted that Fullmetal had any idea exactly how well known he was these days, and there were plenty of people who wanted to be able to brag that they had spoken to the famous Fullmetal Alchemist when they had attended the Flame Alchemist's party.

Admittedly, some of the young women who were beginning to surround the increasingly nervous Fullmetal were interested in doing more than just talk to him. Roy spotted Havoc smirking from across the room and sighed. He was well aware that Havoc, together with Denny Bloch, were the chief culprits in the "set Fullmetal up with someone" campaign that was now being waged in Central HQ. Apparently the general feeling was that it was unhealthy for such a young man to spend ALL of his spare time in the library. Roy personally didn't see a problem with it, and felt sorry for any young woman Ed DID choose to romance, but permitted them to continue with their activities. This was mostly due to the other half of the reason for the campaign, which was that people were worried that Fullmetal might be lonely now that his brother was no longer by his side, a point which Roy had to concede.

Spotting some important guests arriving, he excused himself to Gracia and Alicia, and picked up his duties as a host again.

**

Ed sighed as he escaped the last of his groupies and found some free space at last. He tugged at his bowtie again and wished he could take it off. He weighed the discomfort of continuing to wear it against the snide comments he'd undoubtedly get from Mustang if he was spotted without the damn thing and left it on.

Nervously he glanced around, checking to see if anyone else was heading in his direction with a determined expression on their face. The coast seemed to be temporarily clear, so he then started to look for some of his military friends. Nowhere in sight. Ed was beginning to smell a set-up, and if that was the case he knew exactly whom to blame.

*Damn it General, what the hell are you trying to pull THIS time?* He fumed. Mustang KNEW he hated formal occasions, so why go to all the trouble to make him attend this one? Maybe he had something planned. Maybe there was something sinister going on.

Or maybe he just thought it would be funny. *Stupid General.*

Seeing more giggling girls heading towards him, he quickly moved off behind a pillar. Why oh why did these girls want to talk to him? He had no idea what they were going on about most of the time, and they invariably wanted him to transmute something for them. He was NOT an entertainment act! Mustang could just hire a damn magician or something if that’s what he really wanted. Cheap bastard.

He ducked down and past a few more pillars, putting some more space between him and the pack of girls, before re-emerging and gazing mournfully at the snack tables, which were now clear across the room. But if he went back out there people would TALK to him again. Better to stay here where it was safe...

"Well, if it isn't the Fullmetal Alchemist," a familiar voice drawled from behind him. Ed turned and a six-year-old memory landed on him like a tonne of bricks.

"Get off me! What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"It's your own fault! You asked for it! It’s YOUR FAULT!"


Ed swallowed, feeling his pulse speed up. "It's been a long time, General."

**

"Quite a crush," Major Lisa Hawkeye commented from behind Roy during a lull. "Is this everyone?"

"Pretty much everyone who is coming," Roy said, not bothering to hide the tiredness in his voice. Hawkeye knew how important this evening was, and how difficult it had been to organise. But it was necessary. Roy had too many enemies and not enough friends for his current position, and the best way to meet people and form alliances was in a social setting.

"I see Colonel Armstrong couldn't make it after all," Hawkeye noted.

"He couldn't get away from his posting," Roy shrugged. "It's not too great a loss. I already know where he stands, and to be honest Fullmetal is a much bigger draw.” Gazing around the room he spotted the person in question. “Now that he's finally developing some self-control anyway," he amended, frowning as he watched Ed visibly start when someone spoke to him.

“Oh. You invited General Avers,” Hawkeye said in a flat, toneless voice, following his gaze. “I didn’t know that.”

“Unfortunately, he was too politically important for me to snub. What IS Fullmetal doing?” Roy demanded, watching Ed back-pedal frantically from the General and attempt to sidle off to the right.

“Perhaps he’s heard about the General’s reputation,” Hawkeye suggested. “Excuse me,” she sailed off to the rescue.

**

Ed was desperately trying to think of a method of escaping that didn’t involve running through the centre of the room, screaming madly all the while. *Perhaps I could transmute a hole in the floor. A fancy place like this has to have a wine cellar, right?*

General Hans Avers smiled at him coldly. “You’ve grown... a little anyway. I should congratulate you. Your star has truly risen since the last time we met.”

Ed repressed a shudder. “Thank you,” he muttered, looking around wildly for a way out.

“Yes, you’ve really grown into your power,” the General murmured, stepping forward and placing a hand on Ed’s good shoulder. “And your looks,” he said, examining Ed’s face more intently. “Dead Lord, if I didn’t know better I’d think you were still just a child!”

“It’s your own fault! You tempted me! I know what you were doing, with those wide eyes of yours.”

Ed reached for anger, but lost it in the confusion and panic as old memories took over. “I, uh... I... I have to...”

“No-one will believe you! I’ll tell them all you wanted it! I know you did, I could see it in your eyes. And YOU know you wanted it! You asked for it! It’s your own fault for being like that!”

“Elric, there you are,” Hawkeye’s voice cut through the chaos in his thoughts. “I’ve been looking for you, there are some people who would like to meet you. Please excuse us General,” she said politely to Avers, grabbing Ed’s elbow firmly and tugging him away. “Come along now Ed.”

Ed allowed himself to be dragged away. The further he got, the easier he breathed, and the more snide comments he came up with that he wished he could have said.

*Hello General, I’d like to say it’s a pleasant surprise, but it really isn’t! And I see YOU’VE put on some weight since the last time I saw you. Oh what’s that? Your career stalled? What a shame. Wounded in the war? Somewhere painful and embarrassing I hope. Oh, and by the way, ROT IN HELL YOU FUCKING BASTARD!*

Hawkeye shook his arm to get his attention. “Have you heard a word I just said?”

“No,” Ed said bluntly. “Where’s the library in this place?”

“General Mustang said...”

