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22 December 2010 @ 11:24 am
IT'S A GIFT 2011  

Dear eltea,

I am very the sorries that I haven't had time to do a better edit – or a better coding, so HOPEFULLY all of the italics/etc. are in order. Let me know if you are cool with me cross-posting these later, k? :D


[Brotherhood ‘verse, post-series]

Al is reading the newspaper while Ed preens and luxuriates in the shower—or, as he phrases it, scrubs the sand off real quick. But that’s all right, because Al likes to keep an eye out just in case a plausible lead crops up in a community of pygmies that would admire Ed for his height.

“Al,” Ed says. His head appears around the bathroom door, although the water hasn’t stopped running. Al briefly considers trying to explain the concept of a drought climate again. “Didn’t we buy this shampoo just last week?”

“I think so,” Al says. “Why?”

“Because it’s almost empty, that’s why,” Ed says. He frowns at Al suspiciously. “Have you been drinking it again? I told you that it doesn’t taste as good as it smells.”

Al vaguely wishes that he could see his own agonized expression, because it’s probably pretty hilarious. “Brother, I was three. I think you can let it go now.”

“Not a chance,” Ed says. He produces the guilty bottle, which does indeed appear to be fairly low. “So—what? Someone’s been stealing it?”

“Brother,” Al says, “it’s much simpler than that. Look at us.”

Slightly uncharacteristically, Ed follows instructions, blinking through the water dripping from his bangs. He takes in Al’s long, tawny ponytail and then glances down at the bright gold strands plastered all over his own shoulders.

“Oh,” he says. “I see.”

Al smiles sunnily.

Ed rubs at his chin and then raises a finger in revelation. The shower is still going behind him.

“Well,” Ed says, “shampoo will just have to come out of our state research budget from now on. Mustang can think of it as a Good-Lookin’ Emissary Tax.”

“I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to see that on the invoice, Brother,” Al says, struggling to keep from laughing.

Ed grins. “He’s going to have the best-groomed dogs in the whole military.”

[either ‘verse, pre-series]

Maes promised and delivered extremely good sex, but there’s a very simple reason that Roy can’t say he’s good in bed: he is the worst person in the universe to wake up next to.

“Good morning, sunshine!” he sings.

Roy peels his face a few centimeters off of the pillow. “…time ’s it?”

“I don’t know,” Maes says. “Six or something. Let’s get breakfast!”

The pillow is still warm and molded to the contours of Roy’s face, making it several thousand times more welcoming than that incipient conversation.

Come on,” Maes says, walking two fingers up Roy’s shoulder and then drumming them repeatedly. “Wakey wakey, Roy-muffin.”

“Baby-talk me again,” Roy says, “and I will burn off your eyebrows.” He can actually hear Maes beaming at him. “Permanently.”

Somebody’s not a morning person,” Maes says, stroking Roy’s hair back from his face. “Come on, Roy, even you don’t like burning daylight.”

Roy manages something about improvised funeral pyres.

Maes heaves an exaggerated sigh. “Fine, you party-pooper. I’ll bring you some breakfast. Do you want porridge, porridge, or porridge?”

Roy hates this camp. And the military. And his life. And the world at large. And Maes Hughes. And goddamn porridge.

It’s probably a good thing that the pillow absorbs the beginnings of that rant.

Not that the worst bedmate on record would have heard it anyway. “I’ll take that as an ‘Oh, Maes, I could feast my eyes on your delicious body for days at a time, but since you’re being so generous, porridge would be lovely.’”

“Thanks,” Roy mutters.

Maes is actually quiet for a minute, so there’s a possibility that the apocalypse is nigh.

Then he rubs his hand gently at Roy’s back and leans down to kiss the knobby vertebra at the base of his neck.

“You’re welcome,” he says, and the cot creaks, and his footsteps saunter off.

Now Roy can’t go back to sleep. He is going to obliterate that man.

Except… he’s been forced, now, to set the scales and weigh the facts—are Maes’s ungodly reveilles worth it for the nights that precede them?

Unfortunately, that’s a stupid question. They are.

It hardly comes as a surprise, given that Maes Hughes is the most flamboyantly self-assured human being that Roy has ever met, but he doesn’t care in the slightest about gender roles or power games. Roy doesn’t even remember who topped more, or who came first, or any of the petty details—he just remembers being warm, and spent, and profoundly satisfied. There’s something flitting at the corners of his mind about Maes miming blindness elaborately after Roy took his glasses, but that could well be imaginary.