“General Mustang can go suck an egg,” Ed snatched his arm free. “I have to go to the bathroom.” He headed away in the opposite direction, paused, and turned back. “Thanks.”

Crimson-faced at admitting his weakness, he turned around again and left without looking back. Behind him, Hawkeye frowned and directed a narrow glare at Avers, before heading back.

"Thank you," Roy said as she arrived. "I wasn't looking forward to having to rebuild my new house if Fullmetal lost his temper. What on earth was Avers talking to him about to make him so twitchy?"

Hawkeye was frowning.

"Is something the matter?"

"Edward wasn't acting like himself," she said. "He wasn't annoyed or rude, he was... nervous."

"Nervous?"

"I'd almost say he was frightened of something."

"Fullmetal?" Roy raised an eyebrow. "Scared?"

"It sounds ridiculous I know," Hawkeye said, thinking out loud. "But he genuinely seemed nervous around the General. He couldn't wait to get away. I don't think I've ever seen him like that."

Roy considered Fullmetal’s awkward body language. "He did seem a little off," he mused. "Strange. I was under the impression their previous meeting had been unexceptional."

Hawkeye looked at him in surprise. "When have they ever worked together?"

"Hmm... it was about a year after Fullmetal passed the examination," Roy said. "I sent him into the General's jurisdiction to chase up some rumours of alchemy being used to manufacture drugs. The whole thing was a hoax I recall, and he was back within a week. I think you were away at the time, on secondment to HQ."

Hawkeye stared at him. "Was Alphonse with him?"

"Of course," Roy said. "It was almost impossible to separate them. You know that."

"The whole time?" Hawkeye persisted.

Roy narrowed his eyes, "Why are you asking?" A thought occurred to him, "You’re not serious? You don’t really think Avers would have been stupid enough to try to interfere with Fullmetal?”

Hawkeye looked away. "We shouldn’t discuss the General’s private life."

Roy scowled, “We shouldn’t discuss the fact that the Avers’ sexual preferences are for little boys, the younger the better, you mean.”

General,” Hawkeye reminded him with an edge. “Quietly please. You said yourself he was too important for you to snub openly.”

Roy was having a very bad feeling about this. "But if he’d tried anything on Fullmetal, we’d have heard of it,” he argued. “You remember what he was like when he was 13; massive chip on BOTH shoulders and no impulse control whatsoever.”

“Edward often doesn’t talk about the things that bother him the most,” Hawkeye said off-handedly. “YOU know that.”

Roy gave her a narrow look. “I’m not discussing Alphonse again,” he said sharply. “You know as well as I do that I have no power to compel him to come back. Nor am I going to write him a letter suggesting it. And really, what would I say? ‘Your brother spends all his time in the library. I realise this is no different from his life before, but people around here think this is a sign that he’s unhappy. Please come back and look after him, leaving your wife and newborn child behind. Oh, and while you’re at it, why not consider taking the State Alchemist’s exam and being a dog of the military too?’”

Hawkeye ignored his rant. “We’re not discussing Alphonse at the moment,” she said. “We’re discussing Edward.”

Havoc wandered up. “Ed? Don’t tell me he finally made a break for it? I thought he’d be out of here ages ago! Breda’s going to be annoyed, he thought Ed would go the distance this time.” He took in the stiff expressions. “Uh, so what about Ed?”

“Major Hawkeye has suggested to me that perhaps Fullmetal had an... unpleasant experience with General Avers when he was younger,” Roy said stiffly.

“Avers? That old pedo...” Havoc broke into a loud coughing fit to cover up his exclamation. “Well,” he said, “since he hasn’t been transmuted into a toilet, I think we can throw that idea out. Maybe he just made a pass at Ed once or something.”

“Edward was NOT acting normally,” Hawkeye maintained. “I think he was afraid of the General, and since there is absolutely nothing General Avers could do to him now, I can only assume it was based on past events.”

“He’s never said anything about it,” Roy maintained. “I’d’ve heard all about it if that had been the case.”

“Are you so sure of that?” Hawkeye asked. “He’s never been in the habit of confiding his secrets in you. The only one he does that to is Alphonse.”

“Speaking of Alphonse...” Havoc started.

“We are NOT speaking of Alphonse!” Roy snapped. Heads turned towards the small group, and he calmed down instantly, sending charming smiles to all those nearby. “For the last time, I am NOT writing to him!” He muttered out of the corner of his mouth. “And I don’t care WHAT Maria Ross says!”

Havoc looked hurt, “I was only going to say, that if something HAD happened to Ed like that, and he told Al, Al would have done something about it. Same rule applies – Avers still has all his limbs intact and isn’t a toilet. So nothing happened.”

“Perhaps he didn’t tell Alphonse,” Hawkeye suggested.

“He’d never have kept anything back from his brother,” Havoc protested.

“... Unless he wanted to protect him.” Roy said.

There was a long silence.

“Oh hell,” Roy ran a hand through his hair. “He’d never have told Alphonse if something like that happened. He’s always wanted to keep him safe and innocent. This is looking worse all the time.”

“It would also explain his lack of interest in a relationship,” Hawkeye added. “If he feels himself unworthy because of previous events, or associates sex with something unpleasant...”

Havoc coughed. “If it helps, on that issue I happen to know that some of the junior officers got him drunk on his sixteenth birthday and, er, took him to see the Ladies of the East Side,” he offered. “I’ve been dropping hints to see if he wants to go again but...”

“You’re NOT serious!” Roy exclaimed loudly. “They took him to a brothel?!!”

He ducked his head, realising belatedly how loud that was, and dragged the other two into a secluded alcove.

Hawkeye was also not amused. “Who were they?” She demanded in a fierce whisper. “He was underage for BOTH of those activities.”

“It’s not unknown,” Havoc pointed out, raising his hands in surrender. “A lot of officers do it for the new kids. It works fine.”

“For the boys with more testosterone than brains,” Roy argued. “But FULLMETAL?! The person who reads and translates Ishvar epic poetry for FUN??!!”

“An experience like THAT wouldn’t help if he’s already having relationship issues,” Hawkeye pointed out. “General...”

“For the last time, I am NOT writing to Alphonse,” Roy said. “At least not until I’ve talked to Fullmetal first. This is clearly MY mess, and I will sort it out. Understood? Now, where did he go?”

**

“Enjoying yourself?”

Ed jumped and dropped the book he’d been engrossed in. “General! You, uh... you startled me.” A guilty expression crossed his face. “I was just taking a break from the party...”

He paused as he belatedly registered that Roy was wearing a large blue dressing gown with matching slippers.

“Ummm...”

“It’s 4 in the morning Fullmetal, the party is over,” Roy said with a small smile, sitting on the opposite couch and relaxing slightly. He’d been dead on the mark again. Once in a library, Fullmetal would stay there forever if he could, and could be safely left to his own devices. Hopefully the comforting presence of books would have calmed him down too, and made him more receptive to the forthcoming awkward conversation.

Ed blushed before recovering his composure. “I TOLD you I didn’t want to come!” He snapped.

“To be honest, you did better than I thought you would,” Roy admitted. “There was quite a lot of betting going on about how long you would last before making a run for it.”

Ed sulked briefly before curiosity tugged at him. “Who won?”

“Oh, I did, but only just,” Roy smirked. “As I said, you did better than I thought.”

Ed snorted. “So if the party is over and it’s that late, I suppose I should be going. Do you mind if I borrow...” he stood, picking up the book.

“Sit down Edward.”

Surprised at hearing both his name, and the weary tone of voice, Ed obeyed.

Roy looked at him sadly. “I believe I owe you an apology.”

Ed blinked at this and then stood up again, pointing at him, “Who are you and what have you done with the real General Mustang?!”

Roy couldn’t help laughing. “Oh shut up and sit down Fullmetal.”

Ed sat nervously, unsure of himself. A laughing General was one thing, but in a dressing gown and slippers, well it was just wrong.

Roy tried to think of how to pick up the topic. “I saw you speaking with General Avers earlier in the evening...” His eyes narrowed as Ed instantly tensed up at the mention of the name. “It’s not the first time you’ve met him, is it?”

“No,” Ed said shortly. “I went to his posting once. Mission. Nothing important. I wrote you a report!”

Roy nodded. “The General is a politically powerful man, you know,” he said idly. “That’s why I invited him. I’d have preferred not to, but right now is an awkward time for me to make enemies.”

“I wasn’t rude to him,” Ed said sulkily. “Or anyone else either!”

“There’s another reason why I would have preferred not to invite him,” Roy said, ignoring Ed’s comment. “General Avers is known to prefer young men sexually. And when I say young, I’m referring to the 8 to 12 age bracket. It’s an open secret, but as I mentioned, he’s too powerful for most people to alienate, despite how they might feel about it privately.”

Ed didn’t say anything.

“Normally he goes after the helpless,” Roy continued. “He’s always picked his targets carefully. He likes boys who are unable to fight back or complain. That’s why he likes them younger. But now I’m wondering if perhaps a particularly attractive young man might have once caught his fancy and overruled his common sense.”

Ed remained silent.

“You were always a very pretty child...”

“SHUT UP!” Ed roared, shooting to his feet. “JUST SHUT UP ABOUT IT!” He put his hands over his ears. “It doesn’t matter. It was a long time ago. Nothing happened! It doesn’t matter!” He chanted, sitting down again and rocking back and forth.

“It’s your own fault!”

“Fullmetal? FULLMETAL!” Roy leaned forward on his couch, careful not to get too far into Ed’s personal space. “Edward!”

Ed jerked his hands away from his ears and glared at Roy. “Nothing happened,” he hissed malevolently.

“Clearly, something did happen,” Roy said grimly.

They matched stares for a while, before Ed finally looked away. “It was a long time ago. I’d forgotten about it until tonight.”

Roy leaned back and waited. The silence grew expectant, inviting Ed to fill it up.

Edward couldn’t help it. He squirmed.

“I’m not asking you in an effort to embarrass you Edward. I really do need to know. These things... can leave scars which will come back and haunt you,” Roy said quietly. “They could prevent you from forming a normal relationship later on,” he paused. “Especially if the incident was then reinforced by another bad sexual experience, one in which you felt under pressure to succeed. Such as might be had at a brothel for example.”

Edward turned bright red. “Do you know EVERYTHING?”

“Not everything,” Roy said calmly. “As this conversation has proven.”

Ed muttered something.

“Pardon?”

“I said it’s alright,” Ed said louder, crimson with humiliation. “You don’t have to worry about anything about that sort of thing. I was... a bit put off for a while. But I’m fine now. I got over it.”

“Oh?”

Ed managed to achieve a darker crimson. Roy couldn’t resist and smirked at him.

“Who with?”

Ed said a name in a small voice.

“PSIREN??!!!”

“She uh... it was when I went up against her a year and a half ago,” Ed admitted. “I was... angry, and everything was really stressful at the time, with Lust and everything. I got distracted and she got the drop on me and then it all sort of came pouring out and then she was really supportive even though I was horrible and then she said it was different with someone you liked and... and then we...” He cast an agonised look at Roy, who stifled most of his amusement.

“I see. So, you slept with the most notorious criminal in the country,” his lips twitched. “So how was it?”

Ed put his head in his hands, “Mmf.”

“You really need to enunciate more clearl...”

“NICE! I said it was NICE! ALL RIGHT?!” Ed jerked to his feet and started pacing. “Can we PLEASE change the subject now?”

Roy was looking at him intently. “Just nice?”

“Meh,” Ed looked away, swallowing hard. *Oh hell.*

“Edward...”

Ed’s fists clenched.

*Ah...*

“Is that why you reacted so badly to the General earlier?” Roy asked. “You were wondering if he knew and if...”