The thing is… there’s something about Maes that’s just decent. He’s done things, here, that won’t ever be undone; they all have, but Maes transcends that, and Roy isn’t quite sure why. By some small, unsung miracle, Maes will emerge from this quagmire good, and whole, and clean.

Roy is so thoroughly coated in blood and dust and ash that he needs all the cleansing he can get.

So when Maes returns, bearing two steaming bowls, the trademark mile-wide grin, and the greeting, “Just the way you like it—with extra unidentifiable lumps!”, Roy sits up and wraps both arms around him so suddenly that only sheer luck prevents any questionable porridge from ending up in the bed.

“Whoa,” Maes says. “If I’d known you were the clingy type, I wouldn’t have… nah, I still totally would have slept with you. Roy, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Roy says, hugging him tighter for a second and then letting go.

“By which you mean ‘everything,’” Maes says.

Roy tries for a smile.

“Hey,” Maes says. He sets the porridge aside and takes both of Roy’s hands in his. “This is not going to break you, all right? You, Roy Mustang, are too… damn… stubborn to give up now. Besides, who would I make fun of if you did?”

“I feel inspired already,” Roy says.

Maes’s grin is slightly lopsided now. “Look, in all seriousness…” He loops an arm around Roy’s shoulders and kisses his cheek. “I’ve got you. And I’ve got your back. And that’s not just because you look extremely good naked, although that factors in.”

Roy sighs. He wishes it didn’t help, but it does. Maes is such a bastard that way.

“Better?” Maes asks. He already knows the answer to that. “Good. Now eat your porridge.”

Roy gives him a baleful look, which is much more difficult from this close. “Go to hell, Hughes.”

“I’ve been there,” Maes says, setting a bowl in Roy’s lap. “But I’m leaving, and you’re coming back up with me.”

“This porridge is still inedible,” Roy says.

Maes ruffles his hair immensely despite his best efforts to squirm away.

“Eat up,” Maes says brightly. “You’re going to need your strength for what I have planned for tonight.”

[Brotherhood (or is it either?) ‘verse, pre- or mid-series]

“Oh, Hawkeye Riza LIEUTENANT, you know just how to use those surprisingly plump and luscious when you really look at them lips to suck pure pleasure out of my—”

Roy was thinking about how to murder his best friend—and not abstractly; in meticulous detail.

He picked up the next of the two dozen sheets of paper that had been covering his desk when he arrived this morning.

“Oh, Colonel,” Riza (is that short for something?) moans. “Oh, baby. Yeah, do me like that.”

Roy, that handsome devil, runs the barrel of the gun lightly up the inside of her thigh. “You got it, baby,” he says, because he may be devilishly handsome, but he isn’t terribly creative.

Ahhh,” Riza moans, louder, throwing her head back and flinging tangled hair across the sweat-soaked sheets like a blonde supernova. “Yes… Yes… Yes, sir.”

“I never thought you might have an overwhelming firearm kink,” Roy breathes against her throat, because (a) he’s crap at talking dirty; and (b) he’d probably believe her when she says that gun is under her pillow for “protection.” (Don’t ask me how I know about that.)

“Oh, Roy-toy,” Hawkeye coos, “I have a
you kink.”

Roy was beginning to feel physically ill. He took a deep breath and tried another one.

Lieutenant Hawkeye had been having a long and tiresome day of putting up with people who weren’t nearly as charming as certain bespectacled superiors she knew who unfortunately happened to be married. In an unusual moment of weakened will, she gave in to a persistent fantasy and cast a sultry look across the room at Colonel Mustang.

To her surprise and amazement (and arousal), he was casting a sultry look RIGHT BACK.

Her breath stopped, and her heart fluttered wildly in her bosom, which started heaving primarily because of the not-breathing, but also because of her basic undeniable sex appeal.

Apparently caught out at his overcompensating playboy game, the Colonel’s cheeks flushed in that slightly blotchy, uneven way they did when he was genuinely embarrassed, which would have been immensely unflattering if it hadn’t been so darned cute.