“If I made a sign...” Ed continued. “If I really HAD led him on, like he said. And that... he said it was my own fault! I didn’t MEAN to!” He looked everywhere but at Roy.

“Oh Edward,” Roy sighed. “Hans Avers uses that line on all the little boys he targets. Trust me, I knew you well back then and you never ONCE made any sort of indication that you were even INTERESTED in men. For goodness sake, you were THIRTEEN YEARS OLD!”

Ed fidgeted.

Roy sighed. “Alright, so whatever he did hasn’t impaired your ability to, ah, function. For which I am sure your legions of fans will be grateful, although the news of your gender allegiance may dent that. But you’re still going to have to tell me what happened.”

“Do I have to?” Ed winced as he heard himself whining. “He didn’t... you know... DO anything.” He wished that he could just transfigure himself into a statue right now to avoid having to talk about it. Maybe if he just admitted it Roy would let him go. *Ha! Fat chance.*

“I mean, he TRIED,” he elaborated, “but I got away and then... it was all just too embarrassing to talk about.”

“Embarrassing?” Roy prodded gently.

“Yes embarrassing!” Ed responded heatedly. “I’m Edward Elric, the Fullmetal Alchemist! I’m the youngest ever State Alchemist, a dog of the military, a hero of the people, and I can beat the crap out of practically EVERYONE! You think I wanted to admit that some old pervert managed to feel me up because I was too young and stupid to know what the hell he was doing until he put his hands on my ass?”

“Being young and ignorant are not things that people would blame you for,” Roy said carefully.

“Being young and stupid is what got me into trouble in the first place!” Ed replied. “I took my punishment then. I took it again with Avers, and I learned my lesson!”

Roy pursed his lips as he read between the lines. *Damn. If he really thinks he deserves this sort of thing... What was it he mentioned earlier? Avers told him it was his own fault...*

“So you equate your blasphemy and dabbling into areas of forbidden alchemy with being the victim of a perverted old man?” He asked finally. “That’s an interesting type of association. You realise of course that it implies that all of the people you’ve helped over the years actually DESERVED what happened to them?”

Ed spluttered for a bit, before coming up with, “That’s entirely different!”

Roy didn’t even bother to ask how it was different, as both men were entirely aware that there was no response to that question.

“It IS different,” Ed repeated doggedly, trying to convince them both anyway. “They were just victims. I’m different. I should have known better.”

“Perhaps,” Roy allowed. “But regarding Avers, you honestly didn’t know.”

“Ignorance is no excuse! I could have been subconsciously...”

“You cannot possibly convince me that you were leading Avers on,” Roy cut in. “So don’t even try. You were entirely focused on ONE thing during your teenage years, and it wasn’t sex.” He quirked his head to one side. “Speaking of which, or rather whom, tell me, does your brother know about any of this?"

Ed stiffened. "Al has nothing to do with this!”

Roy tapped his fingers against the couch arm. “So you never mentioned it to him? I would have thought he’d WANT to know. He’s almost as protective of you as you are of him.”

Ed’s face had gone white. “Don’t you DARE tell him about any of this!” He half-reached out to Roy and then pulled back. “PLEASE don’t tell him? He doesn’t need to know. He’d only worry, and I already told you it was a long time ago! It’s not important anymore!”

The last part of the sentence came out as a rush.

*Not important hmmm?* Roy considered. “So you never told him?”

“No!”

“I’m surprised he didn’t know already,” Roy lied. “You two were practically inseparable back then. How did Avers manage to get you on your own to make an attempt?”

“I, he...” Ed flinched and looked away. “He told Al we had to discuss some classified information. Al got the hint and went to the inn for the night. I joined him after I got away from Avers. You CAN’T tell him about this!”

Which explained Fullmetal’s insistence later that year that his little brother be allowed full movement within the base, even though it broke all the rules, Roy filled in in his mind. He’d been under the impression that it was just part of Fullmetal’s over-protective older brother routine, and that it had simply taken until that point for him to be comfortable making demands and stretching the rules to include Alphonse. It hadn’t occurred to him that it might be for Edward’s own peace of mind. A six foot tall suit of armour was an unusual security blanket, but an effective one.

“I see,” Roy folded his hands together in satisfaction.

“You see what?” Ed demanded suspiciously.

Roy kept his face perfectly blank. “So the reason you didn’t tell Al was not just because you were embarrassed, but because he set you up for it.”

“THAT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENED AT ALL!”

“He did leave you there didn’t he?”

“Al didn’t know! I didn’t even know! I don’t want him blaming himself over something that he couldn’t have anticipated!”

“But weren’t you just saying earlier that ignorance is no excuse?” Roy pointed out.

“This is different!”

“Strange how it always is for you. So you’re saying it wasn’t Al’s fault?”

“No! Al would never hurt me!”

“And you don’t want him to know because he’d blame himself.”

“Yes!”

“So you’re taking all the blame for Avers’ actions upon yourself then?” Roy summed up. “How... typical of you, Fullmetal.”

“What the hell does THAT mean?” Ed was beginning to think that he should just stop asking Roy what he meant all the time. This conversation was exhausting him, and he was beginning to feel the toll of trying to verbally fence with Roy, give away as little information as possible, and control the drastic emotional swings that were occurring in him as they talked.

“It means that you tend to burden yourself an over-developed sense of social conscience, which we already knew, and that you take too much upon yourself, which we also already knew.” Roy informed him. *Time to shift the battleground again.* “For example... I wonder how Alphonse would feel if he knew that you were still trying to take all of the blame for the experiment you both conducted."

"It was my idea!" Ed shouted, instantly incensed at the implied insult to his brother. "I talked him into it! He didn't want to do it."

Roy arched an eyebrow. "You forced him then? In that case I'm surprised and impressed that he still cared about you afterwards. I would have thought he'd have wanted revenge, or at least blamed you for it. Strange that I never heard him do that, not once."

"Al's not like that, and I'd never force him to do... I mean, yes, I forced him... I mean, no, I mean..." Ed was hopelessly tangled up. "I don't know what I mean! But Al isn't to blame, he's suffered enough already."

"And haven't you suffered enough yet?" Roy asked quietly.

Ed fell silent, a stricken expression crossing his face.

Roy stood and moved closer to the young man, reaching out and putting his hand on Ed's automail arm. "Isn't this punishment enough?" He tapped it. "Not to mention all the other suffering you both went through. Seven lost years of humanity spent searching for a cure, selling yourself to the military, obeying our rules, doing our bidding. Seven years hard labour."

"I... that was... we were just..." Ed was struggling with himself.

"Are you saying that wasn't enough? Is that why you came back?" Roy allowed a trace of scorn to enter his voice. "Are you still trying to punish yourself?"

"What? No!"

"Are you saying you're forgiven then?"

"No!"

"Then you ARE trying to punish yourself?"

"What the hell do you want me to say?" Ed yelled, shooting to his feet. "Nothing I ever do is right to you, is it? Hell with this, I'm leaving."

"SIT!"

To his shock, Ed found himself instantly obeying Roy's snapped command. He barely restrained the urge to snap to attention while he was at it. *I really am his dog,* he realised in a weird mixture of horror and wonder. *Damn him, he's got me trained.*

Roy waited a few moments to let him get some of his composure back. Finally Ed drew in a long breath. "Damn the military anyway!" He said coldly. "And damn you too! What the hell is the point of all of this?"

"The point," Roy said calmly, "that I am trying to make Fullmetal, is that guilt is an unreasonable emotion."

Ed's jaw dropped. "What?! What the hell does that have to do with anything?" He couldn’t believe where this conversation was going. “You make no SENSE!”

Roy held up a finger. "Follow the logic. You did a terrible thing once. You and your brother both suffered for it. You should feel guilt for what you did. You spent years trying to undo the damage you had done. You finally achieved a partial success, and then you stopped. Why didn't you ever continue trying to find a fix for your missing limbs? Ever since you restored Al, you have completely abandoned all research into Life Alchemy. Why?"

Ed stared at him in bafflement. "You've never asked me about that before. I thought you were happy that I'd given it up!"

"My feelings on the matter are irrelevant," Roy said mildly. "And I'm asking you now. Why Fullmetal? Why not continue your research?"

There was a long silence.

"It was too risky," Ed said finally. "Too dangerous. We've been... lucky this far. Just surviving our screw-up the first time was incredible, and restoring Al's body was practically a miracle. That's twice luck has gone my way. I don't... I don't want to push it. I finally have Al back. I won't risk everything just to recover two limbs that I can do without. I would have given up all my limbs to get him back. I won't risk him, not again. It's not a good enough reason."

"And how does Al feel about that?"

Ed stared at his automail hand. "He was upset at first. He'd made a promise that he'd restore my limbs, and he wanted to fulfill it. But I... I was afraid of losing him again. I still am. That's why I wouldn't let him come back with me. He's safe with Winry, and he has little Elena now as well. I couldn't let him give up everything for my sake, when he already had given up so much. And I... I didn't really believe that I could fix my limbs."

He closed his eyes and leaned against the couch, feeling drained. "You can never really repair something that has been broken as good as if it were new, even with Alchemy. They still have... the memory of being broken." He opened his eyes and looked at Roy tiredly. "Things can never go back to the way they were. You can't go back. You can only keep moving forward."

Roy nodded slowly. "I see. And you feel that you are trying to move forward now."

"I AM moving forward now!"

"And what about Alphonse? Is he moving forward?"

"Of course he is..." Ed was exasperated with Roy’s apparent desire to misunderstand EVERYTHING he said.

"Really?” Roy asked innocently. “You don't think that perhaps worrying about you and guilt are holding him back too? If you won’t let him take some of the responsibility for the Avers incident, don't you think you should at least let him try to expiate some of the justifiable guilt that he shares with you equally over your original mistake? It's very selfish of you to take it all for yourself."

"He has no reason to feel guilty!" Ed shouted furiously.

"You gave up your arm for him. Most people would be find that sort of sacrifice guilt-inducing," Roy pointed out.

"Because it was my fault in the first place! Al committed no crime!"

"He committed the crime of silence," Roy's voice went very cold. "Don't try to tell me that if Alphonse had told you he didn't want to attempt the resurrection you would have gone through with it anyway. He has ALWAYS been able to make you listen, eventually. HE was the sensible one. HE could have talked you out of it. Without his help you would never have attempted to bring your mother back."

"DON'T YOU DARE TRY TO BLAME THIS ON AL!"

"I'm not. I'm merely trying to make you see that this is a burden you should be sharing,” Roy said quietly. “Alphonse is perfectly willing to admit his error. Why won't you let him?"

"Because he shouldn't have to!" Ed shouted. "He's already suffered enough!"

Roy sighed and rubbed his temples. "Your desire to protect Alphonse is admirable, but I think that you're giving him too little credit."

"I'm supposed to protect him! He's my little brother!" Ed said hotly.

"Yes, and a powerful Alchemist in his own right," Roy pointed out. "You realise that it's entirely possible that HE could have been the youngest State Alchemist ever, instead of you, if he'd only had a body at the time."

"I want him to be happy. He won't be happy as a dog of the military," Ed argued.

"And how happy will he be if you get killed because he wasn't there to watch your back?" Roy asked softly. "How happy can he be knowing that you've isolated yourself from him to protect him? That you won't let him help? You have spent your entire lives together. I didn't think you'd last two weeks without him, but it's been over a year, and you still haven't called him to you."

Silence.

“You’re assuming a lot,” Ed said slowly. “Thinking that he WANTS to come here. Thinking that he WANTS to be with me. What makes you think he’s not perfectly happy with Winry and Elena?”