Lieutenant Hawkeye realized suddenly that all of the Colonel’s posturing and pontificating was really just a way of covering up the adorably pure and vulnerable feelings he had been harboring for her since they were teenagers trapped in the same house with their raging hormones and her poor, poor father. The revelation was like being STRUCK BY LIGHTNING. (Maybe?)

She kept her gaze fixed on the Colonel’s face until he raised his head and dared to meet her eyes again, at which point she gave him a warm and encouraging smile all the more precious for its rareness. ‘I love you, Roy Mustang,’ that smile said. ‘I always have.’

(That smile did not conclude with ‘You dumbass,’ whether or not some other extremely distinguished military commanders might find the addendum appropriate.)

Colonel Mustang cleared his throat, and his at turns surly and bewilderingly obedient team looked up from their work.

“Everybody get the fuck out,” Roy said. “Except the woman with the amazing legs.”

Lieutenant Hawkeye blushed daintily.

Then they did it on Roy’s desk, not very daintily at all.

Roy was in serious danger of losing his breakfast all over the abominations obscuring his desktop, but a terrible curiosity compelled him onward.

“Riza…” Roy was getting choked up, the poor bugger. “I… I don’t… I just don’t think I can bring myself to go through another lonely day without telling you… that I…”

“Hush,” Riza said, pressing a delicate finger to his protesting lips. “I know. Pretty much all of Central knows. Subtlety is not your forte…” She dragged her fingertip slowly along his jaw. “…Colonel.”

“I’m good at other things,” Roy offered. “Would you like to see a few?” He raised his eyebrows for emphasis and then winked, because, you know, subtlety.

“I want to see them all,” Riza said.

Roy put the paper down, freeing his hands to strike his forehead repeatedly.

Maes Hughes was a dead man. That was all there was to it.

Sifting through the mass of unjustly murdered trees, Roy came across one stapled collection that bore a very different handwriting—neat, loopy, and even. He didn’t like the look of this.

“Maes,” Roy says, hands folded behind his head on the bunk. “If I die—”

“You’re not going to die, Roy,” Maes says. “Possibly not ever. First of all, you’re too powerful; and second, you’re too stubborn.”

Roy doesn’t even rise to that, and Maes is scared—scared because this war is wearing Roy ragged and crushing the fight out of him; it’s grinding him down to nothing but sharp edges, like broken glass.

“I don’t have too many people to leave behind,” Roy says, “but I want you to convey my gratitude to everyone who gave me a chance. I was never a likely candidate to get this far.”

Maes isn’t grateful to anyone whose actions sent Roy here, no matter their intentions.

“If I promise to pass it on,” he says, “will you stop being morbid for five minutes?”

Roy rolls onto one side to face him, managing a ghost of a grin. (Damn it, now Maes is getting morbid, too.) “Four and a half, but only because you asked nicely.”

Maes sits down on the edge of the bunk and runs his hand slowly through Roy’s hair. It was so thick and silky when they were clawing their way through training; it’s matted now with sweat and dust. So much dust.

“You’re so good to me,” Maes says, in a tone Roy will recognize as unsarcastic, and he leans down to kiss the prematurely-wrinkled forehead.

Roy stared. This had to be Gracia’s handwriting. But—but how—

There was a sticky note in Hughes’s writing clinging to the paragraph break at the end of the scene:

I didn’t tell her anything, I SWEAR. AAAAAAHHHH.

Feeling a vein beginning to throb in his temple, Roy paged through the horrifyingly lengthy document. There was a later scene in which Maes gave him a blowjob so good that his writhing broke the cot, and another where they had extremely quick and nervous sex in an officer’s tent, and another where…

Maes turns the corner, shaky hand curled around the butt of the pistol on his hip, unsure whether to trust a bleeding Alex’s shouted warning when things change so quickly here. He ran, but he’s blinked dozens of times in the interim, and sometimes that’s enough—

But Roy’s there. He’s standing in the open square with dust caking on the bloodstains discoloring his uniform, arm out, fingers poised, looking down at a wide-eyed Ishvalan child of four and trembling all over.

Maes moves up beside him slowly. “Roy,” he says, softly. “Roy, hey.”

“I can’t,” Roy says in half of his usual voice. “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I

Maes touches his shoulder, then his elbow, and then carefully wraps a hand around his. “You don’t have to.”

“Yes, I do!” There’s a catching note to it, part-sob, part-scream. “I have

“To hell with your orders,” Maes says. “No one will know if you just let this go. Let someone else take this one on.” He squeezes Roy’s hand and then starts tugging gently at the fingertips of the glove. “Please, Roy.”

Roy’s shoulder’s tense, and his arm shakes harder still, and he tilts his hand fractionally towards the little girl with the huge red eyes.

Maes jerks the glove the rest of the way off, slots his fingers in between Roy’s, and pulls hard to turn him away—to turn him so that he can meet Maes’s eyes instead.

“Listen to me,” Maes says. “You’ve done enough. You’ve followed your orders. You’ve let them drag you through all of the muck they could muster, and it’s poisonous.” He grabs Roy’s other hand, slips the glove off, pockets them both, and grasps all ten of Roy’s fingers tightly. “I’m not going to let it kill you.”

Maes takes his arm and drags him all the way to camp without looking back, pausing only to give Alex an unincriminating punch in the arm to thank him. He makes Roy sit on the edge of his bunk, and then he climbs up and straddles him, peeling off the stiff, stained layers and kissing hard at Roy’s chest and his collarbones, leaving bruises that a standard-issue collar will hide.

“Touch these tomorrow,” he says, sitting back just a little, the tips of their noses close, “and remember that you’re loved—and worth loving, even if you can be a pain in the ass sometimes. Remember that you bruise because you’re a thinking, breathing, bleeding human being, no matter what they want you to believe. Remember that we are getting out of here alive, and everything less than death is temporary.”

Roy closes his eyes for a long, long moment, but when he opens them, they’re brighter and sharper than before.

“That’s a lot to remember,” he says quietly.

“I’ll help you,” Maes says.

Roy put the paper down and stared at it. This was clearly some unholy kind of sorcery—why weren’t there any transmutation marks?

He turned to the next page in what he knew was an entirely doomed hope to discover some evidence of witchcraft and instead found a scene where he and Hughes had curled up against the perpetually startling desert night, at the end of which Hughes suggested that they should combat the cold by “doing it until someone gets brave enough to come and complain.”

There was another paragraph break there, and a note from Hughes that read:


Roy almost said, “This was clearly your own damned idea, you stupid son of a bitch” before realizing that he would have been cussing at a sticky note. It was becoming progressively more plain that this whole disaster was a serious threat to his sanity.

Skimming onward, too sc—cautious to read closely, Roy came upon a long section summarizing the return from Ishval, his and Hughes’s amicable separation (punctuated by some covert kisses, unsurprisingly), and his own swift ascent through the military ranks. The next major narrative seemed to be his courtship of Hawkeye, including an extraordinarily detailed scene in which they fought over the distinction between personal and military matters, and he sent her roses by way of apology.

Which was, of course, ridiculous; if Lieutenant Hawkeye had in fact been the type for flowers, she would probably like lilies.

After a sex scene set in one of the archive rooms, another in an Eastern inn, another in an Eastern bathhouse, an elaborately-imagined wedding, and a honeymoon sex scene, the novella ended with the words: For the first time in longer than he cares to remember, Roy falls asleep smiling.

Roy gritted his teeth and glanced down at a final note from Hughes.

For the first time since I conceived the brilliant idea, I am beginning to regret this project. Love, M.

It was half past nine in the morning, but Roy went to the cabinet and poured himself a shot of whiskey anyway. When the tumbler was empty a few seconds later, he replaced everything on the shelves and sat down at his desk again, slightly fortified.

The calm was short-lived, however, given that he very nearly went into cardiac arrest upon spotting another piece of paper blazoned with Gracia’s handwriting. He almost gave up hope for his pathetic existence, but then he saw that this one was titled “Riza and the Prince, by Elicia Hughes (with some help)”.

God damn it.

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess named Riza with long, blonde hair and a kind smile. Her father had died, so she ruled the kingdom from a castle tower in the middle and kept watch over the land. She was a good ruler, but ruling a kingdom by herself was hard, and sometimes she got lonely. The people liked her very much, but she didn’t have time to talk to them and make friends.

Anyway, Riza was the cool kind of princess, not the boring kind. When dragons came and attacked her people’s houses and ate their sheep and their cows and their pets, Riza got her bow and arrow and her faithful dog Hayate and went out to fight them herself.