“I’m sure he is happy with them,” Roy agreed. “I’m equally sure they’d all be happier if you were all together, regardless of the location. Family isn’t a place Fullmetal. If he really WANTS to be with you, you shouldn’t force him to stay away.”

"Everyone has to grow up sometime," Ed replied softly. "Everyone has to stand on their own feet in the end. He has his own life to lead now, and I have mine."

"Then let him lead it," Roy said, sitting forward. "Let him lead it the way he wants to. Not the way you want him to."

Ed put his head in his hands. "I just want him to be safe."

Roy reached out and put his hand on Ed's good shoulder. "Trust him. He's stronger than you think he is. And much smarter than you."

"Jerk," Ed said muffledly. "You think I don't know that?” He sat there for a while longer, thinking over some of the things Roy had said. Finally he sighed and sat up again. “Fine, I'll talk to him about it. And IF he really wants to move here, well, then that’s his decision. Although Winry will have to agree too."

"Naturally," Roy sat back. "On to our next point."

"You mean there's MORE?!" Ed wailed.

Roy bared his teeth at him. "Oh yes. We're still only halfway through guilt."

"I don't think I can take much more of this," Ed moaned. "Couldn't we put it off for another time?"

"I've been putting this off for a year," Roy informed him.

"So why pick tonight?!"

"I hadn't realised how much an error of mine was causing you to... be unable to move forward," Roy said. "You're too caught up in the past. That's part of the problem with guilt, it binds you to the time and event that caused it. Speaking of which, are you still having nightmares?"

Ed stared at his hands.

"I'll take that as a yes."

Ed looked away, unwilling to admit it.

"About that night?" Roy pressed.

"Of course about that night!" Ed yelled in exasperation. *Why won’t he leave me alone?*

"Even though Al is restored and you have accepted your punishment?" Roy inquired, eyebrow raising slightly.

A small voice, "yes."

"And you still feel guilt for your actions."

Roy was no longer asking, merely seeking confirmation of his assessment of the situation.

"Yes."

"For what happened to your brother."

"Yes."

"And for what you did to your mother."

Ed closed his eyes, “Yes.” The silence lengthened as Roy tried to WILL Fullmetal to talk. Finally Ed broke under the weight of his memories.

"I can still see her,” he said quietly. “What there was... She must hate me so much for what I did to her."

Roy paused, "I never met your mother, but you must have loved her very much to defy the laws of Alchemy and God to try and bring her back."

"Yes."

"You were all very close?"

Ed only nodded.

"Especially after your father left?"

He nodded again.

"Did she love you?"

"What?"

"Did she love you?" Roy repeated.

Ed’s eyes flew open and he shot a look at Roy that clearly implied he’d gone insane. "Of COURSE she did. She was my MOTHER!"

"Which is why the betrayal you think you committed is so terrible," Roy concluded.

"Yes!"

"Tell me something Edward. You said that Alphonse never blamed you for what happened to him."

"Of course he didn't, Al's a good person! He didn't deserve what happened to him."

Roy waved that aside. "And was your mother a good person too?"

"YES!"

"And they both loved you very much?"

"I told you that already!" Ed was rapidly becoming exasperated at this line of conversation.

"Then WHY Fullmetal, do you think your mother is incapable of forgiving you, when your brother has already proven that it is possible?" Roy concluded.

Ed's jaw dropped.

"You never thought of it that way, did you?" Roy asked smugly. "If she truly loved you so much, wouldn't she forgive you? Wouldn't she understand?"

Ed's lip trembled. "I was supposed to take care of Al..."

"Weren't you supposed to take care of each other?" Roy asked gently. "Don't you think you've done enough? Alphonse is restored, and you're both alive and well. Don't you think she'd be happy? I'm not a parent, but I think I would be proud that you'd managed to come through everything, despite the odds. Your mother loved you Edward. You and Alphonse have proven that we forgive the ones we love."

Ed was horrified to find himself sniffling. He tightened his jaw and forced his face under control. He was NOT going to blubber like a child!

Roy twisted the knife.

"Don't you think that she might be sad to know that you think she didn't love you enough to forgive you?"

A sob tore out of Edward and he grabbed a cushion, burying his face in it as he cried. His whole body shuddered as the emotions that had been stirred up by the events of the evening overflowed and he released some of the pain he’d held inside for so long.

Roy got up and fetched himself a large scotch. Then he poured another and brought it back over to Ed, waiting patiently for the younger man to finish crying.

“There, there,” he murmured, patting Ed on the shoulder gently. “Here, drink some of this.”

Ed forlornly obeyed, choking slightly on the alcohol. “You really are the King of all bastards, you know that, right?”

Roy smirked, “I’ve been told so before, yes. So, you’ve identified those feelings of guilt now, correct?”

“Yes.” Ed sighed. *Please let this be the end.*

"Now, take all of those feelings of guilt, and apply them to the case of General Avers."

Ed burst out in slightly-hysterical laughter at the ridiculousness of that statement.

"What are you talking about? There's no comparison!"

His laughter shut off as abruptly as it had started and he stared at Roy, his eyes widening. "There's no comparison..." he whispered.

"No, there isn't, which brings us, finally, back to my original point," Roy steepled his fingers and sat back in his seat. "Your problem, Fullmetal, is that you started to believe that everything bad that happened to you was some sort of divine punishment for your sins. You believed that you deserved to suffer. You didn't think Alphonse did though, so you fought. But once you restored him, you stopped fighting. You gave up. For good, logical reasons, yes. But the fact remains that you gave up. You didn't argue with your 'punishment' any more, you just accepted it like a good little penitent, and continued to serve your sentence. Because you still felt guilty about it. And you still do."

Ed had been staring intently at the carpet ever since halfway through this speech. A short silence descended. Eventually he stirred.

"Does it ever get any better?"

Roy inhaled sharply. He should have seen that one coming. He was the most qualified person to answer it, after all. He closed his eyes and remembered his own failures, his own sins, his own guilt.