A big, mean red dragon was attacking a bunch of the children in Riza’s kingdom and trying to eat them, but Riza shot it with her arrows and tore its wings and then killed it. And then all the other dragons flew away, scared that a small princess could destroy them.

But Riza knew that if the dragons got too hungry, they would come back and attack her kingdom again. So she and Hayate set off to hunt the dragons back to their den and scare them away for good.

The journey took many days, and Riza was worried that they might not be going in the right direction, and that they might never find the dragons, and she would have wasted the time she should have been watching her kingdom.

Then on the eleventh day of the journey, they came to a willow grove, and Hayate started to bark at a bunch of draping ivy. Riza pushed it aside with her bow and saw that behind the wall of ivy was a cave.

The cave was so dark that she couldn’t see very far—and then a black dragon burst out and grabbed her in its claws!

Riza was really scared, but she stabbed an arrow into the dragon’s thumb, and it yelled and dropped her. That was when Riza realized that this dragon was different from the others—it was smaller, and it moved kind of like a kitty, and it had a person’s voice instead of a roar.

Riza got out her bow and aimed an arrow at it so it wouldn’t get any ideas. “What are you?” she said, and Hayate barked, because he wanted to know the same thing.

“I’m a prince,” the dragon said.

“You don’t look like any prince I’ve ever seen,” Riza said.

“Maybe you haven’t seen enough princes,” the dragon said. “I lived in another kingdom nearby, and I had lots of princesses that wanted to marry me, but then I did something bad, and a witch turned me into this. I didn’t think anyone would find me out here.”

“What did you do that was so bad?” Riza asked.

The dragon didn’t want to look at her, because he was ashamed, and because he was scared that this beautiful woman would run away from him when she found out.

“I killed someone,” the dragon said. “It was to protect my friend, but that doesn’t make it right.”

“No, it doesn’t,” Riza said, and the dragon was sad. “But I killed the big red dragon to protect my kingdom. That’s not very different, is it? That dragon was like a person to the other dragons.”

The dragon was silent, because he was surprised. He was amazed by this princess who could be so beautiful and so dangerous and so wise.

“What was your name when you were a prince?” Riza asked.

“My name was Roy,” the dragon said. “I was not very famous, but I ruled well, because I always tried my best to be fair.”

“Well, Roy,” Riza said, “everybody does bad things sometimes. Some people do very bad things, but sometimes we have to. And we’re the only ones who can forgive ourselves and figure out how to do good things instead.”

Roy the dragon still did not know what to say. He couldn’t tell this princess how wonderful he thought she was, because she might be scared that a dragon liked her so much.

“It’ll be hard for you to start doing good things like this,” Riza said. “Are you stuck as a dragon, or is there a way to change you back?”

Roy’s tail curled up really tight, which was what happened when a dragon was embarrassed.

“I can change back if a princess kisses me,” Roy said. “But you certainly don’t have to—”

“Nonsense,” Riza said, and she climbed up onto his front foot and kissed the end of his dragon snout.

There was a big swirl of sparkly magic dust, and Riza closed her eyes so she wouldn’t get magic glitter in them. When she opened them again, the dragon was gone, and she was in the arms of a very handsome man.

“Hello, Prince Roy,” she said. “My name is Princess Riza.”

Roy leaned down and kissed her hand. “I can’t thank you enough, Princess Riza, for saving me.”

“You’re welcome,” Riza said. “Now we should try to find you some clothes.”

After they found a nice fisherman who was willing to lend Roy some clothes to wear, Riza took him back to his kingdom, which was right next to hers, and then went home. Roy’s people had been very glad to see him, which made Riza happy, but she was sad that he was going to be living somewhere else, even if it wasn’t very far away.

A few days later, though, Roy came to her kingdom, and he was even handsomer dressed properly like a prince in clothes that actually fit him.

“I thought so much about what you said,” Roy told her, “and I can’t promise that I will always be able to be good, although I know that I will try. But I think I will need your help, and even though it’s only been a few days, I have missed you very much. I think you are perfect, and being with you makes me feel better than I ever have before. Princess Riza, will you please marry me?”

“Of course I will,” Riza said, and Hayate barked, because he thought that was definitely the right answer.

So Princess Riza and Prince Roy were married, and Riza looked really, really pretty in her wedding dress, so much that Roy couldn’t talk for five whole minutes, which made the ceremony kind of hard at first. And they ruled their united kingdoms together, and they were the best rulers that anybody had ever seen, so everyone loved them. Because he’d been a dragon for so long, Roy could still light fires by blowing on things, and he could still talk to dragons, which meant he could send them away whenever they tried to attack. Riza only had to use her bow and arrow for target practice after that.

They lived very, very happily ever after.

Roy could not believe that Hughes had brought his four-year-old into this.

Upon further reflection, he absolutely could.

On the upside, that story had been almost kind of… sweet. Perhaps there were a few gems in this pile that could redeem this madcap morning.

Roy drew a deep breath, sighed, and then picked out the largest packet in the entire array, hoping for the best.

“Roy,” Riza gasps. “Oh, God, Roy, I—do that again!”

Roy rolls his hips against hers and then draws back to thrust deeply once more. Even though he’s throbbing to sink back into Riza’s wet warmth, he hesitates, the cool air piquant on his damp skin, and looks intently into her dark eyes.

“First,” he growls, “say it.”

“Oh,” Riza whimpers. “S-sir—”

Roy shifts forward just a little, and she moans.


Just a little more.


His whole body brimming with heat, he presses himself the rest of the way inside her welcoming flesh, dazzled by the gleam of sweat at her hairline, lifting a hand to cup one of her perfect—

Roy went for the whiskey again.

Three tumblers later, he reprised his position behind the desk, crossed his legs, took a very deep breath, and cleared his throat. Composed now, he called Hawkeye’s personal office, let the phone ring once, and then hung up, which was the habitual paging signal.

Hawkeye was, as always, prompt and attentive, stepping through the door just moments later with her clipboard held to her chest.

Roy was not going to think about her chest. Ever.

…all right, perhaps that was a bit ambitious.

“Sir?” Hawkeye said briskly, striding up to his desk and offering a crisp salute.

“Lieutenant,” Roy said, “I want you to put out the order for Maes Hughes’s execution.”

Hawkeye paused. “…sir?”

He sorted through the pile and handed her the first page of the porn epic.

As she skimmed it, a touch of pink rose to her cheeks, and her left eyebrow arched progressively higher.

“Lieutenant Colonel Hughes wrote this, sir?” she asked at last, giving it back.

“That’s right.”

She turned and started for the door. “I’ll tell them to shoot on sight, sir.”

Before Roy had even finished sorting the mass of literature into Burn Now and Burn Later, Hawkeye had returned.

“Bad news, sir,” she said. “Maes Hughes and his entire family have gone on vacation to an undisclosed locale.”

Roy slammed his fist down on the desk. “If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s being outwitted by Hughes. That bastard. The sheer nerve—”

Hawkeye selected one of the sheets. “He is awfully imaginative, though, sir.”

Roy sighed. “I’ll give him that much.”

Hawkeye coughed into her hand and then gestured to the page. “I’m not even sure some of this is physically possible, sir.”

Roy paused. He started to formulate a word, and then he paused again. “Would you… are you suggesting… Lieutenant, are you implying that you might like to experiment and find out sometime?”

The corners of Hawkeye’s mouth twitched upward. “I would certainly be amenable to that, sir.”

“Very good, Lieutenant,” Roy managed despite the sudden dryness of his mouth.

Riza Hawkeye smiled at him in a way that made him feel like all of his internal organs had turned to pudding, and then she saluted again and marched out the door.

When Roy was finished thinking about her extremely nice ass, he incinerated every last fragment of fanfiction.

Except for Elecia’s. That one he kept, in case of… emergencies.

He also spared the porn epic, entirely for the sake of scientific enquiry.

GIFT 4: ED & ROY (& AL)
[Brotherhood ‘verse, pretty immediately post-series]

Ed is sitting alone in the white hallway when Roy arrives, and the kid looks like shit. His hair’s coming out, his face is filthy, and it’s quite clear from the swathes of violet under his eyes that he hasn’t slept and doesn’t plan to.

This is virtually déjà vu, not so much because Roy’s seen this situation before, but because he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he would when he turned into the hall.

He knew, when he heard that the newly-restored Alphonse Elric had collapsed on the grassiest of Central’s training grounds and had been rushed to the hospital, that it would have been during one of the familiar brotherly sparring sessions. He knew that the cause would have been some combination of exhaustion and heatstroke and dehydration, because Alphonse isn’t used to caring for a body that has needs. And he knew, with utmost certainty, that Edward would shoulder every fragment of the blame.