"Not really," he said. "But you learn to live with it. You move on. That's all you can do, in the end. Gradually it fades, but it never really goes away."

Ed nodded. "And that's part of the punishment."

"Yes."

The two men sat in silence for a while, until Roy sat up again. "We seem to have wandered off topic."

"I was hoping you'd forgotten that part," Ed admitted.

Roy's eyes gleamed. "Hope springs eternal, Fullmetal, but it's often in vain. What General Avers did, or tried to do, to you was not the result of some sort of divine justice, and it was NOT something you should feel guilty over. Do you see that now?"

"Yes," Ed said wearily. "I get it. So now what?"

"Now we deal with it," Roy said. "Or rather, I deal with it."

Ed raised an eyebrow. "You?"

"I am your commanding officer," Roy pointed out. "And therefore I am responsible for your well-being. I can understand why you didn't report the matter to me at the time - you were young and confused and you barely trusted me. But I know now, and it's my job to do something about it. So, Fullmetal, do you trust me enough now to take care of the matter?"

Ed smiled briefly, "I think I can handle that creep by myself, thanks."

"Of course you can," Roy said. "The difference is... I can make it look like an accident."

Ed blinked at him. "You'd kill him... for me?" He felt obscurely flattered.

Roy favoured him with a toothy grin, "I don't allow people under my command to be used and abused... by anyone except myself."

Ed snorted. "Figures." He considered it briefly. It was tempting, but...

"No. No, I couldn't let you do that."

Roy nodded approvingly.

Ed's eyes narrowed. "And you KNEW I would say that!"

"Naturally," Roy said calmly. "You don't enjoy killing people, even when it might be the best way to resolve the situation."

"They still die sometimes," Ed said quietly, as he remembered the Priest in Lior City and Magwar in Zenotime.

"True," Roy nodded, "But usually due to their own actions. I suppose you could call that divine justice if you felt so inclined. I prefer to think of it as a form of rebound myself."

"Rebound huh?" Ed considered that and nodded. "Yeah. I can see that. So if you knew I would say no, then why offer?"

"Because there was always a chance I could have been wrong," Roy said quietly. "And if there was, I needed to know now."

Ed went very still. "And what would you have done then?"

Roy closed his eyes. "To be honest, I have no idea."

"Ha!” Ed crowed in triumph. “So much for the great manipulator!"

"We all have our off days." Roy smiled tiredly. "I can only say that I'm relieved that you made the right choice."

"Something still has to be done about Avers though," Ed insisted quietly. "I don't want him to abuse one more child!"

"Something will be done," Roy promised. "Quietly. Behind the scenes."

"No. It needs to be out in the open," Ed said firmly. "So that people know that no-one is above the law."

Roy sighed. "You never make things easy for me."

"I should be the one saying that!"

Roy laughed. "Well at least you can be secure in the knowledge that I'm not going to throw you across my desk and attempt to have my way with you," he pointed out.

Ed's face went carefully blank.

Roy stared at his reaction.

Ed maintained his blank mask, but stood to go. “Then if we’ve settled everything, I should really be going...”

“Edward-kun...”

“DON’T CALL ME THAT!” Ed yelled. “I am NOT a little boy anymore!” He abruptly slammed his mouth shut and resumed his blank face, but not before a series of betraying expressions had flashed across it. He began to head for the door as Roy digested and analysed the emotions that had been accidentally let shown.

Panic, Relief, Fear, Disappointment, Fear, Desire, and Fear.

*Oh dear.*

“Fullmetal...”

“Don’t say anything,” Ed said tensely. “Just... just DON’T!”

“Edward...”

Ed stopped at the doorway and looked out into the corridor longingly. All he had to do was keep walking...

“Come back here Ed.”

It was blatantly unfair, Ed reflected, that such a complete bastard got to have such a persuasive and sexy voice.

Sighing he turned around and moved back to his seat on the couch. “Fine! I’m here, Master,” he said snidely, throwing himself back down. “Go ahead. Take your best shot at me. I’m resigned to it. Hell, I really DO deserve it this time. Come on, let’s get it over with so I can go home and stop twitching every time you give me an order. I should just get a bloody collar or something.”

Roy watched as Ed crossed his arms and glared defiantly at him. He shuffled a variety of replies in his head, but in the end threw up his mental hands at all of them. This was not something he’d ever imagined happening. Oh, he’d toyed with the idea of initiating something like this, but he’d expected to have more time in which to plan. And now, it seemed, he was woefully unprepared.

Ed stared angrily at him. *Come on Roy, you’ve already dragged out every single secret and iota of self-respect I have out into the light of day and jumped up and down on them, it’s time for the grande finale!*

Roy closed his eyes to escape Ed’s furious expression, frantically trying to think of the right words for this moment.

“WELL?!” Ed demanded finally. The anticipation was killing him. “SAY something!”

“I don’t think you’d look very good in a collar,” Roy said finally.

For the second time that night, Ed’s jaw dropped. He stared blankly at Roy, trying to decide if he should be screaming with rage, or something else.

“Alright, that was a bad start,” Roy rubbed at his eyes. “I should be telling you that I’m flattered, that I’m honoured, that I’m surprised and so on and so forth. The truth is I’m just surprised. Stunned might be a better word for it. Possibly even flabbergasted. In fact I am SO surprised, I have absolutely no idea what to say. Sorry.”

Ed stared at him for a very long moment, and shut his mouth. Then he started to giggle. Leaning back in the couch he put his arms around his middle and let the giggles develop into a full-throated laugh. Roy joined in after a minute or two, and eventually the two men were helplessly howling with laughter.

“You... you... sorry...” Ed gasped for air. “Ow... pain!”

“Sit... stay...” Roy choked out, sending Ed off into further paroxysms of laughter.

Somehow they wound up clutching at each other and collapsing onto the floor in their hysterics. It was only as they went back to giggling that their lips met, and they finally calmed down.