With Al unconscious, there’s no one to stop him, and he looks like he’s about to shatter under the weight.

Roy sits down on the metal bench, which is even colder and more uncomfortable than he expected. How long has Ed been here? What was the time-stamp on that memo, again?

It doesn’t matter. What matters is figuring out whether he can fix it.

He thinks he probably has a better chance than most, because he’s been to that place—the personal hell Ed’s visiting. He’s well-acquainted with that infective desolation, which is why he has to try to find a cure.

He folds his arms and looks over at the boy beside him, who’s bent over with his elbows on his knees, hands clenched around each other, every line of him so taut that he’s almost shaking with the strain.

“I’m really not in the mood for an ‘I told you so,’” Ed says, but the edge to his voice is dull.

“Good,” Roy says calmly. “Neither am I.”

There’s a long silence.

“Alphonse is going to recover,” Roy says.

Ed’s shoulders tighten just a little more, which is kind of remarkable. He’s going to split in half at the spine in a minute.

“Are you a doctor now?” he mutters. “Differentiating, huh? Guess that’s good when you’re planning to run the place. I’d hate to have some hack as Führer again.”

“I’m not a doctor,” Roy says. “I’m a friend. It just sounded like you’d need one right now.”

For a moment it looks like Ed is going to rip Roy’s head off with his bare hands, but then something in him snaps, and instead of committing violent homicide, he pulls his knees up to his chest and starts to cry.

Roy puts a hand gently on his shoulder—the one that used to be steel; he’s still not quite accustomed to it being warm.

“All these years,” Ed is saying into his knees, muffled and wracked with sobs, scrubbing angrily at his eyes, “he’s helped me and looked after me and prevented me from killing anybody who calls me—you know—and kept me sane, and the first time I get a chance to be a real older brother—the first time he’s able to be vulnerable again—”

“Fullmetal,” Roy says, “this isn’t your fault.”

“It is!” Ed is becoming progressively less intelligible. “How’s he supposed to remember? He probably doesn’t even remember what hunger feels like, probably just thought it was an abdominal cramp from practicing kicks, and I’m supposed to—I just—”

“Edward,” Roy says, “you’re not even sixteen years old. You can’t be his brother, his father, his mother, and his keeper all at once, all the time, and hold yourself together as well. You make an extraordinarily admirable effort, but it’s just not possible. He’s going to have to learn how to take care of his new body, just as you, unfortunately, are going to have to learn how to live day-to-day without alchemy. Neither of you can tell the other how to go about doing that. All you can do is be there for each other along the way.” He wraps his arm around Ed’s shaking shoulders. “And you’re here.”

Ed’s face is buried in his folded arms. “That’s not enough.”

“Yes, it is.”

Ed looks up just enough for Roy to get a glimpse of a furious gold eye gleaming with tears. “Shut up! You don’t know anything!”

This is the most childish he has sounded in a long time. It’s kind of reassuring.

“Listen to me,” Roy says. “People get hurt. Human beings are fragile. That’s what makes them precious, so it’s a condition of life that we just have to accept. You must know by now that you won’t always be in the right place to protect him, and vice versa. You don’t begrudge him that, do you? And Alphonse is significantly more forgiving than you are, especially of the brother he will idolize until the day he dies.” He succeeds in suppressing a wince. “That’s a condition, too.”

“I hate hospitals,” Ed mumbles into his arms. “And waiting. And you.”

Roy knows very well that one of those things is not like the others.

“Hospitals are supremely unnerving,” he concedes. “But they serve their purpose.” He gives Ed’s back a last, slightly awkward pat. “Alphonse’s indisposition is fairly routine, you know. He’ll be back on his feet soon and fully recovered not long after that.”

Ed is silent for a long moment, which is uncanny and somewhat worrisome.

“He’s all I’ve got,” the boy says at last. “I can’t lose him—especially not now, when I gave up the only power I had to give this to him. I’m just—I’m just—” He swallows. “I’m just—scared—that I’m not strong enough to protect him anymore.”

Roy leaves his open hand on Ed’s back, hoping that it’s at least a little bit comforting.

“It was never your alchemy that kept your brother safe,” he says. “It was always the love, and that hasn’t changed.”

Ed starts to cry again, but Roy thinks it’s a good thing this time.

Just after four in the morning, a night nurse spots them and storms over, starting to hiss at them about visiting hours. But then she gets close enough to see the small constellation on the shoulder of Roy’s wrinkled uniform and the mounting fury in Ed’s eyes, at which point she sputters and changes her mind.

Turns out they’re welcome to stay as long as they like.

Not too long after the sun rises, the doctor returns and lets Ed back into his brother’s room. Roy gets up to stretch for the umpteenth time, but he doesn’t go in. He doesn’t need to in order to hear the tenor of the conversation, which is entirely positive, and then Al’s tentative voice, which is more promising still. Quite briefly it’s decided that Alphonse will be discharged and will finish recuperating under his brother’s supervision. It is also established that he has healed at a remarkable rate, apparently out of sheer willpower—which does not surprise Roy at all and, rather, makes him smile more than a bit.

Shortly (literally, in Ed’s case), the Elric brothers are emerging from the hospital room, Ed with his arm under Alphonse’s shoulders. It’s difficult to tell whether it’s because Al needs the support, or because Ed doesn’t want to let go of him; and Roy suspects it’s a bit of both.

“Oh!” Al says upon noticing Roy. It’s funny how they’d all grown familiar with hearing the sunny smile that comes to him so naturally, such that seeing it as well proves almost blinding. “Colonel! I mean—Brigadier General, sorry. I didn’t know you were here. Were you keeping Brother company?”

“For a while,” Roy says.

Alphonse radiates so much warmth that Roy predicts he’ll be back in action within a matter of days. “Thank you!”

“Of course,” Roy says, and he meets Ed’s eyes as well.

Perhaps they’ve never gotten along, but they’ve always understood each other. Edward smiles, just a little, and very slightly inclines his head.

The two of them head down the hall after that, joined at the shoulder and the hip, Alphonse already chattering happily, all of the muscles in Ed’s back relaxed.

And Roy knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they’re going to be all right.

Eltea: Winry - Excited!eltea on December 23rd, 2011 08:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!! ♥ And go ahead and cross-post to your heart's content. :D

Hm, I think I may need to leave a separate response for each of these!

Fic One
omg, this was brilliant and hilarious and it's so awesome to see them dealing with a harmless problem for once. ♥ The line about "Have you been drinking it again?" and "I was three, Brother; I think you can let it go now." almost killed me – I can so see that happening, and I can hear both of their voices saying those lines. While we're on the subject of voices let me just say that you nailed everybody's, in all the fics. :D And haha, I am loling imagining Roy's face when he sees the Good Lookin' Emissary Tax on that form. XDDDD

Fic Two
This is so fantastic. o_o I mean, it's hilarious – all the jokes are – but what takes it to another level altogether and punches you in the gut when you're finished laughing is those little moments of perfectly-done angst. Like the bit about Hughes somehow emerging good and whole and clean, omg, and everything that follows. o_o And the idea that he's kind of what holds Roy together through it and keeps him from breaking, because I can so see that. ♥ I don't know whether to say this was funny or sweet or powerful because it was all three. :)

Fic Three
Pardon me while I asphyxiate laughing. XD omg, Hughes writing bad porn about Roy and his subordinates would've been hilarious on its own, but the fact that Gracia writes Roy/Hughes, and that she does it psychically (the post-it notes!!), and that they combined them to make a novel – alfksdjfskdfj, /dies of lulz XDDDD And Elicia's story, awwww! XD Also how much do I love that Gracia is a better writer than her husband. Or maybe he's just awful at writing porn, I don't know. XD And the section with Roy telling Hawkeye to kill him and then showing it to her was hilarious. :P EVERYTHING was hilarious; you're a genius. 8DDDD ♥

Fic Four
Aww, this is really sweet, and so incredibly in-character. I love that Roy knows how it feels and what to do, and I love moments like this in which he's willing to step in and be the parent Ed sometimes so badly needs. ♥ And I adore the bit about how they've all gotten used to hearing his sunny smile, because it's so true – Al's voice and body language are so expressive that you always know what emotion he's conveying, and that's part of what makes him so lovable. ♥ This fic is just wonderful all-around, and I love the way it ends, too. :)

And THANK YOU one more time because these were so fantastic and I adored every single one of them. ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