Roy broke the kiss first, stunned again. Ed watched him guardedly, eyes hooded.

*A dog,* Roy thought. *Abandoned, starved, and beaten, but not broken.* Gently he released the younger man. “I have to think about this,” he said carefully. “You really managed to surprise me this time, Fullmetal.”

Ed managed a half-smile, “Finally! I’ve only been trying to do that since I was 12!”

“Congratulations,” Roy said, getting to his feet. “I’ll definitely have to consider you a true opponent from now on.”

Ed preened briefly. “Hey wait a minute,” he said suddenly, an expression of alarm crossing his face. “Does that mean you’re going to get WORSE?”

Roy smirked at him. “Be afraid.”

Ed groaned, “Fine. Be like that. Good night.” He stood up and headed for the doorway. Roy stopped him before he got there.

“Don’t be ridiculous Fullmetal. It’s too late for you to be walking through the streets,” he pointed down the corridor. “You can spend the night in my spare room. It’s already been made up for you.”

Ed glanced away, “Even though you know about that other thing now?”

Roy paused and his grip on Fullmetal’s shoulder tightened. “Go to bed Fullmetal,” he said gently. “We’ll talk about the other thing later.” On impulse he brushed his lips across the smaller man’s forehead. “Sleep well.”

That night, no nightmares came to disturb Edward Elric’s slumber.

**

"Good morning Major," Roy said as he breezed in to his office just before lunch on Monday morning. "Shall we get started?

"Good morning General," Hawkeye replied as she followed him into his office and shut the door. "Have you seen this morning's paper?"

"Hmmm?"

"General Avers died last night," she said. "In a car accident. Apparently he was fleeing arrest after evidence of his sexual abuse of minors was discovered."

"How unfortunate," Roy said sorrowfully. "It's a shame to see people give in to their baser instincts. Send some flowers to his funeral for me, would you? And make a note to send a note to the municipal authorities to have something done about the signals on South Street, that's the third accident there in six months."

Hawkeye coughed, "I didn't say where the accident occurred, Sir."

Roy gave her a level stare. "I am perfectly capable of picking up a paper and reading it myself, thank you Major. What's next?"

"Edward Elric signed out earlier this morning. He said you'd approved it."

"Yes, I'm sending him home for a week or two, his automail needs tuning," Roy shuffled some papers on his desk. "Speaking of which, how many soldiers on base have automail limbs?"

"Including Edward? Eight. Most people prefer not to install it, because of the difficulty, expense, and pain involved."

"And how many automail mechanics are there in the city?"

Hawkeye blinked. "None that I know of. It’s a rather specialised profession."

"So we have eight soldiers, ranged in rank from Alchemist to... what?"

"Lieutenant Colonel," Hawkeye supplied. "Malcolm, in demolitions."

"... Alchemist to Lieutenant Colonel, who at any given time could be rendered unfit for duty for weeks on end, simply because we have no-one here who could service their equipment," Roy continued. "And we probably have even more experienced soldiers leaving because they are unable to have automail easily installed. That's unacceptable. Make up a list of the top five automail mechanics in the country and see what sort of deal we can offer them to move here and set up shop. Include assistance in housing and a substantial retainer, and don't forget to mention the low crime rate and excellent childcare and schooling facilities."

"I see," Hawkeye made a note. "Did you have anyone particular in mind?" She asked, a slight edge in her voice.

Roy grinned at her unrepentantly. "I trust your judgment. Just make sure you pick the best."

"Of course sir," Hawkeye's tone made it clear he wasn't fooling her one bit. "Anything else?"

"No, I think that's it for now," Roy said, picking up a pen. "Oh, did you enjoy my party the other night?"

Hawkeye smiled slightly. "Yes, thank you sir. It was quite... eye-opening."

"Good, because I'm throwing another one in a few weeks," Roy said. "A smaller one this time, just friends and family."

Hawkeye nodded serenely. "I'm sure Alphonse will appreciate the thought involved in a welcome-back party."

"I can't get anything past you, can I?" Roy laughed.

"No, you can't," Hawkeye's voice was sharp. "So if you would please put that crossword puzzle away and sign the papers in your in-tray, I'll get on with my other duties. Oh yes, when would you like Edward’s belongings delivered to your house?"

Roy choked on his tea, and looked up to see Hawkeye giving him a familiar smirk. “Edward was in a VERY good mood when he signed out this morning,” she said by way of explanation. “VERY cheerful. He was practically walking on air. It made him quite talkative.”

"Ah...” Roy fumbled slightly, horrified to find himself blushing. “We'll leave that up to him, shall we?" He said finally. "No sense in rushing things. And anyway, it might not happen."

"Of course General, anything you say."

End.

**

A/N: This is the fic from hell. The one that tortured my brain and WOULD NOT allow itself to be finished, because Roy kept finding interesting new avenues of Ed’s psyche to explore. And then it demanded extensive editing for roughly two weeks till the point that I was sick of the sight of it and just wanted it to be finished. Well it is now. Even though there’s still one section that I hate. And I'm not keen on the ending either. But I’ve re-written it three times now and I CAN’T get it any better. So tough. And I’m just gonna post it before I think of anything else that needs changing.

In case you think things moved a bit fast in the story, the timeline goes like so:

Saturday evening: Roy’s party
Early Sunday morning: Conversation between Roy and Ed
Sunday: A day off for both guys. Presumably Roy and Ed have the conversation about “that other thing”, and no, I’m not writing it. Well, maybe if you bribed me...
Early Monday morning: General Avers’ accident
Monday morning: Ed leaves for a visit to Al and Winry’s
Late Monday morning: Roy shows up at the office

And as for whether or not Roy arranged for Avers’s accident? Not telling. Draw your own conclusions. He certainly arranged for the EVIDENCE to come out, I can tell you that much. As for the rest, maybe it was divine justice. *whistles innocently*



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